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Title: Ralph the Heir
Author: Trollope, Anthony, 1815-1882
Language: English
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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 "Ralph the Heir" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



RALPH THE HEIR

by

ANTHONY TROLLOPE

With Illustrations by F. A. Fraser

First published serially in _Saint Paul's Magazine_ in 1870-1 and in
book form in 1871



[Illustration: He drank his sherry and soda-water, and lit his pipe,
and lay there on the lawn, as though he were quite at home . . .
(Chapter III.)]



CONTENTS

         I. SIR THOMAS.
        II. POPHAM VILLA.
       III. WHAT HAPPENED ON THE LAWN AT POPHAM VILLA.
        IV. MARY BONNER.
         V. MR. NEEFIT AND HIS FAMILY.
        VI. MRS. NEEFIT'S LITTLE DINNER.
       VII. YOU ARE ONE OF US NOW.
      VIII. RALPH NEWTON'S TROUBLES.
        IX. ONTARIO MOGGS.
         X. SIR THOMAS IN HIS CHAMBERS.
        XI. NEWTON PRIORY.
       XII. MRS. BROWNLOW.
      XIII. MR. NEEFIT IS DISTURBED.
       XIV. THE REV. GREGORY NEWTON.
        XV. CLARISSA WAITS.
       XVI. THE CHESHIRE CHEESE.
      XVII. RALPH NEWTON'S DOUBTS.
     XVIII. WE WON'T SELL BROWNRIGGS.
       XIX. POLLY'S ANSWER.
        XX. THE CONSERVATIVES OF PERCYCROSS.
       XXI. THE LIBERALS OF PERCYCROSS.
      XXII. RALPH NEWTON'S DECISION.
     XXIII. "I'LL BE A HYPOCRITE IF YOU CHOOSE."
      XXIV. "I FIND I MUST."
       XXV. "MR. GRIFFENBOTTOM."
      XXVI. MOGGS, PURITY, AND THE RIGHTS OF LABOUR.
     XXVII. THE MOONBEAM.
    XXVIII. THE NEW HEIR COUNTS HIS CHICKENS.
      XXIX. THE ELECTION.
       XXX. "MISS MARY IS IN LUCK."
      XXXI. IT IS ALL SETTLED.
     XXXII. SIR THOMAS AT HOME.
    XXXIII. "TELL ME AND I'LL TELL YOU."
     XXXIV. ALONE IN THE HOUSE.
      XXXV. "SHE'LL ACCEPT YOU, OF COURSE."
     XXXVI. NEEFIT MEANS TO STICK TO IT.
    XXXVII. "HE MUST MARRY HER."
   XXXVIII. FOR TWO REASONS.
     XXXIX. HORSELEECHES.
        XL. WHAT SIR THOMAS THOUGHT ABOUT IT.
       XLI. A BROKEN HEART.
      XLII. NOT BROKEN-HEARTED.
     XLIII. ONCE MORE.
      XLIV. THE PETITION.
       XLV. "NEVER GIVE A THING UP."
      XLVI. MR. NEEFIT AGAIN.
     XLVII. THE WAY WHICH SHOWS THAT THEY MEAN IT.
    XLVIII. MR. MOGGS WALKS TOWARDS EDGEWARE.
      XLIX. AMONG THE PICTURES.
         L. ANOTHER FAILURE.
        LI. MUSIC HAS CHARMS.
       LII. GUS EARDHAM.
      LIII. THE END OF POLLY NEEFIT.
       LIV. MY MARY.
        LV. COOKHAM.
       LVI. RALPH NEWTON IS BOWLED AWAY.
     LVIII. CLARISSA'S FATE.
     LVIII. CONCLUSION.



CHAPTER I.

SIR THOMAS.


There are men who cannot communicate themselves to others, as there
are also men who not only can do so, but cannot do otherwise. And
it is hard to say which is the better man of the two. We do not
specially respect him who wears his heart upon his sleeve for daws to
peck at, who carries a crystal window to his bosom so that all can
see the work that is going on within it, who cannot keep any affair
of his own private, who gushes out in love and friendship to every
chance acquaintance; but then, again, there is but little love given
to him who is always wary, always silent as to his own belongings,
who buttons himself in a suit of close reserve which he never
loosens. Respect such a one may gain, but hardly love. It is natural
to us to like to know the affairs of our friends; and natural also,
I think, to like to talk of our own to those whom we trust. Perhaps,
after all that may be said of the weakness of the gushing and
indiscreet babbler, it is pleasanter to live with such a one than
with the self-constrained reticent man of iron, whose conversation
among his most intimate friends is solely of politics, of science, of
literature, or of some other subject equally outside the privacies of
our inner life.

Sir Thomas Underwood, whom I, and I hope my readers also, will have
to know very intimately, was one of those who are not able to make
themselves known intimately to any. I am speaking now of a man of
sixty, and I am speaking also of one who had never yet made a close
friend,--who had never by unconscious and slow degrees of affection
fallen into that kind of intimacy with another man which justifies
and renders necessary mutual freedom of intercourse in all the
affairs of life. And yet he was possessed of warm affections, was by
no means misanthropic in his nature, and would, in truth, have given
much to be able to be free and jocund as are other men. He lacked
the power that way, rather than the will. To himself it seemed to be
a weakness in him rather than a strength that he should always be
silent, always guarded, always secret and dark. He had lamented it
as an acknowledged infirmity;--as a man grieves that he should be
short-sighted, or dull of hearing; but at the age of sixty he had
taken no efficient steps towards curing himself of the evil, and had
now abandoned all idea of any such cure.

Whether he had been, upon the whole, fortunate or unfortunate in life
shall be left to the reader's judgment. But he certainly had not been
happy. He had suffered cruel disappointments; and a disappointment
will crush the spirit worse than a realised calamity. There is no
actual misfortune in not being Lord Mayor of London;--but when a man
has set his heart upon the place, has worked himself into a position
within a few feet of the Mansion House, has become alderman with
the mayoralty before him in immediate rotation, he will suffer more
at being passed over by the liverymen than if he had lost half his
fortune. Now Sir Thomas Underwood had become Solicitor-General in his
profession, but had never risen to the higher rank or more assured
emoluments of other legal offices.

We will not quite trace our Meleager back to his egg, but we will
explain that he was the only son of a barrister of moderate means,
who put him to the Bar, and who died leaving little or nothing behind
him. The young barrister had an only sister, who married an officer
in the army, and who had passed all her latter life in distant
countries to which her husband had been called by the necessity of
living on the income which his profession gave him. As a Chancery
barrister, Mr. Underwood,--our Sir Thomas,--had done well, living on
the income he made, marrying at thirty-five, going into Parliament
at forty-five, becoming Solicitor-General at fifty,--and ceasing
to hold that much-desired office four months after his appointment.
Such cessation, however, arising from political causes, is no
disappointment to a man. It will doubtless be the case that a man so
placed will regret the weakness of his party, which has been unable
to keep the good things of Government in its hands; but he will
recognise without remorse or sorrow the fact that the Ministry to
which he has attached himself must cease to be a Ministry;--and there
will be nothing in his displacement to gall his pride, or to create
that inner feeling of almost insupportable mortification which comes
from the conviction of personal failure. Sir Thomas Underwood had
been Solicitor-General for a few months under a Conservative Prime
Minister; and when the Conservative Minister went out of office, Sir
Thomas Underwood followed him with no feeling of regret that caused
him unhappiness. But when afterwards the same party came back to
power, and he, having lost his election at the borough which he had
represented, was passed over without a word of sympathy or even of
assumed regret from the Minister, then he was wounded. It was true,
he knew, that a man, to be Solicitor-General, should have a seat
in Parliament. The highest legal offices in the country are not to
be attained by any amount of professional excellence, unless the
candidate shall have added to such excellence the power of supporting
a Ministry and a party in the House of Commons. Sir Thomas Underwood
thoroughly understood this;--but he knew also that there are various
ways in which a lame dog may be helped over a stile,--if only the
lame dog be popular among dogs. For another ex-Solicitor-General
a seat would have been found,--or some delay would have been
granted,--or at least there would have been a consultation, with a
suggestion that something should be tried. But in this case a man
four years his junior in age, whom he despised, and who, as he was
informed, had obtained his place in Parliament by gross bribery, was
put into the office without a word of apology to him. Then he was
unhappy, and acknowledged to himself that his spirit was crushed.

But he acknowledged to himself at the same time that he was one
doomed by his nature to such crushing of the spirit if he came out of
the hole of his solitude, and endeavoured to carry on the open fight
of life among his fellow-men. He knew that he was one doomed to
that disappointment, the bitterest of all, which comes from failure
when the prize has been all but reached. It is much to have become
Solicitor-General, and that he had achieved;--but it is worse than
nothing to have been Solicitor-General for four months, and then
to find that all the world around one regards one as having failed,
and as being, therefore, fit for the shelf. Such were Sir Thomas
Underwood's feelings as he sat alone in his chambers during those
days in which the new administration was formed,--in which days he
was neither consulted nor visited, nor communicated with either by
message or by letter. But all this,--this formation of a Ministry,
in which the late Solicitor-General was not invited to take a
part,--occurred seven years before the commencement of our story.

During those years in which our lawyer sat in Parliament as Mr.
Underwood,--at which time he was working hard also as a Chancery
barrister, and was, perhaps, nearer to his fellow-men than he had
ever been before, or was ever destined to be afterwards,--he resided,
as regarded himself almost nominally, at a small but pretty villa,
which he had taken for his wife's sake at Fulham. It was close upon
the river, and had well-arranged, though not extensive, shrubbery
walks, and a little lawn, and a tiny conservatory, and a charming
opening down to the Thames. Mrs. Underwood had found herself unable
to live in Half-moon Street; and Mr. Underwood, not unwillingly,
had removed his household gods to this retreat. At that time his
household gods consisted of a wife and two daughters;--but the wife
had died before the time came at which she could have taken on
herself the name of Lady Underwood. The villa at Fulham was still
kept, and there lived the two girls, and there also Sir Thomas, had
he been interrogated on the subject, would have declared that he also
was domiciled. But if a man lives at the place in which he most often
sleeps, Sir Thomas in truth lived at his chambers at Southampton
Buildings. When he moved those household gods of his to the villa, it
was necessary, because of his duties in Parliament, that he should
have some place in town wherein he might lay his head, and therefore,
I fear not unwillingly, he took to laying his head very frequently in
the little bedroom which was attached to his chambers.

It is not necessary that we should go back to any feelings which
might have operated upon him during his wife's lifetime, or during
the period of his parliamentary career. His wife was now dead, and
he no longer held a seat in Parliament. He had, indeed, all but
abandoned his practice at the Bar, never putting himself forward for
the ordinary business of a Chancery barrister. But, nevertheless,
he spent the largest half of his life in his chambers, breakfasting
there, reading there, writing there, and sleeping there. He did not
altogether desert the lodge at Fulham, and the two girls who lived
there. He would not even admit to them, or allow them to assert that
he had not his home with them. Sometimes for two nights together,
and sometimes for three, he would be at the villa,--never remaining
there, however, during the day. But on Sundays it may almost be said
that he was never at home. And hence arose the feeling that of all,
this went the nearest to create discord between the father and the
daughters. Sir Thomas was always in Southampton Buildings on Sundays.
Did Sir Thomas go to church? The Miss Underwoods did go to church
very regularly, and thought much of the propriety and necessity of
such Sunday exercises. They could remember that in their younger days
their father always had been there with them. They could remember,
indeed, that he, with something of sternness, would require from them
punctuality and exactness in this duty. Now and again,--perhaps four
times in the year,--he would go to the Rolls Chapel. So much they
could learn, But they believed that beyond that his Sundays were kept
holy by no attendance at divine service. And it may be said at once
that they believed aright.

Sir Thomas's chambers in Southampton Buildings, though they were dull
and dingy of aspect from the outside, and were reached by a staircase
which may be designated as lugubrious,--so much did its dark and
dismantled condition tend to melancholy,--were in themselves large
and commodious. His bedroom was small, but he had two spacious
sitting-rooms, one of which was fitted up as a library, and the
other as a dining-room. Over and beyond these there was a clerk's
room;--for Sir Thomas, though he had given up the greater part of
his business, had not given up his clerk; and here the old man, the
clerk, passed his entire time, from half-past eight in the morning
till ten at night, waiting upon his employer in various capacities
with a sedulous personal attention to which he had probably not
intended to devote himself when he first took upon himself the duties
of clerk to a practising Chancery barrister. But Joseph Stemm and Sir
Thomas were not unlike in character, and had grown old together with
too equal a step to admit of separation and of new alliance. Stemm
had but one friend in the world, and Sir Thomas was that friend. I
have already said that Sir Thomas had no friend;--but perhaps he felt
more of that true intimacy, which friendship produces, with Stemm
than with any other human being.

Sir Thomas was a tall thin man, who stooped considerably,--though not
from any effect of years, with a face which would perhaps have been
almost mean had it not been rescued from that evil condition by the
assurance of intelligence and strength which is always conveyed by
a certain class of ugliness. He had a nose something like the great
Lord Brougham's,--thin, long, and projecting at the point. He had
quick grey eyes, and a good forehead;--but the component parts of his
countenance were irregular and roughly put together. His chin was
long, as was also his upper lip;--so that it may be taken as a fact
that he was an ugly man. He was hale, however, and strong, and was
still so good a walker that he thought nothing of making his way down
to the villa on foot of an evening, after dining at his club.

It was his custom to dine at his club,--that highly respectable and
most comfortable club situated at the corner of Suffolk Street, Pall
Mall;--the senior of the two which are devoted to the well-being of
scions of our great Universities. There Sir Thomas dined, perhaps
four nights in the week, for ten months in the year. And it was said
of him in the club that he had never been known to dine in company
with another member of the club. His very manner as he sat at his
solitary meal,--always with a pint of port on the table,--was as
well known as the figure of the old king on horseback outside in
the street, and was as unlike the ordinary manner of men as is that
unlike the ordinary figures of kings. He had always a book in his
hand,--not a club book, nor a novel from Mudie's, nor a magazine, but
some ancient and hard-bound volume from his own library, which he had
brought in his pocket, and to which his undivided attention would be
given. The eating of his dinner, which always consisted of the joint
of the day and of nothing else, did not take him more than five
minutes;--but he would sip his port wine slowly, would have a cup of
tea which he would also drink very slowly,--and would then pocket
his book, pay his bill, and would go. It was rarely the case that
he spoke to any one in the club. He would bow to a man here and
there,--and if addressed would answer; but of conversation at his
club he knew nothing, and hardly ever went into any room but that in
which his dinner was served to him.

In conversing about him men would express a wonder how such a one had
ever risen to high office,--how, indeed, he could have thriven at his
profession. But in such matters we are, all of us, too apt to form
confident opinions on apparent causes which are near the surface, but
which, as guides to character, are fallacious. Perhaps in all London
there was no better lawyer, in his branch of law, than Sir Thomas
Underwood. He had worked with great diligence; and though he was shy
to a degree quite unintelligible to men in general in the ordinary
intercourse of life, he had no feeling of diffidence when upon his
legs in Court or in the House of Commons. With the Lord Chancellor's
wife or daughters he could not exchange five words with comfort to
himself,--nor with his lordship himself in a drawing-room; but in
Court the Lord Chancellor was no more to him than another lawyer whom
he believed to be not so good a lawyer as himself. No man had ever
succeeded in browbeating him when panoplied in his wig and gown;
nor had words ever been wanting to him when so arrayed. It had been
suggested to him by an attorney who knew him in that way in which
attorneys ought to know barristers, that he should stand for a
certain borough;--and he had stood and had been returned. Thrice
he had been returned for the same town; but at last, when it was
discovered that he would never dine with the leading townsmen,
or call on their wives in London, or assist them in their little
private views, the strength of his extreme respectability was broken
down,--and he was rejected. In the meantime he was found to be
of value by the party to which he had attached himself. It was
discovered that he was not only a sound lawyer, but a man of great
erudition, who had studied the experience of history as well
as the wants of the present age. He was one who would disgrace
no Government,--and he was invited to accept the office of
Solicitor-General by a Minister who had never seen him out of the
House of Commons. "He is as good a lawyer as there is in England,"
said the Lord Chancellor. "He always speaks with uncommon clearness,"
said the Chancellor of the Exchequer. "I never saw him talking with
a human being," said the Secretary to the Treasury, deprecating
the appointment. "He will soon get over that complaint with your
assistance," said the Minister, laughing. So Mr. Underwood became
Solicitor-General and Sir Thomas;--and he so did his work that no
doubt he would have returned to his office had he been in Parliament
when his party returned to power. But he had made no friend, he had
not learned to talk even to the Secretary of the Treasury;--and when
the party came back to power he was passed over without remorse, and
almost without a regret.

He never resumed the active bustle of his profession after that
disappointment. His wife was then dead, and for nearly a twelvemonth
he went about, declaring to attorneys and others that his
professional life was done. He did take again to a certain class of
work when he came back to the old chambers in Southampton Buildings;
but he was seen in Court only rarely, and it was understood that he
wished it to be supposed that he had retired. He had ever been a
moderate man in his mode of living, and had put together a sum of
money sufficient for moderate wants. He possessed some twelve or
fourteen hundred a year independent of anything that he might now
earn; and, as he had never been a man greedy of money, so was he now
more indifferent to it than in his earlier days. It is a mistake,
I think, to suppose that men become greedy as they grow old. The
avaricious man will show his avarice as he gets into years, because
avarice is a passion compatible with old age,--and will become more
avaricious as his other passions fall off from him. And so will it
be with the man that is open-handed. Mr. Underwood, when struggling
at the Bar, had fought as hard as any of his compeers for comfort
and independence;--but money, as money, had never been dear to
him;--and now he was so trained a philosopher that he disregarded
it altogether, except so far as it enabled him to maintain his
independence.

On a certain Friday evening in June, as he sat at dinner at his club,
instead of applying himself to his book, which according to his
custom he had taken from his pocket, he there read a letter, which
as soon as read he would restore to the envelope, and would take it
out again after a few moments of thought. At last, when the cup of
tea was done and the bill was paid, he put away letter and book
together and walked to the door of his club. When there he stood and
considered what next should he do that evening. It was now past eight
o'clock, and how should he use the four, five, or perhaps six hours
which remained to him before he should go to bed? The temptation
to which he was liable prompted him to return to his solitude in
Southampton Buildings. Should he do so, he would sleep till ten
in his chair,--then he would read, and drink more tea, or perhaps
write, till one; and after that he would prowl about the purlieus of
Chancery Lane, the Temple, and Lincoln's Inn, till two or even three
o'clock in the morning;--looking up at the old dingy windows, and
holding, by aid of those powers which imagination gave him, long
intercourse with men among whom a certain weakness in his physical
organisation did not enable him to live in the flesh. Well the
policemen knew him as he roamed about, and much they speculated as to
his roamings. But in these night wanderings he addressed no word to
any one; nor did any one ever address a word to him. Yet the world,
perhaps, was more alive to him then than at any other period in the
twenty-four hours.

But on the present occasion the temptation was resisted. He had not
been at home during the whole week, and knew well that he ought to
give his daughters the countenance of his presence. Whether that
feeling alone would have been sufficient to withdraw him from the
charms of Chancery Lane and send him down to the villa may be
doubted; but there was that in the letter which he had perused so
carefully which he knew must be communicated to his girls. His niece,
Mary Bonner, was now an orphan, and would arrive in England from
Jamaica in about a fortnight. Her mother had been Sir Thomas's
sister, and had been at this time dead about three years. General
Bonner, the father, had now died, and the girl was left an orphan,
almost penniless, and with no near friend unless the Underwoods would
befriend her. News of the General's death had reached Sir Thomas
before;--and he had already made inquiry as to the fate of his niece
through her late father's agents. Of the General's means he had known
absolutely nothing,--believing, however, that they were confined to
his pay as an officer. Now he was told that the girl would be at
Southampton in a fortnight, and that she was utterly destitute. He
declared to himself as he stood on the steps of the club that he
would go home and consult his daughters;--but his mind was in fact
made up as to his niece's fate long before he got home,--before he
turned out of Pall Mall into St. James's Park. He would sometimes
talk to himself of consulting his daughters; but in truth he very
rarely consulted any human being as to what he would do or leave
undone. If he went straight, he went straight without other human
light than such as was given to him by his own intellect, his own
heart, and his own conscience. It took him about an hour and a half
to reach his home, but of that time four-fifths were occupied, not in
resolving what he would do in this emergency, but in deep grumblings
and regrets that there should be such a thing to be done at all. All
new cares were grievous to him. Nay;--old cares were grievous, but
new cares were terrible. Though he was bold in deciding, he was very
timid in looking forward as to the results of that decision. Of
course the orphan girl must be taken into his house;--and of course
he must take upon himself the duty of a father in regard to her.



CHAPTER II.

POPHAM VILLA.


Popham Villa was the name of the house at Fulham,--as was to be seen
by all men passing by, for it was painted up conspicuously on the
pillars through which the gate led into the garden. Mr. Underwood,
when he had first taken the place, had wished to expunge the name,
feeling it to be cockneyfied, pretentious, and unalluring. But Mrs.
Underwood had rather liked it, and it remained. It was a subject of
ridicule with the two girls; but they had never ventured to urge
its withdrawal, and after his wife's death Sir Thomas never alluded
to the subject. Popham Villa it was, therefore, and there the
words remained. The house was unpretentious, containing only two
sitting-rooms besides a small side closet,--for it could hardly be
called more,--which the girls even in their mother's lifetime had
claimed as their own. But the drawing-room was as pretty as room
could be, opening on to the lawn with folding windows, and giving a
near view of the bright river as it flowed by, with just a glimpse
of the bridge. That and the dining-room and the little closet were
all on the ground floor, and above were at any rate as many chambers
as the family required. The girls desired no better house,--if only
their father could be with them. But he would urge that his books
were all in London; and that, even were he willing to move them,
there was no room for them in Popham Villa.

It was sad enough for the two girls,--this kind of life. The worst
of it, perhaps, was this; that they never knew when to expect him. A
word had been said once as to the impracticability of having dinner
ready for a gentleman, when the gentleman would never say whether
he would want a dinner. It had been an unfortunate remark, for Sir
Thomas had taken advantage of it by saying that when he came he
would come after dinner, unless he had certified to the contrary
beforehand. Then, after dinner, would come on him the temptation of
returning to his chambers, and so it would go on with him from day to
day.

On this Friday evening the girls almost expected him, as he rarely
let a week pass without visiting them, and still more rarely came to
them on a Saturday. He found them out upon the lawn, or rather on the
brink of the river, and with them was standing a young man whom he
knew well. He kissed each of the girls, and then gave his hand to the
young man. "I am glad to see you, Ralph," he said. "Have you been
here long?"

"As much as an hour or two, I fear. Patience will tell you. I meant
to have got back by the 9.15 from Putney; but I have been smoking,
and dreaming, and talking, till now it is nearly ten."

"There is a train at 10.30," said the eldest Miss Underwood.

"And another at 11.15," said the young man.

Sir Thomas was especially anxious to be alone with his daughters, but
he could not tell the guest to go. Nor was he justified in feeling
any anger at his presence there,--though he did experience some prick
of conscience in the matter. If it was wrong that his daughters
should be visited by a young man in his absence, the fault lay in his
absence, rather than with the young man for coming, or with the girls
for receiving him. The young man had been a ward of his own, and for
a year or two in former times had been so intimate in his house as to
live with his daughters almost as an elder brother might have done.
But young Ralph Newton had early in life taken rooms for himself
in London, had then ceased to be a ward, and had latterly,--so Sir
Thomas understood,--lived such a life as to make him unfit to be the
trusted companion of his two girls. And yet there had been nothing in
his mode of living to make it necessary that he should be absolutely
banished from the villa. He had spent more money than was fitting,
and had got into debt, and Sir Thomas had had trouble about his
affairs. He too was an orphan,--and the nephew and the heir of an old
country squire whom he never saw. What money he had received from his
father he had nearly spent, and it was rumoured of him that he had
raised funds by post-obits on his uncle's life. Of all these things
more will be told hereafter;--but Sir Thomas,--though he had given no
instruction on the subject, and was averse even to allude to it,--did
not like to think that Ralph Newton was at the villa with the girls
in his absence. His girls were as good as gold. He was sure of that.
He told himself over and over again that were it not so, he would
not have left them so constantly without his own care. Patience, the
elder, was a marvel among young women for prudence, conduct, and
proper feeling; and Clarissa, whom he had certainly ever loved the
better of the two, was as far as he knew faultless;--a little more
passionate, a little warmer, somewhat more fond of pleasure than her
sister; but on that account only the more to be loved. Nothing that
he could do would make them safer than they would be by their own
virtue. But still he was not pleased to think that Ralph Newton was
often at the villa. When a man such as Sir Thomas has been entrusted
with the charge of a young man with great expectations, he hardly
wishes his daughter to fall in love with his ward, whether his ward
be prudent or imprudent in his manner of life.

Sir Thomas was hot and tired after his walk, and there was some
little fuss in getting him soda-water and tea. And as it was plain to
see that things were not quite comfortable, Ralph Newton at last took
his departure, so as to catch the earlier of the two trains which had
been mentioned. It was, nevertheless, past ten when he went;--and
then Sir Thomas, sitting at the open window of the drawing-room,
again took out the letter. "Patience," he said, addressing his elder
daughter as he withdrew the enclosure from the envelope, "Mary Bonner
will be in England in a fortnight. What shall we do for her?" As he
spoke he held the letter in a manner which justified the girl in
taking it from his hand. He allowed it to go to her, and she read it
before she answered him.

It was a very sad letter, cold in its language, but still full
of pathos. Her friends in the West Indies,--such friends as she
had,--had advised her to proceed to England. She was given to
understand that when her father's affairs should be settled there
would be left to her not more than a few hundred pounds. Would her
uncle provide for her some humble home for the present, and assist
her in her future endeavours to obtain employment as a governess? She
could, she thought, teach music and French, and would endeavour to
fit herself for the work of tuition in other respects. "I know," she
said, "how very slight is my claim upon one who has never seen me,
and who is connected with me only by my poor mother;--but perhaps you
will allow me to trouble you so far in my great distress."

"She must come here, of course, papa," said Patience, as she handed
the letter to Clarissa.

"Yes, she must come here," said Sir Thomas.

"But I mean, to stay,--for always."

"Yes,--to stay for always. I cannot say that the arrangement is one
to which I look forward with satisfaction. A man does not undertake
new duties without fears;--and especially not such a duty as this, to
which I can see no end, and which I may probably be quite unable to
perform."

"Papa, I am sure she will be nice," said Clarissa.

"But why are you sure, my dear? We will not argue that, however. She
must come; and we will hope that she will prove to be what Clarissa
calls nice. I cannot allow my sister's child to go out into the world
as a governess while I have a home to offer her. She must come here
as one of our household. I only hope she will not interfere with your
happiness."

"I am sure she will not," said Clarissa.

"We will determine that she shall add to it, and will do our best to
make her happy," said Patience.

"It is a great risk, but we must run it," said Sir Thomas; and so the
matter was settled. Then he explained to them that he intended to
go himself to Southampton to receive his niece, and that he would
bring her direct from that port to her new home. Patience offered to
accompany him on the journey, but this he declined as unnecessary.
Everything was decided between them by eleven o'clock,--even to the
room which Mary Bonner should occupy, and then the girls left their
father, knowing well that he would not go to bed for the next four
hours. He would sleep in his chair for the next two hours, and would
then wander about, or read, or perhaps sit and think of this added
care till the night would be half over. Nor did the two sisters go
to bed at once. This new arrangement, so important to their father,
was certainly of more importance to them. He, no doubt, would still
occupy his chambers, would still live practically alone in London,
though he was in theory the presiding genius of the household at
Fulham; but they must take to themselves a new sister; and they both
knew, in spite of Clarissa's enthusiasm, that it might be that the
new sister would be one whom they could not love. "I don't remember
that I ever heard a word about her," said Clarissa.

"I have been told that she is pretty. I do remember that," said
Patience.

"How old is she? Younger than we, I suppose?" Now Clarissa Underwood
at this time was one-and-twenty, and Patience was nearly two years
her senior.

"Oh, yes;--about nineteen, I should say. I think I have been told
that there were four or five older than Mary, who all died. Is it not
strange and terrible,--to be left alone, the last of a large family,
with not a relation whom one has ever seen?"

"Poor dear girl!"

"If she wrote the letter herself," continued Patience, "I think she
must be clever."

"I am sure I could not have written a letter at all in such a
position," said Clarissa. And so they sat, almost as late as their
father, discussing the probable character and appearance of this
new relation, and the chance of their being able to love her with
all their hearts. There was the necessity for an immediate small
sacrifice, but as to that there was no difficulty. Hitherto the two
sisters had occupied separate bedrooms, but now, as one chamber must
be given up to the stranger, it would be necessary that they should
be together. But there are sacrifices which entail so little pain
that the pleasant feeling of sacrificial devotion much more than
atones for the consequences.

Patience Underwood, the elder and the taller of the two girls, was
certainly not pretty. Her figure was good, her hands and feet were
small, and she was in all respects like a lady; but she possessed
neither the feminine loveliness which comes so often simply from
youth, nor that other, rarer beauty, which belongs to the face
itself, and is produced by its own lines and its own expression. Her
countenance was thin, and might perhaps have been called dry and
hard. She was very like her father,--without, however, her father's
nose, and the redeeming feature of her face was to be found in that
sense of intelligence which was conveyed by her bright grey eyes.
There was the long chin, and there was the long upper lip, which,
exaggerated in her father's countenance, made him so notoriously
plain a man. And then her hair, though plentiful and long, did not
possess that shining lustre which we love to see in girls, and which
we all recognise as one of the sweetest graces of girlhood. Such,
outwardly, was Patience Underwood; and of all those who knew her well
there was not one so perfectly satisfied that she did want personal
attraction as was Patience Underwood herself. But she never spoke
on the subject,--even to her sister. She did not complain; neither,
as is much more common, did she boast that she was no beauty. Her
sister's loveliness was very dear to her, and of that she would
sometimes break out into enthusiastic words. But of herself,
externally, she said nothing. Her gifts, if she had any, were of
another sort; and she was by no means willing to think of herself
as one unendowed with gifts. She was clever, and knew herself to be
clever. She could read, and understood what she read. She saw the
difference between right and wrong, and believed that she saw it
clearly. She was not diffident of herself, and certainly was not
unhappy. She had a strong religious faith, and knew how to supplement
the sometimes failing happiness of this world, by trusting in the
happiness of the next. Were it not for her extreme anxiety in
reference to her father, Patience Underwood would have been a happy
woman.

Clarissa, the younger, was a beauty. The fact that she was a beauty
was acknowledged by all who knew her, and was well known to herself.
It was a fact as to which there had never been a doubt since she was
turned fifteen. She was somewhat shorter than her sister, and less
slender. She was darker in complexion, and her hair, which was rich
in colour as brown hair can be, was lustrous, silky, and luxuriant.
She wore it now, indeed, according to the fashion of the day, with a
chignon on her head; but beneath that there were curls which escaped,
and over her forehead it was clipped short, and was wavy, and
impertinent,--as is also the fashion of the day. Such as it was, she
so wore it that a man could hardly wish it to be otherwise. Her eyes,
unlike those of her father and sister, were blue; and in the whole
contour of her features there was nothing resembling theirs. The
upper lip was short, and the chin was short and dimpled. There was
a dimple on one cheek too, a charm so much more maddening than when
it is to be seen on both sides alike. Her nose was perfect;--not
Grecian, nor Roman, nor Egyptian,--but simply English, only just not
retroussé. There were those who said her mouth was a thought too
wide, and her teeth too perfect,--but they were of that class of
critics to whom it is a necessity to cavil rather than to kiss. Added
to all this there was a childishness of manner about her of which,
though she herself was somewhat ashamed, all others were enamoured.
It was not the childishness of very youthful years,--for she had
already reached the mature age of twenty-one; but the half-doubting,
half-pouting, half-yielding, half-obstinate, soft, loving, lovable
childishness, which gives and exacts caresses, and which, when it
is genuine, may exist to an age much beyond that which Clarissa
Underwood had reached.

But with all her charms, Clarissa was not so happy a girl as her
sister. And for this lack of inward satisfaction there were at this
time two causes. She believed herself to be a fool, and was in that
respect jealous of her sister;--and she believed herself to be in
love, and in love almost without hope. As to her foolishness, it
seemed to her to be a fact admitted by every one but by Patience
herself. Not a human being came near her who did not seem to imply
that any question as to wisdom or judgment or erudition between
her and her sister would be a farce. Patience could talk Italian,
could read German, knew, at least by name, every poet that had ever
written, and was always able to say exactly what ought to be done.
She could make the servants love her and yet obey her, and could
always dress on her allowance without owing a shilling. Whereas
Clarissa was obeyed by no one, was in debt to her bootmaker and
milliner, and, let her struggles in the cause be as gallant as they
might, could not understand a word of Dante, and was aware that she
read the "Faery Queen" exactly as a child performs a lesson. As to
her love,--there was a sharper sorrow. Need the reader be told that
Ralph Newton was the hero to whom its late owner believed that her
heart had been given? This was a sore subject, which had never as yet
been mentioned frankly even between the two sisters. In truth, though
Patience thought that there was a fancy, she did not think that there
was much more than fancy. And, as far as she could see, there was
not even fancy on the young man's part. No word had been spoken
that could be accepted as an expression of avowed love. So at least
Patience believed. And she would have been very unhappy had it been
otherwise, for Ralph Newton was not,--in her opinion,--a man to whose
love her sister could be trusted with confidence. And yet, beyond her
father and sister, there was no one whom Patience loved as she did
Ralph Newton.

There had, however, been a little episode in the life of Clarissa
Underwood, which had tended to make her sister uneasy, and which
the reader may as well hear at once. There was a second Newton,
a younger brother,--but, though younger, not only in orders but
in the possession of a living, Gregory Newton,--the Rev. Gregory
Newton,--who in the space of a few weeks' acquaintance had fallen
into a fury of love for Clarissa, and in the course of three months
had made her as many offers, and had been as often refused. This had
happened in the winter and spring previous to the opening of our
story,--and both Patience and Sir Thomas had been well disposed
towards the young man's suit. He had not been committed to Sir
Thomas's charge, as had Ralph, having been brought up under the care
of the uncle whose heir Ralph was through the obligation of legal
settlements. This uncle, having quarrelled with his own brother,
since dead, and with his heir, had nevertheless taken his other
nephew by the hand, and had bestowed upon the young clergyman the
living of Newton. Gregory Newton had been brought to the villa by his
brother, and had at once fallen on his knees before the beauty. But
the beauty would have none of him, and he had gone back to his living
in Hampshire a broken-hearted priest and swain. Now, Patience, though
she had never been directly so informed, feared that some partiality
for the unworthy Ralph had induced her sister to refuse offers from
the brother, who certainly was worthy. To the thinking of Patience
Underwood, no lot in life could be happier for a woman than to be
the wife of a zealous and praiseworthy parson of an English country
parish;--no lot in life, at least, could be happier for any woman who
intended to become a wife.

Such were the two girls at Popham Villa who were told on that evening
that a new sister was to be brought home to them. When the next
morning came they were of course still full of the subject. Sir
Thomas was to go into London after breakfast, and he intended to walk
over the bridge and catch an early train. He was as intent on being
punctual to time as though he were bound to be all day in Court: and,
fond as he might be of his daughters, had already enjoyed enough
of the comforts of home to satisfy his taste. He did love his
daughters;--but even with them he was not at his ease. The only
society he could enjoy was that of his books or of his own thoughts,
and the only human being whom he could endure to have long near him
with equanimity was Joseph Stemm. He had risen at nine, as was his
custom, and before ten he was bustling about with his hat and gloves.
"Papa," said Clarissa, "when shall you be home again?"

"I can't name a day, my dear."

"Papa, do come soon."

"No doubt I shall come soon." There was a slight tone of anger in his
voice as he answered the last entreaty, and he was evidently in a
hurry with his hat and gloves.

"Papa," said Patience, "of course we shall see you again before you
go to Southampton." The voice of the elder was quite different from
that of the younger daughter; and Sir Thomas, though the tone and
manner of the latter question was injurious to him, hardly dared to
resent it. Yet they were not, as he thought, justified. It now wanted
twelve days to the date of his intended journey, and not more than
three or four times in his life had he been absent from home for
twelve consecutive days.

"Yes, my dear," he said, "I shall be home before that."

"Because, papa, there are things to be thought of."

"What things?"

"Clarissa and I had better have a second bed in our room,--unless you
object."

"You know I don't object. Have I ever objected to anything of the
kind?" He now stood impatient, with his hat in his hand.

"I hardly like to order things without telling you, papa. And there
are a few other articles of furniture needed."

"You can get what you want. Run up to town and go to Barlow's. You
can do that as well as I can."

"But I should have liked to have settled something about our future
way of living before Mary comes," said Patience in a very low voice.

Sir Thomas frowned, and then he answered her very slowly. "There
can be nothing new settled at all. Things will go on as they are at
present. And I hope, Patience, you will do your best to make your
cousin understand and receive favourably the future home which she
will have to inhabit."

"You may be sure, papa, I shall do my best," said Patience;--and then
Sir Thomas went.

He did return to the villa before his journey to Southampton, but
it was only on the eve of that journey. During the interval the two
girls together had twice sought him at his chambers,--a liberty on
their part which, as they well knew, he did not at all approve. "Sir
Thomas is very busy," old Stemm would say, shaking his head, even to
his master's daughters, "and if you wouldn't mind--" Then he would
make a feint as though to close the door, and would go through
various manoeuvres of defence before he would allow the fort to be
stormed. But Clarissa would ridicule old Stemm to his face, and
Patience would not allow herself to be beaten by him. On their second
visit they did make their way into their father's sanctum,--and
they never knew whether in truth he had been there when they called
before. "Old Stemm doesn't in the least mind what lies he tells,"
Clarissa had said. To this Patience made no reply, feeling that the
responsibility for those figments might not perhaps lie exclusively
on old Stemm's shoulders.

"My dears, this is such an out-of-the-way place for you," Sir Thomas
said, as soon as the girls had made good their entrance. But the
girls had so often gone through all this before, that they now
regarded but little what ejaculations of that nature were made to
them.

"I have come to show you this list, papa," said Patience. Sir Thomas
took the list, and found that it contained various articles for
bedroom and kitchen use,--towels, sheets, pots and pans, knives and
forks, and even a set of curtains and a carpet.

"I shouldn't have thought that a girl of eighteen would have wanted
all these things,--a new corkscrew, for instance,--but if she does,
as I told you before, you must get them."

"Of course they are not all for Mary," said Patience.

"The fact is, papa," said Clarissa, "you never do look to see how
things are getting worn out."

"Clarissa!" exclaimed the angry father.

"Indeed, papa, if you were more at home and saw these things," began
Patience--

"I have no doubt it is all right. Get what you want. Go to Barlow's
and to Green's, and to Block and Blowhard. Don't let there be any
bills, that's all. I will give you cheques when you get the accounts.
And now, my dears,--I am in the middle of work which will not
bear interruption." Then they left him, and when he did come to
the villa on the evening before his journey, most of the new
articles,--including the corkscrew,--were already in the house.



CHAPTER III.

WHAT HAPPENED ON THE LAWN AT POPHAM VILLA.


Sir Thomas started for Southampton on a Friday, having understood
that the steamer from St. Thomas would reach the harbour on Saturday
morning. He would then immediately bring Mary Bonner up to London
and down to Fulham;--and there certainly had come to be a tacit
understanding that he would stay at home on the following Sunday. On
the Friday evening the girls were alone at the villa; but there was
nothing in this, as it was the life to which they were accustomed.
They habitually dined at two, calling the meal lunch,--then had a
five or six o'clock tea,--and omitted altogether the ceremony of
dinner. They had local acquaintances, with whom occasionally they
would spend their evenings; and now and then an old maid or two,--now
and then also a young maid or two would drop in on them. But it was
their habit to be alone. During these days of which we are speaking
Clarissa would take her "Faery Queen," and would work hard perhaps
for half an hour. Then the "Faery Queen" would be changed for a
novel, and she would look up from her book to see whether Patience
had turned upon her any glance of reprobation. Patience, in the
meantime, would sit with unsullied conscience at her work. And so
the evenings would glide by; and in these soft summer days the girls
would sit out upon the lawn, and would watch the boats of London
watermen as they passed up and down below the bridge. On this very
evening, the last on which they were to be together before the
arrival of their cousin,--Patience came out upon the lawn with her
hat and gloves. "I am going across to Miss Spooner's," she said;
"will you come?" But Clarissa was idle, and making some little joke,
not very much to the honour of Miss Spooner, declared that she was
hot and tired, and had a headache, and would stay at home. "Don't be
long, Patty," she said; "it is such a bore to be alone." Patience
promised a speedy return, and, making her way to the gate, crossed
the road to Miss Spooner's abode. She was hardly out of sight when
the nose of a wager boat was driven up against the bank, and there
was Ralph Newton, sitting in a blue Jersey shirt, with a straw hat
and the perspiration running from his handsome brow. Clarissa did not
see him till he whistled to her, and then she started, and laughed,
and ran down to the boat, and hardly remembered that she was quite
alone till she had taken his hand. "I don't think I'll come out, but
you must get me some soda-water and brandy," said Ralph. "Where's
Patience?"

"Patience has gone out to see an old maid; and we haven't got any
brandy."

"I am so hot," said Ralph, carefully extricating himself from the
boat. "You have got sherry?"

"Yes, we've got sherry, and port wine, and Gladstone;" and away she
went to get him such refreshment as the villa possessed.

He drank his sherry and soda-water, and lit his pipe, and lay there
on the lawn, as though he were quite at home; and Clarissa ministered
to him,--unconscious of any evil. He had been brought up with them on
terms of such close intimacy that she was entitled to regard him as
a brother,--almost as a brother,--if only she were able so to regard
him. It was her practice to call him Ralph, and her own name was as
common to him as though she were in truth his sister. "And what do
you think of this new cousin?" he asked.


[Illustration: He drank his sherry and soda-water, and lit his pipe,
and lay there on the lawn, as though he were quite at home . . .]


"I can think nothing as yet;--but I mean to like her."

"I mean to hate her furiously," said Ralph.

"That is nonsense. She will be nothing to you. You needn't even see
her unless you please. But, Ralph, do put your jacket on. I'm sure
you'll catch cold." And she went down, and hooked his jacket for him
out of the boat, and put it over his shoulders. "I won't have you
throw it off," she said; "if you come here you must do as you're
told."

"You needn't have knocked the pipe out of my mouth all the same. What
is she like, I wonder?"

"Very,--very beautiful, I'm told."

"A kind of tropical Venus,--all eyes, and dark skin, and black hair,
and strong passions, and apt to murder people;--but at the same
time so lazy that she is never to do anything either for herself or
anybody else;--wouldn't fetch a fellow's jacket for him, let him be
catching cold ever so fast."

"She wouldn't fetch yours, I dare say."

"And why shouldn't she?"

"Because she doesn't know you."

"They soon get to know one,--girls of that sort. I'm told that in
the West Indies you become as thick as thieves in half a morning's
flirtation, and are expected to propose at the second meeting."

"That is not to be your way with our cousin, I can assure you."

"But these proposals out there never mean much. You may be engaged to
half a dozen girls at the same time, and be sure that each of them
will be engaged to half-a-dozen men. There's some comfort in that,
you know."

"Oh, Ralph!"

"That's what they tell me. I haven't been there. I shall come and
look at her, you know."

"Of course you will."

"And if she is very lovely--"

"What then?"

"I do like pretty girls, you know."

"I don't know anything about it."

"I wonder what uncle Gregory would say if I were to marry a West
Indian! He wouldn't say much to me, because we never speak, but he'd
lead poor Greg a horrid life. He'd be sure to think she was a nigger,
or at least a Creole. But I shan't do that."

"You might do worse, Ralph."

"But I might do much better." As he said this, he looked up into her
face, with all the power of his eyes, and poor Clarissa could only
blush. She knew what he meant, and knew that she was showing him that
she was conscious. She would have given much not to blush, and not to
have been so manifestly conscious, but she had no power to control
herself. "I might do much better," he said. "Don't you think so?"

As far as she could judge of her own feelings at this moment, in the
absolute absence of any previous accurate thought on the subject, she
fancied that a real, undoubted, undoubting, trustworthy engagement
with Ralph Newton would make her the happiest girl in England. She
had never told herself that she was in love with him; she had never
flattered herself that he was in love with her;--she had never
balanced the matter in her mind as a contingency likely to occur; but
now, at this moment, as he lay there smoking his pipe and looking
full into her blushing face, she did think that to have him for her
own lover would be joy enough for her whole life. She knew that he
was idle, extravagant, fond of pleasure, and,--unsteady, as she in
her vocabulary would be disposed to describe the character which she
believed to be his. But in her heart of hearts she liked unsteadiness
in men, if it were not carried too far. Ralph's brother, the parson,
as to whom she was informed that he possessed every virtue incident
to humanity, and who was quite as good-looking as his brother, had
utterly failed to touch her heart. A black coat and a white cravat
were antipathetic to her. Ralph, as he lay on the green sward, hot,
with linen trousers and a coloured flannel shirt, with a small straw
hat stuck on the edge of his head, with nothing round his throat, and
his jacket over his shoulder, with a pipe in his mouth and an empty
glass beside him, was to her, in externals, the beau-ideal of a
young man. And then, though he was unsteady, extravagant, and idle,
his sins were not so deep as to exclude him from her father's and
her sister's favour. He was there, on the villa lawn, not as an
interloper, but by implied permission. Though she made for herself
no argument on the matter,--not having much time just now for
arguing,--she felt that it was her undoubted privilege to be
made love to by Ralph Newton, if he and she pleased so to amuse
themselves. She had never been told not to be made love to by him. Of
course she would not engage herself without her father's permission.
Of course she would tell Patience if Ralph should say anything very
special to her. But she had a right to be made love to if she liked
it;--and in this case she would like it. But when Ralph looked at
her, and asked her whether he might not do better than marry her West
Indian cousin, she had not a word with which to answer him. He smoked
on for some seconds in silence still looking at her, while she stood
over him blushing. Then he spoke again. "I think I might do a great
deal better." But still she had not a word for him.

"Ah;--I suppose I must be off," he said, jumping up on his legs, and
flinging his jacket over his arm. "Patience will be in soon."

"I expect her every minute."

"If I were to say,--something uncivil about Patience, I suppose you
wouldn't like it?"

"Certainly, I shouldn't like it."

"Only just to wish she were at,--Jericho?"

"Nonsense, Ralph."

"Yes; that would be nonsense. And the chances are, you know, that
you would be at Jericho with her. Dear, dear Clary,--you know I love
you." Then he put his right arm round her waist, pipe and all, and
kissed her.

She certainly had expected no such assault,--had not only not thought
of it, but had not known it to be among the possibilities that might
occur to her. She had never been so treated before. One other lover
she had had,--as we know; but by him she had been treated with the
deference due by an inferior to a superior being. It would have been
very nice if Ralph would have told her that he loved her,--but this
was not nice. That had been done which she would not dare to tell to
Patience,--which she could not have endured that Patience should have
seen. She was bound to resent it;--but how? She stood silent for a
moment, and then burst into tears. "You are not angry with me,
Clary?" he said.

"I am angry;--very angry. Go away. I will never speak to you again."

"You know how dearly I love you."

"I don't love you at all. You have insulted me, and I will never
forgive you. Go away." At this moment the step of Patience coming up
from the gate was heard upon the gravel. Clarissa's first thought
when she heard it was to hide her tears. Though the man had injured
her,--insulted her,--her very last resource would be to complain to
others of the injury or the insult. It must be hidden in her own
breast,--but remembered always. Forgotten it could not be,--nor, as
she thought at the moment, forgiven. But, above all, it must not
be repeated. As to any show of anger against the sinner, that was
impossible to her,--because it was so necessary that the sin should
be hidden.

"What;--Ralph? Have you been here long?" asked Patience, looking with
somewhat suspicious eyes at Clarissa's back, which was turned to her.

"About half an hour,--waiting for you, and smoking and drinking
soda-water. I have a boat here, and I must be off now."

"You'll have the tide with you," said Clarissa, with an effort.

"There is a tide in the affairs of men," said Ralph, with a forced
laugh. "My affairs shall at once take advantage of this tide. I'll
come again very soon to see the new cousin. Good-bye, girls." Then
he inserted himself into his boat, and took himself off, without
bestowing even anything of a special glance upon Clarissa.

"Is there anything the matter?" Patience asked.

"No;--only why did you stay all the evening with that stupid old
woman, when you promised me that you would be back in ten minutes?"

"I said nothing about ten minutes, Clary; and, after all, I haven't
been an hour gone. Miss Spooner is in trouble about her tenant, who
won't pay the rent, and she had to tell me all about it."

"Stupid old woman!"

"Have you and Ralph been quarrelling, Clary?"

"No;--why should we quarrel?"

"There seems to have been something wrong."

"It's so stupid being found all alone here. It makes one feel that
one is so desolate. I do wish papa would live with us like other
girls' fathers. As he won't, it would be much better not to let
people come at all."

Patience was sure that something had happened,--and that that
something must have reference to the guise of lover either assumed or
not assumed by Ralph Newton. She accused her sister of no hypocrisy,
but she was aware that Clarissa's words were wild, not expressing the
girl's thoughts, and spoken almost at random. Something must be said,
and therefore these complaints had been made. "Clary, dear; don't you
like Ralph?" she asked.

"No. That is;--oh yes, I like him, of course. My head aches and I'll
go to bed."

"Wait a few minutes, Clary. Something has disturbed you. Has it not?"

"Everything disturbs me."

"But if there is anything special, won't you tell me?" There had
been something very special, which Clarissa certainly would not tell.
"What has he said to you? I don't think he would be simply cross to
you."

"He has not been cross at all."

"What is it then? Well;--if you won't tell me, I think that you are
afraid of me. We never yet have been afraid of each other." Then
there was a pause. "Clary, has he said that,--he loves you?" There
was another pause. Clarissa thought it all over, and for a moment was
not quite certain whether any such sweet assurance had or had not
been given to her. Then she remembered his words;--"You know how
dearly I love you." But ought they to be sweet to her now? Had he
not so offended her that there could never be forgiveness? And if
no forgiveness, how then could his love be sweet to her? Patience
waited, and then repeated her question. "Tell me, Clary; what has he
said to you?"

"I don't know."

"Do you love him, Clary?"

"No. I hate him."

"Hate him, Clary? You did not use to hate him. You did not hate him
yesterday? You would not hate him without a cause. My darling, tell
me what it means! If you and I do not trust each other what will
the world be to us? There is no one else to whom we can tell our
troubles." Nevertheless Clarissa would not tell this trouble. "Why do
you say that you hate him?"

"I don't know why. Oh, dear Patty, why do you go on so? Yes; he did
say that he loved me;--there."

"And did that make you unhappy? It need not make you unhappy, though
you should refuse him. When his brother asked you to marry him, that
did not make you unhappy."

"Yes it did;--very."

"And is this the same?"

"No;--it is quite different."

"I am afraid, Clary, that Ralph Newton would not make a good husband.
He is extravagant and in debt, and papa would not like it."

"Then papa should not let him come here just as he pleases and
whenever he likes. It is papa's fault;--that is to say it would be if
there were anything in it."

"Is there nothing in it, Clary? What answer did you make when he told
you that he loved you?"

"You came, and I made no answer. I do so wish that you had come
before." She wanted to tell her sister everything but the one thing,
but was unable to do so because the one thing affected the other
things so vitally. As it was, Patience, finding that she could press
her questions no further, was altogether in the dark. That Ralph had
made a declaration of love to her sister she did know; but in what
manner Clarissa had received it she could not guess. She had hitherto
feared that Clary was too fond of the young man, but Clary would now
only say that she hated him. But the matter would soon be set at
rest. Ralph Newton would now, no doubt, go to their father. If Sir
Thomas would permit it, this new-fangled hatred of Clary's would,
Patience thought, soon be overcome. If, however,--as was more
probable,--Sir Thomas should violently disapprove, then there would
be no more visits from Ralph Newton to the villa. As there had been a
declaration of love, of course their father would be informed of it
at once. Patience, having so resolved, allowed her sister to go to
her bed without further questioning.

In Clarissa's own bosom the great offence had been forgiven,--or
rather condoned before the morning. Her lover had been very cruel to
her, very wicked, and most unkind;--especially unkind in this, that
he had turned to absolute pain a moment of life which might have been
of all moments the fullest of joy; and especially cruel in this, that
he had so treated her that she could not look forward to future joy
without alloy. She could forgive him;--yes. But she could not endure
that he should think that she would forgive him. She was willing
to blot out the offence, as a thing by itself, in an island of her
life,--of which no one should ever think again. Was she to lose her
lover for ever because she did not forgive him! If they could only
come to some agreement that the offence should be acknowledged to
be heinous, unpardonable, but committed in temporary madness, and
that henceforward it should be buried in oblivion! Such agreement,
however, was impossible. There could be no speech about the matter.
Was she or was she not to lose her lover for ever because he had done
this wicked thing? During the night she made up her mind that she
could not afford to pay such a price for the sake of avenging virtue.
For the future she would be on her guard! Wicked and heartless man,
who had robbed her of so much! And yet how charming he had been to
her as he looked into her eyes, and told her that he could do very
much better than fall in love with her West Indian cousin. Then she
thought of the offence again. Ah, if only a time might come in which
they should be engaged together as man and wife with the consent of
everybody! Then there would be no more offences.



CHAPTER IV.

MARY BONNER.


While Clarissa Underwood was being kissed on the lawn at Popham
Villa, Sir Thomas was sitting, very disconsolate, in a private
room at the Dolphin, in Southampton. It had required no great
consideration to induce him to resolve that a home should be given
by him to his niece. Though he was a man so weak that he could
allow himself to shun from day to day his daily duty,--and to do
this so constantly as to make up out of various omissions, small in
themselves, a vast aggregate of misconduct,--still he was one who
would certainly do what his conscience prompted him to be right in
any great matter as to which the right and the wrong appeared to him
to be clearly defined. Though he loved his daughters dearly, he could
leave them from day to day almost without protection,--because each
day's fault in so doing was of itself but small. This new niece of
his he certainly did not love at all. He had never seen her. He was
almost morbidly fearful of new responsibilities. He expected nothing
but trouble in thus annexing a new unknown member to his family. And
yet he had decided upon doing it, because the duty to be done was
great enough to be clearly marked,--demanding an immediate resolve,
and capable of no postponement. But, as he thought of it, sitting
alone on the eve of the girl's coming, he was very uneasy. What was
he to do with her if he found her to be one difficult to manage,
self-willed, vexatious, or,--worse again,--ill-conditioned as to
conduct, and hurtful to his own children? Should it even become
imperative upon him to be rid of her, how should riddance be
effected? And then what would she think of him and his habits of
life?

And this brought him to other reflections. Might it not be possible
utterly to break up that establishment of his in Southampton
Buildings, so that he would be forced by the necessity of things to
live at his home,--at some home which he would share with the girls?
He knew himself well enough to be sure that while those chambers
remained in his possession, as long as that bedroom and bed were at
his command, he could not extricate himself from the dilemma. Day
after day the temptation was too great for him. And he hated the
villa. There was nothing there that he could do. He had no books at
the villa; and,--so he averred,--there was something in the air of
Fulham which prevented him from reading books when he brought them
there. No! He must break altogether fresh ground, and set up a new
establishment. One thing was clear; he could not now do this before
Mary Bonner's arrival, and therefore there was nothing to create any
special urgency. He had hoped that his girls would marry, so that
he might be left to live alone in his chambers,--waited upon by old
Stemm,--without sin on his part; but he was beginning to discover
that girls do not always get married out of the way in their first
bloom. And now he was taking to himself another girl! He must, he
knew, give over all hope of escape in that direction. He was very
uneasy; and when quite late at night,--or rather, early in the
morning,--he took himself to bed, his slumbers were not refreshing.
The truth was that no air suited him for sleeping except the air of
Southampton Buildings.

The packet from St. Thomas was to be in the harbour at eight o'clock
the next morning,--telegrams from Cape Clear, The Lizard, Eddystone
Lighthouse, and where not, having made all that as certain as
sun-rising. At eight o'clock he was down on the quay, and there was
the travelling city of the Royal Atlantic Steam Mail Packet Company
at that moment being warped into the harbour. The ship as he walked
along the jetty was so near to him that he could plainly see the
faces of the passengers on deck,--men and women, girls and children,
all dressed up to meet their friends on shore, crowding the sides of
the vessel in their eagerness to be among the first to get on shore.
He anxiously scanned the faces of the ladies that he might guess
which was to be the lady that was to be to him almost the same as a
daughter. He saw not one as to whom he could say that he had a hope.
Some there were in the crowd, some three or four, as to whom he
acknowledged that he had a fear. At last he remembered that his girl
would necessarily be in deep mourning. He saw two young women in
black;--but there was nothing to prepossess him about either of them.
One of them was insignificant and very plain. The other was fat and
untidy. They neither of them looked like ladies. What if fate should
have sent to him as a daughter,--as a companion for his girls,--that
fat, untidy, ill-bred looking young woman! As it happened, the
ill-bred looking young woman whom he feared, was a cook who had
married a ship-steward, had gone out among the islands with her
husband, had found that the speculation did not answer, and was now
returning in the hope of earning her bread in her old vocation. Of
this woman Sir Thomas Underwood was in great dread.

But at last he was on board, and whispered his question to the
purser. Miss Bonner! Oh, yes; Miss Bonner was on board. Was he Sir
Thomas Underwood, Miss Bonner's uncle? The purser evidently knew all
about it, and there was something in his tone which seemed to assure
Sir Thomas that the fat, untidy woman and his niece could not be
one and the same person. The purser had just raised his cap to Sir
Thomas, and had turned towards the cabin-stairs to go in search of
the lady herself; but he was stopped immediately by Miss Bonner
herself. The purser did his task very well,--said some slightest word
to introduce the uncle and the niece together, and then vanished. Sir
Thomas blushed, shuffled with his feet, and put out both his hands.
He was shy, astonished, and frightened,--and did not know what to
say. The girl came up to him, took his hand in hers, holding it
for a moment, and then kissed it. "I did not think you would come
yourself," she said.

"Of course I have come myself. My girls are at home, and will receive
you to-night." She said nothing further then, but again raised his
hand and kissed it.

It is hardly too much to say that Sir Thomas Underwood was in a
tremble as he gazed upon his niece. Had she been on the deck as
he walked along the quay, and had he noted her, he would not have
dared to think that such a girl as that was coming to his house. He
declared to himself at once that she was the most lovely young woman
he had ever seen. She was tall and somewhat large, with fair hair, of
which now but very little could be seen, with dark eyes, and perfect
eyebrows, and a face which, either for colour or lines of beauty,
might have been taken as a model for any female saint or martyr.
There was a perfection of symmetry about it,--and an assertion of
intelligence combined with the loveliness which almost frightened her
uncle. For there was something there, also, beyond intelligence and
loveliness. We have heard of "an eye to threaten and command." Sir
Thomas did not at this moment tell himself that Mary Bonner had such
an eye, but he did involuntarily and unconsciously acknowledge to
himself that over such a young lady as this whom he now saw before
him, it would be very difficult for him to exercise parental control.
He had heard that she was nineteen, but it certainly seemed to him
that she was older than his own daughters. As to Clary, there could
be no question between the two girls as to which of them would
exercise authority over the other,--not by force of age,--but by dint
of character, will, and fitness. And this Mary Bonner, who now shone
before him as a goddess almost, a young woman to whom no ordinary
man would speak without that kind of trepidation which goddesses do
inflict on ordinary men, had proposed to herself,--to go out as a
governess! Indeed, at this very moment such, probably, was her own
idea. As yet she had received no reply to the letter she had written
other than that which was now conveyed by her uncle's presence.

A few questions were asked as to the voyage. No;--she had not been
at all ill. "I have almost feared," she said, "to reach England,
thinking I should be so desolate." "We will not let you be desolate,"
said Sir Thomas, brightening up a little under the graciousness of
the goddess's demeanour. "My girls are looking forward to your coming
with the greatest delight." Then she asked some question as to her
cousins, and Sir Thomas thought that there was majesty even in her
voice. It was low, soft, and musical; but yet, even in that as in her
eye, there was something that indicated a power of command.

He had no servant with him to assist in looking after her luggage.
Old Stemm was the only man in his employment, and he could hardly
have brought Stemm down to Southampton on such an errand. But he
soon found that everybody about the ship was ready to wait upon Miss
Bonner. Even the captain came to take a special farewell of her, and
the second officer seemed to have nothing to do but to look after
her. The doctor was at her elbow to the last;--and all her boxes and
trunks seemed to extricate themselves from the general mass with a
readiness which is certainly not experienced by ordinary passengers.
There are certain favours in life which are very charming,--but very
unjust to others, and which we may perhaps lump under the name of
priority of service. Money will hardly buy it. When money does buy
it, there is no injustice. When priority of service is had, like a
coach-and-four, by the man who can afford to pay for it, industry,
which is the source of wealth, receives its fitting reward. Rank
will often procure it; most unjustly,--as we, who have no rank, feel
sometimes with great soreness. Position other than that of rank,
official position or commercial position, will secure it in certain
cases. A railway train is stopped at a wrong place for a railway
director, or a post-office manager gets his letters taken after time.
These, too, are grievances. But priority of service is perhaps more
readily accorded to feminine beauty, and especially to unprotected
feminine beauty, than to any other form of claim. Whether or no this
is ever felt as a grievance, ladies who are not beautiful may perhaps
be able to say. There flits across our memory at the present moment
some reminiscence of angry glances at the too speedy attendance
given by custom-house officers to pretty women. But this priority of
service is, we think, if not deserved, at least so natural, as to
take it out of the catalogue of evils of which complaint should be
made. One might complain with as much avail that men will fall in
love with pretty girls instead of with those who are ugly! On the
present occasion Sir Thomas was well contented. He was out of the
ship, and through the Custom House, and at the railway station, and
back at the inn before the struggling mass of passengers had found
out whether their longed-for boxes had or had not come with them
in the ship. And then Miss Bonner took it all,--not arrogantly, as
though it were her due; but just as the grass takes rain or the
flowers sunshine. These good things came to her from heaven, and
no doubt she was thankful. But they came to her so customarily, as
does a man's dinner to him, or his bed, that she could not manifest
surprise at what was done for her.


[Illustration: Even the captain came to take a special farewell of
her . . .]


Sir Thomas hardly spoke to her except about her journey and her
luggage till they were down together in the sitting-room at the inn.
Then he communicated to her his proposal as to her future life. It
was right, he thought, that she should know at once what he intended.
Two hours ago, before he had seen her, he had thought of telling her
simply where she was to live, and of saying that he would find a home
for her. Now he found it expedient to place the matter in a different
light. He would offer her the shelter of his roof as though she were
a queen who might choose among her various palaces. "Mary," he said,
"we hope that you will stay with us altogether."

"To live with you,--do you mean?"

"Certainly to live with us."

"I have no right to expect such an offer as that."

"But every right to accept it, my dear, when it is made. That is if
it suits you."

"I had not dreamed of that. I thought that perhaps you would let me
come to you for a few weeks,--till I should know what to do."

"You shall come and be one of us altogether, my dear, if you think
that you will like it. My girls have no nearer relative than you. And
we are not so barbarous as to turn our backs on a new-found cousin."
She again kissed his hand, and then turned away from him and wept.
"You feel it all strange now," he said, "but I hope we shall be able
to make you comfortable."

"I have been so lonely," she sobbed out amidst her tears.

He had not dared to say a word to her about her father, whose
death had taken place not yet three months since. Of his late
brother-in-law he had known little or nothing, except that the
General had been a man who always found it difficult to make
both ends meet, and who had troubled him frequently, not exactly
for loans, but in regard to money arrangements which had been
disagreeable to him. Whether General Bonner had or had not been an
affectionate father he had never heard. There are men who, in Sir
Thomas's position, would have known all about such a niece after a
few hours' acquaintance; but our lawyer was not such a man. Though
the girl seemed to him to be everything that was charming, he did not
dare to question her; and when they arrived at the station in London,
no word had as yet been said about the General.

As they were having the luggage piled on the top of a cab, the fat
cook passed along the platform. "I hope you are more comfortable now,
Mrs. Woods," said Mary Bonner, with a smile as sweet as May, while
she gave her hand to the woman.

"Thank'ee, Miss; I'm better; but it's only a moil of trouble, one
thing as well as t'other." Mrs. Woods was evidently very melancholy
at the contemplation of her prospects.

"I hope you'll find yourself comfortable now." Then she whispered to
Sir Thomas;--"She is a poor young woman whose husband has ill used
her, and she lost her only child, and has now come here to earn her
bread. She isn't nice looking, but she is so good!" Sir Thomas did
not dare to tell Mary Bonner that he had already noticed Mrs. Wood,
and that he had conceived the idea that Mrs. Wood was the niece of
whom he had come in search.

They made the journey at once to Fulham in the cab, and Sir Thomas
found it to be very long. He was proud of his new niece, but he did
not know what to say to her. And he felt that she, though he was sure
that she was clever, gave him no encouragement to speak. It was all
very well while, with her beautiful eyes full of tears, she had gone
through the ceremony of kissing his hand in token of her respect and
gratitude;--but that had been done often enough, and could not very
well be repeated in the cab. So they sat silent, and he was rejoiced
when he saw those offensive words, Popham Villa, on the posts of his
gateway. "We have only a humble little house, my dear," he said, as
they turned in. She looked at him and smiled. "I believe you West
Indians generally are lodged very sumptuously."

"Papa had a large straggling place up in the hills, but it was
anything but sumptuous. I do love the idea of an English home, where
things are neat and nice. Oh, dear;--how lovely! That is the River
Thames;--isn't it? How very beautiful!" Then the two girls were at
the door of the cab, and the newcomer was enveloped in the embraces
of her cousins.

Sir Thomas, as he walked along the banks of the river while the young
ladies prepared each other for dinner, reflected that he had never in
his life done such a day's work before as he had just accomplished.
When he had married a wife, that indeed had been a great piece of
business; but it had been done slowly,--for he had been engaged four
years,--and he had of course been much younger at that period. Now he
had brought into his family a new inmate who would force him in his
old age to change all his habits of life. He did not think that he
would dare to neglect Mary Bonner, and to stay in London while she
lived at the villa. He was almost sorry that he had ever heard of
Mary Bonner, in spite of her beauty, and although he had as yet been
able to find in her no cause of complaint. She was ladylike and
quiet;--but yet he was afraid of her. When she came down into the
drawing-room with her hand clasped in that of Clarissa, he was still
more afraid of her. She was dressed all in black, with the utmost
simplicity,--with nothing on her by way of ornament beyond a few
large black beads; but yet she seemed to him to be splendid. There
was a grace of motion about her that was almost majestic. Clary was
very pretty,--very pretty, indeed; but Clary was just the girl that
an old gentleman likes to fetch him his slippers and give him his
tea. Sir Thomas felt that, old as he was, it would certainly be his
business to give Mary Bonner her tea.

The two girls contrived to say a few words to their father that night
before they joined Mary amidst her trunks in her bedroom. "Papa,
isn't she lovely?" said Clarissa.

"She certainly is a very handsome young woman."

"And not a bit like what I expected," continued Clary. "Of course
I knew she was good-looking. I had always heard that. But I thought
that she would have been a sort of West Indian girl, dark, and lazy,
and selfish. Ralph was saying that is what they are out there."

"I don't suppose that Ralph knows anything about it," said Sir
Thomas. "And what do you say of your new cousin, Patience?"

"I think I shall love her dearly. She is so gentle and sweet."

"But she is not at all what you expected?" demanded Clarissa.

"I hardly know what I expected," replied the prudent Patience. "But
certainly I did not expect anything so lovely as she is. Of course,
we can't know her yet; but as far as one can judge, I think I shall
like her."

"But she is so magnificently beautiful!" said the energetic Clarissa.

"I think she is," said Sir Thomas. "And I quite admit that it is a
kind of beauty to surprise one. It did surprise me. Had not one of
you better go up-stairs to her?" Then both the girls bounded off to
assist their cousin in her chamber.



CHAPTER V.

MR. NEEFIT AND HIS FAMILY.


Mr. Neefit was a breeches-maker in Conduit Street, of such
repute that no hunting man could be said to go decently into the
hunting field unless decorated by a garment made in Mr. Neefit's
establishment. His manipulation of leather was something marvellous;
and in latter years he had added to his original art,--an art which
had at first been perfect rather than comprehensive,--an exquisite
skill in cords, buckskins, and such like materials. When his trade
was becoming prosperous he had thought of degenerating into a tailor,
adding largely to his premises, and of compensating his pride by the
prospects of great increase to his fortune; but an angel of glory had
whispered to him to let well alone, and he was still able to boast
that all his measurements had been confined to the legs of sportsmen.
Instead of extending his business he had simply extended his price,
and had boldly clapped on an extra half-guinea to every pair that he
supplied. The experiment was altogether successful, and when it was
heard by the riding men of the City that Mr. Neefit's prices were
undoubtedly higher than those of any other breeches-maker in London,
and that he had refused to supply breeches for the grooms of a
Marquis because the Marquis was not a hunting man, the riding men
of the City flocked to him in such numbers, that it became quite a
common thing for them to give their orders in June and July, so that
they might not be disappointed when November came round. Mr. Neefit
was a prosperous man, but he had his troubles. Now, it was a great
trouble to him that some sporting men would be so very slow in paying
for the breeches in which they took pride!

Mr. Neefit's fortune had not been rapid in early life. He had begun
with a small capital and a small establishment, and even now his
place of business was very limited in size. He had been clever enough
to make profit even out of its smallness,--and had contrived that
it should be understood that the little back room in which men were
measured was so diminutive because it did not suit his special
business to welcome a crowd. It was his pride, he said, to wait upon
hunting men,--but with the garments of the world at large he wished
to have no concern whatever. In the outer shop, looking into Conduit
Street, there was a long counter on which goods were unrolled for
inspection; and on which an artist, the solemnity of whose brow and
whose rigid silence betokened the nature of his great employment,
was always cutting out leather. This grave man was a German, and
there was a rumour among young sportsmen that old Neefit paid
this highly-skilled operator £600 a year for his services! Nobody
knew as he did how each morsel of leather would behave itself
under the needle, or could come within two hairbreadths of him
in accuracy across the kneepan. As for measuring, Mr. Neefit did
that himself,--almost always. To be measured by Mr. Neefit was as
essential to perfection as to be cut out for by the German. There
were rumours, indeed, that from certain classes of customers Mr.
Neefit and the great foreigner kept themselves personally aloof. It
was believed that Mr. Neefit would not condescend to measure a retail
tradesman. Latterly, indeed, there had arisen a doubt whether he
would lay his august hand on a stockbroker's leg; though little
Wallop, one of the young glories of Capel Court, swears that he is
handled by him every year. "Confound 'is impudence," says Wallop;
"I'd like to see him sending a foreman to me. And as for cutting,
d'you think I don't know Bawwah's 'and!" The name of the foreign
artist is not exactly known; but it is pronounced as we have written
it, and spelt in that fashion by sporting gentlemen when writing to
each other.

Our readers may be told in confidence that up to a very late date
Mr. Neefit lived in the rooms over his shop. This is certainly not
the thing for a prosperous tradesman to do. Indeed, if a tradesman
be known not to have a private residence, he will hardly become
prosperous. But Neefit had been a cautious man, and till two years
before the commencement of our story, he had actually lived in
Conduit Street,--working hard, however, to keep his residence a deep
secret from his customers at large. Now he was the proud possessor of
a villa residence at Hendon, two miles out in the country beyond the
Swiss Cottage; and all his customers knew that he was never to be
found before 9.30 A.M., or after 5.15 P.M.

As we have said, Mr. Neefit had his troubles, and one of his great
troubles was our young friend, Ralph Newton. Ralph Newton was a
hunting man, with a stud of horses,--never less than four, and
sometimes running up to seven and eight,--always standing at the
Moonbeam, at Barnfield. All men know that Barnfield is in the middle
of the B. B. Hunt,--the two initials standing for those two sporting
counties, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. Now, Mr. Neefit had a very
large connexion in the B. B., and, though he never was on horseback
in his life, subscribed twenty-five pounds a year to the pack. Mr.
Ralph Newton had long favoured him with his custom; but, we are sorry
to say, Mr. Ralph Newton had become a thorn in the flesh to many a
tradesman in these days. It was not that he never paid. He did pay
something; but as he ordered more than he paid, the sum-total against
him was always an increasing figure. But then he was a most engaging,
civil-spoken young man, whose order it was almost impossible to
decline. It was known, moreover, that his prospects were so good!
Nevertheless, it is not pleasant for a breeches-maker to see the
second hundred pound accumulating on his books for leather breeches
for one gentleman. "What does he do with 'em?" old Neefit would
say to himself; but he didn't dare to ask any such question of
Mr. Newton. It isn't for a tradesman to complain that a gentleman
consumes too many of his articles. Things, however, went so far that
Mr. Neefit found it to be incumbent on him to make special inquiry
about those prospects. Things had gone very far indeed,--for Ralph
Newton appeared one summer evening at the villa at Hendon, and
absolutely asked the breeches-maker to lend him a hundred pounds!
Before he left he had taken tea with Mr. and Mrs. and Miss Neefit
on the lawn, and had received almost a promise that the loan should
be forthcoming if he would call in Conduit Street on the following
morning. That had been early in May, and Ralph Newton had called,
and, though there had been difficulties, he had received the money
before three days had passed.

Mr. Neefit was a stout little man, with a bald head and somewhat
protrusive eyes, whose manners to his customers contained a
combination of dictatorial assurance and subservience, which he had
found to be efficacious in his peculiar business. On general subjects
he would rub his hands, and bow his head, and agree most humbly with
every word that was uttered. In the same day he would be a Radical
and a Conservative, devoted to the Church and a scoffer at parsons,
animated on behalf of staghounds and a loud censurer of aught in the
way of hunting other than the orthodox fox. On all trivial outside
subjects he considered it to be his duty as a tradesman simply to
ingratiate himself; but in a matter of breeches he gave way to no
man, let his custom be what it might. He knew his business, and was
not going to be told by any man whether the garments which he made
did or did not fit. It was the duty of a gentleman to come and
allow him to see them on while still in a half-embryo condition. If
gentlemen did their duty, he was sure that he could do his. He would
take back anything that was not approved without a murmur;--but after
that he must decline further transactions. It was, moreover, quite
understood that to complain of his materials was so to insult him
that he would condescend to make no civil reply. An elderly gentleman
from Essex once told him that his buttons were given to breaking.
"If you have your breeches,--washed,--by an old woman,--in the
country,"--said Mr. Neefit, very slowly, looking into the elderly
gentleman's face, "and then run through the mangle,--the buttons will
break." The elderly gentleman never dared even to enter the shop
again.

Mr. Neefit was perhaps somewhat over-imperious in matters relating to
his own business; but, in excuse for him, it must be stated that he
was, in truth, an honest tradesman;--he was honest at least so far,
that he did make his breeches as well as he knew how. He had made up
his mind that the best way to make his fortune was to send out good
articles,--and he did his best. Whether or no he was honest in adding
on that additional half guinea to the price because he found that
the men with whom he dealt were fools enough to be attracted by a
high price, shall be left to advanced moralists to decide. In that
universal agreement with diverse opinions there must, we fear, have
been something of dishonesty. But he made the best of breeches, put
no shoddy or cheap stitching into them, and was, upon the whole, an
honest tradesman.

From 9.30 to 5.15 were Mr. Neefit's hours; but it had come to be
understood by those who knew the establishment well, that from
half-past twelve to half-past one the master was always absent. The
young man who sat at the high desk, and seemed to spend all his time
in contemplating the bad debts in the ledger, would tell gentlemen
who called up to one that Mr. Neefit was in the City. After one it
was always said that Mr. Neefit was lunching at the Restaurong. The
truth was that Mr. Neefit always dined in the middle of the day at a
public-house round the corner, having a chop and a "follow chop," a
pint of beer, a penny newspaper and a pipe. When the villa at Hendon
had been first taken Mrs. Neefit had started late dinners; but that
vigilant and intelligent lady had soon perceived that this simply
meant, in regard to her husband, two dinners a day,--and apoplexy.
She had, therefore, returned to the old ways,--an early dinner for
herself and daughter, and a little bit of supper at night. Now,
one day in June,--that very Saturday on which Sir Thomas Underwood
brought his niece home to Fulham, the day after that wicked kiss on
the lawn at Fulham, Ralph Newton walked into Neefit's shop during the
hour of Mr. Neefit's absence, and ordered,--three pair of breeches.
Herr "Bawwah," the cutter, who never left his board during the day
for more than five minutes at a time, remained, as was his custom,
mute and apparently inattentive; but the foreman came down from his
perch and took the order. Mr. Neefit was out, unfortunately;--in the
City. Ralph Newton remarked that his measure was not in the least
altered, gave his order, and went out.

"Three pair?--leather?" asked Mr. Neefit, when he returned, raising
his eyebrows, and clearly showing that the moment was not one of
unmixed delight.

"Two leather;--one cord," said the foreman. "He had four pair last
year," said Mr. Neefit, in a tone so piteous that it might almost
have been thought that he was going to weep.

"One hundred and eighty-nine pounds, fourteen shillings, and nine
pence was the Christmas figure," said the foreman, turning back to a
leaf in the book, which he found without any difficulty. Mr. Neefit
took himself to the examination of certain completed articles which
adorned his shop, as though he were anxious to banish from his
mind so painful a subject. "Is he to 'ave 'em, Mr. Neefit?" asked
the foreman. The master was still silent, and still fingered the
materials which his very soul loved. "He must 'ave a matter of twenty
pair by him,--unless he sells 'em," said the suspicious foreman.

"He don't sell 'em," said Mr. Neefit. "He ain't one of that sort. You
can put 'em in hand, Waddle."

"Very well, Mr. Neefit. I only thought I'd mention it. It looked
queer like, his coming just when you was out."

"I don't see anything queer in it. He ain't one of that sort. Do
you go on." Mr. Waddle knew nothing of the hundred pounds, nor did
he know that Ralph Newton had,--twice drank tea at Hendon. On both
occasions Mrs. Neefit had declared that if ever she saw a gentleman,
Mr. Newton was a gentleman; and Miss Neefit, though her words had
been very few, had evidently approved of Mr. Newton's manners. Now
Miss Neefit was a beauty and an heiress.

Mr. Waddle had hardly been silenced, and had just retired with
melancholy diligence amidst the records of unsatisfactory commercial
transactions, before Ralph Newton again entered the shop. He shook
hands with Mr. Neefit,--as was the practice with many favourite
customers,--and immediately went to work in regard to his new order,
as though every Christmas and every Midsummer saw an account closed
on his behalf in Mr. Neefit's books. "I did say just now, when I
found you were out, that last year's lines would do; but it may be,
you know, that I'm running a little to flesh."

"We can't be too particular, Mr. Newton," said the master.

"It's all for your sake that I come," said the young sportsman,
walking into the little room, while Mr. Neefit followed with his
scraps of paper and tapes, and Waddle followed him to write down the
figures. "I don't care much how they look myself."

"Oh, Mr. Newton!"

"I shouldn't like 'em to wrinkle inside the knee, you know."

"That isn't likely with us, I hope, Mr. Newton."

"And I own I do like to be able to get into them."

"We don't give much trouble in that way, Mr. Newton."

"But the fact is I have such trust in you and the silent gentleman
out there, that I believe you would fit me for the next twenty years,
though you were never to see me."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Newton,--2, 4, and 1/8th, Waddle. I think Mr.
Newton is a little stouter. But, perhaps, you may work that off
before November, Mr. Newton. Thank you, Mr. Newton;--I think that'll
do. You'll find we shan't be far wrong. Three pair, Mr. Newton?"

"Yes;--I think three pair will see me through next season. I don't
suppose I shall hunt above four days, and I have some by me."

Some by him! There must be drawers full of them,--presses full of
them, chests full of them! Waddle, the melancholy and suspicious
Waddle, was sure that their customer was playing them false,--raising
money on the garments as soon as they were sent to him; but he did
not dare to say anything of this after the snubbing which he had
already received. If old Neefit chose to be done by a dishonest young
man it was nothing to him. But in truth Waddle did not understand men
as well as did his master;--and then he knew nothing of his master's
ambitious hopes.

"The bishops came out very strong last night;--didn't they?" said
Ralph, in the outer shop.

"Very strong, indeed, Mr. Newton;--very strong."

"But, after all, they're nothing but a pack of old women."

"That's about what they are, Mr. Newton."

"Not but what we must have a Church, I suppose."

"We should do very badly without a Church, Mr. Newton. At least that
is my opinion." Then Ralph left the shop, and the breeches-maker
bowed him out of the door.

"Fifty thousand pounds!" said Ralph Newton to himself, as he walked
into Bond Street and down to his club. When a man is really rich
rumour always increases his money,--and rumour had doubled the
fortune which Mr. Neefit had already amassed. "That means two
thousand a year; and the girl herself is so pretty, that upon my
honour I don't know which is the prettier,--she or Clary. But fancy
old Neefit for one's father-in-law! Everybody is doing it now; but I
don't think I'd do it for ten times the money. The fact is, one has
got to get used to these things, and I am not used to it yet. I soon
shall be,--or to something worse." Such was the nature of Ralph's
thoughts as he walked away from Mr. Neefit's house to his club.

Mr. Neefit, as he went home, had his speculations also. In making
breeches he was perfect, and in putting together money he had proved
himself to be an adept. But as to the use of his money, he was quite
as much at a loss as he would have been had he tried to wear the
garments for which he measured his customers so successfully. He
had almost realised the truth that from that money he himself could
extract, for himself, but little delight beyond that which arose
simply from the possession. Holidays destroyed him. Even a day
at home at Hendon, other than Sunday, was almost more than he
could endure. The fruition of life to him was in the completing of
breeches, and its charm in a mutton-chop and a pipe of tobacco. He
had tried idleness, and was wise enough to know almost at the first
trial that idleness would not suit him. He had made one mistake in
life which was irreparable. He had migrated from Conduit Street to a
cold, comfortless box of a house at a place in which, in order that
his respectability might be maintained, he was not allowed to show
his face in a public-house. This was very bad, but he would not make
bad worse by giving up so much of Conduit Street as was still left to
him. He would stick to the shop. But what would he do with his money?
He had but one daughter. Thinking of this, day after day, month after
month, year after year, he came slowly to the conclusion that it was
his duty to make his daughter a lady. He must find some gentleman
who would marry her, and then would give that gentleman all his
money,--knowing as he did so that the gentleman would probably never
speak to him again. And to this conclusion he came with no bitterness
of feeling, with no sense of disappointment that to such an end must
come the exertions of his laborious and successful life. There was
nothing else for him to do. He could not be a gentleman himself. It
seemed to be no more within his reach than it is for the gentleman to
be an angel. He did not desire it. He would not have enjoyed it. He
had that sort of sense which makes a man know so thoroughly his own
limits that he has no regret at not passing them. But yet in his eyes
a gentleman was so grand a thing,--a being so infinitely superior to
himself,--that, loving his daughter above anything else, he did think
that he could die happy if he could see her married into a station
so exalted. There was a humility in this as regarded himself and an
affection for his child which were admirable.

The reader will think that he might at any rate have done better than
to pitch upon such a one as Ralph Newton; but then the reader hardly
knows Ralph Newton as yet, and cannot at all realise the difficulty
which poor Mr. Neefit experienced in coming across any gentleman
in such a fashion as to be able to commence his operations. It is
hardly open to a tradesman to ask a young man home to his house
when measuring him from the hip to the knee. Neefit had heard of
many cases in which gentlemen of money had married the daughters of
commercial men, and he knew that the thing was to be done. Money,
which spent in other directions seemed to be nearly useless to him,
might be used beneficially in this way. But how was he to set about
it? Polly Neefit was as pretty a girl as you shall wish to see,
and he knew that she was pretty. But, if he didn't take care, the
good-looking young gasfitter, next door to him down at Hendon, would
have his Polly before he knew where he was. Or, worse still, as
he thought, there was that mad son of his old friend Moggs, the
bootmaker, Ontario Moggs as he had been christened by a Canadian
godfather, with whom Polly had condescended already to hold something
of a flirtation. He could not advertise for a genteel lover. What
could he do?

Then Ralph Newton made his way down to the Hendon villa,--asking for
money. What should have induced Mr. Newton to come to him for money
he could not guess;--but he did know that, of all the young men who
came into his back shop to be measured, there was no one whose looks
and manners and cheery voice had created so strong a feeling of
pleasantness as had those of Mr. Ralph Newton. Mr. Neefit could not
analyse it, but there was a kind of sunshine about the young man
which would have made him very unwilling to press hard for payment,
or to stop the supply of breeches. He had taken a liking to Ralph,
and found himself thinking about the young man in his journeys
between Hendon and Conduit Street. Was not this the sort of gentleman
that would suit his daughter? Neefit wanted no one to tell him that
Ralph Newton was a gentleman,--what he meant by a gentleman,--and
that Wallop the stockbroker was not. Wallop the stockbroker spoke
of himself as though he was a very fine fellow indeed; but to the
thinking of Mr. Neefit, Ontario Moggs was more like a gentleman than
Mr. Wallop. He had feared much as to his daughter, both in reference
to the handsome gasfitter and to Ontario Moggs, but since that second
tea-drinking he had hoped that his daughter's eyes were opened.

He had made inquiry about Ralph Newton, and had found that the young
man was undoubtedly heir to a handsome estate in Hampshire,--a place
called Newton Priory, with a parish of Newton Peele, and lodges, and
a gamekeeper, and a park. He knew from of old that Ralph's uncle
would have nothing to do with his nephew's debts; but he learned now
as a certainty that the uncle could not disinherit his nephew. And
the debts did not seem to be very high;--and Ralph had come into some
property from his father. Upon the whole, though of course there must
be a sacrifice of money at first, Neefit thought that he saw his way.
Mr. Newton, too, had been very civil to his girl,--not simply making
to her foolish flattering little speeches, but treating her,--so
thought Neefit,--exactly as a high-bred gentleman would treat the
lady of his thoughts. It was a high ambition; but Neefit thought that
there might possibly be a way to success.

Mrs. Neefit had been a good helpmate to her husband,--having worked
hard for him when hard work on her part was needed,--but was not
altogether so happy in her disposition as her lord. He desired to
shine only in his daughter,--and as a tradesman. She was troubled
by the more difficult ambition of desiring to shine in her own
person. It was she who had insisted on migrating to Hendon, and
who had demanded also the establishment of a one-horse carriage.
The one-horse carriage was no delight to Neefit, and hardly gave
satisfaction to his wife after the first three months. To be driven
along the same roads, day after day, at the rate of six miles an
hour, though it may afford fresh air, is not an exciting amusement.
Mrs. Neefit was not given to reading, and was debarred by a sense of
propriety from making those beef-steak puddings for which, within her
own small household, she had once been so famous. Hendon she found
dull; and, though Hendon had been her own choice, she could not keep
herself from complaining of its dulness to her husband. But she
always told him that the fault lay with him. He ought to content
himself with going to town four times a week, and take a six weeks'
holiday in the autumn. That was the recognised mode of life with
gentlemen who had made their fortunes in trade. Then she tried to
make him believe that constant seclusion in Conduit Street was bad
for his liver. But above all things he ought to give up measuring his
own customers with his own hands. None of their genteel neighbours
would call upon his wife and daughter as long as he did that. But
Mr. Neefit was a man within whose bosom gallantry had its limits.
He had given his wife a house at Hendon, and was contented to take
that odious journey backwards and forwards six days a week to oblige
her. But when she told him not to measure his own customers, "he cut
up rough" as Polly called it. "You be blowed," he said to the wife
of his bosom. He had said it before, and she bore it with majestic
equanimity.

Polly Neefit was, as we have said, as pretty a girl as you shall wish
to see, in spite of a nose that was almost a pug nose, and a mouth
that was a little large. I think, however, that she was perhaps
prettier at seventeen, when she would run up and down Conduit Street
on messages for her father,--who was not as yet aware that she had
ceased to be a child,--than she became afterwards at Hendon, when she
was twenty. In those early days her glossy black hair hung down her
face in curls. Now, she had a thing on the back of her head, and her
hair was manoeuvred after the usual fashion. But her laughing dark
eyes were full of good-humour, and looked as though they could be
filled also with feeling. Her complexion was perfect,--perfect at
twenty, though from its nature it would be apt to be fixed, and
perhaps rough and coarse at thirty. But at twenty it was perfect. It
was as is the colour of a half-blown rose, in which the variations
from white to pink, and almost to red, are so gradual and soft as
to have no limits. And then with her there was a charm beyond that
of the rose, for the hues would ever be changing. As she spoke or
laughed, or became serious or sat thoughtless, or pored over her
novel, the tint of her cheek and neck would change as this or that
emotion, be it ever so slight, played upon the current of her
blood. She was tall, and well made,--perhaps almost robust. She was
good-humoured, somewhat given to frank coquetry, and certainly fond
of young men. She had sense enough not to despise her father, and was
good enough to endeavour to make life bearable to her mother. She was
clever, too, in her way, and could say sprightly things. She read
novels, and loved a love story. She meant herself to have a grand
passion some day, but did not quite sympathise with her father's
views about gentlemen. Not that these views were discussed between
them, but each was gradually learning the mind of the other. It
was very pleasant to Polly Neefit to waltz with the good-looking
gasfitter;--and indeed to waltz with any man was a pleasure to Polly,
for dancing was her Paradise upon earth. And she liked talking to
Ontario Moggs, who was a clever man and had a great deal to say about
many things. She believed that Ontario Moggs was dying for her love,
but she had by no means made up her mind that Ontario was to be the
hero of the great passion. The great passion was quite a necessity
for her. She must have her romance. But Polly was aware that a great
passion ought to be made to lead to a snug house, half a dozen
children, and a proper, church-going, roast-mutton, duty-doing manner
of life. Now Ontario Moggs had very wild ideas. As for the gasfitter
he danced well and was good-looking, but he had very little to say
for himself. When Polly saw Ralph Newton,--especially when he sat out
on the lawn with them and smoked cigars on his second coming,--she
thought him very nice. She had no idea of being patronised by any
one, and she was afraid of persons whom she called "stuck-up" ladies
and gentlemen. But Mr. Newton had not patronised her, and she had
acknowledged that he was--very nice. Such as she was, she was the
idol of her father's heart and the apple of his eye. If she had asked
him to give up measuring, he might have yielded. But then his Polly
was too wise for that.

We must say a word more of Mrs. Neefit, and then we shall hope that
our readers will know the family. She had been the daughter of a
breeches-maker, to whom Neefit had originally been apprenticed,--and
therefore regarded herself as the maker of the family. But in truth
the business, such as it was now in its glory, had been constructed
by her husband, and her own fortune had been very small. She was a
stout, round-faced, healthy, meaningless woman, in whom ill-humour
would not have developed itself unless idleness,--that root of all
evil,--had fallen in her way. As it was, in the present condition of
their lives, she did inflict much discomfort on poor Mr. Neefit. Had
he been ill, she would have nursed him with all her care. Had he
died, she would have mourned for him as the best of husbands. Had he
been three parts ruined in trade, she would have gone back to Conduit
Street and made beef-steak puddings almost without a murmur. She was
very anxious for his Sunday dinner,--and would have considered it to
be a sin to be without a bit of something nice for his supper. She
took care that he always wore flannel, and would never let him stay
away from church,--lest worse should befall him. But she couldn't let
him be quiet. What else was there left for her to do but to nag him?
Polly, who was with her during the long hours of the day, would not
be nagged. "Now, mamma!" she'd say with a tone of authority that
almost overcame mamma. And if mamma was very cross, Polly would
escape. But during the long hours of the night the breeches-maker
could not escape;--and in minor matters the authority lay with her.
It was only when great matters were touched that Mr. Neefit would
rise in his wrath and desire his wife "to be blowed."

No doubt Mrs. Neefit was an unhappy woman,--more unfortunate as a
woman than was her husband as a man. The villa at Hendon had been
heavy upon him, but it had been doubly heavy upon her. He could
employ himself. The legs of his customers, to him, were a blessed
resource. But she had no resource. The indefinite idea which she had
formed of what life would be in a pretty villa residence had been
proved to be utterly fallacious,--though she had never acknowledged
the fallacy either to husband or daughter. That one-horse carriage
in which she was dragged about, was almost as odious to her as her
own drawing-room. That had become so horrible that it was rarely
used;--but even the dining-room was very bad. What would she do
there, poor woman? What was there left for her to do at all in this
world,--except to nag at her husband?

Nevertheless all who knew anything about the Neefits said that they
were very respectable people, and had done very well in the world.



CHAPTER VI.

MRS. NEEFIT'S LITTLE DINNER.


On the Sunday morning following that remarkable Saturday on which
Miss Bonner had been taken to her new home and Ralph Newton had
ordered three pair of breeches, Mr. Neefit made a very ambitious
proposition. "My dear, I think I'll ask that young man to come
and have a bit of dinner here next Sunday." This was said after
breakfast, as Mr. Neefit was being made smart in his church-going
coat and his Sunday hat, which were kept together in Mrs. Neefit's
big press.

"Which young man?" Now Mrs. Neefit when she asked the question knew
very well that Mr. Newton was the young man to whom hospitality was
to be offered. Ontario Moggs was her favourite; but Mr. Neefit would
not have dreamed of asking Ontario Moggs to dinner.

"Mr. Newton, my dear," said Mr. Neefit, with his head stuck sharply
up, while his wife tied a bow in his Sunday neckhandkerchief.

"Why should us ask him? He won't think nothing of his vittels when he
gets 'em. He'd only turn up his nose; and as for Polly, what's the
use of making her more saucy than she is? I don't want such as him
here, Neefit;--that I don't. Stuck-up young men like him had better
stay away from Alexandrina Cottage,"--that was the name of the happy
home at Hendon. "I'm sure our Polly won't be the better for having
the likes of him here."

Nothing more was said on the subject till after the return of the
family from church; but, during the sermon Mr. Neefit had had an
opportunity of thinking the subject over, and had resolved that this
was a matter in which it behoved him to be master. How was this
marriage to be brought about if the young people were not allowed to
see each other? Of course he might fail. He knew that. Very probably
Mr. Newton might not accept the invitation,--might never show himself
again at Alexandrina Cottage; but unless an effort was made there
could not be success. "I don't see why he shouldn't eat a bit of
dinner here," said Mr. Neefit, as soon as his pipe was lighted after
their early dinner. "It ain't anything out of the way, as I know of."

"You're thinking of Polly, Neefit?"

"Why shouldn't I be thinking of her? There ain't no more of 'em.
What's the use of working for her, if one don't think of her?"

"It won't do no good, Neefit. If we had things here as we might have
'em, indeed--!"

"What's amiss?"

"With nothing to drink out of, only common wine-glasses; and it's my
belief Jemima 'd never cook a dinner as he'd look at. I know what
they are,--them sort of young men. They're worse than a dozen ladies
when you come to vittels."

Nevertheless Mr. Neefit resolved upon having his own way, and it was
settled that Ralph Newton should be asked to come and eat a bit of
dinner on next Sunday. Then there arose a difficulty as to the mode
of asking him. Neefit himself felt that it would be altogether out of
his line to indite an invitation. In days gone by, before he kept a
clerk for the purpose, he had written very many letters to gentlemen,
using various strains of pressure as he called their attention to the
little outstanding accounts which stood on his books and were thorns
in his flesh. But of the writing of such letters as this now intended
to be written he had no experience. As for Mrs. Neefit, her skill in
this respect was less even than that of her husband. She could write,
no doubt. On very rare occasions she would make some expression of
her thoughts with pen and ink to Polly, when she and Polly were
apart. But no one else ever saw how slight was her proficiency in
this direction. But Polly was always writing. Polly's pothooks, as
her father called them, were pictures in her father's eyes. She
could dash off straight lines of writing,--line after line,--with
sharp-pointed angles and long-tailed letters, in a manner which made
her father proud of the money which he had spent on her education.
So Polly was told to write the letter, and after many expressions of
surprise, Polly wrote the letter that evening. "Mr. and Mrs. Neefit's
compliments to Mr. Newton, and hope he will do them the honour to
dine with them on Sunday next at five o'clock. Alexandrina Cottage,
Sunday."

"Say five sharp," said the breeches-maker.

"No, father, I won't,--say anything about sharp."

"Why not, Polly?"

"It wouldn't look pretty. I don't suppose he'll come, and I'm sure I
don't know why you should ask him. Dear me, I'm certain he'll know
that I wrote it. What will he think?"

"He'll think it comes from as pretty a young woman as he ever clapped
his eyes on," said Mr. Neefit, who was not at all reticent in the
matter of compliments to his daughter.

"Laws, Neefit, how you do spoil the girl!" said his wife.

"He has about finished spoiling me now, mamma; so it don't much
signify. You always did spoil me;--didn't you, father?" Then Polly
kissed Mr. Neefit's bald head; and Mr. Neefit, as he sat in the
centre of his lawn, with his girdle loose around him, a glass of gin
and water by his side, and a pipe in his mouth, felt that in truth
there was something left in the world worth living for. But a thought
came across his mind,--"If that chap comes I shan't be as comfortable
next Sunday." And then there was another thought,--"If he takes my
Polly away from me, I don't know as I shall ever be comfortable
again." But still he did not hesitate or repent. Of course his Polly
must have a husband.

Then a dreadful proposition was made by Mrs. Neefit. "Why not have
Moggs too?"

"Oh, mamma!"

"Are you going to turn your nose up at Ontario Moggs, Miss Pride?"

"I don't turn my nose up at him. I'm very fond of Mr. Moggs. I think
he's the best fun going. But I am sure that if Mr. Newton does come,
he'd rather not have Mr. Moggs here too."

"It wouldn't do at all," said Mr. Neefit. "Ontario is all very well,
but Mr. Newton and he wouldn't suit."

Mrs. Neefit was snubbed, and went to sleep on the sofa for the rest
of the afternoon,--intending, no doubt, to let Mr. Neefit have the
benefit of her feelings as soon as they two should be alone together.

Our friend Ralph received the note, and accepted the invitation. He
told himself that it was a lark. As the reader knows, he had already
decided that he would not sell himself even to so pretty a girl as
Polly Neefit for any amount of money; but not the less might it be
agreeable to him to pass a Sunday afternoon in her company.

Ralph Newton at this time occupied very comfortable bachelor's rooms
in a small street close to St. James's Palace. He had now held these
for the last two years, and had contrived to make his friends about
town know that here was his home. He had declined to go into the army
himself when he was quite young,--or rather had agreed not to go into
the army, on condition that he should not be pressed as to any other
profession. He lived, however, very much with military friends, many
of whom found it convenient occasionally to breakfast with him, or
to smoke a pipe in his chambers. He never did any work, and lived
a useless, butterfly life,--only with this difference from other
butterflies, that he was expected to pay for his wings.

In that matter of payment was the great difficulty of Ralph Newton's
life. He had been started at nineteen with an allowance of £250 per
annum. When he was twenty-one he inherited a fortune from his father
of more than double that amount; and as he was the undoubted heir to
a property of £7,000 a year, it may be said of him that he was born
with a golden spoon. But he had got into debt before he was twenty,
and had never got out of it. The quarrel with his uncle was an old
affair, arranged for him by his father before he knew how to quarrel
on his own score, and therefore we need say no more about that at
present. But his uncle would not pay a shilling for him, and would
have quarrelled also with his other nephew, the clergyman, had he
known that the younger brother assisted the elder. But up to the
moment of which we are writing, the iron of debt had not as yet
absolutely entered into the soul of this young man. He had, in
his need, just borrowed £100 from his breeches-maker; and this
perhaps was not the first time that he had gone to a tradesman for
assistance. But hitherto money had been forthcoming, creditors had
been indulgent, and at this moment he possessed four horses which
were eating their heads off at the Moonbeam, at Barnfield.

At five o'clock, with sufficient sharpness, Ralph Newton got out
of a Hansom cab at the door of Alexandrina Cottage. "He's cum in a
'Ansom," said Mrs. Neefit, looking over the blind of the drawing-room
window. "That's three-and-six," said Neefit, with a sigh. "You
didn't think he was going to walk, father?" said Polly. "There's the
Underground within two miles, if the Midland didn't suit," said Mr.
Neefit. "Nonsense, father. Of course he'd come in a cab!" said Polly.
Mrs. Neefit was not able to add the stinging remark with which her
tongue was laden, as Ralph Newton was already in the house. She
smoothed her apron, crossed her hands, and uttered a deep sigh. There
could be no more going down into the kitchen now to see whether
the salmon was boiled, or to provide for the proper dishing of the
lamb. "This is quite condescending of you, Mr. Newton," said the
breeches-maker, hardly daring to shake hands with his guest,--though
in his shop he was always free enough with his customers in this
matter. Polly looked as though she thought there was no condescension
whatever, held up her head, and laughed and joked, and asked some
questions about the German at the shop, whom she declared she was
never allowed to see now, and whose voice she swore she had never
heard. "Is he dumb, Mr. Newton? Father never will tell me anything
about him. You must know."

"Laws, Polly, what does it matter?" said Mrs. Neefit. And they were
the only words she had spoken. Polly, from the first, had resolved
that she would own to the shop. If Mr. Newton came to see her, he
should come to see a girl who was not ashamed to speak of herself as
the daughter of a breeches-maker.

"He don't talk much, does he, Mr. Newton?" said Mr. Neefit, laughing
merrily.

"Do tell me one thing," said Ralph. "I know it's a secret, but I'll
promise not to tell it. What is his real name?"

"This isn't fair," said Mr. Neefit, greatly delighted. "All trades
have their secrets. Come, come, Mr. Newton!"

"I know his name," said Polly.

"Do tell me," said Ralph, coming close to her, as though he might
hear it in a whisper.

"Mr. Neefit, I wish you wouldn't talk about such things here," said
the offended matron. "But now here's dinner." She was going to take
her guest's arm, but Mr. Neefit arranged it otherwise.

"The old uns and the young uns;--that's the way to pair them," said
Mr. Neefit,--understanding nature better than he did precedence; and
so they walked into the next room. Mrs. Neefit was not quite sure
whether her husband had or had not done something improper. She had
her doubts, and they made her uncomfortable.

The dinner went off very well. Neefit told how he had gone himself to
the fishmonger's for that bit of salmon, how troubled his wife had
been in mind about the lamb, and how Polly had made the salad. "And
I'll tell you what I did, Mr. Newton; I brought down that bottle of
champagne in my pocket myself;--gave six bob for it at Palmer's, in
Bond Street. My wife says we ain't got glasses fit to drink it out
of."

"You needn't tell Mr. Newton all that."

"Mr. Newton, what I am I ain't ashamed on, nor yet what I does. Let
me have the honour of drinking a glass of wine with you, Mr. Newton.
You see us just as we are. I wish it was better, but it couldn't be
welcomer. Your health, Mr. Newton."

There are many men,--and men, too, not of a bad sort,--who in
such circumstances cannot make themselves pleasant. Grant the
circumstances, with all the desire to make the best of them,--and
these men cannot be otherwise than stiff, disagreeable, and uneasy.
But then, again, there are men who in almost any position can carry
themselves as though they were to the manner born. Ralph Newton was
one of the latter. He was not accustomed to dine with the tradesmen
who supplied him with goods, and had probably never before
encountered such a host as Mr. Neefit;--but he went through the
dinner with perfect ease and satisfaction, and before the pies and
jellies had been consumed, had won the heart of even Mrs. Neefit.
"Laws, Mr. Newton," she said, "what can you know about custards?"
Then Ralph Newton offered to come and make custards against her in
her own kitchen,--providing he might have Polly to help him. "But
you'd want the back kitchen to yourselves, I'm thinking," said Mr.
Neefit, in high good-humour.

Mr. Neefit certainly was not a delicate man. As soon as dinner was
over, and the two ladies had eaten their strawberries and cream, he
suggested that the port wine should be taken out into the garden. In
the farther corner of Mr. Neefit's grounds, at a distance of about
twenty yards from the house, was a little recess called "the arbour,"
admonitory of earwigs, and without much pretension to comfort.
It might hold three persons, but on this occasion Mr. Neefit was
minded that two only should enjoy the retreat. Polly carried out the
decanter and glasses, but did not presume to stay there for a moment.
She followed her mother into the gorgeous drawing-room, where Mrs.
Neefit at once went to sleep, while her daughter consoled herself
with a novel. Mr. Neefit, as we have said, was not a delicate man.
"That girl 'll have twenty thousand pound, down on the nail, the day
she marries the man as I approves of. Fill your glass, Mr. Newton.
She will;--and there's no mistake about it. There'll be more money
too, when I'm dead,--and the old woman."

It might be owned that such a speech from the father of a
marriageable daughter to a young man who had hardly as yet shown
himself to be enamoured, was not delicate. But it may be a question
whether it was not sensible. He had made up his mind, and therefore
went at once at his object. And unless he did the business in this
way, what chance was there that it would be done at all? Mr. Newton
could not come down to Alexandrina Cottage every other day, or meet
the girl elsewhere, as he might do young ladies of fashion. And,
moreover, the father knew well enough that were his girl once to tell
him that she had set her heart upon the gasfitter, or upon Ontario
Moggs, he would not have the power to contradict her. He desired that
she should become a gentleman's wife; and thinking that this was the
readiest way to accomplish his wish, he saw no reason why he should
not follow it. When he had spoken, he chucked off his glass of wine,
and looked into his young friend's face for an answer.

"He'll be a lucky fellow that gets her," said Ralph, beginning
unconsciously to feel that it might perhaps have been as well for him
had he remained in his lodgings on this Sunday.

"He will be a lucky fellow, Mr. Newton. She's as good as gold. And a
well bred 'un too, though I say it as shouldn't. There's not a dirty
drop in her. And she's that clever, she can do a'most anything. As
for her looks, I'll say nothing about them. You've got eyes in your
head. There ain't no mistake there, Mr. Newton; no paint; no Madame
Rachel; no made beautiful for ever! It's human nature what you see
there, Mr. Newton."

"I'm quite sure of that."

"And she has the heart of an angel." By this time Mr. Neefit
was alternately wiping the tears from his eyes, and taking half
glasses of port wine. "I know all about you, Mr. Newton. You are a
gentleman;--that's what you are."

"I hope so."

"And if you don't get the wrong side of the post, you'll come out
right at last. You'll have a nice property some of these days, but
you're just a little short of cash at present."

"That's about true, Mr. Neefit."

"I want nobody to tell me;--I know," continued Neefit. "Now if you
make up to her, there she is,--with twenty thousand pounds down. You
are a gentleman, and I want that girl to be a lady. You can make her
a lady. You can't make her no better than she is. The best man in
England can't do that. But you can make her a lady. I don't know what
she'll say, mind; but you can ask her,--if you please. I like you,
and you can ask her,--if you please. What answer she'll make, that's
her look out. But you can ask her,--if you please. Perhaps I'm a
little too forrard; but I call that honest. I don't know what you
call it. But this I do know;--there ain't so sweet a girl as that
within twenty miles round London." Then Mr. Neefit, in his energy,
dashed his hand down among the glasses on the little rustic table in
the arbour.

The reader may imagine that Ralph Newton was hardly ready with his
answer. There are men, no doubt, who in such an emergency would have
been able to damn the breeches-maker's impudence, and to have walked
at once out of the house. But our young friend felt no inclination to
punish his host in such fashion as this. He simply remarked that he
would think of it, the matter being too grave for immediate decision,
and that he would join the ladies.

"Do, Mr. Newton," said Mr. Neefit; "go and join Polly. You'll find
she's all I tell you. I'll sit here and have a pipe."

Ralph did join the ladies; and, finding Mrs. Neefit asleep, he
induced Polly to take a walk with him amidst the lanes of Hendon.
When he left Alexandrina Cottage in the evening, Mr. Neefit whispered
a word into his ear at the gate. "You know my mind. Strike while the
iron's hot. There she is,--just what you see her."



CHAPTER VII.

YOU ARE ONE OF US NOW.


The first week after Mary Bonner's arrival at Popham Villa went by
without much to make it remarkable, except the strangeness arising
from the coming of a stranger. Sir Thomas did stay at home on that
Sunday, but when the time came for going to morning church, shuffled
out of that disagreeable duty in a manner that was satisfactory
neither to himself nor his daughters. "Oh, papa; I thought you would
have gone with us!" said Patience at the last moment.

"I think not to-day, my dear," he said, with that sort of smile which
betokens inward uneasiness. Patience reproached him with a look, and
then the three girls went off together. Even Patience herself had
offered to excuse Mary, on the score of fatigue, seasickness, and the
like; but Mary altogether declined to be excused. She was neither
fatigued, she said, nor sick; and of course she would go to church.
Sir Thomas stayed at home, and thought about himself. How could he
go to church when he knew that he could neither listen to the sermon
nor join in the prayers? "I suppose people do," he said to himself;
"but I can't. I'd go to church all day long, if I found that it would
serve me."

He went up to London on the Monday, and returned to the villa to
dinner. He did the same on the Tuesday. On the Wednesday he remained
in London. On the Thursday he came home, but dined in town. After
that he found himself to be on sufficiently familiar terms with his
niece to fall back into his old habits of life.

Patience was very slow in speaking to their cousin of her father's
peculiarities; but Clarissa soon told the tale. "You'll get to know
papa soon," she said.

"He has been so kind to me."

"He is very good; but you must know, dear, that we are the most
deserted and disconsolate ladies that ever lived out of a poem. Papa
has been home now four days together; but that is for your beaux
yeux. We are here for weeks together without seeing him;--very often
for more than a week."

"Where does he go?"

"He has a place in London;--such a place! You shall go and see it
some day, though he won't thank us a bit for taking you there. He has
the queerest old man to wait upon him, and he never sees anybody from
day to day."

"But what does he do?"

"He is writing a book. That is the great secret. He never speaks
about it, and does not like to be asked questions. But the truth is,
he is the most solitude-loving person in the world. He does find its
charms, though Alexander Selkirk never could."

"And does nobody come here to you?"

"In the way of taking care of us? Nobody! We have to take care of
ourselves. Of course it is dull. People do come and see us sometimes.
Miss Spooner, for instance."

"Why should you laugh at poor Miss Spooner?" asked Patience.

"I don't laugh at her. We have other friends, you know; but not
enough to make the house pleasant to you." After that, when Patience
was not with them, she told something of Ralph Newton and his visits,
though she said nothing to her cousin of her own cherished hopes. "I
wonder what you'll think of Ralph Newton?" she said. Ralph Newton's
name had been mentioned before in Mary's hearing more than once.

"Why should I think anything particular of Ralph Newton?"

"You'll have to think something particular about him as he is a sort
of child of the house. Papa was his guardian, and he comes here just
when he pleases."

"Who is he, and what is he, and where is he, and why is he?"

"He's a gentleman at large who does nothing. That's who he is."

"He thinks ever so much of himself, then?"

"No;--he doesn't. And he is nephew to an old squire down in
Hampshire, who won't give him a penny. He oughtn't to want it,
however, because when he came of age he had ever so much money of his
own. But he does want it,--sometimes. He must have the property when
his uncle dies."

"Dear me;--how interesting!"

"As for the where he is, and why he is,--he comes here just when it
suits him, and because we were almost brought up together. He doesn't
dine here, and all that kind of thing, because papa is never at home.
Nobody ever does dine here."

Then there was a short pause. "This Mr. Newton isn't a lover then?"
asked Miss Bonner.

There was another pause before Clarissa could answer the question.
"No," she said; "no; he isn't a lover. We don't have any lovers at
Popham Villa." "Only that's not quite true," she said, after a pause.
"And as you are to live with us just like a sister, I'll tell you
about Gregory Newton, Ralph's brother." Then she did tell the story
of the clergyman's love and the clergyman's discomfiture; but she
said not a word of Ralph's declaration and Ralph's great sin on that
fatal evening. And the way in which she told her story about the one
brother altogether disarmed Mary Bonner's suspicion as to the other.

In truth Clarissa did not know whether it was or was not her
privilege to regard Ralph Newton as her lover. He had not been to the
cottage since that evening; and though the words he had spoken were
still sweet in her ears,--so sweet that she could not endure the
thought of abandoning their sweetness,--still she had a misgiving
that they were in some sort rendered nugatory by his great fault. She
had forgiven the fault;--looking back at it now over the distance
of eight or ten days, had forgiven it with all her heart; but still
there remained with her an undefined and unpleasant feeling that the
spoken words, accompanied by a deed so wicked, were absorbed, and,
as it were, drowned in the wickedness of the deed. What if the words
as first spoken were only a prelude to the deed,--for, as she well
remembered, they had been spoken twice,--and if the subsequent words
were only an excuse for it! There was a painful idea in her mind that
such might possibly be the case, and that if so, the man could never
be forgiven, or at least ought never to be spoken to again. Acting
on this suggestion from within, she absolutely refused to tell her
father what had happened when Patience urged her to do so. "He'll
come and see papa himself,--if he means anything," said Clary.
Patience only shook her head. She thought that Sir Thomas should be
told at once; but she could not take upon herself to divulge her
sister's secret, which had been imparted to her in trust.

Clarissa was obstinate. She would not tell her father, nor would
she say what would be her own answer if her father were to give his
permission for the match. As to this Patience had not much doubt. She
saw that her sister's heart was set upon this lover. She had feared
it before this late occurrence, and now she could hardly have a
doubt. But if Ralph really meant it he would hardly have told her
that he loved her, and then not waited for an answer,--not have come
back for an answer,--not have gone to their father for an answer.
And then, Patience thought, Sir Thomas would never consent to this
marriage. Ralph was in debt, and a scapegrace, and quite unfit to
undertake the management of a wife. Such was the elder sister's
belief as to her father's mind. But she could not force upon Clary
the necessity of taking any action in the matter. She was not strong
enough in her position as elder to demand obedience. Clarissa's
communication had been made in confidence; and Patience, though she
was unhappy, would not break the trust.

At last this young Lothario appeared among them again; but, as it
happened, he came in company with Sir Thomas. Such a thing had not
happened before since the day on which Sir Thomas had given up all
charge of his ward's property. But it did so happen now. The two men
had met in London, and Sir Thomas had suggested that Ralph should
come and be introduced to the new cousin.

"What are you doing now?" Sir Thomas had asked.

"Nothing particular just at present."

"You can get away this evening?"

"Yes,--I think I can get away." It had been his intention to dine
at his club with Captain Cox; but as he had dined at the club with
Captain Cox on the previous day, the engagement was not felt to be
altogether binding. "I can get away for dinner that is, but I've got
to go out in the evening. It's a bore, but I promised to be at Lady
McMarshal's to-night. But if I show there at twelve it will do." Thus
it happened that Sir Thomas and Ralph Newton went down to Popham
Villa in a cab together.

It was clear, both to Patience and Clarissa, that he was much struck
with the new cousin; but then it was quite out of the question
that any man should not be struck with her. Her beauty was of that
kind,--like the beauty of a picture,--which must strike even if
it fails to charm. And Mary had a way of exciting attention with
strangers, even by her silence. It was hardly intentional, and there
certainly was no coquetry in it; but it was the case that she carried
herself after a fashion which made it impossible for any stranger to
regard her place in the room as being merely a chair with a young
lady in it. She would speak hardly a word; but her very lack of
speech was eloquent. At the present time she was of course in deep
mourning, and the contrast between the brilliance of her complexion
and the dark dress which covered her throat;--between the black
scarf and the profusion of bright hair which fell upon it, was so
remarkable as of itself to excite attention. Clarissa, watching
everything, though, with feminine instinct, seeming to watch nothing,
could see that he was amazed. But then she had known that he would be
amazed. And of what matter would be his amazement, if he were true?
If, indeed, he were not true,--then, then,--then nothing mattered!
Such was the light in which Clary viewed the circumstances around her
at the present moment.

The evening did not pass very pleasantly. Ralph was introduced to the
cousin, and asked some questions about the West Indies. Then there
was tea. Ralph was dressed, with a black coat and white cravat, and
Clary could not keep herself from thinking how very much nicer he was
with a pipe in his mouth, and his neck bare, drinking soda-water and
sherry out on the lawn. Ah,--in spite of all that had then happened,
that was the sweetest moment in her existence, when he jumped up from
the ground and told her that he might do a great deal better than
marry the West Indian cousin. She thought now of his very words, and
suggested to herself that perhaps he would never say them again.
Nay;--might it not be possible that he would say the very reverse,
that he would declare his wish to marry the West Indian cousin. Clary
could not conceive but that he might have her should he so wish.
Young ladies, when they are in love, are prone to regard their lovers
as being prizes so valuable as to be coveted by all female comers.

Before Ralph had taken his leave Sir Thomas took Mary apart to make
some communication to her as to her own affairs. Everything was now
settled, and Sir Thomas had purchased stock for her with her little
fortune. "You have £20 2_s._ 4_d._ a year, quite your own," he said,
laughing;--as he might have done to one of his own girls, had an
unexpected legacy been left to her.

"That means that I must be altogether dependent on your charity," she
said, looking into his face through her tears.

"It means nothing of the kind," he said, with almost the impetuosity
of anger. "There shall be no such cold word as charity between you
and me. You are one of us now, and of my cup and of my loaf it is
your right to partake, as it is the right of those girls there. I
shall never think of it, or speak of it again."

"But I must think of it, uncle."

"The less the better;--but never use that odious word again between
you and me. It is a word for strangers. What is given as I give to
you should be taken without even an acknowledgment. My payment is to
be your love."

"You shall be paid in full," she said as she kissed him. This was
all very well, but still on his part there was some misgiving,--some
misgiving, though no doubt. If he were to die what would become of
her? He must make a new will,--which in itself was to him a terrible
trouble; and he must take something from his own girls in order that
he might provide for this new daughter. That question of adopting is
very difficult. If a man have no children of his own,--none others
that are dependent on him,--he can give all, and there is an end
of his trouble. But a man feels that he owes his property to his
children; and, so feeling, may he take it from them and give it to
others? Had she been in truth his daughter, he would have felt that
there was enough for three; but she was not his daughter, and yet he
was telling her that she should be to him the same as a child of his
house!

In the meantime Ralph was out on the lawn with the two sisters, and
was as awkward as men always are in such circumstances. When he spoke
those words to Clarissa he had in truth no settled purpose in his
mind. He had always liked her,--loved her after a fashion,--felt
for her an affection different to that which he entertained for her
sister. Nevertheless, most assuredly he had not come down to Fulham
on that evening prepared to make her an offer. He had been there by
chance, and it had been quite by chance that he found Clarissa alone.
He knew that the words had been spoken, and he knew also that he
had drawn down her wrath upon his head by his caress. He was man
enough also to feel that he had no right to believe himself to have
been forgiven, because now, in the presence of others, she did not
receive him with a special coldness which would have demanded special
explanation. As it was, the three were all cold. Patience half felt
inclined to go and leave them together. She would have given a finger
off her hand to make Clary happy;--but would it be right to make
Clary happy in such fashion as this? She had thought at first when
she saw her father and Ralph together, that Ralph had spoken of his
love to Sir Thomas, and that Sir Thomas had allowed him to come; but
she soon perceived that this was not the case: and so they walked
about together, each knowing that their intercourse was not as it
always had been, and each feeling powerless to resume an appearance
of composure.

"I have got to go and be at Lady McMarshal's," he said, after having
suffered in this way for a quarter of an hour. "If I did not show
myself there her ladyship would think that I had given over all ideas
of propriety, and that I was a lost sheep past redemption."

"Don't let us keep you if you ought to go," said Clary, with dismal
propriety.

"I think I'll be off. Good-bye, Patience. The new cousin is radiant
in beauty. No one can doubt that. But I don't know whether she is
exactly the sort of girl I admire most. By-the-bye, what do you mean
to do with her?"

"Do with her?" said Patience. "She will live here, of course."

"Just settle down as one of the family? Then, no doubt, I shall see
her again. Good-night, Patience. Good-bye, Clary. I'll just step in
and make my adieux to Sir Thomas and the beauty." This he did;--but
as he went he pressed Clary's hand in a manner that she could but
understand. She did not return the pressure, but she did not resent
it.

"Clarissa," said Patience, when they were together that night, "dear
Clarissa!"

Clary knew that when she was called Clarissa by her sister something
special was meant. "What is it?" she asked. "What are you going to
say now?"

"You know that I am thinking only of your happiness. My darling, he
doesn't mean it."

"How do you know? What right have you to say so? Why am I to be
thought such a fool as not to know what I ought to do?"

"Nobody thinks that you are a fool, Clary. I know how clever you
are,--and how good. But I cannot bear that you should be unhappy.
If he had meant it, he would have spoken to papa. If you will only
tell me that you are not thinking of him, that he is not making you
unhappy, I will not say a word further."

"I am thinking of him, and he is making me unhappy," said Clarissa,
bursting into tears. "But I don't know why you should say that he is
a liar, and dishonest, and everything that is bad."

"I have neither said that, nor thought it, Clary."

"That is what you mean. He did say that he loved me."

"And you,--you did not answer him?"

"No;--I said nothing. I can't explain it, and I don't want to explain
it. I did not say a word to him. You came; and then he went away. If
I am to be unhappy, I can't help it. He did say that he loved me, and
I do love him."

"Will you tell papa?"

"No;--I will not. It would be out of the question. He would go to
Ralph, and there would be a row, and I would not have it for worlds."
Then she tried to smile. "Other girls are unhappy, and I don't see
why I'm to be better off than the rest. I know I am a fool. You'll
never be unhappy, because you are not a fool. But, Patience, I have
told you everything, and if you are not true to me I will never
forgive you." Patience promised that she would be true; and then they
embraced and were friends.



CHAPTER VIII.

RALPH NEWTON'S TROUBLES.


July had come, the second week in July, and Ralph Newton had not
as yet given any reply to that very definite proposition which had
been made to him after the little dinner by Mr. Neefit. Now the
proposition was one which certainly required an answer;--and all the
effect which it had hitherto had upon our friend was to induce him
not to include Conduit Street in any of his daily walks. It has
already been said that before the offer was made to him, when he
believed that Polly's fortune would be more than Mr. Neefit had been
able to promise, he had determined that nothing should induce him
to marry the daughter of a breeches-maker; and therefore the answer
might have been easy. Nevertheless he made no answer, but kept out
of Conduit Street, and allowed the three pair of breeches to be sent
home to him without trying them on. This was very wrong; for Mr.
Neefit, though perhaps indelicate, had at least been generous and
trusting;--and a definite answer should have been given before the
middle of July.

Troubles were coming thick upon Ralph Newton. He had borrowed a
hundred pounds from Mr. Neefit, but this he had done under pressure
of a letter from his brother the parson. He owed the parson,--we
will not say how much. He would get fifty pounds or a hundred from
the parson every now and again, giving an assurance that it should
be repaid in a month or six weeks. Sometimes the promise would be
kept,--and sometimes not. The parson, as a bachelor, was undoubtedly
a rich man. He had a living of £400 a year, and some fortune of his
own; but he had tastes of his own, and was repairing the Church at
Peele Newton, his parish in Hampshire. It would therefore sometimes
happen that he was driven to ask his brother for money. The hundred
pounds which had been borrowed from Mr. Neefit had been sent down
to Peele Newton with a mere deduction of £25 for current expenses.
Twenty-five pounds do not go far in current expenses in London with a
man who is given to be expensive, and Ralph Newton was again in want
of funds.

And there were other troubles, all coming from want of money. Mr.
Horsball, of the Moonbeam, who was generally known in the sporting
world as a man who never did ask for his money, had remarked that
as Mr. Newton's bill was now above a thousand, he should like a
little cash. Mr. Newton's bill at two months for £500 would be quite
satisfactory. "Would Mr. Newton accept the enclosed document?" Mr.
Newton did accept the document, but he didn't like it. How was he to
pay £500 in the beginning of September, unless indeed he got it from
Mr. Neefit? He might raise money, no doubt, on his own interest in
the Newton Priory estate. But that estate would never be his were he
to die before his uncle, and he knew that assistance from the Jews on
such security would ruin him altogether. Of his own property there
was still a remnant left. He owned houses in London from which he
still got some income. But they were mortgaged, and the title-deeds
not in his possession, and his own attorney made difficulties about
obtaining for him a further advance.

He was sitting one bright July morning in his own room in St. James's
Street, over a very late breakfast, with his two friends, Captain
Fooks and Lieutenant Cox, when a little annoyance of a similar kind
fell upon him;--a worse annoyance, indeed, than that which had come
from Mr. Horsball, for Mr. Horsball had not been spiteful enough to
call upon him. There came a knock at his door, and young Mr. Moggs
was ushered into the room. Now Mr. Moggs was the son of Booby and
Moggs, the well-known bootmakers of Old Bond Street; and the boots
they had made for Ralph Newton had been infinite in number, as they
had also, no doubt, been excellent in make and leather. But Booby and
Moggs had of late wanted money, had written many letters, and for
four months had not seen the face of their customer. When a gentleman
is driven by his indebtedness to go to another tradesman, it is, so
to say, "all up with him" in the way of credit. There is nothing the
tradesman dislikes so much as this, as he fears that the rival is
going to get the ready money after he has given the credit. And yet
what is a gentleman to do when his demand for further goods at the
old shop is met by a request for a little ready money? We know what
Ralph Newton did at the establishment in Conduit Street. But then Mr.
Neefit was a very peculiar man.

Cox had just lighted his cigar, and Fooks was filling his pipe when
Ontario Moggs entered the room. This rival in the regards of Polly
Neefit was not at that time personally known to Ralph Newton; but
the name, as mentioned by his servant, was painfully familiar to him.
"Oh, Mr. Moggs,--ah;--it's your father, I suppose, that I know. Sit
down, Mr. Moggs;--will you have a cup of tea;--or perhaps a glass of
brandy? Take a cigar, Mr. Moggs." But Moggs declined all refreshment
for the body. He was a tall, thin, young man, with long straggling
hair, a fierce eye, very thick lips, and a flat nose,--a nose which
seemed to be all nostril;--and then, below his mouth was a tuft of
beard, which he called an imperial. It was the glory of Ontario
Moggs to be a politician;--it was his ambition to be a poet;--it was
his nature to be a lover;--it was his disgrace to be a bootmaker.
Dependent on a stern father, and aware that it behoved him to earn
his bread, he could not but obey; but he groaned under this servitude
to trade, and was only happy when speaking at his debating club,
held at the Cheshire Cheese, or when basking in the beauty of Polly
Neefit. He was great upon Strikes,--in reference to which perilous
subject he was altogether at variance with his father, who worshipped
capital and hated unions. Ontario held horrible ideas about
co-operative associations, the rights of labour, and the welfare of
the masses. Thrice he had quarrelled with his father;--but the old
man loved his son, and though he was stern, strove to bring the young
man into the ways of money-making. How was he to think of marrying
Polly Neefit,--as to the expediency of which arrangement Mr. Moggs
senior quite agreed with Mr. Moggs junior,--unless he would show
himself to be a man of business? Did he think that old Neefit would
give his money to be wasted upon strikes? Ontario, who was as honest
a fool as ever lived, told his father that he didn't care a straw for
Neefit's money. Then Moggs the father had made a plunge against the
counter with his sharp-pointed shoemaker's knife, which he always
held in his hand, that had almost been fatal to himself; for the
knife broke at the thrust, and the fragment cut his wrist. At this
time there was no real Booby, and the firm was in truth Moggs, and
Moggs only. The great question was whether it should become Moggs and
Son. But what tradesman would take a partner into his firm who began
by declaring that strikes were the safeguards of trade, and that
he,--the proposed partner,--did not personally care for money?
Nevertheless old Moggs persevered; and Ontario, alive to the fact
that it was his duty to be a bootmaker, was now attempting to carry
on his business in the manner laid down for him by his father.

A worse dun,--a dun with less power of dunning,--than Ontario Moggs
could not be conceived. His only strength lay in his helplessness.
When he found that Mr. Newton had two friends with him, his lips were
sealed. To ask for money at all was very painful to him, but to ask
for it before three men was beyond his power. Ralph Newton, seeing
something of this, felt that generosity demanded of him that he
should sacrifice himself. "I'm afraid you've come about your bill,
Mr. Moggs," he said. Ontario Moggs, who on the subject of Trades'
Unions at the Cheshire Cheese could pour forth a flood of eloquence
that would hold the room in rapt admiration, and then bring down a
tumult of applause, now stammered out a half-expressed assent. "As
Mr. Newton was engaged perhaps he had better call again."

"Well;--thankee, yes. It would be as well. But what's the total, Mr.
Moggs?" Ontario could not bring himself to mention the figures, but
handed a paper to our friend. "Bless my soul! that's very bad," said
our friend. "Over two hundred pounds for boots! How long can your
father give me?"

"He's a little pressed just at present," whispered Moggs.

"Yes;--and he has my bill, which he was forced to take up at
Christmas. It's quite true." Moggs said not a word, though he had
been especially commissioned to instruct the debtor that his father
would be forced to apply through his solicitor, unless he should
receive at least half the amount due before the end of the next week.
"Tell your father that I will certainly call within the next three
days and tell him what I can do;--or, at least, what I can't do.
You are sure you won't take a cigar?" Moggs was quite sure that he
wouldn't take a cigar, and retired, thanking Ralph as though some
excellent arrangement had been made which would altogether prevent
further difficulties.

"That's the softest chap I ever saw," said Lieutenant Cox.

"I wish my fellows would treat me like that," said Captain Fooks.
"But I never knew a fellow have the luck that Newton has. I don't
suppose I owe a tenth of what you do."

"That's your idea of luck?" said Ralph.

"Well;--yes. I owe next to nothing, but I'll be hanged if I can get
anything done for me without being dunned up to my very eyes. You
know that chap of Neefit's? I'm blessed if he didn't ask me whether
I meant to settle last year's bill, before he should send me home a
couple of cords I ordered! Now I don't owe Neefit twenty pounds if
all was told."

"What did you do?" asked Lieutenant Cox.

"I just walked out of the shop. Now I shall see whether they're sent
or not. They tell me there's a fellow down at Rugby makes just as
well as Neefit, and never bothers you at all. What do you owe Neefit,
Newton?"

"Untold sums."

"But how much really?"

"Don't you hear me say the sums are untold?"

"Oh; d----n it; I don't understand that. I'm never dark about
anything of that kind. I'll go bail it's more than five times what I
do."

"Very likely. If you had given your orders generously, as I have
done, you would have been treated nobly. What good has a man in
looking at twenty pounds on his books? Of course he must get in the
small sums."

"I suppose there's something in that," said the captain thoughtfully.
At this moment the conversation was interrupted by the entrance of
another emissary,--an emissary from that very establishment to which
they were alluding. It was Ralph Newton's orders that no one should
ever be denied to him when he was really in his rooms. He had fought
the battle long enough to know that such denials create unnecessary
animosity. And then, as he said, they were simply the resources of
a coward. It was the duty of a brave man to meet his enemy face to
face. Fortune could never give him the opportunity of doing that
pleasantly, in the field, as might happen any day to his happy
friends, Captain Fooks and Lieutenant Cox; but he was determined
that he would accustom himself to stand fire;--and that, therefore,
he would never run away from a dun. Now there slipped very slowly
into the room, that most mysterious person who was commonly called
Herr Bawwah,--much to the astonishment of the three young gentlemen,
as the celebrated cutter of leather had never previously been seen
by either of them elsewhere than standing silent at his board in
Neefit's shop, with his knife in his hands. They looked at one
another, and the two military gentlemen thought that Mr. Neefit was
very much in earnest when he sent Bawwah to look for his money. Mr.
Neefit was very much in earnest; but on this occasion his emissary
had not come for money. "What, Herr Bawwah;--is that you?" said
Ralph, making the best he could of the name. "Is there anything wrong
at the shop?" The German looked slowly round the room, and then
handed to the owner of it a little note without a word.

Ralph read the note,--to himself. It was written on one of the shop
bills, and ran as follows:--"Have you thought of what I was saying?
If so, I should be happy to see Mr. Newton either in Conduit Street
or at Alexandrina Cottage." There was neither signature nor date.
Ralph knew what he was called upon to do, as well as though four
pages of an elaborate epistle had been indited to him. And he knew,
too, that he was bound to give an answer. He asked the "Herr" to sit
down, and prepared to write an answer at once. He offered the Herr a
glass of brandy, which the Herr swallowed at a gulp. He handed the
Herr a cigar, which the Herr pocketed;--and in gratitude for the
latter favour some inarticulate grunt of thanks was uttered. Ralph at
once wrote his reply, while the two friends smoked, looked on, and
wondered. "Dear Mr. Neefit,--I will be with you at eleven to-morrow
morning. Yours most truly, RALPH NEWTON." This he handed, with
another glass of brandy, to the Herr. The Herr swallowed the second
glass,--as he would have done a third had it been offered to
him,--and then took his departure.

"That was another dun;--eh, Newton?" asked the lieutenant.

"What a conjuror you are?" said Ralph.

"I never heard of his sending Bawwah out before," said the captain.

"He never does under two hundred and fifty pounds," said Ralph. "It's
a mark of the greatest respect. If I wore nothing but brown cords,
like you, I never should have seen the Herr here."

"I never had a pair of brown cords in my life!" said the offended
captain. After this the conversation fell away, and the two warriors
went off to their military occupations at the Horse Guards, where, no
doubt, the Commander-in-chief was waiting for them with impatience.

Ralph Newton had much to think of, and much that required thinking of
at once. Did he mean to make an offer to Clary Underwood? Did he mean
to take Polly Neefit and her £20,000? Did he mean to marry at all?
Did he mean to go to the dogs? Had he ever in his life seen anybody
half so beautiful as Mary Bonner? What was he to say to Mr. Moggs?
How was he to manage about that £500 which Horsball would demand of
him in September? In what terms could he speak to Neefit of the money
due both for breeches and the loan, in the event of his declining
Polly? And then, generally, how was he to carry on the war? He was
thoroughly disgusted with himself as he thought of all the evil that
he had done, and of the good which he had omitted to do. While he was
yet at college Sir Thomas had been anxious that he should be called
to the Bar, and had again and again begged of him to consent to this
as a commencement of his life in London. But Ralph had replied,--and
had at last replied with so much decision that Sir Thomas had
abandoned the subject,--that as it was out of the question that he
should ever make money at the Bar, the fact of his being called would
be useless to him. He argued that he need not waste his life because
he was not a lawyer. It was not his intention to waste his life. He
had a sufficient property of his own at once, and must inherit a much
larger property later in life. He would not be called to the Bar, nor
would he go into the army, nor would he go abroad for any lengthened
course of travelling. He was fond of hunting, but he would keep his
hunting within measure. Surely an English private gentleman might
live to some profit in his own country! He would go out in honours,
and take a degree, and then make himself happy among his books. Such
had been his own plan for himself at twenty-one. At twenty-two he had
quarrelled with the tutor at his college, and taken his name off the
books without any degree. About this, too, he had argued with Sir
Thomas, expressing a strong opinion that a university degree was in
England, of all pretences, the most vain and hollow. At twenty-three
he began his career at the Moonbeam with two horses,--and from that
day to this hunting had been the chief aim of his life. During the
last winter he had hunted six days a week,--assuring Sir Thomas,
however, that at the end of that season his wild oats would have
been sown as regarded that amusement, and that henceforth he should
confine himself to two days a week. Since that he had justified the
four horses which still remained at the Moonbeam by the alleged fact
that horses were drugs in April, but would be pearls of price in
November. Sir Thomas could only expostulate, and when he did so, his
late ward and present friend, though he was always courteous, would
always argue. Then he fell, as was natural, into intimacies with such
men as Cox and Fooks. There was no special harm either in Cox or
Fooks; but no one knew better than did Ralph Newton himself that they
were not such friends as he had promised himself when he was younger.

Fathers, guardians, and the race of old friends generally, hardly
ever give sufficient credit to the remorse which young men themselves
feel when they gradually go astray. They see the better as plainly
as do their elders, though they so often follow the worse,--as not
unfrequently do the elders also. Ralph Newton passed hardly a day
of his life without a certain amount of remorse in that he had not
managed himself better than he had done, and was now doing. He knew
that Fortune had been very good to him, and that he had hitherto
wasted all her gifts. And now there came the question whether it
was as yet too late to retrieve the injury which he had done. He
did believe,--not even as yet doubting his power to do well,--that
everything might be made right, only that his money difficulties
pressed him so hardly. He took pen and paper, and made out a list of
his debts, heading the catalogue with Mr. Horsball of the Moonbeam.
The amount, when added together, came to something over four thousand
pounds, including a debt of three hundred to his brother the parson.
Then he endeavoured to value his property, and calculated that if he
sold all that was remaining to him he might pay what he owed, and
have something about fifty pounds per annum left to live upon till he
should inherit his uncle's property. But he doubted the accuracy even
of this, knowing that new and unexpected debts will always crop up
when the day of settlement arrives. Of course he could not live upon
fifty pounds a year. It would have seemed to him to be almost equally
impossible to live upon four times fifty pounds. He had given Sir
Thomas a promise that he would not raise money on post-obits on his
uncle's life, and hitherto he had kept that promise. He thought that
he would be guilty of no breach of promise were he so to obtain
funds, telling Sir Thomas of his purpose, and asking the lawyer's
assistance; but he knew that if he did this all his chance of future
high prosperity would be at an end. His uncle might live these twenty
years, and in that time he, Ralph, might quite as readily die. Money
might no doubt be raised, but this could only be done at a cost
which would be utterly ruinous to him. There was one way out of his
difficulty. He might marry a girl with money. A girl with money had
been offered to him, and a girl, too, who was very pretty and very
pleasant. But then, to marry the daughter of a breeches-maker!

And why not? He had been teaching himself all his life to despise
conventionalities. He had ridiculed degrees. He had laughed at
the rank and standing of a barrister. "The rank is but the guinea
stamp--the man's the gowd for a' that." How often had he declared to
himself and others that that should be his motto through life. And
might not he be as much a man, and would not his metal be as pure,
with Polly Neefit for his wife as though he were to marry a duchess?
As for love, he thought he could love Polly dearly. He knew that he
had done some wrong in regard to poor Clary; but he by no means knew
how much wrong he had done. A single word of love,--which had been
so very much to her in her innocence,--had been so little to him who
was not innocent. If he could allow himself to choose out of all the
women he had ever seen, he would, he thought, instigated rather by
the ambition of having the loveliest woman in the world for his wife
than by any love, have endeavoured to win Mary Bonner as his own. But
that was out of the question. Mary Bonner was as poor as himself;
and, much as he admired her, he certainly could not tell himself
that he loved her. Polly Neefit would pull him through all his
difficulties. Nevertheless, he could not make up his mind to ask
Polly Neefit to be his wife.

But he must make up his mind either that he would or that he would
not. He must see Mr. Neefit on the morrow;--and within the next few
days he must call on Mr. Moggs, unless he broke his word. And in two
months' time he must have £500 for Mr. Horsball. Suppose he were to
go to Sir Thomas, tell his whole story without reserve, and ask his
old friend's advice! Everything without reserve he could not tell.
He could say nothing to the father of that scene on the lawn with
Clarissa. But of his own pecuniary difficulties, and of Mr. Neefit's
generous offer, he was sure that he could tell the entire truth.
He did go to Southampton Buildings, and after some harsh language
between himself and Mr. Stemm,--Sir Thomas being away at the
time,--he managed to make an appointment for nine o'clock that
evening at his late guardian's chambers. At nine o'clock precisely
he found himself seated with Sir Thomas, all among the books in
Southampton Buildings. "Perhaps you'll have a cup of tea," said Sir
Thomas. "Stemm, give us some tea." Ralph waited till the tea was
handed to him and Stemm was gone. Then he told his story.

He told it very fairly as against himself. He brought out his little
account and explained to the lawyer how it was that he made himself
out to be worth fifty pounds a year, and no more. "Oh, heavens, what
a mess you have made of it!" said the lawyer, holding up both his
hands. "No doubt I have," said Ralph,--"a terrible mess! But as I now
come to you for advice hear me out to the end. You can say nothing as
to my folly which I do not know already." "Go on," said Sir Thomas.
"Go on,--I'll hear you." It may, however, be remarked, by the way,
that when an old gentleman in Sir Thomas's position is asked his
advice under such circumstances, he ought to be allowed to remark
that he had prophesied all these things beforehand. "I told you so,"
is such a comfortable thing to say! And when an old gentleman has
taken much fruitless trouble about a young gentleman, he ought
at least not to be interrupted in his remarks as to that young
gentleman's folly. But Ralph was energetic, and, knowing that he had
a point before him, would go on with his story. "And now," he said,
"I am coming to a way of putting these things right which has been
suggested to me. You won't like it, I know. But it would put me on my
legs."

"Raising money on your expectations?" said Sir Thomas.

"No;--that is what I must come to if this plan don't answer."

"Anything will be better than that," said Sir Thomas.

Then Ralph dashed at the suggestion of marriage without further
delay. "You have heard of Mr. Neefit, the breeches-maker!" It so
happened that Sir Thomas never had heard of Mr. Neefit. "Well;--he is
a tradesman in Conduit Street. He has a daughter, and he will give
her twenty thousand pounds."

"You don't mean to run away with the breeches-maker's daughter?"
ejaculated Sir Thomas.

"Certainly not. I shouldn't get the twenty thousand pounds if I did."
Then he explained it all;--how Neefit had asked him to the house, and
offered him the girl; how the girl herself was as pretty and nice as
a girl could be; and how he thought,--though as to that he expressed
himself with some humility,--that, were he to propose to her, the
girl might perhaps take him.

"I dare say she would," said Sir Thomas.

"Well;--now you know it all. In her way, she has been educated.
Neefit père is utterly illiterate and ignorant. He is an honest man,
as vulgar as he can be,--or rather as unlike you and me, which is
what men mean when they talk of vulgarity,--and he makes the best
of breeches. Neefit mère is worse than the father,--being cross and
ill-conditioned, as far as I can see. Polly is as good as gold; and
if I put a house over my head with her money, of course her father
and her mother will be made welcome there. Your daughters would not
like to meet them, but I think they could put up with Polly. Now you
know about all that I can tell you."

Ralph had been so rapid, so energetic, and withal so reasonable, that
Sir Thomas, at this period of the interview, was unable to refer to
any of his prophecies. What advice was he to give? Should he adjure
this young man not to marry the breeches-maker's daughter because of
the blood of the Newtons and the expected estate, or were he to do so
even on the score of education and general unfitness, he must suggest
some other mode or means of living. But how could he advise the
future Newton of Newton Priory to marry Polly Neefit? The Newtons had
been at Newton Priory for centuries, and the men Newtons had always
married ladies, as the women Newtons had always either married
gentlemen or remained unmarried. Sir Thomas, too, was of his nature,
and by all his convictions, opposed to such matches. "You have hardly
realised," said he, "what it would be to have such a father-in-law
and such a mother-in-law;--or probably such a wife."

"Yes, I have. I have realised all that."

"Of course, if you have made up your mind--"

"But I have not made up my mind, Sir Thomas. I must make it up
before eleven o'clock to-morrow morning, because I must then be with
Neefit,--by appointment. At this moment I am so much in doubt that I
am almost inclined to toss up."

"I would sooner cut my throat!" said Sir Thomas, forgetting his
wisdom amidst the perplexities of his position.

"Not quite that, Sir Thomas. I suppose you mean to say that anything
would be better than such a marriage?"

"I don't suppose you care for the girl," said Sir Thomas, crossly.

"I do not feel uneasy on that score. If I did not like her, and
think that I could love her, I would have nothing to do with it. She
herself is charming,--though I should lie if I were to say that she
were a lady."

"And the father offered her to you?"

"Most distinctly,--and named the fortune."

"Knowing your own condition as to money?"

"Almost exactly;--so much so that I do not doubt he will go on with
it when he knows everything. He had heard about my uncle's property,
and complimented me by saying that I am a,--gentleman."

"He does not deserve to have a daughter," said Sir Thomas.

"I don't know about that. According to his lights, he means to do the
best he can for her. And, indeed, I think myself that he might do
worse. She will probably become Mrs. Newton of Newton Priory if she
marries me; and the investment of Neefit's twenty thousand pounds
won't be so bad."

"Nothing on earth can make her a lady."

"I'm not so sure of that," said Ralph. "Nothing on earth can make her
mother a lady; but of Polly I should have hopes. You, however, are
against it?"

"Certainly."

"Then what ought I to do?" Sir Thomas rubbed the calf of his leg and
was silent. "The only advice you have given me hitherto was to cut my
throat," said Ralph.

"No, I didn't. I don't know what you're to do. You've ruined
yourself;--that's all."

"But there is a way out of the ruin. In all emergencies there is a
better and a worse course. What, now, is the better course?"

"You don't know how to earn a shilling," said Sir Thomas.

"No; I don't," said Ralph Newton.

Sir Thomas rubbed his face and scratched his head; but did not know
how to give advice. "You have made your bed, and you must lie upon
it," he said.

"Exactly;--but which way am I to get into it, and which way shall I
get out?" Sir Thomas could only rub his face and scratch his head. "I
thought it best to come and tell you everything," said Ralph. That
was all very well, but Sir Thomas would not advise him to marry the
breeches-maker's daughter.

"It is a matter," Sir Thomas said at last, "in which you must be
guided by your own feelings. I wish it were otherwise. I can say no
more." Then Ralph took his leave, and wandered all round St. James's
Park and the purlieus of Westminster till midnight, endeavouring to
make up his mind, and building castles in the air, as to what he
would do with himself, and how he would act, if he had not brought
himself into so hopeless a mess of troubles.



CHAPTER IX.

ONTARIO MOGGS.


On the following morning Ralph Newton was in Conduit Street exactly
at the hour named. He had not even then made up his mind;--but he
thought that he might get an extension of the time allowed him for
decision. After all, it was hardly a month yet since the proposition
was made to him. He found Mr. Neefit in the back shop, measuring a
customer. "I'll be with you in two minutes," said Mr. Neefit, just
putting his head through the open door, and then going back to his
work; "3--1--1/8, Waddle; Sir George isn't quite as stout as he was
last year. Oh, no, Sir George; we won't tie you in too tight. Leave
it to us, Sir George. The last pair too tight? Oh, no; I think not,
Sir George. Perhaps your man isn't as careful in cleaning as he ought
to be. Gentlemen's servants do get so careless, it quite sickens
one!" So Mr. Neefit went on, and as Sir George was very copious in
the instructions which he had to give,--all of which, by-the-bye,
were absolutely thrown away,--Ralph Newton became tired of waiting.
He remembered too that he was not there as a customer, but almost
as a member of the family, and the idea sickened him. He bethought
himself that on his first visit to Conduit Street he had seen his
Polly in the shop, cutting up strips wherewith her father would
measure gentlemen's legs. She must then have been nearly fifteen, and
the occupation, as he felt, was not one fitting for the girl who was
to be his wife. "Now, Mr. Newton," said Mr. Neefit, as Sir George at
last left the little room. The day was hot, and Mr. Neefit had been
at work in his shirt sleeves. Nor did he now put on his coat. He
wiped his brow, put his cotton handkerchief inside his braces, and
shook hands with our hero. "Well, Mr. Newton," he said, "what do you
think of it? I couldn't learn much about it, but it seemed to me that
you and Polly got on famous that night. I thought we'd have seen you
out there again before this."

"I couldn't come, Mr. Neefit, as long as there was a doubt."

"Oh, as to doubts,--doubts be bothered. Of course you must run your
chance with Polly like any other man."

"Just so."

"But the way to get a girl like that isn't not to come and see her
for a month. There are others after our Polly, I can tell you;--and
men who would take her with nothing but her smock on."

"I'm quite sure of that. No one can see her without admiring her."

"Then what's the good of talking of doubts? I like you because you
are a gentleman;--and I can put you on your legs, which, from all I
hear, is a kind of putting you want bad enough just at present. Say
the word, and come down to tea this evening."

"The fact is, Mr. Neefit, this is a very serious matter."

"Serious! Twenty thousand pounds is serious. There ain't a doubt
about that. If you mean to say you don't like the bargain,"--and
as he said this there came a black cloud upon Mr. Neefit's
brow,--"you've only got to say the word. Our Polly is not to be
pressed upon any man. But don't let's have any shilly-shallying."

"Tell me one thing, Mr. Neefit."

"Well;--what's that?"

"Have you spoken to your daughter about this?"

Mr. Neefit was silent for a moment, "Well, no; I haven't," he said.
"But, I spoke to her mother, and women is always talking. Mind,
I don't know what our Polly would say to you, but I do think she
expects something. There's a chap lives nigh to us who used always to
be sneaking round; but she has snubbed him terribly this month past.
So my wife tells me. You come and try, Mr. Newton, and then you'll
know all about it."

Ralph was aware that he had not as yet begun to explain his
difficulty to the anxious father. "You see, Mr. Neefit," he
said,--and then he paused. It had been much easier for him to talk to
Sir Thomas than to the breaches-maker.

"If you don't like it,--say so," said Mr. Neefit;--"and don't let us
have no shilly-shallying."

"I do like it."

"Then give us your hand, and come out this evening and have a bit
of some'at to eat and a drop of some'at hot, and pop the question.
That's about the way to do it."

"Undoubtedly;--but marriage is such a serious thing!"

"So it is serious,--uncommon serious to owe a fellow a lot of money
you can't pay him. I call that very serious."

"Mr. Neefit, I owe you nothing but what I can pay you."

"You're very slow about it, Mr. Newton; that's all I can say. But I
wasn't just talking of myself. After what's passed between you and me
I ain't going to be hard upon you."

"I'll tell you what, Mr. Neefit," said Ralph at last,--"of course you
can understand that a man may have difficulties with his family."

"Because of my being a breeches-maker?" said Neefit contemptuously.

"I won't say that; but there may be difficulties."

"Twenty thousand pounds does away with a deal of them things."

"Just so;--but as I was saying, you can understand that there may be
family difficulties. I only say that because I ought perhaps to have
given you an answer sooner. I won't go down with you this evening."

"You won't?"

"Not to-night;--but I'll be with you on Saturday evening, if that
will suit you."

"Come and have a bit of dinner again on Sunday," said Neefit. Ralph
accepted the invitation, shook hands with Neefit, and escaped from
the shop.

When he thought of it all as he went to his rooms, he told himself
that he had now as good as engaged himself to Polly;--as good or as
bad. Of course, after what had passed, he could not go to the house
again without asking her to be his wife. Were he to do so Neefit
would be justified in insulting him. And yet when he undertook to
make this fourth visit to the cottage, he had done so with the
intention of allowing himself a little more time for judgment. He saw
plainly enough that he was going to allow himself to drift into this
marriage without any real decision of his own. He prided himself on
being strong, and how could any man be more despicably weak than
this? It was, indeed, true that in all the arguments he had used with
Sir Thomas he had defended the Neefit marriage as though it was the
best course he could adopt;--and even Sir Thomas had not ultimately
ventured to oppose it. Would it not be as well for him to consider
that he had absolutely made up his mind to marry Polly?

On the Friday he called at Mr. Moggs's house; Mr. Moggs senior was
there, and Mr. Moggs junior, and also a shopman. "I was sorry," said
he, "that when your son called, I had friends with me, and could
hardly explain circumstances."

"It didn't signify at all," said Moggs junior.

"But it does signify, Mr. Newton," said Moggs senior, who on this
morning was not in a good humour with his ledger. "Two hundred and
seventeen pounds, three shillings and four-pence is a good deal of
money for boots, Mr. Newton, You must allow that."

"Indeed it is, Mr. Moggs."

"There hasn't been what you may call a settlement for years.
Twenty-five pounds paid in the last two years!" and Mr. Moggs as he
spoke had his finger on the fatal page. "That won't do, you know,
Mr. Newton;--that won't do at all!" Mr. Moggs, as he looked into his
customer's face, worked himself up into a passion. "But I suppose you
have come to settle it now, Mr. Newton?"

"Not exactly at this moment, Mr. Moggs."

"It must be settled very soon, Mr. Newton;--it must indeed. My son
can't be calling on you day after day, and all for nothing. We can't
stand that you know, Mr. Newton. Perhaps you'll oblige me by saying
when it will be settled." Then Ralph explained that he had called
for that purpose, that he was making arrangements for paying all his
creditors, and that he hoped that Mr. Moggs would have his money
within three months at the farthest. Mr. Moggs then proposed that he
should have his customer's bill at three months, and the interview
ended by the due manufacture of a document to that effect. Ralph,
when he entered the shop, had not intended to give a bill; but the
pressure had been too great upon him, and he had yielded. It would
matter little, however, if he married Polly Neefit. And had he not
now accepted it as his destiny that he must marry Polly Neefit?

The Saturday he passed in much trouble of spirit, and with many
doubts; but the upshot of it all was that he would keep his
engagement for the Sunday. His last chance of escape would have been
to call in Conduit Street on the Saturday and tell Mr. Neefit, with
such apologies as he might be able to make, that the marriage would
not be suitable. While sitting at breakfast he had almost resolved to
do this;--but when five o'clock came, after which, as he well knew,
the breeches-maker would not be found, no such step had been taken.
He dined that evening and went to the theatre with Lieutenant Cox.
At twelve they were joined by Fooks and another gay spirit, and they
eat chops and drank stout and listened to songs at Evans's till near
two. Cox and Fooks said that they had never been so jolly in their
lives;--but Ralph,--though he eat and drank as much and talked more
than the others,--was far from happy. There came upon him a feeling
that after to-morrow he would never again be able to call himself
a gentleman. Who would associate with him after he had married
the breeches-maker's daughter? He laid in bed late on Sunday, and
certainly went to no place of worship. Would it not be well even yet
to send a letter down to Neefit, telling him that the thing could not
be? The man would be very angry with him, and would have great cause
to be angry. But it would at least be better to do this now than
hereafter. But when four o'clock came no letter had been sent.

Punctually at five the cab set him down at Alexandrina Cottage. How
well he seemed to know the place;--almost as well as though he were
already one of the family. He was shown into the drawing-room, and
whom should he see there, seated with Mr. and Mrs. and Miss Neefit,
but Ontario Moggs. It was clear enough that each of the party was ill
at ease. Neefit welcomed him with almost boisterous hospitality. Mrs.
Neefit merely curtseyed and bobbed at him. Polly smiled, and shook
hands with him, and told him that he was welcome;--but even Polly was
a little beside herself. Ontario Moggs stood bolt upright and made
him a low bow, but did not attempt to speak.

"I hope your father is well," said Ralph, addressing himself to Moggs
junior.

"Pretty well, I thank you," said Mr. Moggs, getting up from his chair
and bowing a second time.

Mr. Neefit waited for a moment or two during which no one except
Ralph spoke a word, and then invited his intended son-in-law to
follow him into the garden. "The fact is," said Neefit winking, "this
is Mrs. N.'s doing. It don't make any difference, you know."

"I don't quite understand," said Ralph.

"You see we've known Onty Moggs all our lives, and no doubt he has
been sweet upon Polly. But Polly don't care for him, mind you. You
ask her. And Mrs. N. has got it into her head that she don't want you
for Polly. But I do, Mr. Newton;--and I'm master."

"I wouldn't for the world make a family quarrel."

"There won't be no quarrelling. It's I as has the purse, and it's the
purse as makes the master, Mr. Newton. Don't you mind Moggs. Moggs is
very well in his way, but he ain't going to have our Polly. Well;--he
come down here to-day, just by chance;--and what did Mrs. N. do
but ask him to stop and eat a bit of dinner! It don't make any
difference, you know. You come in now, and just go on as though Moggs
weren't there. You and Polly shall have it all to yourselves this
evening."

Here was a new feature added to the pleasures of his courtship! He
had a rival,--and such a rival;--his own bootmaker, whom he could
not pay, and whose father had insulted him a day or two since.
Moggs junior would of course know why his customer was dining at
Alexandrina Cottage, and would have his own feelings, too, upon the
occasion.

"Don't you mind him,--no more than nothing," said Neefit, leading the
way back into the drawing-room, and passing at the top of the kitchen
stairs the young woman with the bit of salmon.

The dinner was not gay. In the first place, Neefit and Mrs. Neefit
gave very explicit and very opposite directions as to the manner in
which their guests were to walk in to dinner, the result of which
was that Ralph was obliged to give his arm to the elder lady, while
Ontario carried off the prize. Mrs. Neefit also gave directions as
to the places, which were obeyed in spite of an attempt of Neefit's
to contravene them. Ontario and Polly sat on one side of the table,
while Ralph sat opposite to them. Neefit, when he saw that the
arrangement was made and could not be altered, lost his temper and
scolded his wife. "Law, papa, what does it matter?" said Polly.
Polly's position certainly was unpleasant enough; but she made head
against her difficulties gallantly. Ontario, who had begun to guess
the truth, said not a word. He was not, however, long in making up
his mind that a personal encounter with Mr. Ralph Newton might be
good for his system. Mrs. Neefit nagged at her husband, and told
him when he complained about the meat, that if he would look after
the drinkables that would be quite enough for him to do. Ralph
himself found it to be impossible even to look as though things
were going right. Never in his life had he been in a position so
uncomfortable,--or, as he thought, so disreputable. It was not to
be endured that Moggs, his bootmaker, should see him sitting at the
table of Neefit, his breeches-maker.

The dinner was at last over, and the port-wine was carried out into
the arbour;--not, on this occasion, by Polly, but by the maid. Polly
and Mrs. Neefit went off together, while Ralph crowded into the
little summer-house with Moggs and Neefit. In this way half an hour
was passed,--a half hour of terrible punishment. But there was worse
coming. "Mr. Newton," said Neefit, "I think I heard something about
your taking a walk with our Polly. If you like to make a start of it,
don't let us keep you. Moggs and I will have a pipe together."

"I also intend to walk with Miss Neefit," said Ontario, standing up
bravely.


[Illustration: "I also intend to walk with Miss Neefit," said
Ontario, standing up bravely.]


"Two's company and three's none," said Neefit.

"No doubt," said Ontario; "no doubt. I feel that myself. Mr. Newton,
I've been attached to Miss Neefit these two years. I don't mind
saying it out straight before her father. I love Miss Neefit! I don't
know, sir, what your ideas are; but I love Miss Neefit! Perhaps, sir,
your ideas may be money;--my ideas are a pure affection for that
young lady. Now, Mr. Newton, you know what my ideas are." Mr. Moggs
junior was standing up when he made this speech, and, when he had
completed it, he looked round, first upon her father and then upon
his rival.

"She's never given you no encouragement," said Neefit. "How dare you
speak in that way about my Polly?"

"I do dare," said Ontario. "There!"

"Will you tell Mr. Newton that she ever gave you any encouragement?"

Ontario thought about it for a moment, before he replied. "No;--I
will not," said he. "To say that of any young woman wouldn't be in
accord with my ideas."

"Because you can't. It's all gammon. She don't mean to have him, Mr.
Newton. You may take my word for that. You go in and ask her if she
do. A pretty thing indeed! I can't invite my friend, Mr. Newton, to
eat a bit of dinner, and let him walk out with my Polly, but you must
interfere. If you had her to-morrow you wouldn't have a shilling with
her."

"I don't want a shilling with her!" said Ontario, still standing upon
his legs. "I love her. Will Mr. Newton say as fair as that?"

Mr. Newton found it very difficult to say anything. Even had he been
thoroughly intent on the design of making Polly his wife, he could
not have brought himself to declare his love aloud, as had just
been done by Mr. Moggs. "This is a sort of matter that shouldn't be
discussed in public," he said at last.

"Public or private, I love her!" said Ontario Moggs with his hand on
his heart.

Polly herself was certainly badly treated among them. She got no walk
that evening, and received no assurance of undying affection either
from one suitor or the other. It became manifest even to Neefit
himself that the game could not be played out on this evening. He
could not turn Moggs off the premises, because his wife would have
interfered. Nor, had he done so, would it have been possible, after
such an affair to induce Polly to stir from the house. She certainly
had been badly used among them; and so she took occasion to tell her
father when the visitors were both gone. They left the house together
at about eight, and Polly at that time had not reappeared. Moggs went
to the nearest station of the Midland Railway, and Ralph walked to
the Swiss Cottage. Certainly Mr. Neefit's little dinner had been
unsuccessful; but Ralph Newton, as he went back to London, was almost
disposed to think that Providence had interposed to save him.

"I'll tell you what it is, father," said Polly to her papa, as soon
as the two visitors had left the house, "if that's the way you are
going to go on, I'll never marry anybody as long as I live."

"My dear, it was all your mother," said Mr. Neefit. "Now wasn't it
all your mother? I wish she'd been blowed fust!"



CHAPTER X.

SIR THOMAS IN HIS CHAMBERS.


It will be remembered that Sir Thomas Underwood had declined to
give his late ward any advice at that interview which took place in
Southampton Buildings;--or rather that the only advice which he had
given to the young man was to cut his throat. The idle word had left
no impression on Ralph Newton;--but still it had been spoken, and
was remembered by Sir Thomas. When he was left alone after the young
man's departure he was very unhappy. It was not only that he had
spoken a word so idle when he ought to have been grave and wise, but
that he felt that he had been altogether remiss in his duty as guide,
philosopher, and friend. There were old sorrows, too, on this score.
In the main Sir Thomas had discharged well a most troublesome,
thankless, and profitless duty towards the son of a man who had not
been related to him, and with whom an accidental intimacy had been
ripened into friendship by letter rather than by social intercourse.
Ralph Newton's father had been the younger brother of the present
Gregory Newton, of Newton Priory, and had been the parson of the
parish of Peele Newton,--as was now Ralph's younger brother, Gregory.
The present squire of Newton had been never married, and the
property, as has before been said, had been settled on Ralph, as the
male heir,--provided, of course, that his uncle left no legitimate
son of his own. It had come to pass that the two brothers, Gregory
and Ralph, had quarrelled about matters of property, and had not
spoken for years before the death of the younger. Ralph at this time
had been just old enough to be brought into the quarrel. There had
been questions of cutting timber and of leases, as to which the
parson, acting on his son's behalf, had opposed the Squire with much
unnecessary bitterness and suspicion. And it was doubtless the case
that the Squire resented bitterly an act done by his own father
with the view of perpetuating the property in the true line of the
Newtons. For when the settlement was made on the marriage of the
younger brother, the elder was already the father of a child, whom
he loved none the less because that child's mother had not become
his wife. So the quarrel had been fostered, and at the time of the
parson's death had extended itself to the young man who was his son,
and the heir to the estate. When on his death-bed, the parson had
asked Mr. Underwood, who had just then entered the House of Commons,
to undertake this guardianship; and the lawyer, with many doubts,
had consented. He had striven, but striven in vain, to reconcile the
uncle and nephew. And, indeed, he was ill-fitted to accomplish such
task. He could only write letters on the subject, which were very
sensible but very cold;--in all of which he would be careful to
explain that the steps which had been taken in regard to the property
were in strict conformity with the law. The old Squire would have
nothing to do with his heir,--in which resolution he was strengthened
by the tidings which reached him of his heir's manner of living. He
was taught to believe that everything was going to the dogs with
the young man, and was wont to say that Newton Priory, with all its
acres, would be found to have gone to the dogs too when his day was
done;--unless, indeed, Ralph should fortunately kill himself by drink
or evil living, in which case the property would go to the younger
Gregory, the present parson. Now the present parson of Newton was his
uncle's friend. Whether that friendship would have been continued had
Ralph died and the young clergyman become the heir, may be matter of
doubt.

This disagreeable duty of guardianship Sir Thomas had performed with
many scruples of conscience, and a determination to do his best;--and
he had nearly done it well. But he was a man who could not do it
altogether well, let his scruples of conscience be what they might.
He had failed in obtaining a father's control over the young man;
and even in regard to the property which had passed through his
hands,--though he had been careful with it,--he had not been adroit.
Even at this moment things had not been settled which should have
been settled; and Sir Thomas had felt, when Ralph had spoken of
selling all that remained to him and of paying his debts, that there
would be fresh trouble, and that he might be forced to own that he
had been himself deficient.

And then he told himself,--and did so as soon as Ralph had left
him,--that he should have given some counsel to the young man when he
came to ask for it. "You had better cut your throat!" In his troubled
spirit he had said that, and now his spirit was troubled the more
because he had so spoken. He sat for hours thinking of it all. Ralph
Newton was the undoubted heir to a very large property. He was now
embarrassed,--but all his present debts did not amount to much
more than half one year's income of that property which would be
his,--probably in about ten years. The Squire might live for twenty
years, or might die to-morrow; but his life-interest in the estate,
according to the usual calculations, was not worth more than ten
years' purchase. Could he, Sir Thomas, have been right to tell a
young man, whose prospects were so good, and whose debts, after all,
were so light, that he ought to go and cut his throat, as the only
way of avoiding a disreputable marriage which would otherwise be
forced upon him by the burden of his circumstances? Would not a
guardian, with any true idea of his duty, would not a friend, whose
friendship was in any degree real, have found a way out of such
difficulties as these?

And then as to the marriage itself,--the proposed marriage with the
breeches-maker's daughter,--the more Sir Thomas thought of it the
more distasteful did it become to him. He knew that Ralph was unaware
of all the evil that would follow such a marriage;--relatives whose
every thought and action and word would be distasteful to him;
children whose mother would not be a lady, and whose blood would
be polluted by an admixture so base;--and, worse still, a life's
companion who would be deficient in all those attributes which such a
man as Ralph Newton should look for in a wife. Sir Thomas was a man
to magnify rather than lesson these evils. And now he allowed his
friend,--a man for whose behalf he had bound himself to use all the
exercise of friendship,--to go from him with an idea that nothing
but suicide could prevent this marriage, simply because there was an
amount of debt, which, when compared with the man's prospects, should
hardly have been regarded as a burden! As he thought of all this Sir
Thomas was very unhappy.

Ralph had left him at about ten o'clock, and he then sat brooding
over his misery for about an hour. It was his custom when he remained
in his chambers to tell his clerk, Stemm, between nine and ten that
nothing more would be wanted. Then Stemm would go, and Sir Thomas
would sleep for a while in his chair. But the old clerk never stirred
till thus dismissed. It was now eleven, and Sir Thomas knew very well
that Stemm would be in his closet. He opened the door and called,
and Stemm, aroused from his slumbers, slowly crept into the room.
"Joseph," said his master, "I want Mr. Ralph's papers."

"To-night, Sir Thomas?"

"Well;--yes, to-night. I ought to have told you when he went away,
but I was thinking of things."

"So I was thinking of things," said Stemm, as he very slowly made his
way into the other room, and, climbing up a set of steps which stood
there, pulled down from an upper shelf a tin box,--and with it a
world of dust. "If you'd have said before that they'd be wanted, Sir
Thomas, there wouldn't be such a deal of dry muck," said Stemm, as he
put down the box on a chair opposite Sir Thomas's knees.

"And now where is the key?" said Sir Thomas. Stemm shook his head
very slowly. "You know, Stemm;--where is it?"

"How am I to know, Sir Thomas? I don't know, Sir Thomas. It's like
enough in one of those drawers." Then Stemm pointed to a certain
table, and after a while slowly followed his own finger. The drawer
was unlocked, and under various loose papers there lay four or five
loose keys. "Like enough it's one of these," said Stemm.

"Of course you knew where it was," said Sir Thomas.

"I didn't know nothing at all about it," said Stemm, bobbing his head
at his master, and making at the same time a gesture with his lips,
whereby he intended to signify that his master was making a fool of
himself. Stemm was hardly more than five feet high, and was a wizened
dry old man, with a very old yellow wig. He delighted in scolding all
the world, and his special delight was in scolding his master. But
against all the world he would take his master's part, and had no
care in the world except his master's comfort. When Sir Thomas passed
an evening at Fulham, Stemm could do as he pleased with himself; but
they were blank evenings with Stemm when Sir Thomas was away. While
Sir Thomas was in the next room, he always felt that he was in
company, but when Sir Thomas was away, all London, which was open to
him, offered him no occupation. "That's the key," said Stemm, picking
out one; "but it wasn't I as put it there; and you didn't tell me
as it was there, and I didn't know it was there. I guessed,--just
because you do chuck things in there, Sir Thomas."

"What does it matter, Joseph?" said Sir Thomas.

"It does matter when you say I knowed. I didn't know,--nor I couldn't
know. There's the key anyhow."

"You can go now, Joseph," said Sir Thomas.

"Good night, Sir Thomas," said Stemm, retiring slowly, "but I didn't
know, Sir Thomas,--nor I couldn't know." Then Sir Thomas unlocked the
box, and gradually surrounded himself with the papers which he took
from it. It was past one o'clock before he again began to think what
he had better do to put Ralph Newton on his legs, and to save him
from marrying the breeches-maker's daughter. He sat meditating on
that and other things as they came into his mind for over an hour,
and then he wrote the following letter to old Mr. Newton. Very many
years had passed since he had seen Mr. Newton,--so many that the two
men would not have known each other had they met; but there had been
an occasional correspondence between them, and they were presumed to
be on amicable terms with each other.


   Southampton Buildings, 14th July, 186--.

   DEAR SIR,--

   I wish to consult you about the affairs of your heir and
   my late ward, Ralph Newton. Of course I am aware of the
   unfortunate misunderstanding which has hitherto separated
   you from him, as to which I believe you will be willing to
   allow that he, at least, has not been in fault. Though his
   life has by no means been what his friends could have
   wished it, he is a fine young fellow; and perhaps his
   errors have arisen as much from his unfortunate position
   as from any natural tendency to evil on his own part. He
   has been brought up to great expectations, with the
   immediate possession of a small fortune. These together
   have taught him to think that a profession was unnecessary
   for him, and he has been debarred from those occupations
   which generally fall in the way of the heir to a large
   landed property by the unfortunate fact of his entire
   separation from the estate which will one day be his. Had
   he been your son instead of your nephew, I think that his
   life would have been prosperous and useful.

   As it is, he has got into debt, and I fear that the
   remains of his own property will not more than suffice to
   free him from his liabilities. Of course he could raise
   money on his interest in the Newton estate. Hitherto he
   has not done so; and I am most anxious to save him from a
   course so ruinous;--as you will be also, I am sure. He has
   come to me for advice, and I grieve to say, has formed a
   project of placing himself right again as regards money by
   offering marriage to the daughter of a retail tradesman. I
   have reason to believe that hitherto he has not committed
   himself; but I think that the young woman's father would
   accept the offer, if made. The money, I do not doubt,
   would be forthcoming; but the result could not be
   fortunate. He would then have allied himself with people
   who are not fit to be his associates, and he would have
   tied himself to a wife who, whatever may be her merits as
   a woman, cannot be fit to be the mistress of Newton
   Priory. But I have not known what advice to give him. I
   have pointed out to him the miseries of such a match; and
   I have also told him how surely his prospects for the
   future would be ruined, were he to attempt to live on
   money borrowed on the uncertain security of his future
   inheritance. I have said so much as plainly as I know how
   to say it;--but I have been unable to point out a third
   course. I have not ventured to recommend him to make any
   application to you.

   It seems, however, to me, that I should be remiss in my
   duty both to him and to you were I not to make you
   acquainted with his circumstances,--so that you may
   interfere, should you please to do so, either on his
   behalf or on behalf of the property. Whatever offence
   there may have been, I think there can have been none
   personally from him to yourself. I beg you to believe that
   I am far from being desirous to dictate to you, or to
   point out to you this or that as your duty; but I venture
   to think that you will be obliged to me for giving you
   information which may lead to the protection of interests
   which cannot but be dear to you. In conclusion, I will
   only again say that Ralph himself is clever,
   well-conditioned, and, as I most truly believe, a thorough
   gentleman. Were the intercourse between you that of a
   father and son, I think you would feel proud of the
   relationship.

   I remain, dear sir,
   Very faithfully yours,

   THOMAS UNDERWOOD.

   Gregory Newton, Esq., Newton Priory.


This was written on Friday night, and was posted on the Saturday
morning by the faithful hand of Joseph Stemm;--who, however, did not
hesitate to declare to himself, as he read the address, that his
master was a fool for his pains. Stemm had never been favourable to
the cause of young Newton, and had considered from the first that Sir
Thomas should have declined the trust that had been imposed upon him.
What good was to be expected from such a guardianship? And as things
had gone on, proving Stemm's prophecies as to young Newton's career
to be true, that trusty clerk had not failed to remind his master of
his own misgivings. "I told you so," had been repeated by Stemm over
and over again, in more phrases than one, until the repetition had
made Sir Thomas very angry. Sir Thomas, when he gave the letter to
Stemm for posting, said not a word of the contents; but Stemm knew
something of old Mr. Gregory Newton and the Newton Priory estate.
Stemm, moreover, could put two and two together. "He's a fool for his
pains;--that's all," said Stemm, as he poked the letter into the box.

During the whole of the next day the matter troubled Sir Thomas. What
if Ralph should go at once to the breeches-maker's daughter,--the
thought of whom made Sir Thomas very sick,--and commit himself before
an answer should be received from Mr. Newton? It was only on Sunday
that an idea struck him that he might still do something further to
avoid the evil;--and with this object he despatched a note to Ralph,
imploring him to wait for a few days before he would take any steps
towards the desperate remedy of matrimony. Then he begged Ralph to
call upon him again on the Wednesday morning. This note Ralph did not
get till he went home on the Sunday evening;--at which time, as the
reader knows, he had not as yet committed himself to the desperate
remedy.

On the following Tuesday Sir Thomas received the following letter
from Mr. Newton:--


   Newton Priory, 17th July, 186--.

   DEAR SIR,--

   I have received your letter respecting Mr. Ralph Newton's
   affairs, in regard to which, as far as they concern
   himself, I am free to say that I do not feel much
   interest. But you are quite right in your suggestion that
   my solicitude in respect of the family property is very
   great. I need not trouble you by pointing out the nature
   of my solicitude, but may as well at once make an offer to
   you, which you, as Mr. Ralph Newton's friend, and as an
   experienced lawyer, can consider,--and communicate to him,
   if you think right to do so.

   It seems that he will be driven to raise money on his
   interest in this property. I have always felt that he
   would do so, and that from the habits of his life the
   property would be squandered before it came into his
   possession. Why should he not sell his reversion, and why
   should I not buy it? I write in ignorance, but I presume
   such an arrangement would be legal and honourable on my
   part. The sum to be given would be named without
   difficulty by an actuary. I am now fifty-five, and, I
   believe, in good health. You yourself will probably know
   within a few thousand pounds what would be the value of
   the reversion. A proper person would, however, be of
   course employed.

   I have saved money, but by no means enough for such an
   outlay as this. I would, however, mortgage the property or
   sell one half of it, if by doing so I could redeem the
   other half from Mr. Ralph Newton.

   You no doubt will understand exactly the nature of my
   offer, and will let me have an answer. I do not know that
   I can in any other way expedite Mr. Ralph Newton's course
   in life.

   I am, dear sir,
   Faithfully yours,

   GREGORY NEWTON, Senior.


When Sir Thomas read this he was almost in greater doubt and
difficulty than before. The measure proposed by the elder Newton was
no doubt legal and honourable, but it could hardly be so carried
out as to be efficacious. Ralph could only sell his share of the
inheritance;--or rather his chance of inheriting the estate. Were he
to die without a son before his uncle, then his brother would be the
heir. The arrangement, however, if practicable, would at once make
all things comfortable for Ralph, and would give him, probably, a
large unembarrassed revenue,--so large, that the owner of it need
certainly have recourse to no discreditable marriage as the means of
extricating himself from present calamity. But then Sir Thomas had
very strong ideas about a family property. Were Ralph's affairs,
indeed, in such disorder as to make it necessary for him to abandon
the great prospect of being Newton of Newton? If the breeches-maker's
twenty thousand would suffice, surely the thing could be done on
cheaper terms than those suggested by the old Squire,--and done
without the intervention of Polly Neefit!



CHAPTER XI.

NEWTON PRIORY.


Newton Priory was at this time inhabited by two gentlemen,--old
Gregory Newton, who for miles round was known as the Squire; and his
son, Ralph Newton,--his son, but not his heir; a son, however, whom
he loved as well as though he had been born with an undoubted right
to inherit all those dearly-valued acres. A few lines will tell all
that need be told of the Squire's early life,--and indeed of his life
down to the present period. In very early days, immediately upon his
leaving college, he had travelled abroad and had formed an attachment
with a German lady, who by him became the mother of a child. He
intended to marry her, hoping to reconcile his father to the match;
but before either marriage or reconciliation could take place the
young mother, whose babe's life could then only be counted by months,
was dead. In the hope that the old man might yield in all things,
the infant had been christened Ralph; for the old Squire's name was
Ralph, and there had been a Ralph among the Newtons since Newton
Priory had existed. But the old Squire had a Ralph of his own,--the
father of our Ralph and of the present parson,--who in his time was
rector of Peele Newton; and when the tidings of this foreign baby and
of the proposed foreign marriage reached the old Squire,--then he
urged his second son to marry, and made the settlement of the estate
of which the reader has heard. The settlement was natural enough. It
simply entailed the property on the male heir of the family in the
second generation. It deprived the eldest son of nothing that would
be his in accordance with the usual tenure of English primogeniture.
Had he married and become the father of a family, his eldest son
would have been the heir. But heretofore there had been no such
entails in the Newton family; or, at least, he was pleased to
think that there had been none such. And when he himself inherited
the property early in life,--before he had reached his thirtieth
year,--he thought that his father had injured him. His boy was as
dear to him, as though the mother had been his honest wife. Then
he endeavoured to come to some terms with his brother. He would do
anything in order that his child might be Newton of Newton after
him. But the parson would come to no terms at all, and was powerless
to make any such terms as those which the elder brother required.
The parson was honest, self-denying, and proud on behalf of his own
children; but he was intrusive in regard to the property, and apt to
claim privileges of interference beyond his right as the guardian of
his own or of his children's future interests. And so the brothers
had quarrelled;--and so the story of Newton Priory is told up to the
period at which our story begins.

Gregory Newton and his son Ralph had lived together at the Priory for
the last six-and-twenty years, and the young man had grown up as a
Newton within the knowledge of all the gentry around them. The story
of his birth was public, and it was of course understood that he was
not the heir. His father had been too wise on the son's behalf to
encourage any concealment. The son was very popular, and deserved to
be so; but it was known to all the young men round, and also to all
the maidens, that he would not be Newton of Newton. There had been
no ill-contrived secret, sufficient to make a difficulty, but not
sufficient to save the lad from the pains of his position. Everybody
knew it; and yet it can hardly be said that he was treated otherwise
than he would have been treated had he been the heir. In the
hunting-field there was no more popular man. A point had been
stretched in his favour, and he was a magistrate. Mothers were kind
to him, for it was known that his father loved him well, and that
his father had been a prudent man. In all respects he was treated
as though he were the heir. He managed the shooting, and was the
trusted friend of all the tenants. Doubtless his father was the more
indulgent to him because of the injury that had been done to him.
After all, his life promised well as to material prosperity; for,
though the Squire, in writing to Sir Thomas, had spoken of selling
half the property with the view of keeping the other half for his
son, he was already possessed of means that would enable him to
make the proposed arrangement without such sacrifice as that. For
twenty-four years he had felt that he was bound to make a fortune for
his son out of his own income. And he had made a fortune, and mothers
knew it, and everybody in the county was very civil to Ralph,--to
that Ralph who was not the heir.

But the Squire had never yet quite abandoned the hope that Ralph who
was not the heir might yet possess the place; and when he heard of
his nephew's doings, heard falsehood as well as truth, from day to
day he built up new hopes. He had not expected any such overture as
that which had come from Sir Thomas; but if, as he did expect, Ralph
the heir should go to the Jews, why should not the Squire purchase
the Jews' interest in his own estate? Or, if Ralph the heir should,
more wisely, deal with some great money-lending office, why should
not he redeem the property through the same? Ralph the heir would
surely throw what interest he had into the market, and if so, that
interest might be bought by the person to whom it must be of more
value than to any other. He had said little about it even to his
son;--but he had hoped; and now had come this letter from Sir Thomas.
The reader knows the letter and the Squire's answer.

The Squire himself was a very handsome man, tall, broad-shouldered,
square-faced, with hair and whiskers almost snow-white already, but
which nevertheless gave to him but little sign of age. He was very
strong, and could sit in the saddle all day without fatigue. He was
given much to farming, and thoroughly understood the duties of a
country gentleman. He was hospitable, too; for, though money had been
saved, the Priory had ever been kept as one of the pleasantest houses
in the county. There had been no wife, no child but the one, and no
house in London. The stables, however, had been full of hunters: and
it was generally said that no men in Hampshire were better mounted
than Gregory the father and Ralph the son. Of the father we will
only further say that he was a generous, passionate, persistent,
vindictive, and unforgiving man, a bitter enemy and a staunch friend;
a thorough-going Tory, who, much as he loved England and Hampshire
and Newton Priory, feared that they were all going to the dogs
because of Mr. Disraeli and household suffrage; but who felt, in
spite of those fears, that to make his son master of Newton Priory
after him would be the greatest glory of his life. He had sworn to
the young mother on her death-bed that the boy should be to him
as though he had been born in wedlock. He had been as good as his
word;--and we may say that he was one who had at least that virtue,
that he was always as good as his word.

The son was very like the father in face and gait and bearing,--so
like that the parentage was marked to the glance of any observer. He
was tall, as was his father, and broad across the chest, and strong
and active, as his father had ever been. But his face was of a nobler
stamp, bearing a surer impress of intellect, and in that respect
telling certainly the truth. This Ralph Newton had been educated
abroad, his father, with a morbid feeling which he had since done
much to conquer, having feared to send him among other young men,
the sons of squires and noblemen, who would have known that their
comrade was debarred by the disgrace of his birth from inheriting
the property of his father. But it may be doubted whether he had not
gained as much as he had lost. German and French were the same to
him as his native tongue; and he returned to the life of an English
country gentleman young enough to learn to ride to hounds, and to
live as he found others living around him.

Very little was said, or indeed ever had been said, between the
father and son as to their relative position in reference to the
property. Ralph,--the illegitimate Ralph,--knew well enough and had
always known, that the estate was not to be his. He had known this
so long that he did not remember the day when he had not known it.
Occasionally the Squire would observe with a curse that this or
that could not be done with the property,--such a house pulled down,
or such another built, this copse grupped up, or those trees cut
down,--because of that reprobate up in London. As to pulling down,
there was no probability of interference now, though there had been
much of such interference in the life of the old rector. "Ralph,"
he had once said to his brother the rector, "I'll marry and have a
family yet if there is another word about the timber." "I have not
the slightest right or even wish to object to your doing so," said
the rector; "but as long as things are on their present footing, I
shall continue to do my duty." Soon after that it had come to pass
that the brothers so quarrelled that all intercourse between them was
at an end. Such revenge, such absolute punishment as that which the
Squire had threatened, would have been very pleasant to him;--but not
even for such pleasure as that would he ruin the boy whom he loved.
He did not marry, but saved money, and dreamed of buying up the
reversion of his nephew's interest.

His son was just two years older than our Ralph up in London, and
his father was desirous that he should marry. "Your wife would be
mistress of the house,--as long as I live, at least," he had once
said. "There are difficulties about it," said the son. Of course
there were difficulties. "I do not know whether it is not better that
I should remain unmarried," he said, a few minutes later. "There are
men whom marriage does not seem to suit,--I mean as regards their
position." The father turned away, and groaned aloud when he was
alone. On the evening of that day, as they were sitting together over
their wine, the son alluded, not exactly to the same subject, but to
the thoughts which had arisen from it within his own mind. "Father,"
he said, "I don't know whether it wouldn't be better for you to make
it up with my cousin, and have him down here."

"What cousin?" said the Squire, turning sharply round.

"With Gregory's eldest brother." The reader will perhaps remember
that the Gregory of that day was the parson. "I believe he is a good
fellow, and he has done you no harm."

"He has done me all harm."

"No; father; no. We cannot help ourselves, you know. Were he to die,
Gregory would be in the same position. It would be better that the
family should be kept together."

"I would sooner have the devil here. No consideration on earth shall
induce me to allow him to put his foot upon this place. No;--not
whilst I live." The son said nothing further, and they sat together
in silence for some quarter of an hour,--after which the elder of the
two rose from his chair, and, coming round the table, put his hand
on the son's shoulder, and kissed his son's brow. "Father," said
the young man, "you think that I am troubled by things which hardly
touch me at all." "By God, they touch me close enough!" said the
elder. This had taken place some month or two before the date of Sir
Thomas's letter;--but any reference to the matter of which they were
both no doubt always thinking was very rare between them.

Newton Priory was a place which a father might well wish to leave
unimpaired to his son. It lay in the north of Hampshire, where that
county is joined to Berkshire; and perhaps in England there is no
prettier district, no country in which moorland and woodland and
pasture are more daintily thrown together to please the eye, in which
there is a sweeter air, or a more thorough seeming of English wealth
and English beauty and English comfort. Those who know Eversley and
Bramshill and Heckfield and Strathfieldsaye will acknowledge that
it is so. But then how few are the Englishmen who travel to see the
beauties of their own country! Newton Priory, or Newton Peele as the
parish was called, lay somewhat west of these places, but was as
charming as any of them. The entire parish belonged to Mr. Newton, as
did portions of three or four parishes adjoining. The house itself
was neither large nor remarkable for its architecture;--but it was
comfortable. The rooms indeed were low, for it had been built in the
ungainly days of Queen Anne, with additions in the equally ungainly
time of George II., and the passages were long and narrow, and the
bedrooms were up and down stairs, as though pains had been taken
that no two should be on a level; and the windows were of ugly shape,
and the whole mass was uncouth and formless,--partaking neither of
the Gothic beauty of the Stuart architecture, nor of the palatial
grandeur which has sprung up in our days; and it stood low, giving
but little view from the windows. But, nevertheless, there was a
family comfort and a warm solidity about the house, which endeared it
to those who knew it well. There had been a time in which the present
Squire had thought of building for himself an entirely new house, on
another site,--on the rising brow of a hill, some quarter of a mile
away from his present residence;--but he had remembered that as
he could not leave his estate to his son, it behoved him to spend
nothing on the property which duty did not demand from him.

The house stood in a park of some two hundred acres, in which the
ground was poor, indeed, but beautifully diversified by rising knolls
and little ravines, which seemed to make the space almost unlimited.
And then the pines which waved in the Newton woods sighed and moaned
with a melody which, in the ears of their owner, was equalled by
that of no other fir trees in the world. And the broom was yellower
at Newton than elsewhere, and more plentiful; and the heather was
sweeter;--and wild thyme on the grass more fragrant. So at least Mr.
Newton was always ready to swear. And all this he could not leave
behind him to his son;--but must die with the knowledge, that as soon
as the breath was out of his body, it would become the property of
a young man whom he hated! He might not cut down the pine woods, nor
disturb those venerable single trees which were the glory of his
park;--but there were moments in which he thought that he could take
a delight in ploughing up the furze, and in stripping the hill-sides
of the heather. Why should his estate be so beautiful for one who was
nothing to him? Would it not be well that he should sell everything
that was saleable in order that his own son might be the richer?

On the day after he had written his reply to Sir Thomas he was
rambling in the evening with his son through the woods. Nothing could
be more beautiful than the park was now;--and Ralph had been speaking
of the glory of the place. But something had occurred to make his
father revert to the condition of a certain tenant, whose holding on
the property was by no means satisfactory either to himself or to his
landlord. "You know, sir," said the son, "I told you last year that
Darvell would have to go."

"Where's he to go to?"

"He'll go to the workhouse if he stays here. It will be much better
for him to be bought out while there is still something left for him
to sell. Nothing can be worse than a man sticking on to land without
a shilling of capital."

"Of course it's bad. His father did very well there."

"His father did very well there till he took to drink and died of it.
You know where the road parts Darvell's farm and Brownriggs? Just
look at the difference of the crops. There's a place with wheat on
each side of you. I was looking at them before dinner."

"Brownriggs is in a different parish. Brownriggs is in Bostock."

"But the land is of the same quality. Of course Walker is a different
sort of man from Darvell. I believe there are nearly four hundred
acres in Brownriggs."

"All that," said the father.

"And Darvell has about seventy;--but the land should be made to bear
the same produce per acre."

The Squire paused a moment, and then asked a question. "What should
you say if I proposed to sell Brownriggs?" Now there were two or
three matters which made the proposition to sell Brownriggs a very
wonderful proposition to come from the Squire. In the first place he
couldn't sell an acre of the property at all,--of which fact his son
was very well aware; and then, of all the farms on the estate it was,
perhaps, the best and most prosperous. Mr. Walker, the tenant, was a
man in very good circumstances, who hunted, and was popular, and was
just the man of whose tenancy no landlord would be ashamed.


[Illustration: "What should you say if I proposed to sell
Brownriggs?"]


"Sell Brownriggs!" said the young man. "Well, yes; I should be
surprised. Could you sell it?"

"Not at present," said the Squire.

"How could it be sold at all?" They were now standing at a gate
leading out of the park into a field held by the Squire in his own
hands, and were both leaning on it. "Father," said the son, "I wish
you would not trouble yourself about the estate, but let things come
and go just as they have been arranged."

"I prefer to arrange them for myself,--if I can. It comes to this,
that it may be possible to buy the reversion of the property. I could
not buy it all;--or if I did, must sell a portion of it to raise the
money. I have been thinking it over and making calculations. If we
let Walker's farm go, and Ingram's, I think I could manage the rest.
Of course it would depend on the value of my own life."

There was a long pause, during which they both were still leaning on
the gate. "It is a phantom, sir!" the young man said at last.

"What do you mean by a phantom? I don't see any phantom. A reversion
can be bought and sold as well as any other property. And if it be
sold in this case, I am as free to buy it as any other man."

"Who says it is to be sold, sir?"

"I say so. That prig of a barrister, Sir Thomas Underwood, has
already made overtures to me to do something for that young scoundrel
in London. He is a scoundrel, for he is spending money that is not
his own. And he is now about to make a marriage that will disgrace
his family." The Squire probably did not at the moment think of the
disgrace which he had brought upon the family by not marrying. "The
fact is, that he will have to sell all that he can sell. Why should I
not buy it!"

"If he were to die?" suggested the son.

"I wish he would," said the father.

"Don't say that, sir. But if he were to die, Gregory here, who is as
good a fellow as ever lived, would come into his shoes. Ralph could
sell no more than his own chance."

"We could get Gregory to join us," said the energetic Squire. "He,
also, could sell his right."

"You had better leave it as it is, sir," said the son, after another
pause. "I feel sure that you will only get yourself into trouble. The
place is yours as long as you live, and you should enjoy it."

"And know that it is going to the Jews after me! Not if I can help
it. You won't marry, as things are; but you'd marry quick enough if
you knew you would remain here after my death;--if you were sure that
a child of yours could inherit the estate. I mean to try it on, and
it is best that you should know. Whatever he can make over to the
Jews he can make over to me;--and as that is what he is about, I
shall keep my eyes open. I shall go up to London about it and see
Carey next week. A man can do a deal if he sets himself thoroughly to
work."

"I'd leave it alone if I were you," said the young man.

"I shall not leave it alone. I mayn't be able to get it all, but I'll
do my best to secure a part of it. If any is to go, it had better
be the land in Bostock and Twining. I think we could manage to keep
Newton entire."

His mind was always on the subject, though it was not often that he
said a word about it to the son in whose behalf he was so anxious.
His thoughts were always dwelling on it, so that the whole peace and
comfort of his life were disturbed. A life-interest in a property
is, perhaps, as much as a man desires to have when he for whose
protection he is debarred from further privileges of ownership is
a well-loved son;--but an entail that limits an owner's rights on
behalf of an heir who is not loved, who is looked upon as an enemy,
is very grievous. And in this case the man who was so limited,
so cramped, so hedged in, and robbed of the true pleasures of
ownership, had a son with whom he would have been willing to share
everything,--whom it would have been his delight to consult as to
every roof to be built, every tree to be cut, every lease to be
granted or denied. He would dream of telling his son, with a certain
luxury of self-abnegation, that this or that question as to the
estate should be settled in the interest, not of the setting, but of
the rising sun. "It is your affair rather than mine, my boy;--do as
you like." He could picture to himself in his imagination a pleasant,
half-mock melancholy in saying such things, and in sharing the reins
of government between his own hands and those of his heir. As the
sun is falling in the heavens and the evening lights come on, this
world's wealth and prosperity afford no pleasure equal to this. It
is this delight that enables a man to feel, up to the last moment,
that the goods of the world are good. But of all this he was to be
robbed,--in spite of all his prudence. It might perhaps sometimes
occur to him that he by his own vice had brought this scourge upon
his back;--but not the less on that account did it cause him to rebel
against the rod. Then there would come upon him the idea that he
might cure this evil were his energy sufficient;--and all that he
heard of that nephew and heir, whom he hated, tended to make him
think that the cure was within his reach. There had been moments
in which he had planned a scheme of leading on that reprobate into
quicker and deeper destruction, of a pretended friendship with the
spendthrift, in order that money for speedier ruin might be lent on
that security which the uncle himself was so anxious to possess as
his very own. But the scheme of this iniquity, though it had been
planned and mapped out in his brain, had never been entertained as
a thing really to be done. There are few of us who have not allowed
our thoughts to work on this or that villany, arranging the method of
its performance, though the performance itself is far enough from our
purpose. The amusement is not without its danger,--and to the Squire
of Newton had so far been injurious that it had tended to foster his
hatred. He would, however, do nothing that was dishonest,--nothing
that the world would condemn,--nothing that would not bear the light.
The argument to which he mainly trusted was this,--that if Ralph
Newton, the heir, had anything to sell and was pleased to sell it,
it was as open to him to buy it as to any other. If the reversion of
the estate of Newton Priory was in the market, why should he not buy
it?--the reversion or any part of the reversion? If such were the
case he certainly would buy it.



CHAPTER XII.

MRS. BROWNLOW.


There was a certain old Mrs. Brownlow, who inhabited a large
old-fashioned house on the Fulham Road, just beyond the fashionable
confines of Brompton, but nearer to town than the decidedly rural
district of Walham Green and Parson's Green. She was deeply
interested in the welfare of the Underwood girls, having been a first
cousin of their paternal grandmother, and was very unhappy because
their father would not go home and take care of them. She was an
excellent old woman, affectionate, charitable, and religious; but
she was rather behindhand in general matters, and did not clearly
understand much about anything in these latter days. She had heard
that Sir Thomas was accustomed to live away from his daughters, and
thought it very shocking;--but she knew that Sir Thomas either was
or had been in Parliament, and that he was a great lawyer and a
very clever man, and therefore she made excuses. She did not quite
understand it all, but she thought it expedient to befriend the young
ladies. She had heard, too, that Ralph Newton, who had been entrusted
to the care of Sir Thomas, was heir to an enormous property; and she
thought that the young man ought to marry one of the young ladies.
Consequently, whenever she would ask her cousins to tea, she would
also ask Mr. Ralph Newton. Sometimes he would come. More frequently
he would express his deep regret that a previous engagement prevented
him from having the pleasure of accepting Mrs. Brownlow's kind
invitation. On all these occasions Mrs. Brownlow invited Sir
Thomas;--but Sir Thomas never came. It could hardly have been
expected of him that he should do so. Bolsover House was the
old-fashioned name of Mrs. Brownlow's residence; and an invitation
for tea had been sent for a certain Tuesday in July,--Tuesday, July
the 18th. Mrs. Brownlow had of course been informed of the arrival
of Mary Bonner,--who was in truth as nearly related to her as the
Underwood girls,--and the invitation was given with the express
intention of doing honour to Mary. By the young ladies from Popham
Villa the invitation was accepted as a matter of course.

"Will he be there?" Clary said to her sister.

"I hope not, Clarissa."

"Why do you hope not? We are not to quarrel; are we, Patty?"

"No;--we need not quarrel. But I am afraid of him. He is not good
enough, Clary, for you to be unhappy about him. And I fear,--I fear,
he is--"

"Is what, Patty? Do speak it out. There is nothing I hate so much as
a mystery."

"I fear he is not genuine;--what people call honest. He would say
things without quite meaning what he says."

"I don't think it. I am sure he is not like that. I may have been a
fool--" Then she stopped herself, remembering the whole scene on the
lawn. Alas;--there had been no misunderstanding him. The crime had
been forgiven; but the crime had been a great fact. Since that she
had seen him only once, and then he had been so cold! But yet as he
left her he had not been quite cold. Surely that pressure of her hand
had meant something;--had meant something after that great crime! But
why did he not come to her; or why,--which would have been so far,
far better,--did he not go to her papa and tell everything to him?
Now, however, there was the chance that she would see him at Bolsover
House. That Mrs. Brownlow would ask him was quite a matter of course.

The great event of the evening was to be the introduction of Mrs.
Brownlow to the new cousin. They were to drink tea out in the
old-fashioned garden behind the house, from which Mrs. Brownlow could
retreat into her own room at the first touch of a breath of air. The
day was one of which the world at large would declare that there was
no breath of air, morning, noon, or night. There was to be quite a
party. That was evident from the first to our young ladies, who knew
the ways of the house, and who saw that the maids were very smart,
and that an extra young woman had been brought in; but they were the
first to come,--as was proper.

"My dear Mary," said the old woman to her new guest, "I am glad to
see you. I knew your mother and loved her well. I hope you will be
happy, my dear." Mrs. Brownlow was a very little old woman, very
pretty, very grey, very nicely dressed, and just a little deaf. Mary
Bonner kissed her, and murmured some word of thanks. The old woman
stood for a few seconds, looking at the beauty,--astounded like the
rest of the world. "Somebody told me she was good-looking," Mrs.
Brownlow said to Patience;--"but I did not expect to see her like
that."

"Is she not lovely?"

"She is a miracle, my dear! I hope she won't steal all the nice
young men away from you and your sister, eh? Yes;--yes. What does Mr.
Newton say to her?" Patience, however, knew that she need not answer
all the questions which Mrs. Brownlow asked, and she left this
question unanswered.

Two or three elderly ladies came in, and four or five young ladies,
and an old gentleman who sat close to Mrs. Brownlow and squeezed her
hand very often, and a middle-aged gentleman who was exceedingly
funny, and two young gentlemen who carried the tea and cakes about,
but did not talk much. Such were the guests, and the young ladies,
who no doubt were accustomed to Mrs. Brownlow's parties, took it all
as it was intended, and were not discontented. There was one young
lady, however, who longed to ask a question, but durst not. Had Ralph
Newton promised that he would come? Clary was sitting between the
old gentleman who seemed to be so fond of Mrs. Brownlow's hand and
her cousin Mary. She said not a word,--nor, indeed, was there much
talking among the guests in general. The merry, middle-aged gentleman
did the talking, combining with it a good deal of exhilarating
laughter at his own wit. The ladies sat round, and sipped their tea
and smiled. That middle-aged gentleman certainly earned his mild
refreshment;--for the party without him must have been very dull.
Then there came a breath of air,--or, as Mrs. Brownlow called it, a
keen north wind; and the old lady retreated into the house. "Don't
let me take anybody else in,--only I can't stand a wind like that."
The old gentleman accompanied her, and then the elderly ladies. The
young ladies came next, and the man of wit, with the silent young
gentlemen, followed, laden with scarfs, parasols, fans, and stray
teacups. "I don't think we used to have such cold winds in July,"
said Mrs. Brownlow. The old gentleman pressed her hand once more, and
whispered into her ear that there had certainly been a great change.

Suddenly Ralph Newton was among them. Clarissa had not heard him
announced, and to her it seemed as though he had come down from
the heavens,--as would have befitted his godship. He was a great
favourite with Mrs. Brownlow, who, having heard that he was heir
to a very large property, thought that his extravagance became him.
According to her views it was his duty to spend a good deal of money,
and his duty also to marry Clarissa Underwood. As he was as yet
unmarried to any one else, she hardly doubted that he would do his
duty. She was a sanguine old lady, who always believed that things
would go right. She bustled and fussed on the present occasion
with the very evident intention of getting a seat for him next to
Clarissa; but Clarissa was as active in avoiding such an arrangement,
and Ralph soon found himself placed between Mary Bonner and a very
deaf old lady, who was always present at Mrs. Brownlow's tea-parties.
"I suppose this has all been got up in your honour," he said to Mary.
She smiled, and shook her head. "Oh, but it has. I know the dear old
lady's ways so well! She would never allow a new Underwood to be at
the villa for a month without having a tea-party to consecrate the
event."

"Isn't she charming, Mr. Newton;--and so pretty?"

"No end of charming, and awfully pretty. Why are we all in here
instead of out in the garden?"

"Mrs. Brownlow thought that it was cold."

"With the thermometer at 80°! What do you think, who ought to know
what hot weather means? Are you chilly?"

"Not in the least. We West Indians never find this climate cold
the first year. Next year I don't doubt that I shall be full of
rheumatism all over, and begging to be taken back to the islands."

Clarissa watched them from over the way as though every word spoken
between them had been a treason to herself. And yet she had almost
been rude to old Mrs. Brownlow in the manner in which she had placed
herself on one side of the circle when the old lady had begged her to
sit on the other. Certainly, had she heard all that was said between
her lover and her cousin, there was nothing in the words to offend
her. She did not hear them; but she could see that Ralph looked into
Mary's beautiful face, and that Mary smiled in a demure, silent,
self-assured way which was already becoming odious to Clarissa.
Clarissa herself, when Ralph looked into her face, would blush and
turn away, and feel herself unable to bear the gaze of the god.

In a few minutes there came to be a sudden move, and all the young
people trooped back into the garden. It was Ralph Newton who did
it, and nobody quite understood how it was done. "Certainly, my
dears; certainly," said the old lady. "I dare say the moon is very
beautiful. Yes; I see Mr. Ralph. You are not going to take me out,
I can tell you. The moon is all very well, but I like to see it
through the window. Don't mind me. Mr. Truepeny will stay with me."
Mr. Truepeny, who was turned eighty, put out his hand and patted Mrs.
Brownlow's arm, and assured her that he wanted nothing better than
to stay with her for ever. The witty gentleman did not like the move,
because it had been brought about by a newcomer, who had, as it were,
taken the wind out of his sails. He lingered awhile, hoping to have
weight enough to control the multitude;--in which he failed, and at
last made one of the followers. And Clarissa lingered also, because
Ralph had been the first to stir. Ralph had gone out with Mary
Bonner, and therefore Clarissa had held back. So it came to pass
that she found herself walking round the garden with the witty,
exhilarating, middle-aged gentleman,--whom, for the present at least,
she most cordially hated. "I am not quite sure that our dear old
friend isn't right," said the witty man, whose name was Poojean;--"a
chair to sit down upon, and a wall or two around one, and a few
little knick-nacks about,--carpets and tables and those sort of
things,--are comfortable at times."

"I wonder you should leave them then," said Clarissa.

"Can there be a wonder that I leave them with such temptation as
this," said the gallant Poojean. Clarissa hated him worse than ever,
and would not look at him, or even make the faintest sign that she
heard him. The voice of Ralph Newton through the trees struck her
ears; and yet the voice wasn't loud,--as it would not be if it were
addressed with tenderness to Mary. And there was she bound by some
indissoluble knot to,--Mr. Poojean. "That Mr. Newton is a friend of
yours?" asked Mr. Poojean.

"Yes;--a friend of ours," said Clarissa.

"Then I will express my intense admiration for his wit, general
character, and personal appearance. Had he been a stranger to you, I
should, of course, have insinuated an opinion that he was a fool, a
coxcomb, and the very plainest young man I had ever seen. That is the
way of the world,--isn't it, Miss Underwood?"

"I don't know," said Clarissa.

"Oh, yes,--you do. That's the way we all go on. As he is your friend,
I can't dare to begin to abuse him till after the third time round
the garden."

"I beg, then, that there may be only two turns," said Clarissa.
But she did not know how to stop, or to get rid of her abominable
companion.

"If I mustn't abuse him after three turns, he must be a favourite,"
said the persevering Poojean. "I suppose he is a favourite.
By-the-bye, what a lovely girl that is with whom your favourite
was,--shall I say flirting?"

"That lady is my cousin, Mr. Poojean."

"I didn't say that she was flirting, mind. I wouldn't hint such a
thing of any young lady, let her be anybody's cousin. Young ladies
never flirt. But young men do sometimes;--don't they? After all, it
is the best fun going;--isn't it?"

"I don't know," said Clarissa. By this time they had got round to the
steps leading from the garden to the house. "I think I'll go in, Mr.
Poojean." She did go in, and Mr. Poojean was left looking at the moon
all alone, as though he had separated himself from all mirth and
society for that melancholy but pleasing occupation. He stood there
gazing upwards with his thumbs beneath his waistcoat. "Grand,--is it
not?" he said to the first couple that passed him.

"Awfully grand, and beautifully soft, and all the rest of it," said
Ralph, as he went on with Mary Bonner by his side.

"That fellow has got no touch of poetry in him!" said Poojean to
himself. In the meantime Clarissa, pausing a moment as she entered
through the open window, heard Ralph's cheery voice. How well she
knew its tones! And she still paused, with ears erect, striving to
catch some word from her cousin's mouth. But Mary's words, if they
were words spoken by her, were too low and soft to be caught.
"Oh,--if she should turn out to be sly!" Clarissa said to herself.
Was it true that Ralph had been flirting with her,--as that odious
man had said? And why, why, why had Ralph not come to her, if he
really loved her, as he had twice told her that he did? Of course
she had not thrown herself into his arms when old Mrs. Brownlow made
that foolish fuss. But still he might have come to her. He might
have waited for her in the garden. He might have saved her from the
"odious vulgarity" of that "abominable old wretch." For in such
language did Clarissa describe to herself the exertions to amuse her
which had been made by her late companion. But had the Sydney Smith
of the day been talking to her, he would have been dull, or the Count
D'Orsay of the day, he would have been vulgar, while the sound of
Ralph Newton's voice, as he walked with another girl, was reaching
her ears. And then, before she had seated herself in Mrs. Brownlow's
drawing-room, another idea had struck her. Could it be that Ralph did
not come to her because she had told him that she would never forgive
him for that crime? Was it possible that his own shame was so great
that he was afraid of her? If so, could she not let him know that he
was,--well, forgiven? Poor Clarissa! In the meantime the voices still
came to her from the garden, and she still thought that she could
distinguish Ralph's low murmurings.

It may be feared that Ralph had no such deep sense of his fault as
that suggested. He did remember well enough,--had reflected more
than once or twice,--on those words which he had spoken to Clary.
Having spoken them he had felt his crime to be their not unnatural
accompaniment. At that moment, when he was on the lawn at Fulham, he
had thought that it would be very sweet to devote himself to dear
Clary,--that Clary was the best and prettiest girl he knew, that, in
short, it might be well for him to love her and cherish her and make
her his wife. Had not Patience come upon the scene, and disturbed
them, he would probably then and there have offered to her his hand
and heart. But Patience had come upon the scene, and the offer had
not been, as he thought, made. Since all that, which had passed ages
ago,--weeks and weeks ago,--there had fallen upon him the prosaic
romance of Polly Neefit. He had actually gone down to Hendon to offer
himself as a husband to the breeches-maker's daughter. It is true he
had hitherto escaped in that quarter also,--or, at any rate, had not
as yet committed himself. But the train of incidents and thoughts
which had induced him to think seriously of marrying Polly, had
made him aware that he could not propose marriage to Sir Thomas
Underwood's daughter. From such delight as that he found, on calm
reflection, that he had debarred himself by the folly of his past
life. It was well that Patience had come upon the scene.

Such being the state of affairs with him, that little episode with
Clary being at an end,--or rather, as he thought, never having quite
come to a beginning,--and his little arrangement as to Polly Neefit
being in abeyance, he was free to amuse himself with this newcomer.
Miss Bonner was certainly the most lovely girl he had ever seen. He
could imagine no beauty to exceed hers. He knew well enough that her
loveliness could be nothing to him;--but a woman's beauty is in one
sense as free as the air in all Christian countries. It is a light
shed for the delight, not of one, but of many. There could be no
reason why he should not be among the admirers of Miss Bonner.
"I expect, you know, to be admitted quite on the terms of an old
friend," he said. "I shall call you Mary, and all that kind of
thing."

"I don't see your claim," said Miss Bonner.

"Oh yes, you do,--and must allow it. I was almost a sort of son of
Sir Thomas's,--till he turned me off when I came of age. And Patience
and Clarissa are just the same as sisters to me."

"You are not even a cousin, Mr. Newton."

"No;--I'm not a cousin. It's more like a foster-brother, you know. Of
course I shan't call you Mary if you tell me not. How is it to be?"

"Just for the present I'll be Miss Bonner."

"For a week or so?"

"Say for a couple of years, and then we'll see how it is."

"You'll be some lucky's fellow's wife long before that. Do you like
living at Fulham?"

"Very much. How should I not like it? They are so kind to me. And you
know, when I first resolved to come home, I thought I should have
to go out as a governess,--or, perhaps, as a nursery-maid, if they
didn't think me clever enough to teach. I did not expect my uncle to
be so good to me. I had never seen him, you know. Is it not odd that
my uncle is so little at home?"

"It is odd. He is writing a book, you see, and he finds that the air
of Fulham doesn't suit his brains."

"Oh, Mr. Newton!"

"And he likes to be quite alone. There isn't a better fellow going
than your uncle. I am sure I ought to say so. But he isn't just what
I should call,--sociable."

"I think him almost perfection;--but I do wish he was more at home
for their sakes. We'll go in now, Mr. Newton. Patience has gone in,
and I haven't seen Clarissa for ever so long."

Soon after this the guests began to go away. Mr. Truepeny gave Mrs.
Brownlow's hand the last squeeze, and Mr. Poojean remarked that
all terrestrial joys must have an end. "Not but that such hours as
these," said he, "have about them a dash of the celestial which
almost gives them a claim to eternity." "Horrible fool!" said
Clarissa to her sister, who was standing close to her.

"Mrs. Brownlow would, perhaps, prefer going to bed," said Ralph.
Then every one was gone except the Underwoods and Ralph Newton. The
girls had on their hats and shawls, and all was prepared for their
departure;--but there was some difficulty about the fly. The Fulham
fly which had brought them, and which always took them everywhere,
had hitherto omitted to return for them. It was ordered for half-past
ten, and now it was eleven. "Are you sure he was told?" said Clary.
Patience had told him herself,--twice. "Then he must be tipsy again,"
said Clary. Mrs. Brownlow bade them to sit still and wait; but when
the fly did not arrive by half-past eleven, it was necessary that
something should be done. There were omnibuses on the road, but they
might probably be full. "It is only two miles,--let us walk," said
Clary; and so it was decided.

Ralph insisted on walking with them till he should meet an omnibus or
a cab to take him back to London. Patience did her best to save him
from such labour, protesting that they would want no such escort. But
he would not be gainsayed, and would go with them at least a part
of the way. Of course he did not leave them till they had reached
the gate of Popham Villa. But when they were starting there arose a
difficulty as to the order in which they would marshal themselves;--a
difficulty as to which not a word could be spoken, but which was not
the less a difficulty. Clarissa hung back. Ralph had spoken hardly a
word to her all the evening. It had better continue so. She was sure
that he could not care for her. But she thought that she would be
better contented that he should walk with Patience than with Mary
Bonner. But Mary took the matter into her own hands, and started off
boldly with Patience. Patience hardly approved, but there would be
nothing so bad as seeming to disapprove. Clary's heart was in her
mouth as she found her arm within his. He had contrived that it
should be so, and she could not refuse. Her mind was changed again
now, and once more she wished that she could let him know that the
crime was forgiven.

"I am so glad to have a word with you at last," he said. "How do you
get on with the new cousin?"

"Very well;--and how have you got on with her?"

"You must ask her that. She is very beautiful,--what I call
wonderfully beautiful."

"Indeed she is," said Clary, withdrawing almost altogether the weight
of her hand from his arm.

"And clever, too,--very clever; but--"

"But what?" asked Clary, and the softest, gentlest half-ounce of
pressure was restored.

"Well;--nothing. I like her uncommonly;--but is she not
quite,--quite,--quite--"

"She is quite everything that she ought to be, Ralph."

"I'm sure of that;--an angel, you know, and all the rest of it. But
angels are cold, you know. I don't know that I ever admired a girl
so much in my life." The pressure was again lessened,--all but
annihilated. "But, somehow, I should never dream of falling in love
with your cousin."

"Perhaps you may do so without dreaming," said Clary, as
unconsciously she gave back the weight to her hand.

"No;--I know very well the sort of girl that makes me spoony." This
was not very encouraging to poor Clary, but still she presumed that
he meant to imply that she herself was a girl of the sort that so
acted upon him. And the conversation went on in this way throughout
the walk. There was not much encouragement to her, and certainly she
did not say a word to him that could make him feel that she wanted
encouragement. But still he had been with her, and she had been
happy; and when they parted at the gate, and he again pressed her
hand, she thought that things had gone well. "He must know that I
have forgiven him now!" she said to herself.



CHAPTER XIII.

MR. NEEFIT IS DISTURBED.


On the morning following Mrs. Brownlow's little tea-party Ralph
Newton was bound by appointment to call upon Sir Thomas. But before
he started on that duty a certain friend of his called upon him.
This friend was Mr. Neefit. But before the necessary account of Mr.
Neefit's mission is given, the reader must be made acquainted with a
few circumstances as they had occurred at Hendon.

It will be remembered perhaps that on the Sunday evening the two
rivals left the cottage at the same moment, one taking the road to
the right, and the other that to the left,--so that bloodshed, for
that occasion at least, was prevented. "Neefit," said his wife to
him when they were alone together, "you'll be getting yourself into
trouble." "You be blowed," said Neefit. He was very angry with his
wife, and was considering what steps he would take to maintain his
proper marital and parental authority. He was not going to give way
to the weaker vessel in a matter of such paramount importance, as to
be made a fool of in his own family. He was quite sure of this, while
the strength of the port wine still stood to him; and though he was
somewhat more troubled in spirit when his wife began to bully him
on the next morning, he still had valour enough to say that Ontario
Moggs also might be--blowed.

On the Monday, when he returned home and asked for Polly, he found
that Polly was out walking. Mrs. Neefit did not at once tell him
that Moggs was walking with her, but such was the fact. Just at five
o'clock Moggs had presented himself at the cottage,--knowing very
well, sly dog that he was, the breeches-maker's hour of return, which
took place always precisely at four minutes past six,--and boldly
demanded an interview with Polly. "I should like to hear what she's
got to say to me," said he, looking boldly, almost savagely, into
Mrs. Neefit's face. According to that matron's ideas this was the
proper way in which maidens should be wooed and won; and, though
Polly had at first declared that she had nothing at all to say to
Mr. Moggs, she allowed herself at last to be led forth. Till they
had passed the railway station on the road leading away from
London, Ontario said not a word of his purpose. Polly, feeling that
silence was awkward, and finding that she was being hurried along
at a tremendous pace, spoke of the weather and of the heat, and
expostulated. "It is hot, very hot," said Ontario, taking off his hat
and wiping his brow,--"but there are moments in a man's life when he
can't go slow."

"Then there are moments in his life when he must go on by himself,"
said Polly. But her pluck was too good for her to desert him at such
a moment, and, although he hardly moderated his pace till he had
passed the railway station, she kept by his side. As things had gone
so far it might be quite as well now that she should hear what he had
to say. A dim, hazy idea had crossed the mind of Moggs that it would
be as well that he should get out into the country before he began
his task, and that the line of the railway which passed beneath the
road about a quarter of a mile beyond Mr. Neefit's cottage, might be
considered as the boundary which divided the town from pastoral joys.
He waited, therefore, till the bridge was behind them, till they
had passed the station, which was close to the bridge;--and then he
began. "Polly," said he, "you know what brings me here."

Polly did know very well, but she was not bound to confess such
knowledge. "You've brought me here, Mr. Moggs, and that's all I
know," she said.

"Yes;--I've brought you here. Polly, what took place last night made
me very unhappy,--very unhappy indeed."

"I can't help that, Mr. Moggs."

"Not that I mean to blame you."

"Blame me! I should think not. Blame me, indeed! Why are you to blame
anybody because father chooses to ask whom he pleases to dinner? A
pretty thing indeed, if father isn't to have whom he likes in his own
house."

"Polly, you know what I mean."

"I know you made a great goose of yourself last night, and I didn't
feel a bit obliged to you."

"No, I didn't. I wasn't a goose at all. I don't say but what I'm as
big a fool as most men. I don't mean to stick up for myself. I know
well enough that I am foolish often. But I wasn't foolish last night.
What was he there for?"

"What business have you to ask, Mr. Moggs?"

"All the business in life. Love;--real love. That's why I have
business. That young man, who is, I suppose, what you call a swell."

"Don't put words into my mouth, Mr. Moggs. I don't call him anything
of the kind."

"He's a gentleman."

"Yes;--he is a gentleman,--I suppose."

"And I'm a tradesman,--a bootmaker."

"So is father a tradesman, and if you mean to tell me that I turn
up my nose at people the same as father is, you may just go back to
London and think what you like about me. I won't put up with it from
you or anybody. A tradesman to me is as good as anybody,--if he is as
good. There."

"Oh, Polly, you do look so beautiful!"

"Bother!"

"When you say that, and speak in that way, I think you as good as you
are beautiful."

"Remember,--I don't say a word against what you call--gentlemen. I
take 'em just as they come. Mr. Newton is a very nice young man."

"Are you going to take him, Polly?"

"How can I take him when he has never asked me? You are not my
father, Mr. Moggs, not yet my uncle. What right have you to question
me? If I was going to take him, I shouldn't want your leave."

"Polly, you ought to be honest."

"I am honest."

"Will you hear me, Polly?"

"No, I won't."

"You won't! Is that answer to go for always?"

"Yes, it is. You come and tease and say uncivil things, and I don't
choose to be bullied. What right have you to talk to me about Mr.
Newton? Did I ever give you any right? Honest indeed! What right have
you to talk to me about being honest?"

"It's all true, dear."

"Very well, then. Hold your tongue, and don't say such things. Honest
indeed! If I were to take the young man to-morrow, that would not
make me dishonest."

"It's all true, dear, and I beg your pardon. If I have offended you,
I will beg your pardon."

"Never mind about that;--only don't say foolish things."

"Is it foolish, Polly, to say that I love you? And if I love you, can
I like to see a young fellow like Mr. Newton hanging about after you?
He doesn't love you. He can't love you,--as I do. Your father brings
him here because he is a gentleman."

"I don't think anything of his being a gentleman."

"But think of me. Of course I was unhappy, wretched,--miserable. I
knew why he was there. You can understand, Polly, that when a man
really loves he must be the miserablest or the happiest of human
beings."

"I don't understand anything about it."

"I wish you would let me teach you."

"I don't want to learn, and I doubt whether you'd make a good master.
I really must go back now, Mr. Moggs. I came out because mother said
I'd better. I don't know that it could do any good if we were to walk
on to Edgeware." And so saying, Polly turned back.

He walked beside her half the way home in silence, thinking that if
he could only choose the proper words and the proper tone he might
yet prevail; but feeling that the proper words and the proper tone
were altogether out of his reach. On those favourite subjects, the
ballot, or the power of strikes, he could always find the proper
words and the proper tone when he rose upon his legs at the Cheshire
Cheese;--and yet, much as he loved the ballot, he loved Polly Neefit
infinitely more dearly. When at the Cheshire Cheese he was a man;
but now, walking with the girl of his heart, he felt himself to be a
bootmaker, and the smell of the leather depressed him. It was evident
that she would walk the whole way home in silence, if he would permit
it. The railway station was already again in sight, when he stopped
her on the pathway, and made one more attempt. "You believe me, when
I say that I love you?"

"I don't know, Mr. Moggs."

"Oh, Polly, you don't know!"

"But it doesn't signify,--not the least. I ain't bound to take a man
because he loves me."

"You won't take Mr. Newton;--will you?"

"I don't know. I won't say anything about it. Mr. Newton is nothing
to you." Then there was a pause. "If you think, Mr. Moggs, that you
can recommend yourself to a young woman by such tantrums as there
were going on last night, you are very much mistaken. That's not the
way to win me."

"I wish I knew which was the way."

"Mr. Newton never said a word."

"Your father told him to take you out a-walking before my very eyes!
Was I to bear that? Think of it, Polly. You mayn't care for me, and
I don't suppose you do; but you may understand what my feelings were.
What would you have thought of me if I'd stayed there, smoking, and
borne it quiet,--and you going about with that young man? I'll tell
you what it is, Polly, I couldn't bear it, and I won't. There;--and
now you know what I mean." At this point in his speech he took off
his hat and waved it in the air. "I won't bear it. There are things
a man can't bear,--can't bear,--can't bear. Oh, Polly! if you could
only be brought to understand what it is that I feel!"

After all, he didn't do it so very badly. There was just a tear in
the corner of Polly's eye, though Polly was very careful that he
shouldn't see it. And Polly did know well enough that he was in
earnest,--that he was, in fact, true. But then he was gawky and
ungainly. It was not that he was a shoemaker. Could he have had his
own wits, and danced like the gasfitter, he might have won her still,
against Ralph Newton, with all his blood and white hands. But poor
Ontario was, as regarded externals, so ill a subject for a great
passion!

"And where have you been, Polly?" said her father, as soon as she
entered the house.

"I have been walking with Ontario Moggs," said Polly boldly.

"What have you been saying to him? I won't have you walk with Ontario
Moggs. I and your mother 'll have to fall out if this kind of thing
goes on."

"Don't be silly, father."

"What do you mean by that, miss?"

"It is silly. Why shouldn't I walk with him? Haven't I known him all
my life, and walked with him scores of times? Isn't it silly, father?
Don't I know that if I told you I loved Ontario Moggs, you'd let me
marry him to-morrow?"

"He'd have to take you in what you stand up in."

"He wouldn't desire anything better. I'll say that for him. He's true
and honest. I'd love him if I could,--only, somehow I don't."

"You've told him you didn't,--once and for all?"

"I don't know about that, father. He'll come again, you may be
sure. He's one of that sort that isn't easily said nay to. If you
mean,--have I said yes?--I haven't. I'll never say yes to any man
unless I love him. When I do say it I shall mean it,--whether it's
Onty Moggs or anybody else. I'm not going to be given away, you know,
like a birthday present, out of a shop. There's nobody can give me
away, father,--only myself." To all which utterances of a rebellious
spirit the breeches-maker made no answer. He knew that Polly would,
at least, be true to him; and, as she was as yet free, the field was
still open to his candidate. He believed thoroughly that had not his
wife interfered, and asked the bootmaker to join that unfortunate
dinner party, his daughter and Ralph Newton would now have been
engaged together. And probably it might have been so. When first it
had been whispered to Polly that that handsome and very agreeable
young gentleman, Mr. Ralph Newton, might become a suitor for her
hand, she had chucked up her head and declared to her mother that she
didn't intend to take a husband of her father's choosing; but as she
came to know Ralph a little, she did find that he was good-looking
and agreeable,--and her heart did flutter at the idea of becoming
the wife of a real, undoubted gentleman. She meant to have her grand
passion, and she must be quite sure that Mr. Newton loved her. But
she didn't see any reason why Mr. Newton shouldn't love her, and,
upon the whole, she was inclined to obey her father rather than to
disobey him. And it might still be that he should win her;--for he
had done nothing to disgrace himself in her sight. But there did lurk
within her bosom some dim idea that he should have bestirred himself
more thoroughly on that Sunday evening, and not have allowed himself
to be driven out of the field by Ontario Moggs. She wronged him
there, as indeed he had had no alternative, unless he had followed
her up to her bedroom.

Mr. Neefit, when he found that no harm had as yet been done, resolved
that he would return to the charge. It has been before observed that
he lacked something in delicacy, but what he did so lack he made up
in persistency. He had been unable to impute any blame to Ralph as to
that evening. He felt that he rather owed an apology to his favourite
candidate. He would make the apology, and inform the favourite
candidate, at the same time, that the course was still open to him.
With these views he left Conduit Street early on the Wednesday
morning, and called on Ralph at his rooms. "Mr. Newton," he said,
hastening at once upon the grand subject, "I hope you didn't think as
I was to blame in having Moggs at our little dinner on Sunday." Ralph
declared that he had never thought of imputing blame to any one. "But
it was,--as awk'ard as awk'ard could be. It was my wife's doing. Of
course you can see how it all is. That chap has been hankering after
Polly ever since she was in her teens. But, Lord love you, Captain,
he ain't a chance with her. He was there again o' Monday, but the
girl wouldn't have a word to say to him." Ralph sat silent, and very
grave. He was taken now somewhat by surprise, having felt, up to
this moment, that he would at least have the advantage of a further
interview with Sir Thomas, before he need say another word to Mr.
Neefit. "What I want you to do, Captain, is just to pop it, straight
off, to my girl. I know she'd take you, because of her way of
looking. Not, mind, that she ever said so. Oh, no. But the way to
find out is just to ask the question."

"You see, Mr. Neefit, it wasn't very easy to ask it last Sunday,"
said Ralph, attempting to laugh.

"Moggs has been at her again," said Neefit. This argument was
good. Had Ralph been as anxious as Moggs, he would have made his
opportunity.

"And, to tell you the truth, Mr. Neefit--"

"Well, sir?"

"There is nothing so disagreeable as interfering in families. I
admire your daughter amazingly."

"She's a trump, Mr. Newton."

"She is indeed;--and I thoroughly appreciate the great generosity of
your offer."

"I'll be as good as my word, Mr. Newton. The money shall be all
there,--down on the nail."

"But, you see, your wife is against me."

"Blow my wife. You don't think Polly 'd do what her mother tells her?
Who's got the money-bag? That's the question. You go down and pop it
straight. You ain't afraid of an old woman, I suppose;--nor yet of a
young un. Don't mind waiting for more dinners, or anything of that
kind. They likes a man to be hot about it;--that's what they likes.
You're sure to find her any time before dinner;--that's at one, you
know. May be she mayn't be figged out fine, but you won't mind that.
I'll go bail you'll find the flesh and blood all right. Just you make
your way in, and say what you've got to say. I'll make it straight
with the old woman afterwards."

Ralph Newton had hitherto rather prided himself on his happy
management of young ladies. He was not ordinarily much afflicted by
shyness, and conceived himself able to declare a passion, perhaps
whether felt or feigned, as well as another. And now he was being
taught how to go a-wooing by his breeches-maker! He did not
altogether like it, and, as at this moment his mind was rather set
against the Hendon matrimonial speculation, he was disposed to resent
it. "I think you're making a little mistake, Mr. Neefit," he said.

"What mistake? I don't know as I'm making any mistake. You'll be
making a mistake, and so you'll find when the plum's gone."

"It's just this, you know. When you suggested this thing to me--"

"Well;--yes; I did suggest it, and I ain't ashamed of it."

"I was awfully grateful. I had met your daughter once or twice, and I
told you I admired her ever so much."

"That's true;--but you didn't admire her a bit more than what she's
entitled to."

"I'm sure of that. But then I thought I ought,--just to,--know her a
little better, you see. And then how could I presume to think she'd
take me till she knew me a little better?"

"Presume to think! Is that all you know about young women? Pop the
question right out, and give her a buss. That's the way."

Newton paused a moment before he spoke, and looked very grave. "I
think you're driving me a little too fast, Mr. Neefit," he said at
last.

"The deuce I am! Driving you too fast. What does that mean?"

"There must be a little management and deliberation in these things.
If I were to do as you propose, I should not recommend myself to your
daughter; and I should myself feel that, at the most important crisis
of my life, I was allowing myself to be hurried beyond my judgment."
These words were spoken with a slow solemnity of demeanour, and a
tone of voice so serious that for a moment they perfectly awed the
breeches-maker. Ralph was almost successful in reducing his proposed
father-in-law to a state of absolute subjection. Mr. Neefit was all
but induced to forget that he stood there with twenty thousand pounds
in his pocket. There came a drop or two of perspiration on his brow,
and his large saucer eyes almost quailed before those of his debtor.
But at last he rallied himself,--though not entirely. He could not
quite assume that self-assertion which he knew that his position
would have warranted; but he did keep his flag up after a fashion.
"I dare say you know your own business best, Mr. Newton;--only them's
not my ideas; that's all. I come to you fair and honest, and I
repeats the same. Good morning, Mr. Newton." So he went, and nothing
had been settled.

To say that Ralph had even yet made up his mind would be to give him
praise which was not his due. He was still doubting, though in his
doubts the idea of marrying Polly Neefit became more indistinct, and
less alluring than ever. By this time he almost hated Mr. Neefit,
and most unjustly regarded that man as a persecutor, who was taking
advantage of his pecuniary ascendancy to trample on him. "He
thinks I must take his daughter because I owe him two or three
hundred pounds." Such were Ralph Newton's thoughts about the
breeches-maker,--which thoughts were very unjust. Neefit was
certainly vulgar, illiterate, and indelicate; but he was a man who
could do a generous action, and having offered his daughter to this
young aristocrat would have scorned to trouble him afterwards about
his "little bill." Ralph sat trying to think for about an hour, and
then walked to Southampton Buildings. He had not much hope as he
went. Indeed hope hardly entered into his feelings. Sir Thomas
would of course say unpleasant words to him, and of course he
would be unable to answer them. There was no ground for hoping
anything,--unless indeed he could make himself happy in a snug little
box in a hunting country, with Polly Neefit for his wife, living on
the interest of the breeches-maker's money. He was quite alive to the
fact that in this position he would in truth be the most miserable
dog in existence,--that it would be infinitely better for him to turn
his prospects into cash, and buy sheep in Australia, or cattle in
South America, or to grow corn in Canada. Any life would be better
than one supported in comfortable idleness on Mr. Neefit's savings.
Nevertheless he felt that that would most probably be his doom. The
sheep or the cattle or the corn required an amount of energy which he
no longer possessed. There were the four horses at the Moonbeam;--and
he could ride them to hounds as well as any man. So much he could do,
and would seem in doing it to be full of life. But as for selling
the four horses, and changing altogether the mode of his life,--that
was more than he had vitality left to perform. Such was the measure
which he took of himself, and in taking it he despised himself
thoroughly,--knowing well how poor a creature he was.

Sir Thomas told him readily what he had done, giving him to read a
copy of his letter to Mr. Newton and Mr. Newton's reply. "I can do
nothing more," said Sir Thomas. "I hope you have given up the sad
notion of marrying that young woman." Ralph sat still and listened.
"No good, I think, can come of that," continued Sir Thomas. "If you
are in truth compelled to part with your reversion to the Newton
estate,--which is in itself a property of great value,--I do not
doubt but your uncle will purchase it at its worth. It is a thousand
pities that prospects so noble should have been dissipated by early
imprudence."

"That's quite true, Sir Thomas," said Ralph, in a loud ringing tone,
which seemed to imply that let things be as bad as they might he
did not mean to make a poor mouth of them. It was his mask for the
occasion, and it sufficed to hide his misery from Sir Thomas.

"If you think of selling what you have to sell," continued Sir
Thomas, "you had better take Mr. Newton's letter and put it into the
hands of your own attorney. It will be ten times better than going
to the money-lending companies for advances. If I had the means of
helping you myself, I would do it."

"Oh, Sir Thomas!"

"But I have not. I should be robbing my own girls, which I am sure
you would not wish."

"That is quite out of the question, Sir Thomas."

"If you do resolve on selling the estate, you had better come to me
as the thing goes on. I can't do much, but I may perhaps be able to
see that nothing improper is proposed for you to do. Goodbye, Ralph.
Anything will be better than marrying that what-d'ye-callem's
daughter."

Ralph, as he walked westwards towards the club, was by no means sure
that Sir Thomas had been right in this. By marrying Polly he would,
after all, keep the property.

Just by the lions in Trafalgar Square he met Ontario Moggs. Ontario
Moggs scowled at him, and cut him dead.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE REV. GREGORY NEWTON.


It was quite at the end of July, in the very hottest days of a very
hot summer, that Squire Newton left Newton Priory for London, intent
upon law business, and filled with ambition to purchase the right
of leaving his own estate to any heir whom he might himself select.
He left his son alone at the Priory; but his son and the parson
were sure to be together on such an occasion. Ralph,--the country
Ralph,--dined at the Rectory on the day that his father started; and
on every succeeding day, Gregory, the parson, dined up at the large
house. It was a thing altogether understood at the Priory that the
present parson Gregory was altogether exempted from the anathema
which had been pronounced against the heir and against the memory
of the heir's father. Gregory simply filled the place which might
have been his had there been no crushing entail, and was, moreover,
so sweet and gentle-hearted a fellow that it was impossible not
to love him. He was a tall, slender man, somewhat narrow-chested,
bright-eyed, with a kind-looking sweet mouth, a small well-cut nose,
dark but not black hair, and a dimple on his chin. He always went
with his hands in his pockets, walking quick, but shuffling sometimes
in step as though with hesitation, stooping somewhat, absent
occasionally, going about with his chin stuck out before him, as
though he were seeking something,--he knew not what. A more generous
fellow, who delighted more in giving, hesitated more in asking, more
averse to begging though a friend of beggars, less self-arrogant, or
self-seeking, or more devoted to his profession, never lived. He was
a man with prejudices,--kindly, gentlemanlike, amiable prejudices. He
thought that a clergyman should be a graduate from one of the three
universities,--including Trinity, Dublin; and he thought, also,
that a clergyman should be a gentleman. He thought that Dissenters
were,--a great mistake. He thought that Convocation should be
potential. He thought that the Church had certain powers and
privileges which Parliament could not take away except by spoliation.
He thought that a parson should always be well-dressed,--according to
his order. He thought that the bishop of his diocese was the purest,
best, and noblest peer in England. He thought that Newton Churchyard
was, of all spots on earth, the most lovely. He thought very little
of himself. And he thought that of all the delights given by God for
the delectation of his creatures, the love of Clarissa Underwood
would be the most delightful. In all these thinkings he was astray,
carried away by prejudices which he was not strong enough to
withstand. But the joint effect of so many faults in judgment was not
disagreeable; and, as one result of that effect, Gregory Newton was
loved and respected and believed in by all men and women, poor and
rich, who lived within knowledge of his name. His uncle Gregory, who
was wont to be severe in his judgment on men, would declare that the
Rev. Gregory,--as he was called,--was perfect. But then the Squire
was a man who was himself very much subject to prejudices.

There was now, and ever had been, great freedom of discussion between
Ralph Newton of the Priory and his cousin Gregory,--if under the
circumstances the two young men may be called cousins,--respecting
the affairs of the property. There was naturally much to check or to
prevent such freedom. Their own interests in regard to the property
were, as far as they went, adverse. The young parson might possibly
inherit the whole of the estate, whereas he was aware that the
present Squire would move heaven and earth to leave it, or a portion
of it, to his own son. Gregory had always taken his brother's part
before the Squire; and the Squire, much as he liked the parson, was
never slow in abusing the parson's brother. It would have been no
more than natural had the question of the property been, by tacit
agreement, always kept out of sight between the two young men. But
they had grown up from boyhood together as firm friends, and there
was no reticence between them on this all-important subject. The
Squire's son had never known his mother; and could therefore speak
of his own position as would hardly have been possible to him had
any memory of her form or person remained with him. And then, though
their interests were opposite, nothing that either could say would
much affect those interests.

The two men were sitting on the lawn at the Priory after dinner,
smoking cigars, and Ralph,--this other Ralph,--had just told the
parson of his intention of joining his father in London. "I don't see
that I can do any good," said Ralph, "but he wishes it, and of course
I shall go."

"You won't see my brother, I suppose?"

"I should think not. You know what my father's feelings are, and
I certainly shall not go out of my way to offend them. I have no
animosity against Ralph; but I could do no good by opposing my
father."

"No," said the parson, "not but what I wish it were otherwise. It is
a trouble to me that I cannot have Ralph here;--though perhaps he
would not care to come."

"I feel it hard too, that he should not be allowed to see a place
which, in a measure, belongs to him. I wish with all my heart that
my father did not think so much about the estate. Much as I love the
old place, I can hardly think about it without bitterness. Had my
father and your brother been on good terms together, there would
have been none of that. Nothing that he could do,--no success in his
efforts,--can make me be as I should have been had I been born his
heir. It is a misfortune, and of course one feels it; but I think I
should feel it less were he not so fixed in his purpose to undo what
can never be undone."

"He will never succeed," said Gregory.

"Probably not;--though, for that matter, I suppose Ralph will be
driven to raise money on his inheritance."

"He will never sell the property."

"It seems that he does spend money faster than he can get it."

"He may have done so."

"Is he not always in debt to you yourself? Is he not now thinking
of marrying some tradesman's daughter to relieve him of his
embarrassments? We have to own, I suppose, that Master Ralph has made
a mess of his money matters?" The parson, who couldn't deny the fact,
hardly knew what to say on his brother's behalf. "I protest to you,
Greg, that if my father were to tell me that he had changed his mind,
and paid your brother's debts out of sheer kindness and uncleship,
and the rest of it, I should be well pleased. But he won't do that,
and it does seem to me probable that the estate will get into the
hands of Jews, financiers, and professional money-dealers, unless my
father can save it. You wouldn't be glad to see some shopkeeper's
daughter calling herself Mrs. Newton of Newton."

"A shopkeeper's daughter need not necessarily be a--a--a bad sort of
woman," said Gregory.

"The chances are that a shopkeeper's daughter will not be an educated
lady. Come, Greg;--you cannot say that it is the kind of way out of
the mess you would approve."

"I am so sorry that there should be any mess at all!"

"Just so. It is a pity that there should be any mess;--is not it?
Come, old fellow, drink your coffee, and let us take a turn across
the park. I want to see what Larkin is doing about those sheep. I
often feel that my coming into the world was a mess altogether;
though, now that I am here, I must make the best of it. If I hadn't
come, my father would have married, and had a score of children, and
Master Ralph would have been none the better for it."

"You'll go and see the Underwoods," said the parson, as they were
walking across the park.


[Illustration: "You'll go and see the Underwoods," said the parson,
as they were walking across the park.]


"If you wish it, I will."

"I do wish it. They know all the history as a matter of course. It
cannot be otherwise. And they have so often heard me talk of you. The
girls are simply perfect. I shall write to Miss Underwood, and tell
her that you will call. I hope, too, that you will see Sir Thomas. It
would be so much better that he should know you."

That same night Gregory Newton wrote the two following letters before
he went to bed;--the first written was to Miss Underwood, and the
second to his brother; but we will place the latter first;--


   Newton, 4th August, 186--.

   MY DEAR RALPH,--

   No doubt you know by this time that my uncle, Gregory, is
   in London, though you will probably not have seen him. I
   understand that he has come up with the express purpose
   of making some settlement in regard to the property, on
   account of your embarrassments. I need not tell you how
   sorry I am that the state of your affairs should make this
   necessary. Ralph goes up also to-morrow;--and though he
   does not purpose to hunt you up, I hope that you may meet.
   You know what I think of him, and how much I wish that you
   two could be friends. He is as generous as the sun, and
   as just as he is generous. Every Newton ought to make him
   welcome as one of the family.

   As to money, I do not know what may be the state of
   your affairs. I only hear from him what he hears from
   his father. Sooner than that you should endanger your
   inheritance here I will make any sacrifice,--if there be
   anything that I can do. You are welcome to sell my share
   of the Holborn property, and you can pay me after my
   uncle's death. I can get on very well with my living,
   as it is not probable that I shall marry. At any rate,
   understand that I should infinitely prefer to lose every
   shilling of the London property to hearing that you had
   imperilled your position here at Newton. I do not suppose
   that what I have can go far;--but as far as it will go it
   is at your service. You can show this letter to Sir Thomas
   if you think fit.

   I could say ever so much more, only that you will know
   it all without my saying it. And I cannot bear that you
   should think that I would preach sermons to you. Never
   mind what I said before about the money that I wanted
   then. I can do without it now. My uncle will pay for the
   entire repair of the chancel out of his own pocket. Ever
   so much must be left undone till more money comes in.
   Money does come in from this quarter or from that, by
   God's help. As for the church rates, of course I regret
   them. But we have to take things in a lump, and it is
   certainly the fact that we spend ten times as much on the
   churches as was spent fifty years ago.

   Your most affectionate brother,

   GREGORY NEWTON.


The other letter was much shorter, and was addressed to Patience
Underwood;--


   Newton Peele Parsonage, 4th August, 186--.

   MY DEAR MISS UNDERWOOD,--

   My cousin, Mr. Ralph Newton, of whom you have heard me
   speak so often, is going up to London, and I have asked
   him to call at Popham Villa, because I am desirous that so
   very dear a friend of mine should know other friends whom
   I love so dearly. I am sure you will receive him kindly
   for my sake, and that you will like him for his own. There
   are reasons why I wish that your father should know him.

   Give my most affectionate love to your sister. I can send
   her no other message, and I do not think she will be angry
   with me for sending that. It cannot hurt her; and she and
   you at least know how honest and how true it is. Distance
   and time make no difference. It is as though I were on the
   lawn with her now.

   Most sincerely yours,

   GREGORY NEWTON.


When he had written this in the little book-room of his parsonage he
opened the window, and, crossing the garden, seated himself on a low
brick wall, which divided his small domain from the churchyard. The
night was bright with stars, but there was no moon in the heavens,
and the gloom of the old ivy-coloured church tower was complete. But
all the outlines of the place were so well known to him that he could
trace them all in the dim light. After a while he got down among the
graves, and with slow steps walked round and round the precincts of
his church. Here, at least, in this spot, close to the house of God
which was his own church, within this hallowed enclosure, which was
his own freehold in a peculiar manner, he could, after a fashion, be
happy, in spite of the misfortunes of himself and his family. His
lines had been laid for him in very pleasant places. According to his
ideas there was no position among the children of men more blessed,
more diversified, more useful, more noble, than that which had been
awarded to him,--if only, by God's help, he could perform with
adequate zeal and ability the high duties which had been entrusted
to him. Things outside were dark,--at least, so said the squires and
parsons around him, with whom he was wont to associate. His uncle,
Gregory, was sure that all things were going to the dogs, since a
so-called Tory leader had become an advocate for household suffrage,
and real Tory gentlemen had condescended to follow him. But to our
parson it had always seemed that there was still a fresh running
stream of water for him who would care to drink from a fresh stream.
He heard much of unbelief, and of the professors of unbelief, both
within and without the great Church;--but in that little church with
which he was personally concerned there were more worshippers now
than there had ever been before. And he heard, too, how certain
well-esteemed preachers and prophets of the day talked loudly of
the sins of the people, and foretold destruction such as was the
destruction of Gomorrah;--but to him it seemed that the people of his
village were more honest, less given to drink, and certainly better
educated than their fathers. In all which thoughts he found matter
for hope and encouragement in his daily life. And he set himself to
work diligently, placing all this as a balance against his private
sorrows, so that he might teach himself to take that world, of
which he himself was the centre, as one whole,--and so to walk on
rejoicing.

The one great sorrow of his life, the thorn in the flesh which was
always festering, the wound which would not be cured, the grief for
which there was no remedy, was his love for Clarissa Underwood. He
had asked her thrice to be his wife,--with very little interval,
indeed, between the separate prayers,--and had been so answered that
he entertained no hope. Had there been any faintest expectation in
his mind that Clarissa would at last become his wife he would have
been deterred by a sense of duty from making to his brother that
generous offer of all the property he owned. But he had no such hope.
Clarissa had given thrice that answer, which of all answers is the
most grievous to the true-hearted lover. "She felt for him unbounded
esteem, and would always regard him as a friend." A short decided
negative, or a doubtful no, or even an indignant repulse, may
be changed,--may give way to second convictions, or to better
acquaintance, or to altered circumstances, or even simply to
perseverance. But an assurance of esteem and friendship means, and
only can mean, that the lady regards her lover as she might do some
old uncle or patriarchal family connection, whom, after a fashion,
she loves, but who can never be to her the one creature to be
worshipped above all others.

Such were Gregory Newton's ideas as to his own chance of success,
and, so believing, he had resolved that he would never press his
suit again. He endeavoured to conquer his love;--but that he found
to be impossible. He thought that it was so impossible that he had
determined to give up the endeavour. Though he would have advised
others that by God's mercy all sorrows in this world could be cured,
he told himself,--without arraigning God's mercy,--that for him this
sorrow could not be cured. He did not scruple, therefore, to assure
his brother that he would not marry,--nor did he hesitate, in writing
to Patience Underwood, to assure her that his love for her sister was
unchangeable. In saying so he urged no suit;--but it was impossible
that he should write to the house without some message, and none
other from him to her could be a true message. It could not hurt
her. It would not even give her the trouble to think whether she
had decided well. He quite understood the nature of the love he
wanted,--a love that would have felt it to be all happiness to lean
upon his bosom. Without this love he would not have wished to take
her;--and with such love as that he knew he could not fill her heart.
Therefore it was that he would satisfy himself with walking round the
churchyard of Newton Peele, and telling himself that the pleasure of
this world was best to be found in the pursuit of the joys of the
next.



CHAPTER XV.

CLARISSA WAITS.


When Patience and Clarissa had got to their own room on the night
on which they had walked back from Mrs. Brownlow's house to Popham
Villa,--during all which long walk Clarissa's hand had lain gently
upon Ralph Newton's arm,--the elder sister looked painfully and
anxiously into the younger's face, in order that, if it were
possible, she might learn without direct enquiry what had been said
during that hour of close communion. Had Ralph meant to speak there
could have been no time more appropriate. And Patience hardly knew
what she herself wished,--except that she wished that her sister
might have everything that was good and joyous and prosperous. There
was never a look of pain came across Clary's face, but Patience
suffered some touch of inner agony. This feeling was so strong that
she sympathised even with Clary's follies, and with Clary's faults.
She almost knew that it would not be well that Ralph Newton should be
encouraged as a lover,--brilliant as were his future prospects, and
dear, as he was personally to them all. He was a spendthrift, and
it might be that his fine prospects would all be wasted before they
were matured. And then their father would so probably disapprove!
And then, again, it was so wrong that Clary's peace should have been
disturbed and yet no word said to their father. There was much that
was wrong;--but still so absolute was her clinging love for Clary
that she longed above all things that Clary should be made happy.
When Ralph's brother had declared himself as a suitor,--which he
had done boldly to Sir Thomas, after but a short intimacy with the
family,--Patience had given him all her sympathy. Sir Thomas, having
looked at his circumstances, had made him welcome to the house, and
to his daughter's hand,--if he could win her heart. The stage had
been open to him, and Patience had been his most eager friend. But
all that had passed away,--and Clary had been obstinate. "Patty,"
she had said, with some little arrogance, "he has made a mistake.
He should have fallen in love with you." "Clergymen are as fond of
pretty girls as other men," Patty had said, with a smile. "And isn't
my Patty as pretty and as delicate as a primrose?" Clary had said,
embracing her sister. Pretty Patience Underwood was not;--but for
delicacy,--that with which Patience Underwood was gifted transcended
poor Clarissa's powers of comparison. So it was between them, and now
there was this acknowledged passion for the spendthrift!

Patience could see that her sister was not unhappy when she came in
from her walk,--was not moody,--was not heart-broken. And yet it had
seemed to her, before the walk began, while they were sauntering
about Mrs. Brownlow's garden, that Ralph had devoted himself entirely
to the new cousin, and that Clarissa had been miserable. Surely if he
had spoken during the walk,--if he had renewed his protestations of
love, if he were now regarded by Clary as her accepted lover, Clary
would not keep all this as a secret! It could not be that Clary
should have surrendered herself to a lover, and that their father
was to be allowed to remain in ignorance that it was so! And yet
how could it be otherwise if Clary was happy now,--Clary who had
acknowledged that she loved this man, and had now been leaning on
his arm for an hour beneath the moonlight? But Patience said not a
word. She could not bring herself to speak when speech might pain her
sister.

When they had been some half hour in bed, there stole a whisper
across the darkness of the chamber from one couch to the other;
"Patty, are you asleep?" Patience declared that she was wide awake.
"Then I'll come to you,"--and Clary's naked feet pattered across
the room. "I've just something to say, and I'll say it better here."
Patience made glad way for the intruder, and knew that now she would
hear it all. "Patty, it is better to wait."

"What do you mean, dear?"

"I mean this. I think he does like me; I'm almost sure he does."

"He said nothing to-night?"

"He said a great deal,--of course; but nothing about that;--nothing
about that exactly."

"Oh, Clary, I'm afraid of him."

"What is the good of fear? The evil is, dear, I think he likes me,
but it may so well be that he cannot speak out. He is in debt, and
all that;--and he must wait."

"But that is so terrible. What will you do?"

"I will wait too. I have thought about it, and have determined.
What's the good of loving a man if one won't go through something for
him? I do love him,--with all my heart. I pray God I may never have a
husband, if I cannot be his wife." Patience shuddered in her sister's
embrace, as these bold words were spoken with energy. "I tell you,
Patty, just as I tell myself, because you love me so dearly."

"I do love you;--oh, I do love you."

"I do not think it can be unmaidenly to tell the truth to you and
to myself. How can I help telling it to myself? There it is. I feel
that I could kiss the very ground on which he stands. He is my
hero, my Paladin, my heart, my soul. I have given myself to him for
everything. How can I help myself?"

"But, Clary,--you should repress this, not encourage it."

"It won't be repressed,--not in my own heart. But I will never,
never, never let him know that it has been so,--till he is all my
own. There may be a day when,--oh,--I shall tell him everything;
how wretched I was when he did not speak to me;--how broken-hearted
when I heard his voice with Mary; how fluttered, and half-happy,
and half-wretched when I found that I was to have that long walk
with him;--and then how I determined to wait. I will tell him
all,--perhaps,--some day. Good-night, dear, dear Patty. I could not
sleep without letting you know everything." Then she sprang out from
her sister's arms, and pattered back across the room to her own bed.
In two minutes Clarissa was asleep, but Patience lay long awake, and
before she slept her pillow was damp with her tears.

In the course of the following week Ralph was again at the villa. Sir
Thomas, as a matter of course, was away, but the three girls were at
home; and, as it happened, Miss Spooner had also come over to take
her tea with her friends. The hour that he spent there was passed
half indoors and half out, and certainly Ralph's attentions were
chiefly paid to Miss Bonner. Miss Bonner herself, however, was so
discreet in her demeanour, that no one could have suggested that any
approach had been made to flirtation. To tell the truth, Mary, who
had received no confidence from her cousin,--and who was a girl slow
to excite or give a confidence,--had seen some sign, or heard some
word which had created on her mind a suspicion of the truth. It was
not that she thought that Clary's heart was irrecoverably given to
the young man, but that there seemed to be just something with which
it might be as well that she herself should not interfere. She was
there on sufferance,--dependent on her uncle's charity for her daily
bread, let her uncle say what he might to the contrary. As yet she
hardly knew her cousins, and was quite sure that she was not known by
them. She heard that Ralph Newton was a man of fashion, and the heir
to a large fortune. She knew herself to be utterly destitute,--but
she knew herself to be possessed of great beauty. In her bosom,
doubtless, there was an ambition to win by her beauty, from some man
whom she could love, those good things of which she was so destitute.
She did not lack ambition, and had her high hopes, grounded on the
knowledge of her own charms. Her beauty, and a certain sufficiency
of intellect,--of the extent of which she was in a remarkable degree
herself aware,--were the gifts with which she had been endowed. But
she knew when she might use them honestly and when she ought to
refrain from using them. Ralph had looked at her as men do look who
wish to be allowed to love. All this to her was much more clearly
intelligible than to Clarissa, who was two years her senior. Though
she had seen Ralph but thrice, she already felt that she might have
him on his knees before her, if she cared so to place him. But there
was that suspicion of something which had gone before, and a feeling
that honour and gratitude,--perhaps, also, self-interest,--called
upon her to be cold in her manner to Ralph Newton. She had purposely
avoided his companionship in their walk home from Mrs. Brownlow's
house; and now, as they wandered about the lawn and shrubberies of
Popham Villa, she took care not to be with him out of earshot of
the others. In all of which there was ten times more of womanly
cleverness,--or cunning, shall we say,--than had yet come to the
possession of Clarissa Underwood.

Cunning she was;--but she did not deserve that the objectionable
epithet should be applied to her. The circumstances of her life had
made her cunning. She had been the mistress of her father's house
since her fifteenth year, and for two years of her life had had a
succession of admirers at her feet. Her father had eaten and drunk
and laughed, and had joked with his child's lovers about his child.
It had been through no merit of his that she had held her own among
them all without soiling either her name or her inner self. Captains
in West Indian regiments, and lieutenants from Queen's ships lying at
Spanish Point, had been her admirers. Proposals to marry are as ready
on the tongues of such men, out in the tropics, as offers to hand
a shawl or carry a parasol. They are soft-hearted, bold to face
the world, and very confident in circumstances. Then, too, they
are ignorant of any other way to progress with a flirtation which
is all-engrossing. In warm latitudes it is so natural to make an
offer after the fifth dance. It is the way of the people in those
latitudes, and seems to lead to no harm. Men and women do marry on
small incomes; but they do not starve, and the world goes on wagging.
Mary Bonner, however, whose father's rank had, at least, been higher
than that of her adorers, and who knew that great gifts had been
given to her, had held herself aloof from all this, and had early
resolved to bide her time. She was still biding her time,--with
patience sufficient to enable her to resist the glances of Ralph
Newton.

Clarissa Underwood behaved very well on this evening. She gave a
merry glance at her sister, and devoted herself to Miss Spooner. Mary
was so wise and so prudent that there was no cause for any great
agony. As far as Clary could see, Ralph had quite as much to say to
Patience as to Mary. For herself she had resolved that she would
wait. Her manner to him was very pretty,--almost the manner of
a sister to a brother. And then she stayed resolutely with Miss
Spooner, while Ralph was certainly tempting Mary down by the
river-side. It did not last long. He was soon gone, and Miss Spooner
had soon followed him.

"He is very amusing," Mary said, as soon as they were alone.

"Very amusing," said Patience.

"And uncommonly good-looking. Isn't he considered a very handsome man
here?"

"Yes;--I suppose he is," said Patience. "I don't know that I ever
thought much about that."

"Of course he is," said Clarissa. "Nobody can doubt about it. There
are some people as to whom it is as absurd not to admit that they are
handsome as it would be to say that a fine picture is not beautiful.
Ralph is one such person,--and of course I know another."

Mary would not seem to take the allusion, even by a smile. "I always
thought Gregory much nicer looking," said Patience.

"That must be because you are in love with him," said Clarissa.

"There is a speaking brightness, an eloquence, in his eyes; and a
softness of feeling in the expression of his face, which is above all
beauty," continued Patience, with energy.

"Here's poetry," said Clarissa. "Eloquence, and softness, and eyes,
and feeling, and expressive and speaking brightness! You'd better say
at once that he's a god."

"I wish I knew him," said Mary Bonner.

"You'll know him before long, I don't doubt. And when you do, you'll
know one of the best fellows in the world. I'll admit as much as
that; but I will not admit that he can be compared to his brother in
regard to good looks." In all which poor Clarissa, who had nothing to
console her but her resolve to wait with courage, bore herself well
and gallantly.

Soon after this there arrived at Popham Villa the note from Gregory
Newton. As it happened, Sir Thomas was at home on that morning, and
heard the tidings. "If young Mr. Newton does come, get him to dine,
and I will take care to be at home," said Sir Thomas. Patience
suggested that Ralph,--their own Ralph,--should be asked to meet him;
but to this Sir Thomas would not accede. "It is not our business to
make up a family quarrel," he said. "I have had old Mr. Newton with
me once or twice lately, and I find that the quarrel still exists as
strong as ever. I asked him to dine here, but he refused. His son
chooses to come. I shall be glad to see him."

Gregory's letter had not been shown to Sir Thomas, but it was, of
course, shown to Clarissa. "How could I help it?" said she. From
which it may be presumed that Patience had looked as though Gregory
had been hardly treated. "One doesn't know how it is, or why it
comes, or what it is;--or why it doesn't come. I couldn't have taken
Gregory Newton for my husband."

"And yet he had all things to recommend him."

"I wish he had asked you, Patty!"

"Don't say that, dear, because there is in it something that annoys
me. I don't think of myself in such matters, but I do hope to see you
the happy wife of some happy man."

"I hope you will, with all my heart," said Clary, standing up,--"of
one man, of one special, dearest, best, and brightest of all men. Oh
dear! And yet I know it will never be, and I wonder at myself that I
have been bold enough to tell you." And Patience, also, wondered at
her sister's boldness.

Ralph Newton,--Ralph from the Priory,--did come down to the villa,
and did accept the invitation to dinner which was given to him. The
event was so important that Patience found it necessary to go up
to London to tell her father. Mary went with her, desirous to see
something of the mysteries of Southampton Buildings, while Clarissa
remained at home,--waiting. After the usual skirmishes with Stemm,
who began by swearing that his master was not at home, they made
their way into Sir Thomas's library. "Dear, dear, dear; this is
a very awkward place to bring your cousin to," he said, frowning.
Mary would have retreated at once had it not been that Patience held
her ground so boldly. "Why shouldn't she come, papa? And I had to
see you. Mr. Newton is to dine with us to-morrow." To-morrow was
a Saturday, and Sir Thomas became seriously displeased. Why had a
Saturday been chosen? Saturday was the most awkward day in the world
for the giving and receiving of dinners. It was in vain that Patience
explained to him that Saturday was the only day on which Mr. Newton
could come, that Sir Thomas had given his express authority for the
dinner, and that no bar had been raised against Saturday. "You ought
to have known," said Sir Thomas. Nevertheless, he allowed them to
leave the chamber with the understanding that he would preside at
his own table on the following day. "Why is it that Saturday is so
distasteful to him?" Mary asked as they walked across Lincoln's Inn
Fields together.

Patience was silent for awhile, not knowing how to answer the
question, or how to leave it unanswered. But at last she preferred to
make some reply. "He does not like going to our church, I think."

"But you like it."

"Yes;--and I wish papa did. But he doesn't." Then there was a pause.
"Of course it must strike you as very odd, the way in which we live."

"I hope it is not I who drive my uncle away."

"Not in the least, Mary. Since mamma's death he has fallen into this
habit, and he has got so to love solitude, that he is never happy but
when alone. We ought to be grateful to him because it shows that he
trusts us;--but it would be much nicer if he would come home."

"He is so different from my father."

"He was always with you."

"Well;--yes; that is, I could be always with him,--almost always.
He was so fond of society that he would never be alone. We had a
great rambling house, always full of people. If he could see people
pleasant and laughing, that was all that he wanted. It is hard to say
what is best."

"Papa is as good to us as ever he can be."

"So was my papa good to me,--in his way; but, oh dear, the people
that used to come there! Poor papa! He used to say that hospitality
was his chief duty. I sometimes used to think that the world
would be much pleasanter and better if there was no such thing as
hospitality;--if people always eat and drank alone, and lived as
uncle does, in his chambers. There would not be so much money wasted,
at any rate."

"Papa never wastes any money," said Patience,--"though there never
was a more generous man."

Ralph Newton,--Ralph of the Priory,--came to dinner, and Miss Spooner
was asked to meet him. It might have been supposed that a party
so composed would not have been very bright, but the party at the
villa went off very satisfactorily. Ralph made himself popular with
everybody. He became very popular with Sir Thomas by the frank and
easy way in which he spoke of the family difficulties at Newton. "I
wish my namesake knew my father," he said, when he was alone with the
lawyer after dinner. He never spoke of either of these Newtons as his
cousins, though to Gregory, whom he knew well and loved dearly, he
would declare that from him he felt entitled to exact all the dues of
cousinship.

"It would be desirable," said Sir Thomas.

"I never give it up. You know my father, I dare say. He thought
his brother interfered with him, and I suppose he did. But a more
affectionate or generous man never lived. He is quite as fond of
Gregory as he is of me, and would do anything on earth that Gregory
told him. He is rebuilding the chancel of the church just because
Gregory wishes it. Some day I hope they may be reconciled."

"It is hard to get over money difficulties," said Sir Thomas.

"I don't see why there should be money difficulties," said Ralph. "As
far as I am concerned there need be none."

"Ralph Newton has made money difficulties," said Sir Thomas. "If
he had been careful with his own fortune there would have been no
question as to the property between him and your father."

"I can understand that;--and I can understand also my father's
anxiety, though I do not share it. It would be better that my
namesake should have the estate. I can see into these matters quite
well enough to know that were it to be mine there would occur exactly
that which my father wishes to avoid. I should be the owner of Newton
Priory, and people would call me Mr. Newton. But I shouldn't be
Newton of Newton. It had better go to Ralph. I should live elsewhere,
and people would not notice me then."

Sir Thomas, as he looked up at the young man, leaning back in his
arm-chair and holding his glass half full of wine in his hand, could
not but tell himself that the greater was the pity. This off-shoot
of the Newton stock, who declared of himself that he never could be
Newton of Newton, was a fine, manly fellow to look at,--not handsome
as was Ralph the heir, not marked by that singular mixture of
gentleness, intelligence, and sweetness which was written, not only
on the countenance, but in the demeanour and very step of Gregory;
but he was a bigger man than either of them, with a broad chest, and
a square brow, and was not without that bright gleam of the Newton
blue eye, which characterised all the family. And there was so much
of the man in him;--whereas, in manhood, Ralph the heir had certainly
been deficient. "Ralph must lie on the bed that he has made," said
Sir Thomas. "And you, of course, will accept the good things that
come in your way. As far as I can see at present it will be best for
Ralph that your father should redeem from him a portion, at least, of
the property. The girls are waiting for us to go out, and perhaps you
will like a cigar on the lawn."

It was clear to every one there to see that this other Newton greatly
admired the West Indian cousin. And Mary, with this newcomer, seemed
to talk on easier terms than she had ever done before since she had
been at Fulham. She smiled, and listened, and was gracious, and made
those pleasant little half-affected sallies which girls do make to
men when they know that they are admired, and are satisfied that it
should be so. All the story had been told to her, and it might be
that the poor orphan felt that she was better fitted to associate
with the almost nameless one than with the true heir of the family.
Mr. Newton, when he got up to leave them, asked permission to come
again, and left them all with a pleasant air of intimacy. Two boats
had passed them, racing on the river, almost close to the edge of
their lawn, and Newton had offered to bet with Mary as to which would
first reach the bridge. "I wish you had taken my wager, Miss Bonner,"
he said, "because then I should have been bound to come back at once
to pay you." "That's all very well, Mr. Newton," said Mary, "but I
have heard of gentlemen who are never seen again when they lose."
"Mr. Newton is unlike that, I'm sure," said Clary; "but I hope he'll
come again at any rate." Newton promised that he would, and was fully
determined to keep his promise when he made it.

"Wouldn't it be delightful if they were to fall in love with each
other and make a match of it?" said Clary to her sister.

"I don't like to plot and plan such things," said Patience.

"I don't like to scheme, but I don't see any harm in planning. He is
ever so nice,--isn't he?"

"I thought him very pleasant."

"Such an open-spoken, manly, free sort of fellow. And he'll be very
well off, you know."

"I don't know;--but I dare say he will," said Patience.

"Oh yes, you do. Poor Ralph, our Ralph, is a spendthrift, and I
shouldn't wonder if this one were to have the property after all.
And then his father is very rich. I know that because Gregory told
me. Dear me! wouldn't it be odd if we were all three to become Mrs.
Newtons?"

"Clary, what did I tell you?"

"Well; I won't. But it would be odd,--and so nice, at least I think
so. Well;--I dare say I ought not to say it. But then I can't help
thinking it,--and surely I may tell you what I think."

"I would think it as little as I could, dear."

"Ah, that's very well. A girl can be a hypocrite if she pleases,
and perhaps she ought. Of course I shall be a hypocrite to all
the world except you. I tell you what it is, Patty;--you make me
tell you everything, and say that of course you and I are to tell
everything,--and then you scold me. Don't you want me to tell you
everything?"

"Indeed I do;--and I won't scold you. Dear Clary, do I scold you?
Wouldn't I give one of my eyes to make you happy?"

"That's quite a different thing," said Clarissa.

Three days afterwards Mr. Ralph Newton;--it is hoped that the reader
may understand the attempts which are made to designate the two young
men;--Mr. Ralph Newton appeared again at Popham Villa. He came in
almost with the gait of an old friend, and brought some fern leaves,
which he had already procured from Hampshire, in compliance with a
promise which he had made to Patience Underwood. "That's what we
call the hart's tongue," said he, "though I fancy they give them all
different names in different places."

"It's the same plant as ours, Mr. Newton,--only yours is larger."

"It's the ugliest of all the ferns," said Clary.

"Even that's a compliment," said Newton. "It's no use transplanting
them in this weather, but I'll send you a basket in October. You
should come down to Newton and see our ferns. We think we're very
pretty, but because we're so near, nobody comes to see us." Then he
fell a-talking with Mary Bonner, and stayed at the villa nearly all
the afternoon. For a moment or two he was alone with Clarissa, and at
once expressed his admiration. "I don't think I ever saw such perfect
beauty as your cousin's," he said.

"She is handsome."

"And then she is so fair, whereas everybody expects to see dark eyes
and black hair come from the West Indies."

"But Mary wasn't born there."

"That doesn't matter. The mind doesn't travel back as far as that.
A negro should be black, and an American thin, and a French woman
should have her hair dragged up by the roots, and a German should be
broad-faced, and a Scotchman red-haired,--and a West Indian beauty
should be dark and languishing."

"I'll tell her you say so, and perhaps she'll have herself altered."

"Whatever you do, don't let her be altered," said Mr. Newton. "She
can't be changed for the better."

"I am quite sure he is over head and ears in love," said Clarissa to
Patience that evening.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE CHESHIRE CHEESE.


"Labour is the salt of the earth, and Capital is the sworn foe to
Labour." Hear, hear, hear, with the clattering of many glasses, and
the smashing of certain pipes! Then the orator went on. "That Labour
should be the salt of the earth has been the purpose of a beneficent
Creator;--that Capital should be the foe to Labour has been
man's handywork. The one is an eternal decree, which nothing can
change,--which neither the good nor the evil done by man can affect.
The other is an evil ordinance, the fruit of man's ignorance and
within the scope of man's intellect to annul." Mr. Ontario Moggs
was the orator, and he was at this moment addressing a crowd of
sympathising friends in the large front parlour of the Cheshire
Cheese. Of all those who were listening to Ontario Moggs there was
not probably one who had reached a higher grade in commerce than that
of an artizan working for weekly wages;--but Mr. Moggs was especially
endeared to them because he was not an artizan working for weekly
wages, but himself a capitalist. His father was a master bootmaker on
a great scale;--for none stood much higher in the West-end trade than
Booby and Moggs; and it was known that Ontario was the only child
and heir, and as it were sole owner of the shoulders on which must
some day devolve the mantle of Booby and Moggs. Booby had long been
gathered to his fathers, and old Moggs was the stern opponent of
strikes. What he had lost by absolutely refusing to yield a point
during the last strike among the shoemakers of London no one could
tell. He had professed aloud that he would sooner be ruined, sooner
give up his country residence at Shepherd's Bush, sooner pull down
the honoured names of Booby and Moggs from over the shop-window in
Old Bond Street, than allow himself to be driven half an inch out
of his course by men who were attempting to dictate to him what he
should do with his own. In these days of strikes Moggs would look
even upon his own workmen with the eyes of a Coriolanus glaring upon
the disaffected populace of Rome. Mr. Moggs senior would stand at his
shop-door, with his hand within his waistcoat, watching the men out
on strike who were picketing the streets round his shop, and would
feel himself every inch a patrician, ready to die for his order. Such
was Moggs senior. And Moggs junior, who was a child of Capital, but
whose heirship depended entirely on his father's will, harangued his
father's workmen and other workmen at the Cheshire Cheese, telling
them that Labour was the salt of the earth, and that Capital was
the foe to Labour! Of course they loved him. The demagogue who
is of all demagogues the most popular, is the demagogue who is a
demagogue in opposition to his apparent nature. The radical Earl,
the free-thinking parson, the squire who won't preserve, the tenant
who defies his landlord, the capitalist with a theory for dividing
profits, the Moggs who loves a strike,--these are the men whom the
working men delight to follow. Ontario Moggs, who was at any rate
honest in his philanthropy, and who did in truth believe that it was
better that twenty real bootmakers should eat beef daily than that
one so-called bootmaker should live in a country residence,--who
believed this and acted on his belief, though he was himself not
of the twenty, but rather the one so-called bootmaker who would
suffer by the propagation of such a creed,--was beloved and almost
worshipped by the denizens of the Cheshire Cheese. How far the real
philanthropy of the man may have been marred by an uneasy and fatuous
ambition; how far he was carried away by a feeling that it was better
to make speeches at the Cheshire Cheese than to apply for payment of
money due to his father, it would be very hard for us to decide. That
there was an alloy even in Ontario Moggs is probable;--but of this
alloy his hearers knew nothing. To them he was a perfect specimen of
that combination, which is so grateful to them, of the rich man's
position with the poor man's sympathies. Therefore they clattered
their glasses, and broke their pipes, and swore that the words he
uttered were the kind of stuff they wanted.

"The battle has been fought since man first crawled upon the earth,"
continued Moggs, stretching himself to his full height and pointing
to the farthest confines of the inhabited globe;--"since man first
crawled upon the earth." There was a sound in that word "crawl"
typical of the abject humility to which working shoemakers were
subjected by their employers, which specially aroused the feelings
of the meeting. "And whence comes the battle?" The orator paused,
and the glasses were jammed upon the table. "Yes,--whence comes the
battle, in fighting which hecatombs of honest labourers have been
crushed till the sides of the mountains are white with their bones,
and the rivers run foul with their blood? From the desire of one
man to eat the bread of two?" "That's it," said a lean, wizened,
pale-faced little man in a corner, whose trembling hand was resting
on a beaker of gin and water. "Yes, and to wear two men's coats and
trousers, and to take two men's bedses and the wery witals out of two
men's bodies. D---- them!" Ontario, who understood something of his
trade as an orator, stood with his hand still stretched out, waiting
till this ebullition should be over. "No, my friend," said he, "we
will not damn them. I for one will damn no man. I will simply rebel.
Of all the sacraments given to us, the sacrament of rebellion is the
most holy." Hereupon the landlord of the Cheshire Cheese must have
feared for his tables, so great was the applause and so tremendous
the thumping;--but he knew his business, no doubt, and omitted to
interfere. "Of Rebellion, my friends," continued Ontario, with his
right hand now gracefully laid across his breast, "there are two
kinds,--or perhaps we may say three. There is the rebellion of arms,
which can avail us nothing here." "Perhaps it might tho'," said the
little wizened man in a corner, whose gin and water apparently did
not comfort him. To this interruption Ontario paid no attention. "And
there is the dignified and slow rebellion of moral resistance;--too
slow I fear for us." This point was lost upon the audience, and
though the speaker paused, no loud cheer was given. "It's as true as
true," said one man; but he was a vain fellow, simply desirous of
appearing wiser than his comrades. "And then there is the rebellion
of the Strike;" now the clamour of men's voices, and the kicking of
men's feet, and the thumping with men's fists became more frantic
than ever;"--the legitimate rebellion of Labour against its tyrant.
Gentlemen, of all efforts this is the most noble. It is a sacrifice
of self, a martyrdom, a giving up on the part of him who strikes of
himself, his little ones, and his wife, for the sake of others who
can only thus be rescued from the grasp of tyranny. Gentlemen, were
it not for strikes, this would be a country in which no free man
could live. By the aid of strikes we will make it the Paradise of
the labourer, an Elysium of industry, an Eden of artizans." There
was much more of it,--but the reader might be fatigued were the full
flood of Mr. Moggs's oratory to be let loose upon him. And through
it all there was a germ of truth and a strong dash of true, noble
feeling;--but the speaker had omitted as yet to learn how much
thought must be given to a germ of truth before it can be made to
produce fruit for the multitude. And then, in speaking, grand words
come so easily, while thoughts,--even little thoughts,--flow so
slowly!


[Illustration: "The battle has been fought since man first
crawled upon the earth," continued Moggs, stretching himself
to his full height and pointing to the farthest confines of
the inhabited globe . . .]


But the speech, such as it was, sufficed amply for the immediate
wants of the denizens of the Cheshire Cheese. There were men there
who for the half-hour believed that Ontario Moggs had been born to
settle all the difficulties between labourers and their employers,
and that he would do so in such a way that the labourers, at least,
should have all that they wanted. It would be, perhaps, too much to
say that any man thought this would come in his own day,--that he so
believed as to put a personal trust in his own belief; but they did
think for a while that the good time was coming, and that Ontario
Moggs would make it come. "We'll have 'im in parl'ament any ways,"
said a sturdy, short, dirty-looking artizan, who shook his head as
he spoke to show that, on that matter, his mind was quite made up.
"I dunno no good as is to cum of sending sich as him to parl'ament,"
said another. "Parl'ament ain't the place. When it comes to the p'int
they won't 'ave 'em. There was Odgers, and Mr. Beale. I don't b'lieve
in parl'ament no more." "Kennington Oval's about the place," said a
third. "Or Primrose 'ill," said a fourth. "Hyde Park!" screamed the
little wizen man with the gin and water. "That's the ticket;--and
down with them gold railings. We'll let' em see!" Nevertheless they
all went away home in the quietest way in the world, and,--as there
was no strike in hand,--got to their work punctually on the next
morning. Of all those who had been loudest at the Cheshire Cheese
there was not one who was not faithful, and, in a certain way, loyal
to his employer.

As soon as his speech was over and he was able to extricate himself
from the crowd, Ontario Moggs escaped from the public-house
and strutted off through certain narrow, dark streets in the
neighbourhood, leaning on the arm of a faithful friend. "Mr. Moggs,
you did pitch it rayther strong, to-night," said the faithful friend.

"Pitch it rather strong;--yes. What good do you think can ever come
from pitching any thing weak? Pitch it as strong as you will, find it
don't amount to much."

"But about rebellion, now, Mr. Moggs? Rebellion ain't a good thing,
surely, Mr. Moggs."

"Isn't it? What was Washington, what was Cromwell, what was Rienzi,
what was,--was,--; but never mind," said Ontario, who could not at
the moment think of the name of his favourite Pole.

"And you think as the men should be rebels again' the masters?"

"That depends on who the masters are, Waddle."

"What good 'd cum of it if I rebelled again' Mr. Neefit, and told him
up to his face as I wouldn't make up the books? He'd only sack me. I
find thirty-five bob a week, with two kids and their mother to keep
on it, tight enough, Mr. Moggs. If I 'ad the fixing on it, I should
say forty bob wasn't over the mark;--I should indeed. But I don't see
as I should get it."

"Yes you would;--if you earned it, and stuck to your purpose. But
you're a single stick, and it requires a faggot to do this work."

"I never could see it, Mr. Moggs. All the same I do like to hear you
talk. It stirs one up, even though one don't just go along with it.
You won't let on, you know, to Mr. Neefit as I was there."

"And why not?" said Ontario, turning sharp upon his companion.

"The old gen'leman hates the very name of a strike. He's a'most as
bad as your own father, Mr. Moggs."

"You have done his work to-day. You have earned your bread. You owe
him nothing."

"That I don't, Mr. Moggs. He'll take care of that."

"And yet you are to stay away from this place, or go to that, to suit
his pleasure. Are you Neefit's slave?"

"I'm just the young man in his shop,--that's all."

"As long as that is all, Waddle, you are not worthy to be called a
man."

"Mr. Moggs, you're too hard. As for being a man, I am a man.
I've a wife and two kids. I don't think more of my governor than
another;--but if he sacked me, where 'd I get thirty-five bob
a-week?"

"I beg your pardon, Waddle;--it's true. I should not have said it.
Perhaps you do not quite understand me, but your position is one of
a single stick, rather than of the faggot. Ah me! She hasn't been at
the shop lately?"

"She do come sometimes. She was there the day before yesterday."

"And alone?"

"She come alone, and she went home with the governor."

"And he?"

"Mr. Newton, you mean?"

"Has he been there?"

"Well;--yes; he was there once last week."

"Well?"

"There was words;--that's what there was. It ain't going smooth, and
he ain't been out there no more,--not as I knows on. I did say a word
once or twice as to the precious long figure as he stands for on our
books. Over two hundred for breeches is something quite stupendous.
Isn't it, Mr. Moggs?"

"And what did Neefit say?"

"Just snarled at me. He can show his teeth, you know, and look as
bitter as you like. It ain't off, because when I just named the very
heavy figure in such a business as ours,--he only snarled. But it
ain't on, Mr. Moggs. It ain't what I call,--on." After this they
walked on in silence for a short way, when Mr. Waddle made a little
proposition. "He's on your books, too, Mr. Moggs, pretty tight, as
I'm told. Why ain't you down on him?"

"Down on him?" said Moggs.

"I wouldn't leave him an hour, if I was you."

"D'you think that's the way I would be down on,--a rival?" and Moggs,
as he walked along, worked both his fists closely in his energy. "If
I can't be down on him other gait than that, I'll leave him alone.
But, Waddle, by my sacred honour as a man, I'll not leave him alone!"
Waddle started, and stood with his mouth open, looking up at his
friend. "Base, mercenary, false-hearted loon! What is it that he
wants?"

"Old Neefit's money. That's it, you know."

"He doesn't know what love means, and he'd take that fair creature,
and drag her through the dirt, and subject her to the scorn
of hardened aristocrats, and crush her spirits, and break her
heart,--just because her father has scraped together a mass of gold.
But I,--I wouldn't let the wind blow on her too harshly. I despise
her father's money. I love her. Yes;--I'll be down upon him somehow.
Good-night, Waddle. To come between me and the pride of my heart for
a little dirt! Yes; I'll be down upon him." Waddle stood and admired.
He had read of such things in books, but here it was brought home to
him in absolute life. He had a young wife whom he loved, but there
had been no poetry about his marriage. One didn't often come across
real poetry in the world,--Waddle felt;--but when one did, the treat
was great. Now Ontario Moggs was full of poetry. When he preached
rebellion it was very grand,--though at such moments Waddle was apt
to tell himself that he was precluded by his two kids from taking an
active share in such poetry as that. But when Moggs was roused to
speak of his love, poetry couldn't go beyond that. "He'll drop into
that customer of ours," said Waddle to himself, "and he'll mean
it when he's a doing of it. But Polly 'll never 'ave 'im." And
then there came across Waddle's mind an idea which he could not
express,--that of course no girl would put up with a bootmaker who
could have a real gentleman. Real gentlemen think a good deal of
themselves, but not half so much as is thought of them by men who
know that they themselves are of a different order.

Ontario Moggs, as he went homewards by himself, was disturbed by
various thoughts. If it really was to be the case that Polly Neefit
wouldn't have him, why should he stay in a country so ill-adapted to
his manner of thinking as this? Why remain in a paltry island while
all the starry west, with its brilliant promises, was open to him?
Here he could only quarrel with his father, and become a rebel, and
perhaps live to find himself in a jail. And then what could he do of
good? He preached and preached, but nothing came of it. Would not
the land of the starry west suit better such a heart and such a mind
as his? But he wouldn't stir while his fate was as yet unfixed in
reference to Polly Neefit. Strikes were dear to him, and oratory, and
the noisy applauses of the Cheshire Cheese; but nothing was so dear
to him as Polly Neefit. He went about the world with a great burden
lying on his chest, and that burden was his love for Polly Neefit.
In regard to strikes and the ballot he did in a certain way reason
within himself and teach himself to believe that he had thought out
those matters; but as to Polly he thought not at all. He simply loved
her, and felt himself to be a wild, frantic man, quarrelling with his
father, hurrying towards jails and penal settlements, rushing about
the streets half disposed to suicide, because Polly Neefit would have
none of him. He had been jealous, too, of the gasfitter, when he had
seen his Polly whirling round the room in the gasfitter's arms;--but
the gasfitter was no gentleman, and the battle had been even. In
spite of the whirling he still had a chance against the gasfitter.
But the introduction of the purple and fine linen element into his
affairs was maddening to him. With all his scorn for gentry, Ontario
Moggs in his heart feared a gentleman. He thought that he could make
an effort to punch Ralph Newton's head if they two were ever to be
brought together in a spot convenient for such an operation; but of
the man's standing in the world, he was afraid. It seemed to him to
be impossible that Polly should prefer him, or any one of his class,
to a suitor whose hands were always clean, whose shirt was always
white, whose words were soft and well-chosen, who carried with him
none of the stain of work. Moggs was as true as steel in his genuine
love of Labour,--of Labour with a great L,--of the People with a
great P,--of Trade with a great T,--of Commerce with a great C; but
of himself individually,--of himself, who was a man of the people,
and a tradesman, he thought very little when he compared himself to
a gentleman. He could not speak as they spoke; he could not walk as
they walked; he could not eat as they ate. There was a divinity about
a gentleman which he envied and hated.

Now Polly Neefit was not subject to this idolatry. Could Moggs
have read her mind, he might have known that success, as from the
bootmaker against the gentleman, was by no means so hopeless an
affair. What Polly liked was a nice young man, who would hold up his
head and be true to her,--and who would not make a fool of himself.
If he could waltz into the bargain, that also would Polly like.

On that night Ontario walked all the way out to Alexandria Cottage,
and spent an hour leaning upon the gate, looking up at the window
of the breeches-maker's bedroom;--for the chamber of Polly herself
opened backwards. When he had stood there an hour, he walked home to
Bond Street.



CHAPTER XVII.

RALPH NEWTON'S DOUBTS.


That month of August was a very sad time indeed for Ralph the heir.
With him all months were, we may say, idle months; but, as a rule,
August was of all the most idle. Sometimes he would affect to shoot
grouse, but hunting, not grouse-shooting, was his passion as a
sportsman. He would leave London, and spend perhaps a couple of days
with Mr. Horsball looking at the nags. Then he would run down to
some sea-side place, and flirt and laugh and waste his time upon the
sands. Or he would go abroad as far as Dieppe, or perhaps Biarritz,
and so would saunter through the end of the summer. It must not be
supposed of him that he was not fully conscious that this manner of
life was most pernicious. He knew it well, knew that it would take
him to the dogs, made faint resolves at improvement which he hardly
for an hour hoped to be able to keep,--and was in truth anything but
happy. This was his usual life;--and so for the last three or four
years had he contrived to get through this month of August. But now
the utmost sternness of business had come upon him. He was forced to
remain in town, found himself sitting day after day in his lawyer's
anteroom, was compelled to seek various interviews with Sir Thomas,
in which it was impossible that Sir Thomas should make himself very
pleasant; and,--worst of all,--was at last told that he must make up
his own mind!

Squire Newton was also up in London; and though London was never much
to his taste, he was in these days by no means so wretched as his
nephew. He was intent on a certain object, and he began to hope, nay
to think, that his object might be achieved. He had not once seen his
nephew, having declared his conviction very strongly that it would be
better for all parties that they should remain apart. His own lawyer
he saw frequently, and Ralph's lawyer once, and Sir Thomas more than
once or twice. There was considerable delay, but the Squire would
not leave London till something was, if not settled, at any rate
arranged, towards a settlement. And it was the expression of his will
conveyed through the two lawyers which kept Ralph in London. What was
the worth of Ralph's interest in the property? That was one great
question. Would Ralph sell that interest when the price was fixed?
That was the second question. Ralph, to whom the difficulty of giving
an answer was as a labour of Hercules, staved off the evil day for
awhile by declaring that he must know what was the price before he
could say whether he would sell the article. The exact price could
not be fixed. The lawyers combined in saying that the absolute sum
of money to include all Ralph's interest in the estate could not be
named that side of Christmas. It was not to be thought of that any
actuary, or valuer, or lawyer, or conveyancer, should dispose of
so great a matter by a month's work. But something approaching to
a settlement might be made. A sum might be named as a minimum. And
a compact might be made, subject to the arbitration of a sworn
appraiser. A sum was named. The matter was carried so far, that Ralph
was told that he could sign away all his rights by the middle of
September,--sign away the entire property,--and have his pockets
filled with ample funds for the Moonbeam, and all other delights. He
might pay off Moggs and Neefit, and no longer feel that Polly,--poor
dear Polly,--was a millstone round his neck. And he would indeed, in
this event, be so well provided, that he did not for a moment doubt
that, if he chose so to circumscribe himself, Clarissa Underwood
might be his wife. All the savings of the Squire's life would be
his,--enough, as the opposing lawyer told him with eager pressing
words, to give him an estate of over a thousand a year at once. "And
it may be more,--probably will be more," said the lawyer. But at the
very least a sum approaching to thirty thousand pounds would be paid
over to him at once. And he might do what he pleased with this. There
was still a remnant of his own paternal property sufficient to pay
his debts.

But why should a man whose encumbrances were so trifling, sacrifice
prospects that were so glorious? Could he not part with a portion
of the estate,--with the reversion of half of it, so that the house
of Newton, Newton Priory, with its grouse and paddocks and adjacent
farms, might be left to him? If the whole were saleable, surely
so also must be the half. The third of the money offered to him
would more than suffice for all his wants. No doubt he might sell
the half,--but not to the Squire, nor could he effect such sale
immediately as he would do if the Squire bought it, nor on such
terms as were offered by the Squire. Money he might raise at once,
certainly; but it became by degrees as a thing certain to him, that
if once he raised money in that way, the estate would fly from him.
His uncle was a hale man, and people told him that his own life was
not so much better than his uncle's. His uncle had a great object,
and if Ralph chose to sell at all, that fact would be worth thousands
to him. But his uncle would not buy the reversion of half or of a
portion of the property. The Squire at last spoke his mind freely
on this matter to Sir Thomas. "It shall never be cast in my son's
teeth," he said, "that his next neighbour is the real man. Early in
life I made a mistake, and I have had to pay for it ever since. I am
paying for it now, and must pay for it to the end. But my paying for
it will be of small service if my boy has to pay for it afterwards."
Sir Thomas understood him and did not press the point.

Ralph was nearly driven wild with the need of deciding. Moggs's bill
at two months was coming due, and he knew that he could expect no
mercy there. To Neefit's establishment in Conduit Street he had gone
once, and had had words,--as Waddle had told to his rival. Neefit
was still persistent in his wishes,--still urgent that Newton should
go forth to Hendon like a man, and "pop" at once. "I'll tell you
what, Captain," said he;--he had taken to calling Ralph Captain, as a
goodly familiar name, feeling, no doubt, that Mister was cold between
father-in-law and son-in-law, and not quite daring to drop all
reverential title;--"if you're a little hard up, as I know you are,
you can have three or four hundred if you want it." Ralph did want it
sorely. "I know how you stand with old Moggs," said Neefit, "and I'll
see you all right there." Neefit was very urgent. He too had heard
something of these dealings among the lawyers. To have his Polly Mrs.
Newton of Newton Priory! The prize was worth fighting for. "Don't let
them frighten you about a little ready money, Captain. If it comes to
that, other folk has got ready money besides them."

"Your trust in me surprises me," said Ralph. "I already owe you money
which I can't pay you."

"I know where to trust, and I know where not to trust. If you'll once
say as how you'll pop the question to Polly, fair and honest, on
the square, you shall have five hundred;--bless me, if you shan't.
If she don't take you after all, why then I must look for my money
by-and-bye. If you're on the square with me, Captain, you'll never
find me hard to deal with."

"I hope I shall be on the square, at any rate."

"Then you step out to her and pop." Hereupon Ralph made a long and
intricate explanation of his affairs, the object of which was to
prove to Mr. Neefit that a little more delay was essential. He was so
environed by business and difficulties at the present moment that he
could take no immediate step such as Mr. Neefit suggested,--no such
step quite immediately. In about another fortnight, or in a month at
the furthest, he would be able to declare his purpose. "And how about
Moggs?" said Neefit, putting his hands into his breeches-pocket,
pulling down the corners of his mouth, and fixing his saucer eyes
full upon the young man's face. So he stood for some seconds, and
then came the words of which Waddle had spoken. Neefit could not
disentangle the intricacies of Ralph's somewhat fictitious story; but
he had wit enough to know what it meant. "You ain't on the square,
Captain. That's what you ain't," he said at last. It must be owned
that the accusation was just, and it was made so loudly that Waddle
did not at all exaggerate in saying that there had been words.
Nevertheless, when Ralph left the shop Neefit relented. "You come to
me, Captain, when Moggs's bit of stiff comes round."

A few days after that Ralph went to Sir Thomas, with the object of
declaring his decision;--at least Sir Thomas understood that such
was to be the purport of the visit. According to his ideas there
had been quite enough of delay. The Squire had been liberal in his
offer; and though the thing to be sold was in all its bearings so
valuable, though it carried with it a value which, in the eyes of
Sir Thomas,--and, indeed, in the eyes of all Englishmen,--was far
beyond all money price, though the territorial position was, for a
legitimate heir, almost a principality; yet, when a man cannot keep a
thing, what can he do but part with it? Ralph had made his bed, and
he must lie upon it. Sir Thomas had done what he could, but it had
all amounted to nothing. There was this young man a beggar,--but for
this reversion which he had now the power of selling. As for that
mode of extrication by marrying the breeches-maker's daughter,--that
to Sir Thomas was infinitely the worst evil of the two. Let Ralph
accept his uncle's offer and he would still be an English gentleman,
free to live as such, free to marry as such, free to associate with
friends fitting to his habits of life. And he would be a gentleman,
too, with means sufficing for a gentleman's wants. But that escape by
way of the breeches-maker's daughter would, in accordance with Sir
Thomas's view of things, destroy everything.

"Well, Ralph," he said, sighing, almost groaning, as his late ward
took the now accustomed chair opposite to his own.

"I wish I'd never been born," said Ralph, "and that Gregory stood in
my place."

"But you have been born, Ralph. We must take things as we find them."
Then there was a long silence. "I think, you know, that you should
make up your mind one way or the other. Your uncle of course feels
that as he is ready to pay the money at once he is entitled to an
immediate answer."

"I don't see that at all," said Ralph. "I am under no obligation to
my uncle, and I don't see why I am to be bustled by him. He is doing
nothing for my sake."

"He has, at any rate, the power of retracting."

"Let him retract."

"And then you'll be just where you were before,--ready to fall into
the hands of the Jews. If you must part with your property you cannot
do so on better terms."

"It seems to me that I shall be selling £7,000 a year in land for
about £1,200 a year in the funds."

"Just so;--that's about it, I suppose. But can you tell me when the
land will be yours,--or whether it will ever be yours at all? What is
it that you have got to sell? But, Ralph, it is no good going over
all that again."

"I know that, Sir Thomas."

"I had hoped you would have come to some decision. If you can save
the property of course you ought to do so. If you can live on what
pittance is left to you--"

"I can save it."

"Then do save it."

"I can save it by--marrying."

"By selling yourself to the daughter of a man who makes--breeches! I
can give you advice on no other point; but I do advise you not to do
that. I look upon an ill-assorted marriage as the very worst kind of
ruin. I cannot myself conceive any misery greater than that of having
a wife whom I could not ask my friends to meet."

Ralph when he heard this blushed up to the roots of his hair. He
remembered that when he had first mentioned to Sir Thomas his
suggested marriage with Polly Neefit he had said that as regarded
Polly herself he thought that Patience and Clarissa would not
object to her. He was now being told by Sir Thomas himself that his
daughters would certainly not consent to meet Polly Neefit, should
Polly Neefit become Mrs. Newton. He, too, had his ideas of his own
standing in the world, and had not been slow to assure himself
that the woman whom he might choose for his wife would be a fit
companion for any lady,--as long as the woman was neither vicious
nor disagreeable. He could make any woman a lady; he could, at any
rate, make Polly Neefit a lady. He rose from his seat, and prepared
to leave the room in disgust. "I won't trouble you by coming here
again," he said.

"You are welcome, Ralph," said Sir Thomas. "If I could assist you,
you would be doubly welcome."

"I know I have been a great trouble to you,--a thankless, fruitless,
worthless trouble. I shall make up my mind, no doubt, in a day or
two, and I will just write you a line. I need not bother you by
coming any more. Of course I think a great deal about it."

"No doubt," said Sir Thomas.

"Unluckily I have been brought up to know the value of what it is
I have to throw away. It is a kind of thing that a man doesn't do
without some regrets."

"They should have come earlier," said Sir Thomas.

"No doubt;--but they didn't, and it is no use saying anything more
about it. Good-day, sir." Then he flounced out of the room, impatient
of that single word of rebuke which had been administered to him.

Sir Thomas, as soon as he was alone, applied himself at once to the
book which he had reluctantly put aside when he was disturbed. But he
could not divest his mind of its trouble, as quickly as his chamber
had been divested of the presence of its troubler. He had said
an ill-natured word, and that grieved him. And then,--was he not
taking all this great matter too easily? If he would only put his
shoulder to the wheel thoroughly might he not do something to save
this friend,--this lad, who had been almost as his own son,--from
destruction? Would it not be a burden on his conscience to the last
day of his life that he had allowed his ward to be ruined, when by
some sacrifice of his own means he might have saved him? He sat and
thought of it, but did not really resolve that anything could be
done. He was wont to think in the same way of his own children, whom
he neglected. His conscience had been pricking him all his life, but
it hardly pricked him sharp enough to produce consequences.

During those very moments in which Ralph was leaving Southampton
Buildings he had almost made up his mind to go at once to Alexandria
Cottage, and to throw himself and the future fate of Newton Priory at
the feet of Polly Neefit. Two incidents in his late interview with
Sir Thomas tended to drive him that way. Sir Thomas had told him that
should he marry the daughter of a man who made--breeches, no lady
would associate with his wife. Sir Thomas also had seemed to imply
that he must sell his property. He would show Sir Thomas that he
could have a will and a way of his own. Polly Neefit should become
his wife; and he would show the world that no proudest lady in the
land was treated with more delicate consideration by her husband than
the breeches-maker's daughter should be treated by him. And when it
should please Providence to decide that the present squire of Newton
had reigned long enough over that dominion, he would show the world
that he had known something of his own position and the value of his
own prospects. Then Polly should be queen in the Newton dominions,
and he would see whether the ordinary world of worshippers would not
come and worship as usual. All the same, he did not on that occasion
go out to Alexandria Cottage.

When he reached his club he found a note from his brother.


   Newton Peele, September 8th, 186--.

   MY DEAR RALPH,--

   I have been sorry not to have had an answer from you to
   the letter which I wrote to you about a month ago. Of
   course I hear of what is going on. Ralph Newton up at the
   house tells me everything. The Squire is still in town,
   as, of course, you know; and there has got to be a report
   about here that he has, as the people say, bought you out.
   I still hope that this is not true. The very idea of it
   is terrible to me;--that you should sell for an old song,
   as it were, the property that has belonged to us for
   centuries! It would not, indeed, go out of the name, but,
   as far as you and I are concerned, that is the same. I
   will not refuse, myself, to do anything that you may say
   is necessary to extricate yourself from embarrassment; but
   I ran hardly bring myself to believe that a step so fatal
   as this can be necessary.

   If I understand the matter rightly your difficulty is not
   so much in regard to debts as in the want of means of
   livelihood. If so, can you not bring yourself to live
   quietly for a term of years. Of course you ought to marry,
   and there may be a difficulty there; but almost anything
   would be better than abandoning the property. As I told
   you before, you are welcome to the use of the whole of my
   share of the London property. It is very nearly £400 a
   year. Could you not live on that till things come round?

   Our cousin Ralph knows that I am writing to you, and knows
   what my feelings are. It is not he that is so anxious for
   the purchase. Pray write and tell me what is to be done.

   Most affectionately yours,

   GREGORY NEWTON.

   I wouldn't lose a day in doing anything you might direct
   about the Holborn property.


Ralph received this at his club, and afterwards dined alone,
considering it. Before the evening was over he thought that he had
made up his mind that he would not, under any circumstances, give up
his reversionary right. "They couldn't make me do it, even though I
went to prison," he said to himself. Let him starve till he died, and
then the property would go to Gregory! What did it matter? The thing
that did matter was this,--that the estate should not be allowed to
depart out of the true line of the Newton family. He sat thinking of
it half the night, and before he left the club he wrote the following
note to his brother;--


   September 9th, 186--.

   DEAR GREG.,--

   Be sure of this,--that I will not part with my interest in
   the property. I do not think that I can be forced, and I
   will never do it willingly. It may be that I may be driven
   to take advantage of your liberality and prudence. If so,
   I can only say that you shall share the property with me
   when it comes.

   Yours always,

   R. N.


This he gave to the porter of the club as he passed out; and then, as
he went home, he acknowledged to himself that it was tantamount to a
decision on his part that he would forthwith marry Polly Neefit.



CHAPTER XVIII.

WE WON'T SELL BROWNRIGGS.


On the 10th of September the Squire was informed that Ralph Newton
demanded another ten days for his decision, and that he had
undertaken to communicate it by letter on the 20th. The Squire
had growled, thinking that his nephew was unconscionable, and had
threatened to withdraw his offer. The lawyer, with a smile, assured
him that the matter really was progressing very quickly, that things
of that kind could rarely be carried on so expeditiously; and that,
in short, Mr. Newton had no fair ground of complaint. "When a man
pays through the nose for his whistle, he ought to get it!" said the
Squire, plainly showing that his idea as to the price fixed was very
different from that entertained by his nephew. But he did not retract
his offer. He was too anxious to accomplish the purchase to do that.
He would go home, he said, and wait till the 20th. Then he would
return to London. And he did go home.

On the first evening he said very little to his son. He felt that his
son did not quite sympathise with him, and he was sore that it should
be so. He could not be angry with his son. He knew well that this
want of sympathy arose from a conviction on this son's part that, let
what might be done in regard to the property, nothing could make him,
who was illegitimate, capable of holding the position in the country
which of right belonged to Newton of Newton. But the presence of this
feeling in the mind of the son was an accusation against himself
which was very grievous to him. Almost every act of his latter
life had been done with the object of removing the cause for such
accusation. To make his boy such as he would have been in every
respect had not his father sinned in his youth, had been the one
object of the father's life. And nobody gainsayed him in this but
that son himself. Nobody told him that all his bother about the
estate was of no avail. Nobody dared to tell him so. Parson Gregory,
in his letters to his brother, could express such an opinion. Sir
Thomas, sitting alone in his chamber, could feel it. Ralph, the
legitimate heir, with an assumed scorn, could declare to himself
that, let what might be sold, he would still be Newton of Newton. The
country people might know it, and the farmers might whisper it one
to another. But nobody said a word of this to the Squire. His own
lawyer never alluded to such a matter, though it was of course in his
thoughts. Nevertheless, the son, whom he loved so well, would tell
him from day to day,--indirectly, indeed, but with words that were
plain enough,--that the thing was not to be done. Men and women
called him Newton, because his father had chosen so to call him;--as
they would have called him Tomkins or Montmorenci, had he first
appeared before them with either of those names; but he was not a
Newton, and nothing could make him Newton of Newton Priory,--not even
the possession of the whole parish, and an habitation in the Priory
itself. "I wish you wouldn't think about it," the son would say to
the father;--and the expression of such a wish would contain the
whole accusation. What other son would express a desire that the
father would abstain from troubling himself to leave his estate
entire to his child?

On the morning after his return the necessary communication was made.
But it was not commenced in any set form. The two were out together,
as was usual with them, and were on the road which divided the two
parishes, Bostock from Newton. On the left of them was Walker's farm,
called the Brownriggs; and on the right, Darvell's farm, which was in
their own peculiar parish of Newton. "I was talking to Darvell while
you were away," said Ralph.

"What does he say for himself?"

"Nothing. It's the old story. He wants to stay, though he knows he'd
be better away."

"Then let him stay. Only I must have the place made fit to look at. A
man should have a chance of pulling through."

"Certainly, sir. I don't want him to go. I was only thinking it would
be better for his children that there should be a change. As for
making the place fit to look at, he hasn't the means. It's Walker's
work, at the other side, that shames him."

"One can't have Walkers on every farm," said the Squire. "No;--if
things go, as I think they will go, we'll pull down every stick and
stone at Brumby's,"--Brumby's was the name of Darvell's farm,--"and
put it up all ship-shape. The house hasn't been touched these twenty
years." Ralph said nothing. He knew well that his father would not
talk of building unless he intended to buy before he built. Nothing
could be more opposed to the Squire's purposes in life than the idea
of building a house which, at his death, would become the property of
his nephew. And, in this way, the estate was being starved. All this
Ralph understood thoroughly; and, understanding it, had frequently
expressed a desire that his father and the heir could act in accord
together. But now the Squire talked of pulling down and building
up as though the property were his own, to do as he liked with it.
"And I think I can do it without selling Brownriggs," continued
the Squire. "When it came to black and white, the value that he
has in it doesn't come to so much as I thought." Still Ralph said
nothing,--nothing, at least, as to the work that had been done
up in London. He merely made some observation as to Darvell's
farm;--suggesting that a clear half year's rent should be given to
the man. "I have pretty well arranged it all in my mind," continued
the Squire. "We could part with Twining. It don't lie so near as
Brownriggs."

Ralph felt that it would be necessary that he should say something.
"Lord Fitzadam would be only too glad to buy it. He owns every acre
in the parish except Ingram's farm."

"There'll be no difficulty about selling it,--when we have the power
to sell. It'll fetch thirty years' purchase. I'd give thirty years'
purchase for it, at the present rent myself, if I had the money.
Lord Fitzadam shall have it, if he pleases, of course. There's four
hundred acres of it."

"Four hundred and nine," said Ralph.

"And it's worth over twelve thousand pounds. It would have gone
against the grain with me to part with any of the land in Bostock;
but I think we can squeeze through without that."

"Is it arranged, sir?" asked the son at last.

"Well;--no; I can't say it is. He is to give me his answer on the
20th. But I cannot see that he has any alternative. He must pay his
debts, and he has no other way of paying them. He must live, and he
has nothing else to live on. A fellow like that will have money,
if he can lay his hands on it, and he can't lay his hands on it
elsewhere. Of course he could get money; but he couldn't get it on
such terms as I have offered him. He is to have down thirty thousand
pounds, and then,--after that,--I am to pay him whatever more than
that they may think the thing is worth to him. Under no circumstances
is he to have less. It's a large sum of money, Ralph."

"Yes, indeed;--though not so much as you had expected, sir."

"Well,--no; but then there are drawbacks. However, I shall only be
too glad to have it settled. I don't think, Ralph, you have ever
realised what it has been for me not to be able to lay out a shilling
on the property, as to which I was not satisfied that I should see it
back again in a year or two."

"And yet, sir, I have thought much about it."

"Thought! By heavens, I have thought of nothing else. As I stand
here, the place has hardly been worth the having to me, because of
such thinking. Your uncle, from the very first, was determined to
make it bitter enough. I shall never forget his coming to me when I
cut down the first tree. Was I going to build houses for a man's son
who begrudged me the timber I wanted about the place?"

"He couldn't stop you there."

"But he said he could,--and he tried. And if I wanted to change a
thing here or there, was it pleasant, do you think, to have to go to
him? And what pleasure could there be in doing anything when another
was to have it all? But you have never understood it, Ralph. Well;--I
hope you'll understand it some day. If this goes right, nobody shall
ever stop you in cutting a tree. You shall be free to do what you
please with every sod, and every branch, and every wall, and every
barn. I shall be happy at last, Ralph, if I think that you can enjoy
it." Then there was again a silence, for tears were in the eyes both
of the father and of the son. "Indeed," continued the Squire, as he
rubbed the moisture away, "my great pleasure, while I remain, will be
to see you active about the place. As it is now, how is it possible
that you should care for it?"

"But I do care for it, and I think I am active about it."

"Yes,--making money for that idiot, who is to come after me. But I
don't think he ever will come. I dare say he won't be ashamed to
shoot your game and drink your claret, if you'll allow him. For the
matter of that, when the thing is settled he may come and drink
my wine if he pleases. I'll be his loving uncle then, if he don't
object. But as it is now;--as it has been, I couldn't have borne
him."

Even yet there had been no clear statement as to what had been done
between father and son. There was so much of clinging, trusting,
perfect love in the father's words towards the son, that the latter
could not bear to say a word that should produce sorrow. When the
Squire declared that Ralph should have it all, free,--to do just as
he pleased with it, with all the full glory of ownership, Ralph could
not bring himself to throw a doubt upon the matter. And yet he did
doubt;--more than doubted;--felt almost certain that his father was
in error. While his father had remained alone up in town he had been
living with Gregory, and had known what Gregory thought and believed.
He had even seen his namesake's letter to Gregory, in which it was
positively stated that the reversion would not be sold. Throughout
the morning the Squire went on speaking of his hopes, and saying that
this and that should be done the very moment that the contract was
signed; at last Ralph spoke out, when, on some occasion, his father
reproached him for indifference. "I do so fear that you will be
disappointed," he said.

"Why should I be disappointed?"

"It is not for my own sake that I fear, for in truth the arrangement,
as it stands, is no bar to my enjoyment of the place."

"It is a most absolute bar to mine," said the Squire.

"I fear it is not settled."

"I know that;--but I see no reason why it should not be settled. Do
you know any reason?"

"Gregory feels sure that his brother will never consent."

"Gregory is all very well. Gregory is the best fellow in the world.
Had Gregory been in his brother's place I shouldn't have had a
chance. But Gregory knows nothing about this kind of thing, and
Gregory doesn't in the least understand his brother."

"But Ralph has told him so."

"Ralph will say anything. He doesn't mind what lies he tells."

"I think you are too hard on him," said the son.

"Well;--we shall see. But what is it that Ralph has said? And when
did he say it?" Then the son told the father of the short letter
which the parson had received from his brother, and almost repeated
the words of it. And he told the date of the letter, only a day or
two before the Squire's return. "Why the mischief could he not be
honest enough to tell me the same thing, if he had made up his mind?"
said the Squire, angrily. "Put it how you will, he is lying either
to me or to his brother;--probably to both of us. His word either on
one side or on the other is worth nothing. I believe he will take my
money because he wants money, and because he likes money. As for what
he says, it is worth nothing. When he has once written his name, he
cannot go back from it, and there will be comfort in that." Ralph
said nothing more. His father had talked himself into a passion, and
was quite capable of becoming angry, even with him. So he suggested
something about the shooting for next day, and proposed that the
parson should be asked to join them. "He may come if he likes," said
the Squire, "but I give you my word if this goes on much longer, I
shall get to dislike even the sight of him." On that very day the
parson dined with them, and early in the evening the Squire was cold,
and silent, and then snappish. But he warmed afterwards under the
double influence of his own port-wine, and the thorough sweetness of
his nephew's manner. His last words as Gregory left him that night in
the hall were as follows:--"Bother about the church. I'm half sick of
the church. You come and shoot to-morrow. Don't let us have any new
fads about not shooting."

"There are no new fads, uncle Greg, and I'll be with you by twelve
o'clock," said the parson.

"He is very good as parsons go," said the Squire as he shut the door.

"He's as good as gold," said the Squire's son.



CHAPTER XIX.

POLLY'S ANSWER.


Moggs's bill became due before the 20th of September, and Ralph
Newton received due notice,--as of course he had known that he would
do,--that it had not been cashed at his banker's. How should it be
cashed at his banker's, seeing that he had not had a shilling there
for the last three months? Moggs himself, Moggs senior, came to
Ralph, and made himself peculiarly disagreeable. He had never heard
of such a thing on the part of a gentleman! Not to have his bill
taken up! To have his paper dishonoured! Moggs spoke of it as
though the heavens would fall; and he spoke of it, too, as though,
even should the heavens not fall, the earth would be made a very
tumultuous and unpleasant place for Mr. Newton, if Mr. Newton did not
see at once that these two hundred and odd pounds were forthcoming.
Moggs said so much that Ralph became very angry, turned him out of
the room, and told him that he should have his dirty money on the
morrow. On the morrow the dirty money was paid, Ralph having borrowed
the amount from Mr. Neefit. Mr. Moggs was quite content. His object
had been achieved, and, when the cash was paid, he was quite polite.
But Ralph Newton was not happy as he made the payment. He had
declared to himself, after writing that letter to his brother, that
the thing was settled by the very declaration made by him therein.
When he assured his brother that he would not sell his interest in
the property, he did, in fact, resolve that he would make Polly
Neefit his wife. And he did no more than follow up that resolution
when he asked Neefit for a small additional advance. His due would
not be given to the breeches-maker if it were not acknowledged that
on this occasion he behaved very well. He had told Ralph to come to
him when Moggs's "bit of stiff" came round. Moggs's "bit of stiff"
did come round, and "the Captain" did as he had been desired to do.
Neefit wrote out the cheque without saying a word about his daughter.
"Do you just run across to Argyle Street, Captain," said the
breeches-maker, "and get the stuff in notes." For Mr. Neefit's
bankers held an establishment in Argyle Street. "There ain't no need,
you know, to let on, Captain; is there?" said the breeches-maker.
Ralph Newton, clearly seeing that there was no need to "let on," did
as he was bid, and so the account was settled with Mr. Moggs. But now
as to settling the account with Mr. Neefit? Neefit had his own idea
of what was right between gentlemen. As the reader knows, he could
upon an occasion make his own views very clearly intelligible. He was
neither reticent nor particularly delicate. But there was something
within him which made him give the cheque to Ralph without a word
about Polly. That something, let it be what it might, was not lost
upon Ralph.

Any further doubt on his part was quite out of the question. If his
mind had not been made up before it must, at least, be made up now.
He had twice borrowed Mr. Neefit's money, and on this latter occasion
had taken it on the express understanding that he was to propose to
Mr. Neefit's daughter. And then, in this way, and in this way only,
he could throw over his uncle and save the property. As soon as he
had paid the money to Moggs, he went to his room and dressed himself
for the occasion. As he arranged his dress with some small signs
of an intention to be externally smart, he told himself that it
signified nothing at all, that the girl was only a breeches-maker's
daughter, and that there was hardly a need that he should take a new
pair of gloves for such an occasion as this. In that he was probably
right. An old pair of gloves would have done just as well, though
Polly did like young men to look smart.

He went out in a hansom of course. A man does not become economical
because he is embarrassed. And as for embarrassment, he need not
trouble himself with any further feelings on that score. When once
he should be the promised husband of Polly Neefit, he would have no
scruple about the breeches-maker's money. Why should he, when he did
the thing with the very view of getting it? They couldn't expect him
to be married till next spring at the earliest, and he would take
another winter out of himself at the Moonbeam. As the sacrifice
was to be made he might as well enjoy all that would come of the
sacrifice. Then as he sat in the cab he took to thinking whether,
after any fashion at all, he did love Polly Neefit. And from that
he got to thinking,--not of poor Clary,--but of Mary Bonner. If his
uncle could at once be translated to his fitting place among the
immortals, oh,--what a life might be his! But his uncle was still
mortal, and,--after all,--Polly Neefit was a very jolly girl.

When he got to the house he asked boldly for Miss Neefit. He had told
himself that no repulse could be injurious to him. If Mrs. Neefit
were to refuse him admission into the house, the breeches-maker
would be obliged to own that he had done his best. But there was no
repulse. In two minutes he found himself in the parlour, with Polly
standing up to receive him. "Dear me, Mr. Newton; how odd! You might
have come weeks running before you'd find me here and mother out.
She's gone to fetch father home. She don't do it,--not once a month."
Ralph assured her that he was quite contented as it was, and that he
did not in the least regret the absence of Mrs. Neefit. "But she'll
be ever so unhappy. She likes to see gentlemen when they call."

"And you dislike it?" asked Ralph.

"Indeed I don't then," said Polly.

And now in what way was he to do it? Would it be well to allude to
her father's understanding with himself? In the ordinary way of
love-making Ralph was quite as much at home as another. He had found
no difficulty in saying a soft word to Clarissa Underwood, and in
doing more than that. But with Polly the matter was different. There
was an inappropriateness in his having to do the thing at all, which
made it difficult to him,--unless he could preface what he did by an
allusion to his agreement with her father. He could hardly ask Polly
to be his wife without giving her some reason for the formation of so
desperate a wish on his own part. "Polly," he said at last, "that was
very awkward for us all,--that evening when Mr. Moggs was here."

"Indeed it was, Mr. Newton. Poor Mr. Moggs! He shouldn't have
stayed;--but mother asked him."

"Has he been here since?"

"He was then, and he and I were walking together. There isn't a
better fellow breathing than Ontario Moggs,--in his own way. But he's
not company for you, Mr. Newton, of course."

Ralph quailed at this. To be told that his own boot-maker wasn't
"company" for him,--and that by the young lady whom he intended to
make his wife! "I don't think he is company for you either Polly," he
said.

"Why not, Mr. Newton? He's as good as me. What's the difference
between him and father?" He wondered whether, when she should be his
own, he would be able to teach her to call Mr. Neefit her papa. "Mr.
Newton, when you know me better, you'll know that I'm not one to give
myself airs. I've known Mr. Moggs all my life, and he's equal to me,
anyways,--only he's a deal better."

"I hope there's nothing more than friendship, Polly."

"What business have you to hope?"

Upon that theme he spoke, and told her in plain language that his
reason for so hoping was that he trusted to be able to persuade her
to become his own wife. Polly, when the word was spoken, blushed ruby
red, and trembled a little. The thing had come to her, and, after
all, she might be a real lady if she pleased. She blushed ruby red,
and trembled, but she said not a word for a while. And then, having
made his offer, he began to speak of love. In speaking of it, he was
urgent enough, but his words had not that sort of suasiveness which
they would have possessed had he been addressing himself to Clary
Underwood. "Polly," he said, "I hope you can love me. I will love you
very dearly, and do all that I can to make you happy. To me you shall
be the first woman in the world. Do you think that you can love me,
Polly?"

Polly was, perhaps, particular. She had not quite approved of the
manner in which Ontario had disclosed his love, though there had been
something of the eloquence of passion even in that;--and now she
was hardly satisfied with Ralph Newton. She had formed to herself,
perhaps, some idea of a soft, insinuating, coaxing whisper, something
that should be half caress and half prayer, but something that should
at least be very gentle and very loving. Ontario was loving, but he
was not gentle. Ralph Newton was gentle, but then she doubted whether
he was loving. "Will you say that it shall be so?" he asked, standing
over her, and looking down upon her with his most bewitching smile.

Polly amidst her blushing and her trembling made up her mind that
she would say nothing of the kind at this present moment. She would
like to be a lady though she was not ashamed of being a tradesman's
daughter;--but she would not buy the privilege of being a lady at too
dear a price. The price would be very high indeed were she to give
herself to a man who did not love her, and perhaps despised her. And
then she was not quite sure that she could love this man herself,
though she was possessed of a facility for liking nice young men.
Ralph Newton was well enough in many ways. He was good looking, he
could speak up for himself, he did not give himself airs,--and then,
as she had been fully instructed by her father, he must ultimately
inherit a large property. Were she to marry him her position would
be absolutely that of one of the ladies of the land. But then she
knew,--she could not but know,--that he sought her because he was in
want of money for his present needs. To be made a lady of the land
would be delightful; but to have a grand passion,--in regard to which
Polly would not be satisfied unless there were as much love on one
side as on the other,--would be more delightful. That latter was
essentially necessary to her. The man must take an absolute pleasure
in her company, or the whole thing would be a failure. So she blushed
and trembled, and thought and was silent. "Dear Polly, do you mean
that you cannot love me?" said Ralph.

"I don't know," said Polly.

"Will you try?" demanded Ralph.

"And I don't know that you can love me."

"Indeed, indeed, I can."

"Ah, yes;--you can say so, I don't doubt. There's a many of them as
can say so, and yet it's not in 'em to do it. And there's men as
don't know hardly how to say it, and yet it's in their hearts all the
while." Polly must have been thinking of Ontario as she made this
latter oracular observation.

"I don't know much about saying it; but I can do it, Polly."

"Oh, as for talking, you can talk. You've been brought up that way.
You've had nothing else much to do."

She was very hard upon him, and so he felt it. "I think that's not
fair, Polly. What can I say to you better than that I love you, and
will be good to you?"

"Oh, good to me! People are always good to me. Why shouldn't they?"

"Nobody will be so good as I will be,--if you will take me. Tell me,
Polly, do you not believe me when I say I love you?"

"No;--I don't."

"Why should I be false to you?"

"Ah;--well;--why? It's not for me to say why. Father's been putting
you up to this. That's why."

"Your father could put me up to nothing of the kind if it were not
that I really loved you."

"And there's another thing, Mr. Newton."

"What's that, Polly?"

"I'm not at all sure that I'm so very fond of you."

"That's unkind."

"Better be true than to rue," said Polly. "Why, Mr. Newton, we don't
know anything about each other,--not as yet. I may be, oh, anything
bad, for what you know. And for anything I know you may be idle, and
extravagant, and a regular man flirt." Polly had a way of speaking
the truth without much respect to persons. "And then, Mr. Newton,
I'm not going to be given away by father just as he pleases. Father
thinks this and that, and he means it all for the best. I love father
dearly. But I don't mean to take any body as I don't feel I'd pretty
nigh break my heart if I wasn't to have him. I ain't come to breaking
my heart for you yet, Mr. Newton."

"I hope you never will break your heart."

"I don't suppose you understand, but that's how it is. Let it just
stand by for a year or so, Mr. Newton, and see how it is then. Maybe
we might get to know each other. Just now, marrying you would be
like taking a husband out of a lottery." Ralph stood looking at her,
passing his hand over his head, and not quite knowing how to carry on
his suit. "I'll tell father what you was saying to me and what I said
to you," continued Polly, who seemed quite to understand that Ralph
had done his duty by his creditor in making the offer, and that
justice to him demanded that this should be acknowledged by the whole
family.

"And is that to be all, Polly?" asked Ralph in a melancholy voice.

"All at present, Mr. Newton."

Ralph, as he returned to London in his cab, felt more hurt by the
girl's refusal of him than he would before have thought to be
possible. He was almost disposed to resolve that he would at once
renew the siege and carry it on as though there were no question
of twenty thousand pounds, and of money borrowed from the
breeches-maker. Polly had shown so much spirit in the interview,
and had looked so well in showing it, had stood up such a perfect
specimen of healthy, comely, honest womanhood, that he thought that
he did love her. There was, however, one comfort clearly left to him.
He had done his duty by old Neefit. The money due must of course
be paid;--but he had in good faith done that which he had pledged
himself to do in taking the money.

As to the surrender of the estate there were still left to him four
days in which to think of it.



CHAPTER XX.

THE CONSERVATIVES OF PERCYCROSS.


Early in this month of September there had come a proposition to Sir
Thomas, which had thoroughly disturbed him, and made him for a few
days a most miserable man. By the tenth of the month, however, he
had so far recovered himself as to have made up his mind in regard
to the proposition with some feeling of triumphant expectation.
On the following day he went home to Fulham, and communicated
his determination to his eldest daughter in the following words;
"Patience, I am going to stand for the borough of Percycross."

"Papa!"

"Yes. I dare say I'm a fool for my pains. It will cost me some money
which I oughtn't to spend; and if I get in I don't know that I can do
any good, or that it can do me any good. I suppose you think I'm very
wrong?"

"I am delighted,--and so will Clary be. I'm so much pleased! Why
shouldn't you be in Parliament? I have always longed that you should
go back to public life, though I have never liked to say so to you."

"It is very kind of you to say it now, my dear."

"And I feel it." There was no doubt of that, for, as she spoke, the
tears were streaming from her eyes. "But will you succeed? Is there
to be anybody against you?"

"Yes, my dear; there is to be somebody against me. In fact, there
will be three people against me; and probably I shall not succeed.
Men such as I am do not have seats offered to them without a contest.
But there is a chance. I was down at Percycross for two days last
week, and now I've put out an address. There it is." Upon which he
handed a copy of a placard to his daughter, who read it, no doubt,
with more enthusiasm than did any of the free and independent
electors to whom it was addressed.

The story in regard to the borough of Percycross was as follows.
There were going forward in the country at this moment preparations
for a general election, which was to take place in October. The
readers of this story have not as yet been troubled on this head,
there having been no connection between that great matter and the
small matters with which our tale has concerned itself. In the
Parliament lately dissolved, the very old borough of Percycross,--or
Percy St. Cross, as the place was properly called,--had displayed no
political partiality, having been represented by two gentlemen, one
of whom always followed the conservative leader, and the other the
liberal leader, into the respective lobbies of the House of Commons.
The borough had very nearly been curtailed of the privilege in regard
to two members in the great Reform Bill which had been initiated
and perfected and carried through as a whole by the almost unaided
intellect and exertions of the great reformer of his age; but it had
had its own luck, as the Irishmen say, and had been preserved intact.
Now the wise men of Percycross, rejoicing in their salvation, and
knowing that there might still be danger before them should they
venture on a contest,--for bribery had not been unknown in previous
contests at Percycross, nor petitions consequent upon bribery; and
some men had marvelled that the borough should have escaped so
long; and there was now supposed to be abroad a spirit of assumed
virtue in regard to such matters under which Percycross might
still be sacrificed if Percycross did not look very sharp after
itself;--thinking of all this, the wise men at Percycross had
concluded that it would be better, just for the present, to let
things run smoothly, and to return their two old members. When the
new broom which was to sweep up the dirt of corruption was not quite
so new, they might return to the old game,--which was, in truth, a
game very much loved in the old town of Percycross. So thought the
wise men, and for a while it seemed that the wise men were to have
their own way. But there were men at Percycross who were not wise,
and who would have it that such an arrangement as this showed lack of
spirit. The conservative foolish men at Percycross began by declaring
that they could return two members for the borough if they pleased,
and that they would do so, unless this and that were conceded to
them. The liberal foolish men swore that they were ready for the
battle. They would concede nothing, and would stand up and fight if
the word concession were named to them. They would not only have one
member, but would have half the aldermen, half the town-councillors,
half the mayor, half the patronage in beadles, bell-ringers and
bumbledom in general. Had the great reformer of the age given them
household suffrage for nothing? The liberal foolish men of Percycross
declared, and perhaps thought, that they could send two liberal
members to Parliament. And so the borough grew hot. There was
one very learned pundit in those parts, a pundit very learned in
political matters, who thus prophesied to one of the proposed
candidates;--"You'll spend a thousand pounds in the election. You
won't get in, of course, but you'll petition. That'll be another
thousand. You'll succeed there, and disfranchise the borough. It will
be a great career, and no doubt you'll find it satisfactory. You
mustn't show yourself in Percycross afterwards;--that's all." But the
spirit was afloat, and the words of the pundit were of no avail. The
liberal spirit had been set a going, and men went to work with the
new lists of borough voters. By the end of August it was seen that
there must be a contest. But who should be the new candidates?

The old candidates were there,--one on each side: an old Tory and a
young Radical. In telling our tale we will not go back to the old
sins of the borough, or say aught but good of the past career of the
members. Old Mr. Griffenbottom, the Tory, had been very generous with
his purse, and was beloved, doubtless, by many in the borough. It
is so well for a borough to have some one who is always ready with
a fifty-pound note in this or that need! It is so comfortable in a
borough to know that it can always have its subscription lists well
headed! And the young Radical was popular throughout the county. No
one could take a chair at a mechanics' meeting with better grace or
more alacrity, or spin out his half-hour's speech with greater ease
and volubility. And then he was a born gentleman, which is so great a
recommendation for a Radical. So that, in fact, young Mr. Westmacott,
though he did not spend so much money as old Griffenbottom,
was almost as popular in the borough. There was no doubt about
Griffenbottom and Westmacott,--if only the borough would have
listened to its wise men and confined itself to the political
guardianship of such excellent representatives! But the foolish men
prevailed over the wise men, and it was decided that there should be
a contest.

It was an evil day for Griffenbottom when it was suggested to him
that he should bring a colleague with him. Griffenbottom knew what
this meant almost as well as the learned pundit whose words we
have quoted. Griffenbottom had not been blessed with uncontested
elections, and had run through many perils. He had spent what he was
accustomed to call, when speaking of his political position among his
really intimate friends, "a treasure" in maintaining the borough. He
must often have considered within himself whether his whistle was
worth the price. He had petitioned and been petitioned against, and
had had evil things said of him, and had gone through the very heat
of the fire of political warfare. But he had kept his seat, and now
at last,--so he thought,--the ease and comfort of an unopposed return
was to repay him for everything. Alas! how all this was changed; how
his spirits sank within him, when he received that high-toned letter
from his confidential agent, Mr. Trigger, in which he was invited
to suggest the name of a colleague! "I'm sure you'll be rejoiced to
hear, for the sake of the old borough," said Mr. Trigger, "that we
feel confident of carrying the two seats." Could Mr. Trigger have
heard the remarks which his patron made on reading that letter,
Mr. Trigger would have thought that Mr. Griffenbottom was the most
ungrateful member of Parliament in the world. What did not Mr.
Griffenbottom owe to the borough of Percycross? Did he not owe all
his position in the world, all his friends, the fact that he was
to be seen on the staircases of Cabinet Ministers, and that he was
called "honourable friend" by the sons of dukes,--did he not owe it
all to the borough of Percycross? Mr. Trigger and other friends of
his, felt secure in their conviction that they had made a man of
Mr. Griffenbottom. Mr. Griffenbottom understood enough of all this
to answer Mr. Trigger without inserting in his letter any of those
anathemas which he uttered in the privacy of his own closet. He
did, indeed, expostulate, saying, that he would of course suggest
a colleague, if a colleague were required; but did not Mr. Trigger
and his other friends in the dear old borough think that just at
the present moment a pacific line of action would be best for the
interests of the dear old borough? Mr. Trigger answered him very
quickly, and perhaps a little sharply. The Liberals had decided upon
having two men in the field, and therefore a pacific line of action
was no longer possible. Mr. Griffenbottom hurried over to the dear
old borough, still hoping,--but could do nothing. The scent of the
battle was in the air, and the foolish men of Percycross were keen
for blood. Mr. Griffenbottom smiled and promised, and declared to
himself that there was no peace for the politician on this side
the grave. He made known his desires,--or the desire rather of the
borough,--to a certain gentleman connected with a certain club in
London, and the gentleman in question on the following day waited
upon Sir Thomas. Sir Thomas had always been true "to the party,"--so
the gentleman in question was good enough to say. Everybody had
regretted the loss of Sir Thomas from the House. The present
opportunity of returning to it was almost unparalleled, seeing that
thing was so nearly a certainty. Griffenbottom had always been at the
top of the poll, and the large majority of the new voters were men in
the employment of conservative masters. The gentleman in question was
very clear in his explanation that there was a complete understanding
on this matter between the employers and employed at Percycross. It
was the nature of the Percycross artizan to vote as his master voted.
They made boots, mustard, and paper at Percycross. The men in the
mustard and paper trade were quite safe;--excellent men, who went
in a line to the poll, and voted just as the master paper-makers
and master mustard-makers desired. The gentleman from the club
acknowledged that there was a difficulty about the boot-trade. All
the world over, boots do affect radical sentiments. The master
bootmakers,--there were four in the borough,--were decided; but the
men could not be got at with any certainty.

"Why should you wish to get at them?" demanded Sir Thomas.

"No;--of course not; one doesn't wish to get at them," said the
gentleman from the club,--"particularly as we are safe without them."
Then he went into statistics, and succeeded in proving to Sir Thomas
that there would be a hard fight. Sir Thomas, who was much pressed as
to time, took a day to consider. "Did Mr. Griffenbottom intend to
fight the battle with clean hands?" The gentleman from the club was
eager in declaring that everything would be done in strict accordance
with the law. He could give no guarantee as to expenses, but presumed
it would be about £300,--perhaps £400,--certainly under £500. The
other party no doubt would bribe. They always did. And on their
behalf,--on behalf of Westmacott and Co.,--there would be treating,
and intimidation, and subornation, and fictitious voting, and every
sin to which an election is subject. It always was so with the
Liberals at Percycross. But Sir Thomas might be sure that on his side
everything would be--"serene." Sir Thomas at last consented to go
down to Percycross, and see one or two of his proposed supporters.

He did go down, and was considerably disgusted. Mr. Trigger took him
in hand and introduced him to three or four gentlemen in the borough.
Sir Thomas, in his first interview with Mr. Trigger, declared his
predilection for purity. "Yes, yes; yes, yes; of course," said Mr.
Trigger. Mr. Trigger, seeing that Sir Thomas had come among them
as a stranger to whom had been offered the very great honour of
standing for the borough of Percycross,--offered to him before
he had subscribed a shilling to any of the various needs of the
borough,--was not disposed to listen to dictation. But Sir Thomas
insisted. "It's as well that we should understand each other at
once," said Sir Thomas. "I should throw up the contest in the middle
of it,--even if I were winning,--if I suspected that money was being
spent improperly." How often has the same thing been said by a
candidate, and what candidate ever has thrown up the sponge when he
was winning? Mr. Trigger was at first disposed to tell Sir Thomas
that he was interfering in things beyond his province. Had it not
been that the day was late, and that the Liberals were supposed to
be hard at work,--that the candidate was wanted at once, Mr. Trigger
would have shown his spirit. As it was he could only assent with a
growl, and say that he had supposed all that was to be taken as a
matter of course.

"But I desire to have it absolutely understood by all those who act
with me in this matter," said Sir Thomas. "At any rate I will not be
petitioned against."

"Petitions never come to much at Percycross," said Mr. Trigger. He
certainly ought to have known, as he had had to do with a great many
of them. Then they started to call upon two or three of the leading
conservative gentlemen. "If I were you, I wouldn't say anything about
that, Sir Thomas."

"About what?"

"Well;--bribery and petitions, and the rest of it. Gentlemen when
they're consulted don't like to be told of those sort of things.
There has been a little of it, perhaps. Who can say?" Who, indeed, if
not Mr. Trigger,--in regard to Percycross? "But it's better to let
all that die out of itself. It never came to much in Percycross. I
don't think there was ever more than ten shillings to be had for a
vote. And I've known half-a-crown a piece buy fifty of 'em," he added
emphatically. "It never was of much account, and it's best to say
nothing about it."

"It's best perhaps to make one's intentions known," said Sir Thomas
mildly. Mr. Trigger hummed and hawed, and shook his head, and put
his hands into his trousers pockets;--and in his heart of hearts he
despised Sir Thomas.

On that day Sir Thomas was taken to see four gentlemen of note in
Percycross,--a mustard-maker, a paper-maker, and two bootmakers. The
mustard-maker was very cordial in offering his support. He would do
anything for the cause. Trigger knew him. The men were all right
at his mills. Then Sir Thomas said a word. He was a great foe to
intimidation;--he wouldn't for worlds have the men coerced. The
mustard-maker laughed cheerily. "We know what all that comes to at
Percycross; don't we, Trigger? We shall all go straight from this
place;--shan't we, Trigger? And he needn't ask any questions;--need
he, Trigger?" "Lord 'a mercy, no," said Trigger, who was beginning to
be disgusted. Then they went on to the paper-maker's.

The paper-maker was a very polite gentleman, who seemed to take
great delight in shaking Sir Thomas by the hand, and who agreed
with energy to every word Sir Thomas said. Trigger stood a little
apart at the paper-maker's, as soon as the introduction had been
performed,--perhaps disapproving in part of the paper-maker's
principles. "Certainly not, Sir Thomas; not for the world, Sir
Thomas. I'm clean against anything of that kind, Sir Thomas," said
the paper-maker. Sir Thomas assured the paper-maker that he was glad
to hear it;--and he was glad. As they went to the first bootmaker's,
Mr. Trigger communicated to Sir Thomas a certain incident in the
career of Mr. Spiveycomb, the paper-maker. "He's got a contract
for paper from the 'Walhamshire Herald,' Sir Thomas;--the largest
circulation anywhere in these parts. Griffenbottom gets him that; and
if ere a man of his didn't vote as he bade 'em, he wouldn't keep 'em,
not a day. I don't know that we've a man in Percycross so stanch as
old Spiveycomb." This was Mr. Trigger's revenge.

The first bootmaker had very little to say for himself, and hardly
gave Sir Thomas much opportunity of preaching his doctrine of purity.
"I hope you'll do something for our trade, Sir Thomas," said the
first bootmaker. Sir Thomas explained that he did not at present see
his way to the doing of anything special for the bootmakers; and then
took his leave. "He's all right," said Mr. Trigger. "He means it.
He's all right. And he'll say a word to his men too, though I don't
know that much 'll come of it. They're a rum lot. If they're put out
here to-day, they can get in there to-morrow. They're a cankery
independent sort of chaps, are bootmakers. Now we'll go and see old
Pile. He'll have to second one of you,--will Pile. He's a sort of
father of the borough in the way of Conservatives. And look here, Sir
Thomas;--let him talk. Don't you say much to him. It's no use in life
talking to old Pile." Sir Thomas said nothing, but he determined that
he would speak to old Pile just as freely as he had to Mr. Trigger
himself.

"Eh;--ah;"--said old Pile; "you're Sir Thomas Underwood, are you? And
you wants to go into Parliament?"

"If it please you and your townsmen to send me there."

"Yes;--that's just it. But if it don't please?"

"Why, then I'll go home again."

"Just so;--but the people here ain't what they are at other places,
Sir Thomas Underwood. I've seen many elections here, Sir Thomas."

"No doubt you have, Mr. Pile."

"Over a dozen;--haven't you, Mr. Pile?" said Trigger.

"And carried on a deal better than they have been since you meddled
with them," said Mr. Pile, turning upon Trigger. "They used to do the
thing here as it should be done, and nobody wasn't extortionate, nor
yet cross-grained. They're changing a deal about these things, I'm
told; but they're changing all for the worse. They're talking of
purity,--purity,--purity; and what does it all amount to? Men is
getting greedier every day."

"We mean to be pure at this election, Mr. Pile," said Sir Thomas. Mr.
Pile looked him hard in the face. "At least I do, Mr. Pile. I can
answer for myself." Mr. Pile turned away his face, and opened his
mouth, and put his hand upon his stomach, and made a grimace, as
though,--as though he were not quite as well as he might be. And such
was the case with him. The idea of purity of election at Percy-cross
did in truth make him feel very sick. It was an idea which he hated
with his whole heart. There was to him something absolutely mean and
ignoble in the idea of a man coming forward to represent a borough in
Parliament without paying the regular fees. That somebody, somewhere,
should make a noise about it,--somebody who was impalpable to him, in
some place that was to him quite another world,--was intelligible.
It might be all very well in Manchester and such-like disagreeable
places. But that candidates should come down to Percycross and talk
about purity there, was a thing abominable to him. He had nothing to
get by bribery. To a certain extent he was willing to pay money in
bribery himself. But that a stranger should come to the borough and
want the seat without paying for it was to him so distasteful, that
this assurance from the mouth of one of the candidates did make him
very sick.

"I think you'd better go back to London, Sir Thomas," said Mr. Pile,
as soon as he recovered himself sufficiently to express his opinion.

"You mean that my ideas as to standing won't suit the borough."

"No, they won't, Sir Thomas. I don't suppose anybody else will tell
you so,--but I'll do it. Why should, a poor man lose his day's wages
for the sake of making you a Parliament man? What have you done for
any of 'em?"

"Half an hour would take a working man to the poll and back," argued
Sir Thomas.

"That's all you know about elections. That's not the way we manage
matters here. There won't be any place of business agait that day."
Then Mr. Trigger whispered a few words to Mr. Pile. Mr. Pile repeated
the grimace which he had made before, and turned on his heel although
he was in his own parlour, as though he were going to leave them.
But he thought better of this, and turned again. "I always vote Blue
myself," said Mr. Pile, "and I don't suppose I shall do otherwise
this time. But I shan't take no trouble. There's a many things that I
don't like, Sir Thomas. Good morning, Sir Thomas. It's all very well
for Mr. Trigger. He knows where the butter lies for his bread."

"A very disagreeable old man," said Sir Thomas, when they had left
the house, thinking that as Mr. Trigger had been grossly insulted by
the bootmaker he would probably coincide in this opinion.

But Mr. Trigger knew his townsman well, and was used to him. "He's
better than some of 'em, Sir Thomas. He'll do as much as he says, and
more. Now there was that chap Spicer at the mustard works. They say
Westmacott people are after him, and if they can make it worth his
while he'll go over. There's some talk about Apothecary's Hall;--I
don't know what it is. But you couldn't buy old Pile if you were to
give him the Queen and all the Royal family to make boots for."

This was to have been the last of Sir Thomas's preliminary visits
among the leading Conservatives of the borough, but as they were
going back to the "Percy Standard,"--for such was the name of the
Blue inn in the borough,--Mr. Trigger saw a gentleman in black
standing at an open hall door, and immediately proposed that they
should just say a word or two to Mr. Pabsby. "Wesleyan minister,"
whispered the Percycross bear-leader into the ear of his bear;--"and
has a deal to say to many of the men, and more to the women. Can't
say what he'll do;--split his vote, probably." Then he introduced
the two men, explaining the cause of Sir Thomas's presence in the
borough. Mr. Pabsby was delighted to make the acquaintance of Sir
Thomas, and asked the two gentlemen into the house. In truth he was
delighted. The hours often ran heavily with him, and here there was
something for him to do. "You'll give us a help, Mr. Pabsby?" said
Mr. Trigger. Mr. Pabsby smiled and rubbed his hands, and paused and
laid his head on one side.

"I hope he will," said Sir Thomas, "if he is of our way cf thinking,
otherwise I should be sorry to ask him." Still Mr. Pabsby said
nothing;--but he smiled very sweetly, and laid his head a little
lower.


[Illustration: Still Mr. Pabsby said nothing;--but he smiled
very sweetly, and laid his head a little lower.]


"He knows we're on the respectable side," said Mr. Trigger. "The
Wesleyans now are most as one as the Church of England,--in the way
of not being roughs and rowdies." Sir Thomas, who did not know Mr.
Pabsby, was afraid that he would be offended at this; but he showed
no sign of offence as he continued to rub his hands. Mr. Pabsby was
meditating his speech.

"We're a little hurried, Mr. Pabsby," said Mr. Trigger; "perhaps
you'll think of it."

But Mr. Pabsby was not going to let them escape in that way. It
was not every day that he had a Sir Thomas, or a candidate for the
borough, or even a Mr. Trigger, in that little parlour. The fact was
that Mr. Trigger, who generally knew what he was about, had made a
mistake. Sir Thomas, who was ready enough to depart, saw that an
immediate escape was impossible. "Sir Thomas," began Mr. Pabsby, in
a soft, greasy voice,--a voice made up of pretence, politeness and
saliva,--"if you will give me three minutes to express myself on this
subject I shall be obliged to you."

"Certainly," said Sir Thomas, sitting bolt upright in his chair, and
holding his hat as though he were determined to go directly the three
minutes were over.

"A minister of the Gospel in this town is placed in a peculiar
position, Sir Thomas," said Mr. Pabsby very slowly, "and of all
the ministers of religion in Percycross mine is the most peculiar.
In this matter I would wish to be guided wholly by duty, and if I
could see my way clearly I would at once declare it to you. But, Sir
Thomas, I owe much to the convictions of my people."

"Which way do you mean to vote?" asked Mr. Trigger.

Mr. Pabsby did not even turn his face at this interruption. "A
private man, Sir Thomas, may follow the dictates of--of--of his own
heart, perhaps." Here he paused, expecting to be encouraged by some
words. But Sir Thomas had acquired professionally a knowledge that
to such a speaker as Mr. Pabsby any rejoinder or argument was like
winding up a clock. It is better to allow such clocks to run down.
"With me, I have to consider every possible point. What will my
people wish? Some of them are eager in the cause of reform, Sir
Thomas; and some others--"

"We shall lose the train," said Mr. Trigger, jumping up and putting
on his hat.

"I'm afraid we shall," said Sir Thomas rising, but not putting on
his.

"Half a minute," said Mr. Pabsby pleading, but not rising from his
chair. "Perhaps you will do me the honour of calling on me when you
are again here in Percycross. I shall have the greatest pleasure in
discussing a few matters with you, Sir Thomas; and then, if I can
give you my poor help, it will give me and Mrs. Pabsby the most
sincere pleasure." Mrs. Pabsby had now entered the room, and was
introduced; but Trigger would not sit down again, nor take off his
hat. He boldly marshalled the way to the door, while Sir Thomas
followed, subject as he came to the eloquence of Mr. Pabsby. "If I
can only see my way clearly, Sir Thomas," were the last words which
Mr. Pabsby spoke.

"He'll give one to Griffenbottom, certainly," said Mr. Trigger.
"Westmacott 'll probably have the other. I thought perhaps your title
might have gone down with him, but it didn't seem to take."

All this was anything but promising, anything but comfortable; and
yet before he went to bed that night Sir Thomas had undertaken to
stand. In such circumstances it is very hard for a man to refuse. He
feels that a certain amount of trouble has been taken on his behalf,
that retreat will be cowardly, and that the journey for nothing will
be personally disagreeable to his own feelings. And then, too, there
was that renewed ambition in his breast,--an ambition which six
months ago he would have declared to be at rest for ever,--but
which prompted him, now as strongly as ever, to go forward and do
something. It is so easy to go and see;--so hard to retreat when one
has seen. He had not found Percycross to be especially congenial
to him. He had felt himself to be out of his element there,--among
people with whom he had no sympathies; and he felt also that he had
been unfitted for this kind of thing by the life which he had led for
the last few years. Still he undertook to stand.

"Who is coming forward on the other side?" he asked Mr. Trigger late
at night, when this matter had been decided in regard to himself.

"Westmacott, of course," said Trigger, "and I'm told that the real
Rads of the place have got hold of a fellow named Moggs."

"Moggs!" ejaculated Sir Thomas.

"Yes;--Moggs. The Young Men's Reform Association is bringing him
forward. He's a Trades' Union man, and a Reform Leaguer, and all that
kind of thing. I shouldn't be surprised if he got in. They say he's
got money."



CHAPTER XXI.

THE LIBERALS OF PERCYCROSS.


Yes;--Ontario Moggs was appalled, delighted, exalted, and nearly
frightened out of his wits by an invitation, conveyed to him by
certain eager spirits of the town, to come down and stand on the real
radical interest for the borough of Percycross. The thing was not
suggested to him till a day or two after Sir Thomas had been sounded,
and he was then informed that not an hour was to be lost. The
communication was made in the little back parlour of the Cheshire
Cheese, and Moggs was expected to give an answer then and there. He
stood with his hand on his brow for five minutes, and then asked that
special question which should always come first on such occasions.
Would it cost any money? Well;--yes. The eager spirits of Percycross
thought that it would cost something. They were forced to admit that
Percycross was not one of those well-arranged boroughs in which the
expenses of an election are all defrayed by the public spirit of the
citizens. It soon became clear that the deputation had waited upon
Moggs, not only because Moggs was a good Radical, but because also
Moggs was supposed to be a Radical with a command of money. Ontario
frowned and expressed an opinion that all elections should be made
absolutely free to the candidates. "And everybody ought to go to
'eaven, Mr. Moggs," said the leading member of the deputation, "but
everybody don't, 'cause things ain't as they ought to be." There was
no answer to be made to this. Ontario could only strike his forehead
and think. It was clear to him that he could not give an affirmative
answer that night, and he therefore, with some difficulty, arranged
an adjournment of the meeting till the following afternoon at 2 P.M.
"We must go down by the 4.45 express to-morrow," said the leading
member of the deputation, who even by that arrangement would subject
himself to the loss of two days' wages,--for he was a foreman in the
establishment of Mr. Spicer the mustard-maker,--and whose allowance
for expenses would not admit of his sleeping away from home a second
night. Ontario departed, promising to be ready with his answer by 2
P.M. on the following day.

How bright with jewels was the crown now held before his eyes, and
yet how unapproachable, how far beyond his grasp! To be a member of
Parliament, to speak in that august assembly instead of wasting his
eloquence on the beery souls of those who frequented the Cheshire
Cheese, to be somebody in the land at his early age,--something so
infinitely superior to a maker of boots! A member of Parliament was
by law an esquire, and therefore a gentleman. Ralph Newton was not
a member of Parliament;--not half so great a fellow as a member of
Parliament. Surely if he were to go to Polly Neefit as a member of
Parliament Polly would reject him no longer! And to what might it not
lead? He had visions before his eyes of very beautiful moments in
his future life, in which, standing, as it were, on some well-chosen
rostrum in that great House, he would make the burning thoughts of
his mind, the soaring aspirations of his heart, audible to all the
people. How had Cobden begun his career,--and Bright? Had it not
been in this way? Why should not he be as great,--greater than
either;--greater, because in these coming days a man of the people
would be able to wield a power more extensive than the people had
earned for themselves in former days? And then, as he walked alone
through the streets, he took to making speeches,--some such speeches
as he would make when he stood up in his place in the House of
Commons as the member for Percycross. The honourable member for
Percycross! There was something ravishing in the sound. Would not
that sound be pleasant to the ears of Polly Neefit?

But then, was not the thing as distant as it was glorious? How could
he be member for Percycross, seeing that in all matters he was
subject to his father? His father hated the very name of the Cheshire
Cheese, and was, in every turn and feeling of his life, diametrically
opposed to his son's sentiments. He would, nevertheless, go to his
father and demand assistance. If on such an occasion as this his
father should give him a stone when he asked for bread, he and his
father must be two! "If, when such a prospect as this is held out to
his son, he cannot see it," said Ontario, "then he can see nothing!"
But yet he was sure that his father wouldn't see it.

To his extreme astonishment Mr. Moggs senior did see it. It was some
time before Mr. Moggs senior clearly understood the proposition which
was made to him, but when he did he became alive to the honour,--and
perhaps profit,--of having a member of his firm in Parliament. Of
politics in the abstract Mr. Moggs senior knew very little. Nor,
indeed, did he care much. In matters referring to trade he was a
Conservative, because he was a master. He liked to be able to manage
his people, and to pay 5_s._ 3_d._ instead of 5_s._ 8_d._ for the
making of a pair of boots. He hated the Cheshire Cheese because his
son went there, and because his son entertained strange and injurious
ideas which were propagated at that low place. But if the Cheshire
Cheese would send his son to Parliament, Mr. Moggs did not know
but what the Cheshire Cheese might be very well. At any rate, he
undertook to pay the bills, if Ontario, his son, were brought forward
as a candidate for the borough. He lost his head so completely in the
glory of the thing, that it never occurred to him to ask what might
be the probable amount of the expenditure. "There ain't no father in
all London as 'd do more for his son than I would, if only I see'd
there was something in it," said Moggs senior, with a tear in his
eye. Moggs junior was profuse in gratitude, profuse in obedience,
profuse in love. Oh, heavens, what a golden crown was there now
within his grasp!

All this occurred between the father and son early in the morning at
Shepherd's Bush, whither the son had gone out to the father after a
night of feverish longing and ambition. They went into town together,
on the top of the omnibus, and Ontario felt that he was being
carried heavenwards. What a heaven had he before him, even in that
fortnight's canvass which it would be his glory to undertake! What
truths he would tell to the people, how he would lead them with him
by political revelations that should be almost divine, how he would
extract from them bursts of rapturous applause! To explain to them
that labour is the salt of the earth;--that would be his mission.
And then, how sweet to teach them the value, the inestimable value,
of the political privilege lately accorded to them,--or, as Ontario
would put it, lately wrested on their behalf from the hands of an
aristocracy which was more timid even than it was selfish;--how sweet
to explain this, and then to instruct them, afterwards, that it was
their duty now, having got this great boon for themselves, to see
at once that it should be extended to those below them. "Let the
first work of household suffrage be a demand for manhood suffrage."
This had been enunciated by Ontario Moggs with great effect at the
Cheshire Cheese;--and now, as the result of such enunciation, he was
going down to Percycross to stand as a candidate for the borough! He
was almost drunk with delight as he sat upon the knife-board of the
Shepherd's Bush omnibus, thinking of it all.

He, too, went down to Percycross, making a preliminary journey,--as
had done Sir Thomas Underwood,--timing his arrival there a day or
two after the departure of the lawyer. Alas, he, also, met much to
disappoint him even at that early period of the contest. The people
whom he was taken to see were not millionaires and tradesmen in
a large way of business, but leading young men of warm political
temperaments. This man was president of a mechanics' institute, that
secretary to an amalgamation of unions for general improvement, and
a third chairman of the Young Men's Reform Association. They were
delighted to see him, and were very civil; but he soon found that
they were much more anxious to teach him than they were to receive
his political lessons. When he began, as unfortunately he did very
early in his dealings with them, to open out his own views, he soon
found that they had views also to open out. He was to represent
them,--that is to say, become the mouthpiece of their ideas. He had
been selected because he was supposed to have some command of money.
Of course he would have to address the people in the Mechanics' Hall;
but the chairman of the Young Men's Reform Association was very
anxious to tell him what to say on that occasion. "I am accustomed to
addressing people," said Ontario Moggs, with a considerable accession
of dignity.

He had the satisfaction of addressing the people, and the people
received him kindly. But he thought he observed that the applause was
greater when the secretary of the Amalgamation-of-Improvement-Unions
spoke, and he was sure that the enthusiasm for the Young Men's
chairman mounted much higher than had done any ardour on his own
behalf. And he was astonished to find that these young men were just
as fluent as himself. He did think, indeed, that they did not go
quite so deep into the matter as he did, that they had not thought
out great questions so thoroughly, but they had a way of saying
things which,--which would have told even at the Cheshire Cheese. The
result of all this was, that at the end of three days,--though he
was, no doubt, candidate for the borough of Percycross, and in that
capacity a great man in Percycross,--he did not seem to himself to
be so great as he had been when he made the journey down from London.
There was a certain feeling that he was a cat's-paw, brought there
for certain objects which were not his objects,--because they wanted
money, and some one who would be fool enough to fight a losing
battle! He did not reap all that meed of personal admiration for his
eloquence which he expected.

And, then, during these three days there arose another question, the
discussion of which embarrassed him not a little. Mr. Westmacott was
in the town, and there was a question whether he and Mr. Westmacott
were to join forces. It was understood that Mr. Westmacott and Mr.
Westmacott's leading friends objected to this; but the chairmen of
the young men, and the presidents and the secretaries on the Radical
side put their heads together, and declared that if Mr. Westmacott
were proud they would run their horse alone;--they would vote for
Moggs, and for Moggs only. Or else,--as it was whispered,--they would
come to terms with Griffenbottom, and see that Sir Thomas was sent
back to London. The chairmen, and the presidents, and the secretaries
were powerful enough to get the better of Mr. Westmacott, and large
placards were printed setting forward the joint names of Westmacott
and Moggs. The two liberal candidates were to employ the same agent,
and were to canvass together. This was all very well,--was the very
thing which Moggs should have desired. But it was all arranged
without any consultation with him, and he felt that the objection
which had been raised was personal to himself. Worse than all, when
he was brought face to face with Mr. Westmacott he had not a word
to say for himself! He tried it and failed. Mr. Westmacott had been
a member of Parliament, and was a gentleman. Ontario, for aught he
himself knew, might have called upon Mr. Westmacott for the amount
of Mr. Westmacott's little bill. He caught himself calling Mr.
Westmacott, sir, and almost wished that he could bite out his own
tongue. He felt that he was a nobody in the interview, and that the
chairmen, the secretaries, and the presidents were regretting their
bargain, and saying among themselves that they had done very badly in
bringing down Ontario Moggs as a candidate for their borough. There
were moments before he left Percycross in which he was almost tempted
to resign.

But he left the town the accepted candidate of his special friends,
and was assured, with many parting grasps of the hand on the
platform, that he would certainly be brought in at the top of the
poll. Another little incident should be mentioned. He had been asked
by the electioneering agent for a small trifle of some hundred pounds
towards the expenses, and this, by the generosity of his father, he
had been able to give. "We shall get along now like a house on fire,"
said the agent, as he pocketed the cheque. Up to that moment there
may have been doubts upon the agent's mind.

As he went back to London he acknowledged to himself that he had
failed hitherto,--he had failed in making that impression at
Percycross which would have been becoming to him as the future member
of Parliament for the borough; but he gallantly resolved that he
would do better in the future. He would speak in such a way that the
men of Percycross should listen to him and admire. He would make
occasion for himself. He thought that he could do better than Mr.
Westmacott,--put more stuff in what he had got to say. And, whatever
might happen to him, he would hold up his head. Why should he not be
as good a man as Westmacott? It was the man that was needed,--not
the outside trappings. Then he asked himself a question whether, as
trappings themselves were so trivial, a man was necessarily mean who
dealt in trappings. He did not remember to have heard of a bootmaker
in Parliament. But there should be a bootmaker in Parliament
soon;--and thus he plucked up his courage.

On his journey down to Percycross he had thought that immediately on
his return to London he would go across to Hendon, and take advantage
of his standing as a candidate for the borough; but as he returned he
resolved that he would wait till the election was over. He would go
to Polly with all his honours on his head.



CHAPTER XXII.

RALPH NEWTON'S DECISION.


Ontario Moggs was at Percycross when Ralph Newton was making his
formal offer to Polly Neefit. Ralph when he had made his offer
returned to London with mixed feelings. He had certainly been
oppressed at times by the conviction that he must make the offer even
though it went against the grain with him to do so;--and at these
moments he had not failed to remind himself that he was about to make
himself miserable for life because he had been weak enough to take
pecuniary assistance in the hour of his temporary necessities from
the hands of Polly's father. Now he had made his offer; it had not
been accepted, and he was still free. He could see his way out of
that dilemma without dishonour. But then that dilemma became very
much smaller to his sight when it was surmounted,--as is the nature
with all dilemmas; and the other dilemma, which would have been
remedied had Polly accepted him, again loomed very large. And as he
looked back at the matrimonial dilemma which he had escaped, and
at Polly standing before him, comely, healthy, and honest, such a
pleasant armful, and so womanly withal,--so pleasant a girl if only
she was not to be judged and sentenced by others beside himself,--he
almost thought that that dilemma was one which he could have borne
without complaint. But Polly's suggestion that they should allow a
year to run round in order that they might learn to know each other
was one which he could not entertain. He had but three days in which
to give an answer to his uncle, and up to this time two alternatives
had been open to him,--the sale of his reversion and independence, or
Polly and the future lordship of Newton. He had thought that there
was nothing but to choose. It had not occurred to him that Polly
would raise any objection. He had felt neither fear nor hope in that
direction. It followed as a consequence now that the lordship must
go. He would not, however, make up his mind that it should go till
the last moment.

On the following morning he was thinking that he might as well go to
the shop in Conduit Street, feeling that he could encounter Neefit
without any qualms of conscience, when Mr. Neefit came to him. This
was certainly a better arrangement. It was easier to talk of his
own affairs sitting at ease in his own arm-chair, than to carry on
the discussion among the various sporting garments which adorned Mr.
Neefit's little back room, subject to interruption from customers,
and possibly within the hearing of Mr. Waddle and Herr Bawwah.
Neefit, seated at the end of the sofa in Ralph's comfortable room,
looking out of his saucer eyes with all his energy, was in a certain
degree degrading,--but was not quite so degrading as Neefit at his
own barn-door in Conduit Street. "I was just coming to you," he said,
as he made the breeches-maker welcome.

"Well;--yes; but I thought I'd catch you here, Captain. Them men
of mine has such long ears! That German who lets on that he don't
understand only just a word or two of English, hears everything
through a twelve-inch brick wall. Polly told me as you'd been with
her."

"I suppose so, Mr. Neefit."

"Oh, she ain't one as 'd keep anything from me. She's open and
straightforward, anyways."

"So I found her."

"Now look here, Captain. I've just one word to say about her.
Stick to her." Ralph was well aware that he must explain the exact
circumstances in which he stood to the man who was to have been his
father-in-law, but hardly knew how to begin his explanation. "She
ain't nowise again you," continued Mr. Neefit. "She owned as much
when I put her through her facings. I did put her through her facings
pretty tightly. 'What is it that you want, Miss?' said I. 'D' you
want to have a husband, or d' you want to be an old maid?' They don't
like that word old maid;--not as used again themselves, don't any
young woman."

"Polly will never be an old maid," said Ralph.

"She owned as she didn't want that. 'I suppose I'll have to take some
of 'em some day,' she said. Lord, how pretty she did look as she said
it;--just laughing and crying, smiling and pouting all at once. She
ain't a bad 'un to look at, Captain?"

"Indeed she is not."

"Nor yet to go. Do you stick to her. Them's my words. 'D' you want
to have that ugly bootmaker?' said I. 'He ain't ugly,' said she. 'D'
you want to have him, Miss?' said I. 'No, I don't,' said she. 'Well!'
said I. 'But I do know him,' said Polly, 'and I don't know Mr. Newton
no more than Adam!' Them were her very words, Captain. Do you stick
to her, Captain. I'll tell you what. Let's all go down to Margate
together for a week." That was Mr. Neefit's plan of action.

Then Ralph got up from his easy-chair and began his explanation. He
couldn't very well go down to Margate, delightful as it would be to
sit upon the sands with Polly. He was so situated that he must at
once decide as to the sale of his property at Newton. Mr. Neefit put
his hands in his pockets, and sat perfectly silent, listening to his
young friend's explanation. If Polly would have accepted him at once,
Ralph went on to explain, everything would have been straight; but,
as she would not do so, he must take his uncle's offer. He had no
other means of extricating himself from his embarrassments. "Why, Mr.
Neefit, I could not look you in the face unless I were prepared to
pay you your money," he said.

"Drat that," replied Neefit, and then again he listened.

Ralph went on. He could not go on long in his present condition. His
bill for £500 to Mr. Horsball of the Moonbeam was coming round. He
literally had not £20 in his possession to carry on the war. His
uncle's offer would be withdrawn if it were not accepted the day
after to-morrow. Nobody else would give half so much. The thing must
be done, and then;--why, then he would have nothing to offer to Polly
worthy of her acceptance. "Bother," said Mr. Neefit, who had not once
taken his eyes off Ralph's face. Ralph said that that might be all
very well, but such were the facts. "You ain't that soft that you're
going to let 'em rob you of the estate?" said the breeches-maker in
a tone of horror. Ralph raised his hands and his eyebrows together.
Yes;--that was what he intended to do.

"There shan't be nothing of the kind," said the breeches-maker.
"What! £7,000 a year, ain't it? All in land, ain't it? And it must
be your own, let 'em do what they will; mustn't it?" He paused a
moment, and Ralph nodded his head. "What you have to do is to get a
wife,--and a son before any of 'em can say Jack Robinson. Lord bless
you! Just spit at 'em if they talks of buying it. S'pose the old gent
was to go off all along of apperplexy the next day, how'd you feel
then? Like cutting your throat;--wouldn't you, Captain?"

"But my uncle's life is very good."

"He ain't got no receipt against kingdom come, I dare say." Ralph was
surprised by his tradesman's eloquence and wit. "You have a chick of
your own, and then you'll know as it'll be yours some way or other.
If I'd the chance I'd sooner beg, borrow, starve, or die, before I'd
sell it;--let alone working, Captain." There was satire too as well
as eloquence in the breeches-maker. "No;--you must run your chance,
somehow."

"I don't see my way," said Ralph.

"You have got something, Captain;--something of your own?"

"Well;--just enough to pay my debts, if all were sold, and buy myself
a rope to hang myself."

"I'll pay your debts, Captain."

"I couldn't hear of it, Mr. Neefit."

"As for not hearing of it,--that's bother. You do hear of it now. And
how much more do you want to keep you? You shall have what you want.
You meant honest along of Polly yesterday, and you mean honest now."
Ralph winced, but he did not deny what Neefit said, nor aught that
was implied in the saying. "We'll bring you and Polly together, and I
tell you she'll come round." Ralph shook his head. "Anyways you shall
have the money;--there now. We'll have a bit of a paper, and if this
marriage don't come off there'll be the money to come back, and five
per cent. when the old gent dies."

"But I might die first."

"We'll insure your life, Captain. Only we must be upon the square."

"Oh, yes," said Ralph.

"I'd rather a'most lose it all than think such a chance should be
missed. £7,000 a year, and all in land? When one knows how hard it is
to get, to think of selling it!"

Ralph made no positive promise, but when Mr. Neefit left him, there
was,--so at least thought Mr. Neefit,--an implied understanding that
"the Captain" would at once put an end to this transaction between
him and his uncle. And yet Ralph didn't feel quite certain. The
breeches-maker had been generous,--very generous, and very trusting;
but he hated the man's generosity and confidence. The breeches-maker
had got such a hold of him that he seemed to have lost all power of
thinking and acting for himself. And then such a man as he was, with
his staring round eyes, and heavy face, and dirty hands, and ugly
bald head! There is a baldness that is handsome and noble, and a
baldness that is peculiarly mean and despicable. Neefit's baldness
was certainly of the latter order. Now Moggs senior, who was grey and
not bald, was not bad looking,--at a little distance. His face when
closely inspected was poor and greedy, but the general effect at a
passing glance was not contemptible. Moggs might have been a banker,
or an officer in the Commissariat, or a clerk in the Treasury. A
son-in-law would have had hopes of Moggs. But nothing of the kind was
possible with Neefit. One would be forced to explain that he was a
respectable tradesman in Conduit Street in order that he might not be
taken for a dealer in potatoes from Whitechapel. He was hopeless. And
yet he had taken upon himself the absolute management of all Ralph
Newton's affairs!

Ralph was very unhappy, and in his misery he went to Sir Thomas's
chambers. This was about four o'clock in the day, at which hour Sir
Thomas was almost always in his rooms. But Stemm with much difficulty
succeeded in making him believe that the lawyer was not at home.
Stemm at this time was much disturbed by his master's terrible
resolution to try the world again, to stand for a seat in Parliament,
and to put himself once more in the way of work and possible
promotion. Stemm had condemned the project,--but, nevertheless,
took glory in it. What if his master should become,--should
become anything great and magnificent. Stemm had often groaned in
silence,--had groaned unconsciously, that his master should be
nothing. He loved his master thoroughly,--loving no one else in
the whole world,--and sympathised with him acutely. Still he had
condemned the project. "There's so many of them, Sir Thomas, as
is only wanting to put their fingers into somebody's eyes." "No
doubt, Stemm, no doubt," said Sir Thomas; "and as well into mine as
another's." "That's it, Sir Thomas." "But I'll just run down and
see, Stemm." And so it had been settled. Stemm, who had always hated
Ralph Newton, and who now regarded his master's time as more precious
than ever, would hardly give any answer at all to Ralph's enquiries.
His master might be at home at Fulham,--probably was. Where should
a gentleman so likely be as at home,--that is, when he wasn't in
chambers? "Anyways, he's not here," said Stemm, bobbing his head, and
holding the door ready to close it. Ralph was convinced, then dined
at his club, and afterwards went down to Fulham. He had heard nothing
from Stemm, or elsewhere, of the intended candidature.

Sir Thomas was not at Fulham, nor did the girls know aught of his
whereabouts. But the great story was soon told. Papa was going to
stand for Percycross. "We are so glad," said Mary Bonner, bursting
out into enthusiasm. "We walk about the garden making speeches to the
electors all day. Oh dear, I do wish we could do something."

"Glad is no word," said Clarissa. "But if he loses it!"

"The very trying for it is good," said Patience. "It is just the
proper thing for papa."

"I shall feel so proud when uncle is in Parliament again," said Mary
Bonner. "A woman's pride is always vicarious;--but still it is
pride."

Ralph also was surprised,--so much surprised that for a few minutes
his own affairs were turned out of his head. He, too, had thought
that Sir Thomas would never again do anything in the world,--unless
that book should be written of which he had so often heard
hints,--though never yet, with any accuracy, its name or subject. Sir
Thomas, he was told, had been at Percycross, but was not supposed
to be there now. "Of course he was in his chambers," said Clarissa.
"Old Stemm does know how to tell lies so well!" It was, however,
acknowledged that, having on his hands a piece of business so very
weighty, Sir Thomas might be almost anywhere without any fault on his
part. A gentleman in the throes of an election for Parliament could
not be expected to be at home. Even Patience did not feel called upon
to regret his absence.

Before he went back to town Ralph found himself alone with Mary for
a few minutes. "Mr. Newton," she said, "why don't you stand for
Parliament?"

"I have not the means."

"You have great prospects. I should have thought you were just
the man who ought to make it the work of your life to get into
Parliament." Ralph began to ask himself what had been the work of his
life. "They say that to be of real use a man ought to begin young."

"Nobody ought to go into the House without money," said Ralph.

"That means, I suppose, that men shouldn't go in who want their time
to earn their bread. But you haven't that to do. If I were a man such
as you are I would always try to be something. I am sure Parliament
was meant for men having estates such as you will have."

"When I've got it, I'll think about Parliament, Miss Bonner."

"Perhaps it will be too late then. Don't you know that song of
'Excelsior,' Mr. Newton? You ought to learn to sing it."

Yes;--he was learning to sing it after a fine fashion;--borrowing his
tradesman's money, and promising to marry his tradesman's daughter!
He was half inclined to be angry with this interference from Mary
Bonner;--and yet he liked her for it. Could it be that she herself
felt an interest in what concerned him? "Ah me,"--he said to
himself,--"how much better would it have been to have learned
something, to have fitted myself for some high work; and to have been
able to choose some such woman as this for my wife!" And all that had
been sacrificed to horses at the Moonbeam, and little dinners with
Captain Fooks and Lieutenant Cox! Every now and again during his life
Phoebus had touched his trembling ears, and had given him to know
that to sport with the tangles of Naæra's hair was not satisfactory
as the work of a man's life. But, alas, the god had intervened but
to little purpose. The horses at the Moonbeam, which had been two,
became four, and then six; and now he was pledged to marry Polly
Neefit,--if only he could induce Polly Neefit to have him. It was too
late in the day for him to think now of Parliament and Mary Bonner.

And then, before he left them, poor Clary whispered a word into
his ear,--a cousinly, brotherly word, such as their circumstances
authorised her to make. "Is it settled about the property, Ralph?"
For she, too, had heard that this question of a sale was going
forward.

"Not quite, Clary."

"You won't sell it; will you?"

"I don't think I shall."

"Oh, don't;--pray don't. Anything will be better than that. It is so
good to wait." She was thinking only of Ralph, and of his interests,
but she could not forget the lesson which she was daily teaching to
herself.

"If I can help it, I shall not sell it."

"Papa will help you;--will he not? If I were you they should drag
me in pieces before I would part with my birthright;--and such a
birthright!" It had occurred to her once that Ralph might feel that,
after what had passed between them one night on the lawn, he was
bound not to wait, that it was his duty so to settle his affairs that
he might at once go to her father and say,--"Though I shall never be
Mr. Newton of Newton, I have still such and such means of supporting
your daughter." Ah! if he would only be open with her, and tell
her everything, he would soon know how unnecessary it was to make
a sacrifice for her. He pressed her hand as he left her, and said
a word that was a word of comfort. "Clary, I cannot speak with
certainty, but I do not think that it will be sold."

"I am so glad!" she said. "Oh, Ralph, never, never part with it." And
then she blushed, as she thought of what she had said. Could it be
that he would think that she was speaking for her own sake;--because
she looked forward to reigning some day as mistress of Newton Priory?
Ah, no, Ralph would never misinterpret her thoughts in a manner so
unmanly as that!

The day came, and it was absolutely necessary that the answer should
be given. Neefit came to prompt him again, and seemed to sit on
the sofa with more feeling of being at home than he had displayed
before. He brought his cheque-book with him, and laid it rather
ostentatiously upon the table. He had good news, too, from Polly. "If
Mr. Newton would come down to Margate, she would be ever so glad."
That was the message as given by Mr. Neefit, but the reader will
probably doubt that it came exactly in those words from Polly's lips.
Ralph was angry, and shook his head in wrath. "Well, Captain, how's
it to be?" asked Mr. Neefit.

"I shall let my uncle know that I intend to keep my property," said
Ralph, with as much dignity as he knew how to assume.

The breeches-maker jumped up and crowed,--actually crowed, as might
have crowed a cock. It was an art that he had learned in his youth.
"That's my lad of wax," he said, slapping Ralph on the shoulder. "And
now tell us how much it's to be," said he, opening the cheque-book.
But Ralph declined to take money at the present moment, endeavouring
to awe the breeches-maker back into sobriety by his manner. Neefit
did put up his cheque-book, but was not awed back into perfect
sobriety. "Come to me, when you want it, and you shall have
it, Captain. Don't let that chap as 'as the 'orses be any way
disagreeable. You tell him he can have it all when he wants it. And
he can;--be blowed if he can't. We'll see it through, Captain. And
now, Captain, when'll you come out and see Polly?" Ralph would give
no definite answer to this,--on account of business, but was induced
at last to send his love to Miss Neefit. "That man will drive me into
a lunatic asylum at last," he said to himself, as he threw himself
into his arm-chair when Neefit had departed.

Nevertheless, he wrote his letter to his uncle's lawyer, Mr. Carey,
as follows:--


   ---- Club, 20 Sept., 186--.

   DEAR SIR,--

   After mature consideration I have resolved upon declining
   the offer made to me by my uncle respecting the Newton
   property.

   Faithfully yours,

   RALPH NEWTON.

   Richard Carey, Esq.


It was very short, but it seemed to him to contain all that there
was to be said. He might, indeed, have expressed regret that so much
trouble had been occasioned;--but the trouble had been taken not for
his sake, and he was not bound to denude himself of his property
because his uncle had taken trouble.

When the letter was put into the Squire's hands in Mr. Carey's
private room, the Squire was nearly mad with rage. In spite of all
that his son had told him, in disregard of all his own solicitor's
cautions, in the teeth of his nephew Gregory's certainty, he had
felt sure that the thing would be done. The young man was penniless,
and must sell; and he could sell nowhere else with circumstances so
favourable. And now the young man wrote a letter as though he were
declining to deal about a horse! "It's some sham, some falsehood,"
said the Squire. "Some low attorney is putting him up to thinking
that he can get more out of me."

"It's possible," said Mr. Carey; "but there's nothing more to be
done." The Squire when last in London had asserted most positively
that he would not increase his bid.

"But he's penniless," said the Squire.

"There are those about him that will put him in the way of raising
money," said the lawyer.

"And so the property will go to the hammer,--and I can do nothing to
help it!" Mr. Carey did not tell his client that a gentleman had no
right to complain because he could not deal with effects which were
not his own; but that was the line which his thoughts took. The
Squire walked about the room, lashing himself in his rage. He could
not bear to be beaten. "How much more would do it?" he said at last.
It would be terribly bitter to him to be made to give way, to be
driven to increase the price; but even that would be less bitter than
failure.

"I should say nothing,--just at present, if I were you," said Mr.
Carey. The Squire still walked about the room. "If he raises money
on the estate we shall hear of it. And so much of his rights as pass
from him we can purchase. It will be more prudent for us to wait."

"Would another £5,000 do it at once?" said the Squire.

"At any rate I would not offer it," said Mr. Carey.

"Ah;--you don't understand. You don't feel what it is that I want.
What would you say if a man told you to wait while your hand was in
the fire?"

"But you are in possession, Mr. Newton."

"No;--I'm not. I'm not in possession. I'm only a lodger in the place.
I can do nothing. I cannot even build a farm-house for a tenant."

"Surely you can, Mr. Gregory."

"What;--for him! You think that would be one of the delights of
possession? Put my money into the ground like seed, in order that the
fruit may be gathered by him! I'm not a good enough Christian, Mr.
Carey, to take much delight in that. I'll tell you what it is, Mr.
Carey. The place is a hell upon earth to me, till I can call it my
own." At last he left his lawyer, and went back to Newton Priory,
having given instructions that the transaction should be re-opened
between the two lawyers, and that additional money, to the extent of
£5,000, should by degrees be offered.



CHAPTER XXIII.

"I'LL BE A HYPOCRITE IF YOU CHOOSE."


There could hardly be a more unhappy man than was the Squire on his
journey home. He had buoyed himself up with hope till he had felt
certain that he would return to Newton Priory its real and permanent
owner, no longer a lodger in the place, as he had called himself to
the lawyer, but able to look upon every tree as his own, with power
to cut down every oak upon the property; though, as he knew very
well, he would rather spill blood from his veins than cut down one of
them. But in that case he would preserve the oaks,--preserve them by
his own decision,--because they were his own, and because he could
give them to his own son. His son should cut them down if he pleased.
And then the power of putting up would be quite as sweet to him as
the power of pulling down. What pleasure would he have in making
every deficient house upon the estate efficient, when he knew that
the stones as he laid them would not become the property of his
enemy. He was a man who had never spent his full income. The property
had been in his hands now for some fifteen years, and he had already
amassed a considerable sum of money,--a sum which would have
enabled him to buy out his nephew altogether, without selling an
acre,--presuming the price already fixed to have been sufficient. He
had determined to sell something, knowing that he could not do as he
would do with the remainder if his hands were empty. He had settled
it all in his mind;--how Ralph, his Ralph, must marry, and have a
separate income. There would be no doubt about his Ralph's marriage
when once it should be known that his Ralph was the heir to Newton.
The bar sinister would matter but little then;--would be clean
forgotten. His mind had been full of all this as he had come up
to London. It had all been settled. He had decided upon ignoring
altogether those cautions which his son and nephew and lawyer had
croaked into his ears. This legitimate heir was a ruined spendthrift,
who had no alternative but to raise money, no ambition but to spend
money, no pursuit but to waste money. His temperament was so sanguine
that when he entered Mr. Carey's office he had hardly doubted. Now
everything had been upset, and he was cast down from triumph into an
abyss of despondency by two lines from this wretched, meaningless,
poor-spirited spendthrift! "I believe he'd take a pleasure in seeing
the property going to the dogs, merely to spite me," said the Squire
to his son, as soon as he reached home,--having probably forgotten
his former idea, that his nephew was determined, with the pertinacity
of a patient, far-sighted Jew money-lender, to wring from him the
last possible shilling.

Ralph, who was not the heir, was of his nature so just, that he could
not hear an accusation which he did not believe to be true, without
protesting against it. The Squire had called the heir a spiritless
spendthrift, and a malicious evil-doer, intent upon ruining the
estate, and a grasping Jew, all in the same breath.

"I think you are hard upon him, sir," said the son to the father.

"Of course you think so. At any rate you'll say so," said the Squire.
"One would suppose I was thinking only of myself to hear you talk."

"I know what you're thinking of," said Ralph slowly; "and I know how
much I owe you."

"I sometimes think that you ought to curse me," said the Squire.

After this, at this moment, with such words ringing in his ears,
Ralph found it to be impossible to expostulate with his father. He
could only take his father's arm, and whisper a soft feminine word or
two. He would be as happy as the day was long, if only he could see
his father happy.

"I can never be happy till I have placed you where you would have
been," said the Squire. "The gods are just, and our pleasant vices
make instruments to scourge us." He did not quote the line to
himself, but the purport of it hung heavy on him. And yet he thought
it hard that because he had money in his pocket he could not
altogether make himself free of the scourge.

On the following morning he was less vituperative and less
unreasonable, but he was still intent upon the subject. After
breakfast he got his son into his own room,--the room in which he did
his magistrate's work, and added up his accounts, and kept his spuds
and spurs,--and seriously discussed the whole matter. What would it
be wise that they should do next? "You don't mean to tell me that you
don't wish me to buy it?" said the Squire. No; Ralph would not say
that. If it were in the market, to be bought, and if the money were
forthcoming, of course such a purchase would be expedient. "The money
is forthcoming," said the Squire. "We can make it up one way or
another. What matter if we did sell Brownriggs? What matter if we
sold Brownriggs and Twining as well?" Ralph quite acceded to this.
As far as buying and selling were concerned he would have acceded
to anything that would have made his father happy. "I won't say a
word against this fellow, since you are so fond of him," continued
the Squire. Ralph, though his father paused, made no reply to the
intended sarcasm. "But you must allow that he had a reason for
writing such a letter as he did."

"Of course he had a reason," said Ralph.

"Well;--we'll say that he wants to keep it."

"That's not unnatural."

"Not at all. Everybody likes to keep what he's got, and to get as
much as he can. That's nature. But a man can't eat his cake and have
it. He has been slow to learn that, no doubt; but I suppose he has
learned it. He wouldn't have gone to Sir Thomas Underwood, in the
way he did, crying to be helped,--if he hadn't learned it. Remember,
Ralph, I didn't go to him first;--he came to me. You always forget
that. What was the meaning then of Sir Thomas writing to me in that
pitiful way,--asking me to do something for him;--and he who had I
don't know how much, something like £800 a year, I take it, the day
he came of age?"

"Of course he has been imprudent."

"He cannot eat his cake and have it. He wants to eat it, and I want
to have it. I am sure it may be managed. I suppose you mean to go up
and see him."

"See Ralph?"

"Why not? You are not afraid of him." The son smiled, but made
no answer. "You might find out from him what it is he really
wants;--what he will really do. Those attorneys don't understand.
Carey isn't a bad fellow, and as for honesty, I'd trust him with
anything. I've known him and his father all my life, and in any
ordinary piece of business there is no one whose opinion I would take
so soon. But he talks of my waiting, telling me that the thing will
come round after a few years,--as if what one wanted was merely an
investment for one's money. It isn't that."

"No, sir;--it isn't that."

"Not that at all. It's the feeling of the thing. Your lawyer may be
the best man in the world to lay out your money in a speculation, but
he doesn't dare to buy contentment for you. He doesn't see it, and
one hardly dares to try and make him see it. I'd give the half of
it all to have the other half, but I cannot tell him that. I'd give
one half so long as that fellow wasn't to be the owner of the other.
We'll have no opposition Newton in the place."

The Squire's son was of course willing enough to go up to London.
He would see the heir at any rate, and endeavour to learn what were
the wishes of the heir. "You may say what money you like," said the
Squire. "I hardly care what I pay, so long as it is possible to pay
it. Go up to £10,000 more, if that will do it."

"I don't think I can bargain," said the son.

"But he can," said the father. "At any rate you can find out whether
he will name a price. I'd go myself, but I know I should quarrel with
him."

Ralph prepared himself for the journey, and, as a matter of course,
took the parson into his confidence; not telling the parson anything
of the absolute sum named, but explaining that it was his purpose to
become acquainted with the heir, and if possible to learn his views.
"You'll find Ralph a very different fellow from what my uncle thinks
him," said the parson. "I shall be much mistaken if he does not tell
you quite openly what he intends. He is careless about money, but he
never was greedy." And then they got to other matters. "You will of
course see the girls at Fulham," said the parson.

"Yes;--I shall manage to get down there."

The story of Gregory's passion for Clarissa was well known to the
other. Gregory, who would not for worlds have spoken of such a matter
among his general acquaintance, who could not have brought himself to
mention it in the presence of two hearers, had told it all to the one
companion who was nearest and dearest to him,--"I wish I were going
with you," said the parson.

"Why not come with me then?"

"And yet I don't wish it. If I were in London I doubt whether I would
go there. There could be no use in it."

"It is one of those things," said Ralph, "in which a man should never
despair as long as there is a possibility."

"Ah, yes; people say so. I don't believe in that kind of perseverance
myself;--at any rate not with her. She knows her own mind,--as well
as I know mine. I think I promised her that I would trouble her no
more."

"Promises like that are mere pie-crusts," said Ralph.

"Give her my love;--that's all. And don't do that unless you're alone
with her. I shall live it down some day, no doubt, but to tell the
truth I have made up my mind not to marry. I'm half inclined to think
that a clergyman shouldn't marry. There are some things which our
ancestors understood pretty well, although we think they were such
fools. I should like to see the new cousin, certainly."

Ralph said nothing more about the new cousin; and was perhaps hardly
aware how greatly the idea of again seeing the new cousin had
enhanced the pleasure of his journey to London. About a week after
this he started, having devoted nearly all the afternoon before
he went to the packing of a large basket of ferns,--to each root
or small bundle of which was appended a long name in Latin,--as an
offering to Patience Underwood. And yet he did not care very much for
Patience Underwood.

It was just the end of September,--the last day of September, when
he reached London. Ralph the heir was out of town, and the servant
at his lodging professed she did not know where he was. She thought
it probable that he was "at Mr. 'Orsball's,--Mr. 'Orsball of the
Moonbeam, Barnfield,--a-looking after his 'orses." She suggested
this, not from any knowledge in her possession, but because Ralph was
always believed to go to the Moonbeam when he left town. He would,
however, be back next week. His namesake, therefore, did not consider
that it would be expedient for him to follow the heir down to the
Moonbeam.

But the Underwood girls would certainly be at Fulham, and he started
at once with his ferns for Popham Villa. He found them at home, and,
singular to say, he found Sir Thomas there also. On the very next
morning Sir Thomas was to start for Percycross, to commence the
actual work of his canvass. The canvass was to occupy a fortnight,
and on Monday the sixteenth the candidates were to be nominated.
Tuesday the seventeenth was the day of the election. The whole
household was so full of the subject that at first there was hardly
room for the ferns. "Oh, Mr. Newton, we are so much obliged to you.
Papa is going to stand for Percycross." That, or nearly that, was the
form in which the ferns were received. Newton was quite contented. An
excuse for entering the house was what he had wanted, and his excuse
was deemed ample. Sir Thomas, who was disposed to be very civil to
the stranger, had not much to say about his own prospects. To a
certain degree he was ashamed of Percycross, and had said very little
about it even to Stemm since his personal acquaintance had been made
with Messrs. Spiveycomb, Pile, and Pabsby. But the girls were not
ashamed of Percycross. To them as yet Percycross was the noblest of
all British boroughs. Had not the Conservatives of Percycross chosen
their father to be their representative out of all British subjects?
Sir Thomas had tried, but had tried quite in vain, to make them
understand the real fashion of the selection. If Percycross would
only send him to Parliament, Percycross should be divine. "What d'you
think?" said Clary; "there's a man of the name of--. I wish you'd
guess the name of this man who is going to stand against papa, Mr.
Newton."

"The name won't make much difference," said Sir Thomas.

"Ontario Moggs!" said Clary. "Do you think it possible, Mr. Newton,
that Percycross,--the town where one of the Percys set up a cross in
the time of the Crusaders,--didn't he, papa?--"

"I shall not consider myself bound to learn all that unless they
elect me," said Sir Thomas; "but I don't think there were Percys in
the days of the Crusaders."

"At any rate, the proper name is Percy St. Cross," said Clary. "Could
such a borough choose Ontario Moggs to be one of its members, Mr.
Newton?"

"I do like the name," said Mary Bonner.

"Perhaps papa and Ontario Moggs may be the two members," said Clary,
laughing. "If so, you must bring him down here, papa. Only he's a
shoemaker."

"That makes no difference in these days," said Sir Thomas.

The ferns were at last unpacked, and the three girls were profuse in
their thanks. Who does not know how large a space a basket of ferns
will cover when it is unpacked and how large the treasure looms.
"They'll cover the rocks on the other side," said Mary. It seemed to
Newton that Mary Bonner was more at home than she had been when he
had seen her before, spoke more freely of what concerned the house,
and was beginning to become one of the family. But still she was, as
it were, overshadowed by Clarissa. In appearance, indeed, she was the
queen among the three, but in active social life she did not compete
with Clary. Patience stood as a statue on a pedestal, by no means
unobserved and ignored; beautiful in form, but colourless. Newton, as
he looked at the three, wondered that a man so quiet and gentle as
the young parson should have chosen such a love as Clary Underwood.
He remained half the day at the villa, dining there at the invitation
of Sir Thomas. "My last dinner," said Sir Thomas, "unless I am lucky
enough to be rejected. Men when they are canvassing never dine;--and
not often after they're elected."

The guest had not much opportunity of ingratiating himself specially
with the beauty; but the beauty did so far ingratiate herself with
him,--unconsciously on her part,--that he half resolved that should
his father be successful in his present enterprise, he would ask Mary
Bonner to be the Queen of Newton Priory. His father had often urged
him to marry,--never suggesting that any other quality beyond good
looks would be required in his son's wife. He had never spoken of
money, or birth, or name. "I have an idea," he had said, laughing,
"that you'll marry a fright some day. I own I should like to have a
pretty woman about the house. One doesn't expect much from a woman,
but she is bound to be pretty." This woman was at any rate pretty.
Pretty, indeed! Was it possible that any woman should be framed more
lovely than this one? But he must bide his time. He would not ask any
girl to marry him till he should know what position he could ask her
to fill. But though he spoke little to Mary, he treated her as men do
treat women whom they desire to be allowed to love. There was a tone
in his voice, a worship in his eye, and a flush upon his face, and a
hesitation in his manner, which told the story, at any rate to one
of the party there. "He didn't come to bring you the ferns," said
Clarissa to Patience.

"He brought them for all of us," said Patience.

"Young men don't go about with ferns for the sake of the ferns," said
Clary. "They were merely an excuse to come and see Mary."

"Why shouldn't he come and see Mary?"

"He has my leave, Patty. I think it would be excellent. Isn't it odd
that there should be two Ralph Newtons. One would be Mrs. Newton and
the other Mrs. Ralph."

"Clarissa, Clarissa!" said Patience, almost in a tone of agony.

"I'll be a hypocrite if you choose, Patty," said Clarissa, "or I'll
be true. But you can't have me both at once." Patience said nothing
further then. The lesson of self-restraint which she desired to teach
was very hard of teaching.

There was just a word spoken between Sir Thomas and Newton about the
property. "I intend to see Ralph Newton, if I can find him," said
Ralph who was not the heir.

"I don't think he is far from town," said Sir Thomas.

"My father thinks that we might come to an understanding."

"Perhaps so," said Sir Thomas.

"I have no strong anxiety on the subject myself," said Newton; "but
my father thinks that if he does wish to sell his reversion--"

"He doesn't wish it. How can a man wish it?"

"Under the circumstances it may be desirable."

"You had better see him, and I think he will tell you," said Sir
Thomas. "You must understand that a man thinks much of such a
position. Pray come to us again. We shall always be glad to see you
when you are in town."



CHAPTER XXIV.

"I FIND I MUST."


Ralph the heir had, after all, gone to Margate. Mr. Neefit had got
such a hold upon him that he had no help for it. He found himself
forced to go to Margate. When he was asked the second and third time,
with all the energy of Mr. Neefit's eloquence, he was unable to
resist. What reason could he give that he should not go to Margate,
seeing that it was a thing quite understood that he was to endeavour
to persuade Polly to be his wife. Neefit came to him two mornings
running, catching him each morning just as he was smoking his cigar
after breakfast, and was very eloquent. He already owed Mr. Neefit
over five hundred pounds, and the debt on the first of these mornings
was made up to one thousand pounds, a receipt being given for
the shop debt on one side, and a bond for the whole money, with
5 per cent. interest, being taken in return for it. "You'd better
pay off what little things you owes, Captain," said the generous
breeches-maker, "and then, when the time comes, we'll settle with the
gent about the 'orses." Neefit played his game very well. He said
not a word about selling the horses, or as to any restriction on his
young "Captain's" amusements. If you pull at your fish too hard you
only break your line. Neefit had a very fine fish on his hook, and he
meant to land it. Not a word was said about Margate on that occasion,
till the little pecuniary transaction was completed. Then the Captain
was informed that the Neefit family would certainly spend the next
week at that marine Paradise, and that Polly expected "the Captain's"
company. "Them's the places," said Neefit, "where a girl grows soft
as butter." This he said when the door-handle was in his hand, so
that "the Captain" had no chance of answering him. Then he came again
the next morning, and returned to the subject as though "the Captain"
had already consented. There was a near approach to anger on one side
and determined opposition on the other during this interview, but
it ended in acquiescence on the Captain's side. Then Mr. Neefit was
once more as gracious as possible. The graciousness of such men in
acknowledging their own inferiority is sometimes wonderful. "You
needn't be seen about with me, you know," said Mr. Neefit. This
was said after Ralph had positively declared that he would not go
actually with the Neefits and occupy the same apartments. "It would
be altogether wrong,--for Polly's sake," said Ralph, looking very
wise and very moral. To this view Neefit assented, not being quite
sure how far "the Captain" might be correct in his ideas of morality.

"They've been and fixed young Newton for Polly," said Mr. Waddle that
morning, to his friend Herr Bawwah, when he was told to mark off
Ralph's account in the books as settled. "Dashed if they 'aven't,"
the German grunted. "Old Neverfit's a-playing at 'igh game, ain't
he?" Such was the most undeserved nickname by which this excellent
tradesman was known in his own establishment. "I don't see nodin
about 'igh," said the German. "He ain't got no money. I call it low."
Waddle endeavoured to explain the circumstances, but failed. "De
peoples should be de peoples, and de nobles should be de nobles,"
said Herr Bawwah;--a doctrine which was again unintelligible to Mr.
Waddle.

Ralph having overcome an intense desire to throw over his engagement,
to sell his horses, and to start for Jerusalem, did go down to
Margate. He put himself up at an hotel there, eat his dinner, lighted
a cigar, and went down upon the sands. It was growing dusk, and he
thought that he should be alone,--or, at least, uninterrupted in
a crowd. The crowd was there, and nobody in the place would know
him,--except the Neefits. He had not been on the sands two minutes
before he encountered Mr. Neefit and his daughter. The breeches-maker
talked loud, and was extremely happy. Polly smiled, and was very
pretty. In two minutes Neefit saw, or pretended to see, a friend, and
Ralph was left with his lady-love. There never was so good-natured a
father! "You'll bring her home to tea, Captain," said the father, as
he walked off.

On that occasion, Ralph abstained from all direct love-making,
and Polly, when she found that it was to be so, made herself very
pleasant. "The idea of your being at Margate, Mr. Newton," said
Polly.

"Why not I, as well as another?"

"Oh, I don't know. Brighton, or some of those French places, or any
where all about the world, would be more likely for you, I should
think."

"Margate seems to be very jolly."

"Oh, I like it. But then we are not swells, you know. Have you
heard the news? Ontario Moggs is going to stand to be 'member of
Parliament' for Percycross."

"My rival!" That was the only word he uttered approaching to the
subject of love.

"I don't know anything about that, Mr. Newton. But it's true."

"Why, Sir Thomas Underwood is going to stand."

"I don't know anything about anybody else, but Ontario Moggs is
going to stand. I do so hope he'll get in. They say he speaks quite
beautiful. Did you ever hear him?"

"I never heard him."

"Ah, you may laugh. But a bootmaker can make a speech sometimes as
well as,--as well as a peer of Parliament. Father says that old Mr.
Moggs has given him ever so much money to do it. When a man is in
Parliament, Mr. Newton, doesn't that make him a gentleman?"

"No."

"What then?"

"Nothing on earth can make a man a gentleman. You don't understand
Latin, Polly?"

"No. I hope that isn't necessary for a young woman."

"By no means. But a poet is born, and can't be made."

"I'm not talking of poets. Ontario Moggs is a poet. But I know what
you mean. There's something better even than to be a gentleman."

"One may be an angel,--as you are, Polly."

"Oh,--me;--I'm not thinking of myself. I'm thinking of Ontario
Moggs,--going into Parliament. But then he is so clever!"

Ralph was not minded to be cut out by Moggs, junior, after coming all
the way to Margate after his lady-love. The thing was to be done, and
he would do it. But not to-night. Then he took Polly home, and eat
prawns with Mr. and Mrs. Neefit. On the next day they all went out
together in a boat.

The week was nearly over, and Ralph had renewed his suit more than
once, when the breeches-maker proceeded to "put him through his
facings." "She's a-coming round, ain't she, Captain?" said Mr.
Neefit. By this time Ralph hated the sight of Neefit so thoroughly,
that he was hardly able to repress the feeling. Indeed, he did not
repress it. Whether Neefit did not see it, or seeing it chose to
ignore the matter, cannot be said. He was, at any rate, as courteous
as ever. Mrs. Neefit, overcome partly by her husband's authority,
and partly induced to believe that as Ontario Moggs was going into
Parliament he was no longer to be regarded as a possible husband,
had yielded, and was most polite to the lover. When he came in of an
evening, she always gave him a double allowance of prawns, and hoped
that the tea was to his liking. But she said very little more than
this, standing somewhat in awe of him. Polly had been changeable,
consenting to walk with him every day, but always staving the matter
off when he asked her whether she thought that she yet knew him well
enough to be his wife. "Oh, not half well enough," she would say.
"And then, perhaps, you know, I'm not over fond of the half that I
do know." And so it was up to the last evening, when the father put
him through his facings. In respect of "the Captain's" behaviour to
Polly, the father had no just ground of complaint, for Ralph had done
his best. Indeed, Ralph was fond enough of Polly. And it was hard
for a man to be much with her without becoming fond of her. "She's
a-coming round, ain't she, Captain?" said Mr. Neefit.

"I can't say that she is," said Ralph, turning upon his heel near the
end of the pier.

"You don't stick to her fast enough, Captain."

This was not to be borne. "I'll tell you what it is, Mr. Neefit,"
said Ralph, "you'd better let me alone, or else I shall be off."

"You'd only have to come back, Captain, you know," said Neefit. "Not
as I want to interfere. You're on the square, I see that. As long
as you're on the square, there ain't nothing I won't do. I ain't
a-blaming you,--only stick to her." "Damn it all!" said Ralph,
turning round again in the other direction. But there was Neefit
still confronting him. "Only stick to her, Captain, and we'll pull
through. I'll put her through her facings to-night. She's thinking
of that orkard lout of a fellow just because he's standing to be a
Parl'ament gent." This did not improve matters, and Ralph absolutely
ran away,--ran away, and escaped to his hotel. He would try again in
the morning, would still make her his wife if she would have him! And
then swore a solemn oath that in such case he would never see his
father-in-law again.

Polly was not at all averse to giving him opportunities. They were
together on the sands on the next morning, and he then asked her very
seriously whether she did not think that there had been enough of
this, that they might make up their minds to love each other, and be
married as it were out of hand. Her father and mother wished it, and
what was there against it? "You cannot doubt that I am in earnest
now, Polly?" he said.

"I know you are in earnest well enough," she answered.

"And you do not doubt that I love you?"

"I doubt very much whether you love father," said Polly. She spoke
this so sharp and quickly that he had no reply ready. "If you and
I were to be married, where should we live? I should want to have
father and mother with me. You'd mean that, I suppose?" The girl had
read his thoughts, and he hadn't a word to say for himself. "The
truth is, you despise father, Mr. Newton."

"No, indeed."

"Yes, you do. I can see it. And perhaps it's all right that you
should. I'm not saying-- Of course, he's not like you and your
people. How should he be? Only I'm thinking, like should marry like."

"Polly, you're fit for any position in which a man could place you."

"No, I'm not. I'm not fit for any place as father wouldn't be fit for
too. I'd make a better hand at it than father, I dare say,--because
I'm younger. But I won't go anywhere where folk is to be ashamed of
father. I'd like to be a lady well enough;--but it'd go against the
very grain of my heart if I had a house and he wasn't to be made
welcome to the best of everything."

"Polly, you're an angel!"

"I'm a young woman who knows who's been good to me. He's to give me
pretty nigh everything. You wouldn't be taking me if it wasn't for
that. And then, after all, I'm to turn my back on him because he
ain't like your people. No; never; Mr. Newton! You're well enough,
Mr. Newton; more than good enough for me, no doubt. But I won't do
it. I'd cut my heart out if I was turning my back upon father." She
had spoken out with a vengeance, and Ralph didn't know that there was
any more to be said. He couldn't bring himself to assure her that
Mr. Neefit would be a welcome guest in his house. At this moment the
breeches-maker was so personally distasteful to him that he had not
force enough in him to tell a lie upon the matter. They were now
at the entrance of the pier, at which their ways would separate.
"Good-bye, Mr. Newton," said she. "There had better be an end of
it;--hadn't there?" "Goodbye, Polly," he said, pressing her hand as
he left her.

Polly, walked up home with a quick step, with a tear in her eye, and
with grave thoughts in her heart. It would have been very nice. She
could have loved him, and she felt the attraction, and the softness,
and the sweet-smelling delicateness of gentle associations. It would
have been very nice. But she could not sever herself from her father.
She could understand that he must be distasteful to such a man as
Ralph Newton. She would not blame Ralph. But the fact that it was so,
shut for her the door of that Elysium. She knew that she could not
be happy were she to be taken to such a mode of life as would force
her to accuse herself of ingratitude to her father. And so Ralph went
back to town without again seeing the breeches-maker.

The first thing he found in his lodgings was a note from his
namesake.


   DEAR SIR,--

   I am up in town, and am very anxious to see you in respect
   of the arrangements which have been proposed respecting
   the property. Will you fix a meeting as soon as you are
   back?

   Yours always,

   RALPH NEWTON.

   Charing Cross Hotel, 2 Oct., 186--.


Of course he would see his namesake. Why not? And why not take his
uncle's money, and pay off Neefit, and have done with it? Neefit must
be paid off, let the money come from where it would. He called at
the hotel, and not finding his cousin, left a note asking him to
breakfast on the following morning; and then he spent the remainder
of that day in renewed doubt. He was so sick of Neefit,--whose manner
of eating shrimps had been a great offence added to other offences!
And yet one of his great sorrows was that he should lose Polly.
Polly in her way was perfect, and he felt almost sure, now, that
Polly loved him. Girls had no right to cling to their fathers after
marriage. There was Scripture warranty against it. And yet the manner
in which she had spoken of her father had greatly added to his
admiration.

The two Ralphs breakfasted together, not having met each other since
they were children, and having even then scarcely known each other.
Ralph the heir had been brought up a boy at the parsonage of Newton
Peele, but the other Ralph had never been taken to Newton till after
his grandfather's death. The late parson had died within twelve
months of his father,--a wretched year, during which the Squire and
the parson had always squabbled,--and then Ralph who was the heir
had been transferred to the guardianship of Sir Thomas Underwood. It
was only during the holidays of that one year that the two Ralphs
had been together. The "Dear Sir" will probably be understood by the
discerning reader. The Squire's son had never allowed himself to call
even Gregory his cousin. Ralph the heir in writing back had addressed
him as "Dear Ralph." The Squire's son thought that that was very
well, but chose that any such term of familiarity should come first
from him who was in truth a Newton. He felt his condition, though he
was accustomed to make so light of it to his father.

The two young men shook hands together cordially, and were soon
at work upon their eggs and kidneys. They immediately began about
Gregory and the parsonage and the church, and the big house. The
heir to the property, though he had not been at Newton for fourteen
years, remembered well its slopes, and lawns, and knolls, and little
valleys. He asked after this tree and that, of this old man and that
old woman, of the game, and the river fishery, and the fox coverts,
and the otters of which three or four were reputed to be left when
he was there. Otters it seems were gone, but the foxes were there in
plenty. "My father would be half mad if they drew the place blank,"
said the Squire's son.

"Does my uncle hunt much?"

"Every Monday and Saturday, and very often on the Wednesday."

"And you?"

"I call myself a three-day man, but I often make a fourth. Garth must
be very far off if he don't see me. I don't do much with any other
pack."

"Does my uncle ride?"

"Yes; he goes pretty well;--he says he don't. If he gets well away I
think he rides as hard as ever he did. He don't like a stern chace."

"No more do I," said Ralph the heir. "But I'm often driven to make
it. What can a fellow do? An old chap turns round and goes home, and
doesn't feel ashamed of himself; but we can't do that. That's the
time when one ruins his horses." Then he told all about the Moonbeam
and the B. & B., and his own stud. The morning was half gone, and not
a word had been said about business.

The Squire's son felt that it was so, and rushed at the subject all
in a hurry. "I told you what I have come up to town about."

"Oh, yes; I understand."

"I suppose I may speak plainly," said the Squire's son.

"Why not?" said Ralph the heir.

"Well; I don't know. Of course it's best. You wrote to Carey, you
know."

"Yes; I wrote the very moment I had made up my mind."

"You had made up your mind, then?"

Ralph had certainly made up his mind when he wrote the letter of
which they were speaking, but he was by no means sure but that his
mind was not made up now in another direction. Since he had become
so closely intimate with Mr. Neefit, and since Polly had so clearly
explained to him her ideas as to paternal duty, his mind had veered
round many points. "Yes," said he. "I had made up my mind."

"I don't suppose it can be of any use for you and me to be bargaining
together," said the other Ralph.

"Not in the least."

"Of course it's a great thing to be heir to Newton. It's a nice
property, and all that. Only my father thought--"

"He thought that I wanted money," said Ralph the heir.

"Just that."

"So I do. God knows I do. I would tell you everything. I would
indeed. As to screwing a hard bargain, I'm the last man in London who
would do it. I thought that your father might be willing to buy half
the property."

"He won't do that. You see the great thing is the house and park. We
should both want that;--shouldn't we? Of course it must be yours; and
I feel--I don't know how I feel in asking you whether you want to
sell it."

"You needn't mind that, Ralph."

"If you don't think the sum the lawyers and those chaps fixed is
enough,--"

Then Ralph the heir, interrupting him, rose from his chair and spoke
out. "My uncle has never understood me, and never will. He thinks
hardly of me, and if he chooses to do so, I can't help it. He hasn't
seen me for fourteen years, and of course he is entitled to think
what he pleases. If he would have seen me the thing might have been
easier."

"Don't let us go back to that, Ralph," said the Squire's son.

"I don't want to go back to anything. When it comes to a fellow's
parting with such prospects as mine, it does come very hard upon
him. Of course it's my own fault. I might have got along well
enough;--only I haven't. I am hard up for money,--very hard up. And
yet,--if you were in my place, you wouldn't like to part with it."

"Perhaps not," said the Squire's son, not knowing what to say.

"As to bargaining, and asking so much more, and all the rest of it,
that's out of the question. Somebody fixed a price, and I suppose he
knew what he was at."

"That was a minimum price."

"I understand. It was all fair, I don't doubt. It didn't seem a great
deal; but your father might live for thirty years."

"I hope he will," said the Squire's son.

"As for standing off for more money, I never dreamed of such a thing.
If your father thinks that, he has wronged me. But I believe he
always does wrong me. And about the building, and the trees, and the
leases, and the house, he might do just as he pleased for me. I have
never said a word, and never shall. I must say I sometimes think he
has been hard upon me. In fourteen years he has never asked me to set
my foot upon the estate, that I might see the place which must one
day be mine."

This was an accusation which the Squire's son found it very difficult
to answer. It could not be answered without a reference to his own
birth, and it was almost impossible that he should explain his
father's feelings on the subject. "If this were settled, we should be
glad that you would come," he said.

"Yes," said Ralph the heir; "yes,--if I consented to give up
everything that is mine by right. Do you think that a fellow can
bring himself to abandon all that so easily? It's like tearing a
fellow's heart out of him. If I'll do that, my uncle will let me come
and see what it is that I have lost! That which would induce him to
welcome me would make it impossible that I should go there. It may be
that I shall sell it. I suppose I shall. But I will never look at it
afterwards." As it came to this point, the tears were streaming down
his cheeks, and the eyes of the other Ralph were not dry.

"I wish it could be made pleasant for us all," said the Squire's son.
The wish was well enough, but the expression of it was hardly needed,
because it must be so general.

"But all this is rot and nonsense," said Ralph the heir, brushing
the tears away from his eyes, "and I am only making an ass of myself.
Your father wants to know whether I will sell the reversion to Newton
Priory. I will. I find I must. I don't know whether I wouldn't sooner
cut my throat; but unless I cut my throat I must sell it. I had a
means of escape, but that has gone by. When I wrote that letter there
was a means of escape. Now there's none."

"Ralph," said the other.

"Well; speak on. I've about said all I've got to say. Only don't
think I want to ballyrag about the money. That's right enough, no
doubt. If there's more to come, the people that have to look to it
will say so. I'm not going to be a Jew about it."

"Ralph; I wouldn't do anything in a hurry. I won't take your answer
in a hurry like this."

"It's no good, my dear fellow, I must do it. I must have £5,000 at
once."

"You can get that from an insurance office."

"And then I should have nothing to live on. I must do it. I have no
way out of it,--except cutting my throat."

The Squire's son paused a moment, thinking. "I was told by my
father," said he, "to offer you more money."

"If it's worth more the people will say so," said Ralph the heir,
impetuously; "I do not want to sell it for more than it's worth. Ask
them to settle it immediately. There are people I must pay money to
at once."

And so the Squire's son had done the Squire's errand. When he
reported his success to Mr. Carey, that gentleman asked him whether
he had the heir's consent in writing. At this the successful buyer
was almost disposed to be angry; but Mr. Carey softened him by an
acknowledgment that he had done more than could have been expected.
"I'll see his lawyer to-morrow," said Mr. Carey, "and then, unless
he changes his mind again, we'll soon have it settled." After that
the triumphant negotiator sent a telegram home to his father, "It is
settled, and the purchase is made."



CHAPTER XXV.

"MR. GRIFFENBOTTOM."


On Monday, the 16th of October, Sir Thomas Underwood went down
to Percycross, and the first information given him was that Mr.
Westmacott and Ontario Moggs had arrived on the Saturday, and were
already at work. Mr. Griffenbottom was expected early on the Tuesday.
"They've stolen a march on us, then," said Sir Thomas to Mr. Trigger.

"Give 'em rope enough, and they'll hang themselves," replied the
managing agent. "There was Moggs spouting to them on his own hook on
Saturday night, and Westmacott's chaps are ready to eat him. And he
wanted to be doing it yesterday, Sunday; only some of them got a hold
of him and wouldn't let him loose. Moggs is a great card for us, Sir
Thomas. There's nothing like one of them spouting fellows to overset
the coach."

"Mr. Westmacott is fond of that too," said Sir Thomas.

"He understands. He's used to it. He does it in the proper place.
Westmacott wasn't a bad member for the place;--wasn't perhaps quite
free enough with his money, but Westmacott was very decent." Sir
Thomas could not help feeling that Trigger spoke of it as though he
wished that the two old members might be returned. Ah, well! had
it been possible, Mr. Trigger would have wished it. Mr. Trigger
understood the borough, knew well the rocks before them, and
would have wished it,--although he had been so imperative with Mr.
Griffenbottom as to the second conservative candidate. And now Mr.
Griffenbottom had sent them a man who would throw all the fat in the
fire by talking of purity of election! "And Moggs has been making a
fool of himself in another direction," said Trigger, thinking that
no opportunity for giving a valuable hint should be lost. "He's been
telling the working men already that they'll be scoundrels and knaves
if they take so much as a glass of beer without paying for it."

"Scoundrel is a strong word," said Sir Thomas, "but I like him for
that."

"Percycross won't like him. Men would rather have all that left to
their own feelings. They who want beer or money certainly won't thank
him; and they who don't want it don't like to be suspected."

"Every one will take it as addressed to his neighbour and not to
himself."

"We are very fond of our neighbours here, Sir Thomas, and that kind
of thing won't go down." This was on the evening of the candidate's
arrival, and the conversation was going on absolutely while Sir
Thomas was eating his dinner. He had asked Mr. Trigger to join him,
and Mr. Trigger had faintly alleged that he had dined at three; but
he soon so far changed his mind as to be able to express an opinion
that he could "pick a bit," and he did pick a bit. After which he
drank the best part of a bottle of port,--having assured Sir Thomas
that the port at the Percy Standard was a sort of wine that one
didn't get every day. And as he drank his port, he continued to pour
in lessons of wisdom. Sir Thomas employed his mind the while in
wondering when Mr. Trigger would go away, and forecasting whether
Mr. Trigger would desire to drink port wine at the Percy Standard
every evening during the process of canvassing. About nine o'clock
the waiter announced that a few gentlemen below desired to see Sir
Thomas. "Our friends," said Mr. Trigger. "Just put chairs, and bring
a couple of bottles of port, John. I'm glad they're come, Sir Thomas,
because it shows that they mean to take to you." Up they were shown,
Messrs. Spiveycomb, Spicer, Pile, Roodylands,--the bootmaker who
has not yet been named,--Pabsby, and seven or eight others. Sir
Thomas shook hands with them all. He observed that Mr. Trigger was
especially cordial in his treatment of Spicer, the mustard-maker,--as
to whose defection he had been so fearful in consequence of certain
power which Mr. Westmacott might have in the wholesale disposal of
mustard. "I hope you find yourself better," said Mr. Pile, opening
the conversation. Sir Thomas assured his new friend that he was
pretty well. "'Cause you seemed rayther down on your luck when you
was here before," said Mr. Pile.

"No need for that," said Spicer, the man of mustard. "Is there,
Trigger?" Trigger sat a little apart, with one bottle of port wine at
his elbow, and took no part in the conversation. He was aware that
his opportunities were so great that the outside supporters ought to
have their time. "Any objection to this, Sir Thomas?" he said, taking
a cigar-case out of his pocket. Sir Thomas, who hated tobacco, of
course gave permission. Trigger rang the bell, ordered cigars for
the party, and then sat apart with his port wine. In ten minutes Sir
Thomas hardly knew where he was, so dense was the cloud of smoke.

"Sir Thomas," began Mr. Pabsby,--"if I could only clearly see my
way--"

"You'll see it clear enough before nomination-day," said Mr. Pile.

"Any ways, after election," said a conservative grocer. Both these
gentlemen belonged to the Established Church and delighted in
snubbing Mr. Pabsby. Indeed, Mr. Pabsby had no business at this
meeting, and so he had been told very plainly by one or two as he had
joined them in the street. He explained, however, that his friend Sir
Thomas had come to him the very first person in Percycross, and he
carried his point in joining the party. But he was a mild man, and
when he was interrupted he merely bided another opportunity.

"I hope, Sir Thomas, your mind is made up to do something for our
trade," said Mr. Roodylands.

"What's the matter with your trade?" said Spiveycomb, the
paper-maker.

"Well;--we ain't got no jobs in it;--that's the matter," said Mr.
Pile.

"As for jobs, what's the odds?" said a big and burly loud-mouthed
tanner. "All on us likes a good thing when it comes in our way. Stow
that, and don't let's be told about jobs. Sir Thomas, here's your
health, and I wish you at the top of the poll,--that is, next to
Mr. Griffenbottom." Then they all drank to Sir Thomas's health, Mr.
Pabsby filling himself a bumper for the occasion.

It was eleven before they went away, at which time Mr. Pabsby had
three time's got as far as a declaration of his wish to see things
clearly. Further than this he could not get; but still he went away
in perfect good humour. He would have another opportunity, as he took
occasion to whisper when he shook hands with the candidate. Trigger
stayed even yet for half-an-hour. "Don't waste your time on that
fellow, Pabsby," he said. "No, I won't," said Sir Thomas. "And be
very civil to old Pile." "He doesn't seem disposed to return the
compliment," said Sir Thomas. "But he doesn't want your interest
in the borough," said Trigger, with the air of a man who had great
truths to teach. "In electioneering, Sir Thomas, it's mostly the same
as in other matters. Nothing's to be had for nothing. If you were a
retail seller of boots from Manchester old Pile would be civil enough
to you. You may snub Spicer as much as you please, because he'll
expect to get something out of you." "He'll be very much deceived,"
said Sir Thomas. "I'm not so sure of that," said Trigger;--"Spicer
knows what he's about pretty well." Then, at last, Mr. Trigger went,
assuring Sir Thomas most enthusiastically that he would be with him
before nine the next morning.

Many distressing thoughts took possession of Sir Thomas as he lay in
bed. He had made up his mind that he would in no way break the law,
and he didn't know whether he had not broken it already by giving
these people tobacco and wine. And yet it would have been impossible
for him to have refused Mr. Trigger permission to order the supply.
Even for the sake of the seat,--even for the sake of his reputation,
which was so much dearer to him than the seat,--he could not have
bidden guests, who had come to him in his own room, to go elsewhere
if they required wine. It was a thing not to be done, and yet, for
aught he knew, Mr. Trigger might continue to order food and wine, and
beer and tobacco, to be supplied ad libitum, and whenever he chose.
How was he to put an end to it, otherwise than by throwing up the
game, and going back to London? That now would be gross ill-usage to
the Conservatives of Percycross, who by such a step would be left in
the lurch without a candidate. And then was it to be expected that he
should live for a week with Mr. Trigger, with no other relief than
that which would be afforded by Messrs. Pile, Spiveycomb, and Co.
Everything about him was reeking of tobacco. And then, when he sat
down to breakfast at nine o'clock there would be Mr. Trigger!

The next morning he was out of bed at seven, and ordered his
breakfast at eight sharp. He would steal a march on Trigger. He went
out into the sitting-room, and there was Trigger already seated
in the arm-chair, studying the list of the voters of Percycross!
Heavens, what a man! "I thought I'd look in early, and they told me
you were coming out or I'd have just stepped into your room." Into
his very bed-room! Sir Thomas shuddered as he heard the proposition.
"We've a telegram from Griffenbottom," continued Trigger, "and he
won't be here till noon. We can't begin till he comes."

"Ah;--then I can just write a few letters," said Sir Thomas.

"I wouldn't mind letters now if I was you. If you don't mind, we'll
go and look up the parsons. There are four or five of 'em, and they
like to be seen;--not in the way of canvassing. They're all right, of
course. And there's two of 'em won't leave a stone unturned in the
outside hamlets. But they like to be seen, and their wives like it."
Whereupon Mr. Trigger ordered breakfast,--and eat it. Sir Thomas
reminded himself that a fortnight was after all but a short duration
of time. He might live through a fortnight,--probably,--and then when
Mr. Griffenbottom came it would be shared between two.

At noon he returned to the Percy Standard, very tired, there to await
the coming of Mr. Griffenbottom. Mr. Griffenbottom didn't come till
three, and then bustled up into the sitting-room, which Sir Thomas
had thought was his own, as though all Percycross belonged to
him. During the last three hours supporters had been in and out
continually, and Mr. Pabsby had made an ineffectual attempt or two to
catch Sir Thomas alone. Trigger had been going up and down between
the Standard and the station. Various men, friends and supporters
of Griffenbottom and Underwood, had been brought to him. Who were
paid agents, who were wealthy townsmen, who were canvassers and
messengers, he did not know. There were bottles on the sideboard the
whole time. Sir Thomas, in a speculative manner, endeavouring to
realise to himself the individuality of this and that stranger, could
only conceive that they who helped themselves were wealthy townsmen,
and that they who waited till they were asked by others were paid
canvassers and agents. But he knew nothing, and could only wish
himself back in Southampton Buildings.

At last Mr. Griffenbottom, followed by a cloud of supporters, bustled
into the room. Trigger at once introduced the two candidates. "Very
glad to meet you," said Griffenbottom. "So we're going to fight
this little battle together. I remember you in the House, you know,
and I dare say you remember me. I'm used to this kind of thing. I
suppose you ain't. Well, Trigger, how are things looking? I suppose
we'd better begin down Pump Lane. I know my way about the place,
Honeywood, as well as if it was my bed-room. And so I ought,
Trigger."

"I suppose you've seen the inside of pretty nearly every house in
Percycross," said Trigger.

"There's some I don't want to see the inside of any more. I can tell
you that. How are these new householders going to vote?"

"Betwixt and between, Mr. Griffenbottom."

"I never thought we should find much difference. It don't matter what
rent a man pays, but what he does. I could tell you how nineteen out
of twenty men here would vote, if you'd tell me what they did, and
who they were. What's to be done about talking to 'em?"

"To-morrow night we're to be in the Town Hall, Mr. Griffenbottom, and
Thursday an open-air meeting, with a balcony in the market-place."

"All right. Come along. Are you good at spinning yarns to them,
Honeywood?"

"I don't like it, if you mean that," said Sir Thomas.

"It's better than canvassing. By George, anything is better than
that. Come along. We may get Pump Lane, and Petticoat Yard, and
those back alleys done before dinner. You've got cards, of course,
Trigger." And the old, accustomed electioneerer led the way out to
his work.

Mr. Griffenbottom was a heavy hale man, over sixty, somewhat inclined
to be corpulent, with a red face, and a look of assured impudence
about him which nothing could quell or diminish. The kind of
life which he had led was one to which impudence was essentially
necessary. He had done nothing for the world to justify him in
assuming the airs of a great man,--but still he could assume them,
and many believed in him. He could boast neither birth, nor talent,
nor wit,--nor, indeed, wealth in the ordinary sense of the word.
Though he had worked hard all his life at the business to which he
belonged, he was a poorer man now than he had been thirty years ago.
It had all gone in procuring him a seat in Parliament. And he had so
much sense that he never complained. He had known what it was that he
wanted, and what it was that he must pay for it. He had paid for it,
and had got it, and was, in his fashion, contented. If he could only
have continued to have it without paying for it again, how great
would have been the blessing! But he was a man who knew that such
blessings were not to be expected. After the first feeling of disgust
was over on the receipt of Trigger's letter, he put his collar to
the work again, and was prepared to draw his purse,--intending,
of course, that the new candidate should bear as much as possible
of this drain. He knew well that there was a prospect before him
of abject misery;--for life without Parliament would be such to
him. There would be no salt left for him in the earth if he was
ousted. And yet no man could say why he should have cared to sit in
Parliament. He rarely spoke, and when he did no one listened to him.
He was anxious for no political measures. He was a favourite with no
section of a party. He spent all his evenings at the House, but it
can hardly be imagined that those evenings were pleasantly spent.
But he rubbed his shoulders against the shoulders of great men, and
occasionally stood upon their staircases. At any rate, such as was
the life, it was his life; and he had no time left to choose another.
He considered himself on this occasion pretty nearly sure to be
elected. He knew the borough and was sure. But then there was that
accursed system of petitioning, which according to his idea was
un-English, ungentlemanlike, and unpatriotic--"A stand-up fight, and
if you're licked--take it." That was his idea of what an election
should be.

Sir Thomas, who only just remembered the appearance of the man in the
House, at once took an extravagant dislike to him. It was abominable
to him to be called Underwood by a man who did not know him. It was
nauseous to him to be forced into close relations with a man who
seemed to him to be rough and ill-mannered. And, judging from what
he saw, he gave his colleague credit for no good qualities. Now Mr.
Griffenbottom had good qualities. He was possessed of pluck. He was
in the main good-natured. And though he could resent an offence with
ferocity, he could forgive an offence with ease. "Hit him hard, and
then have an end of it!" That was Mr. Griffenbottom's mode of dealing
with the offenders and the offences with which he came in contact.

In every house they entered Griffenbottom was at home, and Sir
Thomas was a stranger of whom the inmates had barely heard the name.
Griffenbottom was very good at canvassing the poorer classes. He said
not a word to them about politics, but asked them all whether they
didn't dislike that fellow Gladstone, who was one thing one day
and another thing another day. "By G----, nobody knows what he is,"
swore Mr. Griffenbottom over and over again. The women mostly said
that they didn't know, but they liked the blue. "Blues allays was
gallanter nor the yellow," said one of 'em. They who expressed an
opinion at all hoped that their husbands would vote for him, "as 'd
do most for 'em." "The big loaf;--that's what we want," said one
mother of many children, taking Sir Thomas by the hand. There were
some who took advantage of the occasion to pour out their tales of
daily griefs into the ears of their visitors. To these Griffenbottom
was rather short and hard. "What we want, my dear, is your husband's
vote and interest. We'll hear all the rest another time." Sir Thomas
would have lingered and listened; but Griffenbottom knew that 1,400
voters had to be visited in ten days, and work as they would they
could not see 140 a day. Trigger explained it all to Sir Thomas. "You
can't work above seven hours, and you can't do twenty an hour. And
much of the ground you must do twice over. If you stay to talk to
them you might as well be in London. Mr. Griffenbottom understands it
so well, you'd better keep your eye on him." There could be no object
in the world on which Sir Thomas was less desirous of keeping his
eye.


[Illustration: "The big loaf;--that's what we want," said one
mother of many children, taking Sir Thomas by the hand.]


The men, who were much more difficult to find than the women, had
generally less to say for themselves. Most of them understood at once
what was wanted, and promised. For it must be understood that on this
their first day the conservative brigade was moving among its firm
friends. In Petticoat Yard lived paper-makers in the employment of
Mr. Spiveycomb, and in Pump Lane the majority of the inhabitants were
employed by Mr. Spicer, of the mustard works. The manufactories of
both these men were visited, and there the voters were booked much
quicker than at the rate of twenty an hour. Here and there a man
would hold some peculiar opinion of his own. The Permissive Bill was
asked for by an energetic teetotaller; and others, even in these
Tory quarters, suggested the ballot. But they all,--or nearly all
of them,--promised their votes. Now and again some sturdy fellow,
seeming to be half ashamed of himself in opposing all those around
him, would say shortly that he meant to vote for Moggs, and pass on.
"You do,--do you?" Sir Thomas heard Mr. Spicer say to one such man.
"Yes, I does," said the man. Sir Thomas heard no more, but he felt
how perilous was the position on which a candidate stood under the
present law.

As regarded Sir Thomas himself, he felt, as the evening was coming
on, that he had hardly done his share of the work. Mr. Griffenbottom
had canvassed, and he had walked behind. Every now and then he had
attempted a little conversation, but in that he had been immediately
pulled up by the conscientious and energetic Mr. Trigger. As for
asking for votes, he hardly knew, when he had been carried back
into the main street through a labyrinth of alleys at the back of
Petticoat Yard, whether he had asked any man for his vote or not.
With the booking of the votes he had, of course, nothing to do. There
were three men with books;--and three other men to open the doors,
show the way, and make suggestions on the expediency of going hither
or thither. Sir Thomas would always have been last in the procession,
had there not been one silent, civil person, whose duty it seemed to
be to bring up the rear. If ever Sir Thomas lingered behind to speak
to a poor woman, there was this silent, civil person lingering too.
The influence of the silent, civil person was so strong that Sir
Thomas could not linger much.

As they came into the main street they encountered the opposition
party, Mr. Westmacott, Ontario Moggs, and their supporters. "I'll
introduce you," said Mr. Griffenbottom to his colleague. "Come along.
It's the thing to do." Then they met in the middle of the way. Poor
Ontario was hanging behind, but holding up his head gallantly,
and endeavouring to look as though he were equal to the occasion.
Griffenbottom and Westmacott shook hands cordially, and complained
with mutual sighs that household suffrage had made the work a deal
harder than ever. "And I'm only a week up from the gout," said
Griffenbottom. Then Sir Thomas and Westmacott were introduced, and at
last Ontario was brought forward. He bowed and attempted to make a
little speech; but nobody in one army or in the other seemed to care
much for poor Ontario. He knew that it was so, but that mattered
little to him. If he were destined to represent Percycross in
Parliament, it must be by the free votes and unbiassed political
aspirations of the honest working men of the borough. So remembering
he stood aloof, stuck his hand into his breast, and held up his
head something higher than before. Though the candidates had thus
greeted each other at this chance meeting, the other parties in the
contending armies had exhibited no courtesies.

The weariness of Sir Thomas when this first day's canvass was over
was so great that he was tempted to go to bed and ask for a bowl of
gruel. Nothing kept him from doing so but amazement at the courage
and endurance of Mr. Griffenbottom. "We could get at a few of
those chaps who were at the works, if we went out at eight," said
Griffenbottom. Trigger suggested that Mr. Griffenbottom would be
very tired. Trigger himself was perhaps tired. "Oh, tired," said
Griffenbottom; "a man has to be tired at this work." Sir Thomas
perceived that Griffenbottom was at least ten years his senior,
and that he was still almost lame from the gout. "You'll be ready,
Underwood?" said Griffenbottom. Sir Thomas felt himself bound to
undertake whatever might be thought necessary. "If we were at it
day and night, it wouldn't be too much," said Griffenbottom, as he
prepared to amuse himself with one of the poll-books till dinner
should be on the table. "Didn't we see Jacob Pucky?" asked the
energetic candidate, observing that the man's name wasn't marked. "To
be sure we did. I was speaking to him myself. He was one of those
who didn't know till the day came. We know what that means; eh,
Honeywood?" Sir Thomas wasn't quite sure that he did know; but he
presumed that it meant something dishonest. Again Mr. Trigger dined
with them, and as soon as ever their dinner was swallowed they were
out again at their work, Sir Thomas being dragged from door to door,
while Griffenbottom asked for the votes.

And this was to last yet for ten days more!



CHAPTER XXVI.

MOGGS, PURITY, AND THE RIGHTS OF LABOUR.


Mr. Trigger had hinted that Ontario Moggs would be a thorn in the
flesh of Mr. Westmacott's supporters at Percycross, and he had
been right. Ontario was timid, hesitating, and not unfrequently
brow-beaten in the social part of his work at the election. Though he
made great struggles he could neither talk, nor walk, nor eat, nor
sit, as though he were the equal of his colleague. But when they came
to politics and political management, there was no holding him. He
would make speeches when speeches were not held to be desirable by
his committee, and he was loud upon topics as to which it was thought
that no allusion whatever should have been made. To talk about the
ballot had from the first been conceded to Moggs. Mr. Westmacott
was, indeed, opposed to the ballot; but it had been a matter
of course that the candidate of the people should support that
measure. The ballot would have been a safety-valve. But Moggs was so
cross-grained, ill-conditioned, and uncontrollable that he would not
let the ballot suffice him. The ballot was almost nothing to him.
Strikes and bribery were his great subjects; the beauty of the one
and the ugliness of the other. The right of the labourer to combine
with his brother labourers to make his own terms for his labour, was
the great lesson he taught. The suicidal iniquity of the labourer
in selling that political power which he should use to protect his
labour was the source of his burning indignation. That labour was the
salt of the earth he told the men of Percycross very often;--and he
told them as often that manliness and courage were necessary to make
that salt productive. Gradually the men of Percycross,--some said
that they were only the boys of Percycross,--clustered round him, and
learned to like to listen to him. They came to understand something
of the character of the man who was almost too shame-faced to speak
to them while he was being dragged round to their homes on his
canvas, but whom nothing could repress when he was on his legs with
a crowd before him. It was in vain that the managing agent told him
that he would not get a vote by his spouting and shouting. On such
occasions he hardly answered a word to the managing agent. But the
spouting and shouting went on just the same, and was certainly
popular among the bootmakers and tanners. Mr. Westmacott was asked
to interfere, and did do so once in some mild fashion; but Ontario
replied that having been called to this sphere of action he could
only do his duty according to his own lights. The young men's
presidents, and secretaries, and chairmen were for awhile somewhat
frightened, having been assured by the managing men of the liberal
committee that the election would be lost by the furious insanity of
their candidate. But they decided upon supporting Moggs, having found
that they would be deposed from their seats if they discarded him. At
last, when the futile efforts to control Moggs had been maintained
with patience for something over a week, when it still wanted four or
five days to the election, an actual split was made in the liberal
camp. Moggs was turned adrift by the Westmacottian faction. Bills
were placarded about the town explaining the cruel necessity for such
action, and describing Moggs as a revolutionary firebrand. And now
there were three parties in the town. Mr. Trigger rejoiced over this
greatly with Mr. Griffenbottom. "If they haven't been and cut their
throats now it is a wonder," he said over and over again. Even Sir
Thomas caught something of the feeling of triumph, and began almost
to hope that he might be successful. Nevertheless the number of men
who could not quite make up their minds as to what duty required of
them till the day of the election was considerable, and Mr. Pile
triumphantly whispered into Mr. Trigger's ear his conviction that
"after all, things weren't going to be changed at Percycross quite so
easily as some people supposed."

When Moggs was utterly discarded by the respectable leaders of the
liberal party in the borough,--turned out of the liberal inn at
which were the head-quarters of the party, and refused the right
of participating in the liberal breakfasts and dinners which were
there provided, Moggs felt himself to be a triumphant martyr. His
portmanteau and hat-box were carried by an admiring throng down to
the Cordwainers' Arms,--a house not, indeed, of the highest repute in
the town,--and here a separate committee was formed. Mr. Westmacott
did his best to avert the secession; but his supporters were
inexorable. The liberal tradesmen of Percycross would have nothing to
do with a candidate who declared that inasmuch as a man's mind was
more worthy than a man's money, labour was more worthy than capital,
and that therefore the men should dominate and rule their masters.
That was a doctrine necessarily abominable to every master tradesman.
The men were to decide how many hours they would work, what
recreation they would have, in what fashion and at what rate they
would be paid, and what proportion of profit should be allowed to the
members, and masters, and creators of the firm! That was the doctrine
that Moggs was preaching. The tradesmen of Percycross, whether
liberal or conservative, did not understand much in the world of
politics, but they did understand that such a doctrine as that, if
carried out, would take them to a very Gehenna of revolutionary
desolation. And so Moggs was banished from the Northern Star, the
inn at which Mr. Westmacott was living, and was forced to set up his
radical staff at the Cordwainers' Arms.

In one respect he certainly gained much by this persecution. The
record of his election doings would have been confined to the columns
of the "Percycross Herald" had he carried on his candidature after
the usual fashion; but, as it was now, his doings were blazoned in
the London newspapers. The "Daily News" reported him, and gave him an
article all to himself; and even the "Times" condescended to make an
example of him, and to bring him up as evidence that revolutionary
doctrines were distasteful to the electors of the country generally.
The fame of Ontario Moggs certainly became more familiar to the ears
of the world at large than it would have done had he continued to run
in a pair with Mr. Westmacott. And that was everything to him. Polly
Neefit must hear of him now that his name had become a household word
in the London newspapers.

And in another respect he gained much. All personal canvassing was
now at an end for him. There could be no use in his going about from
house to house asking for votes. Indeed, he had discovered that to do
so was a thing iniquitous in itself, a demoralising practice tending
to falsehood, intimidation, and corruption,--a thing to be denounced.
And he denounced it. Let the men of Percycross hear him, question him
in public, learn from his spoken words what were his political
principles,--and then vote for him if they pleased. He would
condescend to ask a vote as a favour from no man. It was for them
rather to ask him to bestow upon them the gift of his time and such
ability as he possessed. He took a very high tone indeed in his
speeches, and was saved the labour of parading the streets. During
these days he looked down from an immeasurable height on the
truckling, mean, sordid doings of Griffenbottom, Underwood, and
Westmacott. A huge board had been hoisted up over the somewhat low
frontage of the Cordwainers' Arms, and on this was painted in letters
two feet high a legend which it delighted him to read, MOGGS, PURITY,
AND THE RIGHTS OF LABOUR. Ah, if that could only be understood, there
was enough in it to bring back an age of gold to suffering humanity!
No other Reform would be needed. In that short legend everything
necessary for man was contained.

Mr. Pile and Mr. Trigger stood together one evening looking at the
legend from a distance. "Moggs and purity!" said Mr. Pile, in that
tone of disgust, and with that peculiar action which had become
common to him in speaking of this election.

"He hasn't a ghost of a chance," said Mr. Trigger, who was always
looking straight at the main point;--"nor yet hasn't Westmacott."

"There's worse than Westmacott," said Mr. Pile.

"But what can we do?" said Trigger.

"Purity! Purity!" said the old man. "It makes me that sick that I
wish there weren't such a thing as a member of Parliament. Purity and
pickpockets is about the same. When I'm among 'em I buttons up my
breeches-pockets."

"But what can we do?" asked Mr. Trigger again, in a voice of woe. Mr.
Trigger quite sympathised with his elder friend; but, being a younger
man, he knew that these innovations must be endured.

Then Mr. Pile made a speech, of such length that he had never been
known to make the like before;--so that Mr. Trigger felt that things
had become very serious, and that, not impossibly, Mr. Pile might be
so affected by this election as never again to hold up his head in
Percycross. "Purity! Purity!" he repeated. "They're a going on that
way, Trigger, that the country soon won't be fit for a man to live
in. And what's the meaning of it all? It's just this,--that folks
wants what they wants without paying for it. I hate Purity, I do. I
hate the very smell of it. It stinks. When I see the chaps as come
here and talk of Purity, I know they mean that nothing ain't to be as
it used to be. Nobody is to trust no one. There ain't to be nothing
warm, nor friendly, nor comfortable any more. This Sir Thomas you've
brought down is just as bad as that shoemaking chap;--worse if
anything. I know what's a going on inside him. I can see it. If a man
takes a glass of wine out of his bottle, he's a asking hisself if
that ain't bribery and corruption! He's got a handle to his name, and
money, I suppose, and comes down here without knowing a chick or a
child. Why isn't a poor man, as can't hardly live, to have his three
half-crowns or fifteen shillings, as things may go, for voting for a
stranger such as him? I'll tell you what it is, Trigger, I've done
with it. Things have come to that in the borough, that I'll meddle
and make no more." Mr. Trigger, as he listened to this eloquence,
could only sigh and shake his head. "I did think it would last my
time," added Mr. Pile, almost weeping.

Moggs would steal out of the house in the early morning, look up at
the big bright red letters, and rejoice in his very heart of hearts.
He had not lived in vain, when his name had been joined, in the
public view of men, with words so glorious. Purity and the Rights of
Labour! "It contains just everything," said Moggs to himself as he
sat down to his modest, lonely breakfast. After that, sitting with
his hands clasped upon his brow, disdaining the use of pen and paper
for such work, he composed his speech for the evening,--a speech
framed with the purpose of proving to his hearers that Purity and the
Rights of Labour combined would make them as angels upon the earth.
As for himself, Moggs, he explained in his speech,--analysing the big
board which adorned the house,--it mattered little whether they did
or did not return him. But let them be always persistent in returning
on every possible occasion Purity and the Rights of Labour, and then
all other good things would follow to them. He enjoyed at any rate
that supreme delight which a man feels when he thoroughly believes
his own doctrine.

But the days were very long with him. When the evening came, when his
friends were relieved from their toil, and could assemble here and
there through the borough to hear him preach to them, he was happy
enough. He had certainly achieved so much that they preferred him now
to their own presidents and chairmen. There was an enthusiasm for
Moggs among the labouring men of Percycross, and he was always happy
while he was addressing them. But the hours in the morning were
long, and sometimes melancholy. Though all the town was busy with
these electioneering doings, there was nothing for him to do. His
rivals canvassed, consulted, roamed through the town,--as he could
see,--filching votes from him. But he, too noble for such work
as that, sat there alone in the little upstairs parlour of the
Cordwainers' Arms, thinking of his speech for the evening,--thinking,
too, of Polly Neefit. And then, of a sudden, it occurred to him that
it would be good to write a letter to Polly from Percycross. Surely
the fact that he was waging this grand battle would have some effect
upon her heart. So he wrote the following letter, which reached Polly
about a week after her return home from Margate.


   Cordwainers' Arms Inn, Percycross,
   14 October, 186--.

   MY DEAR POLLY,--

   I hope you won't be angry with me for writing to you. I am
   here in the midst of the turmoil of a contested election,
   and I cannot refrain from writing to tell you about it.
   Out of a full heart they say the mouth speaks, and out of
   a very full heart I am speaking to you with my pen. The
   honourable prospect of having a seat in the British House
   of Parliament, which I regard as the highest dignity that
   a Briton can enjoy, is very much to me, and fills my mind,
   and my heart, and my soul; but it all is not so much to me
   as your love, if only I could win that seat. If I could
   sit there, in your heart, and be chosen by you, not for a
   short seven years, but for life, I should be prouder and
   happier of that honour than of any other. It ought not,
   perhaps, to be so, but it is. I have to speak here to
   the people very often; but I never open my mouth without
   thinking that if I had you to hear me I could speak with
   more energy and spirit. If I could gain your love and the
   seat for this borough together, I should have done more
   then than emperor, or conqueror, or high priest ever
   accomplished.

   I don't know whether you understand much about elections.
   When I first came here I was joined with a gentleman
   who was one of the old members;--but now I stand alone,
   because he does not comprehend or sympathise with the
   advanced doctrines which it is my mission to preach to the
   people. Purity and the Rights of Labour;--those are my
   watchwords. But there are many here who hate the very name
   of Purity, and who know nothing of the Rights of Labour.
   Labour, dear Polly, is the salt of the earth; and I hope
   that some day I may have the privilege of teaching you
   that it is so. For myself I do not see why ladies should
   not understand politics as well as men; and I think that
   they ought to vote. I hope you think that women ought to
   have the franchise.

   We are to be nominated on Monday, and the election will
   take place on Tuesday. I shall be nominated and seconded
   by two electors who are working men. I would sooner
   have their support than that of the greatest magnate in
   the land. But your support would be better for me than
   anything else in the world. People here, as a rule, are
   very lukewarm about the ballot, and they seemed to know
   very little about strikes till I came among them. Without
   combination and mutual support the working people must be
   ground to powder. If I am sent to Parliament I shall feel
   it to be my duty to insist upon this doctrine in season
   and out of season,--whenever I can make my voice heard.
   But, oh Polly, if I could do it with you for my wife, my
   voice would be so much louder.

   Pray give my best respects to your father and mother. I am
   afraid I have not your father's good wishes, but perhaps
   if he saw me filling the honourable position of member of
   Parliament for Percycross he might relent. If you would
   condescend to write me one word in reply I should be
   prouder of that than of anything. I suppose I shall be
   here till Wednesday morning. If you would say but one kind
   word to me, I think that it would help me on the great
   day.

   I am, and ever shall be,
   Your most affectionate admirer,

   ONTARIO MOGGS.


[Illustration: "Out of a full heart they say the mouth speaks,
and out of a very full heart I am speaking to you with my pen."]


Polly received this on the Monday, the day of the nomination, and
though she did answer it at once, Ontario did not get her reply till
the contest was over, and that great day had done its best and its
worst for him. But Polly's letter shall be given here. To a well-bred
young lady, living in good society, the mixture of politics and
love which had filled Ontario's epistle might perhaps have been
unacceptable. But Polly thought that the letter was a good letter;
and was proud of being so noticed by a young man who was standing for
Parliament. She sympathised with his enthusiasm; and thought that
she should like to be taught by him that Labour was the Salt of the
Earth,--if only he were not so awkward and long, and if his hands
were habitually a little cleaner. She could not, however, take
upon herself to give him any hope in that direction, and therefore
confined her answer to the Parliamentary prospects of the hour.


   DEAR MR. MOGGS,--[she wrote]--I was very much pleased
   when I heard that you were going to stand for a member of
   Parliament, and I wish with all my heart that you may be
   successful. I shall think it a very great honour indeed
   to know a member of Parliament, as I have known you for
   nearly all my life. I am sure you will do a great deal of
   good, and prevent the people from being wicked. As for
   ladies voting, I don't think I should like that myself,
   though if I had twenty votes I would give them to
   you,--because I have known you so long.

   Father and mother send their respects, and hope you will
   be successful.

   Yours truly,

   MARYANNE NEEFIT.

   Alexandra Cottage, Monday.


When Moggs received this letter he was, not unnaturally, in a state
of great agitation in reference to the contest through which he had
just passed; but still he thought very much of it, and put it in his
breast, where it would lie near his heart. Ah, if only one word of
warmth had been allowed to escape from the writer, how happy could he
have been. "Yes," he said scornfully,--"because she has known me all
her life!" Nevertheless, the paper which her hand had pressed, and
the letters which her fingers had formed, were placed close to his
heart.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE MOONBEAM.


Ralph the heir had given his answer, and the thing was settled. He
had abandoned his property for ever, and was to be put into immediate
possession of a large sum of money,--of a sum so large that it would
seem at once to make him a rich man. He knew, however, that if he
should spend this money he would be a pauper for life; and he knew
also how great was his facility for spending. There might, however,
be at least a thousand a year for him and for his heirs after him,
and surely it ought to be easy for him to live upon a thousand a
year.

As he thought of this he tried to make the best of it. He had at
any rate rescued himself out of the hands of Neefit, who had become
intolerable to him. As for Polly, she had refused him twice. Polly
was a very sweet girl, but he could not make it matter of regret to
himself that he should have lost Polly. Had Polly been all alone in
the world she would have been well enough,--but Polly with papa and
mamma Neefit must have been a mistake. It was well for him, at any
rate, that he was out of that trouble. As regarded the Neefits, it
would be simply necessary that he should pay the breeches-maker the
money that he owed them, and go no more either to Conduit Street or
to Hendon.

And then what else should he do,--or leave undone? In what other
direction should he be active or inactive? He was well aware
that hitherto he had utterly wasted his life. Born with glorious
prospects, he had now so dissipated them that there was nothing left
for him but a quiet and very unambitious mode of life. Of means he
had sufficient, if only he could keep that sufficiency. But he knew
himself,--he feared that he knew himself too well to trust himself
to keep that which he had unless he altogether changed his manner of
living. To be a hybrid at the Moonbeam for life,--half hero and half
dupe, among grooms and stable-keepers, was not satisfactory to him.
He could see and could appreciate better things, and could long for
them; but he could not attain to anything better unless he were to
alter altogether his mode of life. Would it not be well for him to
get a wife? He was rid of Polly, who had been an incubus to him, and
now he could choose for himself.

He wrote to his brother Gregory, telling his brother what he had
done. The writing of letters was ever a trouble to him, and on this
occasion he told his tidings in a line or two. "Dear Greg., I have
accepted my uncle's offer. It was better so. When I wrote to you
before things were different. I need not tell you that my heart is
sore for the old place. Had I stuck to it, however, I should have
beggared you and disgraced myself. Yours affectionately, R. N." That
was all. What more was to be said which, in the saying, could be
serviceable to any one? The dear old place! He would never see it
again. Nothing on earth should induce him to go there, now that it
could under no circumstances be his own. It would still belong to a
Newton, and he would try and take comfort in that. He might at any
rate have done worse with it. He might have squandered his interest
among the Jews, and so have treated his inheritance that it must have
been sold among strangers.

He was very low in spirits for two or three days, thinking of all
this. He had been with his lawyer, and his lawyer had told him that
it must yet be some weeks before the sale would be perfected. "Now
that it is done, the sooner the better," said Ralph. The lawyer told
him that if he absolutely wanted ready money for his present needs
he could have it; but that otherwise it would be better for him to
wait patiently,--say for a month. He was not absolutely in want of
money, having still funds which had been supplied to him by the
breeches-maker. But he could not remain in town. Were he to remain in
town, Neefit would be upon him; and, in truth, though he was quite
clear in his conscience in regard to Polly, he did not wish to have
to explain personally to Mr. Neefit that he had sold his interest in
Newton Priory. The moment the money was in his hands he would pay Mr.
Neefit; and then--; why then he thought that he would be entitled
to have Mr. Neefit told that he was not at home should Mr. Neefit
trouble him again.

He would marry and live somewhere very quietly;--perhaps take a small
farm and keep one hunter. His means would be sufficient for that,
even with a wife and family. Yes;--that would be the kind of life
most suited for him. He would make a great change. He would be simple
in his habits, domestic, and extravagant in nothing. To hunt once
a week from his own little country house would be delightful. Who
should be the mistress of that home? That of all questions was now
the most important.

The reader may remember a certain trifling incident which took place
some three or four months since on the lawn at Popham Villa. It was
an incident which Clary Underwood had certainly never forgotten. It
is hardly too much to say that she thought of it every hour. She
thought of it as a great sin;--but as a sin which had been forgiven,
and, though a grievous sin, as strong evidence of that which was
not sinful, and which if true would be so full of joy. Clary had
never forgotten this incident;--but Ralph had forgotten it nearly
altogether. That he had accompanied the incident by any assurance of
his love, by any mention of love intended to mean anything, he was
altogether unaware. He would have been ready to swear that he had
never so committed himself. Little tender passages of course there
had been. Such are common,--so he thought,--when young ladies and
young gentlemen know each other well and are fond of each other's
company. But that he owed himself to Clarissa Underwood, and that he
would sin grievously against her should he give himself to another,
he had no idea. It merely occurred to him that there might be some
slight preparatory embarrassment were he to offer his hand to Mary
Bonner. Yet he thought that of all the girls in the world Mary Bonner
was the one to whom he would best like to offer it. It might indeed
be possible for him to marry some young woman with money; but in his
present frame of mind he was opposed to any such effort. Hitherto
things with him had been all worldly, empty, useless, and at the same
time distasteful. He was to have married Polly Neefit for her money,
and he had been wretched ever since he had entertained the idea. Love
and a cottage were, he knew, things incompatible; but the love and
the cottage implied in those words were synonymous with absolute
poverty. Love with thirty thousand pounds, even though it should have
a cottage joined with it, need not be a poverty-stricken love. He was
sick of the world,--of the world such as he had made it for himself,
and he would see if he could not do something better. He would first
get Mary Bonner, and then he would get the farm. He was so much
delighted with the scheme which he thus made for himself, that he
went to his club and dined there pleasantly, allowing himself a
bottle of champagne as a sort of reward for having made up his mind
to so much virtue. He met a friend or two, and spent a pleasant
evening, and as he walked home to his lodgings in the evening was
quite in love with his prospects. It was well for him to have rid
himself of the burden of an inheritance which might perhaps not have
been his for the next five-and-twenty years. As he undressed himself
he considered whether it would be well for him at once to throw
himself at Mary Bonner's feet. There were two reasons for not doing
this quite immediately. He had been told by his lawyer that he ought
to wait for some form of assent or agreement from the Squire before
he took any important step as consequent upon the new arrangement
in regard to the property, and then Sir Thomas was still among the
electors at Percycross. He wished to do everything that was proper,
and would wait for the return of Sir Thomas. But he must do something
at once. To remain in his lodgings and at his club was not in accord
with that better path in life which he had chalked out for himself.

Of course he must go down to the Moonbeam. He had four horses there,
and must sell at least three of them. One hunter he intended to allow
himself. There were Brag, Banker, Buff, and Brewer; and he thought
that he would keep Brag. Brag was only six years old, and might last
him for the next seven years. In the meantime he could see a little
cub-hunting, and live at the Moonbeam for a week at any rate as
cheaply as he could in London. So he went down to the Moonbeam, and
put himself under the charge of Mr. Horsball.

And here he found himself in luck. Lieutenant Cox was there, and with
the lieutenant a certain Fred Pepper, who hunted habitually with the
B. and B. Lieutenant Cox had soon told his little tale. He had sold
out, and had promised his family that he would go to Australia. But
he intended to "take one more winter out of himself," as he phrased
it. He had made a bargain to that effect with his governor. His debts
had been paid, his commission had been sold, and he was to be shipped
for Queensland. But he was to have one more winter with the B. and B.
An open, good-humoured, shrewd youth was Lieutenant Cox, who suffered
nothing from false shame, and was intelligent enough to know that
life at the rate of £1,200 a year, with £400 to spend, must come to
an end. Fred Pepper was a young man of about forty-five, who had
hunted with the B. and B., and lived at the Moonbeam from a time
beyond which the memory of Mr. Horsball's present customers went not.
He was the father of the Moonbeam, Mr. Horsball himself having come
there since the days in which Fred Pepper first became familiar with
its loose boxes. No one knew how he lived or how he got his horses.
He had, however, a very pretty knack of selling them, and certainly
paid Mr. Horsball regularly. He was wont to vanish in April, and
would always turn up again in October. Some people called him the
dormouse. He was good-humoured, good-looking after a horsey fashion,
clever, agreeable, and quite willing to submit himself to any
nickname that could be found for him. He liked a rubber of whist, and
was supposed to make something out of bets with bad players. He rode
very carefully, and was altogether averse to ostentation and bluster
in the field. But he could make a horse do anything when he wanted
to sell him, and could on an occasion give a lead as well as any man.
Everybody liked him, and various things were constantly said in his
praise. He was never known to borrow a sovereign. He had been known
to lend a horse. He did not drink. He was a very safe man in the
field. He did not lie outrageously in selling his horses. He did not
cheat at cards. As long as he had a drop of drink left in his flask,
he would share it with any friend. He never boasted. He was much
given to chaff, but his chaff was good-humoured. He was generous with
his cigars. Such were his virtues. That he had no adequate means of
his own and that he never earned a penny, that he lived chiefly by
gambling, that he had no pursuit in life but pleasure, that he never
went inside a church, that he never gave away a shilling, that he was
of no use to any human being, and that no one could believe a word he
said of himself,--these were specks upon his character. Taken as a
whole Fred Pepper was certainly very popular with the gentlemen and
ladies of the B. and B.

Ralph Newton when he dropped down upon the Moonbeam was made loudly
welcome. Mr. Horsball, whose bill for £500 had been honoured at its
first day of maturity, not a little, perhaps, to his own surprise,
treated Ralph almost as a hero. When Ralph made some reference to the
remainder of the money due, Mr. Horsball expressed himself as quite
shocked at the allusion. He had really had the greatest regret in
asking Mr. Newton for his note of hand, and would not have done it,
had not an unforeseen circumstance called upon him suddenly to make
up a few thousands. He had felt very much obliged to Mr. Newton for
his prompt kindness. There needn't be a word about the remainder,
and if Mr. Newton wanted something specially good for the next
season,--as of course he would,--Mr. Horsball had just the horse that
would suit him. "You'll about want a couple more, Mr. Newton," said
Mr. Horsball.

Then Ralph told something of his plans to this Master of the
Studs,--something, but not much. He said nothing of the sale of his
property, and nothing quite definite as to that one horse with which
his hunting was to be done for the future. "I'm going to turn over a
new leaf, Horsball," he said.

"Not going to be spliced, squire?"

"Well;--I can't say that I am, but I won't say that I ain't. But I'm
certainly going to make a change which will take me away from your
fatherly care."

"I'm sorry for that, squire. We think we've always taken great care
of you here."

"The very best in the world;--but a man must settle down in the world
some day, you know. I want a nice bit of land, a hundred and fifty
acres, or something of that sort."

"To purchase, squire?"

"I don't care whether I buy it or take it on lease. But it mustn't be
in this county. I am too well known here, and should always want to
be out when I ought to be looking after the stock."

"You'll take the season out of yourself first, at any rate," said Mr.
Horsball. Ralph shook his head, but Mr. Horsball felt nearly sure
of his customer for the ensuing winter. It is not easy for a man to
part with four horses, seven or eight saddles, an establishment of
bridles, horsesheets, spurs, rollers, and bandages, a pet groom,
a roomful of top boots, and leather breeches beyond the power of
counting. This is a wealth which it is easy to increase, but of which
it is very difficult to get quit.

"I think I shall sell," said Ralph.

"We'll talk about that in April," said Mr. Horsball.

He went out cub-hunting three or four times, and spent the
intermediate days playing dummy whist with Fred Pepper and Cox,--who
was no longer a lieutenant. Ralph felt that this was not the sort of
beginning for his better life which would have been most appropriate;
but then he hardly had an opportunity of beginning that better life
quite at once. He must wait till something more definite had been
done about the property,--and, above all things, till Sir Thomas
should be back from canvassing. He did, however, so far begin
his better life as to declare that the points at whist must be
low,--shilling points, with half-a-crown on the rubber. "Quite
enough for this kind of thing," said Fred Pepper. "We only want just
something to do." And Ralph, when at the end of the week he had lost
only a matter of fifteen pounds, congratulated himself on having
begun his better life. Cox and Fred Pepper, who divided the trifle
between them, laughed at the bagatelle.

But before he left the Moonbeam things had assumed a shape which,
when looked at all round, was not altogether pleasant to him. Before
he had been three days at the place he received a letter from his
lawyer, telling him that his uncle had given his formal assent to the
purchase, and had offered to pay the stipulated sum as soon as Ralph
would be willing to receive it. As to any further sum that might be
forthcoming, a valuer should be agreed upon at once. The actual deed
of sale and transfer would be ready by the middle of November; and
the lawyer advised Ralph to postpone his acceptance of the money till
that deed should have been executed. It was evident from the letter
that there was no need on his part to hurry back to town. This letter
he found waiting for him on his return one day from hunting. There
had been a pretty run, very fast, with a kill, as there will be
sometimes in cub-hunting in October,--though as a rule, of all
sports, cub-hunting is the sorriest. Ralph had ridden his favourite
horse Brag, and Mr. Pepper had taken out,--just to try him,--a little
animal of his that he had bought, as he said, quite at haphazard. He
knew nothing about him, and was rather afraid that he had been done.
But the little horse seemed to have a dash of pace about him, and in
the evening there was some talk of the animal. Fred Pepper thought
that the little horse was faster than Brag. Fred Pepper never praised
his own horses loudly; and when Brag's merits were chaunted, said
that perhaps Ralph was right. Would Ralph throw his leg over the
little horse on Friday and try him? On the Friday Ralph did throw his
leg over the little horse, and there was another burst. Ralph was
obliged to confess, as they came home together in the afternoon, that
he had never been better carried. "I can see what he is now," said
Fred Pepper;--"he is one of those little horses that one don't get
every day. He's up to a stone over my weight, too." Now Ralph and
Fred Pepper each rode thirteen stone and a half.

On that day they dined together, and there was much talk as to the
future prospects of the men. Not that Fred Pepper said anything of
his future prospects. No one ever presumed him to have a prospect, or
suggested to him to look for one. But Cox had been very communicative
and confidential, and Ralph had been prompted to say something of
himself. Fred Pepper, though he had no future of his own, could
he pleasantly interested about the future of another, and had
quite agreed with Ralph that he ought to settle himself. The only
difficulty was in deciding the when. Cox intended to settle himself
too, but Cox was quite clear as to the wisdom of taking another
season out of himself. He was prepared to prove that it would be
sheer waste of time and money not to do so. "Here I am," said Cox,
"and a fellow always saves money by staying where he is." There was a
sparkle of truth in this which Ralph Newton found himself unable to
deny.

"You'll never have another chance," said Pepper.

"That's another thing," said Cox. "Of course I shan't. I've turned it
round every side, and I know what I'm about. As for horses, I believe
they sell better in April than they do in October. Men know what they
are then." Fred Pepper would not exactly back this opinion, but he
ventured to suggest that there was not so much difference as some men
supposed.

"If you are to jump into the cold water," said Ralph, "you'd better
take the plunge at once."

"I'd sooner do it in summer than winter," said Fred Pepper.

"Of course," said Cox. "If you must give up hunting, do it at the end
of the season, not at the beginning. There's a time for all things.
Ring the bell, Dormouse, and we'll have another bottle of claret
before we go to dummy."

"If I stay here for the winter," said Ralph, "I should want another
horse. Though I might, perhaps, get through with four."

"Of course you might," said Pepper, who never spoilt his own market
by pressing.

"I'd rather give up altogether than do it in a scratch way," said
Ralph. "I've got into a fashion of having a second horse, and I like
it."

"It's the greatest luxury in the world," said Cox.

"I never tried it," said Pepper; "I'm only too happy to get one." It
was admitted by all men that Fred Pepper had the art of riding his
horses without tiring them.

They played their rubber of whist and had a little hot whisky and
water. On this evening Mr. Horsball was admitted to their company and
made a fourth. But he wouldn't bet. Shilling points, he said, were
quite as much as he could afford. Through the whole evening they went
on talking of the next season, of the absolute folly of giving up one
thing before another was begun, and of the merits of Fred Pepper's
little horse. "A clever little animal, Mr. Pepper," said the great
man, "a very clever little animal; but I wish you wouldn't bring so
many clever un's down here, Mr. Pepper."

"Why not, Horsball?" asked Cox.

"Because he interferes with my trade," said Mr. Horsball, laughing.
It was supposed, nevertheless, that Mr. Horsball and Mr. Pepper quite
understood each other. Before the evening was over, a price had been
fixed, and Ralph had bought the little horse for £130. Why shouldn't
he take another winter out of himself? He could not marry Mary Bonner
and get into a farm all in a day,--nor yet all in a month. He would
go to work honestly with the view of settling himself; but let him
be as honest about it as he might, his winter's hunting would not
interfere with him. So at last he assured himself. And then he had
another argument strong in his favour. He might hunt all the winter
and yet have this thirty thousand pounds,--nay, more than thirty
thousand pounds at the end of it. In fact, imprudent and foolish as
had been his hunting in all previous winters, there would not even
be any imprudence in this winter's hunting. Fortified by all these
unanswerable arguments he did buy Mr. Fred Pepper's little horse.

On the next morning, the morning of the day on which he was to return
to town, the arguments did not seem to be so irresistible, and he
almost regretted what he had done. It was not that he would be ruined
by another six months' fling at life. Situated as he now was so much
might be allowed to him almost without injury. But then how can a man
trust in his own resolutions before he has begun to keep them,--when,
at the very moment of beginning, he throws them to the winds for the
present, postponing everything for another hour? He knew as well as
any one could tell him that he was proving himself to be unfit for
that new life which he was proposing to himself. When one man is
wise and another foolish, the foolish man knows generally as well
as does the wise man in what lies wisdom and in what folly. And the
temptation often is very slight. Ralph Newton had hardly wished to
buy Mr. Pepper's little horse. The balance of desire during the whole
evening had lain altogether on the other side. But there had come
a moment in which he had yielded, and that moment governed all the
other minutes. We may almost say that a man is only as strong as his
weakest moment.

But he returned to London very strong in his purpose. He would keep
his establishment at the Moonbeam for this winter. He had it all laid
out and planned in his mind. He would at once pay Mr. Horsball the
balance of the old debt, and count on the value of his horses to
defray the expense of the coming season. And he would, without a
week's delay, make his offer to Mary Bonner. A dim idea of some
feeling of disappointment on Clary's part did cross his brain,--a
feeling which seemed to threaten some slight discomfort to himself
as resulting from want of sympathy on her part; but he must assume
sufficient courage to brave this. That he would in any degree be an
evil-doer towards Clary,--that did not occur to him. Nor did it occur
to him as at all probable that Mary Bonner would refuse his offer. In
these days men never expect to be refused. It has gone forth among
young men as a doctrine worthy of perfect faith, that young ladies
are all wanting to get married,--looking out for lovers with an
absorbing anxiety, and that few can dare to refuse any man who is
justified in proposing to them.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE NEW HEIR COUNTS HIS CHICKENS.


The Squire was almost lost in joy when he received his son's letter,
telling him that Ralph the heir had consented to sell everything.
The one great wish of his life was to be accomplished at last! The
property was to be his own, so that he might do what he liked with
it, so that he might leave it entire to his own son, so that for the
remainder of his life he might enjoy it in that community with his
son which had always appeared to him to be the very summit of human
bliss. From the sweet things which he had seen he had been hitherto
cut off by the record of his own fault, and had spent the greater
part of his life in the endurance of a bitter punishment. He had been
torn to pieces, too, in contemplating the modes of escape from the
position in which his father's very natural will had placed him. He
might of course have married, and at least have expected and have
hoped for children. But in that there would have been misery. His
son was the one human being that was dear to him above all others,
and by such a marriage he would have ruined his son. Early in life,
comparatively early, he had made up his mind that he would not do
that;--that he would save his money, and make a property for the boy
he loved. But then it had come home to him as a fact, that he could
be happy in preparing no other home for his son than this old family
house of his, with all its acres, woods, and homesteads. The acres,
woods, and homesteads gave to him no delight, feeling as he did every
hour of his life that they were not his own for purposes of a real
usufruct. Then by degrees he had heard of his nephew's follies, and
the idea had come upon him that he might buy his nephew out. Ralph,
his own Ralph, had told him that the idea was cruel; but he could not
see the cruelty. "What a bad man loses a good man will get," he said;
"and surely it must be better for all those who are to live by the
property that a good man should be the master of it." He would not
interfere, nor would he have any power of interfering, till others
would interfere were he to keep aloof. The doings would be the doings
of that spendthrift heir, and none of his. When Ralph would tell him
that he was cruel, he would turn away in wrath; but hiding his wrath,
because he loved his son. But now everything was set right, and his
son had had the doing of it.

He was nearly mad with joy throughout that day as he thought of the
great thing which he had accomplished. He was alone in the house, for
his son was still in London, and during the last few months guests
had been unfrequent at the Priory. But he did not wish to have
anybody with him now. He went out, roaming through the park, and
realising to himself the fact that now, at length, the very trees
were his own. He gazed at one farmhouse after another, not seeking
the tenants, hardly speaking to them if he met them, but with his
brain full of plans of what should be done. He saw Gregory for a
moment, but only nodded at him smiling, and passed on. He was not in
a humour just at present to tell his happiness to any one. He walked
all round Darvell's premises, the desolate, half-ruined house of
Brumbys, telling himself that very shortly it should be desolate and
half-ruined no longer. Then he crossed into the lane, and stood with
his eyes fixed upon Brownriggs,--Walker's farm, the pearl of all the
farms in those parts, the land with which he thought he could have
parted so easily when the question before him was that of becoming in
truth the owner of any portion of the estate. But now, every acre was
ten times dearer to him than it had been then. He would never part
with Brownriggs. He would even save Ingram's farm, in Twining, if
it might possibly be saved. He had not known before how dear to him
could be every bank, every tree, every sod. Yes;--now in very truth
he was lord and master of the property which had belonged to his
father, and his father's fathers before him. He would borrow money,
and save it during his lifetime. He would do anything rather than
part with an acre of it, now that the acres were his own to leave
behind him to his son.

On the following day Ralph arrived. We must no longer call him Ralph
who was not the heir. He would be heir to everything from the day
that the contract was completed! The Squire, though he longed to see
the young man as he had never longed before, would not go to the
station to meet the welcome one. His irrepressible joy was too great
to be exhibited before strangers. He remained at home, in his own
room, desiring that Mr. Ralph might come to him there. He would not
even show himself in the hall. And yet when Ralph entered the room he
was very calm. There was a bright light in his eyes, but at first he
spoke hardly a word. "So, you've managed that little job," he said,
as he took his son's hand.

"I managed nothing, sir," said Ralph, smiling.

"Didn't you? I thought you had managed a good deal. It is done,
anyway."

"Yes, sir, it's done. At least, I suppose so." Ralph, after sending
his telegram, had of course written to his father, giving him full
particulars of the manner in which the arrangement had been made.

"You don't mean that there is any doubt," said the Squire with almost
an anxious tone.

"Not at all, as far as I know. The lawyers seem to think that it is
all right. Ralph is quite in earnest."

"He must be in earnest," said the Squire.

"He has behaved uncommonly well," said the namesake. "So well that I
think you owe him much. We were quite mistaken in supposing that he
wanted to drive a sharp bargain." He himself had never so supposed,
but he found this to be the best way of speaking of that matter to
his father.

"I will forgive him everything now," said the Squire, "and will do
anything that I can to help him."

Ralph said many things in praise of his namesake. He still almost
regretted what had been done. At any rate he could see the pity
of it. It was that other Ralph who should have been looked to as
the future proprietor of Newton Priory, and not he, who was hardly
entitled to call himself a Newton. It would have been more consistent
with the English order of things that it should be so. And then
there was so much to say in favour of this young man who had lost
it all, and so little to say against him! And it almost seemed to
him for whose sake the purchase was being made, that advantage,--an
unscrupulous if not an unfair advantage,--was being taken of the
purchaser. He could not say all this to his father; but he spoke of
Ralph in such a way as to make his father understand what he thought.
"He is such a pleasant fellow," said Ralph, who was now the heir.

"Let us have him down here as soon as the thing is settled."

"Ah;--I don't think he'll come now. Of course he's wretched enough
about it. It is not wonderful that he should have hesitated at
parting with it."

"Perhaps not," said the Squire, who was willing to forgive past sins;
"but of course there was no help for it."

"That was what he didn't feel so sure about when he declined your
first offer. It was not that he objected to the price. As to the
price he says that of course he can say nothing about it. When I
told him that you were willing to raise your offer, he declared that
he would take nothing in that fashion. If those who understood the
matter said that more was coming to him, he supposed that he would
get it. According to my ideas he behaved very well, sir."

In this there was something that almost amounted to an accusation
against the Squire. At least so the Squire felt it; and the feeling
for the moment robbed him of something of his triumph. According to
his own view there was no need for pity. It was plain that to his son
the whole affair was pitiful. But he could not scold his son;--at any
rate not now. "I feel this, Ralph," he said;--"that from this moment
everybody connected with the property, every tenant on it and every
labourer, will be better off than they were a month ago. I may have
been to blame. I say nothing about that. But I do say that in all
cases it is well that a property should go to the natural heir of the
life-tenant. Of course it has been my fault," he added after a pause;
"but I do feel now that I have in a great measure remedied the evil
which I did." The tone now had become too serious to admit of further
argument. Ralph, feeling that this was so, pressed his father's hand
and then left him. "Gregory is coming across to dinner," said the
Squire as Ralph was closing the door behind him.

At that time Gregory had received no intimation of what had been done
in London, his brother's note not reaching him till the following
morning. Ralph met him before the Squire came down, and the news was
soon told. "It is all settled," said Ralph, with a sigh.

"Well?"

"Your brother has agreed to sell."

"No!"

"I have almost more pain than pleasure in it myself, because I know
it will make you unhappy."

"He was so confident when he wrote to me!"

"Yes;--but he explained all that. He had hoped then that he could
have saved it. But the manner of saving it would have been worse than
the loss. He will tell you everything, no doubt. No man could have
behaved better." As it happened, there was still some little space
of time before the Squire joined them,--a period perhaps of five
minutes. But the parson spoke hardly a word. The news which he now
heard confounded him. He had been quite sure that his brother had
been in earnest, and that his uncle would fail. And then, though
he loved the one Ralph nearly as well as he did the other,--though
he must have known that Ralph the base-born was in all respects a
better man than his own brother, more of a man than the legitimate
heir,--still to his feelings that legitimacy was everything. He too
was a Newton of Newton; but it may be truly said of him that there
was nothing selfish in his feelings. To be the younger brother of
Newton of Newton, and parson of the parish which bore the same name
as themselves, was sufficient for his ambition. But things would be
terribly astray now that the right heir was extruded. Ralph, this
Ralph whom he loved so well, could not be the right Newton to own the
property. The world would not so regard him. The tenants would not so
think of him. The county would not so repute him. To the thinking of
parson Gregory, a great misfortune had been consummated. As soon as
he had realised it, he was silent and could speak no more.

Nor did Ralph say a word. Not to triumph in what had been done on his
behalf,--or at least not to seem to triumph,--that was the lesson
which he had taught himself. He fully sympathised with Gregory; and
therefore he stood silent and sad by his side. That there must have
been some triumph in his heart it is impossible not to imagine. It
could not be but that he should be alive to the glory of being the
undoubted heir to Newton Priory. And he understood well that his
birth would interfere but little now with his position. Should he
choose to marry, as he would choose, it would of course be necessary
that he should explain his birth; but it was not likely, he thought,
that he should seek a wife among those who would reject him, with all
his other advantages, because he had no just title to his father's
name. That he should take joy in what had been done on his behalf
was only natural; but as he stood with Gregory, waiting for his
father to come to them, he showed no sign of joy. At last the Squire
came. There certainly was triumph in his eye, but he did not speak
triumphantly. It was impossible that some word should not be spoken
between them as to the disposition of the property. "I suppose Ralph
has told you," he said, "what he has done up in London?"

"Yes;--he has told me," said Gregory.

"I hope there will now be an end of all family ill-feeling among us,"
said the uncle. "Your brother shall be as welcome at the old place
as I trust you have always found yourself. If he likes to bring his
horses here, we shall be delighted."

The parson muttered something as to the kindness with which he had
ever been treated, but what he said was said with an ill grace. He
was almost broken-hearted, and thoroughly wished himself back in
his own solitude. The Squire saw it all, and did not press him to
talk;--said not a word more of his purchase, and tried to create some
little interest about parish matters;--asked after the new building
in the chancel, and was gracious about this old man and that young
woman. But Gregory could not recover himself,--could not recall his
old interests, or so far act a part as to make it seem that he was
not thinking of the misfortune which had fallen upon the family. In
every look of his eyes and every tone of his voice he was telling
the son that he was a bastard, and the father that he was destroying
the inheritance of the family. But yet they bore with him, and
endeavoured to win him back to pleasantness. Soon after the cloth was
taken away he took his leave. He had work to do at home, he said, and
must go. His uncle went out with him into the hall, leaving Ralph
alone in the parlour. "It will be for the best in the long run," said
the Squire, with his hand on his nephew's shoulder.

"Perhaps it may, sir. I am not pretending to say. Good night." As he
walked home across the park, through the old trees which he had known
since he was an infant, he told himself that it could not be for the
best that the property should be sent adrift, out of the proper line.
The only thing to be desired now was that neither he nor his brother
should have a child, and that there should no longer be a proper
line.

The Squire's joy was too deep and well founded to be in any way
damped by poor Gregory's ill-humour, and was too closely present to
him for him to be capable of restraining it. Why should he restrain
himself before his son? "I am sorry for Greg," he said, "because he
has old-fashioned ideas. But of course it will be for the best. His
brother would have squandered every acre of it." To this Ralph made
no answer. It might probably have been as his father said. It was
perhaps best for all who lived in and by the estate that he should be
the heir. And gradually the feeling of exultation in his own position
was growing upon him. It was natural that it should do so. He knew
himself to be capable of filling with credit, and with advantage to
all around him, the great place which was now assigned to him, and
it was impossible that he should not be exultant. And he owed it to
his father to show him that he appreciated all that had been done
for him. "I think he ought to have the £35,000 at least," said the
Squire.

"Certainly," said Ralph.

"I think so. As for the bulk sum, I have already written to Carey
about that. No time ought to be lost. There is no knowing what might
happen. He might die."

"He doesn't look like dying, sir."

"He might break his neck out hunting. There is no knowing. At any
rate there should be no delay. From what I am told I don't think that
with the timber and all they'll make it come to another £5,000; but
he shall have that. As he has behaved well, I'll show him that I can
behave well too. I've half a mind to go up to London, and stay till
it's all through."

"You'd only worry yourself."

"I should worry myself, no doubt. And do you know, I love the place
so much better than I did, that I can hardly bear to tear myself away
from it. The first mark of my handiwork, now that I can work, shall
be put upon Darvell's farm. I'll have the old place about his ears
before I am a day older."

"You'll not get it through before winter."

"Yes, I will. If it costs me an extra £50 I shan't begrudge it. It
shall be a sort of memorial building, a farmhouse of thanksgiving.
I'll make it as snug a place as there is about the property. It has
made me wretched for these two years."

"I hope all that kind of wretchedness will be over now."

"Thank God;--yes. I was looking at Brownriggs to-day,--and Ingram's.
I don't think we'll sell either. I have a plan, and I think we can
pull through without it. It is so much easier to sell than to buy."

"You'd be more comfortable if you sold one of them."

"Of course I must borrow a few thousands;--but why not? I doubt
whether at this moment there's a property in all Hampshire so free as
this. I have always lived on less than the income, and I can continue
to do so easier than before. You are provided for now, old fellow."

"Yes, indeed;--and why should you pinch yourself?"

"I shan't be pinched. I haven't got a score of women about me, as
you'll have before long. There's nothing in the world like having a
wife. I am quite sure of that. But if you want to save money, the way
to do it is not to have a nursery. You'll marry, of course, now?"

"I suppose I shall some day."

"The sooner the better. Take my word for it."

"Perhaps you'd alter your opinion if I came upon you before Christmas
for your sanction."

"No, by Jove; that I shouldn't. I should be delighted. You don't mean
to say you've got anybody in your eye. There's only one thing I ask,
Ralph;--open out-and-out confidence."

"You shall have it, sir."

"There is somebody, then."

"Well; no; there isn't anybody. It would be impudence in me to say
there was."

"Then I know there is." Upon this encouragement Ralph told his father
that on his two last visits to London he had seen a girl whom he
thought that he would like to ask to be his wife. He had been at
Fulham on three or four occasions,--it was so he put it, but his
visits had, in truth, been only three,--and he thought that this
niece of Sir Thomas Underwood possessed every charm that a woman need
possess,--"except money," said Ralph. "She has no fortune, if you
care about that."

"I don't care about money," said the Squire. "It is for the man to
have that;--at any rate for one so circumstanced as you." The end
of all this was that Ralph was authorised to please himself. If he
really felt that he liked Miss Bonner well enough, he might ask her
to be his wife to-morrow.

"The difficulty is to get at her," said Ralph.

"Ask the uncle for his permission. That's the manliest and the
fittest way to do it. Tell him everything. Take my word for it he
won't turn his face against you. As for me, nothing on earth would
make me so happy as to see your children. If there were a dozen, I
would not think them one too many. But mark you this, Ralph; it will
be easier for us,--for you and me, if I live,--and for you without
me if I go, to make all things clear and square and free while the
bairns are little, than when they have to go to school and college,
or perhaps want to get married."

"Ain't we counting our chickens before they are hatched?" said Ralph
laughing.

When they parted for the night, which they did not do till after the
Squire had slept for an hour on his chair, there was one other speech
made,--a speech which Ralph was likely to remember to the latest day
of his life. His father had taken his candlestick in his right hand,
and had laid his left upon his son's collar. "Ralph," said he, "for
the first time in my life I can look you in the face, and not feel a
pang of remorse. You will understand it when you have a son of your
own. Good-night, my boy." Then he hurried off without waiting to hear
a word, if there was any word that Ralph could have spoken.

On the next morning they were both out early at Darvell's farm,
surrounded by bricklayers and carpenters, and before the week was
over the work was in progress. Poor Darvell, half elated and half
troubled, knew but little of the cause of this new vehemence.
Something we suppose he did know, for the news was soon spread over
the estate that the Squire had bought out Mr. Ralph, and that this
other Mr. Ralph was now to be Mr. Ralph the heir. That the old butler
should not be told,--the butler who had lived in the house when the
present Squire was a boy,--was out of the question; and though the
communication had been made in confidence, the confidence was not
hermetical. The Squire after all was glad that it should be so. The
thing had to be made known,--and why not after this fashion? Among
the labourers and poor there was no doubt as to the joy felt. That
other Mr. Ralph, who had always been up in town, was unknown to them,
and this Mr. Ralph had ever been popular with them all. With the
tenants the feeling was perhaps more doubtful. "I wish you joy, Mr.
Newton, with all my heart," said Mr. Walker, who was the richest and
the most intelligent among them. "The Squire has worked for you like
a man, and I hope it will come to good."

"I will do my best," said Ralph.

"I am sure you will. There will be a feeling, you know. You mustn't
be angry at that."

"I understand," said Ralph.

"You won't be vexed with me for just saying so." Ralph promised that
he would not be vexed, but he thought very much of what Mr. Walker
had said to him. After all, such a property as Newton does not in
England belong altogether to the owner of it. Those who live upon it,
and are closely concerned in it with reference to all that they have
in the world, have a part property in it. They make it what it is,
and will not make it what it should be, unless in their hearts they
are proud of it. "You know he can't be the real squire," said one old
farmer to Mr. Walker. "They may hugger-mugger it this way and that;
but this Mr. Ralph can't be like t'other young gentleman."

Nevertheless the Squire himself was very happy. These things were
not said to him, and he had been successful. He took an interest in
all things keener than he had felt for years past. One day he was in
the stables with his son, and spoke about the hunting for the coming
season. He had an Irish horse of which he was proud, an old hunter
that had carried him for the last seven years, and of which he had
often declared that under no consideration would he part with it.
"Dear old fellow," he said, putting his hand on the animal's neck,
"you shall work for your bread one other winter, and then you shall
give over for the rest of your life."

"I never saw him look better," said Ralph.

"He's like his master;--not quite so young as he was once. He never
made a mistake yet that I know of."

Ralph when he saw how full of joy was his father, could not but
rejoice also that the thing so ardently desired had been at last
accomplished.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE ELECTION.


The day of the nomination at Percycross came at last, and it was
manifest to everybody that there was a very unpleasant feeling in
the town. It was not only that party was arrayed against party. That
would have been a state of things not held to be undesirable, and
at any rate would have been natural. But at present things were so
divided that there was no saying which were the existing parties.
Moggs was separated from Westmacott quite as absolutely as was
Westmacott from the two Conservative candidates. The old Liberals of
the borough were full of ridicule for poor Moggs, of whom all absurd
stories were told by them both publicly and privately. But still he
was there, the darling of the workmen. It was, indeed, asserted by
the members of Mr. Westmacott's committee that Moggs's popularity
would secure for him but very few votes. A great proportion of
the working men of Percycross were freemen of the borough,--old
voters who were on the register by right of their birth and family
connection in the place, independent of householdership and
rates,--and quite accustomed to the old ways of manipulation. The
younger of these men might be seduced into listening to Moggs. The
excitement was pleasant to them. But they were too well trained to be
led away on the day of election. Moggs would give them no beer, and
they had always been accustomed to their three half-crowns a head in
consideration for the day's work. Not a dozen freemen of the borough
would vote for Moggs. So said Mr. Kirkham, Mr. Westmacott's managing
man, and no man knew the borough quite so well as did Mr. Kirkham.
"They'll fight for him at the hustings," said Mr. Kirkham; "but
they'll take their beer and their money, and they'll vote for us and
Griffenbottom."

This might be true enough as regarded the freemen,--the men who had
been, as it were, educated to political life;--but there was much
doubt as to the new voters. There were about a thousand of these in
the borough, and it had certainly not been the intention of either
party that these men should have the half-crowns. It was from
these men and their leaders,--the secretaries and chairmen and
presidents,--that had come the cry for a second liberal candidate,
and the consequent necessity of putting forward two Conservatives.
They were equally odious to the supporters of Westmacott and of
Griffenbottom. "They must have the half-crowns," Trigger had said
to old Pile, the bootmaker. Pile thought that every working man was
entitled to the three half-crowns, and said as much very clearly.
"I suppose old Griff ain't going to turn Hunks at this time o' day,"
said Mr. Pile. But the difficulties were endless, and were much
better understood by Mr. Trigger than by Mr. Pile. The manner of
conveying the half-crowns to the three hundred and twenty-four
freemen, who would take them and vote honestly afterwards for
Griffenbottom and Underwood, was perfectly well understood. But
among that godless, riotous, ungoverned and ungovernable set of new
householders, there was no knowing how to act. They would take the
money and then vote wrong. They would take the money and then split.
The freemen were known. Three hundred and twenty-four would take
Griffenbottom's beer and half-crowns. Two hundred and seventy-two
would be equally complaisant with Mr. Westmacott. But of these
householders nothing was known. They could not be handled. Some
thirty or forty of them would probably have the turning of the
election at the last hour, must then be paid at their own prices, and
after that would not be safe! Mr. Trigger, in his disgust, declared
that things had got into so vile a form that he didn't care if he
never had anything to do with an election in Percycross again.

And then there was almost as much ill-feeling between the
old-fashioned Griffenbottomites and the Underwooders as there was
between Westmacott's Liberals and Moggs's Radicals. The two gentlemen
themselves still eat their breakfasts and dinners together, and still
paraded the streets of Percycross in each other's company. But
Sir Thomas had made himself very odious even to Mr. Griffenbottom
himself. He was always protesting against beer which he did see, and
bribery which he did not see but did suspect. He swore that he would
pay not a shilling, as to which the cause of the expenditure was not
explained to him. Griffenbottom snarled at him, and expressed an
opinion that Sir Thomas would of course do the same as any other
gentleman. Mr. Trigger, with much dignity in his mien as he spoke,
declared that the discussion of any such matter at the present moment
was indecorous. Mr. Pile was for sending Sir Thomas back to town, and
very strongly advocated that measure. Mr. Spicer, as to whom there
was a story abroad in the borough in respect of a large order for
mustard, supposed to have reached him from New York through Liverpool
by the influence of Sir Thomas Underwood, thought that the borough
should return the two conservative candidates. Sir Thomas might be
a little indiscreet; but, upon the whole, his principles did him
honour. So thought Mr. Spicer, who, perhaps, believed that the order
for the mustard was coming. We need hardly say that the story, at any
rate in so far as it regarded Sir Thomas Underwood, was altogether
untrue. "Yes; principles!" said Mr. Pile. "I think we all know Sam
Spicer's principles. All for hisself, and nothing for a poor man.
That's Sam Spicer." Of Mr. Pile, it must be acknowledged that he was
not a pure-minded politician. He loved bribery in his very heart.
But it is equally true that he did not want to be bribed himself. It
was the old-fashioned privilege of a poor man to receive some small
consideration for his vote in Percycross, and Mr. Pile could not
endure to think that the poor man should be robbed of his little
comforts.

In the meantime, Sir Thomas himself was in a state of great misery.
From hour to hour he was fluctuating between a desire to run away
from the accursed borough, and the shame of taking such a step. The
desire for the seat which had brought him to Percycross had almost
died out amidst the misery of his position. Among all the men of
his party with whom he was associating, there was not one whom he
did not dislike, and by whom he was not snubbed and contradicted.
Griffenbottom, who went through his canvass under circumstances of
coming gout and colchicum with a courage and pertinacity that were
heroic, was painfully cross to every one who was not a voter. "What's
the use of all that d----d nonsense, now?" he said to Sir Thomas the
evening before the nomination day. There were half-a-dozen leading
Conservatives in the room, and Sir Thomas was making a final protest
against bribery. He rose from his chair when so addressed, and left
the room. Never in his life before had he been so insulted. Trigger
followed him to his bedroom, knowing well that a quarrel at this
moment would be absolutely suicidal. "It's the gout, Sir Thomas,"
said Mr. Trigger. "Do remember what he's going through." This was so
true that Sir Thomas returned to the room. It was almost impossible
not to forgive anything in a man who was suffering agonies, but could
still wheedle a voter. There were three conservative doctors with Mr.
Griffenbottom, each of them twice daily; and there was an opinion
prevalent through the borough that the gout would be in his stomach
before the election was over. Sir Thomas did return to the room,
and sat himself down without saying a word. "Sir Thomas," said Mr.
Griffenbottom, "a man with the gout is always allowed a little
liberty."

"I admit the claim," said Sir Thomas, bowing.

"And believe me, I know this game better than you do. It's of no use
saying these things. No man should ever foul his own nest. Give me a
little drop more brandy, Trigger, and then I'll get myself to bed."
When he was gone, they all sang Griffenbottom's praises. In staunch
pluck, good humour, and manly fighting, no man was his superior.
"Give and take,--the English bull-dog all over. I do like old
Griffenbottom," said Spiveycomb, the paper-maker.

On the day of nomination Griffenbottom was carried up on the
hustings. This carrying did him good in the borough; but it should
be acknowledged on his behalf that he did his best to walk. In the
extreme agony of his attack he had to make his speech, and he made
it. The hustings stood in the market-square, and straight in front
of the wooden erection, standing at right angles to it, was a stout
rail dividing the space for the distance of fifty or sixty yards, so
that the supporters of one set of candidates might congregate on one
side, and the supporters of the other candidates on the other side.
In this way would the weaker part, whichever might be the weaker,
be protected from the violence of the stronger. On the present
occasion it seemed that the friends of Mr. Westmacott congregated
with the Conservatives. Moggs's allies alone filled one side of
the partition. There were a great many speeches made that day from
the hustings,--thirteen in all. First the mayor, and then the
four proposers and four seconders of the candidates. During these
performances, though there was so much noise from the crowd below
that not a word could be heard, there was no violence. When old
Griffenbottom got up, supporting himself by an arm round one of the
posts, he was loudly cheered from both sides. His personal popularity
in the borough was undoubted, and his gout made him almost a
demi-god. Nobody heard a word that he said; but then he had no desire
to be heard. To be seen standing up there, a martyr to the gout, but
still shouting for Percycross, was enough for his purpose. Sir Thomas
encountered a very different reception. He was received with yells,
apparently from the whole crowd. What he said was of no matter,
as not a word was audible; but he did continue to inveigh against
bribery. Before he had ceased a huge stone was thrown at him, and
hit him heavily on the arm. He continued speaking, however, and did
not himself know till afterwards that his arm was broken between
the shoulder and the elbow. Mr. Westmacott was very short and
good-humoured. He intended to be funny about poor Moggs;--and perhaps
was funny. But his fun was of no avail. The Moggite crowd had
determined that no men should be heard till their own candidate
should open his mouth.

At last Ontario's turn had come. At first the roar from the crowd was
so great that it seemed that it was to be with him as it had been
with the others. But by degrees, though there was still a roar,--as
of the sea,--Moggs's words became audible. The voices of assent and
dissent are very different, even though they be equally loud. Men
desirous of interrupting, do interrupt. But cheers, though they be
continuous and loud as thunder, are compatible with a hearing. Moggs
by this time, too, had learned to pitch his voice for an out-of-door
multitude. He preached his sermon, his old sermon, about the Rights
of Labour and the Salt of the Earth, the Tyranny of Capital and
the Majesty of the Workmen, with an enthusiasm that made him for
the moment supremely happy. He was certainly the hero of the tour
in Percycross, and he allowed himself to believe,--just for that
hour,--that he was about to become the hero of a new doctrine
throughout England. He spoke for over half an hour, while poor
Griffenbottom, seated in a chair that had been brought to him, was
suffering almost the pains of hell. During this speech Sir Thomas,
who had also suffered greatly, but had at first endeavoured to
conceal that he was suffering, discovered the extent of his
misfortune, and allowed himself to be taken out from the hustings
to his inn. There was an effort made to induce Mr. Griffenbottom
to retire at the same time; but Mr. Griffenbottom, not quite
understanding the extent of his colleague's misfortune, and thinking
that it became him to remain and to endure, was obdurate, and would
not be moved. He did not care for stones or threats,--did not care
even for the gout. That was his place till after the show of hands,
and there he would remain. The populace, seeing this commotion on
the hustings, began to fear that there was an intention to stop the
oratory of their popular candidate, and called loudly upon Moggs to
go on. Moggs did go on,--and was happy.

At last there came the show of hands. It was declared to be in
favour of Moggs and Westmacott. That it was very much in favour of
Moggs,--in favour of Moggs by five to one, there was no doubt. Among
the other candidates there was not perhaps much to choose. A poll
was, of course, demanded for the two Conservatives; and then the
mayor, complimenting the people on their good behaviour,--in spite
of poor Sir Thomas's broken arm,--begged them to go away. That was
all very well. Of course they would go away; but not till they had
driven their enemies from the field. In half a minute the dividing
rail,--the rail that had divided the blue from the yellow,--was down,
and all those who had dared to show themselves there as supporters
of Griffenbottom and Underwood were driven ignominiously from the
market-place. They fled at all corners, and in a few seconds not a
streak of blue ribbon was to be seen in the square. "They'll elect
that fellow Moggs to-morrow," said Mr. Westmacott to Kirkham.

"No a bit of it," said Kirkham. "I could spot all the ringleaders in
the row. Nine or ten of them are Griffenbottom's old men. They take
his money regularly,--get something nearly every year, join the rads
at the nomination, and vote for the squire at the poll. The chaps who
hollow and throw stones always vote t'other side up."

Mr. Griffenbottom kept his seat till he could be carried home
in safety through the town, and was then put to bed. The three
conservative doctors, who had all been setting Sir Thomas's arm, sat
in consultation upon their old friend; and it was acknowledged on
every side that Mr. Griffenbottom was very ill indeed. All manner of
rumours went through the town that night. Some believed that both
Griffenbottom and Sir Thomas were dead,--and that the mayor had now
no choice but to declare Moggs and Westmacott elected. Then there
arose a suspicion that the polls would be kept open on the morrow
on behalf of two defunct candidates, so that a further election on
behalf of the conservative party might be ensured. Men swore that
they would break into the bedrooms of the Standard Inn, in order that
they might satisfy themselves whether the two gentlemen were alive or
dead. And so the town was in a hubbub.

On that evening Moggs was called upon again to address his friends at
the Mechanics' Institute, and to listen to the speeches of all the
presidents and secretaries and chairmen; but by ten o'clock he was
alone in his bedroom at the Cordwainers' Arms. Down-stairs men were
shouting, singing, and drinking,--shouting in his honour, though not
drinking at his expense. He was alone in his little comfortless room,
but felt it to be impossible that he should lie down and rest. His
heart was swelling with the emotions of the day, and his mind was
full of his coming triumph. It was black night, and there was a soft
drizzling rain;--but it was absolutely necessary for his condition
that he should go out. It seemed to him that his very bosom would
burst, if he confined himself in that narrow space. His thoughts were
too big for so small a closet. He crept downstairs and out, through
the narrow passage, into the night. Then, by the light of the
solitary lamp that stood before the door of the public-house, he
could still see those glorious words, "Moggs, Purity, and the Rights
of Labour." Noble words, which had sufficed to bind to him the whole
population of that generous-hearted borough! Purity and the Rights of
Labour! Might it not be that with that cry, well cried, he might move
the very world! As he walked the streets of the town he felt a great
love for the borough grow within his bosom. What would he not owe to
the dear place which had first recognised his worth, and had enabled
him thus early in life to seize hold of those ploughshares which it
would be his destiny to hold for all his coming years? He had before
him a career such as had graced the lives of the men whom he had
most loved and admired,--of men who had dared to be independent,
patriotic, and philanthropical, through all the temptations of
political life. Would he be too vain if he thought to rival a Hume
or a Cobden? Conceit, he said to himself, will seek to justify itself.
Who can rise but those who believe their wings strong enough for
soaring? There might be shipwreck of course,--but he believed that he
now saw his way. As to the difficulty of speaking in public,--that
he had altogether overcome. Some further education as to facts,
historical and political, might be necessary. That he acknowledged to
himself;--but he would not spare himself in his efforts to acquire
such education. He went pacing through the damp, muddy, dark streets,
making speeches that were deliciously eloquent to his own ears. That
night he was certainly the happiest man in Percycross, never doubting
his success on the morrow,--not questioning that. Had not the whole
town greeted him with loudest acclamation as their chosen member?
He was deliciously happy;--while poor Sir Thomas was suffering
the double pain of his broken arm and his dissipated hopes, and
Griffenbottom was lying in his bed, with a doctor on one side and a
nurse on the other, hardly able to restrain himself from cursing all
the world in his agony.

At a little after eleven a tall man, buttoned up to his chin in an
old great coat, called at the Percy Standard, and asked after the
health of Mr. Griffenbottom and Sir Thomas. "They ain't neither of
them very well then," replied the waiter. "Will you say that Mr.
Moggs called to inquire, with his compliments," said the tall man.
The respect shown to him was immediately visible. Even the waiter at
the Percy Standard acknowledged that for that day Mr. Moggs must be
treated as a great man in Percycross. After that Moggs walked home
and crept into bed;--but it may be doubted whether he slept a wink
that night.

And then there came the real day,--the day of the election. It was
a foul, rainy, muddy, sloppy morning, without a glimmer of sun,
with that thick, pervading, melancholy atmosphere which forces for
the time upon imaginative men a conviction that nothing is worth
anything. Griffenbottom was in bed in one room at the Percy Standard,
and Underwood in the next. The three conservative doctors moving
from one chamber to another, watching each other closely, and hardly
leaving the hotel, had a good time of it. Mr. Trigger had already
remarked that in one respect the breaking of Sir Thomas's arm was
lucky, because now there would be no difficulty as to paying the
doctors out of the common fund. Every half-hour the state of the
poll was brought to them. Early in the morning Moggs had been in the
ascendant. At half-past nine the numbers were as follows:--


   Moggs          193
   Westmacott     172
   Griffenbottom  162
   Underwood      147


At ten, and at half-past ten, Moggs was equally in advance,
but Westmacott had somewhat receded. At noon the numbers were
considerably altered, and were as follows:--


   Griffenbottom  892
   Moggs          777
   Westmacott     752
   Underwood      678


These at least were the numbers as they came from the conservative
books. Westmacott was placed nearer to Moggs by his own tellers. For
Moggs no special books were kept. He was content to abide by the
official counting.

Griffenbottom was consulted privately by Trigger and Mr. Spiveycomb
as to what steps should be taken in this emergency. It was suggested
in a whisper that Underwood should be thrown over altogether. There
would be no beating Moggs,--so thought Mr. Spiveycomb,--and unless an
effort were made it might be possible that Westmacott would creep up.
Trigger in his heart considered that it would be impossible to get
enough men at three half-crowns a piece to bring Sir Thomas up to a
winning condition. But Griffenbottom, now that the fight was forward,
was unwilling to give way a foot. "We haven't polled half the
voters," said he.

"More than half what we shall poll," answered Trigger.

"They always hang back," growled Griffenbottom. "Fight it out. I
don't believe they'll ever elect a shoemaker here." The order was
given, and it was fought out.

Moggs, early in the morning, had been radiant with triumph, when he
saw his name at the head of the lists displayed from the two inimical
committee rooms. As he walked the streets, with a chairman on one
side of him and a president on the other, it seemed as though his
feet almost disdained to touch the mud. These were two happy hours,
during which he did not allow himself to doubt of his triumph. When
the presidents and the chairmen spoke to him, he could hardly answer
them, so rapt was he in contemplation of his coming greatness. His
very soul was full of his seat in Parliament! But when Griffenbottom
approached him on the lists, and then passed him, there came a shadow
upon his brow. He still felt sure of his election, but he would
lose that grand place at the top of the poll to which he had taught
himself to look so proudly. Soon after noon a cruel speech was made
to him. "We've about pumped our side dry," said a secretary of a
Young Men's Association.

"Do you mean we've polled all our friends?" asked Moggs.

"Pretty nearly, Mr. Moggs. You see our men have nothing to wait for,
and they came up early." Then Ontario's heart sank within him, and he
began to think of the shop in Bond Street.

The work of that afternoon in Percycross proved how correct Mr.
Griffenbottom had been in his judgment. He kept his place at the top
of the poll. It was soon evident that that could not be shaken. Then
Westmacott passed by Moggs, and in the next half-hour Sir Thomas
did so also. This was at two, when Ontario betook himself to the
privacy of his bedroom at the Cordwainers' Arms. His pluck left him
altogether, and he found himself unable to face the town as a losing
candidate. Then for two hours there was a terrible struggle between
Westmacott and Underwood, during which things were done in the
desperation of the moment, as to which it might be so difficult to
give an account, should any subsequent account be required. We all
know how hard it is to sacrifice the power of winning, when during
the heat of the contest the power of winning is within our reach. At
four o'clock the state of the poll was as follows:--


   Griffenbottom  1402
   Underwood      1007
   Westmacott      984
   Moggs           821


When the chairmen and presidents waited upon Moggs, telling him of
the final result, and informing him that he must come to the hustings
and make a speech, they endeavoured to console him by an assurance
that he, and he alone, had fought the fight fairly. "They'll both be
unseated, you know, as sure as eggs," said the president. "It can't
be otherwise. They've been busy up in a little room in Petticoat
Court all the afternoon, and the men have been getting as much as
fifteen shillings a head!" Moggs was not consoled, but he did make
his speech. It was poor and vapid;--but still there was just enough
of manhood left in him for that. As soon as his speech had been
spoken he escaped up to London by the night mail train. Westmacott
also spoke; but announcement was made on behalf of the members of the
borough that they were, both of them, in their beds.



CHAPTER XXX.

"MISS MARY IS IN LUCK."


The election took place on a Tuesday,--Tuesday, the 17th of October.
On the following day one of the members received a visit in his
bedroom at the Percy Standard which was very pleasant to him. His
daughter Patience had come down to nurse Sir Thomas and take him back
to Fulham. Sir Thomas had refused to allow any message to be sent
home on the day on which the accident had occurred. On the following
morning he had telegraphed to say that his arm had been broken, but
that he was doing very well. And on the Wednesday Patience was with
him.

In spite of the broken arm it was a pleasant meeting. For the last
fortnight Sir Thomas had not only not seen a human being with whom he
could sympathise, but had been constrained to associate with people
who were detestable to him. His horror of Griffenbottom, his disgust
at Trigger, his fear of Mr. Pabsby's explanations, and his inability
to cope with Messrs. Spicer and Roodylands when they spoke of mustard
and boots, had been almost too much for him. The partial seclusion
occasioned by his broken arm had been a godsend to him. In such a
state he was prepared to feel that his daughter's presence was an
angel's visit. And even to him his success had something of the
pleasure of a triumph. Of course he was pleased to have won the seat.
And though whispers of threats as to a petition had already reached
him, he was able in these, the first hours of his membership, to
throw his fears on that head behind him. The man must be of a most
cold temperament who, under such circumstances, cannot allow himself
some short enjoyment of his new toy. It was his at least for the
time, and he probably told himself that threatened folk lived long.
That Patience should take glory in the victory was a matter of
course. "Dear papa," she said, "if you can only get your arm well
again!"

"I don't suppose there is any cause for fear as to that."

"But a broken arm is a great misfortune," said Patience.

"Well;--yes. One can't deny that. And three Percycross doctors are
three more misfortunes. I must get home as soon as I can."

"You mustn't be rash, papa, even to escape from Percycross. But, oh,
papa; we are so happy and so proud. It is such an excellent thing
that you should be in Parliament again."

"I don't know that, my dear."

"We feel it so,--Clary and I,--and so does Mary. I can't tell you
the sort of anxiety we were in all day yesterday. First we got the
telegram about your arm,--and then Stemm came down at eight and told
us that you were returned. Stemm was quite humane on the occasion."

"Poor Stemm!--I don't know what he'll have to do."

"It won't matter to him, papa;--will it? And then he told me another
piece of news."

"What is it?"

"You won't like it, papa. We didn't like it at all."

"What is it, my dear?"

"Stemm says that Ralph has sold all the Newton Priory estate to his
uncle."

"It is the best thing he could do."

"Really, papa?"

"I think so. He must have done that or made some disreputable
marriage."

"I don't think he would have done that," said Patience.

"But he was going to do it. He had half-engaged himself to some
tailor's daughter. Indeed, up to the moment of your telling me this I
thought he would marry her." Poor Clary! So Patience said to herself
as she heard this. "He had got himself into such a mess that the best
thing he could do was to sell his interest to his uncle. The estate
will go to a better fellow, though out of the proper line."

Then Patience told her father that she had brought a letter for him
which had been given to her that morning by Stemm, who had met her at
the station.

"I think," she said, "that it comes from some of the Newton family
because of the crest and the Basingstoke postmark." Then the letter
was brought;--and as it concerns much the thread of our story, it
shall be given to the reader;--


   Newton Priory, October 17, 186--.

   MY DEAR SIR THOMAS UNDERWOOD,--

   I write to you with the sanction, or rather at the
   instigation, of my father to ask your permission to become
   a suitor to your niece, Miss Bonner. You will probably
   have heard, or at least will hear, that my father has made
   arrangements with his nephew Ralph, by which the reversion
   of the Newton property will belong to my father. It is his
   intention to leave the estate to me, and he permits me to
   tell you that he will consent to any such settlement in
   the case of my marriage, as would have been usual, had
   I been his legitimate heir. I think it best to be frank
   about this, as I should not have ventured to propose
   such a marriage either to you or to Miss Bonner, had
   not my father's solicitude succeeded in placing me in
   circumstances which may, perhaps, be regarded as in part
   compensating the great misfortune of my birth.

   It may probably be right that I should add that I have
   said no word on this subject to Miss Bonner. I have
   hitherto felt myself constrained by the circumstances to
   which I have alluded from acting as other men may act.
   Should you be unwilling to concede that the advantages
   of fortune which have now fallen in my way justify me in
   proposing to myself such a marriage, I hope that you will
   at least excuse my application to yourself.

   Very faithfully yours,

   RALPH NEWTON.


Sir Thomas read the letter twice before he spoke a word to his
daughter. Then, after pausing with it for a moment in his hand, he
threw it to her across the bed. "Miss Mary is in luck," he said;--"in
very great luck. It is a magnificent property, and as far as I can
see, one of the finest young fellows I ever met. You understand about
his birth?"

"Yes," said Patience, almost in a whisper.

"It might be a hindrance to him in some circumstances; but not here.
It is nothing here. Did you know of this?"

"No, indeed."

"Nor Mary?"

"It will be quite a surprise to her. I am sure it will."

"You think, then, that there has been nothing said,--not a word about
it?"

"I am sure there has not, papa. Clarissa had some joke with
Mary,--quite as a joke."

"Then there has been a joke?"

"It meant nothing. And as for Mr. Newton, he could not have dreamed
of anything of the kind. We all liked him."

"So did I. The property will be much better with him than with the
other. Mary is a very lucky girl. That's all I can say. As for the
letter, it's the best letter I ever read in my life."

There was some delay before Sir Thomas could write an answer to young
Newton. It was, indeed, his left arm that had suffered; but even
with so much of power abstracted, writing is not an easy task. And
this was a letter the answering of which could not be deputed to any
secretary. On the third day after its receipt Sir Thomas did manage
with much difficulty to get a reply written.


   DEAR MR. NEWTON,--

   I have had my left arm broken in the election here. Hence
   the delay. I can have no objection. Your letter does you
   infinite honour. I presume you know that my niece has no
   fortune.

   Yours, most sincerely,

   THOMAS UNDERWOOD.


"What a pity it is," said Sir Thomas, "that a man can't have a broken
arm in answering all letters. I should have had to write ever so much
had I been well. And yet I could not have said a word more that would
have been of any use."

Sir Thomas was kept an entire week at the Percycross Standard after
his election was over before the three doctors and the innkeeper
between them would allow him to be moved. During this time there was
very much discussion between the father and daughter as to Mary's
prospects; and a word or two was said inadvertently which almost
opened the father's eyes as to the state of his younger daughter's
affections. It is sometimes impossible to prevent the betrayal of a
confidence, when the line between betrayal and non-betrayal is finely
drawn. It was a matter of course that there should be much said about
that other Ralph, the one now disinherited and dispossessed, who
had so long and so intimately been known to them; and it was almost
impossible for Patience not to show the cause of her great grief.
It might be, as her father said, that the property would be better
in the hands of this other young man; but Patience knew that her
sympathies were with the spendthrift, and with the dearly-loved
sister who loved the spendthrift. Since Clarissa had come to speak
so openly of her love, to assert it so loudly, and to protest that
nothing could or should shake it, Patience had been unable not to
hope that the heir might at last prove himself worthy to be her
sister's husband. Then they heard that his inheritance was sold.
"It won't make the slightest difference to me," said Clary almost
triumphantly, as she discussed the matter with Patience the evening
before the journey to Percycross. "If he were a beggar it would be
the same." To Patience, however, the news of the sale had been a
great blow. And now her father told her that this young man had been
thinking of marrying another girl, a tailor's daughter;--that such a
marriage had been almost fixed. Surely it would be better that steps
should be taken to wean her sister from such a passion! But yet she
did not tell the secret. She only allowed a word to escape her, from
which it might be half surmised that Clarissa would be a sufferer.
"What difference will it make to Clary?" asked Sir Thomas.

"I have sometimes thought that he cared for her," said Patience
cunningly. "He would hardly have been so often at the villa, unless
there had been something."

"There must be nothing of that kind," said Sir Thomas. "He is a
spendthrift, and quite unworthy of her. I will not have him at the
villa. He must be told so. If you see anything of that kind, you
must inform me. Do you understand, Patience?" Patience understood
well enough, but knew not what reply to make. She could not tell her
sister's secret. And if there were faults in the matter, was it not
her father's fault? Why had he not lived with them, so that he might
see these things with his own eyes? "There must be nothing of that
kind," said Sir Thomas, with a look of anger in his eyes.

When the week was over, the innkeeper and the doctors submitting
with but a bad grace, the member for Percycross returned to London
with his arm bound up in a sling. The town was by this time quite
tranquil. The hustings had been taken down, and the artizans of the
borough were back at their labours, almost forgetting Moggs and his
great doctrines. That there was to be a petition was a matter of
course. It was at least a matter of course that there should be
threats of a petition. The threat of course reached Sir Thomas's
ears, but nothing further was said to him. When he and his daughter
went down to the station in the Standard fly, it almost seemed that
he was no more to the borough than any other man might be with a
broken arm. "I shall not speak of this to Mary," he said on his
journey home. "Nor should you, I think, my dear."

"Of course not, papa."

"He should have the opportunity of changing his mind after receiving
my letter, if he so pleases. For her sake I hope he will not."
Patience said nothing further. She loved her cousin Mary, and
certainly had felt no dislike for this fortunate young man. But she
could not so quickly bring herself to sympathise with interests which
seemed to be opposed to those of her sister.



CHAPTER XXXI.

IT IS ALL SETTLED.


In the last half of this month of October the Squire at Newton was
very pressing on his lawyers up in London to settle the affairs of
the property. He was most anxious to make a new will, but could not
do so till his nephew had completed the sale, and till the money had
been paid. He had expressed a desire to go up to London and remain
there till all was done; but against this his son had expostulated,
urging that his father could not hasten the work up in London by
his presence, but would certainly annoy and flurry everybody in the
lawyer's office. Mr. Carey had promised that the thing should be
done with as little delay as possible, but Mr. Carey was not a man
to be driven. Then again the Squire would be a miserable man up
in London, whereas at the Priory he might be so happy among the
new works which he had already inaugurated. The son's arguments
prevailed,--especially that argument as to the pleasure of the
Squire's present occupations,--and the Squire consented to remain at
home.

There seemed to be an infinity of things to be done, and to the
Squire himself the world appeared to require more of happy activity
than at any previous time of his life. He got up early, and was out
about the place before breakfast. He had endless instructions to give
to everybody about the estate. The very air of the place was sweeter
to him than heretofore. The labourers were less melancholy at their
work. The farmers smiled oftener. The women and children were more
dear to him. Everything around him had now been gifted with the grace
of established ownership. His nephew Gregory, after that last dinner
of which mention was made, hardly came near him during the next
fortnight. Once or twice the Squire went up to the church during
week days that he might catch the parson, and even called at the
parsonage. But Gregory was unhappy, and would not conceal his
unhappiness. "I suppose it will wear off," said the Squire to his
son.

"Of course it will, sir."

"It shall not be my fault if it does not. I wonder whether it would
have made him happier to see the property parcelled out and sold to
the highest bidder after my death."

"It is not unnatural, if you think of it," said Ralph.

"Perhaps not; and God forbid that I should be angry with him because
he cannot share my triumph. I feel, however, that I have done my
duty, and that nobody has a right to quarrel with me."

And then there were the hunters. Every sportsman knows, and the
wives and daughters of all sportsmen know, how important a month in
the calendar is the month of October. The real campaign begins in
November; and even for those who do not personally attend to the
earlier work of the kennel,--or look after cub-hunting, which during
the last ten days of October is apt to take the shape of genuine
hunting,--October has charms of its own and peculiar duties. It is
the busiest month in the year in regard to horses. Is physic needed?
In the Squire's stables physic was much eschewed, and the Squire's
horses were usually in good condition. But it is needful to know,
down to a single line on the form, whether this or that animal wants
more exercise,--and if so, of what nature. We hold that for hunters
which are worked regularly throughout the season, and which live in
loose boxes summer and winter, but little exercise is required except
in the months of September and October. Let them have been fed on
oats throughout the year, and a good groom will bring them into form
in two months. Such at least was the order at the Newton stables;
and during this autumn,--especially during these last days of
October,--this order was obeyed with infinite alacrity, and with many
preparations for coming joys. And there are other cares, less onerous
indeed, but still needful. What good sportsman is too proud, or even
too much engaged, to inspect his horse's gear,--and his own? Only
let his horses' gear stand first in his mind! Let him be sure that
the fit of a saddle is of more moment than the fit of a pair of
breeches;--that in riding the length, strength, and nature of the bit
will avail more,--should at least avail more,--than the depth, form,
and general arrangement of the flask; that the question of boots,
great as it certainly is, should be postponed to the question of
shoes; that a man's seat should be guarded by his girths rather than
by his spurs; that no run has ever been secured by the brilliancy of
the cravat, though many a run has been lost by the insufficiency of a
stirrup-leather. In the stables and saddle-room, and throughout the
whole establishment of the house at Newton, all these matters were
ever sedulously regarded; but they had never been regarded with more
joyful zeal than was given to them during this happy month. There was
not a stable-boy about the place who did not know and feel that their
Mr. Ralph was now to take his place in the hunting-field as the heir
to Newton Priory.

And there were other duties at Newton of which the crowd of
riding-men know little or nothing. Were there foxes in the coverts?
The Squire had all his life been a staunch preserver, thinking more
of a vixen with her young cubs than he would of any lady in the land
with her first-born son. During the last spring and summer, however,
things had made him uncomfortable; and he had not personally inquired
after the well-being of each nursery in the woods as had been his
wont. Ralph, indeed, had been on the alert, and the keepers had not
become slack;--but there had been a whisper about the place that the
master didn't care so much about the foxes as he used to do. They
soon found out that he cared enough now. The head-keeper opened his
eyes very wide when he was told that the Squire would take it as a
personal offence if the coverts were ever drawn blank. It was to be
understood through the county that at Newton Priory everything now
was happy and prosperous. "We'll get up a breakfast and a meet on
the lawn before the end of the month," said the Squire to his son.
"I hate hunt breakfasts myself, but the farmers like them." From all
which the reader will perceive that the Squire was in earnest.

Ralph hunted all through the latter days of October, but the Squire
himself would not go out till the first regular day of the season.
"I like a law, and I like to stick to it," he said. "Five months
is enough for the horses in all conscience." At last the happy day
arrived,--Wednesday, the 2nd of November,--and the father and son
started together for the meet in a dog-cart on four wheels with
two horses. On such occasions the Squire always drove himself, and
professed to go no more than eight miles an hour. The meet was over
in the Berkshire county in the neighbourhood of Swallowfield, about
twelve miles distant, and the Squire was in his seat precisely at
half-past nine. Four horses had gone on in the charge of two grooms,
for the Squire had insisted on Ralph riding with a second horse. "If
you don't, I won't," he had said; and Ralph of course had yielded.
Just at this time there had grown up in the young man's mind a
feeling that his father was almost excessive in the exuberance of his
joy,--that he was displaying too ostensibly to the world at large
the triumph which he had effected. But the checking of this elation
was almost impossible to the son on whose behalf it was exhibited.
Therefore, to Ralph's own regret, the two horses had on this morning
been sent on to Barford Heath. The Squire was not kept waiting a
moment. Ralph lit his cigar and jumped in, and the Squire started in
all comfort and joy. The road led them by Darvell's farm, and for a
moment the carriage was stopped that a word might be spoken to some
workman. "You'd better have a couple more men, Miles. It won't do to
let the frost catch us," said the Squire. Miles touched his hat, and
assented. "The house will look very well from here," said the Squire,
pointing down through a line of trees. Ralph assented cheerily; and
yet he thought that his father was spending more money than Darvell's
house need to have cost him.

They reached Barford Heath a few minutes before eleven, and there was
a little scene upon the occasion. It was the first recognised meet of
the season, and the Squire had not been out before. It was now known
to almost every man there that the owner of Newton Priory had at
last succeeded in obtaining the reversion of the estate for his own
son; and though the matter was one which hardly admitted of open
congratulation, still there were words spoken and looks given, and
a little additional pressure in the shaking of hands,--all of which
seemed to mark a triumph. That other Ralph had not been known in the
county. This Ralph was very popular; and though of course there was
existent some amount of inner unexpressed feeling that the proper
line of an old family was being broken, that for the moment was kept
in abeyance, and all men's faces wore smiles as they were turned
upon the happy Squire. He hardly carried himself with as perfect a
moderation as his son would have wished. He was a little loud,--not
saying much to any one openly about the property, uttering merely
a word or two in a low voice in answer to the kind expressions of
one or two specially intimate friends; but in discussing other
matters,--the appearance of the pack, the prospects of the season,
the state of the county,--he was not quite like himself. In his
ordinary way he was a quiet man, not often heard at much distance,
and contented to be noted as Newton of Newton rather than as a man
commanding attention by his conduct before other men. There certainly
was a difference to-day, and it was of that kind which wine produces
on some who are not habitual drinkers. The gases of his life were in
exuberance, and he was as a balloon insufficiently freighted with
ballast. His buoyancy, unless checked, might carry him too high among
the clouds. All this Ralph saw, and kept himself a little aloof. If
there were aught amiss, there was no help for it on his part; and,
after all, what was amiss was so very little amiss.

"We'll draw the small gorses first," said the old master, addressing
himself specially to Mr. Newton, "and then we'll go into Barford
Wood."

"Just so," said the Squire; "the gorses first by all means. I
remember when there was always a fox at Barford Gorse. Come along. I
hate to see time wasted. You'll be glad to hear we're full of foxes
at Newton. There were two litters bred in Bostock Spring;--two,
by Jove! in that little place. Dan,"--Dan was his second
horseman,--"I'll ride the young one this morning. You have Paddywhack
fresh for me about one." Paddywhack was the old Irish horse which had
carried him so long, and has been mentioned before. There was nothing
remarkable in all this. There was no word spoken that might not have
been said with a good grace by any old sportsman, who knew the men
around him, and who had long preserved foxes for their use;--but
still it was felt that the Squire was a little loud. Ralph the son,
on whose behalf all this triumph was felt, was silenter than usual,
and trotted along at the rear of the long line of horsemen.

One specially intimate friend of his,--a man whom he really
loved,--hung back with the object of congratulating him. "Ralph,"
said George Morris, of Watheby Grove, a place about four miles from
the Priory, "I must tell you how glad I am of all this."

"All right, old fellow."

"Come; you might show out a little to me. Isn't it grand? We shall
always have you among us now. Don't tell me that you are
indifferent."

"I think enough about it, God knows, George. But it seems to me that
the less said about it the better. My father has behaved nobly to
me, and of course I like to feel that I've got a place in the world
marked out for me. But--"

"But what?"

"You understand it all, George. There shouldn't be rejoicing in a
family because the heir has lost his inheritance."

"I can't look at it in that line."

"I can't look at it in any other," said Ralph. "Mind you, I'm not
saying that it isn't all right. What has happened to him has come of
his own doings. I only mean that we ought to be quiet about it. My
father's spirits are so high, that he can hardly control them."

"By George, I don't wonder at it," said George Morris.

There were three little bits of gorse about half-a-mile from Barford
Wood, as to which it seemed that expectation did not run high, but
from the last of which an old fox broke before the hounds were in
it. It was so sudden a thing that the pack was on the scent and away
before half-a-dozen men had seen what had happened. Our Squire had
been riding with Cox, the huntsman, who had ventured to say how happy
he was that the young squire was to be the Squire some day. "So am I,
Cox; so am I," said the Squire. "And I hope he'll be a friend to you
for many a year."

"By the holy, there's Dick a-hallooing," said Cox, forgetting at
once the comparatively unimportant affairs of Newton Priory in the
breaking of this unexpected fox. "Golly;--if he ain't away, Squire."
The hounds had gone at once to the whip's voice, and were in full cry
in less time than it has taken to tell the story of "the find." Cox
was with them, and so was the Squire. There were two or three others,
and one of the whips. The start, indeed, was not much, but the burst
was so sharp, and the old fox ran so straight, that it sufficed to
enable those who had got the lead to keep it. "Tally-ho!" shouted the
Squire, as he saw the animal making across a stubble field before the
hounds, with only one fence between him and the quarry. "Tally-ho!"
It was remarked afterwards that the Squire had never been known to
halloo to a fox in that way before. "Just like one of the young
'uns, or a fellow out of the town," said Cox, when expressing his
astonishment.

But the Squire never rode a run better in his life. He gave a lead to
the field, and he kept it. "I wouldn't 'a spoilt him by putting my
nose afore 'is, were it ever so," said Cox afterwards. "He went as
straight as a schoolboy at Christmas, and the young horse he rode
never made a mistake. Let men say what they will, a young horse will
carry a man a brush like that better than an old one. It was very
short. They had run their fox, pulled him down, broken him up, and
eaten him within half an hour. Jack Graham, who is particular about
those things, and who was, at any rate, near enough to see it all,
said that it was exactly twenty-two minutes and a half. He might
be right enough in that, but when he swore that they had gone over
four miles of ground, he was certainly wrong. They killed within a
field of Heckfield church, and Heckfield church can't be four miles
from Barford Gorse. That they went as straight as a line everybody
knew. Besides, they couldn't have covered the ground in the time.
The pace was good, no doubt; but Jacky Graham is always given to
exaggeration."

The Squire was very proud of his performance, and, when Ralph came
up, was loud in praise of the young horse. "Never was carried so well
in my life,--never," said he. "I knew he was good, but I didn't know
he would jump like that. I wouldn't take a couple of hundred for
him." This was still a little loud; but the Squire at this moment had
the sense of double triumph within, and was to be forgiven. It was
admitted on all sides that he had ridden the run uncommonly well.
"Just like a young man, by Jove," said Jack Graham. "Like what sort
of a young man?" asked George Harris, who had come up at the heel of
the hunt with Ralph.

"And where were you, Master Ralph?" said the Squire to his son.

"I fancy I just began to know they were running by the time you were
killing your fox," said Ralph.

"You should have your eyes better about you, my boy; shouldn't he,
Cox?"

"The young squire ain't often in the wrong box," said the huntsman.

"He wasn't in the right one to-day," said the Squire. This was still
a little loud. There was too much of that buoyancy which might have
come from drink; but which, with the Squire, was the effect of that
success for which he had been longing rather than hoping all his
life.

From Heckfield they trotted back to Barford Wood, the master
resolving that he would draw his country in the manner he had
proposed to himself in the morning. There was some little repining
at this, partly because the distance was long, and partly because
Barford Woods were too large to be popular. "Hunting is over for the
day," said Jack Graham. To this view of the case the Squire, who had
now changed his horse, objected greatly. "We shall find in Barford
big wood as sure as the sun rises," said he. "Yes," said Jack, "and
run into the little wood and back to the big wood, and so on till we
hate every foot of the ground. I never knew anything from Barford
Woods yet for which a donkey wasn't as good as a horse." The Squire
again objected, and told the story of a run from Barford Woods twenty
years ago which had taken them pretty nearly on to Ascot Heath.
"Things have changed since that," said Jack Graham. "Very much for
the better," said the Squire. Ralph was with him then, and still
felt that his father was too loud. Whether he meant that hunting was
better now than in the old days twenty years ago, or that things as
regarded the Newton estate were better, was not explained; but all
who heard him speak imagined that he was alluding to the latter
subject.

Drawing Barford Woods is a very different thing than drawing Barford
Gorses. Anybody may see a fox found at the gorses who will simply
take the trouble to be with the hounds when they go into the covert;
but in the wood it becomes a great question with a sportsman whether
he will stick to the pack or save his horse and loiter about till he
hears that a fox has been found. The latter is certainly the commoner
course, and perhaps the wiser. And even when the fox has been found
it may be better for the expectant sportsman to loiter about till
he breaks, giving some little attention to the part of the wood in
which the work of hunting may be progressing. There are those who
systematically stand still or roam about very slowly;--others, again,
who ride and cease riding by spurts, just as they become weary or
impatient;--and others who, with dogged perseverance, stick always to
the track of the hounds. For years past the Squire was to have been
found among the former and more prudent set of riders, but on this
occasion he went gallantly through the thickest of the underwood,
close at the huntsman's heels. "You'll find it rather nasty, Mr.
Newton, among them brakes," Cox had said to him. But the Squire had
answered that he hadn't got his Sunday face on, and had persevered.

They were soon on a fox in Barford Wood;--but being on a fox in
Barford Wood was very different from finding a fox in Barford Gorse.
Out of the gorse a fox must go; but in the big woods he might choose
to remain half the day. And then the chances were that he would
either beat the hounds at last, or else be eaten in covert. "It's a
very pretty place to ride about and smoke and drink one's friend's
sherry." That was Jack Graham's idea of hunting in Barford Woods, and
a great deal of that kind of thing was going on to-day. Now and then
there was a little excitement, and cries of "away" were heard. Men
would burst out of the wood here and there, ride about for a few
minutes, and then go in again. Cox swore that they had thrice changed
their fox, and was beginning to be a little short in his temper; the
whips' horses were becoming jaded, and the master had once or twice
answered very crossly when questioned. "How the devil do you suppose
I'm to know," he had said to a young gentleman who had inquired,
"where they were?" But still the Squire kept on zealously, and
reminded Ralph that some of the best things of the season were often
lost by men becoming slack towards evening. At that time it was
nearly four o'clock, and Cox was clearly of opinion that he couldn't
kill a fox in Barford Woods that day.

But still the hounds were hunting. "Darned if they ain't back to the
little wood again," said Cox to the Squire. They were at that moment
in an extreme corner of an outlying copse, and between them and
Barford Little Wood was a narrow strip of meadow, over which they had
passed half-a-dozen times that day. Between the copse and the meadow
there ran a broad ditch with a hedge,--a rotten made-up fence of
sticks and bushes, which at the corner had been broken down by the
constant passing of horses, till, at this hour of the day, there was
hardly at that spot anything of a fence to be jumped. "We must cross
with them again, Cox," said the Squire. At that moment he was nearest
to the gap, and close to him were Ralph and George Morris, as well
as the huntsman. But Mr. Newton's horse was standing sideways to the
hedge, and was not facing the passage. He, nevertheless, prepared to
pass it first, and turned his horse sharply at it; as he did so, some
bush or stick caught the animal in the flank, and he, in order to
escape the impediment, clambered up the bank sideways, not taking
the gap, and then balanced himself to make his jump over the ditch.
But he was entangled among the sticks and thorns and was on broken
ground, and jumping short, came down into the ditch. The Squire fell
heavily head-long on to the field, and the horse, with no further
effort of his own, but unable to restrain himself, rolled over his
master. It was a place as to which any horseman would say that a
child might ride through if on a donkey without a chance of danger,
and yet the three men who saw it knew at once that the Squire had
had a bad fall. Ralph was first through the gap, and was off his own
horse as the old Irish hunter, with a groan, collected himself and
got upon his legs. In rising, the animal was very careful not to
strike his late rider with his feet; but it was too evident to Cox
that the beast in his attempt to rise had given a terrible squeeze to
the prostrate Squire with his saddle.

In a moment the three men were on their knees, and it was clear that
Mr. Newton was insensible. "I'm afraid he's hurt," said Morris. Cox
merely shook his head, as he gently attempted to raise the Squire's
shoulder against his own. Ralph, as pale as death, held his father's
hand in one of his own, and with the other endeavoured to feel the
pulse of the heart. Presently, before any one else came up to them, a
few drops of blood came from between the sufferer's lips. Cox again
shook his head. "We'd better get him on to a gate, Mr. Ralph, and
into a house," said the huntsman. They were quickly surrounded by
others, and the gate was soon there, and within twenty minutes a
surgeon was standing over our poor old friend. "No; he wasn't dead,"
the surgeon said; "but--." "What is it?" asked Ralph, impetuously.
The surgeon took the master of the hunt aside and whispered into his
ear that Mr. Newton was a dead man. His spine had been so injured by
the severity of his own fall, and by the weight of the horse rolling
on him while he was still doubled up on the ground, that it was
impossible that he should ever speak again. So the surgeon said, and
Squire Newton never did speak again.


[Illustration: In a moment the three men were on their knees,
and it was clear that Mr. Newton was insensible.]


He was carried home to the house of a gentleman who lived in those
parts, in order that he might be saved the longer journey to the
Priory;--but the length of the road mattered but little to him. He
never spoke again, nor was he sensible for a moment. Ralph remained
with him during the night,--of course,--and so did the surgeon.
At five o'clock on the following morning his last breath had been
drawn, and his life had passed away from him. George Morris also
had remained with them,--or rather had come back to the house after
having ridden home and changed his clothes, and it was by him that
the tidings were at last told to the wretched son. "It is all over,
Ralph!" "I suppose so!" said Ralph, hoarsely. "There has never been a
doubt," said George, "since we heard of the manner of the accident."
"I suppose not," said Ralph. The young man sat silent, and composed,
and made no expression of his grief. He did not weep, nor did his
face even wear that look of woe which is so common to us all when
grief comes to us. They two were still in the room in which the
body lay, and were standing close together over the fire. Ralph was
leaning on his elbow upon the chimneypiece, and from time to time
Morris would press his arm. They had been standing together thus for
some twenty minutes when Morris asked a question.

"The affair of the property had been settled, Ralph?"

"Don't talk of that now," said the other angrily. Then, after
a pause, he put up his face and spoke again. "Nothing has been
settled," he said. "The estate belongs to my cousin Ralph. He should
be informed at once,--at once. He should he telegraphed to, to come
to Newton. Would you mind doing it? He should be informed at once."

"There is time enough for that," said George Morris.

"If you will not I must," replied Ralph.

The telegram was at once sent in duplicate, addressed to that other
Ralph,--Ralph who was declared by the Squire's son to be once more
Ralph the heir,--addressed to him both at his lodgings in London and
at the Moonbeam. When the messenger had been sent to the nearest
railway station with the message, Ralph and his friend started for
Newton Priory together. Poor Ralph still wore his boots and breeches
and the red coat in which he had ridden on the former fatal day, and
in which he had passed the night by the side of his dying father's
bed. On their journey homeward they met Gregory, who had heard of the
accident, and had at once started to see his uncle.

"It is all over!" said Ralph. Gregory, who was in his gig, dropped
the reins and sat in silence. "It is all done. Let us get on, George.
It is horrid to me to be in this coat. Get on quickly. Yes, indeed;
everything is done now."

He had lost a father who had loved him dearly, and whom he had dearly
loved,--a father whose opportunities of showing his active love had
been greater even than fall to the lot of most parents. A father
gives naturally to his son, but the Squire had been almost unnatural
in his desire to give. There had never been a more devoted father,
one more intensely anxious for his son's welfare;--and Ralph had
known this, and loved his father accordingly. Nevertheless, he could
not keep himself from remembering that he had now lost more than
a father. The estate as to which the Squire had been so full of
interest,--as to which he, Ralph, had so constantly endeavoured to
protect himself from an interest that should be too absorbing,--had
in the last moment escaped him. And now, in this sad and solemn hour,
he could not keep himself from thinking of that loss. As he had stood
in the room in which the dead body of his father had been lying, he
had cautioned himself against this feeling. But still he had known
that it had been present to him. Let him do what he would with his
own thoughts, he could not hinder them from running back to the fact
that by his father's sudden death he had lost the possession of the
Newton estate. He hated himself for remembering such a fact at such a
time, but he could not keep himself from remembering it. His father
had fought a life-long battle to make him the heir of Newton, and had
perished in the moment of his victory,--but before his victory was
achieved. Ralph had borne his success well while he had thought that
his success was certain; but now--! He knew that all such subjects
should be absent from his mind with such cause for grief as weighed
upon him at this moment,--but he could not drive away the reflection.
That other Ralph Newton had won upon the post. He would endeavour to
bear himself well, but he could not but remember that he had been
beaten. And there was the father who had loved him so well lying
dead!

When he reached the house, George Morris was still with him. Gregory,
to whom he had spoken hardly a word, did not come beyond the
parsonage. Ralph could not conceal from himself, could hardly conceal
from his outward manner, the knowledge that Gregory must be aware
that his cause had triumphed. And yet he hated himself for thinking
of these things, and believed himself to be brutal in that he could
not conceal his thoughts. "I'll send over for a few things, and stay
with you for a day or two," said George Morris. "It would be bad that
you should be left here alone." But Ralph would not permit the visit.
"My father's nephew will be here to-morrow," he said, "and I would
rather that he should find me alone." In thinking of it all, he
remembered that he must withdraw his claims to the hand of Mary
Bonner, now that he was nobody. He could have no pretension now to
offer his hand to any such girl as Mary Bonner!



CHAPTER XXXII.

SIR THOMAS AT HOME.


Sir Thomas Underwood was welcomed home at the villa with a double
amount of sympathy and glory,--that due to him for his victory being
added to that which came to him on the score of his broken arm. A
hero is never so much a hero among women as when he has been wounded
in the battle. The very weakness which throws him into female hands
imparts a moiety of his greatness to the women who for the while
possess him, and creates a partnership in heroism, in which the
feminine half delights to make the most of its own share. During
the week at Percycross and throughout the journey Patience had had
this half all to herself; and there had arisen to her considerable
enjoyment from it as soon as she found that her father would probably
be none the worse for his accident after a few weeks. She saw more of
him now than she had done for years, and was able, after a fashion,
to work her quiet, loving, female will with him, exacting from him
an obedience to feminine sway such as had not been exercised on him
since his wife's death. He himself had been humbled, passive, and
happy. He had taken his gruel, grumbled with modesty, and consoled
himself with constantly reflecting that he was member of Parliament
for the borough of Percycross.

During their journey, although Patience was urgent in requiring from
her father quiescence, lest he should injure himself by too much
exertion, there were many words spoken both as to Clarissa and Mary
Bonner. As to poor Clary, Sir Thomas was very decided that if there
were any truth in the suspicion which had been now roused in his mind
as to Ralph the heir, the thing must be put an end to at once. Ralph
who had been the heir was now in possession of that mess of pottage
for which he had sold his inheritance,--so said Sir Thomas to his
daughter,--and would undoubtedly consume that, as he had consumed the
other mess which should have lasted him till the inheritance was his
own. And he told to Patience the whole story as to Polly Neefit,--the
whole story, at least, as he had heard it. Ralph had declared to Sir
Thomas, when discussing the expedience of his proposed marriage with
the daughter of the breeches-maker, that he was attached to Polly
Neefit. Sir Thomas had done all he could to dissuade the young man
from a marriage which, in his eyes, was disgraceful; but he could
not bring himself to look with favour on affections transferred so
quickly from the breeches-maker's daughter to his own. There must be
no question of a love affair between Clary and the foolish heir who
had disinherited himself by his folly. All this was doubly painful to
Patience. She suffered first for her sister, the violence of whose
feelings were so well known to her, and so completely understood; and
then on her own account she was obliged to endure the conviction that
she was deceiving her father. Although she had allowed something of
the truth to escape from her, she had not wilfully told her sister's
secret. But looking at the matter from her father's point of view,
and hearing all that her father now said, she was brought in guilty
of hypocrisy in the court of her own conscience.

In that other matter as to Mary Bonner there was much more of
pleasantness. There could be no possible reason why that other man,
to whom Fortune was going to be so good, should not marry Mary
Bonner, if Mary could bring herself to take him into her good graces.
And of course she would. Such at least was Sir Thomas's opinion.
How was it possible that a girl like Mary, who had nothing of her
own, should fail to like a lover who had everything to recommend
him,--good looks, good character, good temper, and good fortune.
Patience did make some protest against this, for the sake of her sex.
She didn't think, she said, that Mary had ever thought of Mr. Newton
in that light. "There must be a beginning to such thoughts, of
course," said Sir Thomas. Patience explained that she had nothing
to say against Mr. Newton. It would all be very nice and proper, no
doubt,--only perhaps Mary might not care for Mr. Newton. "Psha!"
said Sir Thomas. Sir Thomas seemed to think that the one girl was
as much bound to fall in love as the other was to abstain from so
doing. Patience continued her protest,--but very mildly, because her
father's arm was in a sling. Then there arose the question whether
Mary should be told of the young man's letter. Patience thought that
the young man should be allowed to come and speak for himself. Sir
Thomas made no objection to the young man's coming. The young man
might come when he pleased. But Sir Thomas thought it would be well
that Mary should know what the young man had written. And so they
reached home.

To be glorified by one worshipping daughter had been pleasant to the
wounded hero, but to be glorified by two daughters and a niece was
almost wearisome. On the first evening nothing was said about the
love troubles or love prospects of the girls. Sir Thomas permitted to
himself the enjoyment of his glory, with some few signs of impatience
when the admiration became too strong. He told the whole story of
his election, lying back among his cushions on the sofa, although
Patience, with mild persistence, cautioned him against exertion.

"It is very bad that you should have your arm broken, papa," said
Clarissa.

"It is a bore, my dear."

"Of course it is,--a dreadful bore. But as it is doing so well, I am
so glad that you went down to Percycross. It is such a great thing
that you should be in the House again. It does give so much colour to
our lives here."

"I hope they were not colourless before."

"You know what I mean. It is so nice to feel that you are in
Parliament."

"It is quite on the cards that I may lose the seat by petition."

"They never can be so cruel," said Mary.

"Cruelty!" said Sir Thomas laughing. "In politics men skin each other
without the slightest feeling. I do not doubt that Mr. Westmacott
would ruin me with the most perfect satisfaction, if by doing so he
could bring the seat within his own reach again; and yet I believe
Mr. Westmacott to be a kind-hearted, good sort of man. There is a
theory among Englishmen that in politics no man need spare another.
To wish that your opponent should fall dead upon the hustings is not
an uncharitable wish at an election."

"Oh, papa!" exclaimed Patience.

"At any rate you are elected," said Clary.

"And threatened folk live long, uncle," said Mary Bonner.

"So they say, my dear. Well, Patience, don't look at me with so much
reprobation in your eyes, and I will go to bed at once. Being here
instead of at the Percy Standard does make one inclined to take a
liberty."

"Oh, papa, it is such a delight to have you," said Clary, jumping up
and kissing her father's forehead. All this was pleasant enough, and
the first evening came to an end very happily.

The next morning Patience, when she was alone with her father, made
a request to him with some urgency. "Papa," she said, "do not say
anything to Clary about Ralph."

"Why not?"

"If there is anything in it, let it die out of itself."

"But is there?"

"How am I to say? Think of it, papa. If I knew it, I could hardly
tell,--even you."

"Why not? If I am not to hear the truth from you who is to tell me?"

"Dear papa, don't be angry. There may be a truth which had better not
be told. What we both want is that Clary shouldn't suffer. If you
question her she will suffer. You may be sure of this,--that she will
obey your wishes."

"How can she obey them, unless she knows them?"

"She shall know them," said Patience. But Sir Thomas would give no
promise.

On that same day Sir Thomas sent for his niece into his room, and
there read to her the letter which he had received from the Squire's
son. It was now the last week of October,--that short blessed morsel
of time which to the poor Squire at Newton was the happiest of his
life. He was now cutting down trees and building farm-houses, and
looking after his stud in all the glory of his success. Ralph had
written his letter, and had received his answer,--and he also was
successful and glorious. That fatal day on which the fox would not
break from Barford Woods had not yet arrived. Mary Bonner heard the
letter read, and listened to Sir Thomas's speech without a word,
without a blush, and without a sign. Sir Thomas began his speech very
well, but became rather misty towards the end, when he found himself
unable to reduce Mary to a state of feminine confusion. "My dear," he
began, "I have received a letter which I think it is my duty to read
to you."

"A letter, uncle?"

"Yes, my dear. Sit down while I read it. I may as well tell you at
once that it is a letter which has given me very great satisfaction.
It is from a young gentleman;"--upon hearing this announcement Mary's
face assumed a look of settled, collected strength, which never left
it for a moment during the remainder of the interview,--"yes; from a
young gentleman, and I may say that I never read a letter which I
thought to be more honourable to the writer. It is from Mr. Ralph
Newton,--not the Ralph with whom you have found us to be so intimate,
but from the other who will some day be Mr. Newton of Newton Priory."
Then Sir Thomas looked into his niece's face, hoping to see there
something of the flutter of expectant triumph. But there was neither
flutter nor triumph in Mary's countenance. He read the letter,
sitting up in his bed, with his left arm in a sling, and then he
handed it to her. "You had better look at it yourself, my dear." Mary
took the letter, and sat as though she were reading it. It seemed
to Sir Thomas that she was reading it with the cold accuracy of a
cautious attorney;--but in truth her eyes did not follow a single
word of the letter. There was neither flutter nor triumph in her
face, or in the movement of her limbs, or in the quiet, almost
motionless carriage of her body; but, nevertheless, the pulses of her
heart beat so strongly, that had all depended on it she could not
have read a word of the letter. "Well, my dear," said Sir Thomas,
when he thought that ample time had been given for the perusal. Mary
simply folded the paper together and returned it into his hands. "I
have told him, as I was bound to do, my dear, that as far as I was
concerned, I should be happy to receive him; but that for any other
answer, I must refer him to you. Of course it will be for you to give
him what answer your heart dictates. But I may say this,--and it
is my duty to say it as your guardian and nearest relative;--the
way in which he has put forward his request shows him to be a most
honourable man; all that I have ever heard of him is in his favour;
he is a gentleman every inch of him; and as for his prospects in
life, they are such that they entitle him to address almost any
lady in the land. Of course you will follow the dictates of your
own heart, as I said; but I cannot myself fancy any greater good
fortune that could come in the way of a young woman than the honest
affections of such a man as this Ralph Newton." Then Sir Thomas
paused for some reply, but Mary had none ready for him. "Of course I
have no questions to ask," he said, and then again paused. But still
Mary did not speak. "I dare say he will be here before long, and I
hope that he may meet with a happy reception. I at least shall be
glad to see him, for I hold him in great honour. And as I look upon
marriage as the happiest lot for all women, and as I think that this
would be a happy marriage, I do hope,--I do hope-- But as I said
before, all that must be left to yourself. Mary, have you nothing to
say?"

"I trust, uncle, you are not tired of me."

"Tired of you! Certainly not. I have not been with you since you
have been here as much as I should have wished because,--indeed for
various reasons. But we all like you, and nobody wants to get rid of
you. But there is a way in which young ladies leave their own homes,
which is generally thought to be matter of congratulation. But, as I
said before, nobody shall press you."

"Dear uncle, I am so full of thanks to you for your kindness."

"But it is of course my duty as your guardian to tell you that in my
opinion this gentleman is entitled to your esteem."

After that Mary left him without another word, and taking her hat
and cloak as she passed through the hall went at once out into the
garden. It was a fine autumn morning, almost with a touch of summer
in it. We do not know here that special season which across the
Atlantic is called the Indian summer,--that last glow of the year's
warmth which always brings with it a half melancholy conviction of
the year's decay,--which in itself is so delightful, would be so
full of delight, were it not for the consciousness which it seems
to contain of being the immediate precursor of winter with all its
horrors. There is no sufficient constancy with us of the recurrence
of such a season, to make any special name needful. But now and
again there comes a day, when the winds of the equinox have lulled
themselves, and the chill of October rains have left the earth, and
the sun gives a genial, luxurious warmth, with no power to scorch,
with strength only to comfort. But here, as elsewhere, this luxury
is laden with melancholy, because it tells us of decay, and is the
harbinger of death. This was such a day, and Mary Bonner, as she
hurried into a shrubbery walk, where she could wander unseen, felt
both the sadness and the softness of the season. There was a path
which ran from the front gate of the villa grounds through shrubs
and tall evergreens down to the river, and was continued along the
river-bank up through the flower-garden to windows opening from the
drawing-room. Here she walked alone for more than an hour, turning as
she came to the river in order that she might not be seen from the
house.

Mary Bonner, of whose character hitherto but little has been said,
was, at any rate, an acute observer. Very soon after her first
introduction to Ralph the heir,--Ralph who had for so many years been
the intimate friend of the Underwood family,--she perceived something
in the manner of that very attractive young man which conveyed
to her a feeling that, if she so pleased, she might count him as
an admirer of her own. She had heard then, as was natural, much
of the brilliance of his prospects, and but little,--as was also
natural,--of what he had done to mar them. And she also perceived,
or fancied that she perceived, that her cousin Clary gave many of
her thoughts to the heir. Now Mary Bonner understood the importance
to herself of a prosperous marriage, as well as any girl ever did
understand its great significance. She was an orphan, living in fact
on the charity of her uncle. And she was aware that having come
to her uncle's house when all the weakness and attractions of her
childhood were passed, she could have no hold on him or his such as
would have been hers had she grown to be a woman beneath his roof.
There was a thoughtfulness too about her,--a thoughtfulness which
some, perhaps, may call worldliness,--which made it impossible for
her not to have her own condition constantly in her mind. In her
father's lifetime she had been driven by his thoughtlessness and her
own sterner nature to think of these things; and in the few months
that had passed between her father's death and her acceptance in
her uncle's house she had taught herself to regard the world as an
arena in which she must fight a battle by her own strength with such
weapons as God had given to her. God had, indeed, given to her many
weapons, but she knew but of one. She did know that God had made
her very beautiful. But she regarded her beauty after an unfeminine
fashion,--as a thing of value, but as a chattel of which she could
not bring herself to be proud. Might it be possible that she should
win for herself by her beauty some position in the world less
burdensome, more joyous than that of a governess, and less dependent
than that of a daily recipient of her uncle's charity?

She had had lovers in the West Indies,--perhaps a score of them,
but they had been nothing to her. Her father's house had been so
constituted that it had been impossible for her to escape the very
plainly spoken admiration of captains, lieutenants, and Colonial
secretaries. In the West Indies gentlemen do speak so very plainly,
on, or without, the smallest encouragement, that ladies accept such
speaking much as they do in England the attention of a handkerchief
lifted or an offer for a dance. It had all meant nothing to Mary
Bonner, who from her earliest years of girlhood had been accustomed
to captains, lieutenants, and even to midshipmen. But, through it
all, she had grown up with serious thoughts, and something of a
conviction that love-making was but an ugly amusement. As far as it
had been possible she had kept herself aloof from it, and though run
after for her beauty, had been unpopular as being a "proud, cold,
meaningless minx." When her father died she would speak to no one;
and then it had been settled among the captains, lieutenants, and
Colonial secretaries that she was a proud, cold, meaningless minx.
And with this character she left the island. Now there came to her,
naturally I say, this question;--What lovers might she find in
England, and, should she find lovers, how should she deal with them?
There are among us many who tell us that no pure-minded girl should
think of finding a lover,--should only deal with him, when he comes,
as truth, and circumstances, and parental control may suggest to her.
If there be girls so pure, it certainly seems that no human being
expects to meet them. Such was not the purity of Mary Bonner,--if
pure she was. She did think of some coming lover,--did hope that
there might be for her some prosperity of life as the consequence of
the love of some worthy man whom she, in return, might worship. And
then there had come Ralph Newton the heir.

Now to Mary Bonner,--as also to Clarissa Underwood, and to Patience,
and to old Mrs. Brownlow, and a great many others, Ralph the heir
did not appear in quite those colours which he probably will in
the reader's eyes. These ladies, and a great many other ladies
and gentlemen who reckoned him among their acquaintance, were not
accurately acquainted with his transactions with Messrs. Neefit,
Moggs, and Horsball; nor were they thoroughly acquainted with the
easy nature of our hero's changing convictions. To Clarissa he
certainly was heroic; to Patience he was very dear; to old Mrs.
Brownlow he was almost a demigod; to Mr. Poojean he was an object
of envy. To Mary Bonner, as she first saw him, he was infinitely
more fascinating than the captains and lieutenants of West Indian
regiments, or than Colonial secretaries generally.

It was during that evening at Mrs. Brownlow's that Mary Bonner
resolutely made up her mind that she would be as stiff and cold to
Ralph the heir as the nature of their acquaintance would allow. She
had seen Clarissa without watching, and, without thinking, she had
resolved. Mr. Newton was handsome, well to do, of good address, and
clever;--he was also attractive; but he should not be attractive for
her. She would not, as her first episode in her English life, rob
a cousin of a lover. And so her mind was made up, and no word was
spoken to any one. She had no confidences. There was no one in whom
she could confide. Indeed, there was no need for confidence. As
she left Mrs. Brownlow's house on that evening she slipped her arm
through that of Patience, and the happy Clarissa was left to walk
home with Ralph the heir,--as the reader may perhaps remember.

Then that other Ralph had come, and she learned in half-pronounced
ambiguous whispers what was the nature of his position in the world.
She did not know,--at that time her cousins did not know,--how nearly
successful were the efforts made to dispossess the heir of his
inheritance in order that this other Newton might possess it. But she
saw, or thought that she saw, that this was the gallanter man of the
two. Then he came again, and then again, and she knew that her own
beauty was of avail. She encouraged him not at all. It was not in her
nature to give encouragement to a man's advances. It may, perhaps, be
said of her that she had no power to do so. What was in her of the
graciousness of feminine love, of the leaning, clinging, flattering
softness of woman's nature, required some effort to extract, and had
never hitherto been extracted. But within her own bosom she told
herself that she thought that she could give it, if the asking for it
were duly done. Then came the first tidings of his heirship, of his
father's success,--and then, close upon the heels of those tidings,
this heir's humbly expressed desire to be permitted to woo her. There
was all the flutter of triumph in her bosom, as that letter was
read to her, and yet there was no sign of it in her voice or in her
countenance.

Nor could it have been seen had she been met walking in the shade of
that shrubbery. And yet she was full of triumph. Here was the man to
whom her heart had seemed to turn almost at first sight, as it had
never turned to man before. She had deigned to think of him as of one
she could love;--and he loved her. As she paced the walk it was also
much to her that this man who was so generous in her eyes should have
provided for him so noble a place in the world. She quite understood
what it was to be the wife of such a one as the Squire of Newton.
She had grieved for Clary's sake when she heard that the former heir
should be heir no longer,--suspecting Clary's secret. But she could
not so grieve as to be insensible of her own joy. And then there was
something in the very manner in which the man approached her, which
gratified her pride while it touched her heart. About that other
Ralph there was a tone of sustained self-applause, which seemed to
declare that he had only to claim any woman and to receive her.
There was an old-fashioned mode of wooing of which she had read and
dreamed, that implied a homage which she knew that she desired. This
homage her Ralph was prepared to pay.

For an hour she paced the walk, not thinking, but enjoying what she
knew. There was nothing in it requiring thought. He was to come, and
till he should come there was nothing that she need either say or do.
Till he should come she would do nothing and say nothing. Such was
her determination when Clarissa's step was heard, and in a moment
Clarissa's arm was round her waist. "Mary," she said, "you must come
out with me. Come and walk with me. I am going to Mrs. Brownlow's.
You must come."

"To walk there and back?" said Mary, smiling.

"We will return in an omnibus; but you must come. Oh, I have so much
to say to you."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

"TELL ME AND I'LL TELL YOU."


"Papa has told me all about it," were Clarissa's first words as soon
as they were out of the gate on the road to Mrs. Brownlow's.

"All about what, Clary?"

"Oh you know;--or rather it was Patience told me, and then I asked
papa. I am so glad."

Mary had as yet hardly had time to think whether the coming of
this letter to her uncle would or would not be communicated to her
cousins; but had she thought, she would have been almost sure that
Sir Thomas would be more discreet. The whole matter was to her so
important, so secret, almost so solemn, that she could hardly imagine
that it should be discussed among the whole household. And yet she
felt a strong longing within herself to be able to talk of it to some
one. Of the two cousins Clary was certainly her favourite, and had
she been forced to consult any one, she would have consulted Clary.
But an absolute confidence in such a matter with a chosen friend,
the more delightful it might appear, was on that very account the
more difficult of attainment. It was an occasion for thought, for
doubt, and almost for dismay; and now Clary rushed into it as though
everything could be settled in a walk from Fulham to Parson's Green!
"It is very good of you to be glad, Clary," said the other,--hardly
knowing why she said this, and yet meaning it. If in truth Clary was
glad, it was good of her. For this man to whom Clary was alluding had
won from her own lover all his inheritance.

"I like him so much. You will let me talk about him; won't you?"

"Oh, yes," said Mary.

"Do; pray do. There are so many reasons why we should tell each other
everything." This elicited no promise from Mary. "If I thought that
you would care, I would tell you all."

"I care about everything that concerns you, Clary."

"But I didn't bring you out to talk about myself now. I want to tell
you how much I like your Ralph Newton."

"But he isn't mine."

"Yes he is;--at any rate, if you like to have him. And of course you
will like. Why should you not? He is everything that is nice and
good;--and now he is to be the owner of all the property. What I want
to tell you is this; I do not begrudge it to you."

Why should Clarissa begrudge or not begrudge the property? Mary
understood it all, but nothing had been said entitling her to speak
as though she understood it. "I don't think you would begrudge me
anything that you thought good for me," said Mary.

"And I think that Mr. Ralph Newton,--this Mr. Ralph Newton, is very
good for you. Nothing could be so good. In the first place would it
not be very nice to have you mistress of Newton Priory? Only that
shouldn't come properly first."

"And what should come first, Clary?"

"Oh,--of course that you should love him better than anything in the
world. And you do,--don't you?"

"It is too sudden to say that yet, Clary."

"But I am sure you will. Don't you feel that you will? Come, Mary,
you should tell me something."

"There is so little to tell."

"Then you are afraid of me. I wanted to tell you everything."

"I am not afraid of you. But, remember, it is hardly more than an
hour ago since I first heard of Mr. Newton's wishes, and up to that
moment nothing was further from my dreams."

"I was sure of it, ever so long ago," said Clarissa.

"Oh, Clary!"

"I was. I told Patience how it was to be. I saw it in his eyes. One
does see these things. I knew it would be so; and I told Patience
that we three would be three Mrs. Newtons. But that of course was
nonsense."

"Nonsense, indeed."

"I mean about Patience."

"And what about yourself, Clary?" Clarissa made no answer, and yet
she was burning to tell her own story. She was most anxious to tell
her own story, but only on the condition of reciprocal confidence.
The very nature of her story required that the confidence should be
reciprocal. "You said that you wanted to tell me everything," said
Mary.

"And so I do."

"You know how glad I shall be to hear."

"That is all very well, but,--" And then Clarissa paused.

"But what, dear?"

"You do mean to accept Mr. Newton?"

Now it was time for Mary to pause. "If I were to tell you my whole
heart," she said, "I should be ashamed of what I was saying; and yet
I do not know that there is any cause for shame."

"There can be none," said Clary. "I am sure of that."

"My acquaintance with Mr. Newton is very, very slight. I liked
him,--oh, so much. I thought him to be high-spirited, manly, and a
fine gentleman. I never saw any man who so much impressed me."

"Of course not," said Clarissa, making a gesture as though she
would stop on the high road and clasp her hands together, in which,
however, she was impeded by her parasol and her remembrance of her
present position.

"But it is so much to say that one will love a man better than all
the world, and go to him, and belong to him, and be his wife."

"Ah;--but if one does love him!"

"I can hardly believe that love can grow so quickly."

"Tell the truth, Mary; has it not grown?"

"Indeed I cannot say. There; you shall have the whole truth. When he
comes to me,--and I suppose he will come."

"There isn't much doubt of that."

"If he does come--"

"Well?"

"I hardly know what I shall say to him. I shall try to--to love him."

"Of course you will love him,--better than all the world."

"I know that he is paying me the greatest compliment that a man can
pay to a woman. And there is no earthly reason why I should not be
proud to accept all that he offers me. I have nothing of my own to
bestow in return."

"But you are so beautiful."

Mary would make no pretence of denying this. It was true that that
one great feminine possession did belong to her. "After all," she
said, "how little does beauty signify! It attracts, but it can make
no man happy. He has everything to give to a wife, and he ought to
have much in return for what he gives."

"You don't mean that a girl should refuse a rich man because she has
no fortune of her own?"

"No; not quite that. But she ought to think whether she can be of use
to him."

"Of course you will be of use, my dear;--of the greatest use in the
world. That's his affair, and he is the best judge of what will be of
use. You will love him, and other men will envy him, and that will be
everything. Oh dear, I do so hope he will come soon."

"And I,--I almost hope he will not. I shall be so afraid to see him.
The first meeting will be so awful. I shall not dare to look him in
the face."

"But it is all settled."

"No;--not settled, Clary."

"Yes; it is settled. And now I will tell you what I mean when I say I
do not begrudge him to you. That is--; I do not know whether you will
care to be told."

"I care very much, Clary. I should be very unhappy if you did
begrudge me anything."

"Of course you know that our Ralph Newton, as we call him, ought to
have been the heir."

"Oh, yes."

"I needn't explain it all; only,--only--"

"Only he is everything to you. Is it that, Clary?"

"Yes; it is that. He is everything to me. I love him--. Oh, yes, I do
love him! But, Mary, I am not such a happy girl as you are. Sometimes
I think he hardly cares for me."

"But he has asked you to care for him?"

"Well;--I don't know. I think he has. He has told me, I know, that he
loved me dearly,--better than any one."

"And what answer did you make to him, Clary?"

Clarissa had the whole scene on the lawn at Popham Villa so clearly
impressed upon her memory, that an eternity of years, as she thought,
could obliterate no one of its incidents and render doubtful no tone
of his voice, no word that her lover had spoken. His conduct had at
that time been so violent that she had answered him only with tears
and protestations of undying anger. But her tears had been dried,
and her anger had passed away;--while the love remained. Ralph, her
Ralph, of course knew well enough that the tears were dry and the
anger gone. She could understand that he would understand that. But
the love which he had protested, if it were real love, would remain.
And why should she doubt him? The very fact that he was so dear to
her, made such doubts almost disgraceful. And yet there was so much
cause for doubt. Patience doubted. She knew herself that she feared
more than she hoped. She had resolved gallantly that she would be
true to her own heart, even though by such truth she should be
preparing for herself a life of disappointment. She had admitted
the passion, and she would stand by it. In all her fears, too, she
consoled herself by the reflection that her lover was hindered,
not by want of earnestness or want of truth,--but by the state
of his affairs. While he was still in debt, striving to save his
inheritance, but tormented by the growing certainty that it must
pass away from him, how could he give himself up to love-making and
preparations for marriage? Clary made excuses for him which no one
else would have made, and so managed to feed her hopes. "I made him
no answer," she said at last.

"And yet you knew you loved him."

"Yes; I knew that. I can tell you, and I told Patience. But I could
not tell him." She paused a moment thinking whether she could
describe the whole scene; but she found that she could not do that.
"I shall tell him, perhaps, when he comes again; that is, if he does
come."

"If he loves you he will come."

"I don't know. He has all these troubles on him, and he will be very
poor;--what will seem to him to be very poor. It would not be poor
for me, but for him it would."

"Would that hinder him?"

"How can I say? There are so many things a girl cannot know. He
may still be in debt, and then he has been brought up to want so
much. But it will make no more difference in me. And now you will
understand why I should tell you that I will never begrudge you your
good fortune. If all should come right, you shall give us a little
cottage near your grand house, and you will not despise us." Poor
Clary, when she spoke of her possible future lord, and the little
cottage on the Newton demesne, hardly understood the feelings with
which a disinherited heir must regard the property which he has lost.

"Dear, dearest Clary," said Mary Bonner, pressing her cousin's arm.

They had now reached Mrs. Brownlow's house, and the old lady was
delighted to receive them. Of course she began to discuss at once the
great news. Sir Thomas had had his arm broken, and was now again a
member of Parliament. Mrs. Brownlow was a thorough-going Tory, and
was in an ecstasy of delight that her old friend should have been
successful. The success seemed to be so much the greater in that the
hero had suffered a broken bone. And then there were many questions
to be asked? Would Sir Thomas again be Solicitor-General by right
of his seat in Parliament?--for on such matters Mrs. Brownlow was
rather hazy in her conceptions as to the working of the British
Constitution. And would he live at home? Clarissa would not say that
she and Patience expected such a result. All that she could suggest
of comfort on this matter was that there would be now something of
a fair cause for excusing their father's residence at his London
chambers.

But there was a subject more enticing to the old lady even than
Sir Thomas's triumphs; a subject as to which there could not be
any triumph,--only dismay; but not, on that account, the less
interesting. Ralph Newton had sold his inheritance. "I believe it is
all settled," said Clarissa, demurely.

"Dear, dear, dear, dear!" groaned the old lady. And while she groaned
Clarissa furtively cast a smile upon her cousin. "It is the saddest
thing I ever knew," said Mrs. Brownlow. "And, after all, for a young
man who never can be anybody, you know."

"Oh yes," said Clarissa, "he can be somebody."

"You know what I mean, my dear. I think it very shocking, and very
wrong. Such a fine estate, too!"

"We all like Mr. Newton very much indeed," said Clarissa. "Papa
thinks he is a most charming young man. I never knew papa taken with
any one so much. And so do we all,--Patience and I,--and Mary."

"But, my dear," began Mrs. Brownlow,--Mrs. Brownlow had always
thought that Ralph the heir would ultimately marry Clarissa
Underwood, and that it was a manifest duty on his part to do so. She
had fancied that Clarissa had expected it herself, and had believed
that all the Underwoods would be broken-hearted at this transfer
of the estate. "I don't think it can be right," said Mrs. Brownlow;
"and I must say that it seems to me that old Mr. Newton ought to be
ashamed of himself. Just because this young man happens to be, in a
sort of a way, his own son, he is going to destroy the whole family.
I think that it is very wicked." But she had not a word of censure
for the heir who had consumed his mess of pottage.

"Wasn't she grand?" said Clary, as soon as they were out again upon
the road. "She is such a dear old woman, but she doesn't understand
anything. I couldn't help giving you a look when she was abusing
our friend. When she knows it all, she'll have to make you such an
apology."

"I hope she will not do that."

"She will if she does not forget all about it. She does forget
things. There is one thing I don't agree with her in at all. I don't
see any shame in your Ralph having the property; and, as to his being
nobody, that is all nonsense. He would be somebody, wherever he went,
if he had not an acre of property. He will be Mr. Newton, of Newton
Priory, just as much as anybody else could be. He has never done
anything wrong." To all which Mary Bonner had very little to say. She
certainly was not prepared to blame the present Squire for having so
managed his affairs as to be able to leave the estate to his own son.

The two girls were very energetic, and walked back the whole way to
Popham Villa, regardless of a dozen omnibuses that passed them. "I
told her all about our Ralph,--my Ralph,"--said Clary to her sister
afterward. "I could not help telling her now."

"Dear Clary," said Patience, "I wish you could help thinking of it
always."

"That's quite impossible," said Clarissa, cheerily.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

ALONE IN THE HOUSE.


Young Newton at last found himself alone in the house at Newton
Priory after his father's death. He had sent George Morris away,
becoming very stern in his demand to be left to his solitude as long
as opposition was made to him. Gregory had come down to him from the
parsonage, and had also been dismissed. "Your brother will be here
probably to-day," said Ralph, "and then I will send for you."

"I am thinking more of you than of my brother, just now," answered
the parson.

"Yes, I know,--and though I cannot talk to you, I know how good you
are. I want to see nobody but him. I shall be better alone." Then
Gregory had returned to the parsonage.

As soon as Ralph was alone he crept up to the room in which his
father's body was lying, and stood silently by the bedside for above
an hour. He was struggling to remember the loss he had had in the
man, and to forget the loss in wealth and station. No father had ever
been better to a son than his father had been to him. In every affair
of life his happiness, his prosperity, and his future condition had
given motives to his father's conduct. No lover ever worshipped a
mistress more thoroughly than his father had idolised him. There
had never been love to beat it, never solicitude more perfect and
devoted. And yet, as he had been driven home that day, he had allowed
his mind to revert to the property, and his regrets to settle
themselves on his lost position. It should not be so any longer. He
could not keep his mind from dwelling on the thing, but he would
think of it as a trifle,--as of a thing which he could afford to lose
without sorrow. Whereas he had also lost that which is of all things
the most valuable and most impossible to replace,--a friend whose
love was perfect.

But then there was another loss. He bitterly blamed himself for
having written that letter to Sir Thomas Underwood, before he was
actually in a position to do as he had proposed. It must all be
unwritten now. Every resolution hitherto taken as to his future life
must be abandoned. He must begin again, and plan a new life for
himself. It had all come upon him so suddenly that he was utterly
at a loss to think what he would do with himself or with his days.
There was nothing for him but to go away, and be utterly without
occupation, altogether without friends. Friends, indeed, he
had,--dear, intimate, loving friends. Gregory Newton and George
Morris were his friends. Every tenant on the Newton property was his
friend. There was not a man riding with the hunt, worth having as a
friend, who was not on friendly terms with him. But all these he must
leave altogether. In whatever spot he might find for himself a future
residence, that spot could not be at Peele Newton. After what had
occurred he could not remain there, now that he was not the heir. And
then, again, his thoughts came back from his lost father to his lost
inheritance, and he was very wretched.

Between three and four o'clock he took his hat and walked out. He
sauntered down along a small stream, which, after running through the
gardens, bordered one of the coverts which came up near to the house.
He took this path because he knew that he would be alone there,
unseen. It had occurred to him already that it would be well that he
should give orders to stop the works which his father had commenced,
and there had been a moment in which he had almost told one of the
servants in the house to do so. But he had felt ashamed at seeming to
remember so small a thing. The owner would be there soon, probably
in an hour or two, and could stop or could continue what he pleased.
Then, as he thought of the ownership of the estate, he reflected
that, as the sale had been in truth effected by his namesake, the
money promised by his father would be legally due;--would not now be
his money. As to the estate itself, that, of course, would go to his
namesake as his father's heir. No will had been made leaving the
estate to him, and his namesake would be the heir-at-law. Thus he
would be utterly beggared. It was not that he actually believed that
this would be the case; but his thoughts were morbid, and he took an
unwholesome delight in picturing to himself circumstances in their
blackest hue. Then he would strike the ground with his stick, in his
wrath, because he thought of such things at all. How was it that he
was base enough to think of them while the accident, which had robbed
him of his father, was so recent?

As the dusk grew on, he emerged out of the copse into the park, and,
crossing at the back of the home paddocks, came out upon the road
near to Darvell's farm. He passed a few yards up the lane, till at a
turn he could discern the dismantled house. As far as he could see
through the gloom of the evening, there were no workmen near the
place. Some one, he presumed, had given directions that nothing
further should be done on a day so sad as this. He stood for awhile
looking and listening, and then turned round to enter the park again.

It might be that the new squire was already at the house, and it
would be thought that he ought not to be absent. The road from the
station to the Priory was not that on which he was standing, and
Ralph might have arrived without his knowledge. He wandered slowly
back, but, before he could turn in at the park-gate, he was met by
a man on the road. It was Mr. Walker, the farmer of Brownriggs, an
old man over seventy, who had lived on the property all his life,
succeeding his father in the same farm. Walker had known young Newton
since he had first been brought to the Priory as a boy, and could
speak to him with more freedom than perhaps any other tenant on the
estate. "Oh, Mr. Ralph," he said, "this has been a dreary thing!"
Ralph, for the first time since the accident, burst out into a flood
of tears. "No wonder you take on, Mr. Ralph. He was a good father to
you, and a fine gentleman, and one we all respected." Ralph still
sobbed, but put his hand on the old man's arm and leaned upon him.
"I hope, Mr. Ralph, that things was pretty well settled about the
property." Ralph shook his head, but did not speak. "A bargain is a
bargain, Mr. Ralph, and I suppose that this bargain was made. The
lawyers would know that it had been made."

"It don't matter about that, Mr. Walker," said Ralph; "but the estate
would go to my father's nephew as his heir." The farmer started as
though he had been shot. "You will have another landlord, Mr. Walker.
He can hardly be better than the one you have lost."

"Then, Mr. Ralph, you must bear it manly."

"I think that I can say that I will do that. It is not for the
property that I am crying. I hope you don't think that of me, Mr.
Walker."


[Illustration: "It is not for the property that I am crying."]


"No, no, no."

"I can bear that;--though it is hard the having to go away and live
among strange people. I think I shall get a farm somewhere, and see
if I can take a lesson from you. I don't know anything else that I
can do."

"You could have the Mordykes, Mr. Ralph," said Mr. Walker, naming a
holding on the Newton property as to which there were rumours that it
would soon be vacant.

"No, Mr. Walker, it mustn't be here. I couldn't stand that. I must
go away from this,--God knows where. I must go away from this, and I
shall never see the old place again!"

"Bear it manly, Mr. Ralph," said the farmer.

"I think I shall, after a bit. Good evening, Mr. Walker. I expect my
father's nephew every hour, and I ought to be up at the house when he
comes. I shall see you again before I go."

"Yes, yes; that's for certain," said the farmer. They were both
thinking of the day on which they would follow the old Squire to his
grave in Newton Peele churchyard.

Ralph re-entered the park, and hurried across to the house as though
he were afraid that he would be too late to receive the heir; but
there had been no arrival, nor had there come any message from the
other Ralph. Indeed up to this hour the news had not reached the
present owner of Newton Priory. The telegram had been duly delivered
at the Moonbeam, where the fortunate youth was staying; but he was
hunting on this day, riding the new horse which he had bought from
Mr. Pepper, and, up to this moment, did not know anything of that
which chance had done for him. Nor did he get back to the Moonbeam
till late at night, having made some engagement for dinner after the
day's sport. It was not till noon on the following day, the Friday,
that a message was received from him at the Priory, saying that he
would at once hurry down to Hampshire.

Ralph sat down to dinner all alone. Let what will happen to break
hearts and ruin fortunes, dinner comes as long as the means last for
providing it. The old butler waited upon him in absolute silence,
fearing to speak a word, lest the word at such a time should be
ill-spoken. No doubt the old man was thinking of the probable
expedience of his retiring upon his savings; feeling, however, that
it became him to show, till the last, every respect to all who bore
the honoured name of Newton. When the meat had been eaten, the
old servant did say a word. "Won't you come round to the fire, Mr.
Ralph?" and he placed comfortably before the hearth one of the heavy
arm-chairs with which the corners of the broad fire-place were
flanked. But Ralph only shook his head, and muttered some refusal.
There he sat, square to the table, with the customary bottle of wine
before him, leaning back with his hands in his pockets, thinking of
his condition in life. The loneliness of the room, the loneliness
of the house, were horrible to him. And yet he would not that his
solitude should be interrupted. He had been so sitting, motionless,
almost overcome by the gloom of the big dark room, for so long a
period that he hardly knew whether it was night or not, when a note
was brought to him from Gregory. "Dear Ralph,--Shall I not come down
to you for an hour?--G. N." He read the note, and sent back a verbal
message. "Tell Mr. Gregory that I had rather not." And so he sat
motionless till the night had really come, till the old butler
brought him his candlestick and absolutely bade him betake himself
to bed. He had watched during the whole of the previous night, and
now had slumbered in his chair from time to time. But his sleeping
had been of that painful, wakeful nature which brings with it no
refreshment. It had been full of dreams, in all of which there had
been some grotesque reference to the property, but in none of them
had there been any memory of the Squire's terrible death. And yet, as
he woke and woke and woke again, it can hardly be said that the truth
had come back upon him as a new blow. Through such dreams there seems
to exist a double memory, and a second identity. The misery of his
isolated position never for a moment left him; and yet there were
repeated to him over and over again those bungling, ill-arranged,
impossible pictures of trivial transactions about the place, which
the slumber of a few seconds sufficed to create in his brain. "Mr.
Ralph, you must go to bed;--you must indeed, sir," said the old
butler, standing over him with a candle during one of these fitful
dreamings.

"Yes, Grey;--yes, I will; directly. Put it down. Thank you. Don't
mind sitting up," said Ralph, rousing himself in his chair.

"It's past twelve," Mr. Ralph.

"You can go to bed, you know, Grey."

"No, sir;--no. I'll see you to bed first. It'll be better so. Why,
Mr. Ralph, the fire's all out, and you're sitting here perished. You
wasn't in bed last night, and you ought to be there now. Come, Mr.
Ralph."

Then Ralph rose from his chair and took the candlestick. It was true
enough that he had better be in bed. As he shook himself, he felt
that he had never been so cold in his life. And then as he moved
there came upon him that terrible feeling that everything was amiss
with him, that there was no consolation on any side. "That'll do,
Grey; good night," he said, as the old man prepared to follow him
up-stairs. But Grey was not to be shaken off. "I'll just see you to
your room, Mr. Ralph." He wanted to accompany his young master past
the door of that chamber in which was lying all that remained of the
old master. But Ralph would open the door. "Not to-night, Mr. Ralph,"
said Grey. But Ralph persisted, and stood again by the bedside. "He
would have given me his flesh and blood;--his very life," said Ralph
to the butler. "I think no father ever so loved a son. And yet, what
has it come to?" Then he stooped down, and put his lips to the cold
clay-blue forehead.

"It ain't come to much surely," said old Grey to himself as he crept
away to his own room; "and I don't suppose it do come to much mostly
when folks go wrong."

Ralph was out again before breakfast, wandering up and down the banks
of the stream where the wood hid him, and then he made up his mind
that he would at once write again to Sir Thomas Underwood. He must
immediately make it understood that that suggestion which he had
made in his ill-assumed pride of position must be abandoned. He
had nothing now to offer to that queenly princess worthy of the
acceptance of any woman. He was a base-born son, about to be turned
out of his father's house because of the disgrace of his birth. In
the eye of the law he was nobody. The law allowed to him not even a
name;--certainly allowed to him the possession of no relative; denied
to him the possibility of any family tie. His father had succeeded
within an ace of giving him that which would have created for him
family ties, relatives, name and all. The old Squire had understood
well how to supersede the law, and to make the harshness of man's
enactments of no avail. Had the Squire quite succeeded, the son would
have stood his ground, would have called himself Newton of Newton,
and nobody would have dared to tell him that he was a nameless
bastard. But now he could not even wait to be told. He must tell it
himself, and must vanish. He had failed to understand it all while
his father was struggling and was yet alive; but he understood it
well now. So he came in to his breakfast, resolved that he would
write that letter at once.

And then there were orders to be given;--hideous orders. And there
was that hideous remembrance that legally he was entitled to give no
orders. Gregory came down to him as he sat at breakfast, making his
way into the parlour without excuse. "My brother cannot have been at
home at either place," he said.

"Perhaps not," said Ralph. "I suppose not."

"The message will be sent after him, and you will hear to-day no
doubt."

"I suppose I shall," said Ralph.

Then Gregory in a low voice made the suggestion in reference to which
he had come across from the parsonage. "I think that perhaps I and
Larkin had better go over to Basingstoke." Larkin was the steward.
Ralph again burst out into tears, but he assented; and in this way
those hideous orders were given.

As soon as Gregory was gone he took himself to his desk, and did
write to Sir Thomas Underwood. His letter, which was perhaps somewhat
too punctilious, ran as follows:--


   Newton Priory, 4th November, 186--.

   MY DEAR SIR,--

   I do not know whether you will have heard before this of
   the accident which has made me fatherless. The day before
   yesterday my father was killed by a fall from his horse in
   the hunting-field. I should not have ventured to trouble
   you with a letter on this subject, nor should I myself
   have been disposed to write about it at present, were
   it not that I feel it to be an imperative duty to refer
   without delay to my last letter to you, and to your very
   flattering reply. When I wrote to you it was true that
   my father had made arrangements for purchasing on my
   behalf the reversion to the property. That it was so you
   doubtless were aware from your own personal knowledge
   of the affairs of Mr. Ralph Newton. Whether that sale
   was or was not legally completed I do not know. Probably
   not;--and in regard to my own interests it is to be hoped
   that it was not completed. But in any event the whole
   Newton property will pass to your late ward, as my father
   certainly made no such will as would convey it to me even
   if the sale were complete.

   It is a sad time for explaining all this, when the body of
   my poor father is still lying unburied in the house, and
   when, as you may imagine, I am ill-fitted to think of
   matters of business; but, after what has passed between
   us, I conceive myself bound to explain to you that I wrote
   my last letter under a false impression, and that I can
   make no such claim to Miss Bonner's favour as I then set
   up. I am houseless and nameless, and for aught I yet know
   to the contrary, absolutely penniless. The blow has hit
   me very hard. I have lost my fortune, which I can bear;
   I have lost whatever chance I had of gaining your niece's
   hand, which I must learn to bear; and I have lost the
   kindest father a man ever had,--which is unbearable.

   Yours very faithfully,

   RALPH NEWTON (so called).


If it be thought that there was something in the letter which should
have been suppressed,--the allusion, for instance, to the possible
but most improbable loss of his father's private means, and his
morbid denial of his own right to a name which he had always borne,
a right which no one would deny him,--it must be remembered that
the circumstances of the hour bore very heavily on him, and that it
was hardly possible that he should not nurse the grievance which
afflicted him. Had he not been alone in these hours he might have
carried himself more bravely. As it was, he struggled hard to carry
himself well. If no one had ever been told how nearly successful the
Squire had been in his struggle to gain the power of leaving the
estate to his son, had there been nothing of the triumph of victory,
he could have left the house in which he had lived and the position
which he had filled almost without sorrow,--certainly without
lamentation. In the midst of calamities caused by the loss of
fortune, it is the knowledge of what the world will say that breaks
us down;--not regret for those enjoyments which wealth can give, and
which had been long anticipated.

At two o'clock on this day he got a telegram. "I will be at the
parsonage this evening, and will come down at once." Ralph the heir,
on his return home late at night, had heard the news, and early on
the following morning had communicated with his brother and with
his namesake. In the afternoon, after his return from Basingstoke,
Gregory again came down to the house, desiring to know whether Ralph
would prefer that the meeting should be at the Priory or at the
parsonage, and on this occasion his cousin bore with him. "Why should
not your brother come to his own house?" asked Ralph.

"I suppose he feels that he should not claim it as his own."

"That is nonsense. It is his own, and he knows it. Does he think that
I am likely to raise any question against his right?"

"I do not suppose that my brother has ever looked at the matter in
that light," said the parson. "He is the last man in the world to do
so. For the present, at any rate, you are living here and he is not.
In such an emergency, perhaps, he feels that it would be better that
he should come to his brother than intrude here."

"It would be no intrusion. I should wish him to feel that I am
prepared to yield to him instantly. Of course the house cannot be
very pleasant for him as yet. He must suffer something of the misery
of the occasion before he can enjoy his inheritance. But it will only
be for a day or so."

"Dear Ralph," said the parson, "I think you somewhat wrong my
brother."

"I endeavour not to do so. I think no ill of him, because I presume
he should look for enjoyment from what is certainly his own. He
and my father were not friends, and this, which has been to me so
terrible a calamity in every way, cannot affect him with serious
sorrow. I shall meet him as a friend; but I would sooner meet him
here than at the parsonage."

It was at last settled that the two brothers should come down to
the great house,--both Ralph the heir, and Gregory the parson; and
that the three young men should remain there, at any rate, till the
funeral was over. And when this was arranged, the two who had really
been fast friends for so many years, were able to talk to each other
in true friendship. The solitude which he had endured had been almost
too much for the one who had been made so desolate; but at last,
warmed by the comfort of companionship, he resumed his manhood,
and was able to look his affairs in the face, free from the morbid
feeling which had oppressed him. Gregory had his own things brought
down from the parsonage, and in order that there might be no
hesitation on his brother's part, sent a servant with a note to the
station desiring his brother to come at once to the Priory. They
resolved to wait dinner for him till after the arrival of a train
leaving London at five P.M. By that train the heir came, and between
seven and eight he entered the house which he had not seen since he
was a boy, and which was now his own.

The receipt of the telegram at the Moonbeam had affected Ralph, who
was now in truth the Squire, with absolute awe. He had returned late
from a somewhat jovial dinner, in company with his friend Cox, who
was indeed more jovial than was becoming. Ralph was not given to
drinking more wine than he could carry decently; but his friend, who
was determined to crowd as much enjoyment of life as was possible
into the small time allowed him before his disappearance from the
world that had known him, was noisy and rollicking. Perhaps it may
be acknowledged in plain terms that he was tipsy. They both entered
together the sitting-room which Ralph used, and Cox was already
calling for brandy and water, when the telegram was handed to Newton.
He read it twice before he understood it. His uncle dead!--suddenly
dead! And the inheritance all his own! In doing him justice, however,
we must admit that he did not at the time admit this to be the case.
He did perceive that there must arise some question; but his first
feeling, as regarded the property, was one of intense remorse that he
should have sold his rights at a moment in which they would so soon
have been realised in his own favour. But the awe which struck him
was occasioned by the suddenness of the blow which had fallen upon
his uncle. "What's up now, old fellow?" hiccupped Mr. Cox.

I wonder whether any polite reader, into whose hands this story
may fall, may ever have possessed a drunken friend, and have been
struck by some solemn incident at the moment in which his friend
is exercising the privileges of intoxication. The effect is not
pleasant, nor conducive of good-humour. Ralph turned away in disgust,
and leaned upon the chimney-piece, trying to think of what had
occurred to him. "What ish it, old chap? Shomebody wants shome tin?
I'll stand to you, old fellow."

"Take him away," said Ralph. "He's drunk." Then, without waiting for
further remonstrance from the good-natured but now indignant Cox, he
went off to his own room.

On the following morning he started for London by an early train, and
by noon was with his lawyer. Up to that moment he believed that he
had lost his inheritance. When he sent those two telegrams to his
brother and to his namesake, he hardly doubted but that the entire
property now belonged to his uncle's son. The idea had never occurred
to him that, even were the sale complete, he might still inherit the
property as his uncle's heir-at-law,--and that he would do so unless
his uncle had already bequeathed it to his son. But the attorney soon
put him right. The sale had not been yet made. He, Ralph, had not
signed a single legal document to that effect. He had done nothing
which would have enabled his late uncle to make a will leaving the
Newton estate to his son. "The letters which have been written are
all waste-paper," said the lawyer. "Even if they were to be taken
as binding as agreements for a covenant, they would operate against
your cousin,--not in his favour. In such case you would demand the
specified price and still inherit."

"That is out of the question," said the heir. "Quite out of the
question," said the attorney. "No doubt Mr. Newton left a will,
and under it his son will take whatever property the father had to
leave."

And so Ralph the heir found himself to be the owner of it all just
at the moment in which he thought that he had lost all chance of the
inheritance as the result of his own folly. When he walked out of the
lawyer's office he was almost wild with amazement. This was the prize
to which he had been taught to look forward through all his boyish
days, and all his early manhood;--but to look forward to it, as a
thing that must be very distant, so distant as almost to be lost in
the vagueness of the prospect. Probably his youth would have clean
passed from him, and he would have entered upon the downhill course
of what is called middle life before his inheritance would come to
him. He had been unable to wait, and had wasted everything,--nearly
everything; had, at any rate, ruined all his hopes before he was
seven-and-twenty; and yet, now, at seven-and-twenty, it was, as his
lawyer assured him, all his own. How nearly had he lost it all! How
nearly had he married the breeches-maker's daughter! How close upon
the rocks he had been. But now all was his own, and he was in truth
Newton of Newton, with no embarrassments of any kind which could
impose a feather's weight upon his back.



CHAPTER XXXV.

"SHE'LL ACCEPT YOU, OF COURSE."


We will pass over the solemn sadness of the funeral at Newton and
the subsequent reading of the old Squire's will. As to the latter,
the will was as it had been made some six or seven years ago. The
Squire had simply left all that he possessed to his illegitimate
son Ralph Newton. There was no difficulty about the will. Nor was
there any difficulty about the estate. The two lawyers came down to
the funeral. Sir Thomas Underwood would have come but that he was
prevented by the state of his arm. A statement showing all that had
been done in the matter was prepared for him, but it was agreed on
all sides that the sale had not been made, and that the legitimate
heir must succeed to the property. No one was disposed to dispute the
decision. The Squire's son had never for a moment supposed that he
could claim the estate. Nor did Ralph the heir suppose for a moment
that he could surrender it after the explanation which he had
received from the lawyer in London.

The funeral was over, and the will had been read, and at the end
of November the three young men were still living together in the
great house at Newton. The heir had gone up to London once or twice,
instigated by the necessity of the now not difficult task of raising
a little ready money. He must at once pay off all his debts. He
must especially pay that which he owed to Mr. Neefit; and he must
do so with many expressions of his gratitude,--perhaps with some
expressions of polite regret at the hardness of Polly's heart towards
him. But he must do so certainly without any further entreaty that
Polly's heart might be softened. Ah,--with what marvellous good
fortune had he escaped from that pitfall! For how much had he not to
be thankful to some favouring goddess who must surely have watched
over him from his birth! From what shipwrecks had he not escaped! And
now he was Squire of Newton, with wealth and all luxuries at command,
hampered with no wife, oppressed by no debts, free from all cares. As
he thought of his perfect freedom in these respects, he remembered
his former resolution as to Mary Bonner. That resolution he would
carry out. It would be well for him now to marry a wife, and of
all the women he had ever seen Mary Bonner was certainly the most
beautiful. With Newton all his own, with such a string of horses as
he would soon possess, and with such a wife at the head of his table,
whom need he envy, and how many were there who would not envy him?

Throughout November he allowed his horses to remain at the Moonbeam,
being somewhat in doubt whether or no he would return to that
fascinating hostelrie. He received one or two most respectful letters
from Mr. Horsball, in which glowing accounts were given of the sport
of the season, and the health of his horses, and offers made of most
disinterested services. Rooms should be ready for him at a moment's
notice if he liked at any time to run over for a week's hunting. It
was quite evident that in the eyes of Mr. Horsball Newton of Newton
was a great man. And there came congratulations from Mr. Cox, in
which no allusion whatever was made to the Squire's somewhat uncivil
conduct at their last meeting. Mr. Cox trusted that his dearest
friend would come over and have another spell at the Moonbeam before
he settled down for life;--and then hinted in language that was
really delicate in the niceness of its expression, that if he, Cox,
were but invited to spend a week or two at Newton Priory before he
banished himself for life to Australia, he would be able to make
his way over the briny deep with a light heart and an uncomplaining
tongue. "You know, old fellow, how true I've always been to you,"
wrote Cox, in language of the purest friendship. "As true as
steel,--to sausages in the morning and brandy and soda at night,"
said Ralph to himself as he read this.

He behaved with thorough kindness to his cousin. The three men lived
together for a month, and their intercourse was as pleasant as was
possible under the circumstances. Of course there was no hunting
during this month at Newton. Nor indeed did the heir see a hound till
December, although, as the reader is aware, he was not particularly
bound to revere his uncle's memory. He made many overtures to his
namesake. He would be only too happy if his cousin,--he always called
the Squire's son his cousin,--would make Newton his home for the
next twelvemonth. It was found that the Squire had left behind him
something like forty thousand pounds, so that the son was by no means
to be regarded as a poor man. It was his idea at present that he
would purchase in some pleasant county as much land as he might
farm himself, and there set up his staff for life. "And get about
two-and-a-half per cent. for your money," said the heir, who was
beginning to consider himself learned in such matters, and could talk
of land as a very serious thing in the way of a possession.

"What else am I to do?" said the other. "Two-and-a-half per cent.
with an occupation is better than five per cent. with none. I should
make out the remainder, too, by farming the land myself. There is
nothing else in the world that I could do."

As for remaining twelve months at Newton, that was of course out of
the question. Nevertheless, when December came he was still living in
the house, and had consented to remain there till Christmas should
have passed. He had already heard of a farm in Norfolk. "The worst
county for hunting in England," the heir had said. "Then I must try
and live without hunting," said Ralph who was not the heir. During
all this time not a horse was sent to the meet from the Newton
stables. The owner of Newton was contented to see the animals
exercised in the park, and to amuse himself by schooling them over
hurdles, and by high jumping at the bar.

During the past month the young Squire had received various letters
from Sir Thomas Underwood, and the other Ralph had received one. With
Sir Thomas's caution, advice, and explanations to his former ward,
the story has no immediate concern; but his letter to him who was to
have been Mary Bonner's suitor may concern us more nearly. It was
very short, and the reader shall have it entire.


   Popham Villa, 10th November, 186--.

   MY DEAR MR. NEWTON,--

   I have delayed answering your letter for a day or two
   in order that it may not disturb you till the last
   sad ceremony be over. I do not presume to offer you
   consolation in your great sorrow. Such tenders should only
   be made by the nearest and the dearest. Perhaps you will
   permit me to say that what little I have seen of you and
   what further I have heard of you assure to you my most
   perfect sympathy.

   On that other matter which gave occasion for your two
   letters to me I shall best perhaps discharge my duty by
   telling you that I showed them both to my niece; and that
   she feels, as do I, that they are both honourable to you,
   and of a nature to confer honour upon her. The change
   in your position, which I acknowledge to be most severe,
   undoubtedly releases you, as it would have released
   her,--had she been bound and chose to accept such release.

   Whenever you may be in this neighbourhood we shall be
   happy to see you.

   The state of my arm still prevents me from writing with
   ease.

   Yours very faithfully,

   THOMAS UNDERWOOD.


Newton, when he received this letter, struggled hard to give to it
its proper significance, but he could bring himself to no conclusion
respecting it. Sir Thomas had acknowledged that he was released,--and
that Mary Bonner would also have been released had she placed herself
under any obligation; but Sir Thomas did not say a word from which
his correspondent might gather whether in his present circumstances
he might still be regarded as an acceptable suitor. The letter was
most civil, most courteous, almost cordial in its expression of
sympathy; but yet it did not contain a word of encouragement. It may
be said that the suitor had himself so written to the lady's uncle,
as to place himself out of the way of all further encouragement;--as
to have put it beyond the power of his correspondent to write a word
to him that should have in it any comfort. Certainly he had done so.
He had clearly shown in his second letter that he had abandoned all
idea of making the match as to which he had shown so much urgent
desire in his first letter. He had explained that the marriage would
now be impossible, and had spoken of himself as a ruined, broken man,
all whose hopes were shipwrecked. Sir Thomas could hardly have told
him in reply that Mary Bonner would still be pleased to see him. And
yet Mary Bonner had almost said so. She had been very silent when the
letter was read to her. The news of Mr. Newton's death had already
reached the family at Popham Villa, and had struck them all with awe.
How it might affect the property even Sir Thomas had not absolutely
known at first; though he was not slow to make it understood that in
all probability this terrible accident would be ruinous to the hopes
which his niece had been justified in entertaining. At that hour Mary
had spoken not a word;--nor could she be induced to speak respecting
it either by Patience or Clarissa. Even to them she could not bring
herself to say that if the man really loved her he would still
come to her and say so. There was a feeling of awe upon her which
made her mute, and stern, and altogether unplastic in the hands
of her friends. It seemed even to Patience that Mary was struck
by a stunning sorrow at the ruin which had come upon her lover's
prospects. But it was not so at all. The thought wronged her utterly.
What stunned her was this,--that she could not bring herself to
express a passion for a man whom she had seen so seldom, with whom
her conversation had been so slight, from whom personally she had
received no overtures of attachment,--even though he were ruined. She
could not bring herself to express such a passion;--but yet it was
there. When Clarissa thought that she might obtain if not a word, at
least a tear, Mary appeared to be dead to all feeling, though crushed
by what she had lost. She was thinking the while whether it might be
possible for such a one as her to send to the man and to tell him
that that which had now occurred had of a sudden made him really dear
to her. Thoughts of maiden boldness flitted across her mind, but she
could not communicate them even to the girls who were her friends.
Yet in silence and in solitude she resolved that the time should come
in which she would be bold.

Then young Newton's second letter reached the house, and that also
had been read to her. "He is quite right," said Sir Thomas. "Of
course it releases both of you."

"There was nothing to release," said Mary, proudly.

"I mean to say that having made such a proposition as was contained
in his first letter, he was bound to explain his altered position."

"I suppose so," said Mary.

"Of course he was. He had made his offer believing that he could make
you mistress of Newton Priory,--and he had made it thinking that he
himself could marry in that position. And he would have been in that
position had not this most unforeseen and terrible calamity have
occurred."

"I do not see that it makes any difference," said Mary, in a whisper.

"What do you mean, my dear?"

"I hardly know, uncle."

"Try to explain yourself, Mary."

"If I had accepted any man when he was rich, I should not go back
when he was poor,--unless he wanted it." This also she said in a
whisper.

"But you had not accepted him."

"No," said Mary, still in a whisper. Sir Thomas, who was perhaps not
very good at such things, did not understand the working of her mind.
But had she dared, she would have asked her uncle to tell Mr. Newton
to come and see her. Sir Thomas, having some dim inkling of what
perhaps might be the case, did add a paragraph to his letter in which
he notified to his correspondent that a personal visit would be taken
in good part.

By the end of the first week in December things were beginning to
settle into shape at the Priory. The three young men were still
living together at the great house, and the tenants on the estate had
been taught to recognise the fact that Ralph, who had ever been the
heir, was in truth the owner. Among the labourers and poorer classes
there was no doubt much regret, and that regret was expressed. The
tenants, though they all liked the Squire's son, were not upon the
whole ill-pleased. It was in proper conformity with English habits
and English feelings that the real heir should reign. Among the
gentry the young Squire was made as welcome as the circumstances of
the heir would admit. According to their way of thinking, personally
popular as was the other man, it was clearly better that a legitimate
descendant of the old family should be installed at Newton Priory.
The old Squire's son rode well to hounds, and was loved by all; but
nothing that all the world could do on his behalf would make him
Newton of Newton. If only he would remain in the neighbourhood and
take some place suited to his income, every house would be open
to him. He would be received with no diminution of attachment or
respect. Overtures of this nature were made to him. This house could
be had for him, and that farm could be made comfortable. He might
live among them as a general favourite; but he could not under any
circumstances have been,--Newton of Newton. Nothing, however, was
clearer to himself than this;--that as he could not remain in the
county as the master of Newton Priory, he would not remain in the
county at all.

As things settled down and took shape he began to feel that even
in his present condition he might possibly make himself acceptable
to such a girl as Mary Bonner. In respect of fortune there could
be no reason whatever why he should not offer her his hand. He
was in truth a rich man, whereas she had nothing, By birth he was
nobody,--absolutely nobody; but then also would he have been nobody
had all the lands of Newton belonged to him. When he had written
that second letter, waiving all claim to Mary's hand because of
the inferiority of his position, he was suffering from a morbid
view which he had taken of his own affairs. He was telling himself
then,--so assuring himself, though he did not in truth believe
the assurance,--that he had lost not only the estate, but also
his father's private fortune. At that moment he had been unstrung,
demoralised, and unmanned,--so weak that a feather would have knocked
him over. The blow had been so sudden, the solitude and gloom of the
house so depressing, and his sorrow so crushing, that he was ready
to acknowledge that there could be no hope for him in any direction.
He had fed himself upon his own grief, till the idea of any future
success in life was almost unpalatable to him. But things had mended
with him now, and he would see whether there might not yet be joys
for him in the world. He would first see whether there might not be
that one great joy which he had promised to himself.

And then there came another blow. The young Squire had resolved that
he would not hunt before Christmas in the Newton country. It was felt
by him and by his brother that he should abstain from doing so out of
respect to the memory of his uncle, and he had declared his purpose.
Of course there was neither hunting nor shooting in these days for
the other Ralph. But at the end of a month the young Squire began to
feel that the days went rather slowly with him, and he remembered his
stud at the Moonbeam. He consulted Gregory; and the parson, though
he would fain have induced his brother to remain, could not say that
there was any real objection to a trip to the B. and B's. Ralph would
go there on the 10th of December, and be back at his own house before
Christmas. When Christmas was over, the other Ralph was to leave
Newton,--perhaps for ever.

The two Ralphs had become excellent friends, and when the one that
was to go declared his intention of going with no intention of
returning, the other pressed him warmly to think better of it, and
to look upon the Priory at any rate as a second home. There were
reasons why it could not be so, said the namesake; but in the close
confidence of friendship which the giving and the declining of the
offer generated came this further blow. They were standing together
leaning upon a gate, and looking at the exhumation of certain vast
roots, as to which the trees once belonging to them had been made to
fall in consequence of the improvements going on at Darvell's farm.
"I don't mind telling you," said Ralph the heir, "that I hope soon to
have a mistress here."

"And who is she?"

"That would be mere telling;--would it not?"

"Clarissa Underwood?" asked the unsuspecting Ralph.

There did come some prick of conscience, some qualm, of an injury
done, upon the young Squire as he made his answer. "No; not
Clarissa;--though she is the dearest, sweetest girl that ever lived,
and would make a better wife perhaps than the girl I think of."

"And who is the girl you think of?"

"She is to be found in the same house."

"You do not mean the elder sister?" said the unfortunate one. He had
known well that his companion had not alluded to Patience Underwood;
but in his agony he had suggested to himself that mode of escape.

"No; not Patience Underwood. Though, let me tell you, a man might do
worse than marry Patience Underwood. I have always thought it a pity
that Patience and Gregory would not make a match of it. He, however,
would fall in love with Clary, and she has too much of the rake in
her to give herself to a parson. I was thinking of Mary Bonner, who,
to my mind, is the handsomest woman I ever saw in my life."

"I think she is," said Ralph, turning away his face.

"She hasn't a farthing, I fancy," continued the happy heir, "but I
don't regard that now. A few months ago I had a mind to marry for
money; but it isn't the sort of thing that any man should do. I have
almost made up my mind to ask her. Indeed, when I tell you, I suppose
I have quite made up my mind."

"She'll accept you,--of course."

"I can say nothing about that, you know. A man must take his chance.
I can offer her a fine position, and a girl, I think, should have
some regard to money when she marries, though a man should not. If
there's nobody before me I should have a chance, I suppose."

His words were not boastful, but there was a tone of triumph in his
voice. And why should he not triumph? thought the other Ralph. Of
course he would triumph. He had everything to recommend him. And as
for himself,--for him, the dispossessed one,--any particle of a claim
which he might have secured by means of that former correspondence
had been withdrawn by his own subsequent words. "I dare say she'll
take you," he said, with his face still averted.

Ralph the heir did indeed think that he would be accepted, and he
went on to discuss the circumstances of their future home, almost
as though Mary Bonner were already employed in getting together her
wedding garments. His companion said nothing further, and Ralph the
heir did not discover that anything was amiss.

On the following day Ralph the heir went across the country to the
Moonbeam in Buckinghamshire.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

NEEFIT MEANS TO STICK TO IT.


There was some business to be done as a matter of course before the
young Squire could have all his affairs properly settled. There were
debts to be paid, among which Mr. Neefit's stood certainly first. It
was first in magnitude, and first in obligation; but it gave Ralph
no manner of uneasiness. He had really done his best to get Polly
to marry him, and, luckily for him,--by the direct interposition of
some divine Providence, as it now seemed to Ralph,--Polly had twice
refused him. It seemed to him, indeed, that divine Providence looked
after him in a special way, breaking his uncle's neck in the very
nick of time, and filling a breeches-maker's daughter's mind with so
sound a sense of the propriety of things, as to induce her to decline
the honour of being a millstone round his neck, when positively
the offer was pressed upon her. As things stood there could be no
difficulty with Mr. Neefit. The money would be paid, of course, with
all adjuncts of accruing interest, and Mr. Neefit should go on making
breeches for him to the end of the chapter. And for raising this
money he had still a remnant of the old property which he could sell,
so that he need not begin by laying an ounce of encumbrance on his
paternal estates. He was very clear in his mind at this period of
his life that there should never be any such encumbrance in his
days. That remnant of property should be sold, and Neefit, Horsball,
and others, should be paid. But it certainly did occur to him in
regard to Neefit, that there had been that between them which made
it expedient that the matter should be settled with some greater
courtesy than would be shown by a simple transaction through his man
of business. Therefore he wrote a few lines to Mr. Neefit on the day
before he left the Priory,--a few lines which he thought to be very
civil.


   Newton, 9th December, 186--.

   MY DEAR MR. NEEFIT,--

   You have probably heard before this of the accident which
   has happened in my family. My uncle has been killed by
   a fall from his horse, and I have come into my property
   earlier than I expected. As soon as I could begin to
   attend to matters of business, I thought of my debt to
   you, and of all the obligation I owe you. I think the debt
   is £1,000; but whatever it is it can be paid now. The
   money will be ready early in the year, if that will do for
   you,--and I am very much obliged to you. Would you mind
   letting Mr. Carey know how much it is, interest and all.
   He is our family lawyer.

   Remember me very kindly to Miss Polly. I hope she will
   always think of me as a friend. Would you tell Bawwah to
   put three pairs of breeches in hand for me,--leather.

   Yours very truly,

   RALPH NEWTON.


The wrath of Mr. Neefit on receiving this letter at his shop in
Conduit Street was almost divine. He had heard from Polly an account
of that last interview at Ramsgate, and Polly had told her story as
truly as she knew how to tell it. But the father had never for a
moment allowed himself to conceive that therefore the thing was at
an end, and had instructed Polly that she was not to look upon it
in that light. He regarded his young customer as absolutely bound
to him, and would not acknowledge to himself that such obligation
could be annulled by Polly's girlish folly. And he did believe that
young Newton intended to act, as he called it, "on the square." So
believing, he was ready to make almost any sacrifice of himself; but
that Newton should now go back, after having received his hard money,
was to him a thing quite out of the question. He scolded Polly with
some violence, and asked whether she wanted to marry such a lout as
Moggs. Polly replied with spirit that she wouldn't marry any man till
she found that she could love him, and that the man loved her. "Ain't
he told you as he loves you ever so often?" said Neefit. "I know what
I'm doing of, father," said Polly, "and I'm not going to be drove."
Nevertheless Mr. Neefit had felt certain that if young Newton would
still act upon the square, things would settle themselves rightly.
There was the money due, and, as Neefit constantly said to himself,
"money was a thing as was not to be got over."

Then had come upon the tradesman the tidings of the old Squire's
death. They were read to him out of a newspaper by his shopman,
Waddle. "I'm blessed if he ain't been and tumbled all at once into
his uncle's shoes," said Waddle. The paragraph in question was one
which appeared in a weekly newspaper some two days after the Squire's
death. Neefit, who at the moment was turning over the pages of his
ledger, came down from his desk and stood for about ten minutes in
the middle of his shop, while the Herr ceased from his cutting, and
Waddle read the paragraph over and over again. Neefit stood stock
still, with his hands in his breeches pockets, and his great staring
eyes fixed upon vacancy. "I'm blessed if it ain't true," said Waddle,
convinced by the repetition of his own reading. News had previously
reached the shop that the Squire had had a fall. Tidings as to
troubles in the hunting-field were quick in reaching Mr. Neefit's
shop;--but there had been no idea that the accident would prove to
be fatal. Neefit, when he went home that night, told his wife and
daughter. "That will be the last of young Newton," said Mrs. Neefit.
"I'm d---- if it will!" said the breeches-maker. Polly maintained a
discreet silence as to the heir, merely remarking that it was very
sad for the old gentleman. Polly at that time was very full of
admiration for Moggs,--in regard, that is, to the political character
of her lover. Moggs had lost his election, but was about to petition.

Neefit was never called upon, in the way of his own trade, to make
funereal garments. Men, when they are bereaved of their friends, do
not ride in black breeches. But he had all a tailor's respect for a
customer with a dead relation. He felt that it would not become him
to make an application to the young Squire on a subject connected
with marriage, till the tombstone over the old Squire should have
been properly adjusted. He was a patient man, and could wait. And
he was a man not good at writing letters. His customer and future
son-in-law would turn up soon; or else, the expectant father-in-law
might drop down upon him at the Moonbeam or elsewhere. As for a final
escape, Polly Neefit's father hardly feared that any such attempt
would be made. The young man had acted on the square, and had made
his offer in good faith.

Such was Mr. Neefit's state of mind when he received the young
Squire's letter. The letter almost knocked him down. There was a
decision about it, a confidence that all was over between them except
the necessary payment of the money, an absence of all doubt as to
"Miss Polly," which he could not endure. And then that order for
more breeches, included in the very same paragraph with Polly,
was most injurious. It must be owned that the letter was a cruel,
heart-rending, bad letter. For an hour or so it nearly broke Mr.
Neefit's heart. But he resolved that he was not going to be done.
The young Squire should marry his daughter, or the whole transaction
should be published to the world. He would do such things and say
such things that the young Squire should certainly not have a good
time of it. He said not a word to Polly of the letter that night, but
he did speak of the young Squire. "When that young man comes again,
Miss Polly," he said, "I shall expect you to take him."

"I don't know anything about that, father," said Polly. "He's had his
answer, and I'm thinking he won't ask for another." Upon this the
breeches-maker looked at his daughter, but made no other reply.

During the two or three following days Neefit made some inquiries,
and found that his customer was at the Moonbeam. It was now necessary
that he should go to work at once, and, therefore, with many
misgivings, he took Waddle into his confidence. He could not himself
write such a letter as then must be written;--but Waddle was perfect
at the writing of letters. Waddle shrugged his shoulders, and clearly
did not believe that Polly would ever get the young Squire. Waddle
indeed went so far as to hint that his master would be lucky in
obtaining payment of his money,--but, nevertheless, he gave his mind
to the writing of the letter. The letter was written as follows:--


   Conduit Street, 14th December, 186--.

   DEAR SIR,--

   Yours of the 9th instant has come to hand, and I beg to
   say with compliments how shocked we were to hear of the
   Squire's accident. It was terribly sudden, and we all felt
   it very much; as in the way of our business we very often
   have to.

   As to the money that can stand. Between friends such
   things needn't be mentioned. Any accommodation of that
   kind was and always will be ready when required. As to
   that other matter, a young gentleman like you won't think
   that a young lady is to be taken at her first word. A
   bargain is a bargain, and honourable is honourable, which
   nobody knows as well as you who was always disposed to
   be upon the square. Our Polly hasn't forgotten you,--and
   isn't going.


It should be acknowledged on Mr. Waddle's behalf, that that last
assurance was inserted by the unassisted energy of Mr. Neefit
himself.


   We shall expect to see you without delay, here or at
   Hendon, as may best suit; but pray remember that things
   stand just as they was. Touching other matters, as needn't
   be named here, orders will be attended to as usual if
   given separate.

   Yours very truly and obedient,

   THOMAS NEEFIT.


This letter duly reached the young Squire, and did not add to his
happiness at the Moonbeam. That he should ever renew his offer to
Polly Neefit was, he well knew, out of the question; but he could
see before him an infinity of trouble should the breeches-maker be
foolish enough to press him to do so. He had acted "on the square."
In compliance with the bargain undoubtedly made by him, he had twice
proposed to Polly, and had Polly accepted his offer on either of
these occasions, there would,--he now acknowledged to himself,--have
been very great difficulty in escaping from the difficulty. Polly
had thought fit to refuse him, and of course he was free. But,
nevertheless, there might be trouble in store for him. He had hardly
begun to ask himself in what way this trouble might next show itself,
when Neefit was at the Moonbeam. Three days after the receipt of
his letter, when he rode into the Moonbeam yard on his return from
hunting, there was Mr. Neefit waiting to receive him.

He certainly had not answered Mr. Neefit's letter, having told
himself that he might best do so by a personal visit in Conduit
Street; but now that Neefit was there, the personal intercourse did
not seem to him to be so easy. He greeted the breeches-maker very
warmly, while Pepper, Cox, and Mr. Horsball, with sundry grooms and
helpers, stood by and admired. Something of Mr. Neefit's money, and
of Polly's charms as connected with the young Squire, had already
reached the Moonbeam by the tongue of Rumour; and now Mr. Neefit had
been waiting for the last four hours in the little parlour within
the Moonbeam bar. He had eaten his mutton chop, and drunk three or
four glasses of gin and water, but had said nothing of his mission.
Mrs. Horsball, however, had already whispered her suspicions to her
husband's sister, a young lady of forty, who dispensed rum, gin, and
brandy, with very long ringlets and very small glasses.

"You want to have a few words with me, old fellow," said Ralph to
the breeches-maker, with a cheery laugh. It was a happy idea that of
making them all around conceive that Neefit had come after his money.
Only it was not successful. Men are not dunned so rigorously when
they have just fallen into their fortunes. Neefit, hardly speaking
above his breath, with that owlish, stolid look, which was always
common to him except when he was measuring a man for a pair of
breeches, acknowledged that he did. "Come along, old fellow,"
said Ralph, taking him by the arm. "But what'll you take to drink
first?" Neefit shook his head, and accompanied Ralph into the house.
Ralph had a private sitting-room of his own, so that there was no
difficulty on that score. "What's all this about?" he said, standing
with his back to the fire, and still holding Neefit by the arm. He
did it very well, but he did not as yet know the depth of Neefit's
obstinacy.

"What's it all about?" asked Neefit in disgust.

"Well; yes. Have you talked to Polly herself about this, old fellow?"

"No, I ain't; and I don't mean."

"Twice I went to her, and twice she refused me. Come, Neefit, be
reasonable. A man can't be running after a girl all his life, when
she won't have anything to say to him. I did all that a man could
do; and upon my honour I was very fond of her. But, God bless my
soul,--there must be an end to everything."

"There ain't to be no end to this, Mr. Newton."

"I'm to marry the girl whether she will or not?"

"Nohow," said Mr. Neefit, oracularly. "But when a young gentleman
asks a young lady as whether she'll have him, she's not a-going to
jump down his throat. You knows that, Mr. Newton. And as for money,
did I ask for any settlement? I'd a' been ashamed to mention money.
When are you a-coming to see our Polly, that's the question?"

"I shall come no more, Mr. Neefit."

"You won't?"

"Certainly not, Mr. Neefit. I've been twice rejected."

"And that's the kind of man you are; is it? You're one of them sort,
are you?" Then he looked out of his saucer eyes upon the young Squire
with a fishy ferocity, which was very unpleasant. It was quite
evident that he meant war. "If that's your game, Mr. Newton, I'll be
even with you."

"Mr. Neefit, I'll pay you anything that you say I owe you."

"Damn your money!" said the breeches-maker, walking out of the room.
When he got down into the bar he told them all there that young
Newton was engaged to his daughter, and that, by G----, he should
marry her.

"Stick to that, Neefit," said Lieutenant Cox.

"I mean to stick to it," said Mr. Neefit. He then ordered another
glass of gin and water, and was driven back to the station.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

"HE MUST MARRY HER."


On the day following that on which Mr. Neefit made his journey to the
Moonbeam, Sir Thomas Underwood was at his chambers in London. It was
now eight weeks since his bone had been broken, and though he still
carried his arm in a sling, he declared of himself that he was able
to go about as usual;--which assertion was taken at the villa as
meaning that he was now able to live in Southampton Buildings without
further assistance from women. When Patience reminded him, with
tears in her eyes, that he could not as yet put on his own coat,
he reminded her that Stemm was the most careful of men. Up to
London he went with a full understanding that he was not at any
rate to be expected home on that night. He had business on hand of
great importance, which, as he declared, made his presence in town
imperative. Mr. Trigger, from Percycross, was to be up with reference
to the pestilent petition which had been presented against the
return of Griffenbottom and himself. Moggs had petitioned on his own
behalf, and two of the Liberals of the borough had also petitioned
in the interest of Mr. Westmacott. The two Liberal parties who
had quarrelled during the contest had now again joined forces in
reference to the petition, and there was no doubt that the matter
would go on before the judge. Mr. Trigger was coming up to London
with reference to the defence. Sir Thomas gave Stemm to understand
that Mr. Trigger would call at one o'clock.

Exactly at one o'clock the bell was rung at Sir Thomas's outside
door, and Stemm was on the alert to give entrance to Mr. Trigger.
When the door was opened who should present himself but our
unfortunate friend Neefit. He humbly asked whether Sir Thomas was
within, and received a reply which, as coming from Stemm, was
courteous in the extreme. "Mr. Trigger, I suppose;--walk in, Mr.
Trigger." Neefit, not at all understanding why he was called Trigger,
did walk in. Stemm, opening the door of his master's sanctum,
announced Mr. Trigger. Neefit advanced into the middle of the room.
Sir Thomas, with some solicitude as to the adjustment of his arm,
rose to greet his agent from Percy cross. "This isn't Mr. Trigger,"
said Sir Thomas. "He told me he was, anyhow," said Stemm, "I didn't
tell you nothing of the kind," said Neefit. "But you come from
Percycross?" said Sir Thomas. "No I don't; I comes from Conduit
Street," said Neefit. "You must go away," said Stemm, leaving the
door open, and advancing into the room as though to turn the enemy's
flank.

But Neefit, having made good his point so far, did not intend to be
dislodged without a struggle on his own part. "I've something to say
to Sir Thomas about Mr. Newton, as I wants to say very particular."
"You can't say it now," said Stemm. "Oh, but I can," said Neefit,
"and it won't take three minutes." "Wouldn't another day do for
it, as I am particularly busy now?" pleaded Sir Thomas. "Well, Sir
Thomas;--to tell the truth, it wouldn't," said Mr. Neefit, standing
his ground. Then there came another ring at the bell. "Ask Mr.
Trigger to sit down in the other room for two minutes, Stemm," said
Sir Thomas. And so Mr. Neefit had carried his point. "And now, sir,"
said Sir Thomas, "as I am particularly engaged, I will ask you to be
as quick as possible."

"My name is Neefit," began the breeches-maker,--and then paused.
Sir Thomas, who had heard the name from Ralph, but had forgotten
it altogether, merely bowed his head. "I am the breeches-maker of
Conduit Street," continued Mr. Neefit, with a proud conviction that
he too had ascended so high in his calling as to be justified in
presuming that he was known to mankind. Sir Thomas again bowed.
Neefit went on with his story. "Mr. Newton is a-going to behave to me
very bad."

"If he owes you money, he can pay you now," said Sir Thomas.

"He do owe me money;--a thousand pound he owe me."

"A thousand pounds for breeches!"

"No, Sir Thomas. It's most for money lent; but it's not along of that
as I'd trouble you. I know how to get my money, or to put up with the
loss if I don't. A thousand pound ain't here nor there,--not in what
I've got to say. I wouldn't demean myself to ring at your bell, Sir
Thomas;--not in the way of looking for a thousand pounds."

"In God's name, then, what is it? Pray be quick."

"He's going back from his word as he's promised to my daughter.
That's what it is." As Neefit paused again, Sir Thomas remembered
Ralph's proposition, made in his difficulties, as to marrying a
tradesman's daughter for money, and at once fell to the conclusion
that Mr. and Miss Neefit had been ill-used. "Sir Thomas," continued
the breeches-maker, "I've been as good as a father to him. I gave him
money when nobody else wouldn't."

"Do you mean that he has had money from you?"

"Yes; in course he has; ever so much. I paid for him a lot of money
to 'Orsball, where he 'unts. Money! I should think so. Didn't I pay
Moggs for him, the bootmaker? The very money as is rattling in his
pocket now is my money."

"And he engaged himself to your daughter?"

"He engaged hisself to me to marry her. He won't say no otherwise
himself. And he asked her twice. Why, Sir Thomas, he was all on the
square about it till the old gentleman broke his neck. He hadn't
nowhere else to go to for a shilling. But now the estate's come in
like, he's for behaving dishonourable. He don't know me yet; that's
what he don't. But I'll make him know me, Sir Thomas."

Then the door was opened, and Stemm's head appeared. "Mr. Trigger
says as he's in the greatest possible haste, Sir Thomas." The reader,
however, may as well be informed that this was pure invention on the
part of Mr. Stemm.

Sir Thomas tore his hair and rubbed his face. He couldn't bid Neefit
to call again, as he certainly did not desire to have a second visit.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Neefit? I have no doubt the money will be
paid, if owing. I will guarantee that for you."

"It ain't the money. I knows how to get my money."

"Then what can I do for you?"

"Make him go upon the square, Sir Thomas."

"How can I make him? He's twenty-six years old, and he's nothing to
me. I don't think he should marry the young lady. He's not in her
rank of life. If he has done her an injury, he must pay for it."

"Injury!" shouted Neefit, upon whose mind the word produced an
unintended idea. "No, no! Our Polly ain't like that. By G----, I'd
eat him, if it was that way! There ain't a duchess in the land as 'd
've guv' him his answer more ready than Polly had he ever spoke to
her that way."

"If he has given rise to hopes which through him will be
disappointed," said Sir Thomas, gravely, "he is bound to make what
compensation may be in his power."

"Compensation be d----!" said Neefit. "He must marry her."

"I don't think he will do that."

"You didn't think he would take my money, I suppose; but he did.
You didn't think he'd come and spend his Sundays out at my cottage,
but he did. You didn't think as he'd come after our Polly down to
Ramsgate, but he did. You didn't think as he'd give me his word to
make her his wife, but he did." At every assertion that he made, the
breeches-maker bobbed forward his bullet head, stretched open his
eyes, and stuck out his under lip. During all this excited energy,
he was not a man pleasant to the eye. "And now how is it to be, Sir
Thomas? That's what I want to know."

"Mr. Newton is nothing to me, Mr. Neefit."

"Oh;--that's all. Nothing to you, ain't he? Wasn't he brought up by
you just as a son like? And now he ain't nothing to you! Do you mean
to say as he didn't ought to marry my girl?"

"I think he ought not to marry her."

"Not arter his promise?"

Sir Thomas was driven very hard, whereas had the sly old
breeches-maker told all his story, there would have been no
difficulty at all. "I think such a marriage would lead to the
happiness of neither party. If an injury has been done,--as I fear
may be too probable,--I will advise my young friend to make any
reparation in his power--short of marriage. I can say nothing
further, Mr. Neefit."

"And that's your idea of being on the square, Sir Thomas?"

"I can say nothing further, Mr. Neefit. As I have an appointment
made, I must ask you to leave me." As Sir Thomas said this, his hand
was upon the bell.

"Very well;--very well. As sure as my name's Neefit, he shall hear of
me. And so shall you, Sir Thomas. Don't you be poking at me in that
way, old fellow. I don't choose to be poked at." These last words
were addressed to Stemm, who had entered the room, and was holding
the door open for Mr. Neefit's exit with something more than the
energy customary in speeding a parting guest. Mr. Neefit, however,
did take his departure, and Sir Thomas joined Mr. Trigger in the
other room.

We will not be present at that interview. Sir Thomas had been in a
great hurry to get rid of Mr. Neefit, but it may be doubted whether
he found Mr. Trigger much better company. Mr. Trigger's business
chiefly consisted in asking Sir Thomas for a considerable sum of
money, and in explaining to him that the petition would certainly
cost a large sum beyond this,--unless the expenses could be saddled
on Westmacott and Moggs, as to which result Mr. Trigger seemed
to have considerable doubt. But perhaps the bitterest part of Mr.
Trigger's communication consisted in the expression of his opinion
that Mr. Griffenbottom should be held by Sir Thomas free from any
expense as to the petition, on the ground that Griffenbottom, had he
stood alone, would certainly have carried one of the seats without
any fear of a petition. "I don't think I can undertake that, Mr.
Trigger," said Sir Thomas. Mr. Trigger simply shrugged his shoulders.

Sir Thomas, when he was alone, was very uncomfortable. While at
Percycross he had extracted from Patience an idea that Ralph the heir
and Clarissa were attached to each other, and he had very strongly
declared that he would not admit an engagement between them. At that
time Ralph was supposed to have sold his inheritance, and did not
stand well in Sir Thomas's eyes. Then had come the Squire's death and
the altered position of his late ward. Sir Thomas would be injured,
would be made subject to unjust reproach if it were thought of him
that he would be willing to give his daughter to a young man simply
because that young man owned an estate. He had no such sordid feeling
in regard to his girls. But he did feel that all that had occurred
at Newton had made a great difference. Ralph would now live at the
Priory, and there would be enough even for his extravagance. Should
the Squire of Newton ask him for his girl's hand with that girl's
consent, he thought that he could hardly refuse it. How could he ask
Clarissa to abandon so much seeming happiness because the man had
failed to keep out of debt upon a small income? He could not do so.
And then it came to pass that he was prepared to admit Ralph as a
suitor to his child should Ralph renew his request to that effect.
They had all loved the lad as a boy, and the property was wholly
unencumbered. Of course he said nothing to Clarissa; but should Ralph
come to him there could be but one answer. Such had been the state of
his mind before Mr. Neefit's visit.

But the breeches-maker's tale had altered the aspect of things very
greatly. Under no circumstances could Sir Thomas recommend the young
Squire to marry the daughter of the man who had been with him; but if
Ralph Newton had really engaged himself to this girl, and had done
so with the purport of borrowing money from the father, that might
be a reason why, notwithstanding the splendour of his prospects, he
should not be admitted to further intimacy at the villa. To borrow
money from one's tradesman was, in the eyes of Sir Thomas, about
as inexcusable an offence as a young man could commit. He was too
much disturbed in mind to go home on the following day, but on the
Thursday he returned to the villa. The following Sunday would be
Christmas Day.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

FOR TWO REASONS.


The young Squire, as soon as Neefit had left him in his own
sitting-room at the Moonbeam, sat himself down and began to think
over his affairs seriously. One thing was certain to him;--nothing on
earth should induce him to offer his hand again to Polly Neefit. He
had had a most miraculous escape, and assuredly would run no further
risk in that direction. But though he had escaped, he could perceive
that there was considerable trouble before him,--considerable trouble
and perhaps some disgrace. It certainly could not be proved against
him that he had broken any promise, as there had been no engagement;
but it could be made public that he had twice offered himself to
Polly, and could also be made public that he had borrowed the
breeches-maker's money. He kept himself alone on that evening; and
though he hunted on the following day, he was not found to be a
lively companion either by Cox or Pepper. The lieutenant was talking
about Neefit and Neefit's daughter all day: but Mr. Pepper, who was
more discreet, declined to canvass the subject. "It's nothing to me
who a man marries and who he don't," said Mr. Pepper. "What sort of
horses he rides;--that's what I look at." During this day and the
next Ralph did consider the state of his affairs very closely, and
the conclusion he came to was this, that the sooner he could engage
himself to marry Mary Bonner the better. If he were once engaged, the
engagement would not then be broken off because of any previous folly
with Miss Neefit; and, again, if he were once engaged to Mary Bonner,
Neefit would see the absurdity of torturing him further in regard
to Polly. On the Wednesday evening he went up to town, and on the
Thursday morning he put himself into a cab and ordered the man to
drive him to Popham Villa.

It was about noon when he started from town; and though he never
hesitated,--did not pause for a moment after he had made up his mind
as to the thing that he would do, still he felt many misgivings as
he was driven down to Fulham. How should he begin his story to Mary
Bonner, and how should he look Clary Underwood in the face? And yet
he had not an idea that he was in truth going to behave badly to
Clarissa. There had no doubt been a sort of tenderness in the feeling
that had existed between them,--a something just a little warmer than
brotherly regard. They had been thrown together and had liked each
other. And as he was driven nearer to the villa, he remembered
distinctly that he had kissed her on the lawn. But did any one
suppose that a man was bound to marry the first girl he kissed,--or
if not the first, then why the second, or the third? Clarissa could
have no fair ground of complaint against him; and yet he was uneasy
as he reflected that she too must know the purport of his present
visit to the villa.

And he was not quite easy about Mary. The good things which he
carried in his hand were so many that he did not conceive that Mary
would refuse him; but yet he wished that the offer had been made, and
had been accepted. Hitherto he had taken pleasure in his intercourse
with young ladies, and had rather enjoyed the excitement of those
moments which to some men are troublesome and even painful. When
he had told Clarissa that she was dearer than any one else, he had
been very happy while he was telling her. There had been nothing of
embarrassment to him in the work of proposing to Polly Neefit. There
may perhaps have been other passages in his life of the same nature,
and he certainly had not feared them beforehand or been ashamed of
them afterwards. But now he found himself endeavouring to think what
words he would use to Mary Bonner, and in what attitude he would
stand or sit as he used them. "The truth is," he said to himself, "a
man should do these kind of things without premeditation." But not
the less was he resolved, and at the gate he jumped out of his cab
with a determination to have it over as soon as possible. He desired
the cabman to wait for him at the nearest stables, remarking that
he might be there for a few minutes, or for a few hours, and then
turned to the gate. As he did so, he saw Sir Thomas walking from the
direction of Fulham Bridge. Sir Thomas had come down by the railway
on the other side of the river, and was now walking home. A sudden
thought struck the young Squire. He would begin his work by telling
his tale to Sir Thomas. There could be nothing so fitting as that he
should obtain the uncle's leave to address the niece.

The two men greeted each other, and there were many things to be
said. Sir Thomas had not seen his ward since the old Squire's death,
and Ralph had not seen Sir Thomas since the election at Percycross
and the accident of the broken arm. Sir Thomas was by far too
reticent, too timid, and too reflective a man to begin at once
whatever observations he might have to make ultimately in regard to
Miss Polly Neefit. He was somewhat slow of speech, unless specially
aroused, and had hardly received the congratulations of his young
friend respecting the election, and expressed with some difficult
decency his sorrow for the old Squire's death as combined with his
satisfaction that the estate had not been sacrificed, when Ralph
stopped him just as they had reached the front door, and, with much
solemnity of manner, declared his wish to make a very particular
private communication to Sir Thomas. "Certainly," said Sir Thomas,
"certainly. Come into my room." But there was some delay before this
privacy could be achieved, for in the hall they were met by the
three girls, and of course there were many things to be said by them.
Clarissa could hardly repress the flutter of her heart. When the
reader last saw her flutter, and last heard her words as she spoke of
her love to her cousin, she was taking an opportunity of declaring
to Mary Bonner that she did not begrudge the brilliance of Mary's
present prospects,--though the grand estate which made them brilliant
was in a measure taken from her own hopes. And she had owned at the
same time that she did not dare to feel confidence in her own love,
because her lover would now be too poor in his own esteem to indulge
himself with the luxury of a wife. All this Mary had accepted from
her, certainly with no expression of triumph, but certainly with some
triumph in her heart. Now this was entirely changed,--and here was
her lover, with his fortune restored to him, once more beneath her
father's roof! She gave him her hand the first of the three. She
could not repress herself. He took it with a smile, and pressed it
warmly. But he turned to Patience and took hers as rapidly as he was
able. Then came Mary's turn. "I hope you also are glad to see me once
again?" he said. Clarissa's heart sank within her as she heard the
words. The appreciation of a woman in such matters is as fine as the
nose of a hound, and is all but unintelligible to a man. "Oh, yes,
Mr. Newton," said Mary smiling. "But if he asks her, she'll take
him." No such words as these were formed even in Clarissa's mind; but
after some fashion such was the ejaculation of her heart. Mary's "Oh,
yes," had meant little enough, but could Mary withstand such chances
if they were offered to her?

Sir Thomas led the way into his private room, and Ralph followed him.
"You won't be long, papa," said Patience.

"I hope not," said Sir Thomas.

"Remember, Ralph, you will be keeping lunch waiting," said Patience.

Then the two men were alone. Sir Thomas's mind had recurred to Neefit
at the first moment of Ralph's request. The young man was going to
consult him as to the best mode of getting rid of that embarrassment.
But in the hall another idea had come upon him. He was to be asked
for his consent regarding Clarissa. As he seated himself in one chair
and asked Ralph to take another, he had not quite made up his mind
as to the answer he would give. There must at any rate be some delay.
The reader will of course remember that Sir Thomas was persuaded that
Ralph had engaged himself to marry Polly Neefit.

Ralph rushed boldly at his subject at once. "Sir Thomas," he said,
"I am going to make a proposition, and I wish to ask you for your
consent. I have made up my mind that the sooner I marry in my present
condition the better." Sir Thomas smiled and assented. "And I want to
know whether you will object to my asking Miss Bonner to be my wife."

"Miss Bonner!" said Sir Thomas, throwing up both his hands.

"Yes, sir;--is there any objection on your part?"

Sir Thomas hardly knew how to say whether there was or was not an
objection on his part. In the first place he had made up his mind
that the other Ralph was to marry Mary,--that he would do so in spite
of that disclaimer which had been made in the first moment of the
young man's disinheritance. He, Sir Thomas, however, could have no
right to object on that score. Nor could he raise any objection on
the score of Clarissa. It did seem to him that all the young people
were at cross purposes, that Patience must have been very stupid and
Clarissa most addlepated, or else that this Ralph was abominably
false; but still, he could say nothing respecting that. No tale had
reached his ears which made it even possible for him to refer to
Clarissa. But yet he was dissatisfied with the man, and was disposed
to show it. "Perhaps I ought to tell you," said Sir Thomas, "that a
man calling himself Neefit was with me yesterday."

"Oh, yes; the breeches-maker."

"I believe he said that such was his trade. He assured me that you
had borrowed large sums of money from him."

"I do owe him some money."

"A thousand pounds, I think he said."

"Certainly as much as that."

"Not for breeches,--which I suppose would be impossible, but for
money advanced."

"Part one and part the other," said Ralph.

"And he went on to tell me that you were engaged,--to marry his
daughter."

"That is untrue."

"Were you never engaged to her?"

"I was never engaged to her, Sir Thomas."

"And it was all a lie on the part of Mr. Neefit? Was there no
foundation for it? You had told me yourself that you thought of such
a marriage."

"There is nothing to justify him in saying that I was ever engaged
to the young lady. The truth is that I did ask her and she,--refused
me."

"You did ask her?"

"I did ask her," said Ralph.

"In earnest?"

"Well; yes;--certainly in earnest. At that time I thought it the only
way to save the property. I need not tell you how wretched I was at
the time. You will remember what you yourself had said to me. It
is true that I asked her, and that I did so by agreement with her
father. She refused me,--twice. She was so good, so sensible, and so
true, that she knew she had better not make herself a party to such
a bargain. Whatever you may think of my own conduct I shall not have
behaved badly to Miss Neefit."

Sir Thomas did think very ill of Ralph's conduct, but he believed
him. After a while the whole truth came out, as to the money lent and
as to Neefit's schemes. It was of course understood by both of them
that Ralph was required neither by honesty nor by honour to renew
his offer. And then under such circumstances was he or was he not to
be allowed to propose to Mary Bonner? At first Ralph had been much
dismayed at having the Neefit mine sprung on him at such a moment;
but he collected himself very quickly, and renewed his demand as
to Mary. Sir Thomas could not mean to say that because he had been
foolish in regard to Polly Neefit, that therefore he was to be
debarred from marrying! Sir Thomas did not exactly say that; but,
nevertheless, Sir Thomas showed his displeasure. "It seems," said he,
"particularly easy to you to transfer your affections."

"My affection for Miss Neefit was not strong," said Ralph. "I did,
and always shall, regard her as a most excellent young woman."

"She showed her sense in refusing you," said Sir Thomas.

"I think she did," said Ralph.

"And I doubt much whether my niece will not be equally--sensible."

"Ah,--I can say nothing as to that."

"Were she to hear this story of Miss Neefit I am sure she would
refuse you."

"But you would not tell it to her,--as yet! If all goes well with me
I will tell it to her some day. Come, Sir Thomas, you don't mean to
be hard upon me at last. It cannot be that you should really regret
that I have got out of that trouble."

"But I regret much that you should have borrowed a tradesman's money,
and more that you should have offered to pay the debt by marrying his
daughter." Through it all, however, there was a feeling present to
Sir Thomas that he was, in truth, angry with the Squire of Newton,
not so much for his misconduct in coming to propose to Mary so soon
after the affair with Polly Neefit, but because he had not come to
propose to Clarissa. And Sir Thomas knew that such a feeling, if it
did really exist, must be overcome. Mary was entitled to her chance,
and must make the best of it. He would not refuse his sanction to a
marriage with his niece on account of Ralph's misconduct, when he
would have sanctioned a marriage with his own daughter in spite of
that misconduct. The conversation was ended by Sir Thomas leaving
the room with a promise that Miss Bonner should be sent to fill his
place. In five minutes Miss Bonner was there. She entered the room
very slowly, with a countenance that was almost savage, and during
the few minutes that she remained there she did not sit down.

"Sir Thomas has told you why I am here?" he said, advancing towards
her, and taking her hand.

"No; that is;--no. He has not told me."

"Mary--"

"Mr. Newton, my name is Miss Bonner."

"And must it between us be so cold as that?" He still had her by the
hand, which she did not at the moment attempt to withdraw. "I have
come to tell you, at the first moment that was possible to me after
my uncle's death, that of all women in the world I love you the
best."

Then she withdrew her hand. "Mr. Newton, I am sorry to hear you say
so;--very sorry."

"Why should you be sorry? If you are unkind to me like this, there
may be reason why I should be sorry. I shall, indeed, be very sorry.
Since I first saw you, I have hoped that you would be my wife."

"I never can be your wife, Mr. Newton."

"Why not? Have I done anything to offend you? Being here as one of
the family you must know enough of my affairs to feel sure,--that I
have come to you the first moment that was possible. I did not dare
to come when I thought that my position was one that was not worthy
of you."

"It would have been the same at any time," said Mary.

"And why should you reject me,--like this; without a moment's
thought?"

"For two reasons," said Mary, slowly, and then she paused, as though
doubting whether she would continue her speech, or give the two
reasons which now guided her. But he stood, looking into her face,
waiting for them. "In the first place," she said, "I think you are
untrue to another person." Then she paused again, as though asking
herself whether that reason would not suffice. But she resolved that
she would be bold, and give the other. "In the next place, my heart
is not my own to give."

"Is it so?" asked Ralph.

"I have said as much as can be necessary,--perhaps more, and I would
rather go now." Then she left the room with the same slow, stately
step, and he saw her no more on that day.

Then in those short five minutes Sir Thomas had absolutely told
her the whole story about Polly Neefit, and she had come to the
conclusion that because in his trouble he had offered to marry a
tradesman's daughter, therefore he was to be debarred from ever
receiving the hand of a lady! That was the light in which he looked
upon Mary's first announcement. As to the second announcement he was
absolutely at a loss. There must probably, he thought, have been some
engagement before she left Jamaica. Not the less on that account was
it an act of unpardonable ill-nature on the part of Sir Thomas,--that
telling of Polly Neefit's story to Mary Bonner at such a moment.

He was left alone for a few minutes after Mary's departure, and then
Patience came to him. Would he stay for dinner? Even Patience was
very cold to him. Sir Thomas was fatigued and was lying down, but
would see him, of course, if he wished it. "And where is Clarissa?"
asked Ralph. Patience said that Clarissa was not very well. She also
was lying down. "I see what it is," said Ralph, turning upon her
angrily. "You are, all of you, determined to quarrel with me because
of my uncle's death."

"I do not see why that should make us quarrel," said Patience. "I do
not know that any one has quarrelled with you."

Of course he would not wait for dinner, nor would he have any lunch.
He walked out on to the lawn with something of a bluster in his step,
and stood there for three or four minutes looking up at the house and
speaking to Patience. A young man when he has been rejected by one
of the young ladies of a family has rather a hard time of it till he
gets away. "Well, Patience," he said at last, "make my farewells for
me." And then he was gone.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

HORSELEECHES.


The honour of representing the borough of Percycross in Parliament
was very great, and Sir Thomas, no doubt, did enjoy it after a
fashion; but it was by no means an unalloyed pleasure. While he
was still in bed with his broken arm at the Percy Standard, many
applications for money had been made to him. This man wanted a
sovereign, that man a five-pound-note, and some poor starving wretch
a half-a-crown; and they all came to him with notes from Trigger,
or messages from Spicer or Spiveycomb, to the effect that as the
election was now over, the money ought to be given. The landlord of
the Percy Standard was on such occasions very hard upon him. "It
really will do good, Sir Thomas." "It is wanted, Sir Thomas." "It
will make a good feeling in the town, Sir Thomas, and we don't know
how soon we may have to go to work again." Sir Thomas was too weak in
health to refuse. He gave the sovereigns, the five-pound-notes, and
the half-crowns, and hurried back home as quickly as he was able.

But things were almost worse with him at home than at Percycross.
The real horseleeches felt that they could hardly get a good hold
of him while he was lying at the Percycross inn. Attacks by letter
were, they well knew, more fatal than those made personally, and they
waited. The first that came was from Mr. Pabsby. Mr. Pabsby had at
last seen his way clear, and had voted for Underwood and Westmacott,
absolutely throwing away his vote as far as the cause was concerned.
But Mr. Pabsby had quarrelled with Griffenbottom, who once, when
pressed hard for some favours, had answered the reverend gentleman
somewhat roughly. "You may go and be ----," said Mr. Griffenbottom
in his wrath, "and tell everybody in Percycross that I said so."
Mr. Pabsby had smiled, had gone away, and had now voted for Mr.
Westmacott. Mr. Pabsby was indeed a horseleech of the severest
kind. There had been some outward show of reconciliation between
Griffenbottom and Pabsby; but Pabsby had at last voted for Underwood
and Westmacott. Sir Thomas had not been home two days before he
received a letter from Mr. Pabsby. "It had been with infinite
satisfaction,"--so Mr. Pabsby now said,--"that he had at length seen
his way clearly, and found himself able to support his friend Sir
Thomas. And he believed that he might take upon himself to say that
when he once had seen his way clearly, he had put his shoulder to the
wheel gallantly." In fact, it was to be inferred from the contents of
Mr. Pabsby's letter that Sir Thomas's return had been due altogether
to Mr. Pabsby's flock, who had, so said Mr. Pabsby, been guided in
the matter altogether by his advice. Then he sent a list of his
"hearers," who had voted for Sir Thomas. From this the slight
change of subject needed to bring him to the new chapel which
he was building, and his desire that Sir Thomas should head the
subscription-list in so good a cause, was easy enough. It might be
difficult to say in what Mr. Pabsby's strength lay, but it certainly
was the case that the letter was so written as to defy neglect and
almost to defy refusal. Such is the power of horseleeches. Sir Thomas
sent Mr. Pabsby a cheque for twenty pounds, and received Mr. Pabsby's
acknowledgment, thanking him for his "first" subscription. The
thanks were not very cordial, and it was evident that Mr. Pabsby had
expected a good deal more than twenty pounds in return for all that
he had done.

Mr. Pabsby was simply the first. Before Christmas had come, it seemed
to Sir Thomas that there was not a place of divine worship in the
whole of Percycross that was not falling to the ground in ruins. He
had not observed it when he was there, but now it appeared that funds
were wanted for almost every such edifice in the borough. And the
schools were in a most destitute condition. He was informed that the
sitting member had always subscribed to all the schools, and that if
he did not continue such subscription the children would literally be
robbed of their education. One gentleman, whose name he did not even
remember to have heard, simply suggested to him that he would, as
a matter of course, continue to give "the £50" towards the general
Christmas collection on behalf of the old women of the borough. The
sitting members had given it time out of mind. Mr. Roodylands had a
political project of his own, which in fact, if carried out, would
amount to a prohibition on the import of French boots, and suggested
that Sir Thomas should bring in a bill to that effect on the meeting
of Parliament. If Sir Thomas would not object to the trouble of
visiting Amiens, Lille, Beauvais, and three or four other French
towns which Mr. Roodylands mentioned, he would be able to ascertain
how much injury had been done to Percycross by the Cobden treaty.
Mr. Spiveycomb had his own ideas about Italian rags,--Mr. Spiveycomb
being in the paper line,--and wrote a very long letter to Sir Thomas,
praying the member to make himself master of a subject so vitally
important to the borough which he represented. Mr. Spicer also
communicated to him the astounding fact that some high official
connected with the army was undoubtedly misbehaving himself in regard
to mustard for the troops. The mustard contracts were not open as
they should be open. The mustard was all supplied by a London house,
and Mr. Spicer was very anxious that Sir Thomas should move for a
committee to inquire of the members of that London firm as to the
manner in which the contracts were obtained by them. Mr. Spicer was
disposed to think that this was the most important matter that would
be brought forward in the next session of Parliament.

Mr. Pabsby had got his cheque before the other applications were
received; but when they came in shoals, Sir Thomas thought that it
might be well to refer them to Mr. Trigger for advice. Sir Thomas had
not loved Griffenbottom during the election, and was not inclined to
ask his colleague for counsel. Griffenbottom had obtained a name for
liberality in Percycross, and had shown symptoms,--so thought Sir
Thomas,--of an intention to use his reputation as a means of throwing
off further burdens from his own shoulders. "I have spent a treasure
in the borough. Let my colleague begin now." Words spoken by Mr.
Griffenbottom in that strain had been repeated to Sir Thomas; and,
after many such words, Sir Thomas could not go to Mr. Griffenbottom
for advice as to what he should give, or refuse to give. He doubted
whether better reliance could be placed on Mr. Trigger;--but to
some one he must go for direction. Were he once to let it be known
in Percycross that demands made would be satisfied, he might sign
cheques to the extent of his whole fortune, during his first session.
He did write to Mr. Trigger, enclosing the various Percycross
applications; and Mr. Trigger duly replied to him. Mr. Trigger
regretted that money had been given to Mr. Pabsby. Mr. Pabsby had
been of no use, and could be of no use. Mr. Griffenbottom, who knew
the borough better than any one else, had understood this well when
on one occasion he had been "a little short" with Mr. Pabsby. Sir
Thomas ought not to have sent that cheque to Mr. Pabsby. The sending
it would do infinite harm, and cause dissensions in the borough,
which might require a considerable expenditure to set right. As to
the other clerical demands, it seemed to Sir Thomas that Mr. Trigger
was of opinion that they should all be gratified. He had, in fact,
sent his money to the only person in Percycross who ought not to have
received money. The £50 for the old women was a matter of course,
and would not be begrudged, as it was the only payment which was
absolutely annual. In regard to the schools, Sir Thomas could do
what he pleased; but the sitting members had always been liberal to
the schools. Schools were things to which sitting members were, no
doubt, expected to subscribe. As to the question of French boots, Mr.
Trigger thought that there was something in it, and said that if Sir
Thomas could devote his Christmas holidays to getting up the subject
in Lille and Amiens, it would have a good effect in the borough, and
show that he was in earnest. This might be the more desirable, as
there was no knowing as yet what might be done about the petition.
There no doubt was a strong feeling in the borough as to the Cobden
treaty, and Sir Thomas would probably feel it to be his duty to get
the question up. In regard to the mustard, Mr. Trigger suggested that
though there was probably nothing in it, it might be as well to ask
the Secretary at War a question or two on the subject. Mr. Spicer
was, no doubt, a moving man in Percycross. Sir Thomas could at
any rate promise that he would ask such questions, as Mr. Spicer
certainly had friends who might be conducive to the withdrawal
of the petition. Sir Thomas could at any rate put himself into
correspondence with the War Office. Mr. Trigger also thought that
Sir Thomas might judiciously study the subject of Italian rags,
in reference to the great paper trade of the country. No doubt
the manufacture of paper was a growing business at Percycross. Mr.
Trigger returned all the applications, and ended his letter by
hinting that the cheques might as well be sent at once. Mr. Trigger
thought that "a little money about the borough," would do good at the
present moment.

It need hardly be said that this view of things was not pleasant to
the sitting member, who was still confined to his house at Fulham
by an arm broken in the cause. Sir Thomas had at once sent the £50
towards the Christmas festivities for the poor of the borough, and
had declared his purpose of considering the other matters. Then
had come a further letter from Mr. Trigger, announcing his journey
to London, and Mr. Trigger and Sir Thomas had their first meeting
after the election, immediately upon Mr. Neefit's departure from the
chambers. "And is it to be?" asked Stemm, as soon as he had closed
the door behind Mr. Trigger's back.

"Is what to be?"

"Them petitions, Sir Thomas? Petitions costs a deal of money they
tell me, Sir Thomas." Sir Thomas winced. "I suppose you must go on
now as your hand is in," continued Stemm.

"I don't know that at all," said Sir Thomas.

"You'll find as you must. There ain't no way out of it;--not now as
you are the sitting member."

"I am not going to ruin myself, Stemm, for the sake of a seat in
Parliament."

"I don't know how that may be, Sir Thomas. I hope not, Sir Thomas.
But I don't see how you're not to go on now, Sir Thomas. If it wasn't
for petitions, one wouldn't mind."

"There must be petitions, of course; and if there be good cause for
them, they should succeed."

"No doubt, Sir Thomas. They say the bribery at Percycross was
tremenjous;--but I suppose it was on the other side."

"If it was on our side, Stemm, it was not so with my knowledge. I did
all I could to prevent it. I spoke against it whenever I opened my
mouth. I would not have given a shilling for a single vote, though it
would have got me the election."

"But they were not all that way, Sir Thomas;--was they?"

"How can I tell? No;--I know that they were not. I fear they were
not. I cannot say that money was given, but I fear it."

"You must go on now, Sir Thomas, any way," said Stemm with a groan
that was not reassuring.

"I wish I had never heard the name of Percycross," said Sir Thomas.

"I dare say," replied Stemm.

"I went there determined to keep my hands clean."

"When one puts one's hand into other people's business, they won't
come out clean," said the judicious Stemm. "But you must go on with
it now, any way, Sir Thomas."

"I don't know what I shall do," said the unhappy member.

On the next morning there came another application from Percycross.
The postmaster in that town had died suddenly, and the competitors
for the situation, which was worth about £150 per annum, were very
numerous. There was a certain Mr. O'Blather, only known in Percycross
as cousin to one Mrs. Givantake, the wife of a liberal solicitor in
the borough. Of Mr. O'Blather the worst that could be said was that
at the age of forty he had no income on which to support himself.
Mrs. Givantake was attached to her cousin, and Mr. Givantake had
become sensible of a burden. That the vacant office was just
the thing for him appeared at a glance to all his friends. Mrs.
Givantake, in her energy on the subject, expressed an opinion that
the whole Cabinet should be impeached if the just claims of Mr.
O'Blather were not conceded. But it was felt that the justice of
the claims would not prevail without personal interest. The liberal
party was in power, and application, hot and instant, was made to Mr.
Westmacott. Mr. Westmacott was happy enough to have his answer ready.
The Treasury had nothing to do with the matter. It was a Post Office
concern; and he, simply as the late liberal member, and last liberal
candidate for the borough, was not entitled to intrude, even in a
matter of patronage, upon the Postmaster-General, with whom he was
not acquainted. But Mr. Westmacott was malicious as well as secure.
He added a postscript to his letter, in which he said that he
believed the present sitting member, Sir Thomas Underwood, was
intimately acquainted with the noble lord who presided at the Post
Office. There were various interests at Percycross moved, brought
together, weighed against each other, and balanced to a grain,
and finally dovetailed. If Sir Thomas Underwood would prevail on
Lord ---- to appoint Mr. O'Blather to the vacant office, then all
the Givantake influence at Percycross should be used towards the
withdrawal of the petition. Such was the communication now made to
Sir Thomas by a gentleman who signed his name as Peter Piper, and who
professed himself authorised to act on behalf of Mr. Givantake. Sir
Thomas's answer was as follows;--


   Southampton Buildings, December 31, 186--.

   SIR,--

   I can have nothing to do with Mr. O'Blather and the
   post-office at Percycross.

   I am,
   Your obedient servant,

   THOMAS UNDERWOOD.

   MR. PETER PIPER, Post-office, Percycross.


Christmas had passed,--and had passed uncomfortably enough at Popham
Villa, in which retreat neither of the three young ladies was at
present very happy,--when Sir Thomas was invited by Mr. Trigger
to take further steps with reference to the petitions. It was
thought necessary that there should be a meeting in the conservative
interest, and it was suggested that this meeting should take place in
Sir Thomas's chambers. Mr. Trigger in making the proposition seemed
to imply that a great favour was thereby conferred on Sir Thomas,--as
that country is supposed to be most honoured which is selected
as the meeting-ground for plenipotentiaries when some important
international point requires to be settled. Sir Thomas could not see
the arrangement in that light, and would have shuffled out of the
honour had it been possible. But it was not possible. At this period
of the year Mr. Griffenbottom had no house in town, and Mr. Trigger
explained that it was inexpedient that such meetings should take
place at hotels. There was no place so fitting as a lawyer's
chambers. Sir Thomas, who regarded as a desecration the entrance
of one such man as Mr. Trigger into his private room, and who
was particularly anxious not to fall into any intimacy with Mr.
Griffenbottom, was driven to consent, and at one o'clock on the
29th, Stemm was forced to admit the deputation. The deputation from
Percycross consisted of Mr. Trigger, Mr. Spicer, and Mr. Pile; but
with them came also the senior sitting member. At first they were all
very grave, and Sir Thomas asked them, indiscreetly, whether they
would take a glass of sherry. Pile and Spicer immediately acceded
to this proposition, and sherry was perhaps efficacious in bringing
about speedy conversation.

"Well, Underwood," said Mr. Griffenbottom, "it seems that after all
we are to have these d---- petitions." Sir Thomas lifted his left
foot on his right knee, and nursed his leg,--but said nothing. On one
point he was resolved;--nothing on earth should induce him to call
his colleague Griffenbottom.

"No doubt about that, Mr. Griffenbottom," said Mr. Pile, "--that is,
unless we can make Westmacott right. T'other chap wouldn't be of much
account."

"Mr. Pile, you're going a little too fast," said Trigger.

"No, I ain't," said Mr. Pile. But for the moment he allowed himself
to be silenced.

"We don't like the looks of it at Percycross," said Mr. Spicer.

"And why don't we like the looks of it?" asked Sir Thomas.

"I don't know what your idea of pleasure is," said Mr. Griffenbottom,
"but I don't take delight in spending money for nothing. I have spent
enough, I can tell you, and I don't mean to spend much more. My seat
was as safe as the Church."

"But they have petitioned against that as well as mine," said Sir
Thomas.

"Yes;--they have. And now what's to be done?"

"I don't know whether Sir Thomas is willing to take the whole cost of
the defence upon himself," said Mr. Trigger, pouring out for himself
a second glass of sherry.

"No, I am not," said Sir Thomas. Whereupon there was a pause, during
which Pile and Spicer also took second glasses of sherry. "Why should
I pay the cost of defending Mr. Griffenbottom's seat?"

"Why should I pay it?" said Griffenbottom. "My seat was safe enough.
The fact is, if money was paid,--as to which I know nothing,--it was
paid to get the second seat. Everybody knows that. Why should any
one have paid money for me? I was safe. I never have any difficulty;
everybody knows that. I could come in for Percycross twenty times
running, without buying a vote. Isn't that true, Trigger?"

"I believe you could, Mr. Griffenbottom."

"Of course I could. Look here, Underwood--"

"I beg your pardon for one moment, Mr. Griffenbottom," said Sir
Thomas. "Will you tell me, Mr. Trigger, whether votes were bought
on my behalf?" Mr. Trigger smiled, and put his head on one side,
but made no answer. "I wish I might be allowed to hear the truth,"
continued Sir Thomas. Whereupon Spicer grinned, and Mr. Pile looked
as though he were about to be sick. How was it that a set of
gentlemen, who generally knew their business so well as did the
political leaders at Percycross, had got themselves into the same
boat with a man silly enough to ask such a question as that?

"I shan't spend money," said Griffenbottom; "it's out of the
question. They can't touch me. I've spent my money, and got my
article. If others want the article, they must spend theirs."

Mr. Trigger thought it might be as well to change the subject for a
moment, or, at any rate, to pass on to another clause of the same
bill. "I was very sorry, Sir Thomas," said he, "that you wrote that
letter to Mr. Givantake."

"I wrote no letter to Mr. Givantake. A man named Piper addressed me."

"Well, well, well; that's the same thing. It was Givantake, though of
course he isn't going to sign his name to everything. If you could
just have written a line to your friend the Postmaster-General, I
really think we could have squared it all."

"I wouldn't have made a request so improper for all Percycross," said
Sir Thomas.

"Patronage is open to everybody," suggested Mr. Griffenbottom.

"Those sort of favours are asked every day," said Trigger.

"We live in a free country," said Spicer.

"Givantake is a d---- scoundrel all the same," said Mr. Pile; "and
as for his wife's Irish cousin, I should be very sorry to leave my
letters in his hands."

"It wouldn't have come off, Mr. Pile," said Trigger, "but the request
might have been made. If Sir Thomas will allow me to say as much, the
request ought to have been made."

"I will allow nothing of the kind, Mr. Trigger," said Sir Thomas,
with an assumption of personal dignity which caused everyone in the
room to alter his position in his chair. "I understand these things
are given by merit." Mr. Trigger smiled, and Mr. Griffenbottom
laughed outright. "At any rate, they ought to be, and in this office
I believe they are." Mr. Griffenbottom, who had had the bestowal of
some local patronage, laughed again.

"The thing is over now, at any rate," said Mr. Trigger.

"I saw Givantake yesterday," said Spicer. "He won't stir a finger
now."

"He never would have stirred a finger," said Mr. Pile; "and if he'd
stirred both his fistesses, he wouldn't have done a ha'porth of good.
Givantake, indeed! He be blowed!" There was a species of honesty
about Mr. Pile which almost endeared him to Sir Thomas.

"Something must be settled," said Trigger.

"I thought you'd got a proposition to make," said Spicer.

"Well, Sir Thomas," began Mr. Trigger, as it were girding his loins
for the task before him, "we think that your seat wouldn't stand
the brunt. We've been putting two and two together and that's what
we think." A very black cloud came over the brow of Sir Thomas
Underwood, but at the moment he said nothing. "Of course it can be
defended. If you choose to fight the battle you can defend it. It
will cost about £1,500,--or perhaps a little more. That is, the two
sides, for both will have to be paid." Mr. Trigger paused again, but
still Sir Thomas said not a word. "Mr. Griffenbottom thinks that he
should not be asked to take any part of this cost."

"Not a shilling," said Mr. Griffenbottom.

"Well," continued Mr. Trigger, "that being the case, of course we
have got to see what will be our best plan of action. I suppose, Sir
Thomas, you are not altogether indifferent about the money."

"By no means," said Sir Thomas.

"I don't know who is. Money is money all the world over."

"You may say that," put in Mr. Spicer.

"Just let me go on for a moment, Mr. Spicer, till I make this thing
clear to Sir Thomas. That's how we stand at present. It will cost
us,--that is to say you,--about £1,500, and we should do no good. I
really don't think we should do any good. Here are these judges, and
you know that new brooms sweep clean. I suppose we may allow that
there was a little money spent somewhere. They do say now that a
glass of beer would lose a seat."

Sir Thomas could not but remember all that he had said to prevent
there being even a glass of beer, and the way in which he had
been treated by all the party in that matter, because he had so
endeavoured. But it was useless to refer to all that at the present
moment. "It seems to me," he said, "that if one seat be vacated, both
must be vacated."

"It doesn't follow at all," said Mr. Griffenbottom.

"Allow me just for a moment longer," continued Trigger, who rose from
his seat as he came to the real gist of his speech. "A proposition
has been made to us, Sir Thomas, and I am able to say that it is
one which may be trusted. Of course our chief anxiety is for the
party. You feel that, Sir Thomas, of course." Sir Thomas would not
condescend to make any reply to this. "Now the Liberals will be
content with one seat. If we go on it will lead to disfranchising the
borough, and we none of us want that. It would be no satisfaction
to you, Sir Thomas, to be the means of robbing the borough of its
privilege after all that the borough has done for you."

"Go on, Mr. Trigger," said Sir Thomas.

"The Liberals only want one seat. If you'll undertake to accept
the Hundreds, the petition will be withdrawn, and Mr. Westmacott
will come forward again. In that case we shouldn't oppose. Now, Sir
Thomas, you know what the borough thinks will be the best course for
all of us to pursue."

Sir Thomas did know. We may say that he had known for some minutes
past. He had perceived what was coming, and various recollections had
floated across his mind. He especially remembered that £50 for the
poor old women which Mr. Trigger only a week since had recommended
that he should give,--and he remembered also that he had given it.
He recollected the sum which he had already paid for his election
expenses, as to which Mr. Trigger had been very careful to get
the money before this new proposition was made. He remembered Mr.
Pabsby and his cheque for £20. He remembered his broken arm, and
that fortnight of labour and infinite vexation in the borough. He
remembered all his hopes, and his girls' triumph. But he remembered
also that he had told himself a dozen times since his return that he
wished that he might rid himself altogether of Percycross and the
seat in Parliament. Now a proposition that would have this effect was
made to him.

"Well, Sir Thomas, what do you think of it?" asked Mr. Trigger.

Sir Thomas required the passing of a few moments that he might think
of it, and yet there was a feeling strong at his heart telling him
that it behoved him not even to seem to doubt. He was a man not
deficient in spirit when roused as he now was roused. He knew that he
was being ill used. From the first moment of his entering Percycross
he had felt that the place was not fit for him, that it required a
method of canvassing of which he was not only ignorant, but desirous
to remain ignorant,--that at Percycross he would only be a catspaw in
the hands of other men. He knew that he could not safely get into the
same boat with Mr. Griffenbottom, or trust himself to the steering of
such a coxswain as Mr. Trigger. He had found that there could be no
sympathy between himself and any one of those who constituted his own
party in the borough. And yet he had persevered. He had persevered
because in such matters it is so difficult to choose the moment in
which to recede. He had persevered,--and had attained a measure of
success. As far as had been possible for him to do so, he had fought
his battle with clean hands, and now he was member of Parliament for
Percycross. Let what end there might come to this petition,--even
though his seat should be taken from him,--he could be subjected to
no personal disgrace. He could himself give evidence, the truth of
which no judge in the land would doubt, as to the purity of his own
intentions, and as to the struggle to be pure which he had made. And
now they asked him to give way in order that Mr. Griffenbottom might
keep his seat!

He felt that he and poor Moggs had been fools together. At this
moment there came upon him a reflection that such men as he and Moggs
were unable to open their mouths in such a borough as Percycross
without having their teeth picked out of their jaws. He remembered
well poor Moggs's legend, "Moggs, Purity, and the Rights of Labour;"
and he remembered thinking at the time that neither Moggs nor he
should have come to Percycross. And now he was told of all that the
borough had done for him, and was requested to show his gratitude by
giving up his seat,--in order that Griffenbottom might still be a
member of Parliament, and that Percycross might not be disfranchised!
Did he feel any gratitude to Percycross or any love to Mr.
Griffenbottom? In his heart he desired that Mr. Griffenbottom might
be made to retire into private life, and he knew that it would be
well that the borough should be disfranchised.

These horrid men that sat around him,--how he hated them! He could
get rid of them now, now and for ever, by acceding to the proposition
made to him. And he thought that in doing so he could speak a few
words which would be very agreeable to him in the speaking. And then
all that Mr. Trigger had said about the £1,500 had been doubtless
true. If he defended his seat money must be spent, and he did not
know how far he might be able to compel Mr. Griffenbottom to share
the expense. He was not so rich but what he was bound to think of the
money, for his children's sake. And he did believe Mr. Trigger, when
Mr. Trigger told him that the seat could not be saved.

Yet he could not bring himself to let these men have their way with
him. To have to confess that he had been their tool went so much
against the grain with him that anything seemed to him to be
preferable to that. The passage across his brain of all these
thoughts had not required many seconds, and his guests seemed to
acknowledge by their silence that some little space of time should be
allowed to him. Mr. Pile was leaning forward on his stick with his
eyes fixed upon Sir Thomas's face. Mr. Spicer was amusing himself
with a third glass of sherry. Mr. Griffenbottom had assumed a look of
absolute indifference, and was sitting with his eyes fixed upon the
ceiling. Mr. Trigger, with a pleasant smile on his face, was leaning
back in his chair with his hands in his trousers pockets. He had done
his disagreeable job of work, and upon the whole he thought that he
had done it well.

"I shall do nothing of the kind," said Sir Thomas at last.

"You'll be wrong, Sir Thomas," said Mr. Trigger.

"You'll disfranchise the borough," said Mr. Spicer.

"You'll not be able to keep your seat," said Mr. Trigger.

"And there'll be all the money to pay," said Mr. Spicer.

"Sir Thomas don't mind that," said Mr. Griffenbottom.

"As for paying the money, I do mind it very much," said Sir Thomas.
"As for disfranchising the borough, I cannot say that I regard it in
the least. As to your seat, Mr. Griffenbottom--"

"My seat is quite safe," said the senior member.

"As to your seat, which I am well aware must be jeopardised if mine
be in jeopardy, it would have been matter of more regret to me, had
I experienced from you any similar sympathy for myself. As it is, it
seems that each of us is to do the best he can for himself, and I
shall do the best I can for myself. Good morning."

"What then do you mean to do?" said Mr. Trigger.

"On that matter I shall prefer to converse with my friends."

"You mean," said Mr. Trigger, "that you will put it into other
hands."

"You have made a proposition to me, Mr. Trigger, and I have given you
my answer. I have nothing else to say. What steps I may take I do not
even know at present."

"You will let us hear from you," said Mr. Trigger.

"I cannot say that I will."

"This comes of bringing a gentleman learned in the law down into the
borough," said Mr. Griffenbottom.

"Gentlemen, I must ask you to leave me," said Sir Thomas, rising from
his chair and ringing the bell.

"Look here, Sir Thomas Underwood," said Mr. Griffenbottom. "This to
me is a very important matter."

"And to me also," said Sir Thomas.

"I do not know anything about that. Like a good many others, you may
like to have a seat in Parliament, and may like to get it without any
trouble and without any money. I have sat for Percycross for many
years, and have spent a treasure, and have worked myself off my legs.
I don't know that I care much for anything except for keeping my
place in the House. The House is everything to me,--meat and drink;
employment and recreation; and I can tell you I'm not going to lose
my seat if I can help it. You came in for the second chance, Sir
Thomas; and a very good second chance it was if you'd just have
allowed others who knew what they were about to manage matters for
you. That chance is over now, and according to all rules that ever I
heard of in such matters, you ought to surrender. Isn't that so, Mr.
Trigger?"

"Certainly, Mr. Griffenbottom, according to my ideas," said Mr.
Trigger.

"That's about it," said Mr. Spicer.

Sir Thomas was still standing. Indeed they were all standing now.
"Mr. Griffenbottom," he said, "I have nothing further that I can
say at the present moment. To the offer made to me by Mr. Trigger I
at present positively decline to accede. I look upon that offer as
unfriendly, and can therefore only wish you a good morning."

"Unfriendly," said Mr. Griffenbottom with a sneer.

"Good-bye, Sir Thomas," said Mr. Pile, putting out his hand. Sir
Thomas shook hands with Mr. Pile cordially. "It's my opinion that
he's right," said Mr. Pile. "I don't like his notions, but I do like
his pluck. Good-bye, Sir Thomas." Then Mr. Pile led the way out of
the room, and the others followed him.

"Oh!" said Stemm, as soon as he had shut the door behind their backs.
"That's a deputation from Percycross, is it, Sir Thomas? You were
saying as how you didn't quite approve of the Percycrossians." To
this, however, Sir Thomas vouchsafed no reply.



CHAPTER XL.

WHAT SIR THOMAS THOUGHT ABOUT IT.


Sir Thomas Underwood had been engaged upon a very great piece of work
ever since he had been called to the Bar in the twenty-fifth year of
his life. He had then devoted himself to the writing of a life of
Lord Verulam, and had been at it ever since. But as yet he had not
written a word. In early life, that is, up to his fortieth year,
he had talked freely enough about his opus magnum to those of his
compeers with whom he had been intimate; but of late Bacon's name had
never been on his lips. Patience, at home, was aware of the name and
nature of her father's occupation, but Clarissa had not yet learned
to know that he who had been the great philosopher and little Lord
Chancellor was not to be lightly mentioned. To Stemm the matter had
become so serious, that in speaking of books, papers, and documents
he would have recourse to any periphrasis rather than mention in his
master's hearing the name of the fallen angel. And yet Sir Thomas was
always talking to himself about Sir Francis Bacon, and was always
writing his life.

There are men who never dream of great work, who never realise to
themselves the need of work so great as to demand a lifetime, but who
themselves never fail in accomplishing those second-class tasks with
which they satisfy their own energies. Men these are who to the world
are very useful. Some few there are, who seeing the beauty of a great
work and believing in its accomplishment within the years allotted
to man, are contented to struggle for success, and struggling, fail.
Here and there comes one who struggles and succeeds. But the men are
many who see the beauty, who adopt the task, who promise themselves
the triumph, and then never struggle at all. The task is never
abandoned; but days go by and weeks; and then months and years,--and
nothing is done. The dream of youth becomes the doubt of middle life,
and then the despair of age. In building a summer-house it is so easy
to plant the first stick, but one does not know where to touch the
sod when one begins to erect a castle. So it had been with Sir Thomas
Underwood and his life of Bacon. It would not suffice to him to
scrape together a few facts, to indulge in some fiction, to tell a
few anecdotes, and then to call his book a biography. Here was a man
who had risen higher and was reported to have fallen lower,--perhaps
than any other son of Adam. With the finest intellect ever given to
a man, with the purest philanthropy and the most enduring energy, he
had become a by-word for greed and injustice. Sir Thomas had resolved
that he would tell the tale as it had never yet been told, that he
would unravel facts that had never seen the light, that he would let
the world know of what nature really had been this man,--and that
he would write a book that should live. He had never abandoned his
purpose; and now at sixty years of age, his purpose remained with
him, but not one line of his book was written.

And yet the task had divorced him in a measure from the world. He
had not been an unsuccessful man in life. He had made money, and had
risen nearly to the top of his profession. He had been in Parliament,
and was even now a member. But yet he had been divorced from
the world, and Bacon had done it. By Bacon he had justified to
himself,--or rather had failed to justify to himself,--a seclusion
from his family and from the world which had been intended for
strenuous work, but had been devoted to dilettante idleness. And he
had fallen into those mistakes which such habits and such pursuits
are sure to engender. He thought much, but he thought nothing out,
and was consequently at sixty still in doubt about almost everything.
Whether Christ did or did not die to save sinners was a question
with him so painfully obscure that he had been driven to obtain what
comfort he might from not thinking of it. The assurance of belief
certainly was not his to enjoy;--nor yet that absence from fear which
may come from assured unbelief. And yet none who knew him could say
that he was a bad man. He robbed no one. He never lied. He was not
self-indulgent. He was affectionate. But he had spent his life in an
intention to write the life of Lord Verulam, and not having done it,
had missed the comfort of self-respect. He had intended to settle
for himself a belief on subjects which are, of all, to all men the
most important; and, having still postponed the work of inquiry, had
never attained the security of a faith. He was for ever doubting, for
ever intending, and for ever despising himself for his doubts and
unaccomplished intentions. Now, at the age of sixty, he had thought
to lessen these inward disturbances by returning to public life, and
his most unsatisfactory alliance with Mr. Griffenbottom had been the
result.

They who know the agonies of an ambitious, indolent, doubting,
self-accusing man,--of a man who has a skeleton in his cupboard
as to which he can ask for sympathy from no one,--will understand
what feelings were at work within the bosom of Sir Thomas when his
Percycross friends left him alone in his chamber. The moment that he
knew that he was alone he turned the lock of the door, and took from
out a standing desk a whole heap of loose papers. These were the
latest of his notes on the great Bacon subject. For though no line
of the book had ever been written,--nor had his work even yet taken
such form as to enable him to write a line,--nevertheless, he always
had by him a large assemblage of documents, notes, queries, extracts
innumerable, and references which in the course of years had become
almost unintelligible to himself, upon which from time to time he
would set himself to work. Whenever he was most wretched he would fly
at his papers. When the qualms of his conscience became very severe,
he would copy some passage from a dusty book, hardly in the belief
that it might prove to be useful, but with half a hope that he might
cheat himself into so believing. Now, in his misery, he declared
that he would bind himself to his work and never leave it. There, if
anywhere, might consolation be found.

With rapid hands he moved about the papers, and tried to fix his eyes
upon the words. But how was he to fix his thoughts? He could not even
begin not to think of those scoundrels who had so misused him. It
was not a week since they had taken £50 from him for the poor of
Percycross, and now they came to him with a simple statement that he
was absolutely to be thrown over! He had already paid £900 for his
election, and was well aware that the account was not closed. And
he was a man who could not bear to speak about money, or to make
any complaint as to money. Even though he was being so abominably
misused, still he must pay any further claim that might be made on
him in respect of the election that was past. Yes;--he must pay for
those very purchased votes, for that bribery, as to which he had so
loudly expressed his abhorrence, and by reason of which he was now to
lose his seat with ignominy.

But the money was not the worst of it. There was a heavier sorrow
than that arising from the loss of his money. He alone had been just
throughout the contest at Percycross; he alone had been truthful,
and he alone straightforward! And yet he alone must suffer! He began
to believe that Griffenbottom would keep his seat. That he would
certainly lose his own, he was quite convinced. He might lose it
by undergoing an adverse petition, and paying ever so much more
money,--or he might lose it in the manner that Mr. Trigger had
so kindly suggested. In either way there would be disgrace, and
contumely, and hours of the agony of self-reproach in store for him!

What excuse had he for placing himself in contact with such filth? Of
what childishness had he not been the victim when he allowed himself
to dream that he, a pure and scrupulous man, could go among such
impurity as he had found at Percycross, and come out, still clean
and yet triumphant? Then he thought of Griffenbottom as a member of
Parliament, and of that Legislation and that Constitution to which
Griffenbottoms were thought to be essentially necessary. That there
are always many such men in the House he had always known. He had sat
there and had seen them. He had stood shoulder to shoulder with them
through many a division, and had thought about them,--acknowledging
their use. But now that he was brought into personal contact with
such an one, his very soul was aghast. The Griffenbottoms never do
anything in politics. They are men of whom in the lump it may be
surmised that they take up this or that side in politics, not from
any instructed conviction, not from faith in measures or even in men,
nor from adherence either through reason or prejudice to this or that
set of political theories,--but simply because on this side or on
that there is an opening. That gradually they do grow into some shape
of conviction from the moulds in which they are made to live, must
be believed of them; but these convictions are convictions as to
divisions, convictions as to patronage, convictions as to success,
convictions as to Parliamentary management; but not convictions as
to the political needs of the people. So said Sir Thomas to himself
as he sat thinking of the Griffenbottoms. In former days he had told
himself that a pudding cannot be made without suet or dough, and
that Griffenbottoms were necessary if only for the due adherence of
the plums. Whatever most health-bestowing drug the patient may take
would bestow anything but health were it taken undiluted. It was
thus in former days Sir Thomas had apologised to himself for the
Griffenbottoms in the House;--but no such apology satisfied him now.
This log of a man, this lump of suet, this diluting quantity of most
impure water,--'twas thus that Mr. Griffenbottom was spoken of by Sir
Thomas to himself as he sat there with all the Bacon documents before
him,--this politician, whose only real political feeling consisted in
a positive love of corruption for itself, had not only absolutely got
the better of him, who regarded himself at any rate as a man of mind
and thought, but had used him as a puppet, and had compelled him
to do dirty work. Oh,--that he should have been so lost to his own
self-respect as to have allowed himself to be dragged through the
dirt of Percycross!

But he must do something;--he must take some step. Mr. Griffenbottom
had declared that he would put himself to no expense in defending the
seat. Of course he, Sir Thomas, could do the same. He believed that
it might be practicable for him to acknowledge the justice of the
petition, to declare his belief that his own agents had betrayed him,
and to acknowledge that his seat was indefensible. But, as he thought
of it, he found that he was actually ignorant of the law in the
matter. That he would make no such bargain as that suggested
to him by Mr. Trigger,--of so much he thought that he was sure.
At any rate he would do nothing that he himself knew to be
dishonourable. He must consult his own attorney. That was the end
of his self-deliberation,--that, and a conviction that under no
circumstances could he retain his seat.

Then he struggled hard for an hour to keep his mind fixed on the
subject of his great work. He had found an unknown memoir respecting
Bacon, written by a German pen in the Latin language, published at
Leipzig shortly after the date of Bacon's fall. He could translate
that. It is always easiest for the mind to work in such emergencies,
on some matter as to which no creative struggles are demanded from
it.



CHAPTER XLI.

A BROKEN HEART.


It was very bad with Clarissa when Ralph Newton was closeted with
Mary at Popham Villa. She had suspected what was about to take place,
when Sir Thomas and Ralph went together into the room; but at that
moment she said nothing. She endeavoured to seem to be cheerful, and
attempted to joke with Mary. The three girls were sitting at the
table on which lunch was spread,--a meal which no one was destined
to eat at Popham Villa on that day,--and thus they remained till Sir
Thomas joined them. "Mary," he had said, "Ralph Newton wishes to
speak to you. You had better go to him."

"To me, uncle?"

"Yes, to you. You had better go to him."

"But I had rather not."

"Of course you must do as you please, but I would advise you to go to
him." Then she had risen very slowly and had gone.

All of them had understood what it meant. To Clarissa the thing
was as certain as though she already heard the words spoken. With
Patience even there was no doubt. Sir Thomas, though he had told
nothing, did not pretend that the truth was to be hidden. He looked
at his younger daughter sorrowfully, and laid his hand upon her
head caressingly. With her there was no longer the possibility of
retaining any secret, hardly the remembrance that there was a secret
to retain. "Oh, papa," she said;--"oh, papa!" and burst into tears.

"My dear," he said, "believe me that it is best that it should be
so. He is unworthy." Patience said not a word, but was now holding
Clarissa close to her bosom. "Tell Mary," continued Sir Thomas, "that
I will see her when she is at liberty. Patience, you can ask Ralph
whether it will suit him to stay for dinner. I am tired and will go
up-stairs myself." And so the two girls were left together.

"Patty, take me away," said Clarissa. "I must never see him
again,--never!--nor her."

"She will not accept him, Clary."

"Yes, she will. I know she will. She is a sly, artful creature. And I
have been so good to her."

"No, Clary;--I think not;--but what does it matter? He is unworthy.
He can be nothing to you now. Papa was right. He is unworthy."

"I care nothing for that. I only care for him. Oh, Patty, take me
away. I could not bear to see them when they come out."

Then Patience took her sister up to their joint room, and laid the
poor sufferer on the bed, and throwing herself on her knees beside
the bed, wept over her sister and caressed her. That argument of
Ralph's unworthiness was nothing to Clarissa. She did not consider
herself to be so worthy but what she might forgive any sin, if only
the chance of forgiving such sin were given to her. At this moment in
her heart of hearts her anger was more against her rival than against
the man. She had not yet taught herself to think of all his baseness
to her,--had only as yet had time to think that that evil had come
upon her which she had feared from the first moment of her cousin's
arrival.

Presently Patience heard the door opened of the room down-stairs
and heard Mary's slow step as she crossed the hall. She understood
well that some one should be below, and with another single word of
affection to her sister, she went down-stairs. "Well, Mary," she
said, looking into her cousin's face.

"There is nothing particular to tell," said Mary, with a gentle
smile.

"Of course we all knew what he wanted."

"Then of course you all knew what I should say to him."

"I knew," said Patience.

"I am sure that Clary knew," said Mary. "But he is all alone there,
and will not know what to do with himself. Won't you go to him?"

"You will go up to Clary?" Mary nodded her head, and then Patience
crossed the hall to liberate the rejected suitor. Mary stood for
awhile thinking. She already knew from what Patience had said, that
Clarissa had suspected her, and she felt that there should have been
no such suspicion. Clarissa had not understood, but ought to have
understood. For a moment she was angry, and was disposed to go to
her own room. Then she remembered all her cousin's misery, and crept
up-stairs to the door. She had come so softly, that though the door
was hardly closed, nothing had been heard of her approach. "May I
come in, dear?" she said very gently.

"Well, Mary; tell me all," said Clarissa.

"There is nothing to tell, Clary;--only this, that I fear Mr. Newton
is not worthy of your love."

"He asked you to take him?"

"Never mind, dearest. We will not talk of that. Dear, dearest Clary,
if I only could make you happy."

"But you have refused him?"

"Don't you know me better than to ask me? Don't you know where my
heart is? We will carry our burdens together, dearest, and then they
will be lighter."

"But he will come to you again;--that other one."

"Clary, dear; we will not think about it. There are things which
should not be thought of. We will not talk of it, but we will love
each other so dearly." Clarissa, now that she was assured that her
evil fortune was not to be aggravated by any injury done to her by
her cousin, allowed herself to be tranquillised if not comforted.
There was indeed something in her position that did not admit of
comfort. All the family knew the story of her unrequited love,
and treated her with a compassion which, while its tenderness was
pleasant to her, was still in itself an injury. A vain attachment in
a woman's heart must ever be a weary load, because she can take no
step of her own towards that consummation by which the burden may be
converted into a joy. A man may be active, may press his suit even a
tenth time, may do something towards achieving success. A woman can
only be still and endure. But Clarissa had so managed her affairs
that even that privilege of being still was hardly left to her. Her
trouble was known to them all. She doubted whether even the servants
in the house did not know the cause of her woe. How all this had
come to pass she could not now remember. She had told Patience,--as
though in compliance with some compact that each should ever tell the
other all things. And then circumstances had arisen which made it so
natural that she should be open and candid with Mary. The two Ralphs
were to be their two lovers. That to her had been a delightful dream
during the last few months. He, whose inheritance at that moment was
supposed to have been gone, had, as Clarissa thought, in plainest
language told his love to her. "Dear, dear Clary, you know I love
you." The words to her sense had been so all-important, had meant
so much, had seemed to be so final, that they hardly wanted further
corroboration. Then, indeed, had come the great fault,--the fault
which she had doubted whether she could ever pardon; and she, because
of the heinousness of that offence, had been unable to answer the
question that had been asked. But the offence, such as it was, had
not lightened the solemnity of her assurance, as far as love went,
that Ralph ought to be her own after the speaking of such words as he
had spoken. There were those troubles about money, but yet she was
entitled to regard him as her own. Then had come the written offer
from the other Ralph to Mary,--the offer written in the moment of
his believed prosperity; and it had been so natural that Clarissa
should tell her cousin that as regarded the splendour of position
there should be no jealousy between them. Clarissa did not herself
think much of a lover who wrote letters instead of coming and
speaking,--had perhaps an idea that open speech, even though offence
might follow, was better than formal letters; but all that was Mary's
affair. This very respectful Ralph was Mary's lover, and if Mary were
satisfied, she would not quarrel with the well-behaved young man. She
would not even quarrel with him because he was taking from her own
Ralph the inheritance which for so many years had been believed to be
his own. Thus in the plenitude of her affection and in the serenity
of her heart she had told everything to her cousin. And now also her
father knew it all. How this had come to pass she did not think to
inquire. She suspected no harm from Patience. The thing had been so
clear, that all the world might see it. Ralph, that false one, knew
it also. Who could know it so well as he did? Had not those very
words been spoken by him,--been repeated by him? Now she was as one
stricken, where wounds could not be hidden.

On that day Ralph was driven back to town in his cab, in a rather
disheartened condition, and no more was seen or heard of him for the
present at Popham Villa. His late guardian had behaved very ill to
him in telling Mary Bonner the story of Polly Neefit. That was his
impression,--feeling sure that Mary had alluded to the unfortunate
affair with the breeches-maker's daughter, of which she could have
heard tidings only from Sir Thomas. As to Clarissa, he had not
exactly forgotten the little affair on the lawn; but to his eyes that
affair had been so small as to be almost overlooked amidst larger
matters. Mary, he thought, had never looked so beautiful as she had
done while refusing him. He did not mean to give her up. Her heart,
she had told him, was not her own. He thought he had read of young
ladies in similar conditions, of young ladies who had bestowed their
hearts and had afterwards got them back again for the sake of making
second bestowals. He was not sure but that such an object would lend
a zest to life. There was his brother Gregory in love with Clarissa,
and still true to her. He would be true to Mary, and would see
whether, in spite of that far-away lover, he might not be more
successful than his brother. At any rate he would not give her
up,--and before he had gone to bed that night he had already
concocted a letter to her in his brain, explaining the whole of that
Neefit affair, and asking her whether a man should be condemned to
misery for life because he had been led by misfortune into such a
mistake as that. He dined very well at his club, and on the following
morning went down to the Moonbeam by an early train, for that day's
hunting. Thence he returned to Newton Priory in time for Christmas,
and as he was driven up to his own house, through his own park,
meeting one or two of his own tenants, and encountering now and then
his own obsequious labourers, he was not an unhappy man in spite of
Mary Bonner's cruel answer. It may be doubted whether his greatest
trouble at this moment did not arise from his dread of Neefit. He had
managed to stay long enough in London to give orders that Neefit's
money should be immediately paid. He knew that Neefit could not harm
him at law; but it would not be agreeable if the old man were to go
about the country telling everyone that he, Ralph Newton of Newton,
had twice offered to marry Polly. For the present we will leave him,
although he is our hero, and will return to the girls at Popham
Villa.

"It is all very well talking, Patience, but I don't mean to try to
change," Clarissa said. This was after that visit of the Percycross
deputation to Sir Thomas, and after Christmas. More than a week had
now passed by since Ralph had rushed down to Fulham with his offer,
and the new year had commenced. Sir Thomas had been at home for
Christmas,--for the one day,--and had then returned to London. He had
seen his attorney respecting the petition, who was again to see Mr.
Griffenbottom's London attorney and Mr. Trigger. In the meantime
Sir Thomas was to remain quiet for a few days. The petition was not
to be tried till the end of February, and there was still time for
deliberation. Sir Thomas just now very often took out that great
heap of Baconian papers, but still not a word of the biography was
written. He was, alas! still very far from writing the first word.
"It is all very well, Patience, but I do not mean to try to change,"
said Clarissa.

Poor Patience could make no answer, dreadful as was to her such an
assertion from a young woman. "There is a man who clearly does not
want to marry you, who has declared in the plainest way that he does
want to marry some one else, who has grossly deceived you, and who
never means to think of you again; and yet you say that you will
wilfully adhere to your regard for him!" Such would have been the
speech which Patience would have made, had she openly expressed her
thoughts. But Clarissa was ill, and weak, and wretched; and Patience
could not bring herself to say a word that should distress her
sister.

"If he came to me to-morrow, of course I should forgive him,"
Clarissa said again. These conversations were never commenced by
Patience, who would rather have omitted any mention of that base
young man. "Of course I should. Men do do those things. Men are not
like women. They do all manner of things and everybody forgives them.
I don't say anything about hoping. I don't hope for anything. I am
not happy enough to hope. I shouldn't care if I knew I were going to
die to-morrow. But there can be no change. If you want me to be a
hypocrite, Patience, I will; but what will be the use? The truth will
be the same."

The two girls let her have her way, never contradicted her, coaxed
her, and tried to comfort her;--but it was in vain. At first she
would not go out of the house, not even to church, and then she took
to lying in bed. This lasted into the middle of January, and still
Sir Thomas did not come home. He wrote frequently, short notes to
Patience, sending money, making excuses, making promises, always
expressing some word of hatred or disgust as to Percycross; but still
he did not come. At last, when Clarissa declared that she preferred
lying in bed to getting up, Patience went up to London and fetched
her father home. It had gone so far with Sir Thomas now that he was
unable even to attempt to defend himself. He humbly said that he was
sorry that he had been away so long, and returned with Patience to
the villa.

"My dear," said Sir Thomas, seating himself by Clarissa's bedside,
"this is very bad."

"If I had known you were coming, papa, I would have got up."

"If you are not well, perhaps you are better here, dear."

"I don't think I am quite well, papa."

"What is it, my love?" Clarissa looked at him out of her large
tear-laden eyes, but said nothing. "Patience says that you are not
happy."

"I don't know that anybody is happy, papa."

"I wish that you were with all my heart, my child. Can your father do
anything that will make you happy?"

"No, papa."

"Tell me, Clary. You do not mind my asking you questions?"

"No, papa."

"Patience tells me that you are still thinking of Ralph Newton."

"Of course I think of him."

"I think of him too;--but there are different ways of thinking. We
have known him, all of us, a long time."

"Yes, papa."

"I wish with all my heart that we had never seen him. He is not
worthy of our solicitude."

"You always liked him. I have heard you say you loved him dearly."

"I have said so, and I did love him. In a certain way I love him
still."

"So do I, papa."

"But I know him to be unworthy. Even if he had come here to offer you
his hand I doubt whether I could have permitted an engagement. Do you
know that within the last two months he has twice offered to marry
another young woman, and I doubt whether he is not at this moment
engaged to her?"

"Another?" said poor Clarissa.

"Yes, and that without a pretence of affection on his part, simply
because he wanted to get money from her father."

"Are you sure, papa?" asked Clarissa, who was not prepared to
believe, and did not believe this enormity on the part of the man she
loved.

"I am quite sure. The father came to me to complain of him, and I had
the confession from Ralph's own lips, the very day that he came here
with his insulting offer to Mary Bonner."

"Did you tell Mary?"

"No. I knew that it was unnecessary. There was no danger as to Mary.
And who do you think this girl was? The daughter of a tailor, who had
made some money. It was not that he cared for her, Clary;--no more
than I do! Whether he meant to marry her or not I do not know."

"I'm sure he didn't, papa," said Clarissa, getting up in bed.

"And will that make it better? All that he wanted was the tradesman's
money, and to get that he was willing either to deceive the girl, or
to sell himself to her. I don't know which would have been the baser
mode of traffic. Is that the conduct of a gentleman, Clary?"

Poor Clarissa was in terrible trouble. She hardly believed the story,
which seemed to tell her of a degree of villany greater than ever her
imagination had depicted to her;--and yet, if it were true, she would
be driven to look for means of excusing it. The story as told was
indeed hardly just to Ralph, who in the course of his transactions
with Mr. Neefit had almost taught himself to believe that he could
love Polly very well; but it was not in this direction that Clarissa
looked for an apology for such conduct. "They say that men do all
manner of things," she said, at last.

"I can only tell you this," said Sir Thomas very gravely, "what men
may do I will not say, but no gentleman can ever have acted after
this fashion. He has shown himself to be a scoundrel."

"Papa, papa; don't say that!" screamed Clarissa.

"My child, I can only tell you the truth. I know it is hard to bear.
I would save you if I could; but it is better that you should know."

"Will he always be bad, papa?"

"Who can say, my dear? God forbid that I should be too severe upon
him. But he has been so bad now that I am bound to tell you that you
should drive him from your thoughts. When he told me, all smiling,
that he had come down here to ask your cousin Mary to be his wife, I
was almost minded to spurn him from the door. He can have no feeling
himself of true attachment, and cannot know what it means in others.
He is heartless,--and unprincipled."

"Oh, papa, spare him. It is done now."

"And you will forget him, dearest?"

"I will try, papa. But I think that I shall die. I would rather die.
What is the good of living when nobody is to care for anybody, and
people are so bad as that?"

"My Clarissa must not say that nobody cares for her. Has any person
ever been false to you but he? Is not your sister true to you?"

"Yes, papa."

"And Mary?"

"Yes, papa." He was afraid to ask her whether he also had not been
true to her? Even in that moment there arose in his mind a doubt,
whether all this evil might not have been avoided, had he contented
himself to live beneath the same roof with his children. He said
nothing of himself, but she supplied the want. "I know you love me,
papa, and have always been good to me. I did not mean that. But I
never cared for any one but him,--in that way."

Sir Thomas, in dealing with the character of his late ward, had been
somewhat too severe. It is difficult, perhaps, to say what amount of
misconduct does constitute a scoundrel, or justifies the critic in
saying that this or that man is not a gentleman. There be those who
affirm that he who owes a debt for goods which he cannot pay is no
gentleman, and tradesmen when they cannot get their money are no
doubt sometimes inclined to hold that opinion. But the opinion is
changed when the money comes at last,--especially if it comes with
interest. Ralph had never owed a shilling which he did not intend to
pay, and had not property to cover. That borrowing of money from Mr.
Neefit was doubtless bad. No one would like to know that his son had
borrowed money from his tailor. But it is the borrowing of the money
that is bad, rather than the special dealing with the tradesman. And
as to that affair with Polly, some excuse may be made. He had meant
to be honest to Neefit, and he had meant to be true to Neefit's
daughter. Even Sir Thomas, high-minded as he was, would hardly have
passed so severe a sentence, had not the great sufferer in the matter
been his own daughter.

But the words that he spoke were doubtless salutary to poor Clarissa.
She never again said to Patience that she would not try to make a
change, nor did she ever again declare that if Ralph came back again
she would forgive him. On the day after the scene with her father
she was up again, and she made an effort to employ herself about the
house. On the next Sunday she went to church, and then they all knew
that she was making the necessary struggle. Ralph's name was never
mentioned, nor for a time was any allusion made to the family of the
Newtons. "The worst of it, I think, is over," said Patience one day
to Mary.

"The worst of it is over," said Mary; "but it is not all over. It is
hard to forget when one has loved."



CHAPTER XLII.

NOT BROKEN-HEARTED.


Christmas had come and gone at Newton Priory, and the late Squire's
son had left the place,--protesting as he did so that he left it
for ever. To him also life in that particular spot of earth was
impossible, unless he could live there as the lord and master of
all. Everybody throughout that and neighbouring parishes treated him
not only with kindness, but with the warmest affection. The gentry,
the farmers, and the labourers, all men who had known him in the
hunting-field, in markets, on the bench, or at church, men, women and
children, joined together in forming plans by means of which he could
remain at Newton. The young Squire asked him to make the house his
home, at any rate for the hunting season. The parson offered half the
parsonage. His friend Morris, who was a bachelor, suggested a joint
home and joint stables between them. But it was all of no avail. Had
it not been for the success which had so nearly crowned the late
Squire's efforts during the last six months, it might have been that
his friends would have prevailed with him. But he had been too near
being the master to be able to live at Newton in any other capacity.
The tenants had been told that they were to be his tenants. The
servants had been told that they were to be his servants. During a
few short weeks, he had almost been master, so absolute had been the
determination of the old Squire to show to all around him that his
son, in spite of the blot upon the young man's birth, was now the
heir in all things, and possessed of every privilege which would
attach itself to an elder son. He himself while his father lived had
taken these things calmly, had shown no elation, had even striven to
moderate the vehemence of his father's efforts on his behalf;--but
not the less had he been conscious of the value of what was being
done for him. To be the promised future owner of the acres on which
he had lived, of the coverts through which he had ridden, of every
tree and bank which he had known from his boyhood, had been to him
a source of gratified pride not the less strong because he had
concealed it. The disappointment did hit him sorely. His dreams
had been of Parliament, of power in the county, of pride of place,
and popularity. He now found that they were to be no more than
dreams;--but with this additional sorrow, that all around him knew
that they had been dreamed. No;--he could not stay at Newton even
for the sake of living with friends who loved him so dearly. He said
little or nothing of this to any one. Not even to Gregory Newton or
to his friend Morris did he tell much of his feeling. He was not
proud of his dreamings, and it seemed to himself that his punishment
was just. Nor could he speak to either of them or to any man of his
past ambition, or of what hopes might remain to him in reference to
Mary Bonner. The young Squire had gone forth with the express purpose
of wooing her, had declared his purpose of doing so, and had returned
to Newton at any rate without any ready tale of triumph on his
tongue. What had been his fortune the rival would not ask; and while
the two remained together at the priory no further word was spoken
of Mary Bonner. He, Ralph the dispossessed one, while he believed
himself to be the heir, had intended to bring her home as a fitting
queen to share his throne. It might be that she would consent to be
his without a throne to share; but in thinking of her he could not
but remember what his ambition had been, and he could hardly bring
himself now to offer to her that which was comparatively so little
worth the having. To suppose that she should already "be fond of
him," should already long for him as he longed for her, was contrary
to his nature. Hitherto when he had been in her presence, he had
stood there as a man whose position in life was almost contemptible;
and though it would be unjust to him to say that he had hoped to
win her by his acres, still he had felt that his father's success
on his behalf might justify him in that which would otherwise be
unjustifiable. For the present, however, he could take no steps in
that direction. He could only suggest to himself what had already
been her answer, or what at some future time might be the answer
she would make to his rival. He had lost a father between whom and
himself there had existed ties, not only of tender love, but of
perfect friendship, and for awhile he must bewail his loss. That
he could not bewail his lost father without thinking of his lost
property, and of the bride that had never been won, was an agony to
his soul.

He had found a farm down in Norfolk, near to Swaffham, which he could
take for twelve months, with the option of purchase at the expiration
of that time, and thither he betook himself. There were about four
hundred acres, and the place was within his means. He did not think
it likely that Mary Bonner would choose to come and live upon a
Norfolk farm; and yet what other work in life was there for which
he was fit? Early in January he went down to Beamingham Hall, as
the place was called, and there we will leave him for the present,
consoling himself with oil-cake, and endeavouring to take a pride in
a long row of stall-fed cattle.

At this time the two brothers were living at Newton Priory. Ralph the
heir had bought some of his uncle's horses, and had commenced hunting
with the hounds around him; though he had not as yet withdrawn his
stud from the Moonbeam. He was not altogether at his ease, as he
had before the end of February received three or four letters from
Neefit, all of them dictated by Waddle, in which his conduct was
painted not in the most flattering colours. Neefit's money had
been repaid, but Neefit would not understand that the young heir's
obligations to him had by any means been acquitted by that very
ordinary process. He had risked his money when payment was very
doubtful, and now he intended to have something beyond cash in return
for all that he had done. "There are debts of honour which a real
gentleman feels himself more bound to pay than any bills," Waddle had
written. And to such dogmatic teachings as these Neefit would always
add something out of his own head. "There ain't nobody who shan't
know all about it, unless you're on the square again." Ralph had
written one reply since he had been at Newton, in which he explained
at some length that it was impossible that he should renew his
addresses to a young lady who had twice rejected them, and who had
assured him that she did not love him. He professed the greatest
respect for Miss Neefit, a respect which had, if possible, been
heightened by her behaviour in this matter,--but it must now be
understood that the whole affair was at an end. Neefit would not
understand this, but Neefit's further letters, which had not been
unfrequent, were left unanswered. Ralph had now told the whole
story to his brother, and had written his one reply from Newton in
conformity with his brother's advice. After that they both thought
that no further rejoinder could be of any service.

The parsonage was for the time deserted, Gregory having for the
present consented to share his brother's house. In spite of that
little thorn in the flesh which Neefit was, Ralph was able to enjoy
his life very thoroughly. He went on with all the improvements about
the place which the Squire had commenced, and was active in making
acquaintance with every one who lived upon his land. He was not
without good instincts, and understood thoroughly that respectability
had many more attractions than a character for evil living. He was,
too, easily amenable to influence from those around him; and under
Gregory's auspices, was constant at his parish church. He told
himself at once that he had many duties to perform, and he attempted
to perform them. He did not ask Lieutenant Cox or Captain Fooks to
the Priory, and quite prepared himself for the character of Henry
V. in miniature, as he walked about his park, and rode about his
farms, and talked with the wealthier farmers on hunting mornings. He
had a full conception of his own dignity, and some not altogether
inaccurate idea of the manner in which it would become him to sustain
it. He was, perhaps, a little too self-conscious, and over-inclined
to suppose that people were regarding his conduct because he was
Newton of Newton;--Newton of Newton with no blot on his shield, by
right of his birth, and subject to no man's reproach.

He had failed grievously in one matter on which he had set his heart;
but as to that he was, as the reader knows, resolved to try again. He
had declared his passion to the other Ralph, but his rival had not
made the confidence mutual. But hitherto he had said nothing on the
subject to his brother. He had put it by, as it were, out of his mind
for awhile, resolving that it should not trouble him immediately, in
the middle of his new joys. It was a thing that would keep,--a thing,
at any rate, that need not overshadow him night and morning. When
Neefit continued to disturb him with threats of publicity in regard
to Polly's wrongs, he did tell himself that in no way could he so
effectually quiet Mr. Neefit as by marrying somebody else, and that
he would, at some very early date, have recourse to this measure;
but, in the meantime, he would enjoy himself without letting his
unrequited passion lie too heavily as a burden on his heart. So
he eat and drank, and rode and prayed, and sat with his brother
magistrates on the bench, and never ceased to think of his good
fortune, in that he had escaped from the troubles of his youth,
unscathed and undegraded.

Then there came a further letter from Mr. Neefit, from which there
arose some increase of confidence among the brothers. There was
nothing special in this letter. These letters, indeed, were very
like to each other, and, as had now come to be observed, were always
received on a Tuesday morning. It was manifest to them that Neefit
spent the leisure hours of his Sundays in meditating upon the
hardness of his position; and that, as every Monday morning came,
he caused a new letter to be written. On this particular Tuesday,
Ralph had left home before the post had come, and did not get the
breeches-maker's epistle till his return from hunting. He chucked
it across the table to Gregory when he came down to dinner, and the
parson read it. There was no new attack in it; and as the servant was
in the room, nothing was then said about it. But after dinner the
subject was discussed.

"I wish I knew how to stop the fellow's mouth," said the elder
brother.

"I think I should get Carey to see him," suggested Gregory. "He would
understand a lawyer when he was told that nothing could come of it
but trouble to himself and his daughter."

"She has no hand in it, you know."

"But it must injure her."

"One would think so. But she is a girl whom nothing can injure. You
can't imagine how good and how great she is;--great in her way, that
is. She is as steady as a rock; and nobody who knows her will ever
imagine her to be a party to her father's folly. She may pick and
choose a husband any day she pleases. And the men about her won't
mind this kind of thing as we should. No doubt all their friends joke
him about it, but no one will think of blaming Polly."

"It can't do her any good," said Gregory.

"It cannot do her any harm. She has a strength of her own that even
her father can't lessen."

"All the same, I wish there were an end of it."

"So do I, for my own sake," said Ralph. As he spoke he filled his
glass, and passed the bottle, and then was silent for a few moments.
"Neefit did help me," he continued, "and I don't want to speak
against him; but he is the most pig-headed old fool that ever
existed. Nothing will stop him but Polly's marriage, or mine."

"I suppose you will marry soon now. You ought to be married," said
Gregory, in a melancholy tone, in which was told something of the
disappointment of his own passion.

"Well;--yes. I believe I might as well tell you a little secret,
Greg."

"I suppose I can guess it," said Gregory, with still a deeper sound
of woe.

"I don't think you can. It is quite possible you may, however. You
know Mary Bonner;--don't you?"

The cloud upon the parson's brow was at once lightened. "No," said
he. "I have heard of her, of course."

"You have never seen Mary Bonner?"

"I have not been up in town since she came. What should take me up?
And if I were there, I doubt whether I should go out to Fulham. What
is the use of going?" But still, though he spoke thus, there was
something less of melancholy in his voice than when he had first
spoken. Ralph did not immediately go on with his story, and his
brother now asked a question. "But what of Mary Bonner? Is she to be
the future mistress of the Priory?"

"God only knows."

"But you mean to ask her?"

"I have asked her."

"And you are engaged?"

"By no means. I wish I were. You haven't seen her, but I suppose you
have heard of her?"

"Ralph spoke of her,--and told me that she was very lovely."

"Upon my word, I don't think that even in a picture I ever saw
anything approaching to her beauty. You've seen that thing at
Dresden. She is more like that than anything I know. She seems almost
too grand for a fellow to speak to, and yet she looks as if she
didn't know it. I don't think she does know it." Gregory said not a
word, but looked at his brother, listening. "But, by George there's
a dignity about her, a sort of self-possession, a kind of noli me
tangere, you understand, which makes a man almost afraid to come near
her. She hasn't sixpence in the world."

"That needn't signify to you now."

"Not in the least. I only just mention it to explain. And her father
was nobody in particular,--some old general who used to wear a cocked
hat and keep the niggers down out in one of the colonies. She herself
talked of coming home here to be a governess;--by Jove! yes, a
governess. Well, to look at her, you'd think she was born a countess
in her own right."

"Is she so proud?"

"No;--it's not that. I don't know what it is. It's the way her head
is put on. Upon my word, to see her turn her neck is the grandest
thing in the world. I never saw anything like it. I don't know that
she's proud by nature,--though she has got a dash of that too. Don't
you know there are some horses show their breeding at a glance? I
don't suppose they feel it themselves; but there it is on them, like
the Hall-mark on silver. I don't know whether you can understand a
man being proud of his wife."

"Indeed I can."

"I don't mean of her personal qualities, but of the outside get up.
Some men are proud of their wives' clothes, or their jewels, or their
false hair. With Mary nothing of that sort could have any effect; but
to see her step, or move her head, or lift her arm, is enough to make
a man feel,--feel,--feel that she beats every other woman in the
world by chalks."

"And she is to be mistress here?"

"Indeed she should,--to-morrow, if she'd come."

"You did ask her?"

"Yes,--I asked her."

"And what did she say?"

"Nothing that I cared to hear. She had just been told all this
accursed story about Polly Neefit. I'll never forgive Sir
Thomas,--never." The reader will be pleased to remember that
Sir Thomas did not mention Miss Neefit's name, or any of the
circumstances of the Neefit contract, to his niece.

"He could hardly have wished to set her against you."

"I don't know; but he must have told her. She threw it in my teeth
that I ought to marry Polly."

"Then she did not accept you?"

"By George! no;--anything but that. She is one of those women who,
as I fancy, never take a man at the first offer. It isn't that they
mean to shilly and shally and make a fuss, but there's a sort of
majesty about them which instinctively declines to yield itself.
Unconsciously they feel something like offence at the suggestion that
a man should think enough of himself to ask for such a possession.
They come to it, after a time."

"And she will come to it, after a time?"

"I didn't mean to say that. I don't intend, however, to give it up."
Ralph paused in his story, considering whether he would tell his
brother what Mary had confessed to him as to her affection for some
one else, but he resolved, at last, that he would say nothing of
that. He had himself put less of confidence in that assertion than he
did in her rebuke with reference to the other young woman to whom she
chose to consider that he owed himself. It was his nature to think
rather of what absolutely concerned himself, than of what related
simply to her. "I shan't give her up. That's all I can say," he
continued. "I'm not the sort of fellow to give things up readily." It
did occur to Gregory at that moment that his brother had not shown
much self-confidence on that question of giving up the property. "I'm
pretty constant when I've set my mind on a thing. I'm not going to
let any woman break my heart for me, but I shall stick to it."

He was not going to let any woman break his heart for him! Gregory,
as he heard this, knew that his brother regarded him as a man whose
heart was broken, and he could not help asking himself whether or
not it was good for a man that he should be able to suffer as he
suffered, because a woman was fair and yet not fair for him. That his
own heart was broken,--broken after the fashion of which his brother
was speaking,--he was driven to confess to himself. It was not that
he should die, or that his existence would be one long continued hour
of misery to him. He could eat and drink, and do his duty and enjoy
his life. And yet his heart was broken. He could not piece it so that
it should be fit for any other woman. He could not teach himself not
to long for that one woman who would not love him. The romance of his
life had formed itself there, and there it must remain. In all his
solitary walks it was of her that he still thought. Of all the bright
castles in the air which he still continued to build, she was ever
the mistress. And yet he knew that she would never make him happy.
He had absolutely resolved that he would not torment her by another
request. But he gave himself no praise for his constancy, looking
on himself as being somewhat weak in that he could not overcome his
longing. When Ralph declared that he would not break his heart, but
that, nevertheless, he would stick to the girl, Gregory envied him,
not doubting of his success, and believing that it was to men of this
calibre that success in love is generally given. "I hope with all my
heart that you may win her," he said.

"I must run my chance like another. There's no 'Veni, vidi, vici,'
about it, I can tell you; nor is it likely that there should be with
such a girl as Mary Bonner. Fill your glass, old fellow. We needn't
sit mumchance because we're thinking of our loves."

"I had thought,--" began Gregory very slowly.

"What did you think?"

"I had thought once that you were thinking of--Clarissa."

"What put that into your head?"

"If you had I should never have said a word, nor fancied any wrong.
Of course she'll marry some one. And I don't know why I should ever
wish that it should not be you."

"But what made you think of it?"

"Well; I did. It was just a word that Patience said in one of her
letters."

"What sort of word?" asked Ralph, with much interest.

"It was nothing, you know. I just misunderstood her. When one is
always thinking of a thing everything turns itself that way. I got it
into my head that she meant to hint to me that as you and Clary were
fond of each other, I ought to forget it all. I made up my mind that
I would;--but it is so much easier to make up one's mind than to do
it." There came a tear in each eye as he spoke, and he turned his
face towards the fire that his brother might not see them. And there
they remained hot and oppressive, because he would not raise his hand
to rub them away.

"I wonder what it was she said," asked Ralph.

"Oh, nothing. Don't you know how a fellow has fancies?"

"There wasn't anything in it," said Ralph.

"Oh;--of course not."

"Patience might have imagined it," said Ralph. "That's just like such
a sister as Patience."

"She's the best woman that ever lived," said Gregory.

"As good as gold," said Ralph. "I don't think, however, I shall very
soon forgive Sir Thomas."

"I don't mind saying now that I am glad it is so," said Gregory;
"though as regards Clary that seems to be cruel. But I don't think I
could have come much here had she become your wife."

"Nothing shall ever separate us, Greg."

"I hope not;--but I don't know whether I could have done it. I almost
think that I oughtn't to live where I should see her; and I did fear
it at one time."

"She'll come to the parsonage yet, old fellow, if you'll stick to
her," said Ralph.

"Never," said Gregory. Then that conversation was over.



CHAPTER XLIII.

ONCE MORE.


At the end of February Ralph declared his purpose of returning to the
Moonbeam, for the rest of the hunting season. "I'm not going to be
such an ass," he said to his brother, "as to keep two sets of horses
going. I bought my uncle's because it seemed to suit just at the
time; and there are the others at Horsball's, because I've not had
time to settle down yet. I'll go over for March, and take a couple
with me; and, at the end of it, I'll get rid of those I don't like.
Then that'll be the end of the Moonbeam, as far as I am concerned."
So he prepared to start, and on the evening before he went his
brother declared that he would go as far as London with him. "That's
all right," said Ralph, "but what's taking you up now?" The parson
said that he wanted to get a few things, and to have his hair cut. He
shouldn't stay above one night. Ralph asked no more questions, and
the two brothers went up to London together.

We fear that Patience Underwood may not have been in all respects a
discreet preserver of her sister's secrets. But then there is nothing
more difficult of attainment than discretion in the preservation
of such mysteries. To keep a friend's secret well the keeper of it
should be firmly resolved to act upon it in no way,--not even for the
advantage of the owner of it. If it be confided to you as a secret
that your friend is about to make his maiden speech in the House, you
should not even invite your acquaintances to be in their places,--not
if secrecy be the first object. In all things the knowledge should be
to you as though you had it not. Great love is hardly capable of such
secrecy as this. In the fulness of her love Patience had allowed her
father to learn the secret of poor Clary's heart; and in the fulness
of her love she had endeavoured to make things smooth at Newton.
She had not told the young clergyman that Clarissa had given to his
brother that which she could not give to him; but, meaning to do a
morsel of service to both of them, if that might be possible, she had
said a word or two, with what effect the reader will have seen from
the conversation given in the last chapter.

"She'll come to the parsonage yet," Ralph had said; and Gregory in
one word had implied his assured conviction that any such coming was
a thing not to be hoped for,--an event not even to be regarded as
possible. Nevertheless, he made up his mind that he would go up to
London,--to have his hair cut. In so making up his mind he did not
for a moment believe that it could be of any use to him. He was not
quite sure that when in London he would go to Popham Villa. He was
quite sure that if he did go to Popham Villa he would make no further
offer to Clarissa. He knew that his journey was foolish, simply
the result of an uneasy, restless spirit,--that it would be better
for him to remain in his parish and move about among the old women
and bed-ridden men; but still he went. He would dine at his club,
he said, and perhaps he might go down to Fulham on the following
morning. And so the brothers parted. Ralph, as a man of property,
with many weighty matters on hand, had, of course, much to do.
He desired to inspect some agricultural implements, and a new
carriage,--he had ever so many things to say to Carey, the lawyer,
and wanted to order new harnesses for the horses. So he went to his
club, and played whist all the afternoon.

Gregory, as soon as he had secured a bed at a quiet inn, walked off
to Southampton Buildings. From the direct manner in which this was
done, it might have been argued that he had come up to London with
the purpose of seeing Sir Thomas; but it was not so. He turned his
steps towards the place where Clary's father was generally to be
found, because he knew not what else to do. As he went he told
himself that he might as well leave it alone;--but still he went.
Stemm at once told him, with a candour that was almost marvellous,
that Sir Thomas was out of town. The hearing of the petition was
going on at Percycross, and Sir Thomas was there, as a matter of
course. Stemm seemed to think it rather odd that an educated man,
such as was the Rev. Gregory Newton, should have been unaware that
the petition against the late election at Percycross was being
carried on at this moment. "We've got Serjeant Burnaby, and little
Mr. Joram down, to make a fight of it," said Mr. Stemm; "but, as
far as I can learn, they might just as well have remained up in town.
It's only sending good money after bad." The young parson hardly
expressed that interest in the matter which Stemm had expected, but
turned away, thinking whether he had not better have his hair cut at
once, and then go home.

But he did go to Popham Villa on the same afternoon, and,--such was
his fortune,--he found Clarissa alone. Since her father had seen her
in bed, and spoken to her of what he had called the folly of her
love, she had not again given herself up to the life of a sick-room.
She dressed herself and came down to breakfast of a morning, and then
would sit with a needle in her hand till she took her book, and then
with a book till she took her needle. She tried to work, and tried to
read, and perhaps she did accomplish a little of each. And then, when
Patience would tell her that exercise was necessary, she would put
on her hat and creep out among the paths. She did make some kind of
effort to get over the evil that had come upon her; but still no
one could watch her and not know that she was a wounded deer. "Miss
Clarissa is at home," said the servant, who well knew that the young
clergyman was one of the rejected suitors. There had been hardly a
secret in the house in reference to Gregory Newton's love. The two
other young ladies, the girl said, had gone to London, but would be
home to dinner. Then, with a beating heart, Gregory was ushered into
the drawing-room. Clarissa was sitting near the window, with a novel
in her lap, having placed herself there with the view of getting what
was left of the light of the early spring evening; but she had not
read a word for the last quarter of an hour. She was thinking of
that word scoundrel, with which her father had spoken of the man she
loved. Could it be that he was in truth so bad as that? And, if it
were true, would she not take him, scoundrel as he was, if he would
come to her? He might be a--scoundrel in that one thing, on that one
occasion, and yet be good to her. He might repent his scoundrelism,
and she certainly would forgive it. Of one thing she was quite
sure;--he had not looked like a scoundrel when he had given her that
assurance on the lawn! And so she thought of young men in general.
It was very easy to call a young man a scoundrel, and yet to forgive
him all his iniquities when it suited to do so. Young men might get
in debt, and gamble, and make love wherever they pleased, and all at
once,--and yet be forgiven. All these things were very bad. It might
be just to call a man a scoundrel because he could not pay his debts,
or because he made bets about horses. Young men did a great many
things which would be horrid indeed were a girl to do them. Then one
papa would call such a man a scoundrel, because he was not wanted
to come to the house; while another papa would make him welcome,
and give him the best of everything. Ralph Newton might be a
scoundrel; but if so,--as Clarissa thought,--there were a great
many good-looking scoundrels about in the world, as to whom their
scoundrelism did very little to injure them in the esteem of all
their friends. It was thus that Clarissa was thinking over her own
affairs when Gregory Newton was shown into the room.

The greeting on both sides was at first formal and almost cold. Clary
had given a little start of surprise, and had then subsided into a
most demure mode of answering questions. Yes; papa was at Percycross.
She did not know when he was expected back. Mary and Patience were in
London. Yes;--she was at home all alone. No; she had not seen Ralph
since his uncle's death. The question which elicited this answer had
been asked without any design, and Clary endeavoured to make her
reply without emotion. If she displayed any, Gregory, who had his own
affairs upon his mind, did not see it. No;--they had not seen the
other Mr. Newton as he passed through town. They had all understood
that he had been very much disturbed by his father's horrible
accident and death. Then Gregory paused in his questions, and
Clarissa expressed a hope that there might be no more hunting in the
world.

It was very hard work, this conversation, and Gregory was beginning
to think that he had done no good by coming, when on a sudden he
struck a chord from whence came a sound of music. "Ralph and I have
been living together at the Priory," he said.

"Oh;--indeed; yes;--I think I heard Patience say that you were at the
Priory."

"I suppose I shall not be telling any secret to you in talking about
him and your cousin Mary?"

Clarissa felt that she was blushing up to her brow, but she made a
great effort to compose herself. "Oh, no," she said, "we all know of
it."

"I hope he may be successful," said Gregory.

"I do not know. I cannot tell."

"I never knew a man more thoroughly in love than he is."

"I don't believe it," said Clarissa.

"Not believe it! Indeed you may, Clary. I have never seen her, but
from what he says of her I suppose her to be most beautiful."

"She is,--very beautiful." This was said with a strong emphasis.

"And why should you not believe it?"

"It will not be of the slightest use, Mr. Newton; and you may tell
him so. Though I suppose it is impossible to make a man believe
that."

"Are we both so unfortunate?" he asked.

The poor girl with her wounded love, and every feeling sore within
her, had not intended to say anything that should be cruel or
injurious to Gregory himself, and it was not till the words were
out of her mouth that she herself perceived their effect. "Oh, Mr.
Newton, I was only thinking of him," she said, innocently. "I only
meant that Ralph is one of those who always think they are to have
everything they want."

"I am not one of those, Clarissa. And yet I am one who seem never to
be tired of asking for that which is not to be given to me. I said to
myself when last I went from here that I would never ask again;--that
I would never trouble you any more." She was sitting with the book in
her hand, looking out into the gloom, and now she made no attempt to
answer him. "And yet you see here I am," he continued. She was still
silent, and her head was still turned away from him; but he could see
that tears were streaming down her cheeks. "I have not the power not
to come to you while yet there is a chance," he said. "I can live and
work without you, but I can have no life of my own. When I first saw
you I made a picture to myself of what my life might be, and I cannot
get that moved from before my eyes. I am sorry, however, that my
coming should make you weep."

"Oh, Mr. Newton, I am so wretched!" she said, turning round sharply
upon him. For a moment she had thought that she would tell him
everything, and then she checked herself, and remembered how
ill-placed such a confidence would be.

"What should make you wretched, dearest?"

"I do not know. I cannot tell. I sometimes think the world is bad
altogether, and that I had better die. People are so cruel and so
hard, and things are so wrong. But you may tell your brother that
he need not think of my cousin, Mary. Nothing ever would move her.
H--sh--. Here they are. Do not say that I was crying."

He was introduced to the beauty, and as the lights came, Clarissa
escaped. Yes;--she was indeed most lovely; but as he looked on her,
Gregory felt that he agreed with Clarissa that nothing on earth would
move her. He remained there for another half-hour; but Clarissa did
not return, and then he went back to London.



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE PETITION.


The time for hearing the petition at Percycross had at length come,
and the judge had gone down to that ancient borough. The day fixed
was Monday, the 27th, and Parliament had then been sitting for three
weeks. Mr. Griffenbottom had been as constant in his place as though
there had been no sword hanging over his head; but Sir Thomas had not
as yet even taken the oaths. He had made up his mind that he would
not even enter the house while this bar against him as a legislator
existed, and he had not as yet even been seen in the lobby. His
daughters, his colleague, Mr. Trigger, and Stemm had all expostulated
with him on the subject, assuring him that he should treat the
petition with the greatest contempt, at any rate till it should have
proved itself by its success to be a matter not contemptible; but to
these counsellors he gave no ear, and when he went down to give his
evidence before the judge at Percycross his seat had as yet availed
him nothing.

Mr. Griffenbottom had declared that he would not pay a shilling
towards the expense of the petition, maintaining that his own seat
was safe, and that any peril incurred had been so incurred simply
on behalf of Sir Thomas. Nothing, according to Mr. Griffenbottom's
views, could be more unjust than to expect that he should take any
part in the matter. Trigger, too, had endeavoured to impress this
upon Sir Thomas more than once or twice. But this had been all in
vain; and Sir Thomas, acting under the advice of his own attorney,
had at last compelled Mr. Griffenbottom to take his share in the
matter. Mr. Griffenbottom did not scruple to say that he was very
ill-used, and to hint that any unfair practices which might possibly
have prevailed during the last election at Percycross, had all been
adopted on behalf of Sir Thomas, and in conformity with Sir Thomas's
views. It will, therefore, be understood that the two members did
not go down to the borough in the best humour with each other. Mr.
Trigger still nominally acted for both; but it had been almost avowed
that Sir Thomas was to be treated as a Jonah, if by such treatment
any salvation might be had for the ship of which Griffenbottom was to
be regarded as the captain.

Mr. Westmacott was also in Percycross,--and so was Moggs, reinstated
in his old room at the Cordwainers' Arms. Moggs had not been
summoned, nor was his presence there required for any purpose
immediately connected with the inquiry to be made; but Purity and the
Rights of Labour may always be advocated; and when better than at a
moment in which the impurity of a borough is about to be made the
subject of public condemnation? And Moggs, moreover, had now rankling
in his bosom a second cause of enmity against the Tories of the
borough. Since the election he had learned that his rival, Ralph
Newton, was in some way connected with the sitting member, Sir
Thomas, and he laid upon Sir Thomas's back the weight of his full
displeasure in reference to the proposed marriage with Polly Neefit.
He had heard that Polly had raised some difficulty,--had, indeed,
rejected her aristocratic suitor, and was therefore not without hope;
but he had been positively assured by Neefit himself that the match
would be made, and was consequently armed with a double purpose in
his desire to drive Sir Thomas ignominiously out of Percycross.

Sir Thomas had had more than one interview with Serjeant Burnaby
and little Mr. Joram, than whom two more astute barristers in such
matters were not to be found at that time practising,--though perhaps
at that time the astuteness of the Serjeant was on the wane; while
that of Jacky Joram, as he was familiarly called, was daily rising
in repute. Sir Thomas himself, barrister and senior to these two
gentlemen, had endeavoured to hold his own with them, and to impress
on them the conviction that he had nothing to conceal; that he had
personally endeavoured, as best he knew how, to avoid corruption,
and that if there had been corruption on the part of his own agents,
he was himself ready to be a party in proclaiming it. But he found
himself to be absolutely ignored and put out of court by his own
counsel. They were gentlemen with whom professionally he had had no
intercourse, as he had practised at the Chancery, and they at the
Common Law Bar. But he had been Solicitor-General, and was a bencher
of his Inn, whereas Serjeant Burnaby was only a Serjeant, and Jacky
Joram still wore a stuff gown. Nevertheless, he found himself to be
"nowhere" in discussing with them the circumstances of the election.
Even Joram, whom he seemed to remember having seen only the other day
as an ugly shame-faced boy about the courts, treated him, not exactly
with indignity, but with patronising good-nature, listening with
an air of half-attention to what he said, and then not taking the
slightest heed of a word of it. Who does not know this transparent
pretence of courtesies, which of all discourtesies is the most
offensive? "Ah, just so, Sir Thomas; just so. And now, Mr. Trigger,
I suppose Mr. Puffer's account hasn't yet been settled." Any word
from Mr. Trigger was of infinitely greater value with Mr. Joram than
all Sir Thomas's protestations. Sir Thomas could not keep himself
from remembering that Jacky Joram's father was a cheesemonger at
Gloucester, who had married the widow of a Jew with a little money.
Twenty times Sir Thomas made up his mind to retire from the business
altogether; but he always found himself unable to do so. When he
mentioned the idea, Griffenbottom flung up his hands in dismay at
such treachery on the part of an ally,--such treachery and such
cowardice! What!--had not he, Sir Thomas, forced him, Griffenbottom,
into all this ruinous expenditure? And now to talk of throwing up the
sponge! It was in vain that Sir Thomas explained that he had forced
nobody into it. It was manifestly the case that he had refused to go
on with it by himself, and on this Mr. Griffenbottom and Mr. Trigger
insisted so often and with so much strength that Sir Thomas felt
himself compelled to stand to his guns, bad as he believed those guns
to be.

If Sir Thomas meant to retreat, why had he not retreated when a
proposition to that effect was made to him at his own chambers? Of
all the weak, vacillating, ill-conditioned men that Mr. Griffenbottom
had ever been concerned with, Sir Thomas Underwood was the weakest,
most vacillating, and most ill-conditioned. To have to sit in the
same boat with such a man was the greatest misfortune that had ever
befallen Mr. Griffenbottom in public life. Mr. Griffenbottom did not
exactly say these hard things in the hearing of Sir Thomas, but he
so said them that they became the common property of the Jorams,
Triggers, Spiveycombs, and Spicers; and were repeated piecemeal to
the unhappy second member.

He had secured for himself a separate sitting-room at the "Percy
Standard," thinking that thus he would have the advantage of being
alone; but every one connected with his party came in and out of his
room as though it had been specially selected as a chamber for public
purposes. Even Griffenbottom came into it to have interviews there
with Trigger, although at the moment Griffenbottom and Sir Thomas
were not considered to be on speaking terms. Griffenbottom in these
matters seemed to have the hide of a rhinoceros. He had chosen to
quarrel with Sir Thomas. He had declared that he would not speak to a
colleague whose Parliamentary ideas and habits were so repulsive to
him. He had said quite aloud, that Trigger had never made a greater
mistake in his life than in bringing Sir Thomas to the borough, and
that, let the petition go as it would, Sir Thomas should never be
returned for the borough again. He had spoken all these things,
almost in the hearing of Sir Thomas. And yet he would come to Sir
Thomas's private room, and sit there half the morning with a cigar in
his mouth! Mr. Pile would come in, and make most unpleasant speeches.
Mr. Spicer called continually, with his own ideas about the borough.
The thing could be still saved if enough money were spent. If Mr.
Givantake were properly handled, and Mr. O'Blather duly provided for,
the two witnesses upon whom the thing really hung would not be found
in Percycross when called upon to-morrow. That was Mr. Spicer's idea;
and he was very eager to communicate it to Serjeant Burnaby. Trigger,
in his energy, told Mr. Spicer to go and be ----. All this occurred
in Sir Thomas's private room. And then Mr. Pabsby was there
constantly, till he at last was turned out by Trigger. In his agony,
Sir Thomas asked for another sitting-room; but was informed that the
house was full. The room intended for the two members was occupied
by Griffenbottom; but nobody ever suggested that the party might
meet there when Sir Thomas's vain request was made for further
accommodation. Griffenbottom went on with his cigar, and Mr. Pile
sat picking his teeth before the fire, and making unpleasant little
speeches.

The judge, who had hurried into Percycross from another town, and who
opened the commission on the Monday evening, did not really begin
his work till the Tuesday morning. Jacky Joram had declared that the
inquiry would last three days, he having pledged himself to be at
another town early on the following Friday. Serjeant Burnaby, whose
future services were not in such immediate demand, was of opinion
that they would not get out of Percycross till Saturday night. Judge
Crumbie, who was to try the case, and who had been trying similar
cases ever since Christmas, was not due at his next town till the
Monday; but it was understood by everybody that he intended if
possible to spend his Saturday and Sunday in the bosom of his family.
Trigger, however, had magnificent ideas. "I believe we shall carry
them into the middle of next week," he said, "if they choose to
go on with it." Trigger thoroughly enjoyed the petition; and even
Griffenbottom, who was no longer troubled by gout, and was not now
obliged to walk about the borough, did not seem to dislike it. But to
poor Sir Thomas it was indeed a purgatory.

The sitting members were of course accused, both as regarded
themselves and their agents, of every crime known in electioneering
tactics. Votes had been personated. Votes had been bought. Votes
had been obtained by undue influence on the part of masters and
landlords, and there had been treating of the most pernicious and
corrupt description. As to the personating of votes, that according
to Mr. Trigger, had been merely introduced as a pleasant commencing
fiction common in Parliamentary petitions. There had been nothing
of the kind, and nobody supposed that there had, and it did not
signify. Of undue influence,--what purists choose to call undue
influence,--there had of course been plenty. It was not likely that
masters paying thousands a year in wages were going to let these men
vote against themselves. But this influence was so much a matter
of course that it could not be proved to the injury of the sitting
members. Such at least was Mr. Trigger's opinion. Mr. Spicer might
have been a little imprudent with his men; but no case could be
brought up in which a man had been injured. Undue influence at
Percycross was--"gammon." So said Mr. Trigger, and Jacky Joram agreed
with Mr. Trigger. Serjeant Burnaby rubbed his hands, and would give
no opinion till he had heard the evidence. That votes had been bought
during the day of the election there was no doubt on earth. On this
matter great secrecy prevailed, and Sir Thomas could not get a word
spoken in his own hearing. It was admitted, however, that votes had
been bought. There were a dozen men, perhaps more than a dozen,
who would prove that one Glump had paid them ten shillings a piece
between one and two on the day of the election. There was a general
belief that perhaps over a hundred had been bought at that rate. But
Trigger was ready to swear that he did not know whence Glump had got
the money, and Glump himself was,--nobody knew where Glump was, but
strange whispers respecting Glump were floating about the borough.
Trigger was disposed to believe that they, on their side, could prove
that Glump had really been employed by Westmacott's people to vitiate
the election. He was quite sure that nothing could connect Glump
with him as an agent on behalf of Griffenbottom and Underwood. So
Mr. Trigger asserted with the greatest confidence; but what was in
the bottom of Mr. Trigger's mind on this subject no one pretended
to know. As for Glump himself he was a man who would certainly
take payment from anybody for any dirty work. It was the general
impression through the borough that Glump had on this occasion been
hired by Trigger, and Trigger certainly enjoyed the prestige which
was thus conferred upon him.

As to the treating,--there could be no doubt about that. There had
been treating. The idea of conducting an election at Percycross
without beer seemed to be absurd to every male and female
Percycrossian. Of course the publicans would open their taps and then
send in their bills for beer to the electioneering agents. There was
a prevailing feeling that any interference with so ancient a practice
was not only un-English, but unjust also;--that it was beyond the
power of Parliament to enforce any law so abominable and unnatural.
Trigger was of opinion that though there had been a great deal
of beer, no attempt would be made to prove that votes had been
influenced by treating. There had been beer on both sides, and
Trigger hoped sincerely that there might always be beer on both sides
as long as Percycross was a borough.

Sir Thomas found that his chance of success was now spoken of in a
tone very different from that which had been used when the matter
was discussed in his own chamber. He had been then told that it was
hardly possible that he should keep his seat;--and he had in fact
been asked to resign it. Though sick enough of Percycross, this
he would not do in the manner then proposed to him. Now he was
encouraged in the fight;--but the encouragement was of a nature which
gave him no hope, which robbed him even of the wish to have a hope.
It was all dirt from beginning to end. Whatever might be the verdict
of the judge,--from the judge the verdict was now to come,--he should
still believe that nothing short of absolute disfranchisement would
meet the merits of the case.

The accusation with regard to the personation of votes was
abandoned,--Serjeant Burnaby expressing the most extreme disgust that
any such charge should have been made without foundation,--although
he himself at the borough which he had last left had brought forward
the same charge on behalf of his then clients, and had abandoned it
in the same way. Then the whole of the remaining hours of the Tuesday
and half the Wednesday were passed in showing that Messrs. Spicer,
Spiveycomb, and Roodylands had forced their own men to vote blue. Mr.
Spicer had dismissed one man and Mr. Spiveycomb two men; but both
these gentlemen swore that the men dismissed were not worth their
salt, and had been sent adrift upon the world by no means on account
of their politics. True: they had all voted for Moggs; but then they
had done that simply to spite their late master. On the middle of
Wednesday, when the matter of intimidation had been completed,--the
result still lying in the bosom of Baron Crumbie,--Mr. Trigger
thought that things were looking up. That was the report which he
brought to Mr. Griffenbottom, who was smoking his midday cigar in
Sir Thomas's arm-chair, while Sir Thomas was endeavouring to master
the first book of Lord Verulam's later treatise "De dignitate
scientiarum," seated in a cane-bottomed chair in a very small
bed-room up-stairs.

By consent the question of treating came next. Heaven and earth were
being moved to find Glump. When the proposition was made that the
treating should come before the bribery Trigger stated in court that
he was himself doing his very best to find the man. There might yet
be a hope, though, alas, the hope was becoming slighter every hour.
His own idea was that Glump had been sent away to Holland by,--well,
he did not care to name the parties by whom he believed that Glump
had been expatriated. However, there might be a chance. The counsel
on the other side remarked that there might, indeed, be a chance.
Baron Crumbie expressed a hope that Mr. Glump might make his
appearance,--for the sake of the borough, which might otherwise fare
badly; and then the great beer question was discussed for two entire
days.

There was no doubt about the beer. Trigger, who was examined after
some half-score of publicans, said openly that thirsty Conservative
souls had been allowed to slake their drought at the joint expense
of the Conservative party in the borough,--as thirsty Liberal souls
had been encouraged to do on the other side. When reminded that any
malpractice in that direction on the part of a beaten candidate could
not affect the status of the elected members, he replied that all
the beer consumed in Percycross during the election had not, to the
best of his belief, affected a vote. The Percycrossians were not men
to vote this way or that because of beer! He would not believe it
even in regard to a Liberal Percycrossian. It might be so in other
boroughs, but of other boroughs he knew absolutely nothing. Who paid
for the beer? Mr. Trigger at once acknowledged that it was paid for
out of the general funds provided for the election. Who provided
those funds? There was not a small amount of fencing on this point,
during the course of which Mr. Joram snapped very sharply and very
frequently at the counsel on the other side,--hoping thereby somewhat
to change the issue. But at last there came out these two facts,
that there was a general fund, to which all Conservatives might
subscribe, and that the only known subscribers to this fund were
Mr. Griffenbottom, Sir Thomas Underwood, and old Mr. Pile, who had
given a £10 note,--apparently with the view of proving that there
was a fund. It was agreed on all hands that treating had been
substantiated; but it was remarked by some that Baron Crumbie had
not been hard upon treating in other boroughs. After all, the result
would depend upon what the Baron thought about Mr. Glump. It might be
that he would recommend further inquiry, under a special commission,
into the practices of the borough, because of the Glump iniquities,
and that he should, nevertheless, leave the seats to the sitting
members. That seemed to be Mr. Trigger's belief on the evening of the
Thursday, as he took his brandy and water in Sir Thomas's private
sitting-room.

There is nothing in the world so brisk as the ways and manners of
lawyers when in any great case they come to that portion of it which
they know to be the real bone of the limb and kernel of the nut. The
doctor is very brisk when after a dozen moderately dyspeptic patients
he comes on some unfortunate gentleman whose gastric apparatus
is gone altogether. The parson is very brisk when he reaches the
minatory clause in his sermon. The minister is very brisk when he
asks the House for a vote, telling his hoped-for followers that this
special point is absolutely essential to his government. Unless he
can carry this, he and all those hanging on to him must vacate their
places. The horse-dealer is very brisk when, after four or five
indifferent lots, he bids his man bring out from the stable the
last thorough-bred that he bought, and the very best that he ever
put his eye on. But the briskness of none of these is equal to the
briskness of the barrister who has just got into his hands for
cross-examination him whom we may call the centre witness of a great
case. He plumes himself like a bullfinch going to sing. He spreads
himself like a peacock on a lawn. He perks himself like a sparrow on
a paling. He crows amidst his attorneys and all the satellites of
the court like a cock among his hens. He puts his hands this way and
that, settling even the sunbeams as they enter, lest a moat should
disturb his intellect or dull the edge of his subtlety. There is a
modesty in his eye, a quiescence in his lips, a repose in his limbs,
under which lie half-concealed,--not at all concealed from those
who have often watched him at his work,--the glance, the tone, the
spring, which are to tear that unfortunate witness into pieces,
without infringing any one of those conventional rules which
have been laid down for the guidance of successful well-mannered
barristers.

Serjeant Burnaby, though astute, was not specially brisk by nature;
but on this Friday morning Mr. Joram was very brisk indeed. There
was a certain Mr. Cavity, who had acted as agent for Westmacott, and
who,--if anybody on the Westmacott side had been so guilty,--had been
guilty in the matter of Glump's absence. Perhaps we should not do
justice to Mr. Joram's acuteness were we to imagine him as believing
that Glump was absent under other influence than that used on behalf
of the conservative side; but there were subsidiary points on which
Mr. Cavity might be made to tell tales. Of course there had been
extensive bribery for years past in Percycross on the liberal as well
as on the conservative side, and Mr. Joram thought that he could make
Mr. Cavity tell a tale. And then, too, he could be very brisk in that
affair of Glump. He was pretty nearly sure that Mr. Glump could not
be connected by evidence with either of the sitting members or with
any of their agents. He would prove that Glump was neutral ground,
and that as such his services could not be traced to his friend, Mr.
Trigger. Mr. Joram on this occasion was very brisk indeed.

A score of men were brought up, ignorant, half-dumb, heavy-browed
men, all dressed in the amphibious garb of out-o'-door town
labourers,--of whom there exists a class of hybrids between the rural
labourer and the artizan,--each one of whom acknowledged that after
noon on the election day he received ten shillings, with instructions
to vote for Griffenbottom and Underwood. And they did vote for
Griffenbottom and Underwood. At all elections in Percycross they had,
as they now openly acknowledged, waited till about the same hour on
the day of election, and then somebody had bought their votes for
somebody. On this occasion the purchase had been made by Mr. Glump.
There was a small empty house up a little alley in the town, to which
there was a back door opening on a vacant space in the town known
as Grinder's Green. They entered this house by one door, leaving it
by the other, and as they passed through, Glump gave to each man
half a sovereign with instructions, entering their names in a small
book;--and then they went in a body and voted for Griffenbottom and
Underwood. Each of the twenty knew nearly all the other twenty, but
none of them knew any other men who had been paid by Glump. Of course
none of them had the slightest knowledge of Glump's present abode.
It was proved that at the last election Glump had acted for the
Liberals; but it was also proved that at the election before he had
been active in bribing for the Conservatives. Very many things were
proved,--if a thing be proved when supported by testimony on oath.
Trigger proved that twenty votes alone could have been of no
service, and would not certainly have been purchased in a manner so
detrimental. According to Trigger's views it was as clear as daylight
that Glump had not been paid by them. When asked whether he would
cause Mr. Glump to be repaid that sum of ten pounds, should Mr. Glump
send in any bill to that effect, he simply stated that Mr. Glump
would certainly send no such bill to him. He was then asked whether
it might not be possible that the money should be repaid by Messrs.
Griffenbottom and Underwood through his hands, reaching Glump again
by means of a further middleman. Mr. Trigger acknowledged that were
such a claim made upon him by any known agent of his party, he would
endeavour to pass the ten pounds through the accounts, as he thought
that there should be a certain feeling of honour in these things;
but he did not for a moment think that any one acting with him would
have dealings with Glump. On the Saturday morning, when the case was
still going on, to the great detriment of Baron Grumble's domestic
happiness, Glump had not yet been caught. It seemed that the man
had no wife, no relative, no friend. The woman at whose house he
lodged declared that he often went and came after this fashion. The
respect with which Glump's name was mentioned, as his persistency in
disobeying the law and his capability for intrigue were thus proved,
was so great, that it was a pity he could not have been there to
enjoy it. For the hour he was a great man in Percycross,--and the
greater because Baron Crumbie did not cease to threaten him with
terrible penalties.

Much other bribery was alleged, but none other was distinctly brought
home to the agents of the sitting members. As to bringing bribery
home to Mr. Griffenbottom himself;--that appeared to be out of the
question. Nobody seemed even to wish to do that. The judge, as it
appeared, did not contemplate any result so grave and terrible as
that. There was a band of freemen of whom it was proved that they had
all been treated with most excessive liberality by the corporation of
the town; and it was proved, also, that a majority of the corporation
were supporters of Mr. Griffenbottom. A large number of votes
had been so secured. Such, at least, was the charge made by the
petitioners. But this allegation Jacky Joram laughed to scorn. The
corporation, of course, used the charities and privileges of the town
as they thought right; and the men voted,--as they thought right. The
only cases of bribery absolutely proved were those manipulated by
Glump, and nothing had been adduced clearly connecting Glump and
the Griffenbottomites. Mr. Trigger was in ecstasies; but Mr. Joram
somewhat repressed him by referring to these oracular words which had
fallen from the Baron in respect to the corporation. "A corporation
may be guilty as well as an individual," the Baron had said. Jacky
Joram had been very eager in assenting to the Baron, but in asserting
at the same time that the bribery must be proved. "It won't be
assumed, my lord, that a corporation has bribed because it has
political sympathies." "It should have none," said the Baron. "Human
nature is human nature, my lord,--even in corporations," said Jacky
Joram. This took place just before luncheon,--which was made a solemn
meal on all sides, as the judge had declared his intention of sitting
till midnight, if necessary.

Immediately after the solemn meal Mr. Griffenbottom was examined.
It had been the declared purpose of the other side to turn Mr.
Griffenbottom inside out. Mr. Griffenbottom and his conduct had on
various former occasions been the subject of parliamentary petitions
under the old form; but on such occasions the chief delinquent
himself was never examined. Now Mr. Griffenbottom would be made to
tell all that he knew, not only of his present, but of his past,
iniquities. And yet Mr. Griffenbottom told very little; and it
certainly did seem to the bystanders, that even the opposing counsel,
even the judge on the bench, abstained from their prey because
he was a member of Parliament. It was notorious to all the world
that Griffenbottom had debased the borough; had so used its venal
tendencies as to make that systematic which had before been too
frequent indeed, but yet not systematized; that he had trained the
rising generation of Percycross politicians to believe in political
corruption;--and yet he escaped that utter turning inside out of
which men had spoken.

The borough had cost him a great deal of money certainly; but as far
as he knew the money had been spent legally. It had at least always
been his intention before an election was commenced that nothing
illegal should be done. He had no doubt always afterwards paid sums
of money the use of which he did not quite understand, and as to some
of which he could not but fear that it had been doubtfully applied.
The final accounts as to the last election had not reached him, but
he did not expect to be charged with improper expenses. There no
doubt would be something for beer, but that was unavoidable. As to
Mr. Glump he knew literally nothing of the man,--nor had he wanted
any such man's assistance. Twenty votes indeed! Let them look at his
place upon the poll. There had been a time in the day when twenty
votes this way or that might be necessary to Sir Thomas. He had been
told that it was so. On the day of the election his own position
on the poll had been so certain to him, that he should not have
cared,--that is, for himself,--had he heard that Glump was buying
votes against him. He considered it to be quite out of the question
that Glump should have bought votes for him,--with any purpose of
serving him. And so Mr. Griffenbottom escaped from the adverse
counsel and from the judge.

There was very little in the examination of Sir Thomas Underwood to
interest any one. No one really suspected him of corrupt practices.
In all such cases the singular part of the matter is that everybody,
those who are concerned and those who are not concerned, really know
the whole truth which is to be investigated; and yet, that which
everybody knows cannot be substantiated. There were not five men in
court who were not certain that Griffenbottom was corrupt, and that
Sir Thomas was not; that the borough was rotten as a six-months-old
egg; that Glump had acted under one of Trigger's aides-de-camp; that
intimidation was the law of the borough; and that beer was used so
that men drunk might not fear that which sober they had not the
courage to encounter. All this was known to everybody; and yet, up
to the last, it was thought by many in Percycross that corruption,
acknowledged, transparent, egregious corruption, would prevail even
in the presence of a judge. Mr. Trigger believed it to the last.

But it was not so thought by the Jacky Jorams or by the Serjeant
Burnabys. They made their final speeches,--the leading lawyer on each
side, but they knew well what was coming. At half-past seven, for to
so late an hour had the work been continued, the judge retired to
get a cup of tea, and returned at eight to give his award. It was as
follows:--

As to the personation of votes, there should have been no allegation
made. In regard to the charge of intimidation it appeared that the
system prevailed to such an extent as to make it clear to him that
Percycross was unfit to return representatives to Parliament. In the
matter of treating he was not quite prepared to say that had no other
charge been made he should have declared this election void, but of
that also there had been sufficient to make him feel it to be his
duty to recommend to the Speaker of the House of Commons that further
inquiry should be made as to the practices of the borough. And as
to direct bribery, though he was not prepared to say that he could
connect the agents of the members with what had been done,--and
certainly he could not connect either of the two members
themselves,--still, quite enough had been proved to make it
imperative upon him to declare the election void. This he should
do in his report to the Speaker, and should also advise that a
commission be held with the view of ascertaining whether the
privilege of returning members of Parliament should remain with the
borough. With Griffenbottom he dealt as tenderly as he did with Sir
Thomas, sending them both forth to the world, unseated indeed, but as
innocent, injured men.

There was a night train up to London at 10 P.M., by which on that
evening Sir Thomas Underwood travelled, shaking off from his feet as
he entered the carriage the dust of that most iniquitous borough.



CHAPTER XLV.

"NEVER GIVE A THING UP."


Mr. Neefit's conduct during this period of disappointment was not
exactly what it should to have been, either in the bosom of his
family or among his dependents in Conduit Street. Herr Bawwah, over
a pot of beer in the public-house opposite, suggested to Mr. Waddle
that "the governor might be ----," in a manner that affected Mr.
Waddle greatly. It was an eloquent and energetic expression of
opinion,--almost an expression of a settled purpose as coming from
the German as it did come; and Waddle was bound to admit that cause
had been given. "Fritz," said Waddle pathetically, "don't think about
it. You can't better the wages." Herr Bawwah looked up from his pot
of beer and muttered a German oath. He had been told that he was
beastly, skulking, pig-headed, obstinate, drunken, with some other
perhaps stronger epithets which may be omitted,--and he had been told
that he was a German. In that had lain the venom. There was the word
that rankled. He had another pot of beer, and though it was then only
twelve o'clock on a Monday morning Herr Bawwah swore that he was
going to make a day of it, and that old Neefit might cut out the
stuff for himself if he pleased. As they were now at the end of
March, which is not a busy time of the year in Mr. Neefit's trade,
the great artist's defalcation was of less immediate importance;
but, as Waddle knew, the German was given both to beer and obstinacy
when aroused to wrath; and what would become of the firm should the
obstinacy continue?

"Where's that pig-headed German brute?" asked Mr. Neefit, when Mr.
Waddle returned to the establishment. Mr. Waddle made no reply; and
when Neefit repeated the question with a free use of the epithets
previously omitted by us, Waddle still was dumb, leaning over his
ledger as though in that there were matters so great as to absorb his
powers of hearing. "The two of you may go and be ---- together!" said
Mr. Neefit. If any order requiring immediate obedience were contained
in this, Mr. Waddle disobeyed that order. He still bent himself over
the ledger, and was dumb. Waddle had been trusted with his master's
private view in the matter of the Newton marriage, and felt that on
this account he owed a debt of forbearance to the unhappy father.

The breeches-maker was in truth very unhappy. He had accused his
German assistant of obstinacy, but the German could hardly have been
more obstinate than his master. Mr. Neefit had set his heart upon
making his daughter Mrs. Newton, and had persisted in declaring that
the marriage should be made to take place. The young man had once
given him a promise, and should be compelled to keep the promise
so given. And in these days Mr. Neefit seemed to have lost that
discretion for which his friends had once given him credit. On the
occasion of his visit to the Moonbeam early in the hunting season he
had spoken out very freely among the sportsmen there assembled; and
from that time all reticence respecting his daughter seemed to have
been abandoned. He had paid the debts of this young man, who was now
lord of wide domains, when the young man hadn't "a red copper in his
pocket,"--so did Mr. Neefit explain the matter to his friends,--and
he didn't intend that the young man should be off his bargain.
"No;--he wasn't going to put up with that;--not if he knew it." All
this he declared freely to his general acquaintance. He was very
eloquent on the subject in a personal interview which he had with Mr.
Moggs senior, in consequence of a visit made to Hendon by Mr. Moggs
junior, during which he feared that Polly had shown some tendency
towards yielding to the young politician. Mr. Moggs senior might take
this for granted;--that if Moggs junior made himself master of Polly,
it would be of Polly pure and simple, of Polly without a shilling of
dowry. "He'll have to take her in her smock." That was the phrase in
which Mr. Neefit was pleased to express his resolution. To all of
which Mr. Moggs senior answered never a word. It was on returning
from Mr. Moggs's establishment in Bond Street to his own in Conduit
Street that Mr. Neefit made himself so very unpleasant to the
unfortunate German. When Ontario put on his best clothes, and took
himself out to Hendon on the previous Sunday, he did not probably
calculate that, as one consequence of that visit, the Herr Bawwah
would pass a whole week of intoxication in the little back parlour of
the public-house near St. George's Church.

It may be imagined how very unpleasant all this must have been to
Miss Neefit herself. Poor Polly indeed suffered many things; but she
bore them with an admirable and a persistent courage. Indeed, she
possessed a courage which greatly mitigated her sufferings. Let her
father be as indiscreet as he might, he could not greatly lower her,
as long as she herself was prudent. It was thus that Polly argued
with herself. She knew her own value, and was not afraid that she
should ever lack a lover when she wanted to find a husband. Of course
it was not a nice thing to be thrown at a man's head, as her father
was constantly throwing her at the head of young Newton; but such a
man as she would give herself to at last would understand all that.
Ontario Moggs, could she ever bring herself to accept Ontario, would
not be less devoted to her because of her father's ill-arranged
ambition. Polly could be obstinate too, but with her obstinacy there
was combined a fund of feminine strength which, as we think, quite
justified the devotion of Ontario Moggs.

Amidst all these troubles Mrs. Neefit also had a bad time of it; so
bad a time that she was extremely anxious that Ontario should at once
carry off the prize;--Ontario, or the gasfitter, or almost anybody.
Neefit was taking to drink in the midst of all this confusion, and
was making himself uncommonly unpleasant in the bosom of his family.
On the Sunday,--the Sunday before the Monday on which the Herr
decided that his wisest course of action would be to abstain from
work and make a beast of himself, in order that he might spite his
master,--Mr. Neefit had dined at one o'clock, and had insisted on his
gin-and-water and pipe immediately after his dinner. Now Mr. Neefit,
when he took too much, did not fall into the extreme sins which
disgraced his foreman. He simply became very cross till he fell
asleep, very heavy while sleeping, and more cross than ever when
again awake. While he was asleep on this Sunday afternoon Ontario
Moggs came down to Hendon dressed in his Sunday best. Mrs. Neefit
whispered a word to him before he was left alone with Polly. "You be
round with her, and run your chance about the money." "Mrs. Neefit,"
said Ontario, laying his hand upon his heart, "all the bullion in the
Bank of England don't make a feather's weight in the balance." "You
never was mercenary, Mr. Ontario," said the lady. "My sweetheart is
to me more than a coined hemisphere," said Ontario. The expression
may have been absurd, but the feeling was there.

Polly was not at all coy of her presence,--was not so, though she
had been specially ordered by her father not to have anything to
say to that long-legged, ugly fool. "Handsome is as handsome does,"
Polly had answered. Whereupon Mr. Neefit had shown his teeth and
growled;--but Polly, though she loved her father, and after a fashion
respected him, was not afraid of him; and now, when her mother left
her alone with Ontario, she was free enough of her conversation. "Oh,
Polly," he said, after a while, "you know why I'm here."

"Yes; I know," said Polly.

"I don't think you do care for that young gentleman."

"I'm not going to break my heart about him, Mr. Moggs."

"I'd try to be the death of him, if you did."

"That would be a right down tragedy, because then you'd be hung,--and
so there'd be an end of us all. I don't think I'd do that, Mr.
Moggs."

"Polly, I sometimes feel as though I didn't know what to do."

"Tell me the whole story of how you went on down at Percycross. I was
so anxious you should get in."

"Were you now?"

"Right down sick at heart about it;--that I was. Don't you think we
should all be proud to know a member of Parliament?"

"Oh; if that's all--"

"I shouldn't think anything of Mr. Newton for being in Parliament.
Whether he was in Parliament or out would be all the same. Of course
he's a friend, and we like him very well; but his being in Parliament
would be nothing. But if you were there--!"

"I don't know what's the difference," said Moggs despondently.

"Because you're one of us."

"Yes; I am," said Moggs, rising to his legs and preparing himself
for an oration on the rights of labour. "I thank my God that I am no
aristocrat." Then there came upon him a feeling that this was not a
time convenient for political fervour. "But, I'll tell you something,
Polly," he said, interrupting himself.

"Well;--tell me something, Mr. Moggs."

"I'd sooner have a kiss from you than be Prime Minister."

"Kisses mean so much, Mr. Moggs," said Polly.

"I mean them to mean much," said Ontario Moggs. Whereupon Polly,
declining further converse on that delicate subject, and certainly
not intending to grant the request made on the occasion, changed the
subject.

"But you will get in still;--won't you, Mr. Moggs? They tell me that
those other gentlemen ain't to be members any longer, because what
they did was unfair. Oughtn't that to make you member?"

"I think it ought, if the law was right;--but it doesn't."

"Doesn't it now? But you'll try again;--won't you? Never give a thing
up, Mr. Moggs, if you want it really." As the words left her lips she
understood their meaning,--the meaning in which he must necessarily
take them,--and she blushed up to her forehead. Then she laughed as
she strove to recall the encouragement she had given him. "You know
what I mean, Mr. Moggs. I don't mean any silly nonsense about being
in love."

"If that is silly, I am the silliest man in London."

"I think you are sometimes;--so I tell you fairly."

In the meantime Mr. Neefit had woke from his slumbers. He was in his
old arm-chair in the little back room, where they had dined, while
Polly with her lover was in the front parlour. Mrs. Neefit was seated
opposite to Mr. Neefit, with an open Bible in her lap, which had been
as potent for sleep with her as had been the gin-and-water with her
husband. Neefit suddenly jumped up and growled. "Where's Polly?" he
demanded.

"She's in the parlour, I suppose," said Mrs. Neefit doubtingly.

"And who is with her?"

"Nobody as hadn't ought to be," said Mrs. Neefit.

"Who's there, I say?" But without waiting for an answer, he stalked
into the front room. "It's no use in life your coming here," he said,
addressing himself at once to Ontario; "not the least. She ain't
for you. She's for somebody else. Why can't one word be as good as
a thousand?" Moggs stood silent, looking sheepish and confounded.
It was not that he was afraid of the father; but that he feared to
offend the daughter should he address the father roughly. "If she
goes against me she'll have to walk out of the house with just what
she's got on her back."

"I should be quite contented," said Ontario.

"But I shouldn't;--so you may just cut it. Anybody who wants her
without my leave must take her in her smock."

"Oh, father!" screamed Polly.

"That's what I mean,--so let's have done with it. What business have
you coming to another man's house when you're not welcome? When I
want you I'll send for you; and till I do you have my leave to stay
away."

"Good-bye, Polly," said Ontario, offering the girl his hand.

"Good-bye, Mr. Moggs," said Polly; "and mind you get into Parliament.
You stick to it, and you'll do it."

When she repeated this salutary advice, it must have been that she
intended to apply to the double event. Moggs at any rate took it in
that light. "I shall," said he, as he opened the door and walked
triumphantly out of the house.

"Father," said Polly, as soon as they were alone, "you've behaved
very bad to that young man."

"You be blowed," said Mr. Neefit.

"You have, then. You'll go on till you get me that talked about that
I shall be ashamed to show myself. What's the good of me trying to
behave, if you keep going on like that?"

"Why didn't you take that chap when he came after you down to
Margate?"

"Because I didn't choose. I don't care enough for him; and it's all
no use of you going on. I wouldn't have him if he came twenty times.
I've made up my mind, so I tell you."

"You're a very grand young woman."

"I'm grand enough to have a will of my own about that. I'm not going
to be made to marry any man, I know."

"And you mean to take that long-legged shoemaker's apprentice."

"He's not a shoemaker's apprentice any more than I'm a
breeches-maker's apprentice." Polly was now quite in earnest, and in
no mood for picking her words. "He is a bootmaker by his trade; and
I've never said anything about taking him."

"You've given him a promise."

"No; I've not."

"And you'd better not, unless you want to walk out of this house with
nothing but the rags on your back. Ain't I doing it all for you?
Ain't I been sweating my life out these thirty years to make you a
lady?" This was hard upon Polly, as she was not yet one-and-twenty.

"I don't want to be a lady; no more than I am just by myself, like.
If I can't be a lady without being made one, I won't be a lady at
all."

"You be blowed."

"There are different kinds of ladies, father. I want to be such a
one as neither you nor mother shall ever have cause to say I didn't
behave myself."

"You'd talk the figures off a milestone," said Mr. Neefit, as he
returned to his arm-chair, to his gin-and-water, to his growlings,
and before long to his slumbers. Throughout the whole evening he was
very unpleasant in the bosom of his family,--which consisted on this
occasion of his wife only, as Polly took the opportunity of going out
to drink tea with a young lady friend. Neefit, when he heard this,
suggested that Ontario was drinking tea at the same house, and would
have pursued his daughter but for mingled protestations and menaces
which his wife used for preventing such a violation of parental
authority. "Moggs don't know from Adam where she is; and you never
knowed her do anything of that kind. And you'll go about with your
mad schemes and jealousies till you about ruin the poor girl; that's
what you will. I won't have it. If you go, I'll go too, and I'll
shame you. No; you shan't have your hat. Of course she'll be off some
day, if you make the place that wretched that she can't live in it. I
know I would,--with the fust man as'd ask me." By these objurgations,
by a pertinacious refusal as to his hat, and a little yielding in the
matter of gin-and-water, Mr. Neefit was at length persuaded to remain
at home.

On the following morning he said nothing before he left home, but as
soon as he had opened his letters and spoken a few sharp things to
the two men in Conduit Street, he went off to Mr. Moggs senior. Of
the interview between Mr. Neefit and Mr. Moggs senior sufficient has
already been told. Then it was, after his return to his own shop,
that he so behaved as to drive the German artist into downright
mutiny and unlimited beer. Through the whole afternoon he snarled at
Waddle; but Waddle sat silent, bending over the ledger. One question
Waddle did answer.

"Where's that pig-headed German gone?" asked Mr. Neefit for the tenth
time.

"I believe he's cutting his throat about this time," said Mr. Waddle.

"He may wait till I come and sew it up," said the breeches-maker.

All this time Mr. Neefit was very unhappy. He knew, as well as did
Mr. Waddle or Polly, that he was misbehaving himself. He was by no
means deficient in ideas of duty to his wife, to his daughter, and to
his dependents. Polly was the apple of his eye; his one jewel;--in
his estimation the best girl that ever lived. He admired her in all
her moods, even though she would sometimes oppose his wishes with
invincible obstinacy. He knew in his heart that were she to marry
Ontario Moggs he would forgive her on the day of her marriage. He
could not keep himself from forgiving her though she were to marry a
chimney-sweep. But, as he thought, a great wrong was being done him.
He could not bring himself to believe that Polly would not marry
the young Squire, if the young Squire would only be true to his
undertaking; and then he could not endure that the young Squire
should escape from him, after having been, as it were, saved from
ruin by his money, without paying for the accommodation in some
shape. He had some inkling of an idea that in punishing Ralph by
making public the whole transaction, he would be injuring his
daughter as much as he injured Ralph. But the inkling did not
sufficiently establish itself in his mind to cause him to desist.
Ralph Newton ought to be made to repeat his offer before all the
world; even though he should only repeat it to be again refused. The
whole of that evening he sat brooding over it, so that he might come
to some great resolution.



CHAPTER XLVI.

MR. NEEFIT AGAIN.


The last few days in March and the first week in April were devoted
by Ralph the heir to a final visit to the Moonbeam. He had resolved
to finish the hunting season at his old quarters, and then to remove
his stud to Newton. The distinction with which he was welcomed
by everybody at the Moonbeam must have been very gratifying to
him. Though he had made no response whatever to Lieutenant Cox's
proposition as to a visit to Newton, that gentleman received him as a
hero. Captain Fooks also had escaped from his regiment with the sole
object of spending these last days with his dear old friend. Fred
Pepper too was very polite, though it was not customary with Mr.
Pepper to display friendship so enthusiastic as that which warmed the
bosoms of the two military gentlemen. As to Mr. Horsball, one might
have thought from his manner that he hoped to engage his customer to
remain at the Moonbeam for the rest of his life. But it was not so.
It was in Mr. Horsball's nature to be civil to a rich hunting country
gentleman; and it was the fact also that Ralph had ever been popular
with the world of the Moonbeam,--even at times when the spasmodic,
and at length dilatory, mode of his payment must have become matter
for thought to the master of the establishment. There was no doubt
about the payments now, and Ralph's popularity was increased
fourfold. Mrs. Horsball got out from some secluded nook a special
bottle of orange-brandy in his favour,--which Lieutenant Cox would
have consumed on the day of its opening, had not Mrs. Horsball with
considerable acrimony declined to supply his orders. The sister with
ringlets smiled and smirked whenever the young Squire went near the
bar. The sister in ringlets was given to flirtations of this kind,
would listen with sweetest complacency to compliments on her beauty,
and would return them with interest. But she never encouraged this
sort of intimacy with gentlemen who did not pay their bills, or with
those whose dealings with the house were not of a profitable nature.
The man who expected that Miss Horsball would smile upon him because
he ordered a glass of sherry and bitters or half-a-pint of pale ale
was very much mistaken; but the softness of her smiles for those who
consumed the Moonbeam champagne was unbounded. Love and commerce
with her ran together, and regulated each other in a manner that was
exceedingly advantageous to her brother. If I were about to open such
a house as the Moonbeam the first thing I should look for would be
a discreet, pleasant-visaged lady to assist me in the bar department,
not much under forty, with ringlets, having no particular leaning
towards matrimony, who knew how to whisper little speeches while she
made a bottle of cherry-brandy serve five-and-twenty turns at the
least. She should be honest, patient, graceful, capable of great
labour, grasping,--with that wonderful capability of being greedy for
the benefit of another which belongs to women,--willing to accept
plentiful meals and a power of saving £20 a year as sufficient
remuneration for all hardships, with no more susceptibility than a
milestone, and as indifferent to delicacy in language as a bargee.
There are such women, and very valuable women they are in that trade.
Such a one was Miss Horsball, and in these days the sweetest of her
smiles were bestowed upon the young Squire.

Ralph Newton certainly liked it, though he assumed an air of laughing
at it all. "One would think that old Hossy thought that I am going to
go on with this kind of thing," he said one morning to Mr. Pepper as
the two of them were standing about near the stable doors with pipes
in their mouths. Old Hossy was the affectionate nickname by which Mr.
Horsball was known among the hunting men of the B. B. Mr. Pepper and
Ralph had already breakfasted, and were dressed for hunting except
that they had not yet put on their scarlet coats. The meet was within
three miles of their head-quarters; the captain and the lieutenant
were taking advantage of the occasion by prolonged slumbers; and
Ralph had passed the morning in discussing hunting matters with Mr.
Pepper.

"He don't think that," said Mr. Pepper, taking a very convenient
little implement out of his pocket, contrived for purposes of
pipe-smoking accommodation. He stopped down his tobacco, and drew the
smoke, and seemed by his manner to be giving his undivided attention
to his pipe. But that was Mr. Pepper's manner. He was short in
speech, but always spoke with a meaning.

"Of course he doesn't really," said Ralph. "I don't suppose I shall
ever see the old house again after next week. You see when a man has
a place of one's own, if there be hunting there, one is bound to take
it; if there isn't, one can go elsewhere and pick and choose."

"Just so," said Mr. Pepper.

"I like this kind of thing amazingly, you know."

"It has its advantages."

"Oh dear, yes. There is no trouble, you know. Everything done for
you. No servants to look after,--except just the fellow who brings
you your breeches and rides your second horse." Mr. Pepper never had
a second horse, or a man of his own to bring him his breeches, but
the allusion did not on that account vex him. "And then you can do
what you like a great deal more than you can in a house of your own."

"I should say so," remarked Mr. Pepper.

"I tell you what it is, Fred," continued Ralph, becoming very
confidential. "I don't mind telling you, because you are a man who
understands things. There isn't such a great pull after all in having
a property of your own."

"I shouldn't mind trying it,--just for a year or so," said Mr.
Pepper.

"I suppose not," said Ralph, chuckling in his triumph. "And yet there
isn't so much in it. What does it amount to when it's all told? You
keep horses for other fellows to ride, you buy wine for other fellows
to drink, you build a house for other fellows to live in. You've a
deal of business to do, and if you don't mind it you go very soon to
the dogs. You have to work like a slave, and everybody gets a pull at
you. The chances are you never have any ready money, and become as
stingy as an old file. You have to get married because of the family,
and the place, and all that kind of thing. Then you have to give
dinners to every old fogy, male and female, within twenty miles
of you, and before you know where you are you become an old fogy
yourself. That's about what it is."

"You ought to know," said Mr. Pepper.

"I've been expecting it all my life,--of course. It was what I was
born to, and everybody has been telling me what a lucky fellow I am
since I can remember. Now I've got it, and I don't find it comes to
so very much. I shall always look back upon the dear old Moonbeam,
and the B. B., and Hossy's wonderful port wine with regret. It hasn't
been very swell, you know, but it's been uncommonly cosy. Don't you
think so?"

"You see I wasn't born to anything better," said Mr. Pepper.

Just at this moment Cox and Fooks came out of the house. They had
not as yet breakfasted, but had thought that a mouthful of air in
the stable-yard might enable them to get through their toast and
red herrings with an amount of appetite which had not as yet been
vouchsafed to them. Second and third editions of that wonderful port
had been produced on the previous evening, and the two warriors had
played their parts with it manfully. Fooks was bearing up bravely as
he made his way across the yard; but Cox looked as though his friends
ought to see to his making that journey to Australia very soon if
they intended him to make it at all. "I'm blessed if you fellows
haven't been and breakfasted," said Captain Fooks.

"That's about it," said the Squire.

"You must be uncommon fond of getting up early."

"Do you know who gets the worm?" asked Mr. Pepper.

"Oh, bother that," said Cox.

"There's nothing I hate so much as being told about that nasty worm,"
said Captain Fooks. "I don't want a worm."

"But the early birds do," said Mr. Pepper.

Captain Fooks was rather given to be cross of mornings. "I think, you
know, that when fellows say over night they'll breakfast together, it
isn't just the sort of thing for one or two to have all the things
brought up at any unconscionable hour they please. Eh, Cox?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said Cox. "I shall just have another go of
soda and brandy with a devilled biscuit. That's all I want."

"Fooks had better go to bed again, and see if he can't get out the
other side," said Ralph.

"Chaff doesn't mean anything," said Captain Fooks.

"That's as you take it," said Mr. Pepper.

"I shall take it just as I please," said Captain Fooks.

Just at this moment Mr. Horsball came up to them, touching his hat
cheerily in sign of the commencement of the day. "You'll ride Mr.
Pepper's little 'orse, I suppose, sir?" he said, addressing himself
to the young Squire.

"Certainly,--I told Larking I would."

"Exactly, Mr. Newton. And Banker might as well go out as second."

"I said Brewer. Banker was out on Friday."

"That won't be no odds, Mr. Newton. The fact is. Brewer's legs is a
little puffed."

"All right," said the Squire.

"Well, old Hossy," said Lieutenant Cox, summing up all his energy in
an attempt at matutinal joviality as he slapped the landlord on the
back, "how are things going with you?"

Mr. Horsball knew his customers, and did not like being slapped
on the back with more than ordinary vigour by such a customer as
Lieutenant Cox. "Pretty well, I thank you, Mr. Cox," said he. "I
didn't take too much last night, and I eat my breakfast 'earty this
morning."

"There is one for you, young man," said Captain Fooks. Whereupon
the Squire laughed heartily. Mr. Horsball went on nodding his
head, intending to signify his opinion that he had done his work
thoroughly; Mr. Pepper, standing on one foot with the other raised
on a horse-block, looked on without moving a muscle of his face. The
lieutenant was disgusted, but was too weak in his inner man to be
capable of instant raillery;--when, on a sudden, the whole aspect of
things was changed by the appearance of Mr. Neefit in the yard.

"D----tion!" exclaimed our friend Ralph. The apparition had been so
sudden that the Squire was unable to restrain himself. Mr. Neefit, as
the reader will perhaps remember, had been at the Moonbeam before. He
had written letters which had been answered, and then letters,--many
letters,--to which no reply had been given. In respect of the Neefit
arrangements Ralph Newton felt himself to be peculiarly ill-used by
persecutions such as these, because he had honestly done his best
to make Polly his wife. No doubt he acknowledged that fortune had
favoured him almost miraculously, in first saving him from so
injurious a marriage by the action of the young lady, and then at
once bestowing upon him his estate. But the escape was the doing of
fortune and Polly Neefit combined, and had not come of any intrigue
on his own part. He was in a position,--so he thought,--absolutely
to repudiate Neefit, and to throw himself upon facts for his
protection;--but then it was undoubtedly the case that for a year
or two Mr. Neefit could make his life a burden to him. He would
have bought off Neefit at a considerable price, had Neefit been
purchaseable. But Neefit was not in this matter greedy for himself.
He wanted to make his daughter a lady, and he thought that this
was the readiest way to accomplish that object. The Squire, in his
unmeasurable disgust, uttered the curse aloud; but then, remembering
himself, walked up to the breeches-maker with his extended hand. He
had borrowed the man's money. "What's in the wind now, Mr. Neefit?"
he said.

"What's in the wind, Captain? Oh, you know. When are you coming to
see us at the cottage?"

"I don't think my coming would do any good. I'm not in favour with
the ladies there." Ralph was aware that all the men standing round
him had heard the story, and that nothing was to be gained by an
immediate attempt at concealment. It behoved him, above all things,
to be upon his metal, to put a good face upon it, and to be at any
rate equal to the breeches-maker in presence of mind and that kind of
courage which he himself would have called "cheek."

"My money was in favour with you, Captain, when you promised as how
you would be on the square with me in regard to our Polly."

"Mr. Neefit," said Ralph, speaking in a low voice, but still clearly,
so that all around him could hear him, "your daughter and I can never
be more to each other than we are at present. She has decided that.
But I value her character and good name too highly to allow even you
to injure them by such a discussion in a stableyard." And, having
said this, he walked away into the house.

"My Polly's character!" said the infuriated breeches-maker, turning
round to the audience, and neglecting to follow his victim in his
determination to vindicate his daughter. "If my girl's character
don't stand higher nor his or any one's belonging to him I'll eat
it!"

"Mr. Newton meant to speak in favour of the young lady, not against
her," said Mr. Pepper.

"Then why don't he come out on the square? Now, gents, I'll tell you
just the whole of it. He came down to my little box, where I, and my
missus, and my girl lives quiet and decent, to borrow money;--and he
borrowed it. He won't say as that wasn't so."

"And he's paid you the money back again," said Mr. Pepper.

"He have;--but just you listen. I know you, Mr. Pepper, and all about
you; and do you listen. He have paid it back. But when he come there
borrowing money, he saw my girl; and, says he,--'I've got to sell
that 'eritance of mine for just what it 'll fetch.' 'That's bad,
Captain,' says I. 'It is bad,' says he. Then says he again, 'Neefit,
that girl of yours there is the sweetest girl as ever I put my eyes
on.' And so she is,--as sweet as a rose, and as honest as the sun,
and as good as gold. I says it as oughtn't; but she is. 'It's a pity,
Neefit,' says he,' about the 'eritance; ain't it?' 'Captain,' says
I,--I used to call him Captain 'cause he come down quite familiar
like to eat his bit of salmon and drink his glass of wine. Laws,--he
was glad enough to come then, mighty grand as he is now."

"I don't think he's grand at all," said Mr. Horsball.

"Well;--do you just listen, gents. 'Captain,' says I, 'that 'eritance
of yourn mustn't be sold no how. I says so. What's the figure as is
wanted?' Well; then he went on to say as how Polly was the sweetest
girl he ever see;--and so we came to an understanding. He was to have
what money he wanted at once, and then £20,000 down when he married
Polly. He did have a thousand. And, now,--see what his little game
is."

"But the young lady wouldn't have anything to say to him," suggested
Captain Fooks, who, even for the sake of his breakfast, could not
omit to hear the last of so interesting a conversation.

"Laws, Captain Fooks, to hear the likes of that from you, who is an
officer and a gentleman by Act of Parliament! When you have anything
sweet to say to a young woman, does she always jump down your throat
the first go off?"

"If she don't come at the second time of asking I always go
elsewhere," said Captain Fooks.

"Then it's my opinion you have a deal of travelling to do," said Mr.
Neefit, "and don't get much at the end of it. It's because he's come
in for his 'eritance, which he never would have had only for me, that
he's demeaning himself this fashion. It ain't acting the gentleman;
it ain't the thing; it's off the square. Only for me and my money
there wouldn't be an acre his this blessed minute;--d----d if there
would! I saved it for him, by my ready money,--just that I might see
my Polly put into a station as she'd make more genteel than she found
it. That's what she would;--she has that manners, not to talk of her
being as pretty a girl as there is from here to,--to anywheres. He
made me a promise, and he shall keep it. I'll worry the heart out
of him else. Pay me back my money! Who cares for the money? I can
tell guineas with him now, I'll be bound. I'll put it all in the
papers,--I will. There ain't a soul shan't know it. I'll put the
story of it into the pockets of every pair of breeches as leaves my
shop. I'll send it to every M. F. H. in the kingdom."

"You'll about destroy your trade, old fellow," said Mr. Pepper.

"I don't care for the trade, Mr. Pepper. Why have I worked like a
'orse? It's only for my girl."

"I suppose she's not breaking her heart for him?" said Captain Fooks.

"What she's a doing with her heart ain't no business of yours,
Captain Fooks. I'm her father, and I know what I'm about. I'll make
that young man's life a burden to him, if 'e ain't on the square
with my girl. You see if I don't. Mr. 'Orsball, I want a 'orse to go
a 'unting on to-day. You lets 'em. Just tell your man to get me a
'orse. I'll pay for him."

"I didn't know you ever did anything in that way," said Mr. Horsball.

"I may begin if I please, I suppose. If I can't go no other way, I'll
go on a donkey, and I'll tell every one that's out. Oh, 'e don't know
me yet,--don't that young gent."

Mr. Neefit did not succeed in getting any animal out of Mr.
Horsball's stables, nor did he make further attempt to carry his last
threat into execution on that morning. Mr. Horsball now led the way
into the house, while Mr. Pepper mounted his nag. Captain Fooks and
Lieutenant Cox went in to their breakfast, and the unfortunate father
followed them. It was now nearly eleven o'clock, and it was found
that Ralph's horses had been taken round to the other door, and that
he had already started. He said very little to any one during the
day, though he was somewhat comforted by information conveyed to him
by Mr. Horsball in the course of the afternoon that Mr. Neefit had
returned to London. "You send your lawyer to him, Squire," said Mr.
Horsball. "Lawyers cost a deal of money, but they do make things
straight." This suggestion had also been made to him by his brother
Gregory.

On the following day Ralph went up to London, and explained all the
circumstances of the case to Mr. Carey. Mr. Carey undertook to do his
best to straighten this very crooked episode in his client's life.



CHAPTER XLVII.

THE WAY WHICH SHOWS THAT THEY MEAN IT.


If this kind of thing were to go on, life wouldn't be worth having.
That was the feeling of Ralph, the squire of Newton, as he returned
on that Saturday from London to the Moonbeam; and so far Mr. Neefit
had been successful in carrying out his threat. Neefit had sworn
that he would make the young man's life a burden to him, and the
burden was already becoming unbearable. Mr. Carey had promised to do
something. He would, at any rate, see the infatuated breeches-maker
of Conduit Street. In the meantime he had suggested one remedy of
which Ralph had thought before,--"If you were married to some one
else he'd give it up," Mr. Carey had suggested. That no doubt was
true.

Ralph completed his sojourn at the Moonbeam, leaving that place at
the end of the first week in April, took a run down to his own place,
and then settled himself up to London for the season. His brother
Gregory had at this time returned to the parsonage at Newton; but
there was an understanding that he was to come up to London and be
his brother's guest for the first fortnight in May. Ralph the heir
had taken larger rooms, and had a spare chamber. When Ralph had given
this invitation, he had expressed his determination of devoting his
spring in town to an assiduous courtship of Mary Bonner. At the
moment in which he made that assertion down at Newton, the nuisance
of the Neefit affair was less intolerable to him than it had since
become. He had spoken cheerily of his future prospects, declaring
himself to be violently in love with Mary, though he declared at the
same time that he had no idea of breaking his heart for any young
woman. That last assertion was probably true.

As for living in the great house at the Priory all alone, that he
had declared to be impossible. Of course he would be at home for
the hunting next winter; but he doubted whether he should be there
much before that time, unless a certain coming event should make it
necessary for him to go down and look after things. He thought it
probable that he should take a run abroad in July; perhaps go to
Norway for the fishing in June. He was already making arrangements
with two other men for a move in August. He might be at home for
partridge shooting about the middle of September, but he shouldn't
"go into residence" at Newton before that. Thus he had spoken of it
in describing his plans to his brother, putting great stress on his
intention to devote the spring months to the lovely Mary. Gregory
had seen nothing wrong in all this. Ralph was now a rich man, and
was entitled to amuse himself. Gregory would have wished that his
brother would at once make himself happy among his own tenants
and dependents, but that, no doubt, would come soon. Ralph did
spend two nights at Newton after the scene with Neefit in the
Moonbeam yard,--just that he might see his nags safe in their new
quarters,--and then went up to London. He was hardly yet strong in
heart, because such a trouble as that which vexed him in regard to
Polly does almost make a man's life a burden. Ralph was gifted with
much aptitude for throwing his troubles behind, but he hardly was yet
able to rid himself of this special trouble. That horrid tradesman
was telling his story to everybody. Sir Thomas Underwood knew
the story; and so, he thought, did Mary Bonner. Mary Bonner, in
truth, did not know it; but she had thrown in Ralph's teeth, as an
accusation against him, that he owed himself and his affections to
another girl; and Ralph, utterly forgetful of Clarissa and that now
long-distant scene on the lawn, had believed, and still did believe,
that Mary had referred to Polly Neefit. On the 10th of April he
established himself at his new rooms in Spring Gardens, and was
careful in seeing that there was a comfortable little bed-room for
his brother Greg. His uncle had now been dead just six months, but he
felt as though he had been the owner of the Newton estate for years.
If Mr. Carey could only settle for him that trouble with Mr. Neefit,
how happy his life would be to him. He was very much in love with
Mary Bonner, but his trouble with Mr. Neefit was of almost more
importance to him than his love for Mary Bonner.

In the meantime the girls were living, as usual, at Popham Villa, and
Sir Thomas was living, as usual, in Southampton Buildings. He and his
colleague had been unseated, but it had already been decided by the
House of Commons that no new writ should be at once issued, and that
there should be a commission appointed to make extended inquiry at
Percycross in reference to the contemplated disfranchisement of the
borough. There could be no possible connexion between this inquiry
and the expediency of Sir Thomas living at home; but, after some
fashion, he reconciled further delay to his conscience by the fact
that the Percycross election was not even yet quite settled. No doubt
it would be necessary that he should again go to Percycross during
the sitting of the Commission.

The reader will remember the interview between Gregory Newton and
Clarissa, in which poor Clary had declared with so much emphasis her
certainty that his brother's suit to Mary must be fruitless. This she
had said, with artless energy, in no degree on her own behalf. She
was hopeless now in that direction, and had at last taught herself to
feel that the man was unworthy. The lesson had reached her, though
she herself was ignorant not only of the manner of the teaching, but
of the very fact that she had been taught. She had pleaded, more
than once, that men did such things, and were yet held in favour and
forgiven, let their iniquities have been what they might. She had
hoped to move others by the doctrine; but gradually it had ceased to
be operative, even on herself. She could not tell how it was that her
passion faded and died away. It can hardly be said that it died away;
but it became to herself grievous and a cause of soreness, instead of
a joy and a triumph. She no longer said, even to herself, that he was
to be excused. He had come there, and had made a mere plaything of
her,--wilfully. There was no earnestness in him, no manliness, and
hardly common honesty. A conviction that it was so had crept into
her poor wounded heart, in spite of those repeated assertions which
she had made to Patience as to the persistency of her own affection.
First dismay and then wrath had come upon her when the man who ought
to be her lover came to the very house in which she was living, and
there offered his hand to another girl, almost in her very presence.
Had the sin been committed elsewhere, and with any rival other than
her own cousin, she might have still clung to that doctrine of
forgiveness, because the sinner was a man, and because it is the way
of the world to forgive men. But the insult had been too close for
pardon; and now her wrath was slowly changing itself to contempt. Had
Mary accepted the man's offer this phase of feeling would not have
occurred. Clarissa would have hated the woman, but still might have
loved the man. But Mary had treated him as a creature absolutely
beneath her notice, had evidently despised him, and Mary's scorn
communicated itself to Clarissa. The fact that Ralph was now Newton
of Newton, absolutely in harbour after so many dangers of shipwreck,
assisted her in this. "I would have been true to him, though
he hadn't had a penny," she said to herself: "I would never
have given him up though all the world had been against him."
Debts, difficulties, an inheritance squandered, idle habits, even
profligacy, should not have torn him from her heart, had he possessed
the one virtue of meaning what he said when he told her that he loved
her. She remembered the noble triumph she had felt when she declared
to Mary that that other Ralph, who was to have been Mary's lover,
was welcome to the fine property. Her sole ambition had been to be
loved by this man; but the man had been incapable of loving her.
She herself was pretty, and soft, bright on occasions, and graceful.
She knew so much of herself; and she knew, also, that Mary was far
prettier than herself, and more clever. This young man to whom she
had devoted herself possessed no power of love for an individual,--no
capability of so joining himself to another human being as to feel,
that in spite of any superiority visible to the outside world, that
one should be esteemed by him superior to all others,--because of
his love. The young man had liked prettiness and softness and grace
and feminine nicenesses; and seeing one who was prettier and more
graceful,--all which poor Clary allowed, though she was not so sure
about the softness and niceness,--had changed his aim without an
effort! Ah, how different was poor Gregory!

She thought much of Gregory, reminding herself that as was her sorrow
in regard to her own crushed hopes, so were his. His hopes, too, had
been crushed, because she had been so obdurate to him. But she had
never been false. She had never whispered a word of love to Gregory.
It might be that his heart was as sore, but he had not been injured
as she had been injured. She despised the owner of Newton Priory. She
would scorn him should he come again to her and throw himself at her
feet. But Gregory could not despise her. She had, indeed, preferred
the bad to the good. There had been lack of judgment. But there had
been on her side no lack of truth. Yes;--she had been wrong in her
choice. Her judgment had been bad. And yet how glorious he had looked
as he lay upon the lawn, hot from his rowing, all unbraced, brown and
bold and joyous as a young god, as he bade her go and fetch him drink
to slake his thirst! How proud, then, she had been to be ordered by
him, as though their mutual intimacies and confidences and loves were
sufficient, when they too were alone together, to justify a reversal
of those social rules by which the man is ordered to wait upon the
woman. There is nothing in the first flush of acknowledged love that
is sweeter to the woman than this. All the men around her are her
servants; but in regard to this man she may have the inexpressibly
greater pleasure of serving him herself. Clarissa had now thought
much of these things, and had endeavoured to define to herself what
had been those gifts belonging to Ralph which had won from her her
heart. He was not, in truth, handsomer than his brother Gregory,
was certainly less clever, was selfish in small things from habit,
whereas Gregory had no thought for his own comfort. It had all come
from this,--that a black coat and a grave manner of life and serious
pursuits had been less alluring to her than idleness and pleasure. It
had suited her that her young god should be joyous, unbraced, brown,
bold, and thirsty. She did not know Pope's famous line, but it all
lay in that. She was innocent, pure, unknowing in the ways of vice,
simple in her tastes, conscientious in her duties, and yet she was
a rake at heart,--till at last sorrow and disappointment taught her
that it is not enough that a man should lie loose upon the grass with
graceful negligence and call for soda-water with a pleasant voice.
Gregory wore black clothes, was sombre, and was a parson;--but, oh,
what a thing it is that a man should be true at heart!

She said nothing of her changing feelings to Mary, or even to
Patience. The household at this time was not very gay or joyous.
Sir Thomas, after infinite vexation, had lost the seat of which
they had all been proud. Mary Bonner's condition was not felt to be
deplorable, as was that of poor Clary, and she certainly did not
carry herself as a lovelorn maiden. Of Mary Bonner it may be said
that no disappointment of that kind would affect her outward manner;
nor would she in any strait of love be willing to make a confidence
or to discuss her feelings. Whatever care of that kind might be
present to her would be lightened, if not made altogether as nothing,
by her conviction that such loads should be carried in silence, and
without any visible sign to the world that the muscles are overtaxed.
But it was known that the banished Ralph had, in the moment of his
expected prosperity, declared his purpose of giving all that he had
to give to this beauty, and it was believed that she would have
accepted the gift. It had, therefore, come to pass that the name
of neither Ralph could be mentioned at the cottage, and that life
among these maidens was sober, sedate, and melancholy. At last there
came a note from Sir Thomas to Patience. "I shall be home to dinner
to-morrow. I found the enclosed from R. N. this morning. I suppose
he must come. Affectionately, T. U." The enclosed note was as
follows:--"Dear Sir Thomas, I called this morning, but old Stemm was
as hard as granite. If you do not object I will run down to the villa
to-morrow. If you are at home I will stay and dine. Yours ever, Ralph
Newton."

The mind of Sir Thomas when he received this had been affected
exactly as his words described. He had supposed that Ralph must come.
He had learned to hold his late ward in low esteem. The man was now
beyond all likelihood of want, and sailing with propitious winds; but
Sir Thomas, had he been able to consult his own inclinations, would
have had no more to do with him. And yet the young Squire had not
done anything which, as Sir Thomas thought, would justify him in
closing his doors against one to whom he had been bound in a manner
peculiarly intimate. However, if his niece should choose at last
to accept Ralph, the match would be very brilliant; and the uncle
thought that it was not his duty to interfere between her and so
great an advantage. Sir Thomas, in truth, did not as yet understand
Mary Bonner,--knew very little of her character; but he did know that
it was incumbent on him to give her some opportunity of taking her
beauty to market. He wrote a line to Ralph, saying that he himself
would dine at home on the day indicated.

"Impossible!" said Clary, when she was first told.

"You may be sure he's coming," said Patience.

"Then I shall go and spend the day with Mrs. Brownlow. I cannot stand
it."

"My dear, he'll know why you are away."

"Let him know," said Clarissa. And she did as she said she would.
When Sir Thomas came home at about four o'clock on the Thursday which
Ralph had fixed,--Thursday, the fourteenth of April,--he found that
Clarissa had flown. The fly was to be sent for her at ten, and it was
calculated that by the time she returned, Ralph would certainly have
taken his leave. Sir Thomas expressed neither anger nor satisfaction
at this arrangement,--"Oh; she has gone to Mrs. Brownlow's, has she?
Very well. I don't suppose it will make much difference to Ralph."
"None in the least," said Patience, severely. "Nothing of that kind
will make any difference to him." But at that time Ralph had been
above an hour in the house.

We will now return to Ralph and his adventures. He had come up to
London with the express object of pressing his suit upon Mary Bonner;
but during his first day or two in London had busied himself rather
with the affairs of his other love. He had been with Mr. Carey, and
Mr. Carey had been with Mr. Neefit. "He is the maddest old man that
I ever saw," said Mr. Carey. "When I suggested to him that you were
willing to make any reasonable arrangement,--meaning a thousand
pounds, or something of that kind,--I couldn't get him to understand
me at all."

"I don't think he wants money," said Ralph.

"'Let him come down and eat a bit of dinner at the cottage,' said he,
'and we'll make it all square.' Then I offered him a thousand pounds
down."

"What did he say?"

"Called to a fellow he had there with a knife in his hand, cutting
leather, to turn me out of the shop. And the man would have done it,
too, if I hadn't gone."

This was not promising, but on the following morning Ralph received a
letter which put him into better heart. The letter was from Polly
herself, and was written as follows:--


   Alexandra Cottage, Hendon,
   April 10th, 186--.

   MY DEAR SIR,

   Father has been going on with all that nonsense of his,
   and I think it most straightforward to write a letter
   to you at once, so that things may be understood and
   finished. Father has no right to be angry with you, anyway
   not about me. He says somebody has come and offered him
   money. I wish they hadn't, but perhaps you didn't send
   them. There's no good in father talking about you and
   me. Of course it was a great honour, and all that, but
   I'm not at all sure that anybody should try to get above
   themselves, not in the way of marrying. And the heart is
   everything. So I've told father. If ever I bestow mine, I
   think it will be to somebody in a way of business,--just
   like father. So I thought I would just write to say that
   there couldn't be anything between you and me, were it
   ever so; only that I was very much honoured by your coming
   down to Margate. I write this to you, because a very
   particular friend advises me, and I don't mind telling you
   at once,--it is Mr. Moggs. And I shall show it to father.
   That is, I have written it twice, and shall keep the
   other. It's a pity father should go on so, but he means it
   for the best. And as to anything in the way of money,--oh,
   Mr. Newton, he's a deal too proud for that.

   Yours truly,

   MARYANNE NEEFIT.


As to which letter the little baggage was not altogether true in one
respect. She did not keep a copy of the whole letter, but left out
of that which she showed to her father the very material passage
in which she referred to the advice of her particular friend, Mr.
Moggs. Ralph, when he received this letter, felt really grateful to
Polly, and wrote to her a pretty note, in which he acknowledged her
kindness, and expressed his hope that she might always be as happy
as she deserved to be. Then it was that he made up his mind to go
down at once to Popham Villa, thinking that the Neefit nuisance
was sufficiently abated to enable him to devote his time to a more
pleasurable pursuit.

He reached the villa between three and four, and learned from the
gardener's wife at the lodge that Sir Thomas had not as yet returned.
He did not learn that Clarissa was away, and was not aware of that
fact till they all sat down to dinner at seven o'clock. Much had been
done and much endured before that time came. He sauntered slowly up
the road, and looked about the grounds, hoping to find the young
ladies there, as he had so often done during his summer visits; but
there was no one to be seen, and he was obliged to knock at the door.
He was shown into the drawing-room, and in a few minutes Patience
came to him. There had been no arrangement between her and Mary as
to the manner in which he should be received. Mary on a previous
occasion had given him an answer, and really did believe that that
would be sufficient. He was, according to her thinking, a light,
inconstant man, who would hardly give himself the labour necessary
for perseverance in any suit. Patience at once began to ask him
after his brother and the doings at the Priory. He had been so
intimate at the house, and so dear to them all, that in spite of
the disapprobation with which he was now regarded by them, it was
impossible that there should not be some outer kindness. "Ah," said
he, "I do so look forward to the time when you will all be down
there. I have been so often welcome at your house, that it will be my
greatest pleasure to make you welcome there."

"We go so little from home," said Patience.

"But I am sure you will come to me. I know you would like to see
Greg's parsonage and Greg's church."

"I should indeed."

"It is the prettiest church, I think, in England, and the park is
very nice. The whole house wants a deal of doing to, but I shall set
about it some day. I don't know a pleasanter neighbourhood anywhere."
It would have been so natural that Patience should tell him that he
wanted a mistress for such a home; but she could not say the words.
She could not find the proper words, and soon left him, muttering
something as to directions for her father's room.

He had been alone for twenty minutes when Mary came into the room.
She knew that Patience was not there; and had retreated up-stairs.
But there seemed to be a cowardice in such retreating, which
displeased herself. She, at any rate, had no cause to be afraid of
Mr. Newton. So she collected her thoughts, and arranged her gait,
and went down, and addressed him with assumed indifference,--as
though there had never been anything between them beyond simple
acquaintance. "Uncle Thomas will be here soon, I suppose," she said.

"I hope he will give me half-an-hour first," Ralph answered. There
was an ease and grace always present in his intercourse with women,
and a power of saying that which he desired to say,--which perhaps
arose from the slightness of his purposes and the want of reality in
his character.

"We see so little of him that we hardly know his hours," said Mary.
"Uncle Thomas is a sad truant from home."

"He always was, and I declare I think that Patience and Clary have
been the better for it. They have learned things of which they would
have known nothing had he been with them every morning and evening. I
don't know any girls who are so sweet as they are. You know they have
been like sisters to me."

"So I have been told."

"And when you came, it would have been like another sister coming;
only--"

"Only what?" said Mary, assuming purposely a savage look.

"That something else intervened."

"Of course it must be very different,--and it should be different.
You have only known me a few months."

"I have known you enough to wish to know you more closely than
anybody else for the rest of my life."

"Mr. Newton, I thought you had understood me before."

"So I did." This he said with an assumed tone of lachrymose
complaint. "I did understand you,--thoroughly. I understood that I
was rebuked, and rejected, and disdained. But a man, if he is in
earnest, does not give over on that account. Indeed, there are things
which he can't give over. You may tell a man that he shouldn't drink,
or shouldn't gamble; but telling will do no good. When he has once
begun, he'll go on with it."

"What does that mean?"

"That love is as strong a passion, at any rate, as drinking or
gambling. You did tell me, and sent me away, and rebuked me because
of that tradesman's daughter."

"What tradesman's daughter?" asked Mary. "I have spoken of no
tradesman's daughter. I gave you ample reason why you should not
address yourself to me."

"Of course there are ample reasons," said Ralph, looking into his
hat, which he had taken from the table. "The one,--most ample of all,
is that you do not care for me."

"I do not," said Mary resolutely.

"Exactly;--but that is a sort of reason which a man will do his best
to conquer. Do not misunderstand me. I am not such a fool as to think
that I can prevail in a day. I am not vain enough to think that I can
prevail at all. But I can persist."

"It will not be of the slightest use; indeed, it cannot be allowed. I
will not allow it. My uncle will not allow it."

"When you told me that I was untrue to another person--; I think that
was your phrase."

"Very likely."

"I supposed you had heard that stupid story which had got round to my
uncle,--about a Mr. Neefit's daughter."

"I had heard no stupid story."

"What then did you mean?"

Mary paused a moment, thinking whether it might still be possible
that a good turn might be done for her cousin. That Clarissa had
loved this man with her whole heart she had herself owned to Mary.
That the man had professed his love for Clary, Clary had also let
her know. And Clary's love had endured even after the blow it had
received from Ralph's offer to her cousin. All this that cousin knew;
but she did not know how that love had now turned to simple soreness.
"I have heard nothing of the man's daughter," said Mary.

"Well then?"

"But I do know that before I came here at all you had striven to gain
the affections of my cousin."

"Clarissa!"

"Yes; Clarissa. Is it not so?" Then she paused, and Ralph remembered
the scene on the lawn. In very truth it had never been forgotten.
There had always been present with him when he thought of Mary Bonner
a sort of remembrance of the hour in which he had played the fool
with dear Clary. He had kissed her. Well; yes; and with some girls
kisses mean so much,--as Polly Neefit had said to her true lover. But
then with others they mean just nothing. "If you want to find a wife
in this house you had better ask her. It is certainly useless that
you should ask me."

"Do you mean quite useless?" asked Ralph, beginning to be somewhat
abashed.

"Absolutely useless. Did I not tell you something else,--something
that I would not have hinted to you, had it not been that I desired
to prevent the possibility of a renewal of anything so vain? But you
think nothing of that! All that can be changed with you at a moment,
if other things suit."

"That is meant to be severe, Miss Bonner, and I have not deserved it
from you. What has brought me to you but that I admire you above all
others?"

"You shouldn't admire me above others. Is a man to change as he likes
because he sees a girl whose hair pleases him for the moment better
than does hers to whom he has sworn to be true?" Ralph did not forget
at this moment to whisper to himself for his own consolation, that
he had never sworn to be true to Clarissa. And, indeed, he did feel,
that though there had been a kiss, the scene on the lawn was being
used unfairly to his prejudice. "I am afraid you are very fickle, Mr.
Newton, and that your love is not worth much."

"I hope we may both live till you learn that you have wronged me."

"I hope so. If my opinion be worth anything with you, go back to her
from whom you have allowed yourself to stray in your folly. To me you
must not address yourself again. If you do, it will be an insult."
Then she rose up, queenly in her beauty, and slowly left the room.

There must be an end of that. Such was Ralph's feeling as she
left the room, in spite of those protestations of constancy and
persistence which he had made to himself. "A fellow has to go on with
it, and be refused half a dozen times by one of those proud ones," he
had said; "but when they do knuckle under, they go in harness better
than the others." It was thus that he had thought of Mary Bonner, but
he did not so think of her now. No, indeed. There was an end of that.
"There is a sort of way of doing it, which shows that they mean it."
Such was his inward speech; and he did believe that Miss Bonner meant
it. "By Jove, yes; if words and looks ever can mean anything." But
how about Clarissa? If it was so, as Mary Bonner had told him, would
it be the proper kind of thing for him to go back to Clarissa? His
heart, too,--for he had a heart,--was very soft. He had always been
fond of Clarissa, and would not, for worlds, that she should be
unhappy. How pretty she was, and how soft, and how loving! And how
proudly happy she would be to be driven about the Newton grounds by
him as their mistress. Then he remembered what Gregory had said to
him, and how he had encouraged Gregory to persevere. If anything of
that kind were to happen, Gregory must put up with it. It was clear
that Clarissa couldn't marry Gregory if she were in love with him.
But how would he look Sir Thomas in the face? As he thought of this
he laughed. Sir Thomas, however, would be glad enough to give his
daughter, not to the heir but to the owner of Newton. Who could be
that fellow whom Mary Bonner preferred to him--with all Newton to
back his suit? Perhaps Mary Bonner did not know the meaning of being
the mistress of Newton Priory.

After a while the servant came to show him to his chamber. Sir Thomas
had come and had gone at once to his room. So he went up-stairs and
dressed, expecting to see Clarissa when they all assembled before
dinner. When he went down, Sir Thomas was there, and Mary, and
Patience,--but not Clarissa. He had summoned back his courage and
spoke jauntily to Sir Thomas. Then he turned to Patience and asked
after her sister. "Clarissa is spending the day with Mrs. Brownlow,"
said Patience, "and will not be home till quite late."

"Oh, how unfortunate!" exclaimed Ralph. Taking all his difficulties
into consideration, we must admit that he did not do it badly.

After dinner Sir Thomas sat longer over his wine than is at present
usual, believing, perhaps, that the young ladies would not want to
see much more of Ralph on the present occasion. The conversation was
almost entirely devoted to the affairs of the late election, as to
which Ralph was much interested and very indignant. "They cannot do
you any harm, sir, by the investigation," he said.

"No; I don't think they can hurt me."

"And you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have been the
means of exposing corruption, and of helping to turn such a man as
Griffenbottom out of the House. Upon my word, I think it has been
worth while."

"I am not sure that I would do it again at the same cost, and with
the same object," said Sir Thomas.

Ralph did have a cup of tea given to him in the drawing-room, and
then left the villa before Clarissa's fly had returned.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

MR. MOGGS WALKS TOWARDS EDGEWARE.


The judge's decision in Percycross as to the late election was no
sooner known than fresh overtures were made to Ontario Moggs by the
Young Men's Association. A letter of triumph was addressed to him at
the Cheshire Cheese, in which he was informed that Intimidation and
Corruption had been trodden under foot in the infamous person of Mr.
Griffenbottom, and that Purity and the Rights of Labour were still
the watchwords of that wholesome party in the borough which was
determined to send Mr. Moggs to Parliament. Did not Mr. Moggs think
it best that he should come down at once to the borough and look
after his interests? Now Mr. Moggs junior, when he received this
letter, had left the borough no more than three or four days since,
having been summoned there as a witness during the trial of the
petition;--and such continued attendance to the political interests
of a small and otherwise uninteresting town, without the advantage of
a seat in Parliament, was felt by Mr. Moggs senior to be a nuisance.
The expense in all these matters fell of course upon the shoulders
of the father. "I don't believe in them humbugs no longer," said Mr.
Moggs senior. Moggs junior, who had felt the enthusiasm of the young
men of Percycross, and who had more to get and less to lose than his
father, did believe. Although he had been so lately at Percycross,
he went down again, and again made speeches to the young men at the
Mechanics' Institute. Nothing could be more triumphant than his
speeches, nothing more pleasant than his popularity; but he could
not fail to become aware, after a further sojourn of three days at
Percycross, of two things. The first was this,--that if the borough
were spared there would be a compromise between the leading men on
the two sides, and Mr. Westmacott would be returned together with a
young Griffenbottom. The second conviction forced upon him was that
the borough would not be spared. There was no comfort for him at
Percycross,--other than what arose from a pure political conscience.
On the very morning on which he left, he besought his friends, the
young men,--though they were about to be punished, degraded, and
disfranchised for the sins of their elders, though it might never be
allowed to them again to stir themselves for the political welfare
of their own borough,--still to remember that Purity and the Rights
of Labour were the two great wants of the world, and that no man
could make an effort, however humble, in a good cause without doing
something towards bringing nearer to him that millennium of political
virtue which was so much wanted, and which would certainly come
sooner or later. He was cheered to the echo, and almost carried down
to the station on the shoulders of a chairman, or president, and
a secretary; but he left Percycross with the conviction that that
borough would never confer upon him the coveted honour of a seat in
Parliament.

All this had happened early in March, previous to that Sunday on
which Mr. Neefit behaved so rudely to him at the cottage. "I think as
perhaps you'd better stick to business now a bit," said old Moggs. At
that moment Ontario was sitting up at a high desk behind the ledger
which he hated, and was sticking to business as well as he knew how
to stick to it. "No more Cheshire Cheeses, if you please, young man,"
said the father. This was felt by the son to be unfair, cruel, and
even corrupt. While the election was going on, as long as there was
a hope of success at Percycross, Moggs senior had connived at the
Cheshire Cheese, had said little or nothing about business, had even
consented on one occasion to hear his son make a speech advocating
the propriety of combination among workmen. "It ain't my way of
thinking," Moggs senior had said; "but then, perhaps, I'm old." To
have had a member of the firm in Parliament would have been glorious
even to old Moggs, though he hardly knew in what the glory would have
consisted. But as soon as he found that his hopes were vain, that the
Cheshire Cheese had been no stepping-stone to such honour, and that
his money had been spent for nothing, his mind reverted to its old
form. Strikes became to him the work of the devil, and unions were
once more the bane of trade.

"I suppose," said Ontario, looking up from his ledger, "if I work for
my bread by day, I may do as I please with my evenings. At any rate
I shall," he continued to say after pausing awhile. "It's best we
should understand each other, father." Moggs senior growled. At a
word his son would have been off from him, rushing about the country,
striving to earn a crust as a political lecturer. Moggs knew his son
well, and in truth loved him dearly. There was, too, a Miss Moggs
at home, who would give her father no peace if Ontario were turned
adrift. There is nothing in the world so cruel as the way in which
sons use the natural affections of their fathers, obtaining from
these very feelings a power of rebelling against authority! "You must
go to the devil if you please, I suppose," said Moggs senior.

"I don't know why you say that. What do I do devilish?"

"Them Unions is devilish."

"I think they're Godlike," said Moggs junior. After that they were
silent for a while, during which Moggs senior was cutting his nails
with a shoemaker's knife by the fading light of the evening, and
Moggs junior was summing up an account against a favoured aristocrat,
who seemed to have worn a great many boots, but who was noticeable to
Ontario, chiefly from the fact that he represented in Parliament the
division of the county in which Percycross was situated. "I thought
you was going to make it all straight by marrying that girl," said
Moggs senior.

Here was a subject on which the father and the son were in
unison;--and as to which the romantic heart of Miss Moggs, at home at
Shepherd's Bush, always glowed with enthusiasm. That her brother was
in love, was to her, of whom in truth it must be owned that she was
very plain, the charm of her life. She was fond of poetry, and would
read to her brother aloud the story of Juan and Haidee, and the
melancholy condition of the lady who was loved by the veiled prophet.
She sympathised with the false Queen's passion for Launcelot, and,
being herself in truth an ugly old maid very far removed from things
romantic, delighted in the affairs of the heart when they did not run
smooth. "O Ontario," she would say, "be true to her;--if it's for
twenty years." "So I will;--but I'd like to begin the twenty years
by making her Mrs. Moggs," said Ontario. Now Mr. Moggs senior knew
to a penny what money old Neefit could give his daughter, and placed
not the slightest trust in that threat about the smock in which she
stood upright. Polly would certainly get the better of her father as
Ontario always got the better of him. Ontario made no immediate reply
to his father, but he found himself getting all wrong among the boots
and shoes which had been supplied to that aristocratic young member
of Parliament. "You don't mean as it's all off?" asked Moggs senior.

"No; it isn't all off."

"Then why don't you go in at it?"

"Why don't I go in at it?" said Ontario, closing the book in hopeless
confusion of mind and figures. "I'd give every pair of boots in this
place, I'd give all the business, to get a kind word from her."

"Isn't she kind?"

"Kind;--yes, she's kind enough in a way. She's everything just
what she ought to be. That's what she is. Don't you go on about it,
father. I'm as much in earnest as you can be. I shan't give it up
till she calls somebody else her husband; and then,--; why then
I shall just cut it, and go off to uncle in Canada. I've got my
mind made up about all that." And so he left the shop, somewhat
uncourteously perhaps. But he had worked his way back into his
father's good graces by his determination to stick to Neefit's girl.
A young man ought to be allowed to attend trades' unions, or any
other meetings, if he will marry a girl with twenty thousand pounds.
That evening Ontario Moggs went to the Cheshire Cheese, and was
greater than ever.

It has been already told how, on a Sunday subsequent to this, he
managed to have himself almost closeted with Polly, and how he was
working himself into her good graces, when he was disturbed by Mr.
Neefit and turned out of the house. Polly's heart had been yielding
during the whole of that interview. There had come upon her once a
dream that it would be a fine thing to be the lady of Newton;--and
the chance had been hers. But when she set herself to work to
weigh it all, and to find out what it was that young Newton really
wanted,--and what he ought to want, she shook off from herself that
dream before it had done her any injury. She meant to be married
certainly. As to that she had no doubt. But then Ontario Moggs was
such a long-legged, awkward, ugly, shambling fellow, and Moggs as
a name was certainly not euphonious. The gasfitter was handsome,
and was called Yallolegs, which perhaps was better than Moggs. He
had proposed to her more than once; but the gasfitter's face meant
nothing, and the gasfitter himself hadn't much meaning in him. As to
outside appearance, young Newton's was just what he ought to be,--but
that was a dream which she had shaken off. Onty Moggs had some
meaning in him, and was a man. If there was one thing, too, under the
sun of which Polly was quite sure, it was this,--that Onty Moggs did
really love her. She knew that in the heart, and mind, and eyes of
Onty Moggs she possessed a divinity which made the ground she stood
upon holy ground for him. Now that is a conviction very pleasant to a
young woman.

Ontario was very near his victory on that Sunday. When he told her
that he would compass the death of Ralph Newton if Ralph Newton was
to cause her to break her heart, she believed that he would do it,
and she felt obliged to him,--although she laughed at him. When he
declared to her that he didn't know what to do because of his love,
she was near to telling him what he might do. When he told her that
he would sooner have a kiss from her than be Prime Minister, she
believed him, and almost longed to make him happy. Then she had
tripped, giving him encouragement which she did not intend,--and had
retreated, telling him that he was silly. But as she said so she made
up her mind that he should be perplexed not much longer. After all,
in spite of his ugliness, and awkwardness, and long legs, this was
to be her man. She recognised the fact, and was happy. It is so much
for a girl to be sure that she is really loved! And there was no word
which fell from Ontario's mouth which Polly did not believe. Ralph
Newton's speeches were very pretty, but they conveyed no more than
his intention to be civil. Ontario's speeches really brought home to
her all that the words could mean. When he told her father that he
was quite contented to take her just as she was, without a shilling,
she knew that he would do so with the utmost joy. Then it was that
she resolved that he should have her, and that for the future all
doubtings, all flirtations, all coyness, should be over. She had been
won, and she lowered her flag. "You stick to it, and you'll do it,"
she said;--and this time she meant it. "I shall," said Ontario;--and
he walked all the way back to London, with his head among the clouds,
disregarding Percycross utterly, forgetful of all the boots and
aristocrats' accounts, regardless almost of the Cheshire Cheese, not
even meditating a new speech in defence of the Rights of Labour. He
believed that on that day he had gained the great victory. If so,
life before him was one vista of triumph. That he himself was what
the world calls romantic, he had no idea,--but he had lived now for
months on the conviction that the only chance of personal happiness
to himself was to come from the smiles and kindness and love of a
certain human being whom he had chosen to beatify. To him Polly
Neefit was divine, and round him also there would be a halo of
divinity if this goddess would consent to say that she would become
his wife.

It was impossible that many days should be allowed to pass before he
made an effort to learn from her own lips, positively, the meaning
of those last words which she had spoken to him. But there was
a difficulty. Neefit had warned him from the house, and he felt
unwilling to knock at the door of a man in that man's absence, who,
if present, would have refused to him the privilege of admittance.
That Mrs. Neefit would see him, and afford him opportunity of
pleading his cause with Polly, he did not doubt;--but some idea that
a man's house, being his castle, should not be invaded in the owner's
absence, restrained him. That the man's daughter might be the dearer
and the choicer, and the more sacred castle of the two, was true
enough; but then Polly was a castle which, as Moggs thought, ought to
belong to him rather than to her father. And so he resolved to waylay
Polly.

His weekdays, from nine in the morning till seven in the evening,
were at this time due to Booby and Moggs, and he was at present
paying that debt religiously, under a conviction that his various
absences at Percycross had been hard upon his father. For there was,
in truth, no Booby. Moggs senior, and Moggs junior, constituted the
whole firm;--in which, indeed, up to this moment Moggs junior had no
recognised share,--and if one was absent, the other must be present.
But Sunday was his own, and Polly Neefit always went to church.
Nevertheless, on the first Sunday he failed. He failed, though he saw
her, walking with two other ladies, and though, to the best of his
judgment, she also saw him. On the second Sunday he was at Hendon
from ten till three, hanging about in the lanes, sitting on gates,
whiling away the time with a treatise on political economy which he
had brought down in his pocket, thinking of Polly while he strove
to confine his thoughts to the great subject of man's productive
industry. Is there any law of Nature,--law of God, rather,--by which
a man has a right to enough of food, enough of raiment, enough of
shelter, and enough of recreation, if only he will work? But Polly's
cheeks, and Polly's lips, the eager fire of Polly's eye as she would
speak, and all the elastic beauty of Polly's gait as she would walk,
drove the great question from his mind. Was he ever destined to hold
Polly in his arms,--close, close to his breast? If not, then the laws
of Nature and the laws of God, let them be what they might, would not
have been sufficient to protect him from the cruellest wrong of all.

It was as she went to afternoon church that he hoped to intercept
her. Morning church with many is a bond. Afternoon church is a virtue
of supererogation,--practised often because there is nothing else to
do. It would be out of the question that he should induce her to give
up the morning service; but if he could only come upon her in the
afternoon, a little out of sight of others, just as she would turn
down a lane with which he was acquainted, near to a stile leading
across the fields towards Edgeware, it might be possible that he
should prevail. As the hour came near, he put the useless volume into
his pocket, and stationed himself on the spot which he had selected.
Almost at the first moment in which he had ventured to hope for her
presence, Polly turned into the lane. It was six months after this
occurrence that she confessed to him that she had thought it just
possible that he might be there. "Of course you would be there,--you
old goose; as if Jemima hadn't told me that you'd been about all day.
But I never should have come, if I hadn't quite made up my mind."
Then Ontario administered to her one of those bear's hugs which were
wont to make Polly declare that he was an ogre. It was thus that
Polly made her confession after the six months, as they were sitting
very close to each other on some remote point of the cliffs down
on the Kentish coast. At that time the castle had been altogether
transferred out of the keeping of Mr. Neefit.

But Polly's conduct on this occasion was not at all of a nature to
make it supposed that Jemima's eyes had been so sharp. "What, Mr.
Moggs!" she said. "Dear me, what a place to find you in! Are you
coming to church?"

"I want you just to take a turn with me for a few minutes, Polly."

"But I'm going to church."

"You can go to church afterwards;--that is, if you like. I can't come
to the house now, and I have got something that I must say to you."

"Something that you must say to me!" And then Polly followed him over
the stile.

They had walked the length of nearly two fields before Ontario had
commenced to tell the tale which of necessity must be told; but
Polly, though she must have known that her chances of getting back to
church were becoming more and more remote, waited without impatience.
"I want to know," he said, at last, "whether you can ever learn to
love me."

"What's the use, Mr. Moggs?"

"It will be all the use in the world to me."

"Oh, no it won't. It can't signify so very much to anybody."

"Nothing, I sometimes think, can ever be of any use to me but that."

"As for learning to love a man,--I suppose I could love a man without
any learning if I liked him."

"But you don't like me, Polly?"

"I never said I didn't like you. Father and mother always used to
like you."

"But you, Polly?"

"Oh, I like you well enough. Don't, Mr. Moggs."

"But do you love me?" Then there was a pause, as they stood leaning
upon a gateway. "Come, Polly; tell a fellow. Do you love me?"

"I don't know." Then there was another pause; but he was in a seventh
heaven, with his arm round her waist. "I suppose I do; a little,"
whispered Polly.

"But better than anybody else?"

"You don't think I mean to have two lovers;--do you?"

"And I am to be your lover?"

"There's father, you know. I'm not going to be anybody's wife because
he tells me; but I wouldn't like to vex him, if we could help it."

"But you'll never belong to any one else?"

"Never," said she solemnly.

"Then I've said what I've got to say, and I'm the happiest man in all
the world, and you may go to church now if you like." But his arm was
still tight round her waist.

"It's too late," said Polly, in a melancholy tone,--"and it's all
your doing."

The walk was prolonged not quite to Edgeware; but so far that Mr.
Neefit was called upon to remark that the parson was preaching a very
long sermon. Mrs. Neefit, who perhaps had also had communication
with Jemima, remarked that it was not to be expected, but that Polly
should take a ramble with some of her friends. "Why can't she ramble
where I want her to ramble?" said Mr. Neefit.

Many things were settled during that walk. Within five minutes of
the time in which she had declared that it was too late for her
to go to church, she had brought herself to talk to him with all
the delightful confidence of a completed engagement. She made him
understand at once that there was no longer any doubt. "A girl must
have time to know," she said, when he half-reproached her with the
delay. A girl wasn't like a man, she said, who could just make up his
mind at once,--a girl had to wait and see. But she was quite sure of
this,--that having once said the word she would never go back from
it. She didn't quite know when she had first begun to love him, but
she thought it was when she heard that he had made up his mind to
stand for Percycross. It seemed to her to be such a fine thing,--his
going to Percycross. "Then," said Ontario, gallantly, "Percycross has
done ten times more for me than it would have done, had it simply
made me a member of Parliament." Once, twice, and oftener he was
made happier than he could have been had fortune made him a Prime
Minister. For Polly, now that she had given her heart and promised
her hand, would not coy her lips to the man she had chosen.

Many things were settled between them. Polly told her lover all her
trouble about Ralph Newton, and it was now that she received that
advice from her "very particular friend, Mr. Moggs," which she
followed in writing to her late suitor. The letter was to be written
and posted that afternoon, and then shown to her father. We know
already that in making the copy for her father she omitted one
clause,--having resolved that she would tell her mother of her
engagement, and that her mother should communicate it to her father.
As for naming any day for their marriage, "That was out of the
question," she said. She did not wish to delay it; but all that
she could do was to swear to her father that she would never marry
anybody else. "And he'll believe me too," said Polly. As for eloping,
she would not hear of it. "Just that he might have an excuse to give
his money to somebody else," she said.

"I don't care for his money," protested Moggs.

"That's all very well; but money's a good thing in its way. I hate a
man who'd sell himself; he's a mean fellow;--or a girl either. Money
should never be first. But as for pitching it away just because
you're in a hurry, I don't believe in that at all. I'm not going
to be an old woman yet, and you may wait a few months very well."
She walked with him direct up to the gate leading up to their own
house,--so that all the world might see her, if all the world
pleased; and then she bade him good-bye. "Some day before very long,
no doubt," she said when, as he left her, he asked as to their next
meeting.

And so Polly had engaged herself. I do not know that the matter
seemed to her to be of so much importance as it does to many girls.
It was a piece of business which had to be done some day, as she had
well known for years past; and now that it was done, she was quite
contented with the doing of it. But there was not much of that
ecstasy in her bosom which was at the present moment sending Ontario
Moggs bounding up to town, talking, as he went, to himself,--to the
amazement of passers by, and assuring himself that he had triumphed
like an Alexander or a Cæsar. She made some steady resolves to do her
duty by him, and told herself again and again that nothing should
ever move her now that she had decided. As for beauty in a man;--what
did it signify? He was honest. As for awkwardness;--what did it
matter? He was clever. And in regard to being a gentleman; she rather
thought that she liked him better because he wasn't exactly what some
people call a gentleman. Whatever sort of a home he would give her
to live in, nobody would despise her in it because she was not grand
enough for her place. She was by no means sure that a good deal of
misery of that kind might not have fallen to her lot had she become
the mistress of Newton Priory. "When the beggar woman became a queen,
how the servants must have snubbed her," said Polly to herself.

That evening she showed her letter to her father. "You haven't sent
it, you minx?" said he.

"Yes, father. It's in the iron box."

"What business had you to write to a young man?"

"Come, father. I had a business."

"I believe you want to break my heart," said old Neefit.

That evening her mother asked her what she had been doing that
afternoon. "I just took a walk with Ontario Moggs," said Polly.

"Well?"

"And I've just engaged myself straight off, and you had better tell
father. I mean to keep to it, mother, let anybody say anything. I
wouldn't go back from my promise if they were to drag me. So father
may as well know at once."



CHAPTER XLIX.

AMONG THE PICTURES.


Norfolk is a county by no means devoted to hunting, and Ralph
Newton,--the disinherited Ralph as we may call him,--had been
advised by some of his friends round Newton to pitch his tent
elsewhere,--because of his love of that sport. "You'll get a bit of
land just as cheap in the shires," Morris had said to him. "And, if
I were you, I wouldn't go among a set of fellows who don't think of
anything in the world except partridges." Mr. Morris, who was a very
good fellow in his way, devoted a considerable portion of his mental
and physical energies to the birth, rearing, education, preservation,
and subsequent use of the fox,--thinking that in so doing he employed
himself nobly as a country gentleman; but he thoroughly despised a
county in which partridges were worshipped.

"They do preserve foxes," pleaded Ralph.

"One man does, and the next don't. You ought to know what that means.
It's the most heart-breaking kind of thing in the world. I'd sooner
be without foxes altogether, and ride to a drag;--I would indeed."
This assertion Mr. Morris made in a sadly solemn tone, such as men
use when they speak of some adversity which fate and fortune may be
preparing for them. "I'd a deal rather die than bear it," says the
melancholy friend; or,--"I'd much sooner put up with a crust in a
corner." "I'd rather ride to a drag;--I would indeed," said Mr.
Morris, with a shake of the head, and a low sigh. As for life without
riding to hounds at all, Mr. Morris did not for a moment suppose that
his friend contemplated such an existence.

But Ralph had made up his mind that, in going out into the world to
do something, foxes should not be his first object. He had to seek
a home certainly, but more important than his home was the work to
which he should give himself; and, as he had once said, he knew
nothing useful that he could do except till the land. So he went
down into Norfolk among the intermittent fox preservers, and took
Beamingham Hall.

Almost every place in Norfolk is a "ham," and almost every house is
a hall. There was a parish of Beamingham, four miles from Swaffham,
lying between Tillham, Soham, Reepham, and Grindham. It's down in
all the maps. It's as flat as a pancake; it has a church with a
magnificent square tower, and a new chancel; there is a resident
parson, and there are four or five farmers in it; it is under the
plough throughout, and is famous for its turnips; half the parish
belongs to a big lord, who lives in the county, and who does preserve
foxes, but not with all his heart; two other farms are owned by the
yeomen who farm them,--men who have been brought up to shoot, and who
hate the very name of hunting. Beamingham Hall was to be sold, and by
the beginning of May Ralph Newton had bought it. Beamingham Little
Wood belonged to the estate, and, as it contained about thirty acres,
Ralph determined that he would endeavour to have a fox there.

By the middle of May he had been four months in his new home. The
house itself was not bad. It was spacious; and the rooms, though
low, were large. And it had been built with considerable idea
of architectural beauty. The windows were all set in stone and
mullioned,--long, low windows, very beautiful in form, which had till
some fifteen years back been filled with a multitude of small diamond
panes;--but now the diamond panes had given way to plate glass. There
were three gables to the hall, all facing an old-fashioned large
garden, in which the fruit trees came close up to the house, and
that which perhaps ought to have been a lawn was almost an orchard.
But there were trim gravel walks, and trim flower-beds, and a trim
fish-pond, and a small walled kitchen-garden, with very old peaches,
and very old apricots, and very old plums. The plums, however, were
at present better than the peaches or the apricots. The fault of the
house, as a modern residence, consisted in this,--that the farm-yard,
with all its appurtenances, was very close to the back door. Ralph
told himself when he first saw it that Mary Bonner would never
consent to live in a house so placed.

For whom was such a house as Beamingham Hall originally built,--a
house not grand enough for a squire's mansion, and too large for a
farmer's homestead? Such houses throughout England are much more
numerous than Englishmen think,--either still in good repair, as was
Beamingham Hall, or going into decay under the lessened domestic
wants of the present holders. It is especially so in the eastern
counties, and may be taken as one proof among many that the
broad-acred squire, with his throng of tenants, is comparatively a
modern invention. The country gentleman of two hundred years ago
farmed the land he held. As years have rolled on, the strong have
swallowed the weak,--one strong man having eaten up half-a-dozen weak
men. And so the squire has been made. Then the strong squire becomes
a baronet and a lord,--till he lords it a little too much, and a
Manchester warehouseman buys him out. The strength of the country
probably lies in the fact that the change is ever being made, but is
never made suddenly.

To Ralph the great objection to Beamingham Hall lay in that fear,--or
rather certainty,--that it could not be made a fitting home for Mary
Bonner. When he first decided on taking it, and even when he decided
on buying it, he assured himself that Mary Bonner's taste might be
quite indifferent to him. In the first place, he had himself written
to her uncle to withdraw his claim as soon as he found that Newton
would never belong to him; and then he had been told by the happy
owner of Newton that Mary was still to be asked to share the throne
of that principality. When so told he had said nothing of his
own ambition, but had felt that there was another reason why he
should leave Newton and its neighbourhood. For him, as a bachelor,
Beamingham Hall would be only too good a house. He, as a farmer, did
not mean to be ashamed of his own dunghill.

By the middle of May he had heard nothing either of his namesake
or of Mary Bonner. He did correspond with Gregory Newton, and thus
received tidings of the parish, of the church, of the horses,--and
even of the foxes; but of the heir's matrimonial intentions he heard
nothing. Gregory did write of his own visits to the metropolis, past
and future, and Ralph knew that the young parson would again singe
his wings in the flames that were burning at Popham Villa; but
nothing was said of the heir. Through March and April that trouble
respecting Polly Neefit was continued, and Gregory in his letter of
course did not speak of the Neefits. At last May was come, and Ralph
from Beamingham made up his mind that he also would go up to London.
He had been hard at work during the last four months doing all those
wonderfully attractive things with his new property which a man can
do when he has money in his pocket,--knocking down hedges, planting
young trees or preparing for the planting of them, buying stock,
building or preparing to build sheds,--and the rest of it. There is
hardly a pleasure in life equal to that of laying out money with a
conviction that it will come back again. The conviction, alas, is
so often ill founded,--but the pleasure is the same. In regard to
the house itself he would do nothing, not even form a plan--as yet.
It might be possible that some taste other than his own should be
consulted.

In the second week in May he went up to London, having heard that
Gregory would be there at the same time; and he at once found himself
consorting with his namesake almost as much as with the parson. It
was now a month since the heir had been dismissed from Popham Villa,
and he had not since that date renewed his visit. Nor from that day
to the present had he seen Sir Thomas. It cannot be said with exact
truth that he was afraid of Sir Thomas or ashamed to see the girls.
He had no idea that he had behaved badly to anybody; and, if he
had, he was almost disposed to make amends for such sin by marrying
Clarissa; but he felt that should he ultimately make up his mind in
Clarissa's favour, a little time should elapse for the gradual cure
of his former passion. No doubt he placed reliance on his position
as a man of property, feeling that by his strength in that direction
he would be pulled through all his little difficulties; but it was
an unconscious reliance. He believed that he was perfectly free
from what he himself would have called the dirt and littleness of
purse-pride--or acre-pride, and would on some occasions assert that
he really thought nothing of himself because he was Newton of Newton.
And he meant to be true. Nevertheless, in the bottom of his heart,
there was a confidence that he might do this and that because of his
acres, and among the things which might be thus done, but which could
not otherwise have been done, was this return to Clarissa after his
little lapse in regard to Mary Bonner.

He was delighted to welcome Ralph from Norfolk to all the pleasures
of the metropolis. Should he put down Ralph's name at the famous
Carlton, of which he had lately become a member? Ralph already
belonged to an old-fashioned club, of which his father had been long
a member, and declined the new honour. As for balls, evening crushes,
and large dinner-parties, our Norfolk Ralph thought himself to be
unsuited for them just at present, because of his father's death. It
was not for the nephew of the dead man to tell the son that eight
months of mourning for a father was more than the world now required.
He could only take the excuse, and suggest the play, and a little
dinner at Richmond, and a small party to Maidenhead as compromises.
"I don't know that there is any good in a fellow being so heavy in
hand because his father is dead," the Squire said to his brother.

"They were so much to each other," pleaded Gregory in return. The
Squire accepted the excuse, and offered his namesake a horse for the
park. Would he make one of the party for the moors in August? The
Squire asserted that he had room for another gun, without entailing
any additional expense upon himself. This indeed was not strictly
true, as it had been arranged that the cost should be paid per
gun; but there was a vacancy still, and Ralph the heir, being
quite willing to pay for his cousin, thought no harm to cover his
generosity under a venial falsehood. The disinherited one, however,
declined the offer, with many thanks. "There is nothing, old fellow,
I wouldn't do for you, if I knew how," said the happy heir. Whereupon
the Norfolk Ralph unconsciously resolved that he would accept
nothing,--or as little as possible,--at the hands of the Squire.

All this happened during the three or four first days of his sojourn
in London, in which, he hardly knew why, he had gone neither to the
villa nor to Sir Thomas in Southampton Buildings. He meant to do so,
but from day to day he put it off. As regarded the ladies at the
villa the three young men now never spoke to each other respecting
them. Gregory believed that his brother had failed, and so believing
did not recur to the subject. Gregory himself had already been at
Fulham once or twice since his arrival in town; but had nothing
to say,--or at least did say nothing,--of what happened there. He
intended to remain away from his parish for no more than the parson's
normal thirteen days, and was by no means sure that he would make any
further formal offer. When at the villa he found that Clarissa was
sad and sober, and almost silent; and he knew that something was
wrong. It hardly occurred to him to believe that after all he might
perhaps cure the evil.

One morning, early, Gregory and Ralph from Norfolk were together at
the Royal Academy. Although it was not yet ten when they entered the
gallery, the rooms were already so crowded that it was difficult to
get near the line, and almost impossible either to get into or to
get out of a corner. Gregory had been there before, and knew the
pictures. He also was supposed by his friends to understand something
of the subject; whereas Ralph did not know a Cooke from a Hook, and
possessed no more than a dim idea that Landseer painted all the wild
beasts, and Millais all the little children. "That's a fine picture,"
he said, pointing up at an enormous portrait of the Master of the B.
B., in a red coat, seated square on a seventeen-hand high horse, with
his hat off, and the favourite hounds of his pack around him. "That's
by Grant," said Gregory. "I don't know that I care for that kind of
thing." "It's as like as it can stare," said Ralph, who appreciated
the red coat, and the well-groomed horse, and the finely-shaped
hounds. He backed a few steps to see the picture better, and found
himself encroaching upon a lady's dress. He turned round and found
that the lady was Mary Bonner. Together with her were both Clarissa
and Patience Underwood.

The greetings between them all were pleasant, and the girls were
unaffectedly pleased to find friends whom they knew well enough to
accept as guides and monitors in the room. "Now we shall be told all
about everything," said Clarissa, as the young parson shook hands
first with her sister and then with her. "Do take us round to the
best dozen, Mr. Newton. That's the way I like to begin." Her tone was
completely different from what it had been down at the villa.

"That gentleman in the red coat is my cousin's favourite," said
Gregory.

"I don't care a bit about that." said Clarissa.

"That's because you don't hunt," said Ralph.

"I wish I hunted," said Mary Bonner.

Mary, when she first saw the man, of whom she had once been told that
he was to be her lover, and, when so told, had at least been proud
that she was so chosen,--felt that she was blushing slightly; but
she recovered herself instantly, and greeted him as though there
had been no cause whatever for disturbance. He was struck almost
dumb at seeing her, and it was her tranquillity which restored him
to composure. After the first greetings were over he found himself
walking by her side without any effort on her part to avoid him,
while Gregory and the two sisters went on in advance. Poor Ralph had
not a word to say about the pictures. "Have you been long in London?"
she asked.

"Just four days."

"We heard that you were coming, and did think that perhaps you and
your cousin might find a morning to come down and see us;--your
cousin Gregory, I mean."

"Of course I shall come."

"My uncle will be so glad to see you;--only, you know, you
can't always find him at home. And so will Patience. You are a
great favourite with Patience. You have gone down to live in
Norfolk,--haven't you?"

"Yes--in Norfolk."

"You have bought an estate there?"

"Just one farm that I look after myself. It's no estate, Miss
Bonner;--just a farm-house, with barns and stables, and a horse-pond,
and the rest of it." This was by no means a fair account of the
place, but it suited him so to speak of it. "My days for having an
estate were quickly brought to a close;--were they not?" This he said
with a little laugh, and then hated himself for having spoken so
foolishly.

"Does that make you unhappy, Mr. Newton?" she asked. He did not
answer her at once, and she continued, "I should have thought that
you were above being made unhappy by that."

"Such disappointments carry many things with them of which people
outside see nothing."

"That is true, no doubt."

"A man may be separated from every friend he has in the world by such
a change of circumstances."

"I had not thought of that. I beg your pardon," said she, looking
into his face almost imploringly.

"And there may be worse than that," he said. Of course she knew what
he meant, but he did not know how much she knew. "It is easy to say
that a man should stand up against reverses,--but there are some
reverses a man cannot bear without suffering." She had quite made up
her mind that the one reverse of which she was thinking should be
cured; but she could take no prominent step towards curing it yet.
But that some step should be taken sooner or later she was resolved.
It might be taken now, indeed, if he would only speak out. But she
quite understood that he would not speak out now because that house
down in Norfolk was no more than a farm. "But I didn't mean to
trouble you with all that nonsense," he said.

"It doesn't trouble me at all. Of course you will tell us everything
when you come to see us."

"There is very little to tell,--unless you care for cows and pigs,
and sheep and horses."

"I do care for cows and pigs, and sheep and horses," she said.

"All the same, they are not pleasant subjects of conversation. A man
may do as much good with a single farm as he can with a large estate;
but he can't make his affairs as interesting to other people." There
was present to his own mind the knowledge that he and his rich
namesake were rivals in regard to the affections of this beautiful
girl, and he could not avoid allusions to his own inferiority. And
yet his own words, as soon as they were spoken and had sounded in
his ear, were recognised by himself as being mean and pitiful,--as
whining words, and sorry plaints against the trick which fortune had
played him. He did not know how to tell her boldly that he lamented
this change from the estate to the farm because he had hoped that
she would share the one with him, and did not dare even to ask her
to share the other. She understood it all, down to the look of
displeasure which crossed his face as he felt the possible effect of
his own speech. She understood it all, but she could not give him
much help,--as yet. There might perhaps come a moment in which she
could explain to him her own ideas about farms and estates, and the
reasons in accordance with which these might be selected and those
rejected. "Have you seen much of Ralph Newton lately?" asked the
other Ralph.

"Of your cousin?"

"Yes;--only I do not call him so. I have no right to call him my
cousin."

"No; We do not see much of him." This was said in a tone of voice
which ought to have sufficed for curing any anxiety in Ralph's bosom
respecting his rival. Had he not been sore and nervous, and, as it
must be admitted, almost stupid in the matter, he could not but have
gathered from that tone that his namesake was at least no favourite
with Miss Bonner. "He used to be a great deal at Popham Villa," said
Ralph.

"We do not see him often now. I fancy there has been some cause of
displeasure between him and my uncle. His brother has been with us
once or twice. I do like Mr. Gregory Newton."

"He is the best fellow that ever lived," exclaimed Ralph with energy.

"So much nicer than his brother," said Mary;--"though perhaps I ought
not to say so to you."

This at any rate could not but be satisfactory to him. "I like them
both," he said; "but I love Greg dearly. He and I have lived together
like brothers for years, whereas it is only quite lately that I have
known the other."

"It is only lately that I have known either;--but they seem to me
to be so different. Is not that a wonderfully beautiful picture, Mr.
Newton? Can't, you almost fancy yourself sitting down and throwing
stones into the river, or dabbling your feet in it?"

"It is very pretty," said he, not caring a penny for the picture.

"Have you any river at Beamingham?"

"There's a muddy little brook that you could almost jump over. You
wouldn't want to dabble in that."

"Has it got a name?"

"I think they call it the Wissey. It's not at all a river to be proud
of,--except in the way of eels and water-rats."

"Is there nothing to be proud of at Beamingham?"

"There's the church tower;--that's all."

"A church tower is something;--but I meant as to Beamingham Hall."

"That word Hall misleads people," said Ralph. "It's a kind of
upper-class farm-house with a lot of low rooms, and intricate
passages, and chambers here and there, smelling of apples, and a huge
kitchen, and an oven big enough for a small dinner-party."

"I should like the oven."

"And a laundry, and a dairy, and a cheese-house,--only we never make
any cheese; and a horse-pond, and a dung-hill, and a cabbage-garden."

"Is that all you can say for your new purchase, Mr. Newton?"

"The house itself isn't ugly."

"Come;--that's better."

"And it might be made fairly comfortable, if there were any use in
doing it."

"Of course there will be use."

"I don't know that there will," said Ralph. "Sometimes I think one
thing, and sometimes another. One week I'm full of a scheme about a
new garden and a conservatory, and a bow-window to the drawing-room;
and then, the next week, I think that the two rooms I live in at
present will be enough for me."

"Stick to the conservatory, Mr. Newton. But here are the girls, and I
suppose it is about time for us to go."

"Mary, where have you been?" said Clarissa.

"Looking at landscapes," said Mary.

"Mr. Newton has shown us every picture worth seeing, and described
everything, and we haven't had to look at the catalogue once. That's
just what I like at the Academy. I don't know whether you've been as
lucky."

"I've had a great deal described to me too," said Mary; "but I'm
afraid we've forgotten the particular duty that brought us here."
Then they parted, the two men promising that they would be at the
villa before long, and the girls preparing themselves for their
return home.

"That cousin of theirs is certainly very beautiful," said Gregory,
after some short tribute to the merits of the two sisters.

"I think she is," said Ralph.

"I do not wonder that my brother has been struck with her."

"Nor do I." Then after a pause he continued; "She said something
which made me think that she and your brother haven't quite hit it
off together."

"I don't know that they have," said Gregory. "Ralph does change his
mind sometimes. He hasn't said a word about her to me lately."



CHAPTER L.

ANOTHER FAILURE.


The day after the meeting at the Academy, as Ralph, the young Squire,
was sitting alone in his room over a late breakfast, a maid-servant
belonging to the house opened the door and introduced Mr. Neefit.
It was now the middle of May, and Ralph had seen nothing of the
breeches-maker since the morning on which he had made his appearance
in the yard of the Moonbeam. There had been messages, and Mr. Carey
had been very busy endeavouring to persuade the father that he
could benefit neither himself nor his daughter by persistence in so
extravagant a scheme. Money had been offered to Mr. Neefit,--most
unfortunately, and this offer had added to his wrongs. And he had
been told by his wife that Polly had at last decided in regard to her
own affections, and had accepted her old lover, Mr. Moggs. He had
raved at Polly to her face. He had sworn at Moggs behind his back. He
had called Mr. Carey very hard names;--and now he forced himself once
more upon the presence of the young Squire. "Captain," he said, as
soon as he had carefully closed the door behind him, "are you going
to be upon the square?" Newton had given special orders that Neefit
should not be admitted to his presence; but here he was, having made
his way into the chamber in the temporary absence of the Squire's own
servant.

"Mr. Neefit," said Newton, "I cannot allow this."

"Not allow it, Captain?"

"No;--I cannot. I will not be persecuted. I have received favours
from you--"

"Yes, you have, Captain."

"And I will do anything in reason to repay them."

"Will you come out and see our Polly?"

"No, I won't."

"You won't?"

"Certainly not. I don't believe your daughter wants to see me. She
is engaged to another man." So much Mr. Carey had learned from Mrs.
Neefit. "I have a great regard for your daughter, but I will not go
to see her."

"Engaged to another man;--is she?"

"I am told so."

"Oh;--that's your little game, is it? And you won't see me when I
call,--won't you? I won't stir out of this room unless you sends
for the police, and so we'll get it all into one of the courts of
law. I shall just like to see how you'll look when you're being
cross-hackled by one of them learned gents. There'll be a question or
two about the old breeches-maker as the Squire of Newton mayn't like
to see in the papers the next morning. I shall take the liberty of
ringing the bell and ordering a bit of dinner here, if you don't
mind. I shan't go when the police comes without a deal of row, and
then we shall have it all out in the courts."

This was monstrously absurd, but at the same time very annoying.
Even though he should disregard that threat of being "cross-hackled
by a learned gent," and of being afterwards made notorious in the
newspapers,--which it must be confessed he did not find himself able
to disregard,--still, independently of that feeling, he was very
unwilling to call for brute force to remove Mr. Neefit from the
arm-chair in which that worthy tradesman had seated himself. He
had treated the man otherwise than as a tradesman. He had borrowed
the man's money, and eaten the man's dinners; visited the man at
Ramsgate, and twice offered his hand to the man's daughter. "You are
very welcome to dine here," he said, "only I am sorry that I cannot
dine here with you."

"I won't stir from the place for a week."

"That will be inconvenient," said Ralph,

"Uncommon inconvenient I should say, to a gent like you,--especially
as I shall tell everybody that I'm on a visit to my son-in-law."

"I meant to yourself,--and to the business."

"Never you mind the business, Captain. There'll be enough left to
give my girl all the money I promised her, and I don't think I shall
have to ask you to keep your father-in-law neither. Sending an
attorney to offer me a thousand pounds! It's my belief I could buy
you out yet, Captain, in regard to ready money."

"I daresay you could, Mr. Neefit."

"And I won't stir from here till you name a day to come and see me
and my missus and Polly."

"This is sheer madness, Mr. Neefit."

"You think so;--do you, Captain? You'll find me madder nor you think
for yet. I'm not agoing to be put upon by you, and nothing come
of it. I'll have it out of you in money or marbles, as the saying
is. Just order me a glass of sherry wine, will you? I'm a thirsty
talking. When you came a visiting me, I always give you lashings of
drink." This was so true that Ralph felt himself compelled to ring
the bell, and order up some wine. "Soda and brandy let it be, Jack,"
said Mr. Neefit to Mr. Newton's own man. "It'll be more comfortable
like between near relations."

"Soda-water and brandy for Mr. Neefit," said the young Squire,
turning angrily to the man. "Mr. Neefit, you are perfectly welcome to
as much brandy as you can drink, and my man will wait upon you while
I'm away. Good morning." Whereupon Newton took up his hat and left
the room. He had not passed into the little back room, in which he
knew that the servant would be looking for soda-water, before he
heard a sound as of smashed crockery, and he was convinced that Mr.
Neefit was preparing himself for forcible eviction by breaking his
ornaments. Let the ornaments go, and the mirror, and the clock on
the chimney-piece, and the windows. It was a frightful nuisance, but
anything would be better than sending for the police to take away Mr.
Neefit. "Keep your eye on that man in the front room," said he, to
his Swiss valet.

"On Mr. Neefit, saar?"

"Yes; on Mr. Neefit. He wants me to marry his daughter, and I can't
oblige him. Let him have what he wants to eat and drink. Get rid of
him if you can, but don't send for the police. He's smashing all the
things, and you must save as many as you can." So saying, he hurried
down the stairs and out of the house. But what was he to do next?
If Mr. Neefit chose to carry out his threat by staying in the rooms,
Mr. Neefit must be allowed to have his own way. If he chose to amuse
himself by breaking the things, the things must be broken. If he got
very drunk, he might probably be taken home in a cab, and deposited
at the cottage at Hendon. But what should Ralph do at this moment?
He sauntered sadly down St. James's Street with his hands in his
trousers-pockets, and finding a crawling hansom at the palace-gate,
he got into it and ordered the man to drive him down to Fulham. He
had already made up his mind about "dear little Clary," and the thing
might as well be done at once. None of the girls were at home. Miss
Underwood and Miss Bonner had gone up to London to see Sir Thomas.
Miss Clarissa was spending the day with Mrs. Brownlow. "That will
just be right," said Ralph to himself, as he ordered the cabman to
drive him to the old lady's house on the Brompton Road.

Mrs. Brownlow had ever been a great admirer of the young Squire,
and did not admire him less now that he had come to his squireship.
She had always hoped that Clary would marry the real heir, and was
sounding his praises while Ralph was knocking at her door. "He is not
half so fine a fellow as his brother," said Clarissa.

"You did not use to think so," said Mrs. Brownlow. Then the door was
opened and Ralph was announced.

With his usual easy manner,--with that unabashed grace which Clarissa
used to think so charming,--he soon explained that he had been to
Fulham, and had had himself driven back to Bolsover House because
Clarissa was there. Clarissa, as she heard this, felt the blood
tingle in her cheeks. His manner now did not seem to her to be so
full of grace. Was it not all selfishness? Mrs. Brownlow purred
out her applause. It was not to be supposed that he came to see
an old woman;--but his coming to see a young woman, with adequate
intentions, was quite the proper thing for such a young man to do!
They were just going to take lunch. Of course he would stop and
lunch with them. He declared that he would like nothing better.
Mrs. Brownlow rang the bell, and gave her little orders. Clarissa's
thoughts referred quickly to various matters,--to the scene on the
lawn, to a certain evening on which she had walked home with him from
this very house, to the confessions which she had made to her sister,
to her confidence with her cousin;--and then to the offer that had
been made to Mary, now only a few weeks since. She looked at him,
though she did not seem to be looking at him, and told herself that
the man was nothing to her. He had caused her unutterable sorrow,
with which her heart was still sore;--but he was nothing to her. She
would eat her lunch with him, and endeavour to talk to him; but the
less she might see of him henceforth the better. He was selfish,
heartless, weak, and unworthy.

The lunch was eaten, and within three minutes afterwards, Mrs.
Brownlow was away. As they were returning to the little parlour in
which they had been sitting during the morning, she contrived to
escape, and Ralph found himself alone with his "dear, darling little
Clary." In spite of his graceful ease, the task before him was not
without difficulty. Clarissa, of course, knew that he had proposed to
Mary, and probably knew that he had proposed to Polly. But Mary had
told him that Clarissa was devoted to him,--had told him at least
that which amounted to almost as much. And then it was incumbent on
him to do something that might put an end to the Neefit abomination.
Clarissa would be contented to look back upon that episode with
Mary Bonner, as a dream that meant nothing;--just as he himself was
already learning to look at it. "Clary," he said, "I have hardly seen
you to speak to you since the night we walked home together from this
house."

"No, indeed, Mr. Newton," she said. Hitherto she had always called
him Ralph. He did not observe the change, having too many things of
his own to think of at the moment.

"How much has happened since that!"

"Very much, indeed, Mr. Newton."

"And yet it seems to be such a short time ago,--almost yesterday. My
poor uncle was alive then."

"Yes, he was."

He did not seem to be getting any nearer to his object by these
references to past events. "Clary," he said, "there are many things
which I wish to have forgotten, and some perhaps which I would have
forgiven."

"I suppose that is so with all of us," said Clarissa.

"Just so, though I don't know that any of us have ever been so
absurdly foolish as I have,--throwing away what was of the greatest
value in the world for the sake of something that seemed to be
precious, just for a moment." It was very difficult, and he already
began to feel that the nature of the girl was altered towards him.
She had suddenly become hard, undemonstrative, and almost unkind.
Hitherto he had always regarded her, without much conscious thought
about it, as a soft, sweet, pleasant thing, that might at any moment
be his for the asking. And Mary Bonner had told him that he ought to
ask. Now he was willing to beseech her pardon, to be in very truth
her lover, and to share with her all his prosperity. But she would
give him no assistance in his difficulty. He was determined that she
should speak, and, trusting to Mrs. Brownlow's absence, he sat still,
waiting for her.

"I hope you have thrown away nothing that you ought to keep," she
said at last. "It seems to me that you have got everything."

"No,--not as yet everything. I do not know whether I shall ever get
that which I desire the most." Of course she understood him now;
but she sat hard, and fixed, and stern,--so absolutely unlike the
Clarissa whom he had known since they were hardly more than children
together! "You know what I mean, Clarissa."

"No;--I do not," she said.

"I fear you mean that you cannot forgive me."

"I have nothing to forgive."

"Oh yes, you have; whether you will ever forgive me I cannot say. But
there is much to forgive;--very much. Your cousin Mary for a short
moment ran away with us all."

"She is welcome,--for me."

"What do you mean, Clarissa?"

"Just what I say. She is welcome for me. She has taken nothing
that I prize. Indeed I do not think she has condescended to take
anything,--anything of the sort you mean. Mary and I love each other
dearly. There is no danger of our quarrelling."

"Come, Clary," he got up as he spoke, and stood over her, close to
her shoulder, "you understand well enough what I mean. We have known
each other so long, and I think we have loved each other so well,
that you ought to say that you will forgive me. I have been foolish.
I have been wrong. I have been false, if you will. Cannot you forgive
me?"

Not for a moment was there a look of forgiveness in her eye, or a
sign of pardon in the lines of her face. But in her heart there was
a contest. Something of the old passion remained there, though it
was no more than the soreness it had caused. For half a moment she
thought whether it might not be as he would have it. But if so, how
could she again look any of her friends in the face and admit that
she had surrendered herself to so much unworthiness? How could she
tell Patience, who was beginning to be full of renewed hope for
Gregory? How could she confess such a weakness to her father? How
could she stand up before Mary Bonner? And was it possible that
she should really give herself, her whole life, and all her future
hopes, to one so weak and worthless as this man? "There is nothing to
forgive," she said, "but I certainly cannot forget."

"You know that I love you," he protested.

"Love me;--yes, with what sort of love? But it does not matter. There
need be no further talk about it. Your love to me can be nothing."

"Clarissa!"

"And to you it will be quite as little. Your heart will never suffer
much, Ralph. How long is it since you offered your hand to my cousin?
Only that you are just a boy playing at love, this would be an
insult." Then she saw her old friend through the window. "Mrs.
Brownlow," she said, "Mr. Newton is going, and I am ready for our
walk whenever you please."

"Think of it twice, Clarissa;--must this be the end of it?" pleaded
Ralph.

"As far as I am concerned it must be the end of it. When I get home I
shall probably find that you have already made an offer to Patience."
Then he got up, took his hat, and having shaken hands cordially with
Mrs. Brownlow through the window, went out to his hansom cab, which
was earning sixpence a quarter of an hour out on the road, while he
had been so absolutely wasting his quarter of an hour within the
house.

"Has he said anything, my dear?" asked Mrs. Brownlow.

"He has said a great deal."

"Well, my dear?"

"He is an empty, vain, inconstant man."

"Is he, Clarissa?"

"And yet he is so good-humoured, and so gay, and so pleasant, that I
do not see why he should not make a very good husband to some girl."

"What do you mean, Clarissa? You have not refused him?"

"I did not say he had offered;--did I?"

"But he has?"

"If he did,--then I refused him. He is good-natured; but he has no
more heart than a log of wood. Don't talk about it any more, dear
Mrs. Brownlow. I dare say we shall all be friends again before long,
and he'll almost forget everything that he said this morning."

Throughout the afternoon she was gay and almost happy, and before she
went home she had made up her mind that she would tell Patience, and
then get rid of it from her thoughts for ever. Not to tell Patience
would be a breach of faith between them, and would moreover render
future sisterly intercourse between them very difficult. But had
it been possible she would have avoided the expression of triumph
without which it would be almost impossible for her to tell the
story. Within her own bosom certainly there was some triumph. The man
for whose love she had sighed and been sick had surrendered to her at
last. The prize had been at her feet, but she had not chosen to lift
it. "Poor Ralph," she said to herself; "he means to do as well as he
can, but he is so feeble." She certainly would not tell Mary Bonner,
nor would she say a word to her father. And when she should meet
Ralph again,--as she did not doubt but that she would meet him
shortly, she would be very careful to give no sign that she was
thinking of his disgrace. He should still be called Ralph,--till
he was a married man; and when it should come to pass that he was
about to marry she would congratulate him with all the warmth of old
friendship.

That night she did tell it all to Patience. "You don't mean," she
said, "that I have not done right?"

"I am sure you have done quite right."

"Then why are you so sober about it, Patty?"

"Only if you do love him--! I would give my right hand, Clary, that
you might have that which shall make you happy in life."

"If you were to give your right and left hand too, a marriage with
Ralph Newton would not make me happy. Think of it, Patty;--to both
of us within two months! He is just like a child. How could I ever
have respected him, or believed in him? I could never have respected
myself again. No, Patty, I did love him dearly. I fancied that life
without him must all be a dreary blank. I made him into a god;--but
his feet are of the poorest clay! Kiss me, dear, and congratulate
me;--because I have escaped."

Her sister did kiss her and did congratulate her;--but still there
was a something of regret in the sister's heart. Clarissa was, to her
thinking, so fit to be the mistress of Newton Priory.



CHAPTER LI.

MUSIC HAS CHARMS.


The Commission appointed to exam