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Title: Orley Farm
Author: Trollope, Anthony, 1815-1882
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Orley Farm" ***

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ORLEY FARM

by

ANTHONY TROLLOPE

First published in serial form March, 1861, through October, 1862,
and in book form in 1862, both by Chapman and Hall.



CONTENTS

   VOLUME I

            I. THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE GREAT ORLEY FARM CASE
           II. LADY MASON AND HER SON
          III. THE CLEEVE
           IV. THE PERILS OF YOUTH
            V. SIR PEREGRINE MAKES A SECOND PROMISE
           VI. THE COMMERCIAL ROOM, BULL INN, LEEDS
          VII. THE MASONS OF GROBY PARK
         VIII. MRS. MASON'S HOT LUNCHEON
           IX. A CONVIVIAL MEETING
            X. MR., MRS., AND MISS FURNIVAL
           XI. MRS. FURNIVAL AT HOME
          XII. MR. FURNIVAL'S CHAMBERS
         XIII. GUILTY, OR NOT GUILTY
          XIV. DINNER AT THE CLEEVE
           XV. A MORNING CALL AT MOUNT PLEASANT VILLA
          XVI. MR. DOCKWRATH IN BEDFORD ROW
         XVII. VON BAUHR
        XVIII. THE ENGLISH VON BAUHR
          XIX. THE STAVELEY FAMILY
           XX. MR. DOCKWRATH IN HIS OWN OFFICE
          XXI. CHRISTMAS IN HARLEY STREET
         XXII. CHRISTMAS AT NONINGSBY
        XXIII. CHRISTMAS AT GROBY PARK
         XXIV. CHRISTMAS IN GREAT ST. HELENS
          XXV. MR. FURNIVAL AGAIN AT HIS CHAMBERS
         XXVI. WHY SHOULD I NOT?
        XXVII. COMMERCE
       XXVIII. MONKTON GRANGE
         XXIX. BREAKING COVERT
          XXX. ANOTHER FALL
         XXXI. FOOTSTEPS IN THE CORRIDOR
        XXXII. WHAT BRIDGET BOLSTER HAD TO SAY
       XXXIII. THE ANGEL OF LIGHT
        XXXIV. MR. FURNIVAL LOOKS FOR ASSISTANCE
         XXXV. LOVE WAS STILL THE LORD OF ALL
        XXXVI. WHAT THE YOUNG MEN THOUGHT ABOUT IT
       XXXVII. PEREGRINE'S ELOQUENCE
      XXXVIII. OH, INDEED!
        XXXIX. WHY SHOULD HE GO?
           XL. I CALL IT AWFUL

   VOLUME II

          XLI. HOW CAN I SAVE HIM?
         XLII. JOHN KENNEBY GOES TO HAMWORTH
        XLIII. JOHN KENNEBY'S COURTSHIP
         XLIV. SHOWING HOW LADY MASON COULD BE VERY NOBLE
          XLV. SHOWING HOW MRS. ORME COULD BE VERY WEAK MINDED
         XLVI. A WOMAN'S IDEA OF FRIENDSHIP
        XLVII. THE GEM OF THE FOUR FAMILIES
       XLVIII. THE ANGEL OF LIGHT UNDER A CLOUD
         XLIX. MRS. FURNIVAL CAN'T PUT UP WITH IT
            L. IT IS QUITE IMPOSSIBLE
           LI. MRS. FURNIVAL'S JOURNEY TO HAMWORTH
          LII. SHOWING HOW THINGS WENT ON AT NONINGSBY
         LIII. LADY MASON RETURNS HOME
          LIV. TELLING ALL THAT HAPPENED BENEATH THE LAMP-POST
           LV. WHAT TOOK PLACE IN HARLEY STREET
          LVI. HOW SIR PEREGRINE DID BUSINESS WITH MR. ROUND
         LVII. THE LOVES AND HOPES OF ALBERT FITZALLEN
        LVIII. MISS STAVELEY DECLINES TO EAT MINCED VEAL
          LIX. NO SURRENDER
           LX. WHAT REBEKAH DID FOR HER SON
          LXI. THE STATE OF PUBLIC OPINION
         LXII. WHAT THE FOUR LAWYERS THOUGHT ABOUT IT
        LXIII. THE EVENING BEFORE THE TRIAL
         LXIV. THE FIRST JOURNEY TO ALSTON
          LXV. FELIX GRAHAM RETURNS TO NONINGSBY
         LXVI. SHOWING HOW MISS FURNIVAL TREATED HER LOVERS
        LXVII. MR. MOULDER BACKS HIS OPINION
       LXVIII. THE FIRST DAY OF THE TRIAL
         LXIX. THE TWO JUDGES
          LXX. HOW AM I TO BEAR IT?
         LXXI. SHOWING HOW JOHN KENNEBY AND BRIDGET BOLSTER BORE
               THEMSELVES IN COURT
        LXXII. MR. FURNIVAL'S SPEECH
       LXXIII. MRS. ORME TELLS THE STORY
        LXXIV. YOUNG LOCHINVAR
         LXXV. THE LAST DAY
        LXXVI. I LOVE HER STILL
       LXXVII. JOHN KENNEBY'S DOOM
      LXXVIII. THE LAST OF THE LAWYERS
        LXXIX. FAREWELL
         LXXX. SHOWING HOW AFFAIRS SETTLED THEMSELVES AT NONINGSBY



VOLUME I

CHAPTER I

THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE GREAT ORLEY FARM CASE


It is not true that a rose by any other name will smell as sweet.
Were it true, I should call this story "The Great Orley Farm Case."
But who would ask for the ninth number of a serial work burthened
with so very uncouth an appellation? Thence, and therefore,--Orley
Farm.

I say so much at commencing in order that I may have an opportunity
of explaining that this book of mine will not be devoted in any
special way to rural delights. The name might lead to the idea that
new precepts were to be given, in the pleasant guise of a novel, as
to cream-cheeses, pigs with small bones, wheat sown in drills, or
artificial manure. No such aspirations are mine. I make no attempts
in that line, and declare at once that agriculturists will gain
nothing from my present performance. Orley Farm, my readers, will be
our scene during a portion of our present sojourn together, but the
name has been chosen as having been intimately connected with certain
legal questions which made a considerable stir in our courts of law.

It was twenty years before the date at which this story will be
supposed to commence that the name of Orley Farm first became known
to the wearers of the long robe. At that time had died an old
gentleman, Sir Joseph Mason, who left behind him a landed estate in
Yorkshire of considerable extent and value. This he bequeathed, in a
proper way, to his eldest son, the Joseph Mason, Esq., of our date.
Sir Joseph had been a London merchant; had made his own money, having
commenced the world, no doubt, with half a crown; had become, in
turn, alderman, mayor, and knight; and in the fulness of time was
gathered to his fathers. He had purchased this estate in Yorkshire
late in life--we may as well become acquainted with the name, Groby
Park--and his eldest son had lived there with such enjoyment of the
privileges of an English country gentleman as he had been able to
master for himself. Sir Joseph had also had three daughters, full
sisters of Joseph of Groby, whom he endowed sufficiently and gave
over to three respective loving husbands. And then shortly before his
death, three years or so, Sir Joseph had married a second wife, a
lady forty-five years his junior, and by her he also left one son, an
infant only two years old when he died.

For many years this prosperous gentleman had lived at a small country
house, some five-and-twenty miles from London, called Orley Farm.
This had been his first purchase of land, and he had never given up
his residence there, although his wealth would have entitled him to
the enjoyment of a larger establishment. On the birth of his youngest
son, at which time his eldest was nearly forty years old, he made
certain moderate provision for the infant, as he had already made
moderate provision for his young wife; but it was then clearly
understood by the eldest son that Orley Farm was to go with the Groby
Park estate to him as the heir. When, however, Sir Joseph died, a
codicil to his will, executed with due legal formalities, bequeathed
Orley Farm to his youngest son, little Lucius Mason.

Then commenced those legal proceedings which at last developed
themselves into the great Orley Farm Case. The eldest son contested
the validity of the codicil; and indeed there were some grounds
on which it appeared feasible that he should do so. This codicil
not only left Orley Farm away from him to baby Lucius, but also
interfered in another respect with the previous will. It devised a
sum of two thousand pounds to a certain Miriam Usbech, the daughter
of one Jonathan Usbech who was himself the attorney who had attended
upon Sir Joseph for the making out of this very will, and also of
this very codicil. This sum of two thousand pounds was not, it is
true, left away from the surviving Joseph, but was to be produced out
of certain personal property which had been left by the first will to
the widow. And then old Jonathan Usbech had died, while Sir Joseph
Mason was still living.

All the circumstances of the trial need not be detailed here. It was
clearly proved that Sir Joseph had during his whole life expressed
his intention of leaving Orley Farm to his eldest son; that he was a
man void of mystery, and not given to secrets in his money matters,
and one very little likely to change his opinion on such subjects. It
was proved that old Jonathan Usbech at the time in which the will was
made was in very bad circumstances, both as regards money and health.
His business had once not been bad, but he had eaten and drunk it,
and at this period was feeble and penniless, overwhelmed both by gout
and debt. He had for many years been much employed by Sir Joseph in
money matters, and it was known that he was so employed almost up to
the day of his death. The question was whether he had been employed
to make this codicil.

The body of the will was in the handwriting of the widow, as was also
the codicil. It was stated by her at the trial that the words were
dictated to her by Usbech in her husband's hearing, and that the
document was then signed by her husband in the presence of them both,
and also in the presence of two other persons--a young man employed
by her husband as a clerk, and by a servant-maid. These two last,
together with Mr. Usbech, were the three witnesses whose names
appeared in the codicil. There had been no secrets between Lady Mason
and her husband as to his will. She had always, she said, endeavoured
to induce him to leave Orley Farm to her child from the day of the
child's birth, and had at last succeeded. In agreeing to this Sir
Joseph had explained to her, somewhat angrily, that he wished to
provide for Usbech's daughter, and that now he would do so out of
moneys previously intended for her, the widow, and not out of the
estate which would go to his eldest son. To this she had assented
without a word, and had written the codicil in accordance with the
lawyer's dictation, he, the lawyer, suffering at the time from gout
in his hand. Among other things Lady Mason proved that on the date of
the signatures Mr. Usbech had been with Sir Joseph for sundry hours.

Then the young clerk was examined. He had, he said, witnessed in
his time four, ten, twenty, and, under pressure, he confessed to
as many as a hundred and twenty business signatures on the part of
his employer, Sir Joseph. He thought he had witnessed a hundred
and twenty, but would take his oath he had not witnessed a hundred
and twenty-one. He did remember witnessing a signature of his
master about the time specified by the date of the codicil, and he
remembered the maid-servant also signing at the same time. Mr. Usbech
was then present; but he did not remember Mr. Usbech having the
pen in his hand. Mr. Usbech, he knew, could not write at that time,
because of the gout; but he might, no doubt, have written as much
as his own name. He swore to both the signatures--his own and his
master's; and in cross-examination swore that he thought it probable
that they might be forgeries. On re-examination he was confident that
his own name, as there appearing, had been written by himself; but
on re-cross-examination, he felt sure that there was something wrong.
It ended in the judge informing him that his word was worth nothing,
which was hard enough on the poor young man, seeing that he had done
his best to tell all that he remembered. Then the servant-girl came
into the witness-box. She was sure it was her own handwriting. She
remembered being called in to write her name, and seeing the master
write his. It had all been explained to her at the time, but she
admitted that she had not understood the explanation. She had also
seen the clerk write his name, but she was not sure that she had seen
Mr. Usbech write. Mr. Usbech had had a pen in his hand; she was sure
of that.

The last witness was Miriam Usbech, then a very pretty, simple girl
of seventeen. Her father had told her once that he hoped Sir Joseph
would make provision for her. This had been shortly before her
father's death. At her father's death she had been sent for to Orley
Farm, and had remained there till Sir Joseph died. She had always
regarded Sir Joseph and Lady Mason as her best friends. She had known
Sir Joseph all her life, and did not think it unnatural that he
should provide for her. She had heard her father say more than once
that Lady Mason would never rest till the old gentleman had settled
Orley Farm upon her son.

Not half the evidence taken has been given here, but enough probably
for our purposes. The will and codicil were confirmed, and Lady Mason
continued to live at the farm. Her evidence was supposed to have been
excellently given, and to have been conclusive. She had seen the
signature, and written the codicil, and could explain the motive. She
was a woman of high character, of great talent, and of repute in the
neighbourhood; and, as the judge remarked, there could be no possible
reason for doubting her word. Nothing also could be simpler or
prettier than the evidence of Miriam Usbech, as to whose fate and
destiny people at the time expressed much sympathy. That stupid young
clerk was responsible for the only weak part of the matter; but if
he proved nothing on one side, neither did he prove anything on the
other.

This was the commencement of the great Orley Farm Case, and having
been then decided in favour of the infant it was allowed to slumber
for nearly twenty years. The codicil was confirmed, and Lady Mason
remained undisturbed in possession of the house, acting as guardian
for her child till he came of age, and indeed for some time beyond
that epoch. In the course of a page or two I shall beg my readers to
allow me to introduce this lady to their acquaintance.

Miriam Usbech, of whom also we shall see something, remained at the
farm under Lady Mason's care till she married a young attorney, who
in process of time succeeded to such business as her father left
behind him. She suffered some troubles in life before she settled
down in the neighbouring country town as Mrs. Dockwrath, for she had
had another lover, the stupid young clerk who had so villainously
broken down in his evidence; and to this other lover, whom she had
been unable to bring herself to accept, Lady Mason had given her
favour and assistance. Poor Miriam was at that time a soft, mild-eyed
girl, easy to be led, one would have said; but in this matter Lady
Mason could not lead her. It was in vain to tell her that the
character of young Dockwrath did not stand high, and that young
Kenneby, the clerk, should be promoted to all manner of good things.
Soft and mild-eyed as Miriam was, Love was still the lord of all. In
this matter she would not be persuaded; and eventually she gave her
two thousand pounds to Samuel Dockwrath, the young attorney with the
questionable character.

This led to no breach between her and her patroness. Lady Mason,
wishing to do the best for her young friend, had favoured John
Kenneby, but she was not a woman at all likely to quarrel on such a
ground as this. "Well, Miriam," she had said, "you must judge for
yourself, of course, in such a matter as this. You know my regard for
you."

"Oh yes, ma'am," said Miriam, eagerly.

"And I shall always be glad to promote your welfare as Mrs.
Dockwrath, if possible. I can only say that I should have had more
satisfaction in attempting to do so for you as Mrs. Kenneby." But,
in spite of the seeming coldness of these words, Lady Mason had
been constant to her friend for many years, and had attended to her
with more or less active kindness in all the sorrows arising from
an annual baby and two sets of twins--a progeny which before the
commencement of my tale reached the serious number of sixteen, all
living.

Among other solid benefits conferred by Lady Mason had been the
letting to Mr. Dockwrath of certain two fields, lying at the
extremity of the farm property, and quite adjacent to the town of
Hamworth in which old Mr. Usbech had resided. These had been let by
the year, at a rent not considered to be too high at that period, and
which had certainly become much lower in proportion to the value of
the land, as the town of Hamworth had increased. On these fields Mr.
Dockwrath expended some money, though probably not so much as he
averred; and when noticed to give them up at the period of young
Mason's coming of age, expressed himself terribly aggrieved.

"Surely, Mr. Dockwrath, you are very ungrateful," Lady Mason had said
to him. But he had answered her with disrespectful words; and hence
had arisen an actual breach between her and poor Miriam's husband. "I
must say, Miriam, that Mr. Dockwrath is unreasonable," Lady Mason had
said. And what could a poor wife answer? "Oh! Lady Mason, pray let
it bide a time till it all comes right." But it never did come right;
and the affair of those two fields created the great Orley Farm Case,
which it will be our business to unravel.

And now a word or two as to this Orley Farm. In the first place let
it be understood that the estate consisted of two farms. One, called
the Old Farm, was let to an old farmer named Greenwood, and had been
let to him and to his father for many years antecedent to the days
of the Masons. Mr. Greenwood held about three hundred acres of land,
paying with admirable punctuality over four hundred a year in rent,
and was regarded by all the Orley people as an institution on the
property. Then there was the farm-house and the land attached to it.
This was the residence in which Sir Joseph had lived, keeping in
his own hands this portion of the property. When first inhabited by
him the house was not fitted for more than the requirements of an
ordinary farmer, but he had gradually added to it and ornamented
it till it was commodious, irregular, picturesque, and straggling.
When he died, and during the occupation of his widow, it consisted
of three buildings of various heights, attached to each other,
and standing in a row. The lower contained a large kitchen, which
had been the living-room of the farm-house, and was surrounded
by bake-house, laundry, dairy, and servants' room, all of fair
dimensions. It was two stories high, but the rooms were low, and the
roof steep and covered with tiles. The next portion had been added by
Sir Joseph, then Mr. Mason, when he first thought of living at the
place. This also was tiled, and the rooms were nearly as low; but
there were three stories, and the building therefore was considerably
higher. For five-and-twenty years the farm-house, so arranged, had
sufficed for the common wants of Sir Joseph and his family; but when
he determined to give up his establishment in the City, he added on
another step to the house at Orley Farm. On this occasion he built
a good dining-room, with a drawing-room over it, and bed-room over
that; and this portion of the edifice was slated.

The whole stood in one line fronting on to a large lawn which fell
steeply away from the house into an orchard at the bottom. This
lawn was cut in terraces, and here and there upon it there stood
apple-trees of ancient growth; for here had been the garden of the
old farm-house. They were large, straggling trees, such as do not
delight the eyes of modern gardeners; but they produced fruit by the
bushel, very sweet to the palate, though probably not so perfectly
round, and large, and handsome as those which the horticultural skill
of the present day requires. The face of the house from one end to
the other was covered with vines and passion-flowers, for the aspect
was due south; and as the whole of the later addition was faced by
a verandah, which also, as regarded the ground-floor, ran along the
middle building, the place in summer was pretty enough. As I have
said before, it was irregular and straggling, but at the same time
roomy and picturesque. Such was Orley Farm-house.

There were about two hundred acres of land attached to it, together
with a large old-fashioned farm-yard, standing not so far from the
house as most gentlemen farmers might perhaps desire. The farm
buildings, however, were well hidden, for Sir Joseph, though he would
at no time go to the expense of constructing all anew, had spent more
money than such a proceeding would have cost him doctoring existing
evils and ornamenting the standing edifices. In doing this he had
extended the walls of a brewhouse, and covered them with creepers, so
as to shut out from the hall door the approach to the farm-yard, and
had put up a quarter of a mile of high ornamental paling for the same
purpose. He had planted an extensive shrubbery along the brow of the
hill at one side of the house, had built summer-houses, and sunk a
ha-ha fence below the orchard, and had contrived to give to the place
the unmistakable appearance of an English gentleman's country-house.
Nevertheless, Sir Joseph had never bestowed upon his estate, nor had
it ever deserved, a more grandiloquent name than that which it had
possessed of old.

Orley Farm-house itself is somewhat more than a mile distant from
the town of Hamworth, but the land runs in the direction of the
town, not skirting the high road, but stretching behind the cottages
which stand along the pathway; and it terminates in those two fields
respecting which Mr. Dockwrath the attorney became so irrationally
angry at the period of which we are now immediately about to treat.
These fields lie on the steep slope of Hamworth Hill, and through
them runs the public path from the hamlet of Roxeth up to Hamworth
church; for, as all the world knows, Hamworth church stands high, and
is a landmark to the world for miles and miles around.

Within a circuit of thirty miles from London no land lies more
beautifully circumstanced with regard to scenery than the country
about Hamworth; and its most perfect loveliness commences just
beyond the slopes of Orley Farm. There is a little village called
Coldharbour, consisting of some half-dozen cottages, situated
immediately outside Lady Mason's gate,--and it may as well be stated
here that this gate is but three hundred yards from the house, and is
guarded by no lodge. This village stands at the foot of Cleeve Hill.
The land hereabouts ceases to be fertile, and breaks away into heath
and common ground. Round the foot of the hill there are extensive
woods, all of which belong to Sir Peregrine Orme, the lord of the
manor. Sir Peregrine is not a rich man, not rich, that is, it being
borne in mind that he is a baronet, that he represented his county in
parliament for three or four sessions, and that his ancestors have
owned The Cleeve estate for the last four hundred years; but he is by
general repute the greatest man in these parts. We may expect to hear
more of him also as the story makes its way.

I know many spots in England and in other lands, world-famous in
regard to scenery, which to my eyes are hardly equal to Cleeve Hill.
From the top of it you are told that you may see into seven counties;
but to me that privilege never possessed any value. I should not
care to see into seventeen counties, unless the country which spread
itself before my view was fair and lovely. The country which is so
seen from Cleeve Hill is exquisitely fair and lovely;--very fair,
with glorious fields of unsurpassed fertility, and lovely with oak
woods and brown open heaths which stretch away, hill after hill, down
towards the southern coast. I could greedily fill a long chapter with
the well-loved glories of Cleeve Hill; but it may be that we must
press its heather with our feet more than once in the course of our
present task, and if so, it will be well to leave something for those
coming visits.

"Ungrateful! I'll let her know whether I owe her any gratitude.
Haven't I paid her her rent every half-year as it came due? what more
would she have? Ungrateful, indeed! She is one of those women who
think that you ought to go down on your knees to them if they only
speak civilly to you. I'll let her know whether I'm ungrateful."

These words were spoken by angry Mr. Samuel Dockwrath to his wife, as
he stood up before his parlour-fire after breakfast, and the woman to
whom he referred was Lady Mason. Mr. Samuel Dockwrath was very angry
as he so spoke, or at any rate he seemed to be so. There are men who
take a delight in abusing those special friends whom their wives
best love, and Mr. Dockwrath was one of these. He had never given
his cordial consent to the intercourse which had hitherto existed
between the lady of Orley Farm and his household, although he had not
declined the substantial benefits which had accompanied it. His pride
had rebelled against the feeling of patronage, though his interest
had submitted to the advantages thence derived. A family of sixteen
children is a heavy burden for a country attorney with a small
practice, even though his wife may have had a fortune of two thousand
pounds; and thus Mr. Dockwrath, though he had never himself loved
Lady Mason, had permitted his wife to accept all those numberless
kindnesses which a lady with comfortable means and no children is
always able to bestow on a favoured neighbour who has few means and
many children. Indeed, he himself had accepted a great favour with
reference to the holding of those two fields, and had acknowledged as
much when first he took them into his hands some sixteen or seventeen
years back. But all that was forgotten now; and having held them for
so long a period, he bitterly felt the loss, and resolved that it
would ill become him as a man and an attorney to allow so deep an
injury to pass unnoticed. It may be, moreover, that Mr. Dockwrath was
now doing somewhat better in the world than formerly, and that he
could afford to give up Lady Mason, and to demand also that his wife
should give her up. Those trumpery presents from Orley Farm were very
well while he was struggling for bare bread, but now, now that he had
turned the corner,--now that by his divine art and mystery of law
he had managed to become master of that beautiful result of British
perseverance, a balance at his banker's, he could afford to indulge
his natural antipathy to a lady who had endeavoured in early life
to divert from him the little fortune which had started him in the
world.

Miriam Dockwrath, as she sat on this morning, listening to her
husband's anger, with a sick little girl on her knee, and four or
five others clustering round her, half covered with their matutinal
bread and milk, was mild-eyed and soft as ever. Hers was a nature in
which softness would ever prevail;--softness, and that tenderness of
heart, always leaning, and sometimes almost crouching, of which a
mild eye is the outward sign. But her comeliness and prettiness were
gone. Female beauty of the sterner, grander sort may support the
burden of sixteen children, all living,--and still survive. I have
known it to do so, and to survive with much of its youthful glory.
But that mild-eyed, soft, round, plumpy prettiness gives way beneath
such a weight as that: years alone tell on it quickly; but children
and limited means combined with years leave to it hardly a chance.

"I'm sure I'm very sorry," said the poor woman, worn with her many
cares.

"Sorry; yes, and I'll make her sorry, the proud minx. There's an old
saying, that those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

"But, Samuel, I don't think she means to be doing you any harm. You
know she always did say-- Don't, Bessy; how can you put your fingers
into the basin in that way?"

"Sam has taken my spoon away, mamma."

"I'll let her know whether she's doing any harm or no. And what
signifies what was said sixteen years ago? Has she anything to show
in writing? As far as I know, nothing of the kind was said."

"Oh, I remember it, Samuel; I do indeed!"

"Let me tell you then that you had better not try to remember
anything about it. If you ain't quiet, Bob, I'll make you, pretty
quick; d'ye hear that? The fact is, your memory is not worth a curse.
Where are you to get milk for all those children, do you think, when
the fields are gone?"

"I'm sure I'm very sorry, Samuel."

"Sorry; yes, and somebody else shall be sorry too. And look here,
Miriam, I won't have you going up to Orley Farm on any pretence
whatever; do you hear that?" and then, having given that imperative
command to his wife and slave, the lord and master of that
establishment walked forth into his office.

On the whole Miriam Usbech might have done better had she followed
the advice of her patroness in early life, and married the stupid
clerk.



CHAPTER II

LADY MASON AND HER SON


I trust that it is already perceived by all persistent novel readers
that very much of the interest of this tale will be centred in the
person of Lady Mason. Such educated persons, however, will probably
be aware that she is not intended to be the heroine. The heroine, so
called, must by a certain fixed law be young and marriageable. Some
such heroine in some future number shall be forthcoming, with as
much of the heroic about her as may be found convenient; but for the
present let it be understood that the person and character of Lady
Mason is as important to us as can be those of any young lady, let
her be ever so gracious or ever so beautiful.

In giving the details of her history, I do not know that I need go
back beyond her grandfather and grandmother, who were thoroughly
respectable people in the hardware line; I speak of those relatives
by the father's side. Her own parents had risen in the world,--had
risen from retail to wholesale, and considered themselves for a
long period of years to be good representatives of the commercial
energy and prosperity of Great Britain. But a fall had come upon
them,--as a fall does come very often to our excellent commercial
representatives--and Mr. Johnson was in the "Gazette." It would be
long to tell how old Sir Joseph Mason was concerned in these affairs,
how he acted as the principal assignee, and how ultimately he took
to his bosom as his portion of the assets of the estate, young Mary
Johnson, and made her his wife and mistress of Orley Farm. Of the
family of the Johnsons there were but three others, the father, the
mother, and a brother. The father did not survive the disgrace of his
bankruptcy, and the mother in process of time settled herself with
her son in one of the Lancashire manufacturing towns, where John
Johnson raised his head in business to some moderate altitude, Sir
Joseph having afforded much valuable assistance. There for the
present we will leave them.

I do not think that Sir Joseph ever repented of the perilous deed he
did in marrying that young wife. His home for many years had been
desolate and solitary; his children had gone from him, and did not
come to visit him very frequently in his poor home at the farm. They
had become grander people than him, had been gifted with aspiring
minds, and in every turn and twist which they took, looked to do
something towards washing themselves clean from the dirt of the
counting-house. This was specially the case with Sir Joseph's son, to
whom the father had made over lands and money sufficient to enable
him to come before the world as a country gentleman with a coat of
arms on his coach-panel. It would be inconvenient for us to run off
to Groby Park at the present moment, and I will therefore say no more
just now as to Joseph junior, but will explain that Joseph senior was
not made angry by this neglect. He was a grave, quiet, rational man,
not however devoid of some folly; as indeed what rational man is so
devoid? He was burdened with an ambition to establish a family as the
result of his success in life; and having put forth his son into the
world with these views, was content that that son should act upon
them persistently. Joseph Mason, Esq., of Groby Park, in Yorkshire,
was now a county magistrate, and had made some way towards a footing
in the county society around him. With these hopes, and ambition such
as this, it was probably not expedient that he should spend much of
his time at Orley Farm. The three daughters were circumstanced much
in the same way: they had all married gentlemen, and were bent on
rising in the world; moreover, the steadfast resolution of purpose
which characterised their father was known by them all,--and by
their husbands: they had received their fortunes, with some settled
contingencies to be forthcoming on their father's demise; why, then,
trouble the old gentleman at Orley Farm?

Under such circumstances the old gentleman married his young
wife,--to the great disgust of his four children. They of course
declared to each other, corresponding among themselves by letter,
that the old gentleman had positively disgraced himself. It was
impossible that they should make any visits whatever to Orley Farm
while such a mistress of the house was there;--and the daughters did
make no such visits. Joseph, the son, whose monetary connection with
his father was as yet by no means fixed and settled in its nature,
did make one such visit, and then received his father's assurance--so
at least he afterwards said and swore--that this marriage should by
no means interfere with the expected inheritance of the Orley Farm
acres. But at that time no young son had been born,--nor, probably,
was any such young son expected.

The farm-house became a much brighter abode for the old man, for the
few years which were left to him, after he had brought his young
wife home. She was quiet, sensible, clever, and unremitting in her
attention. She burthened him with no requests for gay society, and
took his home as she found it, making the best of it for herself, and
making it for him much better than he had ever hitherto known it. His
own children had always looked down upon him, regarding him merely
as a coffer from whence money might be had; and he, though he had
never resented this contempt, had in a certain measure been aware of
it. But there was no such feeling shown by his wife. She took the
benefits which he gave her graciously and thankfully, and gave back
to him in return, certainly her care and time, and apparently her
love. For herself, in the way of wealth and money, she never asked
for anything.

And then the baby had come, young Lucius Mason, and there was of
course great joy at Orley Farm. The old father felt that the world
had begun again for him, very delightfully, and was more than ever
satisfied with his wisdom in regard to that marriage. But the very
genteel progeny of his early youth were more than ever dissatisfied,
and in their letters among themselves dealt forth harder and still
harder words upon poor Sir Joseph. What terrible things might he not
be expected to do now that his dotage was coming on? Those three
married ladies had no selfish fears--so at least they declared, but
they united in imploring their brother to look after his interests at
Orley Farm. How dreadfully would the young heir of Groby be curtailed
in his dignities and seignories if it should be found at the last day
that Orley Farm was not to be written in his rent-roll!

And then, while they were yet bethinking themselves how they might
best bestir themselves, news arrived that Sir Joseph had suddenly
died. Sir Joseph was dead, and the will when read contained a codicil
by which that young brat was made the heir to the Orley Farm estate.
I have said that Lady Mason during her married life had never asked
of her husband anything for herself; but in the law proceedings which
were consequent upon Sir Joseph's death, it became abundantly evident
that she had asked him for much for her son,--and that she had been
specific in her requests, urging him to make a second heir, and to
settle Orley Farm upon her own boy, Lucius. She herself stated that
she had never done this except in the presence of a third person. She
had often done so in the presence of Mr. Usbech the attorney,--as to
which Mr. Usbech was not alive to testify; and she had also done so
more than once in the presence of Mr. Furnival, a barrister,--as to
which Mr. Furnival, being alive, did testify--very strongly.

As to that contest nothing further need now be said. It resulted in
the favour of young Lucius Mason, and therefore, also, in the favour
of the widow;--in the favour moreover of Miriam Usbech, and thus
ultimately in the favour of Mr. Samuel Dockwrath, who is now showing
himself to be so signally ungrateful. Joseph Mason, however, retired
from the battle nothing convinced. His father, he said, had been
an old fool, an ass, an idiot, a vulgar, ignorant fool; but he was
not a man to break his word. That signature to the codicil might be
his or might not. If his, it had been obtained by fraud. What could
be easier than to cheat an old doting fool? Many men agreed with
Joseph Mason, thinking that Usbech the attorney had perpetrated this
villainy on behalf of his daughter; but Joseph Mason would believe,
or say that he believed--a belief in which none but his sisters
joined him,--that Lady Mason herself had been the villain. He was
minded to press the case on to a Court of Appeal, up even to the
House of Lords; but he was advised that in doing so he would spend
more money than Orley Farm was worth, and that he would, almost to a
certainty, spend it in vain. Under this advice he cursed the laws of
his country, and withdrew to Groby Park.

Lady Mason had earned the respect of all those around her by the way
in which she bore herself in the painful days of the trial, and also
in those of her success,--especially also by the manner in which she
gave her evidence. And thus, though she had not been much noticed
by her neighbours during the short period of her married life, she
was visited as a widow by many of the more respectable people round
Hamworth. In all this she showed no feeling of triumph; she never
abused her husband's relatives, or spoke much of the harsh manner
in which she had been used. Indeed, she was not given to talk about
her own personal affairs; and although, as I have said, many of her
neighbours visited her, she did not lay herself out for society. She
accepted and returned their attention, but for the most part seemed
to be willing that the matter should so rest. The people around by
degrees came to know her ways, they spoke to her when they met her,
and occasionally went through the ceremony of a morning call; but did
not ask her to their tea-parties, and did not expect to see her at
picnic and archery meetings.

Among those who took her by the hand in the time of her great trouble
was Sir Peregrine Orme of The Cleeve,--for such was the name which
had belonged time out of mind to his old mansion and park. Sir
Peregrine was a gentleman now over seventy years of age, whose family
consisted of the widow of his only son, and the only son of that
widow, who was of course the heir to his estate and title. Sir
Peregrine was an excellent old man, as I trust may hereafter be
acknowledged; but his regard for Lady Mason was perhaps in the first
instance fostered by his extreme dislike to her stepson, Joseph Mason
of Groby. Mr. Joseph Mason of Groby was quite as rich a man as Sir
Peregrine, and owned an estate which was nearly as large as The
Cleeve property; but Sir Peregrine would not allow that he was a
gentleman, or that he could by any possible transformation become
one. He had not probably ever said so in direct words to any of the
Mason family, but his opinion on the matter had in some way worked
its way down to Yorkshire, and therefore there was no love to spare
between these two county magistrates. There had been a slight
acquaintance between Sir Peregrine and Sir Joseph; but the ladies of
the two families had never met till after the death of the latter.
Then, while that trial was still pending, Mrs. Orme had come forward
at the instigation of her father-in-law, and by degrees there had
grown up an intimacy between the two widows. When the first offers
of assistance were made and accepted, Sir Peregrine no doubt did
not at all dream of any such result as this. His family pride, and
especially the pride which he took in his widowed daughter-in-law,
would probably have been shocked by such a surmise; but,
nevertheless, he had seen the friendship grow and increase without
alarm. He himself had become attached to Lady Mason, and had
gradually learned to excuse in her that want of gentle blood and
early breeding which as a rule he regarded as necessary to a
gentleman, and from which alone, as he thought, could spring many of
those excellences which go to form the character of a lady.

It may therefore be asserted that Lady Mason's widowed life was
successful. That it was prudent and well conducted no one could
doubt. Her neighbours of course did say of her that she would not
drink tea with Mrs. Arkwright of Mount Pleasant villa because she was
allowed the privilege of entering Sir Peregrine's drawing-room; but
such little scandal as this was a matter of course. Let one live
according to any possible or impossible rule, yet some offence will
be given in some quarter. Those who knew anything of Lady Mason's
private life were aware that she did not encroach on Sir Peregrine's
hospitality. She was not at The Cleeve as much as circumstances would
have justified, and at one time by no means so much as Mrs. Orme
would have desired.

In person she was tall and comely. When Sir Joseph had brought her
to his house she had been very fair,--tall, slight, fair, and very
quiet,--not possessing that loveliness which is generally most
attractive to men, because the beauty of which she might boast
depended on form rather than on the brightness of her eye, or the
softness of her cheek and lips. Her face too, even at that age,
seldom betrayed emotion, and never showed signs either of anger or of
joy. Her forehead was high, and though somewhat narrow, nevertheless
gave evidence of considerable mental faculties; nor was the evidence
false, for those who came to know Lady Mason well, were always ready
to acknowledge that she was a woman of no ordinary power. Her eyes
were large and well formed, but somewhat cold. Her nose was long and
regular. Her mouth also was very regular, and her teeth perfectly
beautiful; but her lips were straight and thin. It would sometimes
seem that she was all teeth, and yet it is certain that she never
made an effort to show them. The great fault of her face was in
her chin, which was too small and sharp, thus giving on occasions
something of meanness to her countenance. She was now forty-seven
years of age, and had a son who had reached man's estate; and yet
perhaps she had more of woman's beauty at this present time than
when she stood at the altar with Sir Joseph Mason. The quietness and
repose of her manner suited her years and her position; age had given
fulness to her tall form; and the habitual sadness of her countenance
was in fair accordance with her condition and character. And yet
she was not really sad,--at least so said those who knew her. The
melancholy was in her face rather than in her character, which was
full of energy,--if energy may be quiet as well as assured and
constant.

Of course she had been accused a dozen times of matrimonial
prospects. What handsome widow is not so accused? The world of
Hamworth had been very certain at one time that she was intent on
marrying Sir Peregrine Orme. But she had not married, and I think I
may say on her behalf that she had never thought of marrying. Indeed,
one cannot see how such a woman could make any effort in that line.
It was impossible to conceive that a lady so staid in her manner
should be guilty of flirting; nor was there any man within ten miles
of Hamworth who would have dared to make the attempt. Women for the
most part are prone to love-making--as nature has intended that they
should be; but there are women from whom all such follies seem to be
as distant as skittles and beer are distant from the dignity of the
Lord Chancellor. Such a woman was Lady Mason.

At this time--the time which is about to exist for us as the period
at which our narrative will begin--Lucius Mason was over twenty-two
years old, and was living at the farm. He had spent the last three or
four years of his life in Germany, where his mother had visited him
every year, and had now come home intending to be the master of his
own destiny. His mother's care for him during his boyhood, and up to
the time at which he became of age, had been almost elaborate in its
thoughtfulness. She had consulted Sir Peregrine as to his school, and
Sir Peregrine, looking to the fact of the lad's own property, and
also to the fact, known by him, of Lady Mason's means for such a
purpose, had recommended Harrow. But the mother had hesitated, had
gently discussed the matter, and had at last persuaded the baronet
that such a step would be injudicious. The boy was sent to a private
school of a high character, and Sir Peregrine was sure that he had
been so sent at his own advice. "Looking at the peculiar position of
his mother," said Sir Peregrine to his young daughter-in-law, "at her
very peculiar position, and that of his relatives, I think it will be
better that he should not appear to assume anything early in life;
nothing can be better conducted than Mr. Crabfield's establishment,
and after much consideration I have had no hesitation in recommending
her to send her son to him." And thus Lucius Mason had been sent to
Mr. Crabfield, but I do not think that the idea originated with Sir
Peregrine.

"And perhaps it will be as well," added the baronet, "that he and
Perry should not be together at school, though I have no objection to
their meeting in the holidays. Mr. Crabfield's vacations are always
timed to suit the Harrow holidays." The Perry here mentioned was the
grandson of Sir Peregrine--the young Peregrine who in coming days was
to be the future lord of The Cleeve. When Lucius Mason was modestly
sent to Mr. Crabfield's establishment at Great Marlow, young
Peregrine Orme, with his prouder hopes, commenced his career at the
public school.

Mr. Crabfield did his duty by Lucius Mason, and sent him home at
seventeen a handsome, well-mannered lad, tall and comely to the
eye, with soft brown whiskers sprouting on his cheek, well grounded
in Greek, Latin, and Euclid, grounded also in French and Italian,
and possessing many more acquirements than he would have learned
at Harrow. But added to these, or rather consequent on them, was
a conceit which public-school education would not have created.
When their mothers compared them in the holidays, not openly with
outspoken words, but silently in their hearts, Lucius Mason was found
by each to be the superior both in manners and knowledge; but each
acknowledged also that there was more of ingenuous boyhood about
Peregrine Orme.

Peregrine Orme was a year the younger, and therefore his comparative
deficiencies were not the cause of any intense sorrow at The Cleeve;
but his grandfather would probably have been better satisfied--and
perhaps also so would his mother--had he been less addicted to the
catching of rats, and better inclined towards Miss Edgeworth's novels
and Shakespeare's plays, which were earnestly recommended to him by
the lady and the gentleman. But boys generally are fond of rats, and
very frequently are not fond of reading; and therefore, all this
having been duly considered, there was not much deep sorrow in those
days at The Cleeve as to the boyhood of the heir.

But there was great pride at Orley Farm, although that pride was
shown openly to no one. Lady Mason in her visits at The Cleeve said
but little as to her son's present excellences. As to his future
career in life she did say much both to Sir Peregrine and to Mrs.
Orme, asking the council of the one and expressing her fears to the
other; and then, Sir Peregrine having given his consent, she sent the
lad to Germany.

He was allowed to come of age without any special signs of manhood,
or aught of the glory of property; although, in his case, that coming
of age did put him into absolute possession of his inheritance. On
that day, had he been so minded, he could have turned his mother out
of the farm-house, and taken exclusive possession of the estate; but
he did in fact remain in Germany for a year beyond this period, and
returned to Orley Farm only in time to be present at the celebration
of the twenty-first birthday of his friend Peregrine Orme. This
ceremony, as may be surmised, was by no means slurred over without
due rejoicing. The heir at the time was at Christchurch; but at such
a period a slight interruption to his studies was not to be lamented.
There had been Sir Peregrine Ormes in those parts ever since the days
of James I; and indeed in days long antecedent to those there had
been knights bearing that name, some of whom had been honourably
beheaded for treason, others imprisoned for heresy; and one made
away with on account of a supposed royal amour,--to the great
glorification of all his descendants. Looking to the antecedents of
the family, it was only proper that the coming of age of the heir
should be duly celebrated; but Lucius Mason had had no antecedents;
no great-great-grandfather of his had knelt at the feet of an
improper princess; and therefore Lady Mason, though she had been at
The Cleeve, had not mentioned the fact that on that very day her son
had become a man. But when Peregrine Orme became a man--though still
in his manhood too much devoted to rats--she gloried greatly in her
quiet way, and whispered a hope into the baronet's ear that the young
heir would not imitate the ambition of his ancestor. "No, by Jove! it
would not do now at all," said Sir Peregrine, by no means displeased
at the allusion.

And then that question as to the future life of Lucius Mason became
one of great importance, and it was necessary to consult, not only
Sir Peregrine Orme, but the young man himself. His mother had
suggested to him first the law: the great Mr. Furnival, formerly of
the home circuit, but now practising only in London, was her very
special friend, and would give her and her son all possible aid in
this direction. And what living man could give better aid than the
great Mr. Furnival? But Lucius Mason would have none of the law. This
resolve he pronounced very clearly while yet in Germany, whither his
mother visited him, bearing with her a long letter written by the
great Mr. Furnival himself. But nevertheless young Mason would have
none of the law. "I have an idea," he said, "that lawyers are all
liars." Whereupon his mother rebuked him for his conceited ignorance
and want of charity; but she did not gain her point.

She had, however, another string to her bow. As he objected to be a
lawyer, he might become a civil engineer. Circumstances had made Sir
Peregrine Orme very intimate with the great Mr. Brown. Indeed, Mr.
Brown was under great obligations to Sir Peregrine, and Sir Peregrine
had promised to use his influence. But Lucius Mason said that civil
engineers were only tradesmen of an upper class, tradesmen with
intellects; and he, he said, wished to use his intellect, but he did
not choose to be a tradesman. His mother rebuked him again, as well
he deserved that she should,--and then asked him of what profession
he himself had thought. "Philology," said he; "or as a profession,
perhaps literature. I shall devote myself to philology and the races
of man. Nothing considerable has been done with them as a combined
pursuit." And with these views he returned home--while Peregrine Orme
at Oxford was still addicted to the hunting of rats.

But with philology and the races of man he consented to combine the
pursuit of agriculture. When his mother found that he wished to take
up his abode in his own house, she by no means opposed him, and
suggested that, as such was his intention, he himself should farm his
own land. He was very ready to do this, and had she not represented
that such a step was in every way impolitic, he would willingly have
requested Mr. Greenwood of the Old Farm to look elsewhere, and have
spread himself and his energies over the whole domain. As it was he
contented himself with desiring that Mr. Dockwrath would vacate his
small holding, and as he was imperative as to that his mother gave
way without making it the cause of a battle. She would willingly have
left Mr. Dockwrath in possession, and did say a word or two as to the
milk necessary for those sixteen children. But Lucius Mason was ducal
in his ideas, and intimated an opinion that he had a right to do what
he liked with his own. Had not Mr. Dockwrath been told, when the
fields were surrendered to him as a favour, that he would only have
them in possession till the heir should come of age? Mr. Dockwrath
had been so told; but tellings such as these are easily forgotten by
men with sixteen children. And thus Mr. Mason became an agriculturist
with special scientific views as to chemistry, and a philologist
with the object of making that pursuit bear upon his studies with
reference to the races of man. He was convinced that by certain
admixtures of ammonia and earths he could produce cereal results
hitherto unknown to the farming world, and that by tracing out the
roots of words he could trace also the wanderings of man since the
expulsion of Adam from the garden. As to the latter question his
mother was not inclined to contradict him. Seeing that he would sit
at the feet neither of Mr. Furnival nor of Mr. Brown, she had no
objection to the races of man. She could endure to be talked to about
the Oceanic Mongolidae and the Iapetidae of the Indo-Germanic class,
and had perhaps her own ideas that such matters, though somewhat
foggy, were better than rats. But when he came to the other subject,
and informed her that the properly plentiful feeding of the world
was only kept waiting for the chemists, she certainly did have her
fears. Chemical agriculture is expensive; and though the results may
possibly be remunerative, still, while we are thus kept waiting by
the backwardness of the chemists, there must be much risk in making
any serious expenditure with such views.

"Mother," he said, when he had now been at home about three months,
and when the fiat for the expulsion of Samuel Dockwrath had already
gone forth, "I shall go to Liverpool to-morrow."

"To Liverpool, Lucius?"

"Yes. That guano which I got from Walker is adulterated. I have
analyzed it, and find that it does not contain above thirty-two and a
half hundredths of--of that which it ought to hold in a proportion of
seventy-five per cent. of the whole."

"Does it not?"

"No; and it is impossible to obtain results while one is working with
such fictitious materials. Look at that bit of grass at the bottom of
Greenwood's Hill."

"The fifteen-acre field? Why, Lucius, we always had the heaviest
crops of hay in the parish off that meadow."

"That's all very well, mother; but you have never tried,--nobody
about here ever has tried, what the land can really produce. I will
throw that and the three fields beyond it into one; I will get
Greenwood to let me have that bit of the hill-side, giving him
compensation of course--"

"And then Dockwrath would want compensation."

"Dockwrath is an impertinent rascal, and I shall take an opportunity
of telling him so. But as I was saying, I will throw those seventy
acres together, and then I will try what will be the relative effects
of guano and the patent blood, But I must have real guano, and so I
shall go to Liverpool."

"I think I would wait a little, Lucius. It is almost too late for any
change of that kind this year."

"Wait! Yes, and what has come of waiting? We don't wait at all in
doubling our population every thirty-three years; but when we come
to the feeding of them we are always for waiting. It is that waiting
which has reduced the intellectual development of one half of the
human race to its present terribly low state--or rather prevented its
rising in a degree proportionate to the increase of the population.
No more waiting for me, mother, if I can help it."

"But, Lucius, should not such new attempts as that be made by men
with large capital?" said the mother.

"Capital is a bugbear," said the son, speaking on this matter quite
_ex cathedrâ_, as no doubt he was entitled to do by his extensive
reading at a German university--"capital is a bugbear. The capital
that is really wanting is thought, mind, combination, knowledge."

"But, Lucius--"

"Yes, I know what you are going to say, mother. I don't boast that
I possess all these things; but I do say that I will endeavour to
obtain them."

"I have no doubt you will; but should not that come first?"

"That is waiting again. We all know as much as this, that good manure
will give good crops if the sun be allowed full play upon the land,
and nothing but the crop be allowed to grow. That is what I shall
attempt at first, and there can be no great danger in that." And so
he went to Liverpool.

Lady Mason during his absence began to regret that she had not left
him in the undisturbed and inexpensive possession of the Mongolidae
and the Iapetidae. His rent from the estate, including that which she
would have paid him as tenant of the smaller farm, would have enabled
him to live with all comfort; and, if such had been his taste, he
might have become a philosophical student, and lived respectably
without adding anything to his income by the sweat of his brow. But
now the matter was likely to become serious enough. For a gentleman
farmer determined to wait no longer for the chemists, whatever might
be the results, an immediate profitable return per acre could not be
expected as one of them. Any rent from that smaller farm would now
be out of the question, and it would be well if the payments made
so punctually by old Mr. Greenwood were not also swallowed up in
the search after unadulterated guano. Who could tell whether in
the pursuit of science he might not insist on chartering a vessel,
himself, for the Peruvian coast?



CHAPTER III

THE CLEEVE


I have said that Sir Peregrine Orme was not a rich man, meaning
thereby that he was not a rich man considering his acknowledged
position in the county. Such men not uncommonly have their tens,
twelves, and twenty thousands a year; but Sir Peregrine's estate
did not give him above three or four. He was lord of the manor of
Hamworth, and possessed seignorial rights, or rather the skeleton and
remembrance of such rights with reference to a very large district of
country; but his actual property--that from which he still received
the substantial benefits of ownership--was not so large as those
of some of his neighbours. There was, however, no place within the
county which was so beautifully situated as The Cleeve, or which had
about it so many of the attractions of age. The house itself had been
built at two periods,--a new set of rooms having been added to the
remains of the old Elizabethan structure in the time of Charles II.
It had not about it anything that was peculiarly grand or imposing,
nor were the rooms large or even commodious; but everything was old,
venerable, and picturesque. Both the dining-room and the library were
panelled with black wainscoating; and though the drawing-rooms were
papered, the tall, elaborately-worked wooden chimney-pieces still
stood in them, and a wooden band or belt round the rooms showed that
the panels were still there, although hidden by the modern paper.

But it was for the beauty and wildness of its grounds that The Cleeve
was remarkable. The land fell here and there into narrow, wild
ravines and woody crevices. The soil of the park was not rich, and
could give but little assistance to the chemists in supplying the
plentiful food expected by Mr. Mason for the coming multitudes of the
world; it produced in some parts heather instead of grass, and was
as wild and unprofitable as Cleeve Common, which stretched for miles
outside the park palings; but it seemed admirably adapted for deer
and for the maintenance of half-decayed venerable oaks. Young timber
also throve well about the place, and in this respect Sir Peregrine
was a careful landlord. There ran a river through the park,--the
River Cleeve, from which the place and parish are said to have
taken their names;--a river, or rather a stream, very narrow and
inconsiderable as to its volume of water, but which passed for some
two miles through so narrow a passage as to give to it the appearance
of a cleft or fissure in the rocks. The water tumbled over stones
through this entire course, making it seem to be fordable almost
everywhere without danger of wet feet; but in truth there was hardly
a spot at which it could be crossed without a bold leap from rock to
rock. Narrow as was the aperture through which the water had cut its
way, nevertheless a path had been contrived now on one side of the
stream and now on the other, crossing it here and there by slight
hanging wooden bridges. The air here was always damp with spray, and
the rocks on both sides were covered with long mosses, as were also
the overhanging boughs of the old trees. This place was the glory
of The Cleeve, and as far as picturesque beauty goes it was very
glorious. There was a spot in the river from whence a steep path led
down from the park to the water, and at this spot the deer would come
to drink. I know nothing more beautiful than this sight, when three
or four of them could be so seen from one of the wooden bridges
towards the hour of sunset in the autumn.

Sir Peregrine himself at this time was an old man, having passed his
seventieth year. He was a fine, handsome English gentleman with white
hair, keen gray eyes, a nose slightly aquiline, and lips now too
closely pressed together in consequence of the havoc which time had
made among his teeth. He was tall, but had lost something of his
height from stooping,--was slight in his form, but well made, and
vain of the smallness of his feet and the whiteness of his hands. He
was generous, quick tempered, and opinionated; generally very mild to
those who would agree with him and submit to him, but intolerant of
contradiction, and conceited as to his experience of the world and
the wisdom which he had thence derived. To those who were manifestly
his inferiors he was affable, to his recognised equals he was
courteous, to women he was almost always gentle;--but to men who
claimed an equality which he would not acknowledge, he could make
himself particularly disagreeable. In judging the position which a
man should hold in the world, Sir Peregrine was very resolute in
ignoring all claims made by wealth alone. Even property in land could
not in his eyes create a gentleman. A gentleman, according to his
ideas, should at any rate have great-grandfathers capable of being
traced in the world's history; and the greater the number of such,
and the more easily traceable they might be on the world's surface,
the more unquestionable would be the status of the claimant in
question. Such being the case, it may be imagined that Joseph Mason,
Esq., of Groby Park did not rank high in the estimation of Sir
Peregrine Orme.

I have said that Sir Peregrine was fond of his own opinion; but
nevertheless he was a man whom it was by no means difficult to lead.
In the first place he was singularly devoid of suspicion. The word of
a man or of a woman was to him always credible, until full proof had
come home to him that it was utterly unworthy of credit. After that
such a man or woman might as well spare all speech as regards the
hope of any effect on the mind of Sir Peregrine Orme. He did not
easily believe a fellow-creature to be a liar, but a liar to him once
was a liar always. And then he was amenable to flattery, and few that
are so are proof against the leading-strings of their flatterers. All
this was well understood of Sir Peregrine by those about him. His
gardener, his groom, and his woodman all knew his foibles. They all
loved him, respected him, and worked for him faithfully; but each of
them had his own way in his own branch.

And there was another person at The Cleeve who took into her own
hands a considerable share of the management and leading of Sir
Peregrine, though, in truth, she made no efforts in that direction.
This was Mrs. Orme, the widow of his only child, and the mother of
his heir. Mrs. Orme was a younger woman than Mrs. Mason of Orley Farm
by nearly five years, though her son was but twelve months junior to
Lucius Mason. She had been the daughter of a brother baronet, whose
family was nearly as old as that of the Ormes; and therefore, though
she had come penniless to her husband, Sir Peregrine had considered
that his son had married well. She had been a great beauty, very
small in size and delicate of limb, fair haired, with soft blue
wondering eyes, and a dimpled cheek. Such she had been when young
Peregrine Orme brought her home to The Cleeve, and the bride at once
became the darling of her father-in-law. One year she had owned
of married joy, and then all the happiness of the family had been
utterly destroyed, and for the few following years there had been no
sadder household in all the country-side than that of Sir Peregrine
Orme. His son, his only son, the pride of all who knew him, the hope
of his political party in the county, the brightest among the bright
ones of the day for whom the world was just opening her richest
treasures, fell from his horse as he was crossing into a road, and
his lifeless body was brought home to The Cleeve.

All this happened now twenty years since, but the widow still wears
the colours of mourning. Of her also the world of course said that
she would soon console herself with a second love; but she too has
given the world the lie. From that day to the present she has never
left the house of her father-in-law; she has been a true child to
him, and she has enjoyed all a child's privileges. There has been
but little favour for any one at The Cleeve who has been considered
by the baronet to disregard the wishes of the mistress of the
establishment. Any word from her has been law to him, and he has of
course expected also that her word should be law to others. He has
yielded to her in all things, and attended to her will as though she
were a little queen, recognizing in her feminine weakness a sovereign
power, as some men can and do; and having thus for years indulged
himself in a quixotic gallantry to the lady of his household, he has
demanded of others that they also should bow the knee.

During the last twenty years The Cleeve has not been a gay house.
During the last ten those living there have been contented, and in
the main happy; but there has seldom been many guests in the old
hall, and Sir Peregrine has not been fond of going to other men's
feasts. He inherited the property very early in life, and then there
were on it some few encumbrances. While yet a young man he added
something to these, and now, since his own son's death, he has been
setting his house in order, that his grandson should receive the
family acres intact. Every shilling due on the property has been paid
off; and it is well that this should be so, for there is reason to
fear that the heir will want a helping hand out of some of youth's
difficulties,--perhaps once or twice before his passion for rats
gives place to a good English gentleman-like resolve to hunt twice a
week, look after his timber, and live well within his means.

The chief fault in the character of young Peregrine Orme was that
he was so young. There are men who are old at one-and-twenty,--are
quite fit for Parliament, the magistrate's bench, the care of a wife,
and even for that much sterner duty, the care of a balance at the
bankers; but there are others who at that age are still boys,--whose
inner persons and characters have not begun to clothe themselves with
the "toga virilis." I am not sure that those whose boyhoods are so
protracted have the worst of it, if in this hurrying and competitive
age they can be saved from being absolutely trampled in the dust
before they are able to do a little trampling on their own account.
Fruit that grows ripe the quickest is not the sweetest; nor when
housed and garnered will it keep the longest. For young Peregrine
there was no need of competitive struggles. The days have not yet
come, though they are no doubt coming, when "detur digniori" shall
be the rule of succession to all titles, honours, and privileges
whatsoever. Only think what a life it would give to the education of
the country in general, if any lad from seventeen to twenty-one could
go in for a vacant dukedom; and if a goodly inheritance could be
made absolutely incompatible with incorrect spelling and doubtful
proficiency in rule of three!

Luckily for Peregrine junior these days are not yet at hand, or I
fear that there would be little chance for him. While Lucius Mason
was beginning to think that the chemists might be hurried, and that
agriculture might be beneficially added to philology, our friend
Peregrine had just been rusticated, and the head of his college had
intimated to the baronet that it would be well to take the young
man's name off the college books. This accordingly had been done,
and the heir of The Cleeve was at present at home with his mother
and grandfather. What special act of grace had led to this severity
we need not inquire, but we may be sure that the frolics of which
he had been guilty had been essentially young in their nature. He
had assisted in driving a farmer's sow into the man's best parlour,
or had daubed the top of the tutor's cap with white paint, or had
perhaps given liberty to a bag full of rats in the college hall at
dinner-time. Such were the youth's academical amusements, and as they
were pursued with unremitting energy it was thought well that he
should be removed from Oxford.

Then had come the terrible question of his university bills. One
after another, half a score of them reached Sir Peregrine, and then
took place that terrible interview,--such as most young men have had
to undergo at least once,--in which he was asked how he intended to
absolve himself from the pecuniary liabilities which he had incurred.

"I am sure I don't know," said young Orme, sadly.

"But I shall be glad, sir, if you will favour me with your
intentions," said Sir Peregrine, with severity. "A gentleman does
not, I presume, send his orders to a tradesman without having some
intention of paying him for his goods."

"I intended that they should all be paid, of course."

"And how, sir? by whom?"

"Well, sir,--I suppose I intended that you should pay them;" and
the scapegrace as he spoke looked full up into the baronet's face
with his bright blue eyes,--not impudently, as though defying his
grandfather, but with a bold confidence which at once softened the
old man's heart.

Sir Peregrine turned away and walked twice the length of the library;
then, returning to the spot where the other stood, he put his hand on
his grandson's shoulder. "Well, Peregrine, I will pay them," he said.
"I have no doubt that you did so intend when you incurred them;--and
that was perhaps natural. I will pay them; but for your own sake, and
for your dear mother's sake, I hope that they are not very heavy. Can
you give me a list of all that you owe?"

Young Peregrine said that he thought he could, and sitting down at
once he made a clean breast of it. With all his foibles, follies, and
youthful ignorances, in two respects he stood on good ground. He was
neither false nor a coward. He continued to scrawl down items as long
as there were any of which he could think, and then handed over the
list in order that his grandfather might add them up. It was the
last he ever heard of the matter; and when he revisited Oxford some
twelve months afterwards, the tradesmen whom he had honoured with his
custom bowed to him as low as though he had already inherited twenty
thousand a year.

Peregrine Orme was short in stature as was his mother, and he also
had his mother's wonderfully bright blue eyes; but in other respects
he was very like his father and grandfather;--very like all the
Ormes who had lived for ages past. His hair was light; his forehead
was not large, but well formed and somewhat prominent; his nose
had something, though not much, of the eagle's beak; his mouth was
handsome in its curve, and his teeth were good, and his chin was
divided by a deep dimple. His figure was not only short, but stouter
than that of the Ormes in general. He was very strong on his legs; he
could wrestle, and box, and use the single-stick with a quickness and
precision that was the terror of all the freshmen who had come in his
way.

Mrs. Orme, his mother, no doubt thought that he was perfect. Looking
at the reflex of her own eyes in his, and seeing in his face so sweet
a portraiture of the nose and mouth and forehead of him whom she
had loved so dearly and lost so soon, she could not but think him
perfect. When she was told that the master of Lazarus had desired
that her son should be removed from his college, she had accused the
tyrant of unrelenting, persecuting tyranny; and the gentle arguments
of Sir Peregrine had no effect towards changing her ideas. On that
disagreeable matter of the bills little or nothing was said to her.
Indeed, money was a subject with which she was never troubled. Sir
Peregrine conceived that money was a man's business, and that the
softness of a woman's character should be preserved by a total
absence of all pecuniary thoughts and cares.

And then there arose at The Cleeve a question as to what should
immediately be done with the heir. He himself was by no means so well
prepared with an answer as had been his friend Lucius Mason. When
consulted by his grandfather, he said that he did not know. He would
do anything that Sir Peregrine wished. Would Sir Peregrine think
it well that he should prepare himself for the arduous duties of a
master of hounds? Sir Peregrine did not think this at all well, but
it did not appear that he himself was prepared with any immediate
proposition. Then Peregrine discussed the matter with his mother,
explaining that he had hoped at any rate to get the next winter's
hunting with the H.H.;--which letters have represented the Hamworth
Fox Hunt among sporting men for many years past. To this his mother
made no objection, expressing a hope, however, that he would go
abroad in the spring. "Home-staying youths have ever homely wits,"
she said to him, smiling on him ever so sweetly.

"That's quite true, mother," he said. "And that's why I should like
to go to Leicestershire this winter." But going to Leicestershire
this winter was out of the question.



CHAPTER IV

THE PERILS OF YOUTH


Going to Leicestershire was quite out of the question for young Orme
at this period of his life, but going to London unfortunately was
not so. He had become acquainted at Oxford with a gentleman of
great skill in his peculiar line of life, whose usual residence
was in the metropolis; and so great had been the attraction found
in the character and pursuits of this skilful gentleman, that our
hero had not been long at The Cleeve, after his retirement from
the university, before he visited his friend. Cowcross Street,
Smithfield, was the site of this professor's residence, the
destruction of rats in a barrel was his profession, and his name
was Carroty Bob. It is not my intention to introduce the reader to
Carroty Bob in person, as circumstances occurred about this time
which brought his intimacy with Mr. Orme to an abrupt conclusion. It
would be needless to tell how our hero was induced to back a certain
terrier, presumed to be the pride of Smithfield; how a great match
came off, second only in importance to a contest for the belt of
England; how money was lost and quarrels arose, and how Peregrine
Orme thrashed one sporting gent within an inch of his life, and
fought his way out of Carroty Bob's house at twelve o'clock at night.
The tale of the row got into the newspapers, and of course reached
The Cleeve. Sir Peregrine sent for his grandson into his study, and
insisted on knowing everything;--how much money there was to pay, and
what chance there might be of an action and damages. Of an action and
damages there did not seem to be any chance, and the amount of money
claimed was not large. Rats have this advantage, that they usually
come cheaper than race-horses; but then, as Sir Peregrine felt
sorely, they do not sound so well.

"Do you know, sir, that you are breaking your mother's heart?" said
Sir Peregrine, looking very sternly at the young man--as sternly as
he was able to look, let him do his worst.

Peregrine the younger had a very strong idea that he was not doing
anything of the kind. He had left her only a quarter of an hour
since; and though she had wept during the interview, she had forgiven
him with many caresses, and had expressed her opinion that the chief
fault had lain with Carroty Bob and those other wretched people
who had lured her dear child into their villainous den. She had
altogether failed to conceal her pride at his having fought his way
out from among them, and had ended by supplying his pocket out of
her own immediate resources. "I hope not, sir," said Peregrine the
younger, thinking over some of these things.

"But you will, sir, if you go on with this shameless career. I do not
speak of myself. I do not expect you to sacrifice your tastes for me;
but I did think that you loved your mother!"

"So I do;--and you too."

"I am not speaking about myself sir. When I think what your father
was at your age;--how nobly--" And then the baronet was stopped in
his speech, and wiped his eyes with his handkerchief. "Do you think
that your father, sir, followed such pursuits as these? Do you think
that he spent his time in the pursuit of--rats?"

"Well; I don't know; I don't think he did. But I have heard you say,
sir, that you sometimes went to cockfights when you were young."

"To cockfights! well, yes. But let me tell you, sir, that I always
went in the company of gentlemen--that is, when I did go, which was
very seldom." The baronet in some after-dinner half-hour had allowed
this secret of his youth to escape from him, imprudently.

"And I went to the house in Cowcross Street with Lord John Fitzjoly."

"The last man in all London with whom you ought to associate! But I
am not going to argue with you, sir. If you think, and will continue
to think, that the slaughtering of vermin is a proper pursuit--"

"But, sir, foxes are vermin also."

"Hold your tongue, sir, and listen to me. You know very well what
I mean, sir. If you think that--rats are a proper pursuit for a
gentleman in your sphere of life, and if all that I can say has
no effect in changing your opinion--I shall have done. I have not
many years of life before me, and when I shall be no more, you can
squander the property in any vile pursuits that may be pleasing to
you. But, sir, you shall not do it while I am living; nor, if I can
help it, shall you rob your mother of such peace of mind as is left
for her in this world. I have only one alternative for you, sir--."
Sir Peregrine did not stop to explain what might be the other branch
of this alternative. "Will you give me your word of honour as
a gentleman that you will never again concern yourself in this
disgusting pursuit?"

"Never, grandfather!" said Peregrine, solemnly.

Sir Peregrine before he answered bethought himself that any pledge
given for a whole life-time must be foolish; and he bethought himself
also that if he could wean his heir from rats for a year or so, the
taste would perish from lack of nourishment. "I will say for two
years," said Sir Peregrine, still maintaining his austere look.

"For two years!" repeated Peregrine the younger; "and this is the
fourth of October."

"Yes, sir; for two years," said the baronet, more angry than ever at
the young man's pertinacity, and yet almost amused at his grandson's
already formed resolve to go back to his occupation at the first
opportunity allowed.

"Couldn't you date it from the end of August, sir? The best of the
matches always come off in September."

"No, sir; I will not date it from any other time than the present.
Will you give me your word of honour as a gentleman, for two years?"

Peregrine thought over the proposition for a minute or two in sad
anticipation of all that he was to lose, and then slowly gave his
adhesion to the terms. "Very well, sir;--for two years." And then he
took out his pocket-book and wrote in it slowly.

It was at any rate manifest that he intended to keep his word, and
that was much; so Sir Peregrine accepted the promise for what it was
worth. "And now," said he, "if you have got nothing better to do, we
will ride down to Crutchley Wood."

"I should like it of all things," said his grandson.

"Samson wants me to cut a new bridle-path through from the larches at
the top of the hill down to Crutchley Bottom; but I don't think I'll
have it done. Tell Jacob to let us have the nags; I'll ride the gray
pony. And ask your mother if she'll ride with us."

It was the manner of Sir Peregrine to forgive altogether when he did
forgive; and to commence his forgiveness in all its integrity from
the first moment of the pardon. There was nothing he disliked so
much as being on bad terms with those around him, and with none more
so than with his grandson. Peregrine well knew how to make himself
pleasant to the old man, and when duly encouraged would always do so.
And thus the family party, as they rode on this occasion through the
woods of The Cleeve, discussed oaks and larches, beech and birches,
as though there were no such animal as a rat in existence, and no
such place known as Cowcross Street.

"Well, Perry, as you and Samson are both of one mind, I suppose the
path must be made," said Sir Peregrine, as he got off his horse at
the entrance of the stable-yard, and prepared to give his feeble aid
to Mrs. Orme.

Shortly after this the following note was brought up to The Cleeve by
a messenger from Orley Farm:--


   MY DEAR SIR PEREGRINE,

   If you are quite disengaged at twelve o'clock to-morrow, I
   will walk over to The Cleeve at that hour. Or if it would
   suit you better to call here as you are riding, I would
   remain within till you come. I want your kind advice on a
   certain matter.

   Most sincerely yours,

   MARY MASON.

   Thursday.


Lady Mason, when she wrote this note, was well aware that it would
not be necessary for her to go to The Cleeve. Sir Peregrine's
courtesy would not permit him to impose any trouble on a lady when
the alternative of taking that trouble on himself was given to him.
Moreover, he liked to have some object for his daily ride; he liked
to be consulted "on certain matters;" and he especially liked being
so consulted by Lady Mason. So he sent word back that he would be at
the farm at twelve on the following day, and exactly at that hour his
gray pony or cob might have been seen slowly walking up the avenue to
the farm-house.

The Cleeve was not distant from Orley Farm more than two miles by
the nearest walking-path, although it could not be driven much under
five. With any sort of carriage one was obliged to come from The
Cleeve House down to the lodge on the Hamworth and Alston road, and
then to drive through the town of Hamworth, and so back to the farm.
But in walking one would take the path along the river for nearly a
mile, thence rise up the hill to the top of Crutchley Wood, descend
through the wood to Crutchley Bottom, and, passing along the valley,
come out at the foot of Cleeve Hill, just opposite to Orley Farm
Gate. The distance for a horseman was somewhat greater, seeing that
there was not as yet any bridle-way through Crutchley Wood. Under
these circumstances the journey between the two houses was very
frequently made on foot; and for those walking from The Cleeve House
to Hamworth the nearest way was by Lady Mason's gate.

Lady Mason's drawing-room was very pretty, though it was by no means
fashionably furnished. Indeed, she eschewed fashion in all things,
and made no pretence of coming out before the world as a great lady.
She had never kept any kind of carriage, though her means, combined
with her son's income, would certainly have justified her in a
pony-chaise. Since Lucius had become master of the house he had
presented her with such a vehicle, and also with the pony and harness
complete; but as yet she had never used it, being afraid, as she said
to him with a smile, of appearing ambitious before the stern citizens
of Hamworth. "Nonsense, mother," he had replied, with a considerable
amount of young dignity in his face. "We are all entitled to those
comforts for which we can afford to pay without injury to any one. I
shall take it ill of you if I do not see you using it."

"Oh, Sir Peregrine, this is so kind of you," said Lady Mason, coming
forward to meet her friend. She was plainly dressed, without any full
exuberance of costume, and yet everything about her was neat and
pretty, and everything had been the object of feminine care. A very
plain dress may occasion as much study as the most elaborate,--and
may be quite as worthy of the study it has caused. Lady Mason, I am
inclined to think, was by no means indifferent to the subject, but
then to her belonged the great art of hiding her artifice.

"Not at all; not at all," said Sir Peregrine, taking her hand and
pressing it, as he always did. "What is the use of neighbours if they
are not neighbourly?" This was all very well from Sir Peregrine in
the existing case; but he was not a man who by any means recognised
the necessity of being civil to all who lived near him. To the great
and to the poor he was neighbourly; but it may be doubted whether
he would have thought much of Lady Mason if she had been less good
looking or less clever.

"Ah! I know how good you always are to me. But I'll tell you why I am
troubling you now. Lucius went off two days since to Liverpool."

"My grandson told me that he had left home."

"He is an excellent young man, and I am sure that I have every reason
to be thankful." Sir Peregrine, remembering the affair in Cowcross
Street, and certain other affairs of a somewhat similar nature,
thought that she had; but for all that he would not have exchanged
his own bright-eyed lad for Lucius Mason with all his virtues and all
his learning.

"And indeed I am thankful," continued the widow. "Nothing can be
better than his conduct and mode of life; but--"

"I hope he has no attraction at Liverpool, of which you disapprove."

"No, no; there is nothing of that kind. His attraction is--; but
perhaps I had better explain the whole matter. Lucius, you know, has
taken to farming."

"He has taken up the land which you held yourself, has he not?"

"Yes, and a little more; and he is anxious to add even to that. He is
very energetic about it, Sir Peregrine."

"Well; the life of a gentleman farmer is not a bad one; though in
his special circumstances I would certainly have recommended a
profession."

"Acting upon your advice I did urge him to go to the bar. But he has
a will of his own, and a mind altogether made up as to the line of
life which he thinks will suit him best. What I fear now is, that he
will spend more money upon experiments than he can afford."

"Experimental farming is an expensive amusement," said Sir Peregrine,
with a very serious shake of his head.

"I am afraid it is; and now he has gone to Liverpool to buy--guano,"
said the widow, feeling some little shame in coming to so
inconsiderable a conclusion after her somewhat stately prologue.

"To buy guano! Why could he not get his guano from Walker, as my man
Symonds does?"

"He says it is not good. He analyzed it, and--"

"Fiddlestick! Why didn't he order it in London, if he didn't like
Walker's. Gone to Liverpool for guano! I'll tell you what it is, Lady
Mason; if he intends to farm his land in that way, he should have a
very considerable capital at his back. It will be a long time before
he sees his money again." Sir Peregrine had been farming all his
life, and had his own ideas on the subject. He knew very well that no
gentleman, let him set to work as he might with his own land, could
do as well with it as a farmer who must make a living out of his
farming besides paying the rent;--who must do that or else have no
living; and he knew also that such operations as those which his
young friend was now about to attempt was an amusement fitted only
for the rich. It may be also that he was a little old-fashioned, and
therefore prejudiced against new combinations between agriculture and
chemistry. "He must put a stop to that kind of work very soon, Lady
Mason; he must indeed; or he will bring himself to ruin--and you with
him."

Lady Mason's face became very grave and serious. "But what can I say
to him, Sir Peregrine? In such a matter as that I am afraid that he
would not mind me. If you would not object to speaking to him?"

Sir Peregrine was graciously pleased to say that he would not object.
It was a disagreeable task, he said, that of giving advice to a young
man who was bound by no tie either to take it or even to receive it
with respect.

"You will not find him at all disrespectful; I think I can promise
that," said the frightened mother; and that matter was ended by a
promise on the part of the baronet to take the case in hand, and to
see Lucius immediately on his return from Liverpool. "He had better
come and dine at The Cleeve," said Sir Peregrine, "and we will have
it out after dinner." All of which made Lady Mason very grateful.



CHAPTER V

SIR PEREGRINE MAKES A SECOND PROMISE


We left Lady Mason very grateful at the end of the last chapter for
the promise made to her by Sir Peregrine with reference to her son;
but there was still a weight on Lady Mason's mind. They say that the
pith of a lady's letter is in the postscript, and it may be that that
which remained for Lady Mason to say, was after all the matter as to
which she was most anxious for assistance. "As you are here," she
said to the baronet, "would you let me mention another subject?"

"Surely," said he, again putting down his hat and riding-stick.

Sir Peregrine was not given to close observation of those around him,
or he might have seen by the heightened colour of the lady's face,
and by the slight nervous hesitation with which she began to speak,
that she was much in earnest as to this other matter. And had he been
clever in his powers of observation he might have seen also that she
was anxious to hide this feeling. "You remember the circumstances of
that terrible lawsuit?" she said, at last.

"What; as to Sir Joseph's will? Yes; I remember them well."

"I know that I shall never forget all the kindness that you showed
me," said she. "I don't know how I should have lived through it
without you and dear Mrs. Orme."

"But what about it now?"

"I fear I am going to have further trouble."

"Do you mean that the man at Groby Park is going to try the case
again? It is not possible after such a lapse of time. I am no lawyer,
but I do not think that he can do it."

"I do not know--I do not know what he intends, or whether he intends
anything; but I am sure of this,--that he will give me trouble if he
can. But I will tell you the whole story, Sir Peregrine. It is not
much, and perhaps after all may not be worth attention. You know the
attorney in Hamworth who married Miriam Usbech?"

"What, Samuel Dockwrath? Oh, yes; I know him well enough; and to tell
the truth I do not think very well of him. Is he not a tenant of
yours?"

"Not at present." And then Lady Mason explained the manner in which
the two fields had been taken out of the lawyer's hands by her son's
order.

"Ah! he was wrong there," said the baronet. "When a man has held land
so long it should not be taken away from him except under pressing
circumstances; that is if he pays his rent."

"Mr. Dockwrath did pay his rent, certainly; and now, I fear, he is
determined to do all he can to injure us."

"But what injury can Mr. Dockwrath do you?"

"I do not know, but he has gone down to Yorkshire,--to Mr. Mason's
place; I know that; and he was searching through some papers of old
Mr. Usbech's before he went. Indeed, I may say that I know as a
fact that he has gone to Mr. Mason with the hope that these law
proceedings may be brought on again."

"You know it as a fact?"

"I think I may say so."

"But, dear Lady Mason, may I ask you how you know this as a fact?"

"His wife was with me yesterday," she said, with some feeling of
shame as she disclosed the source from whence she had obtained her
information.

"And did she tell the tale against her own husband?"

"Not as meaning to say anything against him, Sir Peregrine; you
must not think so badly of her as that; nor must you think that I
would willingly obtain information in such a manner. But you must
understand that I have always been her friend; and when she found
that Mr. Dockwrath had left home on a matter in which I am so nearly
concerned, I cannot but think it natural that she should let me
know."

To this Sir Peregrine made no direct answer. He could not quite say
that he thought it was natural, nor could he give any expressed
approval of any such intercourse between Lady Mason and the
attorney's wife. He thought it would be better that Mr. Dockwrath
should be allowed to do his worst, if he had any intention of doing
evil, and that Lady Mason should pass it by without condescending to
notice the circumstance. But he made allowances for her weakness, and
did not give utterance to his disapproval in words.

"I know you think that I have done wrong," she then said, appealing
to him; and there was a tone of sorrow in her voice which went to his
heart.

"No, not wrong; I cannot say that you have done wrong. It may be a
question whether you have done wisely."

"Ah! if you only condemn my folly, I will not despair. It is probable
I may not have done wisely, seeing that I had not you to direct me.
But what shall I do now? Oh, Sir Peregrine, say that you will not
desert me if all this trouble is coming on me again!"

"No, I will not desert you, Lady Mason; you may be sure of that."

"Dearest friend!"

"But I would advise you to take no notice whatever of Mr. Dockwrath
and his proceedings. I regard him as a person entirely beneath your
notice, and if I were you I should not move at all in this matter
unless I received some legal summons which made it necessary for me
to do so. I have not the honour of any personal acquaintance with Mr.
Mason of Groby Park." It was in this way that Sir Peregrine always
designated his friend's stepson--"but if I understand the motives by
which he may probably be actuated in this or in any other matter,
I do not think it likely that he will expend money on so very
unpromising a case."

"He would do anything for vengeance."

"I doubt if he would throw away his money even for that, unless he
were very sure of his prey. And in this matter, what can he possibly
do? He has the decision of the jury against him, and at the time he
was afraid to carry the case up to a court of appeal."

"But, Sir Peregrine, it is impossible to know what documents he may
have obtained since that."

"What documents can do you any harm;--unless, indeed, there should
turn out to be a will subsequent to that under which your son
inherits the property?"

"Oh, no; there was no subsequent will."

"Of course there was not; and therefore you need not frighten
yourself. It is just possible that some attempt may be made now that
your son is of age, but I regard even that as improbable."

"And you would not advise me then to say anything to Mr. Furnival?"

"No; certainly not--unless you receive some legal notice which may
make it necessary for you to consult a lawyer. Do nothing; and if
Mrs. Dockwrath comes to you again, tell her that you are not disposed
to take any notice of her information. Mrs. Dockwrath is, I am sure,
a very good sort of woman. Indeed I have always heard so. But, if
I were you, I don't think that I should feel inclined to have much
conversation with her about my private affairs. What you tell her you
tell also to her husband." And then the baronet, having thus spoken
words of wisdom, sat silent in his arm-chair; and Lady Mason, still
looking into his face, remained silent also for a few minutes.

"I am so glad I asked you to come," she then said.

"I am delighted, if I have been of any service to you."

"Of any service! oh, Sir Peregrine, you cannot understand what it is
to live alone as I do,--for of course I cannot trouble Lucius with
these matters; nor can a man, gifted as you are, comprehend how a
woman can tremble at the very idea that those law proceedings may
possibly be repeated."

Sir Peregrine could not but remember as he looked at her that during
all those law proceedings, when an attack was made, not only on her
income but on her honesty, she had never seemed to tremble. She had
always been constant to herself, even when things appeared to be
going against her. But years passing over her head since that time
had perhaps told upon her courage.

"But I will fear nothing now, as you have promised that you will
still be my friend."

"You may be very sure of that, Lady Mason. I believe that I may
fairly boast that I do not easily abandon those whom I have once
regarded with esteem and affection; among whom Lady Mason will, I am
sure, allow me to say that she is reckoned as by no means the least."
And then taking her hand, the old gentleman bowed over it and kissed
it.

"My dearest, dearest friend!" said she; and lifting Sir Peregrine's
beautifully white hand to her lips she also kissed that. It will be
remembered that the gentleman was over seventy, and that this pretty
scene could therefore be enacted without impropriety on either side.
Sir Peregrine then went, and as he passed out of the door Lady
Mason smiled on him very sweetly. It is quite true that he was over
seventy; but nevertheless the smile of a pretty woman still had
charms for him, more especially if there was a tear in her eye the
while;--for Sir Peregrine Orme had a soft heart.

As soon as the door was closed behind him Lady Mason seated herself
in her accustomed chair, and all trace of the smile vanished from her
face. She was alone now, and could allow her countenance to be a true
index of her mind. If such was the case her heart surely was very
sad. She sat there perfectly still for nearly an hour, and during the
whole of that time there was the same look of agony on her brow. Once
or twice she rubbed her hands across her forehead, brushing back her
hair, and showing, had there been any one by to see it, that there
was many a gray lock there mixed with the brown hairs. Had there been
any one by, she would, it may be surmised, have been more careful.

There was no smile in her face now, neither was there any tear in her
eye. The one and the other emblem were equally alien to her present
mood. But there was sorrow at her heart, and deep thought in her
mind. She knew that her enemies were conspiring against her,--against
her and against her son; and what steps might she best take in order
that she might baffle them?

"I have got that woman on the hip now." Those were the words which
Mr. Dockwrath had uttered into his wife's ears, after two days spent
in searching through her father's papers. The poor woman had once
thought of burning all those papers--in old days before she had
become Mrs. Dockwrath. Her friend, Lady Mason, had counselled her
to do so, pointing out to her that they were troublesome, and could
by no possibility lead to profit; but she had consulted her lover,
and he had counselled her to burn nothing. "Would that she had been
guided by her friend!" she now said to herself with regard to that
old trunk, and perhaps occasionally with regard to some other things.

"I have got that woman on the hip at last!" and there had been a
gleam of satisfaction in Samuel's eye as he uttered the words which
had convinced his wife that it was not an idle threat. She knew
nothing of what the box had contained; and now, even if it had not
been kept safe from her under Samuel's private key, the contents
which were of interest had of course gone. "I have business in the
north, and shall be away for about a week," Mr. Dockwrath had said to
her on the following morning.

"Oh, very well; then I'll put up your things," she had answered in
her usual mild, sad, whining, household voice. Her voice at home was
always sad and whining, for she was overworked, and had too many
cares, and her lord was a tyrant to her rather than a husband.

"Yes, I must see Mr. Mason immediately. And look here, Miriam, I
positively insist that you do not go to Orley Farm, or hold any
intercourse whatever with Lady Mason. D'ye hear?"

Mrs. Dockwrath said that she did hear, and promised obedience. Mr.
Dockwrath probably guessed that the moment his back was turned all
would be told at the farm, and probably also had no real objection to
her doing so. Had he in truth wished to keep his proceedings secret
from Lady Mason he would not have divulged them to his wife. And then
Mr. Dockwrath did start for the north, bearing certain documents with
him; and soon after his departure Mrs. Dockwrath did pay a visit to
Orley Farm.

Lady Mason sat there perfectly still for about an hour thinking what
she would do. She had asked Sir Peregrine, and had the advantage of
his advice; but that did not weigh much with her. What she wanted
from Sir Peregrine was countenance and absolute assistance in the
day of trouble,--not advice. She had desired to renew his interest
in her favour, and to receive from him his assurance that he would
not desert her; and that she had obtained. It was of course also
necessary that she should consult him; but in turning over within her
own mind this and that line of conduct, she did not, consciously,
attach any weight to Sir Peregrine's opinion. The great question for
her to decide was this;--should she put herself and her case into the
hands of her friend Mr. Furnival now at once, or should she wait till
she had received some certain symptom of hostile proceedings? If she
did see Mr. Furnival, what could she tell him? Only this, that Mr.
Dockwrath had found some document among the papers of old Mr. Usbech,
and had gone off with the same to Groby Park in Yorkshire. What that
document might be she was as ignorant as the attorney's wife.

When the hour was ended she had made up her mind that she would do
nothing more in the matter, at any rate on that day.



CHAPTER VI

THE COMMERCIAL ROOM, BULL INN, LEEDS


Mr. Samuel Dockwrath was a little man, with sandy hair, a pale face,
and stone-blue eyes. In judging of him by appearance only and not by
the ear, one would be inclined to doubt that he could be a very sharp
attorney abroad and a very persistent tyrant at home. But when Mr.
Dockwrath began to talk, one's respect for him began to grow. He
talked well and to the point, and with a tone of voice that could
command where command was possible, persuade where persuasion was
required, mystify when mystification was needed, and express with
accuracy the tone of an obedient humble servant when servility was
thought to be expedient. We will now accompany him on his little tour
into Yorkshire.

Groby Park is about seven miles from Leeds, and as Mr. Dockwrath had
in the first instance to travel from Hamworth up to London, he did
not reach Leeds till late in the evening. It was a nasty, cold,
drizzling night, so that the beauties and marvels of the large
manufacturing town offered him no attraction, and at nine o'clock
he had seated himself before the fire in the commercial room at The
Bull, had called for a pair of public slippers, and was about to
solace all his cares with a glass of mahogany-coloured brandy and
water and a cigar. The room had no present occupant but himself, and
therefore he was able to make the most of all its comforts. He had
taken the solitary arm-chair, and had so placed himself that the gas
would fall direct from behind his head on to that day's "Leeds and
Halifax Chronicle," as soon as he should choose to devote himself to
local politics.

The waiter had looked at him with doubtful eyes when he asked to be
shown into the commercial room, feeling all but confident that such a
guest had no right to be there. He had no bulky bundles of samples,
nor any of those outward characteristics of a commercial "gent" with
which all men conversant with the rail and road are acquainted, and
which the accustomed eye of a waiter recognises at a glance. And
here it may be well to explain that ordinary travellers are in this
respect badly treated by the customs of England, or rather by the
hotel-keepers. All inn-keepers have commercial rooms, as certainly
as they have taps and bars, but all of them do not have commercial
rooms in the properly exclusive sense. A stranger, therefore, who has
asked for and obtained his mutton-chop in the commercial room of The
Dolphin, The Bear, and The George, not unnaturally asks to be shown
into the same chamber at the King's Head. But the King's Head does a
business with real commercials, and the stranger finds himself--out
of his element.

"'Mercial, sir?" said the waiter at The Bull Inn, Leeds, to Mr.
Dockwrath, in that tone of doubt which seemed to carry an answer to
his own question. But Mr. Dockwrath was not a man to be put down by
a waiter. "Yes," said he. "Didn't you hear me say so?" And then the
waiter gave way. None of those lords of the road were in the house at
the moment, and it might be that none would come that night.

Mr. Dockwrath had arrived by the 8.22 P.M. down, but the 8.45 P.M. up
from the north followed quick upon his heels, and he had hardly put
his brandy and water to his mouth before a rush and a sound of many
voices were heard in the hall. There is a great difference between
the entrance into an inn of men who are not known there and of
men who are known. The men who are not known are shy, diffident,
doubtful, and anxious to propitiate the chambermaid by great
courtesy. The men who are known are loud, jocular, and assured;--or
else, in case of deficient accommodation, loud, angry, and full of
threats. The guests who had now arrived were well known, and seemed
at present to be in the former mood. "Well, Mary, my dear, what's the
time of day with you?" said a rough, bass voice, within the hearing
of Mr. Dockwrath. "Much about the old tune, Mr. Moulder," said the
girl at the bar. "Time to look alive and keep moving. Will you have
them boxes up stairs, Mr. Kantwise?" and then there were a few words
about the luggage, and two real commercial gentlemen walked into the
room.

Mr. Dockwrath resolved to stand upon his rights, so he did not move
his chair, but looked up over his shoulder at the new comers. The
first man who entered was short and very fat;--so fat that he could
not have seen his own knees for some considerable time past. His face
rolled with fat, as also did all his limbs. His eyes were large, and
bloodshot. He wore no beard, and therefore showed plainly the triple
bagging of his fat chin. In spite of his overwhelming fatness, there
was something in his face that was masterful and almost vicious. His
body had been overcome by eating, but not as yet his spirit--one
would be inclined to say. This was Mr. Moulder, well known on the
road as being in the grocery and spirit line; a pushing man, who
understood his business, and was well trusted by his firm in spite of
his habitual intemperance. What did the firm care whether or no he
killed himself by eating and drinking? He sold his goods, collected
his money, and made his remittances. If he got drunk at night that
was nothing to them, seeing that he always did his quota of work the
next day. But Mr. Moulder did not get drunk. His brandy and water
went into his blood, and into his eyes, and into his feet, and into
his hands,--but not into his brain.

The other was a little square man in the hardware line, of the name
of Kantwise. He disposed of fire-irons, grates, ovens, and kettles,
and was at the present moment heavily engaged in the sale of certain
newly-invented metallic tables and chairs lately brought out by the
Patent Steel Furniture Company, for which Mr. Kantwise did business.
He looked as though a skin rather too small for the purpose had been
drawn over his head and face so that his forehead and cheeks and chin
were tight and shiny. His eyes were small and green, always moving
about in his head, and were seldom used by Mr. Kantwise in the
ordinary way. At whatever he looked he looked sideways; it was not
that he did not look you in the face, but he always looked at you
with a sidelong glance, never choosing to have you straight in front
of him. And the more eager he was in conversation--the more anxious
he might be to gain his point, the more he averted his face and
looked askance; so that sometimes he would prefer to have his
antagonist almost behind his shoulder. And then as he did this, he
would thrust forward his chin, and having looked at you round the
corner till his eyes were nearly out of his head, he would close
them both and suck in his lips, and shake his head with rapid little
shakes, as though he were saying to himself, "Ah, sir! you're a bad
un, a very bad un." His nose--for I should do Mr. Kantwise injustice
if I did not mention this feature--seemed to have been compressed
almost into nothing by that skin-squeezing operation. It was long
enough, taking the measurement down the bridge, and projected
sufficiently, counting the distance from the upper lip; but it had
all the properties of a line; it possessed length without breadth.
There was nothing in it from side to side. If you essayed to pull it,
your fingers would meet. When I shall have also said that the hair
on Mr. Kantwise's head stood up erect all round to the height of two
inches, and that it was very red, I shall have been accurate enough
in his personal description.

That Mr. Moulder represented a firm good business, doing tea, coffee,
and British brandy on a well-established basis of capital and profit,
the travelling commercial world in the north of England was well
aware. No one entertained any doubt about his employers, Hubbles and
Grease of Houndsditch. Hubbles and Grease were all right, as they had
been any time for the last twenty years. But I cannot say that there
was quite so strong a confidence felt in the Patent Steel Furniture
Company generally, or in the individual operations of Mr. Kantwise
in particular. The world in Yorkshire and Lancashire was doubtful
about metallic tables, and it was thought that Mr. Kantwise was too
eloquent in their praise.

Mr. Moulder when he had entered the room, stood still, to enable
the waiter to peel off from him his greatcoat and the large shawl
with which his neck was enveloped, and Mr. Kantwise performed the
same operation for himself, carefully folding up the articles of
clothing as he took them off. Then Mr. Moulder fixed his eyes on Mr.
Dockwrath, and stared at him very hard. "Who's the party, James?" he
said to the waiter, speaking in a whisper that was plainly heard by
the attorney.

"Gen'elman by the 8.22 down," said James.

"Commercial?" asked Mr. Moulder, with angry frown.

"He says so himself, anyways," said the waiter.

"Gammon!" replied Mr. Moulder, who knew all the bearings of a
commercial man thoroughly, and could have put one together if he were
only supplied with a little bit--say the mouth, as Professor Owen
always does with the Dodoes. Mr. Moulder now began to be angry, for
he was a stickler for the rights and privileges of his class, and had
an idea that the world was not so conservative in that respect as it
should be. Mr. Dockwrath, however, was not to be frightened, so he
drew his chair a thought nearer to the fire, took a sup of brandy and
water, and prepared himself for war if war should be necessary.

"Cold evening, sir, for the time of year," said Mr. Moulder, walking
up to the fireplace, and rolling the lumps of his forehead about in
his attempt at a frown. In spite of his terrible burden of flesh, Mr.
Moulder could look angry on occasions, but he could only do so when
he was angry. He was not gifted with a command of his facial muscles.

"Yes," said Mr. Dockwrath, not taking his eyes from off the Leeds
and Halifax Chronicle. "It is coldish. Waiter, bring me a cigar."

This was very provoking, as must be confessed. Mr. Moulder had not
been prepared to take any step towards turning the gentleman out,
though doubtless he might have done so had he chosen to exercise
his prerogative. But he did expect that the gentleman would have
acknowledged the weakness of his footing, by moving himself a little
towards one side of the fire, and he did not expect that he would
have presumed to smoke without asking whether the practice was
held to be objectionable by the legal possessors of the room. Mr.
Dockwrath was free of any such pusillanimity. "Waiter," he said
again, "bring me a cigar, d'ye hear?"

The great heart of Moulder could not stand this unmoved. He had been
an accustomed visitor to that room for fifteen years, and had always
done his best to preserve the commercial code unsullied. He was now
so well known, that no one else ever presumed to take the chair
at the four o'clock commercial dinner if he were present. It was
incumbent on him to stand forward and make a fight, more especially
in the presence of Kantwise, who was by no means stanch to his order.
Kantwise would at all times have been glad to have outsiders in the
room, in order that he might puff his tables, and if possible effect
a sale;--a mode of proceeding held in much aversion by the upright,
old-fashioned, commercial mind.

"Sir," said Mr. Moulder, having become very red about the cheeks and
chin, "I and this gentleman are going to have a bit of supper, and it
ain't accustomed to smoke in commercial rooms during meals. You know
the rules no doubt if you're commercial yourself;--as I suppose you
are, seeing you in this room."

Now Mr. Moulder was wrong in his law, as he himself was very well
aware. Smoking is allowed in all commercial rooms when the dinner has
been some hour or so off the table. But then it was necessary that he
should hit the stranger in some way, and the chances were that the
stranger would know nothing about commercial law. Nor did he; so he
merely looked Mr. Moulder hard in the face. But Mr. Kantwise knew the
laws well enough, and as he saw before him a possible purchaser of
metallic tables, he came to the assistance of the attorney.

"I think you are a little wrong there, Mr. Moulder; eh; ain't you?"
said he.

"Wrong about what?" said Moulder, turning very sharply upon his
base-minded compatriot.

"Well, as to smoking. It's nine o'clock, and if the gentleman--"

"I don't care a brass farthing about the clock," said the other, "but
when I'm going to have a bit of steak with my tea, in my own room, I
chooses to have it comfortable."

"Goodness me, Mr. Moulder, how many times have I seen you sitting
there with a pipe in your mouth, and half a dozen gents eating their
teas the while in this very room? The rule of the case I take it to
be this; when--"

"Bother your rules."

"Well; it was you spoke of them."

"The question I take to be this," said Moulder, now emboldened by
the opposition he had received. "Has the gentleman any right to
be in this room at all, or has he not? Is he commercial, or is
he--miscellaneous? That's the chat, as I take it."

"You're on the square there, I must allow," said Kantwise.

"James," said Moulder, appealing with authority to the waiter, who
had remained in the room during the controversy;--and now Mr. Moulder
was determined to do his duty and vindicate his profession, let
the consequences be what they might. "James, is that gentleman
commercial, or is he not?"

It was clearly necessary now that Mr. Dockwrath himself should take
his own part, and fight his own battle. "Sir," said he, turning to
Mr. Moulder, "I think you'll find it extremely difficult to define
that word;--extremely difficult. In this enterprising country all men
are more or less commercial."

"Hear! hear!" said Mr. Kantwise.

"That's gammon," said Mr. Moulder.

"Gammon it may be," said Mr. Dockwrath, "but nevertheless it's
right in law. Taking the word in its broadest, strictest, and most
intelligible sense, I am a commercial gentleman; and as such I do
maintain that I have a full right to the accommodation of this public
room."

"That's very well put," said Mr. Kantwise.

"Waiter," thundered out Mr. Moulder, as though he imagined that that
functionary was down the yard at the taproom instead of standing
within three feet of his elbow. "Is this gent a commercial, or is he
not? Because if not,--then I'll trouble you to send Mr. Crump here.
My compliments to Mr. Crump, and I wish to see him." Now Mr. Crump
was the landlord of the Bull Inn.

"Master's just stepped out, down the street," said James.

"Why don't you answer my question, sir?" said Moulder, becoming
redder and still more red about his shirt-collars.

"The gent said as how he was 'mercial," said the poor man. "Was I to
go to contradict a gent and tell him he wasn't when he said as how he
was?"

"If you please," said Mr. Dockwrath, "we will not bring the waiter
into this discussion. I asked for the commercial room, and he did his
duty in showing me to the door of it. The fact I take to be this; in
the south of England the rules to which you refer are not kept so
strictly as in these more mercantile localities."

"I've always observed that," said Kantwise.

"I travelled for three years in Devonshire, Somersetshire, and
Wiltshire," said Moulder, "and the commercial rooms were as well kept
there as any I ever see."

"I alluded to Surrey and Kent," said Mr. Dockwrath.

"They're uncommonly miscellaneous in Surrey and Kent," said Kantwise.
"There's no doubt in the world about that."

"If the gentleman means to say that he's come in here because he
didn't know the custom of the country, I've no more to say, of
course," said Moulder. "And in that case, I, for one, shall be very
happy if the gentleman cam make himself comfortable in this room as a
stranger, and I may say guest;--paying his own shot, of course."

"And as for me, I shall be delighted," said Kantwise. "I never did
like too much exclusiveness. What's the use of bottling oneself up?
that's what I always say. Besides, there's no charity in it. We gents
as are always on the road should show a little charity to them as
ain't so well accustomed to the work."

At this allusion to charity Mr. Moulder snuffled through his nose to
show his great disgust, but he made no further answer. Mr. Dockwrath,
who was determined not to yield, but who had nothing to gain by
further fighting, bowed his head, and declared that he felt very much
obliged. Whether or no there was any touch of irony in his tone, Mr.
Moulder's ears were not fine enough to discover. So they now sat
round the fire together, the attorney still keeping his seat in the
middle. And then Mr. Moulder ordered his little bit of steak with his
tea. "With the gravy in it, James," he said, solemnly. "And a bit
of fat, and a few slices of onion, thin mind, put on raw, not with
all the taste fried out; and tell the cook if she don't do it as
it should be done, I'll be down into the kitchen and do it myself.
You'll join me, Kantwise, eh?"

"Well, I think not; I dined at three, you know."

"Dined at three! What of that? a dinner at three won't last a man for
ever. You might as well join me."

"No, I think not. Have you got such a thing as a nice red herring in
the house, James?"

"Get one round the corner, sir."

"Do, there's a good fellow; and I'll take it for a relish with my
tea. I'm not so fond of your solids three times a day. They heat the
blood too much."

"Bother," grunted Moulder; and then they went to their evening meal,
over which we will not disturb them. The steak, we may presume, was
cooked aright, as Mr. Moulder did not visit the kitchen, and Mr.
Kantwise no doubt made good play with his unsubstantial dainty, as he
spoke no further till his meal was altogether finished.

"Did you ever hear anything of that Mr. Mason who lives near
Bradford?" asked Mr. Kantwise, addressing himself to Mr. Moulder, as
soon as the things had been cleared from the table, and that latter
gentleman had been furnished with a pipe and a supply of cold
without.

"I remember his father when I was a boy," said Moulder, not troubling
himself to take his pipe from his mouth, "Mason and Martock in the
Old Jewry; very good people they were too."

"He's decently well off now, I suppose, isn't he?" said Kantwise,
turning away his face, and looking at his companion out of the
corners of his eyes.

"I suppose he is. That place there by the road-side is all his own, I
take it. Have you been at him with some of your rusty, rickety tables
and chairs?"

"Mr. Moulder, you forget that there is a gentleman here who won't
understand that you're at your jokes. I was doing business at Groby
Park, but I found the party uncommon hard to deal with."

"Didn't complete the transaction?"

"Well, no; not exactly; but I intend to call again. He's close enough
himself, is Mr. Mason. But his lady, Mrs. M.! Lord love you, Mr.
Moulder, that is a woman!"

"She is; is she? As for me, I never have none of these private
dealings. It don't suit my book at all; nor it ain't what I've been
accustomed to. If a man's wholesale, let him be wholesale." And then,
having enunciated this excellent opinion with much energy, he took a
long pull at his brandy and water.

"Very old fashioned, Mr. Moulder," said Kantwise, looking round the
corner, then shutting his eyes and shaking his head.

"May be," said Moulder, "and yet none the worse for that. I call it
hawking and peddling, that going round the country with your goods
on your back. It ain't trade." And then there was a lull in the
conversation, Mr. Kantwise, who was a very religious gentleman,
having closed his eyes, and being occupied with some internal
anathema against Mr. Moulder.

"Begging your pardon, sir, I think you were talking about one Mr.
Mason who lives in these parts," said Dockwrath.

"Exactly. Joseph Mason, Esq., of Groby Park," said Mr. Kantwise, now
turning his face upon the attorney.

"I suppose I shall be likely to find him at home to-morrow, if I
call?"

"Certainly, sir; certainly; leastwise I should say so. Any personal
acquaintance with Mr. Mason, sir? If so, I meant nothing offensive by
my allusion to the lady, sir; nothing at all, I can assure you."

"The lady's nothing to me, sir; nor the gentleman either;--only that
I have a little business with him."

"Shall be very happy to join you in a gig, sir, to-morrow, as far
as Groby Park; or fly, if more convenient. I shall only take a few
patterns with me, and they're no weight at all,--none in the least,
sir. They go on behind, and you wouldn't know it, sir." To this,
however, Mr. Dockwrath would not assent. As he wanted to see Mr.
Mason very specially, he should go early, and preferred going by
himself.

"No offence, I hope," said Mr. Kantwise.

"None in the least," said Mr. Dockwrath.

"And if you would allow me, sir, to have the pleasure of showing you
a few of my patterns, I'm sure I should be delighted." This he said
observing that Mr. Moulder was sitting over his empty glass with the
pipe in his hand, and his eyes fast closed. "I think, sir, I could
show you an article that would please you very much. You see, sir,
that new ideas are coming in every day, and wood, sir, is altogether
going out,--altogether going out as regards furniture. In another
twenty years, sir, there won't be such a thing as a wooden table
in the country, unless with some poor person that can't afford to
refurnish. Believe me, sir, iron's the thing now-a-days."

"And indian-rubber," said Dockwrath.

"Yes; indian-rubber's wonderful too. Are you in that line, sir?"

"Well; no; not exactly."

"It's not like iron, sir. You can't make a dinner-table for fourteen
people out of indian-rubber, that will shut up into a box 3-6 by
2-4 deep, and 2-6 broad. Why, sir, I can let you have a set of
drawing-room furniture for fifteen ten that you've never seen
equalled in wood for three times the money;--ornamented in the
tastiest way, sir, and fit for any lady's drawing-room or boodoor.
The ladies of quality are all getting them now for their boodoors.
There's three tables, eight chairs, easy rocking-chair, music-stand,
stool to match, and pair of stand-up screens, all gilt in real Louey
catorse; and it goes in three boxes 4-2 by 2-1 and 2-3. Think of
that, sir. For fifteen ten and the boxes in." Then there was a pause,
after which Mr. Kantwise added--"If ready money, the carriage paid."
And then he turned his head very much away, and looked back very hard
at his expected customer.

"I'm afraid the articles are not in my line," said Mr. Dockwrath.

"It's the tastiest present for a gentleman to make to his lady that
has come out since--since those sort of things have come out at
all. You'll let me show you the articles, sir. It will give me the
sincerest pleasure." And Mr. Kantwise proposed to leave the room in
order that he might introduce the three boxes in question.

"They would not be at all in my way," said Mr. Dockwrath.

"The trouble would be nothing," said Mr. Kantwise, "and it gives me
the greatest pleasure to make them known when I find any one who
can appreciate such undoubted luxuries;" and so saying Mr. Kantwise
skipped out of the room, and soon returned with James and Boots, each
of the three bearing on his shoulder a deal box nearly as big as a
coffin, all of which were deposited in different parts of the room.
Mr. Moulder in the meantime snored heavily, his head falling on to
his breast every now and again. But nevertheless he held fast by his
pipe.

Mr. Kantwise skipped about the room with wonderful agility,
unfastening the boxes, and taking out the contents, while Joe the
boots and James the waiter stood by assisting. They had never yet
seen the glories of these chairs and tables, and were therefore
not unwilling to be present. It was singular to see how ready
Mr. Kantwise was at the work, how recklessly he threw aside the
whitey-brown paper in which the various pieces of painted iron were
enveloped, and with what a practised hand he put together one article
after another. First there was a round loo-table, not quite so large
in its circumference as some people might think desirable, but,
nevertheless, a round loo-table. The pedestal with its three claws
was all together. With a knowing touch Mr. Kantwise separated the
bottom of what looked like a yellow stick, and, lo! there were three
legs, which he placed carefully on the ground. Then a small bar was
screwed on to the top, and over the bar was screwed the leaf, or
table itself, which consisted of three pieces unfolding with hinges.
These, when the screw had been duly fastened in the centre, opened
out upon the bar, and there was the table complete.

It was certainly a "tasty" article, and the pride with which Mr.
Kantwise glanced back at it was quite delightful. The top of the
table was blue, with a red bird of paradise in the middle; and the
edges of the table, to the breadth of a couple of inches, were
yellow. The pillar also was yellow, as were the three legs. "It's the
real Louey catorse," said Mr. Kantwise, stooping down to go on with
table number two, which was, as he described it, a "chess," having
the proper number of blue and light-pink squares marked upon it; but
this also had been made Louey catorse with reference to its legs and
edges. The third table was a "sofa," of proper shape, but rather
small in size. Then, one after another, he brought forth and screwed
up the chairs, stools, and sundry screens, and within a quarter of an
hour he had put up the whole set complete. The red bird of paradise
and the blue ground appeared on all, as did also the yellow legs and
edgings which gave to them their peculiarly fashionable character.
"There," said Mr. Kantwise, looking at them with fond admiration, "I
don't mind giving a personal guarantee that there's nothing equal to
that for the money either in England or in France."

"They are very nice," said Mr. Dockwrath. When a man has had produced
before him for his own and sole delectation any article or articles,
how can he avoid eulogium? Mr. Dockwrath found himself obliged to
pause, and almost feared that he should find himself obliged to buy.

"Nice! I should rather think they are," said Mr. Kantwise, becoming
triumphant,--"and for fifteen ten, delivered, boxes included. There's
nothing like iron, sir, nothing; you may take my word for that.
They're so strong, you know. Look here, sir." And then Mr. Kantwise,
taking two of the pieces of whitey-brown paper which had been laid
aside, carefully spread one on the centre of the round table, and the
other on the seat of one of the chairs. Then lightly poising himself
on his toe, he stepped on to the chair, and from thence on to the
table. In that position he skillfully brought his feet together,
so that his weight was directly on the leg, and gracefully waved
his hands over his head. James and Boots stood by admiring, with
open mouths, and Mr. Dockwrath, with his hands in his pockets, was
meditating whether he could not give the order without complying with
the terms as to ready money.

"Look at that for strength," said Mr. Kantwise from his exalted
position. "I don't think any lady of your acquaintance, sir, would
allow you to stand on her rosewood or mahogany loo-table. And if she
did, you would not like to adventure it yourself. But look at this
for strength," and he waved his arms abroad, still keeping his feet
skilfully together in the same exact position.

At that moment Mr. Moulder awoke. "So you've got your iron traps out,
have you?" said he. "What; you're there, are you? Upon my word I'd
sooner you than me."

"I certainly should not like to see you up here, Mr. Moulder. I doubt
whether even this table would bear five-and-twenty stone. Joe, lend
me your shoulder, there's a good fellow." And then Mr. Kantwise,
bearing very lightly on the chair, descended to the ground without
accident.

"Now, that's what I call gammon," said Moulder.

"What is gammon, Mr. Moulder?" said the other, beginning to be angry.

"It's all gammon. The chairs and tables is gammon, and so is the
stools and the screens."

"Mr. Moulder, I didn't call your tea and coffee and brandy gammon."

"You can't; and you wouldn't do any harm if you did. Hubbles and
Grease are too well known in Yorkshire for you to hurt them. But as
for all that show-off and gimcrack-work, I tell you fairly it ain't
what I call trade, and it ain't fit for a commercial room. It's
gammon, gammon, gammon! James, give me a bedcandle." And so Mr.
Moulder took himself off to bed.

"I think I'll go too," said Mr. Dockwrath.

"You'll let me put you up the set, eh?" said Mr. Kantwise.

"Well; I'll think about it," said the attorney. "I'll not just give
you an answer to-night. Good night, sir; I'm very much obliged to
you." And he too went, leaving Mr. Kantwise to repack his chairs and
tables with the assistance of James the waiter.



CHAPTER VII

THE MASONS OF GROBY PARK


Groby Park is about seven miles from Leeds, in the direction of
Bradford, and thither on the morning after the scene described in the
last chapter Mr. Dockwrath was driven in one of the gigs belonging
to the Bull Inn. The park itself is spacious, but is flat and
uninteresting, being surrounded by a thin belt of new-looking
fir-trees, and containing but very little old or handsome timber.
There are on the high road two very important lodges, between which
is a large ornamented gate, and from thence an excellent road leads
to the mansion, situated in the very middle of the domain. The house
is Greek in its style of architecture,--at least so the owner says;
and if a portico with a pediment and seven Ionic columns makes a
house Greek, the house in Groby Park undoubtedly is Greek.

Here lived Mr. and Mrs. Mason, the three Misses Mason, and
occasionally the two young Messrs. Mason; for the master of Groby
Park was blessed with five children. He himself was a big, broad,
heavy-browed man, in whose composition there was nothing of
tenderness, nothing of poetry, and nothing of taste; but I cannot say
that he was on the whole a bad man. He was just in his dealings, or
at any rate endeavoured to be so. He strove hard to do his duty as a
county magistrate against very adverse circumstances. He endeavoured
to enable his tenants and labourers to live. He was severe to his
children, and was not loved by them; but nevertheless they were dear
to him, and he endeavoured to do his duty by them. The wife of his
bosom was not a pleasant woman, but nevertheless he did his duty by
her; that is, he neither deserted her, nor beat her, nor locked her
up. I am not sure that he would not have been justified in doing one
of these three things, or even all the three; for Mrs. Mason of Groby
Park was not a pleasant woman.

But yet he was a bad man in that he could never forget and never
forgive. His mind and heart were equally harsh and hard and
inflexible. He was a man who considered that it behoved him as a man
to resent all injuries, and to have his pound of flesh in all cases.
In his inner thoughts he had ever boasted to himself that he had
paid all men all that he owed. He had, so he thought, injured no
one in any of the relations of life. His tradesmen got their money
regularly. He answered every man's letter. He exacted nothing from
any man for which he did not pay. He never ill-used a servant either
by bad language or by over-work. He never amused himself, but devoted
his whole time to duties. He would fain even have been hospitable,
could he have gotten his neighbours to come to him and have induced
his wife to put upon the table sufficient food for them to eat.

Such being his virtues, what right had any one to injure him? When he
got from his grocer adulterated coffee,--he analyzed the coffee, as
his half-brother had done the guano,--he would have flayed the man
alive if the law would have allowed him. Had he not paid the man
monthly, giving him the best price as though for the best article?
When he was taken in with a warranty for a horse, he pursued the
culprit to the uttermost. Maid-servants who would not come from their
bedrooms at six o'clock, he would himself disturb while enjoying
their stolen slumbers. From his children he exacted all titles of
respect, because he had a right to them. He wanted nothing that
belonged to any one else, but he could not endure that aught should
be kept from him which he believed to be his own. It may be imagined,
therefore, in what light he esteemed Lady Mason and her son, and how
he regarded their residence at Orley Farm, seeing that he firmly
believed that Orley Farm was his own, if all the truth were known.

I have already hinted that Mrs. Mason was not a delightful woman.
She had been a beauty, and still imagined that she had not lost all
pretension to be so considered. She spent, therefore, a considerable
portion of her day in her dressing-room, spent a great deal of money
for clothes, and gave herself sundry airs. She was a little woman
with long eyes, and regular eyelashes, with a straight nose, and thin
lips and regular teeth. Her face was oval, and her hair was brown.
It had at least once been all brown, and that which was now seen was
brown also. But, nevertheless, although she was possessed of all
these charms, you might look at her for ten days together, and on the
eleventh you would not know her if you met her in the streets.

But the appearance of Mrs. Mason was not her forte. She had been a
beauty; but if it had been her lot to be known in history, it was not
as a beauty that she would have been famous. Parsimony was her great
virtue, and a power of saving her strong point. I have said that she
spent much money in dress, and some people will perhaps think that
the two points of character are not compatible. Such people know
nothing of a true spirit of parsimony. It is from the backs and
bellies of other people that savings are made with the greatest
constancy and the most satisfactory results.

The parsimony of a mistress of a household is best displayed on
matters eatable;--on matters eatable and drinkable; for there is a
fine scope for domestic savings in tea, beer, and milk. And in such
matters chiefly did Mrs. Mason operate, going as far as she dared
towards starving even her husband. But nevertheless she would feed
herself in the middle of the day, having a roast fowl with bread
sauce in her own room. The miser who starves himself and dies without
an ounce of flesh on his bones, while his skinny head lies on a bag
of gold, is after all, respectable. There has been a grand passion
in his life, and that grandest work of man, self-denial. You cannot
altogether despise one who has clothed himself with rags and fed
himself with bone-scrapings, while broadcloth and ortolans were
within his easy reach. But there are women, wives and mothers of
families, who would give the bone-scrapings to their husbands and the
bones to their servants, while they hide the ortolans for themselves;
and would dress children in rags, while they cram chests, drawers,
and boxes with silks and satins for their own backs. Such a woman
one can thoroughly despise, and even hate; and such a woman was Mrs.
Mason of Groby Park.

I shall not trouble the reader at present with much description of
the young Masons. The eldest son was in the army, and the younger at
Cambridge, both spending much more money than their father allowed
them. Not that he, in this respect, was specially close-fisted. He
ascertained what was sufficient,--amply sufficient as he was told by
the colonel of the regiment and the tutor of the college,--and that
amount he allowed, assuring both Joseph and John that if they spent
more, they would themselves have to pay for it out of the moneys
which should enrich them in future years. But how could the sons
of such a mother be other than spendthrifts? Of course they were
extravagant; of course they spent more than they should have done;
and their father resolved that he would keep his word with them
religiously.

The daughters were much less fortunate, having no possible means of
extravagance allowed to them. Both the father and mother decided
that they should go out into the county society, and therefore their
clothing was not absolutely of rags. But any young lady who does go
into society, whether it be of county or town, will fully understand
the difference between a liberal and a stingy wardrobe. Girls with
slender provisions of millinery may be fit to go out,--quite fit in
their father's eyes; and yet all such going out may be matter of
intense pain. It is all very well for the world to say that a girl
should be happy without reference to her clothes. Show me such a
girl, and I will show you one whom I should be very sorry that a boy
of mine should choose as his sweetheart.

The three Misses Mason, as they always were called by the Groby Park
people, had been christened Diana, Creusa, and Penelope, their mother
having a passion for classic literature, which she indulged by a use
of Lemprière's dictionary. They were not especially pretty, nor were
they especially plain. They were well grown and healthy, and quite
capable of enjoying themselves in any of the amusements customary to
young ladies,--if only the opportunities were afforded them.

Mr. Dockwrath had thought it well to write to Mr. Mason, acquainting
that gentleman with his intended visit. Mr. Mason, he said to
himself, would recognise his name, and know whence he came, and under
such circumstances would be sure to see him, although the express
purpose of the proposed interview should not have been explained to
him. Such in result was exactly the case. Mr. Mason did remember the
name of Dockwrath, though he had never hitherto seen the bearer of
it; and as the letter was dated from Hamworth, he felt sufficient
interest in the matter to await at home the coming of his visitor.

"I know your name, Mr. Mason, sir, and have known it long," said Mr.
Dockwrath, seating himself in the chair which was offered to him in
the magistrate's study; "though I never had the pleasure of seeing
you before,--to my knowledge. My name is Dockwrath, sir, and I am a
solicitor. I live at Hamworth, and I married the daughter of old Mr.
Usbech, sir, whom you will remember."

Mr. Mason listened attentively as these details were uttered before
him so clearly, but he said nothing, merely bowing his head at each
separate statement. He knew all about old Usbech's daughter nearly as
well as Mr. Dockwrath did himself, but he was a man who knew how to
be silent upon occasions.

"I was too young, sir," continued Dockwrath, "when you had that trial
about Orley Farm to have anything to do with the matter myself,
but nevertheless I remember all the circumstances as though it was
yesterday. I suppose, sir, you remember them also?"

"Yes, Mr. Dockwrath, I remember them very well."

"Well, sir, my impression has always been that--" And then the
attorney stopped. It was quite his intention to speak out plainly
before Mr. Mason, but he was anxious that that gentleman should speak
out too. At any rate it might be well that he should be induced to
express some little interest in the matter.

"Your impression, you say, has always been--" said Mr. Mason,
repeating the words of his companion, and looking as ponderous and
grave as ever. His countenance, however, expressed nothing but his
usual ponderous solemnity.

"My impression always was--that there was something that had not been
as yet found out."

"What sort of thing, Mr. Dockwrath?"

"Well; some secret. I don't think that your lawyers managed the
matter well, Mr. Mason."

"You think you would have done it better, Mr. Dockwrath?"

"I don't say that, Mr. Mason. I was only a lad at the time, and could
not have managed it at all. But they didn't ferret about enough. Mr.
Mason, there's a deal better evidence than any that is given by word
of mouth. A clever counsel can turn a witness pretty nearly any way
he likes, but he can't do that with little facts. He hasn't the time,
you see, to get round them. Your lawyers, sir, didn't get up the
little facts as they should have done."

"And you have got them up since, Mr. Dockwrath?"

"I don't say that, Mr. Mason. You see all my interest lies in
maintaining the codicil. My wife's fortune came to her under that
deed. To be sure that's gone and spent long since, and the Lord
Chancellor with all the judges couldn't enforce restitution; but,
nevertheless, I wouldn't wish that any one should have a claim
against me on that account."

"Perhaps you will not object to say what it is that you do wish?"

"I wish to see right done, Mr. Mason; that's all. I don't think that
Lady Mason or her son have any right to the possession of that place.
I don't think that that codicil was a correct instrument; and in that
case of Mason versus Mason I don't think that you and your friends
got to the bottom of it." And then Mr. Dockwrath leaned back in his
chair with an inward determination to say nothing more, until Mr.
Mason should make some sign.

That gentleman, however, still remained ponderous and heavy, and
therefore there was a short period of silence--"And have you got to
the bottom of it since, Mr. Dockwrath?" at last he said.

"I don't say that I have," said the attorney.

"Might I ask then what it is you propose to effect by the visit with
which you have honoured me? Of course you are aware that these are
very private matters; and although I should feel myself under an
obligation to you, or to any man who might assist me to arrive at any
true facts which have hitherto been concealed, I am not disposed to
discuss the affair with a stranger on grounds of mere suspicion."

"I shouldn't have come here, Mr. Mason, at very great expense, and
personal inconvenience to myself in my profession, if I had not some
good reason for doing so. I don't think that you ever got to the
bottom of that matter, and I can't say that I have done so now; I
haven't even tried. But I tell you what, Mr. Mason; if you wish it, I
think I could put you in the way of--trying."

"My lawyers are Messrs. Round and Crook of Bedford Row. Will it not
be better that you should go to them, Mr. Dockwrath?"

"No, Mr. Mason. I don't think it will be better that I should go
to them. I know Round and Crook well, and don't mean to say a word
against them; but if I go any farther into this affair I must do
it with the principal. I am not going to cut my own throat for the
sake of mending any man's little finger. I have a family of sixteen
children, Mr. Mason, and I have to look about very sharp,--very sharp
indeed." Then there was another pause, and Mr. Dockwrath began to
perceive that Mr. Mason was not by nature an open, demonstrative, or
communicative man. If anything further was to be done, he himself
must open out a little. "The fact is, Mr. Mason, that I have come
across documents which you should have had at that trial. Round and
Crook ought to have had them, only they weren't half sharp. Why, sir,
Mr. Usbech had been your father's man of business for years upon
years, and yet they didn't half go through his papers. They turned
'em over and looked at 'em; but never thought of seeing what little
facts might be proved."

"And these documents are with you now, here?"

"No, Mr. Mason, I am not so soft as that. I never carry about
original documents unless when ordered to prove. Copies of one or two
items I have made; not regular copies, Mr. Mason, but just a line or
two to refresh my memory." And Mr. Dockwrath took a small letter-case
out of his breast coat pocket.

By this time Mr. Mason's curiosity had been roused, and he began
to think it possible that his visitor had discovered information
which might be of importance to him. "Are you going to show me any
document?" said he.

"That's as may be," said the attorney. "I don't know as yet whether
you care to see it. I have come a long way to do you a service, and
it seems to me you are rather shy of coming forward to meet me. As I
said before, I've a very heavy family, and I'm not going to cut the
nose off my own face to put money into any other man's pocket. What
do you think my journey down here will cost me, including loss of
time, and interruption to my business?"

"Look here, Mr. Dockwrath; if you are really able to put me into
possession of any facts regarding the Orley Farm estate which I
ought to know, I will see that you are compensated for your time and
trouble. Messrs. Round and Crook--"

"I'll have nothing to do with Round and Crook. So that's settled, Mr.
Mason."

"Then, Mr. Dockwrath--"

"Half a minute, Mr. Mason. I'll have nothing to do with Round and
Crook; but as I know you to be a gentleman and a man of honour, I'll
put you in possession of what I've discovered, and leave it to you
afterwards to do what you think right about my expenses, time, and
services. You won't forget that it is a long way from Hamworth to
Groby Park. And if you should succeed--"

"If I am to look at this document, I must do so without pledging
myself to anything," said Mr. Mason, still with much solemnity. He
had great doubts as to his new acquaintance, and much feared that
he was derogating from his dignity as a county magistrate and owner
of Groby Park in holding any personal intercourse with him; but
nevertheless he could not resist the temptation. He most firmly
believed that that codicil had not expressed the genuine last will
and fair disposition of property made by his father, and it might
certainly be the case that proof of all that he believed was to be
found among the papers of the old lawyer. He hated Lady Mason with
all his power of hatred, and if there did, even yet, exist for him a
chance of upsetting her claims and ruining her before the world, he
was not the man to forego that chance.

"Well, sir, you shall see it," said Mr. Dockwrath; "or rather hear
it, for there is not much to see." And so saying he extracted from
his pocket-book a very small bit of paper.

"I should prefer to read it, if it's all the same to you, Mr.
Dockwrath. I shall understand it much better in that way."

"As you like, Mr. Mason," said the attorney, handing him the small
bit of paper. "You will understand, sir, that it's no real copy, but
only a few dates and particulars, just jotted down to assist my own
memory." The document, supported by which Mr. Dockwrath had come
down to Yorkshire, consisted of half a sheet of note paper, and the
writing upon this covered hardly the half of it. The words which Mr.
Mason read were as follows:--


   Date of codicil. 14th July 18--.

   Witnesses to the instrument. John Kenneby; Bridget
   Bolster; Jonathan Usbech. N.B. Jonathan Usbech died before
   the testator.

   Mason and Martock. Deed of separation; dated 14th July
   18--.

   Executed at Orley Farm.

   Witnesses John Kenneby; and Bridget Bolster. Deed was
   prepared in the office of Jonathan Usbech, and probably
   executed in his presence.


That was all that was written on the paper, and Mr. Mason read the
words to himself three times before he looked up, or said anything
concerning them. He was not a man quick at receiving new ideas into
his mind, or of understanding new points; but that which had once
become intelligible to him and been made his own, remained so always.
"Well," said he, when he read the above words for the third time.

"You don't see it, sir?" said Mr. Dockwrath.

"See what?" said Mr. Mason, still looking at the scrap of paper.

"Why; the dates, to begin with."

"I see that the dates are the same;--the 14th of July in the same
year."

"Well," said Mr. Dockwrath, looking very keenly into the magistrate's
face.

"Well," said Mr. Mason, looking over the paper at his boot.

"John Kenneby and Bridget Bolster were witnesses to both the
instruments," said the attorney.

"So I see," said the magistrate.

"But I don't remember that it came out in evidence that either of
them recollected having been called on for two signatures on the same
day."

"No; there was nothing of that came out;--or was even hinted at."

"No; nothing even hinted at, Mr. Mason,--as you justly observe. That
is what I mean by saying that Round and Crook's people didn't get up
their little facts. Believe me, sir, there are men in the profession
out of London who know quite as much as Round and Crook. They ought
to have had those facts, seeing that the very copy of the document
was turned over by their hands." And Mr. Dockwrath hit the table
heavily in the warmth of his indignation against his professional
brethren. Earlier in the interview Mr. Mason would have been made
very angry by such freedom, but he was not angry now.

"Yes; they ought to have known it," said he. But he did not even yet
see the point. He merely saw that there was a point worth seeing.

"Known it! Of course they ought to have known it. Look here, Mr.
Mason! If I had it on my mind that I'd thrown over a client of mine
by such carelessness as that, I'd--I'd strike my own name off the
rolls; I would indeed. I never could look a counsel in the face
again, if I'd neglected to brief him with such facts as those. I
suppose it was carelessness; eh, Mr. Mason?"

"Oh, yes; I'm afraid so," said Mr. Mason, still rather in the dark.

"They could have had no object in keeping it back, I should say."

"No; none in life. But let us see, Mr. Dockwrath; how does it bear
upon us? The dates are the same, and the witnesses the same."

"The deed of separation is genuine. There is no doubt about that."

"Oh; you're sure of that?"

"Quite certain. I found it entered in the old office books. It was
the last of a lot of such documents executed between Mason and
Martock after the old man gave up the business. You see she was
always with him, and knew all about it."

"About the partnership deed?"

"Of course she did. She's a clever woman, Mr. Mason; very clever, and
it's almost a pity that she should come to grief. She has carried it
on so well; hasn't she?"

Mr. Mason's face now became very black. "Why," said he, "if what you
seem to allege be true, she must be a--a--a--. What do you mean, sir,
by pity?"

Mr. Dockwrath shrugged his shoulders. "It is very blue," said he,
"uncommon blue."

"She must be a swindler; a common swindler. Nay, worse than that."

"Oh, yes, a deal worse than that, Mr. Mason. And as for
common;--according to my way of thinking there's nothing at all
common about it. I look upon it as about the best got-up plant I ever
remember to have heard of. I do, indeed, Mr. Mason." The attorney
during the last ten minutes of the conversation had quite altered
his tone, understanding that he had already achieved a great part
of his object; but Mr. Mason in his intense anxiety did not observe
this. Had Mr. Dockwrath, in commencing the conversation, talked about
"plants" and "blue," Mr. Mason would probably have rung his bell for
the servant. "If it's anything, it's forgery," said Mr. Dockwrath,
looking his companion full in the face.

"I always felt sure that my father never intended to sign such a
codicil as that."

"He never did sign it, Mr. Mason."

"And,--and the witnesses!" said Mr. Mason, still not enlightened as
to the true extent of the attorney's suspicion.

"They signed the other deed; that is two of them did. There is no
doubt about that;--on that very day. They certainly did witness a
signature made by the old gentleman in his own room on that 14th of
July. The original of that document, with the date and their names,
will be forthcoming soon enough."

"Well," said Mr. Mason.

"But they did not witness two signatures."

"You think not, eh!"

"I'm sure of it. The girl Bolster would have remembered it, and would
have said so. She was sharp enough."

"Who wrote all the names then at the foot of the will?" said Mr.
Mason.

"Ah! that's the question. Who did write them? We know very well, Mr.
Mason, you and I that is, who did not. And having come to that, I
think we may give a very good guess who did."

And then they both sat silent for some three or four minutes. Mr.
Dockwrath was quite at his ease, rubbing his chin with his hand,
playing with a paper-knife which he had taken from the study
table, and waiting till it should please Mr. Mason to renew the
conversation. Mr. Mason was not at his ease, though all idea of
affecting any reserve before the attorney had left him. He was
thinking how best he might confound and destroy the woman who had
robbed him for so many years; who had defied him, got the better of
him, and put him to terrible cost; who had vexed his spirit through
his whole life, deprived him of content, and had been to him as a
thorn ever present in a festering sore. He had always believed that
she had defrauded him, but this belief had been qualified by the
unbelief of others. It might have been, he had half thought, that the
old man had signed the codicil in his dotage, having been cheated and
bullied into it by the woman. There had been no day in her life on
which he would not have ruined her, had it been in his power to do
so. But now--now, new and grander ideas were breaking in upon his
mind. Could it be possible that he might live to see her, not merely
deprived of her ill-gained money, but standing in the dock as a felon
to receive sentence for her terrible misdeeds? If that might be so,
would he not receive great compensation for all that he had suffered?
Would it not be sweet to his sense of justice that both of them
should thus at last have their own? He did not even yet understand
all that Mr. Dockwrath suspected. He did not fully perceive why the
woman was supposed to have chosen as the date of her forgery, the
date of that other genuine deed. But he did understand, he did
perceive--at least so he thought,--that new and perhaps conclusive
evidence of her villainy was at last within his reach.

"And what shall we do now, Mr. Dockwrath?" he said at last.

"Well; am I to understand that you do me the honour of asking my
advice upon that question as being your lawyer?"

This question immediately brought Mr. Mason back to business that he
did understand. "A man in my position cannot very well change his
legal advisers at a moment's notice. You must be very well aware of
that, Mr. Dockwrath. Messrs. Round and Crook--"

"Messrs. Round and Crook, sir, have neglected your business in a most
shameful manner. Let me tell you that, sir."

"Well; that's as may be. I'll tell you what I'll do, Mr. Dockwrath;
I'll think over this matter in quiet, and then I'll come up to town.
Perhaps when there I may expect the honour of a further visit from
you."

"And you won't mention the matter to Round and Crook?"

"I can't undertake to say that, Mr. Dockwrath. I think it will
perhaps be better that I should mention it, and then see you
afterwards."

"And how about my expenses down here?"

Just at this moment there came a light tap at the study door, and
before the master of the house could give or withhold permission
the mistress of the house entered the room. "My dear," she said, "I
didn't know that you were engaged."

"Yes, I am engaged," said the gentleman.

"Oh, I'm sure I beg pardon. Perhaps this is the gentleman from
Hamworth?"

"Yes, ma'am," said Mr. Dockwrath. "I am the gentleman from Hamworth.
I hope I have the pleasure of seeing you very well, ma'am?" And
getting up from his chair he bowed politely.

"Mr. Dockwrath, Mrs. Mason," said the lady's husband, introducing
them; and then Mrs. Mason curtsied to the stranger. She too was very
anxious to know what might be the news from Hamworth.

"Mr. Dockwrath will lunch with us, my dear," said Mr. Mason. And then
the lady, on hospitable cares intent, left them again to themselves.



CHAPTER VIII

MRS. MASON'S HOT LUNCHEON


Though Mr. Dockwrath was somewhat elated by this invitation to lunch,
he was also somewhat abashed by it. He had been far from expecting
that Mr. Mason of Groby Park would do him any such honour, and was
made aware by it of the great hold which he must have made upon the
attention of his host. But nevertheless he immediately felt that his
hands were to a certain degree tied. He, having been invited to sit
down at Mr. Mason's table, with Mrs. M. and the family,--having been
treated as though he were a gentleman, and thus being for the time
being put on a footing of equality with the county magistrate, could
not repeat that last important question: "How about my expenses down
here?" nor could he immediately go on with the grand subject in any
frame of mind which would tend to further his own interests. Having
been invited to lunch, he could not haggle with due persistency for
his share of the business in crushing Lady Mason, nor stipulate
that the whole concern should not be trusted to the management of
Round and Crook. As a source of pride this invitation to eat was
pleasant to him, but he was forced to acknowledge to himself that it
interfered with business.

Nor did Mr. Mason feel himself ready to go on with the conversation
in the manner in which it had been hitherto conducted. His mind was
full of Orley Farm and his wrongs, and he could bring himself to
think of nothing else; but he could no longer talk about it to the
attorney sitting there in his study. "Will you take a turn about the
place while the lunch is getting ready?" he said. So they took their
hats and went out into the garden.

"It is dreadful to think of," said Mr. Mason, after they had twice
walked in silence the length of a broad gravel terrace.

"What; about her ladyship?" said the attorney.

"Quite dreadful!" and Mr. Mason shuddered. "I don't think I ever
heard of anything so shocking in my life. For twenty years, Mr.
Dockwrath, think of that. Twenty years!" and his face as he spoke
became almost black with horror.

"It is very shocking," said Mr. Dockwrath; "very shocking. What on
earth will be her fate if it be proved against her? She has brought
it on herself; that is all that one can say of her."

"D---- her! d---- her!" exclaimed the other, gnashing his teeth
with concentrated wrath. "No punishment will be bad enough for her.
Hanging would not be bad enough."

"They can't hang her, Mr. Mason," said Mr. Dockwrath, almost
frightened by the violence of his companion.

"No; they have altered the laws, giving every encouragement to
forgers, villains, and perjurers. But they can give her penal
servitude for life. They must do it."

"She is not convicted yet, you know."

"D---- her!" repeated the owner of Groby Park again, as he thought of
his twenty years of loss. Eight hundred a year for twenty years had
been taken away from him; and he had been worsted before the world
after a hard fight. "D---- her!" he continued to growl between his
teeth. Mr. Dockwrath when he had first heard his companion say how
horrid and dreadful the affair was, had thought that Mr. Mason was
alluding to the condition in which the lady had placed herself by her
assumed guilt. But it was of his own condition that he was speaking.
The idea which shocked him was the thought of the treatment which he
himself had undergone. The dreadful thing at which he shuddered was
his own ill usage. As for her;--pity for her! Did a man ever pity a
rat that had eaten into his choicest dainties?

"The lunch is on the table, sir," said the Groby Park footman in the
Groby Park livery. Under the present household arrangement of Groby
Park all the servants lived on board wages. Mrs. Mason did not like
this system, though it had about it certain circumstances of economy
which recommended it to her; it interfered greatly with the stringent
aptitudes of her character and the warmest passion of her heart; it
took away from her the delicious power of serving out the servants'
food, of locking up the scraps of meat, and of charging the maids
with voracity. But, to tell the truth, Mr. Mason had been driven by
sheer necessity to take this step, as it had been found impossible to
induce his wife to give out sufficient food to enable the servants to
live and work. She knew that in not doing so she injured herself; but
she could not do it. The knife in passing through the loaf would make
the portion to be parted with less by one third than the portion to
be retained. Half a pound of salt butter would reduce itself to a
quarter of a pound. Portions of meat would become infinitesimal.
When standing with viands before her, she had not free will over her
hands. She could not bring herself to part with victuals, though she
might ruin herself by retaining them. Therefore, by the order of the
master, were the servants placed on board wages.

Mr. Dockwrath soon found himself in the dining-room, where the three
young ladies with their mamma were already seated at the table. It
was a handsome room, and the furniture was handsome; but nevertheless
it was a heavy room, and the furniture was heavy. The table was large
enough for a party of twelve, and might have borne a noble banquet;
as it was the promise was not bad, for there were three large plated
covers concealing hot viands, and in some houses lunch means only
bread and cheese.

Mr. Mason went through the form of introduction between Mr. Dockwrath
and his daughters. "That is Miss Mason, that Miss Creusa Mason, and
this Miss Penelope. John, remove the covers." And the covers were
removed, John taking them from the table with a magnificent action of
his arm which I am inclined to think was not innocent of irony. On
the dish before the master of the house,--a large dish which must I
fancy have been selected by the cook with some similar attempt at
sarcasm,--there reposed three scraps, as to the nature of which Mr.
Dockwrath, though he looked hard at them, was unable to enlighten
himself. But Mr. Mason knew them well, as he now placed his eyes on
them for the third time. They were old enemies of his, and his brow
again became black as he looked at them. The scraps in fact consisted
of two drumsticks of a fowl and some indescribable bone out of the
back of the same. The original bird had no doubt first revealed
all its glories to human eyes,--presuming the eyes of the cook to
be inhuman--in Mrs. Mason's "boodoor." Then, on the dish before
the lady, there were three other morsels, black-looking and very
suspicious to the eye, which in the course of conversation were
proclaimed to be ham,--broiled ham. Mrs. Mason would never allow
a ham in its proper shape to come into the room, because it is an
article upon which the guests are themselves supposed to operate
with the carving-knife. Lastly, on the dish before Miss Creusa there
reposed three potatoes.

The face of Mr. Mason became very black as he looked at the banquet
which was spread upon his board, and Mrs. Mason, eyeing him across
the table, saw that it was so. She was not a lady who despised such
symptoms in her lord, or disregarded in her valour the violence of
marital storms. She had quailed more than once or twice under rebuke
occasioned by her great domestic virtue, and knew that her husband,
though he might put up with much as regarded his own comfort, and
that of his children, could be very angry at injuries done to his
household honour and character as a hospitable English country
gentleman.

Consequently the lady smiled and tried to look self-satisfied as
she invited her guest to eat. "This is ham," said she with a little
simper, "broiled ham, Mr. Dockwrath; and there is chicken at the
other end; I think they call it--devilled."

"Shall I assist the young ladies to anything first?" said the
attorney, wishing to be polite.

"Nothing, thank you," said Miss Penelope, with a very stiff bow.
She also knew that Mr. Dockwrath was an attorney from Hamworth, and
considered herself by no means bound to hold any sort of conversation
with him.

"My daughters only eat bread and butter in the middle of the day,"
said the lady. "Creusa, my dear, will you give Mr. Dockwrath a
potato. Mr. Mason, Mr. Dockwrath will probably take a bit of that
chicken."

"I would recommend him to follow the girls' example, and confine
himself to the bread and butter," said the master of the house,
pushing about the scraps with his knife and fork. "There is nothing
here for him to eat."

"My dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Mason.

"There is nothing here for him to eat," repeated Mr. Mason. "And
as far as I can see there is nothing there either. What is it you
pretend to have in that dish?"

"My dear!" again exclaimed Mrs. Mason.

"What is it?" repeated the lord of the house in an angry tone.

"Broiled ham, Mr. Mason."

"Then let the ham be brought in," said he. "Diana, ring the bell."

"But the ham is not cooked, Mr. Mason," said the lady. "Broiled ham
is always better when it has not been first boiled."

"Is there no cold meat in the house?" he asked.

"I am afraid not," she replied, now trembling a little in
anticipation of what might be coming after the stranger should have
gone. "You never like large joints yourself, Mr. Mason; and for
ourselves we don't eat meat at luncheon."

"Nor anybody else either, here," said Mr. Mason in his anger.

"Pray don't mind me, Mr. Mason," said the attorney, "pray don't, Mr.
Mason. I am a very poor fist at lunch; I am indeed."

"I am sure I am very sorry, very sorry, Mr. Mason," continued the
lady. "If I had known that an early dinner was required, it should
have been provided;--although the notice given was so very short."

"I never dine early," said Mr. Dockwrath, thinking that some
imputation of a low way of living was conveyed in this supposition
that he required a dinner under the pseudonym of a lunch. "I never
do, upon my word--we are quite regular at home at half-past five, and
all I ever take in the middle of the day is a biscuit and a glass of
sherry,--or perhaps a bite of bread and cheese. Don't be uneasy about
me, Mrs. Mason."

The three young ladies, having now finished their repast, got up from
the table and retired, following each other out of the room in a
line. Mrs. Mason remained for a minute or two longer, and then she
also went. "The carriage has been ordered at three, Mr. M.," she
said. "Shall we have the pleasure of your company?" "No," growled
the husband. And then the lady went, sweeping a low curtsy to Mr.
Dockwrath as she passed out of the room.

There was again a silence between the host and his guest for some two
or three minutes, during which Mr. Mason was endeavouring to get the
lunch out of his head, and to redirect his whole mind to Lady Mason
and his hopes of vengeance. There is nothing perhaps so generally
consoling to a man as a well-established grievance; a feeling of
having been injured, on which his mind can brood from hour to hour,
allowing him to plead his own cause in his own court, within his
own heart,--and always to plead it successfully. At last Mr. Mason
succeeded, and he could think of his enemy's fraud and forget his
wife's meanness. "I suppose I may as well order my gig now," said Mr.
Dockwrath, as soon as his host had arrived at this happy frame of
mind.

"Your gig? ah, well. Yes. I do not know that I need detain you
any longer. I can assure you that I am much obliged to you, Mr.
Dockwrath, and I shall hope to see you in London very shortly."

"You are determined to go to Round and Crook, I suppose?"

"Oh, certainly."

"You are wrong, sir. They'll throw you over again as sure as your
name is Mason."

"Mr. Dockwrath, you must if you please allow me to judge of that
myself."

"Oh, of course, sir, of course. But I'm sure that a gentleman like
you, Mr. Mason, will understand--"

"I shall understand that I cannot expect your services, Mr.
Dockwrath,--your valuable time and services,--without remunerating
you for them. That shall be fully explained to Messrs. Round and
Crook."

"Very well, sir; very well. As long as I am paid for what I do, I am
content. A professional gentleman of course expects that. How is he
to get along else; particular with sixteen children?" And then Mr.
Dockwrath got into the gig, and was driven back to the Bull at Leeds.



CHAPTER IX

A CONVIVIAL MEETING


On the whole Mr. Dockwrath was satisfied with the results of his trip
to Groby Park, and was in a contented frame of mind as he was driven
back to Leeds. No doubt it would have been better could he have
persuaded Mr. Mason to throw over Messrs. Round and Crook, and put
himself altogether into the hands of his new adviser; but this had
been too much to expect. He had not expected it, and had made the
suggestion as the surest means of getting the best terms in his
power, rather than with a hope of securing the actual advantage
named. He had done much towards impressing Mr. Mason with an idea of
his own sharpness, and perhaps something also towards breaking the
prestige which surrounded the names of the great London firm. He
would now go to that firm and make his terms with them. They would
probably be quite as ready to acquiesce in the importance of his
information as had been Mr. Mason.

Before leaving the inn after breakfast he had agreed to join the
dinner in the commercial room at five o'clock, and Mr. Mason's hot
lunch had by no means induced him to alter his purpose. "I shall dine
here," he had said when Mr. Moulder was discussing with the waiter
the all-important subject of dinner. "At the commercial table sir?"
the waiter had asked, doubtingly. Mr. Dockwrath had answered boldly
in the affirmative, whereat Mr. Moulder had growled; but Mr. Kantwise
had expressed satisfaction. "We shall be extremely happy to enjoy
your company," Mr. Kantwise had said, with a graceful bow, making up
by his excessive courtesy for the want of any courtesy on the part of
his brother-traveller. With reference to all this Mr. Moulder said
nothing; the stranger had been admitted into the room, to a certain
extent even with his own consent, and he could not now be turned out;
but he resolved within his own mind that for the future he would
be more firm in maintaining the ordinances and institutes of his
profession.

On his road home, Mr. Dockwrath had encountered Mr. Kantwise going to
Groby Park, intent on his sale of a drawing-room set of the metallic
furniture; and when he again met him in the commercial room he asked
after his success. "A wonderful woman that, Mr. Dockwrath," said Mr.
Kantwise, "a really wonderful woman; no particular friend of yours I
think you say?"

"None in the least, Mr. Kantwise,"

"Then I may make bold to assert that for persevering sharpness she
beats all that I ever met, even in Yorkshire;" and Mr. Kantwise
looked at his new friend over his shoulder, and shook his head as
though lost in wonder and admiration. "What do you think she's done
now?"

"She didn't give you much to eat, I take it."

"Much to eat! I'll tell you what it is, Mr. Dockwrath; my belief is
that woman would have an absolute pleasure in starving a Christian; I
do indeed. I'll tell you what she has done; she has made me put her
up a set of them things at twelve, seventeen, six! I needn't tell you
that they were never made for the money."

"Why, then, did you part with them at a loss?"

"Well; that's the question. I was soft, I suppose. She got round me,
badgering me, till I didn't know where I was. She wanted them as a
present for the curate's wife, she said. Whatever should induce her
to make a present!"

"She got them for twelve, seventeen, six; did she?" said Dockwrath,
thinking that it might be as well to remember this, if he should feel
inclined to make a purchase himself.

"But they was strained, Mr. Dockwrath; I must admit they was
strained,--particularly the loo."

"You had gone through your gymnastics on it a little too often?"
asked the attorney. But this Mr. Kantwise would not acknowledge. The
strength of that table was such that he could stand on it for ever
without injury to it; but nevertheless, in some other way it had
become strained, and therefore he had sold the set to Mrs. Mason for
£12 17_s._ 6_d._, that lady being minded to make a costly present to
the wife of the curate of Groby.

When dinner-time came Mr. Dockwrath found that the party was swelled
to the number of eight, five other undoubted commercials having
brought themselves to anchor at the Bull Inn during the day. To all
of these, Mr. Kantwise introduced him. "Mr. Gape, Mr. Dockwrath,"
said he, gracefully moving towards them the palm of his hand, and
eyeing them over his shoulder. "Mr. Gape is in the stationery line,"
he added, in a whisper to the attorney, "and does for Cumming and
Jibber of St. Paul's Churchyard. Mr. Johnson, Mr. Dockwrath. Mr.
J. is from Sheffield. Mr. Snengkeld, Mr. Dockwrath;" and then he
imparted in another whisper the necessary information as to Mr.
Snengkeld. "Soft goods, for Brown Brothers, of Snow Hill," and so
on through the whole fraternity. Each member bowed as his name was
mentioned; but they did not do so very graciously, as Mr. Kantwise
was not a great man among them. Had the stranger been introduced to
them by Moulder,--Moulder the patriarch,--his reception among them
would have been much warmer. And then they sat down to dinner, Mr.
Moulder taking the chair as president, and Mr. Kantwise sitting
opposite to him, as being the longest sojourner at the inn. Mr.
Dockwrath sat at the right hand of Kantwise, discreetly avoiding the
neighbourhood of Moulder, and the others ranged themselves according
to fancy at the table. "Come up along side of me, old fellow,"
Moulder said to Snengkeld. "It ain't the first time that you and
I have smacked our lips together over the same bit of roast beef."
"Nor won't, I hope, be the last by a long chalk, Mr. Moulder,"
said Snengkeld, speaking with a deep, hoarse voice which seemed to
ascend from some region of his body far below his chest. Moulder and
Snengkeld were congenial spirits; but the latter, though the older
man, was not endowed with so large a volume of body or so highly
dominant a spirit. Brown Brothers, of Snow Hill, were substantial
people, and Mr. Snengkeld travelled in strict accordance with the
good old rules of trade which Moulder loved so well.

The politeness and general good manners of the company were something
very pretty to witness. Mr. Dockwrath, as a stranger, was helped
first, and every courtesy was shown to him. Even Mr. Moulder carved
the beef for him with a loving hand, and Mr. Kantwise was almost
subservient in his attention. Mr. Dockwrath thought that he had
certainly done right in coming to the commercial table, and resolved
on doing so on all occasions of future journeys. So far all was good.
The commercial dinner, as he had ascertained, would cost him only
two shillings, and a much inferior repast eaten by himself elsewhere
would have stood in his bill for three. So far all was good; but the
test by which he was to be tried was now approaching him.

When the dinner was just half over,--Mr. Moulder well knew how to
mark the time,--that gentleman called for the waiter, and whispered
an important order into that functionary's ears. The functionary
bowed, retired from the room, and reappeared again in two minutes,
bearing a bottle of sherry in each hand; one of these he deposited at
the right hand of Mr. Moulder; and the other at the right hand of Mr.
Kantwise.

"Sir," said Mr. Moulder, addressing himself with great ceremony to
Mr. Dockwrath, "the honour of a glass of wine with you, sir," and
the president, to give more importance to the occasion, put down his
knife and fork, leaned back in his chair, and put both his hands upon
his waistcoat, looking intently at the attorney out of his little
eyes.

Mr. Dockwrath was immediately aware that a crisis had come upon
him which demanded an instant decision. If he complied with the
president's invitation he would have to pay his proportion of all the
wine bill that might be incurred that evening by the seven commercial
gentlemen at the table, and he knew well that commercial gentlemen do
sometimes call for bottle after bottle with a reckless disregard of
expense. But to him, with his sixteen children, wine at an hotel was
terrible. A pint of beer and a glass of brandy and water were the
luxuries which he had promised himself, and with manly fortitude
he resolved that he would not be coerced into extravagance by any
president or any Moulder.

"Sir," said he, "I'm obliged by the honour, but I don't drink wine
to my dinner." Whereupon Mr. Moulder bowed his head very solemnly,
winked at Snengkeld, and then drank wine with that gentleman.

"It's the rule of the room," whispered Mr. Kantwise into Mr.
Dockwrath's ear; but Mr. Dockwrath pretended not to hear him, and the
matter was allowed to pass by for the time.

But Mr. Snengkeld asked him for the honour, as also did Mr. Gape,
who sat at Moulder's left hand; and then Mr. Dockwrath began to wax
angry. "I think I remarked before that I don't drink wine to my
dinner," he said; and then the three at the president's end of the
table all looked at each other very solemnly, and they all winked;
and after that there was very little conversation during the
remainder of the meal, for men knew that the goddess of discord was
in the air.

The cheese came, and with that a bottle of port wine, which was
handed round, Mr. Dockwrath of course refusing to join in the
conviviality; and then the cloth was drawn, and the decanters
were put before the president. "James, bring me a little
brandy-and-water," said the attorney, striving to put a bold face on
the matter, but yet speaking with diminished voice.

"Half a moment, if you please, sir," said Moulder; and then he
exclaimed with stentorian voice, "James, the dinner bill." "Yes,
sir," said the waiter, and disappeared without any thought towards
the requisition for brandy-and-water from Mr. Dockwrath.

For the next five minutes they all remained silent, except that Mr.
Moulder gave the Queen's health as he filled his glass and pushed
the bottles from him. "Gentlemen, the Queen," and then he lifted his
glass of port up to the light, shut one eye as he looked at it, and
immediately swallowed the contents as though he were taking a dose
of physic. "I'm afraid they'll charge you for the wine," said Mr.
Kantwise, again whispering to his neighbour. But Mr. Dockwrath paid
no apparent attention to what was said to him. He was concentrating
his energies with a view to the battle.

James, the waiter, soon returned. He also knew well what was
about to happen, and he trembled as he handed in the document to
the president. "Let's have it, James," said Moulder, with much
pleasantry, as he took the paper in his hand. "The old ticket I
suppose; five bob a head." And then he read out the bill, the total
of which, wine and beer included, came to forty shillings. "Five
shillings a head, gentlemen, as I said. You and I can make a pretty
good guess as to the figure; eh, Snengkeld?" And then he put down his
two half-crowns on the waiter, as also did Mr. Snengkeld, and then
Mr. Gape, and so on till it came to Mr. Kantwise.

"I think you and I will leave it, and settle at the bar," said
Kantwise, appealing to Dockwrath, and intending peace if peace were
still possible.

"No," shouted Moulder, from the other end of the table; "let the man
have his money now, and then his troubles will be over. If there's
to be any fuss about it, let's have it out. I like to see the dinner
bill settled as soon as the dinner is eaten. Then one gets an
appetite for one's supper."

"I don't think I have the change," said Kantwise, still putting off
the evil day.

"I'll lend, it you," said Moulder, putting his hand into his
trousers-pockets. But the money was forthcoming out of Mr. Kantwise's
own proper repositories, and with slow motion he put down the five
shillings one after the other.

And then the waiter came to Mr. Dockwrath. "What's this?" said the
attorney, taking up the bill and looking at it. The whole matter had
been sufficiently explained to him, but nevertheless Mr. Moulder
explained it again. "In commercial rooms, sir, as no doubt you must
be well aware, seeing that you have done us the honour of joining us
here, the dinner bill is divided equally among all the gentlemen as
sit down. It's the rule of the room, sir. You has what you like, and
you calls for what you like, and conwiviality is thereby encouraged.
The figure generally comes to five shillings, and you afterwards
gives what you like to the waiter. That's about it, ain't it, James?"

"That's the rule, sir, in all commercial rooms as I ever see," said
the waiter.

The matter had been so extremely well put by Mr. Moulder, and that
gentleman's words had carried with them so much conviction, that
Dockwrath felt himself almost tempted to put down the money; as far
as his sixteen children and general ideas of economy were concerned
he would have done so; but his legal mind could not bear to be
beaten. The spirit of litigation within him told him that the point
was to be carried. Moulder, Gape, and Snengkeld together could not
make him pay for wine he had neither ordered nor swallowed. His
pocket was guarded by the law of the land, and not by the laws of any
special room in which he might chance to find himself. "I shall pay
two shillings for my dinner," said he, "and sixpence for my beer;"
and then he deposited the half-crown.

"Do you mean us to understand," said Moulder, "that after forcing
your way into this room, and sitting down along with gentlemen at
this table, you refuse to abide by the rules of the room?" And Mr.
Moulder spoke and looked as though he thought that such treachery
must certainly lead to most disastrous results. The disastrous result
which a stranger might have expected at the moment would be a fit of
apoplexy on the part of the worthy president.

"I neither ordered that wine nor did I drink it," said Mr. Dockwrath,
compressing his lips, leaning back in his chair, and looking up into
one corner of the ceiling.

"The gentleman certainly did not drink the wine," said Kantwise, "I
must acknowledge that; and as for ordering it, why that was done by
the president, in course."

"Gammon!" said Mr. Moulder, and he fixed his eyes steadfastly upon
his Vice. "Kantwise, that's gammon. The most of what you says is
gammon."

"Mr. Moulder, I don't exactly know what you mean by that word gammon,
but it's objectionable. To my feelings it's very objectionable. I
say that the gentleman did not drink the wine, and I appeal to the
gentleman who sits at the gentleman's right, whether what I say
is not correct. If what I say is correct, it can't be--gammon. Mr.
Busby, did that gentleman drink the wine, or did he not?"

"Not as I see," said Mr. Busby, somewhat nervous at being thus
brought into the controversy. He was a young man just commencing his
travels, and stood in awe of the great Moulder.

"Gammon!" shouted Moulder, with a very red face. "Everybody at the
table knows he didn't drink the wine. Everybody saw that he declined
the honour when proposed, which I don't know that I ever saw a
gentleman do at a commercial table till this day, barring that he
was a teetotaller, which is gammon too. But its P.P. here, as every
commercial gentleman knows, Kantwise as well as the best of us."

"P.P., that's the rule," growled Snengkeld, almost from under the
table.

"In commercial rooms, as the gentleman must be aware, the rule is as
stated by my friend on my right," said Mr. Gape. "The wine is ordered
by the president or chairman, and is paid for in equal proportions by
the company or guests," and in his oratory Mr. Gape laid great stress
on the word "or." "The gentleman will easily perceive that such a
rule as this is necessary in such a society; and unless--"

But Mr. Gape was apt to make long speeches, and therefore Mr. Moulder
interrupted him. "You had better pay your five shillings, sir, and
have no jaw about it. The man is standing idle there."

"It's not the value of the money," said Dockwrath, "but I must
decline to acknowledge that I am amenable to the jurisdiction."

"There has clearly been a mistake," said Johnson from Sheffield, "and
we had better settle it among us; anything is better than a row."
Johnson from Sheffield was a man somewhat inclined to dispute the
supremacy of Moulder from Houndsditch.

"No, Johnson," said the president. "Anything is not better than a
row. A premeditated infraction of our rules is not better than a
row."

"Did you say premeditated?" said Kantwise. "I think not
premeditated."

"I did say premeditated, and I say it again."

"It looks uncommon like it," said Snengkeld.

"When a gentleman," said Gape, "who does not belong to a society--"

"It's no good having more talk," said Moulder, "and we'll soon
bring this to an end. Mr.--; I haven't the honour of knowing the
gentleman's name."

"My name is Dockwrath, and I am a solicitor."

"Oh, a solicitor; are you? and you said last night you was
commercial! Will you be good enough to tell us, Mr. Solicitor--for I
didn't just catch your name, except that it begins with a dock--and
that's where most of your clients are to be found, I suppose--"

"Order, order, order!" said Kantwise, holding up both his hands.

"It's the chair as is speaking," said Mr. Gape, who had a true
Englishman's notion that the chair itself could not be called to
order.

"You shouldn't insult the gentleman because he has his own ideas,"
said Johnson.

"I don't want to insult no one," continued Moulder; "and those who
know me best, among whom I can't as yet count Mr. Johnson, though
hopes I shall some day, won't say it of me." "Hear--hear--hear!"
from both Snengkeld and Gape; to which Kantwise added a little
"hear--hear!" of his own, of which Mr. Moulder did not quite approve.
"Mr. Snengkeld and Mr. Gape, they're my old friends, and they knows
me. And they knows the way of a commercial room--which some gentlemen
don't seem as though they do. I don't want to insult no one; but
as chairman here at this conwivial meeting, I asks that gentleman
who says he is a solicitor whether he means to pay his dinner bill
according to the rules of the room, or whether he don't?"

"I've paid for what I've had already," said Dockwrath, "and I don't
mean to pay for what I've not had."

"James," exclaimed Moulder,--and all the chairman was in his voice
as he spoke,--"my compliments to Mr. Crump, and I will request his
attendance for five minutes;" and then James left the room, and there
was silence for a while, during which the bottles made their round of
the table.

"Hadn't we better send back the pint of wine which Mr. Dockwrath
hasn't used?" suggested Kantwise.

"I'm d---- if we do!" replied Moulder, with much energy; and the
general silence was not again broken till Mr. Crump made his
appearance; but the chairman whispered a private word or two to his
friend Snengkeld. "I never sent back ordered liquor to the bar yet,
unless it was bad; and I'm not going to begin now."

And then Mr. Crump came in. Mr. Crump was a very clean-looking
person, without any beard; and dressed from head to foot in black. He
was about fifty, with grizzly gray hair, which stood upright on his
head, and his face at the present moment wore on it an innkeeper's
smile. But it could also assume an innkeeper's frown, and on
occasions did so--when bills were disputed, or unreasonable strangers
thought that they knew the distance in posting miles round the
neighbourhood of Leeds better than did he, Mr. Crump, who had lived
at the Bull Inn all his life. But Mr. Crump rarely frowned on
commercial gentlemen, from whom was derived the main stay of his
business and the main prop of his house.

"Mr. Crump," began Moulder, "here has occurred a very unpleasant
transaction."

"I know all about it, gentlemen," said Mr. Crump. "The waiter has
acquainted me, and I can assure you, gentlemen, that I am extremely
sorry that anything should have arisen to disturb the harmony of your
dinner-table."

"We must now call upon you, Mr. Crump," began Mr. Moulder, who was
about to demand that Dockwrath should be turned bodily out of the
room.

"If you'll allow me one moment, Mr. Moulder," continued Mr. Crump,
"and I'll tell you what is my suggestion. The gentleman here, who I
understand is a lawyer, does not wish to comply with the rules of the
commercial room."

"I certainly don't wish or intend to pay for drink that I didn't
order and haven't had," said Dockwrath.

"Exactly," said Mr. Crump. "And therefore, gentlemen, to get out of
the difficulty, we'll presume, if you please, that the bill is paid."

"The lawyer, as you call him, will have to leave the room," said
Moulder.

"Perhaps he will not object to step over to the coffee-room on the
other side," suggested the landlord.

"I can't think of leaving my seat here under such circumstances,"
said Dockwrath.

"You can't," said Moulder. "Then you must be made, as I take it."

"Let me see the man that will make me," said Dockwrath.

Mr. Crump looked very apologetic and not very comfortable. "There
is a difficulty, gentlemen; there is a difficulty, indeed," he said.
"The fact is, the gentleman should not have been showed into the room
at all;" and he looked very angrily at his own servant, James.

"He said he was 'mercial," said James. "So he did. Now he says as how
he's a lawyer. What's a poor man to do?"

"I'm a commercial lawyer," said Dockwrath.

"He must leave the room, or I shall leave the house," said Moulder.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen!" said Crump. "This kind of thing does not
happen often, and on this occasion I must try your kind patience. If
Mr. Moulder would allow me to suggest that the commercial gentlemen
should take their wine in the large drawing-room up stairs this
evening, Mrs. C. will do her best to make it comfortable for them in
five minutes. There of course they can be private."

There was something in the idea of leaving Mr. Dockwrath alone in his
glory which appeased the spirit of the great Moulder. He had known
Crump, moreover, for many years, and was aware that it would be a
dangerous, and probably an expensive proceeding to thrust out the
attorney by violence. "If the other gentlemen are agreeable, I am,"
said he. The other gentlemen were agreeable, and, with the exception
of Kantwise, they all rose from their chairs.

"I must say I think you ought to leave the room as you don't
choose to abide by the rules," said Johnson, addressing himself to
Dockwrath.

"That's your opinion," said Dockwrath.

"Yes, it is," said Johnson. "That's my opinion."

"My own happens to be different," said Dockwrath; and so he kept his
chair.

"There, Mr. Crump," said Moulder, taking half a crown from his pocket
and throwing it on the table. "I sha'n't see you at a loss."

"Thank you, sir," said Mr. Crump; and he very humbly took up the
money.

"I keep a little account for charity at home," said Moulder.

"It don't run very high, do it?" asked Snengkeld, jocosely.

"Not out of the way, it don't. But now I shall have the pleasure of
writing down in it that I paid half a crown for a lawyer who couldn't
afford to settle his own dinner bill. Sir, we have the pleasure of
wishing you a good night."

"I hope you'll find the large drawing-room up stairs quite
comfortable," said Dockwrath.

And then they all marched out of the room, each with his own glass,
Mr. Moulder leading the way with stately step. It was pleasant to see
them as they all followed their leader across the open passage of the
gateway, in by the bar, and so up the chief staircase. Mr. Moulder
walked slowly, bearing the bottle of port and his own glass, and
Mr. Snengkeld and Mr. Gape followed in line, bearing also their
own glasses, and maintaining the dignity of their profession under
circumstances of some difficulty.

"Gentlemen, I really am sorry for this little accident," said Mr.
Crump, as they were passing the bar; "but a lawyer, you know--"

"And such a lawyer, eh, Crump?" said Moulder.

"It might be five-and-twenty pound to me to lay a hand on him!" said
the landlord.

When the time came for Mr. Kantwise to move, he considered the matter
well. The chances, however, as he calculated them, were against any
profitable business being done with the attorney, so he also left the
room. "Good night, sir," he said as he went. "I wish you a very good
night."

"Take care of yourself," said Dockwrath; and then the attorney spent
the rest of the evening alone.



CHAPTER X

MR., MRS., AND MISS FURNIVAL


I will now ask my readers to come with me up to London, in order
that I may introduce them to the family of the Furnivals. We shall
see much of the Furnivals before we reach the end of our present
undertaking, and it will be well that we should commence our
acquaintance with them as early as may be done.

Mr. Furnival was a lawyer--I mean a barrister--belonging to Lincoln's
Inn, and living at the time at which our story is supposed to
commence in Harley Street. But he had not been long a resident in
Harley Street, having left the less fashionable neighbourhood of
Russell Square only two or three years before that period. On his
marriage he had located himself in a small house in Keppel Street,
and had there remained till professional success, long waited for,
enabled him to move further west, and indulge himself with the
comforts of larger rooms and more servants. At the time of which I am
now speaking Mr. Furnival was known, and well known, as a successful
man; but he had struggled long and hard before that success had come
to him, and during the earliest years of his married life had found
the work of keeping the wolf from the door to be almost more than
enough for his energies.

Mr. Furnival practised at the common law bar, and early in life had
attached himself to the home circuit. I cannot say why he obtained no
great success till he was nearer fifty than forty years of age. At
that time I fancy that barristers did not come to their prime till
a period of life at which other men are supposed to be in their
decadence. Nevertheless, he had married on nothing, and had kept the
wolf from the door. To do this he had been constant at his work in
season and out of season, during the long hours of day and the long
hours of night. Throughout his term times he had toiled in court,
and during the vacations he had toiled out of court. He had reported
volumes of cases, having been himself his own short-hand writer,--as
it is well known to most young lawyers, who as a rule always fill
an upper shelf in their law libraries with Furnival and Staples'
seventeen volumes in calf. He had worked for the booksellers, and for
the newspapers, and for the attorneys,--always working, however, with
reference to the law; and though he had worked for years with the
lowest pay, no man had heard him complain. That no woman had heard
him do so, I will not say; as it is more than probable that into the
sympathising ears of Mrs. Furnival he did pour forth plaints as to
the small wages which the legal world meted out to him in return for
his labours. He was a constant, hard, patient man, and at last there
came to him the full reward of all his industry. What was the special
case by which Mr. Furnival obtained his great success no man could
say. In all probability there was no special case. Gradually it
began to be understood that he was a safe man, understanding his
trade, true to his clients, and very damaging as an opponent. Legal
gentlemen are, I believe, quite as often bought off as bought up. Sir
Richard and Mr. Furnival could not both be required on the same side,
seeing what a tower of strength each was in himself; but then Sir
Richard would be absolutely neutralized if Mr. Furnival were employed
on the other side. This is a system well understood by attorneys, and
has been found to be extremely lucrative by gentlemen leading at the
bar.

Mr. Furnival was now fifty-five years of age, and was beginning
to show in his face some traces of his hard work. Not that he was
becoming old, or weak, or worn; but his eye had lost its fire--except
the fire peculiar to his profession; and there were wrinkles in his
forehead and cheeks; and his upper lip, except when he was speaking,
hung heavily over the lower; and the loose skin below his eye was
forming into saucers; and his hair had become grizzled; and on his
shoulders, except when in court, there was a slight stoop. As seen in
his wig and gown he was a man of commanding presence,--and for ten
men in London who knew him in this garb, hardly one knew him without
it. He was nearly six feet high, and stood forth prominently, with
square, broad shoulders and a large body. His head also was large;
his forehead was high, and marked strongly by signs of intellect; his
nose was long and straight, his eyes were very gray, and capable to
an extraordinary degree both of direct severity and of concealed
sarcasm. Witnesses have been heard to say that they could endure
all that Mr. Furnival could say to them, and continue in some sort
to answer all his questions, if only he would refrain from looking
at them. But he would never refrain; and therefore it was now well
understood how great a thing it was to secure the services of Mr.
Furnival. "Sir," an attorney would say to an unfortunate client
doubtful as to the expenditure, "your witnesses will not be able to
stand in the box if we allow Mr. Furnival to be engaged on the other
side." I am inclined to think that Mr. Furnival owed to this power of
his eyes his almost unequalled perfection in that peculiar branch of
his profession. His voice was powerful, and not unpleasant when used
within the precincts of a court, though it grated somewhat harshly on
the ears in the smaller compass of a private room. His flow of words
was free and good, and seemed to come from him without the slightest
effort. Such at least was always the case with him when standing
wigged and gowned before a judge. Latterly, however, he had tried his
eloquence on another arena, and not altogether with equal success. He
was now in Parliament, sitting as member for the Essex Marshes, and
he had not as yet carried either the country or the House with him,
although he had been frequently on his legs. Some men said that
with a little practice he would yet become very serviceable as an
honourable and learned member; but others expressed a fear that he
had come too late in life to these new duties.

I have spoken of Mr. Furnival's great success in that branch of
his profession which required from him the examination of evidence,
but I would not have it thought that he was great only in this, or
even mainly in this. There are gentlemen at the bar, among whom
I may perhaps notice my old friend Mr. Chaffanbrass as the most
conspicuous, who have confined their talents to the browbeating
of witnesses,--greatly to their own profit, and no doubt to the
advantage of society. But I would have it understood that Mr.
Furnival was by no means one of these. He had been no Old Bailey
lawyer, devoting himself to the manumission of murderers, or the
security of the swindling world in general. He had been employed on
abstruse points of law, had been great in will cases, very learned as
to the rights of railways, peculiarly apt in enforcing the dowries of
married women, and successful above all things in separating husbands
and wives whose lives had not been passed in accordance with the
recognised rules of Hymen. Indeed there is no branch of the Common
Law in which he was not regarded as great and powerful, though
perhaps his proficiency in damaging the general characters of his
opponents has been recognised as his especial forte. Under these
circumstances I should grieve to have him confounded with such men
as Mr. Chaffanbrass, who is hardly known by the profession beyond
the precincts of his own peculiar court in the City. Mr. Furnival's
reputation has spread itself wherever stuff gowns and horsehair wigs
are held in estimation.

Mr. Furnival when clothed in his forensic habiliments certainly
possessed a solemn and severe dignity which had its weight even with
the judges. Those who scrutinised his appearance critically might
have said that it was in some respects pretentious; but the ordinary
jurymen of this country are not critical scrutinisers of appearance,
and by them he was never held in light estimation. When in his
addresses to them, appealing to their intelligence, education, and
enlightened justice, he would declare that the property of his
clients was perfectly safe in their hands, he looked to be such an
advocate as a litigant would fain possess when dreading the soundness
of his own cause. Any cause was sound to him when once he had been
feed for its support, and he carried in his countenance his assurance
of this soundness,--and the assurance of unsoundness in the cause of
his opponent. Even he did not always win; but on the occasion of his
losing, those of the uninitiated who had heard the pleadings would
express their astonishment that he should not have been successful.

When he was divested of his wig his appearance was not so perfect.
There was then a hard, long straightness about his head and face,
giving to his countenance the form of a parallelogram, to which there
belonged a certain meanness of expression. He wanted the roundness of
forehead, the short lines, and the graceful curves of face which are
necessary to unadorned manly comeliness. His whiskers were small,
grizzled, and ill grown, and required the ample relief of his wig.
In no guise did he look other than a clever man; but in his dress as
a simple citizen he would perhaps be taken as a clever man in whose
tenderness of heart and cordiality of feeling one would not at first
sight place implicit trust.

As a poor man Mr. Furnival had done his duty well by his wife and
family,--for as a poor man he had been blessed with four children.
Three of these had died as they were becoming men and women, and now,
as a rich man, he was left with one daughter, an only child. As a
poor man Mr. Furnival had been an excellent husband, going forth
in the morning to his work, struggling through the day, and then
returning to his meagre dinner and his long evenings of unremitting
drudgery. The bodily strength which had supported him through his
work in those days must have been immense, for he had allowed himself
no holidays. And then success and money had come,--and Mrs. Furnival
sometimes found herself not quite so happy as she had been when
watching beside him in the days of their poverty.

The equal mind,--as mortal Delius was bidden to remember, and as Mr.
Furnival might also have remembered had time been allowed him to
cultivate the classics,--the equal mind should be as sedulously
maintained when things run well, as well as when they run hardly;
and perhaps the maintenance of such equal mind is more difficult in
the former than in the latter stage of life. Be that as it may, Mr.
Furnival could now be very cross on certain domestic occasions, and
could also be very unjust. And there was worse than this,--much worse
behind. He, who in the heyday of his youth would spend night after
night poring over his books, copying out reports, and never asking to
see a female habiliment brighter or more attractive than his wife's
Sunday gown, he, at the age of fifty-five, was now running after
strange goddesses! The member for the Essex Marshes, in these his
latter days, was obtaining for himself among other successes the
character of a Lothario; and Mrs. Furnival, sitting at home in her
genteel drawing-room near Cavendish Square, would remember with
regret the small dingy parlour in Keppel Street.

Mrs. Furnival in discussing her grievances would attribute them
mainly to port wine. In his early days Mr. Furnival had been
essentially an abstemious man. Young men who work fifteen hours a day
must be so. But now he had a strong opinion about certain Portuguese
vintages, was convinced that there was no port wine in London equal
to the contents of his own bin, saving always a certain green cork
appertaining to his own club, which was to be extracted at the rate
of thirty shillings a cork. And Mrs. Furnival attributed to these
latter studies not only a certain purple hue which was suffusing his
nose and cheeks, but also that unevenness of character and those
supposed domestic improprieties to which allusion has been made. It
may, however, be as well to explain that Mrs. Ball, the old family
cook and housekeeper, who had ascended with the Furnivals in the
world, opined that made-dishes did the mischief. He dined out too
often, and was a deal too particular about his dinner when he dined
at home. If Providence would see fit to visit him with a sharp attack
of the gout, it would--so thought Mrs. Ball--be better for all
parties.

Whether or no it may have been that Mrs. Furnival at fifty-five--for
she and her lord were of the same age--was not herself as attractive
in her husband's eyes as she had been at thirty, I will not pretend
to say. There can have been no just reason for any such change in
feeling, seeing that the two had grown old together. She, poor woman,
would have been quite content with the attentions of Mr. Furnival,
though his hair was grizzled and his nose was blue; nor did she ever
think of attracting to herself the admiration of any swain whose
general comeliness might be more free from all taint of age. Why then
should he wander afield--at the age of fifty-five? That he did wander
afield, poor Mrs. Furnival felt in her agony convinced; and among
those ladies whom on this account she most thoroughly detested was
our friend Lady Mason of Orley Farm. Lady Mason and the lawyer had
first become acquainted in the days of the trial, now long gone
by, on which occasion Mr. Furnival had been employed as the junior
counsel; and that acquaintance had ripened into friendship, and now
flourished in full vigour,--to Mrs. Furnival's great sorrow and
disturbance.

Mrs. Furnival herself was a stout, solid woman, sensible on most
points, but better adapted, perhaps, to the life in Keppel Street
than that to which she had now been promoted. As Kitty Blacker she
had possessed feminine charms which would have been famous had
they been better known. Mr. Furnival had fetched her from farther
East--from the region of Great Ormond street and the neighbourhood of
Southampton Buildings. Her cherry cheeks, and her round eye, and her
full bust, and her fresh lip, had conquered the hard-tasked lawyer;
and so they had gone forth to fight the world together. Her eye
was still round, and her cheek red, and her bust full,--there had
certainly been no falling off there; nor will I say that her lip had
lost its freshness. But the bloom of her charms had passed away, and
she was now a solid, stout, motherly woman, not bright in converse,
but by no means deficient in mother-wit, recognizing well the duties
which she owed to others, but recognizing equally well those which
others owed to her. All the charms of her youth--had they not been
given to him, and also all her solicitude, all her anxious fighting
with the hard world? When they had been poor together, had she not
patched and turned and twisted, sitting silently by his side into the
long nights, because she would not ask him for the price of a new
dress? And yet now, now that they were rich--? Mrs. Furnival, when
she put such questions within her own mind, could hardly answer this
latter one with patience. Others might be afraid of the great Mr.
Furnival in his wig and gown; others might be struck dumb by his
power of eye and mouth; but she, she, the wife of his bosom, she
could catch him without his armour. She would so catch him and let
him know what she thought of all her wrongs. So she said to herself
many a day, and yet the great deed, in all its explosiveness, had
never yet been done. Small attacks of words there had been many, but
hitherto the courage to speak out her griefs openly had been wanting
to her.

I can now allow myself but a small space to say a few words of Sophia
Furnival, and yet in that small space must be confined all the direct
description which can be given of one of the principal personages
of this story. At nineteen Miss Furnival was in all respects a
young woman. She was forward in acquirements, in manner, in general
intelligence, and in powers of conversation. She was a handsome, tall
girl, with expressive gray eyes and dark-brown hair. Her mouth, and
hair, and a certain motion of her neck and turn of her head, had come
to her from her mother, but her eyes were those of her father: they
were less sharp perhaps, less eager after their prey; but they were
bright as his had been bright, and sometimes had in them more of
absolute command than he was ever able to throw into his own.

Their golden days had come on them at a period of her life which
enabled her to make a better use of them than her mother could do.
She never felt herself to be struck dumb by rank or fashion, nor did
she in the drawing-rooms of the great ever show signs of an Eastern
origin. She could adapt herself without an effort to the manners of
Cavendish Square;--ay, and if need were, to the ways of more glorious
squares even than that. Therefore was her father never ashamed to be
seen with her on his arm in the houses of his new friends, though on
such occasions he was willing enough to go out without disturbing the
repose of his wife. No mother could have loved her children with a
warmer affection than that which had warmed the heart of poor Mrs.
Furnival; but under such circumstances as these was it singular that
she should occasionally become jealous of her own daughter?

Sophia Furnival was, as I have said, a clever, attractive girl,
handsome, well-read, able to hold her own with the old as well as
with the young, capable of hiding her vanity if she had any, mild
and gentle to girls less gifted, animated in conversation, and yet
possessing an eye that could fall softly to the ground, as a woman's
eye always should fall upon occasions.

Nevertheless she was not altogether charming. "I don't feel quite
sure that she is real," Mrs. Orme had said of her, when on a certain
occasion Miss Furnival had spent a day and a night at The Cleeve.



CHAPTER XI

MRS. FURNIVAL AT HOME


Lucius Mason on his road to Liverpool had passed through London,
and had found a moment to call in Harley Street. Since his return
from Germany he had met Miss Furnival both at home at his mother's
house--or rather his own--and at The Cleeve. Miss Furnival had been
in the neighbourhood, and had spent two days with the great people at
The Cleeve, and one day with the little people at Orley Farm. Lucius
Mason had found that she was a sensible girl, capable of discussing
great subjects with him; and had possibly found some other charms in
her. Therefore he had called in Harley Street.

On that occasion he could only call as he passed through London
without delay; but he received such encouragement as induced him to
spend a night in town on his return, in order that he might accept an
invitation to drink tea with the Furnivals. "We shall be very happy
to see you," Mrs. Furnival had said, backing the proposition which
had come from her daughter without any very great fervour; "but I
fear Mr. Furnival will not be at home. Mr. Furnival very seldom is at
home now." Young Mason did not much care for fervour on the part of
Sophia's mother, and therefore had accepted the invitation, though he
was obliged by so doing to curtail by some hours his sojourn among
the guano stores of Liverpool.

It was the time of year at which few people are at home in London,
being the middle of October; but Mrs. Furnival was a lady of whom at
such periods it was not very easy to dispose. She could have made
herself as happy as a queen even at Margate, if it could have suited
Furnival and Sophia to be happy at Margate with her. But this did not
suit Furnival or Sophia. As regards money, any or almost all other
autumnal resorts were open to her, but she could be contented at
none of them because Mr. Furnival always pleaded that business--law
business or political business--took him elsewhere. Now Mrs. Furnival
was a woman who did not like to be deserted, and who could not, in
the absence of those social joys which Providence had vouchsafed to
her as her own, make herself happy with the society of other women
such as herself. Furnival was her husband, and she wanted him to
carve for her, to sit opposite to her at the breakfast table, to tell
her the news of the day, and to walk to church with her on Sundays.
They had been made one flesh and one bone, for better and worse,
thirty years since; and now in her latter days she could not put up
with disseveration and dislocation.

She had gone down to Brighton in August, soon after the House broke
up, and there found that very handsome apartments had been taken for
her--rooms that would have made glad the heart of many a lawyer's
wife. She had, too, the command of a fly, done up to look like
a private brougham, a servant in livery, the run of the public
assembly-rooms, a sitting in the centre of the most fashionable
church in Brighton--all that the heart of woman could desire. All
but the one thing was there; but, that one thing being absent, she
came moodily back to town at the end of September. She would have
exchanged them all with a happy heart for very moderate accommodation
at Margate, could she have seen Mr. Furnival's blue nose on the other
side of the table every morning and evening as she sat over her
shrimps and tea.

Men who had risen in the world as Mr. Furnival had done do find it
sometimes difficult to dispose of their wives. It is not that the
ladies are in themselves more unfit for rising than their lords, or
that if occasion demanded they would not as readily adapt themselves
to new spheres. But they do not rise, and occasion does not demand
it. A man elevates his wife to his own rank, and when Mr. Brown,
on becoming solicitor-general, becomes Sir Jacob, Mrs. Brown also
becomes my lady. But the whole set among whom Brown must be more
or less thrown do not want her ladyship. On Brown's promotion she
did not become part of the bargain. Brown must henceforth have two
existences--a public and a private existence; and it will be well for
Lady Brown, and well also for Sir Jacob, if the latter be not allowed
to dwindle down to a minimum.

If Lady B. can raise herself also, if she can make her own
occasion--if she be handsome and can flirt, if she be impudent and
can force her way, if she have a daring mind and can commit great
expenditure, if she be clever and can make poetry, if she can in
any way create a separate glory for herself, then, indeed, Sir Jacob
with his blue nose may follow his own path, and all will be well.
Sir Jacob's blue nose seated opposite to her will not be her summum
bonum.

But worthy Mrs. Furnival--and she was worthy--had created for herself
no such separate glory, nor did she dream of creating it; and
therefore she had, as it were, no footing left to her. On this
occasion she had gone to Brighton, and had returned from it sulky
and wretched, bringing her daughter back to London at the period of
London's greatest desolation. Sophia had returned uncomplaining,
remembering that good things were in store for her. She had been
asked to spend her Christmas with the Staveleys at Noningsby--the
family of Judge Staveley, who lives near Alston, at a very pretty
country place so called. Mr. Furnival had been for many years
acquainted with Judge Staveley,--had known the judge when he was a
leading counsel; and now that Mr. Furnival was a rising man, and
now that he had a pretty daughter, it was natural that the young
Staveleys and Sophia Furnival should know each other. But poor Mrs.
Furnival was too ponderous for this mounting late in life, and she
had not been asked to Noningsby. She was much too good a mother to
repine at her daughter's promised gaiety. Sophia was welcome to go;
but by all the laws of God and man it would behove her lord and
husband to eat his mincepie at home.

"Mr. Furnival was to be back in town this evening," the lady said, as
though apologizing to young Mason for her husband's absence, when he
entered the drawing-room, "but he has not come, and I dare say will
not come now."

Mason did not care a straw for Mr. Furnival. "Oh! won't he?" said he.
"I suppose business keeps him."

"Papa is very busy about politics just at present," said Sophia,
wishing to make matters smooth in her mother's mind. "He was obliged
to be at Romford in the beginning of the week, and then he went down
to Birmingham. There is some congress going on there, is there not?"

"All that must take a great deal of time," said Lucius.

"Yes; and it is a terrible bore," said Sophia. "I know papa finds it
so."

"Your papa likes it, I believe," said Mrs. Furnival, who would not
hide even her grievances under a bushel.

"I don't think he likes being so much from home, mamma. Of course he
likes excitement, and success. All men do. Do they not, Mr. Mason?"

"They all ought to do so, and women also."

"Ah! but women have no sphere, Mr. Mason."

"They have minds equal to those of men," said Lucius, gallantly, "and
ought to be able to make for themselves careers as brilliant."

"Women ought not to have any spheres," said Mrs. Furnival.

"I don't know that I quite agree with you there, mamma."

"The world is becoming a great deal too fond of what you call
excitement and success. Of course it is a good thing for a man to
make money by his profession, and a very hard thing when he can't do
it," added Mrs. Furnival, thinking of the olden days. "But if success
in life means rampaging about, and never knowing what it is to sit
quiet over his own fireside, I for one would as soon manage to do
without it."

"But, mamma, I don't see why success should always be rampageous."

"Literary women who have achieved a name bear their honours quietly,"
said Lucius.

"I don't know," said Mrs. Furnival. "I am told that some of them are
as fond of gadding as the men. As regards the old maids, I don't care
so much about it; people who are not married may do what they like
with themselves, and nobody has anything to say to them. But it
is very different for married people. They have no business to be
enticed away from their homes by any success."

"Mamma is all for a Darby and Joan life," said Sophia, laughing.

"No I am not, my dear; and you should not say so. I don't advocate
anything that is absurd. But I do say that life should be lived at
home. That is the best part of it. What is the meaning of home if it
isn't that?"

Poor Mrs. Furnival! she had no idea that she was complaining to a
stranger of her husband. Had any one told her so she would have
declared that she was discussing world-wide topics; but Lucius Mason,
young as he was, knew that the marital shoe was pinching the lady's
domestic corn, and he made haste to change the subject.

"You know my mother, Mrs. Furnival?"

Mrs. Furnival said that she had the honour of acquaintance with Lady
Mason; but on this occasion also she exhibited but little fervour.

"I shall meet her up in town to-morrow," said Lucius. "She is coming
up for some shopping."

"Oh! indeed," said Mrs. Furnival.

"And then we go down home together. I am to meet her at the chymist's
at the top of Chancery Lane."

Now this was a very unnecessary communication on the part of young
Mason, and also an unfortunate one. "Oh! indeed," said Mrs. Furnival
again, throwing her head a little back. Poor woman! she could not
conceal what was in her mind, and her daughter knew all about it
immediately. The truth was this. Mr. Furnival had been for some days
on the move, at Birmingham and elsewhere, and had now sent up sudden
notice that he should probably be at home that very night. He should
probably be at home that night, but in such case would be compelled
to return to his friends at Birmingham on the following afternoon.
Now if it were an ascertained fact that he was coming to London
merely with the view of meeting Lady Mason, the wife of his bosom
would not think it necessary to provide for him the warmest welcome.
This of course was not an ascertained fact; but were there not
terrible grounds of suspicion? Mr. Furnival's law chambers were in
Old Square, Lincoln's Inn, close to Chancery Lane, and Lady Mason had
made her appointment with her son within five minutes' walk of that
locality. And was it not in itself a strange coincidence that Lady
Mason, who came to town so seldom, should now do so on the very day
of Mr. Furnival's sudden return? She felt sure that they were to meet
on the morrow, but yet she could not declare even to herself that it
was an ascertained fact.

"Oh! indeed," she said; and Sophia understood all about it, though
Lucius did not.

Then Mrs. Furnival sank into silence; and we need not follow, word
for word, the conversation between the young lady and the young
gentleman. Mr. Mason thought that Miss Furnival was a very nice girl,
and was not at all ill pleased to have an opportunity of passing
an evening in her company; and Miss Furnival thought--. What she
thought, or what young ladies may think generally about young
gentlemen, is not to be spoken openly; but it seemed as though she
also were employed to her own satisfaction, while her mother sat
moody in her own arm-chair. In the course of the evening the footman
in livery brought in tea, handing it round on a big silver salver,
which also added to Mrs. Furnival's unhappiness. She would have
liked to sit behind her tea-tray as she used to do in the good
old hard-working days, with a small pile of buttered toast on
the slop-bowl, kept warm by hot water below. In those dear old
hard-working days, buttered toast had been a much-loved delicacy
with Furnival; and she, kind woman, had never begrudged her eyes, as
she sat making it for him over the parlour fire. Nor would she have
begrudged them now, neither her eyes nor the work of her hands, nor
all the thoughts of her heart, if he would have consented to accept
of her handiwork; but in these days Mr. Furnival had learned a relish
for other delicacies.

She also had liked buttered toast, always, however, taking the pieces
with the upper crust, in order that the more luscious morsels might
be left for him; and she had liked to prepare her own tea leisurely,
putting in slowly the sugar and cream--skimmed milk it had used to
be, dropped for herself with a sparing hand, in order that his large
breakfast-cup might be whitened to his liking; but though the milk
had been skimmed and scanty, and though the tea itself had been put
in with a sparing hand, she had then been mistress of the occasion.
She had had her own way, and in stinting herself had found her own
reward. But now--the tea had no flavour now that it was made in the
kitchen and brought to her, cold and vapid, by a man in livery whom
she half feared to keep waiting while she ministered to her own
wants.

And so she sat moody in her arm-chair, cross and sulky, as her
daughter thought. But yet there was a vein of poetry in her heart, as
she sat there, little like a sibyl as she looked. Dear old days, in
which her cares and solicitude were valued; in which she could do
something for the joint benefit of the firm into which she had been
taken as a partner! How happy she had been in her struggles, how
piteously had her heart yearned towards him when she thought that he
was struggling too fiercely, how brave and constant he had been; and
how she had loved him as he sat steady as a rock at his grinding
work! Now had come the great success of which they had both dreamed
together, of which they had talked as arm in arm they were taking the
exercise that was so needful to him, walking quickly round Russell
Square, quickly round Bloomsbury Square and Bedford Square, and so
back to the grinding work in Keppel Street. It had come now--all of
which they had dreamed, and more than all they had dared to hope.
But of what good was it? Was he happy? No; he was fretful, bilious,
and worn with toil which was hard to him because he ate and drank
too much; he was ill at ease in public, only half understanding the
political life which he was obliged to assume in his new ambition;
and he was sick in his conscience--she was sure that must be so: he
could not thus neglect her, his loving, constant wife, without some
pangs of remorse. And was she happy? She might have revelled in silks
and satins, if silks and satins would have done her old heart good.
But they would do her no good. How she had joyed in a new dress when
it had been so hard to come by, so slow in coming, and when he would
go with her to the choosing of it! But her gowns now were hardly
of more interest to her than the joints of meat which the butcher
brought to the door with the utmost regularity. It behoved the
butcher to send good beef and the milliner to send good silk, and
there was an end of it.

Not but what she could have been ecstatic about a full skirt on a
smart body if he would have cared to look at it. In truth she was
still soft and young enough within, though stout, and solid, and
somewhat aged without. Though she looked cross and surly that night,
there was soft poetry within her heart. If Providence, who had
bountifully given, would now by chance mercifully take away those
gifts, would she not then forgive everything and toil for him again
with the same happiness as before? Ah! yes; she could forgive
everything, anything, if he would only return and be contented to
sit opposite to her once again. "O mortal Delius, dearest lord and
husband!" she exclaimed within her own breast, in language somewhat
differing from that of the Roman poet, "why hast thou not remembered
to maintain a mind equal in prosperity as it was always equal and
well poised in adversity? Oh my Delius, since prosperity has been too
much for thee, may the Lord bless thee once more with the adversity
which thou canst bear--which thou canst bear, and I with thee!" Thus
did she sing sadly within her own bosom,--sadly, but with true poetic
cadence; while Sophia and Lucius Mason, sitting by, when for a moment
they turned their eyes upon her, gave her credit only for the cross
solemnity supposed to be incidental to obese and declining years.

And then there came a ring at the bell and a knock at the door, and a
rush along the nether passages, and the lady knew that he of whom she
had been thinking had arrived. In olden days she had ever met him in
the narrow passage, and, indifferent to the maid, she had hung about
his neck and kissed him in the hall. But now she did not stir from
the chair. She could forgive him all and run again at the sound of
his footstep, but she must first know that such forgiveness and such
running would be welcome.

"That's papa," said Sophia.

"Don't forget that I have not met him since I have been home from
Germany," said Lucius. "You must introduce me."

In a minute or two Mr. Furnival opened the door and walked into the
room. Men when they arrive from their travels now-a-days have no
strippings of greatcoats, no deposits to make of thick shawls and
double gloves, no absolutely necessary changes of raiment. Such had
been the case when he had used to come back cold and weary from the
circuits; but now he had left Birmingham since dinner by the late
express, and enjoyed his nap in the train for two hours or so, and
walked into his own drawing-room as he might have done had he dined
in his own dining-room.

"How are you, Kitty?" he said to his wife, handing to her the
forefinger of his right hand by way of greeting. "Well, Sophy, my
love;" and he kissed his daughter. "Oh! Lucius Mason. I am very glad
to see you. I can't say I should have remembered you unless I had
been told. You are very welcome in Harley Street, and I hope you will
often be here."

"It's not very often he'd find you at home, Mr. Furnival," said the
aggrieved wife.

"Not so often as I could wish just at present; but things will be
more settled, I hope, before very long. How's your mother, Lucius?"

"She's pretty well, thank you, sir. I've to meet her in town
to-morrow, and go down home with her."

There was then silence in the room for a few seconds, during which
Mrs. Furnival looked very sharply at her husband. "Oh! she's to be in
town, is she?" said Mr. Furnival, after a moment's consideration. He
was angry with Lady Mason at the moment for having put him into this
position. Why had she told her son that she was to be up in London,
thus producing conversation and tittle-tattle which made deceit on
his part absolutely necessary? Lady Mason's business in London was
of a nature which would not bear much open talking. She herself, in
her earnest letter summoning Mr. Furnival up from Birmingham, had
besought him that her visit to his chambers might not be made matter
of discussion. New troubles might be coming on her, but also they
might not; and she was very anxious that no one should know that
she was seeking a lawyer's advice on the matter. To all this Mr.
Furnival had given in his adhesion; and yet she had put it into her
son's power to come to his drawing-room and chatter there of her
whereabouts. For a moment or two he doubted; but at the expiration of
those moments he saw that the deceit was necessary. "She's to be in
town, is she?" said he. The reader will of course observe that this
deceit was practised, not as between husband and wife with reference
to an assignation with a lady, but between the lawyer and the outer
world with reference to a private meeting with a client. But then it
is sometimes so difficult to make wives look at such matters in the
right light.

"She's coming up for some shopping," said Lucius.

"Oh! indeed," said Mrs. Furnival. She would not have spoken if she
could have helped it, but she could not help it; and then there
was silence in the room for a minute or two, which Lucius vainly
endeavoured to break by a few indifferent observations to Miss
Furnival. The words, however, which he uttered would not take the
guise of indifferent observations, but fell flatly on their ears, and
at the same time solemnly, as though spoken with the sole purpose of
creating sound.

"I hope you have been enjoying yourself at Birmingham," said Mrs.
Furnival.

"Enjoyed myself! I did not exactly go there for enjoyment."

"Or at Romford, where you were before?"

"Women seem to think that men have no purpose but amusement when they
go about their daily work," said Mr. Furnival; and then he threw
himself back in his arm-chair, and took up the last Quarterly.

Lucius Mason soon perceived that all the harmony of the evening had
in some way been marred by the return of the master of the house, and
that he might be in the way if he remained; he therefore took his
leave.

"I shall want breakfast punctually at half-past eight to-morrow
morning," said Mr. Furnival, as soon as the stranger had withdrawn.
"I must be in chambers before ten;" and then he took his candle and
withdrew to his own room.

Sophia rang the bell and gave the servant the order; but Mrs.
Furnival took no trouble in the matter whatever. In the olden days
she would have bustled down before she went to bed, and have seen
herself that everything was ready, so that the master of the house
might not be kept waiting. But all this was nothing to her now.



CHAPTER XII

MR. FURNIVAL'S CHAMBERS


Mr. Furnival's chambers were on the first floor in a very dingy
edifice in Old Square, Lincoln's Inn. This square was always dingy,
even when it was comparatively open and served as the approach from
Chancery Lane to the Lord Chancellor's Court; but now it has been
built up with new shops for the Vice-Chancellor, and to my eyes it
seems more dingy than ever.

He there occupied three rooms, all of them sufficiently spacious
for the purposes required, but which were made oppressive by their
general dinginess and by a smell of old leather which pervaded them.
In one of them sat at his desk Mr. Crabwitz, a gentleman who had now
been with Mr. Furnival for the last fifteen years, and who considered
that no inconsiderable portion of the barrister's success had been
attributable to his own energy and genius. Mr. Crabwitz was a
genteel-looking man, somewhat over forty years of age, very careful
as to his gloves, hat, and umbrella, and not a little particular
as to his associates. As he was unmarried, fond of ladies' society,
and presumed to be a warm man in money matters, he had his social
successes, and looked down from a considerable altitude on some men
who from their professional rank might have been considered as his
superiors. He had a small bachelor's box down at Barnes, and not
unfrequently went abroad in the vacations. The door opening into the
room of Mr. Crabwitz was in the corner fronting you on the left-hand
side as you entered the chambers. Immediately on your left was a
large waiting-room, in which an additional clerk usually sat at an
ordinary table. He was not an authorised part of the establishment,
being kept only from week to week; but nevertheless, for the last two
or three years he had been always there, and Mr. Crabwitz intended
that he should remain, for he acted as fag to Mr. Crabwitz. This
waiting-room was very dingy, much more so than the clerk's room, and
boasted of no furniture but eight old leathern chairs and two old
tables. It was surrounded by shelves which were laden with books and
dust, which by no chance were ever disturbed. But to my ideas the
most dingy of the three rooms was that large one in which the great
man himself sat; the door of which directly fronted you as you
entered. The furniture was probably better than that in the other
chambers, and the place had certainly the appearance of warmth and
life which comes from frequent use; but nevertheless, of all the
rooms in which I ever sat I think it was the most gloomy. There were
heavy curtains to the windows, which had once been ruby but were now
brown; and the ceiling was brown, and the thick carpet was brown, and
the books which covered every portion of the wall were brown, and the
painted wood-work of the doors and windows was of a dark brown. Here,
on the morning with which we have now to deal, sat Mr. Furnival over
his papers from ten to twelve, at which latter hour Lady Mason was
to come to him. The holidays of Mr. Crabwitz had this year been cut
short in consequence of his patron's attendance at the great congress
which was now sitting, and although all London was a desert, as he
had piteously complained to a lady of his acquaintance whom he had
left at Boulogne, he was there in the midst of the desert, and on
this morning was sitting in attendance at his usual desk.

Why Mr. Furnival should have breakfasted by himself at half-past
eight in order that he might be at his chambers at ten, seeing that
the engagement for which he had come to town was timed for twelve,
I will not pretend to say. He did not ask his wife to join him, and
consequently she did not come down till her usual time. Mr. Furnival
breakfasted by himself, and at ten o'clock he was in his chambers.
Though alone for two hours he was not idle, and exactly at twelve Mr.
Crabwitz opened his door and announced Lady Mason.

When we last parted with her after her interview with Sir Peregrine
Orme, she had resolved not to communicate with her friend the
lawyer,--at any rate not to do so immediately. Thinking on that
resolve she had tried to sleep that night; but her mind was
altogether disturbed, and she could get no rest. What, if after
twenty years of tranquillity all her troubles must now be
recommenced? What if the battle were again to be fought,--with such
termination as the chances might send to her? Why was it that she was
so much greater a coward now than she had been then? Then she had
expected defeat, for her friends had bade her not to be sanguine;
but in spite of that she had borne up and gone gallantly through the
ordeal. But now she felt that if Orley Farm were hers to give she
would sooner abandon it than renew the contest. Then, at that former
period of her life, she had prepared her mind to do or die in the
cause. She had wrought herself up for the work, and had carried it
through. But having done that work, having accomplished her terrible
task, she had hoped that rest might be in store for her.

As she rose from her bed on the morning after her interview with Sir
Peregrine, she determined that she would seek counsel from him in
whose counsel she could trust. Sir Peregrine's friendship was more
valuable to her than that of Mr. Furnival, but a word of advice
from Mr. Furnival was worth all the spoken wisdom of the baronet,
ten times over. Therefore she wrote her letter, and proposed an
appointment; and Mr. Furnival, tempted as I have said by some evil
spirit to stray after strange goddesses in these his blue-nosed
days, had left his learned brethren at their congress in Birmingham,
and had hurried up to town to assist the widow. He had left that
congress, though the wisest Rustums of the law from all the civilised
countries of Europe were there assembled, with Boanerges at their
head, that great, old, valiant, learned, British Rustum, inquiring
with energy, solemnity, and caution, with much shaking of ponderous
heads and many sarcasms from those which were not ponderous, whether
any and what changes might be made in the modes of answering that
great question, "Guilty or not guilty?" and that other equally great
question, "Is it meum or is it tuum?" To answer which question justly
should be the end and object of every lawyer's work. There were
great men there from Paris, very capable, the Ulpians, Tribonians,
and Papinians of the new empire, armed with the purest sentiments
expressed in antithetical and magniloquent phrases, ravishing to
the ears, and armed also with a code which, taken in its integrity,
would necessarily, as the logical consequence of its clauses, drive
all injustice from the face of the earth. And there were great
practitioners from Germany, men very skilled in the use of questions,
who profess that the tongue of man, if adequately skilful, may always
prevail on guilt to disclose itself; who believe in the power of
their own craft to produce truth, as our forefathers believed in
torture; and sometimes with the same result. And of course all that
was great on the British bench, and all that was famous at the
British bar was there,--men very unlike their German brethren, men
who thought that guilt never should be asked to tell of itself,--men
who were customarily but unconsciously shocked whenever unwary guilt
did tell of itself. Men these were, mostly of high and noble feeling,
born and bred to live with upright hearts and clean hands, but taught
by the peculiar tenets of their profession to think that that which
was high and noble in their private intercourse with the world need
not also be so esteemed in their legal practice. And there were
Italians there, good-humoured, joking, easy fellows, who would laugh
their clients in and out of their difficulties; and Spaniards, very
grave and serious, who doubted much in their minds whether justice
might not best be bought and sold; and our brethren from the United
States were present also, very eager to show that in this country
law, and justice also, were clouded and nearly buried beneath their
wig and gown.

All these and all this did Mr. Furnival desert for the space of
twenty-four hours in order that he might comply with the request of
Lady Mason. Had she known what it was that she was calling on him
to leave, no doubt she would have borne her troubles for another
week,--for another fortnight, till those Rustums at Birmingham had
brought their labours to a close. She would not have robbed the
English bar of one of the warmest supporters of its present mode
of practice, even for a day, had she known how much that support
was needed at the present moment. But she had not known; and Mr.
Furnival, moved by her woman's plea, had not been hard enough in his
heart to refuse her.

When she entered the room she was dressed very plainly as was her
custom, and a thick veil covered her face; but still she was dressed
with care. There was nothing of the dowdiness of the lone lorn woman
about her, none of that lanky, washed-out appearance which sorrow and
trouble so often give to females. Had she given way to dowdiness, or
suffered herself to be, as it were, washed out, Mr. Furnival, we may
say, would not have been there to meet her;--of which fact Lady Mason
was perhaps aware.

"I am so grateful to you for this trouble," she said, as she raised
her veil, and while he pressed her hand between both his own. "I can
only ask you to believe that I would not have troubled you unless I
had been greatly troubled myself."

Mr. Furnival, as he placed her in an arm-chair by the fireside,
declared his sorrow that she should be in grief, and then he took
the other arm-chair himself, opposite to her, or rather close to
her,--much closer to her than he ever now seated himself to Mrs. F.
"Don't speak of my trouble," said he, "it is nothing if I can do
anything to relieve you." But though he was so tender, he did not
omit to tell her of her folly in having informed her son that she was
to be in London. "And have you seen him?" asked Lady Mason.

"He was in Harley Street with the ladies last night. But it does not
matter. It is only for your sake that I speak, as I know that you
wish to keep this matter private. And now let us hear what it is. I
cannot think that there can be anything which need really cause you
trouble." And he again took her hand,--that he might encourage her.
Lady Mason let him keep her hand for a minute or so, as though she
did not notice it; and yet as she turned her eyes to him it might
appear that his tenderness had encouraged her.

Sitting there thus, with her hand in his,--with her hand in his
during the first portion of the tale,--she told him all that she
wished to tell. Something more she told now to him than she had done
to Sir Peregrine. "I learned from her," she said, speaking about Mrs.
Dockwrath and her husband, "that he had found out something about
dates which the lawyers did not find out before."

"Something about dates," said Mr. Furnival, looking with all his eyes
into the fire. "You do not know what about dates?"

"No; only this; that he said that the lawyers in Bedford Row--"

"Round and Crook."

"Yes; he said that they were idiots not to have found it out before;
and then he went off to Groby Park. He came back last night; but of
course I have not seen her since."

By this time Mr. Furnival had dropped the hand, and was sitting
still, meditating, looking earnestly at the fire while Lady Mason
was looking earnestly at him. She was trying to gather from his face
whether he had seen signs of danger, and he was trying to gather from
her words whether there might really be cause to apprehend danger.
How was he to know what was really inside her mind; what were her
actual thoughts and inward reasonings on this subject; what private
knowledge she might have which was still kept back from him? In the
ordinary intercourse of the world when one man seeks advice from
another, he who is consulted demands in the first place that he shall
be put in possession of all the circumstances of the case. How else
will it be possible that he should give advice? But in matters of law
it is different. If I, having committed a crime, were to confess my
criminality to the gentleman engaged to defend me, might he not be
called on to say: "Then, O my friend, confess it also to the judge;
and so let justice be done. Ruat coelum, and the rest of it?" But
who would pay a lawyer for counsel such as that?

In this case there was no question of payment. The advice to be given
was to a widowed woman from an experienced man of the world; but,
nevertheless, he could only make his calculations as to her peculiar
case in the way in which he ordinarily calculated. Could it be
possible that anything had been kept back from him? Were there facts
unknown to him, but known to her, which would be terrible, fatal,
damning to his sweet friend if proved before all the world? He could
not bring himself to ask her, but yet it was so material that he
should know! Twenty years ago, at the time of the trial, he had at
one time thought,--it hardly matters to tell what, but those thoughts
had not been favourable to her cause. Then his mind had altered,
and he had learned,--as lawyers do learn,--to believe in his own
case. And when the day of triumph had come, he had triumphed loudly,
commiserating his dear friend for the unjust suffering to which she
had been subjected, and speaking in no low or modified tone as to
the grasping, greedy cruelty of that man of Groby Park. Nevertheless,
through it all, he had felt that Round and Crook had not made the
most of their case.

And now he sat, thinking, not so much whether or no she had been in
any way guilty with reference to that will, as whether the counsel
he should give her ought in any way to be based on the possibility
of her having been thus guilty. Nothing might be so damning to her
cause as that he should make sure of her innocence, if she were not
innocent; and yet he would not ask her the question. If innocent, why
was it that she was now so much moved, after twenty years of quiet
possession?

"It was a pity," he said, at last, "that Lucius should have disturbed
that fellow in the possession of his fields."

"It was; it was!" she said. "But I did not think it possible that
Miriam's husband should turn against me. Would it be wise, do you
think, to let him have the land again?"

"No, I do not think that. It would be telling him, and telling others
also, that you are afraid of him. If he have obtained any information
that may be considered of value by Joseph Mason, he can sell it at a
higher price than the holding of these fields is worth."

"Would it be well--?" She was asking a question and then checked
herself.

"Would what be well?"

"I am so harassed that I hardly know what I am saying. Would it be
wise, do you think, if I were to pay him anything, so as to keep him
quiet?"

"What; buy him off, you mean?"

"Well, yes;--if you call it so. Give him some sum of money in
compensation for his land; and on the understanding, you know--," and
then she paused.

"That depends on what he may have to sell," said Mr. Furnival, hardly
daring to look at her.

"Ah; yes," said the widow. And then there was another pause.

"I do not think that that would be at all discreet," said Mr.
Furnival. "After all, the chances are that it is all moonshine."

"You think so?"

"Yes; I cannot but think so. What can that man possibly have found
among the old attorney's papers that may be injurious to your
interests?"

"Ah! I do not know; I understand so little of these things. At the
time they told me,--you told me that the law might possibly go
against my boy's rights. It would have been bad then, but it would be
ten times more dreadful now."

"But there were many questions capable of doubt then, which were
definitely settled at the trial. As to your husband's intellect on
that day, for instance."

"There could be no doubt as to that."

"No; so it has been proved; and they will not raise that point again.
Could he have possibly have made a later will?"

"No; I am sure he did not. Had he done so it could not have been
found among Mr. Usbech's papers; for, as far as I remember, the poor
man never attended to any business after that day."

"What day?"

"The 14th of July, the day on which he was with Sir Joseph."

It was singular, thought the barrister, with how much precision she
remembered the dates and circumstances. That the circumstances of the
trial should be fresh on her memory was not wonderful; but how was
it that she knew so accurately things which had occurred before the
trial,--when no trial could have been expected? But as to this he
said nothing.

"And you are sure he went to Groby Park?"

"Oh, yes; I have no doubt of it. I am quite sure."

"I do not know that we can do anything but wait. Have you mentioned
this to Sir Peregrine?" It immediately occurred to Lady Mason's mind
that it would be by no means expedient, even if it were possible,
to keep Mr. Furnival in ignorance of anything that she really did;
and therefore explained that she had seen Sir Peregrine. "I was so
troubled at the first moment that I hardly knew where to turn," she
said.

"You were quite right to go to Sir Peregrine."

"I am so glad you are not angry with me as to that."

"And did he say anything--anything particular?"

"He promised that he would not desert me, should there be any new
difficulty."

"That is well. It is always good to have the countenance of such a
neighbour as he is."

"And the advice of such a friend as you are." And she again put out
her hand to him.

"Well; yes. It is my trade, you know, to give advice," and he smiled
as he took it.

"How should I live through such troubles without you?"

"We lawyers are very much abused now-a-days," said Mr. Furnival,
thinking of what was going on down at Birmingham at that very moment;
"but I hardly know how the world would get on without us."

"Ah! but all lawyers are not like you."

"Some perhaps worse, and a great many much better. But, as I was
saying, I do not think I would take any steps at present. The man
Dockwrath is a vulgar, low-minded, revengeful fellow; and I would
endeavour to forget him."

"Ah, if I could!"

"And why not? What can he possibly have learned to your injury?" And
then as it seemed to Lady Mason that Mr. Furnival expected some reply
to this question, she forced herself to give him one. "I suppose that
he cannot know anything."

"I tell you what I might do," said Mr. Furnival, who was still
musing. "Round himself is not a bad fellow, and I am acquainted with
him. He was the junior partner in that house at the time of the
trial, and I know that he persuaded Joseph Mason not to appeal to the
Lords. I will contrive, if possible, to see him. I shall be able to
learn from him at any rate whether anything is being done."

"And then if I hear that there is not, I shall be comforted."

"Of course; of course."

"But if there is--"

"I think there will be nothing of the sort," said Mr. Furnival,
leaving his seat as he spoke.

"But if there is--I shall have your aid?" and she slowly rose from
her chair as she spoke.

Mr. Furnival gave her a promise of this, as Sir Peregrine had done
before; and then with her handkerchief to her eyes she thanked him.
Her tears were not false as Mr. Furnival well saw; and seeing that
she wept, and seeing that she was beautiful, and feeling that in her
grief and in her beauty she had come to him for aid, his heart was
softened towards her, and he put out his arms as though he would take
her to his heart--as a daughter. "Dearest friend," he said, "trust me
that no harm shall come to you."

"I will trust you," she said, gently stopping the motion of his arm.
"I will trust you, altogether. And when you have seen Mr. Round,
shall I hear from you?"

At this moment, as they were standing close together, the door
opened, and Mr. Crabwitz introduced another lady--who indeed had
advanced so quickly towards the door of Mr. Furnival's room, that the
clerk had been hardly able to reach it before her.

"Mrs. Furnival, if you please, sir," said Mr. Crabwitz.



CHAPTER XIII

GUILTY, OR NOT GUILTY


Unfortunately for Mr. Furnival, the intruder was Mrs.
Furnival--whether he pleased or whether he did not please. There
she was in his law chamber, present in the flesh, a sight pleasing
neither to her husband nor to her husband's client. She had knocked
at the outside door, which, in the absence of the fag, had been
opened by Mr. Crabwitz, and had immediately walked across the passage
towards her husband's room, expressing her knowledge that Mr.
Furnival was within. Mr. Crabwitz had all the will in the world to
stop her progress, but he found that he lacked the power to stay it
for a moment.

The advantages of matrimony are many and great,--so many and so
great, that all men, doubtless, ought to marry. But even matrimony
may have its drawbacks; among which unconcealed and undeserved
jealousy on the part of the wife is perhaps as disagreeable as any.
What is a man to do when he is accused before the world,--before
any small fraction of the world, of making love to some lady of his
acquaintance? What is he to say? What way is he to look? "My love, I
didn't. I never did, and wouldn't think of it for worlds. I say it
with my hand on my heart. There is Mrs. Jones herself, and I appeal
to her." He is reduced to that! But should any innocent man be so
reduced by the wife of his bosom?

I am speaking of undeserved jealousy, and it may therefore be thought
that my remarks do not apply to Mrs. Furnival. They do apply to
her as much as to any woman. That general idea as to the strange
goddesses was on her part no more than a suspicion: and all women who
so torment themselves and their husbands may plead as much as she
could. And for this peculiar idea as to Lady Mason she had no ground
whatever. Lady Mason may have had her faults, but a propensity to rob
Mrs. Furnival of her husband's affections had not hitherto been one
of them. Mr. Furnival was a clever lawyer, and she had great need of
his assistance; therefore she had come to his chambers, and therefore
she had placed her hand in his. That Mr. Furnival liked his client
because she was good looking may be true. I like my horse, my
picture, the view from my study window for the same reason. I am
inclined to think that there was nothing more in it than that.

"My dear!" said Mr. Furnival, stepping back a little, and letting his
hands fall to his sides. Lady Mason also took a step backwards, and
then with considerable presence of mind recovered herself and put out
her hand to greet Mrs. Furnival.

"How do you do, Lady Mason?" said Mrs. Furnival, without any presence
of mind at all. "I hope I have the pleasure of seeing you very well.
I did hear that you were to be in town--shopping; but I did not for a
moment expect the--gratification of finding you here." And every word
that the dear, good, heart-sore woman spoke, told the tale of her
jealousy as plainly as though she had flown at Lady Mason's cap with
all the bold demonstrative energy of Spitalfields or St. Giles.

"I came up on purpose to see Mr. Furnival about some unfortunate law
business," said Lady Mason.

"Oh, indeed! Your son Lucius did say--shopping."

"Yes; I told him so. When a lady is unfortunate enough to be driven
to a lawyer for advice, she does not wish to make it known. I should
be very sorry if my dear boy were to guess that I had this new
trouble; or, indeed, if any one were to know it. I am sure that I
shall be as safe with you, dear Mrs. Furnival, as I am with your
husband." And she stepped up to the angry matron, looking earnestly
into her face.

To a true tale of woman's sorrow Mrs. Furnival's heart could be as
snow under the noonday sun. Had Lady Mason gone to her and told her
all her fears and all her troubles, sought counsel and aid from her,
and appealed to her motherly feelings, Mrs. Furnival would have been
urgent night and day in persuading her husband to take up the widow's
case. She would have bade him work his very best without fee or
reward, and would herself have shown Lady Mason the way to Old
Square, Lincoln's Inn. She would have been discreet too, speaking no
word of idle gossip to any one. When he, in their happy days, had
told his legal secrets to her, she had never gossiped,--had never
spoken an idle word concerning them. And she would have been constant
to her friend, giving great consolation in the time of trouble, as
one woman can console another. The thought that all this might be so
did come across her for a moment, for there was innocence written in
Lady Mason's eyes. But then she looked at her husband's face; and
as she found no innocence there, her heart was again hardened. The
woman's face could lie;--"the faces of such women are all lies," Mrs.
Furnival said to herself;--but in her presence his face had been
compelled to speak the truth.

"Oh dear, no; I shall say nothing of course," she said. "I am
quite sorry that I intruded. Mr. Furnival, as I happened to be in
Holborn--at Mudie's for some books--I thought I would come down and
ask whether you intend to dine at home to-day. You said nothing about
it either last night or this morning; and nowadays one really does
not know how to manage in such matters."

"I told you that I should return to Birmingham this afternoon; I
shall dine there," said Mr. Furnival, very sulkily.

"Oh, very well. I certainly knew that you were going out of town.
I did not at all expect that you would remain at home; but I thought
that you might, perhaps, like to have your dinner before you
went. Good morning, Lady Mason; I hope you may be successful in
your--lawsuit." And then, curtsying to her husband's client, she
prepared to withdraw.

"I believe that I have said all that I need say, Mr. Furnival,"
said Lady Mason; "so that if Mrs. Furnival wishes--," and she also
gathered herself up as though she were ready to leave the room.

"I hardly know what Mrs. Furnival wishes," said the husband.

"My wishes are nothing," said the wife, "and I really am quite sorry
that I came in." And then she did go, leaving her husband and the
woman of whom she was jealous once more alone together. Upon the
whole I think that Mr. Furnival was right in not going home that day
to his dinner.

As the door closed somewhat loudly behind the angry lady--Mr.
Crabwitz having rushed out hardly in time to moderate the violence of
the slam--Lady Mason and her imputed lover were left looking at each
other. It was certainly hard upon Lady Mason, and so she felt it.
Mr. Furnival was fifty-five, and endowed with a bluish nose; and she
was over forty, and had lived for twenty years as a widow without
incurring a breath of scandal.

"I hope I have not been to blame," said Lady Mason in a soft, sad
voice; "but perhaps Mrs. Furnival specially wished to find you
alone."

"No, no; not at all."

"I shall be so unhappy if I think that I have been in the way. If
Mrs. Furnival wished to speak to you on business I am not surprised
that she should be angry, for I know that barristers do not usually
allow themselves to be troubled by their clients in their own
chambers."

"Nor by their wives," Mr. Furnival might have added, but he did not.

"Do not mind it," he said; "it is nothing. She is the best-tempered
woman in the world; but at times it is impossible to answer even for
the best-tempered."

"I will trust you to make my peace with her."

"Yes, of course; she will not think of it after to-day; nor must you,
Lady Mason."

"Oh, no; except that I would not for the world be the cause of
annoyance to my friends. Sometimes I am almost inclined to think that
I will never trouble any one again with my sorrows, but let things
come and go as they may. Were it not for poor Lucius I should do so."

Mr. Furnival, looking into her face, perceived that her eyes were
full of tears. There could be no doubt as to their reality. Her eyes
were full of genuine tears, brimming over and running down; and the
lawyer's heart was melted. "I do not know why you should say so," he
said. "I do not think your friends begrudge any little trouble they
may take for you. I am sure at least that I may so say for myself."

"You are too kind to me; but I do not on that account the less know
how much it is I ask of you."

"'The labour we delight in physics pain,'" said Mr. Furnival
gallantly. "But, to tell the truth, Lady Mason, I cannot understand
why you should be so much out of heart. I remember well how brave and
constant you were twenty years ago, when there really was cause for
trembling."

"Ah, I was younger then."

"So the almanac tells us; but if the almanac did not tell us I should
never know. We are all older, of course. Twenty years does not go by
without leaving its marks, as I can feel myself."

"Men do not grow old as women do, who live alone and gather rust as
they feed on their own thoughts."

"I know no one whom time has touched so lightly as yourself, Lady
Mason; but if I may speak to you as a friend--"

"If you may not, Mr. Furnival, who may?"

"I should tell you that you are weak to be so despondent, or rather
so unhappy."

"Another lawsuit would kill me, I think. You say that I was brave and
constant before, but you cannot understand what I suffered. I nerved
myself to bear it, telling myself that it was the first duty that I
owed to the babe that was lying on my bosom. And when standing there
in the Court, with that terrible array around me, with the eyes of
all men on me, the eyes of men who thought that I had been guilty of
so terrible a crime, for the sake of that child who was so weak I
could be brave. But it nearly killed me. Mr. Furnival, I could not
go through that again; no, not even for his sake. If you can save me
from that, even though it be by the buying off of that ungrateful
man--"

"You must not think of that."

"Must I not? ah me!"

"Will you tell Lucius all this, and let him come to me?"

"No; not for worlds. He would defy every one, and glory in the fight;
but after all it is I that must bear the brunt. No; he shall not know
it;--unless it becomes so public that he must know it."

And then, with some further pressing of the hand, and further words
of encouragement which were partly tender as from the man, and partly
forensic as from the lawyer, Mr. Furnival permitted her to go,
and she found her son at the chemist's shop in Holborn as she had
appointed. There were no traces of tears or of sorrow in her face as
she smiled on Lucius while giving him her hand, and then when they
were in a cab together she asked him as to his success at Liverpool.

"I am very glad that I went," said he, "very glad indeed. I saw the
merchants there who are the real importers of the article, and I have
made arrangements with them."

"Will it be cheaper so, Lucius?"

"Cheaper! not what women generally call cheaper. If there be anything
on earth that I hate, it is a bargain. A man who looks for bargains
must be a dupe or a cheat, and is probably both."

"Both, Lucius. Then he is doubly unfortunate."

"He is a cheat because he wants things for less than their value; and
a dupe because, as a matter of course, he does not get what he wants.
I made no bargain at Liverpool,--at least, no cheap bargain; but
I have made arrangements for a sufficient supply of a first-rate
unadulterated article at its proper market price, and I do not fear
but the results will be remunerative." And then, as they went home in
the railway carriage the mother talked to her son about his farming
as though she had forgotten her other trouble, and she explained to
him how he was to dine with Sir Peregrine.

"I shall be delighted to dine with Sir Peregrine," said Lucius, "and
very well pleased to have an opportunity of talking to him about his
own way of managing his land; but, mother, I will not promise to be
guided by so very old-fashioned a professor."

Mr. Furnival, when he was left alone, sat thinking over the interview
that had passed. At first, as was most natural, he bethought himself
of his wife; and I regret to say that the love which he bore to her,
and the gratitude which he owed to her, and the memory of all that
they had suffered and enjoyed together, did not fill his heart with
thoughts towards her as tender as they should have done. A black
frown came across his brow as he meditated on her late intrusion,
and he made some sort of resolve that that kind of thing should be
prevented for the future. He did not make up his mind how he would
prevent it,--a point which husbands sometimes overlook in their
marital resolutions. And then, instead of counting up her virtues,
he counted up his own. Had he not given her everything; a house such
as she had not dreamed of in her younger days? servants, carriages,
money, comforts, and luxuries of all sorts? He had begrudged her
nothing, had let her have her full share of all his hard-earned
gains; and yet she could be ungrateful for all this, and allow her
head to be filled with whims and fancies as though she were a young
girl,--to his great annoyance and confusion. He would let her know
that his chambers, his law chambers, should be private even from her.
He would not allow himself to become a laughing-stock to his own
clerks and his own brethren through the impertinent folly of a woman
who owed to him everything;--and so on! I regret to say that he never
once thought of those lonely evenings in Harley Street, of those
long days which the poor woman was doomed to pass without the only
companionship which was valuable to her. He never thought of that vow
which they had both made at the altar, which she had kept so loyally,
and which required of him a cherishing, comforting, enduring love.
It never occurred to him that in denying her this he as much broke
his promise to her as though he had taken to himself in very truth
some strange goddess, leaving his wedded wife with a cold ceremony
of alimony or such-like. He had been open-handed to her as regards
money, and therefore she ought not to be troublesome! He had done his
duty by her, and therefore he would not permit her to be troublesome!
Such, I regret to say, were his thoughts and resolutions as he sat
thinking and resolving about Mrs. Furnival.

And then, by degrees, his mind turned away to that other lady,
and they became much more tender. Lady Mason was certainly both
interesting and comely in her grief. Her colour could still come and
go, her hand was still soft and small, her hair was still brown and
smooth. There were no wrinkles in her brow though care had passed
over it; her step could still fall lightly, though it had borne a
heavy weight of sorrow. I fear that he made a wicked comparison--a
comparison that was wicked although it was made unconsciously.

But by degrees he ceased to think of the woman and began to think of
the client, as he was in duty bound to do. What was the real truth
of all this? Was it possible that she should be alarmed in that way
because a small country attorney had told his wife that he had found
some old paper, and because the man had then gone off to Yorkshire?
Nothing could be more natural than her anxiety, supposing her to be
aware of some secret which would condemn her if discovered;--but
nothing more unnatural if there were no such secret. And she must
know! In her bosom, if in no other, must exist the knowledge whether
or no that will were just. If that will were just, was it possible
that she should now tremble so violently, seeing that its justice
had been substantially proved in various courts of law? But if it
were not just--if it were a forgery, a forgery made by her, or with
her cognizance--and that now this truth was to be made known! How
terrible would that be! But terrible is not the word which best
describes the idea as it entered Mr. Furnival's mind. How wonderful
would it be; how wonderful would it all have been! By whose hand in
such case had those signatures been traced? Could it be possible that
she, soft, beautiful, graceful as she was now, all but a girl as she
had then been, could have done it, unaided,--by herself?--that she
could have sat down in the still hour of the night, with that old man
on one side and her baby in his cradle on the other, and forged that
will, signatures and all, in such a manner as to have carried her
point for twenty years,--so skilfully as to have baffled lawyers and
jurymen and resisted the eager greed of her cheated kinsman? If so,
was it not all wonderful! Had not she been a woman worthy of wonder!

And then Mr. Furnival's mind, keen and almost unerring at seizing
legal points, went eagerly to work, considering what new evidence
might now be forthcoming. He remembered at once the circumstances of
those two chief witnesses, the clerk who had been so muddle-headed,
and the servant-girl who had been so clear. They had certainly
witnessed some deed, and they had done so on that special day. If
there had been a fraud, if there had been a forgery, it had been so
clever as almost to merit protection! But if there had been such
fraud, the nature of the means by which it might be detected became
plain to the mind of the barrister,--plainer to him without knowledge
of any circumstances than it had done to Mr. Mason after many of such
circumstances had been explained to him.

But it was impossible. So said Mr. Furnival to himself, out
loud;--speaking out loud in order that he might convince himself.
It was impossible, he said again; but he did not convince himself.
Should he ask her? No; it was not on the cards that he should do
that. And perhaps, if a further trial were forthcoming, it might be
better for her sake that he should be ignorant. And then, having
declared again that it was impossible, he rang his bell. "Crabwitz,"
said he, without looking at the man, "just step over to Bedford
Row, with my compliments, and learn what is Mr. Round's present
address;--old Mr. Round, you know."

Mr. Crabwitz stood for a moment or two with the door in his hand, and
Mr. Furnival, going back to his own thoughts, was expecting the man's
departure. "Well," he said, looking up and seeing that his myrmidon
still stood there.

Mr. Crabwitz was not in a very good humour, and had almost made up
his mind to let his master know that such was the case. Looking at
his own general importance in the legal world, and the inestimable
services which he had rendered to Mr. Furnival, he did not think that
that gentleman was treating him well. He had been summoned back to
his dingy chamber almost without an excuse, and now that he was in
London was not permitted to join even for a day the other wise men of
the law who were assembled at the great congress. For the last four
days his heart had been yearning to go to Birmingham, but had yearned
in vain; and now his master was sending him about town as though he
were an errand-lad.

"Shall I step across to the lodge and send the porter's boy to Round
and Crook's?" asked Mr. Crabwitz.

"The porter's boy! no; go yourself; you are not busy. Why should I
send the porter's boy on my business?" The fact probably was, that
Mr. Furnival forgot his clerk's age and standing. Crabwitz had been
ready to run anywhere when his employer had first known him, and Mr.
Furnival did not perceive the change.

"Very well, sir; certainly I will go if you wish it;--on this
occasion that is. But I hope, sir, you will excuse my saying--"

"Saying what?"

"That I am not exactly a messenger, sir. Of course I'll go now, as
the other clerk is not in."

"Oh, you're too great a man to walk across to Bedford Row, are you?
Give me my hat, and I'll go."

"Oh, no, Mr. Furnival, I did not mean that. I'll step over to Bedford
Row, of course;--only I did think--"

"Think what?"

"That perhaps I was entitled to a little more respect, Mr. Furnival.
It's for your sake as much as my own that I speak, sir; but if the
gentlemen in the Lane see me sent about like a lad of twenty, sir,
they'll think--"

"What will they think?"

"I hardly know what they'll think, but I know it will be very
disagreeable, sir;--very disagreeable to my feelings. I did think,
sir, that perhaps--"

"I'll tell you what it is, Crabwitz, if your situation here does not
suit you, you may leave it to-morrow. I shall have no difficulty in
finding another man to take your place."

"I am sorry to hear you speak in that way, Mr. Furnival, very
sorry--after fifteen years, sir--."

"You find yourself too grand to walk to Bedford Row!"

"Oh, no. I'll go now, of course, Mr. Furnival." And then Mr. Crabwitz
did go, meditating as he went many things to himself. He knew his own
value, or thought that he knew it; and might it not be possible to
find some patron who would appreciate his services more justly than
did Mr. Furnival?



CHAPTER XIV

DINNER AT THE CLEEVE


Lady Mason on her return from London found a note from Mrs. Orme
asking both her and her son to dine at The Cleeve on the following
day. As it had been already settled between her and Sir Peregrine
that Lucius should dine there in order that he might be talked to
respecting his mania for guano, the invitation could not be refused;
but, as for Lady Mason herself, she would much have preferred to
remain at home.

Indeed, her uneasiness on that guano matter had been so outweighed
by worse uneasiness from another source, that she had become, if not
indifferent, at any rate tranquil on the subject. It might be well
that Sir Peregrine should preach his sermon, and well that Lucius
should hear it; but for herself it would, she thought, have been more
comfortable for her to eat her dinner alone. She felt, however, that
she could not do so. Any amount of tedium would be better than the
danger of offering a slight to Sir Peregrine, and therefore she wrote
a pretty little note to say that both of them would be at The Cleeve
at seven.

"Lucius, my dear, I want you to do me a great favour," she said as
she sat by her son in the Hamworth fly.

"A great favour, mother! of course I will do anything for you that I
can."

"It is that you will bear with Sir Peregrine to-night."

"Bear with him! I do not know exactly what you mean. Of course I will
remember that he is an old man, and not answer him as I would one of
my own age."

"I am sure of that, Lucius, because you are a gentleman. As much
forbearance as that a young man, if he be a gentleman, will always
show to an old man. But what I ask is something more than that. Sir
Peregrine has been farming all his life."

"Yes; and see what are the results! He has three or four hundred
acres of uncultivated land on his estate, all of which would grow
wheat."

"I know nothing about that," said Lady Mason.

"Ah, but that's the question. My trade is to be that of a farmer, and
you are sending me to school. Then comes the question, Of what sort
is the schoolmaster?"

"I am not talking about farming now, Lucius."

"But he will talk of it."

"And cannot you listen to him without contradicting him--for my
sake? It is of the greatest consequence to me,--of the very
greatest, Lucius, that I should have the benefit of Sir Peregrine's
friendship."

"If he would quarrel with you because I chanced to disagree with
him about the management of land, his friendship would not be worth
having."

"I do not say that he will do so; but I am sure you can understand
that an old man may be tender on such points. At any rate I ask it
from you as a favour. You cannot guess how important it is to me to
be on good terms with such a neighbour."

"It is always so in England," said Lucius, after pausing for a while.
"Sir Peregrine is a man of family, and a baronet; of course all the
world, the world of Hamworth that is, should bow down at his feet.
And I too must worship the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar, the
King of Fashion, has set up!"

"Lucius, you are unkind to me."

"No, mother, not unkind; but like all men, I would fain act in such
matters as my own judgment may direct me."

"My friendship with Sir Peregrine Orme has nothing to do with his
rank; but it is of importance to me that both you and I should stand
well in his sight." There was nothing more said on the matter; and
then they got down at the front door, and were ushered through the
low wide hall into the drawing-room.

The three generations of the family were there,--Sir Peregrine, his
daughter-in-law, and the heir. Lucius Mason had been at The Cleeve
two or three times since his return from Germany, and on going there
had always declared to himself that it was the same to him as though
he were going into the house of Mrs. Arkwright, the doctor's widow at
Hamworth,--or even into the kitchen of Farmer Greenwood. He rejoiced
to call himself a democrat, and would boast that rank could have no
effect on him. But his boast was an untrue boast, and he could not
carry himself at The Cleeve as he would have done and did in Mrs.
Arkwright's little drawing-room. There was a majesty in the manner
of Sir Peregrine which did awe him; there were tokens of birth
and a certain grace of manner about Mrs. Orme which kept down his
assumption; and even with young Peregrine he found that though he
might be equal he could by no means be more than equal. He had
learned more than Peregrine Orme, had ten times more knowledge in his
head, had read books of which Peregrine did not even know the names
and probably never would know them; but on his side also young Orme
possessed something which the other wanted. What that something might
be Lucius Mason did not at all understand.

Mrs. Orme got up from her corner on the sofa to greet her friend, and
with a soft smile and two or three all but whispered words led her
forward to the fire. Mrs. Orme was not a woman given to much speech
or endowed with outward warmth of manners, but she could make her few
words go very far; and then the pressure of her hand, when it was
given, told more than a whole embrace from some other women. There
are ladies who always kiss their female friends, and always call them
"dear." In such cases one cannot but pity her who is so bekissed.
Mrs. Orme did not kiss Lady Mason, nor did she call her dear; but she
smiled sweetly as she uttered her greeting, and looked kindness out
of her marvellously blue eyes; and Lucius Mason, looking on over his
mother's shoulders, thought that he would like to have her for his
friend in spite of her rank. If Mrs. Orme would give him a lecture on
farming it might be possible to listen to it without contradiction;
but there was no chance for him in that respect. Mrs. Orme never gave
lectures to any one on any subject.

"So, Master Lucius, you have been to Liverpool, I hear," said Sir
Peregrine.

"Yes, sir--I returned yesterday."

"And what is the world doing at Liverpool?"

"The world is wide awake there, sir."

"Oh, no doubt; when the world has to make money it is always
wide awake. But men sometimes may be wide awake and yet make no
money;--may be wide awake, or at any rate think that they are so."

"Better that, Sir Peregrine, than wilfully go to sleep when there is
so much work to be done."

"A man when he's asleep does no harm," said Sir Peregrine.

"What a comfortable doctrine to think of when the servant comes with
the hot water at eight o'clock in the morning!" said his grandson.

"It is one that you study very constantly, I fear," said the old man,
who at this time was on excellent terms with his heir. There had
been no apparent hankering after rats since that last compact had
been made, and Peregrine had been doing great things with the H. H.;
winning golden opinions from all sorts of sportsmen, and earning a
great reputation for a certain young mare which had been bred by Sir
Peregrine himself. Foxes are vermin as well as rats, as Perry in his
wickedness had remarked; but a young man who can break an old one's
heart by a predilection for rat-catching may win it as absolutely
and irretrievably by prowess after a fox. Sir Peregrine had told to
four different neighbours how a fox had been run into, in the open,
near Alston, after twelve desperate miles, and how on that occasion
Peregrine had been in at the death with the huntsman and only one
other. "And the mare, you know, is only four years old and hardly
half trained," said Sir Peregrine, with great exultation. "The young
scamp, to have ridden her in that way!" It may be doubted whether he
would have been a prouder man or said more about it if his grandson
had taken honours.

And then the gong sounded, and, Sir Peregrine led Lady Mason into the
dining-room. Lucius, who as we know thought no more of the Ormes than
of the Joneses and Smiths, paused in his awe before he gave his arm
to Mrs. Orme; and when he did so he led her away in perfect silence,
though he would have given anything to be able to talk to her as
he went. But he bethought himself that unfortunately he could find
nothing to say. And when he sat down it was not much better. He had
not dined at The Cleeve before, and I am not sure whether the butler
in plain clothes and the two men in livery did not help to create his
confusion,--in spite of his well-digested democratic ideas.

The conversation during dinner was not very bright. Sir Peregrine
said a few words now and again to Lady Mason, and she replied with
a few others. On subjects which did not absolutely appertain to the
dinner, she perhaps was the greatest talker; but even she did not say
much. Mrs. Orme as a rule never spoke unless she were spoken to in
any company consisting of more than herself and one other; and young
Peregrine seemed to imagine that carving at the top of the table,
asking people if they would take stewed beef, and eating his own
dinner, were occupations quite sufficient for his energies. "Have a
bit more beef, Mason; do. If you will, I will." So far he went in
conversation, but no farther while his work was still before him.

When the servants were gone it was a little better, but not much.
"Mason, do you mean to hunt this season?" Peregrine asked.

"No," said the other.

"Well, I would if I were you. You will never know the fellows about
here unless you do."

"In the first place I can't afford the time," said Lucius, "and in
the next place I can't afford the money." This was plucky on his
part, and it was felt to be so by everybody in the room; but perhaps
had he spoken all the truth, he would have said also that he was not
accustomed to horsemanship.

"To a fellow who has a place of his own as you have, it costs
nothing," said Peregrine.

"Oh, does it not?" said the baronet; "I used to think differently."

"Well; not so much, I mean, as if you had everything to buy. Besides,
I look upon Mason as a sort of Croesus. What on earth has he got
to do with his money? And then as to time;--upon my word I don't
understand what a man means when he says he has not got time for
hunting."

"Lucius intends to be a farmer," said his mother.

"So do I," said Peregrine. "By Jove, I should think so. If I had two
hundred acres of land in my own hand I should not want anything else
in the world, and would never ask any one for a shilling."

"If that be so, I might make the best bargain at once that ever a man
made," said the baronet. "If I might take you at your word, Master
Perry--."

"Pray don't talk of it, sir," said Mrs. Orme.

"You may be quite sure of this, my dear--that I shall not do more
than talk of it." Then Sir Peregrine asked Lady Mason if she would
take any more wine; after which the ladies withdrew, and the lecture
commenced.

But we will in the first place accompany the ladies into the
drawing-room for a few minutes. It was hinted in one of the first
chapters of this story that Lady Mason might have become more
intimate than she had done with Mrs. Orme, had she so pleased it; and
by this it will of course be presumed that she had not so pleased.
All this is perfectly true. Mrs. Orme had now been living at The
Cleeve the greater portion of her life, and had never while there
made one really well-loved friend. She had a sister of her own, and
dear old friends of her childhood, who lived far away from her in
the northern counties. Occasionally she did see them, and was then
very happy; but this was not frequent with her. Her sister, who was
married to a peer, might stay at The Cleeve for a fortnight, perhaps
once in the year; but Mrs. Orme herself seldom left her own home. She
thought, and certainly not without cause, that Sir Peregrine was not
happy in her absence, and therefore she never left him. Then, living
there so much alone, was it not natural that her heart should desire
a friend?

But Lady Mason had been living much more alone. She had no sister to
come to her, even though it were but once a year. She had no intimate
female friend, none to whom she could really speak with the full
freedom of friendship, and it would have been delightful to have
bound to her by ties of love so sweet a creature as Mrs. Orme, a
widow like herself,--and like herself a widow with one only son. But
she, warily picking her steps through life, had learned the necessity
of being cautious in all things. The countenance of Sir Peregrine had
been invaluable to her, and might it not be possible that she should
lose that countenance? A word or two spoken now and then again, a
look not intended to be noticed, an altered tone, or perhaps a change
in the pressure of the old man's hand, had taught Lady Mason to think
that he might disapprove such intimacy. Probably at the moment she
was right, for she was quick at reading such small signs. It behoved
her to be very careful, and to indulge in no pleasure which might be
costly; and therefore she had denied herself in this matter,--as in
so many others.

But now it had occurred to her that it might be well to change her
conduct. Either she felt that Sir Peregrine's friendship for her was
too confirmed to be shaken, or perhaps she fancied that she might
strengthen it by means of his daughter-in-law. At any rate she
resolved to accept the offer which had once been tacitly made to her,
if it were still open to her to do so.

"How little changed your boy is!" she said, when they were seated
near to each other, with their coffee-cups between them.

"No; he does not change quickly; and, as you say, he is a boy still
in many things. I do not know whether it may not be better that it
should be so."

"I did not mean to call him a boy in that sense," said Lady Mason.

"But you might; now your son is quite a man."

"Poor Lucius! yes; in his position it is necessary. His little bit
of property is already his own; and then he has no one like Sir
Peregrine to look out for him. Necessity makes him manly."

"He will be marrying soon, I dare say," suggested Mrs. Orme.

"Oh, I hope not. Do you think that early marriages are good for young
men?"

"Yes, I think so. Why not?" said Mrs. Orme, thinking of her own year
of married happiness. "Would you not wish to see Lucius marry?"

"I fancy not. I should be afraid lest I should become as nothing to
him. And yet I would not have you think that I am selfish."

"I am sure that you are not that. I am sure that you love him better
than all the world besides. I can feel what that is myself."

"But you are not alone with your boy as I am. If he were to send me
from him, there would be nothing left for me in this world."

"Send you from him! Ah, because Orley Farm belongs to him. But he
would not do that; I am sure he would not."

"He would do nothing unkind; but how could he help it if his wife
wished it? But nevertheless I would not keep him single for that
reason;--no, nor for any reason if I knew that he wished to marry.
But it would be a blow to me."

"I sincerely trust that Peregrine may marry early," said Mrs. Orme,
perhaps thinking that babies were preferable either to rats or foxes.

"Yes, it would be well I am sure, because you have ample means, and
the house is large; and you would have his wife to love."

"If she were nice it would be so sweet to have her for a daughter. I
also am very much alone, though perhaps not so much as you are, Lady
Mason."

"I hope not--for I am sometimes very lonely."

"I have often thought that."

"But I should be wicked beyond everything if I were to complain,
seeing that Providence has given me so much that I had no right to
expect. What should I have done in my loneliness if Sir Peregrine's
hand and door had never been opened to me?" And then for the next
half-hour the two ladies held sweet converse together, during which
we will go back to the gentlemen over their wine.

"Are you drinking claret?" said Sir Peregrine, arranging himself and
his bottles in the way that was usual to him. He had ever been a
moderate man himself, but nevertheless he had a business-like way of
going to work after dinner, as though there was a good deal to be
done before the drawing-room could be visited.

"No more wine for me, sir," said Lucius.

"No wine!" said Sir Peregrine the elder.

"Why, Mason, you'll never get on if that's the way with you," said
Peregrine the younger.

"I'll try at any rate," said the other.

"Water-drinker, moody thinker," and Peregrine sang a word or two from
an old drinking-song.

"I am not quite sure of that. We Englishmen I suppose are the
moodiest thinkers in all the world, and yet we are not so much given
to water-drinking as our lively neighbours across the Channel."

Sir Peregrine said nothing more on the subject, but he probably
thought that his young friend would not be a very comfortable
neighbour. His present task, however, was by no means that of
teaching him to drink, and he struck off at once upon the business he
had undertaken. "So your mother tells me that you are going to devote
all your energies to farming."

"Hardly that, I hope. There is the land, and I mean to see what I
can do with it. It is not much, and I intend to combine some other
occupation with it."

"You will find that two hundred acres of land will give you a good
deal to do;--that is if you mean to make money by it."

"I certainly hope to do that,--in the long run."

"It seems to me the easiest thing in the world," said Peregrine.

"You'll find out your mistake some day; but with Lucius Mason it is
very important that he should make no mistake at the commencement.
For a country gentleman I know no prettier amusement than
experimental farming;--but then a man must give up all idea of making
his rent out of the land."

"I can't afford that," said Lucius.

"No; and that is why I take the liberty of speaking to you. I hope
that the great friendship which I feel for your mother will be
allowed to stand as my excuse."

"I am very much obliged by your kindness, sir; I am indeed."

"The truth is, I think you are beginning wrong. You have now been to
Liverpool, to buy guano, I believe."

"Yes, that and some few other things. There is a man there who has
taken out a patent--"

"My dear fellow, if you lay out your money in that way, you will
never see it back again. Have you considered in the first place what
your journey to Liverpool has cost you?"

"Exactly nine and sixpence per cent. on the money that I laid out
there. Now that is not much more than a penny in the pound on the sum
expended, and is not for a moment to be taken into consideration in
comparison with the advantage of an improved market."

There was more in this than Sir Peregrine had expected to encounter.
He did not for a moment doubt the truth of his own experience or
the folly and the danger of the young man's proceedings; but he did
doubt his own power of proving either the one or the other to one
who so accurately computed his expenses by percentages on his outlay.
Peregrine opened his eyes and sat by, wondering in silence. What on
earth did Mason mean by an improved market?

"I am afraid then," said the baronet, "that you must have laid out a
large sum of money."

"A man can't do any good, Sir Peregrine, by hoarding his capital. I
don't think very much of capital myself--"

"Don't you?"

"Not of the theory of capital;--not so much as some people do; but
if a man has got it, of course it should be expended on the trade to
which it is to be applied."

"But some little knowledge--some experience is perhaps desirable
before any great outlay is made."

"Yes; some little knowledge is necessary,--and some great knowledge
would be desirable if it were accessible;--but it is not, as I take
it."

"Long years, perhaps, devoted to such pursuits--"

"Yes, Sir Peregrine; I know what you are going to say. Experience no
doubt will teach something. A man who has walked thirty miles a day
for thirty years will probably know what sort of shoes will best suit
his feet, and perhaps also the kind of food that will best support
him through such exertion; but there is very little chance of his
inventing any quicker mode of travelling."

"But he will have earned his wages honestly," said Sir Peregrine,
almost angrily. In his heart he was very angry, for he did not love
to be interrupted.

"Oh, yes; and if that were sufficient we might all walk our thirty
miles a day. But some of us must earn wages for other people, or the
world will make no progress. Civilization, as I take it, consists in
efforts made not for oneself but for others."

"If you won't take any more wine we will join the ladies," said the
baronet.

"He has not taken any at all," said Peregrine, filling his own glass
for the last time and emptying it.

"That young man is the most conceited puppy it was ever my misfortune
to meet," said Sir Peregrine to Mrs. Orme, when she came to kiss him
and take his blessing as she always did before leaving him for the
night.

"I am sorry for that," said she, "for I like his mother so much."

"I also like her," said Sir Peregrine; "but I cannot say that I shall
ever be very fond of her son."

"I'll tell you what, mamma," said young Peregrine, the same evening
in his mother's dressing-room. "Lucius Mason was too many for the
governor this evening."

"I hope he did not tease your grandfather."

"He talked him down regularly, and it was plain that the governor did
not like it."

And then the day was over.



CHAPTER XV

A MORNING CALL AT MOUNT PLEASANT VILLA


On the following day Lady Mason made two visits, using her new
vehicle for the first time. She would fain have walked had she dared;
but she would have given terrible offence to her son by doing so. He
had explained to her, and with some truth, that as their joint income
was now a thousand a year, she was quite entitled to such a luxury;
and then he went on to say that as he had bought it for her, he
should be much hurt if she would not use it. She had put it off from
day to day, and now she could put it off no longer.

Her first visit was by appointment at The Cleeve. She had promised
Mrs. Orme that she would come up, some special purpose having been
named;--but with the real idea, at any rate on the part of the
latter, that they might both be more comfortable together than alone.
The walk across from Orley Farm to The Cleeve had always been very
dear to Lady Mason. Every step of it was over beautiful ground, and a
delight in scenery was one of the few pleasures which her lot in life
had permitted her to enjoy. But to-day she could not allow herself
the walk. Her pleasure and delight must be postponed to her son's
wishes! But then she was used to that.

She found Mrs. Orme alone, and sat with her for an hour. I do not
know that anything was said between them which deserves to be
specially chronicled. Mrs. Orme, though she told her many things, did
not tell her what Sir Peregrine had said as he was going up to his
bedroom on the preceding evening, nor did Lady Mason say much about
her son's farming. She had managed to gather from Lucius that he
had not been deeply impressed by anything that had fallen from Sir
Peregrine on the subject, and therefore thought it as well to hold
her tongue. She soon perceived also, from the fact of Mrs. Orme
saying nothing about Lucius, that he had not left behind him any very
favourable impression. This was to her cause of additional sorrow,
but she knew that it must be borne. Nothing that she could say would
induce Lucius to make himself acceptable to Sir Peregrine.

When the hour was over she went down again to her little carriage,
Mrs. Orme coming with her to look at it, and in the hall they met Sir
Peregrine.

"Why does not Lady Mason stop for lunch?" said he. "It is past
half-past one. I never knew anything so inhospitable as turning her
out at this moment."

"I did ask her to stay," said Mrs. Orme.

"But I command her to stay," said Sir Peregrine, knocking his stick
upon the stone floor of the hall. "And let me see who will dare to
disobey me. John, let Lady Mason's carriage and pony stand in the
open coach-house till she is ready." So Lady Mason went back and did
remain for lunch. She was painfully anxious to maintain the best
possible footing in that house, but still more anxious not to have
it thought that she was intruding. She had feared that Lucius by his
offence might have estranged Sir Peregrine against herself; but that
at any rate was not the case.

After lunch she drove herself to Hamworth and made her second visit.
On this occasion she called on one Mrs. Arkwright, who was a very
old acquaintance, though hardly to be called an intimate friend.
The late Mr. Arkwright,--Dr. Arkwright as he used to be styled
in Hamworth,--had been Sir Joseph's medical attendant for many
years, and therefore there had been room for an intimacy. No real
friendship, that is no friendship of confidence, had sprung up; but
nevertheless the doctor's wife had known enough of Lady Mason in her
younger days to justify her in speaking of things which would not
have been mentioned between merely ordinary acquaintance. "I am glad
to see you have got promotion," said the old lady, looking out at
Lady Mason's little phaeton on the gravel sweep which divided Mrs.
Arkwright's house from the street. For Mrs. Arkwright's house was
Mount Pleasant Villa, and therefore was entitled to a sweep.

"It was a present from Lucius," said the other, "and as such must be
used. But I shall never feel myself at home in my own carriage."

"It is quite proper, my dear Lady Mason, quite proper. With his
income and with yours I do not wonder that he insists upon it. It is
quite proper, and just at the present moment peculiarly so."

Lady Mason did not understand this; but she would probably have
passed it by without understanding it, had she not thought that there
was some expression more than ordinary in Mrs. Arkwright's face. "Why
peculiarly so at the present moment?" she said.

"Because it shows that this foolish report which is going about has
no foundation. People won't believe it for a moment when they see you
out and about, and happy-like."

"What rumour, Mrs. Arkwright?" And Lady Mason's heart sunk within her
as she asked the question. She felt at once to what it must allude,
though she had conceived no idea as yet that there was any rumour on
the subject. Indeed, during the last forty-eight hours, since she had
left the chambers of Mr. Furnival, she had been more at ease within
herself than during the previous days which had elapsed subsequent to
the ill-omened visit made to her by Miriam Dockwrath. It had seemed
to her that Mr. Furnival anticipated no danger, and his manner and
words had almost given her confidence. But now,--now that a public
rumour was spoken of, her heart was as low again as ever.

"Sure, haven't you heard?" said Mrs. Arkwright. "Well, I wouldn't be
the first to tell you, only that I know that there is no truth in
it."

"You might as well tell me now, as I shall be apt to believe worse
than the truth after what you have said."

And then Mrs. Arkwright told her. "People have been saying that Mr.
Mason is again going to begin those law proceedings about the farm;
but I for one don't believe it."

"People have said so!" Lady Mason repeated. She meant nothing; it was
nothing to her who the people were. If one said it now, all would
soon be saying it. But she uttered the words because she felt herself
forced to say something, and the power of thinking what she might
best say was almost taken away from her.

"I am sure I don't know where it came from," said Mrs. Arkwright;
"but I would not have alluded to it if I had not thought that of
course you had heard it. I am very sorry if my saying it has vexed
you."

"Oh, no," said Lady Mason, trying to smile.

"As I said before, we all know that there is nothing in it; and your
having the pony chaise just at this time will make everybody see that
you are quite comfortable yourself."

"Thank you, yes; good-bye, Mrs. Arkwright." And then she made a great
effort, feeling aware that she was betraying herself, and that it
behoved her to say something which might remove the suspicion which
her emotion must have created. "The very name of that lawsuit is so
dreadful to me that I can hardly bear it. The memory of it is so
terrible to me, that even my enemies would hardly wish that it should
commence again."

"Of course it is merely a report," said Mrs. Arkwright, almost
trembling at what she had done.

"That is all--at least I believe so. I had heard myself that some
such threat had been made, but I did not think that any tidings of it
had got abroad."

"It was Mrs. Whiting told me. She is a great busybody, you know."
Mrs. Whiting was the wife of the present doctor.

"Dear Mrs. Arkwright, it does not matter in the least. Of course I
do not expect that people should hold their tongue on my account.
Good-bye, Mrs. Arkwright." And then she got into the little carriage,
and did contrive to drive herself home to Orley Farm.

"Dear, dear, dear, dear!" said Mrs. Arkwright to herself when she was
left alone. "Only to think of that; that she should be knocked in a
heap by a few words--in a moment, as we may say." And then she began
to consider of the matter. "I wonder what there is in it! There must
be something, or she would never have looked so like a ghost. What
will they do if Orley Farm is taken away from them after all!" And
then Mrs. Arkwright hurried out on her daily little toddle through
the town, that she might talk about and be talked to on the same
subject. She was by no means an ill-natured woman, nor was she at
all inclined to direct against Lady Mason any slight amount of venom
which might alloy her disposition. But then the matter was of such
importance! The people of Hamworth had hardly yet ceased to talk of
the last Orley Farm trial; and would it not be necessary that they
should talk much more if a new trial were really pending? Looking at
the matter in that light, would not such a trial be a godsend to the
people of Hamworth? Therefore I beg that it may not be imputed to
Mrs. Arkwright as a fault that she toddled out and sought eagerly for
her gossips.

Lady Mason did manage to drive herself home; but her success in the
matter was more owing to the good faith and propriety of her pony,
than to any skilful workmanship on her own part. Her first desire had
been to get away from Mrs. Arkwright, and having made that effort she
was now for a time hardly able to make any other. It was fast coming
upon her now. Let Sir Peregrine say what comforting words he might,
let Mr. Furnival assure her that she was safe with ever so much
confidence, nevertheless she could not but believe, could not but
feel inwardly convinced, that that which she so dreaded was to
happen. It was written in the book of her destiny that there should
be a new trial.

And now, from this very moment, the misery would again begin. People
would point at her, and talk of her. Her success in obtaining Orley
Farm for her own child would again be canvassed at every house in
Hamworth; and not only her success, but the means also by which that
success had been obtained. The old people would remember and the
young people would inquire; and, for her, tranquillity, repose, and
that retirement of life which had been so valuable to her, were all
gone.

There could be no doubt that Dockwrath had spread the report
immediately on his return from Yorkshire; and had she well thought of
the matter she might have taken some comfort from this. Of course he
would tell the story which he did tell. His confidence in being able
again to drag the case before the Courts would by no means argue that
others believed as he believed. In fact the enemies now arraigned
against her were only those whom she already knew to be so arraigned.
But she had not sufficient command of her thoughts to be able at
first to take comfort from such a reflection as this. She felt, as
she was being carried home, that the world was going from her, and
that it would be well for her, were it possible, that she should die.

But she was stronger when she reached her own door than she had been
at Mrs. Arkwright's. There was still within her a great power of
self-maintenance, if only time were allowed to her to look about and
consider how best she might support herself. Many women are in this
respect as she was. With forethought and summoned patience they can
endure great agonies; but a sudden pang, unexpected, overwhelms them.
She got out of the pony carriage with her ordinary placid face, and
walked up to her own room without having given any sign that she was
uneasy; and then she had to determine how she should bear herself
before her son. It had been with her a great object that both Sir
Peregrine and Mr. Furnival should first hear of the tidings from her,
and that they should both promise her their aid when they had heard
the story as she would tell it. In this she had been successful; and
it now seemed to her that prudence would require her to act in the
same way towards Lucius. Had it been possible to keep this matter
from him altogether, she would have given much to do so; but now it
would not be possible. It was clear that Mr. Dockwrath had chosen to
make the matter public, acting no doubt with forethought in doing
so; and Lucius would be sure to hear words which would become common
in Hamworth. Difficult as the task would be to her, it would be
best that she should prepare him. So she sat alone till dinner-time
planning how she would do this. She had sat alone for hours in the
same way planning how she would tell her story to Sir Peregrine; and
again as to her second story for Mr. Furnival. Those whose withers
are unwrung can hardly guess how absolutely a sore under the collar
will embitter every hour for the poor jade who is so tormented!

But she met him at dinner with a smiling face. He loved to see her
smile, and often told her so, almost upbraiding her when she would
look sad. Why should she be sad, seeing that she had everything that
a woman could desire? Her mind was burdened with no heavy thoughts as
to feeding coming multitudes. She had no contests to wage with the
desultory chemists of the age. His purpose was to work hard during
the hours of the day,--hard also during many hours of the night; and
it was becoming that his mother should greet him softly during his
few intervals of idleness. He told her so, in some words not badly
chosen for such telling; and she, loving mother that she was, strove
valiantly to obey him.

During dinner she could not speak to him, nor immediately after
dinner. The evil moment she put off from half-hour to half-hour,
still looking as though all were quiet within her bosom as she sat
beside him with her book in her hand. He was again at work before she
began her story; he thought at least that he was at work, for he had
before him on the table both Prichard and Latham, and was occupied
in making copies from some drawings of skulls which purposed to
represent the cerebral development of certain of our more distant
Asiatic brethren.

"Is it not singular," said be, "that the jaws of men born and bred
in a hunter state should be differently formed from those of the
agricultural tribes?"

"Are they?" said Lady Mason.

"Oh yes; the maxillary profile is quite different. You will see this
especially with the Mongolians, among the Tartar tribes. It seems to
me to be very much the same difference as that between a man and a
sheep, but Prichard makes no such remark. Look here at this fellow;
he must have been intended to eat nothing but flesh; and that raw,
and without any knife or fork."

"I don't suppose they had many knives or forks."

"By close observation I do not doubt that one could tell from a
single tooth not only what food the owner of it had been accustomed
to eat, but what language he had spoken. I say close observation, you
know. It could not be done in a day."

"I suppose not." And then the student again bent over his drawing.
"You see it would have been impossible for the owner of such a jaw
as that to have ground a grain of corn between his teeth, or to have
masticated even a cabbage."

"Lucius," said Lady Mason, becoming courageous on the spur of the
moment, "I want you to leave that for a moment and speak to me."

"Well," said he, putting down his pencil and turning round. "Here I
am."

"You have heard of the lawsuit which I had with your brother when you
were an infant?"

"Of course I have heard of it; but I wish you would not call that man
my brother. He would not own me as such, and I most certainly would
not own him. As far as I can learn he is one of the most detestable
human beings that ever existed."

"You have heard of him from an unfavourable side, Lucius; you should
remember that. He is a hard man, I believe; but I do not know that he
would do anything which he thought to be unjust."

"Why then did he try to rob me of my property?"

"Because he thought that it should have been his own. I cannot see
into his breast, but I presume that it was so."

"I do not presume anything of the kind, and never shall. I was an
infant and you were a woman,--a woman at that time without many
friends, and he thought that he could rob us under cover of the law.
Had he been commonly honest it would have been enough for him to
know what had been my father's wishes, even if the will had not been
rigidly formal. I look upon him as a robber and a thief."

"I am sorry for that, Lucius, because I differ from you. What I wish
to tell you now is this,--that he is thinking of trying the question
again."

"What!--thinking of another trial now?" and Lucius Mason pushed his
drawings and books from him with a vengeance.

"So I am told."

"And who told you? I cannot believe it, If he intended anything of
the kind I must have been the first person to hear of it. It would be
my business now, and you may be sure that he would have taken care to
let me know his purpose."

And then by degrees she explained to him that the man himself, Mr.
Mason of Groby, had as yet declared no such purpose. She had intended
to omit all mention of the name of Mr. Dockwrath, but she was unable
to do so without seeming to make a mystery with her son. When she
came to explain how the rumour had arisen and why she had thought it
necessary to tell him this, she was obliged to say that it had all
arisen from the wrath of the attorney. "He has been to Groby Park,"
she said, "and now that he has returned he is spreading this report."

"I shall go to him to-morrow," said Lucius, very sternly.

"No, no; you must not do that. You must promise me that you will not
do that."

"But I shall. You cannot suppose that I shall allow such a man as
that to tamper with my name without noticing it! It is my business
now."

"No, Lucius. The attack will be against me rather than you;--that is,
if an attack be made. I have told you because I do not like to have a
secret from you."

"Of course you have told me. If you are attacked who should defend
you, if I do not?"

"The best defence, indeed the only defence till they take some active
step, will be silence. Most probably they will not do anything,
and then we can afford to live down such reports as these. You can
understand, Lucius, that the matter is grievous enough to me; and I
am sure that for my sake you will not make it worse by a personal
quarrel with such a man as that."

"I shall go to Mr. Furnival," said he, "and ask his advice."

"I have done that already, Lucius. I thought it best to do so, when
first I heard that Mr. Dockwrath was moving in the matter. It was for
that that I went up to town."

"And why did you not tell me?"

"I then thought that you might be spared the pain of knowing anything
of the matter. I tell you now because I hear to-day in Hamworth that
people are talking on the subject. You might be annoyed, as I was
just now, if the first tidings had reached you from some stranger."

He sat silent for a while, turning his pencil in his hand, and
looking as though he were going to settle the matter off hand by his
own thoughts. "I tell you what it is, mother; I shall not let the
burden of this fall on your shoulders. You carried on the battle
before, but I must do so now. If I can trace any word of scandal to
that fellow Dockwrath, I shall indict him for a libel."

"Oh, Lucius!"

"I shall, and no mistake!"

What would he have said had he known that his mother had absolutely
proposed to Mr. Furnival to buy off Mr. Dockwrath's animosity, almost
at any price?



CHAPTER XVI

MR. DOCKWRATH IN BEDFORD ROW


Mr. Dockwrath, as he left Leeds and proceeded to join the bosom of
his family, was not discontented with what he had done. It might not
improbably have been the case that Mr. Mason would altogether refuse
to see him, and having seen him, Mr. Mason might altogether have
declined his assistance. He might have been forced as a witness to
disclose his secret, of which he could make so much better a profit
as a legal adviser. As it was, Mr. Mason had promised to pay him for
his services, and would no doubt be induced to go so far as to give
him a legal claim for payment. Mr. Mason had promised to come up to
town, and had instructed the Hamworth attorney to meet him there; and
under such circumstances the Hamworth attorney had but little doubt
that time would produce a considerable bill of costs in his favour.

And then he thought that he saw his way to a great success. I should
be painting the Devil too black were I to say that revenge was
his chief incentive in that which he was doing. All our motives
are mixed; and his wicked desire to do evil to Lady Mason in
return for the evil which she had done to him was mingled with
professional energy, and an ambition to win a cause that ought to
be won--especially a cause which others had failed to win. He said
to himself, on finding those names and dates among old Mr. Usbech's
papers, that there was still an opportunity of doing something
considerable in this Orley Farm Case, and he had made up his mind to
do it. Professional energy, revenge, and money considerations would
work hand in hand in this matter; and therefore, as he left Leeds in
the second-class railway carriage for London, he thought over the
result of his visit with considerable satisfaction.

He had left Leeds at ten, and Mr. Moulder had come down in the same
omnibus to the station, and was travelling in the same train in
a first-class carriage. Mr. Moulder was a man who despised the
second-class, and was not slow to say so before other commercials who
travelled at a cheaper rate than he did. "Hubbles and Grease," he
said, "allowed him respectably, in order that he might go about their
business respectable; and he wasn't going to give the firm a bad name
by being seen in a second-class carriage, although the difference
would go into his own pocket. That wasn't the way he had begun, and
that wasn't the way he was going to end." He said nothing to Mr.
Dockwrath in the morning, merely bowing in answer to that gentleman's
salutation. "Hope you were comfortable last night in the back
drawing-room," said Mr. Dockwrath; but Mr. Moulder in reply only
looked at him.

At the Mansfield station, Mr. Kantwise, with his huge wooden boxes,
appeared on the platform, and he got into the same carriage with Mr.
Dockwrath. He had come on by a night train, and had been doing a
stroke of business that morning. "Well, Kantwise," Moulder holloaed
out from his warm, well-padded seat, "doing it cheap and nasty, eh?"

"Not at all nasty, Mr. Moulder," said the other. "And I find myself
among as respectable a class of society in the second-class as you do
in the first; quite so;--and perhaps a little better," Mr. Kantwise
added, as he took his seat immediately opposite to Mr. Dockwrath. "I
hope I have the pleasure of seeing you pretty bobbish this morning,
sir." And he shook hands cordially with the attorney.

"Tidy, thank you," said Dockwrath. "My company last night did not do
me any harm; you may swear to that."

"Ha! ha! ha! I was so delighted that you got the better of Moulder; a
domineering party, isn't he? quite terrible! For myself, I can't put
up with him sometimes."

"I didn't have to put up with him last night."

"No, no; it was very good, wasn't it now? very capital, indeed. All
the same I wish you'd heard Busby give us 'Beautiful Venice, City
of Song!' A charming voice has Busby; quite charming." And there
was a pause for a minute or so, after which Mr. Kantwise resumed
the conversation. "You'll allow me to put you up one of those
drawing-room sets?" he said.

"Well, I am afraid not. I don't think they are strong enough where
there are children."

"Dear, dear; dear, dear; to hear you say so, Mr. Dockwrath! Why, they
are made for strength. They are the very things for children, because
they don't break, you know."

"But they'd bend terribly."

"By no means. They're so elastic that they always recovers
themselves. I didn't show you that; but you might turn the backs of
them chairs nearly down to the ground, and they will come straight
again. You let me send you a set for your wife to look at. If she's
not charmed with them I'll--I'll--I'll eat them."

"Women are charmed with anything," said Mr. Dockwrath. "A new bonnet
does that."

"They know what they are about pretty well, as I dare say you have
found out. I'll send express to Sheffield and have a completely new
set put up for you."

"For twelve seventeen six, of course?"

"Oh! dear no, Mr. Dockwrath. The lowest figure for ready money,
delivered free, is fifteen ten."

"I couldn't think of paying more than Mrs. Mason."

"Ah! but that was a damaged set; it was, indeed. And she merely
wanted it as a present for the curate's wife. The table was quite
sprung, and the music-stool wouldn't twist."

"But you'll send them to me new?"

"New from the manufactory; upon my word we will."

"A table that you have never acted upon--have never shown off on;
standing in the middle, you know?"

"Yes; upon my honour. You shall have them direct from the workshop,
and sent at once; you shall find them in your drawing-room on Tuesday
next."

"We'll say thirteen ten."

"I couldn't do it, Mr. Dockwrath--" And so they went on, bargaining
half the way up to town, till at last they came to terms for fourteen
eleven. "And a very superior article your lady will find them," Mr.
Kantwise said as he shook hands with his new friend at parting.

One day Mr. Dockwrath remained at home in the bosom of his family,
saying all manner of spiteful things against Lady Mason, and on the
next day he went up to town and called on Round and Crook. That one
day he waited in order that Mr. Mason might have time to write; but
Mr. Mason had written on the very day of the visit to Groby Park,
and Mr. Round junior was quite ready for Mr. Dockwrath when that
gentleman called.

Mr. Dockwrath when at home had again cautioned his wife to have no
intercourse whatever "with that swindler at Orley Farm," wishing
thereby the more thoroughly to imbue poor Miriam with a conviction
that Lady Mason had committed some fraud with reference to the will.
"You had better say nothing about the matter anywhere; d'you hear?
People will talk; all the world will be talking about it before long.
But that is nothing to you. If people ask you, say that you believe
that I am engaged in the case professionally, but that you know
nothing further." As to all which Miriam of course promised the most
exact obedience. But Mr. Dockwrath, though he only remained one day
in Hamworth before he went to London, took care that the curiosity of
his neighbours should be sufficiently excited.

Mr. Dockwrath felt some little trepidation at the heart as he walked
into the office of Messrs. Round and Crook in Bedford Row. Messrs.
Round and Crook stood high in the profession, and were men who in
the ordinary way of business would have had no personal dealings
with such a man as Mr. Dockwrath. Had any such intercourse become
necessary on commonplace subjects Messrs. Round and Crook's
confidential clerk might have seen Mr. Dockwrath, but even he would
have looked down upon the Hamworth attorney as from a great moral
height. But now, in the matter of the Orley Farm Case, Mr. Dockwrath
had determined that he would transact business only on equal terms
with the Bedford Row people. The secret was his--of his finding;
he knew the strength of his own position, and he would use it. But
nevertheless he did tremble inwardly as he asked whether Mr. Round
was within;--or if not Mr. Round, then Mr. Crook.

There were at present three members in the firm, though the old name
remained unaltered. The Mr. Round and the Mr. Crook of former days
were still working partners;--the very Round and the very Crook who
had carried on the battle on the part of Mr. Mason of Groby twenty
years ago; but to them had been added another Mr. Round, a son of
old Round, who, though his name did not absolutely appear in the
nomenclature of the firm, was, as a working man, the most important
person in it. Old Mr. Round might now be said to be ornamental and
communicative. He was a hale man of nearly seventy, who thought a
great deal of his peaches up at Isleworth, who came to the office
five times a week--not doing very much hard work, and who took the
largest share in the profits. Mr. Round senior had enjoyed the
reputation of being a sound, honourable man, but was now considered
by some to be not quite sharp enough for the practice of the present
day.

Mr. Crook had usually done the dirty work of the firm, having been
originally a managing clerk; and he still did the same--in a small
way. He had been the man to exact penalties, look after costs, and
attend to any criminal business, or business partly criminal in its
nature, which might chance find its way to them. But latterly in all
great matters Mr. Round junior, Mr. Matthew Round,--his father was
Richard,--was the member of the firm on whom the world in general
placed the greatest dependence. Mr. Mason's letter had in the
ordinary way of business come to him, although it had been addressed
to his father, and he had resolved on acting on it himself.

When Mr. Dockwrath called Mr. Round senior was at Birmingham, Mr.
Crook was taking his annual holiday, and Mr. Round junior was
reigning alone in Bedford Row. Instructions had been given to the
clerks that if Mr. Dockwrath called he was to be shown in, and
therefore he found himself seated, with much less trouble than he had
expected, in the private room of Mr. Round junior. He had expected
to see an old man, and was therefore somewhat confused, not feeling
quite sure that he was in company with one of the principals; but
nevertheless, looking at the room, and especially at the arm-chair
and carpet, he was aware that the legal gentleman who motioned him to
a seat could be no ordinary clerk.

The manner of this legal gentleman was not, as Mr. Dockwrath thought,
quite so ceremoniously civil as it might be, considering the
important nature of the business to be transacted between them.
Mr. Dockwrath intended to treat on equal terms, and so intending
would have been glad to have shaken hands with his new ally at the
commencement of their joint operations. But the man before him,--a
man younger than himself too,--did not even rise from his chair. "Ah!
Mr. Dockwrath," he said, taking up a letter from the table, "will you
have the goodness to sit down?" And Mr. Matthew Round wheeled his
own arm-chair towards the fire, stretching out his legs comfortably,
and pointing to a somewhat distant seat as that intended for the
accommodation of his visitor. Mr. Dockwrath seated himself in the
somewhat distant seat, and deposited his hat upon the floor, not
being as yet quite at home in his position; but he made up his mind
as he did so that he would be at home before he left the room.

"I find that you have been down in Yorkshire with a client of ours,
Mr. Dockwrath," said Mr. Matthew Round.

"Yes, I have," said he of Hamworth.

"Ah! well--; you are in the profession yourself, I believe?"

"Yes; I am an attorney."

"Would it not have been well to have come to us first?"

"No, I think not. I have not the pleasure of knowing your name, sir."

"My name is Round--Matthew Round."

"I beg your pardon, sir; I did not know," said Mr. Dockwrath, bowing.
It was a satisfaction to him to learn that he was closeted with a Mr.
Round, even if it were not the Mr. Round. "No, Mr. Round, I can't say
that I should have thought of that. In the first place I didn't know
whether Mr. Mason employed any lawyer, and in the next--"

"Well, well; it does not matter. It is usual among the profession;
but it does not in the least signify. Mr. Mason has written to us,
and he says that you have found out something about that Orley Farm
business."

"Yes; I have found out something. At least, I rather think so."

"Well, what is, it, Mr. Dockwrath?"

"Ah! that's the question. It's rather a ticklish business, Mr. Round;
a family affair, as I may say."

"Whose family?"

"To a certain extent my family, and to a certain extent Mr. Mason's
family. I don't know how far I should be justified in laying all the
facts before you--wonderful facts they are too--in an off-hand way
like that. These matters have to be considered a great deal. It is
not only the extent of the property. There is much more than that in
it, Mr. Round."

"If you don't tell me what there is in it, I don't see what we are to
do. I am sure you did not give yourself the trouble of coming up here
from Hamworth merely with the object of telling us that you are going
to hold your tongue."

"Certainly not, Mr. Round."

"Then what did you come to say?"

"May I ask you, Mr. Round, what Mr. Mason has told you with reference
to my interview with him?"

"Yes; I will read you a part of his letter--'Mr. Dockwrath is
of opinion that the will under which the estate is now enjoyed
is absolutely a forgery.' I presume you mean the codicil, Mr.
Dockwrath?"

"Oh yes! the codicil of course."

"'And he has in his possession documents which I have not seen,
but which seem to me, as described, to go far to prove that this
certainly must have been the case.' And then he goes on with
a description of dates, although it is clear that he does not
understand the matter himself--indeed he says as much. Now of course
we must see these documents before we can give our client any
advice." A certain small portion of Mr. Mason's letter Mr. Round did
then read, but he did not read those portions in which Mr. Mason
expressed his firm determination to reopen the case against Lady
Mason, and even to prosecute her for forgery if it were found that he
had anything like a fair chance of success in doing so. "I know that
you were convinced," he had said, addressing himself personally to
Mr. Round senior, "that Lady Mason was acting in good faith. I was
always convinced of the contrary, and am more sure of it now than
ever." This last paragraph, Mr. Round junior had not thought it
necessary to read to Mr. Dockwrath.

"The documents to which I allude are in reference to my confidential
family matters; and I certainly shall not produce them without
knowing on what ground I am standing."

"Of course you are aware, Mr. Dockwrath, that we could compel you."

"There, Mr. Round, I must be allowed to differ."

"It won't come to that, of course. If you have anything worth
showing, you'll show it; and if we make use of you as a witness, it
must be as a willing witness."

"I don't think it probable that I shall be a witness in the matter at
all."

"Ah, well; perhaps not. My own impression is that no case will be
made out; that there will be nothing to take before a jury."

"There again, I must differ from you, Mr. Round."

"Oh, of course! I suppose the real fact is, that it is a matter of
money. You want to be paid for what information you have got. That is
about the long and the short of it; eh, Mr. Dockwrath?"

"I don't know what you call the long and the short of it, Mr. Round;
or what may be your way of doing business. As a professional man, of
course I expect to be paid for my work;--and I have no doubt that you
expect the same."

"No doubt, Mr. Dockwrath; but--as you have made the comparison,
I hope you will excuse me for saying so--we always wait till our
clients come to us."

Mr. Dockwrath drew himself up with some intention of becoming angry;
but he hardly knew how to carry it out; and then it might be a
question whether anger would serve his turn. "Do you mean to say, Mr.
Round, if you had found documents such as these, you would have done
nothing about them--that you would have passed them by as worthless?"

"I can't say that till I know what the documents are. If I found
papers concerning the client of another firm, I should go to that
firm if I thought that they demanded attention."

"I didn't know anything about the firm;--how was I to know?"

"Well! you know now, Mr. Dockwrath. As I understand it, our client
has referred you to us. If you have anything to say, we are ready to
hear it. If you have anything to show, we are ready to look at it. If
you have nothing to say, and nothing to show--"

"Ah, but I have; only--"

"Only you want us to make it worth your while. We might as well have
the truth at once. Is not that about it?"

"I want to see my way, of course."

"Exactly. And now, Mr. Dockwrath, I must make you understand that we
don't do business in that way."

"Then I shall see Mr. Mason again myself."

"That you can do. He will be in town next week, and, as I believe,
wishes to see you. As regards your expenses, if you can show us
that you have any communication to make that is worth our client's
attention, we will see that you are paid what you are out of pocket,
and some fair remuneration for the time you may have lost;--not as an
attorney, remember, for in that light we cannot regard you."

"I am every bit as much an attorney as you are."

"No doubt; but you are not Mr. Mason's attorney; and as long as it
suits him to honour us with his custom, you cannot be so regarded."

"That's as he pleases."

"No; it is not, Mr. Dockwrath. It is as he pleases whether he employs
you or us; but it is not as he pleases whether he employs both on
business of the same class. He may give us his confidence, or he may
withdraw it."

"Looking at the way the matter was managed before, perhaps the latter
may be the better for him."

"Excuse me, Mr. Dockwrath, for saying that that is a question I shall
not discuss with you."

Upon this Mr. Dockwrath jumped from his chair, and took up his hat.
"Good morning to you, sir," said Mr. Round, without moving from his
chair; "I will tell Mr. Mason that you have declined making any
communication to us. He will probably know your address--if he should
want it."

Mr. Dockwrath paused. Was he not about to sacrifice substantial
advantage to momentary anger? Would it not be better that he should
carry this impudent young London lawyer with him if it were possible?
"Sir," said he, "I am quite willing to tell you all that I know of
this matter at present, if you will have the patience to hear it."

"Patience, Mr. Dockwrath! Why I am made of patience. Sit down again,
Mr. Dockwrath, and think of it."

Mr. Dockwrath did sit down again, and did think of it; and it ended
in his telling to Mr. Round all that he had told to Mr. Mason. As he
did so, he looked closely at Mr. Round's face, but there he could
read nothing. "Exactly," said Mr. Round. "The fourteenth of July is
the date of both. I have taken a memorandum of that. A final deed for
closing partnership, was it? I have got that down. John Kenneby and
Bridget Bolster. I remember the names,--witnesses to both deeds, were
they? I understand; nothing about this other deed was brought up at
the trial? I see the point--such as it is. John Kenneby and Bridget
Bolster;--both believed to be living. Oh, you can give their address,
can you? Decline to do so now? Very well; it does not matter. I think
I understand it all now, Mr. Dockwrath; and when we want you again,
you shall hear from us. Samuel Dockwrath, is it? Thank you. Good
morning. If Mr. Mason wishes to see you, he will write, of course.
Good day, Mr. Dockwrath."

And so Mr. Dockwrath went home, not quite contented with his day's
work.



CHAPTER XVII

VON BAUHR


It will be remembered that Mr. Crabwitz was sent across from
Lincoln's Inn to Bedford Row to ascertain the present address of old
Mr. Round. "Mr. Round is at Birmingham," he said, coming back. "Every
one connected with the profession is at Birmingham, except--"

"The more fools they," said Mr. Furnival.

"I am thinking of going down myself this evening," said Mr. Crabwitz.
"As you will be out of town, sir, I suppose I can be spared?"

"You too!"

"And why not me, Mr. Furnival? When all the profession is meeting
together, why should not I be there as well as another? I hope you do
not deny me my right to feel an interest in the great subjects which
are being discussed."

"Not in the least, Mr. Crabwitz. I do not deny you your right to be
Lord Chief Justice, if you can accomplish it. But you cannot be Lord
Chief Justice and my clerk at the same time. Nor can you be in my
chambers if you are at Birmingham. I rather think I must trouble you
to remain here, as I cannot tell at what moment I may be in town
again."

"Then, sir, I'm afraid--" Mr. Crabwitz began his speech and then
faltered. He was going to tell Mr. Furnival that he must suit himself
with another clerk, when he remembered his fees, and paused. It would
be very pleasant to him to quit Mr. Furnival, but where could he get
such another place? He knew that he himself was invaluable, but then
he was invaluable only to Mr. Furnival. Mr. Furnival would be mad to
part with him, Mr. Crabwitz thought; but then would he not be almost
more mad to part with Mr. Furnival?

"Eh; well?" said Mr. Furnival.

"Oh! of course; if you desire it, Mr. Furnival, I will remain. But I
must say I think it is rather hard."

"Look here, Mr. Crabwitz; if you think my service is too hard upon
you, you had better leave it. But if you take upon yourself to
tell me so again, you must leave it. Remember that." Mr. Furnival
possessed the master mind of the two; and Mr. Crabwitz felt this as
he slunk back to his own room.

So Mr. Round also was at Birmingham, and could be seen there. This
was so far well; and Mr. Furnival, having again with ruthless malice
sent Mr. Crabwitz for a cab, at once started for the Euston Square
Station. He could master Mr. Crabwitz, and felt a certain pleasure
in having done so; but could he master Mrs. F.? That lady had on one
or two late occasions shown her anger at the existing state of her
domestic affairs, and had once previously gone so far as to make
her lord understand that she was jealous of his proceedings with
reference to other goddesses. But she had never before done this in
the presence of other people;--she had never allowed any special
goddess to see that she was the special object of such jealousy.
Now she had not only committed herself in this way, but had also
committed him, making him feel himself to be ridiculous; and it was
highly necessary that some steps should be taken;--if he only knew
what step! All which kept his mind active as he journeyed in the cab.

At the station he found three or four other lawyers, all bound for
Birmingham. Indeed, during this fortnight the whole line had been
alive with learned gentlemen going to and fro, discussing weighty
points as they rattled along the iron road, and shaking their
ponderous heads at the new ideas which were being ventilated.
Mr. Furnival, with many others--indeed, with most of those who
were so far advanced in the world as to be making bread by their
profession--was of opinion that all this palaver that was going on in
the various tongues of Babel would end as it began--in words. "Vox et
præterea nihil." To practical Englishmen most of these international
congresses seem to arrive at nothing else. Men will not be talked out
of the convictions of their lives. No living orator would convince a
grocer that coffee should be sold without chicory; and no amount of
eloquence will make an English lawyer think that loyalty to truth
should come before loyalty to his client. And therefore our own
pundits, though on this occasion they went to Birmingham, summoned by
the greatness of the occasion, by the dignity of foreign names, by
interest in the question, and by the influence of such men as Lord
Boanerges, went there without any doubt on their minds as to the
rectitude of their own practice, and fortified with strong resolves
to resist all idea of change.

And indeed one cannot understand how the bent of any man's mind
should be altered by the sayings and doings of such a congress.

"Well, Johnson, what have you all been doing to-day?" asked Mr.
Furnival of a special friend whom he chanced to meet at the club
which had been extemporized at Birmingham.

"We have had a paper read by Von Bauhr. It lasted three hours."

"Three hours! heavens! Von Bauhr is, I think, from Berlin."

"Yes; he and Dr. Slotacher. Slotacher is to read his paper the day
after to-morrow."

"Then I think I shall go to London again. But what did Von Bauhr say
to you during those three hours?"

"Of course it was all in German, and I don't suppose that any one
understood him,--unless it was Boanerges. But I believe it was the
old story, going to show that the same man might be judge, advocate,
and jury."

"No doubt;--if men were machines, and if you could find such machines
perfect at all points in their machinery."

"And if the machines had no hearts?"

"Machines don't have hearts," said Mr. Furnival; "especially those in
Germany. And what did Boanerges say? His answer did not take three
hours more, I hope."

"About twenty minutes; but what he did say was lost on Von Bauhr, who
understands as much English as I do German. He said that the practice
of the Prussian courts had always been to him a subject of intense
interest, and that the general justice of their verdicts could not be
impugned."

"Nor ought it, seeing that a single trial for murder will occupy a
court for three weeks. He should have asked Von Bauhr how much work
he usually got through in the course of a sessions. I don't seem
to have lost much by being away. By-the-by, do you happen to know
whether Round is here?"

"What, old Round? I saw him in the hall to-day yawning as though
he would burst." And then Mr. Furnival strolled off to look for
the attorney among the various purlieus frequented by the learned
strangers.

"Furnival," said another barrister, accosting him,--an elderly man,
small, with sharp eyes and bushy eyebrows, dirty in his attire and
poor in his general appearance, "have you seen Judge Staveley?" This
was Mr. Chaffanbrass, great at the Old Bailey, a man well able to
hold his own in spite of the meanness of his appearance. At such a
meeting as this the English bar generally could have had no better
representative than Mr. Chaffanbrass.

"No; is he here?"

"He must be here. He is the only man they could find who knows enough
Italian to understand what that fat fellow from Florence will say
to-morrow."

"We're to have the Italian to-morrow, are we?"

"Yes; and Staveley afterwards. It's as good as a play; only, like
all plays, it's three times too long. I wonder whether anybody here
believes in it?"

"Yes, Felix Graham does."

"He believes everything--unless it is the Bible. He is one of
those young men who look for an instant millennium, and who regard
themselves not only as the prophets who foretell it, but as the
preachers who will produce it. For myself, I am too old for a new
gospel, with Felix Graham as an apostle."

"They say that Boanerges thinks a great deal of him."

"That can't be true, for Boanerges never thought much of any one but
himself. Well, I'm off to bed, for I find a day here ten times more
fatiguing than the Old Bailey in July."

On the whole the meeting was rather dull, as such meetings usually
are. It must not be supposed that any lawyer could get up at will, as
the spirit moved him, and utter his own ideas; or that all members of
the congress could speak if only they could catch the speaker's eye.
Had this been so, a man might have been supported by the hope of
having some finger in the pie, sooner or later. But in such case the
congress would have lasted for ever. As it was, the names of those
who were invited to address the meeting were arranged, and of course
men from each country were selected who were best known in their own
special walks of their profession. But then these best-known men
took an unfair advantage of their position, and were ruthless in the
lengthy cruelty of their addresses. Von Bauhr at Berlin was no doubt
a great lawyer, but he should not have felt so confident that the
legal proceedings of England and of the civilised world in general
could be reformed by his reading that book of his from the rostrum
in the hall at Birmingham! The civilised world in general, as there
represented, had been disgusted, and it was surmised that poor Dr.
Slotacher would find but a meagre audience when his turn came.

At last Mr. Furnival succeeded in hunting up Mr. Round, and found him
recruiting outraged nature with a glass of brandy and water and a
cigar. "Looking for me, have you? Well, here I am; that is to say,
what is left of me. Were you in the hall to-day?"

"No; I was up in town."

"Ah! that accounts for your being so fresh. I wish I had been there.
Do you ever do anything in this way?" and Mr. Round touched the
outside of his glass of toddy with his spoon. Mr. Furnival said that
he never did do anything in that way, which was true. Port wine was
his way, and it may be doubted whether on the whole it is not the
more dangerous way of the two. But Mr. Furnival, though he would
not drink brandy and water or smoke cigars, sat down opposite to Mr.
Round, and had soon broached the subject which was on his mind.

"Yes," said the attorney, "it is quite true that I had a letter on
the subject from Mr. Mason. The lady is not wrong in supposing that
some one is moving in the matter."

"And your client wishes you to take up the case again?"

"No doubt he does. He was not a man that I ever greatly liked, Mr.
Furnival, though I believe he means well. He thinks that he has been
ill used; and perhaps he was ill used--by his father."

"But that can be no possible reason for badgering the life out of his
father's widow twenty years after his father's death!"

"Of course he thinks that he has some new evidence. I can't say I
looked into the matter much myself. I did read the letter; but that
was all, and then I handed it to my son. As far as I remember, Mr.
Mason said that some attorney at Hamworth had been to him."

"Exactly; a low fellow whom you would be ashamed to see in your
office! He fancies that young Mason has injured him; and though he
has received numberless benefits from Lady Mason, this is the way in
which he chooses to be revenged on her son."

"We should have nothing to do with such a matter as that, you know.
It's not our line."

"No, of course it is not; I am well aware of that. And I am equally
well aware that nothing Mr. Mason can do can shake Lady Mason's
title, or rather her son's title, to the property. But, Mr. Round, if
he be encouraged to gratify his malice--"

"If who be encouraged?"

"Your client, Mr. Mason of Groby;--there can be no doubt that he
might harass this unfortunate lady till he brought her nearly to the
grave."

"That would be a pity, for I believe she's still an uncommon pretty
woman." And the attorney indulged in a little fat inward chuckle;
for in these days Mr. Furnival's taste with reference to strange
goddesses was beginning to be understood by the profession.

"She is a very old friend of mine," said Mr. Furnival, gravely, "a
very old friend indeed; and if I were to desert her now, she would
have no one to whom she could look."

"Oh, ah, yes; I'm sure you're very kind;" and Mr. Round altered his
face and tone, so that they might be in conformity with those of his
companion. "Anything I can do, of course I shall be very happy. I
should be slow, myself, to advise my client to try the matter again,
but to tell the truth anything of this kind would go to my son now. I
did read Mr. Mason's letter, but I immediately handed it to Matthew."

"I will tell you how you can oblige me, Mr. Round."

"Do tell me; I am sure I shall be very happy."

"Look into this matter yourself, and talk it over with Mr. Mason
before you allow anything to be done. It is not that I doubt your
son's discretion. Indeed we all know what an exceedingly good man of
business he is."

"Matthew is sharp enough," said the prosperous father.

"But then young men are apt to be too sharp. I don't know whether you
remember the case about that Orley Farm, Mr. Round."

"As well as if it were yesterday," said the attorney.

"Then you must recollect how thoroughly you were convinced that your
client had not a leg to stand upon."

"It was I that insisted that he should not carry it before the
Chancellor. Crook had the general management of those cases then, and
would have gone on; but I said, no. I would not see my client's money
wasted in such a wild-goose chase. In the first place the property
was not worth it; and in the next place there was nothing to impugn
the will. If I remember right it all turned on whether an old man who
had signed as witness was well enough to write his name."

"That was the point."

"And I think it was shown that he had himself signed a receipt on
that very day--or the day after, or the day before. It was something
of that kind."

"Exactly; those were the facts. As regards the result of a new trial,
no sane man, I fancy, could have any doubt. You know as well as any
one living how great is the strength of twenty years of possession--"

"It would be very strong on her side, certainly."

"He would not have a chance; of course not. But, Mr. Round, he might
make that poor woman so wretched that death would be a relief to her.
Now it may be possible that something looking like fresh evidence
may have been discovered; something of this kind probably has been
found, or this man would not be moving; he would not have gone to the
expense of a journey to Yorkshire had he not got hold of some new
story."

"He has something in his head; you may be sure of that."

"Don't let your son be run away with by this, or advise your client
to incur the terrible expense of a new trial, without knowing what
you are about. I tell you fairly that I do dread such a trial on this
poor lady's account. Reflect what it would be, Mr. Round, to any lady
of your own family."

"I don't think Mrs. Round would mind it much; that is, if she were
sure of her case."

"She is a strong-minded woman; but poor Lady Mason--."

"She was strong-minded enough too, if I remember right, at the last
trial. I shall never forget how composed she was when old Bennett
tried to shake her evidence. Do you remember how bothered he was?"

"He was an excellent lawyer,--was Bennett. There are few better men
at the bar now-a-days."

"You wouldn't have found him down here, Mr. Furnival, listening to a
German lecture three hours long. I don't know how it is, but I think
we all used to work harder in those days than the young men do now."
And then these eulogists of past days went back to the memories of
their youths, declaring how in the old glorious years, now gone, no
congress such as this would have had a chance of success. Men had
men's work to do then, and were not wont to play the fool, first at
one provincial town and then at another, but stuck to their oars and
made their fortunes. "It seems to me, Mr. Furnival," said Mr. Round,
"that this is all child's play, and to tell the truth I am half
ashamed of myself for being here."

"And you'll look into that matter yourself, Mr. Round?"

"Yes, I will, certainly."

"I shall take it as a great favour. Of course you will advise your
client in accordance with any new facts which may be brought before
you; but as I feel certain that no case against young Mason can have
any merits, I do hope that you will be able to suggest to Mr. Mason
of Groby that the matter should be allowed to rest." And then Mr.
Furnival took his leave, still thinking how far it might be possible
that the enemy's side of the question might be supported by real
merits. Mr. Round was a good-natured old fellow, and if the case
could be inveigled out of his son's hands and into his own, it might
be possible that even real merits should avail nothing.

"I confess I am getting rather tired of it," said Felix Graham that
evening to his friend young Staveley, as he stood outside his bedroom
door at the top of a narrow flight of stairs in the back part of a
large hotel at Birmingham.

"Tired of it! I should think you are too."

"But nevertheless I am as sure as ever that good will come from it.
I am inclined to think that the same kind of thing must be endured
before any improvement is made in anything."

"That all reformers have to undergo Von Bauhr?"

"Yes, all of them that do any good. Von Bauhr's words were very dry,
no doubt."

"You don't mean to say that you understood them?"

"Not many of them. A few here and there, for the first half-hour,
came trembling home to my dull comprehension, and then--"

"You went to sleep."

"The sounds became too difficult for my ears; but dry and dull and
hard as they were, they will not absolutely fall to the ground. He
had a meaning in them, and that meaning will reproduce itself in some
shape."

"Heaven forbid that it should ever do so in my presence! All the
iniquities of which the English bar may be guilty cannot be so
intolerable to humanity as Von Bauhr."

"Well, good-night, old fellow; your governor is to give us his ideas
to-morrow, and perhaps he will be as bad to the Germans as your Von
Bauhr was to us."

"Then I can only say that my governor will be very cruel to the
Germans." And so they two went to their dreams.

In the mean time Von Bauhr was sitting alone looking back on the past
hours with ideas and views very different from those of the many
English lawyers who were at that time discussing his demerits. To him
the day had been one long triumph, for his voice had sounded sweet
in his own ears as, period after period, he had poured forth in full
flowing language the gathered wisdom and experience of his life.
Public men in England have so much to do that they cannot give time
to the preparation of speeches for such meetings as these, but Von
Bauhr had been at work on his pamphlet for months. Nay, taking it in
the whole, had he not been at work on it for years? And now a kind
Providence had given him the opportunity of pouring it forth before
the assembled pundits gathered from all the nations of the civilised
world.

As he sat there, solitary in his bedroom, his hands dropped down by
his side, his pipe hung from his mouth on to his breast, and his
eyes, turned up to the ceiling, were lighted almost with inspiration.
Men there at the congress, Mr. Chaffanbrass, young Staveley, Felix
Graham, and others, had regarded him as an impersonation of dullness;
but through his mind and brain, as he sat there wrapped in his old
dressing-gown, there ran thoughts which seemed to lift him lightly
from the earth into an elysium of justice and mercy. And at the
end of this elysium, which was not wild in its beauty, but trim
and orderly in its gracefulness,--as might be a beer-garden at
Munich,--there stood among flowers and vases a pedestal, grand above
all other pedestals in that garden; and on this there was a bust with
an inscription:--"To Von Bauhr, who reformed the laws of nations."

It was a grand thought; and though there was in it much of human
conceit, there was in it also much of human philanthropy. If a reign
of justice could be restored through his efforts--through those
efforts in which on this hallowed day he had been enabled to make
so great a progress--how beautiful would it be! And then as he sat
there, while the smoke still curled from his unconscious nostrils, he
felt that he loved all Germans, all Englishmen, even all Frenchmen,
in his very heart of hearts, and especially those who had travelled
wearily to this English town that they might listen to the results
of his wisdom. He said to himself, and said truly, that he loved
the world, and that he would willingly spend himself in these great
endeavours for the amelioration of its laws and the perfection of its
judicial proceedings. And then he betook himself to bed in a frame of
mind that was not unenviable.

I am inclined, myself, to agree with Felix Graham that such efforts
are seldom absolutely wasted. A man who strives honestly to do good
will generally do good, though seldom perhaps as much as he has
himself anticipated. Let Von Bauhr have his pedestal among the
flowers, even though it be small and humble!



CHAPTER XVIII

THE ENGLISH VON BAUHR


On the following morning, before breakfast, Felix Graham and Augustus
Staveley prepared themselves for the labours of the coming day by a
walk into the country; for even at Birmingham, by perseverance, a
walk into the country may be attained,--and very pretty country it
is when reached. These congress meetings did not begin before eleven,
so that for those who were active time for matutinal exercise was
allowed.

Augustus Staveley was the only son of the judge who on that day was
to defend the laws of England from such attacks as might be made on
them by a very fat advocate from Florence. Of Judge Staveley himself
much need not be said now, except that he lived at Noningsby near
Alston, distant from The Cleeve about nine miles, and that at his
house Sophia Furnival had been invited to pass the coming Christmas.
His son was a handsome clever fellow, who had nearly succeeded in
getting the Newdegate, and was now a member of the Middle Temple. He
was destined to follow the steps of his father, and become a light
at the Common Law bar; but hitherto he had not made much essential
progress. The world had been too pleasant to him to allow of his
giving many of his hours to work. His father was one of the best men
in the world, revered on the bench, and loved by all men; but he
had not sufficient parental sternness to admit of his driving his
son well into harness. He himself had begun the world with little
or nothing, and had therefore succeeded; but his son was already
possessed of almost everything that he could want, and therefore his
success seemed doubtful. His chambers were luxuriously furnished, he
had his horse in Piccadilly, his father's house at Noningsby was
always open to him, and the society of London spread out for him all
its allurements. Under such circumstances how could it be expected
that he should work? Nevertheless he did talk of working, and had
some idea in his head of the manner in which he would do so. To a
certain extent he had worked, and he could talk fluently of the
little that he knew. The idea of a _far niente_ life would have been
intolerable to him; but there were many among his friends who began
to think that such a life would nevertheless be his ultimate destiny.
Nor did it much matter, they said, for the judge was known to have
made money.

But his friend Felix Graham was rowing in a very different boat; and
of him also many prophesied that he would hardly be able to push his
craft up against the strength of the stream. Not that he was an idle
man, but that he would not work at his oars in the only approved
method of making progress for his boat. He also had been at Oxford;
but he had done little there except talk at a debating society, and
make himself notorious by certain ideas on religious subjects which
were not popular at the University. He had left without taking a
degree, in consequence, as it was believed, of some such notions,
and had now been called to the bar with a fixed resolve to open the
oyster with such weapons, offensive and defensive, as nature had
given to him. But here, as at Oxford, he would not labour on the
same terms with other men, or make himself subject to the same
conventional rules; and therefore it seemed only too probable that he
might win no prize. He had ideas of his own that men should pursue
their labours without special conventional regulations, but should be
guided in their work by the general great rules of the world,--such
for instance as those given in the commandments:--Thou shalt not bear
false witness; Thou shalt not steal; and others. His notions no doubt
were great, and perhaps were good; but hitherto they had not led him
to much pecuniary success in his profession. A sort of a name he
had obtained, but it was not a name sweet in the ears of practising
attorneys.

And yet it behoved Felix Graham to make money, for none was coming
to him ready made from any father. Father or mother he had none, nor
uncles and aunts likely to be of service to him. He had begun the
world with some small sum, which had grown smaller and smaller, till
now there was left to him hardly enough to create an infinitesimal
dividend. But he was not a man to become downhearted on that
account. A living of some kind he could pick up, and did now procure
for himself, from the press of the day. He wrote poetry for the
periodicals, and politics for the penny papers with considerable
success and sufficient pecuniary results. He would sooner do this, he
often boasted, than abandon his great ideas or descend into the arena
with other weapons than those which he regarded as fitting for an
honest man's hand.

Augustus Staveley, who could be very prudent for his friend, declared
that marriage would set him right. If Felix would marry he would
quietly slip his neck into the collar and work along with the team,
as useful a horse as ever was put at the wheel of a coach. But Felix
did not seem inclined to marry. He had notions about that also, and
was believed by one or two who knew him intimately to cherish an
insane affection for some unknown damsel, whose parentage, education,
and future were not likely to assist his views in the outer world.
Some said that he was educating this damsel for his wife,--moulding
her, so that she might be made fit to suit his taste; but Augustus,
though he knew the secret of all this, was of opinion that it would
come right at last. "He'll meet some girl in the world with a hatful
of money, a pretty face, and a sharp tongue; then he'll bestow his
moulded bride on a neighbouring baker with two hundred pounds for her
fortune;--and everybody will be happy."

Felix Graham was by no means a handsome man. He was tall and thin,
and his face had been slightly marked with the small-pox. He stooped
in his gait as he walked, and was often awkward with his hands and
legs. But he was full of enthusiasm, indomitable, as far as pluck
would make him so, in contests of all kinds, and when he talked on
subjects which were near his heart there was a radiance about him
which certainly might win the love of the pretty girl with the sharp
tongue and the hatful of money. Staveley, who really loved him, had
already selected the prize, and she was no other than our friend,
Sophia Furnival. The sharp tongue and the pretty face and the hatful
of money would all be there; but then Sophia Furnival was a girl who
might perhaps expect in return for these things more than an ugly
face which could occasionally become radiant with enthusiasm.

The two men had got away from the thickness of the Birmingham smoke,
and were seated on the top rung of a gate leading into a stubble
field. So far they had gone with mutual consent, but further than
this Staveley refused to go. He was seated with a cigar in his mouth.
Graham also was smoking, but he was accommodated with a short pipe.

"A walk before breakfast is all very well," said Staveley, "but I
am not going on a pilgrimage. We are four miles from the inn this
minute."

"And for your energies that is a good deal. Only think that you
should have been doing anything for two hours before you begin to
feed."

"I wonder why matutinal labour should always be considered as so
meritorious. Merely, I take it, because it is disagreeable."

"It proves that the man can make an effort."

"Every prig who wishes to have it believed that he does more than his
neighbours either burns the midnight lamp or gets up at four in the
morning. Good wholesome work between breakfast and dinner never seems
to count for anything."

"Have you ever tried?"

"Yes; I am trying now, here at Birmingham."

"Not you."

"That's so like you, Graham. You don't believe that anybody is
attending to what is going on except yourself. I mean to-day to take
in the whole theory of Italian jurisprudence."

"I have no doubt that you may do so with advantage. I do not suppose
that it is very good, but it must at any rate be better than our own.
Come, let us go back to the town; my pipe is finished."

"Fill another, there's a good fellow. I can't afford to throw away my
cigar, and I hate walking and smoking. You mean to assert that our
whole system is bad, and rotten, and unjust?"

"I mean to say that I think so."

"And yet we consider ourselves the greatest people in the world,--or
at any rate the honestest."

"I think we are; but laws and their management have nothing to do
with making people honest. Good laws won't make people honest, nor
bad laws dishonest."

"But a people who are dishonest in one trade will probably be
dishonest in others. Now, you go so far as to say that all English
lawyers are rogues."

"I have never said so. I believe your father to be as honest a man as
ever breathed."

"Thank you, sir," and Staveley lifted his hat.

"And I would fain hope that I am an honest man myself."

"Ah, but you don't make money by it."

"What I do mean is this, that from our love of precedent and ceremony
and old usages, we have retained a system which contains many of
the barbarities of the feudal times, and also many of its lies. We
try our culprit as we did in the old days of the ordeal. If luck
will carry him through the hot ploughshares, we let him escape
though we know him to be guilty. We give him the advantage of every
technicality, and teach him to lie in his own defence, if nature has
not sufficiently so taught him already."

"You mean as to his plea of not guilty."

"No, I don't; that is little or nothing. We ask him whether or no he
confesses his guilt in a foolish way, tending to induce him to deny
it; but that is not much. Guilt seldom will confess as long as a
chance remains. But we teach him to lie, or rather we lie for him
during the whole ceremony of his trial. We think it merciful to give
him chances of escape, and hunt him as we do a fox, in obedience to
certain laws framed for his protection."

"And should he have no protection?"

"None certainly, as a guilty man; none which may tend towards the
concealing of his guilt. Till that be ascertained, proclaimed, and
made apparent, every man's hand should be against him."

"But if he is innocent?"

"Therefore let him be tried with every possible care. I know you
understand what I mean, though you look as though you did not. For
the protection of his innocence let astute and good men work their
best, but for the concealing of his guilt let no astute or good man
work at all."

"And you would leave the poor victim in the dock without defence?"

"By no means. Let the poor victim, as you call him,--who in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred is a rat who has been preying in
our granaries,--let him, I say, have his defender,--the defender of
his possible innocence, not the protector of his probable guilt. It,
all resolves itself into this. Let every lawyer go into court with
a mind resolved to make conspicuous to the light of day that which
seems to him to be the truth. A lawyer who does not do that--who does
the reverse of that, has in my mind undertaken work which is unfit
for a gentleman and impossible for an honest man."

"What a pity it is that you should not have an opportunity of
rivalling Von Bauhr at the congress!"

"I have no doubt that Von Bauhr said a great deal of the same nature;
and what Von Bauhr said will not wholly be wasted, though it may not
yet have reached our sublime understandings."

"Perhaps he will vouchsafe to us a translation."

"It would be useless at present, seeing that we cannot bring
ourselves to believe it possible that a foreigner should in any
respect be wiser than ourselves. If any such point out to us our
follies, we at once claim those follies as the special evidences of
our wisdom. We are so self-satisfied with our own customs, that we
hold up our hands with surprise at the fatuity of men who presume
to point out to us their defects. Those practices in which we most
widely depart from the broad and recognised morality of all civilised
ages and countries are to us the Palladiums of our jurisprudence.
Modes of proceeding which, if now first proposed to us, would be
thought to come direct from the devil, have been made so sacred by
time that they have lost all the horror of their falseness in the
holiness of their age. We cannot understand that other nations look
upon such doings as we regard the human sacrifices of the Brahmins;
but the fact is that we drive a Juggernaut's car through every assize
town in the country, three times a year, and allow it to be dragged
ruthlessly through the streets of the metropolis at all times and
seasons. Now come back to breakfast, for I won't wait here any
longer." Seeing that these were the ideas of Felix Graham, it is
hardly a matter of wonder that such men as Mr. Furnival and Mr. Round
should have regarded his success at the bar as doubtful.

"Uncommon bad mutton chops these are," said Staveley, as they sat at
their meal in the coffee-room of the Imperial Hotel.

"Are they?" said Graham. "They seem to me much the same as other
mutton chops."

"They are uneatable. And look at this for coffee! Waiter, take this
away, and have some made fresh."

"Yes, sir," said the waiter, striving to escape without further
comment.

"And waiter--"

"Yes, sir;" and the poor overdriven functionary returned.

"Ask them from me whether they know how to make coffee. It does not
consist of an unlimited supply of lukewarm water poured over an
infinitesimal proportion of chicory. That process, time-honoured in
the hotel line, will not produce the beverage called coffee. Will you
have the goodness to explain that in the bar as coming from me?"

"Yes, sir," said the waiter; and then he was allowed to disappear.

"How can you give yourself so much trouble with no possible hope of
an advantageous result?" said Felix Graham.

"That's what you weak men always say. Perseverance in such a course
will produce results. It is because we put up with bad things that
hotel-keepers continue to give them to us. Three or four Frenchmen
were dining with my father yesterday at the King's Head, and I had to
sit at the bottom of the table. I declare to you that I literally
blushed for my country; I did indeed. It was useless to say anything
then, but it was quite clear that there was nothing that one of them
could eat. At any hotel in France you'll get a good dinner; but we're
so proud that we are ashamed to take lessons." And thus Augustus
Staveley was quite as loud against his own country, and as laudatory
with regard to others, as Felix Graham had been before breakfast.

And so the congress went on at Birmingham. The fat Italian from
Tuscany read his paper; but as he, though judge in his own country
and reformer here in England, was somewhat given to comedy, this
morning was not so dull as that which had been devoted to Von Bauhr.
After him Judge Staveley made a very elegant, and some said, a very
eloquent speech; and so that day was done. Many other days also wore
themselves away in this process; numerous addresses were read, and
answers made to them, and the newspapers for the time were full of
law. The defence of our own system, which was supposed to be the most
remarkable for its pertinacity, if not for its justice, came from Mr.
Furnival, who roused himself to a divine wrath for the occasion. And
then the famous congress at Birmingham was brought to a close, and
all the foreigners returned to their own countries.



CHAPTER XIX

THE STAVELEY FAMILY


The next two months passed by without any events which deserve our
special notice, unless it be that Mr. Joseph Mason and Mr. Dockwrath
had a meeting in the room of Mr. Matthew Round, in Bedford Row. Mr.
Dockwrath struggled hard to effect this without the presence of the
London attorney; but he struggled in vain. Mr. Round was not the man
to allow any stranger to tamper with his client, and Mr. Dockwrath
was forced to lower his flag before him. The result was that the
document or documents which had been discovered at Hamworth were
brought up to Bedford Row; and Dockwrath at last made up his mind
that as he could not supplant Matthew Round, he would consent to
fight under him as his lieutenant--or even as his sergeant or
corporal, if no higher position might be allowed to him.

"There is something in it, certainly, Mr. Mason," said young Round;
"but I cannot undertake to say as yet that we are in a position to
prove the point."

"It will be proved," said Mr. Dockwrath.

"I confess it seems to me very clear," said Mr. Mason, who by this
time had been made to understand the bearings of the question. "It
is evident that she chose that day for her date because those two
persons had then been called upon to act as witnesses to that other
deed."

"That of course is our allegation. I only say that we may have some
difficulty in proving it."

"The crafty, thieving swindler!" exclaimed Mr. Mason. "She has been
sharp enough if it is as we think," said Round, laughing; and then
there was nothing more done in the matter for some time, to the great
disgust both of Mr. Dockwrath and Mr. Mason. Old Mr. Round had kept
his promise to Mr. Furnival; or, at least, had done something towards
keeping it. He had not himself taken the matter into his own hands,
but he had begged his son to be cautious. "It's not the sort of
business that we care for, Mat," said he; "and as for that fellow
down in Yorkshire, I never liked him." To this Mat had answered that
neither did he like Mr. Mason; but as the case had about it some very
remarkable points, it was necessary to look into it; and then the
matter was allowed to stand over till after Christmas.

We will now change the scene to Noningsby, the judge's country
seat, near Alston, at which a party was assembled for the Christmas
holidays. The judge was there of course,--without his wig; in which
guise I am inclined to think that judges spend the more comfortable
hours of their existence; and there also was Lady Staveley, her
presence at home being altogether a matter of course, inasmuch as she
had no other home than Noningsby. For many years past, ever since the
happy day on which Noningsby had been acquired, she had repudiated
London; and the poor judge, when called upon by his duties to reside
there, was compelled to live like a bachelor, in lodgings. Lady
Staveley was a good, motherly, warm-hearted woman, who thought a
great deal about her flowers and fruit, believing that no one else
had them so excellent,--much also about her butter and eggs, which
in other houses were, in her opinion, generally unfit to be eaten;
she thought also a great deal about her children, who were all
swans,--though, as she often observed with a happy sigh, those of her
neighbours were so uncommonly like geese. But she thought most of
all of her husband, who in her eyes was the perfection of all manly
virtues. She had made up her mind that the position of a puisne judge
in England was the highest which could fall to the lot of any mere
mortal. To become a Lord Chancellor, or a Lord Chief Justice, or
a Chief Baron, a man must dabble with Parliament, politics, and
dirt; but the bench-fellows of these politicians were selected for
their wisdom, high conduct, knowledge, and discretion. Of all such
selections, that made by the late king when he chose her husband, was
the one which had done most honour to England, and had been in all
its results most beneficial to Englishmen. Such was her creed with
reference to domestic matters.

The Staveley young people at present were only two in number,
Augustus, namely, and his sister Madeline. The eldest daughter was
married, and therefore, though she spent these Christmas holidays at
Noningsby, must not be regarded as one of the Noningsby family. Of
Augustus we have said enough; but as I intend that Madeline Staveley
shall, to many of my readers, be the most interesting personage
in this story, I must pause to say something of her. I must say
something of her; and as, with all women, the outward and visible
signs of grace and beauty are those which are thought of the most, or
at any rate spoken of the oftenest, I will begin with her exterior
attributes. And that the muses may assist me in my endeavour,
teaching my rough hands to draw with some accuracy the delicate lines
of female beauty, I now make to them my humble but earnest prayer.

Madeline Staveley was at this time about nineteen years of age. That
she was perfect in her beauty I cannot ask the muses to say, but that
she will some day become so, I think the goddesses may be requested
to prophesy. At present she was very slight, and appeared to be
almost too tall for her form. She was indeed above the average height
of women, and from her brother encountered some ridicule on this
head; but not the less were all her movements soft, graceful, and
fawnlike as should be those of a young girl. She was still at this
time a child in heart and spirit, and could have played as a child
had not the instinct of a woman taught to her the expediency of a
staid demeanour. There is nothing among the wonders of womanhood more
wonderful than this, that the young mind and young heart,--hearts and
minds young as youth can make them, and in their natures as gay,--can
assume the gravity and discretion of threescore years and maintain
it successfully before all comers. And this is done, not as a lesson
that has been taught, but as the result of an instinct implanted from
the birth. Let us remember the mirth of our sisters in our homes, and
their altered demeanours when those homes were opened to strangers;
and remember also that this change had come from the inward working
of their own feminine natures!

But I am altogether departing from Madeline Staveley's external
graces. It was a pity almost that she should ever have become grave,
because with her it was her smile that was so lovely. She smiled with
her whole face. There was at such moments a peculiar laughing light
in her gray eyes, which inspired one with an earnest desire to be in
her confidence; she smiled with her soft cheek, the light tints of
which would become a shade more pink from the excitement, as they
softly rippled into dimples; she smiled with her forehead which would
catch the light from her eyes and arch itself in its glory; but above
all she smiled with her mouth, just showing, but hardly showing, the
beauty of the pearls within. I never saw the face of a woman whose
mouth was equal in pure beauty, in beauty that was expressive of
feeling, to that of Madeline Staveley. Many have I seen with a richer
lip, with a more luxurious curve, much more tempting as baits to the
villainy and rudeness of man; but never one that told so much by
its own mute eloquence of a woman's happy heart and a woman's happy
beauty. It was lovely as I have said in its mirth, but if possible it
was still more lovely in its woe; for then the lips would separate,
and the breath would come, and in the emotion of her suffering the
life of her beauty would be unrestrained.

Her face was oval, and some might say that it was almost too thin;
they might say so till they knew it well, but would never say so when
they did so know it. Her complexion was not clear, though it would be
wrong to call her a brunette. Her face and forehead were never brown,
but yet she could not boast the pure pink and the pearly white which
go to the formation of a clear complexion. For myself I am not sure
that I love a clear complexion. Pink and white alone will not give
that hue which seems best to denote light and life, and to tell of
a mind that thinks and of a heart that feels. I can name no colour
in describing the soft changing tints of Madeline Staveley's face,
but I will make bold to say that no man ever found it insipid or
inexpressive.

And now what remains for me to tell? Her nose was Grecian, but
perhaps a little too wide at the nostril to be considered perfect
in its chiselling. Her hair was soft and brown,--that dark brown
which by some lights is almost black; but she was not a girl whose
loveliness depended much upon her hair. With some women it is their
great charm,--Neæras who love to sit half sleeping in the shade,--but
it is a charm that possesses no powerful eloquence. All beauty of a
high order should speak, and Madeline's beauty was ever speaking. And
now that I have said that, I believe that I have told all that may
be necessary to place her outward form before the inward eyes of my
readers.

In commencing this description I said that I would begin with her
exterior; but it seems to me now that in speaking of these I have
sufficiently noted also that which was within. Of her actual thoughts
and deeds up to this period it is not necessary for our purposes that
anything should be told; but of that which she might probably think
or might possibly do, a fair guess may, I hope, be made from that
which has been already written.

Such was the Staveley family. Those of their guests whom it is
necessary that I should now name, have been already introduced to us.
Miss Furnival was there, as was also her father. He had not intended
to make any prolonged stay at Noningsby,--at least so he had said in
his own drawing-room; but nevertheless he had now been there for a
week, and it seemed probable that he might stay over Christmas-day.
And Felix Graham was there. He had been asked with a special purpose
by his friend Augustus, as we already have heard; in order, namely,
that he might fall in love with Sophia Furnival, and by the aid of
her supposed hatful of money avoid the evils which would otherwise so
probably be the consequence of his highly impracticable turn of mind.
The judge was not averse to Felix Graham; but as he himself was a
man essentially practical in all his views, it often occurred that,
in his mild kindly way, he ridiculed the young barrister. And Sir
Peregrine Orme was there, being absent from home as on a very rare
occasion; and with him of course were Mrs. Orme and his grandson.
Young Perry was making, or was prepared to make, somewhat of a
prolonged stay at Noningsby. He had a horse there with him for the
hunting, which was changed now and again; his groom going backwards
and forwards between that place and The Cleeve. Sir Peregrine,
however, intended to return before Christmas, and Mrs. Orme would go
with him. He had come for four days, which for him had been a long
absence from home, and at the end of the four days he would be gone.

They were all sitting in the dining-room round the luncheon-table
on a hopelessly wet morning, listening to a lecture from the judge
on the abomination of eating meat in the middle of the day, when a
servant came behind young Orme's chair and told him that Mr. Mason
was in the breakfast-parlour and wished to see him.

"Who wishes to see you?" said the baronet in a tone of surprise. He
had caught the name, and thought at the moment that it was the owner
of Groby Park.

"Lucius Mason," said Peregrine, getting up. "I wonder what he can
want me for?"

"Oh, Lucius Mason," said the grandfather. Since the discourse about
agriculture he was not personally much attached even to Lucius; but
for his mother's sake he could be forgiven.

"Pray ask him into lunch," said Lady Staveley. Something had been
said about Lady Mason since the Ormes had been at Noningsby, and the
Staveley family were prepared to regard her with sympathy, and if
necessary with the right hand of fellowship.

"He is the great agriculturist, is he not?" said Augustus. "Bring him
in by all means; there is no knowing how much we may not learn before
dinner on such a day as this."

"He is an ally of mine; and you must not laugh at him," said Miss
Furnival, who was sitting next to Augustus.

But Lucius Mason did not come in. Young Orme remained with him for
about a quarter of an hour, and then returned to the room, declaring
with rather a serious face, that he must ride to Hamworth and back
before dinner.

"Are you going with young Mason?" asked his grandfather.

"Yes, sir; he wishes me to do something for him at Hamworth, and I
cannot well refuse him."

"You are not going to fight a duel!" said Lady Staveley, holding up
her hands in horror as the idea came across her brain.

"A duel!" screamed Mrs. Orme. "Oh, Peregrine!"

"There can be nothing of the sort," said the judge. "I should think
that young Mason is not so foolish; and I am sure that Peregrine Orme
is not."

"I have not heard of anything of the kind," said Peregrine, laughing.

"Promise me, Peregrine," said his mother. "Say that you promise me."

"My dearest mother, I have no more thought of it than you
have;--indeed I may say not so much."

"You will be back to dinner?" said Lady Staveley.

"Oh yes, certainly."

"And tell Mr. Mason," said the judge, "that if he will return with
you we shall be delighted to see him."

The errand which took Peregrine Orme off to Hamworth will be
explained in the next chapter, but his going led to a discussion
among the gentlemen after dinner as to the position in which Lady
Mason was now placed. There was no longer any possibility of keeping
the matter secret, seeing that Mr. Dockwrath had taken great care
that every one in Hamworth should hear of it. He had openly declared
that evidence would now be adduced to prove that Sir Joseph Mason's
widow had herself forged the will, and had said to many people that
Mr. Mason of Groby had determined to indict her for forgery. This
had gone so far that Lucius had declared as openly that he would
prosecute the attorney for a libel, and Dockwrath had sent him word
that he was quite welcome to do so if he pleased.

"It is a scandalous state of things," said Sir Peregrine, speaking
with much enthusiasm, and no little temper, on the subject. "Here is
a question which was settled twenty years ago to the satisfaction of
every one who knew anything of the case, and now it is brought up
again that two men may wreak their vengeance on a poor widow. They
are not men; they are brutes."

"But why does she not bring an action against this attorney?" said
young Staveley.

"Such actions do not easily lie," said his father. "It may be quite
true that Dockwrath may have said all manner of evil things against
this lady, and yet it may be very difficult to obtain evidence of a
libel. It seems to me from what I have heard that the man himself
wishes such an action to be brought."

"And think of the state of poor Lady Mason!" said Mr. Furnival.
"Conceive the misery which it would occasion her if she were dragged
forward to give evidence on such a matter!"

"I believe it would kill her," said Sir Peregrine.

"The best means of assisting her would be to give her some
countenance," said the judge; "and from all that I can hear of her,
she deserves it."

"She does deserve it," said Sir Peregrine, "and she shall have it.
The people at Hamworth shall see at any rate that my daughter regards
her as a fit associate. I am happy to say that she is coming to The
Cleeve on my return home, and that she will remain there till after
Christmas."

"It is a very singular case," said Felix Graham, who had been
thinking over the position of the lady hitherto in silence.

"Indeed it is," said the judge; "and it shows how careful men should
be in all matters relating to their wills. The will and the codicil,
as it appears, are both in the handwriting of the widow, who acted
as an amanuensis not only for her husband but for the attorney. That
fact does not in my mind produce suspicion; but I do not doubt that
it has produced all this suspicion in the mind of the claimant. The
attorney who advised Sir Joseph should have known better."

"It is one of those cases," continued Graham, "in which the sufferer
should be protected by the very fact of her own innocence. No lawyer
should consent to take up the cudgels against her."

"I am afraid that she will not escape persecution from any such
professional chivalry," said the judge.

"All that is moonshine," said Mr. Furnival.

"And moonshine is a very pretty thing if you were not too much afraid
of the night air to go and look at it. If the matter be as you all
say, I do think that any gentleman would disgrace himself by lending
a hand against her."

"Upon my word, sir, I fully agree with you," said Sir Peregrine,
bowing to Felix Graham over his glass.

"I will take permission to think, Sir Peregrine," said Mr. Furnival,
"that you would not agree with Mr. Graham if you had given to the
matter much deep consideration."

"I have not had the advantage of a professional education," said Sir
Peregrine, again bowing, and on this occasion addressing himself to
the lawyer; "but I cannot see how any amount of learning should alter
my views on such a subject."

"Truth and honour cannot be altered by any professional
arrangements," said Graham; and then the conversation turned away
from Lady Mason, and directed itself to those great corrections of
legal reform which had been debated during the past autumn.

The Orley Farm Case, though in other forms and different language,
was being discussed also in the drawing-room. "I have not seen much
of her," said Sophia Furnival, who by some art had usurped the most
prominent part in the conversation, "but what I did see I liked much.
She was at The Cleeve when I was staying there, if you remember, Mrs.
Orme." Mrs. Orme said that she did remember.

"And we went over to Orley Farm. Poor lady! I think everybody ought
to notice her under such circumstances. Papa, I know, would move
heaven and earth for her if he could."

"I cannot move the heaven or the earth either," said Lady Staveley;
"but if I thought that my calling on her would be any satisfaction to
her--"

"It would, Lady Staveley," said Mrs. Orme. "It would be a great
satisfaction to her. I cannot tell you how warmly I regard her, nor
how perfectly Sir Peregrine esteems her."

"We will drive over there next week, Madeline."

"Do, mamma. Everybody says that she is very nice."

"It will be so kind of you, Lady Staveley," said Sophia Furnival.

"Next week she will be staying with us," said Mrs. Orme. "And that
would save you three miles, you know, and we should be so glad to see
you."

Lady Staveley declared that she would do both. She would call at
The Cleeve, and again at Orley Farm after Lady Mason's return home.
She well understood, though she could not herself then say so, that
the greater part of the advantage to be received from her kindness
would be derived from its being known at Hamworth that the Staveley
carriage had been driven up to Lady Mason's door.

"Her son is very clever, is he not?" said Madeline, addressing
herself to Miss Furnival.

Sophia shrugged her shoulders and put her head on one side with a
pretty grace. "Yes, I believe so. People say so. But who is to tell
whether a young man be clever or no?"

"But some are so much more clever than others. Don't you think so?"

"Oh yes, as some girls are so much prettier than others. But if Mr.
Mason were to talk Greek to you, you would not think him clever."

"I should not understand him, you know."

"Of course not; but you would understand that he was a blockhead to
show off his learning in that way. You don't want him to be clever,
you see; you only want him to be agreeable."

"I don't know that I want either the one or the other."

"Do you not? I know I do. I think that young men in society are bound
to be agreeable, and that they should not be there if they do not
know how to talk pleasantly, and to give something in return for all
the trouble we take for them."

"I don't take any trouble for them," said Madeline laughing.

"Surely you must, if you only think of it. All ladies do, and so they
ought. But if in return for that a man merely talks Greek to me, I,
for my part, do not think that the bargain is fairly carried out."

"I declare you will make me quite afraid of Mr. Mason."

"Oh, he never talks Greek;--at least he never has to me. I rather
like him. But what I mean is this, that I do not think a man a bit
more likely to be agreeable because he has the reputation of being
very clever. For my part I rather think that I like stupid young
men."

"Oh, do you? Then now I shall know what you think of Augustus. We
think he is very clever; but I do not know any man who makes himself
more popular with young ladies."

"Ah, then he is a gay deceiver."

"He is gay enough, but I am sure he is no deceiver. A man may make
himself nice to young ladies without deceiving any of them; may he
not?"

"You must not take me 'au pied de la lettre,' Miss Staveley, or I
shall be lost. Of course he may. But when young gentlemen are so very
nice, young ladies are so apt to--"

"To what?"

"Not to fall in love with them exactly, but to be ready to be fallen
in love with, and then if a man does do it he is a deceiver. I
declare it seems to me that we don't allow them a chance of going
right."

"I think that Augustus manages to steer through such difficulties
very cleverly."

"He sails about in the open sea, touching at all the most lovely
capes and promontories, and is never driven on shore by stress of
weather! What a happy sailor he must be!"

"I think he is happy, and that he makes others so."

"He ought to be made an admiral at once But we shall hear some day of
his coming to a terrible shipwreck."

"Oh, I hope not!"

"He will return home in desperate plight, with only two planks left
together, with all his glory and beauty broken and crumpled to pieces
against some rock that he has despised in his pride."

"Why do you prophesy such terrible things for him?"

"I mean that he will get married."

"Get married! of course he will. That's just what we all want. You
don't call that a shipwreck; do you?"

"It's the sort of shipwreck that these very gallant barks have to
encounter."

"You don't mean that he'll marry a disagreeable wife!"

"Oh, no; not in the least. I only mean to say that like other sons of
Adam, he will have to strike his colours. I dare say, if the truth
were known, he has done so already."

"I am sure he has not."

"I don't at all ask to know his secrets, and I should look upon you
as a very bad sister if you told them."

"But I am sure he has not got any,--of that kind."

"Would he tell you if he had?"

"Oh, I hope so; any serious secret. I am sure he ought, for I am
always thinking about him."

"And would you tell him your secrets?"

"I have none."

"But when you have, will you do so?"

"Will I? Well, yes; I think so. But a girl has no such secret," she
continued to say, after pausing for a moment. "None, generally, at
least, which she tells, even to herself, till the time comes in
which she tells it to all whom she really loves." And then there was
another pause for a moment.

"I am not quite so sure of that," said Miss Furnival. After which the
gentlemen came into the drawing-room.

Augustus Staveley had gone to work in a manner which he conceived to
be quite systematic, having before him the praiseworthy object of
making a match between Felix Graham and Sophia Furnival. "By George,
Graham," he had said, "the finest girl in London is coming down to
Noningsby; upon my word I think she is."

"And brought there expressly for your delectation, I suppose."

"Oh no, not at all; indeed, she is not exactly in my style; she is
too,--too,--too--in point of fact, too much of a girl for me. She has
lots of money, and is very clever, and all that kind of thing."

"I never knew you so humble before."

"I am not joking at all. She is a daughter of old Furnival's, whom
by-the-by I hate as I do poison. Why my governor has him down at
Noningsby I can't guess. But I tell you what, old fellow, he can give
his daughter five-and-twenty thousand pounds. Think of that, Master
Brook." But Felix Graham was a man who could not bring himself to
think much of such things on the spur of the moment, and when he was
introduced to Sophia, he did not seem to be taken with her in any
wonderful way.

Augustus had asked his mother to help him, but she had laughed at
him. "It would be a splendid arrangement," he had said with energy.
"Nonsense, Gus," she had answered. "You should always let those
things take their chance. All I will ask of you is that you don't
fall in love with her yourself; I don't think her family would be
nice enough for you."

But Felix Graham certainly was ungrateful for the friendship spent
upon him, and so his friend felt it. Augustus had contrived to
whisper into the lady's ear that Mr. Graham was the cleverest young
man now rising at the bar, and as far as she was concerned, some
amount of intimacy might at any rate have been produced; but he,
Graham himself, would not put himself forward. "I will pique him into
it," said Augustus to himself, and therefore when on this occasion
they came into the drawing-room, Staveley immediately took a vacant
seat beside Miss Furnival, with the very friendly object which he had
proposed to himself.

There was great danger in this, for Miss Furnival was certainly
handsome, and Augustus Staveley was very susceptible. But what will
not a man go through for his friend? "I hope we are to have the
honour of your company as far as Monkton Grange the day we meet
there," he said. The hounds were to meet at Monkton Grange, some
seven miles from Noningsby, and all the sportsmen from the house were
to be there.

"I shall be delighted," said Sophia, "that is to say if a seat in the
carriage can be spared for me."

"But we'll mount you. I know that you are a horsewoman." In answer to
which Miss Furnival confessed that she was a horsewoman, and owned
also to having brought a habit and hat with her.

"That will be delightful. Madeline will ride also, and you will meet
the Miss Tristrams. They are the famous horsewomen of this part of
the country."

"You don't mean that they go after the dogs, across the hedges."

"Indeed they do."

"And does Miss Staveley do that?"

"Oh, no--Madeline is not good at a five-barred gate, and would make
but a very bad hand at a double ditch. If you are inclined to remain
among the tame people, she will be true to your side."

"I shall certainly be one of the tame people, Mr. Staveley."

"I rather think I shall be with you myself; I have only one horse
that will jump well, and Graham will ride him. By-the-by, Miss
Furnival, what do you think of my friend Graham?"

"Think of him! Am I bound to have thought anything about him by this
time?"

"Of course you are;--or at any rate of course you have. I have
no doubt that you have composed in your own mind an essay on the
character of everybody here. People who think at all always do."

"Do they? My essay upon him then is a very short one."

"But perhaps not the less correct on that account. You must allow me
to read it."

"Like all my other essays of that kind, Mr. Staveley, it has been
composed solely for my own use, and will be kept quite private."

"I am so sorry for that, for I intended to propose a bargain to you.
If you would have shown me some of your essays, I would have been
equally liberal with some of mine." And in this way, before the
evening was over, Augustus Staveley and Miss Furnival became very
good friends.

"Upon my word she is a very clever girl," he said afterwards, as
young Orme and Graham were sitting with him in an outside room which
had been fitted up for smoking.

"And uncommonly handsome," said Peregrine.

"And they say she'll have lots of money," said Graham. "After all,
Staveley, perhaps you could not do better."

"She's not my style at all," said he. "But of course a man is obliged
to be civil to girls in his own house." And then they all went to
bed.



CHAPTER XX

MR. DOCKWRATH IN HIS OWN OFFICE


In the conversation which had taken place after dinner at Noningsby
with regard to the Masons Peregrine Orme took no part, but his
silence had not arisen from any want of interest on the subject.
He had been over to Hamworth that day on a very special mission
regarding it, and as he was not inclined to speak of what he had then
seen and done, he held his tongue altogether.

"I want you to do me a great favour," Lucius had said to him, when
the two were together in the breakfast-parlour at Noningsby; "but I
am afraid it will give you some trouble."

"I sha'n't mind that," said Peregrine, "if that's all."

"You have heard of this row about Joseph Mason and my mother? It has
been so talked of that I fear you must have heard it."

"About the lawsuit? Oh yes. It has certainly been spoken of at The
Cleeve."

"Of course it has. All the world is talking of it. Now there is a man
named Dockwrath in Hamworth--;" and then he went on to explain how it
had reached him from various quarters that Mr. Dockwrath was accusing
his mother of the crime of forgery; how he had endeavoured to
persuade his mother to indict the man for libel; how his mother had
pleaded to him with tears in her eyes that she found it impossible to
go through such an ordeal; and how he, therefore, had resolved to go
himself to Mr. Dockwrath. "But," said he, "I must have some one with
me, some gentleman whom I can trust, and therefore I have ridden over
to ask you to accompany me as far as Hamworth."

"I suppose he is not a man that you can kick," said Peregrine.

"I am afraid not," said Lucius; "he's over forty years old, and has
dozens of children."

"And then he is such a low beast," said Peregrine.

"I have no idea of kicking him, but I think it would be wrong to
allow him to go on saying these frightful things of my mother,
without showing him that we are not afraid of him." Upon this the
two young men got on horseback, and riding into Hamworth, put their
horses up at the inn.

"And now I suppose we might as well go at once," said Peregrine, with
a very serious face.

"Yes," said the other; "there's nothing to delay us. I cannot tell
you how much obliged I am to you for coming with me."

"Oh, don't say anything about that; of course I'm only too happy."
But all the same he felt that his heart was beating, and that he
was a little nervous. Had he been called upon to go in and thrash
somebody, he would have been quite at home; but he did not feel at
his ease in making an inimical visit to an attorney's office.

It would have been wise, perhaps, if in this matter Lucius had
submitted himself to Lady Mason's wishes. On the previous evening
they had talked the matter over with much serious energy. Lucius
had been told in the streets of Hamworth by an intermeddling little
busybody of an apothecary that it behoved him to do something, as Mr.
Dockwrath was making grievous accusations against his mother. Lucius
had replied haughtily, that he and his mother would know how to
protect themselves, and the apothecary had retreated, resolving to
spread the report everywhere. Lucius on his return home had declared
to the unfortunate lady that she had now no alternative left to her.
She must bring an action against the man, or at any rate put the
matter into the hands of a lawyer with a view of ascertaining whether
she could do so with any chance of success. If she could not, she
must then make known her reason for remaining quiet. In answer to
this, Lady Mason had begun by praying her son to allow the matter to
pass by.

"But it will not pass by," Lucius had said.

"Yes, dearest, if we leave it, it will,--in a month or two. We can do
nothing by interference. Remember the old saying, You cannot touch
pitch without being defiled."

But Lucius had replied, almost with anger, that the pitch had already
touched him, and that he was defiled. "I cannot consent to hold the
property," he had said, "unless something be done." And then his
mother had bowed her head as she sat, and had covered her face with
her hands.

"I shall go to the man myself," Lucius had declared with energy.

"As your mother, Lucius, I implore you not to do so," she had said to
him through her tears.

"I must either do that or leave the country. It is impossible that I
should live here, hearing such things said of you, and doing nothing
to clear your name." To this she had made no actual reply, and now
he was standing at the attorney's door about to do that which he had
threatened.

They found Mr. Dockwrath sitting at his desk at the other side of
which was seated his clerk. He had not yet promoted himself to the
dignity of a private office, but generally used his parlour as such
when he was desirous of seeing his clients without disturbance. On
this occasion, however, when he saw young Mason enter, he made no
offer to withdraw. His hat was on his head as he sat on his stool,
and he did not even take it off as he returned the stiff salutation
of his visitor. "Keep your hat on your head, Mr. Orme," he said, as
Peregrine was about to take his off. "Well, gentlemen, what can I do
for you?"

Lucius looked at the clerk, and felt that there would be great
difficulty in talking about his mother before such a witness. "We
wish to see you in private, Mr. Dockwrath, for a few minutes--if it
be convenient."

"Is not this private enough?" said Dockwrath. "There is no one here
but my confidential clerk."

"If you could make it convenient--" began Lucius.

"Well, then, Mr. Mason, I cannot make it convenient, and there is the
long and the short of it. You have brought Mr. Orme with you to hear
what you've got to say, and I choose that my clerk shall remain by
to hear it also. Seeing the position in which you stand there is no
knowing what may come of such an interview as this."

"In what position do I stand, sir?"

"If you don't know, Mr. Mason, I am not going to tell you. I feel
for you, I do upon my word. I feel for you, and I pity you." Mr.
Dockwrath as he thus expressed his commiseration was sitting with his
high chair tilted back, with his knees against the edge of his desk,
with his hat almost down upon his nose as he looked at his visitors
from under it, and he amused himself by cutting up a quill pen into
small pieces with his penknife. It was not pleasant to be pitied by
such a man as that, and so Peregrine Orme conceived.

"Sir, that is nonsense," said Lucius. "I require no pity from you or
from any man."

"I don't suppose there is one in all Hamworth that does not feel for
you," said Dockwrath.

"He means to be impudent," said Peregrine. "You had better come to
the point with him at once."

"No, I don't mean to be impudent, young gentleman. A man may speak
his own mind in his own house I suppose without any impudence. You
wouldn't stand cap in hand to me if I were to go down to you at The
Cleeve."

"I have come here to ask of you," said Lucius, "whether it be true
that you are spreading these reports about the town with reference to
Lady Mason. If you are a man you will tell me the truth."

"Well; I rather think I am a man."

"It is necessary that Lady Mason should be protected from such
infamous falsehoods, and it may be necessary to bring the matter into
a court of law--"

"You may be quite easy about that, Mr. Mason. It will be necessary."

"As it may be necessary, I wish to know whether you will acknowledge
that these reports have come from you?"

"You want me to give evidence against myself. Well, for once in a way
I don't mind if I do. The reports have come from me. Now, is that
manly?" And Mr. Dockwrath, as he spoke, pushed his hat somewhat off
his nose, and looked steadily across into the face of his opponent.

Lucius Mason was too young for the task which he had undertaken, and
allowed himself to be disconcerted. He had expected that the lawyer
would deny the charge, and was prepared for what he would say and do
in such a case; but now he was not prepared.

"How on earth could you bring yourself to be guilty of such
villainy?" said young Orme.

"Highty-tighty! What are you talking about, young man? The fact is,
you do not know what you are talking about. But as I have a respect
for your grandfather and for your mother I will give you and them a
piece of advice, gratis. Don't let them be too thick with Lady Mason
till they see how this matter goes."

"Mr. Dockwrath," said Lucius, "you are a mean, low, vile scoundrel."

"Very well, sir. Adams, just take a note of that. Don't mind what Mr.
Orme said. I can easily excuse him. He'll know the truth before long,
and then he'll beg my pardon."

"I'll take my oath I look upon you as the greatest miscreant that
ever I met," said Peregrine, who was of course bound to support his
friend.

"You'll change your mind, Mr. Orme, before long, and then you'll find
that you have met a worse miscreant than I am. Did you put down those
words, Adams?"

"Them as Mr. Mason spoke? Yes; I've got them down."

"Read them," said the master.

And the clerk read them, "Mr. Dockwrath, you are a mean, low, vile
scoundrel."

"And now, young gentlemen, if you have got nothing else to observe,
as I am rather busy, perhaps you will allow me to wish you good
morning."

"Very well, Mr. Dockwrath," said Mason; "you may be sure that you
will hear further from me."

"We shall be sure to hear of each other. There is no doubt in the
world about that," said the attorney. And then the two young men
withdrew with an unexpressed feeling in the mind of each of them,
that they had not so completely got the better of their antagonist as
the justice of their case demanded.

They then remounted their horses, and Orme accompanied his friend as
far as Orley Farm, from whence he got into the Alston road through
The Cleeve grounds. "And what do you intend to do now?" said
Peregrine as soon as they were mounted.

"I shall employ a lawyer," said he, "on my own footing; not my
mother's lawyer, but some one else. Then I suppose I shall be guided
by his advice." Had he done this before he made his visit to Mr.
Dockwrath, perhaps it might have been better. All this sat very
heavily on poor Peregrine's mind; and therefore as the company were
talking about Lady Mason after dinner, he remained silent, listening,
but not joining in the conversation.

The whole of that evening Lucius and his mother sat together, saying
nothing. There was not absolutely any quarrel between them, but on
this terrible subject there was an utter want of accordance, and
almost of sympathy. It was not that Lucius had ever for a moment
suspected his mother of aught that was wrong. Had he done so he
might perhaps have been more gentle towards her in his thoughts and
words. He not only fully trusted her, but he was quite fixed in
his confidence that nothing could shake either her or him in their
rights. But under these circumstances he could not understand how she
could consent to endure without resistance the indignities which were
put upon her. "She should combat them for my sake, if not for her
own," he said to himself over and over again. And he had said so also
to her, but his words had had no effect.

She, on the other hand, felt that he was cruel to her. She was
weighed down almost to the ground by these sufferings which had
fallen on her, and yet he would not be gentle and soft to her. She
could have borne it all, she thought, if he would have borne with
her. She still hoped that if she remained quiet no further trial
would take place. At any rate this might be so. That it would be so
she had the assurance of Mr. Furnival. And yet all this evil which
she dreaded worse than death was to be precipitated on her by her
son! So they sat through the long evening, speechless; each seated
with the pretence of reading, but neither of them capable of the
attention which a book requires.

He did not tell her then that he had been with Mr. Dockwrath, but she
knew by his manner that he had taken some terrible step. She waited
patiently the whole evening, hoping that he would tell her, but when
the hour came for her to go up to her room he had told her nothing.
If he now were to turn against her, that would be worse than all! She
went up to her room and sat herself down to think. All that passed
through her brain on that night I may not now tell; but the grief
which pressed on her at this moment with peculiar weight was the
self-will and obstinacy of her boy. She said to herself that she
would be willing now to die,--to give back her life at once, if such
might be God's pleasure; but that her son should bring down her hairs
with shame and sorrow to the grave--! In that thought there was a
bitterness of agony which she knew not how to endure!

The next morning at breakfast he still remained silent, and his brow
was still black. "Lucius," she said, "did you do anything in that
matter yesterday?"

"Yes, mother; I saw Mr. Dockwrath."

"Well?"

"I took Peregrine Orme with me that I might have a witness, and I
then asked him whether he had spread these reports. He acknowledged
that he had done so, and I told him that he was a villain."

Upon hearing this she uttered a long, low sigh, but she said nothing.
What use could there now be in her saying aught? Her look of agony
went to the young man's heart, but he still thought that he had been
right. "Mother," he continued to say, "I am very sorry to grieve
you in this way;--very sorry. But I could not hold up my head in
Hamworth,--I could not hold up my head anywhere, if I heard these
things said of you and did not resent it."

"Ah, Lucius, if you knew the weakness of a woman!"

"And therefore you should let me bear it all. There is nothing I
would not suffer; no cost I would not undergo rather than you should
endure all this. If you would only say that you would leave it to
me!"

"But it cannot be left to you. I have gone to a lawyer, to Mr.
Furnival. Why will you not permit that I should act in it as he
thinks best? Can you not believe that that will be the best for both
of us?"

"If you wish it, I will see Mr. Furnival."

Lady Mason did not wish that, but she was obliged so far to yield as
to say that he might do so if he would. Her wish was that he should
bear it all and say nothing. It was not that she was indifferent to
good repute among her neighbours, or that she was careless as to what
the apothecaries and attorneys said of her; but it was easier for
her to bear the evil than to combat it. The Ormes and the Furnivals
would support her. They and such-like persons would acknowledge her
weakness, and would know that from her would not be expected such
loud outbursting indignation as might be expected from a man. She had
calculated the strength of her own weakness, and thought that she
might still be supported by that,--if only her son would so permit.

It was two days after this that Lucius was allowed the honour of
a conference by appointment with the great lawyer; and at the
expiration of an hour's delay he was shown into the room by Mr.
Crabwitz. "And, Crabwitz," said the barrister, before he addressed
himself to his young friend, "just run your eye over those papers,
and let Mr. Bideawhile have them to-morrow morning; and, Crabwitz--."

"Yes, sir."

"That opinion of Sir Richard's in the Ahatualpaca Mining Company--I
have not seen it, have I?"

"It's all ready, Mr. Furnival."

"I will look at it in five minutes. And now, my young friend, what
can I do for you?"

It was quite clear from Mr. Furnival's tone and manner that he did
not mean to devote much time to Lucius Mason, and that he was not
generally anxious to hold any conversation with him on the subject in
question. Such, indeed, was the case. Mr. Furnival was determined to
pull Lady Mason out of the sea of trouble into which she had fallen,
let the effort cost him what it might, but he did not wish to do so
by the instrumentality, or even with the aid, of her son.

"Mr. Furnival," began Mason, "I want to ask your advice about these
dreadful reports which are being spread on every side in Hamworth
about my mother."

"If you will allow me then to say so, I think that the course which
you should pursue is very simple. Indeed there is, I think, only one
course which you can pursue with proper deference to your mother's
feelings."

"And what is that, Mr. Furnival?"

"Do nothing, and say nothing. I fear from what I have heard that you
have already done and said much more than was prudent."

"But how am I to hear such things as these spoken of my own mother?"

"That depends on the people by whom the things are spoken. In this
world, if we meet a chimney-sweep in the path we do not hustle with
him for the right of way. Your mother is going next week to The
Cleeve. It was only yesterday that I heard that the Noningsby people
are going to call on her. You can hardly, I suppose, desire for your
mother better friends than such as these. And can you not understand
why such people gather to her at this moment? If you can understand
it you will not trouble yourself to interfere much more with Mr.
Dockwrath."

There was a rebuke in this which Lucius Mason was forced to endure;
but nevertheless as he retreated disconcerted from the barrister's
chambers, he could not bring himself to think it right that such
calumny should be borne without resistance. He knew but little as yet
of the ordinary life of gentlemen in England; but he did know,--so at
least he thought,--that it was the duty of a son to shield his mother
from insult and libel.



CHAPTER XXI

CHRISTMAS IN HARLEY STREET


It seems singular to me myself, considering the idea which I have
in my own mind of the character of Lady Staveley, that I should be
driven to declare that about this time she committed an unpardonable
offence, not only against good nature, but also against the domestic
proprieties. But I am driven so to say, although she herself was of
all women the most good-natured and most domestic; for she asked
Mr. Furnival to pass his Christmas-day at Noningsby, and I find it
impossible to forgive her that offence against the poor wife whom in
that case he must leave alone by her desolate hearth. She knew that
he was a married man as well as I do. Sophia, who had a proper regard
for the domestic peace of her parents, and who could have been happy
at Noningsby without a father's care, not unfrequently spoke of her,
so that her existence in Harley Street might not be forgotten by
the Staveleys--explaining, however, as she did so, that her dear
mother never left her own fireside in winter, so that no suspicion
might be entertained that an invitation was desired for her also;
nevertheless, in spite of all this, on two separate occasions did
Lady Staveley say to Mr. Furnival that he might as well prolong his
visit over Christmas.

And yet Lady Staveley was not attached to Mr. Furnival with any
peculiar warmth of friendship; but she was one of those women whose
foolish hearts will not allow themselves to be controlled in the
exercise of their hospitality. Her nature demanded of her that she
should ask a guest to stay. She would not have allowed a dog to
depart from her house at this season of the year, without suggesting
to him that he had better take his Christmas bone in her yard. It
was for Mr. Furnival to adjust all matters between himself and his
wife. He was not bound to accept the invitation because she gave it;
but she, finding him there, already present in the house, did feel
herself bound to give it;--for which offence, as I have said before,
I cannot bring myself to forgive her.

At his sin in staying away from home, or rather--as far as the story
has yet carried us--in thinking that he would do so, I am by no means
so much surprised. An angry ill-pleased wife is no pleasant companion
for a gentleman on a long evening. For those who have managed that
things shall run smoothly over the domestic rug there is no happier
time of life than these long candlelight hours of home and silence.
No spoken content or uttered satisfaction is necessary. The fact that
is felt is enough for peace. But when the fact is not felt; when
the fact is by no means there; when the thoughts are running in a
direction altogether different; when bitter grievances from one to
the other fill the heart, rather than memories of mutual kindness;
then, I say, those long candlelight hours of home and silence are not
easy of endurance. Mr. Furnival was a man who chose to be the master
of his own destiny, so at least to himself he boasted; and therefore
when he found himself encountered by black looks and occasionally by
sullen words, he declared to himself that he was ill-used and that he
would not bear it. Since the domestic rose would no longer yield him
honey, he would seek his sweets from the stray honeysuckle on which
there grew no thorns.

Mr. Furnival was no coward. He was not one of those men who wrong
their wives by their absence, and then prolong their absence because
they are afraid to meet their wives. His resolve was to be free
himself, and to be free without complaint from her. He would have
it so, that he might remain out of his own house for a month at the
time and then return to it for a week--at any rate without outward
bickerings. I have known other men who have dreamed of such a state
of things, but at this moment I can remember none who have brought
their dream to bear.

Mr. Furnival had written to his wife,--not from Noningsby, but
from some provincial town, probably situated among the Essex
marshes,--saying various things, and among others that he should
not, as he thought, be at home at Christmas-day. Mrs. Furnival had
remarked about a fortnight since that Christmas-day was nothing to
her now; and the base man, for it was base, had hung upon this poor,
sore-hearted word an excuse for remaining away from home. "There are
lawyers of repute staying at Noningsby," he had said, "with whom it
is very expedient that I should remain at this present crisis."--When
yet has there been no crisis present to a man who has wanted an
excuse?--"And therefore I may probably stay,"--and so on. Who does
not know the false mixture of excuse and defiance which such a letter
is sure to maintain; the crafty words which may be taken as adequate
reason if the receiver be timid enough so to receive them, or as a
noisy gauntlet thrown to the ground if there be spirit there for the
picking of it up? Such letter from his little borough in the Essex
marshes did Mr. Furnival write to the partner of his cares, and there
was still sufficient spirit left for the picking up of the gauntlet.
"I shall be home to-morrow," the letter had gone on to say, "but
I will not keep you waiting for dinner, as my hours are always so
uncertain. I shall be at my chambers till late, and will be with you
before tea. I will then return to Alston on the following morning."
There was at any rate good courage in this on the part of Mr.
Furnival;--great courage; but with it coldness of heart, dishonesty
of purpose, and black ingratitude. Had she not given everything to
him?

Mrs. Furnival when she got the letter was not alone. "There,"
said she; throwing it over to a lady who sat on the other side of
the fireplace handling a loose sprawling mass of not very clean
crochet-work. "I knew he would stay away on Christmas-day. I told you
so."

"I didn't think it possible," said Miss Biggs, rolling up the big
ball of soiled cotton, that she might read Mr. Furnival's letter at
her leisure. "I didn't really think it possible--on Christmas-day!
Surely, Mrs. Furnival, he can't mean Christmas-day? Dear, dear, dear!
and then to throw it in your face in that way that you said you
didn't care about it."

"Of course I said so," answered Mrs. Furnival. "I was not going to
ask him to come home as a favour."

"Not to make a favour of it, of course not." This was Miss Biggs
from ----. I am afraid if I tell the truth I must say that she came
from Red Lion Square! And yet nothing could be more respectable than
Miss Biggs. Her father had been a partner with an uncle of Mrs.
Furnival's; and when Kitty Blacker had given herself and her young
prettinesses to the hardworking lawyer, Martha Biggs had stood at the
altar with her, then just seventeen years of age, and had promised
to her all manner of success for her coming life. Martha Biggs had
never, not even then, been pretty; but she had been very faithful.
She had not been a favourite with Mr. Furnival, having neither wit
nor grace to recommend her, and therefore in the old happy days of
Keppel Street she had been kept in the background; but now, in this
present time of her adversity, Mrs. Furnival found the benefit of
having a trusty friend.

"If he likes better to be with these people down at Alston, I am sure
it is the same to me," said the injured wife.

"But there's nobody special at Alston, is there?" asked Miss Biggs,
whose soul sighed for a tale more piquant than one of mere general
neglect. She knew that her friend had dreadful suspicions, but Mrs.
Furnival had never as yet committed herself by uttering the name of
any woman as her rival. Miss Biggs thought that a time had now come
in which the strength of their mutual confidence demanded that such
name should be uttered. It could not be expected that she should
sympathise with generalities for ever. She longed to hate, to
reprobate, and to shudder at the actual name of the wretch who had
robbed her friend of a husband's heart. And therefore she asked the
question, "There's nobody special at Alston, is there?"

Now Mrs. Furnival knew to a furlong the distance from Noningsby to
Orley Farm, and knew also that the station at Hamworth was only
twenty-five minutes from that at Alston. She gave no immediate
answer, but threw up her head and shook her nostrils, as though she
were preparing for war; and then Miss Martha Biggs knew that there
was somebody special at Alston. Between such old friends why should
not the name be mentioned?

On the following day the two ladies dined at six, and then waited tea
patiently till ten. Had the thirst of a desert been raging within
that drawing-room, and had tea been within immediate call, those
ladies would have died ere they would have asked for it before his
return. He had said he would be home to tea, and they would have
waited for him, had it been till four o'clock in the morning! Let the
female married victim ever make the most of such positive wrongs as
Providence may vouchsafe to her. Had Mrs. Furnival ordered tea on
this evening before her husband's return, she would have been a woman
blind to the advantages of her own position. At ten the wheels of Mr.
Furnival's cab were heard, and the faces of both the ladies prepared
themselves for the encounter.

"Well, Kitty, how are you?" said Mr. Furnival, entering the room with
his arms prepared for a premeditated embrace. "What, Miss Biggs with
you? I did not know. How do you do, Miss Biggs?" and Mr. Furnival
extended his hand to the lady. They both looked at him, and they
could tell from the brightness of his eye and from the colour of his
nose that he had been dining at his club, and that the bin with the
precious cork had been visited on his behalf.

"Yes, my dear, it's rather lonely being here in this big room all
by oneself so long; so I asked Martha Biggs to come over to me. I
suppose there's no harm in that."

"Oh, if I'm in the way," began Miss Biggs, "or if Mr. Furnival is
going to stay at home for long--"

"You are not in the way, and I am not going to stay at home for
long," said Mr. Furnival, speaking with a voice that was perhaps a
little thick,--only a very little thick. No wife on good terms with
her husband would have deigned to notice, even in her own mind, an
amount of thickness of voice which was so very inconsiderable. But
Mrs. Furnival at the present moment did notice it.

"Oh, I did not know," said Miss Biggs.

"You know now," said Mr. Furnival, whose ear at once appreciated the
hostility of tone which had been assumed.

"You need not be rude to my friend after she has been waiting tea for
you till near eleven o'clock," said Mrs. Furnival. "It is nothing to
me, but you should remember that she is not used to it."

"I wasn't rude to your friend, and who asked you to wait tea till
near eleven o'clock? It is only just ten now, if that signifies."

"You expressly desired me to wait tea, Mr. Furnival. I have got your
letter, and will show it you if you wish it."

"Nonsense; I just said I should be home--"

"Of course you just said you would be home, and so we waited; and
it's not nonsense; and I declare--! Never mind, Martha, don't mind
me, there's a good creature. I shall get over it soon;" and then fat,
solid, good-humoured Mrs. Furnival burst out into an hysterical fit
of sobbing. There was a welcome for a man on his return to his home
after a day's labour!

Miss Biggs immediately got up and came round behind the drawing-room
table to her friend's head. "Be calm, Mrs. Furnival," she said; "do
be calm, and then you will be better soon. Here is the hartshorn."

"It doesn't matter, Martha: never mind: leave me alone," sobbed the
poor woman.

"May I be excused for asking what is really the matter?" said Mr.
Furnival, "for I'll be whipped if I know." Miss Biggs looked at him
as if she thought that he ought to be whipped.

"I wonder you ever come near the place at all, I do," said Mrs.
Furnival.

"What place?" asked Mr. Furnival.

"This house in which I am obliged to live by myself, without a soul
to speak to, unless when Martha Biggs comes here."

"Which would be much more frequent, only that I know I am not welcome
by everybody."

"I know that you hate it. How can I help knowing it?--and you hate
me too; I know you do;--and I believe you would be glad if you need
never come back here at all; I do. Don't, Martha; leave me alone. I
don't want all that fuss. There; I can bear it now, whatever it is.
Do you choose to have your tea, Mr. Furnival? or do you wish to keep
the servants waiting out of their beds all night?"

"D---- the servants," said Mr. Furnival.

"Oh laws!" exclaimed Miss Biggs, jumping up out of her chair with her
hands and fingers outstretched, as though never, never in her life
before, had her ears been wounded by such wicked words as those.

"Mr. Furnival, I am ashamed of you," said his wife with gathered
calmness of stern reproach.

Mr. Furnival was very wrong to swear; doubly wrong to swear before
his wife; trebly wrong to swear before a lady visitor; but it must
be confessed that there was provocation. That he was at this present
period of his life behaving badly to his wife must be allowed, but on
this special evening he had intended to behave well. The woman had
sought a ground of quarrel against him, and had driven him on till he
had forgotten himself in his present after-dinner humour. When a man
is maintaining a whole household on his own shoulders, and working
hard to maintain it well, it is not right that he should be brought
to book because he keeps the servants up half an hour later than
usual to wash the tea-things. It is very proper that the idle members
of the establishment should conform to hours, but these hours must
give way to his requirements. In those old days of which we have
spoken so often he might have had his tea at twelve, one, two, or
three without a murmur. Though their staff of servants then was
scanty enough, there was never a difficulty then in supplying any
such want for him. If no other pair of hands could boil the kettle,
there was one pair of hands there which no amount of such work on his
behalf could tire. But now, because he had come in for his tea at
ten o'clock, he was asked if he intended to keep the servants out of
their beds all night!

"Oh laws!" said Miss Biggs, jumping up from her chair as though she
had been electrified.

Mr. Furnival did not think it consistent with his dignity to keep up
any dispute in the presence of Miss Biggs, and therefore sat himself
down in his accustomed chair without further speech. "Would you
wish to have tea now, Mr. Furnival?" asked his wife again, putting
considerable stress upon the word now.

"I don't care about it," said he.

"And I am sure I don't at this late hour," said Miss Biggs. "But so
tired as you are, dear--"

"Never mind me, Martha; as for myself, I shall take nothing now." And
then they all sat without a word for the space of some five minutes.
"If you like to go, Martha," said Mrs. Furnival, "don't mind waiting
for me."

"Oh, very well," and then Miss Biggs took her bedcandle and left the
room. Was it not hard upon her that she should be forced to absent
herself at this moment, when the excitement of the battle was about
to begin in earnest? Her footsteps lingered as she slowly retreated
from the drawing-room door, and for one instant she absolutely
paused, standing still with eager ears. It was but for an instant,
and then she went on up stairs, out of hearing, and sitting herself
down by her bedside allowed the battle to rage in her imagination.

Mr. Furnival would have sat there silent till his wife had gone also,
and so the matter would have terminated for that evening,--had she
so willed it. But she had been thinking of her miseries; and, having
come to some sort of resolution to speak of them openly, what time
could she find more appropriate for doing so than the present? "Tom,"
she said,--and as she spoke there was still a twinkle of the old
love in her eye, "we are not going on together as well as we should
do,--not lately. Would it not be well to make a change before it is
too late?"

"What change?" he asked; not exactly in an ill humour, but with a
husky, thick voice. He would have preferred now that she should have
followed her friend to bed.

"I do not want to dictate to you, Tom, but--! Oh Tom, if you knew how
wretched I am!"

"What makes you wretched?"

"Because you leave me all alone; because you care more for other
people than you do for me; because you never like to be at home,
never if you can possibly help it. You know you don't. You are always
away now upon some excuse or other; you know you are. I don't have
you home to dinner not one day in the week through the year. That
can't be right, and you know it is not. Oh Tom! you are breaking my
heart, and deceiving me,--you are. Why did I go down and find that
woman in your chamber with you, when you were ashamed to own to me
that she was coming to see you? If it had been in the proper way of
law business, you wouldn't have been ashamed. Oh, Tom!"

The poor woman had begun her plaint in a manner that was not
altogether devoid of a discreet eloquence. If only she could have
maintained that tone, if she could have confined her words to the
tale of her own grievances, and have been contented to declare that
she was unhappy, only because he was not with her, it might have
been well. She might have touched his heart, or at any rate his
conscience, and there might have been some enduring result for good.
But her feelings had been too many for her, and as her wrongs came to
her mind, and the words heaped themselves upon her tongue, she could
not keep herself from the one subject which she should have left
untouched. Mr. Furnival was not the man to bear any interference such
as this, or to permit the privacy of Lincoln's Inn to be invaded even
by his wife. His brow grew very black, and his eyes became almost
bloodshot. The port wine which might have worked him to softness, now
worked him to anger, and he thus burst forth with words of marital
vigour:

"Let me tell you once for ever, Kitty, that I will admit of no
interference with what I do, or the people whom I may choose to
see in my chambers in Lincoln's Inn. If you are such an infatuated
simpleton as to believe--"

"Yes; of course I am a simpleton; of course I am a fool; women always
are."

"Listen to me, will you?"

"Listen, yes; it's my business to listen. Would you like that I
should give this house up for her, and go into lodgings somewhere? I
shall have very little objection as matters are going now. Oh dear,
oh dear, that things should ever have come to this!"

"Come to what?"

"Tom, I could put up with a great deal,--more I think than most
women; I could slave for you like a drudge, and think nothing about
it. And now that you have got among grand people, I could see you go
out by yourself without thinking much about that either. I am very
lonely sometimes,--very; but I could bear that. Nobody has longed to
see you rise in the world half so anxious as I have done. But, Tom,
when I know what your goings on are with a nasty, sly, false woman
like that, I won't bear it; and there's an end." In saying which
final words Mrs. Furnival rose from her seat, and thrice struck her
hand by no means lightly on the loo table in the middle of the room.

"I did not think it possible that you should be so silly. I did not
indeed."

"Oh, yes, silly! very well. Women always are silly when they mind
that kind of thing. Have you got anything else to say, sir?"

"Yes, I have; I have this to say, that I will not endure this sort of
usage."

"Nor I won't," said Mrs. Furnival; "so you may as well understand it
at once. As long as there was nothing absolutely wrong, I would put
up with it for the sake of appearances, and because of Sophia. For
myself I don't mind what loneliness I may have to bear. If you had
been called on to go out to the East Indies or even to China, I could
have put up with it. But this sort of thing I won't put up with;--nor
I won't be blind to what I can't help seeing. So now, Mr. Furnival,
you may know that I have made up my mind." And then, without waiting
further parley, having wisked herself in her energy near to the door,
she stalked out, and went up with hurried steps to her own room.

Occurrences of a nature such as this are in all respects unpleasant
in a household. Let the master be ever so much master, what is he to
do? Say that his wife is wrong from the beginning to the end of the
quarrel,--that in no way improves the matter. His anxiety is that the
world abroad shall not know he has ought amiss at home; but she, with
her hot sense of injury, and her loud revolt against supposed wrongs,
cares not who hears it. "Hold your tongue, madam," the husband says.
But the wife, bound though she be by an oath of obedience, will not
obey him, but only screams the louder.

All which, as Mr. Furnival sat there thinking of it, disturbed his
mind much. That Martha Biggs would spread the tale through all
Bloomsbury and St. Pancras of course he was aware. "If she drives
me to it, it must be so," he said to himself at last. And then he
also betook himself to his rest. And so it was that preparations for
Christmas were made in Harley Street.



CHAPTER XXII

CHRISTMAS AT NONINGSBY


The house at Noningsby on Christmas-day was quite full, and yet it
was by no means a small house. Mrs. Arbuthnot, the judge's married
daughter, was there, with her three children; and Mr. Furnival was
there, having got over those domestic difficulties in which we lately
saw him as best he might; and Lucius Mason was there, having been
especially asked by Lady Staveley when she heard that his mother was
to be at The Cleeve. There could be no more comfortable country-house
than Noningsby; and it was, in its own way, pretty, though
essentially different in all respects from The Cleeve. It was a new
house from the cellar to the ceiling, and as a house was no doubt the
better for being so. All the rooms were of the proper proportion, and
all the newest appliances for comfort had been attached to it. But
nevertheless it lacked that something, in appearance rather than in
fact, which age alone can give to the residence of a gentleman in the
country. The gardens also were new, and the grounds around them trim,
and square, and orderly. Noningsby was a delightful house; no one
with money and taste at command could have created for himself one
more delightful; but then there are delights which cannot be created
even by money and taste.

It was a pleasant sight to see, the long, broad, well-filled
breakfast table, with all that company round it. There were some
eighteen or twenty gathered now at the table, among whom the judge
sat pre-eminent, looming large in an arm-chair and having a double
space allotted to him;--some eighteen or twenty, children included.
At the bottom of the table sat Lady Staveley, who still chose to
preside among her own tea cups as a lady should do; and close to her,
assisting in the toils of that presidency, sat her daughter Madeline.
Nearest to them were gathered the children, and the rest had formed
themselves into little parties, each of which already well knew its
own place at the board. In how very short a time will come upon one
that pleasant custom of sitting in an accustomed place! But here, at
these Noningsby breakfasts, among other customs already established,
there was one by which Augustus Staveley was always privileged to
sit by the side of Sophia Furnival. No doubt his original object was
still unchanged. A match between that lady and his friend Graham was
still desirable, and by perseverance he might pique Felix Graham to
arouse himself. But hitherto Felix Graham had not aroused himself in
that direction, and one or two people among the party were inclined
to mistake young Staveley's intentions.

"Gus," his sister had said to him the night before, "I declare I
think you are going to make love to Sophia Furnival."

"Do you?" he had replied. "As a rule I do not think there is any one
in the world for whose discernment I have so much respect as I have
for yours. But in this respect even you are wrong."

"Ah, of course you say so."

"If you won't believe me, ask her. What more can I say?"

"I certainly sha'n't ask her, for I don't know her well enough."

"She's a very clever girl; let me tell you that, whoever falls in
love with her."

"I'm sure she is, and she is handsome too, very; but for all that she
is not good enough for our Gus."

"Of course she is not, and therefore I am not thinking of her. And
now go to bed and dream that you have got the Queen of the Fortunate
Islands for your sister-in-law."

But although Staveley was himself perfectly indifferent to all the
charms of Miss Furnival, nevertheless he could hardly restrain his
dislike to Lucius Mason, who, as he thought, was disposed to admire
the lady in question. In talking of Lucius to his own family and to
his special friend Graham, he had called him conceited, pedantic,
uncouth, unenglish, and detestable. His own family, that is, his
mother and sister, rarely contradicted him in anything; but Graham
was by no means so cautious, and usually contradicted him in
everything. Indeed, there was no sign of sterling worth so plainly
marked in Staveley's character as the full conviction which he
entertained of the superiority of his friend Felix.

"You are quite wrong about him," Felix had said. "He has not been at
an English school, or English university, and therefore is not like
other young men that you know; but he is, I think, well educated
and clever. As for conceit, what man will do any good who is not
conceited? Nobody holds a good opinion of a man who has a low opinion
of himself."

"All the same, my dear fellow, I do not like Lucius Mason."

"And some one else, if you remember, did not like Dr. Fell."

"And now, good people, what are you all going to do about church?"
said Staveley, while they were still engaged with their rolls and
eggs.

"I shall walk," said the judge.

"And I shall go in the carriage," said the judge's wife.

"That disposes of two; and now it will take half an hour to settle
for the rest. Miss. Furnival, you no doubt will accompany my mother.
As I shall be among the walkers you will see how much I sacrifice by
the suggestion."

It was a mile to the church, and Miss Furnival knew the advantage
of appearing in her seat unfatigued and without subjection to wind,
mud, or rain. "I must confess," she said, "that under all the
circumstances, I shall prefer your mother's company to yours;"
whereupon Staveley, in the completion of his arrangements, assigned
the other places in the carriage to the married ladies of the
company.

"But I have taken your sister Madeline's seat in the carriage,"
protested Sophia with great dismay.

"My sister Madeline generally walks."

"Then of course I shall walk with her;" but when the time came Miss
Furnival did go in the carriage whereas Miss Staveley went on foot.

It so fell out, as they started, that Graham found himself walking at
Miss Staveley's side, to the great disgust, no doubt, of half a dozen
other aspirants for that honour. "I cannot help thinking," he said,
as they stepped briskly over the crisp white frost, "that this
Christmas-day of ours is a great mistake."

"Oh, Mr. Graham!" she exclaimed

"You need not regard me with horror,--at least not with any special
horror on this occasion."

"But what you say is very horrid."

"That, I flatter myself, seems so only because I have not yet said
it. That part of our Christmas-day which is made to be in any degree
sacred is by no means a mistake."

"I am glad you think that."

"Or rather, it is not a mistake in as far as it is in any degree made
sacred. But the peculiar conviviality of the day is so ponderous! Its
roast-beefiness oppresses one so thoroughly from the first moment
of one's waking, to the last ineffectual effort at a bit of fried
pudding for supper!"

"But you need not eat fried pudding for supper. Indeed, here, I am
afraid, you will not have any supper offered you at all."

"No; not to me individually, under that name. I might also manage
to guard my own self under any such offers. But there is always the
flavour of the sweetmeat, in the air,--of all the sweetmeats edible
and non-edible."

"You begrudge the children their snap-dragon. That's what it all
means, Mr. Graham."

"No; I deny it; unpremeditated snap-dragon is dear to my soul; and I
could expend myself in blindman's buff."

"You shall then, after dinner; for of course you know that we all
dine early."

"But blindman's buff at three, with snap-dragon at a quarter to
four--charades at five, with wine and sweet cake at half-past six,
is ponderous. And that's our mistake. The big turkey would be very
good;--capital fun to see a turkey twice as big as it ought to
be! But the big turkey, and the mountain of beef, and the pudding
weighing a hundredweight, oppress one's spirits by their combined
gravity. And then they impart a memory of indigestion, a halo as it
were of apoplexy, even to the church services."

"I do not agree with you the least in the world."

"I ask you to answer me fairly. Is not additional eating an ordinary
Englishman's ordinary idea of Christmas-day?"

"I am only an ordinary Englishwoman and therefore cannot say. It is
not my idea."

"I believe that the ceremony, as kept by us, is perpetuated by the
butchers and beersellers, with a helping hand from the grocers. It is
essentially a material festival; and I would not object to it even on
that account if it were not so grievously overdone. How the sun is
moistening the frost on the ground. As we come back the road will be
quite wet."

"We shall be going home then and it will not signify. Remember, Mr.
Graham, I shall expect you to come forward in great strength for
blindman's buff." As he gave her the required promise, he thought
that even the sports of Christmas-day would be bearable, if she also
were to make one of the sportsmen; and then they entered the church.

I do not know of anything more pleasant to the eye than a pretty
country church, decorated for Christmas-day. The effect in a city is
altogether different. I will not say that churches there should not
be decorated, but comparatively it is a matter of indifference. No
one knows who does it. The peculiar munificence of the squire who
has sacrificed his holly bushes is not appreciated. The work of the
fingers that have been employed is not recognised. The efforts made
for hanging the pendent wreaths to each capital have been of no
special interest to any large number of the worshippers. It has
been done by contract, probably, and even if well done has none of
the grace of association. But here at Noningsby church, the winter
flowers had been cut by Madeline and the gardener, and the red
berries had been grouped by her own hands. She and the vicar's wife
had stood together with perilous audacity on the top of the clerk's
desk while they fixed the branches beneath the cushion of the
old-fashioned turret, from which the sermons were preached. And
all this had of course been talked about at the house; and some of
the party had gone over to see, including Sophia Furnival, who had
declared that nothing could be so delightful, though she had omitted
to endanger her fingers by any participation in the work. And the
children had regarded the operation as a triumph of all that was
wonderful in decoration; and thus many of them had been made happy.

On their return from church, Miss Furnival insisted on walking,
in order, as she said, that Miss Staveley might not have all the
fatigue; but Miss Staveley would walk also, and the carriage, after
a certain amount of expostulation and delay, went off with its load
incomplete.

"And now for the plum-pudding part of the arrangement," said Felix
Graham.

"Yes, Mr. Graham," said Madeline, "now for the plum-pudding--and the
blindman's buff."

"Did you ever see anything more perfect than the church, Mr. Mason?"
said Sophia.

"Anything more perfect? no; in that sort of way, perhaps, never. I
have seen the choir of Cologne."

"Come, come; that's not fair," said Graham. "Don't import Cologne in
order to crush us here down in our little English villages. You never
saw the choir of Cologne bright with holly berries."

"No; but I have with cardinal's stockings, and bishop's robes."

"I think I should prefer the holly," said Miss Furnival. "And why
should not our churches always look like that, only changing the
flowers and the foliage with the season? It would make the service so
attractive."

"It would hardly do at Lent," said Madeline, in a serious tone.

"No, perhaps not at Lent exactly."

Peregrine and Augustus Staveley were walking on in front, not perhaps
as well satisfied with the day as the rest of the party. Augustus, on
leaving the church, had made a little effort to assume his place as
usual by Miss Furnival's side, but by some accident of war, Mason
was there before him. He had not cared to make one of a party of
three, and therefore had gone on in advance with young Orme. Nor was
Peregrine himself much more happy. He did not know why, but he felt
within his breast a growing aversion to Felix Graham. Graham was a
puppy, he thought, and a fellow that talked too much; and then he
was such a confoundedly ugly dog, and--and--and--Peregrine Orme did
not like him. He was not a man to analyze his own feelings in such
matters. He did not ask himself why he should have been rejoiced to
hear that instant business had taken Felix Graham off to Hong Kong;
but he knew that he would have rejoiced. He knew also that Madeline
Staveley was--. No; he did not know what she was; but when he was
alone, he carried on with her all manner of imaginary conversations,
though when he was in her company he had hardly a word to say to her.
Under these circumstances he fraternized with her brother; but even
in that he could not receive much satisfaction, seeing that he could
not abuse Graham to Graham's special friend, nor could he breathe a
sigh as to Madeline's perfections into the ear of Madeline's brother.

The children,--and there were three or four assembled there besides
those belonging to Mrs. Arbuthnot, were by no means inclined to agree
with Mr. Graham's strictures as to the amusements of Christmas-day.
To them it appeared that they could not hurry fast enough into the
vortex of its dissipations. The dinner was a serious consideration,
especially with reference to certain illuminated mince-pies which
were the crowning glory of that banquet; but time for these was
almost begrudged in order that the fast handkerchief might be tied
over the eyes of the first blindman.

"And now we'll go into the schoolroom," said Marian Arbuthnot,
jumping up and leading the way. "Come along, Mr. Felix," and Felix
Graham followed her.

Madeline had declared that Felix Graham should be blinded first, and
such was his doom. "Now mind you catch me, Mr. Felix; pray do," said
Marian, when she had got him seated in a corner of the room. She was
a beautiful fair little thing, with long, soft curls, and lips red as
a rose, and large, bright blue eyes, all soft and happy and laughing,
loving the friends of her childhood with passionate love, and fully
expecting an equal devotion from them. It is of such children that
our wives and sweethearts should be made.

"But how am I to find you when my eyes are blinded?"

"Oh, you can feel, you know. You can put your hand on the top of my
head. I mustn't speak, you know; but I'm sure I shall laugh; and
then you must guess that it's Marian." That was her idea of playing
blindman's buff according to the strict rigour of the game.

"And you'll give me a big kiss?" said Felix.

"Yes, when we've done playing," she promised with great seriousness.

And then a huge white silk handkerchief, as big as a small sail, was
brought down from grandpapa's dressing-room, so that nobody should
see the least bit "in the world," as Marian had observed with great
energy; and the work of blinding was commenced. "I ain't big enough
to reach round," said Marian, who had made an effort, but in vain.
"You do it, aunt Mad," and she tendered the handkerchief to Miss
Staveley, who, however, did not appear very eager to undertake the
task.

"I'll be the executioner," said grandmamma, "the more especially as
I shall not take any other share in the ceremony. This shall be the
chair of doom. Come here, Mr. Graham, and submit yourself to me." And
so the first victim was blinded. "Mind you remember," said Marian,
whispering into his ear as he was led away. "Green spirits and white;
blue spirits and gray--," and then he was twirled round in the room
and left to commence his search as best he might.

Marian Arbuthnot was not the only soft little laughing darling that
wished to be caught, and blinded, so that there was great pulling
at the blindman's tails, and much grasping at his outstretched arms
before the desired object was attained. And he wandered round the
room skilfully, as though a thought were in his mind false to his
treaty with Marian,--as though he imagined for a moment that some
other prize might be caught. But if so, the other prize evaded him
carefully, and in due progress of play, Marian's soft curls were
within his grasp. "I'm sure I didn't speak, or say a word," said she,
as she ran up to her grandmother to have the handkerchief put over
her eyes. "Did I, grandmamma?"

"There are more ways of speaking than one," said Lady Staveley. "You
and Mr. Graham understand each other, I think."

"Oh, I was caught quite fairly," said Marian--"and now lead me round
and round." To her at any rate the festivities of Christmas-day were
not too ponderous for real enjoyment.

And then, at last, somebody caught the judge. I rather think it
was Madeline; but his time in truth was come, and he had no chance
of escape. The whole room was set upon his capture, and though he
barricaded himself with chairs and children, he was duly apprehended
and named. "That's papa; I know by his watch-chain, for I made it."

"Nonsense, my dears," said the judge. "I will do no such thing. I
should never catch anybody, and should remain blind for ever."

"But grandpapa must," said Marian. "It's the game that he should be
blinded when he's caught."

"Suppose the game was that we should be whipped when we are caught,
and I was to catch you," said Augustus.

"But I would not play that game," said Marian.

"Oh, papa, you must," said Madeline. "Do--and you shall catch Mr.
Furnival."

"That would be a temptation," said the judge. "I've never been able
to do that yet, though I've been trying it for some years."

"Justice is blind," said Graham. "Why should a judge be ashamed to
follow the example of his own goddess?" And so at last the owner of
the ermine submitted, and the stern magistrate of the bench was led
round with the due incantation of the spirits, and dismissed into
chaos to seek for a new victim.

One of the rules of blindman's buff at Noningsby was this, that
it should not be played by candlelight,--a rule that is in every
way judicious, as thereby an end is secured for that which might
otherwise be unending. And therefore when it became so dark in the
schoolroom that there was not much difference between the blind man
and the others, the handkerchief was smuggled away, and the game was
at an end.

"And now for snap-dragon," said Marian.

"Exactly as you predicted, Mr. Graham," said Madeline: "blindman's
buff at a quarter past three, and snap-dragon at five."

"I revoke every word that I uttered, for I was never more amused in
my life."

"And you will be prepared to endure the wine and sweet cake when they
come."

"Prepared to endure anything, and go through everything. We shall be
allowed candles now, I suppose."

"Oh, no, by no means. Snap-dragon by candlelight! who ever heard
of such a thing? It would wash all the dragon out of it, and leave
nothing but the snap. It is a necessity of the game that it should be
played in the dark,--or rather by its own lurid light."

"Oh, there is a lurid light; is there?"

"You shall see;" and then she turned away to make her preparations.

To the game of snap-dragon, as played at Noningsby, a ghost was
always necessary, and aunt Madeline had played the ghost ever since
she had been an aunt, and there had been any necessity for such a
part. But in previous years the spectators had been fewer in number
and more closely connected with the family. "I think we must drop the
ghost on this occasion," she said, coming up to her brother.

"You'll disgust them all dreadfully if you do," said he. "The young
Sebrights have come specially to see the ghost."

"Well, you can do ghost for them."

"I! no; I can't act a ghost. Miss Furnival, you'd make a lovely
ghost."

"I shall be most happy to be useful," said Sophia.

"Oh, aunt Mad, you must be ghost," said Marian, following her.

"You foolish little thing, you; we are going to have a beautiful
ghost--a divine ghost," said uncle Gus.

"But we want Madeline to be the ghost," said a big Miss Sebright, ten
or eleven years old.

"She's always ghost," said Marian.

"To be sure; it will be much better," said Miss Furnival. "I only
offered my poor services hoping to be useful. No Banquo that ever
lived could leave a worse ghost behind him than I should prove."

It ended in there being two ghosts. It had become quite impossible
to rob Miss Furnival of her promised part, and Madeline could not
refuse to solve the difficulty in this way without making more of the
matter than it deserved. The idea of two ghosts was delightful to
the children, more especially as it entailed two large dishes full
of raisins, and two blue fires blazing up from burnt brandy. So the
girls went out, not without proffered assistance from the gentlemen,
and after a painfully long interval of some fifteen or twenty
minutes,--for Miss Furnival's back hair would not come down and
adjust itself into ghostlike lengths with as much readiness as that
of her friend,--they returned bearing the dishes before them on large
trays. In each of them the spirit was lighted as they entered the
schoolroom door, and thus, as they walked in, they were illuminated
by the dark-blue flames which they carried.

"Oh, is it not grand?" said Marian, appealing to Felix Graham.

"Uncommonly grand," he replied.

"And which ghost do you think is the grandest? I'll tell you which
ghost I like the best,--in a secret, you know; I like aunt Mad the
best, and I think she's the grandest too."

"And I'll tell you in a secret that I think the same. To my mind she
is the grandest ghost I ever saw in my life."

"Is she indeed?" asked Marian, solemnly, thinking probably that her
new friend's experience in ghosts must be extensive. However that
might be, he thought that as far as his experience in women went, he
had never seen anything more lovely than Madeline Staveley dressed in
a long white sheet, with a long bit of white cambric pinned round her
face.

And it may be presumed that the dress altogether is not unbecoming
when accompanied by blue flames, for Augustus Staveley and Lucius
Mason thought the same thing of Miss Furnival, whereas Peregrine Orme
did not know whether he was standing on his head or his feet as he
looked at Miss Staveley. Miss Furnival may possibly have had some
inkling of this when she offered to undertake the task, but I protest
that such was not the case with Madeline. There was no second thought
in her mind when she first declined the ghosting, and afterwards
undertook the part. No wish to look beautiful in the eyes of Felix
Graham had come to her--at any rate as yet; and as to Peregrine Orme,
she had hardly thought of his existence. "By heavens!" said Peregrine
to himself, "she is the most beautiful creature that I ever saw;" and
then he began to speculate within his own mind how the idea might be
received at The Cleeve.

But there was no such realised idea with Felix Graham. He saw that
Madeline Staveley was very beautiful, and he felt in an unconscious
manner that her character was very sweet. He may have thought that he
might have loved such a girl, had such love been a thing permitted to
him. But this was far from being the case. Felix Graham's lot in this
life, as regarded that share which his heart might have in it, was
already marked out for him;--marked out for himself and by himself.
The future wife of his bosom had already been selected, and was now
in course of preparation for the duties of her future life. He was
one of those few wise men who have determined not to take a partner
in life at hazard, but to mould a young mind and character to those
pursuits and modes of thought which may best fit a woman for the
duties she will have to perform. What little it may be necessary to
know of the earlier years of Mary Snow shall be told hereafter. Here
it will be only necessary to say that she was an orphan, that as yet
she was little more than a child, and that she owed her maintenance
and the advantage of her education to the charity and love of her
destined husband. Therefore, as I have said, it was manifest that
Felix Graham could not think of falling in love with Miss Staveley,
even had not his very low position, in reference to worldly affairs,
made any such passion on his part quite hopeless. But with Peregrine
Orme the matter was different. There could be no possible reason why
Peregrine Orme should not win and wear the beautiful girl whom he so
much admired.

But the ghosts are kept standing over their flames, the spirit is
becoming exhausted, and the raisins will be burnt. At snap-dragon,
too, the ghosts here had something to do. The law of the game is
this--a law on which Marian would have insisted had not the flames
been so very hot--that the raisins shall become the prey of those
audacious marauders only who dare to face the presence of the ghost,
and to plunge their hands into the burning dish. As a rule the boys
do this, clawing out the raisins, while the girls pick them up and
eat them. But here at Noningsby the boys were too little to act thus
as pioneers in the face of the enemy, and the raisins might have
remained till the flames were burnt out, had not the beneficent ghost
scattered abroad the richness of her own treasures.

"Now, Marian," said Felix Graham, bringing her up in his arms.

"But it will burn, Mr. Felix. Look there; see; there are a great many
at that end. You do it."

"I must have another kiss then."

"Very well, yes; if you get five." And then Felix dashed his hand in
among the flames and brought forth a fistful of fruit, which imparted
to his fingers and wristband a smell of brandy for the rest of the
evening.

"If you take so many at a time I shall rap your knuckles with the
spoon," said the ghost, as she stirred up the flames to keep them
alive.

"But the ghost shouldn't speak," said Marian, who was evidently
unacquainted with the best ghosts of tragedy.

"But the ghost must speak when such large hands invade the caldron;"
and then another raid was effected, and the threatened blow was
given. Had any one told her in the morning that she would that day
have rapped Mr. Graham's knuckles with a kitchen spoon, she would not
have believed that person; but it is thus that hearts are lost and
won.

And Peregrine Orme looked on from a distance, thinking of it all.
That he should have been stricken dumb by the beauty of any girl was
surprising even to himself; for though young and almost boyish in his
manners, he had never yet feared to speak out in any presence. The
tutor at his college had thought him insolent beyond parallel; and
his grandfather, though he loved him for his open face and plain
outspoken words, found them sometimes almost too much for him. But
now he stood there looking and longing, and could not summon courage
to go up and address a few words to this young girl even in the midst
of their sports. Twice or thrice during the last few days he had
essayed to speak to her, but his words had been dull and vapid, and
to himself they had appeared childish. He was quite conscious of his
own weakness. More than once, during that period of the snap-dragon,
did he say to himself that he would descend into the lists and break
a lance in that tourney; but still he did not descend, and his lance
remained inglorious in its rest.

At the other end of the long table the ghost also had two attendant
knights, and neither of them refrained from the battle. Augustus
Staveley, if he thought it worth his while to keep the lists at
all, would not be allowed to ride through them unopposed from any
backwardness on the part of his rival. Lucius Mason was not likely
to become a timid, silent, longing lover. To him it was not possible
that he should fear the girl whom he loved. He could not worship that
which he wished to obtain for himself. It may be doubted whether he
had much faculty of worshipping anything in the truest meaning of
that word. One worships that which one feels, through the inner and
unexpressed conviction of the mind, to be greater, better, higher
than oneself; but it was not probable that Lucius Mason should so
think of any woman that he might meet.

Nor, to give him his due, was it probable that he should be in any
way afraid of any man that he might encounter. He would fear neither
the talent, nor the rank, nor the money influence, nor the dexterity
of any such rival. In any attempt that he might make on a woman's
heart he would regard his own chance as good against that of any
other possible he. Augustus Staveley was master here at Noningsby,
and was a clever, dashing, handsome, fashionable young fellow; but
Lucius Mason never dreamed of retreating before such forces as those.
He had words with which to speak as fair as those of any man, and
flattered himself that he as well knew how to use them.

It was pretty to see with what admirable tact and judicious
management of her smiles Sophia received the homage of the two young
men, answering the compliments of both with ease, and so conducting
herself that neither could fairly accuse her of undue favour to the
other. But unfairly, in his own mind, Augustus did so accuse her.
And why should he have been so venomous, seeing that he entertained
no regard for the lady himself? His object was still plain
enough,--that, namely, of making a match between his needy friend and
the heiress.

His needy friend in the mean time played on through the long evening
in thoughtless happiness; and Peregrine Orme, looking at the game
from a distance, saw that rap given to the favoured knuckles with a
bitterness of heart and an inner groaning of the spirit that will not
be incomprehensible to many.

"I do so love that Mr. Felix!" said Marian, as her aunt Madeline
kissed her in her little bed on wishing her good night. "Don't you,
aunt Mad--?"

And so it was that Christmas-day was passed at Noningsby.



CHAPTER XXIII

CHRISTMAS AT GROBY PARK


Christmas-day was always a time of very great trial to Mrs. Mason of
Groby Park. It behoved her, as the wife of an old English country
gentleman, to spread her board plenteously at that season, and in
some sort to make an open house of it. But she could not bring
herself to spread any board with plenty, and the idea of an open
house would almost break her heart. Unlimited eating! There was
something in the very sounds of such words which was appalling to the
inner woman.

And on this Christmas-day she was doomed to go through an ordeal of
very peculiar severity. It so happened that the cure of souls in the
parish of Groby had been intrusted for the last two or three years to
a young, energetic, but not very opulent curate. Why the rector of
Groby should be altogether absent, leaving the work in the hands
of a curate, whom he paid by the lease of a cottage and garden and
fifty-five pounds a year,--thereby behaving as he imagined with
extensive liberality,--it is unnecessary here to inquire. Such was
the case, and the Rev. Adolphus Green, with Mrs. A. Green and the
four children, managed to live with some difficulty on the produce
of the garden and the allotted stipend; but could not probably have
lived at all in that position had not Mrs. Adolphus Green been
blessed with some small fortune.

It had so happened that Mrs. Adolphus Green had been instrumental in
imparting some knowledge of singing to two of the Miss Masons, and
had continued her instructions over the last three years. This had
not been done in any preconcerted way, but the lessons had grown by
chance. Mrs. Mason the while had looked on with a satisfied eye at an
arrangement that was so much to her taste.

"There are no regular lessons you know," she had said to her husband,
when he suggested that some reward for so much work would be
expedient. "Mrs. Green finds it convenient to have the use of my
drawing-room, and would never see an instrument from year's end to
year's end if she were not allowed to come up here. Depend upon it
she gets a great deal more than she gives."

But after two years of tuition Mr. Mason had spoken a second time.
"My dear," he said, "I cannot allow the girls to accept so great a
favour from Mrs. Green without making her some compensation."

"I don't see that it is at all necessary," Mrs. Mason had
answered; "but if you think so, we could send her down a hamper of
apples,--that is, a basketful." Now it happened that apples were very
plentiful that year, and that the curate and his wife were blessed
with as many as they could judiciously consume.

"Apples! nonsense!" said Mr. Mason.

"If you mean money, my dear, I couldn't do it. I wouldn't so offend a
lady for all the world."

"You could buy them something handsome, in the way of furniture. That
little room of theirs that they call the drawing-room has nothing in
it at all. Get Jones from Leeds to send them some things that will
do for them." And hence, after many inner misgivings, had arisen
that purchase of a drawing-room set from Mr. Kantwise,--that set of
metallic "Louey Catorse furniture," containing three tables, eight
chairs, &c., &c., as to which it may be remembered that Mrs. Mason
made such an undoubted bargain, getting them for less than cost
price. That they had been "strained," as Mr. Kantwise himself
admitted in discoursing on the subject to Mr. Dockwrath, was not
matter of much moment. They would do extremely well for a curate's
wife.

And now on this Christmas-day the present was to be made over to the
happy lady. Mr. and Mrs. Green were to dine at Groby Park,--leaving
their more fortunate children to the fuller festivities of the
cottage; and the intention was that before dinner the whole
drawing-room set should be made over. It was with grievous pangs of
heart that Mrs. Mason looked forward to such an operation. Her own
house was plenteously furnished from the kitchens to the attics,
but still she would have loved to keep that metallic set of painted
trumpery. She knew that the table would not screw on; she knew that
the pivot of the music stool was bent; she knew that there was no
place in the house in which they could stand; she must have known
that in no possible way could they be of use to her or hers,--and
yet she could not part with them without an agony. Her husband was
infatuated in this matter of compensation for the use of Mrs. Green's
idle hours; no compensation could be necessary;--and then she paid
another visit to the metallic furniture. She knew in her heart of
hearts that they could never be of use to anybody, and yet she made
up her mind to keep back two out of the eight chairs. Six chairs
would be quite enough for Mrs. Green's small room.

As there was to be feasting at five, real roast beef, plum-pudding
and mince-pies;--"Mince-pies and plum-pudding together are vulgar,
my dear," Mrs. Mason had said to her husband; but in spite of the
vulgarity he had insisted;--the breakfast was of course scanty. Mr.
Mason liked a slice of cold meat in the morning, or the leg of a
fowl, or a couple of fresh eggs as well as any man; but the matter
was not worth a continual fight. "As we are to dine an hour earlier
to-day I did not think you would eat meat," his wife said to him.
"Then there would be less expense in putting it on the table," he
had answered; and after that there was nothing more said about it.
He always put off till some future day that great contest which he
intended to wage and to win, and by which he hoped to bring it about
that plenty should henceforward be the law of the land at Groby Park.
And then they all went to church. Mrs. Mason would not on any account
have missed church on Christmas-day or a Sunday. It was a cheap duty,
and therefore rigidly performed. As she walked from her carriage up
to the church-door she encountered Mrs. Green, and smiled sweetly as
she wished that lady all the compliments of the season.

"We shall see you immediately after church," said Mrs. Mason.

"Oh yes, certainly," said Mrs. Green.

"And Mr. Green with you?"

"He intends to do himself the pleasure," said the curate's wife.

"Mind he comes, because we have a little ceremony to go through
before we sit down to dinner," and Mrs. Mason smiled again ever
so graciously. Did she think, or did she not think, that she was
going to do a kindness to her neighbour? Most women would have sunk
into their shoes as the hour grew nigh at which they were to show
themselves guilty of so much meanness.

She stayed for the sacrament, and it may here be remarked that on
that afternoon she rated both the footman and housemaid because they
omitted to do so. She thought, we must presume, that she was doing
her duty, and must imagine her to have been ignorant that she was
cheating her husband and cheating her friend. She took the sacrament
with admirable propriety of demeanour, and then, on her return home,
withdrew another chair from the set. There would still be six,
including the rocking chair, and six would be quite enough for that
little hole of a room.

There was a large chamber up stairs at Groby Park which had been used
for the children's lessons, but which now was generally deserted.
There was in it an old worn-out pianoforte,--and though Mrs. Mason
had talked somewhat grandly of the use of her drawing-room, it was
here that the singing had been taught. Into this room the metallic
furniture had been brought, and up to that Christmas morning it had
remained here packed in its original boxes. Hither immediately after
breakfast Mrs. Mason had taken herself, and had spent an hour in her
efforts to set the things forth to view. Two of the chairs she then
put aside into a cupboard, and a third she added to her private store
on her return to her work after church.

But, alas, alas! let her do what she would, she could not get the top
on to the table. "It's all smashed, ma'am," said the girl whom she
at last summoned to her aid. "Nonsense, you simpleton; how can it be
smashed when it's new," said the mistress. And then she tried again,
and again, declaring as she did do, that she would have the law of
the rogue who had sold her a damaged article. Nevertheless she had
known that it was damaged, and had bought it cheap on that account,
insisting in very urgent language that the table was in fact worth
nothing because of its injuries.

At about four Mr. and Mrs. Green walked up to the house and were
shown into the drawing-room. Here was Mrs. Mason supported by
Penelope and Creusa. As Diana was not musical, and therefore under
no compliment to Mrs. Green, she kept out of the way. Mr. Mason also
was absent. He knew that something very mean was about to be done,
and would not show his face till it was over. He ought to have taken
the matter in hand himself, and would have done so had not his mind
been full of other things. He himself was a man terribly wronged and
wickedly injured, and could not therefore in these present months
interfere much in the active doing of kindnesses. His hours were
spent in thinking how he might best obtain justice,--how he might
secure his pound of flesh. He only wanted his own, but that he
would have;--his own, with due punishment on those who had for so
many years robbed him of it. He therefore did not attend at the
presentation of the furniture.

"And now we'll go up stairs, if you please," said Mrs. Mason, with
that gracious smile for which she was so famous. "Mr. Green, you must
come too. Dear Mrs. Green has been so very kind to my two girls; and
now I have got a few articles,--they are of the very newest fashion,
and I do hope that Mrs. Green will like them." And so they all went
up into the schoolroom.

"There's a new fashion come up lately," said Mrs. Mason as she walked
along the corridor, "quite new:--of metallic furniture. I don't know
whether you have seen any." Mrs. Green said she had not seen any as
yet.

"The Patent Steel Furniture Company makes it, and it has got very
greatly into vogue for small rooms. I thought that perhaps you would
allow me to present you with a set for your drawing-room."

"I'm sure it is very kind of you to think of it," said Mrs. Green.

"Uncommonly so," said Mr. Green. But both Mr. Green and Mrs. Green
knew the lady, and their hopes did not run high.

And then the door was opened and there stood the furniture to view.
There stood the furniture, except the three subtracted chairs, and
the loo table. The claw and leg of the table indeed were standing
there, but the top was folded up and lying on the floor beside it. "I
hope you'll like the pattern," began Mrs. Mason. "I'm told that it
is the prettiest that has yet been brought out. There has been some
little accident about the screw of the table, but the smith in the
village will put that to rights in five minutes. He lives so close to
you that I didn't think it worth while to have him up here."

"It's very nice," said Mrs. Green, looking round her almost in
dismay.

"Very nice indeed," said Mr. Green, wondering in his mind for
what purpose such utter trash could have been manufactured, and
endeavouring to make up his mind as to what they might possibly do
with it. Mr. Green knew what chairs and tables should be, and was
well aware that the things before him were absolutely useless for any
of the ordinary purposes of furniture.

"And they are the most convenient things in the world," said Mrs.
Mason, "for when you are going to change house you pack them all up
again in those boxes. Wooden furniture takes up so much room, and is
so lumbersome."

"Yes, it is," said Mrs. Green.

"I'll have them all put up again and sent down in the cart
to-morrow."

"Thank you; that will be very kind," said Mr. Green, and then the
ceremony of the presentation was over. On the following day the boxes
were sent down, and Mrs. Mason might have abstracted even another
chair without detection, for the cases lay unheeded from month to
month in the curate's still unfurnished room. "The fact is they
cannot afford a carpet," Mrs. Mason afterwards said to one of her
daughters, "and with such things as those they are quite right to
keep them up till they can be used with advantage. I always gave Mrs.
Green credit for a good deal of prudence."

And then, when the show was over, they descended again into the
drawing-room,--Mr. Green and Mrs. Mason went first, and Creusa
followed. Penelope was thus so far behind as to be able to speak to
her friend without being heard by the others.

"You know mamma," she said, with a shrug of her shoulders and a look
of scorn in her eye.

"The things are very nice."

"No, they are not, and you know they are not. They are worthless;
perfectly worthless."

"But we don't want anything."

"No; and if there had been no pretence of a gift it would all have
been very well. What will Mr. Green think?"

"I rather think he likes iron chairs;" and then they were in the
drawing-room.

Mr. Mason did not appear till dinner-time, and came in only just in
time to give his arm to Mrs. Green. He had had letters to write,--a
letter to Messrs. Round and Crook, very determined in its tone; and a
letter also to Mr. Dockwrath, for the little attorney had so crept on
in the affair that he was now corresponding with the principal. "I'll
teach those fellows in Bedford Row to know who I am," he had said to
himself more than once, sitting on his high stool at Hamworth.

And then came the Groby Park Christmas dinner. To speak the truth Mr.
Mason had himself gone to the neighbouring butcher, and ordered the
surloin of beef, knowing that it would be useless to trust to orders
conveyed through his wife. He had seen the piece of meat put on
one side for him, and had afterwards traced it on to the kitchen
dresser. But nevertheless when it appeared at table it had been
sadly mutilated. A steak had been cut off the full breadth of it--a
monstrous cantle from out its fair proportions. The lady had seen the
jovial, thick, ample size of the goodly joint, and her heart had been
unable to spare it. She had made an effort and turned away, saying to
herself that the responsibility was all with him. But it was of no
use. There was that within her which could not do it. "Your master
will never be able to carve such a mountain of meat as that," she had
said, turning back to the cook. "Deed, an' it's he that will, ma'am,"
said the Irish mistress of the spit; for Irish cooks are cheaper than
those bred and born in England. But nevertheless the thing was done,
and it was by her own fair hands that the envious knife was used. "I
couldn't do it, ma'am," the cook had said; "I couldn't railly."

Mr. Mason's face became very black when he saw the raid that had been
effected, and when he looked up across the table his wife's eye was
on him. She knew what she had to expect, and she knew also that it
would not come now. Her eye steadily looked at his, quivering with
fear; for Mr. Mason could be savage enough in his anger. And what had
she gained? One may as well ask what does the miser gain who hides
away his gold in an old pot, or what does that other madman gain
who is locked up for long long years because he fancies himself the
grandmother of the Queen of England?

But there was still enough beef on the table for all of them to
eat, and as Mrs. Mason was not intrusted with the carving of it,
their plates were filled. As far as a sufficiency of beef can make
a good dinner Mr. and Mrs. Green did have a good dinner on that
Christmas-day. Beyond that their comfort was limited, for no one was
in a humour for happy conversation.

And over and beyond the beef there was a plum-pudding and three
mince-pies. Four mince-pies had originally graced the dish, but
before dinner one had been conveyed away to some up stairs receptacle
for such spoils. The pudding also was small, nor was it black and
rich, and laden with good things as a Christmas pudding should be
laden. Let us hope that what the guests so lost was made up to them
on the following day, by an absence of those ill effects which
sometimes attend upon the consumption of rich viands.

"And now, my dear, we'll have a bit of bread and cheese and a glass
of beer," Mr. Green said when he arrived at his own cottage. And so
it was that Christmas-day was passed at Groby Park.



CHAPTER XXIV

CHRISTMAS IN GREAT ST. HELENS

We will now look in for a moment at the Christmas doings of our fat
friend, Mr. Moulder. Mr. Moulder was a married man living in lodgings
over a wine-merchant's vaults in Great St. Helens. He was blessed--or
troubled, with no children, and prided himself greatly on the
material comfort with which his humble home was surrounded. "His
wife," he often boasted, "never wanted for plenty of the best of
eating; and for linen and silks and such-like, she could show her
drawers and her wardrobes with many a great lady from Russell Square,
and not be ashamed, neither!" And then, as for drink,--"tipple," as
Mr. Moulder sportively was accustomed to name it among his friends,
he opined that he was not altogether behind the mark in that respect.
"He had got some brandy--he didn't care what anybody might say about
Cognac and eau de vie; but the brandy which he had got from Betts'
private establishment seventeen years ago, for richness of flavour
and fullness of strength, would beat any French article that anybody
in the city could show. That at least was his idea. If anybody didn't
like it, they needn't take it. There was whisky that would make your
hair stand on end." So said Mr. Moulder, and I can believe him; for
it has made my hair stand on end merely to see other people drinking
it.

And if comforts of apparel, comforts of eating and drinking, and
comforts of the feather-bed and easy-chair kind can make a woman
happy, Mrs. Moulder was no doubt a happy woman. She had quite fallen
in to the mode of life laid out for her. She had a little bit of hot
kidney for breakfast at about ten; she dined at three, having seen
herself to the accurate cooking of her roast fowl, or her bit of
sweetbread, and always had her pint of Scotch ale. She turned over
all her clothes almost every day. In the evening she read Reynolds's
Miscellany, had her tea and buttered muffins, took a thimbleful of
brandy and water at nine, and then went to bed. The work of her
life consisted in sewing buttons on to Moulder's shirts, and seeing
that his things were properly got up when he was at home. No doubt
she would have done better as to the duties of the world, had the
world's duties come to her. As it was, very few such had come in her
direction. Her husband was away from home three-fourths of the year,
and she had no children that required attention. As for society, some
four or five times a year she would drink tea with Mrs. Hubbles at
Clapham. Mrs. Hubbles was the wife of the senior partner in the firm,
and on such occasions Mrs. Moulder dressed herself in her best, and
having travelled to Clapham in an omnibus, spent the evening in dull
propriety on one corner of Mrs. Hubbles's sofa. When I have added to
this that Moulder every year took her to Broadstairs for a fortnight,
I think that I have described with sufficient accuracy the course of
Mrs. Moulder's life.

On the occasion of this present Christmas-day Mr. Moulder entertained
a small party. And he delighted in such occasional entertainments,
taking extraordinary pains that the eatables should be of the
very best; and he would maintain an hospitable good humour to the
last,--unless anything went wrong in the cookery, in which case he
could make himself extremely unpleasant to Mrs. M. Indeed, proper
cooking for Mr. M. and the proper starching of the bands of his
shirts were almost the only trials that Mrs. Moulder was doomed to
suffer. "What the d---- are you for?" he would say, almost throwing
the displeasing viands at her head across the table, or tearing the
rough linen from off his throat. "It ain't much I ask of you in
return for your keep;" and then he would scowl at her with bloodshot
eyes till she shook in her shoes. But this did not happen often, as
experiences had made her careful.

But on this present Christmas festival all went swimmingly to the
end. "Now, bear a hand, old girl," was the harshest word he said
to her; and he enjoyed himself like Duncan, shut up in measureless
content. He had three guests with him on this auspicious day. There
was his old friend Snengkeld, who had dined with him on every
Christmas since his marriage; there was his wife's brother, of whom
we will say a word or two just now;--and there was our old friend,
Mr. Kantwise. Mr. Kantwise was not exactly the man whom Moulder would
have chosen as his guest, for they were opposed to each other in
all their modes of thought and action; but he had come across the
travelling agent of the Patent Metallic Steel Furniture Company on
the previous day, and finding that he was to be alone in London on
this general holiday, he had asked him out of sheer good nature.
Moulder could be very good natured, and full of pity when the sorrow
to be pitied arose from some such source as the want of a Christmas
dinner. So Mr. Kantwise had been asked, and precisely at four o'clock
he made his appearance at Great St. Helens.

But now, as to this brother-in-law. He was no other than that John
Kenneby whom Miriam Usbech did not marry,--whom Miriam Usbech might,
perhaps, have done well to marry. John Kenneby, after one or two
attempts in other spheres of life, had at last got into the house
of Hubbles and Grease, and had risen to be their book-keeper. He
had once been tried by them as a traveller, but in that line he had
failed. He did not possess that rough, ready, self-confident tone
of mind which is almost necessary for a man who is destined to move
about quickly from one circle of persons to another. After a six
months' trial he had given that up, but during the time, Mr. Moulder,
the senior traveller of the house, had married his sister. John
Kenneby was a good, honest, painstaking fellow, and was believed
by his friends to have put a few pounds together in spite of the
timidity of his character.

When Snengkeld and Kenneby were shown up into the room, they found
nobody there but Kantwise. That Mrs. Moulder should be down stairs
looking after the roast turkey was no more than natural; but why
should not Moulder himself be there to receive his guests? He soon
appeared, however, coming up without his coat.

"Well, Snengkeld, how are you, old fellow; many happy returns, and
all that; the same to you, John. I'll tell you what, my lads; it's a
prime 'un. I never saw such a bird in all my days."

"What, the turkey?" said Snengkeld.

"You didn't think it'd be a ostrich, did you?"

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Snengkeld. "No, I didn't expect nothing but a
turkey here on Christmas-day."

"And nothing but a turkey you'll have, my boys. Can you eat turkey,
Kantwise?"

Mr. Kantwise declared that his only passion in the way of eating was
for a turkey.

"As for John, I'm sure of him. I've seen him at the work before."
Whereupon John grinned but said nothing.

"I never see such a bird in my life, certainly."

"From Norfolk, I suppose," said Snengkeld, with a great appearance of
interest.

"Oh, you may swear to that. It weighed twenty-four pounds, for I put
it into the scales myself, and old Gibbetts let me have it for a
guinea. The price marked on it was five-and-twenty, for I saw it.
He's had it hanging for a fortnight, and I've been to see it wiped
down with vinegar regular every morning. And now, my boys, it's done
to a turn. I've been in the kitchen most of the time myself; and
either I or Mrs. M. has never left it for a single moment."

"How did you manage about divine service?" said Kantwise; and then,
when he had spoken, closed his eyes and sucked his lips.

Mr. Moulder looked at him for a minute, and then said, "Gammon."

"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Snengkeld. And then Mrs. Moulder appeared,
bringing the turkey with her; for she would trust it to no hands less
careful than her own.

"By George, it is a bird," said Snengkeld, standing over it and
eyeing it minutely.

"Uncommon nice it looks," said Kantwise.

"All the same, I wouldn't eat none, if I were you," said Moulder,
"seeing what sinners have been a basting it." And then they all sat
down to dinner, Moulder having first resumed his coat.

For the next three or four minutes Moulder did not speak a word. The
turkey was on his mind, with the stuffing, the gravy, the liver, the
breast, the wings, and the legs. He stood up to carve it, and while
he was at the work he looked at it as though his two eyes were hardly
sufficient. He did not help first one person and then another, so
ending by himself; but he cut up artistically as much as might
probably be consumed, and located the fragments in small heaps or
shares in the hot gravy; and then, having made a partition of the
spoils, he served it out with unerring impartiality. To have robbed
any one of his or her fair slice of the breast would, in his mind,
have been gross dishonesty. In his heart he did not love Kantwise,
but he dealt by him with the utmost justice in the great affair of
the turkey's breast. When he had done all this, and his own plate was
laden, he gave a long sigh. "I shall never cut up such another bird
as that, the longest day that I have to live," he said; and then he
took out his large red silk handkerchief and wiped the perspiration
from his brow.

"Deary me, M.; don't think of that now," said the wife.

"What's the use?" said Snengkeld. "Care killed a cat."

"And perhaps you may," said John Kenneby, trying to comfort him; "who
knows?"

"It's all in the hands of Providence," said Kantwise, "and we should
look to him."

"And how does it taste?" asked Moulder, shaking the gloomy thoughts
from his mind.

"Uncommon," said Snengkeld, with his mouth quite full. "I never eat
such a turkey in all my life."

"Like melted diamonds," said Mrs. Moulder, who was not without a
touch of poetry.

"Ah, there's nothing like hanging of 'em long enough, and watching of
'em well. It's that vinegar as done it;" and then they went seriously
to work, and there was nothing more said of any importance until the
eating was nearly over.

And now Mrs. M. had taken away the cloth, and they were sitting
cozily over their port wine. The very apple of the eye of the evening
had not arrived even yet. That would not come till the pipes were
brought out, and the brandy was put on the table, and the whisky was
there that made the people's hair stand on end. It was then that the
floodgates of convivial eloquence would be unloosed. In the mean time
it was necessary to sacrifice something to gentility, and therefore
they sat over their port wine.

"Did you bring that letter with you, John?" said his sister. John
replied that he had done so, and that he had also received another
letter that morning from another party on the same subject.

"Do show it to Moulder, and ask him," said Mrs. M.

"I've got 'em both on purpose," said John; and then he brought
forth two letters, and handed one of them to his brother-in-law.
It contained a request, very civilly worded, from Messrs. Round
and Crook, begging him to call at their office in Bedford Row on
the earliest possible day, in order that they might have some
conversation with him regarding the will of the late Sir Joseph
Mason, who died in 18--.

"Why, this is law business," said Moulder, who liked no business
of that description. "Don't you go near them, John, if you ain't
obliged."

And then Kenneby gave his explanation on the matter, telling how in
former years,--many years ago, he had been a witness in a lawsuit.
And then as he told it he sighed, remembering Miriam Usbech, for
whose sake he had remained unmarried even to this day. And he went
on to narrate how he had been bullied in the court, though he had
valiantly striven to tell the truth with exactness; and as he spoke,
an opinion of his became manifest that old Usbech had not signed
the document in his presence. "The girl signed it certainly," said
he, "for I handed her the pen. I recollect it, as though it were
yesterday."

"They are the very people we were talking of at Leeds," said Moulder,
turning to Kantwise. "Mason and Martock; don't you remember how you
went out to Groby Park to sell some of them iron gimcracks? That was
old Mason's son. They are the same people."

"Ah, I shouldn't wonder," said Kantwise, who was listening all the
while. He never allowed intelligence of this kind to pass by him
idly.

"And who's the other letter from?" asked Moulder. "But, dash my wigs,
it's past six o'clock. Come, old girl, why don't you give us the
tobacco and stuff?"

"It ain't far to fetch," said Mrs. Moulder. And then she put the
tobacco and "stuff" upon the table.

"The other letter is from an enemy of mine," said John Kenneby,
speaking very solemnly; "an enemy of mine, named Dockwrath, who lives
at Hamworth. He's an attorney too."

"Dockwrath!" said Moulder.

Mr. Kantwise said nothing, but he looked round over his shoulder at
Kenneby, and then shut his eyes.

"That was the name of the man whom we left in the commercial room at
the Bull," said Snengkeld.

"He went out to Mason's at Groby Park that same day," said Moulder.

"Then it's the same man," said Kenneby; and there was as much
solemnity in the tone of his voice as though the unravelment of
all the mysteries of the iron mask was now about to take place. Mr.
Kantwise still said nothing, but he also perceived that it was the
same man.

"Let me tell you, John Kenneby," said Moulder, with the air of one
who understood well the subject that he was discussing, "if they two
be the same man, then the man who wrote that letter to you is as big
a blackguard as there is from this to hisself." And Mr. Moulder in
the excitement of the moment puffed hard at his pipe, took a long
pull at his drink, and dragged open his waistcoat. "I don't know
whether Kantwise has anything to say upon that subject," added
Moulder.

"Not a word at present," said Kantwise. Mr. Kantwise was a very
careful man, and usually calculated with accuracy the value which he
might extract from any circumstances with reference to his own main
chance. Mr. Dockwrath had not as yet paid him for the set of metallic
furniture, and therefore he also might well have joined in that
sweeping accusation; but it might be that by a judicious use of what
he now heard he might obtain the payment of that little bill,--and
perhaps other collateral advantages.

And then the letter from Dockwrath to Kenneby was brought forth and
read. "My dear John," it began,--for the two had known each other
when they were lads together,--and it went on to request Kenneby's
attendance at Hamworth for the short space of a few hours,--"I want
to have a little conversation with you about a matter of considerable
interest to both of us; and as I cannot expect you to undertake
expense I enclose a money order for thirty shillings."

"He's in earnest at any rate," said Mr. Moulder.

"No mistake about that," said Snengkeld.

But Mr. Kantwise spoke never a word.

It was at last decided that John Kenneby should go both to Hamworth
and to Bedford Row, but that he should go to Hamworth first. Moulder
would have counselled him to have gone to neither, but Snengkeld
remarked that there were too many at work to let the matter sleep,
and John himself observed that "anyways he hadn't done anything to be
ashamed of."

"Then go," said Moulder at last, "only don't say more than you are
obliged to."

"I does not like these business talkings on Christmas night," said
Mrs. Moulder, when the matter was arranged.

"What can one do?" asked Moulder.

"It's a tempting of Providence in my mind," said Kantwise, as he
replenished his glass, and turned his eyes up to the ceiling.

"Now that's gammon," said Moulder. And then there arose among them a
long and animated discussion on matters theological.

"I'll tell you what my idea of death is," said Moulder, after a
while. "I ain't a bit afeard of it. My father was an honest man as
did his duty by his employers, and he died with a bottom of brandy
before him and a pipe in his mouth. I sha'n't live long myself--"

"Gracious, Moulder, don't!" said Mrs. M.

"No, more I sha'n't, 'cause I'm fat as he was; and I hope I may die
as he did. I've been honest to Hubbles and Grease. They've made
thousands of pounds along of me, and have never lost none. Who can
say more than that? When I took to the old girl there, I insured my
life, so that she shouldn't want her wittles and drink--"

"Oh, M., don't!"

"And I ain't afeard to die. Snengkeld, my old pal, hand us the
brandy."

Such is the modern philosophy of the Moulders, pigs out of the sty
of Epicurus. And so it was they passed Christmas-day in Great St.
Helens.



CHAPTER XXV

MR. FURNIVAL AGAIN AT HIS CHAMBERS


The Christmas doings at The Cleeve were not very gay. There was no
visitor there, except Lady Mason, and it was known that she was
in trouble. It must not, however, be supposed that she constantly
bewailed herself while there, or made her friends miserable by a
succession of hysterical tears. By no means. She made an effort to be
serene, and the effort was successful--as such efforts usually are.
On the morning of Christmas-day they duly attended church, and Lady
Mason was seen by all Hamworth sitting in The Cleeve pew. In no way
could the baronet's friendship have been shown more plainly than
in this, nor could a more significant mark of intimacy have been
given;--all which Sir Peregrine well understood. The people of
Hamworth had chosen to talk scandal about Lady Mason, but he at any
rate would show how little attention he paid to the falsehoods that
there were circulated. So he stood by her at the pew door as she
entered, with as much deference as though she had been a duchess; and
the people of Hamworth, looking on, wondered which would be right,
Mr. Dockwrath or Sir Peregrine.

After dinner Sir Peregrine gave a toast. "Lady Mason, we will drink
the health of the absent boys. God bless them! I hope they are
enjoying themselves."

"God bless them!" said Mrs. Orme, putting her handkerchief to her
eyes.

"God bless them both!" said Lady Mason, also putting her handkerchief
to her eyes. Then the ladies left the room, and that was the extent
of their special festivity. "Robert," said Sir Peregrine immediately
afterwards to his butler, "let them have what port wine they want in
the servants' hall--within measure."

"Yes, Sir Peregrine."

"And Robert, I shall not want you again."

"Thank you, Sir Peregrine."

From all which it may be imagined that the Christmas doings at The
Cleeve were chiefly maintained below stairs.

"I do hope they are happy," said Mrs. Orme, when the two ladies
were together in the drawing-room. "They have a very nice party at
Noningsby."

"Your boy will be happy, I'm sure," said Lady Mason.

"And why not Lucius also?"

It was sweet in Lady Mason's ear to hear her son called by his
Christian name. All these increasing signs of interest and intimacy
were sweet, but especially any which signified some favour shown to
her son. "This trouble weighs heavy on him," she replied. "It is only
natural that he should feel it."

"Papa does not seem to think much of it," said Mrs. Orme. "If I were
you, I would strive to forget it."

"I do strive," said the other; and then she took the hand which Mrs.
Orme had stretched out to her, and that lady got up and kissed her.

"Dearest friend," said Mrs. Orme, "if we can comfort you we will."
And then they sobbed in each other's arms.

In the mean time Sir Peregrine was sitting alone, thinking. He sat
thinking, with his glass of claret untouched by his side, and with
the biscuit which he had taken lying untouched upon the table. As he
sat he had raised one leg upon the other, placing his foot on his
knee, and he held it there with his hand upon his instep. And so he
sat without moving for some quarter of an hour, trying to use all
his mind on the subject which occupied it. At last he roused himself,
almost with a start, and leaving his chair, walked three or four
times the length of the room. "Why should I not?" at last he said to
himself, stopping suddenly and placing his hand upon the table. "Why
should I not, if it pleases me? It shall not injure him--nor her."
And then he walked again. "But I will ask Edith," he said, still
speaking to himself. "If she says that she disapproves of it, I will
not do it." And then he left the room, while the wine still remained
untasted on the table.

On the day following Christmas Mr. Furnival went up to town, and Mr.
Round junior,--Mat Round, as he was called in the profession,--came
to him at his chambers. A promise had been made to the barrister by
Round and Crook that no active steps should be taken against Lady
Mason on the part of Joseph Mason of Groby, without notice being
given to Mr. Furnival. And this visit by appointment was made in
consequence of that promise.

"You see," said Matthew Round, when that visit was nearly brought to
a close, "that we are pressed very hard to go on with this, and if we
do not, somebody else will."

"Nevertheless, if I were you, I should decline," said Mr. Furnival.

"You're looking to your client, not to ours, sir," said the attorney.
"The fact is that the whole case is very queer. It was proved on the
last trial that Bolster and Kenneby were witnesses to a deed on the
14th of July, and that was all that was proved. Now we can prove that
they were on that day witnesses to another deed. Were they witnesses
to two?"

"Why should they not be?"

"That is for us to see. We have written to them both to come up to
us, and in order that we might be quite on the square I thought it
right to tell you."

"Thank you; yes; I cannot complain of you. And what form do you think
that your proceedings will take?"

"Joseph Mason talks of indicting her for--forgery," said the
attorney, pausing a moment before he dared to pronounce the dread
word.

"Indict her for forgery!" said Furnival, with a start. And yet the
idea was one which had been for some days present to his mind's eye.

"I do not say so," said Round. "I have as yet seen none of the
witnesses myself. If they are prepared to prove that they did sign
two separate documents on that day, the thing must pass off." It was
clear to Mr. Furnival that even Mr. Round junior would be glad that
it should pass off. And then he also sat thinking. Might it not be
probable that, with a little judicious exercise of their memory,
those two witnesses would remember that they had signed two
documents; or at any rate, looking to the lapse of the time, that
they might be induced to forget altogether whether they had signed
one, two, or three? Or even if they could be mystified so that
nothing could be proved, it would still be well with his client.
Indeed no magistrate would commit such a person as Lady Mason,
especially after so long an interval, and no grand jury would find a
bill against her, except upon evidence that was clear, well defined,
and almost indubitable. If any point of doubt could be shown, she
might be brought off without a trial, if only she would be true
to herself. At the former trial there was the existing codicil,
and the fact also that the two surviving reputed witnesses would
not deny their signatures. These signatures--if they were genuine
signatures--had been attached with all proper formality, and the form
used went to state that the testator had signed the instrument in the
presence of them all, they all being present together at the same
time. The survivors had both asserted that when they did affix their
names the three were then present, as was also Sir Joseph; but
there had been a terrible doubt even then as to the identity of the
document; and a doubt also as to there having been any signature made
by one of the reputed witnesses--by that one, namely, who at the
time of that trial was dead. Now another document was forthcoming,
purporting to have been witnessed, on the same day, by these two
surviving witnesses! If that document were genuine, and if these
two survivors should be clear that they had written their names but
once on that 14th of July, in such case could it be possible to
quash further public inquiry? The criminal prosecution might not be
possible as a first proceeding, but if the estate were recovered at
common law, would not the criminal prosecution follow as a matter of
course? And then Mr. Furnival thought it all over again and again.

If this document were genuine,--this new document which the man
Dockwrath stated that he had found,--this deed of separation of
partnership which purported to have been executed on that 14th of
July! That was now the one important question. If it were genuine!
And why should there not be as strong a question of the honesty
of that document as of the other? Mr. Furnival well knew that no
fraudulent deed would be forged and produced without a motive; and
that if he impugned this deed he must show the motive. Motive enough
there was, no doubt. Mason might have had it forged in order to get
the property, or Dockwrath to gratify his revenge. But in such case
it would be a forgery of the present day. There could have been no
motive for such a forgery twenty years ago. The paper, the writing,
the attested signature of Martock, the other party to it, would prove
that it had not been got up and manufactured now. Dockwrath would not
dare to bring forward such a forgery as that. There was no hope of
any such result.

But might not he, Furnival, if the matter were pushed before a jury,
make them think that the two documents stood balanced against each
other? and that Lady Mason's respectability, her long possession,
together with the vile malignity of her antagonists, gave the greater
probability of honesty to the disputed codicil? Mr. Furnival did
think that he might induce a jury to acquit her; but he terribly
feared that he might not be able to induce the world to acquit her
also. As he thought of all the case, he seemed to put himself apart
from the world at large. He did not question himself as to his own
belief, but seemed to feel that it would suffice for him if he could
so bring it about that her other friends should think her innocent.
It would by no means suffice for him to secure for her son the
property, and for her a simple acquittal. It was not that he dreaded
the idea of thinking her guilty himself; perhaps he did so think her
now--he half thought her so, at any rate; but he greatly dreaded the
idea of others thinking so. It might be well to buy up Dockwrath, if
it were possible. If it were possible! But then it was not possible
that he himself could have a hand in such a matter. Could Crabwitz do
it? No; he thought not. And then, at this moment, he was not certain
that he could depend on Crabwitz.

And why should he trouble himself in this way? Mr. Furnival was a
man loyal to his friends at heart. Had Lady Mason been a man, and had
he pulled that man through great difficulties in early life, he
would have been loyally desirous of carrying him through the same or
similar difficulties at any after period. In that cause which he had
once battled he was always ready to do battle, without reference to
any professional consideration of triumph or profit. It was to this
feeling of loyalty that he had owed much of his success in life. And
in such a case as this it may be supposed that that feeling would be
strong. But then such a feeling presumed a case in which he could
sympathise--in which he could believe. Would it be well that he
should allow himself to feel the same interest in this case, to
maintain respecting it the same personal anxiety, if he ceased to
believe in it? He did ask himself the question, and he finally
answered it in the affirmative. He had beaten Joseph Mason once in a
good stand-up fight; and having done so, having thus made the matter
his own, it was necessary to his comfort that he should beat him
again, if another fight were to be fought. Lady Mason was his client,
and all the associations of his life taught him to be true to her as
such.

And as we are thus searching into his innermost heart we must say
more than this. Mrs. Furnival perhaps had no sufficient grounds for
those terrible fears of hers; but nevertheless the mistress of Orley
Farm was very comely in the eyes of the lawyer. Her eyes, when full
of tears, were very bright, and her hand, as it lay in his, was very
soft. He laid out for himself no scheme of wickedness with reference
to her; he purposely entertained no thoughts which he knew to be
wrong; but, nevertheless, he did feel that he liked to have her by
him, that he liked to be her adviser and friend, that he liked to
wipe the tears from those eyes--not by a material handkerchief from
his pocket, but by immaterial manly sympathy from his bosom; and that
he liked also to feel the pressure of that hand. Mrs. Furnival had
become solid, and heavy, and red; and though he himself was solid,
and heavy, and red also--more so, indeed, in proportion than his poor
wife, for his redness, as I have said before, had almost reached a
purple hue; nevertheless his eye loved to look upon the beauty of a
lovely woman, his ear loved to hear the tone of her voice, and his
hand loved to meet the soft ripeness of her touch. It was very wrong
that it should have been so, but the case is not without a parallel.

And therefore he made up his mind that he would not desert Lady
Mason. He would not desert her; but how would he set about the
fighting that would be necessary in her behalf? He was well aware of
this, that if he fought at all, he must fight now. It would not do to
let the matter go on till she should be summoned to defend herself.
Steps which might now be available would be altogether unavailable in
two or three months' time--would be so, perhaps, if he allowed two or
three weeks to pass idly by him. Mr. Round, luckily, was not disposed
to hurry his proceedings; nor, as far as he was concerned, was there
any bitterness of antagonism. But with both Mason and Dockwrath there
would be hot haste, and hotter malice. From those who were really her
enemies she could expect no quarter.

He was to return on that evening to Noningsby, and on the following
day he would go over to The Cleeve. He knew that Lady Mason was
staying there; but his object in making that visit would not be
merely that he might see her, but also that he might speak to Sir
Peregrine, and learn how far the baronet was inclined to support
his neighbour in her coming tribulation. He would soon be able to
ascertain what Sir Peregrine really thought--whether he suspected the
possibility of any guilt; and he would ascertain also what was the
general feeling in the neighbourhood of Hamworth. It would be a great
thing if he could spread abroad a conviction that she was an injured
woman. It would be a great thing even if he could make it known that
the great people of the neighbourhood so thought. The jurymen of
Alston would be mortal men; and it might be possible that they should
be imbued with a favourable bias on the subject before they assembled
in their box for its consideration.

He wished that he knew the truth in the matter; or rather he wished
he could know whether or no she were innocent, without knowing
whether or no she were guilty. The fight in his hands would be
conducted on terms so much more glorious if he could feel sure of her
innocence. But then if he attempted that, and she were not innocent,
all might be sacrificed by the audacity of his proceedings. He could
not venture that, unless he were sure of his ground. For a moment or
two he thought that he would ask her the question. He said to himself
that he could forgive the fault. That it had been repented ere this
he did not doubt, and it would be sweet to say to her that it was
very grievous, but that yet it might be forgiven. It would be sweet
to feel that she was in his hands, and that he would treat her with
mercy and kindness. But then a hundred other thoughts forbade him to
think more of this. If she had been, guilty,--if she declared her
guilt to him,--would not restitution be necessary? In that case her
son must know it, and all the world must know it. Such a confession
would be incompatible with that innocence before the world which it
was necessary that she should maintain. Moreover, he must be able to
proclaim aloud his belief in her innocence; and how could he do that,
knowing her to be guilty--knowing that she also knew that he had such
knowledge? It was impossible that he should ask any such question, or
admit of any such confidence.

It would be necessary, if the case did come to a trial, that
she should employ some attorney. The matter must come into the
barrister's hands in the usual way, through a solicitor's house, and
it would be well that the person employed should have a firm faith in
his client. What could he say--he, as a barrister--if the attorney
suggested to him that the lady might possibly be guilty? As he
thought of all these things he almost dreaded the difficulties before
him.

He rang the bell for Crabwitz,--the peculiar bell which Crabwitz was
bound to answer,--having first of all gone through a little ceremony
with his cheque-book. Crabwitz entered, still sulky in his demeanour,
for as yet the old anger had not been appeased, and it was still a
doubtful matter in the clerk's mind whether or no it might not be
better for him to seek a master who would better appreciate his
services. A more lucrative position it might be difficult for him to
find; but money is not everything, as Crabwitz said to himself more
than once.

"Crabwitz," said Mr. Furnival, looking with a pleasant face at his
clerk, "I am leaving town this evening, and I shall be absent for the
next ten days. If you like you can go away for a holiday."

"It's rather late in the season now, sir," said Crabwitz, gloomily,
as though he were determined not to be pleased.

"It is a little late, as you say; but I really could not manage it
earlier. Come, Crabwitz, you and I should not quarrel. Your work has
been a little hard, but then so has mine also."

"I fancy you like it, sir."

"Ha! ha! Like it, indeed! But so do you like it--in its way. Come,
Crabwitz, you have been an excellent servant to me; and I don't think
that, on the whole, I have been a bad master to you."

"I am making no complaint, sir."

"But you're cross because I've kept you in town a little too long.
Come, Crabwitz, you must forget all that. You have worked very hard
this year past. Here is a cheque for fifty pounds. Get out of town
for a fortnight or so, and amuse yourself."

"I'm sure I'm very much obliged, sir," said Crabwitz, putting out
his hand and taking the cheque. He felt that his master had got the
better of him, and he was still a little melancholy on that account.
He would have valued his grievance at that moment almost more
than the fifty pounds, especially as by the acceptance of it he
surrendered all right to complain for some considerable time to come.

"By-the-by, Crabwitz," said Mr. Furnival, as the clerk was about to
leave the room.

"Yes, sir," said Crabwitz.

"You have never chanced to hear of an attorney named Dockwrath, I
suppose?"

"What! in London, Mr. Furnival?"

"No; I fancy he has no place of business in town. He lives I know at
Hamworth."

"It's he you mean, sir, that is meddling in this affair of Lady
Mason's."

"What! you have heard of that; have you?"

"Oh! yes, sir. It's being a good deal talked about in the profession.
Messrs. Round and Crook's leading young man was up here with me the
other day, and he did say a good deal about it. He's a very decent
young man, considering his position, is Smart."

"And he knows Dockwrath, does he?"

"Well, sir, I can't say that he knows much of the man; but Dockwrath
has been at their place of business pretty constant of late, and he
and Mr. Matthew seem thick enough together."

"Oh! they do; do they?"

"So Smart tells me. I don't know how it is myself, sir. I don't
suppose this Dockwrath is a very--"

"No, no; exactly. I dare say not. You've never seen him yourself,
Crabwitz?"

"Who, sir? I, sir? No, sir, I've never set eyes on the man, sir. From
all I hear it's not very likely he should come here; and I'm sure it
is not at all likely that I should go to him."

Mr. Furnival sat thinking awhile, and the clerk stood waiting
opposite to him, leaning with both his hands upon the table. "You
don't know any one in the neighbourhood of Hamworth, I suppose?" Mr.
Furnival said at last.

"Who, sir? I, sir? Not a soul, sir. I never was there in my life."

"I'll tell you why I ask. I strongly suspect that that man Dockwrath
is at some very foul play." And then he told to his clerk so much of
the whole story of Lady Mason and her affairs as he chose that he
should know. "It is plain enough that he may give Lady Mason a great
deal of annoyance," he ended by saying.

"There's no doubting that, sir," said Crabwitz. "And, to tell the
truth, I believe his mind is made up to do it."

"You don't think that anything could be done by seeing him? Of course
Lady Mason has got nothing to compromise. Her son's estate is as safe
as my hat; but--"

"The people at Round's think it isn't quite so safe, sir."

"Then the people at Round's know nothing about it. But Lady Mason is
so averse to legal proceedings that it would be worth her while to
have matters settled. You understand?"

"Yes, sir; I understand. Would not an attorney be the best person,
sir?"

"Not just at present, Crabwitz. Lady Mason is a very dear friend of
mine--"

"Yes, sir; we know that," said Crabwitz.

"If you could make any pretence for running down to Hamworth--change
of air, you know, for a week or so. It's a beautiful country; just
the place you like. And you might find out whether anything could be
done, eh?"

Mr. Crabwitz was well aware, from the first, that he did not get
fifty pounds for nothing.



CHAPTER XXVI

WHY SHOULD I NOT?


A day or two after his conversation with Crabwitz, as described in
the last chapter, Mr. Furnival was driven up to the door of Sir
Peregrine Orme's house in a Hamworth fly. He had come over by train
from Alston on purpose to see the baronet, whom he found seated in
his library. At that very moment he was again asking himself those
questions which he had before asked as he was walking up and down his
own dining-room. "Why should I not?" he said to himself,--"unless,
indeed, it will make her unhappy." And then the barrister was shown
into his room, muffled up to his eyes in his winter clothing.

Sir Peregrine and Mr. Furnival were well known to each other, and had
always met as friends. They had been interested on the same side in
the first Orley Farm Case, and possessed a topic of sympathy in their
mutual dislike to Joseph Mason of Groby Park. Sir Peregrine therefore
was courteous, and when he learned the subject on which he was to be
consulted he became almost more than courteous.

"Oh! yes; she's staying here, Mr. Furnival. Would you like to see
her?"

"Before I leave I shall be glad to see her, Sir Peregrine; but if I
am justified in regarding you as specially her friend, it may perhaps
be well that I should first have some conversation with you." Sir
Peregrine in answer to this declared that Mr. Furnival certainly
would be so justified; that he did regard himself as Lady Mason's
special friend, and that he was ready to hear anything that the
barrister might have to say to him.

Many of the points of this case have already been named so often, and
will, I fear, be necessarily named so often again that I will spare
the repetition when it is possible. Mr. Furnival on this occasion
told Sir Peregrine--not all that he had heard, but all that he
thought it necessary to tell, and soon became fully aware that in the
baronet's mind there was not the slightest shadow of suspicion that
Lady Mason could have been in any way to blame. He, the baronet, was
thoroughly convinced that Mr. Mason was the great sinner in this
matter, and that he was prepared to harass an innocent and excellent
lady from motives of disappointed cupidity and long-sustained malice,
which made him seem in Sir Peregrine's eyes a being almost too vile
for humanity. And of Dockwrath he thought almost as badly--only that
Dockwrath was below the level of his thinking. Of Lady Mason he spoke
as an excellent and beautiful woman driven to misery by unworthy
persecution; and so spoke with an enthusiasm that was surprising
to Mr. Furnival. It was very manifest that she would not want for
friendly countenance, if friendly countenance could carry her through
her difficulties.

There was no suspicion against Lady Mason in the mind of Sir
Peregrine, and Mr. Furnival was careful not to arouse any such
feeling. When he found that the baronet spoke of her as being
altogether pure and good, he also spoke of her in the same tone; but
in doing so his game was very difficult. "Let him do his worst, Mr.
Furnival," said Sir Peregrine; "and let her remain tranquil; that is
my advice to Lady Mason. It is not possible that he can really injure
her."

"It is possible that he can do nothing--very probable that he can do
nothing; but nevertheless, Sir Peregrine--"

"I would have no dealing with him or his. I would utterly disregard
them. If he, or they, or any of them choose to take steps to annoy
her, let her attorney manage that in the usual way. I am no lawyer
myself, Mr. Furnival, but that I think is the manner in which things
of this kind should be arranged. I do not know whether they have
still the power of disputing the will, but if so, let them do it."

Gradually, by very slow degrees, Mr. Furnival made Sir Peregrine
understand that the legal doings now threatened were not of that
nature;--that Mr. Mason did not now talk of proceeding at law for
the recovery of the property, but for the punishment of his father's
widow as a criminal; and at last the dreadful word "forgery" dropped
from his lips.

"Who dares to make such a charge as that?" demanded the baronet,
while fire literally flashed from his eyes in his anger. And when he
was told that Mr. Mason did make such a charge he called him "a mean,
unmanly dastard." "I do not believe that he would dare to make it
against a man," said Sir Peregrine.

But there was the fact of the charge--the fact that it had been
placed in the hands of respectable attorneys, with instructions to
them to press it on--and the fact also that the evidence by which
that charge was to be supported possessed at any rate a _primâ facie_
appearance of strength. All that it was necessary to explain to Sir
Peregrine, as it would also be necessary to explain it to Lady Mason.

"Am I to understand, then, that you also think--?" began Sir
Peregrine.

"You are not to understand that I think anything injurious to the
lady; but I do fear that she is in a position of much jeopardy, and
that great care will be necessary."

"Good heavens! Do you mean to say that an innocent person can under
such circumstances be in danger in this country?"

"An innocent person, Sir Peregrine, may be in danger of very great
annoyance, and also of very great delay in proving that innocence.
Innocent people have died under the weight of such charges. We must
remember that she is a woman, and therefore weaker than you or I."

"Yes, yes; but still--. You do not say that you think she can be in
any real danger?" It seemed, from the tone of the old man's voice, as
though he were almost angry with Mr. Furnival for supposing that such
could be the case. "And you intend to tell her all this?" he asked.

"I fear that, as her friend, neither you nor I will be warranted in
keeping her altogether in the dark. Think what her feelings would be
if she were summoned before a magistrate without any preparation!"

"No magistrate would listen to such a charge," said Sir Peregrine.

"In that he must be guided by the evidence."

"I would sooner throw up my commission than lend myself in any way to
a proceeding so iniquitous."

This was all very well, and the existence of such a feeling showed
great generosity, and perhaps also poetic chivalry on the part of
Sir Peregrine Orme; but it was not the way of the world, and so Mr.
Furnival was obliged to explain. Magistrates would listen to the
charge--would be forced to listen to the charge,--if the evidence
were apparently sound. A refusal on the part of a magistrate to do
so would not be an act of friendship to Lady Mason, as Mr. Furnival
endeavoured to explain. "And you wish to see her?" Sir Peregrine
asked at last.

"I think she should be told; but as she is in your house, I will,
of course, do nothing in which you do not concur." Upon which
Sir Peregrine rang the bell and desired the servant to take his
compliments to Lady Mason and beg her attendance in the library if
it were quite convenient. "Tell her," said Sir Peregrine, "that Mr.
Furnival is here."

When the message was given to her she was seated with Mrs. Orme, and
at the moment she summoned strength to say that she would obey the
invitation, without displaying any special emotion while the servant
was in the room; but when the door was shut, her friend looked at her
and saw that she was as pale as death. She was pale and her limbs
quivered, and that look of agony, which now so often marked her face,
was settled on her brow. Mrs. Orme had never yet seen her with such
manifest signs of suffering as she wore at this instant.

"I suppose I must go to them," she said, slowly rising from her seat;
and it seemed to Mrs. Orme that she was forced to hold by the table
to support herself.

"Mr. Furnival is a friend, is he not?"

"Oh, yes! a kind friend, but--"

"They shall come in here if you like it better, dear."

"Oh, no! I will go to them. It would not do that I should seem so
weak. What must you think of me to see me so?"

"I do not wonder at it, dear," said Mrs. Orme, coming round to her;
"such cruelty would kill me. I wonder at your strength rather than
your weakness." And then she kissed her. What was there about the
woman that had made all those fond of her that came near her?

Mrs. Orme walked with her across the hall, and left her only at the
library door. There she pressed her hand and again kissed her, and
then Lady Mason turned the handle of the door and entered the room.
Mr. Furnival, when he looked at her, was startled by the pallor of
her face, but nevertheless he thought that she had never looked so
beautiful. "Dear Lady Mason," said he, "I hope you are well."

Sir Peregrine advanced to her and handed her over to his own
arm-chair. Had she been a queen in distress she could not have been
treated with more gentle deference. But she never seemed to count
upon this, or in any way to assume it as her right. I should accuse
her of what I regard as a sin against all good taste were I to say
that she was humble in her demeanour; but there was a soft meekness
about her, an air of feminine dependence, a proneness to lean
and almost to cling as she leaned, which might have been felt as
irresistible by any man. She was a woman to know in her deep sorrow
rather than in her joy and happiness; one with whom one would love to
weep rather than to rejoice. And, indeed, the present was a time with
her for weeping, not for rejoicing.

Sir Peregrine looked as though he were her father as he took her
hand, and the barrister immediately comforted himself with the
remembrance of the baronet's great age. It was natural, too, that
Lady Mason should hang on him in his own house. So Mr. Furnival
contented himself at the first moment with touching her hand and
hoping that she was well. She answered hardly a word to either of
them, but she attempted to smile as she sat down, and murmured
something about the trouble she was giving them.

"Mr. Furnival thinks it best that you should be made aware of the
steps which are being taken by Mr. Mason of Groby Park," began Sir
Peregrine. "I am no lawyer myself, and therefore of course I cannot
put my advice against his."

"I am sure that both of you will tell me for the best," she said.

"In such a matter as this it is right that you should be guided by
him. That he is as firmly your friend as I am there can be no doubt."

"I believe Lady Mason trusts me in that," said the lawyer.

"Indeed I do; I would trust you both in anything," she said.

"And there can be no doubt that he must be able to direct you for
the best. I say so much at the first, because I myself so thoroughly
despise that man in Yorkshire,--I am so convinced that anything which
his malice may prompt him to do must be futile, that I could not
myself have thought it needful to pain you by what must now be said."

This was a dreadful commencement, but she bore it, and even was
relieved by it. Indeed, no tale that Mr. Furnival could have to tell
after such an exordium would be so bad as that which she had feared
as the possible result of his visit. He might have come there to let
her know that she was at once to be carried away--immediately to be
taken to her trial--perhaps to be locked up in gaol. In her ignorance
of the law she could only imagine what might or might not happen to
her at any moment, and therefore the words which Sir Peregrine had
spoken relieved her rather than added to her fears.

And then Mr. Furnival began his tale, and gradually put before her
the facts of the matter. This he did with a choice of language and a
delicacy of phraseology which were admirable, for he made her clearly
understand the nature of the accusation which was brought against her
without using any word which was in itself harsh in its bearing. He
said nothing about fraud, or forgery, or false evidence, but he made
it manifest to her that Joseph Mason had now instructed his lawyer
to institute a criminal proceeding against her for having forged a
codicil to her husband's will.

"I must bear it as best I may," she said. "May the Lord give me
strength to bear it!"

"It is terrible to think of," said Sir Peregrine; "but nobody can
doubt how it will end. You are not to suppose that Mr. Furnival
intends to express any doubt as to your ultimate triumph. What we
fear for you is the pain you must endure before this triumph comes."

Ah, if that were all! As the baronet finished speaking she looked
furtively into the lawyer's face to see how far the meaning of these
smooth words would be supported by what she might read there. Would
he also think that a final triumph did certainly await her? Sir
Peregrine's real opinion was easily to be learned, either from his
countenance or from his words; but it was not so with Mr. Furnival.
In Mr. Furnival's face, and from Mr. Furnival's words, could be
learned only that which Mr. Furnival wished to declare. He saw that
glance, and fully understood it; and he knew instinctively, on the
spur of the moment, that he must now either assure her by a lie, or
break down all her hopes by the truth. That final triumph was not
certain to her--was very far from certain! Should he now be honest to
his friend, or dishonest? One great object with him was to secure the
support which Sir Peregrine could give by his weight in the county;
and therefore, as Sir Peregrine was present, it was needful that he
should be dishonest. Arguing thus he looked the lie, and Lady Mason
derived more comfort from that look than from all Sir Peregrine's
words.

And then those various details were explained to her which Mr.
Furnival understood that Mr. Dockwrath had picked up. They went into
that matter of the partnership deed, and questions were asked as to
the man Kenneby and the woman Bolster. They might both, Lady Mason
said, have been witnesses to half a dozen deeds on that same day, for
aught she knew to the contrary. She had been present with Sir Joseph,
as far as she could now remember, during the whole of that morning,
"in and out, Sir Peregrine, as you can understand." Sir Peregrine
said that he did understand perfectly. She did know that Mr. Usbech
had been there for many hours that day, probably from ten to two
or three, and no doubt therefore much business was transacted. She
herself remembered nothing but the affair of the will; but then that
was natural, seeing that there was no other affair in which she had
specially interested herself.

"No doubt these people did witness both the deeds," said Sir
Peregrine. "For myself, I cannot conceive how that wretched man can
be so silly as to spend his money on such a case as this."

"He would do anything for revenge," said Mr. Furnival.

And then Lady Mason was allowed to go back to the drawing-room, and
what remained to be said was said between the two gentlemen alone.
Sir Peregrine was very anxious that his own attorneys should be
employed, and he named Messrs. Slow and Bideawhile, than whom there
were no more respectable men in the whole profession. But then Mr.
Furnival feared that they were too respectable. They might look at
the matter in so straightforward a light as to fancy their client
really guilty; and what might happen then? Old Slow would not conceal
the truth for all the baronets in England--no, nor for all the pretty
women. The touch of Lady Mason's hand and the tear in her eye would
be nothing to old Slow. Mr. Furnival, therefore, was obliged to
explain that Slow and Bideawhile did not undertake that sort of
business.

"But I should wish it to be taken up through them. There must be
some expenditure, Mr. Furnival, and I should prefer that they should
arrange about that."

Mr. Furnival made no further immediate objection, and consented at
last to having an interview with one of the firm on the subject,
provided, of course, that that member of the firm came to him at his
chambers. And then he took his leave. Nothing positive had been done,
or even settled to be done, on this morning; but the persons most
interested in the matter had been made to understand that the affair
was taking an absolute palpable substance, and that steps must be
taken--indeed would be taken almost immediately. Mr. Furnival, as he
left the house, resolved to employ the attorneys whom he might think
best adapted for the purpose. He would settle that matter with Slow
and Bideawhile afterwards.

And then, as he returned to Noningsby, he wondered at his persistence
in the matter. He believed that his client had been guilty; he
believed that this codicil was no real instrument made by Sir Joseph
Mason. And so believing, would it not be better for him to wash his
hands of the whole affair? Others did not think so, and would it not
be better that such others should be her advisers? Was he not taking
up for himself endless trouble and annoyance that could have no
useful purpose? So he argued with himself, and yet by the time that
he had reached Noningsby he had determined that he would stand by
Lady Mason to the last. He hated that man Mason, as he declared to
himself when providing himself with reasons for his resolve, and
regarded his bitter, malicious justice as more criminal than any
crime of which Lady Mason might have been guilty. And then as he
leaned back in the railway carriage he still saw her pale face before
him, still heard the soft tone of her voice, and was still melted by
the tear in her eye. Young man, young friend of mine, who art now
filled to the overflowing of thy brain with poetry, with chivalry,
and love, thou seest seated opposite to thee there that grim old man,
with long snuffy nose, with sharp piercing eyes, with scanty frizzled
hairs. He is rich and cross, has been three times married, and has
often quarrelled with his children. He is fond of his wine, and
snores dreadfully after dinner. To thy seeming he is a dry, withered
stick, from which all the sap of sentiment has been squeezed by the
rubbing and friction of years. Poetry, the feeling if not the words
of poetry,--is he not dead to it, even as the pavement is dead over
which his wheels trundle? Oh, my young friend! thou art ignorant in
this--as in most other things. He may not twitter of sentiment, as
thou doest; nor may I trundle my hoop along the high road as do the
little boys. The fitness of things forbids it. But that old man's
heart is as soft as thine, if thou couldst but read it. The body
dries up and withers away, and the bones grow old; the brain, too,
becomes decrepit, as do the sight, the hearing, and the soul. But the
heart that is tender once remains tender to the last.

Lady Mason, when she left the library, walked across the hall towards
the drawing-room, and then she paused. She would fain remain alone
for a while if it were possible, and therefore she turned aside into
a small breakfast parlour, which was used every morning, but which
was rarely visited afterwards during the day. Here she sat, leaving
the door slightly open, so that she might know when Mr. Furnival left
the baronet. Here she sat for a full hour, waiting--waiting--waiting.
There was no sofa or lounging-chair in the room, reclining in which
she could remain there half sleeping, sitting comfortably at her
ease; but she placed herself near the table, and leaning there with
her face upon her hand, she waited patiently till Mr. Furnival had
gone. That her mind was full of thoughts I need hardly say, but yet
the hour seemed very long to her. At last she heard the library door
open, she heard Sir Peregrine's voice as he stood in the hall and
shook hands with his departing visitor, she heard the sound of the
wheels as the fly moved upon the gravel, and then she heard Sir
Peregrine again shut the library door behind him.

She did not immediately get up from her chair; she still waited
awhile, perhaps for another period of ten minutes, and then she
noiselessly left the room, and moving quickly and silently across the
hall she knocked at Sir Peregrine's door. This she did so gently that
at first no answer was made to her. Then she knocked again, hardly
louder but with a repeated rap, and Sir Peregrine summoned her to
come in. "May I trouble you once more--for one moment?" she said.

"Certainly, certainly; it is no trouble. I am glad that you are here
in the house at this time, that you may see me at any moment that you
may wish."

"I do not know why you should be so good to me."

"Because you are in great grief, in undeserved grief, because--. Lady
Mason, my services are at your command. I will act for you as I would
for a--daughter."

"You hear now of what it is that they accuse me."

"Yes, he said; I do hear;" and as he spoke he came round so that he
was standing near to her, but with his back to the fireplace. "I do
hear, and I blush to think that there is a man in England, holding
the position of a county magistrate, who can so forget all that is
due to honesty, to humanity, and to self-respect."

"You do not then think that I have been guilty of this thing?"

"Guilty--I think you guilty! No, nor does he think so. It is
impossible that he should think so. I am no more sure of my own
innocence than of yours;" and as he spoke he took both her hands and
looked into her face, and his eyes also were full of tears. "You
may be sure of this, that neither I nor Edith will ever think you
guilty."

"Dearest Edith," she said; she had never before called Sir
Peregrine's daughter-in-law by her Christian name, and as she now did
so she almost felt that she had sinned. But Sir Peregrine took it in
good part. "She is dearest," he said; "and be sure of this, that she
will be true to you through it all."

And so they stood for a while without further speech. He still held
both her hands, and the tears still stood in his eyes. Her eyes were
turned to the ground, and from them the tears were running fast. At
first they ran silently, without audible sobbing, and Sir Peregrine,
with his own old eyes full of salt water, hardly knew that she was
weeping. But gradually the drops fell upon his hand, one by one at
first, and then faster and faster; and soon there came a low sob, a
sob all but suppressed, but which at last forced itself forth, and
then her head fell upon his shoulder. "My dear," he said, himself
hardly able to speak; "my poor dear, my ill-used dear!" and as she
withdrew one hand from his, that she might press a handkerchief to
her face, his vacant arm passed itself round her waist. "My poor,
ill-used dear!" he said again, as he pressed her to his old heart,
and leaning over her he kissed her lips.

So she stood for some few seconds, feeling that she was pressed
close by the feeble pressure of his arm, and then she gradually sank
through from his embrace, and fell upon her knees at his feet. She
knelt at his feet, supporting herself with one arm upon the table,
and with the other hand she still held his hand over which her head
was bowed. "My friend," she said, still sobbing, and sobbing loudly
now; "my friend, that God has sent me in my trouble." And then, with
words that were wholly inaudible, she murmured some prayer on his
behalf.

"I am better now," she said, raising herself quickly to her feet when
a few seconds had passed. "I am better now," and she stood erect
before him. "By God's mercy I will endure it; I think I can endure it
now."

"If I can lighten the load--"

"You have lightened it--of half its weight; but, Sir Peregrine, I
will leave this--"

"Leave this! go away from The Cleeve!"

"Yes; I will not destroy the comfort of your home by the wretchedness
of my position. I will not--"

"Lady Mason, my house is altogether at your service. If you will be
led by me in this matter, you will not leave it till this cloud shall
have passed by you. You will be better to be alone now;" and then
before she could answer him further, he led her to the door. She
felt that it was better for her to be alone, and she hastened up the
stairs to her own chamber.

"And why should I not?" said Sir Peregrine to himself, as he again
walked the length of the library.



CHAPTER XXVII

COMMERCE


Lucius Mason was still staying at Noningsby when Mr. Furnival made
his visit to Sir Peregrine, and on that afternoon he received a note
from his mother. Indeed, there were three notes passed between them
on that afternoon, for he wrote an answer to his mother, and then
received a reply to that answer. Lady Mason told him that she did not
intend to return home to the Farm quite immediately, and explained
that her reason for not doing so was the necessity that she should
have assistance and advice at this period of her trouble. She did
not say that she misdoubted the wisdom of her son's counsels; but it
appeared to him that she intended to signify to him that she did so,
and he answered her in words that were sore and almost bitter. "I am
sorry," he said, "that you and I cannot agree about a matter that is
of such vital concern to both of us; but as it is so, we can only act
as each thinks best, you for yourself and I for myself. I am sure,
however, that you will believe that my only object is your happiness
and your fair name, which is dearer to me than anything else in the
world." In answer to this, she had written again immediately, filling
her letter with sweet words of motherly love, telling him that she
was sure, quite sure, of his affection and kind spirit, and excusing
herself for not putting the matter altogether in his hands by saying
that she was forced to lean on those who had supported her from the
beginning--through that former trial which had taken place when he,
Lucius, was yet a baby. "And, dearest Lucius, you must not be angry
with me," she went on to say; "I am suffering much under this cruel
persecution, but my sufferings would be more than doubled if my own
boy quarrelled with me." Lucius, when he received this, flung up his
head. "Quarrel with her," he said to himself; "nothing on earth would
make me quarrel with her; but I cannot say that that is right which I
think to be wrong." His feelings were good and honest, and kindly too
in their way; but tenderness of heart was not his weakness. I should
wrong him if I were to say that he was hard-hearted, but he flattered
himself that he was just-hearted, which sometimes is nearly the
same--as had been the case with his father before him, and was now
the case with his half-brother Joseph.

The day after this was his last at Noningsby. He had told Lady
Staveley that he intended to go, and though she had pressed his
further stay, remarking that none of the young people intended to
move till after twelfth-night, nevertheless he persisted. With
the young people of the house themselves he had not much advanced
himself; and altogether he did not find himself thoroughly happy in
the judge's house. They were more thoughtless than he--as he thought;
they did not understand him, and therefore he would leave them.
Besides, there was a great day of hunting coming on, at which
everybody was to take a part, and as he did not hunt that gave
him another reason for going. "They have nothing to do but amuse
themselves," he said to himself; "but I have a man's work before me,
and a man's misfortunes. I will go home and face both."

In all this there was much of conceit, much of pride, much of
deficient education,--deficiency in that special branch of education
which England has imparted to the best of her sons, but which
is now becoming out of fashion. He had never learned to measure
himself against others,--I do not mean his knowledge or his
book-acquirements, but the every-day conduct of his life,--and
to perceive that that which is insignificant in others must be
insignificant in himself also. To those around him at Noningsby his
extensive reading respecting the Iapetidæ recommended him not at all,
nor did his agricultural ambitions;--not even to Felix Graham, as a
companion, though Felix Graham could see further into his character
than did the others. He was not such as they were. He had not the
unpretentious, self-controlling humour, perfectly free from all
conceit, which was common to them. Life did not come easy to him,
and the effort which he was ever making was always visible. All men
should ever be making efforts, no doubt; but those efforts should
not be conspicuous. But yet Lucius Mason was not a bad fellow, and
young Staveley showed much want of discernment when he called him
empty-headed and selfish. Those epithets were by no means applicable
to him. That he was not empty-headed is certain; and he was moreover
capable of a great self-sacrifice.

That his talents and good qualities were appreciated by one person
in the house, seemed evident to Lady Staveley and the other married
ladies of the party. Miss Furnival, as they all thought, had not
found him empty-headed. And, indeed, it may be doubted whether Lady
Staveley would have pressed his stay at Noningsby, had Miss Furnival
been less gracious. Dear Lady Staveley was always living in a fever
lest her only son, the light of her eyes, should fall irrevocably
in love with some lady that was by no means goods enough for him.
Revocably in love he was daily falling; but some day he would go too
deep, and the waters would close over his well-loved head. Now in her
dear old favouring eyes Sophia Furnival was by no means good enough,
and it had been quite clear that Augustus had become thoroughly lost
in his attempts to bring about a match between Felix Graham and
the barrister's daughter. In preparing the bath for his friend he
had himself fallen bodily into the water. He was always at Miss
Furnival's side as long as Miss Furnival would permit it. But it
seemed to Lady Staveley that Miss Furnival, luckily, was quite as
fond of having Lucius Mason at her side;--that of the two she perhaps
preferred Lucius Mason. That her taste and judgment should be so bad
was wonderful to Lady Staveley; but this depravity though wonderful
was useful; and therefore Lucius Mason might have been welcome to
remain at Noningsby.

It may, however, be possible that Miss Furnival knew what she was
doing quite as well as Lady Staveley could know for her. In the
first place she may possibly have thought it indiscreet to admit Mr.
Staveley's attentions with too much freedom. She may have doubted
their sincerity; or feared to give offence to the family, or Mr.
Mason may in her sight have been the preferable suitor. That his
gifts of intellect were at any rate equal to those of the other there
can be no doubt. Then, his gifts of fortune were already his own, and
for ought that Miss Furnival knew, might be equal to any that would
ever appertain to the other gentleman. That Lady Staveley should
think her swan better looking than Lady Mason's goose was very
natural; but then Lady Mason would no doubt have regarded the two
birds in an exactly opposite light. It is only fair to conceive that
Miss Furnival was a better judge than either of them.

On the evening before his departure the whole party had been playing
commerce; for the rule of the house during these holidays was this,
that all the amusements brought into vogue were to be adapted to the
children. If the grown-up people could adapt themselves to them, so
much the better for them; if not, so much the worse; they must in
such case provide for themselves. On the whole, the grown-up people
seemed to live nearly as jovial a life as did the children. Whether
the judge himself was specially fond of commerce I cannot say; but he
persisted in putting in the whole pool, and played through the entire
game, rigidly fighting for the same pool on behalf of a very small
grandchild, who sat during the whole time on his knee. There are
those who call cards the devil's books, but we will presume that the
judge was of a different way of thinking.

On this special evening Sophia had been sitting next to Augustus,--a
young man can always arrange these matters in his own house,--but had
nevertheless lost all her lives early in the game. "I will not have
any cheating to-night," she had said to her neighbour; "I will take
my chance, and if I die, I die. One can die but once." And so she
had died, three times indeed instead of once only, and had left the
table. Lucius Mason also had died. He generally did die the first,
having no aptitude for a collection of kings or aces, and so they two
came together over the fire in the second drawing-room, far away from
the card-players. There was nothing at all remarkable in this, as Mr.
Furnival and one or two others who did not play commerce were also
there; but nevertheless they were separated from those of the party
who were most inclined to criticise their conduct.

"So you are leaving to-morrow, Mr. Mason," said Sophia.

"Yes. I go home to-morrow after breakfast; to my own house, where for
some weeks to come I shall be absolutely alone."

"Your mother is staying at The Cleeve, I think."

"Yes,--and intends remaining there as she tells me. I wish with all
my heart she were at Orley Farm."

"Papa saw her yesterday. He went over to The Cleeve on purpose to see
her; and this morning he has been talking to me about her. I cannot
tell you how I grieve for her."

"It is very sad; very sad. But I wish she were in her own house.
Under the circumstances as they now are, I think it would be better
for her to be there than elsewhere. Her name has been disgraced--"

"No, Mr. Mason; not disgraced."

"Yes; disgraced. Mark you; I do not say that she has been disgraced;
and pray do not suppose it possible that I should think so. But a
great opprobrium has been thrown on her name, and it would be better,
I think, that she should remain at home till she has cast it off from
her. Even for myself, I feel it almost wrong to be here; nor would I
have come had I known when I did come as much as I do know now."

"But no one can for a moment think that your mother has done anything
that she should not have done."

"Then why do so many people talk of her as though she had committed a
great crime? Miss Furnival, I know that she is innocent. I know it as
surely as I know the fact of my own existence--"

"And we all feel the same thing."

"But if you were in my place,--if it were your father whose name was
so bandied about in people's mouths, you would think that it behoved
him to do nothing, to go nowhere, till he had forced the world to
confess his innocence. And this is ten times stronger with regard to
a woman. I have given my mother my counsel, and I regret to say that
she differs from me."

"Why do you not speak to papa?"

"I did once. I went to him at his chambers, and he rebuked me."

"Rebuked you, Mr. Mason! He did not do that intentionally I am sure.
I have heard him say that you are an excellent son."

"But nevertheless he did rebuke me. He considered that I was
travelling beyond my own concerns, in wishing to interfere for the
protection of my mother's name. He said that I should leave it to
such people as the Staveleys and the Ormes to guard her from ignominy
and disgrace."

"Oh, he did not mean that!"

"But to me it seems that it should be a son's first duty. They are
talking of trouble and of cost. I would give every hour I have in the
day, and every shilling I own in the world to save her from one week
of such suffering as she now endures; but it cuts me to the heart
when she tells me that because she is suffering, therefore she must
separate herself from me. I think it would be better for her, Miss
Furnival, to be staying at home with me, than to be at The Cleeve."

"The kindness of Mrs. Orme must be a great support to her."

"And why should not my kindness be a support to her,--or rather my
affection? We know from whom all these scandals come. My desire is to
meet that man in a court of law and thrust these falsehoods down his
throat."

"Ah! but you are a man."

"And therefore I would take the burden from her shoulders. But no;
she will not trust to me. The truth, Miss Furnival, is this, that she
has not yet learned to think of me as a man. To her I am still the
boy for whom she is bound to provide, not the son who should bear
for her all her cares. As it is I feel that I do not dare again to
trouble her with my advice."

"Grandmamma is dead," shouted out a shrill small voice from the
card-table. "Oh, grandmamma, do have one of my lives. Look! I've got
three," said another.

"Thank you, my dears; but the natural term of my existence has come,
and I will not rebel against fate."

"Oh, grandmamma,--we'll let you have another grace."

"By no means, Charley. Indeed I am not clear that I am entitled to
Christian burial, as it is."

"A case of felo de se, I rather think," said her son. "About this
time of the night suicide does become common among the elders.
Unfortunately for me, the pistol that I have been snapping at my own
head for the last half-hour always hangs fire."

There was not much of love-making in the conversation which had taken
place between young Mason and Sophia; not much at least up to this
point; but a confidence had been established, and before he left her
he did say a word or two that was more tender in its nature. "You
must not be in dudgeon with me," he said, "for speaking to you of all
this. Hitherto I have kept it all to myself, and perhaps I should
still have done so."

"Oh no; do not say that."

"I am in great grief. It is dreadful to me to hear these things said,
and as yet I have found no sympathy."

"I can assure you, Mr. Mason, that I do sympathise with you most
sincerely. I only wish my sympathy could be of more value."

"It will be invaluable," he said, not looking at her, but fixing his
eyes upon the fire, "if it be given with constancy from the first to
the last of this sad affair."

"It shall be so given," said Miss Furnival, also looking at the fire.

"It will be tolerably long, and men will say cruel things of us. I
can foresee this, that it will be very hard to prove to the world
with certainty that there is no foundation whatever for these
charges. If those who are now most friendly to us turn away from
us--"

"I will never turn away from you, Mr. Mason."

"Then give me your hand on that, and remember that such a promise
in my ears means much." He in his excitement had forgotten that
there were others in the room who might be looking at them, and that
there was a vista open upon them direct from all the eyes at the
card-table; but she did not forget it. Miss Furnival could be very
enthusiastic, but she was one of those who in her enthusiasm rarely
forgot anything. Nevertheless, after a moment's pause, she gave him
her hand. "There it is," she said; "and you may be sure of this, that
with me also such a promise does mean something. And now I will say
good night." And so, having received the pressure of her hand, she
left him.

"I will get you your candle," he said, and so he did.

"Good night, papa," she said, kissing her father. And then, with
a slight muttered word to Lady Staveley, she withdrew, having
sacrificed the remainder of that evening for the sake of acceding to
Mr. Mason's request respecting her pledge. It could not be accounted
strange that she should give her hand to the gentleman with whom she
was immediately talking as she bade him good night.

"And now grandpapa is dead too," said Marian, "and there's nobody
left but us three."

"And we'll divide," said Fanny Sebright; and so the game of commerce
was brought to an end.



CHAPTER XXVIII

MONKTON GRANGE


During these days Peregrine Orme--though he was in love up to his
very chin, seriously in love, acknowledging this matter to himself
openly, pulling his hair in the retirement of his bedroom, and
resolving that he would do that which he had hitherto in life always
been successful in doing--ask, namely, boldly for that he wanted
sorely--Peregrine Orme, I say, though he was in this condition, did
not in these days neglect his hunting. A proper attendance upon the
proceedings of the H. H. was the only duty which he had hitherto
undertaken in return for all that his grandfather had done for him,
and I have no doubt that he conceived that he was doing a duty in
going hither and thither about the county to their most distant
meets. At this period of the present season it happened that
Noningsby was more central to the proceedings of the hunt than The
Cleeve, and therefore he was enabled to think that he was remaining
away from home chiefly on business. On one point, however, he had
stoutly come to a resolution. That question should be asked of
Madeline Staveley before he returned to his grandfather's house.

And now had arrived a special hunting morning,--special, because
the meet was in some degree a show meet, appropriate for ladies,
at a comfortable distance from Noningsby, and affording a chance
of amusement to those who sat in carriages as well as to those on
horseback. Monkton Grange was the well-known name of the place,
a name perhaps dearer to the ladies than to the gentlemen of the
country, seeing that show meets do not always give the best sport.
Monkton Grange is an old farm-house, now hardly used as such,
having been left, as regards the habitation, in the hands of a head
labourer; but it still possesses the marks of ancient respectability
and even of grandeur. It is approached from the high road by a long
double avenue of elms, which still stand in all their glory. The road
itself has become narrow, and the space between the side row of trees
is covered by soft turf, up which those coming to the meet love to
gallop, trying the fresh metal of their horses. And the old house
itself is surrounded by a moat, dry indeed now for the most part, but
nevertheless an evident moat, deep and well preserved, with a bridge
over it which Fancy tells us must once have been a drawbridge. It
is here, in front of the bridge, that the old hounds sit upon their
haunches, resting quietly round the horses of the huntsmen, while
the young dogs move about, and would wander if the whips allowed
them--one of the fairest sights to my eyes that this fair country
of ours can show. And here the sportsmen and ladies congregate by
degrees, men from a distance in dog-carts generally arriving first,
as being less able to calculate the time with accuracy. There is room
here too in the open space for carriages, and there is one spot on
which always stands old Lord Alston's chariot with the four posters;
an ancient sportsman he, who still comes to some few favourite meets;
and though Alston Court is but eight miles from the Grange, the
post-horses always look as though they had been made to do their
best, for his lordship likes to move fast even in his old age. He is
a tall thin man, bent much with age, and apparently too weak for much
walking; he is dressed from head to foot in a sportsman's garb, with
a broad stiffly starched coloured handkerchief tied rigidly round his
neck. One would say that old as he is he has sacrificed in no way
to comfort. It is with difficulty that he gets into his saddle, his
servant holding his rein and stirrup and giving him perhaps some
other slight assistance; but when he is there, there he will remain
all day, and when his old blood warms he will gallop along the road
with as much hot fervour as his grandson. An old friend he of Sir
Peregrine's. "And why is not your grandfather here to-day?" he said
on this occasion to young Orme. "Tell him from me that if he fails
us in this way, I shall think he is getting old." Lord Alston was in
truth five years older than Sir Peregrine, but Sir Peregrine at this
time was thinking of other things.

And then a very tidy little modern carriage bustled up the road,
a brougham made for a pair of horses which was well known to all
hunting men in these parts. It was very unpretending in its colour
and harness; but no vehicle more appropriate to its purpose ever
carried two thorough-going sportsmen day after day about the country.
In this as it pulled up under the head tree of the avenue were seated
the two Miss Tristrams. The two Miss Tristrams were well known to the
Hamworth Hunt--I will not merely say as fearless riders,--of most
girls who hunt as much can be said as that; but they were judicious
horsewomen; they knew when to ride hard, and when hard riding, as
regarded any necessary for the hunt, would be absolutely thrown
away. They might be seen for half the day moving about the roads as
leisurely, or standing as quietly at the covert's side as might the
seniors of the fields. But when the time for riding did come, when
the hounds were really running--when other young ladies had begun
to go home--then the Miss Tristrams were always there;--there or
thereabouts, as their admirers would warmly boast.

Nor did they commence their day's work as did other girls who came
out on hunting mornings. With most such it is clear to see that the
object is pretty much the same here as in the ballroom. "Spectatum
veniunt; veniunt spectentur ut ipsæ," as it is proper, natural, and
desirable that they should do. By that word "spectatum" I would wish
to signify something more than the mere use of the eyes. Perhaps an
occasional word dropped here and there into the ears of a cavalier
may be included in it; and the "spectentur" also may include a word
so received. But the Miss Tristrams came for hunting. Perhaps there
might be a slight shade of affectation in the manner by which they
would appear to come for that and that only. They would talk of
nothing else, at any rate during the earlier portion of the day, when
many listeners were by. They were also well instructed as to the
country to be drawn, and usually had a word of import to say to the
huntsman. They were good-looking, fair-haired girls, short in size,
with bright gray eyes, and a short decisive mode of speaking. It must
not be imagined that they were altogether indifferent to such matters
as are dear to the hearts of other girls. They were not careless as
to admiration, and if report spoke truth of them were willing enough
to establish themselves in the world; but all their doings of that
kind had a reference to their favourite amusement, and they would as
soon have thought of flirting with men who did not hunt as some other
girls would with men who did not dance.

I do not know that this kind of life had been altogether successful
with them, or that their father had been right to permit it. He
himself had formerly been a hunting man, but he had become fat and
lazy, and the thing had dropped away from him. Occasionally he did
come out with them, but when he did not do so some other senior of
the field would have them nominally under charge; but practically
they were as independent when going across the country as the young
men who accompanied them. I have expressed a doubt whether this life
was successful with them, and indeed such doubt was expressed by many
of their neighbours. It had been said of each of them for the last
three years that she was engaged, now to this man, and then to that
other; but neither this man nor that other had yet made good the
assertion, and now people were beginning to say that no man was
engaged to either of them. Hunting young ladies are very popular
in the hunting-field; I know no place in which girls receive more
worship and attention; but I am not sure but they may carry their
enthusiasm too far for their own interests, let their horsemanship be
as perfect as it may be.

The two girls on this occasion sat in their carriage till the groom
brought up their horses, and then it was wonderful to see with what
ease they placed themselves in their saddles. On such occasions they
admitted no aid from the gentlemen around them, but each stepping
for an instant on a servant's hand, settled herself in a moment on
horseback. Nothing could be more perfect than the whole thing, but
the wonder was that Mr. Tristram should have allowed it.

The party from Noningsby consisted of six or seven on horseback,
besides those in the carriage. Among the former there were the two
young ladies, Miss Furnival and Miss Staveley, and our friends Felix
Graham, Augustus Staveley, and Peregrine Orme. Felix Graham was not
by custom a hunting man, as he possessed neither time nor money for
such a pursuit; but to-day he was mounted on his friend Staveley's
second horse, having expressed his determination to ride him as long
as they two, the man and the horse, could remain together.

"I give you fair warning," Felix had said, "if I do not spare my own
neck, you cannot expect me to spare your horse's legs."

"You may do your worst," Staveley had answered. "If you give him his
head, and let him have his own way, he won't come to grief, whatever
you may do."

On their road to Monkton Grange, which was but three miles from
Noningsby, Peregrine Orme had ridden by the side of Miss Staveley,
thinking more of her than of the affairs of the hunt, prominent as
they were generally in his thoughts. How should he do it, and when,
and in what way should he commence the deed? He had an idea that it
might be better for him if he could engender some closer intimacy
between himself and Madeline before he absolutely asked the fatal
question; but the closer intimacy did not seem to produce itself
readily. He had, in truth, known Madeline Staveley for many years,
almost since they were children together; but lately, during these
Christmas holidays especially, there had not been between them that
close conversational alliance which so often facilitates such an
overture as that which Peregrine was now desirous of making. And,
worse again, he had seen that there was such close conversational
alliance between Madeline and Felix Graham. He did not on that
account dislike the young barrister, or call him, even within his own
breast, a snob or an ass. He knew well that he was neither the one
nor the other; but he knew as well that he could be no fit match
for Miss Staveley, and, to tell the truth, he did not suspect that
either Graham or Miss Staveley would think of such a thing. It was
not jealousy that tormented him, so much as a diffidence in his
own resources. He made small attempts which did not succeed, and
therefore he determined that he would at once make a grand attempt.
He would create himself an opportunity before he left Noningsby, and
would do it even to-day on horseback, if he could find sufficient
opportunity. In taking a determined step like that, he knew that he
would not lack the courage.

"Do you mean to ride to-day," he said to Madeline, as they were
approaching the bottom of the Grange avenue. For the last half-mile
he had been thinking what he would say to her, and thinking in
vain; and now, at the last moment, he could summon no words to his
assistance more potent for his purpose than these.

"If you mean by riding, Mr. Orme, going across the fields with you
and the Miss Tristrams, certainly not. I should come to grief, as you
call it, at the first ditch."

"And that is just what I shall do," said Felix Graham, who was at her
other side.

"Then, if you take my advice, you'll remain with us in the wood, and
act as squire of dames. What on earth would Marian do if aught but
good was to befall you?"

"Dear Marian! She gave me a special commission to bring her the fox's
tail. Foxes' tails are just like ladies."

"Thank you, Mr. Graham. I've heard you make some pretty compliments,
and that is about the prettiest."

"A faint heart will never win either the one or the other, Miss
Staveley."

"Oh, ah, yes. That will do very well. Under these circumstances I
will accept the comparison."

All of which very innocent conversation was overheard by Peregrine
Orme, riding on the other side of Miss Staveley's horse. And why not?
Neither Graham nor Miss Staveley had any objection. But how was it
that he could not join in and take his share in it? He had made one
little attempt at conversation, and that having failed he remained
perfectly silent till they reached the large circle at the head of
the avenue. "It's no use, this sort of thing," he said to himself. "I
must do it at a blow, if I do it at all;" and then he rode away to
the master of the hounds.

As our party arrived at the open space the Miss Tristrams were
stepping out of their carriage, and they came up to shake hands with
Miss Staveley.

"I am so glad to see you," said the eldest; "it is so nice to have
some ladies out besides ourselves."

"Do keep up with us," said the second. "It's a very open country
about here, and anybody can ride it." And then Miss Furnival was
introduced to them. "Does your horse jump, Miss Furnival?"

"I really do not know," said Sophia; "but I sincerely trust that if
he does, he will refrain to-day."

"Don't say so," said the eldest sportswoman. "If you'll only begin
it will come as easy to you as going along the road;" and then, not
being able to spare more of these idle moments, they both went off to
their horses, walking as though their habits were no impediments to
them, and in half a minute they were seated.

"What is Harriet on to-day?" asked Staveley of a constant member of
the hunt. Now Harriet was the eldest Miss Tristram.

"A little brown mare she got last week. That was a terrible brush we
had on Friday. You weren't out, I think. We killed in the open, just
at the edge of Rotherham Common. Harriet was one of the few that was
up, and I don't think the chestnut horse will be the better of it
this season."

"That was the horse she got from Griggs?"

"Yes; she gave a hundred and fifty for him; and I'm told he was as
nearly done on Friday as any animal you ever put your eyes on. They
say Harriet cried when she got home." Now the gentleman who was
talking about Harriet on this occasion was one with whom she would no
more have sat down to table than with her own groom.

But though Harriet may have cried when she got home on that fatal
Friday evening, she was full of the triumph of the hunt on this
morning. It is not often that the hounds run into a fox and
absolutely surround and kill him on the open ground, and when this
is done after a severe run, there are seldom many there to see it.
If a man can fairly take a fox's brush on such an occasion as that,
let him do it; otherwise let him leave it to the huntsman. On the
occasion in question it seems that Harriet Tristram might have done
so, and some one coming second to her had been gallant enough to do
it for her.

"Oh, my lord, you should have been out on Friday," she said to Lord
Alston. "We had the prettiest thing I ever saw."

"A great deal too pretty for me, my dear."

"Oh, you who know the roads so well would certainly have been up. I
suppose it was thirteen miles from Cobbleton's Bushes to Rotherham
Common."

"Not much less, indeed," said his lordship, unwilling to diminish the
lady's triumph. Had a gentleman made the boast his lordship would
have demonstrated that it was hardly more than eleven.

"I timed it accurately from the moment he went away," said the lady,
"and it was exactly fifty-seven minutes. The first part of it was
awfully fast. Then we had a little check at Moseley Bottom. But for
that, nobody could have lived through it. I never shall forget how
deep it was coming up from there to Cringleton. I saw two men get off
to ease their horses up the deep bit of plough; and I would have done
so too, only my horse would not have stood for me to get up."

"I hope he was none the worse for it," said the sporting character
who had been telling Staveley just now how she had cried when she got
home that night.

"To tell the truth, I fear it has done him no good. He would not
feed, you know, that night at all."

"And broke out into cold sweats," said the gentleman.

"Exactly," said the lady, not quite liking it, but still enduring
with patience.

"Rather groggy on his pins the next morning?" suggested her friend.

"Very groggy," said Harriet, regarding the word as one belonging to
fair sporting phraseology.

"And inclined to go very much on the points of his toes. I know all
about it, Miss Tristam, as well as though I'd seen him."

"There's nothing but rest for it, I suppose."

"Rest and regular exercise--that's the chief thing; and I should give
him a mash as often as three times a week. He'll be all right again
in three or four weeks,--that is if he's sound, you know."

"Oh, as sound as a bell," said Miss Tristram.

"He'll never be the same horse on a road though," said the sporting
gentlemen, shaking his head and whispering to Staveley.

And now the time had come at which they were to move. They always met
at eleven; and at ten minutes past, to the moment, Jacob the huntsman
would summons the old hounds from off their haunches. "I believe we
may be moving, Jacob," said Mr. Williams, the master.

"The time be up," said Jacob, looking at a ponderous timekeeper that
might with truth be called a hunting-watch; and then they all moved
slowly away back from the Grange, down a farm-road which led to
Monkton Wood, distant from the old house perhaps a quarter of a mile.

"May we go as far as the wood?" said Miss Furnival to Augustus.
"Without being made to ride over hedges, I mean."

"Oh, dear, yes; and ride about the wood half the day. It will be an
hour and a half before a fox will break--even if he ever breaks."

"Dear me! how tired you will be of us. Now do say something pretty,
Mr. Staveley."

"It's not my _métier_. We shall be tired, not of you, but of the
thing. Galloping up and down the same cuts in the wood for an hour
and a half is not exciting; nor does it improve the matter much if we
stand still, as one should do by rights."

"That would be very slow."

"You need not be afraid. They never do here. Everybody will be
rushing about as though the very world depended on their galloping."

"I'm so glad; that's just what I like."

"Everybody except Lord Alston, Miss Tristram, and, the other old
stagers. They will husband their horses, and come out as fresh at
two o'clock as though they were only just out. There is nothing so
valuable as experience in hunting."

"Do you think it nice seeing a young lady with so much hunting
knowledge?"

"Now you want me to talk slander, but I won't do it. I admire the
Miss Tristrams exceedingly, and especially Julia."

"And which is Julia?"

"The youngest; that one riding by herself."

"And why don't you go and express your admiration?"

"Ah, me! why don't we all express the admiration that we feel, and
pour sweet praises into the ears of the lady that excites it? Because
we are cowards, Miss Furnival, and are afraid even of such a weak
thing as a woman."

"Dear me! I should hardly have thought that you would suffer from
such terror as that."

"Because you don't quite know me, Miss Furnival."

"And Miss Julia Tristram is the lady that has excited it?"

"If it be not she, it is some other fair votary of Diana at present
riding into Monkton Wood."

"Ah, now you are giving me a riddle to guess, and I never guess
riddles. I won't even try at it. But they all seem to be stopping."

"Yes, they are putting the hounds into covert. Now if you want to
show yourself a good sportsman, look at your watch. You see that
Julia Tristram has got hers in her hand."

"What's that for?"

"To time the hounds; to see how long they'll be before they find.
It's very pretty work in a small gorse, but in a great wood like this
I don't care much for being so accurate. But for heaven's sake don't
tell Julia Tristram; I should not have a chance if she thought I was
so slack."

And now the hounds were scattering themselves in the wood, and the
party rode up the centre roadway towards a great circular opening in
the middle of it. Here it was the recognised practice of the horsemen
to stand, and those who properly did their duty would stand there;
but very many lingered at the gate, knowing that there was but one
other exit from the wood, without overcoming the difficulty of a very
intricate and dangerous fence.

"There be a gap, bain't there?" said one farmer to another, as they
were entering.

"Yes, there be a gap, and young Grubbles broke his 'orse's back a
getting over of it last year," said the second farmer.

"Did he though?" said the first; and so they both remained at the
gate.

And others, a numerous body, including most of the ladies, galloped
up and down the cross ways, because the master of the hounds and the
huntsman did so. "D---- those fellows riding up and down after me
wherever I go," said the master. "I believe they think I'm to be
hunted." This seemed to be said more especially to Miss Tristram, who
was always in the master's confidence; and I fear that the fellows
alluded to included Miss Furnival and Miss Staveley.

And then there came the sharp, eager sound of a hound's voice; a
single, sharp, happy opening bark, and Harriet Tristram was the first
to declare that the game was found. "Just five minutes and twenty
seconds, my lord," said Julia Tristram to Lord Alston. "That's not
bad in a large wood like this."

"Uncommonly good," said his lordship. "And when are we to get out of
it?"

"They'll be here for the next hour, I'm afraid," said the lady, not
moving her horse from the place where she stood, though many of the
more impetuous of the men were already rushing away to the gates.
"I have seen a fox go away from here without resting a minute; but
that was later in the season, at the end of February. Foxes are away
from home then." All which observations showed a wonderfully acute
sporting observation on the part of Miss Tristram.

And then the music of the dogs became fast and frequent, as they
drove the brute across and along from one part of the large wood to
another. Sure there is no sound like it for filling a man's heart
with an eager desire to be at work. What may be the trumpet in battle
I do not know, but I can imagine that it has the same effect. And
now a few of them were standing on that wide circular piece of grass,
when a sound the most exciting of them all reached their ears. "He's
away!" shouted a whip from a corner of the wood. The good-natured
beast, though as yet it was hardly past Christmas-time, had consented
to bless at once so many anxious sportsmen, and had left the back of
the covert with the full pack at his heels.

"There is no gate that way, Miss Tristram," said a gentleman.

"There's a double ditch and bank that will do as well," said she, and
away she went directly after the hounds, regardless altogether of the
gates. Peregrine Orme and Felix Graham, who were with her, followed
close upon her track.



CHAPTER XXIX

BREAKING COVERT


"There's a double ditch and bank that will do as well," Miss Tristram
had said when she was informed that there was no gate out of the
wood at the side on which the fox had broken. The gentleman who had
tendered the information might as well have held his tongue, for Miss
Tristram knew the wood intimately, was acquainted with the locality
of all its gates, and was acquainted also with the points at which it
might be left, without the assistance of any gate at all, by those
who were well mounted and could ride their horses. Therefore she had
thus replied, "There's a double ditch and bank that will do as well."
And for the double ditch and bank at the end of one of the grassy
roadways Miss Tristram at once prepared herself.

"That's the gap where Grubbles broke his horse's back," said a man in
a red coat to Peregrine Orme, and so saying he made up his wavering
mind and galloped away as fast as his nag could carry him. But
Peregrine Orme would not avoid a fence at which a lady was not afraid
to ride; and Felix Graham, knowing little but fearing nothing,
followed Peregrine Orme.

At the end of the roadway, in the middle of the track, there was the
gap. For a footman it was doubtless the easiest way over the fence,
for the ditch on that side was half filled up, and there was space
enough left of the half-broken bank for a man's scrambling feet; but
Miss Tristram at once knew that it was a bad place for a horse. The
second or further ditch was the really difficult obstacle, and there
was no footing in the gap from which a horse could take his leap. To
the right of this the fence was large and required a good horse, but
Miss Tristram knew her animal and was accustomed to large fences. The
trained beast went well across on to the bank, poised himself there
for a moment, and taking a second spring carried his mistress across
into the further field apparently with ease. In that field the dogs
were now running, altogether, so that a sheet might have covered
them; and Miss Tristram, exulting within her heart and holding in her
horse, knew that she had got away uncommonly well.

Peregrine Orme followed,--a little to the right of the lady's
passage, so that he might have room for himself, and do no mischief
in the event of Miss Tristram or her horse making any mistake at
the leap. He also got well over. But, alas! in spite of such early
success he was destined to see nothing of the hunt that day! Felix
Graham, thinking that he would obey instructions by letting his horse
do as he pleased, permitted the beast to come close upon Orme's track
and to make his jump before Orme's horse had taken his second spring.

"Have a care," said Peregrine, feeling that the two were together on
the bank, "or you'll shove me into the ditch." He however got well
over.

Felix, attempting to "have a care" just when his doing so could be
of no avail, gave his horse a pull with the curb as he was preparing
for his second spring. The outside ditch was broad and deep and well
banked up, and required that an animal should have all his power. It
was at such a moment as this that he should have been left to do his
work without injudicious impediment from his rider. But poor Graham
was thinking only of Orme's caution, and attempted to stop the beast
when any positive and absolute stop was out of the question. The
horse made his jump, and, crippled as he was, jumped short. He came
with his knees against the further bank, threw his rider, and then in
his struggle to right himself rolled over him.

Felix felt at once that he was much hurt--that he had indeed come to
grief; but still he was not stunned nor did he lose his presence of
mind. The horse succeeded in gaining his feet, and then Felix also
jumped up and even walked a step or two towards the head of the
animal with the object of taking the reins. But he found that he
could not raise his arm, and he found also that he could hardly
breathe.

Both Peregrine and Miss Tristram looked back. "There's nothing
wrong I hope," said the lady; and then she rode on. And let it be
understood that in hunting those who are in advance generally do
ride on. The lame and the halt and the wounded, if they cannot pick
themselves up, have to be picked up by those who come after them. But
Peregrine saw that there was no one else coming that way. The memory
of young Grubbles' fate had placed an interdict on that pass out
of the wood, which nothing short of the pluck and science of Miss
Tristram was able to disregard. Two cavaliers she had carried with
her. One she had led on to instant slaughter, and the other remained
to look after his fallen brother-in-arms. Miss Tristram in the mean
time was in the next field and had settled well down to her work.

"Are you hurt, old fellow?" said Peregrine, turning back his horse,
but still not dismounting.

"Not much, I think," said Graham, smiling. "There's something wrong
about my arm,--but don't you wait." And then he found that he spoke
with difficulty.

"Can you mount again?"

"I don't think I'll mind that. Perhaps I'd better sit down." Then
Peregrine Orme knew that Graham was hurt, and jumping off his own
horse he gave up all hope of the hunt.

"Here, you fellow, come and hold these horses." So invoked, a boy who
in following the sport had got as far as this ditch did as he was
bid, and scrambled over. "Sit down, Graham: there; I'm afraid you
are hurt. Did he roll on you?" But Felix merely looked up into his
face,--still smiling. He was now very pale, and for the moment could
not speak. Peregrine came close to him, and gently attempted to raise
the wounded limb; whereupon Graham shuddered, and shook his head.

"I fear it is broken," said Peregrine. Graham nodded his head, and
raised his left hand to his breast; and Peregrine then knew that
something else was amiss also.

I don't know any feeling more disagreeable than that produced by
being left alone in a field, when out hunting, with a man who has
been very much hurt and who is incapable of riding or walking.
The hurt man himself has the privilege of his infirmities and may
remain quiescent; but you, as his only attendant, must do something.
You must for the moment do all, and if you do wrong the whole
responsibility lies on your shoulders. If you leave a wounded man on
the damp ground, in the middle of winter, while you run away, five
miles perhaps, to the next doctor, he may not improbably--as you
then think--be dead before you come back. You don't know the way;
you are heavy yourself, and your boots are very heavy. You must stay
therefore; but as you are no doctor you don't in the least know what
is the amount of the injury. In your great trouble you begin to roar
for assistance; but the woods re-echo your words, and the distant
sound of the huntsman's horn, as he summons his hounds at a check,
only mocks your agony.

But Peregrine had a boy with him. "Get upon that horse," he said at
last; "ride round to Farmer Griggs, and tell them to send somebody
here with a spring cart. He has got a spring cart I know;--and a
mattress in it."

"But I hain't no gude at roiding like," said the boy, looking with
dismay at Orme's big horse.

"Then run; that will be better, for you can go through the wood. You
know where Farmer Griggs lives. The first farm the other side of the
Grange."

"Ay, ay, I knows where Farmer Griggs lives well enough."

"Run, then; and if the cart is here in half an hour I'll give you a
sovereign."

Inspirited by the hopes of such wealth, golden wealth, wealth for a
lifetime, the boy was quickly back over the fence, and Peregrine was
left alone with Felix Graham. He was now sitting down, with his feet
hanging into the ditch, and Peregrine was kneeling behind him. "I am
sorry I can do nothing more," said he; "but I fear we must remain
here till the cart comes."

"I am--so--vexed--about your hunt," said Felix, gasping as he spoke.
He had in fact broken his right arm which had been twisted under him
as the horse rolled, and two of his ribs had been staved in by the
pommel of his saddle. Many men have been worse hurt and have hunted
again before the end of the season, but the fracture of three bones
does make a man uncomfortable for the time. "Now the cart--is--sent
for, couldn't you--go on?" But it was not likely that Peregrine Orme
would do that. "Never mind me," he said. "When a fellow is hurt he
has always to do as he's told. You'd better have a drop of sherry.
Look here: I've got a flask at my saddle. There; you can support
yourself with that arm a moment. Did you ever see horses stand so
quiet. I've got hold of yours, and now I'll fasten them together. I
say, Whitefoot, you don't kick, do you?" And then he contrived to
picket the horses to two branches, and having got out his case of
sherry, poured a small modicum into the silver mug which was attached
to the apparatus and again supported Graham while he drank. "You'll
be as right as a trivet by-and-by; only you'll have to make Noningsby
your headquarters for the next six weeks." And then the same idea
passed through the mind of each of them;--how little a man need be
pitied for such a misfortune if Madeline Staveley would consent to be
his nurse.

No man could have less surgical knowledge than Peregrine Orme, but
nevertheless he was such a man as one would like to have with him if
one came to grief in such a way. He was cheery and up-hearted, but at
the same time gentle and even thoughtful. His voice was pleasant and
his touch could be soft. For many years afterwards Felix remembered
how that sherry had been held to his lips, and how the young heir of
The Cleeve had knelt behind him in his red coat, supporting him as he
became weary with waiting, and saying pleasant words to him through
the whole. Felix Graham was a man who would remember such things.

In running through the wood the boy first encountered three horsemen.
They were the judge, with his daughter Madeline and Miss Furnival.
"There be a mon there who be a'most dead," said the boy, hardly able
to speak from want of breath. "I be agoing for Farmer Griggs' cart."
And then they stopped him a moment to ask for some description, but
the boy could tell them nothing to indicate that the wounded man
was one of their friends. It might however be Augustus, and so the
three rode on quickly towards the fence, knowing nothing of the
circumstances of the ditches which would make it out of their power
to get to the fallen sportsman.

But Peregrine heard the sound of the horses and the voices of the
horsemen. "By Jove, there's a lot of them coming down here," said he.
"It's the judge and two of the girls. Oh, Miss Staveley, I'm so glad
you've come. Graham has had a bad fall and hurt himself. You haven't
a shawl, have you? the ground is so wet under him."

"It doesn't signify at all," said Felix, looking round and seeing the
faces of his friends on the other side of the bank.

Madeline Staveley gave a slight shriek which her father did not
notice, but which Miss Furnival heard very plainly. "Oh papa," she
said, "cannot you get over to him?" And then she began to bethink
herself whether it were possible that she should give up something of
her dress to protect the man who was hurt from the damp muddy ground
on which he lay.

"Can you hold my horse, dear," said the judge, slowly dismounting;
for the judge, though he rode every day on sanitary considerations,
had not a sportsman's celerity in leaving and recovering his saddle.
But he did get down, and burdened as he was with a great-coat, he
did succeed in crossing that accursed fence. Accursed it was from
henceforward in the annals of the H. H., and none would ride it but
dare-devils who professed themselves willing to go at anything.
Miss Tristram, however, always declared that there was nothing in
it--though she avoided it herself, whispering to her friends that she
had led others to grief there, and might possibly do so again if she
persevered.

"Could you hold the horse?" said Madeline to Miss Furnival; "and I
will go for a shawl to the carriage." Miss Furnival declared that to
the best of her belief she could not, but nevertheless the animal was
left with her, and Madeline turned round and galloped back towards
the carriage. She made her horse do his best though her eyes were
nearly blinded with tears, and went straight on for the carriage,
though she would have given much for a moment to hide those tears
before she reached it.

"Oh, mamma! give me a thick shawl; Mr. Graham has hurt himself in the
field, and is lying on the grass." And then in some incoherent and
quick manner she had to explain what she knew of the accident before
she could get a carriage-cloak out of the carriage. This, however,
she did succeed in doing, and in some manner, very unintelligible
to herself afterwards, she did gallop back with her burden. She
passed the cloak over to Peregrine, who clambered up the bank to get
it, while the judge remained on the ground, supporting the young
barrister. Felix Graham, though he was weak, was not stunned or
senseless, and he knew well who it was that had procured for him that
comfort.

And then the carriage followed Madeline, and there was quite a
concourse of servants and horses and ladies on the inside of the
fence. But the wounded man was still unfortunately on the other side.
No cart from Farmer Griggs made its appearance, though it was now
more than half an hour since the boy had gone. Carts, when they are
wanted in such sudden haste, do not make their appearance. It was two
miles through the wood to Mr. Griggs's farm-yard, and more than three
miles back by any route which the cart could take. And then it might
be more than probable that in Farmer Griggs's establishment there was
not always a horse ready in harness, or a groom at hand prepared to
yoke him. Peregrine had become very impatient, and had more than once
invoked a silent anathema on the farmer's head; but nevertheless
there was no appearance of the cart.

"We must get him across the ditches into the carriage," said the
judge.

"If Lady Staveley will let us do that," said Peregrine.

"The difficulty is not with Lady Staveley but with these nasty
ditches," said the judge, for he had been up to his knees in one of
them, and the water had penetrated his boots. But the task was at
last done. Mrs. Arbuthnot stood up on the back seat of the carriage
so that she might hold the horses, and the coachman and footman got
across into the field. "It would be better to let me lie here all
day," said Felix, as three of them struggled back with their burden,
the judge bringing up the rear with two hunting-whips and Peregrine's
cap. "How on earth any one would think of riding over such a place as
that!" said the judge. But then, when he had been a young man it had
not been the custom for barristers to go out hunting.

Madeline, as she saw the wounded man carefully laid on the back seat
of the carriage, almost wished that she could have her mother's place
that she might support him. Would they be careful enough with him?
Would they remember how terrible must be the pain of that motion to
one so hurt as he was? And then she looked into his face as he was
made to lean back, and she saw that he still smiled. Felix Graham was
by no means a handsome man; I should hardly sin against the truth if
I were to say that he was ugly. But Madeline, as she looked at him
now lying there utterly without colour but always with that smile on
his countenance, thought that no face to her liking had ever been
more gracious. She still rode close to him as they went down the
grassy road, saying never a word. And Miss Furnival rode there also,
somewhat in the rear, condoling with the judge as to his wet feet.

"Miss Furnival," he said, "when a judge forgets himself and goes out
hunting he has no right to expect anything better. What would your
father have said had he seen me clambering up the bank with young
Orme's hunting-cap between my teeth? I positively did."

"He would have rushed to assist you," said Miss Furnival, with a
little burst of enthusiasm which was hardly needed on the occasion.
And then Peregrine came after them leading Graham's horse. He had
been compelled to return to the field and ride both the horses back
into the wood; one after the other, while the footman held them. That
riding back over fences in cold blood is the work that really tries
a man's nerve. And a man has to do it too when no one is looking on.
How he does crane and falter and look about for an easy place at such
a moment as that! But when the blood is cold, no places are easy.

The procession got back to Noningsby without adventure, and Graham
as a matter of course was taken up to his bed. One of the servants
had been despatched to Alston for a surgeon, and in an hour or
two the extent of the misfortune was known. The right arm was
broken--"very favourably," as the doctor observed. But two ribs were
broken--"rather unfavourably." There was some talk of hæmorrhage and
inward wounds, and Sir Jacob from Saville Row was suggested by Lady
Staveley. But the judge, knowing the extent of Graham's means, made
some further preliminary inquiries, and it was considered that Sir
Jacob would not be needed--at any rate not as yet.

"Why don't they send for him?" said Madeline to her mother with
rather more than her wonted energy.

"Your papa does not think it necessary, my dear. It would be very
expensive, you know."

"But, mamma, would you let a man die because it would cost a few
pounds to cure him?"

"My dear, we all hope that Mr. Graham won't die--at any rate not at
present. If there be any danger you may be sure that your papa will
send for the best advice."

But Madeline was by no means satisfied. She could not understand
economy in a matter of life and death. If Sir Jacob's coming would
have cost fifty pounds, or a hundred, what would that have signified,
weighed in such a balance? Such a sum would be nothing to her father.
Had Augustus fallen and broken his arm all the Sir Jacobs in London
would not have been considered too costly could their joint coming
have mitigated any danger. She did not however dare to speak to her
mother again, so she said a word or two to Peregrine Orme, who was
constant in his attendance on Felix. Peregrine had been very kind,
and she had seen it, and her heart therefore warmed towards him.

"Don't you think he ought to have more advice, Mr. Orme?"

"Well, no; I don't know. He's very jolly, you know; only he can't
talk. One of the bones ran into him, but I believe he's all right."

"Oh, but that is so frightful!" and the tears were again in her eyes.

"If I were him I should think one doctor enough. But it's easy enough
having a fellow down from London, you know, if you like it."

"If he should get worse, Mr. Orme--." And then Peregrine made her a
sort of promise, but in doing so an idea shot through his poor heart
of what the truth might really be. He went back and looked at Felix
who was sleeping. "If it is so I must bear it," he said to himself;
"but I'll fight it on;" and a quick thought ran through his brain of
his own deficiencies. He knew that he was not clever and bright in
talk like Felix Graham. He could not say the right thing at the right
moment without forethought. How he wished that he could! But still he
would fight it on, as he would have done any losing match,--to the
last. And then he sat down by Felix's head, and resolved that he
would be loyal to his new friend all the same--loyal in all things
needful. But still he would fight it on.



CHAPTER XXX

ANOTHER FALL


Felix Graham had plenty of nurses, but Madeline was not one of them.
Augustus Staveley came home while the Alston doctor was still busy
at the broken bones, and of course he would not leave his friend. He
was one of those who had succeeded in the hunt, and consequently had
heard nothing of the accident till the end of it. Miss Tristram had
been the first to tell him that Mr. Graham had fallen in leaving the
covert, but having seen him rise to his legs she had not thought he
was seriously hurt.

"I do not know much about your friend," she had said; "but I think I
may comfort you by an assurance that your horse is none the worse. I
could see as much as that."

"Poor Felix!" said, Staveley. "He has lost a magnificent run. I
suppose we are nine or ten miles from Monkton Grange now?"

"Eleven if we are a yard," said the lady. "It was an ugly country,
but the pace was nothing wonderful." And then others dropped in, and
at last came tidings about Graham. At first there was a whisper that
he was dead. He had ridden over Orme, it was said; had nearly killed
him, and had quite killed himself. Then the report became less fatal.
Both horses were dead, but Graham was still living though with most
of his bones broken.

"Don't believe it," said Miss Tristram. "In what condition Mr. Graham
may be I won't say; but that your horse was safe and sound after he
got over the fence, of that you may take my word." And thus, in a
state of uncertainty, obtaining fresh rumours from every person he
passed, Staveley hurried home. "Right arm and two ribs," Peregrine
said to him, as he met him in the hall. "Is that all?" said Augustus.
It was clear therefore that he did not think so much about it as his
sister.

"If you'd let her have her head she'd never have come down like
that," Augustus said, as he sat that evening by his friend's bedside.

"But he pulled off, I fancy, to avoid riding over me," said
Peregrine.

"Then he must have come too quick at his leap," said Augustus. "You
should have steadied him as he came to it." From all which Graham
perceived that a man cannot learn how to ride any particular horse by
two or three words of precept.

"If you talk any more about the horse, or the hunt, or the accident,
neither of you shall stay in the room," said Lady Staveley, who came
in at that moment. But they both did stay in the room, and said a
great deal more about the hunt, and the horse, and the accident
before they left it; and even became so far reconciled to the
circumstance that they had a hot glass of brandy and water each,
sitting by Graham's fire.

"But, Augustus, do tell me how he is," Madeline said to her brother,
as she caught him going to his room. She had become ashamed of asking
any more questions of her mother.

"He's all right; only he'll be as fretful as a porcupine, shut up
there. At least I should be. Are there lots of novels in the house?
Mind you send for a batch to-morrow. Novels are the only chance a man
has when he's laid up like that." Before breakfast on the following
morning Madeline had sent off to the Alston circulating library a
list of all the best new novels of which she could remember the
names.

No definite day had hitherto been fixed for Peregrine's return to
The Cleeve, and under the present circumstances he still remained at
Noningsby assisting to amuse Felix Graham. For two days after the
accident such seemed to be his sole occupation; but in truth he was
looking for an opportunity to say a word or two to Miss Staveley, and
paving his way as best he might for that great speech which he was
fully resolved that he would make before he left the house. Once or
twice he bethought himself whether he would not endeavour to secure
for himself some confidant in the family, and obtain the sanction and
special friendship either of Madeline's mother, or her sister, or her
brother. But what if after that she should reject him? Would it not
be worse for him then that any one should have known of his defeat?
He could, as he thought, endure to suffer alone; but on such a matter
as that pity would be unendurable. So as he sat there by Graham's
fireside, pretending to read one of poor Madeline's novels for the
sake of companionship, he determined that he would tell no one of his
intention;--no one till he could make the opportunity for telling
her.

And when he did meet her, and find, now and again, some moment for
saying a word alone to her, she was very gracious to him. He had been
so kind and gentle with Felix, there was so much in him that was
sweet and good and honest, so much that such an event as this brought
forth and made manifest, that Madeline, and indeed the whole family,
could not but be gracious to him. Augustus would declare that he was
the greatest brick he had ever known, repeating all Graham's words as
to the patience with which the embryo baronet had knelt behind him on
the cold muddy ground, supporting him for an hour, till the carriage
had come up. Under such circumstances how could Madeline refrain from
being gracious to him?

"But it is all from favour to Graham!" Peregrine would say to himself
with bitterness; and yet though he said so he did not quite believe
it. Poor fellow! It was all from favour to Graham. And could he have
thoroughly believed the truth of those words which he repeated to
himself so often, he might have spared himself much pain. He might
have spared himself much pain, and possibly some injury; for if aught
could now tend to mature in Madeline's heart an affection which was
but as yet nascent, it would be the offer of some other lover. But
such reasoning on the matter was much too deep for Peregrine Orme.
"It may be," he said to himself, "that she only pities him because he
is hurt. If so, is not this time better for me than any other? If it
be that she loves him, let me know it, and be out of my pain." It did
not then occur to him that circumstances such as those in question
could not readily be made explicit;--that Madeline might refuse
his love, and yet leave him no wiser than he now was as to her
reasons for so refusing;--perhaps, indeed, leave him less wise, with
increased cause for doubt and hopeless hope, and the green melancholy
of a rejected lover.

Madeline during these two days said no more about the London doctor;
but it was plain to all who watched her that her anxiety as to the
patient was much more keen than that of the other ladies of the
house. "She always thinks everybody is going to die," Lady Staveley
said to Miss Furnival, intending, not with any consummate prudence,
to account to that acute young lady for her daughter's solicitude.
"We had a cook here, three months since, who was very ill, and
Madeline would never be easy till the doctor assured her that the
poor woman's danger was altogether past."

"She is so very warm-hearted," said Miss Furnival in reply. "It is
quite delightful to see her. And she will have such pleasure when she
sees him come down from his room."

Lady Staveley on this immediate occasion said nothing to her
daughter, but Mrs. Arbuthnot considered that a sisterly word might
perhaps be spoken in due season.

"The doctor says he is doing quite well now," Mrs. Arbuthnot said to
her, as they were sitting alone.

"But does he indeed? Did you hear him?" said Madeline, who was
suspicious.

"He did so, indeed. I heard him myself. But he says also that he
ought to remain here, at any rate for the next fortnight,--if mamma
can permit it without inconvenience."

"Of course she can permit it. No one would turn any person out of
their house in such a condition as that!"

"Papa and mamma both will be very happy that he should stay here;--of
course they would not do what you call turning him out. But, Mad,
my darling,"--and then she came up close and put her arm round
her sister's waist. "I think mamma would be more comfortable in
his remaining here if your charity towards him were--what shall I
say?--less demonstrative."

"What do you mean, Isabella?"

"Dearest, dearest; you must not be angry with me. Nobody has hinted
to me a word on the subject, nor do I mean to hint anything that can
possibly be hurtful to you."

"But what do you mean?"

"Don't you know, darling? He is a young man--and--and--people see
with such unkind eyes, and hear with such scandal-loving ears. There
is that Miss Furnival--"

"If Miss Furnival can think such things, I for one do not care what
she thinks."

"No, nor do I;--not as regards any important result. But may it not
be well to be careful? You know what I mean, dearest?"

"Yes--I know. At least I suppose so. And it makes me know also how
very cold and shallow and heartless people are! I won't ask any more
questions, Isabella; but I can't know that a fellow-creature is
suffering in the house,--and a person like him too, so clever, whom
we all regard as a friend,--the most intimate friend in the world
that Augustus has,--and the best too, as I heard papa himself
say--without caring whether he is going to live or die."

"There is no danger now, you know."

"Very well; I am glad to hear it. Though I know very well that there
must be danger after such a terrible accident as that."

"The doctor says there is none."

"At any rate I will not--" And then instead of finishing her sentence
she turned away her head and put up her handkerchief to wipe away a
tear.

"You are not angry with me, dear?" said Mrs. Arbuthnot.

"Oh, no," said Madeline; and then they parted.

For some days after that Madeline asked no question whatever about
Felix Graham, but it may be doubted whether this did not make the
matter worse. Even Sophia Furnival would ask how he was at any rate
twice a day, and Lady Staveley continued to pay him regular visits
at stated intervals. As he got better she would sit with him, and
brought back reports as to his sayings. But Madeline never discussed
any of these; and refrained alike from the conversation, whether
his broken bones or his unbroken wit were to be the subject of it.
And then Mrs. Arbuthnot, knowing that she would still be anxious,
gave her private bulletins as to the state of the sick man's
progress;--all which gave an air of secrecy to the matter, and caused
even Madeline to ask herself why this should be so.

On the whole I think that Mrs. Arbuthnot was wrong. Mrs. Arbuthnot
and the whole Staveley family would have regarded a mutual attachment
between Mr. Graham and Madeline as a great family misfortune. The
judge was a considerate father to his children, holding that a
father's control should never be brought to bear unnecessarily. In
looking forward to the future prospects of his sons and daughters
it was his theory that they should be free to choose their life's
companions for themselves. But nevertheless it could not be agreeable
to him that his daughter should fall in love with a man who had
nothing, and whose future success at his own profession seemed to be
so very doubtful. On the whole I think that Mrs. Arbuthnot was wrong,
and that the feeling that did exist in Madeline's bosom might more
possibly have died away, had no word been said about it--even by a
sister.

And then another event happened which forced her to look into her
own heart. Peregrine Orme did make his proposal. He waited patiently
during those two or three days in which the doctor's visits were
frequent, feeling that he could not talk about himself while any
sense of danger pervaded the house. But then at last a morning came
on which the surgeon declared that he need not call again till
the morrow; and Felix himself, when the medical back was turned,
suggested that it might as well be to-morrow week. He began also to
scold his friends, and look bright about the eyes, and drink his
glass of sherry in a pleasant dinner-table fashion, not as if he were
swallowing his physic. And Peregrine, when he saw all this, resolved
that the moment had come for the doing of his deed of danger. The
time would soon come at which he must leave Noningsby, and he would
not leave Noningsby till he had learned his fate.

Lady Staveley, who with a mother's eye had seen her daughter's
solicitude for Felix Graham's recovery,--had seen it, and
animadverted on it to herself,--had seen also, or at any rate had
suspected, that Peregrine Orme looked on her daughter with favouring
eyes. Now Peregrine Orme would have satisfied Lady Staveley as a
son-in-law. She liked his ways and manners of thought--in spite of
those rumours as to the rat-catching which had reached her ears. She
regarded him as quite clever enough to be a good husband, and no
doubt appreciated the fact that he was to inherit his title and The
Cleeve from an old grandfather instead of a middle-aged father. She
therefore had no objection to leave Peregrine alone with her one
ewe-lamb, and therefore the opportunity which he sought was at last
found.

"I shall be leaving Noningsby to-morrow, Miss Staveley," he said one
day, having secured an interview in the back drawing-room--in that
happy half-hour which occurs in winter before the world betakes
itself to dress. Now I here profess my belief, that out of every
ten set offers made by ten young lovers, nine of such offers are
commenced with an intimation that the lover is going away. There is
a dash of melancholy in such tidings well suited to the occasion. If
there be any spark of love on the other side it will be elicited by
the idea of a separation. And then, also, it is so frequently the
actual fact. This making of an offer is in itself a hard piece of
business,--a job to be postponed from day to day. It is so postponed,
and thus that dash of melancholy, and that idea of separation are
brought in at the important moment with so much appropriate truth.

"I shall be leaving Noningsby to-morrow, Miss Staveley," Peregrine
said.

"Oh dear! we shall be so sorry. But why are you going? What will Mr.
Graham and Augustus do without you? You ought to stay at least till
Mr. Graham can leave his room."

"Poor Graham!--not that I think he is much to be pitied either; but
he won't be about for some weeks to come yet."

"You do not think he is worse; do you?"

"Oh, dear, no; not at all." And Peregrine was unconsciously irritated
against his friend by the regard which her tone evinced. "He is quite
well; only they will not let him be moved. But, Miss Staveley, it was
not of Mr. Graham that I was going to speak."

"No--only I thought he would miss you so much." And then she blushed,
though the blush in the dark of the evening was lost upon him. She
remembered that she was not to speak about Felix Graham's health, and
it almost seemed as though Mr. Orme had rebuked her for doing so in
saying that he had not come there to speak of him.

"Lady Staveley's house has been turned up side down since this
affair, and it is time now that some part of the trouble should
cease."

"Oh! mamma does not mind it at all."

"I know how good she is; but nevertheless, Miss Staveley, I must go
to-morrow." And then he paused a moment before he spoke again. "It
will depend entirely upon you," he said, "whether I may have the
happiness of returning soon to Noningsby."

"On me, Mr. Orme!"

"Yes, on you. I do not know how to speak properly that which I have
to say; but I believe I may as well say it out at once. I have come
here now to tell you that I love you and to ask you to be my wife."
And then he stopped as though there were nothing more for him to say
upon the matter.

It would be hardly extravagant to declare that Madeline's breath was
taken away by the very sudden manner in which young Orme had made his
proposition. It had never entered her head that she had an admirer in
him. Previously to Graham's accident she had thought nothing about
him. Since that event she had thought about him a good deal; but
altogether as of a friend of Graham's. He had been good and kind to
Graham, and therefore she had liked him and had talked to him. He
had never said a word to her that had taught her to regard him as
a possible lover; and now that he was an actual lover, a declared
lover standing before her, waiting for an answer, she was so
astonished that she did not know how to speak. All her ideas too,
as to love,--such ideas as she had ever formed, were confounded by
his abruptness. She would have thought, had she brought herself
absolutely to think upon it, that all speech of love should be very
delicate; that love should grow slowly, and then be whispered softly,
doubtingly, and with infinite care. Even had she loved him, or had
she been in the way towards loving him, such violence as this would
have frightened her and scared her love away. Poor Peregrine! His
intentions had been so good and honest! He was so true and hearty,
and free from all conceit in the matter! It was a pity that he should
have marred his cause by such ill judgment.

But there he stood waiting an answer,--and expecting it to be as
open, definite, and plain as though he had asked her to take a walk
with him. "Madeline," he said, stretching out his hand when he
perceived that she did not speak to him at once. "There is my hand.
If it be possible give me yours."

"Oh, Mr. Orme!"

"I know that I have not said what I had to say very--very gracefully.
But you will not regard that I think. You are too good, and too
true."

She had now seated herself, and he was standing before her. She had
retreated to a sofa in order to avoid the hand which he had offered
her; but he followed her, and even yet did not know that he had no
chance of success. "Mr. Orme," she said at last, speaking hardly
above her breath, "what has made you do this?"

"What has made me do it? What has made me tell you that I love you?"

"You cannot be in earnest!"

"Not in earnest! By heavens, Miss Staveley, no man who has said the
same words was ever more in earnest. Do you doubt me when I tell you
that I love you?"

"Oh, I am so sorry!" And then she hid her face upon the arm of the
sofa and burst into tears.

Peregrine stood there, like a prisoner on his trial, waiting for a
verdict. He did not know how to plead his cause with any further
language; and indeed no further language could have been of any
avail. The judge and jury were clear against him, and he should have
known the sentence without waiting to have it pronounced in set
terms. But in plain words he had made his offer, and in plain words
he required that an answer should be given to him. "Well," he said,
"will you not speak to me? Will you not tell me whether it shall be
so?"

"No,--no,--no," she said.

"You mean that you cannot love me." And as he said this the agony
of his tone struck her ear and made her feel that he was suffering.
Hitherto she had thought only of herself, and had hardly recognised
it as a fact that he could be thoroughly in earnest.

"Mr. Orme, I am very sorry. Do not speak as though you were angry
with me. But--"

"But you cannot love me?" And then he stood again silent, for there
was no reply. "Is it that, Miss Staveley, that you mean to answer? If
you say that with positive assurance, I will trouble you no longer."
Poor Peregrine! He was but an unskilled lover!

"No!" she sobbed forth through her tears; but he had so framed his
question that he hardly knew what No meant.

"Do you mean that you cannot love me, or may I hope that a day will
come--? May I speak to you again--?"

"Oh, no, no! I can answer you now. It grieves me to the heart. I know
you are so good. But, Mr. Orme--"

"Well--"

"It can never, never be."

"And I must take that as answer?"

"I can make no other." He still stood before her,--with gloomy and
almost angry brow, could she have seen him; and then he thought he
would ask her whether there was any other love which had brought
about her scorn for him. It did not occur to him, at the first
moment, that in doing so he would insult and injure her.

"At any rate I am not flattered by a reply which is at once so
decided," he began by saying.

"Oh! Mr. Orme, do not make me more unhappy--"

"But perhaps I am too late. Perhaps--" Then he remembered himself and
paused. "Never mind," he said, speaking to himself rather than to
her. "Good-bye, Miss Staveley. You will at any rate say good-bye to
me. I shall go at once now."

"Go at once! Go away, Mr. Orme?"

"Yes; why should I stay here? Do you think that I could sit down to
table with you all after that? I will ask your brother to explain my
going; I shall find him in his room. Good-bye."

She took his hand mechanically, and then he left her. When she came
down to dinner she looked furtively round to his place and saw that
it was vacant.



CHAPTER XXXI

FOOTSTEPS IN THE CORRIDOR


"Upon my word I am very sorry," said the judge. "But what made him go
off so suddenly? I hope there's nobody ill at The Cleeve!" And then
the judge took his first spoonful of soup.

"No, no; there is nothing of that sort," said Augustus. "His
grandfather wants him, and Orme thought he might as well start at
once. He was always a sudden harum-scarum fellow like that."

"He's a very pleasant, nice young man," said Lady Staveley; "and
never gives himself any airs. I like him exceedingly."

Poor Madeline did not dare to look either at her mother or her
brother, but she would have given much to know whether either of them
were aware of the cause which had sent Peregrine Orme so suddenly
away from the house. At first she thought that Augustus surely did
know, and she was wretched as she thought that he might probably
speak to her on the subject. But he went on talking about Orme and
his abrupt departure till she became convinced that he knew nothing
and suspected nothing of what had occurred.

But her mother said never a word after that eulogium which she had
uttered, and Madeline read that eulogium altogether aright. It said
to her ears that if ever young Orme should again come forward with
his suit, her mother would be prepared to receive him as a suitor;
and it said, moreover, that if that suitor had been already sent away
by any harsh answer, she would not sympathise with that harshness.

The dinner went on much as usual, but Madeline could not bring
herself to say a word. She sat between her brother-in-law, Mr.
Arbuthnot, on one side, and an old friend of her father's, of thirty
years' standing, on the other. The old friend talked exclusively to
Lady Staveley, and Mr. Arbuthnot, though he now and then uttered a
word or two, was chiefly occupied with his dinner. During the last
three or four days she had sat at dinner next to Peregrine Orme, and
it seemed to her now that she always had been able to talk to him.
She had liked him so much too! Was it not a pity that he should have
been so mistaken! And then as she sat after dinner, eating five or
six grapes, she felt that she was unable to recall her spirits and
look and speak as she was wont to do: a thing had happened which had
knocked the ground from under her--had thrown her from her equipoise,
and now she lacked the strength to recover herself and hide her
dismay.

After dinner, while the gentlemen were still in the dining-room, she
got a book, and nobody disturbed her as she sat alone pretending to
read it. There never had been any intimate friendship between her and
Miss Furnival, and that young lady was now employed in taking the
chief part in a general conversation about wools. Lady Staveley got
through a good deal of wool in the course of the year, as also did
the wife of the old thirty-years' friend; but Miss Furnival, short as
her experience had been, was able to give a few hints to them both,
and did not throw away the occasion. There was another lady there,
rather deaf, to whom Mrs. Arbuthnot devoted herself, and therefore
Madeline was allowed to be alone.

Then the men came in, and she was obliged to come forward and
officiate at the tea-table. The judge insisted on having the teapot
and urn brought into the drawing-room, and liked to have his cup
brought to him by one of his own daughters. So she went to work and
made the tea; but still she felt that she scarcely knew how to go
through her task. What had happened to her that she should be thus
beside herself, and hardly capable of refraining from open tears?
She knew that her mother was looking at her, and that now and again
little things were done to give her ease if any ease were possible.

"Is anything the matter with my Madeline?" said her father, looking
up into her face, and holding the hand from which he had taken his
cup.

"No, papa; only I have got a headache."

"A headache, dear; that's not usual with you."

"I have seen that she has not been well all the evening," said Lady
Staveley; "but I thought that perhaps she might shake it off. You had
better go, my dear, if you are suffering. Isabella, I'm sure, will
pour out the tea for us."

And so she got away, and skulked slowly up stairs to her own room.
She felt that it was skulking. Why should she have been so weak as to
have fled in that way? She had no headache--nor was it heartache that
had now upset her. But a man had spoken to her openly of love, and no
man had ever so spoken to her before.

She did not go direct to her own chamber, but passed along the
corridor towards her mother's dressing-room. It was always her custom
to remain there some half-hour before she went to bed, doing little
things for her mother, and chatting with any other girl who might be
intimate enough to be admitted there. Now she might remain there for
an hour alone without danger of being disturbed; and she thought to
herself that she would remain there till her mother came, and then
unburthen herself of the whole story.

As she went along the corridor she would have to pass the room which
had been given up to Felix Graham. She saw that the door was ajar,
and as she came close up to it, she found the nurse in the act of
coming out from the room. Mrs. Baker had been a very old servant in
the judge's family, and had known Madeline from the day of her birth.
Her chief occupation for some years had been nursing when there was
anybody to nurse, and taking a general care and surveillance of the
family's health when there was no special invalid to whom she could
devote herself. Since Graham's accident she had been fully employed,
and had greatly enjoyed the opportunities it had given her.

Mrs. Baker was in the doorway as Madeline attempted to pass by on
tiptoe. "Oh, he's a deal better now, Miss Madeline, so that you
needn't be afeard of disturbing;--ain't you, Mr. Graham?" So she was
thus brought into absolute contact with her friend, for the first
time since he had hurt himself.

"Indeed I am," said Felix; "I only wish they'd let me get up and go
down stairs. Is that Miss Staveley, Mrs. Baker?"

"Yes, sure. Come, my dear, he's got his dressing-gown on, and you may
just come to the door and ask him how he does."

"I am very glad to hear that you are so much better, Mr. Graham,"
said Madeline, standing in the doorway with averted eyes, and
speaking with a voice so low that it only just reached his ears.

"Thank you, Miss Staveley; I shall never know how to express what I
feel for you all."

"And there's none of 'em have been more anxious about you than she,
I can tell you; and none of 'em ain't kinder-hearteder," said Mrs.
Baker.

"I hope you will be up soon and be able to come down to the
drawing-room," said Madeline. And then she did glance round, and for
a moment saw the light of his eye as he sat upright in the bed. He
was still pale and thin, or at least she fancied so, and her heart
trembled within her as she thought of the danger he had passed.

"I do so long to be able to talk to you again; all the others come
and visit me, but I have only heard the sounds of your footsteps as
you pass by."

"And yet she always walks like a mouse," said Mrs. Baker.

"But I have always heard them," he said. "I hope Marian thanked you
for the books. She told me how you had gotten them for me."

"She should not have said anything about them; it was Augustus who
thought of them," said Madeline.

"Marian comes to me four or five times a day," he continued; "I do
not know what I should do without her."

"I hope she is not noisy," said Madeline.

"Laws, miss, he don't care for noise now, only he ain't good at
moving yet, and won't be for some while."

"Pray take care of yourself, Mr. Graham," she said; "I need not
tell you how anxious we all are for your recovery. Good night, Mr.
Graham." And then she passed on to her mother's dressing-room, and
sitting herself down in an arm-chair opposite to the fire began to
think--to think, or else to try to think.

And what was to be the subject of her thoughts? Regarding Peregrine
Orme there was very little room for thinking. He had made her an
offer, and she had rejected it as a matter of course, seeing that she
did not love him. She had no doubt on that head, and was well aware
that she could never accept such an offer. On what subject then was
it necessary that she should think?

How odd it was that Mr. Graham's room door should have been open
on this especial evening, and that nurse should have been standing
there, ready to give occasion for that conversation! That was the
idea that first took possession of her brain. And then she recounted
all those few words which had been spoken as though they had had some
special value--as though each word had been laden with interest. She
felt half ashamed of what she had done in standing there and speaking
at his bedroom door, and yet she would not have lost the chance for
worlds. There had been nothing in what had passed between her and the
invalid. The very words, spoken elsewhere, or in the presence of her
mother and sister, would have been insipid and valueless; and yet she
sat there feeding on them as though they were of flavour so rich that
she could not let the sweetness of them pass from her. She had been
stunned at the idea of poor Peregrine's love, and yet she never asked
herself what was this new feeling. She did not inquire--not yet at
least--whether there might be danger in such feelings.

She remained there, with eyes fixed on the burning coals, till her
mother came up. "What, Madeline," said Lady Staveley, "are you here
still? I was in hopes you would have been in bed before this."

"My headache is gone now, mamma; and I waited because--"

"Well, dear; because what?" and her mother came and stood over her
and smoothed her hair. "I know very well that something has been the
matter. There has been something; eh, Madeline?"

"Yes, mamma."

"And you have remained up that we may talk about it. Is that it,
dearest?"

"I did not quite mean that, but perhaps it will be best. I can't be
doing wrong, mamma, in telling you."

"Well; you shall judge of that yourself;" and Lady Staveley sat down
on the sofa so that she was close to the chair which Madeline still
occupied. "As a general rule I suppose you could not be doing wrong;
but you must decide. If you have any doubt, wait till to-morrow."

"No, mamma; I will tell you now. Mr. Orme--"

"Well, dearest. Did Mr. Orme say anything specially to you before he
went away?"

"He--he--"

"Come to me, Madeline, and sit here. We shall talk better then."
And the mother made room beside her on the sofa for her daughter,
and Madeline, running over, leaned with her head upon her mother's
shoulder. "Well, darling; what did he say? Did he tell you that he
loved you?"

"Yes, mamma."

"And you answered him--"

"I could only tell him--"

"Yes, I know. Poor fellow! But, Madeline, is he not an excellent
young man;--one, at any rate, that is lovable? Of course in such a
matter the heart must answer for itself. But I, looking at the offer
as a mother--I could have been well pleased--"

"But, mamma, I could not--"

"Well, love, there shall be an end of it; at least for the present.
When I heard that he had gone suddenly away I thought that something
had happened."

"I am so sorry that he should be unhappy, for I know that he is
good."

"Yes, he is good; and your father likes him, and Augustus. In such a
matter as this, Madeline, I would never say a word to persuade you. I
should think it wrong to do so. But it may be, dearest, that he has
flurried you by the suddenness of his offer; and that you have not
yet thought much about it."

"But, mamma, I know that I do not love him."

"Of course. That is natural. It would have been a great misfortune if
you had loved him before you had reason to know that he loved you;--a
great misfortune. But now,--now that you cannot but think of him, now
that you know what his wishes are, perhaps you may learn--"

"But I have refused him, and he has gone away."

"Young gentlemen under such circumstances sometimes come back again."

"He won't come back, mamma, because--because I told him so plainly--I
am sure he understands that it is all to be at an end."

"But if he should, and if you should then think differently towards
him--"

"Oh, no!"

"But if you should, it may be well that you should know how all your
friends esteem him. In a worldly view the marriage would be in all
respects prudent; and as to disposition and temper, which I admit are
much more important, I confess I think that he has all the qualities
best adapted to make a wife happy. But, as I said before, the heart
must speak for itself."

"Yes; of course. And I know that I shall never love him;--not in that
way."

"You may be sure, dearest, that there will be no constraint put
upon you. It might be possible that I or your papa should forbid a
daughter's marriage, if she had proposed to herself an imprudent
match; but neither he nor I would ever use our influence with a child
to bring about a marriage because we think it prudent in a worldly
point of view." And then Lady Staveley kissed her daughter.

"Dear mamma, I know how good you are to me." And she answered her
mother's embrace by the pressure of her arm. But nevertheless she did
not feel herself to be quite comfortable. There was something in
the words which her mother had spoken which grated against her most
cherished feelings;--something, though she by no means knew what.
Why had her mother cautioned her in that way, that there might be a
case in which she would refuse her sanction to a proposed marriage?
Isabella's marriage had been concluded with the full agreement of
the whole family; and she, Madeline, had certainly never as yet
given cause either to father or mother to suppose that she would
be headstrong and imprudent. Might not the caution have been
omitted?--or was it intended to apply in any way to circumstances as
they now existed?

"You had better go now, dearest," said Lady Staveley, "and for
the present we will not think any more about this gallant young
knight." And then Madeline, having said good night, went off rather
crestfallen to her own room. In doing so she again had to pass
Graham's door, and as she went by it, walking not quite on tiptoe,
she could not help asking herself whether or no he would really
recognise the sound of her footsteps.

It is hardly necessary to say that Lady Staveley had conceived
to herself a recognised purpose in uttering that little caution
to her daughter; and she would have been quite as well pleased
had circumstances taken Felix Graham out of her house instead of
Peregrine Orme. But Felix Graham must necessarily remain for the next
fortnight, and there could be no possible benefit in Orme's return,
at any rate till Graham should have gone.



CHAPTER XXXII

WHAT BRIDGET BOLSTER HAD TO SAY


It has been said in the earlier pages of this story that there was
no prettier scenery to be found within thirty miles of London than
that by which the little town of Hamworth was surrounded. This was
so truly the case that Hamworth was full of lodgings which in the
autumn season were always full of lodgers. The middle of winter was
certainly not the time for seeing the Hamworth hills to advantage;
nevertheless it was soon after Christmas that two rooms were taken
there by a single gentleman who had come down for a week, apparently
with no other view than that of enjoying himself. He did say
something about London confinement and change of air; but he was
manifestly in good health, had an excellent appetite, said a great
deal about fresh eggs,--which at that time of the year was hardly
reasonable, and brought with him his own pale brandy. This gentleman
was Mr. Crabwitz.

The house at which he was to lodge had been selected with
considerable judgment. It was kept by a tidy old widow known as Mrs.
Trump; but those who knew anything of Hamworth affairs were well
aware that Mrs. Trump had been left without a shilling, and could not
have taken that snug little house in Paradise Row and furnished it
completely, out of her own means. No. Mrs. Trump's lodging-house was
one of the irons which Samuel Dockwrath ever kept heating in the
fire, for the behoof of those fourteen children. He had taken a lease
of the house in Paradise Row, having made a bargain and advanced a
few pounds while it was yet being built; and he then had furnished
it and put in Mrs. Trump. Mrs. Trump received from him wages and a
percentage; but to him were paid over the quota of shillings per
week in consideration for which the lodgers were accommodated. All
of which Mr. Crabwitz had ascertained before he located himself in
Paradise Row.

And when he had so located himself he soon began to talk to Mrs.
Trump about Mr. Dockwrath. He himself, as he told her in confidence,
was in the profession of the law; he had heard of Mr. Dockwrath, and
should be very glad if that gentleman would come over and take a
glass of brandy and water with him some evening.

"And a very clever sharp gentleman he is," said Mrs. Trump.

"With a tolerably good business, I suppose?" asked Crabwitz.

"Pretty fair for that, sir. But he do be turning his hand to
everything. He's a mortal long family of his own, and he has need of
it all, if it's ever so much. But he'll never be poor for the want of
looking after it."

But Mr. Dockwrath did not come near his lodger on the first evening,
and Mr. Crabwitz made acquaintance with Mrs. Dockwrath before he saw
her husband. The care of the fourteen children was not supposed to
be so onerous but that she could find a moment now and then to see
whether Mrs. Trump kept the furniture properly dusted, and did not
infringe any of the Dockwrathian rules. These were very strict; and
whenever they were broken it was on the head of Mrs. Dockwrath that
the anger of the ruler mainly fell.

"I hope you find everything comfortable, sir," said poor Miriam,
having knocked at the sitting-room door when Crabwitz had just
finished his dinner.

"Yes, thank you; very nice. Is that Mrs. Dockwrath?"

"Yes, sir. I'm Mrs. Dockwrath. As it's we who own the room I looked
in to see if anything's wanting."

"You are very kind. No; nothing is wanting. But I should be delighted
to make your acquaintance if you would stay for a moment. Might I ask
you to take a chair?" and Mr. Crabwitz handed her one.

"Thank you; no, sir I won't intrude."

"Not at all, Mrs. Dockwrath. But the fact is, I'm a lawyer myself,
and I should be so glad to become known to your husband. I have heard
a great deal of his name lately as to a rather famous case in which
he is employed."

"Not the Orley Farm case?" said Mrs. Dockwrath immediately.

"Yes, yes; exactly."

"And is he going on with that, sir?" asked Mrs. Dockwrath with great
interest.

"Is he not? I know nothing about it myself, but I always supposed
that such was the case. If I had such a wife as you, Mrs. Dockwrath,
I should not leave her in doubt as to what I was doing in my own
profession."

"I know nothing about it, Mr. Cooke;"--for it was as Mr. Cooke that
he now sojourned at Hamworth. Not that it should be supposed he had
received instructions from Mr. Furnival to come down to that place
under a false name. From Mr. Furnival he had received no further
instructions on that matter than those conveyed at the end of a
previous chapter. "I know nothing about it, Mr. Cooke; and don't want
to know generally. But I am anxious about this Orley Farm case. I do
hope that he's going to drop it." And then Mr. Crabwitz elicited her
view of the case with great ease.

On that evening, about nine, Mr. Dockwrath did go over to Paradise
Row, and did allow himself to be persuaded to mix a glass of brandy
and water and light a cigar. "My missus tells me, sir, that you
belong to the profession as well as myself."

"Oh yes; I'm a lawyer, Mr. Dockwrath."

"Practising in town as an attorney, sir?"

"Not as an attorney on my own hook exactly. I chiefly employ my time
in getting up cases for barristers. There's a good deal done in that
way."

"Oh, indeed," said Mr. Dockwrath, beginning to feel himself the
bigger man of the two; and from that moment he patronised his
companion instead of allowing himself to be patronised.

This went against the grain with Mr. Crabwitz, but, having an object
to gain, he bore it. "We hear a great deal up in London just at
present about this Orley Farm case, and I always hear your name as
connected with it. I had no idea when I was taking these lodgings
that I was coming into a house belonging to that Mr. Dockwrath."

"The same party, sir," said Mr. Dockwrath, blowing the smoke out of
his mouth as he looked up to the ceiling.

And then by degrees Mr. Crabwitz drew him into conversation.
Dockwrath was by nature quite as clever a man as Crabwitz, and in
such a matter as this was not one to be outwitted easily; but in
truth he had no objection to talk about the Orley Farm case. "I have
taken it up on public motives, Mr. Cooke," he said, "and I mean to go
through with it."

"Oh, of course; in such a case as that you will no doubt go through
with it?"

"That's my intention, I assure you. And I tell you what; young
Mason,--that's the son of the widow of the old man who made the
will--"

"Or rather who did not make it, as you say."

"Yes, yes; he made the will; but he did not make the codicil--and
that young Mason has no more right to the property than you have."

"Hasn't he now?"

"No; and I can prove it too."

"Well; the general opinion in the profession is that Lady Mason will
stand her ground and hold her own. I don't know what the points are
myself, but I have heard it discussed, and that is certainly what
people think."

"Then people will find that they are very much mistaken."

"I was talking to one of Round's young men about it, and I fancy they
are not very sanguine."

"I do not care a fig for Round or his young men. It would be quite
as well for Joseph Mason if Round and Crook gave up the matter
altogether. It lies in a nutshell, and the truth must come out
whatever Round and Crook may choose to say. And I'll tell you
more--old Furnival, big a man as he thinks himself, cannot save her."

"Has he anything to do with it?" asked Mr. Cooke.

"Yes; the sly old fox. My belief is that only for him she'd give up
the battle, and be down on her marrow-bones asking for mercy."

"She'd have little chance of mercy, from what I hear of Joseph
Mason."

"She'd have to give up the property of course. And even then I don't
know whether he'd let her off. By heavens! he couldn't let her off
unless I chose." And then by degrees he told Mr. Cooke some of the
circumstances of the case.

But it was not till the fourth evening that Mr. Dockwrath spent with
his lodger that the intimacy had so far progressed as to enable Mr.
Crabwitz to proceed with his little scheme. On that day Mr. Dockwrath
had received a notice that at noon on the following morning Mr.
Joseph Mason and Bridget Bolster would both be at the house of
Messrs. Round and Crook in Bedford Row, and that he could attend at
that hour if it so pleased him. It certainly would so please him,
he said to himself when he got that letter; and in the evening he
mentioned to his new friend the business which was taking him to
London.

"If I might advise you in the matter, Mr. Dockwrath," said Crabwitz,
"I should stay away altogether."

"And why so?"

"Because that's not your market. This poor devil of a woman--for she
is a poor devil of a woman--"

"She'll be poor enough before long."

"It can't be any gratification to you running her down."

"Ah, but the justice of the thing."

"Bother. You're talking now to a man of the world. Who can say what
is the justice or the injustice of anything after twenty years of
possession? I have no doubt the codicil did express the old man's
wish,--even from your own story. But of course you are looking for
your market. Now it seems to me that there's a thousand pounds in
your way as clear as daylight."

"I don't see it myself, Mr. Cooke."

"No; but I do. The sort of thing is done every day. You have your
father-in-law's office journal?"

"Safe enough."

"Burn it;--or leave it about in these rooms like;--so that somebody
else may burn it."

"I'd like to see the thousand pounds first."

"Of course you'd do nothing till you knew about that;--nothing except
keeping away from Round and Crook to-morrow. The money would be
forthcoming if the trial were notoriously dropped by next assizes."

Dockwrath sat thinking for a minute or two, and every moment of
thought made him feel more strongly that he could not now succeed in
the manner pointed out by Mr. Cooke. "But where would be the market
you are talking of?" said he.

"I could manage that," said Crabwitz.

"And go shares in the business?"

"No, no; nothing of the sort." And then he added, remembering that he
must show that he had some personal object, "If I got a trifle in the
matter it would not come out of your allowance."

The attorney again sat silent for a while, and now he remained so for
full five minutes, during which Mr. Crabwitz puffed the smoke from
between his lips with a look of supreme satisfaction. "May I ask," at
last Mr. Dockwrath said, "whether you have any personal interest in
this matter?"

"None in the least;--that is to say, none as yet."

"You did not come down here with any view--"

"Oh dear no; nothing of the sort. But I see at a glance that it is
one of those cases in which a compromise would be the most judicious
solution of difficulties. I am well used to this kind of thing, Mr.
Dockwrath."

"It would not do, sir," said Mr. Dockwrath, after some further slight
period of consideration. "It wouldn't do. Round and Crook have all
the dates, and so has Mason too. And the original of that partnership
deed is forthcoming; and they know what witnesses to depend on. No,
sir; I've begun this on public grounds, and I mean to carry it on. I
am in a manner bound to do so as the representative of the attorney
of the late Sir Joseph Mason;--and by heavens, Mr. Cooke, I'll do my
duty."

"I dare say you're right," said Mr. Crabwitz, mixing a quarter of a
glass more brandy and water.

"I know I'm right, sir," said Dockwrath. "And when a man knows he's
right, he has a deal of inward satisfaction in the feeling." After
that Mr. Crabwitz was aware that he could be of no use at Hamworth,
but he stayed out his week in order to avoid suspicion.

On the following day Mr. Dockwrath did proceed to Bedford Row,
determined to carry out his original plan, and armed with that inward
satisfaction to which he had alluded. He dressed himself in his best,
and endeavoured as far as was in his power to look as though he were
equal to the Messrs. Round. Old Crook he had seen once, and him he
already despised. He had endeavoured to obtain a private interview
with Mrs. Bolster before she could be seen by Matthew Round; but in
this he had not succeeded. Mrs. Bolster was a prudent woman, and,
acting doubtless under advice, had written to him, saying that she
had been summoned to the office of Messrs. Round and Crook, and would
there declare all that she knew about the matter. At the same time
she returned to him a money order which he had sent to her.

Punctually at twelve he was in Bedford Row, and there he saw a
respectable-looking female sitting at the fire in the inner part of
the outer office. This was Bridget Bolster, but he would by no means
have recognised her. Bridget had risen in the world and was now head
chambermaid at a large hotel in the west of England. In that capacity
she had laid aside whatever diffidence may have afflicted her earlier
years, and was now able to speak out her mind before any judge or
jury in the land. Indeed she had never been much afflicted by such
diffidence, and had spoken out her evidence on that former occasion,
now twenty years since, very plainly. But as she now explained to the
head clerk, she had at that time been only a poor ignorant slip of a
girl, with no more than eight pounds a year wages.

Dockwrath bowed to the head clerk, and passed on to Mat Round's
private room. "Mr. Matthew is inside, I suppose," said he, and hardly
waiting for permission he knocked at the door, and then entered.
There he saw Mr. Matthew Round, sitting in his comfortable arm-chair,
and opposite to him sat Mr. Mason of Groby Park.

Mr. Mason got up and shook hands with the Hamworth attorney, but
Round junior made his greeting without rising, and merely motioned
his visitor to a chair.

"Mr. Mason and the young ladies are quite well, I hope?" said Mr.
Dockwrath, with a smile.

"Quite well, I thank you," said the county magistrate.

"This matter has progressed since I last had the pleasure of seeing
them. You begin to think I was right; eh, Mr. Mason?"

"Don't let us triumph till we are out of the wood," said Mr. Round.
"It is a deal easier to spend money in such an affair as this than it
is to make money by it. However we shall hear to-day more about it."

"I do not know about making money," said Mr. Mason, very solemnly.
"But that I have been robbed by that woman out of my just rights in
that estate for the last twenty years,--that I may say I do know."

"Quite true, Mr. Mason; quite true," said Mr. Dockwrath with
considerable energy.

"And whether I make money or whether I lose money I intend to proceed
in this matter. It is dreadful to think that in this free and
enlightened country so abject an offender should have been able to
hold her head up so long without punishment and without disgrace."

"That is exactly what I feel," said Dockwrath. "The very stones and
trees of Hamworth cry out against her."

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Round, "we have first to see whether there has
been any injustice or not. If you will allow me I will explain to you
what I now propose to do."

"Proceed, sir," said Mr. Mason, who was by no means satisfied with
his young attorney.

"Bridget Bolster is now in the next room, and as far as I can
understand the case at present, she would be the witness on whom your
case, Mr. Mason, would most depend. The man Kenneby I have not yet
seen; but from what I understand he is less likely to prove a willing
witness than Mrs. Bolster."

"I cannot go along with you there, Mr. Round," said Dockwrath.

"Excuse me, sir, but I am only stating my opinion. If I should find
that this woman is unable to say that she did not sign two separate
documents on that day--that is, to say so with a positive and point
blank assurance, I shall recommend you, as my client, to drop the
prosecution."

"I will never drop it," said Mr. Mason.

"You will do as you please," continued Round; "I can only say what
under such circumstances will be the advice given to you by this
firm. I have talked the matter over very carefully with my father and
with our other partner, and we shall not think well of going on with
it unless I shall now find that your view is strongly substantiated
by this woman."

Then outspoke Mr. Dockwrath, "Under these circumstances, Mr. Mason,
if I were you, I should withdraw from the house at once. I certainly
would not have my case blown upon."

"Mr. Mason, sir, will do as he pleases about that. As long as the
business with which he honours us is straight-forward, we will do it
for him, as for an old client, although it is not exactly in our own
line. But we can only do it in accordance with our own judgment. I
will proceed to explain what I now propose to do. The woman Bolster
is in the next room, and I, with the assistance of my head clerk,
will take down the headings of what evidence she can give."

"In our presence, sir," said Mr. Dockwrath; "or if Mr. Mason should
decline, at any rate in mine."

"By no means, Mr. Dockwrath," said Round.

"I think Mr. Dockwrath should hear her story," said Mr. Mason.

"He certainly will not do so in this house or in conjunction with me.
In what capacity should he be present, Mr. Mason?"

"As one of Mr. Mason's legal advisers," said Dockwrath.

"If you are to be one of them, Messrs. Round and Crook cannot be the
others. I think I explained that to you before. It now remains for
Mr. Mason to say whether he wishes to employ our firm in this matter
or not. And I can tell him fairly," Mr. Round added this after a
slight pause, "that we shall be rather pleased than otherwise if he
will put the case into other hands."

"Of course I wish you to conduct it," said Mr. Mason, who, with all
his bitterness against the present holders of Orley Farm, was afraid
of throwing himself into the hands of Dockwrath. He was not an
ignorant man, and he knew that the firm of Round and Crook bore a
high reputation before the world.

"Then," said Round, "I must do my business in accordance with my own
views of what is right. I have reason to believe that no one has
yet tampered with this woman," and as he spoke he looked hard at
Dockwrath, "though probably attempts may have been made."

"I don't know who should tamper with her," said Dockwrath, "unless it
be Lady Mason--whom I must say you seem very anxious to protect."

"Another word like that, sir, and I shall be compelled to ask you to
leave the house. I believe that this woman has been tampered with by
no one. I will now learn from her what is her remembrance of the
circumstances as they occurred twenty years since, and I will then
read to you her deposition. I shall be sorry, gentlemen, to keep you
here, perhaps for an hour or so, but you will find the morning papers
on the table." And then Mr. Round, gathering up certain documents,
passed into the outer office, and Mr. Mason and Mr. Dockwrath were
left alone.

"He is determined to get that woman off," said Mr. Dockwrath, in a
whisper.

"I believe him to be an honest man," said Mr. Mason, with some
sternness.

"Honesty, sir! It is hard to say what is honesty and what is
dishonesty. Would you believe it, Mr. Mason, only last night I had a
thousand pounds offered me to hold my tongue about this affair?"

Mr. Mason at the moment did not believe this, but he merely looked
hard into his companion's face, and said nothing.

"By the heavens above us what I tell you is true! a thousand pounds,
Mr. Mason! Only think how they are going it to get this thing
stifled. And where should the offer come from but from those who know
I have the power?"

"Do you mean to say that the offer came from this firm?"

"Hush-sh, Mr. Mason. The very walls hear and talk in such a place as
this. I'm not to know who made the offer, and I don't know. But a man
can give a very good guess sometimes. The party who was speaking to
me is up to the whole transaction, and knows exactly what is going on
here--here, in this house. He let it all out, using pretty nigh the
same words as Round used just now. He was full about the doubt that
Round and Crook felt--that they'd never pull it through. I'll tell
you what it is, Mr. Mason, they don't mean to pull it through."

"What answer did you make to the man?"

"What answer! why I just put my thumb this way over my shoulder.
No, Mr. Mason, if I can't carry on without bribery and corruption,
I won't carry on at all. He'd called at the wrong house with that
dodge, and so he soon found."

"And you think he was an emissary from Messrs. Round and Crook?"

"Hush-sh-sh. For heaven's sake, Mr. Mason, do be a little lower. You
can put two and two together as well as I can, Mr. Mason. I find they
make four. I don't know whether your calculation will be the same. My
belief is, that these people are determined to save that woman. Don't
you see it in that young fellow's eye--that his heart is all on the
other side. Now he's got hold of that woman Bolster, and he'll teach
her to give such evidence as will upset us. But I'll be even with him
yet, Mr. Mason. If you'll only trust me, we'll both be even with him
yet."

Mr. Mason at the present moment said nothing further, and when
Dockwrath pressed him to continue the conversation in whispers, he
distinctly said that he would rather say no more upon the subject
just then. He would wait for Mr. Round's return. "Am I at liberty,"
he asked, "to mention that offer of the thousand pounds?"

"What--to Mat Round?" said Dockwrath. "Certainly not, Mr. Mason. It
wouldn't be our game at all."

"Very well, sir." And then Mr. Mason took up a newspaper, and no
further words were spoken till the door opened and Mr. Round
re-entered the room.

This he did with slow, deliberate step, and stopping on the
hearth-rug, he stood leaning with his back against the mantelpiece.
It was clear from his face to see that he had much to tell, and clear
also that he was not pleased at the turn which affairs were taking.

"Well, gentlemen, I have examined the woman," he said, "and here is
her deposition."

"And what does she say?" asked Mr. Mason.

"Come, out with it, sir," said Dockwrath. "Did she, or did she not
sign two documents on that day?"

"Mr. Mason," said Round, turning to that gentleman, and altogether
ignoring Dockwrath and his question; "I have to tell you that her
statement, as far as it goes, fully corroborates your view of the
case. As far as it goes, mind you."

"Oh, it does; does it?" said Dockwrath.

"And she is the only important witness?" said Mr. Mason with great
exultation.

"I have never said that; what I did say was this--that your case
must break down unless her evidence supported it. It does support
it--strongly; but you will want more than that."

"And now if you please, Mr. Round, what is it that she has deposed?"
asked Dockwrath.

"She remembers it all then?" said Mason.

"She is a remarkably clear-headed woman, and apparently does remember
a great deal. But her remembrance chiefly and most strongly goes to
this--that she witnessed only one deed."

"She can prove that, can she?" said Mason, and the tone of his voice
was loudly triumphant.

"She declares that she never signed but one deed in the whole of her
life--either on that day or on any other; and over and beyond this
she says now--now that I have explained to her what that other deed
might have been--that old Mr. Usbech told her that it was about a
partnership."

"He did, did he?" said Dockwrath, rising from his chair and clapping
his hands. "Very well. I don't think we shall want more than that,
Mr. Mason."

There was a tone of triumph in the man's voice, and a look of
gratified malice in his countenance which disgusted Mr. Round and
irritated him almost beyond his power of endurance. It was quite true
that he would much have preferred to find that the woman's evidence
was in favour of Lady Mason. He would have been glad to learn that
she actually had witnessed the two deeds on the same day. His tone
would have been triumphant, and his face gratified, had he returned
to the room with such tidings. His feelings were all on that side,
though his duty lay on the other. He had almost expected that it
would be so. As it was, he was prepared to go on with his duty, but
he was not prepared to endure the insolence of Mr. Dockwrath. There
was a look of joy also about Mr. Mason which added to his annoyance.
It might be just and necessary to prosecute that unfortunate woman at
Orley Farm, but he could not gloat over such work.

"Mr. Dockwrath," he said, "I will not put up with such conduct here.
If you wish to rejoice about this, you must go elsewhere."

"And what are we to do now?" said Mr. Mason. "I presume there need be
no further delay."

"I must consult with my partner. If you can make it convenient to
call this day week--"

"But she will escape."

"No, she will not escape. I shall not be ready to say anything before
that. If you are not in town, then I can write to you." And so the
meeting was broken up, and Mr. Mason and Mr. Dockwrath left the
lawyer's office together.

Mr. Mason and Mr. Dockwrath left the office in Bedford Row together,
and thus it was almost a necessity that they should walk together for
some distance through the streets. Mr. Mason was going to his hotel
in Soho Square, and Mr. Dockwrath turned with him through the passage
leading into Red Lion Square, linking his own arm in that of his
companion. The Yorkshire county magistrate did not quite like this,
but what was he to do?

"Did you ever see anything like that, sir?" said Mr. Dockwrath; "for
by heavens I never did."

"Like what?" said Mr. Mason.

"Like that fellow there;--that Round. It is my opinion that he
deserves to have his name struck from the rolls. Is it not clear that
he is doing all in his power to bring that wretched woman off? And
I'll tell you what, Mr. Mason, if you let him play his own game in
that way, he will bring her off."

"But he expressly admitted that this woman Bolster's evidence is
conclusive."

"Yes; he was so driven into a corner that he could not help admitting
that. The woman had been too many for him, and he found that he
couldn't cushion her. But do you mind my words, Mr. Mason. He intends
that you shall be beaten. It's as plain as the nose on your face. You
can read it in the very look of him, and in every tone of his voice.
At any rate I can. I'll tell you what it is"--and then he squeezed
very close to Mr. Mason--"he and old Furnival understand each other
in this matter like two brothers. Of course Round will have his bill
against you. Win or lose, he'll get his costs out of your pocket. But
he can make a deuced pretty thing out of the other side as well. Let
me tell you, Mr. Mason, that when notes for a thousand pounds are
flying here and there, it isn't every lawyer that will see them pass
by him without opening his hand."

"I do not think that Mr. Round would take a bribe," said Mr. Mason
very stiffly.

"Wouldn't he? Just as a hound would a pat of butter. It's your own
look-out, you know, Mr. Mason. I haven't got an estate of twelve
hundred a year depending on it. But remember this;--if she escapes
now, Orley Farm is gone for ever."

All this was extremely disagreeable to Mr. Mason. In the first place
he did not at all like the tone of equality which the Hamworth
attorney had adopted; he did not like to acknowledge that his affairs
were in any degree dependent on a man of whom he thought so badly as
he did of Mr. Dockwrath; he did not like to be told that Round and
Crook were rogues,--Round and Crook whom he had known all his life;
but least of all did he like the feeling of suspicion with which,
in spite of himself, this man had imbued him, or the fear that his
victim might at last escape him. Excellent, therefore, as had been
the evidence with which Bridget Bolster had declared herself ready
to give in his favour, Mr. Mason was not a contented man when he sat
down to his solitary beefsteak in Soho Square.



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE ANGEL OF LIGHT


In speaking of the character and antecedents of Felix Graham I have
said that he was moulding a wife for himself. The idea of a wife thus
moulded to fit a man's own grooves, and educated to suit matrimonial
purposes according to the exact views of the future husband was by no
means original with him. Other men have moulded their wives, but I do
not know that as a rule the practice has been found to answer. It is
open, in the first place, to this objection,--that the moulder does
not generally conceive such idea very early in life, and the idea
when conceived must necessarily be carried out on a young subject.
Such a plan is the result of much deliberate thought, and has
generally arisen from long observation, on the part of the thinker,
of the unhappiness arising from marriages in which there has been no
moulding. Such a frame of mind comes upon a bachelor, perhaps about
his thirty-fifth year, and then he goes to work with a girl of
fourteen. The operation takes some ten years, at the end of which the
moulded bride regards her lord as an old man. On the whole I think
that the ordinary plan is the better, and even the safer. Dance
with a girl three times, and if you like the light of her eye and
the tone of voice with which she, breathless, answers your little
questions about horseflesh and music--about affairs masculine and
feminine,--then take the leap in the dark. There is danger, no doubt;
but the moulded wife is, I think, more dangerous.

With Felix Graham the matter was somewhat different, seeing that he
was not yet thirty, and that the lady destined to be the mistress
of his family had already passed through three or four years of her
noviciate. He had begun to be prudent early in life; or had become
prudent rather by force of sentiment than by force of thought. Mary
Snow was the name of his bride-elect; and it is probable that, had
not circumstances thrown Mary Snow in his way, he would not have gone
out of his way to seek a subject for his experiment. Mary Snow was
the daughter of an engraver,--not of an artist who receives four or
five thousand pounds for engraving the chef-d'oeuvre of a modern
painter,--but of a man who executed flourishes on ornamental cards
for tradespeople, and assisted in the illustration of circus
playbills. With this man Graham had become acquainted through certain
transactions of his with the press, and had found him to be a
widower, drunken, dissolute, and generally drowned in poverty. One
child the man had, and that child was Mary Snow.

How it came to pass that the young barrister first took upon himself
the charge of maintaining and educating this poor child need not now
be told. His motives had been thoroughly good, and in the matter he
had endeavoured to act the part of a kind Samaritan. He had found her
pretty, half starved, dirty, ignorant, and modest; and so finding
her had made himself responsible for feeding, cleaning, and teaching
her,--and ultimately for marrying her. One would have said that in
undertaking a task of such undoubted charity as that comprised in the
three first charges, he would have encountered no difficulty from
the drunken, dissolute, impoverished engraver. But the man from the
beginning was cunning; and before Graham had succeeded in obtaining
the custody of the child, the father had obtained a written
undertaking from him that he would marry her at a certain age if
her conduct up to that age had been becoming. As to this latter
stipulation no doubt had arisen; and indeed Graham had so acted by
her that had she fallen away the fault would have been all her own.
There wanted now but one year to the coming of that day on which he
was bound to make himself a happy man, and hitherto he himself had
never doubted as to the accomplishment of his undertaking.

He had told his friends,--those with whom he was really intimate,
Augustus Staveley and one or two others,--what was to be his
matrimonial lot in life; and they had ridiculed him for his quixotic
chivalry. Staveley especially had been strong in his conviction that
no such marriage would ever take place, and had already gone so far
as to plan another match for his friend.

"You know you do not love her," he had said, since Felix had been
staying on this occasion at Noningsby.

"I know no such thing," Felix had answered, almost in anger. "On the
contrary I know that I do love her."

"Yes, as I love my niece Marian, or old Aunt Bessy, who always
supplied me with sugar-candy when I was a boy."

"It is I that have supplied Mary with her sugar-candy, and the love
thus engendered is the stronger."

"Nevertheless you are not in love with her, and never will be, and if
you marry her you will commit a great sin."

"How moral you have grown!"

"No, I'm not. I'm not a bit moral. But I know very well when a man
is in love with a girl, and I know very well that you're not in love
with Mary Snow. And I tell you what, my friend, if you do marry her
you are done for life. There will absolutely be an end of you."

"You mean to say that your royal highness will drop me."

"I mean to say nothing about myself. My dropping you or not dropping
you won't alter your lot in life. I know very well what a poor man
wants to give him a start; and a fellow like you who has such quaint
ideas on so many things requires all the assistance he can get. You
should look out for money and connection."

"Sophia Furnival, for instance."

"No; she would not suit you. I perceive that now."

"So I supposed. Well, my dear fellow, we shall not come to
loggerheads about that. She is a very fine girl, and you are welcome
to the hatful of money--if you can get it."

"That's nonsense. I'm not thinking of Sophia Furnival any more than
you are. But if I did it would be a proper marriage. Now--" And then
he went on with some further very sage remarks about Miss Snow.

All this was said as Felix Graham was lying with his broken bones in
the comfortable room at Noningsby; and to tell the truth, when it was
so said his heart was not quite at ease about Mary Snow. Up to this
time, having long since made up his mind that Mary should be his
wife, he had never allowed his thoughts to be diverted from that
purpose. Nor did he so allow them now,--as long as he could prevent
them from wandering.

But, lying there at Noningsby, thinking of those sweet Christmas
evenings, how was it possible that they should not wander? His friend
had told him that he did not love Mary Snow; and then, when alone,
he asked himself whether in truth he did love her. He had pledged
himself to marry her, and he must carry out that pledge. But
nevertheless did he love her? And if not her, did he love any other?

Mary Snow knew very well what was to be her destiny, and indeed had
known it for the last two years. She was now nineteen years old,--and
Madeline Staveley was also nineteen; she was nineteen, and at twenty
she was to become a wife, as by agreement between Felix Graham and
Mr. Snow, the drunken engraver. They knew their destiny,--the future
husband and the future wife,--and each relied with perfect faith on
the good faith and affection of the other.

Graham, while he was thus being lectured by Staveley, had under
his pillow a letter from Mary. He wrote to her regularly--on every
Sunday, and on every Tuesday she answered him. Nothing could be more
becoming than the way she obeyed all his behests on such matters;
and it really did seem that in his case the moulded wife would turn
out to have been well moulded. When Staveley left him he again read
Mary's letter. Her letters were always of the same length, filling
completely the four sides of a sheet of note paper. They were
excellently well written; and as no one word in them was ever
altered or erased, it was manifest enough to Felix that the original
composition was made on a rough draft. As he again read through the
four sides of the little sheet of paper, he could not refrain from
conjecturing what sort of a letter Madeline Staveley might write.
Mary Snow's letter ran as follows:--


   3 Bloomfield Terrace, Peckham,
   Tuesday, 10 January, 18--.

   MY DEAREST FELIX,


--she had so called him for the last twelvemonth by common consent
between Graham and the very discreet lady under whose charge she at
present lived. Previously to that she had written to him as, My dear
Mr. Graham.


   MY DEAREST FELIX,

   I am very glad to hear that your arm and your two ribs are
   getting so much better. I received your letter yesterday,
   and was glad to hear that you are so comfortable in
   the house of the very kind people with whom you are
   staying. If I knew them I would send them my respectful
   remembrances, but as I do not know them I suppose it would
   not be proper. But I remember them in my prayers.--


This last assurance was inserted under the express instruction
of Mrs. Thomas, who however did not read Mary's letters, but
occasionally, on some subjects, gave her hints as to what she ought
to say. Nor was there hypocrisy in this, for under the instruction of
her excellent mentor she had prayed for the kind people.--


   I hope you will be well enough to come and pay me a visit
   before long, but pray do not come before you are well
   enough to do so without giving yourself any pain. I am
   glad to hear that you do not mean to go hunting any more,
   for it seems to me to be a dangerous amusement.


And then the first paragraph came to an end.


   My papa called here yesterday. He said he was very badly
   off indeed, and so he looked. I did not know what to
   say at first, but he asked me so much to give him some
   money, that I did give him at last all that I had. It was
   nineteen shillings and sixpence. Mrs. Thomas was angry,
   and told me I had no right to give away your money, and
   that I should not have given more than half a crown. I
   hope you will not be angry with me. I do not want any more
   at present. But indeed he was very bad, especially about
   his shoes.

   I do not know that I have any more to say except that
   I put back thirty lines of Télémaque into French every
   morning before breakfast. It never comes near right, but
   nevertheless M. Grigaud says it is well done. He says that
   if it came quite right I should compose French as well as
   M. Fénelon, which of course I cannot expect.

   I will now say good-bye, and I am yours most
   affectionately,

   MARY SNOW.


There was nothing in this letter to give any offence to Felix Graham,
and so he acknowledged to himself. He made himself so acknowledge,
because on the first reading of it he had felt that he was half angry
with the writer. It was clear that there was nothing in the letter
which would justify censure;--nothing which did not, almost, demand
praise. He would have been angry with her had she limited her filial
donation to the half-crown which Mrs. Thomas had thought appropriate.
He was obliged to her for that attention to her French which he had
specially enjoined. Nothing could be more proper than her allusion to
the Staveleys;--and altogether the letter was just what it ought to
be. Nevertheless it made him unhappy and irritated him. Was it well
that he should marry a girl whose father was "indeed very bad, but
especially about his shoes?" Staveley had told him that connection
would be necessary for him, and what sort of a connection would this
be? And was there one word in the whole letter that showed a spark
of true love? Did not the footfall of Madeline Staveley's step as
she passed along the passage go nearer to his heart than all the
outspoken assurance of Mary Snow's letter?

Nevertheless he had undertaken to do this thing, and he would do
it,--let the footfall of Madeline Staveley's step be ever so sweet in
his ear. And then, lying back in his bed, he began to think whether
it would have been as well that he should have broken his neck
instead of his ribs in getting out of Monkton Grange covert.

Mrs. Thomas was a lady who kept a school consisting of three little
girls and Mary Snow. She had in fact not been altogether successful
in the line of life she had chosen for herself, and had hardly been
able to keep her modest door-plate on her door, till Graham, in
search of some home for his bride, then in the first noviciate of her
moulding, had come across her. Her means were now far from plentiful;
but as an average number of three children still clung to her, and
as Mary Snow's seventy pounds per annum--to include clothes--were
punctually paid, the small house at Peckham was maintained. Under
these circumstances Mary Snow was somebody in the eyes of Mrs.
Thomas, and Felix Graham was a very great person indeed.

Graham had received his letter on a Wednesday, and on the following
Monday Mary, as usual, received one from him. These letters always
came to her in the evening, as she was sitting over her tea with Mrs.
Thomas, the three children having been duly put to bed. Graham's
letters were very short, as a man with a broken right arm and two
broken ribs is not fluent with his pen. But still a word or two did
come to her. "Dearest Mary, I am doing better and better, and I hope
I shall see you in about a fortnight. Quite right in giving the
money. Stick to the French. Your own F. G." But as he signed himself
her own, his mind misgave him that he was lying.

"It is very good of him to write to you while he is in such a state,"
said Mrs. Thomas.

"Indeed it is," said Mary--"very good indeed." And then she went
on with the history of "Rasselas" in his happy valley, by which
study Mrs. Thomas intended to initiate her into that course of
novel-reading which has become necessary for a British lady. But Mrs.
Thomas had a mind to improve the present occasion. It was her duty to
inculcate in her pupil love and gratitude towards the beneficent man
who was doing so much for her. Gratitude for favours past and love
for favours to come; and now, while that scrap of a letter was lying
on the table, the occasion for doing so was opportune.

"Mary, I do hope you love Mr. Graham with all your heart and all your
strength." She would have thought it wicked to say more; but so far
she thought she might go, considering the sacred tie which was to
exist between her pupil and the gentleman in question.

"Oh, yes, indeed I do;" and then Mary's eyes fell wishfully on the
cover of the book which lay in her lap while her finger kept the
place. Rasselas is not very exciting, but it was more so than Mrs.
Thomas.

"You would be very wicked if you did not. And I hope you think
sometimes of the very responsible duties which a wife owes to her
husband. And this will be more especially so with you than with any
other woman--almost that I ever heard of."

There was something in this that was almost depressing to poor Mary's
spirit, but nevertheless she endeavoured to bear up against it and
do her duty. "I shall do all I can to please him, Mrs. Thomas;--and
indeed I do try about the French. And he says I was right to give
papa that money."

"But there will be many more things than that when you've stood at
the altar with him and become his wife;--bone of his bone, Mary." And
she spoke these last words in a very solemn tone, shaking her head,
and the solemn tone almost ossified poor Mary's heart as she heard
it.

"Yes; I know there will. But I shall endeavour to find out what he
likes."

"I don't think he is so particular about his eating and drinking as
some other gentlemen; though no doubt he will like his things nice."

"I know he is fond of strong tea, and I sha'n't forget that."

"And about dress. He is not very rich you know, Mary; but it will
make him unhappy if you are not always tidy. And his own shirts--I
fancy he has no one to look after them now, for I so often see the
buttons off. You should never let one of them go into his drawers
without feeling them all to see that they're on tight."

"I'll remember that," said Mary, and then she made another little
furtive attempt to open the book.

"And about your own stockings, Mary. Nothing is so useful to a young
woman in your position as a habit of darning neat. I'm sometimes
almost afraid that you don't like darning."

"Oh yes I do." That was a fib; but what could she do, poor girl, when
so pressed?

"Because I thought you would look at Jane Robinson's and Julia
Wright's which are lying there in the basket. I did Rebecca's myself
before tea, till my old eyes were sore."

"Oh, I didn't know," said Mary, with some slight offence in her tone.
"Why didn't you ask me to do them downright if you wanted?"

"It's only for the practice it will give you."

"Practice! I'm always practising something." But nevertheless she
laid down the book, and dragged the basket of work up on to the
table. "Why, Mrs. Thomas, it's impossible to mend these; they're all
darn."

"Give them to me," said Mrs. Thomas. And then there was silence
between them for a quarter of an hour during which Mary's thoughts
wandered away to the events of her future life. Would his stockings
be so troublesome as these?

But Mrs. Thomas was at heart an honest woman, and as a rule was
honest also in practice. Her conscience told her that Mr. Graham
might probably not approve of this sort of practice for conjugal
duties, and in spite of her failing eyes she resolved to do her duty.
"Never mind them, Mary," said she. "I remember now that you were
doing your own before dinner."

"Of course I was," said Mary sulkily. "And as for practice, I don't
suppose he'll want me to do more of that than anything else."

"Well, dear, put them by." And Miss Snow did put them by, resuming
Rasselas as she did so. Who darned the stockings of Rasselas and felt
that the buttons were tight on his shirts? What a happy valley must
it have been if a bride expectant were free from all such cares as
these!

"I suppose, Mary, it will be some time in the spring of next year."
Mrs. Thomas was not reading, and therefore a little conversation from
time to time was to her a solace.

"What will be, Mrs. Thomas?"

"Why, the marriage."

"I suppose it will. He told father it should be early in 18--, and I
shall be past twenty then."

"I wonder where you'll go to live."

"I don't know. He has never said anything about that."

"I suppose not; but I'm sure it will be a long way away from
Peckham." In answer to this Mary said nothing, but could not help
wishing that it might be so. Peckham to her had not been a place
bright with happiness, although she had become in so marked a way a
child of good fortune. And then, moreover, she had a deep care on her
mind with which the streets and houses and pathways of Peckham were
closely connected. It would be very expedient that she should go far,
far away from Peckham when she had become, in actual fact, the very
wife of Felix Graham.

"Miss Mary," whispered the red-armed maid of all work, creeping up
to Mary's bedroom door, when they had all retired for the night, and
whispering through the chink. "Miss Mary. I've somethink to say."
And Mary opened the door. "I've got a letter from him;" and the maid
of all work absolutely produced a little note enclosed in a green
envelope.

"Sarah, I told you not," said Mary, looking very stern and hesitating
with her finger whether or no she would take the letter.

"But he did so beg and pray. Besides, miss, as he says hisself he
must have his answer. Any gen'leman, he says, 'as a right to a
answer. And if you'd a seed him yourself I'm sure you'd have took it.
He did look so nice with a blue and gold hankercher round his neck.
He was a-going to the the-a-tre he said."

"And who was going with him, Sarah?"

"Oh, no one. Only his mamma and sister, and them sort. He's all
right--he is." And then Mary Snow did take the letter.

"And I'll come for the answer when you're settling the room after
breakfast to-morrow?" said the girl.

"No; I don't know. I sha'n't send any answer at all. But, Sarah, for
heaven's sake, do not say a word about it!"

"Who, I? Laws love you, miss. I wouldn't;--not for worlds of gold."
And then Mary was left alone to read a second letter from a second
suitor.

"Angel of light!" it began, "but cold as your own fair name." Poor
Mary thought it was very nice and very sweet, and though she was so
much afraid of it that she almost wished it away, yet she read it a
score of times. Stolen pleasures always are sweet. She had not cared
to read those two lines from her own betrothed lord above once, or at
the most twice; and yet they had been written by a good man,--a man
superlatively good to her, and written too with considerable pain.

She sat down all trembling to think of what she was doing; and then,
as she thought, she read the letter again. "Angel of light! but cold
as your own fair name." Alas, alas! it was very sweet to her!



CHAPTER XXXIV

MR. FURNIVAL LOOKS FOR ASSISTANCE


"And you think that nothing can be done down there?" said Mr.
Furnival to his clerk, immediately after the return of Mr. Crabwitz
from Hamworth to London.

"Nothing at all, sir," said Mr. Crabwitz, with laconic significance.

"Well; I dare say not. If the matter could have been arranged at a
reasonable cost, without annoyance to my friend Lady Mason, I should
have been glad; but, on the whole, it will perhaps be better that the
law should take its course. She will suffer a good deal, but she will
be the safer for it afterwards."

"Mr. Furnival, I went so far as to offer a thousand pounds!"

"A thousand pounds! Then they'll think we're afraid of them."

"Not a bit more than they did before. Though I offered the money, he
doesn't know the least that the offer came from our side. But I'll
tell you what it is, Mr. Furnival--. I suppose I may speak my mind."

"Oh, yes! But remember this, Crabwitz; Lady Mason is no more in
danger of losing the property than you are. It is a most vexatious
thing, but there can be no doubt as to what the result will be."

"Well, Mr. Furnival,--I don't know."

"In such matters, I am tolerably well able to form an opinion."

"Oh, certainly!"

"And that's my opinion. Now I shall be very glad to hear yours."

"My opinion is this, Mr. Furnival, that Sir Joseph never made that
codicil."

"And what makes you think so?"

"The whole course of the evidence. It's quite clear there was another
deed executed that day, and witnessed by Bolster and Kenneby. Had
there been two documents for them to witness, they would have
remembered it so soon after the occurrence."

"Well, Crabwitz, I differ from you,--differ from you in toto. But
keep your opinion to yourself, that's all. I've no doubt you did
the best for us you could down at Hamworth, and I'm much obliged to
you. You'll find we've got our hands quite full again,--almost too
full." Then he turned round to his table, and to the papers upon it;
whereupon, Crabwitz took the hint, and left the room.

But when he had gone, Mr. Furnival again raised his eyes from the
papers on the table, and leaning back in his chair, gave himself up
to further consideration of the Orley Farm case. Crabwitz he knew was
a sharp, clever man, and now the opinion formed by Crabwitz, after
having seen this Hamworth attorney, tallied with his own opinion.
Yes; it was his own opinion. He had never said as much, even to
himself, with those inward words which a man uses when he assures
himself of the result of his own thoughts; but he was aware that it
was his own opinion. In his heart of hearts, he did believe that that
codicil had been fraudulently manufactured by his friend and client,
Lady Mason.

Under these circumstances, what should he do? He had the handle of
his pen between his teeth, as was his habit when he was thinking, and
tried to bring himself to some permanent resolution.

How beautiful had she looked while she stood in Sir Peregrine's
library, leaning on the old man's arm--how beautiful and how
innocent! That was the form which his thoughts chiefly took. And then
she had given him her hand, and he still felt the soft silken touch
of her cool fingers. He would not be a man if he could desert a woman
in such a strait. And such a woman! If even guilty, had she not
expiated her guilt by deep sorrow? And then he thought of Mr. Mason
of Groby Park; and he thought of Sir Peregrine's strong conviction,
and of Judge Staveley's belief; and he thought also of the strong
hold which public opinion and twenty years of possession would still
give to the cause he favoured. He would still bring her through! Yes;
in spite of her guilt, if she were guilty; on the strength of her
innocency, if she were innocent; but on account of her beauty, and
soft hand, and deep liquid eye. So at least he would have owned,
could he have been honest enough to tell himself the whole truth.

But he must prepare himself for the battle in earnest. It was not as
though he had been briefed in this case, and had merely to perform
the duty for which he had been hired. He was to undertake the
whole legal management of the affair. He must settle what attorney
should have the matter in hand, and instruct that attorney how to
reinstruct him, and how to reinstruct those other barristers who must
necessarily be employed on the defence, in a case of such magnitude.
He did not yet know under what form the attack would be made; but he
was nearly certain that it would be done in the shape of a criminal
charge. He hoped that it might take the direct form of an accusation
of forgery. The stronger and more venomous the charge made, the
stronger also would be public opinion in favour of the accused,
and the greater the chance of an acquittal. But if she were to be
found guilty on any charge, it would matter little on what. Any
such verdict of guilty would be utter ruin and obliteration of her
existence.

He must consult with some one, and at last he made up his mind to go
to his very old friend, Mr. Chaffanbrass. Mr. Chaffanbrass was safe,
and he might speak out his mind to him without fear of damaging the
cause. Not that he could bring himself to speak out his real mind,
even to Mr. Chaffanbrass. He would so speak that Mr. Chaffanbrass
should clearly understand him; but still, not even to his ears, would
he say that he really believed Lady Mason to have been guilty. How
would it be possible that he should feign before a jury his assured,
nay, his indignant conviction of his client's innocence, if he had
ever whispered to any one his conviction of her guilt?

On that same afternoon he sent to make an appointment with Mr.
Chaffanbrass, and immediately after breakfast, on the following
morning, had himself taken to that gentleman's chambers. The chambers
of this great guardian of the innocence--or rather not-guiltiness
of the public--were not in any so-named inn, but consisted of two
gloomy, dark, panelled rooms in Ely Place. The course of our story,
however, will not cause us to make many visits to Ely Place, and
any closer description of them may be spared. I have said that Mr.
Chaffanbrass and Mr. Furnival were very old friends. So they were.
They had known each other for more than thirty years, and each knew
the whole history of the other's rise and progress in the profession;
but any results of their friendship at present were but scanty. They
might meet each other in the streets, perhaps, once in the year; and
occasionally--but very seldom--might be brought together on subjects
connected with their profession; as was the case when they travelled
together down to Birmingham. As to meeting in each other's houses, or
coming together for the sake of the friendship which existed,--the
idea of doing so never entered the head of either of them.

All the world knows Mr. Chaffanbrass--either by sight or by
reputation. Those who have been happy enough to see the face and
gait of the man as, in years now gone, he used to lord it at the Old
Bailey, may not have thought much of the privilege which was theirs.
But to those who have only read of him, and know of his deeds simply
by their triumphs, he was a man very famous and worthy to be seen.
"Look; that's Chaffanbrass. It was he who cross-examined ---- at the
Old Bailey, and sent him howling out of London, banished for ever
into the wilderness." "Where, where? Is that Chaffanbrass? What a
dirty little man!"

To this dirty little man in Ely Place, Mr. Furnival now went in his
difficulty. Mr. Furnival might feel himself sufficient to secure the
acquittal of an innocent person, or even of a guilty person, under
ordinary circumstances; but if any man in England could secure the
acquittal of a guilty person under extraordinary circumstances, it
would be Mr. Chaffanbrass. This had been his special line of work for
the last thirty years.

Mr. Chaffanbrass was a dirty little man; and when seen without his
gown and wig, might at a first glance be thought insignificant. But
he knew well how to hold his own in the world, and could maintain
his opinion, unshaken, against all the judges in the land. "Well,
Furnival, and what can I do for you?" he said, as soon as the member
for the Essex Marshes was seated opposite to him. "It isn't often
that the light of your countenance shines so far east as this.
Somebody must be in trouble, I suppose?"

"Somebody is in trouble," said Mr. Furnival; and then he began
to tell his story. Mr. Chaffanbrass listened almost in silence
throughout. Now and then he asked a question by a word or two,
expressing no opinion whatever as he did so; but he was satisfied to
leave the talking altogether in the hands of his visitor till the
whole tale was told. "Ah," he said then, "a clever woman!"

"An uncommonly sweet creature too," said Mr. Furnival.

"I dare say," said Mr. Chaffanbrass; and then there was a pause.

"And what can I do for you?" said Mr. Chaffanbrass.

"In the first place I should be very glad to have your advice; and
then--. Of course I must lead in defending her,--unless it were well
that I should put the case altogether in your hands."

"Oh no! don't think of that. I couldn't give the time to it. My heart
is not in it, as yours is. Where will it be?"

"At Alston, I suppose."

"At the Spring assizes. That will be--. Let me see; about the 10th of
March."

"I should think we might get it postponed till the summer. Round is
not at all hot about it."

"Should we gain anything by that? If a prisoner be innocent why
torment him by delay. He is tolerably sure of escape. If he be
guilty, extension of time only brings out the facts the clearer.
As far as my experience goes, the sooner a man is tried the
better,--always."

"And you would consent to hold a brief?"

"Under you? Well; yes. I don't mind it at Alston. Anything to oblige
an old friend. I never was proud, you know."

"And what do you think about it, Chaffanbrass?"

"Ah! that's the question."

"She must be pulled through. Twenty years of possession! Think of
that."

"That's what Mason, the man down in Yorkshire, is thinking of.
There's no doubt of course about that partnership deed?"

"I fear not. Round would not go on with it if that were not all
true."

"It depends on those two witnesses, Furnival. I remember the case of
old, though it was twenty years ago, and I had nothing to do with it.
I remember thinking that Lady Mason was a very clever woman, and that
Round and Crook were rather slow."

"He's a brute; is that fellow, Mason of Groby Park."

"A brute; is he? We'll get him into the box and make him say as much
for himself. She's uncommonly pretty, isn't she?"

"She is a pretty woman."

"And interesting? It will all tell, you know. A widow with one son,
isn't she?"

"Yes, and she has done her duty admirably since her husband's death.
You will find too that she has the sympathies of all the best
people in her neighbourhood. She is staying now at the house of Sir
Peregrine Orme, who would do anything for her."

"Anything, would he?"

"And the Staveleys know her. The judge is convinced of her
innocence."

"Is he? He'll probably have the Home Circuit in the summer. His
conviction expressed from the bench would be more useful to her. You
can make Staveley believe everything in a drawing-room or over a
glass of wine; but I'll be hanged if I can ever get him to believe
anything when he's on the bench."

"But, Chaffanbrass, the countenance of such people will be of great
use to her down there. Everybody will know that she's been staying
with Sir Peregrine."

"I've no doubt she's a clever woman."

"But this new trouble has half killed her."

"I don't wonder at that either. These sort of troubles do vex people.
A pretty woman like that should have everything smooth; shouldn't
she? Well, we'll do the best we can. You'll see that I'm properly
instructed. By-the-by, who is her attorney? In such a case as that
you couldn't have a better man than old Solomon Aram. But Solomon
Aram is too far east from you, I suppose?"

"Isn't he a Jew?"

"Upon my word I don't know. He's an attorney, and that's enough for
me."

And then the matter was again discussed between them, and it was
agreed that a third counsel would be wanting. "Felix Graham is very
much interested in the case," said Mr. Furnival, "and is as firmly
convinced of her innocence as--as I am." And he managed to look his
ally in the face and to keep his countenance firmly.

"Ah," said Mr. Chaffanbrass. "But what if he should happen to change
his opinion about his own client?"

"We could prevent that, I think."

"I'm not so sure. And then he'd throw her over as sure as your name's
Furnival."

"I hardly think he'd do that."

"I believe he'd do anything." And Mr. Chaffanbrass was quite moved
to enthusiasm. "I've heard that man talk more nonsense about the
profession in one hour, than I ever heard before since I first put a
cotton gown on my back. He does not understand the nature of the duty
which a professional man owes to his client."

"But he'd work well if he had a case at heart himself. I don't like
him, but he is clever."

"You can do as you like, of course. I shall be out of my ground down
at Alston, and of course I don't care who takes the fag of the work.
But I tell you this fairly;--if he does go into the case and then
turns against us or drops it,--I shall turn against him and drop into
him."

"Heaven help him in such a case as that!" And then these two great
luminaries of the law shook hands and parted.

One thing was quite clear to Mr. Furnival as he had himself carried
in a cab from Ely Place to his own chambers in Lincoln's Inn. Mr.
Chaffanbrass was fully convinced of Lady Mason's guilt. He had not
actually said so, but he had not even troubled himself to go through
the little ceremony of expressing a belief in her innocence. Mr.
Furnival was well aware that Mr. Chaffanbrass would not on this
account be less likely to come out strongly with such assurances
before a jury, or to be less severe in his cross-examination of a
witness whose evidence went to prove that guilt; but nevertheless
the conviction was disheartening. Mr. Chaffanbrass would know, almost
by instinct, whether an accused person was or was not guilty; and
he had already perceived, by instinct, that Lady Mason was guilty.
Mr. Furnival sighed as he stepped out of his cab, and again wished
that he could wash his hands of the whole affair. He wished it very
much;--but he knew that his wish could not be gratified.

"Solomon Aram!" he said to himself, as he again sat down in his
arm-chair. "It will sound badly to those people down at Alston. At
the Old Bailey they don't mind that kind of thing." And then he made
up his mind that Solomon Aram would not do. It would be a disgrace to
him to take a case out of Solomon Aram's hands. Mr. Chaffanbrass
did not understand all this. Mr. Chaffanbrass had been dealing with
Solomon Arams all his life. Mr. Chaffanbrass could not see the effect
which such an alliance would have on the character of a barrister
holding Mr. Furnival's position. Solomon Aram was a good man in his
way no doubt;--perhaps the best man going. In taking every dodge to
prevent a conviction no man could be better than Solomon Aram. All
this Mr. Furnival felt;--but he felt also that he could not afford
it. "It would be tantamount to a confession of guilt to take such a
man as that down into the country," he said to himself, trying to
excuse himself.

And then he also made up his mind that he would sound Felix Graham.
If Felix Graham could be induced to take up the case thoroughly
believing in the innocence of his client, no man would be more useful
as a junior. Felix Graham went the Home Circuit on which Alston was
one of the assize towns.



CHAPTER XXXV

LOVE WAS STILL THE LORD OF ALL


Why should I not? Such had been the question which Sir Peregrine Orme
had asked himself over and over again, in these latter days, since
Lady Mason had been staying at his house; and the purport of the
question was this:--Why should he not make Lady Mason his wife?

I and my readers can probably see very many reasons why he should not
do so; but then we are not in love with Lady Mason. Her charms and
her sorrows,--her soft, sad smile and her more lovely tears have not
operated upon us. We are not chivalrous old gentlemen, past seventy
years of age, but still alive, keenly alive, to a strong feeling of
romance. That visit will perhaps be remembered which Mr. Furnival
made at The Cleeve, and the subsequent interview between Lady Mason
and the baronet. On that day he merely asked himself the question,
and took no further step. On the subsequent day and the day after,
it was the same. He still asked himself the question, sitting alone
in his library; but he did not ask it as yet of any one else. When
he met Lady Mason in these days his manner to her was full of the
deference due to a lady and of the affection due to a dear friend;
but that was all. Mrs. Orme, seeing this, and cordially concurring in
this love for her guest, followed the lead which her father-in-law
gave, and threw herself into Lady Mason's arms. They two were fast
and bosom friends.

And what did Lady Mason think of all this? In truth there was much in
it that was sweet to her, but there was something also that increased
that idea of danger which now seemed to envelop her whole existence.
Why had Sir Peregrine so treated her in the library, behaving towards
her with such tokens of close affection? He had put his arm round her
waist and kissed her lips and pressed her to his old bosom. Why had
this been so? He had assured her that he would be to her as a father,
but her woman's instinct had told her that the pressure of his hand
had been warmer than that which a father accords to his adopted
daughter. No idea of anger had come upon her for a moment; but she
had thought about it much, and had thought about it almost in dismay.
What if the old man did mean more than a father's love? It seemed to
her as though it must be a dream that he should do so; but what if he
did? How should she answer him? In such circumstances what should she
do or say? Could she afford to buy his friendship,--even his warmest
love at the cost of the enmity of so many others? Would not Mrs. Orme
hate her, Mrs. Orme, whom she truly, dearly, eagerly loved? Mrs.
Orme's affection was, of all personal gratifications, the sweetest
to her. And the young heir,--would not he hate her? Nay, would he
not interfere and with some strong hand prevent so mean a deed on the
part of his grandfather? And if so, would she not thus have lost them
altogether? And then she thought of that other friend whose aid would
be so indispensable to her in this dreadful time of tribulation. How
would Mr. Furnival receive such tidings, if it should come to pass
that such tidings were to be told?

Lady Mason was rich with female charms, and she used them partly with
the innocence of the dove, but partly also with the wisdom of the
serpent. But in such use as she did make of these only weapons which
Providence had given to her, I do not think that she can be regarded
as very culpable. During those long years of her young widowhood in
which nothing had been wanting to her, her conduct had been free from
any hint of reproach. She had been content to find all her joy in
her duties and in her love as a mother. Now a great necessity for
assistance had come upon her. It was necessary that she should bind
men to her cause, men powerful in the world and able to fight her
battle with strong arms. She did so bind them with the only chains at
her command,--but she had no thought, nay, no suspicion of evil in so
doing. It was very painful to her when she found that she had caused
unhappiness to Mrs. Furnival; and it caused her pain now, also, when
she thought of Sir Peregrine's new love. She did wish to bind these
men to her by a strong attachment; but she would have stayed this
feeling at a certain point had it been possible for her so to manage
it.

In the mean time Sir Peregrine still asked himself that question. He
had declared to himself when first the idea had come to him, that
none of those whom he loved should be injured. He would even ask his
daughter-in-law's consent, condescending to plead his cause before
her, making her understand his motives, and asking her acquiescence
as a favour. He would be so careful of his grandson that this second
marriage--if such event did come to pass--should not put a pound out
of his pocket, or at any rate should not hamper the succession of the
estate with a pound of debt. And then he made excuses to himself as
to the step which he proposed to take, thinking how he would meet his
friends, and how he would carry himself before his old servants.

Old men have made more silly marriages than this which he then
desired. Gentlemen such as Sir Peregrine in age and station have
married their housemaids,--have married young girls of eighteen
years of age,--have done so and faced their friends and servants
afterwards. The bride that he proposed to himself was a lady, an old
friend, a woman over forty, and one whom by such a marriage he could
greatly assist in her deep sorrow. Why should he not do it?

After much of such thoughts as these, extended over nearly a week,
he resolved to speak his mind to Mrs. Orme. If it were to be done it
should be done at once. The incredulous unromantic readers of this
age would hardly believe me if I said that his main object was to
render assistance to Lady Mason in her difficulty; but so he assured
himself, and so he believed. This assistance to be of true service
must be given at once;--and having so resolved he sent for Mrs. Orme
into the library.

"Edith, my darling," he said, taking her hand and pressing it between
both his own as was often the wont with him in his more affectionate
moods. "I want to speak to you--on business that concerns me nearly;
may perhaps concern us all nearly. Can you give me half an hour?"

"Of course I can--what is it, sir? I am a bad hand at business; but
you know that."

"Sit down, dear; there; sit there, and I will sit here. As to this
business, no one can counsel me as well as you."

"Dearest father, I should be a poor councillor in anything."

"Not in this, Edith. It is about Lady Mason that I would speak to
you. We both love her dearly; do we not?"

"I do."

"And are glad to have her here?"

"Oh, so glad. When this trial is only over, it will be so sweet, to
have her for a neighbour. We really know her now. And it will be so
pleasant to see much of her."

There was nothing discouraging in this, but still the words in some
slight degree grated against Sir Peregrine's feelings. At the present
moment he did not wish to think of Lady Mason as living at Orley
Farm, and would have preferred that his daughter-in-law should have
spoken of her as being there, at The Cleeve.

"Yes; we know her now," he said. "And believe me in this, Edith; no
knowledge obtained of a friend in happiness is at all equal to that
which is obtained in sorrow. Had Lady Mason been prosperous, had she
never become subject to the malice and avarice of wicked people, I
should never have loved her as I do love her."

"Nor should I, father."

"She is a cruelly ill-used woman, and a woman worthy of the kindest
usage. I am an old man now, but it has never before been my lot to
be so anxious for a fellow-creature as I am for her. It is dreadful
to think that innocence in this country should be subject to such
attacks."

"Indeed it is; but you do not think that there is any danger?"

This was all very well, and showed that Mrs. Orme's mind was well
disposed towards the woman whom he loved. But he had known that
before, and he began to feel that he was not approaching the object
which he had in view. "Edith," at last he said abruptly, "I love her
with my whole heart. I would fain make her--my wife." Sir Peregrine
Orme had never in his course through life failed in anything for lack
of courage; and when the idea came home to him that he was trembling
at the task which he had imposed on himself, he dashed at it at once.
It is so that forlorn hopes are led, and become not forlorn; it is so
that breaches are taken.

"Your wife!" said Mrs. Orme. She would not have breathed a syllable
to pain him if she could have helped it, but the suddenness of the
announcement overcame her for a moment.

"Yes, Edith, my wife. Let us discuss the matter before you condemn
it. But in the first place I would have you to understand this--I
will not marry her if you say that it will make you unhappy. I have
not spoken to her as yet, and she knows nothing of this project." Sir
Peregrine, it may be presumed, had not himself thought much of that
kiss which he had given her. "You," he continued to say, "have given
up your whole life to me. You are my angel. If this thing will make
you unhappy it shall not be done."

Sir Peregrine had not so considered it, but with such a woman as Mrs.
Orme this was, of course, the surest way to overcome opposition. On
her own behalf, thinking only of herself, she would stand in the
way of nothing that could add to Sir Peregrine's happiness. But
nevertheless the idea was strong in her mind that such a marriage
would be imprudent. Sir Peregrine at present stood high before the
world. Would he stand so high if he did this thing? His gray hair
and old manly bearing were honoured and revered by all who knew him.
Would this still be so if he made himself the husband of Lady Mason?
She loved so dearly, she valued so highly the honour that was paid
to him! She was so proud of her own boy in that he was the grandson
of so perfect a gentleman! Would not this be a sad ending to such
a career? Such were the thoughts which ran through her mind at the
moment.

"Make me unhappy!" she said getting up and going over to him. "It is
your happiness of which I would think. Will it make you more happy?"

"It will enable me to befriend her more effectually."

"But, dearest father, you must be the first consideration to us,--to
me and Peregrine. Will it make you more happy?"

"I think it will," he answered slowly.

"Then I, for one, will say nothing against it," she answered. She was
very weak, it will be said. Yes, she was weak. Many of the sweetest,
kindest, best of women are weak in this way. It is not every woman
that can bring herself to say hard, useful, wise words in opposition
to the follies of those they love best. A woman to be useful and wise
no doubt should have such power. For myself I am not so sure that I
like useful and wise women. "Then I for one will say nothing against
it," said Mrs. Orme, deficient in utility, wanting in wisdom, but
full of the sweetest affection.

"You are sure that you will not love her the less yourself?" said Sir
Peregrine.

"Yes; I am sure of that. If it were to be so, I should endeavour to
love her the more."

"Dearest Edith. I have only one other person to tell."

"Do you mean Peregrine?" she said in her softest voice.

"Yes. Of course he must be told. But as it would not be well to ask
his consent,--as I have asked yours--" and then as he said this she
kissed his brow.

"But you will let him know it?"

"Yes; that is if she accepts my proposition. Then he shall know it
immediately. And, Edith, my dear, you may be sure of this; nothing
that I do shall be allowed in any way to injure his prospects or to
hamper him as regards money when I am gone. If this marriage takes
place I cannot do very much for her in the way of money; she will
understand that. Something I can of course."

And then Mrs. Orme stood over the fire, looking at the hot coals, and
thinking what Lady Mason's answer would be. She esteemed Lady Mason
very highly, regarding her as a woman sensible and conscientious at
all points, and she felt by no means certain that the offer would
be accepted. What if Lady Mason should say that such an arrangement
would not be possible for her. Mrs. Orme felt that under such
circumstances she at any rate would not withdraw her love from Lady
Mason.

"And now I may as well speak to her at once," said Sir Peregrine. "Is
she in the drawing-room?"

"I left her there."

"Will you ask her to come to me--with my love?"

"I had better not say anything I suppose?"

Sir Peregrine, in his heart of hearts wished that his daughter-in-law
could say it all, but he would not give her such a commission. "No;
perhaps not." And then Mrs. Orme was going to leave him.

"One word more, Edith. You and I, darling, have known each other so
long and loved each other so well, that I should be unhappy if I were
to fall in your estimation."

"There is no fear of that, father."

"Will you believe me when I assure you that my great object in doing
this is to befriend a good and worthy woman whom I regard as ill
used--beyond all ill usage of which I have hitherto known anything?"

She then assured him that she did so believe, and she assured him
truly; after that she left him and went away to send in Lady Mason
for her interview. In the mean time Sir Peregrine got up and stood
with his back to the fire. He would have been glad that the coming
scene could be over, and yet I should be wronging him to say that
he was afraid of it. There would be a pleasure to him in telling
her that he loved her so dearly and trusted her with such absolute
confidence. There would be a sort of pleasure to him in speaking even
of her sorrow, and in repeating his assurance that he would fight the
battle for her with all the means at his command. And perhaps also
there would be some pleasure in the downcast look of her eye, as she
accepted the tender of his love. Something of that pleasure he had
known already. And then he remembered the other alternative. It was
quite upon the cards that she should decline his offer. He did not by
any means shut his eyes to that. Did she do so, his friendship should
by no means be withdrawn from her. He would be very careful from the
onset that she should understand so much as that. And then he heard
the light footsteps in the hall; the gentle hand was raised to the
door, and Lady Mason was standing in the room.

"Dear Lady Mason," he said, meeting her half way across the room, "it
is very kind of you to come to me when I send for you in this way."

"It would be my duty to come to you, if it were half across the
kingdom;--and my pleasure also."

"Would it?" said he, looking into her face with all the wishfulness
of a young lover. From that moment she knew what was coming. Strange
as was the destiny which was to be offered to her at this period of
her life, yet she foresaw clearly that the offer was to be made. What
she did not foresee, what she could not foretell, was the answer
which she might make to it!

"It would certainly be my sweetest pleasure to send for you if you
were away from us,--to send for you or to follow you," said he.

"I do not know how to make return for all your kind regard to me;--to
you and to dear Mrs. Orme."

"Call her Edith, will you not? You did so call her once."

"I call her so often when we are alone together, now; and yet I feel
that I have no right."

"You have every right. You shall have every right if you will accept
it. Lady Mason, I am an old man,--some would say a very old man. But
I am not too old to love you. Can, you accept the love of an old man
like me?"

Lady Mason was, as we are aware, not taken in the least by surprise;
but it was quite necessary that she should seem to be so taken. This
is a little artifice which is excusable in almost any lady at such
a period. "Sir Peregrine," she said, "you do not mean more than the
love of a most valued friend?"

"Yes, much more. I mean the love of a husband for his wife; of a wife
for her husband."

"Sir Peregrine! Ah me! You have not thought of this, my friend. You
have not remembered the position in which I am placed. Dearest,
dearest friend; dearest of all friends,"--and then she knelt before
him, leaning on his knees, as he sat in his accustomed large
arm-chair. "It may not be so. Think of the sorrow that would come to
you and yours, if my enemies should prevail."

"By ---- they shall not prevail!" swore Sir Peregrine, roundly; and
as he swore the oath he put his two hands upon her shoulders.

"No; we will hope not. I should die here at your feet if I thought
that they could prevail. But I should die twenty deaths were I to
drag you with me into disgrace. There will be disgrace even in
standing at that bar."

"Who will dare to say so, when I shall stand there with you?" said
Sir Peregrine.

There was a feeling expressed in his face as he spoke these words,
which made it glorious, and bright, and beautiful. She, with her eyes
laden with tears, could not see it; but nevertheless, she knew that
it was bright and beautiful. And his voice was full of hot eager
assurance,--that assurance which had the power to convey itself from
one breast to another. Would it not be so? If he stood there with her
as her husband and lord, would it not be the case that no one would
dare to impute disgrace to her?

And yet she did not wish it. Even yet, thinking of all this as she
did think of it, according to the truth of the argument which he
himself put before her, she would still have preferred that it should
not be so. If she only knew with what words to tell him so;--to tell
him so and yet give no offence! For herself, she would have married
him willingly. Why should she not? Nay, she could and would have
loved him, and been to him a wife, such as he could have found in no
other woman. But she said within her heart that she owed him kindness
and gratitude--that she owed them all kindness, and that it would
be bad to repay them in such a way as this. She also thought of Sir
Peregrine's gray hairs, and of his proud standing in the county, and
the respect in which men held him. Would it be well in her to drag
him down in his last days from the noble pedestal on which he stood,
and repay him thus for all that he was doing for her?

"Well," said he, stroking her soft hair with his hands--the hair
which appeared in front of the quiet prim cap she wore, "shall it be
so? Will you give me the right to stand there with you and defend you
against the tongues of wicked men? We each have our own weakness, and
we also have each our own strength. There I may boast that I should
be strong."

She thought again for a moment or two without rising from her knees,
and also without speaking. Would such strength suffice? And if it did
suffice, would it then be well with him? As for herself, she did love
him. If she had not loved him before, she loved him now. Who had ever
been to her so noble, so loving, so gracious as he? In her ears no
young lover's vows had ever sounded. In her heart such love as all
the world knows had never been known. Her former husband had been
kind to her in his way, and she had done her duty by him carefully,
painfully, and with full acceptance of her position. But there had
been nothing there that was bright, and grand, and noble. She would
have served Sir Peregrine on her knees in the smallest offices, and
delighted in such services. It was not for lack of love that she must
refuse him. But still she did not answer him, and still he stroked
her hair.

"It would be better that you had never seen me," at last she said;
and she spoke with truth the thought of her mind. That she must do
his bidding, whatever that bidding might be, she had in a certain way
acknowledged to herself. If he would have it so, so it must be. How
could she refuse him anything, or be disobedient in aught to one to
whom she owed so much? But still it would be wiser otherwise, wiser
for all--unless it were for herself alone. "It would be better that
you had never seen me," she said.

"Nay, not so, dearest. That it would not be better for me,--for me
and Edith I am quite sure. And I would fain hope that for you--"

"Oh, Sir Peregrine! you know what I mean. You know how I value your
kindness. What should I be if it were withdrawn from me?"

"It shall not be withdrawn. Do not let that feeling actuate you.
Answer me out of your heart, and however your heart may answer,
remember this, that my friendship and support shall be the same. If
you will take me for your husband, as your husband will I stand by
you. If you cannot,--then I will stand by you as your father."

What could she say? A word or two she did speak as to Mrs. Orme and
her feelings, delaying her absolute reply--and as to Peregrine Orme
and his prospects; but on both, as on all other points, the baronet
was armed with his answer. He had spoken to his darling Edith, and
she had gladly given her consent. To her it would be everything to
have so sweet a friend. And then as to his heir, every care should
be taken that no injury should be done to him; and speaking of this,
Sir Peregrine began to say a few words, plaintively, about money.
But then Lady Mason stopped him. "No," she said, "she could not,
and would not, listen to that. She would have no settlement. No
consideration as to money should be made to weigh with her. It was
in no degree for that--" And then she wept there till she would have
fallen had he not supported her.

What more is there to be told. Of course she accepted him. As far as
I can see into such affairs no alternative was allowed to her. She
also was not a wise woman at all points. She was one whose feelings
were sometimes too many for her, and whose feelings on this occasion
had been much too many for her. Had she been able to throw aside from
her his offer, she would have done so; but she had felt that she was
not able. "If you wish it, Sir Peregrine," she said at last.

"And can you love an old man?" he had asked. Old men sometimes will
ask questions such as these. She did not answer him, but stood by his
side; and, then again he kissed her, and was happy.

He resolved from that moment that Lady Mason should no longer be
regarded as the widow of a city knight, but as the wife elect of a
country baronet. Whatever ridicule he might incur in this matter, he
would incur at once. Men and women had dared to speak of her cruelly,
and they should now learn that any such future speech would be spoken
of one who was exclusively his property. Let any who chose to be
speakers under such circumstances look to it. He had devoted himself
to her that he might be her knight and bear her scathless through the
fury of this battle. With God's help he would put on his armour at
once for that fight. Let them who would now injure her look to it. As
soon as might be she should bear his name; but all the world should
know at once what was her right to claim his protection. He had never
been a coward, and he would not now be guilty of the cowardice of
hiding his intentions. If there were those who chose to smile at the
old man's fancy, let them smile. There would be many, he knew, who
would not understand an old man's honour and an old man's chivalry.

"My own one," he then said, pressing her again to his side, "will
you tell Edith, or shall I? She expects it." But Lady Mason begged
that he would tell the tale. It was necessary, she said, that she
should be alone for a while. And then, escaping, she went to her own
chamber.

"Ask Mrs. Orme if she will kindly step to me," said Sir Peregrine,
having rang his bell for the servant.

Lady Mason escaped across the hall to the stairs, and succeeded in
reaching her room without being seen by any one. Then she sat herself
down, and began to look her future world in the face. Two questions
she had to ask. Would it be well for her that this marriage should
take place? and would it be well for him? In an off-hand way she
had already answered both questions; but she had done so by feeling
rather than by thought.

No doubt she would gain much in the coming struggle by such a
position as Sir Peregrine would give her. It did seem to her that Mr.
Dockwrath and Joseph Mason would hardly dare to bring such a charge
as that threatened against the wife of Sir Peregrine Orme. And then,
too, what evidence as to character would be so substantial as the
evidence of such a marriage? But how would Mr. Furnival bear it,
and if he were offended would it be possible that the fight should
be fought without him? No; that would be impossible. The lawyer's
knowledge, experience, and skill were as necessary to her as the
baronet's position and character. But why should Mr. Furnival be
offended by such a marriage? "She did not know," she said to herself.
"She could not see that there should be cause of offence." But yet
some inner whisper of her conscience told her that there would be
offence. Must Mr. Furnival be told; and must he be told at once? And
then what would Lucius say and think, and how should she answer the
strong words which her son would use to her? He would use strong
words she knew, and would greatly dislike this second marriage of his
mother. What grown-up son is ever pleased to hear that his mother is
about to marry? The Cleeve must be her home now--that is, if she did
this deed. The Cleeve must be her home, and she must be separated
in all things from Orley Farm. As she thought of this her mind went
back, and back to those long gone days in which she had been racked
with anxiety that Orley Farm should be the inheritance of the little
baby that was lying at her feet. She remembered how she had pleaded
to the father, pointing out the rights of her son--declaring, and
with justice, that for herself she had asked for nothing; but that
for him--instead of asking might she not demand? Was not that other
son provided for, and those grown-up women with their rich husbands?
"Is he not your child as well as they?" she had pleaded. "Is he not
your own, and as well worthy of your love?" She had succeeded in
getting the inheritance for the baby at her feet;--but had his having
it made her happy, or him? Then her child had been all in all to her;
but now she felt that that child was half estranged from her about
this very property, and would become wholly estranged by the method
she was taking to secure it! "I have toiled for him," she said to
herself, "rising up early, and going to bed late; but the thief
cometh in the night and despoileth it." Who can guess the bitterness
of her thoughts as she said this?

But her last thoughts, as she sat there thinking, were of him--Sir
Peregrine. Would it be well for him that he should do this? And in
thus considering she did not turn her mind chiefly to the usual
view in which such a marriage would be regarded. Men might call Sir
Peregrine an old fool and laugh at him; but for that she would, with
God's help, make him amends. In those matters, he could judge for
himself; and should he judge it right thus to link his life to hers,
she would be true and leal to him in all things.

But then, about this trial. If there came disgrace and ruin, and
an utter overthrow? If--? Would it not be well at any rate that no
marriage should take place till that had been decided? She could not
find it in her heart to bring down his old gray hairs with utter
sorrow to the grave.



CHAPTER XXXVI

WHAT THE YOUNG MEN THOUGHT ABOUT IT


Lucius Mason at this time was living at home at Orley Farm, not by
any means in a happy frame of mind. It will be perhaps remembered
that he had at one time had an interview with Mr. Furnival in that
lawyer's chambers, which was by no means consoling to him, seeing
that Mr. Furnival had pooh-poohed him and his pretensions in a very
off-hand way; and he had since paid a very memorable visit to Mr.
Dockwrath in which he had hardly been more successful. Nevertheless,
he had gone to another lawyer. He had felt it impossible to remain
tranquil, pursuing the ordinary avocations of his life, while such
dreadful charges were being made openly against his mother, and
being so made without any authorised contradiction. He knew that she
was innocent. No doubt on that matter ever perplexed his mind for a
moment. But why was she such a coward that she would not allow him
to protect her innocence in the only way which the law permitted? He
could hardly believe that he had no power of doing so even without
her sanction; and therefore he went to another lawyer.

The other lawyer did him no good. It was not practicable that he, the
son, should bring an action for defamatory character on the part of
the mother, without that mother's sanction. Moreover, as this new
lawyer saw in a moment, any such interference on the part of Lucius,
and any interposition of fresh and new legal proceedings would
cripple and impede the advisers to whom Lady Mason had herself
confided her own case. The new lawyer could do nothing, and thus
Lucius, again repulsed, betook himself to Orley Farm in no happy
frame of mind.

For some day or two after this he did not see his mother. He would
not go down to The Cleeve, though they sent up and asked him; and she
was almost afraid to go across to the house and visit him. "He will
be in church on Sunday," she had said to Mrs. Orme. But he was not
in church on Sunday, and then on Sunday afternoon she did go to him.
This, it will be understood, was before Sir Peregrine had made his
offer, and therefore as to that, there was as yet no embarrassment on
the widow's mind.

"I cannot help feeling, mother," he said, after she had sat there
with him for a short time, "that for the present there is a division
between you and me."

"Oh, Lucius!"

"It is no use our denying it to ourselves. It is so. You are in
trouble, and you will not listen to my advice. You leave my house and
take to the roof of a new and an untried friend."

"No, Lucius; not that."

"Yes. I say a new friend. Twelve months ago, though you might call
there, you never did more than that--and even that but seldom. They
are new friends; and yet, now that you are in trouble, you choose to
live with them."

"Dear Lucius, is there any reason why I should not visit at The
Cleeve?"

"Yes; if you ask me--yes;" and now he spoke very sternly. "There is a
cloud upon you, and you should know nothing of visitings and of new
friendships till that cloud has been dispersed. While these things
are being said of you, you should set at no other table than this,
and drink of no man's cup but mine. I know your innocence," and as
he went on to speak, he stood up before her and looked down fully
into her face, "but others do not. I know how unworthy are these
falsehoods with which wicked men strive to crush you, but others
believe that they are true accusations. They cannot be disregarded,
and now it seems,--now that you have allowed them to gather to a
head, they will result in a trial, during which you will have to
stand at the bar charged with a dreadful crime."

"Oh, Lucius!" and she hid her eyes in her hands. "I could not have
helped it. How could I have helped it?"

"Well; it must be so now. And till that trial is over, here should
be your place. Here, at my right hand; I am he who am bound to stand
by you. It is I whose duty it is to see that your name be made white
again, though I spend all I have, ay, and my life in doing it. I am
the one man on whose arm you have a right to lean. And yet, in such
days as these, you leave my house and go to that of a stranger."

"He is not a stranger, Lucius."

"He cannot be to you as a son should be. However, it is for you to
judge. I have no control in this matter, but I think it right that
you should know what are my thoughts."

And then she had crept back again to The Cleeve. Let Lucius say what
he might, let this additional sorrow be ever so bitter, she could not
obey her son's behests. If she did so in one thing she must do so in
all. She had chosen her advisers with her best discretion, and by
that choice she must abide--even though it separated her from her
son. She could not abandon Sir Peregrine Orme and Mr. Furnival. So
she crept back and told all this to Mrs. Orme. Her heart would have
utterly sunk within her could she not have spoken openly to some one
of this sorrow.

"But he loves you," Mrs. Orme had said, comforting her. "It is not
that he does not love you."

"But he is so stern to me." And then Mrs. Orme had kissed her, and
promised that none should be stern to her, there, in that house. On
the morning after this Sir Peregrine had made his offer, and then
she felt that the division between her and her boy would be wider
than ever. And all this had come of that inheritance which she had
demanded so eagerly for her child.

And now Lucius was sitting alone in his room at Orley Farm, having,
for the present, given up all idea of attempting anything himself by
means of the law. He had made his way into Mr. Dockwrath's office,
and had there insulted the attorney in the presence of witnesses. His
hope now was that the attorney might bring an action against him. If
that were done he would thus have the means of bringing out all the
facts of the case before a jury and a judge. It was fixed in his mind
that if he could once drag that reptile before a public tribunal,
and with loud voice declare the wrong that was being done, all might
be well. The public would understand and would speak out, and the
reptile would be scorned and trodden under foot. Poor Lucius! It
is not always so easy to catch public sympathy, and it will occur
sometimes that the wrong reptile is crushed by the great public heel.

He had his books before him as he sat there--his Latham and his
Pritchard, and he had the jawbone of one savage and the skull of
another. His Liverpool bills for unadulterated guano were lying on
the table, and a philosophical German treatise on agriculture which
he had resolved to study. It became a man, he said to himself, to do
a man's work in spite of any sorrow. But, nevertheless, as he sat
there, his studies were but of little service to him. How many men
have declared to themselves the same thing, but have failed when the
trial came! Who, can command the temper and the mind? At ten I will
strike the lyre and begin my poem. But at ten the poetic spirit is
under a dark cloud--because the water for the tea had not boiled when
it was brought in at nine. And so the lyre remains unstricken.

And Lucius found that he could not strike his lyre. For days he had
sat there and no good note had been produced. And then he had walked
over his land, having a farming man at his heels, thinking that he
could turn his mind to the actual and practical working of his land.
But little good had come of that either. It was January, and the land
was sloppy and half frozen. There was no useful work to be done on
it. And then what farmer Greenwood had once said of him was true
enough, "The young maister's spry and active surely, but he can't let
unself down to stable doong and the loik o' that." He had some grand
idea of farming--a conviction that the agricultural world in general
was very backward, and that he would set it right. Even now in his
sorrow, as he walked through his splashy, frozen fields, he was
tormented by a desire to do something, he knew not what, that might
be great.

He had no such success on the present occasion and returned
disconsolate to the house. This happened about noon on the day after
that on which Sir Peregrine had declared himself. He returned as
I have said to the house, and there at the kitchen door he met a
little girl whom he knew well as belonging to The Cleeve. She was a
favourite of Mrs. Orme's, was educated and clothed by her, and ran
on her messages. Now she had brought a letter up to Lucius from his
mother. Curtsying low she so told him, and he at once went into the
sitting-room where he found it lying on his table. His hand was
nervous as he opened it; but if he could have seen how tremulous had
been the hand that wrote it! The letter was as follows:--


   DEAREST LUCIUS,

   I know you will be very much surprised at what I am going
   to tell you, but I hope you will not judge me harshly.
   If I know myself at all I would take no step of any kind
   for my own advantage which could possibly injure you. At
   the present moment we unfortunately do not agree about a
   subject which is troubling us both, and I cannot therefore
   consult you as I should otherwise have done. I trust that
   by God's mercy these troubles may come to an end, and that
   there may be no further differences between you and me.

   Sir Peregrine Orme has made me an offer of marriage and I
   have accepted it--


Lucius Mason when he had read so far threw down the letter upon the
table, and rising suddenly from his chair walked rapidly up and
down the room. "Marry him!" he said out loud, "marry him!" The idea
that their fathers and mothers should marry and enjoy themselves is
always a thing horrible to be thought of in the minds of the rising
generation. Lucius Mason now began to feel against his mother the
same sort of anger which Joseph Mason had felt when his father had
married again. "Marry him!" And then he walked rapidly about the
room, as though some great injury had been threatened to him.

And so it had, in his estimation. Was it not her position in life to
be his mother? Had she not had her young days? But it did not occur
to him to think what those young days had been. And this then was the
meaning of her receding from his advice and from his roof! She had
been preparing for herself in the world new hopes, a new home, and a
new ambition. And she had so prevailed upon the old man that he was
about to do this foolish thing! Then again he walked up and down the
room, injuring his mother much in his thoughts. He gave her credit
for none of those circumstances which had truly actuated her in
accepting the hand which Sir Peregrine had offered her. In that
matter touching the Orley Farm estate he could acquit his mother
instantly,--with acclamation. But in this other matter he had
pronounced her guilty before she had been allowed to plead. Then he
took up the letter and finished it.


   Sir Peregrine Orme has made me an offer of marriage and
   I have accepted it. It is very difficult to explain in a
   letter all the causes that have induced me to do so. The
   first perhaps is this, that I feel myself so bound to him
   by love and gratitude, that I think it my duty to fall in
   with all his wishes. He has pointed out to me that as my
   husband he can do more for me than would be possible for
   him without that name. I have explained to him that I
   would rather perish than that he should sacrifice himself;
   but he is pleased to say that it is no sacrifice. At any
   rate he so wishes it, and as Mrs. Orme has cordially
   assented, I feel myself bound to fall in with his views.
   It was only yesterday that Sir Peregrine made his offer. I
   mention this that you may know that I have lost no time in
   telling you.

   Dearest Lucius, believe that I shall be as ever
   Your most affectionate mother,

   MARY MASON.

   The little girl will wait for an answer if she finds that
   you are at the farm.


"No," he said to himself, still walking about the room. "She can
never be to me the same mother that she was. I would have sacrificed
everything for her. She should have been the mistress of my house, at
any rate till she herself should have wished it otherwise. But now--"
And then his mind turned away suddenly to Sophia Furnival.

I cannot myself but think that had that affair of the trial been set
at rest Lady Mason would have been prudent to look for another home.
The fact that Orley Farm was his house and not hers occurred almost
too frequently to Lucius Mason; and I am not certain that it would
have been altogether comfortable as a permanent residence for his
mother after he should have brought home to it some such bride as her
he now proposed to himself.

It was necessary that he should write an answer to his mother, which
he did at once.


   Orley Farm, -- January.

   DEAR MOTHER,

   It is I fear too late for me to offer any counsel on the
   subject of your letter. I cannot say that I think you are
   right.

   Your affectionate son,

   LUCIUS MASON.


And then, having finished this, he again walked the room. "It is all
up between me and her," he said, "as real friends in life and heart.
She shall still have the respect of a son, and I shall have the
regard of a mother. But how can I trim my course to suit the welfare
of the wife of Sir Peregrine Orme?" And then he lashed himself into
anger at the idea that his mother should have looked for other solace
than that which he could have given.

Nothing more from The Cleeve reached him that day; but early on
the following morning he had a visitor whom he certainly had not
expected. Before he sat down to his breakfast he heard the sound of
a horse's feet before the door, and immediately afterwards Peregrine
Orme entered the sitting-room. He was duly shown in by the servant,
and in his ordinary way came forward quickly and shook hands. Then he
waited till the door was closed, and at once began upon the subject
which had brought him there.

"Mason," he said, "you have heard of this that is being done at The
Cleeve?"

Lucius immediately fell back a step or two, and considered for a
moment how he should answer. He had pressed very heavily on his
mother in his own thoughts, but he was not prepared to hear her
harshly spoken of by another.

"Yes," said he, "I have heard."

"And I understand from your mother that you do not approve of it."

"Approve of it! No; I do not approve of it."

"Nor by heavens do I!"

"I do not approve of it," said Mason, speaking with deliberation;
"but I do not know that I can take any steps towards preventing it."

"Cannot you see her, and talk to her, and tell her how wrong it is?"

"Wrong! I do not know that she is wrong in that sense. I do not know
that you have any right to blame her. Why do not you speak to your
grandfather?"

"So I have--as far as it was possible for me. But you do not know Sir
Peregrine. No one has any influence over him, but my mother;--and now
also your mother."

"And what does Mrs. Orme say?"

"She will say nothing. I know well that she disapproves of it. She
must disapprove of it, though she will not say so. She would rather
burn off both her hands than displease my grandfather. She says that
he asked her and that she consented."

"It seems to me that it is for her and you to prevent this."

"No; it is for your mother to prevent it. Only think of it, Mason.
He is over seventy, and, as he says himself, he will not burden the
estate with a new jointure. Why should she do it?"

"You are wronging her there. It is no affair of money. She is not
going to marry him for what she can get."

"Then why should she do it?"

"Because he tells her. These troubles about the lawsuit have turned
her head, and she has put herself entirely into his hands. I think
she is wrong. I could have protected her from all this evil, and
would have done so. I could have done more, I think, than Sir
Peregrine can do. But she has thought otherwise, and I do not know
that I can help it."

"But will you speak to her? Will make her perceive that she is
injuring a family that is treating her with kindness?"

"If she will come here I will speak to her. I cannot do it there. I
cannot go down to your grandfather's house with such an object as
that."

"All the world will turn against her if she marries him," said
Peregrine. And then there was silence between them for a moment or
two.

"It seems to me," said Lucius at last, "that you wrong my mother very
much in this matter, and lay all the blame where but the smallest
part of the blame is deserved. She has no idea of money in her mind,
or any thought of pecuniary advantage. She is moved solely by what
your grandfather has said to her,--and by an insane dread of some
coming evil which she thinks may be lessened by his assistance. You
are in the house with them, and can speak to him,--and if you please
to her also. I do not see that I can do either."

"And you will not help me to break it off?"

"Certainly,--if I can see my way."

"Will you write to her?"

"Well; I will think about it."

"Whether she be to blame or not it must be your duty as well as mine
to prevent such a marriage if it be possible. Think what people will
say of it?"

After some further discussion Peregrine remounted his horse, and rode
back to The Cleeve, not quite satisfied with young Mason.

"If you do speak to her,--to my mother, do it gently." Those were the
last words whispered by Lucius as Peregrine Orme had his foot in the
stirrup.

Young Peregrine Orme, as he rode home, felt that the world was using
him very unkindly. Everything was going wrong with him, and an idea
entered his head that he might as well go and look for Sir John
Franklin at the North Pole, or join some energetic traveller in the
middle of Central Africa. He had proposed to Madeline Staveley and
had been refused. That in itself caused a load to lie on his heart
which was almost unendurable;--and now his grandfather was going to
disgrace himself. He had made his little effort to be respectable
and discreet, devoting himself to the county hunt and county
drawing-rooms, giving up the pleasures of London and the glories of
dissipation. And for what?

Then Peregrine began to argue within himself as some others have done
before him--

"Were it not better done as others use--" he said to himself, in that
or other language; and as he rode slowly into the courtyard of The
Cleeve, he thought almost with regret of his old friend Carroty Bob.



CHAPTER XXXVII

PEREGRINE'S ELOQUENCE


In the last chapter Peregrine Orme called at Orley Farm with the
view of discussing with Lucius Mason the conduct of their respective
progenitors; and, as will be remembered, the young men agreed in
a general way that their progenitors were about to make fools of
themselves. Poor Peregrine, however, had other troubles on his mind.
Not only had his grandfather been successful in love, but he had
been unsuccessful. As he had journeyed home from Noningsby to The
Cleeve in a high-wheeled vehicle which he called his trap, he had
determined, being then in a frame of mind somewhat softer than was
usual with him, to tell all his troubles to his mother. It sounds as
though it were lack-a-daisical--such a resolve as this on the part
of a dashing young man, who had been given to the pursuit of rats,
and was now a leader among the sons of Nimrod in the pursuit of
foxes. Young men of the present day, when got up for the eyes of the
world, look and talk as though they could never tell their mothers
anything,--as though they were harder than flint, and as little in
want of a woman's counsel and a woman's help as a colonel of horse
on the morning of a battle. But the rigid virility of his outward
accoutrements does in no way alter the man of flesh and blood who
wears them; the young hero, so stern to the eye, is, I believe, as
often tempted by stress of sentiment to lay bare the sorrow of his
heart as is his sister. On this occasion Peregrine said to himself
that he would lay bare the sorrow of his heart. He would find out
what others thought of that marriage which he had proposed to
himself; and then, if his mother encouraged him, and his grandfather
approved, he would make another attack, beginning on the side of the
judge, or perhaps on that of Lady Staveley.

But he found that others, as well as he, were labouring under a
stress of sentiment; and when about to tell his own tale, he had
learned that a tale was to be told to him. He had dined with Lady
Mason, his mother, and his grandfather, and the dinner had been very
silent. Three of the party were in love, and the fourth was burdened
with the telling of the tale. The baronet himself said nothing on the
subject as he and his grandson sat over their wine; but later in the
evening Peregrine was summoned to his mother's room, and she, with
considerable hesitation and much diffidence, informed him of the
coming nuptials.

"Marry Lady Mason!" he had said.

"Yes, Peregrine. Why should he not do so if they both wish it?"

Peregrine thought that there were many causes and impediments
sufficiently just why no such marriage should take place, but he
had not his arguments ready at his fingers' ends. He was so stunned
by the intelligence that he could say but little about it on that
occasion. By the few words that he did say, and by the darkness of
his countenance, he showed plainly enough that he disapproved. And
then his mother said all that she could in the baronet's favour,
pointing out that in a pecuniary way Peregrine would receive benefit
rather than injury.

"I'm not thinking of the money, mother."

"No, my dear; but it is right that I should tell you how considerate
your grandfather is."

"All the same, I wish he would not marry this woman."

"Woman, Peregrine! You should not speak in that way of a friend whom
I dearly love."

"She is a woman all the same." And then he sat sulkily looking at the
fire. His own stress of sentiment did not admit of free discussion
at the present moment, and was necessarily postponed. On that other
affair he was told that his grandfather would be glad to see him on
the following morning; and then he left his mother.

"Your grandfather, Peregrine, asked for my assent," said Mrs. Orme;
"and I thought it right to give it." This she said to make him
understand that it was no longer in her power to oppose the match.
And she was thoroughly glad that this was so, for she would have
lacked the courage to oppose Sir Peregrine in anything.

On the next morning Peregrine saw his grandfather before breakfast.
His mother came to his room door while he was dressing to whisper
a word of caution to him. "Pray, be courteous to him," she
said. "Remember how good he is to you--to us both! Say that you
congratulate him."

"But I don't," said Peregrine.

"Ah, but, Peregrine--"

"I'll tell you what I'll do, mother. I'll leave the house altogether
and go away, if you wish it."

"Oh, Peregrine! How can you speak in that way? But he's waiting now.
Pray, pray, be kind in your manner to him."

He descended with the same sort of feeling which had oppressed him on
his return home after his encounter with Carroty Bob in Smithfield.
Since then he had been on enduring good terms with his grandfather,
but now again all the discomforts of war were imminent.

"Good morning, sir," he said, on going into his grandfather's
dressing-room.

"Good morning, Peregrine." And then there was silence for a moment or
two.

"Did you see your mother last night?"

"Yes; I did see her."

"And she told you what it is that I propose to do?"

"Yes, sir; she told me."

"I hope you understand, my boy, that it will not in any way affect
your own interests injuriously."

"I don't care about that, sir--one way or the other."

"But I do, Peregrine. Having seen to that I think that I have a right
to please myself in this matter."

"Oh, yes, sir; I know you have the right."

"Especially as I can benefit others. Are you aware that your mother
has cordially given her consent to the marriage?"

"She told me that you had asked her, and that she had agreed to it.
She would agree to anything."

"Peregrine, that is not the way in which you should speak of your
mother."

And then the young man stood silent, as though there was nothing more
to be said. Indeed, he had nothing more to say. He did not dare to
bring forward in words all the arguments against the marriage which
were now crowding themselves into his memory, but he could not induce
himself to wish the old man joy, or to say any of those civil things
which are customary on such occasions. The baronet sat for a while,
silent also, and a cloud of anger was coming across his brow; but he
checked that before he spoke. "Well, my boy," he said, and his voice
was almost more than usually kind, "I can understand your thoughts,
and we will say nothing of them at present. All I will ask of you is
to treat Lady Mason in a manner befitting the position in which I
intend to place her."

"If you think it will be more comfortable, sir, I will leave The
Cleeve for a time."

"I hope that may not be necessary--Why should it? Or at any rate, not
as yet," he added, as a thought as to his wedding day occurred to
him. And then the interview was over, and in another half-hour they
met again at breakfast.

In the breakfast-room Lady Mason was also present. Peregrine was the
last to enter, and as he did so his grandfather was already standing
in his usual place, with the book of Prayers in his hand, waiting
that the servants should arrange themselves at their chairs before he
knelt down. There was no time then for much greeting, but Peregrine
did shake hands with her as he stept across to his accustomed corner.
He shook hands with her, and felt that her hand was very cold; but he
did not look at her, nor did he hear any answer given to his muttered
words. When they all got up she remained close to Mrs. Orme, as
though she might thus be protected from the anger which she feared
from Sir Peregrine's other friends. And at breakfast also she sat
close to her, far away from the baronet, and almost hidden by the urn
from his grandson. Sitting there she said nothing; neither in truth
did she eat anything. It was a time of great suffering to her, for
she knew that her coming could not be welcomed by the young heir. "It
must not be," she said to herself over and over again. "Though he
turn me out of the house, I must tell him that it cannot be so."

After breakfast Peregrine had ridden over to Orley Farm, and there
held his consultation with the other heir. On his returning to The
Cleeve, he did not go into the house, but having given up his horse
to a groom, wandered away among the woods. Lucius Mason had suggested
that he, Peregrine Orme, should himself speak to Lady Mason on this
matter. He felt that his grandfather would be very angry, should he
do so. But he did not regard that much. He had filled himself full
with the theory of his duties, and he would act up to it. He would
see her, without telling any one what was his purpose, and put it
to her whether she would bring down this destruction on so noble a
gentleman. Having thus resolved, he returned to the house, when it
was already dark, and making his way into the drawing-room, sat
himself down before the fire, still thinking of his plan. The room
was dark, as such rooms are dark for the last hour or two before
dinner in January, and he sat himself in an arm-chair before the
fire, intending to sit there till it would be necessary that he
should go to dress. It was an unaccustomed thing with him so to place
himself at such a time, or to remain in the drawing-room at all till
he came down for a few minutes before dinner; but he did so now,
having been thrown out of his usual habits by the cares upon his
mind. He had been so seated about a quarter of an hour, and was
already nearly asleep, when he heard the rustle of a woman's garment,
and looking round, with such light as the fire gave him, perceived
that Lady Mason was in the room. She had entered very quietly, and
was making her way in the dark to a chair which she frequently
occupied, between the fire and one of the windows, and in doing so
she passed so near Peregrine as to touch him with her dress.

"Lady Mason," he said, speaking, in the first place, in order that
she might know that she was not alone, "it is almost dark; shall I
ring for candles for you?"

She started at hearing his voice, begged his pardon for disturbing
him, declined his offer of light, and declared that she was going up
again to her own room immediately. But it occurred to him that if it
would be well that he should speak to her, it would be well that he
should do so at once; and what opportunity could be more fitting than
the present? "If you are not in a hurry about anything," he said,
"would you mind staying here for a few minutes?"

"Oh no, certainly not." But he could perceive that her voice trembled
in uttering even these few words.

"I think I'd better light a candle," he said; and then he did light
one of those which stood on the corner of the mantelpiece,--a
solitary candle, which only seemed to make the gloom of the large
room visible. She, however, was standing close to it, and would have
much preferred that the room should have been left to its darkness.

"Won't you sit down for a few minutes?" and then she sat down. "I'll
just shut the door, if you don't mind." And then, having done so, he
returned to his own chair and again faced the fire. He saw that she
was pale and nervous, and he did not like to look at her as he spoke.
He began to reflect also that they might probably be interrupted by
his mother, and he wished that they could adjourn to some other room.
That, however, seemed to be impossible; so he summoned up all his
courage, and began his task.

"I hope you won't think me uncivil, Lady Mason, for speaking to you
about this affair."

"Oh no, Mr. Orme; I am sure that you will not be uncivil to me."

"Of course I cannot help feeling a great concern in it, for it's very
nearly the same, you know, as if he were my father. Indeed, if you
come to that, it's almost worse; and I can assure you it is nothing
about money that I mind. Many fellows in my place would be afraid
about that, but I don't care twopence what he does in that respect.
He is so honest and so noble-hearted, that I am sure he won't do me a
wrong."

"I hope not, Mr. Orme; and certainly not in respect to me."

"I only mention it for fear you should misunderstand me. But there
are other reasons, Lady Mason, why this marriage will make me--make
me very unhappy."

"Are there? I shall be so unhappy if I make others unhappy."

"You will then,--I can assure you of that. It is not only me, but
your own son. I was up with him to-day, and he thinks of it the same
as I do."

"What did he say, Mr. Orme?"

"What did he say? Well, I don't exactly remember his words; but he
made me understand that your marriage with Sir Peregrine would make
him very unhappy. He did indeed. Why do you not see him yourself, and
talk to him?"

"I thought it best to write to him in the first place."

"Well, now you have written; and don't you think it would be well
that you should go up and see him? You will find that he is quite as
strong against it as I am,--quite."

Peregrine, had he known it, was using the arguments which were of all
the least likely to induce Lady Mason to pay a visit to Orley Farm.
She dreaded the idea of a quarrel with her son, and would have made
almost any sacrifice to prevent such a misfortune; but at the present
moment she feared the anger of his words almost more than the anger
implied by his absence. If this trial could be got over, she would
return to him and almost throw herself at his feet; but till that
time, might it not be well that they should be apart? At any rate,
these tidings of his discontent could not be efficacious in inducing
her to seek him.

"Dear Lucius!" she said, not addressing herself to her companion, but
speaking her thoughts. "I would not willingly give him cause to be
discontented with me."

"He is, then, very discontented. I can assure you of that."

"Yes; he and I think differently about all this."

"Ah, but don't you think you had better speak to him before you quite
make up your mind? He is your son, you know; and an uncommon clever
fellow too. He'll know how to say all this much better than I do."

"Say what, Mr. Orme?"

"Why, of course you can't expect that anybody will like such a
marriage as this;--that is, anybody except you and Sir Peregrine."

"Your mother does not object to it."

"My mother! But you don't know my mother yet. She would not object to
have her head cut off if anybody wanted it that she cared about. I
do not know how it has all been managed, but I suppose Sir Peregrine
asked her. Then of course she would not object. But look at the
common sense of it, Lady Mason. What does the world always say when
an old man like my grandfather marries a young woman?"

"But I am not--." So far she got, and then she stopped herself.

"We have all liked you very much. I'm sure I have for one; and I'll
go in for you, heart and soul, in this shameful law business. When
Lucius asked me, I didn't think anything of going to that scoundrel
in Hamworth; and all along I've been delighted that Sir Peregrine
took it up. By heavens! I'd be glad to go down to Yorkshire myself,
and walk into that fellow that wants to do you this injury. I would
indeed; and I'll stand by you as strong as anybody. But, Lady Mason,
when it comes to one's grandfather marrying, it--it--it--. Think what
people in the county will say of him. If it was your father, and if
he had been at the top of the tree all his life, how would you like
to see him get a fall, and be laughed at as though he were in the mud
just when he was too old ever to get up again?"

I am not sure whether Lucius Mason, with all his cleverness, could
have put the matter much better, or have used a style of oratory more
efficacious to the end in view. Peregrine had drawn his picture with
a coarse pencil, but he had drawn it strongly, and with graphic
effect. And then he paused; not with self-confidence, or as giving
his companion time to see how great had been his art, but in want of
words, and somewhat confused by the strength of his own thoughts. So
he got up and poked the fire, turning his back to it, and then sat
down again. "It is such a deuce of a thing, Lady Mason," he said,
"that you must not be angry with me for speaking out."

"Oh, Mr. Orme, I am not angry, and I do not know what to say to you."

"Why don't you speak to Lucius?"

"What could he say more than you have said? Dear Mr. Orme, I would
not injure him,--your grandfather, I mean,--for all that the world
holds."

"You will injure him;--in the eyes of all his friends."

"Then I will not do it. I will go to him, and beg him that it may not
be so. I will tell him that I cannot. Anything will be better than
bringing him to sorrow or disgrace."

"By Jove! but will you really?" Peregrine was startled and almost
frightened at the effect of his own eloquence. What would the baronet
say when he learned that he had been talked out of his wife by his
grandson?

"Mr. Orme," continued Lady Mason, "I am sure you do not understand
how this matter has been brought about. If you did, however much it
might grieve you, you would not blame me, even in your thoughts.
From the first to the last my only desire has been to obey your
grandfather in everything."

"But you would not marry him out of obedience?"

"I would--and did so intend. I would, certainly; if in doing so I did
him no injury. You say that your mother would give her life for him.
So would I;--that or anything else that I could give, without hurting
him or others. It was not I that sought for this marriage; nor did I
think of it. If you were in my place, Mr. Orme, you would know how
difficult it is to refuse."

Peregrine again got up, and standing with his back to the fire,
thought over it all again. His soft heart almost relented towards the
woman who had borne his rough words with so much patient kindness.
Had Sir Peregrine been there then, and could he have condescended so
far, he might have won his grandson's consent without much trouble.
Peregrine, like some other generals, had expended his energy in
gaining his victory, and was more ready now to come to easy terms
than he would have been had he suffered in the combat.

"Well," he said after a while, "I'm sure I'm very much obliged to you
for the manner in which you have taken what I said to you. Nobody
knows about it yet, I suppose; and perhaps, if you will talk to the
governor--"

"I will talk to him, Mr. Orme."

"Thank you; and then perhaps all things may turn out right. I'll go
and dress now." And so saying he took his departure, leaving her to
consider how best she might act at this crisis of her life, so that
things might go right, if such were possible. The more she thought of
it, the less possible it seemed that her affairs should be made to go
right.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

OH, INDEED!


The dinner on that day at The Cleeve was not very dull. Peregrine had
some hopes that the idea of the marriage might be abandoned, and was
at any rate much better disposed towards Lady Mason than he had been.
He spoke to her, asking her whether she had been out, and suggesting
roast mutton or some such creature comfort. This was lost neither on
Sir Peregrine nor on Mrs. Orme, and they both exerted themselves to
say a few words in a more cheery tone than had been customary in the
house for the last day or two. Lady Mason herself did not say much;
but she had sufficient tact to see the effort which was being made;
and though she spoke but little she smiled and accepted graciously
the courtesies that were tendered to her.

Then the two ladies went away, and Peregrine was again left with his
grandfather. "That was a nasty accident that Graham had going out of
Monkton Grange," said he, speaking on the moment of his closing the
dining-room door after his mother. "I suppose you heard all about
it, sir?" Having fought his battle so well before dinner, he was
determined to give some little rest to his half-vanquished enemy.

"The first tidings we heard were that he was dead," said Sir
Peregrine, filling his glass.

"No; he wasn't dead. But of course you know that now. He broke an arm
and two ribs, and got rather a bad squeeze. He was just behind me,
you know, and I had to wait for him. I lost the run, and had to see
Harriet Tristram go away with the best lead any one has had to a
fast thing this year. That's an uncommon nasty place at the back of
Monkton Grange."

"I hope, Peregrine, you don't think too much about Harriet Tristram."

"Think of her! who? I? Think of her in what sort of a way? I think
she goes uncommonly well to hounds."

"That may be, but I should not wish to see you pin your happiness on
any lady that was celebrated chiefly for going well to hounds."

"Do you mean marry her?" and Peregrine immediately made a strong
comparison in his mind between Miss Tristram and Madeline Staveley.

"Yes; that's what I did mean."

"I wouldn't have her if she owned every fox-cover in the county. No,
by Jove! I know a trick worth two of that. It's jolly enough to see
them going, but as to being in love with them--in that sort of way--"

"You are quite right, my boy; quite right. It is not that that a man
wants in a wife."

"No," said Peregrine, with a melancholy cadence in his voice,
thinking of what it was that he did want. And so they sat sipping
their wine. The turn which the conversation had taken had for the
moment nearly put Lady Mason out of the young man's head.

"You would be very young to marry yet," said the baronet.

"Yes, I should be young; but I don't know that there is any harm in
that."

"Quite the contrary, if a young man feels himself to be sufficiently
settled. Your mother I know would be very glad that you should marry
early;--and so should I, if you married well."

What on earth could all this mean? It could not be that his
grandfather knew that he was in love with Miss Staveley; and had this
been known his grandfather would not have talked of Harriet Tristram.
"Oh yes; of course a fellow should marry well. I don't think much of
marrying for money."

"Nor do I, Peregrine;--I think very little of it."

"Nor about being of very high birth."

"Well; it would make me unhappy--very unhappy if you were to marry
below your own rank."

"What do you call my own rank?"

"I mean any girl whose father is not a gentleman, and whose mother is
not a lady; and of whose education among ladies you could not feel
certain."

"I could be quite certain about her," said Peregrine, very
innocently.

"Her! what her?"

"Oh, I forgot that we were talking about nobody."

"You don't mean Harriet Tristram?"

"No, certainly not."

"Of whom were you thinking, Peregrine? May I ask--if it be not too
close a secret?" And then again there was a pause, during which
Peregrine emptied his glass and filled it again. He had no objection
to talk to his grandfather about Miss Staveley, but he felt ashamed
of having allowed the matter to escape him in this sort of way. "I
will tell you why I ask, my boy," continued the baronet. "I am going
to do that which many people will call a very foolish thing."

"You mean about Lady Mason."

"Yes; I mean my own marriage with Lady Mason. We will not talk about
that just at present, and I only mention it to explain that before I
do so, I shall settle the property permanently. If you were married
I should at once divide it with you. I should like to keep the old
house myself, till I die--"

"Oh, Sir!"

"But sooner than give you cause of offence I would give that up."

"I would not consent to live in it unless I did so as your guest."

"Until your marriage I think of settling on you a thousand a
year;--but it would add to my happiness if I thought it likely that
you would marry soon. Now may I ask of whom were you thinking?"

Peregrine paused for a second or two before he made any reply, and
then he brought it out boldly. "I was thinking of Madeline Staveley."

"Then, my boy, you were thinking of the prettiest girl and the
best-bred lady in the county. Here's her health;" and he filled for
himself a bumper of claret. "You couldn't have named a woman whom I
should be more proud to see you bring home. And your mother's opinion
of her is the same as mine. I happen to know that;" and with a look
of triumph he drank his glass of wine, as though much that was very
joyful to him had been already settled.

"Yes," said Peregrine mournfully, "she is a very nice girl; at least
I think so."

"The man who can win her, Peregrine, may consider himself to be a
lucky fellow. You were quite right in what you were saying about
money. No man feels more sure of that than I do. But if I am not
mistaken Miss Staveley will have something of her own. I rather think
that Arbuthnot got ten thousand pounds."

"I'm sure I don't know, sir," said Peregrine; and his voice was by no
means as much elated as that of his grandfather.

"I think he did; or if he didn't get it all, the remainder is settled
on him. And the judge is not a man to behave better to one child than
to another."

"I suppose not."

And then the conversation flagged a little, for the enthusiasm was
all one side. It was moreover on that side which naturally would have
been the least enthusiastic. Poor Peregrine had only told half his
secret as yet, and that not the most important half. To Sir Peregrine
the tidings, as far as he had heard them, were very pleasant. He did
not say to himself that he would purchase his grandson's assent to
his own marriage by giving his consent to his grandson's marriage.
But it did seem to him that the two affairs, acting upon each other,
might both be made to run smooth. His heir could have made no better
choice in selecting the lady of his love. Sir Peregrine had feared
much that some Miss Tristram or the like might have been tendered to
him as the future Lady Orme, and he was agreeably surprised to find
that a new mistress for The Cleeve had been so well chosen. He would
be all kindness to his grandson and win from him, if it might be
possible, reciprocal courtesy and complaisance. "Your mother will be
very pleased when she hears this," he said.

"I meant to tell my mother," said Peregrine, still very dolefully,
"but I do not know that there is anything in it to please her. I only
said that I--I admired Miss Staveley."

"My dear boy, if you'll take my advice you'll propose to her at once.
You have been staying in the same house with her, and--"

"But I have."

"Have what?"

"I have proposed to her."

"Well?"

"And she has refused me. You know all about it now, and there's no
such great cause for joy."

"Oh, you have proposed to her. Have you spoken to her father or
mother?"

"What was the use when she told me plainly that she did not care for
me? Of course I should have asked her father. As to Lady Staveley,
she and I got on uncommonly well. I'm almost inclined to think that
she would not have objected."

"It would be a very nice match for them, and I dare say she would not
have objected." And then for some ten minutes they sat looking at the
fire. Peregrine had nothing more to say about it, and the baronet was
thinking how best he might encourage his grandson.

"You must try again, you know," at last he said.

"Well; I fear not. I do not think it would be any good. I'm not quite
sure she does not care for some one else."

"Who is he?"

"Oh, a fellow that's there. The man who broke his arm. I don't say
she does, you know, and of course you won't mention it."

Sir Peregrine gave the necessary promises, and then endeavoured to
give encouragement to the lover. He would himself see the judge, if
it were thought expedient, and explain what liberal settlement would
be made on the lady in the event of her altering her mind. "Young
ladies, you know, are very prone to alter their minds on such
matters," said the old man. In answer to which Peregrine declared
his conviction that Madeline Staveley would not alter her mind. But
then do not all despondent lovers hold that opinion of their own
mistresses?

Sir Peregrine had been a great gainer by what had occurred, and so
he felt it. At any rate all the novelty of the question of his own
marriage was over, as between him and Peregrine; and then he had
acquired a means of being gracious which must almost disarm his
grandson of all power of criticism. When he, an old man, was ready to
do so much to forward the views of a young man, could it be possible
that the young man should oppose his wishes? And Peregrine was aware
that his power of opposition was thus lessened.

In the evening nothing remarkable occurred between them. Each had his
or her own plans; but these plans could not be furthered by anything
to be said in a general assembly. Lady Mason had already told to Mrs.
Orme all that had passed in the drawing-room before dinner, and Sir
Peregrine had determined that he would consult Mrs. Orme as to that
matter regarding Miss Staveley. He did not think much of her refusal.
Young ladies always do refuse--at first.

On the day but one following this there came another visit from Mr.
Furnival, and he was for a long time closeted with Sir Peregrine.
Matthew Round had, he said, been with him, and had felt himself
obliged in the performance of his duty to submit a case to counsel
on behalf of his client Joseph Mason. He had not as yet received the
written opinion of Sir Richard Leatherham, to whom he had applied;
but nevertheless, as he wished to give every possible notice, he had
called to say that his firm were of opinion that an action must be
brought either for forgery or for perjury.

"For perjury!" Mr. Furnival had said.

"Well; yes. We would wish to be as little harsh as possible. But if
we convict her of having sworn falsely when she gave evidence as to
having copied the codicil herself, and having seen it witnessed by
the pretended witnesses;--why in that case of course the property
would go back."

"I can't give any opinion as to what might be the result in such a
case," said Mr. Furnival.

Mr. Round had gone on to say that he thought it improbable that the
action could be tried before the summer assizes.

"The sooner the better as far as we are concerned," said Mr.
Furnival.

"If you really mean that, I will see that there shall be no
unnecessary delay." Mr. Furnival had declared that he did really mean
it, and so the interview had ended.

Mr. Furnival had really meant it, fully concurring in the opinion
which Mr. Chaffanbrass had expressed on this matter; but nevertheless
the increasing urgency of the case had almost made him tremble.
He still carried himself with a brave outside before Mat Round,
protesting as to the utter absurdity as well as cruelty of the
whole proceeding; but his conscience told him that it was not
absurd. "Perjury!" he said to himself, and then he rang the bell for
Crabwitz. The upshot of that interview was that Mr. Crabwitz received
a commission to arrange a meeting between that great barrister, the
member for the Essex Marshes, and Mr. Solomon Aram.

"Won't it look rather, rather--rather--; you know what I mean, sir?"
Crabwitz had asked.

"We must fight these people with their own weapons," said Mr.
Furnival;--not exactly with justice, seeing that Messrs. Round and
Crook were not at all of the same calibre in the profession as Mr.
Solomon Aram.

Mr. Furnival had already at this time seen Mr. Slow, of the firm of
Slow and Bideawhile, who were Sir Peregrine's solicitors. This he had
done chiefly that he might be able to tell Sir Peregrine that he had
seen him. Mr. Slow had declared that the case was one which his firm
would not be prepared to conduct, and he named a firm to which he
should recommend his client to apply. But Mr. Furnival, carefully
considering the whole matter, had resolved to take the advice and
benefit by the experience of Mr. Chaffanbrass.

And then he went down once more to The Cleeve. Poor Mr. Furnival! In
these days he was dreadfully buffeted about both as regards his outer
man and his inner conscience by this unfortunate case, giving up to
it time that would otherwise have turned itself into heaps of gold;
giving up domestic conscience--for Mrs. Furnival was still hot in
her anger against poor Lady Mason; and giving up also much peace of
mind, for he felt that he was soiling his hands by dirty work. But
he thought of the lady's pale sweet face, of her tear-laden eye, of
her soft beseeching tones, and gentle touch; he thought of these
things--as he should not have thought of them;--and he persevered.

On this occasion he was closeted with Sir Peregrine for a couple of
hours, and each heard much from the other that surprised him very
much. Sir Peregrine, when he was told that Mr. Solomon Aram from
Bucklersbury, and Mr. Chaffanbrass from the Old Bailey, were to be
retained for the defence of his future wife, drew himself up and said
that he could hardly approve of it. The gentlemen named were no doubt
very clever in criminal concerns; he could understand as much as
that, though he had not had great opportunity of looking into affairs
of that sort. But surely, in Lady Mason's case, assistance of such a
description would hardly be needed. Would it not be better to consult
Messrs. Slow and Bideawhile?

And then it turned out that Messrs. Slow and Bideawhile had been
consulted; and Mr. Furnival, not altogether successfully, endeavoured
to throw dust into the baronet's eyes, declaring that in a combat
with the devil one must use the devil's weapons. He assured Sir
Peregrine that he had given the matter his most matured and indeed
most painful professional consideration; there were unfortunate
circumstances which required peculiar care; it was a matter which
would depend entirely on the evidence of one or two persons who might
be suborned; and in such a case it would be well to trust to those
who knew how to break down and crush a lying witness. In such work as
that Slow and Bideawhile would be innocent and ignorant as babes. As
to breaking down and crushing a witness anxious to speak the truth,
Mr. Furnival at that time said nothing.

"I will not think that falsehood and fraud can prevail," said Sir
Peregrine proudly.

"But they do prevail sometimes," said Mr. Furnival. And then with
much outer dignity of demeanour, but with some shame-faced tremblings
of the inner man hidden under the guise of that outer dignity, Sir
Peregrine informed the lawyer of his great purpose.

"Indeed!" said Mr. Furnival, throwing himself back into his chair
with a start.

"Yes, Mr. Furnival. I should not have taken the liberty to trouble
you with a matter so private in its nature, but for your close
professional intimacy and great friendship with Lady Mason."

"Oh, indeed!" said Mr. Furnival; and the baronet could understand
from the lawyer's tone that even he did not approve.



CHAPTER XXXIX

WHY SHOULD HE GO?


"I am well aware, Mr. Staveley, that you are one of those gentlemen
who amuse themselves by frequently saying such things to girls. I had
learned your character in that respect before I had been in the house
two days."

"Then, Miss Furnival, you learned what was very false. May I ask who
has blackened me in this way in your estimation?" It will be easily
seen from this that Mr. Augustus Staveley and Miss Furnival were at
the present moment alone together in one of the rooms at Noningsby.

"My informant," she replied, "has been no one special sinner whom you
can take by the throat and punish. Indeed, if you must shoot anybody,
it should be chiefly yourself, and after that your father, and
mother, and sisters. But you need not talk of being black. Such sins
are venial now-a-days, and convey nothing deeper than a light shade
of brown."

"I regard a man who can act in such a way as very base."

"Such a way as what, Mr. Staveley?"

"A man who can win a girl's heart for his own amusement."

"I said nothing about the winning of hearts. That is treachery of
the worst dye; but I acquit you of any such attempt. When there is a
question of the winning of hearts men look so different."

"I don't know how they look," said Augustus, not altogether satisfied
as to the manner in which he was being treated--"but such has been my
audacity,--my too great audacity on the present occasion."

"You are the most audacious of men, for your audacity would carry you
to the feet of another lady to-morrow without the slightest check."

"And that is the only answer I am to receive from you?"

"It is quite answer enough. What would you have me do? Get up and
decline the honour of being Mrs. Augustus Staveley with a curtsy?"

"No--I would have you do nothing of the kind. I would have you get up
and accept the honour,--with a kiss."

"So that you might have the kiss, and I might have the--; I was going
to say disappointment, only that would be untrue. Let me assure you
that I am not so demonstrative in my tokens of regard."

"I wonder whether you mean that you are not so honest?"

"No, Mr. Staveley; I mean nothing of the kind; and you are very
impertinent to express such a supposition. What have I done or said
to make you suppose that I have lost my heart to you?"

"As you have mine, it is at any rate human nature in me to hope that
I might have yours."

"Psha! your heart! You have been making a shuttlecock of it till it
is doubtful whether you have not banged it to pieces. I know two
ladies who carry in their caps two feathers out of it. It is so
easy to see when a man is in love. They all go cross-gartered like
Malvolio;--cross-gartered in their looks and words and doings."

"And there is no touch of all this in me?"

"You cross-gartered! You have never got so far yet as a
lack-a-daisical twist to the corner of your mouth. Did you watch Mr.
Orme before he went away?"

"Why; was he cross-gartered?"

"But you men have no eyes; you never see anything. And your idea of
love-making is to sit under a tree wishing, wondering whether the
ripe fruit will fall down into your mouth. Ripe fruit does sometimes
fall, and then it is all well with you. But if it won't, you pass on
and say that it is sour. As for climbing--"

"The fruit generally falls too fast to admit of such exercise," said
Staveley, who did not choose that all the sharp things should be said
on the other side.

"And that is the result of your very extended experience? The
orchards which have been opened to you have not, I fear, been of the
first quality. Mr. Staveley, my hand will do very well by itself.
Such is not the sort of climbing that is required. That is what I
call stooping to pick up the fruit that has fallen." And as she
spoke, she moved a little away from him on the sofa.

"And how is a man to climb?"

"Do you really mean that you want a lesson? But if I were to tell
you, my words would be thrown away. Men will not labour who have
gotten all that they require without work. Why strive to deserve any
woman, when women are plenty who do not care to be deserved? That
plan of picking up the fallen apples is so much the easier."

The lesson might perhaps have been given, and Miss Furnival might
have imparted to Mr. Staveley her idea of "excelsior" in the matter
of love-making, had not Mr. Staveley's mother come into the room at
that moment. Mrs. Staveley was beginning to fear that the results of
her Christmas hospitality would not be satisfactory. Peregrine Orme,
whom she would have been so happy to welcome to the warmest corner of
her household temple as a son, had been sent away in wretchedness and
disappointment. Madeline was moping about the house, hardly making an
effort to look like herself; attributing, in her mother's ears, all
her complaint to that unexpected interview with Peregrine Orme, but
not so attributing it--as her mother fancied--with correctness. And
there was Felix Graham still in the room up stairs, the doctor having
said that he might be moved in a day or two;--that is, such movement
might possibly be effected without detriment;--but having said also
that another ten days of uninterrupted rest would be very desirable.
And now, in addition to this, her son Augustus was to be found on
every wet morning closeted somewhere with Sophia Furnival;--on every
wet morning, and sometimes on dry mornings also!

And then, on this very day, Lady Staveley had discovered that Felix
Graham's door in the corridor was habitually left open. She knew
her child too well, and was too clear and pure in her own mind, to
suppose that there was anything wrong in this;--that clandestine
talkings were arranged, or anything planned in secret. What she
feared was that which really occurred. The door was left open, and as
Madeline passed Felix would say a word, and then Madeline would pause
and answer him. Such words as they were might have been spoken before
all the household, and if so spoken would have been free from danger.
But they were not free from danger when spoken in that way, in the
passage of a half-closed doorway;--all which Lady Staveley understood
perfectly.

"Baker," she had said, with more of anger in her voice than was usual
with her, "why do you leave that door open?"

"I think it sweetens the room, my lady;" and, indeed, Felix Graham
sometimes thought so too.

"Nonsense; every sound in the house must be heard. Keep it shut, if
you please."

"Yes, my lady," said Mrs. Baker--who also understood perfectly.

"He is better, my darling," said Mrs. Baker to Madeline, the same
day; "and, indeed, for that he is well enough as regards eating and
drinking. But it would be cruelty to move him yet. I heard what the
doctor said."

"Who talks of moving him?"

"Well, he talks of it himself; and the doctor said it might be
possible. But I know what that means."

"What does it mean?"

"Why, just this: that if we want to get rid of him, it won't quite be
the death of him."

"But who wants to get rid of him?"

"I'm sure I don't. I don't mind my trouble the least in life. He's as
nice a young gentleman as ever I sat beside the bed of; and he's full
of spirit--he is."

And then Madeline appealed to her mother. Surely her mother would not
let Mr. Graham be sent out of the house in his present state, merely
because the doctor said it might be possible to move him without
causing his instant death! And tears stood in poor Madeline's eyes
as she thus pleaded the cause of the sick and wounded. This again
tormented Lady Staveley, who found it necessary to give further
caution to Mrs. Baker. "Baker," she said, "how can you be so foolish
as to be talking to Miss Madeline about Mr. Graham's arm?"

"Who, my lady? I, my lady?"

"Yes, you; when you know that the least thing frightens her. Don't
you remember how ill it made her when Roger"--Roger was an old family
groom--"when Roger had that accident?" Lady Staveley might have saved
herself the trouble of the reminiscence as to Roger, for Baker knew
more about it than that. When Roger's scalp had been laid bare by a
fall, Miss Madeline had chanced to see it, and had fainted; but Miss
Madeline was not fainting now. Baker knew all about it, almost better
than Lady Staveley herself. It was of very little use talking to
Baker about Roger the groom. Baker thought that Mr. Felix Graham
was a very nice young man, in spite of his "not being exactly
handsomelike about the physgognomy," as she remarked to one of the
younger maids, who much preferred Peregrine Orme.

Coming away from this last interval with Mrs. Baker, Lady Staveley
interrupted her son and Sophia Furnival in the back drawing-room, and
began to feel that her solicitude for her children would be almost
too much for her. Why had she asked that nasty girl to her house, and
why would not the nasty girl go away? As for her going away, there
was no present hope; for it had been arranged that she should stay
for another fortnight. Why could not the Fates have been kind, and
have allowed Felix Graham and Miss Furnival to fall in love with each
other? "I can never make a daughter of her if he does marry her,"
Lady Staveley said to herself, as she looked at them.

Augustus looked as though he were detected, and stammered out some
question about his mother and the carriage; but Miss Furnival did not
for a moment lose her easy presence of mind. "Lady Staveley," said
she, "why does not your son go and hunt, or shoot, or fish, instead
of staying in the house all day? It seems to me that his time is so
heavy on his hands that he will almost have to hang himself."

"I'm sure I can't tell," said Lady Staveley, who was not so perfect
an actor as her guest.

"I do think gentlemen in the house in the morning always look so
unfortunate. You have been endeavouring to make yourself agreeable,
but you know you've been yawning."

"Do you suppose then that men never sit still in the morning?" said
Augustus.

"Oh, in their chambers, yes; or on the bench, and perhaps also behind
counters; but they very seldom do so in a drawing-room. You have been
fidgeting about with the poker till you have destroyed the look of
the fireplace."

"Well, I'll go and fidget up stairs with Graham," said he; and so he
left the room.

"Nasty, sly girl," said Lady Staveley to herself as she took up her
work and sat herself down in her own chair.

Augustus did go up to his friend and found him reading letters. There
was no one else in the room, and the door when Augustus reached it
was properly closed. "I think I shall be off to-morrow, old boy,"
said Felix.

"Then I think you'll do no such thing," said Augustus. "What's in the
wind now?"

"The doctor said this morning that I could be moved without danger."

"He said that it might possibly be done in two or three days--that
was all. What on earth makes you so impatient? You've nothing to do.
Nobody else wants to see you; and nobody here wants to get rid of
you."

"You're wrong in all your three statements."

"The deuce I am! Who wants to get rid of you?"

"That shall come last. I have something to do, and somebody else
does want to see me. I've got a letter from Mary here, and another
from Mrs. Thomas;" and he held up to view two letters which he had
received, and which had, in truth, startled him.

"Mary's duenna;--the artist who is supposed to be moulding the wife."

"Yes; Mary's duenna, or Mary's artist, whichever you please."

"And which of them wants to see you? It's just like a woman, to
require a man's attendance exactly when he is unable to move."

Then Felix, though he did not give up the letters to be read,
described to a certain extent their contents. "I don't know what
on earth has happened," he said. "Mary is praying to be forgiven,
and saying that it is not her fault; and Mrs. Thomas is full
of apologies, declaring that her conscience forces her to tell
everything; and yet, between them both, I do not know what has
happened."

"Miss Snow has probably lost the key of the workbox you gave her."

"I have not given her a workbox."

"Then the writing-desk. That's what a man has to endure when he will
make himself head schoolmaster to a young lady. And so you're going
to look after your charge with your limbs still in bandages?"

"Just so;" and then he took up the two letters and read them again,
while Staveley still sat on the foot of the bed. "I wish I knew what
to think about it," said Felix.

"About what?" said the other. And then there was another pause, and
another reading of a portion of the letters.

"There seems something--something almost frightful to me," said Felix
gravely, "in the idea of marrying a girl in a few months' time, who
now, at so late a period of our engagement, writes to me in that sort
of cold, formal way."

"It's the proper moulded-wife style, you may depend," said Augustus.

"I'll tell you what, Staveley, if you can talk to me seriously for
five minutes, I shall be obliged to you. If that is impossible to
you, say so, and I will drop the matter."

"Well, go on; I am serious enough in what I intend to express, even
though I may not be so in my words."

"I'm beginning to have my doubts about this dear girl."

"I've had my doubts for some time."

"Not, mark you, with regard to myself. The question is not now
whether I can love her sufficiently for my own happiness. On that
side I have no longer the right to a doubt."

"But you wouldn't marry her if you did not love her."

"We need not discuss that. But what if she does not love me? What if
she would think it a release to be freed from this engagement? How am
I to find that out?"

Augustus sat for a while silent, for he did feel that the matter was
serious. The case as he looked at it stood thus:--His friend Graham
had made a very foolish bargain, from which he would probably be glad
to escape, though he could not now bring himself to say as much. But
this bargain, bad for him, would probably be very good for the young
lady. The young lady, having no shilling of her own, and no merits
of birth or early breeding to assist her outlook in the world, might
probably regard her ready-made engagement to a clever, kind-hearted,
high-spirited man, as an advantage not readily to be abandoned.
Staveley, as a sincere friend, was very anxious that the match should
be broken off; but he could not bring himself to tell Graham that
he thought that the young lady would so wish. According to his idea
the young lady must undergo a certain amount of disappointment,
and receive a certain amount of compensation. Graham had been very
foolish, and must pay for his folly. But in preparing to do so, it
would be better that he should see and acknowledge the whole truth of
the matter.

"Are you sure that you have found out your own feelings?" Staveley
said at last; and his tone was then serious enough even for his
friend.

"It hardly matters whether I have or have not," said Felix.

"It matters above all things;--above all things, because as to them
you may come to something like certainty. Of the inside of her heart
you cannot know so much. The fact I take it is this--that you would
wish to escape from this bondage."

"No; not unless I thought she regarded it as bondage also. It may be
that she does. As for myself, I believe that at the present moment
such a marriage would be for me the safest step that I could take."

"Safe as against what danger?"

"All dangers. How, if I should learn to love another woman,--some one
utterly out of my reach,--while I am still betrothed to her?"

"I rarely flatter you, Graham, and don't mean to do it now; but no
girl ought to be out of your reach. You have talent, position, birth,
and gifts of nature, which should make you equal to any lady. As for
money, the less you have the more you should look to get. But if
you would cease to be mad, two years would give you command of an
income."

"But I shall never cease to be mad."

"Who is it that cannot be serious, now?"

"Well, I will be serious--serious enough. I can afford to be so, as
I have received my medical passport for to-morrow. No girl, you say,
ought to be out of my reach. If the girl were one Miss Staveley,
should she be regarded as out of my reach?"

"A man doesn't talk about his own sister," said Staveley, having got
up from the bed and walked to the window, "and I know you don't mean
anything."

"But, by heavens! I do mean a great deal."

"What is it you mean, then?"

"I mean this--What would you say if you learned that I was a suitor
for her hand?"

Staveley had been right in saying that a man does not talk about
his own sister. When he had declared, with so much affectionate
admiration for his friend's prowess, that he might aspire to the
hand of any lady, that one retiring, modest-browed girl had not been
thought of by him. A man in talking to another man about women is
always supposed to consider those belonging to himself as exempt from
the incidents of the conversation. The dearest friends do not talk
to each other about their sisters when they have once left school;
and a man in such a position as that now taken by Graham has to make
fight for his ground as closely as though there had been no former
intimacies. My friend Smith in such a matter as that, though I have
been hail fellow with him for the last ten years, has very little
advantage over Jones, who was introduced to the house for the first
time last week. And therefore Staveley felt himself almost injured
when Felix Graham spoke to him about Madeline.

"What would I say? Well--that is a question one does not understand,
unless--unless you really meant to state it as a fact that it was
your intention to propose to her."

"But I mean rather to state it as a fact that it is not my intention
to propose to her."

"Then we had better not speak of her."

"Listen to me a moment. In order that I may not do so, it will be
better for me--better for us all, that I should leave the house."

"Do you mean to say--?"

"Yes, I do mean to say! I mean to say all that your mind is now
suggesting to you. I quite understand your feelings when you declare
that a man does not like to talk of his own sister, and therefore we
will talk of your sister no more. Old fellow, don't look at me as
though you meant to drop me."

Augustus came back to the bedside, and again seating himself, put his
hand almost caressingly over his friend's shoulder. "I did not think
of this," he said.

"No; one never does think of it," Graham replied.

"And she?"

"She knows no more of it than that bed-post," said Graham. "The
injury, such as there is, is all on one side. But I'll tell you who
suspects it."

"Baker?"

"Your mother. I am much mistaken if you will not find that she, with
all her hospitality, would prefer that I should recover my strength
elsewhere."

"But you have done nothing to betray yourself."

"A mother's ears are very sharp. I know that it is so. I cannot
explain to you how. Do you tell her that I think of getting up to
London to-morrow, and see how she will take it. And, Staveley, do not
for a moment suppose that I am reproaching her. She is quite right.
I believe that I have in no way committed myself--that I have said
no word to your sister with which Lady Staveley has a right to feel
herself aggrieved; but if she has had the wit to read the thoughts of
my bosom, she is quite right to wish that I were out of the house."

Poor Lady Staveley had been possessed of no such wit at all. The
sphynx which she had read had been one much more in her own line. She
had simply read the thoughts in her daughter's bosom--or rather, the
feelings in her daughter's heart.

Augustus Staveley hardly knew what he ought to say. He was not
prepared to tell his friend that he was the very brother-in-law for
whose connection he would be desirous. Such a marriage for Madeline,
even should Madeline desire it, would not be advantageous. When
Augustus told Graham that he had gifts of nature which made him equal
to any lady, he did not include his own sister. And yet the idea of
acquiescing in his friend's sudden departure was very painful to him.
"There can be no reason why you should not stay up here, you know,"
at last he said;--and in so saying he pronounced an absolute verdict
against poor Felix.

On few matters of moment to a man's own heart can he speak out
plainly the whole truth that is in him. Graham had intended so to
do, but had deceived himself. He had not absolutely hoped that his
friend would say, "Come among us, and be one of us; take her, and
be my brother." But yet there came upon his heart a black load of
disappointment, in that the words which were said were the exact
opposite of these. Graham had spoken of himself as unfit to match
with Madeline Staveley, and Madeline Staveley's brother had taken him
at his word. The question which Augustus asked himself was this--Was
it, or was it not practicable that Graham should remain there without
danger of intercourse with his sister? To Felix the question came in
a very different shape. After having spoken as he had spoken--might
he be allowed to remain there, enjoying such intercourse, or might he
not? That was the question to which he had unconsciously demanded an
answer;--and unconsciously he had still hoped that the question might
be answered in his favour. He had so hoped, although he was burdened
with Mary Snow, and although he had spoken of his engagement with
that lady in so rigid a spirit of self-martyrdom. But the question
had been answered against him. The offer of a further asylum in the
seclusion of that bedroom had been made to him by his friend with a
sort of proviso that it would not be well that he should go further
than the bedroom, and his inner feelings at once grated against each
other, making him wretched and almost angry.

"Thank you, no; I understand how kind you are, but I will not do
that. I will write up to-night, and shall certainly start to-morrow."

"My dear fellow--"

"I should get into a fever, if I were to remain in this house after
what I have told you. I could not endure to see you, or your mother,
or Baker, or Marian, or any one else. Don't talk about it. Indeed,
you ought to feel that it is not possible. I have made a confounded
ass of myself, and the sooner I get away the better. I say--perhaps
you would not be angry if I was to ask you to let me sleep for an
hour or so now. After that I'll get up and write my letters."

He was very sore. He knew that he was sick at heart, and ill at ease,
and cross with his friend; and knew also that he was unreasonable
in being so. Staveley's words and manner had been full of kindness.
Graham was aware of this, and was therefore the more irritated with
himself. But this did not prevent his being angry and cross with his
friend.

"Graham," said the other, "I see clearly enough that I have annoyed
you."

"Not in the least. A man falls into the mud, and then calls to
another man to come and see him. The man in the mud of course is not
comfortable."

"But you have called to me, and I have not been able to help you."

"I did not suppose you would, so there has been no disappointment.
Indeed, there was no possibility for help. I shall follow out the
line of life which I have long since chalked out for myself, and
I do not expect that I shall be more wretched than other poor
devils around me. As far as my idea goes, it all makes very little
difference. Now leave me; there's a good fellow."

"Dear old fellow, I would give my right hand if it would make you
happy!"

"But it won't. Your right hand will make somebody else happy, I
hope."

"I'll come up to you again before dinner."

"Very well. And, Staveley, what we have now said cannot be forgotten
between us; but when we next meet, and ever after, let it be as
though it were forgotten." Then he settled himself down on the bed,
and Augustus left the room.

It will not be supposed that Graham did go to sleep, or that he had
any thought of doing so. When he was alone those words of his friend
rang over and over again in his ears, "No girl ought to be out of
your reach." Why should Madeline Staveley be out of his reach, simply
because she was his friend's sister? He had been made welcome to that
house, and therefore he was bound to do nothing unhandsome by the
family. But then he was bound by other laws, equally clear, to do
nothing unhandsome by any other family--or by any other lady. If
there was anything in Staveley's words, they applied as strongly to
Staveley's sister as to any other girl. And why should not he, a
lawyer, marry a lawyer's daughter? Sophia Furnival, with her hatful
of money, would not be considered too high for him; and in what
respect was Madeline Staveley above Sophia Furnival? That the one
was immeasurably above the other in all those respects which in his
estimation tended towards female perfection, he knew to be true
enough; but the fruit which he had been forbidden to gather hung no
higher on the social tree than that other fruit which he had been
specially invited to pluck and garner.

And then Graham was not a man to think any fruit too high for him.
He had no overweening idea of his own deserts, either socially or
professionally, nor had he taught himself to expect great things from
his own genius; but he had that audacity of spirit which bids a man
hope to compass that which he wishes to compass,--that audacity which
is both the father and mother of success,--that audacity which seldom
exists without the inner capability on which it ought to rest.

But then there was Mary Snow! Augustus Staveley thought but little of
Mary Snow. According to his theory of his friend's future life, Mary
Snow might be laid aside without much difficulty. If this were so,
why should not Madeline be within his reach? But then was it so? Had
he not betrothed himself to Mary Snow in the presence of the girl's
father, with every solemnity and assurance, in a manner fixed beyond
that of all other betrothals? Alas, yes; and for this reason it was
right that he should hurry away from Noningsby.

Then he thought of Mary's letter, and of Mrs. Thomas's letter. What
was it that had been done? Mary had written as though she had been
charged with some childish offence; but Mrs. Thomas talked solemnly
of acquitting her own conscience. What could have happened that had
touched Mrs. Thomas in the conscience?

But his thoughts soon ran away from the little house at Peckham,
and settled themselves again at Noningsby. Should he hear more of
Madeline's footsteps?--and if not, why should they have been banished
from the corridor? Should he hear her voice again at the door,--and
if not, why should it have been hushed? There is a silence which may
be more eloquent than the sounds which it follows. Had no one in that
house guessed the feelings in his bosom, she would have walked along
the corridor as usual, and spoken a word with her sweet voice in
answer to his word. He felt sure that this would be so no more; but
who had stopped it, and why should such sounds be no more heard?

At last he did go to sleep, not in pursuance of any plan formed for
doing so; for had he been asked he would have said that sleep was
impossible for him. But he did go to sleep, and when he awoke it was
dark. He had intended to have got up and dressed on that afternoon,
or to have gone through such ceremony of dressing as was possible for
him,--in preparation of his next day's exercise; and now he rose up
in his bed with a start, angry with himself in having allowed the
time to pass by him.

"Lord love you, Mr. Graham, why how you have slept!" said Mrs. Baker.
"If I haven't just sent your dinner down again to keep hot. Such a
beautiful pheasant, and the bread sauce'll be lumpy now, for all the
world like pap."

"Never mind the bread sauce, Mrs. Baker;--the pheasant's the thing."

"And her ladyship's been here, Mr. Graham, only she wouldn't have you
woke. She won't hear of your being moved to-morrow, nor yet won't the
judge. There was a rumpus down stairs when Mr. Augustus as much as
mentioned it. I know one who--"

"You know one who--you were saying?"

"Never mind.--It ain't one more than another, but it's all. You ain't
to leave this to-morrow, so you may just give it over. And indeed
your things is all at the wash, so you can't;--and now I'll go down
for the pheasant."

Felix still declared very positively that he should go, but his
doing so did not shake Mrs. Baker. The letter-bag he knew did not
leave till eight, and as yet it was not much past five. He would see
Staveley again after his dinner, and then he would write.

When Augustus left the room in the middle of the day he encountered
Madeline wandering about the house. In these days she did wander
about the house, as though there were something always to be done in
some place apart from that in which she then was. And yet the things
which she did were but few. She neither worked nor read, and as for
household duties, her share in them was confined almost entirely to
the morning and evening teapot.

"It isn't true that he's to go to-morrow morning, Augustus, is it?"
said she.

"Who, Graham? Well; he says that he will. He is very anxious to get
to London; and no doubt he finds it stupid enough lying there and
doing nothing."

"But he can do as much there as he can lying by himself in his own
chambers, where I don't suppose he would have anybody to look after
him. He thinks he's a trouble and all that, and therefore he wants to
go. But you know mamma doesn't mind about trouble of that kind; and
what should we think of it afterwards if anything bad was to happen
to your friend because we allowed him to leave the house before
he was in a fit state to be moved? Of course Mr. Pottinger says
so--" Mr. Pottinger was the doctor. "Of course Mr. Pottinger says
so, because he thinks he has been so long here, and he doesn't
understand."

"But Mr. Pottinger would like to keep a patient."

"Oh no; he's not at all that sort of man. He'd think of mamma,--the
trouble I mean of having a stranger in the house. But you know mamma
would think nothing of that, especially for such an intimate friend
of yours."

Augustus turned slightly round so as to look more fully into his
sister's face, and he saw that a tear was gathered in the corner of
her eye. She perceived his glance and partly shrank under it, but she
soon recovered herself and answered it. "I know what you mean," she
said, "and if you choose to think so, I can't help it. But it is
horrible--horrible--" and then she stopped herself, finding that a
little sob would become audible if she trusted herself to further
words.

"You know what I mean, Mad?" he said, putting his arm affectionately
round her waist. "And what is it that I mean? Come; you and I never
have any secrets;--you always say so when you want to get at mine.
Tell me what it is that I mean."

"I haven't got any secret."

"But what did I mean?"

"You looked at me, because I don't want you to let them send Mr.
Graham away. If it was old Mr. Furnival I shouldn't like them to turn
him out of this house when he was in such a state as that."

"Poor Mr. Furnival; no; I think he would bear it worse than Felix."

"Then why should he go? And why--should you look at me in that way?"

"Did I look at you, Mad? Well, I believe I did. We are to have no
secrets; are we?"

"No," said she. But she did not say it in the same eager voice with
which hitherto she had declared that they would always tell each
other everything.

"Felix Graham is my friend," said he, "my special friend; and I hope
you will always like my friends. But--"

"Well?" she said.

"You know what I mean, Mad"

"Yes," she said.

"That is all, dearest." And then she knew that he also had cautioned
her not to fall in love with Felix Graham, and she felt angry with
him for the caution. "Why--why--why--?" But she hardly knew as yet
how to frame the question which she desired to ask herself.



CHAPTER XL

I CALL IT AWFUL


"Oh indeed!" Those had been the words with which Mr. Furnival had
received the announcement made by Sir Peregrine as to his proposed
nuptials. And as he uttered them the lawyer drew himself up stiffly
in his chair, looking much more like a lawyer and much less like an
old family friend than he had done the moment before.

Whereupon Sir Peregrine drew himself up also. "Yes," he said. "I
should be intrusive if I were to trouble you with my motives, and
therefore I need only say further as regards the lady, that I trust
that my support, standing as I shall do in the position of her
husband, will be more serviceable to her than it could otherwise have
been in this trial which she will, I presume, be forced to undergo."

"No doubt; no doubt," said Mr. Furnival; and then the interview
had ended. The lawyer had been anxious to see his client, and had
intended to ask permission to do so; but he had felt on hearing Sir
Peregrine's tidings that it would be useless now to make any attempt
to see her alone, and that he could speak to her with no freedom
in Sir Peregrine's presence. So he left The Cleeve, having merely
intimated to the baronet the fact of his having engaged the services
of Mr. Chaffanbrass and Mr. Solomon Aram. "You will not see Lady
Mason?" Sir Peregrine had asked. "Thank you; I do not know that
I need trouble her," Mr. Furnival had answered. "You of course
will explain to her how the case at present stands. I fear she
must reconcile herself to the fact of a trial. You are aware, Sir
Peregrine, that the offence imputed is one for which bail will be
taken. I should propose yourself and her son. Of course I should be
happy to lend my own name, but as I shall be on the trial, perhaps it
may be as well that this should be avoided."

Bail will be taken! These words were dreadful in the ears of the
expectant bridegroom. Had it come to this; that there was a question
whether or no she should be locked up in a prison, like a felon? But
nevertheless his heart did not misgive him. Seeing how terribly she
was injured by others, he felt himself bound by the stronger law to
cling to her himself. Such was the special chivalry of the man.

Mr. Furnival on his return to London thought almost more of Sir
Peregrine than he did either of Lady Mason or of himself. Was it not
a pity? Was it not a thousand pities that that aged noble gentleman
should be sacrificed? He had felt angry with Sir Peregrine when the
tidings were first communicated to him; but now, as he journeyed up
to London this feeling of anger was transferred to his own client.
This must be her doing, and such doing on her part, while she was in
her present circumstances, was very wicked. And then he remembered
her guilt,--her probable guilt, and his brow became very black. Her
supposed guilt had not been horrible to him while he had regarded it
as affecting herself alone, and in point of property affecting Joseph
Mason and her son Lucius. He could look forward, sometimes almost
triumphantly, to the idea of washing her--so far as this world's
washing goes--from that guilt, and setting her up again clear before
the world, even though in doing so he should lend a hand in robbing
Joseph Mason of his estate. But this dragging down of another--and
such another--head into the vortex of ruin and misery was horrible to
him. He was not straitlaced, or mealy-mouthed, or overburthened with
scruples. In the way of his profession he could do many a thing at
which--I express a single opinion with much anxious deference--at
which an honest man might be scandalized if it came beneath his
judgment unprofessionally. But this he could not stand. Something
must be done in the matter. The marriage must be stayed till after
the trial,--or else he must himself retire from the defence and
explain both to Lady Mason and to Sir Peregrine why he did so.

And then he thought of the woman herself, and his spirit within him
became very bitter. Had any one told him that he was jealous of the
preference shown by his client to Sir Peregrine, he would have fumed
with anger, and thought that he was fuming justly. But such was in
truth the case. Though he believed her to have been guilty of this
thing, though he believed her to be now guilty of the worse offence
of dragging the baronet to his ruin, still he was jealous of her
regard. Had she been content to lean upon him, to trust to him as her
great and only necessary friend, he could have forgiven all else, and
placed at her service the full force of his professional power,--even
though by doing so he might have lowered himself in men's minds. And
what reward did he expect? None. He had formed no idea that the woman
would become his mistress. All that was as obscure before his mind's
eye, as though she had been nineteen and he five-and-twenty.

He was to dine at home on this day, that being the first occasion of
his doing so for--as Mrs. Furnival declared--the last six months. In
truth, however, the interval had been long, though not so long as
that. He had a hope that having announced his intention, he might
find the coast clear and hear Martha Biggs spoken of as a dear
one lately gone. But when he arrived at home Martha Biggs was
still there. Under circumstances as they now existed Mrs. Furnival
had determined to keep Martha Biggs by her, unless any special
edict for her banishment should come forth. Then, in case of such
special edict, Martha Biggs should go, and thence should arise the
new casus belli. Mrs. Furnival had made up her mind that war was
expedient,--nay, absolutely necessary. She had an idea, formed no
doubt from the reading of history, that some allies require a smart
brush now and again to blow away the clouds of distrust which become
engendered by time between them; and that they may become better
allies than ever afterwards. If the appropriate time for such a brush
might ever come, it had come now. All the world,--so she said to
herself,--was talking of Mr. Furnival and Lady Mason. All the world
knew of her injuries.

Martha Biggs was second cousin to Mr. Crook's brother's wife--I speak
of that Mr. Crook who had been professionally known for the last
thirty years as the partner of Mr. Round. It had been whispered in
the office in Bedford Row--such whisper I fear originating with old
Round--that Mr. Furnival admired his fair client. Hence light had
fallen upon the eyes of Martha Biggs, and the secret of her friend
was known to her. Need I trace the course of the tale with closer
accuracy?

"Oh, Kitty," she had said to her friend with tears that evening--"I
cannot bear to keep it to myself any more! I cannot when I see you
suffering so. It's awful."

"Cannot bear to keep what, Martha?"

"Oh, I know. Indeed all the town knows it now."

"Knows what? You know how I hate that kind of thing. If you have
anything to say, speak out."

This was not kind to such a faithful friend as Martha Biggs; but
Martha knew what sacrifices friendship such as hers demanded, and she
did not resent it.

"Well then;--if I am to speak out, it's--Lady Mason. And I do say
that it's shameful, quite shameful;--and awful; I call it awful."

Mrs. Furnival had not said much at the time to encourage the fidelity
of her friend, but she was thus justified in declaring to herself
that her husband's goings on had become the talk of all the
world;--and his goings on especially in that quarter in which she
had long regarded them with so much dismay. She was not therefore
prepared to welcome him on this occasion of his coming home to dinner
by such tokens of friendly feeling as the dismissal of her friend to
Red Lion Square. When the moment for absolute war should come Martha
Biggs should be made to depart.

Mr. Furnival when he arrived at his own house was in a thoughtful
mood, and disposed for quiet and domestic meditation. Had Miss Biggs
not been there he could have found it in his heart to tell everything
about Lady Mason to his wife, asking her counsel as to what he should
do with reference to that marriage. Could he have done so, all would
have been well; but this was not possible while that red-faced lump
of a woman from Red Lion Square sat in his drawing-room, making
everything uncomfortable.

The three sat down to dinner together, and very little was said
between them. Mr. Furnival did try to be civil to his wife, but wives
sometimes have a mode of declining such civilities without committing
themselves to overt acts of war. To Miss Biggs Mr. Furnival could not
bring himself to say anything civil, seeing that he hated her; but
such words as he did speak to her she received with grim griffin-like
austerity, as though she were ever meditating on the awfulness of his
conduct. And so in truth she was. Why his conduct was more awful in
her estimation since she had heard Lady Mason's name mentioned, than
when her mind had been simply filled with general ideas of vague
conjugal infidelity, I cannot say; but such was the case. "I call it
awful," were the first words she again spoke when she found herself
once more alone with Mrs. Furnival in the drawing-room. And then
she sat down over the fire, thinking neither of her novel nor her
knitting, with her mind deliciously filled with the anticipation of
coming catastrophes.

"If I sit up after half-past ten would you mind going to bed?" said
Mrs. Furnival, when they had been in the drawing-room about ten
minutes.

"Oh no, not in the least," said Miss Biggs. "I'll be sure to go."
But she thought it very unkind, and she felt as a child does who is
deceived in a matter of being taken to the play. If no one goes the
child can bear it. But to see others go, and to be left behind, is
too much for the feelings of any child,--or of Martha Biggs.

Mr. Furnival had no inclination for sitting alone over his wine on
this occasion. Had it been possible for him he would have preferred
to have gone quickly up stairs, and to have taken his cup of coffee
from his wife's hand with some appreciation of domestic comfort. But
there could be no such comfort to him while Martha Biggs was there,
so he sat down stairs, sipping his port according to his custom, and
looking into the fire for a solution of his difficulties about Lady
Mason. He began to wish that he had never seen Lady Mason, and to
reflect that the intimate friendship of pretty women often brings
with it much trouble. He was resolved on one thing. He would not go
down into court and fight that battle for Lady Orme. Were he to do so
the matter would have taken quite a different phase,--one that he had
not at all anticipated. In case that his present client should then
have become Lady Orme, Mr. Chaffanbrass and Mr. Solomon Aram might
carry on the battle between them, with such assistance as they might
be able to get from Messrs. Slow and Bideawhile. He became angry as
he drank his port, and in his anger he swore that it should be so.
And then as his anger became hot at the close of his libations, he
remembered that Martha Biggs was up stairs, and became more angry
still. And thus when he did go into the drawing-room at some time in
the evening not much before ten, he was not in a frame of mind likely
to bring about domestic comfort.

He walked across the drawing-room, sat down in an arm-chair by the
table, and took up the last number of a review, without speaking to
either of them. Whereupon Mrs. Furnival began to ply her needle which
had been lying idly enough upon her work, and Martha Biggs fixed
her eyes intently upon her book. So they sat twenty minutes without
a word being spoken, and then Mrs. Furnival inquired of her lord
whether he chose to have tea.

"Of course I shall,--when you have it," said he.

"Don't mind us," said Mrs. Furnival.

"Pray don't mind me," said Martha Biggs. "Don't let me be in the
way."

"No, I won't," said Mr. Furnival. Whereupon Miss Biggs again jumped
up in her chair as though she had been electrified. It may be
remembered that on a former occasion Mr. Furnival had sworn at
her--or at least in her presence.

"You need not be rude to a lady in your own house, because she is my
friend," said Mrs. Furnival.

"Bother," said Mr. Furnival. "And now if we are going to have any
tea, let us have it."

"I don't think I'll mind about tea to-night, Mrs. Furnival," said
Miss Biggs, having received a notice from her friend's eye that it
might be well for her to depart. "My head aches dreadful, and I shall
be better in bed. Good-night, Mrs. Furnival." And then she took her
candle and went away.

For the next five minutes there was not a word said. No tea had been
ordered, although it had been mentioned. Mrs. Furnival had forgotten
it among the hot thoughts that were running through her mind, and Mr.
Furnival was indifferent upon the subject. He knew that something was
coming, and he resolved that he would have the upper hand let that
something be what it might. He was being ill used,--so he said to
himself--and would not put up with it.

At last the battle began. He was not looking, but he heard her first
movement as she prepared herself. "Tom!" she said, and then the voice
of the war goddess was again silent. He did not choose to answer her
at the instant, and then the war goddess rose from her seat and again
spoke. "Tom!" she said, standing over him and looking at him.

"What is it you mean?" said he, allowing his eyes to rise to her face
over the top of his book.

"Tom!" she said for the third time.

"I'll have no nonsense, Kitty," said he. "If you have anything to
say, say it."

Even then she had intended to be affectionate,--had so intended at
the first commencement of her address. She had no wish to be a war
goddess. But he had assisted her attempt at love by no gentle word,
by no gentle look, by no gentle motion. "I have this to say," she
replied; "you are disgracing both yourself and me, and I will not
remain in this house to be a witness to it."

"Then you may go out of the house." These words, be it remembered,
were uttered not by the man himself, but by the spirit of port wine
within the man.

"Tom, do you say that;--after all?"

"By heavens I do say it! I'll not be told in my own drawing-room,
even by you, that I am disgracing myself."

"Then why do you go after that woman down to Hamworth? All the world
is talking of you. At your age too! You ought to be ashamed of
yourself."

"I can't stand this," said he, getting up and throwing the book from
him right across the drawing-room floor; "and, by heavens! I won't
stand it."

"Then why do you do it, sir?"

"Kitty, I believe the devil must have entered into you to drive you
mad."

"Oh, oh, oh! very well, sir. The devil in the shape of drink
and lust has entered into you. But you may understand this;
I--will--not--consent to live with you while such deeds as these are
being done." And then without waiting for another word, she stormed
out of the room.



VOLUME II

CHAPTER XLI

HOW CAN I SAVE HIM?


"I will not consent to live with you while such deeds as these are
being done." Such were the last words which Mrs. Furnival spoke as
she walked out of her own drawing-room, leaving her husband still
seated in his arm-chair.

What was he to do? Those who would hang by the letter of the law in
such matters may say that he should have rung the bell, sent for his
wife, explained to her that obedience was a necessary duty on her
part, and have finished by making her understand that she must and
would continue to live wherever he chose that she should live. There
be those who say that if a man be anything of a man, he can always
insure obedience in his own household. He has the power of the purse
and the power of the law; and if, having these, he goes to the wall,
it must be because he is a poor creature. Those who so say have
probably never tried the position.

Mr. Furnival did not wish to send for his wife, because by doing so
he would have laid bare his sore before his servants. He could not
follow her, because he knew that he should not find her alone in her
room. Nor did he wish for any further parley, because he knew that
she would speak loud, and probably sob--nay, very possibly proceed to
a fainting fit. And, moreover, he much doubted whether he would have
the power to keep her in the house if it should be her pleasure to
leave it. And then what should he do? The doing of something in such
a catastrophe was, he thought, indispensable.

Was ever a man so ill treated? Was ever jealousy so groundless? Here
was a woman, with whom he was on the point of quarrelling, who was
engaged to be married to another man, whom for months past he had
only seen as a client; and on her account he was to be told by his
wife that she would not consent to live with him! Yes; it was quite
indispensable that he should do something.

At last he went to bed, and slept upon it; not sharing the marital
couch, but occupying his own dressing-room. In the morning, however,
as he sat down to his solitary breakfast, he was as far as ever from
having made up his mind what that something should be. A message
was brought to him by an elderly female servant with a grave
face,--the elderly servant who had lived with them since their
poorer days,--saying that "Missus would not come down to breakfast
this morning." There was no love sent, no excuse as to illness, no
semblance of a peaceable reason, assumed even to deceive the servant.
It was clear to Mr. Furnival that the servant was intended to know
all about it. "And Miss Biggs says, sir, that if you please you're
not to wait for her."

"Very well, that'll do," said Mr. Furnival, who had not the slightest
intention of waiting for Miss Biggs; and then he sat himself down to
eat his bacon, and bethink himself what step he would take with this
recreant and troublesome spouse.

While he was thus employed the post came. The bulk of his letters as
a matter of course went to his chambers; but there were those among
his correspondents who wrote to him at Harley Street. To-day he
received three or four letters, but our concern will be with one
only. This one bore the Hamworth post-mark, and he opened it the
first, knowing that it came from Lady Mason. It was as follows:--


   _Private_

   THE CLEEVE, 23rd January, 18--.

   MY DEAR MR. FURNIVAL,

   I am so very sorry that I did not see you to-day! Indeed,
   your leaving without seeing me has made me unhappy, for I
   cannot but think that it shows that you are displeased.
   Under these circumstances I must write to you and explain
   to you how that came to pass which Sir Peregrine told you.
   I have not let him know that I am writing to you, and I
   think for his sake that I had better not. But he is so
   good, and has shown to me such nobleness and affection,
   that I can hardly bring myself to have any secret from
   him.

   You may conceive what was my surprise when I first
   understood that he wished to make me his wife. It is
   hardly six months since I thought that I was almost
   exceeding my station in visiting at his house. Then by
   degrees I began to be received as a friend, and at last I
   found myself treated with the warmest love. But still I
   had no thought of this, and I knew that it was because of
   my great trouble that Sir Peregrine and Mrs. Orme were so
   good to me.

   When he sent for me into his library and told me what
   he wished, I could not refuse him anything. I promised
   obedience to him as though I were a child; and in this way
   I found myself engaged to be his wife. When he told me
   that he would have it so, how could I refuse him, knowing
   as I do all that he has done for me, and thinking of it
   as I do every minute? As for loving him, of course I love
   him. Who that knows him does not love him? He is made to
   be loved. No one is so good and so noble as he. But of
   love of that sort I had never dreamed. Ah me, no!--a woman
   burdened as I am does not think of love.

   He told me that he would have it so, and I said that I
   would obey him; and he tried to prove to me that in this
   dreadful trial it would be better for me. But I would not
   wish it on that account. He has done enough for me without
   my causing him such injury. When I argued it with him,
   trying to say that others would not like it, he declared
   that Mrs. Orme would be well pleased, and, indeed, so she
   told me afterwards herself. And thus I yielded to him,
   and agreed that I would be his wife. But I was not happy,
   thinking that I should injure him; and I promised only
   because I could not deny him.

   But the day before yesterday young Mr. Orme, his grandson,
   came to me and told me that such a marriage would be very
   wrong. And I do believe him. He said that old family
   friends would look down upon his grandfather and ridicule
   him if he were to make this marriage. And I can see that
   it would be so. I would not have such injury come upon him
   for the gain of all the world to myself. So I have made
   up my mind to tell him that it cannot be, even though I
   should anger him. And I fear that it will anger him, for
   he loves to have his own way,--especially in doing good;
   and he thinks that our marriage would rescue me altogether
   from the danger of this trial.

   So I have made up my mind to tell him, but I have not
   found courage to do it yet; and I do wish, dear Mr.
   Furnival, that I might see you first. I fear that I may
   have lost your friendship by what has already been done.
   If so, what will become of me? When I heard that you had
   gone without asking for me, my heart sank within me. I
   have two friends whom I so dearly love, and I would fain
   do as both direct me, if that may be possible. And now I
   propose to go up to London to-morrow, and to be at your
   chambers about one o'clock. I have told Sir Peregrine and
   Mrs. Orme that I am going; but he is too noble-minded
   to ask questions now that he thinks I may feel myself
   constrained to tell him. So I will call in Lincoln's Inn
   at one o'clock, and I trust that if possible you will see
   me. I am greatly in want of your advice, for in truth I
   hardly know what to do.

   Pray believe me to be always your attached friend,

   MARY MASON.


There was hardly a word,--I believe not a word in that letter that
was not true. Her acceptance of Sir Peregrine had been given exactly
in the manner and for the reasons there explained; and since she had
accepted him she had been sorry for having done so, exactly in the
way now described. She was quite willing to give up her husband if it
was thought best,--but she was not willing to give up her friend. She
was not willing to give up either friend, and her great anxiety was
so to turn her conduct that she might keep them both.

Mr. Furnival was gratified as he read the letter--gratified in spite
of his present frame of mind. Of course he would see her;--and of
course, as he himself well knew, would take her again into favour.
But he must insist on her carrying out her purpose of abandoning the
marriage project. If, arising from this abandonment, there should
be any coolness on the part of Sir Peregrine, Mr. Furnival would
not regret it. Mr. Furnival did not feel quite sure whether in the
conduct of this case he was not somewhat hampered by the--energetic
zeal of Sir Peregrine's line of defence.

When he had finished the perusal of his letter and the consideration
which it required, he put it carefully into his breast coat pocket,
envelope and all. What might not happen if he left that envelope
about in that house? And then he took it out again, and observed upon
the cover the Hamworth post-mark, very clear. Post-marks now-a-days
are very clear, and everybody may know whence a letter comes. His
letters had been brought to him by the butler; but was it not
probable that that ancient female servant might have seen them first,
and have conveyed to her mistress intelligence as to this post-mark?
If so--; and Mr. Furnival almost felt himself to be guilty as he
thought of it.

While he was putting on his greatcoat in the hall, the butler
assisting him, the ancient female servant came to him again. There
was a look about her face which told of war, and declared her
to be, if not the chief lieutenant of his wife, at any rate her
colour-serjeant. Martha Biggs no doubt was chief lieutenant. "Missus
desires me to ask," said she, with her grim face and austere voice,
"whether you will be pleased to dine at home to-day?" And yet the
grim, austere woman could be affectionate and almost motherly in her
ministrations to him when things were going well, and had eaten his
salt and broken his bread for more than twenty years. All this was
very hard! "Because," continued the woman, "missus says she thinks
she shall be out this evening herself."

"Where is she going?"

"Missus didn't tell me, sir."

He almost determined to go up stairs and call upon her to tell him
what she was going to do, but he remembered that if he did it would
surely make a row in the house. Miss Biggs would put her head out
of some adjacent door and scream, "Oh laws!" and he would have to
descend his own stairs with the consciousness that all his household
were regarding him as a brute. So he gave up that project. "No," he
said, "I shall not dine at home;" and then he went his way.

"Missus is very aggravating," said the butler, as soon as the door
was closed.

"You don't know what cause she has, Spooner," said the housekeeper
very solemnly.

"Is it at his age? I believe it's all nonsense, I do;--feminine
fancies, and vagaries of the weaker sex."

"Yes, I dare say; that's what you men always say. But if he don't
look out he'll find missus'll be too much for him. What'd he do if
she were to go away from him?"

"Do?--why live twice as jolly. It would only be the first rumpus of
the thing."

I am afraid that there was some truth in what Spooner said. It is the
first rumpus of the thing, or rather the fear of that, which keeps
together many a couple.

At one o'clock there came a timid female rap at Mr. Furnival's
chamber door, and the juvenile clerk gave admittance to Lady Mason.
Crabwitz, since the affair of that mission down at Hamworth, had
so far carried a point of his, that a junior satellite was now
permanently installed; and for the future the indignity of opening
doors, and "just stepping out" into Chancery Lane, would not await
him. Lady Mason was dressed all in black,--but this was usual
with her when she left home. To-day, however, there was about her
something blacker and more sombre than usual. The veil which she wore
was thick, and completely hid her face; and her voice, as she asked
for Mr. Furnival, was low and plaintive. But, nevertheless, she had
by no means laid aside the charm of womanhood; or it might be more
just to say that the charm of womanhood had not laid aside her. There
was that in her figure, step, and gait of going which compelled men
to turn round and look at her. We all know that she had a son some
two or three and twenty years of age, and that she had not been quite
a girl when she married. But, notwithstanding this, she was yet
young; and though she made no effort--no apparent effort--to maintain
the power and influence which beauty gives, yet she did maintain it.

He came forward and took her by the hand with all his old
affectionate regard, and, muttering some words of ordinary
salutation, led her to a chair. It may be that she muttered something
also, but if so the sound was too low to reach his ears. She sat down
where he placed her, and as she put her hand on the table near her
arm, he saw that she was trembling.

"I got your letter this morning," he said, by way of beginning the
conversation.

"Yes," she said; and then, finding that it was not possible that he
should hear her through her veil, she raised it. She was very pale,
and there was a look of painful care, almost of agony, round her
mouth. He had never seen her look so pale,--but he said to himself at
the same time that he had never seen her look so beautiful.

"And to tell you the truth, Lady Mason, I was very glad to get it.
You and I had better speak openly to each other about this;--had we
not?"

"Oh, yes," she said. And then there was a struggle within her not to
tremble--a struggle that was only too evident. She was aware of this,
and took her hand off the table.

"I vexed you because I did not see you at The Cleeve the other day."

"Because I thought that you were angry with me."

"And I was so."

"Oh, Mr. Furnival!"

"Wait a moment, Lady Mason. I was angry;--or rather sorry and
vexed to hear of that which I did not approve. But your letter has
removed that feeling. I can now understand the manner in which
this engagement was forced upon you; and I understand also--do I
not?--that the engagement will not be carried out?"

She did not answer him immediately, and he began to fear that
she repented of her purpose. "Because," said he, "under no other
circumstances could I--"

"Stop, Mr. Furnival. Pray do not be severe with me." And she looked
at him with eyes which would almost have melted his wife,--and which
he was quite unable to withstand. Had it been her wish, she might
have made him promise to stand by her, even though she had persisted
in her engagement.

"No, no; I will not be severe."

"I do not wish to marry him," she went on to say. "I have resolved to
tell him so. That was what I said in my letter."

"Yes, yes."

"I do not wish to marry him. I would not bring his gray hairs with
sorrow to the grave--no, not to save myself from--" And then, as she
thought of that from which she desired to save herself, she trembled
again, and was silent.

"It would create in men's minds such a strong impression against you,
were you to marry him at this moment!"

"It is of him I am thinking;--of him and Lucius. Mr. Furnival, they
might do their worst with me, if it were not for that thought. My
boy!" And then she rose from her chair, and stood upright before him,
as though she were going to do or say some terrible thing. He still
kept his chair, for he was startled, and hardly knew what he would be
about. That last exclamation had come from her almost with a shriek,
and now her bosom was heaving as though her heart would burst with
the violence of her sobbing. "I will go," she said. "I had better
go." And she hurried away towards the door.

"No, no; do not go yet." And he rose to stop her, but she was quite
passive. "I do not know why you should be so much moved now." But
he did know. He did understand the very essence and core of her
feelings;--as probably may the reader also. But it was impossible
that he should allow her to leave him in her present state.

She sat down again, and leaning both her arms upon the table, hid
her face within her hands. He was now standing, and for the moment
did not speak to her. Indeed he could not bring himself to break the
silence, for he saw her tears, and could still hear the violence of
her sobs. And then she was the first to speak. "If it were not for
him," she said, raising her head, "I could bear it all. What will he
do? what will he do?"

"You mean," said Mr. Furnival, speaking very slowly, "if
the--verdict--should go against us."

"It will go against us," she said. "Will it not?--tell me the truth.
You are so clever, you must know. Tell me how it will go. Is there
anything I can do to save him?" And she took hold of his arm with
both her hands, and looked up eagerly--oh, with such terrible
eagerness!--into his face.

Would it not have been natural now that he should have asked her to
tell him the truth? And yet he did not dare to ask her. He thought
that he knew it. He felt sure,--almost sure, that he could look into
her very heart, and read there the whole of her secret. But still
there was a doubt,--enough of doubt to make him wish to ask the
question. Nevertheless he did not ask it.

"Mr. Furnival," she said; and as she spoke there was a hardness came
over the soft lines of her feminine face; a look of courage which
amounted almost to ferocity, a look which at the moment recalled
to his mind, as though it were but yesterday, the attitude and
countenance she had borne as she stood in the witness-box at that
other trial, now so many years since,--that attitude and countenance
which had impressed the whole court with so high an idea of her
courage. "Mr. Furnival, weak as I am, I could bear to die here on the
spot,--now--if I could only save him from this agony. It is not for
myself I suffer." And then the terrible idea occurred to him that she
might attempt to compass her escape by death. But he did not know
her. That would have been no escape for her son.

"And you too think that I must not marry him?" she said, putting up
her hands to her brows as though to collect her thoughts.

"No; certainly not, Lady Mason."

"No, no. It would be wrong. But, Mr. Furnival, I am so driven that I
know not how I should act. What if I should lose my mind?" And as she
looked at him there was that about her eyes which did tell him that
such an ending might be possible.

"Do not speak in such a way," he said.

"No, I will not. I know that it is wrong. I will go down there, and
tell him that it must not--must not be so. But I may stay at The
Cleeve;--may I not?"

"Oh, certainly--if he wishes it,--after your understanding with him."

"Ah; he may turn me out, may he not? And they are so kind to me,
so gentle and so good. And Lucius is so stern. But I will go back.
Sternness will perhaps be better for me now than love and kindness."

In spite of everything, in the teeth of his almost certain conviction
of her guilt, he would now, even now, have asked her to come to his
own house, and have begged her to remain there till the trial was
over,--if only he had had the power to do so. What would it be to him
what the world might say, if she should be proved guilty? Why should
not he have been mistaken as well as others? And he had an idea
that if he could get her into his own hands he might still bring
her through triumphantly,--with assistance from Solomon Aram and
Chaffanbrass. He was strongly convinced of her guilt, but by no means
strongly convinced that her guilt could be proved. But then he had no
house at the present moment that he could call his own. His Kitty,
the Kitty of whom he still sometimes thought with affection,--that
Kitty whose soft motherly heart would have melted at such a story
of a woman's sorrows, if only it had been rightly approached,--that
Kitty was now vehemently hostile, hostile both to him and to this
very woman for whom he would have asked her care.

"May God help me!" said the poor woman. "I do not know where else to
turn for aid. Well; I may go now then. And, indeed, why should I take
up your time further?"

But before she did go, Mr. Furnival gave her much counsel. He did not
ask as to her guilt, but he did give her that advice which he would
have thought most expedient had her guilt been declared and owned. He
told her that very much would depend on her maintaining her present
position and standing; that she was so to carry herself as not to
let people think that she was doubtful about the trial; and that
above all things she was to maintain a composed and steadfast manner
before her son. As to the Ormes, he bade her not to think of leaving
The Cleeve, unless she found that her remaining there would be
disagreeable to Sir Peregrine after her explanation with him. That
she was to decline the marriage engagement, he was very positive; on
that subject there was to be no doubt.

And then she went; and as she passed down the dark passage into the
new square by the old gate of the Chancellor's court, she met a stout
lady. The stout lady eyed her savagely, but was not quite sure as to
her identity. Lady Mason in her trouble passed the stout lady without
taking any notice of her.



CHAPTER XLII

JOHN KENNEBY GOES TO HAMWORTH


When John Kenneby dined with his sister and brother-in-law on
Christmas-day he agreed, at the joint advice of the whole party there
assembled, that he would go down and see Mr. Dockwrath at Hamworth,
in accordance with the invitation received from that gentleman;--his
enemy, Dockwrath, who had carried off Miriam Usbech, for whom John
Kenneby still sighed,--in a gentle easy manner indeed,--but still
sighed as though it were an affair but of yesterday. But though he
had so agreed, and though he had never stirred from that resolve, he
by no means did it immediately. He was a slow man, whose life had
offered him but little excitement; and the little which came to him
was husbanded well and made to go a long way. He thought about this
journey for nearly a month before he took it, often going to his
sister and discussing it with her, and once or twice seeing the great
Moulder himself. At last he fixed a day and did go down to Hamworth.

He had, moreover, been invited to the offices of Messrs. Round and
Crook, and that visit also was as yet unpaid. A clerk from the house
in Bedford Row had found him out at Hubbles and Grease's, and had
discovered that he would be forthcoming as a witness. On the special
subject of his evidence not much had then passed, the clerk having
had no discretion given him to sift the matter. But Kenneby had
promised to go to Bedford Row, merely stipulating for a day at some
little distance of time. That day was now near at hand; but he was
to see Dockwrath first, and hence it occurred that he now made his
journey to Hamworth.

But another member of that Christmas party at Great St. Helen's had
not been so slow in carrying out his little project. Mr. Kantwise had
at once made up his mind that it would be as well that he should see
Dockwrath. It would not suit him to incur the expense of a journey
to Hamworth, even with the additional view of extracting payment for
that set of metallic furniture; but he wrote to the attorney telling
him that he should be in London in the way of trade on such and such
a day, and that he had tidings of importance to give with reference
to the great Orley Farm case. Dockwrath did see him, and the result
was that Mr. Kantwise got his money, fourteen eleven;--at least he
got fourteen seven six, and had a very hard fight for the three odd
half-crowns,--and Dockwrath learned that John Kenneby, if duly used,
would give evidence on his side of the question.

And then Kenneby did go down to Hamworth. He had not seen Miriam
Usbech since the days of her marriage. He had remained hanging
about the neighbourhood long enough to feast his eyes with the
agony of looking at the bride, and then he had torn himself away.
Circumstances since that had carried him one way and Miriam another,
and they had never met. Time had changed him very little, and what
change time had made was perhaps for the better. He hesitated
less when he spoke, he was less straggling and undecided in his
appearance, and had about him more of manhood than in former days.
But poor Miriam had certainly not been altered for the better by
years and circumstances as far as outward appearance went.

Kenneby as he walked up from the station to the house,--and from old
remembrances he knew well where the house stood,--gave up his mind
entirely to the thought of seeing Miriam, and in his memories of old
love passages almost forgot the actual business which now brought him
to the place. To him it seemed as though he was going to meet the
same Miriam he had left,--the Miriam to whom in former days he had
hardly ventured to speak of love, and to whom he must not now venture
so to speak at all. He almost blushed as he remembered that he would
have to take her hand.

There are men of this sort, men slow in their thoughts but very keen
in their memories; men who will look for the glance of a certain
bright eye from a window-pane, though years have rolled on since
last they saw it,--since last they passed that window. Such men will
bethink themselves, after an interval of weeks, how they might have
brought up wit to their use and improved an occasion which chance
had given them. But when the bright eyes do glance, such men pass
by abashed; and when the occasion offers, their wit is never at
hand. Nevertheless they are not the least happy of mankind, these
never-readies; they do not pick up sudden prizes, but they hold
fast by such good things as the ordinary run of life bestows upon
them. There was a lady even now, a friend of Mrs. Moulder, ready to
bestow herself and her fortune on John Kenneby,--a larger fortune
than Miriam had possessed, and one which would not now probably be
neutralised by so large a family as poor Miriam had bestowed upon her
husband.

How would Miriam meet him? It was of this he thought, as he
approached the door. Of course he must call her Mrs. Dockwrath,
though the other name was so often on his tongue. He had made up
his mind, for the last week past, that he would call at the private
door of the house, passing by the door of the office. Otherwise
the chances were that he would not see Miriam at all. His enemy,
Dockwrath, would be sure to keep him from her presence. Dockwrath had
ever been inordinately jealous. But when he came to the office-door
he hardly had the courage to pass on to that of the private dwelling.
His heart beat too quickly, and the idea of seeing Miriam was almost
too much for him. But, nevertheless, he did carry out his plan, and
did knock at the door of the house.

And it was opened by Miriam herself. He knew her instantly in spite
of all the change. He knew her, but the whole course of his feelings
were altered at the moment, and his blood was made to run the other
way. And she knew him too. "La, John," she said, "who'd have thought
of seeing you?" And she shifted the baby whom she carried from one
arm to the other as she gave him her hand in token of welcome.

"It is a long time since we met," he said. He felt hardly any
temptation now to call her Miriam. Indeed it would have seemed
altogether in opposition to the common order of things to do so. She
was no longer Miriam, but the maternal Dockwrath;--the mother of that
long string of dirty children whom he saw gathered in the passage
behind her. He had known as a fact that she had all the children, but
the fact had not made the proper impression on his mind till he had
seen them.

"A long time! 'Deed then it is. Why we've hardly seen each other
since you used to be a courting of me; have we? But, my! John; why
haven't you got a wife for yourself these many years? But come in.
I'm glad to see every bit of you, so I am; though I've hardly a place
to put you to sit down in." And then she opened a door and took him
into a little sitting-room on the left-hand side of the passage.

His feeling of intense enmity to Dockwrath was beginning to wear
away, and one of modified friendship for the whole family was
supervening. It was much better that it should be so. He could not
understand before how Dockwrath had had the heart to write to him and
call him John, but now he did understand it. He felt that he could
himself be friendly with Dockwrath now, and forgive him all the
injury; he felt also that it would not go so much against the grain
with him to marry that friend as to whom his sister would so often
solicit him.

"I think you may venture to sit down upon them," said Miriam, "though
I can't say that I have ever tried myself." This speech referred to
the chairs with which her room was supplied, and which Kenneby seemed
to regard with suspicion.

"They are very nice I'm sure," said he, "but I don't think I ever saw
any like them."

"Nor nobody else either. But don't you tell him so," and she nodded
with her head to the side of the house on which the office stood. "I
had as nice a set of mahoganys as ever a woman could want, and bought
with my own money too, John; but he's took them away to furnish some
of his lodgings opposite, and put them things here in their place.
Don't, Sam; you'll have 'em all twisted about nohows in no time if
you go to use 'em in that way."

"I wants to see the pictur' on the table," said Sam.

"Drat the picture," said Mrs. Dockwrath. "It was hard, wasn't it,
John, to see my own mahoganys, as I had rubbed with my own hands till
they was ever so bright, and as was bought with my own money too,
took away and them things brought here? Sam, if you twist that round
any more, I'll box your ears. One can't hear oneself speak with the
noise."

"They don't seem to be very useful," said Kenneby.

"Useful! They're got up for cheatery;--that's what they're got up
for. And that Dockwrath should be took in with 'em--he that's so
sharp at everything,--that's what surprises me. But laws, John, it
isn't the sharp ones that gets the best off. You was never sharp, but
you're as smirk and smooth as though you came out of a band-box. I am
glad to see you, John, so I am." And she put her apron up to her eyes
and wiped away a tear.

"Is Mr. Dockwrath at home?" said John.

"Sam, run round and see if your father's in the office. He'll be home
to dinner, I know. Molly, do be quiet with your sister. I never see
such a girl as you are for bothering. You didn't come down about
business, did you, John?" And then Kenneby explained to her that he
had been summoned by Dockwrath as to the matter of this Orley Farm
trial. While he was doing so, Sam returned to say that his father had
stepped out, but would be back in half an hour, and Mrs. Dockwrath,
finding it impossible to make use of her company sitting-room, took
her old lover into the family apartment which they all ordinarily
occupied.

"You can sit down there at any rate without it all crunching under
you, up to nothing." And she emptied for him as she spoke the seat
of an old well-worn horse-hair bottomed arm-chair. "As to them tin
things I wouldn't trust myself on one of them; and so I told him,
angry as it made him. But now about poor Lady Mason--. Sam and Molly,
you go into the garden, there's good children. They is so ready with
their ears, John; and he contrives to get everything out of 'em. Now
do tell me about this."

Kenneby could not help thinking that the love match between Miriam
and her husband had not turned out in all respects well, and I fear
that he derived from the thought a certain feeling of consolation.
"He" was spoken about in a manner that did not betoken unfailing love
and perfect confidence. Perhaps Miriam was at this moment thinking
that she might have done better with her youth and her money! She
was thinking of nothing of the kind. Her mind was one that dwelt on
the present, not on the past. She was unhappy about her furniture,
unhappy about the frocks of those four younger children, unhappy that
the loaves of bread went faster and faster every day, very unhappy
now at the savageness with which her husband prosecuted his anger
against Lady Mason. But it did not occur to her to be unhappy because
she had not become Mrs. Kenneby.

Mrs. Dockwrath had more to tell in the matter than had Kenneby, and
when the elder of the children who were at home had been disposed of
she was not slow to tell it. "Isn't it dreadful, John, to think that
they should come against her now, and the will all settled as it was
twenty year ago? But you won't say anything against her; will you
now, John? She was always a good friend to you; wasn't she? Though
it wasn't much use; was it?" It was thus that she referred to the
business before them, and to the love passages of her early youth at
the same time.

"It's a very dreadful affair," said Kenneby, very solemnly; "and the
more I think of it the more dreadful it becomes."

"But you won't say anything against her, will you? You won't go over
to his side; eh, John?"

"I don't know much about sides," said he.

"He'll get himself into trouble with it; I know he will. I do so wish
you'd tell him, for he can't hurt you if you stand up to him. If I
speak,--Lord bless you, I don't dare to call my soul my own for a
week afterwards."

"Is he so very--"

"Oh, dreadful, John. He's bid me never speak a word to her. But for
all that I used till she went away down to The Cleeve yonder. And
what do you think they say now? And I do believe it too. They say
that Sir Peregrine is going to make her his lady. If he does that it
stands to reason that Dockwrath and Joseph Mason will get the worst
of it. I'm sure I hope they will; only he'll be twice as hard if he
don't make money by it in some way."

"Will he, now?"

"Indeed he will. You never knew anything like him for hardness if
things go wrong awhile. I know he's got lots of money, because he's
always buying up bits of houses; besides, what has he done with mine?
but yet sometimes you'd hardly think he'd let me have bread enough
for the children--and as for clothes--!" Poor Miriam! It seemed that
her husband shared with her but few of the spoils or triumphs of his
profession.

Tidings now came in from the office that Dockwrath was there. "You'll
come round and eat a bit of dinner with us?" said she, hesitatingly.
He felt that she hesitated, and hesitated himself in his reply. "He
must say something in the way of asking you, you know, and then say
you'll come. His manner's nothing to you, you know. Do now. It does
me good to look at you, John; it does indeed." And then, without
making any promise, he left her and went round to the office.

Kenneby had made up his mind, talking over the matter with Moulder
and his sister, that he would be very reserved in any communication
which he might make to Dockwrath as to his possible evidence at the
coming trial; but nevertheless when Dockwrath had got him into his
office, the attorney made him give a succinct account of everything
he knew, taking down his deposition in a regular manner. "And now if
you'll just sign that," Dockwrath said to him when he had done.

"I don't know about signing," said Kenneby. "A man should never write
his own name unless he knows why."

"You must sign your own deposition;" and the attorney frowned at him
and looked savage. "What would a judge say to you in court if you had
made such a statement as this, affecting the character of a woman
like Lady Mason, and then had refused to sign it? You'd never be able
to hold up your head again."

"Wouldn't I?" said Kenneby gloomily; and he did sign it. This was a
great triumph to Dockwrath. Mat Round had succeeded in getting the
deposition of Bridget Bolster, but he had got that of John Kenneby.

"And now," said Dockwrath, "I'll tell you what we'll do;--we'll go to
the Blue Posts--you remember the Blue Posts?--and I'll stand a beef
steak and a glass of brandy and water. I suppose you'll go back to
London by the 3 P.M. train. We shall have lots of time."

Kenneby said that he should go back by the 3 P.M. train, but he
declined, with considerable hesitation, the beefsteak and brandy and
water. After what had passed between him and Miriam he could not go
to the Blue Posts with her husband.

"Nonsense, man," said Dockwrath. "You must dine somewhere."

But Kenneby said that he should dine in London. He always preferred
dining late. Besides, it was a long time since he had been at
Hamworth, and he was desirous of taking a walk that he might renew
his associations.

"Associations!" said Dockwrath with a sneer. According to his ideas
a man could have no pleasant associations with a place unless he had
made money there or been in some way successful. Now John Kenneby
had enjoyed no success at Hamworth. "Well then, if you prefer
associations to the Blue Posts I'll say good-bye to you. I don't
understand it myself. We shall see each other at the trial you know."
Kenneby with a sigh said that he supposed they should.

"Are you going into the house," said Dockwrath, "to see her again?"
and he indicated with his head the side on which his wife was, as she
before had indicated his side.

"Well, yes; I think I'll say good-bye."

"Don't be talking to her about this affair. She understands nothing
about it, and everything goes up to that woman at Orley Farm." And so
they parted.

"And he wanted you to go to the Blue Posts, did he?" said Miriam when
she heard of the proposition. "It's like him. If there is to be any
money spent it's anywhere but at home."

"But I ain't going," said John.

"He'll go before the day's out, though he mayn't get his dinner
there. And he'll be ever so free when he's there. He'll stand brandy
and water to half Hamworth when he thinks he can get anything by
it; but if you'll believe me, John, though I've all the fag of the
house on me, and all them children, I can't get a pint of beer--not
regular--betwixt breakfast and bedtime." Poor Miriam! Why had she not
taken advice when she was younger? John Kenneby would have given her
what beer was good for her, quite regularly.

Then he went out and took his walk, sauntering away to the gate of
Orley Farm, and looking up the avenue. He ventured up some way, and
there at a distance before him he saw Lucius Mason walking up and
down, from the house towards the road and back again, swinging a
heavy stick in his hand, with his hat pressed down over his brows.
Kenneby had no desire to speak to him; so he returned to the gate,
and thence went back to the station, escaping the town by a side
lane; and in this way he got back to London without holding further
communication with the people of Hamworth.



CHAPTER XLIII

JOHN KENNEBY'S COURTSHIP


"She's as sweet a temper, John, as ever stirred a lump of sugar in
her tea," said Mrs. Moulder to her brother, as they sat together over
the fire in Great St. Helen's on that same evening,--after his return
from Hamworth. "That she is,--and so Smiley always found her. 'She's
always the same,' Smiley said to me many a day. And what can a man
want more than that?"

"That's quite true," said John.

"And then as to her habits--I never knew her take a drop too much
since first I set eyes on her, and that's nigh twenty years ago. She
likes things comfortable;--and why shouldn't she, with two hundred a
year of her own coming out of the Kingsland Road brick-fields? As for
dress, her things is beautiful, and she is the woman that takes care
of 'em! Why, I remember an Irish tabinet as Smiley gave her when
first that venture in the brick-fields came up money; if that tabinet
is as much as turned yet, why, I'll eat it. And then, the best of
it is, she'll have you to-morrow. Indeed she will; or to-night, if
you'll ask her. Goodness gracious! if there ain't Moulder!" And the
excellent wife jumped up from her seat, poked the fire, emptied the
most comfortable arm-chair, and hurried out to the landing at the top
of the stairs. Presently the noise of a loudly wheezing pair of lungs
was heard, and the commercial traveller, enveloped from head to foot
in coats and comforters, made his appearance. He had just returned
from a journey, and having deposited his parcels and packages at
the house of business of Hubbles and Grease in Houndsditch, had now
returned to the bosom of his family. It was a way he had, not to let
his wife know exactly the period of his return. Whether he thought
that by so doing he might keep her always on the alert and ready for
marital inspection, or whether he disliked to tie himself down by the
obligation of a fixed time for his return, Mrs. Moulder had never
made herself quite sure. But on neither view of the subject did she
admire this practice of her lord. She had on many occasions pointed
out to him how much more snug she could make him if he would only let
her know when he was coming. But he had never taken the hint, and in
these latter days she had ceased to give it.

"Why, I'm uncommon cold," he said in answer to his wife's inquiries
after his welfare. "And so would you be too, if you'd come up from
Leeds since you'd had your dinner. What, John, are you there? The two
of you are making yourself snug enough, I suppose, with something
hot?"

"Not a drop he's had yet since he's been in the house," said Mrs.
Moulder. "And he's hardly as much as darkened the door since you
left it." And Mrs. Moulder added, with some little hesitation in her
voice, "Mrs. Smiley is coming in to-night, Moulder."

"The d---- she is! There's always something of that kind when I gets
home tired out, and wants to be comfortable. I mean to have my supper
to myself, as I likes it, if all the Mother Smileys in London choose
to come the way. What on earth is she coming here for this time of
night?"

"Why, Moulder, you know."

"No; I don't know. I only know this, that when a man's used up with
business he don't want to have any of that nonsense under his nose."

"If you mean me--" began John Kenneby.

"I don't mean you; of course not; and I don't mean anybody. Here,
take my coats, will you? and let me have a pair of slippers. If Mrs.
Smiley thinks that I'm going to change my pants, or put myself about
for her--"

"Laws, Moulder, she don't expect that."

"She won't get it any way. Here's John dressed up as if he was
going to a box in the the-atre. And you--why should you be going to
expense, and knocking out things that costs money, because Mother
Smiley's coming? I'll Smiley her."

"Now, Moulder--" But Mrs. Moulder knew that it was of no use speaking
to him at the present moment. Her task should be this,--to feed and
cosset him if possible into good humour before her guest should
arrive. Her praises of Mrs. Smiley had been very fairly true. But
nevertheless she was a lady who had a mind and voice of her own,
as any lady has a right to possess who draws in her own right two
hundred a year out of a brick-field in the Kingsland Road. Such a one
knows that she is above being snubbed, and Mrs. Smiley knew this of
herself as well as any lady; and if Moulder, in his wrath, should
call her Mother Smiley, or give her to understand that he regarded
her as an old woman, that lady would probably walk herself off in a
great dudgeon,--herself and her share in the brick-field. To tell the
truth, Mrs. Smiley required that considerable deference should be
paid to her.

Mrs. Moulder knew well what was her husband's present ailment. He had
dined as early as one, and on his journey up from Leeds to London had
refreshed himself with drink only. That last glass of brandy which
he had taken at the Peterborough station had made him cross. If she
could get him to swallow some hot food before Mrs. Smiley came, all
might yet be well.

"And what's it to be, M.?" she said in her most insinuating
voice--"there's a lovely chop down stairs, and there's nothing so
quick as that."

"Chop!" he said, and it was all he did say at the moment.

"There's a 'am in beautiful cut," she went on, showing by the urgency
of her voice how anxious she was on the subject.

For the moment he did not answer her at all, but sat facing the fire,
and running his fat fingers through his uncombed hair. "Mrs. Smiley!"
he said; "I remember when she was kitchen-maid at old Pott's."

"She ain't nobody's kitchen-maid now," said Mrs. Moulder, almost
prepared to be angry in the defence of her friend.

"And I never could make out when it was that Smiley married
her,--that is, if he ever did."

"Now, Moulder, that's shocking of you. Of course he married her. She
and I is nearly an age as possible, though I think she is a year over
me. She says not, and it ain't nothing to me. But I remember the
wedding as if it was yesterday. You and I had never set eyes on each
other then, M." This last she added in a plaintive tone, hoping to
soften him.

"Are you going to keep me here all night without anything?" he then
said. "Let me have some whisky,--hot, with;--and don't stand there
looking at nothing."

"But you'll take some solids with it, Moulder? Why it stands to
reason you'll be famished."

"Do as you're bid, will you, and give me the whisky. Are you going to
tell me when I'm to eat and when I'm to drink, like a child?" This he
said in that tone of voice which made Mrs. Moulder know that he meant
to be obeyed; and though she was sure that he would make himself
drunk, she was compelled to minister to his desires. She got the
whisky and hot water, the lemon and sugar, and set the things beside
him; and then she retired to the sofa. John Kenneby the while sat
perfectly silent looking on. Perhaps he was considering whether he
would be able to emulate the domestic management of Dockwrath or of
Moulder when he should have taken to himself Mrs. Smiley and the
Kingsland brick-field.

"If you've a mind to help yourself, John, I suppose you'll do it,"
said Moulder.

"None for me just at present, thank'ee," said Kenneby.

"I suppose you wouldn't swallow nothing less than wine in them togs?"
said the other, raising his glass to his lips. "Well, here's better
luck, and I'm blessed if it's not wanting. I'm pretty well tired of
this go, and so I mean to let 'em know pretty plainly."

All this was understood by Mrs. Moulder, who knew that it only
signified that her husband was half tipsy, and that in all
probability he would be whole tipsy before long. There was no
help for it. Were she to remonstrate with him in his present mood,
he would very probably fling the bottle at her head. Indeed,
remonstrances were never of avail with him. So she sat herself down,
thinking how she would run down when she heard Mrs. Smiley's step,
and beg that lady to postpone her visit. Indeed it would be well to
send John to convey her home again.

Moulder swallowed his glass of hot toddy fast, and then mixed
another. His eyes were very bloodshot, and he sat staring at the
fire. His hands were thrust into his pockets between the periods of
his drinking, and he no longer spoke to any one. "I'm ---- if I stand
it," he growled forth, addressing himself. "I've stood it a ---- deal
too long." And then he finished the second glass. There was a sort
of understanding on the part of his wife that such interjections
as these referred to Hubbles and Grease, and indicated a painfully
advanced state of drink. There was one hope; the double heat, that of
the fire and of the whisky, might make him sleep; and if so, he would
be safe for two or three hours.

"I'm blessed if I do, and that's all," said Moulder, grasping the
whisky-bottle for the third time. His wife sat behind him very
anxious, but not daring to interfere. "It's going over the table,
M.," she then said.

"D---- the table!" he answered; and then his head fell forward on his
breast, and he was fast asleep with the bottle in his hand.

"Put your hand to it, John," said Mrs. Moulder in a whisper. But John
hesitated. The lion might rouse himself if his prey were touched.

"He'll let it go easy if you put your hand to it. He's safe enough
now. There. If we could only get him back from the fire a little, or
his face'll be burnt off of him."

"But you wouldn't move him?"

"Well, yes; we'll try. I've done it before, and he's never stirred.
Come here, just behind. The casters is good, I know. Laws! ain't he
heavy?" And then they slowly dragged him back. He grunted out some
half-pronounced threat as they moved him; but he did not stir, and
his wife knew that she was again mistress of the room for the next
two hours. It was true that he snored horribly, but then she was used
to that.

"You won't let her come up, will you?" said John.

"Why not? She knows what men is as well I do. Smiley wasn't that way
often, I believe; but he was awful when he was. He wouldn't sleep it
off, quite innocent, like that; but would break everything about the
place, and then cry like a child after it. Now Moulder's got none of
that about him. The worst of it is, how am I ever to get him into bed
when he wakes?"

While the anticipation of this great trouble was still on her mind,
the ring at the bell was heard, and John Kenneby went down to the
outer door that he might pay to Mrs. Smiley the attention of waiting
upon her up stairs. And up stairs she came, bristling with silk--the
identical Irish tabinet, perhaps, which had never been turned--and
conscious of the business which had brought her.

"What--Moulder's asleep is he?" she said as she entered the room. "I
suppose that's as good as a pair of gloves, any way."

"He ain't just very well," said Mrs. Moulder, winking at her friend;
"he's tired after a long journey."

"Oh-h! ah-h!" said Mrs. Smiley, looking down upon the sleeping
beauty, and understanding everything at a glance. "It's uncommon bad
for him, you know, because he's so given to flesh."

"It's as much fatigue as anything," said the wife.

"Yes, I dare say;" and Mrs. Smiley shook her head. "If he fatigues
himself so much as that often he'll soon be off the hooks."

Much was undoubtedly to be borne from two hundred a year in a
brick-field, especially when that two hundred a year was coming so
very near home; but there is an amount of impertinent familiarity
which must be put down even in two hundred a year. "I've known worse
cases than him, my dear; and that ended worse."

"Oh, I dare say. But you're mistook if you mean Smiley. It was
'sepilus as took him off, as everybody knows."

"Well, my dear, I'm sure I'm not going to say anything against that.
And now, John, do help her off with her bonnet and shawl, while I get
the tea-things."

Mrs. Smiley was a firm set, healthy-looking woman of--about forty.
She had large, dark, glassy eyes, which were bright without
sparkling. Her cheeks were very red, having a fixed settled colour
that never altered with circumstances. Her black wiry hair was
ended in short crisp curls, which sat close to her head. It almost
collected like a wig, but the hair was in truth her own. Her mouth
was small, and her lips thin, and they gave to her face a look of
sharpness that was not quite agreeable. Nevertheless she was not a
bad-looking woman, and with such advantages as two hundred a year and
the wardrobe which Mrs. Moulder had described, was no doubt entitled
to look for a second husband.

"Well, Mr. Kenneby, and how do you find yourself this cold weather?
Dear, how he do snore; don't he?"

"Yes," said Kenneby, very thoughtfully, "he does rather." He was
thinking of Miriam Usbech as she was twenty years ago, and of Mrs.
Smiley as she appeared at present. Not that he felt inclined to
grumble at the lot prepared for him, but that he would like to take a
few more years to think about it.

And then they sat down to tea. The lovely chops which Moulder had
despised, and the ham in beautiful cut which had failed to tempt
him, now met with due appreciation. Mrs. Smiley, though she had
never been known to take a drop too much, did like to have things
comfortable; and on this occasion she made an excellent meal,
with a large pocket-handkerchief of Moulder's--brought in for the
occasion--stretched across the broad expanse of the Irish tabinet.
"We sha'n't wake him, shall we?" said she, as she took her last bit
of muffin.

"Not till he wakes natural, of hisself," said Mrs. Moulder. "When
he's worked it off, he'll rouse himself, and I shall have to get him
to bed."

"He'll be a bit patchy then, won't he?"

"Well, just for a while of course he will," said Mrs. Moulder. "But
there's worse than him. To-morrow morning, maybe, he'll be just as
sweet as sweet. It don't hang about him, sullen like. That's what I
hate, when it hangs about 'em." Then the tea-things were taken away,
Mrs. Smiley in her familiarity assisting in the removal, and--in
spite of the example now before them--some more sugar and some more
spirits, and some more hot water were put upon the table. "Well,
I don't mind just the least taste in life, Mrs. Moulder, as we're
quite between friends; and I'm sure you'll want it to-night to keep
yourself up." Mrs. Moulder would have answered these last words with
some severity had she not felt that good humour now might be of great
value to her brother.

"Well, John, and what is it you've got to say to her?" said Mrs.
Moulder, as she put down her empty glass. Between friends who
understood each other so well, and at their time of life, what was
the use of ceremony?

"La, Mrs. Moulder, what should he have got to say? Nothing I'm sure
as I'd think of listening to."

"You try her, John."

"Not but what I've the greatest respect in life for Mr. Kenneby,
and always did have. If you must have anything to do with men, I've
always said, recommend me to them as is quiet and steady, and hasn't
got too much of the gab;--a quiet man is the man for me any day."

"Well, John?" said Mrs. Moulder.

"Now, Mrs. Moulder, can't you keep yourself to yourself, and we shall
do very well. Laws, how he do snore! When his head goes bobbing that
way I do so fear he'll have a fit."

"No he won't; he's coming to, all right. Well, John?"

"I'm sure I shall be very happy," said John, "if she likes it. She
says that she respects me, and I'm sure I've a great respect for her.
I always had--even when Mr. Smiley was alive."

"It's very good of you to say so," said she; not speaking however as
though she were quite satisfied. What was the use of his remembering
Smiley just at present?

"Enough's enough between friends any day," said Mrs. Moulder. "So
give her your hand, John."

"I think it'll be right to say one thing first," said Kenneby, with a
solemn and deliberate tone.

"And what's that?" said Mrs. Smiley, eagerly.

"In such a matter as this," continued Kenneby, "where the hearts are
concerned--"

"You didn't say anything about hearts yet," said Mrs. Smiley, with
some measure of approbation in her voice.

"Didn't I?" said Kenneby. "Then it was an omission on my part, and I
beg leave to apologise. But what I was going to say is this: when the
hearts are concerned, everything should be honest and above-board."

"Oh of course," said Mrs. Moulder; "and I'm sure she don't suspect
nothing else."

"You'd better let him go on," said Mrs. Smiley.

"My heart has not been free from woman's lovely image."

"And isn't free now, is it, John?" said Mrs. Moulder.

"I've had my object, and though she's been another's, still I've kept
her image on my heart."

"But it ain't there any longer, John? He's speaking of twenty years
ago, Mrs. Smiley."

"It's quite beautiful to hear him," said Mrs. Smiley. "Go on, Mr.
Kenneby."

"The years are gone by as though they was nothing, and still I've had
her image on my heart. I've seen her to-day."

"Her gentleman's still alive, ain't he?" asked Mrs. Smiley.

"And likely to live," said Mrs. Moulder.

"I've seen her to-day," Kenneby continued; "and now the Adriatic's
free to wed another."

Neither of the ladies present exactly understood the force of the
quotation; but as it contained an appropriate reference to marriage,
and apparently to a second marriage, it was taken by both of them in
good part. He was considered to have made his offer, and Mrs. Smiley
thereupon formally accepted him. "He's spoke quite handsome, I'm
sure," said Mrs. Smiley to his sister; "and I don't know that any
woman has a right to expect more. As to the brick-fields--." And then
there was a slight reference to business, with which it will not be
necessary that the readers of this story should embarrass themselves.

Soon after that Mr. Kenneby saw Mrs. Smiley home in a cab, and poor
Mrs. Moulder sat by her lord till he roused himself from his sleep.
Let us hope that her troubles with him were as little vexatious as
possible; and console ourselves with the reflection that at twelve
o'clock the next morning, after the second bottle of soda and brandy,
he was "as sweet as sweet."



CHAPTER XLIV

SHOWING HOW LADY MASON COULD BE VERY NOBLE


Lady Mason returned to The Cleeve after her visit to Mr. Furnival's
chambers, and nobody asked her why she had been to London or whom she
had seen. Nothing could be more gracious than the deference which was
shown to her, and the perfect freedom of action which was accorded
to her. On that very day Lady Staveley had called at The Cleeve,
explaining to Sir Peregrine and Mrs. Orme that her visit was made
expressly to Lady Mason. "I should have called at Orley Farm, of
course," said Lady Staveley, "only that I hear that Lady Mason is
likely to prolong her visit with you. I must trust to you, Mrs. Orme,
to make all that understood." Sir Peregrine took upon himself to say
that it all should be understood, and then drawing Lady Staveley
aside, told her of his own intended marriage. "I cannot but be
aware," he said, "that I have no business to trouble you with an
affair that is so exclusively our own; but I have a wish, which
perhaps you may understand, that there should be no secret about it.
I think it better, for her sake, that it should be known. If the
connection can be of any service to her, she should reap that benefit
now, when some people are treating her name with a barbarity which
I believe to be almost unparalleled in this country." In answer to
this Lady Staveley was of course obliged to congratulate him, and she
did so with the best grace in her power; but it was not easy to say
much that was cordial, and as she drove back with Mrs. Arbuthnot to
Noningsby the words which were said between them as to Lady Mason
were not so kindly meant towards that lady as their remarks on their
journey to The Cleeve.

Lady Staveley had hoped,--though she had hardly expressed her hope
even to herself, and certainly had not spoken of it to any one
else,--that she might have been able to say a word or two to Mrs.
Orme about young Peregrine, a word or two that would have shown her
own good feeling towards the young man,--her own regard, and almost
affection for him, even though this might have been done without
any mention of Madeline's name. She might have learned in this way
whether young Orme had made known at home what had been his hopes and
what his disappointments, and might have formed some opinion whether
or no he would renew his suit. She would not have been the first to
mention her daughter's name; but if Mrs. Orme should speak of it,
then the subject would be free for her, and she could let it be known
that the heir of The Cleeve should at any rate have her sanction and
good will. What happiness could be so great for her as that of having
a daughter so settled, within eight miles of her? And then it was not
only that a marriage between her daughter and Peregrine Orme would be
an event so fortunate, but also that those feelings with reference
to Felix Graham were so unfortunate! That young heart, she thought,
could not as yet be heavy laden, and it might be possible that the
whole affair should be made to run in the proper course,--if only
it could be done at once. But now, that tale which Sir Peregrine
had told her respecting himself and Lady Mason had made it quite
impossible that anything should be said on the other subject. And
then again, if it was decreed that the Noningsby family and the
family of The Cleeve should be connected, would not such a marriage
as this between the baronet and Lady Mason be very injurious? So that
Lady Staveley was not quite happy as she returned to her own house.

Lady Staveley's message, however, for Lady Mason was given with all
its full force. Sir Peregrine had felt grateful for what had been
done, and Mrs. Orme, in talking of it, made quite the most of it.
Civility from the Staveleys to the Ormes would not, in the ordinary
course of things, be accounted of any special value. The two families
might, and naturally would, know each other on intimate terms. But
the Ormes would as a matter of course stand the highest in general
estimation. Now, however, the Ormes had to bear up Lady Mason with
them. Sir Peregrine had so willed it, and Mrs. Orme had not for a
moment thought of contesting the wish of one whose wishes she had
never contested. No words were spoken on the subject; but still with
both of them there was a feeling that Lady Staveley's countenance
and open friendship would be of value. When it had come to this
with Sir Peregrine Orme, he was already disgraced in his own
estimation,--already disgraced, although he declared to himself a
thousand times that he was only doing his duty as a gentleman.

On that evening Lady Mason said no word of her new purpose. She
had pledged herself both to Peregrine Orme and to Mr. Furnival. To
both she had made a distinct promise that she would break off her
engagement, and she knew well that the deed should be done at once.
But how was she to do it? With what words was she to tell him that
she had changed her mind and would not take the hand that he had
offered to her? She feared to be a moment alone with Peregrine lest
he should tax her with the non-fulfilment of her promise. But in
truth Peregrine at the present moment was thinking more of another
matter. It had almost come home to him that his grandfather's
marriage might facilitate his own; and though he still was far from
reconciling himself to the connection with Lady Mason, he was almost
disposed to put up with it.

On the following day, at about noon, a chariot with a pair of
post-horses was brought up to the door of The Cleeve at a very fast
pace, and the two ladies soon afterwards learned that Lord Alston was
closeted with Sir Peregrine. Lord Alston was one of Sir Peregrine's
oldest friends. He was a man senior both in age and standing to the
baronet; and, moreover, he was a friend who came but seldom to The
Cleeve, although his friendship was close and intimate. Nothing was
said between Mrs. Orme and Lady Mason, but each dreaded that Lord
Alston had come to remonstrate about the marriage. And so in truth he
had. The two old men were together for about an hour, and then Lord
Alston took his departure without asking for, or seeing any other
one of the family. Lord Alston had remonstrated about the marriage,
using at last very strong language to dissuade the baronet from
a step which he thought so unfortunate; but he had remonstrated
altogether in vain. Every word he had used was not only fruitless,
but injurious; for Sir Peregrine was a man whom it was very difficult
to rescue by opposition, though no man might be more easily led by
assumed acquiescence.

"Orme, my dear fellow," said his lordship, towards the end of the
interview, "it is my duty, as an old friend, to tell you this."

"Then, Lord Alston, you have done your duty."

"Not while a hope remains that I may prevent this marriage."

"There is ground for no such hope on your part; and permit me to
say that the expression of such a hope to me is greatly wanting in
courtesy."

"You and I," continued Lord Alston, without apparent attention to the
last words which Sir Peregrine had spoken, "have nearly come to the
end of our tether here. Our careers have been run; and I think I may
say as regards both, but I may certainly say as regards you, that
they have been so run that we have not disgraced those who preceded
us. Our dearest hopes should be that our names may never be held as a
reproach by those who come after us."

"With God's blessing I will do nothing to disgrace my family."

"But, Orme, you and I cannot act as may those whose names in the
world are altogether unnoticed. I know that you are doing this from a
feeling of charity to that lady."

"I am doing it, Lord Alston, because it so pleases me."

"But your first charity is due to your grandson. Suppose that he was
making an offer of his hand to the daughter of some nobleman,--as he
is so well entitled to do,--how would it affect his hopes if it were
known that you at the time had married a lady whose misfortune made
it necessary that she should stand at the bar in a criminal court?"

"Lord Alston," said Sir Peregrine, rising from his chair, "I trust
that my grandson may never rest his hopes on any woman whose heart
could be hardened against him by such a thought as that."

"But what if she should be guilty?" said Lord Alston.

"Permit me to say," said Sir Peregrine, still standing, and standing
now bolt upright, as though his years did not weigh on him a feather,
"that this conversation has gone far enough. There are some surmises
to which I cannot listen, even from Lord Alston."

Then his lordship shrugged his shoulders, declared that in speaking
as he had spoken he had endeavoured to do a friendly duty by an old
friend,--certainly the oldest, and almost the dearest friend he
had,--and so he took his leave. The wheels of the chariot were heard
grating over the gravel, as he was carried away from the door at a
gallop, and the two ladies looked into each other's faces, saying
nothing. Sir Peregrine was not seen from that time till dinner; but
when he did come into the drawing-room his manner to Lady Mason was,
if possible, more gracious and more affectionate than ever.

"So Lord Alston was here to-day," Peregrine said to his mother that
night before he went to bed.

"Yes, he was here."

"It was about this marriage, mother, as sure as I am standing here."

"I don't think Lord Alston would interfere about that, Perry."

"Wouldn't he? He would interfere about anything he did not like; that
is, as far as the pluck of it goes. Of course he can't like it. Who
can?"

"Perry, your grandfather likes it; and surely he has a right to
please himself."

"I don't know about that. You might say the same thing if he wanted
to kill all the foxes about the place, or do any other outlandish
thing. Of course he might kill them, as far as the law goes, but
where would he be afterwards? She hasn't said anything to him, has
she?"

"I think not."

"Nor to you?"

"No; she has not spoken to me; not about that."

"She promised me positively that she would break it off."

"You must not be hard on her, Perry."

Just as these words were spoken, there came a low knock at Mrs.
Orme's dressing-room door. This room, in which Mrs. Orme was wont to
sit for an hour or so every night before she went to bed, was the
scene of all the meetings of affection which took place between the
mother and the son. It was a pretty little apartment, opening from
Mrs. Orme's bed-room, which had at one time been the exclusive
property of Peregrine's father. But by degrees it had altogether
assumed feminine attributes; had been furnished with soft chairs,
a sofa, and a lady's table; and though called by the name of Mrs.
Orme's dressing-room, was in fact a separate sitting-room devoted to
her exclusive use. Sir Peregrine would not for worlds have entered it
without sending up his name beforehand, and this he did on only very
rare occasions. But Lady Mason had of late been admitted here, and
Mrs. Orme now knew that it was her knock.

"Open the door, Perry," she said; "it is Lady Mason." He did open the
door, and Lady Mason entered.

"Oh, Mr. Orme, I did not know that you were here."

"I am just off. Good night, mother."

"But I am disturbing you."

"No, we had done;" and he stooped down and kissed his mother. "Good
night, Lady Mason. Hadn't I better put some coals on for you, or the
fire will be out?" He did put on the coals, and then he went his way.

Lady Mason while he was doing this had sat down on the sofa, close
to Mrs. Orme; but when the door was closed Mrs. Orme was the first
to speak. "Well, dear," she said, putting her hand caressingly on
the other's arm. I am inclined to think that had there been no one
whom Mrs. Orme was bound to consult but herself, she would have
wished that this marriage should have gone on. To her it would have
been altogether pleasant to have had Lady Mason ever with her in
the house; and she had none of those fears as to future family
retrospections respecting which Lord Alston had spoken with so much
knowledge of the world. As it was, her manner was so caressing and
affectionate to her guest, that she did much more to promote Sir
Peregrine's wishes than to oppose them. "Well, dear," she said, with
her sweetest smile.

"I am so sorry that I have driven your son away."

"He was going. Besides, it would make no matter; he would stay here
all night sometimes, if I didn't drive him away myself. He comes here
and writes his letters at the most unconscionable hours, and uses up
all my note-paper in telling some horsekeeper what is to be done with
his mare."

"Ah, how happy you must be to have him!"

"Well, I suppose I am," she said, as a tear came into her eyes.
"We are so hard to please. I am all anxiety now that he should be
married; and if he were married, then I suppose I should grumble
because I did not see so much of him. He would be more settled if he
would marry, I think. For myself I approve of early marriages for
young men." And then she thought of her own husband whom she had
loved so well and lost so soon. And so they sat silent for a while,
each thinking of her own lot in life.

"But I must not keep you up all night," said Lady Mason.

"Oh, I do so like you to be here," said the other. Then again she
took hold of her arm, and the two women kissed each other.

"But, Edith," said the other, "I came in here to-night with a
purpose. I have something that I wish to say to you. Can you listen
to me?"

"Oh yes," said Mrs. Orme; "surely."

"Has your son been talking to you about--about what was said between
him and me the other day? I am sure he has, for I know he tells you
everything,--as he ought to do."

"Yes, he did speak to me," said Mrs. Orme, almost trembling with
anxiety.

"I am so glad, for now it will be easier for me to tell you. And
since that I have seen Mr. Furnival, and he says the same. I tell you
because you are so good and so loving to me. I will keep nothing from
you; but you must not tell Sir Peregrine that I talked to Mr.
Furnival about this."

Mrs. Orme gave the required promise, hardly thinking at the moment
whether or no she would be guilty of any treason against Sir
Peregrine in doing so.

"I think I should have said nothing to him, though he is so very old
a friend, had not Mr. Orme--"

"You mean Peregrine?"

"Yes; had not he been so--so earnest about it. He told me that if I
married Sir Peregrine I should be doing a cruel injury to him--to his
grandfather."

"He should not have said that."

"Yes, Edith,--if he thinks it. He told me that I should be turning
all his friends against him. So I promised him that I would speak to
Sir Peregrine, and break it off if it be possible."

"He told me that."

"And then I spoke to Mr. Furnival, and he told me that I should be
blamed by all the world if I were to marry him. I cannot tell you all
he said, but he said this: that if--if--"

"If what, dear?"

"If in the court they should say--"

"Say what?"

"Say that I did this thing,--then Sir Peregrine would be crushed, and
would die with a broken heart."

"But they cannot say that;--it is impossible. You do not think it
possible that they can do so?" And then again she took hold of Lady
Mason's arm, and looked up anxiously, into her face. She looked up
anxiously, not suspecting anything, not for a moment presuming it
possible that such a verdict could be justly given, but in order that
she might see how far the fear of a fate so horrible was operating on
her friend. Lady Mason's face was pale and woe-worn, but not more so
than was now customary with her.

"One cannot say what may be possible," she answered slowly. "I
suppose they would not go on with it if they did not think they had
some chance of success."

"You mean as to the property?"

"Yes; as to the property."

"But why should they not try that, if they must try it, without
dragging you there?"

"Ah, I do not understand; or at least I cannot explain it. Mr.
Furnival says that it must be so; and therefore I shall tell Sir
Peregrine to-morrow that all this must be given up." And then they
sat together silently, holding each other by the hand.

"Good night, Edith," Lady Mason said at last, getting up from her
seat.

"Good night, dearest."

"You will let me be your friend still, will you not?" said Lady
Mason.

"My friend! Oh yes; always my friend. Why should this interfere
between you and me?"

"But he will be very angry--at least I fear that he will. Not
that--not that he will have anything to regret. But the very strength
of his generosity and nobleness will make him angry. He will be
indignant because I do not let him make this sacrifice for me. And
then--and then--I fear I must leave this house."

"Oh no, not that; I will speak to him. He will do anything for me."

"It will be better perhaps that I should go. People will think that I
am estranged from Lucius. But if I go, you will come to me? He will
let you do that; will he not?"

And then there were warm, close promises given, and embraces
interchanged. The women did love each other with a hearty, true
love, and each longed that they might be left together. And yet how
different they were, and how different had been their lives!

The prominent thought in Lady Mason's mind as she returned to her own
room was this:--that Mrs. Orme had said no word to dissuade her from
the line of conduct which she had proposed to herself. Mrs. Orme
had never spoken against the marriage as Peregrine had spoken, and
Mr. Furnival. Her heart had not been stern enough to allow her to
do that. But was it not clear that her opinion was the same as
theirs? Lady Mason acknowledged to herself that it was clear, and
acknowledged to herself also that no one was in favour of the
marriage. "I will do it immediately after breakfast," she said to
herself. And then she sat down,--and sat through the half the night
thinking of it.

Mrs. Orme, when she was left alone, almost rebuked herself in that
she had said no word of counsel against the undertaking which Lady
Mason proposed for herself. For Mr. Furnival and his opinion she did
not care much. Indeed, she would have been angry with Lady Mason
for speaking to Mr. Furnival on the subject, were it not that her
pity was too deep to admit of any anger. That the truth must be
established at the trial Mrs. Orme felt all but confident. When alone
she would feel quite sure on this point, though a doubt would always
creep in on her when Lady Mason was with her. But now, as she sat
alone, she could not realise the idea that the fear of a verdict
against her friend should offer any valid reason against the
marriage. The valid reasons, if there were such, must be looked for
elsewhere. And were these other reasons so strong in their validity?
Sir Peregrine desired the marriage; and so did Lady Mason herself, as
regarded her own individual wishes. Mrs. Orme was sure that this was
so. And then for her own self, she,--Sir Peregrine's daughter-in-law,
the only lady concerned in the matter,--she also would have liked it.
But her son disliked it, and she had yielded so far to the wishes of
her son. Well; was it not right that with her those wishes should be
all but paramount? And thus she endeavoured to satisfy her conscience
as she retired to rest.

On the following morning the four assembled at breakfast. Lady Mason
hardly spoke at all to any one. Mrs. Orme, who knew what was about to
take place, was almost as silent; but Sir Peregrine had almost more
to say than usual to his grandson. He was in good spirits, having
firmly made up his mind on a certain point; and he showed this by
telling Peregrine that he would ride with him immediately after
breakfast. "What has made you so slack about your hunting during the
last two or three days?" he asked.

"I shall hunt to-morrow," said Peregrine.

"Then you can afford time to ride with me through the woods after
breakfast." And so it would have been arranged had not Lady Mason
immediately said that she hoped to be able to say a few words to Sir
Peregrine in the library after breakfast. "_Place aux dames_," said
he. "Peregrine, the horses can wait." And so the matter was arranged
while they were still sitting over their toast.

Peregrine, as this was said, had looked at his mother, but she had
not ventured to take her eyes for a moment from the teapot. Then he
had looked at Lady Mason, and saw that she was, as it were, going
through a fashion of eating her breakfast. In order to break the
absolute silence of the room he muttered something about the weather,
and then his grandfather, with the same object, answered him. After
that no words were spoken till Sir Peregrine, rising from his chair,
declared that he was ready.

He got up and opened the door for his guest, and then hurrying across
the hall, opened the library door for her also, holding it till she
had passed in. Then he took her left hand in his, and passing his
right arm round her waist, asked her if anything disturbed her.

"Oh yes," she said, "yes; there is much that disturbs me. I have done
very wrong."

"How done wrong, Mary?" She could not recollect that he had called
her Mary before, and the sound she thought was very sweet;--was very
sweet, although she was over forty, and he over seventy years of age.

"I have done very wrong, and I have now come here that I may undo it.
Dear Sir Peregrine, you must not be angry with me."

"I do not think that I shall be angry with you; but what is it,
dearest?"

But she did not know how to find words to declare her purpose. It was
comparatively an easy task to tell Mrs. Orme that she had made up
her mind not to marry Sir Peregrine, but it was by no means easy to
tell the baronet himself. And now she stood there leaning over the
fireplace, with his arm round her waist,--as it behoved her to stand
no longer, seeing the resolution to which she had come. But still she
did not speak.

"Well, Mary, what is it? I know there is something on your mind or
you would not have summoned me in here. Is it about the trial? Have
you seen Mr. Furnival again?"

"No; it is not about the trial," she said, avoiding the other
question.

"What is it then?"

"Sir Peregrine, it is impossible that we should be married." And thus
she brought forth her tidings, as it were at a gasp, speaking at the
moment with a voice that was almost indicative of anger.

"And why not?" said he, releasing her from his arm and looking at
her.

"It cannot be," she said.

"And why not, Lady Mason?"

"It cannot be," she said again, speaking with more emphasis, and with
a stronger tone.

"And is that all that you intend to tell me? Have I done anything
that has offended you?"

"Offended me! No. I do not think that would be possible. The offence
is on the other side--"

"Then, my dear,--"

"But listen to me now. It cannot be. I know that it is wrong.
Everything tells me that such a marriage on your part would be a
sacrifice,--a terrible sacrifice. You would be throwing away your
great rank--"

"No," shouted Sir Peregrine; "not though I married a
kitchen-maid,--instead of a lady who in social life is my equal."

"Ah, no; I should not have said rank. You cannot lose that;--but your
station in the world, the respect of all around you, the--the--the--"

"Who has been telling you all this?"

"I have wanted no one to tell me. Thinking of it has told it me all.
My own heart which is full of gratitude and love for you has told
me."

"You have not seen Lord Alston?"

"Lord Alston! oh, no."

"Has Peregrine been speaking to you?"

"Peregrine!"

"Yes; Peregrine; my grandson?"

"He has spoken to me."

"Telling you to say this to me. Then he is an ungrateful boy;--a very
ungrateful boy. I would have done anything to guard him from wrong in
this matter."

"Ah; now I see the evil that I have done. Why did I ever come into
the house to make quarrels between you?"

"There shall be no quarrel. I will forgive him even that if you will
be guided by me. And, dearest Mary, you must be guided by me now.
This matter has gone too far for you to go back--unless, indeed, you
will say that personally you have an aversion to the marriage."

"Oh, no; no; it is not that," she said eagerly. She could not help
saying it with eagerness. She could not inflict the wound on his
feelings which her silence would then have given.

"Under those circumstances, I have a right to say that the marriage
must go on."

"No; no."

"But I say it must. Sit down, Mary." And she did sit down, while he
stood leaning over her and thus spoke. "You speak of sacrificing
me. I am an old man with not many more years before me. If I did
sacrifice what little is left to me of life with the object of
befriending one whom I really love, there would be no more in it than
what a man might do, and still feel that the balance was on the right
side. But here there will be no sacrifice. My life will be happier,
and so will Edith's. And so indeed will that boy's, if he did but
know it. For the world's talk, which will last some month or two, I
care nothing. This I will confess, that if I were prompted to this
only by my own inclination, only by love for you--" and as he spoke
he held out his hand to her, and she could not refuse him hers--"in
such a case I should doubt and hesitate and probably keep aloof from
such a step. But it is not so. In doing this I shall gratify my own
heart, and also serve you in your great troubles. Believe me, I have
thought of that."

"I know you have, Sir Peregrine,--and therefore it cannot be."

"But therefore it shall be. The world knows it now; and were we to
be separated after what has past, the world would say that I--I had
thought you guilty of this crime."

"I must bear all that." And now she stood before him, not looking him
in the face, but with her face turned down towards the ground, and
speaking hardly above her breath.

"By heavens, no; not whilst I can stand by your side. Not whilst I
have strength left to support you and thrust the lie down the throat
of such a wretch as Joseph Mason. No, Mary, go back to Edith and tell
her that you have tried it, but that there is no escape for you." And
then he smiled at her. His smile at times could be very pleasant!

But she did not smile as she answered him. "Sir Peregrine," she said;
and she endeavoured to raise her face to his but failed.

"Well, my love."

"Sir Peregrine, I am guilty."

"Guilty! Guilty of what?" he said, startled rather than instructed by
her words.

"Guilty of all this with which they charge me." And then she threw
herself at his feet, and wound her arms round his knees.



CHAPTER XLV

SHOWING HOW MRS. ORME COULD BE VERY WEAK MINDED


I venture to think, I may almost say to hope, that Lady Mason's
confession at the end of the last chapter will not have taken anybody
by surprise. If such surprise be felt I must have told my tale badly.
I do not like such revulsions of feeling with regard to my characters
as surprises of this nature must generate. That Lady Mason had
committed the terrible deed for which she was about to be tried, that
Mr. Furnival's suspicion of her guilt was only too well founded, that
Mr. Dockwrath with his wicked ingenuity had discovered no more than
the truth, will, in its open revelation, have caused no surprise to
the reader;--but it did cause terrible surprise to Sir Peregrine
Orme.

And now we must go back a little and endeavour to explain how it was
that Lady Mason had made this avowal of her guilt. That she had not
intended to do so when she entered Sir Peregrine's library is very
certain. Had such been her purpose she would not have asked Mrs. Orme
to visit her at Orley Farm. Had such a course of events been in her
mind she would not have spoken of her departure from The Cleeve as
doubtful. No. She had intended still to keep her terrible secret to
herself; still to have leaned upon Sir Peregrine's arm as on the arm
of a trusting friend. But he had overcome her by his generosity; and
in her fixed resolve that he should not be dragged down into this
abyss of misery the sudden determination to tell the truth at least
to him had come upon her. She did tell him all; and then, as soon as
the words were out of her mouth, the strength which had enabled her
to do so deserted her, and she fell at his feet overcome by weakness
of body as well as spirit.

But the words which she spoke did not at first convey to his mind
their full meaning. Though she had twice repeated the assertion
that she was guilty, the fact of her guilt did not come home to his
understanding as a thing that he could credit. There was something,
he doubted not, to surprise and harass him,--something which when
revealed and made clear might, or might not, affect his purpose of
marrying,--something which it behoved this woman to tell before she
could honestly become his wife, something which was destined to give
his heart a blow. But he was very far as yet from understanding the
whole truth. Let us think of those we love best, and ask ourselves
how much it would take to convince us of their guilt in such a
matter. That thrusting of the lie down the throat of Joseph Mason had
become to him so earnest a duty, that the task of believing the lie
to be on the other side was no easy one. The blow which he had to
suffer was a cruel blow. Lady Mason, however, was merciful, for she
might have enhanced the cruelty tenfold.

He stood there wondering and bewildered for some minutes of time,
while she, with her face hidden, still clung round his knees. "What
is it?" at last he said. "I do not understand." But she had no answer
to make to him. Her great resolve had been quickly made and quickly
carried out, but now the reaction left her powerless. He stooped down
to raise her; but when he moved she fell prone upon the ground; he
could hear her sobs as though her bosom would burst with them.

And then by degrees the meaning of her words began to break upon him.
"I am guilty of all this with which they charge me." Could that be
possible? Could it be that she had forged that will; that with base,
premeditated contrivance she had stolen that property; stolen it and
kept it from that day to this;--through all these long years? And
then he thought of her pure life, of her womanly, dignified repose,
of her devotion to her son,--such devotion indeed!--of her sweet pale
face and soft voice! He thought of all this, and of his own love and
friendship for her,--of Edith's love for her! He thought of it all,
and he could not believe that she was guilty. There was some other
fault, some much lesser fault than that, with which she charged
herself. But there she lay at his feet, and it was necessary that he
should do something towards lifting her to a seat.

He stooped and took her by the hand, but his feeble strength was not
sufficient to raise her. "Lady Mason," he said, "speak to me. I do
not understand you. Will you not let me seat you on the sofa?"

But she, at least, had realised the full force of the revelation she
had made, and lay there covered with shame, broken-hearted, and
unable to raise her eyes from the ground. With what inward struggles
she had played her part during the last few months, no one might ever
know! But those struggles had been kept to herself. The world, her
world, that world for which she had cared, in which she had lived,
had treated her with honour and respect, and had looked upon her as
an ill-used innocent woman. But now all that would be over. Every one
now must know what she was. And then, as she lay there, that thought
came to her. Must every one know it? Was there no longer any hope
for her? Must Lucius be told? She could bear all the rest, if only
he might be ignorant of his mother's disgrace;--he, for whom all
had been done! But no. He, and every one must know it. Oh! if the
beneficent Spirit that sees all and pities all would but take her
that moment from the world!

When Sir Peregrine asked her whether he should seat her on the sofa,
she slowly picked herself up, and with her head still crouching
towards the ground, placed herself where she before had been sitting.
He had been afraid that she would have fainted, but she was not one
of those women whose nature easily admits of such relief as that.
Though she was always pale in colour and frail looking, there was
within her a great power of self-sustenance. She was a woman who with
a good cause might have dared anything. With the worst cause that a
woman could well have, she had dared and endured very much. She did
not faint, nor gasp as though she were choking, nor become hysteric
in her agony; but she lay there, huddled up in the corner of the
sofa, with her face hidden, and all those feminine graces forgotten
which had long stood her in truth so royally. The inner, true, living
woman was there at last,--that and nothing else.

But he,--what was he to do? It went against his heart to harass her
at that moment; but then it was essential that he should know the
truth. The truth, or a suspicion of the truth was now breaking upon
him; and if that suspicion should be confirmed, what was he to do?
It was at any rate necessary that everything should be put beyond a
doubt.

"Lady Mason," he said, "if you are able to speak to me--"

"Yes," she said, gradually straightening herself, and raising her
head though she did not look at him. "Yes. I am able." But there was
something terrible in the sound of her voice. It was such a sound of
agony that he felt himself unable to persist.

"If you wish it I will leave you, and come back,--say in an hour."

"No, no; do not leave me." And her whole body was shaken with a
tremour, as though of an ague fit. "Do not go away, and I will tell
you everything. I did it."

"Did what?"

"I--forged the will. I did it all.--I am guilty."

There was the whole truth now, declared openly and in the most simple
words, and there was no longer any possibility that he should doubt.
It was very terrible,--a terrible tragedy. But to him at this present
moment the part most frightful was his and her present position. What
should he do for her? How should he counsel her? In what way so act
that he might best assist her without compromising that high sense
of right and wrong which in him was a second nature. He felt at
the moment that he would still give his last shilling to rescue
her,--only that there was the property! Let the heavens fall, justice
must be done there. Even a wretch such as Joseph Mason must have that
which was clearly his own.

As she spoke those last words, she had risen from the sofa, and was
now standing before him resting with her hands upon the table, like a
prisoner in the dock.

"What!" he said; "with your own hands?"

"Yes; with my own hands. When he would not do justice to my baby,
when he talked of that other being the head of his house, I did it,
with my own hands,--during the night."

"And you wrote the names,--yourself?"

"Yes; I wrote them all." And then there was again silence in the
room; but she still stood, leaning on the table, waiting for him to
speak her doom.

He turned away from the spot in which he had confronted her and
walked to the window. What was he to do? How was he to help her? And
how was he to be rid of her? How was he to save his daughter from
further contact with a woman such as this? And how was he to bid his
daughter behave to this woman as one woman should behave to another
in her misery? Then too he had learned to love her himself,--had
yearned to call her his own; and though this in truth was a minor
sorrow, it was one which at the moment added bitterness to the
others. But there she stood, still waiting her doom, and it was
necessary that that doom should be spoken by him.

"If this can really be true--"

"It is true. You do not think that a woman would falsely tell such a
tale as that against herself!"

"Then I fear--that this must be over between you and me."

There was a relief to her, a sort of relief, in those words. The doom
as so far spoken was so much a matter of course that it conveyed no
penalty. Her story had been told in order that that result might be
attained with certainty. There was almost a tone of scorn in her
voice as she said, "Oh yes; all that must be over."

"And what next would you have me do?" he asked.

"I have nothing to request," she said. "If you must tell it to all
the world, do so."

"Tell it; no. It will not be my business to be an informer."

"But you must tell it. There is Mrs. Orme."

"Yes: to Edith!"

"And I must leave the house. Oh, where shall I go when he knows it?
And where will he go?" Wretched miserable woman, but yet so worthy
of pity! What a terrible retribution for that night's work was now
coming on her!

He again walked to the window to think how he might answer these
questions. Must he tell his daughter? Must he banish this criminal
at once from his house? Every one now had been told of his intended
marriage; every one had been told through Lord Alston, Mr. Furnival,
and such as they. That at any rate must now be untold. And would it
be possible that she should remain there, living with them at The
Cleeve, while all this was being done? In truth he did not know how
to speak. He had not hardness of heart to pronounce her doom.

"Of course I shall leave the house," she said, with something almost
of pride in her voice. "If there be no place open to me but a gaol I
will do that. Perhaps I had better go now and get my things removed
at once. Say a word of love for me to her;--a word of respectful
love." And she moved as though she were going to the door.

But he would not permit her to leave him thus. He could not let the
poor, crushed, broken creature wander forth in her agony to bruise
herself at every turn, and to be alone in her despair. She was still
the woman whom he had loved; and, over and beyond that, was she not
the woman who had saved him from a terrible downfall by rushing
herself into utter ruin for his sake? He must take some steps in her
behalf--if he could only resolve what those steps should be. She was
moving to the door, but stopping her, he took her by the hand. "You
did it," he said, "and he, your husband, knew nothing of it?" The
fact itself was so wonderful, that he had hardly as yet made even
that all his own.

"I did it, and he knew nothing of it. I will go now, Sir Peregrine; I
am strong enough."

"But where will you go?"

"Ah me, where shall I go?" And she put the hand which was at liberty
up to her temple, brushing back her hair as though she might thus
collect her thoughts. "Where shall I go? But he does not know it yet.
I will go now to Orley Farm. When must he be told? Tell me that. When
must he know it?"

"No, Lady Mason; you cannot go there to-day. It's very hard to say
what you had better do."

"Very hard," she echoed, shaking her head.

"But you must remain here at present;--at The Cleeve I mean; at any
rate for to-day. I will think about it. I will endeavour to think
what may be the best."

"But--we cannot meet now. She and I;--Mrs. Orme?" And then again
he was silent; for in truth the difficulties were too many for him.
Might it not be best that she should counterfeit illness and be
confined to her own room? But then he was averse to recommend any
counterfeit; and if Mrs. Orme did not go to her in her assumed
illness, the counterfeit would utterly fail of effect in the
household. And then, should he tell Mrs. Orme? The weight of these
tidings would be too much for him, if he did not share them with some
one. So he made up his mind that he must tell them to her--though to
no other one.

"I must tell her," he said.

"Oh yes," she replied; and he felt her hand tremble in his, and
dropped it. He had forgotten that he thus held her as all these
thoughts pressed upon his brain.

"I will tell it to her, but to no one else. If I might advise you, I
would say that it will be well for you now to take some rest. You are
agitated, and--"

"Agitated! yes. But you are right, Sir Peregrine. I will go at once
to my room. And then--"

"Then, perhaps,--in the course of the morning, you will see me
again."

"Where?--will you come to me there?"

"I will see you in her room, in her dressing-room. She will be down
stairs, you know." From which last words the tidings were conveyed to
Lady Mason that she was not to see Mrs. Orme again.

And then she went, and as she slowly made her way across the hall
she felt that all of evil, all of punishment that she had ever
anticipated, had now fallen upon her. There are periods in the lives
of some of us--I trust but of few--when, with the silent inner voice
of suffering, we call on the mountains to fall and crush us, and
on the earth to gape open and take us in. When, with an agony of
intensity, we wish that our mothers had been barren. In those moments
the poorest and most desolate are objects to us of envy, for their
sufferings can be as nothing to our own. Lady Mason, as she crept
silently across the hall, saw a servant girl pass down towards the
entrance to the kitchen, and would have given all, all that she had
in the world, to have changed places with that girl. But no change
was possible for her. Neither would the mountains crush her, nor
would the earth take her in. There was her burden, and she must bear
it to the end. There was the bed which she had made for herself, and
she must lie upon it. No escape was possible to her. She had herself
mixed the cup, and she must now drink of it to the dregs.

Slowly and very silently she made her way up to her own room, and
having closed the door behind her sat herself down upon the bed. It
was as yet early in the morning, and the servant had not been in the
chamber. There was no fire there although it was still mid-winter.
Of such details as these Sir Peregrine had remembered nothing when
he recommended her to go to her own room. Nor did she think of them
at first as she placed herself on the bed-side. But soon the bitter
air pierced her through and through, and she shivered with the cold
as she sat there. After a while she got herself a shawl, wrapped it
close around her, and then sat down again. She bethought herself that
she might have to remain in this way for hours, so she rose again
and locked the door. It would add greatly to her immediate misery
if the servants were to come while she was there, and see her in
her wretchedness. Presently the girls did come, and being unable to
obtain entrance were told by Lady Mason that she wanted the chamber
for the present. Whereupon they offered to light the fire, but she
declared that she was not cold. Her teeth were shaking in her head,
but any suffering was better than the suffering of being seen.

She did not lie down, or cover herself further than she was covered
with that shawl, nor did she move from her place for more than an
hour. By degrees she became used to the cold. She was numbed, and
as it were, half dead in all her limbs, but she had ceased to shake
as she sat there, and her mind had gone back to the misery of her
position. There was so much for her behind that was worse! What
should she do when even this retirement should not be allowed to her?
Instead of longing for the time when she should be summoned to meet
Sir Peregrine, she dreaded its coming. It would bring her nearer to
that other meeting when she would have to bow her head and crouch
before her son.

She had been there above an hour and was in truth ill with the cold
when she heard,--and scarcely heard,--a light step come quickly along
the passage towards her door. Her woman's ear instantly told her who
owned that step, and her heart once more rose with hope. Was she
coming there to comfort her, to speak to the poor bruised sinner one
word of feminine sympathy? The quick light step stopped at the door,
there was a pause, and then a low, low knock was heard. Lady Mason
asked no question, but dropping from the bed hurried to the door and
turned the key. She turned the key, and as the door was opened half
hid herself behind it;--and then Mrs. Orme was in the room.

"What! you have no fire?" she said, feeling that the air struck her
with a sudden chill. "Oh, this is dreadful! My poor, poor dear!" And
then she took hold of both Lady Mason's hands. Had she possessed the
wisdom of the serpent as well as the innocence of the dove she could
not have been wiser in her first mode of addressing the sufferer. For
she knew it all. During that dreadful hour Sir Peregrine had told
her the whole story; and very dreadful that hour had been to her. He,
when he attempted to give counsel in the matter, had utterly failed.
He had not known what to suggest, nor could she say what it might
be wisest for them all to do; but on one point her mind had been at
once resolved. The woman who had once been her friend, whom she had
learned to love, should not leave the house without some sympathy
and womanly care. The guilt was very bad; yes, it was terrible;
she acknowledged that it was a thing to be thought of only with
shuddering. But the guilt of twenty years ago did not strike her
senses so vividly as the abject misery of the present day. There was
no pity in her bosom for Mr. Joseph Mason when she heard the story,
but she was full of pity for her who had committed the crime. It was
twenty years ago, and had not the sinner repented? Besides, was she
to be the judge? "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged," she said,
when she thought that Sir Peregrine spoke somewhat harshly in the
matter. So she said, altogether misinterpreting the Scripture in her
desire to say something in favour of the poor woman.

But when it was hinted to her that Lady Mason might return to Orley
Farm without being again seen by her, her woman's heart at once
rebelled. "If she has done wrong," said Mrs. Orme--

"She has done great wrong--fearful wrong," said Sir Peregrine.

"It will not hurt me to see her because she has done wrong. Not see
her while she is in the house! If she were in the prison, would I not
go to see her?" And then Sir Peregrine had said no more, but he loved
his daughter-in-law all the better for her unwonted vehemence.

"You will do what is right," he said--"as you always do." Then he
left her; and she, after standing for a few moments while she shaped
her thoughts, went straight away to Lady Mason's room.

She took Lady Mason by both her hands and found that they were icy
cold. "Oh, this is dreadful," she said. "Come with me, dear." But
Lady Mason still stood, up by the bed-head, whither she had retreated
from the door. Her eyes were still cast upon the ground and she
leaned back as Mrs. Orme held her, as though by her weight she would
hinder her friend from leading her from the room.

"You are frightfully cold," said Mrs. Orme.

"Has he told you?" said Lady Mason, asking the question in the lowest
possible whisper, and still holding back as she spoke.

"Yes; he has told me;--but no one else--no one else." And then for a
few moments nothing was spoken between them.

"Oh, that I could die!" said the poor wretch, expressing in words
that terrible wish that the mountains might fall upon her and crush
her.

"You must not say that. That would be wicked, you know. He can
comfort you. Do you not know that He will comfort you, if you are
sorry for your sins and go to Him?"

But the woman in her intense suffering could not acknowledge to
herself any idea of comfort. "Ah, me!" she exclaimed, with a deep
bursting sob which went straight to Mrs. Orme's heart. And then a
convulsive fit of trembling seized her so strongly that Mrs. Orme
could hardly continue to hold her hands.

"You are ill with the cold," she said. "Come with me, Lady Mason, you
shall not stay here longer."

Lady Mason then permitted herself to be led out of the room, and the
two went quickly down the passage to the head of the front stairs,
and from thence to Mrs. Orme's room. In crossing the house they had
seen no one and been seen by no one; and Lady Mason when she came to
the door hurried in, that she might again hide herself in security
for the moment. As soon as the door was closed Mrs. Orme placed her
in an arm-chair which she wheeled up to the front of the fire, and
seating herself on a stool at the poor sinner's feet, chafed her
hands within her own. She took away the shawl and made her stretch
out her feet towards the fire, and thus seated close to her, she
spoke no word for the next half-hour as to the terrible fact that
had become known to her. Then, on a sudden, as though the ice of her
heart had thawed from the warmth of the other's kindness, Lady Mason
burst into a flood of tears, and flinging herself upon her friend's
neck and bosom begged with earnest piteousness to be forgiven.

And Mrs. Orme did forgive her. Many will think that she was wrong to
do so, and I fear it must be acknowledged that she was not strong
minded. By forgiving her I do not mean that she pronounced absolution
for the sin of past years, or that she endeavoured to make the
sinner think that she was no worse for her sin. Mrs. Orme was a good
churchwoman but not strong, individually, in points of doctrine. All
that she left mainly to the woman's conscience and her own dealings
with her Saviour,--merely saying a word of salutary counsel as to a
certain spiritual pastor who might be of aid. But Mrs. Orme forgave
her,--as regarded herself. She had already, while all this was
unknown, taken this woman to her heart as pure and good. It now
appeared that the woman had not been pure, had not been good!--And
then she took her to her heart again! Criminal as the woman was,
disgraced and debased, subject almost to the heaviest penalties of
outraged law and justice, a felon against whom the actual hands of
the law's myrmidons would probably soon prevail, a creature doomed to
bear the scorn of the lowest of her fellow-creatures,--such as she
was, this other woman, pure and high, so shielded from the world's
impurity that nothing ignoble might touch her,--this lady took her
to her heart again and promised in her ear with low sweet words of
consolation that they should still be friends. I cannot say that Mrs.
Orme was right. That she was weak minded I feel nearly certain. But,
perhaps, this weakness of mind may never be brought against her to
her injury, either in this world or in the next.

I will not pretend to give the words which passed between them at
that interview. After a while Lady Mason allowed herself to be guided
all in all by her friend's advice as though she herself had been a
child. It was decided that for the present,--that is for the next day
or two,--Lady Mason should keep her room at The Cleeve as an invalid.
Counterfeit in this there would be none certainly, for indeed she was
hardly fit for any place but her own bed. If inclined and able to
leave her room, she should be made welcome to the use of Mrs. Orme's
dressing-room. It would only be necessary to warn Peregrine that for
the present he must abstain from coming there. The servants, Mrs.
Orme said, had heard of their master's intended marriage. They would
now hear that this intention had been abandoned. On this they would
put their own construction, and would account in their own fashion
for the fact that Sir Peregrine and his guest no longer saw each
other. But no suspicion of the truth would get abroad when it was
seen that Lady Mason was still treated as a guest at The Cleeve. As
to such future steps as might be necessary to be taken, Mrs. Orme
would consult with Sir Peregrine, and tell Lady Mason from time to
time. And as for the sad truth, the terrible truth,--that, at any
rate for the present, should be told to no other ears. And so the
whole morning was spent, and Mrs. Orme saw neither Sir Peregrine nor
her son till she went down to the library in the first gloom of the
winter evening.



CHAPTER XLVI

A WOMAN'S IDEA OF FRIENDSHIP


Sir Peregrine after the hour that he had spent with his
daughter-in-law,--that terrible hour during which Lady Mason had sat
alone on the bed-side,--returned to the library and remained there
during the whole of the afternoon. It may be remembered that he had
agreed to ride through the woods with his grandson; but that purpose
had been abandoned early in the day, and Peregrine had in consequence
been hanging about the house. He soon perceived that something was
amiss, but he did not know what. He had looked for his mother, and
had indeed seen her for a moment at her door; but she had told him
that she could not then speak to him. Sir Peregrine also had shut
himself up, but about the hour of dusk he sent for his grandson; and
when Mrs. Orme, on leaving Lady Mason, went down to the library, she
found them both together.

They were standing with their backs to the fire, and the gloom in the
room was too dark to allow of their faces being seen, but she felt
that the conversation between them was of a serious nature. Indeed
what conversation in that house could be other than serious on
that day? "I see that I am disturbing you," she said, preparing to
retreat. "I did not know that you were together."

"Do not go, Edith," said the old man. "Peregrine, put a chair for
your mother. I have told him that all this is over now between me and
Lady Mason."

She trembled as she heard the words, for it seemed to her that there
must be danger now in even speaking of Lady Mason,--danger with
reference to that dreadful secret, the divulging of which would be so
fatal.

"I have told him," continued Sir Peregrine, "that for a few minutes I
was angry with him when I heard from Lady Mason that he had spoken to
her; but I believe that on the whole it is better that it should have
been so."

"He would be very unhappy if anything that he had done had distressed
you," said Mrs. Orme, hardly knowing what words to use, or how to
speak. Nor did she feel quite certain as yet how much had been told
to her son, and how much was concealed from him.

"No, no, no," said the old man, laying his arm affectionately on the
young man's shoulder. "He has done nothing to distress me. There is
nothing wrong--nothing wrong between him and me. Thank God for that.
But, Perry, we will think now of that other matter. Have you told
your mother anything about it?" And he strove to look away from the
wretchedness of his morning's work to something in his family that
still admitted of a bright hope.

"No, sir; not yet. We won't mind that just now." And then they all
remained silent, Mrs. Orme sitting, and the two men still standing
with their backs towards the fire. Her mind was too intent on the
unfortunate lady up stairs to admit of her feeling interest in that
other unknown matter to which Sir Peregrine had alluded.

"If you have done with Perry," she said at last, "I would be glad to
speak to you for a minute or two."

"Oh yes," said Peregrine;--"we have done." And then he went.

"You have told him," said she, as soon as they were left together.

"Told him; what, of her? Oh no. I have told him that that,--that
idea of mine has been abandoned." From this time forth Sir Peregrine
could never endure to speak of his proposed marriage, nor to hear it
spoken of. "He conceives that this has been done at her instance," he
continued.

"And so it has," said Mrs. Orme, with much more of decision in her
voice than was customary with her.

"And so it has," he repeated after her.

"Nobody must know of this,"--said she very solemnly, standing up and
looking into his face with eager eyes. "Nobody but you and I."

"All the world, I fear, will know it soon," said Sir Peregrine.

"No; no. Why should all the world know it? Had she not told us we
should not have known it. We should not have suspected it. Mr.
Furnival, who understands these things;--he does not think her
guilty."

"But, Edith--the property!"

"Let her give that up--after a while; when all this has passed by.
That man is not in want. It will not hurt him to be without it a
little longer. It will be enough for her to do that when this trial
shall be over."

"But it is not hers. She cannot give it up. It belongs to her
son,--or is thought to belong to him. It is not for us to be
informers, Edith--"

"No, no; it is not for us to be informers. We must remember that."

"Certainly. It is not for us to tell the story of her guilt; but her
guilt will remain the same, will be acted over and over again every
day, while the proceeds of the property go into the hands of Lucius
Mason. It is that which is so terrible, Edith;--that her conscience
should have been able to bear that load for the last twenty years! A
deed done,--that admits of no restitution, may admit of repentance.
We may leave that to the sinner and his conscience, hoping that he
stands right with his Maker. But here, with her, there has been a
continual theft going on from year to year,--which is still going
on. While Lucius Mason holds a sod of Orley Farm, true repentance
with her must be impossible. It seems so to me." And Sir Peregrine
shuddered at the doom which his own rectitude of mind and purpose
forced him to pronounce.

"It is not she that has it," said Mrs. Orme. "It was not done for
herself."

"There is no difference in that," said he sharply. "All sin
is selfish, and so was her sin in this. Her object was the
aggrandisement of her own child; and when she could not accomplish
that honestly, she did it by fraud, and--and--and--. Edith, my dear,
you and I must look at this thing as it is. You must not let your
kind heart make your eyes blind in a matter of such moment."

"No, father; nor must the truth make our hearts cruel. You talk of
restitution and repentance. Repentance is not the work of a day. How
are we to say by what struggles her poor heart has been torn?"

"I do not judge her."

"No, no; that is it. We may not judge her; may we? But we may assist
her in her wretchedness. I have promised that I will do all I can to
aid her. You will allow me to do so;--you will; will you not?" And
she pressed his arm and looked up into his face, entreating him.
Since first they two had known each other, he had never yet denied
her a request. It was a law of his life that he would never do so.
But now he hesitated, not thinking that he would refuse her, but
feeling that on such an occasion it would be necessary to point out
to her how far she might go without risk of bringing censure on her
own name. But in this case, though the mind of Sir Peregrine might
be the more logical, the purpose of his daughter-in-law was the
stronger. She had resolved that such communication with crime would
not stain her, and she already knew to what length she would go in
her charity. Indeed, her mind was fully resolved to go far enough.

"I hardly know as yet what she intends to do; any assistance that you
can give her must, I should say, depend on her own line of conduct."

"But I want your advice as to that. I tell you what I purpose. It is
clear that Mr. Furnival thinks she will gain the day at this trial."

"But Mr. Furnival does not know the truth."

"Nor will the judge and the lawyers, and all the rest. As you say so
properly, it is not for us to be the informers. If they can prove it,
let them. But you would not have her tell them all against herself?"
And then she paused, waiting for his answer.

"I do not know. I do not know what to say. It is not for me to advise
her."

"Ah, but it is for you," she said; and as she spoke she put her
little hand down on the table with an energy which startled him. "She
is here--a wretched woman, in your house. And why do you know the
truth? Why has it been told to you and me? Because without telling it
she could not turn you from that purpose of yours. It was generous,
father--confess that; it was very generous."

"Yes, it was generous," said Sir Peregrine.

"It was very generous. It would be base in us if we allowed ourselves
to forget that. But I was telling you my plan. She must go to this
trial."

"Oh yes; there will be no doubt as to that."

"Then--if she can escape, let the property be given up afterwards."

"I do not see how it is to be arranged. The property will belong to
Lucius, and she cannot give it up then. It is not so easy to put
matters right when guilt and fraud have set them wrong."

"We will do the best we can. Even suppose that you were to tell
Lucius afterwards;--you yourself! if that were necessary, you know."

And so by degrees she talked him over; but yet he would come to no
decision as to what steps he himself must take. What if he himself
should go to Mr. Round, and pledge himself that the whole estate
should be restored to Mr. Mason of Groby, on condition that the trial
were abandoned? The world would probably guess the truth after that;
but the terrible trial and the more terrible punishment which would
follow it might be thus escaped. Poor Sir Peregrine! Even when
he argued thus within himself, his conscience told him that in
taking such a line of conduct, he himself would be guilty of some
outrage against the law by aiding a criminal in her escape. He had
heard of misprision of felony; but nevertheless, he allowed his
daughter-in-law to prevail. Before such a step as this could be taken
the consent of Lady Mason must of course be obtained; but as to that
Mrs. Orme had no doubt. If Lucius could be induced to abandon the
property without hearing the whole story, it would be well. But if
that could not be achieved,--then the whole story must be told to
him. "And you will tell it," Mrs. Orme said to him. "It would be
easier for me to cut off my right arm," he answered; "but I will do
my best."

And then came the question as to the place of Lady Mason's immediate
residence. It was evident to Mrs. Orme that Sir Peregrine expected
that she would at once go back to Orley Farm;--not exactly on that
day, nor did he say on the day following. But his words made it
very manifest that he did not think it right that she should under
existing circumstances remain at The Cleeve. Sir Peregrine, however,
as quickly understood that Mrs. Orme did not wish her to go away for
some days.

"It would injure the cause if she were to leave us quite at once,"
said Mrs. Orme.

"But how can she stay here, my dear,--with no one to see her; with
none but the servants to wait upon her?"

"I should see her," said Mrs. Orme, boldly.

"Do you mean constantly--in your old, friendly way?"

"Yes, constantly; and," she added after a pause, "not only here, but
at Orley Farm also." And then there was another pause between them.

Sir Peregrine certainly was not a cruel man, nor was his heart by any
means hardened against the lady with whom circumstances had lately
joined him so closely. Indeed, since the knowledge of her guilt had
fully come upon him, he had undertaken the conduct of her perilous
affairs in a manner more confidential even than that which had
existed while he expected to make her his wife. But, nevertheless,
it went sorely against the grain with him when it was proposed that
there should still exist a close intimacy between the one cherished
lady of his household and the woman who had been guilty of so base
a crime. It seemed to him that he might touch pitch and not be
defiled;--he or any man belonging to him. But he could not reconcile
it to himself that the widow of his son should run such risk. In
his estimation there was something almost more than human about the
purity of the only woman that blessed his hearth. It seemed to him
as though she were a sacred thing, to be guarded by a shrine,--to be
protected from all contact with the pollutions of the outer world.
And now it was proposed to him that she should take a felon to her
bosom as her friend!

"But will that be necessary, Edith?" he said; "and after all that has
been revealed to us now, will it be wise?"

"I think so," she said, speaking again with a very low voice. "Why,
should I not?"

"Because she has shown herself unworthy of such friendship;--unfit
for it I should say."

"Unworthy! Dear father, is she not as worthy and as fit as she was
yesterday? If we saw clearly into each other's bosom, whom should we
think worthy?"

"But you would not choose for your friend one--one who could do such
a deed as that?"

"No; I would not choose her because she had so acted; nor perhaps if
I knew all beforehand would I open my heart to one who had so done.
But it is different now. What are love and friendship worth if they
cannot stand against such trials as these?"

"Do you mean, Edith, that no crime would separate you from a friend?"

"I have not said that. There are circumstances always. But if she
repents,--as I am sure she does, I cannot bring myself to desert her.
Who else is there that can stand by her now; what other woman? At any
rate I have promised her, and you would not have me break my word."

Thus she again gained her point, and it was settled that for the
present Lady Mason should be allowed to occupy her own room,--her own
room, and occasionally Mrs. Orme's sitting-room, if it pleased her
to do so. No day was named for her removal, but, Mrs. Orme perfectly
understood that the sooner such a day could be fixed the better Sir
Peregrine would be pleased. And, indeed, his household as at present
arranged was not a pleasant one. The servants had all heard of his
intended marriage, and now they must also hear that that intention
was abandoned. And yet the lady would remain up stairs as a guest
of his! There was much in this that was inconvenient; but under
circumstances as they now existed, what could he do?

When all this was arranged and Mrs. Orme had dressed for dinner, she
again went to Lady Mason. She found her in bed, and told her that at
night she would come to her and tell her all. And then she instructed
her own servant as to attending upon the invalid. In doing this she
was cunning in letting a word fall here and there, that might teach
the woman that that marriage purpose was all over; but nevertheless
there was so much care and apparent affection in her mode of
speaking, and she gave her orders for Lady Mason's comfort with so
much earnestness, that no idea could get abroad in the household that
there had been any cause for absolute quarrel.

Late at night, when her son had left her, she did go again to her
guest's room, and sitting down by the bed-side she told her all that
had been planned, pointing out however with much care that, as a
part of those plans, Orley Farm was to be surrendered to Joseph
Mason. "You think that is right; do you not?" said Mrs. Orme, almost
trembling as she asked a question so pertinent to the deed which the
other had done, and to that repentance for the deed which was now so
much to be desired.

"Yes," said the other, "of course it will be right." And then the
thought that it was not in her power to abandon the property occurred
to her also. If the estate must be voluntarily surrendered, no one
could so surrender it but Lucius Mason. She knew this, and felt at
the moment that of all men he would be the least likely to do so,
unless an adequate reason was made clearly plain to him. The same
thought at the same moment was passing through the minds of them
both; but Lady Mason could not speak out her thought, and Mrs. Orme
would not say more on that terrible day to trouble the mind of the
poor creature whose sufferings she was so anxious to assuage.

And then Lady Mason was left alone, and having now a partner in her
secret, slept sounder than she had done since the tidings first
reached her of Mr. Dockwrath's vengeance.



CHAPTER XLVII

THE GEM OF THE FOUR FAMILIES


And now we will go back to Noningsby. On that evening Graham ate his
pheasant with a relish although so many cares sat heavy on his mind,
and declared, to Mrs. Baker's great satisfaction, that the cook had
managed to preserve the bread sauce uninjured through all the perils
of delay which it had encountered.

"Bread sauce is so ticklish; a simmer too much and it's clean done
for," Mrs. Baker said with a voice of great solicitude. But she had
been accustomed perhaps to patients whose appetites were fastidious.
The pheasant and the bread sauce and the mashed potatoes, all
prepared by Mrs. Baker's own hands to be eaten as spoon meat,
disappeared with great celerity; and then, as Graham sat sipping the
solitary glass of sherry that was allowed to him, meditating that
he would begin his letter the moment the glass was empty, Augustus
Staveley again made his appearance.

"Well, old fellow," said he, "how are you now?" and he was
particularly careful so to speak as to show by his voice that his
affection for his friend was as strong as ever. But in doing so he
showed also that there was some special thought still present in his
mind,--some feeling which was serious in its nature if not absolutely
painful.

"Staveley," said the other, gravely, "I have acquired knowledge
to-day which I trust I may carry with me to my grave."

"And what is that?" said Augustus, looking round to Mrs. Baker as
though he thought it well that she should be out of the room before
the expected communication was made. But Mrs. Baker's attention was
so riveted by her patient's earnestness, that she made no attempt to
go.

"It is a wasting of the best gifts of Providence," said Graham, "to
eat a pheasant after one has really done one's dinner."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" said Augustus.

"So it is, sir," said Mrs. Baker, thinking that the subject quite
justified the manner.

"And of no use whatsoever to eat only a little bit of one as a man
does then. To know what a pheasant is you should have it all to
yourself."

"So you should, sir," said Mrs. Baker, quite delighted and very much
in earnest.

"And you should have nothing else. Then, if the bird be good to begin
with, and has been well hung--"

"There's a deal in that," said Mrs. Baker.

"Then, I say, you'll know what a pheasant is. That's the lesson which
I have learned to-day, and I give it you as an adequate return for
the pheasant itself."

"I was almost afeard it would be spoilt by being brought up the
second time," said Mrs. Baker. "And so I said to my lady; but she
wouldn't have you woke, nohow." And then Mrs. Baker, having heard the
last of the lecture, took away the empty wine-glass and shut the door
behind her.

"And now I'll write those two letters," said Graham. "What I've
written hitherto I wrote in bed, and I feel almost more awkward now I
am up than I did then."

"But what letters are they?"

"Well, one to my laundress to tell her I shall be there to-morrow,
and one to Mary Snow to say that I'll see her the day after."

"Then, Felix, don't trouble yourself to write either. You positively
won't go to-morrow--"

"Who says so?"

"The governor. He has heard from my mother exactly what the doctor
said, and declares that he won't allow it. He means to see the doctor
himself before you stir. And he wants to see you also. I am to tell
you he'll come to you directly after breakfast."

"I shall be delighted to see your father, and am very much gratified
by his kindness, but--"

"But what--"

"I'm a free agent, I suppose,--to go when I please?"

"Not exactly. The law is unwritten; but by traditional law a man laid
up in his bedroom is not free to go and come. No action for false
imprisonment would lie if Mrs. Baker kept all your clothes away from
you."

"I should like to try the question."

"You will have the opportunity, for you may be sure that you'll not
leave this to-morrow."

"It would depend altogether on the evidence of the doctor."

"Exactly so. And as the doctor in this case would clearly be on the
side of the defendants, a verdict on behalf of the plaintiff would
not be by any means attainable." After that the matter was presumed
to be settled, and Graham said no more as to leaving Noningsby on
the next day. As things turned out afterwards he remained there for
another week.

"I must at any rate write a letter to Mary Snow," he said. And to
Mary Snow he did write some three or four lines, Augustus sitting by
the while. Augustus Staveley would have been very glad to know the
contents, or rather the spirit of those lines; but nothing was said
about them, and the letter was at last sealed up and intrusted to
his care for the post-bag. There was very little in it that could
have interested Augustus Staveley or any one else. It contained the
ordinary, but no more than the ordinary terms of affection. He told
her that he found it impracticable to move himself quite immediately.
And then as to that cause of displeasure,--that cause of supposed
displeasure as to which both Mary and Mrs. Thomas had written, he
declared that he did not believe that anything had been done that he
should not find it easy to forgive after so long an absence.

Augustus then remained there for another hour, but not a word was
said between the young men on that subject which was nearest, at the
moment, to the hearts of both of them. Each was thinking of Madeline,
but neither of them spoke as though any such subject were in their
thoughts.

"Heaven and earth!" said Augustus at last, pulling out his watch. "It
only wants three minutes to seven. I shall have a dozen messages from
the judge before I get down, to know whether he shall come and help
me change my boots. I'll see you again before I go to bed. Good-bye,
old fellow." And then Graham was again alone.

If Lady Staveley were really angry with him for loving her
daughter,--if his friend Staveley were in very truth determined
that such love must under no circumstances be sanctioned,--would
they treat him as they were treating him? Would they under such
circumstances make his prolonged stay in the house an imperative
necessity? He could not help asking himself this question, and
answering it with some gleam of hope. And then he acknowledged
to himself that it was ungenerous in him to do so. His remaining
there,--the liberty to remain there which had been conceded to
him,--had arisen solely from the belief that a removal in his present
state would be injudicious. He assured himself of this over and over
again, so that no false hope might linger in his heart. And yet hope
did linger there whether false or true. Why might he not aspire to
the hand of Madeline Staveley,--he who had been assured that he need
regard no woman as too high for his aspirations?

"Mrs. Baker," he said that evening, as that excellent woman was
taking away his tea-things, "I have not heard Miss Staveley's voice
these two days."

"Well, no; no more you have," said she. "There's two ways, you know,
Mr. Graham, of going to her part of the house. There's the door that
opens at the end of the passage by her mamma's room. She's been that
way, and that's the reason, I suppose. There ain't no other, I'm
sure."

"One likes to hear one's friends if one can't see them; that's all."

"To be sure one does. I remember as how when I had the measles--I was
living with my lady's mother, as maid to the young ladies. There was
four of 'em, and I dressed 'em all--God bless 'em. They've all got
husbands now and grown families--only there ain't one among 'em equal
to our Miss Madeline, though there's some of 'em much richer. When
my lady married him,--the judge, you know,--he was the poorest of
the lot. They didn't think so much of him when he came a-courting in
those days."

"He was only a practising barrister then."

"Oh yes; he knew well how to practise, for Miss Isabella--as she was
then--very soon made up her mind about him. Laws, Mr. Graham, she
used to tell me everything in them days. They didn't want her to
have nothing to say to Mr. Staveley at first; but she made up her
mind, and though she wasn't one of them as has many words, like Miss
Furnival down there, there was no turning her."

"Did she marry at last against their wish?"

"Oh dear, no; nothing of that sort. She wasn't one of them flighty
ones neither. She just made up her own mind and bided. And now I
don't know whether she hasn't done about the best of 'em all. Them
Oliphants is full of money, they do say--full of money. That was
Miss Louisa, who came next. But, Lord love you, Mr. Graham, he's so
crammed with gout as he can't ever put a foot to the ground; and as
cross;--as cross as cross. We goes there sometimes, you know. Then
the girls is all plain; and young Mr. Oliphant, the son,--why he
never so much as speaks to his own father; and though they're rolling
in money, they say he can't pay for the coat on his back. Now our Mr.
Augustus, unless it is that he won't come down to morning prayers and
always keeps the dinner waiting, I don't think there's ever a black
look between him and his papa. And as for Miss Madeline,--she's the
gem of the four families. Everybody gives that up to her."

If Madeline's mother married a barrister in opposition to the wishes
of her family--a barrister who then possessed nothing but his
wits--why should not Madeline do so also? That was of course the line
which his thoughts took. But then, as he said to himself, Madeline's
father had been one of the handsomest men of his day, whereas he was
one of the ugliest; and Madeline's father had been encumbered with no
Mary Snow. A man who had been such a fool as he, who had gone so far
out of the regular course, thinking to be wiser than other men, but
being in truth much more silly, could not look for that success and
happiness in life which men enjoy who have not been so lamentably
deficient in discretion! 'Twas thus that he lectured himself; but
still he went on thinking of Madeline Staveley.

There had been some disagreeable confusion in the house that
afternoon after Augustus had spoken to his sister. Madeline had gone
up to her own room, and had remained there, chewing the cud of her
thoughts. Both her sister and her brother had warned her about this
man. She could moreover divine that her mother was suffering under
some anxiety on the same subject. Why was all this? Why should these
things be said and thought? Why should there be uneasiness in the
house on her account in this matter of Mr. Graham? She acknowledged
to herself that there was such uneasiness;--and she almost
acknowledged to herself the cause.

But while she was still sitting over her own fire, with her needle
untouched beside her, her father had come home, and Lady Staveley had
mentioned to him that Mr. Graham thought of going on the next day.

"Nonsense, my dear," said the judge. "He must not think of such a
thing. He can hardly be fit to leave his room yet."

"Pottinger does say that it has gone on very favourably," pleaded
Lady Staveley.

"But that's no reason he should destroy the advantages of his healthy
constitution by insane imprudence. He's got nothing to do. He wants
to go merely because he thinks he is in your way."

Lady Staveley looked wishfully up in her husband's face, longing to
tell him all her suspicions. But as yet her grounds for them were so
slight that even to him she hesitated to mention them.

"His being here is no trouble to me, of course," she said.

"Of course not. You tell him so, and he'll stay," said the judge. "I
want to see him to-morrow myself;--about this business of poor Lady
Mason's."

Immediately after that he met his son. And Augustus also told him
that Graham was going.

"Oh no; he's not going at all," said the judge. "I've settled that
with your mother."

"He's very anxious to be off," said Augustus gravely.

"And why? Is there any reason?"

"Well; I don't know." For a moment he thought he would tell his
father the whole story; but he reflected that his doing so would
be hardly fair towards his friend. "I don't know that there is any
absolute reason; but I'm quite sure that he is very anxious to go."

The judge at once perceived that there was something in the wind,
and during that hour in which the pheasant was being discussed up
in Graham's room, he succeeded in learning the whole from his wife.
Dear, good, loving wife! A secret of any kind from him was an
impossibility to her, although that secret went no further than her
thoughts.

"The darling girl is so anxious about him, that--that I'm afraid,"
said she.

"He's by no means a bad sort of man, my love," said the judge.

"But he's got nothing--literally nothing," said the mother.

"Neither had I, when I went a wooing," said the judge. "But,
nevertheless, I managed to have it all my own way."

"You don't mean really to make a comparison?" said Lady Staveley. "In
the first place you were at the top of your profession."

"Was I? If so I must have achieved that distinction at a very early
age." And then he kissed his wife very affectionately. Nobody was
there to see, and under such circumstances a man may kiss his wife
even though he be a judge, and between fifty and sixty years old.
After that he again spoke to his son, and in spite of the resolves
which Augustus had made as to what friendship required of him,
succeeded in learning the whole truth.

Late in the evening, when all the party had drunk their cups of tea,
when Lady Staveley was beginning her nap, and Augustus was making
himself agreeable to Miss Furnival--to the great annoyance of
his mother, who half rousing herself every now and then, looked
sorrowfully at what was going on with her winking eyes,--the judge
contrived to withdraw with Madeline into the small drawing-room,
telling her as he put his arm around her waist, that he had a few
words to say to her.

"Well, papa," said she, as at his bidding she sat herself down beside
him on the sofa. She was frightened, because such summonses were very
unusual; but nevertheless her father's manner towards her was always
so full of love that even in her fear she felt a comfort in being
with him.

"My darling," he said, "I want to ask you one or two questions--about
our guest here who has hurt himself,--Mr. Graham."

"Yes, papa." And now she knew that she was trembling with nervous
dread.

"You need not think that I am in the least angry with you, or that I
suspect you of having done or said, or even thought anything that is
wrong. I feel quite confident that I have no cause to do so."

"Oh, thank you, papa."

"But I want to know whether Mr. Graham has ever spoken to you--as a
lover."

"Never, papa."

"Because under the circumstances of his present stay here, his doing
so would, I think, have been ungenerous."

"He never has, papa, in any way--not a single word."

"And you have no reason to regard him in that light."

"No, papa." But in the speaking of these last two words there was a
slight hesitation,--the least possible shade of doubt conveyed, which
made itself immediately intelligible to the practised ear of the
judge.

"Tell me all, my darling;--everything that there is in your heart, so
that we may help each other if that may be possible."

"He has never said anything to me, papa."

"Because your mamma thinks that you are more anxious about him than
you would be about an ordinary visitor."

"Does she?"

"Has any one else spoken to you about Mr. Graham?"

"Augustus did, papa; and Isabella, some time ago."

"Then I suppose they thought the same."

"Yes; I suppose they did."

"And now, dear, is there anything else you would like to say to me
about it?"

"No, papa, I don't think there is."

"But remember this always;--that my only wishes respecting you, and
your mother's wishes also, are to see you happy and good."

"I am very happy, papa."

"And very good also to the best of my belief." And then he kissed
her, and they went back again into the large drawing-room.

Many of my readers, and especially those who are old and wise,--if I
chance to have any such,--will be inclined to think that the judge
behaved foolishly in thus cross-questioning his daughter on a matter,
which, if it were expedient that it should die away, would die away
the more easily the less it were talked about. But the judge was
an odd man in many of the theories of his life. One of them, with
reference to his children, was very odd, and altogether opposed to
the usual practice of the world. It was this,--that they should be
allowed, as far as was practicable, to do what they liked. Now the
general opinion of the world is certainly quite the reverse--namely
this, that children, as long as they are under the control of their
parents, should be hindered and prevented in those things to which
they are most inclined. Of course the world in general, in carrying
out this practice, excuses it by an assertion,--made to themselves
or others,--that children customarily like those things which they
ought not to like. But the judge had an idea quite opposed to this.
Children, he said, if properly trained would like those things which
were good for them. Now it may be that he thought his daughter had
been properly trained.

"He is a very clever young man, my dear; you may be sure of that,"
were the last words which the judge said to his wife that night.

"But then he has got nothing," she replied; "and he is so uncommonly
plain."

The judge would not say a word more, but he could not help thinking
that this last point was one which might certainly be left to the
young lady.



CHAPTER XLVIII

THE ANGEL OF LIGHT UNDER A CLOUD


On the following morning, according to appointment, the judge visited
Felix Graham in his room. It was only the second occasion on which he
had done so since the accident, and he was therefore more inclined to
regard him as an invalid than those who had seen him from day to day.

"I am delighted to hear that your bones have been so amenable," said
the judge. "But you must not try them too far. We'll get you down
stairs into the drawing-room, and see how you get on there by the
next few days."

"I don't want to trouble you more than I can help," said Felix,
sheepishly. He knew that there were reasons why he should not go
into that drawing-room, but of course he could not guess that those
reasons were as well known to the judge as they were to himself.

"You sha'n't trouble us--more than you can help. I am not one of
those men who tell my friends that nothing is a trouble. Of course
you give trouble."

"I am so sorry!"

"There's your bed to make, my dear fellow, and your gruel to warm.
You know Shakspeare pretty well by heart I believe, and he puts that
matter,--as he did every other matter,--in the best and truest point
of view. Lady Macbeth didn't say she had no labour in receiving the
king. 'The labour we delight in physics pain,' she said. Those were
her words, and now they are mine."

"With a more honest purpose behind," said Felix.

"Well, yes; I've no murder in my thoughts at present. So that is all
settled, and Lady Staveley will be delighted to see you down stairs
to-morrow."

"I shall be only too happy," Felix answered, thinking within his own
mind that he must settle it all in the course of the day with
Augustus.

"And now perhaps you will be strong enough to say a few words about
business."

"Certainly," said Graham.

"You have heard of this Orley Farm case, in which our neighbour Lady
Mason is concerned."

"Oh yes; we were all talking of it at your table;--I think it was the
night, or a night or two, before my accident."

"Very well; then you know all about it. At least as much as the
public knows generally. It has now been decided on the part of Joseph
Mason,--the husband's eldest son, who is endeavouring to get the
property,--that she shall be indicted for perjury."

"For perjury!"

"Yes; and in doing that, regarding the matter from his point of view,
they are not deficient in judgment."

"But how could she have been guilty of perjury?"

"In swearing that she had been present when her husband and the three
witnesses executed the deed. If they have any ground to stand on--and
I believe they have none whatever, but if they have, they would much
more easily get a verdict against her on that point than on a charge
of forgery. Supposing it to be the fact that her husband never
executed such a deed, it would be manifest that she must have sworn
falsely in swearing that she saw him do so."

"Why, yes; one would say so."

"But that would afford by no means conclusive evidence that she had
forged the surreptitious deed herself."

"It would be strong presumptive evidence that she was cognizant of
the forgery."

"Perhaps so,--but uncorroborated would hardly bring a verdict after
such a lapse of years. And then moreover a prosecution for forgery,
if unsuccessful, would produce more painful feeling. Whether
successful or unsuccessful it would do so. Bail could not be taken in
the first instance, and such a prosecution would create a stronger
feeling that the poor lady was being persecuted."

"Those who really understand the matter will hardly thank them for
their mercy."

"But then so few will really understand it. The fact however is
that she will be indicted for perjury. I do not know whether the
indictment has not been already laid. Mr. Furnival was with me in
town yesterday, and at his very urgent request, I discussed the whole
subject with him. I shall be on the Home Circuit myself on these next
spring assizes, but I shall not take the criminal business at Alston.
Indeed I should not choose that this matter should be tried before me
under any circumstances, seeing that the lady is my near neighbour.
Now Furnival wants you to be engaged on the defence as junior
counsel."

"With himself?"

"Yes; with himself,--and with Mr. Chaffanbrass."

"With Mr. Chaffanbrass!" said Graham, in a tone almost of horror--as
though he had been asked to league himself with all that was most
disgraceful in the profession;--as indeed perhaps he had been.

"Yes--with Mr. Chaffanbrass."

"Will that be well, judge, do you think?"

"Mr. Chaffanbrass no doubt is a very clever man, and it may be wise
in such a case as this to have the services of a barrister who is
perhaps unequalled in his power of cross-examining a witness."

"Does his power consist in making a witness speak the truth, or in
making him conceal it?"

"Perhaps in both. But here, if it be the case as Mr. Furnival
suspects, that witnesses will be suborned to give false evidence--"

"But surely the Rounds would have nothing to do with such a matter as
that?"

"No, probably not. I am sure that old Richard Round would abhor any
such work as you or I would do. They take the evidence as it is
brought to them. I believe there is no doubt that at any rate one
of the witnesses to the codicil in question will now swear that the
signature to the document is not her signature."

"A woman--is it?"

"Yes; a woman. In such a case it may perhaps be allowable to employ
such a man as Mr. Chaffanbrass; and I should tell you also, such
another man as Mr. Solomon Aram."

"Solomon Aram, too! Why, judge, the Old Bailey will be left bare."

"The shining lights will certainly be down at Alston. Now under those
circumstances will you undertake the case?"

"Would you;--in my place?"

"Yes; if I were fully convinced of the innocence of my client at the
beginning."

"But what if I were driven to change my opinion as the thing
progressed?"

"You must go on, in such a case, as a matter of course."

"I suppose I can have a day or two to think of it?"

"Oh yes. I should not myself be the bearer to you of Mr. Furnival's
message, were it not that I think that Lady Mason is being very
cruelly used in the matter. If I were a young man in your position,
I should take up the case _con amore_, for the sake of beauty and
womanhood. I don't say that that Quixotism is very wise; but still I
don't think it can be wrong to join yourself even with such men as
Chaffanbrass and Mr. Solomon Aram, if you can feel confident that you
have justice and truth on your side." Then after a few more words the
interview was over, and the judge left the room making some further
observation as to his hope of seeing Graham in the drawing-room on
the next day.

On the following morning there came from Peckham two more letters for
Graham, one of course from Mary Snow, and one from Mrs. Thomas. We
will first give attention to that from the elder lady. She commenced
with much awe, declaring that her pen trembled within her fingers,
but that nevertheless she felt bound by her conscience and that
duty which she owed to Mr. Graham, to tell him everything that had
occurred,--"word by word," as she expressed it. And then Felix,
looking at the letter, saw that he held in his hand two sheets of
letter paper, quite full of small writing, the latter of which was
crossed. She went on to say that her care had been unremitting, and
her solicitude almost maternal; that Mary's conduct had on the whole
been such as to inspire her with "undeviating confidence;" but that
the guile of the present age was such, especially in respect to
female servants--who seemed, in Mrs. Thomas's opinion, to be sent in
these days express from a very bad place for the express assistance
of a very bad gentleman--that it was impossible for any woman, let
her be ever so circumspect, to say "what was what, or who was who."
From all which Graham learned that Mrs. Thomas had been "done;" but
by the middle of the third page he had as yet learned nothing as to
the manner of the doing.

But by degrees the long reel unwinded itself;--angel of light, and
all. Mary Snow had not only received but had answered a lover's
letter. She had answered that lover's letter by making an appointment
with him; and she had kept that appointment,--with the assistance of
the agent sent express from that very bad gentleman. All this Mrs.
Thomas had only discovered afterwards by finding the lover's letter,
and the answer which the angel of light had written. Both of these
she copied verbatim, thinking probably that the original documents
were too precious to be intrusted to the post; and then ended by
saying that an additional year of celibacy, passed under a closer
espionage, and with more severe moral training, might still perhaps
make Mary Snow fit for the high destiny which had been promised to
her.

The only part of this letter which Felix read twice was that which
contained the answer from the angel of light to her lover. "You have
been very wicked to address me," the angel of light said severely.
"And it is almost impossible that I should ever forgive you!" If only
she could have brought herself to end there! But her nature, which
the lover had greatly belied in likening it to her name, was not cold
enough for this. So she added a few more words very indiscreetly. "As
I want to explain to you why I can never see you again, I will meet
you on Thursday afternoon, at half-past four, a little way up Clapham
Lane, at the corner of the doctor's wall, just beyond the third
lamp." It was the first letter she had ever written to a lover, and
the poor girl had betrayed herself by keeping a copy of it.

And then Graham came to Mary Snow's letter to himself, which, as it
was short, the reader shall have entire.


   MY DEAR MR. GRAHAM,

   I never was so unhappy in my life, and I am sure I don't
   know how to write to you. Of course I do not think you
   will ever see me again unless it be to upbraid me for my
   perfidy, and I almost hope you won't, for I should sink
   into the ground before your eyes. And yet I didn't mean to
   do anything very wrong, and when I did meet him I wouldn't
   as much as let him take me by the hand;--not of my own
   accord. I don't know what she has said to you, and I think
   she ought to have let me read it; but she speaks to me now
   in such a way that I don't know how to bear it. She has
   rummaged among everything I have got, but I am sure she
   could find nothing except those two letters. It wasn't my
   fault that he wrote to me, though I know now I ought not
   to have met him. He is quite a genteel young man, and very
   respectable in the medical line; only I know that makes
   no difference now, seeing how good you have been to me. I
   don't ask you to forgive me, but it nearly kills me when I
   think of poor papa.

   Yours always, most unhappy, and very sorry for what I have
   done,

   MARY SNOW.


Poor Mary Snow! Could any man under such circumstances have been
angry with her? In the first place if men will mould their wives,
they must expect that kind of thing; and then, after all, was there
any harm done? If ultimately he did marry Mary Snow, would she make
a worse wife because she had met the apothecary's assistant at the
corner of the doctor's wall, under the third lamp-post? Graham, as he
sat with the letters before him, made all manner of excuses for her;
and this he did the more eagerly, because he felt that he would have
willingly made this affair a cause for breaking off his engagement,
if his conscience had not told him that it would be unhandsome in him
to do so.

When Augustus came he could not show the letters to him. Had he done
so it would have been as much as to declare that now the coast was
clear as far as he was concerned. He could not now discuss with his
friend the question of Mary Snow, without also discussing the other
question of Madeline Staveley. So he swept the letters away, and
talked almost entirely about the Orley Farm case.

"I only wish I were thought good enough for the chance," said
Augustus. "By heavens! I would work for that woman as I never could
work again for any fee that could be offered me."

"So would I; but I don't like my fellow-labourers."

"I should not mind that."

"I suppose," said Graham, "there can be no possible doubt as to her
absolute innocence?"

"None whatever. My father has no doubt. Furnival has no doubt. Sir
Peregrine has no doubt,--who, by-the-by, is going to marry her."

"Nonsense!"

"Oh, but he is though. He has taken up her case _con amore_ with a
vengeance."

"I should be sorry for that. It makes me think him a fool, and her--a
very clever woman."

And so that matter was discussed, but not a word was said between
them about Mary Snow, or as to that former conversation respecting
Madeline Staveley. Each felt then there was a reserve between them;
but each felt also that there was no way of avoiding this. "The
governor seems determined that you sha'n't stir yet awhile," Augustus
said as he was preparing to take his leave.

"I shall be off in a day or two at the furthest all the same," said
Graham.

"And you are to drink tea down stairs to-night. I'll come and fetch
you as soon as we're out of the dining-room. I can assure you that
your first appearance after your accident has been duly announced to
the public, and that you are anxiously expected." And then Staveley
left him.

So he was to meet Madeline that evening. His first feeling at the
thought was one of joy, but he soon brought himself almost to wish
that he could leave Noningsby without any such meeting. There
would have been nothing in it,--nothing that need have called for
observation or remark,--had he not told his secret to Augustus. But
his secret had been told to one, and might be known to others in the
house. Indeed he felt sure that it was suspected by Lady Staveley. It
could not, as he said to himself, have been suspected by the judge,
or the judge would not have treated him in so friendly a manner, or
have insisted so urgently on his coming down among them.

And then, how should he carry himself in her presence? If he were to
say nothing to her, his saying nothing would be remarked; and yet
he felt that all his powers of self-control would not enable him to
speak to her in the same manner that he would speak to her sister. He
had to ask himself, moreover, what line of conduct he did intend to
follow. If he was still resolved to marry Mary Snow, would it not be
better that he should take this bull by the horns and upset it at
once? In such case, Madeline Staveley must be no more to him than her
sister. But then he had two intentions. In accordance with one he
would make Mary Snow his wife; and in following the other he would
marry Miss Staveley. It must be admitted that the two brides which he
proposed to himself were very different. The one that he had moulded
for his own purposes was not, as he admitted, quite equal to her of
whom nature, education, and birth had had the handling.

Again he dined alone; but on this occasion Mrs. Baker was able to
elicit from him no enthusiasm as to his dinner. And yet she had done
her best, and placed before him a sweetbread and dish of sea-kale
that ought to have made him enthusiastic. "I had to fight with the
gardener for that like anything," she said, singing her own praises
when he declined to sing them.

"Dear me! They'll think that I am a dreadful person to have in the
house."

"Not a bit. Only they sha'n't think as how I'm going to be said 'no'
to in that way when I've set my mind on a thing. I know what's going
and I know what's proper. Why, laws, Mr. Graham, there's heaps of
things there and yet there's no getting of 'em;--unless there's a
party or the like of that. What's the use of a garden I say,--or of
a gardener neither, if you don't have garden stuff? It's not to look
at. Do finish it now;--after all the trouble I had, standing over him
in the cold while he cut it."

"Oh dear, oh dear, Mrs. Baker, why did you do that?"

"He thought to perish me, making believe it took him so long to get
at it; but I'm not so easy perished; I can tell him that! I'd have
stood there till now but what I had it. Miss Madeline see'd me as I
was coming in, and asked me what I'd been doing."

"I hope you didn't tell her that I couldn't live without sea-kale?"

"I told her that I meant to give you your dinner comfortable as long
as you had it up here; and she said--; but laws, Mr. Graham, you
don't care what a young lady says to an old woman like me. You'll see
her yourself this evening, and then you can tell her whether or no
the sea-kale was worth the eating! It's not so badly biled, I will
say that for Hannah Cook, though she is rampagious sometimes." He
longed to ask her what words Madeline had used, even in speaking on
such a subject as this; but he did not dare to do so. Mrs. Baker was
very fond of talking about Miss Madeline, but Graham was by no means
assured that he should find an ally in Mrs. Baker if he told her all
the truth.

At last the hour arrived, and Augustus came to convoy him down to
the drawing-room. It was now many days since he had been out of that
room, and the very fact of moving was an excitement to him. He hardly
knew how he might feel in walking down stairs, and could not quite
separate the nervousness arising from his shattered bones from that
other nervousness which came from his--shattered heart. The word is
undoubtedly a little too strong, but as it is there, there let it
stay. When he reached the drawing-room, he almost felt that he had
better decline to enter it. The door however was opened, and he was
in the room before he could make up his mind to any such step, and
he found himself being walked across the floor to some especial seat,
while a dozen kindly anxious faces were crowding round him.

"Here's an arm-chair, Mr. Graham, kept expressly for you, near the
fire," said Lady Staveley. "And I am extremely glad to see you well
enough to fill it."

"Welcome out of your room, sir," said the judge. "I compliment you,
and Pottinger also, upon your quick recovery; but allow me to tell
you that you don't yet look a man fit to rough it alone in London."

"I feel very well, sir," said Graham.

And then Mrs. Arbuthnot greeted him, and Miss Furnival, and four or
five others who were of the party, and he was introduced to one or
two whom he had not seen before. Marian too came up to him,--very
gently, as though he were as brittle as glass, having been warned by
her mother. "Oh, Mr. Felix," she said, "I was so unhappy when your
bones were broken. I do hope they won't break again."

And then he perceived that Madeline was in the room and was coming
up to him. She had in truth not been there when he first entered,
having thought it better, as a matter of strategy, to follow upon his
footsteps. He was getting up to meet her, when Lady Staveley spoke to
him.

"Don't move, Mr. Graham. Invalids, you know, are chartered."

"I am very glad to see you once more down stairs," said Madeline, as
she frankly gave him her hand,--not merely touching his--"very, very
glad. But I do hope you will get stronger before you venture to leave
Noningsby. You have frightened us all very much by your terrible
accident."

All this was said in her peculiarly sweet silver voice, not speaking
as though she were dismayed and beside herself, or in a hurry to get
through a lesson which she had taught herself. She had her secret to
hide, and had schooled herself how to hide it. But in so schooling
herself she had been compelled to acknowledge to herself that the
secret did exist. She had told herself that she must meet him, and
that in meeting him she must hide it. This she had done with absolute
success. Such is the peculiar power of women; and her mother, who had
listened not only to every word, but to every tone of her voice, gave
her exceeding credit.

"There's more in her than I thought there was," said Sophia Furnival
to herself, who had also listened and watched.

"It has not gone very deep, with her," said the judge, who on this
matter was not so good a judge as Miss Furnival.

"She cares about me just as Mrs. Baker does," said Graham to himself,
who was the worst judge of them all. He muttered something quite
unintelligible in answer to the kindness of her words; and then
Madeline, having gone through her task, retired to the further side
of the round table, and went to work among the teacups.

And then the conversation became general, turning altogether on the
affairs of Lady Mason. It was declared as a fact by Lady Staveley
that there was to be a marriage between Sir Peregrine Orme and his
guest, and all in the room expressed their sorrow. The women were
especially indignant. "I have no patience with her," said Mrs.
Arbuthnot. "She must know that such a marriage at his time of life
must be ridiculous, and injurious to the whole family."

The women were very indignant,--all except Miss Furnival, who did not
say much, but endeavoured to palliate the crimes of Lady Mason in
that which she did say. "I do not know that she is more to blame
than any other lady who marries a gentleman thirty years older than
herself."

"I do then," said Lady Staveley, who delighted in contradicting
Miss Furnival. "And so would you too, my dear, if you had known Sir
Peregrine as long as I have. And if--if--if--but it does not matter.
I am very sorry for Lady Mason,--very. I think she is a woman cruelly
used by her own connections; but my sympathies with her would
be warmer if she had refrained from using her power over an old
gentleman like Sir Peregrine, in the way she has done." In all which
expression of sentiment the reader will know that poor dear Lady
Staveley was wrong from the beginning to the end.

"For my part," said the judge, "I don't see what else she was to do.
If Sir Peregrine asked her, how could she refuse?"

"My dear!" said Lady Staveley.

"According to that, papa, every lady must marry any gentleman that
asks her," said Mrs. Arbuthnot.

"When a lady is under so deep a weight of obligation I don't know how
she is to refuse. My idea is that Sir Peregrine should not have asked
her."

"And mine too," said Felix. "Unless indeed he did it under an
impression that he could fight for her better as her husband than
simply as a friend."

"And I feel sure that that is what he did think," said Madeline, from
the further side of the table. And her voice sounded in Graham's ears
as the voice of Eve may have sounded to Adam. No; let him do what he
might in the world;--whatever might be the form in which his future
career should be fashioned, one thing was clearly impossible to him.
He could not marry Mary Snow. Had he never learned to know what were
the true charms of feminine grace and loveliness, it might have been
possible for him to do so, and to have enjoyed afterwards a fair
amount of contentment. But now even contentment would be impossible
to him under such a lot as that. Not only would he be miserable, but
the woman whom he married would be wretched also. It may be said that
he made up his mind definitely, while sitting in that arm-chair, that
he would not marry Mary Snow. Poor Mary Snow! Her fault in the matter
had not been great.

When Graham was again in his room, and the servant who was obliged
to undress him had left him, he sat over his fire, wrapped in his
dressing-gown, bethinking himself what he would do. "I will tell the
judge everything," he said at last. "Then, if he will let me into his
house after that, I must fight my own battle." And so he betook
himself to bed.



CHAPTER XLIX

MRS. FURNIVAL CAN'T PUT UP WITH IT


When Lady Mason last left the chambers of her lawyer in Lincoln's
Inn, she was watched by a stout lady as she passed through the narrow
passage leading from the Old to the New Square. That fact will I
trust be remembered, and I need hardly say that the stout lady was
Mrs. Furnival. She had heard betimes of the arrival of that letter
with the Hamworth post-mark, had felt assured that it was written by
the hands of her hated rival, and had at once prepared for action.

"I shall leave this house to-day,--immediately after breakfast," she
said to Miss Biggs, as they sat disconsolately at the table with the
urn between them.

"And I think you will be quite right, my dear," replied Miss Biggs.
"It is your bounden duty to put down such wicked iniquity as
this;--not only for your own sake, but for that of morals in general.
What in the world is there so beautiful and so lovely as a high tone
of moral sentiment?" To this somewhat transcendental question Mrs.
Furnival made no reply. That a high tone of moral sentiment as a
thing in general, for the world's use, is very good, she was no doubt
aware; but her mind at the present moment was fixed exclusively on
her own peculiar case. That Tom Furnival should be made to give up
seeing that nasty woman who lived at Hamworth, and to give up also
having letters from her,--that at present was the extent of her moral
sentiment. His wicked iniquity she could forgive with a facility
not at all gratifying to Miss Biggs, if only she could bring about
such a result as that. So she merely grunted in answer to the above
proposition.

"And will you sleep away from this?" asked Miss Biggs.

"Certainly I will. I will neither eat here, nor sleep here, nor stay
here till I know that all this is at an end. I have made up my mind
what I will do."

"Well?" asked the anxious Martha.

"Oh, never mind. I am not exactly prepared to talk about it. There
are things one can't talk about,--not to anybody. One feels as though
one would burst in mentioning it. I do, I know."

Martha Biggs could not but feel that this was hard, but she knew that
friendship is nothing if it be not long enduring. "Dearest Kitty!"
she exclaimed. "If true sympathy can be of service to you--"

"I wonder whether I could get respectable lodgings in the
neighbourhood of Red Lion Square for a week?" said Mrs. Furnival,
once more bringing the conversation back from the abstract to the
concrete.

In answer to this Miss Biggs of course offered the use of her own
bedroom and of her father's house; but her father was an old man, and
Mrs. Furnival positively refused to agree to any such arrangement. At
last it was decided that Martha should at once go off and look for
lodgings in the vicinity of her own home, that Mrs. Furnival should
proceed to carry on her own business in her own way,--the cruelty
being this, that she would not give the least hint as to what that
way might be,--and that the two ladies should meet together in the
Red Lion Square drawing-room at the close of the day.

"And about dinner, dear?" asked Miss Biggs.

"I will get something at a pastrycook's," said Mrs. Furnival.

"And your clothes, dear?"

"Rachel will see about them; she knows." Now Rachel was the old
female servant of twenty years' standing; and the disappointment
experienced by poor Miss Biggs at the ignorance in which she was left
was greatly enhanced by a belief that Rachel knew more than she did.
Mrs. Furnival would tell Rachel but would not tell her. This was
very, very hard, as Miss Biggs felt. But, nevertheless, friendship,
sincere friendship is long enduring, and true patient merit will
generally receive at last its appropriate reward.

Then Mrs. Furnival had sat down, Martha Biggs having been duly sent
forth on the mission after the lodgings, and had written a letter to
her husband. This she intrusted to Rachel, whom she did not purpose
to remove from that abode of iniquity from which she herself was
fleeing, and having completed her letter she went out upon her own
work. The letter ran as follows:--


   Harley Street--Friday.

   MY DEAREST TOM,

   I cannot stand this any longer, so I have thought it best
   to leave the house and go away. I am very sorry to be
   forced to such a step as this, and would have put up with
   a good deal first; but there are some things which I
   cannot put up with,--and won't. I know that a woman has
   to obey her husband, and I have always obeyed you, and
   thought it no hardship even when I was left so much alone;
   but a woman is not to see a slut brought in under her very
   nose,--and I won't put up with it. We've been married now
   going on over twenty-five years, and it's terrible to
   think of being driven to this. I almost believe it will
   drive me mad, and then, when I'm a lunatic, of course you
   can do as you please.

   I don't want to have any secrets from you. Where I shall
   go I don't yet know, but I've asked Martha Biggs to take
   lodgings for me somewhere near her. I must have somebody
   to speak to now and again, so you can write to 23 Red Lion
   Square till you hear further. It's no use sending for me,
   for I _won't come_;--not till I know that you think better
   of your present ways of going on. I don't know whether you
   have the power to get the police to come after me, but I
   advise you not. If you do anything of that sort the people
   about shall hear of it.

   And now, Tom, I want to say one word to you. You can't
   think it's a happiness to me going away from my own home
   where I have lived respectable so many years, or leaving
   you whom I've loved with all my whole heart. It makes me
   very very unhappy, so that I could sit and cry all day if
   it weren't for pride and because the servants shouldn't
   see me. To think that it has come to this after all! Oh,
   Tom, I wonder whether you ever think of the old days when
   we used to be so happy in Keppel Street! There wasn't
   anybody then that you cared to see, except me;--I do
   believe that. And you'd always come home then, and I never
   thought bad of it though you wouldn't have a word to speak
   to me for hours. Because you were doing your duty. But you
   ain't doing your duty now, Tom. You know you ain't doing
   your duty when you never dine at home, and come home so
   cross with wine that you curse and swear, and have that
   nasty woman coming to see you at your chambers. Don't tell
   me it's about law business. Ladies don't go to barristers'
   chambers about law business. All that is done by
   attorneys. I've heard you say scores of times that you
   never would see people themselves, and yet you see her.

   Oh, Tom, you have made me so wretched! But I can forgive
   it all, and will never say another word about it to fret
   you, if you'll only promise me to have nothing more to
   say to that woman. Of course I'd like you to come home to
   dinner, but I'd put up with that. You've made your own way
   in the world, and perhaps it's only right you should enjoy
   it. I don't think so much dining at the club can be good
   for you, and I'm afraid you'll have gout, but I don't
   want to bother you about that. Send me a line to say that
   you won't see her any more, and I'll come back to Harley
   Street at once. If you can't bring yourself to do that,
   you--and--I--must--part. I can put up with a great deal,
   but I can't put up with that;--_and won't_.

   Your affectionate loving wife,

   C. FURNIVAL.


"I wonder whether you ever think of the old days when we used to be
so happy in Keppel Street?" Ah me, how often in after life, in those
successful days when the battle has been fought and won, when all
seems outwardly to go well,--how often is this reference made to the
happy days in Keppel Street! It is not the prize that can make us
happy; it is not even the winning of the prize, though for the one
short half-hour of triumph that is pleasant enough. The struggle, the
long hot hour of the honest fight, the grinding work,--when the teeth
are set, and the skin moist with sweat and rough with dust, when all
is doubtful and sometimes desperate, when a man must trust to his own
manhood knowing that those around him trust to it not at all,--that
is the happy time of life. There is no human bliss equal to twelve
hours of work with only six hours in which to do it. And when
the expected pay for that work is worse than doubtful, the inner
satisfaction is so much the greater. Oh, those happy days in Keppel
Street, or it may be over in dirty lodgings in the Borough, or
somewhere near the Marylebone workhouse;--anywhere for a moderate
weekly stipend. Those were to us, and now are to others, and always
will be to many, the happy days of life. How bright was love, and how
full of poetry! Flashes of wit glanced here and there, and how they
came home and warmed the cockles of the heart. And the unfrequent
bottle! Methinks that wine has utterly lost its flavour since those
days. There is nothing like it; long work, grinding weary work, work
without pay, hopeless work; but work in which the worker trusts
himself, believing it to be good. Let him, like Mahomet, have one
other to believe in him, and surely nothing else is needed. "Ah me! I
wonder whether you ever think of the old days when we used to be so
happy in Keppel Street?"

Nothing makes a man so cross as success, or so soon turns a pleasant
friend into a captious acquaintance. Your successful man eats too
much and his stomach troubles him; he drinks too much and his nose
becomes blue. He wants pleasure and excitement, and roams about
looking for satisfaction in places where no man ever found it. He
frets himself with his banker's book, and everything tastes amiss to
him that has not on it the flavour of gold. The straw of an omnibus
always stinks; the linings of the cabs are filthy. There are but
three houses round London at which an eatable dinner may be obtained.
And yet a few years since how delicious was that cut of roast goose
to be had for a shilling at the eating-house near Golden Square. Mrs.
Jones and Mrs. Green, Mrs. Walker and all the other mistresses, are
too vapid and stupid and humdrum for endurance. The theatres are dull
as Lethe, and politics have lost their salt. Success is the necessary
misfortune of life, but it is only to the very unfortunate that it
comes early.

Mrs. Furnival, when she had finished her letter and fastened it, drew
one of the heavy dining-room arm-chairs over against the fire, and
sat herself down to consider her past life, still holding the letter
in her lap. She had not on that morning been very careful with her
toilet, as was perhaps natural enough. The cares of the world were
heavy on her, and he would not be there to see her. Her hair was
rough, and her face was red, and she had hardly had the patience
to make straight the collar round her neck. To the eye she was
an untidy, angry, cross-looking woman. But her heart was full of
tenderness,--full to overflowing. She loved him now as well as ever
she had loved him:--almost more as the thought of parting from
him pressed upon her! Was he not all in all to her? Had she not
worshipped him during her whole life? Could she not forgive him?

Forgive him! Yes. Forgive him with the fullest, frankest, freest
pardon, if he would only take forgiveness. Should she burn that
letter in the fire, send to Biggs saying that the lodgings were not
wanted, and then throw herself at Tom's feet, imploring him to have
mercy upon her? All that she could do within her heart, and make her
words as passionate, as soft, and as poetical as might be those of a
young wife of twenty. But she felt that such words,--though she could
frame the sentence while sitting there,--could never get themselves
spoken. She had tried it, and it had been of no avail. Not only
should she be prepared for softness, but he also must be so prepared
and at the same moment. If he should push her from him and call her
a fool when she attempted that throwing of herself at his feet, how
would it be with her spirit then? No. She must go forth and the
letter must be left. If there were any hope of union for the future
it must come from a parting for the present. So she went up stairs
and summoned Rachel, remaining with her in consultation for some
half-hour. Then she descended with her bonnet and shawl, got into a
cab while Spooner stood at the door looking very serious, and was
driven away,--whither, no one knew in Harley Street except Mrs.
Furnival herself, and that cabman.

"She'll never put her foot inside this hall door again. That's my
idea of the matter," said Spooner.

"Indeed and she will," said Rachel, "and be a happier woman than ever
she's been since the house was took."

"If I know master," said Spooner, "he's not the man to get rid of an
old woman, easy like that, and then 'ave her back agin." Upon hearing
which words, so very injurious to the sex in general, Rachel walked
into the house not deigning any further reply.

And then, as we have seen, Mrs. Furnival was there, standing in the
dark shadow of the Lincoln's Inn passage, when Lady Mason left the
lawyer's chambers. She felt sure that it was Lady Mason, but she
could not be quite sure. The woman, though she came out from the
entry which led to her husband's chambers, might have come down
from some other set of rooms. Had she been quite certain she would
have attacked her rival there, laying bodily hands upon her in the
purlieus of the Lord Chancellor's Court. As it was, the poor bruised
creature was allowed to pass by, and as she emerged out into the
light at the other end of the passage Mrs. Furnival became quite
certain of her identity.

"Never mind," she said to herself. "She sha'n't escape me long. Him
I could forgive, if he would only give it up; but as for her--! Let
what come of it, come may, I will tell that woman what I think of her
conduct before I am many hours older." Then, giving one look up to
the windows of her husband's chambers, she walked forth through the
dusty old gate into Chancery Lane, and made her way on foot up to No.
23 Red Lion Square. "I'm glad I've done it," she said to herself as
she went; "very glad. There's nothing else for it, when things come
to such a head as that." And in this frame of mind she knocked at her
friend's door.

"Well!" said Martha Biggs, with her eyes, and mouth, and arms, and
heart all open.

"Have you got me the lodgings?" said Mrs. Furnival.

"Yes, close by;--in Orange Street. I'm afraid you'll find them very
dull. And what have you done?"

"I have done nothing, and I don't at all mind their being dull. They
can't possibly be more dull than Harley Street."

"And I shall be near you; sha'n't I?" said Martha Biggs.

"Umph," said Mrs. Furnival. "I might as well go there at once and
get myself settled." So she did, the affectionate Martha of course
accompanying her; and thus the affairs of that day were over.

Her intention was to go down to Hamworth at once, and make her way
up to Orley Farm, at which place she believed that Lady Mason was
living. Up to this time she had heard no word of the coming trial
beyond what Mr. Furnival had told her as to his client's "law
business." And whatever he had so told her, she had scrupulously
disbelieved. In her mind all that went for nothing. Law business! she
was not so blind, so soft, so green, as to be hoodwinked by such
stuff as that. Beautiful widows don't have personal interviews with
barristers in their chambers over and over again, let them have what
law business they may. At any rate Mrs. Furnival took upon herself to
say that they ought not to have such interviews. She would go down to
Orley Farm and she would have an interview with Lady Mason. Perhaps
the thing might be stopped in that way.

On the following morning she received a note from her husband the
consideration of which delayed her proceedings for that day.

"DEAR KITTY," the note ran.


   I think you are very foolish. If regard for me had not
   kept you at home, some consideration with reference to
   Sophia should have done so. What you say about that poor
   lady at Orley Farm is too absurd for me to answer. If you
   would have spoken to me about her, I would have told you
   that which would have set your mind at rest, at any rate
   as regards her. I cannot do this in a letter, nor could I
   do it in the presence of your friend, Miss Biggs.

   I hope you will come back at once; but I shall not add
   to the absurdity of your leaving your own house by any
   attempt to bring you back again by force. As you must want
   money I enclose a check for fifty pounds. I hope you will
   be back before you want more; but if not I will send it as
   soon as you ask for it.

   Yours affectionately as always,

   T. FURNIVAL.


There was about this letter an absence of sentiment, and an absence
of threat, and an absence of fuss, which almost overset her. Could
it be possible that she was wrong about Lady Mason? Should she go to
him and hear his own account before she absolutely declared war by
breaking into the enemy's camp at Orley Farm? Then, moreover, she was
touched and almost overcome about the money. She wished he had not
sent it to her. That money difficulty had occurred to her, and been
much discussed in her own thoughts. Of course she could not live away
from him if he refused to make her any allowance,--at least not for
any considerable time. He had always been liberal as regards money
since money had been plenty with him, and therefore she had some
supply with her. She had jewels too which were her own; and though,
as she had already determined, she would not part with them without
telling him what she was about to do, yet she could, if pressed, live
in this way for the next twelve months;--perhaps, with close economy,
even for a longer time than that. In her present frame of mind she
had looked forward almost with gratification to being pinched and
made uncomfortable. She would wear her ordinary and more dowdy
dresses; she would spend much of her time in reading sermons; she
would get up very early and not care what she ate or drank. In short,
she would make herself as uncomfortable as circumstances would admit,
and thoroughly enjoy her grievances.

But then this check of fifty pounds, and this offer of as much more
as she wanted when that was gone, rather took the ground from under
her feet. Unless she herself chose to give way she might go on living
in Orange Street to the end of the chapter, with every material
comfort about her,--keeping her own brougham if she liked, for the
checks she now knew would come without stint. And he would go on
living in Harley street, seeing Lady Mason as often as he pleased.
Sophia would be the mistress of the house, and as long as this was
so, Lady Mason would not show her face there. Now this was not a
course of events to which Mrs. Furnival could bring herself to look
forward with satisfaction.

All this delayed her during that day, but before she went to bed she
made up her mind that she would at any rate go down to Hamworth. Tom,
she knew, was deceiving her; of that she felt morally sure. She would
at any rate go down to Hamworth, and trust to her own wit for finding
out the truth when there.



CHAPTER L

IT IS QUITE IMPOSSIBLE


All was now sadness at The Cleeve. It was soon understood among the
servants that there was to be no marriage, and the tidings spread
from the house, out among the neighbours and into Hamworth. But no
one knew the reason of this change;--none except those three, the
woman herself who had committed the crime and the two to whom she had
told it. On that same night, the night of the day on which the tale
had been told, Lady Mason wrote a line,--almost a single line to her
son.


   DEAREST LUCIUS,

   All is over between me and Sir Peregrine. It is better
   that it should be so. I write to tell you this without
   losing an hour. For the present I remain here with my
   dear--dearest friends.

   Your own affectionate mother,

   M. MASON.


This note she had written in obedience to the behests of Mrs. Orme,
and even under her dictation--with the exception of one or two words,
"I remain here with my friends," Mrs. Orme had said; but Lady Mason
had put in the two epithets, and had then declared her own conviction
that she had now no right to use such language.

"Yes, of me you may, certainly," said Mrs. Orme, keeping close to her
shoulder.

"Then I will alter it," said Lady Mason. "I will write it again and
say I am staying with you."

But this Mrs. Orme had forbidden. "No; it will be better so," she
said. "Sir Peregrine would wish it. I am sure he would. He quite
agrees that--" Mrs. Orme did not finish her sentence, but the letter
was despatched, written as above. The answer which Lucius sent down
before breakfast the next morning was still shorter.


   DEAREST MOTHER,

   I am greatly rejoiced that it is so.

   Your affectionate son,

   L. M.


He sent this note, but he did not go down to her, nor was there any
other immediate communication between them.

All was now sadness at The Cleeve. Peregrine knew that that marriage
project was over, and he knew also that his grandfather and Lady
Mason did not now meet each other; but he knew nothing of the cause,
though he could not but remark that he did not see her. On that day
she did not come down either to dinner or during the evening; nor
was she seen on the following morning. He, Peregrine, felt aware
that something had occurred at that interview in the library after
breakfast, but was lost in surmising what that something had been.
That Lady Mason should have told his grandfather that the marriage
must be given up would have been only in accordance with the promise
made by her to him; but he did not think that that alone would
have occasioned such utter sadness, such deathlike silence in the
household. Had there been a quarrel Lady Mason would have gone
home;--but she did not go home. Had the match been broken off without
a quarrel, why should she mysteriously banish herself to two rooms so
that no one but his mother should see her?

And he too had his own peculiar sorrow. On that morning Sir Peregrine
had asked him to ride through the grounds, and it had been the
baronet's intention to propose during that ride that he should go
over to Noningsby and speak to the judge about Madeline. We all know
how that proposition had been frustrated. And now Peregrine, thinking
over the matter, saw that his grandfather was not in a position at
the present moment to engage himself ardently in any such work. By
whatever means or whatever words he had been induced to agree to the
abandonment of that marriage engagement, that abandonment weighed
very heavily on his spirits. It was plain to see that he was a broken
man, broken in heart and in spirit. He shut himself up alone in his
library all that afternoon, and had hardly a word to say when he came
out to dinner in the evening. He was very pale too, and slow and weak
in his step. He tried to smile as he came up to his daughter-in-law
in the drawing-room; but his smile was the saddest thing of all. And
then Peregrine could see that he ate nothing. He was very gentle
in his demeanour to the servants, very courteous and attentive
to Mrs. Orme, very kind to his grandson. But yet his mind was
heavy;--brooding over some sorrow that oppressed it. On the following
morning it was the same, and the grandson knew that he could look to
his grandfather for no assistance at Noningsby.

Immediately after breakfast Peregrine got on his horse, without
speaking to any one of his intention,--almost without having formed
an intention, and rode off in the direction of Alston. He did not
take the road, but went out through The Cleeve woods, on to the
common, by which, had he turned to the left, he might have gone to
Orley Farm; but when on the top of the rise from Crutchley Bottom he
turned to the right, and putting his horse into a gallop, rode along
the open ground till he came to an enclosure into which he leaped.
From thence he made his way through a farm gate into a green country
lane, along which he still pressed his horse, till he found himself
divided from the end of a large wood by but one f