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´╗┐Title: The Claverings
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.

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by the Making of America Collection of the Cornell University Library
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Note: Images of the original pages are available through the Making of
      America Collection of the Cornell University Library. See
      http://library8.library.cornell.edu/moa/



THE CLAVERINGS

by

ANTHONY TROLLOPE

1866



Contents

      I. Julia Brabazon
     II. Harry Clavering Chooses His Profession
    III. Lord Ongar
     IV. Florence Burton
      V. Lady Ongar's Return
     VI. The Rev. Samuel Saul
    VII. Some Scenes in the Life of a Countess
   VIII. The House in Onslow Crescent
     IX. Too Prudent By Half
      X. Florence Burton at the Rectory
     XI. Sir Hugh and His Brother Archie
    XII. Lady Ongar Takes Possession
   XIII. A Visitor Calls At Ongar Park
    XIV. Count Pateroff
     XV. Madame Gordeloup
    XVI. An Evening In Bolton Street
   XVII. The Rivals
  XVIII. "Judge Not That Ye Be Not Judged"
    XIX. Let Her Know That You're There
     XX. Captain Clavering Makes His First Attempt
    XXI. The Blue Posts
   XXII. Desolation
  XXIII. Sir Hugh's Return
   XXIV. Yes; Wrong--Certainly Wrong
    XXV. The Day of the Funeral
   XXVI. Too Many, And Too Few
  XXVII. Cumberly Lane Without The Mud
 XXVIII. The Russian Spy
   XXIX. What Would Men Say To You?
    XXX. The Man Who Dusted His Boots With His Handkerchief
   XXXI. Freshwater Gate
  XXXII. What Cecilia Burton Did For Her Sister-In-Law
 XXXIII. How Damon Parted From Pythias
  XXXIV. Vain Repentance
   XXXV. Doodles In Mount Street
  XXXVI. Harry Clavering's Confession
 XXXVII. Florence Burton's Return
XXXVIII. Florence Burton Makes Up A Packet
  XXXIX. Showing Why Harry Clavering Was Wanted At The Rectory
     XL. Mr. Saul's Abode
    XLI. Going To Norway
   XLII. Parting
  XLIII. Captain Clavering Makes His Last Attempt
   XLIV. What Lady Ongar Thought About It
    XLV. How To Dispose Of A Wife
   XLVI. Showing How Mrs. Burton Fought Her Battle
  XLVII. The Sheep Returns To The Fold
 XLVIII. Lady Ongar's Revenge
   XLIX. Showing What Happened Off Heligoland
      L. Madam Gordeloup Retires From British Diplomacy
     LI. Showing How Things Settled Themselves At The Rectory
    LII. Conclusion



Chapter I

Julia Brabazon



The gardens of Clavering Park were removed some three hundred yards from
the large, square, sombre-looking stone mansion which was the
country-house of Sir Hugh Clavering, the eleventh baronet of that name;
and in these gardens, which had but little of beauty to recommend them,
I will introduce my readers to two of the personages with whom I wish to
make them acquainted in the following story. It was now the end of
August, and the parterres, beds, and bits of lawn were dry, disfigured,
and almost ugly, from the effects of a long drought. In gardens to which
care and labor are given abundantly, flower-beds will be pretty, and
grass will be green, let the weather be what it may; but care and labor
were but scantily bestowed on the Clavering Gardens, and everything was
yellow, adust, harsh, and dry. Over the burnt turf toward a gate that
led to the house, a lady was walking, and by her side there walked a
gentleman.

"You are going in, then, Miss Brabazon," said the gentleman, and it was
very manifest from his tone that he intended to convey some deep
reproach in his words.

"Of course I am going in," said the lady. "You asked me to walk with
you, and I refused. You have now waylaid me, and therefore I shall
escape--unless I am prevented by violence." As she spoke she stood still
for a moment, and looked into his face with a smile which seemed to
indicate that if such violence were used, within rational bounds, she
would not feel herself driven to great danger.

But though she might be inclined to be playful, he was by no means in
that mood. "And why did you refuse me when I asked you?" said he.

"For two reasons, partly because I thought it better to avoid any
conversation with you."

"That is civil to an old friend."

"But chiefly"--and now as she spoke she drew herself up, and dismissed
the smile from her face, and allowed her eyes to fall upon the
ground--"but chiefly because I thought that Lord Ongar would prefer that
I should not roam alone about Clavering Park with any young gentleman
while I am down here; and that he might specially object to my roaming
with you, were he to know that you and I were--old acquaintances. Now I
have been very frank, Mr. Clavering, and I think that that ought to be
enough."

"You are afraid of him already, then?"

"I am afraid of offending any one whom I love, and especially any one to
whom I owe any duty."

"Enough! Indeed it is not. From what you know of me, do you think it
likely that that will be enough?" He was now standing in front of her,
between her and the gate, and she made no effort to leave him.

"And what is it you want? I suppose you do not mean to fight Lord Ongar,
and that if you did you would not come to me."

"Fight him! No; I have no quarrel with him. Fighting him would do no
good."

"None in the least; and he would not fight if you were to ask him; and
you could not ask without being false to me."

"I should have had an example for that, at any rate."

"That's nonsense, Mr. Clavering. My falsehood, if you should choose to
call me false, is of a very different nature, and is pardonable by all
laws known to the world."

"You are a jilt! that is all."

"Come, Harry, don't use hard words."--and she put her hand kindly upon
his arm. "Look at me, such as I am, and at yourself, and then say
whether anything but misery could come of a match between you and me.
Our ages by the register are the same, but I am ten years older than you
by the world. I have two hundred a year, and I owe at this moment six
hundred pounds. You have, perhaps, double as much, and would lose half
of that if you married. You are an usher at school."

"No, madam, I am not an usher at a school."

"Well, well, you know I don't mean to make you angry."

"At the present moment, I am a schoolmaster, and if I remain so, I might
fairly look forward to a liberal income. But I am going to give that
up."

"You will not be more fit for matrimony because you are going to give up
your profession. Now, Lord Ongar has--heaven knows what--perhaps sixty
thousand a year."

"In all my life I never heard such effrontery--such baldfaced, shameless
worldliness!"

"Why should I not love a man with a large income?"

"He is old enough to be your father."

"He is thirty-six, and I am twenty-four."

"Thirty-six!"

"There is the Peerage for you to look at. But, my dear Harry, do you not
know that you are perplexing me and yourself too, for nothing? I was
fool enough when I came here from Nice, after papa's death to let you
talk nonsense to me for a month or two."

"Did you or did you not swear that you loved me?"

"Oh, Mr. Clavering, I did not imagine that your strength would have
condescended to take such advantage over the weakness of a woman. I
remember no oaths of any kind, and what foolish assertions I may have
made, I am not going to repeat. It must have become manifest to you
during these two years that all that was a romance. If it be a pleasure
to you to look back to it, of that pleasure I cannot deprive you.
Perhaps I also may sometimes look back. But I shall never speak of that
time again; and you, if you are as noble as I take you to be, will not
speak of it either. I know you would not wish to injure me."

"I would wish to save you from the misery you are bringing on yourself."

"In that you must allow me to look after myself. Lord Ongar certainly
wants a wife, and I intend to be true to him, and useful."

"How about love?"

"And to love him, sir. Do you think that no man can win a woman's love,
unless he is filled to the brim with poetry, and has a neck like Lord
Byron, and is handsome like your worship? You are very handsome, Harry,
and you, too, should go into the market and make the best of yourself.
Why should you not learn to love some nice girl that has money to assist
you?"

"Julia."

"No, sir; I will not be called Julia. If you do, I will be insulted, and
leave you instantly. I may call you Harry, as being so much
younger--though we were born in the same month--and as a sort of cousin.
But I shall never do that after to-day."

"You have courage enough, then, to tell me that you have not ill-used
me?"

"Certainly I have. Why, what a fool you would have me be! Look at me,
and tell me whether I am fit to be the wife of such a one as you. By the
time you are entering the world, I shall be an old woman, and shall have
lived my life. Even if I were fit to be your mate when we were living
here together, am I fit, after what I have done and seen during the last
two years? Do you think it would really do any good to any one if I were
to jilt, as you call it, Lord Ongar, and tell them all--your cousin, Sir
Hugh, and my sister, and your father--that I was going to keep myself
up, and marry you when you were ready for me?"

"You mean to say that the evil is done."

"No, indeed. At the present moment I owe six hundred pounds, and I don't
know where to turn for it, so that my husband may not be dunned for my
debts as soon as he has married me. What a wife I should have been for
you--should I not?"

"I could pay the six hundred pounds for you with money that I have
earned myself--though you do call me an usher--and perhaps would ask
fewer questions about it than Lord Ongar will do with all his
thousands."

"Dear Harry, I beg your pardon about the usher. Of course, I know that
you are a fellow of your college, and that St. Cuthbert's, where you
teach the boys, is one of the grandest schools in England; and I hope
you'll be a bishop; nay--I think you will, if you make up your mind to
try for it."

"I have given up all idea of going into the church."

"Then you'll be a judge. I know you'll be great and distinguished, and
that you'll do it all yourself. You are distinguished already. If you
could only know how infinitely I should prefer your lot to mine! Oh,
Harry, I envy you! I do envy you! You have got the ball at your feet,
and the world before you, and can win everything for yourself."

"But nothing is anything without your love."

"Pshaw! Love, indeed. What could it do for you but ruin you? You know it
as well as I do; but you are selfish enough to wish to continue a
romance which would be absolutely destructive to me, though for a while
it might afford a pleasant relaxation to your graver studies. Harry, you
can choose in the world. You have divinity, and law, and literature, and
art. And if debarred from love now by the exigencies of labor, you will
be as fit for love in ten years' time as you are at present."

"But I do love now."

"Be a man, then, and keep it to yourself. Love is not to be our master.
You can choose, as I say; but I have had no choice--no choice but to be
married well, or to go out like a snuff of a candle. I don't like the
snuff of a candle, and, therefore, I am going to be married well."

"And that suffices?"

"It must suffice. And why should it not suffice? You are very uncivil,
cousin, and very unlike the rest of the world. Everybody compliments me
on my marriage. Lord Ongar is not only rich, but he is a man of fashion,
and a man of talent."

"Are you fond of race-horses yourself?"

"Very fond of them."

"And of that kind of life?"

"Very fond of it. I mean to be fond of everything that Lord Ongar likes.
I know that I can't change him, and, therefore, I shall not try."

"You are right there, Miss Brabazon."

"You mean to be impertinent, sir; but I will not take it so. This is to
be our last meeting in private, and I won't acknowledge that I am
insulted. But it must be over now, Harry; and here I have been pacing
round and round the garden with you, in spite of my refusal just now. It
must not be repeated, or things will be said which I do not mean to have
ever said of me. Good-by, Harry."

"Good-by, Julia."

"Well, for that once let it pass. And remember this: I have told you all
my hopes, and my one trouble. I have been thus open with you because I
thought it might serve to make you look at things in a right light. I
trust to your honor as a gentleman to repeat nothing that I have said to
you."

I am not given to repeat such things as those."

"I'm sure you are not. And I hope you will not misunderstand the spirit
in which they have been spoken. I shall never regret what I have told
you now, if it tends to make you perceive that we must both regard our
past acquaintance as a romance, which must, from the stern necessity of
things, be treated as a dream which we have dreamt, or a poem which we
have read."

"You can treat it as you please."

"God bless you, Harry; and I will always hope for your welfare, and hear
of your success with joy. Will you come up and shoot with them on
Thursday?"

"What, with Hugh? No; Hugh and I do not hit it off together. If I shot
at Clavering I should have to do it as a sort of head-keeper. It's a
higher position, I know, than that of an usher, but it doesn't suit me."

"Oh, Harry! that is so cruel! But you will come up to the house. Lord
Ongar will be there on the thirty-first; the day after to-morrow, you
know."

"I must decline even that temptation. I never go into the house when
Hugh is there, except about twice a year on solemn invitation--just to
prevent there being a family quarrel."

"Good-by, then," and she offered him her hand.

"Good-by, if it must be so."

"I don't know whether you mean to grace my marriage?"

"Certainly not. I shall be away from Clavering, so that the marriage
bells may not wound my ears. For the matter of that, I shall be at the
school."

"I suppose we shall meet some day in town."

"Most probably not. My ways and Lord Ongar's will be altogether
different, even if I should succeed in getting up to London. If you ever
come to see Hermione here, I may chance to meet you in the house. But
you will not do that often, the place is so dull and unattractive."

"It is the dearest old park."

"You won't care much for old parks as Lady Ongar."

"You don't know what I may care about as Lady Ongar; but as Julia
Brabazon I will now say good-by for the last time." Then they parted,
and the lady returned to the great house, while Harry Clavering made his
way across the park toward the rectory.

Three years before this scene in the gardens at Clavering Park, Lord
Brabazon had died at Nice, leaving one unmarried daughter, the lady to
whom the reader has just been introduced. One other daughter he had, who
was then already married to Sir Hugh Clavering, and Lady Clavering was
the Hermione of whom mention has already been made. Lord Brabazon, whose
peerage had descended to him in a direct line from the time of the
Plantagenets, was one of those unfortunate nobles of whom England is
burdened with but few, who have no means equal to their rank. He had
married late in life, and had died without a male heir. The title which
had come from the Plantagenets was now lapsed; and when the last lord
died about four hundred a year was divided between his two daughters.
The elder had already made an excellent match, as regarded fortune, in
marrying Sir Hugh Clavering; and the younger was now about to make a
much more splendid match in her alliance with Lord Ongar. Of them I do
not know that it is necessary to say much more at present.

And of Harry Clavering it perhaps may not be necessary to say much in
the way of description. The attentive reader will have already gathered
nearly all that should be known of him before he makes himself known by
his own deeds. He was the only son of the Reverend Henry Clavering,
rector of Clavering, uncle of the present Sir Hugh Clavering, and
brother of the last Sir Hugh. The Reverend Henry Clavering and Mrs.
Clavering his wife, and his two daughters, Mary and Fanny Clavering,
lived always at Clavering Rectory, on the outskirts of Clavering Park,
at a full mile's distance from the house. The church stood in the park,
about midway between the two residences. When I have named one more
Clavering, Captain Clavering, Captain Archibald Clavering, Sir Hugh's
brother, all when I shall have said also that both Sir Hugh and Captain
Clavering were men fond of pleasure and fond of money, I shall have said
all that I need now say about the Clavering family at large.

Julia Brabazon had indulged in some reminiscence of the romance of her
past poetic life when she talked of cousinship between her and Harry
Clavering. Her sister was the wife of Harry Clavering's first cousin,
but between her and Harry there was no relationship whatever. When old
Lord Brabazon had died at Nice she had come to Clavering Park, and had
created some astonishment among those who knew Sir Hugh by making good
her footing in his establishment. He was not the man to take up a wife's
sister, and make his house her home, out of charity or from domestic
love. Lady Clavering, who had been a handsome woman and fashionable
withal, no doubt may have had some influence; but Sir Hugh was a man
much prone to follow his own courses. It must be presumed that Julia
Brabazon had made herself agreeable in the house, and also probably
useful. She had been taken to London through two seasons, and had there
held up her head among the bravest. And she had been taken abroad--for
Sir Hugh did not love Clavering Park, except during six weeks of
partridge shooting; and she had been at Newmarket with them, and at the
house of a certain fast hunting duke with whom Sir Hugh was intimate;
and at Brighton with her sister, when it suited Sir Hugh to remain alone
at the duke's; and then again up in London, where she finally arranged
matters with Lord Ongar. It was acknowledged by all the friends of the
two families, and indeed I may say of the three families now--among the
Brabazon people, and the Clavering people, and the Courton people--Lord
Ongar's family name was Courton--that Julia Brabazon had been very
clever. Of her and Harry Clavering together no one had ever said a word.
If any words had been spoken between her and Hermione on the subject,
the two sisters had been discreet enough to manage that they should go
no further.

In those short months of Julia's romance Sir Hugh had been away from
Clavering, and Hermione had been much occupied in giving birth to an
heir. Julia had now lived past her one short spell of poetry, had
written her one sonnet, and was prepared for the business of the world.



Chapter II

Harry Clavering Chooses His Profession



Harry Clavering might not be an usher, but, nevertheless, he was home
for the holidays. And who can say where the usher ends and the
school-master begins? He, perhaps, may properly be called an usher, who
is hired by a private schoolmaster to assist himself in his private
occupation, whereas Harry Clavering had been selected by a public body
out of a hundred candidates, with much real or pretended reference to
certificates of qualification. He was certainly not an usher, as he was
paid three hundred a year for his work--which is quite beyond the mark
of ushers. So much was certain; but yet the word stuck in his throat and
made him uncomfortable. He did not like to reflect that he was home for
the holidays.

But he had determined that he would never come home for the holidays
again. At Christmas he would leave the school at which he had won his
appointment with so much trouble, and go into an open profession. Indeed
he had chosen his profession, and his mode of entering it. He would
become a civil engineer, and perhaps a land surveyor, and with this view
he would enter himself as a pupil in the great house of Beilby & Burton.
The terms even had been settled. He was to pay a premium of five hundred
pounds and join Mr. Burton, who was settled in the town of Stratton, for
twelve months before he placed himself in Mr. Beilby's office in London.
Stratton was less than twenty miles from Clavering. It was a comfort to
him to think that he could pay this five hundred pounds out of his own
earnings, without troubling his father. It was a comfort, even though he
had earned that money by "ushering" for the last two years.

When he left Julia Brabazon in the garden, Harry Clavering did not go at
once home to the rectory, but sauntered out all alone into the park,
intending to indulge in reminiscences of his past romance. It was all
over, that idea of having Julia Brabazon for his love; and now he had to
ask himself whether he intended to be made permanently miserable by her
wordly falseness, or whether he would borrow something of her wordly
wisdom, and agree with himself to look back on what was past as a
pleasurable excitement in his boyhood. Of course we all know that really
permanent misery was in truth out of the question. Nature had not made
him physically or mentally so poor a creature as to be incapable of a
cure. But on this occasion he decided on permanent misery. There was
about his heart--about his actual anatomical heart, with its internal
arrangement of valves and blood-vessels--a heavy dragging feeling that
almost amounted to corporeal pain, and which he described to himself as
agony. Why should this rich, debauched, disreputable lord have the power
of taking the cup from his lip, the one morsel of bread which he coveted
from his mouth, his one ingot of treasure out of his coffer? Fight him!
No, he knew he could not fight Lord Ongar. The world was against such an
arrangement. And in truth Harry Clavering had so much contempt for Lord
Ongar, that he had no wish to fight so poor a creature. The man had had
delirium tremens, and was a worn-out miserable object. So at least Harry
Clavering was only too ready to believe. He did not care much for Lord
Ongar in the matter. His anger was against her; that she should have
deserted him for a miserable creature, who had nothing to back him but
wealth and rank!

There was wretchedness in every view of the matter. He loved her so
well, and yet he could do nothing! He could take no step toward saving
her or assisting himself. The marriage bells would ring within a month
from the present time, and his own father would go to the church and
marry them. Unless Lord Ongar were to die before then by God's hand,
there could be no escape--and of such escape Harry Clavering had no
thought. He felt a weary, dragging soreness at his heart, and told
himself that he must be miserable for-ever--not so miserable but what he
would work, but so wretched that the world could have for him no
satisfaction.

What could he do? What thing could he achieve so that she should know
that he did not let her go from him without more thought than his poor
words had expressed? He was perfectly aware that in their conversation
she had had the best of the argument--that he had talked almost like a
boy, while she had talked quite like a woman. She had treated him de
haut en bas with all that superiority which youth and beauty give to a
young woman over a very young man. What could he do? Before he returned
to the rectory, he had made up his mind what he would do, and on the
following morning Julia Brabazon received by the hands of her maid the
following note: "I think I understood all that you said to me yesterday.
At any rate, I understand that you have one trouble left, and that I
have the means of curing it." In the first draft of his letter he said
something about ushering, but that he omitted afterwards. "You may be
assured that the inclosed is all my own, and that it is entirely at my
own disposal. You may also be quite sure of good faith on the part of
the lender.--H. C." And in this letter he inclosed a check for six
hundred pounds. It was the money which he had saved since he took his
degree, and had been intended for Messrs. Beilby & Burton. But he would
wait another two years--continuing to do his ushering for her sake. What
did it matter to a man who must, under any circumstances, be permanently
miserable?

Sir Hugh was not yet at Clavering. He was to come with Lord Ongar on the
eve of the partridge-shooting. The two sisters, therefore, had the house
all to themselves. At about twelve they sat down to breakfast together
in a little upstairs chamber adjoining Lady Clavering's own room, Julia
Brabazon at that time having her lover's generous letter in her pocket.
She knew that it was as improper as it was generous, and that, moreover,
it was very dangerous. There was no knowing what might be the result of
such a letter should Lord Ongar even know that she had received it. She
was not absolutely angry with Harry, but had, to herself, twenty times
called him a foolish, indiscreet, dear, generous boy. But what was she
to do with the check? As to that, she had hardly as yet made up her mind
when she joined her sister on the morning in question. Even to Hermione
she did not dare to tell the fact that such a letter had been received
by her.

But in truth her debts were a great torment to her; and yet how trifling
they were when compared with the wealth of the man who was to become her
husband in six weeks! Let her marry him, and not pay them, and he
probably would never be the wiser. They would get themselves paid almost
without his knowledge, perhaps altogether without his hearing of them.
But yet she feared him, knowing him to be greedy about money; and, to
give her such merit as was due to her, she felt the meanness of going to
her husband with debts on her shoulder. She had five thousand pounds of
her own; but the very settlement which gave her a noble dower, and which
made the marriage so brilliant, made over this small sum in its entirety
to her lord. She had been wrong not to tell the lawyer of her trouble
when he had brought the paper for her to sign; but she had not told him.
If Sir Hugh Clavering had been her own brother there would have been no
difficulty, but he was only her brother-in-law, and she feared to speak
to him. Her sister, however, knew that there were debts, and on that
subject she was not afraid to speak to Hermione.

"Hermy," said she, "what am I to do about this money that I owe? I got a
bill from Colclugh's this morning."

"Just because he knows you're going to be married; that's all."

"But how am I to pay him?"

"Take no notice of it till next spring. I don't know what else you can
do. You'll be sure to have money when you come back from the Continent."

"You couldn't lend it me; could you?"

"Who? I? Did you ever know me have any money in hand since I was
married? I have the name of an allowance, but it is always spent before
it comes to me, and I am always in debt."

"Would Hugh--let me have it?"

"What, give it you?"

"Well, it wouldn't be so very much for him. I never asked him for a
pound yet."

"I think he would say something you wouldn't like if you were to ask
him; but of course, you can try it if you please."

"Then what am I to do?"

"Lord Ongar should have let you keep your own fortune. It would have
been nothing to him."

"Hugh didn't let you keep your own fortune."

"But the money which will be nothing to Lord Ongar was a good deal to
Hugh. You're going to have sixty thousand a year, while we have to do
with seven or eight. Besides, I hadn't been out in London, and it wasn't
likely I should owe much in Nice. He did ask me, and there was
something."

"What am I to do, Hermy?"

"Write and ask Lord Ongar to let you have what you want out of your own
money. Write to-day, so that he may get your letter before he comes."

"Oh, dear! oh, dear! I never wrote a word to him yet, and to begin with
asking him for money!"

"I don't think he can be angry with you for that."

"I shouldn't know what to say. Would you write for me, and let me see
how it looks?"

This Lady Clavering did; and had she refused to do it, I think that poor
Harry Clavering's check would have been used. As it was, Lady Clavering
wrote the letter to "My dear Lord Ongar," and it was copied and signed
by "Yours most affectionately, Julia Brabazon." The effect of this was
the receipt of a check for a thousand pounds in a very pretty note from
Lord Ongar, which the lord brought with him to Clavering, and sent up to
Julia as he was dressing for dinner. It was an extremely comfortable
arrangement, and Julia was very glad of the money--feeling it to be a
portion of that which was her own. And Harry's check had been returned
to him on the day of its receipt. "Of course I cannot take it, and of
course you should not have sent it." These words were written on the
morsel of paper in which the money was returned. But Miss Brabazon had
torn the signature off the check, so that it might be safe, whereas
Harry Clavering had taken no precaution with it whatever. But then Harry
Clavering had not lived two years in London.

During the hours that the check was away from him, Harry had told his
father that perhaps, even yet, he might change his purpose as to going
to Messrs. Beilby & Burton. He did not know, he said, but he was still
in doubt. This had sprung from some chance question which his father had
asked, and which had seemed to demand an answer. Mr. Clavering greatly
disliked the scheme of life which his son had made, Harry's life
hitherto had been prosperous and very creditable. He had gone early to
Cambridge, and at twenty-two had become a fellow of his college. This
fellowship he could hold for five or six years without going into
orders. It would then lead to a living, and would in the meantime afford
a livelihood. But, beyond this, Harry, with an energy which he certainly
had not inherited from his father, had become a schoolmaster, and was
already a rich man. He had done more than well, and there was a great
probability that between them they might be able to buy the next
presentation to Clavering, when the time should come in which Sir Hugh
should determine on selling it. That Sir Hugh should give the family
living to his cousin was never thought probable by any of the family at
the rectory; but he might perhaps part with it under such circumstances
on favorable terms. For all these reasons the father was very anxious
that his son should follow out the course for which he had been
intended; but that he, being unenergetic and having hitherto done little
for his son, should dictate to a young man who had been energetic, and
who had done much for himself, was out of the question. Harry,
therefore, was to be the arbiter of his own fate. But when Harry
received back the check from Julia Brabazon, then he again returned to
his resolution respecting Messrs. Beilby & Burton, and took the first
opportunity of telling his father that such was the case.

After breakfast he followed his father into his study, and there,
sitting in two easy chairs opposite to each other, they lit each a
cigar. Such was the reverend gentleman's custom in the afternoon, and
such also in the morning. I do not know whether the smoking of four or
five cigars daily by the parson of a parish may now-a-day be considered
as a vice in him, but if so, it was the only vice with which Mr.
Clavering could be charged. He was a kind, soft-hearted, gracious man,
tender to his wife, whom he ever regarded as the angel of his house,
indulgent to his daughters, whom he idolized, ever patient with his
parishioners, and awake--though not widely awake--to the
responsibilities of his calling. The world had been too comfortable for
him, and also too narrow; so that he had sunk into idleness. The world
had given him much to eat and drink, but it had given him little to do,
and thus he had gradually fallen away from his early purposes, till his
energy hardly sufficed for the doing of that little. His living gave him
eight hundred a year; his wife's fortune nearly doubled that. He had
married early, and had got his living early, and had been very
prosperous. But he was not a happy man. He knew that he had put off the
day of action till the power of action had passed away from him. His
library was well furnished, but he rarely read much else than novels and
poetry; and of late years the reading even of poetry had given way to
the reading of novels. Till within ten years of the hour of which I
speak, he had been a hunting parson--not hunting loudly, but following
his sport as it is followed by moderate sportsmen. Then there had come a
new bishop, and the new bishop had sent for him--nay, finally had come
to him, and had lectured him with blatant authority. "My lord," said the
parson of Clavering, plucking up something of his past energy, as the
color rose to his face, "I think you are wrong in this. I think you are
especially wrong to interfere with me in this way on your first coming
among us. You feel it to be your duty no doubt; but to me it seems that
you mistake your duty. But as the matter is simply one of my own
pleasure, I shall give it up." After that Mr. Clavering hunted no more,
and never spoke a good word to any one of the bishop of his diocese. For
myself, I think it as well that clergymen should not hunt; but had I
been the parson of Clavering, I should, under those circumstances, have
hunted double.

Mr. Clavering hunted no more, and probably smoked a greater number of
cigars in consequence. He had an increased amount of time at his
disposal, but did not, therefore, give more time to his duties. Alas!
What time did he give to his duties? He kept a most energetic curate,
whom he allowed to do almost what he would with the parish. Every-day
services he did prohibit, declaring that he would not have the parish
church made ridiculous; but in other respects his curate was the pastor.
Once every Sunday he read the service, and once every Sunday he
preached, and he resided in his parsonage ten months every year. His
wife and daughters went among the poor--and he smoked cigars in his
library. Though not yet fifty, he was becoming fat and idle--unwilling
to walk, and not caring much even for such riding as the bishop had left
to him. And to make matters worse--far worse, he knew all this of
himself, and understood it thoroughly. "I see a better path, and know
how good it is, but I follow ever the worse." He was saying that to
himself daily, and was saying it always without hope.

And his wife had given him up. She had given him up, not with disdainful
rejection, nor with contempt in her eye, or censure in her voice, not
with diminution of love or of outward respect. She had given him up as a
man abandons his attempts to make his favorite dog take the water. He
would fain that the dog he loves should dash into the stream as other
dogs will do. It is, to his thinking, a noble instinct in a dog. But his
dog dreads the water. As, however, he has learned to love the beast, he
puts up with this mischance, and never dreams of banishing poor Ponto
from his hearth because of this failure. And so it was with Mrs.
Clavering and her husband at the rectory. He understood it all. He knew
that he was so far rejected; and he acknowledged to himself the
necessity for such rejection.

"It is a very serious thing to decide upon," he said, when his son had
spoken to him.

"Yes; it is serious--about as serious a thing as a man can think of; but
a man cannot put it off on that account. If I mean to make such a change
in my plans, the sooner I do it the better."

"But yesterday you were in another mind."

"No, father, not in another mind. I did not tell you then, nor can I
tell you all now. I had thought that I should want my money for another
purpose for a year or two; but that I have abandoned."

"Is the purpose a secret, Harry?"

"It is a secret, because it concerns another person."

"You were going to lend your money to some one?"

"I must keep it a secret, though you know I seldom have any secrets from
you. That idea, however, is abandoned, and I mean to go over to Stratton
to-morrow, and tell Mr. Burton that I shall be there after Christmas. I
must be at St. Cuthbert's on Tuesday."

Then they both sat silent for a while, silently blowing out their clouds
of smoke. The son had said all that he cared to say, and would have
wished that there might then be an end of it; but he knew that his
father had much on his mind, and would fain express, if he could express
it without too much trouble, or without too evident a need of
self-reproach, his own thoughts on the subject. "You have made up your
mind, then, altogether that you do not like the church as a profession,"
he said at last.

"I think I have, father."

"And on what grounds? The grounds which recommend it to you are very
strong. Your education has adapted you for it. Your success in it is
already insured by your fellowship. In a great degree you have entered
it as a profession already by taking a fellowship. What you are doing is
not choosing a line in life, but changing one already chosen. You are
making of yourself a rolling stone."

"A stone should roll till it has come to the spot that suits it."

"Why not give up the school if it irks you?"

"And become a Cambridge Don, and practice deportment among the
undergraduates."

"I don't see that you need do that. You need not even live at Cambridge.
Take a church in London. You would be sure to get one by holding up your
hand. If that, with your fellowship, is not sufficient, I will give you
what more you want."

"No, father--no. By God's blessing I will never ask you for a pound. I
can hold my fellowship for four years longer without orders, and in four
years' time I think I can earn my bread."

"I don't doubt that, Harry."

"Then why should I not follow my wishes in this matter? The truth is, I
do not feel myself qualified to be a good clergyman."

"It is not that you have doubts, is it?"

"I might have them if I came to think much about it--as I must do if I
took orders. And I do not wish to be crippled in doing what I think
lawful by conventional rules. A rebellious clergyman is, I think, a
sorry abject. It seems to me that he is a bird fouling his own nest.
Now, I know I should be a rebellious clergyman."

"In our church the life of a clergyman is as the life of any other
gentleman--within very broad limits."

"Then why did Bishop Proudie interfere with your hunting?"

"Limits may be very broad, Harry, and yet exclude hunting. Bishop
Proudie was vulgar and intrusive, such being the nature of his wife, who
instructs him; but if you were in orders I should be very sorry to see
you take to hunting."

"It seems to me that a clergyman has nothing to do in life unless he is
always preaching and teaching. Look at Saul"--Mr. Saul was the curate of
Clavering--"he is always preaching and teaching. He is doing the best he
can; and what a life of it he has. He has literally thrown off all
worldly cares--and, consequently, everybody laughs at him, and nobody
loves him. I don't believe a better man breathes, but I shouldn't like
his life."

At this point there was another pause, which lasted till the cigars had
come to an end. Then, as he threw the stump into the fire, Mr. Clavering
spoke again. "The truth is, Harry, that you have had, all your life, a
bad example before you."

"No, father."

"Yes, my son; let me speak on to the end, and then you can say what you
please. In me you have had a bad example on one side, and now, in poor
Saul, you have a bad example on the other side. Can you fancy no life
between the two, which would fit your physical nature, which is larger
than his, and your mental wants, which are higher than mine? Yes, they
are, Harry. It is my duty to say this, but it would be unseemly that
there should be any controversy between us on the subject."

"If you choose to stop me in that way--"

"I do choose to stop you in that way. As for Saul, it is impossible that
you should become such a man as he. It is not that he mortifies his
flesh, but that he has no flesh to mortify. He is unconscious of the
flavor of venison, or the scent of roses, or the beauty of women. He is
an exceptional specimen of a man, and you need no more fear, than you
should venture to hope, that you could become such as he is."

At this point they were interrupted by the entrance of Fanny Clavering,
who came to say that Mr. Saul was in the drawing room. "What does he
want, Fanny?"

This question Mr. Clavering asked half in a whisper, but with something
of comic humor in his face, as though partly afraid that Mr. Saul should
hear it, and partly intending to convey a wish that he might escape Mr.
Saul, if it were possible.

"It's about the iron church, papa. He says it is come--or part of it
has, come--and he wants you to go out to Cumberly Green about the site."

"I thought that was all settled."

"He says not."

"What does it matter where it is? He can put it anywhere he likes on the
Green. However, I had better go to him." So Mr. Clavering went. Cumberly
Green was a hamlet in the parish of Clavering, three miles distant from
the church, the people of which had got into a wicked habit of going to
a dissenting chapel near to them. By Mr. Saul's energy, but chiefly out
of Mr. Clavering's purse, an iron chapel had been purchased for a
hundred and fifty pounds, and Mr. Saul proposed to add to his own duties
the pleasing occupation of walking to Cumberly Green every Sunday
morning before breakfast, and every Wednesday evening after dinner, to
perform a service and bring back to the true flock as many of the erring
sheep of Cumberly Green as he might be able to catch. Towards the
purchase of this iron church Mr. Clavering had at first given a hundred
pounds. Sir Hugh, in answer to the fifth application, had very
ungraciously, through his steward, bestowed ten pounds. Among the
farmers one pound nine and eightpence had been collected. Mr. Saul had
given two pounds; Mrs. Clavering gave five pounds; the girls gave ten
shillings each; Henry Clavering gave five pounds--and then the parson
made up the remainder. But Mr. Saul had journeyed thrice painfully to
Bristol, making the bargain for the church, going and coming each time
by third-class, and he had written all the letters; but Mrs. Clavering
had paid the postage, and she and the girls between them were making the
covering for the little altar.

"Is it all settled, Harry?" said Fanny, stopping with her brother, and
hanging over his chair. She was a pretty, gay-spirited girl, with bright
eyes and dark brown hair, which fell in two curls behind her ears.

"He has said nothing to unsettle it."

"I know it makes him very unhappy."

"No, Fanny, not very unhappy. He would rather that I should go into the
church, but that is about all."

"I think you are quite right."

"And Mary thinks I am quite wrong."

"Mary thinks so, of course. So should I, too, perhaps, if I were engaged
to a clergyman. That's the old story of the fox who had lost his tail."

"And your tail isn't gone yet?"

"No, my tail isn't gone yet. Mary thinks that no life is like a
clergyman's life. But, Harry, though mamma hasn't said so, I'm sure she
thinks you are right. She won't say so as long as it may seem to
interfere with anything papa may choose to say; but I'm sure she's glad
in her heart."

"And I am glad in my heart, Fanny. And as I'm the person most concerned
I suppose that's the most material thing." Then they followed their
father into the drawing room.

"Couldn't you drive Mrs. Clavering over in the pony chair, and settle it
between you," said Mr. Clavering to his curate. Mr. Saul looked
disappointed. In the first place, he hated driving the pony, which was a
rapid-footed little beast, that had a will of his own; and in the next
place, he thought the rector ought to visit the spot on such an
occasion. "Or Mrs. Clavering will drive you," said the rector,
remembering Mr. Saul's objection to the pony. Still Mr. Saul looked
unhappy. Mr. Saul was very tall and very thin, with a tall thin head,
and weak eyes, and a sharp, well-cut nose, and, so to say, no lips, and
very white teeth, with no beard, and a well-cut chin. His face was so
thin that his cheek bones obtruded themselves unpleasantly. He wore a
long rusty black coat, and a high rusty black waistcoat, and trousers
that were brown with dirty roads and general ill-usage. Nevertheless, it
never occurred to any one that Mr. Saul did not look like a gentleman,
not even to himself to whom no ideas whatever on that subject ever
presented themselves. But that he was a gentleman I think he knew well
enough, and was able to carry himself before Sir Hugh and his wife with
quite as much ease as he could do in the rectory. Once or twice he had
dined at the great house; but Lady Clavering had declared him to be a
bore, and Sir Hugh had called him "that most offensive of all animals, a
clerical prig." It had therefore been decided that he was not to be
asked to the great house any more. It may be as well to state here, as
elsewhere, that Mr. Clavering very rarely went to his nephew's table. On
certain occasions he did do so, so that there might be no recognized
quarrel between him and Sir Hugh; but such visits were few and far
between.

After a few more words from Mr. Saul, and a glance from his wife's eye,
Mr. Clavering consented to go to Cumberly Green, though there was
nothing he liked so little as a morning spent with his curate. When he
had started, Harry told his mother also of his final decision. "I shall
go to Stratton to-morrow and settle it all."

"And what does papa say?" asked the mother.

"Just what he has said before. It is not so much that he wishes me to be
a clergyman, as that he does not wish me to have lost all my time up to
this."

"It is more than that, I think, Harry," said his elder sister, a tall
girl, less pretty than her sister, apparently less careful of her
prettiness, very quiet, or, as some said, demure, but known to be good
as gold by all who knew her well.

"I doubt it," said Harry, stoutly. "But, however that may be, a man must
choose for himself."

"We all thought you had chosen," said Mary.

"If it is settled," said the mother, "I suppose we shall do no good by
opposing it."

"Would you wish to oppose it, mamma?" said Harry.

"No, my dear. I think you should judge for yourself."

"You see I could have no scope in the church for that sort of ambition
which would satisfy me. Look at such men as Locke, and Stephenson, and
Brassey. They are the men who seem to me to do most in the world. They
were all self-educated, but surely a man can't have a worse chance
because he has learned something. Look at old Beilby with a seat in
Parliament, and a property worth two or three hundred thousand pounds!
When he was my age he had nothing but his weekly wages."

"I don't know whether Mr. Beilby is a very happy man or a very good
man," said Mary.

"I don't know, either," said Harry; "but I do know that he has thrown a
single arch over a wider span of water than ever was done before, and
that ought to make him happy." After saying this in a tone of high
authority, befitting his dignity as a fellow of his college, Harry
Clavering went out, leaving his mother and sisters to discuss the
subject, which to two of them was all-important. As to Mary, she had
hopes of her own, vested in the clerical concerns of a neighboring
parish.



Chapter III

Lord Ongar



On the next morning Harry Clavering rode over to Stratton, thinking much
of his misery as he went. It was all very well for him, in the presence
of his own family to talk of his profession as the one subject which was
to him of any importance; but he knew very well himself that he was only
beguiling them in doing so. This question of a profession was, after
all, but dead leaves to him--to him who had a canker at his heart, a
perpetual thorn in his bosom, a misery within him which no profession
could mitigate! Those dear ones at home guessed nothing of this, and he
would take care that they should guess nothing. Why should they have the
pain of knowing that he had been made wretched forever by blighted
hopes? His mother, indeed, had suspected something in those sweet days
of his roaming with Julia through the park. She had once or twice said a
word to warn him. But of the very truth of his deep love--so he told
himself--she had been happily ignorant. Let her be ignorant. Why should
he make his mother unhappy? As these thoughts passed through his mind, I
think that he revelled in his wretchedness, and made much to himself of
his misery. He sucked in his sorrow greedily, and was somewhat proud to
have had occasion to break his heart. But not the less, because he was
thus early blighted, would he struggle for success in the world. He
would show her that, as his wife, she might have had a worthier position
than Lord Ongar could give her. He, too, might probably rise the quicker
in the world, as now he would have no impediment of wife or family.
Then, as he rode along, he composed a sonnet, fitting to his case, the
strength and rhythm of which seemed to him, as he sat on horseback, to
be almost perfect. Unfortunately, when he was back at Clavering, and sat
in his room with the pen in his hand, the turn of the words had escaped
him.

He found Mr. Burton at home, and was not long in concluding his
business. Messrs. Beilby & Burton were not only civil engineers, but
were land surveyors also, and land valuers on a great scale. They were
employed much by Government upon public buildings, and if not architects
themselves, were supposed to know all that architects should do and
should not do. In the purchase of great properties Mr. Burton's opinion
was supposed to be, or to have been, as good as any in the kingdom, and
therefore there was very much to be learned in the office at Stratton.
But Mr. Burton was not a rich man like his partner, Mr. Beilby, nor an
ambitious man. He had never soared Parliamentwards, had never
speculated, had never invented, and never been great. He had been the
father of a very large family, all of whom were doing as well in the
world, and some of them perhaps better, than their father. Indeed, there
were many who said that Mr. Burton would have been a richer man if he
had not joined himself in partnership with Mr. Beilby. Mr. Beilby had
the reputation of swallowing more than his share wherever he went.

When the business part of the arrangement was finished Mr. Burton talked
to his future pupil about lodgings, and went out with him into the town
to look for rooms. The old man found that Harry Clavering was rather
nice in this respect, and in his own mind formed an idea that this new
beginner might have been a more auspicious pupil, had he not already
become a fellow of a college. Indeed, Harry talked to him quite as
though they two were on an equality together; and, before they had
parted, Mr. Burton was not sure that Harry did not patronize him. He
asked the young man, however, to join them at their early dinner, and
then introduced him to Mrs. Burton, and to their youngest daughter, the
only child who was still living with them. "All my other girls are
married, Mr. Clavering; and all of them married to men connected with my
own profession." The color came slightly to Florence Burton's cheeks as
she heard her father's words, and Harry asked himself whether the old
man expected that he should go through the same ordeal; but Mr. Burton
himself was quite unaware that he had said anything wrong, and then went
on to speak of the successes of his sons. "But they began early, Mr.
Clavering; and worked hard--very hard indeed." He was a good, kindly,
garrulous old man; but Harry began to doubt whether he would learn much
at Stratton. It was, however, too late to think of that now, and
everything was fixed.

Harry, when he looked at Florence Burton, at once declared to himself
that she was plain. Anything more unlike Julia Brabazon never appeared
in the guise of a young lady. Julia was tall, with a high brow, a
glorious complexion, a nose as finely modelled as though a Grecian
sculptor had cut it, a small mouth, but lovely in its curves; and a chin
that finished and made perfect the symmetry of her face. Her neck was
long, but graceful as a swan's, her bust was full, and her whole figure
like that of a goddess. Added to this, when he had first known her, she
had all the charm of youth. When she had returned to Clavering the other
day, the affianced bride of Lord Ongar, he had hardly known whether to
admire or to deplore the settled air of established womanhood which she
had assumed. Her large eyes had always lacked something of rapid,
glancing, sparkling brightness. They had been glorious eyes to him, and
in those early days he had not known that they lacked aught; but he had
perceived, or perhaps fancied, that now, in her present condition, they
were often cold, and sometimes almost cruel. Nevertheless, he was ready
to swear that she was perfect in her beauty.

Poor Florence Burton was short of stature, was brown, meagre, and
poor-looking. So said Harry Clavering to himself. Her small band, though
soft, lacked that wondrous charm of touch which Julia's possessed. Her
face was short, and her forehead, though it was broad and open, had none
of that feminine command which Julia's look conveyed. That Florence's
eyes were very bright--bright and soft as well, he allowed; and her dark
brown hair was very glossy; but she was, on the whole, a mean-looking
little thing. He could not, as he said to himself on his return home,
avoid the comparison, as she was the first girl he had seen since he had
parted from Julia Brabazon.

"I hope you'll find yourself comfortable at Stratton, sir," said old Mrs.
Burton.

"Thank you," said Harry, "but I want very little myself in that way.
Anything does for me."

"One young gentleman we had took a bedroom at Mrs. Pott's, and did very
nicely without any second room at all. Don't you remember, Mr. B.? it
was young Granger."

"Young Granger had a very short allowance," said Mr. Burton. "He lived
upon fifty pounds a year all the time he was here."

"And I don't think Scarness had more when he began," said Mrs. Burton.
"Mr. Scarness married one of my girls, Mr. Clavering, when he started
himself at Liverpool. He has pretty nigh all the Liverpool docks under
him now. I have heard him say that butcher's meat did not cost him four
shillings a week all the time he was here. I've always thought Stratton
one of the reasonablest places anywhere for a young man to do for
himself in."

"I don't know, my dear," said the husband, "that Mr: Clavering will care
very much for that."

"Perhaps not, Mr. B.; but I do like to see young men careful about their
spendings. What's the use of spending a shilling when sixpence will do
as well; and sixpence saved when a man has nothing but himself, becomes
pounds and pounds by the time he has a family about him."

During all this time Miss Burton said little or nothing, and Harry
Clavering himself did not say much. He could not express any intention
of rivalling Mr. Scarness's economy in the article of butcher's meat,
nor could he promise to content himself with Granger's solitary bedroom.
But as he rode home he almost began to fear that he had made a mistake.
He was not wedded to the joys of his college hall, or the college common
room. He did not like the narrowness of college life. But he doubted
whether the change from that to the oft-repeated hospitalities of Mrs.
Burton might not be too much for hire. Scarness's four shillings'-worth
of butcher's meat had already made him half sick of his new profession,
and though Stratton might be the "reasonablest place anywhere for a
young man," he could not look forward to living there for a year with
much delight. As for Miss Burton, it might be quite as well that she was
plain, as he wished for none of the delights which beauty affords to
young men.

On his return home, however, he made no complaint of Stratton. He was
too strong-willed to own that he had been in any way wrong, and when
early in the following week he started for St. Cuthbert's, he was able
to speak with cheerful hope of his new prospects. If ultimately he
should find life in Stratton to be unendurable, he would cut that part
of his career short, and contrive to get up to London at an earlier time
than he had intended.

On the 31st of August Lord Ongar and Sir Hugh Clavering reached
Clavering Park, and, as has been already told, a pretty little note was
at once sent up to Miss Brabazon in her bedroom. When she met Lord Ongar
in the drawing-room, about an hour afterwards, she had instructed
herself that it would be best to say nothing of the note; but she could
not refrain from a word. "I am much obliged, my lord, by your kindness
and generosity," she said, as she gave him her hand. He merely bowed and
smiled, and muttered something as to his hoping that he might always
find it as easy to gratify her. He was a little man, on whose behalf it
certainly appeared that the Peerage must have told a falsehood; it
seemed so at least to those who judged of his years from his appearance.
The Peerage said that he was thirty-six, and that, no doubt, was in
truth his age, but any one would have declared him to be ten years
older. This look was produced chiefly by the effect of an elaborately
dressed jet black wig which he wore. What misfortune had made him bald
so early--if to be bald early in life be a misfortune--I cannot say; but
he had lost the hair from the crown of his head, and had preferred
wiggery to baldness. No doubt an effort was made to hide the wiggishness
of his wigs, but what effect in that direction was ever made
successfully? He was, moreover, weak, thin, and physically poor, and
had, no doubt, increased this weakness and poorness by hard living.
Though others thought him old, time had gone swiftly with him, and he
still thought himself a young man. He hunted, though he could not ride.
He shot, though he could not walk. And, unfortunately, he drank, though
he had no capacity for drinking! His friends at last had taught him to
believe that his only chance of saving himself lay in marriage, and
therefore he had engaged himself to Julia Brabazon, purchasing her at
the price of a brilliant settlement. If Lord Ongar should die before
her, Ongar Park was to be hers for life, with thousands a year to
maintain it. Courton Castle, the great family seat, would of course go
to the heir; but Ongar Park was supposed to be the most delightful small
country-seat anywhere within thirty miles of London. It lay among the
Surrey hills, and all the world had heard of the charms of Ongar Park.
If Julia were to survive her lord, Ongar Park was to be hers; and they
who saw them both together had but little doubt that she would come to
the enjoyment of this clause in her settlement. Lady Clavering had been
clever in arranging the match; and Sir Hugh, though he might have been
unwilling to give his sister-in-law money out of his own pocket had
performed his duty as a brother-in-law in looking to her future welfare.
Julia Brabazon had no doubt that she was doing well. Poor Harry
Clavering! She had loved him in the days of her romance. She, too, had
written her sonnets. But she had grown old earlier in life than he had
done, and had taught herself that romance could not be allowed to a
woman in her position. She was highly born, the daughter of a peer,
without money, and even without a home to which she had any claim. Of
course she had accepted Lord Ongar, but she had not put out her hand to
take all these good things without resolving that she would do her duty
to her future lord. The duty would be doubtless disagreeable, but she
would do it with all the more diligence on that account.

September passed by, hecatombs of partridges were slaughtered, and the
day of the wedding drew nigh. It was pretty to see Lord Ongar and the
self-satisfaction which he enjoyed at this time. The world was becoming
young with him again, and he thought that he rather liked the
respectability of his present mode of life. He gave himself but scanty
allowances of wine, and no allowance of anything stronger than wine, and
did not dislike his temperance. There was about him at all hours an air
which seemed to say, "There; I told you all that I could do it as soon
as there was any necessity." And in these halcyon days he could shoot
for an hour without his pony, and he liked the gentle, courteous
badinage which was bestowed upon his courtship, and he liked also
Julia's beauty. Her conduct to him was perfect. She was never pert,
never exigeant, never romantic, and never humble. She never bored him,
and yet was always ready to be with him when he wished it. She was never
exalted; and yet she bore her high place as became a woman nobly born
and acknowledged to be beautiful.

"I declare you have quite made a lover of him," said Lady Clavering to
her sister. When a thought of the match had first arisen in Sir Hugh's
London house, Lady Clavering had been eager in praise of Lord Ongar, or
eager in praise rather of the position which the future Lady Ongar might
hold; but since the prize had been secured, since it had become plain
that Julia was to be the greater woman of the two, she had harped
sometimes on the other string. As a sister she had striven for a
sister's welfare, but as a woman she could not keep herself from
comparisons which might tend to show that after all, well as Julia was
doing, she was not doing better than her elder sister had done. Hermione
had married simply a baronet, and not the richest or the most amiable
among baronets; but she had married a man suitable in age and wealth,
with whom any girl might have been in love. She had not sold herself to
be the nurse, or not to be the nurse, as it might turn out, of a
worn-out debauche. She would have hinted nothing of this, perhaps have
thought nothing of this, had not Julia and Lord Ongar walked together
through the Clavering groves as though they were two young people. She
owed it as a duty to her sister to point out that Lord Ongar could not
be a romantic young person, and ought not to be encouraged to play that
part.

"I don't know that I have made anything of him," answered Julia. "I
suppose he's much like other men when they're going to be married."
Julia quite understood the ideas that were passing through her sister's
mind, and did not feel them to be unnatural.

"What I mean is, that he has come out so strong in the Romeo line, which
we hardly expected, you know. We shall have him under your bedroom
window with a guitar, like Don Giovanni."

"I hope not, because it's so cold. I don't think it likely, as he seems
fond of going to bed early."

"And it's the best thing for him," said Lady Clavering, becoming serious
and carefully benevolent. "It's quite a wonder what good hours and quiet
living have done for him in so short a time. I was observing him as he
walked yesterday, and he put his feet to the ground as firmly almost as
Hugh does."

"Did he indeed? I hope he won't have the habit of putting his hand down
firmly as Hugh does sometimes."

"As for that," said Lady Clavering, with a little tremor, "I don't think
there's much difference between them. They all say that when Lord Ongar
means a thing he does mean it."

"I think a man ought to have a way of his own."

"And a woman also, don't you, my dear? But, as I was saying, if Lord
Ongar will continue to take care of himself he may become quite a
different man. Hugh says that he drinks next to nothing now, and though
he sometimes lights a cigar in the smoking room at night, he hardly ever
smokes it. You must do what you can to keep him from tobacco. I happen
to know that Sir Charles Poddy said that so many cigars were worse for
him even than brandy."

All this Julia bore with an even temper. She was determined to bear
everything till her time should come. Indeed she had made herself
understand that the hearing of such things as these was a part of the
price which she was to be called upon to pay. It was not pleasant for
her to hear what Sir Charles Poddy had said about the tobacco and brandy
of the man she was just going to marry. She would sooner have heard of
his riding sixty miles a day, or dancing all night, as she might have
heard had she been contented to take Harry Clavering. But she had made
her selection with her eyes open, and was not disposed to quarrel with
her bargain, because that which she had bought was no better than the
article which she had known it to be when she was making her purchase.
Nor was she even angry with her sister. "I will do the best I can,
Hermy; you may be sure of that. But there are some things which it is
useless to talk about."

"But it was as well you should know what Sir Charles said."

"I know quite enough of what he says, Hermy--quite as much, I dare say,
as you do. But, never mind. If Lord Ongar has given up smoking, I quite
agree with you that it's a good thing. I wish they'd all give it up, for
I hate the smell of it. Hugh has got worse and worse. He never cares
about changing his clothes now."

"I'll tell you what it is," said Sir Hugh to his wife that night; "sixty
thousand a year is a very fine income, but Julia will find she has
caught a tartar."

"I suppose he'll hardly live long; will he?"

"I don't know or care when he lives or when he dies; but, by heaven, he
is the most overbearing fellow I ever had in the house with me. I
wouldn't stand him here for another fortnight--not even to make her all
safe."

"It will soon be over. They'll be gone on Thursday."

"What do you think of his having the impudence to tell
Cunliffe"--Cunliffe was the head keeper--"before my face, that he didn't
know anything about pheasants! 'Well, my lord, I think we've got a few
about the place,' said Cunliffe. 'Very few,' said Ongar, with a sneer.
Now, if I haven't a better head of game here than he has at Courton,
I'll eat him. But the impudence of his saying that before me!"

"Did you make him any answer?"

"'There's about enough to suit me,' I said. Then he skulked away,
knocked off his pins. I shouldn't like to be his wife; I can tell Julia
that."

"Julia is very clever," said the sister.

The day of the marriage came, and everything at Clavering was done with
much splendor. Four bridesmaids came down from London on the preceding
day; two were already staying in the house, and the two cousins came as
two more from the rectory. Julia Brabazon had never been really intimate
with Mary and Fanny Clavering, but she had known them well enough to
make it odd if she did not ask them to come to her wedding and to take a
part in the ceremony. And, moreover, she had thought of Harry and her
little romance of other days. Harry, perhaps, might be glad to know that
she had shown this courtesy to his sisters. Harry, she knew, would be
away at his school. Though she had asked him whether he meant to come to
her wedding, she had been better pleased that he should be absent. She
had not many regrets herself but it pleased her to think that he should
have them. So Mary and Fanny Clavering were asked to attend her at the
altar. Mary and Fanny would both have preferred to decline, but their
mother had told them that they could not do so. "It would make
ill-feeling," said Mrs. Clavering; "and that is what your papa
particularly wishes to avoid."

"When you say papa particularly wishes anything, mamma, you always mean
that you wish it particularly yourself," said Fanny. "But if it must be
done, it must; and then I shall know how to behave when Mary's time
comes."

The bells were rung lustily all the morning, and all the parish was
there, round about the church, to see. There was no record of a lord
ever having been married in Clavering church before; and now this lord
was going to marry my lady's sister. It was all one as though she were a
Clavering herself. But there was no ecstatic joy in the parish. There
were to be no bonfires, and no eating and drinking at Sir Hugh's
expense--no comforts provided for any of the poor by Lady Clavering on
that special occasion. Indeed, there was never much of such kindnesses
between the lord of the soil and his dependants. A certain stipulated
dole was given at Christmas for coals and blankets; but even for that
there was generally some wrangle between the rector and the steward. "If
there's to be all this row about it," the rector had said to the
steward, "I'll never ask for it again." "I wish my uncle would only be
as good as his word," Sir Hugh had said, when the rector's speech was
repeated to him. Therefore, there was not much of real rejoicing in the
parish on this occasion, though the bells were rung loudly, and though
the people, young and old, did cluster round the churchyard to see the
lord lead his bride out of the church. "A puir feckless thing, tottering
along like-not half the makings of a man. A stout lass like she could
a'most blow him away wi' a puff of her mouth." That was the verdict
which an old farmer's wife passed upon him, and that verdict was made
good by the general opinion of the parish.

But though the lord might be only half a man, Julia Brabazon walked out
from the church every inch a countess. Whatever price she might have
paid, she had at any rate got the thing which she had intended to buy.
And as she stepped into the chariot which carried her away to the
railway station on her way to Dover, she told herself that she had done
right. She had chosen her profession, as Harry Clavering had chosen his;
and having so far succeeded, she would do her best to make her success
perfect. Mercenary! Of course she had been mercenary. Were not all men
and women mercenary upon whom devolved the necessity of earning their
bread?

There was a great breakfast at the park--for the quality--and the rector
on this occasion submitted himself to become the guest of the nephew
whom he thoroughly disliked.



Chapter IV

Florence Burton



It was now Christmas time at Stratton, or rather Christmas time was near
at hand; not the Christmas next after the autumn of Lord Ongar's
marriage, but the following Christmas, and Harry Clavering had finished
his studies in Mr. Burton's office. He flattered himself that he had not
been idle while he was there, and was now about to commence his more
advanced stage of pupilage, under the great Mr. Beilby, in London, with
hopes which were still good, if they were not so magnificent as they
once had been.

When he first saw Mr. Burton in his office, and beheld the dusty
pigeonholes with dusty papers, and caught the first glimpse of things as
they really were in the workshop of that man of business, he had, to say
the truth, been disgusted. And Mrs. Burton's early dinner, and Florence
Burton's "plain face" and plain ways, had disconcerted him. On that day
he had repented of his intention with regard to Stratton; but he had
carried out his purpose like a man, and now he rejoiced greatly that he
had done so. He rejoiced greatly, though his hopes were somewhat
sobered, and his views of life less grand than they had been. He was to
start for Clavering early on the following morning, intending to spend
his Christmas at home, and we will see him and listen to him as he bade
farewell to one of the members of Mr. Burton's family.

He was sitting in a small hack parlor in Mr. Burton's house, and on the
table of the room there was burning a single candle. It was a dull,
dingy, brown room, furnished with horsehair-covered chairs, an old
horsehair sofa and heavy, rusty curtains. I don't know that there was in
the room any attempt at ornament, as certainly there was no evidence of
wealth. It was now about seven o'clock in the evening, and tea was over
in Mrs. Burton's establishment. Harry Clavering had had his tea, and had
eaten his hot muffin, at the further side from the fire of the family
table, while Florence had poured out the tea, and Mrs. Burton had sat by
the fire on one side with a handkerchief over her lap, and Mr. Burton
had been comfortable with his arm-chair and his slippers on the other
side. When tea was over, Harry had made his parting speech to Mrs.
Burton, and that lady had kissed him, and bade God bless him. "I'll see
you for a moment before you go, in my office, Harry," Mr. Burton had
said. Then Harry had gone down stairs, and some one else had gone boldly
with him, and they two were sitting together in the dingy brown room.
After that I need hardly tell my reader what had become of Harry
Clavering's perpetual, life-enduring heart's misery.

He and Florence were sitting on the old horsehair sofa and Florence's
hand was in his. "My darling," he said, "how am I to live for the next
two years?"

"You mean five years, Harry."

"No; I mean two--that is, two, unless I can make the time less. I
believe you'd be better pleased to think it was ten."

"Much better pleased to think it was ten than to have no such hope at
all. Of course we shall see each other. It's not as though you were
going to New Zealand."

"I almost wish I were. One would agree then as to the necessity of this
cursed delay."

"Harry, Harry!"

"It is accursed. The prudence of the World in these latter days seems to
me to be more abominable than all its other iniquities."

"But, Harry, we should have no income."

"Income is a word that I hate."

"Now you are getting on to your high horse, and you know I always go out
of the way when you begin to prance on that beast. As for me, I don't
want to leave papa's house where I'm sure of my bread and butter, till
I'm sure of it in another."

"You say that, Florence, on purpose to torment me."

"Dear Harry, do you think I want to torment you on your last night? The
truth is, I love you so well that I can afford to be patient for you."

"I hate patience, and always did. Patience is one of the worst vices I
know. It's almost as bad as humility. You'll tell me you're 'umble next.
If you'll only add that you're contented, you'll describe yourself as
one of the lowest of God's creatures."

"I don't know about being 'umble, but I am contented. Are not you
contented with me, sir?"

"No--because you're not in a hurry to be married."

"What a goose you are. Do you know I'm not sure that if you really love
a person, and are quite confident about him--as I am of you--that having
to look forward to being married is not the best part of it all. I
suppose you'll like to get my letters now, but I don't know that you'll
care for them much when we've been man and wife for ten years."

"But one can't live upon letters."

"I shall expect you to live upon mine, and to grow fat on them. There; I
heard papa's step on the stairs. He said you were to go to him. Good-by,
Harry--dearest Harry! What a blessed wind it was that blew you here."

"Stop a moment; about your getting to Clavering. I shall come for you on
Easter eve."

"Oh, no; why should you have so much trouble and expense?"

"I tell you I shall come for you--unless, indeed, you decline to travel
with me."

"It will be so nice! And then I shall be sure to have you with me the
first moment I see them. I shall think it very awful when I first meet
your father."

"He's the most good-natured man, I should say, in England."

"But he'll think me so plain. You did at first, you know. But he won't
be uncivil enough to tell me so, as you did. And Mary is to be married
in Easter week? Oh, dear, oh, dear; I shall be so shy among them all."

"You shy! I never saw you shy in my life. I don't suppose you were ever
really put out yet."

"But I must really put you out, because papa is waiting for you. Dear,
dear, dearest Harry. Though I am so patient I shall count the hours till
you come for me. Dearest Harry!" Then she bore with him, as he pressed
her close to his bosom, and kissed her lips, and her forehead, and her
glossy hair. When he was gone, she sat down alone for a few minutes on
the old sofa, and hugged herself in her happiness. What a happy wind
that had been which had blown such a lover as that for her to Stratton!

"I think he's a good young man," said Mrs. Burton, as soon as she was
left with her old husband up stairs.

"Yes, he's a good young man. He means very well."

"But he is not idle; is he?"

"No--no: he's not idle. And he's very clever--too clever, I'm afraid.
But I think he'll do well, though it may take him some time to settle."

"It seems so natural, his taking to Flo; doesn't it? They've all taken
one when they went away, and they've all done very well. Deary me; how
sad the house will be when Flo has gone."

"Yes--it'll make a difference that way. But what then? I wouldn't wish
to keep one of 'em at home for that reason."

"No, indeed. I think I'd feel ashamed of myself to have a daughter not
married, or not in the way to be married afore she's thirty. I couldn't
bear to think that no young man should take a fancy to a girl of mine.
But Flo's not twenty yet, and Carry, who was the oldest to go, wasn't
four-and-twenty when Scarness took her." Thereupon the old lady put her
handkerchief to the corner of her eyes, and wept gently.

"Flo isn't gone yet," said Mr. Burton.

"But I hope, B., it's not to be a long engagement. I don't like long
engagements. It ain't good--not for the girl; it ain't, indeed."

"We were engaged for seven years."

"People weren't so much in a hurry then at anything; but I ain't sure it
was very good for me. And though we weren't just married, we were living
next door and saw each other. What'll come to Flo if she's to be here
and he's to be up in London, pleasuring himself?"

"Flo must bear it as other girls do," said the father, as he got up from
his chair.

"I think he's a good young man; I think he is," said the mother. "But
don't stand out for too much for 'em to begin upon. What matters? Sure,
if they were to be a little short you could help 'em." To such a
suggestion as this Mr. Burton thought it as well to make no answer, but
with ponderous steps descended to his office.

"Well, Harry," said Mr. Burton, "so you're to be off in the morning?"

"Yes, sir; I shall breakfast at home to-morrow."

"Ah--when I was your age, I always used to make an early start. Three
hours before breakfast never does any hurt. But it shouldn't be more
than that. The wind gets into the stomach." Harry had no remark to make
on this, and waited, therefore, till Mr. Burton went on. "And you'll be
up in London by the 10th of next month?"

"Yes, sir; I intend to be at Mr. Beilby's office on the 11th."

"That's right. Never lose a day. In losing a day now, you don't lose
what you might earn now in a day, but what you might be earning when
you're at your best. A young man should always remember that. You can't
dispense with a round in the ladder going up. You only make your time at
the top so much the shorter."

"I hope you'll find that I'm all right, sir. I don't mean to be idle."

"Pray don't. Of course, you know, I speak to you very differently from
what I should do if you were simply going away from my office. What I
shall have to give Florence will be very little--that is, comparatively
little. She shall have a hundred a year, when she marries, till I die;
and after my death and her mother's she will share with the others. But
a hundred a year will be nothing to you."

"Won't it, sir? I think a very great deal of a hundred a year. I'm to
have a hundred and fifty from the office; and I should be ready to marry
on that to-morrow."

"You couldn't live on such an income--unless you were to alter your
habits very much."

"But I will alter them."

"We shall see. You are so placed, that by marrying you would lose a
considerable income; and I would advise you to put off thinking of it
for the next two years."

"My belief is, that settling down would be the best thing in the world
to make me work."

"We'll try what a year will do. So Florence is to go to your father's
house at Easter?"

"Yes, sir; she has been good enough to promise to come, if you have no
objection."

"It is quite as well that they should know her early. I only hope they
will like her, as well as we like you. Now I'll say good-night--and
good-by." Then Harry went, and walking up and down the High Street of
Stratton, thought of all that he had done during the past year.

On his arrival at Stratton, that idea of perpetual misery arising from
blighted affection was still strong within his breast. He had given all
his heart to a false woman who had betrayed him. He had risked all his
fortune on one cast of the die, and, gambler-like, had lost everything.
On the day of Julia's marriage he had shut himself up at the
school--luckily it was a holiday--and had flattered himself that he had
gone through some hours of intense agony. No doubt he did suffer
somewhat, for in truth he had loved the woman; but such sufferings are
seldom perpetual, and with him they had been as easy of cure as with
most others. A little more than a year had passed, and now he was
already engaged to another woman. As he thought of this he did not by
any means accuse himself of inconstancy or of weakness of heart. It
appeared to him now the most natural thing in the world that he should
love Florence Burton. In those old days he had never seen Florence, and
had hardly thought seriously of what qualities a man really wants in a
wife. As he walked up and down the hill of Stratton Street, with the
kiss of the dear, modest, affectionate girl still warm upon his lips, he
told himself that a marriage with such a one as Julia Brabazon would
have been altogether fatal to his chance of happiness.

And things had occurred and rumors had reached him which assisted him
much in adopting this view of the subject. It was known to all the
Claverings--and even to all others who cared about such things--that
Lord and Lady Ongar were not happy together, and it had been already
said that Lady Ongar had misconducted herself. There was a certain count
whose name had come to be mingled with hers in a way that was, to say
the least of it, very unfortunate. Sir Hugh Clavering had declared, in
Mrs. Clavering's hearing, though but little disposed in general to make
any revelations to any of the family at the rectory, "that he did not
intend to take his sister-in-law's part. She had made her own bed, and
she must lie upon it. She had known what Lord Ongar was before she had
married him, and the fault was her own." So much Sir Hugh had said, and,
in saying it, had done all that in him lay to damn his sister-in-law's
fair fame. Harry Clavering, little as he had lived in the world during
the last twelve months, still knew that some people told a different
story. The earl, too, and his wife had not been in England since their
marriage; so that these rumors had been filtered to them at home through
a foreign medium. During most of their time they had been in Italy, and
now, as Harry knew, they were at Florence. He had heard that Lord Ongar
had declared his intention of suing for a divorce; but that he supposed
to be erroneous, as the two were still living under the same roof. Then
he heard that Lord Ongar was ill; and whispers were spread abroad darkly
and doubtingly, as though great misfortunes were apprehended.

Harry could not fail to tell himself that had Julia become his wife, as
she had once promised, these whispers and this darkness would hardly
have come to pass. But not on that account did he now regret that her
early vows had not been kept. Living at Stratton, he had taught himself
to think much of the quiet domesticities of life, and to believe that
Florence Burton was fitter to be his wife than Julia Brabazon. He told
himself that he had done well to find this out, and that he had been
wise to act upon it. His wisdom had in truth consisted in his capacity
to feel that Florence was a nice girl, clever, well-minded,
high-principled, and full of spirit--and in falling in love with her as
a consequence. All his regard for the quiet domesticities had come from
his love, and had had no share in producing it. Florence was
bright-eyed. No eyes were over brighter, either in tears or in laughter.
And when he came to look at her well, he found that he had been an idiot
to think her plain.

"There are things that grow to beauty as you look at them--to exquisite
beauty; and you are one of them," he had said to her. "And there are
men," she had answered, "who grow to flattery as you listen to them--to
impudent flattery; and you are one of them." "I thought you plain the
first day I saw you. That's not flattery." "Yes, sir, it is; and you
mean it for flattery. But after all, Harry, it comes only to this, that
you want to tell me that you have learned to love me." He repeated all
this to himself as he walked up and down Stratton, and declared to
himself that she was very lovely. It had been given to him to ascertain
this, and he was rather proud of himself. But he was a little diffident
about his father. He thought that, perhaps, his father might see
Florence as he himself had first seen her, and might not have
discernment enough to ascertain his mistake, as he had done. But
Florence was not going to Clavering at once, and he would be able to
give beforehand his own account of her. He had not been home since his
engagement had been a thing settled; but his position with regard to
Florence had been declared by letter, and his mother had written to the
young, lady asking her to come to Clavering.

When Harry got home, all the family received him with congratulations.
"I am so glad to think that you should marry early," his mother said to
him in a whisper.

"But I am not married yet, mother," he answered.

"Do show me a lock of her hair," said Fanny, laughing.

"It's twice prettier hair than yours, though she doesn't think half so
much about it as you do," said her brother, pinching Fanny's arm.

"But you'll show me a lock, wont you?" said Fanny.

"I'm so glad she's to be here at my marriage," said Mary; "because then
Edward will know her. I'm so glad that he will see her."

"Edward will have other fish to fry, and won't care much about her,"
said Harry.

"It seems you're going to do the regular thing," said his father, "like
all the good apprentices. Marry your master's daughter, and then become
Lord Mayor of London."

This was not the view in which it had pleased Harry to regard his
engagement. All the other "young men" that had gone to Mr. Burton's had
married Mr. Burton's daughters--or, at least, enough had done so to
justify the Stratton assertion that all had fallen into the same trap.
The Burtons, with their five girls, were supposed in Stratton to have
managed their affairs very well, and something of these hints had
reached Harry's ears. He would have preferred that the thing should not
have been made so common, but he was not fool enough to make himself
really unhappy on that head.

"I don't know much about becoming Lord Mayor," he replied. "That
promotion doesn't lie exactly in our line."

"But marrying your master's daughter does, it seems," said the Rector.
Harry thought that this, as coming from his father, was almost
ill-natured, and therefore dropped the conversation.

"I'm sure we shall like her," said Fanny.

"I think that I shall like Harry's choice," said Mrs. Clavering.

"I do hope Edward will like her," said Mary.

"Mary," said her sister, "I do wish you were once married. When you are,
you'll begin to have a self of your own again. Now you're no better than
an unconscious echo."

"Wait for your own turn, my dear," said the mother.

Harry had reached home on a Saturday, and the following Monday was
Christmas-day. Lady Clavering, he was told, was at home at the park, and
Sir Hugh had been there lately. No one from the house except the
servants were seen at church, either on the Sunday or on Christmas-day.
"But that shows nothing," said the Rector, speaking in anger. "He very
rarely does come, and when he does, it would be better that he should be
away. I think that he likes to insult me by misconducting himself. They
say that she is not well, and I can easily believe that all this about
her sister makes her unhappy. If I were you, I would go up and call.
Your mother was there the other day, but did not see them. I think
you'll find that he's away, hunting somewhere. I saw the groom going off
with three horses on Sunday afternoon. He always sends them by the
church gate just as we're coming out."

So Harry went up to the house, and found Lady Clavering at home. She was
looking old and careworn, but she was glad to see him. Harry was the
only one of the rectory family who had been liked at the great house
since Sir Hugh's marriage, and he, had he cared to do so, would have
been made welcome there. But, as he had once said to Sir Hugh's
sister-in-law, if he shot the Clavering game, he would be expected to do
so in the guise of a head gamekeeper, and he did not choose to play that
part. It would not suit him to drink Sir Hugh's claret, and be bidden to
ring the bell, and to be asked to step into the stable for this or that.
He was a fellow of his college, and quite as big a man, he thought, as
Sir Hugh. He would not be a hanger-on at the park, and, to tell the
truth, he disliked his cousin quite as much as his father did. But there
had even been a sort of friendship--nay, occasionally almost a
confidence, between him and Lady Clavering, and he believed that by her
he was really liked.

Lady Clavering had heard of his engagement, and, of course,
congratulated him. "Who told you?" he asked--"was it my mother?"

"No; I have not seen your mother I don't know when. I think it was my
maid told me. Though we somehow don't see much of you all at the
rectory, our servants are no doubt more gracious with the rectory
servants. I'm sure she must be nice, Harry, or you would not have chosen
her. I hope she has got some money."

"Yes, I think she is nice. She is coming here at Easter."

"Ah, we shall be away then, you know; and about the money?"

"She will have a little, but very little; a hundred a year."

"Oh, Harry, is not that rash of you? Younger brothers should always get
money. You're the same as a younger brother, you know."

"My idea is to earn my own bread. It's not very aristocratic, but, after
all, there are a great many more in the same boat with me."

Of course you will earn your bread, but having a wife with money would
not hinder that. A girl is not the worse because she can bring some
help. However, I'm sure I hope you'll be happy."

"What I meant was that I think it best when the money comes from the
husband."

"I'm sure I ought to agree with you, because we never had any." Then
there was a pause. "I suppose you've heard about Lord Ongar," she said.

"I have heard that he is very ill."

"Very ill. I believe there was no hope when we heard last; but Julia
never writes now."

"I'm sorry that it is so bad as that," said Harry, not well knowing what
else to say.

"As regards Julia, I do not know whether it may not be for the best. It
seems to be a cruel thing to say, but of course I cannot but think most
of her. You have heard, perhaps, that they have not been happy?"

"Yes; I had heard that."

"Of course; and what is the use of pretending anything with you? You
know what people have said of her."

"I have never believed it."

"You always loved her, Harry. Oh, dear, I remember how unhappy that made
me once, and I was so afraid that Hugh would suspect it. She would never
have done for you; would she, Harry?"

"She did a great deal better for herself." said Harry.

"If you mean that ironically, you shouldn't say it now. If he dies, she
will be well off, of course, and people will in time forget what has
been said--that is, if she will live quietly. The worst of it is that
she fears nothing."

"But you speak as though you thought she had been--been--"

"I think she was probably imprudent, but I believe nothing worse than
that. But who can say what is absolutely wrong, and what only imprudent?
I think she was too proud to go really astray. And then with such a man
as that, so difficult and so ill-tempered--! Sir Hugh thinks--" But at
that moment the door was opened and Sir Hugh came in.

"What does Sir Hugh think?" said he.

"We were speaking of Lord Ongar," said Harry, sitting up and shaking
hands with his cousin.

"Then, Harry, you were speaking on a subject that I would rather not
have discussed in this house. Do you understand that, Hermione? I will
have no talking about Lord Ongar or his wife. We know very little, and
what we hear is simply uncomfortable. Will you dine here to-day, Harry?"

"Thank you, no; I have only just come home."

"And I am just going away. That is, I go to-morrow. I cannot stand this
place. I think it the dullest neighborhood in all England, and the most
gloomy house I ever saw. Hermione likes it."

To this last assertion Lady Clavering expressed no assent; nor did she
venture to contradict him.



Chapter V

Lady Ongar's Return



But Sir Hugh did not get away from Clavering Park on the next morning,
as he had intended. There came to him that same afternoon a message by
telegraph, to say that Lord Ongar was dead. He had died at Florence on
the afternoon of Christmas-day, and Lady Ongar had expressed her
intention of coming at once to England.

"Why the devil doesn't she stay where she is?" said Sir Hugh, to his
wife. "People would forget her there, and in twelve months time the row
would be all over."

"Perhaps she does not want to be forgotten," said Lady Clavering.

"Then she should want it. I don't care whether she has been guilty or
not. When a woman gets her name into such a mess as that, she should
keep in the background."

"I think you are unjust to her, Hugh."

"Of course you do. You don't suppose that I expect anything else. But if
you mean to tell me that there would have been all this row if she had
been decently prudent, I tell you that you're mistaken."

"Only think what a man he was."

She knew that when she took him, and should have borne with him while he
lasted. A woman isn't to have seven thousand a year for nothing."

"But you forget that not a syllable has been proved against her, or been
attempted to be proved. She has never left him, and now she has been
with him in his last moments. I don't think you ought to be the first to
turn against her."

"If she would remain abroad, I would do the best I could for her. She
chooses to return home; and as I think she's wrong, I won't have her
here--that's all. You don't suppose that I go about the world accusing
her?"

"I think you might do something to fight her battle for her."

"I will do nothing--unless she takes my advice and remains abroad. You
must write to her now, and you will tell her what I say. It's an
infernal bore, his dying at this moment; but I suppose people won't
expect that I'm to shut myself up."

For one day only did the baronet shut himself up, and on the following
he went whither he had before intended.

Lady Clavering thought it proper to write a line to the rectory,
informing the family there that Lord Ongar was no more. This she did in
a note to Mrs. Clavering; and when it was received, there came over the
faces of them all that lugubrious look, which is, as a matter of course,
assumed by decorous people when tidings come of the death of any one who
has been known to them, even in the most distant way. With the exception
of Harry, all the rectory Claverings had been introduced to Lord Ongar,
and were now bound to express something approaching to sorrow. Will any
one dare to call this hypocrisy? If it be so called, who in the world is
not a hypocrite? Where is the man or woman who has not a special face
for sorrow before company? The man or woman who has no such face, would
at once be accused of heartless impropriety.

"It is very sad," said Mrs. Clavering; "only think, it is but little
more than a year since you married them!"

"And twelve such months as they have been for her!" said the Rector,
shaking his head. His face was very lugubrious, for though as a parson
he was essentially a kindly, easy man, to whom humbug was odious, and
who dealt little in the austerities of clerical denunciation, still he
had his face of pulpit sorrow for the sins of the people--what I may
perhaps call his clerical knack of gentle condemnation--and could
therefore assume a solemn look, and a little saddened motion of his
head, with more ease than people who are not often called upon for such
action.

"Poor woman!" said Fanny, thinking of the woman's married sorrows, and
her early widowhood.

"Poor man!" said Mary, shuddering as she thought of the husband's fate.

"I hope," said Harry, almost sententiously, "that no one in this house
will condemn her upon such mere rumors as have been heard."

"Why should any one in this house condemn her," said the Rector, "even
if there were more than rumors? My dears, judge not, lest ye be judged.
As regards her, we are bound by close ties not to speak ill of her--or
even to think ill, unless we cannot avoid it. As far as I know, we have
not even any reason for thinking ill." Then he went out, changed the
tone of his countenance among the rectory stables, and lit his cigar.

Three days after that, a second note was brought down from the great
house to the rectory, and this was from Lady Clavering to Harry. "Dear
Harry," ran the note--"Could you find time to come up to me this
morning? Sir Hugh has gone to North Priory. Ever yours, H. C." Harry, of
course, went, and as he went, he wondered how Sir Hugh could have had
the heart to go to North Priory at such a moment. North Priory was a
hunting seat some thirty miles from Clavering, belonging to a great
nobleman with whom Sir Hugh much consorted. Harry was grieved that his
cousin had not resisted the temptation of going at such a time, but he
was quick enough to perceive that Lady Clavering alluded to the absence
of her lord as a reason why Harry might pay his visit to the house with
satisfaction.

"I'm so much obliged to you for coming," said Lady Clavering. "I want to
know if you can do something for me." As she spoke, she had a paper in
her hand which he immediately perceived to be a letter from Italy.

"I'll do anything I can, of course, Lady Clavering."

"But I must tell you, that I hardly know whether I ought to ask you. I'm
doing what would make Hugh very angry. But he is so unreasonable and so
cruel about Julia. He condemns her simply because, as he says, there is
no smoke without fire. That is such a cruel thing to say about a woman;
is it not?"

Harry thought that it was a cruel thing, but as he did not wish to speak
evil of Sir Hugh before Lady Clavering, he held his tongue.

"When we got the first news by telegraph, Julia said that she intended
to come home at once. Hugh thinks that she should remain abroad for some
time, and indeed I am not sure but that would be best. At any rate, he
made me write to her, and advise her to stay. He declared that if she
came at once he would do nothing for her. The truth is, he does not want
to have her here, for if she were again in the house he would have to
take her part, if ill-natured things were said."

"That's cowardly," said Harry, stoutly.

"Don't say that, Harry, till you have heard it all. If he believes these
things, he is right not to wish to meddle. He is very hard, and always
believes evil. But he is not a coward. If she were here, living with him
as my sister, he would take her part, whatever he might himself think."

"But why should he think ill of his own sister-in-law? I have never
thought ill of her."

"You loved her, and he never did; though I think he liked her too, in
his way. But that's what he told me to do, and I did it. I wrote to her,
advising her to remain at Florence till the warm weather comes, saying
that, as she could not specially wish to be in London for the season, I
thought she would be more comfortable there than here; and then I added
that Hugh also advised her to stay. Of course I did not say that he
would not have her here--but that was his threat."

"She is not likely to press herself where she is not wanted."

"No--and she will not forget her rank and her money; for that must now
be hers. Julia can be quite as hard and as stubborn as he can. But I did
write as I say, and I think that if she had got my letter before she had
written herself, she would perhaps have stayed. But here is a letter
from her, declaring that she will come at once. She will be starting
almost as soon as my letter gets there, and I am sure she will not alter
her purpose now."

"I don't see why she should not come if she likes it."

"Only that she might be more comfortable there. But read what she says.
You need not read the first part. Not that there is any secret; but it
is about him and his last moments, and it would only pain you."

Harry longed to read the whole, but he did as he was bid, and began the
letter at the spot which Lady Clavering marked for him with her finger.
"I have to start on the third, and as I shall stay nowhere except to
sleep at Turin and Paris, I shall be home by the eighth--I think on the
evening of the eighth. I shall bring only my own maid, and one of his
men who desires to come back with me. I wish to have apartments taken
for me in London. I suppose Hugh will do as much as this for me."

"I am quite sure Hugh won't," said Lady Clavering, who was watching his
eye as he read.

Harry said nothing, but went on reading. "I shall only want two
sitting-rooms and two bedrooms--one for myself and one for Clara--and
should like to have them somewhere near Piccadilly--in Clarges street,
or about there. You can write me a line, or send me a message to the
Hotel Bristol, at Paris. If anything fails, so that I should not hear, I
shall go to the Palace Hotel; and, in that case, should telegraph for
rooms from Paris."

"Is that all I'm to read?" Harry asked.

"You can go on and see what she says as to her reason for coming." So
Harry went on reading. "I have suffered much, and of course I know that
I must suffer more; but I am determined that I will face the worst of it
at once. It has been hinted to me that an attempt will be made to
interfere with the settlement--" "Who can have hinted that?" said Harry.
Lady Clavering suspected who might have done so, but she made no answer.
"I can hardly think it possible; but, if it is done, I will not be out
of the way. I have done my duty as best I could, and have done it under
circumstances that I may truly say were terrible; and I will go on doing
it. No one shall say that I am ashamed to show my face and claim my own.
You will be surprised when you see me. I have aged so much--"

"You need not go on," said Lady Clavering. "The rest is about nothing
that signifies."

Then Harry refolded the letter and gave it back to his companion.

"Sir Hugh is gone, and therefore I could not show him that in time to do
anything; but if I were to do so, he would simply do nothing, and let
her go to the hotel in London. Now that would be unkind--would it not?"

"Very unkind, I think."

"It would seem so cold to her on her return."

"Very cold. Will you not go and meet her?"

Lady Clavering blushed as she answered. Though Sir Hugh was a tyrant to
his wife, and known to be such, and though she knew that this was known,
she had never said that it was so to any of the Claverings; but now she
was driven to confess it. "He would not let me go, Harry. I could not go
without telling him, and if I told him he would forbid it."

"And she is to be all alone in London, without any friend?"

"I shall go to her as soon as he will let me. I don't think he will
forbid my going to her, perhaps, after a day or two; but I know he would
not let me go on purpose to meet her."

"It does seem hard."

"But about the apartments, Harry? I thought that perhaps you would see
about them. After all that has passed, I could not have asked you, only
that now, as you are engaged yourself, it is nearly the same as though
you were married. I would ask Archibald, only then there would be a fuss
between Archibald and Hugh; and somehow I look on you more as a
brother-in-law than I do Archibald."

"Is Archie in London?"

"His address is at his club, but I dare say he is at North Priory also.
At any rate, I shall say nothing to him."

"I was thinking he might have met her."

"Julia never liked him. And, indeed, I don't think she will care so much
about being met. She was always independent in that way, and would go
over the world alone better than many men. But couldn't you run up and
manage about the apartments? A woman coming home as a widow, and in her
position, feels a hotel to be so public."

"I will see about the apartments."

"I knew you would. And there will be time for you to send to me, so that
I can write to Paris, will there not? There is more than a week, you
know."

But Henry did not wish to go to London on this business immediately. He
had made up his mind that he would not only take the rooms, but that he
would also meet Lady Ongar at the station. He said nothing of this to
Lady Clavering, as, perhaps, she might not approve; but such was his
intention. He was wrong, no doubt. A man in such cases should do what he
is asked to do, and do no more. But he repeated to himself the excuse
that Lady Clavering had made--namely, that he was already the same as a
married man, and that, therefore, no harm could come of his courtesy to
his cousin's wife's sister. But he did not wish to make two journeys to
London, nor did he desire to be away for a full week out of his
holidays. Lady Clavering could not press him to go at once, and,
therefore, it was settled as he proposed. She would write to Paris
immediately, and he would go up to London after three or four days. "If
we only knew of any apartment, we could write," said Lady Clavering.
"You could not know that they were comfortable," said Harry; "and you
will find that I will do it in plenty of time." Then he took his leave;
but Lady Clavering had still one other word to say to him. "You had
better not say anything about all this at the rectory, had you?" Harry,
without considering much about it, said that he would not mention it.

Then he went away and walked again about the park, thinking of it all.
He had not seen her since he had walked round the park, in his misery,
after parting with her in the garden. How much had happened since then!
She had been married in her glory, had become a countess, and then a
widow, and was now returning with a tarnished name, almost repudiated by
those who had been her dearest friends; but with rank and fortune at her
command--and again a free woman. He could not but think what might have
been his chance were it not for Florence Burton! But much had happened
to him also. He had almost perished in his misery--so he told
himself--but had once more "tricked his beams"--that was his expression
to himself--and was now "flaming in the forehead" of a glorious love.
And even if there had been no such love, would a widowed countess with a
damaged name have suited his ambition, simply because she had the rich
dower of the poor wretch to whom she had sold herself? No, indeed. There
could be no question of renewed vows between them now; there could have
been no such question even had there been no "glorious love," which had
accrued to him almost as his normal privilege, in right of his pupilage
in Mr. Burton's office. No; there could be, there could have been,
nothing now between him and the widowed Countess of Ongar. But,
nevertheless, he liked the idea of meeting her in London. He felt some
triumph in the thought that he should be the first to touch her hand on
her return after all that she had suffered. He would be very courteous
to her, and would spare no trouble that would give her any ease. As for
her rooms, he would see to everything of which he could think that might
add to her comfort; and a wish crept upon him, uninvited, that she might
be conscious of what he had done for her.

Would she be aware, he wondered, that he was engaged? Lady Clavering had
known it for the last three months, and would probably have mentioned
the circumstance in a letter. But perhaps not. The sisters, he knew, had
not been good correspondents; and he almost wished that she might not
know it. "I should not care to be talking to her about Florence," he
said to himself.

It was very strange that they should come to meet in such a way, after
all that had passed between them in former days. Would it occur to her
that he was the only man she had ever loved? For, of course, as he well
knew, she had never loved her husband. Or would she now be too callous
to everything but the outer world to think at all of such a subject? She
had said that she was aged, and he could well believe it. Then he
pictured her to himself in her weeds, worn, sad, thin, but still proud
and handsome. He had told Florence of his early love for the woman whom
Lord Ongar had married, and had described with rapture his joy that that
early passion had come to nothing. Now he would have to tell Florence of
this meeting; and he thought of the comparison he would make between her
bright young charms and the shipwrecked beauty of the widow. On the
whole, he was proud that he had been selected for the commission, as he
liked to think of himself as one to whom things happened which were out
of the ordinary course. His only objection to Florence was that she had
come to him so much in the ordinary course.

"I suppose the truth is, you are tired of our dullness," said his father
to him, when he declared his purpose of going up to London, and, in
answer to certain questions that were asked him, had hesitated to tell
his business.

"Indeed, it is not so," said Harry, earnestly; "but I have a commission
to execute for a certain person, and I cannot explain what it is."

"Another secret--eh, Harry?"

"I am very sorry--but it is a secret. It is not one of my own seeking;
that is all I can say." His mother and sisters also asked him a question
or two; but when he became mysterious they did not persevere. "Of course
it is something about Florence," said Fanny. "I'll be bound he is going
to meet her. What will you bet me, Harry, you don't go to the play with
Florence before you come home?" To this Henry deigned no answer; and
after that no more questions were asked.

He went up to London and took rooms in Bolton street. There was a pretty
fresh-looking light drawing-room, or, indeed, two drawing-rooms, and a
small dining-room, and a large bedroom looking over upon the trees of
some great nobleman's garden. As Harry stood at the window it seemed so
odd to him that he should be there. And he was busy about everything in
the chamber, seeing that all things were clean and well ordered. Was the
Woman of the house sure of her cook? Sure; of course she was sure. Had
not old Lady Dimdaff lived there for two years, and nobody ever was so
particular about her victuals as Lady Dimdaff. "And would Lady Ongar
keep her own carriage?" As to this Harry could say nothing. Then came
the question of price, and Harry found his commission very difficult.
The sum asked seemed to be enormous. "Seven guineas a week at that time
of the year?" Lady Dimdaff had always paid seven guineas. "But that was
in the season," suggested Harry. To this the woman replied that it was
the season now. Harry felt that he did not like to drive a bargain for
the Countess, who would probably care very little what she paid, and
therefore assented. But a guinea a day for lodgings did seem a great
deal of money. He was prepared to marry and commence housekeeping upon a
less sum for all his expenses. However, he had done his commission, had
written to Lady Clavering, and had telegraphed to Paris. He had almost
brought himself to write to Lady Ongar, but when the moment came he
abstained. He had sent the telegram as from H. Clavering. She might
think that it came from Hugh, if she pleased. He was unable not to
attend specially to his dress when he went to meet her at the Victoria
Station. He told himself that he was an ass--but still he went on being
an ass. During the whole afternoon he could do nothing but think of what
he had in hand. He was to tell Florence everything, but had Florence
known the actual state of his mind, I doubt whether she would have been
satisfied with him. The train was due at 8 p.m. He dined at the Oxford
and Cambridge Club at six, and then went to his lodgings to take one
last look at his outer man. The evening was very fine, but he went down
to the station in a cab, because he would not meet Lady Ongar in soiled
boots. He told himself again that he was an ass; and then tried to
console himself by thinking that such an occasion as this seldom
happened once to any man--could hardly happen more than once to any man.
He had hired a carriage for her, not thinking it fit that Lady Ongar
should be taken to her new home in a cab; and when he was at the
station, half an hour before the proper time, was very fidgety because
it had not come. Ten minutes before eight he might have been seen
standing at the entrance to the station looking out anxiously for the
vehicle. The man was there, of course, in time, but Harry made himself
angry because he could not get the carriage so placed that Lady Ongar
might be sure of stepping into it without leaving the platform.
Punctually to the moment the coming train announced itself by its
whistle, and Harry Clavering felt himself to be in a flutter.

The train came up along the platform, and Harry stood there expecting to
see Julia Brabazon's head projected from the first window that caught
his eye. It was of Julia Brabazon's head, and not of Lady Ongar's, that
he was thinking. But he saw no sign of her presence while the carriages
were coming to a stand-still, and the platform was covered with
passengers before he discovered her whom he was seeking. At last he
encountered in the crowd a man in livery, and found from him that he was
Lady Ongar's servant. "I have come to meet Lady Ongar," said Harry, "and
have got a carriage for her." Then the servant found his mistress, and
Harry offered his hand to a tall woman in black. She wore a black straw
bat with a veil, but the veil was so thick that Harry could not at all
see her face.

"Is that Mr. Clavering?" said she.

"Yes," said Harry, "it is I. Your sister asked me to take rooms for you,
and as I was in town I thought I might as well meet you to see if you
wanted anything. Can I get the luggage?"

"Thank you; the man will do that. He knows where the things are."

"I ordered a carriage; shall I show him where it is? Perhaps you will
let me take you to it? They are so stupid here. They would not let me
bring it up."

"It will do very well I'm sure. It's very kind of you. The rooms are in
Bolton street. I have the number here. Oh! thank you." But she would not
take his arm. So he led the way, and stood at the door while she got
into the carriage with her maid. "I'd better show the man where you are
now." This he did, and afterward shook hands with her through the
carriage window. This was all he saw of her, and the words which have
been repeated were all that were spoken. Of her face he had not caught a
glimpse.

As he went home to his lodgings he was conscious that the interview had
not been satisfactory. He could not say what more he wanted, but he felt
that there was something amiss. He consoled himself, however, by
reminding himself that Florence Burton was the girl whom he had really
loved, and not Julia Brabazon. Lady Ongar had given him no invitation to
come and see her, and therefore he determined that he would return home
on the following day without going near Bolton street. He had pictured
to himself beforehand the sort of description he would give to Lady
Clavering of her sister; but, seeing how things had turned out, he made
up his mind that he would say nothing of the meeting. Indeed, he would
not go up to the great house at all. He had done Lady Clavering's
commission, at some little trouble and expense to himself, and there
should be an end of it. Lady Ongar would not mention that she had seen
him. He doubted, indeed, whether she would remember whom she had seen.
For any good that he had done, or for any sentiment that there had been,
his cousin Hugh's butler might as well have gone to the train. In this
mood he returned home, consoling himself with the fitness of things
which had given him Florence Burton instead of Julia Brabazon for a
wife.



Chapter VI

The Rev. Samuel Saul



During Harry's absence in London, a circumstance had occurred at the
rectory which had surprised some of them and annoyed others a good deal.
Mr. Saul, the curate, had made an offer to Fanny. The Rector and Fanny
declared themselves to be both surprised and annoyed. That the Rector
was in truth troubled by the thing was very evident. Mrs. Clavering said
that she had almost suspected it--that she was at any rate not
surprised; as to the offer itself of course she was sorry that it should
have been made, as it could not suit Fanny to accept it. Mary was
surprised, as she had thought Mr. Saul to be wholly intent on other
things; but she could not see any reason why the offer should be
regarded as being on his part unreasonable.

"How can you say so, mamma?" Such had been Fanny's indignant exclamation
when Mrs. Clavering had hinted that Mr. Saul's proceeding had been
expected by her.

"Simply because I saw that he liked you, my dear. Men under such
circumstances have different ways of showing their liking."

Fanny, who had seen all of Mary's love affair from the beginning to the
end, and who had watched the Reverend Edward Fielding in all his very
conspicuous manoeuvres, would not agree to this. Edward Fielding from
the first moment of his intimate acquaintance with Mary had left no
doubt of his intentions on the mind of any one. He had talked to Mary
and walked with Mary whenever, he was allowed or found it possible to do
so. When driven to talk to Fanny, he had always talked about Mary. He
had been a lover of the good, old, plainspoken stamp, about whom there
had been no mistake. From the first moment of his coming much about
Clavering Rectory the only question had been about his income. "I don't
think Mr. Saul ever said a word to me except about the poor people and
the church services," said Fanny. "That was merely his way," said Mrs.
Clavering. "Then he must be a goose," said Fanny. "I am very sorry if I
have made him unhappy, but he had no business to come to me in that
way."

"I suppose I shall have to look for another curate," said the Rector.
But this was said in private to his wife.

"I don't see that at all," said Mrs. Clavering. "With many men it would
be so; but I think you will find that he will take an answer, and that
there will be an end of it."

Fanny, perhaps, had a right to be indignant, for certainly Mr. Saul had
given her no fair warning of his intention. Mary had for some months
been intent rather on Mr. Fielding's church matters than on those going
on in her own parish, and therefore there had been nothing singular in
the fact that Mr. Saul had said more on such matters to Fanny than to
her sister. Fanny was eager and active, and as Mr. Saul was very eager
and very active, it was natural that they should have had some interests
in common. But there had been no private walkings, and no talkings that
could properly be called private. There was a certain book which Fanny
kept, containing the names of all the poor people in the parish, to
which Mr. Saul had access equally with herself; but its contents were of
a most prosaic nature, and when she had sat over it in the rectory
drawing-room, with Mr. Saul by her side, striving to extract more than
twelve pennies out of charity shillings, she had never thought that it
would lead to a declaration of love.

He had never called her Fanny in his life--not up to the moment when she
declined the honor of becoming Mrs. Saul. The offer itself was made in
this wise. She had been at the house of old Widow Tubb, half-way between
Cumberly Green and the little village of Clavering, striving to make
that rheumatic old woman believe that she had not been cheated by a
general conspiracy of the parish in the matter of a distribution of
coal, when, just as she was about to leave the cottage, Mr. Saul came
up. It was then past four, and the evening was becoming dark, and there
was, moreover, a slight drizzle of rain. It was not a tempting evening
for a walk of a mile and a half through a very dirty lane; but Fanny
Clavering did not care much for such things, and was just stepping out
into the mud and moisture, with her dress well looped up, when Mr. Saul
accosted her.

"I'm afraid you'll be very wet, Miss Clavering."

"That will be better than going without my cup of tea, Mr. Saul, which I
should have to do if I stayed any longer with Mrs. Tubb. And I have got
an umbrella."

"But it is so dark and dirty," said he.

"I'm used to that, as you ought to know."

"Yes; I do know it," said he, walking on with her. "I do know that
nothing ever turns you away from the good work."

There was something in the tone of his voice which Fanny did not like.
He had never complimented her before. They had been very intimate, and
had often scolded each other. Fanny would accuse him of exacting too
much from the people, and he would retort upon her that she coddled
them. Fanny would often decline to obey him, and he would make angry
hints as to his clerical authority. In this way they had worked together
pleasantly, without any of the awkwardness which on other terms would
have arisen between a young man and a young woman. But now that he began
to praise her with some peculiar intention of meaning in his tone, she
was confounded. She had made no immediate answer to him, but walked on
rapidly through the mud and slush.

"You are very constant," said he; "I have not been two years at
Clavering without finding that out." It was becoming worse and worse. It
was not so much his words which provoked her as the tone in which they
were uttered. And yet she had not the slightest idea of what was coming.
If, thoroughly admiring her devotion and mistaken as to her character,
he were to ask her to become a Protestant nun, or suggest to her that
she should leave her home and go as nurse into a hospital, then there
would have occurred the sort of folly of which she believed him to be
capable. Of the folly which he now committed, she had not believed him
to be capable.

It had come on to rain hard, and she held her umbrella low over her
head. He also was walking with an open umbrella in his hand, so that
they were not very close to each other. Fanny, as she stepped on
impetuously, put her foot into the depth of a pool, and splashed herself
thoroughly.

"Oh dear, oh dear," said she; "this is very disagreeable."

"Miss Clavering," said he, "I have been looking for an opportunity to
speak to you, and I do not know when I may find another so suitable as
this." She still believed that some proposition was to be made to her
which would be disagreeable, and perhaps impertinent; but it never
occurred to her that Mr. Saul was in want of a wife.

"Doesn't it rain too hard for talking?" she said.

"As I have begun, I must go on with it now," he replied, raising his
voice a little, as though it were necessary that he should do so to make
her hear him through the rain and darkness. She moved a little further
away from him with unthinking irritation; but still he went on with his
purpose. "Miss Clavering, I know that I am ill-suited to play the part
of a lover; very ill-suited." Then she gave a start and again splashed
herself sadly. "I have never read how it is done in books, and have not
allowed my imagination to dwell much on such things."

"Mr. Saul, don't go on; pray don't." Now she did understand what was
coming.

"Yes, Miss Clavering, I must go on now; but not on that account would I
press you to give me an answer to-day. I have learned to love you, and,
if you can love me in return, I will take you by the hand, and you shall
be my wife. I have found that in you which I have been unable not to
love--not to covet that I may bind it to myself as my own forever. Will
you think of this, and give me an answer when you have considered it
fully?" He had not spoken altogether amiss, and Fanny, though she was
very angry with him, was conscious of this. The time he had chosen might
not be considered suitable for a declaration of love, nor the place;
but, having chosen them, he had, perhaps, made the best of them. There
had been no hesitation in his voice, and his words had been perfectly
audible.

"Oh, Mr. Saul, of course I can assure you at once," said Fanny. "There
need not be any consideration. I really have never thought--" Fanny, who
knew her own mind on the matter thoroughly, was hardly able to express
herself plainly and without incivility. As soon as that phrase "of
course" had passed her lips, she felt that it should not have been
spoken. There was no need that she should insult him by telling him that
such a proposition from him could have but one answer.

"No, Miss Clavering; I know you have never thought of it, and therefore
it would be well that you should take time. I have not been able to make
manifest to you by little signs, as men do who are less awkward, all the
love that I have felt for you. Indeed, could I have done so, I should
still have hesitated till I had thoroughly resolved that I might be
better with a wife than without one, and had resolved also, as far as
that might be possible for me, that you also would be better with a
husband."

"Mr. Saul, really that should be for me to think of."

"And for me also. Can any man offer to marry a woman--to bind a woman
for life to certain duties, and to so close an obligation, without
thinking whether such bonds would be good for her as well as for
himself? Of course, you must think for yourself--and so have I thought
for you. You should think for yourself, and you should think also for
me."

Fanny was quite aware that, as regarded herself, the matter was one
which required no more thinking. Mr. Saul was not a man with whom she
could bring herself to be in love. She had her own ideas as to what was
loveable in men, and the eager curate, splashing through the rain by her
side, by no means came up to her standard of excellence. She was
unconsciously aware that he had altogether mistaken her character, and
given her credit for more abnegation of the world than she pretended to
possess, or was desirous of possessing. Fanny Clavering was in no hurry
to get married. I do not know that she had even made up her mind that
marriage would be a good thing for her; but she bad an untroubled
conviction that, if she did marry, her husband should have a house and
an income. She had no reliance on her own power of living on a potato,
and with one new dress every year. A comfortable home, with nice,
comfortable things around her, ease in money matters and elegance in
life, were charms with which she had not quarrelled, and, though she did
not wish to be hard upon Mr. Saul on account of his mistake, she did
feel that in making his proposition he had blundered. Because she chose
to do her duty as a parish clergyman's daughter, he thought himself
entitled to regard her as a devotee, who would be willing to resign
everything to become the wife of a clergyman, who was active, indeed,
but who had not one shilling of income beyond his curacy. "Mr. Saul,"
she said, "I can assure you I need take no time for further thinking. It
cannot be as you would have it."

"Perhaps I have been abrupt. Indeed, I feel that it is so, though I did
not know how to avoid it."

"It would have made no difference. Indeed, indeed, Mr. Saul, nothing of
that kind could have made a difference."

"Will you grant me this--that I may speak to you again on the same
subject after six months?"

"It cannot do any good."

"It will do this good--that for so much time you will have had the idea
before you." Fanny thought that she would have Mr. Saul himself before
her, and that that would be enough. Mr. Saul, with his rusty clothes and
his thick, dirty shoes, and his weak, blinking eyes, and his mind always
set upon the one wish of his life, could not be made to present himself
to her in the guise of a lover. He was one of those men of whom women
become very fond with the fondness of friendship, but from whom young
women seem to be as far removed in the way of love as though they
belonged to some other species. "I will not press you further," said he,
"as I gather by your tone that it distresses you."

"I am so sorry if I distress you, but really, Mr. Saul, I could give
you--I never could give you any other answer."

Then they walked on silently through the rain--silently, without a
single word--for more than half a mile, till they reached the rectory
gate. Here it was necessary that they should, at any rate, speak to each
other, and for the last three hundred yards Fanny had been trying to
find the words which would be suitable. But he was the first to break
the silence. "Good-night, Miss Clavering," he said, stopping and putting
out his hand.

"Good-night, Mr. Saul."

"I hope that there may be no difference in our bearing to each other,
because of what I have to-day said to you?"

"Not on my part--that is, if you will forget it."

"No, Miss Clavering; I shall not forget it. If it had been a thing to be
forgotten, I should not have spoken. I certainly shall not forget it."

"You know what I mean, Mr. Saul."

"I shall not forget it even in the way that you mean. But still I think
you need not fear me, because you know that I love you. I think I can
promise that you need not withdraw yourself from me, because of what has
passed. But you will tell your father and your mother, and of course
will be guided by them. And now, good-night." Then he went, and she was
astonished at finding that he had had much the best of it in his manner
of speaking and conducting himself. She had refused him very curtly, and
he had borne it well. He had not been abashed, nor had he become sulky,
nor had he tried to melt her by mention of his own misery. In truth, he
had done it very well--only that he should have known better than to
make any such attempt at all.

Mr. Saul had been right in one thing. Of course she told her mother, and
of course her mother told her father. Before dinner that evening the
whole affair was being debated in the family conclave. They all agreed
that Fanny had had no alternative but to reject the proposition at once.
That, indeed was so thoroughly taken for granted, that the point was not
discussed. But there came to be a difference between the Rector and
Fanny on one side, and Mrs. Clavering and Mary on the other. "Upon my
word," said the Rector, "I think it was very impertinent." Fanny would
not have liked to use that word herself but she loved her father for
using it.

"I do not see that," said Mrs. Clavering. "He could not know what
Fanny's views in life might be. Curates very often marry out of the
houses of the clergymen with whom they are placed, and I do not see why
Mr. Saul should be debarred from the privilege of trying."

"If he had got to like Fanny what else was he to do?" said Mary.

"Oh, Mary, don't talk such nonsense," said Fanny. "Got to like! People
shouldn't get to like people unless there's some reason for it."

"What on earth did he intend to live on?" demanded the Rector.

"Edward had nothing to live on, when you first allowed him to come
here," said Mary.

"But Edward had prospects, and Saul, as far as I know, has none. He had
given no one the slightest notice. If the man in the moon had come to
Fanny I don't suppose she would have been more surprised."

"Not half so much, papa."

Then it was that Mrs. Clavering had declared that she was not
surprised--that she had suspected it, and had almost made Fanny angry by
saying so. When Harry came hack two days afterward, the family news was
imparted to him, and he immediately ranged himself on his father's side.
"Upon my word I think that he ought to be forbidden the house," said
Harry. "He has forgotten himself in making such a proposition."

"That's nonsense, Harry," said his mother. "If he can be comfortable
coming here, there can be no reason why he should be uncomfortable. It
would be an injustice to him to ask him to go, and a great trouble to
your father to find another curate that would suit him so well." There
could be no doubt whatever as to the latter proposition, and therefore
it was quietly argued that Mr. Saul's fault, if there had been a fault,
should be condoned. On the next day he came to the rectory, and they
were all astonished at the ease with which he bore himself. It was not
that he affected any special freedom of manner, or that he altogether
avoided any change in his mode of speaking to them. A slight blush came
upon his sallow face as he first spoke to Mrs. Clavering, and he hardly
did more than say a single word to Fanny. But he carried himself as
though conscious of what he had done, but in no degree ashamed of the
doing it. The Rector's manner to him was stiff and formal; seeing which,
Mrs. Clavering spoke to him gently, and with a smile. "I saw you were a
little hard on him, and therefore I tried to make up for it," said she
afterward. "You were quite right," said the husband. "You always are.
But I wish he had not made such a fool of himself. It will never be the
same thing with him again." Harry hardly spoke to Mr. Saul the first
time he met him, all of which Mr. Saul understood perfectly.

"Clavering," he said to Harry, a day or two after this, "I hope there is
to be no difference between you and me."

"Difference! I don't know what you mean by difference."

"We were good friends, and I hope that we are to remain so. No doubt you
know what has taken place between me and your sister."

"Oh, yes; I have been told, of course."

"What I mean is, that I hope you are not going to quarrel with me on
that account? What I did, is it not what you would have done in my
position--only you would have done it successfully?"

"I think a fellow should have some income, you know."

"Can you say that you would have waited for income before you spoke of
marriage?"

"I think it might have been better that you should have gone to my
father."

"It may be that that is the rule in such things, but if so, I do not
know it. Would she have liked that better?"

"Well; I can't say."

You are engaged? Did you go to the young lady's family first?"

"I can't say I did; but I think I had given them some ground to expect
it. I fancy they all knew what I was about. But it's over now; and I
don't know that we need say anything more about it."

"Certainly not. Nothing can be said that would be of any use; but I do
not think I have done anything that you should resent."

"Resent is a strong word. I don't resent it, or, at any rate, I won't;
and there may be an end of it." After this, Harry was more gracious with
Mr. Saul, having an idea that the curate had made some sort of apology
for what he had done. But that, I fancy, was by no means Mr. Saul's view
of the case. Had he offered to marry the daughter of the Archbishop of
Canterbury, instead of the daughter of the Rector of Clavering, he would
not have imagined that his doing so needed an apology.

The day after his return from London, Lady Clavering sent for Harry up
to the House. "So you saw my sister in London?!" she said.

"Yes," said Harry, blushing; "as I was in town, I thought that I might
as well meet her. But, as you said, Lady Ongar is able to do without
much assistance of that kind. I only just saw her."

"Julia took it so kindly of you; but she seems surprised that you did
not come to her the following day. She thought you would have called."

"Oh, dear, no. I fancied that she would be too tired and too busy to
wish to see any mere acquaintance."

"Ah, Harry, I see that she has angered you," said Lady Clavering;
"otherwise you would not talk about mere acquaintance."

"Not in the least. Angered me! How could she anger me? What I meant was
that at such a time she would probably wish to see no one but people on
business--unless it was some one near to her, like yourself or Hugh."

"Hugh will not go to her."

"But you will do so; will you not?"

"Before long I will. You don't seem to understand, Harry--and, perhaps,
it would be odd if you did--that I can't run up to town and back as I
please. I ought not to tell you this, I dare say, but one feels as
though one wanted to talk to some one about one's affairs. At the
present moment, I have not the money to go--even if there was no other
reason." These last words she said almost in a whisper, and then she
looked up into the young man's face, to see what he thought of the
communication she had made him.

"Oh, money!" he said. "You could soon get money. But I hope it won't be
long before you go."

On the next morning but one, a letter came by the post for him from Lady
Ongar. When he saw the handwriting, which he knew, his heart was at once
in his mouth, and he hesitated to open his letter at the breakfast
table. He did open it and read it, but, in truth, he hardly understood
it or digested it till he had taken it away with him up to his own room.
The letter, which was very short, was as follows:

    Dear Friend:--I felt your kindness in coming to me at the station so
    much! the more, perhaps, because others, who owed me more kindness,
    have paid me less. Don't suppose that I allude to poor Hermione,
    for, in truth, I have no intention to complain of her. I thought,
    perhaps, you would have come to see me before you left London; but I
    suppose you were hurried. I hear from Clavering that you are to be
    up about your new profession in a day or two. Pray come and see me
    before you have been many days in London. I shall have so much to say
    to you! The rooms you have taken are everything that I wanted, and I
    am so grateful!

    Yours ever,

    J. O.

When Harry had read and had digested this, he became aware that he was
again fluttered. "Poor creature!" he said to himself; "it is sad to
think how much she is in want of a friend."



Chapter VII

Some Scenes in the Life of a Countess



About the middle of January Harry Clavering went up to London, and
settled himself to work at Mr. Beilby's office. Mr. Beilby's office
consisted of four or five large chambers, overlooking the river from the
bottom of Adam Street in the Adelphi, and here Harry found a table for
himself in the same apartment with three other pupils. It was a fine old
room, lofty, and with large windows, ornamented on the ceiling with
Italian scroll-work, and a flying goddess in the centre. In days gone by
the house had been the habitation of some great rich man, who had there
enjoyed the sweet breezes from the river before London had become the
London of the present days, and when no embankment had been needed for
the Thames. Nothing could be nicer than this room, or more pleasant than
the table and seat which he was to occupy near a window; but there was
something in the tone of the other men toward him which did not quite
satisfy him. They probably did not know that he was a fellow of a
college, and treated him almost as they might have done had he come to
them direct from King's College, in the Strand, or from the London
University. Down at Stratton a certain amount of honor had been paid to
him. They had known there who he was, and had felt some deference for
him. They had not slapped him on the back, or poked him in the ribs, or
even called him old fellow, before some length of acquaintance justified
such appellation. But up at Mr. Beilby's, in the Adelphi, one young man,
who was certainly his junior in age, and who did not seem as yet to have
attained any high position in the science of engineering, manifestly
thought that he was acting in a friendly and becoming way by declaring
the stranger to be a lad of wax on the second day of his appearance.
Harry Clavering was not disinclined to believe that he was a "lad of
wax," or "a brick," or "a trump," or "no small." But he desired that
such complimentary and endearing appellations should be used to him only
by those who had known him long enough to be aware that he deserved
them. Mr. Joseph Walliker certainly was not as yet among this number.

There was a man at Mr. Beilby's who was entitled to greet him with
endearing terms, and to be so greeted himself, although Harry had never
seen him till he attended for the first time at the Adelphi. This was
Theodore Burton, his future brother-in-law, who was now the leading man
in the London house--the leading man as regarded business, though he was
not as yet a partner. It was understood that this Mr. Burton was to come
in when his father went out; and in the meantime he received a salary of
a thousand a year as managing clerk. A very hard-working, steady,
intelligent man was Mr. Theodore Burton, with a bald head, a high
forehead, and that look of constant work about him which such men
obtain. Harry Clavering could not bring himself to take a liking to him,
because he wore cotton gloves, and had an odious habit of dusting his
shoes with his pocket-handkerchief. Twice Harry saw him do this on the
first day of their acquaintance, and he regretted it exceedingly. The
cotton gloves, too, were offensive, as were also the thick shoes which
had been dusted; but the dusting was the great sin.

And there was something which did not quite please Harry in Mr. Theodore
Burton's manner, though the gentleman had manifestly intended to be very
kind to him. When Burton had been speaking to him for a minute or two,
it flashed across Harry's mind that he had not bound himself to marry
the whole Burton family, and that, perhaps, he must take some means to
let that fact be known. "Theodore," as he had so often heard the younger
Mr. Burton called by loving lips, seemed to claim him as his own, called
him Harry, and upbraided him with friendly warmth for not having come
direct to his--Mr. Burton's house-in Onslow Crescent. "Pray feel
yourself at home there," said Mr. Burton. "I hope you'll like my wife.
You needn't be afraid of being made to be idle if you spend your
evenings there, for we are all reading people. Will you come and dine
to-day?" Florence had told him that she was her brother Theodore's
favorite sister, and that Theodore as a husband and a brother, and a
man, was perfect. But Theodore had dusted his boots with his
handkerchief, and Harry Clavering would not dine with him on that day.

And then it was perfectly manifest to him that every one in the office
knew his destiny with reference to old Burton's daughter. He had been
one of the Stratton men, and no more than any other had he gone
unscathed through the Stratton fire. He had been made to do the regular
thing, as Granger, Scarness, and others had done it. Stratton would be
safer ground now, as Clavering had taken the last. That was the feeling
on the matter which seemed to belong to others. It was not that Harry
thought in this way of his own Florence. He knew well enough what a
lucky fellow he was to have won such a girl He was well aware how widely
his Florence differed from Carry Scarness. He denied to himself
indignantly that he had any notion of repenting what he had done. But he
did wish that these private matters might have remained private, and
that all the men at Beilby's had not known of his engagement. When
Walliker, on the fourth day of their acquaintance, asked him if it was
all right at Stratton, he made up his mind that he hated Walliker, and
that he would hate Walliker to the last day of his life. He had declined
the first invitation given to him by Theodore Burton; but he could not
altogether avoid his future brother-in-law, and had agreed to dine with
him on this day.

On that same afternoon Harry, when he left Mr. Beilby's office, went
direct to Bolton Street, that he might call on Lady Ongar. As he went
thither he bethought himself that these Wallikers and the like had had
no such events in life as had befallen him! They laughed at him about
Florence Burton, little guessing that it had been his lot to love, and
to be loved by such a one as Julia Brabazon had been--such a one as Lady
Ongar now was. But things had gone well with him. Julia Brabazon could
have made no man happy, but Florence Burton would be the sweetest,
dearest, truest little wife that ever man took to his home. He was
thinking of this, and determined to think of it more and more daily, as
he knocked at Lady Ongar's door. "Yes; her ladyship was at home," said
the servant whom he had seen on the railway platform; and in a few
moments' time he found himself in the drawing-room which he had
criticized so carefully when he was taking it for its present occupant.

He was left in the room for five or six minutes, and was able to make a
full mental inventory of its contents. It was very different in its
present aspect from the room which he had seen not yet a month since.
She had told him that the apartments had been all that she desired; but
since then everything had been altered, at least in appearance. A new
piano had been brought in, and the chintz on the furniture was surely
new. And the room was crowded with small feminine belongings, indicative
of wealth and luxury. There were ornaments about, and pretty toys, and a
thousand knickknacks which none but the rich can possess, and which none
can possess even among the rich unless they can give taste as well as
money to their acquisition. Then he heard a light step; the door opened,
and Lady Ongar was there.

He expected to see the same figure that he had seen on the railway
platform, the same gloomy drapery, the same quiet, almost deathlike
demeanor, nay, almost the same veil over her features; but the Lady
Ongar whom he now saw was as unlike that Lady Ongar as she was unlike
that Julia Brabazon whom he had known in old days at Clavering Park. She
was dressed, no doubt, in black; nay, no doubt, she was dressed in
weeds; but in spite of the black and in spite of the weeds there was
nothing about her of the weariness or of the solemnity of woe. He hardly
saw that her dress was made of crape, or that long white pendants were
hanging down from the cap which sat so prettily upon her head. But it
was her face at which he gazed. At first he thought she could hardly be
the same woman, she was to his eyes so much older than she had been! And
yet as he looked at her, he found that she was as handsome as ever--more
handsome than she had ever been before. There was a dignity about her
face and figure which became her well, and which she carried as though
she knew herself to be in very truth a countess. It was a face which
bore well such signs of age as those which had come upon it. She seemed
to be a woman fitter for womanhood than for girlhood. Her eyes were
brighter than of yore, and, as Harry thought, larger; and her high
forehead and noble stamp of countenance seemed fitted for the dress and
headgear which she wore.

"I have been expecting you," said she, stepping up to him. "Hermione
wrote me word that you were to come up on Monday. Why did you not come
sooner?" There was a smile on her face as she spoke, and a confidence in
her tone which almost confounded him.

"I have had so many things to do," said he lamely.

"About your new profession. Yes, I can understand that. And so you are
settled in London now? Where are you living--that is, if you are settled
yet?" In answer to this, Harry told her he had taken lodgings in
Bloomsbury Square, blushing somewhat as he named so unfashionable a
locality. Old Mrs. Burton had recommended him to the house in which he
was located, but he did not find it necessary to explain that fact to
Lady Ongar.

"I have to thank you for what you did for me," continued she. "You ran
away from me in such a hurry on that night that I was unable to speak to
you. But to tell the truth, Harry, I was in no mood then to speak to any
one. Of course you thought that I treated you ill."

"Oh, no," said he.

"Of course you did. If I thought you did not, I should be angry with you
now. But had it been to save my life I could not have helped it. Why did
not Sir Hugh Clavering come to meet me? Why did not my sister's husband
come to me?" To this question Harry could make no answer. He was still
standing with his hat in his hand, and now turned his face away from her
and shook his head.

"Sit down, Harry," said she, "and let me talk to you like a
friend--unless you are in a hurry to go away."

"Oh, no," said he, seating himself.

"Or unless you, too, are afraid of me."

"Afraid of you, Lady Ongar?"

"Yes, afraid; but I don't mean you. I don't believe that you are coward
enough to desert a woman who was once your friend because misfortune has
overtaken her, and calumny has been at work with her name."

"I hope not," said he.

"No, Harry; I do not think it of you. But if Sir Hugh be not a coward,
why did he not come and meet me? Why has he left me to stand alone, now
that he could be of service to me? I knew that money was his god, but I
have never asked him for a shilling, and should not have done so now.
Oh, Harry, how wicked you were about that check? Do you remember?"

"Yes; I remember."

"So shall I; always, always. If I had taken that money how often should
I have heard of it since?"

"Heard of it?" he asked. "Do you mean from me?"

"Yes; how often from you? Would you have dunned me, and told me of it
once a week? Upon my word, Harry, I was told of it more nearly every
day. Is it not wonderful that men should be so mean?"

It was clear to him now that she was talking of her husband who was
dead, and on that subject he felt himself at present unable to speak a
word. He little dreamed at that moment how openly she would soon speak
to him of Lord Ongar and of Lord Ongar's faults?

"Oh, how I have wished that I had taken your money! But never mind about
that now, Harry. Wretched as such taunts were, they soon became a small
thing. But it has been cowardly in your cousin, Hugh; has it not? If I
had not lived with him as one of his family, it would not have mattered.
People would not have expected it. It was as though my own brother had
cast me forth."

"Lady Clavering has been with you; has she not?"

"Once, for half an hour. She came up for one day, and came here by
herself; cowering as though she were afraid of me. Poor Hermy! She has
not a good time of it either. You lords of creation lead your slaves sad
lives when it pleases you to change your billing and cooing for
matter-of-fact masterdom and rule. I don't blame Hermy. I suppose she
did all she could, and I did not utter one word of reproach of her. Nor
should I to him. Indeed, if he came now the servant would deny me to
him. He has insulted me, and I shall remember the insult."

Harry Clavering did not clearly understand what it was that Lady Ongar
had desired of her brother-in-law--what aid she had required; nor did he
know whether it would be fitting for him to offer to act in Sir Hugh's
place. Anything that he could do, he felt himself at that moment willing
to do, even though the necessary service should demand some sacrifice
greater than prudence could approve. "If I had thought that anything was
wanted, I should have come to you sooner," said he.

"Everything is wanted, Harry. Everything is wanted--except that check
for six hundred pounds which you sent me so treacherously. Did you ever
think what might have happened if a certain person had heard of that?
All the world would have declared that you had done it for your own
private purposes--all the world, except one."

Harry, as he heard this, felt that he was blushing. Did Lady Ongar know
of his engagement with Florence Burton? Lady Clavering knew it, and
might probably have told the tidings; but then, again, she might not
have told them. Harry at this moment wished that he knew how it was. All
that Lady Ongar said to him would come with so different a meaning
according as he did or did not know that fact. But he had no mind to
tell her of the fact himself. He declared to himself that he hoped she
knew it, as it would serve to make them both more comfortable together;
but he did not think it would do for him to bring forward the subject,
neck and heels as it were. The proper thing would be that she should
congratulate him, but this she did not do. "I certainly meant no ill,"
he said, in answer to the last words she had spoken.

"You have never meant ill to me, Harry; though you know you have abused
me dreadfully before now. I daresay you forget the hard names you have
called me. You men do forget such things."

"I remember calling you one name."

"Do not repeat it now, if you please. If I deserved it, it would shame
me; and if I did not, it should shame you."

"No; I will not repeat it."

"Does it not seem odd, Harry, that you and I should be sitting, talking
together in this way?" She was leaning now toward him, across the table,
and one hand was raised to her forehead while her eyes were fixed
intently upon his. The attitude was one which he felt to express extreme
intimacy. She would not have sat in that way, pressing back her hair
from her brow, with all the appearance of widowhood banished from her
face, in the presence of any but a dear and close friend. He did not
think of this, but he felt that it was so, almost by instinct. "I have
such a tale to tell you," she said; "such a tale!"

Why should she tell it to him? Of course he asked himself this
question. Then he remembered that she had no brother--remembered also
that her brother-in-law had deserted her, and he declared to himself
that, if necessary, he would be her brother. "I fear that you have
not been happy," said he, "since I saw you last."

"Happy!" she replied. "I have lived such a life as I did not think any
man or woman could be made to live on this side the grave. I will be
honest with you, Harry. Nothing but the conviction that it could not be
for long has saved me from destroying myself. I knew that he must die!"

"Oh, Lady Ongar!"

"Yes, indeed; that is the name he gave me; and because I consented to
take it from him, he treated me--O heavens! how am I to find words to
tell you what he did, and the way in which he treated me. A woman could
not tell it to a man. Harry, I have no friend that I trust but you, but
to you I cannot tell it. When he found that he had been wrong in
marrying me, that he did not want the thing which he had thought would
suit him, that I was a drag upon him rather than a comfort--what was his
mode, do you think, of ridding himself of the burden?" Clavering sat
silent looking at her. Both her hands were now up to her forehead, and
her large eyes were gazing at him till he found himself unable to
withdraw his own for a moment from her face. "He strove to get another
man to take me off his hands; and when he found he was failing--he
charged me with the guilt which he himself had contrived for me."

"Lady Ongar!"

"Yes; you may well stare at me. You may well speak hoarsely and look
like that. It may be that even you will not believe me; but by the God
in whom we both believe, I tell you nothing but the truth. He attempted
that and he failed; and then he accused me of the crime which he could
not bring me to commit."

"And what then?"

"Yes; what then? Harry, I had a thing to do, and a life to live, that
would have tried the bravest; but I went through it. I stuck to him to
the last! He told me before he was dying--before that last frightful
illness, that I was staying with him for his money. 'For your money, my
lord,' I said, 'and for my own name.' And so it was. Would it have been
wise in me, after all that I had gone through, to have given up that for
which I had sold myself? I had been very poor, and had been so placed
that poverty, even, such poverty as mine, was a curse to me. You know
what I gave up because I feared that curse. Was I to be foiled at last,
because such a creature as that wanted to shirk out of his bargain? I
knew there would be some who would say I had been false. Hugh Clavering
says so now, I suppose. But they never should say I had left him to die
alone in a foreign land."

"Did he ask you to leave him?"

"No; but he called me that name which no woman should hear and stay. No
woman should do so unless she had a purpose such as mine. He wanted back
the price he had paid, and I was determined to do nothing that should
assist him in his meanness! And then, Harry, his last illness! Oh,
Harry, you would pity me if you could know all!"

"It was his own intemperance!"

"Intemperance! It was brandy--sheer brandy. He brought himself to such a
state that nothing but brandy would keep him alive, and in which brandy
was sure to kill him--and it did kill him. Did you ever hear of the
horrors of drink?"

"Yes; I have heard of such a state."

"I hope you may never live to see it. It is a sight that would stick by
you for ever. But I saw it, and tended him through the whole, as though
I had been his servant. I remained with him when that man who opened the
door for you could no longer endure the room. I was with him when the
strong woman from the hospital, though she could not understand his
words, almost fainted at what she saw and heard. He was punished, Harry.
I need wish no farther vengeance on him, even for all his cruelty, his
injustice, his unmanly treachery. Is it not fearful to think that any
man should have the power of bringing himself to such an end as that?"

Harry was thinking rather how fearful it was that a man should have it
in his power to drag any woman through such a Gehenna as that which this
lord had created. He felt that had Julia Brabazon been his, as she had
once promised him, he never would have allowed himself to speak a harsh
word to her, to have looked at her except with loving eyes. But she had
chosen to join herself to a man who had treated her with a cruelty
exceeding all that his imagination could have conceived. "It is a mercy
that he has gone," said he at last.

"It is a mercy for both. Perhaps you can understand now something of my
married life. And through it all I had but one friend--if I may call him
a friend who had come to terms with my husband, and who was to have been
his agent in destroying me. But when this man understood from me that I
was not what he had been taught to think me--which my husband told him I
was--he relented."

"May I ask what was that man's name?"

"His name is Pateroff. He is a Pole, but he speaks English like an
Englishman. In my presence he told Lord Ongar that he was false and
brutal. Lord Ongar laughed, with that little, low, sneering laughter
which was his nearest approach to merriment, and told Count Pateroff
that that was of course his game before me. There, Harry, I will tell
you nothing more of it. You will understand enough to know what I have
suffered; and if you can believe that I have not sinned--"

"Oh, Lady Ongar!"

"Well, I will not doubt you again. But as far as I can learn you are
nearly alone in your belief. What. Hermy thinks I cannot tell, but she
will soon come to think as Hugh may bid her. And I shall not blame her.
What else can she do, poor creature?"

"I am sure she believes no ill of you."

"I have one advantage, Harry--one advantage over her and some others. I
am free. The chains have, hurt me sorely during my slavery; but I am
free, and the price of my servitude remains. He had written home-would
you believe that? while I was living with him he had written home to say
that evidence should be collected for getting rid of me. And yet he
would sometimes be civil, hoping to cheat me into inadvertencies. He
would ask that man to dine, and then of a sudden would be absent; and
during this he was ordering that evidence should be collected! Evidence,
indeed! The same servants have lived with me through it all If I could
now bring forward evidence I could make it all clear as the day. But
there needs no care for a woman's honor, though a man may have to guard
his by collecting evidence!"

"But what he did cannot injure you."

"Yes, Harry, it has injured me; it has all but destroyed me. Have not
reports reached even you? Speak out like a man, and say whether it is
not so!"

"I have heard something."

"Yes, you have heard something! If you heard something of your sister
where would you be? All the world would be a chaos to you till you had
pulled out somebody's tongue by the roots. Not injured me! For two years
your cousin Hugh's house was my home. I met Lord Ongar in his house. I
was married from his house. He is my brother-in-law, and it so happens
that of all men he is the nearest to me. He stands well before the
world, and at this time could have done me real service. How is it that
he did not welcome me home; that I am not now at his house with my
sister; that he did not meet me so that the world might know that I was
received back among my own people? Why is it, Harry, that I am telling
this to you--to you, who are nothing to me; my sister's husband's
cousin; a young man, from your position, not fit to be my confidant? Why
am I telling this to you, Harry?"

"Because we are old friends," said he, wondering again at this moment
whether she knew of his engagement with Florence Burton.

"Yes, we are old friends, and we have always liked each other; but you
must know that, as the world judges, I am wrong to tell all this to you.
I should be wrong, only that the world has cast me out, so that I am no
longer bound to regard it. I am Lady Ongar, and I have my share of that
man's money. They have given me up Ongar Park, having satisfied
themselves that it is mine by right, and must be mine by law. But he has
robbed me of every friend I had in the world, and yet you tell me he has
not injured me!"

"Not every friend."

"No, Harry, I will not forget you, though I spoke so slightingly of you
just now. But your vanity need not be hurt. It is only the world--Mrs.
Grundy, you know, that would deny me such friendship as yours; not my
own taste or choice. Mrs. Grundy always denies us exactly those things
which we ourselves like best. You are clever enough to understand that."

He smiled and looked foolish, and declared that he only offered his
assistance because perhaps it might be convenient at the present moment.
What could he do for her? How could he show his friendship for her now
at once?

"You have done it, Harry, in listening to me and giving me your
sympathy. It is seldom that we want any great thing from our friends. I
want nothing of that kind. No one can hurt me much further now. My money
and my rank are safe; and, perhaps, by degrees, acquaintances, if not
friends, will form themselves round me again. At present, of course, I
see no one; but because I see no one, I wanted some one to whom I could
speak. Poor Hermy is worse than no one. Good-by, Harry; you look
surprised and bewildered now, but you will soon get over that. Don't be
long before I see you again." Then, feeling that he was bidden to go, he
wished her good-by, and went.



Chapter VIII

The House in Onslow Crescent



Harry, as he walked away from the house in Bolton street, hardly knew
whether he was on his heels or his head. Burton had told him not to
dress--"We don't give dress dinner parties, you know. It's all in the
family way with us"--and Harry, therefore, went direct from Bolton
street to Onslow Crescent. But, though he managed to keep the proper
course down Piccadilly, he was in such confusion of mind that he hardly
knew whither he was going. It seemed as though a new form of life had
been opened to him, and that it had been opened in such a way as almost
necessarily to engulf him. It was not only that Lady Ongar's history was
so terrible, and her life so strange, but that he himself was called
upon to form a part of that history, and to join himself in some sort
with that life. This countess, with her wealth, her rank, her beauty,
and her bright intellect, had called him to her, and told him that he
was her only friend. Of course he had promised his friendship. How could
he have failed to give such a promise to one whom he had loved so well?
But to what must such a promise lead, or rather to what must it not have
led had it not been for Florence Burton? She was young, free, and rich.
She made no pretence of regret for the husband she had lost, speaking of
him as though in truth she hardly regarded herself as his wife. And she
was the same Julia whom he had loved, who had loved him, who had jilted
him, and in regret for whom he had once resolved to lead a wretched,
lonely life! Of course she must expect that he would renew it
all--unless, indeed, she knew of his engagement. But if she knew it, why
had she not spoken of it?

And could it be that she had no friends; that everybody had deserted
her; that she was alone in the world? As he thought of it all, the whole
thing seemed to him to be too terrible for reality. What a tragedy was
that she had told him! He thought of the man's insolence to the woman
whom he had married and sworn to love, then of his cruelty, his
fiendish, hellish cruelty; and lastly of his terrible punishment. "I
stuck to him through it all," she had said to him; and then he
endeavored to picture to himself that bedside by which Julia Brabazon,
his Julia Brabazon, had remained firm, when hospital attendants had been
scared by the horrors they had witnessed, and the nerves of a strong
man, of a man paid for such work, had failed him!

The truth of her word throughout he never doubted; and, indeed, no man
or woman who heard her could have doubted. One hears stories told that
to oneself, the hearer, are manifestly false; and one hears stories as
to the truth or falsehood of which one is in doubt; and stories again
which seem to be partly true and partly untrue. But one also hears that
of the truth of which no doubt seems to be possible. So it had been with
the tale which Lady Ongar had told. It had been all as she had said; and
had Sir Hugh heard it--even Sir Hugh, who doubted all men and regarded
all women as being false beyond a doubt--even he, I think, would have
believed it.

But she had deserved the sufferings which had come upon her. Even Harry,
whose heart was very tender toward her, owned as much as that. She had
sold herself, as she had said of herself more than once. She had given
herself to a man whom she regarded not at all, even when her heart
belonged to another--to a man whom she must have loathed and despised
when she was putting her hand into his before the altar. What scorn had
there been upon her face when she spoke of the beginning of their
married miseries. With what eloquence of expression had she pronounced
him to be vile, worthless, unmanly; a thing from which a woman must turn
with speechless contempt. She had now his name, his rank, and his money,
but she was friendless and alone. Harry Clavering declared to himself
that she had deserved it-and, having so declared, forgave her all her
faults. She had sinned, and then had suffered; and, therefore, should
now be forgiven. If he could do aught to ease her troubles, he would do
it--as a brother would for a sister.

But it would be well that she should know of his engagement. Then he
thought of the whole interview, and felt sure that she must know it. At
any rate he told himself that he was sure. She could hardly have spoken
to him as she had done, unless she had known. When last they had been
together, sauntering round the gardens at Clavering, he had rebuked her
for her treachery to him: Now she came to him almost open-armed, free,
full of her cares, swearing to him that he was her only friend! All this
could mean but one thing--unless she knew that that one thing was barred
by his altered position.

But it gratified him to think that she had chosen him for the repository
of her tale; that she had told her terrible history to him. I fear that
some small part of this gratification was owing to her rank and wealth.
To be the one friend of a widowed countess, young, rich, and beautiful,
was something much out of the common way. Such confidence lifted him far
above the Wallikers of the world. That he was pleased to be so trusted
by one that was beautiful, was, I think, no disgrace to him; although I
bear in mind his condition as a man engaged. It might be dangerous, but
that danger in such case it would be his duty to overcome. But in order
that it might be overcome, it would certainly be well that she should
know his position.

I fear he speculated as he went along as to what might have been his
condition in the world had he never seen Florence Burton. First he asked
himself, whether, under any circumstances, he would have wished to marry
a widow, and especially a widow by whom he had already been jilted. Yes;
he thought that he could have forgiven her even that, if his own heart
had not changed; but he did not forget to tell himself again how lucky
it was for him that his heart was changed. What countess in the world,
let her have what park she might, and any imaginable number of thousands
a year, could be so sweet, so nice, so good, so fitting for him as his
own Florence Burton? Then he endeavored to reflect what happened when a
commoner married the widow of a peer. She was still called, he believed,
by her own title, unless she should choose to abandon it. Any such
arrangement was now out of the question; but he thought that he would
prefer that she should have been called Mrs. Clavering, if such a state
of things had come about. I do not know that he pictured to himself any
necessity--either on her part or on his, of abandoning anything else
that came to her from her late husband.

At half-past six, the time named by Theodore Burton, he found himself at
the door in Onslow Crescent, and was at once shown up into the
drawing-room. He knew that Mr. Burton had a family, and he had pictured
to himself an untidy, ugly house, with an untidy, motherly woman going
about with a baby in her arms. Such would naturally be the home of a man
who dusted his shoes with his pocket-handkerchief. But to his surprise
he found himself in as pretty a drawing-room as he remembered to have
seen; and seated on a sofa, was almost as pretty a woman as he
remembered. She was tall and slight, with large brown eyes and
well-defined eyebrows, with an oval face, and the sweetest, kindest
mouth that ever graced a woman. Her dark brown hair was quite plain,
having been brushed simply smooth across the forehead, and then
collected in a knot behind. Close beside her, on a low chair, sat a
little fair-haired girl, about seven years old, who was going through
some pretence at needlework; and kneeling on a higher chair, while she
sprawled over the drawing-room table, was another girl, some three years
younger, who was engaged with a puzzle-box.

"Mr. Clavering," said she, rising from her chair; "I am so glad to see
you, though I am almost angry with you for not coming to us sooner. I
have heard so much about you; of course you know that." Harry explained
that he had only been a few days in town, and declared that he was happy
to learn that he had been considered worth talking about.

"If you were worth accepting you were worth talking about."

"Perhaps I was neither," said he.

"Well; I am not going to flatter you yet. Only as I think our Flo is
without exception the most perfect girl I ever saw, I don't suppose she
would be guilty of making a bad choice. Cissy, dear, this is Mr.
Clavering."

Cissy got up from her chair, and came up to him. "Mamma says I am to
love you very much," said Cissy, putting up her face to be kissed.

"But I did not tell you to say I had told you," said Mrs. Burton,
laughing.

"And I will love you very much," said Harry, taking her up in his arms.

"But not so much as Aunt Florence--will you?"

They all knew it. It was clear to him that everybody connected with the
Burtons had been told of the engagement, and that they all spoke of it
openly, as they did of any other everyday family occurrence. There was
not much reticence among the Burtons. He could not but feel this, though
now, at the present moment, he was disposed to think specially well of
the family because Mrs. Burton and her children were so nice.

"And this is another daughter?"

"Yes; another future niece, Mr. Clavering. But I suppose I may call you
Harry; may I not? My name is Cecilia. Yes, that is Miss Pert."

"I'm not Miss Pert," said the little soft round ball of a girl from the
chair. "I'm Sophy Burton. Oh, you musn't tittle."

Harry found himself quite at home in ten minutes; and, before Mr. Burton
had returned, had been taken upstairs into the nursery to see Theodore
Burton, Junior, in his cradle, Theodore Burton, Junior, being as yet
only some few months old. "Now you've seen us all," said Mrs. Burton,
"and we'll go downstairs and wait for my husband. I must let you into a
secret, too. We don't dine till past seven; you may as well remember
that for the future. But I wanted to have you for half an hour to myself
before dinner, so that I might look at you, and make up my mind about
Flo's choice. I hope you won't be angry with me?"

"And how have you made up your mind?"

"If you want to find that out, you must get it through Florence. You may
be quite sure I shall tell her; and I suppose I may be quite sure she
will tell you. Does she tell you everything?"

"I tell her everything," said Harry, feeling himself, however, to be a
little conscience-smitten at the moment, as he remembered his interview
with Lady Ongar. Things had occurred this very day which he certainly
could not tell her.

"Do--do; always do that," said Mrs. Burton, laying her hand
affectionately on his arm. "There is no way so certain to bind a woman
to you, heart and soul, as to show her that you trust her in everything.
Theodore tells me everything. I don't think there's a drain planned
under a railway bank but that he shows it me in some way; and I feel so
grateful for it. It makes me know that I can never do enough for him. I
hope you'll be as good to Flo as he is to me."

"We can't both be perfect, you know."

"Ah, well! of course, you'll laugh at me. Theodore always laughs at me
when I get on what he calls a high horse. I wonder whether you are as
sensible as he is?"

Harry reflected that he never wore cotton gloves. "I don't think I am
very sensible," said he. I do a great many foolish things, and the worst
is, that I like them."

"So do I. I like so many foolish things."

"Oh, mamma!" said Cissy.

"I shall have that quoted against me, now, for the next six months,
whenever I am preaching wisdom in the nursery. But Florence is nearly as
sensible as her brother."

"Much more so than I am."

"All the Burtons are full up to their eyes with good sense. And what a
good thing it is! Who ever heard of any of them coming to sorrow?
Whatever they have to live on, they always have enough. Did you ever
know a woman who has done better with her children, or has known how to
do better, than Theodore's mother? She is the dearest old woman." Harry
had heard her called a very clever old woman by certain persons in
Stratton, and could not but think of her matrimonial successes as her
praises were thus sung by her daughter-in-law.

They went on talking, while Sophy sat in Harry's lap, till there was
heard the sound of a key in the latch of the front door, and the master
of the house was known to be there. "It's Theodore," said his wife,
jumping up and going out to meet him. "I'm so glad that you have been
here a little before him, because now I feel that I know you. When he's
here, I shan't get in a word." Then she went down to her husband, and
Harry was left to speculate how so very charming a woman could ever have
been brought to love a man who cleaned his boots with his
pocket-handkerchief.

There were soon steps again upon the stairs, and Burton returned,
bringing with him another man, whom he introduced to Harry as Mr. Jones.
"I didn't know my brother was coming," said Mrs. Burton, "but it will be
very pleasant, as of course I shall want you to know him." Harry became
a little perplexed. How far might these family ramifications be supposed
to go? Would he be welcomed, as one of the household, to the hearth of
Mrs. Jones; and if of Mrs. Jones, then of Mrs. Jones's brother? His
mental inquiries, however, in this direction, were soon ended by his
finding that Mr. Jones who a bachelor.

Jones, it appeared, was the editor, or sub-editor, or co-editor, of some
influential daily newspaper. "He is a night bird, Harry--" said Mrs.
Burton. She had fallen into the way of calling him Harry at once, but he
could not on that occasion bring himself to call her Cecilia. He might
have done so had not her husband been present, but he was ashamed to do
it before him. "He is a night bird, Harry," said she, speaking of her
brother, "and flies away at nine o'clock that he may go and hoot like an
owl in some dark city haunt that he has. Then, when he is himself asleep
at breakfast time, his hootings are being heard round the town."

Harry rather liked the idea of knowing an editor. Editors were, he
thought, influential people, who had the world very much under their
feet--being, as he conceived, afraid of no men, while other men are very
much afraid of them. He was glad enough to shake Jones by the hand, when
he found that Jones was an editor. But Jones, though he had the face and
forehead of a clever man, was very quiet, and seemed almost submissive
to his sister and brother-in-law.

The dinner was plain, but good, and Harry after a while became happy and
satisfied, although he had come to the house with something almost like
a resolution to find fault. Men, and women also, do frequently go about
in such a mood, having unconscionably from some small circumstance,
prejudged their acquaintances, and made up their mind that their
acquaintances should be condemned. Influenced in this way, Harry had not
intended to pass a pleasant evening, and would have stood aloof and been
cold, had it been possible to him; but he found that it was not
possible; and after a little while he was friendly and joyous, and the
dinner went off very well. There was some wild fowl, and he was
agreeably surprised as he watched the mental anxiety and gastronomic
skill with which Burton went through the process of preparing the gravy,
with lemon and pepper, having in the room a little silver pot, and an
apparatus of fire for the occasion. He would as soon have expected the
Archbishop of Canterbury himself to go through such an operation in the
dining-room at Lambeth as the hard-working man of business whom he had
known in the chambers of the Adelphi.

"Does he always do that, Mrs. Burton?" Harry asked.

"Always," said Burton, "when I get the materials. One doesn't bother
oneself about a cold leg of mutton, you know, which is my usual dinner
when we are alone. The children have it hot in the middle of the day."

"Such a thing never happened to him yet, Harry," said Mrs. Burton.

"Gently with the pepper," said the editor. It was the first word he had
spoken for some time.

"Be good enough to remember that, yourself, when you are writing your
article to-night."

"No, none for me, Theodore, said Mrs. Burton.

"Cissy!"

"I have dined really. If I had remembered that you were going to display
your cookery, I would have kept some of my energy, but I forgot it."

"As a rule," said Burton, "I don't think women recognize any difference
in flavors. I believe wild duck and hashed mutton would be quite the
same to my wife if her eyes were blinded. I should not mind this, if it
were not that they are generally proud of the deficiency. They think it
grand."

"Just as men think it grand not to know one tune from another," said his
wife.

When dinner was over, Burton got up from his seat. "Harry," said he, "do
you like good wine?" Harry said that he did. Whatever women may say
about wild fowl, men never profess an indifference to good wine,
although there is a theory about the world, quite as incorrect as it is
general, that they have given up drinking it. "Indeed I do," said Harry.
"Then I'll give you a bottle of port," said Burton, and so saying he
left the room.

"I'm very glad you have come to-day," said Jones, with much gravity. "He
never gives me any of that when I'm alone with him; and he never, by any
means, brings it out for company."

"You don't mean to accuse him of drinking it alone, Tom?" said his
sister, laughing.

"I don't know when he drinks it; I only know when he doesn't."

The wine was decanted with as much care as had been given to the
concoction of the gravy, and the clearness of the dark liquid was
scrutinized with an eye that was full of anxious care. "Now, Cissy, what
do you think of that? She knows a glass of good wine when she gets it,
as well as you do Harry, in spite of her contempt for the duck."

As they sipped the old port, they sat round the dining-room fire, and
Harry Clavering was forced to own to himself that he had never been more
comfortable.

"Ah," said Burton, stretching out his slippered feet, "why can't it all
be after-dinner, instead of that weary room at the Adelphi?"

"And all old port?" said Jones.

"Yes, and all old port. You are not such an ass as to suppose that a man
in suggesting to himself a continuance of pleasure suggests to himself
also the evils which are supposed to accompany such pleasure. If I took
much of the stuff I should get cross and sick, and make a beast of
myself but then what a pity it is that it should be so."

"You wouldn't like much of it, I think," said his wife.

"That is it," said he. "We are driven to work because work never palls
on us, whereas pleasure always does. What a wonderful scheme it is when
one looks at it all. No man can follow, pleasure long continually. When
a man strives to do so, he turns his pleasure at once into business, and
works at that. Come, Harry, we musn't have another bottle, as Jones
would go to sleep among the type." Then they all went up stairs
together. Harry, before he went away, was taken again up into the
nursery, and there kissed the two little girls in their cots. When he
was outside the nursery door, on the top of the stairs, Mrs. Burton took
him by the hand. "You'll come to us often," said she, "and make yourself
at home here, will you not?" Harry could not but say that he would.
Indeed he did so without hesitation, almost with eagerness, for he had
liked her and had liked her house. "We think of you, you know," she
continued, "quite as one of ourselves. How could it be otherwise when
Flo is the dearest to us of all beyond our own?"

"It makes me so happy to hear you say so," said he.

"Then come here and talk about her. I want Theodore to feel that you are
his brother; it will be so important to you in the business that it
should be so." After that he went away, and as he walked back along
Piccadilly, and then up through the regions of St. Giles to his house in
Bloomsbury Square, he satisfied himself that the life of Onslow Crescent
was a better manner of life than that which was likely to prevail in
Bolton Street.

When he was gone his character was of course discussed between the
husband and wife in Onslow Crescent. "What do you think of him?" said
the husband.

"I like him so much! He is so much nicer than you told me--so much
pleasanter and easier; and I have no doubt he is as clever, though I
don't think he shows that at once."

"He is clever enough; there's no doubt about that."

"And did you not think he was pleasant?"

"Yes; he was pleasant here. He is one of those men who get on best with
women. You'll make much more of him for awhile than I shall. He'll
gossip with you and sit idling with you for the hour together, if you'll
let him. There's nothing wrong about him, and he'd like nothing better
than that."

"You don't believe that he's idle by disposition? Think of all that he
has done already."

"That's just what is most against him. He might do very well with us if
he had not got that confounded fellowship; but having got that, he
thinks the hard work of life is pretty well over with him."

"I don't suppose he can be so foolish as that, Theodore."

"I know well what such men are, and I know the evil that is done
to them by the cramming they endure. They learn many names of
things--high-sounding names, and they come to understand a great deal
about words. It is a knowledge that requires no experience and very
little real thought. But it demands much memory; and when they have
loaded themselves in this way, they think that they are instructed in
all things. After all, what can they do that is of real use to mankind?
What can they create?"

"I suppose they are of use."

"I don't know it. A man will tell you, or pretend to tell you--for the
chances are ten to one that he is wrong--what sort of lingo was spoken
in some particular island or province six hundred years before Christ.
What good will that do any one, even if he were right? And then see the
effect upon the men themselves! At four-and-twenty a young fellow has
achieved some wonderful success, and calls himself by some outlandish
and conceited name--a double first, or something of the kind. Then he
thinks he has completed everything, and is too vain to learn anything
afterward. The truth is, that at twenty-four no man has done more than
acquire the rudiments of his education. The system is bad from beginning
to end. All that competition makes false and imperfect growth. Come,
I'll go to bed."

What would Harry have said if he had heard all this from the man who
dusted his boots with his handkerchief?



Chapter IX

Too Prudent By Half



Florence Burton thought herself the happiest girl in the world. There
nothing wanting perfection of her bliss. She could perceive, though she
never allowed her mind to dwell upon the fact, that her lover was
superior in many respects to the men whom her sisters had married. He
was better educated, better looking, in fact more fully a gentleman at
all points than either Scarness or any of the others. She liked her
sisters' husbands very well, and in former days, before Harry Clavering
had come to Stratton, she had never taught herself to think that she, if
she married, would want anything different from that which Providence
had given to them. She had never thrown up her head, or even thrown up
her nose, and told herself that she would demand something better than
that. But not the less was she alive to the knowledge that something
better had come in her way, and that that something better was now her
own. She was very proud of her lover, and, no doubt, in some gently
feminine way showed that she was so as she made her way about among her
friends at Stratton. Any idea that she herself was better educated,
better looking, or more clever than her elder sisters, and that,
therefore, she was deserving of a higher order of husband, had never
entered her mind. The Burtons in London--Theodore Burton and his
wife--who knew her well, and who, of all the family, were best able to
appreciate her worth, had long been of opinion that she deserved some
specially favored lot in life. The question with them would be, whether
Harry Clavering was good enough for her.

Everybody at Stratton knew that she was engaged, and when they wished
her joy she made no coy denials. Her sisters had all been engaged in the
same way, and their marriages had gone off in regular sequence to their
engagements. There had never been any secret with them about their
affairs. On this matter the practice is very various among different
people. There are families who think it almost indelicate to talk about
marriage as a thing actually in prospect for any of their own community.
An ordinary acquaintance would be considered to be impertinent in even
hinting at such a thing, although the thing were an established fact.
The engaged young ladies only whisper the news through the very depths
of their pink note-paper, and are supposed to blush as they communicate
the tidings by their pens, even in the retirement of their own rooms.
But there are other families in which there is no vestige of such
mystery, in which an engaged couple are spoken of together as openly as
though they were already bound in some sort of public partnership. In
these families the young ladies talk openly of their lovers, and
generally prefer that subject of conversation to any other. Such a
family--so little mysterious--so open in their arrangements, was that of
the Burtons at Stratton. The reserve in the reserved families is usually
atoned for by the magnificence of the bridal arrangements, when the
marriage is at last solemnized; whereas, among the other set--the people
who have no reserve--the marriage, when it comes, is customarily an
affair of much less outward ceremony. They are married without blast of
trumpet, with very little profit to the confectioner, and do their
honeymoon, if they do it at all, with prosaic simplicity.

Florence had made up her mind that she would be in no hurry about it.
Harry was in a hurry; but that was a matter of course. He was a
quick-blooded, impatient, restless being. She was slower, and more given
to consideration. It would be better that they should wait, even if it
were for five or six years. She had no fear of poverty for herself. She
had lived always in a house in which money was much regarded, and among
people who were of inexpensive habits. But such had not been his lot,
and it was her duty to think of the mode of life which might suit him.
He would not be happy as a poor man--without comforts around him, which
would simply be comforts to him though they would be luxuries to her.
When her mother told her, shaking her head rather sorrowfully as she
heard Florence talk, that she did not like long engagements, Florence
would shake hers too, in playful derision, and tell her mother not to be
so suspicious. "It is not you that are going to marry him, mamma."

"No, my dear; I know that. But long engagements never are good. And I
can't think why young people should want so many things, now, that they
used to do without very well when I was married. When I went into
housekeeping, we only had one girl of fifteen to do everything; and we
hadn't a nursemaid regular till Theodore was born; and there were three
before him."

Florence could not say how many maid-servants Harry might wish to have
under similar circumstances, but she was very confident that he would
want much more attendance than her father and mother had done, or even
than some of her brothers and sisters. Her father, when he first
married, would not have objected, on returning home, to find his wife in
the kitchen, looking after the progress of the dinner; nor even would
her brother Theodore have been made unhappy by such a circumstance. But
Harry, she knew, would not like it; and therefore Harry must wait. "It
will do him good, mamma," said Florence. "You can't think that I mean to
find fault with him; but I know that he is young in his ways. He is one
of those men who should not marry till they are twenty-eight, or
thereabouts."

"You mean that he is unsteady?"

"No; not unsteady. I don't think him a bit unsteady; but he will be
happier single for a year or two. He hasn't settled down to like his tea
and toast when he is tired of his work, as a married man should do. Do
you know that I am not sure that a little flirtation would not be very
good for him?"

"Oh, my dear!"

"It should be very moderate, you know."

"But then, suppose it wasn't moderate. I don't like to see engaged young
men going on in that way. I suppose I'm very old fashioned; but I think
when a young man is engaged, he ought to remember it and to show it. It
ought to make him a little serious, and he shouldn't be going about like
a butterfly, that may do just as it pleases in the sunshine."

During the three months which Harry remained in town before the Easter
holidays he wrote more than once to Florence, pressing her to name an
early day for their marriage. These letters were written, I think, after
certain evenings spent under favorable circumstances in Onslow Crescent,
when he was full of the merits of domestic comfort, and perhaps also
owed some of their inspiration to the fact that Lady Ongar had left
London without seeing him. He had called repeatedly in Bolton Street,
having been specially pressed to do so by Lady Ongar, but he had only
once found her at home, and then a third person had been present. This
third person had been a lady who was not introduced to him, but he had
learned from her speech that she was a foreigner. On that occasion Lady
Ongar had made herself gracious and pleasant, but nothing had passed
which interested him, and, most unreasonably, he had felt himself to be
provoked. When next he went to Bolton Street he found that Lady Ongar
had left London. She had gone down to Ongar Park, and, as far as the
woman at the house knew, intended to remain there till after Easter.
Harry had some undefined idea that she should not have taken such a step
without telling him. Had she not declared to him that he was her only
friend? When a friend is going out of town, leaving an only friend
behind, that friend ought to tell her only friend what she is going to
do, otherwise such a declaration of only-friendship means nothing. Such
was Harry Clavering's reasoning, and having so reasoned, he declared to
himself that it did mean nothing, and was very pressing to Florence
Burton to name an early day. He had been with Cecilia, he told her--he
had learned to call Mrs. Burton Cecilia in his letters--and she quite
agreed with him that their income would be enough. He was to have two
hundred a year from his father, having brought himself to abandon that
high-toned resolve which he had made some time since, that he would
never draw any part of his income from the parental coffers. His father
had again offered it, and he had accepted it. Old Mr. Burton was to add
a hundred, and Harry was of opinion that they could do very well.
Cecilia thought the same, he said, and therefore Florence surely would
not refuse. But Florence received, direct from Onslow Crescent Cecilia's
own version of her thoughts, and did refuse. It may be surmised that she
would have refused even without assistance from Cecilia, for she was a
young lady not of a fickle or changing disposition. So she wrote to
Harry with much care, and as her letter had some influence on the story
to be told, the reader shall read it--if the reader so pleases.

    STRATTON, March, 186--.

    DEAR HARRY: I received your letter this morning, and answer it at
    once, because I know you will be impatient for an answer. You are
    impatient about things--are you not? But it was a kind, sweet, dear,
    generous letter, and I need not tell you now that I love the writer
    of it with all my heart. I am so glad you like Cecilia. I think she
    is the perfection of a woman. And Theodore is every bit as good as
    Cecilia, though I know you don't think so, because you don't say so.
    I am always happy when I am in Onslow Crescent. I should have been
    there this Spring, only that a certain person, who chooses to think
    that his claims on me are stronger than those of any other person,
    wishes me to go elsewhere. Mamma wishes me to go to London also for
    a week, but I don't want to be away from the old house too much
    before the final parting comes at last.

    And now about the final parting; for I may as well rush at it at
    once. I need hardly tell you that no care for father or mother shall
    make me put off my marriage. Of course I owe everything to you now;
    and as they have approved it, I have no right to think of them in
    opposition to you. And you must not suppose that they ask me to
    stay. On the contrary, mamma is always telling me that early
    marriages are best. She has sent all the birds out of the nest but
    one; and is impatient to see that one fly away, that she may be sure
    that there is no lame one in the brood. You must not therefore think
    that it is mamma; nor is it papa, as regards himself--though papa
    agrees with me in thinking that we ought to wait a little.

    Dear Harry, you must not be angry, but I am sure that we ought to
    wait. We are, both of us, young, and why should we be in a hurry? I
    know what you will say, and of course I love you the more because
    you love me so well; but I fancy that I can be quite happy if I can
    see you two or three times in the year, and hear from you
    constantly.

    It is so good of you to write such nice letters, and the longer they
    are the better I like them. Whatever you put in them, I like them to
    be full. I know I can't write nice letters myself, and it makes me
    unhappy. Unless I have got something special to say, I am dumb.

    But now I have something special to say. In spite of all that you
    tell me about Cecilia, I do not think it would do for us to venture
    upon marrying yet. I know that you are willing to sacrifice
    everything, but I ought not on that account to accept a sacrifice. I
    could not bear to see you poor and uncomfortable; and we should be
    very poor in London now-a-days with such an income as we should
    have. If we were going to live here at Stratton, perhaps we might
    manage; but I feel sure that it would be imprudent in London. You
    ought not to be angry with me for saying this, for I am quite as
    anxious to be with you as you can possibly be to be with me; only, I
    can bear to look forward, and have a pleasure in feeling that all my
    happiness is to come. I know I am right in this. Do write me one
    little line to say that you are not angry with your little girl.

    I shall be quite ready for you by the 29th. I got such a dear little
    note from Fanny the other day. She says that you never write to
    them, and she supposes that I have the advantage of all your energy
    in that way. I have told her that I do get a good deal. My brother
    writes to me very seldom, I know; and I get twenty letters from
    Cecilia for one scrap that Theodore ever sends me. Perhaps some of
    these days I shall be the chief correspondent with the rectory.
    Fanny told me all about the dresses, and I have my own quite ready.
    I've been bridesmaid to four of my own sisters, so I ought to know
    what I'm about. I'll never be bridesmaid to anybody again, after
    Fanny; but whom on earth shall I have for myself? I think we must
    wait till Cissy and Sophy are ready. Cissy wrote me word that you
    were a darling man. I don't know how much of that came directly from
    Cissy, or how much from Cecilia.

    God bless you, dear, dearest Harry. Let me have one letter before
    you come to fetch me, and acknowledge that I am right, even if you
    say that I am disagreeable. Of course I like to think that you want
    to have me; but, you see, one has to pay the penalty of being
    civilized. Ever and always your own affectionate:

    Florence Burton.

Harry Clavering was very angry when he got this letter. The primary
cause of his anger was the fact that Florence should pretend to know
what was better for him than he knew himself. If he was willing to
encounter life in London on less than four hundred a year, surely she
might be contented to try the same experiment. He did not for a moment
suspect that she feared for herself, but he was indignant with her
because of her fear for him. What right had she to accuse him of wanting
to be comfortable? Had he not for her sake consented to be very
uncomfortable at that old house at Stratton? Was he not willing to give
up his fellowship, and the society of Lady Ongar, and everything else,
for her sake? Had he not shown himself to be such a lover as there is
not one in a hundred? And yet she wrote and told him that it wouldn't do
for him to be poor and uncomfortable? After all that lie had done in the
world, after all that he had gone through, it would be odd if at this
time of day, he did not know what was good for himself! It was in that
way that he regarded Florence's pertinacity.

He was rather unhappy at this period. It seemed to him that he was
somewhat slighted on both sides--or, if I may say so, less thought of on
both sides than he deserved. Had Lady Ongar remained in town, as she
ought to have done, he would have solaced himself, and at the same time
have revenged himself upon Florence, by devoting some of his spare hours
to that lady. It was Lady Ongar's sudden departure that had made him
feel that he ought to rush at once into marriage. Now he had no
consolation, except that of complaining to Mrs. Burton, and going
frequently to the theatre. To Mrs. Burton he did complain a great deal,
pulling her worsteds and threads about the while, sitting in idleness
while she was working, just as Theodore Burton had predicted that he
would do.

"I won't have you so idle, Harry," Mrs. Burton said to him one day. "You
know you ought to be at your office now." It must be admitted, on behalf
of Harry Clavering, that they who liked him, especially women, were able
to become intimate with him very easily. He had comfortable, homely ways
about him, and did not habitually give himself airs. He had become quite
domesticated at the Burtons' house during the ten weeks that he had been
in London, and knew his way to Onslow Crescent almost too well. It may,
perhaps, be surmised correctly that he would not have gone there so
frequently if Mrs. Theodore Burton had been an ugly woman.

"It's all her fault," said he, continuing to snip a piece of worsted
with a pair of scissors as he spoke. "She's too prudent by half."

"Poor Florence!"

"You can't but know that I should work three times as much if she had
given me a different answer. It stands to reason any man would work
under such circumstances as that. Not that I am idle, I believe. I do as
much as any other man about the place."

"I won't have my worsted destroyed all the same. Theodore says that
Florence is right."

"Of course he does; of course he'll say I'm wrong. I won't ask her
again--that's all."

"Oh, Harry! don't say that. You know you'll ask her. You would
to-morrow, if she were here."

"You don't know me, Cecilia, or you would not say so. When I have made
up my mind to a thing, I am generally firm about it. She said something
about two years, and I will not say a word to alter that decision. If it
be altered, it shall be altered by her."

In the meantime he punished Florence by sending her no special answer to
her letter. He wrote to her as usual; but he made no reference to his
last proposal, nor to her refusal. She had asked him to tell her that he
was not angry, but he would tell her nothing of the kind. He told her
when and where and how he would meet her, and convey her from Stratton
to Clavering; gave her some account of a play he had seen; described a
little dinner-party in Onslow Crescent; and told her a funny story about
Mr. Walliker and the office at the Adelphi. But he said no word, even in
rebuke, as to her decision about their marriage. He intended that this
should be felt to be severe, and took pleasure in the pain that he would
be giving. Florence, when she received her letter, knew that he was
sore, and understood thoroughly the working of his mind. "I will comfort
him when we are together," she said to herself. "I will make him
reasonable when I see him." It was not the way in which he expected that
his anger would be received.

One day on his return home he found a card on his table which surprised
him very much. It contained a name but no address, but over the name
there was a pencil memorandum, stating that the owner of the card would
call again on his return to London after Easter. The name on the card
was that of Count Pateroff. He remembered the name well as soon as he
saw it, though he had never thought of it since the solitary occasion on
which it had been mentioned to him. Count Pateroff was the man who had
been Lord Ongar's friend, and respecting whom Lord Ongar had brought a
false charge against his wife. Why should Count Pateroff call on him?
Why was he in England? Whence had he learned the address in Bloomsbury
Square? To that last question he had no difficulty in finding an answer.
Of course he must have heard it from Lady Ongar. Count Pateroff had now
left London. Had he gone to Ongar Park? Harry Clavering's mind was
instantly filled with suspicion, and he became jealous in spite of
Florence Burton. Could it be that Lady Ongar, not yet four months a
widow, was receiving at her house in the country this man with whose
name her own had been so fatally joined? If so, what could he think of
such behavior? He was very angry. He knew that he was angry, but he did
not at all know that he was jealous. Was he not, by her own declaration
to him, her only friend; and as such could he entertain such a suspicion
without anger? "Her friend!" he said to himself. "Not if she has any
dealings whatever with that man after what she has told me of him!" He
remembered at last that perhaps the count might not be at Ongar Park;
but he must, at any rate, have had some dealing with Lady Ongar, or he
would not have known the address in Bloomsbury Square. "Count Pateroff!"
he said, repeating the name, "I shouldn't wonder if I have to quarrel
with that man." During the whole of that night he was thinking of Lady
Ongar. As regarded himself, he knew that he had nothing to offer to Lady
Ongar but a brotherly friendship; but, nevertheless, it was an injury to
him that she should be acquainted intimately with any unmarried man but
himself.

On the next day he was to go to Stratton, and in the morning a letter
was brought to him by the postman; a letter, or rather a very short
note. Guildford was the postmark, and he knew at once that it was from
Lady Ongar.

    DEAR MR. CLAVERING (the note said)--

    I was so sorry to leave London without seeing you; I shall be back
    by the end of April, and am keeping on the same rooms. Come to me,
    if you can, on the evening of the 30th, after dinner. He at last
    bade Hermy to write and ask me to go to Clavering for the Easter
    week. Such a note! I'll show it you when we meet. Of course I
    declined.

    But I write on purpose to tell you that I have begged Count Pateroff
    to see you. I have not seen him, but I have had to write to him
    about things that happened in Florence. He has come to England
    chiefly with reference to the affairs of Lord Ongar. I want you to
    hear his story. As far as I have known him he is a truth-telling
    man, though I do not know that I am able to say much more in his
    favor. Ever yours, J. O.

When he had read this he was quite an altered man. See Count Pateroff!
Of course he would see him. What task could be more fitting for a friend
than this, of seeing such a man under such circumstances. Before he left
London he wrote a note for Count Pateroff, to be given to the count by
the people at the lodgings should he call during Harry's absence from
London. In this he explained that he would be at Clavering for a
fortnight, but expressed himself ready to come up to London at a day's
notice should Count Pateroff be necessitated again to leave London
before the day named.

As he went about his business that day, and as he journeyed down to
Stratton, he entertained much kinder ideas about Lady Ongar than he had
previously done since seeing Count Pateroff's card.



Chapter X

Florence Burton at the Rectory



Harry Clavering went down to Stratton, slept one night at old Mr.
Burton's house, and drove Florence over to Clavering--twenty miles
across the country, on the following day. This journey together had been
looked forward to with great delight by both of them, and Florence in
spite of the snubbing which she had received from her lover because of
her prudence, was very happy as she seated herself alongside of him in
the vehicle which had been sent over from the rectory, and which he
called a trap. Not a word had as yet been said between them as to that
snubbing, nor was Harry minded that anything should be said. He meant to
carry on his revenge by being dumb on that subject. But such was not
Florence's intention. She desired not only to have her own way in this
matter, but desired also that he should assent to her arrangements.

It was a charming day for such a journey. It was cold, but not cold
enough to make them uncomfortable. There was a wind, but not wind enough
to torment them. Once there came on a little shower, which just sufficed
to give Harry an opportunity of wrapping his companion very closely, but
he had hardly completed the ceremony before the necessity for it was
over. They both agreed that this mode of travelling was infinitely
preferable to a journey by railroad, and I myself should be of the name
opinion if one could always make one's journeys under the same
circumstances. And it must be understood that Harry, though no doubt he
was still taking his revenge on Florence by abstaining from all allusion
to her letter, was not disposed to make himself otherwise disagreeable.
He played his part of lover very well, and Florence was supremely happy.

"Harry," she said, when the journey was more than half completed, "you
never told me what you thought of my letter."

"Which letter?" But he knew very well which was the letter in question.

"My prudent letter--written in answer to yours that was very imprudent."

"I thought there was nothing more to be said about it."

"Come, Harry, don't let there be any subject between us that we don't
care to think about and discuss. I know what you meant by not answering
me. You meant to punish me, did you not, for having an opinion different
from yours? Is not that true, Harry?"

"Punish you, no; I did not want to punish you. It was I that was
punished, I think."

"But you know I was right. Was I not right?"

"I think you were wrong, but I don't want to say anything more about it
now."

"Ah, but, Harry, I want you to talk about it. Is it not everything to
me--everything in this world--that you and I should agree about this? I
have nothing else to think of but you. I have nothing to hope for but
that I may live to be your wife. My only care in the world is my care
for you! Come, Harry, don't be glum with me."

"I am not glum."

"Speak a nice word to me. Tell me that you believe me when I say that it
is not of myself I am thinking, but of you."

"Why can't you let me think for myself in this?"

"Because you have got to think for me."

"And I think you'd do very well on the income we ye got. If you'll
consent to marry, this Summer, I won't be glum, as you call it, a moment
longer."

"No, Harry; I must not do that. I should be false to my duty to you if I
did."

"Then it's no use saying anything more about it."

"Look here, Harry, if an engagement for two years is tedious to you--"

"Of course it is tedious. Is not waiting for anything always tedious?
There's nothing I hate so much as waiting."

"But listen to me," said she, gravely. "If it is too tedious, if it is
more than you think you can bear without being unhappy, I will release
you from your engagement."

"Florence!"

"Hear me to the end. It will make no change in me and then if you like
to come to me again at the end of the two years, you may be sure of the
way in which I shall receive you."

"And what good would that do?"

"Simply this good, that you would not be bound in a manner that makes
you unhappy. If you did not intend that when you asked me to be your
wife--Oh, Harry, all I want is to make you happy. That is all that I
care for, all that I think about?"

Harry swore to her with ten thousand oaths that he would not release her
from any part of her engagement with him, that he would give her no
loophole of escape from him, that he intended to hold her so firmly that
if she divided herself from him, she should be accounted among women a
paragon of falseness. He was ready, he said, to marry her to-morrow.
That was his wish, his idea of what would be best for both of them; and
after that, if not to-morrow, then on the next day, and so on till the
day should come on which she should consent to become his wife. He went
on also to say that he should continue to torment her on the subject
about once a week till he had induced her to give way; and then he
quoted a Latin line to show that a constant dropping of water will
hollow a stone. This was somewhat at variance with a declaration he had
made to Mrs. Burton, of Onslow Crescent, to the effect that he would
never speak to Florence again upon the subject; but then men do
occasionally change their minds, and Harry Clavering was a man who often
changed his.

Florence, as he made the declaration above described, thought that he
played his part of lover very well, and drew herself a little closer to
him as she thanked him for his warmth. "Dear Harry, you are so good and
so kind, and I do love you so truly!" In this way the journey was made
very pleasantly, and when Florence was driven up to the rectory door she
was quite contented with her coachman.

Harry Clavering, who is the hero of our story, will not, I fear have
hitherto presented himself to the reader as having much of the heroic
nature in his character. It will, perhaps, be complained of him that he
is fickle, vain, easily led, and almost as easily led to evil as to
good. But it should be remembered that hitherto he has been rather
hardly dealt with in these pages, and that his faults and weaknesses
have been exposed almost unfairly. That he had such faults, and was
subject to such weaknesses, may be believed of him; but there may be a
question whether as much evil would not be known of most men, let them
be heroes or not be heroes, if their characters were, so to say, turned
inside out before our eyes.

Harry Clavering, fellow of his college, six feet high, with handsome
face and person, and with plenty to say for himself on all subjects, was
esteemed highly and regarded much by those who knew him, in spite of
those little foibles which marred his character; and I must beg the
reader to take the world's opinion about him, and not to estimate him
too meanly thus early in this history of his adventures.

If this tale should ever be read by any lady who, in the course of her
career, has entered a house under circumstances similar to those which
had brought Florence Burton to Clavering rectory, she will understand
how anxious must have been that young lady when she encountered the
whole Clavering family in the hall. She had been blown about by the
wind, and her cloaks and shawls were heavy on her, and her hat was a
little out of shape--from some fault on the part of Harry, as I
believe--and she felt herself to be a dowdy as she appeared among them.
What would they think of her, and what would they think of Harry in that
he had chosen such an one to be his wife? Mrs. Clavering had kissed her
before she had seen that lady's face; and Mary and Fanny had kissed her
before she knew which was which; and then a stout, clerical gentleman
kissed her who, no doubt, was Mr. Clavering, senior. After that, another
clerical gentleman, very much younger and very much slighter, shock
hands with her. He might have kissed her, too, had he been so minded,
for Florence was too confused to be capable of making any exact
reckoning in the matter. He might have done so--that is, as far as
Florence was concerned. It may be a question whether Mary Clavering
would not have objected; for this clerical gentleman was the Rev. Edward
Fielding, who was to become her husband in three days' time.

"Now, Florence," said Fanny, "come up stairs into mamma's room and have
some tea, and we'll look at you. Harry, you needn't come. You've had her
to yourself for a long time, and can have her again in the evening."

Florence, in this way, was taken up stairs and found herself seated by a
fire, while three pairs of hands were taking from her her shawls and hat
and cloak, almost before she knew where she was.

"It is so odd to have you here," said Fanny. "We have only one brother,
so, of course, we shall make very much of you. Isn't she nice, mamma?"

"I'm sure she is; very nice. But I shouldn't have told her so before her
face, if you hadn't asked the question."

"That's nonsense, mamma. You musn't believe mamma when she pretends to
be grand and sententious. It's only put on as a sort of company air, but
we don't mean to make company of you."

"Pray don't," said Florence.

"I'm so glad you are come just at this time," said Mary. "I think so
much of having Harry's future wife at my wedding. I wish we were both
going to be married the same day."

"But we are not going to be married for ever so long. Two years hence
has been the shortest time named."

"Don't be sure of that, Florence," said Fanny. "We have all of us
received a special commission from Harry to talk you out of that heresy;
have we not, mamma?"

"I think you had better not tease Florence about that immediately on her
arrival. It's hardly fair." Then, when they had drunk their tea,
Florence was taken away to her own room, and before she was allowed to
go down stairs she was intimate with both the girls, and had so far
overcome her awe of Harry's mother as to be able to answer her without
confusion.

"Well, sir, what do you think of her?" said Harry to his father, as soon
as they were alone.

"I have not had time to think much of her yet. She seems to be very
pretty. She isn't so tall as I thought she would be."

"No; she's not tall," said Harry, in a voice of disappointment.

"I've no doubt we shall like her very much. What money is she to have?"

"A hundred a year while her father lives."

"That's not much."

"Much or little, it made no difference with me. I should never have
thought of marrying a girl for her money. It's a kind of thing that I
hate. I almost wish she was to have nothing."

"I shouldn't refuse it if I were you."

"Of course, I shan't refuse it; but what I mean is that I never thought
about it when I asked her to have me; and I shouldn't have been a bit
more likely to ask her if she had ten times as much."

"A fortune with one's wife isn't a bad thing for a poor man, Harry."

"But a poor man must be poor in more senses than one when he looks about
to get a fortune in that way."

"I suppose you won't marry just yet," said the father. "Including
everything, you would not have five hundred a year, and that would be
very close work in London."

"It's not quite decided yet, sir. As far as I am myself concerned, I
think that people are a great deal too prudent about money, I believe I
could live as a married man on a hundred a year, if I had no more; and
as for London, I don't see why London should be more expensive than any
other place. You can get exactly what you want in London, and make your
halfpence go farther there than anywhere else."

"And your sovereigns go quicker," said the rector.

"All that is wanted," said Harry, "is the will to live on your income,
and a little firmness in carrying out your plans."

The rector of Clavering, as he heard all this wisdom fall from his son's
lips, looked at Harry's expensive clothes, at the ring on his finger, at
the gold chain on his waistcoat, at the studs in his shirt, and smiled
gently. He was by no means so clever a man as his son, but he knew
something more of the world, and though not much given to general
reading, he had read his son's character. "A great deal of firmness and
of fortitude also is wanted for that kind of life," he said. "There are
men who can go through it without suffering, but I would not advise any
young man to commence it in a hurry. If I were you I should wait a year
or two. Come, let's have a walk; that is, if you can tear yourself away
from your lady-love for an hour. If there is not Saul coming up the
avenue! Take your hat, Harry, and we'll get out the other way. He only
wants to see the girls about the school, but if he catches us he'll keep
us for an hour." Then Harry asked after Mr. Saul's love-affairs. "I've
not heard one single word about it since you went away," said the
rector. "It seems to have passed off like a dream. He and Fanny go on
the same as ever, and I suppose he knows that he made a fool of
himself." But in this matter the rector of Clavering was mistaken. Mr.
Saul did not by any means think that he made a fool of himself.

"He has never spoken a word to me since," said Fanny to her brother that
evening; "that is, not a word as to what occurred then. Of course it was
very embarrassing at first, though I don't think he minded it much. He
came after a day or two just the same as ever, and he almost made me
think that he had forgotten it."

"And he wasn't confused?"

"Not at all. He never is. The only difference is that I think he scolds
me more than he used to do."

"Scold you!"

"Oh dear, yes; he always scolded me if he thought there was anything
wrong, especially about giving the children holidays. But he does it now
more than ever."

"How do you bear it?"

"In a half-and-half sort of a way. I laugh at him, and then do as I'm
bid. He makes everybody do what he bids them at Clavering--except papa,
sometimes. But he scolds him, too. I heard him the other day in the
library."

"And did my father take it from him?"

"He did, in a sort of a way. I don't think papa likes him; but then he
knows, and we all know, that he is so good. He never spares himself in
anything. He has nothing but his curacy, and what he gives away is
wonderful."

"I hope he won't take to scolding me," said Harry, proudly.

"As you don't concern yourself about the parish, I should say that
you're safe. I suppose he thinks mamma does everything right, for he
never scolds her."

"There is no talk of his going away."

"None at all. I think we should all be sorry, because he does so much
good."

Florence reigned supreme in the estimation of the rectory family all the
evening of her arrival and till after breakfast the next morning, but
then the bride elect was restored to her natured preeminence. This,
however, lasted only for two days, after which the bride was taken away.
The wedding was very nice, and pretty, and comfortable; and the people
of Clavering were much better satisfied with it than they had been with
that other marriage which has been mentioned as having been celebrated
in Clavering Church. The rectory family was generally popular, and
everybody wished well to the daughter who was being given away. When
they were gone there was a breakfast at the rectory, and speeches were
made with much volubility. On such an occasion the rector was a great
man, and Harry also shone in conspicuous rivalry with his father. But
Mr. Saul's spirit was not so well tuned to the occasion as that of the
rector or his son, and when he got upon his legs, and mournfully
expressed a hope that his friend Mm Fielding might be enabled to bear
the trials of this life with fortitude, it was felt by them all that the
speaking had better be brought to an end.

"You shouldn't laugh at him, Harry," Fanny said to her brother
afterward, almost seriously. "One man can do one thing and one another.
You can make a speech better than he can, but I don't think you could
preach so good a sermon."

"I declare I think you're getting fond of him, after all," said Harry.
Upon hearing this Fanny turned away with a look of great offence. "No
one but a brother," said she, "would say such a thing as that to me,
because I don't like to hear the poor man ridiculed without cause." That
evening, when they were alone, Fanny told Florence the whole story about
Mr. Saul. "I tell you, you know, because you're like one of ourselves
now. It has never been mentioned to any one out of the family."

Florence declared that the story would be sacred with her.

"I'm sure of that, dear, and therefore I like you to know it. Of course
such a thing was quite out of the question. The poor fellow has no means
at all--literally, none. And then independently of that--"

"I don't think I should ever bring myself to think of that as the first
thing," said Florence.

"No, nor would I. If I really were attached to a man, I think I would
tell him so, and agree to wait, either with hope or without it."

"Just so, Fanny."

"But there was nothing of that kind; and, indeed, he's the sort of man
that no girl would think of being in love with--isn't he? You see he
will hardly take the trouble to dress himself decently."

"I have only seen him at a wedding, you know."

"And for him he was quite bright. But you will see plenty of him if you
will go to the schools with me. And indeed he comes here a great deal,
quite as much as he did before that happened. He is so good, Florence!"

"Poor man!"

"I can't in the least make out from his manner whether he has given up
thinking about it. I suppose he has. Indeed, of course he has, because
he must know that it would be of no sort of use. But he is one of those
men of whom you can never say whether they are happy or not; and you
never can be quite sure what may be in his mind."

"He is not bound to the place at all--not like your father?"

"Oh, no," said Fanny, thinking perhaps that Mr. Saul might find himself
to be bound to the place, though not exactly with bonds similar to those
which kept her father there.

"If he found himself to be unhappy, he could go," said Florence.

"Oh, yes; he could go if he were unhappy," said Fanny. "That is, he
could go if he pleased."

Lady Clavering had come to the wedding; but no one else had been present
from the great house. Sir Hugh, indeed, was not at home; but, as the
rector truly observed, he might have been at home if he had so pleased.
"But he is a man," said the father to the son, "who always does a rude
thing if it be in his power. For myself, I care nothing for him, as he
knows. But he thinks that Mary would have liked to have seen him as the
head of the family, and therefore he does not come. He has greater skill
in making himself odious than any man I ever knew. As for her, they say
he's leading her a terrible life. And he's becoming so stingy about
money, too!"

"I hear that Archie is very heavy on him."

"I don't believe that he would allow any man to be heavy on him, as you
call it. Archie has means of his own, and I suppose has not run through
them yet. If Hugh has advanced him money, you may be sure that he has
security. As for Archie, he will come to an end very soon, if what I
hear is true. They tell me he is always at Newmarket, and he always
loses."

But though Sir Hugh was thus uncourteous to the rector and to the
rector's daughter, he was so far prepared to be civil to his cousin
Harry, that he allowed his wife to ask all the rectory family to dine up
at the house, in honor of Harry's sweetheart. Florence Burton was
specially invited, with Lady Clavering's sweetest smile. Florence, of
course, referred the matter to her hostess, but it was decided that they
should all accept the invitation. It was given, personally, after the
breakfast, and it is not always easy to decline invitations so given. It
may, I think, be doubted whether any man or woman has a right to give an
invitation in this way, and whether all invitations so given should not
be null and void, from the fact of the unfair advantage that has been
taken. The man who fires at a sitting bird is known to be no sportsman.
Now, the dinner-giver who catches his guest in an unguarded moment, and
bags him when he has had no chance to rise upon his wing, does fire at a
sitting bird. In this instance, however, Lady Clavering's little
speeches were made only to Mrs. Clavering and to Florence. She said
nothing personally to the rector, and he therefore might have escaped.
But his wife talked him over.

"I think you should go for Harry's sake," said Mrs. Clavering.

"I don't see what good it will do Harry."

"It will show that you approve of the match."

"I don't approve or disapprove of it. He's his own master."

"But you approve, you know, as you countenance it; and there cannot
possibly be a sweeter girl than Florence Burton. We all like her, and
I'm sure you seem to take to her thoroughly."

"Take to her; yes, I take to her very well. She's ladylike, and though
she's no beauty, she looks pretty, and is spirited. And I daresay she's
clever."

"And so good."

"If she's good, that's better than all. Only I don't see what they're to
live."

"But as she is here, you will go with us to the great house?"

Mrs. Clavering never asked her husband anything in vain, and the rector
agreed to go. He apologized for this afterward to his son, by explaining
that he did it as a duty. "It will serve for six months," he said. "If I
did not go there about once in six months, there would be supposed to be
a family quarrel, and that would be bad for the parish."

Harry was to remain only a week at Clavering, and the dinner was to take
place the evening before he went away. On that morning he walked all
round the park with Florence--as he had before often walked with
Julia--and took that occasion of giving her a full history of the
Clavering family. "We none of us like my cousin Hugh," he said. "But she
is at least harmless, and she means to be good-natured. She is very
unlike her sister, Lady Ongar."

"So I should suppose, from what you have told me."

"Altogether an inferior being."

"And she has only one child."

"Only one--a boy now two years old. They say he's anything but strong."

"And Sir Hugh has one brother."

"Yes; Archie Clavering. I think Archie is a worse fellow even than Hugh.
He makes more attempts to be agreeable, but there is something in his
eye which I always distrust. And then he is a man who does no good in
the world to anybody."

"He's not married?"

"No; he's not married, and I don't suppose he ever will marry. It's on
the cards, Florence, that the future baronet may be." Then she frowned
on him, walked on quickly, and changed the conversation.



Chapter XI

Sir Hugh and His Brother Archie



There was a numerous gathering of Claverings in the drawing-room of the
great house when the family from the rectory arrived, comprising three
generations; for the nurse was in the room holding the heir in her arms.
Mrs. Clavering and Fanny of course inspected the child at once, as they
were bound to do, while Lady Clavering welcomed Florence Burton. Archie
spoke a word or two to his uncle, and Sir Hugh vouchsafed to give one
finger to his cousin Harry by way of shaking hands with him. Then there
came a feeble squeak from the infant, and there was a cloud at once upon
Sir Hugh's brow. "Hermione," he said, "I wish you wouldn't have the
child in here. It's not the place for him. He's always cross. I've said
a dozen times I wouldn't have him down here just before dinner." Then a
sign was made to the nurse, and she walked off with her burden. It was a
poor, rickety, unalluring bairn, but it was all that Lady Clavering had,
and she would fain have been allowed to show it to her relatives, as
other mothers are allowed to do.

"Hugh," said his wife, "shall I introduce you to Miss Burton?"

Then Sir Hugh came forward and shook hands with his new guest, with some
sort of apology for his remissness, while Harry stood by, glowering at
him, with offence in his eye. "My father is right," he had said to
himself when his cousin failed to notice Florence on her first entrance
into the room; "he is impertinent as well as disagreeable. I don't care
for quarrels in the parish, and so I shall let him know."

"Upon my word she's a doosed good-looking little thing," said Archie,
coming up to him, after having also shaken hands with her; "doosed
good-looking, I call her."

"I'm glad you think so," said Harry, dryly.

"Let's see; where was it you picked her up? I did hear, but I forget."

"I picked her up, as you call it, at Stratton, where her father lives."

"Oh, yes; I know. He's the fellow that coached you in your new business,
isn't he? By-the-by, Harry, I think you've made a mess of it in changing
your line. I'd have stuck to my governor's shop if I'd been you. You'd
got through all the d----d fag of it, and there's the living that has
always belonged to a Clavering."

"What would your brother have said if I had asked him to give it to me?"

"He wouldn't have given it of course. Nobody does give anything to
anybody now-a-days. Livings are a sort of thing that people buy. But
you'd have got it under favorable circumstances."

"The fact is, Archie, I'm not very fond of the church, as a profession."

"I should have thought it easy work. Look at your father. He keeps a
curate and doesn't take any trouble himself. Upon my word, if I'd known
as much then as I do now, I'd have had a shy for it myself. Hugh
couldn't have refused it to me."

"But Hugh can't give it while his uncle holds it."

"That would have been against me to be sure, and your governor's life is
pretty nearly as good as mine. I shouldn't have liked waiting; so I
suppose it's as well as it is."

There may perhaps have been other reasons why Archie Clavering's regrets
that he did not take holy orders were needless. He had never succeeded
in learning anything that any master had ever attempted to teach him,
although he had shown considerable aptitude in picking up acquirements
for which no regular masters are appointed. He knew the fathers and
mothers--sires and dams I ought perhaps to say--and grandfathers and
grandmothers, and so back for some generations, of all the horses of
note living in his day. He knew also the circumstances of all
races--what horses would run at them, and at what ages, what were the
stakes, the periods of running, and the special interests of each
affair. But not, on that account, should it be thought that the turf had
been profitable to him. That it might become profitable at some future
time, was possible; but Captain Archibald Clavering had not yet reached
the profitable stage in the career of a betting man, though perhaps he
was beginning to qualify himself for it. He was not bad-looking, though
his face was unprepossessing to a judge of character. He was slight and
well made about five feet nine in height, with light brown hair, which
had already left the top of his head bald, with slight whiskers, and a
well-formed moustache. But the peculiarity of his face was in his eyes.
His eyebrows were light-colored and very slight, and this was made more
apparent by the skin above the eyes, which was loose and hung down over
the outside corners of them, giving him a look of cunning which was
disagreeable. He seemed always to be speculating, counting up the odds,
and calculating whether anything could be done with the events then
present before him. And he was always ready to make a bet, being ever
provided with a book for that purpose. He would take the odds that the
sun did not rise on the morrow, and would either win the bet or wrangle
in the losing of it. He would wrangle, but would do so noiselessly,
never on such occasions damaging his cause by a loud voice. He was now
about thirty-three years of age, and was two years younger than the
baronet. Sir Hugh was not a gambler like his brother, but I do not know
that he was therefore a more estimable man. He was greedy and anxious to
increase his store, never willing to lose that which he possessed, fond
of pleasure, but very careful of himself in the enjoyment of it,
handsome, every inch an English gentleman in appearance, and therefore
popular with men and women of his own class who were not near enough to
him to know him well, given to but few words, proud of his name, and
rank, and place, well versed in the business of the world, a match for
most men in money matters, not ignorant, though he rarely opened a book,
selfish, and utterly regardless of the feelings of all those with whom
he came in contact. Such were Sir Hugh Clavering and his brother the
captain.

Sir Hugh took Florence in to dinner, and when the soup had been eaten
made an attempt to talk to her. "How long have you been here, Miss
Burton?"

"Nearly a week," said Florence.

"Ah; you came to the wedding; I was sorry I couldn't be here. It went
off very well, I suppose?"

"Very well indeed, I think."

"They're tiresome things in general--weddings. Don't you think so?"

"Oh, dear, no--except that some person one loves is always being taken
away."

"You'll be the next person to be taken away yourself; I suppose?"

"I must be the next person at home, because I am the last that is left.
All my sisters are married."

"And how many are there?"

"There are five married."

"Good heavens--five!"

"And they are all married to men in the same profession as Harry."

"Quite a family affair," said Sir Hugh. Harry, who was sitting on the
other side of Florence, heard this, and would have preferred that
Florence should have said nothing about her sisters. "Why, Harry," said
the baronet, "if you will go into partnership with your father-in-law
and all your brothers-in-law you could stand against the world."

"You might add my four brothers," said Florence, who saw no shame in the
fact that they were all engaged in the same business.

"Good heaven!" exclaimed Sir Hugh, and after that he did not say much
more to Florence.

The rector had taken Lady Clavering in to dinner, and they two did
manage to carry on between them some conversation respecting the parish
affairs. Lady Clavering was not active among the poor--nor was the
rector himself, and perhaps neither of them knew how little the other
did; but they could talk Clavering talk, and the parson was willing to
take for granted his neighbor's good will to make herself agreeable. But
Mrs. Clavering, who sat between Sir Hugh and Archie, had a very bad time
of it. Sir Hugh spoke to her once during the dinner, saying that he
hoped she was satisfied with her daughter's marriage; but even this he
said in a tone that seemed to imply that any such satisfaction must rest
on very poor grounds. "Thoroughly satisfied," said Mrs. Clavering,
drawing herself up and looking very unlike the usual Mrs. Clavering of
the rectory. After that there was no further conversation between her
and Sir Hugh. "The worst of him to me is always this," she said that
evening to her husband, "that he puts me so much out of conceit with
myself. If I were with him long I should begin to find myself the most
disagreeable woman in England!" "Then pray don't be with him long," said
the rector.

But Archie made conversation throughout dinner, and added greatly to
Mrs. Clavering's troubles by doing so. There was nothing in common
between them, but still Archie went on laboriously with his work. It was
a duty which he recognized, and at which he would work hard. When he had
used up Mary's marriage, a subject which he economized carefully, so
that he brought it down to the roast saddle of mutton, he began upon
Harry's match. When was it to be? Where were they to live? Was there any
money? What manner of people were the Burtons? Perhaps he might get over
it? This he whispered very lowly, and it was the question next in
sequence to that about the money. When, in answer to this, Mrs.
Clavering with considerable energy declared that anything of that kind
would be a misfortune of which there seemed to be no chance whatever, he
recovered himself as he thought very skilfully. "Oh, yes; of course;
that's just what I meant; a doosed nice girl I think her; a doosed nice
girl, all round." Archie's questions were very laborious to his
fellow-laborer in the conversation, because he never allowed one of them
to pass without an answer. He always recognized the fact that he was
working hard on behalf of society, and, as he used to say himself that
he had no idea of pulling all the coach up the hill by his own
shoulders. Whenever, therefore, he had made his effort he waited for his
companion's, looking closely into her face, cunningly driving her on, so
that she also should pull her share of the coach. Before dinner was over
Mrs. Clavering found the hill to be very steep, and the coach to be very
heavy. "I'll bet you seven to one," said he--and this was his parting
speech as Mrs. Clavering rose up at Lady Clavering's nod--"I'll bet you
seven to one, that the whole box and dice of them are married before
me--or at any rate as soon; and I don't mean to remain single much
longer, I can tell you." The "box and dice of them" was supposed to
comprise Harry, Florence, Fanny and Lady Ongar, of all of whom mention
had been made, and that saving clause--"at any rate as soon"--was
cunningly put in, as it had occurred to Archie that he perhaps might be
married on the same day as one of those other persons. But Mrs.
Clavering was not compelled either to accept or reject the bet, as she
was already moving before the terms had been fully explained to her.

Lady Clavering as she went out of the room stopped a moment behind
Harry's chair and whispered a word to him. "I want to speak to you
before you go to-night." Then she passed on.

"What's that Hermione was saying?" asked Sir Hugh, when he had shut the
door.

"She only told me that she wanted to speak to me."

"She has always got some cursed secret," said Sir Hugh. "If there, is
anything I hate, it's a secret." Now this was hardly fair, for Sir Hugh
was a man very secret in his own affairs, never telling his wife
anything about them. He kept two banker's accounts, so that no banker's
clerk might know how he stood as regarded ready money, and hardly
treated even his lawyer with confidence.

He did not move from his own chair, so that, after dinner, his uncle was
not next to him. The places left by the ladies were not closed up, and
the table was very uncomfortable.

"I see they're going to have another week after this with the Pytchley,"
said Sir Hugh to his brother.

"I suppose they will--or ten days. Things ain't very early this year."

"I think I shall go down. It's never any use trying to hunt here after
the middle of March."

"You're rather short of foxes, are you not?" said the rector, making an
attempt to join the conversation.

"Upon my word I don't know anything about it," said Sir Hugh.

"There are foxes at Clavering," said Archie, recommencing his duty. "The
hounds will be here on Saturday, and I'll bet three to one I find a fox
before twelve o'clock, or, say, half-past twelve--that is, if they'll
draw punctual and let me do as I like with the pack. I'll bet a guinea
we find, and a guinea we run, and a guinea we kill; that is, you know,
if they'll really look for a fox."

The rector had been willing to fall into a little hunting talk for the
sake of society, but he was not prepared to go the length that Archie
proposed to take him, and therefore the subject dropped.

"At any rate I shan't stay here after to-morrow," said Sir Hugh, still
addressing himself to his brother. "Pass the wine, will you, Harry; that
is, if your father is drinking any."

"No more wine for me," said the rector, almost angrily.

"Liberty Hall," said Sir Hugh; "everybody does as they like about that.
I mean to have another bottle of claret. Archie, ring the bell, will
you?" Captain Clavering, though he was further from the bell than his
elder brother, got up and did as he was bid. The claret came, and was
drunk almost in silence. The rector, though he had a high opinion of the
cellar of the great house, would take none of the new bottle, because he
was angry. Harry filled his glass, and attempted to say something. Sir
Hugh answered him by a monosyllable, and Archie offered to bet him two
to one that he was wrong.

"I'll go into the drawing-room," said the rector, getting up.

"All right," said Sir Hugh; "you'll find coffee there, I daresay. Has
your father given up wine?" he asked, as soon as the door was closed.

"Not that I know of," said Harry.

"He used to take as good a whack as any man I know. The bishop hasn't
put his embargo on that as well as the hunting, I hope?" To this Harry
made no answer.

"He's in the blues, I think," said Archie. "Is there anything the matter
with him, Harry?"

"Nothing as far as I know."

"If I were left at Clavering all the year, with nothing to do, as he is,
I think I should drink a good deal of wine," said Sir Hugh. "I don't
know what it is--something in the air, I suppose--but everybody always
seems to me to be dreadfully dull here. You ain't taking any wine
either. Don't stop here out of ceremony, you know, if you want to go
after Miss Burton." Harry took him at his word, and went after Miss
Burton, leaving the brothers together over their claret.

The two brothers remained drinking their wine, but they drank it in an
uncomfortable fashion, not saying much to each other for the first ten
minutes after the other Claverings were gone. Archie was in some degree
afraid of his brother, and never offered to make any bets with him. Hugh
had once put a stop to this altogether. "Archie," he had said, "pray
understand that there is no money to be made out of me, at any rate not
by you. If you lost money to me, you wouldn't think it necessary to pay;
and I certainly shall lose none to you." The habit of proposing to bet
had become with Archie so much a matter of course, that he did not
generally intend any real speculation by his offers; but with his
brother he had dropped even the habit. And he seldom began any
conversation with Hugh unless he had some point to gain--an advance of
money to ask, or some favor to beg in the way of shooting, or the loan
of a horse. On such occasions he would commence the negotiation with his
usual diplomacy, not knowing any other mode of expressing his wishes;
but he was aware that his brother would always detect his manoeuvres,
and expose them before he had got through his first preface: and,
therefore, as I have said, he was afraid of Hugh.

"I don't know what's come to my uncle of late," said Hugh, after a
while. "I think I shall have to drop them at the rectory altogether."

"He never had much to say for himself."

"But he has a mode of expressing himself without speaking, which I do
not choose to put up with at my table. The fact is they are going to the
mischief at the rectory. His eldest girl has just married a curate."

"Fielding has got a living."

"It's something very small then, and I suppose Fanny will marry that
prig they have here. My uncle himself never does any of his own work,
and now Harry is going to make a fool of himself. I used to think he
would fall on his legs."

"He is a clever fellow."

"Then why is he such a fool as to marry such a girl as this, without
money, good looks, or breeding? It's well for you he is such a fool, or
else you wouldn't have a chance."

"I don't see that at all," said Archie.

"Julia always had a sneaking fondness for Harry, and if he had waited
would have taken him now. She was very near making a fool of herself
with him once, before Lord Ongar turned up."

To this Archie said nothing, but he changed color, and it may almost be
said of him that he blushed. Why he was affected in so singular a manner
by his brother's words will be best explained by a statement of what
took place in the back drawing-room a little later in the evening.

When Harry reached the drawing-room he went up to Lady Clavering, but
she said nothing to him then of especial notice. She was talking to Mrs.
Clavering while the rector was reading--or pretending to read--a review
and the two girls were chattering together in another part of the room.
Then they had coffee, and after a while the two other men came in from
their wine. Lady Clavering did not move at once, but she took the first
opportunity of doing so, when Sir Hugh came up to Mrs. Clavering and
spoke a word to her. A few minutes after that, Harry found himself
closeted with Lady Clavering, in a little room detached from the others,
though the doors between the two were open.

"Do you know," said Lady Clavering, "that Sir Hugh has asked Julia to
come here?" Harry paused a moment, and then acknowledged that he did
know it.

"I hope you did not advise her to refuse."

"I advise her! Oh dear, no. She did not ask me anything about it."

"But she has refused. Don't you think she has been very wrong?"

"It is hard to say," said Harry. "You know I thought it very cruel that
Hugh did not receive her immediately on her return. If I had been he, I
should have gone to Paris to meet her."

"It's no good talking of that now, Harry. Hugh is hard, and we all know
that. Who feels it most do you think; Julia or I? But as he has come
round, what can she gain by standing off? Will it not be the best thing
for her to come here?"

"I don't know that she has much to gain by it."

"Harry, do you know that we have a plan?" "Who is we?" Harry asked; but
she went on without noticing his question. "I tell you, because I
believe you can help us more than any one, if you will. Only for your
engagement with Miss Burton I should not mention it to you; and, but for
that, the plan would, I daresay, be of no use."

"What is the plan?" said Harry, very gravely. A vague idea of what the
plan might be had come across Harry's mind during Lady Clavering's last
speech.

"Would it not be a good thing if Julia and Archie were to be married?"
She asked the question in a quick, hesitating voice, looking at first
eagerly up into his face, and then turning away her eyes, as though she
were afraid of the answer she might read there. "Of course I know that
you were fond of her, but all that can be nothing now."

"No," said Harry, "that can be nothing now."

"Then why shouldn't Archie have her? It would make us all so much more
comfortable together. I told Archie that I should speak to you, because
I know that you have more weight with her than any of us; but Hugh
doesn't know that I mean it."

"Does Sir Hugh know of the--the plan?"

"It was he who proposed it. Archie will be very badly off when he has
settled with Hugh about all their money dealings. Of course Julia's
money would be left in her own hands; there would be no intention to
interfere with that. But the position would be so good for him; and it
would, you know, put him on his legs."

"Yes," said Harry, "it would put him on his legs, I dare say."

"And why shouldn't it be so? She can't live alone by herself always. Of
course she never could have really loved Lord Ongar."

"Never, I should think," said Harry.

"And Archie is good-natured, and good-tempered,
and--and--and--good-looking. Don't you think so? I think it would just
do for her. She'd have her own way, for he's not a bit like Hugh, you
know. He's not so clever as Hugh, but he is much more good-natured.
Don't you think it would be a good arrangement, Harry?" Then again she
looked up into his face anxiously.

Nothing in the whole matter surprised him more than her eagerness in
advocating the proposal. Why should she desire that her sister should be
sacrificed in this way? But in so thinking of it he forgot her own
position, and the need that there was to her for some friend to be near
to her--for some comfort and assistance. She had spoken truly in saying
that the plan had originated with her husband; but since it had been
suggested to her, she had not ceased to think of it, and to wish for it.

"Well, Harry, what do you say?" she asked.

"I don't see that I have anything to say."

"But I know you can help us. When I was with her the last time she
declared that you were the only one of us she ever wished to see again.
She meant to include me then especially, but of course she was not
thinking of Archie. I know you can help us if you will."

"Am I to ask her to marry him?"

"Not exactly that; I don't think that would do any good. But you might
persuade her to come here. I think she would come if you advised her;
and then, after a bit you might say a good word for Archie."

"Upon my word I could not."

"Why not, Harry?"

"Because I know he would not make her happy. What good would such a
marriage do her?"

"Think of her position. No one will visit her unless she is first
received here, or at any rate unless she comes to us in town. And then
it would be up-hill work. Do you know Lord Ongar had absolutely
determined at one time to--to get a divorce?"

"And do you believe that she was guilty?"

"I don't say that. No; why should I believe anything against my own
sister when nothing is proved, but that makes no difference, if the
world believes it. They say now that if he had lived three months longer
she never would have got the money."

"Then they say lies. Who is it says so? A parcel of old women who
delight in having some one to run down and backbite. It is all false,
Lady Clavering."

"But what does it signify, Harry? There she is, and you know how people
are talking. Of course it would be best for her to marry again; and if
she would take Archie--Sir Hugh's brother, my brother-in-law, nothing
further would be said. She might go anywhere then. As her sister, I feel
sure that it is the best thing she could do."

Harry's brow became clouded, and there was a look of anger on his face
as he answered her.

"Lady Clavering," he said, "your sister will never marry my cousin
Archie. I look upon the thing as impossible."

"Perhaps it is, Harry, that you--you yourself would not wish it."

"Why should I wish it?"

"He is your own cousin."

"Cousin indeed! Why should I wish it, or why should I not wish it? They
are neither of them anything to me."

"She ought not to be anything to you."

"And she is nothing. She may marry Archie if she pleases, for me. I
shall not set her against him. But, Lady Clavering, you might as well
tell him to get one of the stars. I don't think you can know your sister
when you suppose such a match to be possible."

"Hermione!" shouted Sir Hugh--and the shout was uttered in a voice that
always caused Lady Clavering to tremble.

"I am coming," she said, rising from her chair. "Don't set yourself
against it, Harry," and then, without waiting to hear him further, she
obeyed her husband's summons. "What the mischief keeps you in there?" he
said. It seemed that things had not been going on well in the larger
room. The rector had stuck to his review, taking no notice of Sir Hugh
when he entered. "You seem to be very fond of your book, all of a
sudden," Sir Hugh had said, after standing silent on the rug for a few
minutes.

"Yes, I am," said the rector--"just at present."

"It's quite new with you, then," said Sir Hugh, "or else you're very
much belied."

"Hugh," said Mr. Clavering, rising slowly from his chair, "I don't often
come into my father's house, but when I do, I wish to be treated with
respect. You are the only person in this parish that ever omits to do
so."

"Bosh!" said Sir Hugh.

The two girls sat cowering in their seats, and poor Florence must have
begun to entertain an uncomfortable idea of her future connections.
Archie made a frantic attempt to raise some conversation with Mrs.
Clavering about the weather. Mrs. Clavering, paying no attention to
Archie whatever, looked at her husband with beseeching eyes. "Henry,"
she said, "do not allow yourself to be angry; pray do not. What is the
use?"

"None on earth," he said, returning to his book. "No use on earth; and
worse than none in showing it."

Then it was that Sir Hugh had made a diversion by calling to his wife.
"I wish you'd stay with us, and not go off alone with one person in
particular, in that way." Lady Clavering looked round and immediately
saw that things were unpleasant. "Archie," she said, "will you ring for
tea?" And Archie did ring. The tea was brought, and a cup was taken all
round, almost in silence.

Harry in the meantime remained by himself, thinking of what he had heard
from Lady Clavering. Archie Clavering marry Lady Ongar--marry his Julia!
It was impossible. He could not bring himself even to think of such an
arrangement with equanimity. He was almost frantic with anger as he
thought of this proposition to restore Lady Ongar to the position in the
world's repute which she had a right to claim by such a marriage as
that. "She would indeed be disgraced then," said Harry to himself. But
he knew that it was impossible. He could see what would be the nature of
Julia's countenance if Archie should ever get near enough to her to make
his proposal! Archie indeed! There was no one for whom, at that moment,
he entertained so thorough a contempt as he did for his cousin, Archie
Clavering.

Let us hope that he was no dog in the manger; that the feelings which he
now entertained for poor Archie would not have been roused against any
other possible suitor who might have been named as a fitting husband for
Lady Ongar. Lady Ongar could be nothing to him.

But I fear that he was a dog in the manger, and that any marriage
contemplated for Lady Ongar, either by herself or by others for her,
would have been distasteful to him--unnaturally distasteful. He knew
that Lady Ongar could be nothing to him; and yet, as he came out of the
small room into the larger room, there was something sore about his
heart, and the soreness was occasioned by the thought that any second
marriage should be thought possible for Lady Ongar. Florence smiled on
him as he went up to her, but I doubt whether she would have smiled had
she known all his heart.

Soon after that Mrs. Clavering rose to return home, having swallowed a
peace-offering in the shape of a cup of tea. But though the tea had
quieted the storm then on the waters, there was no true peace in the
rector's breast. He shook hands cordially with Lady Clavering, without
animosity with Archie, and then held out three fingers to the baronet.
The baronet held out one finger. Each nodded at the other, and so they
parted. Harry, who knew nothing of what had happened, and who was still
thinking of Lady Ongar, busied himself with Florence, and they were soon
out of the house, walking down the broad road from the front door.

"I will never enter that house again, when I know that Hugh Clavering is
in it," said the rector.

"Don't make rash assertions, Henry," said his wife.

"I hope it is not rash, but I make that assertion," he said. "I will
never again enter that house as my nephew's guest. I have borne a great
deal for the sake of peace, but there are things which a man cannot
bear."

Then, as they walked home, the two girls explained to Harry what had
occurred in the larger room, while he was talking to Lady Clavering in
the smaller one. But he said nothing to them of the subject of that
conversation.



Chapter XII

Lady Ongar Takes Possession



I do not know that there is in England a more complete gentleman's
residence than Ongar Park, nor could there be one in better repair, or
more fit for immediate habitation than was that house when it came into
the hands of the young widow. The park was not large, containing about
sixty or seventy acres. But there was a home-farm attached to the place,
which also now belonged to Lady Ongar for her life, and which gave to
the park itself an appearance of extent which it would otherwise have
wanted. The house, regarded as a nobleman's mansion, was moderate in
size, but it was ample for the requirements of any ordinarily wealthy
family. The dining-room, library, drawing-rooms, and breakfast-room,
were all large and well-arranged. The hall was handsome and spacious,
and the bed-rooms were sufficiently numerous to make an auctioneer's
mouth water. But the great charm of Ongar Park lay in the grounds
immediately round the house, which sloped down from the terrace before
the windows to a fast-running stream which was almost hidden--but was
not hidden--by the shrubs on its bank. Though the domain itself was
small, the shrubberies and walks were extensive. It was a place costly
to maintain in its present perfect condition, but when that was said
against it, all was said against it which its bitterest enemies could
allege.

But Lady Ongar, with her large jointure, and with no external expenses
whatever, could afford this delight without imprudence. Everything in
and about the place was her own, and she might live there happily, even
in the face of the world's frowns, if she could teach herself to find
happiness in rural luxuries. On her immediate return to England, her
lawyer had told her that he found there would be opposition to her
claim, and that an attempt would be made to keep the house out of her
hands. Lord Ongar's people would, he said, bribe her to submit to this
by immediate acquiescence, as to her income. But she had declared that
she would not submit--that she would have house and income and all; and
she had been successful. "Why should I surrender what is my own?" she
said, looking the lawyer full in the face. The lawyer had not dared to
tell her that her opponents--Lord Ongar's heirs--had calculated on her
anxiety to avoid exposure; but she knew that that was meant. "I have
nothing to fear from them," she said, "and mean to claim what is my own
by my settlement." There had, in truth, been no ground for disputing her
right, and the place was given up before she had been three months in
England. She at once went down and took possession, and there she was,
alone, when her sister was communicating to Harry Clavering her plan
about Captain Archie.

She had never seen the place till she reached it on this occasion; nor
had she ever seen, nor would she now probably ever see, Lord Ongar's
larger house, Courton Castle. She had gone abroad with him immediately
on their marriage, and now she had returned a widow to take possession
of his house. There she was, in possession of it all. The furniture in
the rooms, the books in the cases, the gilded clocks and grand mirrors
about the house, all the implements of wealthy care about the gardens,
the corn in the granaries and the ricks in the hay-yard, the horses in
the stable, and the cows lowing in the fields--they were all hers. She
had performed her part of the bargain, and now the price was paid to her
into her hands. When she arrived she did not know what was the extent of
her riches in this world's goods; nor, in truth, had she at once the
courage to ask questions on the subject. She saw cows, and was told of
horses; and words came to her gradually of sheep and oxen, of poultry,
pigs, and growing calves. It was as though a new world had opened itself
before her eyes, full of interest; and as though all that world were her
own. She looked at it, and knew that it was the price of her bargain.
Upon the whole, she had been very lucky. She had, indeed, passed through
a sharp agony--an agony sharp almost to death; but the agony had been
short, and the price was in her hand.

A close carriage had met her at the station, and taken her with her maid
to the house. She had so arranged that she had reached the station after
dark, and even then had felt that the eyes of many were upon her as she
went out to her carriage, with her face covered by a veil. She was all
alone, and there would be no one at the house to whom she could speak;
but the knowledge that the carriage was her own perhaps consoled her.
The housekeeper who received her was a stout, elderly, comfortable body,
to whom she could perhaps say a few words beyond those which might be
spoken to an ordinary servant; but she fancied at once that the
housekeeper was cold to her, and solemn in her demeanor.

"I hope you have good fires, Mrs. Button."

"Yes, my lady."

"I think I will have some tea; I don't want anything else to-night."

"Very well, my lady."

Mrs. Button, maintaining a solemn countenance, would not go beyond this;
and yet Mrs. Button looked like a woman who could have enjoyed a gossip,
had the lady been a lady to her mind. Perhaps Mrs. Button did not like
serving a lady as to whom such sad stories were told. Lady Ongar, as she
thought of this, drew herself up unconsciously, and sent Mrs. Button
away from her.

The next morning, after an early breakfast, Lady Ongar went out. She was
determined that she would work hard; that she would understand the farm;
that she would know the laborers; that she would assist the poor; that
she would have a school; and, above all, that she would make all the
privileges of ownership her own. Was not the price in her hand, and
would she not use it? She felt that it was very good that something of
the price had come to her thus in the shape of land, and beeves, and
wide, heavy outside garniture. From them she would pluck an interest
which mere money could not have given her. She was out early, therefore,
that she might look round upon the things that were her own.

And there came upon her a feeling that she would not empty this sweet
cup at one draught, that she would daily somewhat with the rich banquet
that was spread for her. She had many griefs to overcome, much sorrow to
conquer, perhaps a long period of desolation to assuage, and she would
not be prodigal of her resources. As she looked around her while she
walked, almost furtively, lest some gardener as he spied her might guess
her thoughts and tell how my lady was revelling in her pride of
possession--it appeared to her that those novelties in which she was to
find her new interest were without end. There was not a tree there, not
a shrub, not a turn in the walks, which should not become her friend.
She did not go far from the house, not even down to the water. She was
husbanding her resources. But yet she lost herself amidst the paths, and
tried to find a joy in feeling that she had done so. It was all her own.
It was the price of what she had done: and the price was even now being
paid into her hand--paid with current coin and of full weight.

As she sat down alone to her breakfast, she declared to herself that
this should be enough for her--that it should satisfy her. She had made
her bargain with her eyes open, and would not now ask for things which
had not been stipulated in the contract. She was alone, and all the
world was turning its back on her. The relatives of her late husband
would, as a matter of course, be her enemies. Them she had never seen,
and that they should speak evil of her seemed to be only natural. But
her own relatives were removed from her by a gulf nearly equally wide.
Of Brabazon cousins she had none nearer than the third or fourth degree
of cousinship, and of them she had never taken heed, and expected no
heed from them. Her set of friends would naturally have been the same as
her sister's, and would have been made up of those she had known when
she was one of Sir Hugh's family. But from Sir Hugh she was divided now
as widely as from the Ongar people, and, for any purposes of society,
from her sister also. Sir Hugh had allowed his wife to invite her to
Clavering, but to this she would not submit after Sir Hugh's treatment
to her on her return. Though she had suffered much, her spirit was
unbroken. Sir Hugh was, in truth, responsible for her reception in
England. Had he come forward like a brother, all might have been well.
But it was too late now for Sir Hugh Clavering to remedy the evil he had
done, and he should be made to understand that Lady Ongar would not
become a suppliant to him for mercy. She was striving to think how "rich
she was in horses, how rich in broidered garments, and in gold," as she
sat solitary over her breakfast; but her mind would run off to other
things, cumbering itself with unnecessary miseries and useless
indignation. Had she not her price in her hand?

Would she see the steward that morning? No, not that morning. Things
outside could go on for a while in their course as heretofore. She
feared to seem to take possession with pride, and then there was that
conviction that it would be well to husband her resources. So she sent
for Mrs. Button, and asked Mrs. Button to walk through the rooms with
her. Mrs. Button came, but again declined to accept her lady's
condescension. Every spot about the house, every room, closet and
wardrobe, she was ready to open with zeal; the furniture she was
prepared to describe, if Lady Ongar would listen to her; but every word
was spoken in a solemn voice, very far removed from gossipping. Only
once was Mrs. Button moved to betray any emotion. "That, my lady, was my
lord's mother's room, after my lord died--my lord's father that was; may
God bless her." Then Lady Ongar reflected that from her husband she had
never heard a word either of his father or his mother. She wished that
she could seat herself with that woman in some small upstairs room, and
then ask question after question about the family. But she did not dare
to make the attempt. She could not bring herself to explain to Mrs.
Button that she had never known anything of the belongings of her own
husband.

When she had seen the upper part of the house, Mrs. Button offered to
convoy her through the kitchens and servants' apartments, but she
declined this for the present. She had done enough for the day. So she
dismissed Mrs. Button, and took herself to the library. How often had
she heard that books afforded the surest consolation to the desolate.
She would take to reading; not on this special day, but as the resource
for many days and months, and years to come. But this idea had faded and
become faint, before she had left the gloomy, damp-feeling, chill room,
in which some former Lord Ongar had stored the musty Volumes which he
had thought fit to purchase. The library gave her no ease, so she went
out again among the lawns and shrubs. For some time to come her best
resources must be those which she could find outside the house.

Peering about, she made her way behind the stables, which were attached
to the house, to a farm-yard gate, through which the way led to the
headquarters of the live stock. She did not go through, but she looked
over the gate, telling herself that those barns and sheds, that wealth
of straw-yard, those sleeping pigs and idle, dreaming calves, were all
her own. As she did so, her eye fell upon an old laborer, who was
sitting close to her, on a felled tree, under the shelter of a paling,
eating his dinner. A little girl, some six years old, who had brought
him his meal tied up in a handkerchief, was crouching near his feet.
They had both seen her before she had seen them, and when she noticed
them, were staring at her with all their eyes. She and they were on the
same side of the farmyard paling, and so she could reach them and speak
to them without difficulty. There was, apparently, no other person near
enough to listen, and it occurred to her that she might at any rate make
a friend of this old man. His name, he said, was Enoch Gubby, and the
girl was his grandchild. Her name was Patty Gubby. Then Patty got up and
had her head patted by her ladyship and received sixpence. They neither
of them, however, knew who her ladyship was, and, as far as Lady Ongar
could ascertain without a question too direct to be asked, had never
heard of her. Enoch Gubby said he worked for Mr. Giles, the
steward--that was for my lord, and as he was old and stiff with
rheumatism he only got eight shillings a week. He had a daughter, the
mother of Patty, who worked in the fields, and got six shillings a week.
Everything about the poor Gubbys seemed to be very wretched and
miserable. Sometimes he could hardly drag himself about, he was so bad
with the rheumatics. Then she thought that she would make one person
happy, and told him that his wages should be raised to ten shillings a
week. No matter whether he earned it or not, or what Mr. Giles might
say; he should have ten shillings a week.

So Enoch Gabby got his weekly ten shillings, though Lady Ongar hardly
realized the pleasure that she had expected from the transaction. She
sent that afternoon for Mr. Giles, the steward, and told him what she
had done. Mr. Giles did not at all approve, and spoke his disapproval
very plainly, though he garnished his rebuke with a great many "my
lady's." The old man was a hanger-on about the place, and for years had
received eight shillings a week, which he had not half earned. "Now he
will have ten, that is all," said Lady Ongar. Mr. Giles acknowledged
that if her ladyship pleased, Enoch Gubby must have the ten shillings,
but declared that the business could not be carried on in that way.
Everybody about the place would expect an addition, and those people who
did earn what they received, would think themselves cruelly used in
being worse treated than Enoch Gubby, who, according to Mr. Giles, was
by no means the most worthy old man in the parish. And as for his
daughter--oh! Mr. Giles could not trust himself to talk about the
daughter to her ladyship. Before he left her, Lady Ongar was convinced
that she had made a mistake. Not even from charity will pleasure come,
if charity be taken up simply to appease remorse.

The price was in her hand. For a fortnight the idea clung to her, that
gradually she would realize the joys of possession; but there was no
moment in which she could tell herself that the joy was hers. She was
now mistress of the geography of the place. There was no more losing
herself amidst the shrubberies, no thought of economizing her resources.
Of Mr. Giles and his doings she still knew very little, but the desire
of knowing much had faded. The ownership of the haystacks had become a
thing tame to her, and the great cart-horses, as to every one of which
she had intended to feel an interest, were matters of indifference to
her. She observed that since her arrival a new name in new paint--her
own name--was attached to the carts, and that the letters were big and
glaring. She wished that this had not been done, or, at any rate, that
the letters had been smaller. Then she began to think that it might be
well for her to let the farm to a tenant; not that she might thus get
more money, but because she felt that the farm would be a trouble. The
apples had indeed quickly turned to ashes between her teeth!

On the first Sunday that she was at Ongar Park she went to the parish
church. She had resolved strongly that she would do this, and she did
it; but when the moment for starting came, her courage almost failed
her. The church was but a few yards from her own gate, and she walked
there without any attendant. She had, however, sent word to the sexton
to say that she would be there, and the old man was ready to show her
into the family pew. She wore a thick veil, and was dressed, of course,
in all the deep ceremonious woe of widowhood. As she walked up the
centre of the church she thought of her dress, and told herself that all
there would know how it had been between her and her husband. She was
pretending to mourn for the man to whom she had sold herself; for the
man who through happy chance had died so quickly, leaving her with the
price in her hand! All of course knew that, and all thought that they
knew, moreover, that she had been foully false to her bargain, and had
not earned the price! That, also, she told herself. But she went through
it, and walked out of the church among the village crowd with her head
on high.

Three days afterward, she wrote to the clergyman, asking him to call on
her. She had come, she said, to live in the parish, and hoped to be
able, with his assistance, to be of some use among the people. She would
hardly know how to act without some counsel from him. The schools might
be all that was excellent, but if there was anything required she hoped
he would tell her. On the following morning the clergyman called, and,
with many thanks for her generosity, listened to her plans, and accepted
her subsidies. But he was a married man, and he said nothing of his
wife, nor during the next week did his wife come to call on her. She was
to be left desolate by all, because men had told lies of her!

She had the price in her hands, but she felt herself tempted to do as
Judas did--to go out and hang herself.



Chapter XIII

A Visitor Calls At Ongar Park



It will be remembered that Harry Clavering, on returning one evening to
his lodgings in Bloomsbury Square, had been much astonished at finding
there the card of Count Pateroff, a man of whom he had only heard, up to
that moment, as the friend of the late Lord Ongar. At first he had been
very angry with Lady Ongar, thinking that she and this count were in
some league together, some league of which he would greatly disapprove;
but his anger had given place to a new interest when he learned direct
from herself that she had not seen the count, and that she was simply
anxious that he, as her friend, should have an interview with the man.
He had then become very eager in the matter, offering to subject himself
to any amount of inconvenience so that he might effect that which Lady
Ongar asked of him. He was not, however, called upon to endure any
special trouble or expense, as he heard nothing more from Count Pateroff
till he had been back in London for two or three weeks.

Lady Ongar's statement to him had been quite true. It had been even more
than true; for when she had written she had not even heard directly from
the count. She had learned by letter from another person that Count
Pateroff was in London, and had then communicated the fact to her
friend. This other person was a sister of the count's, who was now
living in London, one Madame Gordeloup--Sophie Gordeloup--a lady whom
Harry had found sitting in Lady Ongar's room when last he had seen her
in Bolton Street. He had not then heard her name; nor was he aware then,
or for some time subsequently, that Count Pateroff had any relative in
London.

Lady Ongar had been a fortnight in the country before she received
Madame Gordeloup's letter. In that letter the sister had declared
herself to be most anxious that her brother should see Lady Ongar. The
letter had been in French, and had been very eloquent--more eloquent in
its cause than any letter with the same object could have been if
written by an Englishwoman in English; and the eloquence was less
offensive than it might, under all concurrent circumstances, have been
had it reached Lady Ongar in English. The reader must not, however,
suppose that the letter contained a word that was intended to support a
lover's suit. It was very far indeed from that, and spoke of the count
simply as a friend; but its eloquence went to show that nothing that had
passed should be construed by Lady Ongar as offering any bar to a fair
friendship. What the world said!--Bah! Did not she know--she,
Sophie--and did not her friend know--her friend Julie--that the world
was a great liar? Was it not even now telling wicked venomous lies about
her friend Julie? Why mind what the world said, seeing that the world
could not be brought to speak one word of truth? The world indeed! Bah!

But Lady Ongar, though she was not as yet more than half as old as
Madame Gordeloup, knew what she was about almost as well as that lady
knew what Sophie Gordeloup was doing. Lady Ongar had known the count's
sister in France and Italy, having seen much of her in one of those
sudden intimacies to which English people are subject when abroad; and
she had been glad to see Madame Gordeloup in London--much more glad than
she would have been had she been received there on her return by a crowd
of loving native friends. But not on that account was she prepared to
shape her conduct in accordance with her friend Sophie's advice, and
especially not so when that advice had reference to Sophie's brother.
She had, therefore, said very little in return to the lady's eloquence,
answering the letter on that matter very vaguely; but, having a purpose
of her own, had begged that Count Pateroff might be asked to call upon
Harry Clavering. Count Pateroff did not feel himself to care very much
about Harry Clavering, but wishing to do as he was bidden, did leave his
card in Bloomsbury Square.

And why was Lady Ongar anxious that the young man who was her friend
should see the man who had been her husband's friend, and whose name had
been mixed with her own in so grievous a manner? She had called Harry
her friend, and it might be that she desired to give this friend every
possible means of testing the truth of that story which she herself had
told. The reader, perhaps, will hardly have believed in Lady Ongar's
friendship; will, perhaps, have believed neither the friendship nor the
story. If so, the reader will have done her wrong, and will not have
read her character aright. The woman was not heartless because she had
once, in one great epoch of her life, betrayed her own heart; nor was
she altogether false because she had once lied; nor altogether vile,
because she had once taught herself that, for such an one as her, riches
were a necessity. It might be that the punishment of her sin could meet
with no remission in this world, but not on that account should it be
presumed that there was no place for repentance left to her.

As she walked alone through the shrubberies at Ongar Park she thought
much of those other paths at Clavering, and of the walks in which
she had not been alone; and she thought of that interview in the
garden when she had explained to Harry--as she had then thought so
successfully--that they two, each being poor, were not fit to love and
marry each other. She had brooded over all that, too, during the long
hours of her sad journey home to England. She was thinking of it still
when she had met him, and had been so cold to him on the platform of the
railway station, when she had sent him away angry because she had seemed
to slight him. She had thought of it as she had sat in her London room,
telling him the terrible tale of her married life, while her eyes were
fixed on his and her head was resting on her hands. Even then, at that
moment, she was asking herself whether he believed her story, or
whether, within his breast, he was saying that she was vile and false.
She knew that she had been false to him, and that he must have despised
her when, with her easy philosophy, she had made the best of her own
mercenary perfidy. He had called her a jilt to her face, and she had
been able to receive the accusation with a smile. Would he now call her
something worse, and in a louder voice, within his own bosom? And if she
could convince him that to that accusation she was not fairly subject,
might the old thing come back again? Would he walk with her again, and
look into her eyes as though he only wanted her commands to show himself
ready to be her slave? She was a widow, and had seen many things, but
even now she had not reached her six-and-twentieth year.

The apples at her rich country-seat had quickly become ashes between her
teeth, but something of the juice of the fruit might yet reach her
palate if he would come and sit with her at the table. As she complained
to herself of the coldness of the world, she thought that she would not
care how cold might be all the world if there might be but one whom she
could love, and who would love her. And him she had loved. To him, in
old days--in days which now seemed to her to be very old--she had made
confession of her love. Old as were those days, it could not be but he
should still remember them. She had loved him, and him only. To none
other had she ever pretended love. From none other had love been offered
to her. Between her and that wretched being to whom she had sold
herself, who had been half dead before she had seen him, there had been
no pretence of love. But Harry Clavering she had loved. Harry Clavering
was a man, with all those qualities which she valued, and also with
those foibles which saved him from being too perfect for so slight a
creature as herself. Harry had been offended to the quick, and had
called her a jilt; but yet it might be possible that he would return to
her.

It should not be supposed that since her return to England she had had
one settled, definite object before her eyes with regard to this renewal
of her love. There had been times in which she had thought that she
would go on with the life which she had prepared for herself, and that
she would make herself contented, if not happy, with the price which had
been paid to her. And there were other times, in which her spirits sank
low within her, and she told herself that no contentment was longer
possible to her. She looked at herself in the glass, and found herself
to be old and haggard. Harry, she said, was the last man in the world to
sell himself for wealth, when there was no love remaining. Harry would
never do as she had done with herself! Not for all the wealth that woman
ever inherited--so she told herself--would he link himself to one who
had made herself vile and tainted among women! In this, I think, she did
him no more than justice, though it maybe that in some other matters she
rated his character too highly. Of Florence Burton she had as yet heard
nothing, though had she heard of her, it may well be that she would not
on that account have desisted. Such being her thoughts and her hopes,
she had written to Harry, begging him to see this man who had followed
her--she knew not why--from Italy; and had told the sister simply that
she could not do as she was asked, because she was away from London,
alone in a country house.

And quite alone she was sitting one morning, counting up her misery,
feeling that the apples were, in truth, ashes, when a servant came to
her, telling her that there was a gentleman in the hall desirous of
seeing her. The man had the visitor's card in his hand, but before she
could read the name, the blood had mounted into her face as she told
herself that it was Harry Clavering. There was joy for a moment at her
heart; but she must not show it--not as yet. She had been but four
months a widow, and he should not have come to her in the country. She
must see him and in some way make him understand this--but she would be
very gentle with him. Then her eye fell upon the card, and she saw, with
grievous disappointment, that it bore the name of Count Pateroff. No;
she was not going to be caught in that way. Let the result be what it
might, she would not let Sophie Gordeloup, or Sophie's brother, get the
better of her by such a ruse as that! "Tell the gentleman, with my
compliments," she said, as she handed back the card, "that I regret it
greatly, but I can see no one now." Then the servant went away, and she
sat wondering whether the count would be able to make his way into her
presence. She felt rather than knew that she had some reason to fear
him. All that had been told of him and of her had been false. No
accusation brought against her had contained one spark of truth. But
there had been things between Lord Ongar and this man which she would
not care to have told openly in England. And though, in his conduct to
her, he had been customarily courteous, and on one occasion had been
generous, still she feared him. She would much rather that he should
have remained in Italy. And though, when all alone in Bolton Street, she
had in her desolation welcomed his sister Sophie, she would have
preferred that Sophie should not have come to her, claiming to renew
their friendship. But with the count she would hold no communion now,
even though he should find his way into the room.

A few minutes passed before the servant returned, and then he brought a
note with him. As the door opened Lady Ongar rose, ready to leave the
room by another passage; but she took the note and read it. It was as
follows: "I cannot understand why you should refuse to see me, and I
feel aggrieved. My present purpose is to say a few words to you on
private matters connected with papers that belonged to Lord Ongar. I
still hope that you will admit me--P." Having read these words while
standing, she made an effort to think what might be the best course for
her to follow. As for Lord Ongar's papers, she did not believe in the
plea. Lord Ongar could have had no papers interesting to her in such a
manner as to make her desirous of seeing this man or of hearing of them
in private. Lord Ongar, though she had nursed him to the hour of his
death, earning her price, had been her bitterest enemy; and though there
had been something about this count that she had respected, she had
known him to be a man of intrigue and afraid of no falsehoods in his
intrigues--a dangerous man, who might perhaps now and again do a
generous thing, but one who would expect payment for his generosity.
Besides, had he not been named openly as her lover? She wrote to him,
therefore, as follows: "Lady Ongar presents her compliments to Count
Pateroff and finds it to be out of her power to see him at present."
This answer the visitor took and walked away from the front door without
showing any disgust to the servant, either by his demeanor or in his
countenance. On that evening she received from him a long letter,
written at the neighboring inn, expostulating with her as to her conduct
toward him, and saying in the last line, that it was "impossible now
that they should be strangers to each other." "Impossible that we should
be strangers," she said almost out aloud. "Why impossible? I know no
such impossibility." After that she carefully burned both the letter and
the note.

She remained at Ongar Park something over six weeks, and then, about the
beginning of May, she went back to London. No one had been to see her,
except Mr. Sturm, the clergyman of the parish; and he, though something
almost approaching to an intimacy had sprung up between them, had never
yet spoken to her of his wife. She was not quite sure whether her rank
might not deter him--whether under such circumstances as those now in
question, the ordinary social rules were not ordinarily broken--whether
a countess should not call on a clergyman's wife first, although the
countess might be the stranger; but she did not dare to do as she would
have done, had no blight attached itself to her name. She gave,
therefore, no hint; she said no word of Mrs. Sturm, though her heart was
longing for a kind word from some woman's mouth. But she allowed herself
to feel no anger against the husband, and went through her parish work,
thanking him for his assistance.

Of Mr. Giles she had seen very little, and since her misfortune with
Enoch Gubby, she had made no further attempt to interfere with the wages
of the persons employed. Into the houses of some of the poor she had
made her way, but she fancied that they were not glad to see her. They
might, perhaps, have all heard of her reputation, and Gubby's daughter
may have congratulated herself that there was another in the parish as
bad as herself, or perhaps, happily, worse. The owner of all the wealth
around strove to make Mrs. Button become a messenger of charity between
herself and some of the poor; but Mrs. Button altogether declined the
employment, although, as her mistress had ascertained, she herself
performed her own little missions of charity with zeal. Before the
fortnight was over, Lady Ongar was sick of her house and her park,
utterly disregardful of her horses and oxen, and unmindful even of the
pleasant stream which in these Spring days rippled softly at the bottom
of her gardens.

She had undertaken to be back in London early in May, by appointment
with her lawyer, and had unfortunately communicated the fact to Madame
Gordeloup. Four or five days before she was due in Bolton Street, her
mindful Sophie, with unerring memory, wrote to her, declaring her
readiness to do all and anything that the most diligent friendship could
prompt. Should she meet her dear Julie at the station in London? Should
she bring any special carriage? Should she order any special dinner in
Bolton Street? She herself would of course come to Bolton Street, if not
allowed to be present at the station. It was still chilly in the
evenings, and she would have fires lit. Might she suggest a roast fowl
and some bread sauce, and perhaps a sweetbread--and just one glass of
champagne? And might she share the banquet? There was not a word in the
note about the too obtrusive brother, either as to the offence committed
by him, or the offence felt by him.

The little Franco-Polish woman was there in Bolton Street, of
course--for Lady Ongar had not dared to refuse her. A little, dry,
bright woman she was, with quick eyes, and thin lips, and small nose,
and mean forehead, and scanty hair drawn back quite tightly from her
face and head; very dry, but still almost pretty with her quickness and
her brightness. She was fifty, was Sophie Gordeloup, but she had so
managed her years that she was as active on her limbs as most women are
at twenty-five. And the chicken and the bread sauce, and the sweetbread,
and the champagne were there, all very good of their kind; for Sophie
Gordeloup liked such things to be good, and knew how to indulge her own
appetite, and to coax that, of another person.

Some little satisfaction Lady Ongar received from the fact that she was
not alone; but the satisfaction was not satisfactory. When Sophie had
left her at ten o'clock, running off by herself to her lodgings in Mount
Street, Lady Ongar, after but one moment's thought, sat down and wrote,
a note to Harry Clavering.

    "DEAR HARRY--I am back in town. Pray come and see me to-morrow
    evening.

    "Yours ever,

    "J. O."



Chapter XIV

Count Pateroff



After an interval of some weeks, during which Harry had been down at
Clavering and had returned again to his work at the Adelphi, Count
Pateroff called again in Bloomsbury Square; but Harry was at Mr.
Beilby's office. Harry at once returned the count's visit at the address
given in Mount Street. Madame was at home, said the servant-girl, from
which Harry was led to suppose that the count was a married man; but
Harry felt that he had no right to intrude upon madame, so he simply
left his card. Wishing, however, really to have this interview, and
having been lately elected at a club of which he was rather proud, he
wrote to the count asking him to dine with him at the Beaufort. He
explained that there was a stranger's room--which Pateroff knew very
well, having often dined at the Beaufort--and said something as to a
private little dinner for two, thereby apologizing for proposing to the
count to dine without other guests. Pateroff accepted the invitation,
and Harry, never having done such a thing before, ordered his dinner
with much nervousness.

The count was punctual, and the two men introduced themselves. Harry had
expected to see a handsome foreigner, with black hair, polished
whiskers, and probably a hook nose--forty years of age or thereabouts,
but so got up as to look not much more than thirty. But his guest was by
no means a man of that stamp. Excepting that the count's age was
altogether uncertain, no correctness of guess on that matter being
possible by means of his appearance, Harry's preconceived notion was
wrong in every point. He was a fair man, with a broad fair face, and
very light blue eyes; his forehead was low, but broad; he wore no
whiskers, but bore on his lip a heavy moustache which was not gray, but
perfectly white--white it was with years, of course, but yet it gave no
sign of age to his face. He was well made, active, and somewhat broad in
the shoulders, though rather below the middle height. But for a certain
ease of manner which he possessed, accompanied by something of
restlessness in his eye, any one would have taken him for an Englishman.
And his speech hardly betrayed that he was not English. Harry, knowing
that he was a foreigner, noticed now and again some little acquired
distinctness of speech which is hardly natural to a native; but
otherwise there was nothing in his tongue to betray him.

"I am sorry that you should have had so much trouble," he said, shaking
hands with Harry. Clavering declared that he had incurred no trouble,
and declared also that he would be only too happy to have taken any
trouble in obeying a behest from his friend Lady Ongar. Had he been a
Pole as was the count, he would not have forgotten to add that he would
have been equally willing to exert himself with the view of making the
count's acquaintance; but being simply a young Englishman, he was much
too awkward for any such courtesy as that. The count observed the
omission, smiled, and bowed. Then he spoke of the weather, and said that
London was a magnificent city. Oh, yes, he knew London well; had known
it these twenty years; had been for fifteen years a member of the
Travellers'; he liked everything English, except hunting. English
hunting he had found to be dull work. But he liked shooting for an hour
or two. He could not rival, he said, the intense energy of an
Englishman, who would work all day with his gun harder than ploughmen
with their ploughs. Englishmen sported, he said, as though more than
their bread--as though their honor, their wives, their souls, depended
on it. It was very fine! He often wished that he was an Englishman. Then
he shrugged his shoulders.

Harry was very anxious to commence a conversation about Lady Ongar, but
he did not know how at first to introduce her name. Count Pateroff had
come to him at Lady Ongar's request, and therefore, as he thought, the
count should have been the first to mention her. But the count seemed to
be enjoying his dinner without any thought either of Lady Ongar or of
her late husband. At this time he had been down to Ongar Park, on that
mission which had been, as we know, futile; but he said no word of that
to Harry. He seemed to enjoy his dinner thoroughly, and made himself
very agreeable. When the wine was discussed he told Harry that a certain
vintage of Moselle was very famous at the Beaufort. Harry ordered the
wine of course, and was delighted to give his guest the best of
everything; but he was a little annoyed at finding that the stranger
knew his club better than he knew it himself. Slowly the count ate his
dinner, enjoying every morsel that he took with that thoughtful,
conscious pleasure which young men never attain in eating and drinking,
and which men as they grow older so often forget to acquire. But the
count never forgot any of his own capacities for pleasure, and in all
things made the most of his own resources. To be rich is not to have one
or ten thousand a year, but to be able to get out of that one or ten
thousand all that every pound, and every shilling, and every penny will
give you. After this fashion the count was a rich man.

"You don't sit after dinner here, I suppose," said the count, when he
had completed an elaborate washing of his mouth and moustache. "I like
this club because we who are strangers have so charming a room for our
smoking. It is the best club in London for men who do not belong to it."

It occurred to Harry that in the smoking-room there could be no privacy.
Three or four men had already spoken to the count, showing that he was
well known, giving notice, as it were, that Pateroff would become a
public man when once he was placed in a public circle. To have given a
dinner to the count, and to have spoken no word to him about Lady Ongar,
would be by no means satisfactory to Harry's feelings, though, as it
appeared, it might be sufficiently satisfactory to the guest. Harry
therefore suggested one bottle of claret. The count agreed, expressing
an opinion that the 51 Lafitte was unexceptional. The 51 Lafitte was
ordered, and Harry, as he filled his glass, considered the way in which
his subject should be introduced.

"You knew Lord Ongar, I think, abroad?"

"Lord Ongar--abroad! Oh, yes, very well; and for many years here in
London; and at Vienna; and very early in life at St. Petersburg. I knew
Lord Ongar first in Russia, when he was attached to the embassy as
Frederic Courton. His father, Lord Courton, was then alive, as was also
his grandfather. He was a nice, good-looking lad then."

"As regards his being nice, he seems to have changed a good deal before
he died." This the count noticed by simply shrugging his shoulders and
smiling as he sipped his wine. "By all that I can hear, he became a
horrid brute when he married," said Harry, energetically.

"He was not pleasant when he was ill at Florence," said the count.

"She must have had a terrible time with him," said Harry.

The count put up his hands, again shrugged his shoulders, and then shook
his head. "She knew he was no longer an Adonis when he married her."

"An Adonis! No; she did not expect an Adonis; but she thought he would
have something of the honor and feelings of a man."

"She found it uncomfortable, no doubt. He did too much of this, you
know," said the count, raising his glass to his lips; "and he didn't do
it with 51 Lafitte. That was Ongar's fault. All the world knew it for
the last ten years. No one knew it better than Hugh Clavering."

"But--" said Harry, and then he stopped. He hardly knew what it was that
he wished to learn from the man, though he certainly did wish to learn
something. He had thought that the count would himself have talked about
Lady Ongar and those Florentine days, but this he did not seem disposed
to do. "Shall we have our cigars now?" said Count Pateroff.

"One moment, if you don't mind."

"Certainly, certainly. There is no hurry."

"You will take no more wine?"

"No more wine. I take my wine at dinner, as you saw."

"I want to ask you one special question--about Lady Ongar."

"I will say anything in her favor that you please. I am always ready to
say anything in the favor of any lady, and, if needs be, to swear it. Bu
anything against any lady nobody ever heard me say."

Harry was sharp enough to perceive that any assertion made under such a
stipulation was worse than nothing. It was as when a man, in denying the
truth of a statement, does so with an assurance that on that subject he
should consider himself justified in telling any number of lies. "I did
not write the book--but you have no right to ask the question; and I
should say that I had not, even if I had." Pateroff was speaking of Lady
Ongar in this way, and Harry hated him for doing so.

"I don't want you to say any good of her," said he, "or any evil."

"I certainly shall say no evil of her."

"But I think you know that she has been most cruelly treated."

"Well, there is about seven-thousand-pounds a year, I think!
Seven-thousand a year! Not francs, but pounds! We poor foreigners lose
ourselves in amazement when we hear about your English fortunes.
Seven-thousand pounds a year for a lady all alone, and a beautiful
house! A house so beautiful, they tell me!"

"What has that to do with it?" said Harry; whereupon the count again
shrugged his shoulders. "What has that to do with it? Because the man
was rich he was not justified in ill-treating his wife. Did he not bring
false accusations against her, in order that he might rob her after his
death of all that of which you think so much? Did he not hear false
witness against her, to his own dishonor?"

"She has got the money, I think--and the beautiful house."

"But her name has been covered with lies."

"What can I do? Why do you ask me? I know nothing. Look here, Mr.
Clavering, if you want to make any inquiry you had better go to my
sister. I don't see what good it will do, but she will talk to you by
the hour together, if you wish it. Let us smoke."

"Your sister?"

"Yes, my sister. Madame Gordeloup is her name. Has not Lady Ongar
mentioned my sister? They are inseparables. My sister lives in Mount
Street."

"With you?"

"No, not with me; I do not live in Mount Street. I have my address
sometimes at her house."

"Madame Gordeloup?"

"Yes, Madame Gordeloup. She is Lady Ongar's friend. She will talk to
you."

"Will you introduce me, Count Pateroff?"

"Oh, no; it is not necessary. You can go to Mount Street, and she will
be delighted. There is the card. And now we will smoke."

Harry felt that he could not, with good-breeding, detain the count any
longer, and, therefore, rising from his chair, led the way into the
smoking-room. When there, the man of the world separated himself from
his young friend, of whose enthusiasm he had perhaps had enough, and was
soon engaged in conversation with sundry other men of his own standing.
Harry soon perceived that his guest had no further need of his
countenance, and went home to Bloomsbury Square by no means satisfied
with his new acquaintance.

On the next day he dined in Onslow Crescent with the Burtons, and when
there he said nothing about Lady Ongar or Count Pateroff. He was not
aware that he had any special reason for being silent on the subject,
but he made up his mind that the Burtons were people so far removed in
their sphere of life from Lady Ongar, that the subject would not be
suitable in Onslow Crescent. It was his lot in life to be concerned with
people of the two classes. He did not at all mean to say--even to
himself--that he liked the Ongar class better; but still, as such was
his lot, he must take it as it came, and entertain both subjects of
interest, without any commingling of them one with another. Of Lady
Ongar and his early love he had spoken to Florence at some length, but
he did not find it necessary in his letters to tell her anything of
Count Pateroff and his dinner at the Beaufort. Nor did he mention the
dinner to his dear friend Cecilia. On this occasion he made himself very
happy in Onslow Crescent, playing with the children, chatting with his
friend, and enduring, with a good grace, Theodore Burton's sarcasm, when
that ever-studious gentleman told him that he was only fit to go about
tied to a woman's apron-string.



Chapter XV

Madame Gordeloup



On the afternoon of the day following his dinner at the Beaufort with
Count Pateroff Harry Clavering called on the Count's sister in Mount
Street. He had doubted much as to this, thinking at any rate he ought,
in the first place, to write and ask permission. But at last he resolved
that he would take the count at his word, and presenting himself at the
door, he sent up his name. Madame Gordeloup was at home, and in a few
moments he found himself in the room in which the lady was sitting, and
recognized her whom he had seen with Lady Ongar in Bolton Street. She
got up at once, having glanced at the name upon the card, and seemed to
know all about him. She shook hands with him cordially, almost squeezing
his hand, and bade him sit down near her on the sofa. "She was so glad
to see him, for her dear Julie's sake. Julie, as of course he knew, was
at 'Ongere' Park. Oh! so happy"--which, by the by, he did not know--"and
would be up in the course of next week. So many things to do, of course,
Mr. Clavering. The house, and the servants, and the park, and the
beautiful things of a large country establishment! But it was
delightful, and Julie was quite happy!"

No people could be more unlike to each other than this brother and his
sister. No human being could have taken Madame Gordeloup for an
English-woman, though it might be difficult to judge, either from her
language or her appearance, of the nationality to which she belonged.
She spoke English with great fluency, but every word uttered declared
her not to be English. And when she was most fluent she was most
incorrect in her language. She was small, eager, and quick, and appeared
quite as anxious to talk as her brother had been to hold his tongue. She
lived in a small room on the first floor of a small house; and it seemed
to Harry that she lived alone. But he had not been long there before she
had told him all her history, and explained to him most of her
circumstances. That she kept back something is probable; but how many
are there who can afford to tell everything?

Her husband was still living, but he was at St. Petersburg. He was a
Frenchman by family, but had been born in Russia. He had been attached
to the Russian embassy in London, but was now attached to diplomacy in
general in Russia. She did not join him, because she loved England--oh,
so much! And, perhaps, her husband might come back again some day. She
did not say that she had not seen him for ten years, and was not quite
sure whether he was dead or alive; but had she made a clean breast in
all things, she might have done so. She said that she was a good deal
still at the Russian embassy; but she did not say that she herself was a
paid spy. Nor do I say so now, positively; but that was the character
given to her by many who knew her. She called her brother Edouard, as
though Harry had known the count all his life; and always spoke of Lady
Ongar as Julie. She uttered one or two little hints which seemed to
imply that she knew everything that had passed between "Julie" and Harry
Clavering in early days; and never mentioned Lord Ongar without some
term of violent abuse.

"Horrid wretch!" she said, pausing over all the r's in the name she had
called him. "It began, you know, from the very first. Of course he had
been a fool. An old roue is always a fool to marry. What does he get,
you know, for his money? A pretty face. He's tired of that as soon as
it's his own. Is it not so, Mr. Clavering? But other people ain't tired
of it, and then he becomes jealous. But Lord Ongar was not jealous. He
was not man enough to be jealous. Hor-r-rid wr-retch!" She then went on
telling many things which, as he listened, almost made Harry Clavering's
hair stand on end, and which must not be repeated here. She herself had
met her brother in Paris, and had been with him when they encountered
the Ongars in that capital. According to her showing, they had, all of
them, been together nearly from that time to the day of Lord Ongar's
'death. But Harry soon learned to feel that he could not believe all
that the little lady told him.

"Edouard was always with him. Poor Edouard!" she said. "There was some
money matter between them about ecarte. When that wr-retch got to be so
bad, he did not like parting with his money--not even when he had lost
it! And Julie had been so good always! Julie and Edouard had done
everything for the nasty wr-retch." Harry did not at all like this
mingling of the name of Julie and Edouard, though it did not for a
moment fill his mind with any suspicion as to Lady Ongar. It made him
feel, however, that this woman was dangerous, and that her tongue might
be very mischievous if she talked to others as she did to him. As he
looked at her--and being now in her own room she was not dressed with
scrupulous care--and as he listened to her, he could not conceive what
Lady Ongar had seen in her that she should have made a friend of her.
Her brother, the count, was undoubtedly a gentleman in his manners and
way of life, but he did not know by what name to call this woman, who
called Lady Ongar Julie. She was altogether unlike any ladies whom he
had known.

"You know that Julie will be in town next week?"

"No; I did not know when she was to return."

"Oh, yes; she has business with those people in South Audley Street on
Thursday. Poor dear! Those lawyers are so harassing! But when people
have seven--thousand--pounds a year, they must put up with lawyers." As
she pronounced those talismanic words, which to her were almost
celestial, Harry perceived for the first time that there was some sort
of resemblance between her and the count. He could see that they were
brother and sister. "I shall go to her directly she comes, and of course
I will tell her how good you have been to come to me. And Edouard has
been dining with you? How good of you. He told me how charming you
are"--Harry was quite sure then that she was fibbing--"and that it was
so pleasant! Edouard is very much attached to Julie; very much. Though,
of course, all that was mere nonsense; just lies told by that wicked
lord. Bah! what did he know?" Harry by this time was beginning to wish
that he had never found his way to Mount Street.

"Of course they were lies," he said roughly.

"Of course, mon cher. Those things always are lies, and so wicked! What
good do they do?"

"Lies never do any good," said Harry.

To so wide a proposition as this madame was not prepared to give an
unconditional assent; she therefore shrugged her shoulders, and once
again looked like her brother.

"Ah!" she said. "Julie is a happy woman now. Seven--thousand--pounds a
year! One does not know how to believe it; does one?"

"I never heard the amount of her income," said Harry.

"It is all that," said the Franco-Pole, energetically; "every franc of
it, beside the house! I know it. She told me herself. Yes. What woman
would risk that, you know; and his life, you may say, as good as gone?
Of course they were lies."

"I don't think you understand her, Madame Gordeloup."

"Oh, yes; I know her, so well. And love her--oh, Mr. Clavering, I love
her so dearly! Is she not charming? So beautiful, you know, and grand.
Such a will, too! That is what I like in a woman. Such a courage! She
never flinched in those horrid days, never. And when he called her--you
know what--she only looked at him, just looked at him, miserable object.
Oh, it was beautiful!" And Madame Gordeloup, rising in her energy from
her seat for the purpose, strove to throw upon Harry such another glance
as the injured, insulted wife had thrown upon her foul-tongued, dying
lord.

"She will marry," said Madame Gordeloup, changing her tone with a
suddenness that made Harry start; "yes, she will marry, of course. Your
English widows always marry if they have money. They are wrong, and she
will be wrong; but she will marry."

"I do not know how that may be," said Harry, looking foolish.

"I tell you I know she will marry, Mr. Clavering; I told Edouard so
yesterday. He merely smiled. It would hardly do for him, she has so much
will. Edouard has a will also."

"All men have, I suppose."

"Ah, yes; but there is a difference. A sum of money down, if a man is to
marry, is better than a widow's dower. If she dies, you know, he looks
so foolish. And she is grand and will want to spend everything. Is she
much older than you, Mr. Clavering? Of course I know Julie's age, though
perhaps you do not. What will you give me to tell?" And the woman leered
at him with a smile which made Harry think that she was almost more than
mortal. He found himself quite unable to cope with her in conversation,
and soon after this got up to take his leave. "You will come again," she
said. "Do. I like you so much. And when Julie is in town, we shall be
able to see her together, and I will be your friend. Believe me."

Harry was very far from believing her, and did not in the least require
her friendship. Her friendship, indeed! How could any decent English man
or woman wish for the friendship of such a creature as that? It was thus
that he thought of her as he walked away from Mount Street, making heavy
accusations, within his own breast, against Lady Ongar as he did so.
Julia! He repeated the name over to himself a dozen times, thinking that
the flavor of it was lost since it had been contaminated so often by
that vile tongue. But what concern was it of his? Let her be Julia to
whom she would, she could never be Julia again to him. But she was his
friend--Lady Ongar, and he told himself plainly that his friend had been
wrong in having permitted herself to hold any intimacy with such a woman
as that. No doubt Lady Ongar had been subjected to very trying troubles
in the last months of her husband's life, but no circumstances could
justify her, if she continued to endorse the false cordiality of that
horribly vulgar and evil-minded little woman. As regarded the grave
charges brought against Lady Ongar, Harry still gave no credit to them,
still looked upon them as calumnies, in spite of the damning advocacy of
Sophie and her brother; but he felt that she must have dabbled in very
dirty water to have returned to England with such claimants on her
friendship as these. He had not much admired the count, but the count's
sister had been odious to him. "I will be your friend. Believe me."
Harry Clavering stamped upon the pavement as he thought of the little
Pole's offer to him. She be his friend! No, indeed; not if there were no
other friend for him in all London.

Sophie, too, had her thoughts about him. Sophie was very anxious in this
matter, and was resolved to stick as close to her Julie as possible. "I
will be his friend or his enemy; let him choose." That had been Sophie's
reflection on the matter when she was left alone.

Ten days after his visit in Mount Street, Harry received the note which
Lady Ongar had written to him on the night of her arrival in London. It
was brought to Mr. Beilby's office by her own footman early in the
morning; but Harry was there at the time, and was thus able to answer
it, telling Lady Ongar that he would come as she had desired. She had
commenced her letter "Dear Harry," and he well remembered that when she
had before written she had called him "Dear Mr. Clavering." And though
the note contained only half-a-dozen ordinary words, it seemed to him to
be affectionate, and almost loving. Had she not been eager to see him,
she would hardly thus have written to him on the very instant of her
return. "Dear Lady Ongar," he wrote, "I shall dine at my club, and be
with you about eight. Yours always, H.C." After that he could hardly
bring himself to work satisfactorily during the whole day. Since his
interview with the Franco-Polish lady he had thought a good deal about
himself and had resolved to work harder and to love Florence Burton more
devotedly than ever. The nasty little woman had said certain words to
him which had caused him to look into his own breast and to tell himself
that this was necessary. As the love was easier than the work, he began
his new tasks on the following morning by writing a long and very
affectionate letter to his own Flo, who was still staying at Clavering
rectory--a letter so long and so affectionate that Florence, in her
ecstasy of delight, made Fanny read it, and confess that, as a
love-letter, it was perfect.

"It's great nonsense, all the same," said Fanny.

"It isn't nonsense at all," said Florence; "and if it were it would not
signify. Is it true? That's the question."

"I'm sure it's true," said Fanny.

"And so am I," said Florence. "I don't want any one to tell me that."

"Then why did you ask, you simpleton?" Florence indeed was having a
happy time of it at Clavering rectory. When Fanny called her a
simpleton, she threw her arms round Fanny's neck and kissed her.

And Harry kept his resolve about the work too, investigating plans with
a resolution to understand them which was almost successful. During
those days he would remain at his office till past four o'clock, and
would then walk away with Theodore Burton, dining sometimes in Onslow
Crescent, and going there sometimes in the evening after dinner. And
when there he would sit and read; and once when Cecilia essayed to talk
to him, he told her to keep her apron-strings to herself. Then Theodore
laughed and apologized, and Cecilia said that too much work made Jack a
dull boy; and then Theodore laughed again, stretching out his legs and
arms as he rested a moment from his own study, and declared that, under
those circumstances, Harry never would be dull. And Harry, on those
evenings, would be taken up-stairs to see the bairns in their cots; and
as he stood with their mother looking down upon the children, pretty
words would be said about Florence and his future life; and all was
going merry as a marriage bell. But on that morning, when the note had
come from Lady Ongar, Harry could work no more to his satisfaction. He
scrawled upon his blotting-paper, and made no progress whatsoever toward
the understanding of anything. It was the day on which, in due course,
he would write to Florence; and he did write to her. But Florence did
not show this letter to Fanny, claiming for it any need of godlike
perfection. It was a stupid, short letter, in which he declared that he
was very busy and that his head ached. In a postscript he told her that
he was going to see Lady Ongar that evening. This he communicated to her
under an idea that by doing so he made everything right. And I think
that the telling of it did relieve his conscience.

He left the office soon after three, having brought himself to believe
in the headache, and sauntered down to his club. He found men playing
whist there, and, as whist might be good for his head, he joined them.
They won his money, and scolded him for playing badly till he was angry,
and then he went out for a walk by himself. As he went along Piccadilly,
he saw Sophie Gordeloup coming toward him, trotting along, with her
dress held well up over her ankles, eager, quick, and, as he said to
himself clearly intent upon some mischief. He endeavored to avoid her by
turning up the Burlington Arcade, but she was too quick for him, and was
walking up the arcade by his side before he had been able to make up his
mind as to the best mode of ridding himself of such a companion.

"Ah, Mr. Clavering, I am so glad to see you. I was with Julie last
night. She was fagged, very much fagged; the journey, you know, and the
business. But yet so handsome! And we talked of you. Yes, Mr. Clavering;
and I told her how good you had been in coming to me. She said you were
always good; yes, she did. When shall you see her?"

Harry Clavering was a bad hand at fibbing, and a bad hand also at
leaving a question unanswered. When questioned in this way he did not
know what to do but to answer the truth. He would much rather not have
said that he was going to Bolton Street that evening, but he could find
no alternative. "I believe I shall see her this evening," he said,
simply venturing to mitigate the evil of making the communication by
rendering it falsely doubtful. There are men who fib with so bad a grace
and with so little tact that they might as well not fib at all. They not
only never arrive at success, but never even venture to expect it.

"Ah, this evening. Let me see. I don't think I can be there to-night;
Madame Berenstoff receives at the embassy."

"Good afternoon," said Harry, turning into Truefit's, the hairdresser's,
shop.

"Ah, very well," said Sophie to herself; "just so. It will be better,
much better. He is simply one lout, and why should he have it all? My
God, what fools, what louts, are these Englishmen!" in having read
Sophie's thoughts so far, we will leave her to walk up the remainder of
the arcade by herself.

I do not know that Harry's visit to Truefit's establishment had been in
any degree caused by his engagement for the evening. I fancy that he had
simply taken to ground at the first hole, as does a hunted fox. But now
that he was there he had his head put in order, and thought that he
looked the better for the operation. He then went back to his club, and
when he sauntered into the card-room one old gentleman looked askance at
him, as though inquiring angrily whether he had come there to make fresh
misery. "Thank you; no--I won't play again," said Harry. Then the old
gentleman was appeased, and offered him a pinch of snuff. "Have you seen
the new book about whist?" said the old gentleman. "It is very
useful--very useful. I'll send you a copy if you will allow me." Then
Harry left the room, and went down to dinner.



Chapter XVI

An Evening In Bolton Street



It was a little past eight when Harry knocked at Lady Ongar's door. I
fear he had calculated that if he were punctual to the moment, she would
think that he thought the matter to be important. It was important to
him, and he was willing that she should know that it was so. But there
are degrees in everything, and therefore he was twenty minutes late. He
was not the first man who has weighed the diplomatic advantage of being
after his time. But all those ideas went from him at once when she met
him almost at the door of the room, and, taking him by the hand, said
that she was "so glad to see him--so very glad. Fancy, Harry, I haven't
seen an old friend since I saw you last. You don't know how hard all
that seems."

"It is hard," said he; and when he felt the pressure of her hand and saw
the brightness of her eye, and when her dress rustled against him as he
followed her to her seat, and he became sensible of the influence of her
presence, all his diplomacy vanished, and he was simply desirous of
devoting himself to her service. Of course, any such devotion was to be
given without detriment to that other devotion which he owed to Florence
Burton. But this stipulation, though it was made, was made quickly, and
with a confused brain.

"Yes--it is hard," she said. "Harry, sometimes I think I shall go mad.
It is more than I can bear. I could bear it if it hadn't been my own
fault--all my own fault."

There was a suddenness about this which took him quite by surprise.
No doubt it had been her own fault. He also had told himself that;
though, of course, he would make no such charge to her. "You have not
recovered yet," he said, "from what you have suffered lately. Things will
look brighter to you after a while."

"Will they? Ah--I do not know. But come, Harry; come and sit down, and
let me get you some tea. There is no harm, I suppose, in having you
here--is there ?"

"Harm, Lady Ongar?"

"Yes--harm, Lady Ongar." As she repeated her own name after him, nearly
in his tone, she smiled once again; and then she looked as she used in
the old days, when she would be merry with him. "It is hard to know what
a woman may do, and what she may not. When my husband was ill and dying,
I never left his bedside. From the moment of my marrying him till his
death, I hardly spoke to a man but in his presence; and when once I did,
it was he that had sent him. And for all that people have turned their
backs upon me. You and I were old friends, Harry, and something more
once--were we not? But I jilted you, as you were man enough to tell me.
How I did respect you when you dared to speak the truth to me. Men don't
know women, or they would be harder to them."

"I did not mean to be hard to you."

"If you had taken me by the shoulders and shaken me, and have declared
that before God you would, not allow such wickedness, I should have
obeyed you. I know I should." Harry thought of Florence, and could not
bring himself to say that he wished it had been so. "But where would you
have been then, Harry? I was wrong and false and a beast to marry that
man; but I should not, therefore, have been right to marry you and ruin
you. It would have been ruin, you know, and we should simply have been
fools."

"The folly was very pleasant," said he.

"Yes, yes; I will not deny that. But then the wisdom and the prudence
afterward! Oh, Harry, that was not pleasant. That was not pleasant! But
what was I saying? Oh! about the propriety of your being here. It is so
hard to know what is proper. As I have been married, I suppose I may
receive whom I please. Is not that the law?"

"You may receive me, I should think. Your sister is my cousin's wife."
Harry's matter-of-fact argument did as well as anything else, for it
turned her thought at the moment.

"My sister, Harry! If there was nothing to make us friends but our
connection through Sir Hugh Clavering, I do not know that I should be
particularly anxious to see you. How unmanly he has been, and how
cruel."

"Very cruel," said Harry. Then he thought of Archie and Archie's suit.
"But he is willing to change all that now. Hermione asked me the other
day to persuade you to go to Clavering."

"And have you come here to use your eloquence for that purpose? I will
never go to Clavering again, Harry, unless it should be yours and your
wife should offer to receive me. Then I'd pack up for the dear, dull,
solemn old place though I was on the other side of Europe."

"It will never be mine."

"Probably not, and probably, therefore, I shall never be there again.
No; I can forgive an injury, but not an insult--not an insult such as
that. I will not go to Clavering; so, Harry, you may save your
eloquence. Hermione I shall be glad to see whenever she will come to me.
If you can persuade her to that, you will persuade her to a charity."

"She goes nowhere, I think, without his--his--"

"Without his permission. Of course she does not. That, I suppose, is all
as it should be. And he is such a tyrant that he will give no such
permission. He would tell her, I suppose, that her sister was no fit
companion for her."

"He could not say that now, as he has asked you there."

"Ah, I don't know that. He would say one thing first and another after,
just as it would suit him. He has some object in wishing that I should
go there, I suppose." Harry, who knew the object, and who was too
faithful to betray Lady Clavering, even though he was altogether hostile
to his cousin Archie's suit, felt a little proud of his position, but
said nothing in answer to this. "But I shall not go; nor will I see him,
or go to his house when he comes up to London. When do they come,
Harry?"

"He is in town, now."

"What a nice husband, is he not? And when does Hermione come?"

"I do not know; she did not say. Little Hughy is ill, and that may keep
her."

"After all, Harry, I may have to pack up and go to Clavering even
yet--that is, if the mistress of the house will have me."

"Never in the way you mean, Lady Ongar. Do not propose to kill all my
relations in order that I might have their property. Archie intends to
marry, and have a dozen children."

"Archie marry! Who will have him? But such men as he are often in the
way by marrying some cookmaid at last. Archie is Hugh's body-slave.
Fancy being body-slave to Hugh Clavering! He has two, and poor Hermy is
the other; only he prefers not to have Hermy near him, which is lucky
for her. Here is some tea. Let us sit down and be comfortable, and talk
no more about our horrid relations. I don't know what made me speak of
them. I did not mean it."

Harry sat down and took the cup from her hand, as she had bidden the
servant to leave the tray upon the table.

"So you saw Count Pateroff," she said.

"Yes, and his sister."

"So she told me. What do you think of them?" To this question Harry made
no immediate answer. "You may speak out. Though I lived abroad with such
as them for twelve months, I have not forgotten the sweet scent of our
English hedgerows, nor the wholesomeness of English household manners.
What do you think of them?"

"They are not sweet or wholesome," said he.

"Oh, Harry, you are so honest! Your honesty is beautiful. A spade will
ever be a spade with you."

He thought that she was laughing at him, and colored.

"You pressed me to speak," he said, "and I did but use your own words."

"Yes, but you used them with such straightforward violence! Well, you
shall use what words you please, and how you please, because a word of
truth is so pleasant after living in a world of lies. I know you will
not lie to me, Harry. You never did."

He felt that now was the moment in which he should tell her of his
engagement, but he let the moment pass without using it. And, indeed, it
would have been hard for him to tell. In telling such a story he would
have been cautioning her that it was useless for her to love him--and
this he could not bring himself to do. And he was not sure even now that
she had not learned the fact from her sister. "I hope not," he said. In
all that he was saying he knew that his words were tame and impotent in
comparison with hers, which seemed to him to mean so much. But then his
position was so unfortunate! Had it not been for Florence Burton he
would have been long since at her feet; for, to give Harry Clavering his
due, he could be quick enough at swearing to a passion. He was one of
those men to whom love-making comes so readily that it is a pity that
they should ever marry. He was ever making love to women, usually
meaning no harm. He made love to Cecilia Burton over her children's
beds, and that discreet matron liked it. But it was a love-making
without danger. It simply signified on his part the pleasure he had in
being on good terms with a pretty woman. He would have liked to have
made love in the same way to Lady Ongar; but that was impossible, and in
all love-making with Lady Ongar there must be danger. There was a pause
after the expression of his last hopes, during which he finished his
tea, and then looked at his boots.

"You do not ask me what I have been doing at my country-house."

"And what have you been doing there?"

"Hating it."

"That is wrong."

"Everything is wrong that I do; everything must be wrong. That is the
nature of the curse upon me."

"You think too much of all that now."

"Ah, Harry, that is so easily said. People do not think of such things
if they can help themselves. The place is full of him and his memories;
full of him, though I do not as yet know whether he ever put his foot in
it. Do you know, I have a plan, a scheme, which would, I think, make me
happy for one half-hour. It is to give everything back to the family.
Everything! money, house, and name; to call myself Julia Brabazon, and
let the world call me what it pleases. Then I would walk out into the
streets, and beg some one to give me my bread. Is there one in all the
wide world that would give me a crust? Is there one, except yourself,
Harry--one, except yourself?"

Poor Florence! I fear it fared badly with her cause at this moment. How
was it possible that he should not regret, that he should not look back
upon Stratton with something akin to sorrow? Julia had been his first
love, and to her he could have been always true. I fear he thought of
this now. I fear that it was a grief to him that he could not place
himself close at her side, bid her do as she had planned, and then come
to him, and share all his crusts. Had it been open to him to play that
part, he would have played it well, and would have gloried in the
thoughts of her poverty. The position would have suited him exactly. But
Florence was in the way, and he could not do it. How was he to answer
Lady Ongar? It was more difficult now than ever to tell her of Florence
Burton.

His eyes were full of tears, and she accepted that as his excuse for not
answering her. "I suppose they would say that I was a romantic fool.
When the price has been taken one cannot cleanse oneself of the stain.
With Judas, you know, it was not sufficient that he gave back the money.
Life was too heavy for him, and so he went out and hanged himself."

"Julia," he said, getting up from his chair, and going over to where she
sat on a sofa, "Julia, it is horrid to hear you speak of yourself in
that way. I will not have it. You are not such a one as the Iscariot."
And as he spoke to her, he found her hand in his.

"I wish you had my burden, Harry, for one half day, so that you might
know its weight."

"I wish I could bear it for you--for life."

"To be always alone, Harry; to have none that come to me and scold me,
and love me, and sometimes make me smile! You will scold me at any rate;
will you not? It is terrible to have no one near one that will speak to
one with the old easiness of familiar affection. And then the pretence
of it where it does not, cannot, could not, exist! Oh, that woman,
Harry; that woman who comes here and calls me Julie! And she has got me
to promise too that I would call her Sophie! I know that you despise me
because she comes here. Yes; I can see it. You said at once that she was
not wholesome, with your dear outspoken honesty."

"It was your word."

"And she is not wholesome, whosever word it was. She was there, hanging
about him when he was so bad, before the worst came. She read novels to
him--books that I never saw, and played ecarte with him for what she
called gloves. I believe in my heart she was spying me, and I let her
come and go as she would, because I would not seem to be afraid of her.
So it grew. And once or twice she was useful to me. A woman, Harry,
wants to have a woman near her sometimes--even though it be such an
unwholesome creature as Sophie Gordeloup. You must not think too badly
of me on her account."

"I will not; I will not think badly of you at all."

"He is better, is he not? I know little of him or nothing, but he has a
more reputable outside than she has. Indeed I liked him. He had known
Lord Ongar well; and though he did not toady him nor was afraid of him,
yet he was gentle and considerate. Once to me he said words that I was
called on to resent; but he never repeated them, and I know that he was
prompted by him who should have protected me. It is too bad, Harry, is
it not? Too bad almost to be believed by such as you."

"It is very bad," said Harry.

"After that he was always courteous; and when the end came and things
were very terrible, he behaved well and kindly. He went in and out
quietly, and like an old friend. He paid for everything, and was useful.
I know that even this made people talk--yes, Harry, even at such a
moment as that! But in spite of the talking I did better with him then
than I could have done without him."

"He looks like a man who could be kind if he chooses."

"He is one of those, Harry, who find it easy to be good-natured, and who
are soft by nature, as cats are--not from their heart, but through
instinctive propensity to softness. When it suits them, they scratch,
even though they have been ever so soft before. Count Pateroff is a cat.
You, Harry, I think are a dog." She perhaps expected that he would
promise to her that he would be her dog--a dog in constancy and
affection; but he was still mindful in part of Florence, and restrained
himself.

"I must tell you something further," she said. "And indeed it is this
that I particularly want to tell you. I have not seen him, you know,
since I parted with him at Florence."

"I did not know," said Harry.

"I thought I had told you. However, so it is. And now, listen: He came
down to Ongar Park the other day while I was there, and sent in his
card. When I refused to receive him, he wrote to me pressing his visit.
I still declined, and he wrote again. I burned his note, because I did
not choose that anything from him should be in my possession. He told me
some story about papers of Lord Ongar. I have nothing to do with Lord
Ongar's papers. Everything of which I knew was sealed up in the count's
presence and in mine, and was sent to the lawyers for the executors. I
looked at nothing; not at one word in a single letter. What could he
have to say to me of Lord Ongar's papers?"

"Or he might have written?"

"At any rate he should not have come there, Harry. I would not see him,
nor, if I can help it, will I see him here. I will be open with you,
Harry. I think that perhaps it might suit him to make me his wife. Such
an arrangement, however, would not suit me. I am not going to be
frightened into marrying a man, because he has been falsely called my
lover. If I cannot escape the calumny in any other way, I will not
escape it in that way."

"Has he said anything?"

"No; not a word. I have not seen him since the day after Lord Ongar's
funeral. But I have seen his sister."

"And has she proposed such a thing?"

"No, she has not proposed it. But she talks of it, saying that it would
not do. Then when I tell her that of course it would not do, she shows
me all that would make it expedient. She is so sly and so false, that
with all my eyes open I cannot quite understand her, or quite know what
she is doing. I do not feel sure that she wishes it herself."

"She told me that it would not do."

"She did, did she? If she speaks of it again, tell her that she is
right, that it will never do. Had he not come down to Ongar Park, I
should not have mentioned this to you. I should not have thought that he
had in truth any such schemes in his head. He did not tell you that he
had been there?"

"He did not mention it. Indeed, he said very little about you at all."

"No, he would not. He is cautious. He never talks of anybody to anybody.
He speaks only of the outward things of the world. Now, Harry, what you
must do for me is this." As she was speaking to him she was leaning
again upon the table, with her forehead resting upon her hands. Her
small widow's cap had become thus thrust back, and was now nearly off
her head, so that her rich brown hair was to be seen in its full
luxuriance, rich and lovely as it had ever been. Could it be that she
felt--half thought, half felt, without knowing that she thought it--that
while the signs of her widowhood were about her, telling in their too
plain language the tale of what she had been, he could not dare to speak
to her of his love? She was indeed a widow, but not as are other widows.
She had confessed, did hourly confess to herself, the guilt which she
had committed in marrying that man; but the very fact of such
confessions, of such acknowledgment, absolved her from the necessity of
any show of sorrow. When she declared how she had despised and hated her
late lord, she threw off mentally all her weeds. Mourning, the
appearance even of mourning, became impossible to her, and the cap upon
her head was declared openly to be a sacrifice to the world's
requirements. It was now pushed back, but I fancy that nothing like a
thought on the matter had made itself plain to her mind. "What you must
do for me is this," she continued. "You must see Count Pateroff again,
and tell him from me--as my friend--that I cannot consent to see him.
Tell him that if he will think of it, he must know the reason why."

"Of course he will know."

"Tell him what I say, all the same; and tell him that as I have hitherto
had cause to be grateful to him for his kindness, so also I hope he will
not put an end to that feeling by anything now, that would not be kind.
If there be papers of Lord Ongar's, he can take them either to my
lawyers, if that be fit, or to those of the family. You can tell him
that, can you not?"

"Oh, yes; I can tell him."

"And have you any objection?"

"None for myself. But would it not come better from some one else?"

"Because you are a young man, you mean? Whom else can I trust, Harry? To
whom can I go? Would you have me to ask Hugh to do this? Or, would
Archie Clavering be a proper messenger? Whom else have I?"

"Would not his sister be better?"

"How should I know that she had told him? She would tell him her own
story--what she herself wished. And whatever story she told, he would
not believe it. They know each other better than you and I know them. It
must be you, Harry, if you will do it."

"Of course I will. I will try to-morrow. Where does he live?"

"How should I know? Perhaps nobody knows; no one, perhaps, of all those
with whom he associates constantly. They do not live after our fashion,
do they, these foreigners? But you will find him at his club, or hear of
him at the house in Mount Street. You will do it; eh, Harry?"

"I will."

"That is my good Harry. But I suppose you would do anything I asked you.
Ah, well; it is good to have one friend, if one has no more. Look,
Harry! if it is not near eleven o'clock! Did you know that you had been
here nearly three hours? And I have given you nothing but a cup of tea!"

"What else do you think I have wanted?"

"At your club you would have had cigars and brandy-and-water, and
billiards, and broiled bones, and oysters, and tankards of beer. I know
all about it. You have been very patient with me. If you go quick
perhaps you will not be too late for the tankards and the oysters."

"I never have any tankards or any oysters."

"Then it is cigars and brandy-and-water. Go quick, and perhaps you may
not be too late."

"I will go, but not there. I cannot change my thoughts so suddenly."

"Go, then; and do not change your thoughts. Go and think of me, and pity
me. Pity me for what I have got, but pity me most for what I have lost."
Harry silently took her hand, and kissed it, and then left her.

Pity her for what she had lost! What had she lost! What did she mean by
that? He knew well what she meant by pitying her for what she had got.
What had she lost? She had lost him. Did she intend to evoke his pity
for that loss? She had lost him. Yes, indeed. Whether or no the loss was
one to regret, he would not say to himself; or rather, he, of course,
declared that it was not; but such as it was, it had been incurred. He
was now the property of Florence Burton, and, whatever happened, he
would be true to her.

Perhaps he pitied himself also. If so, it is to be hoped that Florence
may never know of such pity. Before he went to bed, when he was praying
on his knees, he inserted it in his prayers that God in whom he believed
might make him true in his faith to Florence Burton.



Chapter XVII

The Rivals



Lady Ongar sat alone, long into the night, when Harry Clavering had left
her. She sat there long, getting up occasionally from her seat, once or
twice attempting to write at her desk, looking now and then at a paper
or two, and then at a small picture which she had, but passing the long
hours in thinking--in long, sad, solitary thoughts. What should she do
with herself--with herself, her title, and her money? Would it be still
well that she should do something, that she should make some attempt; or
should she, in truth, abandon all, as the arch-traitor did, and
acknowledge that for her foot there could no longer be a resting-place
on the earth? At six-and-twenty, with youth, beauty and wealth at her
command, must she despair? But her youth had been stained, her beauty
had lost its freshness, and as for her wealth, had she not stolen it?
Did not the weight of the theft sit so heavy on her, that her brightest
thought was one which prompted her to abandon it?

As to that idea of giving up her income and her house, and calling
herself again Julia Brabazon, though there was something in the poetry
of it which would now and again for half an hour relieve her, yet she
hardly proposed such a course to herself as a reality. The world in
which she had lived had taught her to laugh at romance, to laugh at it
even while she liked its beauty; and she would tell herself that for
such a one as her to do such a thing as this, would be to insure for
herself the ridicule of all who knew her name. What would Sir Hugh say,
and her sister? What Count Pateroff and the faithful Sophie? What all
the Ongar tribe, who would reap the rich harvest of her insanity? These
latter would offer to provide her a place in some convenient asylum, and
the others would all agree that such would be her fitting destiny. She
could bear the idea of walking forth, as she had said, penniless into
the street, without a crust; but she could not bear the idea of being
laughed at when she got there.

To her, in her position, her only escape was by marriage. It was the
solitude of her position which maddened her: its solitude, or the
necessity of breaking that solitude by the presence of those who were
odious to her. Whether it were better to be alone, feeding on the
bitterness of her own thoughts, or to be comforted by the fulsome
flatteries and odious falsenesses of Sophie Gordeloup, she could not
tell. She hated herself for her loneliness, but she hated herself almost
worse for submitting herself to the society of Sophie Gordeloup. Why not
give all that she possessed to Harry Clavering--herself, her income, her
rich pastures and horses and oxen, and try whether the world would not
be better to her when she had done so.

She had learned to laugh at romance, but still she believed in love.
While that bargain was going on as to her settlement, she had laughed at
romance, and had told herself that in this world worldly prosperity was
everything. Sir Hugh then had stood by her with truth, for he had well
understood the matter, and could enter into it with zest. Lord Ongar, in
his state of health, had not been in a position to make close
stipulations as to the dower in the event of his proposed wife becoming
a widow. "No, no; we wont stand that," Sir Hugh had said to the lawyers.
"We all hope, of course, that Lord Ongar may live long; no doubt he'll
turn over a new leaf and die at ninety. But in such a case as this the
widow must not be fettered." The widow had not been fettered, and Julia
had been made to understand the full advantage of such an arrangement.
But still she had believed in love when she had bade farewell to Harry
in the garden. She had told herself then, even then, that she would have
better liked to have taken him and his love--if only she could have
afforded it. He had not dreamed that in leaving him she had gone from
him to her room, and taken out his picture--the same that she had with
her now in Bolton Street--and had kissed it, bidding him farewell there
with a passion which she could not display in his presence. And she had
thought of his offer about the money over and over again. "Yes," she
would say, "that man loved me. He would have given me all he had to
relieve me, though nothing was to come to him in return." She had, at
any rate been loved once; and she almost wished that she had taken the
money, that she might now have an opportunity of repaying it.

And she was again free, and her old lover was again by her side. Had
that fatal episode in her life been so fatal that she must now regard
herself as tainted and unfit for him? There was no longer anything to
separate them--anything of which she was aware, unless it was that. And
as for his love--did he not look and speak as though he loved her still?
Had he not pressed her hand passionately, and kissed it, and once more
called her Julia? How should it be that he should not love her? In such
a case as his, love might have been turned to hatred or to enmity; but
it was not so with him. He called himself her friend. How could there be
friendship between them without love?

And then she thought how much with her wealth she might do for him. With
all his early studies and his talent, Harry Clavering was not the man,
she thought, to make his way in the world by hard work; but with such an
income as she could give him, he might shine among the proud ones of his
nation. He should go into Parliament, and do great things. He should be
lord of all. It should all be his without a word of reserve. She had
been mercenary once, but she would atone for that now by open-handed,
undoubting generosity. She herself had learned to hate the house and
fields and widespread comforts of Ongar Park. She had walked among it
all alone, and despised. But it would be a glory to her to see him go
forth, with Giles at his heels, boldly giving his orders, changing this
and improving that. He would be rebuked for no errors, let him do with
Enoch Gubby and the rest of them what he pleased! And then the parson's
wife would be glad enough to come to her, and the house would be full of
smiling faces. And it might be that God would be good to her, and that
she would have treasures, as other women had them, and that the flavor
would come back to the apples, and, that the ashes would cease to grate
between her teeth.

She loved him, and why should it not be so? She could go before God's
altar with him without disgracing herself with a lie. She could put her
hand in his, and swear honestly that she would worship him and obey him.
She had been dishonest; but if he would pardon her for that, could she
not reward him richly for such pardon? And it seemed to her that he had
pardoned her. He had forgiven it all and was gracious to her--coming at
her beck and call, and sitting with her as though he liked her presence.
She was woman enough to understand this, and she knew that he liked it.
Of course he loved her. How could it be otherwise?

But yet he spoke nothing to her of his love. In the old days there had
been with him no bashfulness of that kind. He was not a man to tremble
and doubt before a woman. In those old days he had bean ready enough--so
ready, that she had wondered that one who had just come from his books
should know so well how to make himself master of a girl's heart. Nature
had given him that art, as she does give it to some, withholding it from
many. But now he sat near her, dropping once and again half words of
love, hearing her references to the old times; and yet he said nothing.

But how was he to speak of love to one who was a widow but of four
months' standing? And with what face could he now again ask for her
hand, knowing that it had been filled so full since last it was refused
to him? It was thus she argued to herself when she excused him in that
he did not speak to her. As to her widowhood, to herself it was a thing
of scorn. Thinking of it, she cast her weepers from her, and walked
about the room, scorning the hypocrisy of her dress. It needed that she
should submit herself to this hypocrisy before the world; but he might
know--for had she not told him?--that the clothes she wore were no index
of her feeling or of her heart. She had been mean enough, base enough,
vile enough, to sell herself to that wretched lord. Mean, base, and vile
she had been, and she now confessed it; but she was not false enough to
pretend that she mourned the man as a wife mourns. Harry might have seen
enough to know, have understood enough to perceive, that he need not
regard her widowhood.

And as to her money! if that were the stumbling-block, might it not be
well that the first overture should come from her? Could she not find
words to tell him that it might all be his? Could she not say to him,
"Harry Clavering, all this is nothing in my hands. Take it into your
hands, and it will prosper." Then, it was that she went to her desk, and
attempted to write to him. She did write to him a completed note,
offering herself and all that was hers for his acceptance. In doing so,
she strove hard to be honest and yet not over bold; to be affectionate
and yet not unfeminine. Long she sat, holding her head with one hand,
while the other attempted to use the pen which would not move over the
paper. At length, quickly it flew across the sheet, and a few lines were
there for her to peruse.

"Harry Clavering," she had written, "I know I am doing what men and
women say no woman should do. You may, perhaps, say so of me now; but if
you do, I know you so well, that I do not fear that others will be able
to repeat it. Harry, I have never loved any one but you. Will you be my
husband? You well know that I should not make you this offer if I did
not intend that everything I have should be yours. It will be pleasant
to me to feel that I can make some reparation for the evil I have done.
As for love, I have never loved any one but you. You yourself must know
that well. Yours, altogether, if you will have it so--JULIA."

She took the letter with her back across the room to her seat by the
fire, and took with her at the same time the little portrait; and there
she sat, looking at the one and reading the other. At last she slowly
folded the note up into a thin wisp of paper, and, lighting the end of
it, watched it till every shred of it was burnt to an ash. "If he wants
me," she said, "he can come and take me--as other men do." It was a
fearful attempt, that which she had thought of making. How could she
have looked him in the face again had his answer to her been a refusal?

Another hour went by before she took herself to her bed, during which
her cruelly used maiden was waiting for her half asleep in the chamber
above; and during that time she tried to bring herself to some steady
resolve. She would remain in London for the coming months, so that he
might come to her if he pleased. She would remain there, even though she
were subject to the daily attacks of Sophie Gordeloup. She hardly knew
why, but in part she was afraid of Sophie. She had done nothing of which
Sophie knew the secret. She had no cause to tremble because Sophie might
be offended. The woman had seen her in some of her saddest moments, and
could indeed tell of indignities which would have killed some women. But
these she had borne, and had not disgraced herself in the bearing of
them. But still she was afraid of Sophie, and felt that she could not
bring herself absolutely to dismiss her friend from her house.
Nevertheless, she would remain; because Harry Clavering was in London
and could come to her there. To her house at Ongar Park she would never
go again, unless she went as his wife. The place had become odious to
her. Bad as was her solitude in London, with Sophie Gordeloup to break
it, and, perhaps, with Sophie's brother to attack her, it was not so bad
as the silent desolation of Ongar Park. Never again would she go there,
unless she went there, in triumph--as Harry's wife. Having so far
resolved, she took herself at last to her room, and dismissed her drowsy
Phoebe to her rest.

And now the reader must be asked to travel down at once into the
country, that he may see how Florence Burton passed the same evening at
Clavering Rectory. It was Florence's last night there, and on the
following morning she was to return to her father's house at Stratton.
Florence had not as yet received her unsatisfactory letter from Harry.
That was to arrive on the following morning. At present she was, as
regarded her letters, under the influence of that one which had been
satisfactory in so especial a degree. Not that the coming letter--the
one now on its route--was of a nature to disturb her comfort
permanently, or to make her in any degree unhappy. "Dear fellow; he must
be careful, he is overworking himself." Even the unsatisfactory letter
would produce nothing worse than this from her; but now, at the moment
of which I am writing, she was in a paradise of happy thoughts.

Her visit to Clavering had been in every respect successful. She had
been liked by every one, and every one in return had been liked by her.
Mrs. Clavering had treated her as though she were a daughter. The Rector
had made her pretty presents, had kissed her, and called her his child.
With Fanny she had formed a friendship which was to endure for ever, let
destiny separate them how it might. Dear Fanny! She had had a wonderful
interview respecting Fanny on this very day, and was at this moment
disquieting her mind because she could not tell her friend what had
happened without a breach of confidence! She had learned a great deal at
Clavering, though in most matters of learning she was a better
instructed woman than they were whom she had met. In general knowledge
and in intellect she was Fanny's superior, though Fanny Clavering was no
fool; but Florence, when she came thither, had lacked something which
living in such a house had given to her; or, I should rather say,
something had been given to her of which she would greatly feel the
want, if it could be again taken from her. Her mother was as excellent a
woman as had ever sent forth a family of daughters into the world, and I
do not know that any one ever objected to her as being ignorant, or
specially vulgar; but the house in Stratton was not like Clavering
Rectory in the little ways of living, and this Florence Burton had been
clever enough to understand. She knew that a sojourn under such a roof;
with such a woman as Mrs. Clavering, must make her fitter to be Harry's
wife; and, therefore, when they pressed her to come again in the Autumn,
she said that she thought she would. She could understand, too, that
Harry was different in many things from the men who had married her
sisters, and she rejoiced that it was so. Poor Florence! Had he been
more like them it might have been safer for her.

But we must return for a moment to the wonderful interview which has
been mentioned. Florence, during her sojourn at Clavering, had become
intimate with Mr. Saul, as well as with Fanny. She had given herself for
the time heartily to the schools, and matters had so far progressed with
her that Mr. Saul had on one occasion scolded her soundly. "It's a great
sign that he thinks well of you," Fanny had said. "It was the only sign
he ever gave me, before he spoke to me in that sad strain." On the
afternoon of this, her last day at Clavering, she had gone over to
Cumberly Green with Fanny, to say farewell to the children, and walked
back by herself; as Fanny had not finished her work. When she was still
about half a mile from the Rectory, she met Mr. Saul, who was on his way
out to the Green.

"I knew I should meet you," he said, "so that I might say good-by."

"Yes, indeed, Mr. Saul--for I am going, in truth, to-morrow."

"I wish you were staying. I wish you were going to remain with us.
Having you here is very pleasant, and you do more good here, perhaps,
than you will elsewhere."

"I will not allow that. You forget that I have a father and mother."

"Yes; and you will have a husband soon."

"No, not soon; some day, perhaps, if all goes well. But I mean to be
back here often before that. I mean to be here in October, just for a
little visit, if mamma can spare."

"Miss Burton," he said, speaking in a very serious tone--. All his tones
were serious, but that which he now adopted was more solemn than usual.
"I wish to consult you on a certain matter, if you can give me five
minutes of your time."

"To consult me, Mr. Saul?"

"Yes, Miss Burton. I am hard pressed at present, and I know no one else
of whom I can ask a certain question, if I cannot ask it of you. I think
that you will answer me truly, if you answer me at all. I do not think
you would flatter me, or tell me an untruth."

"Flatter you! How could I flatter you?"

"By telling me--; but I must ask you my question first. You and Fanny
Clavering are dear friends now. You tell each other everything."

"I do not know," said Florence, doubting as to what she might best say,
but guessing something of that which was coming.

"She will have told you, perhaps, that I asked her to be my wife. Did
she ever tell you that?" Florence looked into his face for a few moments
without answering him, not knowing how to answer such a question. "I
know that she has told you," said he. "I can see that it is so."

"She has told me," said Florence.

"Why should she not? How could she be with you so many hours, and not
tell you that of which she could hardly fail to have the remembrance
often present with her. If I were gone from here, if I were not before
her eyes daily, it might be otherwise; but seeing me as she does from
day to day, of course she has spoken of me to her friend."

"Yes, Mr. Saul; she has told me of it."

"And now, will you tell me whether I may hope."

"Mr. Saul!"

"I want you to betray no secret, but I ask you for your advice. Can I
hope that she will ever return my love?"

"How am I to answer you?"

"With the truth. Only with the truth."

"I should say that she thinks that you have forgotten it."

"Forgotten it! No, Miss Burton; she cannot think that. Do you believe
that men or women can forget such things as that? Can you ever forget
her brother? Do you think people ever forget when they have loved? No, I
have not forgotten her. I have not forgotten that walk which we had down
this lane together. There are things which men never forget." Then he
paused for an answer.

Florence was by nature steady and self-collected, and she at once felt
that she was bound to be wary before she gave him any answer. She had
half fancied once or twice that Fanny thought more of Mr. Saul than she
allowed even herself to know. And Fanny, when she had spoken of the
impossibility of such a marriage, had always based the impossibility on
the fact that people should not marry without the means of living--a
reason which to Florence, with all her prudence, was not sufficient.
Fanny might wait as she also intended to wait. Latterly, too, Fanny had
declared more than once to Florence her conviction that Mr. Saul's
passion had been a momentary insanity which had altogether passed away;
and in these declarations Florence had half fancied that she discovered
some tinge of regret. If it were so, what was she now to say to Mr.
Saul?

"You think then, Miss Burton," he continued, "that I have no chance of
success? I ask the question because if I felt certain that this was so
quite certain--I should be wrong to remain here. It has been my first
and only parish, and I could not leave it without bitter sorrow. But if
I were to remain here hopelessly, I should become unfit for my work. I
am becoming so, and shall be better away."

"But why ask me, Mr. Saul?"

"Because I think that you can tell me."

"But why not ask herself? Who can tell you so truly as she can do?"

"You would not advise me to do that if you were sure that she would
reject me?"

"That is what I would advise."

"I will take your advice, Miss Burton. Now, good-by, and may God bless
you. You say you will be here in the Autumn; but before the Autumn I
shall probably have left Clavering. If so our farewells will be for very
long, but I shall always remember our pleasant intercourse here." Then
he went on toward Cumberly Green; and Florence, as she walked into the
vicarage grounds was thinking that no girl had ever been loved by a more
single-hearted, pure-minded gentleman than Mr. Saul.

As she sat alone in her bed-room, five or six hours after this
interview, she felt some regret that she should leave Clavering without
a word to Fanny on the subject. Mr. Saul had exacted no promise of
secresy from her; he was not a man to exact such promises. But she felt
not the less that she would be betraying confidence to speak, and it
might even be that her speaking on the matter would do more harm than
good. Her sympathies were doubtless with Mr. Saul, but she could not
therefore say that she, thought Fanny ought to accept his love. It would
be best to say nothing of the matter, and to allow Mr. Saul to fight his
own battle.

Then she turned to her own matters, and there she found that everything
was pleasant. How good the world had been to her to give her such a
lover as Harry Clavering! She owned with all her heart the excellence of
being in love when a girl might be allowed to call such a man her own.
She could not but make comparisons between him and Mr. Saul, though she
knew that she was making them on points that were hardly worthy of her
thoughts. Mr. Saul was plain, uncouth, with little that was bright about
him except the brightness of his piety. Harry was like the morning star.
He looked and walked and spoke as though he were something more godlike
than common men. His very voice created joy, and the ring of his
laughter was to Florence as the music of the heavens. What woman would
not have loved Harry Clavering? Even Julia Brabazon--a creature so base
that she had sold herself to such a thing as Lord Ongar for money and a
title, but so grand in her gait and ways, so Florence had been told,
that she seemed to despise the earth on which she trod--even she had
loved him. Then as Florence thought of what Julia Brabazon might have
had and of what she had lost, she wondered that there could be women
born so sadly vicious.

But that woman's vice had given her her success, her joy, her great
triumph! It was surely not for her to deal hardly with the faults of
Julia Brabazon--for her who was enjoying all the blessings of which
those faults had robbed the other! Julia Brabazon had been her very good
friend.

But why had this perfect lover come to her, to one so small, so
trifling, so little in the world's account as she, and given to her all
the treasure of his love? Oh, Harry--dear Harry! what could she do for
him that would be a return good enough for such great goodness? Then she
took out his last letter, that satisfactory letter, that letter that had
been declared to be perfect, and read it and read it again. No; she did
not want Fanny or any one else to tell her that he was true. Honesty and
truth were written on every line of his face, were to be heard in every
tone of his voice, could be seen in every sentence that came from his
hand. Dear Harry; dearest Harry! She knew well that he was true.

Then she also sat down and wrote to him, on that her last night beneath
his father's roof--wrote to him when she had nearly prepared herself for
her bed; and honestly, out of her full heart, thanked him for his love.
There was no need that she should be coy with him now, for she was his
own. "Dear Harry, when I think of all that you have done for me in
loving me and choosing me for your wife, I know that I can never pay you
all that I owe you."

Such were the two rival claimants for the hand of Harry Clavering.



Chapter XVIII

"Judge Not That Ye Be Not Judged"



A week had passed since the evening which Harry had spent in Bolton
Street, and he had not again seen Lady Ongar. He had professed to
himself that his reason for not going there was the non-performance of
the commission which Lady Ongar had given him with reference to Count
Pateroff. He had not yet succeeded in catching the Count, though he had
twice asked for him in Mount Street and twice at the club in Pall Mall.
It appeared that the Count never went to Mount Street, and was very
rarely seen at the club. There was some other club which he frequented,
and Harry did not know what club. On both the occasions of Harry's
calling in Mount Street, the servant had asked him to go up and see
madame; but he had declined to do so, pleading that he was hurried. He
was, however, driven to resolve that he must go direct to Sophie, as
otherwise he could find no means of doing as he had promised. She
probably might put him on the scent of her brother.

But there had been another reason why Harry had not gone to Bolton
Street, though he had not acknowledged it to himself. He did not dare to
trust himself with Lady Ongar. He feared that he would be led on to
betray himself and to betray Florence--to throw himself at Julia's feet
and sacrifice his honesty, in spite of all his resolutions to the
contrary. He felt when there as the accustomed but repentant
dram-drinker might feel, when, having resolved to abstain, he is called
upon to sit with the full glass offered before his lips. From such
temptations as that the repentant dram-drinker knows that he must fly.
But though he did not go after the fire-water of Bolton Street, neither
was he able to satisfy himself with the cool fountain of Onslow
Crescent. He was wretched at this time--ill-satisfied with himself and
others--and was no fitting companion for Cecilia Burton. The world, he
thought, had used him ill. He could have been true to Julia Brabazon
when she was well-nigh penniless. It was not for her money that he had
regarded her. Had he been now a free man--free from those chains with
which he had fettered himself at Stratton--he would again have asked
this woman for her love, in spite of her past treachery; but it would
have been for her love, and not for her money, that he would have sought
her. Was it his fault that he had loved her, that she had been false to
him, and that she had now come back and thrown herself before him? or
had he been wrong because he had ventured to think that he loved another
when Julia had deserted him? Or could he help himself if he now found
that his love in truth belonged to her whom he had known first? The
world had been very cruel to him, and he could not go to Onslow
Crescent, and behave there prettily, hearing the praises of Florence
with all the ardor of a discreet lover.

He knew well what would have been his right course, and yet he did not
follow it. Let him but once communicate to Lady Ongar the fact of his
engagement, and the danger would be over, though much, perhaps, of the
misery might remain. Let him write to her, and mention the fact,
bringing it up as some little immaterial accident, and she would
understand what he meant. But this he abstained from doing. Though he
swore to himself that he would not touch the dram, he would not dash
down the full glass that was held to his lips. He went about the town
very wretchedly, looking for the Count, and regarding himself as a man
specially marked out for sorrow by the cruel hand of misfortune. Lady
Ongar, in the meantime, was expecting him, and was waxing angry and
becoming bitter toward him because he came not.

Sir Hugh Clavering was now in London, and with him was his brother
Archie. Sir Hugh was a man who strained an income, that was handsome and
sufficient for a country gentleman, to the very utmost, wanting to get
out of it more than it could be made to give. He was not a man to be in
debt, or indulge himself with present pleasures to be paid for out of
the funds of future years. He was possessed of a worldly wisdom which
kept him from that folly, and taught him to appreciate fully the value
of independence. But he was ever remembering how many shillings there
are in a pound, and how many pence in a shilling. He had a great eye to
discount, and looked closely into his bills. He searched for cheap
shops; and some men began to say of him that he had found a cheap
establishment for such wines as he did not drink himself! In playing
cards and in betting, he was very careful, never playing high, never
risking much, but hoping to turn something by the end of the year, and
angry with himself if he had not done so. An unamiable man he was, but
one whose heir would probably not quarrel with him--if only he would die
soon enough. He had always had a house in town--a moderate house in
Berkeley Square, which belonged to him, and had belonged to his father
before him. Lady Clavering had usually lived there during the season;
or, as had latterly been the case, during only a part of the season. And
now it had come to pass, in this year, that Lady Clavering was not to
come to London at all, and that Sir Hugh was meditating whether the
house in Berkeley Square might not be let. The arrangement would make
the difference of considerably more than a thousand a year to him. For
himself, he would take lodgings. He had no idea of giving up London in
the Spring and early Summer. But why keep up a house in Berkeley Square,
as Lady Clavering did not use it?

He was partly driven to this by a desire to shake off the burden of his
brother. When Archie chose to go to Clavering, the house was open to
him. That was the necessity of Sir Hugh's position, and he could not
avoid it unless he made it worth his while to quarrel with his brother.
Archie was obedient, ringing the bell when he was told, looking after
the horses, spying about, and perhaps saving as much money as he cost.
But the matter was very different in Berkeley Square. No elder brother
is bound to find breakfast and bed for a younger brother in London. And
yet, from his boyhood upward, Archie had made good his footing in
Berkeley Square. In the matter of the breakfast, Sir Hugh had indeed, of
late, got the better of him. The servants were kept on board wages, and
there were no household accounts. But there was Archie's room, and Sir
Hugh felt this to be a hardship.

The present was not the moment for actually driving forth the intruder,
for Archie was now up in London, especially under his brother's
auspices. And if the business on which Captain Clavering was now intent
could be brought to a successful issue, the standing in the world of
that young man would be very much altered. Then he would be a brother of
whom Sir Hugh might be proud--a brother who would pay his way, and
settle his points at whist if he lost them, even to a brother. If Archie
could induce Lady Ongar to marry him, he would not be called upon any
longer to ring the bells and look after the stable. He would have bells
of his own, and stables, too, and perhaps some captain of his own to
ring them and look after them. The expulsion, therefore, was not to take
place till Archie should have made his attempt upon Lady Ongar.

But Sir Hugh would admit of no delay, whereas Archie himself seemed to
think that the iron was not yet quite hot enough for striking. It would
be better, he had suggested, to postpone the work till Julia could be
coaxed down to Clavering in the Autumn. He could do the work better, he
thought; down at Clavering than in London. But Sir Hugh was altogether
of a different opinion. Though he had already asked his sister-in-law to
Clavering, when the idea had first come up, he was glad that she had
declined the visit. Her coming might be very well, if she accepted
Archie; but he did not want to be troubled with any renewal of his
responsibility respecting her, if, as was more probable, she should
reject him. The world still looked askance at Lady Ongar, and Hugh did
not wish to take up the armor of a paladin in her favor. If Archie
married her, Archie would be the paladin; though, indeed, in that case,
no paladin would be needed.

"She has only been a widow, you know, four months," said Archie,
pleading for delay. "It won't be delicate, will it?"

"Delicate!" said Sir Hugh. "I don't know whether there is much of
delicacy in it at all."

"I don't see why she isn't to be treated like any other woman. If you
were to die, you'd think it very odd if any fellow came up to Hermy
before the season was over.

"Archie, you are a fool," said Sir Hugh; and Archie could see, by his
brother's brow, that Hugh was angry. "You say things that, for folly and
absurdity, are beyond belief. If you can't see the peculiarities of
Julia's position, I am not going to point them out to you."

"She is peculiar, of course--having so much money, and that place near
Guilford, all her own for her life. Of course it's peculiar. But four
months, Hugh!"

"If it had been four days it need have made no difference. A home, with
some one to support her, is everything to her. If you wait till lots of
fellows are buzzing around her you won't have a chance. You'll find that
by this time next year she'll be the top of the fashion; and if not
engaged to you, she will be to some one else. I shouldn't be surprised
if Harry were after her again."

"He's engaged to that girl we saw down at Clavering."

"What of that? Engagements can be broken as well as made. You have this
great advantage over every one, except him, that you can go to her at
once without doing anything out of the way. That girl that Harry has in
tow may perhaps keep him away for some time."

"I tell you what, Hugh, you might as well call with me the first time."

"So that I may quarrel with her, which I certainly should do--or,
rather, she with me. No, Archie; if you're afraid to go alone, you'd
better give it up."

"Afraid! I'm not afraid!"

"She can't eat you. Remember that with her you needn't stand on your p's
and q's, as you would with another woman. She knows what she is about,
and will understand what she has to get as well as what she is expected
to give. All I can say is, that if she accepts you, Hermy will consent
that she shall go to Clavering as much as she pleases till the marriage
takes place. It couldn't be done, I suppose, till after a year; and in
that case she shall be married at Clavering."

Here was a prospect for Julia Brabazon--to be led to the same altar, at
which she had married Lord Ongar, by Archie Clavering, twelve month's
after her first husband's death, and little more than two years after
her first wedding! The peculiarity of the position did not quite make
itself apparent either to Hugh or to Archie; but there was one point
which did suggest itself to the younger brother at that moment.

"I don't suppose there was anything really wrong, eh?"

"Can't say, I'm sure," said Sir Hugh.

"Because I shouldn't like--"

"If I were you I wouldn't trouble myself about that. Judge not, that you
be not judged."

"Yes, that's true, to be sure," said Archie; and on that point he went
forth satisfied.



Chapter XIX

Let Her Know That You're There



The job before him, in his attempt to win Lady Ongar, was a peculiar
job, and that Archie well knew. In some inexplicable manner he put
himself into the scales and weighed himself, and discovered his own
weight with fair accuracy. And he put her into the scales, and he found
that she was much the heavier of the two. How he did this--how such men
as Archie Clavering do do it--I cannot say; but they do weigh
themselves, and know their own weight, and shove themselves aside as
being too light for any real service in the world. This they do, though
they may fluster with their voices, and walk about with their noses in
the air, and swing their canes, and try to look as large as they may.
They do not look large, and they know it; and, consequently, they ring
the bells, and look after the horses, and shove themselves on one side,
so that the heavier weights may come forth and do the work. Archie
Clavering, who had duly weighed himself, could hardly bring himself to
believe that Lady Ongar would be fool enough to marry him! Seven
thousand a year, with a park and farm in Surrey, and give it all to
him--him, Archie Clavering, who had, so to say, no weight at all! Archie
Clavering, for one, could not bring himself to believe it.

But yet Hermy, her sister, thought it possible; and though Hermy was, as
Archie had found out by his invisible scales, lighter than Julia, still
she must know something of her sister's nature. And Hugh, who was by no
means light--who was a man of weight, with money and position, and firm
ground beneath his feet--he also thought that it might be so. "Faint
heart never won a fair lady," said Archie to himself a dozen times, as
he walked down to the Rag. The Rag was his club, and there was a friend
there whom he could consult confidentially. No; faint heart never won a
fair lady; but they who repeat to themselves that adage, trying thereby
to get courage, always have faint hearts for such work. Harry Clavering
never thought of the proverb when he went a-wooing.

But Captain Boodle of the Rag--for Captain Boodle always lived at the
Rag when he was not at Newmarket, or at other race-courses, or in the
neighborhood of Market Harborough--Captain Boodle knew a thing or two,
and Captain Boodle was his fast friend. He would go to Boodle and
arrange the campaign with him. Boodle had none of that hectoring,
domineering way which Hugh never quite threw off in his intercourse with
his brother. And Archie, as he went along, resolved that when Lady
Ongar's money was his, and when he had a countess for his wife, he would
give his elder brother a cold shoulder.

Boodle was playing pool at the Rag, and Archie joined him; but pool is a
game which hardly admits of confidential intercourse as to proposed
wives, and Archie was obliged to remain quiet on that subject all the
afternoon. He cunningly, however, lost a little money to Boodle, for
Boodle liked to win, and engaged himself to dine at the same table with
his friend. Their dinner they ate almost in silence--unless when they
abused the cook, or made to each other some pithy suggestion as to the
expediency of this or that delicacy--bearing always steadily in view the
cost as well as desirability of the viands. Boodle had no shame in not
having this or that because it was dear. To dine with the utmost luxury
at the smallest expense was a proficiency belonging to him, and of which
he was very proud.

But after a while the cloth was gone, and the heads of the two men were
brought near together over the small table. Boodle did not speak a word
till his brother captain had told his story, had pointed out all the
advantages to be gained, explained in what peculiar way the course lay
open to himself, and made the whole thing clear to his friend's eye.

"They say she's been a little queer, don't they?" said the friendly
counsellor.

"Of course people talk, you know."

"Talk, yes; they're talking a doosed sight, I should say. There's no
mistake about the money, I suppose?"

"Oh, none," said Archie, shaking his head vigorously. "Hugh managed all
that for her, so I know it."

"She don't lose any of it because she enters herself for running again,
does she?"

"Not a shilling. That's the beauty of it."

"Was you ever sweet on her before?"

"What! before Ongar took her? O laws, no. She hadn't a rap, you know;
and knew how to spend money as well as any girl in London."

"It's all to begin then, Clavvy; all the up-hill work to be done?"

"Well, yes; I don't know about up-hill, Doodles. What do you mean by
up-hill?"

"I mean that seven thousand a year ain't usually to be picked up merely
by trotting easy along the fiat. And this sort of work is very up-hill,
generally, I take it--unless, you know, a fellow has a fancy for it. If
a fellow is really sweet on a girl, he likes it, I suppose."

"She's a doosed handsome woman, you know, Doodles."

"I don't know anything about it, except that I suppose Ongar wouldn't
have taken her if she hadn't stood well on her pasterns, and had some
breeding about her. I never thought much of her sister--your brother's
wife, you know--that is, in the way of looks. No doubt she runs
straight, and that's a great thing. She won't go the wrong side of the
post."

"As for running straight, let me alone for that."

"Well, now, Clavvy, I'll tell you what my ideas are. When a man's trying
a young filly, his hands can't be too light. A touch too much will bring
her on her haunches, or throw her out of her step. She should hardly
feel the iron in her mouth. That's the sort of work which requires a man
to know well what he's about. But when I've got to do with a trained
mare, I always choose that she shall know that I'm there! Do you
understand me?"

"Yes; I understand you, Doodles."

"I always choose that she shall know that I'm there." And Captain
Boodle, as he repeated these manly words with a firm voice, put out his
hands as though he were handling the horse's rein. "Their mouths are
never so fine then, and they generally want to be brought up to the bit,
d'ye see?--up to the bit. When a mare has been trained to her work, and
knows what she's at in her running, she's all the better for feeling a
fellow's hands as she's going. She likes it rather. It gives her
confidence, and makes her know where she is. And look here, Clavvy, when
she comes to her fences, give her her head; but steady her first, and
make her know that you're there. Damme, whatever you do, let her know
that you're there. There's nothing like it. She'll think all the more of
the fellow that's piloting her. And look here, Clavvy; ride her with
spurs. Always ride a trained mare with spurs. Let her know that they're
on; and if she tries to get her head, give 'em her. Yes, by George, give
'em her." And Captain Boodle, in his energy, twisted himself in his
chair, and brought his heel round, so that it could be seen by Archie.
Then he produced a sharp click with his tongue, and made the peculiar
jerk with the muscle of his legs, whereby he was accustomed to evoke the
agility of his horses. After that, he looked triumphantly at his friend.
"Give 'em her, Clavvy, and she'll like you the better for it. She'll
know, then, that you mean it."

It was thus that Captain Boodle instructed his friend Archie Clavering
how to woo Lady Ongar; and Archie, as he listened to his friend's words
of wisdom, felt that he had learned a great deal. "That's the way I'll
do it, Doodles," he said, "and upon my word I'm very much obliged to
you."

"That's the way, you may depend on it. Let her know that you're
there--let her know that you're there. She's done the filly work before,
you see; and it's no good trying that again."

Captain Clavering really believed that he had learned a good deal, and
that he now knew the way to set about the work before him. What sort of
spurs he was to use, and how he was to put them on, I don't think he did
know; but that was a detail as to which he did not think it necessary to
consult his adviser. He sat the whole evening in the smoking-room, very
silent, drinking slowly iced gin-and-water; and the more he drank, the
more assured he felt that he now understood the way in which he was to
attempt the work before him. "Let her know I'm there," he said to
himself, shaking his head gently, so that no one should observe him;
"yes, let her know I'm there." At this time Captain Boodle--or Doodles,
as he was familiarly called--had again ascended to the billiard-room,
and was hard at work. "Let her know that I'm there," repeated Archie,
mentally. Everything was contained in, that precept. And he, with his
hands before him on his knees, went through the process of steadying a
horse with the snaffle-rein, just touching the curb, as he did so, for
security. It was but a motion of his fingers, and no one could see it;
but it made him confident that he had learned his lesson. "Up to the
bit," he repeated; "by George, yes, up to the bit. There's nothing like
it for a trained mare. Give her head, but steady her." And Archie, as
the words passed across his memory, and were almost pronounced, seemed
to be flying successfully over some prodigious fence. He leaned himself
back a little in the saddle, and seemed to hold firm with his legs. That
was the way to do it.

And then the spurs! He would not forget the spurs. She should know that
he wore a spur, and that, if necessary, he would use it. Then he, too,
gave a little click with his tongue, and an acute observer might have
seen the motion of his heel.

Two hours after that he was still sitting in the smoking-room, chewing
the end of a cigar, when Doodles came down victorious from the
billiard-room. Archie was half asleep, and did not notice the entrance
of his friend. "Let her know that you're there," said Doodles, close
into Archie Clavering's ear; "damme, let her know that you're there."
Archie started, and did not like the surprise, or the warm breath in his
ear; but he forgave the offence for the wisdom of the words that had
been spoken.

Then he walked home by himself, repeating again and again the invaluable
teachings of his friend.

During breakfast on the following day--which means from the hour of one
till two, for the glasses of iced gin-and-water had been many--Archie
Clavering was making up his mind that he would begin at once. He would
go to Bolton Street on that day, and make an attempt to be admitted. If
not admitted to-day, he would make another attempt to-morrow; and, if
still unsuccessful, he would write a letter--not a letter containing an
offer, which, according to Archie's ideas, would not be letting her know
that he was there in a manner sufficiently potential; but a letter in
which he would explain that he had very grave reasons for wishing to see
his near and dear connection, Lady Ongar. Soon after two he sallied out,
and he also went to a hairdresser's. He was aware that in doing so he
was hardly obeying his friend to the letter, as this sort of operation
would come rather under the head of handling a filly with a light touch;
but he thought that he could in this way, at any rate, do no harm, if he
would only remember the instructions he had received when in the
presence of the trained mare.



Chapter XX

Captain Clavering Makes His First Attempt



It was nearly three when Archie Clavering found himself in Bolton
Street, having calculated that Lady Ongar might be more probably found
at home then than at a later hour. But when he came to the door, instead
of knocking, he passed by it. He began to remember that he had not yet
made up his mind by what means he would bring it about that she should
certainly know that he was there. So he took a little turn up the
street, away from Piccadilly, through a narrow passage that there is in
those parts, and by some stables, and down into Piccadilly, and again to
Bolton Street, during which little tour he had made up his mind that it
could hardly become his duty to teach her that great lesson on this
occasion. She must undoubtedly be taught to know that he was there, but
not so taught on this, his first visit. That lesson should quickly
precede his offer; and, although he had almost hoped, in the interval
between two of his beakers of gin-and-water on the preceding evening,
that he might ride the race and win it altogether during this very
morning visit he was about to make, in his cooler moments he had begun
to reflect that that would hardly be practicable. The mare must get a
gallop before she would be in a condition to be brought out. So Archie
knocked at the door, intending merely to give the mare a gallop if he
should find her in to-day.

He gave his name, and was shown at once up into Lady Ongar's
drawing-room. Lady Ongar was not there, but she soon came down, and
entered the room with a smile on her face and with an outstretched hand.
Between the man-servant who took the captain's name, and the
maid-servant who carried it up to her mistress, but who did not see the
gentleman before she did so, there had arisen some mistake; and Lady
Ongar, as she came down from her chamber above, expected that she was to
meet another man. Harry Clavering, she thought, had come to her at last.
"I'll be down at once," Lady Ongar had said, dismissing the girl, and
then standing for a moment before her mirror as she smoothed her hair,
obliterated, as far as it might be possible, the ugliness of her cap,
and shook out the folds of her dress. A countess, a widow, a woman of
the world who had seen enough to make her composed under all
circumstances, one would say--a trained mare, as Doodles had called
her--she stood before her glass, doubting and trembling like a girl,
when she heard that Harry Clavering was waiting for her below. We may
surmise that she would have spared herself some of this trouble had she
known the real name of her visitor. Then, as she came slowly down the
stairs, she reflected how she would receive him. He had stayed away from
her, and she would be cold to him--cold and formal as she had been on
the railway platform. She knew well how to play that part. Yes, it was
his turn now to show some eagerness of friendship, if there was ever to
be anything more than friendship between them. But she changed all this
as she put her hand upon the look of the door. She would be honest to
him--honest and true. She was, in truth, glad to see him, and he should
know it. What cared she now for the common ways of women and the usual
coyness of feminine coquetry? She told herself also, in language
somewhat differing from that which Doodles had used, that her filly days
were gone by, and that she was now a trained mare. All this passed
through her mind as her hand was on the door, and then she opened it,
with a smiling face and ready hand, to find herself in the presence
of--Captain Archie Clavering.

The captain was sharp-sighted enough to observe the change in her
manner. The change, indeed, was visible enough, and was such that it at
once knocked out of Archie's breast some portion of the courage with
which his friend's lessons had inspired him. The outstretched hand fell
slowly to her side, the smile gave place to a look of composed dignity,
which made Archie at once feel that the fate which called upon him to
woo a countess was in itself hard. And she walked slowly into the room
before she spoke to him, or he to her.

"Captain Clavering!" she said at last, and there was much more of
surprise than of welcome in her words as she uttered them.

"Yes, Lady On--, Julia, that is; I thought I might as well come and
call, as I found we weren't to see you at Clavering when we were all
there at Easter." When she had been living in his brother's house as one
of the family, he had called her Julia as Hugh had done. The connection
between them had been close, and it had come naturally to him to do so.
He had thought much of this since his present project had been
initiated, and had strongly resolved not to lose the advantage of his
former familiarity. He had very nearly broken down at the onset, but,
as the reader will have observed, had recovered himself.

"You are very good," she said; and then, as he had been some time
standing with his right hand presented to her, she just touched it with
her own.

"There's nothing I hate so much as stuff and nonsense," said Archie. To
this remark she simply bowed, remaining awfully quiet. Captain Clavering
felt that her silence was in truth awful. She had always been good at
talking, and he had paused for her to say something; but when she bowed
to him in that stiff manner--"doosed stiff she was; doosed stiff, and
impudent, too," he told Doodles afterward--he knew that he must go on
himself. "Stuff and nonsense is the mischief, you know." Then she bowed
again. "There's been something the matter with them all down at
Clavering since you came home, Julia; but hang me if I can find out what
it is!" Still she was silent. "It ain't Hermy; that I must say. Hermy
always speaks of you as though there had never been anything wrong."
This assurance, we may say, must have been flattering to the lady whom
he was about to court.

"Hermy was always too good to me," said Lady Ongar, smiling.

"By George, she always does. If there's anything wrong it's been with
Hugh; and, by George, I don't know what it is he was up to when you
first came home. It wasn't my doing--of course you know that."

"I never thought that anything was your doing, Captain Clavering."

"I think Hugh had been losing money; I do indeed. He was like a bear
with a sore head just at that time. There was no living in the house
with him. I daresay Hermy may have told you all about that."

"Hermione is not by nature so communicative as you are, Captain
Clavering."

"Isn't she? I should have thought between sisters--; but of course
that's no business of mine." Again she was silent, awfully silent, and
he became aware that he must either get up and go away or carry on the
conversation himself. To do either seemed to be equally difficult, and
for a while he sat there almost gasping in his misery. He was quite
aware that as yet he had not made her know that he was there. He was not
there, as he well knew, in his friend Doodles' sense of the word. "At
any rate there isn't any good in quarrelling, is there, Julia?" he said
at last. Now that he had asked a question, surely she must speak.

"There is great good sometimes, I think," said she, "in people remaining
apart and not seeing each other. Sir Hugh Clavering has not quarrelled
with me, that I am aware. Indeed, since my marriage there have been no
means of quarrelling between us. But I think it quite as well that he
and I should not come together."

"But he particularly wants you to go to Clavering."

"Has he sent you here as his messenger?"

"Sent me! oh dear no; nothing of that sort. I have come altogether on my
own hook. If Hugh wants a messenger he must find some one else. But you
and I were always friends you know"--at this assertion she opened her
large eyes widely, and simply smiled--"and I thought that perhaps you
might be glad to see me if I called. That was all."

"You are very good, Captain Clavering."

"I couldn't bear to think that you should be here in London, and that
one shouldn't see anything of you or know anything about you. Tell me
now; is there anything I can do for you? Do you want anybody to settle
anything for you in the city?"

"I think not, Captain Clavering; thank you very much."

"Because I should be so happy; I should indeed. There's nothing I should
like so much as to make myself useful in some way. Isn't there anything
now? There must be so much to be looked after--about money and all
that."

"My lawyer does all that, Captain Clavering."

"Those fellows are such harpies. There is no end to their charges; and
all for doing things that would only be a pleasure to me."

"I'm afraid I can't employ you in any matter that would suit your
tastes."

"Can't you indeed, now?" Then again there was a silence, and Captain
Clavering was beginning to think that he must go. He was willing to work
hard at talking or anything else; but he could not work if no ground for
starting were allowed to him. He thought he must go, though he was aware
that he had not made even the slightest preparation for future obedience
to his friend's precepts. He began to feel that he had commenced
wrongly. He should have made her know that he was there from the first
moment of her entrance into the room. He must retreat now in order that
he might advance with more force on the next occasion. He had just made
up his mind to this and was doubting how he might best get himself out
of his chair with the purpose of going, when sudden relief came in the
shape of another visitor. The door was thrown open and Madam Gordeloup
was announced.

"Well, my angel," said the little woman, running up to her friend and
kissing her on either side of her face. Then she turned round as though
she had only just seen the strange gentleman, and curtseyed to him.
Captain Clavering, holding his hat in both his hands, bowed to the
little woman.

"My sister's brother-in-law, Captain Clavering," said Lady Ongar. "Madam
Gordeloup."

Captain Clavering bowed again. "Ah, Sir Oo's brother," said Madam
Gordeloup. "I am very glad to see Captain Clavering; and is your sister
come?"

"No; my sister is not come."

"Lady Clavering is not in town this Spring," said the captain.

"Ah, not in town! Then I do pity her. There is only de one place to live
in, and that is London, for April, May, and June. Lady Clavering is not
coming to London?"

"Her little boy isn't quite the thing," said the captain.

"Not quite de ting?" said the Franco-Pole in an inquiring voice, not
exactly understanding the gentleman's language.

"My little nephew is ill, and my sister does not think it wise to bring
him to London."

"Ah; that is a pity. And Sir Oo? Sir Oo is in London?"

"Yes," said the captain; "my brother has been up some time."

"And his lady left alone in the country? Poor lady! But your English
ladies like the country. They are fond of the fields and the daisies. So
they say; but I think often they lie. Me; I like the houses, and the
people, and the pave. The fields are damp, and I love not rheumatism at
all." Then the little woman shrugged her shoulders and shook herself.
"Tell us the truth, Julie; which do you like best, the town or the
country?"

"Whichever I'm not in, I think."

"Ah, just so. Whichever you are not in at present. That is because you
are still idle. You have not settled yourself!" At this reference to the
possibility of Lady Ongar settling herself, Captain Clavering pricked up
his ears, and listened eagerly for what might come next. He only knew of
one way in which a young woman without a husband could settle herself.
"You must wait, my dear, a little longer, just a little longer, till the
time of your trouble has passed by."

"Don't talk such nonsense, Sophie," said the countess.

"Ah, my dear, it is no nonsense. I am always telling her, Captain
Clavering, that she must go through this black, troublesome time as
quick as she can; and then nobody will enjoy the town so much as de rich
and beautiful Lady Ongar. Is it not so, Captain Clavering?"

Archie thought that the time had now come for him to say something
pretty, so that his love might begin to know that he was there. "By
George, yes, there'll be nobody so much admired when she comes out
again. There never was anybody so much admired before--before--that is,
when you were Julia Brabazon, you know; and I shouldn't wonder if you
didn't come out quite as strong as ever."

"As strong!" said the Franco-Pole. "A woman that has been married is
always more admired than a meess."

"Sophie, might I ask you and Captain Clavering to be a little less
personal?"

"There is noting I hate so much as your meeses," continued Madam
Gordeloup; "noting! Your English meesses give themselves such airs. Now
in Paris, or in dear Vienna, or in St. Petersburg, they are not like
that at all. There they are nobodies--they are nobodies; but then they
will be something very soon, which is to be better. Your English meess
is so much and so grand; she never can be greater and grander. So when
she is a mamma, she lives down in the country by herself, and looks
after de pills and de powders. I don't like that. I don't like that at
all. No; if my husband had put me into the country to look after de
pills and de powders, he should have had them all, all--himself, when he
came to see me." As she said this with great energy, she opened her eyes
wide, and looked full into Archie's face.

Captain Clavering, who was sitting with his hat in his two hands between
his knees, stared at the little foreigner. He had heard before of women
poisoning their husbands, but never had heard a woman advocate the
system as expedient. Nor had he often heard a woman advocate any system
with the vehemence which Madam Gordeloup now displayed on this matter,
and with an allusion which was so very pointed to the special position
of his own sister-in-law. Did Lady Ongar agree with her? He felt as
though he should like to know his Julia's opinion on that matter.

"Sophie, Captain Clavering will think that you are in earnest," said the
countess, laughing.

"So I aim--in earnest. It is all wrong. You boil all the water out of de
pot before you put the gigot into it. So the gigot is no good, is tough
and dry, and you shut it up in an old house in the country. Then, to
make matters pretty, you talk about de fields and de daisies. I know.
'Thank you,' we should say. 'De fields and de daisies are so nice and so
good! Suppose you go down, my love, and walk in de fields, and pick de
daisies, and send them up to me by de railway!' Yes, that is what I
would say."

Captain Clavering was now quite in the dark, and began to regard the
little woman as a lunatic. When she spoke of the pot and the gigot he
vainly endeavored to follow her; and now that she had got among the
daisies he was more at a loss than ever. Fruit, vegetables, and cut
flowers came up, he knew, to London regularly from Clavering, when the
family was in town--but no daisies. In France it must, he supposed, be
different. He was aware, however, of his ignorance, and said nothing.

"No one ever did try to shut you up, Sophie!"

"No, indeed; M. Gordeloup knew better. What would he do if I were shut
up? And no one will ever shut you up, my dear. If I were you, I would
give no one a chance."

"Don't say that," said the captain, almost passionately; "don't say
that."

"Ha, ha! but I do say it. Why should a woman who has got everything
marry again? If she wants de fields and de daisies she has got them of
her own--yes, of her own. If she wants de town, she has got that, too.
Jewels--she can go and buy them. Coaches--there they are. Parties--one,
two, three, every night, as many as she please. Gentlemen, who will be
her humble slaves; such a plenty--all London. Or, if she want to be
alone, no one can come near her. Why should she marry? No."

"But she might be in love with somebody," said the captain, in a
surprised but humble tone.

"Love! Bah! Be in love, so that she may be shut up in an old barrack
with de powders!" The way in which that word barrack was pronounced, and
the middle letters sounded, almost lifted the captain off his seat.
"Love is very pretty at seventeen, when the imagination is telling a
parcel of lies, and when life is one dream. To like people--oh, yes; to
be very fond of your friend;--oh, yes; to be most attached--as I am to
my Julie"--here she got hold of Lady Ongar's hand--"it is the salt of
life! But what you call love, booing and cooing, with rhymes and verses
about de moon, it is to go back to pap and panade, and what you call
bibs. No; if a woman wants a house, and de something to live on, let her
marry a husband; or if a man want to have children, let him marry a
wife. But to be shut up in a country house, when everything you have got
of your own--I say it is bad"

Captain Clavering was heartily sorry that he had mentioned the fact of
his sister-in-law being left at home at Clavering Park. It was most
unfortunate. How could he make it understood that if he were married he
would not think of shutting his wife up at Ongar Park? "Lady Clavering,
you know, does come to London generally," he said.

"Bah!" exclaimed the little Franco-Pole.

"And as for me, I never should be happy, if I were married, unless I had
my wife with me everywhere," said Captain Clavering.

"Bah-ah-ah!" ejaculated the lady.

Captain Clavering could not endure this any longer. He felt that the
manner of the lady was, to say the least of it, unpleasant, and he
perceived that he was doing no good to his own cause. So he rose from
his chair and muttered some words with the intention of showing his
purpose of departure.

"Good-by, Captain Clavering," said Lady Ongar. "My love to my sister
when you see her."

Archie shook hands with her and then made his bow to Madam Gordeloup.
"Au revoir, my friend," she said, "and you remember all I say. It is not
good for de wife to be alone in the country, while de husband walk about
in the town and make an eye to every lady he see." Archie would not
trust himself to renew the argument, but bowing again, made his way off.

"He was come for one admirer," said Sophie, as soon as the door was
closed.

"An admirer of whom?"

"Not of me; oh, no; I was not in danger at all."

"Of me? Captain Clavering! Sophie, you get your head full of the
strangest nonsense."

"Ah; very well. You see. What will you give me if I am right? Will you
bet? Why had he got on his new gloves, and had his head all smelling
with stuff from de hair-dresser? Does he come always perfumed like that?
Does he wear shiny little boots to walk about in de morning, and make an
eye always? Perhaps yes."

"I never saw his boots or his eyes."

"But I see them. I see many things. He come to have Ongere Park for his
own. I tell you, yes. Ten thousand will come to have Ongere Park. Why
not? To have Ongere Park and all de money a man will make himself smell
a great deal."

"You think much more about all that than is necessary."

"Do I, my dear? Very well. There are three already. There is Edouard,
and there is this Clavering, who you say is a captain; and there is the
other Clavering who goes with his nose in the air, and who thinks
himself a clever fellow because he learned his lesson at school and did
not get himself whipped. He will be whipped yet some day--perhaps."

"Sophie, hold your tongue. Captain Clavering is my sister's
brother-in-law, and Harry Clavering is my friend."

"Ah, friend! I know what sort of friend he wants to be. How much better
to have a park and plenty of money than to work in a ditch and make a
railway! But he do not know the way with a woman. Perhaps he may be more
at home, as you say, in the ditch. I should say to him, 'My friend, you
will do well in de ditch if you work hard; suppose you stay there.'"

"You don't seem to like my cousin, and, if you please, we will talk no
more about him."

"Why should I not like him? He don't want to get any money from me."

"That will do, Sophie."

"Very well; it shall do for me. But this other man that come here
to-day. He is a fool."

"Very likely."

"He did not learn his lesson without whipping."

"Nor with whipping either."

"No; he have learned nothing. He does not know what to do with his hat.
He is a fool. Come, Julie, will you take me out for a drive. It is
melancholy for you to go alone; I came to ask you for a drive. Shall we
go?" And they did go, Lady Ongar and Sophie Gordeloup together. Lady
Ongar, as she submitted, despised herself for her submission; but what
was she to do? It is sometimes very difficult to escape from the meshes
of friendship.

Captain Clavering, when he left Bolton Street, went down to his club,
having first got rid of his shining boots and new gloves. He sauntered
up into the billiard-room knowing that his friend would be there, and
there he found Doodles with his coat off, the sleeves of his shirt
turned back, and armed with his cue. His brother captain, the moment
that he saw him, presented the cue at his breast. "Does she know you're
there, old fellow; I say, does she know you're there?" The room was full
of men, and the whole thing was done so publicly that Captain Clavering
was almost offended.

"Come, Doodles, you go on with your game," said he; "it's you to
play." Doodles turned to the table, and scientifically pocketed the ball
on which he played; then laid his own ball close under the cushion,
picked up a shilling and put it into his waistcoat pocket, holding a
lighted cigar in his mouth the while, and then he came back to his
friend. "Well, Clavvy, how has it been?"

"Oh, nothing as yet, you know."

"Haven't you seen her?"

"Yes, I've seen her, of course. I'm not the fellow to let the grass grow
under my feet. I've only just come from her house."

"Well, well?"

"That's nothing much to tell the first day, you know."

"Did you let her know you were there? That's the chat. Damme, did you
let her know you were there?"

In answer to this Archie attempted to explain that he was not as yet
quite sure that he had been successful in that particular; but in the
middle of his story Captain Doodles was called off to exercise his skill
again, and on this occasion to pick up two shillings. "I'm sorry for
you, Griggs," he said, as a very young lieutenant, whose last life he
had taken, put up his cue with a look of ineffable disgust, and whose
shilling Doodles had pocketed; "I'm sorry for you, very; but a fellow
must play the game, you know." Whereupon Griggs walked out of the room
with a gait that seemed to show that he had his own ideas upon that
matter, though he did not choose to divulge them. Doodles instantly
returned to his friend. "With cattle of that kind it's no use trying the
waiting dodge," said he. "You should make your running at once, and
trust to bottom to carry you through."

"But there was a horrid little Frenchwoman came in!"

"What; a servant?"

"No; a friend. Such a creature! You should have heard her talk. A kind
of confidential friend she seemed, who called her Julie. I had to go
away and leave her there, of course."

"Ah! you'll have to tip that woman."

"What, with money?"

"I shouldn't wonder."

"It would come very expensive."

"A tenner now and then, you know. She would do your business for you.
Give her a brooch first, and then offer to lend her the money. You'd
find she'll rise fast enough, if you're any hand for throwing a fly."

"Oh! I could do it, you know."

"Do it then, and let 'em both know that you're there. Yes, Parkyns, I'll
divide. And, Clavvy, you can come in now in Griggs' place." Then Captain
Clavering stripped himself for the battle.



Chapter XXI

The Blue Posts



"Oh; so you've come to see me. I am so glad." With these words Sophie
Gordeloup welcomed Harry Clavering to her room in Mount Street early one
morning not long after her interview with Captain Archie in Lady Ongar's
presence. On the previous evening Harry had received a note from Lady
Ongar, in which she upbraided him for having left unperformed her
commission with reference to Count Pateroff. The letter had begun quite
abruptly. "I think it unkind of you that you do not come to me. I asked
you, to see a certain person on my behalf, and you have not done so.
Twice he has been here. Once I was in truth out. He came again the next
evening at nine, and I was then ill, and had gone to bed. You understand
it all, and must know how this annoys me. I thought you would have done
this for me, and I thought I should have seen you.--J."

This note he found at his lodgings when he returned home at night, and
on the following morning he went in his despair direct to Mount Street,
on his way to the Adelphi. It was not yet ten o'clock when he was shown
into Madam Gordeloup's presence, and as regarded her dress, he did not
find her to be quite prepared for morning visitors. But he might well be
indifferent on that matter, as the lady seemed to disregard the
circumstance altogether. On her head she wore what he took to be a
nightcap, though I will not absolutely undertake to say that she had
slept in that very head-dress. There were frills to it, and a certain
attempt at prettinesses had been made; but then the attempt had been
made so long ago, and the frills were so ignorant of starch and all
frillish propensities, that it hardly could pretend to decency. A great
white wrapper she also wore, which might not have been objectionable had
it not been so long worn that it looked like a university college
surplice at the end of a long vacation. Her slippers had all the ease
which age could give them, and above the slippers, neatness, to say the
least of it, did not predominate. But Sophie herself seemed to be quite
at her ease in spite of these deficiencies, and received our hero with
an eager, pointed welcome, which I can hardly describe as affectionate,
and which Harry did not at all understand.

"I have to apologize for troubling you," he began.

"Trouble, what trouble? Bah! You give me no trouble. It is you have the
trouble to come here. You come early and I have not got my crinoline. If
you are contented, so am I." Then she smiled, and sat herself down
suddenly, letting herself almost fall into her special corner in the
sofa. "Take a chair, Mr. Harry; then we can talk more comfortable."

"I want especially to see your brother. Can you give me his address?"

"What? Edouard--certainly; Travellers' Club."

"But he is never there."

"He sends every day for his letters. You want to see him. Why?"

Harry was at once confounded, having no answer. "A little private
business," he said.

"Ah; a little private business. You do not owe him a little money, I am
afraid, or you would not want to see him. Ha, ha! You write to him, and
he will see you. There; there is paper and pen and ink. He shall get
your letter this day."

Harry, nothing suspicious, did as he was bid, and wrote a note in which
he simply told the count he was specially desirous of seeing him.

"I will go to you anywhere," said Harry, "if you will name a place"

We, knowing Madam Gordeloup's habits, may feel little doubt but that she
thought it her duty to become acquainted with the contents of the note
before she sent it out of her house, but we may also know that she
learned very little from it.

"It shall go almost immediately," said Sophie, when the envelope was
closed.

Then Harry got up to depart, having done his work. "What, you are going
in that way at once? You are in a hurry?"

"Well, yes; I am in a hurry, rather, Madam Gordeloup. I have got to be
at my office, and I only just came up here to find out your brother's
address." Then he rose and went, leaving the note behind him.

Then Madam Gordeloup, speaking to herself in French, called Harry
Clavering a lout, a fool, an awkward, overgrown boy, and a pig. She
declared him to be a pig nine times over, then shook herself in violent
disgust, and after that betook herself to the letter.

The letter was at any rate duly sent to the count, for before Harry had
left Mr. Beilby's chambers on that day, Pateroff came to him there.
Harry sat in the same room with other men, and therefore went out to see
his acquaintance in a little antechamber that was used for such
purposes. As he walked from one room to the other, he was conscious of
the delicacy and difficulty of the task before him, and the color was
high in his face as he opened the door. But when he had done so, he saw
that the count was not alone. A gentleman was with him whom he did not
introduce to Harry, and before whom Harry could not say that which he
had to communicate.

"Pardon me," said the count, "but we are in a railroad hurry. Nobody
ever was in such a haste as I and my friend. You are not engaged
to-morrow? No, I see. You dine with me and my friend at the Blue Posts.
You know the Blue Posts?"

Harry said he did not know the Blue Posts.

"Then you shall know the Blue Posts. I will be your instructor. You
drink claret. Come and see. You eat beefsteaks. Come and try. You love
one glass of port wine with your cheese. No. But you shall love it when
you have dined with me at the Blue Posts. We will dine together after
the English way--which is the best way in the world when it is quite
good. It is quite good at the Blue Posts--quite good! Seven o'clock. You
are fined when a minute late; an extra glass of port wine a minute. Now
I must go. Ah; yes. I am ruined already."

Then Count Pateroff, holding his watch in his hand, bolted out of the
room before Harry could say a word to him.

He had nothing for it but to go to the dinner, and to the dinner he
went. On that same evening, the evening of the day on which he had seen
Sophie and her brother, he wrote to Lady Ongar, using to her the same
manner of writing that she had used to him, and telling her that he had
done his best; that he had now seen whom he had been desired to see, but
that he had not been able to speak to him. He was, however, to dine with
him on the following day, and would call in Bolton Street as soon as
possible after that interview.

Exactly at seven o'clock, Harry, having the fear of the threatened fine
before his eyes, was at the Blue Posts; and there, standing in the
middle of the room, he saw Count Pateroff. With Count Pateroff was the
same gentleman whom Harry had seen at the Adelphi, and whom the count
now introduced as Colonel Schmoff; and also a little Englishman with a
knowing eye and a bull-dog neck, and whiskers cut very short and trim--a
horsey little man, whom the count also introduced. "Captain Boodle says
he knows a cousin of yours, Mr. Clavering."

Then Colonel Schmoff bowed, never yet having spoken a word in Harry's
hearing, and our friend Doodles with glib volubility told Harry how
intimate he was with Archie, and how he knew Sir Hugh, and how he had
met Lady Clavering, and how "doosed" glad he was to meet Harry himself
on this present occasion.

"And now, my boys, we'll set down," said the count. "There's just a
little soup, printanier; yes, they can make soup here; then a cut of
salmon--and after that the beefsteak. Nothing more. Schmoff, my boy, can
you eat beefsteak?"

Schmoff neither smiled nor spoke, but simply bowed his head gravely, and
sitting down, arranged with slow exactness his napkin over his waistcoat
and lap.

"Captain Boodle, can you eat beefsteak," said the count; "Blue Posts'
beefsteak?"

"Try me," said Doodles. "That's all. Try me."

"I will try you, and I will try Mr. Clavering. Schmoff would eat a horse
if he had not a bullock, and a piece of jackass if he had not a horse."

"I did eat a horse in Hamboro' once. We was besieged."

So much said Schmoff, very slowly, in a deep bass voice, speaking from
the bottom of his chest, and frowning very heavily as he did so. The
exertion was so great that he did not repeat it for a considerable time.

"Thank God we are not besieged now," said the count, as the soup was
handed round to them. "Ah, Albert, my friend, that is good soup; very
good soup. My compliments to the excellent Stubbs. Mr. Clavering, the
excellent Stubbs is the cook. I am quite at home here, and they do their
best for me. You need not fear you will have any of Schmoff's horse."

This was all very pleasant, and Harry Clavering sat down to his dinner
prepared to enjoy it; but there was a sense about him during the whole
time that he was being taken in and cheated, and that the count would
cheat him and actually escape away from him on that evening without his
being able to speak a word to him. They were dining in a public room, at
a large table which they had to themselves, while others were dining at
small tables round them. Even if Schmoff and Boodle had not been there,
he could hardly have discussed Lady Ongar's private affairs in such a
room as that. The count had brought him there to dine in this way with a
premeditated purpose of throwing him over, pretending to give him the
meeting that had been asked for, but intending that it should pass by
and be of no avail. Such was Harry's belief; and he resolved that,
though he might have to seize Pateroff by the tails of his coat, the
count should not escape him without having been forced at any rate to
hear what he had to say. In the meantime the dinner went on very
pleasantly.

"Ah," said the count, "there is no fish like salmon early in the year;
but not too early. And it should come alive from Grove, and be cooked by
Stubbs."

"And eaten by me," said Boodle.

"Under my auspices," said the count, "and then all is well. Mr.
Clavering, a little bit near the head? Not care about any particular
part? That is wrong. Everybody should always learn what is the best to
eat of everything, and get it if they can."

"By George, I should think so," said Doodles. "I know I do."

"Not to know the bit out of the neck of the salmon from any other bit,
is not to know a false note from a true one. Not to distinguish a '51
wine from a '58, is to look at an arm or a leg on the canvas, and to
care nothing whether it is in drawing, or out of drawing. Not to know
Stubbs' beefsteak from other beefsteaks, is to say that every woman is
the same thing to you. Only, Stubbs will let you have his beefsteak if
you will pay him--him or his master. With the beautiful woman it is not
always so--not always. Do I make myself understood?"

"Clear as mud," said Doodles. "I'm quite along with you there. Why
should a man be ashamed of eating what's nice? Everybody does it."

"No, Captain Boodle; not everybody. Some cannot get it, and some do not
know it when it comes in their way. They are to be pitied. I do pity
them from the bottom of my heart. But there is one poor fellow I do pity
more even than they."

There was something in the tone of the count's words--a simple pathos,
and almost a melody, which interested Harry Clavering. No one knew
better than Count Pateroff how to use all the inflexions of his voice,
and produce from the phrases he used the very highest interest which
they were capable of producing. He now spoke of his pity in a way that
might almost have made a sensitive man weep. "Who is that you pity so
much?" Harry asked.

"The man who cannot digest," said the count, in a low, clear voice. Then
he bent down his head over the morsel of food on his plate, as though he
were desirous of hiding a tear. "The man who cannot digest!" As he
repeated the words he raised his head again, and looked round at all
their faces.

"Yes, yes; mein Gott, yes," said Schmoff, and even he appeared as though
he were almost moved from the deep quietude of his inward indifference.

"Ah; talk of blessings! What a blessing is digestion!" said the count.
"I do not know whether you have ever thought of it, Captain Boodle? You
are young, and perhaps not. Or you, Mr. Clavering? It is a subject
worthy of your thoughts. To digest! Do you know what it means? It is to
have the sun always shining, and the shade always ready for you. It is
to be met with smiles, and to be greeted with kisses. It is to hear
sweet sounds, to sleep with sweet dreams, to be touched ever by gentle,
soft, cool hands. It is to be in paradise. Adam and Eve were in
paradise. Why? Their digestion was good. And then they took liberties,
eat bad fruit--things they could not digest. They what we call, ruined
their constitutions, destroyed their gastric juices, and then they were
expelled from paradise by an angel with a flaming sword. The angel with
the flaming sword, which turned two ways, was indigestion! There came a
great indigestion upon the earth because the cooks were bad, and they
called it a deluge. Ah, I thank God there is to be no more deluges. All
the evils come from this. Macbeth could not sleep. It was the supper,
not the murder. His wife talked and walked. It was the supper again.
Milton had a bad digestion because he is always so cross; and your
Carlyle must have the worst digestion in the world, because he never
says any good of anything. Ah, to digest is to be happy! Believe me,
my friends, there is no other way not to be turned out of paradise by
a fiery, two-handed turning sword."

"It is true," said Schmoff; "yes, it is true."

"I believe you," said Doodles. "And how well the count describes it,
don't he, Mr. Clavering? I never looked at it in that light; but, after
all, digestion is everything. What is a horse worth, if he won't feed?"

"I never thought much about it," said Harry.

"That is very good," said the great preacher. "Not to think about it
ever is the best thing in the world. You will be made to think about it
if there be necessity. A friend of mine told, me he did not know whether
he had a digestion. My friend, I said, you are like the husbandmen; you
do not know your own blessings. A bit more steak, Mr. Clavering; see, it
has come up hot, just to prove that you have the blessing."

There was a pause in the conversation for a minute or two, during which
Schmoff and Doodles were very busy giving the required proof; and the
count was leaning back in his chair with a smile of conscious wisdom on
his face, looking as though he were in deep consideration of the subject
on which he had just spoken with so much eloquence. Harry did not
interrupt the silence, as, foolishly, he was allowing his mind to carry
itself away from the scene of enjoyment that was present, and trouble
itself with the coming battle which he would be obliged to fight with
the count. Schmoff was the first to speak. "When I was eating a horse at
Hamboro'--" he began.

"Schmoff," said the count, "if we allow you to get behind the ramparts
of that besieged city, we shall have to eat that horse for the rest of
the evening. Captain Boodle, if you will believe me, I eat that horse
once for two hours. Ah, here is the port wine. Now, Mr. Clavering, this
is the wine for cheese--'34. No man should drink above two glasses of
'34. if you want port after that, then have '20."

Schmoff had certainly been hardly treated. He had scarcely spoken a word
during dinner, and should, I think, have been allowed to say something
of the flavor of the horse. It did not, however, appear from his
countenance that he had felt, or that he resented the interference;
though he did not make any further attempt to enliven the conversation.

They did not sit long over their wine, and the count, in spite of what
he had said about the claret, did not drink any. "Captain Boodle," he
said, "you must respect my weakness as well as my strength. I know what
I can do, and what I cannot. If I were a real hero, like you
English--which means, if I had an ostrich in my inside--I would drink
till twelve every night, and eat broiled bones till six every morning.
But alas! the ostrich has not been given to me. As a common man I am
pretty well, but I have no heroic capacities. We will have a little
chasse, and then we will smoke."

Harry began to be very nervous. How was he to do it? It had become
clearer and clearer to him through every ten minutes of the dinner, that
the count did not intend to give him any moment for private
conversation. He felt that he was cheated and ill-used, and was waxing
angry. They were to go and smoke in a public room, and he knew, or
thought he knew, what that meant. The count would sit there till he
went, and had brought the Colonel Schmoff with him, so that he might be
sure of some ally to remain by his side and ensure silence. And the
count, doubtless, had calculated that when Captain Boodle went, as he
soon would go, to his billiards, he, Harry Clavering, would feel himself
compelled to go also. No! It should not result in that way. Harry
resolved that he would not go. He had his mission to perform and he
would perform it, even if he were compelled to do so in the presence of
Colonel Schmoff.

Doodles soon went. He could not sit long with the simple gratification
of a cigar, without gin-and-water or other comfort of that kind, even
though the eloquence of Count Pateroff might be excited in his favor. He
was a man, indeed, who did not love to sit still, even with the comfort
of gin-and-water. An active little man was Captain Boodle, always doing
something or anxious to do something in his own line of business. Small
speculations in money, so concocted as to leave the risk against him
smaller than the chance on his side, constituted Captain Boodle's trade;
and in that trade he was indefatigable, ingenious, and, to a certain
extent, successful. The worst of the trade was this: that though he
worked at it about twelve hours a day, to the exclusion of all other
interests in life, he could only make out of it an income which would
have been considered a beggarly failure at any other profession. When he
netted a pound a day he considered himself to have done very well; but
he could not do that every day in the week. To do it often required
unremitting exertion. And then, in spite of all his care, misfortunes
would come. "A cursed garron, of whom nobody had ever heard the name! If
a man mayn't take the liberty with such a brute as that, when is he to
take a liberty?" So had he expressed himself plaintively, endeavoring to
excuse himself when on some occasion a race had been won by some outside
horse which Captain Boodle had omitted to make safe in his betting-book.
He was regarded by his intimate friends as a very successful man; but I
think myself that his life was a mistake. To live with one's hands ever
daubed with chalk from a billiard-table, to be always spying into
stables and rubbing against grooms, to put up with the narrow lodgings
which needy men encounter at race meetings, to be day after day on the
rails running after platers and steeple-chasers, to be conscious on all
occasions of the expediency of selling your beast when you are hunting,
to be counting up little odds at all your spare moments--these things do
not, I think, make a satisfactory life for a young man. And for a man
that is not young, they are the very devil! Better have no digestion
when you are forty than find yourself living such a life as that!
Captain Boodle would, I think, have been happier had he contrived to get
himself employed as a tax-gatherer or an attorney's clerk.

On this occasion Doodles soon went, as had been expected, and Harry
found himself smoking with the two foreigners. Pateroff was no longer
eloquent, but sat with his cigar in his mouth as silent as Colonel
Schmoff himself. It was evidently expected of Harry that he should go.

"Count," he said at last, "you got my note?" There were seven or eight
persons sitting in the room beside the party of three to which Harry
belonged.

"Your note, Mr. Clavering! which note? Oh, yes; I should not have had
the pleasure of seeing you here to-day but for that."

"Can you give me five minutes in private?"

"What! now! here! this evening! after dinner? Another time I will talk
with you by the hour together."

"I fear I must trouble you now. I need not remind you that I could not
keep you yesterday morning; you were so much hurried."

"And now I am having my little moment of comfort! These special business
conversations after dinner are so bad for the digestion!"

"If I could have caught you before dinner, Count Pateroff, I would have
done so."

"If it must be, it must. Schmoff, will you wait for me ten minutes? I
will not be more than ten minutes." And the count, as he made this
promise, looked at his watch. "Waiter," he said, speaking in a sharp
tone which Harry had not heard before, "show this gentleman and me into
a private room."

Harry got up and led the way out, not forgetting to assure himself that
he cared nothing for the sharpness of the count's voice.

"Now, Mr. Clavering, what is it?" said the count, looking full into
Harry's eye.

"I will tell you in two words."

"In one if you can."

"I came with a message to you from Lady Ongar."

"Why are you a messenger from Lady Ongar?"

"I have known her long and she is connected with my family."

"Why does she not send her messages by Sir Hugh--her brother-in-law?"

"It is hardly for you to ask that!"

"Yes; it is for me to ask that. I have known Lady Ongar well, and have
treated her with kindness. I do not want to have messages by anybody.
But go on. If you are a messenger, give your message."

"Lady Ongar bids me tell you that she cannot see you."

"But she must see me. She shall see me!"

"I am to explain to you that she declines to do so. Surely, Count
Pateroff, you must understand--"

"Ah, bah; I understand everything--in such matters as these, better,
perhaps, than you, Mr. Clavering. You have given your message. Now, as
you are a messenger, will you give mine?"

"That will depend altogether on its nature."

"Sir, I never send uncivil words to a woman, though sometimes I may be
tempted to speak them to a man; when, for instance, a man interferes
with me; do you understand? My message is this: Tell her ladyship, with
my compliments, that it will be better for her to see me--better for
her, and for me. When that poor lord died--and he had been, mind, my
friend for many years before her ladyship had heard his name--I was with
him; and there were occurrences of which you know nothing and need know
nothing. I did my best then to be courteous to Lady Ongar, which she
returns by shutting her door in my face. I do not mind that. I am not
angry with a woman. But tell her that when she has heard what I now say
to her by you, she will, I do not doubt, think better of it; and
therefore I shall do myself the honor of presenting myself at her door
again. Good-night, Mr. Clavering; au revoir; we will have another of
Stubbs' little dinners before long." As he spoke these last words the
count's voice was again changed, and the old smile had returned to his
face.

Harry shook hands with him, and walked away homeward, not without a
feeling that the count had got the better of him, even to the end. He
had, however, learned how the land lay, and could explain to Lady Ongar
that Count Pateroff now knew her wishes and was determined to disregard
them.



Chapter XXII

Desolation



In the meantime there was grief down at the great house of Clavering;
and grief, we must suppose also, at the house in Berkeley Square, as
soon as the news from his country home had reached Sir Hugh Clavering.
Little Hughy, his heir, was dead. Early one morning, Mrs. Clavering, at
the rectory, received a message from Lady Clavering, begging that she
would go up to the house, and, on arriving there, she found that the
poor child was very ill. The doctor was then at Clavering, and had
recommended that a message should be sent to the father in London,
begging him to come down. This message had been already despatched when
Mrs. Clavering arrived. The poor mother was in a state of terrible
agony, but at that time there was yet hope. Mrs. Clavering then remained
with Lady Clavering for two or three hours; but just before dinner on
the same day another messenger came across to say that hope was past,
and that the child had gone. Could Mrs. Clavering come over again, as
Lady Clavering was in a sad way?

"You'll have your dinner first?" said the rector.

"No, I think not. I shall wish to make her take something, and I can do
it better if I ask for tea for myself. I will go at once. Poor dear
little boy."

"It was a blow I always feared," said the rector to his daughter as soon
as his wife had left them. "Indeed, I knew that it was coming."

"And she was always fearing it," said Fanny. "But I do not think he did.
He never seems to think that evil will come to him."

"He will feel this," said the rector.

"Feel it papa! Of course he will feel it."

"I do not think he would--not deeply, that is--if there were four or
five of them. He is a hard man; the hardest man I ever knew. Who ever
saw him playing with his own child, or with any other? Who ever heard
him say a soft word to his wife? But he will feel it now, for this child
was his heir. He will be hit hard now, and I pity him."

Mrs. Clavering went across the park alone, and soon found herself in the
poor bereaved mother's room. She was sitting by herself; having driven
the old house keeper away from her; and there were no traces of tears
then on her face, though she had wept plentifully when Mrs. Clavering
had been with her in the morning. But there had come upon her suddenly a
look of age, which nothing but such sorrow as this can produce. Mrs.
Clavering was surprised to see that she had dressed herself carefully
since the morning, as was her custom to do daily, even when alone; and
that she was not in her bedroom, but in a small sitting room which she
generally used when Sir Hugh was not at the Park.

"My poor Hermione," said Mrs. Clavering, coming up to her, and taking
her by the hand.

"Yes, I am poor; poor enough. Why have they troubled you to come across
again?"

"Did you not send for me? But it was quite right, whether you sent or
no. Of course I should come when I heard it. It cannot be good for you
to be all alone."

"I suppose he will be here to-night?"

"Yes, if he got your message before three o'clock."

"Oh, he will have received it, and I suppose he will come. You think he
will come, eh?"

"Of course he will come."

"I do not know. He does not like coming to the country."

"He will be sure to come now, Hermione."

"And who will tell him? Some one must tell him before he comes to me.
Should there not be some one to tell him? They have sent another
message."

"Hannah shall be at hand to tell him." Hannah was the old housekeeper,
who had been in the family when Sir Hugh was born. "Or, if you wish it,
Henry shall come down and remain here. I am sure he will do so, if it
will be a comfort."

"No; he would, perhaps, be rough to Mr. Clavering. He is so very hard.
Hannah shall do it. Will you make her understand?" Mrs. Clavering
promised that she would do this, wondering, as she did so, at the
wretched, frigid immobility of the unfortunate woman before her. She
knew Lady Clavering well; knew her to be in many things weak, to be
worldly, listless, and perhaps somewhat selfish; but she knew also that
she had loved her child as mothers always love. Yet, at this moment, it
seemed that she was thinking more of her husband than of the bairn she
had lost. Mrs. Clavering had sat down by her and taken her hand, and was
still so sitting in silence when Lady Clavering spoke again. "I suppose
he will turn me out of his house now," she said.

"Who will do so? Hugh? Oh, Hermione, how can you speak in such a way?"

"He scolded me before because my poor darling was not strong. My
darling! How could I help it? And he scolded me because there was none
other but he. He will turn me out altogether now. Oh, Mrs. Clavering,
you do not know how hard he is."

Anything was better than this, and therefore Mrs. Clavering asked the
poor woman to take her into the room where the little body lay in its
little cot. If she could induce the mother to weep for the child, even
that would be better than this hard, persistent fear as to what her
husband would say and do. So they both went and stood together over the
little fellow whose short sufferings had thus been brought to an end.
"My poor dear, what can I say to comfort you?" Mrs. Clavering, as she
asked this, knew well that no comfort could be spoken in words; but-if
she could only make the sufferer weep!

"Comfort!" said the mother. "There is no comfort now, I believe, in
anything. It is long since I knew any comfort; not since Julia went."

"Have you written to Julia?"

"No; I have written to no one. I cannot write. I feel as though if it
were to bring him back again I could not write of it. My boy! my boy! my
boy!" But still there was not a tear in her eye.

"I will write to Julia," said Mrs. Clavering; "and I will read to you my
letter."

"No, do not read it me. What is the use? He has made her quarrel with
me. Julia cares nothing now for me, or for my angel. Why should she
care? When she came home we would not see her. Of course she will not
care. Who is there that will care for me?"

"Do not I care for you, Hermione?"

"Yes, because you are here; because of the nearness of the houses. If
you lived far away you would not care for me. It is just the custom of
the thing." There was something so true in this that Mrs. Clavering
could make no answer to it. Then they turned to go back into the
sitting-room, and as they did so Lady Clavering lingered behind for a
moment; but when she was again with Mrs. Clavering her cheek was still
dry.

"He will be at the station at nine," said Lady Clavering. "They must
send the brougham for him, or the dog-cart. He will be very angry if he
is made to come home in the fly from the public-house." Then the elder
lady left the room and gave orders that Sir Hugh should be met by his
carriage. What must the wife think of her husband, when she feared that
he would be angered by little matters at such a time as this! "Do you
think it will make him very unhappy?" Lady Clavering asked.

"Of course it will make him unhappy. How should it be otherwise?"

"He had said so often that the child would die. He will have got used to
the fear."

"His grief will be as fresh now as though he had never thought so, and
never said so."

"He is so hard; and then he has such will, such power. He will thrust it
off from him and determine that it shall not oppress him. I know him so
well."

"We should all make some exertion like that in our sorrow, trusting to
God's kindness to relieve us. You too, Hermione, should determine also;
but not yet, my dear. At first it is better to let sorrow have its way."

"But he will determine at once. You remember when Meeny went." Meeny had
been a little girl who had been born before the boy, and who had died
when little more than twelve months old. "He did not expect that; but
then he only shook his head, and went out of the room. He has never
spoken to me one word of her since that. I think he has forgotten Meeny
altogether--even that she was ever here."

"He cannot forget the boy who was his heir."

"Ah, that is where it is. He will say words to me which would make you
weep if you could hear them. Yes, my darling was his heir. Archie will
marry now, and will have children, and his boy will be the heir. There
will be more division and more quarrels, for Hugh will hate his brother
now."

"I do not understand why."

"Because he is so hard. It is a pity he should ever have married, for he
wants nothing that a wife can do for him. He wanted a boy to come after
him in the estate, and now that glory has been taken from him. Mrs.
Clavering, I often wish that I could die."

It would be bootless here to repeat the words of wise and loving counsel
with which the elder of the two ladies endeavored to comfort the
younger, and to make her understand what were the duties which still
remained to her, and which, if they were rightly performed, would, in
their performance, soften the misery of her lot. Lady Clavering listened
with that dull, useless attention which on such occasions sorrow always
gives to the prudent counsels of friendship; but she was thinking ever
and always of her husband, and watching the moment of his expected
return. In her heart she wished that he might not come on that evening.
At last, at half-past nine, she exerted herself to send away her
visitor.

"He will be here soon, if he comes to-night," Lady Clavering said, "and
it will be better that he should find me alone."

"Will it be better?"

"Yes, yes. Cannot you see how he would frown and shake his head if you
were here? I would sooner be alone when he comes. Good-night. You have
been very kind to me; but you are always kind. Things are done kindly
always at your house, because there is so much love there. You will
write to Julia for me. Good-night." Then Mrs. Clavering kissed her and
went, thinking as she walked home in the dark to the rectory, how much
she had to be thankful in that these words had been true which her poor
neighbor had spoken. Her house was full of love.



Chapter XXIII

Sir Hugh's Return



For the next half hour Lady Clavering sat alone listening with eager ear
for the sound of her husband's wheels, and at last she had almost told
herself that the hour for his coming had gone by, when she heard the
rapid grating on the gravel as the dog-cart was driven up to the door.
She ran out on to the corridor, but her heart sank within her as she did
so, and she took tightly hold of the balustrade to support herself. For
a moment she had thought of running down to meet him; of trusting to the
sadness of the moment to produce in him, if it were but for a minute,
something of tender solicitude; but she remembered that the servants
would be there, and knew that he would not be soft before them. She
remembered also that the housekeeper had received her instructions, and
she feared to disarrange the settled programme. So she went back to the
open door of the room, that her retreating step might not be heard by
him as he should come up to her, and standing there she still listened.
The house was silent and her ears were acute with sorrow. She could hear
the movement of the old woman as she gently, tremblingly, as Lady
Clavering knew, made her way down the hall to meet her master. Sir Hugh
of course had learned his child's fate already from the servant who had
met him; but it was well that the ceremony of such telling should be
performed. She felt the cold air come in from the opened front door, and
she heard her husband's heavy, quick step as he entered. Then she heard
the murmur of Hannah's voice; but the first word she heard was in her
husband's tones, "Where is Lady Clavering?" Then the answer was given,
and the wife, knowing that he was coming, retreated to her chair.

But still he did not come quite at once. He was pulling off his coat and
laying aside his hat and gloves. Then came upon her a feeling that at
such a time any other husband and wife would have been at once in each
other's arms. And at the moment she thought of all that they had lost.
To her her child had been all and everything. To him he had been his
heir and the prop of his house. The boy had been the only link that had
still bound them together. Now he was gone, and there was no longer any
link between them. He was gone, and she had nothing left to her. He was
gone, and the father was so alone in the world, without any heir and
with no prop to his house. She thought of all this as she heard his step
coming slowly up the stairs. Slowly he came along the passage, and
though she dreaded his coming, it almost seemed as though he would never
be there.

When he had entered the room she was the first to speak. "Oh, Hugh!" she
exclaimed, "oh, Hugh!" He had closed the door before he uttered a word,
and then he threw himself into a chair. There were candles near to him,
and she could see that his countenance also was altered. He had indeed
been stricken hard, and his half-stunned face showed the violence of the
blow. The harsh, cruel, selfish man had at last been made to suffer.
Although he had spoken of it and had expected it, the death of his heir
hit him hard, as the rector had said.

"When did he die?" asked the father.

"It was past four, I think." Then there was again silence, and Lady
Clavering went up to her husband and stood close by his shoulder. At
last she ventured to put her hand upon him. With all her own misery
heavy upon her, she was chiefly thinking at this moment how she might
soothe him. She laid her hand upon his shoulder, and by degrees she
moved it softly to his breast. Then he raised his own hand, and with it
moved hers from his person. He did it gently; but what was the use of
such nonsense as that?

"The Lord giveth," said the wife, "and the Lord taketh away." Hearing
this, Sir Hugh made with his head a gesture of impatience. "Blessed be
the name of the Lord," continued Lady Clavering. Her voice was low and
almost trembling, and she repeated the words as though they were a task
which she had set herself.

"That's all very well in its way," said he, "but what's the special use
of it now? I hate twaddle. One must bear one's misfortune as one best
can. I don't believe that kind of thing ever makes it lighter."

"They say it does, Hugh."

"Ah, they say! Have they ever tried? If you have been living up to that
kind of thing all your life, it may be very well; that is as well at one
time as another. But it won't give me back my boy."

"No, Hugh, he will never come back again; but we may think that he's in
heaven."

"If that is enough for you, let it be so. But don't talk to me of it. I
don't like it. It doesn't suit me. I had only one, and he has gone. It
is always the way." He spoke of the child as having been his--not his
and hers. She felt this, and understood the want of affection which it
conveyed; but she said nothing of it.

"Oh, Hugh, what could we do? It was not our fault."

"Who is talking of any fault? I have said nothing as to fault. He was
always poor and sickly. The Claverings generally have been so strong.
Look at myself and Archie, and my sisters. Well, it cannot be helped.
Thinking of it will not bring him back again. You had better tell some
one to get me something to eat. I came away, of course, without any
dinner."

She herself had eaten nothing since the morning, but she neither spoke
nor thought of that. She rang the bell, and going out into the passage,
gave the servant the order on the stairs. "It is no good my staying
here," he said. "I will go and dress. It is the best not to think of
such things--much the best. People call that heartless, of course; but
then people are fools. If I were to sit still, and think of it for a
week together, what good could I do?"

"But how not to think of it? That is the thing."

"Women are different, I suppose. I will dress, and then go down to the
breakfast-room. Tell Saunders to get me a bottle of champagne. You will
be better also if you will take a glass of wine."

It was the first word he had spoken which showed any care for her, and
she was grateful for it. As he arose to go, she came close to him again,
and put her hand very gently on his arm. "Hugh," she said, "will you not
see him?"

"What good will that do?"

"I think you would regret it if you were to let them take him away
without looking at him. He is so pretty as he lies in his little bed. I
thought you would come with me to see him." He was more gentle with her
than she had expected, and she led him away to the room which had been
their own, and in which the child had died.

"Why here?" he said, almost angrily, as he entered.

"I have had him here with me since you went."

"He should not be here now," he said, shuddering. "I wish he had been
moved before I came. I will not have this room any more; remember that."
She led him up to the foot of the little cot, which stood close by the
head of her own bed, and then she removed a handkerchief which lay upon
the child's face.

"Oh, Hugh! oh, Hugh!" she said, and throwing her arms round his neck,
she wept violently upon his breast. For a few moments he did not disturb
her, but stood looking at his boy's face. "Hugh, Hugh," she repeated,
"will you not be kind to me? Do be kind to me. It is not my fault that
we are childless."

Still he endured her for a few moments longer. He spoke no word to her,
but he let her remain there with her head upon his breast.

"Dear Hugh, I love you so truly!"

"This is nonsense," said he; "sheer nonsense." His voice was low and
very hoarse. "Why do you talk of kindness now?"

"Because I am so wretched."

"What have I done to make you wretched?"

"I do not mean that; but if you will be gentle with me, it will comfort
me. Do not leave me here all alone, how my darling has been taken from
me."

Then he shook her from him, not violently, but with a persistent action.

"Do you mean that you want to go up to town?" he said.

"Oh, no; not that."

"Then what is it you want? Where would you live, if not here?"

"Anywhere you please, only that you should stay with me."

"All that is nonsense. I wonder that you should talk of such things now.
Come away from this, and let me go to my room. All this is trash and
nonsense, and I hate it." She put back with careful hands the piece of
cambric which she had moved, and then, seating herself on a chair, wept
violently, with her hands closed upon her face. "That comes of bringing
me here," he said. "Get up, Hermione. I will not have you so foolish.
Get up, I say. I will have the room closed till the men come."

"Oh, no!"

"Get up, I say, and come away." Then she rose, and followed him out of
the chamber; and when he went to change his clothes, she returned to the
room in which he had found her. There she sat and wept, while he went
down and dined and drank alone. But the old housekeeper brought her up a
morsel of food and a glass of wine, saying that her master desired that
she would take it.

"I will not leave you, my lady, till you have done so," said Hannah. "To
fast so long must be bad always."

Then she eat the food, and drank a drop of wine, and allowed the old
woman to take her away to the bed that had been prepared for her. Of her
husband she saw no more for four days. On the next morning a note was
brought to her, in which Sir Hugh told her that he had returned to
London. It was necessary, he said, that he should see his lawyer and his
brother. He and Archie would return for the funeral. With reference to
that he had already given orders.

During the next three days, and till her husband's return, Lady
Clavering remained at the rectory; and in the comfort of Mrs.
Clavering's presence, she almost felt that it would be well for her if
those days could be prolonged. But she knew the hour at which her
husband would return, and she took care to be at home when he arrived.
"You will come and see him?" she said to the rector, as she left the
parsonage. "You will come at once--in an hour or two?" Mr. Clavering
remembered the circumstances of his last visit to the house, and the
declaration he had then made that he would not return there. But all
that could not now be considered.

"Yes," he said, "I will come across this evening. But you had better
tell him, so that he need not be troubled to see me if he would rather
be alone."

"Oh, he will see you. Of course he will see you. And you will not
remember that he ever offended you?"

Mrs. Clavering had written both to Julia and to Harry, and the day of
the funeral had been settled. Harry had already communicated his
intention of coming down; and Lady Ongar had replied to Mrs. Clavering's
letter, saying that she could not now offer to go to Clavering Park, but
that if her sister would go elsewhere with her--to some place, perhaps,
on the sea-side--she would be glad to accompany her; and she used many
arguments in her letter to show that such an arrangement as this had
better be made.

"You will be with my sister," she had said; "and she will understand why
I do not write to her myself, and will not think that it comes from
coldness." This had been written before Lady Ongar saw Harry Clavering.

Mr. Clavering, when he got to the great house, was immediately shown
into the room in which the baronet and his younger brother were sitting.
They had, some time since, finished dinner, but the decanters were still
on the table before them. "Hugh," said the, rector, walking up to his
elder nephew briskly, "I grieve for you. I grieve, for you from the
bottom of my heart."

"Yes," said Hugh, "it has been a heavy blow. Sit down, uncle. There is a
clean glass there, or Archie will fetch you one." Then Archie looked out
a clean glass, and passed the decanter; but of this the rector took no
direct notice.

"It has been a blow, my poor boy--a heavy blow," said the rector. "None
heavier could have fallen. But our sorrows come from Heaven, as do our
blessings, and must be accepted."

"We are all like grass," said Archie, "and must be cut down in our
turns." Archie, in saying this, intended to put on his best behavior. He
was as sincere as he knew how to be.

"Come, Archie, none of that," said his brother. "It is my uncle's
trade."

"Hugh," said the rector, "unless you can think of it so, you will find
no comfort."

"And I expect none, so there is an end of that. Different people think
of these things differently, you know, and it is of no more use for me
to bother you than it is for you to bother me. My boy has gone, and I
know that he will not come back to me. I shall never have another, and
it is hard to bear. But, meaning no offence to you, I would sooner be
left to bear it in my own way. If I were to talk about grass, as Archie
did just now, it would be a humbug, and I hate humbug. No offence to
you. Take some wine, uncle." But the rector could not drink wine in that
presence, and therefore he escaped as soon as he could. He spoke one
word of intended comfort to Lady Clavering, and then returned to the
rectory.



Chapter XXIV

Yes; Wrong--Certainly Wrong



Harry Clavering had heard the news of his little cousin's death before
he went to Bolton Street to report the result of his negotiation with
the count. His mother's letter with the news had come to him in the
morning, and on the same evening he called on Lady Ongar. She also had
then received Mrs. Clavering's letter, and knew what had occurred at the
park. Harry found her alone, having asked the servant whether Madam
Gordeloup was with his mistress. Had such been the case he would have
gone away, and left his message untold.

As he entered the room his mind was naturally full of the tidings from
Clavering. Count Pateroff and his message had lost some of their
importance through this other event, and the emptiness of the childless
house was the first subject of conversation between him and Lady Ongar.
"I pity my sister greatly," said she. "I feel for her as deeply as I
should have done had nothing occurred to separate us--but I cannot feel
for him."

"I do," said Harry.

"He is your cousin, and perhaps has been your friend?"

"No, not especially. He and I have never pulled well together; but still
I pity him deeply."

"He is not my cousin, but I know him better than you do, Harry. He will
not feel much himself, and his sorrow will be for his heir, not for his
son. He is a man whose happiness does not depend on the life or death of
any one. He likes some people, as he once liked me; but I do not think
that he ever loved any human being. He will get over it, and he will
simply wish that Hermy may die, that he may marry another wife. Harry, I
know him so well!"

"Archie will marry now," said Harry.

"Yes; if he can get any one to have him. There are very few men who
can't get wives, but I can fancy Archie Clavering to be one of them. He
has not humility enough to ask the sort of girl who would be glad to
take him. Now, with his improved prospects, he will want a royal
princess or something not much short of it. Money, rank, and blood might
have done before, but he'll expect youth, beauty, and wit now, as well
as the other things. He may marry after all, for he is just the man to
walk out of a church some day with the cookmaid under his arm as his
wife."

"Perhaps he may find something between a princess and a cookmaid."

"I hope, for your sake, he may not--neither a princess nor a cookmaid,
nor anything between."

"He has my leave to marry to-morrow, Lady Ongar. If I had my wish, Hugh
should have his house full of children."

"Of course that is the proper thing to say, Harry."

"I won't stand that from you, Lady Ongar. What I say, I mean; and no one
knows that better than you."

"Won't you, Harry? From whom, then, if not from me? But come, I will do
you justice, and believe you to be simple enough to wish anything of the
kind. The sort of castle in the air which you build, is not to be had by
inheritance, but to be taken by storm. You must fight for it."

"Or work for it."

"Or win it in some way off your own bat; and no lord ever sat prouder in
his castle than you sit in those that you build from day to day in your
imagination. And you sally forth and do all manner of magnificent deeds.
You help distressed damsels--poor me, for instance; and you attack
enormous dragons--shall I say that Sophie Gordeloup is the latest
dragon?--and you wish well to your enemies, such as Hugh and Archie; and
you cut down enormous forests, which means your coming miracles as an
engineer--and then you fall gloriously in love. When is that last to be,
Harry?"

"I suppose, according to all precedent, that must be done with the
distressed damsel," he said--fool that he was.

"No, Harry, no; you shall take your young, fresh, generous heart to a
better market than that; not but that the distressed damsel will ever
remember what might once have been."

He knew that he was playing on the edge of a precipice--that he was
fluttering as a moth round a candle. He knew that it behooved him now at
once to tell her all his tale as to Stratton and Florence Burton--that
if he could tell it now, the pang would be over and the danger gone. But
he did not tell it. Instead of telling it he thought of Lady Ongar's
beauty, of his own early love, of what might have been his had he not
gone to Stratton. I think he thought, if not of her wealth, yet of the
power and place which would have been his were it now open to him to ask
her for her hand. When he had declared that he did not want his cousin's
inheritance, he had spoken the simple truth. He was not covetous of
another's money. Were Archie to marry as many wives as Henry, and have
as many children as Priam, it would be no offence to him. His desires
did not lie in that line. But in this other case, the woman before him
who would so willingly have endowed him with all she possessed, had been
loved by him before he had ever seen Florence Burton. In all his love
for Florence--so he now told himself, but so told himself falsely--he
had ever remembered that Julia Brabazon had been his first love, the
love whom he had loved with all his heart. But things had gone with him
most unfortunately--with a misfortune that had never been paralleled. It
was thus he was thinking instead of remembering that now was the time in
which his tale should be told.

Lady Ongar, however, soon carried him away from the actual brink of the
precipice. "But how about the dragon," said she, "or rather about
the dragon's brother, at whom you were bound to go and tilt on my behalf?
Have you tilted, or are you a recreant knight?"

"I have tilted," said he, "but the he-dragon professes that he will not
regard himself as killed. In other words, he declares that he will see
you."

"That he will see me?" said Lady Ongar, and as she spoke there came an
angry spot on each cheek. "Does he send me that message as a threat?"

"He does not send it as a threat, but I think he partly means it so."

"He will find, Harry, that I will not see him; and that should he force
himself into my presence, I shall know how to punish such an outrage. If
he sent me any message, let me know it."

"To tell the truth, he was most unwilling to speak to me at all, though
he was anxious to be civil to me. When I had inquired for him some time
in vain, he came to me with another man, and asked me to dinner. So I
went, and as there were four of us, of course I could not speak to him
then. He still had the other man, a foreigner--"

"Colonel Schmoff, perhaps?"

"Yes; Colonel Schmoff. He kept Colonel Schmoff by him, so as to guard
him from being questioned."

"That is so like him. Everything he does he does with some design--with
some little plan. Well, Harry, you might have ignored Colonel Schmoff
for what I should have cared."

"I got the count to come out into another room at last, and then he was
very angry--with me, you know--and talked of what he would do to men who
interfered with him."

"You will not quarrel with him, Harry? Promise me that there shall be no
nonsense of that sort--no fighting."

"Oh, no; we were friends again very soon. But he bade me tell you that
there was something important for him to say and for you to hear, which
was no concern of mine, and which required an interview."

"I do not believe him, Harry."

"And he said that he had once been very courteous to you--"

"Yes; once insolent--and once courteous. I have forgiven the one for the
other."

"He then went on to say that you made him a poor return for his civility
by shutting your door in his face, but that he did not doubt you would
think better of it when you had heard his message. Therefore, he said,
he should call again. That, Lady Ongar, was the whole of it."

"Shall I tell you what his intention was, Harry?" Again her face became
red as she asked this question; but the color which now came to her
cheeks was rather that of shame than of anger.

"What was his intention?"

"To make you believe that I am in his power; to make you think that he
has been my lover; to lower me in your eyes, so that you might believe
all that others have believed--all that Hugh Clavering has pretended to
believe. That has been his object, Harry, and perhaps you will tell me
what success he has had."

"Lady Ongar!"

"You know the old story, that the drop which is ever dropping will wear
the stone. And after all why should your faith in me be as hard even as
a stone?"

"Do you believe that what he said had any such effect?"

"It is very hard to look into another person's heart; and the dearer and
nearer that heart is to your own, the greater, I think, is the
difficulty. I know that man's heart--what he calls his heart--but I
don't know yours."

For a moment or two Clavering made no answer, and then, when he did
speak, he went back from himself to the count.

"If what you surmise of him be true, he must be a very devil. He cannot
be a man--"

"Man or devil, what matters which he be? Which is the worst, Harry, and
what is the difference? The Fausts of this day want no Mephistopheles to
teach them guile or to harden their hearts."

"I do not believe that there are such men. There may be one."

"One, Harry! What was Lord Ongar? What is your cousin Hugh? What is this
Count Pateroff? Are they not all of the same nature--hard as stone,
desirous simply of indulging their own appetites, utterly without one
generous feeling, incapable even of the idea of caring for any one? Is
it not so? In truth, this count is the best of the three I have named.
With him a woman would stand a better chance than with either of the
others."

"Nevertheless, if that was his motive, he is a devil."

"He shall be a devil if you say so. He shall be anything you please, so
long as he has not made you think evil of me."

"No, he has not done that."

"Then I don't care what he has done, or what he may do. You would not
have me see him, would you?" This she asked with a sudden energy,
throwing herself forward from her seat with her elbows on the table, and
resting her face on her hands, as she had already done more than once
when he had been there; so that the attitude, which became her well, was
now customary in his eyes.

"You will hardly be guided by my opinion in such a matter."

"By whose, then, will I be guided? Nay, Harry, since you put me to a
promise, I will make the promise. I will be guided by your opinion. If
you bid me see him, I will do it--though, I own, it would be distressing
to me."

"Why should you see him, if you do not wish it?"

"I know no reason. In truth there is no reason. What he says about Lord
Ongar is simply some part of his scheme. You see what his scheme is,
Harry?"

"What is his scheme?"

"Simply this--that I should be frightened into becoming his wife. My
darling bosom friend Sophie, who, as I take it, has not quite managed to
come to satisfactory terms with her brother--and I have no doubt her
price for assistance has been high--has informed me more than once that
her brother desires to do me so much honor. The count, perhaps, thinks
that he can manage such a bagatelle without any aid from his sister; and
my dearest Sophie seems to feel that she can do better with me herself
in my widowed state, than if I were to take another husband. They are so
kind and so affectionate; are they not?"

At this moment tea was brought in, and Clavering sat for a time silent
with his cup in his hand. She, the meanwhile, had resumed the old
position with her face upon her hands, which she had abandoned when the
servant entered the room, and was now sitting looking at him as he
sipped his tea with his eyes averted from her. "I cannot understand," at
last he said, "why you should persist in your intimacy with such a
woman."

"You have not thought about it, Harry, or you would understand it. It
is, I think, very easily understood."

"You know her to be treacherous, false, vulgar, covetous, unprincipled.
You cannot like her. You say she is a dragon."

"A dragon to you, I said."

"You cannot pretend that she is a lady, and yet you put up with her
society."

"Exactly. And now tell me what you would have me do."

"I would have you part from her."

"But how? It is so easy to say, part. Am I to bar my door against her
when she has given me no offence? Am I to forget that she did me great
service, when I sorely needed such services? Can I tell her to her face
that she is all these things that you say of her, and that therefore I
will for the future dispense with her company? Or do you believe that
people in this world associate only with those they love and esteem?"

"I would not have one for my intimate friend whom I did not love and
esteem."

"But, Harry, suppose that no one loved and esteemed you; that you had no
home down at Clavering with a father that admires you and a mother that
worships you; no sisters that think you to be almost perfect, no
comrades with whom you can work with mutual regard and emulation, no
self-confidence, no high hopes of your own, no power of choosing
companions whom you can esteem and love--suppose with you it was Sophie
Gordeloup or none--how would it be with you then?"

His heart must have been made of stone if this had not melted it. He got
up, and coming round to her, stood over her. "Julia," he said, "it is
not so with you."

"But it is so with Julia," she said. "That is the truth. How am I better
than she, and why should I not associate with her?"

"Better than she! As women you are poles asunder."

"But as dragons," she said, smiling, "we come together."

"Do you mean that you have no one to love you?"

"Yes, Harry; that is just what I do mean. I have none to love me. In
playing my cards, I have won my stakes in money and rank, but have lost
the amount ten times told in affection, friendship, and that general
unpronounced esteem which creates the fellowship of men and women in the
world. I have a carriage and horses, and am driven about with grand
servants; and people, as they see me, whisper and say that is Lady
Ongar, whom nobody knows. I can see it in their eyes till I fancy that I
can hear their words."

"But it is all false."

"What is false? It is not false that I have deserved this. I have done
that which has made me a fitting companion for such a one as Sophie
Gordeloup, though I have not done that which perhaps these people
think."

He paused again before he spoke, still standing near her on the rug.
"Lady Ongar--" he said.

"Nay, Harry; not Lady Ongar when we are together thus. Let me feel that
I have one friend who can dare to call me by my name--from whose mouth I
shall be pleased to hear my name. You need not fear that I shall think
that it means too much. I will not take it as meaning what it used to
mean." He did not know how to go on with his speech, or in truth what to
say to her. Florence Burton was still present to his mind, and from
minute to minute he told himself that he would not become a villain. But
now it had come to that with him, that he would have given all that he
had in the world that he had never gone to Stratton. He sat down by her
in silence, looking away from her at the fire, swearing to himself that
he would not become a villain, and yet wishing, almost wishing, that he
had the courage to throw his honor overboard. At last, half turning
round toward her, he took her hand, or rather took her arm by the wrist
till he could possess himself of her hand. As he did so he touched her
hair and her cheek, and she let her hand drop till it rested in his.
"Julia," he said, "what can I do to comfort you?" She did not answer
him, but looked away from him as she sat, across the table into vacancy.
"Julia," he said again, "is there anything that will comfort you?" But
still she did not answer him.

He understood it all as well as the reader will understand it. He knew
how it was with her, and was aware that he was at that instant false
almost equally to her and to Florence. He knew that the question he had
asked was one to which there could be made a true and satisfactory
answer, but that his safety lay in the fact that that answer was all but
impossible for her to give. Could she say, "Yes, you can comfort me.
Tell me that you yet love me, and I will be comforted?" But he had not
designed to bring her into such difficulty as this. He had not intended
to be cruel. He had drifted into treachery unawares, and was torturing
her, not because he was wicked, but because he was weak. He had held her
hand now for some minute or two, but still she did not speak to him.
Then he raised it and pressed it warmly to his lips.

"No, Harry," she said, jumping from her seat and drawing her hand
rapidly from him; "no; it shall not be like that. Let it be Lady Ongar
again if the sound of the other name brings back too closely the memory
of other days. Let it be Lady Ongar again. I can understand that it will
be better." As she spoke she walked away from him across the room, and
he followed her.

"Are you angry?" he asked her.

"No, Harry; not angry. How should I be angry with you who alone are left
to me of my old friends? But, Harry, you must think for me, and spare me
in my difficulty."

"Spare you, Julia?"

"Yes, Harry, spare me; you must be good to me and considerate, and make
yourself like a brother to me. But people will know you are not a
brother, and you must remember all that for my sake. But you must not
leave me or desert me. Anything that people might say would be better
than that."

"Was I wrong to kiss your hand?"

"Yes, wrong, certainly wrong--that is, not wrong, but unmindful."

"I did it," he said, "because I love you." As he spoke the tears stood
in both his eyes.

"Yes; you love me, and I you; but not with love that may show itself in
that form. That was the old love, which I threw away, and which has been
lost. That was at an end when I--jilted you. I am not angry; but you
will remember that that love exists no longer? You will remember that,
Harry?"

He sat himself down in a chair in the far part of the room, and two
tears coursed their way down his cheeks. She stood over him and watched
him as he wept. "I did not mean to make you sad," she said. "Come, we
will be sad no longer. I understand it all. I know how it is with you.
The old love is lost, but we shall not the less be friends." Then he
rose suddenly from his chair, and taking her in his arms, and holding
her closely to his bosom, pressed his lips to hers.

He was so quick in this that she had not the power, even if she had the
wish, to restrain him. But she struggled in his arms, and held her face
aloof from him as she gently rebuked his passion. "No, Harry, no; not
so," she said, "it must not be so."

"Yes, Julia, yes; it shall be so; ever so--always so." And he was still
holding her in his arms, when the door opened, and with stealthy,
cat-like steps Sophie Gordeloup entered the room. Harry immediately
retreated from his position, and Lady Ongar turned upon her friend, and
glared upon her with angry eyes.

"Ah," said the little Franco-Pole, with an expression of infinite
delight on her detestable visage, "ah, my dears, is it not well that I
thus announce myself?"

"No," said Lady Ongar, "it is not well. It is anything but well."

"And why not well, Julie? Come, do not be foolish. Mr. Clavering is only
a cousin, and a very handsome cousin, too. What does it signify before
me?"

"It signifies nothing before you," said Lady Ongar.

"But before the servant, Julie--?"

"It would signify nothing before anybody."

"Come, come, Julie, dear; that is nonsense."

"Nonsense or no nonsense, I would wish to be private when I please. Will
you tell me, Madam Gordeloup, what is your pleasure at the present
moment?"

"My pleasure is to beg your pardon and to say you must forgive your poor
friend. Your fine man-servant is out, and Bessy let me in. I told Bessy
I would go up by myself, and that is all. If I have come too late I beg
pardon."

"Not too late, certainly--as I am still up."

"And I wanted to ask you about the pictures to-morrow? You said, perhaps
you would go to-morrow--perhaps not."

Clavering had found himself to be somewhat awkwardly situated while
Madam Gordeloup was thus explaining the causes of her having come
unannounced into the room; as soon, therefore, as he found it
practicable, he took his leave. "Julia," he said, "as Madam Gordeloup is
with you, I will now go."

"But you will let me see you soon?"

"Yes, very soon; that is, as soon as I return from Clavering. I leave
town early to-morrow morning."

"Good-by then," and she put out her hand to him frankly, smiling sweetly
on him. As he felt the warm pressure of her hand he hardly knew whether
to return it or reject it. But he had gone too far now for retreat, and
he held it firmly for a moment in his own. She smiled again upon him,
oh! so passionately, and nodded her head at him. He had never, he
thought, seen a woman look so lovely, or move light of heart. How
different was her countenance now from that she had worn when she told
him, earlier on that fatal evening, of all the sorrows that made her
wretched! That nod of hers said so much. "We understand each other
now--do we not? Yes; although this spiteful woman has for the moment
come between us, we understand each other. And is it not sweet? Ah! the
troubles of which I told you you, you have cured them all." All that had
been said plainly in her farewell salutation, and Harry had not dared to
contradict it by any expression of his countenance.

"By, by, Mr. Clavering," said Sophie.

"Good evening, Madam Gordeloup," said Harry, turning upon her a look of
bitter anger. Then he went, leaving the two women together, and walked
home to Bloomsbury Square--not with the heart of a joyous, thriving
lover.



Chapter XXV

The Day of the Funeral



Harry Clavering, when he had walked away from Bolton Street after the
scene in which he had been interrupted by Sophie Gordeloup, was not in a
happy frame of mind, nor did he make his journey down to Clavering with
much comfort to himself. Whether or not he was now to be regarded as a
villain, at any rate he was not a villain capable of doing his villainy
without extreme remorse and agony of mind. It did not seem to him to be
even yet possible that he should be altogether untrue to Florence. It
hardly occurred to him to think that he could free himself from the
contract by which he was bound to her: No; it was toward Lady Ongar that
his treachery must be exhibited toward the woman whom he had sworn to
befriend, and whom he now, in his distress, imagined to be the dearer to
him of the two. He should, according to his custom, have written to
Florence a day or two before he left London, and, as he went to Bolton
Street, had determined to do so that evening on his return home; but
when he reached his rooms he found it impossible to write such a letter.
What could he say to her that would not be false? How could he tell her
that he loved her, and speak as he was wont to do of his impatience,
after that which had just occurred in Bolton Street?

But what was he to do in regard to Julia? He was bound to let her know
at once what was his position, and to tell her that in treating her as
he had treated her, he had simply insulted her. That look of gratified
contentment with which she had greeted him as he was leaving her, clung
to his memory and tormented him. Of that contentment he must now rob
her, and he was bound to do so with as little delay as was possible.
Early in the morning before he started on his journey he did make an
attempt, a vain attempt, to write, not to Florence but to Julia. The
letter would not get itself written. He had not the hardihood to inform
her that he had amused himself with her sorrows, and that he had injured
her by the exhibition of his love. And then that horrid Franco-Pole,
whose prying eyes Julia had dared to disregard, because she had been
proud of his love! If she had not been there, the case might have been
easier. Harry, as he thought of this, forgot to remind himself that if
Sophie had not interrupted him he would have floundered on from one
danger to another till he would have committed himself more thoroughly
even than he had done, and have made promises which it would have been
as shameful to break as it would be to keep them. But even as it was,
had he not made such promises? Was there not such a promise in that
embrace, in the half-forgotten word or two which he had spoken while she
was in his arms, and in the parting grasp of his hand? He could not
write that letter then, on that morning, hurried as he was with the
necessity of his journey; and he started for Clavering resolving that it
should be written from his father's house.

It was a tedious, sad journey to him, and he was silent and out of
spirits when he reached his home; but he had gone there for the purpose
of his cousin's funeral, and his mood was not at first noticed, as it
might have been had the occasion been different. His father's
countenance wore that well-known look of customary solemnity which is
found to be necessary on such occasions, and his mother was still
thinking of the sorrows of Lady Clavering, who had been at the rectory
for the last day or two.

"Have you seen Lady Ongar since she heard of the poor child's death?"
his mother asked.

"Yes; I was with her yesterday evening."

"Do you see her often?" Fanny inquired.

"What do you call often? No; not often. I went to her last night because
she had given me a commission. I have seen her three or four times
altogether."

"Is she as handsome as she used to be?" said Fanny.

"I cannot tell; I do not know."

"You used to think her very handsome, Harry."

"Of course she is handsome. There has never been a doubt about that; but
when a woman is in deep mourning one hardly thinks about her beauty."
Oh, Harry, Harry, how could you be so false?

"I thought young widows were always particularly charming," said Fanny;
"and when one remembers about Lord Ongar one does not think of her being
a widow so much as one would do if he had been different."

"I don't know anything about that," said he. He felt that he was stupid,
and that he blundered in every word, but he could not help himself. It
was impossible that he should talk about Lady Ongar with proper
composure. Fanny saw that the subject annoyed him and that it made him
cross, and she therefore ceased. "She wrote a very nice letter to your
mother about the poor child, and about her sister," said the rector. "I
wish with all my heart that Hermione could go to her for a time."

"I fear that he will not let her," said Mrs. Clavering. "I do not
understand it at all, but Hermione says that the rancor between Hugh and
her sister is stronger now than ever."

"And Hugh will not be the first to put rancor out of his heart," said
the rector.

On the following day was the funeral, and Harry went with his father and
cousins to the child's grave. When he met Sir Hugh in the dining-room in
the Great House the baronet hardly spoke to him. "A sad occasion; is it
not?" said Archie; "very sad; very sad." Then Harry could see that Hugh
scowled at his brother angrily, hating his humbug, and hating it the
more because in Archie's case it was doubly humbug. Archie was now heir
to the property and to the title.

After the funeral, Harry went to see Lady Clavering, and again had to
endure a conversation about Lady Ongar. Indeed, he had been specially
commissioned by Julia to press upon her sister the expediency of leaving
Clavering for a while. This had been early on that last evening in
Bolton Street, long before Madam Gordeloup had made her appearance.
"Tell her from me," Lady Ongar had said, "that I will go anywhere that
she may wish if she will go with me--she and I alone; and, Harry, tell
her this as though I meant it. I do mean it. She will understand why I
do not write myself. I know that he sees all her letters when he is with
her." This task Harry was now to perform, and the result he was bound to
communicate to Lady Ongar. The message he might give; but delivering the
answer to Lady Ongar would be another thing.

Lady Clavering listened to what he said, but when he pressed her for a
reply she shook her head. "And why not, Lady Clavering?"

"People can't always leave their houses and go away, Harry."

"But I should have thought that you could have done so now; that is,
before long. Will Sir Hugh remain here at Clavering?"

"He has not told me that he means to go."

"If he stays, I suppose you will stay; but if he goes up to London
again, I cannot see why you and your sister should not go away together.
She mentioned Tenby as being very quiet, but she would be guided by you
in that altogether."

"I do not think it will be possible, Harry. Tell her, with my love, that
I am truly obliged to her, but that I do not think it will be possible.
She is free, you know, to do what she pleases."

"Yes, she is free. But do you mean--?"

"I mean, Harry, that I had better stay where I am. What is the use of a
scene, and of being refused at last? Do not say--more about it, but tell
her that it cannot be so." This Harry premised to do, and after a while
was rising to go, when she suddenly asked him a question. "Do you
remember what I was saying about Julia and Archie when you were here
last?"

"Yes; I remember."

"Well, would he have a chance? It seems that you see more of her now
than any one else."

"No chance at all, I should say." And Harry, as he answered, could not
repress a feeling of most unreasonable jealousy.

"Ah, you have always thought little of Archie. Archie's position is
changed now, Harry, since my darling was taken from me. Of course he
will marry, and Hugh, I think, would like him to marry Julia. It was he
proposed it. He never likes anything unless he has proposed it himself."

"It was he proposed the marriage with Lord Ongar. Does he like that?"

"Well; you know Julia has got her money." Harry, as he heard this,
turned away, sick at heart. The poor baby whose mother was now speaking
to him had only been buried that morning, and she was already making
fresh schemes for family wealth. Julia has got her money! That had
seemed to her, even in her sorrow, to be sufficient compensation for all
that her sister had endured and was enduring. Poor soul! Harry did not
reflect as he should have done, that in all her schemes she was only
scheming for that peace which might perhaps come to her if her husband
were satisfied. "And why should not Julia take him?" she asked.

"I cannot tell why, but she never will," said Harry, almost in anger. At
that moment the door was opened, and Sir Hugh came into the room. "I did
not know that you were here," Sir Hugh said, turning to the visitor.

"I could not be down here without saying a few words to Lady Clavering."

"The less said the better, I suppose, just at present," said Sir Hugh.
But there was no offence in the tone of his voice, or in his
countenance, and Harry took the words as meaning none.

"I was telling Lady Clavering that as soon as she can, she would be
better if she left home for a while."

"And why should you tell Lady Clavering that?"

"I have told him that I would not go," said the poor woman.

"Why should she go, and where; and why have you proposed it? And how
does it come to pass that her going or not going should be a matter of
solicitude to you?" Now, as Sir Hugh asked these questions of his
cousin, there was much of offence in his tone--of intended offence--and
in his eye, and in all his bearing. He had turned his back upon his
wife, and was looking full into Harry's face; "Lady Clavering, no doubt,
is much obliged to you," he said, "but why is it that you specially have
interfered to recommend her to leave her home at such a time as this?"

Harry had not spoken as he did to Sir Hugh without having made some
calculation in his own mind as to the result of what he was about to
say. He did not, as regarded himself, care for his cousin or his
cousin's anger. His object at present was simply that of carrying out
Lady Ongar's wish, and he had thought that perhaps Sir Hugh might not
object to the proposal which his wife was too timid to make to him.

"It was a message from her sister," said Harry, "sent by me."

"Upon my word she is very kind. And what was the message--unless it be a
secret between you three?"

"I have had no secret, Hugh," said his wife.

"Let me hear what he has to say," said Sir Hugh.

"Lady Ongar thought that it might be well that her sister should leave
Clavering for a short time, and has offered to go anywhere with her for
a few weeks. That is all."

"And why the devil should Hermione leave her own house? And if she were
to leave it, why should she go with a woman that has misconducted
herself?"

"Oh, Hugh!" exclaimed Lady Clavering.

"Lady Ongar has never misconducted herself--" said Harry.

"Are you her champion?" asked Sir Hugh.

"As far as that, I am. She has never misconducted herself; and what is
more, she has been cruelly used since she came home."

"By whom? by whom?" said Sir Hugh, stepping close up to his cousin and
looking with angry eyes into his face.

But Harry Clavering was not a man to be intimidated by the angry eyes of
any man. "By you," he said, "her brother-in-law; by you, who made up her
wretched marriage, and who, of all others, were the most bound to
protect her."

"Oh, Harry, don't, don't!" shrieked Lady Clavering.

"Hermione, hold your tongue," said the imperious husband; "or, rather,
go away and leave us. I have a word or two to say to Harry Clavering,
which had better be said in private."

"I will not go if you are going to quarrel."

"Harry," said Sir Hugh, "I will trouble you to go down stairs before me.
If you will step into the breakfast-room I will come to you."

Harry Clavering did as he was bid, and in a few minutes was joined by
his cousin in the breakfast-room.

"No doubt you intended to insult me by what you said up stairs." The
baronet began in this way after he had carefully shut the door, and had
slowly walked up to the rug before the fire, and had there taken his
position.

"Not at all; I intended to take the part of an ill-used woman whom you
had calumniated."

"Now look here, Harry, I will have no interference on your part in my
affairs, either here or elsewhere. You are a very fine fellow, no doubt,
but it is not part of your business to set me or my house in order.
After what you have just said before Lady Clavering, you will do well
not to come here in my absence."

"Neither in your absence nor in your presence."

"As to the latter you may do as you please. And now, touching my
sister-in-law, I will simply recommend you to look after your own
affairs."

"I shall look after what affairs I please."

"Of Lady Ongar and her life since her marriage I dare say you know as
little as anybody in the world, and I do not: suppose it likely that you
will learn much from her. She made a fool of you once, and it is on the
cards that she may do so again."

"You said just now that you would brook no interference in your affairs.
Neither will I."

"I don't know that you have any affairs in which any one can interfere.
I have been given to understand that you are engaged to marry that young
lady whom your mother brought here one day to dinner. If that be so, I
do not see how you can reconcile it to yourself to become the champion,
as you called it, of Lady Ongar."

"I never said anything of the kind."

"Yes, you did."

"No; it was you who asked me whether I was her champion."

"And you said you were."

"So far as to defend her name when I heard it traduced by you."

"By heavens, your impudence is beautiful. Who knows her best, do you
think--you or I? Whose sister-in-law is she? You have told me I was
cruel to her. Now to that I will not submit, and I require you to
apologize to me."

"I have no apology to make, and nothing to retract."

"Then I shall tell your father of your gross misconduct, and shall warn
him that you have made it necessary for me to turn his son out of my
house. You are an impertinent, overbearing puppy, and if your name were
not the same as my own, I would tell the grooms to horsewhip you off the
place."

"Which order, you know, the grooms would not obey. They would a deal
sooner horsewhip you. Sometimes I think they will, when I hear you speak
to them."

"Now go!"

"Of course I shall go. What would keep me here?"

Sir Hugh then opened the door, and Harry passed through it, not without
a cautious look over his shoulder, so that he might be on his guard if
any violence were contemplated. But Hugh knew better than that, and
allowed his cousin to walk out of the room, and out of the house,
unmolested.

And this had happened on the day of the funeral! Harry Clavering had
quarrelled thus with the father within a few hours of the moment in
which they two had stood together over the grave of that father's only
child! As he thought of this while he walked across the park, he became
sick at heart. How vile, wretched and miserable was the world around
him! How terribly vicious were the people with whom he was dealing! And
what could he think of himself--of himself, who was engaged to Florence
Burton, and engaged also, as he certainly was, to Lady Ongar? Even his
cousin had rebuked him for his treachery to Florence; but what would his
cousin have said had he known all? And then what good had he done; or,
rather, what evil had he not done? In his attempt on behalf of Lady
Clavering, had he not, in truth, interfered without proper excuse, and
fairly laid himself open to anger from his cousin? And he felt that he
had been an ass, a fool, a conceited ass, thinking that he could produce
good, when his interference could be efficacious only for evil. Why
could he not have held his tongue when Sir Hugh came in, instead of
making that vain suggestion as to Lady Clavering? But even this trouble
was but an addition to the great trouble that overwhelmed him. How was
he to escape the position which he had made for himself in reference to
Lady Ongar? As he had left London he had promised to himself that he
would write to her that same night and tell her everything as to
Florence; but the night had passed, and the next day was nearly gone,
and no such letter had been written.



Chapter XXVI

Too Many, And Too Few



As he sat with his father that evening, he told the story of his quarrel
with his cousin. His father shrugged his shoulders and raised his
eyebrows. "You are a bolder man than I am," he said. "I certainly should
not have dared to advise Hugh as to what he should do with his wife."

"But I did not advise him. I only said that I had been talking to her
about it. If he were to say to you that he had been recommending my
mother to do this or that, you would not take it amiss?"

"But Hugh is a peculiar man."

"No man has a right to be peculiar. Every man is bound to accept such
usage as is customary in the world."

"I don't suppose that it will signify much," said the rector. "To have
your cousin's doors barred against you, either here or in London, will
not injure you."

"Oh, no; it will not injure me; but I do not wish you to think that I
have been unreasonable."

The night went by and so did the next day, and still the letter did not
get itself written. On the third morning after the funeral he heard that
Sir Hugh had gone away; but he, of course, did not go up to the house,
remembering well that he had been warned by the master not to do so in
the master's absence. His mother, however, went to Lady Clavering, and
some intercourse between the families was renewed. He had intended to
stay but one day after the funeral, but at the end of a week he was
still at the rectory. It was Whitsuntide he said, and he might as well
take his holiday as he was down there. Of course they were glad that he
should remain with them, but they did not fail to perceive that things
with him were not altogether right; nor had Fanny failed to perceive
that he had not once mentioned Florence's name since he had been at the
rectory.

"Harry," she said, "there is nothing wrong between you and Florence?"

"Wrong! what should there be wrong? What do you mean by wrong?"

"I had a letter from her to-day, and she asks where you are."

"Women expect such a lot of letter-writing! But I have been remiss I
know. I got out of my business way of doing things when I came down here
and have neglected it. Do you write to her to-morrow, and tell her that
she shall hear from me directly I get back to town."

"But why should you not write to her from here?"

"Because I can get you to do it for me."

Fanny felt that this was not at all like a lover, and not at all like
such a lover as her brother had been. While Florence had been at
Clavering he had been most constant with his letters, and Fanny had
often heard Florence boast of them as being perfect in their way. She
did not say anything further at the present moment, but she knew that
things were not altogether right. Things were by no means right. He had
written neither to Lady Ongar nor to Florence, and the longer he put off
the task the more burdensome did it become. He was now telling himself
that he would write to neither till he got back to London.

On the day before he went, there came to him a letter from Stratton.
Fanny was with him when he received it, and observed that he put it into
his pocket without opening it. In his pocket he carried it unopened half
the day, till he was ashamed of his own weakness. At last, almost in
despair with himself, he broke the seal and forced himself to read it.
There was nothing in it that need have alarmed him. It contained hardly
a word that was intended for a rebuke.

"I wonder why you should have been two whole weeks without writing," she
said. "It seems so odd to me, because you have spoiled me by your
customary goodness. I know that other men when they are engaged do not
trouble themselves with constant letter-writing. Even Theodore, who,
according to Cecilia, is perfect, would not write to her then very
often; and now, when he is away, his letters are only three lines. I
suppose you are teaching me not to be exacting. If so, I will kiss the
rod like a good child; but I feel it the more because the lesson has not
come soon enough."

Then she went on in her usual strain, telling him of what she had done,
what she had read and what she had thought. There was no suspicion in
her letters no fear, no hint at jealousy. And she should have no further
cause for jealousy! One of the two must be sacrificed, and it was most
fitting that Julia should be the sacrifice. Julia should be
sacrificed--Julia and himself! But still he could not write to Florence
till he had written to Julia. He could not bring himself to send soft,
pretty, loving words to one woman while the other was still regarding
him as her affianced lover.

"Was your letter from Florence this morning?" Fanny asked.

"Yes; it was."

"Had she received mine?"

"I don't know. Of course she had. If you sent it by post of course she
got it."

"She might have mentioned it, perhaps."

"I daresay she did. I don't remember."

"Well, Harry you need not be cross with me because I love the girl who
is going to be your wife. You would not like it if I did not care about
her."

"I hate being called cross."

"Suppose I were to say that I hated your being cross. I'm sure I do; and
you are going away to-morrow, too. You have hardly said a nice word to
me since you have been home."

Harry threw himself back into a chair almost in despair. He was not
enough a hypocrite to say nice words when his heart within him was not
at ease. He could not bring himself to pretend that things were
pleasant.

"If you are in trouble, Harry, I will not go on teasing you."

"I am in trouble," he said.

"And cannot I help you?"

"No; you cannot help me. No one can help me. But do not ask any
questions."

"Oh, Harry! is it about money?"

"No, no; it has nothing to do with money."

"You have not really quarrelled with Florence?"

"No; I have not quarrelled with her at all. But I will not answer more
questions. And, Fanny, do not speak of this to my father or mother. It
will be over before long, and then, if possible, I will tell you."

"Harry, you are not going to fight with Hugh?"

"Fight with Hugh! no. Not that I should mind it; but he is not fool
enough for that. If he wanted fighting done, he would do it by deputy.
But there is nothing of that kind."

She asked him no more questions, and on the next morning he returned to
London. On his table he found a note which he at once knew to be from
Lady Ongar, and which had come only that afternoon.

"Come to me at once; at once." That was all that note contained. Fanny
Clavering, while she was inquiring of her brother about his troubles,
had not been without troubles of her own. For some days past she had
been aware--almost aware--that Mr. Saul's love was not among the things
that were past. I am not prepared to say that this conviction on her
part was altogether an unalloyed trouble, or that there might have been
no faint touch of sadness, of silent melancholy about her, had it been
otherwise. But Mr. Saul was undoubtedly a trouble to her; and Mr. Saul
with his love in activity would be more troublesome than Mr. Saul with
his love in abeyance. "It would be madness either in him or in me,"
Fanny had said to herself very often; "he has not a shilling in the
world." But she thought no more in these days of the awkwardness of his
gait, or of his rusty clothes, or his abstracted manner; and for his
doings as a clergyman her admiration had become very great. Her mother
saw something of all this, and cautioned her; but Fanny's demure manner
deceived Mrs. Clavering. "Oh, mamma, of course I know that anything of
the kind must be impossible; and I'm sure he does not think of it
himself any longer." When she had said this, Mrs. Clavering had believed
that it was all right. The reader must not suppose that Fanny had been a
hypocrite. There had been no hypocrisy in her words to her mother. At
that moment the conviction that Mr. Saul's love was not among past
events had not reached her; and as regarded, herself; she was quite
sincere when she said that anything of the kind must be impossible.

It will be remembered that Florence Burton had advised Mr. Saul to try
again, and that Mr. Saul had resolved that he would do so--resolving,
also, that should he try in vain he must leave Clavering and seek
another home. He was a solemn, earnest, thoughtful man; to whom such a
matter as this was a phase of life very serious, causing infinite
present trouble, nay, causing tribulation, and, to the same extent,
capable of causing infinite joy. From day to day he went about his work,
seeing her amid his ministrations almost daily. And never during these
days did he say a word to her of his love--never since that day in which
he had plainly pleaded his cause in the muddy lane. To no one but
Florence Burton had he since spoken of it, and Florence had certainly
been true to her trust; but, notwithstanding all that, Fanny's
conviction was very strong.

Florence had counselled Mr. Saul to try again, and Mr. Saul was prepared
to make the attempt; but he was a man who allowed himself to do nothing
in a hurry. He thought much of the matter before he could prepare
himself to recur to the subject; doubting, sometimes, whether he would
be right to do so without first speaking to Fanny's father; doubting,
afterward, whether he might not best serve his cause by asking the
assistance of Fanny's mother. But he resolved at last that he would
depend on himself alone. As to the rector, if his suit to Fanny were a
fault against Mr. Clavering as Fanny's father, that fault had been
already committed. But Mr. Saul would not admit himself that it was a
fault. I fancy that he considered himself to have, as a gentleman, a
right to address himself to any lady with whom he was thrown into close
contact. I fancy that he ignored all want of worldly preparation--never
for a moment attempting to place himself on a footing with men who were
richer than himself; and, as the world goes, brighter, but still feeling
himself to be in no way lower than they. If any woman so lived as to
show that she thought his line better than their line, it was open to
him to ask such a woman to join her lot to his. If he failed, the
misfortune was his; and the misfortune, as he well knew, was one which
it was hard to bear. And as to the mother, though he had learned to love
Mrs. Clavering dearly--appreciating her kindness to all those around
her, her conduct to her husband, her solicitude in the parish, all her
genuine goodness, still he was averse to trust to her for any part of
his success. Though Mr. Saul was no knight, though he had nothing
knightly about him, though he was a poor curate in very rusty clothes
and with manner strangely unfitted for much communion with the outer
world, still he had a feeling that the spoil which he desired to win
should be won by his own spear, and that his triumph would lose half its
glory if it were not achieved by his own prowess. He was no coward, even
in such matters as this, or in any other. When circumstances demanded
that he should speak he could speak his mind freely, with manly vigor,
and sometimes not without a certain manly grace.

How did Fanny know that it was coming? She did know it, though he had
said nothing to her beyond his usual parish communications. He was often
with her in the two schools; often returned with her in the sweet Spring
evenings along the lane that led back to the rectory from Cumberly
Green; often inspected with her the little amounts of parish charities
and entries of pence collected from such parents as could pay. He had
never reverted to that other subject. But yet Fanny knew that it was
coming, and when she had questioned Harry about his troubles she had
been thinking also of her own.

It was now the middle of May, and the Spring was giving way to the early
Summer almost before the Spring had itself arrived. It is so, I think,
in these latter years. The sharpness of March prolongs itself almost
through April, and then, while we are still hoping for the Spring, there
falls upon us suddenly a bright, dangerous, delicious gleam of Summer.
The lane from Cumberly Green was no longer muddy, and Fanny could go
backward and forward between the parsonage and her distant school
without that wading for which feminine apparel is so unsuited. One
evening, just as she had finished her work, Mr. Saul's head appeared at
the school-door, and he asked her whether she were about to return home.
As soon as she saw his eye and heard his voice, she feared that the day
was come. She was prepared with no new answer, and could only give the
answer that she had given before. She had always told herself that it
was impossible; and as to all other questions, about her own heart or
such like, she had put such questions away from her as being
unnecessary, and, perhaps, unseemly. The thing was impossible, and
should therefore be put away out of thought, as a matter completed and
at an end. But now the time was come, and she almost wished that she had
been more definite in her own resolutions.

"Yes, Mr. Saul, I have just done."

"I will walk with you, if you will let me." Then Fanny spoke some words
of experienced wisdom to two or three girls, in order that she might
show to them, to him, and to herself that she was quite collected. She
lingered in the room for a few minutes, and was very wise and very
experienced. "I am quite ready now, Mr. Saul." So saying, she came forth
upon the green lane, and he followed her.



Chapter XXVII

Cumberly Lane Without The Mud



They walked on in silence for a little way, and then he asked her some
question about Florence Burton. Fanny told him that she had heard from
Stratton two days since, and that Florence was well.

"I liked her very much," said Mr. Saul.

"So did we all. She is coming here again in the Autumn; so it will not
be very long before you see her again."

"How that may be I cannot tell, but if you see her that will be of more
consequence."

"We shall all see her, of course."

"It was here, in this lane, that I was with her last, and wished her
good-by. She did not tell you of my having parted with her, then?"

"Not especially, that I remember."

"Ah, you would have remembered if she had told you; but she was quite
right not to tell you." Fanny was now a little confused, so that she
could not exactly calculate what all this meant. Mr. Saul walked on by
her side, and for some moments nothing was said. After a while he
recurred again to his parting from Florence. "I asked her advice on that
occasion, and she gave it me clearly--with a clear purpose and an
assured voice. I like a person who will do that. You are sure then that
you are getting the truth out of your friend, even if it be a simple
negative, or a refusal to give any reply to the question asked."

"Florence Burton is always clear in what she says."

"I had asked her if she thought that I might venture to hope for a more
favorable answer if I urged my suit to you again."

"She cannot have said yes to that, Mr. Saul; she cannot have done so!"

"She did not do so. She simply bade me ask yourself. And she was right.
On such a matter there is no one to whom I can with propriety address
myself, but to yourself. Therefore I now ask you the question. May I
venture to have any hope?"

His voice was so solemn, and there was so much of eager seriousness in
his face that Fanny could not bring herself to answer him with
quickness. The answer that was in her mind was in truth this: "How can
you ask me to try to love a man who has but seventy pounds a year in the
world, while I myself have nothing?" But there was something in his
demeanor--something that was almost grand in its gravity--which made it
quite impossible that she should speak to him in that tone. But he,
having asked his question, waited for an answer; and she was well aware
that the longer she delayed it, the weaker became the ground on which
she was standing.

"It is quite impossible," she said at last.

"If it really be so--if you will say again that it is so after hearing
me out to an end, I will desist. In that case I will desist and leave
you--and leave Clavering."

"Oh, Mr. Saul, do not do that--for papa's sake, and because of the
parish."

"I would do much for your father, and as to the parish I love it well. I
do not think I can make you understand how well I love it. It seems to
me that I can never again have the same feeling for any place that I
have for this. There is not a house, a field, a green lane, that is not
dear to me. It is like a first love. With some people a first love will
come so strongly that it makes a renewal of the passion impossible." He
did not say that it would be so with himself; but it seemed to her that
he intended that she should so understand him.

"I do not see why you should leave Clavering," she said.

"If you knew the nature of my regard for yourself, you would see why it
should be so. I do not say that there ought to be any such necessity. If
I were strong there would be no such need. But I am weak--weak in this;
and I could not hold myself under such control as is wanted for the work
I have to do." When he had spoken of his love for the place--for the
parish, there had been something of passion in his language; but now in
the words which he spoke of himself and of his feeling for her, he was
calm and reasonable and tranquil, and talked of his going away from her
as he might have talked had some change of air been declared necessary
for his health. She felt that this was so, and was almost angry with
him.

"Of course you must know what will be best for yourself;" she said.

"Yes; I know now what I must do, if such is to be your answer. I have
made up my mind as to that. I cannot remain at Clavering, if I am told
that I may never hope that you will become my wife."

"But, Mr. Saul--"

"Well; I am listening. But before you speak, remember how all-important
your words will be to me."

"No; they cannot be all-important."

"As regards my present happiness and rest in this world they will be so.
Of course I know that nothing you can say or do will hurt me beyond
that. But you might help me even to that further and greater bliss. You
might help me too in that--as I also might help you."

"But, Mr. Saul--" she began again, and then, feeling that she must go
on, she forced herself to utter words which at the time she felt to be
commonplace. "People cannot marry without an income. Mr. Fielding did
not think of such a thing till he had a living assured to him."

"But, independently of that, might I hope?" She ventured for an instant
to glance at his face, and saw that his eyes were glistening with a
wonderful brightness.

"How can I answer you further? Is not that reason enough why such a
thing should not be even discussed?"

"No, Miss Clavering, it is not reason enough. If you were to tell me
that you could never love me--me, personally--that you could never
regard me with affection, that would be reason why I should desist--why
I should abandon all my hope here, and go away from Clavering for ever.
Nothing else can be reason enough. My being poor ought not to make you
throw me aside if you loved me. If it were so that you loved me, I think
you would owe it me to say so, let me be ever so poor."

"I do not like you the less because you are poor."

"But do you like me at all? Can you bring yourself to love me? Would you
make the effort if I had such an income as you thought necessary? If I
had such riches, could you teach yourself to regard me as him whom you
were to love better than all the world beside? I call upon you to answer
me that question truly; and if you tell me that it could be so, I will
not despair, and I will not go away."

As he said this they came to a turn in the road which brought the
parsonage gate within their view. Fanny knew that she would leave him
there and go in alone, but she knew also that she must say something
further to him before she could thus escape. She did not wish to give
him an assurance of her positive indifference to him--and still less did
she wish to tell him that he might hope. It could not be possible that
such an engagement should be approved by her father, nor could she bring
herself to think that she could be quite contented with a lover such as
Mr. Saul. When he had first proposed to her she had almost ridiculed his
proposition in her heart. Even now there was something in it that was
almost ridiculous--and yet there was something in it also that touched
her as being sublime. The man was honest, good and true--perhaps the
best and truest man that she had ever known. She could not bring herself
to say to him any word that should banish him forever from the place he
loved so well.

"If you know your own heart well enough to answer me, you should do so,"
he went on to say. "If you do not, say so, and I will be content to wait
your own time."

"It would be better, Mr. Saul, that you should not think of this any
more."

"No, Miss Clavering; that would not be better--not for me, for it would
prove me to be utterly heartless. I am not heartless. I love you dearly.
I will not say that I cannot live without you; but it is my one great
hope as regards this world, that I should have you at some future day as
my own. It may be that I am too prone to hope; but surely, if that were
altogether beyond hope, you would have found words to tell me so by this
time." They had now come to the gateway, and he paused as she put her
trembling hand upon the latch.

"I cannot say more to you now," she said.

"Then let it be so. But, Miss Clavering, I shall not leave this place
till you have said more than that. And I will speak the truth to you,
even though it may offend you. I have more of hope now than I have ever
had before--more hope that you may possibly learn to love me. In a few
days I will ask you again whether I may be allowed to speak upon the
subject to your father. Now I will say farewell, and may God bless you;
and remember this--that my only earthly wish and ambition is in your
hands." Then he went on his way toward his own lodgings, and she entered
the parsonage garden by herself.

What should she now do, and how should she carry herself? She would have
gone to her mother at once, were it not that she could not resolve what
words she would speak to her mother. When her mother should ask her how
she regarded the man, in what way should she answer that question? She
could not tell herself that she loved Mr. Saul; and yet if she surely
did not love him--if such love were impossible--why had she not said as
much to him? We, however, may declare that that inclination to ridicule
his passion, to think of him as a man who had no right to love, was gone
forever. She conceded to him clearly that right, and knew that he had
exercised it well. She knew that he was good and true and honest, and
recognized in him also manly courage and spirited resolution. She would
not tell herself that it was impossible that she should love him.

She went up at last to her room doubting, unhappy and ill at ease. To
have such a secret long kept from her mother would make her life
unendurable to her. But she felt that, in speaking to her mother, only
one aspect of the affair would be possible. Even though she loved him,
how could she marry a curate whose only income was seventy pounds a
year?



Chapter XXVIII

The Russian Spy



When the baby died at Clavering Park, somebody hinted that Sir Hugh
would certainly quarrel with his brother as soon as Archie should become
the father of a presumptive heir to the title and property. That such
would be the case those who best knew Sir Hugh would not doubt. That
Archie should have that of which he himself had been robbed, would of
itself be enough to make him hate Archie. But, nevertheless, at this
present time, he continued to instigate his brother in that matter of
the proposed marriage with Lady Ongar. Hugh, as well as others, felt
that Archie's prospects were now improved, and that he could demand the
hand of a wealthy lady with more of seeming propriety than would have
belonged to such a proposition while the poor child was living. No one
would understand this better than Lady Ongar, who knew so well all the
circumstances of the family. The day after the funeral the two brothers
returned to London together, and Hugh spoke his mind in the railway
carriage. "It will be no good for you to hang on about Bolton Street,
off and on, as though she were a girl of seventeen," he said.

"I'm quite up to that," said Archie. "I must let her know I'm there, of
course. I understand all that."

"Then why don't you do it? I thought you meant to go to her at once when
we were talking about it before in London."

"So I did go to her, and got on with her very well, too, considering
that I hadn't been there long when another woman came."

"But you didn't tell her what you had come about?"

"No; not exactly. You see it doesn't do to pop at once to a widow like
her. Ongar, you know, hasn't been dead six months. One has to be a
little delicate in these things."

"Believe me, Archie, you had better give up all notions of being
delicate, and tell her what you want at once--plainly and fairly. You
may be sure that she will not think of her former husband, if you
don't."

"Oh! I don't think about him at all."

"Who was the woman you say was there?"

"That little Frenchwoman--the sister of the man--Sophie she calls her.
Sophie Gordeloup is her name. They are bosom friends."

"The sister of that count?"

"Yes; his sister. Such a woman for talking! She said ever so much about
your keeping Hermione down in the country."

"The devil she did. What business was that of hers? That is Julia's
doing."

"Well; no, I don't think so. Julia didn't say a word about it. In fact,
I don't know how it came up. But you never heard such a woman to
talk--an ugly, old, hideous little creature! But the two are always
together."

"If you don't take care you'll find that Julia is married to the count
while you are thinking about it."

Then Archie began to consider whether he might not as well tell his
brother of his present scheme with reference to Julia. Having discussed
the matter at great length with his confidential friend, Captain Boodle,
he had come to the conclusion that his safest course would be to bribe
Madam Gordeloup, and creep into Julia's favor by that lady's aid. Now,
on his return to London, he was about at once to play that game, and had
already provided himself with funds for the purpose. The parting with
ready money was a grievous thing to Archie, though in this case the
misery would be somewhat palliated by the feeling that it was a
bona-fide sporting transaction. He would be lessening the odds against
himself by a judicious hedging of his bets. "You must stand to lose
something always by the horse you mean to win," Doodles had said to him,
and Archie had recognized the propriety of the remark. He had,
therefore, with some difficulty, provided himself with funds, and was
prepared to set about his hedging operations as soon as he could find
Madam Gordeloup on his return to London. He had already ascertained her
address through Doodles, and had ascertained by the unparalleled
acuteness of his friend that the lady was--a Russian spy. It would have
been beautiful to have seen Archie's face when this information was
whispered into his ear, in private, at the club. It was as though he had
then been made acquainted with some great turf secret, unknown to the
sporting world in general.

"Ah!" he said, drawing a long breath, "no; by George, is she?"

The same story had been told everywhere in London of the little woman
for the last half dozen years, whether truly or untruly I am not
prepared to say; but it had not hitherto reached Archie Clavering; and
now, on hearing it, he felt that he was becoming a participator in the
deepest diplomatic secrets of Europe.

"By George," said he, "is she really?"

And his respect for the little woman rose a thousand per cent.

"That's what she is," said Doodles, "and it's a doosed fine thing for
you, you know! Of course you can make her safe, and that will be
everything."

Archie resolved at once that he would use the great advantage which
chance and the ingenuity of his friend had thrown in his way; but that
necessity of putting money in his purse was a sore grievance to him, and
it occurred to him that it would be a grand thing if he could induce his
brother to help him in this special matter. If he could only make Hugh
see the immense advantage of an alliance with the Russian spy, Hugh
could hardly avoid contributing to the expense--of course on the
understanding that all such moneys were to be repaid when the Russian
spy's work had been brought to a successful result. Russian spy! There
was in the very sound of the words something so charming that it almost
made Archie in love with the outlay. A female Russian spy too! Sophie
Gordeloup certainly retained but very few of the charms of womanhood,
nor had her presence as a lady affected Archie with any special
pleasure; but yet he felt infinitely more pleased with the affair than
he would have been had she been a man spy. The intrigue was deeper. His
sense of delight in the mysterious wickedness of the thing was enhanced
by an additional spice. It is not given to every man to employ the
services of a political Russian lady-spy in his love-affairs! As he
thought of it in all its bearings, he felt that he was almost a
Talleyrand, or, at any rate, a Palmerston.

Should he tell his brother? If he could represent the matter in such a
light to his brother as to induce Hugh to produce the funds for
purchasing the spy's services, the whole thing would be complete with a
completeness that has rarely been equalled. But he doubted. Hugh was a
hard man--a hard, unimaginative man, and might possibly altogether
refuse to believe in the Russian spy. Hugh believed in little but what
he himself saw, and usually kept a very firm grasp upon his money.

"That Madam Gordeloup is always with Julia," Archie said, trying the
way, as it were, before he told his plan.

"Of course she will help her brother's views."

"I'm not so sure of that. Some of these foreign women ain't like other
women at all. They go deeper--a doosed sight deeper."

"Into men's pockets, you mean."

"They play a deep game altogether. What do you suppose she is, now?"
This question Archie asked in a whisper, bending his head forward toward
his brother, though there was no one else in the carriage with them.

"What she is? A thief of some kind, probably. I've no doubt she's up to
any roguery."

"She's a--Russian spy."

"Oh, I've heard of that for the last dozen years. All the ugly old
Frenchwomen in London are Russian spies, according to what people say;
but the Russians know how to use their money better than that. If they
employ spies, they employ people who can spy something."

Archie felt this to be cruel--very cruel, but he said nothing further
about it. His brother was stupid, pigheaded, obstinate, and quite
unfitted by nature for affairs of intrigue. It was, alas, certain that
his brother would provide no money for such a purpose as that he now
projected; but, thinking of this, he found some consolation in the
reflection that Hugh would not be a participator with him in his great
secret. When he should have bought the Russian spy, he and Doodles would
rejoice together in privacy without any third confederate. Triumviri
might be very well; Archie also had heard of triumviri; but two were
company, and three were none. Thus he consoled himself when his
pigheaded brother expressed his disbelief in the Russian spy.

There was nothing more said between them in the railway carriage, and,
as they parted at the door in Berkeley Square, Hugh swore to himself
that this should be the last season in which he would harbor his brother
in London. After this he must have a house of his own there, or have no
house at all. Then Archie went down to his club, and finally arranged
with Doodles that the first visit to the spy should be made on the
following morning. After much consultation it was agreed between them
that the way should be paved by a diplomatic note. The diplomatic note
was therefore written by Doodles and copied by Archie.

"Captain Clavering presents his compliments to Madam Gordeloup, and
proposes to call upon her to-morrow morning at twelve o'clock, if that
hour will be convenient. Captain Clavering is desirous of consulting
Madam Gordeloup on an affair of much importance." "Consult me!" said
Sophie to herself, when she got the letter. "For what should he consult
me? It is that stupid man I saw with Julie. Ah, well; never mind. The
stupid man shall come." The commissioner, therefore, who had taken the
letter to Mount Street, returned to the club with a note in which Madam
Gordeloup expressed her willingness to undergo the proposed interview.
Archie felt that the letter--a letter from a Russian spy addressed
positively to himself--gave him already diplomatic rank, and he kept it
as a treasure in his breast coat-pocket.

It then became necessary that he and his friend should discuss the
manner in which the spy should be managed. Doodles had his misgivings
that Archie would be awkward, and almost angered his friend by the
repetition of his cautions. "You mustn't chuck your money at her head,
you know," said Doodles.

"Of course not; but when the time comes I shall slip the notes into her
hand--with a little pressure perhaps."

"It would be better to leave them near her on the table."

"Do you think so?"

"Oh, yes; a great deal. It's always done in that way."

"But perhaps she wouldn't see them--or wouldn't know where they came
from."

"Let her alone for that."

"But I must make her understand what I want of her--in return, you know.
I ain't going to give her twenty pounds for nothing."

"You must explain that at first; tell her that you expect her aid, and
that she will find you a grateful friend--a grateful friend, say; mind
you remember that."

"Yes; I'll remember that. I suppose it would be as good a way as any."

"It's the only way, unless you want her to ring for the servant to kick
you out of the house. It's as well understood as A B C, among the people
who do these things. I should say take jewelry instead of money if she
were anything but a Russian spy; but they understand the thing so well,
that you may go further with them than with others."

Archie's admiration for Sophie became still higher as he heard this. "I
do like people," said he, "who understand what's what, and no mistake."

"But even with her you must be very careful."

"Oh, yes; that's a matter of course."

"When I was declaring for the last time that she would find me a
grateful friend, just at the word grateful, I would put down the four
flyers on the table, smoothing them with my hand like that." Then
Doodles acted the part, putting a great deal of emphasis on the word
'grateful' as he went through the smoothing ceremony with two or three
sheets of club note paper. "That's your game, you may be sure. If you
put them into her hand she may feel herself obliged to pretend to be
angry; but she can't be angry simply because you put your money on her
table. Do you see that, old fellow?" Archie declared that he did see it
very plainly. "If she does not choose to undertake the job, she'll
merely have to tell you that you have left something behind you."

"But there's no fear of that, I suppose?"

"I can't say. Her hands may be full, you know, or she may think you
don't go high enough."

"But I mean to tip her again, of course."

"Again! I should think so. I suppose she must have about a couple of
hundred before the end of next month if she's to do any good. After a
bit you'll be able to explain that she shall have a sum down when the
marriage has come off."

"She won't take the money and do nothing; will she?"

"Oh, no; they never sell you like that. It would spoil their own
business if they were to play that game. If you can make it worth her
while, she'll do the work for you. But you must be careful; do remember
that." Archie shook his head, almost in anger, and then went home for
his night's rest.

On the next morning he dressed himself in his best, and presented
himself at the door in Mount Street, exactly as the clock struck twelve.
He had an idea that these people were very punctilious as to time. Who
could say but that the French ambassador might have an appointment with
Madam Gordeloup at half-past one--or perhaps some emissary from the
Pope! He had resolved that he would not take his left glove off his
hand, and he had thrust the notes in under the palm of his glove,
thinking he could get at them easier from there, should they be wanted
in a moment, than he could do from his waistcoat pocket. He knocked at
the door, knowing that he trembled as he did so, and felt considerable
relief when he found himself to be alone in the room to which he was
shown. He knew that men conversant with intrigues always go to work with
their eyes open, and, therefore, at once he began to look about him.
Could he not put the money into some convenient hiding-place--now at
once? There, in one corner, was the spot in which she would seat herself
upon the sofa. He saw plainly enough, as with the eye of a Talleyrand,
the marks thereon of her constant sitting. So he seized the moment to
place a chair suitable for himself, and cleared a few inches on the
table near to it, for the smoothing of the bank-notes--feeling, while so
employed, that he was doing great things. He had almost made up his mind
to slip one note between the pages of a book, not with any well-defined
plan as to the utility of such a measure, but because it seemed to be
such a diplomatic thing to do! But while this grand idea was still
flashing backward and forward across his brain, the door opened, and he
found himself in the presence of--the Russian spy.

He at once saw that the Russian spy was very dirty, and that she wore a
nightcap, but he liked her the better on that account. A female Russian
spy should, he felt, differ much in her attire from other women. If
possible, she should be arrayed in diamonds, and pearl ear-drops, with
as little else upon her as might be; but failing that costume, which
might be regarded as the appropriate evening spy costume, a tumbled
nightcap, and a dirty, white wrapper, old cloth slippers, and
objectionable stockings, were just what they should be.

"Ah!" said the lady, "you are Captain Clavering. Yes, I remember."

"I am Captain Clavering. I had the honor of meeting you at Lady
Ongar's."

"And now you wish to consult me on an affair of great importance. Very
well. You may consult me. Will you sit down--there." And Madam Gordeloup
indicated to him a chair just opposite to herself, and far removed from
that convenient spot which Archie had prepared for the smoothing of the
bank-notes. Near to the place now assigned to him there was no table
whatever, and he felt that he would in that position be so completely
raked by the fire of her keen eyes, that he would not be able to carry
on his battle upon good terms. In spite, therefore, of the lady's very
plain instructions, he made an attempt to take possession of the chair
which he had himself placed; but it was an ineffectual attempt, for the
spy was very peremptory with him. "There, Captain Clavering; there;
there; you will be best there." Then he did as he was bid, and seated
himself; as it were, quite out at sea, with nothing but an ocean of
carpet around him, and with no possibility of manipulating his notes
except under the raking fire of those terribly sharp eyes. "And now,"
said Madam Gordeloup, "you can commence to consult me. What is the
business?"

Ah; what was the business? That was now the difficulty? In discussing
the proper way of tendering the bank-notes, I fear the two captains had
forgotten the nicest point of the whole negotiation. How was he to tell
her what it was that he wanted to do himself, and what that she was to
be required to do for him? It behooved him above all things not to be
awkward! That he remembered. But how not to be awkward? "Well!" she
said; and there was something almost of crossness in her tone. Her time,
no doubt, was valuable. The French ambassador might even now be coming.
"Well?"

"I think, Madam Gordeloup, you know my brother's sister-in-law, Lady
Ongar?"

"What, Julie? Of course I know Julie. Julie and I are dear friends."

"So I supposed. That is the reason why I have come to you."

"Well--well--well?"

"Lady Ongar is a person whom I have known for a long times and for whom
I have a great--I may say--a very deep regard."

"Ah! yes. What a jointure she has! and what a park! Thousands and
thousands of pounds--and so beautiful! If I was a man I should have a
very deep regard, too. Yes."

"A most beautiful creature, is she not?"

"Ah; if you had seen her in Florence, as I used to see her, in the long
Summer evenings! Her lovely hair was all loose to the wind, and she
would sit hour after hour looking, oh, at the stars! Have you seen the
stars in Italy?"

Captain Clavering couldn't say that he had, but he had seen them
uncommon bright in Norway, when he had been fishing there.

"Or the moon?" continued Sophie, not regarding his answer. "Ah; that is
to live! And he, her husband, the rich lord, he was dying, in a little
room just inside, you know. It was very melancholy, Captain Clavering.
But when she was looking at the moon with her hair all dishevelled," and
Sophie put her hands up to her own dirty nightcap--"she was just like a
Magdalen; yes, just the same; just the same."

The exact strength of the picture, and the nature of the comparison
drawn, were perhaps lost upon Archie; and, indeed, Sophie herself
probably trusted more to the tone of her words, than to any idea which
they contained; but their tone was perfect, and she felt that if
anything could make him talk, he would talk now.

"Dear me! you don't say so. I have always admired her very much, Madam
Gordeloup."

"Well?"

The French ambassador was probably in the next street already, and if
Archie was to tell his tale at all, he must do it now.

"You will keep my secret if I tell it you?" he asked.

"Is it me you ask that? Did you ever hear of me that I tell a
gentleman's secret? I think not. If you have a secret, and will trust
me, that will be good; if you will not trust me--that will be good
also."

"Of course I will trust you. That is why I have come here."

"Then out with it. I am not a little girl. You need not be bashful. Two
and two make four. I know that. But some people want them to make five.
I know that, too. So speak out what you have to say."

"I am going to ask Lady Ongar to--to--to--marry me."

"Ah, indeed; with all the thousands of pounds and the beautiful park!
But the beautiful hair is more than all the thousands of pounds. Is it
not so?"

"Well, as to that, they all go together, you know."

"And that is so lucky! If they was to be separated, which would you
take?"

The little woman grinned as she asked this question, and Archie, had he
at all understood her character, might at once have put himself on a
pleasant footing with her; but he was still confused and ill at ease,
and only muttered something about the truth of his love for Julia.

"And you want to get her to marry you?"

"Yes; that's just it."

"And you want me to help you?

"That's just it again."

"Well?"

"Upon my word, if you'll stick to me, you know, and see me through it,
and all that kind of thing, you'll find in me a most grateful friend;
indeed, a most grateful friend." And Archie, as from his position he was
debarred from attempting the smoothing process, began to work with his
right forefinger under the glove on his left hand.

"What have you got there?" said Madam Gordeloup, looking at him with all
her eyes.

Captain Clavering instantly discontinued the work with his finger, and
became terribly confused. Her voice on asking the question had become
very sharp; and it seemed to him that if he brought out his money in
that awkward, barefaced way, which now seemed to be necessary, she would
display all the wrath of which a Russian spy could be capable. Would it
not be better that he should let the money rest for the present, and
trust to his promise of gratitude? Ah, how he wished that he had slipped
at any rate one note between the pages of a book.

"What have you got there?" she demanded again, very sharply.

"Oh, nothing."

"It is not nothing. What have you got there? If you have got nothing,
take off your glove. Come."

Captain Clavering became very red in the face, and was altogether at a
loss what to say or do.

"Is it money you have got there?" she asked. "Let me see how much.
Come."

"It is just a few bank-notes I put in here to be handy," he said.

"Ah; that is very handy, certainly. I never saw that custom before. Let
me look." Then she took his hand, and with her own hooked finger clawed
out the notes. "Ah! five, ten, fifteen, twenty pounds. Twenty pounds is
not a great deal, but it is very nice to have even that always handy. I
was wanting so much money as that myself; perhaps you will make it handy
to me."

"Upon my word I shall be most happy. Nothing on earth would give me more
pleasure."

"Fifty pounds would give me more pleasure; just twice as much pleasure."
Archie had begun to rejoice greatly at the safe disposition of the
money, and to think how excellently well this spy did her business; but
now there came upon him suddenly an idea that spies perhaps might do
their business too well. "Twenty pounds in this country goes a very
little way; you are all so rich," said the spy.

"By George, I ain't. I ain't rich, indeed."

"But you mean to be--with Julie's money?"

"Oh--ah--yes; and you ought to know, Madam Gordeloup, that I am now the
heir to the family estate and title."

"Yes; the poor little baby is dead, in spite of the pills and the
powders, the daisies and the buttercups! Poor little baby! I had a baby
of my own once, and that died also." Whereupon Madam Gordeloup, putting
up her hand to her eyes, wiped away a real tear with the bank-notes
which she still held. "And I am to remind Julie that you will be the
heir?"

"She will know all about that already."

"But I will tell her. It will be something to say, at any rate--and
that, perhaps, will be the difficulty."

"Just so! I didn't look at it in that light before."

"And am I to propose it to her first?"

"Well; I don't know. Perhaps as you are so clever, it might be as well."

"And at once?"

"Yes, certainly; at once. You see, Madam Gordeloup, there may be so many
buzzing about her."

"Exactly; and some of them perhaps will have more than twenty pounds
handy. Some will buzz better than that."

"Of course I didn't mean that for anything more than just a little
compliment to begin with."

"Oh, ah; just a little compliment for beginning. And when will it be
making a progress and going on?"

"Making a progress!"

"Yes; when will the compliment become a little bigger? Twenty pounds!
Oh! it's just for a few gloves, you know; nothing more."

"Nothing more than that, of course," said poor Archie.

"Well; when will the compliment grow bigger? Let me see. Julie has seven
thousands of pounds, what you call, per annum. And have you seen that
beautiful park? Oh! And if you can make her to look at the moon with her
hair down--oh! When will that compliment grow bigger? Twenty pounds! I
am ashamed, you know."

"When will you see her, Madam Gordeloup?"

"See her! I see her every day, always. I will be there to-day, and
to-morrow, and the next day."

"You might say a word then at once--this afternoon."

"What! for twenty pounds! Seven thousands of pounds per annum; and you
give me twenty pounds! Fie, Captain Clavering. It is only just for me to
speak to you--this! That is all. Come; when will you bring me fifty?"

"By George--fifty!"

"Yes; fifty; for another beginning. What; seven thousands of pounds per
annum, and make difficulty for fifty pounds! You have a handy way with
your glove. Will you come with fifty pounds to-morrow?" Archie, with the
drops of perspiration standing on his brow, and now desirous of getting
out again into the street, promised that he would come again on the
following day with the required sum.

"Just for another beginning! And now, good-morning, Captain Clavering. I
will do my possible with Julie. Julie is very fond of me, and I think
you have been right in coming here. But twenty pounds was too little,
even for a beginning." Mercenary wretch; hungry, greedy, ill-conditioned
woman--altogether of the harpy breed! As Archie Clavering looked into
her gray eyes, and saw there her greed and her hunger, his flesh crept
upon his bones. Should he not succeed with Julia, how much would this
excellent lady cost him?

As soon as he was gone the excellent lady made an intolerable grimace,
shaking herself and shrugging her shoulders, and walking up and down
the room with her dirty wrapper held close round her. "Bah," she said.
"Bah!" And as she thought of the heavy stupidity of her late visitor she
shrugged herself and shook herself again violently, and clutched up her
robe still more closely. "Bah!" It was intolerable to her that a man
should be such a fool, even though she was to make money by him. And
then, that such a man should conceive it to be possible that he should
become the husband of a woman with seven thousand pounds a year! Bah!

Archie, as he walked away from Mount Street, found it difficult to
create a triumphant feeling within his own bosom. He had been awkward,
slow and embarrassed, and the spy had been too much for him. He was
quite aware of that, and he was aware also that even the sagacious
Doodles had been wrong. There had, at any rate, been no necessity for
making a difficulty about the money. The Russian spy had known her
business too well to raise troublesome scruples on that point. That she
was very good at her trade he was prepared to acknowledge; but a fear
came upon him that he would find the article too costly for his own
purposes. He remembered the determined tone in which she had demanded
the fifty pounds merely as a further beginning.

And then he could not but reflect how much had been said at the
interview about money--about money for her, and how very little had been
said as to the assistance to be given--as to the return to be made for
the money. No plan had been laid down, no times fixed, no facilities for
making love suggested to him. He had simply paid over his twenty pounds,
and been desired to bring another fifty. The other fifty he was to take
to Mount Street on the morrow. What if she were to require fifty pounds
every day, and declare that she could not stir in the matter for less?
Doodles, no doubt, had told him that these first-class Russian spies did
well the work for which they were paid; and no doubt, if paid according
to her own tariff, Madam Gordeloup would work well for him; but such a
tariff as that was altogether beyond his means! It would be imperatively
necessary that he should come to some distinct settlement with her as to
price. The twenty pounds, of course, were gone; but would it not be
better that he should come to some final understanding with her before
he gave her the further fifty? But then, as he thought of this, he was
aware that she was too clever to allow him to do as he desired. If he
went into that room with the fifty pounds in his pockets, or in his
glove, or, indeed, anywhere about his person, she would have it from
him, let his own resolution to make a previous bargain be what it might.
His respect for the woman rose almost to veneration, but with the
veneration was mixed a strong feeling of fear.

But, in spite of all this, he did venture to triumph a little when he
met Doodles at the club. He had employed the Russian spy, and had paid
her twenty pounds, and was enrolled in the corps of diplomatic and
mysterious personages, who do their work by mysterious agencies. He did
not tell Doodles anything about the glove, or the way in which the money
was taken from him; but he did say that he was to see the spy again
to-morrow, and that he intended to take with him another present of
fifty pounds.

"By George, Clavey, you are going it." said Doodles, in a voice that was
delightfully envious to the ears of Captain Archie. When he heard that
envious tone he felt that he was entitled to be triumphant.



Chapter XXIX

What Would Men Say To You?



"Harry, tell me the truth--tell me all the truth." Harry Clavering was
thus greeted when, in obedience to the summons from Lady Ongar, he went
to her almost immediately on his return to London.

It will be remembered that he had remained at Clavering some days after
the departure of Hugh and Archie, lacking the courage to face his
misfortunes boldly. But though his delay had been cowardly, it had not
been easy to him to be a coward. He despised himself for not having
written with warm, full-expressed affection to Florence and with honest,
clear truth to Julia. Half his misery rose from this feeling of
self-abasement, and from the consciousness that he was weak, piteously
weak, exactly in that in which he had often boasted to himself that he
was strong. But such inward boastings are not altogether bad. They
preserve men from succumbing, and make at any rate some attempt to
realize themselves. The man who tells himself that he is brave, will
struggle much before he flies; but the man who never does so tell
himself, will find flying easy unless his heart be of nature very high.
Now had come the moment either for flying or not flying; and Harry,
swearing that he would stand his ground, resolutely took his hat and
gloves, and made his way to Bolton Street with a sore heart.

But as he went he could not keep himself from arguing the matter within
his own breast. He knew what was his duty. It was his duty to stick to
Florence, not only with his word and his hand, but with his heart. It
was his duty to tell Lady Ongar that, not only his word was at Stratton,
but his heart also, and to ask her pardon for the wrong that he had done
her by that caress. For some ten minutes as he walked through the
streets his resolve was strong to do this manifest duty; but, gradually,
as he thought of that caress, as he thought of the difficulties of the
coming interview, as he thought of Julia's high-toned beauty--perhaps
something also of her wealth and birth--and more strongly still as he
thought of her love for him, false, treacherous, selfish arguments
offered themselves to his mind--arguments which he knew to be false and
selfish. Which of them did he love? Could it be right for him to give
his hand without his heart? Could it really be good for Florence--poor
injured Florence, that she should be taken by a man who had ceased to
regard her more than all other women? Were he to marry her now, would
not that deceit be worse than the other deceit? Or, rather, would not
that be deceitful, whereas the other course would simply be
unfortunate--unfortunate through circumstances for which he was
blameless? Damnable arguments! False, cowardly logic, by which all male
jilts seek to excuse their own treachery to themselves and to others!

Thus during the second ten minutes of his walk, his line of conduct
became less plain to him, and as he entered Piccadilly he was racked
with doubts. But instead of settling them in his mind he unconsciously
allowed himself to dwell upon the words with which he would seek to
excuse his treachery to Florence. He thought how he would tell her--not
to her face with spoken words, for that he could not do--but with
written skill, that he was unworthy of her goodness, that his love for
her had fallen off through his own unworthiness, and had returned to one
who was in all respects less perfect than she, but who in old days, as
she well knew, had been his first love. Yes! he would say all this, and
Julia, let her anger be what it might, should know that he had said it.
As he planned this, there came to him a little comfort, for he thought
there was something grand in such a resolution. Yes; he would do that,
even though he should lose Julia also.

Miserable clap-trap! He knew in his heart that all his logic was false,
and his arguments baseless. Cease to love Florence Burton! He had not
ceased to love her, nor is the heart of any man made so like a
weathercock that it needs must turn itself hither and thither, as the
wind directs, and be altogether beyond the man's control. For Harry,
with all his faults, and in spite of his present falseness, was a man.
No man ceases to love without a cause. No man need cease to love without
a cause. A man may maintain his love, and nourish it, and keep it warm
by honest, manly effort, as he may his probity, his courage, or his
honor. It was not that he had ceased to love Florence; but that the
glare of the candle had been too bright for him and he had scorched his
wings. After all, as to that embrace of which he had thought so much,
and the memory of which was so sweet to him and so bitter--it had simply
been an accident. Thus, writing in his mind that letter to Florence
which he knew, if he were an honest man, he would never allow himself to
write, he reached Lady Ongar's door without having arranged for himself
any special line of conduct.

We must return for a moment to the fact that Hugh and Archie had
returned to town before Harry Clavering. How Archie had been engaged on
great doings, the reader, I hope, will remember; and he may as well be
informed here that the fifty pounds was duly taken to Mount Street, and
were extracted from him by the spy without much difficulty. I do not
know that Archie in return obtained any immediate aid or valuable
information from Sophie Gordeloup; but Sophie did obtain some
information from him which she found herself able to use for her own
purposes. As his position with reference to love and marriage was being
discussed, and the position also of the divine Julia, Sophie hinted her
fear of another Clavering lover. What did Archie think of his cousin
Harry? "Why; he's engaged to another girl," said Archie, opening wide
his eyes and his mouth, and becoming very free with his information.
This was a matter to which Sophie found it worth her while to attend,
and she soon learned from Archie all that Archie knew about Florence
Burton. And this was all that could be known. No secret had been made in
the family of Harry's engagement. Archie told his fair assistant that
Miss Burton had been received at Clavering Park openly as Harry's future
wife, and, "by Jove, you know, he can't be coming it with Julia after
that, you know." Sophie made a little grimace, but did not say much.
She, remembering that she had caught Lady Ongar in Harry's arms, thought
that, "by Jove," he might be coming it with Julia, even after Miss
Burton's reception at Clavering Park. Then, too, she remembered some few
words that had passed between her and her dear Julia after Harry's
departure on the evening of the embrace, and perceived that Julia was in
ignorance of the very existence of Florence Burton, even though Florence
had been received at the Park. This was information worth
having--information to be used! Her respect for Harry rose immeasurably.
She had not given him credit for so much audacity, so much gallantry,
and so much skill. She had thought him to be a pigheaded Clavering, like
the rest of them. He was not pigheaded; he was a promising young man;
she could have liked him and perhaps aided him--only that he had shown
so strong a determination to have nothing to do with her. Therefore the
information should be used--and it was used.

The reader will now understand what was the truth which Lady Ongar
demanded from Harry Clavering. "Harry, tell me the truth; tell me all
the truth." She had come forward to meet him in the middle of the room
when she spoke these words, and stood looking him in the face, not
having given him her hand.

"What truth?" said Harry. "Have I ever told you a lie?" But he knew well
what was the truth required of him.

"Lies can be acted as well as told. Harry, tell me all at once. Who is
Florence Burton; who and what?" She knew it all, then, and things had
settled themselves for him without the necessity of any action on his
part. It was odd enough that she should not have learned it before, but
at any rate she knew it now. And it was well that she should have been
told--only how was he to excuse himself for that embrace? "At any rate
speak to me," she said, standing quite erect, and looking as a Juno
might have looked. "You will acknowledge at least that I have a right to
ask the question. Who is this Florence Burton?"

"She is the daughter of Mr. Burton of Stratton."

"And is that all that you can tell me? Come, Harry, be braver than that.
I was not such a coward once with you. Are you engaged to marry her?"

"Yes, Lady Ongar, I am."

"Then you have had your revenge on me, and now we are quits." So saying,
she stepped back from the middle of the room, and sat herself down on
her accustomed seat. He was left there standing, and it seemed as though
she intended to take no further notice of him. He might go if he
pleased, and there would be an end of it all. The difficulty would be
over, and he might at once write to Florence in what language he liked.
It would simply be a little episode in his life, and his escape would
not have been arduous.

But he could not go from her in that way. He could not bring himself to
leave the room without some further word. She had spoken of revenge. Was
it not incumbent on him to explain to her that there had been no
revenge; that he had loved, and suffered, and forgiven without one
thought of anger--and that then he had unfortunately loved again? Must
he not find some words in which to tell her that she had been the light,
and he simply the poor moth that had burned his wings.

"No, Lady Ongar," said he, "there has been no revenge."

"We will call is justice, if you please. At any rate I do not mean to
complain."

"If you ever injured me--" he began.

"I did injure you," said she, sharply.

"If you ever injured me, I forgave you freely."

"I did injure you--" As she spoke she rose again from her seat, showing
how impossible to her was that tranquillity which she had attempted to
maintain. "I did injure you, but the injury came to you early in life,
and sat lightly on you. Within a few months you had learned to love this
young lady at the place you went to--the first young lady you saw! I had
not done you much harm, Harry. But that which you have done me cannot be
undone."

"Julia," he said, coming up to her.

"No; not Julia. When you were here before I asked you to call me so,
hoping, longing, believing--doing more, so much more than I could have
done, but that I thought my love might now be of service to you. You do
not think that I had heard of this then."

"Oh, no."

"No. It is odd that I should not have known it, as I now hear that she
was at my sister's house; but all others have not been as silent as you
have been. We are quits, Harry; that is all that I have to say. We are
quits now."

"I have intended to be true to you--to you and to her."

"Were you true when you acted as you did the other night?" He could not
explain to her how greatly he had been tempted. "Were you true when you
held me in your arms as that woman came in? Had you not made me think
that I might glory in loving you, and that I might show her that I
scorned her when she thought to promise me her secresy--her secresy, as
though I were ashamed of what she had seen. I was not ashamed--not then.
Had all the world known it I should not have been ashamed. 'I have loved
him long,' I should have said, 'and him only. He is to be my husband,
and now at last I need not be ashamed.'" So much she spoke, standing up,
looking at him with firm face, and uttering her syllables with a quick
clear voice; but at the last word there came a quiver in her tone, and
the strength of her countenance quailed, and there was a tear which made
dim her eye, and she knew that she could no longer stand before him. She
endeavored to seat herself with composure; but the attempt failed, and
as she fell back upon the sofa he just heard the sob which had cost her
so great and vain an effort to restrain. In an instant he was kneeling
at her feet, and grasping at the hand with which she was hiding her face.
"Julia," he said, "look at me; let us at any rate understand each other
at last."

"No, Harry; there must be no more such knowledge--no more such
understanding. You must go from me, and come here no more. Had it not
been for that other night, I would still have endeavored to regard you
as a friend. But I have no right to such friendship. I have sinned and
gone astray, and am a thing vile and polluted. I sold myself as a beast
is sold, and men have treated me as I treated myself."

"Have I treated you so?"

"Yes, Harry; you, you. How did you treat me when you took me in your
arms and kissed me--knowing, knowing that I was not to be your wife? O
God, I have sinned. I have sinned, and I am punished."

"No, no," said he, rising from his knees, "it was not as you say."

"Then how was it, sir? Is it thus that you treat other women--your
friends, those to whom you declare friendship? What did you mean me to
think?"

"That I loved you."

"Yes; with a love that should complete my disgrace--that should finish
my degradation. But I had not heard of this Florence Burton; and, Harry,
that night I was happy in my bed. And in that next week when you were
down there for that sad ceremony, I was happy here, happy and proud.
Yes, Harry, I was so proud when I thought you still loved me--loved me
in spite of my past sin, that I almost forgot that I was polluted. You
have made me remember it, and I shall not forget it again."

It would have been better for him had he gone away at once. Now he was
sitting in a chair, sobbing violently, and pressing away the tears from
his cheeks with his hands. How could he make her understand that he had
intended no insult when he embraced her? Was it not incumbent on him to
tell her that the wrong he then did was done to Florence Burton, and not
to her? But his agony was too much for him at present, and he could find
no words in which to speak to her.

"I said to myself that you would come when the funeral was over, and I
wept for poor Hermy as I thought that my lot was so much happier than
hers. But people have what they deserve, and Hermy, who has done no such
wrong as I have done, is not crushed as I am crushed. It was just,
Harry, that the punishment should come from you, but it has come very
heavily."

"Julia, it was not meant to be so."

"Well; we will let that pass. I cannot unsay, Harry, all that I have
said--all that I did not say, but which you must have thought and known
when you were here last. I cannot bid you believe that I do not--love
you."

"Not more tenderly or truly than I love you."

"Nay, Harry, your love to me can be neither true nor tender--nor will I
permit it to be offered to me. You do not think that I would rob that
girl of what is hers. Mine for you may be both tender and true; but,
alas, truth has come to me when it can avail me no longer."

"Julia, if you will say that you love me, it shall avail you."

"In saying that, you are continuing to ill-treat me. Listen to me now. I
hardly know when it began, for, at first, I did not expect that you
would forgive me and let me be dear to you as I used to be; but as you
sat here, looking up into my face in the old way, it came on me
gradually--the feeling that it might be so; and I told myself that if
you would take me I might be of service to you, and I thought that I
might forgive myself at last for possessing this money if I could throw
it into your lap, so that you might thrive with it in the world; and I
said to myself that it might be well to wait awhile, till I should see
whether you really loved me; but then came that burst of passion, and
though I knew that you were wrong, I was proud to feel that I was still
so dear to you. It is all over. We understand each other at last, and
you may go. There is nothing to be forgiven between us."

He had now resolved that Florence must go by the board. If Julia would
still take him she should be his wife, and he would face Florence and
all the Burtons, and his own family, and all the world in the matter of
his treachery. What would he care what the world might say? His
treachery to Florence was a thing completed. Now, at this moment, he
felt himself to be so devoted to Julia as to make him regard his
engagement to Florence as one which must, at all hazards, be renounced.
He thought of his mother's sorrow, of his father's scorn--of the dismay
with which Fanny would hear concerning him a tale which she would
believe to be so impossible; he thought of Theodore Burton, and the
deep, unquenchable anger of which that brother was capable, and of
Cecilia and her outraged kindness; he thought of the infamy which would
be attached to him, and resolved that he must bear it all. Even if his
own heart did not move him so to act, how could he hinder himself from
giving comfort and happiness to this woman who was before him? Injury,
wrong, and broken-hearted wretchedness, he could not prevent; but,
therefore, this part was as open to him as the other. Men would say that
he had done this for Lady Ongar's money; and the indignation with which
he was able to regard this false accusation--for his mind declared such
accusation to be damnably false--gave him some comfort. People might say
of him what they pleased. He was about to do the best within his power.
Bad, alas, was the best, but it was of no avail now to think of that.

"Julia," he said, "between us at least there shall be nothing to be
forgiven."

"There is nothing," said she.

"And there shall be no broken love. I am true to you now--as ever."

"And, what, then, of your truth to Miss Florence Burton?"

"It will not be for you to rebuke me with that. We have, both of us,
played our game badly, but not for that reason need we both be ruined
and broken-hearted. In your folly you thought that wealth was better
than love; and I, in my folly--I thought that one love blighted might be
mended by another. When I asked Miss Burton to be my wife you were the
wife of another man. Now that you are free again I cannot marry Miss
Burton."

"You must marry her, Harry."

"There shall be no must in such a case. You do not know her, and cannot
understand how good, how perfect she is. She is too good to take a hand
without a heart."

"And what would men say of you?"

"I must bear what men say. I do not suppose that I shall be all
happy--not even with your love. When things have once gone wrong they
cannot be mended without showing the patches. But yet men stay the hand
of ruin for a while, tinkering here and putting in a nail there,
stitching and cobbling; and so things are kept together. It must be so
for you and me. Give me your hand, Julia, for I have never deceived you,
and you need not fear that I shall do so now. Give me your hand, and say
that you will be my wife."

"No, Harry; not your wife. I do not, as you say, know that perfect girl,
but I will not rob one that is so good."

"You are bound to me, Julia. You must do as I bid you. You have told me
that you love me; and I have told you--and I tell you now, that I love
none other as I love you--have never loved any other as I loved you.
Give me your hand." Then, coming to her, he took her hand, while she sat
with her face averted from him. "Tell me that you will be my wife." But
she would not say the words. She was less selfish than he, and was
thinking--was trying to think what might be best for them all, but,
above all, what might be best for him. "Speak to me," he said, "and
acknowledge that you wronged me when you thought that the expression of
my love was an insult to you."

"It is easy to say, speak. What shall I say?"

"Say that you will be my wife."

"No--I will not say it." She rose again from her chair, and took her
hand away from him. "I will not say it. Go now and think over all that
you have done; and I also will think of it. God help me. What evil comes
when evil has been done. But, Harry, I understand you now, and I at
least will blame you no more. Go and see Florence Burton; and if when
you see her, you find that you can love her, take her to your heart, and
be true to her. You shall never hear another reproach from me. Go now,
go; there is nothing more to be said."

He paused a moment as though he were going to speak, but he left the
room without another word. As he went along the passage and turned on
the stairs he saw her standing at the door of the room, looking at him,
and it seemed that her eyes were imploring him to be true to her in
spite of the words that she had spoken. "And I will be true to her," he
said to himself. "She was the first that I ever loved, and I will be
true to her."

He went out, and for an hour or two wandered about the town, hardly
knowing whither his steps were taking him. There had been a tragic
seriousness in what had occurred to him this evening, which seemed to
cover him with care, and make him feel that his youth was gone from him.
At any former period of his life his ears would have tingled with pride
to hear such a woman as Lady Ongar speak of her love for him in such
terms as she had used; but there was no room now for pride in his bosom.
Now at least he thought nothing of her wealth or rank. He thought of her
as a woman between whom and himself there existed so strong a passion as
to make it impossible that he should marry another, even though his duty
plainly required it. The grace and graciousness of his life were over;
but love still remained to him, and of that he must make the most. All
others whom he regarded would revile him, and now he must live for this
woman alone. She had said that she had injured him. Yes, indeed, she had
injured him! She had robbed him of his high character, of his unclouded
brow, of that self-pride which had so often told him that he was living
a life without reproach among men. She had brought him to a state in
which misery must be his bedfellow, and disgrace his companion; but
still she loved him, and to that love he would be true.

And as to Florence Burton--how was he to settle matters with her? That
letter for which he had been preparing the words as he went to Bolton
Street, before the necessity for it had become irrevocable, did not now
appear to him to be very easy. At any rate he did not attempt it on that
night.



Chapter XXX

The Man Who Dusted His Boots With His Handkerchief



When Florence Burton had written three letters to Harry without
receiving a word in reply to either of them, she began to be seriously
unhappy. The last of these letters, received by him after the scene
described in the last chapter, he had been afraid to read. It still
remained unopened in his pocket. But Florence, though she was unhappy,
was not even yet jealous. Her fears did not lie in that direction, nor
had she naturally any tendency to such uneasiness. He was ill, she
thought; or if not ill in health, then ill at ease. Some trouble
afflicted him of which he could not bring himself to tell her the facts,
and as she thought of this she remembered her own stubbornness on the
subject of their marriage, and blamed herself in that she was not now
with him, to comfort him. If such comfort would avail him anything now,
she would be stubborn no longer. When the third letter brought no reply
she wrote to her sister-in-law, Mrs. Burton, confessing her uneasiness,
and begging for comfort. Surely Cecilia could not but see him
occasionally--or at any rate have the power of seeing him. Or Theodore
might do so--as, of course, he would be at the office. If anything ailed
him would Cecilia tell her all the truth? But Cecilia, when she began to
fear that something did ail him, did not find it very easy to tell
Florence all the truth.

But there was jealousy at Stratton, though Florence was not jealous. Old
Mrs. Burton had become alarmed, and was ready to tear the eyes out of
Harry Clavering's head if Harry should be false to her daughter. This
was a misfortune of which, with all her brood, Mrs. Burton had as yet
known nothing. No daughter of hers had been misused by any man, and no
son of hers had ever misused any one's daughter. Her children had gone
out into the world steadily, prudently, making no brilliant marriages,
but never falling into any mistakes. She heard of such misfortunes
around her--that a young lady here had loved in vain, and that a young
lady there had been left to wear the willow; but such sorrows had never
visited her roof; and she was disposed to think--and perhaps to
say--that the fault lay chiefly in the imprudence of mothers. What if at
last, when her work in this line had been so nearly brought to a
successful close, misery and disappointment should come also upon her
lamb! In such case Mrs. Burton, we may say, was a ewe who would not see
her lamb suffer without many bleatings and considerable exercise of her
maternal energies.

And tidings had come to Mrs. Burton which had not as yet been allowed to
reach Florence's ears. In the office at the Adelphi was one Mr.
Walliker, who had a younger brother now occupying that desk in Mr.
Burton's office which had belonged to Harry Clavering. Through Bob
Walliker Mrs. Burton learned that Harry did not come to the office even
when it was known that he had returned to London from Clavering--and she
also learned at last that the young men in the office were connecting
Harry Clavering's name with that of a rich and noble widow, Lady Ongar.
Then Mrs. Burton wrote to her son Theodore, as Florence had written to
Theodore's wife.

Mrs. Burton, though she had loved Harry dearly, and had, perhaps, in
many respects liked him better than any of her sons-in-law, had,
nevertheless, felt some misgivings from the first. Florence was
brighter, better educated and cleverer than her elder sisters, and
therefore when it had come to pass that she was asked in marriage by a
man somewhat higher in rank and softer in manners than they who had
married her sisters, there had seemed to be some reason for the
change--but Mrs. Burton had felt that it was a ground for apprehension.
High rank and soft manners may not always belong to a true heart. At
first she was unwilling to hint this caution even to herself; but at
last, as her suspicions grew, she spoke the words very frequently, not
only to herself, but also to her husband. Why, oh why, had she let into
her house any man differing in mode of life from those whom she had
known to be honest and good? How would her gray hairs be made to go in
sorrow to the grave, if after all her old prudence and all her old
success, her last pet lamb should be returned to the mother's side,
ill-used, maimed, and blighted!

Theodore Burton, when he received his mother's letter, had not seen
Harry since his return from Clavering. He had been inclined to be very
angry with him for his long and unannounced absence from the office. "He
will do no good," he had said to his wile. "He does not know what real
work means." But his anger turned to disgust as regarded Harry, and
almost to despair as regarded his sister, when Harry had been a week in
town and yet had not shown himself at the Adelphi. But at this time
Theodore Burton had heard no word of Lady Ongar, though the clerks in
the office had that name daily in their mouths. "Cannot you go to him,
Theodore?" said his wife. "It is very easy to say go to him," he
replied. "If I made it my business I could, of course, go to him, and no
doubt find him if I was determined to do so--but what more could I do? I
can lead a horse to the water, but I cannot make him drink." "You could
speak to him of Florence." "That is such a woman's idea," said the
husband. "When every proper incentive to duty and ambition has failed
him, he is to be brought into the right way by the mention of a girl's
name!" "May I see him?" Cecilia urged. "Yes--if you can catch him; but I
do not advise you to try."

After that came the two letters for the husband and wife, each of which
was shown to the other; and then for the first time did either of them
receive the idea that Lady Ongar with her fortune might be a cause of
misery to their sister. "I don't believe a word of it," said Cecilia,
whose cheeks were burning, half with shame and half with anger. Harry
had been such a pet with her--had already been taken so closely to her
heart as a brother! "I should not have suspected him of that kind of
baseness," said Theodore, very slowly. "He is not base," said Cecilia.
"He may be idle and foolish, but he is not base."

"I must at any rate go after him now," said Theodore. "I don't believe
this--I won't believe it. I do not believe it. But if it should be
true--!"

"Oh, Theodore."

"I do not think it is true. It is not the kind of weakness I have seen
in him. He is weak and vain, but I should have said that he was true."

"I am sure he is true."

"I think so. I cannot say more than that I think so."

"You will write to your mother?"

"Yes."

"And may I ask Florence to come up? Is it not always better that people
should be near to each other when they are engaged?"

"You can ask her, if you like. I doubt whether she will come."

"She will come if she thinks that anything is amiss with him."

Cecilia wrote immediately to Florence, pressing her invitation in the
strongest terms that she could use. "I tell you the whole truth," she
said. "We have not seen him, and this of course, has troubled us very
greatly. I feel quite sure he would come to us if you were here; and
this, I think, should bring you, if no other consideration does so.
Theodore imagines that he has become simply idle, and that he is ashamed
to show himself here because of that. It may be that he has some trouble
with reference to his own home, of which we know nothing. But if he has
any such trouble you ought to be made aware of it, and I feel sure that
he would tell you if you were here." Much more she said, arguing in the
same way, and pressing Florence to come to London.

Mr. Burton did not at once send a reply to his mother, but he wrote the
following note to Harry:

    ADELPHI--May, 186--

    My Dear Clavering:--I have been sorry to notice your continued
    absence from the office, and both Cecilia and I have been very sorry
    that you have discontinued coming to us. But I should not have
    written to you on this matter, not wishing to interfere in your own
    concerns, had I not desired to see you specially with reference to
    my sister. As I have that to say to you concerning her which I can
    hardly write, will you make an appointment with me here; or at my
    house? Or, if you cannot do that, will you say when I shall find you
    at home? If you will come and dine with us we shall like that best,
    and leave you to name an early day; to-morrow, or the next day, or
    the day after. "Very truly yours,

    "THEODORE BURTON."

When Cecilia's letter reached Stratton, and another post came without
any letter from Harry, poor Florence's heart sank low in her bosom.
"Well, my dear," said Mrs. Burton, who watched her daughter anxiously
while she was reading the letter. Mrs. Burton had not told Florence of
her own letter to her son; and now, having herself received no answer,
looked to obtain some reply from that which her daughter-in-law had
sent.

"Cecilia wants me to go to London," said Florence.

"Is there anything the matter that you should go just now?"

"Not exactly the matter, mamma; but you can see the letter."

Mrs. Burton read it slowly, and felt sure that much was the matter. She
knew that Cecilia would have written in that strain only under the
influence of some great alarm. At first she was disposed to think that
she herself would go to London. She was eager to know the truth--eager
to utter her loud maternal bleatings if any wrong were threatened to her
lamb. Florence might go with her, but she longed herself to be on the
field of action. She felt that she could almost annihilate any man by
her words and looks who would dare to ill-treat a girl of hers.

"Well, mamma--what do you think?"

"I don't know yet, my dear. I will speak to your papa before dinner."
But as Mrs. Burton had been usually autocratic in the management of her
own daughters, Florence was aware that her mother simply required a
little time before she made up her mind. "It is not that I want to go
London for the pleasure of it, mamma."

"I know that, my dear."

"Nor yet merely to see him!--though, of course, I do long to see him!"

"Of course you do--why shouldn't you?"

"But Cecilia is so very prudent, and she thinks that it will be better.
And she would not have pressed it, unless Theodore had thought so too!"

"I thought Theodore would have written to me!"

"But he writes so seldom."

"I expected a letter from him now, as I had written to him."

"About Harry, do you mean?"

"Well; yes. I did not mention it, as I was aware I might make you
uneasy. But I saw that you were unhappy at not hearing from him."

"Oh, mamma, do let me go."

"Of course you shall go if you wish it; but let me speak to papa before
anything is quite decided."

Mrs. Burton did speak to her husband, and it was arranged that Florence
should go up to Onslow Crescent. But Mrs. Burton, though she had been
always autocratic about her unmarried daughters, had never been
autocratic about herself. When she hinted that she also might go, she
saw that the scheme was not approved, and she at once abandoned it.

"It would look as if we were all afraid," said Mr. Burton; "and, after
all, what does it come to? A young gentleman does not write to his
sweetheart for two or three weeks. I used to think myself the best lover
in the world if I wrote once a month."

"There was no penny post then, Mr. Burton."

"And I often wish there was none now," said Mr. Burton. That matter was
therefore decided, and Florence wrote back to her sister-in-law, saying
that she would go up to London on the third day from that. In the
meantime, Harry Clavering and Theodore Burton had met.

Has it ever been the lot of any unmarried male reader of these pages to
pass three or four days in London, without anything to do--to have to
get through them by himself--and to have that burden on his shoulder,
with the additional burden of some terrible, wearing misery, away from
which there seems to be no road, and out of which there is apparently no
escape? That was Harry Clavering's condition for some few days after the
evening which he last passed in the company of Lady Ongar; and I will
ask any such unmarried man whether, in such a plight, there was for him
any other alternative but to wish himself dead? In such a condition, a
man can simply walk the streets by himself, and declare to himself that
everything is bad, and rotten, and vile, and worthless. He wishes
himself dead, and calculates the different advantages of prussic acid
and pistols. He may the while take his meals very punctually at his
club, may smoke his cigars, and drink his bitter beer, or
brandy-and-water; but he is all the time wishing himself dead, and
making that calculation as to the best way of achieving that desirable
result. Such was Harry Clavering's condition now. As for his office, the
doors of that place were absolutely closed against him, by the presence
of Theodore Burton. When he attempted to read, he could not understand a
word, or sit for ten minutes with a book in his hand. No occupation was
possible to him. He longed to go again to Bolton Street, but he did not
even do that. If there, he could act only as though Florence had been
deserted for ever; and if he so acted, he would be infamous for life.
And yet he had sworn to Julia that such was his intention. He hardly
dared to ask himself which of the two he loved. The misery of it all had
become so heavy upon him, that he could take no pleasure in the thought
of his love. It must always be all regret, all sorrow, and all remorse.
Then there came upon him the letter from Theodore Burton, and he knew
that it was necessary that he should see the writer.

Nothing could be more disagreeable than such an interview, but he could
not allow himself to be guilty of the cowardice of declining it. Of a
personal quarrel with Burton he was not afraid. He felt, indeed, that he
might almost find relief in the capability of being himself angry with
any one. But he must positively make up his mind before such an
interview. He must devote himself either to Florence or to Julia; and he
did not know how to abandon the one or the other. He had allowed himself
to be so governed by impulse that he had pledged himself to Lady Ongar,
and had sworn to her that he would be entirely hers. She, it is true,
had not taken him altogether at his word, but not the less did he
know--did he think that he knew--that she looked for the performance of
his promise. And she had been the first that he had sworn to love!

In his dilemma he did at last go to Bolton Street, and there found that
Lady Ongar had left town for three or four days. The servant said that
she had gone, he believed, to the Isle of Wight; and that Madam
Gordeloup had gone with her. She was to be back in town early in the
following week. This was on a Thursday, and he was aware that he could
not postpone his interview with Burton till after Julia's return. So he
went to his club, and nailing himself as it were to the writing-table,
made an appointment for the following morning. He would be with Burton
at the Adelphi at twelve o'clock. He had been in trouble, he said, and
that trouble had kept him from the office and from Onslow Crescent.
Having written this, he sent it off, and then played billiards, and
smoked, and dined, played more billiards, and smoked and drank till the
usual hours of the night had come. He was not a man who liked such
things. He had not become what he was by passing his earlier years after
this fashion. But his misery required excitement, and, billiards, with
tobacco, were better than the desolation of solitude.

On the following morning he did not breakfast till near eleven. Why
should he get up as long as it was possible to obtain the relief which
was to be had from dozing? As far as possible he would not think of the
matter till he had put his hat upon his head to go to The Adelphi. But
the time for taking his hat soon came, and he started on his short
journey. But even as he walked, he could not think of it. He was
purposeless, as a ship without a rudder, telling himself that he could
only go as the winds might direct him. How he did hate himself for his
one weakness! And yet he hardly made an effort to overcome it. On one
point only did he seem to have a resolve. If Burton attempted to use
with him anything like a threat, he would instantly resent it.

Punctually at twelve he walked into the outer office, and was told that
Mr. Burton was in his room.

"Halloa, Clavering," said Walliker, who was standing with his back to
the fire, "I thought we had lost you for good and all. And here you are
come back again!"

Harry had always disliked this man, and now hated him worse than ever.
"Yes; I am here," said he, "for a few minutes; but I believe I need not
trouble you."

"All right, old fellow," said Walliker; and then Harry passed through
into the inner room.

"I am very glad to see you, Harry," said Burton, rising, and giving his
hand cordially to Clavering. "And I am sorry to hear that you have been
in trouble. Is it anything in which we can help you?"

"I hope--Mrs. Burton is well," said Harry, hesitating.

"Pretty well."

"And the children?"

"Quite well. They say you are a very bad fellow not to go and see them."

"I believe I am a bad fellow," said Harry.

"Sit down, Harry. It will be best to come at the point at once; will it
not? Is there anything wrong between you and Florence?"

"What do you mean by wrong?"

"I should call it very wrong--hideously wrong--if, after all that has
passed between you, there should now be any doubt as to your affection
for each other. If such doubt were now to arise with her, I should
almost disown my sister."

"You will never have to blush for her."

"I think not. I thank God that hitherto there have been no such blushes
among us. And I hope, Harry, that my heart may never have to bleed for
her. Come, Harry, let me tell you all at once like an honest man. I hate
subterfuges and secrets. A report has reached the old people at
home--not Florence, mind--that you are untrue to Florence, and are
passing your time with that lady who is the sister of your cousin's
wife."

"What right have they to ask how I pass my time?"

"Do not be unjust, Harry. If you simply tell me that your visits to that
lady imply no evil to my sister, I, knowing you to be a gentleman, will
take your word for all that it can mean." He paused, and Harry
hesitated, and could not answer. "Nay, dear friend--brother as we both
of us have thought you--come once more to Onslow Crescent and kiss the
bairns, and kiss Cecilia, too, and sit with us at our table, and talk as
you used to do, and I will ask no further question; nor will she. Then
you will come back here to your work, and your trouble will be gone, and
your mind will be at ease; and, Harry, one of the best girls that ever
gave her heart into a man's keeping will be there to worship you, and to
swear when your back is turned that any one who says a word against you
shall be no brother, and no sister, and no friend of hers."

And this was the man who had dusted his boots with his
pocket-handkerchief and whom Harry had regarded as being, on that
account, hardly fit to be his friend! He knew that the man was noble,
and good, and generous, and true; and knew also that in all that Burton
said he simply did his duty as a brother. But not on that account was it
the easier for him to reply.

"Say that you will come to us this evening," said Burton. "Even if you
have an engagement, put it off."

"I have none," said Harry.

"Then say that you will come to us, and all will be well."

Harry understood of course that his compliance with this invitation
would be taken as implying that all was right. It would be so easy to
accept the invitation, and any other answer was so difficult! But yet he
would not bring himself to tell the lie.

"Burton," he said, "I am in trouble."

"What is the trouble?" The man's voice was now changed, and so was the
glance of his eye. There was no expression of anger--none as yet; but
the sweetness of his countenance was gone--a sweetness that was unusual
to him, but which still was at his command when he needed it.

"I cannot tell you all here. If you will let me come to you this evening
I will tell you everything--you and to Cecilia too. Will you let me
come?"

"Certainly. Will you dine with us?"

"No; after dinner; when the children are in bed." Then he went, leaving
on the mind of Theodore Burton an impression that though something was
much amiss, his mother had been wrong in her fears respecting Lady
Ongar.



Chapter XXXI

Freshwater Gate



Count Pateroff, Sophie's brother, was a man who, when he had taken a
thing in hand, generally liked to carry it through. It may perhaps be
said that most men are of this turn of mind; but the count was, I think,
especially eager in this respect. And as he was not one who had many
irons in the fire, who made either many little efforts, or any great
efforts after things altogether beyond his reach, he was justified in
expecting success. As to Archie's courtship, any one who really knew the
man and the woman, and who knew anything of the nature of women in
general, would have predicted failure for him. Even with Doodle's aid he
could not have a chance in the race. But when Count Pateroff entered
himself for the same prize, those who knew him would not speak of his
failure as a thing certain.

The prize was too great not to be attempted by so very prudent a
gentleman. He was less impulsive in his nature than his sister, and did
not open his eyes and talk with watering mouth of the seven thousands of
pounds a year; but in his quiet way he had weighed and calculated all
the advantages to be gained, had even ascertained at what rate he could
insure the lady's life, and had made himself certain that nothing in the
deed of Lord Ongar's marriage-settlement entailed any pecuniary penalty
on his widow's second marriage. Then he had gone down, as we know, to
Ongar Park, and as he had walked from the lodge to the house and back
again, he had looked around him complacently, and told himself that the
place would do very well. For the English character, in spite of the
pigheadedness of many Englishmen, he had--as he would have said
himself--much admiration, and he thought that the life of a country
gentleman, with a nice place of his own--with such a very nice place of
his own as was Ongar Park--and so very nice an income, would suit him
well in his declining years.

And he had certain advantages, certain aids toward his object, which had
come to him from circumstances; as, indeed, he had also certain
disadvantages. He knew the lady, which was in itself much. He knew much
of the lady's history, and had that cognizance of the saddest
circumstances of her life, which in itself creates an intimacy. It is
not necessary now to go back to those scenes which had disfigured the
last months of Lord Ongar's life, but the reader will understand that
what had then occurred gave the count a possible footing as a suitor.
And the reader will also understand the disadvantages which had at this
time already shown themselves in the lady's refusal to see the count.

It may be thought that Sophie's standing with Lady Ongar would be a
great advantage to her brother; but I doubt whether the brother trusted
either the honesty or the discretion of his sister. He would have been
willing to purchase such assistance as she might give--not in Archie's
pleasant way, with bank-notes hidden under his glove--but by
acknowledgments for services to be turned into solid remuneration when
the marriage should have taken place, had he not feared that Sophie
might communicate the fact of such acknowledgments to the other
lady--making her own bargain in doing so. He had calculated all this,
and had come to the conclusion that he had better make no direct
proposal to Sophie; and when Sophie made a direct proposal to him,
pointing out to him in glowing language all the fine things which such a
marriage would give him, he had hardly vouchsafed to her a word of
answer. "Very well," said Sophie to herself; "very well. Then we both
know what we are about."

Sophie herself would have kept Lady Ongar from marrying any one had she
been able. Not even a brother's gratitude would be so serviceable to her
as the generous kindness of a devoted friend. That she might be able
both to sell her services to a lover, and also to keep Julie from
marrying, was a lucky combination of circumstances which did not occur
to her till Archie came to her with the money in his glove. That
complicated game she was now playing, and was aware that Harry Clavering
was the great stumbling-block in her way. A woman even less clever than
Sophie would have perceived that Lady Ongar was violently attached to
Harry; and Sophie, when she did see it, thought that there was nothing
left for her but to make her hay while the sun was yet shining. Then she
heard the story of Florence Burton; and again she thought that Fortune
was on her side. She told the story of Florence Burton--with what result
we know; and was quite sharp enough to perceive afterward that the tale
had had its intended effect--even though her Julie had resolutely
declined to speak either of Harry Clavering or of Florence Burton.

Count Pateroff had again called in Bolton Street, and had again been
refused admittance. It was plain to him to see by the servant's manner
that it was intended that he should understand that he was not to be
admitted. Under such circumstances, it was necessary that he must either
abandon his pursuit, or that he must operate upon Lady Ongar through
some other feeling than her personal regard for himself. He might,
perhaps, have trusted much to his own eloquence if he could have seen
her; but how is a man to be eloquent in his wooing if he cannot see the
lady whom he covets? There is, indeed, the penny post, but in these days
of legal restraints, there is no other method of approaching an
unwilling beauty. Forcible abduction is put an end to as regards Great
Britain and Ireland. So the count had resort to the post.

His letter was very long, and shall not, therefore, be given to the
reader. He began by telling Lady Ongar that she owed it to him for the
good services he had done her, to read what he might say, and to answer
him. He then gave her various reasons why she should see him, pleading,
among other things, in language which she could understand, though the
words were purposely as ambiguous as they could be made, that he had
possessed and did possess the power of doing her a grievous injury, and
that he had abstained, and--hoped that he might be able to abstain for
the future. She knew that the words contained no threat--that taken
literally they were the reverse of a threat, and amounted to a
promise--but she understood also that he had intended to imply. Long as
his own letter was, he said nothing in it as to his suit, confining
himself to a request that she should see him. But with his letter he
sent her an enclosure longer than the letter itself in which his wishes
were clearly explained.

This enclosure purported to be an expression of Lord Ongar's wishes on
many subjects, as they had been communicated to Count Pateroff in the
latter days of the lord's life; but as the manuscript was altogether in
the count's writing, and did not even pretend to have been subjected to
Lord Ongar's eye, it simply amounted to the count's own story of their
alleged conversations. There might have been no such conversations, or
their tenor might have been very different from that which the count
represented, or the statements and opinions, if expressed at all by Lord
Ongar, might have been expressed at times when no statements or opinions
coming from him could be of any value. But as to these conversations, if
they could have been verified as having come from Lord Ongar's mouth
when he was in full possession of such faculties as he possessed--all
that would have amounted to nothing with Lady Ongar. To Lord Ongar alive
she had owed obedience, and had been obedient. To Lord Ongar dead she
owed no obedience, and would not be obedient.

Such would have been her feelings as to any document which could have
reached her, purporting to contain Lord Ongar's wishes; but this
document was of a nature which made her specially antagonistic to the
exercise of any such marital authority from the grave. It was very long,
and went into small details--details which were very small; but the
upshot of it all was a tendering of great thanks to Count Pateroff; and
the expression of a strong wish that the count should marry his widow.
"O. said that this would be the only thing for J.'s name." "O. said that
this would be the safest course for his own honor." "O. said, as he took
my hand, that in promising to take this step I gave him great comfort."
"O. commissioned me to speak to J. in his name to this effect." The O.
was, of course, Lord Ongar, and the J. was, of course, Julia. It was all
in French, and went on in the same strain for many pages. Lady Ongar
answered the letter as follows:

    Lady Ongar presents her compliments to Count Pateroff, and begs to
    return the enclosed manuscript, which is, to her, perfectly
    valueless. Lady Ongar must still decline, and now more strongly than
    before, to receive Count Pateroff.

    BOLTON STREET, May, 186--

She was quite firm as she did this. She had no doubt at all on the
matter. She did not feel that she wanted to ask for any advice. But she
did feel that this count might still work her additional woe, that her
cup of sorrow might not even yet be full, and that she was sadly--sadly
in want of love and protection. For aught she knew, the count might
publish the whole statement, and people might believe that those words
came from her husband, and that her husband had understood what would be
best for her fame and for his honor. The whole thing was a threat, and
not to save herself from any misery, would she have succumbed to a
menace; but still it was possible that the threat might be carried out.

She was sorely in want of love and protection. At this time, when the
count's letter reached her, Harry had been with her; and we know what
had passed between them. She had bid him go to Florence, and love
Florence, and marry Florence, and leave her in her desolation. That had
been her last command to him. But we all know what such commands mean.
She had not been false in giving him these orders. She had intended it
at the moment. The glow of self-sacrifice had been warm in her bosom,
and she had resolved to do without that which she wanted, in order that
another might have it. But when she thought of it afterward in her
loneliness, she told herself that Florence Burton could not want Harry's
love as she wanted it. There could not be such need to this girl, who
possessed father and mother, and brothers, and youth, as there was to
her, who had no other arm on which she could lean, beside that of the
one man for whom she had acknowledged her love, and who had also
declared his passion for her. She made no scheme to deprive Florence of
her lover. In the long hours of her own solitude she never revoked,
even within her own bosom, the last words she had said to Harry
Clavering. But not the less did she hope that he might come to her
again, and that she might learn from him that he had freed himself from
that unfortunate engagement into which her falseness to him had driven
him.

It was after she had answered Count Pateroff's letter that she resolved
to go out of town for three or four days. For some short time she had
been minded to go away altogether, and not to return till after the
Autumn; but this scheme gradually diminished itself and fell away, till
she determined that she would come back after three or four days. Then
came to her Sophie--her devoted Sophie--Sophie whom she despised and
hated; Sophie of whom she was so anxious to rid herself that in all her
plans there was some little under-plot to that effect; Sophie whom she
knew to be dishonest to her in any way that might make dishonesty
profitable; and before Sophie had left her, Sophie had engaged herself
to go with her dear friend to the Isle of Wight! As a matter of course,
Sophie was to be franked on this expedition. On such expeditions Sophies
are always franked, as a matter of course. And Sophie would travel with
all imaginable luxury--a matter to which Sophie was by no means
indifferent, though her own private life was conducted with an economy
that was not luxurious. But, although all these good things came in
Sophie's way, she contrived to make it appear that she was devoting
herself in a manner that was almost sacrificial to the friend of her
bosom. At the same time Lady Ongar sent a few words, as a message, to
the count by his sister. Lady Ongar, having told to Madam Gordeloup the
story of the document which had reached her, and having described her
own answer, was much commended by her friend.

"You are quite right, dear, quite. Of course I am fond of my brother.
Edouard and I have always been the best of friends. But that does not
make me think you ought to give yourself to him. Bah! Why should a woman
give away everything? Edouard is a fine fellow. But what is that? Fine
fellows like to have all the money themselves."

"Will you tell him--from me," said Lady Ongar, "that I will take it as a
kindness on his part if he will abstain from coming to my house. I
certainly shall not see him with my own consent."

Sophie promised, and probably gave the message; but when she also
informed Edouard of Lady Ongar's intended visit to the Isle of Wight,
telling him the day on which they were going and the precise spot, with
the name of the hotel at which they were to stay, she went a little
beyond the commission which her dearest friend had given her.

At the western end of the Isle of Wight, and on the further shore, about
three miles from the point of the island which we call the Needles,
there is a little break in the cliff, known to all the stay-at-home
English travellers as Freshwater Gate. Here there is a cluster of
cottages and two inns, and a few bathing-boxes, and ready access by easy
ascents to the breezy downs on either side, over which the sea air blows
with all its salt and wholesome sweetness. At one of these two inns Lady
Ongar located herself and Sophie; and all Freshwater, and all Yarmouth,
and all that end of the Island were alive to the fact that the rich
widowed countess respecting whom such strange tales were told, had come
on a visit to these parts. Innkeepers like such visitors. The more
venomous are the stories told against them, the more money are they apt
to spend, and the less likely are they to examine their hills. A rich
woman altogether without a character is a mine of wealth to an
innkeeper. In the present case no such godsend had come in the way--but
there was supposed to be a something a little odd, and the visitor was
on that account the more welcome.

Sophie was not the most delightful companion in the world for such a
place. London was her sphere, as she herself had understood when
declaiming against those husbands who keep their wives in the country.
And she had no love for the sea specially, regarding all winds as
nuisances excepting such as had been raised by her own efforts, and
thinking that salt from a saltcellar was more convenient than that
brought to her on the breezes. It was now near the end of May, but she
had not been half an hour at the inn before she was loud in demanding a
fire--and when the fire came she was unwilling to leave it. Her gesture
was magnificent when Lady Ongar proposed to her that she should bathe.
What--put her own dear little dry body, by her own will, into the cold
sea! She shrugged herself, and shook herself, and without speaking a
word declined with so much eloquence that it was impossible not to
admire her. Nor would she walk. On the first day, during the warmest
part of the day, she allowed herself to be taken out in a carriage
belonging to the inn; but after her drive she clung to the fire, and
consumed her time with a French novel.

Nor was Lady Ongar much more comfortable in the Isle of Wight than she
had been in London. The old poet told us how Black Care sits behind the
horseman, and some modern poet will some day describe to us that
terrible goddess as she takes her place with the stoker close to the
fire of the locomotive engine. Sitting with Sophie opposite to her, Lady
Ongar was not happy, even though her eye rested on the lines of that
magnificent coast. Once indeed, on the evening of their first day,
Sophie left her, and she was alone for nearly an hour. Ah, how happy
could she have been if Harry Clavering might have been there with her.
Perhaps a day might come in which Harry might bring her there. In such a
case Atra Cura would be left behind, and then she might be altogether
happy. She sat dreaming of this for above an hour, and Sophie was still
away. When Sophie returned, which she did all too soon, she explained
that she had been in her bedroom. She had been very busy, and now had
come down to make herself comfortable.

On the next evening Lady Ongar declared her intention of going up on the
downs by herself. They had dined at five, so that she might have a long
evening, and soon after six she started. "If I do not break down I will
get as far as the Needles," she said. Sophie, who had heard that the
distance was three miles, lifted up her hands in despair. "If you are
not back before nine I shall send the people after you." Consenting to
this with a laugh, Lady Ongar made her way up to the downs, and walked
steadily on toward the extreme point of the island. To the Needles
themselves she did not make her way. These rocks are now approached, as
all the stay-at-home travellers know, through a fort, and down to the
fort she did not go. But turning a little from the highest point of the
hill toward the cliffs on her left hand, she descended till she reached
a spot from which she could look down on the pebbly beach lying some
three hundred feet below her, and on the soft shining ripple of the
quiet waters as they moved themselves with a pleasant sound on the long
strand which lay stretched in a line from the spot beneath her out to
the point of the island. The evening was warm, and almost transparent in
its clearness, and very quiet. There was no sound even of a breeze. When
she seated herself close upon the margin of the cliff, she heard the
small waves moving the stones which they washed, and the sound was as
the sound of little children's voices, very distant. Looking down, she
could see through the wonderful transparency of the water, and the
pebbles below it were bright as diamonds, and the sands were burnished
like gold. And each tiny silent wavelet as it moved up toward the shore
and lost itself at last in its own effort, stretched itself the whole
length of the strand. Such brightness on the seashore she had never seen
before, nor had she ever listened as now she listened to that infantine
babble of the baby waves, She sat there close upon the margin, on a seat
of chalk which the winds had made, looking, listening, and forgetting
for a while that she was Lady Ongar whom people did not know, who lived
alone in the world with Sophie Gordeloup for her friend--and whose lover
was betrothed to another woman. She had been there perhaps half an hour,
and had learned to be at home on her perch, sitting there in comfort,
with no desire to move, when a voice which she well knew at the first
sound startled her, and she rose quickly to her feet. "Lady Ongar," said
the voice, "are you not rather near the edge?" As she turned round there
was Count Pateroff with his hand already upon her dress, so that no
danger might be produced by the suddenness of his speech.

"There is nothing to fear," she said, stepping back from her seat. As
she did so, he dropped his hand from her dress, and, raising it to his
head, lifted his hat from his forehead. "You will excuse me, I hope,
Lady Ongar," he said, "for having taken this mode of speaking to you."

"I certainly shall not excuse you; nor, further than I can help it,
shall I listen to you."

"There are a few words which I must say."

"Count Pateroff, I beg that you will leave me. This is treacherous and
unmanly--and can do you no good. By what right do you follow me here?"

"I follow you for your own good, Lady Ongar; I do it that you may hear
me say a few words that are necessary for you to hear."

"I will hear no words from you--that is, none willingly. By this time
you ought to know me and to understand me." She had begun to walk up the
hill very rapidly, and for a moment or two he had thought that she would
escape him; but her breath had soon failed her, and she found herself
compelled to stand while he regained his place beside her. This he had
not done without an effort, and for some minutes they were both silent.
"it is very beautiful," at last he said, pointing away over the sea.

"Yes; it is very beautiful," she answered. "Why did you disturb me when
I was so happy?" But the count was still recovering his breath and made
no answer to this question. When, however, she attempted to move on
again, still breasting the hill, he put his hand upon her arm very
gently.

"Lady Ongar," he said, "you must listen to me for a moment. Why not do
it without a quarrel?"

"If you mean that I cannot escape from you, it is true enough."

"Why should you want to escape? Did I ever hurt you? Before this have I
not protected you from injury?"

"No--never. You protect me!"

"Yes--I; from your husband, from yourself, and from the world. You do
not know--not yet, all that I have done for you. Did you read what Lord
Ongar had said?"

"I read what it pleased you to write."

"What it pleased me! Do you pretend to think that Lord Ongar did not
speak as he speaks there? Do you not know that those were his own words?
Do you not recognize them? Ah, yes, Lady Ongar; you know them to be
true."

"Their truth or falsehood is nothing to me. They are altogether
indifferent to me either way."

"That would be very well if it were possible; but it is not. There; now
we are at the top, and it will be easier. Will you let me have the honor
to offer you my arm? No! Be it so; but I think you would walk the
easier. It would not be for the first time."

"That is a falsehood." As she spoke she stepped before him, and looked
into his face with eyes full of passion. "That is a positive falsehood.
I never walked with a hand resting on your arm."

There came over his face the pleasantest smile as he answered her. "You
forget everything," he said--"everything. But it does not matter. Other
people will not forget. Julie, you had better take me for your husband.
You will be better as my wife, and happier, than you can be otherwise."

"Look down there, Count Pateroff--down to the edge. If my misery is too
great to be borne, I can escape from it there on better terms than you
propose to me."

"Ah! That is what we call poetry. Poetry is very pretty, and in saying
this as you do, you make yourself divine. But to be dashed over the
cliffs and broken on the rocks--in prose is not so well."

"Sir, will you allow me to pass on while you remain; or will you let me
rest here, while you return alone?"

"No, Julie; not so. I have found you with too much difficulty. In
London, you see, I could not find you. Here, for a minute, you must
listen to me. Do you not know, Julie, that your character is in my
hands?"

"In your hands? No--never; thank God, never. But what if it were?"

"Only this--that I am forced to play the only game that you leave open
to me. Chance brought you and me together in such a way that nothing but
marriage can be beneficial to either of us--and I swore to Lord Ongar
that it should be so. I mean that it shall be so--or that you shall be
punished for your misconduct to him and to me."

"You are both insolent and false. But listen to me, since you are here
and I cannot avoid you. I know what your threats mean."

"I have never threatened you. I have promised you my aid, but have used
no threats."

"Not when you tell me that I shall be punished? But to avoid no
punishment, if any be in your power, will I ever willingly place myself
in your company. You may write of me what papers you please, and repeat
of me whatever stories you may choose to fabricate, but you will not
frighten me into compliance by doing so. I have; at any rate, spirit
enough to resist such attempts as that."

"As you are living at present, you are alone in the world!"

"And I am content to remain alone."

"You are thinking, then, of no second marriage?"

"If I were, does that concern you? But I will speak no further word to
you. If you follow me into the inn, or persecute me further by forcing
yourself upon me, I will put myself under the protection of the police."

Having said this, she walked on as quickly as her strength would permit,
while he walked by her side, urging upon her his old arguments as to
Lord Ongar's expressed wishes, as to his own efforts on her behalf--and
at last as to the strong affection with which he regarded her. But she
kept her promise, and said not a word in answer to it all. For more than
an hour they walked side by side, and during the greater part of that
time not a syllable escaped from her. From moment to moment she kept her
eye warily on him, fearing that he might take her by the arm, or attempt
some violence with her. But he was too wise for this, and too fully
conscious that no such proceeding on his part could be of any service to
him. He continued, however, to speak to her words which she could not
avoid hearing--hoping rather than thinking that he might at last
frighten her by a description of all the evil which it was within his
power to do her. But in acting thus he showed that he knew nothing of
her character. She was not a woman whom any prospect of evil could
possibly frighten into a distasteful marriage.

Within a few hundred yards of the hotel there is another fort, and at
this point the path taken by Lady Ongar led into the private grounds of
the inn at which she was staying. Here the count left her, raising his
hat as he did so, and saying that he hoped to see her again before she
left the island.

"If you do so," said she, "it shall be in presence of those who can
protect me." And so they parted.



Chapter XXXII

What Cecilia Burton Did For Her Sister-In-Law



As soon as Harry Clavering had made his promise to Mr. Burton, and had
declared that he would be in Onslow Crescent that same evening, he went
away from the offices at the Adelphi, feeling it to be quite impossible
that he should recommence his work there at that moment, even should it
ever be within his power to do so. Nor did Burton expect that he should
stay. He understood, from what had passed, much of Harry's trouble, if
not the whole of it; and though he did not despair on behalf of his
sister, he was aware that her lover had fallen into a difficulty, from
which he could not extricate himself without great suffering and much
struggling. But Burton was a man who, in spite of something cynical on
the surface of his character, believed well of mankind generally, and
well also of men as individuals. Even though Harry had done amiss, he
might be saved. And though Harry's conduct to Florence might have been
bad, nay, might have been false, still, as Burton believed, he was too
good to be cast aside, or spurned out of the way, without some further
attempt to save him.

When Clavering had left him Burton went back to his work, and after a
while succeeded in riveting his mind on the papers before him. It was a
hard struggle with him, but he did it, and did not leave his business
till his usual hour. It was past five when he took down his hat and his
umbrella, and, as I fear, dusted his boots before he passed out of the
office on to the passage. As he went he gave sundry directions to
porters and clerks, as was his wont, and then walked off intent upon his
usual exercise before he should reach his home.

But he had to determine on much with reference to Florence and Harry
before he saw his wife. How was the meeting of the evening to take
place, and in what way should it be commenced? If there were
indispensable cause for his anger, in what way should he show it, and if
necessity for vengeance, how should his sister be avenged? There is
nothing more difficult for a man than the redressing of injuries done to
a woman who is very near to him and very dear to him. The whole theory
of Christian meekness and forgiveness becomes broken to pieces and falls
to the ground, almost as an absurd theory, even at the idea of such
wrong. What man ever forgave an insult to his wife or an injury to his
sister, because he had taught himself that to forgive trespasses is a
religious duty? Without an argument, without a moment's thought, the man
declares to himself that such trespasses as those are not included in
the general order. But what is he to do? Thirty years since his course
was easy, and unless the sinner were a clergyman, he could in some sort
satisfy his craving for revenge by taking a pistol in his hand, and
having a shot at the offender. That method was doubtless barbarous and
unreasonable, but it was satisfactory and sufficed. But what can he do
now? A thoughtful, prudent, painstaking man, such as was Theodore
Burton, feels that it is not given to him to attack another with his
fists, to fly at his enemy's throat, and carry out his purpose after the
manner of dogs. Such a one has probably something round his heart which
tells him that if so attacked he could defend himself; but he knows that
he has no aptitude for making such onslaught, and is conscious that such
deeds of arms would be unbecoming to him. In many, perhaps in most of
such cases, he may, if he please, have recourse to the laws. But any aid
that the law can give him is altogether distasteful to him. The name of
her that is so dear to him should be kept quiet as the grave under such
misfortune, not blazoned through ten thousand columns for the amusement
of all the crowd. There is nothing left for him but to spurn the
man--not with his foot but with his thoughts; and the bitter
consciousness that to such spurning the sinner will be indifferent. The
old way was barbarous certainly, and unreasonable--but there was a
satisfaction in it that has been often wanting since the use of pistols
went out of fashion among us.

All this passed through Burton's mind as he walked home. One would not
have supposed him to be a man eager for bloodshed--he with a wife whom
he deemed to be perfect, with children who in his eyes were gracious as
young gods, with all his daily work which he loved as good workers
always do; but yet, as he thought of Florence, as he thought of the
possibility of treachery on Harry's part, he regarded almost with dismay
the conclusion to which he was forced to come--that there could be no
punishment. He might proclaim the offender to the world as false, and
the world would laugh at the proclaimer, and shake hands with the
offender. To sit together with such a man on a barrel of powder, or
fight him over a handkerchief seemed to him to be reasonable, nay
salutary, under such a grievance. There are sins, he felt, which the
gods should punish with instant thunderbolts, and such sins as this were
of such a nature. His Florence--pure, good, loving, true, herself
totally void of all suspicion, faultless in heart as well as mind, the
flower of that Burton flock which had prospered so well--that she should
be sacrificed through the treachery of a man who, at his best, had
scarcely been worthy of her! The thought of this was almost too much for
him, and he gnashed his teeth as he went on his way.

But yet he had not given up the man. Though he could not restrain
himself from foreshadowing the misery that would result from such
baseness, yet he told himself that he would not condemn before
condemnation was necessary. Harry Clavering might not be good enough for
Florence. What man was good enough for Florence? But still, if married,
Harry, he thought, would not make a bad husband Many a man who is prone
enough to escape from the bonds which he has undertaken to endure--to
escape from them before they are riveted--is mild enough under their
endurance, when they are once fastened upon him. Harry Clavering was not
of such a nature that Burton could tell himself that it would be well
that his sister should escape even though her way of escape must lie
through the fire and water of outraged love. That Harry Clavering was a
gentleman, that he was clever, that he was by nature affectionate, soft
in manner, tender of heart, anxious to please, good-tempered, and of
high ambition, Burton knew well; and he partly recognized the fact that
Harry had probably fallen into his present fault more by accident than
by design. Clavering was not a skilled and practiced deceiver. At last,
as he drew near to his own door, he resolved on the line of conduct he
would pursue. He would tell his wife everything, and she should receive
Harry alone.

He was weary when he reached home, and was a little cross with his
fatigue. Good man as he was, he was apt to be fretful on the first
moment of his return to his own house, hot with walking, tired with his
day's labor, and in want of his dinner. His wife understood this well,
and always bore with him at such moments, coming down to him in the
dressing-room behind the back parlor, and ministering to his wants. I
fear he took some advantage of her goodness, knowing that at such
moments he could grumble and scold without danger of contradiction. But
the institution was established, and Cecilia never rebelled against its
traditional laws. On the present day he had much to say to her, but even
that he could not say without some few symptoms of petulant weariness.

"I'm afraid you've had a terrible long day," she said.

"I don't know what you call terribly long. I find the days terribly
short. I have had Harry with me, as I told you I should."

"Well, well. Say in one word, dear, that it is all right--if it is so."

"But it is not all right. I wonder what on earth the men do to the
boots, that I can never get a pair that do not hurt me in walking." At
this moment she was standing over him with his slippers.

"Will you have a glass of sherry before dinner, dear; you are so tired?"

"Sherry--no!"

"And what about Harry? You don't mean to say--"

"If you'll listen, I'll tell you what I do mean to say." Then he
described to her as well as he could, what had really taken place
between him and Harry Clavering at the office.

"He cannot mean to be false, if he is coming here," said the wife.

"He does not mean to be false; but he is one of those men who can be
false without meaning it, who allow themselves to drift away from their
anchors, and to be carried out into seas of misery and trouble, because
they are not careful in looking to their tackle. I think that he may
still be held to a right course, and therefore I have begged him to come
here."

"I am sure that you are right, Theodore. He is so good and so
affectionate, and he made himself so much one of us!"

"Yes; too easily by half. That is just the danger. But look here, Cissy.
I'll tell you what I mean to do. I will not see him myself; at any rate,
not at first. Probably I had better not see him at all. You shall talk
to him."

"By myself?"

"Why not? You and he have always been great friends, and he is a man who
can speak more openly to a woman than to another man."

"And what shall I say as to your absence?"

"Just the truth. Tell him that I am remaining in the dining-room because
I think his task will be easier with you in my absence. He has got
himself into some mess with that woman."

"With Lady Ongar?"

"Yes; not that her name was mentioned between us, but I suppose it is
so."

"Horrible woman; wicked, wretched creature!"

"I know nothing about that, nor, as I suppose, do you."

"My dear, you must have heard."

"But if I had--and I don't know that I have--I need not have believed. I
am told that she married an old man who is now dead, and I suppose she
wants a young husband."

"My dear!"

"If I were you, Cissy, I would say as little as might be about her. She
was an old friend of Harry's--"

"She jilted him when he was quite a boy; I know that--long before he had
seen our Florence."

"And she is connected with him through his cousin. Let her be ever so
bad, I should drop that."

"You can't suppose, Theodore, that I want even to mention her name. I'm
told that nobody ever visits her."

"She needn't be a bit the worse on that account. Whenever I hear that
there is a woman whom nobody visits, I always feel inclined to go and
pay my respects to her."

"Theodore, how can you say so?"

"And that, I suppose, is just what Harry has done. If the world and his
wife had visited Lady Ongar, there would not have been all this trouble
now."

Mrs. Burton of course undertook the task which her husband assigned to
her, though she did so with much nervous trepidation, and many fears
lest the desired object should be lost through her own maladroit
management. With her, there was at least no doubt as to the thing to be
done--no hesitation as to the desirability of securing Harry Clavering
for the Burton faction. Everything in her mind was to be forgiven to
Harry, and he was to be received by them all with open arms and loving
caresses, if he would only abandon Lady Ongar altogether. To secure her
lover for Florence, was Mrs. Burton's single and simple object. She
raised no questions now within her own breast as to whether Harry would
make a good husband. Any such question as that should have been asked
and answered before he had been accepted at Stratton. The thing to be
done now was to bring Harry and Florence together, and--since such
terrible dangers were intervening--to make them man and wife with as
little further delay as might be possible. The name of Lady Ongar was
odious to her. When men went astray in matters of love, it was within
the power of Cecilia Burton's heart to forgive them; but she could not
pardon women that so sinned. This countess had once jilted Harry, and
that was enough to secure her condemnation. And since that, what
terrible things had been said of her! And dear, uncharitable Cecilia
Burton was apt to think, when evil was spoken of women--of women whom
she did not know--that there could not be smoke without fire. And now
this woman was a widow with a large fortune, and wanted a husband! What
business had any widow to want a husband? It is so easy for wives to
speak and think after that fashion when they are satisfied with their
own ventures.

It was arranged that when Harry came to the door, Mrs. Burton should go
up alone to the drawing-room and receive him there, remaining with her
husband in the dining-room till he should come. Twice while sitting
downstairs after the cloth was gone she ran upstairs with the avowed
purpose of going into the nursery, but in truth that she might see that
the room was comfortable, that it looked pretty, and that the chairs
were so arranged as to be convenient. The two eldest children were with
them in the parlor, and when she started on her second errand, Cissy
reminded her that baby would be asleep. Theodore, who understood the
little manoeuvre, smiled, but said nothing, and his wife, who in such
matters was resolute, went and made her further little changes in the
furniture. At last there came the knock at the door--the expected knock,
a knock which told something of the hesitating, unhappy mind of him who
had rapped, and Mrs. Burton started on her business. "Tell him just
simply why you are there alone," said her husband.

"Is it Harry Clavering?" Cissy asked, "and mayn't I go?"

"It is Harry Clavering," her father said, "and you may not go. Indeed,
it is time you went somewhere else."

It was Harry Clavering. He had not spent a pleasant day since he had
left Mr. Beilby's offices in the morning, and, now that he had come to
Onslow Crescent, he did not expect to spend a pleasant evening. When I
declare that as yet he had not come to any firm resolution, I fear that
he will be held as being too weak for the role of hero even in such
pages as these. Perhaps no terms have been so injurious to the
profession of the novelist as those two words, hero and heroine. In
spite of the latitude which is allowed to the writer in putting his own
interpretation upon these words, something heroic is still expected;
whereas, if he attempt to paint from nature, how little that is heroic
should he describe! How many young men, subjected to the temptations
which had befallen Harry Clavering--how many young men whom you,
delicate reader, number among your friends--would have come out from
them unscathed? A man, you say, delicate reader, a true man can love but
one woman--but one at a time. So you say, and are so convinced; but no
conviction was ever more false. When a true man has loved with all his
heart and all his soul--does he cease to love--does he cleanse his heart
of that passion when circumstances run against him, and he is forced to
turn elsewhere for his life's companion? Or is he untrue as a lover in
that he does not waste his life in desolation, because he has been
disappointed? Or does his old love perish and die away, because another
has crept into his heart? No; the first love, if that was true, is ever
there; and should she and he meet after many years, though their heads
be gray and their cheeks wrinkled, there will still be a touch of the
old passion as their hands meet for a moment. Methinks that love never
dies, unless it be murdered by downright ill-usage. It may be so
murdered, but even, ill-usage will more often fail than succeed in that
enterprise. How, then, could Harry fail to love the woman whom he had
loved first, when she returned to him still young, still beautiful, and
told him, with all her charms and all her flattery, how her heart stood
toward him?

But it is not to be thought that I excuse him altogether. A man, though
he may love many, should be devoted only to one. The man's feeling to
the woman whom he is to marry should be this:--that not from love only,
but from chivalry, from manhood, and from duty, he will be prepared
always, and at all hazards, to defend her from every misadventure, to
struggle ever that she may be happy, to see that no wind blows upon her
with needless severity, that no ravening wolf of a misery shall come
near her, that her path be swept clean for her--as clean as may be, and
that her roof-tree be made firm upon a rock. There is much of this which
is quite independent of love--much of it that may be done without love.
This is devotion, and it is this which a man owes to the woman who has
once promised to be his wife, and has not forfeited her right. Doubtless
Harry Clavering should have remembered this at the first moment of his
weakness in Lady Ongar's drawing-room. Doubtless he should have known at
once that his duty to Florence made it necessary that he should declare
his engagement--even though, in doing so, he might have seemed to
caution Lady Ongar on that point on which no woman can endure a caution.
But the fault was hers, and the caution was needed. No doubt he should
not have returned to Bolton Street. He should not have cozened himself
by trusting himself to her assurances of friendship; he should have kept
warm his love for the woman to whom his hand was owed, not suffering
himself to make comparisons to her injury. He should have been
chivalric, manly, full of high duty. He should have been all this, and
full also of love, and then he would have been a hero. But men as I see
them are not often heroic.

As he entered the room he saw Mrs. Burton at once, and then looked round
quickly for her husband. "Harry," said she, "I am so glad to see you
once again," and she gave him her hand, and smiled on him with that
sweet look which used to make him feel that it was pleasant to be near
her. He took her hand and muttered some word of greeting, and then
looked round again for Mr. Burton. "Theodore is not here," she said, "he
thought it better that you and I should have a little talk together. He
said you would like it best so; but perhaps I ought not to tell you
that."

"I do like it best so--much best. I can speak to you as I could hardly
speak to him."

"What is it, Harry, that ails you? What has kept you away from us? Why
do you leave poor Flo so long without writing to her? She will be here
on Monday. You will come and see her then; or perhaps you will go with
me and meet her at the station?"

"Burton said that she was coming, but I did not understand that it was
so soon."

"You do not think it too soon, Harry; do you?"

"No," said Harry, but his tone belied his assertion. At any rate he had
not pretended to display any of a lover's rapture at this prospect of
seeing the lady whom he loved.

"Sit down, Harry. Why do you stand like that and look so comfortless?
Theodore says that you have some trouble at heart. Is it a trouble that
you can tell to a friend such as I am?"

"It is very hard to tell. Oh, Mrs. Burton, I am broken-hearted. For the
last two weeks I have wished that I might die."

"Do not say that, Harry; that would be wicked."

"Wicked or not, it is true. I have been so wretched that I have not
known how to hold myself. I could not bring myself to write to
Florence."

"But why not? You do not mean that you are false to Florence. You cannot
mean that. Harry, say at once that it is not so, and I will promise you
her forgiveness, Theodore's forgiveness, all our forgiveness for
anything else. Oh, Harry, say anything but that." In answer to this
Harry Clavering had nothing to say, but sat with his head resting on his
arm and his face turned away from her. "Speak, Harry; if you are a man,
say something. Is it so? If it be so, I believe that you will have
killed her. Why do you not speak to me? Harry Clavering, tell me what is
the truth."

Then he told her all his story, not looking her once in the face, not
changing his voice, suppressing his emotion till he came to the history
of the present days. He described to her how he had loved Julia
Brabazon, and how his love had been treated by her; how he had sworn to
himself, when he knew that she had in truth become that lord's wife,
that for her sake he would keep himself from loving any other woman.
Then he spoke of his first days at Stratton and of his early
acquaintance with Florence, and told her how different had been his
second love--how it had grown gradually and with no check to his
confidence, till he felt sure that the sweet girl who was so often near
him would, if he could win her, be to him a source of joy for all his
life. "And so she shall," said Cecilia, with tears running down her
cheeks; "she shall do so yet." And he went on with his tale, saying how
pleasant it had been for him to find himself at home in Onslow Crescent;
how he had joyed in calling her Cecilia, and having her infants in his
arms, as though they were already partly belonging to him. And he told
her how he had met the young widow at the station, having employed
himself on her behalf at her sister's instance; and how cold she had
been to him, offending him by her silence and sombre pride. "False
woman!" exclaimed Mrs. Burton. "Oh, Cecilia, do not abuse her--do not
say a word till you know all." "I know that she is false," said Mrs.
Burton, with vehement indignation. "She is not false," said Harry; "if
there be falsehood, it is mine." Then he went on, and said how different
she was when next he saw her. How then he understood that her solemn and
haughty manner had been almost forced on her by the mode of her return,
with no other friend to meet her. "She has deserved no friend," said
Mrs. Burton. "You wrong her." said Harry; "you do not know her. If any
woman has been ever sinned against, it is she." "But was she not false
from the very first--false, that she might become rich by marrying a man
that she did not love? Will you speak up for her after that? Oh, Harry,
think of it."

"I will speak up for her," said Harry; and now it seemed for the first
time that something of his old boldness had returned to him. "I will
speak up for her, although she did as you say, because she has suffered
as few women have been made to suffer, and because she has repented in
ashes as few women are called on to repent." And now as he warmed with
his feeling for her, he uttered his words faster and with less of shame
in his voice. He described how he had gone again and again to Bolton
Street, thinking no evil, till--till--till something of the old feeling
had come back upon him. He meant to be true in his story, but I doubt
whether he told all the truth. How could he tell it all? How could he
confess that the blaze of the woman's womanhood, the flame of her
beauty, and the fire engendered by her mingled rank and suffering, had
singed him and burned him up, poor moth that he was? "And then at last I
learned," said he, "that--that she had loved me more than I had
believed."

"And is Florence to suffer because she has postponed her love of you to
her love of money?"

"Mrs. Burton, if you do not understand it now, I do not know that I can
tell you more. Florence alone in this matter is altogether good. Lady
Ongar has been wrong, and I have been wrong. I sometimes think that
Florence is too good for me."

"It is for her to say that, if it be necessary."

"I have told you all now, and you will know why I have not come to you."

"No, Harry; you have not told me all. Have you told that--woman that she
should be your wife?" To this question he made no immediate answer, and
she repeated it. "Tell me: have you told her you would marry her?"

"I did tell her so."

"And you will keep your word to her?" Harry, as he heard the words, was
struck with awe that there should be such vehemence, such anger, in the
voice of so gentle a woman as Cecilia Burton. "Answer me, sir, do you
mean to marry this--countess?" But still he made no answer. "I do not
wonder that you cannot speak," she said. "Oh, Florence--oh, my darling;
my lost, broken-hearten angel!" Then she turned away her face and wept.

"Cecilia," he said, attempting to approach her with his hand, without
rising from his chair.

"No, sir; when I desired you to call me so, it was because I thought you
were to be a brother. I did not think that there could be a thing so
weak as you. Perhaps you had better go now, lest you should meet my
husband in his wrath, and he should spurn you."

But Harry Clavering still sat in his chair, motionless--motionless, and
without a word. After a while he turned his face toward her, and even in
her own misery she was striken by the wretchedness of his countenance.
Suddenly she rose quickly from her chair, and coming close to him, threw
herself on her knees before him. "Harry," she said, "Harry; it is not
yet too late. Be our own Harry again; our dearest Harry. Say that it
shall be so. What is this woman to you? What has she done for you, that
for her you should throw aside such a one as our Florence? Is she noble,
and good, and pure and spotless as Florence is? Will she love you with
such love as Florence's? Will she believe in you as Florence believes?
Yes, Harry, she believes yet. She knows nothing of this, and shall know
nothing, if you will only say that you will be true. No one shall know,
and I will remember it only to remember your goodness afterward. Think
of it, Harry; there can be no falseness to one who has been so false to
you. Harry, you will not destroy us all at one blow?"

Never before was man so supplicated to take into his arms youth and
beauty and feminine purity! And in truth he would have yielded, as
indeed, what man would not have yielded--had not Mrs. Burton been
interrupted in her prayers. The step of her husband was heard upon the
stairs, and she, rising from her knees, whispered quickly, "Do not tell
him that it is settled. Let me tell him when you are gone."

"You two have been a long time together," said Theodore, as he came in.

"Why did you leave us, then, so long?" said Mrs. Burton, trying to
smile, though the signs of tears were, as she well knew, plain enough.

"I thought you would have sent for me."

"Burton," said Harry, "I take it kindly of you that you allowed me to
see your wife alone."

"Women always understand these things best," said he.

"And you will come again to-morrow, Harry, and answer me my question?"

"Not to--morrow."

"Florence will be here on Monday."

"And why should he not come when Florence is here?" asked Theodore in an
angry tone.

"Of course he will come, but I want to see him again first. Do I not,
Harry?"

"I hate mysteries," said Burton.

"There shall be no mystery," said his wife. "Why did you send him to me,
but that there are some things difficult to discuss among three? Will
you come to-morrow, Harry?"

"Not to-morrow; but I will write to-morrow--early to-morrow. I will go
now, and, of course, you will tell Burton everything that I have said.
Goodnight." They both took his hand, and Cecilia pressed it as she
looked with beseeching eyes into his face. What would she not have done
to secure the happiness of the sister whom she loved? On this occasion
she had descended low that she might do much.



Chapter XXXIII

How Damon Parted From Pythias



Lady Ongar, when she left Count Pateroff at the little fort on the cliff
and entered by herself the gardens belonging to the hotel, had long
since made up her mind that there should at last be a positive severance
between herself and her devoted Sophie. For half an hour she had been
walking in silence by the count's side; and though, of course, she had
heard all that he had spoken, she had been able in that time to consider
much. It must have been through Sophie that the count had heard of her
journey to the Isle of Wight; and, worse than that, Sophie must, as she
thought, have instigated this pursuit. In that she wronged her poor
friend. Sophie had been simply paid by her brother for giving such
information as enabled him to arrange this meeting. She had not even
counselled him to follow Lady Ongar. But now Lady Ongar, in blind wrath,
determined that Sophie should be expelled from her bosom. Lady Ongar
would find this task of expulsion the less difficult in that she had
come to loathe her devoted friend, and to feel it to be incumbent on her
to rid herself of such devotion. Now had arrived the moment in which it
might be done.

And yet there were difficulties. Two ladies living together in an inn
cannot, without much that is disagreeable, send down to the landlord
saying that they want separate rooms, because they have taken it into
their minds to hate each other. And there would, moreover, be something
awkward in saying to Sophie that, though she was discarded, her bill
should be paid--for this last and only time. No; Lady Ongar had already
perceived that would not do. She would not quarrel with Sophie after
that fashion. She would leave the Isle of Wight on the following morning
early, informing Sophie why she did so, and would offer money to the
little Franco-Pole, presuming that it might not be agreeable to the
Franco-Pole to be hurried away from her marine or rural happiness so
quickly. But in doing this she would be careful to make Sophie
understand that Bolton Street was to be closed against her for ever
afterward. With neither Count Pateroff nor his sister would she ever
again willingly place herself in contact.

It was dark as she entered the house--the walk out, her delay there, and
her return having together occupied her three hours. She had hardly felt
the dusk growing on her as she progressed steadily on her way, with that
odious man beside her. She had been thinking of other things, and her
eyes had accustomed themselves gradually to the fading twilight, But
now, when she saw the glimmer of the lamps from the inn-windows, she
knew that the night had come upon her, and she began to fear that she
had been imprudent in allowing herself to be out so late--imprudent,
even had she succeeded in being alone. She went direct to her own room,
that, woman-like, she might consult her own face as to the effects of
the insult she had received, and then having, as it were, steadied
herself, and prepared herself for the scene that was to follow, she
descended to the sitting-room and encountered her friend. The friend was
the first to speak; and the reader will kindly remember that the friend
had ample reason for knowing what companion Lady Ongar had been likely
to meet upon the downs.

"Julie, dear, how late you are," said Sophie, as though she were rather
irritated in having been kept so long waiting for her tea.

"I am late," said Lady Ongar.

"And don't you think you are imprudent--all alone, you know, dear; just
a leetle imprudent."

"Very imprudent, indeed. I have been thinking of that now as I crossed
the lawn, and found how dark it was. I have been very imprudent; but I
have escaped without much injury."

"Escaped! escaped what? Have you escaped a cold, or a drunken man?"

"Both, as I think." Then she sat down, and, having rung the bell, she
ordered tea.

"There seems to be something very odd with you," said Sophie. "I do not
quite understand you."

"When did you see your brother last?" Lady Ongar asked.

"My brother?"

"Yes, Count Pateroff. When did you see him last?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"Well, it does not signify, as of course you will not tell me. But will
you say when you will see him next?"

"How can I tell?"

"Will it be to-night?"

"Julia, what do you mean?"

"Only this, that I wish you would make him understand that if he has
anything to do concerning me, he might as well do it out of hand. For
the last hour--"

"Then you have seen him?"

"Yes; is not that wonderful? I have seen him."

"And why could you not tell him yourself what you had to say? He and I
do not agree about certain things, and I do not like to carry messages
to him. And you have seen him here on this sacre sea-coast?"

"Exactly so; on this sacre sea-coast. Is it not odd that he should have
known that I was here--know the very inn we were at-and know, too,
whither I was going to-night?"

"He would learn that from the servants, my dear."

"No doubt. He has been good enough to amuse me with mysterious threats
as to what he would do to punish me if I would not--"

"Become his wife?" suggested Sophie.

"Exactly. It was very flattering on his part. I certainly do not intend
to become his wife."

"Ah, you like better that young Clavering who has the other sweetheart.
He is younger. That is true."

"Upon my word, yes. I like my cousin, Harry Clavering, much better than
I like your brother; but, as I take it, that has not much to do with it.
I was speaking of your brother's threats. I do not understand them; but
I wish he could be made to understand that if he has anything to do, he
had better go and do it. As for marriage, I would sooner marry the first
ploughboy I could find in the fields."

"Julie--you need not insult him."

"I will have no more of your Julie; and I will have no more of you." As
she said this she rose from her chair, and she walked about the room.
"You have betrayed me, and there shall be an end of it."

"Betrayed you! what nonsense you talk. In what have I betrayed you?"

"You set him upon my track here, though you knew I desired to avoid
him."

"And is that all? I was coming here to this detestable island, and I
told my brother. That is my offence--and then you talk of betraying!
Julie, you sometimes are a goose."

"Very often, no doubt; but, Madam Gordeloup, if you please we will be
geese apart for the future."

"Oh, certainly; if you wish it."

"I do wish it."

"It cannot hurt me. I can choose my friends anywhere. The world is open
to me to go where I please into society. I am not at a loss."

All this Lady Ongar well understood, but she could bear it without
injury to her temper. Such revenge was to be expected from such a woman
"I do not want you to be at a loss," she said. "I only want you to
understand that after what has this evening occurred between your
brother and me, our acquaintance had better cease."

"And I am to be punished for my brother?"

"You said just now that it would be no punishment, and I was glad to
hear it. Society is, as you say, open to you, and you will lose
nothing."

"Of course society is open to me. Have I committed myself? I am not
talked about for my lovers by all the town. Why should I be at a loss?
No."

"I shall return to London to-morrow by the earliest opportunity. I have
already told them so, and have ordered a carriage to go to Yarmouth at
eight."

"And you leave me here, alone!"

"Your brother is here, Madam Gordeloup."

"My brother is nothing to me. You know well that. He has come and can go
when he please. I come here to follow you--to be companion to you, to
oblige you--and now you say you go and leave me in this detestable
barrack. If I am here alone, I will be revenged."

"You shall go back with me if you wish it."

"At eight o'clock in the morning--and see, it is now eleven; while you
have been wandering about alone with my brother in the dark! No; I will
not go so early morning as that. To-morrow is Saturday--you was to
remain till Tuesday."

"You may do as you please. I will go at eight to-morrow."

"Very well. You go at eight, very well. And who will pay for the 'beels'
when you are gone, Lady Ongar?"

"I have already ordered the bill up to-morrow morning. If you will allow
me to offer you twenty pounds, that will bring you to London when you
please to follow."

"Twenty pounds! What is twenty pounds? No; I will not have your twenty
pounds." And she pushed away from her the two notes which Lady Ongar had
already put upon the table. "Who is to pay me for the loss of all my
time? Tell me that. I have devoted myself to you. Who will pay me for
that?"

"Not I, certainly, Madam Gordeloup."

"Not you! You will not pay me for my time--for a whole year I have been
devoted to you! You will not pay me, and you send me away in this way?
By Gar, you will be made to pay--through the nose."

As the interview was becoming unpleasant, Lady Ongar took her candle and
went away to bed, leaving the twenty pounds on the table. As she left
the room she knew that the money was there, but she could not bring
herself to pick it up and restore it to her pocket. It was improbable,
she thought, that Madam Gordeloup would leave it to the mercy of the
waiters; and the chances were that the notes would go into the pocket
for which they were intended.

And such was the result. Sophie, when she was left alone, got up from
her seat, and stood for some moments on the rug, making her
calculations. That Lady Ongar should be very angry about Count
Pateroff's presence Sophie had expected; but she had not expected that
her friend's anger would be carried to such extremity that she would
pronounce a sentence of banishment for life. But, perhaps, after all, it
might be well for Sophie herself that such sentence should be carried
out. This fool of a woman with her income, her park, and her rank, was
going to give herself--so said Sophie to herself--to a young, handsome,
proud, pig of a fellow--so Sophie called him--who had already shown
himself to be Sophie's enemy, and who would certainly find no place for
Sophie Gordeloup within his house. Might it not be well that the quarrel
should be consummated now--such compensation being obtained as might
possibly be extracted. Sophie certainly knew a good deal, which it might
be for the convenience of the future husband to keep dark--or convenient
for the future wife that the future husband should not know. Terms might
be yet had, although Lady Ongar had refused to pay anything beyond that
trumpery twenty pounds. Terms might be had; or, indeed, it might be that
Lady Ongar herself, when her anger was over, might sue for a
reconciliation. Or Sophie--and this idea occurred as Sophie herself
became a little despondent after long calculation--Sophie herself might
acknowledge herself to be wrong, begging pardon, and weeping on her
friend's neck. Perhaps it might be worth while to make some further
calculation in bed. Then Sophie, softly drawing the notes toward her as
a cat might have done, and hiding them somewhere about her person, also
went to her room.



Chapter XXXIV

Vain Repentance



In the morning Lady Ongar prepared herself for starting at eight
o'clock, and, as a part of that preparation, had her breakfast brought
to her upstairs. When the time was up, she descended to the sitting-room
on the way to the carriage, and there she found Sophie, also prepared
for a journey.

"I am going too. You will let me go?" said Sophie.

"Certainly," said Lady Ongar. "I proposed to you to do so yesterday."

"You should not be so hard upon your poor friend," said Sophie. This was
said in the bearing of Lady Ongar's maid and of two waiters, and Lady
Ongar made no reply to it. When they were in the carriage together, the
maid being then stowed away in a dickey or rumble behind, Sophie again
whined and was repentant. "Julie, you should not be so hard upon your
poor Sophie."

"It seems to me that the hardest things said were spoken by you."

"Then I will beg your pardon. I am impulsive. I do not restrain myself.
When I am angry I say I know not what. If I said any words that were
wrong, I will apologize, and beg to be forgiven--there--On my knees."
And, as she spoke, the adroit little woman contrived to get herself down
upon her knees on the floor of the carriage. "There; say that I am
forgiven; say that Sophie is pardoned." The little woman had calculated
that even should her Julia pardon her, Julia would hardly condescend to
ask for the two ten-pound notes.

But Lady Ongar had stoutly determined that there should be no further
intimacy, and had reflected that a better occasion for a quarrel could
hardly be vouchsafed to her than that afforded by Sophie's treachery in
bringing her brother down to Freshwater. She was too strong, and too
much mistress of her will, to be cheated now out of her advantage.
"Madam Gordeloup, that attitude is absurd; I beg you will get up."

"Never; never till you have pardoned me." And Sophie crouched still
lower, till she was all among the dressing-cases and little bags at the
bottom of the carriage. "I will not get up till you say the words,
'Sophie, dear, I forgive you.'"

"Then I fear you will have an uncomfortable drive. Luckily it will be
very short. It is only half-an-hour to Yarmouth."

"And I will kneel again on board the packet; and on the--what you call,
platform--and in the railway carriage--and in the street. I will kneel
to my Julie everywhere, till she say, 'Sophie, dear, I forgive you!'"

"Madam Gordeloup, pray understand me; between you and me there shall be
no further intimacy."

"Certainly not. No further explanation is necessary, but our intimacy
has certainly come to an end."

"It has."

"Undoubtedly."

"Julie!"

"That is such nonsense. Madam Gordeloup, you are disgracing yourself by
your proceedings."

"Oh! disgracing myself, am I?" In saying this Sophie picked herself up
from among the dressing-cases, and recovered her seat. "I am disgracing
myself! Well, I know very well whose disgrace is the most talked about
in the world, yours or mine. Disgracing myself; and from you? What did
your husband say of you himself?"

Lady Ongar began to feel that even a very short journey might be too
long. Sophie was now quite up, and was wriggling herself on her seat,
adjusting her clothes which her late attitude had disarranged, not in,
the most graceful manner.

"You shall see," she continued. "Yes, you shall see. Tell me of
disgrace! I have only disgraced myself by being with you. Ah--very well.
Yes; I will get out. As for being quiet, I shall be quiet whenever I
like it. I know when to talk, and when to hold my, tongue. Disgrace!" So
saying she stepped out of the carriage, leaning on the arm of a boatman
who had come to the door, and who had heard her last words.

It may be imagined that all this did not contribute much to the comfort
of Lady Ongar. They were now on the little pier at Yarmouth, and in five
minutes every one there knew who she was, and knew also that there had
been some disagreement between her and the little foreigner. The eyes of
the boatmen, and of the drivers, and of the other travellers, and of the
natives going over to the market at Lymington, were all on her, and the
eyes also of all the idlers of Yarmouth who had congregated there to
watch the despatch of the early boat. But she bore it well, seating
herself, with her maid beside her, on one of the benches on the deck,
and waiting there with patience till the boat should start. Sophie once
or twice muttered the word "disgrace!" but beyond that she remained
silent.

They crossed over the little channel without a word, and without a word
made their way up to the railway-station. Lady Ongar had been too
confused to get tickets for their journey at Yarmouth, but had paid on
board the boat for the passage of the three persons--herself, her maid,
and Sophie. But, at the station at Lymington, the more important
business of taking tickets for the journey to London became necessary.
Lady Ongar had thought of this on her journey across the water, and,
when at the railway-station, gave her purse to her maid, whispering her
orders. The girl took three first-class tickets, and then going gently
up to Madam Gordeloup, offered one to that lady. "Ah, yes; very well; I
understand," said Sophie, taking the ticket. "I shall take this;" and
she held the ticket up in her hand, as though she had some specially
mysterious purpose in accepting it.

She got into the same carriage with Lady Ongar and her maid, but spoke
no word on her journey up to London. At Basingstoke she had a glass of
sherry, for which Lady Ongar's maid paid. Lady Ongar had telegraphed for
her carriage, which was waiting for her, but Sophie betook herself to a
cab. "Shall I pay the cabman, ma'am?" said the maid. "Yes," said Sophie,
"or stop. It will be half-a-crown. You had better give me the
half-crown." The maid did so, and in this way the careful Sophie added
another shilling to her store--over and above the twenty pounds--knowing
well that the fare to Mount Street was eighteenpence.



Chapter XXXV

Doodles In Mount Street



Captain Clavering and Captain Boodle had, as may be imagined, discussed
at great length and with much frequency the results of the former
captain's negotiations with the Russian spy, and it had been declared
strongly by the latter captain, and ultimately admitted by the former,
that those results were not satisfactory. Seventy pounds had been
expended, and, so to say, nothing had been accomplished. It was in vain
that Archie, unwilling to have it thought that he had been worsted in
diplomacy, argued that with these political personages, and especially
with Russian political personages, the ambages were everything--that the
preliminaries were in fact the whole, and that when they were arranged,
the thing was done. Doodles proved to demonstration that the thing was
not done, and that seventy pounds was too much for mere preliminaries.
"My dear fellow," he said, speaking, I fear, with some scorn in his
voice, "where are you? That's what I want to know. Where are you? Just
nowhere." This was true. All that Archie had received from Madam
Gordeloup in return for his last payment, was an intimation that no
immediate day could be at present named for a renewal of his personal
attack upon the countess; but that a day might be named when he should
next come to Mount Street--provision, of course, being made that he
should come with a due qualification under his glove. Now, the original
basis on which Archie was to carry on his suit had been arranged to be
this--that Lady Ongar should be made to know that he was there; and the
way in which Doodles had illustrated this precept by the artistic and
allegorical use of his heel was still fresh in Archie's memory. The
meeting in which they had come to that satisfactory understanding had
taken place early in the Spring, and now June was coming on, and the
countess certainly did not as yet know that her suitor was there! If
anything was to be done by the Russian spy it should be done quickly,
and Doodles did not refrain from expressing his opinion that his friend
was "putting his foot into it," and "making a mull of the whole thing."
Now Archie Clavering was a man not eaten up by the vice of
self-confidence, but prone rather to lean upon his friends, and anxious
for the aid of counsel in difficulty.

"What the devil is a fellow to do?" he asked. "Perhaps I had better give
it all up. Everybody says that she is as proud as Lucifer; and, after
all, nobody knows what rigs she has been up to."

But this was by no means the view which Doodles was inclined to take. He
was a man who in the field never gave up a race because he was thrown
out at the start, having perceived that patience would achieve as much,
perhaps, as impetuosity. He had ridden many a waiting race, and had won
some of them. He was never so sure of his hand at billiards as when the
score was strong against him. "Always fight while there's any fight left
in you," was a maxim with him. He never surrendered a bet as lost, till
the evidence as to the facts was quite conclusive, and had taught
himself to regard any chance, be it ever so remote, as a kind of
property.

"Never say die," was his answer to Archie's remark. "You see, Clavvy,
you have still a few good cards, and you can never know what a woman
really means till you have popped yourself. As to what she did when she
was away, and all that, you see when a woman has got seven thousand a
year in her own right, it covers a multitude of sins."

"Of course, I know that."

"And why should a fellow be uncharitable? If a man is to believe all
that he hears, by George, they're all much of a muchness. For my part I
never believe anything. I always suppose every horse will run to win;
and though there may be a cross now and again, that's the surest line to
go upon. D'you understand me now?" Archie said that of course he
understood him; but I fancy that Doodles had gone a little too deep for
Archie's intellect.

"I should say, drop this woman, and go at the widow yourself at once."

"And lose all my seventy pounds for nothing!"

"You're not soft enough to suppose that you'll ever get it back again, I
hope?" Archie assured his friend that he was not soft enough for any
such hope as that, and then the two remained silent for a while, deeply
considering the posture of the affair. "I'll tell you what I'll do for
you," said Doodles; "and upon my word I think it will be the best
thing."

"And what's that?"

"I'll go to this woman myself."

"What; to Lady Ongar?"

"No; but to the spy, as you call her. Principals are never the best for
this kind of work. When a man has to pay the money himself he can never
make so good a bargain as another can make for him. That stands to
reason. And I can be blunter with her about it than you can; can go
straight at it, you know; and you may be sure of this, she won't get any
money from me, unless I get the marbles for it."

"You'll take some with you, then?"

"Well, yes; that is, if it's convenient. We were talking of going two or
three hundred pounds, you know, and you've only gone seventy as yet.
Suppose you hand me over the odd thirty. If she gets it out of me easy,
tell me my name isn't Boodle."

There was much in this that was distasteful to Captain Clavering, but at
last he submitted, and handed over the thirty pounds to his friend. Then
there was considerable doubt whether the ambassador should announce
himself by a note, but it was decided at last that his arrival should
not be expected. If he did not find the lady at home or disengaged on
the first visit, or on the second, he might on the third or the fourth.
He was a persistent, patient little man, and assured his friend that he
would certainly see Madam Gordeloup before a week had passed over their
heads.

On the occasion of his first visit to Mount Street, Sophie Gordeloup was
enjoying her retreat in the Isle of Wight. When he called the second
time she was in bed, the fatigue of her journey on the previous day--the
day on which she had actually risen at seven o'clock in the
morning--having oppressed her much. She had returned in the cab alone,
and had occupied herself much on the same evening. Now that she was to
be parted from her Julie, it was needful that she should be occupied.
She wrote a long letter to her brother--much more confidential than her
letters to him had lately been--telling him how much she had suffered on
his behalf, and describing to him with great energy the perverseness,
malignity, and general pigheadedness of her late friend. Then she wrote
an anonymous letter to Mrs. Burton, whose name and address she had
learned, after having ascertained from Archie the fact of Harry
Clavering's engagement. In this letter she described the wretched wiles
by which that horrid woman Lady Ongar was struggling to keep Harry and
Miss Burton apart. "It is very bad, but it is true," said the diligent
little woman. "She has been seen in his embrace; I know it." After that
she dressed and went out into society--the society of which she had
boasted as being open to her--to the house of some hanger-on of some
embassy, and listened, and whispered, and laughed when some old sinner
joked with her, and talked poetry to a young man who was foolish and
lame, but who had some money, and got a glass of wine and a cake for
nothing, and so was very busy; and on her return home calculated that
her cab-hire for the evening had been judiciously spent. But her
diligence had been so great that when Captain Boodle called the next
morning at twelve o'clock she was still in bed. Had she been in dear
Paris, or in dearer Vienna, that would have not hindered her from
receiving the visit; but in pigheaded London this could not be done;
and, therefore, when she had duly scrutinized Captain Boodle's card, and
had learned from the servant that Captain Boodle desired to see herself
on very particular business, she made an appointment with him for the
following day.

On the following day at the same hour Doodles came and was shown up into
her room. He had scrupulously avoided any smartness of apparel,
calculating that a Newmarket costume would be, of all dresses, the most
efficacious in filling her with an idea of his smartness; whereas Archie
had probably injured himself much by his polished leather boots, and
general newness of clothing. Doodles, therefore, wore a cut-away coat, a
colored shirt with a fogle round his neck, old brown trousers that
fitted very tightly round his legs, and was careful to take no gloves
with him. He was a man with a small, bullet head, who wore his hair cut
very short, and had no other beard than a slight appendage on his lower
chin. He certainly did possess a considerable look of smartness, and
when he would knit his brows and nod his head, some men were apt to
think that it was not easy to get on the soft side of him.

Sophie on this occasion was not arrayed with that becoming negligence
which had graced her appearance when Captain Clavering had called. She
knew that a visitor was coming, and the questionably white wrapper had
been exchanged for an ordinary dress. This was regretted, rather than
otherwise, by Captain Boodle, who had received from Archie a description
of the lady's appearance, and who had been anxious to see the spy in her
proper and peculiar habiliments. It must be remembered that Sophie knew
nothing of her present visitor, and was altogether unaware that he was
in any way connected with Captain Clavering.

"You are Captain Boddle," she said, looking hard at Doodles as he bowed
to her on entering the room.

"Captain Boodle, ma'am; at your service."

"Oh, Captain Bood-dle; it is English name, I suppose?"

"Certainly, ma'am, certainly. Altogether English, I believe. Our Boodles
come out of Warwickshire; small property near Leamington--doosed small,
I'm sorry to say."

She looked at him very hard, and was altogether unable to discover what
was the nature or probable mode of life of the young man before her. She
had lived much in England, and had known Englishmen of many classes, but
she could not remember that she had ever become conversant with such a
one as he who was now before her. Was he a gentleman, or might he be a
house-breaker? "A doosed small property near Leamington," she said,
repeating the words after him. "Oh!"

"But my visit to you, ma'am, has nothing to do with that."

"Nothing to do with the small property."

"Nothing in life."

"Then, Captain Bood-dle, what may it have to do with?"

Hereupon Doodles took a chair, not having been invited to go through
that ceremony. According to the theory created in her mind at the
instant, this man was not at all like an English captain. Captain is an
unfortunate title, somewhat equivalent to the foreign count--unfortunate
in this respect, that it is easily adopted by many whose claims to it
are very slight. Archie Clavering, with his polished leather boots, had
looked like a captain--had come up to her idea of a captain--but this
man! The more she regarded him, the stronger in her mind became the idea
of the housebreaker.

"My business, ma'am, is of a very delicate nature--of a nature very
delicate indeed. But I think that you and I, who understand the world,
may soon come to understand each other."

"Oh, you understand the world. Very well, sir. Go on."

"Now, ma'am, money is money, you know."

"And a goose is a goose; but what of that?"

"Yes; a goose is a goose, and some people are not geese. Nobody, ma'am,
would think of calling you a goose."

"I hope not. It would be so uncivil, even an Englishman would not say
it. Will you go on?"

"I think you have the pleasure of knowing Lady Ongar?"

"Knowing who?" said Sophie, almost shrieking.

"Lady Ongar."

During the last day or two Sophie's mind had been concerned very much
with her dear Julie, but had not been concerned at all with the affairs
of Captain Clavering, and, therefore, when Lady Ongar's name was
mentioned, her mind went away altogether to the quarrel, and did not
once refer itself to the captain. Could it be that this was an attorney,
and was it possible that Julie would be mean enough to make claims upon
her? Claims might be made for more than those twenty pounds. "And you,"
she said, "do you know Lady Ongar?"

"I have not that honor myself."

"Oh, you have not; and do you want to be introduced?"

"Not exactly--not at present; at some future day I shall hope to have
the pleasure. But I am right in believing that she and you are very
intimate? Now what are you going to do for my friend Archie Clavering?"

"Oh-h-h!" exclaimed Sophie.

"Yes. What are you going to do for my friend Archie Clavering? Seventy
pounds, you know, ma'am, is a smart bit of money!"

"A smart bit of money, is it? That is what you think on your leetle
property down in Warwickshire."

"It isn't my property, ma'am, at all. It belongs to my uncle."

"Oh, it is your uncle that has the leetle property. And what had your
uncle to do with Lady Ongar? What is your uncle to your friend Archie?"

"Nothing at all, ma'am; nothing on earth."

"Then why do you tell me all this rigmarole about your uncle and his
leetle property, and Warwickshire? What have I to do with your uncle?
Sir, I do not understand you--not at all. Nor do I know why I have the
honor to see you here, Captain Bood-dle."

Even Doodles, redoubtable as he was--even he, with all his smartness,
felt that he was overcome, and that this woman was too much for him. He
was altogether perplexed, as he could not perceive whether in all her
tirade about the little property she had really misunderstood him, and
had in truth thought that he had been talking about his uncle, or
whether the whole thing was cunning on her part. The reader, perhaps,
will have a more correct idea of this lady than Captain Boodle had been
able to obtain. She had now risen from her sofa, and was standing as
though she expected him to go; but he had not as yet opened the budget
of his business.

"I am here, ma'am," said he, "to speak to you about my friend, Captain
Clavering."

"Then you can go back to your friend, and tell him I have nothing to
say. And, more than that, Captain Booddle"--the woman intensified the
name in a most disgusting manner, with the evident purpose of annoying
him; of that he had become quite sure--"more than that, his sending you
here is an impertinence. Will you tell him that?"

"No, ma'am, I will not."

"Perhaps you are his laquais," continued the inexhaustible Sophie, "and
are obliged to come when he send you?"

"I am no man's laquais, ma'am."

"If so, I do not blame you; or, perhaps, it is your way to make your
love third or fourth hand down in Warwickshire?"

"Damn Warwickshire!" said Doodles, who was put beyond himself.

"With all my heart. Damn Warwickshire." And the horrid woman grinned at
him as she repeated his words. "And the leetle property, and the uncle,
if you wish it; and the leetle nephew--and the leetle nephew--and the
leetle nephew!" She stood over him as she repeated the last words with
wondrous rapidity, and grinned at him, and grimaced and shook herself,
till Doodles was altogether bewildered. If this was a Russian spy he
would avoid such in future, and keep himself for the milder acerbities
of Newmarket, and the easier chaff of his club. He looked up into her
face at the present moment, striving to think of some words by which he
might assist himself. He had as yet performed no part of his mission,
but any such performance was now entirely out of the question. The woman
had defied him, and had altogether thrown Clavering over board. There
was no further question of her services, and therefore he felt himself
to be quite entitled to twit her with the payment she had taken.

"And how about my friend's seventy pounds?" said he.

"How about seventy pounds! a leetle man comes here and tells me he is a
Booddle in Warwickshire, and says he has an uncle with a very leetle
property, and asks me about seventy pounds! Suppose I ask you how about
the policeman, what will you say then?"

"You send for him and you shall hear what I say."

"No; not to take away such a leetle man as you. I send for a policeman
when I am afraid. Booddle in Warwickshire is not a terrible man. Suppose
you go to your friend and tell him from me that he have chose a very bad
Mercury in his affairs of love--the worst Mercury I ever see. Perhaps
the Warwickshire Mercuries are not very good. Can you tell me, Captain
Booddle, how they make love down in Warwickshire?"

"And that is all the satisfaction I am to have?"

"Who said you was to have satisfaction? Very little satisfaction I
should think you ever have, when you come as a Mercury."

"My friend means to know something about that seventy pounds."

"Seventy pounds! If you talk to me any more of seventy pounds, I will
fly at your face." As she spoke this she jumped across at him as though
she were really on the point of attacking him with her nails, and he, in
dismay, retreated to the door. "You, and your seventy pounds! Oh, you
English! What mean mens you are! Oh! a Frenchman would despise to do it.
Yes; or a Russian or a Pole. But you--you want it all down in black and
white like a butcher's heel. You know nothing, and understand nothing,
and can never speak, and can never hold your tongues. You have no head,
but the head of a bull. A bull can break all the china in a shop--dash,
smash, crash--all the pretty things gone in a minute! So can an
Englishman. Your seventy pounds! You will come again to me for seventy
pounds, I think." In her energy she had acted the bull, and had
exhibited her idea of the dashing, the smashing and the crashing, by the
motion of her head and the waving of her hands.

"And you decline to say anything about the seventy pounds?" said
Doodles, resolving that his courage should not desert him.

Whereupon the divine Sophie laughed. "Ha, ha, ha! I see you have not got
on any gloves, Captain Booddle."

"Gloves; no. I don't wear gloves."

"Nor your uncle with the leetle property in Warwickshire? Captain
Clavering, he wears a glove. He is a handy man." Doodles stared at her,
understanding nothing of this. "Perhaps it is in your waistcoat pocket,"
and she approached him fearlessly, as though she were about to deprive
him of his watch.

"I don't know what you mean," said he, retreating.

"Ah, you are not a handy man, like my friend the other captain, so you
had better go away. Yes; you had better go to Warwickshire. In
Warwickshire, I suppose, they make ready for your Michaelmas dinners.
You have four months to get fat. Suppose you go away and get fat."

Doodles understood nothing of her sarcasm, but began to perceive that he
might as well take his departure. The woman was probably a lunatic, and
his friend Archie had no doubt been grossly deceived when he was sent to
her for assistance. He had some faint idea that the seventy pounds might
be recovered from such a madwoman, but in the recovery his friend would
be exposed, and he saw that the money must be abandoned. At any rate he
had not been soft enough to dispose of any more treasure.

"Good morning, ma'am," he said, very curtly.

"Good morning to you, Captain Booddle. Are you coming again another
day?"

"Not that I know of, ma'am."

"You are very welcome to stay away. I like your friend the better. Tell
him to come and be handy with his glove. As for you--suppose you go to
the leetle property."

Then Captain Boodle went, and, as soon as he had made his way out into
the open street, stood still and looked around him, that by the aspect
of things familiar to his eyes he might be made certain that he was in a
world with which he was conversant. While in that room with the spy he
had ceased to remember that he was in London--his own London, within a
mile of his club, within a mile of Tattersall's. He had been, as it
were, removed to some strange world in which the tact, and courage, and
acuteness natural to him had not been of avail to him. Madam Gordeloup
had opened a new world to him--a new world of which he desired to make
no further experience. Gradually he began to understand why he had been
desired to prepare himself for Michaelmas eating. Gradually some idea
about Archie's glove glimmered across his brain. A wonderful woman
certainly was the Russian spy--a phenomenon which in future years he
might perhaps be glad to remember that he had seen in the flesh. The
first race-horse which he might ever own and name himself, he would
certainly call the Russian Spy. In the meantime, as he slowly walked
across Berkeley Square, he acknowledged to himself that she was not mad,
and acknowledged also that the less said about that seventy pounds the
better. From thence he crossed Piccadilly, and sauntered down St.
James's Street into Pall Mall, revolving in his mind how he would carry
himself with Clavvy. He, at any rate, had his ground for triumph. He had
parted with no money, and had ascertained by his own wit that no
available assistance from that quarter was to be had in the matter which
his friend had in hand.

It was some hours after this when the two friends met, and at that time
Doodles was up to his eyes in chalk and the profitable delights of pool.
But Archie was too intent on his business to pay much regard to his
friend's proper avocation. "Well, Doodles," he said, hardly waiting till
his ambassador had finished his stroke and laid his ball close waxed to
one of the cushions. "Well; have you seen her?"

"Oh, yes; I've seen her," said Doodles, seating himself on an exalted
bench which ran round the room, while Archie, with anxious eyes, stood
before him.

"Well?" said Archie.

"She's a rum 'un. Thank 'ee, Griggs; you always stand to me like a
brick." This was said to a young lieutenant who had failed to hit the
captain's ball, and now tendered him a shilling with a very bitter look.

"She is queer," said Archie, "certainly."

"Queer! By George, I'll back her for the queerest bit of horseflesh
going any way about these diggings. I thought she was mad at first, but
I believe she knows what she's about."

"She knows what she's about well enough.. She's worth all the money if
you can only get her to work."

"Bosh, my dear fellow."

"Why bosh? What's up now?"

"Bosh! Bosh! Bosh! Me to play, is it?" Down he went, and not finding a
good open for a hazard, again waxed himself to the cushion, to the
infinite disgust of Griggs, who did indeed hit the ball this time, but
in such a way as to make the loss of another life from Griggs's original
three a matter of certainty. "I don't think it's hardly fair," whispered
Griggs to a friend, "a man playing always for safety. It's not the game
I like, and I shan't play at the same table with Doodles any more."

"It's all bosh," repeated Doodles, coming back to his seat. "She don't
mean to do anything, and never did. I've found her out."

"Found out what?"

"She's been laughing at you. She got your money out from under your
glove, didn't she?"

"Well, I did put it there."

"Of course, you did. I knew that I should find out what was what if I
once went there. I got it all out of her. But, by George, what a woman
she is! She swore at me to my very face."

"Swore at you! In French, you mean?"

"No; not in French at all, but damned me in downright English. By
George, how I did laugh!--me and everybody belonging to me. I'm blessed
if she didn't."

"There was nothing like that about her when I saw her."

"You didn't turn her inside out as I've done; but stop half a moment."
Then he descended, chalked away at his cue hastily, pocketed a shilling
or two, and returned. "You didn't turn her inside out as I've done. I
tell you, Clavvy, there's nothing to be done there, and there never was.
If you'd kept on going yourself she'd have drained you as dry--as dry as
that table. There's your thirty pounds back, and, upon my word, old
fellow, you ought to thank me."

Archie did thank him, and Doodles was not without his triumph. Of the
frequent references to Warwickshire which he had been forced to endure,
he said nothing, nor yet of the reference to Michaelmas dinners; and,
gradually, as he came to talk frequently to Archie of the Russian spy,
and perhaps also to one or two others of his more intimate friends, he
began to convince himself that he really had wormed the truth out of
Madam Gordeloup, and got altogether the better of that lady, in a very
wonderful way.



Chapter XXXVI

Harry Clavering's Confession



Harry Clavering, when he went away from Onslow Crescent, after his
interview with Cecilia Burton, was a wretched, pitiable man. He had told
the truth of himself as far as he was able to tell it, to a woman whom
he thoroughly esteemed, and having done so was convinced that she could
no longer entertain any respect for him. He had laid bare to her all his
weakness, and for a moment she had spurned him. It was true that she had
again reconciled herself to him, struggling to save both him and her
sister from future misery--that she had even condescended to implore him
to be gracious to Florence, taking that which to her mind seemed then to
be the surest path to her object; but not the less did he feel that she
must despise him. Having promised his hand to one woman--to a woman whom
he still professed that he loved dearly--he had allowed himself to be
cheated into offering it to another. And he knew that the cheating had
been his own. It was he who had done the evil. Julia, in showing her
affection for him, had tendered her love to a man whom she believed to
be free. He had intended to walk straight. He had not allowed himself to
be enamored of the wealth possessed by this woman who had thrown herself
at his feet. But he had been so weak that he had fallen in his own
despite.

There is, I suppose, no young man possessed of average talents and
average education, who does not early in life lay out for himself some
career with more or less precision--some career which is high in its
tendencies and noble in its aspirations, and to which he is afterward
compelled to compare the circumstances of the life which he shapes for
himself. In doing this he may not attempt, perhaps, to lay down for
himself any prescribed amount of success which he will endeavor to
reach, or even the very pathway by which he will strive to be
successful; but he will tell himself what are the vices which he will
avoid, and what the virtues which he will strive to attain. Few young
men ever did this with more precision than it had been done by Harry
Clavering, and few with more self-confidence. Very early in life he had
been successful--so successful as to enable him to emancipate himself
not only from his father's absolute control, but almost also from any
interference on his father's part. It had seemed to be admitted that he
was a better man than his father, better than the other Claverings--the
jewel of the race, the Clavering to whom the family would in future
years look up, not as their actual head, but as their strongest prop and
most assured support. He had said to himself that he would be an honest,
truthful, hard-working man, not covetous after money, though conscious
that a laborer was worthy of his hire, and conscious also that the
better the work done the better should be his wages. Then he had
encountered a blow--a heavy blow from a false woman--and he had boasted
to himself that he had borne it well, as a man should bear all blows.
And now, after all these resolves and all these boastings, he found
himself brought by his own weakness to such a pass that he hardly dared
to look in the face any of his dearest and most intimate friends.

He was not remiss in telling himself all this. He did draw the
comparison ruthlessly between the character which he had intended to
make his own and that which he now had justly earned. He did not excuse
himself. We are told to love others as ourselves, and it is hard to do
so. But I think that we never hate others, never despise others, as we
are sometimes compelled by our own convictions and self-judgment to hate
and to despise ourselves. Harry, as he walked home on this evening, was
lost in disgust at his own conduct. He could almost have hit his head
against the walls, or thrown himself beneath the wagons as he passed
them, so thoroughly was he ashamed of his own life. Even now, on this
evening, he had escaped from Onslow Crescent--basely escaped--without
having declared any purpose. Twice on this day he had escaped, almost by
subterfuges; once from Burton's office, and now again from Cecilia's
presence. How long was this to go on, or how could life be endurable to
him under such circumstances?

In parting from Cecilia, and promising to write at once, and promising
to come again in a few days, he had had some idea in his head that he
would submit his fate to the arbitrament of Lady Ongar. At any rate he
must, he thought, see her, and finally arrange with her what the fate of
both of them should be, before he could make any definite statement of
his purpose in Onslow Crescent. The last tender of his hand had been
made to Julia, and he could not renew his former promises on Florence's
behalf, till he had been absolved by Julia.

This may at any rate be pleaded on his behalf--that in all the workings
of his mind at this time there was very little of personal vanity. Very
personally vain he had been when Julia Brabazon--the beautiful and
noble-born Julia--had first confessed at Clavering that she loved him;
but that vanity had been speedily knocked on its head by her conduct to
him. Men when they are jilted can hardly be vain of the conquest which
has led to such a result. Since that there had been no vanity of that
sort. His love to Florence had been open, honest and satisfactory, but
he had not considered himself to have achieved a wonderful triumph at
Stratton. And when he found that Lord Ongar's widow still loved
him--that he was still regarded with affection by the woman who had
formerly wounded him--there was too much of pain, almost of tragedy, in
his position, to admit of vanity. He would say to himself that, as far
as he knew his own heart, he thought he loved Julia the best; but,
nevertheless, he thoroughly wished that she had not returned from Italy,
or that he had not seen her when she had so returned.

He had promised to write, and that he would do this very night. He had
failed to make Cecilia Burton understand what he intended to do, having,
indeed, hardly himself resolved; but before he went to bed he would both
resolve and explain to her his resolution. Immediately, therefore, on
his return home he sat down at his desk with the pen in his hand and the
paper before him.

At last the words came. I can hardly say that they were the product of
any fixed resolve made before he commenced the writing. I think that his
mind worked more fully when the pen was in his hands than it had done
during the hour through which he sat listless, doing nothing, struggling
to have a will of his own, but failing. The letter when it was written
was as follows:

    BLOOMSBURY SQUARE, May, 186--.

    DEAREST MRS. BURTON:--I said that I would write to-morrow, but I am
    writing now, immediately on my return home. Whatever else you may
    think of me, pray be sure of this, that I am most anxious to make
    you know and understand my own position at any rate as well as I do
    myself. I tried to explain it to you when I was with you this
    evening, but I fear that I failed; and when Mr. Burton came in I
    could not say anything further.

    I know that I have behaved very badly to your sister--very badly,
    even though she should never become aware that I have done so. Not
    that that is possible, for if she were to be my wife to-morrow I
    should tell her everything. But badly as you must think of me, I
    have never for a moment had a premeditated intention to deceive her.
    I believe you do know on what terms I had stood with Miss Brabazon
    before her marriage, and that when she married, whatever my feelings
    might be, there was no self-accusation. And after that you know all
    that took place between me and Florence till the return of Lord
    Ongar's widow. Up to that time everything had been fair between us.
    I had told Florence of my former attachment, and she probably
    thought but little of it. Such things are so common with men! Some
    change happens as had happened with me, and a man's second love is
    often stronger and more worthy of a woman's acceptance than the
    first. At any rate, she knew it, and there was, so far, an end of
    it. And you understood, also, how very anxious I was to avoid delay
    in our marriage. No one knows that better than you--not even
    Florence--for I have talked it over with you so often; and you will
    remember how I have begged you to assist me. I don't blame my
    darling Florence. She was doing what she deemed best; but oh, if she
    had only been guided by what you once said to her!

    Then Lord Ongar's widow returned; and dear Mrs. Burton, though I
    fear you think ill of her, you must remember that as far as you
    know, or I, she has done nothing wrong, has been in no respect
    false, since her marriage. As to her early conduct to me, she did
    what many women have done, but what no woman should do. But how can
    I blame her, knowing how terrible has been my own weakness! But as
    to her conduct since her marriage, I implore you to believe with me
    that she has been sinned against grievously, and has not sinned.
    Well; as you know, I met her. It was hardly unnatural that I should
    do so, as we are connected. But whether natural or unnatural,
    foolish or wise, I went to her often. I thought at first that she
    must know of my engagement, as her sister knew it well, and had met
    Florence. But she did not know it; and so, having none near her that
    she could love, hardly a friend but myself, grievously wronged by
    the world and her own relatives, thinking that with her wealth she
    could make some amends to me for her former injury, she--. Dear Mrs.
    Burton, I think you will understand it now, and will see that she at
    least is free from blame.

    I am not defending myself; of course, all this should have been
    without effect on me. But I had loved her so dearly! I do love her
    still so dearly! Love like that does not die. When she left me it
    was natural that I should seek some one else to love. When she
    returned to me--when I found that in spite of her faults she had
    loved me through it all, I--I yielded and became false and a
    traitor.

    I say that I love her still; but I know well that Florence is far
    the nobler woman of the two. Florence never could have done what she
    did. In nature, in mind, in acquirement, in heart, Florence is the
    better. The man who marries Florence must be happy if any woman can
    make a man happy. Of her of whom I am now speaking, I know well that
    I cannot say that. How then, you will ask, can I be fool enough,
    having had such a choice, to doubt between the two! How is it that
    man doubts between vice and virtue, between heaven and hell?

    But all this is nothing to you. I do not know whether Florence would
    take me now. I am well aware that I have no right to expect that she
    should. But if I understood you aright this evening, she, as yet,
    has heard nothing of all this. What must she think of me for not
    writing to her! But I could not bring myself to write in a false
    spirit; and how could I tell her all that I have now told to you?

    I know that you wish that our engagement should go on. Dear Mrs.
    Burton, I love you so dearly for wishing it! Mr. Burton, when he
    shall have heard everything, will, I fear, think differently. For
    me, I feel that I must see Lady Ongar before I can again go to your
    house, and I write now chiefly to tell you that this is what I have
    determined to do. I believe she is now away, in the Isle of Wight,
    but I will see her as soon as she returns. After that I will either
    come to Onslow Crescent or send. Florence will be with you then.
    She, of course, must know everything, and you have my permission to
    show this letter to her if you think well to do so. Most sincerely
    and affectionately yours,

    Harry Clavering

This he delivered himself the next morning at the door in Onslow
Crescent, taking care not to be there till after Theodore Burton should
have gone from home. He left a card also, so that it might be known, not
only that he had brought it himself but that he intended Mrs. Burton to
be aware of that fact. Then he went and wandered about, and passed his
day in misery, as such men do when they are thoroughly discontented with
their own conduct. This was the Saturday on which Lady Ongar returned
with her Sophie from the Isle of Wight; but of that premature return
Harry knew nothing, and therefore allowed the Sunday to pass by without
going to Bolton Street. On the Monday morning he received a letter from
home which made it necessary--or induced him to suppose it to be
necessary--that he should go home to Clavering, at any rate for one day.
This he did on the Monday, sending a line to Mrs. Burton to say whither
he was gone, and that he should be back by Wednesday night or Thursday
morning--and imploring her to give his love to Florence, if she would
venture to do so. Mrs. Burton would know what must be his first business
in London on his return, and she might be sure he would come or send to
Onslow Crescent as soon as that was over.

Harry's letter--the former and longer letter, Cecilia had read over,
till she nearly knew it by heart, before her husband's return. She well
understood that he would be very hard upon Harry. He had been inclined
to forgive Clavering for what had been remiss--to forgive the silence,
the absence from the office, and the want of courtesy to his wife, till
Harry had confessed his sin--but he could not endure that his sister
should seek the hand of a man who had declared himself to be in doubt
whether he would take it, or that any one should seek it for her, in her
ignorance of all the truth. His wife, on the other hand, simply looked
to Florence's comfort and happiness. That Florence should not suffer the
pang of having been deceived and rejected was all in all to Cecilia. "Of
course she must know it some day," the wife had pleaded to her husband.
"He is not the man to keep anything secret. But if she is told when he
has returned to her, and is good to her, the happiness of the return
will cure the other misery." But Burton would not submit to this. "To be
comfortable at present is not everything," he said. "If the man be so
miserably weak that he does not even now know his own mind, Florence had
better take her punishment, and be quit of him."

Cecilia had narrated to him with passable fidelity what had occurred
upstairs, while he was sitting alone in the dining-room. That she in her
anger had at one moment spurned Harry Clavering, and that in the next
she had knelt to him, imploring him to come back to Florence--those two
little incidents she did not tell to her husband. Harry's adventures
with Lady Ongar, as far as she knew them, she described accurately. "I
can't make any apology for him; upon my life I can't," said Burton. "If
I know what it is for a man to behave ill, falsely, like a knave in such
matters, he is so behaving." So Theodore Burton spoke as he took his
candle to go away to his work; but his wife had induced him to promise
that he would not write to Stratton or take any other step in the matter
till they had waited twenty-four hours for Harry's promised letter.

The letter came before the twenty-four hours were expired, and Burton,
on his return home on the Saturday, found himself called upon to read
and pass judgment upon Harry's confession. "What right has he to speak
of her as his darling Florence," he exclaimed, "while he is confessing
his own knavery?"

"But if she is his darling--?" pleaded his wife.

"Trash! But the word from him in such a letter is simply an additional
insult. And what does he know about this woman who has come back? He
vouches for her, but what can he know of her? Just what she tells him.
He is simply a fool."

"But you cannot dislike him for believing her word."

"Cecilia," said he, holding down the letter as he spoke--"you are so
carried away by your love for Florence, and your fear lest a marriage
which has been once talked of should not take place, that you shut your
eyes to this man's true character. Can you believe any good of a man who
tells you to your face that he is engaged to two women at once?"

"I think I can," said Cecilia, hardly venturing to express so dangerous
an opinion above her breath.

"And what would you think of a woman who did so?"

"Ah, that is so different! I cannot explain it, but you know that it is
different."

"I know that you would forgive a man anything, and a woman nothing." To
this she submitted in silence, having probably heard the reproof before,
and he went on to finish the letter. "Not defending himself!" he
exclaimed--"then why does he not defend himself? When a man tells me
that he does not, or cannot defend himself I know that he is a sorry
fellow, without a spark of spirit."

"I don't think that of Harry. Surely that letter shows a spirit."

"Such a one as I should be ashamed to see in a dog. No man should ever
be in a position in which he cannot defend himself. No man, at any rate,
should admit himself to be so placed. Wish that he should go on with his
engagement! I do not wish it at all. I am sorry for Florence. She will
suffer terribly. But the loss of such a lover as that is infinitely a
lesser loss than would be the gain of such a husband. You had better
write to Florence, and tell her not to come."

"Oh, Theodore!"

"That is my advice."

"But there is no post between this and Monday." said Cecilia
temporizing.

"Send her a message by the wires."

"You cannot explain this by a telegram, Theodore. Besides, why should
she not come? Her coming can do no harm. If you were to tell your mother
now of all this, it would prevent the possibility of things ever being
right."

"Things--that is, this thing, never will be right," said he.

"But let us see. She will be here on Monday, and if you think it best
you can tell her everything. Indeed, she must be told when she is here,
for I could not keep it from her. I could not smile and talk to her
about him and make her think that it is all right."

"Not you! I should be very sorry if you could."

"But I think I could make her understand that she should not decide upon
breaking with him altogether."

"And I think I could make her understand that she ought to do so."

"But you wouldn't do that, Theodore?"

"I would if I thought it my duty."

"But at any rate, she must come, and we can talk of that tomorrow."

As to Florence's coming, Burton had given way, beaten, apparently, by
that argument about the post. On the Sunday very little was said about
Harry Clavering. Cecilia studiously avoided the subject, and Burton had
not so far decided on dropping Harry altogether as to make him anxious
to express any such decision. After all, such dropping or not dropping
must be the work of Florence herself. On the Monday morning Cecilia had
a further triumph. On that day her husband was very fully
engaged--having to meet a synod of contractors, surveyors and engineers,
to discuss which of the remaining thoroughfares of London should not be
knocked down by the coming railways--and he could not absent himself
from the Adelphi. It was, therefore, arranged that Mrs. Burton should go
to the Paddington Station to meet her sister-in-law. She therefore would
have the first word with Florence, and the earliest opportunity of
impressing the new-comer with her own ideas. "Of course, you must say
something to her of this man," said her husband, "but the less you say
the better. After all, she must be left to judge for herself." In all
matters such as this--in all affairs of tact, of social intercourse, and
of conduct between man and man, or man and woman, Mr. Burton was apt to
be eloquent in his domestic discussion, and sometimes almost severe; but
the final arrangement of them was generally left to his wife. He
enunciated principles of strategy--much, no doubt, to her benefit; but
she actually fought the battles.



Chapter XXXVII

Florence Burton's Return



Though nobody had expressed to Florence at Stratton any fear of Harry
Clavering's perfidy, that young lady was not altogether easy in her
mind. Weeks and weeks had passed, and she had not heard from him. Her
mother was manifestly uneasy, and had announced some days before
Florence's departure, her surprise and annoyance in not having heard
from her eldest son. When Florence inquired as to the subject of the
expected letter, her mother put the question aside, saying, with a
little assumed irritability, that of course she liked to get an answer
to her letters when she took the trouble to write them. And when the day
for Florence's journey drew nigh, the old lady became more and more
uneasy--showing plainly that she wished her daughter was not going to
London. But Florence, as she was quite determined to go, said nothing to
all this. Her father also was uneasy, and neither of them had for some
days named her lover in her hearing. She knew that there was something
wrong, and felt that it was better that she should go to London and
learn the truth.

No female heart was ever less prone to suspicion than the heart of
Florence Burton. Among those with whom she had been most intimate
nothing had occurred to teach her that men could be false, or women
either. When she had heard from Harry Clavering the story of Julia
Brabazon, she had, not making much accusation against the sinner in
speech, put Julia down in the books of her mind as a bold, bad woman,
who could forget her sex, and sell her beauty and her womanhood for
money. There might be such a woman here and there, or such a man. There
were murderers in the world--but the bulk of mankind is not made subject
to murderers. Florence had never considered the possibility that she
herself could become liable to such a misfortune. And then, when the day
came that she was engaged, her confidence in the man chosen by her was
unlimited. Such love as hers rarely suspects. He with whom she had to do
was Harry Clavering, and therefore she could not be deceived. Moreover,
she was supported by a self-respect and a self-confidence which did not
at first allow her to dream that a man who had once loved her would ever
wish to leave her. It was to her as though a sacrament as holy as that
of the church had passed between them, and she could not easily bring
herself to think that that sacrament had been as nothing to Harry
Clavering. But nevertheless there was something wrong, and when she left
her father's house at Stratton, she was well aware that she must prepare
herself for tidings that might be evil. She could bear anything, she
thought, without disgracing herself; but there were tidings which might
send her back to Stratton a broken woman, fit perhaps to comfort the
declining years of her father and mother, but fit for nothing else.

Her mother watched her closely as she sat at her breakfast that morning,
but much could not be gained by watching Florence Burton when Florence
wished to conceal her thoughts. Many messages were sent to Theodore, to
Cecilia, and to the children, messages to others of the Burton clan who
were in town, but not a word was said of Harry Clavering. The very
absence of his name was enough to make them all wretched, but Florence
bore it as the Spartan boy bore the fox beneath his tunic. Mrs. Burton
could hardly keep herself from a burst of indignation; but she had been
strongly warned by her husband, and restrained herself till Florence was
gone. "If he is playing her false," said she, as soon as she was alone
with her old husband, "he shall suffer for it, though I have to tear his
face with my own fingers."

"Nonsense, my dear; nonsense."

"It is not nonsense, Mr. Burton. A gentleman, indeed! He is to be
allowed to be dishonest to my girl because he is a gentleman! I wish
there was no such thing as a gentleman;--so I do. Perhaps there would be
more honest men then." It was unendurable to her that a girl of hers
should be so treated.

Immediately on the arrival of the train at the London platform, Florence
espied Cecilia, and in a minute was in her arms. There was a special
tenderness in her sister-in-law's caress, which at once told Florence
that her fears had not been without cause. Who has not felt the evil
tidings conveyed by the exaggerated tenderness of a special kiss? But
while on the platform and among the porters she said nothing of herself.
She asked after Theodore and heard of the railway confederacy with a
show of delight. "He'd like to make a line from Hyde Park Corner to the
Tower of London," said Florence, with a smile. Then she asked after the
children, and specially for the baby; but as yet she spoke no word of
Harry Clavering. The trunk and the bag were at last found; and the two
ladies were packed into a cab, and had started. Cecilia, when they were
seated, got hold of Florence's hand, and pressed it warmly. "Dearest,"
said she, "I am so glad to have you with us once again." "And now," said
Florence, speaking with a calmness that was almost unnatural, "tell me
all the truth."

All the truth! What a demand it was. And yet Cecilia had expected that
none less would be made upon her. Of course Florence must have known
that there was something wrong. Of course she would ask as to her lover
immediately upon her arrival. "And now tell me all the truth."

"Oh, Florence!"

"The truth, then, is very bad?" said Florence, gently. "Tell me first of
all whether you have seen him. Is he ill?"

"He was with us on Friday. He is not ill."

"Thank God for that. Has anything happened to him? Has he lost money?"

"No; I have heard nothing about money."

"Then he is tired of me. Tell me at once, my own one. You know me so
well. I can bear it. Don't treat me like a coward."

"No; it is not that. It is not that he is tired of you. If you had heard
him speak of you on Friday--that you were the noblest, purest, dearest,
best of women--" This was imprudent on her part; but what loving woman
could have endured to be prudent?

"Then what is it?" asked Florence, almost sternly. "Look here, Cecilia;
if it be anything touching himself or his own character, I will put up
with it, in spite of anything my brother may say. Though he had been a
murderer, if that were possible, I would not leave him. I never will,
unless he leaves me. Where is he?"

"He is in town." Mrs. Burton had not received Harry's note, telling her
of his journey to Clavering, before she had left home. Now, at this
moment, it was waiting for her in Onslow Crescent.

"And am I to see him? Cecilia why cannot you tell me how it is? In such
a case I should tell you--should tell you everything at once; because I
know that you are not a coward. Why cannot you do so to me?"

"You have heard of Lady Ongar?"

"Heard of her; yes. She treated Harry very badly before her marriage."

"She has come back to London, a widow."

"I know she has. And Harry has gone back to her! Is that it? Do you mean
to tell me that Harry and she are to be married?"

"No; I cannot say that. I hope it is not so. Indeed, I do not think it."

"Then what have I to fear? Does she object to his marrying me? What has
she to do between us?"

"She wishes that Harry should come back to her, and Harry has been
unsteady. He has been with her often, and he has been very weak. It may
be all right yet, Flo; it may indeed--if you can forgive his weakness."

Something of the truth had now come home to Florence, and she sat
thinking of it long before she spoke again. This widow, she knew, was
very wealthy, and Harry had loved her before he had come to Stratton.
Harry's first love had come back free--free to wed again, and able to
make the fortune of the man she might love and marry. What had Florence
to give to any man that could be weighed with this? Lady Ongar was very
rich. Florence had already heard all this from Harry--was very rich, was
clever, and was beautiful; and moreover, she had been Harry's first
love. Was it reasonable that she, with her little claims, her puny
attractions, should stand in Harry's way when such a prize as that came
across him! And as for his weakness; might it not be strength, rather
than weakness; the strength of an old love which he could not quell, now
that the woman was free to take him? For herself--had she not known that
she had only come second? As she thought of him with his noble bride and
that bride's great fortune, and of her own insignificance, her low
birth, her doubtful prettiness--prettiness that had ever been doubtful
to herself of her few advantages, she told herself that she had no right
to stand upon her claims. "I wish I had known it sooner," she said, in a
voice so soft that Cecilia strained her ears to catch the words. "I wish
I had known it sooner. I would not have come up to be in his way."

"But you will be in no one's way, Flo, unless it be in hers."

"And I will not be in hers," said Florence, speaking somewhat louder,
and raising her head in pride as she spoke. "I will be neither in hers
nor in his. I think I will go back at once."

Cecilia upon this ventured to look around at her, and saw that she was
very pale, but that her eyes were dry and her lips pressed close
together. It had not occurred to Mrs. Burton that her sister-in-law
would take it in this way, that she would be willing to give way, and at
once surrender her lover to her rival. No one liked success better than
Cecilia Burton, and to her success would consist in rescuing Harry from
Lady Ongar and securing him for Florence. In fighting this battle she
had found that she would have against her Lady Ongar, of course, and
then her husband, and Harry himself too, as she feared; and now she must
reckon Florence also among her opponents. But she could not endure the
idea of failing in such a cause. "Oh, Florence, I think you are so
wrong," she said.

"You would feel as I do, if you were in my place."

"But people cannot always judge best when they feel the most. What you
should think of is his happiness."

"So I do; and of his future career."

"Career! I hate to hear of careers. Men do not want careers, or should
not want them. Could it be good for-him to marry a woman who has done as
she has, simply because she has made herself rich by her wickedness? Do
you believe so much in riches yourself?"

"If he loves her best, I will not blame him," said Florence. "He knew
her before he had seen me. He was quite honest and told me all the
story. It is not his fault if he still likes her the best."



Chapter XXXVIII

Florence Burton Makes Up A Packet



When they reached Onslow Crescent, the first half-hour was spent with
the children, as to whom Florence could but observe that even from their
mouths the name of Harry Clavering was banished. But she played with
Cissy and Sophie, giving them their little presents from Stratton; and
sat with the baby in her lap, kissing his pink feet and making little
soft noises for his behoof sweetly as she might have done if no terrible
crisis in her own life had now come upon her. Not a tear as yet had
moistened her eyes, and Cecilia was partly aware that Florence's weeping
would be done in secret. "Come up with me into my own room; I have
something to show you," she said, as the nurse took the baby at last;
and Cissy and Sophie were at the same time sent away with their brother.
"As I came in I got a note from Harry, but, before you see that, I must
show you the letter which he wrote to me on Friday. He has gone down to
Clavering--on some business--for one day." Mrs. Burton, in her heart,
could hardly acquit him of having run out of town at the moment to avoid
the arrival of Florence.

They went upstairs, and the note was, in fact, read before the letter.
"I hope there is nothing wrong at the parsonage," said Florence.

"You see he says he will come back after one day."

"Perhaps he has gone to tell them--of this change in his prospects."

"No, dear, no; you do not yet understand his feelings. Read his letter,
and you will know more. If there is to be a change, he is at any rate
too much ashamed of it to speak of it. He does not wish it himself. It
is simply this--that she has thrown herself in his way, and he has not
known how to avoid her."

Then Florence read the letter very slowly, going over most of the
sentences more than once, and struggling to learn from them what were
really the wishes of the writer. When she came to Harry's exculpation of
Lady Ongar, she believed it thoroughly, and said so--meeting, however, a
direct contradiction on that point from her sister-in-law. When she had
finished it, she folded it up and gave it back. "Cissy," she said, "I
know that I ought to go back. I do not want to see him, and I am glad
that he has gone away."

"But you do not mean to give him up?"

"Yes, dearest."

"But you said you would never leave him, unless he left you."

"He has left me."

"No, Florence; not so. Do you not see what he says; that he knows you
are the only woman that can make him happy?"

"He has not said that; but if he had, it would be no matter. He
understands well how it is. He says that I could not take him now--even
if he came to me; and I cannot. How could I? What! wish to marry a man
who does not love me, who loves another, when I know that I am regarded
simply as a barrier between them; when by doing so I should mar his
fortunes? Cissy, dear, when you think of it, you will not wish it."

"Mar his fortunes! It would make them. I do wish it--and he wishes it
too. I tell you that I had him here, and I know it. Why should you be
sacrificed?"

"What is the meaning of self-denial, if no one can bear to suffer?"

"But he will suffer too--and all for her caprices! You cannot really
think that her money would do him any good. Who would ever speak to him
again, or even see him? What would the world say of him? Why, his own
father and mother and sisters would disown him, if they are such as you
say they are."

Florence would not argue it further, but went to her room, and remained
there alone till Cecilia came to tell her that her brother had returned.
What weeping there may have been there, need not be told. Indeed, as I
think, there was not much, for Florence was a girl whose education had
not brought her into the way of hysterical sensations. The Burtons were
an active, energetic people, who sympathized with each other in labor
and success--and in endurance also; but who had little sympathy to
express for the weaknesses of grief. When her children had stumbled in
their play, bruising their little noses, and barking their little shins,
Mrs. Burton, the elder, had been wont to bid them rise, asking them what
their legs were for, if they could not stand. So they had dried their
own little eyes with their own little fists, and had learned to
understand that the rubs of the world were to be borne in silence. This
rub that had come to Florence was of grave import, and had gone deeper
than the outward skin; but still the old lesson had its effect.

Florence rose from the bed on which she was lying, and prepared to come
down. "Do not commit yourself to him, as to anything," said Cecilia.

"I understand what that means," Florence answered. "He thinks as I do.
But never mind. He will not say much, and I shall say less. It is bad to
talk of this to any man--even to a brother."

Burton also received his sister with that exceptional affection which
declares pity for some overwhelming misfortune. He kissed her lips,
which was rare with him, for he would generally but just touch her
forehead, and he put his hand behind her waist and partly embraced her.
"Did Cissy manage to find you at the station?"

"Oh, yes; easily."

"Theodore thinks that a woman is no good for any such purpose as that,"
said Cecilia. "It is a wonder to him, no doubt, that we are not now
wandering about London in search of each other--and of him."

"I think she would have got home quicker if I could have been there,"
said Burton.

"We were in a cab in one minute; weren't we, Florence? The difference
would have been that you would have given a porter sixpence--and I gave
him a shilling, having bespoken him before."

"And Theodore's time was worth the sixpence, I suppose," said Florence.

"That depends," said Cecilia. "How did the synod go on?"

"The synod made an ass of itself; as synods always do. It is necessary
to get a lot of men together, for the show of the thing--otherwise the
world will not believe. That is the meaning of committees. But the real
work must always be done by one or two men. Come; I'll go and get ready
for dinner."

The subject--the one real subject, had thus been altogether avoided at
this first meeting with the man of the house, and the evening passed
without any allusion to it. Much was made of the children, and much was
said of the old people at home; but still there was a consciousness over
them all that the one matter of importance was being kept in the
background. They were all thinking of Harry Clavering, but no one
mentioned his name. They all knew that they were unhappy and
heavy-hearted through his fault, but no one blamed him. He had been
received in that house with open arms, had been warmed in their bosom,
and had stung them; but though they were all smarting from the sting,
they uttered no complaint. Burton had made up his mind that it would be
better to pass over the matter thus in silence--to say nothing further
of Harry Clavering. A misfortune had come upon them. They must bear it,
and go on as before. Harry had been admitted into the London office on
the footing of a paid clerk--on the same footing, indeed, as Burton
himself though with a much smaller salary and inferior work. This
position had been accorded to him of course through the Burton interest,
and it was understood that if he chose to make himself useful, he could
rise in the business as Theodore had risen. But he could only do so as
one of the Burtons. For the last three months he had declined to take
his salary, alleging that private affairs had kept him away from the
office. It was to the hands of Theodore Burton himself that such matters
came for management, and therefore there had been no necessity for
further explanation. Harry Clavering would of course leave the house,
and there would be an end of him in the records of the Burton family. He
would have come and made his mark--a terrible mark, and would have
passed on. Those whom he had bruised by his cruelty, and knocked over by
his treachery, must get to their feet again as best they could, and say
as little as might be of their fall. There are knaves in this world, and
no one can suppose that he has a special right to be exempted from their
knavery because he himself is honest. It is on the honest that the
knaves prey. That was Burton's theory in this matter. He would learn
from Cecilia how Florence was bearing herself; but to Florence herself
he would say little or nothing if she bore with patience and dignity, as
he believed she would, the calamity which had befallen her.

But he must write to his mother. The old people at Stratton must not be
left in the dark as to what was going on. He must write to his mother,
unless he could learn from his wife that Florence herself had
communicated to them at home the fact of Harry's iniquity. But he asked
no question as to this on the first night, and on the following morning
he went off having simply been told that Florence had seen Harry's
letter, that she knew all, and that she was carrying herself like an
angel.

"Not like an angel that hopes?" said Theodore.

"Let her alone for a day or two," said Cecilia. "Of course she must have
a few days to think of it. I need hardly tell you that you will never
have to be ashamed of your sister."

The Tuesday and the Wednesday passed by, and though Cecilia and Florence
when together discussed the matter, no change was made in the wishes or
thoughts of either of them. Florence, now that she was in town, had
consented to remain till after Harry should return, on the understanding
that she should not be called upon to see him. He was to be told that
she forgave him altogether--that his troth was returned to him and that
he was free, but that in such circumstances a meeting between them could
be of no avail. And then a little packet was made up, which was to be
given to him. How was it that Florence had brought with her all his
presents and all his letters? But there they were in her box up stairs,
and sitting by herself with weary fingers, she packed them, and left
them packed under lock and key, addressed by herself to Harry Clavering,
Esq. Oh, the misery of packing such a parcel! The feeling with which a
woman does it is never experienced by a man. He chucks the things
together in wrath--the lock of hair, the letters in the pretty Italian
hand that have taken so much happy care in the writing, the jewelled
shirt-studs, which were first put in by the fingers that gave them. They
are thrown together, and given to some other woman to deliver. But the
girl lingers over her torture. She reads the letters again. She thinks
of the moments of bliss which each little toy has given. She is loth to
part with everything. She would fain keep some one thing--the smallest
of them all. She doubts--till a feeling of maidenly reserve constrains
her at last, and the coveted trifle, with careful, pains-taking fingers,
is put with the rest, and the parcel is made complete, and the address
is written with precision.

"Of course I cannot see him," said Florence. "You will hand to him what
I have to send to him; and you must ask him, if he has kept any of my
letters, to return them." She said nothing of the shirt-studs, but he
would understand that. As for the lock of hair--doubtless it had been
burned.

Cecilia said but little in answer to this. She would not as yet look
upon the matter as Florence looked at it, and as Theodore did also.
Harry was to be back in town on Thursday morning. He could not,
probably, be seen or heard of on that day, because of his visit to Lady
Ongar. It was absolutely necessary that he should see Lady Ongar before
he could come to Onslow Terrace, with possibility of becoming once more
the old Harry Clavering whom they were all to love. But Mrs. Burton
would by no means give up all hope. It was useless to say anything to
Florence, but she still hoped that good might come.

And then, as she thought of it all, a project came into her head. Alas,
and alas! Was she not too late with her project? Why had she not thought
of it on the Tuesday or early on the Wednesday, when it might possibly
have been executed? But it was a project which she must have kept secret
from her husband, of which he would by no means have approved; and as
she remembered this, she told herself that perhaps it was as well that
things should take their own course without such interference as she had
contemplated.

On the Thursday morning there came to her a letter in a strange hand. It
was from Clavering--from Harry's mother. Mrs. Clavering wrote, as she
said, at her son's request, to say that he was confined to his bed, and
could not be in London as soon as he expected. Mrs. Burton was not to
suppose that he was really ill, and none of the family were to be
frightened. From this Mrs. Burton learned that Mrs. Clavering knew
nothing of Harry's apostasy. The letter went on to say that Harry would
write as soon as he himself was able, and would probably be in London
early next week--at any rate before the end of it. He was a little
feverish, but there was no cause for alarm. Florence, of course, could
only listen and turn pale. Now, at any rate, she must remain in London.

Mrs. Burton's project, might, after all, be feasible; but then what if
her husband should really be angry with her? That was a misfortune which
never yet had come upon her.



Chapter XXXIX

Showing Why Harry Clavering Was Wanted At The Rectory



The letter which had summoned harry to the parsonage had been from his
mother, and had begged him to come to Clavering at once, as trouble had
come upon them from an unexpected source. His father had quarrelled with
Mr. Saul. The rector and the curate had had an interview, in which there
had been high words, and Mr. Clavering had refused to see Mr. Saul
again. Fanny also was in great trouble--and the parish was, as it were,
in hot water. Mrs. Clavering thought that Harry had better run down to
Clavering, and see Mr. Saul. Harry, not unwillingly, acceded to his
mother's request, much wondering at the source of this new misfortune.
As to Fanny, she, as he believed, had held out no encouragement to Mr.
Saul's overtures. When Mr. Saul had proposed to her--making that first
offer of which Harry had been aware--nothing could have been more
steadfast than her rejection of the gentleman's hand. Harry had regarded
Mr. Saul as little less than mad to think of such a thing, but, thinking
of him as a man very different in his ways and feelings from other men,
had believed that he might go on at Clavering comfortably as curate in
spite of that little accident. It appeared, however, that he was not
going on comfortably; but Harry, when he left London, could not quite
imagine how such violent discomfort should have arisen that the rector
and the curate should be unable to meet each other. If the reader will
allow me, I will go back a little and explain this.

The reader already knows what Fanny's brother did not know--namely, that
Mr. Saul had pressed his suit again, and had pressed it very strongly;
and he also knows that Fanny's reception of the second offer was very
different from her reception of the first. She had begun to doubt--to
doubt whether her first judgment as to Mr. Saul's character had not been
unjust--to doubt whether, in addressing her, he was not right, seeing
that his love for her was so strong--to doubt whether she did not like
him better than she had thought she did--to doubt whether an engagement
with a penniless curate was in truth a position utterly to be
reprehended and avoided. Young penniless curates must love somebody as
well as young beneficed vicars and rectors. And then Mr. Saul pleaded
his cause so well!

She did not at once speak to her mother on the matter, and the fact that
she had a secret made her very wretched. She had left Mr. Saul in doubt,
giving him no answer, and he had said that he would ask her again in a
few days what was to be his fate. She hardly knew how to tell her mother
of this till she had told herself what were her own wishes. She
thoroughly desired to have her mother in her confidence, and promised
herself that it should be so before Mr. Saul renewed his suit. He was a
man who was never hurried or impatient in his doings. But Fanny put off
the interview with her mother, and put off her own final resolution,
till it was too late, and Mr. Saul came upon her again, when she was but
ill prepared for him.

A woman, when she doubts whether she loves or does not love, is inclined
five parts out of six toward the man of whom she is thinking. When a
woman doubts she is lost, the cynics say. I simply assert, being no
cynic, that when a woman doubts she is won. The more Fanny thought of
Mr. Saul, the more she felt that he was not the man for whom she had
first taken him--that he was of larger dimensions as regarded spirit,
manhood and heart, and better entitled to a woman's love. She would not
tell herself that she was attached to him; but in all her arguments with
herself against him, she rested her objection mainly on the fact that he
had but seventy pounds a year. And then the threatened attack, the
attack that was to be final, came upon her before she was prepared for
it!

They had been together as usual during the intervening time. It was,
indeed, impossible that they should not be together. Since she had first
begun to doubt about Mr. Saul, she had been more diligent than
heretofore in visiting the poor and in attending to her school, as
though she were recognizing the duty which would specially be hers if
she were to marry such a one as he. And thus they had been brought
together more than ever. All this her mother had seen, and seeing, had
trembled; but she had not thought it wise to say anything till Fanny
should speak. Fanny was very good and very prudent. It could not be but
that Fanny should know how impossible must be such a marriage. As to the
rector, he had no suspicions on the matter. Saul had made himself an ass
on one occasion, and there had been an end of it. As a curate, Saul was
invaluable, and therefore the fact of his having made himself an ass had
been forgiven him. It was thus that the rector looked at it.

It was hardly more than ten days since the last walk in Cumberly Lane
when Mr. Saul renewed the attack. He did it again on the same spot, and
at the same hour of the day. Twice a week, always on the same days, he
was in the chapel up at this end of the parish, and on these days he
could always find Fanny on her way home. When he put his head in at the
little school door and asked for her, her mind misgave her. He had not
walked home with her since, and though he had been in the school with
her often, had always left her there, going about his own business, as
though he were by no means desirous of her company. Now the time
had come, and Fanny felt that she was not prepared. But she took up her
hat, and went out to him, knowing that there was no escape.

"So Miss Clavering," said he, "have you thought of what I was saying to
you?" To this she made no answer, but merely played with the point of
the parasol which she held in her hand. "You cannot but have thought of
it," he continued. "You could not dismiss it altogether from your
thoughts."

"I have thought about it, of course," she said.

"And what does your mind say? Or rather what does your heart say? Both
should speak, but I would sooner hear the heart first."

"I am sure, Mr. Saul, that it is quite impossible."

"In what way impossible?"

"Papa would not allow it."

"Have you asked him?"

"Oh, dear, no."

"Or Mrs. Clavering?"

Fanny blushed as she remembered how she had permitted the days to go by
without asking her mother's counsel. "No; I have spoken to no one. Why
should I, when I knew that it is impossible?"

"May I speak to Mr. Clavering?" To this Fanny made no immediate answer,
and then Mr. Saul urged the question again. "May I speak to your
father?"

Fanny felt that she was assenting, even in that she did not answer such
a question by an immediate refusal of her permission; and yet she did
not mean to assent. "Miss Clavering," he said, "if you regard me with
affection, you have no right to refuse me this request. I tell you so
boldly. If you feel for me that love which would enable you to accept me
as your husband, it is your duty to tell me so--your duty to me, to
yourself and to your God."

Fanny did not quite see the thing in this light, and yet she did not
wish to contradict him. At this moment she forgot that in order to put
herself on perfectly firm ground, she should have gone back to the first
hypothesis, and assured him that she did not feel any such regard for
him. Mr. Saul, whose intellect was more acute, took advantage of her
here, and chose to believe that that matter of her affection was now
conceded to him. He knew what he was doing well, and is open to a charge
of some jesuitry. "Mr. Saul," said Fanny, with grave prudence, "it
cannot be right for people to marry when they have nothing to live
upon." When she had shown him so plainly that she had no other piece
left on the board to play than this, the game may be said to have been
won on his side.

"If that be your sole objection," said he, "you cannot but think it
right that I and your father should discuss it." To this she made no
reply whatever, and they walked along the lane for a considerable way in
silence. Mr. Saul would have been glad to have had the interview over
now, feeling that at any future meeting he would have stronger power of
assuming the position of an accepted lover than he would do now. Another
man would have desired to get from her lips a decided word of love--to
take her hand, perhaps, and to feel some response from it--to go further
than this, as is not unlikely, and plead for the happy indulgences of an
accepted lover. But Mr. Saul abstained, and was wise in abstaining. She
had not so far committed herself but that she might even now have drawn
back, had he pressed her too hard. For hand-pressing, and the
titillations of love-making, Mr. Saul was not adapted; but he was a man
who, having once loved, would love on to the end.

The way, however, was too long to be completed without further speech.
Fanny, as she walked, was struggling to find some words by which she
might still hold her ground, but the words were not forthcoming. It
seemed to herself that she was being carried away by this man, because
she had suddenly lost her remembrance of all negatives. The more she
struggled the more she failed, and at last gave it up in despair. Let
Mr. Saul say what he would, it was impossible that they should be
married. All his arguments about duty were nonsense. It could not be her
duty to marry a man who would have to starve in his attempt to keep her.
She wished she had told him at first that she did not love him, but that
seemed to be too late now. The moment that she was in the house she
would go to her mother and tell her everything.

"Miss Clavering," said he, "I shall see your father to-morrow."

"No, no," she ejaculated.

"I shall certainly do so in any event. I shall either tell him that I
must leave the parish--explaining to him why I must go; or I shall ask
him to let me remain herein the hope that I may become his son-in-law.
You will not now tell me that I am to go?" Fanny was again silent, her
memory failing her as to either negative or affirmative that would be of
service. "To stay here hopeless would be impossible to me. Now I am not
hopeless. Now I am full of hope. I think I could be happy, though I had
to wait as Jacob waited."

"And perhaps have Jacob's consolation," said Fanny. She was lost by the
joke and he knew it. A grim smile of satisfaction crossed his thin face
as he heard it, and there was a feeling of triumph at his heart. "I am
hardly fitted to be a patriarch, as the patriarchs were of old," he
said. "Though the seven years should be prolonged to fourteen, I do not
think I should seek any Leah."

They were soon at the gate, and his work for that evening was done. He
would go home to his solitary room at a neighboring farm-house, and sit
in triumph as he eat his morsel of cold mutton by himself. He, without
any advantages of person to back him, poor, friendless, hitherto
conscious that he was unfitted to mix even in ordinary social life--he
had won the heart of the fairest woman he had ever seen. "You will give
me your hand at parting," he said, whereupon she tendered it to him with
her eyes fixed upon the ground. "I hope we understand each other," he
continued. "You may at any rate understand this, that I love you with
all my heart and all my strength. If things prosper with me, all my
prosperity shall be for you. If there be no prosperity for me, you shall
be my only consolation in this world. You are my Alpha and my Omega, my
first and last, my beginning and end--my everything, my all." Then he
turned away and left her, and there had come no negative from her lips.
As far as her lips were concerned, no negative was any longer possible
to her.

She went into the house knowing that she must at once seek her mother
but she allowed herself first to remain for some half--hour in her own
bedroom, preparing the words that she would use. The interview she knew
would be difficult--much more difficult than it would have been before
her last walk with Mr. Saul; and the worst of it was that she could not
quite make up her mind as to what it was that she wished to say. She
waited till she could hear her mother's step on the stairs. At last Mrs.
Clavering came up to dress, and then Fanny, following her quickly into
her bedroom, abruptly began:

"Mamma," she said, "I want to speak to you very much."

"Well, my dear?"

"But you mustn't be in a hurry, mamma." Mrs. Clavering looked at her
watch, and declaring that it still wanted three-quarters of an hour to
dinner, promised that she would not be very much in a hurry.

"Mamma, Mr. Saul has been speaking to me again.

"Has he, my dear? You cannot, of course, help it if he chooses to speak
to you, but he ought to know that it is very foolish. It must end in his
having to leave us."

"That is what he says, mamma. He says he must go away unless--"

"Unless what?"

"Unless I will consent that he shall remain here as--"

"As your accepted lover. Is that it, Fanny?"

"Yes, mamma."

"Then he must go, I suppose. What else can any of us say? I shall be
sorry both for his sake and for your papa's." Mrs. Clavering, as she
said this, looked at her daughter, and saw at once that this edict on
her part did not settle the difficulty. There was that in Fanny's face
which showed trouble and the necessity of further explanation. "Is not
that what you think yourself my dear?" Mrs. Clavering asked.

"I should be very sorry if he had to leave the parish on my account."

"We all shall feel that, dearest; but what can we do? I presume you
don't wish him to remain as your lover?"

"I don't know, mamma," said Fanny.

It was then as Mrs. Clavering had feared. Indeed, from the first word
that Fanny had spoken on the present occasion, she had almost been sure
of the facts, as they now were. To her father it would appear wonderful
that his daughter should have come to love such a man as Mr. Saul, but
Mrs. Clavering knew better than he how far perseverance will go with
women--perseverance joined with high mental capacity, and with high
spirit to back it. She was grieved but not surprised, and would at once
have accepted the idea of Mr. Saul becoming her son-in-law, had not the
poverty of the man been so much against him. "Do you mean, my dear, that
you wish him to remain here after what he has said to you? That would be
tantamount to accepting him. You understand that, Fanny; eh, dear?"

"I suppose it would, mamma."

"And is that what you mean? Come, dearest, tell me the whole of it. What
have you said to him yourself? What has he been led to think from the
answer you have given him to-day?"

"He says that he means to see papa to-morrow."

"But is he to see him with your consent?" Fanny had hitherto placed
herself in the nook of a bow-window which looked out into the garden,
and there, though she was near to the dressing-table at which her mother
was sitting, she could so far screen herself as almost to hide her face
when she was speaking. From this retreat her mother found it necessary
to withdraw her; so she rose, and going to a sofa in the room, bade her
daughter come and sit beside her. "A doctor, my dear, can never do any
good," she said, "unless the patient will tell him everything. Have you
told Mr. Saul that he may see papa--as coming from you, you know?"

"No, mamma; I did not tell him that. I told him that it would be
altogether impossible, because we should be so poor."

"He ought to have known that himself."

"But I don't think he ever thinks of such things as that, mamma. I can't
tell you quite what he said, but it went to show that he didn't regard
money at all."

"But that is nonsense; is it not, Fanny?"

"What he means is, not that people if they are fond of each other ought
to marry at once when they have got nothing to live upon, but that they
ought to tell each other so, and then be content to wait. I suppose he
thinks that some day he may have a living."

"But, Fanny, are you fond of him; and have you ever told him so?"

"I have never told him so, mamma."

"But you are fond of him?" To this question Fanny made no answer, and
now Mrs. Clavering knew it all. She felt no inclination to scold her
daughter, or even to point out in very strong language how foolish Fanny
had been in allowing a man to engage her affections merely by asking for
them. The thing was a misfortune, and should have been avoided by the
departure of Mr. Saul from the parish after his first declaration of
love. He had been allowed to remain for the sake of the rector's
comfort, and the best must now be made of it. That Mr. Saul must now go
was certain, and Fanny must endure the weariness of an attachment with
an absent lover to which her father would not consent. It was very bad,
but Mrs. Clavering did not think that she could make it better by
attempting to scold her daughter into renouncing the man.

"I suppose you would like me to tell papa all this before Mr. Saul comes
to-morrow?"

"If you think it best, mamma."

"And you mean, dear, that you would wish to accept him, only that he has
no income?"

"I think so, mamma."

"Have you told him so?"

"I did not tell him so, but he understands it."

"If you did not tell him so, you might still think of it again."

But Fanny had surrendered herself now, and was determined to make no
further attempt at sending the garrison up to the wall. "I am sure,
mamma, that if he were well off like Edward, I should accept him. It is
only because he has no income."

"But you have not told him that?"

"I would not tell him anything without your consent and papa's. He said
he should go to papa to-morrow, and I could not prevent that. I did say
that I knew it was quite impossible."

The mischief was done and there was no help for it. Mrs. Clavering told
her daughter that she would talk it all over with the rector that night,
so that Fanny was able to come down to dinner without fearing any
further scene on that evening. But on the following morning she did not
appear at prayers, nor was she present at the breakfast table. Her
mother went to her early, and she immediately asked if it was considered
necessary that she should see her father before Mr. Saul came. But this
was not required of her.

"Papa says that it is out of the question," said Mrs. Clavering.

"I told him so myself" said Fanny, beginning to whimper.

"And there must be no engagements," said Mrs. Clavering.

"No, mamma. I haven't engaged myself. I told him it was impossible."

"And papa thinks that Mr. Saul must leave him," continued Mrs.
Clavering.

"I knew papa would say that; but, mamma, I shall not forget him for that
reason."

To this Mrs. Clavering made no reply, and Fanny was allowed to remain
upstairs till Mr. Saul had come and gone.

Very soon after breakfast Mr. Saul did come. His presence at the rectory
was so common that the servants were not generally summoned to announce
his arrivals, but his visits were made to Mrs. Clavering and Fanny more
often than to the rector. On this occasion he rang the bell, and asked
for Mr. Clavering, and was shown into the rector's so-called study, in a
way that the maid-servant felt to be unusual. And the rector was sitting
uncomfortably prepared for the visit, not having had his after-breakfast
cigar. He had been induced to declare that he was not, and would not be,
angry with Fanny; but Mr. Saul was left to such indignation as he
thought it incumbent on himself to express. In his opinion, the marriage
was impossible, not only because there was no money, but because Mr.
Saul was Mr. Saul, and because Fanny Clavering was Fanny Clavering. Mr.
Saul was a gentleman; but that was all that could be said of him. There
is a class of country clergymen in England, of whom Mr. Clavering was
one, and his son-in-law, Mr. Fielding, another, which is so closely
allied to the squirearchy as to possess a double identity. Such
clergymen are not only clergymen, but they are country gentlemen also.
Mr. Clavering regarded clergymen of his class--of the country gentlemen
class--as being quite distinct from all others, and as being, I may say,
very much higher than all others, without reference to any money
question. When meeting his brother rectors and vicars, he had quite a
different tone in addressing them, as they might belong to his class, or
to another. There was no offence in this. The clerical country gentlemen
understood it all as though there were some secret sign or shibboleth
between them; but the outsiders had no complaint to make of arrogance,
and did not feel themselves aggrieved. They hardly knew that there was
an inner clerical familiarity to which they were not admitted. But now
that there was a young curate from the outer circle demanding Mr.
Clavering's daughter in marriage, and that without a shilling in his
pocket, Mr. Clavering felt that the eyes of the offender must be opened.
The nuisance to him was very great, but this opening of Mr. Saul's eyes
was a duty from which he could not shrink.

He got up when the curate entered, and greeted his curate, as though he
were unaware of the purpose of the present visit. The whole burden of
the story was to be thrown upon Mr. Saul. But that gentleman was not
long in casting the burden from his shoulders.

"Mr. Clavering," he said, "I have come to ask your permission to be a
suitor for your daughter's hand."

The rector was almost taken aback by the abruptness of the request.
"Quite impossible, Mr. Saul," he said; "quite impossible. I am told by
Mrs. Clavering that you were speaking to Fanny again about this
yesterday, and I must say that I think you have been behaving very
badly."

"In what way have I behaved badly?"

"In endeavoring to gain her affections behind my back."

"But, Mr. Clavering, how otherwise could I gain them? How otherwise does
any man gain any woman's love? If you mean--"

"Look here, Mr. Saul. I don't think that there is any necessity for an
argument between you and me on this point. That you cannot marry Miss
Clavering is so self-evident that it does not require to be discussed.
If there were nothing else against it, neither of you have got a penny.
I have not seen my daughter since I heard of this madness--hear me out
if you please, sir--since I heard of this madness, but her mother tells
me that she is quite aware of that fact. Your coming to me with such a
proposition is an absurdity if it is nothing worse. Now you must do one
of two things, Mr. Saul. You must either promise me that this shall be
at an end altogether, or you must leave the parish."

"I certainly shall not promise you that my hopes as they regard your
daughter will be at an end."

"Then, Mr. Saul, the sooner you go the better."

A dark cloud came across Mr. Saul's brow as he heard these last words.
"That is the way in which you would send away your groom, if he had
offended you," he said.

"I do not wish to be unnecessarily harsh," said Mr. Clavering, "and what
I say to you now I say to you not as my curate, but as to a most
unwarranted suitor for my daughter's hand. Of course I cannot turn you
out of the parish at a day's notice. I know that well enough. But your
feelings as a gentleman ought to make you aware that you should go at
once."

"And that is to be my only answer?"

"What answer did you expect?"

"I have been thinking so much lately of the answers I might get from
your daughter, that I have not made other calculations. Perhaps I had no
right to expect any other than that you have now given."

"Of course you had not. And now I ask you again to give her up."

"I shall not do that, certainly."

"Then, Mr. Saul, you must go; and, inconvenient as it will be to
myself--terribly inconvenient--I must ask you to go at once. Of course I
cannot allow you to meet my daughter any more. As long as you remain she
will be debarred from going to her school, and you will be debarred from
coming here."

"If I say that I will not seek her at the school?"

"I will not have it. It is out of the question that you should remain in
the parish. You ought to feel it."

"Mr. Clavering, my going--I mean my instant going--is a matter of which
I have not yet thought. I must consider it before I give you an answer."

"It ought to require no consideration," said Mr. Clavering, rising from
his chair--"none at all; not a moment's. Heavens and earth! Why, what
did you suppose you were to live upon? But I won't discuss it. I will
not say one more word upon a subject which is so distasteful to me. You
must excuse me if I leave you."

Mr. Saul then departed, and from this interview had arisen that state of
things in the parish which had induced Mrs. Clavering to call Harry to
their assistance. The rector had become more energetic on the subject
than any of them had expected. He did not actually forbid his wife to
see Mr. Saul, but he did say that Mr. Saul should not come to the
rectory. Then there arose a question as to the Sunday services, and yet
Mr. Clavering would have no intercourse with his curate. He would have
no intercourse with him unless he would fix an immediate day for going,
or else promise that he would think no more of Fanny. Hitherto he had
done neither, and therefore Mrs. Clavering had sent for her son.



Chapter XL

Mr. Saul's Abode



When Harry Clavering left London he was not well, though he did not care
to tell himself that he was ill. But he had been so harassed by his
position, was so ashamed of himself and as yet so unable to see any
escape from his misery, that he was sore with fatigue and almost worn
out with trouble. On his arrival at the parsonage, his mother at once
asked him if he was ill, and received his petulant denial with an
ill-satisfied countenance. That there was something wrong between him
and Florence she suspected, but at the present moment she was not
disposed to inquire into that matter. Harry's love affairs had for her a
great interest, but Fanny's love affairs at the present moment were
paramount in her bosom. Fanny, indeed, had become very troublesome since
Mr. Saul's visit to her father. On the evening of her conversation with
her mother, and on the following morning, Fanny had carried herself with
bravery, and Mrs. Clavering had been disposed to think that her
daughter's heart was not wounded deeply. She had admitted the
impossibility of her marriage with Mr. Saul, and had never insisted on
the strength of her attachment. But no sooner was she told that Mr. Saul
had been banished from the house, than she took upon herself to mope in
the most love-lorn fashion, and behaved herself as though she were the
victim of an all-absorbing passion. Between her and her father no word
on the subject had been spoken, and even to her mother she was silent,
respectful and subdued, as it becomes daughters to be who are hardly
used when they are in love. Now, Mrs. Clavering felt that in this her
daughter was not treating her well.

"But you don't mean to say that she cares for him?" Harry said to his
mother, when they were alone on the evening of his arrival.

"Yes, she cares for him, certainly. As far as I can tell, she cares for
him very much."

"It is the oddest thing I ever knew in my life. I should have said he
was the last man in the world for success of that kind."

"One never can tell, Harry. You see he is a very good young man."

"But girls don't fall in love with men because they're good, mother."

"I hope they do--for that and other things together."

"But he has got none of the other things. What a pity it was that he was
let to stay here after he first made a fool of himself."

"It's too late to think of that now, Harry. Of course she can't marry
him. They would have nothing to live on. I should say that he has no
prospect of a living."

"I can't conceive how a man can do such a wicked thing," said Harry,
moralizing, and forgetting for a moment his own sins. "Coming into a
house like this, and in such a position, and then undermining a girl's
affections, when he must know that it is quite out of the question that
he should marry her! I call it downright wicked. It is treachery of the
worst sort, and coming from a clergyman is, of course, the more to be
condemned. I shan't be slow to tell him my mind."

"You will gain nothing by quarrelling with him."

"But how can I help it, if I am to see him at all?"

"I mean that I would not be rough with him. The great thing is to make
him feel that he should go away as soon as possible, and renounce all
idea of seeing Fanny again. You see, your father will have no
conversation with him at all, and it is so disagreeable about the
services. They'll have to meet in the vestry-room on Sunday, and they
won't speak. Will not that be terrible? Anything will be better than
that he should remain here."

"And. what will my father do for a curate?"

"He can't do anything till he knows when Mr. Saul will go. He talks of
taking all the services himself."

"He couldn't do it, mother. He must not think of it. However, I'll see
Saul the first thing to-morrow."

The next day was Tuesday, and Harry proposed to leave the rectory at ten
o'clock for Mr. Saul's lodgings. Before he did so, he had a few words
with his father who professed even deeper animosity against Mr. Saul
than his son. "After that," he said, "I'll believe that a girl may fall
in love with any man! People say all manner of things about the folly of
girls; but nothing but this--nothing short of this--would have convinced
me that it was possible that Fanny should have been such a fool. An ape
of a fellow--not made like a man--with a thin hatchet face, and
unwholesome stubbly chin. Good heavens!"

"He has talked her into it."

"But he is such an ass. As far as I know him, he can't say Bo! to a
goose."

"There I think you are perhaps wrong."

"Upon my word I've never been able to get a word from him except about
the parish. He is the most uncompanionable fellow. There's Edward
Fielding is as active a clergyman as Saul; but Edward Fielding has
something to say for himself."

"Saul is a cleverer man than Edward is; but his cleverness is of a
different sort."

"It is of a sort that is very invisible to me. But what does all that
matter? He hasn't got a shilling. When I was a curate, we didn't think
of doing such things as that." Mr. Clavering had only been a curate for
twelve months, and during that time had become engaged to his present
wife with the consent of every one concerned. "But clergymen were
gentlemen then. I don't know what the Church will come to; I don't
indeed."

After this Harry went away upon his mission. What a farce it was that he
should be engaged to make straight the affairs of other people, when his
own affairs were so very crooked! As he walked up to the old farm-house
in which Mr. Saul was living, he thought of this, and acknowledged to
himself that he could hardly make himself in earnest about his sister's
affairs, because of his own troubles. He tried to fill himself with a
proper feeling of dignified wrath and high paternal indignation against
the poor curate; but under it all, and at the back of it all, and in
front of it all, there was ever present to him his own position. Did he
wish to escape from Lady Ongar; and if so, how was he to do it? And if
he did not escape from Lady Ongar, how was he ever to hold up his head
again?

He had sent a note to Mr. Saul on the previous evening giving notice of
his intended visit, and had received an answer, in which the curate had
promised that he would be at home. He had never been in Mr. Saul's room,
and as he entered it, felt more strongly than ever how incongruous was
the idea of Mr. Saul as a suitor to his sister. The Claverings had
always had things comfortable around them. They were a people who had
ever lived on Brussels carpets, and had seated themselves in capacious
chairs. Ormolu, damask hangings, and Sevres china were not familiar to
them; but they had never lacked anything that is needed for the comfort
of the first-class clerical world. Mr. Saul in his abode boasted but few
comforts. He inhabited a big bed-room, in which there was a vast
fireplace and a very small grate--the grate being very much more modern
than the fireplace. There was a small rag of a carpet near the hearth,
and on this stood a large deal table--a table made of unalloyed deal,
without any mendacious paint, putting forward a pretence in the
direction of mahogany. One wooden Windsor arm-chair--very comfortable in
its way--was appropriated to the use of Mr. Saul himself; and two other
small wooden chairs flanked the other side of the fireplace. In one
distant corner stood Mr. Saul's small bed, and in another distant corner
stood his small dressing-table. Against the wall stood a ricketty deal
press in which he kept his clothes. Other furniture there was none. One
of the large windows facing toward the farmyard had been permanently
closed, and in the wide embrasure was placed a portion of Mr. Saul's
library--books which he had brought with him from college; and on the
ground under this closed window were arranged the others, making a long
row, which stretched from the bed to the dressing-table, very pervious,
I fear, to the attacks of mice. The big table near the fireplace was
covered with books and papers--and, alas, with dust; for he had fallen
into that terrible habit which prevails among bachelors, of allowing his
work to remain ever open, never finished, always confused--with papers
above books, and books above papers--looking as though no useful product
could ever be made to come forth from such chaotic elements. But there
Mr. Saul composed his sermons, and studied his Bible, and followed up,
no doubt, some special darling pursuit, which his ambition dictated. But
there he did not eat his meals; that had been made impossible by the
pile of papers and dust; and his chop, therefore, or his broiled rasher,
or bit of pig's fry was deposited for him on the little dressing-table,
and there consumed.

Such was the solitary apartment of the gentleman who now aspired to the
hand of Miss Clavering; and for this accommodation, including
attendance, he paid the reasonable sum of L10 per annum. He then had L60
left, with which to feed himself; clothe himself like a gentleman--a
duty somewhat neglected--and perform his charities!

Harry Clavering, as he looked around him, felt almost ashamed of his
sister. The walls were whitewashed, and stained in many places; and the
floor in the middle of the room seemed to be very rotten. What young man
who has himself dwelt ever in comfort would like such a house for his
sister? Mr. Saul, however, came forward with no marks of visible shame
on his face, and greeted his visitor frankly with an open hand. "You
came down from London yesterday, I suppose?" said Mr. Saul.

"Just so," said Harry.

"Take a seat;" and Mr. Saul suggested the arm-chair, but Harry contented
himself with one of the others. "I hope Mrs. Clavering is well?" "Quite
well," said Harry, cheerfully. "And your father--and sister?" "Quite
well, thank you," said Harry, very stiffly. "I would have come down to
you at the rectory," said Mr. Saul, "instead of bringing you up here;
only, as you have heard, no doubt, I and your father have unfortunately
had a difference." This Mr. Saul said without any apparent effort, and
then left Harry to commence the further conversation.

"Of course, you know what I'm come here about?" said Harry.

"Not exactly; at any rate not so clearly but what I would wish you to
tell me."

"You have gone to my father as a suitor for my sister's hand."

"Yes, I have."

"Now you must know that that is altogether impossible--a thing not to be
even talked of."

"So your father says. I need not tell you that I was very sorry to hear
him speak in that way."

"But, my dear fellow, you can't really be in earnest? You can't suppose
it possible that he would allow such an engagement?"

"As to the latter question, I have no answer to give; but I certainly
was, and certainly am in earnest."

"Then I must say that I think you have a very erroneous idea of what the
conduct of a gentleman should be."

"Stop a moment, Clavering," said Mr. Saul, rising, and standing with his
back to the big fireplace. "Don't allow yourself to say in a hurry words
which you will afterward regret. I do not think you can have intended to
come here and tell me that I am not a gentleman."

"I don't want to have an argument with you; but you must give it up;
that's all."

"Give what up? If you mean give up your sister, I certainly shall never
do that. She may give me up, and if you have anything to say on that
head, you had better say it to her."

"What right can you have--without a shilling in the world--?"

"I should have no right to marry her in such a condition--with your
father's consent or without it. It is a thing which I have never
proposed to myself for a moment--or to her."

"And what have you proposed to yourself?"

Mr. Saul paused a moment before he spoke, looking down at the dusty
heaps upon his table, as though hoping that inspiration might come to
him from them. "I will tell you what I have proposed," said he at last,
"as nearly as I can put it into words. I propose to myself to have the
image in my heart of one human being whom I can love above all the world
beside; I propose to hope that I, as others, may some day marry, and
that she whom I so love may become my wife; I propose to bear with such
courage as I can much certain delay, and probable absolute failure in
all this; and I propose also to expect--no, hardly to expect--that that
which I will do for her, she will do for me. Now you know all my mind,
and you may be sure of this, that I will instigate your sister to no
disobedience."

"Of course she will not see you again."

"I shall think that hard after what has passed between us; but I
certainly shall not endeavor to see her clandestinely."

"And under these circumstances, Mr. Saul, of course you must leave us."

"So your father says."

"But leave us at once, I mean. It cannot be comfortable that you and my
father should go on in the parish together in this way."

"What does your father mean by 'at once?'"

"The sooner the better; say in two months' time at furthest."

"Very well. I will go in two months' time. I have no other home to go
to, and no other means of livelihood; but as your father wishes it, I
will go at the end of two months. As I comply with this, I hope my
request to see your sister once before I go will not be refused."

"It could do no good, Mr. Saul."

"To me it would do great good, and, as I think, no harm to her."

"My father, I am sure, will not allow it. Indeed, why should he? Nor, as
I understand, would my sister wish it."

"Has she said so?"

"Not to me; but she has acknowledged that any idea of a marriage between
herself and you is quite impossible, and after that I'm sure she'll have
too much sense to wish for an interview. If there is anything further
that I can do for you, I shall be most happy." Mr. Saul did not see that
Harry Clavering could do anything for him, and then Harry took his
leave. The rector; when he heard of the arrangement, expressed himself
as in some sort satisfied. One month would have been better than two,
but then it could hardly be expected that Mr. Saul could take himself
away instantly, without looking for a hole in which to lay his head. "Of
course it is understood that he is not to see her?" the rector said. In
answer to this, Harry explained what had taken place, expressing his
opinion that Mr. Saul would, at any rate, keep his word. "Interview,
indeed!" said the rector. "It is the man's audacity that most astonishes
me. It passes me to think how such a fellow can dare to propose such a
thing. 'What is it that he expects as the end of it?" Then Harry
endeavored to repeat what Mr. Saul had said as to his own expectations,
but he was quite aware that he failed to make his father understand
those expectations as he had understood them when the words came from
Mr. Saul's own mouth. Harry Clavering had acknowledged to himself that
it was impossible not to respect the poor curate.

To Mrs. Clavering, of course, fell the task of explaining to Fanny what
had been done, and what was going to be done. "He is to go away, my
dear, at the end of two months."

"Very well, mamma."

"And, of course, you and he are not to meet before that."

"Of course not, if you and papa say so."

"I have told your papa that it will only be necessary to tell you this,
and that then you can go to your school just as usual, if you please.
Neither papa nor I would doubt your word for a moment."

"But what can I do if he comes to me?" asked Fanny, almost whimpering.

"He has said that he will not, and we do not doubt his word either."

"That I am sure you need not. Whatever anybody may say, Mr. Saul is as
much a gentleman as though he had the best living in the diocese. No one
ever knew him break his word--not a hair's breadth--or do--anything
else--that he ought--not to do." And Fanny, as she pronounced this
rather strong eulogium, began to sob. Mrs. Clavering felt that Fanny was
headstrong, and almost ill-natured, in speaking in this tone of her
lover, after the manner in which she had been treated; but there could
be no use in discussing Mr. Saul's virtues, and therefore she let the
matter drop. "If you will take my advice," she said, "you will go about
your occupations just as usual. You'll soon recover your spirits in that
way."

"I don't want to recover my spirits," said Fanny; "but if you wish it,
I'll go on with the schools."

It was quite manifest now that Fanny intended to play the role of a
broken-hearted young lady, and to regard the absent Mr. Saul with
passionate devotion. That this should be so Mrs. Clavering felt to be
the more cruel, because no such tendencies had been shown before the
paternal sentence against Mr. Saul had been passed. Fanny, in telling
her own tale, had begun by declaring that any such an engagement was an
impossibility. She had not asked permission to have Mr. Saul for a
lover. She had given no hint that she even hoped for such permission.
But now when that was done which she herself had almost dictated, she
took upon herself to live as though she were ill-used as badly as a
heroine in a castle among the Apennines! And in this way she would
really become deeply in love with Mr. Saul--thinking of all which Mrs.
Clavering almost regretted that the edict of banishment had gone forth.
It would, perhaps, have been better to have left Mr. Saul to go about
the parish, and to have laughed Fanny out of her fancy. But it was too
late now for that, and Mrs. Clavering said nothing further on the
subject to any one.

On the day following his visit to the farm-house, Harry Clavering was
unwell--too unwell to go back to London; and on the next day he was ill
in bed. Then it was that he got his mother to write to Mrs. Burton; and
then also he told his mother a part of his troubles. When the letter was
written he was very anxious to see it, and was desirous that it should
be specially worded, and so written as to make Mrs. Burton certain that
he was in truth too ill to come to London, though not ill enough to
create alarm. "Why not simply let me say that you are kept here for a
day or two?" asked Mrs. Clavering.

"Because I promised that I would be in Onslow Terrace to-morrow, and she
must not think that I would stay away if I could avoid it."

Then Mrs. Clavering closed the letter and directed it. When she had done
that, and put on it the postage-stamp, she asked in a voice that was
intended to be indifferent, whether Florence was in London; and, hearing
that she was so, expressed her surprise that the letter should not be
written to Florence.

"My engagement was with Mrs. Burton," said Harry.

"I hope there is nothing wrong between you and Florence?" said his
mother. To this question Harry made no immediate answer, and Mrs.
Clavering was afraid to press it. But after a while he returned to the
subject himself. "Mother," he said, "things are wrong between Florence
and me."

"Oh, Harry; what has she done?"

"It is rather what have I done! As for her, she has simply trusted
herself to a man who has been false to her."

"Dear Harry, do not say that. What is it that you mean? It is not true
about Lady Ongar?"

"Then you have heard, mother. Of course I do not know what you have
heard, but it can be hardly worse than the truth. But you must not blame
her. Whatever fault there may be, is all mine." Then he told her much of
what had occurred in Bolton Street. We may suppose that he said nothing
of that mad caress--nothing, perhaps, of the final promise which he made
to Julia as he last passed out of her presence; but he did give her to
understand that he had in some way returned to his old passion for the
woman whom he had first loved.

I should describe Mrs. Clavering in language too highly eulogistic were
I to lead the reader to believe that she was altogether averse to such
advantages as would accrue to her son from a marriage so brilliant as
that which he might now make with the grandly dowered widow of the late
earl. Mrs. Clavering by no means despised worldly goods; and she had,
moreover, an idea that her highly gifted son was better adapted to the
spending than to the making of money. It had come to be believed at the
rectory that though Harry had worked very hard at college--as is the
case with many highly born young gentlemen--and though he would,
undoubtedly, continue to work hard if he were thrown among congenial
occupations--such as politics and the like--nevertheless, he would never
excel greatly in any drudgery that would be necessary for the making of
money. There had been something to be proud of in this, but there had,
of course, been more to regret. But now if Harry were to marry Lady
Ongar, all trouble on that score would be over. But poor Florence! When
Mrs. Clavering allowed herself to think of the matter, she knew that
Florence's claims should be held as paramount. And when she thought
further and thought seriously, she knew also that Harry's honor and
Harry's happiness demanded that he should be true to the girl to whom
his hand had been promised. And, then, was not Lady Ongar's name
tainted? It might be that she had suffered cruel ill-usage in this. It
might be that no such taint had been deserved. Mrs. Clavering could
plead the injured woman's cause when speaking of it without any close
reference to her own belongings; but it would have been very grievous to
her, even had there been no Florence Burton in the case, that her son
should make his fortune by marrying a woman as to whose character the
world was in doubt.

She came to him late in the evening when his sister and father had just
left him, and sitting with her hand upon his, spoke one word, which
perhaps had more weight with Harry than any word that had yet been
spoken. "Have you slept, dear?" she said.

"A little before my father came in."

"My darling," she said, "you will be true to Florence; will you not?"
Then there was a pause. "My own Harry, tell me that you will be true
when your truth is due."

"I will, mother," he said.

"My own boy; my darling boy; my own true gentleman!" Harry felt that he
did not deserve the praise; but praise undeserved, though it may be
satire in disguise, is often very useful.



Chapter XLI

Going To Norway



On the next day Harry was not better, but the doctor said that there was
no cause for alarm. He was suffering from a low fever, and his sister
had better be kept out of his room. He would not sleep, and was
restless, and it might be some time before he could return to London.

Early in the day the rector came into his son's bedroom, and told him
and his mother, who was there, the news which he had just heard from the
great house. "Hugh has come home," he said, "and is going out yachting
for the rest of the Summer. They are going to Norway in Jack Stuart's
yacht. Archie is going with them." Now Archie was known to be a great
man in a yacht, cognizant of ropes, well up in booms and spars, very
intimate with bolts, and one to whose hands a tiller came as naturally
as did the saddle of a steeple-chase horse to the legs of his friend
Doodles. "They are going to fish," said the rector.

"But Jack Stuart's yacht is only a river boat--or just big enough for
Cowes harbor, but nothing more," said Harry, roused in his bed to some
excitement by the news.

"I know nothing about Jack Stuart or his boat either," said the rector;
"but that's what they told me. He's down here, at any rate, for I saw
the servant that came with him."

"What a shame it is," said Mrs. Clavering--"a scandalous shame."

"You mean his going away?" said the rector.

"Of course I do; his leaving her here by herself; all alone. He can have
no heart; after losing her child and suffering as she has done. It makes
me ashamed of my own name."

"You can't alter him, my dear. He has his good qualities and his
bad--and the bad ones are by far the more conspicuous."

"I don't know any good qualities he has."

"He does not get into debt. He will not destroy the property. He will
leave the family after him as well off as it was before him--and though
he is a hard man, he does nothing actively cruel. Think of Lord Ongar,
and then you'll remember that there are worse men than Hugh. Not that I
like him. I am never comfortable for a moment in his presence. I always
feel that he wants to quarrel with me, and that I almost want to quarrel
with him."

"I detest him," said Harry, from beneath the bedclothes.

"You won't be troubled with him any more this Summer, for he means to be
off in less than a week."

"And what is she to do?" asked Mrs. Clavering.

"Live here as she has done ever since Julia married. I don't see that it
will make much difference to her. He's never with her when he's in
England, and I should think she must be more comfortable without him
than with him."

"It's a great catch for Archie," said Harry.

"Archie Clavering is a fool," said Mrs. Clavering.

"They say he understands a yacht," said the rector, who then left the
room.

The rector's news was all true. Sir Hugh Clavering had come down to the
Park, and had announced his intention of going to Norway in Jack
Stuart's yacht. Archie also had been invited to join the party. Sir Hugh
intended to leave the Thames in about a week, and had not thought it
necessary to give his wife any intimation of the fact, till he told her
himself of his intention. He took, I think, a delight in being thus
overharsh in his harshness to her. He proved to himself thus not only
that he was master, but that he would be master without any let or
drawback, without compunction, and even without excuses for his
ill-conduct. There should be no plea put in by him in his absences, that
he had only gone to catch a few fish, when his intentions had been other
than piscatorial. He intended to do as he liked now and always-and he
intended that his wife should know that such was his intention. She was
now childless, and, therefore, he had no other terms to keep with her
than those which appertained to her necessities for bed and board. There
was the house, and she might live in it; and there were the butchers and
the bakers, and other tradesmen to supply her wants. Nay; there were the
old carriage and the old horses at her disposal, if they could be of any
service to her. Such were Sir Hugh Clavering's ideas as to the bonds
inflicted upon him by his marriage vows.

"I'm going to Norway next week" It was thus Sir Hugh communicated his
intention to his wife within five minutes of their first greeting.

"To Norway, Hugh?"

"Yes; why not to Norway? I and one or two others have got some fishing
there. Archie is going, too. It will keep him from spending his money;
or rather from spending money which isn't his."

"And for how long will you be gone?"

It was part of Sir Hugh Clavering's theory as to these matters
that-there should be no lying in the conduct of them. He would not
condescend to screen any part of his doings by a falsehood--so he
answered this question with exact truth.

"I don't suppose we shall be back before October."

"Not before October?"

"No. We are talking of putting in on the coast of Normandy somewhere;
and probably may run down to Brittany. I shall be back, at any rate, for
the hunting. As for the partridges, the game has gone so much to the
devil here that they are not worth coming for."

"You'll be away four months?"

"I suppose I shall if I don't come back till October." Then he left her,
calculating that she would have considered the matter before he
returned, and have decided that no good could come to her from
complaint. She knew his purpose now, and would no doubt reconcile
herself to it quickly--perhaps with a few tears, which would not hurt
him if he did not see them.

But this blow was almost more than Lady Clavering could bear--was more
than she could bear in silence. Why she should have grudged her husband
his trip abroad, seeing that his presence in England could hardly have
been a solace to her, it is hard to understand. Had he remained in
England, he would rarely have been at Clavering Park; and when he was at
the Park he would rarely have given her the benefit of his society. When
they were together, he was usually scolding her, or else sitting in
gloomy silence, as though that phase of his life was almost
insupportable to him. He was so unusually disagreeable in his
intercourse with her, that his absence, one would think, must be
preferable to his presence. But women can bear anything better than
desertion. Cruelty is bad, but neglect is worse than cruelty, and
desertion worse even than neglect. To be treated as though she were not
in existence, or as though her existence were a nuisance simply to be
endured, and, as far as possible, to be forgotten, was more than even
Lady Clavering could bear without complaint. When her husband left her,
she sat meditating how she might turn against her oppressor. She was a
woman not apt for fighting--unlike her sister, who knew well how to use
the cudgels in her own behalf; she was timid, not gifted with a full
flow of words, prone to sink and become dependent; but she--even
she--with all these deficiencies-felt that she must make some stand
against the outrage to which he was now to be subjected.

"Hugh," she said, when she next saw him, "you can't really mean that you
are going to leave me from this time till the Winter?"

"I said nothing about the Winter."

"Well--till October?"

"I said that I was going, and I usually mean what I say."

"I cannot believe it, Hugh; I cannot bring myself to think that you will
be so cruel."

"Look here, Hermy, if you take to calling names, I won't stand it."

"And I won't stand it, either. What am I to do? Am I to be here in this
dreadful barrack of a house all alone? How would you like it? Would you
bear it for one month, let alone four or five? I won't remain here; I
tell you that fairly."

"Where do you want to go?"

"I don't want to go anywhere, but I'll go away somewhere and die; I
will indeed. I'll destroy myself or something."

"Pshaw!"

"Yes; of course it's a joke to you. What have I done to deserve this?
Have I ever done anything that you told me not? It's all because of
Hughy--my darling--so it is; and it's cruel of you, and not like a
husband; and it's not manly. It's very cruel. I didn't think anybody
would have been so cruel as you are to me." Then she broke down and
burst into tears.

"Have you done, Hermy?" said her husband.

"No; I've not done."

"Then go on again," said he.

But in truth she had done, and could only repeat her last accusation.
"You're very, very cruel."

"You said that before."

"And I'll say it again. I'll tell everybody; so I will. I'll tell your
uncle at the rectory, and he shall speak to you."

"Look here, Hermy, I can bear a deal of nonsense from you because some
women are given to talk nonsense; but if I find you telling tales about
me out of this house, and especially to my uncle, or indeed, to anybody
I'll let you know what it is to be cruel."

"You can't be worse than you are."

"Don't try me; that's all. And as I suppose you have now said all that
you've got to say, if you please we will regard that subject as
finished." The poor woman had said all that she could say, and had no
further means of carrying on the war. In her thoughts she could do so;
in her thoughts she could wander forth out of the gloomy house in the
night, and perish in the damp and cold, leaving a paper behind her to
tell the world that her husband's cruelty had brought her to that pass.
Or she would go to Julia and leave him forever. Julia, she thought,
would still receive her. But as to one thing she had certainly made up
her mind; she would go with her complaint to Mrs. Clavering at the
rectory, let her lord and master show his anger in whatever form he
might please.

The next day Sir Hugh himself made her a proposition which somewhat
softened the aspect of affairs. This he did in his usual voice, with
something of a smile on his face, and speaking as though he were
altogether oblivious of the scenes of yesterday. "I was thinking,
Hermy," he said, "that you might have Julia down here while I am away."

"Have Julia here?"

"Yes; why not? She'll come, I'm sure, when she knows that my back is
turned."

"I've never thought about asking her--at least not lately."

"No; of course. But you might as well do so now. It seems that she never
goes to Ongar Park, and, as far as I can learn, never will. I'm going to
see her myself."

"You going to see her?"

"Yes; Lord Ongar's people want to know whether she can be induced to
give up the place; that is, to sell her interest in it. I have promised
to see her. Do you write her a letter first, and tell her that I want to
see her; and ask her also to come here as soon as she can leave London."

"But wouldn't the lawyers: do it better than you?"

"Well; one would think so; but I am commissioned to make her a kind of
apology from the whole Courton family. They fancy they've been hard upon
her; and, by George, I believe they have. I may be able to say a word
for myself too. If she isn't a fool she'll put her anger in her pocket,
and come down to you."

Lady Clavering liked the idea of having her sister with her, but she was
not quite meek enough to receive the permission now given her as full
compensation for the injury done. She said that she would do as he had
bidden her, and then went back to her own grievances. "I don't suppose
Julia, even if she would come for a little time, would find it very
pleasant to live in such a place as this, all alone."

"She wouldn't be all alone when you are with her," said Hugh, gruffly,
and then again went out, leaving his wife to become used to her
misfortune by degrees.



Chapter XLII

Parting



It was not surprising that Lady Clavering should dislike her solitude at
Clavering Park house, nor surprising that Sir Hugh should find the place
disagreeable. The house was a large, square stone building, with none of
the prettinesses of modern country-houses about it. The gardens were
away from the house, and the cold, desolate, fiat park came up close
around the windows: The rooms were very large and lofty--very excellent
for the purpose of a large household, but with nothing of that snug,
pretty comfort which solitude requires for its solace. The furniture was
old and heavy, and the hangings were dark in color. Lady Clavering when
alone there--and she generally was alone--never entered the rooms on the
ground-floor. Nor did she ever pass through the wilderness of a hall by
which the front door was to be reached. Throughout more than half her
days she never came down stairs at all; but when she did so, preparatory
to being dragged about the parish lanes in the old family carriage, she
was let out at a small side-door; and so it came to pass that during the
absences of the lord of the mansion, the shutters were not even moved
from any of the lower windows. Under such circumstances there can be no
wonder that Lady Clavering regarded the place as a prison. "I wish you
could come upon it unawares, and see how gloomy it is," she said to him.
"I don't think you'd stand it alone for two days, let alone all your
life."

"I'll shut it up altogether if you like," said he.

"And where am I to go?" she asked.

"You can go to Moor Hall if you please." Now Moor Hall was a small
house, standing on a small property belonging to Sir Hugh, in that part
of Devonshire which lies north of Dartmoor, somewhere near the
Holsworthy region, and which is perhaps as ugly, as desolate, and as
remote as any part of England. Lady Clavering had heard much of Moor
Hall, and dreaded it as the heroine, made to live in the big grim castle
low down among the Apennines, dreads the smaller and grimmer castle
which is known to exist somewhere higher up in the mountains.

"Why couldn't I go to Brighton?" said Lady Clavering, boldly.

"Because I don't choose it," said Sir Hugh. After that she did go to the
rectory, and told Mrs. Clavering all her troubles. She had written to
her sister, having, however, delayed the doing of this for two or three
days, and she had not at this time received an answer from Lady Ongar.
Nor did she hear from her sister till after Sir Hugh had left her. It
was on the day before his departure that she went to the rectory,
finding herself driven to this act of rebellion by his threat of Moor
Hall. "I will never go there unless I am dragged there by force," she
said to Mrs. Clavering.

"I don't think he means that," said Mrs. Clavering. "He only wants to
make you understand that you'd better remain at the Park."

"But if you knew what a house it is to be all alone in!"

"Dear Hermione, I do know! But you must come to us oftener, and let us
endeavor to make it better for you."

"But how can I do that? How can I come to his uncle's house, just
because my own husband has made my own home so wretched that I cannot
bear it. I'm ashamed to do that. I ought not to be telling you all this,
of course. I don't know what he'd do if he knew it; but it is so hard to
bear it all without telling some one."

"My poor dear!"

"I sometimes think I'll ask Mr. Clavering to speak to him, and to tell
him at once that I will not submit to it any longer. Of course he would
be mad with rage, but if he were to kill me I should like it better than
having to go on in this way. I'm sure he is only waiting for me to die."

Mrs. Clavering said all that she could to comfort the poor woman, but
there was not much that she could say. She had strongly advocated the
plan of having Lady Ongar at the Park, thinking perhaps that Harry would
be more safe while that lady was at Clavering, than he might perhaps be
if she remained in London. But Mrs. Clavering doubted much whether Lady
Ongar would consent to make such a visit. She regarded Lady Ongar as a
hard, worldly, pleasure-seeking woman--sinned against perhaps in much,
but also sinning in much herself--to whom the desolation of the Park
would be even more unendurable than it was to the elder sister. But of
this, of course, she said nothing. Lady Clavering left her, somewhat
quieted, if not comforted; and went back to pass her last evening with
her husband.

"Upon second thought, I'll go by the first train," he said, as he saw
her for a moment before she went up to dress. "I shall have to be off
from here a little after six, but I don't mind that in Summer." Thus she
was to be deprived of such gratification as there might have been in
breakfasting with him on the last morning! It might be hard to say in
what that gratification would have consisted. She must by this time have
learned that his presence gave her none of the pleasures usually
expected from society. He slighted her in everything. He rarely
vouchsafed to her those little attentions which all women expect from
all gentlemen. If he handed her a plate, or cut for her a morsel of
bread from the loaf, he showed by his manner, and by his brow, that the
doing so was a nuisance to him. At their meals he rarely spoke to
her--having always at breakfast a paper or a book before him, and at
dinner devoting his attention to a dog at his feet. Why should she have
felt herself cruelly ill-used in this matter of his last breakfast--so
cruelly ill-used that she wept afresh over it as she dressed
herself--seeing that she would lose so little? Because she loved the
man; loved him, though she now thought that she hated him. We very
rarely, I fancy, love those whose love we have not either possessed or
expected--or at any rate for whose love we have not hoped; but when it
has once existed, ill-usage will seldom destroy it. Angry as she was
with the man, ready as she was to complain of him, to rebel against
him--perhaps to separate herself from him forever, nevertheless she
found it to be a cruel grievance that she should not sit at table with
him on the morning of his going. "Jackson shall bring me a cup of coffee
as I'm dressing," he said, "and I'll breakfast at the club." She knew
there was no reason for this, except that breakfasting at his club was
more agreeable to him than breakfasting with his wife.

She had got rid of her tears before she came down to dinner, but still
she was melancholy and almost lachrymose. This was the last night, and
she felt that something special ought to be said; but she did not know
what she expected, or what it was that she herself wished to say. I
think that she was longing for an opportunity to forgive him--only that
he would not be forgiven. If he would have spoken one soft word to her,
she would have accepted that one word as an apology; but no such word
came. He sat opposite to her at dinner, drinking his wine and feeding
his dog; but he was no more gracious to her at this dinner than he had
been on any former day. She sat there pretending to eat, speaking a dull
word now and then, to which his answer was a monosyllable, looking out
at him from under her eyes, through the candlelight, to see whether any
feeling was moving him; and then having pretended to eat a couple of
strawberries she left him to himself. Still, however, this was not the
last. There would come some moment for an embrace--for some cold,
half-embrace, in which he would be forced to utter something of a
farewell.

He, when he was left alone, first turned his mind to the subject of Jack
Stuart and his yacht. He had on that day received a letter from a noble
friend--a friend so noble that he was able to take liberties even with
Sir Hugh Clavering--in which his noble friend had told him that he was a
fool to trust himself on so long an expedition in Jack Stuart's little
boat. Jack, the noble friend said, knew nothing of the matter, and as
for the masters who were hired for the sailing of such crafts, their
only object was to keep out as long as possible, with an eye to their
wages and perquisites. It might be all very well for Jack Stuart, who
had nothing in the world to lose but his life and his yacht; but his
noble friend thought that any such venture on the part of Sir Hugh was
simply tomfoolery. But Sir Hugh was an obstinate man, and none of the
Claverings were easily made afraid by personal danger. Jack Stuart might
know nothing about the management of a boat, but Archie did. And as for
the smallness of the craft--he knew of a smaller craft which had been
out on the Norway coast during the whole of the last season. So he drove
that thought away from his mind, with no strong feelings of gratitude
toward his noble friend.

And then for a few moments he thought of his own home. What had his wife
done for him, that he should put himself out of his way to do much for
her? She had brought him no money. She had added nothing, either by her
wit, beauty, or rank, to his position in the world. She had given him no
heir. What had he received from her that he should endure her
commonplace conversation, and washed-out, dowdy prettinesses? Perhaps
some momentary feeling of compassion, some twinge of conscience, came
across his heart, as he thought of it all; but if so he checked it
instantly, in accordance with the teachings of his whole life, He had
made his reflections on all these things, and had tutored his mind to
certain resolutions, and would not allow himself to be carried away by
any womanly softness. She had her house, her carriage, her bed, her
board, and her clothes; and seeing how very little she herself had
contributed to the common fund, her husband determined that in having
those things she had all that she had a right to claim. Then he drank a
glass of sherry, and went into the drawing-room with that hard smile
upon his face, which he was accustomed to wear when he intended to
signify to his wife that she might as well make the best of existing
things, and not cause unnecessary trouble, by giving herself airs or
assuming that she was unhappy.

He had his cup of coffee, and she had her cup of tea, and she made one
or two little attempts at saying something special--something that might
lead to a word or two as to their parting; but she was careful and
crafty, and she was awkward and timid--and she failed. He had hardly
been there an hour, when looking at his watch he declared that it was
ten o'clock, and that he would go to bed. Well; perhaps it might be best
to bring it to an end, and to go through this embrace, and have done
with it! Any tender word that was to be spoken on either side, it was
now clear to her, must be spoken in that last farewell. There was a tear
in her eye as she rose to kiss him; but the tear was not there of her
own good will, and she strove to get rid of it without his seeing it. As
he spoke he also rose, and having lit for himself a bed-candle, was ready
to go.

"Good-by, Hermy," he said, submitting himself; with the candle in his
hand, to the inevitable embrace.

"Good-by, Hugh; and God bless you," she said, putting her arms round his
neck. "Pray--pray take care of yourself."

"All right," he said. His position with the candle was awkward, and he
wished that it might be over.

But she had a word prepared which she was determined to utter, poor,
weak creature that she was. She still had her arm round his shoulders,
so that he could not escape without shaking her off; and her forehead
was almost resting on his bosom. "Hugh," she said, "you must not be
angry with me for what I said to you."

"Very well," said he; "I won't."

"And, Hugh," said she, "of course I can't like your going."

"Oh, yes, you will," said he.

"No; I can't like it; but, Hugh, I will not think ill of it any more.
Only be here as much as you can when you come home."

"All right," said he; then he kissed her forehead and escaped from her,
and went his way, telling himself; as he went, that she was a fool.

That was the last he saw of her--before his yachting commenced; but
she--poor fool--was up by times in the morning, and, peeping out between
her curtains as the early summer sun glanced upon her eyelids, saw him
come forth from the porch and descend the great steps, and get into his
dog-cart and drive himself away. Then, when the sound of the gig could
be no longer heard, and when her eyes could no longer catch the last
expiring speck of his hat, the poor fool took herself to bed again and
cried herself to sleep.



Chapter XLIII

Captain Clavering Makes His Last Attempt



The yachting scheme was first proposed to Archie by his brother Hugh.
"Jack says that he can make a berth for you, and you'd better come,"
said the elder brother, understanding that when his edict had thus gone
forth, the thing was as good as arranged. "Jack finds the boat and men,
and I find the grub and wine-and pay for the fishing," said Hugh; "so
you need not make any bones about it." Archie was not disposed to make
any bones about it as regarded his acceptance either of the berth or of
the grub and wine, and as he would be expected to earn his passage by
his work, there was no necessity for any scruple; but there arose the
question whether he had not got more important fish to fry. He had not
as yet made his proposal to Lady Ongar, and although he now knew that he
had nothing to hope from the Russian Spy, nevertheless he thought that
he might as well try his own hand at the venture. His resolution on this
head was always stronger after dinner than before, and generally became
stronger and more strong as the evening advanced; so that he usually
went to bed with a firm determination "to pop," as he called it to his
friend Doodles, early on the next day; but distance affected him as well
as the hour of the day, and his purpose would become surprisingly cool
in the neighborhood of Bolton Street. When, however, his brother
suggested that he should be taken altogether away from the scene of
action, he thought of the fine income and of Ongar Park with pangs of
regret, and ventured upon a mild remonstrance. "But there's this affair
of Julia, you know," said he.

"I thought that was all off," said Hugh.

"O dear, no; not off at all. I haven't asked her yet."

"I know you've not; and I don't suppose you ever will."

"Yes, I shall; that is to say, I mean it. I was advised not to be in too
much of a hurry; that is to say, I thought it best to let her settle
down a little after her first seeing me."

"To recover from her confusion?"

"Well, not exactly that. I don't suppose she was confused."

"I should say not. My idea is that you haven't a ghost of chance, and
that as you haven't done anything all this time, you need not trouble
yourself now."

"But I have done something," said Archie, thinking of his seventy
pounds.

"You may as well give it up, for she means to marry Harry."

"No!"

"But I tell you she does. While you've been thinking he's been doing.
From what I hear, he may have her to-morrow for the asking."

"But he's engaged to that girl whom they had with them down at the
rectory," said Archie, in a tone which showed with what horror he should
regard any inconstancy toward Florence Burton on the part of Harry
Clavering.

"What does that matter? You don't suppose he'll let seven thousand a
year slip through his fingers because he had promised to marry a little
girl like her? If her people choose to proceed against him, they'll make
him pay swinging damages; that is all."

Archie did not like this idea at all, and became more than ever intent
on his own matrimonial prospects. He almost thought that he had a right
to Lady Ongar's money, and he certainly did think that a monstrous
injustice was done to him by this idea of a marriage between her and his
cousin. "I mean to ask her as I've gone so far, certainly," said he.

"You can do as you like about that."

"Yes; of course I can do as I like; but when a fellow has gone in for a
thing, he likes to see it through." He was still thinking of the seventy
pounds which he had invested, and which he could now recover only out of
Lady Ongar's pocket.

"And you mean to say that you won't come to Norway?"

"Well; if she accepts me--"

"If she accepts you," said Hugh, "of course you can't come; but
supposing she don't?"

"In that case, I might as well do that as anything else," said Archie.
Whereupon Sir Hugh signified to Jack Stuart that Archie would join the
party, and went down to Clavering with no misgiving on that head.

Some few days after this there was another little dinner at the military
club, to which no one was admitted but Archie and his friend Doodles.
Whenever these prandial consultations were held, Archie paid the bill.
There were no spoken terms to that effect, but the regulation seemed to
come naturally to both of them. Why should Doodles be taken from his
billiards half-an-hour earlier than usual, and devote a portion of the
calculating powers of his brain to Archie's service without
compensation? And a richer vintage was needed when so much thought was
required, the burden of which Archie would not of course allow to fall
on his friend's shoulders. Were not this explained, the experienced
reader would regard the devoted friendship of Doodles as exaggerated.

"I certainly shall ask her to-morrow," said Archie, looking with a
thoughtful cast of countenance through the club window into the street.
"It may be hurrying the matter a little, but I can't help that." He
spoke in a somewhat boastful tone, as though he were proud of himself
and had forgotten that he had said the same words once or twice before.

"Make her know that you're there; that's everything," said Doodles.
"Since I fathomed that woman in Mount Street, I've felt that you must
make the score off your own bat, if you're to make it at all."

"You did that well," said Archie, who knew that the amount of pleasing
encouragement which he might hope to get from his friend, must depend on
the praise which he himself should bestow. "Yes; you certainly did bowl
her over uncommon well."

"That kind of thing just comes within my line," said Doodles, with
conscious pride. "Now, as to asking Lady Ongar downright to marry
me--upon my word I believe I should be half afraid of doing it myself."

"I've none of that kind of feeling," said Archie.

"It comes more in your way, I daresay," said Doodles. "But for me, what
I like is a little bit of management--what I call a touch of the
diplomatic. You'll be able to see her to-morrow?"

"I hope so. I shall go early--that is, as soon as I've looked through
the papers and written a few letters. Yes, I think she'll see me. And as
for what Hugh says about Harry Clavering, why, d---- it, you know, a
fellow can't go on in that way; can he?"

"Because of the other girl, you mean?"

"He has had her down among all our people, just as though they were
going to be married to-morrow. If a man is to do that kind of thing,
what woman can be safe?"

"I wonder whether she likes him?" asked the crafty Doodles.

"She did like him, I fancy, in her calf days; but that means nothing.
She knows what she's at now, bless you, and she'll look to the future.
It's my son who'll have the Clavering property and be the baronet, not
his. You see what a string to my bow that is."

When this banquet was over, Doodles made something of a resolution that
it should be the last to be eaten on that subject. The matter had lost
its novelty, and the price paid to him was not sufficient to secure his
attention any longer. "I shall be here to-morrow at four," he said, as
he rose from his chair with the view of retreating to the smoking-room,
"and then we shall know all about it."

"Whichever way it's to be, it isn't worth your while keeping such a
thing as that in hand any longer. I should say give her her chance
to-morrow, and then have done with it." Archie in reply to this declared
that those were exactly his sentiments, and then went away to prepare
himself in silence and solitude for the next day's work.

On the following day at two o'clock Lady Ongar was sitting alone in the
front room on the ground-floor in Bolton Street. Of Harry Clavering's
illness she had as yet heard nothing, nor of his absence from London.
She had not seen him since he had parted from her on that evening when
he had asked her to be his wife, and the last words she had heard from
his lips had made this request. She. indeed, had then bade him be true
to her rival--to Florence Burton. She had told him this in spite of her
love--of her love for him and of his for her. They two, she had said,
could not now become man and wife; but he had not acknowledged the truth
of what she had said. She could not write to him. She could make no
overtures. She could ask no questions. She had no friend in whom she
could place confidence. She could only wait for him, till he should come
to tier or send to her, and let her know what was to be her fate.

As she now sat she held a letter in her hand which had just been brought
to her from Sophie--from her poor, famished, but indefatigable Sophie.
Sophie she had not seen since they had parted on the railway platform,
and then the parting was supposed to be made in lasting enmity. Desolate
as she was, she had congratulated herself much on her escape from
Sophie's friendship, and was driven by no qualms of her heart to long
for a renewal of the old ties. But it was not so with the more
affectionate Sophie; and Sophie therefore had written--as follows:

    Mount Street--Friday Morning

    DEAREST, DEAREST JULIE:--My heart is so sad that I cannot keep my
    silence longer. What; can such friendship as ours has been be made
    to die all in a minute? Oh, no--not at least in my bosom, which is
    filled with love for my Julie. And my Julie will not turn from her
    friend, who has been so true to her--ah, at such moments too--oh,
    yes, at such moments!--just for an angry word, or a little
    indiscretion. What was it after all about my brother? Bah! He is a
    fool; that is all. If you shall wish it, I will never speak to him
    again. What is my brother to me, compared to my Julie? My brother is
    nothing to me. I tell him we go to that accursed island--accursed
    island because my Julie has quarrelled with me there--and he
    arranges himself to follow us. What could I do? I could not tie him
    up by the leg in his London club. He is a man whom no one can tie up
    by the leg. Mon Dieu, no. He is very hard to tie up.

    Do I wish him for your husband? Never! Why should I wish him for
    your husband? If I was a man, my Julie, I should wish you for
    myself. But I am not, and why should you not have him whom you like
    the best? If I was you, with your beauty and money and youth, I
    would have any man that I liked--everything. I know, of course--for
    did I not see? It is that young Clavering to whom your little heart
    wishes to render itself--not the captain who is a fool--such a fool!
    but the other who is not a fool, but a fine fellow--and so handsome!
    Yes; there is no doubt as to that. He is beautiful as a Phoebus.
    [This was good-natured on the part of Sophie, who, as the reader may
    remember, hated Harry Clavering herself.]

    Well--why should he not be your own? As for your poor Sophie, she
    would do all in her power to assist the friend whom she love. There
    is that little girl--yes; it is true as I told you. But little girls
    cannot have all they want always. He is a gay deceiver. These men
    who are so beautiful as Phoebus are always deceivers. But you need
    not be the one deceived--you with your money and your beauty and
    your--what you call rank. No, I think not; and I think that little
    girl must put up with it, as other little girls have done, since the
    men first learned how to tell lies. That is my advice, and if you
    will let me I can give you good assistance.

    Dearest Julie, think of all this, and do not banish your Sophie. I
    am so true to you, that I cannot live without you. Send me back one
    word of permission, and I will come to you, and kneel at your feet.
    And in the meantime, I am your most devoted friend,

    SOPHIE.

Lady Ongar, on the receipt of this letter, was not at all changed in her
purpose with reference to Madam Gordeloup. She knew well enough where
her Sophie's heart was placed, and would yield to no further pressure
from that quarter; but Sophie's reasoning, nevertheless, had its effect.
She, Lady Ongar, with her youth, her beauty, her wealth, and her rank,
why should she not have that one thing which alone could make her happy,
seeing, as she did see, or as she thought she saw, that in making
herself happy she could do so much, could confer such great blessings on
him she loved? She had already found that the money she had received as
the price of herself had done very little toward making her happy in her
present state. What good was it to her that she had a carriage and
horses and two footmen six feet high? One pleasant word from lips that
she could love--from the lips of man or woman that she could
esteem--would be worth it all. She had gone down to her pleasant place
in the country--a place so pleasant that it had a fame of its own among
the luxuriantly pleasant seats of the English country gentry; she had
gone there, expecting to be happy in the mere feeling that it was all
her own; and the whole thing had been to her so unutterably sad, so
wretched in the severity of its desolation, that she had been unable to
endure her life amid the shade of her own trees. All her apples hitherto
had turned to ashes between her teeth, because her fate had forced her
to attempt the eating of them alone. But if she could give the fruit to
him--if she could make the apples over, so that they should all be his,
and not hers, then would there not come to her some of the sweetness of
the juice of them?

She declared to herself that she would not tempt this man to be untrue
to his troth, were it not that in doing so she would so greatly benefit
himself. Was it not manifest that Harry Clavering was a gentleman,
qualified to shine among men of rank and fashion, but not qualified to
make his way by his own diligence? In saying this of him, she did not
know how heavy was the accusation that she brought against him; but what
woman, within her own breast, accuses the man she loves? Were he to
marry Florence Burton, would he not ruin himself and probably ruin her
also? But she could give him all that he wanted. Though Ongar Park to
her alone was, with its rich pastures, and spreading oaks, and lowing
cattle, desolate as the Dead Sea shore, for him--and for her with
him--would it not be the very paradise suited to them? Would it not be
the heaven in which such a Phoebus should shine amid the gyrations of
his satellites? A Phoebus going about his own field in knickerbockers,
and with attendant satellites, would possess a divinity which, as she
thought, might make her happy. As she thought of all this, and asked
herself these questions, there was an inner conscience which told her
that she had no right to Harry's love or Harry's hand; but still she
could not cease to long that good things might come to her, though those
good things had not been deserved. Alas, good things not deserved too
often lose their goodness when they come! As she was sitting with
Sophie's letter in her hand, the door was opened and Captain Clavering
was announced.

Captain Archibald Clavering was again dressed in his very best, but he
did not even yet show by his demeanor that aptitude for the business now
in hand, of which he had boasted on the previous evening to his friend.
Lady Ongar, I think, partly guessed the object of his visit. She had
perceived, or perhaps had unconsciously felt, on the occasion of his
former coming, that the visit had not been made simply from motives of
civility. She had known Archie in old days, and was aware that the
splendor of his vestments had a significance. Well, if anything of that
kind was to be done, the sooner it was done the better.

"Julia," he said, as soon as he was seated, "I hope I have the pleasure
of seeing you quite well?"

"Pretty well, I thank you," said she.

"You have been out of town, I think?" She told him that she had been in
the Isle of Wight for a day or two, and then there was a short silence.
"When I heard that you were gone," he said, "I feared that perhaps you
were ill!"

"O dear, no; nothing of that sort."

"I am so glad," said Archie; and then he was silent again. He had,
however, as he was aware, thrown a great deal of expression into his
inquiries after her health, and he had, now to calculate how he could
best use the standing-ground that he had made for himself.

"Have you seen my sister lately?" she asked.

"Your sister? no. She is always at Clavering. I think it doosed wrong of
Hugh, the way he goes on, keeping her down there, while he is up here in
London. It isn't at all my idea of what a husband ought to do."

"I suppose she likes it," said Lady Ongar.

"Oh, if she likes it, that's a different thing, of course," said Archie.
Then there was another pause.

"Don't you find yourself rather lonely here sometimes?" he asked.

Lady Ongar felt that it would be better for all parties that it should
be over, and that it would not be over soon unless she could help him.
"Very lonely indeed," she said; "but then I suppose that it is the fate
of widows to be lonely."

"I don't see that at all," said Archie, briskly; "--unless they are old
and ugly, and that kind of thing. When a widow has become a widow after
she has been married ever so many years, why then I suppose she looks to
be left alone; and I suppose they like it."

"Indeed, I can't say. I don't like it."

"Then you would wish to change?"

"It is a very intricate subject, Captain Clavering, and one which I do
not think I am quite disposed to discuss at present. After a year or
two, perhaps I shall go into society again. Most widows do, I believe."

"But I was thinking of something else," said Archie, working himself up
to the point with great energy, but still with many signs that he was
ill at ease at his work. "I was, by Jove!"

"And of what were you thinking, Captain Clavering?"

"I was thinking--of course you know, Julia, that since poor little
Hughy's death, I am the next in for the title?"

"Poor Hughy! I'm sure you are too generous to rejoice at that."

"Indeed I am. When two fellows offered me a dinner at the club on the
score of my chances, I wouldn't have it. But there's the fact; isn't
it?"

"There is no doubt of that, I believe."

"None on earth; and the most of it is entailed, too; not that Hugh would
leave an acre away from the title. I'm as safe as wax as far as that is
concerned. I don't suppose he ever borrowed a shilling or mortgaged an
acre in his life."

"I should think he was a prudent man."

"We are both of us prudent. I will say that of myself; though I oughtn't
to say it. And now, Julia--a few words are the best after all. Look
here--if you'll take me just as I am, I'm blessed if I shan't be the
happiest fellow in all London. I shall indeed. I've always been uncommon
fond of you, though I never said anything about it in the old days,
because--because you see, what's the use of a man asking a girl to marry
him if they haven't got a farthing between them. I think it's wrong; I
do, indeed; but it's different now, you know." It certainly was very
different now.

"Captain Clavering," she said, "I'm sorry you should have troubled
yourself with such an idea as this."

"Don't say that, Julia. It's no trouble; it's a pleasure."

"But such a thing as you mean never can take place."

"Yes, it can. Why can't it? I ain't in a hurry. I'll wait your own time,
and do just whatever you wish all the while. Don't say no without
thinking about it, Julia."

"It is one of those things, Captain Clavering, which want no more
thinking than what a woman can give to it at the first moment."

"Ah--you think so now, because you're surprised a little."

"Well; I am surprised a little, as our previous intercourse was never of
a nature to make such a proposition as this at all probable."

"That was merely because I didn't think it right," said Archie, who, now
that he had worked himself into the vein, liked the sound of his own
voice. "It was indeed."

"And I don't think it right now. You must listen to me for a moment,
Captain Clavering--for fear of a mistake. Believe me, any such plan as
this is quite out of the question; quite." In uttering that last word
she managed to use a tone of voice which did make an impression on him.
"I never can, under any circumstances, become your wife. You might as
well look upon that as altogether decided, because it will save us both
annoyance."

"You needn't be so sure yet, Julia."

"Yes, I must be sure. And unless you will promise to drop the matter, I
must--to protect myself--desire my servants not to admit you into the
house again. I shall be sorry to do that, and I think you will save me
from the necessity."

He did save her from that necessity, and before he went he gave her the
required promise. "That's well," said she, tendering him her hand; "and
now we shall part friends."

"I shall like to be friends," said he, in a crestfallen voice, and with
that he took his leave. It was a great comfort to him that he had the
scheme of Jack Stuart's yacht and the trip to Norway for his immediate
consolation.



Chapter XLIV

What Lady Ongar Thought About It



Mrs. Burton, it may perhaps be remembered, had formed in her heart a
scheme of her own--a scheme of which she thought with much trepidation,
and in which she could not request her husband's assistance, knowing
well that he would not only not assist it, but that he would altogether
disapprove of it. But yet she could not put it aside from her thoughts,
believing that it might be the means of bringing Harry Clavering and
Florence together. Her husband had now thoroughly condemned poor Harry,
and passed sentence against him; not, indeed, openly to Florence
herself; but very often in the hearing of his wife. Cecilia, womanlike,
was more angry with circumstances than with the offending man--with
circumstances and with the woman who stood in Florence's way. She was
perfectly willing to forgive Harry, if Harry could only be made to go
right at last. He was good-looking and pleasant, and had nice ways in a
house, and was altogether too valuable as a lover to be lost without
many struggles. So she kept to her scheme, and at last she carried it
into execution.

She started alone from her house one morning, and, getting into an
omnibus at Brompton, had herself put down on the rising ground in
Piccadilly, opposite to the Green Park. Why she had hesitated to tell
the omnibus-man to stop at Bolton Street can hardly be explained; but
she had felt that there would be almost a declaration of guilt in naming
that locality. So she got out on the little hill, and walked up in front
of the prime minister's house--as it was then--and of the yellow palace
built by one of our merchant princes, and turned into the street that
was all but interdicted to her by her own conscience. She turned up
Bolton Street, and with a trembling hand knocked at Lady Ongar's door.

Florence in the meanwhile was sitting alone in Onslow Terrace. She knew
now that Harry was ill at Clavering--that he was indeed very ill, though
Mrs. Clavering had assured her that his illness was not dangerous; for
Mrs. Clavering had written to herself--addressing her with all the old
familiarity and affection--with a warmth of affection that was almost
more than natural. It was clear that Mrs. Clavering knew nothing of
Harry's sins. Or, might it not be possible, Cecilia had suggested, that
Mrs. Clavering might have known, and have resolved potentially that
those sins should be banished, and become ground for some beautifully
sincere repentance? Ah! how sweet it would be to receive that wicked
sheep back again into the sheepfold, and then to dock him a little of
his wandering powers, to fix him with some pleasant clog, to tie him
down as a prudent domestic sheep should be tied, and make him the pride
of the flock! But all this had been part of Cecilia's scheme, and of
that scheme poor Florence knew nothing. According to Florence's view,
Mrs. Clavering's letter was written under a mistake. Harry had kept his
secret at home, and intended to keep it for the present. But there was
the letter, and Florence felt that it was impossible for her to answer
it without telling the whole truth. It was very painful to her to leave
unanswered so kind a letter as that, and it was quite impossible that
she should write of Harry in the old strain. "It will be best that I
should tell her the whole," Florence had said, "and then I shall be
saved the pain of any direct communication with him." Her brother, to
whom Cecilia had repeated this, applauded his sister's resolution. "Let
her face it and bear it, and live it down," he had said. "Let her do it
at once, so that all this maudlin sentimentality may be at an end." But
Cecilia would not accede to this, and as Florence was in truth resolved,
and had declared her purpose plainly, Cecilia was driven to the
execution of her scheme more quickly than she had intended. In the mean
time, Florence took out her little desk and wrote her letter. In tears,
and an agony of spirit which none can understand but women who have been
driven to do the same, was it written. Could she have allowed herself to
express her thoughts with passion, it would have been comparatively
easy; but it behooved her to be calm, to be very quiet in her
words--almost reticent even in the language which she chose, and to
abandon her claim not only without a reproach, but almost without an
allusion to her love. While Cecilia was away, the letter was written,
and re-written and copied; but Mrs. Burton was safe in this, that her
sister-in-law had promised that the letter should not be sent till she
had seen it.

Mrs. Burton, when she knocked at Lady Ongar's door, had a little note
ready for the servant between her fingers. Her compliments to Lady
Ongar, and would Lady Ongar oblige her by an interview. The note
contained simply that, and nothing more; and when the servant took it
from her, she declared her intention of waiting in the hall till she had
received an answer. But she was shown into the dining-room, and there
she remained for a quarter of an hour, during which time she was by no
means comfortable. Probably Lady Ongar might refuse to receive her; but
should that not be the case--should she succeed in making her way into
that lady's presence, how should she find the eloquence wherewith to
plead her cause? At the end of the fifteen minutes, Lady Ongar herself
opened the door and entered the room. "Mrs. Burton," she said, smiling,
"I am really ashamed to have kept you so long; but open confession, they
say, is good for the soul, and the truth is that I was not dressed."
Then she led the way up stairs, and placed Mrs. Burton on a sofa, and
placed herself in her own chair--from whence she could see well, but in
which she could not be well seen--and stretched out the folds of her
morning-dress gracefully, and made her visitor thoroughly understand
that she was at home and at her ease.

We may, I think, surmise that Lady Ongar's open confession would do her
soul but little good, as it lacked truth, which is the first requisite
for all confessions. Lady Ongar had been sufficiently dressed to receive
any visitor, but had felt that some special preparation was necessary
for the reception of the one who had now come to her. She knew well who
was Mrs. Burton, and surmised accurately the purpose for which Mrs.
Burton had come. Upon the manner in which she now carried herself might
hang the decision of the question which was so important to her--whether
that Phoebus in knickerbockers should or should not become lord of Ongar
Park? To effect success now, she must maintain an ascendency during this
coming interview, and in the maintenance of all ascendency, much depends
on the outward man or woman; and she must think a little of the words
she must use, and a little, too, of her own purpose. She was fully
minded to get the better of Mrs. Burton if that might be possible, but
she was not altogether decided on the other point. She wished that Harry
Clavering might be her own. She would have wished to pension off that
Florence Burton with half her wealth, had such pensioning been possible.
But not the less did she entertain some half doubts whether it would not
be well that she could abandon her own wishes, and give up her own hope
of happiness. Of Mrs. Burton personally she had known nothing, and
having expected to see a somewhat strong-featured and perhaps rather
vulgar woman, and to hear a voice painfully indicative of a strong mind,
she was agreeably surprised to find a pretty, mild lady, who from the
first showed that she was half afraid of what she herself was doing. "I
have heard your name, Mrs. Burton," said Lady Ongar, "from our mutual
friend, Mr. Clavering, and I have no doubt you have heard mine from him
also." This she said in accordance with the little plan which, during
those fifteen minutes, she had laid down for her own guidance.

Mrs. Burton was surprised, and at first almost silenced, by this open
mentioning of a name which she had felt that she would have the greatest
difficulty in approaching. She said, however, that it was so. She had
heard Lady Ongar's name from Mr. Clavering. "We are connected, you
know," said Lady Ongar. "My sister is married to his first cousin, Sir
Hugh; and when I was living with my sister at Clavering, he was at the
rectory there. That was before my own marriage." She was perfectly easy
in her manner, and flattered herself that the ascendency was complete.

"I have heard so much from Mr. Clavering," said Cecilia.

"And he was very civil to me immediately on my return home. Perhaps you
may have heard that also. He took this house for me, and made himself
generally useful, as young men ought to do. I believe he is in the same
office with your husband; is he not? I hope I may not have been the
means of making him idle?"

This was all very well and very pretty, but Mrs. Burton was already
beginning to feel that she was doing nothing toward the achievement of
her purpose. "I suppose he has been idle," she said, "but I did not mean
to trouble you about that." Upon hearing this, Lady Ongar smiled. This
supposition that she had really intended to animadvert upon Harry
Clavering's idleness was amusing to her as she remembered how little
such idleness would signify if she could only have her way.

"Poor Harry!" she said. "I supposed his sins would be laid at my door.
But my idea is, you know, that he will never do any good at such work as
that."

"Perhaps not--that is, I really can't say. I don't think Mr. Burton has
ever expressed any opinion; and if he had--"

"If he had, you wouldn't mention it."

"I don't suppose I should, Lady Ongar--not to a stranger."

"Harry Clavering and I are not strangers," said Lady Ongar, changing the
tone of her voice altogether as she spoke.

"No, I know that. You have known him longer than we have. I am aware of
that."

"Yes; before he ever dreamed of going into your husband's business, Mrs.
Burton; long before he had ever been to--Stratton."

The name of Stratton was an assistance to Cecilia, and seemed to have
been spoken with the view of enabling her to commence her work. "Yes,"
she said, "but nevertheless he did go to Stratton. He went to Stratton,
and there he became acquainted with my sister-in-law, Florence Burton."

"I am aware of it, Mrs. Burton."

"And he also became engaged to her."

"I am aware of that, too. He has told me as much himself."

"And has he told you whether he means to keep or to break that
engagement?"

"Ah! Mrs. Burton, is that question fair? Is it fair either to him or to
me? If he has taken me into his confidence and has not taken you, should
I be doing well to betray him? Or if there can be anything in such a
secret specially interesting to myself; why should I be made to tell it
to you?"

"I think the truth is always the best, Lady Ongar."

"Truth is always better than a lie--so at least people say, though they
sometimes act differently; but silence may be better than either."

"This is a matter, Lady Ongar, in which I cannot be silent. I hope you
will not be vexed with me for coming to you, or for asking you these
questions--"

"Oh dear, no."

"But I can not be silent. My sister-in-law must at any rate know what is
to be her fate."

"Then why do you not ask him?"

"He is ill at present."

"Ill! Where is he ill? Who says he is ill?" And Lady Ongar, though she
did not quite leave her chair, raised herself up and forgot all her
preparations. "Where is he, Mrs. Burton? I have not heard of his
illness."

"He is at Clavering--at the parsonage."

"I have heard nothing of this. What ails him? If he be really ill,
dangerously ill, I conjure you to tell me. But pray tell me the truth.
Let there be no tricks in such a matter as this."

"Tricks, Lady Ongar!"

"If Harry Clavering be ill, tell me what ails him. Is he in danger?"

"His mother, in writing to Florence, says that he is not in danger, but
that he is confined to the house. He has been taken by some fever." On
that very morning Lady Ongar had received a letter from her sister,
begging her to come to Clavering Park during the absence of Sir Hugh,
but in the letter no word had been said as to Harry's illness. Had he
been seriously, or at least dangerously ill, Hermione would certainly
have mentioned it. All this flashed across Julia's mind as these tidings
about Harry reached her. If he were not really in danger, or even if he
were, why should she betray her feeling before this woman? "If there had
been much in it," she said, resuming her former position and manners, "I
should no doubt have heard of it from my sister."

"We hear that it is not dangerous," continued Mrs. Burton; "but he is
away, and we cannot see him. And, in truth, Lady Ongar, we can not see
him any more until we know that he means to deal honestly by us."

"Am I the keeper of his honesty?"

"From what I have heard, I think you are. If you will tell me that I
have heard falsely, I will go away and beg your pardon for my intrusion.
But if what I have heard be true, you must not be surprised that I show
this anxiety for the happiness of my sister. If you knew her, Lady
Ongar, you would know that she is too good to be thrown aside with
indifference."

"Harry Clavering tells me that she is an angel--that she is perfect."

"And if he loves her, will it not be a shame that they should be
parted?"

"I said nothing about his loving her. Men are not always fond of
perfection. The angels may be too angelic for this world."

"He did love her."

"So I suppose--or, at any rate, he thought that he did."

"He did love her, and I believe he loves her still."

"He has my leave to do so, Mrs. Burton."

Cecilia, though she was somewhat afraid of the task which she had
undertaken, and was partly awed by Lady Ongar's style of beauty and
demeanor, nevertheless felt that if she still hoped to do any good, she
must speak the truth out at once. She must ask Lady Ongar whether she
held herself to be engaged to Harry Clavering. If she did not do this,
nothing could come of the present interview.

"You say that, Lady Ongar, but do you mean it?" she asked. "We have been
told that you also are engaged to marry Mr. Clavering."

"Who has told you so?"

"We have heard it. I have heard it, and have been obliged to tell my
sister that I had done so."

"And who told you? Did you hear it from Harry Clavering himself?"

"I did. I heard it in part from him."

"Then why have you come beyond him to me? He must know. If he has told
you that he is engaged to marry me, he must also have told you that he
does not intend to marry Miss Florence Burton. It is not for me to
defend him or to accuse him. Why do you come to me?"

"For mercy and forbearance," said Mrs. Burton, rising from her seat and
coming over to the side of the room in which Lady Ongar was seated.

"And Miss Burton has sent you?"

"No; she does not know that I am here; nor does my husband know it. No
one knows it. I have come to tell you that before God this man is
engaged to become the husband of Florence Burton. She has learned to
love him, and has now no other chance of happiness."

"But what of his happiness?"

"Yes, we are bound to think of that. Florence is bound to think of that
above all things."

"And so am I. I love him too--as fondly, perhaps, as she can do. I loved
him first, before she had even heard his name."

"But, Lady Ongar--"

"Yes, you may ask the question if you will, and I will answer it truly."
They were both standing now and confronting each other. "Or I will
answer it without your asking it. I was false to him. I would not marry
him because he was poor, and then I married another because he was rich.
All that is true. But it does not make me love him the less now. I have
loved him through it all. Yes, you are shocked, but it is true; I have
loved him through it all. And what am I to do now, if he still loves me?
I can give him wealth now."

"Wealth will not make him happy."

"It has not made me happy, but it may help to do so with him. But with
me, at any rate, there can be no doubt. It is his happiness to which I
am bound to look. Mrs. Burton, if I thought that I could make him happy,
and if he would come to me, I would marry him to-morrow, though I broke
your sister's heart by doing so. But if I felt that she could do so more
than I, I would leave him to her though I broke my own. I have spoken to
you very openly. Will she say as much as that?"

"She would act in that way. I do not know what she would say."

"Then let her do so, and leave him to be the judge of his own happiness.
Let her pledge herself that no reproaches shall come from her, and I
will pledge myself equally. It was I who loved him first, and it is I
who have brought him into this trouble. I owe him everything. Had I been
true to him, he would never have thought of; never have seen Miss
Florence Burton."

All that was no doubt true, but it did not touch the question of
Florence's right. The fact on which Mrs. Burton wished to insist, if
only she knew how, was this, that Florence had not sinned at all, and
that Florence therefore ought not to bear any part of the punishment. It
might be very true that Harry's fault was to be excused in part because
of Lady Ongar's greater and primary fault, but why should Florence be
the scapegoat?

"You should think of his honor as well as his happiness," said Mrs.
Burton at last.

"That is rather severe, Mrs. Burton, considering that it is said to me
in my own house. Am I so low as that, that his honor will be tarnished
if I become his wife?" But she, in saying this, was thinking of things
of which Mrs. Burton knew nothing.

"His honor will be tarnished," said she, "if he do not marry her whom he
has promised to marry. He was welcomed by her father and mother to their
house, and then he made himself master of her heart. But it was not his
till he had asked for it, and had offered his own and his hand in return
for it. Is he not bound to keep his promise? He can not be bound to you
after any such fashion as that. If you are solicitous for his welfare,
you should know that if he would live with the reputation of a
gentleman, there is only one course open to him."

"It is the old story," said Lady Ongar; "the old story! Has not somebody
said that the gods laugh at the perjuries of lovers? I do not know that
men are inclined to be much more severe than the gods. These broken
hearts are what women are doomed to bear."

"And that is to be your answer to me, Lady Ongar?"

"No, that is not my answer to you. That is the excuse I make for Harry
Clavering. My answer to you has been very explicit. Pardon me if I say
that it has been more explicit than you had any right to expect. I have
told you that I am prepared to take any step that may be most conducive
to the happiness of the man whom I once injured, but whom I have always
loved. I will do this, let it cost myself what it may; and I will do
this, let the cost to any other woman be what it may. You can not expect
that I should love another woman better than myself." She said this,
still standing, not without something more than vehemence in her tone.
In her voice, in her manner and in her eye there was that which amounted
almost to ferocity. She was declaring that some sacrifice must be made,
and that she reeked little whether it should be of herself or of
another. As she would immolate herself without hesitation if the
necessity should exist, so would she see Florence Burton destroyed
without a twinge of remorse if the destruction of Florence would serve
the purpose which she had in view. You and I, oh reader, may feel that
the man for whom all this was to be done was not worth the passion. He
had proved himself to be very far from such worth. But the passion,
nevertheless, was there, and the woman was honest in what she was
saying.

After this, Mrs Burton got herself out of the room as soon as she found
an opening which allowed her to go. In making her farewell speech, she
muttered some indistinct apology for the visit which she had been bold
enough to make. "Not at all," said Lady Ongar. "You have been quite
right; you are fighting your battle for the friend you love bravely; and
were it not that the cause of the battle must, I fear, separate us
hereafter, I should be proud to know one who fights so well for her
friends. And when this is all over and has been settled, in whatever way
it may be settled, let Miss Burton know from me that I have been taught
to hold her name and character in the highest possible esteem." Mrs.
Burton made no attempt at further speech, but left the room with a low
courtesy.

Till she found herself out in the street, she was unable to think
whether she had done most harm or most good by her visit to Bolton
Street; whether she had in any way served Florence, or whether she had
simply confessed to Florence's rival the extent of her sister's misery.
That Florence herself would feel the latter to be the case when she
should know it all, Mrs. Burton was well aware. Her own ears had tingled
with shame as Harry Clavering had been discussed as a grand prize for
which her sister was contending with another woman, and contending with
so small a chance of success. It was terrible to her that any woman dear
to her should seem to seek for a man's love. And the audacity with which
Lady Ongar bad proclaimed her own feelings had been terrible also to
Cecilia. She was aware that she was meddling with things which were
foreign to her nature, and which would be odious to her husband. But
yet, was not the battle worth fighting? It was not to be endured that
Florence should seek after this thing; but, after all, the possession of
the thing in question was the only earthly good that could give any
comfort to poor Florence. Even Cecilia, with all her partiality for
Harry, felt that he was not worth the struggle; but it was for her now
to estimate him at the price which Florence might put upon him--not at
her own price.

But she must tell Florence what had been done, and tell her on that very
day of her meeting with Lady Ongar. In no other way could she stop that
letter which she knew that Florence would have already written to Mrs.
Clavering. And could she now tell Florence that there was ground for
hope? Was it not the fact that Lady Ongar had spoken the simple and
plain truth when she had said that Harry must be allowed to choose the
course which appeared to him to be the best for him? It was hard, very
hard, that it should be so. And was it not true also that men, as well
as gods, excuse the perjuries of lovers? She wanted to have back Harry
among them as one to be forgiven easily, to be petted much, and to be
loved always; but, in spite of the softness of her woman's nature, she
wished that he might be punished sorely if he did not so return. It was
grievous to her that he should any longer have a choice in the matter.
Heavens and earth! was he to be allowed to treat a woman as he had
treated Florence, and was nothing to come of it? In spite both of gods
and men, the thing was so grievous to Cecilia Burton that she could not
bring herself to acknowledge that it was possible. Such things had not
been done in the world which she had known.

She walked the whole way home to Brompton, and had hardly perfected any
plan when she reached her own door. If only Florence would allow her to
write the letter to Mrs. Clavering, perhaps something might be done in
that way. So she entered the house prepared to tell the story of her
morning's work.

And she must tell it also to her husband in the evening! It had been
hard to do the thing without his knowing of it beforehand, but it would
be impossible to her to keep the thing a secret from him now that it was
done.



Chapter XLV

How To Dispose Of A Wife



When Sir Hugh came up to town there did not remain to him quite a week
before the day on which he was to leave the coast of Essex in Jack
Stuart's yacht for Norway, and he had a good deal to do in the mean time
in the way of provisioning the boat. Fortnum and Mason, no doubt, would
have done it all for him without any trouble on his part, but he was not
a man to trust any Fortnum or any Mason as to the excellence of the
article to be supplied, or as to the price. He desired to have good
wine--very good wine, but he did not desire to pay a very high price. No
one knew better than Sir Hugh that good wine can not be bought cheap;
but things may be costly and yet not dear, or they may be both. To such
matters Sir Hugh was wont to pay very close attention himself. He had
done something in that line before he left London, and immediately on
his return he went to the work again, summoning Archie to his
assistance, but never asking Archie's opinion--as though Archie had been
his head butler.

Immediately on his arrival in London he cross-questioned his brother as
to his marriage prospects. "I suppose you are going with us?" Hugh said
to Archie, as he caught him in the hall of the house in Berkeley Square
on the morning after his arrival.

"Oh dear, yes," said Archie. "I thought that was quite understood. I
have been getting my traps together." The getting of his traps together
had consisted in the ordering of a sailor's jacket with brass buttons,
and three pair of white duck trousers.

"All right," said Sir Hugh. "You had better come with me into the city
this morning. I am going to Boxall's, in Great Thames Street."

"Are you going to breakfast here?" asked Archie.

"No; you can come to me at the Union in about an hour. I suppose you
have never plucked up courage to ask Julia to marry you?"

"Yes I did," said Archie.

"And what answer did you get?" Archie had found himself obliged to
repudiate with alacrity the attack upon his courage which his brother
had so plainly made, but beyond that, the subject was one which was not
pleasing to him. "Well, what did she say to you?" asked his brother, who
had no idea of sparing Archie's feelings in such a matter.

"She said--indeed, I don't remember exactly what it was that she did
say."

"But she refused you."

"Yes, she refused me. I think she wanted me to understand that I had
come to her too soon after Ongar's decease."

"Then she must be an infernal hypocrite, that's all." But of any
hypocrisy in this matter the reader will acquit Lady Ongar, and will
understand that Archie had merely lessened the severity of his own fall
by a clever excuse. After that the two brothers went to Boxall's in the
city, and Archie, having been kept fagging all day, was sent in the
evening to dine by himself at his own club.

Sir Hugh also was desirous of seeing Lady Ongar, and had caused his wife
to say as much in that letter which she wrote to her sister. In this way
an appointment had been made without any direct intercourse between Sir
Hugh and his sister-in-law. They two had never met since the day on
which Sir Hugh had given her away in Clavering Church. To Hugh
Clavering, who was by no means a man of sentiment, this signified little
or nothing. When Lady Ongar had returned a widow, and when evil stories
against her had been rife, he had thought it expedient to have nothing
to do with her. He did not himself care much about his sister-in-law's
morals, but should his wife become much complicated with a sister
damaged in character, there might come of it trouble and annoyance.
Therefore he had resolved that Lady Ongar should be dropped. But during
the last few months things had in some respects changed. The Courton
people--that is to say, Lord Ongar's family--had given Hugh Clavering to
understand that, having made inquiry, they were disposed to acquit Lady
Ongar, and to declare their belief that she was subject to no censure.
They did not wish themselves to know her, as no intimacy between them
could now be pleasant, but they had felt it to be incumbent on them to
say as much as that to Sir Hugh. Sir Hugh had not even told his wife,
but he had twice suggested that Lady Ongar should be asked to Clavering
Park. In answer to both these invitations, Lady Ongar had declined to go
to Clavering Park.

And now Sir Hugh had a commission on his hands from the same Courton
people, which made it necessary that he should see his sister-in-law,
and Julia had agreed to receive him. To him, who was very hard in such
matters, the idea of his visit was not made disagreeable by any
remembrance of his own harshness to the woman whom he was going to see.
He cared nothing about that, and it had not occurred to him that she
would care much. But, in truth, she did care very much, and when the
hour was coming on which Sir Hugh was to appear, she thought much of the
manner in which it would become her to receive him. He had condemned her
in that matter as to which any condemnation is an insult to a woman, and
he had so condemned her, being her brother-in-law and her only natural
male friend. In her sorrow she should have been able to lean upon him;
but from the first, without any inquiry, he had believed the worst of
her, and had withdrawn from her altogether his support, when the
slightest support from him would have been invaluable to her. Could she
forgive this? Never! never! She was not a woman to wish to forgive such
an offence. It was an offence which it would be despicable in her to
forgive. Many had offended her, some had injured her, one or two had
insulted her; but, to her thinking, no one had so offended her, had so
injured her, had so grossly insulted her as he had done. In what way,
then, would it become her to receive him?

Before his arrival she had made up her mind on this subject, and had
resolved that she would, at least, say no word of her own wrongs.

"How do you do, Julia?" said Sir Hugh, walking into the room with a step
which was perhaps unnaturally quick, and with his hand extended. Lady
Ongar had thought of that, too. She would give much to escape the touch
of his hand, if it were possible; but she had told herself that she
would best consult her own dignity by declaring no actual quarrel. So
she put out her fingers and just touched his palm.

"I hope Hermy is well?" she said.

"Pretty well, thank you. She is rather lonely since she lost her poor
little boy, and would be very glad if you would go to her."

"I cannot do that, but if she would come to me I should be delighted."

"You see it would not suit her to be in London so soon after Hughy's
death."

"I am not bound to London. I would go anywhere else--except to
Clavering."

"You never go to Ongar Park, I am told."

"I have been there."

"But they say you do not intend to go again."

"Not at present, certainly. Indeed, I do not suppose I shall ever go
there. I do not like the place."

"That's just what they have told me. It is about that--partly--that I
want to speak to you. If you don't like the place, why shouldn't you
sell your interest in it back to the family? They'd give you more than
the value for it."

"I do not know that I should care to sell it."

"Why not, if you don't mean to use the house? I might as well explain at
once what it is that has been said to me. John Courton, you know, is
acting as guardian for the young earl, and they don't want to keep up so
large a place as the Castle. Ongar Park would just suit Mrs.
Courton"--Mrs. Courton was the widowed mother of the young earl--"and
they would be very happy to buy your interest."

"Would not such a proposition come best through a lawyer?" said Lady
Ongar.

"The fact is this--they think they have been a little hard on you."

"I have never accused them."

"But they feel it themselves, and they think that you might perhaps take
it amiss if they were to send you a simple message through an attorney.
Courton told me that he would not have allowed any such proposition to
be made, if you had seemed disposed to use the place. They wish to be
civil, and all that kind of thing."

"Their civility or incivility is indifferent to me," said Julia.

"But why shouldn't you take the money?"

"The money is equally indifferent to me."

"You mean then to say that you won't listen to it? Of course they can't
make you part with the place if you wish to keep it."

"Not more than they can make you sell Clavering Park. I do not, however,
wish to be uncivil, and I will let you know through my lawyer what I
think about it. All such matters are best managed by lawyers."

After that Sir Hugh said nothing, further about Ongar Park. He was well
aware, from the tone in which Lady Ongar answered him, that she was
averse to talk to him on that subject; but he was not conscious that his
presence was otherwise disagreeable to her, or that she would resent any
interference from him on any subject because he had been cruel to her.
So, after a little while, he began again about Hermione. As the world
had determined upon acquitting Lady Ongar, it would be convenient to him
that the two sisters should be again intimate, especially as Julia was a
rich woman. His wife did not like Clavering Park, and he certainly did
not like Clavering Park himself. If he could once get the house shut up,
he might manage to keep it shut for some years to come. His wife was now
no more than a burden to him, and it would suit him well to put off the
burden on to his sister-in-law's shoulders. It was not that he intended
to have his wife altogether dependent on another person, but he thought
that if they two were established together, in the first instance merely
as a Summer arrangement, such establishment might be made to assume some
permanence. This would be very pleasant to him. Of course he would pay a
portion of the expense--as small a portion as might be possible--but
such a portion as might enable him to live with credit before the world.

"I wish I could think that you and Hermy might be together while I am
absent," he said.

"I shall be very happy to have her, if she will come to me," Julia
replied.

"What--here, in London? I am not quite sure that she wishes to come up
to London at present."

"I have never understood that she had any objection to being in town,"
said Lady Ongar.

"Not formerly, certainly; but now, since her boy's death--"

"Why should his death make more difference to her than to you?" To this
question Sir Hugh made no reply. "If you are thinking of society, she
could be nowhere safer from any such necessity than with me. I never go
out anywhere. I have never dined out, or even spent an evening in
company, since Lord Ongar's death. And no one would come here to disturb
her."

"I didn't mean that."

"I don't quite know what you did mean. From different causes, she and I
are left pretty nearly equally without friends."

"Hermione is not left without friends," said Sir Hugh, with a tone of
offence.

"Were she not, she would not want to come to me. Your society is in
London, to which she does not come, or in other country houses than your
own, to which she is not taken. She lives altogether at Clavering, and
there is no one there except your uncle."

"Whatever neighborhood there is she has--just like other women."

"Just like some other women, no doubt. I shall remain in town for
another month, and after that I shall go somewhere, I don't much care
where. If Hermy will come to me as my guest, I shall be most happy to
have her; and the longer she will stay with me the better. Your coming
home need make no difference, I suppose."

There was a keenness of reproach in her tone as she spoke which even he
could not but feel and acknowledge. He was very thick-skinned to such
reproaches, and would have left this unnoticed had it been possible. Had
she continued speaking he would have done so. But she remained silent,
and sat looking at him, saying with her eyes the same thing that she had
already spoken with her words. Thus he was driven to speak. "I don't
know," said he, "whether you intend that for a sneer."

She was perfectly indifferent whether or no she offended him. Only that
she had believed that the maintenance of her own dignity forbade it, she
would have openly rebuked him, and told him that he was not welcome in
her house. No treatment from her could, as she thought, be worse than he
had deserved from her. His first enmity had injured her, but she could
afford to laugh at his present anger. "It is hard to talk to you about
Hermy without what you are pleased to call a sneer. You simply wish to
rid yourself of her."

"I wish to do no such thing, and you have no right to say so."

"At any rate, you are ridding yourself of her society; and under those
circumstances, she likes to come to me, I shall be glad to receive her.
Our life together will not be very cheerful, but neither she nor I ought
to expect a cheerful life."

He rose from his chair now with a cloud of anger upon his brow. "I can
see how it is," said he; "because everything has not gone smooth with
yourself; you choose to resent it upon me. I might have expected that
you would not have forgotten in whose house you met Lord Ongar."

"No, Hugh, I forget nothing: neither when I met him, nor how I married
him, nor any of the events that have happened since. My memory,
unfortunately, is very good."

"I did all I could for you, and should have been safe from your
insolence."

"You should have continued to stay away from me, and you would have been
quite safe. But our quarrelling in this way is foolish. We can never be
friends, you and I, but we need not be open enemies. Your wife is my
sister, and I say again that, if she likes to come to me, I shall be
delighted to have her."

"My wife," said he, "will go to the house of no person who is insolent
to me." Then he took his hat and left the room without further word or
sign of greeting. In spite of his calculations and caution as to
money--in spite of his well-considered arrangements and the comfortable
provision for his future ease which he had proposed to himself; he was a
man who had not his temper so much under control as to enable him to
postpone his anger to his prudence. That little scheme for getting rid
of his wife was now at an end. He would never permit her to go to her
sister's house after the manner in which Julia had just treated him.

When he was gone, Lady Ongar walked about her own room smiling, and at
first was well pleased with herself. She had received Archie's overture
with decision, but at the same time with courtesy, for Archie was weak
and poor and powerless. But she had treated Sir Hugh with scorn, and had
been enabled to do so without the utterance of any actual reproach as to
the wrongs which she herself had endured from him. He had put himself in
her power, and she had not thrown away the opportunity. She had told him
that she did not want his friendship, and would not be his friend; but
she had done this without any loud abuse unbecoming to her either as a
countess, a widow, or a lady. For Hermione she was sorry. Hermione now
could hardly come to her. But even as to that, she did not despair. As
things were going on, it would become almost necessary that her sister
and Sir Hugh should be parted. Both must wish it; and if this were
arranged, then Hermione should come to her.

But from this she soon came to think again about Harry Clavering. How
was that matter to be decided, and what steps would it become her to
take as to its decision? Sir Hugh had proposed to her that she should
sell her interest in Ongar Park, and she had promised that she would
make known her decision on that matter through her lawyer. As she had
been saying this, she was well aware that she would never sell the
property; but she had already resolved that she would at once give it
back, without purchase-money, to the Ongar family, were it not kept that
she might hand it over to Harry Clavering as a fitting residence for his
lordship. If he might be there, looking after his cattle, going about
with the steward subservient at his heels, ministering justice to the
Enoch Gubbys and others, she would care nothing for the wants of any of
the Courton people. But if such were not to be the destiny of Ongar
Park--if there were to be no such Adam in that Eden--then the mother of
the little lord might take herself thither, and revel among the rich
blessings of the place without delay, and with no difficulty as to
price. As to price--had she not already found the money-bag that had
come to her to be too heavy for her hands?

But she could do nothing till that question was settled; and how was she
to settle it? Every word that had passed between her and Cecilia Burton
had been turned over and over in her mind, and she could only declare to
herself; as she had then declared to her visitor, that it must be as
Harry should please. She would submit if he required her submission, but
she could not bring herself to take steps to secure her own misery.

At last came the day on which the two Claverings were to go down to
Harwich and put themselves on board Jack Stuart's yacht. The hail of the
house in Berkeley Square was strewed with portmanteaus, gun cases, and
fishing rods, whereas the wine and packets of preserved meat, and the
bottled beer and fish in tins, and the large box of cigars, and the
prepared soups, had been sent down by Boxall, and were by this time on
board the boat. Hugh and Archie were to leave London this day by train
at 5 p.m., and were to sleep on board. Jack Stuart was already there,
having assisted in working the yacht round from Brightlingsea.

On that morning Archie had a farewell breakfast at his club with
Doodles, and after that, having spent the intervening hours in the
billiard-room, a farewell luncheon. There had been something of
melancholy in this last day between the friends, originating partly in
the failure of Archie's hopes as to Lady Ongar, and partly, perhaps; in
the bad character which seemed to cling to Jack Stuart and his craft.
"He has been at it for years, and always coming to grief;" said Doodles.
"He is just like a man I know, who has been hunting for the last ten
years, and can't sit a horse at a fence yet. He has broken every bone in
his side, and I don't suppose he ever saw a good thing to a finish. He
never knows whether hounds are in cover, or where they are. His only
idea is to follow another man's red coat till he comes to grief--and yet
he will go on hunting. There are some people who never will understand
what they can do and what they can't." In answer to this, Archie
reminded his friend that on this occasion Jack Stuart would have the
advantage of an excellent dry nurse, acknowledged to do very great on
such occasions. Would not he, Archie Clavering, be there to pilot Jack
Stuart and his boat? But, nevertheless, Doodles was melancholy, and went
on telling stories about that unfortunate man who would continue to
break his bones, though he had no aptitude for out-of-door sports.
"He'll be carried home on a stretcher some day, you know," said Doodles.

"What does it matter if he is?" said Archie, boldly, thinking of himself
and of the danger predicted for him. "A man can only die once."

"I call it quite a tempting of Providence," said Doodles.

But their conversation was chiefly about Lady Ongar and the Spy. It was
only on this day that Doodles had learned that Archie had in truth
offered his hand and been rejected, and Captain Clavering was surprised
by the extent of his friend's sympathy. "It's a doosed disagreeable
thing--a very disagreeable thing indeed," said Doodles. Archie, who did
not wish to be regarded as specially unfortunate, declined to look at
the matter in this light; but Doodles insisted. "It would cut me up like
the very mischief;" he said. "I know that; and the worst of it is, that
perhaps you wouldn't have gone on, only for me. I meant it all for the
best, old fellow! I did, indeed. There--that's the game to you. I'm
playing uncommonly badly this morning; but the truth is, I'm thinking of
those women." Now, as Doodles was playing for a little money, this was
really civil on his part.

And he would persevere in talking about the Spy, as though there were
something in his remembrance of the lady which attracted him
irresistibly to the subject. He had always boasted that in his interview
with her he had come off with the victory, nor did he now cease to make
such boasts; but still he spoke of her and her powers with an awe which
would have completely opened the eyes of any one a little more sharp on
such matters than Archie Clavering. He was so intent on this subject
that he sent the marker out of the room so that he might discuss it with
more freedom, and might plainly express his views as to her influence on
his friend's fate.

"By George! she's a wonderful woman. Do you know I can't help thinking
of her at night? She keeps me awake-she does, upon my honor."

"I can't say she keeps me awake, but I wish I had my seventy pounds back
again."

"Do you know, if I were you, I shouldn't grudge it? I should think it
worth pretty nearly all the money to have had the dealing with her."

"Then you ought to go halves."

"Well, yes--only that I ain't flush, I would. When one thinks of it, her
absolutely taking the notes out of your waistcoat pocket--upon my-word,
it's beautiful! She'd have had it out of mine if I hadn't been doosed
sharp."

"She understood what she was about, certainly."

"What I should like to know is this: did she or did she not tell Lady
Ongar what she was to do--about you, I mean? I dare say she did, after
all."

"And took my money for nothing."

"Because you didn't go high enough, you know."

"But that was your fault. I went as high as you told me."

"No you didn't, Clavvy, not if you remember. But the fact is, I don't
suppose you could go high enough. I shouldn't be surprised if such a
woman as that wanted--thousands! I shouldn't indeed. I shall never
forget the way in which she swore at me and how she abused me about my
family. I think she must have had some special reason for disliking
Warwickshire, she said such awful hard things about it."

"How did she know that you came from Warwickshire?"

"She did know it. If I tell you something, don't you say anything about
it. I have an idea about her."

"What is it?"

"I didn't mention it before, because I don't talk much of those sort of
things. I don't pretend to understand them, and it is better to leave
them alone."

"But what do you mean?"

Doodles looked very solemn as he answered, "I think she's a medium--or a
media, or whatever it ought to be called."

"What! one of those spirit-rapping people?" And Archie's hair almost
stood on end as he asked the question.

"They don't rap now--not the best of them, that is. That was the old
way, and seems to have been given up."

"But what do you suppose she did?"

"How did she know that the money was in your waistcoat pocket, now? How
did she know that I came from Warwickshire? And then she had a way of
going about the room as though she could have raised herself off her
feet in a moment if she had chosen. And then her swearing, and the rest
of it--so unlike any other woman, you know."

"But do you think she could have made Julia hate me?"

"Ah! I can't tell that. There are such lots of things going on
now-a-days that a fellow can understand nothing about! But I've no doubt
of this--if you were to tie her up with ropes ever so, I don't in the
least doubt but what she'd get out." Archie was awe-struck, and made two
or three strokes after this but then he plucked up his courage and asked
a question--"Where do you suppose they get it from, Doodles?"

"That's just the question."

"Is it from--the devil, do you think?" said Archie, whispering the name
of the Evil One in a very low voice.

"Well, yes, I suppose that's most likely."

"Because they don't seem to do a great deal of harm with it, after all.
As for my money, she would have had that any way, for I intended to give
it to her."

"There are people who think," said Doodles, "that the spirits don't come
from anywhere, but are always floating about."

"And then one person catches them, and another doesn't?" asked Archie.

"They tell me that it depends upon what the mediums or medias eat and
drink," said Doodles, "and upon what sort of minds they have. They must
be cleverish people, I fancy, or the spirits wouldn't come to them."

"But you never hear of any swell being a medium. Why don't the spirits
go to a prime minster or some of those fellows? Only think what a help
they'd be."

"If they come from the devil," suggested Doodles, "he wouldn't let them
do any real good."

"I've heard a deal about them," said Archie, "and it seems to me that
the mediums are always poor people, and that they come from nobody knows
where. The Spy is a clever woman I dare say--"

"There isn't much doubt about that," said the admiring Doodles.

"But you can't say she's respectable, you know. If I was a spirit, I
wouldn't go to a woman who wore such dirty stockings as she had on."

"That's nonsense, Clavvy. What does a spirit care about a woman's
stockings?"

"But why don't they ever go to the wise people? that's what I want to
know." And as he asked the question boldly he struck his ball sharply,
and, lo! the three balls rolled vanquished into three different pockets.
"I don't believe about it," said Archie, as he readjusted the score.
"The devil can't do such things as that, or there'd be an end of
everything; and as to spirits in the air, why should there be more
spirits now than there were four-and-twenty years ago?"

"That's all very well, old fellow," said Doodles, "but you and I ain't
clever enough to understand everything." Then that subject was dropped,
and Doodles went back for a while to the perils of Jack Stuart's yacht.

After the lunch, which was, in fact, Archie's early dinner, Doodles was
going to leave his friend, but Archie insisted that his brother captain
should walk with him up to Berkeley Square, and see the last of him into
his cab. Doodles had suggested that Sir Hugh would be there, and that
Sir Hugh was not always disposed to welcome his brother's friends to his
own house after the most comfortable modes of friendship; but Archie
explained that on such an occasion as this there need be no fear on that
head; he and his brother were going away together, and there was a
certain feeling of jollity about the trip which would divest Sir Hugh of
his roughness. "And besides," said Archie, "as you will be there to see
me off; he'll know that you're not going to stay yourself." Convinced by
this, Doodles consented to walk up to Berkeley Square.

Sir Hugh had spent the greatest part of this day at home, immersed among
his guns and rods, and their various appurtenances. He also had
breakfasted at his club, but had ordered his luncheon to be prepared for
him at home. He had arranged to leave Berkeley Square at four, and had
directed that his lamb chops should be brought to him exactly at three.
He was himself a little late in coming down stairs, and it was ten
minutes past the hour when he desired that the chops might be put on the
table, saying that he himself would be in the drawing-room in time to
meet them. He was a man solicitous about his lamb chops, and careful
that the asparagus should be hot--solicitous also as to that bottle of
Lafitte by which those comestibles were to be accompanied, and which
was, of its own nature, too good to be shared with his brother Archie.
But as he was on the landing by the drawing-room door, descending
quickly, conscious that, in obedience to his orders, the chops had been
already served, he was met by a servant who, with disturbed face and
quick voice, told him that there was a lady waiting for him in the hall.

"D---- it," said Sir Hugh.

"She has just come, Sir Hugh, and says that she specially wants to see
you."

"Why the devil did you let her in?"

"She walked in when the door was opened, Sir Hugh, and I couldn't help
it. She seemed to be a lady, Sir Hugh, and I didn't like not to let her
inside the door."

"What's the lady's name?" asked the master.

"It's a foreign name, Sir Hugh. She said she wouldn't keep you five
minutes." The lamb chops and the asparagus and the Lafitte were in the
dining-room, and the only way to the dining-room lay through the hall to
which the foreign lady had obtained an entrance. Sir Hugh, making such
calculations as the moments allowed, determined that he would face the
enemy, and pass on to his banquet over her prostrate body. He went
quickly down into the hall, and there was encountered by Sophie
Gordeloup, who, skipping over the gun-cases, and rushing through the
portmanteaus, caught the baronet by the arm before he had been able to
approach the dining-room door. "Sir 'Oo," she said, "I am so glad to
have caught you. You are going away, and I have things to tell you which
you must hear--yes; it is well for you I have caught you, Sir 'Oo." Sir
Hugh looked as though he by no means participated in this feeling, and,
saying something about his great hurry, begged that he might be allowed
to go to his food. Then he added that, as far as his memory served him,
he had not the honor of knowing the lady who was addressing him.

"You come in to your little dinner," said Sophie, "and I will tell you
everything as you are eating. Don't mind me. You shall eat and drink,
and I will talk. I am Madam Gordeloup--Sophie Gordeloup. Ah! you know
the name now. Yes. That is me. Count Pateroff is my brother. You know
Count Pateroff? He knowed Lord Ongar, and I knowed Lord Ongar. We know
Lady Ongar. Ah! you understand now that I can have much to tell. It is
well you was not gone without seeing me! Eh! yes. You shall eat and
drink; but suppose you send that man into the kitchen!"

Sir Hugh was so taken by surprise that he hardly knew how to act on the
spur of the moment. He certainly had heard of Madam Gordeloup, though he
had never before seen her. For years past her name had been familiar to
him in London, and when Lady Ongar had returned as a widow it had been,
to his thinking, one of her worst offences that this woman had been her
friend. Under ordinary circumstances, his judgment would have directed
him to desire the servant to put her out into the street as an impostor,
and to send for the police if there was any difficulty. But it certainly
might be possible that this woman had something to tell with reference
to Lady Ongar which it would suit his purposes to hear. At the present
moment he was not very well inclined to his sister-in-law, and was
disposed to hear evil of her. So he passed on into the dining-room and
desired Madam Gordeloup to follow him. Then he closed the room door, and
standing up with his back to the fire-place, so that he might be saved
from the necessity of asking her to sit down, he declared himself ready
to hear anything that his visitor might have to say.

"But you will eat your dinner, Sir 'Oo. You will not mind me. I shall
not care."

"Thank you, no; if you will just say what you have got to say, I will be
obliged to you."

"But the nice things will be so cold! Why should you mind me? Nobody
minds me."

"I will wait, if you please, till you have done me the honor of
leaving."

"Ah! well, you Englishmen are so cold and ceremonious. But Lord Ongar
was not with me like that. I knew Lord Ongar so well."

"Lord Ongar was more fortunate than I am."

"He was a poor man who did kill himself. Yes. It was always that bottle
of Cognac. And there was other bottles that was worser still. Never
mind; he has gone now, and his widow has got the money. It is she has
been a fortunate woman. Sir 'Oo, I will sit down here in the arm chair."
Sir Hugh made a motion with his hand, not daring to forbid her to do as
she was minded. "And you, Sir 'Oo--will not you sit down also?"

"I will continue to stand if you will allow me."

"Very well; you shall do as most pleases you. As I did walk here, and
shall walk back, I will sit down."

"And now, if you have any thing to say, Madam Gordeloup," said Sir
Hugh, looking at the silver covers which were hiding the chops and the
asparagus, and looking also at his watch, "perhaps you will be good
enough to say it."

"Any thing to say! Yes, Sir 'Oo, I have something to say. It is a pity
you will not sit at your dinner."

"I will not sit at my dinner till you have left me. So now, if you will
be pleased to proceed--"

"I will proceed. Perhaps you don't know that Lord Ongar died in these
arms." And Sophie, as she spoke, stretched out her skinny hands, and put
herself as far as possible into the attitude in which it would be most
convenient to nurse the head of a dying man upon her bosom. Sir Hugh,
thinking to himself that Lord Ongar could hardly have received much
consolation in his fate from this incident, declared that he had not
heard the fact before. "No, you have not heard it. She have tell nothing
to her friends here. He die abroad, and she has come back with all the
money; but she tell nothing to any body here, so I must tell."

"But I don't care how he died, Madam Gordeloup. It is nothing to me."

"But yes, Sir 'Oo. The lady, your wife, is the sister to Lady Ongar. Is
not that so? Lady Ongar did live with you before she was married. Is not
that so? Your brother and your cousin both wishes to marry her and have
all the money. Is not that so? Your brother has come to me to help him,
and has sent the little man out of Warwickshire. Is not that so?"

"What the d---- is all that to me?" said Sir Hugh, who did not quite
understand the story as the lady was telling it.

"I will explain, Sir 'Oo, what the d---- it is to you, only I wish you
were eating the nice things on the table. This Lady Ongar is treating me
very bad. She treat my brother very bad too. My brother is Count
Pateroff. We have been put to, oh, such expenses for her! It have nearly
ruined me. I make a journey to your London here altogether for her.
Then, for her, I go down to that accursed little island--what you call
it? where she insult me. Oh, all my time is gone. Your brother and your
cousin, and the little man out of Warwickshire, all coming to my house,
just as it please them."

"But what is this to me?" shouted Sir Hugh.

"A great deal to you," screamed back Madam Gordeloup. "You see I know
every thing--every thing. I have got papers."

"What do I care for your papers? Look here Madam Gordeloup, you had
better go away."

"Not yet, Sir 'Oo, not yet. You are going away to Norway--I know; and I
am ruined before you come back."

"Look here, madam, do you mean that you want money from me?"

"I want my rights, Sir 'Oo. Remember, I know every thing--every
thing--oh, such things! If they were all known--in the newspapers, you
understand, or that kind of thing, that lady in Bolton Street would lose
all her money to-morrow. Yes. There is uncles to the little lord; yes!
Ah! how much would they give me, I wonder? They would not tell me to go
away."

Sophie was perhaps justified in the estimate she had made of Sir Hugh's
probable character from the knowledge which she had acquired of his
brother Archie; but, nevertheless, she had fallen into a great mistake.
There could hardly have been a man then in London less likely to fall
into her present views than Sir Hugh Clavering. Not only was he too fond
of his money to give it away without knowing why he did so, but he was
subject to none of that weakness by which some men are prompted to
submit to such extortions. Had he believed her story, and had Lady Ongar
been really dear to him, he would never have dealt with such a one as
Madam Gordeloup otherwise than through the police.

"Madam Gordeloup," said he, "if you don't immediately take yourself off;
I shall have you put out of the house."

He would have sent for a constable at once, had he not feared that by
doing so he would retard his journey.

"What!" said Sophie, whose courage was as good as his own. "Me put out
of the house! Who shall touch me?"

"My servant shall; or, if that will not do, the police. Come, walk." And
he stepped over toward her as though he himself intended to assist in
her expulsion by violence.

"Well, you are there; I see you; and what next?" said Sophie. "You, and
your valk! I can tell you things fit for you to know, and you say, valk.
If I valk, I will valk to some purpose. I do not often valk for nothing
when I am told--valk!" Upon this Sir Hugh rang the bell with some
violence. "I care nothing for your bells, or for your servants, or for
your policemen. I have told you that your sister owe me a great deal of
money, and you say--valk. I will valk." Thereupon the servant came into
the room, and Sir Hugh, in an angry voice, desired him to open the front
door. "Yes--open vide," said Sophie, who, when anger came upon her, was
apt to drop into a mode of speaking English, which she was able to avoid
in her cooler moments. "Sir 'Oo, I am going to valk, and you shall hear
of my valking."

"Am I to take that as a threat?" said he.

"Not a tret at all," said she; "only a promise. Ah! I am good to keep my
promises. Yes, I make a promise. Your poor wife--down with the daises; I
know all, and she shall hear, too. That is another promise. And your
brother, the captain. Oh! here he is, and the little man out of
Warwickshire." She had got up from her chair, and had moved toward the
door with the intention of going, but just as she was passing out into
the hall she encountered Archie and Doodles. Sir Hugh, who had been
altogether at a loss to understand what she had meant by the man out of
Warwickshire, followed her into the hall, and became more angry than
before at finding that his brother had brought a friend to his house at
so very inopportune a moment. The wrath in his face was so plainly
expressed that Doodles could perceive it, and wished himself away. The
presence also of the spy was not pleasant to the gallant captain. Was
the wonderful woman ubiquitous, that he should thus encounter her again,
and that so soon after all the things that he had spoken of her on this
morning? "How do you do, gentlemen?" said Sophie. "There is a great many
boxes here, and I with my crinoline have not got room." Then she shook
hands, first with Archie, and then with Doodles, and asked the latter
why he was not as yet gone to Warwickshire. Archie, in almost mortal
fear, looked up into his brother's face. Had his brother learned the
story of that seventy pounds? Sir Hugh was puzzled beyond measure at
finding that the woman knew the two men; but, having still an eye to his
lamb chops, was chiefly anxious to get rid of Sophie and Doodles
together.

"This is my friend Boodle--Captain Boodle," said Archie, trying to put a
bold face upon the crisis. "He has come to see me off."

"Very kind of him," said Sir Hugh. "Just make way for this lady, will
you? I want to get her out of the house if I can. Your friend seems to
know her; perhaps he'll be good enough to give her his arm."

"Who--I ?" said Doodles. "No, I don't know her particularly. I did meet
her once before, just once--in a casual way."

"Captain Booddle and me is very good friends," said Sophie. "He come to
my house and behave himself very well; only he is not so handy a man as
your brother, Sir 'Oo."

Archie trembled, and he trembled still more when his brother, turning to
him, asked him if he knew the woman.

"Yes, he know the woman very well," said Sophie. "Why do you not come
any more to see me? You send your little friend, but I like you better
yourself. You come again when you return, and all that shall be made
right."

But still she did not go. She had now seated herself on a gun case which
was resting on a portmanteau, and seemed to be at her ease. The time was
going fast, and Sir Hugh, if he meant to eat his chops, must eat them at
once.

"See her out of the hall into the street," he said to Archie; "and if
she gives trouble, send for the police. She has come here to get money
from me by threats, and only that we have no time, I would have her
taken to the lock-up house at once." Then Sir Hugh retreated into the
dining-room and shut the door.

"Lock-up 'ouse!" said Sophie, scornfully. "What is dat?"

"He means a prison," said Doodles.

"Prison! I know who is most likely to be in a prison. Tell me of a
prison! Is he a minister of state that he can send out order for me to
be made prisoner? Is there lettres de cachet now in England? I think
not. Prison, indeed!"

"But really, Madam Gordeloup, you had better go-you had, indeed," said
Archie.

"You too--you bid me go? Did I bid you go when you came to me? Did I not
tell you sit down? Was I not polite? Did I send for a police, or talk of
lock-up 'ouse to you? No. It is English that do these things--only
English."

Archie felt that it was incumbent on him to explain that his visit to
her house had been made under other circumstances--that he had brought
money instead of seeking it; and had, in fact, gone to her simply in the
way of her own trade. He did begin some preliminaries to this
explanation; but as the servant was there, and as his brother might come
out from the dining-room, and as also he was aware that he could hardly
tell the story much to his own advantage, he stopped abruptly, and,
looking piteously at Doodles, implored him to take the lady away.

"Perhaps you wouldn't mind just seeing her into Mount Street," said
Archie.

"Who--I?" said Doodles, electrified.

"It is only just around the corner," said Archie.

"Yes, Captain Booddle, we will go," said Sophie. "This is a bad house;
and your Sir 'Oo--I do not like him at all. Lock-up, indeed! I tell you
he shall very soon be locked up himself. There is what you call Davy's
locker. I know--yes."

Doodles also trembled when he heard this anathema, and thought once more
of the character of Jack Stuart and his yacht.

"Pray go with her," said Archie.

"But I had come to see you off."

"Never mind," said Archie. "He is in such a taking, you know. God bless
you, old fellow--good-by! I'll write and tell you what fish we get, and
mind you tell me what Turriper does for the Bedfordshire. Good-by, Madam
Gordeloup; good-by."

There was no escape for him, so Doodles put on his hat and prepared to
walk away to Mount Street with the Spy under his arm--the Spy as to
whose avocations, over and beyond those of her diplomatic profession, he
had such strong suspicions! He felt inclined to be angry with his
friend, but the circumstances of his parting hardly admitted of any
expression of anger.

"Good-by, Clavvy," he said. "Yes, I'll write--that is, if I've got
anything to say.

"Take care of yourself; captain," said Sophie.

"All right," said Archie.

"Mind you come and see me when you come back," said Sophie.

"Of course I will," said Archie.

"And we'll make that all right for you yet. Gentlemen, when they have so
much to gain, shouldn't take a no too easy. You come with your handy
glove, and we'll see about it again." Then Sophie walked off leaning
upon the arm of Captain Boodle, and Archie stood at the door watching
them till they turned out of sight round the corner of tire Square. At
last he saw them no more, and then he returned to his brother.

And as we shall see Doodles no more--or almost no more-we will now bid
him adieu civilly. The pair were not ill-matched, though the lady
perhaps had some advantage in acuteness, given to her no doubt by the
experience of a longer life. Doodles, as he walked along two sides of
the square with the fair burden on his arm, felt himself to be in some
sort proud of his position, though it was one from which he would not
have been sorry to escape, had escape been possible. A remarkable
phenomenon was the Spy, and to have walked round Berkeley Square with
such a woman leaning on his arm might in coming years be an event to
remember with satisfaction. In the mean time he did not say much to her,
and did not quite understand all that she said to him. At last he came
to the door which he well remembered, and then he paused. He did not
escape even then. After a while the door was opened, and those who were
passing might have seen Captain Boodle, slowly and with hesitating
steps, enter the narrow passage before the lady. Then Sophie followed,
and closed the door behind her. As far as this story goes, what took
place at that interview can not be known. Let us bid farewell to
Doodles, and wish him a happy escape.

"How did you come to know that woman?" said Hugh to his brother, as soon
as Archie was in the dining-room.

"She was a friend of Julia's," said Archie.

"You haven't given her money?" Hugh asked.

"Oh dear, no," said Archie.

Immediately after that they got into their cab, the things were pitched
on the top, and, in a while, we may bid adieu to them also.



Chapter XLVI

Showing How Mrs. Burton Fought Her Battle



"Florence, I have been to Bolton Street, and I have seen Lady Ongar."
Those were the first words which Cecilia Burton spoke to her
sister-in-law, when she found Florence in the drawing-room on her return
from the visit which she had made to the countess. Florence had still
before her the desk on which she had been writing; and the letter in its
envelope, addressed to Mrs. Clavering, but as yet unclosed, was lying
beneath her blotting-paper. Florence, who had never dreamed of such an
undertaking on Cecilia's part, was astounded at the tidings which she
heard. Of course her first effort was made to learn from her sister's
tone and countenance what had been the result of this interview; but she
could learn nothing from either. There was no radiance as of joy in Mrs.
Burton's face, nor was there written there anything of despair. Her
voice was serious and almost solemn, and her manner was very grave, but
that was all. "You have seen her?" said Florence, rising up from her
chair.

"Yes, dear, I may have done wrong. Theodore, I know, will say so. But I
thought it best to try to learn the truth before you wrote to Mrs.
Clavering."

"And what is the truth? But perhaps you have not learned it."

"I think I have learned all that she could tell me. She has been very
frank."

"Well, what is the truth? Do not suppose, dearest, that I can not bear
it. I hope for nothing now. I only want to have this settled, that I may
be at rest."

Upon this Mrs. Burton took the suffering girl in her arms and caressed
her tenderly. "My love," said she, "it is not easy for us to be at rest.
You can not be at rest as yet."

"I can. I will be so, when I know that this is settled. I do not wish to
interfere with his fortune. There is my letter to his mother, and now I
will go back to Stratton."

"Not yet, dearest, not yet," said Mrs. Burton, taking the letter in her
hand, but refraining from withdrawing it at once from the envelope. "You
must hear what I have heard to-day."

"Does she say that she loves him?"

"Ah! yes--she loves him. We must not doubt that."

"And he--what does she say of him?"

"She says what you also must say, Florence, though it is hard that it
should be so. It must be as he shall decide."

"No." said Florence, withdrawing herself from the arm that was still
around her, "no, it shall not be as he may choose to decide. I will not
so submit myself to him. It is enough as it is. I will never see him
more--never. To say that I do not love him would be untrue, but I will
never see him again."

"Stop, dear, stop. What if it be no fault of his?"

"No fault of his that he went to her when we--we--we--he and I--were, as
we were, together!"

"Of course there has been some fault; but Flo, dearest, listen to me.
You know that I would ask you to do nothing from which a woman should
shrink."

"I know that you would give your heart's blood for me; but nothing will
be of avail now. Do not look at me with melancholy eyes like that.
Cissy, it will not kill me. It is only the doubt that kills one."

"I will not look at you with melancholy eyes, but you must listen to me.
She does-not herself know what his intention is."

"But I know it, and I know my own. Read my letter, Cissy. There is not
one word of anger in it, nor will I ever utter a reproach. He knew her
first. If he loved her through it all, it was a pity he could not be
constant to his love, even though she was false to him."

"But you won't hear me, Flo. As far as I can learn the truth--as I
myself most firmly believe-when he went to her on her return to England,
he had no other intention than that of visiting an old friend."

"But what sort of friend, Cissy?"

"He had no idea then of being untrue to you. But when he saw her, the
old intimacy came back. That was natural. Thea he was dazzled by her
beauty."

"Is she then so beautiful?"

"She is very beautiful."

"Let him go to her," said Florence, tearing herself away from her
sister's arm, and walking across the room with a quick and almost angry
step. "Let her have him. Cissy, there shall be an end of it. I will not
condescend to solicit his love. If she is such as you say, and if beauty
with him goes for everything, what chance could there be for such as
me?"

"I did not say that beauty with him went for everything."

"Of course it does. I ought to have known that it would be so with such
a one as him. And then she is rich also--wonderfully rich! What right
can I have to think of him?"

"Florence, you are unjust. You do not even suspect that it is her
money."

"To me it is the same thing. I suppose that a woman who is so beautiful
has a right to everything. I know that I am plain, and I will
be--content--in future--to think no more--" Poor Florence, when she had
got as far as that, broke down, and could go on no further with the
declaration which she had been about to make as to her future prospects.
Mrs. Burton, taking advantage of this, went on with her story,
struggling, not altogether unsuccessfully, to assume a calm tone of
unimpassioned reason.

"As I said before, he was dazzled--"

"Dazzled! oh!"

"But even then he had no idea of being untrue to you."

"No; he was untrue without an idea. That is worse."

"Florence, you are perverse, and are determined to be unfair. I must beg
that you will hear me to the end, so that then you may be able to judge
what course you ought to follow." This Mrs. Burton said with an air of
great authority; after which she continued in a voice something less
stern--"He thought of doing no injury to you when he went to see her;
but something of the feeling of his old love grew upon him when he was
in her company, and he became embarrassed by his position before he was
aware of his own danger. He might, of course, have been stronger." Here
Florence exhibited a gesture of strong impatience, though she did not
speak. "I am not going to defend him altogether, but I think you must
admit that he was hardly tried. Of course I can not say what passed
between them, but I can understand how easily they might recur to the
old scenes--how naturally she would wish for a renewal of the love which
she had been base enough to betray! She does not, however, consider
herself as at present engaged to him. That you may know for certain. It
may be that she has asked him for such a promise, and that he has
hesitated. If so, his staying away from us, and his not writing to you,
can be easily understood."

"And what is it you would have me do?"

"He is ill now. Wait till he is well. He would have been here before
this had not his illness prevented him. Wait till he comes."

"I can not do that, Cissy. Wait I must, but I can not wait without
offering him, through his mother, the freedom which I have so much
reason to know that he desires."

"We do not know that he desires it. We do not know that his mother even
suspects him of any fault toward you. Now that he is there--at
home--away from Bolton Street--"

"I do not care to trust to such influences as that, Cissy. If he could
not spend this morning with her in her own house, and then, as he left
her, feel that he preferred me to her, and to all the world, I would
rather be as I am than take his hand. He shall not marry me from pity,
nor yet from a sense of duty. We know the old story--how the Devil would
be a monk when he was sick. I will not accept his sick-bed allegiance,
or have to think that I owe my husband to a mother's influence over him
while he is ill."

"You will make me think, Flo, that you are less true to him than she
is."

"Perhaps it is so. Let him have what good such truth as hers can do him.
For me, I feel that it is my duty to be true to myself. I will not
condescend to indulge my heart at the cost of my pride as a woman."

"Oh, Florence, I hate that word pride."

"You would not hate it for yourself in my place."

"You need take no shame to love him."

"Have I taken shame to love him?" said Florence, rising again from her
chair. "Have I been missish or coy about my love? From the moment in
which I knew that it was a pleasure to myself to regard him as my future
husband, I have spoken of my love as being always proud of it. I have
acknowledged it as openly as you can do yours for Theodore. I
acknowledge it still, and will never deny it. Take shame that I have
loved him! No. But I should take to myself great shame should I ever be
brought so low as to ask him for his love, when once I had learned to
think that he had transferred it from myself to another woman." Then she
walked the length of the room, backward and forward, with hasty steps,
not looking at her sister-in-law, whose eyes were now filled with tears.
"Come, Cissy," she then said, "we will make an end of this. Read my
letter if you choose to read it--though indeed it is not worth
reading--and then let me send it to the post."

Mrs. Burton now opened the letter and read it very slowly. It was stern
and almost unfeeling in the calmness of the words chosen; but in those
words her proposed marriage with Harry Clavering was absolutely
abandoned. "I know," she said, "that your son is more warmly attached to
another lady than he is to me, and under those circumstance; for his
sake as well as for mine, it is necessary that we should part. Dear Mrs.
Clavering, may I ask you to make him understand that he and I are never
to recur to the past? If he will send me back any letters of
mine--should any have been kept--and the little present which I once
gave him, all will have been done which need be done, and all have been
said which need be said. He will receive in a small parcel his own
letters and the gifts which he has made me." There was in this a tone of
completeness--as of business absolutely finished--of a judgment
admitting no appeal, which did not at all suit Mrs. Burton's views. A
letter, quite as becoming on the part of Florence, might, she thought,
be written, which would still leave open a door for reconciliation. But
Florence was resolved, and the letter was sent.

The part which Mrs. Burton had taken in this conversation had surprised
even herself. She had been full of anger with Harry Clavering--as
wrathful with him as her nature permitted her to be, and yet she had
pleaded his cause with all her eloquence, going almost so far in her
defence of him as to declare that he was blameless. And, in truth, she
was prepared to acquit him of blame--to give him full absolution without
penance--if only he could be brought back again into the fold. Her wrath
against him would be very hot should he not so return; but all should be
more than forgiven, if he would only come back, and do his duty with
affectionate and patient fidelity. Her desire was, not so much that
justice should be done, as that Florence should have the thing coveted,
and that Florence's rival should not have it. According to the arguments
as arranged by her feminine logic, Harry Clavering would be all sight or
all wrong according as he might at last bear himself. She desired
success, and, if she could only be successful, was prepared to forgive
every thing. And even yet she would not give up the battle, though she
admitted to herself that Florence's letter to Mrs. Clavering made the
contest more difficult than ever. It might, however, be that Mrs.
Clavering would be good enough, just enough, true enough, clever enough,
to know that such a letter as this, coming from such a girl, and written
under such circumstances, should be taken as meaning nothing. Most
mothers would wish to see their sons married to wealth, should wealth
throw itself in their way; but Mrs. Clavering, possibly, might not be
such a mother as that.

In the mean time, there was before her the terrible necessity of
explaining to her husband the step which she had taken without his
knowledge, and of which she knew that she must tell him the history
before she could sit down to dinner with him in comfort. "Theodore," she
said, creeping in out of her own chamber to his dressing-room, while he
was washing his hands, "you mustn't be angry with me, but I have done
something to-day."

"And why must I not be angry with you?"

"You know what I mean. You mustn't be angry--especially about
this--because I don't want you to be."

"That's conclusive," said he. It was manifest to her that he was in a
good humor, which was a great blessing. He had not been tired with his
work, as he was often wont to be, and was therefore willing to be
playful.

"What do you think I've done?" said she. "I have been to Bolton Street,
and have seen Lady Ongar."

"No!"

"I have, Theodore, indeed."

Mr. Burton had been rubbing his face vehemently with a rough towel at
the moment in which the communication had been made to him, and so
strongly was he affected by it that he was stopped in his operation and
brought to a stand in his movement, looking at his wife over the towel
as he held it in both hands. "What on earth has made you do such a thing
as that?" he said.

"I thought it best. I thought that I might hear the truth--and so I
have. I could not bear that Florence should be sacrificed while any
thing remained undone that was possible."

"Why didn't you tell me that you were going?"

"Well, my dear, I thought it better not. Of course I ought to have told
you, but in this instance I thought it best just to go without the fuss
of mentioning it."

"What you really mean is, that if you had told me I should have asked
you not to go."

"Exactly."

"And you were determined to have your own way."

"I don't think, Theodore, I care so much about my own way as some women
do. I am sure I always think your opinion is better than my own--that
is, in most things."

"And what did Lady Ongar say to you?" He had now put down the towel, and
was seated in his arm-chair, looking up into his wife's face.

"It would be a long story to tell you all that she said."

"Was she civil to you?"

"She was not uncivil. She is a handsome, proud woman, prone to speak out
what she thinks, and determined to have her own way when it is possible;
but I think that she intended to be civil to me personally."

"What is her purpose now?"

"Her purpose is clear enough. She means to marry Harry Clavering if she
can get him. She said so. She made no secret of what her wishes are."

"Then, Cissy, let her marry him; and do not let us trouble ourselves
further in the matter."

"But Florence, Theodore! Think of Florence!"

"I am thinking of her, and I think that Harry Clavering is not worth her
acceptance. She is as the traveller that fell among thieves. She is hurt
and wounded, but not dead. It is for you to be the good Samaritan, but
the oil which you should pour into her wounds is not a renewed hope as
to that worthless man. Let Lady Ongar have him. As far as I can see,
they are fit for each other."

Then she went through with him, diligently, all the arguments which she
had used with Florence, palliating Harry's conduct, and explaining the
circumstances of his disloyalty, almost as those circumstances had in
truth occurred. "I think you are too hard on him," she said. "You can't
be too hard on falsehood," he replied. "No, not while it exists. But you
would not be angry with a man forever because he should once have been
false? But we do not know that he is false." "Do we not?" said he. "But
never mind; we must go to dinner now. Does Florence know of your visit?"
Then, before she would allow him to leave his room, she explained to him
what had taken place between herself and Florence, and told him of the
letter that had been written to Mrs. Clavering. "She is right," said he.
"That way out of her difficulty is the best that is left to her." But,
nevertheless, Mrs. Burton was resolved that she would not as yet
surrender.

Theodore Burton, when he reached the drawing-room, went up to his sister
and kissed her. Such a sign of the tenderness of love was not common
with him, for he was one of those who are not usually demonstrative in
their affection. At the present moment he said nothing of what was
passing in his mind, nor did she. She simply raised her face to meet his
lips, and pressed his hand as she held it. What need was there of any
further sign between them than this? Then they went to dinner, and their
meal was eaten almost in silence. Almost every moment Cecilia's eye was
on her sister-in-law. A careful observer, had there been one there,
might have seen this; but, while they remained together down stairs,
there occurred among them nothing else to mark that all was not well
with them.

Nor would the brother have spoken a word during the evening on the
subject that was so near to all their hearts had not Florence led the
way. When they were at tea, and when Cecilia had already made up her
mind that there was to be no further discussion that night, Florence
suddenly broke forth.

"Theodore," she said, "I have been thinking much about it, and I believe
I had better go home, to Stratton, to-morrow."

"Oh, no," said Cecilia, eagerly.

"I believe it will be better that I should," continued Florence. "I
suppose it is very weak in me to own it; but I am unhappy, and, like the
wounded bird, I feel that it will be well that I should hide myself."

Cecilia was at her feet in a moment. "Dearest Flo," she said, "is not
this your home as well as Stratton?"

"When I am able to be happy, it is. Those who have light hearts may have
more homes than one, but it is not so with those whose hearts are heavy.
I think it will be best for me to go."

"You shall do exactly as you please," said her brother. "In such a
matter I will not try to persuade you. I only wish that we could tend to
comfort you."

"You do comfort me. If I know that you think I am doing right, that will
comfort me more than anything. Absolute and immediate comfort is not to
be had when one is sorrowful."

"No, indeed," said her brother. "Sorrow should not be killed too
quickly. I always think that those who are impervious to grief most be
impervious also to happiness. If you have feelings capable of the one,
you must have them capable also of the other."

"You should, wait, at any rate, till you get an answer from Mrs.
Clavering," said Cecilia.

"I do not know that she has any answer to send to me."

"Oh yes, she must answer you, if you will think of it. If she accepts
what you have said--"

"She can not but accept it."

"Then she must reply to you. There is something which you have asked her
to send to you; and I think you should wait, at any rate, till it
reaches you here. Mind, I do not think her answer will be of that
nature, but it is clear that you should wait for it, whatever it may
be." Then Florence, with the concurrence of her brother's opinion,
consented to remain in London for a few days, expecting the answer which
would be sent by Mrs. Clavering; and after that no further discussion
took place as to her trouble.



Chapter XLVII

The Sheep Returns To The Fold



Harry Clavering had spoken solemn words to his mother, during his
illness, which both he and she regarded as a promise that Florence
should not be deserted by him. After that promise nothing more was said
between them on the subject for a few days. Mrs. Clavering was contented
that the promise had been made, and Harry himself; in the weakness
consequent upon his illness, was willing enough to accept the excuse
which his illness gave him for postponing any action in the matter. But
the fever had left him, and he was sitting up in his mother's room, when
Florence's letter reached the parsonage, and with the letter, the little
parcel which she herself had packed up so carefully. On the day before
that a few words had passed between the rector and his wife, which will
explain the feelings of both of them in the matter.

"Have you heard," said he, speaking in a voice hardly above a whisper,
although no third person was in the room, "that Harry is again thinking
of making Julia his wife?"

"He is not thinking of doing so," said Mrs. Clavering. "They who say so
do him wrong."

"It would be a great thing for him as regards money."

"But he is engaged--and Florence Burton has been received here as his
future wife. I could not endure to think that it should be so. At any
rate, it is not true."

"I only tell you what I heard," said the rector, gently sighing, partly
in obedience to his wife's implied rebuke, and partly at the thought
that so grand a marriage should not be within his son's reach. The
rector was beginning to be aware that Harry would hardly make a fortune
at the profession which he had chosen, and that a rich marriage would be
an easy way out of all the difficulties which such a failure promised.
The rector was a man who dearly loved easy ways out of difficulties. But
in such matters as these his wife he knew was imperative and powerful,
and he lacked the courage to plead for a cause that was prudent, but
ungenerous.

When Mrs. Clavering received the letter and parcel on the next morning,
Harry Clavering was still in bed. With the delightful privilege of a
convalescent invalid, he was allowed in these days to get up just when
getting up became more comfortable than lying in bed, and that time did
not usually come till eleven o'clock was past; but the postman reached
the Clavering parsonage by nine. The letter, as we know, was addressed
to Mrs. Clavering herself, as was also the outer envelope which
contained the packet; but the packet itself was addressed in Florence's
clear handwriting to Harry Clavering, Esq.

"That is a large parcel to come by post, mamma," said Fanny.

"Yes, my dear; but it is something particular."

"It's from some tradesman, I suppose," said the rector.

"No, it's not from a tradesman," said Mrs. Clavering. But she said
nothing further, and both husband and daughter perceived that it was not
intended that they should ask further questions.

Fanny, as usual, had taken her brother his breakfast, and Mrs. Clavering
did not go up to him till that ceremony had been completed and removed.
Indeed it was necessary that she should study Florence's letter in her
own room before she could speak to him about it. What the parcel
contained she well knew, even before the letter had been thoroughly
read; and I need hardly say that the treasure was sacred in her hands.
When she had finished the perusal of the letter there was a tear--a
gentle tear--in each eye. She understood it all, and could fathom the
strength and weakness of every word which Florence had written. But she
was such a woman--exactly such a woman--as Cecilia Burton had pictured
to herself. Mrs. Clavering was good enough, great enough, true enough,
clever enough to know that Harry's love for Florence should be
sustained, and his fancy for Lady Ongar overcome. At no time would she
have been proud to see her son prosperous only in the prosperity of a
wife's fortune; but she would have been thoroughly ashamed of him had he
resolved to pursue such prosperity under his present circumstances.

But her tears--though they were there in the corners of her eyes--were
not painful tears. Dear Florence! She is suffering bitterly now. This
very day would be a day of agony to her. There had been for her,
doubtless, many days of agony during the past month. That the letter was
true in all its words Mrs. Clavering did not doubt. That Florence
believed that all was over between her and Harry, Mrs. Clavering was as
sure as Florence had intended that she should be. But all should not be
over, and the days of agony should soon be at an end. Her boy had
promised her, and to her he had always been true. And she understood,
too, the way in which these dangers had come upon him, and her judgment
was not heavy upon her son--her gracious boy, who had ever been so good
to her! It might be that he had been less diligent at his work than he
should have been--that on that account further delay would still be
necessary; but Florence would forgive that, and he had promised that
Florence should not be deserted.

Then she took the parcel in her hands, and considered all its
circumstances--how precious had once been its contents, and how precious
doubtless they still were, though they had been thus repudiated! And she
thought of the moments--nay, rather the hours--which had been passed in
the packing of that little packet. She well understood how a girl would
linger over such dear pain, touching the things over and over again,
allowing herself to read morsels of the letters at which she had already
forbidden herself even to look, till every word had been again seen and
weighed, again caressed and again abjured. She knew how those little
trinkets would have been fondled! How salt had been the tears that had
fallen on them, and how carefully the drops would have been removed.
Every fold in the paper of the two envelopes, with the little morsels of
wax just adequate for their purpose, told of the lingering, painful care
with which the work had been done. Ah! the parcel should go back at once
with words of love that should put an end to all that pain. She who had
sent these loved things away, should have her letters again, and should
touch her little treasures with fingers that should take pleasure in the
touching. She should again read her lover's words with an enduring
delight. Mrs. Clavering understood it all, as though she were still a
girl with a lover of her own.

Harry was beginning to think that the time had come in which getting up
would be more comfortable than lying in bed, when his mother knocked at
his door and entered his room. "I was just going to make a move,
mother," he said, having reached that stage of convalescence in which
some shame comes upon the idler.

"But I want to speak to you first, my dear," said Mrs. Clavering. "I
have got a letter for you, or rather a parcel." Harry held out his hand,
and, taking the packet, at once recognized the writing of the address.

"You know from whom it comes, Harry?"

"Oh yes, mother."

"And do you know what it contains?" Harry, still holding the packet,
looked at it, but said nothing. "I know," said his mother, "for she has
written and told me. Will you see her letter to me?" Again Harry held
out his hand, but his mother did not at once give him the letter. "First
of all, my dear, let us know that we understand each other. This dear
girl--to me she is inexpressibly dear--is to be your wife."

"Yes, mother, it shall be so."

"That is my own boy! Harry, I have never doubted you--have never doubted
that you would be right at last. Now you shall see her letter. But you
must remember that she has had cause to make her unhappy."

"I will remember."

"Had you not been ill, every thing would of course have been all right
before now." As to the correctness of this assertion the reader probably
will have doubts of his own. Then she handed him the letter, and sat on
his bedside while he read it. At first he was startled, and made almost
indignant at the firmness of the girl's words. She gave him up as though
it were a thing quite decided, and uttered no expression of her own
regret in doing so. There was no soft woman's wail in her words. But
there was in them something which made him unconsciously long to get
back the thing which he had so nearly thrown away from him. They
inspired him with a doubt whether he might yet succeed, which very doubt
greatly increased his desire. As he read the letter for the second time,
Julia became less beautiful in his imagination; and the charm of
Florence's character became stronger.

"Well, dear," said his mother, when she saw that he had finished the
second reading of the epistle.

He hardly knew how to express, even to his mother, all his feelings--the
shame that he felt, and with the shame something of indignation that he
should have been so repulsed. And of his love, too, he was afraid to
speak. He was willing enough to give the required assurance, but after
that he would have preferred to have been left alone. But his mother
could not leave him without some further word of agreement between them
as to the course which they would pursue.

"Will you write to her, mother, or shall I?"

"I shall write, certainly--by to-day's post. I would not leave her an
hour, if I could help it, without an assurance of your unaltered
affection."

"I could go to town to-morrow, mother--could I not?"

"Not to-morrow, Harry. It would be foolish. Say on Monday."

"And you will write to-day?"

"Certainly."

"I will send a line also--just a line."

"And the parcel?"

"I have not opened it yet."

"You know what it contains. Send it back at once, Harry--at once. If I
understand her feelings, she will not be happy till she gets it into her
hands again. We will send Jem over to the post-office, and have it
registered."

When so much was settled, Mrs. Clavering went away about the affairs of
her house, thinking as she did so of the loving words with which she
would strive to give back happiness to Florence Burton.

Harry, when he was alone, slowly opened the parcel. He could not resist
the temptation of doing this, and of looking again at the things which
she had sent back to him. And he was not without an idea--perhaps a
hope--that there might be with them some short note--some scrap
containing a few words for himself. If he had any such hope he was
disappointed. There were his own letters, all scented with lavender from
the casket in which they had been preserved; there was the rich bracelet
which had been given with some little ceremony, and the cheap brooch
which he had thrown to her as a joke, and which she had sworn that she
would value the most of all because she could wear it every day; and
there was the pencil-case which he had fixed on to her watch-chain,
while her fingers were touching his fingers, caressing him for his love
while her words were rebuking him for his awkwardness. He remembered it
all as the things lay strewed upon his bed. And he re-read every word of
his own words. "What a fool a man makes of himself!" he said to himself
at last, with something of the cheeriness of laughter about his heart.
But as he said so he was quite ready to make himself a fool after the
same fashion again, if only there were not in his way that difficulty of
recommencing. Had it been possible for him to write again at once in the
old strain, without any reference to his own conduct during the last
month, he would have begun his fooling without waiting to finish his
dressing.

"Did you open the parcel?" his mother asked him, some hour or so before
it was necessary that Jem should be started on his mission.

"Yes, I thought it best to open it."

"And have you made it up again?"

"Not yet, mother."

"Put this with it, dear." And his mother gave him a little jewel, a
cupid in mosaic surrounded by tiny diamonds, which he remembered her to
wear ever since he had first noticed the things she had worn. "Not from
me, mind. I give it to you. Come--will you trust me to pack them?" Then
Mrs. Clavering again made up the parcel, and added the trinket which she
had brought with her.

Harry at last brought himself to write a few words.

    DEAREST, DEAREST FLORENCE:--They will not let me out, or I would go
    to you at once. My mother has written, and though I have not seen
    her letter, I know what it contains. Indeed, indeed you may believe
    it all. May I not venture to return the parcel? I do send it back,
    and implore you to keep it. I shall be in town, I think, on Monday,
    and will go to Onslow Crescent--instantly.

    Your own, H. C.

Then there was scrawled a postscript which was worth all the rest put
together--was better than his own note, better than his mother's letter,
better than the returned packet. "I love no one better than you--no one
half so well--neither now, nor ever did." These words, whether wholly
true or only partially so, were at least to the point, and were taken by
Cecilia Burton, when she heard of them, as a confession of faith that
demanded instant and plenary absolution.

The trouble which had called Harry down to Clavering remained I regret
to say, almost in full force now that his prolonged visit had been
brought so near its close. Mr. Saul, indeed, had agreed to resign his
curacy, and was already on the look-out for similar employment in some
other parish. And, since his interview with Fanny's father, he had never
entered the rectory or spoken to Fanny. Fanny had promised that there
should be no such speaking, and, indeed, no danger of that kind was
feared. Whatever Mr. Saul might do, he would do openly--nay,
audaciously. But, though there existed this security, nevertheless
things as regarded Fanny were very unpleasant. When Mr. Saul had
commenced his courtship, she had agreed with her family in almost
ridiculing the idea of such a lover. There had been a feeling with her
as with the others, that poor Mr. Saul was to be pitied. Then she had
come to regard his overtures as matters of grave import--not, indeed,
avowing to her mother anything so strong as a return of his affection,
but speaking of his proposal as one to which there was no other
objection than that of a want of money. Now, however, she went moping
about the house as though she were a victim of true love, condemned to
run unsmoothly forever--as though her passion for Mr. Saul were too much
for her, and she were waiting in patience till death should relieve her
from the cruelty of her parents. She never complained. Such victims
never do complain. But she moped and was wretched, and when her mother
questioned her, struggling to find out how strong this feeling might in
truth be, Fanny would simply make her dutiful promises--promises which
were wickedly dutiful--that she would never mention the name of Mr. Saul
any more. Mr. Saul, in the mean time, went about his parish duties with
grim energy, supplying the rector's shortcomings without a word. He
would have been glad to preach all the sermons and read all the services
during these six months, had he been allowed to do so. He was constant
in the schools--more constant than ever in his visitings. He was very
courteous to Mr. Clavering when the necessities of their position
brought them together. For all this, Mr. Clavering hated him--unjustly.
For a man placed as Mr. Saul was placed, a line of conduct exactly level
with that previously followed is impossible, and it was better that he
should become more energetic in his duties than less so. It will be
easily understood that all these things interfered much with the general
happiness of the family at the rectory at this time.

The Monday came, and Harry Clavering, now convalescent, and simply
interesting from the remaining effects of his illness, started on his
journey for London. There had come no further letters from Onslow
Terrace to the parsonage, and, indeed, owing to the intervention of
Sunday, none could have come unless Florence had written by return of
post. Harry made his journey, beginning with some promise of happiness
to himself; but becoming somewhat uneasy as his train drew near to
London. He had behaved badly, and he knew that in the first place he
must own that he had done so. To men such a necessity is always
grievous. Women not unfrequently like the task. To confess, submit, and
be accepted as confessing and submitting, comes naturally to the
feminine mind. The cry of peccavi sounds soft and pretty when made by
sweet lips in a loving voice. But a man who can own that he has done
amiss without a pang--who can so own it to another man, or even to a
woman--is usually but a poor creature. Harry must now make such
confession, and therefore he became uneasy. And then, for him, there was
another task behind the one which he would be called upon to perform
this evening--a task which would have nothing of pleasantness in it to
redeem its pain. He must confess not only to Florence--where his
confession might probably have its reward--but he must confess also to
Julia. This second confession would, indeed, be a hard task to him.
That, however was to be postponed till the morrow. On this evening he
had pledged himself that he would go direct to Onslow Terrace, and this
he did as soon after he had reached his lodgings as was possible. It was
past six when he reached London, and it was not yet eight when, with
palpitating heart, he knocked at Mr. Burton's door.

I must take the reader back with me for a few minutes, in order that we
may see after what fashion the letters from Clavering were received by
the ladies in Onslow Terrace. On that day Mr. Burton had been required
to go out of London by one of the early trains, and had not been in the
house when the postman came. Nothing had been said between Cecilia and
Florence as to their hopes or fears in regard to an answer from
Clavering--nothing, at least, since that conversation in which Florence
had agreed to remain in London for yet a few days; but each of them was
very nervous on the matter. Any answer, if sent at once from Clavering,
would arrive on this morning, and, therefore, when the well-known knock
was heard, neither of them was able to maintain her calmness perfectly.
But yet nothing was said, nor did either of them rise from her seat at
the breakfast table. Presently the girl came in with apparently a bundle
of letters, which she was still sorting when she entered the room. There
were two or three for Mr. Burton, two for Cecilia, and then two besides
the registered packet for Florence. For that a receipt was needed, and
as Florence had seen the address and recognized the writing, she was
hardly able to give her signature. As soon as the maid was gone Cecilia
could keep her seat no longer. "I know those are from Clavering," she
said, rising from her chair, and coming round to the side of the table.
Florence instinctively swept the packet into her lap, and, leaning
forward, covered the letters with her hands. "Oh, Florence, let us see
them--let us see them at once. If we are to be happy, let us know it."
But Florence paused, still leaning over her treasures, and hardly daring
to show her burning face. Even yet it might be that she was rejected.
Then Cecilia went back to her seat, and simply looked at her sister with
beseeching eyes. "I think I'll go up stairs," said Florence. "Are you
afraid of me, Flo?" Cecilia answered reproachfully. "Let me see the
outside of them." Then Florence brought them round the table, and put
them into her sister's hands. "May I open this one from Mrs. Clavering?"
Florence nodded her head. Then the seal was broken, and in one minute
the two women were crying in each other's arms. "I was quite sure of
it," said Cecilia, through her tears--"perfectly sure. I never doubted
it for a moment. How could you have talked of going to Stratton?" At
last Florence got herself away up to the window, and gradually mustered
courage to break the envelope of her lover's letter. It was not at once
that she showed the postscript to Cecilia, nor at once that the packet
was opened. That last ceremony she did perform in the solitude of her
own room. But before the day was over the postscript had been shown, and
the added trinket had been exhibited. "I remember it well," said
Florence. "Mrs. Clavering wore it on her forehead when we dined at Lady
Clavering's." Mrs. Burton in all this saw something of the gentle
persuasion which the mother had used, but of that she said nothing. That
he should be back again, and should have repented, was enough for her.

Mr. Burton was again absent when Harry Clavering knocked in person at
the door, but on this occasion his absence had been specially arranged
by him with a view to Harry's comfort. "He won't want to see me this
evening," he had said. "Indeed, you'll all get along a great deal better
without me." He therefore had remained away from home, and, not being a
club man, had dined most uncomfortably at an eating-house. "Are the
ladies at home?" Harry asked, when the door was opened. Oh yes, they
were at home. There was no danger that they should be found out on such
an occasion as this. The girl looked at him pleasantly, calling him by
his name as she answered him, as though she too desired to show him that
he had again been taken into favor--into her favor as well as that of
her mistress.

He hardly knew what he was doing as he ran up the steps to the
drawing-room. He was afraid of what was to come, but nevertheless he
rushed at his fate as some young soldier rushes at the trench in which
he feels that he may probably fall. So Harry Clavering hurried on, and
before he had looked round upon the room which he had entered, found his
fate with Florence on his bosom.

Alas! alas! I fear that justice was outraged in the welcome that Harry
received on that evening. I have said that he would be called upon to
own his sins, and so much, at least, should have been required of him.
But he owned no sin. I have said that a certain degradation must attend
him in that first interview after his reconciliation. Instead of this,
the hours that he spent that evening in Onslow Terrace were hours of one
long ovation. He was, as it were, put upon a throne as a king who had
returned from his conquest, and those two women did him honor, almost
kneeling at his feet. Cecilia was almost as tender with him as Florence,
pleading to her own false heart the fact of his illness as his excuse.
There was something of the pallor of the sick-room left with him--a
slight tenuity in his hands and brightness in his eye which did him
yeoman's service. Had he been quite robust, Cecilia might have felt that
she could not justify to herself the peculiar softness of her words.
After the first quarter of an hour he was supremely happy. His
awkwardness had gone, and as he sat with his arm round Florence's waist,
he found that the little pencil-case had again been attached to her
chain, and as he looked down upon her he saw that the cheap brooch was
again on her breast. It would have been pretty, could an observer have
been there, to see the skill with which they both steered clear of any
word or phrase which could be disagreeable to him. One might have
thought that it would have been impossible to avoid all touch of a
rebuke. The very fact that he was forgiven would seem to imply some
fault that required pardon. But there was no hint at any fault. The tact
of women excels the skill of men and so perfect was the tact of these,
that not a word was said which wounded Harry's ear. He had come again
into their fold, and they were rejoiced and showed their joy. He who had
gone astray had repented, and they were beautifully tender to the
repentant sheep.

Harry staid a little too long with his love--a little longer, at least,
than had been computed, and, in consequence, met Theodore Burton in the
Crescent as he was leaving it. This meeting could hardly be made without
something of pain, and perhaps it was well for Harry that he should have
such an opportunity as this for getting over it quickly. But when he saw
Mr. Burton under the bright gas-lamp, he would very willingly have
avoided him, had it been possible.

"Well, Harry," said Burton, giving his hand to the repentant sheep.

"How are you, Burton?" said Harry, trying to speak with an unconcerned
voice. Then, in answer to an inquiry as to his health, he told of his
own illness, speaking of that confounded fever having made him very low.
He intended no deceit, but he made more of the fever than was necessary.

"When will you come back to the shop?" Burton asked. It must be
remembered that, though the brother could not refuse to welcome back to
his home his sister's lover, still he thought that the engagement was a
misfortune. He did not believe in Harry as a man of business, and had
almost rejoiced when Florence had been so nearly quit of him. And now
there was a taint of sarcasm in his voice as he asked as to Harry's
return to the chambers in the Adelphi.

"I can hardly quite say as yet," said Harry, still pleading his illness.
"They were very much against my coming up to London so soon. Indeed, I
should not have done it had I not felt so very--very anxious to see
Florence. I don't know, Burton, whether I ought to say anything to you
about that."

"I suppose you have said what you had to say to the women."

"Oh yes. I think they understand me completely, and I hope that I
understand them."

"In that case, I don't know that you need say anything to me. Come to
the Adelphi as soon as you can--that's all. I never think myself that a
man becomes a bit stronger after an illness by remaining idle." Then
Harry passed on, and felt that he had escaped easily in that interview.

But as he walked home he was compelled to think of the step which he
must next take. When he had last seen Lady Ongar he had left her with a
promise that Florence was to be deserted for her sake. As yet that
promise would by her be supposed to be binding. Indeed, he had thought
it to be binding on himself till he had found himself under his mother's
influence at the parsonage. During his last few weeks in London he had
endured an agony of doubt, but in his vacillations the pendulum had
always veered more strongly toward Bolton Street than to Onslow
Crescent. Now the swinging of the pendulum had ceased altogether. From
henceforth Bolton Street must be forbidden ground to him, and the
sheepfold in Onslow Crescent must be his home till he should have
established a small peculiar fold for himself. But, as yet, he had still
before him the task of communicating his final decision to the lady in
Bolton Street. As he walked home he determined that he had better do so
in the first place by letter, and so eager was he as to the propriety of
doing this at once, that on his return to his lodgings he sat down and
wrote the letter before he went to his bed. It was not very easily
written. Here, at any rate, he had to make those confessions of which I
have before spoken--confessions which it may be less difficult to make
with pen and ink than with spoken words, but which, when so made, are
more degrading. The word that is written is a thing capable of permanent
life, and lives frequently to the confusion of its parent. A man should
make his confessions always by word of mouth, if it be possible. Whether
such a course would have been possible to Harry Clavering may be
doubtful. It might have been that in a personal meeting the necessary
confession would not have got itself adequately spoken. Thinking,
perhaps, of this, he wrote his letter as follows on that night:

    BLOOMSBURY SQUARE, July, 186-.

The date was easily written, but how was he to go on after that? In what
form of affection or indifference was he to address her whom he had at
that last meeting called his own, his dearest Julia? He got out of his
difficulty ill the way common to ladies and gentlemen under such stress,
and did not address her by any name or any epithet. The date he allowed
to remain, and then he went away at once to the matter of his subject.

    I feel that I owe it you at once to tell you what has been my
    history during the last few weeks. I came up from Clavering to-day,
    and have since that been with Mrs. and Miss Burton. Immediately on
    my return from them I sit down to write you.

After having said so much, Harry probably felt that the rest of his
letter would be surplusage. Those few words would tell her all that it
was required that she should know. But courtesy demanded that he should
say more, and he went on with his confession.

    You know that I became engaged to Miss Burton soon after your own
    marriage. I feel now that I should have told you this when we first
    met; but yet, had I done so, it would have seemed as though I told
    it with a special object. I don't know whether I make myself
    understood in this. I can only hope that I do so.

Understood! Of course she understood it all. She required no blundering
explanation from him to assist her intelligence.

    I wish now that I had mentioned it. It would have been better for
    both of us. I should have been saved much pain, and you, perhaps,
    some uneasiness.

    I was called down to Clavering a few weeks ago about some business
    in the family, and then became ill, so that I was confined to my bed
    instead of returning to town. Had it not been for this I should not
    have left you so long in suspense--that is, if there has been
    suspense. For myself, I have to own that I have been very
    weak--worse than weak, I fear you will think. I do not know whether
    your old regard for me will prompt you to make any excuse for me,
    but I am well sure that I can make none for myself which will not
    have suggested itself to you without my urging it. If you choose to
    think that I have been heartless--or, rather, if you are able so to
    think of me, no words of mine, written or spoken now, will remove
    that impression from your mind.

    I believe that I need write nothing further. You will understand
    from what I have said all that I should have to say were I to refer
    at length to that which has passed between us. All that is over now,
    and it only remains for me to express a hope that you may be happy.
    Whether we shall ever see each other again, who shall say? but if we
    do I trust that we may not meet as enemies. May God bless you here
    and hereafter.

    HARRY CLAVERING

When the letter was finished, Harry sat for a while by his open window
looking at the moon, over the chimney-pots of his square, and thinking
of his career in life as it had hitherto been fulfilled. The great
promise of his earlier days had not been kept. His plight in the world
was now poor enough, though his hopes had been so high. He was engaged
to be married, but had no income on which to marry. He had narrowly
escaped great wealth. Ah! it was hard for him to think of that without a
regret; but he did strive so to think of it. Though he told himself that
it would have been evil for him to have depended on money which had been
procured by the very act which had been to him an injury--to have
dressed himself in the feathers which had been plucked from Lord Ongar's
wings--it was hard for him to think of all he had missed, and rejoice
thoroughly that he had missed it. But he told himself that he so
rejoiced, and endeavored to be glad that he had not soiled his hands
with riches which never would have belonged to the woman he had loved
had she not earner them by being false to him. Early on the following
morning he sent off his letter, and then, putting himself into a cab,
bowled down to Onslow Crescent. The sheepfold was now very pleasant to
him when the head shepherd was away, and so much gratification it was
natural that he should allow himself.

That evening, when he came from his club, he found a note from Lady
Ongar. It was very short, and the blood rushed to his face as he felt
ashamed at seeing with how much apparent ease she had answered him. He
had written with difficulty, and had written awkwardly. But there was
nothing awkward in her words:

    DEAR HARRY:--We are quits now. I do not know why we should ever meet
    as enemies. I shall never feel myself to be an enemy of yours. I
    think it would be well that we should see each other, and, if you
    have no objection to seeing me, I will be at home any evening that
    you may call. Indeed, I am at home always in the evening. Surely,
    Harry, there can be no reason why we should not meet. You need not
    fear that there will be danger in it.

    Will you give my compliments to Miss Florence Burton, with my best
    wishes for her happiness? Your Mrs. Burton I have seen--as you may
    have heard, and I congratulate you on your friend. Yours always, J.
    O.

The writing of this letter seemed to have been easy enough, and
certainly there was nothing in it that was awkward; but I think that the
writer had suffered more in the writing than Harry had done in producing
his longer epistle. But she had known how to hide her suffering, and had
used a tone which told no tale of her wounds. We are quits now, she had
said, and she had repeated the words over and over again to herself as
she walked up and down her room. Yes, they were quits now, if the
reflection of that fact could do her any good. She had ill-treated him
in her early days; but, as she had told herself so often, she had served
him rather than injured him by that ill-treatment. She had been false to
him; but her falsehood had preserved him from a lot which could not have
been fortunate. With such a clog as she would have been round his
neck--with such a wife, without a shilling of fortune, how could he have
risen in the world? No! Though she had deceived him, she had served him.
Then, after that, had come the tragedy of her life, the terrible days in
thinking of which she still shuddered, the days of her husband and
Sophie Gordeloup--that terrible death-bed, those attacks upon her honor,
misery upon misery, as to which she never now spoke a word to any one,
and as to which she was resolved she never would speak again. She had
sold herself for money, and had got the price, but the punishment of her
offence had been very heavy. And now, in these latter days, she had
thought to compensate the man she had loved for the treachery with which
she had used him. That treachery had been serviceable to him, but not
the less should the compensation be very rich. And she would love him
too. Ah! yes, she had always loved him. He should have it all now--every
thing, if only he would consent to forget that terrible episode in her
life, as she would strive to forget it. All that should remain to remind
them of Lord Ongar would be the wealth that should henceforth belong to
Harry Clavering. Such had been her dream, and Harry had come to her with
words of love which made it seem to be a reality. He had spoken to her
words of love which he was now forced to withdraw, and the dream was
dissipated. It was not to be allowed to her to escape her penalty so
easily as that! As for him, they were now quits. That being the case,
there could be no reason why they should quarrel.

But what now should she do with her wealth, and especially how should
she act in respect to that place down in the country? Though she had
learned to hate Ongar Park during her solitary visit there, she had
still looked forward to the pleasure the property might give her when
she should be able to bestow it upon Harry Clavering. But that had been
part of her dream, and the dream was now over. Through it all she had
been conscious that she might hardly dare to hope that the end of her
punishment should come so soon--and now she knew that it was not come.
As far as she could see, there was no end to the punishment in prospect
for her. From her first meeting with Harry Clavering on the platform of
the railway station, his presence, or her thoughts of him, had sufficed
to give some brightness to her life--had enabled her to support the
friendship of Sophie Gordeloup, and also to support her solitude when
poor Sophie had been banished. But now she was left without any
resource. As she sat alone, meditating on all this, she endeavored to
console herself with the repetition that, after all, she was the one
whom Harry loved--whom Harry would have chosen had he been free to
choose. But the comfort to be derived from that was very poor. Yes, he
had loved her once--nay, perhaps he loved her still. But when that love
was her own she had rejected it. She had rejected it, simply declaring
to him, to her friends, and to the world at large, that she preferred to
be rich. She had her reward, and, bowing her head upon her hands, she
acknowledged that the punishment was deserved.

Her first step after writing her note to Harry was to send for Mr.
Turnbull, her lawyer. She had expected to see Harry on the evening of
the day on which she had written, but instead of that she received a
note from him in which he said that he would come to her before long.
Mr. Turnbull was more instant in obeying her commands, and was with her
on the morning after he received her injunction. He was almost a perfect
stranger to her, having only seen her once, and that for a few moments
after her return to England. Her marriage settlements had been prepared
for her by Sir Hugh's attorney; but during her sojourn in Florence it
had become necessary that she should have some one in London to look
after her own affairs, and Mr. Turnbull had been recommended to her by
lawyers employed by her husband. He was a prudent, sensible man, who
recognized it to be his imperative interest to look after his client's
interest. And he had done his duty by Lady Ongar in that trying time
immediately after her return. An offer had then been made by the Courton
family to give Julia her income without opposition if she would
surrender Ongar Park. To this she had made objections with indignation,
and Mr. Turnbull, though he had at first thought that she would be wise
to comply with the terms proposed, had done her work for her with
satisfactory expedition. Since those days she had not seen him, but now
she had summoned him, and he was with her in Bolton Street.

"I want to speak to you, Mr. Turnbull," she said, "about that place down
in Surrey. I don't like it."

"Not like Ongar Park?" he said, "I have always heard that it is so
charming."

"It is not charming to me. It is a sort of property that I don't want,
and I mean to give it up."

"Lord Ongar's uncles would buy your interest in it, I have no doubt."

"Exactly. They have sent to me, offering to do so. My brother-in-law,
Sir Hugh Clavering, called on me with a message from them saying so. I
thought that he was very foolish to come, and so I told him. Such things
should be done by one's lawyers. Don't you think so, Mr. Turnbull?" Mr.
Turnbull smiled as he declared that, of course, he, being a lawyer, was
of that opinion. "I am afraid they will have thought me uncivil,"
continued Julia, "as I spoke rather brusquely to Sir Hugh Clavering. I
am not inclined to take any steps through Sir Hugh Clavering, but I do
not know that I have any reason to be angry with the little lord's
family."

"Really, Lady Ongar, I think not. When your ladyship returned there was
some opposition thought of for a while, but I really do not think it was
their fault."

"No, it was not their fault."

"That was my feeling at the time; it was, indeed."

"It was the fault of Lord Ongar--of my husband. As regards all the
Courtons, I have no word of complaint to make. It is not to be
expected--it is not desirable that they and I should be friends. It is
impossible, after what has passed, that there should be such friendship.
But they have never injured me, and I wish to oblige them. Had Ongar
Park suited me, I should doubtless have kept it; but it does not suit
me, and they are welcome to have it back again.

"Has a price been named, Lady Ongar?"

"No price need be named. There is to be no question of a price. Lord
Ongar's mother is welcome to the place--or rather to such interest as I
have in it."

"And to pay a rent?" suggested Mr. Turnbull.

"To pay no rent. Nothing would induce me to let the place, or to sell my
right in it. I will have no bargain about it. But as nothing also will
induce me to live there, I am not such a dog in the manger as to wish to
keep it. If you will have the kindness to see Mr. Courton's lawyer, and
to make arrangements about it."

"But, Lady Ongar, what you call your right in the estate is worth over
twenty thousand pounds--it is, indeed. You could borrow twenty thousand
pounds on the security of it to-morrow."

"But I don't want to borrow twenty thousand pounds."

"No, no, exactly--of course you don't. But I point out that fact to show
the value. You would be making a present of that sum of money to people
who do not want it--who have no claim upon you. I really don't see how
they could take it."

"Mrs. Courton wishes to have the place very much."

"But, my lady, she has never thought of getting it without paying for
it. Lady Ongar, I really can not advise you to take any such step as
that--indeed, I can not. I should be wrong, as your lawyer, if I did not
point out to you that such a proceeding would be quite romantic--quite
so--what the world would call Quixotic. People don't expect such things
as that--they don't, indeed."

"People don't often have such reasons as I have," said Lady Ongar. Mr.
Turnbull sat silent for a while, looking as though he were unhappy. The
proposition made to him was one which, as a lawyer, he felt to be very
distasteful to him. He knew that his client had no male friends in whom
she confided, and he felt that the world would blame him if he allowed
this lady to part with her property in the way she had suggested. "You
will find that I am in earnest," she continued, smiling, "and you may as
well give way to my vagaries with a good grace."

"They would not take it, Lady Ongar."

"At any rate, we can try them. If you will make them understand that I
don't at all want the place, and that it will go to rack and ruin
because there is no one to live there, I am sure they will take it."

Then Mr. Turnbull again sat silent and unhappy, thinking with what words
he might best bring forward his last and strongest argument against this
rash proceeding.

"Lady Ongar," he said, "in your peculiar position, there are double
reasons why you should not act in this way."

"What do you mean, Mr. Turnbull? What is my peculiar position?"

"The world will say that you have restored Ongar Park because you were
afraid to keep it. Indeed, Lady Ongar, you had better let it remain as
it is."

"I care nothing for what the world says," she exclaimed, rising quickly
from her chair--"nothing, nothing!"

"You should really hold by your rights--you should, indeed. Who can
possibly say what other interests may be concerned? You may marry, and
live for the next fifty years, and have a family. It is my duty, Lady
Ongar, to point out these things to you."

"I am sure you are quite right, Mr. Turnbull." she said, struggling to
maintain a quiet demeanor. "You, of course, are only doing your duty.
But whether I marry or whether I remain as I am, I shall give up this
place. And as for what the world, as you call it, may say, I will not
deny that I cared much for that on my immediate return. What people said
then made me very unhappy. But I care nothing for it now. I have
established my rights, and that has been sufficient. To me it seems that
the world, as you call it, has been civil enough in its usage of me
lately. It is only of those who should have been my friends that I have
a right to complain. If you will please to do this thing for me, I will
be obliged to you."

"If you are quite determined about it--"

"I am quite determined. What is the use of the place to me? I never
shall go there. What is the use even of the money that comes to me? I
have no purpose for it. I have nothing to do with it."

There was something in her tone as she said this which well filled him
with pity.

"You should remember," he said, "how short a time it is since you became
a widow. Things will be different with you soon."

"My clothes will be different, if you mean that," she answered, "but I
do not know that there will be any other change in me. But I am wrong to
trouble you with all this. If you will let Mr. Courton's lawyer know,
with my compliments to Mrs. Courton, that I have heard that she would
like to have the place, and that I do not want it, I will be obliged to
you." Mr. Turnbull having by this time perceived that she was quite in
earnest, took his leave, having promised to do her bidding.

In this interview she had told her lawyer only a part of the plan which
was now running in her head. As for giving up Ongar Park, she took to
herself no merit for that. The place had been odious to her ever since
she had endeavored to establish herself there, and had found that the
clergyman's wife would not speak to her--that even her own housekeeper
would hardly condescend to hold converse with her. She felt that she
would be a dog in the manger to keep the place in her possession. But
she had thoughts beyond this--resolutions only as yet half formed as to
a wider surrender. She had disgraced herself, ruined herself; robbed
herself of all happiness by the marriage she had made. Her misery had
not been simply the misery of that lord's lifetime. As might have been
expected, that was soon over. But an enduring wretchedness had come
after that from which she saw no prospect of escape. What was to be her
future life, left as she was and would be, in desolation? If she were to
give it all up--all the wealth that had been so ill-gotten--might there
not then be some hope of comfort for her?

She had been willing enough to keep Lord Ongar's money, and use it for
the purposes of her own comfort, while she had still hoped that comfort
might come from it. The remembrance of all that she had to give had been
very pleasant to her, as long as she had hoped that Harry Clavering
would receive it at her hands. She had not at once felt that the fruit
had all turned to ashes. But now--now that Harry was gone from her--now
that she had no friend left to her whom she could hope to make happy by
her munificence, the very knowledge of her wealth was a burden to her.
And as she thought of her riches in these first days of her desertion,
as she had indeed been thinking since Cecilia Burton had been with her,
she came to understand that she was degraded by their acquisition. She
had done that which had been unpardonably bad, and she felt like Judas
when he stood with the price of his treachery in his hand. He had given
up his money, and would not she do as much? There had been a moment in
which she had nearly declared all her purpose to the lawyer, but she was
held back by the feeling that she ought to make her plans certain before
she communicated them to him.

She must live. She could not go out and hang herself as Judas had done.
And then there was her title and rank, of which she did not know whether
it was within her power to divest herself. She sorely felt the want of
some one from whom in her present need she might ask counsel; of some
friend to whom she could trust to tell her in what way she might now
best atone for the evil she had done. Plans ran through her head which
were thrown aside almost as soon as made, because she saw that they were
impracticable. She even longed in these days for her sister's aid,
though of old she had thought but little of Hermy as a counsellor. She
had no friend whom she might ask--unless she might still ask Harry
Clavering.

If she did not keep it all, might she still keep something--enough for
decent life--and yet comfort herself with the feeling that she had
expiated her sin? And what would be said of her when she had made this
great surrender? Would not the world laugh at her instead of praising
her--that world as to which she had assured Mr. Turnbull that she did
not care what its verdict about her might be? She had many doubts. Ah!
why had not Harry Clavering remained true to her? But her punishment had
come upon her with all its severity, and she acknowledged to herself now
that it was not to be avoided.



Chapter XLVIII

Lady Ongar's Revenge



At last came the night which Harry had fixed for his visit to Bolton
Street. He had looked forward certainly with no pleasure to the
interview, and, now that the time for it had come, was disposed to think
that Lady Ongar had been unwise in asking for it. But he had promised
that he would go, and there was no possible escape.

He dined that evening in Onslow Crescent, where he was now again
established with all his old comfort. He had again gone up to the
children's nursery with Cecilia, had kissed them all in their cots, and
made himself quite at home in the establishment. It was with them there
as though there had been no dreadful dream about Lady Ongar. It was so
altogether with Cecilia and Florence, and even Mr. Burton was allowing
himself to be brought round to a charitable view of Harry's character.
Harry on this day had gone to the chambers in the Adelphi for an hour,
and, walking away with Theodore Burton, had declared his intention of
working like a horse. "If you were to say like a man, it would perhaps
be better," said Burton. "I must leave you to say that," answered Harry;
"for the present I will content myself with the horse." Burton was
willing to hope, and allowed himself once more to fill into his old
pleasant way of talking about the business, as though there were no
other subject under the sun so full of manifold interest. He was very
keen at the present moment about Metropolitan railways, and was
ridiculing the folly of those who feared that the railway projectors
were going too fast. "But we shall never get any thanks," he said. "When
the thing has been done, and thanks are over due, people will look upon
all our work so much as a matter of course that it will never occur to
them to think that they owe us anything. They will have forgotten all
their cautions, and will take what they get as though it were simply
their due. Nothing astonishes me so much as the fear people feel before
a thing is done when I join it with their want of surprise or admiration
afterward." In this way even Theodore Burton had resumed his terms of
intimacy with Harry Clavering.

Harry had told both Cecilia and Florence of his intended visit to Bolton
Street, and they had all become very confidential on the subject. In
most such cases, we may suppose that a man does not say much to one
woman of the love which another woman has acknowledged for himself. Nor
was Harry Clavering at all disposed to make any such boast. But in this
case, Lady Ongar herself had told everything to Mrs. Burton. She had
declared her passion, and had declared also her intention of making
Harry her husband if he would take her. Everything was known, and there
was no possibility of sparing Lady Ongar's name.

"If I had been her, I would not have asked for such a meeting," Cecilia
said. The three were at this time sitting together, for Mr. Burton
rarely joined them in their conversation.

"I don't know," said Florence. "I do not see why she and Harry should
not remain as friends."

"They might be friends without meeting now," said Cecilia.

"Hardly. If the awkwardness were not got over at once, it would never be
got over. I almost think she is right, though if I was her I should long
to have it over." That was Florence's judgment in the matter. Harry sat
between them, like a sheep as he was, very meekly--not without some
enjoyment of his sheepdom, but still feeling that he was a sheep. At
half-past eight he started up, having already been told that a cab was
waiting for him at the door. He pressed Cecilia's hand as he went,
indicating his feeling that he had before him an affair of some
magnitude, and then, of course, had a word or two to say to Florence in
private on the landing. Oh, those delicious private words, the need for
which comes so often during those short halcyon days of one's lifetime!
They were so pleasant that Harry would fain have returned to repeat them
after he was seated in his cab; but the inevitable wheels carried him
onward with cruel velocity, and he was in Bolton Street before the
minutes had sufficed for him to collect his thoughts.

Lady Ongar, when he entered the room, was sitting in her accustomed
chair, near a little work-table which she always used, and did not rise
to meet him. It was a pretty chair, soft and easy, made with a back for
lounging, but with no arms to impede the circles of a lady's hoops.
Harry knew the chair well, and had spoken of sits graceful comfort in
some of his visits to Bolton Street. She was seated there when he
entered; and though he was not sufficiently experienced in the secrets
of feminine attire to know at once that she had dressed herself with
care, he did perceive that she was very charming, not only by force of
her own beauty, but by the aid also of her dress. And yet she was in
deep mourning--in the deepest mourning; nor was there anything about her
of which complaint might fairly be made by those who do complain on such
subjects. Her dress was high round her neck, and the cap on her head was
indisputably a widow's cap; but enough of her brown hair was to be seen
to tell of its rich loveliness; and the black dress was so made as to
show the full perfection of her form; and with it all there was that
graceful feminine brightness that care and money can always give, and
which will not come without care and money. It might be well, she had
thought, to surrender her income, and become poor and dowdy hereafter,
but there could be no reason why Harry Clavering should not be made to
know all that he had lost.

"Well, Harry," she said, as he stepped up to her and took her offered
hand, "I am glad that you have come that I may congratulate you. Better
late than never, eh, Harry?"

How was he to answer her when she spoke to him in this strain? "I hope
it is not too late," he said, hardly knowing what the words were which
were coming from his mouth.

"Nay, that is for you to say. I can do it heartily, Harry, if you mean
that. And why not? Why should I not wish you happy? I have always liked
you--have always wished for your happiness. You believe that I am
sincere when I congratulate you, do you not?"

"Oh yes, you are always sincere."

"I have always been so to you. As to any sincerity beyond that, we need
say nothing now. I have always been your good friend--to the best of my
ability. Ah! Harry, you do not know how much I have thought of your
welfare--how much I do think of it. But never mind that. Tell me
something now of this Florence Burton of yours. Is she tall?" I believe
that Lady Ongar, when she asked this question, knew well that Florence
was short of stature.

"No, she is not tall," said Harry.

"What--a little beauty? Upon the whole, I think I agree with your taste.
The most lovely women that I have ever seen have been small, bright, and
perfect in their proportions. It is very rare that a tall woman has a
perfect figure." Julie's own figure was quite perfect. "Do you remember
Constance Vane? Nothing ever exceeded her beauty." Now Constance
Vane--she, at least, who had in those days been Constance Vane, but who
now was the stout mother of two or three children--had been a waxen doll
of a girl, whom Harry had known, but had neither liked nor admired. But
she was highly bred, and belonged to the cream of English fashion; she
had possessed a complexion as pure in its tints as are the interior
leaves of a blush rose, and she had never had a thought in her head, and
hardly ever a word on her lips. She and Florence Burton were as poles
asunder in their differences. Harry felt this at once, and had an
indistinct notion that Lady Ongar was as well aware of the fact as was
he himself. "She is not a bit like Constance Vane," he said.

"Then what is she like? If she is more beautiful than what Miss Vane
used to be, she must be lovely indeed."

"She has no pretensions of that kind," said Harry, almost sulkily.

"I have heard that she was so very beautiful!" Lady Ongar had never
heard a word about Florence's beauty--not a word. She knew nothing
personally of Florence beyond what Mrs. Burton had told her. But who
will not forgive her the little deceit that was necessary to her little
revenge?

"I don't know how to describe her," said Harry. "I hope the time may
soon come when you will see her, and be able to judge for yourself."

"I hope so too. It shall not be my fault if I do not like her."

"I do not think you can fail to like her. She is very clever, and that
will go further with you than mere beauty. Not but what I think her
very--very pretty."

"Ah! I understand. She reads a great deal, and that sort of thing. Yes,
that is very nice. But I shouldn't have thought that that would have
taken you. You used not to care much for talent and learning--not in
women, I mean."

"I don't know about that," said Harry, looking very foolish.

"But a contrast is what you men always like. Of course I ought not to
say that, but you will know of what I am thinking. A clever,
highly-educated woman like Miss Burton will be a much better companion
to you than I could have been. You see I am very frank, Harry." She
wished to make him talk freely about himself; his future days, and his
past days, while he was simply anxious to say on these subjects as
little as possible. Poor woman! The excitement of having a passion which
she might indulge was over with her--at any rate, for the present. She
had played her game and had lost woefully; but before she retired
altogether from the gaming-table she could not keep herself from longing
for a last throw of the dice.

"These things, I fear, go very much by chance," said Harry.

"You do not mean me to suppose that you are taking Miss Burton by
chance. That would be as uncomplimentary to her as to yourself."

"Chance, at any rate, has been very good to me in this instance."

"Of that I am sure. Do not suppose that I am doubting that. It is not
only the paradise that you have gained, but the pandemonium that you
have escaped!" Then she laughed slightly, but the laughter was uneasy,
and made her angry with herself. She had especially determined to be at
ease during this meeting, and was conscious that any falling off in that
respect on her part would put into his hands the power which she was
desirous of exercising.

"You are determined to rebuke me, I see," said he. "If you choose to do
so, I am prepared to bear it. My defence, if I have a defence, is one
that I can not use."

"And what would be your defence?"

"I have said that I can not use it!"

"As if I did not understand it all! What you mean to say is this--that
when your good stars sent you in the way of Florence Burton, you had
been ill treated by her who would have made your pandemonium for you,
and that she therefore--she who came first, and behaved so badly, can
have no right to find fault with you in that you have obeyed your good
stars and done so well for yourself. That is what you call your defence.
It would be perfect, Harry, perfect, if you had only whispered to me a
word of Miss Burton when I first saw you after my return home. It is odd
to me that you should not have written to me and told me when I was
abroad with my husband. It would have comforted me to have known that
the wound which I had given had been cured--that is, if there was a
wound."

"You know that there was a wound."

"At any rate, it was not mortal. But when are such wounds mortal? When
are they more than skin-deep?"

"I can say nothing as to that now."

"No, Harry, of course you can say nothing. Why should you be made to say
anything? You are fortunate and happy, and have all that you want. I
have nothing that I want."

There was a reality in the tone of sorrow in which this was spoken which
melted him at once, and the more so in that there was so much in her
grief which could not but be flattering to his vanity. "Do not say that,
Lady Ongar," he exclaimed.

"But I do say it. What have I got in the world that is worth having? My
possessions are ever so many thousands a year--and a damaged name."

"I deny that. I deny it altogether. I do not think that there is one who
knows of your story who believes ill of you."

"I could tell you of one, Harry, who thinks very ill of me--nay, of two;
and they are both in this room. Do you remember how you used to teach me
that terribly conceited bit of Latin--Nil conscire sibi? Do you suppose
that I can boast that I never grow pale as I think of my own fault? I am
thinking of it always, and my heart is ever becoming paler and paler.
And as to the treatment of others--I wish I could make you know what I
suffered when I was fool enough to go to that place in Surrey. The
coachman who drives me no doubt thinks that I poisoned my husband, and
the servant who let you in just now supposes me to be an abandoned woman
because you are here."

"You will be angry with me, perhaps, if I say that these feelings are
morbid and will die away. They show the weakness which has come from the
ill usage you have suffered."

"You are right in part, no doubt. I shall become hardened to it all, and
shall fall into some endurable mode of life in time. But I can look
forward to nothing. What future have I? Was there ever any one so
utterly friendless as I am? Your kind cousin has done that for me; and
yet he came here to me the other day, smiling and talking as though he
were sure that I should be delighted by his condescension. I do not
think that he will ever come again."

"I did not know you had seen him."

"Yes; I saw him, but I did not find much relief from his visit. We won't
mind that, however. We can talk about something better than Hugh
Clavering during the few minutes that we have together--can we not? And
so Miss Burton is very learned and very clever?"

"I did not quite say that."

"But I know she is. What a comfort that will be to you! I am not clever,
and I never should have become learned. Oh dear! I had but one merit,
Harry--I was fond of you."

"And how did you show it?" He did not speak these words, because he
would not triumph over her, nor was he willing to express that regret on
his own part which these words would have implied; but it was impossible
for him to avoid a thought of them. He remained silent, therefore,
taking up some toy from the table into his hands, as though that would
occupy his attention.

"But what a fool I am talk of it--am I not? And I am worse than a fool.
I was thinking of you when I stood up in church to be married--thinking
of that offer of your little savings. I used to think of you at every
harsh word that I endured--of your modes of life when I sat through
those terrible nights by that poor creature's bed--of you when I knew
that the last day was coming. I thought of you always, Harry, when I
counted up my gains. I never count them up now. Ah! how I thought of you
when I came to this house in the carriage which you had provided for me,
when I had left you at the station almost without speaking a word to
you! I should have been more gracious had I not had you in my thoughts
throughout my whole journey home from Florence. And after that I had
some comfort in believing that the price of my shame might make you rich
without shame. Oh, Harry, I have been disappointed! You will never
understand what I felt when first that evil woman told me of Miss
Burton."

"Oh, Julia, what am I to say?"

"You can say nothing; but I wonder that you had not told me."

"How could I tell you? Would it not have seemed that I was vain enough
to have thought of putting you on your guard?"

"And why not? But never mind. Do not suppose that I am rebuking you. As
I said in my letter, we are quits now, and there is no place for
scolding on either side. We are quits now; but I am punished and you are
rewarded."

Of course he could not answer this. Of course he was hard pressed for
words. Of course he could neither acknowledge that he had been rewarded,
nor assert that a share of the punishment of which she spoke had fallen
upon him also. This was the revenge with which she had intended to
attack him. That she should think that he had in truth been punished and
not rewarded, was very natural. Had he been less quick in forgetting her
after her marriages he would have had his reward without any punishment.
If such were her thoughts who shall quarrel with her on that account?

"I have been very frank with you," she continued. "Indeed, why should I
not be so? People talk of a lady's secret, but my secret has been no
secret from you? That I was made to tell it under--under--what I will
call an error, was your fault, and it is that that has made us quits."

"I know that I have behaved badly to you."

"But then, unfortunately, you know also that I had deserved bad
treatment. Well, we will say no more about it. I have been very candid
with you, but then I have injured no one by my candor. You have not said
a word to me in reply; but then your tongue is tied by your duty to Miss
Burton--your duty and your love together, of course. It is all as it
should he, and now I will have done. When are you to be married, Harry?"

"No time has been flied. I am a very poor man, you know."

"Alas! alas! yes. When mischief is done, how badly all the things turn
out. You are poor and I am rich, and yet we can not help each other."

"I fear not."

"Unless I could adopt Miss Burton, and be a sort of mother to her. You
would shrink, however, from any such guardianship on my part. But you
are clever, Harry, and can work when you please, and will make your way?
If Miss Burton keeps you waiting now by any prudent fear on her part, I
shall not think so well of her as I am inclined to do."

"The Burtons are all prudent people."

"Tell her, from me, with my love, not to be too prudent. I thought to be
prudent, and see what has come of it."

"I will tell her what you say."

"Do, please; and, Harry, look here. Will she accept a little present
from me? You, at any rate, for my sake, will ask her to do so. Give her
this--it is only a trifle," and she put her hand on a small jeweler's
box which was close to her arm upon the table, "and tell her--of course
she knows all our story, Harry?"

"Yes, she knows it all."

"Tell her that she whom you have rejected sends it with her kindest
wishes to her whom you have taken."

"No, I will not tell her that."

"Why not? It is all true. I have not poisoned the little ring, as the
ladies would have done some centuries since. They were grander then than
we are now, and perhaps hardly worse, though more cruel. You will bid
her take it, will you not?"

"I am sure she will take it without bidding on my part."

"And tell her not to write me any thanks. She and I will both understand
that that had better be omitted. If, when I shall see her at some future
time as your wife, it shall be on her finger, I shall know that I am
thanked." Then Harry rose to go. "I did not mean by that to turn you
out, but perhaps it may be as well. I have no more to say; and as for
you, you can not but wish that the penance should be over." Then he
pressed her hand, and with some muttered farewell, bade her adieu. Again
she did not rise from her chair, but, nodding at him with a sweet smile,
let him go without another word.



Chapter XLIX

Showing What Happened Off Heligoland



During the six weeks after this, Harry Clavering settled down to his
work at the chambers in the Adelphi with exemplary diligence. Florence,
having remained a fortnight in town after Harry's return to the
sheepfold, and having accepted Lady Ongar's present--not without a long
and anxious consultation with her sister-in-law on the subject--had
returned in fully restored happiness to Stratton. Mrs. Burton was at
Ramsgate with the children, and Mr. Burton was in Russia with reference
to a line of railway which was being projected from Moscow to Astracan.
It was now September, and Harry, in his letters home, declared that he
was the only person left in London. It was hard upon him--much harder
than it was upon the Wallikers and other young men whom Fate retained in
town for Harry was a man given to shooting--a man accustomed to pass the
autumnal months in a country house. And then, if things had chanced to
go one way instead of another, he would have had his own shooting down
at Ongar Park with his own friends--admiring him at his heels; or, if
not so this year, he would have been shooting elsewhere with the
prospect of these rich joys for years to come. As it was, he had
promised to stick to the shop, and was sticking to it manfully. Nor do I
think that he allowed his mind to revert to those privileges which might
have been his at all more frequently than any of my readers would have
done in his place. He was sticking to the shop; and, though he greatly
disliked the hot desolation of London in those days, being absolutely
afraid to frequent his club at such a period of the year, and though he
hated Walliker mortally, he was fully resolved to go on with his work.
Who could tell what might be his fate? Perhaps in another ten years he
might be carrying that Russian railway on through the deserts of
Siberia. Then there came to him suddenly tidings which disturbed all his
resolutions, and changed the whole current of his life.

At first there came a telegram to him from the country, desiring him to
go down at once to Clavering, but not giving him any reason. Added to
the message were these words: "We are all well at the parsonage"--words
evidently added in thoughtfulness. But before he had left the office,
there came to him there a young man from the bank at which his cousin
Hugh kept his account, telling him the tidings to which the telegram no
doubt referred. Jack Stuart's boat had been lost, and his two cousins
had gone to their graves beneath the sea! The master of the boat, and
Stuart himself, with a boy, had been saved. The other sailors whom they
had with them, and the ship's steward, had perished with the Claverings.
Stuart, it seemed, had caused tidings of the accident to be sent to the
rector of Clavering and to Sir Hugh's bankers. At the bank they had
ascertained that their late customer's cousin was in town, and their
messenger had thereupon been sent, first to Bloomsbury Square, and from
thence to the Adelphi.

Harry had never loved his cousins. The elder he had greatly disliked,
and the younger he would have disliked had he not despised him. But not
the less on that account was he inexpressibly shocked when he first
heard what had happened. The lad said that there could, as he imagined,
be no mistake. The message had come, as he believed, from Holland, but
of that he was not certain. There could, however, be no doubt about the
fact. It distinctly stated that both brothers had perished. Harry had
known, when he received the message from home, that no train would take
him till three in the afternoon, and had therefore remained at the
office; but he could not remain now. His head was confused, and he could
hardly bring himself to think how this matter would affect himself. When
he attempted to explain his absence to an old serious clerk there, he
spoke of his own return to the office as certain. He should be back, he
supposed, in a week at the furthest. He was thinking thus of his
promises to Theodore Burton, and had not begun to realize the fact that
his whole destiny in life would be changed. He said something, with a
long face, on the terrible misfortune which had occurred, but gave no
hint that that misfortune would be important in its consequences to
himself. It was not till he had reached his lodging in Bloomsbury Square
that he remembered that his own father was now the baronet, and that he
was his father's heir. And then for a moment he thought about the
property. He believed that it was entailed, but even of that he was not
certain. But if it were unentailed, to whom could his cousin have left
it? He endeavored, however, to expel such thoughts from his mind, as
though there was something ungenerous in entertaining them. He tried to
think of the widow, but even in doing that he could not tell himself
that there was much ground for genuine sorrow. No wife had ever had less
joy from her husband's society than Lady Clavering had had from that of
Sir Hugh. There was no child to mourn the loss--no brother, no unmarried
sister. Sir Hugh had had friends--as friendship goes with such men; but
Harry could not but doubt whether among them all there would be one who
would feel anything like true grief for his loss. And it was the same
with Archie. Who in the world would miss Archie Clavering? What man or
woman would find the world to be less bright because Archie Clavering
was sleeping beneath the waves? Some score of men at his club would talk
of poor Clavvy for a few days--would do so without any pretence at the
tenderness of sorrow; and then even of Archie's memory there would be an
end. Thinking of all this as he was carried down to Clavering, Harry
could not but acknowledge that the loss to the world had not been great;
but, even while telling himself this, he would not allow himself to take
comfort in the prospect of his heirship. Once, perhaps, he did speculate
how Florence should bear her honors as Lady Clavering, but this idea he
swept away from his thoughts as quickly as he was able.

The tidings had reached the parsonage very late on the previous
night--so late that the rector had been disturbed in his bed to receive
them. It was his duty to make known to Lady Clavering the fact that she
was a widow, but this he could not do till the next morning. But there
was little sleep that night for him or for his wife! He knew well enough
that the property was entailed. He felt with sufficient strength what it
was to become a baronet at a sudden blow, and to become also the owner
of the whole Clavering property. He was not slow to think of the removal
to the great house, of the altered prospects of his son, and of the mode
of life which would be fitting for himself in future. Before the morning
came he had meditated who should be the future rector of Clavering, and
had made some calculations as to the expediency of resuming his hunting.
Not that he was a heartless man, or that he rejoiced at what had
happened. But a man's ideas of generosity change as he advances in age,
and the rector was old enough to tell himself boldly that this thing
that had happened could not be to him a cause of much grief. He had
never loved his cousins, or pretended to love them. His cousin's wife he
did love, after a fashion, but in speaking to his own wife of the way in
which this tragedy would affect Hermione, he did not scruple to speak of
her widowhood as a period of coining happiness.

"She will be cut to pieces," said Mrs. Clavering. "She was attached to
him as earnestly as though he had treated her always well."

"I believe it; but not the less will she feel her release,
unconsciously; and her life, which has been very wretched, will
gradually become easy to her."

Even Mrs. Clavering could not deny that this would be so, and then they
reverted to matters which more closely concerned themselves. "I suppose
Harry will marry at once now?" said the mother.

"No doubt; it is almost a pity, is it not?" The rector--as we still call
him--was thinking that Florence was hardly a fitting wife for his son
with his altered prospects. Ah! what a grand thing it would have been if
the Clavering property and Lady Ongar's jointure could have gone
together!

"Not a pity at all," said Mrs. Clavering. "You will find that Florence
will make him a very happy man."

"I dare say--I dare say. Only he would hardly have taken her had this
sad accident happened before he saw her. But if she will make him happy,
that is everything. I have never thought much about money myself. If I
find any comfort in these tidings, it is for his sake, not for my own. I
would sooner remain as I am." This was not altogether untrue, and yet he
was thinking of the big house and the bunting.

"What will be done about the living?" It was early in the morning when
Mrs. Clavering asked this question. She had thought much about the
living during the night, and so had the rector, but his thoughts had not
run in the same direction as hers. He made no immediate answer, and then
she went on with her question. "Do you think that you will keep it in
your own hands?"

"Well--no; why should I? I am too idle about it as it is. I should be
more so under these altered circumstances."

"I am sure you would do your duty if you resolved to keep it, but I
don't see why you should do so."

"Clavering is a great deal better than Humbleton," said the rector.
Humbleton was the name of the parish held by Mr. Fielding, his
son-in-law.

But the idea here put forward did not suit the idea which was running in
Mrs. Clavering's mind. "Edward and Mary are very well off," she said.
"His own property is considerable, and I don't think they want anything.
Besides, he would hardly like to give up a family living."

"I might ask him, at any rate."

"I was thinking of Mr. Saul," said Mrs. Clavering, boldly.

"Of Mr. Saul!" The image of Mr. Saul, as rector of Clavering, perplexed
the new baronet egregiously.

"Well--yes. He is an excellent clergyman. No one can deny that." Then
there was silence between them for a few moments. "In that case, he and
Fanny would of course marry. It is no good concealing the fact that she
is very fond of him."

"Upon my word, I can't understand it," said the rector.

"It is so; and as to the excellence of his character, there can be no
doubt." To this the rector made no answer, but went away into his
dressing-room, that he might prepare himself for his walk across the
park to the great house. While they were discussing who should be the
future incumbent of the living, Lady Clavering was still sleeping in
unconsciousness of her fate. Mr. Clavering greatly dreaded the task
which was before him, and had made a little attempt to induce his wife
to take the office upon herself; but she had explained to him that it
would be more seemly that he should be the bearer of the tidings. "It
would seem that you were wanting in affection for her if you do not go
yourself;" his wife had said to him. That the rector of Clavering was
master of himself and of his own actions, no one who knew the family
ever denied, but the instances in which he declined to follow his wife's
advice were not many.

It was about eight o'clock when he went across the park. He had already
sent a messenger with a note to beg that Lady Clavering would be up to
receive him. As he would come very early, he had said, perhaps she would
see him in her own room. The poor lady had, of course, been greatly
frightened by this announcement; but this fear had been good for her, as
they had well understood at the rectory; the blow, dreadfully sudden as
it must still be, would be somewhat less sudden under this preparation.
When Mr. Clavering reached the house the servant was in waiting to show
him up stairs to the sitting-room which Lady Clavering usually occupied
when alone. She had been there waiting for him for the last half hour.
"Mr. Clavering, what is it?" she exclaimed, as he entered with tidings
of death written on his visage. "In the name of heaven, what is it? You
have something to tell me of Hugh."

"Dear Hermione," he said, taking her by the hand.

"What is it? Tell me at once. Is he still alive?"

The rector still held her by the hand, but spoke no word. He had been
trying as he came across the park to arrange the words in which he
should tell his tale, but now it was told without any speech on his
part.

"He is dead. Why do you not speak? Why are you so cruel?"

"Dearest Hermione, what am I to say to comfort you?"

What he might say after this was of little moment, for she had fainted.
He rang the bell, and then, when the servants were there--the old
housekeeper and Lady Clavering's maid--he told to them, rather than to
her, what had been their master's fate.

"And Captain Archie?" asked the housekeeper.

The rector shook his head, and the housekeeper knew that the rector was
now the baronet. Then they took the poor widow to her own room--should I
not rather call her, as I may venture to speak the truth, the
enfranchised slave than the poor widow--and the rector, taking up his
hat, promised that he would send his wife across to their mistress. His
morning's task had been painful, but it had been easily accomplished. As
he walked home among the oaks of Clavering Park, he told himself; no
doubt, that they were now all his own.

That day at the rectory was very sombre, if it was not actually sad. The
greater part of the morning Mrs. Clavering passed with the widow, and,
sitting near her sofa, she wrote sundry letters to those who were
connected with the family. The longest of these was to Lady Ongar, who
was now at Tenby, and in that there was a pressing request from Hermione
that her sister would come to her at Clavering Park: "Tell her," said
Lady Clavering, "that all her anger must be over now." But Mrs.
Clavering said nothing of Julia's anger. She merely urged the request
that Julia would come to her sister. "She will be sure to come," said
Mrs. Clavering. "You need have no fear on that head."

"But how can I invite her here, when the house is not my own?"

"Pray do not talk in that way, Hermione. The house will be your own for
any time that you may want it. Your husband's relations are your dear
friends, are they not?" But this allusion to her husband brought her to
another fit of hysterical tears. "Both of them gone," she said, "both of
them gone!" Mrs. Clavering knew well that she was not alluding to the
two brothers, but to her husband and her baby. Of poor Archie no one had
said a word--beyond that one word spoken by the housekeeper. For her, it
had been necessary that she should know who was now the master of
Clavering Park.

Twice in the day Mrs. Clavering went over to the big house, and on her
second return, late in the evening, she found her son. When she arrived,
there had already been some few words on the subject between him and his
father.

"You have heard of it, Harry?"

"Yes; a clerk came to me from the banker's."

"Dreadful, is it not? Quite terrible to think of!"

"Indeed it is, sir. I was never so shocked in my life."

"He would go in that cursed boat, though I know that he was advised
against it," said the father, holding up his hands and shaking his head.
"And now both of them gone--both gone at once!"

"How does she bear it?"

"Your mother is with her now. When I went in the morning--I had written
a line, and she expected bad news--she fainted. Of course, I could do
nothing. I can hardly say that I told her. She asked the question, and
then saw by my face that her fears were well founded. Upon my word, I
was glad when she did faint; it was the best thing for her."

"It must have been very painful for you."

"Terrible--terrible;" and the rector shook his head. "It will make a
great difference in your prospects, Harry."

"And in your life, sir! So to say, you are as young a man as myself."

"Am I? I believe I was about as young when you were born. But I don't
think at all about myself in this matter. I am too old to care to change
my manner of living. It won't affect me very much. Indeed, I hardly know
yet how it may affect me. Your mother thinks I ought to give up the
living. If you were in orders, Harry--"

"I'm very glad, sir, that I am not."

"I suppose so. And there is no need--certainly there is no need. You
will be able to do pretty nearly what you like about the property. I
shall not care to interfere."

"Yes you will, sir. It feels strange now, but you will soon get used to
it. I wonder whether he left a will."

"It can't make any difference to you, you know. Every acre of the
property is entailed. She has her settlement. Eight hundred a year, I
think it is. She'll not be a rich woman like her sister. I wonder where
she'll live. As far as that goes, she might stay at the house, if she
likes it. I'm sure your mother wouldn't object."

Harry on this occasion asked no questions about the living, but he also
had thought of that. He knew well that his mother would befriend Mr.
Saul. and he knew also that his father would ultimately take his
mother's advice. As regarded himself he had no personal objection to Mr.
Saul, though he could not understand how his sister should feel any
strong regard for such a man.

Edward Fielding would make a better neighbor at the parsonage, and then
he thought whether an exchange might not be made. After that, and before
his mother's return from the great house, he took a stroll through the
park with Fanny. Fanny altogether declined to discuss any of the family
prospects as they were affected by the accident which had happened. To
her mind the tragedy was so terrible that she could only feel its tragic
element. No doubt she had her own thoughts about Mr. Saul as connected
with it. "What would he think of this sudden death of the two brothers?
How would he feel it. If she could be allowed to talk to him on the
matter, what would he say of their fate here and hereafter? Would he go
to the great house to offer the consolations of religion to the widow?"
Of all this she thought much; but no picture of Mr. Saul as rector of
Clavering, or of herself as mistress in her mother's house, presented
itself to her mind. Harry found her to be a dull companion, and he,
perhaps, consoled himself with some personal attention to the oak trees,
which loomed larger upon him now than they had ever done before.

On the third day the rector went up to London, leaving Harry at the
parsonage. It was necessary that lawyers should be visited, and that
such facts as to the loss should be proved as were capable of proof.
There was no doubt at all as to the fate of Sir Hugh and his brother.
The escape of Mr. Stuart and of two of those employed by him prevented
the possibility of a doubt. The vessel had been caught in a gale off
Heligoland, and had foundered. They had all striven to get into the
yacht's boat, but those who had succeeded in doing so had gone down. The
master of the yacht had seen the two brothers perish. Those who were
saved had been picked up off the spars to which they had attached
themselves. There was no doubt in the way of the new baronet, and no
difficulty.

Nor was there any will made either by Sir Hugh or his brother. Poor
Archie had nothing to leave, and that he should have left no will was
not remarkable. But neither had there been much in the power of Sir Hugh
to bequeath, nor was there any great cause for a will on his part. Had
he left a son, his son would have inherited everything. He had, however,
died childless, and his wife was provided for by her settlement. On his
marriage he had made the amount settled as small as his wife's friends
would accept, and no one who knew the man expected that he would
increase the amount after his death. Having been in town for three days,
the rector returned, being then in full possession of the title; but
this he did not assume till after the second Sunday from the date of the
telegram which brought the news.

In the mean time Harry had written to Florence, to whom the tidings were
as important as to any one concerned. She had left London very
triumphant, quite confident that she had nothing now to fear from Lady
Ongar or from any other living woman, having not only forgiven Harry his
sins, but having succeeded also in persuading herself that there had
been no sins to forgive--having quarrelled with her brother half a dozen
times in that he would not accept her arguments on this matter. He too
would forgive Harry--had forgiven him--was quite ready to omit all
further remark on the matter--but could not bring himself; when urged by
Florence, to admit that her Apollo had been altogether godlike. Florence
had thus left London in triumph, but she had gone with a conviction that
she and Harry must remain apart for some indefinite time, which probably
must be measured by years. "Let us see at the end of two years," she had
said; and Harry had been forced to be content. But how would it be with
her now?

Harry of course began his letter by telling her of the catastrophe, with
the usual amount of epithets. It was very terrible, awful, shocking--the
saddest thing that had ever happened! The poor widow was in a desperate
state, and all the Claverings were nearly beside themselves. But when
this had been duly said, he allowed himself to go into their own home
question. "I can not fail," he wrote, "to think of this chiefly as it
concerns you--or rather as it concerns myself in reference to you. I
suppose I shall leave the business now. Indeed, my father seems to think
that my remaining there would be absurd, and my mother agrees with him.
As I am the only son, the property will enable me to live easily without
a profession. When I say 'me,' of course you will understand what 'me'
means. The better part of 'me' is so prudent that I know she will not
accept this view of things without ever so much consideration, and
therefore she must come to Clavering to hear it discussed by the elders.
For myself; I can not bear to think that I should take delight in the
results of this dreadful misfortune; but how am I to keep myself from
being made happy by the feeling that we may now be married without
further delay? After all that has passed, nothing will make me happy or
even permanently comfortable till I can call you fairly my own. My
mother has already said that she hopes you will come here in about a
fortnight--that is, as soon as we shall have fallen tolerably into our
places again; but she will write herself before that time. I have
written a line to your brother, addressed to the office, which I suppose
will find him. I have written also to Cecilia. Your brother, no doubt,
will hear the news first through the French newspapers." Then he said a
little, but a very little, as to their future modes of life, just
intimating to her, and no more, that her destiny might probably call
upon her to be the mother of a future baronet.

The news had reached Clavering on a Saturday. On the following Sunday
everyone in the parish had no doubt heard of it, but nothing on the
subject was said in church on that day. The rector remained at home
during the morning, and the whole service was performed by Mr. Saul. But
on the second Sunday Mr. Fielding had come over from Humbleton, and he
preached a sermon on the loss which the parish had sustained in the
sudden death of the two brothers. It is perhaps well that such sermons
should be preached. The inhabitants of Clavering would have felt that
their late lords had been treated like dogs had no word been said of
them in the house of God. The nature of their fate had forbidden even
the common ceremony of a burial service. It is well that some respect
should be maintained from the low in station toward those who are high,
even where no respect has been deserved; and, for the widow's sake, it
was well that some notice should be taken in Clavering of this death of
the head of the Claverings; but I should not myself have liked the duty
of preaching a eulogistic sermon on the lives and death of Hugh
Clavering and his brother Archie. What had either of them ever done to
merit a good word from any man, or to earn the love of any woman? That
Sir Hugh had been loved by his wife had come from the nature of the
woman, not at all from the qualities of the man. Both of the brothers
had lived on the unexpressed theory of consuming, for the benefit of
their own backs and their own bellies, the greatest possible amount of
those good things which fortune might put in their way. I doubt whether
either of them had ever contributed any thing willingly to the comfort
or happiness of any human being. Hugh, being powerful by nature, and
having a strong will, had tyrannized over all those who were subject to
him. Archie, not gifted as was his brother, had been milder, softer, and
less actively hateful; but his principle of action had been the same.
Everything for himself! Was it not well that two such men should be
consigned to the fishes, and that the world--especially the Clavering
world, and that poor widow, who now felt herself to be so inexpressibly
wretched when her period of comfort was in truth only commencing--was it
not well that the world and Clavering should be well quit of them? That
idea is the one which one would naturally have felt inclined to put into
one's sermon on such an occasion; and then to sing some song of
rejoicing--either to do that, or to leave the matter alone.

But not so are such sermons preached, and not after that fashion did the
young clergyman who had married the first cousin of these Claverings
buckle himself to the subject. He indeed had, I think, but little
difficulty, either inwardly with his conscience, or outwardly with his
subject. He possessed the power of a pleasant, easy flow of words, and
of producing tears, if not from other eyes, at any rate from his own. He
drew a picture of the little ship amid the storm, and of God's hand as
it moved in its anger upon the waters, but of the cause of that divine
wrath and its direction he said nothing. Then, of the suddenness of
death and its awfulness he said much, not insisting, as he did so, on
the necessity of repentance for salvation, as far as those two poor
sinners were concerned. No, indeed; how could any preacher have done
that? But he improved the occasion by telling those around him that they
should so live as to be ever ready for the hand of death. If that were
possible, where then indeed would be the victory of the grave? And at
last he came to the master and lord whom they had lost. Even here there
was no difficulty for him. The heir had gone first, and then the father
and his brother. Who among them would not pity the bereaved mother and
the widow? Who among them would not remember with affection the babe
whom they had seen at that font, and with respect the landlord under
whose rule they had lived? How pleasant it must be to ask those
questions which no one can rise to answer! Farmer Gubbins, as he sat by,
listening with what power of attention had been vouchsafed to him, felt
himself to be somewhat moved, but soon released himself from the task,
and allowed his mind to run away into other ideas. The rector was a
kindly man and a generous. The rector would allow him to inclose that
little bit of common land, that was to be taken in, without adding
anything to his rent. The rector would be there on audit days, and
things would be very pleasant. Farmer Gubbins, when the slight murmuring
gurgle of the preacher's tears was heard, shook his own head by way of a
responsive wail; but at that moment he was congratulating himself on the
coming comfort of the new reign. Mr. Fielding, however, got great credit
for his own sermon; and it did, probably, more good than harm--unless,
indeed, we should take into our calculation, in giving our award on this
subject, the permanent utility of all truth, and the permanent injury of
all falsehood.

Mr. Fielding remained at the parsonage during the greater part of the
following week, and then there took place a great deal of family
conversation respecting the future incumbent of the living. At these
family conclaves, however, Fanny was not asked to be present. Mrs.
Clavering, who knew well how to do such work, was gradually bringing her
husband round to endure the name of Mr. Saul. Twenty times had he
asserted that he could not understand it; but, whether or no such
understanding might ever be possible, he was beginning to recognize it
as true that the thing not understood was a fact. His daughter Fanny was
positively in love with Mr. Saul, and that to such an extent that her
mother believed her happiness to be involved in it. "I can't understand
it--upon my word I can't," said the rector for the last time, and then
he gave way. There was now the means of giving an ample provision for
the lovers, and that provision was to be given.

Mr. Fielding shook his head--not, in this instance, as to Fanny's
predilection for Mr. Saul, though in discussing that matter with his own
wife he had shaken his head very often, but he shook it now with
reference to the proposed change. He was very well where he was. And
although Clavering was better than Humbleton, it was not so much better
as to induce him to throw his own family over by proposing to send Mr.
Saul among them. Mr. Saul was an excellent clergyman, but perhaps his
uncle, who had given him his living, might not like Mr. Saul. Thus it
was decided in these conclaves that Mr. Saul was to be the future rector
of Clavering.

In the mean time poor Fanny moped--wretched in her solitude,
anticipating no such glorious joys as her mother was preparing for her;
and Mr. Saul was preparing with energy for his departure into foreign
parts.

Lady Ongar was at Tenby when she received Mrs. Clavering's letter, and
had not heard of the fate of her brother-in-law till the news reached
her in that way. She had gone down to a lodging at Tenby with no
attendant but one maid, and was preparing herself for the great
surrender of her property which she meditated. Hitherto she had heard
nothing from the Courtons or their lawyer as to the offer she had made
about Ongar Park; but the time had been short, and lawyer's work, as she
knew, was never done in a hurry. She had gone to Tenby, flying, in
truth, from the loneliness of London to the loneliness of the sea-shore,
but expecting she knew not what comfort from the change. She would take
with her no carriage, and there would, as she thought, be excitement
even in that. She would take long walks by herself--she would read--nay,
if possible, she would study, and bring herself to some habits of
industry. Hitherto she had failed in everything, but now she would try
if some mode of success might not be open to her. She would ascertain,
too, on what smallest sum she could live respectably and without penury,
and would keep only so much out of Lord Ongar's wealth.

But hitherto her life at Tenby had not been successful. Solitary days
were longer there even than they had been in London. People stared at
her more; and, though she did not own it to herself, she missed greatly
the comforts of her London house. As for reading, I doubt whether she
did much better by the sea-side than she had done in the town. Men and
women say that they will read, and think so--those, I mean, who have
acquired no habit of reading--believing the work to be, of all works,
the easiest. It may be work, they think, but of all works it must be the
easiest of achievement. Given the absolute faculty of reading, the task
of going through the pages of a book must be, of all tasks, the most
certainly within the grasp of the man or woman who attempts it. Alas!
no; if the habit be not there, of all tasks it is the most difficult. If
a man have not acquired the habit of reading till he be old, he shall
sooner in his old age learn to make shoes than learn the adequate use of
a book. And worse again--under such circumstances the making of shoes
shall be more pleasant to him than the reading of a book. Let those who
are not old, who are still young, ponder this well. Lady Ongar, indeed,
was not old, by no means too old to clothe herself in new habits; but
even she was old enough to find that the doing so was a matter of much
difficulty. She had her books around her; but, in spite of her books,
she was sadly in want of some excitement when the letter from Clavering
came so her relief.

It was indeed a relief. Her brother-in-law dead, and he also who had so
lately been her suitor! These two men whom she had so lately seen in
lusty health--proud with all the pride of outward life--had both, by a
stroke of the winds, been turned into nothing. A terrible retribution
had fallen upon her enemy--for as her enemy she had ever regarded Hugh
Clavering since her husband's death. She took no joy in this
retribution. There was no feeling of triumph at her heart in that he had
perished. She did not tell herself that she was glad, either for her own
sake or for her sister's. But mingled with the awe she felt there was a
something of unexpressed and inexpressible relief. Her present life was
very grievous to her, and now had occurred that which would open to her
new hopes and a new mode of living. Her brother-in-law had oppressed her
by his very existence, and now he was gone. Had she had no
brother-in-law who ought to have welcomed her, her return to England
would not have been terrible to her as it had been. Her sister would be
now restored to her, and her solitude would probably be at an end. And
then the very excitement occasioned by the news was salutary to her. She
was in truth, shocked. As she said to her maid, she felt it to be very
dreadful. But, nevertheless, the day on which she received those tidings
was less wearisome to her than any other of the days that she had passed
at Tenby.

Poor Archie! Some feeling of a tear, some half-formed drop that was
almost a tear, came to her eye as she thought of his fate. How foolish
he had always been, how unintelligent, how deficient in all those
qualities which recommend men to women! But the very memory of his
deficiencies created something like a tenderness in his favor. Hugh was
disagreeable, nay, hateful, by reason of the power which he possessed;
whereas Archie was not hateful at all, and was disagreeable simply
because nature had been a niggard to him. And then he had professed
himself to be her lover. There had not been much in this; for he had
come, of course, for her money; but even when that is the case, a woman
will feel something for the man who has offered to link his lot with
hers. Of all those to whom the fate of the two brothers had hitherto
been matter of moment, I think that Lady Ongar felt more than any other
for the fate of poor Archie.

And how would it affect Harry Clavering? She had desired to give Harry
all the good things of the world, thinking that they would become him
well--thinking that they would become him very well as reaching him from
her hand. Now he would have them all, but would not have them from her.
Now he would have them all, and would share them with Florence Burton.
Ah! if she could have been true to him in those early days--in those
days when she had feared his poverty--would it not have been well now
with her also? The measure of her retribution was come full home to her
at last! Sir Harry Clavering! She tried the name, and found that it
sounded very well. And she thought of the figure of the man and of his
nature, and she knew that he would bear it with a becoming manliness.
Sir Harry Clavering would be somebody in his county--would be a husband
of whom his wife would be proud as he went about among his tenants and
his gamekeepers, and perhaps on wider and better journeys, looking up
the voters of his neighborhood. Yes, happy would be the wife of Sir
Harry Clavering. He was a man who would delight in sharing his house,
his hope; his schemes and councils with his wife. He would find a
companion in his wife. He would do honor to his wife, and make much of
her. He would like to see her go bravely. And then, if children came,
how tender he would be to them! Whether Harry could ever have become a
good head to a poor household might be doubtful, but no man had ever
been born fitter for the position which he was now called upon to fill.
It was thus that Lady Ongar thought of Harry Clavering as she owned to
herself that the full measure of her just retribution had come home to
her.

Of course she would go at once to Clavering Park. She wrote to her
sister saying so, and the next day she started. She started so quickly
on her journey that she reached the house not very many hours after her
own letter. She was there when the rector started for London, and there
when Mr. Fielding preached his sermon; but she did not see Mr. Clavering
before he went, nor was she present to hear the eloquence of the younger
clergyman. Till after that Sunday the only member of the family she had
seen was Mrs. Clavering, who spent some period of every day up at the
great house. Mrs. Clavering had not hitherto seen Lady Ongar since her
return, and was greatly astonished at the change which so short a time
had made. "She is handsomer than ever she was," Mrs. Clavering said to
the rector; "-but it is that beauty which some women carry into middle
life, and not the loveliness of youth." Lady Ongar's manner was cold and
stately when first she met Mrs. Clavering. It was on the morning of her
marriage when they had last met--when Julia Brabazon was resolving that
she would look like a countess, and that to be a countess should be
enough for her happiness. She could not but remember this now, and was
unwilling at first to make confession of her failure by any meekness of
conduct. It behooved her to be proud, at any rate till she should know
how this new Lady Clavering would receive her. And then it was more than
probable that this new Lady Clavering knew all that had taken place
between her and Harry. It behooved her, therefore, to hold her head on
high.

But, before the week was over, Mrs Clavering--for we will still call her
so--had broken Lady Ongar's spirit by her kindness, and the poor, woman
who had so much to bear had brought herself to speak of the weight of
her burden. Julia had, on one occasion, called her Lady Clavering, and
for the moment this had been allowed to pass without observation. The
widowed lady was then present, and no notice of the name was possible.
But soon afterward Mrs. Clavering made her little request on the
subject. "I do not quite know what the custom may be," she said, "but do
not call me so just yet. It will only be reminding Hermy of her
bereavement."

"She is thinking of it always," said Julia.

"No doubt she is; but still the new name would wound her. And, indeed,
it perplexes me also. Let it come by-and-by, when we are more settled."

Lady Ongar had truly said that her sister was as yet always thinking of
her bereavement. To her now it was as though the husband she had lost
had been a paragon among men. She could only remember of him his
manliness, his power--a dignity of presence which he possessed--and the
fact that to her he had been everything. She thought of that last vain
caution which she had given him when with her hardly-permitted last
embrace she had besought him to take care of himself. She did not
remember now how coldly that embrace had been received, how completely
those words had been taken as meaning nothing, how he had left her not
only without a sign of affection, but without an attempt to repress the
evidences of his indifference. But she did remember that she had had her
arm upon his shoulder, and tried to think of that embrace as though it
had been sweet to her. And she did remember how she had stood at the
window, listening to the sounds of the wheels which took him off, and
watching his form as long as her eye could rest upon it. Ah! what
falsehoods she told herself now of her love to him, and of his goodness
to her--pious falsehoods which would su