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Title: Ayala's Angel
Author: Trollope, Anthony, 1815-1882
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.


*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Ayala's Angel" ***


AYALA'S ANGEL

by

ANTHONY TROLLOPE,

Author of "Doctor Thorne," "The Prime Minister," "Orley Farm,"
&c., &c.

In Three Volumes.

VOL. I.



London:
Chapman and Hall (Limited),
11, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden.
1881.
[All Rights Reserved.]

Westminster:
J. B. Nichols and Sons, Printers.
25, Parliament Street.



CONTENTS OF VOL. I.

       I. THE TWO SISTERS.
      II. LUCY WITH HER AUNT DOSETT.
     III. LUCY'S TROUBLES.
      IV. ISADORE HAMEL.
       V. AT GLENBOGIE.
      VI. AT ROME.
     VII. TOM TRINGLE IN EARNEST.
    VIII. THE LOUT.
      IX. THE EXCHANGE.
       X. AYALA AND HER AUNT MARGARET.
      XI. TOM TRINGLE COMES TO THE CRESCENT.
     XII. "WOULD YOU?"
    XIII. HOW THE TRINGLES FELL INTO TROUBLE.
     XIV. FRANK HOUSTON.
      XV. AYALA WITH HER FRIENDS.
     XVI. JONATHAN STUBBS.
    XVII. LUCY IS VERY FIRM.
   XVIII. DOWN IN SCOTLAND.
     XIX. ISADORE HAMEL IS ASKED TO LUNCH.
      XX. STUBBS UPON MATRIMONY.
     XXI. AYALA'S INDIGNATION.
    XXII. AYALA'S GRATITUDE.



AYALA'S ANGEL.


CHAPTER I.

THE TWO SISTERS.


When Egbert Dormer died he left his two daughters utterly penniless
upon the world, and it must be said of Egbert Dormer that nothing
else could have been expected of him. The two girls were both
pretty, but Lucy, who was twenty-one, was supposed to be simple and
comparatively unattractive, whereas Ayala was credited,--as her
somewhat romantic name might show,--with poetic charm and a taste for
romance. Ayala when her father died was nineteen.

We must begin yet a little earlier and say that there had been,--and
had died many years before the death of Egbert Dormer,--a clerk in
the Admiralty, by name Reginald Dosett, who, and whose wife, had been
conspicuous for personal beauty. Their charms were gone, but the
records of them had been left in various grandchildren. There had
been a son born to Mr. Dosett, who was also a Reginald and a clerk
in the Admiralty, and who also, in his turn, had been a handsome
man. With him, in his decadence, the reader will become acquainted.
There were also two daughters, whose reputation for perfect feminine
beauty had never been contested. The elder had married a city man of
wealth,--of wealth when he married her, but who had become enormously
wealthy by the time of our story. He had when he married been simply
Mister, but was now Sir Thomas Tringle, Baronet, and was senior
partner in the great firm of Travers and Treason. Of Traverses and
Treasons there were none left in these days, and Mr. Tringle was
supposed to manipulate all the millions with which the great firm in
Lombard Street was concerned. He had married old Mr. Dosett's eldest
daughter, Emmeline, who was now Lady Tringle, with a house at the top
of Queen's Gate, rented at £1,500 a year, with a palatial moor in
Scotland, with a seat in Sussex, and as many carriages and horses as
would suit an archduchess. Lady Tringle had everything in the world;
a son, two daughters, and an open-handed stout husband, who was said
to have told her that money was a matter of no consideration.

The second Miss Dosett, Adelaide Dosett, who had been considerably
younger than her sister, had insisted upon giving herself to Egbert
Dormer, the artist, whose death we commemorated in our first line.
But she had died before her husband. They who remembered the two
Miss Dosetts as girls were wont to declare that, though Lady Tringle
might, perhaps, have had the advantage in perfection of feature and
in unequalled symmetry, Adelaide had been the more attractive from
expression and brilliancy. To her Lord Sizes had offered his hand
and coronet, promising to abandon for her sake all the haunts of his
matured life. To her Mr. Tringle had knelt before he had taken the
elder sister. For her Mr. Program, the popular preacher of the day,
for a time so totally lost himself that he was nearly minded to go
over to Rome. She was said to have had offers from a widowed Lord
Chancellor and from a Russian prince. Her triumphs would have quite
obliterated that of her sister had she not insisted on marrying
Egbert Dormer.

Then there had been, and still was, Reginald Dosett, the son of old
Dosett, and the eldest of the family. He too had married, and was now
living with his wife; but to them had no children been born, luckily,
as he was a poor man. Alas, to a beautiful son it is not often that
beauty can be a fortune as to a daughter. Young Reginald Dosett,--he
is anything now but young,--had done but little for himself with his
beauty, having simply married the estimable daughter of a brother
clerk. Now, at the age of fifty, he had his £900 a year from his
office, and might have lived in fair comfort had he not allowed a
small millstone of debt to hang round his neck from his earlier
years. But still he lived creditably in a small but very genteel
house at Notting Hill, and would have undergone any want rather than
have declared himself to be a poor man to his rich relations the
Tringles.

Such were now the remaining two children of old Mr. Dosett,--Lady
Tringle, namely, and Reginald Dosett, the clerk in the Admiralty.
Adelaide, the beauty in chief of the family, was gone; and now
also her husband, the improvident artist, had followed his wife.
Dormer had been by no means a failing artist. He had achieved
great honour,--had at an early age been accepted into the Royal
Academy,--had sold pictures to illustrious princes and more
illustrious dealers, had been engraved and had lived to see his own
works resold at five times their original prices. Egbert Dormer might
also have been a rich man. But he had a taste for other beautiful
things besides a wife. The sweetest little phaeton that was to
cost nothing, the most perfect bijou of a little house at South
Kensington,--he had boasted that it might have been packed without
trouble in his brother-in-law Tringle's dining-room,--the simplest
little gem for his wife, just a blue set of china for his dinner
table, just a painted cornice for his studio, just satin hangings for
his drawing-room,--and a few simple ornaments for his little girls;
these with a few rings for himself, and velvet suits of clothing
in which to do his painting; these, with a few little dinner
parties to show off his blue china, were the first and last of his
extravagances. But when he went, and when his pretty things were
sold, there was not enough to cover his debts. There was, however, a
sweet savour about his name. When he died it was said of him that his
wife's death had killed him. He had dropped his pallette, refused
to finish the ordered portrait of a princess, and had simply turned
himself round and died.

Then there were the two daughters, Lucy and Ayala. It should be
explained that though a proper family intercourse had always been
maintained between the three families, the Tringles, the Dormers, and
the Dosetts, there had never been cordiality between the first and
the two latter. The wealth of the Tringles had seemed to convey with
it a fetid odour. Egbert Dormer, with every luxury around him which
money could purchase, had affected to despise the heavy magnificence
of the Tringles. It may be that he affected a fashion higher than
that which the Tringles really attained. Reginald Dosett, who was
neither brilliant nor fashionable, was in truth independent, and,
perhaps, a little thin-skinned. He would submit to no touch of
arrogance from Sir Thomas; and Sir Thomas seemed to carry arrogance
in his brow and in his paunch. It was there rather, perhaps, than in
his heart; but there are men to whom a knack of fumbling their money
in their pockets and of looking out from under penthouse brows over
an expanse of waistcoat, gives an air of overweening pride which
their true idiosyncracies may not justify. To Dosett had, perhaps,
been spoken a word or two which on some occasion he had inwardly
resented, and from thenceforward he had ever been ready to league
with Dormer against the "bullionaire," as they agreed to call Sir
Thomas. Lady Tringle had even said a word to her sister, Mrs. Dormer,
as to expenses, and that had never been forgiven by the artist. So
things were when Mrs. Dormer died first; and so they remained when
her husband followed her.

Then there arose a sudden necessity for action, which, for a while,
brought Reginald Dosett into connexion with Sir Thomas and Lady
Tringle. Something must be done for the poor girls. That the
something should come out of the pocket of Sir Thomas would have
seemed to be natural. Money with him was no object,--not at all.
Another girl or two would be nothing to him,--as regarded simple
expenditure. But the care of a human being is an important matter,
and so Sir Thomas knew. Dosett had not a child at all, and would be
the better for such a windfall. Dosett he supposed to be,--in his,
Dosett's way,--fairly well off. So he made this proposition. He would
take one girl and let Dosett take the other. To this Lady Tringle
added her proviso, that she should have the choice. To her nerves
affairs of taste were of such paramount importance! To this Dosett
yielded. The matter was decided in Lady Tringle's back drawing-room.
Mrs. Dosett was not even consulted in that matter of choice, having
already acknowledged the duty of mothering a motherless child. Dosett
had thought that the bullionaire should have said a word as to some
future provision for the penniless girl, for whom he would be able
to do so little. But Sir Thomas had said no such word, and Dosett,
himself, lacked both the courage and the coarseness to allude to the
matter. Then Lady Tringle declared that she must have Ayala, and so
the matter was settled. Ayala the romantic; Ayala the poetic! It was
a matter of course that Ayala should be chosen. Ayala had already
been made intimate with the magnificent saloons of the Tringles,
and had been felt by Lady Tringle to be an attraction. Her long
dark black locks, which had never hitherto been tucked up, which
were never curled, which were never so long as to be awkward, were
already known as being the loveliest locks in London. She sang as
though Nature had intended her to be a singing-bird,--requiring no
education, no labour. She had been once for three months in Paris,
and French had come naturally to her. Her father had taught her
something of his art, and flatterers had already begun to say that
she was born to be the one great female artist of the world. Her
hands, her feet, her figure were perfect. Though she was as yet but
nineteen, London had already begun to talk about Ayala Dormer. Of
course Lady Tringle chose Ayala, not remembering at the moment that
her own daughters might probably be superseded by their cousin.

And, therefore, as Lady Tringle said herself to Lucy with her
sweetest smile--Mrs. Dosett had chosen Lucy. The two girls were old
enough to know something of the meaning of such a choice. Ayala,
the younger, was to be adopted into immense wealth, and Lucy was to
be given up to comparative poverty. She knew nothing of her uncle
Dosett's circumstances, but the genteel house at Notting Hill,--No.
3, Kingsbury Crescent,--was known to her, and was but a poor affair
as compared even with the bijou in which she had hitherto lived. Her
aunt Dosett never rose to any vehicle beyond a four-wheeler, and
was careful even in thinking of that accommodation. Ayala would be
whirled about the park by a wire-wig and a pair of brown horses which
they had heard it said were not to be matched in London. Ayala would
be carried with her aunt and her cousin to the show-room of Madame
Tonsonville, the great French milliner of Bond Street, whereas she,
Lucy, might too probably be called on to make her own gowns. All the
fashion of Queen's Gate, something, perhaps, of the fashion of Eaton
Square, would be open to Ayala. Lucy understood enough to know that
Ayala's own charms might probably cause still more August gates to
be opened to her, whereas Aunt Dosett entered no gates. It was quite
natural that Ayala should be chosen. Lucy acknowledged as much to
herself. But they were sisters, and had been so near! By what a chasm
would they be dissevered, now so far asunder!

Lucy herself was a lovely girl, and knew her own loveliness. She
was fairer than Ayala, somewhat taller, and much more quiet in her
demeanour. She was also clever, but her cleverness did not show
itself so quickly. She was a musician, whereas her sister could only
sing. She could really draw, whereas her sister would rush away into
effects in which the drawing was not always very excellent. Lucy was
doing the best she could for herself, knowing something of French
and German, though as yet not very fluent with her tongue. The two
girls were, in truth, both greatly gifted; but Ayala had the gift of
showing her talent without thought of showing it. Lucy saw it all,
and knew that she was outshone; but how great had been the price of
the outshining!

The artist's house had been badly ordered, and the two girls were of
better disposition and better conduct than might have been expected
from such fitful training. Ayala had been the father's pet, and Lucy
the mother's. Parents do ill in making pets, and here they had done
ill. Ayala had been taught to think herself the favourite, because
the artist, himself, had been more prominent before the world than
his wife. But the evil had not been lasting enough to have made bad
feeling between the sisters. Lucy knew that her sister had been
preferred to her, but she had been self-denying enough to be aware
that some such preference was due to Ayala. She, too, admired Ayala,
and loved her with her whole heart. And Ayala was always good to
her,--had tried to divide everything,--had assumed no preference as a
right. The two were true sisters. But when it was decided that Lucy
was to go to Kingsbury Crescent the difference was very great. The
two girls, on their father's death, had been taken to the great red
brick house in Queen's Gate, and from thence, three or four days
after the funeral, Lucy was to be transferred to her Aunt Dosett.
Hitherto there had been little between them but weeping for their
father. Now had come the hour of parting.

The tidings had been communicated to Lucy, and to Lucy alone, by Aunt
Tringle,--"As you are the eldest, dear, we think that you will be
best able to be a comfort to your aunt," said Lady Tringle.

"I will do the best I can, Aunt Emmeline," said Lucy, declaring to
herself that, in giving such a reason, her aunt was lying basely.

"I am sure you will. Poor dear Ayala is younger than her cousins, and
will be more subject to them." So in truth was Lucy younger than her
cousins, but of that she said nothing. "I am sure you will agree with
me that it is best that we should have the youngest."

"Perhaps it is, Aunt Emmeline."

"Sir Thomas would not have had it any other way," said Lady Tringle,
with a little severity, feeling that Lucy's accord had hardly been
as generous as it should be. But she recovered herself quickly,
remembering how much it was that Ayala was to get, how much that Lucy
was to lose. "But, my dear, we shall see you very often, you know.
It is not so far across the park; and when we do have a few parties
again--"

"Oh, aunt, I am not thinking of that."

"Of course not. We can none of us think of it just now. But when
the time does come of course we shall always have you, just as if
you were one of us." Then her aunt gave her a roll of bank-notes, a
little present of twenty-five pounds, to begin the world with, and
told her that the carriage should take her to Kingsbury Crescent
on the following morning. On the whole Lucy behaved well and left
a pleasant impression on her aunt's mind. The difference between
Queen's Gate and Kingsbury Crescent,--between Queen's Gate and
Kingsbury Crescent for life,--was indeed great!

"I wish it were you, with all my heart," said Ayala, clinging to her
sister.

"It could not have been me."

"Why not!"

"Because you are so pretty and you are so clever."

"No!"

"Yes! If we were to be separated of course it would be so. Do not
suppose, dear, that I am disappointed."

"I am."

"If I can only like Aunt Margaret,"--Aunt Margaret was Mrs. Dosett,
with whom neither of the girls had hitherto become intimate, and who
was known to be quiet, domestic, and economical, but who had also
been spoken of as having a will of her own,--"I shall do better with
her than you would, Ayala."

"I don't see why."

"Because I can remain quiet longer than you. It will be very quiet.
I wonder how we shall see each other! I cannot walk across the park
alone."

"Uncle Reg will bring you."

"Not often, I fear. Uncle Reg has enough to do with his office."

"You can come in a cab."

"Cabs cost money, Ayey dear."

"But Uncle Thomas--"

"We had better understand one or two things, Ayala. Uncle Thomas will
pay everything for you, and as he is very rich things will come as
they are wanted. There will be cabs, and if not cabs, carriages.
Uncle Reg must pay for me, and he is very very kind to do so. But
as he is not rich, there will be no carriages, and not a great many
cabs. It is best to understand it all."

"But they will send for you."

"That's as they please. I don't think they will very often. I would
not for the world put you against Uncle Thomas, but I have a feeling
that I shall never get on with him. But you will never separate
yourself from me, Ayala!"

"Separate myself!"

"You will not--not be my sister because you will be one of these rich
ones?"

"Oh, I wish,--I wish that I were to be the poor one. I'm sure I
should like it best. I never cared about being rich. Oh, Lucy, can't
we make them change?"

"No, Ayey, my own, we can't make them change. And if we could, we
wouldn't. It is altogether best that you should be a rich Tringle and
that I should be a poor Dosett."

"I will always be a Dormer," said Ayala, proudly.

"And I will always be so too, my pet. But you should be a bright
Dormer among the Tringles, and I will be a dull Dormer among the
Dosetts. I shall begrudge nothing, if only we can see each other."

So the two girls were parted, the elder being taken away to Kingsbury
Crescent and the latter remaining with her rich relations at Queen's
Gate. Ayala had not probably realized the great difference of their
future positions. To her the attractions of wealth and the privations
of comparative poverty had not made themselves as yet palpably plain.
They do not become so manifest to those to whom the wealth falls,--at
any rate, not in early life,--as to the opposite party. If the other
lot had fallen to Ayala she might have felt it more keenly.

Lucy felt it keenly enough. Without any longing after the
magnificence of the Tringle mansion she knew how great was the fall
from her father's well-assorted luxuries and prettinesses down to the
plain walls, tables, and chairs of her Uncle Dosett's house. Her aunt
did not subscribe to Mudie's. The old piano had not been tuned for
the last ten years. The parlour-maid was a cross old woman. Her aunt
always sat in the dining-room through the greater part of the day,
and of all rooms the dining-room in Kingsbury Crescent was the
dingiest. Lucy understood very well to what she was going. Her father
and mother were gone. Her sister was divided from her. Her life
offered for the future nothing to her. But with it all she carried a
good courage. There was present to her an idea of great misfortune;
but present to her at the same time an idea also that she would do
her duty.



CHAPTER II.

LUCY WITH HER AUNT DOSETT.


For some days Lucy found herself to be absolutely crushed,--in the
first place, by a strong resolution to do some disagreeable duty,
and then by a feeling that there was no duty the doing of which was
within her reach. It seemed to her that her whole life was a blank.
Her father's house had been a small affair and considered to be poor
when compared with the Tringle mansion, but she now became aware that
everything there had in truth abounded. In one little room there
had been two or three hundred beautifully bound books. That Mudie's
unnumbered volumes should come into the house as they were wanted
had almost been as much a provision of nature as water, gas, and hot
rolls for breakfast. A piano of the best kind, and always in order,
had been a first necessary of life, and, like other necessaries, of
course, forthcoming. There had been the little room in which the
girls painted, joining their father's studio and sharing its light,
surrounded by every pretty female appliance. Then there had always
been visitors. The artists from Kensington had been wont to gather
there, and the artists' daughters, and perhaps the artists' sons.
Every day had had its round of delights,--its round of occupations,
as the girls would call them. There had been some reading, some
painting, some music,--perhaps a little needlework and a great deal
of talking.

How little do we know how other people live in the houses close to
us! We see the houses looking like our own, and we see the people
come out of them looking like ourselves. But a Chinaman is not more
different from the English John Bull than is No. 10 from No. 11.
Here there are books, paintings, music, wine, a little dilettanti
getting-up of subjects of the day, a little dilettanti thinking on
great affairs, perhaps a little dilettanti religion; few domestic
laws, and those easily broken; few domestic duties, and those easily
evaded; breakfast when you will, with dinner almost as little
binding, with much company and acknowledged aptitude for idle luxury.
That is life at No. 10. At No. 11 everything is cased in iron. There
shall be equal plenty, but at No. 11 even plenty is a bondage. Duty
rules everything, and it has come to be acknowledged that duty is to
be hard. So many hours of needlework, so many hours of books, so many
hours of prayer! That all the household shall shiver before daylight,
is a law, the breach of which by any member either augurs sickness or
requires condign punishment. To be comfortable is a sin; to laugh is
almost equal to bad language. Such and so various is life at No. 10
and at No. 11.

From one extremity, as far removed, to another poor Lucy had been
conveyed; though all the laws were not exactly carried out in
Kingsbury Crescent as they have been described at No. 11. The
enforced prayers were not there, nor the early hours. It was simply
necessary that Lucy should be down to breakfast at nine, and had
she not appeared nothing violent would have been said. But it was
required of her that she should endure a life which was altogether
without adornment. Uncle Dosett himself, as a clerk in the Admiralty,
had a certain position in the world which was sufficiently maintained
by decent apparel, a well-kept, slight, grey whisker, and an umbrella
which seemed never to have been violated by use. Dosett was popular
at his office, and was regarded by his brother clerks as a friend.
But no one was acquainted with his house and home. They did not
dine with him, nor he with them. There are such men in all public
offices,--not the less respected because of the quiescence of their
lives. It was known of him that he had burdens, though it was not
known what his burdens were. His friends, therefore, were intimate
with him as far as the entrance into Somerset House,--where his
duties lay,--and not beyond it. Lucy was destined to know the other
side of his affairs, the domestic side, which was as quiet as the
official side. The link between them, which consisted of a journey by
the Underground Railway to the Temple Station, and a walk home along
the Embankment and across the parks and Kensington Gardens, was the
pleasantest part of Dosett's life.

Mr. Dosett's salary has been said to be £900 per annum. What a fund
of comfort there is in the word! When the youth of nineteen enters
an office how far beyond want would he think himself should he ever
reach the pecuniary paradise of £900 a-year! How he would see all his
friends, and in return be seen of them! But when the income has been
achieved its capabilities are found to be by no means endless. And
Dosett in the earlier spheres of his married life had unfortunately
anticipated something of such comforts. For a year or two he had
spent a little money imprudently. Something which he had expected
had not come to him; and, as a result, he had been forced to
borrow, and to insure his life for the amount borrowed. Then,
too, when that misfortune as to the money came,--came from the
non-realization of certain claims which his wife had been supposed
to possess,--provision had also to be made for her. In this way an
assurance office eat up a large fraction of his income, and left him
with means which in truth were very straitened. Dosett at once gave
up all glories of social life, settled himself in Kingsbury Crescent,
and resolved to satisfy himself with his walk across the park and
his frugal dinner afterwards. He never complained to any one, nor
did his wife. He was a man small enough to be contented with a thin
existence, but far too great to ask any one to help him to widen it.
Sir Thomas Tringle never heard of that £175 paid annually to the
assurance office, nor had Lady Tringle, Dosett's sister, even heard
of it. When it was suggested to him that he should take one of the
Dormer girls, he consented to take her and said nothing of the
assurance office.

Mrs. Dosett had had her great blow in life, and had suffered more
perhaps than her husband. This money had been expected. There had
been no doubt of the money,--at any rate on her part. It did not
depend on an old gentleman with or without good intentions, but
simply on his death. There was to be ever so much of it, four or five
hundred a-year, which would last for ever. When the old gentleman
died, which took place some ten years after Dosett's marriage, it
was found that the money, tied tight as it had been by half-a-dozen
lawyers, had in some fashion vanished. Whither it had gone is little
to our purpose, but it had gone. Then there came a great crash upon
the Dosetts, which she for a while had been hardly able to endure.

But when she had collected herself together after the crash, and
had made up her mind, as had Dosett also, to the nature of the life
which they must in future lead, she became more stringent in it even
than he. He could bear and say nothing; but she, in bearing, found
herself compelled to say much. It had been her fault,--the fault of
people on her side,--and she would fain have fed her husband with
the full flowery potato while she ate only the rind. She told him,
unnecessarily, over and over again, that she had ruined him by her
marriage. No such idea was ever in his head. The thing had come, and
so it must be. There was food to eat, potatoes enough for both, and a
genteel house in which to live. He could still be happy if she would
not groan. A certain amount of groaning she did postpone while in his
presence. The sewing of seams, and the darning of household linen,
which in his eyes amounted to groaning, was done in his absence.
After their genteel dinner he would sleep a little, and she would
knit. He would have his glass of wine, but would make his bottle of
port last almost for a week. This was the house to which Lucy Dormer
was brought when Mr. Dosett had consented to share with Sir Thomas
the burden left by the death of the improvident artist.

When a month passed by Lucy began to think that time itself would
almost drive her mad. Her father had died early in September. The
Tringles had then, of course, been out of town, but Sir Thomas
and his wife had found themselves compelled to come up on such an
occasion. Something they knew must be done about the girls, and they
had not chosen that that something should be done in their absence.
Mr. Dosett was also enjoying his official leave of absence for
the year, but was enjoying it within the economical precincts of
Kingsbury Crescent. There was but seldom now an excursion for him or
his wife to the joys of the country. Once, some years ago, they had
paid a visit to the palatial luxuries of Glenbogie, but the delights
of the place had not paid for the expense of the long journey. They,
therefore, had been at hand to undertake their duties. Dosett and
Tringle, with a score of artists, had followed poor Dormer to his
grave in Kensal Green, and then Dosett and Tringle had parted again,
probably not to see each other for another term of years.

"My dear, what do you like to do with your time?" Mrs. Dosett said to
her niece, after the first week. At this time Lucy's wardrobe was not
yet of a nature to need much work over its ravages. The Dormer girls
had hardly known where their frocks had come from when they wanted
frocks,--hardly with more precision than the Tringle girls. Frocks
had come--dark, gloomy frocks, lately, alas! And these, too, had now
come a second time. Let creditors be ever so unsatisfied, new raiment
will always be found for mourning families. Everything about Lucy was
nearly new. The need of repairing would come upon her by degrees, but
it had not come as yet. Therefore there had seemed, to the anxious
aunt, to be a necessity for some such question as the above.

"I'll do anything you like, aunt," said Lucy.

"It is not for me, my dear. I get through a deal of work, and am
obliged to do so." She was, at this time, sitting with a sheet in her
lap, which she was turning. Lucy had, indeed, once offered to assist,
but her assistance had been rejected. This had been two days since,
and she had not renewed the proposal as she should have done. This
had been mainly from bashfulness. Though the work would certainly be
distasteful to her, she would do it. But she had not liked to seem to
interfere, not having as yet fallen into ways of intimacy with her
aunt. "I don't want to burden you with my task-work," continued Mrs.
Dosett, "but I am afraid you seem to be listless."

"I was reading till just before you spoke," said Lucy, again turning
her eyes to the little volume of poetry, which was one of the few
treasures which she had brought away with her from her old home.

"Reading is very well, but I do not like it as an excuse, Lucy."
Lucy's anger boiled within her when she was told of an excuse, and
she declared to herself that she could never like her aunt. "I am
quite sure that for young girls, as well as for old women, there
must be a great deal of waste time unless there be needle and thread
always about. And I know, too, unless ladies are well off, they
cannot afford to waste time any more than gentlemen."

In the whole course of her life nothing so much like scolding as
this had ever been addressed to her. So at least thought Lucy at
that moment. Mrs. Dosett had intended the remarks all in good part,
thinking them to be simply fitting from an aunt to a niece. It was
her duty to give advice, and for the giving of such advice some day
must be taken as the beginning. She had purposely allowed a week to
run by, and now she had spoken her word,--as she thought in good
season.

To Lucy it was a new and most bitter experience. Though she was
reading the "Idylls of the King," or pretending to read them, she
was, in truth, thinking of all that had gone from her. Her mind had,
at that moment, been intent upon her mother, who, in all respects,
had been so different from this careful, sheet-darning housewife of a
woman. And in thinking of her mother there had no doubt been regrets
for many things of which she would not have ventured to speak as
sharing her thoughts with the memory of her mother, but which were
nevertheless there to add darkness to the retrospective. Everything
behind had been so bright, and everything behind had gone away from
her! Everything before was so gloomy, and everything before must last
for so long! After her aunt's lecture about wasted time Lucy sat
silent for a few minutes, and then burst into uncontrolled tears.

"I did not mean to vex you," said her aunt.

"I was thinking of my--darling, darling mamma," sobbed Lucy.

"Of course, Lucy, you will think of her. How should you not? And of
your father. Those are sorrows which must be borne. But sorrows such
as those are much lighter to the busy than to the idle. I sometimes
think that the labourers grieve less for those they love than we do
just because they have not time to grieve."

"I wish I were a labourer then," said Lucy, through her tears.

"You may be if you will. The sooner you begin to be a labourer the
better for yourself and for those about you."

That Aunt Dosett's voice was harsh was not her fault,--nor that in
the obduracy of her daily life she had lost much of her original
softness. She had simply meant to be useful, and to do her duty; but
in telling Lucy that it would be better that the labouring should be
commenced at once for the sake of "those about you,"--who could only
be Aunt Dosett herself,--she had seemed to the girl to be harsh,
selfish, and almost unnatural. The volume of poetry fell from her
hand, and she jumped up from the chair quickly. "Give it me at once,"
she said, taking hold of the sheet,--which was not itself a pleasant
object; Lucy had never seen such a thing at the bijou. "Give it me at
once," she said, and clawed the long folds of linen nearly out of her
aunt's lap.

"I did not mean anything of the kind," said Aunt Dosett. "You should
not take me up in that way. I am speaking only for your good, because
I know that you should not dawdle away your existence. Leave the
sheet."

Lucy did leave the sheet, and then, sobbing violently, ran out of the
room up to her own chamber. Mrs. Dosett determined that she would
not follow her. She partly forgave the girl because of her sorrows,
partly reminded herself that she was not soft and facile as had been
her sister-in-law, Lucy's mother; and then, as she continued her
work, she assured herself that it would be best to let her niece
have her cry out upstairs. Lucy's violence had astonished her for a
moment, but she had taught herself to think it best to allow such
little ebullitions to pass off by themselves.

Lucy, when she was alone, flung herself upon her bed in absolute
agony. She thought that she had misbehaved, and yet how cruel,--how
harsh had been her aunt's words! If she, the quiet one, had
misbehaved, what would Ayala have done? And how was she to find
strength with which to look forward to the future? She struggled hard
with herself for a resolution. Should she determine that she would
henceforward darn sheets morning, noon, and night till she worked
her fingers to the bone? Perhaps there had been something of truth
in that assertion of her aunt's that the labourers have no time to
grieve. As everything else was shut out from her, it might be well
for her to darn sheets. Should she rush down penitent and beg her
aunt to allow her to commence at once?

She would have done it as far as the sheets were concerned, but she
could not do it as regarded her aunt. She could put herself into
unison with the crumpled soiled linen, but not with the hard woman.

Oh, how terrible was the change! Her father and her mother who had
been so gentle to her! All the sweet prettinesses of her life! All
her occupations, all her friends, all her delights! Even Ayala
was gone from her! How was she to bear it? She begrudged Ayala
nothing,--no, nothing. But yet it was hard! Ayala was to have
everything. Aunt Emmeline,--though they had not hitherto been very
fond of Aunt Emmeline,--was sweetness itself as compared with this
woman. "The sooner you begin to labour the better for yourself and
those about you." Would it not have been fitter that she should have
been sent at once to some actual poor-house in which there would have
been no mistake as to her position?

That it should all have been decided for her, for her and Ayala, not
by any will of their own, not by any concert between themselves, but
simply by the fantasy of another! Why should she thus be made a slave
to the fantasy of any one! Let Ayala have her uncle's wealth and her
aunt's palaces at her command, and she would walk out simply a pauper
into the world,--into some workhouse, so that at least she need not
be obedient to the harsh voice and the odious common sense of her
Aunt Dosett! But how should she take herself to some workhouse? In
what way could she prove her right to be admitted even then? It
seemed to her that the same decree which had admitted Ayala into the
golden halls of the fairies had doomed her not only to poverty, but
to slavery. There was no escape for her from her aunt and her aunt's
sermons. "Oh, Ayala, my darling,--my own one; oh, Ayala, if you did
but know!" she said to herself. What would Ayala think, how would
Ayala bear it, could she but guess by what a gulf was her heaven
divided from her sister's hell! "I will never tell her," she said to
herself. "I will die, and she shall never know."

As she lay there sobbing all the gilded things of the world were
beautiful in her eyes. Alas, yes, it was true. The magnificence of
the mansion at Queen's Gate, the glories of Glenbogie, the closely
studied comforts of Merle Park, as the place in Sussex was called,
all the carriages and horses, Madame Tonsonville and all the
draperies, the seats at the Albert Hall into which she had been
accustomed to go with as much ease as into her bed-room, the box at
the opera, the pretty furniture, the frequent gems, even the raiment
which would make her pleasing to the eyes of men whom she would like
to please--all these things grew in her eyes and became beautiful.
No. 3, Kingsbury Crescent, was surely, of all places on the earth's
surface, the most ugly. And yet,--yet she had endeavoured to do her
duty. "If it had been the workhouse I could have borne it," she said
to herself; "but not to be the slave of my Aunt Dosett!" Again she
appealed to her sister, "Oh, Ayala, if you did but know it!" Then she
remembered herself, declaring that it might have been worse to Ayala
than even to her. "If one had to bear it, it was better for me," she
said, as she struggled to prepare herself for her uncle's dinner.



CHAPTER III.

LUCY'S TROUBLES.


The evening after the affair with the sheet went off quietly, as did
many days and many evenings. Mrs. Dosett was wise enough to forget
the little violence and to forget also the feeling which had been
displayed. When Lucy first asked for some household needlework, which
she did with a faltering voice and shame-faced remembrance of her
fault, her aunt took it all in good part and gave her a task somewhat
lighter as a beginning than the handling of a sheet. Lucy sat at it
and suffered. She went on sitting and suffering. She told herself
that she was a martyr at every stitch she made. As she occupied the
seat opposite to her aunt's accustomed chair she would hardly speak
at all, but would keep her mind always intent on Ayala and the joys
of Ayala's life. That they who had been born together, sisters, with
equal fortunes, who had so closely lived together, should be sundered
so utterly one from the other; that the one should be so exalted and
the other so debased! And why? What justice had there been? Could it
be from heaven or even from earth that the law had gone forth for
such a division of the things of the world between them?

"You have got very little to say to a person?" said Aunt Dosett, one
morning. This, too, was a reproach. This, too, was scolding. And yet
Aunt Dosett had intended to be as pleasant as she knew how.

"I have very little to say," replied Lucy, with repressed anger.

"But why?"

"Because I am stupid," said Lucy. "Stupid people can't talk. You
should have had Ayala."

"I hope you do not envy Ayala her fortune, Lucy?" A woman with any
tact would not have asked such a question at such a time. She should
have felt that a touch of such irony might be natural, and that
unless it were expressed loudly, or shown actively, it might be left
to be suppressed by affection and time. But she, as she had grown
old, had taught herself to bear disappointment, and thought it wise
to teach Lucy to do the same.

"Envy!" said Lucy, not passionately, but after a little pause for
thought. "I sometimes think it is very hard to know what envy is."

"Envy, hatred, and malice," said Mrs. Dosett, hardly knowing what she
meant by the use of the well-worn words.

"I do know what hatred and malice are," said Lucy. "Do you think I
hate Ayala?"

"I am sure you do not."

"Or that I bear her malice?"

"Certainly not."

"If I had the power to take anything from her, would I do it? I love
Ayala with my whole heart. Whatever be my misery I would rather bear
it than let Ayala have even a share of it. Whatever good things she
may have I would not rob her even of a part of them. If there be joy
and sorrow to be divided between us I would wish to have the sorrow
so that she might have the joy. That is not hatred and malice." Mrs.
Dosett looked at her over her spectacles. This was the girl who had
declared that she could not speak because she was too stupid! "But,
when you ask me whether I envy her, I hardly know," continued Lucy.
"I think one does covet one's neighbour's house, in spite of the
tenth commandment, even though one does not want to steal it."

Mrs. Dosett repented herself that she had given rise to any
conversation at all. Silence, absolute silence, the old silence which
she had known for a dozen years before Lucy had come to her, would
have been better than this. She was very angry, more angry than she
had ever yet been with Lucy; and yet she was afraid to show her
anger. Was this the girl's gratitude for all that her uncle was doing
for her,--for shelter, food, comfort, for all that she had in the
world? Mrs. Dosett knew, though Lucy did not, of the little increased
pinchings which had been made necessary by the advent of another
inmate in the house; so many pounds of the meat in the week, and so
much bread, and so much tea and sugar! It had all been calculated.
In genteel houses such calculation must often be made. And when by
degrees,--degrees very quick,--the garments should become worn which
Lucy had brought with her, there must be something taken from the
tight-fitting income for that need. Arrangements had already been
made of which Lucy knew nothing, and already the two glasses of port
wine a day had been knocked off from poor Mr. Dosett's comforts. His
wife had sobbed in despair when he had said that it should be so. He
had declared gin and water to be as supporting as port wine, and the
thing had been done. Lucy inwardly had been disgusted by the gin and
water, knowing nothing of its history. Her father, who had not always
been punctual in paying his wine-merchant's bills, would not have
touched gin and water, would not have allowed it to contaminate his
table! Everything in Mr. Dosett's house was paid for weekly.

And now Lucy, who had been made welcome to all that the genteel house
could afford, who had been taken in as a child, had spoken of her
lot as one which was all sorrowful. Bad as it is,--this living in
Kingsbury Crescent,--I would rather bear it myself than subject Ayala
to such misery! It was thus that she had, in fact, spoken of her new
home when she had found it necessary to defend her feelings towards
her sister. It was impossible that her aunt should be altogether
silent under such treatment. "We have done the best for you that is
in our power, Lucy," she said, with a whole load of reproach in her
tone.

"Have I complained, aunt?"

"I thought you did."

"Oh, no! You asked me whether I envied Ayala. What was I to say?
Perhaps I should have said nothing, but the idea of envying Ayala was
painful to me. Of course she--"

"Well?"

"I had better say nothing more, aunt. If I were to pretend to be
cheerful I should be false. It is as yet only a few weeks since papa
died." Then the work went on in silence between them for the next
hour.

And the work went on in solemn silence between them through the
winter. It came to pass that the sole excitement of Lucy's life
came from Ayala's letters,--the sole excitement except a meeting
which took place between the sisters one day. When Lucy was taken to
Kingsbury Crescent Ayala was at once carried down to Glenbogie, and
from thence there came letters twice a week for six weeks. Ayala's
letters, too, were full of sorrow. She, too, had lost her mother,
her father, and her sister. Moreover, in her foolish petulance she
said things of her Aunt Emmeline, and of the girls, and of Sir
Thomas, which ought not to have been written of those who were
kind to her. Her cousin Tom, too, she ridiculed,--Tom Tringle, the
son-and-heir,--saying that he was a lout who endeavoured to make eyes
at her. Oh, how distasteful, how vulgar they were after all that
she had known. Perhaps the eldest girl, Augusta, was the worst. She
did not think that she could put up with the assumed authority of
Augusta. Gertrude was better, but a simpleton. Ayala declared herself
to be sad at heart. But then the sweet scenery of Glenbogie, and the
colour of the moors, and the glorious heights of Ben Alchan, made
some amends. Even in her sorrow she would rave about the beauties of
Glenbogie. Lucy, as she read the letters, told herself that Ayala's
grief was a grief to be borne, a grief almost to be enjoyed. To sit
and be sad with a stream purling by you, how different from the
sadness of that dining-room in the Crescent. To look out upon the
glories of a mountain, while a tear would now and again force itself
into the eye, how much less bitter than the falling of salt drops
over a tattered towel.

Lucy, in her answers, endeavoured to repress the groans of her
spirit. In the first place she did acknowledge that it did not become
her to speak ill of those who were, in truth, her benefactors; and
then she was anxious not to declare to Ayala her feeling of the
injustice by which their two lots had been defined to them. Though
she had failed to control herself once or twice in speaking to her
aunt she did control herself in writing her letters. She would never,
never, write a word which should make Ayala unnecessarily unhappy. On
that she was determined. She would say nothing to explain to Ayala
the unutterable tedium of that downstairs parlour in which they
passed their lives, lest Ayala should feel herself to be wounded by
the luxurious comforts around her.

It was thus she wrote. Then there came a time in which they were to
meet,--just at the beginning of November. The Tringles were going to
Rome. They generally did go somewhere. Glenbogie, Merle Park, and the
house in Queen's Gate, were not enough for the year. Sir Thomas was
to take them to Rome, and then return to London for the manipulation
of the millions in Lombard Street. He generally did remain nine
months out of the twelve in town, because of the millions, making his
visits at Merle Park very short; but Lady Tringle found that change
of air was good for the girls. It was her intention now to remain at
Rome for two or three months.

The party from Scotland reached Queen's Gate late one Saturday
evening, and intended to start early on the Monday. To Ayala, who had
made it quite a matter of course that she should see her sister, Lady
Tringle had said that in that case a carriage must be sent across.
It was awkward, because there were no carriages in London. She had
thought that they had all intended to pass through London just as
though they were not stopping. Sunday, she had thought, was not to
be regarded as being a day at all. Then Ayala flashed up. She had
flashed up some times before. Was it supposed that she was not going
to see Lucy? Carriage! She would walk across Kensington Gardens, and
find the house out all by herself. She would spend the whole day with
Lucy, and come back alone in a cab. She was strong enough, at any
rate, to have her way so far, that a carriage, wherever it came from,
was sent for Lucy about three in the afternoon, and did take her back
to Kingsbury Crescent after dinner.

Then at last the sisters were together in Ayala's bed-room. "And now
tell me about everything," said Ayala.

But Lucy was resolved that she would not tell anything. "I am so
wretched!" That would have been all; but she would not tell her
wretchedness. "We are so quiet in Kingsbury Crescent," she said; "you
have so much more to talk of."

"Oh, Lucy, I do not like it."

"Not your aunt?"

"She is not the worst, though she sometimes is hard to bear. I
can't tell you what it is, but they all seem to think so much of
themselves. In the first place they never will say a word about
papa."

"Perhaps that is from feeling, Ayey."

"No, it is not. One would know that. But they look down upon papa,
who had more in his little finger than they have with all their
money."

"Then I should hold my tongue."

"So I do,--about him; but it is very hard. And then Augusta has a way
with me, as though she had a right to order me. I certainly will not
be ordered by Augusta. You never ordered me."

"Dear Ayey!"

"Augusta is older than you,--of course, ever so much. They make her
out twenty-three at her last birthday, but she is twenty-four. But
that is not difference enough for ordering,--certainly between
cousins. I do hate Augusta."

"I would not hate her."

"How is one to help one's-self? She has a way of whispering to
Gertrude, and to her mother, when I am there, which almost kills me.
'If you'll only give me notice I'll go out of the room at once,' I
said the other day, and they were all so angry."

"I would not make them angry if I were you, Ayey."

"Why not?"

"Not Sir Thomas, or Aunt Emmeline."

"I don't care a bit for Sir Thomas. I am not sure but he is the most
good-natured, though he is so podgy. Of course, when Aunt Emmeline
tells me anything I do it."

"It is so important that you should be on good terms with them."

"I don't see it at all," said Ayala, flashing round.

"Aunt Emmeline can do so much for you. We have nothing of our
own,--you and I."

"Am I to sell myself because they have got money! No, indeed! No one
despises money so much as I do. I will never be other to them than if
I had the money, and they were the poor relations."

"That will not do, Ayey."

"I will make it do. They may turn me out if they like. Of course, I
know that I should obey my aunt, and so I will. If Sir Thomas told
me anything I should do it. But not Augusta." Then, while Lucy was
thinking how she might best put into soft words advice which was so
clearly needed, Ayala declared another trouble. "But there is worse
still."

"What is that?"

"Tom!"

"What does Tom do?"

"You know Tom, Lucy?"

"I have seen him."

"Of all the horrors he is the horridest."

"Does he order you about?"

"No; but he--"

"What is it, Ayey?"

"Oh! Lucy, he is so dreadful. He--"

"You don't mean that he makes love to you?"

"He does. What am I to do, Lucy?"

"Do they know it?"

"Augusta does, I'm sure; and pretends to think that it is my fault.
I am sure that there will be a terrible quarrel some day. I told him
the day before we left Glenbogie that I should tell his mother. I did
indeed. Then he grinned. He is such a fool. And when I laughed he
took it all as kindness. I couldn't have helped laughing if I had
died for it."

"But he has been left behind."

"Yes, for the present. But he is to come over to us some time after
Christmas, when Uncle Tringle has gone back."

"A girl need not be bothered by a lover unless she chooses, Ayey."

"But it will be such a bother to have to talk about it. He looks at
me, and is such an idiot. Then Augusta frowns. When I see Augusta
frowning I am so angry that I feel like boxing her ears. Do you know,
Lucy, that I often think that it will not do, and that I shall have
to be sent away. I wish it had been you that they had chosen."

Such was the conversation between the girls. Of what was said
everything appertained to Ayala. Of the very nature of Lucy's life
not a word was spoken. As Ayala was talking Lucy was constantly
thinking of all that might be lost by her sister's imprudence. Even
though Augusta might be disagreeable, even though Tom might be a
bore, it should all be borne,--borne at any rate for a while,--seeing
how terrible would be the alternative. The alternative to Lucy seemed
to be Kingsbury Crescent and Aunt Dosett. It did not occur to her to
think whether in any possible case Ayala would indeed be added to the
Crescent family, or what in that case would become of herself, and
whether they two might live with Aunt Dosett, and whether in that
case life would not be infinitely improved. Ayala had all that money
could do for her, and would have such a look-out into the world from
a wealthy house as might be sure at last to bring her some such
husband as would be desirable. Ayala, in fact, had everything before
her, and Lucy had nothing. Wherefore it became Lucy's duty to warn
Ayala, so that she should bear with much, and throw away nothing. If
Ayala could only know what life might be, what life was at Kingsbury
Crescent, then she would be patient, then she would softly make a
confidence with her aunt as to Tom's folly, then she would propitiate
Augusta. Not care for money! Ayala had not yet lived in an ugly room
and darned sheets all the morning. Ayala had never sat for two hours
between the slumbers of Uncle Dosett and the knitting of Aunt Dosett.
Ayala had not been brought into contact with gin and water.

"Oh, Ayala!" she said, as they were going down to dinner together,
"do struggle; do bear it. Tell Aunt Emmeline. She will like you to
tell her. If Augusta wants you to go anywhere, do go. What does it
signify? Papa and mamma are gone, and we are alone." All this she
said without a word of allusion to her own sufferings. Ayala made a
half promise. She did not think she would go anywhere for Augusta's
telling; but she would do her best to satisfy Aunt Emmeline. Then
they went to dinner, and after dinner Lucy was taken home without
further words between them.

Ayala wrote long letters on her journey, full of what she saw, and
full of her companions. From Paris she wrote, and then from Turin,
and then again on their immediate arrival at Rome. Her letters were
most imprudent as written from the close vicinity of her aunt and
cousin. It was such a comfort that that oaf Tom had been left behind.
Uncle Tringle was angry because he did not get what he liked to eat.
Aunt Emmeline gave that courier such a terrible life, sending for him
every quarter of an hour. Augusta would talk first French and then
Italian, of which no one could understand a word. Gertrude was so
sick with travelling that she was as pale as a sheet. Nobody seemed
to care for anything. She could not get her aunt to look at the
Campanile at Florence, or her cousins to know one picture from
another. "As for pictures, I am quite sure that Mangle's angels would
do as well as Raffael's." Mangle was a brother academician whom their
father had taught them to despise. There was contempt, most foolish
contempt, for all the Tringles; but, luckily, there had been no
quarrelling. Then it seemed that both in Paris and in Florence Ayala
had bought pretty things, from which it was to be argued that her
uncle had provided her liberally with money. One pretty thing had
been sent from Paris to Lucy, which could not have been bought for
less than many franks. It would not be fair that Ayala should take so
much without giving something in return.

Lucy knew that she too should give something in return. Though
Kingsbury Crescent was not attractive, though Aunt Dosett was not to
her a pleasant companion, she had begun to realise the fact that it
behoved her to be grateful, if only for the food she ate, and for the
bed on which she slept. As she thought of all that Ayala owed she
remembered also her own debts. As the winter went on she struggled to
pay them. But Aunt Dosett was a lady not much given to vacillation.
She had become aware at first that Lucy had been rough to her, and
she did not easily open herself to Lucy's endearments. Lucy's life at
Kingsbury Crescent had begun badly, and Lucy, though she understood
much about it, found it hard to turn a bad beginning to a good
result.



CHAPTER IV.

ISADORE HAMEL.


It was suggested to Lucy before she had been long in Kingsbury
Crescent that she should take some exercise. For the first week she
had hardly been out of the house; but this was attributed to her
sorrow. Then she had accompanied her aunt for a few days during the
half-hour's marketing which took place every morning, but in this
there had been no sympathy. Lucy would not interest herself in
the shoulder of mutton which must be of just such a weight as to
last conveniently for two days,--twelve pounds,--of which, it was
explained to her, more than one-half was intended for the two
servants, because there was always a more lavish consumption in the
kitchen than in the parlour. Lucy would not appreciate the fact that
eggs at a penny a piece, whatever they might be, must be used for
puddings, as eggs with even a reputation of freshness cost twopence.
Aunt Dosett, beyond this, never left the house on week-days except
for a few calls which were made perhaps once a month, on which
occasion the Sunday gloves and the Sunday silk dress were used. On
Sunday they all went to church. But this was not enough for exercise,
and as Lucy was becoming pale she was recommended to take to walking
in Kensington Gardens.

It is generally understood that there are raging lions about the
metropolis, who would certainly eat up young ladies whole if young
ladies were to walk about the streets or even about the parks by
themselves. There is, however, beginning to be some vacillation as
to the received belief on this subject as regards London. In large
continental towns, such as Paris and Vienna, young ladies would be
devoured certainly. Such, at least, is the creed. In New York and
Washington there are supposed to be no lions, so that young ladies
go about free as air. In London there is a rising doubt, under which
before long, probably, the lions will succumb altogether. Mrs. Dosett
did believe somewhat in lions, but she believed also in exercise. And
she was aware that the lions eat up chiefly rich people. Young ladies
who must go about without mothers, brothers, uncles, carriages, or
attendants of any sort, are not often eaten or even roared at. It
is the dainty darlings for whom the roarings have to be feared. Mrs.
Dosett, aware that daintiness was no longer within the reach of her
and hers, did assent to these walkings in Kensington Gardens. At some
hour in the afternoon Lucy would walk from the house by herself, and
within a quarter of an hour would find herself on the broad gravel
path which leads down to the Round Pond. From thence she would go by
the back of the Albert Memorial, and then across by the Serpentine
and return to the same gate, never leaving Kensington Gardens. Aunt
Dosett had expressed some old-fashioned idea that lions were more
likely to roar in Hyde Park than within the comparatively retired
purlieus of Kensington.

Now the reader must be taken back for a few moments to the bijou, as
the bijou was before either the artist or his wife had died. In those
days there had been a frequent concourse of people in the artist's
house. Society there had not consisted chiefly of eating and
drinking. Men and women would come in and out as though really for
a purpose of talking. There would be three or four constantly with
Dormer in his studio, helping him but little perhaps in the real
furtherance of his work, though discussing art subjects in a manner
calculated to keep alive art-feeling among them. A novelist or two of
a morning might perhaps aid me in my general pursuit, but would, I
think, interfere with the actual tally of pages. Egbert Dormer did
not turn out from his hand so much work as some men that I know, but
he was overflowing with art up to his ears;--and with tobacco, so
that, upon the whole, the bijou was a pleasant rendezvous.

There had come there of late, quite of late, a young sculptor, named
Isadore Hamel. Hamel was an Englishman, who, however, had been
carried very early to Rome and had been bred there. Of his mother
question never was made, but his father had been well known as an
English sculptor resident at Rome. The elder Hamel had been a man of
mark, who had a fine suite of rooms in the city and a villa on one
of the lakes, but who never came to England. English connections
were, he said, to him abominable, by which he perhaps meant that the
restrictions of decent life were not to his taste. But his busts
came, and his groups in marble, and now and again some great work for
some public decoration: so that money was plentiful with him, and
he was a man of note. It must be acknowledged of him that he spared
nothing in bringing up his son, giving him such education as might
best suit his future career as an artist, and that money was always
forthcoming for the lad's wants and fantasies.

Then young Hamel also became a sculptor of much promise; but early in
life differed from his father on certain subjects of importance. The
father was wedded to Rome and to Italy. Isadore gradually expressed
an opinion that the nearer a man was to his market the better for
him, that all that art could do for a man in Rome was as nothing
to the position which a great artist might make for himself in
London,--that, in fact, an Englishman had better be an Englishman. At
twenty-six he succeeded in his attempt, and became known as a young
sculptor with a workshop at Brompton. He became known to many both
by his work and his acquirements; but it may not be surprising that
after a year he was still unable to live, as he had been taught to
live, without drawing upon his father. Then his father threw his
failure in his teeth, not refusing him money indeed, but making the
receipt of it unpleasant to him.

At no house had Isadore Hamel been made so welcome as at Dormer's.
There was a sympathy between them both on that great question of
art, whether to an artist his art should be a matter to him of more
importance than all the world besides. So said Dormer,--who simply
died because his wife died, who could not have touched his brush if
one of his girls had been suffering, who, with all his genius, was
but a faineant workman. His art more than all the world to him!
No, not to him. Perhaps here and again to some enthusiast, and him
hardly removed from madness! Where is the painter who shall paint a
picture after his soul's longing though he shall get not a penny for
it,--though he shall starve as he put his last touch to it, when he
knows that by drawing some duchess of the day he shall in a fortnight
earn a ducal price? Shall a wife and child be less dear to him than
to a lawyer,--or to a shoemaker; or the very craving of his hunger
less obdurate? A man's self, and what he has within him and his
belongings, with his outlook for this and other worlds,--let that
be the first, and the work, noble or otherwise, be the second.
To be honest is greater than to have painted the San Sisto, or
to have chiselled the Apollo; to have assisted in making others
honest,--infinitely greater. All of which were discussed at great
length at the bijou, and the bijouites always sided with the
master of the house. To an artist, said Dormer, let his art be
everything,--above wife and children, above money, above health,
above even character. Then he would put out his hand with his
jewelled finger, and stretch forth his velvet-clad arm, and soon
after lead his friend away to the little dinner at which no luxury
had been spared. But young Hamel agreed with the sermons, and not the
less because Lucy Dormer had sat by and listened to them with rapt
attention.

Not a word of love had been spoken to her by the sculptor when her
mother died, but there had been glances and little feelings of which
each was half conscious. It is so hard for a young man to speak of
love, if there be real love,--so impossible that a girl should do so!
Not a word had been spoken, but each had thought that the other must
have known. To Lucy a word had been spoken by her mother,--"Do not
think too much of him till you know," the mother had said,--not
quite prudently. "Oh, no! I will think of him not at all," Lucy had
replied. And she had thought of him day and night. "I wonder why Mr.
Hamel is so different with you?" Ayala had said to her sister. "I am
sure he is not different with me," Lucy had replied. Then Ayala had
shaken her full locks and smiled.

Things came quickly after that. Mrs. Dormer had sickened and died.
There was no time then for thinking of that handsome brow, of
that short jet black hair, of those eyes so full of fire and
thoughtfulness, of that perfect mouth, and the deep but yet soft
voice. Still even in her sorrow this new god of her idolatry was not
altogether forgotten. It was told to her that he had been summoned
off to Rome by his father, and she wondered whether he was to find
his home at Rome for ever. Then her father was ill, and in his
illness Hamel came to say one word of farewell before he started.

"You find me crushed to the ground," the painter said. Something the
young man whispered as to the consolation which time would bring.
"Not to me," said Dormer. "It is as though one had lost his eyes. One
cannot see without his eyes." It was true of him. His light had been
put out.

Then, on the landing at the top of the stairs, there had been one
word between Lucy and the sculptor. "I ought not to have intruded on
you perhaps," he said; "but after so much kindness I could hardly go
without a word."

"I am sure he will be glad that you have come."

"And you?"

"I am glad too,--so that I may say good-bye." Then she put out her
hand, and he held it for a moment as he looked into her eyes. There
was not a word more, but it seemed to Lucy as though there had been
so many words.

Things went on quickly. Egbert Dormer died, and Lucy was taken away
to Kingsbury Crescent. When once Ayala had spoken about Mr. Hamel,
Lucy had silenced her. Any allusion to the idea of love wounded her,
as though it was too impossible for dreams, too holy for words. How
should there be words about a lover when father and mother were both
dead? He had gone to his old and natural home. He had gone, and of
course he would not return. To Ayala, when she came up to London
early in November, to Ayala, who was going to Rome, where Isadore
Hamel now was, Isadore Hamel's name was not mentioned. But through
the long mornings of her life, through the long evenings, through the
long nights, she still thought of him,--she could not keep herself
from thinking. To a girl whose life is full of delights her lover
need not be so very much,--need not, at least, be everything.
Though he be a lover to be loved at all points, her friends will be
something, her dancing, her horse, her theatre-going, her brothers
and sisters, even her father and mother. But Lucy had nothing. The
vision of Isadore Hamel had passed across her life, and had left with
her the only possession that she had. It need hardly be said that
she never alluded to that possession at Kingsbury Crescent. It was
not a possession from which any enjoyment could come except that of
thinking of it. He had passed away from her, and there was no point
of life at which he could come across her again. There was no longer
that half-joint studio. If it had been her lot to be as was Ayala,
she then would have been taken to Rome. Then again he would have
looked into her eyes and taken her hand in his. Then perhaps--.
But now, even though he were to come back to London, he would know
nothing of her haunts. Even in that case nothing would bring them
together. As the idea was crossing her mind,--as it did cross it
so frequently,--she saw him turning from the path on which she was
walking, making his way towards the steps of the Memorial.

Though she saw no more than his back she was sure that it was Isadore
Hamel. For a moment there was an impulse on her to run after him and
to call his name. It was then early in January, and she was taking
her daily walk through Kensington Gardens. She had walked there daily
now for the last two months and had never spoken a word or been
addressed,--had never seen a face that she had recognised. It had
seemed to her that she had not an acquaintance in the world except
Uncle Reg and Aunt Dosett. And now, almost within reach of her hand,
was the one being in all the world whom she most longed to see. She
did stand, and the word was formed within her lips; but she could not
speak it. Then came the thought that she would run after him, but the
thought was expelled quickly. Though she might lose him again and for
ever she could not do that. She stood almost gasping till he was out
of sight, and then she passed on upon her usual round.

She never omitted her walks after that, and always paused a moment
as the path turned away to the Memorial. It was not that she thought
that she might meet him there,--there rather than elsewhere,--but
there is present to us often an idea that when some object has passed
from us that we have desired then it may be seen again. Day after
day, and week after week, she did not see him. During this time there
came letters from Ayala, saying that their return to England was
postponed till the first week in February,--that she would certainly
see Lucy in February,--that she was not going to be hurried through
London in half-an-hour because her aunt wished it; and that she would
do as she pleased as to visiting her sister. Then there was a word
or two about Tom,--"Oh, Tom--that idiot Tom!" And another word or
two about Augusta. "Augusta is worse than ever. We have not spoken
to each other for the last day or two." This came but a day or two
before the intended return of the Tringles.

No actual day had been fixed. But on the day before that on which
Lucy thought it probable that the Tringles might return to town she
was again walking in the Gardens. Having put two and two together,
as people do, she felt sure that the travellers could not be away
more than a day or two longer. Her mind was much intent upon Ayala,
feeling that the imprudent girl was subjecting herself to great
danger, knowing that it was wrong that she and Augusta should be
together in the house without speaking,--thinking of her sister's
perils,--when, of a sudden, Hamel was close before her! There was no
question of calling to him now,--no question of an attempt to see him
face to face. She had been wandering along the path with eyes fixed
upon the ground, when her name was sharply called, and they two were
close to each other. Hamel had a friend with him, and it seemed to
Lucy at once, that she could only bow to him, only mutter something,
and then pass on. How can a girl stand and speak to a gentleman in
public, especially when that gentleman has a friend with him? She
tried to look pleasant, bowed, smiled, muttered something, and was
passing on. But he was not minded to lose her thus immediately. "Miss
Dormer," he said, "I have seen your sister at Rome. May I not say a
word about her?"

Why should he not say a word about Ayala? In a minute he had left
his friend, and was walking back along the path with Lucy. There was
not much that he had to say about Ayala. He had seen Ayala and the
Tringles, and did manage to let it escape him that Lady Tringle
had not been very gracious to himself when once, in public, he had
claimed acquaintance with Ayala. But at that he simply smiled. Then
he had asked of Lucy where she lived. "With my uncle, Mr. Dosett,"
said Lucy, "at Kingsbury Crescent." Then, when he asked whether he
might call, Lucy, with many blushes, had said that her aunt did not
receive many visitors,--that her uncle's house was different from
what her father's had been.

"Shall I not see you at all, then?" he asked.

She did not like to ask him after his own purposes of life, whether
he was now a resident in London, or whether he intended to return to
Rome. She was covered with bashfulness, and dreaded to seem even to
be interested in his affairs. "Oh, yes," she said; "perhaps we may
meet some day."

"Here?" he asked.

"Oh, no; not here! It was only an accident." As she said this she
determined that she must walk no more in Kensington Gardens. It would
be dreadful, indeed, were he to imagine that she would consent to
make an appointment with him. It immediately occurred to her that the
lions were about, and that she must shut herself up.

"I have thought of you every day since I have been back," he said,
"and I did not know where to hear of you. Now that we have met am I
to lose you again!" Lose her! What did he mean by losing her? She,
too, had found a friend,--she who had been so friendless! Would it
not be dreadful to her, also, to lose him? "Is there no place where I
may ask of you?"

"When Ayala is back, and they are in town, perhaps I shall sometimes
be at Lady Tringle's," said Lucy, resolved that she would not tell
him of her immediate abode. This was, at any rate, a certain address
from where he might commence further inquiries, should he wish to
make inquiry; and as such he accepted it. "I think I had better go
now," said Lucy, trembling at the apparent impropriety of her present
conversation.

He knew that it was intended that he should leave her, and he went.
"I hope I have not offended you in coming so far."

"Oh, no." Then again she gave him her hand, and again there was the
same look as he took his leave.

When she got home, which was before the dusk, having resolved that
she must, at any rate, tell her aunt that she had met a friend, she
found that her uncle had returned from his office. This was a most
unusual occurrence. Her uncle, she knew, left Somerset House exactly
at half-past four, and always took an hour and a quarter for his
walk. She had never seen him in Kingsbury Crescent till a quarter
before six. "I have got letters from Rome," he said, in a solemn
voice.

"From Ayala?"

"One from Ayala, for you. It is here. And I have had one from my
sister, also; and one, in the course of the day, from your uncle
in Lombard Street. You had better read them!" There was something
terribly tragic in Uncle Dosett's voice as he spoke.

And so must the reader read the letters; but they must be delayed for
a few chapters.



CHAPTER V.

AT GLENBOGIE.


We must go back to Ayala's life during the autumn and winter. She was
rapidly whirled away to Glenbogie amidst the affectionate welcomings
of her aunt and cousins. All manner of good things were done for her,
as to presents and comforts. Young as she was, she had money given to
her, which was not without attraction; and though she was, of course,
in the depth of her mourning, she was made to understand that even
mourning might be made becoming if no expense were spared. No expense
among the Tringles ever was spared, and at first Ayala liked the
bounty of profusion. But before the end of the first fortnight there
grew upon her a feeling that even bank notes become tawdry if you are
taught to use them as curl-papers. It may be said that nothing in the
world is charming unless it be achieved at some trouble. If it rained
"'64 Leoville,"--which I regard as the most divine of nectars,--I
feel sure that I should never raise it to my lips. Ayala did not
argue the matter out in her mind, but in very early days she began to
entertain a dislike to Tringle magnificence. There had been a good
deal of luxury at the bijou, but always with a feeling that it ought
not to be there,--that more money was being spent than prudence
authorised,--which had certainly added a savour to the luxuries. A
lovely bonnet, is it not more lovely because the destined wearer
knows that there is some wickedness in achieving it? All the bonnets,
all the claret, all the horses, seemed to come at Queen's Gate and at
Glenbogie without any wickedness. There was no more question about
them than as to one's ordinary bread and butter at breakfast. Sir
Thomas had a way,--a merit shall we call it or a fault?--of pouring
out his wealth upon the family as though it were water running in
perpetuity from a mountain tarn. Ayala the romantic, Ayala the
poetic, found very soon that she did not like it.

Perhaps the only pleasure left to the very rich is that of thinking
of the deprivations of the poor. The bonnets, and the claret, and the
horses, have lost their charm; but the Gladstone, and the old hats,
and the four-wheeled cabs of their neighbours, still have a little
flavour for them. From this source it seemed to Ayala that the
Tringles drew much of the recreation of their lives. Sir Thomas
had his way of enjoying this amusement, but it was a way that did
not specially come beneath Ayala's notice. When she heard that
Break-at-last, the Huddersfield manufacturer, had to sell his
pictures, and that all Shoddy and Stuffgoods' grand doings for
the last two years had only been a flash in the pan, she did not
understand enough about it to feel wounded; but when she heard her
aunt say that people like the Poodles had better not have a place
in Scotland than have to let it, and when Augusta hinted that Lady
Sophia Smallware had pawned her diamonds, then she felt that her
nearest and dearest relatives smelt abominably of money.

Of all the family Sir Thomas was most persistently the kindest to
her, though he was a man who did not look to be kind. She was pretty,
and though he was ugly himself he liked to look at things pretty. He
was, too, perhaps, a little tired of his own wife and daughters,--who
were indeed what he had made them, but still were not quite to his
taste. In a general way he gave instructions that Ayala should
be treated exactly as a daughter, and he informed his wife that
he intended to add a codicil to his will on her behalf. "Is that
necessary?" asked Lady Tringle, who began to feel something like
natural jealousy. "I suppose I ought to do something for a girl if
I take her by the hand," said Sir Thomas, roughly. "If she gets a
husband I will give her something, and that will do as well." Nothing
more was said about it, but when Sir Thomas went up to town the
codicil was added to his will.

Ayala was foolish rather than ungrateful, not understanding the
nature of the family to which she was relegated. Before she had been
taken away she had promised Lucy that she would be "obedient" to her
aunt. There had hardly been such a word as obedience known at the
bijou. If any were obedient, it was the mother and the father to the
daughters. Lucy, and Ayala as well, had understood something of this;
and therefore Ayala had promised to be obedient to her aunt. "And to
Uncle Thomas," Lucy had demanded, with an imploring embrace. "Oh,
yes," said Ayala, dreading her uncle at that time. She soon learned
that no obedience whatsoever was exacted from Sir Thomas. She had to
kiss him morning and evening, and then to take whatever presents he
made her. An easy uncle he was to deal with, and she almost learned
to love him. Nor was Aunt Emmeline very exigeant, though she was
fantastic and sometimes disagreeable. But Augusta was the great
difficulty. Lucy had not told her to obey Augusta, and Augusta she
would not obey. Now Augusta demanded obedience.

"You never ordered me," Ayala had said to Lucy when they met in
London as the Tringles were passing through. At the bijou there had
been a republic, in which all the inhabitants and all the visitors
had been free and equal. Such republicanism had been the very
mainspring of life at the bijou. Ayala loved equality, and she
specially felt that it should exist among sisters. Do anything for
Lucy? Oh, yes, indeed, anything; abandon anything; but for Lucy as a
sister among sisters, not for an elder as from a younger! And if she
were not bound to serve Lucy then certainly not Augusta. But Augusta
liked to be served. On one occasion she sent Ayala upstairs, and on
another she sent Ayala down-stairs. Ayala went, but determined to
be equal with her cousin. On the morning following, in the presence
of Aunt Emmeline and of Gertrude, in the presence also of two other
ladies who were visiting at the house, she asked Augusta if she would
mind running upstairs and fetching her scrap-book! She had been
thinking about it all the night and all the morning, plucking up her
courage. But she had been determined. She found a great difficulty in
saying the words, but she said them. The thing was so preposterous
that all the ladies in the room looked aghast at the proposition. "I
really think that Augusta has got something else to do," said Aunt
Emmeline. "Oh, very well," said Ayala, and then they were all silent.
Augusta, who was employed on a silk purse, sat still and did not say
a word.

Had a great secret, or rather a great piece of news which pervaded
the family, been previously communicated to Ayala, she would not
probably have made so insane a suggestion. Augusta was engaged to
be married to the Honourable Septimus Traffick, the member for Port
Glasgow. A young lady who is already half a bride is not supposed
to run up and down stairs as readily as a mere girl. For running up
and down stairs at the bijou Ayala had been proverbial. They were a
family who ran up and down with the greatest alacrity. "Oh, papa, my
basket is out on the seat"--for there had been a seat in the two-foot
garden behind the house. Papa would go down in two jumps and come up
with three skips, and there was the basket, only because his girl
liked him to do something for her. But for him Ayala would run about
as though she were a tricksy Ariel. Had the important matrimonial
news been conveyed to Ariel, with a true girl's spirit she would have
felt that during the present period Augusta was entitled to special
exemption from all ordering. Had she herself been engaged she would
have run more and quicker than ever,--would have been excited thereto
by the peculiar vitality of her new prospects; but to even Augusta
she would be subservient, because of her appreciation of bridal
importance. She, however, had not been told till that afternoon.

"You should not have asked Augusta to go up stairs," said Aunt
Emmeline, in a tone of mitigated reproach.

"Oh! I didn't know," said Ayala.

"You had meant to say that because she had sent you you were to send
her. There is a difference, you know."

"I didn't know," said Ayala, beginning to think that she would fight
her battle if told of such differences as she believed to exist.

"I had meant to tell you before, but I may as well tell you now,
Augusta is engaged to be married to the Honourable Mr. Septimus
Traffick. He is second son of Lord Boardotrade, and is in the House."

"Dear me!" said Ayala, acknowledging at once within her heart that
the difference alleged was one against which she need not rouse
herself to the fight. Aunt Emmeline had, in truth, intended to insist
on that difference--and another; but her courage had failed her.

"Yes, indeed. He is a man very much thought of just now in public
life, and Augusta's mind is naturally much occupied. He writes all
those letters in The Times about supply and demand."

"Does he, aunt?" Ayala did feel that if Augusta's mind was entirely
occupied with supply and demand she ought not to be made to go
upstairs to fetch a scrap-book. But she had her doubts about
Augusta's mind. Nevertheless, if the forthcoming husband were true,
that might be a reason. "If anybody had told me before I wouldn't
have asked her," she said.

Then Lady Tringle explained that it had been thought better not to
say anything heretofore as to the coming matrimonial hilarities
because of the sadness which had fallen upon the Dormer family. Ayala
accepted this as an excuse, and nothing further was said as to the
iniquity of her request to her cousin. But there was a general
feeling among the women that Ayala, in lieu of gratitude, had
exhibited an intention of rebelling.

On the next day Mr. Traffick arrived, whose coming had probably
made it necessary that the news should be told. Ayala was never so
surprised in her life as when she saw him. She had never yet had a
lover of her own, had never dreamed of a lover, but she had her own
idea as to what a lover ought to be. She had thought that Isadore
Hamel would be a very nice lover--for her sister. Hamel was young,
handsome, with a great deal to say on such a general subject as art,
but too bashful to talk easily to the girl he admired. Ayala had
thought that all that was just as it should be. She was altogether
resolved that Hamel and her sister should be lovers, and was
determined to be devoted to her future brother-in-law. But the
Honourable Septimus Traffick! It was a question to her whether her
Uncle Tringle would not have been better as a lover.

And yet there was nothing amiss about Mr. Traffick. He was very much
like an ordinary hard-working member of the House of Commons, over
perhaps rather than under forty years of age. He was somewhat bald,
somewhat grey, somewhat fat, and had lost that look of rosy plumpness
which is seldom, I fear, compatible with hard work and late hours. He
was not particularly ugly, nor was he absurd in appearance. But he
looked to be a disciple of business, not of pleasure, nor of art. "To
sit out on the bank of a stream and have him beside one would not be
particularly nice," thought Ayala to herself. Mr. Traffick no doubt
would have enjoyed it very well if he could have spared the time; but
to Ayala it seemed that such a man as that could have cared nothing
for love. As soon as she saw him, and realised in her mind the fact
that Augusta was to become his wife, she felt at once the absurdity
of sending Augusta on a message.

Augusta that evening was somewhat more than ordinarily kind to her
cousin. Now that the great secret was told, her cousin no doubt
would recognise her importance. "I suppose you had not heard of him
before?" she said to Ayala.

"I never did."

"That's because you have not attended to the debates."

"I never have. What are debates?"

"Mr. Traffick is very much thought of in the House of Commons on all
subjects affecting commerce."

"Oh!"

"It is the most glorious study which the world affords."

"The House of Commons. I don't think it can be equal to art."

Then Augusta turned up her nose with a double turn,--first as against
painters, Mr. Dormer having been no more, and then at Ayala's
ignorance in supposing that the House of Commons could have been
spoken of as a study. "Mr. Traffick will probably be in the
government some day," she said.

"Has not he been yet?" asked Ayala.

"Not yet."

"Then won't he be very old before he gets there?" This was a terrible
question. Young ladies of five-and-twenty, when they marry gentlemen
of four-and-fifty, make up their minds for well-understood and
well-recognised old age. They see that they had best declare their
purpose, and they do declare it. "Of course, Mr. Walker is old enough
to be my father, but I have made up my mind that I like that better
than anything else." Then the wall has been jumped, and the thing can
go smoothly. But at forty-five there is supposed to be so much of
youth left that the difference of age may possibly be tided over and
not made to appear abnormal. Augusta Tringle had determined to tide
it over in this way. The forty-five had been gradually reduced to
"less than forty,"--though all the Peerages were there to give the
lie to the assertion. She talked of her lover as Septimus, and was
quite prepared to sit with him beside a stream if only half-an-hour
for the amusement could be found. When, therefore, Ayala suggested
that if her lover wanted to get into office he had better do so
quickly, lest he should be too old, Augusta was not well pleased.

"Lord Boardotrade was much older when he began," said Augusta. "His
friends, indeed, tell Septimus that he should not push himself
forward too quickly. But I don't think that I ever came across any
one who was so ignorant of such things as you are, Ayala."

"Perhaps he is not so old as he looks," said Ayala. After this it may
be imagined that there was not close friendship between the cousins.
Augusta's mind was filled with a strong conception as to Ayala's
ingratitude. The houseless, penniless orphan had been taken in, and
had done nothing but make herself disagreeable. Young! No doubt she
was young. But had she been as old as Methuselah she could not have
been more insolent. It did not, however, matter to her, Augusta.
She was going away; but it would be terrible to her mamma and to
Gertrude! Thus it was that Augusta spoke of her cousin to her mother.

And then there came another trouble, which was more troublesome to
Ayala even than the other. Tom Tringle, who was in the house in
Lombard Street, who was the only son, and heir to the title and no
doubt to much of the wealth, had chosen to take Ayala's part and to
enlist himself as her special friend. Ayala had, at first, accepted
him as a cousin, and had consented to fraternise with him. Then, on
some unfortunate day, there had been some word or look which she had
failed not to understand, and immediately she had become afraid of
Tom. Tom was not like Isadore Hamel,--was very far, indeed, from that
idea of a perfect lover which Ayala's mind had conceived; but he was
by no means a lout, or an oaf, or an idiot, as Ayala in her letters
to her sister had described him. He had been first at Eton and then
at Oxford, and having spent a great deal of money recklessly, and
done but little towards his education, had been withdrawn and put
into the office. His father declared of him now that he would do
fairly well in the world. He had a taste for dress, and kept four or
five hunters which he got but little credit by riding. He made a fuss
about his shooting, but did not shoot much. He was stout and awkward
looking,--very like his father, but without that settled air which
age gives to heavy men. In appearance he was not the sort of lover
to satisfy the preconceptions of such a girl as Ayala. But he was
good-natured and true. At last he became to her terribly true. His
love, such as it seemed at first, was absurd to her. "If you make
yourself such a fool, Tom, I'll never speak to you again," she had
said, once. Even after that she had not understood that it was
more than a stupid joke. But the joke, while it was considered as
such, was very distasteful to her; and afterwards, when a certain
earnestness in it was driven in upon her, it became worse than
distasteful.

She repudiated his love with such power as she had, but she could not
silence him. She could not at all understand that a young man, who
seemed to her to be an oaf, should really be in love,--honestly in
love with her. But such was the case. Then she became afraid lest
others should see it,--afraid, though she often told herself that she
would appeal to her aunt for protection. "I tell you I don't care a
bit about you, and you oughtn't to go on," she said. But he did go
on, and though her aunt did not see it Augusta did.

Then Augusta spoke a word to her in scorn. "Ayala," she said, "you
should not encourage Tom."

Encourage him! What a word from one girl to another! What a world
of wrong there was in the idea which had created the word! What an
absence of the sort of feeling which, according to Ayala's theory
of life, there should be on such a matter between two sisters, two
cousins, or two friends! Encourage him! When Augusta ought to have
been the first to assist her in her trouble! "Oh, Augusta," she said,
turning sharply round, "what a spiteful creature you are."

"I suppose you think so, because I do not choose to approve."

"Approve of what! Tom is thoroughly disagreeable. Sometimes he makes
my life such a burden to me that I think I shall have to go to my
aunt. But you are worse. Oh!" exclaimed Ayala, shuddering as she
thought of the unwomanly treachery of which her cousin was guilty
towards her.

Nothing more came of it at Glenbogie. Tom was required in Lombard
Street, and the matter was not suspected by Aunt Emmeline,--as far,
at least, as Ayala was aware. When he was gone it was to her as
though there would be a world of time before she would see him again.
They were to go to Rome, and he would not be at Rome till January.
Before that he might have forgotten his folly. But Ayala was quite
determined that she would never forget the ill offices of Augusta.
She did hate Augusta, as she had told her sister. Then, in this frame
of mind, the family was taken to Rome.



CHAPTER VI.

AT ROME.


During her journeying and during her sojourn at Rome Ayala did enjoy
much; but even these joys did not come to her without causing some
trouble of spirit. At Glenbogie everybody had known that she was a
dependent niece, and that as such she was in truth nobody. On that
morning when she had ordered Augusta to go upstairs the two visitors
had stared with amazement,--who would not have stared at all had
they heard Ayala ordered in the same way. But it came about that in
Rome Ayala was almost of more importance than the Tringles. It was
absolutely true that Lady Tringle and Augusta and Gertrude were asked
here and there because of Ayala; and the worst of it was that the
fact was at last suspected by the Tringles themselves. Sometimes they
would not always be asked. One of the Tringle girls would only be
named. But Ayala was never forgotten. Once or twice an effort was
made by some grand lady, whose taste was perhaps more conspicuous
than her good-nature, to get Ayala without burdening herself with any
of the Tringles. When this became clear to the mind of Augusta,--of
Augusta, engaged as she was to the Honourable Septimus Traffick,
Member of Parliament,--Augusta's feelings were--such as may better
be understood than described! "Don't let her go, mamma," she said to
Lady Tringle one morning.

"But the Marchesa has made such a point of it."

"Bother the Marchesa! Who is the Marchesa? I believe it is all
Ayala's doing because she expects to meet that Mr. Hamel. It is
dreadful to see the way she goes on."

"Mr. Hamel was a very intimate friend of her father's."

"I don't believe a bit of it."

"He certainly used to be at his house. I remember seeing him."

"I daresay; but that doesn't justify Ayala in running after him as
she does. I believe that all this about the Marchesa is because of
Mr. Hamel." This was better than believing that Ayala was to be asked
to sing, and that Ayala was to be fêted and admired and danced with,
simply because Ayala was Ayala, and that they, the Tringles, in spite
of Glenbogie, Merle Park, and Queen's Gate, were not wanted at all.
But when Aunt Emmeline signified to Ayala that on that particular
morning she had better not go to the Marchesa's picnic, Ayala simply
said that she had promised;--and Ayala went.

At this time no gentleman of the family was with them. Sir Thomas
had gone, and Tom Tringle had not come. Then, just at Christmas, the
Honourable Septimus Traffick came for a short visit,--a very short
visit, no more than four or five days, because Supply and Demand were
requiring all his services in preparation for the coming Session
of Parliament. But for five halcyon days he was prepared to devote
himself to the glories of Rome under the guidance of Augusta. He
did not of course sleep at the Palazzo Ruperti, where it delighted
Lady Tringle to inform her friends in Rome that she had a suite of
apartments "au première," but he ate there and drank there and almost
lived there; so that it became absolutely necessary to inform the
world of Rome that it was Augusta's destiny to become in course of
time the Honourable Mrs. Traffick, otherwise the close intimacy
would hardly have been discreet,--unless it had been thought, as the
ill-natured Marchesa had hinted, that Mr. Traffick was Lady Tringle's
elder brother. Augusta, however, was by no means ashamed of her
lover. Perhaps she felt that when it was known that she was about
to be the bride of so great a man then doors would be open for her
at any rate as wide as for her cousin. At this moment she was very
important to herself. She was about to convey no less a sum than
£120,000 to Mr. Traffick, who, in truth, as younger son of Lord
Boardotrade, was himself not well endowed. Considering her own
position and her future husband's rank and standing, she did not
know how a young woman could well be more important. She was very
important at any rate to Mr. Traffick. She was sure of that. When,
therefore, she learned that Ayala had been asked to a grand ball at
the Marchesa's, that Mr. Traffick was also to be among the guests,
and that none of the Tringles had been invited,--then her anger
became hot.

She must have been very stupid when she took it into her head to be
jealous of Mr. Traffick's attention to her cousin; stupid, at any
rate, when she thought that her cousin was laying out feminine lures
for Mr. Traffick. Poor Ayala! We shall see much of her in these
pages, and it may be well to declare of her at once that her ideas
at this moment about men,--or rather about a possible man,--were
confined altogether to the abstract. She had floating in her young
mind some fancies as to the beauty of love. That there should be a
hero must of course be necessary. But in her day-dreams this hero was
almost celestial,--or, at least, æthereal. It was a concentration
of poetic perfection to which there was not as yet any appanage of
apparel, of features, or of wealth. It was a something out of heaven
which should think it well to spend his whole time in adoring her
and making her more blessed than had ever yet been a woman upon the
earth. Then her first approach to a mundane feeling had been her
acknowledgment to herself that Isadore Hamel would do as a lover for
Lucy. Isadore Hamel was certainly very handsome,--was possessed of
infinite good gifts; but even he would by no means have come up to
her requirements for her own hero. That hero must have wings tinged
with azure, whereas Hamel had a not much more ætherealised than
ordinary coat and waistcoat. She knew that heroes with azure wings
were not existent save in the imagination, and, as she desired a real
lover for Lucy, Hamel would do. But for herself her imagination was
too valuable then to allow her to put her foot upon earth. Such as
she was, must not Augusta have been very stupid to have thought that
Ayala should become fond of her Mr. Traffick!

Her cousin Tom had come to her, and had been to her as a Newfoundland
dog is when he jumps all over you just when he has come out of a
horsepond. She would have liked Tom had he kept his dog-like gambols
at a proper distance. But when he would cover her with muddy water
he was abominable. But this Augusta had not understood. With Mr.
Traffick there would be no dog-like gambols; and, as he was not harsh
to her, Ayala liked him. She had liked her uncle. Such men were, to
her thinking, more like dogs than lovers. She sang when Mr. Traffick
asked her, and made a picture for him, and went with him to the
Coliseum, and laughed at him about Supply and Demand. She was very
pretty, and perhaps Mr. Traffick did like to look at her.

"I really think you were too free with Mr. Traffick last night,"
Augusta said to her one morning.

"Free! How free?"

"You were--laughing at him."

"Oh, he likes that," said Ayala. "All that time we were up at the top
of St. Peter's I was quizzing him about his speeches. He lets me say
just what I please."

This was wormwood. In the first place there had been a word or two
between the lovers about that going up of St. Peter's, and Augusta
had refused to join them. She had wished Septimus to remain down with
her,--which would have been tantamount to preventing any of the party
from going up; but Septimus had persisted on ascending. Then Augusta
had been left for a long hour alone with her mother. Gertrude had no
doubt gone up, but Gertrude had lagged during the ascent. Ayala had
skipped up the interminable stairs and Mr. Traffick had trotted after
her with admiring breathless industry. This itself, with the thoughts
of the good time which Septimus might be having at the top, was very
bad. But now to be told that she, Ayala, should laugh at him; and
that he, Septimus, should like it! "I suppose he takes you to be a
child," said Augusta; "but if you are a child you ought to conduct
yourself."

"I suppose he does perceive the difference," said Ayala.

She had not in the least known what the words might convey,--had
probably meant nothing. But to Augusta it was apparent that Ayala
had declared that her lover, her Septimus, had preferred her extreme
youth to the more mature charms of his own true love,--or had,
perhaps, preferred Ayala's raillery to Augusta's serious demeanour.
"You are the most impertinent person I ever knew in my life," said
Augusta, rising from her chair and walking slowly out of the room.
Ayala stared after her, not above half comprehending the cause of the
anger.

Then came the very serious affair of the ball. The Marchesa had asked
that her dear little friend Ayala Dormer might be allowed to come
over to a little dance which her own girls were going to have. Her
own girls were so fond of Ayala! There would be no trouble. There
was a carriage which would be going somewhere else, and she would be
fetched and taken home. Ayala at once declared that she intended to
go, and her Aunt Emmeline did not refuse her sanction. Augusta was
shocked, declaring that the little dance was to be one of the great
balls of the season, and pronouncing the whole to be a falsehood; but
the affair was arranged before she could stop it.

But Mr. Traffick's affair in the matter came more within her range.
"Septimus," she said, "I would rather you would not go to that
woman's party." Septimus had been asked only on the day before the
party,--as soon, indeed, as his arrival had become known to the
Marchesa.

"Why, my own one?"

"She has not treated mamma well,--nor yet me."

"Ayala is going." He had no right to call her Ayala. So Augusta
thought.

"My cousin is behaving badly in the matter, and mamma ought not to
allow her to go. Who knows anything about the Marchesa Baldoni?"

"Both he and she are of the very best families in Rome," said Mr.
Traffick, who knew everything about it.

"At any rate they are behaving very badly to us, and I will take it
as a favour that you do not go. Asking Ayala, and then asking you, as
good as from the same house, is too marked. You ought not to go."

Perhaps Mr. Traffick had on some former occasion felt some little
interference with his freedom of action. Perhaps he liked the
acquaintance of the Marchesa. Perhaps he liked Ayala Dormer. Be that
as it might, he would not yield. "Dear Augusta, it is right that I
should go there, if it be only for half-an-hour." This he said in a
tone of voice with which Augusta was already acquainted, which she
did not love, and which, when she heard it, would make her think of
her £120,000. When he had spoken he left her, and she began to think
of her £120,000.

They both went, Ayala and Mr. Traffick,--and Mr. Traffick, instead
of staying half-an-hour, brought Ayala back at three o'clock in the
morning. Though Mr. Traffick was nearly as old as Uncle Tringle, yet
he could dance. Ayala had been astonished to find how well he could
dance, and thought that she might please her cousin Augusta by
praising the juvenility of her lover at luncheon the next day. She
had not appeared at breakfast, but had been full of the ball at
lunch. "Oh, dear, yes, I dare say there were two hundred people
there."

"That is what she calls a little dance," said Augusta, with scorn.

"I suppose that is the Italian way of talking about it," said Ayala.

"Italian way! I hate Italian ways."

"Mr. Traffick liked it very much. I'm sure he'll tell you so. I had
no idea he would care to dance."

Augusta only shook herself and turned up her nose. Lady Tringle
thought it necessary to say something in defence of her daughter's
choice. "Why should not Mr. Traffick dance like any other gentleman?"

"Oh, I don't know. I thought that a man who makes so many speeches
in Parliament would think of something else. I was very glad he did,
for he danced three times with me. He can waltz as lightly as--" As
though he were young, she was going to say, but then she stopped
herself.

"He is the best dancer I ever danced with," said Augusta.

"But you almost never do dance," said Ayala.

"I suppose I may know about it as well as another," said Augusta,
angrily.

The next day was the last of Mr. Traffick's sojourn in Rome, and on
that day he and Augusta so quarrelled that, for a certain number of
hours, it was almost supposed in the family that the match would be
broken off. On the afternoon of the day after the dance Mr. Traffick
was walking with Ayala on the Pincian, while Augusta was absolutely
remaining behind with her mother. For a quarter-of-an-hour,--the
whole day, as it seemed to Augusta,--there was a full two hundred
yards between them. It was not that the engaged girl could not bear
the severance, but that she could not endure the attention paid to
Ayala. On the next morning "she had it out," as some people say, with
her lover. "If I am to be treated in this way you had better tell me
so at once," she said.

"I know no better way of treating you," said Mr. Traffick.

"Dancing with that chit all night, turning her head, and then walking
with her all the next day! I will not put up with such conduct."

Mr. Traffick valued £120,000 very highly, as do most men, and would
have done much to keep it; but he believed that the best way of
making sure of it would be by showing himself to be the master. "My
own one," he said, "you are really making an ass of yourself."

"Very well! Then I will write to papa, and let him know that it must
be all over."

For three hours there was terrible trouble in the apartments in the
Palazzo Ruperti, during which Mr. Traffick was enjoying himself by
walking up and down the Forum, and calculating how many Romans could
have congregated themselves in the space which is supposed to have
seen so much of the world's doings. During this time Augusta was
very frequently in hysterics; but, whether in hysterics or out of
them, she would not allow Ayala to come near her. She gave it to be
understood that Ayala had interfered fatally, foully, damnably, with
all her happiness. She demanded, from fit to fit, that telegrams
should be sent over to bring her father to Italy for her protection.
She would rave about Septimus, and then swear that, under no
consideration whatever, would she ever see him again. At the end
of three hours she was told that Septimus was in the drawing-room.
Lady Tringle had sent half-a-dozen messengers after him, and at last
he was found looking up at the Arch of Titus. "Bid him go," said
Augusta. "I never want to behold him again." But within two minutes
she was in his arms, and before dinner she was able to take a stroll
with him on the Pincian.

He left, like a thriving lover, high in the good graces of his
beloved; but the anger which had fallen on Ayala had not been
removed. Then came a rumour that the Marchesa, who was half English,
had called Ayala Cinderella, and the name had added fuel to the fire
of Augusta's wrath. There was much said about it between Lady Tringle
and her daughter, the aunt really feeling that more blame was being
attributed to Ayala than she deserved. "Perhaps she gives herself
airs," said Lady Tringle, "but really it is no more."

"She is a viper," said Augusta.

Gertrude rather took Ayala's part, telling her mother, in private,
that the accusation about Mr. Traffick was absurd. "The truth is,"
said Gertrude, "that Ayala thinks herself very clever and very
beautiful, and Augusta will not stand it." Gertrude acknowledged
that Ayala was upsetting and ungrateful. Poor Lady Tringle, in her
husband's absence, did not know what to do about her niece.

Altogether, they were uncomfortable after Mr. Traffick went and
before Tom Tringle had come. On no consideration whatsoever would
Augusta speak to her cousin. She declared that Ayala was a viper, and
would give no other reason. In all such quarrelings the matter most
distressing is that the evil cannot be hidden. Everybody at Rome who
knew the Tringles, or who knew Ayala, was aware that Augusta Tringle
would not speak to her cousin. When Ayala was asked she would shake
her locks, and open her eyes, and declare that she knew nothing about
it. In truth she knew very little about it. She remembered that
passage-at-arms about the going upstairs at Glenbogie, but she could
hardly understand that for so small an affront, and one so distant,
Augusta would now refuse to speak to her. That Augusta had always
been angry with her, and since Mr. Traffick's arrival more angry than
ever, she had felt; but that Augusta was jealous in respect to her
lover had never yet at all come home to Ayala. That she should have
wanted to captivate Mr. Traffick,--she with her high ideas of some
transcendental, more than human, hero!

But she had to put up with it, and to think of it. She had sense
enough to know that she was no more than a stranger in her aunt's
family, and that she must go if she made herself unpleasant to them.
She was aware that hitherto she had not succeeded with her residence
among them. Perhaps she might have to go. Some things she would
bear, and in them she would endeavour to amend her conduct. In other
matters she would hold her own, and go, if necessary. Though her
young imagination was still full of her unsubstantial hero,--though
she still had her castles in the air altogether incapable of
terrestrial foundation,--still there was a common sense about her
which told her that she must give and take. She would endeavour to
submit herself to her aunt. She would be kind,--as she had always
been kind,--to Gertrude. She would in all matters obey her uncle. Her
misfortune with the Newfoundland dog had almost dwindled out of her
mind. To Augusta she could not submit herself. But then Augusta,
as soon as the next session of Parliament should be over, would be
married out of the way. And, on her own part, she did think that her
aunt was inclined to take her part in the quarrel with Augusta.

Thus matters were going on in Rome when there came up another and a
worse cause for trouble.



CHAPTER VII.

TOM TRINGLE IN EARNEST.


Tom Tringle, though he had first appeared to his cousin Ayala as a
Newfoundland dog which might perhaps be pleasantly playful, and then,
as the same dog, very unpleasant because dripping with muddy water,
was nevertheless a young man with so much manly truth about him as to
be very much in love. He did not look like it; but then perhaps the
young men who do fall most absolutely into love do not look like it.
To Ayala her cousin Tom was as unloveable as Mr. Septimus Traffick.
She could like them both well enough while they would be kind to
her. But as to regarding cousin Tom as a lover,--the idea was so
preposterous to her that she could not imagine that any one else
should look upon it as real. But with Tom the idea had been real,
and was, moreover, permanent. The black locks which would be shaken
here and there, the bright glancing eyes which could be so joyous and
could be so indignant, the colour of her face which had nothing in it
of pink, which was brown rather, but over which the tell-tale blood
would rush with a quickness which was marvellous to him, the lithe
quick figure which had in it nothing of the weight of earth, the
little foot which in itself was a perfect joy, the step with all the
elasticity of a fawn,--these charms together had mastered him. Tom
was not romantic or poetic, but the romance and poetry of Ayala had
been divine to him. It is not always like to like in love. Titania
loved the weaver Bottom with the ass's head. Bluebeard, though a
bad husband, is supposed to have been fond of his last wife. The
Beauty has always been beloved by the Beast. To Ayala the thing
was monstrous;--but it was natural. Tom Tringle was determined to
have his way, and when he started for Rome was more intent upon his
love-making than all the glories of the Capitol and the Vatican.

When he first made his appearance before Ayala's eyes he was bedecked
in a manner that was awful to her. Down at Glenbogie he had affected
a rough attire, as is the custom with young men of ample means when
fishing, shooting, or the like, is supposed to be the employment
then in hand. The roughness had been a little overdone, but it had
added nothing to his own uncouthness. In London he was apt to run a
little towards ornamental gilding, but in London his tastes had been
tempered by the ill-natured criticism of the world at large. He had
hardly dared at Queen's Gate to wear his biggest pins; but he had
taken upon himself to think that at Rome an Englishman might expose
himself with all his jewelry. "Oh, Tom, I never saw anything so
stunning," his sister Gertrude said to him. He had simply frowned
upon her, and had turned himself to Ayala, as though Ayala, being
an artist, would be able to appreciate something beautiful in art.
Ayala had looked at him and had marvelled, and had ventured to hope
that, with his Glenbogie dress, his Glenbogie manners and Glenbogie
propensities would be changed.

At this time the family at Rome was very uncomfortable. Augusta would
not speak to her cousin, and had declared to her mother and sister
her determination never to speak to Ayala again. For a time Aunt
Emmeline had almost taken her niece's part, feeling that she might
best bring things back to a condition of peace in this manner. Ayala,
she had thought, might thus be decoyed into a state of submission.
Ayala, so instigated, had made her attempt. "What is the matter,
Augusta," she had said, "that you are determined to quarrel with me?"
Then had followed a little offer that bygones should be bygones.

"I have quarrelled with you," said Augusta, "because you do not know
how to behave yourself." Then Ayala had flashed forth, and the little
attempt led to a worse condition than ever, and words were spoken
which even Aunt Emmeline had felt to be irrevocable, irremediable.

"Only that you are going away I would not consent to live here," said
Ayala. Then Aunt Emmeline had asked her where she would go to live
should it please her to remove herself. Ayala had thought of this for
a moment, and then had burst into tears. "If I could not live I could
die. Anything would be better than to be treated as she treats me."
So the matters were when Tom came to Rome with all his jewelry.

Lady Tringle had already told herself that, in choosing Ayala, she
had chosen wrong. Lucy, though not so attractive as Ayala, was
pretty, quiet, and ladylike. So she thought now. And as to Ayala's
attractions, they were not at all of a nature to be serviceable to
such a family as hers. To have her own girls outshone, to be made
to feel that the poor orphan was the one person most worthy of note
among them, to be subjected to the caprices of a pretty, proud,
ill-conditioned minx;--thus it was that Aunt Emmeline was taught
to regard her own charity and good-nature towards her niece. There
was, she said, no gratitude in Ayala. Had she said that there was no
humility she would have been more nearly right. She was entitled, she
thought, to expect both gratitude and humility, and she was sorry
that she had opened the Paradise of her opulent home to one so little
grateful and so little humble as Ayala. She saw now her want of
judgment in that she had not taken Lucy.

Tom, who was not a fool, in spite of his trinkets, saw the state of
the case, and took Ayala's part at once. "I think you are quite
right," he said to her, on the first occasion on which he had
contrived to find himself alone with her after his arrival.

"Right about what?"

"In not giving up to Augusta. She was always like that when she was a
child, and now her head is turned about Traffick."

"I shouldn't grudge her her lover if she would only let me alone."

"I don't suppose she hurts you much?"

"She sets my aunt against me, and that makes me unhappy. Of course I
am wretched."

"Oh, Ayala, don't be wretched."

"How is one to help it? I never said an ill-natured word to her,
and now I am so lonely among them!" In saying this,--in seeking to
get one word of sympathy from her cousin, she forgot for a moment
his disagreeable pretensions. But, no sooner had she spoken of her
loneliness, than she saw that ogle in his eye of which she had spoken
with so much ludicrous awe in her letters from Glenbogie to her
sister.

"I shall always take your part," said he.

"I don't want any taking of parts."

"But I shall. I am not going to see you put upon. You are more to me,
Ayala, than any of them." Then he looked at her, whereupon she got up
and ran away.

But she could not always run away, nor could she always refuse when
he asked her to go with him about the show-places of the city. To
avoid starting alone with him was within her power; but she found
herself compelled to join herself to Gertrude and her brother in
some of those little excursions which were taken for her benefit. At
this time there had come to be a direct quarrel between Lady Tringle
and the Marchesa, which, however, had arisen altogether on the part
of Augusta. Augusta had forced her mother to declare that she was
insulted, and then there was no more visiting between them. This had
been sad enough for Ayala, who had struck up an intimacy with the
Marchesa's daughters. But the Marchesa had explained to her that
there was no help for it. "It won't do for you to separate yourself
from your aunt," she had said. "Of course we shall be friends, and
at some future time you shall come and see us." So there had been a
division, and Ayala would have been quite alone had she declined the
proffered companionship of Gertrude.

Within the walls and arches and upraised terraces of the Coliseum
they were joined one day by young Hamel, the sculptor, who had not,
as yet, gone back to London,--and had not, as yet, met Lucy in the
gardens at Kensington; and with him there had been one Frank Houston,
who had made acquaintance with Lady Tringle, and with the Tringles
generally, since they had been at Rome. Frank Houston was a young man
of family, with a taste for art, very good-looking, but not specially
well off in regard to income. He had heard of the good fortune of
Septimus Traffick in having prepared for himself a connection with so
wealthy a family as the Tringles, and had thought it possible that a
settlement in life might be comfortable for himself. What few soft
words he had hitherto been able to say to Gertrude had been taken
in good part, and when, therefore, they met among the walls of the
Coliseum, she had naturally straggled away to see some special wonder
which he had a special aptitude for showing. Hamel remained with
Ayala and Tom, talking of the old days at the bijou, till he found
himself obliged to leave them. Then Tom had his opportunity.

"Ayala," he said, "all this must be altered."

"What must be altered?"

"If you only knew, Ayala, how much you are to me."

"I wish you wouldn't, Tom. I don't want to be anything to anybody in
particular."

"What I mean is, that I won't have them sit upon you. They treat
you as--as,--well, as though you had only half a right to be one of
them."

"No more I have. I have no right at all."

"But that's not the way I want it to be. If you were my wife--"

"Tom, pray don't."

"Why not? I'm in earnest. Why ain't I to speak as I think? Oh, Ayala,
if you knew how much I think of you."

"But you shouldn't. You haven't got a right."

"I have got a right."

"But I don't want it, Tom, and I won't have it." He had carried her
away now to the end of the terrace, or ruined tier of seats, on which
they were walking, and had got her so hemmed into a corner that she
could not get away from him. She was afraid of him, lest he should
put out his hand to take hold of her,--lest something even more
might be attempted. And yet his manner was manly and sincere, and
had it not been for his pins and his chains she could not but have
acknowledged his goodness to her, much as she might have disliked his
person. "I want to get out," she said. "I won't stay here any more."
Mr. Traffick, on the top of St. Peter's, had been a much pleasanter
companion.

"Don't you believe me when I tell you that I love you better than
anybody?" pleaded Tom.

"No."

"Not believe me? Oh, Ayala!"

"I don't want to believe anything. I want to get out. If you go on,
I'll tell my aunt."

Tell her aunt! There was a want of personal consideration to himself
in this way of receiving his addresses which almost angered him. Tom
Tringle was not in the least afraid of his mother,--was not even
afraid of his father as long as he was fairly regular at the office
in Lombard Street. He was quite determined to please himself in
marriage, and was disposed to think that his father and mother would
like him to be settled. Money was no object. There was, to his
thinking, no good reason why he should not marry his cousin. For her
the match was so excellent that he hardly expected she would reject
him when she could be made to understand that he was really in
earnest. "You may tell all the world," he said proudly. "All I want
is that you should love me."

"But I don't. There are Gertrude and Mr. Houston, and I want to go to
them."

"Say one nice word to me, Ayala."

"I don't know how to say a nice word. Can't you be made to understand
that I don't like it?"

"Ayala."

"Why don't you let me go away?"

"Ayala,--give me--one--kiss." Then Ayala did go away, escaping by
some kid-like manoeuvre among the ruins, and running quickly, while
he followed her, joined herself to the other pair of lovers, who
probably were less in want of her society than she of theirs. "Ayala,
I am quite in earnest," said Tom, as they were walking home, "and I
mean to go on with it."

Ayala thought that there was nothing for it but to tell her aunt.
That there would be some absurdity in such a proceeding she did
feel,--that she would be acting as though her cousin were a naughty
boy who was merely teasing her. But she felt also the peculiar danger
of her own position. Her aunt must be made to understand that she,
Ayala, was innocent in the matter. It would be terrible to her to
be suspected even for a moment of a desire to inveigle the heir.
That Augusta would bring such an accusation against her she thought
probable. Augusta had said as much even at Glenbogie. She must
therefore be on the alert, and let it be understood at once
that she was not leagued with her cousin Tom. There would be an
absurdity;--but that would be better than suspicion.

She thought about it all that afternoon, and in the evening she came
to a resolution. She would write a letter to her cousin and persuade
him if possible to desist. If he should again annoy her after that
she would appeal to her aunt. Then she wrote and sent her letter,
which was as follows;--


   DEAR TOM,

   You don't know how unhappy you made me at the Coliseum
   to-day. I don't think you ought to turn against me when
   you know what I have to bear. It is turning against me
   to talk as you did. Of course it means nothing; but you
   shouldn't do it. It _never never_ could mean anything. I
   hope you will be good-natured and kind to me, and then I
   shall be so much obliged to you. If you won't say anything
   more like that I will forget it altogether.

   Your affectionate cousin,

   AYALA.


The letter ought to have convinced him. Those two underscored nevers
should have eradicated from his mind the feeling which had been
previously produced by the assertion that he had "meant nothing."
But he was so assured in his own meanings that he paid no attention
whatever to the nevers. The letter was a delight to him because it
gave him the opportunity of a rejoinder,--and he wrote his rejoinder
on a scented sheet of note-paper and copied it twice;--


   DEAREST AYALA,

   Why do you say that it means nothing? It means everything.
   No man was ever more in earnest in speaking to a lady than
   I am with you. Why should I not be in earnest when I am so
   deeply in love? From the first moment in which I saw you
   down at Glenbogie I knew how it was going to be with me.

   As for my mother I don't think she would say a word. Why
   should she? But I am not the sort of man to be talked out
   of my intentions in such a matter as this. I have set my
   heart upon having you and nothing will ever turn me off.

   Dearest Ayala, let me have one look to say that you will
   love me, and I shall be the happiest man in England. I
   think you so beautiful! I do, indeed. The governor has
   always said that if I would settle down and marry there
   should be lots of money. What could I do better with it
   than make my darling look as grand as the best of them.

   Yours, always meaning it,
   Most affectionately,

   T. TRINGLE.


It almost touched her,--not in the way of love but of gratitude. He
was still to her like Bottom with the ass's head, or the Newfoundland
dog gambolling out of the water. There was the heavy face, and there
were the big chains and the odious rings, and the great hands and
the clumsy feet,--making together a creature whom it was impossible
even to think of with love. She shuddered as she remembered the
proposition which had been made to her in the Coliseum.

And now by writing to him she had brought down upon herself this
absolute love-letter. She had thought that by appealing to him as
"Dear Tom," and by signing herself his affectionate cousin, she might
have prevailed. If he could only be made to understand that it could
never mean anything! But now, on the other hand, she had begun to
understand that it did _mean_ a great deal. He had sent to her a
regular offer of marriage! The magnitude of the thing struck her at
last. The heir of all the wealth of her mighty uncle wanted to make
her his wife!

But it was to her exactly as though the heir had come to her wearing
an ass's head on his shoulders. Love him! Marry him!--or even touch
him? Oh, no. They might ill-use her; they might scold her; they might
turn her out of the house; but no consideration would induce her to
think of Tom Tringle as a lover.

And yet he was in earnest, and honest, and good. And some
answer,--some further communication must be made to him. She
did recognise some nobility in him, though personally he was so
distasteful to her. Now his appeal to her had taken the guise of an
absolute offer of marriage he was entitled to a discreet and civil
answer. Romantic, dreamy, poetic, childish as she was, she knew as
much as that. "Go away, Tom, you fool, you," would no longer do for
the occasion. As she thought of it all that night it was borne in
upon her more strongly than ever that her only protection would be in
telling her aunt, and in getting her aunt to make Tom understand that
there must be no more of it. Early on the following morning she found
herself in her aunt's bedroom.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE LOUT.


"Aunt Emmeline, I want you to read this letter." So it was that Ayala
commenced the interview. At this moment Ayala was not on much better
terms with her aunt than she was with her cousin Augusta. Ayala was
a trouble to her,--Lady Tringle,--who was altogether perplexed with
the feeling that she had burdened herself with an inmate in her house
who was distasteful to her and of whom she could not rid herself.
Ayala had turned out on her hands something altogether different
from the girl she had intended to cherish and patronise. Ayala
was independent; superior rather than inferior to her own girls;
more thought of by others; apparently without any touch of that
subservience which should have been produced in her by her position.
Ayala seemed to demand as much as though she were a daughter of the
house, and at the same time to carry herself as though she were more
gifted than the daughters of the house. She was less obedient even
than a daughter. All this Aunt Emmeline could not endure with a
placid bosom. She was herself kind of heart. She acknowledged her
duty to her dead sister. She wished to protect and foster the orphan.
She did not even yet wish to punish Ayala by utter desertion. She
would protect her in opposition to Augusta's more declared malignity;
but she did wish to be rid of Ayala, if she only knew how.

She took her son's letter and read it, and as a matter of course
misunderstood the position. At Glenbogie something had been whispered
to her about Tom and Ayala, but she had not believed much in it.
Ayala was a child, and Tom was to her not much more than a boy. But
now here was a genuine love-letter,--a letter in which her son had
made a distinct proposition to marry the orphan. She did not stop to
consider why Ayala had brought the letter to her, but entertained at
once an idea that the two young people were going to vex her very
soul by a lamentable love affair. How imprudent she had been to let
the two young people be together in Rome, seeing that the matter had
been whispered to her at Glenbogie! "How long has this been going
on?" she asked, severely.

"He used to tease me at Glenbogie, and now he is doing it again,"
said Ayala.

"There must certainly be put an end to it. You must go away."

Ayala knew at once that her aunt was angry with her, and was
indignant at the injustice. "Of course there must be put an end to
it, Aunt Emmeline. He has no right to annoy me when I tell him not."

"I suppose you have encouraged him."

This was too cruel to be borne! Encouraged him! Ayala's anger was
caused not so much by a feeling that her aunt had misappreciated the
cause of her coming as that it should have been thought possible that
she should have "encouraged" such a lover. It was the outrage to her
taste rather than to her conduct which afflicted her. "He is a lout,"
she said; "a stupid lout!" thus casting her scorn upon the mother as
well as on the son, and, indeed, upon the whole family. "I have not
encouraged him. It is untrue."

"Ayala, you are very impertinent."

"And you are very unjust. Because I want to put a stop to it I come
to you, and you tell me that I encourage him. You are worse than
Augusta."

This was too much for the good nature even of Aunt Emmeline. Whatever
may have been the truth as to the love affair, however innocent Ayala
may have been in that matter, or however guilty Tom, such words
from a niece to her aunt,--from a dependent to her superior,--were
unpardonable. The extreme youthfulness of the girl, a peculiar look
of childhood which she still had with her, made the feeling so much
the stronger. "You are worse than Augusta!"

And this was said to her who was specially conscious of her
endeavours to mitigate Augusta's just anger. She bridled up, and
tried to look big and knit her brows. At that moment she could not
think what must be the end of it, but she felt that Ayala must be
crushed. "How dare you speak to me like that, 'Miss'?" she said.

"So you are. It is very cruel. Tom will go on saying all this
nonsense to me, and when I come to you you say I encourage him! I
never encouraged him. I despise him too much. I did not think my own
aunt could have told me that I encouraged any man. No, I didn't. You
drive me to it, so that I have got to be impertinent."

"You had better go to your room," said the aunt. Then Ayala, lifting
her head as high as she knew how, walked towards the door. "You had
better leave that letter with me." Ayala considered the matter for
a moment, and then handed the letter a second time to her aunt. It
could be nothing to her who saw the letter. She did not want it.
Having thus given it up she stalked off in silent disdain and went to
her chamber.

Aunt Emmeline, when she was left alone, felt herself to be enveloped
in a cloud of doubt. The desirableness of Tom as a husband first
forced itself upon her attention, and the undesirableness of Ayala as
a wife for Tom. She was perplexed at her own folly in not having seen
that danger of this kind would arise when she first proposed to take
Ayala into the house. Aunts and uncles do not like the marriage of
cousins, and the parents of rich children do not, as a rule, approve
of marriages with those which are poor. Although Ayala had been so
violent, Lady Tringle could not rid herself of the idea that her
darling boy was going to throw himself away. Then her cheeks became
red with anger as she remembered that her Tom had been called a
lout,--a stupid lout. There was an ingratitude in the use of such
language which was not alleviated even by the remembrance that it
tended against that matrimonial danger of which she was so much
afraid. Ayala was behaving very badly. She ought not to have coaxed
Tom to be her lover, and she certainly ought not to have called Tom a
lout. And then Ayala had told her aunt that she was unjust and worse
than Augusta! It was out of the question that such a state of things
should be endured. Ayala must be made to go away.

Before the day was over Lady Tringle spoke to her son, and was
astonished to find that the "lout" was quite in earnest,--so much
in earnest that he declared his purpose of marrying his cousin in
opposition to his father and mother, in opposition even to Ayala
herself. He was so much in earnest that he would not be roused to
wrath even when he was told that Ayala had called him a lout. And
then grew upon the mother a feeling that the young man had never been
so little loutish before. For there had been, even in her maternal
bosom, a feeling that Tom was open to the criticism expressed on him.
Tom had been a hobble-de-hoy, one of those overgrown lads who come
late to their manhood, and who are regarded by young ladies as louts.
Though he had spent his money only too freely when away, his sisters
had sometimes said that he could not say "bo to a goose" at home. But
now,--now Tom was quite an altered young man. When his own letter was
shown to him he simply said that he meant to stick to it. When it was
represented to him that his cousin would be quite an unfit wife for
him he assured his mother that his own opinion on that matter was
very different. When his father's anger was threatened he declared
that his father would have no right to be angry with him if he
married a lady. At the word "lout" he simply smiled. "She'll come to
think different from that before she's done with me," he said, with a
smile. Even the mother could not but perceive that the young man had
been much improved by his love.

But what was she to do? Two or three days went on, during which there
was no reconciliation between her and Ayala. Between Augusta and
Ayala no word was spoken. Messages were taken to her by Gertrude,
the object of which was to induce her to ask her aunt's pardon. But
Ayala was of opinion that her aunt ought to ask her pardon, and could
not be beaten from it. "Why did she say that I encouraged him?" she
demanded indignantly of Gertrude. "I don't think she did encourage
him," said Gertrude to her mother. This might possibly be true, but
not the less had she misbehaved. And though she might not yet have
encouraged her lover it was only too probable that she might do so
when she found that her lover was quite in earnest.

Lady Tringle was much harassed. And then there came an additional
trouble. Gertrude informed her mother that she had engaged herself
to Mr. Francis Houston, and that Mr. Houston was going to write to
her father with the object of proposing himself as a son-in-law. Mr.
Houston came also to herself, and told her, in the most natural tone
in the world, that he intended to marry her daughter. She had not
known what to say. It was Sir Thomas who managed all matters of
money. She had an idea that Mr. Houston was very poor. But then so
also had been Mr. Traffick, who had been received into the family
with open arms. But then Mr. Traffick had a career, whereas Mr.
Houston was lamentably idle. She could only refer Mr. Houston to Sir
Thomas, and beg him not to come among them any more till Sir Thomas
had decided. Upon this Gertrude also got angry, and shut herself up
in her room. The apartments Ruperti were, therefore, upon the whole,
an uncomfortable home to them.

Letters upon letters were written to Sir Thomas, and letters upon
letters came. The first letter had been about Ayala. He had been
much more tender towards Ayala than her aunt had been. He talked
of calf-love, and said that Tom was a fool; but he had not at once
thought it necessary to give imperative orders for Tom's return. As
to Ayala's impudence, he evidently regarded it as nothing. It was not
till Aunt Emmeline had spoken out in her third letter that he seemed
to recognise the possibility of getting rid of Ayala altogether. And
this he did in answer to a suggestion which had been made to him. "If
she likes to change with her sister Lucy, and you like it, I shall
not object," said Sir Thomas. Then there came an order to Tom that
he should return to Lombard Street at once; but this order had been
rendered abortive by the sudden return of the whole family. Sir
Thomas, in his first letter as to Gertrude, had declared that the
Houston marriage would not do at all. Then, when he was told that
Gertrude and Mr. Houston had certainly met each other more than once
since an order had been given for their separation, he desired the
whole family to come back at once to Merle Park.

The proposition as to Lucy had arisen in this wise. Tom being in the
same house with Ayala, of course had her very much at advantage, and
would carry on his suit in spite of any abuse which she might lavish
upon him. It was quite in vain that she called him lout. "You'll
think very different from that some of these days, Ayala," he said,
more seriously.

"No, I shan't; I shall think always the same."

"When you know how much I love you, you'll change."

"I don't want you to love me," she said; "and if you were anything
that is good you wouldn't go on after I have told you so often. It is
not manly of you. You have brought me to all manner of trouble. It is
your fault, but they make me suffer."

After that Ayala again went to her aunt, and on this occasion the
family misfortune was discussed in more seemly language. Ayala was
still indignant, but she said nothing insolent. Aunt Emmeline was
still averse to her niece, but she abstained from crimination. They
knew each as enemies, but recognised the wisdom of keeping the peace.
"As for that, Aunt Emmeline," Ayala said, "you may be quite sure that
I shall never encourage him. I shall never like him well enough."

"Very well. Then we need say no more about that, my dear. Of course,
it must be unpleasant to us all, being in the same house together."

"It is very unpleasant to me, when he will go on bothering me like
that. It makes me wish that I were anywhere else."

Then Aunt Emmeline began to think about it very seriously. It was
very unpleasant. Ayala had made herself disagreeable to all the
ladies of the family, and only too agreeable to the young gentleman.
Nor did the manifest favour of Sir Thomas do much towards raising
Ayala in Lady Tringle's estimation. Sir Thomas had only laughed when
Augusta had been requested to go upstairs for the scrap-book. Sir
Thomas had been profuse with his presents even when Ayala had been
most persistent in her misbehaviour. And then all that affair of the
Marchesa, and even Mr. Traffick's infatuation! If Ayala wished that
she were somewhere else would it not be well to indulge her wish!
Aunt Emmeline certainly wished it. "If you think so, perhaps some
arrangement can be made," said Aunt Emmeline, very slowly.

"What arrangement?"

"You must not suppose that I wish to turn you out?"

"But what arrangement?"

"You see, Ayala, that unfortunately we have not all of us hit it off
nicely; have we?"

"Not at all, Aunt Emmeline. Augusta is always angry with me. And
you,--you think that I have encouraged Tom."

"I am saying nothing about that, Ayala."

"But what arrangement is it, Aunt Emmeline?" The matter was one of
fearful import to Ayala. She was prudent enough to understand that
well. The arrangement must be one by which she would be banished from
all the wealth of the Tringles. Her coming among them had not been a
success. She had already made them tired of her by her petulance and
independence. Young as she was she could see that, and comprehend the
material injury she had done herself by her folly. She had been very
wrong in telling Augusta to go upstairs. She had been wrong in the
triumph of her exclusive visits to the Marchesa. She had been wrong
in walking away with Mr. Traffick on the Pincian. She could see that.
She had not been wrong in regard to Tom,--except in calling him a
lout; but whether wrong or right she had been most unfortunate. But
the thing had been done, and she must go.

At this moment the wealth of the Tringles seemed to be more to her
than it had ever been before,--and her own poverty and destitution
seemed to be more absolute. When the word "arrangement" was whispered
to her there came upon her a clear idea of all that which she was
to lose. She was to be banished from Merle Park, from Queen's Gate,
and from Glenbogie. For her there were to be no more carriages, and
horses, and pretty trinkets;--none of that abandon of the luxury
of money among which the Tringles lived. But she had done it for
herself, and she would not say a word in opposition to the fate which
was before her. "What arrangement, aunt?" she said again, in a voice
which was intended to welcome any arrangement that might be made.

Then her aunt spoke very softly. "Of course, dear Ayala, we do not
wish to do less than we at first intended. But as you are not happy
here--" Then she paused, almost ashamed of herself.

"I am not happy here," said Ayala, boldly.

"How would it be if you were to change,--with Lucy?"

The idea which had been present to Lady Tringle for some weeks past
had never struck Ayala. The moment she heard it she felt that she
was more than ever bound to assent. If the home from which she was
to be banished was good, then would that good fall upon Lucy. Lucy
would have the carriages and the horses and the trinkets, Lucy, who
certainly was not happy at Kingsbury Crescent. "I should be very
glad, indeed," said Ayala.

Her voice was so brave and decided that, in itself, it gave fresh
offence to her aunt. Was there to be no regret after so much
generosity? But she misunderstood the girl altogether. As the words
were coming from her lips,--"I should be very glad, indeed,"--Ayala's
heart was sinking with tenderness as she remembered how much after
all had been done for her. But as they wished her to go there should
be not a word, not a sign of unwillingness on her part.

"Then perhaps it can be arranged," said Lady Tringle.

"I don't know what Uncle Dosett may say. Perhaps they are very fond
of Lucy now."

"They wouldn't wish to stand in her way, I should think."

"At any rate, I won't. If you, and my uncles, and Aunt Margaret, will
consent, I will go whenever you choose. Of course I must do just as
I'm told."

Aunt Emmeline made a faint demur to this; but still the matter was
held to be arranged. Letters were written to Sir Thomas, and letters
came, and at last even Sir Thomas had assented. He suggested, in
the first place, that all the facts which would follow the exchange
should be explained to Ayala; but he was obliged after a while to
acknowledge that this would be inexpedient. The girl was willing; and
knew no doubt that she was to give up the great wealth of her present
home. But she had proved herself to be an unfit participator, and it
was better that she should go.

Then the departure of them all from Rome was hurried on by the
indiscretion of Gertrude. Gertrude declared that she had a right to
her lover. As to his having no income, what matter for that. Everyone
knew that Septimus Traffick had no income. Papa had income enough for
them all. Mr. Houston was a gentleman. Till this moment no one had
known of how strong a will of her own Gertrude was possessed. When
Gertrude declared that she would not consent to be separated from Mr.
Houston then they were all hurried home.



CHAPTER IX.

THE EXCHANGE.


Such was the state of things when Mr. Dosett brought the three
letters home with him to Kingsbury Crescent, having been so much
disturbed by the contents of the two which were addressed to himself
as to have found himself compelled to leave his office two hours
before the proper time. The three letters were handed together by her
uncle to Lucy, and she, seeing the importance of the occasion, read
the two open ones before she broke the envelope of her own. That from
Sir Thomas came first, and was as follows;--


   Lombard Street, January, 187--.

   MY DEAR DOSETT,

   I have had a correspondence with the ladies at Rome which
   has been painful in its nature, but which I had better
   perhaps communicate to you at once. Ayala has not got on
   as well with Lady Tringle and the girls as might have been
   wished, and they all think it will be better that she and
   Lucy should change places. I chiefly write to give my
   assent. Your sister will no doubt write to you. I may as
   well mention to you, should you consent to take charge of
   Ayala, that I have made some provision for her in my will,
   and that I shall not change it. I have to add on my own
   account that I have no complaint of my own to make against
   Ayala.

   Yours sincerely,

   T. TRINGLE.


Lucy, when she had read this, proceeded at once to the letter from
her aunt. The matter to her was one of terrible importance, but the
importance was quite as great to Ayala. She had been allowed to go
up alone into her own room. The letters were of such a nature that
she could hardly have read them calmly in the presence of her Aunt
Dosett. It was thus that her Aunt Emmeline had written;--


   Palazzo Ruperti, Rome, Thursday.

   MY DEAR REGINALD,

   I am sure you will be sorry to hear that we are in great
   trouble here. This has become so bad that we are obliged
   to apply to you to help us. Now you must understand that
   I do not mean to say a word against dear Ayala;--only she
   does not suit. It will occur sometimes that people who
   are most attached to each other do not suit. So it has
   been with dear Ayala. She is not happy with us. She has
   not perhaps accommodated herself to her cousins quite as
   carefully as she might have done. She is fully as sensible
   of this as I am, and is, herself, persuaded that there had
   better be a change.

   Now, my dear Reginald, I am quite aware that when poor
   Egbert died it was I who chose Ayala, and that you took
   Lucy partly in compliance with my wishes. Now I write to
   suggest that there should be a change. I am sure you will
   give me credit for a desire to do the best I can for both
   the poor dear girls. I did think that this might be best
   done by letting Ayala come to us. I now think that Lucy
   would do better with her cousins, and that Ayala would be
   more attractive without the young people around her.

   When I see you I will tell you everything. There has been
   no great fault. She has spoken a word or two to me which
   had been better unsaid, but I am well convinced that it
   has come from hot temper and not from a bad heart. Perhaps
   I had better tell you the truth. Tom has admired her. She
   has behaved very well; but she could not bear to be spoken
   to, and so there have been unpleasantnesses. And the girls
   certainly have not got on well together. Sir Thomas quite
   agrees with me that if you will consent there had better
   be a change.

   I will not write to dear Lucy herself because you and
   Margaret can explain it all so much better,--if you will
   consent to our plan. Ayala also will write to her sister.
   But pray tell her from me that I will love her very dearly
   if she will come to me. And indeed I have loved Ayala
   almost as though she were my own, only we have not been
   quite able to hit it off together.

   Of course neither has Sir Thomas or have I any idea of
   escaping from a responsibility. I should be quite unhappy
   if I did not have one of poor dear Egbert's girls with me.
   Only I do think that Lucy would be the best for us; and
   Ayala thinks so too. I should be quite unhappy if I were
   doing this in opposition to Ayala.

   We shall be in England almost as soon as this letter, and
   I should be so glad if this could be decided at once. If
   a thing like this is to be done it is so much better for
   all parties that it should be done quickly. Pray give my
   best love to Margaret, and tell her that Ayala shall bring
   everything with her that she wants.

   Your most affectionate sister,

   EMMELINE TRINGLE.


The letter, though it was much longer than her uncle's, going into
details, such as that of Tom's unfortunate passion for his cousin,
had less effect upon Lucy, as it did not speak with so much authority
as that from Sir Thomas. What Sir Thomas said would surely be done;
whereas Aunt Emmeline was only a woman, and her letter, unsupported,
might not have carried conviction. But, if Sir Thomas wished it,
surely it must be done. Then, at last, came Ayala's letter;--


   Rome, Thursday.

   DEAREST, DEAREST LUCY,

   Oh, I have such things to write to you! Aunt Emmeline has
   told it all to Uncle Reginald. You are to come and be the
   princess, and I am to go and be the milkmaid at home. I am
   quite content that it should be so because I know that it
   will be the best. You ought to be a princess and I ought
   to be a milkmaid.

   It has been coming almost ever since the first day that I
   came among them,--since I told Augusta to go upstairs for
   the scrap-book. I felt from the very moment in which the
   words were uttered that I had gone and done for myself.
   But I am not a bit sorry, as you will come in my place.
   Augusta will very soon be gone now, and Aunt Emmeline
   is not bad at all if you will only not contradict her.
   I always contradicted her, and I know that I have been a
   fool. But I am not a bit sorry, as you are to come instead
   of me.

   But it is not only about Augusta and Aunt Emmeline. There
   has been that oaf Tom. Poor Tom! I do believe that he is
   the most good-natured fellow alive. And if he had not so
   many chains I should not dislike him so very much. But he
   will go on saying horrible things to me. And then he wrote
   me a letter! Oh dear! I took the letter to Aunt Emmeline,
   and that made the quarrel. She said that I had--encouraged
   him! Oh, Lucy, if you will think of that! I was so angry
   that I said ever so much to her,--till she sent me out of
   the room. She had no business to say that I encouraged
   him. It was shameful! But she has never forgiven me,
   because I scolded her. So they have decided among them
   that I am to be sent away, and that you are to come in my
   place.

   My own darling Lucy, it will be ever so much better. I
   know that you are not happy in Kingsbury Crescent, and
   that I shall bear it very much better. I can sit still and
   mend sheets.


Poor Ayala, how little she knew herself!


   And you will make a beautiful grand lady, quiescent and
   dignified as a grand lady ought to be. At any rate it
   would be impossible that I should remain here. Tom is bad
   enough, but to be told that I encourage him is more than I
   can bear.

   I shall see you very soon, but I cannot help writing and
   telling it to you all. Give my love to Aunt Dosett. If she
   will consent to receive me I will endeavour to be good to
   her. In the meantime good-bye.

   Your most affectionate sister,

   AYALA.


When Lucy had completed the reading of the letters she sat for a
considerable time wrapped in thought. There was, in truth, very much
that required thinking. It was proposed that the whole tenour of
her life should be changed, and changed in a direction which would
certainly suit her taste. She had acknowledged to herself that she
had hated the comparative poverty of her Uncle Dosett's life, hating
herself in that she was compelled to make such acknowledgment. But
there had been more than the poverty which had been distasteful to
her,--a something which she had been able to tell herself that she
might be justified in hating without shame. There had been to her an
absence of intellectual charm in the habits and manners of Kingsbury
Crescent which she had regarded as unfortunate and depressing. There
had been no thought of art delights. No one read poetry. No one heard
music. No one looked at pictures. A sheet to be darned was the one
thing of greatest importance. The due development of a leg of mutton,
the stretching of a pound of butter, the best way of repressing the
washerwoman's bills,--these had been the matters of interest. And
they had not been made the less irritating to her by her aunt's
extreme goodness in the matter. The leg of mutton was to be developed
in the absence of her uncle,--if possible without his knowledge. He
was to have his run of clean linen. Lucy did not grudge him anything,
but was sickened by that partnership in economy which was established
between her and her aunt. Undoubtedly from time to time she had
thought of the luxuries which had been thrown in Ayala's way. There
had been a regret,--not that Ayala should have them but that she
should have missed them. Money she declared that she despised;--but
the easy luxury of the bijou was sweet to her memory.

Now it was suggested to her suddenly that she was to exchange the
poverty for the luxury, and to return to a mode of life in which
her mind might be devoted to things of beauty. The very scenery of
Glenbogie,--what a charm it would have for her! Judging from her
uncle's manner, as well as she could during that moment in which he
handed to her the letter, she imagined that he intended to make no
great objection. Her aunt disliked her. She was sure that her aunt
disliked her in spite of the partnership. Only that there was one
other view of the case--how happy might the transfer be. Her uncle
was always gentle to her, but there could hardly as yet have grown up
any strong affection for her. To him she was grateful, but she could
not tell herself that to part from him would be a pang. There was,
however, another view of the case.

Ayala! How would it be with Ayala! Would Ayala like the partnership
and the economies? Would Ayala be cheerful as she sat opposite to
her aunt for four hours at a time! Ayala had said that she could sit
still and mend sheets, but was it not manifest enough that Ayala knew
nothing of the life of which she was speaking. And would she, Lucy,
be able to enjoy the glories of Glenbogie while she thought that
Ayala was eating out her heart in the sad companionship of Kingsbury
Crescent? For above an hour she sat and thought; but of one aspect
which the affair bore she did not think. She did not reflect that she
and Ayala were in the hands of Fate, and that they must both do as
their elders should require of them.

At last there came a knock at the door, and her aunt entered. She
would sooner that it should have been her uncle: but there was no
choice but that the matter should be now discussed with the woman
whom she did not love,--this matter that was so dreadful to herself
in all its bearings, and so dreadful to one for whom she would
willingly sacrifice herself if it were possible! She did not know
what she could say to create sympathy with Aunt Dosett. "Lucy," said
Aunt Dosett, "this is a very serious proposal."

"Very serious," said Lucy, sternly.

"I have not read the letters, but your uncle has told me about it."
Then Lucy handed her the two letters, keeping that from Ayala to
herself, and she sat perfectly still while her aunt read them both
slowly. "Your Aunt Emmeline is certainly in earnest," said Mrs.
Dosett.

"Aunt Emmeline is very good-natured, and perhaps she will change her
mind if we tell her that we wish it."

"But Sir Thomas has agreed to it."

"I am sure my uncle will give way if Aunt Emmeline will ask him.
He says he has no complaint to make against Ayala. I think it is
Augusta, and Augusta will be married, and will go away very soon."

Then there came a change, a visible change, over the countenance of
Aunt Dosett, and a softening of the voice,--so that she looked and
spoke as Lucy had not seen or heard her before. There are people
apparently so hard, so ungenial, so unsympathetic, that they who only
half know them expect no trait of tenderness, think that features
so little alluring cannot be compatible with softness. Lucy had
acknowledged her Aunt Dosett to be good, but believed her to be
incapable of being touched. But a word or two had now conquered
her. The girl did not want to leave her,--did not seize the first
opportunity of running from her poverty to the splendour of the
Tringles! "But, Lucy," she said, and came and placed herself nearer
to Lucy on the bed.

"Ayala--," said Lucy, sobbing.

"I will be kind to her,--perhaps kinder than I have been to you."

"You have been kind, and I have been ungrateful. I know it. But I
will do better now, Aunt Dosett. I will stay, if you will have me."

"They are rich and powerful, and you will have to do as they direct."

"No! Who are they that I should be made to come and go at their
bidding? They cannot make me leave you."

"But they can rid themselves of Ayala. You see what your uncle says
about money for Ayala."

"I hate money."

"Money is a thing which none of us can afford to hate. Do you think
it will not be much to your Uncle Reginald to know that you are both
provided for? Already he is wretched because there will be nothing to
come to you. If you go to your Aunt Emmeline, Sir Thomas will do for
you as he has done for Ayala. Dear Lucy, it is not that I want to
send you away." Then for the first time Lucy put her arm round her
aunt's neck. "But it had better be as is proposed, if your aunt still
wishes it, when she comes home. I and your Uncle Reginald would not
do right were we to allow you to throw away the prospects that are
offered you. It is natural that Lady Tringle should be anxious about
her son."

"She need not, in the least," said Lucy, indignantly.

"But you see what they say."

"It is his fault, not hers. Why should she be punished?"

"Because he is Fortune's favourite, and she is not. It is no good
kicking against the pricks, my dear. He is his father's son and heir,
and everything must give way to him."

"But Ayala does not want him. Ayala despises him. It is too hard that
she is to lose everything because a young man like that will go on
making himself disagreeable. They have no right to do it after having
accustomed Ayala to such a home. Don't you feel that, Aunt Dosett?"

"I do feel it."

"However it might have been arranged at first, it ought to remain
now. Even though Ayala and I are only girls, we ought not to be
changed about as though we were horses. If she had done anything
wrong,--but Uncle Tom says that she has done nothing wrong."

"I suppose she has spoken to her aunt disrespectfully."

"Because her aunt told her that she had encouraged this man. What
would you have a girl say when she is falsely accused like that?
Would you say it to me merely because some horrid man would come and
speak to me?" Then there came a slight pang of conscience as she
remembered Isadore Hamel in Kensington Gardens. If the men were not
thought to be horrid, then perhaps the speaking might be a sin worthy
of most severe accusation.

There was nothing more said about it that night, nor till the
following afternoon, when Mr. Dosett returned home at the usual
hour from his office. Then Lucy was closeted with him for a
quarter-of-an-hour in the drawing-room. He had been into the City and
seen Sir Thomas. Sir Thomas had been of opinion that it would be much
better that Lady Tringle's wishes should be obeyed. It was quite true
that he himself had no complaint to make against Ayala, but he did
think that Ayala had been pert; and, though it might be true that
Ayala had not encouraged Tom, there was no knowing what might grow
out of such a propensity on Tom's part. And then it could not be
pleasant to Lady Tringle or to himself that their son should be
banished out of their house. When something was hinted as to the
injustice of this, Sir Thomas endeavoured to put all that right by
declaring that, if Lady Tringle's wishes could be attended to in
this matter, provision would be made for the two girls. He certainly
would not strike Ayala's name out of his will, and as certainly would
not take Lucy under his wing as his own child without making some
provision for her. Looking at the matter in this light he did not
think that Mr. Dosett would be justified in robbing Lucy of the
advantages which were offered to her. With this view Mr. Dosett found
himself compelled to agree, and with these arguments he declared to
Lucy that it was her duty to submit herself to the proposed exchange.

Early in February all the Tringle family were in Queen's Gate, and
Lucy on her first visit to the house found that everyone, including
Ayala, looked upon the thing as settled. Ayala, who under these
circumstances was living on affectionate terms with all the Tringles,
except Tom, was quite radiant. "I suppose I had better go to-morrow,
aunt?" she said, as though it were a matter of most trivial
consequence.

"In a day or two, Ayala, it will be better."

"It shall be Monday, then. You must come over here in a cab, Lucy."

"The carriage shall be sent, my dear."

"But then it must go back with me, Aunt Emmeline."

"It shall, my dear."

"And the horses must be put up, because Lucy and I must change all
our things in the drawers." Lucy at the time was sitting in the
drawing-room, and Augusta, with most affectionate confidence, was
singing to her all the praises of Mr. Traffick. In this way it was
settled, and the change, so greatly affecting the fortunes of our two
sisters, was arranged.



CHAPTER X.

AYALA AND HER AUNT MARGARET.


Till the last moment for going Ayala seemed to be childish,
triumphant, and indifferent. But, till that last moment, she was
never alone with Lucy. It was the presence of her aunt and cousins
which sustained her in her hardihood. Tom was never there,--or
so rarely as not to affect her greatly. In London he had his own
lodgings, and was not encouraged to appear frequently till Ayala
should have gone. But Aunt Emmeline and Gertrude were perseveringly
gracious, and even Augusta had somewhat relaxed from her wrath. With
them Ayala was always good-humoured, but always brave. She affected
to rejoice at the change which was to be made. She spoke of Lucy's
coming and of her own going as an unmixed blessing. This she did so
effectually as to make Aunt Emmeline declare to Sir Thomas, with
tears in her eyes, that the girl was heartless. But when, at the
moment of parting, the two girls were together, then Ayala broke
down.

They were in the room, together, which one had occupied and the other
was to occupy, and their boxes were still upon the floor. Though less
than six months had passed since Ayala had come among the rich things
and Lucy had been among the poor, Ayala's belongings had become
much more important than her sister's. Though the Tringles had been
unpleasant they had been generous. Lucy was sitting upon the bed,
while Ayala was now moving about the room restlessly, now clinging
to her sister, and now sobbing almost in despair. "Of course I know,"
she said. "What is the use of telling stories about it any longer?"

"It is not too late yet, Ayala. If we both go to Uncle Tom he will
let us change it."

"Why should it be changed? If I could change it by lifting up my
little finger I could not do it. Why should it not be you as well
as me? They have tried me, and,--as Aunt Emmeline says,--I have not
suited."

"Aunt Dosett is not ill-natured, my darling."

"No, I dare say not. It is I that am bad. It is bad to like pretty
things and money, and to hate poor things. Or, rather, I do not
believe it is bad at all, because it is so natural. I believe it is
all a lie as to its being wicked to love riches. I love them, whether
it is wicked or not."

"Oh, Ayala!"

"Do not you? Don't let us be hypocritical, Lucy, now at the last
moment. Did you like the way in which they lived in Kingsbury
Crescent?"

Lucy paused before she answered. "I like it better than I did," she
said. "At any rate, I would willingly go back to Kingsbury Crescent."

"Yes,--for my sake."

"Indeed I would, my pet."

"And for your sake I would rather die than stay. But what is the good
of talking about it, Lucy. You and I have no voice in it, though
it is all about ourselves. As you say, we are like two tame birds,
who have to be moved from one cage into another just as the owner
pleases. We belong either to Uncle Tom or Uncle Dosett, just as they
like to settle it. Oh, Lucy, I do so wish that I were dead."

"Ayala, that is wicked."

"How can I help it, if I am wicked? What am I to do when I get there?
What am I to say to them? How am I to live? Lucy, we shall never see
each other."

"I will come across to you constantly."

"I meant to do so, but I didn't. They are two worlds, miles asunder.
Lucy, will they let Isadore Hamel come here?" Lucy blushed and
hesitated. "I am sure he will come."

Lucy remembered that she had given her friend her address at Queen's
Gate, and felt that she would seem to have done it as though she
had known that she was about to be transferred to the other uncle's
house. "It will make no difference if he does," she said.

"Oh, I have such a dream,--such a castle-in-the-air! If I could think
it might ever be so, then I should not want to die."

"What do you dream?" But Lucy, though she asked the question, knew
the dream.

"If you had a little house of your own, oh, ever so tiny; and if you
and he--?"

"There is no he."

"There might be. And, if you and he would let me have any corner for
myself, then I should be happy. Then I would not want to die. You
would, wouldn't you?"

"How can I talk about it, Ayala? There isn't such a thing. But
yet,--but yet; oh, Ayala, do you not know that to have you with me
would be better than anything?"

"No;--not better than anything;--second best. He would be best. I do
so hope that he may be 'he.' Come in." There was a knock at the door,
and Aunt Emmeline, herself, entered the room.

"Now, my dears, the horses are standing there, and the men are coming
up for the luggage. Ayala, I hope we shall see you very often. And
remember that, as regards anything that is unpleasant, bygones shall
be bygones." Then there was a crowd of farewell kisses, and in a few
minutes Ayala was alone in the carriage on her road up to Kingsbury
Crescent.

The thing had been done so quickly that hitherto there had hardly
been time for tears. To Ayala herself the most remarkable matter in
the whole affair had been Tom's persistence. He had, at last, been
allowed to bring them home from Rome, there having been no other
gentleman whose services were available for the occasion. He had been
watched on the journey very closely, and had had no slant in his
favour, as the young lady to whom he was devoted was quite as anxious
to keep out of his way as had been the others of the party to
separate them. But he had made occasion, more than once, sufficient
to express his intention. "I don't mean to give you up, you know," he
had said to her. "When I say a thing I mean it. I am not going to be
put off by my mother. And as for the governor he would not say a word
against it if he thought we were both in earnest."

"But I ain't in earnest," said Ayala; "or rather, I am very much in
earnest."

"So am I. That's all I've got to say just at present." From this
there grew up within her mind a certain respect for the "lout,"
which, however, made him more disagreeable to her than he might have
been had he been less persistent.

It was late in the afternoon, not much before dinner, when Ayala
reached the house in Kingsbury Crescent. Hitherto she had known
almost nothing of her Aunt Dosett, and had never been intimate even
with her uncle. They, of course, had heard much of her, and had been
led to suppose that she was much less tractable than the simple Lucy.
This feeling had been so strong that Mr. Dosett himself would hardly
have been led to sanction the change had it not been for that promise
from Sir Thomas that he would not withdraw the provision he had made
for Ayala, and would do as much for Lucy if Lucy should become an
inmate of his family. Mrs. Dosett had certainly been glad to welcome
any change, when a change was proposed to her. There had grown up
something of affection at the last moment, but up to that time she
had certainly disliked her niece. Lucy had appeared to her to be at
first idle and then sullen. The girl had seemed to affect a higher
nature than her own, and had been wilfully indifferent to the little
things which had given to her life whatever interest it possessed.
Lucy's silence had been a reproach to her, though she herself had
been able to do so little to abolish the silence. Perhaps Ayala might
be better.

But they were both afraid of Ayala,--as they had not been afraid of
Lucy before her arrival. They made more of preparation for her in
their own minds, and, as to their own conduct, Mr. Dosett was there
himself to receive her, and was conscious in doing so that there had
been something of failure in their intercourse with Lucy. Lucy had
been allowed to come in without preparation, with an expectation that
she would fall easily into her place, and there had been failure.
There had been no regular consultation as to this new coming, but
both Mr. and Mrs. Dosett were conscious of an intended effort.

Lady Tringle and Mr. Dosett had always been Aunt Emmeline and
Uncle Reginald, by reason of the nearness of their relationship.
Circumstances of closer intercourse had caused Sir Thomas to be Uncle
Tom. But Mrs. Dosett had never become more than Aunt Dosett to either
of the girls. This in itself had been matter almost of soreness to
her, and she had intended to ask Lucy to adopt the more endearing
form of her Christian name; but there had been so little endearment
between them that the moment for doing so had never come. She was
thinking of all this up in her own room, preparatory to the reception
of this other girl, while Mr. Dosett was bidding her welcome to
Kingsbury Crescent in the drawing-room below.

Ayala had been dissolved in tears during the drive round by
Kensington to Bayswater, and was hardly able to repress her sobs as
she entered the house. "My dear," said the uncle, "we will do all
that we can to make you happy here."

"I am sure you will; but--but--it is so sad coming away from Lucy."

"Lucy I am sure will be happy with her cousins." If Lucy's happiness
were made to depend on her cousins, thought Ayala, it would not be
well assured. "And my sister Emmeline is always good-natured."

"Aunt Emmeline is very good, only--"

"Only what?"

"I don't know. But it is such a sudden change, Uncle Reginald."

"Yes, it is a very great change, my dear. They are very rich and we
are poor enough. I should hardly have consented to this, for your
sake, but that there are reasons which will make it better for you
both."

"As to that," said Ayala, stoutly, "I had to come away. I didn't
suit."

"You shall suit us, my dear."

"I hope so. I will try. I know more now than I did then. I thought I
was to be Augusta's equal."

"We shall all be equal here."

"People ought to be equal, I think,--except old people and young
people. I will do whatever you and my aunt tell me. There are no
young people here, so there won't be any trouble of that kind."

"There will be no other young person, certainly. You shall go
upstairs now and see your aunt."

Then there was the interview upstairs, which consisted chiefly in
promises and kisses, and Ayala was left alone to unpack her boxes and
prepare for dinner. Before she began her operations she sat still for
a few moments, and with an effort collected her energies and made her
resolution. She had said to Lucy in her passion that she would that
she were dead. That that should have been wicked was not matter of
much concern to her. But she acknowledged to herself that it had been
weak and foolish. There was her life before her, and she would still
endeavour to be happy though there had been so much to distress her.
She had flung away wealth. She was determined to fling it away still
when it should present itself to her in the shape of her cousin Tom.
But she had her dreams,--her day-dreams,--those castles in the air
which it had been the delight of her life to construct, and in the
building of which her hours had never run heavy with her. Isadore
Hamel would, of course, come again, and would, of course, marry Lucy,
and then there would be a home for her after her own heart. With
Isadore as her brother, and her own own Lucy close to her, she would
not feel the want of riches and of luxury. If there were only some
intellectual charm in her life, some touch of art, some devotion
to things beautiful, then she could do without gold and silver and
costly raiment. Of course, Isadore would come; and then--then--in the
far distance, something else would come, something of which in her
castle-building she had not yet developed the form, of which she did
not yet know the bearing, or the manner of its beauty, or the music
of its voice; but as to which she was very sure that its form would
be beautiful and its voice full of music. It can hardly be said that
this something was the centre of her dreams, or the foundation of
her castles. It was the extreme point of perfection at which she
would arrive at last, when her thoughts had become sublimated by the
intensity of her thinking. It was the tower of the castle from which
she could look down upon the inferior world below,--the last point
of the dream in arranging which she would all but escape from earth
to heaven,--when in the moment of her escape the cruel waking back
into the world would come upon her. But this she knew,--that this
something, whatever might be its form or whatever its voice, would be
exactly the opposite of Tom Tringle.

She had fallen away from her resolution to her dreams for a time,
when suddenly she jumped up and began her work with immense energy.
Open went one box after another, and in five minutes the room was
strewed with her possessions. The modest set of drawers which was to
supply all her wants was filled with immediate haste. Things were
deposited in whatever nooks might be found, and every corner was
utilized. Her character for tidiness had never stood high. At the
bijou Lucy, or her mother, or the favourite maid, had always been at
hand to make good her deficiencies with a reproach which had never
gone beyond a smile or a kiss. At Glenbogie and even on the journey
there had been attendant lady's maids. But here she was all alone.

Everything was still in confusion when she was called to dinner. As
she went down she recalled to herself her second resolution. She
would be good;--whereby she intimated to herself that she would
endeavour to do what might be pleasing to her Aunt Dosett. She had
little doubt as to her uncle. But she was aware that there had been
differences between her aunt and Lucy. If Lucy had found it difficult
to be good how great would be the struggle required from her!

She sat herself down at table a little nearer to her aunt than her
uncle, because it was specially her aunt whom she wished to win, and
after a few minutes she put out her little soft hand and touched
that of Mrs. Dosett. "My dear," said that lady. "I hope you will be
happy."

"I am determined to be happy," said Ayala, "if you will let me love
you."

Mrs. Dosett was not beautiful, nor was she romantic. In appearance
she was the very reverse of Ayala. The cares of the world, the
looking after shillings and their results, had given her that look of
commonplace insignificance which is so frequent and so unattractive
among middle-aged women upon whom the world leans heavily. But there
was a tender corner in her heart which was still green, and from
which a little rill of sweet water could be made to flow when it
was touched aright. On this occasion a tear came to her eye as
she pressed her niece's hand; but she said nothing. She was sure,
however, that she would love Ayala much better than she had been able
to love Lucy.

"What would you like me to do?" asked Ayala, when her aunt
accompanied her that night to her bed room.

"To do, my dear? What do you generally do?"

"Nothing. I read a little and draw a little, but I do nothing useful.
I mean it to be different now."

"You shall do as you please, Ayala."

"Oh, but I mean it. And you must tell me. Of course things have to be
different."

"We are not rich like your uncle and aunt Tringle."

"Perhaps it is better not to be rich, so that one may have something
to do. But I want you to tell me as though you really cared for me."

"I will care for you," said Aunt Dosett, sobbing.

"Then first begin by telling me what to do. I will try and do it. Of
course I have thought about it, coming away from all manner of rich
things; and I have determined that it shall not make me unhappy. I
will rise above it. I will begin to-morrow and do anything if you
will tell me." Then Aunt Dosett took her in her arms and kissed her,
and declared that on the morrow they would begin their work together
in perfect confidence and love with each other.

"I think she will do better than Lucy," said Mrs. Dosett to her
husband that night.

"Lucy was a dear girl too," said Uncle Reginald.

"Oh, yes;--quite so. I don't mean to say a word against Lucy; but I
think that I can do better with Ayala. She will be more diligent."
Uncle Reginald said nothing to this, but he could not but think that
of the two Lucy would be the one most likely to devote herself to
hard work.

On the next morning Ayala went out with her aunt on the round to the
shopkeepers, and listened with profound attention to the domestic
instructions which were given to her on the occasion. When she came
home she knew much of which she had known nothing before. What was
the price of mutton, and how much mutton she was expected as one of
the family to eat per week; what were the necessities of the house in
bread and butter, how far a pint of milk might be stretched,--with a
proper understanding that her Uncle Reginald as head of the family
was to be subjected to no limits. And before their return from that
walk,--on the first morning of Ayala's sojourn,--Ayala had undertaken
always to call Mrs. Dosett Aunt Margaret for the future.



CHAPTER XI.

TOM TRINGLE COMES TO THE CRESCENT.


During the next three months, up to the end of the winter and through
the early spring, things went on without any change either in Queen's
Gate or Kingsbury Crescent. The sisters saw each other occasionally,
but not as frequently as either of them had intended. Lucy was not
encouraged in the use of cabs, nor was the carriage lent to her often
for the purpose of going to the Crescent. The reader may remember
that she had been in the habit of walking alone in Kensington
Gardens, and a walk across Kensington Gardens would carry her the
greater part of the distance to Kingsbury Crescent. But Lucy, in
her new circumstances, was not advised,--perhaps, I may say, was
not allowed,--to walk alone. Lady Tringle, being a lady of rank and
wealth, was afraid, or pretended to be afraid, of the lions. Poor
Ayala was really afraid of the lions. Thus it came to pass that the
intercourse was not frequent. In her daily life Lucy was quiet and
obedient. She did not run counter to Augusta, whose approaching
nuptials gave her that predominance in the house which is always
accorded to young ladies in her recognised position. Gertrude was at
this time a subject of trouble at Queen's Gate. Sir Thomas had not
been got to approve of Mr. Frank Houston, and Gertrude had positively
refused to give him up. Sir Thomas was, indeed, considerably troubled
by his children. There had been a period of disagreeable obstinacy
even with Augusta before Mr. Traffick had been taken into the bosom
of the family. Now Gertrude had her own ideas, and so also had
Tom. Tom had become quite a trouble. Sir Thomas and Lady Tringle,
together, had determined that Tom must be weaned; by which they meant
that he must be cured of his love. But Tom had altogether refused to
be weaned. Mr. Dosett had been requested to deny him admittance to
the house in Kingsbury Crescent, and as this request had been fully
endorsed by Ayala herself orders had been given to the effect to the
parlour-maid. Tom had called more than once, and had been unable to
obtain access to his beloved. But yet he resolutely refused to be
weaned. He told his father to his face that he intended to marry
Ayala, and abused his mother roundly when she attempted to interfere.
The whole family was astounded by his perseverance, so that there had
already sprung up an idea in the minds of some among the Tringles
that he would be successful at last. Augusta was very firm, declaring
that Ayala was a viper. But Sir Thomas, himself, began to inquire,
within his own bosom, whether Tom should not be allowed to settle
down in the manner desired by himself. In no consultation held at
Queen's Gate on the subject was there the slightest expression of an
opinion that Tom might be denied the opportunity of settling down as
he wished through any unwillingness on the part of Ayala.

When things were in this position, Tom sought an interview one
morning with his father in Lombard Street. They rarely saw each other
at the office, each having his own peculiar branch of business. Sir
Thomas manipulated his millions in a little back room of his own,
while Tom, dealing probably with limited thousands, made himself
useful in an outer room. They never went to, or left, the office
together, but Sir Thomas always took care to know that his son
was or was not on the premises. "I want to say a word or two, Sir,
about--about the little affair of mine," said Tom.

"What affair?" said Sir Thomas, looking up from his millions.

"I think I should like to--marry."

"The best thing you can do, my boy; only it depends upon who the
young lady may be."

"My mind is made up about that, Sir; I mean to marry my cousin. I
don't see why a young man isn't to choose for himself." Then Sir
Thomas preached his sermon, but preached it in the manner which men
are wont to use when they know that they are preaching in vain. There
is a tone of refusal, which, though the words used may be manifestly
enough words of denial, is in itself indicative of assent. Sir Thomas
ended the conference by taking a week to think over the matter, and
when the week was over gave way. He was still inclined to think that
marriages with cousins had better be avoided; but he gave way, and at
last promised that if Tom and Ayala were of one mind an income should
be forthcoming.

For the carrying out of this purpose it was necessary that the door
of Uncle Dosett's house should be unlocked, and with the object of
turning the key Sir Thomas himself called at the Admiralty. "I find
my boy is quite in earnest about this," he said to the Admiralty
clerk.

"Oh; indeed."

"I can't say I quite like it myself." Mr. Dosett could only shake his
head. "Cousins had better be cousins, and nothing more."

"And then you would probably expect him to get money?"

"Not at all," said Sir Thomas, proudly. "I have got money enough for
them both. It isn't an affair of money. To make a long story short,
I have given my consent; and, therefore, if you do not mind, I shall
be glad if you will allow Tom to call at the Crescent. Of course,
you may have your own views; but I don't suppose you can hope to do
better for the girl. Cousins do marry, you know, very often." Mr.
Dosett could only say that he could not expect to do anything for the
girl nearly so good, and that, as far as he was concerned, his nephew
Tom should be made quite welcome at Kingsbury Crescent. It was not,
he added, in his power to answer for Ayala. As to this, Sir Thomas
did not seem to have any doubts. The good things of the world, which
it was in his power to offer, were so good, that it was hardly
probable that a young lady in Ayala's position should refuse them.

"My dear," said Aunt Margaret, the next morning, speaking in her most
suasive tone, "your Cousin Tom is to be allowed to call here."

"Tom Tringle?"

"Yes, my dear. Sir Thomas has consented."

"Then he had better not," said Ayala, bristling up in hot anger.
"Uncle Tom has got nothing to do with it, either in refusing or
consenting. I won't see him."

"I think you must see him if he calls."

"But I don't want. Oh, Aunt Margaret, pray make him not come. I
don't like him a bit. We are doing so very well. Are we not, Aunt
Margaret?"

"Certainly, my dear, we are doing very well;--at least, I hope so.
But you are old enough now to understand that this is a very serious
matter."

"Of course it is serious," said Ayala, who certainly was not guilty
of the fault of making light of her future life. Those dreams of
hers, in which were contained all her hopes and all her aspirations,
were very serious to her. This was so much the case that she had
by no means thought of her Cousin Tom in a light spirit, as though
he were a matter of no moment to her. He was to her just what the
Beast must have been to the Beauty, when the Beast first began to
be in love. But her safety had consisted in the fact that no one
had approved of the Beast being in love with her. Now she could
understand that all the horrors of oppression might fall upon her. Of
course it was serious; but not the less was she resolved that nothing
should induce her to marry the Beast.

"I think you ought to see him when he comes, and to remember how
different it will be when he comes with the approval of his father.
It is, of course, saying that they are ready to welcome you as their
daughter."

"I don't want to be anybody's daughter."

"But, Ayala, there are so many things to be thought of. Here is a
young man who is able to give you not only every comfort but great
opulence."

"I don't want to be opulent."

"And he will be a baronet."

"I don't care about baronets, Aunt Margaret."

"And you will have a house of your own in which you may be of service
to your sister."

"I had rather she should have a house."

"But Tom is not in love with Lucy."

"He is such a lout! Aunt Margaret, I won't have anything to say to
him. I would a great deal sooner die. Uncle Tom has no right to send
him here. They have got rid of me, and I am very glad of it; but
it isn't fair that he should come after me now that I'm gone away.
Couldn't Uncle Reginald tell him to stay away?"

A great deal more was said, but nothing that was said had the
slightest effect on Ayala. When she was told of her dependent
position, and of the splendour of the prospects offered, she declared
that she would rather go into the poor-house than marry her cousin.
When she was told that Tom was good-natured, honest, and true, she
declared that good-nature, honesty, and truth had nothing to do with
it. When she was asked what it was that she looked forward to in the
world she could merely sob and say that there was nothing. She could
not tell even her sister Lucy of those dreams and castles. How, then,
could she explain them to her Aunt Margaret? How could she make her
aunt understand that there could be no place in her heart for Tom
Tringle seeing that it was to be kept in reserve for some angel of
light who would surely make his appearance in due season,--but who
must still be there, present to her as her angel of light, even
should he never show himself in the flesh. How vain it was to talk
of Tom Tringle to her, when she had so visible before her eyes that
angel of light with whom she was compelled to compare him!

But, though she could not be brought to say that she would listen
patiently to his story, she was nevertheless made to understand that
she must see him when he came to her. Aunt Margaret was very full on
that subject. A young man who was approved of by the young lady's
friends, and who had means at command, was, in Mrs. Dosett's opinion,
entitled to a hearing. How otherwise were properly authorised
marriages to be made up and arranged? When this was going on there
was in some slight degree a diminished sympathy between Ayala and her
aunt. Ayala still continued her household duties,--over which, in the
privacy of her own room, she groaned sadly; but she continued them
in silence. Her aunt, upon whom she had counted, was, she thought,
turning against her. Mrs. Dosett, on the other hand, declared to
herself that the girl was romantic and silly. Husbands with every
immediate comfort, and a prospect of almost unlimited wealth, are not
to be found under every hedge. What right could a girl so dependent
as Ayala have to refuse an eligible match? She therefore in this way
became an advocate on behalf of Tom,--as did also Uncle Reginald,
more mildly. Uncle Reginald merely remarked that Tom was attending
to his business, which was a great thing in a young man. It was not
much, but it showed Ayala that in this matter her uncle was her
enemy. In this, her terrible crisis, she had not a friend, unless it
might be Lucy.

Then a day was fixed on which Tom was to come, which made the matter
more terrible by anticipation. "What can be the good?" Ayala said to
her aunt when the hour named for the interview was told her, "as I
can tell him everything just as well without his coming at all." But
all that had been settled. Aunt Margaret had repeated over and over
again that such an excellent young man as Tom, with such admirable
intentions, was entitled to a hearing from any young lady. In reply
to this Ayala simply made a grimace, which was intended to signify
the utter contempt in which she held her cousin Tom with all his
wealth.

Tom Tringle, in spite of his rings and a certain dash of vulgarity,
which was, perhaps, not altogether his own fault, was not a bad
fellow. Having taken it into his heart that he was very much in love
he was very much in love. He pictured to himself a happiness of a
wholesome cleanly kind. To have the girl as his own, to caress her
and foster her, and expend himself in making her happy; to exalt her,
so as to have it acknowledged that she was, at any rate, as important
as Augusta; to learn something from her, so that he, too, might
become romantic, and in some degree poetical;--all this had come
home to him in a not ignoble manner. But it had not come home to him
that Ayala might probably refuse him. Hitherto Ayala had been very
persistent in her refusals; but then hitherto there had existed the
opposition of all the family. Now he had overcome that, and he felt
therefore that he was entitled to ask and to receive.

On the day fixed, and at the hour fixed, he came in the plenitude of
all his rings. Poor Tom! It was a pity that he should have had no
one to advise him as to his apparel. Ayala hated his jewelry. She
was not quite distinct in her mind as to the raiment which would be
worn by the angel of light when he should come, but she was sure
that he would not be chiefly conspicuous for heavy gilding; and Tom,
moreover, had a waistcoat which would of itself have been suicidal.
Such as he was, however, he was shown up into the drawing-room, where
he found Ayala alone. It was certainly a misfortune to him that no
preliminary conversation was possible. Ayala had been instructed
to be there with the express object of listening to an offer of
marriage. The work had to be done,--and should be done; but it would
not admit of other ordinary courtesies. She was very angry with
him, and she looked her anger. Why should she be subjected to this
terrible annoyance? He had sense enough to perceive that there was no
place for preliminary courtesy, and therefore rushed away at once to
the matter in hand. "Ayala!" he exclaimed, coming and standing before
her as she sat upon the sofa.

"Tom!" she said, looking boldly up into his face.

"Ayala, I love you better than anything else in the world."

"But what's the good of it?"

"Of course it was different when I told you so before. I meant to
stick to it, and I was determined that the governor should give way.
But you couldn't know that. Mother and the girls were all against
us."

"They weren't against me," said Ayala.

"They were against our being married, and so they squeezed you out
as it were. That is why you have been sent to this place. But they
understand me now, and know what I am about. They have all given
their consent, and the governor has promised to be liberal. When he
says a thing he'll do it. There will be lots of money."

"I don't care a bit about money," said Ayala, fiercely.

"No more do I,--except only that it is comfortable. It wouldn't do to
marry without money,--would it?"

"It would do very well if anybody cared for anybody." The angel of
light generally appeared "in formâ pauperis," though there was always
about him a tinge of bright azure which was hardly compatible with
the draggle-tailed hue of everyday poverty.

"But an income is a good thing, and the governor will come down like
a brick."

"The governor has nothing to do with it. I told you before that it
is all nonsense. If you will only go away and say nothing about it I
shall always think you very good-natured."

"But I won't go away," said Tom speaking out boldly, "I mean to stick
to it. Ayala, I don't believe you understand that I am thoroughly in
earnest."

"Why shouldn't I be in earnest, too?"

"But I love you, Ayala. I have set my heart upon it. You don't know
how well I love you. I have quite made up my mind about it."

"And I have made up my mind."

"But Ayala--" Now the tenor of his face changed, and something of the
look of a despairing lover took the place of that offensive triumph
which had at first sat upon his brow. "I don't suppose you care for
any other fellow yet."

There was the angel of light. But even though she might be most
anxious to explain to him that his suit was altogether impracticable
she could say nothing to him about the angel. Though she was sure
that the angel would come, she was not certain that she would ever
give herself altogether even to the angel. The celestial castle
which was ever being built in her imagination was as yet very much
complicated. But had it been ever so clear it would have been quite
impossible to explain anything of this to her cousin Tom. "That has
nothing to do with it," she said.

"If you knew how I love you!" This came from him with a sob, and as
he sobbed he went down before her on his knees.

"Don't be a fool, Tom,--pray don't. If you won't get up I shall go
away. I must go away. I have heard all that there is to hear. I told
them that there is no use in your coming."

"Ayala!" with this there were veritable sobs.

"Then why don't you give it up and let us be good friends."

"I can't give it up. I won't give it up. When a fellow means it as I
do he never gives it up. Nothing on earth shall make me give it up.
Ayala, you've got to do it, and so I tell you."

"Nobody can make me," said Ayala, nodding her head, but somewhat
tamed by the unexpected passion of the young man.

"Then you won't say one kind word to me?"

"I can't say anything kinder."

"Very well. Then I shall go away and come again constantly till you
do. I mean to have you. When you come to know how very much I love
you I do think you will give way at last." With that he picked
himself up from the ground and hurried out of the house without
saying another word.



CHAPTER XII.

"WOULD YOU?"


The scene described in the last chapter took place in March. For
three days afterwards there was quiescence in Kingsbury Crescent.
Then there came a letter from Tom to Ayala, very pressing, full of
love and resolution, offering to wait any time,--even a month,--if
she wished it, but still persisting in his declared intention of
marrying her sooner or later;--not by any means a bad letter had
there not been about it a little touch of bombast which made it
odious to Ayala's sensitive appreciation. To this. Ayala wrote a
reply in the following words:


   When I tell you that I won't, you oughtn't to go on. It
   isn't manly.

   AYALA.

   Pray do not write again for I shall never answer another.


Of this she said nothing to Mrs. Dosett, though the arrival of Tom's
letter must have been known to that lady. And she posted her own
epistle without a word as to what she was doing.

She wrote again and again to Lucy imploring her sister to come to
her, urging that as circumstances now were she could not show herself
at the house in Queen's Gate. To these Lucy always replied; but she
did not reply by coming, and hardly made it intelligible why she did
not come. Aunt Emmeline hoped, she said, that Ayala would very soon
be able to be at Queen's Gate. Then there was a difficulty about the
carriage. No one would walk across with her except Tom; and walking
by herself was forbidden. Aunt Emmeline did not like cabs. Then there
came a third or fourth letter, in which Lucy was more explanatory,
but yet not sufficiently so. During the Easter recess, which would
take place in the middle of April, Augusta and Mr. Traffick would
be married. The happy couple were to be blessed with a divided
honeymoon. The interval between Easter and Whitsuntide would require
Mr. Traffick's presence in the House, and the bride with her
bridegroom were to return to Queen's Gate. Then they would depart
again for the second holidays, and when they were so gone Aunt
Emmeline hoped that Ayala would come to them for a visit. "They quite
understand," said Lucy, "that it will not do to have you and Augusta
together."

This was not at all what Ayala wanted. "It won't at all do to have me
and him together," said Ayala to herself, alluding of course to Tom
Tringle. But why did not Lucy come over to her? Lucy, who knew so
well that her sister did not want to see any one of the Tringles, who
must have been sure that any visit to Queen's Gate must have been
impossible, ought to have come to her. To whom else could she say
a word in her trouble? It was thus that Ayala argued with herself,
declaring to herself that she must soon die in her misery,--unless
indeed that angel of light might come to her assistance very quickly.

But Lucy had troubles of her own in reference to the family at
Queen's Gate, which did, in fact, make it almost impossible to visit
her sister for some weeks. Sir Thomas had given an unwilling but a
frank consent to his son's marriage,--and then expected simply to be
told that it would take place at such and such a time, when money
would be required. Lady Tringle had given her consent,--but not quite
frankly. She still would fain have forbidden the banns, had any power
of forbidding remained in her hands. Augusta was still hot against
the marriage, and still resolute to prevent it. That proposed journey
upstairs after the scrap-book at Glenbogie, that real journey up to
the top of St. Peter's, still rankled in her heart. That Tom should
make Ayala a future baronet's wife; that Tom should endow Ayala with
the greatest share of the Tringle wealth; that Ayala should become
powerful in Queen's Gate, and dominant probably at Merle Park and
Glenbogie,--was wormwood to her. She was conscious that Ayala was
pretty and witty, though she could affect to despise the wit and the
prettiness. By instigating her mother, and by inducing Mr. Traffick
to interfere when Mr. Traffick should be a member of the family,
she thought that she might prevail. With her mother she did in part
prevail. Her future husband was at present too much engaged with
Supply and Demand to be able to give his thoughts to Tom's affairs.
But there would soon be a time when he naturally would be compelled
to divide his thoughts. Then there was Gertrude. Gertrude's own
affairs had not as yet been smiled upon, and the want of smiles she
attributed very much to Augusta. Why should Augusta have her way and
not she, Gertrude, nor her brother Tom? She therefore leagued herself
with Tom, and declared herself quite prepared to receive Ayala into
the house. In this way the family was very much divided.

When Lucy first made her petition for the carriage, expressing her
desire to see Ayala, both her uncle and her aunt were in the room.
Objection was made,--some frivolous objection,--by Lady Tringle, who
did not in truth care to maintain much connection between Queen's
Gate and the Crescent. Then Sir Thomas, in his burly authoritative
way, had said that Ayala had better come to them. That same evening
he had settled or intended to settle it with his wife. Let Ayala come
as soon as the Trafficks,--as they then would be,--should have gone.
To this Lady Tringle had assented, knowing more than her husband as
to Ayala's feelings, and thinking that in this way a breach might be
made between them. Ayala had been a great trouble to her, and she was
beginning to be almost sick of the Dormer connection altogether. It
was thus that Lucy was hindered from seeing her sister for six weeks
after that first formal declaration of his love made by Tom to Ayala.
Tom had still persevered and had forced his way more than once into
Ayala's presence, but Ayala's answers had been always the same. "It's
a great shame, and you have no right to treat me in this, way."

Then came the Traffick marriage with great éclat. There were no less
than four Traffick bridesmaids, all of them no doubt noble, but none
of them very young, and Gertrude and Lucy were bridesmaids,--and two
of Augusta's friends. Ayala, of course, was not of the party. Tom was
gorgeous in his apparel, not in the least depressed by his numerous
repulses, quite confident of ultimate success, and proud of his
position as a lover with so beautiful a girl. He talked of his
affairs to all his friends, and seemed to think that even on this
wedding-day his part was as conspicuous as that of his sister,
because of his affair with his beautiful cousin. "Augusta doesn't hit
it off with her," he said to one of his friends, who asked why Ayala
was not at the wedding,--"Augusta is the biggest fool out, you know.
She's proud of her husband because he's the son of a lord. I wouldn't
change Ayala for the daughter of any duchess in Europe;"--thus
showing that he regarded Ayala as being almost his own already. Lord
Boardotrade was there, making a semi-jocose speech, quite in the
approved way for a cognate paterfamilias. Perhaps there was something
of a thorn in this to Sir Thomas, as it had become apparent at last
that Mr. Traffick himself did not purpose to add anything from his
own resources to the income on which he intended to live with his
wife. Lord Boardotrade had been obliged to do so much for his eldest
son that there appeared to be nothing left for the member for Port
Glasgow. Sir Thomas was prepared with his £120,000, and did not
perhaps mind this very much. But a man, when he pays his money, likes
to have some return for it, and he did not quite like the tone with
which the old nobleman, not possessed of very old standing in the
peerage, seemed to imply that he, like a noble old Providence, had
enveloped the whole Tringle family in the mantle of his noble blood.
He combined the jocose and the paternal in the manner appropriate to
such occasions; but there did run through Sir Thomas's mind as he
heard him an idea that £120,000 was a sufficient sum to pay, and that
it might be necessary to make Mr. Traffick understand that out of the
income thenceforth coming he must provide a house for himself and his
wife. It had been already arranged that he was to return to Queen's
Gate with his wife for the period between Easter and Whitsuntide.
It had lately,--quite lately,--been hinted to Sir Thomas that the
married pair would run up again after the second holidays. Mr.
Septimus Traffick had once spoken of Glenbogie as almost all his own,
and Augusta had, in her father's hearing, said a word intended to be
very affectionate about "dear Merle Park." Sir Thomas was a father
all over, with all a father's feelings; but even a father does not
like to be done. Mr. Traffick, no doubt, was a member of Parliament
and son of a peer;--but there might be a question whether even Mr.
Traffick had not been purchased at quite his full value.

Nevertheless the marriage was pronounced to have been a success.
Immediately after it,--early, indeed, on the following morning,--Sir
Thomas inquired when Ayala was coming to Queen's Gate. "Is it
necessary that she should come quite at present?" asked Lady Tringle.

"I thought it was all settled," said Sir Thomas, angrily. This had
been said in the privacy of his own dressing-room, but downstairs
at the breakfast-table, in the presence of Gertrude and Lucy, he
returned to the subject. Tom, who did not live in the house, was
not there. "I suppose we might as well have Ayala now," he said,
addressing himself chiefly to Lucy. "Do you go and manage it with
her." There was not a word more said. Sir Thomas did not always have
his own way in his family. What man was ever happy enough to do that?
But he was seldom directly contradicted. Lady Tringle when the order
was given pursed up her lips, and he, had he been observant, might
have known that she did not intend to have Ayala if she could help
it. But he was not observant,--except as to millions.

When Sir Thomas was gone, Lady Tringle discussed the matter with
Lucy. "Of course, my dear," she said, "if we could make dear Ayala
happy--"

"I don't think she will come, Aunt Emmeline."

"Not come!" This was not said at all in a voice of anger, but simply
as eliciting some further expression of opinion.

"She's afraid of--Tom." Lucy had never hitherto expressed a positive
opinion on that matter at Queen's Gate. When Augusta had spoken of
Ayala as having run after Tom, Lucy had been indignant, and had
declared that the running had been all on the other side. In a side
way she had hinted that Ayala, at any rate at present, was far from
favourable to Tom's suit. But she had never yet spoken out her mind
at Queen's Gate as Ayala had spoken it to her.

"Afraid of him?" said Aunt Emmeline.

"I mean that she is not a bit in love with him, and when a girl is
like that I suppose she is--is afraid of a man, if everybody else
wants her to marry him."

"Why should everybody want her to marry Tom?" asked Lady Tringle,
indignantly. "I am sure I don't want her."

"I suppose it is Uncle Tom, and Aunt Dosett, and Uncle Reginald,"
said poor Lucy, finding that she had made a mistake.

"I don't see why anybody should want her to marry Tom. Tom is carried
away by her baby face, and makes a fool of himself. As to everybody
wanting her, I hope she does not flatter herself that there is
anything of the kind."

"I only meant that I think she would rather not be brought here,
where she would have to see him daily."

After this the loan of the carriage was at last made, and Lucy was
allowed to visit her sister at the Crescent. "Has he been there?" was
almost the first question that Ayala asked.

"What he do you mean?"

"Isadore Hamel."

"No; I have not seen him since I met him in the Park. But I do not
want to talk about Mr. Hamel, Ayala. Mr. Hamel is nothing."

"Oh, Lucy."

"He is nothing. Had he been anything, he has gone, and there would be
an end to it. But he is nothing."

"If a man is true he may go, but he will come back." Ayala had her
ideas about the angel of light very clearly impressed upon her mind
in regard to the conduct of the man, though they were terribly
vague as to his personal appearance, his condition of life, his
appropriateness for marriage, and many other details of his
circumstances. It had also often occurred to her that this angel of
light, when he should come, might not be in love with herself,--and
that she might have to die simply because she had seen him and loved
him in vain. But he would be a man sure to come back if there were
fitting reasons that he should do so. Isadore Hamel was not quite an
angel of light, but he was nearly angelic,--at any rate very good,
and surely would come back.

"Never mind about Mr. Hamel, Ayala. It is not nice to talk about a
man who has never spoken a word."

"Never spoken a word! Oh, Lucy!"

"Mr. Hamel has never spoken a word, and I will not talk about him.
There! All my heart is open to you, Ayala. You know that. But I will
not talk about Mr. Hamel. Aunt Emmeline wants you to come to Queen's
Gate."

"I will not."

"Or rather it is Sir Thomas who wants you to come. I do like Uncle
Tom. I do, indeed."

"So do I."

"You ought to come when he asks you."

"Why ought I? That lout would be there,--of course."

"I don't know about his being a lout, Ayala."

"He comes here, and I have to be perfectly brutal to him. You can't
guess the sort of things I say to him, and he doesn't mind it a bit.
He thinks that he has to go on long enough, and that I must give way
at last. If I were to go to Queen's Gate it would be just as much as
to say that I had given way."

"Why not?"

"Lucy!"

"Why not? He is not bad. He is honest, and true, and kind-hearted. I
know you can't be happy here."

"No."

"Aunt Dosett, with all her affairs, must be trouble to you. I could
not bear them patiently. How can you?"

"Because they are better than Tom Tringle. I read somewhere about
there being seven houses of the Devil, each one being lower and worse
than the other. Tom would be the lowest,--the lowest,--the lowest."

"Ayala, my darling."

"Do not tell me that I ought to marry Tom," said Ayala, almost
standing off in anger from the proferred kiss. "Do you think that I
could love him?"

"I think you could if you tried, because he is loveable. It is so
much to be good, and then he loves you truly. After all, it is
something to have everything nice around you. You have not been made
to be poor and uncomfortable. I fear that it must be bad with you
here."

"It is bad."

"I wish I could have stayed, Ayala. I am more tranquil than you, and
could have borne it better."

"It is bad. It is one of the houses,--but not the lowest. I can eat
my heart out here, peaceably, and die with a great needle in my hand
and a towel in my lap. But if I were to marry him I should kill
myself the first hour after I had gone away with him. Things! What
would things be with such a monster as that leaning over one? Would
you marry him?" In answer to this, Lucy made no immediate reply. "Why
don't you say? You want me to marry him. Would you?"

"No."

"Then why should I?"

"I could not try to love him."

"Try! How can a girl try to love any man? It should come because she
can't help it, let her try ever so. Trying to love Tom Tringle! Why
can't you try?"

"He doesn't want me."

"But if he did? I don't suppose it would make the least difference to
him which it was. Would you try if he asked?"

"No."

"Then why should I? Am I so much a poorer creature than you?"

"You are a finer creature. You know that I think so."

"I don't want to be finer. I want to be the same."

"You are free to do as you please. I am not--quite."

"That means Isadore Hamel."

"I try to tell you all the truth, Ayala; but pray do not talk about
him even to me. As for you, you are free; and if you could--"

"I can't. I don't know that I am free, as you call it." Then Lucy
started, as though about to ask the question which would naturally
follow. "You needn't look like that, Lucy. There isn't any one to be
named."

"A man not to be named?"

"There isn't a man at all. There isn't anybody. But I may have my
own ideas if I please. If I had an Isadore Hamel of my own I could
compare Tom or Mr. Traffick, or any other lout to him, and could say
how infinitely higher in the order of things was my Isadore than
any of them. Though I haven't an Isadore can't I have an image? And
can't I make my image brighter, even higher, than Isadore? You won't
believe that, of course, and I don't want you to believe it yourself.
But you should believe it for me. My image can make Tom Tringle just
as horrible to me as Isadore Hamel can make him to you." Thus it was
that Ayala endeavoured to explain to her sister something of the
castle which she had built in the air, and of the angel of light who
inhabited the castle.

Then it was decided between them that Lucy should explain to Aunt
Emmeline that Ayala could not make a prolonged stay at Queen's Gate.
"But how shall I say it?" asked Lucy.

"Tell her the truth, openly. 'Tom wants to marry Ayala, and Ayala
won't have him. Therefore, of course, she can't come, because it
would look as though she were going to change her mind,--which she
isn't.' Aunt Emmeline will understand that, and will not be a bit
sorry. She doesn't want to have me for a daughter-in-law. She had
quite enough of me at Rome."

All this time the carriage was waiting, and Lucy was obliged to
return before half of all that was necessary had been said. What was
to be Ayala's life for the future? How were the sisters to see each
other? What was to be done when, at the end of the coming summer,
Lucy should be taken first to Glenbogie and then to Merle Park?
There is a support in any excitement, though it be in the excitement
of sorrow only. At the present moment Ayala was kept alive by the
necessity of her battle with Tom Tringle, but how would it be with
her when Tom should have given up the fight? Lucy knew, by sad
experience, how great might be the tedium of life in Kingsbury
Crescent, and knew, also, how unfitted Ayala was to endure it. There
seemed to be no prospect of escape in future. "She knows nothing of
what I am suffering," said Ayala, "when she gives me the things to
do, and tells me of more things, and more, and more! How can there
be so many things to be done in such a house as this?" But as Lucy
was endeavouring to explain how different were the arrangements in
Kingsbury Crescent from those which had prevailed at the bijou, the
offended coachman sent up word to say that he didn't think Sir Thomas
would like it if the horses were kept out in the rain any longer.
Then Lucy hurried down, not having spoken of half the things which
were down in her mind on the list for discussion.



CHAPTER XIII.

HOW THE TRINGLES FELL INTO TROUBLE.


After the Easter holidays the Trafficks came back to Queen's Gate,
making a combination of honeymoon and business which did very well
for a time. It was understood that it was to be so. During honeymoon
times the fashionable married couple is always lodged and generally
boarded for nothing. That opening wide of generous hands, which
exhibits itself in the joyous enthusiasm of a coming marriage, taking
the shape of a houseful of presents, of a gorgeous and ponderous
trousseau, of a splendid marriage feast, and not unfrequently of
subsidiary presents from the opulent papa,--presents which are
subsidiary to the grand substratum of settled dowry,--generously
extends itself to luxurious provision for a month or two. That Mr.
and Mrs. Traffick should come back to Queen's Gate for the six weeks
intervening between Easter and Whitsuntide had been arranged, and
arranged also that the use of Merle Park, for the Whitsun holidays,
should be allowed to them. This last boon Augusta, with her sweetest
kiss, had obtained from her father only two days before the wedding.
But when it was suggested, just before the departure to Merle Park,
that Mr. Traffick's unnecessary boots might be left at Queen's Gate,
because he would come back there, then Sir Thomas, who had thought
over the matter, said a word.

It was in this way. "Mamma," said Augusta, "I suppose I can leave a
lot of things in the big wardrobe. Jemima says I cannot take them to
Merle Park without ever so many extra trunks."

"Certainly, my dear. When anybody occupies the room, they won't want
all the wardrobe. I don't know that any one will come this summer."

This was only the thin end of the wedge, and, as Augusta felt, was
not introduced successfully. The words spoken seemed to have admitted
that a return to Queen's Gate had not been intended. The conversation
went no further at the moment, but was recommenced the same evening.
"Mamma, I suppose Septimus can leave his things here?"

"Of course, my dear; he can leave anything,--to be taken care of."

"It will be so convenient if we can come back,--just for a few days."

Now, there certainly had been a lack of confidence between the
married daughter and her mother as to a new residence. A word had
been spoken, and Augusta had said that she supposed they would go
to Lord Boardotrade when they left Queen's Gate, just to finish the
season. Now, it was known that his lordship, with his four unmarried
daughters, lived in a small house in a small street in Mayfair. The
locality is no doubt fashionable, but the house was inconvenient. Mr.
Traffick, himself, had occupied lodgings near the House of Commons,
but these had been given up. "I think you must ask your papa," said
Lady Tringle.

"Couldn't you ask him?" said the Honourable Mrs. Traffick. Lady
Tringle was driven at last to consent, and then put the question to
Sir Thomas,--beginning with the suggestion as to the unnecessary
boots.

"I suppose Septimus can leave his things here?"

"Where do they mean to live when they come back to town?" asked Sir
Thomas, sharply.

"I suppose it would be convenient if they could come here for a
little time," said Lady Tringle.

"And stay till the end of the season,--and then go down to Glenbogie,
and then to Merle Park! Where do they mean to live?"

"I think there was a promise about Glenbogie," said Lady Tringle.

"I never made a promise. I heard Traffick say that he would like
to have some shooting,--though, as far as I know, he can't hit a
haystack. They may come to Glenbogie for two or three weeks, if they
like, but they shan't stay here during the entire summer."

"You won't turn your own daughter out, Tom."

"I'll turn Traffick out, and I suppose he'll take his wife with him,"
said Sir Thomas, thus closing the conversation in wrath.

The Trafficks went and came back, and were admitted into the bed-room
with the big wardrobe, and to the dressing-room where the boots
were kept. On the very first day of his arrival Mr. Traffick
was in the House at four, and remained there till four the next
morning,--certain Irish Members having been very eloquent. He was not
down when Sir Thomas left the next morning at nine, and was again at
the House when Sir Thomas came home to dinner. "How long is it to
be?" said Sir Thomas, that night, to his wife. There was a certain
tone in his voice which made Lady Tringle feel herself to be ill all
over. It must be said, in justice to Sir Thomas, that he did not
often use this voice in his domestic circle, though it was well known
in Lombard Street. But he used it now, and his wife felt herself to
be unwell. "I am not going to put up with it, and he needn't think
it."

"Don't destroy poor Augusta's happiness so soon."

"That be d----d," said the father, energetically. "Who's going to
destroy her happiness. Her happiness ought to consist in living in
her husband's house. What have I given her all that money for?" Then
Lady Tringle did not dare to say another word.

It was not till the third day that Sir Thomas and his son-in-law met
each other. By that time Sir Thomas had got it into his head that his
son-in-law was avoiding him. But on the Saturday there was no House.
It was then just the middle of June,--Saturday, June 15,--and Sir
Thomas had considered, at the most, that there would be yet nearly
two months before Parliament would cease to sit and the time for
Glenbogie would come. He had fed his anger warm, and was determined
that he would not be done. "Well, Traffick, how are you?" he said,
encountering his son-in-law in the hall, and leading him into the
dining-room. "I haven't seen you since you've been back."

"I've been in the House morning, noon, and night, pretty near."

"I dare say. I hope you found yourself comfortable at Merle Park."

"A charming house,--quite charming. I don't know whether I shouldn't
build the stables a little further from--"

"Very likely. Nothing is so easy as knocking other people's houses
about. I hope you'll soon have one to knock about of your own."

"All in good time," said Mr. Traffick, smiling.

Sir Thomas was one of those men who during the course of a successful
life have contrived to repress their original roughnesses, and who
make a not ineffectual attempt to live after the fashion of those
with whom their wealth and successes have thrown them. But among such
will occasionally be found one whose roughness does not altogether
desert him, and who can on an occasion use it with a purpose. Such
a one will occasionally surprise his latter-day associates by the
sudden ferocity of his brow, by the hardness of his voice, and by an
apparently unaccustomed use of violent words. The man feels that he
must fight, and, not having learned the practice of finer weapons,
fights in this way. Unskilled with foils or rapier he falls back
upon the bludgeon with which his hand has not lost all its old
familiarity. Such a one was Sir Thomas Tringle, and a time for such
exercise had seemed to him to have come now. There are other men who
by the possession of imperturbable serenity seem to be armed equally
against rapier and bludgeon, whom there is no wounding with any
weapon. Such a one was Mr. Traffick. When he was told of knocking
about a house of his own, he quite took the meaning of Sir Thomas's
words, and was immediately prepared for the sort of conversation
which would follow. "I wish I might;--a Merle Park of my own for
instance. If I had gone into the city instead of to Westminster it
might have come in my way."

"It seems to me that a good deal has come in your way without very
much trouble on your part."

"A seat in the House is a nice thing,--but I work harder I take it
than you do, Sir Thomas."

"I never have had a shilling but what I earned. When you leave this
where are you and Augusta going to live?"

This was a home question, which would have disconcerted most
gentlemen in Mr. Traffick's position, were it not that gentlemen
easily disconcerted would hardly find themselves there.

"Where shall we go when we leave this? You were so kind as to say
something about Glenbogie when Parliament is up."

"No, I didn't."

"I thought I understood it."

"You said something and I didn't refuse."

"Put it any way you like, Sir Thomas."

"But what do you mean to do before Parliament is up? The long and the
short of it is, we didn't expect you to come back after the holidays.
I like to be plain. This might go on for ever if I didn't speak out."

"And a very comfortable way of going on it would be." Sir Thomas
raised his eyebrows in unaffected surprise, and then again assumed
his frown. "Of course I'm thinking of Augusta chiefly."

"Augusta made up her mind no doubt to leave her father's house when
she married."

"She shows her affection for her parents by wishing to remain in it.
The fact, I suppose, is, you want the rooms."

"But even if we didn't? You're not going to live here for ever, I
suppose."

"That, Sir, is too good to be thought of, I fear. The truth is we
had an idea of staying at my father's. He spoke of going down to the
country and lending us the house. My sisters have made him change his
mind and so here we are. Of course we can go into lodgings."

"Or to an hotel."

"Too dear! You see you've made me pay such a sum for insuring my
life. I'll tell you what I'll do. If you'll let us make it out here
till the 10th of July we'll go into an hotel then." Sir Thomas,
surprised at his own compliance, did at last give way. "And then we
can have a month at Glenbogie from the 12th."

"Three weeks," said Sir Thomas, shouting at the top of his voice.

"Very well; three weeks. If you could have made it the month it would
have been convenient; but I hate to be disagreeable." Thus the matter
was settled, and Mr. Traffick was altogether well pleased with the
arrangement.

"What are we to do?" said Augusta, with a very long face. "What are
we to do when we are made to go away?"

"I hope I shall be able to make some of the girls go down by that
time, and then we must squeeze in at my father's."

This and other matters made Sir Thomas in those days irritable and
disagreeable to the family. "Tom," he said to his wife, "is the
biggest fool that ever lived."

"What is the matter with him now?" asked Lady Tringle, who did not
like to have her only son abused.

"He's away half his time, and when he does come he'd better be away.
If he wants to marry that girl why doesn't he marry her and have done
with it?"

Now this was a matter upon which Lady Tringle had ideas of her own
which were becoming every day stronger. "I'm sure I should be very
sorry to see it," she said.

"Why should you be sorry? Isn't it the best thing a young man can do?
If he's set his heart that way all the world won't talk him off. I
thought all that was settled."

"You can't make the girl marry him."

"Is that it?" asked Sir Thomas, with a whistle. "You used to say she
was setting her cap at him."

"She is one of those girls you don't know what she would be at. She's
full of romance and nonsense, and isn't half as fond of telling the
truth as she ought to be. She made my life a burden to me while she
was with us, and I don't think she would be any better for Tom."

"But he's still determined."

"What's the use of that?" said Lady Tringle.

"Then he shall have her. I made him a promise and I'm not going to
give it up. I told him that if he was in earnest he should have her."

"You can't make a girl marry a young man."

"You have her here, and then we'll take her to Glenbogie. Now when I
say it I mean it. You go and fetch her, and if you don't I will. I'm
not going to have her turned out into the cold in that way."

"She won't come, Tom." Then he turned round and frowned at her.

The immediate result of this was that Lady Tringle herself did drive
across to Kingsbury Crescent accompanied by Gertrude and Lucy, and
did make her request in form. "My dear, your uncle particularly wants
you to come to us for the next month." Mrs. Dosett was sitting by. "I
hope Ayala may be allowed to come to us for a month."

"Ayala must answer for herself," said Mrs. Dosett, firmly. There had
never been any warm friendship between Mrs. Dosett and her husband's
elder sister.

"I can't," said Ayala, shaking her head.

"Why not, my dear?" said Lady Tringle.

"I can't," said Ayala.

Lady Tringle was not in the least offended or annoyed at the refusal.
She did not at all desire that Ayala should come to Glenbogie. Ayala
at Glenbogie would make her life miserable to her. It would, of
course, lead to Tom's marriage, and then there would be internecine
fighting between Ayala and Augusta. But it was necessary that she
should take back to her husband some reply;--and this reply, if
in the form of refusal, must come from Ayala herself. "Your uncle
has sent me," said Lady Tringle, "and I must give him some reason.
As for expense, you know,"--then she turned to Mrs. Dosett with a
smile,--"that of course would be our affair."

"If you ask me," said Mrs. Dosett, "I think that as Ayala has come
to us she had better remain with us. Of course things are very
different, and she would be only discontented." At this Lady Tringle
smiled her sweetest smile,--as though acknowledging that things
certainly were different,--and then turned to Ayala for a further
reply.

"Aunt Emmeline, I can't," said Ayala.

"But why, my dear? Can't isn't a courteous answer to a request that
is meant to be kind."

"Speak out, Ayala," said Mrs. Dosett. "There is nobody here but your
aunts."

"Because of Tom."

"Tom wouldn't eat you," said Lady Tringle, again smiling.

"It's worse than eating me," said Ayala. "He will go on when I tell
him not. If I were down there he'd be doing it always. And then you'd
tell me that I--encouraged him!"

Lady Tringle felt this to be unkind and undeserved. Those passages
in Rome had been very disagreeable to every one concerned. The girl
certainly, as she thought, had been arrogant and impertinent. She had
been accepted from charity and had then domineered in the family. She
had given herself airs and had gone out into company almost without
authority, into company which had rejected her,--Lady Tringle. It had
become absolutely necessary to get rid of an inmate so troublesome,
so unbearable. The girl had been sent away,--almost ignominiously.
Now she, Lady Tringle, the offended aunt, the aunt who had so
much cause for offence, had been good enough, gracious enough, to
pardon all this, and was again offering the fruition of a portion
of her good things to the sinner. No doubt she was not anxious
that the offer should be accepted, but not the less was it made
graciously,--as she felt herself. In answer to this she had thrown
back upon her the only hard word she had ever spoken to the girl!
"You wouldn't be told anything of the kind, but you needn't come if
you don't like it."

"Then I don't," said Ayala, nodding her head.

"But I did think that after all that has passed, and when I am trying
to be kind to you, you would have made yourself more pleasant to me.
I can only tell your uncle that you say you won't."

"Give my love to my uncle, and tell him that I am much obliged to him
and that I know how good he is; but I can't--because of Tom."

"Tom is too good for you," exclaimed Aunt Emmeline, who could not
bear to have her son depreciated even by the girl whom she did not
wish to marry him.

"I didn't say he wasn't," said Ayala, bursting into tears. "The
Archbishop of Canterbury would be too good for me, but I don't want
to marry him." Then she got up and ran out of the room in order that
she might weep over her troubles in the privacy of her own chamber.
She was thoroughly convinced that she was being ill-used. No one had
a right to tell her that any man was too good for her unless she
herself should make pretensions to the man. It was an insult to
her even to connect her name with that of any man unless she had
done something to connect it. In her own estimation her cousin Tom
was infinitely beneath her,--worlds beneath her,--a denizen of an
altogether inferior race, such as the Beast was to the Beauty! Not
that Ayala had ever boasted to herself of her own face or form. It
was not in that respect that she likened herself to the Beauty when
she thought of Tom as the Beast. Her assumed superiority existed in
certain intellectual or rather artistic and æsthetic gifts,--certain
celestial gifts. But as she had boasted of them to no one, as she
had never said that she and her cousin were poles asunder in their
tastes, poles asunder in their feelings, poles asunder in their
intelligence, was it not very, very cruel that she should be told,
first that she encouraged him, and then that she was not good enough
for him? Cinderella did not ask to have the Prince for her husband.
When she had her own image of which no one could rob her, and was
content with that, why should they treat her in this cruel way?

"I am afraid you are having a great deal of trouble with her," said
Lady Tringle to Mrs. Dosett.

"No, indeed. Of course she is romantic, which is very objectionable."

"Quite detestable!" said Lady Tringle.

"But she has been brought up like that, so that it is not her fault.
Now she endeavours to do her best."

"She is so upsetting."

"She is angry because her cousin persecutes her."

"Persecutes her, indeed! Tom is in a position to ask any girl to be
his wife. He can give her a home of her own, and a good income. She
ought to be proud of the offer instead of speaking like that. But
nobody wants her to have him."

"He wants it, I suppose."

"Just taken by her baby face;--that's all. It won't last, and she
needn't think so. However, I've done my best to be kind, Mrs. Dosett,
and there's an end of it. If you please I'll ring the bell for the
carriage. Good-bye." After that she swam out of the room and had
herself carried back to Queen's Gate.



CHAPTER XIV.

FRANK HOUSTON.


Three or four days afterwards Sir Thomas asked whether Ayala was to
come to Glenbogie. "She positively refused," said his wife, "and
was so rude and impertinent that I could not possibly have her now."
Then Sir Thomas frowned and turned himself away, and said not a word
further on that occasion.

There were many candidates for Glenbogie on this occasion. Among
others there was Mr. Frank Houston, whose candidature was not pressed
by himself,--as could not well have been done,--but was enforced by
Gertrude on his behalf. It was now July. Gertrude and Mr. Houston
had seen something of each other in Rome, as may be remembered, and
since then had seen a good deal of each other in town. Gertrude was
perfectly well aware that Mr. Houston was impecunious; but Augusta
had been allowed to have an impecunious lover, and Tom to throw
himself at the feet of an impecunious love. Gertrude felt herself to
be entitled to her £120,000; did not for a moment doubt but that she
would get it. Why shouldn't she give it to any young man she liked
as long as he belonged to decent people? Mr. Houston wasn't a Member
of Parliament,--but then he was young and good-looking. Mr. Houston
wasn't son to a lord, but he was brother to a county squire, and came
of a family much older than that of those stupid Boardotrade and
Traffick people. And then Frank Houston was very presentable, was not
at all bald, and was just the man for a girl to like as a husband. It
was dinned into her ears that Houston had no income at all,--just a
few hundreds a year on which he never could keep himself out of debt.
But he was a generous man, who would be more than contented with the
income coming from £120,000. He would not spunge upon the house at
Queen's Gate. He would not make use of Merle Park and Glenbogie. He
would have a house of his own for his old boots. Four-per-cent. would
give them nearly £5,000 a year. Gertrude knew all about it already.
They could have a nice house near Queen's Gate;--say somewhere about
Onslow Gardens. There would be quite enough for a carriage for three
months upon a mountain in Switzerland, and three more among the art
treasures of Italy. It was astonishing how completely Gertrude had
it all at her finger's ends when she discussed the matter with her
mother. Mr. Houston was a man of no expensive tastes. He didn't want
to hunt. He did shoot, no doubt, and perhaps a little shooting at
Glenbogie might be nice before they went to Switzerland. In that case
two months on the top of the mountain would suffice. But if he was
not asked he would never condescend to demand an entry at Glenbogie
as a part of his wife's dower. Lady Tringle was thus talked over,
though she did think that at least one of her daughters' husbands
ought to have an income of his own. There was another point which
Gertrude put forward very frankly, and which no doubt had weight with
her mother. "Mamma, I mean to have him," she said, when Lady Tringle
expressed a doubt.

"But papa?"

"I mean to have him. Papa can scold, of course, if he pleases."

"But where would the income come from if papa did not give it?"

"Of course he'll give it. I've a right to it as much as Augusta."
There was something in Gertrude's face as she said this which made
her mother think that she would have her way.

But Sir Thomas had hitherto declined. When Frank Houston, after
the manner of would-be sons-in-law, had applied to Sir Thomas, Sir
Thomas, who already knew all about it, asked after his income, his
prospects, and his occupation. Fifty years ago young men used to
encounter the misery of such questions, and to live afterwards often
in the enjoyment of the stern questioner's money and daughters. But
there used in those days to be a bad quarter of an hour while the
questions were being asked, and not un-frequently a bad six months
afterwards, while the stern questioner was gradually undergoing a
softening process under the hands of the females of the family. But
the young man of to-day has no bad quarter of an hour. "You are a
mercantile old brick, with money and a daughter. I am a jeunesse
dorée,--gilded by blood and fashion, though so utterly impecunious!
Let us know your terms. How much is it to be, and then I can say
whether we can afford to live upon it." The old brick surrenders
himself more readily and speedily to the latter than to the former
manner;--but he hardly surrenders himself quite at once. Frank
Houston, when inquired into, declared at once, without blushing,
that he had no income at all to speak of in reference to matrimonial
life. As to family prospects he had none. His elder brother had four
blooming boys, and was likely to have more. As for occupation, he
was very fond of painting, very fond of art all round, could shoot a
little, and was never in want of anything to do as long as he had a
book. But for the earning of money he had no turn whatever. He was
quite sure of himself that he could never earn a shilling. But then
on the other hand he was not extravagant,--which was almost as good
as earning. It was almost incredible; but with his means, limited
as they were to a few hundreds, he did not owe above a thousand
pounds;--a fact which he thought would weigh much with Sir Thomas in
regard to his daughter's future happiness.

Sir Thomas gave him a flat refusal. "I think that I may boast that
your daughter's happiness is in my charge," said Frank Houston.

"Then she must be unhappy," said Sir Thomas. Houston shrugged his
shoulders. "A fool like that has no right to be happy."

"There isn't another man in the world by whom I would allow her to be
spoken of like that," said Houston.

"Bother!"

"I regard her as all that is perfect in woman, and you must forgive
me if I say that I shall not abandon my suit. I may be allowed, at
any rate, to call at the house?"

"Certainly not."

"That is a kind of thing that is never done nowadays;--never," said
Houston, shaking his head.

"I suppose my own house is my own."

"Yours and Lady Tringle's, and your daughters', no doubt. At any
rate, Sir Thomas, you will think of this again. I am sure you will
think of it again. If you find that your daughter's happiness depends
upon it--"

"I shall find nothing of the kind. Good morning."

"Good morning, Sir Thomas." Then Mr. Houston, bowing graciously, left
the little back room in Lombard Street, and jumping into a cab, had
himself taken straight away to Queen's Gate.

"Papa is always like that," said Gertrude. On that day Mrs. Traffick,
with all the boots, had taken herself away to the small house in
Mayfair, and Gertrude, with her mother, had the house to herself. At
the present moment Lady Tringle was elsewhere, so that the young lady
was alone with her lover.

"But he comes round, I suppose."

"If he doesn't have too much to eat,--which disagrees with him,--he
does. He's always better down at Glenbogie because he's out of doors
a good deal, and then he can digest things."

"Then take him down to Glenbogie and let him digest it at once."

"Of course we can't go till the 12th. Perhaps we shall start on the
10th, because the 11th is Sunday. What will you do, Frank?" There had
been a whisper of Frank's going to the Tyrol in August, there to join
the Mudbury Docimers, who were his far-away cousins. Imogene Docimer
was a young lady of marvellous beauty,--not possessed indeed of
£120,000,--of whom Gertrude had heard, and was already anxious that
her Frank should not go to the Tyrol this year. She was already aware
that her Frank had--just an artist's eye for feminine beauty in its
various shapes, and thought that in the present condition of things
he would be better at Glenbogie than in the Tyrol.

"I am thinking of wandering away somewhere;--perhaps to the Tyrol.
The Mudbury Docimers are there. He's a pal of mine, besides being a
cousin. Mrs. Docimer is a very nice woman."

"And her sister?"

"A lovely creature. Such a turn of the neck! I've promised to make a
study of her back head."

"Come down to Glenbogie," said Gertrude, sternly.

"How can I do that when your governor won't let me enter his
house-door even in London?"

"But you're here."

"Well,--yes;--I am here. But he told me not. I don't see how I'm to
drive in at the gate at Glenbogie with all my traps, and ask to be
shown my room. I have cheek enough for a good deal, my pet."

"I believe you have, Sir;--cheek enough for anything. But mamma must
manage it,--mamma and me, between us. Only keep yourself disengaged.
You won't go to the Tyrol,--eh?" Then Frank Houston promised that he
would not go to the Tyrol as long as there was a chance open that he
might be invited to Glenbogie.

"I won't hear of it," said Sir Thomas to his wife. On that occasion
his digestion had perhaps failed him a little. "He only wants to get
my money."

"But Gertrude has set her heart on it, and nothing will turn her
away."

"Why can't she set her heart on some one who has got a decent income.
That man hasn't a shilling."

"Nor yet has Mr. Traffick."

"Mr. Traffick has, at any rate, got an occupation. Were it to do
again, Mr. Traffick would never see a shilling of my money. By ----,
those fellows, who haven't got a pound belonging to them, think that
they're to live on the fat of the land out of the sweat of the brow
of such men as me."

"What is your money for, Tom, but for the children?"

"I know what it's for. I'd sooner build a hospital than give it to an
idle fellow like that Houston. When I asked him what he did, he said
he was fond of 'picters!'" Sir Thomas would fall back from his usual
modes of expression when he was a little excited.

"Of course he hasn't been brought up to work. But he is a gentleman,
and I do think he would make our girl happy."

"My money would make him happy,--till he had spent it."

"Tie it up."

"You don't know what you're talking about. How are you to prevent a
man from spending his wife's income?"

"At any rate, if you have him down at Glenbogie you can see what sort
of a man he is. You don't know him now."

"As much as I wish to."

"That isn't fair to the poor girl. You needn't give your consent to
a marriage because he comes to Glenbogie. You have only to say that
you won't give the money and then it must be off. They can't take
the money from you." His digestion could not have been very bad, for
he allowed himself to be persuaded that Houston should be asked to
Glenbogie for ten days. This was the letter of invitation;--


   MY DEAR MR. HOUSTON,

   We shall start for Glenbogie on the 10th of next month.
   Sir Thomas wishes you to join us on the 20th if you can,
   and stay till the end of the month. We shall be a little
   crowded at first, and therefore cannot name an earlier
   day.

   I am particularly to warn you that this means nothing more
   than a simple invitation. I know what passed between you
   and Sir Thomas, and he hasn't at all changed his mind. I
   think it right to tell you this. If you like to speak to
   him again when you are at Glenbogie of course you can.

   Very sincerely yours,

   EMMELINE TRINGLE.


At the same time, or within a post of it, he got another letter,
which was as follows;--


   DEAREST F,

   Papa, you see, hasn't cut up so very rough, after all. You
   are to be allowed to come and help to slaughter grouse,
   which will be better than going to that stupid Tyrol.
   If you want to draw somebody's back head you can do it
   there. Isn't it a joke papa's giving way like that all in
   a moment? He gets so fierce sometimes that we think he's
   going to eat everybody. Then he has to come down, and he
   gets eaten worse than anybody else.

   Of course, as you're asked to Glenbogie, you can come
   here as often as you like. I shall ride on Thursday and
   Friday. I shall expect you exactly at six, just under the
   Memorial. You can't come home to dinner, you know, because
   he might flare up; but you can turn in at lunch every day
   you please except Saturday and Sunday. I intend to be so
   jolly down at Glenbogie. You mustn't be shooting always.

   Ever your own,

   G.


Frank Houston as he read this threw himself back on the sofa and gave
way to a soft sigh. He knew he was doing his duty,--just as another
man does who goes forth from his pleasant home to earn his bread
and win his fortune in some dry, comfortless climate, far from the
delights to which he has been always accustomed. He must do his duty.
He could not live always adding a hundred or two of debt to the
burden already round his neck. He must do his duty. As he thought
of this he praised himself mightily. How beautiful was his far-away
cousin, Imogene Docimer, as she would twist her head round so as to
show the turn of her neck! How delightful it would be to talk love to
Imogene! As to marrying Imogene, who hadn't quite so many hundreds
as himself, that he knew to be impossible. As for marriage, he
wasn't quite sure that he wanted to marry any one. Marriage, to his
thinking, was "a sort of grind," at the best. A man would have to get
up and go to bed with some regularity. His wife might want him to
come down in a frock coat to breakfast. His wife would certainly
object to his drawing the back heads of other young women. Then he
thought of the provocation he had received to draw Gertrude's back
head. Gertrude hadn't got any turn of a neck to speak of. Gertrude
was a stout, healthy girl; and, having £120,000, was entitled to such
a husband as himself. If he waited longer he might be driven to worse
before he found the money which was so essentially necessary. He was
grateful to Gertrude for not being worse, and was determined to treat
her well. But as for love, romance, poetry, art,--all that must for
the future be out of the question. Of course, there would now be no
difficulty with Sir Thomas, and therefore he must at once make up his
mind. He decided that morning, with many soft regrets, that he would
go to Glenbogie, and let those dreams of wanderings in the mountains
of the Tyrol pass away from him. "Dear, dearest Imogene!" He could
have loved Imogene dearly had fates been more propitious. Then he got
up and shook himself, made his resolution like a man, ate a large
allowance of curried salmon for his breakfast,--and then wrote the
following letter. "Duty first!" he said to himself as he sat down to
the table like a hero.


   Letter No. 1.

   DEAR LADY TRINGLE,

   So many thanks! Nothing could suit my book so well as a
   few days at Glenbogie just at the end of August. I will be
   there, like a book, on the 20th. Of course I understand
   all that you say. Fathers can't be expected to yield all
   at once, especially when suitors haven't got very much of
   their own. I shouldn't have dared to ask hadn't I known
   myself to be a most moderate man. Of course I shall ask
   again. If you will help me, no doubt I shall succeed. I
   really do think that I am the man to make Gertrude happy.

   Yours, dear Lady Tringle, ever so much,

   F. HOUSTON.


   Letter No. 2.

   MY OWN ONE,

   Your governor is a brick. Of course, Glenbogie will be
   better than the Tyrol, as you are to be there. Not but
   what the Tyrol is a very jolly place, and we'll go and see
   it together some day. Ask Tom to let me know whether one
   can wear heavy boots in the Glenbogie mountains. They are
   much the best for the heather; but I have shot generally
   in Yorkshire, and there they are too hot. What number does
   he shoot with generally? I fancy the birds are wilder with
   you than with us.

   As for riding, I don't dare to sit upon a horse this
   weather. Nobody but a woman can stand it. Indeed, now I
   think of it, I sold my horse last week to pay the fellow
   I buy paints from. I've got the saddle and bridle, and if
   I stick them up upon a rail, under the trees, it would be
   better than any horse while the thermometer is near 80.
   All the ladies could come round and talk to one so nicely.

   I hate lunch, because it makes me red in the face, and
   nobody will give me my breakfast before eleven at the
   earliest. But I'll come in about three as often as you
   like to have me. I think I perhaps shall run over to the
   Tyrol after Glenbogie. A man must go somewhere when he has
   been turned out in that fashion. There are so many babies
   at Buncombe Hall!


--Buncombe Hall is the family seat of the Houstons,--


   and I don't like to see my own fate typified before the
   time.

   Can I do anything for you except riding or eating
   lunch,--which are simply feminine exercises? Always your
   own,

   FRANK.


   Letter No. 3.

   DEAR COUSIN IM,

   How pleasant it is that a little strain of thin blood
   should make the use of that pretty name allowable! What
   a stupid world it is when the people who like each other
   best cannot get together because of proprieties, and
   marriages, and such balderdash as we call love. I do not
   in the least want to be in love with you,--but I do want
   to sit near you, and listen to you, and look at you, and
   to know that the whole air around is impregnated by the
   mysterious odour of your presence. When one is thoroughly
   satisfied with a woman there comes a scent as of sweet
   flowers, which does not reach the senses of those whose
   feelings are not so awakened.

   And now for my news! I suppose that G. T. will in a
   tremendously short period become Mistress F. H. 'A long
   day, my Lord.' But, if you are to be hung, better be hung
   at once. Père Tringle has not consented,--has done just
   the reverse,--has turned me out of his house, morally.
   That is, out of his London house. He asked of my 'house
   and my home,' as they did of Allan-a-Dale.

      Queen's Gate and Glenbogie stand fair on the hill.
      "My home," quoth bold Houston, "shows gallanter still.
      'Tis the garret up three pair--"

   Then he told me roughly to get me gone; but 'I had laughed
   on the lass with my bonny black eye.' So the next day I
   got an invite to Glenbogie, and at the appropriate time in
   August,

      She'll go to the mountains to hear a love tale,
      And the youth--

   it will be told by is to be your poor unfortunate coz,
   Frank Houston. Who's going to whimper? Haven't I known
   all along what was to come? It has not been my lot in
   life to see a flower and pick it because I love it. But
   a good head of cabbage when you're hungry is wholesome
   food.--Your loving cousin, but not loving as he oughtn't
   to love,

   FRANK HOUSTON.

   I shall still make a dash for the Tyrol when this episode
   at Glenbogie is over.



CHAPTER XV.

AYALA WITH HER FRIENDS.


Some few days after Lady Tringle had been at Kingsbury Crescent,
two visitors, who knew little or nothing of each other, came to see
Ayala. One was a lady and the other a gentleman, and the lady came
first. The gentleman, however, arrived before the lady had gone. Mrs.
Dosett was present while the lady remained; but when the gentleman
came she was invited to leave him alone with her niece,--as shall be
told.

The lady was the Marchesa Baldoni. Can the reader go so far back as
to remember the Marchesa Baldoni? It was she who rather instigated
Ayala to be naughty to the Tringles in Rome, and would have Ayala
at her parties when she did not want the Tringles. The Marchesa was
herself an Englishwoman, though she had lived at Rome all her life,
and had married an Italian nobleman. She was now in London for a few
weeks, and still bore in mind her friendship for Ayala, and a certain
promise she had once made her. In Rome Lady Tringle, actuated by
Augusta, who at the moment was very angry with everybody including
her own lover, had quarrelled with the Marchesa. The Marchesa had
then told Ayala that she, Ayala, must stay with her aunt,--must,
in fact, cease for the time to come to the Marchesa's apartments,
because of the quarrel; but that a time would come in which they
might again be friends. Soon afterwards the Marchesa had heard that
the Tringle family had discarded poor Ayala,--that her own quarrel
had, in fact, extended itself to Ayala, and that Ayala had been
shunted off to a poor relation, far away from all the wealth and
luxuries which she had been allowed to enjoy for so short a time.
Therefore, soon after her arrival in London, the Marchesa had made
herself acquainted with the address of the Dosetts, and now was in
Kingsbury Crescent in fulfilment of her promise made at Rome.

"So now you have got our friend Ayala," said the Marchesa with a
smile to Mrs. Dosett.

"Yes; we have her now. There has been a change. Her sister, Lucy, has
gone to my husband's sister, Lady Tringle."

The Marchesa made a pleasant little bow at each word. She seemed to
Mrs. Dosett to be very gorgeously dressed. She was thoroughly well
dressed, and looked like a Marchesa;--or perhaps, even, like a
Marchioness. She was a tall, handsome woman, with a smile perhaps
a little too continuously sweet, but with a look conscious of her
own position behind it. She had seen in a moment of what nature was
Ayala, how charming, how attractive, how pretty, how clever,--how
completely the very opposite of the Tringles! Ayala learned Italian
so readily that she could talk it almost at once. She could sing,
and play, and draw. The Marchesa had been quite willing that her
own daughter Nina should find a friend in Ayala. Then had come the
quarrel. Now she was quite willing to renew the friendship, though
Ayala's position was so sadly altered. Mrs. Dosett was almost
frightened as the grand lady sat holding Ayala's hand, and patting
it. "We used to know her so well in Rome;--did we not, Ayala?"

"You were very kind to me."

"Nina couldn't come, because her father would make her go with him to
the pictures. But now, my dear, you must come to us just for a little
time. We have a furnished house in Brook Street, near the park, till
the end of the season, and we have one small spare room which will
just do for you. I hope you will let her come to us, for we really
are old friends," said the Marchesa, turning to Mrs. Dosett.

Mrs. Dosett looked black. There are people who always look black when
such applications are made to them,--who look black at any allusions
to pleasures. And then there came across her mind serious thoughts as
to flowers and ribbons,--and then more serious thoughts as to boots,
dresses, and hats. Ayala, no doubt, had come there less than six
months since with good store of everything; but Mrs. Dosett knew that
such a house as would be that of this lady would require a girl to
show herself with the newest sheen on everything. And Ayala knew it
too. The Marchesa turned from the blackness of Mrs. Dosett's face
with her sweetest smile to Ayala. "Can't we manage it?" said the
Marchesa.

"I don't think we can," said Ayala, with a deep sigh.

"And why not?"

Ayala looked furtively round to her aunt. "I suppose I may tell, Aunt
Margaret?" she said.

"You may tell everything, my dear," said Mrs. Dosett.

"Because we are poor," said Ayala.

"What does that matter?" said the Marchesa, brightening up. "We want
you because you are rich in good gifts and pretty ways."

"But I can't get new frocks now as I used to do in Rome. Aunt
Emmeline was cruel to me, and said things which I could not bear. But
they let me have everything. Uncle Reginald gives me all that he has,
and I am much happier here. But we cannot go out and buy things,--can
we, Aunt Margaret?"

"No, my dear; we cannot."

"It does not signify," said the Marchesa. "We are quite quiet, and
what you have got will do very well. Frocks! The frocks you had in
Rome are good enough for London. I won't have a word of all that.
Nina has set her heart upon it, and so has my husband, and so have
I. Mrs. Dosett, when we are at home we are the most homely people in
the world. We think nothing of dressing. Not to come and see your old
friends because of your frocks! We shall send for you the day after
to-morrow. Don't you know, Mrs. Dosett, it will do her good to be
with her young friend for a few days." Mrs. Dosett had not succeeded
in her remonstrances when Sir Thomas Tringle was shown into the room,
and then the Marchesa took her leave. For Sir Thomas Tringle was the
other visitor who came on that morning to see Ayala.

"If you wouldn't mind, Mrs. Dosett," said Sir Thomas before he sat
down, "I should like to see Ayala alone." Mrs. Dosett had not a word
to say against such a request, and at once took her leave.

"My dear," he began, coming and sitting opposite to Ayala, with his
knees almost touching her, "I have got something very particular to
say to you." Ayala was at once much frightened. Her uncle had never
before spoken to her in this way,--had never in truth said a word to
her seriously. He had always been kind to her, making her presents,
and allowing himself to be kissed graciously morning and evening. He
had never scolded her, and, better than all, had never said a word to
her, one way or the other, about Tom. She had always liked her uncle,
because he had never caused her trouble when all the others in his
house had been troublesome to her. But now she was afraid of him. He
did not frown, but he looked very seriously at her, as he might look,
perhaps, when he was counting out all his millions in Lombard Street.
"I hope you think that I have always wished to be kind to you,
Ayala."

"I am sure you have, Uncle Tom."

"When you had come to us I always wished you to stay. I don't like
changes of this sort. I suppose you didn't hit it off with Augusta.
But she's gone now."

"Aunt Emmeline said something." That accusation, as to
"encouragement," so rankled in her heart, that when she looked back
at her grievances among the Tringles that always loomed the largest.

"I don't want to hear anything about it," said Sir Thomas. "Let
bygones be bygones. Your aunt, I am sure, never meant unkindly by
you. Now, I want you to listen to me."

"I will, Uncle Tom."

"Listen to me to the end, like a good girl."

"I will."

"Your Cousin Tom--." Ayala gave a visible shudder, and uttered an
audible groan, but as yet she did not say a word. Sir Thomas, having
seen the shudder, and heard the groan, did frown as he began again.
"Your Cousin Tom is most truly attached to you."

"Why won't he leave me alone, then?"

"Ayala, you promised to listen to me without speaking."

"I will, Uncle Tom. Only--"

"Listen to me, and then I will hear anything you have to say."

"I will," said Ayala, screwing up her lips, so that no words should
come out of them, let the provocation be what it might.

Sir Thomas began again. "Your Cousin Tom is most truly attached to
you. For some time I and his mother disapproved of this. We thought
you were both too young, and there were other reasons which I need
not now mention. But when I came to see how thoroughly he was in
earnest, how he put his heart into it, how the very fact that he
loved you had made a man of him; then how the fact that you would
not return his love unmanned him,--when I saw all that, I gave my
permission." Here he paused, almost as though expecting a word; but
Ayala gave an additional turn to the screw on her lips, and remained
quite silent. "Yes; we gave our permission,--I and your aunt. Of
course, our son's happiness is all in all to us; and I do believe
that you are so good that you would make him a good wife."

"But--"

"Listen till I have done, Ayala." Then there was another squeeze. "I
suppose you are what they call romantic. Romance, my dear, won't buy
bread and butter. Tom is a very good young man, and he loves you
most dearly. If you will consent to be his I will make a rich man of
him. He will then be a respectable man of business, and will become
a partner in the house. You and he can choose a place to live in
almost where you please. You can have your own establishment and your
carriage, and will be able to do a deal of good. You will make him
happy, and you will be my dear child. I have come here to tell you
that I will make you welcome into the family, and to promise that I
will do everything I can to make you happy. Now you may say what you
like; but, Ayala, think a little before you speak."

Ayala thought a little;--not as to what she should say, but as to
the words in which she might say it. She was conscious that a great
compliment was paid to her. And there was a certain pride in her
heart as she thought that this invitation into the family had come to
her after that ignominious accusation of encouragement had been made.
Augusta had snubbed her about Tom, and her aunt; but now she was
asked to come among them, and be one of them, with full observances.
She was aware of all this, and aware, also, that such treatment
required from her a gracious return. But not on that account could
she give herself to the Beast. Not on that account could she be
untrue to her image. Not on that account could she rob her bosom
of that idea of love which was seated there. Not on that account
could she look upon the marriage proposed to her with aught but a
shuddering abhorrence. She sat silent for a minute or two, while her
heavy eyes were fixed upon his. Then, falling on her knees before
him, she put up her little hands to pray to him. "Uncle Tom, I
can't," she said. And then the tears came running down her cheeks.

"Why can't you, Ayala? Why cannot you be sensible, as other girls
are?" said Sir Thomas, lifting her up, and putting her on his knee.

"I can't," she said. "I don't know how to tell you."

"Do you love some other man?"

"No; no; no!" To Uncle Tom, at any rate, she need say nothing of the
image.

"Then why is it?"

"Because I can't. I don't know what to say, but I can't. I know how
very, very, very good you are."

"I would love you as my daughter."

"But I can't, Uncle Tom. Pray tell him, and make him get somebody
else. He would be quite happy if he could get somebody else."

"It is you that he loves."

"But what's the use of it, when I can't? Dear, dear Uncle Tom, do
have it all settled for me. Nothing on earth could ever make me do
it. I should die if I were to try."

"That's nonsense."

"I do so want not to make you angry, Uncle Tom. And I do so wish he
would be happy with someone else. Nobody ought to be made to marry
unless they like it;--ought they?"

"There is no talk of making," said Sir Thomas, frowning.

"At any rate I can't," said Ayala, releasing herself from her uncle's
embrace.

It was in vain that even after this he continued his request, begging
her to come down to Glenbogie, so that she might make herself used
to Tom and his ways. If she could only once more, he thought, be
introduced to the luxuries of a rich house, then she would give way.
But she would not go to Glenbogie; she would not go to Merle Park;
she would not consent to see Tom anywhere. Her uncle told her that
she was romantic and foolish, endeavouring to explain to her over
and over again that the good things of the world were too good to be
thrown away for a dream. At last there was a touch of dignity in the
final repetition of her refusal. "I am sorry to make you angry, but
I can't, Uncle Tom." Then he frowned with all his power of frowning,
and, taking his hat, left the room and the house almost without a
word.

At the time fixed the Marchesa's carriage came, and Ayala with her
boxes was taken away to Brook Street. Uncle Reginald had offered
to do something for her in the way of buying a frock, but this she
refused, declaring that she would not allow herself to become an
expense merely because her friends in Rome had been kind to her. So
she had packed up the best of what she had and started, with her
heart in her mouth, fearing the grandeur of the Marchesa's house. On
her arrival she was received by Nina, who at once threw herself into
all her old intimacy. "Oh, Ayala," she said, "this is so nice to have
you again. I have been looking forward to this ever since we left
Rome."

"Yes," said Ayala, "it is nice."

"But why did you tell mamma you would not come? What nonsense to
talk to her about frocks? Why not come and tell me? You used to have
everything at Rome, much more than I had."

Then Ayala began to explain the great difference between Uncle Tom
and Uncle Reginald,--how Uncle Tom had so many thousands that nobody
could count them, how Uncle Reginald was so shorn in his hundreds
that there was hardly enough to supply the necessaries of life.
"You see," she said, "when papa died Lucy and I were divided. I
got the rich uncle, and Lucy got the poor one; but I made myself
disagreeable, and didn't suit, and so we have been changed."

"But why did you make yourself disagreeable?" said Nina, opening her
eyes. "I remember when we were at Rome your cousin Augusta was always
quarrelling with you. I never quite knew what it was all about."

"It wasn't only that," said Ayala, whispering.

"Did you do anything very bad?"

Then it occurred to Ayala that she might tell the whole story to
her friend, and she told it. She explained the nature of that great
persecution as to Tom. "And that was the real reason why we were
changed," said Ayala, as she completed her story.

"I remember seeing the young man," said Nina.

"He is such a lout!"

"But was he very much in love?" asked Nina.

"Well, I don't know. I suppose he was after his way. I don't think
louts like that can be very much in love to signify. Young men when
they look like that would do with one girl as well as another."

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

"I am sure he would if he'd only try. At any rate what's the good of
his going on? They can't make a girl marry unless she chooses."

"Won't he be rich?"

"Awfully rich," said Ayala.

"Then I should think about it again," said the young lady from Rome.

"Never," said Ayala, with an impressive whisper. "I will never think
about it again. If he were made of diamonds I would not think about
it again."

"And is that why you were changed?" said Nina.

"Well, yes. No; it is very hard to explain. Aunt Emmeline told me
that--that I encouraged him. I thought I should have rushed out of
the house when she said that. Then I had to be changed. I don't know
whether they could forgive me, but I could not forgive her."

"And how is it now?"

"It is different now," said Ayala, softly. "Only that it can't make
any real difference."

"How different?"

"They'd let me come if I would, I suppose; but I shall never, never
go to them any more."

"I suppose you won't tell me everything?" said Nina, after a pause.

"What everything?"

"You won't be angry if I ask?"

"No, I will not be angry."

"I suppose there is someone else you really care for?"

"There is no one," said Ayala, escaping a little from her friend's
embrace.

"Then why should you be so determined against that poor young man?"

"Because he is a lout and a beast," said Ayala, jumping up. "I wonder
you should ask me;--as if that had anything to do with it. Would you
fall in love with a lout because you had no one else? I would rather
live for ever all alone, even in Kingsbury Crescent, than have to
think of becoming the wife of my cousin Tom." At this Nina shrugged
her shoulders, showing that her education in Italy had been less
romantic than that accorded to Ayala in London.



CHAPTER XVI.

JONATHAN STUBBS.


But, though Nina differed somewhat from Ayala as to their ideas as
to life in general, they were close friends, and everything was done
both by the Marchesa and by her daughter to make Ayala happy. There
was not very much of going into grand society, and that difficulty
about the dresses solved itself, as do other difficulties. There came
a few presents, with entreaties from Ayala that presents of that
kind might not be made. But the presents were, of course, accepted,
and our girl was as prettily arrayed, if not as richly, as the best
around her. At first there was an evening at the opera, and then a
theatre,--diversions which are easy. Ayala, after her six dull months
in Kingsbury Crescent, found herself well pleased to be taken to
easy amusements. The carriage in the park was delightful to her, and
delightful a visit which was made to her by Lucy. For the Tringle
carriage could be spared for a visit in Brook Street, even though
there was still a remembrance in the bosom of Aunt Emmeline of the
evil things which had been done by the Marchesa in Rome. Then there
came a dance,--which was not so easy. The Marchesa and Nina were
going to a dance at Lady Putney's, and arrangements were made
that Ayala should be taken. Ayala begged that there might be no
arrangements, declared that she would be quite happy to see Nina go
forth in her finery. But the Marchesa was a woman who always had her
way, and Ayala was taken to Lady Putney's dance without a suspicion
on the part of any who saw her that her ball-room apparatus was not
all that it ought to be.

Ayala when she entered the room was certainly a little bashful. When
in Rome, even in the old days at the bijou, when she did not consider
herself to be quite out, she had not been at all bashful. She had
been able to enjoy herself entirely, being very fond of dancing,
conscious that she could dance well, and always having plenty to say
for herself. But now there had settled upon her something of the
tedium, something of the silence, of Kingsbury Crescent, and she
almost felt that she would not know how to behave herself if she were
asked to stand up and dance before all Lady Putney's world. In her
first attempt she certainly was not successful. An elderly gentleman
was brought up to her,--a gentleman whom she afterwards declared to
be a hundred, and who was, in truth, over forty, and with him she
manoeuvred gently through a quadrille. He asked her two or three
questions to which she was able to answer only in monosyllables.
Then he ceased his questions, and the manoeuvres were carried on in
perfect silence. Poor Ayala did not attribute any blame to the man.
It was all because she had been six months in Kingsbury Crescent.
Of course this aged gentleman, if he wanted to dance, would have a
partner chosen for him out of Kingsbury Crescent. Conversation was
not to be expected from a gentleman who was made to stand up with
Kingsbury Crescent. Any powers of talking that had ever belonged
to herself had of course evaporated amidst the gloom of Kingsbury
Crescent. After this she was returned speedily to the wings of the
Marchesa, and during the next dance sat in undisturbed peace. Then
suddenly, when the Marchesa had for a moment left her, and when Nina
had just been taken away to join a set, she saw the man of silence
coming to her from a distance, with an evident intention of asking
her to stand up again. It was in his eye, in his toe, as he came
bowing forward. He had evidently learned to suppose that they two
outcasts might lessen their miseries by joining them together. She
was to dance with him because no one else would ask her! She had
plucked up her spirit and resolved that, desolate as she might be,
she would not descend so far as that, when, in a moment, another
gentleman sprang in, as it were, between her and her enemy, and
addressed her with free and easy speech as though he had known her
all her life. "You are Ayala Dormer, I am sure," said he. She looked
up into his face and nodded her head at him in her own peculiar way.
She was quite sure that she had never set her eyes on him before.
He was so ugly that she could not have forgotten him. So at least
she told herself. He was very, very ugly, but his voice was very
pleasant. "I knew you were, and I am Jonathan Stubbs. So now we are
introduced, and you are to come and dance with me."

She had heard the name of Jonathan Stubbs. She was sure of that,
although she could not at the moment join any facts with the name.
"But I don't know you," she said, hesitating. Though he was so ugly
he could not but be better than that ancient dancer whom she saw
standing at a distance, looking like a dog that has been deprived of
his bone.

"Yes, you do," said Jonathan Stubbs, "and if you'll come and dance
I'll tell you about it. The Marchesa told me to take you."

"Did she?" said Ayala, getting up, and putting her little hand upon
his arm.

"I'll go and fetch her if you like; only she's a long way off, and we
shall lose our place. She's my aunt."

"Oh," said Ayala, quite satisfied,--remembering now that she had
heard her friend Nina boast of a Colonel cousin, who was supposed
to be the youngest Colonel in the British army, who had done some
wonderful thing,--taken a new province in India, or marched across
Africa, or defended the Turks,--or perhaps conquered them. She knew
that he was very brave,--but why was he so very ugly? His hair was
ruby red, and very short; and he had a thick red beard: not silky,
but bristly, with each bristle almost a dagger,--and his mouth was
enormous. His eyes were very bright, and there was a smile about him,
partly of fun, partly of good humour. But his mouth! And then that
bristling beard! Ayala was half inclined to like him, because he
was so completely master of himself, so unlike the unhappy ancient
gentleman who was still hovering at a distance. But why was he so
ugly? And why was he called Jonathan Stubbs?

"There now," he said, "we can't get in at any of the sets. That's
your fault."

"No, it isn't," said Ayala.

"Yes, it is. You wouldn't stand up till you had heard all about me."

"I don't know anything about you now."

"Then come and walk about and I'll tell you. Then we shall be ready
for a waltz. Do you waltz well?"

"Do you?"

"I'll back myself against any Englishman, Frenchman, German, or
Italian, for a large sum of money. I can't come quite up to the
Poles. The fact is, the honester the man is the worse he always
dances. Yes; I see what you mean. I must be a rogue. Perhaps I
am;--perhaps I'm only an exception. I knew your father."

"Papa!"

"Yes, I did. He was down at Stalham with the Alburys once. That was
five years ago, and he told me he had a daughter named Ayala. I
didn't quite believe him."

"Why not?"

"It is such an out-of-the-way name."

"It's as good as Jonathan, at any rate." And Ayala again nodded her
head.

"There's a prejudice about Jonathan, as there is about Jacob and
Jonah. I never could quite tell why. I was going to marry a girl once
with a hundred thousand pounds, and she wouldn't have me at last
because she couldn't bring her lips to say Jonathan. Do you think she
was right?"

"Did she love you?" said Ayala, looking up into his face.

"Awfully! But she couldn't bear the name; so within three months
she gave herself and all her money to Mr. Montgomery Talbot de
Montpellier. He got drunk, and threw her out of the window before a
month was over. That's what comes of going in for sweet names."

"I don't believe a word of it," said Ayala.

"Very well. Didn't Septimus Traffick marry your cousin?"

"Of course he did, about a month ago."

"He is another friend of mine. Why didn't you go to your cousin's
marriage?"

"There were reasons," said Ayala.

"I know all about it," said the Colonel. "You quarreled with Augusta
down in Scotland, and you don't like poor Traffick because he has got
a bald head."

"I believe you're a conjuror," said Ayala.

"And then your cousin was jealous because you went to the top of St.
Peter's, and because you would walk with Mr. Traffick on the Pincian.
I was in Rome, and saw all about it."

"I won't have anything more to do with you," said Ayala.

"And then you quarreled with one set of uncles and aunts, and now you
live with another."

"Your aunt told you that."

"And I know your cousin, Tom Tringle."

"You know Tom?" asked Ayala.

"Yes; he was ever so good to me in Rome about a horse; I like Tom
Tringle in spite of his chains. Don't you think, upon the whole, if
that young lady had put up with Jonathan she would have done better
than marry Montpellier? But now they're going to waltz, come along."

Thereupon Ayala got up and danced with him for the next ten minutes.
Again and again before the evening was over she danced with him;
and although, in the course of the night, many other partners had
offered themselves, and many had been accepted, she felt that Colonel
Jonathan Stubbs had certainly been the partner of the evening. Why
should he be so hideously ugly? said Ayala to herself, as she wished
him good night before she left the room with the Marchesa and Nina.

"What do you think of my nephew?" said the Marchesa, when they were
in the carriage together.

"Do tell us what you think of Jonathan?" asked Nina.

"I thought he was very good-natured."

"And very handsome?"

"Nina, don't be foolish. Jonathan is one of the most rising officers
in the British service, and luckily he can be that without being
beautiful to look at."

"I declare," said Nina, "sometimes, when he is talking, I think him
perfectly lovely. The fire comes out of his eyes, and he rubs his old
red hairs about till they sparkle. Then he shines all over like a
carbuncle, and every word he says makes me die of laughter."

"I laughed too," said Ayala.

"But you didn't think him beautiful," said Nina.

"No, I did not," said Ayala. "I liked him very much, but I thought
him very ugly. Was it true about the young lady who married Mr.
Montgomery de Montpellier and was thrown out of window a week
afterwards?"

"There is one other thing I must tell you about Jonathan," said Nina.
"You must not believe a word that he says."

"That I deny," said the Marchesa; "but here we are. And now, girls,
get out of the carriage and go up to bed at once."

Ayala, before she went to sleep, and again when she woke in the
morning, thought a great deal about her new friend. As to shining
like a carbuncle,--perhaps he did, but that was not her idea of manly
beauty. And hair ought not to sparkle. She was sure that Colonel
Stubbs was very, very ugly. She was almost disposed to think that he
was the ugliest man she had ever seen. He certainly was a great deal
worse than her cousin Tom, who, after all, was not particularly ugly.
But, nevertheless, she would very much rather dance with Colonel
Stubbs. She was sure of that, even without reference to Tom's
objectionable love-making. Upon the whole she liked dancing with
Colonel Stubbs, ugly as he was. Indeed, she liked him very much. She
had spent a very pleasant evening because he had been there. "It
all depends upon whether any one has anything to say." That was the
determination to which she came when she endeavoured to explain
to herself how it had come to pass that she had liked dancing
with anybody so very hideous. The Angel of Light would of course
have plenty to say for himself, and would be something altogether
different in appearance. He would be handsome,--or rather, intensely
interesting, and his talk would be of other things. He would not
say of himself that he danced as well as though he were a rogue, or
declare that a lady had been thrown out of a window the week after
she was married. Nothing could be more unlike an Angel of Light
than Colonel Stubbs,--unless, perhaps, it were Tom Tringle. Colonel
Stubbs, however, was completely unangelic,--so much so that the
marvel was that he should yet be so pleasant. She had no horror of
Colonel Stubbs at all. She would go anywhere with Colonel Stubbs, and
feel herself to be quite safe. She hoped she might meet him again
very often. He was, as it were, the Genius of Comedy, without a touch
of which life would be very dull. But the Angel of Light must have
something tragic in his composition,--must verge, at any rate, on
tragedy. Ayala did not know that beautiful description of a "Sallow,
sublime, sort of Werther-faced man," but I fear that in creating her
Angel of Light she drew a picture in her imagination of a man of that
kind.

Days went on, till the last day of Ayala's visit had come, and it was
necessary that she should go back to Kingsbury Crescent. It was now
August, and everybody was leaving town. The Marchesa and Nina were
going to their relations, the Alburys, at Stalham, and could not,
of course, take Ayala with them. The Dosetts would remain in town
for another month, with a distant hope of being able to run down to
Pegwell Bay for a fortnight in September. But even that had not yet
been promised. Colonel Stubbs had been more than once at the house in
Brook Street, and Ayala had come to know him almost as she might some
great tame dog. It was now the afternoon of the last day, and she was
sorry because she would not be able to see him again. She was to be
taken to the theatre that night,--and then to Kingsbury Crescent and
the realms of Lethe early on the following morning.

It was very hot, and they were sitting with the shutters nearly
closed, having resolved not to go out, in order that they might be
ready for the theatre--when the door was opened and Tom Tringle was
announced. Tom Tringle had come to call on his cousin.

"Lady Baldoni," he said, "I hope you won't think me intrusive, but I
thought I'd come and see my cousin once whilst she is staying here."
The Marchesa bowed, and assured him that he was very welcome. "It's
tremendously hot," said Tom.

"Very hot, indeed," said the Marchesa.

"I don't think it's ever so hot as this in Rome," said Nina, fanning
herself.

"I find it quite impossible to walk a yard," said Tom, "and therefore
I've hired a Hansom cab all to myself. The man goes home and changes
his horse regularly when I go to dinner; then he comes for me at ten,
and sticks to me till I go to bed. I call that a very good plan."
Nina asked him why he didn't drive the cab himself. "That would be a
grind," said he, "because it would be so hot all day, and there might
be rain at night. Have you read what my brother-in-law, Traffick,
said in the House last night, my Lady?"

"I'm afraid I passed it over," said the Marchesa. "Indeed, I am not
very good at the debates."

"They are dull," said Tom, "but when it's one's brother-in-law, one
does like to look at it. I thought he made that very clear about the
malt tax." The Marchesa smiled and bowed.

"What is--malt tax?" asked Nina.

"Well, it means beer," said Tom. "The question is whether the poor
man pays it who drinks the beer, or the farmer who grows the malt. It
is very interesting when you come to think of it."

"But I fear I never have come to think of it," said the Marchesa.

During all this time Ayala never said a word, but sat looking at her
cousin, and remembering how much better Colonel Jonathan Stubbs would
have talked if he had been there. Then, after a pause, Tom got up,
and took his leave, having to content himself with simply squeezing
his cousin's hand as he left the room.

"He is a lout," said Ayala, as soon as she knew that the door was
closed behind him.

"I don't see anything loutish at all," said the Marchesa.

"He's just like most other young men," said Nina.

"He's not at all like Colonel Stubbs," said Ayala.

Then the Marchesa preached a little sermon. "Colonel Stubbs, my
dear," she said, "happens to have been thrown a good deal about the
world, and has thus been able to pick up that easy mode of talking
which young ladies like, perhaps because it means nothing. Your
cousin is a man of business, and will probably have amassed a large
fortune when my poor nephew will be a do-nothing old general on
half-pay. His chatter will not then have availed him quite so much as
your cousin's habits of business."

"Mamma," said Nina, "Jonathan will have money of his own."

"Never mind, my dear. I do not like to hear a young man called a lout
because he's more like a man of business than a man of pleasure."
Ayala felt herself to be snubbed, but was not a whit the less sure
that Tom was a lout, and the Colonel an agreeable partner to dance
with. But at the same time she remembered that neither the one nor
the other was to be spoken of in the same breath, or thought of in
the same spirit, as the Angel of Light.

When they were dressed, and just going to dinner, the ugly man with
the red head was announced, and declared his purpose of going with
them to the theatre. "I've been to the office," said he, "and got a
stall next to yours, and have managed it all. It now only remains
that you should give me some dinner and a seat in the carriage." Of
course he was told that there was no dinner sufficient for a man to
eat; but he put up with a feminine repast, and spent the whole of the
evening sitting next to his aunt, on a back tier, while the two girls
were placed in front. In this way, leaning forward, with his ugly
head between them, he acted as a running chorus to the play during
the whole performance. Ayala thoroughly enjoyed herself, and thought
that in all her experience no play she'd seen had ever been so
delightful. On their return home the two girls were both told to
go to bed in the Marchesa's good-natured authoritative tone; but,
nevertheless, Ayala did manage to say a word before she finally
adjusted herself on her pillow. "It is all very well, Nina, for your
mamma to say that a young man of business is the best; but I do know
a lout when I see him; and I am quite sure that my cousin Tom is a
lout, and that Colonel Jonathan is not."

"I believe you are falling in love with Colonel Jonathan," said Nina.

"I should as soon think of falling in love with a wild bear;--but
he's not a lout, and therefore I like him."



CHAPTER XVII.

LUCY IS VERY FIRM.


It was just before the Tringles had returned from Rome, during the
winter, that Lucy Dormer had met Mr. Hamel in Kensington Gardens for
the second time, had walked there with him perhaps for half-an-hour,
and had then returned home with a conviction that she had done a
wicked thing. But she had other convictions also, which were perhaps
stronger. "Now that we have met, am I to lose you again?" he had
said. What could he mean by losing, except that she was the one thing
which he desired to find? But she had not seen him since, or heard a
word of his whereabouts, although, as she so well remembered, she had
given him an address at her Aunt Emmeline's,--not knowing then that
it would be her fate to become a resident in her Aunt Emmeline's
house. She had told him that Ayala would live there, and that perhaps
she might sometimes be found visiting Ayala. Now, she was herself
filling Ayala's place, and might so easily have been found. But she
knew nothing of the man who had once asked whether he was "to lose
her again."

Her own feelings about Isadore Hamel were clear enough to herself
now. Ayala in her hot humour had asked her whether she could give her
hand and her heart to such a one as their cousin Tom, and she had
found herself constrained to say that she could not do so, because
she was not free,--not quite free,--to do as she pleased with her
hand and her heart. She had striven hard not to acknowledge anything,
even to Ayala,--even to herself. But the words had been forced
from her, and now she was conscious, terribly conscious, that the
words were true. There could be no one else now, whether Tom or
another,--whether such as Tom or such as any other. It was just that
little word that had won her. "Am I to lose you again?" A girl loves
most often because she is loved,--not from choice on her part. She is
won by the flattery of the man's desire. "Am I to lose you again?" He
had seemed to throw all his soul into his voice and into his eyes as
he had asked the question. A sudden thrill had filled her, and, for
his sake,--for his sake,--she had hoped that she might not be lost to
him. Now she began to fear that he was lost to her.

Something has been told of the relations between Isadore Hamel and
his father. They were both sculptors, the father having become a
successful artist. The father was liberal, but he was essentially
autocratic. If he supplied to his son the means of living,--and
he was willing to supply the means of very comfortable life,--he
expected that his son should live to some extent in accordance with
his fancies. The father wished his son to live in Rome, and to live
after the manner of Romans. Isadore would prefer to live in London,
and after the manner of Londoners. For a time he had been allowed to
do so, and had achieved a moderate success. But a young artist may
achieve a moderate success with a pecuniary result that shall be
almost less than moderate. After a while the sculptor in Rome had
told his son that if he intended to remain in London he ought to do
so on the independent proceeds of his own profession. Isadore, if
he would return to Rome, would be made welcome to join his affairs
to those of his father. In other words, he was to be turned adrift
if he remained in London, and petted with every luxury if he would
consent to follow his art in Italy. But in Rome the father lived
after a fashion which was distasteful to the son. Old Mr. Hamel had
repudiated all conventions. Conventions are apt to go very quickly,
one after another, when the first has been thrown aside. The man who
ceases to dress for dinner soon finds it to be a trouble to wash his
hands. A house is a bore. Calling is a bore. Church is a great bore.
A family is a bore. A wife is an unendurable bore. All laws are
bores, except those by which inferiors can be constrained to do their
work. Mr. Hamel had got rid of a great many bores, and had a strong
opinion that bores prevailed more mightily in London than in Rome.
Isadore was not a bore to him. He was always willing to have Isadore
near to him. But if Isadore chose to enter the conventional mode of
life he must do it at his own expense. It may be said at once that
Isadore's present view of life was very much influenced by Lucy
Dormer, and by a feeling that she certainly was conventional. A small
house, very prettily furnished, somewhat near the Fulham Road, or
perhaps verging a little towards South Kensington, with two maids,
and perhaps an additional one as nurse in the process of some months,
with a pleasant English breakfast and a pleasant English teapot in
the evening, afforded certainly a very conventional aspect of life.
But, at the present moment, it was his aspect, and therefore he could
not go upon all fours with his father. In this state of things there
had, during the last twelvemonth, been more than one journey made
to Rome and back. Ayala had seen him at Rome, and Lady Tringle,
remembering that the man had been intimate with her brother, was
afraid of him. They had made inquiry about him, and had fully
resolved that he should not be allowed into the house if he came
after Ayala. He had no mother,--to speak of; and he had little
brothers and sisters, who also had no mother,--to speak of. Mr.
Hamel, the father, entertained friends on Sunday, with the express
object of playing cards. That a Papist should do so was to be
borne;--but Mr. Hamel was not a Papist, and, therefore, would
certainly be ----. All this and much more had been learned at Rome,
and therefore Lucy, though she herself never mentioned Mr. Hamel's
name in Queen's Gate, heard evil things said of the man who was so
dear to her.

It was the custom of her life to be driven out every day with her
aunt and Gertrude. Not to be taken two or three times round the
park would be to Lady Tringle to rob her of the best appreciated of
all those gifts of fortune which had come to her by reason of the
banker's wealth. It was a stern law;--and as stern a law that Lucy
should accompany her. Gertrude, as being an absolute daughter of
the house, and as having an almost acknowledged lover of her own,
was allowed some choice. But for Lucy there was no alternative. Why
should she not go and be driven? Two days before they left town she
was being driven, while her aunt was sitting almost in a slumber
beside her, when suddenly a young man, leaning over the railings,
took off his hat so close to Lucy that she could almost have put out
her hand to him. He was standing there all alone, and seemed simply
to be watching the carriages as they passed. She felt that she
blushed as she bowed to him, and saw also that the colour had risen
to his face. Then she turned gently round to her aunt, whom she hoped
to find still sleeping; but Aunt Emmeline could slumber with one eye
open. "Who was that young man, my dear?" said Aunt Emmeline.

"It was Mr. Hamel."

"Mr. Isadore Hamel!" said Aunt Emmeline, horrified. "Is that the
young man at Rome who has got the horrible father?"

"I do not know his father," said Lucy; "but he does live at Rome."

"Of course, it's the Mr. Hamel I mean. He scraped some acquaintance
with Ayala, but I would not have it for a moment. He is not at all
the sort of person any young girl ought to know. His father is a
horrible man. I hope he is no friend of yours, Lucy!"

"He is a friend of mine." Lucy said this in a tone of voice which was
very seldom heard from her, but which, when heard, was evidence that
beneath the softness of her general manner there lay a will of her
own.

"Then, my dear, I hope that such friendship may be discontinued as
long as you remain with us."

"He was a friend of papa's," said Lucy.

"That's all very well. I suppose artists must know artists, even
though they are disreputable."

"Mr. Hamel is not disreputable."

Aunt Emmeline, as she heard this, could almost fancy that she
was renewing one of her difficulties with Ayala. "My dear," she
said,--and she intended to be very impressive as she spoke,--"in
a matter such as this I must beg you to be guided by me. You must
acknowledge that I know the world better than you do. Mr. Hamel is
not a fit person to be acquainted with a young lady who occupies the
place of my daughter. I am sure that will be sufficient." Then she
leant back in the carriage, and seemed again to slumber; but she
still had one eye open, so that if Mr. Hamel should appear again at
any corner and venture to raise his hand she might be aware of the
impropriety. But on that day Mr. Hamel did not appear again.

Lucy did not speak another word during the drive, and on reaching
the house went at once to her bed-room. While she had been out with
her aunt close to her, and while it had been possible that the man
she loved should appear again, she had been unable to collect her
thoughts or to make up her mind what she would do or say. One thing
simply was certain to her, that if Mr. Hamel should present himself
again to her she would not desert him. All that her aunt had said to
her as to improprieties and the like had no effect at all upon her.
The man had been welcomed at her father's house, had been allowed
there to be intimate with her, and was now, as she was well aware,
much dearer to her than any other human being. Not for all the Aunt
Emmelines in the world would she regard him otherwise than as her
dearest friend.

When she was alone she discussed the matter with herself. It was
repugnant to her that there should be any secret on the subject
between herself and her aunt after what had been said,--much more
that there should be any deceit. "Mr. Hamel is not fit to be
acquainted with a lady who occupies the position of my daughter." It
was thus that her aunt had spoken. To this the proper answer seemed
to be,--seemed at least to Lucy,--"In that case, my dear aunt, I
cannot for a moment longer occupy the position of your daughter,
as I certainly am acquainted and shall remain acquainted with Mr.
Hamel." But to such speech as this on her own part there were two
impediments. In the first place it would imply that Mr. Hamel was her
lover,--for implying which Mr. Hamel had given her no authority; and
then what should she immediately do when she had thus obstinately
declared herself to be unfit for that daughter's position which she
was supposed now to occupy? With all her firmness of determination
she could not bring herself to tell her aunt that Mr. Hamel was her
lover. Not because it was not as yet true. She would have been quite
willing that her aunt should know the exact truth, if the exact
truth could be explained. But how could she convey to such a one
as Aunt Emmeline the meaning of those words,--"Am I to lose you
again?" How could she make her aunt understand that she held herself
to be absolutely bound, as by a marriage vow, by such words as
those,--words in which there was no promise, even had they come from
some fitting suitor, but which would be regarded by Aunt Emmeline
as being simply impertinent coming as they did from such a one as
Isadore Hamel. It was quite out of the question to tell all that to
Aunt Emmeline, but yet it was necessary that something should be
told. She had been ordered to drop her acquaintance with Isadore, and
it was essential that she should declare that she would do nothing
of the kind. She would not recognise such obedience as a duty on her
part. The friendship had been created by her father, to whom her
earlier obedience had been due. It might be that, refusing to render
such obedience, her aunt and her uncle might tell her that there
could be no longer shelter for her in that house. They could not
cherish and foster a disobedient child. If it must be so, it must.
Though there should be no home left to her in all the wide world she
would not accept an order which should separate her from the man
she loved. She must simply tell her aunt that she could not drop Mr.
Hamel's acquaintance,--because Mr. Hamel was a friend.

Early on the next morning she did so. "Are you aware," said Aunt
Emmeline, with a severe face, "that he is--illegitimate." Lucy
blushed, but made no answer. "Is he--is he--engaged to you?"

"No," said Lucy, sharply.

"Has he asked you to marry him?"

"No," said Lucy.

"Then what is it?" asked Lady Tringle, in a tone which was intended
to signify that as nothing of that kind had taken place such a
friendship could be a matter of no consequence.

"He was papa's friend."

"My dear, what can that matter? Your poor papa has gone, and you are
in my charge and your uncle's. Surely you cannot object to choose
your friends as we should wish. Mr. Hamel is a gentleman of whom we
do not approve. You cannot have seen very much of him, and it would
be very easy for you, should he bow to you again in the park, to let
him see that you do not like it."

"But I do like it," said Lucy, with energy.

"Lucy!"

"I do like to see Mr. Hamel, and I feel almost sure that he will come
and call here now that he has seen me. Last winter he asked me my
address, and I gave him this house."

"When you were living with your Aunt Dosett?"

"Yes, I did, Aunt Emmeline. I thought Aunt Margaret would not like
him to come to Kingsbury Crescent, and, as Ayala was to be here, I
told him he might call at Queen's Gate."

Then Lady Tringle was really angry. It was not only that her house
should have been selected for so improper a use but that Lucy should
have shown a fear and a respect for Mrs. Dosett which had not been
accorded to herself. It was shocking to her pride that that should
have appeared to be easy of achievement at Queen's Gate which was
too wicked to be attempted at Kingsbury Crescent. And then the thing
which had been done seemed in itself to her to be so horrible! This
girl, when living under the care of her aunt, had made an appointment
with an improper young man at the house of another aunt! Any
appointment made by a young lady with a young man must, as she
thought, be wrong. She began to be aghast at the very nature of the
girl who could do such a thing, and on reflecting that that girl was
at present under her charge as an adopted daughter. "Lucy," she said,
very impressively, "there must be an end of this."

"There cannot be an end of it," said Lucy.

"Do you mean to say that he is to come here to this house whether I
and your uncle like it or not?"

"He will come," said Lucy; "I am sure he will come. Now he has seen
me he will come at once."

"Why should he do that if he is not your lover?"

"Because," said Lucy,--and then she paused; "because--. It is very
hard to tell you, Aunt Emmeline."

"Why should he come so quickly?" demanded Aunt Emmeline again.

"Because--. Though he has said nothing to me such as that you mean,"
stammered out Lucy, determined to tell the whole truth, "I believe
that he will."

"And you?"

"If he did I should accept him."

"Has he any means?"

"I do not know."

"Have you any?"

"Certainly not."

"And you would consent to be his wife after what I've told you?"

"Yes," said Lucy, "I should."

"Then it must not be in this house. That is all. I will not have him
here on any pretence whatsoever."

"I thought not, Aunt Emmeline, and therefore I have told you."

"Do you mean that you will make an appointment with him elsewhere?"

"Certainly not. I have not in fact ever made an appointment with him.
I do not know his address. Till yesterday I thought that he was in
Rome. I never had a line from him in my life, and of course have
never written to him." Upon hearing all this Lady Tringle sat in
silence, not quite knowing how to carry on the conversation. The
condition of Lucy's mind was so strange to her, that she felt herself
to be incompetent to dictate. She could only resolve that under no
circumstances should the objectionable man be allowed into her house.
"Now, Aunt Emmeline," said Lucy, "I have told you everything. Of
course you have a right to order, but I also have some right. You
told me I was to drop Mr. Hamel, but I cannot drop him. If he comes
in my way I certainly shall not drop him. If he comes here I shall
see him if I can. If you and Uncle Tom choose to turn me out of
course you can do so."

"I shall tell your uncle all about it," said Aunt Emmeline, angrily,
"and then you will hear what he says." And so the conversation was
ended.

At that moment Sir Thomas was, of course, in the City managing his
millions, and as Lucy herself had suggested that Mr. Hamel might not
improbably call on that very day, and as she was quite determined
that Mr. Hamel should not enter the doors of the house in Queen's
Gate, it was necessary that steps should be taken at once. Some hours
afterwards Mr. Hamel did call and asked for Miss Dormer. The door was
opened by a well-appointed footman, who, with lugubrious face,--with
a face which spoke much more eloquently than his words,--declared
that Miss Dormer was not at home. In answer to further inquiries he
went on to express an opinion that Miss Dormer never would be at
home;--from all which it may be seen that Aunt Emmeline had taken
strong measures to carry out her purpose. Hamel, when he heard his
fate thus plainly spoken from the man's mouth, turned away, not
doubting its meaning. He had seen Lucy's face in the park, and had
seen also Lady Tringle's gesture after his greeting. That Lady
Tringle should not be disposed to receive him at her house was not
matter of surprise to him.

When Lucy went to bed that night she did not doubt that Mr. Hamel had
called, and that he had been turned away from the door.



CHAPTER XVIII.

DOWN IN SCOTLAND.


When the time came, all the Tringles, together with the Honourable
Mrs. Traffick, started for Glenbogie. Aunt Emmeline had told Sir
Thomas all Lucy's sins, but Sir Thomas had not made so much of them
as his wife had expected. "It wouldn't be a bad thing to have a
husband for Lucy," said Sir Thomas.

"But the man hasn't got a sixpence."

"He has a profession."

"I don't know that he makes anything. And then think of his father!
He is--illegitimate!" Sir Thomas seemed rather to sneer at this. "And
if you knew the way the old man lives in Rome! He plays cards all
Sunday!" Again Sir Thomas sneered. Sir Thomas was fairly submissive
to the conventionalities himself, but did not think that they ought
to stand in the way of a provision for a young lady who had no
provision of her own. "You wouldn't wish to have him at Queen's
Gate?" asked Lady Tringle.

"Certainly not, if he makes nothing by his profession. A good deal,
I think, depends upon that." Then nothing further was said, but Lucy
was not told her uncle's opinion on the matter, as had been promised.
When she went down to Glenbogie she only knew that Mr. Hamel was
considered to be by far too black a sheep to be admitted into her
aunt's presence, and that she must regard herself as separated from
the man as far as any separation could be effected by her present
protectors. But if he would be true to her, as to a girl whom he had
a short time since so keenly rejoiced in "finding again," she was
quite sure that she could be true to him.

On the day fixed, the 20th of August, Mr. Houston arrived at
Glenbogie, with boots and stockings and ammunition, such as Tom
had recommended when interrogated on those matters by his sister,
Gertrude. "I travelled down with a man I think you know," he said to
Lucy;--"at any rate your sister does, because I saw him with her at
Rome." The man turned out to be Isadore Hamel. "I didn't like to ask
him whether he was coming here," said Frank Houston.

"No; he is not coming here," said Aunt Emmeline.

"Certainly not," said Gertrude, who was quite prepared to take up the
cudgels on her mother's behalf against Mr. Hamel.

"He said something about another man he used to know at Rome, before
you came. He was a nephew of that Marchesa Baldoni."

"She was a lady we didn't like a bit too well," said Gertrude.

"A very stuck-up sort of person, who did all she could to spoil
Ayala," said Aunt Emmeline.

"Ayala has just been staying with her," said Lucy. "She has been very
kind to Ayala."

"We have nothing to do with that now," said Aunt Emmeline. "Ayala can
stay with whom she and her aunt pleases. Is this Mr. Hamel, whom you
saw, a friend of the Marchesa's?"

"He seemed to be a friend of the Marchesa's nephew," continued
Houston;--"one Colonel Stubbs. We used to see him at Rome, and a most
curious man he is. His name is Jonathan, and I don't suppose that any
man was ever seen so red before. He is shooting somewhere, and Hamel
seems to be going to join him. I thought he might have been coming
here afterwards, as you all were in Rome together."

"Certainly he is not coming here," said Aunt Emmeline. "And as for
Colonel Stubbs, I never heard of him before."

A week of the time allotted to Frank Houston had gone before he had
repeated a word of his suit to Sir Thomas. But with Gertrude every
opportunity had been allowed him, and by the rest of the family they
had been regarded as though they were engaged. Mr. Traffick, who was
now at Glenbogie, in accordance with the compact made with him, did
not at first approve of Frank Houston. He had insinuated to Lady
Tringle, and had said very plainly to Augusta, that he regarded a
young man, without any employment and without any income, as being
quite unfit to marry. "If he had a seat in the House it would be
quite a different thing," he had said to Augusta. But his wife had
snubbed him; telling him, almost in so many words, that if Gertrude
was determined to have her way in opposition to her father she
certainly would not be deterred by her brother-in-law. "It's nothing
to me," Mr. Traffick had then said; "the money won't come out of my
pocket; but when a man has nothing else to do he is sure to spend all
that he can lay his hands upon." After that, however, he withdrew
his opposition, and allowed it to be supposed that he was ready to
receive Frank Houston as his brother-in-law, should it be so decided.

The time was running by both with Houston, the expectant son-in-law,
and with Mr. Traffick, who had achieved his position, and both were
aware that no grace would be allowed to them beyond that which had
been promised. Frank had fully considered the matter, and was quite
resolved that it would be unmanly in him to run after his cousin
Imogene, in the Tyrol, before he had performed his business. One
day, therefore, after having returned from the daily allowance of
slaughter, he contrived to find Sir Thomas in the solitude of his own
room, and again began to act the part of Allan-a-Dale. "I thought,
Mr. Houston," said Sir Thomas, "that we had settled that matter
before."

"Not quite," said Houston.

"I don't know why you should say so. I intended to be understood as
expressing my mind."

"But you have been good enough to ask me down here."

"I may ask a man to my house, I suppose, without intending to give
him my daughter's hand." Then he again asked the important question,
to which Allan-a-Dale's answer was so unreasonable and so successful.
"Have you an income on which to maintain my daughter?"

"I cannot just say that I have, Sir Thomas," said Houston,
apologetically.

"Then you mean to ask me to furnish you with an income."

"You can do as you please about that, Sir Thomas."

"You can hardly marry her without it."

"Well; no; not altogether. No doubt it is true that I should not have
proposed myself had I not thought that the young lady would have
something of her own."

"But she has nothing of her own," said Sir Thomas. And then that
interview was over.

"You won't throw us over, Lady Tringle?" Houston said to Gertrude's
mother that evening.

"Sir Thomas likes to have his own way," said Lady Tringle.

"Somebody got round him about Septimus Traffick."

"That was different," said Lady Tringle. "Mr. Traffick is in
Parliament, and that gives him an employment. He is a son of Lord
Boardotrade, and some of these days he will be in office."

"Of course, you know that if Gertrude sticks to it she will have her
own way. When a girl sticks to it her father has to give way. What
does it matter to him whether I have any business or not? The money
would be the same in one case as the other, only it does seem such an
unnecessary trouble to have it put off."

All this Lady Tringle seemed to take in good part, and half
acknowledged that if Frank Houston were constant in the matter he
would succeed at last. Gertrude, when the time for his departure
had come, expressed herself as thoroughly disgusted by her father's
sternness. "It's all bosh," she said to her lover. "Who is Lord
Boardotrade that that should make a difference? I have as much right
to please myself as Augusta." But there was the stern fact that the
money had not been promised, and even Frank had not proposed to marry
the girl of his heart without the concomitant thousands.

Before he left Glenbogie, on the evening of his departure, he wrote a
second letter to Miss Docimer, as follows;--


   DEAR COUSIN IM,

   Here I am at Glenbogie, and here I have been for a week,
   without doing a stroke of work. The father still asks "of
   his house and his home," and does not seem to be at all
   affected by my reference to the romantic grandeur of my
   own peculiar residence. Perhaps I may boast so far as to
   say that I have laughed on the lass as successfully as did
   Allan-a-Dale. But what's the good of laughing on a lass
   when one has got nothing to eat. Allan-a-Dale could pick
   a pocket or cut a purse, accomplishments in which I am
   altogether deficient. I suppose I shall succeed sooner or
   later, but when I put my neck into the collar I had no
   idea that there would be so much up-hill work before me.
   It is all very well joking, but it is not nice to be asked
   "of your house and your home" by a gentleman who knows
   very well you've got none, and is conscious of inhabiting
   three or four palaces himself. Such treatment must be
   described as being decidedly vulgar. And then he must know
   that it can be of no possible permanent use. The ladies
   are all on my side, but I am told by Tringle mère that
   I am less acceptable than old Traffick, who married the
   other girl, because I'm not the son of Lord Boardotrade!
   Nothing astonishes me so much as the bad taste of some
   people. Now, it must all be put off till Christmas, and
   the cruel part is, that one doesn't see how I'm to go on
   living.

   In the meantime I have a little time in which to amuse
   myself, and I shall turn up in about three weeks at Merle
   Park. I wish chiefly to beg that you will not dissuade me
   from what I see clearly to be a duty. I know exactly your
   line of argument. Following a girl for her money is, you
   will say, mercenary. So, as far as I can see, is every
   transaction in the world by which men live. The judges,
   the bishops, the poets, the Royal academicians, and the
   Prime Ministers, are all mercenary;--as is also the man
   who breaks stones for 2_s._ 6_d._ a-day. How shall a man
   live without being mercenary unless he be born to fortune?
   Are not girls always mercenary? Will she marry me knowing
   that I have nothing? Will you not marry some one whom
   you will probably like much less simply because he will
   have something for you to eat and drink? Of course I
   am mercenary, and I don't even pretend to old Tringle
   that I am not so. I feel a little tired of this special
   effort;--but if I were to abandon it I should simply have
   to begin again elsewhere. I have sighted my stag, and
   I must go on following him, trying to get on the right
   side of the wind till I bring him down. It is not nice,
   but it is to me manifestly my duty,--and I shall do it.
   Therefore, do not let there be any blowing up. I hate to
   be scolded.

   Yours always affectionately,

   F. H.


Gertrude, when he was gone, did not take the matter quite so quietly
as he did, feeling that, as she had made up her mind, and as all
her world would know that she had made up her mind, it behoved her
to carry her purpose to its desired end. A girl who is known to
be engaged, but whose engagement is not allowed, is always in a
disagreeable plight.

"Mamma," she said, "I think that papa is not treating me well."

"My dear, your papa has always had his own way."

"That is all very well;--but why am I to be worse used than Augusta?
It turns out now that Mr. Traffick has not got a shilling of his
own."

"Your papa likes his being in Parliament."

"All the girls can't marry Members of Parliament."

"And he likes his being the son of Lord Boardotrade."

"Lord Boardotrade! I call that very mean. Mr. Houston is a gentleman,
and the Buncombe property has been for ever so many hundreds of years
in the family. I think more of Frank as to birth and all that than I
do of Lord Boardotrade and his mushroom peerage. Can't you tell papa
that I mean to marry Mr. Houston at last, and that he is making very
little of me to let me be talked about as I shall be?"

"I don't think I can, Gertrude."

"Then I shall. What would he say if I were to run away with Frank?"

"I don't think Frank Houston would do that."

"He would if I told him,--in a moment." There Miss Tringle was
probably in error. "And unless papa consents I shall tell him. I am
not going to be made miserable for ever."

This was at Glenbogie, in Inverness-shire, on the southeastern side
of Loch Ness, where Sir Thomas Tringle possessed a beautiful mansion,
with a deer-forest, and a waterfall of his own, and any amount of
moors which the minds of sportmen could conceive. Nothing in Scotland
could be more excellent, unless there might be some truth in the
remarks of those who said that the grouse were scarce, and that the
deer were almost non-existent. On the other side of the lake, four
miles up from the gates, on the edge of a ravine, down which rushed
a little stream called the Caller, was an inconvenient ricketty
cottage, built piecemeal at two or three different times, called
Drumcaller. From one room you went into another, and from that into
a third. To get from the sitting-room, which was called the parlour,
into another which was called the den, you had to pass through the
kitchen, or else to make communication by a covered passage out of
doors which seemed to hang over the margin of the ravine. Pine-trees
enveloped the place. Looking at the house from the outside any
one would declare it to be wet through. It certainly could not
with truth be described as a comfortable family residence. But you
might, perhaps, travel through all Scotland without finding a more
beautifully romantic spot in which to reside. From that passage,
which seemed to totter suspended over the rocks, whence the tumbling
rushing waters could always be heard like music close at hand, the
view down over the little twisting river was such as filled the mind
with a conviction of realised poetry. Behind the house across the
little garden there was a high rock where a little path had been
formed, from which could be seen the whole valley of the Caller and
the broad shining expanse of the lake beyond. Those who knew the
cottage of Drumcaller were apt to say that no man in Scotland had a
more picturesque abode, or one more inconvenient. Even bread had to
be carried up from Callerfoot, as was called the little village down
on the lake side, and other provisions, such even as meat, had to be
fetched twenty miles, from the town of Inverness.

A few days after the departure of Houston from Glenbogie two men
were seated with pipes in their mouths on the landing outside the
room called the den to which the passage from the parlour ran. Here
a square platform had been constructed capable of containing two
arm-chairs, and here the owner of the cottage was accustomed to sit,
when he was disposed, as he called it, to loaf away his time at
Drumcaller. This man was Colonel Jonathan Stubbs, and his companion
at the present moment was Isadore Hamel.

"I never knew them in Rome," said the Colonel. "I never even saw
Ayala there, though she was so much at my aunt's house. I was in
Sicily part of the time, and did not get back till they had all
quarrelled. I did know the nephew, who was a good-natured but a
vulgar young man. They are vulgar people, I should say."

"You could hardly have found Ayala vulgar?" asked Hamel.

"Indeed, no. But uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces are not at
all bound to run together. Ayala is the daintiest little darling I
ever saw."

"I knew their father and mother, and certainly no one would have
called them vulgar."

"Sisters when they marry of course go off according to their
husbands, and the children follow. In this case one sister became
Tringlish after Sir Tringle, and the other Dormerish, after that most
improvident of human beings, your late friend the artist. I don't
suppose any amount of experience will teach Ayala how many shillings
there are in a pound. No doubt the Honourable Mrs. Traffick knows all
about it."

"I don't think a girl is much improved by knowing how many shillings
there are in a pound," said Hamel.

"It is useful sometimes."

"So it might be to kill a sheep and skin it, or to milk a cow and
make cheese; but here, as in other things, one acquirement will drive
out others. A woman, if she cannot be beautiful, should at any rate
be graceful, and if she cannot soar to poetry, should at least be
soft and unworldly."

"That's all very well in its way, but I go in for roasting, baking,
and boiling.

   I can bake and I can brew;
   I can make an Irish stew;
   Wash a shirt and iron it too.

That's the sort of girl I mean to go in for if ever I marry; and
when you've got six children and a small income it's apt to turn out
better than grace and poetry."

"A little of both perhaps," said Hamel.

"Well, yes; I don't mind a little Byron now and again, so there is
no nonsense. As to Glenbogie, it's right over there across the lake.
You can get a boat at Callerfoot, and a fellow to take you across and
wait for you won't cost you more than three half-crowns. I suppose
Glenbogie is as far from the lake on that side as my cottage is on
this. How you'll get up except by walking I cannot say, unless you
will write a note to Sir Thomas and ask him to send a horse down for
you."

"Sir Thomas would not accommodate me."

"You think he will frown if you come after his niece?"

"I simply want to call on Miss Dormer," said Hamel, blushing,
"because her father was always kind to me."

"I don't mean to ask any questions," said the Colonel.

"It is just so as I say. I do not like being in the neighbourhood
without calling on Miss Dormer."

"I daresay not."

"But I doubt whether Sir Thomas or Lady Tringle would be at all
inclined to make me welcome. As to the distance, I can walk that
easily enough, and if the door is slammed in my face I can walk back
again."

Thus it was resolved that early on the following morning after
breakfast Isadore Hamel should go across the lake and make his way up
to Glenbogie.



CHAPTER XIX.

ISADORE HAMEL IS ASKED TO LUNCH.


On the following morning, the morning of Monday, 2nd September,
Isadore Hamel started on his journey. He had thought much about the
journey before he made it. No doubt the door had been slammed in his
face in London. He felt quite conscious of that, and conscious also
that a man should not renew his attempt to enter a door when it has
been once slammed in his face. But he understood the circumstances
nearly as they had happened,--except that he was not aware how far
the door had been slammed by Lady Tringle without any concurrence
on the part of Sir Thomas. But the door had, at any rate, not been
slammed by Lucy. The only person he had really wished to see within
that house had been Lucy Dormer; and he had hitherto no reason for
supposing that she would be unwilling to receive him. Her face had
been sweet and gracious when she saw him in the Park. Was he to deny
himself all hope of any future intercourse with her because Lady
Tringle had chosen to despise him? He must make some attempt. It was
more than probable, no doubt, that this attempt would be futile.
The servant at Glenbogie would probably be as well instructed as
the servant in Queen's Gate. But still a man has to go on and do
something, if he means to do anything. There could be no good in
sitting up at Drumcaller, at one side of the lake, and thinking of
Lucy Dormer far away, at the other side. He had not at all made up
his mind that he would ask Lucy to be his wife. His professional
income was still poor, and she, as he was aware, had nothing. But
he felt it to be incumbent upon him to get nearer to her if it were
possible, and to say something to her if the privilege of speech
should be accorded to him.

He walked down to Callerfoot, refusing the loan of the Colonel's pony
carriage, and thence had himself carried across the lake in a hired
boat to a place called Sandy's Quay. That, he was assured, was the
spot on the other side from whence the nearest road would be found
to Glenbogie. But nobody on the Callerfoot side could tell him what
would be the distance. At Sandy's Quay he was assured that it was
twelve miles to Glenbogie House; but he soon found that the man who
told him had a pony for hire. "Ye'll nae get there under twalve
mile,--or maybe saxteen, if ye attampt to walk up the glin." So said
the owner of the pony. But milder information came to him speedily.
A little boy would show him the way up the glen for sixpence, and
engage to bring him to the house in an hour and a half. So he started
with the little boy, and after a hot scramble for about two hours he
found himself within the demesne. Poking their way up through thick
bushes from a ravine, they showed their two heads,--first the boy and
then the sculptor,--close by the side of the private road,--just as
Sir Thomas was passing, mounted on his cob. "It's his ain sell," said
the boy, dropping his head again amongst the bushes.

Hamel, when he had made good his footing, had first to turn round
so that the lad might not lose his wages. A dirty little hand came
up for the sixpence, but the head never appeared again. It was well
known in the neighbourhood,--especially at Sandy's Quay, where boats
were used to land,--that Sir Thomas was not partial to visitors who
made their way into Glenbogie by any but the authorised road. While
Hamel was paying his debt, he stood still on his steed waiting to
see who might be the trespasser. "That's not a high road," said Sir
Thomas, as the young man approached him. As the last quarter of an
hour from the bottom of the ravine had been occupied in very stiff
climbing among the rocks the information conveyed appeared to Hamel
to have been almost unnecessary. "Your way up to the house, if you
are going there, would have been through the lodge down there."

"Perhaps you are Sir Thomas Tringle," said Hamel.

"That is my name."

"Then I have to ask your pardon for my mode of ingress. I am going up
to the house; but having crossed the lake from Callerfoot I did not
know my way on this side, and so I have clambered up the ravine." Sir
Thomas bowed, and then waited for further tidings. "I believe Miss
Dormer is at the house?"

"My niece is there."

"My name is Hamel,--Isadore Hamel. I am a sculptor, and used to be
acquainted with her father. I have had great kindness from the whole
family, and so I was going to call upon her. If you do not object, I
will go on to the house."

Sir Thomas sat upon his horse speechless for a minute. He had to
consider whether he did not object or not. He was well aware that
his wife objected,--aware also that he had declined to coincide with
his wife's objection when it had been pressed upon him. Why should
not his niece have the advantage of a lover, if a proper sort of a
lover came in her way? As to the father's morals or the son's birth,
those matters to Sir Thomas were nothing. The young man, he was
told, was good at making busts. Would any one buy the busts when
they were made? That was the question. His wife would certainly be
prejudiced,--would think it necessary to reject for Lucy any suitor
she would reject for her own girls. And then, as Sir Thomas felt, she
had not shown great judgment in selecting suitors for her own girls.
"Oh, Mr. Hamel, are you?" he said at last.

"Isadore Hamel."

"You called at Queen's Gate once, not long ago?"

"I did," said Hamel; "but saw no one."

"No, you didn't; I heard that. Well, you can go on to the house if
you like, but you had better ask for Lady Tringle. After coming over
from Callerfoot you'll want some lunch. Stop a moment. I don't mind
if I ride back with you." And so the two started towards the house,
and Hamel listened whilst Sir Thomas expatiated on the beauties of
Glenbogie.

They had passed through one gate and were approaching another, when,
away among the trees, there was a young lady seen walking alone.
"There is Miss Dormer," said Hamel; "I suppose I may join her?" Sir
Thomas could not quite make up his mind whether the meeting was to
be allowed or not, but he could not bring himself at the spur of the
moment to refuse his sanction. So Hamel made his way across to Lucy,
while Sir Thomas rode on alone to the house.

Lucy had seen her uncle on the cob, and, being accustomed to see him
on the cob, knew of course who he was. She had also seen another man
with him, but not in the least expecting that Hamel was in those
parts, had never dreamt that he was her uncle's companion. It was
not till Hamel was near to her that she understood that the man was
coming to join herself; and then, when she did recognise the man, she
was lost in amazement. "You hardly expected to see me here?" said he.

"Indeed; no."

"Nor did I expect that I should find you in this way."

"My uncle knows it is you?" asked Lucy.

"Oh, yes. I met him as I came up from the ravine, and he has asked
me to go on to the house to lunch." Then there was silence for a few
moments as they walked on together. "I hope you do not think that I
am persecuting you in making my way over here."

"Oh, no; not persecuting!" Lucy when she heard the sound of what she
herself had said, was angry with herself, feeling that she had almost
declared him guilty of some wrong in having come thither. "Of course
I am glad to see you," she added, "for papa's sake, but I'm afraid--"

"Afraid of what, Miss Dormer?"

She looked him full in the face as she answered him, collecting her
courage to make the declaration which seemed to be necessary. "My
Aunt Emmeline does not want you to come."

"Why should she not want me?"

"That I cannot tell. Perhaps if I did know I should not tell. But
it is so. You called at Queen's Gate, and I know that you were not
admitted, though I was at home. Of course, Aunt Emmeline has a right
to choose who shall come. It is not as though I had a house of my
own."

"But Sir Thomas asked me in."

"Then you had better go in. After what Aunt Emmeline said, I do not
think that you ought to remain with me."

"Your uncle knows I am with you," said Hamel. Then they walked on
towards the house together in silence for a while. "Do you mean to
say," he continued, "that because your aunt objects you are never to
see me again?"

"I hope I shall see you again. You were papa's friend, and I should
be so very sorry not to see you again."

"I suppose," he said, slowly, "I can never be more than your papa's
friend."

"You are mine also."

"I would be more than that." Then he paused as if waiting for a
reply, but she of course had none to make. "I would be so much more
than that, Lucy." Still she had no answer to give him. But there
comes a time when no answer is as excellent eloquence as any words
that can be spoken. Hamel, who had probably not thought much of this,
was nevertheless at once informed by his instincts that it was so.
"Oh, Lucy," he said, "if you can love me say so."

"Mr. Hamel," she whispered.

"Lucy."

"Mr. Hamel, I told you about Aunt Emmeline. She will not allow it. I
ought not to have let you speak to me like this, while I am staying
here."

"But your uncle knows I am with you."

"My aunt does not know. We must go to the house. She expressly
desired that I would not speak to you."

"And you will obey her--always?"

"No; not always. I did not say that I should obey her always. Some
day, perhaps, I shall do as I think fit myself."

"And then you will speak to me?"

"Then I will speak to you," she said.

"And love me?"

"And love you," she answered, again looking him full in the face.
"But now pray, pray let us go on." For he had stopped her awhile
amidst the trees, and had put out his hand as though to take hers,
and had opened his arms as though he would embrace her. But she
passed on quickly, and hardly answered his further questions till
they found themselves together in the hall of the house.

Then they met Lady Tringle, who was just passing into the room where
the lunch was laid, and following her were Augusta, Gertrude, and the
Honourable Septimus Traffick. For, though Frank Houston had found
himself compelled to go at the day named, the Honourable Septimus
had contrived to squeeze out another week. Augusta was indeed still
not without hope that the paternal hospitality of Glenbogie might be
prolonged till dear Merle Park should once again open her portals.
Sir Thomas had already passed into the dining-room, having in gruff
voice informed his wife that he had invited Mr. Hamel to come in to
lunch. "Mr. Hamel!" she had exclaimed. "Yes, Mr. Hamel. I could not
see the man starving when he had come all this way. I don't know
anything against him." Then he had turned away, and had gone into
the dining-room, and was now standing with his back to the empty
fire-place, determined to take Mr. Hamel's part if any want of
courtesy were shown to him.

It certainly was hard upon Lady Tringle. She frowned and was going to
walk on without any acknowledgment, when Lucy timidly went through
a form of introduction. "Aunt Emmeline, this is Mr. Hamel. Uncle
Tom met him somewhere in the grounds and has asked him to come to
luncheon." Then Lady Tringle curtseyed and made a bow. The curtsey
and the bow together were sufficient to have crushed the heart of any
young man who had not been comforted and exalted by such words as
Isadore had heard from Lucy's lips not five minutes since. "And love
you," she had said. After that Lady Tringle might curtsey and bow
as she would, and he could still live uncrushed. After the curtsey
and the bow Lady Tringle passed on. Lucy fell into the rank behind
Gertrude; and then Hamel afterwards took his place behind the
Honourable Septimus. "If you will sit there, Mr. Hamel," said Lady
Tringle, pointing to a chair, across the table, obliquely, at the
greatest possible distance from that occupied by Lucy. There he
was stationed between Mr. Traffick and Sir Thomas. But now, in his
present frame of mind, his position at the table made very little
difference to him.

The lunch was eaten in grim silence. Sir Thomas was not a man profuse
with conversation at his meals, and at this moment was ill-inclined
for any words except what he might use in scolding his wife for being
uncivil to his guest. Lady Tringle sat with her head erect, hardly
opening her mouth sufficiently to allow the food to enter it. It was
her purpose to show her displeasure at Mr. Hamel, and she showed it.
Augusta took her mother's part, thoroughly despising the two Dormer
girls and any lover that they might have. Poor Gertrude had on that
morning been violently persecuted by a lecture as to Frank Houston's
impecuniosity. Lucy of course would not speak. The Honourable
Septimus was anxious chiefly about his lunch,--somewhat anxious also
to offend neither the master nor the mistress of Merle Park. Hamel
made one or two little efforts to extract answers from Sir Thomas,
but soon found that Sir Thomas would prefer to be left in silence.
What did it signify to him? He had done all that he wanted, and much
more than he had expected.

The rising and getting away from luncheon is always a difficulty,--so
great a difficulty when there are guests that lunch should never be
much a company festival. There is no provision for leaving the table
as there is at dinner. But on this occasion Lady Tringle extemporised
provision the first moment in which they had all ceased to eat. "Mr.
Hamel," she said very loudly, "would you like some cheese?" Mr.
Hamel, with a little start, declared that he wanted no cheese. "Then,
my dears, I think we will go into my room. Lucy, will you come with
me?" Upon this the four ladies all went out in procession, but her
ladyship was careful that Lucy should go first so that there might
be no possibility of escape. Augusta and Gertrude followed her. The
minds of all the four were somewhat perturbed; but among the four
Lucy's heart was by far the lightest.

"Are you staying over with Stubbs at that cottage?" asked the
Honourable Septimus. "A very queer fellow is Stubbs."

"A very good fellow," said Hamel.

"I dare say. He hasn't got any shooting?"

"I think not."

"Not a head. Glentower wouldn't let an acre of shooting over there
for any money." This was the Earl of Glentower, to whom belonged an
enormous tract of country on the other side of the lake. "What on
earth does he do with himself stuck up on the top of those rocks?"

"He does shoot sometimes, I believe, when Lord Glentower is there."

"That's a poor kind of fun, waiting to be asked for a day," said
the Honourable Septimus, who rarely waited for anything till he was
asked. "Does he get any fishing?"

"He catches a few trout sometimes in the tarns above. But I fancy
that Stubbs isn't much devoted to shooting and fishing."

"Then what the d---- does he do with himself in such a country as
this?" Hamel shrugged his shoulders, not caring to say that what with
walking, what with reading and writing, his friend could be as happy
as the day was long in such a place as Drumcaller.

"Is he a Liberal?"

"A what?" asked Hamel. "Oh, a Liberal? Upon my word I don't know what
he is. He is chiefly given to poetry, tobacco, and military matters."
Then the Honourable Septimus turned up his nose in disgust, and
ceased his cross-examination as to the character and pursuits of
Colonel Jonathan Stubbs.

"Sir Thomas, I am very much obliged to you for your kindness," said
Hamel, getting up suddenly. "As it is a long way over to Drumcaller I
think I will make a start. I know my way down the Glen and should be
sure to miss it by any other route. Perhaps you'll let me go back as
I came." Sir Thomas offered him the loan of a horse, but this was
refused, and Hamel started on his return journey across the lake.

When he had gone a few steps from the portal he turned to look at
the house which contained one whom he now regarded as belonging
exclusively to himself; perhaps he thought that he might catch some
final view of Lucy; or, not quite thinking it, fancied that some
such chance might at least be possible; but he saw nothing but the
uninteresting facade of the grand mansion. Lucy was employed quite
otherwise. She was listening to a lecture in which her aunt was
describing to her how very badly Mr. Hamel had behaved in obtruding
himself on the shades of Glenbogie. The lecture was somewhat long, as
Aunt Emmeline found it necessary to repeat all the arguments which
she had before used as to the miscreant's birth, as to his want of
adequate means, and as to the general iniquities of the miscreant's
father. All this she repeated more than once with an energy that was
quite unusual to her. The flood of her eloquence was so great that
Lucy found no moment for an interposing word till all these evils
had been denunciated twice and thrice. But then she spoke. "Aunt
Emmeline," she said, "I am engaged to Mr. Hamel now."

"What!"

"He has asked me to be his wife and I have promised."

"And that after all that I had said to you!"

"Aunt Emmeline, I told you that I should not drop him. I did not bid
him come here. Uncle Tom brought him. When I saw him I would have
avoided him if I could. I told him he ought not to be here because
you did not wish it; and then he answered that my uncle knew that he
was with me. Of course when he told me that he--loved me, I could
not make him any other answer." Then Aunt Emmeline expressed the
magnitude of her indignation simply by silence, and Lucy was left to
think of her lover in solitude.


      *      *      *      *      *      *


"And how have you fared on your day's journey?" said the Colonel,
when Hamel found him still seated on the platform with a book in his
hand.

"Much better than I thought. Sir Thomas gave me luncheon."

"And the young lady?"

"The young lady was gracious also; but I am afraid that I cannot
carry my praises of the family at Glenbogie any further. The three
Tringle ladies looked at me as I was sitting at table as though I
certainly had no business in their august society."



CHAPTER XX.

STUBBS UPON MATRIMONY.


Before that evening was over,--or in the course of the night,
it might be better said, as the two men sat up late with their
pipes,--Hamel told his friend the Colonel exactly what had taken
place that morning over at Glenbogie. "You went for the purpose, of
course?" asked the Colonel.

"For an off chance?"

"I know that well enough. I never heard of a man's walking twelve
miles to call upon a young lady merely because he knew her father;
and when there was to be a second call within a few weeks, the first
having not been taken in very good part by the young lady's friends,
my inquiring mind told me that there was something more than old
family friendship."

"Your inquiring mind saw into the truth."

"And now looks forward to further events. Can she bake and can she
brew?"

"I do not doubt that she could if she tried."

"And can she wash a shirt for a man? Don't suppose, my dear fellow,
that I intend to say that your wife will have to wash yours. Washing
a shirt, as read in the poem from which I am quoting, is presumed to
be simply emblematic of household duties in general."

"I take all you say in good part,--as coming from a friend."

"I regard matrimony," said the Colonel, "as being altogether the
happiest state of life for a man,--unless to be engaged to some
lovely creature, in whom one can have perfect confidence, may be a
thought happier. One can enjoy all the ecstatic mental reflection,
all the delights of conceit which come from being loved, that feeling
of superiority to all the world around which illumines the bosom
of the favoured lover, without having to put one's hand into one's
pocket, or having one's pipe put out either morally or physically.
The next to this is matrimony itself, which is the only remedy for
that consciousness of disreputable debauchery, a savour of which
always clings, more or less strongly, to unmarried men in our rank
of life. The chimes must be heard at midnight, let a young man be
ever so well given to the proprieties, and he must have just a touch
of the swingebuckler about him, or he will seem to himself to be
deficient in virility. There is no getting out of it until a man
marry. But then--"

"Well; then?"

"Do you know the man whose long-preserved hat is always brushed
carefully, whose coat is the pattern of neatness, but still a little
threadbare when you look at it,--in the colour of whose cheek there
is still some touch of juvenility, but whose step is ever heavy and
whose brow is always sad? The seriousness of life has pressed the
smiles out of him. He has learned hardly to want anything for himself
but outward decency and the common necessaries of life. Such little
personal indulgences as are common to you and to me are as strange to
him as ortolans or diamonds."

"I do not think I do know him."

"I do;--well. I have seen him in the regiment, I have met him on
the steps of a public office, I have watched him as he entered his
parsonage house. You shall find him coming out of a lawyer's office,
where he has sat for the last nine hours, having supported nature
with two penny biscuits. He has always those few thin hairs over his
forehead, he has always that well-brushed hat, he has always that
load of care on his brow. He is generally thinking whether he shall
endeavour to extend his credit with the butcher, or resolve that the
supply of meat may be again curtailed without injury to the health of
his five daughters."

"That is an ugly picture."

"But is it true?"

"In some cases, of course, it is."

"And yet not ugly all round," said the meditative Colonel, who had
just replenished his pipe. "There are, on the other side, the five
daughters, and the partner of this load of cares. He knows it is well
to have the five daughters, rather than to live with plenty of beef
and mutton,--even with the ortolans if you will,--and with no one to
care whether his body may be racked in this world or his spirit in
the next. I do not say whether the balance of good or evil be on one
side or the other; but when a man is going to do a thing he should
know what it is he is going to do."

"The reading of all this," said Hamel, "is, that if I succeed in
marrying Miss Dormer I must have thin locks, and a bad hat, and a
butcher's bill."

"Other men do."

"Some, instead, have balances at their bankers, and die worth thirty,
forty, or fifty thousand pounds, to the great consolation of the five
daughters."

"Or a hundred thousand pounds! There is, of course, no end to
the amount of thousands which a successful professional man may
accumulate. You may be the man; but the question is, whether you
should not have reasonable ground to suppose yourself the man, before
you encumber yourself with the five daughters."

"It seems to me," said Hamel, "that the need of such assurance is
cowardly."

"That is just the question which I am always debating with myself. I
also want to rid myself of that swingebuckler flavour. I feel that
for me, like Adam, it is not good that I should be alone. I would
fain ask the first girl, that I could love well enough to wish
to make myself one with her, to be my wife, regardless of hats,
butchers, and daughters. It is a plucky and a fine thing for a man to
feel that he can make his back broad enough for all burdens. But yet
what is the good of thinking that you can carry a sack of wheat when
you are sure that you have not, in truth, strength to raise it from
the ground?"

"Strength will come," said Hamel.

"Yes, and the bad hat. And, worse than the bad hat, the soiled gown;
and perhaps with the soiled gown the altered heart;--and perhaps with
the altered heart an absence of all that tenderness which it is a
woman's special right to expect from a man."

"I should have thought you would have been the last to be so
self-diffident."

"To be so thoughtful, you mean," said the Colonel. "I am unattached
now, and having had no special duty for the last three months I have
given myself over to thinking in a nasty morbid manner. It comes,
I daresay, partly from tobacco. But there is comfort in this,--that
no such reflections falling out of one man's mouth ever had the
slightest effect in influencing another man's conduct."

Hamel had told his friend with great triumph of his engagement
with Lucy Dormer, but the friend did not return the confidence by
informing the sculptor that during the whole of this conversation,
and for many days previous to it, his mind had been concerned with
the image of Lucy's sister. He was aware that Ayala had been, as it
were, turned out from her rich uncle's house, and given over to the
comparative poverty of Kingsbury Crescent. He himself, at the present
moment, was possessed of what might be considered a comfortable
income for a bachelor. He had been accustomed to live almost more
than comfortably; but, having so lived, was aware of himself that
he had not adapted himself for straitened circumstances. In spite
of that advice of his as to the brewing, baking, and washing
capabilities of a female candidate for marriage, he knew himself well
enough to be aware that a wife red with a face from a kitchen fire
would be distasteful to him. He had often told himself that to look
for a woman with money would be still more distasteful. Therefore he
had thought that for the present, at least, it would be well for him
to remain as he was. But now he had come across Ayala, and though in
the pursuance of his philosophy he had assured himself that Ayala
should be nothing to him, still he found himself so often reverting
to this resolution that Ayala, instead of being nothing, was very
much indeed to him.

Three days after this Hamel was preparing himself for his departure
immediately after breakfast. "What a beast you are to go," said the
Colonel, "when there can be no possible reason for your going."

"The five daughters and the bad hat make it necessary that a fellow
should do a little work sometimes."

"Why can't you make your images down here?"

"With you for a model, and mud out of the Caller for clay."

"I shouldn't have the slightest objection. In your art you cannot
perpetuate the atrocity of my colour, as the fellow did who painted
my portrait last winter. If you will go, go, and make busts at
unheard-of prices, so that the five daughters may live for ever on
the fat of the land. Can I do any good for you by going over to
Glenbogie?"

"If you could snub that Mr. Traffick, who is of all men the most
atrocious."

"The power doesn't exist," said the Colonel, "which could snub the
Honourable Septimus. That man is possessed of a strength which I
thoroughly envy,--which is perhaps more enviable than any other gift
the gods can give. Words cannot penetrate that skin of his. Satire
flows off him like water from a duck. Ridicule does not touch him.
The fellest abuse does not succeed in inflicting the slightest wound.
He has learnt the great secret that a man cannot be cut who will not
be cut. As it is worth no man's while to protract an enmity with
such a one as he, he suffers from no prolonged enmities. He walks
unassailable by any darts, and is, I should say, the happiest man in
London."

"Then I fear you can do nothing for me at Glenbogie. To mollify Aunt
Emmeline would, I fear, be beyond your power. Sir Thomas, as far as I
can see, does not require much mollifying."

"Sir Thomas might give the young woman a thousand or two."

"That is not the way in which I desire to keep a good hat on my
head," said Hamel, as he seated himself in the little carriage which
was to take him down to Callerfoot.

The Colonel remained at Drumcaller till the end of September, when
his presence was required at Aldershot,--during which time he shot
a good deal, in obedience to the good-natured behests of Lord
Glentower, and in spite of the up-turned nose of Mr. Traffick. He
read much, and smoked much,--so that as to the passing of his time
there was not need to pity him, and he consumed a portion of his
spare hours in a correspondence with his aunt, the Marchesa, and with
his cousin Nina. One of his letters from each shall be given,--and
also one of the letters written to each in reply.


   NINA TO HER COUSIN THE COLONEL.

   MY DEAR JONATHAN,

   Lady Albury says that you ought to be here, and so you
   ought. It is ever so nice. There is a Mr. Ponsonby here,
   and he and I can beat any other couple at lawn tennis.
   There is an awning over the ground, which is such a
   lounge. Playing lawn tennis with a parasol as those
   Melcombe girls did is stupid. They were here, but have
   gone. One I am quite sure was over head and ears in love
   with Mr. Ponsonby. These sort of things are always all
   on one side, you know. He isn't very much of a man, but
   he does play lawn tennis divinely. Take it altogether, I
   don't think there is anything out to beat lawn tennis. I
   don't know about hunting,--and I don't suppose I ever
   shall.

   We tried to have Ayala here, but I fear it will not come
   off. Lady Albury was good-natured, but at last she did not
   quite like writing to Mrs. Dosett. So mamma wrote, but the
   lady's answer was very stiff. She thought it better for
   Ayala to remain among her own friends. Poor Ayala! It is
   clear that a knight will be wanted to go in armour, and
   get her out of prison. I will leave it to you to say who
   must be the knight.

   I hope you will come for a day or two before you go to
   Aldershot. We stay till the 1st of October. You will be a
   beast if you don't. Lady Albury says she never means to
   ask you again. "Oh, Stubbs!" said Sir Harry; "Stubbs is
   one of those fellows who never come if they're asked." Of
   course we all sat upon him. Then he declared that you were
   the dearest friend he had in the world, but that he never
   dared to dream that you would ever come to Stalham again.
   Perhaps if we can hit it off at last with Ayala, then you
   would come. Mamma means to try again.--Your affectionate
   cousin,

   NINA.


   THE MARCHESA BALDONI TO HER NEPHEW, COLONEL STUBBS.

   MY DEAR JONATHAN,

   I did my best for my protégé, but I am afraid it will not
   succeed. Her aunt Mrs. Dosett seems to think that, as
   Ayala is fated to live with her, Ayala had better take
   her fate as she finds it. The meaning of that is, that if
   a girl is doomed to have a dull life she had better not
   begin it with a little pleasure. There is a good deal to
   be said for the argument, but if I were the girl I should
   like to begin with the pleasure and take my chance for
   the reaction. I should perhaps be vain enough to think
   that during the preliminary course I might solve all the
   difficulty by my beaux yeux. I saw Mrs. Dosett once, and
   now I have had a letter from her. Upon the whole, I am
   inclined to pity poor Ayala.

   We are very happy here. The Marchese has gone to Como
   to look after some property he has there. Do not be
   ill-natured enough to say that the two things go
   together;--but in truth he is never comfortable out of
   Italy. He had a slice of red meat put before him the other
   day, and that decided him to start at once.

   On the first of October we go back to London, and shall
   remain till the end of November. They have asked Nina to
   come again in November in order that she may see a hunt. I
   know that means that she will try to jump over something,
   and have her leg broken. You must be here and not allow
   it. If she does come here I shall perhaps go down to
   Brighton for a fortnight.

   Yes;--I do think Ayala Dormer is a very pretty girl, and I
   do think, also, that she is clever. I quite agree that she
   is ladylike. But I do not therefore think that she is just
   such a girl as such a man as Colonel Jonathan Stubbs ought
   to marry. She is one of those human beings who seem to
   have been removed out of this world and brought up in
   another. Though she knows ever so much that nobody else
   knows, she is ignorant of ever so much that everybody
   ought to know. Wandering through a grove, or seated by a
   brook, or shivering with you on the top of a mountain, she
   would be charming. I doubt whether she would be equally
   good at the top of your table, or looking after your
   children, or keeping the week's accounts. She would tease
   you with poetry, and not even pretend to be instructed
   when you told her how an army ought to be moved. I say
   nothing as to the fact that she hasn't got a penny, though
   you are just in that position which makes it necessary
   for a man to get some money with his wife. I therefore am
   altogether indisposed to any matrimonial outlook in that
   direction.--Your affectionate aunt,

   BEATRICE BALDONI.


   COLONEL STUBBS TO HIS COUSIN NINA.

   DEAR NINA,

   Lady Albury is wrong; I ought not to be at Stalham. What
   should I do at Stalham at this time of year, who never
   shoot partridges, and what would be the use of attempting
   lawn tennis when I know I should be cut out by Mr.
   Ponsonby? If that day in November is to come off then I'll
   come and coach you across the country. You tell Sir Harry
   that I say so, and that I will bring three horses for one
   week. I think it very hard about poor Ayala Dormer, but
   what can any knight do in such a case? When a young lady
   is handed over to the custody of an uncle or an aunt,
   she becomes that uncle's and aunt's individual property.
   Mrs. Dosett may be the most noxious dragon that ever was
   created for the mortification and general misery of an
   imprisoned damsel, but still she is omnipotent. The only
   knight who can be of any service is one who will go with a
   ring in his hand, and absolutely carry the prisoner away
   by force of the marriage service. Your unfortunate cousin
   is so exclusively devoted to the duty of fighting his
   country's battles that he has not even time to think of a
   step so momentous as that.

   Poor Ayala! Do not be stupid enough to accuse me of
   pitying her because I cannot be the knight to release her;
   but I cannot but think how happy she would be at Stalham,
   struggling to beat you and Mr. Ponsonby at lawn tennis,
   and then risking a cropper when the happy days of November
   should come round.--Your loving cousin,

   J. S.


   COLONEL STUBBS TO THE MARCHESA BALDONI.

   MY DEAR AUNT,

   Your letter is worthy of the Queen of Sheba, if, as was no
   doubt the case, she corresponded with King Solomon. As for
   Ayala's fate, if it be her fate to live with Mrs. Dosett,
   she can only submit to it. You cannot carry her over to
   Italy, nor would the Marchese allow her to divide his
   Italian good things with Nina. Poor little bird! She had
   her chance of living amidst diamonds and bank-notes, with
   the Tringle millionaires, but threw it away after some
   fashion that I do not understand. No doubt she was a fool,
   but I cannot but like her the better for it. I hardly
   think that a fortnight at Stalham, with all Sir Harry's
   luxuries around her, would do her much service.

   As for myself and the top of my table, and the future
   companion who is to be doomed to listen to my military
   lucubrations, I am altogether inclined to agree with you,
   seeing that you write in a pure spirit of worldly good
   sense. No doubt the Queen of Sheba gave advice of the
   same sort to King Solomon. I never knew a woman to speak
   confidentially of matrimony otherwise than as a matter of
   pounds, shillings, and pence. In counsels so given, no
   word of love has ever been known to creep in. Why should
   it, seeing that love cannot put a leg of mutton into the
   pot? Don't imagine that I say this in a spirit either of
   censure or satire. Your ideas are my own, and should I
   ever marry I shall do so in strict accordance with your
   tenets, thinking altogether of the weekly accounts, and
   determined to eschew any sitting by the sides of brooks.

   I have told Nina about my plans. I will be at Stalham in
   November to see that she does not break her neck.--Yours
   always,

   J. S.



CHAPTER XXI.

AYALA'S INDIGNATION.


Perhaps Mrs. Dosett had some just cause for refusing her sanction for
the proposed visit to Albury. If Fate did require that Ayala should
live permanently in Kingsbury Crescent, the gaiety of a very gay
house, and the wealth of a very wealthy house, would hardly be good
preparation for such a life. Up to the time of her going to the
Marchesa in Brook Street, Ayala had certainly done her best to suit
herself to her aunt's manners,--though she had done it with pain and
suffering. She had hemmed the towels and mended the sheets, and had
made the rounds to the shops. She had endeavoured to attend to the
pounds of meat and to sympathise with her aunt in the interest taken
in the relics of the joints as they escaped from the hungry treatment
of the two maidens in the kitchen. Ayala had been clever enough to
understand that her aunt had been wounded by Lucy's indifference, not
so much because she had desired to avail herself of Lucy's labours
as from a feeling that that indifference had seemed to declare that
her own pursuits were mean and vulgar. Understanding this she had
struggled to make those pursuits her own,--and had in part succeeded.
Her aunt could talk to her about the butter and the washing, matters
as to which her lips had been closed in any conversation with Lucy.
That Ayala was struggling Mrs. Dosett had been aware;--but she had
thought that such struggles were good and had not been hopeless. Then
came the visit to Brook Street, and Ayala returned quite an altered
young woman. It seemed as though she neither could nor would struggle
any longer. "I hate mutton-bones," she said to her aunt one morning
soon after her return.

"No doubt we would all like meat joints the best," said her aunt,
frowning.

"I hate joints too."

"You have, I dare say, been cockered up at the Marchesa's with made
dishes."

"I hate dishes," said Ayala, petulantly.

"You don't hate eating?"

"Yes, I do. It is ignoble. Nature should have managed it differently.
We ought to have sucked it in from the atmosphere through our fingers
and hairs, as the trees do by their leaves. There should have been no
butchers, and no grease, and no nasty smells from the kitchen,--and
no gin."

This was worse than all,--this allusion to the mild but unfashionable
stimulant to which Mr. Dosett had been reduced by his good nature.
"You are flying in the face of the Creator, Miss," said Aunt
Margaret, in her most angry voice,--"in the face of the Creator who
made everything, and ordained what his creatures should eat and drink
by His infinite wisdom."

"Nevertheless," said Ayala, "I think we might have done without
boiled mutton." Then she turned to some articles of domestic
needlework which were in her lap so as to show that in spite of the
wickedness of her opinions she did not mean to be idle. But Mrs.
Dosett, in her wrath, snatched the work from her niece's hands
and carried it out of the room, thus declaring that not even a
pillow-case in her house should owe a stitch to the hands of a girl
so ungrateful and so blasphemous.

The wrath wore off soon. Ayala, though not contrite was meek, and
walked home with her aunt on the following morning, patiently
carrying a pound of butter, six eggs, and a small lump of bacon in a
basket. After that the pillow-case was recommitted to her. But there
still was left evidence enough that the girl's mind had been upset by
the luxuries of Brook Street,--evidence to which Aunt Margaret paid
very much attention, insisting upon it in her colloquies with her
husband. "I think that a little amusement is good for young people,"
said Uncle Reginald, weakly.

"And for old people too. No doubt about it, if they can get it so as
not to do them any harm at the same time. Nothing can be good for a
young woman which unfits her for that state of life to which it has
pleased God to call her. Ayala has to live with us. No doubt there
was a struggle when she first came from your sister, Lady Tringle,
but she made it gallantly, and I gave her great credit. She was just
falling into a quiet mode of life when there came this invitation
from the Marchesa Baldoni. Now she has come back quite an altered
person, and the struggle has to be made all over again." Uncle
Reginald again expressed his opinion that young people ought to have
a little amusement, but he was not strong enough to insist very much
upon his theory. It certainly, however, was true that Ayala, though
she still struggled, had been very much disturbed by the visit.

Then came the invitation to Stalham. There was a very pretty note
from Lady Albury to Ayala herself, saying how much pleasure she would
have in seeing Miss Dormer at her house, where Ayala's old friends
the Marchesa and Nina were then staying. This was accompanied by a
long letter from Nina herself, in which all the charms of Stalham,
including Mr. Ponsonby and lawn tennis, were set forth at full
length. Ayala had already heard much about Stalham and the Alburys
from her friend Nina, who had hinted in a whisper that such an
invitation as this might perhaps be forthcoming. She was ready enough
for the visit, having looked through her wardrobe, and resolved that
things which had been good enough for Brook Street would still be
good enough for Stalham. But the same post had brought a letter for
Mrs. Dosett, and Ayala could see, that, as the letter was read, a
frown came upon her aunt's brow, and that the look on her aunt's
face was decidedly averse to Stalham. This took place soon after
breakfast, when Uncle Reginald had just started for his office, and
neither of them for awhile said a word to the other of the letter
that had been received. It was not till after lunch that Ayala spoke.
"Aunt," she said, "you have had a letter from Lady Albury?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Dosett, grimly, "I have had a letter from Lady
Albury."

Then there was another silence, till Ayala, whose mind was full of
promised delights, could not refrain herself longer. "Aunt Margaret,"
she said, "I hope you mean to let me go." For a minute or two there
was no reply, and Ayala again pressed her question. "Lady Albury
wants me to go to Stalham."

"She has written to me to say that she would receive you."

"And I may go?"

"I am strongly of opinion that you had better not," said Mrs. Dosett,
confirming her decree by a nod which might have suited Jupiter.

"Oh, Aunt Margaret, why not?"

"I think it would be most prudent to decline."

"But why,--why,--why, Aunt Margaret?"

"There must be expense."

"I have money enough for the journey left of my own from what Uncle
Tom gave me," said Ayala, pleading her cause with all her eloquence.

"It is not only the money. There are other reasons,--very strong
reasons."

"What reasons, Aunt Margaret?"

"My dear, it is your lot to have to live with us, and not with such
people as the Marchesa Baldoni and Lady Albury."

"I am sure I do not complain."

"But you would complain after having for a time been used to the
luxuries of Albury Park. I do not say that as finding fault, Ayala.
It is human nature that it should be so."

"But I won't complain. Have I ever complained?"

"Yes, my dear. You told me the other day that you did not like bones
of mutton, and you were disgusted because things were greasy. I do
not say this by way of scolding you, Ayala, but only that you may
understand what must be the effect of your going from such a house as
this to such a house as Stalham, and then returning back from Stalham
to such a house as this. You had better be contented with your
position."

"I am contented with my position," sobbed Ayala.

"And allow me to write to Lady Albury refusing the invitation."

But Ayala could not be brought to look at the matter with her aunt's
eyes. When her aunt pressed her for an answer which should convey
her consent she would give none, and at last left the room bitterly
sobbing. Turning the matter over in her own bosom upstairs she
determined to be mutinous. No doubt she owed a certain amount of
obedience to her aunt; but had she not been obedient, had she
not worked hard and lugged about that basket of provisions, and
endeavoured to take an interest in all her aunt's concerns? Was she
so absolutely the property of her aunt that she was bound to do
everything her aunt desired to the utter annihilation of all her
hopes, to the extermination of her promised joys? She felt that she
had succeeded in Brook Street. She had met no Angel of Light, but she
was associated with people whom she had liked, and had been talked to
by those to whom it had been a pleasure to listen. That colonel with
the quaint name and the ugly face was still present to her memory
as he had leaned over her shoulder at the theatre, making her now
laugh by his drollery, and now filling her mind with interest by his
description of the scenes which she was seeing. She was sure that
all this, or something of the same nature, would be renewed for her
delight at Stalham. And was she to be robbed of this,--the only
pleasure which seemed to remain to her in this world,--merely because
her aunt chose to entertain severe notions as to duty and pleasure?
Other girls went out when they were asked. At Rome, when that
question of the dance at the Marchesa's had been discussed, she had
had her own way in opposition to her Aunt Emmeline and her cousin
Augusta. No doubt she had, in consequence partly of her conduct on
that occasion, been turned out of her Uncle Tom's house; but of that
she did not think at the present moment. She would be mutinous, and
would appeal to her Uncle Reginald for assistance.

But the letter which contained the real invitation had been addressed
to her aunt, and her aunt could in truth answer it as she pleased.
The answer might at this moment be in the act of being written, and
should it be averse Ayala knew very well that she could not go in
opposition to it. And yet her aunt came to her in the afternoon
consulting her again, quite unconquered as to her own opinion, but
still evidently unwilling to write the fatal letter without Ayala's
permission. Then Ayala assured herself that she had rights of her
own, which her aunt did not care to contravene. "I think I ought to
be allowed to go," she said, when her aunt came to her during the
afternoon.

"When I think it will be bad for you?"

"It won't be bad. They are very good people. I think that I ought to
be allowed to go."

"Have you no reliance on those who are your natural guardians?"

"Uncle Reginald is my natural guardian," said Ayala, through her
tears.

"Very well! If you refuse to be guided by me as though I were not
your aunt, and as you will pay no attention to what I tell you is
proper for you and best, the question must be left till your uncle
comes home. I cannot but be very much hurt that you should think so
little of me. I have always endeavoured to do the best I could for
you, just as though I were your mother."

"I think that I ought to be allowed to go," repeated Ayala.

As the first consequence of this, the replies to all the three
letters were delayed for the next day's post. Ayala had considered
much with what pretty words she might best answer Lady Albury's kind
note, and she had settled upon a form of words which she had felt to
be very pretty. Unless her uncle would support her, that would be of
no avail, and another form must be chosen. To Nina she would tell the
whole truth, either how full of joy she was,--or else how cruelly
used and how thoroughly broken-hearted. But she could not think
that her uncle would be unkind to her. Her uncle had been uniformly
gentle. Her uncle, when he should know how much her heart was set
upon it, would surely let her go.

The poor girl, when she tacitly agreed that her uncle should be the
arbiter in the matter, thus pledging herself to abide by her uncle's
decision, let it be what it might, did not think what great advantage
her aunt would have over her in that discussion which would be held
upstairs while the master of the house was washing his hands before
dinner. Nor did she know of how much stronger will was her Aunt
Margaret than her Uncle Reginald. While he was washing his hands and
putting on his slippers, the matter was settled in a manner quite
destructive of poor Ayala's hopes. "I won't have it," said Mrs.
Dosett, in reply to the old argument that young people ought to have
some amusement. "If I am to be responsible for the girl I must be
allowed my own way with her. It is trouble enough, and very little
thanks I get for it. Of course she hates me. Nevertheless, I can
endeavour to do my duty, and I will. It is not thanks, nor love, nor
even gratitude, that I look for. I am bound to do the best I can by
her because she is your niece, and because she has no other real
friends. I knew what would come of it when she went to that house in
Brook Street. I was soft then and gave way. The girl has moped about
like a miserable creature ever since. If I am not to have my way
now I will have done with her altogether." Having heard this very
powerful speech, Uncle Reginald was obliged to give way, and it was
settled that after dinner he should convey to Ayala the decision to
which they had come.

Ayala, as she sat at the dinner-table, was all expectation, but she
asked no question. She asked no question after dinner, while her
uncle slowly, solemnly, and sadly sipped his one beaker of cold
gin-and-water. He sipped it very slowly, no doubt because he was
anxious to postpone the evil moment in which he must communicate her
fate to his niece. But at last the melancholy glass was drained, and
then, according to the custom of the family, Mrs. Dosett led the way
up into the drawing-room, followed by Ayala and her husband. He, when
he was on the stairs, and when the eyes of his wife were not upon
him, tremulously put out his hand and laid it on Ayala's shoulder,
as though to embrace her. The poor girl knew well that mark of
affection. There would have been no need for such embracing had the
offered joys of Stalham been in store for her. The tears were already
in her eyes when she seated herself in the drawing-room, as far
removed as possible from the arm-chair which was occupied by her
aunt.

Then her uncle pronounced his judgment in a vacillating voice,--with
a vacillation which was ineffectual of any good to Ayala. "Ayala,"
he said, "your aunt and I have been talking over this invitation to
Stalham, and we are of opinion, my dear, that you had better not
accept it."

"Why not, Uncle Reginald?"

"There would be expense."

"I can pay for my own ticket."

"There would be many expenses, which I need not explain to you more
fully. The truth is, my dear, that poor people cannot afford to live
with rich people, and had better not attempt it."

"I don't want to live with them."

"Visiting them is living with them for a time. I am sorry, Ayala,
that we are not able to put you in a position in which you might
enjoy more of the pleasures incidental to your age; but you must take
the things as they are. Looking at the matter all round, I am sure
that your aunt is right in advising that you should stay at home."

"It isn't advice at all," said Ayala.

"Ayala!" exclaimed her aunt, in a tone of indignation.

"It isn't advice," repeated Ayala. "Of course, if you won't let me
go, I can't."

"You are a very wicked girl," said Mrs. Dosett, "to speak to your
uncle like that, after all that he has done for you."

"Not wicked," said the uncle.

"I say, wicked. But it doesn't matter. I shall at once write to
Lady Albury, as you desire, and of course there will be no further
question as to her going." Soon after that Mrs. Dosett sat down to
her desk, and wrote that letter to which the Marchesa had alluded in
hers to her nephew. No doubt it was stern and hard, and of a nature
to make such a woman as the Marchesa feel that Mrs. Dosett would not
be a pleasant companion for a girl like Ayala. But it was written
with a full conviction that duty required it; and the words, though
hard and stiff, had been chosen with the purpose of showing that the
doing of this disagreeable duty had been felt to be imperative.

When the matter had been thus decided, Ayala soon retreated to her
own room. Her very soul was burning with indignation at the tyranny
to which she thought herself subjected. The use of that weak word,
advice, had angered her more than anything. It had not been advice.
It had not been given as advice. A command had been laid upon her, a
most cruel and unjust command, which she was forced to obey, because
she lacked the power of escaping from her condition of slavery.
Advice, indeed! Advice is a thing with which the advised one may or
may not comply, as that advised one may choose. A slave must obey an
order! Her own papa and her own mamma had always advised her, and the
advice had always been followed, even when read only in the glance of
an eye, in a smile, or a nod. Then she had known what it was to be
advised. Now she was ordered,--as slaves are ordered; and there was
no escape from her slavery!

She, too, must write her letter, but there was no need now of that
pretty studied phrase, in which she had hoped to thank Lady Albury
fitly for her great kindness. She found, after a vain attempt or two,
that it was hopeless to endeavour to write to Lady Albury. The words
would not come to her pen. But she did write to Nina;--


   DEAR, DEAREST NINA,

   They won't let me go! Oh, my darling, I am so miserable!
   Why should they not let me go, when people are so kind, so
   very kind, as Lady Albury and your dear mamma? I feel as
   though I should like to run from the house, and never come
   back, even though I had to die in the streets. I was so
   happy when I got your letter and Lady Albury's, and now I
   am so wretched! I cannot write to Lady Albury. You must
   just tell her, with many thanks from me, that they will
   not let me go!

   Your unhappy but affectionate friend,

   AYALA.



CHAPTER XXII.

AYALA'S GRATITUDE.


There was much pity felt for Ayala among the folk at Stalham. The
sympathies of them all should have been with Mrs. Dosett. They ought
to have felt that the poor aunt was simply performing an unpleasant
duty, and that the girl was impracticable if not disobedient. But
Ayala was known to be very pretty, and Mrs. Dosett was supposed to
be plain. Ayala was interesting, while Mrs. Dosett, from the nature
of her circumstances, was most uninteresting. It was agreed on all
sides, at Stalham, that so pretty a bird as Ayala should not be
imprisoned for ever in so ugly a cage. Such a bird ought, at least,
to be allowed its chance of captivating some fitting mate by its
song and its plumage. That was Lady Albury's argument,--a woman very
good-natured, a little given to match-making, a great friend to
pretty girls,--and whose eldest son was as yet only nine, so that
there could be no danger to herself or her own flock. There was much
ridicule thrown on Mrs. Dosett at Stalham, and many pretty things
said of the bird who was so unworthily imprisoned in Kingsbury
Crescent. At last there was something like a conspiracy, the purport
of which was to get the bird out of its cage in November.

In this conspiracy it can hardly be said that the Marchesa took an
active part. Much as she liked Ayala, she was less prone than Lady
Albury to think that the girl was ill-used. She was more keenly
alive than her cousin,--or rather her cousin's wife,--to the hard
necessities of the world. Ayala must be said to have made her own
bed. At any rate there was the bed and she must lie on it. It was not
the Dosetts' fault that they were poor. According to their means they
were doing the best they could for their niece, and were entitled to
praise rather than abuse. And then the Marchesa was afraid for her
nephew. Colonel Stubbs, in his letter to her, had declared that he
quite agreed with her views as to matrimony; but she was quite alive
to her nephew's sarcasm. Her nephew, though he might in truth agree
with her, nevertheless was sarcastic. Though he was sarcastic, still
he might be made to accede to her views, because he did, in truth,
agree with her. She was eminently an intelligent woman, seeing far
into character, and she knew pretty well the real condition of her
nephew's mind, and could foresee his conduct. He would marry before
long, and might not improbably marry a girl with some money if one
could be made to come in his way, who would at the same time suit
his somewhat fastidious taste. But Ayala suited his taste, Ayala who
had not a shilling, and the Marchesa thought it only too likely that
if Ayala were released from her cage, and brought to Albury, Ayala
might become Mrs. Jonathan Stubbs. That Ayala should refuse to become
Mrs. Jonathan Stubbs did not present itself as a possibility to the
Marchesa.

So the matters were when the Marchesa and Nina returned from Stalham
to London, a promise having been given that Nina should go back to
Stalham in November, and be allowed to see the glories of a hunt. She
was not to ride to hounds. That was a matter of course, but she was
to be permitted to see what a pack of hounds was like, and of what
like were the men in their scarlet coats, and how the huntsman's horn
would sound when it should be heard among the woods and fields. It
was already decided that the Colonel should be there to meet her, and
the conspiracy was formed with the object of getting Ayala out of her
cage at the same time. Stalham was a handsome country seat, in the
county of Rufford, and Sir Harry Albury had lately taken upon himself
the duties of Master of the Rufford and Ufford United Pack. Colonel
Stubbs was to be there with his horses in November, but had, in the
meantime, been seen by Lady Albury, and had been instigated to do
something for the release of Ayala. But what could he do? It was
at first suggested that he should call at Kingsbury Crescent, and
endeavour to mollify the stony heart of Aunt Dosett. But, as he had
said himself, he would be the worst person in the world to perform
such an embassy. "I am not an Adonis, I know," he said, "nor do I
look like a Lothario, but still I am in some sort a young man, and
therefore certain to be regarded as pernicious, as dangerous and
damnable, by such a dragon of virtue as Aunt Dosett. I don't see how
I could expect to have a chance." This interview took place in London
during the latter end of October, and it was at last decided that the
mission should be made by Lady Albury herself, and made, not to Mrs.
Dosett, at Kingsbury Crescent, but to Mr. Dosett at his office in
Somerset House. "I don't think I could stand Mrs. D.," said Lady
Albury.

Lady Albury was a handsome fashionable woman, rather tall, always
excellently dressed, and possessed of a personal assurance which
nothing could daunt. She had the reputation of an affectionate
wife and a good mother, but was nevertheless declared by some
of her friends to be "a little fast." She certainly was fond of
comedy,--those who did not like her were apt to say that her comedy
was only fun,--and was much disposed to have her own way when she
could get it. She was now bent upon liberating Ayala from her cage,
and for this purpose had herself driven into the huge court belonging
to Somerset House.

Mr. Dosett was dignified at his office with the use of a room to
himself, a small room looking out upon the river, in which he spent
six hours on six days of the week in arranging the indexes of
a voluminous library of manuscript letter-books. It was rarely
indeed that he was disturbed by the presence of any visitor. When,
therefore, his door was opened by one of the messengers, and he was
informed that Lady Albury desired to see him, he was for the moment
a good deal disturbed. No option, however, was given to him as to
refusing admission to Lady Albury. She was in the room before the
messenger had completed his announcement, and had seated herself in
one of the two spare chairs which the room afforded as soon as the
door was closed. "Mr. Dosett," she said, "I have taken the great
liberty of calling to say a few words about your niece, Miss Ayala
Dormer."

When the lady was first announced, Mr. Dosett, in his confusion, had
failed to connect the name which he had heard with that of the lady
who had invited Ayala to her house. But now he recognised it, and
knew who it was that had come to him. "You were kind enough," he
said, "to invite my little girl to your house some weeks ago."

"And now I have come to invite her again."

Mr. Dosett was now more disturbed than ever. With what words was he
to refuse the request which this kind but very grand lady was about
to make? How could he explain to her all those details as to his own
poverty, and as to Ayala's fate in having to share that poverty with
him? How could he explain the unfitness of Ayala's temporary sojourn
with people so wealthy and luxurious? And yet were he to yield in the
least how could he face his wife on his return home to the Crescent?
"You are very kind, Lady Albury," he said.

"We particularly wish to have her about the end of the first week in
November," said the lady. "Her friend Nina Baldoni will be there, and
one or two others whom she knows. We shall try to be a little gay for
a week or two."

"I have no doubt it would be gay, and we at home are very dull."

"Do you not think a little gaiety good for young people?" said her
ladyship, using the very argument which poor Mr. Dosett had so often
attempted to employ on Ayala's behalf.

"Yes; a little gaiety," he said, as though deprecating the excessive
amount of hilarity which he imagined to prevail at Stalham.

"Of course you do," said Lady Albury. "Poor little girl! I have heard
so much about her, and of all your goodness to her. Mrs. Dosett I
know is another mother to her; but still a little country air could
not but be beneficial. Do say that she shall come to us, Mr. Dosett."

Then Mr. Dosett felt that, disagreeable as it was, he must preach the
sermon which his wife had preached to him, and he did preach it. He
spoke timidly of his own poverty, and the need which there was that
Ayala should share it. He spoke a word of the danger which might come
from luxury, and of the discontent which would be felt when the girl
returned to her own home. Something he added of the propriety of like
living with like, and ended by praying that Ayala might be excused.
The words came from him with none of that energy which his wife could
have used,--were uttered in a low melancholy drone; but still they
were words hard to answer, and called upon Lady Albury for all her
ingenuity in finding an argument against them.

But Lady Albury was strong-minded, and did find an argument. "You
musn't be angry with me," she said, "if I don't quite agree with you.
Of course you wish to do the best you can for this dear child."

"Indeed I do, Lady Albury."

"How is anything then to be done for her if she remains shut up in
your house? You do not, if I understand, see much company
yourselves."

"None at all."

"You won't be angry with me for my impertinence in alluding to it."

"Not in the least. It is the fact that we live altogether to
ourselves."

"And the happiest kind of life too for married people," said Lady
Albury, who was accustomed to fill her house in the country with a
constant succession of visitors, and to have engagements for every
night of the week in town. "But for young people it is not quite so
good. How is a young lady to get herself settled in life?"

"Settled?" asked Mr. Dosett, vaguely.

"Married," suggested Lady Albury, more plainly. Mr. Dosett shook his
head. No idea on the subject had ever flashed across his mind. To
provide bread and meat, a bed and clothes, for his sister's child
he had felt to be a duty,--but not a husband. Husbands came, or did
not,--as the heavens might be propitious. That Ayala should go to
Stalham for the sake of finding a husband was certainly beyond the
extent of his providing care. "In fact how is a girl to have a chance
at all unless she is allowed to see some one? Of course I don't say
this with reference to our house. There will be no young men there,
or anything of that kind. But, taking a broad view, unless you let a
girl like that have what chances come in her way how is she to get
on? I think you have hardly a right to do it."

"We have done it for the best."

"I am sure of that, Mr. Dosett. And I hope you will tell Mrs. Dosett,
with my compliments, how thoroughly I appreciate her goodness. I
should have called upon her instead of coming here, only that I
cannot very well get into that part of the town."

"I will tell her what you are good enough to say."

"Poor Ayala! I am afraid that her other aunt, Aunt Tringle, was not
as good to her as your wife. I have heard about how all that occurred
in Rome. She was very much admired there. I am told that she is
perfectly lovely."

"Pretty well."

"A sort of beauty that we hardly ever see now,--and very, very
clever."

"Ayala is clever, I think."

"She ought to have her chance. She ought indeed. I don't think you
quite do your duty by such a girl as that unless you let her have a
chance. She is sure to get to know people, and to be asked from one
house to another. I speak plainly, for I really think you ought to
let her come."

All this sank deeply into the heart of Uncle Reginald. Whether it was
for good or evil it seemed to him at the moment to be unanswerable.
If there was a chance of any good thing for Ayala, surely it could
not be his duty to bar her from that chance. A whole vista of new
views in reference to the treatment of young ladies was opened to him
by the words of his visitor. Ayala certainly was pretty. Certainly
she was clever. A husband with an income would certainly be a good
thing. Embryo husbands with incomes do occasionally fall in love with
pretty girls. But how can any pretty girl be fallen in love with
unless some one be permitted to see her? At Kingsbury Crescent there
was not a man to be seen from one end of the year to another. It
occurred to him now, for the first time, that Ayala by her present
life was shut out from any chance of marriage. It was manifestly true
that he had no right to seclude her in that fashion. At last he made
a promise, rashly, as he felt at the very moment of making it, that
he would ask his wife to allow Ayala to go to Stalham. Lady Albury of
course accepted this as an undertaking that Ayala should come, and
went away triumphant.

Mr. Dosett walked home across the parks with a troubled mind,
thinking much of all that had passed between him and the lady of
fashion. It was with great difficulty that he could quite make up his
mind which was right,--the lady of fashion or his wife. If Ayala was
to live always as they lived at Kingsbury Crescent, if it should in
process of time be her fate to marry some man in the same class as
themselves, if continued care as to small pecuniary needs was to be
her future lot, then certainly her comfort would only be disturbed by
such a visit as that now proposed. And was it not probable that such
would be the destiny in store for her? Mr. Dosett knew the world
well enough to be aware that all pretty girls such as Ayala cannot
find rich husbands merely by exhibiting their prettiness. Kingsbury
Crescent, unalloyed by the dangers of Stalham, would certainly be the
most secure. But then he had been told that Ayala now had special
chances offered to her, and that he had no right to rob her of those
chances. He felt this the more strongly, because she was not his
daughter,--only his niece. With a daughter he and his wife might have
used their own judgment without check. But now he had been told that
he had no right to rob Ayala of her chances, and he felt that he had
not the right. By the time that he reached Kingsbury Crescent he had,
with many misgivings, decided in favour of Stalham.

It was now some weeks since the first invitation had been refused,
and during those weeks life had not been pleasant at the Crescent.
Ayala moped and pined as though some great misfortune had fallen upon
her. When she had first come to the Crescent she had borne herself
bravely, as a man bears a trouble when he is conscious that he has
brought it on himself by his own act, and is proud of the act which
has done it. But when that excitement has gone, and the trouble still
remains, the pride wears off, and the man is simply alive to his
suffering. So it had been with Ayala. Then had come the visit to
Brook Street. When, soon after that, she was invited to Stalham, it
seemed as though a new world was being opened to her. There came a
moment when she could again rejoice that she had quarrelled with her
Aunt Emmeline. This new world would be a much better world than the
Tringle world. Then had come the great blow, and it had seemed to her
as though there was nothing but Kingsbury Crescent before her for the
rest of her wretched life.

There was not a detail of all this hidden from the eyes of Aunt
Margaret. Stalham had decided that Aunt Margaret was ugly and
uninteresting. Stalham, according to its own views, was right.
Nevertheless the lady in Kingsbury Crescent had both eyes to see and
a heart to feel. She was hot of temper, but she was forgiving. She
liked her own way, but she was affectionate. She considered it right
to teach her niece the unsavoury mysteries of economy, but she was
aware that such mysteries must be distasteful to one brought up as
Ayala. Even when she had been loudest in denouncing Ayala's mutiny,
her heart had melted in ruth because Ayala had been so unhappy.
She, too, had questioned herself again and again as to the justness
of her decision. Was she entitled to rob Ayala of her chances? In
her frequent discussions with her husband she still persisted in
declaring that Kingsbury Crescent was safe, and that Stalham would be
dangerous. But, nevertheless, in her own bosom she had misgivings. As
she saw the poor girl mope and weary through one day after another,
she could not but have misgivings.

"I have had that Lady Albury with me at the office to-day, and have
almost promised that Ayala shall go to her on the 8th of November."
It was thus that Mr. Dosett rushed at once into his difficulty as
soon as he found himself up-stairs with his wife.

"You have?"

"Well, my dear, I almost did. She said a great deal, and I could not
but agree with much of it. Ayala ought to have her chances."

"What chances?" demanded Mrs. Dosett, who did not at all like the
expression.

"Well; seeing people. She never sees anybody here."

"Nobody is better than some people," said Mrs. Dosett, meaning to be
severe on Lady Albury's probable guests.

"But if a girl sees nobody," said Mr. Dosett, "she can have
no,--no,--no chances."

"She has the chance of wholesome victuals," said Mrs. Dosett, "and I
don't know what other chances you or I can give her."

"She might see--a young man." This Mr. Dosett said very timidly.

"A young fiddlestick! A young man! Young men should be waited for
till they come naturally, and never thought about if they don't come
at all. I hate this looking after young men. If there wasn't a young
man for the next dozen years we should do better,--so as just to
get out of the way of thinking about them for a time." This was Mrs.
Dosett's philosophy; but in spite of her philosophy she did yield,
and on that night it was decided that Ayala after all was to be
allowed to go to Stalham.


      *      *      *      *      *      *


To Mr. Dosett was deputed the agreeable task of telling Ayala on the
next evening what was to befall her. If anything agreeable was to be
done in that sombre house it was always deputed to the master.

"What!" said Ayala, jumping from her chair.

"On the eighth of November," said Mr. Dosett.

"To Stalham?"

"Lady Albury was with me yesterday at the office, and your aunt has
consented."

"Oh, Uncle Reginald!" said Ayala, falling on her knees, and hiding
her face on his lap. Heaven had been once more opened to her.

"I'll never forget it," said Ayala, when she went to thank her
aunt,--"never."

"I only hope it may not do you a mischief."

"And I beg your pardon, Aunt Margaret, because I was,--I
was,--because I was--" She could not find the word which would
express her own delinquency, without admitting more than she intended
to admit,--"too self-asserting, considering that I am only a young
girl." That would have been her meaning could she have found
appropriate words.

"We need not go back to that now," said Aunt Margaret.


END OF VOL. I.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



AYALA'S ANGEL

by

ANTHONY TROLLOPE,

Author of "Doctor Thorne," "The Prime Minister," "Orley Farm,"
&c., &c.

In Three Volumes.

VOL. II.



London:
Chapman and Hall (Limited),
11, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden.
1881.
[All Rights Reserved.]

Westminster:
J. B. Nichols and Sons, Printers.
25, Parliament Street.



CONTENTS OF VOL. II.

     XXIII. STALHAM PARK.
      XXIV. RUFFORD CROSS-ROADS.
       XXV. "YOU ARE NOT HE."
      XXVI. "THE FINEST HERO THAT I EVER KNEW."
     XXVII. LADY ALBURY'S LETTER.
    XXVIII. MISS DOCIMER.
      XXIX. AT MERLE PARK. NO. 1.
       XXX. AT MERLE PARK. NO. 2.
      XXXI. THE DIAMOND NECKLACE.
     XXXII. TOM'S DESPAIR.
    XXXIII. ISADORE HAMEL IN LOMBARD STREET.
     XXXIV. "I NEVER THREATENED TO TURN YOU OUT."
      XXXV. TOM TRINGLE SENDS A CHALLENGE.
     XXXVI. TOM TRINGLE GETS AN ANSWER.
    XXXVII. GERTRUDE IS UNSUCCESSFUL.
   XXXVIII. FRANK HOUSTON IS PENITENT.
     XXXIX. CAPTAIN BATSBY.
        XL. AUNT EMMELINE'S NEW PROPOSITION.
       XLI. "A COLD PROSPECT!"
      XLII. ANOTHER DUEL.
     XLIII. ONCE MORE!



AYALA'S ANGEL.


CHAPTER XXIII.

STALHAM PARK.


On the day fixed Ayala went down to Stalham. A few days before she
started there came to her a letter, or rather an envelope, from her
uncle Sir Thomas, enclosing a cheque for £20. The Tringle women had
heard that Ayala had been asked to Stalham, and had mentioned the
visit disparagingly before Sir Thomas. "I think it very wrong of my
poor brother," said Lady Tringle. "She can't have a shilling even to
get herself gloves." This had an effect which had not been intended,
and Sir Thomas sent the cheque for £20. Then Ayala felt not only that
the heavens were opened to her but that the sweetest zephyrs were
blowing her on upon her course. Thoughts as to gloves had disturbed
her, and as to some shoes which were wanting, and especially as to
a pretty hat for winter wear. Now she could get hat and shoes and
gloves, and pay her fare, and go down to Stalham with money in her
pocket. Before going she wrote a very pretty note to her Uncle Tom.

On her arrival she was made much of by everyone. Lady Albury called
her the caged bird, and congratulated her on her escape from the
bars. Sir Harry asked her whether she could ride to hounds. Nina
gave her a thousand kisses. But perhaps her greatest delight was
in finding that Jonathan Stubbs was at Albury. She had become so
intimate with the Colonel that she regarded him quite like an old
friend; and when a girl has a male friend, though he may be much less
loved, or not loved at all, he is always more pleasant, or at any
rate more piquant, than a female friend. As for love with Colonel
Stubbs that was quite out of the question. She was sure that he would
never fall in love with herself. His manner to her was altogether
unlike that of a lover. A lover would be smooth, soft, poetic,
and flattering. He was always a little rough to her,--sometimes
almost scolding her. But then he scolded her as she liked to be
scolded,--with a dash of fun and a greatly predominating admixture
of good-nature. He was like a bear,--but a bear who would always
behave himself pleasantly. She was delighted when Colonel Stubbs
congratulated her on her escape from Kingsbury Crescent, and felt
that he was justified by his intimacy when he called Mrs. Dosett a
mollified she-Cerberus.

"Are you going to make one of my team?" said the Colonel to her on
the morning after her arrival. It was a non-hunting morning, and the
gentlemen were vacant about the house till they went out for a little
shooting later on in the day.

"What team?" said Ayala, feeling that she had suddenly received a
check to her happiness. She knew that the Colonel was alluding to
those hunting joys which were to be prepared for Nina, and which were
far beyond her own reach. That question of riding gear is terrible to
young ladies who are not properly supplied. Even had time admitted
she would not have dared to use her uncle's money for such a purpose,
in the hope that a horse might be lent to her. She had told herself
that it was out of the question, and had declared to herself that she
was too thankful for her visit to allow any regret on such a matter
to cross her mind. But when the Colonel spoke of his team there was
something of a pang. How she would have liked to be one of such a
team!

"My pony team. I mean to drive too. You mustn't think that I am
taking a liberty when I say that they are to be called Nina and
Ayala."

There was no liberty at all. Had he called her simply Ayala she would
have felt it to be no more than pleasant friendship, coming from him.
He was so big, and so red, and so ugly, and so friendly! Why should
he not call her Ayala? But as to that team,--it could not be. "If
it's riding," she said demurely, "I can't be one of the ponies."

"It is riding,--of course. Now the Marchesa is not here, we mean to
call it hunting in a mild way."

"I can't," she said.

"But you've got to do it, Miss Dormer."

"I haven't got anything to do it with. Of course, I don't mind
telling you."

"You are to ride the sweetest little horse that ever was
foaled,--just bigger than a pony. It belongs to Sir Harry's sister
who is away, and we've settled it all. There never was a safer little
beast, and he can climb through a fence without letting you know that
it's there."

"But I mean--clothes," said Ayala. Then she whispered, "I haven't got
a habit, or anything else anybody ought to have."

"Ah," said the Colonel; "I don't know anything about that. I should
say that Nina must have managed that. The horse department was left
to me, and I have done my part. You will find that you will have to
go out next Tuesday and Friday. The hounds will be here on Tuesday,
and they will be at Rufford on Friday. Rufford is only nine miles
from here, and it's all settled."

Before the day was over the difficulty had vanished. Miss Albury's
horse was not only called into requisition but Miss Albury's habit
also. Ayala had a little black hat of her own, which Lady Albury
assured her would do excellently well for the hunting field. There
was some fitting and some trying on, and perhaps a few moments of
preliminary despair; but on the Tuesday morning she rode away from
the hall door at eleven o'clock mounted on Sprite, as the little
horse was called, and felt herself from head to foot to be one of
Colonel Stubbs's team. When at Glenbogie she had ridden a little, and
again in Italy, and, being fearless by nature, had no trepidation to
impair the fulness of her delight.

Hunting from home coverts rarely exacts much jumping from ladies.
The woods are big, and the gates are numerous. It is when the
far-away homes of wild foxes are drawn,--those secluded brakes
and gorses where the nobler animal is wont to live at a distance
from carriage-roads and other weak refuges of civilization,--that
the riding capacities of ladies must be equal to those of their
husbands and brothers. This present moment was an occasion for great
delight,--at least, so it was found by both Nina and Ayala. But it
was not an opportunity for great glory. Till it was time for lunch
one fox after another ran about the big woods of Albury in a fashion
that seemed perfect to the two girls, but which nearly broke the
heart of old Tony, who was still huntsman to the Ufford and Rufford
United Hunt. "Darm their nasty ways," said Tony to Mr. Larry
Twentyman, who was one of the popular habitues of the hunt; "they
runs one a top of anothers brushes, till there ain't a 'ound living
knows t'other from which. There's always a many on 'em at Albury,
but I never knew an Albury fox worth his grub yet." But there was
galloping along roads and through gates, and long strings of horsemen
followed each other up and down the rides, and an easy coming back to
the places from which they started, which made the girls think that
the whole thing was divine. Once or twice there was a little bank,
and once or twice a little ditch,--just sufficient to make Ayala feel
that no possible fence would be a difficulty to Sprite. She soon
learnt that mode of governing her body which leaping requires, and
when she was brought into lunch at about two she was sure that she
could do anything which the art of hunting required. But at lunch an
edict went forth as to the two girls, against further hunting for
that day. Nina strove to rebel, and Ayala attempted to be eloquent
by a supplicating glance at the Colonel. But they were told that as
the horses would be wanted again on Friday they had done enough. In
truth, Tony had already trotted off with the hounds to Pringle's
Gorse, a distance of five miles, and the gentlemen who had lingered
over their lunch had to follow him at their best pace. "Pringle's
Gorse is not just the place for young ladies," Sir Harry said, and so
the matter had been decided against Nina and Ayala.

At about six Sir Harry, Colonel Stubbs, and the other gentlemen
returned, declaring that nothing quicker than their run from
Pringle's Gorse had ever been known in that country. "About six miles
straight on end in forty minutes," said the Colonel, "and then a kill
in the open."

"He was laid up under a bank," said young Gosling.

"He was so beat he couldn't carry on a field farther," said Captain
Batsby, who was staying in the house.

"I call that the open," said Stubbs.

"I always think I kill a fox in the open," said Sir Harry, "when the
hounds run into him, because he cannot run another yard with the
country there before him." Then there was a long discussion, as they
stood drinking tea before the fire, as to what "the open" meant, from
which they went to other hunting matters. To all this Ayala listened
with attentive ears, and was aware that she had spent a great day.
Oh, what a difference was there between Stalham and Kingsbury
Crescent!

The next two days were almost equally full of delight. She was taken
into the stables to see her horse, and as she patted his glossy coat
she felt that she loved Sprite with all her heart. Oh, what a world
of joy was this;--how infinitely superior even to Queen's Gate and
Glenbogie! The gaudy magnificence of the Tringles had been altogether
unlike the luxurious comfort of Stalham, where everybody was at his
ease, where everybody was good-natured, where everybody seemed to
acknowledge that pleasure was the one object of life! On the evening
before the Friday she was taken out to dinner by Captain Batsby.
She was not sure that she liked Captain Batsby, who made little
complimentary speeches to her. But her neighbour on the other side
was Colonel Stubbs, and she was quite sure that she liked Colonel
Stubbs.

"I know you'll go like a bird to-morrow," said Captain Batsby.

"I shouldn't like that, because there would be no jumping," said
Ayala.

"But you'd be such a beautiful bird." The Captain, as he drawled out
his words, made an eye at her, and she was sure that she did not like
the Captain.

"At what time are we to start to-morrow?" she said, turning to the
Colonel.

"Ten, sharp. Mind you're ready. Sir Harry takes us on the drag, and
wouldn't wait for Venus, though she wanted five minutes more for her
back hair."

"I don't suppose she ever wants any time for her back hair. I
wouldn't if I were a goddess."

"Then you'd be a very untidy goddess, that's all. I wonder whether
you are untidy."

"Well;--yes;--sometimes."

"I hate untidy girls."

"Thank you, Colonel Stubbs."

"What I like is a nice prim little woman, who never had a pin in the
wrong place in her life. Her cuffs and collars are always as stiff
as steel, and she never rubs the sleeves of her dresses by leaning
about, like some young ladies."

"That's what I do."

"My young woman never sits down lest she should crease her dress. My
young woman never lets her ribbons get tangled. My young woman can
dress upon £40 a-year, and always look as though she came out of a
band-box."

"I don't believe you've got a young woman, Colonel Stubbs."

"Well; no; I haven't,--except in my imagination."

If so, he too must have his Angel of Light! "Do you ever dream about
her?"

"Oh dear, yes. I dream that she does scold so awfully when I have her
to myself. In my dreams, you know, I'm married to her, and she always
wants me to eat hashed mutton. Now, if there is one thing that makes
me more sick than another it is hashed mutton. Of course I shall
marry her in some of my waking moments, and then I shall have to eat
hashed mutton for ever."

Then Captain Batsby put in another word. "I should so like to be
allowed to give you a lead to-morrow."

"Oh, thank you,--but I'd rather not have it," said Ayala, who was
altogether in the dark, thinking that "a lead" might be some present
which she would not wish to accept from Captain Batsby.

"I mean that I should like to show you a line if we get a run."

"What is a line?" asked Ayala.

"A line? Why a line is just a lead;--keep your eye on me and I'll
take the fences where you can follow without coming to grief."

"Oh," said Ayala, "that's a lead is it? Colonel Stubbs is going to
give my friend and me a lead, as long as we stay here."

"No man ever ought to coach more than one lady at once," said the
Captain, showing his erudition. "You're sure to come on top of one
another if there are two."

"But Colonel Stubbs is especially told by the Marchesa to look after
both of us," said Ayala almost angrily. Then she turned her shoulder
to him, and was soon intent upon further instructions from the
Colonel.

The following morning was fine, and all the ladies in the house were
packed on to the top of Sir Harry's drag. The Colonel sat behind Sir
Harry on the plea that he was wanted to take care of the two girls.
Captain Batsby and three other gentlemen were put inside, where they
consoled themselves with unlimited tobacco. In this way they were
driven to a spot called Rufford Cross Roads, where they found Tony
Tappett sitting perfectly quiescent on his old mare, while the hounds
were seated around him on the grassy sides of the roads. With him was
talking a stout, almost middle-aged gentleman, in a scarlet coat, and
natty pink-top boots, who was the owner of all the country around.
This was Lord Rufford, who a few years since was known as one of the
hardest riders in those parts; but he had degenerated into matrimony,
was now the happy father of half-a-dozen babies, and was hardly ever
seen to jump over a fence. But he still came out when the meets
were not too distant, and carefully performed that first duty of an
English country gentleman,--the preservation of foxes. Though he did
not ride much, no one liked a little hunting gossip better than Lord
Rufford. It was, however, observed that even in regard to hunting he
was apt to quote the authority of his wife.

"Oh, yes, my Lord," said Tony, "there'll sure to be a fox at
Dillsborough. But we'll find one afore we get to Rufford, my Lord."

"Lady Rufford says there hasn't been a fox seen in the home woods
this week."

"Her ladyship will be sure to know," said Tony.

"Do you remember that fence where poor Major Caneback got his fall
six years ago?" asked the Lord.

"Seven years next Christmas, my Lord," said Tony. "He never put a leg
across a saddle again, poor fellow! I remember him well, my Lord; a
man who could 'andle a 'orse wonderful, though he didn't know 'ow to
ride to 'ounds; not according to my idea. To get your animal to carry
you through, never mind 'ow long the thing is; that's my idea of
riding to 'ounds, my Lord. The major was for always making a 'orse
jump over everything. I never wants 'em to jump over nothing I can't
help;--I don't, my Lord."

"That's just what her ladyship is always saying to me," said Lord
Rufford, "and I do pretty much what her ladyship tells me."

On this occasion Lady Rufford had been quite right about the home
covers. No doubt she generally was right in any assertion she made as
to her husband's affairs. After drawing them Tony trotted on towards
Dillsborough, running his hounds through a few little springs, which
lay near his way. As they went Colonel Stubbs rode between the two
girls. "Whenever I see Rufford," said the Colonel, "he does me a
world of good."

"What good can a fat man like that do to you?" said Nina.

"He is a continual sermon against marriage. If I could see Rufford
once a week I know that I should be safe."

"He seems to me to be a very comfortable old gentleman," said Ayala.

"Old! Seven years ago he was acknowledged to be the one undisputed
paragon of a young man in this county. No one else dreamed of looking
at a young lady if he chose to turn his eyes in that direction. He
was handsome as Apollo--"

"He an Apollo!" said Nina.

"The best Apollo there then was in these parts, and every one knew
that he had forty thousand a-year to spend. Now he is supposed to be
the best hand in the house at rocking the cradle."

"Do you mean to say that he nurses the babies?" asked Ayala.

"He looks as if he did at any rate. He never goes ten miles away
from his door without having Lady Rufford with him, and is always
tucked up at night just at half-past ten by her ladyship's own maid.
Ten years ago he would generally have been found at midnight with
cards in his hand and a cigar in his mouth. Now he is allowed two
cigarettes a-day. Well, Mr. Twentyman, how are you getting on?" This
he said to a good looking better sort of farmer, who came up, riding
a remarkably strong horse, and dressed in pink and white cords.

"Thank ye, Colonel, pretty well, considering how hard the times are.
A man who owns a few acres and tries to farm them must be on the road
to ruin now-a-days. That's what I'm always telling my wife, so that
she may know what she has got to expect." Mr. Twentyman had been
married just twelve months.

"She isn't much frightened, I daresay," said the Colonel.

"She's young, you see," continued the farmer, "and hasn't settled
herself down yet to the sorrows of life." This was that Mr. Lawrence
Twentyman who married Kate Masters, the youngest daughter of old
Masters, the attorney at Dillsborough, and sister of Mrs. Morton,
wife of the squire of Bragton. "By the holy," said Twentyman,
suddenly, "the hounds have put a fox out of that little spinney."



CHAPTER XXIV.

RUFFORD CROSS-ROADS.


Ayala, who had been listening attentively to the conversation of Mr.
Twentyman, and been feeling that she was being initiated every moment
into a new phase of life,--who had been endeavouring to make some
connection in her mind between the new charms of the world around
her and that world of her dreams that was ever present to her, and
had as yet simply determined that neither could Lord Rufford or Mr.
Twentyman have ever been an Angel of Light,--at once straightened
herself in her saddle, and prepared herself for the doing of
something memorable. It was evident to her that Mr. Twentyman
considered that the moment for action had come. He did not gallop
off wildly, as did four or five others, but stood still for a moment
looking intently at a few hounds who, with their tails feathering
in the air and with their noses down, seemed at the same time to be
irresolute and determined, knowing that the scent was there but not
yet quite fixed as to its line. "Half a moment, Colonel," he said,
standing up in his stirrups, with his left hand raised, while his
right held his reins and his whip close down on his horse's neck.
"Half a moment!" He only whispered, and then shook his head angrily,
as he heard the ill-timed shouting of one or two men who had already
reached the other side of the little skirting of trees. "I wish Fred
Botsey's tongue were tied to his teeth," he said, still whispering.
"Now, Colonel, they have it. There's a little lane to the right, and
a gate. After that the country's open, and there's nothing which the
ladies' nags can't do. I know the country so well, you'd perhaps
better come with me for a bit."

"He knows all about it," said the Colonel to Ayala. "Do as he tells
you."

Ayala and Nina both were quick enough to obey. Twentyman dashed
along the lane, while the girls followed him with the Colonel after
them. When they were at the hunting-gate already spoken of, old Tony
Tappett was with them, trotting, impatient to get to the hounds,
courteously giving place to the ladies,--whom, however, in his heart,
he wished at home in bed,--and then thrusting himself through the
gate in front of the Colonel. "D---- their pig-headed folly," he
said, as he came up to his friend Twentyman--"they knows no more
about it than if they'd just come from be'ind a counter,--'olloaing,
'olloaing, 'olloaing,--as if 'olloaing'd make a fox break! 'Owsomever
'e's off now, and they've got Cranbury Brook between them and his
line!" This he said in a squeaking little voice, intended to be
jocose and satirical, shaking his head as he rode. This last idea
seemed to give him great consolation.

It was the consideration, deep and well-founded, as to the Cranbury
which had induced Larry Twentyman to pause on the road when he had
paused, and then to make for the lane and the gate. The direction had
hardly seemed to be that of the hounds, but Larry knew the spinney,
knew the brook,--knew the fox, perhaps,--and was aware of the spot at
which the brute would cross the water if he did cross it. The brute
did cross the water, and therefore there was Cranbury Brook between
many of the forward riders and his line.

Sir Harry was then with them, and two or three other farmers. But
Larry had a lead, and the two girls were with him. Tony Tappett,
though he had got up to his hounds, did not endeavour to ride
straight to them as did Larry Twentyman. He was old and unambitious,
very anxious to know where his hounds were, so that he might be
with them should they want the assistance of his voice and counsel,
anxious to be near enough to take their fox from them should they run
into him, but taking no glory in jumping over a fence if he could
avoid it, creeping about here and there, knowing from experience
nearly every turn in the animal's mind, aware of every impediment
which would delay him, riding fast only when the impediments were far
between, taking no amusement to himself out of the riding, but with
his heart cruelly, bloodily, ruthlessly set upon killing the animal
before him. To kill his fox he would imperil his neck, but for the
glory of riding he would not soil his boots if he could help it.
After the girls came the Colonel, somewhat shorn of his honour in
that he was no longer giving them a lead, but doing his best to
maintain the pace, which Twentyman was making very good. "Now, young
ladies," said Twentyman, "give them their heads, and let them do it
just as they please,--alongside of each other, and not too near to
me." It was a brook,--a confluent of Cranbury Brook, and was wide
enough to require a good deal of jumping. It may be supposed that the
two young ladies did not understand much of the instructions given to
them. To hold their breath and be brave was the only idea present to
them. The rest must come from instinct and chance. The other side
of the brook was heaven;--this would be purgatory. Larry, fearing
perhaps that the order as to their not being too near might not be
obeyed, added a little to his own pace so as to be clear of them.
Nevertheless they were only a few strides behind, and had Larry's
horse missed his footing there would have been a mess. As it was they
took the brook side by side close to each other, and landed full of
delight and glory on the opposite bank. "Bravo! young ladies,"
shouted Twentyman.

"Oh, Nina, that is divine," said Ayala. Nina was a little too much
out of breath for answering, but simply threw up her eyes to Heaven
and made a flourish with her whip, intended to be expressive of her
perfect joy.

Away went Larry and away went the girls with him, quite unconscious
that the Colonel's horse had balked the brook and then jumped
into it,--quite unconscious that Sir Harry, seeing the Colonel's
catastrophe, had followed Tony a quarter of a mile up the brook to
a ford. Even in the soft bosoms of young ladies "the devil take the
hindmost" will be the motto most appropriate for hunting. Larry
Twentyman, of whom they had never heard before, was now the god of
their idolatry. Where Larry Twentyman might go it was manifestly
their duty to follow, even though they should never see the poor
Colonel again. They recked nothing of the fox or of the hounds or of
the master or even of the huntsman. They had a man before them to
show them the way, and as long as they could keep him in sight each
was determined to be at any rate as good as the other. To give Larry
his due it must be acknowledged that he was thoroughly thoughtful of
them. At every fence encountered he studied the spot at which they
would be least likely to fall. He had to remember, also, that there
were two of them together, and that he had made himself in a way
responsible for the safety of both. All this he did, and did well,
because he knew his business. With the exception of the water-jump,
the country over which they passed was not difficult. For a time
there was a run of gates, each of which their guide was able to open
for them, and as they came near to Dillsborough Wood there were gaps
in most of the fences; but it seemed to the girls that they had
galloped over monstrous hedges and leapt over walls which it would
almost take a strong man to climb. The brook, however,--the river as
it seemed to them,--had been the crowning glory. Ayala was sure that
that brook would never be forgotten by her. Even the Angel of Light
was hardly more heavenly than the brook.

That the fox was running for Dillsborough Wood was a fact well known
both to Tony Tappett and Mr. Larry Twentyman. A fox crossing the
brook from the Rufford side would be sure to run to Dillsborough
Wood. When Larry, with the two girls, were just about to enter the
ride, there was old Tony standing up on his horse at the corner,
looking into the covert. And now also a crowd of horsemen came
rushing up, who had made their way along the road, and had passed up
to the wood through Mr. Twentyman's farm-yard;--for, as it happened,
here it was that Mr. Twentyman lived and farmed his own land. Then
came Sir Harry, Colonel Stubbs, and some others who had followed the
line throughout,--the Colonel with his boots full of water, as he had
been forced to get off his horse in the bed of the brook. Sir Harry,
himself, was not in the best of humours,--as will sometimes be the
case with masters when they fail to see the cream of a run. "I never
saw such riding in my life," said Sir Harry, as though some great sin
had been committed by those to whom he was addressing himself. Larry
turned round, and winked at the two girls, knowing that, if sin had
been committed, they three were the sinners. The girls understood
nothing about it, but still thought that Larry Twentyman was divine.

While they were standing about on the rides, Tony was still at
his work. The riding was over, but the fox had to be killed, and
Dillsborough Wood was a covert in which a fox will often require a
large amount of killing. No happier home for the vulpine deity exists
among the shires of England! There are earths there deep, capacious,
full of nurseries; but these, on the present occasion, were debarred
from the poor stranger by the wicked ingenuity of man. But there were
deep dells, in which the brambles and bracken were so thick that no
hound careful of his snout would penetrate them. The undergrowth of
the wood was so interwoven that no huntsman could see through its
depths. There were dark nooks so impervious that any fox ignorant of
the theory of his own scent must have wondered why a hound should
have been induced to creep into spaces so narrow. From one side to
another of the wood the hunted brute would traverse, and always seem
to have at last succeeded in putting his persecutors at fault. So
it was on this occasion. The run, while it lasted, had occupied,
perhaps, three-quarters of an hour, and during a time equally long
poor old Tony was to be seen scurrying from one side of the wood to
another, and was to be heard loudly swearing at his attendant whips
because the hounds did not follow his footsteps as quickly as his
soul desired.

"I never mean to put on a pair of top-boots again, as long as I
live," said the Colonel. At this time a little knot of horsemen
was stationed in a knoll in the centre of the wood, waiting till
they should hear the fatal whoop. Among them were Nina, Ayala, the
Colonel, Larry Twentyman, and Captain Batsby.

"Give up top-boots?" said Larry. "You don't mean to say you'll ride
in black!"

"Top-boots, black boots, spurs, breeches, and red coat, I renounce
them all from this moment. If ever I'm seen in a hunting field again
it will be in a pair of trousers with overalls."

"Now, you're joking, Colonel," said Larry.

"Why won't you wear a red coat any more?" said Ayala.

"Because I'm disgraced for ever. I came out to coach two young women,
and give them a lead, and all I've done was to tumble into a brook,
while a better man has taken my charge away from me."

"Oh, Jonathan, I am so sorry," said Nina, "particularly about your
getting into the water."

"Oh, Colonel Stubbs, we ought to have stopped," said Ayala.

"It was my only comfort to see how very little I was wanted," said
the Colonel. "If I had broke my neck instead of wetting my feet it
would have been just the same to some people."

"Oh, Jonathan!" said Nina, really shocked.

"We ought to have stopped. I know we ought to have stopped," said
Ayala, almost crying.

"Nobody ever stops for any one out hunting," said Twentyman, laying
down a great law.

"I should think not," said Captain Batsby, who had hardly been off
the road all the time.

"I am sure the Colonel will not be angry with me because I took the
young ladies on," said Larry.

"The Colonel is such a muff," said the Colonel himself, "that he
will never presume to be angry with anybody again. But if my cousin
and Miss Dormer are not very much obliged to you for what you have
done for them there will be nothing of gratitude left in the female
British bosom. You have probably given to them the most triumphant
moment of their existence."

"It was their own riding, Colonel; I had nothing to do with it."

"I am so much obliged to you, Sir," said Nina.

"And so am I," said Ayala, "though it was such a pity that Colonel
Stubbs got into the water."

At that moment came the long expected call. Tony Tappett had killed
his fox, after crossing and re-crossing through the wood half a score
of times. "Is it all over?" asked Ayala, as they hurried down the
knoll and scurried down the line to get to the spot outside the wood
to which Tony was dragging the carcase of his defeated enemy.

"It's all over for him," said Larry. "A good fox he was, but he'll
never run again. He is one of them bred at Littlecotes. The foxes
bred at Littlecotes always run."

"And is he dead?" asked Nina. "Poor fellow! I wish it wasn't
necessary to kill them." Then they stood by till they saw the
body of the victim thrown up into the air, and fall amongst the
blood-smirched upturned noses of the expectant pack.

"I call that a pretty little run, Sir Harry," said Larry Twentyman.

"Pretty well," said Sir Harry; "the pace wasn't very great, or that
pony of mine which Miss Dormer is riding could not have lived with
it."

"Horses, Sir Harry, don't want so much pace, if they are allowed to
go straight. It's when a man doesn't get well away, or has made a
mess with his fences, that he needs an extra allowance of pace to
catch the hounds. If you're once with them and can go straight you
may keep your place without such a deal of legs." To this Sir Harry
replied only by a grunt, as on the present occasion he had "made a
mess with his fences," as Larry Twentyman had called it.

"And now, young ladies," said Larry, "I hope you'll come in and see
my missus and her baby, and have a little bit of lunch, such as it
is."

Nina asked anxiously whether there would not be another fox. Ayala
also was anxious lest in accepting the proffered hospitality she
should lose any of the delights of the day. But it was at length
arranged that a quarter of an hour should be allowed before Tony took
his hounds over to the Bragton coverts. Immediately Larry was off his
horse, rushing into the house and ordering everyone about it to come
forth with bread and cheese and sherry and beer. In spite of what he
had said of his ruin it was known that Larry Twentyman was a warm
man, and that no man in Rufford gave what he had to give with a
fuller heart. His house was in the middle of the Rufford and Ufford
hunting country, and the consumption there during the hunting
months of bread and cheese, sherry and beer, must have been immense.
Everyone seemed to be intimate with him, and all called for what they
wanted as if they were on their own premises. On such occasions as
these Larry was a proud man; for no one in those parts carried a
lighter heart or was more fond of popularity.

The parlour inside was by no means big enough to hold the crowding
guests, who therefore munched their bread and cheese and drank their
beer round the front door, without dismounting from their horses; but
Nina and Ayala with their friend the Colonel were taken inside to see
Mrs. Twentyman and her baby. "Now, Larry, what sort of a run was it?"
said the young mother. "Where did you find him, and what line did he
take?"

"I'll tell you all about it when I come back; there are two young
ladies for you now to look after." Then he introduced his wife, and
the baby which was in her arms. "The little fellow is only six weeks
old, and yet she wanted to come to the meet. She'd have been riding
to hounds if I'd let her."

"Why not?" said Mrs. Twentyman. "At any rate I might have gone in the
pony carriage and had baby with me."

"Only six weeks old!" said Nina, stooping down and kissing the child.

"He is a darling!" said Ayala. "I hope he'll go out hunting some
day."

"He'll want to go six times a week if he's anything like his father,"
said Mrs. Twentyman.

"And seven times if he's like his mother," said Larry. Then again
they mounted their nags, and trotted off across the high roads to the
Bragton coverts. Mrs. Twentyman with her baby in her arms walked down
to the gate at the high road and watched them with longing eyes, till
Tony and the hounds were out of sight.

Nothing further in the way of hunting was done that day which
requires to be recorded. They drew various coverts and found a fox or
two, but the scent, which had been so strong in the morning, seemed
to have gone, and the glory of the day was over. The two girls and
the Colonel remained companions during the afternoon, and succeeded
in making themselves merry over the incident of the brook. The
Colonel was in truth well pleased that Larry Twentyman should have
taken his place, though he probably would not have been gratified had
he seen Captain Batsby assume his duties. It had been his delight to
see the two girls ride, and he had been near enough to see them. He
was one of those men who, though fond of hunting, take no special
glory in it, and are devoid of the jealousy of riding. Not to have
a good place in a run was no worse to him than to lose a game of
billiards or a rubber of whist. Let the reader understand that this
trait in his character is not mentioned with approbation. "Always
to excel and to go ahead of everybody" should, the present writer
thinks, be in the heart of every man who rides to hounds. There was
in our Colonel a philosophical way of looking into the thing which
perhaps became him as a man, but was deleterious to his character as
a sportsman.

"I do so hope you've enjoyed yourself, Ayala!" he said, as he lifted
her from her horse.

"Indeed,--indeed, I have!" said Ayala, not noticing the use of her
Christian name. "I have been so happy, and I am so much obliged to
you!"



CHAPTER XXV.

"YOU ARE NOT HE."


Ayala had been a week at Stalham, and according to the understanding
which had existed she should now have returned to Kingsbury Crescent.
She had come for a week, and she had had her week. Oh, what a week
it had been, so thoroughly happy, without a cloud, filled full with
ecstatic pleasures! Jonathan Stubbs had become to her the pleasantest
of friends. Lady Albury had covered her with caresses and little
presents. Nina was the most perfect of friends. Sir Harry had never
been cross, except for that one moment in the wood. And as for
Sprite,--Sprite had nearly realised her idea of an Angel of Light.
Oh, how happy she had been! She was to return on the Monday, having
thus comprised two Sundays within her elongated week. She knew
that her heaven was to be at an end; but she was grateful, and was
determined in her gratitude to be happy and cheerful to the close.
But early on this Sunday morning Colonel Stubbs spoke a word to Lady
Albury. "That little girl is so thoroughly happy here. Cannot you
prolong it for her just for another three days?"

"Is it to be for her,--or for Colonel Stubbs, who is enamoured of the
little girl?" asked Lady Albury.

"For both," said the Colonel, rather gravely.

"Are you in earnest?"

"What do you call earnest? I do love to see a pretty creature enjoy
herself thoroughly as she does. If you will make her stay till
Thursday Albury will let her ride the little horse again at Star
Cross on Wednesday."

"Of course she shall stay,--all the season if you wish it. She is
indeed a happy girl if you are in earnest."

Then it was settled, and Lady Albury in her happiest manner informed
Ayala that she was not to be allowed to take her departure till after
she had ridden Sprite once again. "Sir Harry says that you have given
the little horse quite a name, and that you must finish off his
character for him at Star Cross." As was the heart of the Peri when
the gate of Paradise was opened for her so was the heart of Ayala.
There were to be four days, with the fourth as a hunting-day, before
she need think of going! There was an eternity of bliss before her.

"But Aunt Margaret!" she said, not, however, doubting for a moment
that she would stay. Who cares for a frowning aunt at the distance of
an eternity. I fear that in the ecstacy of her joy she had forgotten
the promise made, that she would always remember her aunt's goodness
to her. "I will write a note to Mrs. Dosett, and make it all
straight," said Lady Albury. The note was written, and, whether
matters were straight or crooked at Kingsbury Crescent, Ayala
remained at Albury.

Colonel Stubbs had thought about the matter, and determined that he
was quite in earnest. He had, he told himself, enough for modest
living,--for modest living without poverty. More would come to him
when old General Stubbs, his uncle, should die. The general was
already past seventy. What was the use of independence if he could
not allow himself to have the girl whom he really loved? Had any
human being so perfectly lovely as Ayala ever flashed before his eyes
before? Was there ever a sweeter voice heard from a woman's mouth?
And then all her little ways and motions,--her very tricks,--how full
of charm they were! When she would open her eyes and nod her head,
and pout with her lips, he would declare to himself that he could no
longer live without her. And then every word that fell from her lips
seemed to have something in it of pretty humour. In fact the Colonel
was in love, and had now resolved that he would give way to his
love in spite of his aunt, the Marchesa, and in spite of his own
philosophy.

He felt by no means sure of success, but yet he thought that he might
succeed. From the moment in which, as the reader may remember, he
had accosted her at the ball, and desired her to dance with him in
obedience to his aunt's behests, it had been understood by everyone
around him that Ayala had liked him. They had become fast friends.
Ayala allowed him to do many little things which, by some feminine
instinct of her own, would have been put altogether beyond the reach
of Captain Batsby. The Colonel knew all this, and knew at the same
time that he should not trust to it only. But still he could not but
trust to it in some degree. Lady Albury had told him that Ayala would
be a happy girl if he were in earnest, and he himself was well aware
of Ayala's dependent position, and of the discomforts of Kingsbury
Crescent. Ayala had spoken quite openly to him of Kingsbury Crescent
as to a confidential friend. But on all that he did not lean much
as being in his favour. He could understand that such a girl as
Ayala would not accept a husband merely with the object of avoiding
domestic poverty. Little qualms of doubt came upon him as he
remembered the nature of the girl, so that he confessed to himself
that Lady Albury knew nothing about it. But, nevertheless, he hoped.
His red hair and his ugly face had never yet stood against him among
the women with whom he had lived. He had been taught by popularity to
think himself a popular man;--and then Ayala had shown so many signs
of her friendship!

There was shooting on Saturday, and he went out with the shooters,
saying nothing to any one of an intended early return; but at three
o'clock he was back at the house. Then he found that Ayala was out
in the carriage, and he waited. He sat in the library pretending to
read, till he heard the sounds of the carriage-wheels, and then he
met the ladies in the hall. "Are they all home from shooting?" asked
Lady Albury. The Colonel explained that no one was home but himself.
He had missed three cock-pheasants running, and had then come away in
disgust. "I am the most ignominious creature in existence," he said,
laughing; "one day I tumble into a ditch three feet wide--"

"It was ten yards at least," said Nina, jealous as to the glory of
her jump.

"And to-day I cannot hit a bird. I shall take to writing a book and
leave the severer pursuit of sport to more enterprising persons."
Then suddenly turning round he said to Ayala, "Are you good-natured
enough to come and take a walk with me in the shrubbery?"

Ayala, taken somewhat by surprise at the request, looked up into
Lady Albury's face. "Go with him, my dear, if you are not tired,"
said Lady Albury. "He deserves consolation after all his good deeds
to you." Ayala still doubted. Though she was on terms of pleasant
friendship with the man, yet she felt almost awestruck at this sudden
request that she should walk alone with him. But not to do so,
especially after Lady Albury's injunction, would have been peculiar.
She certainly was not tired, and had such a walk come naturally it
would have been an additional pleasure to her; but now, though she
went she hesitated, and showed her hesitation.

"Are you afraid to come with me?" he said, as soon as they were out
on the gravel together.

"Afraid! Oh, dear no, I should not be afraid to go anywhere with you,
I think; only it seemed odd that you did not ask Nina too."

"Shall I tell you why?"

"Why was it?"

"Because I have something to say to you which I do not want Nina
to hear just at this moment. And then I thought that we were such
friends that you would not mind coming with me."

"Of course we are," said Ayala.

"I don't know why it should be so, but I seem to have known you years
instead of days."

"Perhaps that is because you knew papa."

"More likely because I have learnt to know your papa's daughter."

"Do you mean Lucy?"

"I mean Ayala."

"That is saying the same thing twice over. You know me because you
know me."

"Just that. How long do you suppose I have known that Mrs. Gregory,
who sat opposite to us yesterday?"

"How can I tell?"

"Just fifteen years. I was going to Harrow when she came as a young
girl to stay with my mother. Her people and my people had known
each other for the last fifty years. Since that I have seen her
constantly, and of course we are very intimate."

"I suppose so."

"I know as much about her after all that as if we had lived in two
different hemispheres and couldn't speak a word of each other's
language. There isn't a thought or a feeling in common between us. I
ask after her husband and her children, and then tell her it's going
to rain. She says something about the old General's health, and then
there is an end of everything between us. When next we meet we do it
all over again."

"How very uninteresting!" said Ayala.

"Very uninteresting. It is because there are so many Mrs. Gregorys
about that I like to go down to Drumcaller and live by myself.
Perhaps you're a Mrs. Gregory to somebody."

"Why should I be a Mrs. Gregory? I don't think I am at all like Mrs.
Gregory."

"Not to me, Ayala." Now she heard the "Ayala," and felt something
of what it meant. There had been moments at which she had almost
disliked to hear him call her Miss Dormer; but now,--now she wished
that he had not called her Ayala. She strove to assume a serious
expression of face, but having done so she could not dare to turn
it up towards him. The glance of her little anger, if there was any,
fell only upon the ground. "It is because you are to me a creature so
essentially different from Mrs. Gregory that I seem to know you so
well. I never want to go to Drumcaller if you are near me;--or, if I
think of Drumcaller, it is that I might be there with you."

"I am sure the place is very pretty, but I don't suppose I shall ever
see it."

"Do you know about your sister and Mr. Hamel?"

"Yes," said Ayala, surprised. "She has told me all about it. How do
you know?"

"He was staying at Drumcaller,--he and I together with no one
else,--when he went over to ask her. I never saw a man so happy as
when he came back from Glenbogie. He had got all that he wanted in
the world."

"I do so love him because he loves her."

"And I love her,--because she loves you."

"It is not the same, you know," said Ayala, trying to think it all
out.

"May I not love her?"

"He is to be my brother. That's why I love him. She can't be your
sister." The poor girl, though she had tried to think it all out, had
not thought very far.

"Can she not?" he said.

"Of course not. Lucy is to marry Mr. Hamel."

"And whom am I to marry?" Then she saw it all. "Ayala,--Ayala,--who
is to be my wife?"

"I do not know," she said,--speaking with a gruff voice, but still in
a whisper, with a manner altogether different,--thinking how well it
would be that she should be taken at once back into the house.

"Do you not know whom I would fain have as my wife?" Then he felt
that it behoved him to speak out plainly. He was already sure that
she would not at once tell him that it should be as he would have
it,--that she would not instantly throw herself into his arms. But he
must speak plainly to her, and then fight his cause as best he might.
"Ayala, I have asked you to come out with me that I might ask you to
be my wife. It is that that I did not wish Nina to hear at once. If
you will put out your hand and say that it shall be so, Nina and all
the world shall know it. I shall be as proud then as Hamel, and as
happy,--happier, I think. It seems to me that no one can love as I
do now, Ayala; it has grown upon me from hour to hour as I have seen
you. When I first took you away to that dance it was so already. Do
you remember that night at the theatre,--when I had come away from
everything and striven so hard that I might be near to you before you
went back to your home? Ayala, I loved you then so dearly;--but not
as I love you now. When I saw you riding away from me yesterday, when
I could not get over the brook, I told myself that unless I might
catch you at last, and have you all to myself, I could never again be
happy. Do you remember when you stooped down and kissed that man's
baby at the farm-house? Oh, Ayala, I thought then that if you would
not be my wife,--if you would not be my wife,--I should never have
wife, never should have baby, never should have home of my own."
She walked on by his side, listening, but she had not a word to say
to him. It had been easy enough to her to reject and to rebuke and
to scorn Tom Tringle, when he had persisted in his suit; but she
knew not with what words to reject this man who stood so high in
her estimation, who was in many respects so perfect, whom she so
thoroughly liked,--but whom, nevertheless, she must reject. He was
not the Angel of Light,--could never be the Angel of Light. There
was nothing there of the azure wings upon which should soar the all
but celestial being to whom she could condescend to give herself and
her love. He was pleasant, good, friendly, kind-hearted,--all that
a friend or a brother should be; but he was not the Angel of Light.
She was sure of that. She told herself that she was quite sure of it,
as she walked beside him in silence along the path. "You know what
I mean, Ayala, when I tell you that I love you," he continued. But
still she made no answer. "I have seen at last the one human being
with whom I feel that I can be happy to spend my life, and, having
seen her, I ask her to be my wife. The hope has been dwelling with me
and growing since I first met you. Shall it be a vain hope? Ayala,
may I still hope?"

"No," she said, abruptly.

"Is that all?"

"It is all that I can say."

"Is that one 'no' to be the end of everything between us?"

"I don't know what else I ought to say to you, Colonel Stubbs."

"Do you mean that you can never love me?"

"Never," she said.

"That is a hard word,--and hardly friendly. Is there to be no more
than one hard word between you and me? Though I did not venture
to think that you could tell me that you loved me, I looked for
something kinder, something gentler than that."


   "From such a sharp and waspish word as 'no,'
    To pluck the sting!"


Ayala did not know the lines I have quoted, but the idea conveyed in
them was present clearly to her mind. She would fain have told him,
had she known how to do so, that her heart was very gentle towards
him, was very kind, gentle and kind as a sister's;--but that she
could not love him, so as to become his wife. "You are not he,--not
he, not that Angel of Light, which must come to me, radiant with
poetry, beautiful to the eye, full of all excellences of art, lifted
above the earth by the qualities of his mind,--such a one as must
come to me if it be that I am ever to confess that I love. You are
not he, and I cannot love you. But you shall be the next to him in my
estimation, and you are already so dear to me that I would be tender
to you, would be gentle,--if only I knew how." It was all there,
clear enough in her mind, but she had not the words. "I don't know
what it is that I ought to say," she exclaimed through her sobs.

"The truth, at any rate," he answered, sternly, "but not the truth,
half and half, after the fashion of some young ladies. Do not think
that you should palter with the truth either because it may not be
palatable to me, or seem decorous to yourself. To my happiness this
matter is all important, and you are something to my happiness, if
only because I have risked it on your love. Tell me;--why cannot you
love me?"

The altered tone of his voice, which now had in it something of
severity, seemed to give her more power.

"It is because--" Then she paused.

"Because why? Out with it, whatever it is. If it be something that
a man may remedy I will remedy it. Do not fear to hurt me. Is it
because I am ugly? That I cannot remedy." She did not dare to tell
him that it was so, but she looked up at him, not dissenting by any
motion of her head. "Then God help me, for ugly I must remain."

"It is not that only."

"Is it because my name is Stubbs--Jonathan Stubbs?" Now she did
assent, nodding her head at him. He had bade her tell him the truth,
and she was so anxious to do as he bade her! "If it be so, Ayala, I
must tell you that you are wrong,--wrong and foolish; that you are
carried away by a feeling of romance, which is a false romance. Far
be it from me to say that I could make you happy, but I am sure that
your happiness cannot be made and cannot be marred by such accidents
as that. Do you think that my means are not sufficient?"

"No;--no," she cried; "I know nothing of your means. If I could love
you I would not condescend to ask,--even to hear."

"There is no other man, I think?"

"There is no other man."

"But your imagination has depicted to you something grander than I
am,"--then she assented quickly, turning round and nodding her head
to him,--"some one who shall better respond to that spirit of poetry
which is within you?" Again she nodded her head approvingly, as
though to assure him that now he knew the whole truth. "Then, Ayala,
I must strive to soar till I can approach your dreams. But, if you
dare to desire things which are really grand, do not allow yourself
to be mean at the same time. Do not let the sound of a name move you,
or I shall not believe in your aspirations. Now shall I take you back
to the house?"

Back to the house they went, and there was not another word spoken
between them. By those last words of his she had felt herself to be
rebuked. If it were possible that he could ask her again whether that
sound, Jonathan Stubbs, had anything to do with it, she would let him
know now, by some signal, that she no longer found a barrier in the
name. But there were other barriers,--barriers which he himself had
not pretended to call vain. As to his ugliness, that he had confessed
he could not remedy; calling on God to pity him because he was so.
And as for that something grander which he had described, and for
which her soul sighed, he had simply said that he would seek for it.
She was sure that he would not find it. It was not to such as he that
the something grander,--which was to be the peculiar attribute of
the Angel of Light,--could be accorded. But he had owned that the
something grander might exist.



CHAPTER XXVI.

"THE FINEST HERO THAT I EVER KNEW."


The Colonel and Ayala returned to the house without a word. When they
were passing through the hall she turned to go at once up the stairs
to her own room. As she did so he put out his hand to her, and she
took it. But she passed on without speaking, and when she was alone
she considered it over all in her own mind. There could be no doubt
that she was right. Of that she was quite sure. It was certainly a
fixed law that a girl should not marry a man unless she loved him.
She did not love this man, and therefore she ought not to marry him.
But there were some qualms at her heart as to the possible reality
of the image which she had created for her own idolatry. And she had
been wounded when he told her that she should not allow herself to be
mean amidst her soarings. She had been wounded, and yet she knew that
he had been right. He had intended to teach her the same lesson when
he told her the absurd story of the woman who had been flung out of
the window. She could not love him; but that name of his should never
again be a reason for not doing so. Let the Angel of Light come to
her with his necessary angelic qualities, and no want of euphony in
a sound should be a barrier to him. Nor in truth could any outside
appearance be an attribute of angelic light. The Angel of Light might
be there even with red hair. Something as to the truth of this also
came across her, though the Colonel had not rebuked her on that head.

But how should she carry herself now during the four days which
remained to her at Stalham Park? All the loveliness seemed to depart
from her prospect. She would hardly know how to open her mouth before
her late friend. She suspected that Lady Albury knew with what
purpose the Colonel had taken her out into the shrubbery, and she
would not dare to look Lady Albury in the face. How should she answer
Nina if Nina were to ask her questions about the walk. The hunt
for next Wednesday was no longer a delight to which she could look
forward. How would it be possible that Colonel Stubbs should direct
her now as to her riding, and instruct her as to her conduct in the
hunting-field? It would be better for her that she should return at
once to Kingsbury Crescent.

As she thought of this there did come upon her a reflection that had
she been able to accept Colonel Stubbs's offer there would have been
an end for ever to the miseries of her aunt's house. She would have
been lifted at once into the mode of life in which the man lived.
Instead of being a stranger admitted by special grace into such an
Elysium as that of Stalham Park, she would become one of those to
whom such an Elysium belonged almost of right. By her own gifts she
would have won her way into that upper and brighter life which seemed
to her to be all smiles and all joy. As to his income she thought
nothing and cared nothing. He lived with men who had horses and
carriages, and who spent their time in pleasurable pursuits. And she
would live amidst ladies who were always arrayed in bright garments,
who, too, had horses and carriages at their command, and were never
troubled by those sordid cares which made life at Kingsbury Crescent
so sad and tedious. One little word would have done it all for her,
would have enabled her to take the step by which she would be placed
among the bright ones of the earth.

But the remembrance of all this only made her firmer in her
resolution. If there was any law of right and wrong fixed absolutely
in her bosom, it was this,--that no question of happiness or
unhappiness, of suffering or joy, would affect her duty to the Angel
of Light. She owed herself to him should he come to seek her. She
owed herself to him no less, even should he fail to come. And she
owed herself equally whether he should be rich or poor. As she was
fortifying herself with these assurances, Nina came to ask her
whether she would not come down to tea. Ayala pleaded headache, and
said that she would rest till dinner. "Has anything happened?" asked
Nina. Ayala simply begged that she might be asked no questions then,
because her head was aching. "If you do not tell me everything, I
shall think you are no true friend," said Nina, as she left the room.

As evening drew on she dressed for dinner, and went down into the
drawing-room. In doing so it was necessary to pass through the
billiard-room, and there she found Colonel Stubbs, knocking about the
balls. "Are you dressed for dinner?" he exclaimed; "I haven't begun
to think of it yet, and Sir Harry hates a man when he comes in late.
That wretch Batsby has beaten me four games." With that he rushed
off, putting down the cue with a rattle, and seeming to Ayala to have
recovered altogether from the late prostration of his spirits.

In the drawing-room Ayala was for a few minutes alone, and then, as
she was glad to see, three or four ladies all came in at once, so
that no question could be asked her by Lady Albury. They went into
dinner without the Colonel, who was in truth late, and she was taken
in by Mr. Gosling, whose pretty little wife was just opposite to her.
On the other side of her sat Lord Rufford, who had come to Stalham
with his wife for a day or two, and who immediately began to
congratulate her on the performance of the day before. "I am told
you jumped the Cranbury Brook," he said. "I should as soon think of
jumping the Serpentine."

"I did it because somebody told me."

"Ah," said Lord Rufford, with a sigh, "there is nothing like
ignorance, innocence, and youth combined. But why didn't Colonel
Stubbs get over after you?"

"Because Colonel Stubbs couldn't," said that gentleman, as he took
his seat in the vacant chair.

"It may be possible," said Sir Harry, "that a gentleman should not be
able to jump over Cranbury Brook; but any gentleman, if he will take
a little trouble, may come down in time for dinner."

"Now that I have been duly snubbed right and left," said the Colonel,
"perhaps I may eat my soup."

Ayala, who had expected she hardly knew what further troubles, and
who had almost feared that nobody would speak to her because she had
misbehaved herself, endeavoured to take heart of grace when she found
that all around her, including the Colonel himself, were as pleasant
as ever. She had fancied that Lady Albury had looked at her specially
when Colonel Stubbs took his seat, and she had specially noticed the
fact that his chair had not been next her own. These little matters
she was aware Lady Albury managed herself, and was aware also that in
accordance with the due rotation of things she and the Colonel should
have been placed together. She was glad that it was not so, but at
the same time she was confident that Lady Albury knew something of
what had passed between herself and her suitor. The evening, however,
went off easily, and nothing occurred to disturb her except that
the Colonel had called her by her Christian name, when as usual he
brought to her a cup of tea in the drawing-room. Oh, that he would
continue to do so, and yet not demand from her more than their old
friendship!

The next morning was Sunday, and they all went to church. It was a
law at Stalham that everyone should go to church on Sunday morning.
Sir Harry himself, who was not supposed to be a peculiarly religious
man, was always angry when any male guest did not show himself in the
enormous family pew. "I call it d---- indecent," he has been heard
to say. But nobody was expected to go twice,--and consequently
nobody ever did go twice. Lunch was protracted later than usual. The
men would roam about the grounds with cigars in their mouths, and
ladies would take to reading in their own rooms, in following which
occupation they would spend a considerable part of the afternoon
asleep. On this afternoon Lady Albury did not go to sleep, but
contrived to get Ayala alone upstairs into her little sitting-room.
"Ayala," she said, with something between a smile and a frown, "I am
afraid I am going to be angry with you."

"Please don't be angry, Lady Albury."

"If I am right in what I surmise, you had an offer made to you
yesterday which ought to satisfy the heart of almost any girl in
England." Here she paused, but Ayala had not a word to say for
herself. "If it was so, the best man I know asked you to share his
fortune with him."

"Has he told you?"

"But he did?"

"I shall not tell," said Ayala, proudly.

"I know he did. I knew that it was his intention before. Are you
aware what kind of man is my cousin, Jonathan Stubbs? Has it occurred
to you that in truth and gallantry, in honour, honesty, courage, and
real tenderness, he is so perfect as to be quite unlike to the crowd
of men you see?"

"I do know that he is good," said Ayala.

"Good! Where will you find any one good like him? Compare him to the
other men around him, and then say whether he is good! Can it be
possible that you should refuse the love of such a man as that?"

"I don't think I ought to be made to talk about it," said Ayala,
hesitating.

"My dear, it is for your own sake and for his. When you go away from
here it may be so difficult for him to see you again."

"I don't suppose he will ever want," said Ayala.

"It is sufficient that he wants it now. What better can you expect
for yourself?"

"I expect nothing," said Ayala, proudly. "I have got nothing, and I
expect nothing."

"He will give you everything, simply because he loves you. My dear,
I should not take the trouble to tell you all this, did I not know
that he is a man who ought to be accepted when he asks such a request
as that. Your happiness would be safe in his hands." She paused, but
Ayala had not a word to say. "And he is not a man likely to renew
such a request. He is too proud for that. I can conceive no possible
reason for such a refusal unless it be that you are engaged. If there
be some one else, then of course there must be an end of it."

"There is no one else."

"Then, my dear, with your prospects it is sheer folly. When the
General dies he will have over two thousand a year."

"As if that had anything to do with it!" said Ayala, holding herself
aloft in her wrath, and throwing angry glances at the lady.

"It is what I call romance," said Lady Albury. "Romance can never
make you happy."

"At any rate it is not riches. What you call romance may be what I
like best. At any rate if I do not love Colonel Stubbs I am sure I
ought not to marry him;--and I won't."

After this there was nothing further to be said. Ayala thought that
she would be turned out of the room,--almost out of the house, in
disgrace. But Lady Albury, who was simply playing her part, was
not in the least angry. "Well, my dear," she said, "pray,--pray,
think better of it. I am in earnest, of course, because of my
cousin,--because he seems to have put his heart upon it. He is just
the man to be absolutely in love when he is in love. But I would
not speak as I do unless I were sure that he would make you happy.
My cousin Jonathan is to me the finest hero that I know. When a
man is a hero he shouldn't be broken-hearted for want of a woman's
smiles,--should he?"

"She ought not to smile unless she loves him," said Ayala, as she
left the room.

The Monday and Tuesday went very quietly. Lady Albury said nothing
more on the great subject, and the Colonel behaved himself exactly
as though there had been no word of love at all. There was nothing
special said about the Wednesday's hunt through the two days, till
Ayala almost thought that there would be no hunt for her. Nor,
indeed, did she much wish for it. It had been the Colonel who had
instigated her to deeds of daring, and under his sanction that she
had ventured to ride. She would hardly know how to go through the
Wednesday,--whether still to trust him, or whether to hold herself
aloof from him. When nothing was said on the subject till late on
the evening of the Tuesday, she had almost resolved that she would
not put on her habit when the morning came. But just as she was about
to leave the drawing-room with her bed-candle Colonel Stubbs came to
her. "Most of us ride to the meet to-morrow," he said; "but you and
Nina shall be taken in the waggonette so as to save you a little.
It is all arranged." She bowed and thanked him, going to bed almost
sorry that it should have been so settled. When the morning came Nina
could not ride. She had hurt her foot, and, coming early into Ayala's
room, declared with tears that she could not go. "Then neither shall
I," said Ayala, who was at that moment preparing to put on her habit.

"But you must. It is all settled, and Sir Harry would be offended if
you did not go. What has Jonathan done that you should refuse to ride
with him because I am lame?"

"Nothing," said Ayala.

"Oh, Ayala, do tell me. I should tell you everything. Of course you
must hunt whatever it is. Even though he should have offered and you
refused him, of course you must go."

"Must I?" said Ayala.

"Then you have refused him?"

"I have. Oh, Nina, pray do not speak of it. Do not think of it if you
can help it. Why should everything be disturbed because I have been a
fool?"

"Then you think you have been a fool?"

"Other people think so; but if so I shall at any rate be constant to
my folly. What I mean is, that it has been done, and should be passed
over as done with. I am quite sure that I ought not to be scolded;
but Lady Albury did scold me." Then they went down together to
breakfast, Ayala having prepared herself properly for the
hunting-field.

In the waggonette there were with her Lady Albury, Mrs. Gosling, and
Nina, who was not prevented by her lameness from going to the meet.
The gentlemen all rode, so that there was no immediate difficulty
as to Colonel Stubbs. But when she had been put on her horse by
his assistance and found herself compelled to ride away from the
carriage, apparently under his especial guidance, her heart misgave
her, and she thoroughly wished that she was at home in the Crescent.
Though she was specially under his guidance there were at first
others close around her, and, while they were on the road going to
the covert which they were to draw, conversation was kept up so that
it was not necessary for her to speak;--but what should she do when
she should find herself alone with him as would certainly soon be the
case? It soon was the case. The hounds were at work in a large wood
in which she was told they might possibly pass the best part of the
day, and it was not long before the men had dispersed themselves,
some on this side some on that, and she found herself with no one
near her but the Colonel. "Ayala," he said, "of course you know that
it is my duty to look after you, and to do it better if I can than I
did on Friday."

"I understand," she said.

"Do not let any remembrance of that walk on Saturday interfere with
your happiness to-day. Who knows when you may be out hunting again?"

"Never!" she said; "I don't suppose I shall ever hunt again."

"Carpe diem," he said, laughing. "Do you know what 'carpe diem'
means?"

"It is Latin perhaps."

"Yes; and therefore you are not supposed to understand it. This is
what it means. As an hour for joy has come, do not let any trouble
interfere with it. Let it all be, for this day at least, as though
there had been no walk in the Stalham Woods. There is Larry
Twentyman. If I break down as I did on Friday you may always trust to
him. Larry and you are old friends now."

"Carpe diem," she said to herself. "Oh, yes; if it were only
possible. How is one to 'carpe diem' with one's heart full of
troubles?" And it was the less possible because this man whom she
had rejected was so anxious to do everything for her happiness. Lady
Albury had told her that he was a hero,--that he was perfect in
honour, honesty, and gallantry; and she felt inclined to own that
Lady Albury was almost right. Yet,--yet how far was he from that
image of manly perfection which her daily thoughts had created for
her! Could she have found an appropriate word with which to thank
him she would have done so; but there was no such word, and Larry
Twentyman was now with them, taking off his hat and overflowing with
compliments. "Oh, Miss Dormer, I am so delighted to see you out
again."

"How is the baby, Mr. Twentyman?"

"Brisk as a bee, and hungry as a hunter."

"And how is Mrs. Twentyman?"

"Brisker and hungrier than the baby. What do you think of the day,
Colonel?"

"A very good sort of day, Twentyman, if we were anywhere out of these
big woods." Larry shook his head solemnly. The Mudcombe Woods in
which they were now at work had been known to occupy Tony Tappett
and his whole pack from eleven o'clock till the dusk of evening.
"We've got to draw them, of course," continued the Colonel. Then Mr.
Twentyman discoursed at some length on the excellence of Mudcombe
Woods. What would any county be without a nursery for young foxes?
Gorse-coverts, hedge-rows, and little spinneys would be of no avail
unless there were some grandly wild domain in which maternal and
paternal foxes could roam in comparative security. All this was just
as Ayala would have it, because it enabled her to ask questions, and
saved her from subjects which might be painful to her.

The day, in truth, was not propitious to hunting even. Foxes were
found in plenty, and two of them were killed within the recesses of
the wood; but on no occasion did they run a mile into the open. For
Ayala it was very well, because she was galloping hither and thither,
and because before the day was over she found herself able to talk to
the Colonel in her wonted manner; but there was no great glory for
her as had been the glory of Little Cranbury Brook.

On the next morning she was taken back to London and handed over
to her aunt in Kingsbury Crescent without another word having been
spoken by Colonel Stubbs in reference to his love.



CHAPTER XXVII.

LADY ALBURY'S LETTER.


"I have had a letter from Lady Albury," said Aunt Margaret, almost as
soon as Ayala had taken off her hat and cloak.

"Yes, I know, Aunt Margaret. She wrote to ask that I might stay for
four more days. I hope it was not wrong."

"I have had another letter since that, on Monday, about it; I have
determined to show it you. There it is. You had better read it by
yourself, and I will come to you again in half an hour." Then, very
solemnly, but with no trace of ill-humour, Mrs. Dosett left the room.
There was something in her tone and gait so exceedingly solemn that
Ayala was almost frightened. Of course, the letter must be about
Colonel Stubbs, and, of course, the writer of it would find fault
with her. She was conscious that she was adding one to her terribly
long list of sins in not consenting to marry Colonel Stubbs. It was
her misfortune that all her friends found fault with everything that
she did. Among them there was not one, not even Nina, who fully
sympathised with her. Not even to Lucy could she expatiate with a
certainty of sympathy in regard to the Angel of Light. And now,
though her aunt was apparently not angry,--only solemn,--she felt
already sure that she was to be told that it was her duty to marry
Colonel Stubbs. It was only the other day that her aunt was preaching
to her as to the propriety of marrying her cousin Tom. It seemed, she
said to herself, that people thought that a girl was bound to marry
any man who could provide a house for her, and bread to eat, and
clothes to wear. All this passed through her mind as she slowly drew
Lady Albury's letter from the envelope and prepared to read it. The
letter was as follows:--


   Stalham, Monday, 18th November, 18--.

   DEAR MADAM,

   Your niece will return to you, as you request, on
   Thursday, but before she reaches you I think it my duty
   to inform you of a little circumstance which has occurred
   here. My cousin, Colonel Jonathan Stubbs, who is also
   the nephew of the Marchesa Baldoni, has made Miss Dormer
   an offer. I am bound to add that I did not think it
   improbable that it would be so, when I called on your
   husband, and begged him to allow your niece to come to
   us. I did not then know my cousin's intention as a fact.
   I doubt whether he knew it himself; but from what I had
   heard I thought it probable, and, as I conceive that any
   young lady would be fortunate in becoming my cousin's
   wife, I had no scruple.

   He has proposed to her, and she has rejected him. He has
   set his heart upon the matter, and I am most anxious that
   he should succeed, because I know him to be a man who
   will not easily brook disappointment where he has set his
   heart. Of all men I know he is the most steadfast in his
   purpose.

   I took the liberty of speaking to your niece on the
   subject, and am disposed to think that she is deferred
   by some feeling of foolish romance, partly because she
   does not like the name, partly because my cousin is not a
   handsome man in a girl's eyes;--more probably, however,
   she has built up to herself some poetic fiction, and
   dreams of she knows not what. If it be so, it is a pity
   that she should lose an opportunity of settling herself
   well and happily in life. She gave as a reason that she
   did not love him. My experience is not so long as yours,
   perhaps, but such as I have has taught me to think that
   a wife will love her husband when she finds herself used
   well at all points. Mercenary marriages are, of course,
   bad: but it is a pity, I think, that a girl, such as your
   niece, should lose the chance of so much happiness by a
   freak of romance.

   Colonel Stubbs, who is only twenty-eight years of age, has
   a staff appointment at Aldershot. He has private means of
   his own, on which alone he would be justified in marrying.
   On the death of his uncle, General Stubbs, he will inherit
   a considerable accession of fortune. He is not, of course,
   a rich man; but he has ample for the wants of a family.
   In all other good gifts, temper, manliness, truth, and
   tenderness, I know no one to excel him. I should trust any
   young friend of my own into his hands with perfect safety.

   I have thought it right to tell you this. You will use
   your own judgment in saying what you think fit to your
   niece. Should she be made to understand that her own
   immediate friends approve of the offer, she would probably
   be induced to accept it. I have not heard my cousin say
   what may be his future plans. I think it possible that,
   as he is quite in earnest, he will not take one repulse.
   Should he ask again, I hope that your niece may receive
   him with altered views.

   Pray believe me to be, my dear Madam,
   Yours sincerely,

   ROSALINE ALBURY.


Ayala read the letter twice over before her aunt returned to her,
and, as she read it, felt something of a feeling of renewed kindness
come upon her in reference to the writer of it;--not that she was
in the least changed in her own resolution, but that she liked Lady
Albury for wishing to change her. The reasons given, however, were
altogether impotent with her. Colonel Stubbs had the means of keeping
a wife! If that were a reason then also ought she to marry her
cousin, Tom Tringle. Colonel Stubbs was good and true; but so also
very probably was Tom Tringle. She would not compare the two men. She
knew that her cousin Tom was altogether distasteful to her, while she
took delight in the companionship of the Colonel. But the reasons
for marrying one were to her thinking as strong as for marrying the
other. There could be only one valid excuse for marriage,--that of
adoring the man;--and she was quite sure that she did not adore
Colonel Jonathan Stubbs. Lady Albury had said in her letter, that a
girl would be sure to love a man who treated her well after marriage;
but that would not suffice for her. Were she to marry at all, it
would be necessary that she should love the man before her marriage.

"Have you read the letter, my dear?" said Mrs. Dosett, as she entered
the room and closed the door carefully behind her. She spoke almost
in a whisper, and seemed to be altogether changed by the magnitude of
the occasion.

"Yes, Aunt Margaret, I have read it."

"I suppose it is true?"

"True! It is true in part."

"You did meet this Colonel Stubbs?"

"Oh, yes; I met him."

"And you had met him before?"

"Yes, Aunt Margaret. He used to come to Brook Street. He is the
Marchesa's nephew."

"Did he--" This question Aunt Margaret asked in a very low whisper,
and her most solemn voice. "Did he make love to you in Brook Street?"

"No," said Ayala, sharply.

"Not at all?"

"Not at all. I never thought of such a thing. I never dreamed of such
a thing when he began talking to me out in the woods at Stalham on
Saturday."

"Had you been--been on friendly terms with him?"

"Very friendly terms. We were quite friends, and used to talk about
all manner of things. I was very fond of him, and never afraid of
anything that he said to me. He was Nina's cousin and seemed almost
to be my cousin too."

"Then you do like him?"

"Of course I do. Everybody must like him. But that is no reason why I
should want to marry him."

Upon this Mrs. Dosett sat silent for awhile turning the great matter
over in her thoughts. It was quite clear to her that every word which
Ayala had spoken was true; and probable also that Lady Albury's words
were true. In her inmost thoughts she regarded Ayala as a fool. Here
was a girl who had not a shilling of her own, who was simply a burden
on relatives whom she did not especially love, who was doomed to
a life which was essentially distasteful to her,--for all this in
respect to herself and her house Mrs. Dosett had sense enough to
acknowledge,--who seemed devoted to the society of rich and gay
people, and yet would not take the opportunities that were offered
her of escaping what she disliked and going to that which she
loved! Two offers had now been made to her, both of them thoroughly
eligible, to neither of which would objection have been made by
any of the persons concerned. Sir Thomas had shown himself to be
absolutely anxious for the success of his son. And now it seemed that
the grand relations of this Colonel Stubbs were in favour of the
match. What it was in Ayala that entitled her to such promotion Mrs.
Dosett did not quite perceive. To her eyes her niece was a fantastic
girl, pretty indeed, but not endowed with that regular tranquil
beauty which she thought to be of all feminine graces the most
attractive. Why Tom Tringle should have been so deeply smitten with
Ayala had been a marvel to her; and now this story of Colonel Stubbs
was a greater marvel. "Ayala," she said, "you ought to think better
of it."

"Think better of what, Aunt Margaret?"

"You have seen what this Lady Albury says about her cousin, Colonel
Stubbs."

"What has that to do with it?"

"You believe what she says? If so why should you not accept him?"

"Because I can't," said Ayala.

"Have you any idea what is to become of your future life?" said Mrs.
Dosett, very gravely.

"Not in the least," said Ayala. But that was a fib, because she had
an idea that in the fullness of time it would be her heavenly fate to
put her hand into that of the Angel of Light.

"Gentlemen won't come running after you always, my dear."

This was almost as bad as being told by her Aunt Emmeline that she
had encouraged her cousin Tom. "It's a great shame to say that. I
don't want anybody to run after me. I never did."

"No, my dear; no. I don't think that you ever did." Mrs. Dosett, who
was justice itself, did acknowledge to herself that of any such fault
as that suggested, Ayala was innocent. Her fault was quite in the
other direction, and consisted of an unwillingness to settle herself
and to free her relations of the burden of maintaining her when
proper opportunities arose for doing so. "I only want to explain
to you that people must,--must,--must make their hay while the sun
shines. You are young now."

"I am not one-and-twenty yet," said Ayala, proudly.

"One-and-twenty is a very good time for a girl to marry,--that is to
say if a proper sort of gentleman asks her."

"I don't think I ought to be scolded because they don't seem to me to
be the proper sort. I don't want anybody to come. Nobody ought to be
talked to about it at all. If I cared about any one that you or Uncle
Reginald did not approve, then you might talk to me. But I don't
think that anything ought to be said about anybody unless I like him
myself." So the conversation was over, and Mrs. Dosett felt that she
had been entirely vanquished.

Lady Albury's letter was shown to Mr. Dosett, but he refused to say
a word to his niece on the subject. In the argument which followed
between him and his wife he took his niece's part, opposing
altogether that idea that hay should be made while the sun shines.
"It simply means selling herself," said Mr. Dosett.

"That is nonsense, Reginald. Of course such a girl as Ayala has to
do the best she can with her good looks. What else has she to depend
upon?"

"My brother-in-law will do something for her."

"I hope he will,--though I do not think that a very safe reed to
depend upon as she has twice offended him. But of course a girl
thinks of marrying. Ayala would be very much disgusted if she were
told that she was to be an old maid, and live upon £100 a year
supplied by Sir Thomas's bounty. It might have been that she would
have to do it;--but now that chances are open she ought to take them.
She should choose between her cousin Tom and this Colonel Stubbs;
and you should tell her that, if she will not, you will no longer be
responsible for her."

To this Mr. Dosett turned altogether a deaf ear. He was quite sure
that his responsibility must be continued till Ayala should marry,
or till he should die, and he would not make a threat which he would
certainly be unable to carry out. He would be very glad if Ayala
could bring herself to marry either of the young men. It was a pity
that she should feel herself compelled to refuse offers so excellent.
But it was a matter for her own judgment, and one in which he would
not interfere. For two days this almost led to a coldness between the
man and his wife, during which the sufferings of poor Mrs. Dosett
were heartrending.

Not many days after Ayala's return her sister Lucy came to see her.
Certain reasons had caused Lady Tringle to stay at Glenbogie longer
than usual, and the family was now passing through London on their
way to Merle Park. Perhaps it was the fact that the Trafficks had
been effectually extruded from Glenbogie, but would doubtless turn up
at Merle Park, should Lady Tringle take up her residence there before
the autumn was over. That they should spend their Christmas at Merle
Park was an acknowledged thing;--to mamma Tringle an acknowledged
benefit, because she liked to have her daughter with her; to papa
Tringle an acknowledged evil, because he could not endure to be made
to give more than he intended to give. That they should remain there
afterwards through January, and till the meeting of Parliament, was
to be expected. But it was hoped that they might be driven to find
some home for themselves if they were left homeless by Sir Thomas for
awhile. The little plan was hardly successful, as Mr. Traffick had
put his wife into lodgings at Hastings, ready to pounce down on Merle
Park as soon as Lady Tringle should have occupied the house a few
days. Lady Tringle was now going there with the rest of the family,
Sir Thomas having been in town for the last six weeks.

Lucy took advantage of the day which they passed in London, and
succeeded in getting across to the Crescent. At this time she had
heard nothing of Colonel Stubbs, and was full indeed of her own
troubles.

"You haven't seen him?" she said to her sister.

"Seen who?" asked Ayala, who had two "hims" to her bow,--and thought
at the moment rather of her own two "hims" than of Lucy's one.

"Isadore. He said that he would call here." Ayala explained that she
had not seen him, having been absent from town during the last ten
days,--during which Mr. Hamel had in fact called at the house.
"Ayala," continued Lucy, "what am I to do?"

"Stick to him," said Ayala, firmly.

"Of course I shall. But Aunt Emmeline thinks that I ought to give him
up or--"

"Or what?"

"Or go away," said Lucy, very gravely.

"Where would you go to?"

"Oh, where indeed? Of course he would have me, but it would be ruin
to him to marry a wife without a penny when he earns only enough for
his own wants. His father has quarrelled with him altogether. He says
that nobody can prevent our being married if we please, and that he
is quite ready to make a home for me instantly; but I know that last
year he hardly earned more than two hundred pounds after paying all
his expenses, and were I to take him at his word I should ruin him."

"Would Uncle Tom turn you out?"

"He has been away almost ever since Mr. Hamel came to Glenbogie, and
I do not know what he will say. Aunt Emmeline declares that I can
only stay with them just as though I were her daughter, and that a
daughter would be bound to obey her."

"Does Gertrude obey her about Mr. Houston?"

"Gertrude has her own way with her mother altogether. And of course a
daughter cannot really be turned out. If she tells me to go I suppose
I must go."

"I should ask Uncle Tom," said Ayala. "She could not make you go out
into the street. When she had to get rid of me, she could send me
here in exchange; but she can't say now that you don't suit, and have
me back again."

"Oh, Ayala, it is so miserable. I feel that I do not know what to do
with myself."

"Nor do I," said Ayala, jumping up from the bed on which she was
sitting. "It does seem to be so cross-grained. Nobody will let you
marry, and everybody will make me."

"Do they still trouble you about Tom?"

"It is not Tom now, Lucy. Another man has come up."

"As a lover?"

"Oh, yes; quite so. His name is,--such a name, Lucy,--his name is
Colonel Jonathan Stubbs."

"That is Isadore's friend,--the man who lives at Drumcaller."

"Exactly. He told me that Mr. Hamel was at Drumcaller with him. And
now he wants me to be his wife."

"Do you not like him?"

"That is the worst part of it all, Lucy. If I did not like him I
should not mind it half so much. It is just because I like him so
very much that I am so very unhappy. His hair is just the colour of
Aunt Emmeline's big shawl."

"What does that signify?"

"And his mouth stretches almost from ear to ear."

"I shouldn't care a bit for his mouth."

"I don't think I do much, because he does look so good-natured when
he laughs. Indeed he is always the most good-natured man that ever
lived."

"Has he got an income enough for marriage?" asked Lucy, whose sorrows
were already springing from that most fertile source of sorrowing.

"Plenty they tell me,--though I do not in the least know what plenty
means."

"Then Ayala why should you not have him?"

"Because I can't," said Ayala. "How is a girl to love a man if she
does not love him. Liking has nothing to do with it. You don't think
liking ought to have anything to do with it?"

This question had not been answered when Aunt Margaret came into the
room, declaring that the Tringle man-servant, who had walked across
the park with Miss Dormer, was waxing impatient. The sisters,
therefore, were separated, and Lucy returned to Queen's Gate.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

MISS DOCIMER.


"I tell you fairly that I think you altogether wrong;--that it is
cowardly, unmanly, and disgraceful. I don't mean, you see, to put
what you call a fine point upon it."

"No, you don't."

"It is one of those matters on which a person must speak the truth or
not speak at all. I should not have spoken unless you forced it upon
me. You don't care for her in the least."

"That's true. I do not know that I am especially quick at what you
call caring for young ladies. If I care for anybody it is for you."

"I suppose so; but that may as well be dropped for the present. You
mean to marry this girl simply because she has got a lot of money?"

"Exactly that;--as you before long will marry some gentleman only
because he has got money."

"You have no right to say so because I am engaged to no man. But if
I were so it is quite different. Unless I marry I can be nobody. I
can have no existence that I can call my own. I have no other way of
pushing myself into the world's notice. You are a man."

"You mean to say that I could become a merchant or a lawyer,--be a
Lord Chancellor in time, or perhaps an Archbishop of Canterbury."

"You can live and eat and drink and go where you wish without being
dependent on any one. If I had your freedom and your means do you
think that I would marry for money?"

In this dialogue the main part was taken by Mr. Frank Houston, whose
ambition it was to marry Miss Gertrude Tringle, and the lady's
part by his cousin and intimate friend, Miss Imogene Docimer. The
scene was a walk through a pine-forest on the southern slopes of
the Tyrolean Alps, and the occasion had been made a little more
exhilarating than usual by the fact that Imogene had been strongly
advised both by her brother, Mr. Mudbury Docimer, and by her
sister-in law, Mrs. Mudbury Docimer, not to take any more distant
rambles with her far-away cousin Frank Houston. In the teeth of that
advice this walk was taken, and the conversation in the pine-wood had
at the present moment arrived at the point above given.

"I do not know that any two persons were ever further asunder in
an argument than you and I in this," said Frank, not in the least
disconcerted by the severe epithets which had been applied to him.
"I conceive that you are led away by a desire to deceive yourself,
whereas hypocrisy should only be used with the object of deceiving
others."

"How do I deceive myself?"

"In making believe that men are generally different from what they
are;--in trying to suppose that I ought to be, if I am not, a hero.
You shall not find a man whose main object is not that of securing
an income. The clergyman who preaches against gold licks the ground
beneath the minister's feet in order that he may become a bishop. The
barrister cares not with what case he may foul his hands so long as
he may become rich. The man in trade is so aware of his own daily
dishonesty that he makes two separate existences for himself, and
endeavours to atone for his rascality in the City by his performance
of all duties at the West End. I regard myself to be so infinitely
cleaner in my conscience than other men that I could not bring myself
to be a bishop, an attorney-general, or a great merchant. Of all the
ways open to me this seems to me to be the least sordid. I give her
the only two things which she desires,--myself and a position. She
will give me the only thing I desire, which is some money. When you
marry you'll make an equally fine bargain,--only your wares will be
your beauty."

"You will not give her yourself;--not your heart."

"Yes, I shall. I shall make the most of her, and shall do so by
becoming as fond of her as I can. Of course I like breeding. Of
course I like beauty. Of course I like that aroma of feminine charm
which can only be produced by a mixture of intellect, loveliness,
taste, and early association. I don't pretend to say that my future
would not be much sweeter before me with you as my wife,--if only
either of us had a sufficiency of income. I acknowledge that. But
then I acknowledge also that I prefer Miss Tringle, with £100,000,
to you with nothing; and I do not think that I ought to be called
unmanly, disgraceful, and a coward, because I have courage enough
to speak the truth openly to a friend whom I trust. My theory of
life shocks you, not because it is uncommon, but because it is not
commonly declared."

They were silent for a while as they went on through the path, and
then Miss Docimer spoke to him in an altered voice. "I must ask you
not to speak to me again as one who by any possibility could have
been your wife."

"Very well. You will not wish me to abandon the privilege of thinking
of past possibilities?"

"I would,--if it were possible."

"Quite impossible! One's thoughts, I imagine, are always supposed to
be one's own."

"You know what I mean. A gentleman will always spare a woman if he
can do so; and there are cases, such as have been ours, in which it
is a most imperative duty to do so. You should not have followed us
when you had made up your mind about this young lady."

"I took care to let you know, beforehand, that I intended it."

"You should not have thrown the weight upon me. You should not even
have written to me."

"I wonder what you would have said then,--how loudly you would have
abused me,--had I not written! Would you not have told me then that
I had not the courage to be open with you?" He paused for an answer,
but she made none. "But I do recognise the necessity of my becoming
subject to abuse in this state of affairs. I have been in no respect
false, nor in any way wanting in affection. When I suggested to you
that £600 a-year between us, with an increasing family, and lodgings
in Marylebone, would be uncomfortable, you shuddered at the prospect.
When I explained to you that you would have the worst of it because
my club would be open to me, you were almost angry with me because I
seemed to imply that there could be any other than one decision."

"There could only be one decision,--unless you were man enough to
earn your bread."

"But I wasn't. But I ain't. You might as well let that accident pass,
sans dire. Was there ever a moment in which you thought that I should
earn my bread?"

"Never for a moment did I endow you with the power of doing anything
so manly."

"Then why throw it in my teeth now? That is not fair. However, I do
own that I have to be abused. I don't see any way in which you and I
are to part without it. But you need not descend to Billingsgate."

"I have not descended to Billingsgate, Mr. Houston."

"Upper-world Billingsgate! Cowardice, as an accusation from a woman
to a man, is upper-world Billingsgate. But it doesn't matter. Of
course I know what it means. Do you think your brother wants me to go
away at once?"

"At once," she said.

"That would be disagreeable and absurd. You mean to sit to me for
that head?"

"Certainly not."

"I cannot in the least understand why not. What has a question of
art to do with marriage or giving in marriage? And why should Mrs.
Docimer be so angry with me, when she has known the truth all along?"

"There are questions which it is of no avail to answer. I have come
out with you now because I thought it well that we should have a
final opportunity of understanding each other. You understand me at
any rate."

"Perfectly," he said. "You have taken especial care on this occasion
to make yourself intelligible."

"So I intended. And as you do understand me, and know how far I am
from approving your philosophy, you can hardly wish to remain with us
longer." Then they walked on together in absolute silence for above a
mile. They had come out of the wood, and were descending, by a steep
and narrow path, to the village in which stood the hotel at which the
party was staying. Another ten minutes would take them down to the
high road. The path here ran by the side of a rivulet, the course
of which was so steep that the waters made their way down in a
succession of little cataracts. From the other side of the path was
a fence, so close to it, that on this particular spot there was room
only for one to walk. Here Frank Houston stepped in front of his
companion, so as to stop her. "Imogene," he said, "if it is intended
that I am to start by the diligence for Innspruck this evening, you
had better bid me farewell at once."

"I have bidden you farewell," she said.

"Then you have done it in so bitter a mood that you had better try
your hand at it again. Heaven only knows in what manner you or I may
meet again."

"What does it matter?" she asked.

"I have always felt that the hearts of men are softer than the hearts
of women. A woman's hand is soft, but she can steel her heart when
she thinks it necessary, as no man can do. Does it occur to you at
this moment that there has been some true affection between you and
me in former days?"

"I wish it did not."

"It may be so that I wish it also; but there is the fact. No wishing
will enable me to get rid of it. No wishing will save me from the
memory of early dreams and sweet longings and vain triumphs. There is
the remembrance of bright glory made very sad to me by the meanness
of the existing truth. I do not say but that I would obliterate it if
I could; but it is not to be obliterated; the past will not be made
more pleasant to me by any pretence of present indignation. I should
have thought that it would have been the same with you."

"There has been no glory," she said, "though I quite acknowledge the
meanness."

"There has been at any rate some love."

"Misplaced. You had better let me pass on. I have, as you say,
steeled myself. I will not condescend to any tenderness. In my
brother's presence and my sister's I will wish you good-bye and
express a hope that you may be successful in your enterprises. Here,
by the brook-side, out upon the mountain-path, where there is no one
to hear us but our two selves, I will bid you no farewell softer than
that already spoken. Go and do as you propose. You have my leave.
When it shall have been done there shall never be a word spoken by me
against it. But, when you ask me whether you are right, I will only
say that I think you to be wrong. It may be that you owe nothing to
me; but you owe something to her, and something also to yourself.
Now, Mr. Houston, I shall be glad to pass on."

He shrugged his shoulders and then stepped out of the path, thinking
as he did so how ignorant he had been, after all that had passed, of
much of the character of Imogene Docimer. It could not be, he had
thought, but that she would melt into softness at last. "I will not
condescend to any tenderness," she had said, and it seemed that she
would be as good as her word. He then walked down before her in
silence, and in silence they reached the inn.

"Mr. Houston," said Mrs. Docimer, before they sat down to dinner
together, "I thought it was understood that you and Imogene should
not go out alone together again."

"I have taken my place to Innspruck by the diligence this evening,"
he answered.

"Perhaps it will be better so, though both Mudbury and I will be
sorry to lose your company."

"Yes, Mrs. Docimer, I have taken my place. Your sister seemed to
think that there would be great danger if I waited till to-morrow
morning when I could have got a pleasant lift in a return carriage. I
hate travelling at night and I hate diligences. I was quite prepared
to post all the way, though it would have ruined me,--only for this
accursed diligence."

"I am sorry you should be inconvenienced."

"It does not signify. What a man without a wife may suffer in that
way never does signify. It's just fourteen hours. You wouldn't like
Docimer to come with me."

"That's nonsense. You needn't go the whole way unless you like. You
could sleep at Brunecken."

"Brunecken is only twelve miles, and it might be dangerous."

"Of course you choose to turn everything into ridicule."

"Better that than tears, Mrs. Docimer. What's the good of crying? I
can't make myself an elder son. I can't endow Imogene with a hundred
thousand pounds. She told me just now that I might earn my bread, but
she knows that I can't. It's very sad. But what can be got by being
melancholy?"

"At any rate you had better be away from her."

"I am going,--this evening. Shall I walk on, half a stage, at once,
without any dinner? I wish you had heard the kind of things she said
to me. You would not have thought that I had gone to walk with her
for my own pleasure."

"Have you not deserved them?"

"I think not;--but nevertheless I bore them. A woman, of course, can
say what she pleases. There's Docimer,--I hope he won't call me a
coward."

Mr. Docimer came out on the terrace, on which the two were standing,
looking as sour as death. "He is going by the diligence to Innspruck
this afternoon," said Mrs. Docimer.

"Why did he come? A man with a grain of feeling would have remained
away."

"Now, Docimer," said Frank, "pray do not make yourself unpleasant.
Your sister has been abusing me all the morning like a pickpocket,
and your wife looks at me as though she would say just as much if she
dared. After all, what is it I have done that you think so wicked?"

"What will everybody think at home," said Mrs. Docimer, "when they
know that you're with us again? What chance is she to have if you
follow her about in this way?"

"I shall not follow her very long," said Frank. "My wings will soon
be cut, and then I shall never fly again." They were at this time
walking up and down the terrace together, and it seemed for awhile
that neither of them had another word to say in the matter of the
dispute between them. Then Houston went on again in his own defence.
"Of course it is all bad," he said. "Of course we have all been
fools. You knew it, and allowed it; and have no right to say a word
to me."

"We thought that when your uncle died there would have been money,"
said Docimer, with a subdued growl.

"Exactly; and so did I. You do not mean to say that I deceived either
you or her?"

"There should have been an end of it when that hope was over."

"Of course there should. There should never have been a dream that
she or I could marry on six hundred a year. Had not all of us been
fools, we should have taken our hats off and bade each other farewell
for ever when the state of the old man's affairs was known. We were
fools; but we were fools together; and none of us have a right to
abuse the others. When I became acquainted with this young lady at
Rome, it had been settled among us that Imogene and I must seek our
fortunes apart."

"Then why did you come after her?" again asked Mr. Docimer.

At this moment Imogene herself joined them on the terrace. "Mary,"
she said to her sister-in-law, "I hope you are not carrying on this
battle with Mr. Houston. I have said what there was to be said."

"You should have held your tongue and said nothing," growled her
brother.

"Be that as it may I have said it, and he quite understands what I
think about it. Let us eat our dinner in peace and quietness, and
then let him go on his travels. He has the world free before him,
which he no doubt will open like an oyster, though he does not carry
a sword." Soon after this they did dine, and contented themselves
with abusing the meat and the wine, and finding fault with Tyrolese
cookery, just as though they had no deeper cares near their hearts.
Precisely at six the heavy diligence stopped before the hotel door,
and Houston, who was then smoking with Docimer on the terrace, got
up to bid them adieu. Mrs. Docimer was kind and almost affectionate,
with a tear in her eye. "Well, old fellow," said Docimer, "take
care of yourself. Perhaps everything will turn up right some of
these days." "Good-bye, Mr. Houston," said Imogene, just giving him
her hand to touch in the lightest manner possible. "God bless you,
Imogene," said he. And there was a tear also in his eye. But there
was none in hers, as she stood looking at him while he prepared
himself for his departure; nor did she say another word to him as he
went. "And now," said she, when the three of them were left upon the
terrace, "I will ask a great favour of you both. I will beg you not
to let there be another word about Mr. Houston among us." After that
she rambled out by herself, and was not seen again by either of them
that evening.

When she was alone she too shed her tears, though she felt impatient
and vexed with herself as they came into her eyes. It was not perhaps
only for her lost love that she wept. Had no one known that her love
had been given and then lost she might have borne it without weeping.
But now, in carrying on this vain affair of hers, in devoting herself
to a lover who had, with her own consent, passed away from her, she
had spent the sweet fresh years of her youth, and all those who knew
her would know that it had been so. He had told her that it would be
her fate to purchase for herself a husband with her beauty. It might
be so. At any rate she did not doubt her own beauty. But, if it were
to be so, then the romance and the charm of her life were gone. She
had quite agreed that six hundred a year, and lodgings in Marylebone,
would be quite unendurable; but what was there left for her that
would be endurable? He could be happy with the prospect of Gertrude
Tringle's money. She could not be happy, looking forward to that
unloved husband who was to be purchased by her beauty.



CHAPTER XXIX.

AT MERLE PARK. NO. 1.


Sir Thomas took the real holiday of the year at Glenbogie,--where
he was too far removed from Lombard Street to be drawn daily into
the vortex of his millions. He would stay usually six weeks at
Glenbogie,--which were by no means the happiest weeks of the year. Of
all the grand things of the world which his energy and industry had
produced for him, he loved his millions the best. It was not because
they were his,--as indeed they were not. A considerable filing off
them,--what he regarded as his percentage,--annually became his own;
but it was not this that he loved. In describing a man's character it
is the author's duty to give the man his due. Sir Thomas liked his
own wealth well enough. Where is the rich man who does not?--or where
is the poor man who does not wish that he had it to like? But what he
loved were the millions with which Travers and Treason dealt. He was
Travers and Treason, though his name did not even appear in the firm,
and he dealt with the millions. He could affect the rate of money
throughout Europe, and emissaries from national treasuries would
listen to his words. He had been Governor and Deputy-Governor of the
Bank of England. All the City respected him, not so much because he
was rich, as that he was one who thoroughly understood millions. If
Russia required to borrow some infinite number of roubles, he knew
how to arrange it, and could tell to a rouble at what rate money
could be made by it, and at what rate money would certainly be lost.
He liked his millions, and was therefore never quite comfortable at
Glenbogie. But at Merle Park he was within easy reach of London. At
Merle Park he was not obliged to live, from week's end to week's end,
without a sight of Lombard Street. The family might be at Merle Park,
while he might come down on a Friday and remain till Tuesday morning.
That was the plan proposed for Merle Park. As a fact he would spend
four days in town, and only two down in the country. Therefore,
though he spent his so-named holiday at Glenbogie, Merle Park was the
residence which he loved.

In this autumn he went up to London long before his family, and then
found them at Merle Park on the Saturday after their arrival there.
They had gone down on the previous Wednesday. On the Saturday, when
he entered the house, the first thing he saw was Mr. Traffick's hat
in the hall. This was Saturday, 23rd November, and there would be
three months before Parliament would meet! A curse was not muttered,
but just formed between his teeth, as he saw the hat. Sir Thomas, in
his angriest mood, never went so far as quite to mutter his curses.
Will one have to expiate the anathemas which are well kept within
the barrier of the teeth, or only those which have achieved some
amount of utterance? Sir Thomas went on, with a servant at his heels,
chucking about the doors rather violently, till he found Mr. Traffick
alone in the drawing-room. Mr. Traffick had had a glass of sherry and
bitters brought in for his refreshment, and Sir Thomas saw the glass
on the mantelpiece. He never took sherry and bitters himself. One
glass of wine, with his two o'clock mutton chop, sufficed him till
dinner. It was all very well to be a Member of Parliament, but, after
all, Members of Parliament never do anything. Men who work don't
take sherry and bitters! Men who work don't put their hats in other
people's halls without leave from the master of the house! "Where's
your mistress?" said Sir Thomas, to the man, without taking any
notice of his son-in-law. The ladies had only just come in from
driving, were very cold, and had gone up to dress. Sir Thomas went
out of the room, again banging the door, and again taking no notice
of Mr. Traffick. Mr. Traffick put his hand up to the mantelpiece, and
finished his sherry and bitters.

"My dear," said Mr. Traffick to his wife, up in her bed-room, "your
father has come down in one of his tantrums."

"I knew he would," said Augusta.

"But it does not signify the least. Give him a kiss when you see him,
and don't seem to notice it. There is not a man in the world has a
higher regard for me than your father, but if any one were to see him
in one of his tantrums they would suppose he meant to be uncivil."

"I hope he won't be downright unkind, Septimus," said his wife.

"Never fear! The kindest-hearted man in the world is your father."

"So he's here!" That was the first word of greeting which Sir Thomas
addressed to his wife in her bed-room.

"Yes, Tom;--they're here."

"When did they come?"

"Well;--to tell the truth, we found them here."

"The ----!" But Sir Thomas restrained the word on the right, or
inside, of the teeth.

"They thought we were to be here a day sooner, and so they came on
the Wednesday morning. They were to come, you know."

"I wish I knew when they were to go."

"You don't want to turn your own daughter out of your own house?"

"Why doesn't he get a house of his own for her? For her sake why
doesn't he do it? He has the spending of £6,000 a year of my money,
and yet I am to keep him! No;--I don't want to turn my daughter out
of my house; but it'll end in my turning him out."

When a week had passed by Mr. Traffick had not been as yet turned
out. Sir Thomas, when he came back to Merle Park on the following
Friday, condescended to speak to his son-in-law, and to say something
to him as to the news of the day; but this he did in an evident
spirit of preconceived hostility. "Everything is down again," he
said.

"Fluctuations are always common at this time of the year," said
Traffick; "but I observe that trade always becomes brisk a little
before Christmas."

"To a man with a fixed income, like you, it doesn't much matter,"
said Sir Thomas.

"I was looking at it in a public light."

"Exactly. A man who has an income, and never spends it, need not
trouble himself with private views as to the money market." Mr.
Traffick rubbed his hands, and asked whether the new buildings at the
back of the Lombard Street premises were nearly finished.

Mr. Traffick's economy had a deleterious effect upon Gertrude, which
she, poor girl, did not deserve. Sir Thomas, deeply resolving in his
mind that he would, at some not very distant date, find means by
which he would rid himself of Mr. Traffick, declared to himself that
he would not, at any rate, burden himself with another son-in-law
of the same kind. Frank Houston was, to his thinking, of the same
kind, and therefore he hardened his heart against Frank Houston. Now
Frank Houston, could he have got his wife with £6,000 a year,--as Mr.
Traffick had done,--would certainly not have troubled the Tringle
mansions with too much of his presence. It would have been his object
to remove himself as far as possible from the Tringles, and to have
enjoyed his life luxuriously with the proceeds of his wife's fortune.
But his hopes in this respect were unjustly impeded by Mr. Traffick's
parsimony. Soon after leaving the hotel in the Tyrol at which we
lately saw him, Frank Houston wrote to his lady-love, declaring the
impatience of his ardour, and suggesting that it would be convenient
if everything could be settled before Christmas. In his letter he
declared to Gertrude how very uncomfortable it was to him to have to
discuss money matters with her father. It was so disagreeable that he
did not think that he could bring himself to do it again. But, if she
would only be urgent with her father, she would of course prevail.
Acting upon this Gertrude determined to be urgent with her father
on his second coming to Merle Park, when, as has been explained,
Sir Thomas was in a frame of mind very much opposed to impecunious
sons-in-law. Previous to attacking her father Gertrude had tried
her hand again upon her mother, but Lady Tringle had declined. "If
anything is to be done you must do it yourself," Lady Tringle had
said.

"Papa," said Gertrude, having followed him into a little sitting-room
where he digested and arranged his telegrams when at Merle Park, "I
wish something could be settled about Mr. Houston."

Sir Thomas at this moment was very angry. Mr. Traffick had not only
asked for the loan of a carriage to take him into Hastings, but had
expressed a wish that there might be a peculiar kind of claret served
at dinner with which he was conversant and to which he was much
attached. "Then," said he, "you may as well have it all settled at
once."

"How, papa?"

"You may understand for good and all that I will have nothing to do
with Mr. Houston."

"Papa, that would be very cruel."

"My dear, if you call me cruel I will not allow you to come and talk
to me at all. Cruel indeed! What is your idea of cruelty?"

"Everybody knows that we are attached to each other."

"Everybody knows nothing of the kind. I know nothing of the kind. And
you are only making a fool of yourself. Mr. Houston is a penniless
adventurer and is only attached to my money. He shall never see a
penny of it."

"He is not an adventurer, papa. He is much less like an adventurer
than Mr. Traffick. He has an income of his own, only it is not much."

"About as much as would pay his bill at the club for cigars and
champagne. You may make your mind at rest, for I will not give
Mr. Houston a shilling. Why should a man expect to live out of my
earnings who never did a day's work in his life?"

Gertrude left the room despondently, as there was nothing more to be
done on the occasion. But it seemed to her as though she were being
used with the utmost cruelty. Augusta had been allowed to marry her
man without a shilling, and had been enriched with £120,000. Why
should she be treated worse than Augusta? She was very strongly
of opinion that Frank Houston was very much better than Septimus
Traffick. Mr. Traffick's aptitude for saving his money was already
known to the whole household. Frank would never wish to save. Frank
would spend her income for her like a gentleman. Frank would not hang
about Glenbogie or Merle Park till he should be turned out. Everybody
was fond of Frank. But she, Gertrude, had already learnt to despise
Mr. Traffick, Member of Parliament though he was. She had already
begun to think that having been chosen by Frank Houston, who was
decidedly a man of fashion, she had proved herself to be of higher
calibre than her sister Augusta. But her father's refusal to her had
been not only very rough but very decided. She would not abandon her
Frank. Such an idea never for a moment crossed her mind. But what
step should she next take? Thinking over it during the whole of the
day she did at last form a plan. But she greatly feared that the plan
would not recommend itself to Mr. Frank Houston. She was not timid,
but he might be so. In spite of her father's anger and roughness she
would not doubt his ultimate generosity; but Frank might doubt it. If
Frank could be induced to come and carry her off from Merle Park and
marry her in some manner approved for such occasions, she would stand
the risk of getting the money afterwards. But she was greatly afraid
that the risk would be too much for Frank. She did not, however,
see any other scheme before her. As to waiting patiently till her
father's obdurate heart should be softened by the greater obduracy
of her own love, there was a tedium and a prolonged dulness in such
a prospect which were anything but attractive to her. Had it been
possible she would have made a bargain with her father. "If you won't
give us £120,000 let us begin with £60,000." But even this she feared
would not altogether be agreeable to Frank. Let her think of it
how she would, that plan of being run away with seemed alone to be
feasible--and not altogether disagreeable.

It was necessary that she should answer her lover's letter. No
embargo had as yet been put upon her correspondence, and therefore
she could send her reply without external difficulty.

"Dear Frank," she said,


   I quite agree with you about Christmas. It ought to be
   settled. But I have very bad news to send to you. I have
   been to papa as you told me, but he was very unkind.
   Nothing could be worse. He said that you ought to earn
   your bread, which is, of course, all humbug. He didn't
   understand that there ought to be some gentlemen who never
   earn their bread. I am sure, if you had been earning your
   bread by going to Lombard Street every day, I shouldn't
   have ever cared for you.

   He says that he will not give a single shilling. I think
   he is angry because Augusta's husband will come and live
   here always. That is disgusting, of course. But it isn't
   my fault. It is either that, or else some money has gone
   wrong;--or perhaps he had a very bad fit of indigestion.
   He was, however, so savage, that I really do not know how
   to go to him again. Mamma is quite afraid of him, and does
   not dare say a word, because it was she who managed about
   Mr. Traffick.

   What ought to be done? Of course, I don't like to think
   that you should be kept waiting. I am not sure that I
   quite like it myself. I will do anything you propose, and
   am not afraid of running a little risk. If we could get
   married without his knowing anything about it, I am sure
   he would give the money afterwards,--because he is always
   so good-natured in the long run, and so generous. He can
   be very savage, but he would be sure to forgive.

   How would it be if I were to go away? I am of age, and
   I believe that no one could stop me. If you could manage
   that we should get married in that way, I would do my
   best. I know people can get themselves married at Ostend.
   I do not see what else is to be done. You can write
   to me at present here, and nothing wrong will come of
   it. But Augusta says that if papa were to begin to
   suspect anything about my going away he would stop my
   letters.--Dear Frank, I am yours always, and always most
   lovingly,

   GERTRUDE.

   You needn't be a bit afraid but that I should be quite up
   to going off if you could arrange it.


"I believe, papa," said Mrs. Traffick, on the afternoon of the day on
which this was written, "that Gertrude is thinking of doing something
wrong, and therefore I feel it to be my duty to bring you this
letter." Augusta had not been enabled to read the letter, but had
discussed with her sister the propriety of eloping. "I won't advise
it," she had said, "but, if you do, Mr. Houston should arrange to be
married at Ostend. I know that can be done." Some second thought had
perhaps told her that any such arrangement would be injurious to the
noble blood of the Traffick family, and she had therefore "felt it to
be her duty" to extract the letter from the family letter-box, and
to give it to her father. A daughter who could so excellently do her
duty would surely not be turned out before Parliament met.

Sir Thomas took the letter and said not a word to his elder child.
When he was alone he doubted. He was half-minded to send the letter
on. What harm could the two fools do by writing to each other? While
he held the strings of the purse there could be no marriage. Then he
bethought himself of his paternal authority, of the right he had to
know all that his daughter did,--and he opened the letter. "There
ought to be gentlemen who don't earn their bread!" "Ought there?"
said he to himself. If so these gentlemen ought not to come to him
for bread. He was already supporting one such, and that was quite
enough. "Mamma is quite afraid of him, and doesn't dare say a word."
That he rather liked. "I am sure he would give the money afterwards."
"I am sure he would do no such thing," he said to himself, and he
reflected that in such a condition he should rather be delighted than
otherwise in watching the impecunious importunities of his baffled
son-in-law. The next sentence reconciled his girl to him almost
entirely. "He is always so good-natured in the long run, and so
generous!" For "good-natured" he did not care much, but he liked to
be thought generous. Then he calmly tore the letter in little bits,
and threw them into the waste-paper basket.

He sat for ten minutes thinking what he had better do, finding
the task thus imposed upon him to be much more difficult than the
distribution of a loan. At last he determined that, if he did
nothing, things would probably settle themselves. Mr. Houston,
when he received no reply from his lady-love, would certainly be
quiescent, and Gertrude, without any assent from her lover, could
hardly arrange her journey to Ostend. Perhaps it might be well that
he should say a word of caution to his wife; but as to that he did
not at present quite make up his mind, as he was grievously disturbed
while he was considering the subject.

"If you please, Sir Thomas," said the coachman, hurrying into the
room almost without the ceremony of knocking,--"if you please,
Phoebe mare has been brought home with both her knees cut down to
the bone."

"What!" exclaimed Sir Thomas, who indulged himself in a taste for
horseflesh, and pretended to know one animal from another.

"Yes, indeed, Sir Thomas, down to the bone," said the coachman, who
entertained all that animosity against Mr. Traffick which domestics
feel for habitual guests who omit the ceremony of tipping. "Mr.
Traffick brought her down on Windover Hill, Sir Thomas, and she'll
never be worth a feed of oats again. I didn't think a man was
born who could throw that mare off her feet, Sir Thomas." Now Mr.
Traffick, when he had borrowed the phaeton and pair of horses that
morning to go into Hastings, had dispensed with the services of a
coachman, and had insisted on driving himself.



CHAPTER XXX.

AT MERLE PARK. NO. 2.


Has any irascible reader,--any reader who thoroughly enjoys the
pleasure of being in a rage,--encountered suddenly some grievance
which, heavy as it may be, has been more than compensated by the
privilege it has afforded of blowing-up the offender? Such was the
feeling of Sir Thomas as he quickly followed his coachman out of
the room. He had been very proud of his Phoebe mare, who could trot
with him from the station to the house at the rate of twelve miles
an hour. But in his present frame of mind he had liked the mare
less than he disliked his son-in-law. Mr. Traffick had done him
this injury, and he now had Mr. Traffick on the hip. There are some
injuries for which a host cannot abuse his guest. If your best
Venetian decanter be broken at table you are bound to look as though
you liked it. But if a horse be damaged a similar amount of courtesy
is hardly required. The well-nurtured gentleman, even in that case,
will only look unhappy and say not a word. Sir Thomas was hardly to
be called a well nurtured gentleman; and then it must be remembered
that the offender was his son-in-law. "Good heavens!" he exclaimed,
hurrying into the yard. "What is this?"

The mare was standing out on the pavement with three men around her,
of whom one was holding her head, another was down on his knees
washing her wounds, and the third was describing the fatal nature of
the wounds which she had received. Traffick was standing at a little
distance, listening in silence to the implied rebukes of the groom.
"Good heavens, what is this?" repeated Sir Thomas, as he joined the
conclave.

"There are a lot of loose stones on that hill," said Traffick, "and
she tripped on one and came down, all in a lump, before you could
look at her. I'm awfully sorry, but it might have happened to any
one."

Sir Thomas knew how to fix his darts better than by throwing them
direct at his enemy. "She has utterly destroyed herself," said he,
addressing himself to the head-groom, who was busily employed with
the sponge in his hand.

"I'm afraid she has, Sir Thomas. The joint-oil will be sure to run on
both knees; the gashes is so mortal deep."

"I've driven that mare hundreds of times down that hill," said Sir
Thomas, "and I never knew her to trip before."

"Never, Sir Thomas," said the groom.

"She'd have come down with you to-day," said Mr. Traffick, defending
himself.

"It was my own fault, Bunsum. That's all that can be said about it."
Bunsum the groom, kneeling as he was, expressed, by his grimaces, his
complete agreement with this last opinion of his master. "Of course I
ought to have known that he couldn't drive," said Sir Thomas.

"A horse may fall down with anybody," said Mr. Traffick.

"You'd better take her and shoot her," said Sir Thomas, still
addressing the groom. "She was the best thing we had in the stable,
but now she is done for." With that he turned away from the yard
without having as yet addressed a word to his son-in-law.

This was so intolerable that even Mr. Traffick could not bear it in
silence. "I have told you that I am very sorry," said he, following
Sir Thomas closely, "and I don't know what a man can do more."

"Nothing,--unless it be not to borrow a horse again."

"You may be sure I will never do that."

"I'm not sure of it at all. If you wanted another to-morrow you'd ask
for him if you thought you could get him."

"I call that very uncivil, Sir Thomas,--and very unkind."

"Bother!" said Sir Thomas. "It is no good in being kind to a fellow
like you. Did you ever hear what the cabman did who had a sovereign
given to him for driving a mile. He asked the fool who gave it him to
make it a guinea. I am the fool, and, by George, you are the cabman!"
With this Sir Thomas turned into the house by a small door, leaving
his son-in-law to wander round to the front by himself.

"Your father has insulted me horribly," he said to his wife, whom he
found up in her bed-room.

"What is the matter now, Septimus?"

"That little mare of his, which I have no doubt has come down half a
score of times before, fell with me and cut her knees."

"That's Phoebe," said Augusta. "She was his favourite."

"It's a kind of thing that might happen to anyone, and no gentleman
thinks of mentioning it. He said such things to me that upon my word
I don't think I can stop in the house any longer."

"Oh, yes, you will," said the wife.

"Of course, it is a difference coming from one's father-in-law. It's
almost the same as from one's father."

"He didn't mean it, Septimus."

"I suppose not. If he had, I really couldn't have borne it. He does
become very rough sometimes, but I know that at bottom he has a
thorough respect for me. It is only that induces me to bear it." Then
it was settled between husband and wife that they should remain in
their present quarters, and that not a word further should be said
at any rate by them about the Phoebe mare. Nor did Sir Thomas say
another word about the mare, but he added a note to those already
written in the tablets of his memory as to his son-in-law, and
the note declared that no hint, let it be ever so broad, would be
effectual with Mr. Traffick.

The next day was a Sunday, and then another trouble awaited Sir
Thomas. At this time it was not customary with Tom to come often to
Merle Park. He had his own lodgings in London and his own club, and
did not care much for the rural charms of Merle Park. But on this
occasion he had condescended to appear, and on the Sunday afternoon
informed his father that there was a matter which he desired to
discuss with him. "Father," said he, "I am getting confoundedly sick
of all this."

"Confounded," said Sir Thomas, "is a stupid foolish word, and it
means nothing."

"There is a sort of comfort in it, Sir," said Tom; "but if it's
objectionable I'll drop it."

"It is objectionable."

"I'll drop it, Sir. But nevertheless I am very sick of it."

"What are you sick of, Tom?"

"All this affair with my cousin."

"Then, if you take my advice, you'll drop that too."

"I couldn't do that, father. A word is all very well. A man can drop
a word; but a girl is a different sort of thing. One can't drop a
girl, even if one tries."

"Have you tried, Tom?"

"Yes, I have. I've done my best to try. I put it out of my mind for
a fortnight and wouldn't think of her. I had a bottle of champagne
every day at dinner and then went to the theatre. But it was all of
no use. I have set my heart on it and I can't give her up. I'll tell
you what I'd like to do. I'd like to give her a diamond necklace."

"It wouldn't be the slightest use," said Sir Thomas, shaking his
head.

"Why not? It's what other men do. I mean it to be something
handsome;--about three hundred pounds."

"That's a large sum of money for a necklace."

"Some of them cost a deal more than that."

"And you'd only throw away your money."

"If she took it, she'd take me too. If she didn't,--why I should
still have the diamonds. I mean to try any way."

"Then it's of no use your coming to me."

"I thought you'd let me have the money. It's no good running into
debt for them. And then if you'd add something of your own,--a
locket, or something of that kind,--I think it would have an effect.
I have seen a necklace at Ricolay's, and if I could pay ready money
for it I could have 20 per cent. off it. The price named is three
hundred guineas. That would make it £254 5_s_. £250 would buy it if
the cheque was offered."

There was a spirit about the son which was not displeasing to the
father. That idea that the gift, if accepted, would be efficacious,
or if not that it would be rejected,--so that Tom would not lose his
hopes and his diamonds together,--seemed to be sound. Sir Thomas,
therefore, promised the money, with the distinct understanding that
if the gift were not accepted by Ayala it should be consigned to
his own hands. But as for any present from himself, he felt that
this would not be the time for it. He had called upon his niece and
solicited her himself, and she had been deaf to his words. After that
he could not condescend to send her gifts. "Should she become my
promised daughter-in-law then I would send her presents," said Sir
Thomas.

The poor man certainly received less pleasure from his wealth than
was credited to him by those who knew his circumstances. Yet he
endeavoured to be good to those around him, and especially good to
his children. There had been present to him ever since the beginning
of his successes,--ever since his marriage,--a fixed resolution that
he would not be a curmudgeon with his money, that he would endeavour
to make those happy who depended on him, and that he would be liberal
in such settlements for his children as might be conducive to their
happiness and fortunes in life. In this way he had been very generous
to Mr. Traffick. The man was a Member of Parliament, the son of a
peer, and laborious. Why should he expect more? Money was wanting,
but he could supply the money. So he had supplied it, and had been
content to think that a good man should be propped up in the world
by his means. What that had come to the reader knows. He thoroughly
detested his son-in-law, and would have given much to have had his
money back again,--so that Mr. Traffick should have had no share in
it.

Then there was his second daughter! What should be done with
Gertrude? The money should be forthcoming for her too if the fitting
man could be found. But he would have nothing further to do with a
penniless lover, let his position in the world of fashion, or even in
the world of politics, be what it might. The man should either have
wealth of his own, or should be satisfied to work for it. Houston had
been unfortunate in the moment of his approaches. Sir Thomas had been
driven by his angry feelings to use hard, sharp words, and now was
forced to act up to his words. He declared roughly that Mr. Houston
should not have a shilling of his money,--as he had certainly
been justified for doing; and his daughter, who had always been
indulged in every kind of luxury, had at once concocted a plot for
running away from her home! As he thought of the plot it seemed
to be wonderful to him that she should be willing to incur such a
danger,--to be ready without a penny to marry a penniless man,--till
he confessed to himself that, were she to do so, she would certainly
have the money sooner or later. He was capable of passion, capable
of flying out and saying a very severe thing to Septimus Traffick or
another when his temper was hot; but he was incapable of sustained
wrath. He was already aware that if Mr. Traffick chose to stay he
would stay;--that if Mr. Houston were brave enough to be persistent
he might have both the money and the girl. As he thought of it all
he was angry with himself, wishing that he were less generous, less
soft, less forgiving.

And now here was Tom,--whom at the present moment he liked the best
of all his children, who of the three was the least inclined to run
counter to him,--ready to break his heart, because he could not get
a little chit of a girl of whom he would probably be tired in twelve
months after he possessed her! Remembering what Tom had been, he was
at a loss to understand how such a lad should be so thoroughly in
love. At the present moment, had Ayala been purchaseable, he would
have been willing to buy her at a great price, because he would fain
have pleased Tom had it been possible. But Ayala, who had not a penny
in the world,--who never would have a penny unless he should give it
her,--would not be purchased, and would have nothing to do with Tom!
The world was running counter to him, so that he had no pleasure in
his home, no pleasure in his money, no pleasure in his children. The
little back-parlour in Lombard Street was sweeter to him than Merle
Park, with all its charms. His daughter Gertrude wanted to run away
from him, while by no inducement could he get Mr. Traffick to leave
the house.

While he was in this humour he met his niece Lucy roaming about the
garden. He knew the whole story of Lucy's love, and had been induced
by his wife to acknowledge that her marriage with the sculptor was
not to be sanctioned. He had merely expressed his scorn when the
unfortunate circumstances of Hamel's birth had been explained to him
again and again. He had ridiculed the horror felt by his wife at the
equally ill-born brothers and sisters in Rome. He had merely shaken
his head when he was told that Hamel's father never went inside of
any place of worship. But when it was explained to him that the
young man had, so to say, no income at all, then he was forced to
acknowledge that the young man ought not to be allowed to marry his
niece.

To Lucy herself he had as yet said nothing on the subject since he
had asked the lover in to lunch at Glenbogie. He heard bad accounts
of her. He had been told by his wife, on different occasions,--not
in the mere way of conversation, but with a premeditated energy of
fault-finding,--that Lucy was a disobedient girl. She was worse than
Ayala. She persisted in saying that she would marry the penniless
artist as soon as he should profess himself to be ready. It had been
different, she had tried to explain to her aunt, before she had been
engaged to him. Now she considered herself to be altogether at his
disposal. This had been her plea, but her plea had been altogether
unacceptable to Aunt Emmeline. "She can do as she pleases, of
course," Sir Thomas had said. That might be all very well; but Aunt
Emmeline was strongly of opinion that an adopted daughter of Queen's
Gate, of Glenbogie, and Merle Park, ought not to be allowed to do as
she pleased with herself. A girl ought not to be allowed to have the
luxuries of palatial residences, and the luxuries of free liberty of
choice at the same time. More than once it had occurred to Sir Thomas
that he would put an end to all these miseries by a mere scratch of
his pen. It need not be £120,000, or £100,000, as with a daughter.
A few modest thousands would do it. And then this man Hamel, though
the circumstances of his birth had been unfortunate, was not an idler
like Frank Houston. As far as Sir Thomas could learn, the man did
work, and was willing to work. The present small income earned would
gradually become more. He had a kindly feeling towards Lucy, although
he had been inclined to own that her marriage with Hamel was out of
the question. "My dear," he said to her, "why are you walking about
alone?" She did not like to say that she was walking alone because
she had no one to walk with her,--no such companion as Isadore would
be if Isadore were allowed to come to Merle Park; so she simply
smiled, and went on by her uncle's side. "Do you like this place as
well as Glenbogie?" he asked.

"Oh; yes."

"Perhaps you will be glad to get back to London again?"

"Oh; no."

"Which do you like best, then?"

"They are all so nice, if--"

"If what, Lucy?"

"Cælum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt," Lucy might have
said, had she known the passage. As it was she put the same feeling
into simpler words, "I should like one as well as the other, Uncle
Tom, if things went comfortably."

"There's a great deal in that," he said. "I suppose the meaning is,
that you do not get on well with your aunt?"

"I am afraid she is angry with me, Uncle Tom."

"Why do you make her angry, Lucy? When she tells you what is your
duty, why do you not endeavour to do it?"

"I cannot do what she tells me," said Lucy; "and, as I cannot, I
think I ought not to be here."

"Have you anywhere else to go to?" To this she made no reply, but
walked on in silence. "When you say you ought not to be here, what
idea have you formed in your own mind as to the future?"

"That I shall marry Mr. Hamel, some day."

"Do you think it would be well to marry any man without an income
to live upon? Would it be a comfort to him seeing that he had just
enough to maintain himself, and no more?" These were terrible
questions to her,--questions which she could not answer, but yet as
to which her mind entertained an easy answer. A little help from him,
who was willing to indulge her with so many luxuries while she was
under his roof, would enable her to be an assistance rather than a
burden to her lover. But of this she could not utter a word. "Love
is all very well," continued Sir Thomas, in his gruffest voice;
"but love should be regulated by good sense. It is a crime when
two beggars think of marrying each other,--two beggars who are not
prepared to live as beggars do."

"He is not a beggar," said Lucy, indignantly. "He has begged nothing;
nor have I."

"Pshaw!" said Sir Thomas; "I was laying down a general rule. I did
not mean to call anybody a beggar. You shouldn't take me up like
that."

"I beg your pardon, Uncle Tom," she said piteously.

"Very well; very well; that will do." But still he went on walking
with her, and she felt she could not leave him till he gave her some
signal that she was to go. They continued in this way till they
had come nearly round the large garden; when he stopped, as he
was walking, and addressed her again. "I suppose you write to him
sometimes."

"Yes," said Lucy, boldly.

"Write to him at once, and tell him to come and see me in Lombard
Street on Tuesday, at two o'clock. Give me the letter, and I will
take care it is sent to him directly I get to town. Now you had
better go in, for it is getting very cold."



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE DIAMOND NECKLACE.


Tom went up to London intent upon his diamonds. To tell the truth
he had already made the purchase subject to some question of ready
money. He now paid for it after considerable chaffering as to the odd
pounds, which he succeeded in bringing to a successful termination.
Then he carried the necklace away with him, revolving in his mind the
different means of presentation. He thought that a letter might be
best if only he was master of the language in which such a letter
should properly be written. But he entirely doubted his own powers of
composition. He was so modest in this respect that he would not even
make an attempt. He knew himself well enough to be aware that he was
in many respects ignorant. He would have endeavoured to take the
bracelet personally to Ayala had he not been conscious that he could
not recommend his present with such romantic phrases and touches of
poetry as would be gratifying to her fine sense. Were he to find
himself in her presence with the necklace he must depend on himself
for his words; but a letter might be sent in his own handwriting, the
poetry and romance of which might be supplied by another.

Now it had happened that Tom had formed a marvellous friendship in
Rome with Colonel Stubbs. They had been hunting together in the
Campagna, and Tom had been enabled to accommodate the Colonel with
the loan of a horse when his own had been injured. They had since met
in London, and Stubbs had declared to more than one of his friends
that Tom, in spite of his rings and his jewelry, was a very good
fellow at bottom. Tom had been greatly flattered by the intimacy,
and had lately been gratified by an invitation to Aldershot in order
that the military glories of the camp might be shown to him. He
had accepted the invitation, and a day in the present week had been
fixed. Then it occurred to him suddenly that he knew no one so
fitted to write such a letter as that demanded as his friend Colonel
Jonathan Stubbs. He had an idea that the Colonel, in spite of his red
hair and in spite of a certain aptitude for drollery which pervaded
him, had a romantic side to his character; and he felt confident
that, as to the use of language, the Colonel was very great indeed.
He therefore, when he went to Aldershot, carefully put the bracelet
in his breast-pocket and determined to reveal his secret and to ask
for aid.

The day of his arrival was devoted to the ordinary pursuits of
Aldershot and the evening to festivities, which were prolonged too
late into the night to enable him to carry out his purpose before
he went to bed. He arranged to leave on the next morning by a train
between ten and eleven, and was told that three or four men would
come in to breakfast at half-past nine. His project then seemed to be
all but hopeless. But at last with great courage he made an effort.
"Colonel," said he, just as they were going to bed, "I wonder if you
could give me half-an-hour before breakfast. It is a matter of great
importance." Tom, as he said this, assumed a most solemn face.

"An hour if you like, my dear boy. I am generally up soon after six,
and am always out on horseback before breakfast as soon as the light
serves."

"Then if you'll have me called at half-past seven I shall be ever so
much obliged to you."

The next morning at eight the two were closeted together, and Tom
immediately extracted the parcel from his pocket and opened the
diamonds to view. "Upon my word that is a pretty little trinket,"
said the Colonel, taking the necklace in his hand.

"Three hundred guineas!" said Tom, opening his eyes very wide.

"I daresay."

"That is, it would have been three hundred guineas unless I had come
down with the ready. I made the fellow give me twenty per cent. off.
You should always remember this when you are buying jewelry."

"And what is to be done with this pretty thing? I suppose it is
intended for some fair lady's neck."

"Oh, of course."

"And why has it been brought down to Aldershot? There are plenty of
fellows about this place who will get their hands into your pocket if
they know that you have such a trinket as that about you."

"I will tell you why I brought it," said Tom, very gravely. "It is,
as you say, for a young lady. I intend to make that young lady my
wife. Of course this is a secret, you know."

"It shall be sacred as the Pope's toe," said Stubbs.

"Don't joke about it, Colonel, if you please. It's life and death to
me."

"I'll keep your secret and will not joke. Now what can I do for you."

"I must send this as a present with a letter. I must first tell you
that she has,--well, refused me."

"That never means much the first time, old boy."

"She has refused me half-a-dozen times, but I mean to go on with it.
If she refuses me two dozen times I'll try her a third dozen."

"Then you are quite in earnest?"

"I am. It's a kind of thing I know that men laugh about, but I don't
mind telling you that I am downright in love with her. The governor
approves of it."

"She has got money, probably?"

"Not a shilling;--not as much as would buy a pair of gloves. But I
don't love her a bit the less for that. As to income, the governor
will stump up like a brick. Now I want you to write the letter."

"It's a kind of thing a third person can't do," said the Colonel,
when he had considered the request for a moment.

"Why not? Yes, you can."

"Do it yourself, and say just the simplest words as they come up.
They are sure to go further with any girl than what another man may
write. It is impossible that another man should be natural on such a
task as that."

"Natural! I don't know about natural," said Tom, who was anxious now
to explain the character of the lady in question. "I don't know that
a letter that was particularly natural would please her. A touch of
poetry and romance would go further than anything natural."

"Who is the lady?" asked the Colonel, who certainly was by this time
entitled to be so far inquisitive.

"She is my cousin,--Ayala Dormer."

"Who?"

"Ayala Dormer;--my cousin. She was at Rome, but I do not think you
ever saw her there."

"I have seen her since," said the Colonel.

"Have you? I didn't know."

"She was with my aunt, the Marchesa Baldoni."

"Dear me! So she was. I never put the two things together. Don't you
admire her?"

"Certainly I do. My dear fellow, I can't write this letter for you."
Then he put down the pen which he had taken up as though he had
intended to comply with his friend's request. "You may take it as
settled that I cannot write it."

"No?"

"Impossible. One man should never write such a letter for another
man. You had better give the thing in person,--that is, if you mean
to go on with the matter."

"I shall certainly go on with it," said Tom, stoutly.

"After a certain time, you know, reiterated offers do, you
know,--do,--do,--partake of the nature of persecution."

"Reiterated refusals are the sort of persecution I don't like."

"It seems to me that Ayala,--Miss Dormer. I mean,--should be
protected by a sort of feeling,--feeling of--of what I may perhaps
call her dependent position. She is peculiarly,--peculiarly
situated."

"If she married me she would be much better situated. I could give
her everything she wants."

"It isn't an affair of money, Mr. Tringle."

Tom felt, from the use of the word Mister, that he was in some way
giving offence; but felt also that there was no true cause for
offence. "When a man offers everything," he said, "and asks for
nothing, I don't think he should be said to persecute."

"After a time it becomes persecution. I am sure Ayala would feel it
so."

"My cousin can't suppose that I am ill-using her," said Tom, who
disliked the "Ayala" quite as much as he did the "Mister."

"Miss Dormer, I meant. I can have nothing further to say about it. I
can't write the letter, and I should not imagine that Ayala,--Miss
Dormer,--would be moved in the least by any present that could
possibly be made to her. I must go out now, if you don't mind, for
half-an-hour; but I shall be back in time for breakfast."

Then Tom was left alone with the necklace lying on the table before
him. He knew that something was wrong with the Colonel, but could not
in the least guess what it might be. He was quite aware that early
in the interview the Colonel had encouraged him to persevere with
the lady, and had then, suddenly, not only advised him to desist,
but had told him in so many words that he was bound to desist out of
consideration for the lady. And the Colonel had spoken of his cousin
in a manner that was distasteful to him. He could not analyse his
feelings. He did not exactly know why he was displeased, but he was
displeased. The Colonel, when asked for his assistance, was, of
course, bound to talk about the lady,--would be compelled, by the
nature of the confidence, to mention the lady's name;--would even
have been called on to write her Christian name. But this he should
have done with a delicacy;--almost with a blush. Instead of that
Ayala's name had been common on his tongue. Tom felt himself to be
offended, but hardly knew why. And then, why had he been called
Mister Tringle? The breakfast, which was eaten shortly afterwards
in the company of three or four other men, was not eaten in
comfort;--and then Tom hurried back to London and to Lombard Street.

After this failure Tom felt it to be impossible to go to another
friend for assistance. There had been annoyance in describing his
love to Colonel Stubbs, and pain in the treatment he had received.
Even had there been another friend to whom he could have confided the
task, he could not have brought himself to encounter the repetition
of such treatment. He was as firmly fixed as ever in his conviction
that he could not write the letter himself. And, as he thought of the
words with which he should accompany a personal presentation of the
necklace, he reflected that in all probability he might not be able
to force his way into Ayala's presence. Then a happy thought struck
him. Mrs. Dosett was altogether on his side. Everybody was on his
side except Ayala herself, and that pigheaded Colonel. Would it not
be an excellent thing to entrust the necklace to the hands of his
Aunt Dosett, in order that she might give it over to Ayala with all
the eloquence in her power. Satisfied with this project he at once
wrote a note to Mrs. Dosett.


   MY DEAR AUNT,

   I want to see you on _most important business_. If I shall
   not be troubling you, I will call upon you to-morrow at
   ten o'clock, before I go to my place of business.

   Yours affectionately,

   T. TRINGLE, Junior.


On the following morning he apparelled himself with all his rings.
He was a good-hearted, well-intentioned young man, with excellent
qualities; but he must have been slow of intellect when he had not
as yet learnt the deleterious effect of all those rings. On this
occasion he put on his rings, his chains, and his bright waistcoat,
and made himself a thing disgusting to be looked at by any
well-trained female. As far as his aunt was concerned he would have
been altogether indifferent as to his appearance, but there was
present to his mind some small hope that he might be allowed to see
Ayala, as the immediate result of the necklace. Should he see Ayala,
then how unfortunate it would be that he should present himself
before the eyes of his mistress without those adornments which he did
not doubt would be grateful to her. He had heard from Ayala's own
lips that all things ought to be pretty. Therefore he endeavoured
to make himself pretty. Of course he failed,--as do all men who
endeavour to make themselves pretty,--but it was out of the question
that he should understand the cause of his failure.

"Aunt Dosett, I want you to do me a very great favour," he began,
with a solemn voice.

"Are you going to a party, Tom," she said.

"A party! No,--who gives a party in London at this time of the day?
Oh, you mean because I have just got a few things on. When I call
anywhere I always do. I have got another lady to see, a lady of rank,
and so I just made a change." But this was a fib.

"What can I do for you, Tom?"

"I want you to look at that." Then he brought out the necklace, and,
taking it out of the case, displayed the gems tastefully upon the
table.

"I do believe they are diamonds," said Mrs. Dosett.

"Yes; they are diamonds. I am not the sort of fellow to get anything
sham. What do you think that little thing cost, Aunt Dosett?"

"I haven't an idea. Sixty pounds, perhaps!"

"Sixty pounds! Do you go into a jeweller's shop and see what you
could do among diamonds with sixty pounds!"

"I never do go into jewellers' shops, Tom."

"Nor I, very often. It's a sort of place where a fellow can drop a
lot of money. But I did go into one after this. It don't look much,
does it?"

"It is very pretty."

"I think it is pretty. Well, Aunt Dosett, the price for that little
trifle was three--hundred--guineas!" As he said this he looked into
his aunt's face for increased admiration.

"You gave three hundred guineas for it!"

"I went with ready money in my hand, when I tempted the man with a
cheque to let me have it for two hundred and fifty pounds. In buying
jewelry you should always do that."

"I never buy jewelry," said Mrs. Dosett, crossly.

"If you should, I mean. Now, I'll tell you what I want you to do.
This is for Ayala."

"For Ayala!"

"Yes, indeed. I am not the fellow to stick at a trifle when I want to
carry my purpose. I bought this the other day and gave ready money
for it,--two hundred and fifty pounds,--on purpose to give it to
Ayala. In naming the value,--of course you'll do that when you give
it her,--you might as well say three hundred guineas. That was the
price on the ticket. I saw it myself,--so there won't be any untruth
you know."

"Am I to give it her?"

"That's just what I want. When I talk to her she flares up, and, as
likely as not, she'd fling the necklace at my head."

"She wouldn't do that, I hope."

"It would depend upon how the thing went. When I do talk to her it
always seems that nothing I say can be right. Now, if you will give
it her you can put in all manner of pretty things."

"This itself will be the prettiest thing," said Mrs. Dosett.

"That's just what I was thinking. Everybody agrees that diamonds will
go further with a girl than anything else. When I told the governor
he quite jumped at the idea."

"Sir Thomas knows you are giving it?"

"Oh, dear, yes. I had to get the rhino from him. I don't go about
with two hundred and fifty pounds always in my own pocket."

"If he had sent the money to Ayala how much better it would have
been," said poor Mrs. Dosett.

"I don't think that at all. Who ever heard of making a present to a
young lady in money. Ayala is romantic, and that would have been the
most unromantic thing out. That would not have done me the least good
in the world. It would simply have gone to buy boots and petticoats
and such like. A girl would never be brought to think of her lover
merely by putting on a pair of boots. When she fastens such a
necklace as this round her throat he ought to have a chance. Don't
you think so, Aunt Dosett?"

"Tom, shall I tell you something?" said the aunt.

"What is it, Aunt Dosett?"

"I don't believe that you have a chance."

"Do you mean that?" he asked, sorrowfully.

"I do."

"You think that the necklace will do no good?"

"Not the least. Of course I will offer it to her if you wish it,
because her uncle and I quite approve of you as a husband for Ayala.
But I am bound to tell you the truth. I do not think the necklace
will do you any good." Then he sat silent for a time, meditating upon
his condition. It might be imprudent;--it might be a wrong done to
his father to jeopardise the necklace. How could it be if Ayala were
to take the necklace and not to take him? "Am I to give it?" she
asked.

"Yes," said he, bravely, but with a sigh; "give it her all the same."

"From you or from Sir Thomas?"

"Oh, from me;--from me. If she were told it came from the governor
she'd keep it whether or no. I am sure I hope she will keep it," he
said, trying to remove the bad impression which his former words
might perhaps have left.

"You may be sure she will not keep it," said Mrs. Dosett, "unless she
should intend to accept your hand. Of that I can hold out no hope to
you. There is a matter, Tom, which I think I should tell you as you
are so straightforward in your offer. Another gentleman has asked her
to marry him."

"She has accepted him!" exclaimed Tom.

"No, she has not accepted him. She has refused him."

"Then I'm just where I was," said Tom.

"She has refused him, but I think that she is in a sort of way
attached to him; and though he too has been refused I imagine that
his chance is better than yours."

"And who the d---- is he?" said Tom, jumping up from his seat in
great excitement.

"Tom!" exclaimed Mrs. Dosett.

"I beg your pardon; but you see this is very important. Who is the
fellow?"

"He is one Colonel Jonathan Stubbs."

"Who?"

"Colonel Jonathan Stubbs."

"Impossible! It can't be Colonel Stubbs. I know Colonel Stubbs."

"I can assure you it is true, Tom. I have had a letter from a
lady,--a relative of Colonel Stubbs,--telling me the whole story."

"Colonel Stubbs!" he said. "That passes anything I ever heard. She
has refused him?"

"Yes, she has refused him."

"And has not accepted him since?"

"She certainly has not accepted him yet."

"You may give her the bracelet all the same," said Tom, hurrying out
of the room. That Colonel Stubbs should have made an offer to Ayala,
and yet have accepted his, Tom Tringle's, confidence!



CHAPTER XXXII.

TOM'S DESPAIR.


The reader will understand that the fate of the necklace was very
soon decided. Ayala declared that it was very beautiful. She had,
indeed, a pretty taste for diamonds, and would have been proud enough
to call this necklace her own; but, as she declared to her aunt, she
would not accept Tom though he were made of diamonds from head to
foot. Accept Tom, when she could not even bring herself to think of
becoming the wife of Jonathan Stubbs! If Colonel Stubbs could not be
received by her imagination as an Angel of Light, how immeasurably
distant from anything angelic must be Tom Tringle! "Of course it must
go back," she said, when the question had to be decided as to the
future fate of the necklace. As a consequence poor Mr. Dosett was
compelled to make a special journey into the City, and to deposit a
well-sealed parcel in the hands of Tom Tringle himself. "Your cousin
sends her kind regards," he said, "but cannot bring herself to accept
your magnificent present."

Tom had been very much put about since his visit to the Crescent. Had
his aunt merely told him that his present would be inefficacious,
he would have taken that assurance as being simply her opinion, and
would have still entertained some hopes in the diamonds. But these
tidings as to another lover crushed him altogether. And such a lover!
The very man whom he had asked to write his letter for him! Why
had not Colonel Stubbs told him the truth when thus his own secret
had become revealed by an accident? He understood it all now,--the
"Ayala," and the "Mister," and the reason why the Colonel could not
write the letter. Then he became very angry with the Colonel, whom he
bitterly accused of falsehood and treason. What right had the Colonel
to meddle with his cousin at all? And how false he had been to say
nothing of what he himself had done when his rival had told him
everything! In this way he made up his mind that it was his duty
to hate Colonel Stubbs, and if possible to inflict some personal
punishment upon him. He was reckless of himself now, and, if he could
only get one good blow at the Colonel's head with a thick stick,
would be indifferent as to what the law might do with him afterwards.
Or perhaps he might be able to provoke Colonel Stubbs to fight with
him. He had an idea that duels at present were not in fashion. But
nevertheless, in such a case as this, a man ought to fight. He could
at any rate have the gratification of calling the Colonel a coward if
he should refuse to fight.

He was the more wretched because his spirit within him was cowed
by the idea of the Colonel. He did acknowledge to himself that his
chance could be but bad while such a rival as Colonel Stubbs stood in
his way. He tried to argue with himself that it was not so. As far as
he knew, Colonel Stubbs was and would remain a very much less rich
man than himself. He doubted very much whether Colonel Stubbs could
keep a carriage in London for his wife, while it had been already
arranged that he was to be allowed to do so should he succeed in
marrying Ayala. To be a partner in the house of Travers and Treason
was a much greater thing than to be a Colonel. But, though he assured
himself of all this again and again, still he was cowed. There was
something about the Colonel which did more than redeem his red
hair and ugly mouth. And of this something poor Tom was sensible.
Nevertheless, if occasion should arise he thought that he could
"punch the Colonel's head";--not without evil consequence to
himself;--but still that he could "punch the Colonel's head," not
minding the consequences.

Such had been his condition of mind when he left the Crescent, and it
was not improved by the receipt of the parcel. He hardly said a word
when his uncle put it into his hands, merely muttering something and
consigning the diamonds to his desk. He did not tell himself that
Ayala must now be abandoned. It would have been better for him if he
could have done so. But all real, springing, hopeful hope departed
from his bosom. This came from the Colonel, rather than from the
rejected necklace.

"Did you send that jewelry?" his father asked him some days
afterwards.

"Yes; I sent it."

"And what has now become of it?"

"It is in my desk there."

"Did she send it back again?"

"It came back. My Uncle Dosett brought it. I do not want to say
anything more about it, if you please."

"I am sorry for that, Tom;--very sorry. As you had set your heart
upon it I wish it could have been as you would have it. But the
necklace should not be left there." Tom shook his head in despair.

"You had better let me have the necklace. It is not that I should
grudge it to you, Tom, if it could do you any good."

"You shall have it, Sir."

"It will be better so. That was the understanding." Then the necklace
was transferred to some receptacle belonging to Sir Thomas himself,
the lock of which might probably be more secure than that of Tom's
desk, and there it remained in its case, still folded in the various
papers in which Mrs. Dosett had encased it.

Then Tom found it necessary to adopt some other mode of life for his
own consolation and support. He had told his father on one occasion
that he had devoted himself for a fortnight to champagne and the
theatres. But this had been taken as a joke. He had been fairly
punctual at his place of business and had shown no symptoms of fast
living. But now it occurred to him that fast living would be the only
thing for him. He had been quite willing to apply himself to marriage
and a steady life; but fortune had not favoured him. If he drank
too much now, and lay in bed, and became idle, it was not his fault.
There came into his head an idea that Ayala and Colonel Stubbs
between them must look to that. Could he meet Ayala he would explain
to her how his character as a moral man had been altogether destroyed
by her conduct;--and should he meet Colonel Stubbs he would explain
something to him also.

A new club had been established in London lately called the
Mountaineers, which had secured for itself handsome lodgings in
Piccadilly, and considered itself to be, among clubs, rather a
comfortable institution than otherwise. It did not as yet affect
much fashion, having hitherto secured among its members only two
lords,--and they were lords by courtesy. But it was a pleasant,
jovial place, in which the delights of young men were not impeded
by the austerity of their elders. Its name would be excused only on
the plea that all other names available for a club had already been
appropriated in the metropolis. There was certainly nothing in the
club peculiarly applicable to mountains. But then there are other
clubs in London with names which might be open to similar criticism.
It was the case that many young men engaged in the City had been
enrolled among its members, and it was from this cause, no doubt,
that Tom Tringle was regarded as being a leading light among the
Mountaineers. It was here that the champagne had been drunk to which
Tom had alluded when talking of his love to his father. Now, in his
despair, it seemed good to him to pass a considerable portion of his
time among the Mountaineers.

"You'll dine here, Faddle?" he said one evening to a special friend
of his, a gentleman also from the City, with whom he had been dining
a good deal during the last week.

"I suppose I shall," said Faddle, "but ain't we coming it a little
strong? They want to know at the Gardens what the deuce it is I'm
about." The Gardens was a new row of houses, latterly christened
Badminton Gardens, in which resided the father and mother of Faddle.

"I've given up all that kind of thing," said Tom.

"Your people are not in London."

"It will make no difference when they do come up. I call an evening
in the bosom of one's family about the slowest thing there is. The
bosom must do without me for the future."

"Won't your governor cut up rough?"

"He must cut up as he pleases. But I rather fancy he knows all about
it. I shan't spend half as much money this way as if I had a house
and wife and family,--and what we may call a bosom of one's own."
Then they had dinner and went to the theatre, and played billiards,
and had supper, and spent the night in a manner very delightful, no
doubt, to themselves, but of which their elder friends could hardly
have approved.

There was a good deal of this following upon the episode of the
necklace, and it must be told with regret that our young hero fell
into certain exploits which were by no means creditable to him. More
than one good-humoured policeman had helped him home to his lodgings;
but alas, on Christmas Eve, he fell into the hands of some guardian
of the peace who was not quite sufficiently good-natured, and Tom
passed the night and the greater part of the following morning,
recumbent, he in one cell, and his friend Faddle in the next, with an
intimation that they would certainly be taken before a magistrate on
the day after Christmas Day.

Oh, Ayala! Ayala! It must be acknowledged that you were in a measure
responsible;--and not only for the lamentable condition of your
lover, but also of that of his friend. For, in his softer moments,
Tom had told every thing to Faddle, and Faddle had declared that
he would be true to the death to a friend suffering such unmerited
misfortune. Perhaps the fidelity of Faddle may have owed something
to the fact that Tom's pecuniary allowances were more generous than
those accorded to himself. To Ayala must be attributed the occurrence
of these misfortunes. But Tom in his more fiery moments,--those
moments which would come between the subsidence of actual sobriety
and the commencement of intoxication,--attributed all his misfortunes
to the Colonel. "Faddle," he would say in these moments, "of course
I know that I'm a ruined man. Of course I'm aware that all this is
only a prelude to some ignominious end. I have not sunk to this
kind of thing without feeling it." "You'll be right enough some day,
old fellow," Faddle would reply. "I shall live to be godfather to
the first boy." "Never, Faddle!" Tom replied. "All those hopes have
vanished. You'll never live to see any child of mine. And I know well
where to look for my enemy. Stubbs indeed! I'll Stubbs him. If I can
only live to be revenged on that traitor then I shall die contented.
Though he shot me through the heart, I should die contented."

This had happened a little before that unfortunate Christmas Eve. Up
to this time Sir Thomas, though he had known well that his son had
not been living as he should do, had been mild in his remonstrances,
and had said nothing at Merle Park to frighten Lady Tringle. But the
affair of Christmas Eve came to his ears with all its horrors. A
policeman whom Tom had struck with his fist in the pit of the stomach
had not been civil enough to accept this mark of familiarity with
good humour. He had been much inconvenienced by the blow, and had
insisted upon giving testimony to this effect before the magistrate.
There had been half-an-hour, he said, in which he had hung dubious
between this world and the next, so great had been the violence of
the blow, and so deadly its direction! The magistrate was one of
those just men who find a pleasure and a duty in protecting the
police of the metropolis. It was no case, he declared, for a fine.
What would be a fine to such a one as Thomas Tringle, junior! And
Tom,--Tom Tringle, the only son of Sir Thomas Tringle, the senior
partner in the great house of Travers and Treason,--was ignominiously
locked up for a week. Faddle, who had not struck the blow, was
allowed to depart with a fine and a warning. Oh, Ayala, Ayala, this
was thy doing!

When the sentence was known Sir Thomas used all his influence to
extricate his unfortunate son, but in vain. Tom went through his
penalty, and, having no help from champagne, doubtless had a bad time
of it. Ayala, Stubbs, the policeman, and the magistrate, seemed to
have conspired to destroy him. But the week at last dragged itself
out, and then Tom found himself confronted with his father in the
back-parlour of the house in Queen's Gate. "Tom," he said, "this is
very bad!"

"It is bad, Sir," said Tom.

"You have disgraced me, and your mother, and yourself. You have
disgraced Travers and Treason!" Poor Tom shook his head. "It will be
necessary, I fear, that you should leave the house altogether." Tom
stood silent without a word. "A young man who has been locked up in
prison for a week for maltreating a policeman can hardly expect to be
entrusted with such concerns as those of Travers and Treason. I and
your poor mother cannot get rid of you and the disgrace which you
have entailed upon us. Travers and Treason can easily get rid of
you." Tom knew very well that his father was, in fact, Travers and
Treason, but he did not yet feel that an opportunity had come in
which he could wisely speak a word. "What have you got to say for
yourself, Sir?" demanded Sir Thomas.

"Of course, I'm very sorry," muttered Tom.

"Sorry, Tom! A young man holding your position in Travers and Treason
ought not to have to be sorry for having been locked up in prison for
a week for maltreating a policeman! What do you think must be done,
yourself?"

"The man had been hauling me about in the street."

"You were drunk, no doubt."

"I had been drinking. I am not going to tell a lie about it. But he
needn't have done as he did. Faddle knows that, and can tell you."

"What can have driven you to associate with such a young man as
Faddle? That is the worst part of it. Do you know what Faddle and
Company are,--stock jobbers, who ten years ago hadn't a thousand
pounds in the way of capital among them! They've been connected with
a dozen companies, none of which are floating now, and have made
money out of them all! Do you think that Travers and Treason will
accept a young man as a partner who associates with such people as
that?"

"I have seen old Faddle's name and yours on the same prospectus
together, Sir."

"What has that to do with it? You never saw him inside our counter.
What a name to appear along with yours in such an affair as this! If
it hadn't been for that, you might have got over it. Young men will
be young men. Faddle! I think you will have to go abroad for a time,
till it has been forgotten."

"I should like to stay, just at present, Sir," said Tom.

"What good can you do?"

"All the same, I should like to stay, Sir."

"I was thinking that, if you were to take a tour through the United
States, go across to San Francisco, then up to Japan, and from thence
through some of the Chinese cities down to Calcutta and Bombay,
you might come back by the Euphrates Valley to Constantinople, see
something of Bulgaria and those countries, and so home by Vienna and
Paris. The Euphrates Valley Railway will be finished by that time,
perhaps, and Bulgaria will be as settled as Hertfordshire. You'd see
something of the world, and I could let it be understood that you
were travelling on behalf of Travers and Treason. By the time that
you were back, people in the City would have forgotten the policeman,
and if you could manage to write home three or four letters about our
trade with Japan and China, they would be willing to forget Faddle."

"But, Sir--"

"Shouldn't you like a tour of that kind?"

"Very much indeed, Sir;--only--"

"Only what, Tom?"

"Ayala!" said Tom, hardly able to suppress a sob as he uttered the
fatal name.

"Tom, don't be a fool. You can't make a young woman have you if she
doesn't choose. I have done all that I could for you, because I saw
that you'd set your heart upon it. I went to her myself, and then I
gave two hundred and fifty pounds for that bauble. I am told I shall
have to lose a third of the sum in getting rid of it."

"Ricolay told me that he'd take it back at two hundred and twenty,"
said Tom, whose mind, prostrate as it was, was still alive to
consideration of profit and loss.

"Never mind that for the present," said Sir Thomas. "Don't you
remember the old song?--'If she will, she will, you may depend on't.
And if she won't she won't; and there's an end on't.' You ought to be
a man and pluck up your spirits. Are you going to allow a little girl
to knock you about in that way?" Tom only shook his head, and looked
as if he was very ill. In truth, the champagne, and the imprisonment,
and Ayala together, had altogether altered his appearance. "We've
done what we could about it, and now it is time to give it over. Let
me hear you say that you will give it over." Tom stood speechless
before his father. "Speak the word, and the thing will be done,"
continued Sir Thomas, endeavouring to encourage the young man.

"I can't," said Tom, sighing.

"Nonsense!"

"I have tried, and I can't."

"Tom, do you mean to say that you are going to lose everything
because a chit of a girl like that turns up her nose at you?"

"It's no use my going while things are like this," said Tom. "If I
were to get to New York, I should come back by the next ship. As for
letters about business, I couldn't settle my mind to anything of the
kind."

"Then you're not the man I took you to be," said the father.

"I could be man enough," said Tom, clenching his fist, "if I could
get hold of Colonel Stubbs."

"Colonel who?"

"Stubbs! Jonathan Stubbs! I know what I'm talking about. I'm not
going to America, nor China, nor anything else, till I've polished
him off. It's all very well your abusing me, but you don't know what
it is I have suffered. As for being called a man I don't care about
it. What I should like best would be to get Ayala on one side and
Stubbs on the other, and then all three to go off the Duke of York's
Column together. It's no good talking about Travers and Treason. I
don't care for Travers and Treason as I am now. If you'll get Ayala
to say that she'll have me, I'll go to the shop every morning at
eight and stay till nine; and as for the Mountaineers it may all go
to the d---- for me." Then he rushed out of the room, banging the
door after him.

Sir Thomas, when he was thus left, stood for awhile with his hands
in his trousers' pockets, contemplating the condition of his son. It
was wonderful to him that a boy of his should be afflicted in this
manner. When he had been struck by the juvenile beauties of Emmeline
Dosett he had at once asked the young lady to share his fortunes with
him, and the young lady had speedily acceded to his request. Then he
had been married, and that was all he had ever known of the troubles
of love. He could not but think, looking back at it as he did now
from a distance, that had Emmeline been hard-hearted he would have
endured the repulse and have passed on speedily to some other
charmer. But Tom had been wounded after a fashion which seemed
to him to have been very uncommon. It might be possible that he
should recover in time, but while undergoing recovery he would be
ruined;--so great were the young man's sufferings! Now Sir Thomas,
though he had spoken to Tom with all the severity which he had been
able to assume, though he had abused Faddle, and had vindicated the
injured dignity of Travers and Treason with all his eloquence; though
he had told Tom it was unmanly to give way to his love, yet, of
living creatures, Tom was at this moment the dearest to his heart. He
had never for an instant entertained the idea of expelling Tom from
Travers and Treason because of the policeman, or because of Faddle.
What should he do for the poor boy now? Was there any argument, any
means of persuasion, by which he could induce that foolish little
girl to accept all the good things which he was ready to do for her?
Could he try yet once again himself, with any chance of success?

Thinking of all this, he stood there for an hour alone with his hands
in his trousers' pockets.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

ISADORE HAMEL IN LOMBARD STREET.


In following the results of Tom's presentation of the necklace we
have got beyond the period which our story is presumed to have
reached. Tom was in durance during the Christmas week, but we must go
back to the promise which had been made by her uncle, Sir Thomas, to
Lucy about six weeks before that time. The promise had extended only
to an undertaking on the part of Sir Thomas to see Isadore Hamel if
he would call at the house in Lombard Street at a certain hour on a
certain day. Lucy was overwhelmed with gratitude when the promise was
made. A few moments previously she had been indignant because her
uncle had appeared to speak of her and her lover as two beggars,--but
Sir Thomas had explained and in some sort apologised, and then had
come the promise which to Lucy seemed to contain an assurance of
effectual aid. Sir Thomas would not have asked to see the lover had
he intended to be hostile to the lover. Something would be done to
solve the difficulty which had seemed to Lucy to be so grave. She
would not any longer be made to think that she should give up either
her lover or her home under her uncle's roof. This had been terribly
distressing to her because she had been well aware that on leaving
her uncle's house she could be taken in only by her lover, to whom an
immediate marriage would be ruinous. And yet she could not undertake
to give up her lover. Therefore her uncle's promise had made her very
happy, and she forgave the ungenerous allusion to the two beggars.

The letter was written to Isadore in high spirits. "I do not know
what Uncle Tom intends, but he means to be kind. Of course you must
go to him, and if I were you I would tell him everything about
everything. He is not strict and hard like Aunt Emmeline. She means
to be good too, but she is sometimes so very hard. I am happier
now because I think something will be done to relieve you from the
terrible weight which I am to you. I sometimes wish that you had
never come to me in Kensington Gardens, because I have become such a
burden to you."

There was much more in which Lucy no doubt went on to declare that,
burden as she was, she intended to be persistent. Hamel, when he
received this letter, was resolved to keep the appointment made for
him, but his hopes were not very high. He had been angry with Lady
Tringle,--in the first place, because of her treatment of himself at
Glenbogie, and then much more strongly, because she had been cruel
to Lucy. Nor did he conceive himself to be under any strong debt
of gratitude to Sir Thomas, though he had been invited to lunch.
He was aware that the Tringles had despised him, and he repaid
the compliment with all his heart by despising the Tringles. They
were to him samples of the sort of people which he thought to be of
all the most despicable. They were not only vulgar and rich, but
purse-proud and conceited as well. To his thinking there was nothing
of which such people were entitled to be proud. Of course they
make money,--money out of money, an employment which he regarded
as vile,--creating nothing either useful or beautiful. To create
something useful was, to his thinking, very good. To create something
beautiful was almost divine. To manipulate millions till they should
breed other millions was the meanest occupation for a life's energy.
It was thus, I fear, that Mr. Hamel looked at the business carried on
in Lombard Street, being as yet very young in the world and seeing
many things with distorted eyes.

He was aware that some plan would be proposed to him which might
probably accelerate his marriage, but was aware also that he would be
very unwilling to take advice from Sir Thomas. Sir Thomas, no doubt,
would be coarse and rough, and might perhaps offer him pecuniary
assistance in a manner which would make it impossible for him to
accept it. He had told himself a score of times that, poor as he was,
he did not want any of the Tringle money. His father's arbitrary
conduct towards him had caused him great misery. He had been brought
up in luxury, and had felt it hard enough to be deprived of his
father's means because he would not abandon the mode of life that
was congenial to him. But having been thus, as it were, cast off
by his father, he had resolved that it behoved him to depend only
on himself. In the matter of his love he was specially prone to be
indignant and independent. No one had a right to dictate to him,
and he would follow the dictation of none. To Lucy alone did he
acknowledge any debt, and to her he owed everything. But even for
her sake he could not condescend to accept Sir Thomas's money, and
with his money his advice. Lucy had begged him in her letter to tell
everything to her uncle. He would tell Sir Thomas everything as to
his income, his prospects, and his intentions, because Sir Thomas as
Lucy's uncle would be entitled to such information. But he thought it
very improbable that he should accept any counsel from Sir Thomas.

Such being the condition of Hamel's mind it was to be feared that but
little good would come from his visit to Lombard Street. Lucy had
simply thought that her uncle, out of his enormous stores, would
provide an adequate income. Hamel thought that Sir Thomas, out of his
enormous impudence, would desire to dictate everything. Sir Thomas
was, in truth, anxious to be good-natured, and to do a kindness to
his niece; but was not willing to give his money without being sure
that he was putting it into good hands.

"Oh, you're Hamel," said a young man to him, speaking to him across
the counter in the Lombard Street office. This was Tom, who, as the
reader will remember, had not yet got into his trouble on account of
the policeman.

Tom and Hamel had never met but once before, for a few moments in the
Coliseum at Rome, and the artist, not remembering him, did not know
by whom he was accosted in this familiar manner. "That is my name,
Sir," said Hamel. "Here is my card. Perhaps you will do me the
kindness to take it to Sir Thomas Tringle."

"All right, old fellow; I know all about it. He has got Puxley with
him from the Bank of England just at this moment. Come through into
this room. He'll soon have polished off old Puxley." Tom was no more
to Hamel than any other clerk, and he felt himself to be aggrieved;
but he followed Tom into the room as he was told, and then prepared
to wait in patience for the convenience of the great man. "So you and
Lucy are going to make a match of it," said Tom.

This was terrible to Hamel. Could it be possible that all the clerks
in Lombard Street talked of his Lucy in this way, because she was the
niece of their senior partner? Were all the clerks, as a matter of
course, instructed in the most private affairs of the Tringle family?
"I am here in obedience to directions from Sir Thomas," said Hamel,
ignoring altogether the impudent allusion which the young man had
made.

"Of course you are. Perhaps you don't know who I am?"

"Not in the least," said Hamel.

"I am Thomas Tringle, junior," said Tom, with a little accession of
dignity.

"I beg your pardon; I did not know," said Hamel.

"You and I ought to be thick," rejoined Tom, "because I'm going in
for Ayala. Perhaps you've heard that before?"

Hamel had heard it and was well aware that Tom was to Ayala an
intolerable burden, like the old man of the sea. He had heard of Tom
as poor Ayala's pet aversion,--as a lover not to be shaken off though
he had been refused a score of times. Ayala was to the sculptor only
second in sacredness to Lucy. And now he was told by Tom himself that
he was--"going in for Ayala." The expression was so distressing to
his feelings that he shuddered when he heard it. Was it possible that
any one should say of him that he was "going in" for Lucy? At that
moment Sir Thomas opened the door, and grasping Hamel by the hand led
him away into his own sanctum.

"And now, Mr. Hamel," said Sir Thomas, in his cheeriest voice, "how
are you?" Hamel declared that he was very well, and expressed a hope
that Sir Thomas was the same. "I am not so young as I was, Mr. Hamel.
My years are heavier and so is my work. That's the worst of it. When
one is young and strong one very often hasn't enough to do. I daresay
you find it so sometimes."

"In our profession," said Hamel, "we go on working, though very often
we do not sell what we do."

"That's bad," said Sir Thomas.

"It is the case always with an artist before he has made a name for
himself. It is the case with many up to the last day of a life of
labour. An artist has to look for that, Sir Thomas."

"Dear me! That seems very sad. You are a sculptor, I believe?"

"Yes, Sir Thomas."

"And the things you make must take a deal of room and be very heavy."
At this Mr. Hamel only smiled. "Don't you think if you were to call
an auction you'd get something for them?" At this suggestion the
sculptor frowned but condescended to make no reply. Sir Thomas went
on with his suggestion. "If you and half-a-dozen other beginners made
a sort of gallery among you, people would buy them as they do those
things in the Marylebone Road and stick them up somewhere about their
grounds. It would be better than keeping them and getting nothing."
Hamel had in his studio at home an allegorical figure of Italia
United, and another of a Prostrate Roman Catholic Church, which
in his mind's eye he saw for a moment stuck here or there about
the gardens of some such place as Glenbogie! Into them had been
infused all the poetry of his nature and all the conviction of his
intelligence. He had never dreamed of selling them. He had never
dared to think that any lover of Art would encourage him to put into
marble those conceptions of his genius which now adorned his studio,
standing there in plaster of Paris. But to him they were so valuable,
they contained so much of his thoughts, so many of his aspirations,
that even had the marble counterparts been ordered and paid for
nothing would have induced him to part with the originals. Now he was
advised to sell them by auction in order that he might rival those
grotesque tradesmen whose business it is to populate the gardens of
wealthy but tasteless Britons! It was thus that the idea represented
itself to him. He simply smiled; but Sir Thomas did not fail to
appreciate the smile.

"And now about this young lady?" said Sir Thomas, not altogether in
so good a humour as he had been when he began his suggestion. "It's a
bad look out for her when, as you say, you cannot sell your work when
you've done it."

"I think you do not quite understand the matter, Sir Thomas."

"Perhaps not. It certainly does seem unintelligible that a man should
lumber himself up with a lot of things which he cannot sell. A
tradesman would know that he must get into the bankruptcy court if
he were to go on like that. And what is sauce for the goose will
be sauce for the gander also." Mr. Hamel again smiled but held his
tongue. "If you can't sell your wares how can you keep a wife?"

"My wares, as you call them, are of two kinds. One, though no doubt
made for sale, is hardly saleable. The other is done to order. Such
income as I make comes from the latter."

"Heads," suggested Sir Thomas.

"Busts they are generally called."

"Well, busts. I call them heads. They are heads. A bust, I take it,
is--well, never mind." Sir Thomas found a difficulty in defining his
idea of a bust. "A man wants to have something more or less like some
one to put up in a church and then he pays you."

"Or perhaps in his library. But he can put it where he likes when he
has bought it."

"Just so. But there ain't many of those come in your way, if I
understand right."

"Not as many as I would wish."

"What can you net at the end of the year? That's the question."

Lucy had recommended him to tell Sir Thomas everything; and he had
come there determined to tell at any rate everything referring to
money. He had not the slightest desire to keep the amount of his
income from Sir Thomas. But the questions were put to him in so
distasteful a way that he could not bring himself to be confidential.
"It varies with various circumstances, but it is very small."

"Very small? Five hundred a year?" This was ill-natured, because Sir
Thomas knew that Mr. Hamel did not earn five hundred a year. But he
was becoming acerbated by the young man's manner.

"Oh dear, no," said Hamel.

"Four hundred?"

"Nor four hundred,--nor three. I have never netted three hundred in
one year after paying the incidental expenses."

"That seems to me to be uncommonly little for a young man who is
thinking of marrying. Don't you think you had better give it up?"

"I certainly think nothing of the kind."

"Does your father do anything for you?"

"Nothing at all."

"He also makes heads?"

"Heads,--and other things."

"And sells them when he has made them."

"Yes, Sir Thomas; he sells them. He had a hard time once, but now he
is run after. He refuses more orders than he can accept."

"And he won't do anything for you."

"Nothing. He has quarreled with me."

"That is very bad. Well now, Mr. Hamel, would you mind telling me
what your ideas are?" Sir Thomas, when he asked the question, still
intended to give assistance, was still minded that the young people
should by his assistance be enabled to marry. But he was strongly of
opinion that it was his duty, as a rich and protecting uncle, to say
something about imprudence, and to magnify difficulties. It certainly
would be wrong for an uncle, merely because he was rich, to give
away his money to dependent relatives without any reference to those
hard principles which a possessor of money always feels it to be his
business to inculcate. And up to this point Hamel had done nothing
to ingratiate himself. Sir Thomas was beginning to think that the
sculptor was an impudent prig, and to declare to himself that, should
the marriage ever take place, the young couple would not be made
welcome at Glenbogie or Merle Park. But still he intended to go on
with his purpose, for Lucy's sake. Therefore he asked the sculptor as
to his ideas generally.

"My idea is that I shall marry Miss Dormer, and support her on the
earnings of my profession. My idea is that I shall do so before long,
in comfort. My idea also is, that she will be the last to complain
of any discomfort which may arise from my straitened circumstances
at present. My idea is that I am preparing for myself a happy
and independent life. My idea also is,--and I assure you that of
all my ideas this is the one to which I cling with the fondest
assurance,--that I will do my very best to make her life happy when
she comes to grace my home."

There was a manliness in this which would have touched Sir Thomas
had he been in a better humour, but, as it was, he had been so much
irritated by the young man's manner, that he could not bring himself
to be just. "Am I to understand that you intend to marry on something
under three hundred a year?"

Hamel paused a moment before he made his reply. "How am I to answer
such a question," he said, at last, "seeing that Miss Dormer is in
your hands, and that you are unlikely to be influenced by anything
that I may say?"

"I shall be very much influenced," said Sir Thomas.

"Were her father still alive, I think we should have put our heads
together, and between us decided on what might have been best for
Lucy's happiness."

"Do you think that I'm indifferent to her happiness?" demanded Sir
Thomas.

"I should have suggested to him," continued Hamel, not noticing the
last question, "that she should remain in her own home till I could
make one for her worthy of her acceptance. And then we should have
arranged among us what would have been best for her happiness. I
cannot do this with you. If you tell her to-morrow that she must give
up either your protection or her engagement with me, then she must
come to me, and make the best of all the little that I can do for
her."

"Who says that I'm going to turn her out?" said Sir Thomas, rising
angrily from his chair.

"I do not think that any one has said this of you."

"Then why do you throw it in my teeth?"

"Because your wife has threatened it."

Then Sir Thomas boiled over in his anger. "No one has threatened it.
It is untrue. You are guilty both of impertinence and untruth in
saying so." Here Hamel rose from his chair, and took up his hat.
"Stop, young man, and hear what I have to say to you. I have done
nothing but good to my niece."

"Nevertheless, it is true, Sir Thomas, that she has been told by your
wife that she must either abandon me or the protection of your roof.
I find no fault with Lady Tringle for saying so. It may have been the
natural expression of a judicious opinion. But when you ask after my
intentions in reference to your niece I am bound to tell you that I
propose to subject her to the undoubted inconveniences of my poor
home, simply because I find her to be threatened with the loss of
another."

"She has not been threatened, Sir."

"You had better ask your wife, Sir Thomas. And, if you find that what
I have said is true, I think you will own that I have been obliged to
explain myself as I have done. As you have told me to my face that
I have been guilty of untruth, I shall now leave you." With this he
walked out of the room, and the words which Sir Thomas threw after
him had no effect in recalling him.

It must be acknowledged that Hamel had been very foolish in referring
to Aunt Emmeline's threat. Who does not know that words are
constantly used which are intended to have no real effect? Who does
not know that an angry woman will often talk after this fashion?
But it was certainly the fact that Aunt Emmeline had more than once
declared to Lucy that she could not be allowed to remain one of
that family unless she would give up her lover. Lucy, in her loyal
endeavours to explain to her lover her own position, had told him of
the threat, and he, from that moment, had held himself prepared to
find a home for his future wife should that threat be carried into
execution. Sir Thomas was well aware that such words had been spoken,
but he knew his wife, and knew how little such words signified. His
wife, without his consent, would not have the power to turn a dog
from Merle Park. The threat had simply been an argument intended to
dissuade Lucy from her choice; and now it had been thrown in his
teeth just when he had intended to make provision for this girl, who
was not, in truth, related to him, in order that he might ratify her
choice! He was very angry with the young prig who had thus rushed out
of his presence. He was angry, too, with his wife, who had brought
him into his difficulty by her foolish threat. But he was angry,
also, with himself, knowing that he had been wrong to accuse the man
of a falsehood.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

"I NEVER THREATENED TO TURN YOU OUT."


Then there were written the following letters, which were sent and
received before Sir Thomas went to Merle Park, and therefore, also,
before he again saw Lucy.


   DEAREST, DEAREST LOVE,

   I have been, as desired, to Lombard Street, but I fear
   that my embassy has not led to any good. I know myself
   to be about as bad an ambassador as any one can send. An
   ambassador should be soft and gentle,--willing to make
   the best of everything, and never prone to take offence,
   nor should he be addicted specially to independence. I
   am ungentle, and apt to be suspicious,--especially if
   anything be said derogatory to my art. I am proud of being
   an artist, but I am often ashamed of myself because I
   exhibit my pride. I may say the same of my spirit of
   independence. I am determined to be independent if I
   live,--but I find my independence sometimes kicking up its
   heels, till I hate it myself.

   From this you will perceive that I have not had a success
   in Lombard Street. I was quite willing to answer your
   uncle any questions he could ask about money. Indeed,
   I had no secret from him on any subject. But when he
   subjected me to cross-examination, forcing me into a
   bathos of poverty, as he thought, I broke down. "Not five
   hundred a-year!" "Not four!!" "Not three!!!" "Oh, heavens!
   and you propose to take a wife!" You will understand how I
   writhed and wriggled under the scorn.

   And then there came something worse than this,--or rather,
   if I remember rightly, the worst thing came first. You
   were over in my studio, and will remember, perhaps,
   some of my own abortive treasures, those melancholy but
   soul-inspiring creations of which I have thought so much,
   and others have thought so little? That no one else should
   value them is natural, but to me it seems unnatural,
   almost cruel, that any one should tell me to my face that
   they were valueless. Your uncle, of course, had never seen
   them, but he knew that sculptors are generally burdened
   with these "wares," as he called them; and he suggested
   that I should sell them by auction for what they might
   fetch,--in order that the corners which they occupy might
   be vacant. He thought that, perhaps, they might do for
   country gentlemen to stick about among their shrubs.
   You, knowing my foolish soreness on the subject, will
   understand how well I must have been prepared by this to
   endure your uncle's cross-examination.

   Then he asked me as to my ideas,--not art ideas, but ideas
   as to bread and cheese for the future. I told him as
   exactly as I could. I explained to him that if you were
   left in possession of a comfortable home, such as would
   have been that of your father, I should think it best for
   your sake to delay our marriage till I should be prepared
   to do something better for you than I can at present;
   but that I hold myself ready to give you all that I have
   to give at a moment's notice, should you be required to
   leave his house. And, Lucy, speaking in your name, I said
   something further, and declared my belief that you, for
   my sake, would bear the inconveniences of so poor a home
   without complaining.

   Then there arose anger both on his side and on mine; and I
   must say, insult on his. He told me that I had no business
   to suggest that you would be expelled from his house. I
   replied that the threat had come, if not from him, then
   from Lady Tringle. Upon this he accused me of positive
   falsehood, asserting that your aunt had said nothing of
   the kind. I then referred him to Lady Tringle herself, but
   refused to stay any longer in the room with him, because
   he had insulted me.

   So you will see that I did less than nothing by my
   embassy. I told myself that it would be so as I descended
   into the underground cavern at the Gloucester Road
   Station. You are not to suppose that I blame him more, or,
   indeed, so much as I do myself. It was not to be expected
   that he should behave as a gentleman of fine feeling. But,
   perhaps, it ought to have been expected that I should
   behave as a man of common sense. I ought to have taken
   his advice about the auction, apparently, in good part.
   I ought not to have writhed when he scorned my poor
   earnings. When he asked as to my ideas, I should not have
   alluded to your aunt's threat as to turning you out. I
   should have been placid and humble; and then his want of
   generous feeling would have mattered nothing. But spilt
   milk and broken eggs are past saving. Whatever good things
   may have come from your uncle's generosity had I brushed
   his hair for him aright, are now clean gone, seeing that I
   scrubbed him altogether the wrong way.

   For myself, I do not know that I should regret it very
   much. I have an idea that no money should be sweet to a
   man except that which he earns. And I have enough belief
   in myself to be confident that sooner or later I shall
   earn a sufficiency. But, dearest, I own that I feel
   disgusted with myself when I think that I have diminished
   your present comfort, or perhaps lessened for the future
   resources which would have been yours rather than mine.
   But the milk has been spilt, and now we must only think
   what we can best do without it. It seems to me that only
   two homes are possible for you,--one with Sir Thomas
   as his niece, and the other with me as my wife. I am
   conceited enough to think that you will prefer the latter
   even with many inconveniences. Neither can your uncle
   or your aunt prevent you from marrying at a very early
   day, should you choose to do so. There would be some
   preliminary ceremony, of the nature of which I am
   thoroughly ignorant, but which could, I suppose, be
   achieved in a month. I would advise you to ask your aunt
   boldly whether she wishes you to go or to stay with her,
   explaining, of course, that you intend to hold to your
   engagement, and explaining at the same time that you are
   quite ready to be married at once if she is anxious to be
   quit of you. That is my advice.

   And now, dear, one word of something softer! For did any
   lover ever write to the lady of his heart so long a letter
   so abominably stuffed with matters of business? How shall
   I best tell you how dearly I love you? Perhaps I may do it
   by showing you that as far as I myself am concerned I long
   to hear that your Aunt Emmeline and your Uncle Tom are
   more hard-hearted and obdurate than were ever uncle and
   aunt before them. I long to hear that you have been turned
   out into the cold, because I know that then you must come
   to me, though it be even less than three hundred a-year.
   I wish you could have seen your uncle's face as those
   terribly mean figures reached his ears. I do not for a
   moment fear that we should want. Orders come slow enough,
   but they come a little quicker than they did. I have never
   for a moment doubted my own ultimate success, and if
   you were with me I should be more confident than ever.
   Nevertheless, should your aunt bid you to stay, and should
   you think it right to comply with her desire, I will not
   complain.

   Adieu! This comes from one who is altogether happy in his
   confidence that at any rate before long you will have
   become his wife.

   ISADORE HAMEL.

   I quite expect to be scolded for my awkwardness. Indeed I
   shall be disappointed if I am not.


The same post which brought Hamel's long letter to Lucy brought also
a short but very angry scrawl from Sir Thomas to his wife. No eyes
but those of Lady Tringle saw this epistle, and no other eyes shall
see it. But the few words which it contained were full of marital
wrath. Why had she threatened to turn her own niece out of his doors?
Why had she subjected him to the necessity of defending her by a
false assertion? Those Dormer nieces of hers were giving him an
amount of trouble and annoyance which he certainly had not deserved.
Lucy, though not a word was said to her of this angry letter, was
conscious that something had been added to her aunt's acerbity.
Indeed, for the last day or two her aunt's acerbity towards her
had been much diminished. Lady Tringle had known that her husband
intended to do something by which the Hamel marriage would be
rendered possible; and she, though she altogether disapproved of
the Hamel marriage, would be obliged to accede to it if Sir Thomas
acceded to it and encouraged it by his money. Let them be married,
and then, as far as the Tringles were concerned, let there be an end
of these Dormer troubles for ever. To that idea Lady Tringle had
reconciled herself as soon as Sir Thomas had declared his purpose,
but now,--as she declared to herself,--"all the fat was again in the
fire." She received Lucy's salutations on that morning with a very
bad grace.

But she had been desired to give no message, and therefore she was
silent on the subject to Lucy. To the Honourable Mrs. Traffick she
said a few words. "After all Ayala was not half as bad as Lucy," said
Lady Tringle.

"There, mamma, I think you are wrong," said the Honourable Mrs.
Traffick. "Of all the upsetting things I ever knew Ayala was the
worst. Think of her conduct with Septimus." Lady Tringle made a
little grimace, which, however, her daughter did not see. "And then
with that Marchesa!"

"That was the Marchesa's fault."

"And with Tom!"

"I don't think she was so much to blame with Tom. If she were, why
doesn't she take him now she can have him? He is just as foolish
about her as ever. Upon my word I think Tom will make himself ill
about it."

"You haven't heard it all, mamma."

"What haven't I heard?"

"Ayala has been down with the Alburys at Stalham."

"I did hear that."

"And another man has turned up. What on earth they see in her is what
I can't understand."

"Another man has offered to her! Who is he?"

"There was a Colonel Stubbs down there. Septimus heard it all from
young Batsby at the club. She got this man to ride about the country
with her everywhere, going to the meets with him and coming home. And
in this way she got him to propose to her. I don't suppose he means
anything; but that is why she won't have anything to do with Tom now.
Do you mean to say she didn't do all she could to catch Tom down at
Glenbogie, and then at Rome? Everybody saw it. I don't think Lucy has
ever been so bad as that."

"It's quite different, my dear."

"She has come from a low father," said the Honourable Mrs. Traffick,
proudly, "and therefore she has naturally attached herself to a low
young man. There is nothing to be wondered at in that. I suppose they
are fond of each other, and the sooner they are married the better."

"But he can't marry her because he has got nothing."

"Papa will do something."

"That's just what your papa won't. The man has been to your father
in the City and there has been ever such a row. He spoke ill of me
because I endeavoured to do my duty by the ungrateful girl. I am
sure I have got a lesson as to taking up other people's children. I
endeavoured to do an act of charity, and see what has come of it. I
don't believe in charity."

"That is wicked, mamma. Faith, Hope, and Charity! But you've got to
be charitable before you begin the others."

"I don't think it is wicked. People would do best if they were made
to go along on what they've got of their own." This seemed to Augusta
to be a direct blow at Septimus and herself. "Of course I know what
you mean, mamma."

"I didn't mean anything."

"But, if people can't stay for a few weeks in their own parents'
houses, I don't know where they are to stay."

"It isn't weeks, Augusta; it's months. And as to parents, Lord
Boardotrade is Mr. Traffick's parent. Why doesn't he go and stay with
Lord Boardotrade?" Then Augusta got up and marched with stately step
out of the room. After this it was not possible that Lucy would find
much immediate grace in her aunt's eyes.

From the moment that Lucy had received her letter there came upon her
the great burden of answering it. She was very anxious to do exactly
as Hamel had counselled her. She was quite alive to the fact that
Hamel had been imprudent in Lombard Street; but not the less was she
desirous to do as he bade her,--thinking it right that a woman should
obey some one, and that her obedience could be due only to him. But
in order to obey him she must consult her aunt. "Aunt Emmeline," she
said that afternoon, "I want to ask you something?"

"What is it now?" said Aunt Emmeline, crossly.

"About Mr. Hamel."

"I don't want to hear any more about Mr. Hamel. I have heard quite
enough of Mr. Hamel."

"Of course I am engaged to him, Aunt Emmeline."

"So I hear you say. I do not think it very dutiful of you to come and
talk to me about him, knowing as you do what I think about him."

"What I want to ask is this. Ought I to stay here or ought I to go
away?"

"I never heard such a girl! Where are you to go to? What makes you
ask the question?"

"Because you said that I ought to go if I did not give him up."

"You ought to give him up."

"I cannot do that, aunt."

"Then you had better hold your tongue and say nothing further about
it. I don't believe he earns enough to give you bread to eat and
decent clothes to wear. What would you do if children were to come
year after year? If you really love him I wonder how you can think of
being such a millstone round a man's neck!"

This was very hard to bear. It was so different from the delicious
comfort of his letter. "I do not for a moment believe that we should
want." "I have never for one moment doubted my own ultimate success."
But after all was there not more of truth in her aunt's words, hard
and cruel as they were? And on these words, such as they were, she
must found her answer to her lover; for he had bade her ask her
aunt what she was to do as to staying or preparing herself for an
immediate marriage. Then, before the afternoon was over, she wrote to
Hamel as follows;--


   DEAR ISADORE,

   I have got ever so much to say, but I shall begin by doing
   as you told me in your postscript. I won't quite scold
   you, but I do think you might have been a little gentler
   with poor Uncle Tom. I do not say this because I at all
   regret anything which perhaps he might have done for us.
   If you do not want assistance from him certainly I do
   not. But I do think that he meant to be kind; and, though
   he may not be quite what you call a gentleman of fine
   feeling, yet he has taken me into his house when I had no
   other to go to, and in many respects has been generous to
   me. When he said that you were to go to him in Lombard
   Street, I am sure that he meant to be generous. And,
   though it has not ended well, yet he meant to be kind to
   both of us.

   There is what you will call my scolding; though, indeed,
   dearest, I do not intend to scold at all. Nor am I in the
   least disappointed except in regard to you. This morning
   I have been to Aunt Emmeline, as you desired, and I must
   say that she was very cross. Of course I know that it is
   because she is my own aunt that Uncle Tom has me here at
   all; and I feel that I ought to be very grateful to her.
   But, in spite of all that you say, laughing at Uncle Tom
   because he wants you to sell your grand work by auction,
   he is much more good-natured than Aunt Emmeline. I am
   quite sure my aunt never liked me, and that she will
   not be comfortable till I am gone. But when I asked her
   whether I ought to stay, or to go, she told me to hold my
   tongue, and say nothing further about it. Of course, by
   this, she meant that I was to remain, at any rate for the
   present.

   My own dearest, I do think this will be best, though I
   need not tell you how I look forward to leaving this, and
   being always with you. For myself I am not a bit afraid,
   though Aunt Emmeline said dreadful things about food
   and clothes, and all the rest of it. But I believe much
   more in what you say, that success will be sure to come.
   But still will it not be wise to wait a little longer?
   Whatever I may have to bear here, I shall think that I am
   bearing it for your dear sake; and then I shall be happy.

   Believe me to be always and always your own

   LUCY.


This was written and sent on a Wednesday, and nothing further was
said either by Lucy herself, or by her aunt, as to the lover, till
Sir Thomas came down to Merle Park on the Saturday evening. On his
arrival he seemed inclined to be gracious to the whole household,
even including Mr. Traffick, who received any attention of that kind
exactly as though the most amicable arrangements were always existing
between him and his father-in-law. Aunt Emmeline, when it seemed that
she was to encounter no further anger on account of the revelation
which Hamel had made in Lombard Street, also recovered her temper,
and the evening was spent as though there were no causes for serious
family discord. In this spirit, on the following morning, they all
went to church, and it was delightful to hear the flattering words
with which Mr. Traffick praised Merle Park, and everything belonging
to it, during the hour of lunch. He went so far as to make some
delicately laudatory hints in praise of hospitality in general, and
especially as to that so nobly exercised by London merchant-princes.
Sir Thomas smiled as he heard him, and, as he smiled, he resolved
that, as soon as the Christmas festivities should be over, the
Honourable Septimus Traffick should certainly be turned out of that
house.

After lunch there came a message to Lucy by a page-boy, who was
supposed to attend generally to the personal wants of Aunt Emmeline,
saying that her uncle would be glad of her attendance for a walk. "My
dear," said he, "have you got your thick boots on? Then go and put
'em on. We will go down to the Lodge, and then come home round by
Windover Hill." She did as she was bade, and then they started. "I
want to tell you," said he, "that this Mr. Hamel of yours came to me
in Lombard Street."

"I know that, Uncle Tom."

"He has written to you, then, and told you all about it?"

"He has written to me, certainly, and I have answered him."

"No doubt. Well, Lucy, I had intended to be kind to your Mr. Hamel,
but, as you are probably aware, I was not enabled to carry out my
intentions. He seems to be a very independent sort of young man."

"He is independent, I think."

"I have not a word to say against it. If a man can be independent it
is so much the better. If a man can do everything for himself, so
as to require neither to beg nor to borrow, it will be much better
for him. But, my dear, you must understand that a man cannot be
independent with one hand, and accept assistance with the other, at
one and the same time."

"That is not his character, I am sure," said Lucy, striving to hide
her indignation while she defended her lover's character.

"I do not think it is. Therefore he must remain independent, and I
can do nothing for him."

"He knows that, Uncle Tom."

"Very well. Then there's an end of it. I only want to make you
understand that I was willing to assist him, but that he was
unwilling to be assisted. I like him all the better for it, but there
must be an end of it."

"I quite understand, Uncle Tom."

"Then there's one other thing I've got to say. He accused me of
having threatened to turn you out of my house. Now, my dear--"
Hereupon Lucy struggled to say a word, hardly knowing what word she
ought to say, but he interrupted her,--"Just hear me out till I've
done, and then there need not be another word about it. I never
threatened to turn you out."

"Not you, Uncle Tom," she said, endeavouring to press his arm with
her hand.

"If your aunt said a word in her anger you should not have made
enough of it to write and tell him."

"I thought she meant me to go, and then I didn't know whom else to
ask."

"Neither I nor she, nor anybody else, ever intended to turn you out.
I have meant to be kind to you both,--to you and Ayala; and if things
have gone wrong I cannot say that it has been my fault. Now, you had
better stay here, and not say a word more about it till he is ready
to take you. That can't be yet for a long time. He is making, at
present, not more than two hundred a year. And I am sure it must be
quite as much as he can do to keep a coat on his back with such an
income as that. You must make up your mind to wait,--probably for
some years. As I told you before, if a man chooses to have the glory
of independence he must also bear the inconvenience. Now, my dear,
let there be an end of this, and never say again that I want to turn
you out of my house."



CHAPTER XXXV.

TOM TRINGLE SENDS A CHALLENGE.


The next six weeks went on tranquilly at Merle Park without a word
spoken about Hamel. Sir Thomas, who was in the country as little as
possible, showed his scorn to his son-in-law simply by the paucity
of his words, speaking to him, when he did speak to him, with
a deliberate courtesy which Mr. Traffick perfectly understood.
It was that dangerous serenity which so often presages a storm.
"There is something going to be up with your father," he said to
Augusta. Augusta replied that she had never seen her father so civil
before. "It would be a great convenience," continued the Member of
Parliament, "if he could be made to hold his tongue till Parliament
meets; but I'm afraid that's too good to expect." In other respects
things were comfortable at Merle Park, though they were not always
comfortable up in London. Tom, as the reader knows, was misbehaving
himself sadly at the Mountaineers. This was the period of unlimited
champagne, and of almost total absence from Lombard Street. It was
seldom that Sir Thomas could get hold of his son, and when he did
that broken-hearted youth would reply to his expostulations simply
by asserting that if his father would induce Ayala to marry him
everything should go straight in Lombard Street. Then came the final
blow. Tom was of course expected at Merle Park on Christmas Eve,
but did not make his appearance either then or on Christmas Day.
Christmas fell on a Wednesday, and it was intended that the family
should remain in the country till the following Monday. On the
Thursday Sir Thomas went up to town to make inquiries respecting his
heir, as to whom Lady Tringle had then become absolutely unhappy. In
London he heard the disastrous truth. Tom, in his sportive mood, had
caused serious inconvenience to a most respectable policeman, and
was destined to remain another week in the hands of the Philistines.
Then, for a time, all the other Tringle troubles were buried and
forgotten in this great trouble respecting Tom. Lady Tringle was
unable to leave her room during the period of incarceration. Mr.
Traffick promised to have the victim liberated by the direct
interference of the Secretary of State, but failed to get anything
of the kind accomplished. The girls were completely cowed by the
enormity of the misfortune; so that Tom's name was hardly mentioned
except in sad and confidential whispers. But of all the sufferers Sir
Thomas suffered the most. To him it was a positive disgrace, weighing
down every moment of his life. At Travers and Treason he could not
hold up his head boldly and open his mouth loudly as had always been
his wont. At Travers and Treason there was not a clerk who did not
know that "the governor" was an altered man since this misfortune had
happened to the hope of the firm. What passed between Sir Thomas and
his son on the occasion has already been told in a previous chapter.
That Sir Thomas, on the whole, behaved with indulgence must be
acknowledged; but he felt that his son must in truth absent himself
from Lombard Street for a time.

Tom had been advised by his father to go forth and see the world. A
prolonged tour had been proposed to him which to most young men might
seem to have great attraction. To him it would have had attraction
enough, had it not been for Ayala. There would have been hardly any
limit to the allowance made to him, and he would have gone forth
armed with introductions, which would have made every port a happy
home to him. But as soon as the tour was suggested he resolved at
once that he could not move himself to a distance from Ayala. What he
expected,--what he even hoped,--he could not tell himself. But while
Ayala was in London, and Ayala was unmarried, he could not be made to
take himself far away.

He was thoroughly ashamed of himself. He was not at all the man who
could bear a week of imprisonment and not think himself disgraced.
For a day or two he shut himself up altogether in his lodgings, and
never once showed himself at the Mountaineers. Faddle came to him,
but he snubbed Faddle at first, remembering all the severe things his
father had said about the Faddles in general. But he soon allowed
that feeling to die away when the choice seemed to be between Faddle
and solitude. Then he crept out in the dark and ate his dinners with
Faddle at some tavern, generally paying the bill for both of them.
After dinner he would play half-a-dozen games of billiards with his
friend at some unknown billiard-room, and then creep home to his
lodgings,--a blighted human being!

At last, about the end of the first week in January, he was induced
to go down to Merle Park. There Mr. and Mrs. Traffick were still
sojourning, the real grief which had afflicted Sir Thomas having
caused him to postpone his intention in regard to his son-in-law.
At Merle Park Tom was cosseted and spoilt by the women very
injudiciously. It was not perhaps the fact that they regarded him
as a hero simply because he had punched a policeman in the stomach
and then been locked up in vindication of the injured laws of his
country; but that incident in combination with his unhappy love did
seem to make him heroic. Even Lucy regarded him with favour because
of his constancy to her sister; whereas the other ladies measured
their admiration for his persistency by the warmth of their anger
against the silly girl who was causing so much trouble. His mother
told him over and over again that his cousin was not worth his
regard; but then, when he would throw himself on the sofa in an agony
of despair,--weakened perhaps as much by the course of champagne as
by the course of his love,--then she, too, would bid him hope, and at
last promised that she herself would endeavour to persuade Ayala to
look at the matter in a more favourable light. "It would all be right
if it were not for that accursed Stubbs," poor Tom would say to his
mother. "The man whom I called my friend! The man I lent a horse to
when he couldn't get one anywhere else! The man to whom I confided
everything, even about the necklace! If it hadn't been for Stubbs
I never should have hurt that policeman! When I was striking him
I thought that it was Stubbs!" Then the mother would heap feminine
maledictions on the poor Colonel's head, and so together they would
weep and think of revenge.

From the moment Tom had heard Colonel Stubbs's name mentioned as that
of his rival he had meditated revenge. It was quite true when he said
that he had been thinking of Stubbs when he struck the policeman. He
had consumed the period of his confinement in gnashing his teeth, all
in regard to our poor friend Jonathan. He told his father that he
could not go upon his long tour because of Ayala. But in truth his
love was now so mixed up with ideas of vengeance that he did not
himself know which prevailed. If he could first have slaughtered
Stubbs then perhaps he might have started! But how was he to
slaughter Stubbs? Various ideas occurred to his mind. At first
he thought that he would go down to Aldershot with the biggest
cutting-whip he could find in any shop in Piccadilly; but then it
occurred to him that at Aldershot he would have all the British army
against him, and that the British army might do something to him
worse even than the London magistrate. Then he would wait till the
Colonel could be met elsewhere. He ascertained that the Colonel was
still at Stalham, where he had passed the Christmas, and he thought
how it might be if he were to attack the Colonel in the presence of
his friends, the Alburys. He assured himself that, as far as personal
injury went, he feared nothing. He had no disinclination to be hit
over the head himself, if he could be sure of hitting the Colonel
over the head. If it could be managed that they two should fly at
each other with their fists, and be allowed to do the worst they
could to each other for an hour, without interference, he would be
quite satisfied. But down at Stalham that would not be allowed. All
the world would be against him, and nobody there to see that he got
fair play. If he could encounter the man in the streets of London it
would be better; but were he to seek the man down at Stalham he would
probably find himself in the County Lunatic Asylum. What must he do
for his revenge? He was surely entitled to it. By all the laws of
chivalry, as to which he had his own ideas, he had a right to inflict
an injury upon a successful--even upon an unsuccessful--rival. Was it
not a shame that so excellent an institution as duelling should have
been stamped out? Wandering about the lawns and shrubberies at Merle
Park he thought of all this, and at last he came to a resolution.

The institution had been stamped out, as far as Great Britain was
concerned. He was aware of that. But it seemed to him that it had not
been stamped out in other more generous countries. He had happened to
notice that a certain enthusiastic politician in France had enjoyed
many duels, and had never been severely repressed by the laws of his
country. Newspaper writers were always fighting in France, and were
never guillotined. The idea of being hanged was horrible to him,--so
distasteful that he saw at a glance that a duel in England was out
of the question. But to have his head cut off, even if it should
come to that, would be a much less affair. But in Belgium, in Italy,
in Germany, they never did cut off the heads of the very numerous
gentlemen who fought duels. And there were the Southern States of the
American Union, where he fancied that men might fight duels just as
they pleased. He would be ready to go even to New Orleans at a day's
notice if only he could induce Colonel Stubbs to meet him there. And
he thought that, if Colonel Stubbs really possessed half the spirit
which seemed to be attributed to him by the British army generally,
he would come, if properly invoked, and fight such a duel as this,
whether at New Orleans or at some other well-chosen blood-allowing
spot on the world's surface. Tom was prepared to go anywhere for
blood.

But the invocation must be properly made. When he had wanted another
letter of another kind to be written for him, the Colonel himself
was the man to whom he had gone for assistance. And, had his present
enemy been any other than the Colonel himself, he would have gone
to the Colonel in preference to any one else for aid in this matter.
There was no one, in truth, in whom he believed so thoroughly as in
the Colonel. But that was out of the question. Then he reflected
what friend might now stand him in stead. He would have gone to
Houston, who wanted to marry his sister; but Houston seemed to have
disappeared, and he did not know where he might be found. There was
his brother-in-law, Traffick,--but he feared lest Traffick might give
him over once more into the hands of the police. He thought of Hamel,
as being in a way connected with the family; but he had seen so
little of Hamel, and had so much disliked what he had seen, that he
was obliged to let that hope go by. There was no one left but Faddle
whom he could trust. Faddle would do anything he was told to do.
Faddle would carry the letter, no doubt, or allow himself to be named
as a proposed second. But Faddle could not write the letter. He felt
that he could write the letter himself better than Faddle.

He went up to town, having sent a mysterious letter to Faddle,
bidding his friend attend him in his lodgings. He did not yet dare
to go to the Mountaineers, where Faddle would have been found. But
Faddle came, true to the appointment. "What is it, now?" said the
faithful friend. "I hope you are going back to Travers and Treason's.
That is what I should do, and walk in just as though nothing had
happened."

"Not if you were me, you wouldn't."

"That does make a difference, of course."

"There is something else to be done before I can again darken the
doors of Travers and Treason,--if I should ever do so!"

"Something particular?"

"Something very particular. Faddle, I do think you are a true
friend."

"You may say that. I have stuck to you always,--though you don't know
the kind of things my people say to me about it. They say I am going
to ruin myself because of you. The governor threatened to put me out
of the business altogether. But I'm a man who will be true to my
friend, whatever happens. I think you have been a little cool to me,
lately; but even that don't matter."

"Cool! If you knew the state that I'm in you wouldn't talk of a
fellow being cool! I'm so knocked about it all that I don't know what
I'm doing."

"I do take that into consideration."

"Now, I'll tell you what I am going to do." Then he stood still, and
looked Faddle full in the face. Faddle, sitting awe-struck on his
chair, returned the gaze. He knew that a moment of supreme importance
was at hand. "Faddle, I'll shoot that fellow down like a dog."

"Will you, indeed?"

"Like a dog;--if I can get at him. I should have no more compunction
in taking his life than a mere worm. Why should I, when I know that
he has sapped the very juice of my existence?"

"Do you mean,--do you mean,--that you would--murder him?"

"It would not be murder. Of course it might be that he would shoot me
instead. Upon the whole, I think I should like that best."

"Oh; a duel!" said Faddle.

"That's what I mean. Murder him! Certainly not. Though I should like
nothing half so well as to thrash him within an inch of his life.
I would not murder him. My plan is this,--I shall write to him a
letter inviting him to meet me in any corner of the globe that he
may select. Torrid zone or Arctic circle will be all the same to me.
You will have to accompany me as my second." Faddle shivered with
excitement and dread of coming events. Among other ideas there came
the thought that it might be difficult to get back from the Arctic
circle without money if his friend Tom should happen to be shot dead
in that locality. "But first of all," continued Tom, "you will have
to carry a letter."

"To the Colonel?" suggested Faddle.

"Of course. The man is now staying with friends of his named Albury
at a place called Stalham. From what I hear they are howling swells.
Sir Harry Albury is Master of the Hounds, and Lady Albury when she
is up in London has all the Royal Family constantly at her parties.
Stubbs is a cousin of his; but you must go right away up to him among
'em all, and deliver the letter into his hands without minding 'em a
bit."

"Couldn't it go by post?"

"No; this kind of letter musn't go by post. You have to be able to
swear that you delivered it yourself into his own hands. And then you
must wait for an answer. Even though he should want a day to think of
it, you must wait."

"Where am I to stay, Tom?"

"Well; it may be they'll ask you to the house, because, though you
carry the letter for me, you are not supposed to be his enemy. If so,
put a jolly face on it, and enjoy yourself as well as you can. You
must seem, you know, to be just as big a swell as anybody there. But
if they don't ask you, you must go to the nearest inn. I'll pay the
bill."

"Shall I go to-day?" asked Faddle.

"I've got to write the letter first. It'll take a little time, so
that you'd better put it off till to-morrow. If you will leave me
now I'll write it, and if you will come back at six we'll go and
have a bit of dinner at Bolivia's." This was an eating-house in the
neighbourhood of Leicester Square, to which the friends had become
partial during this troubled period of their existence.

"Why not come to the Mountaineers, old boy?" Tom shook his head,
showing that he was not yet up to such festivity as that; and then
Faddle took his departure.

Tom at once got out his pen and paper, and began to write his letter.
It may be imagined that it was not written off-hand, or without many
struggles. When it was written it ran as follows;--


   SIR,

   You will not, I think, be surprised to hear from me in
   anything but a friendly spirit. I went down to you at
   Aldershot as to a friend whom I could trust with my
   bosom's dearest secret, and you have betrayed me. I told
   you of my love, a love which has long burned in my heart,
   and you received my confidence with a smile, knowing all
   the time that you were my rival. I leave it to you to
   say what reply you can make as to conduct so damning, so
   unmanly, so dastardly,--and so very unlike a friend as
   this!

   However, there is no place here for words. You have
   offered me the greatest insult and the greatest injury
   which one man can inflict upon another! There is no
   possibility of an apology, unless you are inclined to
   say that you will renounce for ever your claim upon the
   hand of Miss Ayala Dormer. This I do not expect, and,
   therefore, I call upon you to give me that satisfaction
   which is all that one gentleman can offer to another.
   After the injury you have done me I think it quite
   impossible that you should refuse.

   Of course, I know that duels cannot be fought in England
   because of the law. I am sorry that the law should have
   been altered, because it allows so many cowards to escape
   the punishment they deserve.


Tom, as he wrote this, was very proud of the keenness of the
allusion. "I am quite sure, however, that a man who bears the colours
of a colonel in the British army will not try to get off by such a
pretext." He was proud, too, about the colours.


   France, Belgium, Italy, the United States, and all the
   world, are open! I will meet you wherever you may choose
   to arrange a meeting. I presume that you will prefer
   pistols.

   I send this by the hands of my friend, Mr. Faddle, who
   will be prepared to make arrangements with you, or with
   any friend on your behalf. He will bring back your reply,
   which no doubt will be satisfactory.--I am, Sir, your most
   obedient servant,

   THOMAS TRINGLE, junior.


When, after making various copies, Tom at last read the letter as
finally prepared, he was much pleased with it, doubting whether the
Colonel himself could have written it better, had the task been
confided to his hands. When Faddle came, he read it to him with much
pride, and then committed it to his custody. After that they went out
and ate their dinner at Bolivia's with much satisfaction, but still
with a bearing of deep melancholy, as was proper on such an occasion.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

TOM TRINGLE GETS AN ANSWER.


Faddle as he went down into the country made up his mind that the law
which required such letters to be delivered by hand was an absurd
law. The post would have done just as well, and would have saved a
great deal of trouble. These gloomy thoughts were occasioned by a
conviction that he could not carry himself easily or make himself
happy among such "howling swells" as these Alburys. If they should
invite him to the house the matter would be worse that way than the
other. He had no confidence in his dress coat, which he was aware
had been damaged by nocturnal orgies. It is all very well to tell a
fellow to be as "big a swell" as anybody else, as Tom had told him.
But Faddle acknowledged to himself the difficulty of acting up to
such advice. Even the eyes of Colonel Stubbs turned upon him after
receipt of the letter would oppress him.

Nevertheless he must do his best, and he took a gig at the station
nearest to Albury. He was careful to carry his bag with him, but
still he lived in hope that he would be able to return to London the
same day. When he found himself within the lodges of Stalham Park
he could hardly keep himself from shivering, and, when he asked the
footman at the door whether Colonel Stubbs were there, he longed to
be told that Colonel Stubbs had gone away on the previous day to
some--he did not care what--distant part of the globe. But Colonel
Stubbs had not gone away. Colonel Stubbs was in the house.

Our friend the Colonel had not suffered as Tom had suffered since his
rejection;--but nevertheless he had been much concerned. He had set
his heart upon Ayala before he had asked her, and could not bring
himself to change his heart because she had refused him. He had
gone down to Aldershot and had performed his duties, abstaining for
the present from repeating his offer. The offer of course must be
repeated, but as to the when, the where, and the how, he had not as
yet made up his mind. Then Tom Tringle had come to him at Aldershot
communicating to him the fact that he had a rival;--and also the
other fact that the other rival like himself had hitherto been
unsuccessful. It seemed improbable to him that such a girl as
Ayala should attach herself to such a man as her cousin Tom. But
nevertheless he was uneasy. He regarded Tom Tringle as a miracle of
wealth, and felt certain that the united efforts of the whole family
would be used to arrange the match. Ayala had refused him also, and
therefore, up to the present moment, the chances of the other man
were no better than his own. When Tom left him at Aldershot he hardly
remembered that Tom knew nothing of his secret, whereas Tom had
communicated to him his own. It never for a moment occurred to him
that Tom would quarrel with him; although he had seen that the poor
fellow had been disgusted because he had refused to write the letter.

On Christmas Eve he had gone down to Stalham, and there he had
remained discussing the matter of his love with Lady Albury. To no
one else in the house had the affair been mentioned, and by Sir Harry
he was supposed to remain there only for the sake of the hunting.
With Sir Harry he was of all guests the most popular, and thus it
came to pass that his prolonged presence at Stalham was not matter
of special remark. Much of his time he did devote to hunting, but
there were half hours devoted in company with Lady Albury to Ayala's
perfection and Ayala's obstinacy.

Lady Albury was almost inclined to think that Ayala should be given
up. Married ladies seldom estimate even the girls they like best at
their full value. It seems to such a one as Lady Albury almost a
pity that such a one as Colonel Stubbs should waste his energy upon
anything so insignificant as Ayala Dormer. The speciality of the
attraction is of course absent to the woman, and unless she has
considered the matter so far as to be able to clothe her thoughts in
male vestments, as some women do, she cannot understand the longing
that is felt for so small a treasure. Lady Albury thought that young
ladies were very well, and that Ayala was very well among young
ladies; but Ayala in getting Colonel Stubbs for a husband would, as
Lady Albury thought, have received so much more than her desert that
she was now almost inclined to be angry with the Colonel. "My dear
friend," he said to her one day, "you might as well take it for
granted. I shall go after my princess with all the energy which a
princess merits."

"The question is whether she be a princess," said Lady Albury.

"Allow me to say that that is a point on which I cannot admit a
doubt. She is a princess to me, and just at present I must be
regarded as the only judge in the matter."

"She shall be a goddess, if you please," said Lady Albury.

"Goddess, princess, pink, or pearl;--any name you please supposed to
convey perfection shall be the same to me. It may be that she is in
truth no better, or more lovely, or divine, than many another young
lady who is at the present moment exercising the heart of many
another gentleman. You know enough of the world to be aware that
every Jack has his Gill. She is my Gill, and that's an end of it."

"I hope then that she may be your Gill."

"And, in order that she may, you must have her here again. I should
absolutely not know how to go to work were I to find myself in the
presence of Aunt Dosett in Kingsbury Crescent." In answer to this
Lady Albury assured him that she would be quite willing to have the
girl again at Stalham if it could be managed. She was reminding him,
however, how difficult it had been on a previous occasion to overcome
the scruples of Mrs. Dosett, when a servant brought in word to
Colonel Stubbs that there was a man in the hall desirous of seeing
him immediately on particular business. Then the servant presented
our friend Faddle's card.


   MR. SAMUEL FADDLE,
   1, Badminton Gardens.


"Yes, Sir;" said the servant. "He says he has a letter which he must
put into your own particular hands."

"That looks like a bailiff," said Lady Albury, laughing. Colonel
Stubbs, declaring that he had no special reason to be afraid of any
bailiff, left the room and went down into the hall.

At Stalham the real hall of the house was used as a billiard-room,
and here, leaning against the billiard table, the Colonel found
poor Faddle. When a man is compelled by some chance circumstance to
address another man whom he does not know, and whom by inspection he
feels he shall never wish to know, he always hardens his face, and
sometimes also his voice. So it was with the Colonel when he looked
at Faddle. A word he did say, not in words absolutely uncivil, as to
the nature of the business in hand. Then Faddle, showing his emotion
by a quaver in his voice, suggested that as the matter was one of
extreme delicacy some more private apartment might be provided. Upon
this Stubbs led the way into a little room which was for the most
part filled with hunting-gear, and offered the stranger one of the
three chairs which it contained. Faddle sat down, finding himself
so compelled, though the Colonel still remained standing, and then
extracted the fatal epistle from his pocket. "Colonel Stubbs," said
he, handing up the missive, "I am directed by my friend, Mr. Thomas
Tringle, junior, to put this letter into your own hand. When you have
read it I shall be ready to consult with you as to its contents."
These few words he had learnt by heart on his journey down, having
practised them continually.

The Colonel took the letter, and turning to the window read it with
his back to the visitor. He read it twice from beginning to end in
order that he might have time to resolve whether he would laugh aloud
at both Faddle and Tringle, or whether it might not be better to
endeavour to soften the anger of poor Tom by a message which should
be at any rate kindly worded. "This is from my friend, Tom Tringle,"
he said.

"From Mr. Thomas Tringle, junior," said Faddle, proudly.

"So I perceive. I am sorry to think that he should be in so much
trouble. He is one of the best fellows I know, and I am really
grieved that he should be unhappy. This, you know, is all nonsense."

"It is not nonsense at all, Colonel Stubbs."

"You must allow me to be the judge of that, Mr. Faddle. It is at
any rate nonsense to me. He wants me to go somewhere and fight a
duel,--which I should not do with any man under any circumstances.
Here there is no possible ground for any quarrel whatsoever,--as
I will endeavour to explain, myself, to my friend, Mr. Tringle. I
shall be sure to write to him at once,--and so I will bid you good
afternoon."

But this did not at all suit poor Faddle after so long a journey.
"I thought it probable that you would write, Colonel Stubbs, and
therefore I am prepared to wait. If I cannot be accommodated here I
will wait,--will wait elsewhere."

"That will not be at all necessary. We have a post to London twice a
day."

"You must be aware, Colonel Stubbs, that letters of this sort should
not be sent by post."

"The kind of letter I shall write may be sent by post very well. It
will not be bellicose, and therefore there can be no objection."

"I really think, Colonel Stubbs, that you are making very little of a
very serious matter."

"Mr. Faddle, I really must manage my own affairs after my own way.
Would you like a glass of sherry? If not, I need hardly ask you to
stay here any longer." Upon that he went out into the billiard-room
and rang the bell. Poor Faddle would have liked the glass of sherry,
but he felt that it would be incompatible with the angry dignity
which he assumed, and he left the house without another word or even
a gesture of courtesy. Then he returned to London, having taken his
bag and dress coat all the way to Stalham for nothing.

Tom's letter was almost too good to be lost, but there was no one to
whom the joke could be made known except Lady Albury. She, he was
sure, would keep poor Tom's secret as well as his own, and to her he
showed the letter. "I pity him from the bottom of my heart," he said.
Lady Albury declared that the writer of such a letter was too absurd
for pity. "Not at all. Unless he really loved her he wouldn't have
been so enraged. I suppose he does think that I injured him. He did
tell me his story, and I didn't tell him mine. I can understand it
all, though I didn't imagine he was such a fool as to invite me
to travel all round the world because of the harsh laws of Great
Britain. Nevertheless, I shall write to him quite an affectionate
letter, remembering that, should I succeed myself, he will be my
first cousin by marriage."

Before he went to bed that night he wrote his letter, and the reader
may as well see the whole correspondence;--


   MY DEAR TRINGLE,

   If you will think of it all round you will see that you
   have got no cause of quarrel with me any more than I have
   with you. If it be the case that we are both attached to
   your cousin, we must abide her decision whether it be in
   favour of either of us, or, as may be too probably the
   case, equally adverse to both of us. If I understand your
   letter rightly, you think that I behaved unfairly when I
   did not tell you of my own affairs upon hearing yours from
   your own lips. Why should I? Why should I have been held
   to be constrained to tell my secret because you, for
   your own sake, had told me yours? Had I been engaged to
   your cousin,--which I regret to say is very far from the
   case,--I should have told you, naturally. I should have
   regarded the matter as settled, and should have acquainted
   you with a fact which would have concerned you. But as
   such was not a fact, I was by no means bound to tell you
   how my affairs stood. This ought to be clear to you, and I
   hope will be when you have read what I say.

   I may as well go on to declare that under no circumstances
   should I fight a duel with you. If I thought I had done
   wrong in the matter I would beg your pardon. I can't
   do that as it is,--though I am most anxious to appease
   you,--because I have done you no wrong.

   Pray forget your animosity,--which is in truth
   unfounded,--and let us be friends as we were before.

   Yours very sincerely,

   JONATHAN STUBBS.


Faddle reached London the evening before the Colonel's letter, and
again dined with his friend at Bolivia's. At first they were both
extremely angry, acerbating each other's wrath. Now that he was safe
back in London Faddle thought that he would have enjoyed an evening
among the "swells" of Stalham, and felt himself to be injured by the
inhospitable treatment he had received--"after going all the way down
there, hardly to be asked to sit down!"

"Not asked to sit down!"

"Well, yes, I was;--on a miserable cane-bottomed chair in a sort of
cupboard. And he didn't sit down. You may call them swells, but I
think your Colonel Stubbs is a very vulgar sort of fellow. When I
told him the post isn't the proper thing for such a letter, he only
laughed. I suppose he doesn't know what is the kind of thing among
gentlemen."

"I should think he does know," said Tom.

"Then why doesn't he act accordingly? Would you believe it; he never
so much as asked me whether I had a mouth on. It was just luncheon
time, too."

"I suppose they lunch late."

"They might have asked me. I shouldn't have taken it. He did say
something about a glass of sherry, but it was in that sort of tone
which tells a fellow that he is expected not to take it. And then
he pretended to laugh. I could see that he was shaking in his shoes
at the idea of having to fight. He go to the torrid zone! He would
much rather go to a police office if he thought that there was any
fighting on hand. I should dust his jacket with a stick if I were
you."

Later on in the evening Tom declared that this was what he would
do, but, before he came to that, a third bottle of Signor Bolivia's
champagne had been made to appear. The evening passed between them
not without much enjoyment. On the opening of that third cork the
wine was declared to be less excellent than what had gone before, and
Signor Bolivia was evoked in person. A gentleman named Walker, who
looked after the establishment, made his appearance, and with many
smiles, having been induced to swallow a bumper of the compound
himself, declared, with a knowing shake of the head and an astute
twinkle of the eye, that the wine was not equal to the last. He took
a great deal of trouble, he assured them, to import an article which
could not be surpassed, if it could be equalled, in London, always
visiting Epernay himself once a-year for the purpose of going through
the wine-vaults. Let him do what he would an inferior bottle,--or,
rather, a bottle somewhat inferior,--would sometimes make its way
into his cellar. Would Mr. Tringle let him have the honour of drawing
another cork, so that the exact amount of difference might be
ascertained? Tom gave his sanction; the fourth cork was drawn; and
Mr. Walker, sitting down and consuming the wine with his customers,
was enabled to point out to a hair's breadth the nature and the
extent of the variation. Tringle still thought that the difference
was considerable. Faddle was, on the whole, inclined to agree with
Signor Bolivia. It need hardly be said that the four bottles were
paid for,--or rather scored against Tringle, who at the present time
had a little account at the establishment.

"Show a fellar fellar's letters morrer." Such or something like it
was Faddle's last request to his friend as they bade each other
farewell for the night in Pall Mall. But Faddle was never destined
to see the Colonel's epistle. On his attempting to let himself in at
Badminton Gardens, he was kidnapped by his father in his night-shirt
and dressing-gown; and was sent out of London on the following
morning by long sea down to Aberdeen, whither he was intrusted to
the charge of a stern uncle. Our friend Tom saw nothing more of his
faithful friend till years had rolled over both their heads.

By the morning post, while Tom was still lying sick with
headache,--for even with Signor Bolivia's wine the pulling of many
corks is apt to be dangerous,--there came the letter from the
Colonel. Bad as Tom was, he felt himself constrained to read it at
once, and learned that neither the Torrid zone or Arctic circle
would require his immediate attendance. He was very sick, and
perhaps, therefore, less high in courage than on the few previous
days. Partly, perhaps, from that cause, but partly, also, from the
Colonel's logic, he did find that his wrath was somewhat abated.
Not but what it was still present to his mind that if two men loved
the same girl as ardently, as desperately, as eternally as he loved
Ayala, the best thing for them would be to be put together like the
Kilkenny cats, till whatever remnant should be left of one might have
its chance with the young lady. He still thought that it would be
well that they should fight to the death, but a glimmering of light
fell upon his mind as to the Colonel's abnegation of all treason in
the matter. "I suppose it wasn't to be expected that he should tell,"
he said to himself. "Perhaps I shouldn't have told in the same place.
But as to forgetting animosity that is out of the question! How is
a man to forget his animosity when two men want to marry the same
girl?"

About three o'clock on that day he dressed himself, and sat waiting
for Faddle to come to him. He knew how anxious his friend would be
to see the Colonel's letter. But Faddle by this time had passed
the Nore, and had added sea-sickness to his other maladies. Faddle
came to him no more, and the tedious hours of the afternoon wore
themselves away in his lodgings till he found his solitude to be
almost more unbearable than his previous misfortunes. At last came
the time when he must go out for his dinner. He did not dare to
attempt the Mountaineers. And as for Bolivia, Bolivia with his corks,
and his eating-house, and his vintages, was abominable to him. About
eight o'clock he slunk into a quiet little house on the north side of
Oxford Street, and there had two mutton chops, some buttered toast,
and some tea. As he drank his tea he told himself that on the morrow
he would go back to his mother at Merle Park, and get from her such
consolation as might be possible.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

GERTRUDE IS UNSUCCESSFUL.


It was now the middle of January, and Gertrude Tringle had received
no reply from her lover to the overture which she had made him. Nor,
indeed, had she received any letter from him since that to which
this overture had been a reply. It was now two months since her
proposition had been made, and during that time her anger had waxed
very hot against Mr. Houston. After all, it might be a question
whether Mr. Houston was worth all the trouble which she, with her
hundred thousand pounds, was taking on his behalf. She did not like
the idea of abandoning him, because, by doing so, she would seem to
yield to her father. Having had a young man of her own, it behoved
her to stick to her young man in spite of her parents. But what is
a girl to do with a lover who, at the end of two months, has made
no reply to an offer from herself that he should run away with her,
and take her to Ostend? She was in this frame of mind when, lo
and behold, she found her own letter, still inclosed in her own
envelope,--but opened, and thrust in amongst some of her father's
papers. It was evident enough that the letter had never passed from
out of the house. There had been treachery on the part of some
servant;--or perhaps her father might have condescended to search the
little box;--or, more probable still, Augusta had betrayed her! Then
she reflected that she had communicated her purpose to her sister,
that her sister had abstained from any questions since the letter
had been written, and that her sister, therefore, no doubt, was the
culprit. There, however, was the letter, which had never reached her
lover's hands, and, as a matter of course, her affections returned
with all their full ardour to the unfortunate ill-used man. That her
conduct was now watched would, she thought, be a matter of course.
Her father knew her purpose, and, like stern parents in general,
would use all his energies to thwart it. Sir Thomas had, in truth,
thought but little about the matter since he had first thrust the
letter away. Tom's troubles, and the disgrace brought by them upon
Travers and Treason generally, had so occupied his mind that he cared
but little for Gertrude and her lover. But Gertrude had no doubt
that she was closely watched, and in these circumstances was driven
to think how she could best use her wits so as to countermine her
father. To run away from Queen's Gate would, she thought, be more
difficult, and more uncomfortable, than to perform the same operation
at Merle Park. It was intended that the family should remain in the
country, at any rate, till Easter, and Gertrude resolved that there
might yet be time for another effort before Easter should be past, if
only she could avoid those hundred Argus eyes, which were, no doubt,
fixed upon her from all sides.

She prepared another letter to her lover, which she addressed to him
at his club in London. In this she told him nothing of her former
project, except that a letter written by her in November had fallen
into the hands of enemies. Then she gave him to understand that there
was need of the utmost caution; but that, if adequate caution were
used, she did not doubt they might succeed. She said nothing about
her great project, but suggested to him that he should run down
into Sussex, and meet her at a certain spot indicated, outside
the Park-palings, half-an-hour after dusk. It might be, she said,
impossible that the meeting should be effected, but she thought that
she could so manage as to leave the house unwatched at the appointed
hour. With the object of being especially safe she began and
concluded her letter without any names, and then managed to deposit
it herself in the box of the village post-office.

Houston, when he received this letter, at once made up his mind that
he would not be found on the outer side of the Park-palings on the
evening named. He told himself that he was too old for the romance
of love-making, and that should he be received, when hanging about
in the dark, by some custodian with a cudgel, he would have nothing
to thank but his own folly. He wrote back therefore to say that he
regarded the outside of the Park-palings as indiscreet, but that he
would walk up through the lodge-gate to the house at three o'clock in
the afternoon of the day named, and he would take it as an additional
mark of her favour if she would meet him on the road. Gertrude
had sent him a mysterious address; he was to direct the letter to
"O. P. Q., Post Office, Hastings," and she was prepared to hire a
country boy to act as Love's messenger on the occasion. But of this
instruction Frank took no notice, addressing the letter to Merle Park
in the usual way.

Gertrude received her letter without notice from any one. On that
occasion Argus, with all his eyes, was by chance asleep. She was very
angry with her lover,--almost determined to reject him altogether,
almost disposed to yield to her angry parents and look out for some
other lover who might be accepted in better part; but still, when
the day came she put on her hat and walked down the road towards the
lodge.

As Fortune had it,--Fortune altogether unfavourable to those perils
for which her soul was longing,--no one watched her, no one dogged
her steps, no one took any notice of her, till she met Frank Houston
when he had passed about a hundred yards on through the gates. "And
so you have come," she said.

"Oh, yes; I have come. I was sure to come when I said so. No man
is more punctual than I am in these matters. I should have come
before,--only I did not get your letter."

"Oh, Frank!"

"Well, my darling. You are looking uncommonly well, and I am so glad
to see you. How are they all?"

"Frank!"

"What is it?"

"Oh, Frank, what are we to do?"

"The governor will give way at last, I should say."

"Never;--that is while we are as we are now. If we were married--"

"Ah,--I wish we were! Wouldn't it be nice?"

"Do you really think so?"

"Of course I do. I'm ready to-morrow for the matter of that."

"But could you do something great?"

"Something great! As to earning my bread, you mean? I do not think I
could do that. I didn't turn my hand to it early enough."

"I wasn't thinking of--your bread."

"You said,--could I do something great?"

"Frank, I wrote you a letter and described it all. How I got the
courage to do it I do not know. I feel as though I could not bring
myself to say it now. I wonder whether you would have the courage."

"I should say so. I don't know quite what sort of thing it is; but I
generally have pluck enough for anything in a common way."

"This is something in an uncommon way."

"I couldn't break open Travers and Treason, and get at the safe, or
anything in that way."

"It is another sort of safe of which you must break the lock, Frank;
another treasure you must steal. Do you not understand me?"

"Not in the least."

"There is Tom," said Gertrude. "He is always wandering about the
place now like a ghost. Let us go back to the gate." Then Frank
turned. "You heard, I suppose, of that dreadful affair about the
policeman."

"There was a row, I was told."

"Did you feel that the family were disgraced?"

"Not in the least. He had to pay five shillings,--hadn't he,--for
telling a policeman to go about his business?"

"He was--locked up," said Gertrude, solemnly.

"It's just the same. Nobody thinks anything about that kind of thing.
Now, what is it I have got to do? We had better turn back again as
soon as we can, because I must go up to the house before I go."

"You will?"

"Certainly. I will not leave it to your father to say that I came
skulking about the place, and was ashamed to show my face. That would
not be the way to make him give you your money."

"I am sure he'd give it,--if we were once married."

"If we were married without having it assured before hand we should
look very blue if things went wrong afterwards."

"I asked you whether you had courage."

"Courage enough, I think, when my body is concerned; but I am an
awful coward in regard to money. I wouldn't mind hashed mutton and
baked potatoes for myself, but I shouldn't like to see you eating
them, dearest, after all the luxuries to which you have been
accustomed."

"I should think nothing of it."

"Did you ever try? I never came absolutely to hashed mutton, but I've
known how very uncomfortable it is not to be able to pay for the hot
joints. I'm willing to own honestly that married life without an
income would not have attractions for me."

"But if it was sure to come?"

"Ah, then indeed,--with you! I have just said how nice it would be."

"Have you ever been at Ostend?" she asked, suddenly.

"Ostend. Oh, yes. There was a man there who used to cheat horribly at
écarté. He did me out of nearly a hundred pounds one night."

"But there's a clergyman there, I'm told."

"I don't think this man was in orders. But he might have been.
Parsons come out in so many shapes! This man called himself a count.
It was seven years ago."

"I am speaking of to-day."

"I've not been there since."

"Would you like to go there,--with me?"

"It isn't a nice sort of place, I should say, for a honeymoon. But
you shall choose. When we are married you shall go where you like."

"To be married!" she exclaimed.

"Married at Ostend! Would your mother like that?"

"Mother! Oh, dear!"

"I'll be shot if I know what you're after, Gertrude. If you've got
anything to say you'd better speak out. I want to go up to the house
now."

They had now taken one or two turns between the lodge and a point in
the road from which the house could be observed, and at which Tom
could still be seen wandering about, thinking no doubt of Ayala. Here
Frank stopped as though determined not to turn to the lodge again. It
was wonderful to Gertrude that he should not have understood what she
had already said. When he talked of her mother going with them to the
Ostend marriage she was almost beside herself. This lover of hers was
a man of the world and must have heard of elopements. But now had
come a time in which she must be plain, unless she made up her mind
to abandon her plan altogether. "Frank," she said, "if you were to
run away with me, then we could be married at Ostend."

"Run away with you!"

"It wouldn't be the first time that such a thing has been done."

"The commonest thing in the world, my dear, when a girl has got her
money in her own hands. Nothing I should like so much."

"Money! It's always money. It's nothing but the money, I believe."

"That's unkind, Gertrude."

"Ain't you unkind? You won't do anything I ask."

"My darling, that hashed mutton and those baked potatoes are too
clear before my eyes."

"You think of nothing, I believe, but your dinner."

"I think, unfortunately, of a great many other things. Hashed mutton
is simply symbolical. Under the head of hashed mutton I include poor
lodgings, growlers when we get ourselves asked to eat a dinner at
somebody's table, limited washing-bills, table-napkins rolled up in
their dirt every day for a week, antimacassars to save the backs of
the chairs, a picture of you darning my socks while I am reading
a newspaper hired at a halfpenny from the public-house round the
corner, a pint of beer in the pewter between us,--and perhaps two
babies in one cradle because we can't afford to buy a second."

"Don't, Sir."

"In such an emergency I am bound to give you the advantage both of my
experience and imagination."

"Experience!"

"Not about the cradles! That is imagination. My darling, it won't do.
You and I have not been brought up to make ourselves happy on a very
limited income."

"Papa would be sure to give us the money," she said, eagerly.

"In such a matter as this, where your happiness is concerned, my
dear, I will trust no one."

"My happiness!"

"Yes, my dear, your happiness! I am quite willing to own the truth. I
am not fitted to make you happy, if I were put upon the hashed mutton
regime as I have described to you. I will not run the risk,--for your
sake."

"For your own, you mean," she said.

"Nor for my own, if you wish me to add that also."

Then they walked up towards the house for some little way in silence.
"What is it you intend, then?" she asked.

"I will ask your father once again."

"He will simply turn you out of the house," she said. Upon this
he shrugged his shoulders, and they walked on to the hall-door in
silence.

Sir Thomas was not at Merle Park, nor was he expected home that
evening. Frank Houston could only therefore ask for Lady Tringle,
and her he saw together with Mr. and Mrs. Traffick. In presence of
them all nothing could be said of love affairs; and, after sitting
for half-an-hour, during which he was not entertained with much
cordiality, he took his leave, saying that he would do himself the
honour of calling on Sir Thomas in the City. While he was in the
drawing-room Gertrude did not appear. She had retired to her room,
and was there resolving that Frank Houston was not such a lover as
would justify a girl in breaking her heart for him.

And Frank as he went to town brought his mind to the same way of
thinking. The girl wanted something romantic to be done, and he was
not disposed to do anything romantic for her. He was not in the least
angry with her, acknowledging to himself that she had quite as much a
right to her way of looking at things as he had to his. But he felt
almost sure that the Tringle alliance must be regarded as impossible.
If so, should he look out for another heiress, or endeavour to
enjoy life, stretching out his little income as far as might be
possible;--or should he assume altogether a new character, make a
hero of himself, and ask Imogene Docimer to share with him a little
cottage, in whatever might be the cheapest spot to be found in the
civilised parts of Europe? If it was to be hashed mutton and a united
cradle, he would prefer Imogene Docimer to Gertrude Tringle for his
companion.

But there was still open to him the one further chance with Sir
Thomas; and this chance he could try with the comfortable feeling
that he might be almost indifferent as to what Sir Thomas might say.
To be prepared for either lot is very self-assuring when any matter
of difficulty has to be taken in hand. On arriving at the house in
Lombard Street he soon found himself ushered once more into Sir
Thomas's presence. "Well, Mr. Houston, what can I do for you to-day?"
asked the man of business, with a pleasant smile.

"It is the old story, Sir Thomas."

"Don't you think, Mr. Houston, that there is something,--a
little,--unmanly shall I call it, in coming so often about the same
thing?"

"No, Sir Thomas, I do not. I think my conduct has been manly
throughout."

"Weak, perhaps, would have been a better word. I do not wish to be
uncourteous, and I will therefore withdraw unmanly. Is it not weak to
encounter so many refusals on the same subject?"

"I should feel myself to have been very strong if after so many
refusals I were to be successful at last."

"There is not the least chance of it."

"Why should there be no chance if your daughter's happiness depends
upon it?"

"There is no chance, because I do not believe that my daughter's
happiness does depend upon it. She is foolish, and has made a foolish
proposition to you."

"What proposition?" asked Houston, in surprise, having heard nothing
of that intercepted letter.

"That journey to Ostend, with the prospect of finding a good-natured
clergyman in the town! I hardly think you would be fool enough for
that."

"No, Sir Thomas, I should not do that. I should think it wrong." This
he said quite gravely, asking no questions; but was very much at a
loss to know where Sir Thomas had got his information.

"I am sure you would think it foolish: and it would be foolish. I
pledge you my word, that were you to do such a thing I should not
give you a shilling. I should not let my girl starve; but I should
save her from suffering in such a manner as to let you have no share
of the sustenance I provided for her."

"There is no question of that kind," said Frank, angrily.

"I hope not;--only as I know that the suggestion has been made I
have thought it well to tell you what would be my conduct if it were
carried out."

"It will not be carried out by me," said Frank.

"Very well; I am glad to hear it. To tell the truth, I never thought
that you would run the risk. A gentleman of your sort, when he
is looking for a wife with money, likes to have the money quite
certain."

"No doubt," said Frank, determined not to be browbeaten.

"And now, Mr. Houston, let me say one word more to you and then we
may part, as I hope, good friends. I do not mean my daughter Gertrude
to marry any man such as you are;--by that I mean an idle gentleman
without means. Should she do so in my teeth she would have to bear
the punishment of sharing that poor gentleman's idleness and poverty.
While I lived she would not be allowed absolutely to want, and when I
died there would be some trifle for her, sufficient to keep the wolf
from the door. But I give you my solemn word and honour that she
shall never be the means of supplying wealth and luxury to such a
husband as you would be. I have better purposes for my hard-earned
money. Now, good-day." With that he rose from his chair and put out
his hand. Frank rose also from his chair, took the hand that was
offered him, and stepped out of Travers and Treason into Lombard
Street, with no special desire to shake the dust off his feet as he
did so. He felt that Sir Thomas had been reasonable,--and he felt
also that Gertrude Tringle would perhaps have been dear at the money.

Two or three days afterwards he despatched the following little note
to poor Gertrude at Merle Park;--


   DEAR GERTRUDE,

   I have seen your father again, and found him to be
   absolutely obdurate. I am sure he is quite in earnest
   when he tells me that he will not give his daughter to an
   impoverished idle fellow such as I am. Who shall say that
   he is wrong? I did not dare to tell him so, anxious as I
   was that he should change his purpose.

   I feel myself bound in honour, believing, as I do, that he
   is quite resolved in his purpose, to release you from your
   promise. I should feel that I was only doing you an injury
   were I to ask you to be bound by an engagement which could
   not, at any rate for many years, be brought to a happy
   termination.

   As we may part as sincere friends I hope you will consent
   to keep the little token of my regard which I gave you.

   FRANK HOUSTON.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

FRANK HOUSTON IS PENITENT.


"And now the Adriatic's free to wed another," said Houston to
himself, as he put himself into a cab, and had himself carried to
his club. There he wrote that valedictory letter to Gertrude which
is given at the end of the last chapter. Had he reason to complain
of his fate, or to rejoice? He had looked the question of an
establishment full in the face,--an establishment to be created by
Sir Thomas Tringle's money, to be shared with Sir Thomas Tringle's
daughter, and had made up his mind to accept it, although the
prospects were not, as he told himself, "altogether rosy." When he
first made up his mind to marry Gertrude,--on condition that Gertrude
should bring with her, at any rate, not less than three thousand
a-year,--he was quite aware that he would have to give up all his
old ways of life, and all his little pleasures. He would become
son-in-law to Sir Thomas Tringle, with a comfortable house to live
in; with plenty to eat and drink, and, probably, a horse or two to
ride. If he could manage things at their best, perhaps he might be
able to settle himself at Pau, or some other place of the kind, so as
to be as far away as possible from Tringle influences. But his little
dinners at one club, his little rubbers of whist at the other club,
his evenings at the opera, the pleasant smiles of the ladies, whom he
loved in a general way,--these would be done with for ever! Earn his
own bread! Why, he was going to earn his bread, and that in a most
disagreeable manner. He would set up an establishment, not because
such an establishment would have any charms for him, but because he
was compelled by lack of money to make some change in his present
manner of life. And yet the time had been when he had looked forward
to a marriage as the happiest thing that could befall him. As far as
his nature could love, he had loved Imogene Docimer. There had come a
glimpse upon him of something better than the little dinners and the
little rubbers. There had been a prospect of an income,--not ample,
as would have been that forthcoming from Sir Thomas,--but sufficient
for a sweet and modest home, in which he thought that it would have
sufficed for his happiness to paint a few pictures, and read a few
books, and to love his wife and children. Even as to that there had
been a doubt. There was a regret as to the charms of London life.
But, nevertheless, he had made up his mind,--and she, without any
doubt, had made up hers. Then that wicked uncle had died, and was
found to have expended on his own pursuits the money which was to
have been left to his nephew. Upon that there was an explanation
between Frank and Imogene; and it was agreed that their engagement
should be over, while a doubtful and dangerous friendship was to be
encouraged between them.

Such was the condition of things when Frank first met Gertrude
Tringle at Rome, now considerably more than twelve months since.
When Gertrude had first received his proposition favourably he had
written to Imogene a letter in that drolling spirit common to him, in
which he declared his purpose;--or rather, not his purpose, but his
untoward fate, should the gods be unkind to him. She had answered him
after the same fashion, saying, that in regard to his future welfare
she hoped that the gods would prove unkind. But had he known how to
read all that her letter expressed between the lines, he would have
perceived that her heart was more strongly moved than his own. Since
that time he had learned the lesson. There had been a letter or two;
and then there had been that walk in the wood on the Italian side of
the Tyrolese Alps. The reader may remember how he was hurried away
in the diligence for Innspruck, because it was considered that his
further sojourn in the same house with Imogene was dangerous. He had
gone, and even as he went had attempted to make a joke of the whole
affair. But it had not been quite a joke to him even then. There
was Imogene's love and Imogene's anger,--and together with these an
aversion towards the poor girl whom he intended to marry,--which
became the stronger the more strongly he was convinced both of
Imogene's love and of her anger.

Nevertheless, he persevered,--not with the best success, as has
already been told. Now, as he left the house in Lombard Street, and
wrote what was intended to be his last epistle to Gertrude, he was
driven again to think of Miss Docimer. Indeed, he had in his pocket,
as he sat at his club, a little note which he had lately received
from that lady, which, in truth, had disturbed him much when he made
his last futile efforts at Merle Park and in Lombard Street. The
little note was as follows;--


   DEAR FRANK,

   One little friendly word in spite of our storm on
   the Tyrolese hill-side! If Miss Tringle is to be the
   arbiter of your fate;--why, then, let there be an end of
   everything between us. I should not care to be called upon
   to receive such a Mrs. Frank Houston as a dear friend.
   But if Tringle père should at the last moment prove
   hard-hearted, then let me see you again.--Yours,

   I.


With this letter in his pocket he had gone down to Merle Park,
determined to put an end to the Tringle affair in one way or
the other. His duty, as he had planned it to himself, would not
be altered by Imogene's letter; but if that duty should become
impracticable, why, then, it would be open to him to consider
whatever Imogene might have to say to him.

The Docimers were now in London, where it was their custom to live
during six months of the year; but Houston had not been at their
house since he had parted from them in the Tyrol. He had spent but
little of his time in London since the autumn, and, when there, had
not been anxious to see people who had, at any rate, treated him
somewhat roughly. But now it would be necessary that he should
answer Imogene's letter. What should be the nature of such answer he
certainly had not as yet decided, nor could he have decided before
those very convincing assurances of Sir Thomas Tringle. That matter
was at any rate over, and now the "Adriatic might wed another,"--if
the Adriatic thought well to do so. The matter, however, was one
which required a good deal of consideration. He gave to it ten
minutes of intense thought, during which he consumed a cup of coffee
and a cigarette; and then, throwing away the burnt end of the paper,
he hurried into the morning-room, and wrote to the lady as follows;--


   DEAR IMOGENE,

   You will not have to press to your bosom as my wife the
   second daughter of Sir Thomas Tringle, Bart. The high
   honour of that alliance has at last been refused by him in
   very plain language. Had she become Mrs. Frank Houston, I
   do not doubt but you would have done your duty to your own
   cousin. That lot, however, has not been written for me in
   the Book of Fates. The father is persistent in looking
   upon me as an idle profligate adventurer; and though he
   has been kind enough to hint more than once that it might
   be possible for me to achieve the young lady, he has
   succeeded in convincing me that I never should achieve
   anything beyond the barren possession of her beauty. A
   wife and family on my present very moderate income would
   be burdensome; and, therefore, with infinite regrets, I
   have bade adieu to Miss Tringle.

   I have not hitherto been to see either you or your brother
   or Mrs. Docimer because I have been altogether unaware
   whether you or your brother or Mrs. Docimer would be glad
   to see me. As you say yourself, there was a storm on the
   Tyrolese hill-side,--in which there was more than one
   wind blowing at the same time. I do not find fault with
   anybody,--perhaps a storm was needed to clear the air. But
   I hate storms. I do not pretend to be a very grand fellow,
   but I do endeavour not to be disagreeable. Your brother,
   if you remember, was a little hard. But, in truth, I say
   this only to account for my apparent incivility.

   And, perhaps, with another object;--to gain a little time
   before I plunge into the stern necessity of answering all
   that you say in your very comprehensive letter of five
   lines. The first four lines I have answered. There will be
   no such Mrs. Frank Houston as that suggested. And then, as
   to the last line. Of course, you will see me again, and
   that very speedily. So it would seem that the whole letter
   is answered.

   But yet it is not answered. There is so much in it that
   whole sheets would not answer it. A quire of note-paper
   stuffed full would hardly contain all that I might find
   to say in answer to it,--on one side and the other. Nay,
   I might fill as many reams of folio as are required for a
   three-volume novel. And then I might call it by one of two
   names, "The Doubts of Frank Houston," or "The Constancy of
   Imogene Docimer,"--as I should at last bring my story to
   one ending or the other. But the novel would contain that
   fault which is so prevalent in the novels of the present
   day. The hero would be a very namby-mamby sort of a
   fellow, whereas the heroine would be too perfect for human
   nature.

   The hero would be always repeating to himself a certain
   line out of a Latin poet, which, of all lines, is the most
   heart-breaking;--

      The better course I see and know;--
      The worser one is where I go.

   But then in novels the most indifferent hero comes out
   right at last. Some god comes out of a theatrical cloud
   and leaves the poor devil ten thousand a-year and a title.
   He isn't much of a hero when he does go right under such
   inducements, but he suffices for the plot, and everything
   is rose-coloured. I would be virtuous at a much cheaper
   rate;--if only a young man with his family might have
   enough to eat and drink. What is your idea of the lowest
   income at which a prudent,--say not idiotically-quixotic
   hero,--might safely venture to be heroic?

   Now I have written to you a long letter, and think
   that I have indicated to you the true state of my
   feelings. Whatever may turn up I do not think I shall go
   fortune-hunting again. If half-a-million in female hands
   were to throw itself at my head, there is no saying
   whether I might not yield. But I do not think that I shall
   again make inquiry as to the amount of booty supposed
   to be within the walls of a city, and then sit down to
   besiege the city with regular lines of approach. It is a
   disgusting piece of work. I do not say but what I can lie,
   and did lie foully on the last siege operation; but I do
   not like it. And then to be told that one is unmanly by
   the father, and a coward by the young lady, as occurred to
   me in this affair, is disheartening. They were both right,
   though I repudiated their assertions. This might be borne
   as a prelude to success; but, as part of a failure, it is
   disgusting. At the present moment I am considering what
   economy might effect as to a future bachelor life, and
   am meditating to begin with a couple of mutton chops and
   half-a-pint of sherry for my dinner to-day. I know I shall
   break down and have a woodcock and some champagne.

   I will come to you about three on Sunday. If you can
   manage that your brother should go out and make his calls,
   and your sister attend divine service in the afternoon, it
   would be a comfort.

   Yours always,

   F. HOUSTON.


It was a long rambling letter, without a word in it of solid
clearly-expressed meaning; but Imogene, as she read it, understood
very well its real purport. She understood more than its purport, for
she could see by it,--more clearly than the writer did himself,--how
far her influence over the man had been restored, and how far she
might be able to restore it. But was it well that she should regain
her influence? Her influence regained would simply mean a renewed
engagement. No doubt the storm on the hill-side had come from the
violence of true love on her part! No doubt her heart had been
outraged by the idea that he should give himself up to another woman
after all that had passed between them. She had been devoted to him
altogether; but yet she had been taught by him to regard her love as
a passion which of its nature contained something of the ridiculous.
He had never ceased gently to laugh at himself, even in her presence,
because he had subjected himself to her attraction. She had caught
up the same spirit,--or at any rate the expression of spirit,--and,
deceived by that, he had thought that to relieve herself from the
burden of her love would be as easy to her as to him. In making this
mistake he had been ignorant of the intrinsic difference in the
nature of a man's and of a woman's heart, and had been unaware that
that, which to a man at his best can only be a part of his interest
in his life's concerns, will to a woman be everything. She had
attempted to follow his lead when it did not seem that by doing so
she would lose anything. But when the moment of trial came she had
not in truth followed his lead at all. She made the attempt, and in
making the attempt gave him her permission to go from her; but when
she realised the fact that he was gone,--or going,--then she broke
down utterly. Then there came these contentions between her and her
brother, and that storm on the hill-side.

After that she passed some months of wretchedness. There was no
possibility for her to droll away her love. She had taught herself to
love the man whether he were good or whether he were bad,--whether
he were strong-hearted or whether he were fickle,--and the thing
was there present to her, either as a permanent blessing, or, much
more probably, a permanent curse. As the months went on she learned,
though she never saw Frank himself, that his purpose of marrying
Gertrude Tringle was not likely to be carried out. Then at last she
wrote that comprehensive letter of five lines,--as Houston had called
it. It had been intended to be comprehensive, and did, in fact,
contain much more than it seemed to say. "If you can bring yourself
to return to me, and to endure whatever inconveniences may be
incidental to your doing so, I hereby declare that I will do the
same; and I declare also that I can find for myself no other content
in the world except what may come to me from such an agreement
between us." It was this that she said in that last line, in which
she had begged him to come to her, if at the last moment "Tringle
père" should prove to be hard-hearted. All troubles of poverty, all
the lingering annoyance of waiting, all her possible doubts as to his
future want of persistency, would be preferable to the great loss
which she found herself unable to endure.

Yes; it would be very well that both her brother and her
sister-in-law should be absent when he came to her. To neither of
them had she said a word of her last correspondence;--to neither of
them a word of her renewed hopes. For the objections which might be
raised by either of them would she care little if she could succeed
with Frank. But while that success was still doubtful it would be
well to get at any rate the assistance of her sister-in-law. On the
Sunday afternoon Mr. Docimer would certainly be away from the house.
It was his custom to go off among his friends almost immediately
after lunch, and his absence might be counted on as assured. But with
his wife it was different. That project of sending her to church was
quite out of the question. Mrs. Docimer generally went to church of a
Sunday morning, and then always considered herself to have performed
the duties of the day. Nor did Imogene like the idea of this
appointment with her lover without a word spoken about it to her
sister-in-law. "Mary," she said, "Frank Houston is coming here on
Sunday."

"Frank!" exclaimed Mrs. Docimer. "I thought we were to consider
ourselves as altogether separated from that fortunate youth."

"I don't see why."

"Well; he left us not with the kindest possible feelings in the
Tyrol; and he has allowed ever so many months to pass by without
coming to see us. I asked Mudbury whether we should have him to
dinner one day last week, and he said it would be better to let him
go his own way."

"Nevertheless, he is coming here on Sunday."

"Has he written to you?"

"Yes, he has written to me,--in answer to a line from me. I told him
that I wished to see him."

"Was that wise?"

"Wise or not, I did so."

"Why should you wish to see him?"

"Am I to tell you the truth or a lie?"

"Not a lie, certainly. I will not ask for the truth if the truth be
unpalatable to you."

"It is unpalatable;--but yet I might as well tell it you. I wrote to
ask him to come and see me, because I love him so dearly."

"Oh, Imogene!"

"It is the truth."

"Did you tell him so?"

"No; I told him nothing. I merely said, that, if this match was over
between him and that girl of Sir Thomas Tringle, then he might come
and see me again. That was all that I said. His letter was very much
longer, but yet it did not say much. However, he is to come, and I am
prepared to renew our engagement should he declare that he is willing
to do so."

"What will Mudbury say?"

"I do not care very much what he says. I do not know that I am
bound to care. If I have resolved to entangle myself with a long
engagement, and Mr. Houston is willing to do the same, I do not
think that my brother should interfere. I am my own mistress, and am
dealing altogether with my own happiness."

"Imogene, we have discussed this so often before."

"Not a doubt; and with such effect that with my permission Frank was
enabled to ask this young woman with a lot of money to marry him. Had
it been arranged, I should have had no right to find fault with him,
however sore of heart I might have been. All that has fallen through,
and I consider myself quite entitled to renew my engagement again. I
shall not ask him, you may be sure of that."

"It comes to the same thing, Imogene."

"Very likely. It often happens that ladies mean that to be expressed
which it does not become them to say out loud. So it may be with me
on this occasion. Nevertheless, the word, if it have to be spoken,
will have to be spoken by him. What I want you to do now is to let me
have the drawing-room alone at three o'clock on Sunday. If anything
has to be said it will have to be said without witnesses."

With some difficulty Mrs. Docimer was induced to accede to the
request, and to promise that, at any rate for the present, nothing
should be said to her husband on the subject.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

CAPTAIN BATSBY.


In the meantime, poor Ayala, whose days were running on in a very
melancholy manner under her aunt's wings in Kingsbury Crescent, was
creating further havoc and disturbing the bosom of another lover. At
Stalham she had met a certain Captain Batsby, and had there attracted
his attention. Captain Batsby had begged her to ride with him on one
of those hunting-days, and had offered to give her a lead,--having
been at the moment particularly jealous of Colonel Stubbs. On that
day both Ayala and Nina had achieved great honour;--but this, to the
great satisfaction of Captain Batsby, had not been achieved under the
leadership of Colonel Stubbs. Larry Twentyman, long famous among the
riding-men of the Ufford and Rufford United Hunt, had been the hero
of the hour. Thus Captain Batsby's feelings had been spared, and
after that he had imagined that any kindly feelings which Ayala might
have had for the Colonel had sunk into abeyance. Then he had sought
some opportunity to push himself into Ayala's favour, but hitherto
his success in that direction had not been great.

Captain Batsby was regarded by the inhabitants of Stalham as a
nuisance,--but as a nuisance which could not be avoided. He was
half-brother to Sir Harry, whose mother had married, as her second
husband, a certain opulent Mr. Batsby out of Lancashire. They were
both dead now, and nothing of them remained but this Captain. He
was good-natured, simple, and rich, and in the arrangement of the
Albury-cum-Batsby affairs, which took place after the death of Mrs.
Batsby, made himself pleasant to everybody concerned. Sir Harry, who
certainly had no particular affection for his half-brother, always
bore with him on this account; and Lady Albury was equally gracious,
mindful of the wisdom of keeping on good terms with a rich relation.
It was as yet quite on the cards that the Batsby money might come to
some of the Albury scions.

But the Captain was anxious to provide himself with a wife who might
be the mother of scions of his own. In fact he had fallen fearfully
in love with Ayala, and was quite resolved to ask her to be his wife
when he found that she was just on the point of flying from Stalham.
He had intended to be quicker in his operations, but had lacked
opportunity. On that last hunting-day the Colonel had always been
still in his way, and circumstances had never seemed to favour him
when he endeavoured to have a few words in private with the young
lady. Then she was gone, and he could only learn respecting her that
she lived with her aunt, Mrs. Dosett, in Kingsbury Crescent.

"I'm blessed if Benjamin isn't smitten with that girl!" Benjamin was
Captain Batsby, and that girl was of course Ayala Dormer. The man
who blessed himself was Sir Harry Albury, and the observation was
addressed to his wife. This took place within an hour of Ayala's
departure from Stalham.

"Benjamin in love with Ayala Dormer! I don't believe a word of it,"
said Lady Albury. It was not surprising that she should not believe
it. There was her special favourite, Colonel Stubbs, infatuated
by the same girl; and, as she was aware, Tom Tringle, the heir of
Travers and Treason, was in the same melancholy condition. And, after
all, according to her thinking, there was nothing in the girl to
justify all this fury. In her eyes Ayala was pretty, but no more. She
would have declared that Ayala had neither bearing, nor beauty, nor
figure. A bright eye, a changing colour, and something of vivacity
about her mouth, was all of which Ayala had to boast. Yet here were
certainly the heir of the man of millions, and that Crichton of a
Colonel, both knocked off their legs. And now she was told that
Captain Batsby, who always professed himself hard to please in the
matter of young ladies, was in the same condition. "Do you mean to
say he told you?" she asked.

"No," said Sir Harry; "he is not at all the man to do that. In such a
matter he is sure to have a great secret, and be sure also to let his
secret escape in every word that he speaks. You will find that what I
say is truth."

Before the day was out Lady Albury did find her husband to be
correct. Captain Batsby, though he was very jealous of his secret,
acknowledged to himself the necessity of having one confidant. He
could hardly, he thought, follow Ayala without some assistance. He
knew nothing of Mrs. Dosett, nothing of Kingsbury Crescent, and very
little as to Ayala herself. He regarded Lady Albury as his chosen
friend, and generally communicated to her whatever troubles he might
have. These had consisted chiefly of the persecutions to which he had
been subjected by the mothers of portionless young ladies. How not to
get married off against his will had been the difficulty of his life.
His half sister-in-law had hitherto preserved him, and therefore to
her he now went for assistance in this opposite affair. "Rosalind,"
he said in his gravest voice, "what do you think I have to tell you?"

Lady Albury knew what was coming, but of course she hid her
knowledge. "I hope Mrs. Motherly has not written to you again," she
said. Mrs. Motherly was a lady who had been anxious that her daughter
should grace Captain Batsby's table, and had written to him letters,
asking him his intentions.

"Oh, dear; nothing of that kind. I do not care a straw for Mrs.
Motherly or the girl either. I never said a word to her that any one
could make a handle of. But I want to say a word to somebody now."

"What sort of word is it to be, Ben?"

"Ah," he groaned. "Rosalind, you must understand that I never was so
much in earnest in my life!"

"You are always in earnest."

Then he sighed very deeply. "I shall expect you to help me through
this matter, Rosalind."

"Do I not always help you?"

"Yes; you do. But you must stick to me now like wax. What do you
think of that young lady, Miss Dormer?"

"I think she is a pretty girl; and the gentlemen tell me that she
rides bravely."

"Don't you consider her divine?" he asked.

"My dear Ben, one lady never considers another to be divine. Among
ourselves we are terribly human, if not worse. Do you mean to tell me
that you are in love with Ayala Dormer?"

"You have guessed it," said he. "You always do guess everything."

"I generally do guess as much as that, when young gentlemen find
young ladies divine. Do you know anything about Miss Dormer?"

"Nothing but her beauty;--nothing but her wit;--nothing but her
grace! I know all that, and I don't seem to want to know any more."

"Then you must be in love! In the first place she hasn't got a
sixpence in the world."

"I don't want sixpences," said the Captain, proudly.

"And in the next place I am not at all sure that you would like her
people. Father and mother she has none."

"Then I cannot dislike them."

"But she has uncles and aunts, who are, I am afraid, objectionable.
She lives with a Mr. Dosett, who is a clerk in Somerset House,--a
respectable man, no doubt, but one whom you would not perhaps want at
your house very often."

"I don't care about uncles and aunts," said Captain Batsby. "Uncles
and aunts can always be dropped much easier than fathers and mothers.
At any rate I am determined to go on, and I want you to put me in the
way. How must I find her?"

"Go to No. 10, Kingsbury Crescent, Bayswater. Ask for Mrs. Dosett and
tell her what you've come about. When she knows that you are well
off she will not turn a deaf ear to you. What the girl may do it is
beyond me to say. She is very peculiar."

"Peculiar?" said the Captain with another sigh.

Lady Albury did, in truth, think Ayala was very peculiar, seeing that
she had refused two such men as Tom Tringle in spite of his wealth,
and Colonel Stubbs in spite of his position. This she had done though
she had no prospects of her own before her, and no comfortable home
at the present. Might it not be more than probable that she would
also refuse Captain Batsby, who was less rich than the one and
certainly less known to the world than the other? But as to this it
was not necessary that she should say anything. To assist Colonel
Stubbs she was bound by true affection for the man. In regard to her
husband's half-brother she was only bound to seem to assist him. "I
can write a line to Mrs. Dosett, if you wish it," she said, "or to
Miss Dormer."

"I wish you would. It would be best to the aunt, and just tell her
that I am fairly well off. She'll tell Ayala I could make quite a
proper settlement on her. That kind of thing does go a long way with
young ladies."

"It ought to do at any rate," said Lady Albury. "It certainly does
with the old ladies." Then the matter was settled. She was to write
to Mrs. Dosett and inform that lady that Captain Batsby intended to
call in Kingsbury Crescent in the form of a suitor for Miss Ayala
Dormer's hand. She would go on to explain that Captain Batsby was
quite in a position to marry and maintain a wife.

"And if she should accept me you'll have her down here, Rosalind?"
Here was a difficulty, as it was already understood that Ayala was to
be again brought down to Stalham on the Colonel's account; but Lady
Albury could make the promise, as, should the Captain be accepted,
no harm would in that case be done to the Colonel. She was, however,
tolerably sure that the Captain would not be accepted. "And, if she
shouldn't take me all at once, still you might have her," suggested
the lover. As to this, which was so probable, there would be a great
difficulty. Ayala was to be seduced into coming again to Stalham if
possible,--but specially on the Colonel's behoof. In such a case it
must be done behind the Captain's back. Lady Albury saw the troubles
which were coming, but nevertheless she promised that she would see
what could be done. All this having been settled, Captain Batsby took
his leave and went off to London.

Mrs. Dosett, when she received Lady Albury's letter, was very much
surprised. She too failed to understand what there was in Ayala to
produce such a multiplicity of suitors, one after another. When
Lucy came to her and had begun to be objectionable, she had thought
that she might some day be relieved from her troubles by the girl's
marriage. Lucy, to her eyes, was beautiful, and mistress of a manner
likely to be winning in a man's eyes, though ungracious to herself.
But in regard to Ayala she had expressed nothing of the kind. Ayala
was little, and flighty, and like an elf,--as she had remarked to her
husband. But now, within twelve months, three lovers had appeared,
and each of them suitable for matrimonial purposes. She could only
tell her husband, and then tell Ayala.

"Captain Batsby! I don't believe it!" said Ayala, almost crying. If
Colonel Stubbs could not be made to assume the garb of an Angel of
Light what was she to think of Captain Batsby?

"You can read Lady Albury's letter."

"I don't want to read Lady Albury's letter. I won't see him. I don't
care what my uncle says. I don't care what anybody says. Yes, I do
know him. I remember him very well. I spoke to him once or twice, and
I did not like him at all."

"You said the same of Colonel Stubbs."

"I didn't say the same of Colonel Stubbs. He is a great deal worse
than Colonel Stubbs."

"And you said just the same of Tom."

"He is the same as Tom;--just as bad. It is no good going on about
him, Aunt Margaret. I won't see him. If I were locked up in a room
with him I wouldn't speak a word to him. He has no right to come."

"A gentleman, my dear, has always a right to ask a lady to be his
wife if he has got means."

"You always say so, Aunt Margaret, but I don't believe it. There
should be,--there should have been,--I don't know what; but I am
quite sure the man has no right to come to me, and I won't see him."
To this resolution Ayala clung, and, as she was very firm about it,
Mrs. Dosett, after consultation with her husband, at last gave way,
and consented to see Captain Batsby herself.

In due time Captain Batsby came. At any knock heard at the door
during this period Ayala flew out of the drawing-room into her own
chamber; and at the Captain's knock she flew with double haste,
feeling sure that this was the special knock. The man was shown
up, and in a set speech declared his purpose to Mrs. Dosett, and
expressed a hope that Lady Albury might have written on the subject.
Might he be allowed to see the young lady?

"I fear that it would be of no service, Captain Batsby."

"Of no service?"

"On receiving Lady Albury's letter I was of course obliged to tell my
niece the honour you proposed to do her."

"I am quite in earnest, you know," said the Captain.

"So I suppose, as Lady Albury would not have written, nor would you
have come on such a mission. But so is my niece in earnest."

"She will, at any rate, hear what I have got to say."

"She would rather not," said Mrs. Dosett. "She thinks that it would
only be painful to both of you. As she has quite made up her mind
that she cannot accept the honour you propose to do her, what good
would it serve?"

"Is Miss Dormer at home?" asked the Captain, suddenly. Mrs. Dosett
hesitated for a while, anxious to tell a lie on the matter, but
fearing to do so. "I suppose she is at home," continued the urgent
lover.

"Miss Dormer is at present in her own chamber."

"Then I think I ought to see her," continued the Captain. "She can't
know at present what is my income."

"Lady Albury has told us that it is sufficient."

"But that means nothing. Your niece cannot be aware that I have a
very pretty little place of my own down in Berkshire."

"I don't think it would make a difference," said Mrs. Dosett.

"Or that I shall be willing to settle upon her a third of my income.
It is not many gentlemen who will do as much as that for a young
lady, when the young lady has nothing of her own."

"I am sure you are very generous."

"Yes, I am. I always was generous. And I have no impediments to get
rid of; not a trouble of that kind in all the world. And I don't owe
a shilling. Very few young men, who have lived as much in the world
as I have, can say that."

"I am sure your position is all that is desirable."

"That's just it. No position could be more desirable. I should
give up the service immediately as soon as I was married." At that
Mrs. Dosett bowed, not knowing what words to find for further
conversation. "After that," continued the Captain, "do you mean to
say that I am not to be allowed to see the young lady?"

"I cannot force her to come down, Captain Batsby."

"I would if I were you."

"Force a young lady?"

"Something ought to be done," said he, beginning almost to whine.
"I have come here on purpose to see her, and I am quite prepared to
do what is handsome. My half-sister, Lady Albury, had her down at
Stalham, and is quite anxious to have her there again. I suppose you
have no objection to make to me, Mrs. Dosett?"

"Oh, dear no."

"Or Mr. Dosett?"

"I do not say that he has, Captain Batsby; but this is a matter in
which a young lady's word must be paramount. We cannot force her to
marry you, or even to speak to you." The Captain still went on with
entreaties, till Mrs. Dosett found herself so far compelled to accede
to him as to go up to Ayala's room and beg her to come down and
answer this third suitor with her own voice. But Ayala was immovable.
When her aunt came near her she took hold of the bed as though
fearing an attempt would be made to drag her out of the room. She
again declared that if she were forced into the room below nothing
could oblige her to speak even a word.

"As for thanking him," she said, "you can do that yourself, Aunt
Margaret, if you like. I am not a bit obliged to him; but, if you
choose to say so, you may; only pray do tell him to go away,--and
tell him never, never to come back any more." Then Mrs. Dosett
returned to the drawing-room, and declared that her embassy had been
quite in vain.

"In all my life," said Captain Batsby, as he took his leave, "I never
heard of such conduct before." Nevertheless, as he went away he made
up his mind that Lady Albury should get Ayala again down to Stalham.
He was very angry, but his love remained as hot as ever.

"As I did not succeed in seeing her," he said, in a letter to his
half-sister, "of course I do not know what she might have said to
me herself. I might probably have induced her to give me another
hearing. I put it all down to that abominable aunt, who probably has
some scheme of her own, and would not let Miss Dormer come down to
me. If you will have her again at Stalham, everything may be made to
go right."


      *      *      *      *      *      *


At home, in Kingsbury Crescent, when Ayala had gone to bed, both
Mr. and Mrs. Dosett expressed themselves as much troubled by the
peculiarity of Ayala's nature. Mrs. Dosett declared her conviction
that that promised legacy from Uncle Tom would never be forthcoming,
because he had been so much offended by the rejection of his own son.
And even should the legacy remain written in Sir Thomas's will, where
would Ayala find a home if Mr. Dosett were to die before the baronet?
This rejection of suitors,--of fit, well-to-do, unobjectionable
suitors,--was held by Mrs. Dosett to be very wicked, and a direct
flying in the face of Providence. "Does she think," said Mrs. Dosett,
urging the matter with all her eloquence to her husband, "that young
men with incomes are to be coming after her always like this?" Mr.
Dosett shook his head and scratched it at the same time, which was
always a sign with him that he was not at all convinced by the
arguments used, but that he did not wish to incur further hostility
by answering them. "Why shouldn't she see an eligible man when he
comes recommended like this?"

"I suppose, my dear, she didn't think him nice enough."

"Nice! pshaw! I call it a direct flying in the face of Providence. If
he were ever so nasty and twice as old she ought to think twice about
it in her position. There is poor Tom, they say, absolutely ill. The
housekeeper was over here from Queen's Gate the other day, and she
declares that that affair about the policeman all came from his being
in love. And now he has left the business and has gone to Merle Park,
because he is so knocked in a heap that he cannot hold up his head."

"I don't see why love should make a man punch a policeman's breath
out of him," said Mr. Dosett.

"Of course Tom was foolish; but he would do very well if she would
have him. Of course your sister, and Sir Thomas, and all of them,
will be very furious. What right will she have to expect money after
that?"

"Tom is an ass," said Mr. Dosett.

"I suppose Colonel Stubbs is an ass too. What I want to know is what
it is she looks for. Like any other girl, she expects to get married
some day, I suppose; but she has been reading poetry, and novels, and
trash, till she has got her head so full of nonsense that she doesn't
know what it is she does want. I should like to shake her till I
shook all the romance out of her. If there is anything I do hate it
is romance, while bread and meat, and coals, and washing, are so
dear." With this Mrs. Dosett took herself and her troubles up to her
bedroom.

Mr. Dosett sat for a while gazing with speculative eyes at the embers
of the fire. He was conscious in his heart that some part of that
attack upon romance in general was intended for himself. Though he
did not look to be romantic, especially when seated at his desk in
Somerset House, with his big index-book before him, still there was
left about him some touch of poetry, and an appreciation of the finer
feelings of our nature. Though he could have wished that Ayala should
have been able to take one of these three well-to-do suitors, who
were so anxious to obtain her hand, still he could not bring himself
not to respect her, still he was unable not to love her, because she
was steadfastly averse to accept as a husband a man for whom she had
no affection. As he looked at the embers he asked himself how it
ought to be. Here was a girl whose only gift in life was her own
personal charm. That that charm must be powerful was evident from the
fact that she could so attract such men as these. Of the good things
of the world, of a pleasant home, of ample means, and of all that
absence of care which comes from money, poor Mr. Dosett had by no
means a poor appreciation. That men are justified in seeking these
good things by their energy, industry, and talents, he was quite
confident. How was it with a girl who had nothing else but her
beauty,--or, perhaps, her wit,--in lieu of energy and industry? Was
she justified in carrying her wares also into the market, and making
the most of them? The embers had burned so low, and he had become so
cold before he had settled the question in his own mind, that he was
obliged to go up to bed, leaving it unsettled.



CHAPTER XL.

AUNT EMMELINE'S NEW PROPOSITION.


A few days after this, just as the bread and cheese had been put on
the table for the modest mid-day meal at Kingsbury Crescent, there
came a most unwonted honour on Mrs. Dosett. It was a call from no
less a person than Lady Tringle herself, who had come all the way up
from Merle Park on purpose. It was a Saturday. She had travelled by
herself and intended to go back on the same day with her husband.
This was an amount of trouble which she very seldom gave herself,
not often making a journey to London during the periods of her rural
sojourn; and, when she began by assuring her sister-in-law that she
made the journey with no object but that of coming to Kingsbury
Crescent, Mrs. Dosett was aware that something very important was
to be communicated. Mrs. Dosett and Ayala were together in the
dining-room when Lady Tringle appeared, and the embracings were very
affectionate. They were particularly affectionate towards Ayala, who
was kissed as though nothing had ever happened to interfere with
the perfect love existing between the aunt and the niece. They were
more than friendly, almost sisterly, towards Mrs. Dosett, whom in
truth Lady Tringle met hardly more than once in a year. It was very
manifest that Aunt Emmeline wanted to have something done. "Now, my
darling," she said, turning to Ayala, "if you would not mind going
away for ten minutes, I could say a few words on very particular
business to your aunt." Then she gave her niece a tender little
squeeze and assumed her sweetest smile.

It will be as well to go back a little and tell the cause which had
produced this unexpected visit. There had been very much of real
trouble at Merle Park. Everything was troublesome. Gertrude had
received her final letter from her lover, had declared herself to be
broken-hearted, and was evincing her sorrow by lying in bed half the
day, abstaining from her meals, and relieving herself from famine by
sly visits to the larder. It was supposed that her object was to bend
the stony heart of her father, but the process added an additional
trouble to her mother. Then the Trafficks were a sore vexation. It
was now nearly the end of January and they were still at Merle Park.
There had been a scene in which Sir Thomas had been very harsh. "My
dear," he had said to his wife, "I find that something must be done
to the chimney of the north room. The workmen must be in it by the
first of February. See and have all the furniture taken out before
they come." Now the north room was the chamber in which the Trafficks
slept, and the Trafficks were present when the order was given.
No one believed the story of the chimney. This was the mode of
expulsion which Sir Thomas had chosen on the spur of the moment. Mr.
Traffick said not a word, but in the course of the morning Augusta
expostulated with her mother. This was also disagreeable. Then the
condition of Tom was truly pitiable. All his trust in champagne, all
his bellicose humour, had deserted him. He moped about the place the
most miserable of human beings, spending hour after hour in imploring
his mother's assistance. But Lucy with her quiet determination, and
mute persistency in waiting, was a source of almost greater annoyance
to her aunt than even her own children. That Lucy should in any
degree have had her way with Mr. Hamel, had gone against the grain
with her. Mr. Hamel, to her thinking, was a person to be connected
with whom would be a disgrace. She was always speaking of his birth,
of his father's life, and of those Roman iniquities. She had given
way for a time when she had understood that her husband intended to
give the young people money enough to enable them to marry. In that
case Lucy would at once be taken away from the house. But now all
that had come to an end. Sir Thomas had given no money, and had even
refused to give any money. Nevertheless he was peacefully indulgent
to Lucy, and was always scolding his wife because she was hostile to
Lucy's lover.

In this emergency she induced him to accede to a proposition, by
which one of her miseries would be brought to an end and another
might perhaps be remedied. A second exchange should be made. Lucy
should be sent back to Kingsbury Crescent, and Ayala should once more
be brought into favour at Merle Park, Queen's Gate, and Glenbogie.
"Your brother will never put up with it," said Sir Thomas. Lady
Tringle was not afraid of her brother, and thought that by soft words
she might even talk over her sister-in-law. Ayala, she knew, had been
troublesome in Kingsbury Crescent. She was sure, she said, Ayala's
whims would of their nature be more troublesome to such a woman as
Mrs. Dosett than Lucy's obstinacy. Ayala had no doubt been pert and
disobedient at Glenbogie and at Rome, but there had been an unbending
obduracy about Lucy which had been more distasteful to Aunt Emmeline
than even Ayala's pert disobedience. "It will be the only way," she
had said to Sir Thomas, "to put Tom on his legs again. If the girl
comes back here she will be sure to have him at last." There was
much in this which to Sir Thomas was weak and absurd. That prolonged
journey round by San Francisco, Japan, and Pekin, was the remedy
which recommended itself to him. But he was less able to despatch
Tom at once to Japan than the elder Faddle had been to send off the
younger Faddle to the stern realities of life in Aberdeen. He was
quite willing that Tom should marry Ayala if it could be arranged,
and therefore he gave his consent.

So armed, Lady Tringle had come up to Kingsbury Crescent, and was
now about to undertake a task, which she acknowledged to herself to
be difficult. She, in the first place, had had her choice and had
selected a niece. Then she had quarrelled with her own selection, and
had changed nieces. This had been done to accommodate her own fancy;
and now she wanted to change the nieces back again! She felt aware
that her request was unreasonable, and came, therefore, determined to
wrap it up in her blandest smiles.

When Ayala had left the room Mrs. Dosett sat mute in attention. She
was quite aware that something very much out of the ordinary way was
to be asked of her. In her ordinary way Lady Tringle never did smile
when she came to Kingsbury Crescent. She would be profuse in finery,
and would seem to throw off sparks of wealth at every word she spoke.
Now even her dress had been toned down to her humbler manner, and
there was no touch of her husband's purse in her gait. "Margaret,"
she said, "I have a proposition of great importance to make to you."
Mrs. Dosett opened her eyes wider and sat still mute. "That poor girl
is not,--is not,--is not doing perhaps the very best for herself here
at Kingsbury Crescent."

"Why is she not doing the best for herself?" asked Mrs. Dosett,
angrily.

"Do not for a moment suppose that I am finding fault either with you
or my brother."

"You'd be very wrong if you did."

"No doubt;--but I am not finding fault. I know how very generous you
have both been. Of course Sir Thomas is a rich man, and what he gives
to one of the girls comes to nothing. Of course it is different with
you. It is hard upon my brother to have any such burden put upon him;
and it is very good both in him and you to bear it."

"What is it you want us to do now, Emmeline?"

"Well;--I was going to explain. I do think it a great pity that Tom
and Ayala should not become man and wife. If ever any young man ever
did love a girl I believe that he loves her."

"I think he does."

"It is dreadful. I never saw anything like it. He is just for all the
world like those young men we read of who do all manner of horrible
things for love,--smothering themselves and their young women with
charcoal, or throwing them into the Regent's Canal. I am constantly
afraid of something happening. It was all because of Ayala that he
got into that terrible row at the police court,--and then we were
afraid he was going to take to drink. He has given all that up now."

"I am very glad he has given drink up. That wouldn't do him any
good."

"He is quite different now. The poor fellow hardly takes anything. He
will sit all the afternoon smoking cigarettes and sipping tea. It is
quite sad to see him. Then he comes and talks to me, and is always
asking me to make Ayala have him."

"I don't think that anybody can ever make Ayala do anything."

"Not quite by talking to her. I dare say not. I did not mean to say a
word to her about it just now."

"We can do nothing, I fear," said Mrs. Dosett.

"I was going to suggest something. But I wanted first to say a word
or two about poor Lucy." They were just at present all "poor" to
Lady Tringle,--Ayala, Lucy, Tom, and Gertrude. Even Augusta was poor
because she was to be turned out of her bedroom.

"Is she in trouble?"

"Oh, dear, yes. But," she added, thinking well to correct herself,
so that Mrs. Dosett might not imagine that she would have to look
forward to troubles with Lucy, "she could arrange her affairs, no
doubt, if she were not with us. She is engaged to that Mr. Isadore
Hamel, the sculptor."

"So I have heard."

"He does not earn very much just at present, I fear. Sir Thomas did
offer to help him, but he was perhaps a little hoity-toity, giving
himself airs. That, however, did not come off, and there they are,
waiting. I don't mean to say a word against poor Lucy. I think it a
pity, you know; but perhaps it was natural enough. He isn't what I
should have liked for a niece who was living with me just as though
she was my daughter; but I couldn't help that."

"But what are we to do, Emmeline?"

"Let them just change places again."

"Change again! Ayala go to you and Lucy come back here!"

"Just that. If Ayala were with us she would be sure to get used to
Tom at last. And then Lucy could manage her affairs with Mr. Hamel so
much better if she were with you."

"Why should she manage her affairs better if she were with us?"

Lady Tringle was aware that this was the weak part of her case. On
the poor Ayala and poor Tom side of the question there was a good
deal which might be said. Then, though she might not convince, she
might be eloquent. But, touching Lucy, she could say nothing which
did not simply signify that she wanted to get rid of the girl. Now,
Mrs. Dosett had also wanted to get rid of Lucy when the former
exchange had been made. "What I mean is, that, if she were away, Sir
Thomas would be more likely to do something for her." This was an
invention at the spur of the moment.

"Do you not feel that the girls should not be chucked about like
balls from a battledore?" asked Mrs. Dosett.

"For their own good, Margaret. I only propose it for their own good.
You can't but think it would be a good thing for Ayala to be married
to our Tom."

"If she liked him."

"Why shouldn't she like him? You know what that means. Poor Ayala is
young, and a little romantic. She would be a great deal happier if
all that could be knocked out of her. She has to marry somebody, and
the sooner she settles down the better. Sir Thomas will do anything
for them;--a horse and carriage, and anything she could set her heart
upon! There is nothing Sir Thomas would not do for Tom so as to get
him put upon his legs again."

"I don't think Ayala would go."

"She must, you know," whispered Lady Tringle, "if we both tell her."

"And Lucy?"

"She must too," again whispered Lady Tringle. "If they are told they
are to go, what else can they do? Why shouldn't Ayala wish to come?"

"There were quarrels before."

"Yes;--because of Augusta. Augusta is married now." Lady Tringle
could not quite say that Augusta was gone.

"Will you speak to Ayala?"

"Perhaps it would come better from you, Margaret, if you agree with
me."

"I am not sure that I do. I am quite sure that your brother would not
force her to go, whether she wished it or not. No doubt we should be
glad if the marriage could be arranged. But we cannot force a girl to
marry, and her aversion in this case is so strong--"

"Aversion!"

"Aversion to being married, I mean. It is so strong that I do not
think she will go of her own accord to any house where she is likely
to meet her cousin. I dare say she may be a fool. I say nothing about
that. Of course, she shall be asked; and, if she wishes to go, then
Lucy can be asked too. But of course it must all depend upon what
your brother says."

Then Lady Tringle took her leave without again seeing Ayala herself,
and as she went declared her intention of calling at Somerset
House. She would not think it right, she said, in a matter of such
importance, to leave London without consulting her brother. It might
be possible, she thought, that she would be able to talk her brother
over; whereas his wife, if she had the first word, might turn him the
other way.

"Is Aunt Emmeline gone?" asked Ayala, when she came down. "I am glad
she has gone, because I never know how to look when she calls me
dear. I know she hates me."

"I hope not, Ayala."

"I am sure she does, because I hated Augusta. I do hate Augusta, and
my aunt hates me. The only one of the lot I like is Uncle Tom."

Then the proposition was made, Ayala sitting with her mouth wide open
as the details, one after another, were opened out to her. Her aunt
did it with exquisite fairness, abstaining from opening out some
of the details which might be clear enough to Ayala without any
explanation. Her Aunt Emmeline was very anxious to have her back
again,--the only reason for her former expulsion having been the
enmity of Augusta. Her Uncle Tom and her aunt, and, no doubt,
Gertrude, would be very glad to receive her. Not a word was said
about Tom. Then something was urged as to the material comforts of
the Tringle establishments, and of the necessary poverty of Kingsbury
Crescent.

"And Lucy is to have the poverty?" said Ayala, indignantly.

"I think it probable, my dear, that before long Lucy will become the
wife of Mr. Hamel."

"And you want to get rid of me?" demanded Ayala.

"No, my dear; not so. You must not think that for a moment. The
proposition has not originated with me at all. I am endeavouring to
do my duty by explaining to you the advantages which you would enjoy
by going to your Aunt Emmeline, and which you certainly cannot have
if you remain here. And I must tell you, that, if you return to Sir
Thomas, he will probably provide for you. You know what I mean by
providing for you?"

"No, I don't," said Ayala, who had in her mind some dim idea that her
cousin Tom was supposed to be a provision. She was quite aware that
her Aunt Margaret, in her explanation as hitherto given, had not
mentioned Tom's name, and was sure that it had not been omitted
without reason.

"By providing, I mean that if you are living in his house he will
leave you something in his will;--as would be natural that he should
do for a child belonging to him. Your Uncle Reginald"--this she said
in a low and very serious tone--"will, I fear, have nothing to leave
to you." Then there was silence for some minutes, after which Mrs.
Dosett asked the important question, "Well, Ayala, what do you think
about it?"

"Must I go?" said Ayala. "May I stay?"

"Yes, my dear; you may certainly stay if you wish it."

"Then I will stay," said Ayala, jumping up on to her feet. "You do
not want to turn me out, Aunt Margaret?" Then she went down on her
knees, and, leaning on her aunt's lap, looked up into her face. "If
you will keep me I will try to be good."

"My dear, you are good. I have nothing to complain of. Of course we
will keep you. Nobody has thought for a moment of bidding you go. But
you should understand that when your aunt made the proposition I was
bound to tell it you." Then there was great embracing and kissing,
and Ayala felt that she was relieved from a terrible danger. She had
often declared that no one could make her marry her cousin Tom; but
it had seemed to her for a moment that if she were given up bodily to
the Tringles no mode of escape would be open to her short of suicide.
There had been a moment almost of regret that she had never brought
herself to regard Jonathan Stubbs as an Angel of Light.

At Somerset House Lady Tringle made her suggestion to her brother
with even more flowery assurance of general happiness than she had
used in endeavouring to persuade his wife. Ayala would, of course,
be married to Tom in the course of the next six months, and during
the same period Lucy, no doubt, would be married to that very
enterprising but somewhat obstinate young man, Mr. Hamel. Thus there
would be an end to all the Dormer troubles; "and you, Reginald," she
said, "will be relieved from a burden which never ought to have been
laid upon your shoulder."

"We will think of it," he said very gravely, over and over again.
Beyond that "we will think of it" he could not be induced to utter a
word.



CHAPTER XLI.

"A COLD PROSPECT!"


Three days were allowed to Frank Houston to consider within his own
mind what he would say for himself and what he would propose finally
to do when he should see Miss Docimer on the appointed Sunday. He was
called upon to decide whether, after so many resolutions made to the
contrary, he would now at last bring himself to encounter poverty
and a family,--genteel poverty with about seven hundred and fifty
pounds a-year between himself and his wife. He had hitherto been very
staunch on the subject, and had unfortunately thought that Imogene
Docimer had been as firmly fixed in her determination. His theory had
in itself been good. If two people marry they are likely, according
to the laws of nature, to have very soon more than two. In the
process of a dozen years they may not improbably become ever so many
more than two. Funds which were barely enough, if enough, for two,
would certainly fail to be enough for half-a-dozen. His means were
certainly not enough for himself, as he had hitherto found them.
Imogene's means were less even than his own. Therefore, it was clear
that he and Imogene ought not to marry and encounter the danger of
all those embryo mouths. There was a logic about it which had seemed
to him to be unanswerable. It was a logic which applied to his case
above all others. The man who had a hope of earning money need not
be absolutely bound by it. To him the money might come as quickly
as the mouths. With the cradles would arrive the means of buying
the cradles. And to the man who had much more than enough for
himself,--to such a man as he had expected to be while he was looking
forward to the coffin of that iniquitous uncle,--the logic did
not apply at all. In defending himself, both to himself and to
Imogene, he was very strong upon that point. A man who had plenty
and would not divide his plenty with another might with truth be
called selfish. Rich old bachelors might with propriety be called
curmudgeons. But was it right that a man should be abused,--even by
a young lady to whom, under more propitious circumstances, he had
offered his heart,--when he declared himself unwilling to multiply
suffering by assisting to bring into the world human beings whom he
would be unable to support? He had felt himself to be very strong in
his logic, and had unfortunately made the mistake of supposing that
it was as clear to Imogene as to himself.

Then he had determined to rectify the inconvenience of his position.
It had become manifest to him whilst he was waiting for his uncle's
money that not only were his own means insufficient for married life
but even for single comfort. It would always come to pass that when
he had resolved on two mutton chops and half-a-pint of sherry the
humble little meal would spread itself into woodcock and champagne.
He regarded it as an unkindness in Providence that he should not have
been gifted with economy. Therefore, he had to look about him for a
remedy; and, as Imogene was out of the question, he found a remedy in
Gertrude Tringle. He had then believed that everything was settled
for him,--not, indeed, in a manner very pleasant, but after a fashion
that would make life possible to him. Sir Thomas had given one of
his daughters, with a large sum of money, to such a man as Septimus
Traffick,--a man more impecunious than himself, one whom Frank did
not hesitate to pronounce to be much less of a gentleman. That seat
in the House of Commons was to him nothing. There were many men in
the House of Commons to whom he would hardly condescend to speak.
To be the younger son of a latter-day peer was to him nothing. He
considered himself in all respects to be a more eligible husband than
Septimus Traffick. Therefore he had entertained but little doubt when
he found himself accepted by Gertrude herself and her mother. Then
by degrees he had learnt to know something of the young lady to whom
he intended to devote himself; and it had come to pass that the
better he had known the less he had liked her. Nevertheless he had
persevered, groaning in spirit as he thought of the burden with which
he was about to inflict himself. Then had come the release. Sir
Thomas had explained to him that no money would be forthcoming; and
the young lady had made to him a foolish proposition, which, as he
thought, fully justified him in regarding the match as at an end.

And then he had three days in which to make up his mind. It may be a
question whether three days are ever much better than three minutes
for such a purpose. A man's mind will very generally refuse to make
itself up until it be driven and compelled by emergency. The three
days are passed not in forming but in postponing judgment. In nothing
is procrastination so tempting as in thought. So it came to pass,
that through the Thursday, the Friday, and the Saturday, Frank
Houston came to no conclusion, though he believed that every hour
of the time was devoted to forming one. Then, as he ate his dinner
on Saturday night at his club, a letter was brought to him, the
handwriting of which was familiar to him. This letter assisted him
little in thinking.

The letter was from Gertrude Tringle, and need not be given in its
entirety. There was a good deal of reproach, in that he had been so
fickle as to propose to abandon her at the first touch of adversity.
Then she had gone on to say, that, knowing her father a great deal
better than he could do, she was quite satisfied that the money would
be all right. But the last paragraph of the letter shall be given.
"Papa has almost yielded already. I have been very ill;"--here the
extent of her malady was shown by the strength of the underscoring
with which the words were made significant;--"very ill indeed," she
went on to say, "as you will understand if you have ever really loved
me. I have kept my bed almost ever since I got your cruel letter."
Bed and cruel were again strenuously underscored. "It has made papa
very unhappy, and, though he has said nothing to myself, he has told
mamma that if I am really in earnest he will do something for us."
The letter was long, but this is all the reader need see of it. But
it must be explained that the young lady had greatly exaggerated her
mother's words, and that her mother had exaggerated those which Sir
Thomas had spoken. "She is a stupid idiot," Sir Thomas had said to
his wife. "If she is obedient, and does her duty, of course I shall
do something for her some day." This had been stretched to that
promise of concession which Gertrude communicated to her lover.

This was the assistance which Frank Houston received in making up
his mind on Saturday night. If what the girl said was true, there
was still open to him the manner of life which he had prepared for
himself; and he did believe the announcement to be true. Though Sir
Thomas had been so persistent in his refusals, his experience in life
had taught him to believe that a parent's sternness is never a match
for a daughter's obstinacy. Had there been a touch of tenderness in
his heart to the young lady herself he would not have abandoned her
so easily. But he had found his consolation when giving up his hope
of Sir Thomas's money. Now, should he again take to the girl, and
find his consolation in accepting the money? Should he resolve upon
doing so, this would materially affect any communication which he
might make to Imogene on the following day.

While thus in doubt he went into the smoking-room and there he found
any thinking to be out of the question. A great question was being
debated as to club law. One man had made an assertion. He had
declared that another man had been seen playing cards in a third
man's company. A fourth man had, thereupon, put his hat on his head,
and had declared contumaciously that the "assertion was not true."
Having so declared he had contumaciously stalked out of the room,
and had banged the door after him,--very contumaciously indeed.
The question was whether the contumacious gentleman had misbehaved
himself in accordance with the rules of the club, and, if so, what
should be done to him. Not true is as bad as "false." "False,"
applied to a gentleman in a club, must be matter either of an apology
or expulsion. The objectionable word had, no doubt, been said in
defence of an absent man, and need not, perhaps, have been taken up
had the speaker not at once put on his hat and stalked out of the
room, and banged the door. It was asserted that a lie may be given
by the way in which a door is banged. And yet no club punishes the
putting on of hats, or stalking off, or the banging of doors. It was
a difficult question, and occupied Frank Houston till two o'clock
in the morning, to the exclusion of Gertrude Tringle and Imogene
Docimer.

On the Sunday morning he was not up early, nor did he go to church.
The contumacious gentleman was a friend of his, whom he knew that no
arguments would induce to apologise. He believed also that gentleman
No. 3 might have been seen playing cards with gentleman No. 2,--so
that there was no valid excuse for the banging of the door. He was
much exercised by the points to be decided, so that when he got into
a cab to be taken to Mrs. Docimer's house he had hardly come to
any other conclusion than that one which had arisen to him from a
comparison between the two young ladies. Imogene was nearly perfect,
and Gertrude was as nearly the reverse as a young lady could be with
the proper number of eyes in her head and a nose between them. The
style of her letter was abominable to him. "Very ill indeed;--as you
will understand, if you ever really loved me!" There was a mawkish
clap-trap about it which thoroughly disgusted him. Everything from
Imogene was straightforward and downright whether it were love or
whether it were anger. But then to be settled with an income of
£3,000 a year would relieve him from such a load of care!

"And so Tringle père does not see the advantage of such a
son-in-law," said Imogene, after the first greetings were over
between them. The greetings had been very simple,--just a touch of
the hand, just a civil word,--civil, but not in the least tender,
just an inclination of the head, and then two seats occupied with all
the rug between them.

"Yes, indeed!" said Frank. "The man is a fool, because he will
probably get somebody who will behave less well to his daughter, and
make a worse use of his money."

"Just so. One can only be astonished at his folly. Is there no hope
left?"

"A glimmer there is."

"Oh, indeed!"

"I got a letter last night from my lady-love, in which she tells
me that she is very ill, and that her sickness is working upon her
father's bowels."

"Frank!"

"It is the proper language;--working upon her father's bowels of
compassion. Fathers always have bowels of compassion at last."

"You will return then, of course?"

"What do you say?"

"As for myself,--or as for you?"

"As a discreet and trusty counsellor. To me you have always been a
trusty counsellor."

"Then I should put a few things into a bag, go down to Merle Park,
and declare that, in spite of all the edicts that ever came from a
father's mouth, you cannot absent yourself while you know that your
Gertrude is ill."

"And so prepare a new cousin for you to press to your bosom."

"If you can endure her for always, why should not I for an hour or
two, now and again?"

"Why not, indeed? In fact, Imogene, this enduring, and not
enduring,--even this living, and not living,--is, after all, but an
affair of the imagination. Who can tell but, that as years roll on,
she may be better-looking even than you."

"Certainly."

"And have as much to say for herself?"

"A great deal more that is worth hearing."

"And behave herself as a mother of a family with quite as much
propriety?"

"In all that I do not doubt that she would be my superior."

"More obedient I am sure she would be."

"Or she would be very disobedient."

"And then she can provide me and my children with ample comforts."

"Which I take it is the real purpose for which a wife should be
married."

"Therefore," said he,--and then he stopped.

"And therefore there should be no doubt."

"Though I hate her," he said, clenching his fist with violence as he
spoke, "with every fibre of my heart,--still you think there should
be no doubt?"

"That, Frank, is violent language,--and foolish."

"And though I love you so intensely that whenever I see her the
memory of you becomes an agony to me."

"Such language is only more violent and more foolish."

"Surely not, if I have made up my mind at last, that I never will
willingly see Miss Tringle again." Here he got up, and walking across
the rug, stood over her, and waited as though expecting some word
from her. But she, putting her two hands up to her head, and brushing
her hair away from her forehead, looked up to him for what further
words might come to him. "Surely not," he continued, "if I have made
up my mind at last, that nothing shall ever again serve to rob me of
your love,--if I may still hope to possess it."

"Oh, Frank!" she said, "how mean I am to be a creature obedient to
the whistle of such a master as you!"

"But are you obedient?"

"You know that well enough. I have had no Gertrude with whom I have
vacillated, whether for the sake of love or lucre. Whatever you may
be,--whether mean or noble,--you are the only man with whom I can
endure to live, for whom I would endure to die. Of course I had
not expected that your love should be like mine. How should it be
so, seeing that you are a man and that I am but a woman." Here he
attempted to seat himself by her on the sofa, which she occupied, but
she gently repulsed him, motioning him towards the chair which he had
occupied, "Sit there, Frank," she said, "so that we may look into
each other's faces and talk seriously. Is it to come to this then,
that I am to ruin you at last?"

"There will be no ruin."

"But there will, if we are married now. Shall I tell you the kind of
life which would satisfy me?"

"Some little place abroad?" he asked.

"Oh, dear, no! No place to which you would be confined at all. If
I may remain as I am, knowing that you intend to marry no one else,
feeling confident that there is a bond binding us together even
though we should never become man and wife, I should be, if not
happy, at least contented."

"That is a cold prospect."

"Cold;--but not ice-cold, as would have been the other. Cold, but not
wretchedly cold, as would be the idea always present to me that I had
reduced you to poverty. Frank, I am so far selfish that I cannot bear
to abandon the idea of your love. But I am not so far selfish as to
wish to possess it at the expense of your comfort. Shall it be so?"

"Be how?" said he, speaking almost in anger.

"Let us remain just as we are. Only you will promise me, that as I
cannot be your wife there shall be no other. I need hardly promise
you that there will be no other husband." Now he sat frowning at
her, while she, still pressing back her hair with her hands, looked
eagerly into his face. "If this will be enough for you," she said,
"it shall be enough for me."

"No, by G----d!"

"Frank!"

"It will certainly not be enough for me. I will have nothing to do
with so damnable a compact."

"Damnable!"

"Yes; that is what I call it. That is what any man would call
it,--and any woman, too, who would speak her mind."

"Then, Sir, perhaps you will be kind enough to make your proposition.
I have made mine, such as it is, and am sorry that it should not have
been received at any rate with courtesy." But as she said this there
was a gleam of a bright spirit in her eyes, such as he had not seen
since first the name of Gertrude had been mentioned to her.

"Yes," said he. "You have made your proposition, and now it is only
fair that I should make mine. Indeed, I made it already when I
suggested that little place abroad. Let it be abroad or at home, or
of what nature it may,--so that you shall be there, and I with you,
it shall be enough for me. That is my proposition; and, if it be not
accepted, then I shall return to Miss Tringle and all the glories of
Lombard Street."

"Frank--" she said. Then, before she could speak another word, he had
risen from his seat, and she was in his arms. "Frank," she continued,
pushing back his kisses, "how impossible it is that I should not be
obedient to you in all things! I know,--I know that I am agreeing to
that which will cause you some day to repent."

"By heavens, no!" said he. "I am changed in all that."

"A man cannot change at once. Your heart is soft, but your nature
remains the same. Frank, I could be so happy at this moment if I
could forget the picture which my imagination points to me of your
future life. Your love, and your generous words, and the look out of
your dear eyes, are sweet to me now, as when I was a child, whom you
first made so proud by telling her that she owned your heart. If I
could only revel in the return of your affections--"

"It is no return," said he. "There has never been a moment in which
my affections have not been the same."

"Well, then,--in these permitted signs of your affection,--if it were
not that I cannot shut out the future! Do not press me to name any
early day, because no period of my future life will be so happy to me
as this."

"Is there any reason why I should not intrude?" said Mrs. Docimer,
opening the door when the above conversation had been extended for
perhaps another hour.

"Not in the least, as far as I'm concerned," said Frank. "A few words
have been spoken between us, all of which may be repeated to you if
Imogene can remember them."

"Every one of them," said Imogene; "but I hardly think that I shall
repeat them."

"I suppose they have been very much a matter of course," said Mrs.
Docimer;--"the old story repeated between you two for the fourth
or fifth time. Considering all things, do you think that I should
congratulate you?"

"I ask for no congratulation," said Imogene.

"You may certainly congratulate me," said Frank. After that the
conversation became tame, and the happy lover soon escaped from the
house into the street. When there he found very much to occupy his
mind. He had certainly made his resolution at last, and had done so
in a manner which would now leave him no power of retrogression. The
whole theory of his life had,--with a vengeance,--been thrown to the
winds. "The little place abroad,"--or elsewhere,--was now a settled
certainty. He had nearly got the better of her. He had all but
succeeded in putting down his own love and hers by a little gentle
ridicule, and by a few half-wise phrases which she at the moment had
been unable to answer; but she now had in truth vanquished him by the
absolute sincerity of her love.



CHAPTER XLII.

ANOTHER DUEL.


Frank Houston on that Sunday afternoon became an altered man. The
reader is not to suppose by this that he is declared to have suddenly
thrown off all his weaknesses, and to have succeeded in clothing
himself in an armour of bright steel, proof for the rest of his life
against all temptations. Such suits of armour are not to be had at
a moment's notice; nor, as I fear, can a man ever acquire one quite
perfect at all points who has not begun to make it for himself before
Houston's age. But he did on that day dine off the two mutton chops,
and comforted himself with no more than the half-pint of sherry. It
was a great beginning. Throughout the whole evening he could not be
got for a moment to join any of the club juntas which were discussing
the great difficulty of the contumacious gentleman. "I think he
must really be going to be married at last!" one club pundit said
when a question was asked as to Houston's singular behaviour on the
occasion.

He was indeed very sober,--so sober that he left the smoking-room
as soon as his one silent cigar was finished, and went out alone in
order that he might roam the streets in thoughtful solitude. It was
a clear frosty night, and as he buttoned his great coat around him
he felt that the dry cold air would do him good, and assist his
meditations. At last then everything was arranged for him, and he was
to encounter exactly that mode of life which he had so often told
himself to be most unfit for him. There were to be the cradles always
full, and his little coffer so nearly empty! And he had done it
all for himself. She, Imogene, had proposed a mode of life to him
which would at any rate have saved him from this; but it had been
impossible that he should accept a plan so cruel to her when the
proposition came from herself. It must all soon be done now. She had
asked that a distant day might be fixed for their marriage. Even
that request, coming from her, made it almost imperative upon him
to insist upon an early day. It would be well for him to look upon
to-morrow, or a few morrows whose short distance would be immaterial
as the time fixed.

No;--there should be no going back now! So he declared to himself,
endeavouring to prepare the suit of armour for his own wearing. Pau
might be the best place,--or perhaps one of those little towns in
Brittany. Dresden would not do, because there would be society at
Dresden, and he must of course give up all ideas of society. He
would have liked Rome; but Rome would be far too expensive, and then
residents in Rome require to be absent three or four months every
year. He and his wife and large family,--he had no doubt in life
as to the large family,--would not be able to allow themselves any
recreation such as that. He thought he had heard that the ordinary
comforts of life were cheap in the west of Ireland,--or, if not
cheap, unobtainable, which would be the same thing. Perhaps Castlebar
might be a good locality for his nursery. There would be nothing to
do at Castlebar,--no amusement whatever for such a one as himself,
no fitting companion for Imogene. But then amusement for himself
and companions for Imogene must of course be out of the question.
He thought that perhaps he might turn his hand to a little useful
gardening,--parsnips instead of roses,--while Imogene would be at
work in the nursery. He would begin at once and buy two or three
dozen pipes, because tobacco would be so much cheaper than cigars. He
knew a shop at which were to be had some very pretty new-fashioned
meerschaums, which, he had been told, smokers of pipes found to
be excellent. But, whether it should be Pau or whether it should
be Castlebar, whether it should be pipes or whether, in regard to
economy, no tobacco at all, the question now was at any rate settled
for him. He felt rather proud of his gallantry, as he took himself
home to bed, declaring to himself that he would answer that last
letter from Gertrude in a very few words and in a very decided tone.

There would be many little troubles. On the Monday morning he got
up early thinking that as a family man such a practice would be
necessary for him. When he had disturbed the house and nearly
driven his own servant mad by demanding breakfast at an altogether
unaccustomed hour, he found that he had nothing to do. There was that
head of Imogene for which she had only once sat, and at which he had
occasionally worked from memory because of her refusal to sit again;
and he thought for a moment that this might be good employment
for him now. But his art was only an expense to him. He could not
now afford for himself paint and brushes and canvas, so he turned
the half-finished head round upon his easel. Then he took out his
banker's book, a bundle of bills and some blotted scraps of ruled
paper, with which he set himself to work to arrange his accounts.
When he did this he must certainly have been in earnest. But he had
not as yet succeeded in seeing light through his figures when he was
interrupted by the arrival of a letter which altogether arrested his
attention. It was from Mudbury Docimer, and this was the letter;--


   DEAR HOUSTON,

   Of course I think that you and Imogene are two fools.
   She has told me what took place here yesterday, and I
   have told her the same as I tell you. I have no power to
   prevent it; but you know as well as I do that you and she
   cannot live together on the interest of sixteen thousand
   pounds. When you've paid everything that you owe I don't
   suppose there will be so much as that. It had been
   arranged between you that everything should be over; and
   if I had thought that anything of the kind would have
   occurred again I would have told them not to let you into
   the house. What is the good of two such people as you
   making yourselves wretched for ever, just to satisfy the
   romance of a moment? I call it wicked. So I told Imogene,
   and so I tell you.

   You have changed your mind so often that of course you may
   change it again. I am sure that Imogene expects that you
   will. Indeed I can hardly believe that you intend to be
   such a Quixote. But at any rate I have done my duty. She
   is old enough to look after herself, but as long as she
   lives with me as my sister I shall tell her what I think;
   and until she becomes your wife,--which I hope she never
   will be,--I shall tell you the same.

   Yours truly,

   MUDBURY DOCIMER.


"He always was a hard, unfeeling fellow," said Frank to himself. Then
he put the letter by with a crowd of others, assuring himself that it
was one which required no answer.

On the afternoon he called at the house, as he did again on the
Tuesday; but on neither day did he succeed in seeing Imogene. This he
thought to be hard, as the pleasure of her society was as sweet to
him as ever, though he was doubtful as to his wisdom in marrying her.
On the Wednesday morning he received a note from her asking him not
to come at once, because Mudbury had chosen to put himself into a
bad humour. Then a few words of honey were added; "Of course you
know that nothing that he can say will make a change. I am too
well satisfied to allow of any change that shall not come from you
yourself." He was quite alive to the sweetness of the honey, and
declared to himself that Mudbury Docimer's ill-humour was a matter to
him of no concern whatever.

But on the Wednesday there came also another letter,--in regard to
which it will be well that we should travel down again to Merle Park.
An answer altogether averse to the proposed changes as to the nieces
had been received from Mrs. Dosett. "As Ayala does not wish it, of
course nothing can be done." Such was the decision as conveyed by
Mrs. Dosett. It seemed to Lady Tringle that this was absurd. It was
all very well extending charity to the children of her deceased
sister, Mrs. Dormer; but all the world was agreed that beggars should
not be choosers. "As Ayala does not wish it." Why should not Ayala
wish it? What a fool must Ayala be not to wish it? Why should not
Ayala be made to do as she was told, whether she wished it or not?
Such were the indignant questions which Lady Tringle asked of her
husband. He was becoming sick of the young ladies altogether,--of her
own girls as well as the Dormer girls. "They are a pack of idiots
together," he said, "and Tom is the worst of the lot." With this he
rushed off to London, and consoled himself with his millions.

Mrs. Dosett's letter had reached Merle Park on the Tuesday morning,
Sir Thomas having remained down in the country over the Monday.
Gertrude, having calculated the course of the post with exactness,
had hoped to get a reply from Frank to that last letter of
hers,--dated from her sick bed, but written in truth after a little
surreptitious visit to the larder after the servants' dinner,--on
the Sunday morning. This had been possible, and would have evinced a
charming alacrity on the part of her lover. But this she had hardly
ventured to expect. Then she had looked with anxiety to the arrival
of letters on the Monday afternoon, but had looked in vain. On the
Tuesday morning she had felt so certain that she had contrived to
open the post-bag herself in spite of illness;--but there had been
nothing for her. Then she sent the dispatch which reached Frank on
the Wednesday morning, and immediately afterwards took to her bed
again with such a complication of disorders that the mare with the
broken knees was sent at once into Hastings for the doctor.

"A little rice will be the best thing for her," said the doctor.

"But the poor child takes nothing,--literally nothing," said Lady
Tringle, who was frightened for her child. Then the doctor went on
to say that arrowroot would be good, and sago, but offered no other
prescription. Lady Tringle was disgusted by his ignorance, and
thought that it might be well to send up to London for some great
man. The doctor bowed, and made up his mind that Lady Tringle was an
ass. But, being an honest man, and also tender-hearted, he contrived
to get hold of Tom before he left the house.

"Your sister's health is generally good?" he said. Tom assented. As
far as he knew, Gertrude had always been as strong as a horse. "Eats
well?" asked the doctor. Tom, who occasionally saw the family at
lunch, gave a description of his sister's general performance.

"She is a fine healthy young lady," said the doctor. Tom gave a
brother's ready adhesion to the word healthy, but passed over the
other epithet as being superfluous. "Now, I'll tell you what it is,"
said the doctor. "Of course I don't want to inquire into any family
secrets."

"My father, you know," said Tom, "won't agree about the man she's
engaged to."

"That is it? I knew there was some little trouble, but I did not want
to ask any questions. Your mother is unnecessarily frightened, and
I have not wished to disturb her. Your sister is taking plenty of
nourishment?"

"She does not come to table, nor yet have it in her own room."

"She gets it somehow. I can say that it is so. Her veins are full,
and her arms are strong. Perhaps she goes into the kitchen. Have a
little tray made ready for her, with something nice. She will be sure
to find it, and when she has found it two or three times she will
know that she has been discovered. If Lady Tringle does send for
a physician from London you could perhaps find an opportunity of
telling him what I have suggested. Her mamma need know nothing about
it." This took place on the Tuesday, and on the Wednesday morning
Gertrude knew that she had been discovered,--at any rate by Tom and
the doctor. "I took care to keep a wing for you," said Tom; "I carved
them myself at dinner." As he so addressed her he came out from his
hiding-place in the kitchen about midnight, and surprised her in the
larder. She gave a fearful scream, which, however, luckily was not
heard through the house. "You won't tell mamma, Tom, will you?" Tom
promised that he would not, on condition that she would come down
to breakfast on the following morning. This she did, and the London
physician was saved a journey.

But, in the meantime, Gertrude's second letter had gone up to Frank,
and also a very heartrending epistle from Lady Tringle to her
husband. "Poor Gertrude is in a very bad state. If ever there was
a girl really broken-hearted on account of love, she is one. I did
not think she would ever set her heart upon a man with such violent
affection. I do think you might give way when it becomes a question
of life and death. There isn't anything really against Mr. Houston."
Sir Thomas, as he read this, was a little shaken. He had hitherto
been inclined to agree with Rosalind, "That men have died from time
to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love." But now he did
not know what to think about it. There was Tom undoubtedly in a bad
way, and here was Gertrude brought to such a condition, simply by her
love, that she refused to take her meals regularly! Was the world
come to such a pass that a father was compelled to give his daughter
with a large fortune to an idle adventurer, or else to be responsible
for his daughter's life? Would Augusta have pined away and died had
she not been allowed to marry her Traffick? Would Lucy pine and die
unless money were given to her sculptor? Upon the whole, Sir Thomas
thought that the cares of his family were harder to bear than those
of his millions. In regard to Gertrude, he almost thought that he
would give way, if only that he might be rid of that trouble.

It must be acknowledged that Frank Houston, when he received the
young lady's letter, was less soft-hearted than her father. The
letter was, or should have been, heartrending;--


   YOU CRUEL MAN,

   You must have received my former letter, and though I told
   you that I was ill and almost dying you have not heeded
   it! Three posts have come, and I have not had a line from
   you. In your last you were weak enough to say that you
   were going to give it all up because you could not make
   papa do just what you wanted all at once. Do you know what
   it is to have taken possession of a young lady's heart;
   or is it true, as Augusta says of you, that you care for
   nothing but the money? If it is so, say it at once and
   let me die. As it is I am so very ill that I cannot eat a
   mouthful of anything, and have hardly strength left to me
   to write this letter.

   But I cannot really believe what Augusta says, though I
   daresay it may have been so with Mr. Traffick. Perhaps you
   have not been to your club, and so you have not got my
   former letter. Or, it may be that you are ill yourself.
   If so, I do wish that I could come and nurse you, though
   indeed I am so ill that I am quite unable to leave my bed.

   At any rate, pray write immediately;--and do come! Mamma
   seems to think that papa will give way because I am so
   ill. If so, I shall think my illness the luckiest thing
   in the world.--You must believe, dearest Frank, that I am
   now, as ever, yours most affectionately,

   GERTRUDE.


Frank Houston was less credulous than Sir Thomas, and did not believe
much in the young lady's sickness. It was evident that the young lady
was quite up to the work of deceiving her father and mother, and
would no doubt be willing to deceive himself if anything could be got
by it. But, whether she were ill or whether she were well, he could
offer her no comfort. Nevertheless, he was bound to send her some
answer, and with a troubled spirit he wrote as follows;--


   MY DEAR MISS TRINGLE,

   It is to me a matter of inexpressible grief that I should
   have to explain again that I am unable to persist in
   seeking the honour of your hand in opposition to the
   absolute and repeated refusals which I have received from
   your father. It is so evident that we could not marry
   without his consent that I need not now go into that
   matter. But I think myself bound to say that, considering
   the matter in all its bearing, I must regard our
   engagement as finally at an end. Were I to hesitate in
   saying this very plainly I think I should be doing you an
   injury.

   I am sorry to hear that you are unwell, and trust that you
   may soon recover your health.

   Your sincere friend,

   FRANK HOUSTON.


On the next morning Gertrude was still in her bed, having there
received her letter, when she sent a message to her brother. Would
Tom come and see her? Tom attended to her behest, and then sat down
by her bedside on being told in a mysterious voice that she had to
demand from him a great service. "Tom," she said, "that man has
treated me most shamefully and most falsely."

"What man?"

"What man? Why, Frank Houston. There has never been any other man.
After all that has been said and done he is going to throw me over."

"The governor threw him over," said Tom.

"That amounts to nothing. The governor would have given way, of
course, and if he hadn't that was no matter of his. After he had had
my promise he was bound to go on with it. Don't you think so?"

"Perhaps he was," said Tom, dubiously.

"Of course he was. What else is the meaning of a promise? Now I'll
tell you what you must do. You must go up to London and find him out.
You had better take a stick with you, and then ask him what he means
to do."

"And if he says he'll do nothing?"

"Then, Tom, you should call him out. It is just the position in which
a brother is bound to do that kind of thing for his sister. When he
has been called out, then probably he'll come round, and all will be
well."

The prospect was one which Tom did not at all like. He had had one
duel on his hands on his own account, and had not as yet come through
it with flying colours. There were still moments in which he felt
that he would be compelled at last to take to violence in reference
to Colonel Stubbs. He was all but convinced that were he to do so
he would fall into some great trouble, but still it was more than
probable that his outraged feelings would not allow him to resist.
But this second quarrel was certainly unnecessary. "That's all
nonsense, Gertrude," he said, "I can do nothing of the kind."

"You will not?"

"Certainly not. It would be absurd. You ask Septimus and he will tell
you that it is so."

"Septimus, indeed!"

"At any rate, I won't. Men don't call each other out now-a-days.
I know what ought to be done in these kind of things, and such
interference as that would be altogether improper."

"Then, Tom," said she, raising herself in bed, and looking round upon
him, "I will never call you my brother again!"



CHAPTER XLIII.

ONCE MORE!


"Probably you are not aware, Sir, that I am not at present the young
lady's guardian." This was said at the office in Lombard Street by
Sir Thomas, in answer to an offer made to him by Captain Batsby for
Ayala's hand. Captain Batsby had made his way boldly into the great
man's inner room, and had there declared his purpose in a short and
business-like manner. He had an ample income of his own, he said,
and was prepared to make a proper settlement on the young lady. If
necessary, he would take her without any fortune;--but it would, of
course, be for the lady's comfort and for his own if something in the
way of money were forthcoming. So much he added, having heard of this
uncle's enormous wealth, and having also learned the fact that if Sir
Thomas were not at this moment Ayala's guardian he had been not long
ago. Sir Thomas listened to him with patience, and then replied to
him as above.

"Just so, Sir Thomas. I did hear that. But I think you were once; and
you are still her uncle."

"Yes; I am her uncle."

"And when I was so ill-treated in Kingsbury Crescent I thought
I would come to you. It could not be right that a gentleman
making an honourable proposition,--and very liberal, as you must
acknowledge,--should not be allowed to see the young lady. It was not
as though I did not know her. I had been ten days in the same house
with her. Don't you think, Sir Thomas, I ought to have been allowed
to see her?"

"I have nothing to do with her," said Sir Thomas;--"that is, in the
way of authority." Nevertheless, before Captain Batsby left him, he
became courteous to that gentleman, and though he could not offer any
direct assurance he acknowledged that the application was reasonable.
He was, in truth, becoming tired of Ayala, and would have been glad
to find a husband whom she would accept, so that she might be out
of Tom's way. He had been quite willing that Tom should marry the
girl if it were possible, but he began to be convinced that it was
impossible. He had offered again to open his house to her, with all
its wealth, but she had refused to come into it. His wife had told
him that, if Ayala could be brought back in place of Lucy, she would
surely yield. But Ayala would not allow herself to be brought back.
And there was Tom as bad as ever. If Ayala were once married then Tom
could go upon his travels, and come back, no doubt, a sane man. Sir
Thomas thought it might be well to make inquiry about this Captain,
and then see if a marriage might be arranged. Mrs. Dosett, he told
himself, was a hard, stiff woman, and would never get the girl
married unless she allowed such a suitor as this Captain Batsby to
have access to the house. He did make inquiry, and before the week
was over had determined that if Ayala would become Mrs. Batsby there
might probably be an end to one of his troubles.

As he went down to Merle Park he arranged his plan. He would, in the
first place, tell Tom that Ayala had as many suitors as Penelope,
and that one had come up now who would probably succeed. But when he
reached home he found that his son was gone. Tom had taken a sudden
freak, and had run up to London. "He seemed quite to have got a
change," said Lady Tringle.

"I hope it was a change for the better as to that stupid girl." Lady
Tringle could not say that there had been any change for the better,
but she thought that there had been a change about the girl. Tom
had, as she said, quite "brisked up," had declared that he was not
going to stand this thing any longer, had packed up three or four
portmanteaus, and had had himself carried off to the nearest railway
station in time for an afternoon train up to London. "What is he
going to do when he gets there?" asked Sir Thomas. Lady Tringle had
no idea what her son intended to do, but thought that something
special was intended in regard to Ayala.

"He is an ass," said the father.

"You always say he is an ass," said the mother, complaining.

"No doubt I do. What else am I to call him?" Then he went on and
developed his scheme. "Let Ayala be asked to Merle Park for a
week,--just for a week,--and assured that during that time Tom
would not be there. Then let Captain Batsby also be invited." Upon
this there followed an explanation as to Captain Batsby and his
aspirations. Tom must be relieved after some fashion, and Sir Thomas
declared that no better fashion seemed to present itself. Lady
Tringle received her orders with sundry murmurings, still grieving
for her son's grief;--but she assented, as she always did assent, to
her husband's propositions.

Now we will accompany Tom up to London. The patient reader will
perhaps have understood the condition of his mind when in those
days of his sharpest agony he had given himself up to Faddle and
champagne. By these means he had brought himself into trouble and
disgrace, of which he was fully conscious. He had fallen into the
hands of the police and had been harassed during the whole period by
headache and nausea. Then had come the absurdity of his challenge
to Colonel Stubbs, the folly of which had been made plain to him by
the very letter which his rival had written to him. There was good
sense enough about the poor fellow to enable him to understand
that the police court, and the prison, that Faddle and the orgies
at Bolivia's, that his challenge and the reply to it, were alike
dishonourable to him. Then had come a reaction, and he spent a
miserable fortnight down at Merle Park, doing nothing, resolving on
nothing, merely moping about and pouring the oft-repeated tale of his
woes into his mother's bosom. These days at Merle Park gave him back
at any rate his health, and rescued him from the intense wretchedness
of his condition on the day after the comparison of Bolivia's wines.
In this improved state he told himself that it behoved him even yet
to do something as a man, and he came suddenly to the bold resolution
of having,--as he called it to himself,--another "dash at Ayala."

How the "dash" was to be made he had not determined when he left
home. But to this he devoted the whole of the following Sunday. He
had received a lachrymose letter from his friend Faddle, at Aberdeen,
in which the unfortunate youth had told him that he was destined to
remain in that wretched northern city for the rest of his natural
life. He had not as yet been to the Mountaineers since his mishap
with the police, and did not care to show himself there at present.
He was therefore altogether alone, and, walking all alone the entire
round of the parks, he at last formed his resolution.

On the following morning when Mr. Dosett entered his room at Somerset
House, a little after half-past ten o'clock, he found his nephew
Tom there before him, and waiting for him. Mr. Dosett was somewhat
astonished, for he too had heard of Tom's misfortunes. Some
ill-natured chronicle of Tom's latter doings had spread itself among
the Tringle and Dosett sets, and Uncle Reginald was aware that his
nephew had been forced to relinquish his stool in Lombard Street. The
vices of the young are perhaps too often exaggerated, so that Mr.
Dosett had heard of an amount of champagne consumed and a number
of policemen wounded, of which his nephew had not been altogether
guilty. There was an idea at Kingsbury Crescent that Tom had gone
nearly mad, and was now kept under paternal care at Merle Park. When,
therefore, he saw Tom blooming in health, and brighter than usual in
general appearance, he was no doubt rejoiced, but also surprised, at
the change. "What, Tom!" he said; "I'm glad to see you looking so
well. Are you up in London again?"

"I'm in town for a day or two," said Tom.

"And what can I do for you?"

"Well, Uncle Reginald, you can do a great deal for me if you will. Of
course you've heard of all those rows of mine?"

"I have heard something."

"Everybody has heard," said Tom, mournfully. "I don't suppose anybody
was ever knocked so much about as I've been for the last six months."

"I'm sorry for that, Tom."

"I'm sure you are, because you're always good-natured. Now I wonder
if you will do a great thing to oblige me."

"Let us hear what it is," said Uncle Reginald.

"I suppose you know that there is only one thing in the world that I
want." Mr. Dosett thought that it would be discreet to make no reply
to this, but, turning his chair partly round, he prepared to listen
very attentively to what his nephew might have to say to him. "All
this about the policeman and the rest of it has simply come from my
being so unhappy about Ayala."

"It wouldn't be taken as a promise of your being a good husband, Tom,
when you get into such a mess as that."

"That's because people don't understand," said Tom. "It is because I
am so earnest about it, and because I can't bear the disappointment!
There isn't one at Travers and Treason who doesn't know that if I'd
married Ayala I should have settled down as quiet a young man as
there is in all London. You ask the governor else himself. As long as
I thought there was any hope I used to be there steady as a rock at
half-past nine. Everybody knew it. So I should again, if she'd only
come round."

"You can't make a lady come round, as you call it."

"Not make her; no. Of course you can't make a girl. But persuading
goes a long way. Why shouldn't she have me? As to all these rows, she
ought to feel at any rate that they're her doing. And what she's done
it stands to reason she could undo if she would. It only wants a word
from her to put me all right with the governor,--and to put me all
right with Travers and Treason too. Nobody can love her as I do."

"I do believe that nobody could love her better," said Mr. Dosett,
who was beginning to be melted by his nephew's earnestness.

"Oughtn't that to go for something? And then she would have
everything that she wishes. She might live anywhere she pleased,--so
that I might go to the office every day. She would have her own
carriage, you know."

"I don't think that would matter much with Ayala."

"It shows that I'm in a position to ask her," said Tom. "If she could
only bring herself not to hate me--"

"There is a difference, Tom, between hating and not loving."

"If she would only begin to make a little way, then I could hope
again. Uncle Reginald, could you not tell her that at any rate I
would be good to her?"

"I think you would be good to her," he said.

"Indeed, I would. There is nothing I would not do for her. Now will
you let me see her just once again, and have one other chance?"

This was the great thing which Tom desired from his uncle, and Mr.
Dosett was so much softened by his nephew's earnestness that he did
promise to do as much as this;--to do as much as this, at least, if
it were in his power. Of course, Ayala must be told. No good could
be done by surprising her by a visit. But he would endeavour so
to arrange it that, if Tom were to come to him on the following
afternoon, they two should go to the Crescent together, and then Tom
should remain and dine there,--or go away before dinner, as he might
please, after the interview. This was settled, and Tom left Somerset
House, rejoicing greatly at his success. It seemed to him that now at
last a way was open to him.

Uncle Reginald, on his return home, took his niece aside and talked
to her very gently and very kindly. "Whether you like him or whether
you do not, my dear, he is so true to you that you are bound to see
him again when he asks it." At first she was very stout, declaring
that she would not see him. Of what good could it be, seeing that she
would rather throw herself into the Thames than marry him? Had she
not told him so over and over again, as often as he had spoken to
her? Why would he not just leave her alone? But against all this her
uncle pleaded gently but persistently. He had considered himself
bound to promise so much on her behalf, and for his sake she must do
as he asked. To this, of course, she yielded. And then he said many
good things of poor Tom. His constancy was a great virtue. A man so
thoroughly in love would no doubt make a good husband. And then there
would be the assent of all the family, and an end, as far as Ayala
was concerned, of all pecuniary trouble. In answer to this she only
shook her head, promising, however, that she would be ready to give
Tom an audience when he should be brought to the Crescent on the
following day.

Punctually at four Tom made his appearance at Somerset House, and
started with his uncle as soon as the index-books had been put in
their places. Tom was very anxious to take his uncle home in a
cab, but Mr. Dosett would not consent to lose his walk. Along the
Embankment they went, and across Charing Cross into St. James's Park,
and then by Green Park, Hyde Park, and Kensington Gardens, all the
way to Notting Hill. Mr. Dosett did not walk very fast, and Tom
thought they would never reach Kingsbury Crescent. His uncle would
fain have talked about the weather, or politics, or the hardships of
the Civil Service generally; but Tom would not be diverted from his
one subject. Would Ayala be gracious to him? Mr. Dosett had made up
his mind to say nothing on the subject. Tom must plead his own cause.
Uncle Reginald thought that he knew such pleading would be useless,
but still would not say a word to daunt the lover. Neither could he
say a word expressive of hope. As they were fully an hour-and-a-half
on their walk, this reticence was difficult.

Immediately on his arrival, Tom was taken up into the drawing-room.
This was empty, for it had been arranged that Mrs. Dosett should be
absent till the meeting was over. "Now I'll look for this child,"
said Uncle Reginald, in his cheeriest voice as he left Tom alone
in the room. Tom, as he looked round at the chairs and tables,
remembered that he had never received as much as a kind word or look
in the room, and then great drops of perspiration broke out all over
his brow. All that he had to hope for in the world must depend upon
the next five minutes;--might depend perhaps upon the very selection
of the words which he might use.

Then Ayala entered the room and stood before him.

"Ayala," he said, giving her his hand.

"Uncle Reg says that you would like to see me once again."

"Of course I want to see you once, and twice,--and always. Ayala, if
you could know it! If you could only know it!" Then he clasped his
two hands high upon his breast, not as though appealing to her heart,
but striking his bosom in very agony. "Ayala, I feel that, if I do
not have you as my own, I can only die for the want of you. Ayala, do
you believe me?"

"I suppose I believe you, but how can I help it?"

"Try to help it! Try to try and help it! Say a word that you will
perhaps help it by-and-bye." Then there came a dark frown upon her
brow,--not, indeed, from anger, but from a feeling that so terrible a
task should be thrown upon her. "I know you think that I am common."

"I have never said a word, Tom, but that I could not love you."

"But I am true,--true as the sun. Would I come again after all if
it were not that I cannot help coming? You have heard that I have
been,--been misbehaving myself?"

"I have not thought about that."

"It has been so because I have been so wretched. Ayala, you have made
me so unhappy. Ayala, you can make me the happiest man there is in
London this day. I seem to want nothing else. As for drink, or clubs,
or billiards, and all that, they are nothing to me,--unless when I
try to forget that you are so--so unkind to me!"

"It is not unkind, not to do as you ask me."

"To do as I ask you,--that would be kind. Oh, Ayala, cannot you be
kind to me?" She shook her head, still standing in the place which
she had occupied from the beginning. "May I come again? Will you give
me three months, and then think of it? If you would only say that, I
would go back to my work and never leave it." But she still shook her
head. "Must I never hope?"

"Not for that, Tom. How can I help it?"

"Not help it."

"No. How can I help it? One does not fall in love by trying,--nor by
trying prevent it."

"By degrees you might love me,--a little." She had said all that
she knew how to say, and again shook her head. "It is that accursed
Colonel," he exclaimed, forgetting himself as he thought of his
rival.

"He is not accursed," said Ayala, angrily.

"Then you love him?"

"No! But you should not ask. You have no right to ask. It is not
proper."

"You are not engaged to him?"

"No; I am not engaged to him. I do not love him. As you will ask,
I tell you. But you should not ask; and he is not accursed. He is
better than you,--though I do not love him. You should not have
driven me to say this. I do not ask you questions."

"There is none that I would not answer. Stay, Ayala," for now she was
going to leave the room. "Stay yet a moment. Do you know that you
are tearing my heart in pieces? Why is it that you should make me so
wretched? Dear Ayala;--dearest Ayala;--stay yet a moment."

"Tom, there is nothing more that I can say. I am very, very sorry if
you are unhappy. I do think that you are good and true; and if you
will shake hands with me, there is my hand. But I cannot say what
you want me to say." Tom took her by the hand and tried to hold her,
without, however, speaking to her again. But she slid away from him
and left the room, not having for a moment sat down in his presence.

When the door was closed he stood awhile looking round him, trying
to resolve what he might do or what he might say next. He was now
at any rate in the house with her, and did not know whether such
an opportunity as that might ever occur to him again. He felt that
there were words within his bosom which, if he could only bring them
up to his mouth, would melt the heart of a stone. There was his
ineffable love, his whole happiness at stake, his purpose,--his holy
purpose,--to devote himself, and all that he had, to her well-being.
Of all this he had a full conception within his own heart, if only he
could express it so that others should believe him! But of what use
was it now? He had had this further liberty of speech accorded to
him, and in it he had done nothing, made no inch of progress. She had
hardly spoken a dozen words to him, but of those she had spoken two
remained clear upon his memory. He must never hope, she had said; and
she had said also that that other man was better than he. Had she
said that he was dearer, the word would hardly have been more bitter.
All the old feeling came upon him of rage against his rival, and of
a desire that something desperate should be done by which he might
wreak his vengeance.

But there he was standing alone in Mrs. Dosett's drawing-room, and it
was necessary that he should carry himself off. As for dining in that
house, sitting down to eat and drink in Ayala's presence after such a
conversation as that which was past, that he felt to be quite out of
the question. He crammed his hat upon his head, left the room, and
hurried down the stairs towards the door.

In the passage he was met by his uncle, coming out of the
dining-room. "Tom," he said, "you'll stay and eat your dinner?"

"No, indeed," said Tom, angrily.

"You shouldn't let yourself be disturbed by little trifles such as
these," said his uncle, trying to put a good face upon the matter.

"Trifles!" said Tom Tringle. "Trifles!" And he banged the door after
him as he left the house.


END OF VOL. II.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



AYALA'S ANGEL

by

ANTHONY TROLLOPE,

Author of "Doctor Thorne," "The Prime Minister," "Orley Farm,"
&c., &c.

In Three Volumes.

VOL. III.



London:
Chapman and Hall (Limited),
11, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden.
1881.
[All Rights Reserved.]

Westminster:
J. B. Nichols and Sons, Printers.
25, Parliament Street.



CONTENTS OF VOL. III.

     XLIV. IN THE HAYMARKET.
      XLV. THERE IS SOMETHING OF THE ANGEL ABOUT HIM.
     XLVI. AYALA GOES AGAIN TO STALHAM.
    XLVII. CAPTAIN BATSBY AT MERLE PARK.
   XLVIII. THE JOURNEY TO OSTEND.
     XLIX. THE NEW FROCK.
        L. GOBBLEGOOSE WOOD ON SUNDAY.
       LI. "NO!"
      LII. "I CALL IT FOLLY."
    LIIII. HOW LUCY'S AFFAIRS ARRANGED THEMSELVES.
      LIV. TOM'S LAST ATTEMPT.
       LV. IN THE CASTLE THERE LIVED A KNIGHT.
      LVI. GOBBLEGOOSE WOOD AGAIN.
     LVII. CAPTAIN BATSBY IN LOMBARD STREET.
    LVIII. MR. TRAFFICK IN LOMBARD STREET.
      LIX. TREGOTHNAN.
       LX. AUNT ROSINA.
      LXI. TOM TRINGLE GOES UPON HIS TRAVELS.
     LXII. HOW VERY MUCH HE LOVED HER.
    LXIII. AYALA AGAIN IN LONDON.
     LXIV. AYALA'S MARRIAGE.



AYALA'S ANGEL.


CHAPTER XLIV.

IN THE HAYMARKET.


It was now the beginning of February. As Tom and his uncle had walked
from Somerset House the streets were dry and the weather fine; but,
as Mr. Dosett had remarked, the wind was changing a little out of
the east and threatened rain. When Tom left the house it was already
falling. It was then past six, and the night was very dark. He had
walked there with a top coat and umbrella, but he had forgotten
both as he banged the door after him in his passion; and, though
he remembered them as he hurried down the steps, he would not turn
and knock at the door and ask for them. He was in that humour which
converts outward bodily sufferings almost into a relief. When a
man has been thoroughly illused in greater matters it is almost a
consolation to him to feel that he has been turned out into the
street to get wet through without his dinner,--even though he may
have turned himself out.

He walked on foot, and as he walked became damp and dirty, till he
was soon wet through. As soon as he reached Lancaster Gate he went
into the park, and under the doubtful glimmer of the lamps trudged on
through the mud and slush, not regarding his path, hardly thinking
of the present moment in the full appreciation of his real misery.
What should he do with himself? What else was there now left to
him? He had tried everything and had failed. As he endeavoured to
count himself up, as it were, and tell himself whether he were
worthy of a happier fate than had been awarded to him, he was very
humble,--humble, though so indignant! He knew himself to be a poor
creature in comparison with Jonathan Stubbs. Though he could not have
been Stubbs had he given his heart for it, though it was absolutely
beyond him to assume one of those tricks of bearing, one of those
manly, winning ways, which in his eyes was so excellent in the other
man, still he saw them and acknowledged them, and told himself that
they would be all powerful with such a girl as Ayala. Though he
trusted to his charms and his rings, he knew that his charms and his
rings were abominable, as compared with that outside look and natural
garniture which belonged to Stubbs, as though of right,--as though it
had been born with him. Not exactly in those words, but with a full
inward sense of the words, he told himself that Colonel Stubbs was a
gentleman,--whereas he acknowledged himself to be a cad. How could
he have hoped that Ayala should accept such a one, merely because he
would have a good house of his own and a carriage? As he thought of
all this, he hardly knew which he hated most,--himself or Jonathan
Stubbs.

He went down to the family house in Queen's Gate, which was closed
and dark,--having come there with no special purpose, but having
found himself there, as though by accident, in the neighbourhood.
Then he knocked at the door, which, after a great undoing of chains,
was opened by an old woman, who with her son had the custody of the
house when the family were out of town. Sir Thomas in these days had
rooms of his own in Lombard Street in which he loved to dwell, and
would dine at a city club, never leaving the precincts of the city
throughout the week. The old woman was an old servant, and her son
was a porter at the office. "Mr. Tom! Be that you? Why you are as wet
as a mop!" He was wet as any mop, and much dirtier than a mop should
be. There was no fire except in the kitchen, and there he was taken.
He asked for a great coat, but there was no such thing in the house,
as the young man had not yet come home. Nor was there any food that
could be offered him, or anything to drink; as the cellar was locked
up, and the old woman was on board wages. But he sat crouching over
the fire, watching the steam as it came up from his damp boots and
trousers. "And ain't you had no dinner, Mr. Tom?" said the old woman.
Tom only shook his head. "And ain't you going to have none?" The poor
wretch again shook his head. "That's bad, Mr. Tom." Then she looked
up into his face. "There is something wrong I know, Mr. Tom. I hears
that from Jem. Of course he hears what they do be saying in Lombard
Street."

"What is it they say, Mrs. Tapp?"

"Well;--that you ain't there as you used to be. Things is awk'ard,
and Sir Thomas, they say, isn't best pleased. But of course it isn't
no affair of mine, Mr. Tom."

"Do they know why?" he asked.

"They do say it's some'at about a young lady."

"Yes; by heavens!" said Tom, jumping up out of his chair. "Oh, Mrs.
Tapp, you can't tell the condition I'm in. A young lady indeed! D----
the fellow!"

"Don't 'ee now, Mr. Tom."

"D---- the fellow! But there's no good in my standing here cursing.
I'll go off again. You needn't say that I've been here, Mrs. Tapp?"

"But you won't go out into the rain, Mr. Tom?"

"Rain,--what matters the rain?" Then he started again, disregarding
all her prayers, and went off eastward on foot, disdaining the use
of a cab because he had settled in his mind on no place to which he
would go.

Yes; they knew all about it, down to the very porters at the office.
Everyone had heard of his love for Ayala; and everyone had heard also
that Ayala had scorned him. Not a man or woman connected by ever so
slight a tie to the establishment was unaware that he had been sent
away from his seat because of Ayala! All this might have been borne
easily had there been any hope; but now he was forced to tell himself
that there was none. He saw no end to his misery,--no possibility of
escape. Where was he to go in this moment of his misery for any shred
of comfort? The solitude of his lodgings was dreadful to him; nor had
he heart enough left to him to seek companionship at his club.

At about ten o'clock he found himself, as it were, by accident, close
to Mr. Bolivia's establishment. He was thoroughly wet through, jaded,
wretched, and in want of sustenance. He turned in, and found the
place deserted. The diners had gone away, and the hour had not come
at which men in quest of later refreshment were wont to make their
appearance. But there were still one or two gas-lights burning; and
he threw himself wearily into a little box or partition nearest
to the fire. Here Signor Bolivia himself came to him, asking in
commiserating accents what had brought him thither in so wretched a
plight. "I have left my coat and umbrella behind," said Tom, trying
to pluck up a little spirit,--"and my dinner too."

"No dinner, Mr. Tringle; and you wet through like that! What shall I
get you, Mr. Tringle?" But Tom declared that he would have no dinner.
He was off his appetite altogether, he said. He would have a bottle
of champagne and a devilled biscuit. Mr. Walker, who, as we are
aware, put himself forward to the world generally as Signor Bolivia,
felt for the moment a throb of pity, which overcame in his heart the
innkeeper's natural desire to make the most he could of his customer.
"Better have a mutton chop and a little drop of brandy-and-water
hot."

"I ain't up to it, Bolivia," said the young man. "I couldn't swallow
it if I had it. Give us the bottle of champagne and the devilled
biscuit." Then Mr. Walker,--for Bolivia was in truth Walker,--fetched
the wine and ordered the biscuit; and poor Tom was again brought back
to the miserable remedy to which he had before applied himself in his
misfortune. There he remained for about an hour, during a part of
which he slept; but before he left the house he finished the wine.
As he got up to take his departure Mr. Walker scanned his gait and
bearing, having a friendly feeling for the young man, and not wishing
him to fall again into the hands of the police. But Tom walked forth
apparently as sober as a judge, and as melancholy as a hangman. As
far as Mr. Walker could see the liquor had made no impression on him.
"If I were you, Mr. Tringle," said the keeper of the eating-house,
"I'd go home at once, because you are so mortal wet."

"All right," said Tom, going out into the pouring rain.

It was then something after eleven, and Tom instead of taking the
friendly advice which had been offered to him, walked, as fast as he
could, round Leicester Square; and as he walked the fumes of the wine
mounted into his head. But he was not drunk,--not as yet so drunk as
to misbehave himself openly. He did not make his way round the square
without being addressed, but he simply shook off from him those who
spoke to him. His mind was still intent upon Ayala. But now he was
revengeful rather than despondent. The liquor had filled him once
again with a desire to do something. If he could destroy himself and
the Colonel by one and the same blow, how fitting a punishment would
that be for Ayala! But how was he to do it? He would throw himself
down from the top of the Duke of York's column, but that would be
nothing unless he could force the Colonel to take the jump with him!
He had called the man out and he wouldn't come! Now, with the alcohol
in his brain, he again thought that the man was a coward for not
coming. Had not such a meeting been from time immemorial the resource
of gentlemen injured as he now was injured? The Colonel would not
come when called,--but could he not get at him so as to strike him?
If he could do the man a real injury he would not care what amount of
punishment he might be called upon to bear.

He hurried at last out of the square into Coventry Street and down
the Haymarket. His lodgings were in Duke Street, turning out of
Piccadilly,--but he could not bring himself to go home to his bed.
He was unutterably wretched, but yet he kept himself going with some
idea of doing something, or of fixing some purpose. He certainly
was tipsy now, but not so drunk as to be unable to keep himself on
his legs. He gloried in the wet, shouting inwardly to himself that
he in his misery was superior to all accidents of the weather. Then
he stood for awhile watching the people as they came out of the
Haymarket Theatre. He was at this time a sorry sight to be seen. His
hat was jammed on to his head and had been almost smashed in the
jamming. His coat reeking wet through was fastened by one button
across his chest. His two hands were thrust into his pockets, and the
bottle of champagne was visible in his face. He was such a one,--to
look at,--that no woman would have liked to touch or any man to
address. In this guise he stood there amidst the crowd, foremost
among those who were watching the ladies as they got into their
vehicles. "And she might be as good as the best of them, and I might
be here to hand her into her own carriage,"--said he to himself,--"if
it were not for that intruder!"

At that moment the intruder was there before him, and on his arm was
a lady whom he was taking across to a carriage, at the door of which
a servant in livery was standing. They were followed closely by a
pretty young girl who was picking her steps after them alone. These
were Lady Albury and Nina, whom Colonel Stubbs had escorted to the
play.

"You will be down by the twentieth?" said the elder lady.

"Punctual as the day comes," said the Colonel.

"And mind you have Ayala with you," said the younger.

"If Lady Albury can manage it with her aunt of course I will wait
upon her," said the Colonel. Then the door of the carriage was shut,
and the Colonel was left to look for a cab. He had on an overcoat and
an opera hat, but otherwise was dressed as for dinner. On one side
a link-boy was offering him assistance, and on another a policeman
tendering him some service. He was one of those who by their outward
appearance always extort respect from those around them.

As long as the ladies had been there,--during the two minutes which
had been occupied while they got into the carriage,--Tom had been
restrained by their presence. He had been restrained by their
presence even though he had heard Ayala's name and had understood the
commission given to the man whom he hated. Had Colonel Stubbs luckily
followed the ladies into the carriage Tom, in his fury, would have
taken himself off to his bed. But now,--there was his enemy within
a yard of him! Here was the opportunity the lack of which seemed, a
few moments since, to be so grievous to him! He took two steps out
from the row in which he stood and struck his rival high on his
breast with his fist. He had aimed at the Colonel's face but in his
eagerness had missed his mark. "There," said he, "there! You would
not fight me, and now you have got it." Stubbs staggered, and would
have fallen but for the policeman. Tom, though no hero, was a strong
young man, and had contrived to give his blow with all his force. The
Colonel did not at first see from whom the outrage had come, but at
once claimed the policeman's help.

"We've got him, Sir;--we've got him," said the policeman.

"You've got me," said Tom, "but I've had my revenge." Then, though
two policemen and one waterman were now holding him, he stretched
himself up to his full height and glared at his enemy in the face.

"It's the chap who gave that hawful blow to Thompson in the bow'ls!"
said one of the policemen, who by this time had both Tom's arms
locked behind his own.

Then the Colonel knew who had struck him. "I know him," said the
Colonel to the policeman. "It is a matter of no consequence."

"So do we, Sir. He's Thomas Tringle, junior."

"He's a friend of mine," said the Colonel. "You must let him come
with me."

"A friend, is he?" said an amateur attendant. The policeman, who
had remembered the cruel onslaught made on his comrade, looked very
grave, and still held Tom tight by the arms. "A very hugly sort of
friend," said the amateur. Tom only stretched himself still higher,
but remained speechless.

"Tringle," said the Colonel, "this was very foolish, you know,--a
most absurd thing to do! Come with me, and we will talk it all over."

"He must come along with us to the watch-house just at present," said
the policeman. "And you, Sir, if you can, had better please to come
with us. It ain't far across to Vine Street, but of course you can
have a cab if you like it." This was ended by two policemen walking
off with Tom between them, and by the Colonel following in a cab,
after having administered divers shillings to the amateur attendants.
Though the journey in the cab did not occupy above five minutes, it
sufficed to enable him to determine what step he should take when he
found himself before the night officers of the watch.

When he found himself in the presence of the night officer he had
considerable difficulty in carrying out his purpose. That Tom
should be locked up for the night, and be brought before the police
magistrate next morning to answer for the outrage he had committed,
seemed to the officers to be a matter of course. It was long before
the Colonel could persuade the officer that this little matter
between him and Mr. Tringle was a private affair, of which he at
least wished to take no further notice. "No doubt," he said, "he had
received a blow on his chest, but it had not hurt him in the least."

"'E 'it the gen'leman with all his might and main," said the
policeman.

"It is quite a private affair," said the Colonel. "My name is Colonel
Stubbs; here is my card. Sir ---- is a particular friend of mine."
Here he named a pundit of the peace, very high in the estimation of
all policemen. "If you will let the gentleman come away with me I
will be responsible for him to-morrow, if it should be necessary
to take any further step in the matter." This he said very eagerly,
and with all the authority which he knew how to use. Tom, in the
meantime, stood perfectly motionless, with his arms folded akimbo on
his breast, wet through, muddy, still tipsy, a sight miserable to
behold.

The card and the Colonel's own name, and the name of the pundit of
the peace together, had their effect, and after a while Tom was
dismissed in the Colonel's care. The conclusion of the evening's
affair was, for the moment, one which Tom found very hard to bear. It
would have been better for him to have been dragged off to a cell,
and there to have been left to his miserable solitude. But as he went
down through the narrow ways leading from the police-office out into
the main street he felt that he was altogether debarred from making
any further attack upon his protector. He could not strike him again,
as he might have done had he escaped from the police by his own
resources. His own enemy had saved him from durance, and he could
not, therefore, turn again upon his enemy.

"In heaven's name, my dear fellow," said the Colonel, "what good do
you expect to get by that? You have hit me a blow when you knew that
I was unprepared, and, therefore, unarmed. Was that manly?" To this
Tom made no reply. "I suppose you have been drinking?" And Stubbs, as
he asked this question, looked into his companion's face. "I see you
have been drinking. What a fool you are making of yourself!"

"It is that girl," said Tom.

"Does that seem to you to be right? Can you do yourself any good by
that? Will she be more likely to listen to you when she hears that
you have got drunk, and have assaulted me in the street? Have I done
you any harm?"

"She says that you are better than me," replied Tom.

"If she does, is that my doing? Come, old fellow, try to be a man.
Try to think of this thing rightly. If you can win the girl you love,
win her; but, if you cannot, do not be such an ass as to suppose that
she is to love no one because she will not love you. It is a thing
which a man must bear if it comes in his way. As far as Miss Dormer
is concerned, I am in the same condition as you. But do you think
that I should attack you in the street if she began to favour you
to-morrow?"

"I wish she would; and then I shouldn't care what you did."

"I should think you a happy fellow, certainly; and for a time I
might avoid you, because your happiness would remind me of my own
disappointment; but I should not come behind your back and strike
you! Now, tell me where you live, and I will see you home." Then Tom
told him where he lived, and in a few minutes the Colonel had left
him within his own hall door.



CHAPTER XLV.

THERE IS SOMETHING OF THE ANGEL ABOUT HIM.


The little accident which was recorded at the close of the last
chapter occurred on a Tuesday night. On the following afternoon Tom
Tringle, again very much out of spirits, returned to Merle Park.
There was now nothing further for him to do in London. He had had
his last chance with Ayala, and the last chance had certainly done
him no good. Fortune, whether kindly or unkindly, had given him an
opportunity of revenging himself upon the Colonel; he had taken
advantage of the opportunity, but did not find himself much relieved
by what he had done. His rival's conduct had caused him to be
thoroughly ashamed of himself. It had at any rate taken from him all
further hope of revenge. So that now there was nothing for him but to
take himself back to Merle Park. On the Wednesday he heard nothing
further of the matter; but on the Thursday Sir Thomas came down from
London, and, showing to poor Tom a paragraph in one of the morning
papers, asked whether he knew anything of the circumstance to which
reference was made. The paragraph was as follows:--


   That very bellicose young City knight who at Christmas
   time got into trouble by thrashing a policeman within
   an inch of his life in the streets, and who was then
   incarcerated on account of his performance, again
   exhibited his prowess on Tuesday night by attacking
   Colonel ----, an officer than whom none in the army is
   more popular,--under the portico of the Haymarket theatre.
   We abstain from mentioning the officer's name,--which is,
   however, known to us. The City knight again fell into the
   hands of the police and was taken to the watch-house.
   But Colonel ----, who knew something of his family,
   accompanied him, and begged his assailant off. The officer
   on duty was most unwilling to let the culprit go; but the
   Colonel used all his influence and was successful. This
   may be all very well between the generous Colonel and the
   valiant knight. But if the young man has any friends they
   had better look to him. A gentleman with such a desire
   for the glories of battle must be restrained if he cannot
   control his propensities when wandering about the streets
   of the metropolis.


"Yes," said Tom,--who scorned to tell a lie in any matter concerning
Ayala. "It was me. I struck Colonel Stubbs, and he got me off at the
police office."

"And you're proud of what you've done?"

"No, Sir, I'm not. I'm not proud of anything. Whatever I do or
whatever I say seems to go against me."

"He didn't go against you as you call it."

"I wish he had with all my heart. I didn't ask him to get me off. I
struck him because I hated him; and whatever might have happened I
would sooner have borne it than be like this."

"You would sooner have been locked up again in prison?"

"I would sooner anything than be as I am."

"I tell you what it is, Tom," said the father. "If you remain here
any longer with this bee in your bonnet you will be locked up in a
lunatic asylum, and I shall not be able to get you out again. You
must go abroad." To this Tom made no immediate answer. Lamentable as
was his position, he still was unwilling to leave London while Ayala
was living there. Were he to consent to go away for any lengthened
period, by doing so he would seem to abandon his own claim. Hope he
knew there was none; but yet, even yet, he regarded himself as one of
Ayala's suitors. "Do you think it well," continued the father, "that
you should remain in London while such paragraphs as these are being
written about you?"

"I am not in London now," said Tom.

"No, you are not in London while you are at Merle Park,--of course.
And you will not go up to London without my leave. Do you understand
that?" Here Tom again was silent. "If you do," continued his father,
"you shall not be received down here again, nor at Queen's Gate, nor
will the cheques for your allowance be honoured any longer at the
bank. In fact if you do not obey me I will throw you off altogether.
This absurdity about your love has been carried on long enough." And
so it came to be understood in the family that Tom was to be kept in
mild durance at Merle Park till everything should have been arranged
for his extended tour about the world. To this Tom himself gave no
positive assent, but it was understood that when the time came he
would yield to his father's commands.

It had thus come to pass that the affray at the door of the Haymarket
became known to so much of the world at large as interested itself
in the affairs either of Colonel Stubbs or of the Tringles. Other
paragraphs were written in which the two heroes of the evening were
designated as Colonel J---- S---- and as T---- T----, junior, of the
firm of T---- and T----, in the City. All who pleased could read
these initials, and thus the world was aware that our Colonel had
received a blow, and had resented the affront only by rescuing his
assailant from the hands of the police. A word was said at first
which seemed to imply that the Colonel had not exhibited all the
spirit which might have been expected from him. Having been struck
should he not have thrashed the man who struck him;--or at any rate
have left the ruffian in the hands of the policemen for proper
punishment? But many days had not passed over before the Colonel's
conduct had been viewed in a different light, and men and women
were declaring that he had done a manly and a gallant thing. The
affair had in this way become sufficiently well known to justify
the allusion made to it in the following letter from Lady Albury to
Ayala;--


   Stalham, Tuesday, 11th February, 18--.

   MY DEAR AYALA,

   It is quite indispensable for the happiness of everybody,
   particularly that of myself and Sir Harry, that you should
   come down here on the twentieth. Nina will be here on
   her farewell visit before her return to her mother. Of
   course you have heard that it is all arranged between
   her and Lord George Bideford, and this will be the last
   opportunity which any of us will have of seeing her once
   again before her martyrdom. The world is to be told
   that he is to follow her to Rome, where they are to be
   married,--no doubt by the Pope himself under the dome of
   St. Peter's. But my belief is that Lord George is going
   to travel with her all the way. If he is the man I take
   him to be he will do so, but of course it would be very
   improper.

   You, however, must of course come and say pretty things
   to your friend; and, as you cannot go to Rome to see her
   married, you must throw your old shoe after her when she
   takes her departure from Stalham. I have written a line
   to your aunt to press my request for this visit. This she
   will no doubt show to you, and you, if you please, can
   show her mine in return.

   And now, my dear, I must explain to you one or two other
   arrangements. A certain gentleman will _certainly_ not be
   here. It was not my fault that a certain gentleman went to
   Kingsbury Crescent. The certain gentleman is, as you are
   aware, a great friend of ours, and was entitled to explain
   himself if it so seemed good to him; but the certain
   gentleman was not favoured in that enterprise by the
   Stalham interest. At any rate, the certain gentleman
   will not be at Stalham on this occasion. So much for the
   certain gentleman.

   Colonel Stubbs will be here, and, as he will be coming
   down on the twentieth, would be glad to travel by the same
   train, so that he may look after your ticket and your
   luggage, and be your slave for the occasion. He will leave
   the Paddington Station by the 4 P.M. train if that will
   suit you.

   We all think that he behaved beautifully in that little
   affair at the Haymarket theatre. I should not mention it
   only that everybody has heard of it. Almost any other man
   would have struck the poor fellow again; but he is one
   of the very few who always know what to do at the moment
   without taking time to think of it.

   Mind you come like a good girl.--Your affectionate friend,

   ROSALINE ALBURY.


It was in this way that Ayala heard what had taken place between her
cousin Tom and Colonel Stubbs. Some hint of a fracas between the two
men had reached her ears; but now she asked various questions of her
aunt, and at last elicited the truth. Tom had attacked her other
lover in the street,--had attacked Colonel Stubbs because of his
injured love, and had grossly misbehaved himself. As a consequence he
would have been locked up by the police had not the Colonel himself
interfered on his behalf. This to Ayala seemed to be conduct worthy
almost of an Angel of Light.

Then the question of the proposed visit was discussed,--first with
her aunt, and then with herself. Mrs. Dosett was quite willing that
her niece should go to Stalham. To Mrs. Dosett's thinking, a further
journey to Stalham would mean an engagement with Colonel Stubbs. When
she had read Lady Albury's letter she was quite sure that that had
been Lady Albury's meaning. Captain Batsby was not to receive the
Stalham interest;--but that interest was to be used on the part of
Colonel Stubbs. She had not the slightest objection. It was clear to
her that Ayala would have to be married before long. It was out of
the question that one man after another should fall in love with her
violently, and that nothing should come of it. Mrs. Dosett had become
quite despondent about Tom. There was an amount of dislike which it
would be impossible to overcome. And as for Captain Batsby there
could be no chance for a man whom the young lady could not be induced
even to see. But the other lover, whom the lady would not admit that
she loved,--as to whom she had declared that she could never love
him,--was held in very high favour. "I do think it was so noble not
to hit Tom again," she had said. Therefore, as Colonel Stubbs had a
sufficient income, there could be no reason why Ayala should not go
again to Stalham. So it was that Mrs. Dosett argued with herself, and
such was the judgment which she expressed to Ayala.

But there were difficulties. Ayala's little stock of cash was all
gone. She could not go to Stalham without money, and that money must
come out of her Uncle Reginald's pocket. She could not go to Stalham
without some expenditure, which, as she well knew, it would be hard
for him to bear. And then there was that terrible question of her
clothes! When that suggestion had been made of a further transfer of
the nieces a cheque had come from Sir Thomas. "If Ayala comes to us
she will want a few things," Sir Thomas had said in a note to Mrs.
Dosett. But Mr. Dosett had chosen that the cheque should be sent back
when it was decided that the further transfer should not take place.
The cheque had been sent back, and there had been an end of it. There
must be a morning dress, and there must be another hat, and there
must be boots. So much Mrs. Dosett acknowledged. Let them do what
they might with the old things, Mrs. Dosett acknowledged that so much
as that would at least be necessary. "We will both go to work," Mrs.
Dosett said, "and we will ask your uncle what he can do for us." I
think she felt that she had received some recompense when Ayala
kissed her.

It was after this that Ayala discussed the matter with herself. She
had longed to go once again to Stalham,--"dear Stalham," as she
called it to herself. And as she thought of the place she told
herself that she loved it because Lady Albury had been so kind to
her, and because of Nina, and because of the hunting, and because
of the general pleasantness and luxury of the big comfortable house.
And yes; there was something to be said, too, of the pleasantness of
Colonel Stubbs. Till he had made love to her he had been, perhaps,
of all these fine new friends the pleasantest. How joyous his voice
had sounded to her! How fraught with gratification to her had been
his bright ugly face! How well he had known how to talk to her, and
to make her talk, so that everything had been easy with her! How
thoroughly she remembered all his drollery on that first night at
the party in London,--and all his keen sayings at the theatre;--and
the way he had insisted that she should hunt! She thought of little
confidences she had had with him, almost as though he had been her
brother! And then he had destroyed it all by becoming her lover!

Was he to be her lover still; and if so would it be right that she
should go again to Stalham, knowing that she would meet him there?
Would it be right that she should consent to travel with him,--under
his special escort? Were she to do so would she not be forced to do
more,--if he should again ask her? It was so probable that he would
not ask her again! It was so strange that such a one should have
asked her!

But if he did ask her? Certainly he was not like that Angel of Light
whom she had never seen, but of whom the picture in her imagination
was as clearly drawn as though she were in his presence daily.
No;--there was a wave of hair and a shape of brow, and a peculiarity
of the eye, with a nose and mouth cut as sharp as chisel could cut
them out of marble, all of which graced the Angel but none of which
belonged to the Colonel. Nor were these the chief of the graces which
made the Angel so glorious to her. There was a depth of poetry about
him, deep and clear, pellucid as a lake among grassy banks, which
make all things of the world mean when compared to it. The Angel of
Light lived on the essence of all that was beautiful, altogether
unalloyed by the grossness of the earth. That such a one should come
in her way! Oh, no; she did not look for it! But, having formed such
an image of an angel for herself, would it be possible that she
should have anything less divine, less beautiful, less angelic?

Yes; there was something of the Angel about him; even about him,
Colonel Jonathan Stubbs. But he was so clearly an Angel of the earth,
whereas the other one, though living upon the earth, would be of the
air, and of the sky, of the clouds, and of the heaven, celestial.
Such a one she knew she had never seen. She partly dreamed that
she was dreaming. But if so had not her dream spoilt her for all
else? Oh, yes; indeed he was good, this red-haired ugly Stubbs. How
well had he behaved to Tom! How kind he had been to herself! How
thoughtful of her he was! If it were not a question of downright
love,--of giving herself up to him, body and soul, as it were,--how
pleasant would it be to dwell with him! For herself she would confess
that she loved earthly things,--such as jumping over the brook with
Larry Twentyman before her to show her the way. But for her love, it
was necessary that there should be an Angel of Light. Had she not
read that angels had come from heaven and taken in marriage the
daughters of men?

But was it right that she should go to Stalham, seeing that there
were two such strong reasons against it? She could not go without
costing her uncle money, which he could ill afford; and if she did go
would she--would she not confess that she had abandoned her objection
to the Colonel's suit. She, too, understood something of that which
had made itself so plain to her aunt. "Your uncle thinks it is right
that you should go," her aunt said to her in the drawing-room that
evening; "and we will set to work to-morrow and do the best that we
can to make you smart."

Her uncle was sitting in the room at the time, and Ayala felt herself
compelled to go to him and kiss him, and thank him for all his
kindness. "I am so sorry to cost you so much money, Uncle Reginald,"
she said.

"It will not be very much, my dear," he answered. "It is hard that
young people should not have some amusement. I only hope they will
make you happy at Stalham."

"They always make people happy at Stalham," said Ayala,
energetically.

"And now, Ayala," said her aunt, "you can write your letter to Lady
Albury before we go out to-morrow. Give her my compliments, and tell
her that as you are writing I need not trouble her."

Ayala, when she was alone in her bedroom, felt almost horrified as
she reflected that in this manner the question had been settled for
her. It had been impossible for her to reject her uncle's liberal
offer when it had been made. She could not find the courage at that
moment to say that she had thought better of it all, and would
decline the visit. Before she was well aware of what she was doing
she had assented, and had thus, as it were, thrown over all the
creations of her dream. And yet, as she declared herself, not even
Lady Albury could make her marry this man, merely because she was
at her house. She thought that, if she could only avoid that first
journey with Colonel Stubbs in the railway, still she might hold her
own. But, were she to travel with him of her own accord, would it not
be felt that she would be wilfully throwing herself in his way? Then
she made a little plan for herself, which she attempted to carry out
when writing her letter to Lady Albury on the following morning. What
was the nature of her plan, and how she effected it, will be seen in
the letter which she wrote;--


   Kingsbury Crescent, Thursday.

   DEAR LADY ALBURY,

   It is so very good of you to ask me again, and I shall
   be so happy to visit Stalham once more! I should have
   been very sorry not to see dear Nina before her return to
   Italy. I have written to congratulate her of course, and
   have told her what a happy girl I think she is. Though
   I have not seen Lord George I take all that from her
   description. As she is going to be his wife immediately,
   I don't at all see why he should not go back with her to
   Rome. As for being married by the Pope, I don't think he
   ever does anything so useful as that. I believe he sits
   all day and has his toe kissed. That is what they told me
   at Rome.

   I am very glad of what you tell me about the certain
   gentleman, because I don't think I could have been happy
   at Stalham if he had been there. It surprised me so much
   that I could not think that he meant it in earnest. We
   never hardly spoke to each other when we were in the house
   together.

   Perhaps, if you don't mind, and I shan't be in the way,


--here she began to display the little plan which she had made for
her own protection,--


   I will come down by an earlier train than you mention.
   There is one at 2.15, and then I need not be in the dark
   all the way. You need not say anything about this to
   Colonel Stubbs, because I do not at all mind travelling by
   myself.--Yours affectionately,

   AYALA.


This was her little plan. But she was very innocent when she thought
that Lady Albury would be blind to such a scheme as that. She got
three words from Lady Albury, saying that the 2.15 train would do
very well, and that the carriage would be at the station to meet her.
Lady Albury did not also say in her note that she had communicated
with Colonel Stubbs on the subject, and informed him that he must
come up from Aldershot earlier than he intended in order that he
might adapt himself to Ayala's whims. "Foolish little child," said
Lady Albury to herself! "As if that would make any difference!" It
was clear to Lady Albury that Ayala must surrender now that she was
coming to Stalham a second time, knowing that the Colonel would be
there.



CHAPTER XLVI.

AYALA GOES AGAIN TO STALHAM.


The correspondence between Lady Albury and Colonel Stubbs was close
and frequent, the friendship between them being very close. Ayala had
sometimes asked herself why Lady Albury should have been so kind and
affectionate to her, and had failed to find any sufficient answer.
She had been asked to Stalham at first,--so far as she knew,--because
she had been intimate at Rome with the Marchesa Baldoni. Hence had
apparently risen Lady Albury's great friendship, which had seemed
even to herself to be strange. But in truth the Marchesa had had very
little to do with it,--nor had Lady Albury become attached to Ayala
for Ayala's own sake. To Lady Albury Colonel Stubbs was,--as she
declared to herself very often,--"her own real brother." She had
married a man very rich, well known in the world, whom she loved very
well; and she was not a woman who in such a position would allow
herself to love another man. That there might certainly be no danger
of this kind she was continually impressing on her friend the
expediency of marriage,--if only he could find some one good enough
to marry. Then the Colonel had found Ayala. Lady Albury at the
beginning of all this was not inclined to think that Ayala was good
enough. Judging at first from what she heard and then from what she
saw, she had not been very favourable to Ayala. But when her friend
had insisted,--had declared that his happiness depended on it,--had
shown by various signs that he certainly would carry out his
intentions, if not at Stalham then elsewhere, Lady Albury had yielded
herself to him, and had become Ayala's great friend. If it was
written in the book that Ayala was to become Mrs. Stubbs then it
would certainly be necessary that she and Ayala should be friends.
And she herself had such confidence in Jonathan Stubbs as a man of
power, that she did not doubt of his success in any matter to which
he might choose to devote himself. The wonder had been that Ayala
should have rejected the chance when it had come in her way. The girl
had been foolish, allowing herself to be influenced by the man's red
hair and ill-sounding name,--not knowing a real pearl when she saw
it. So Lady Albury had thought,--having only been partially right
in so thinking,--not having gone to the depth of Ayala's power of
dreaming. She was very confident, however, that the girl, when once
again at Stalham, would yield herself easily; and therefore she went
to work, doing all that she could to smoothen love's road for her
friend Jonathan. Her woman's mind had seen all those difficulties
about clothes, and would have sent what was needful herself had
she not feared to offend both the Dosetts and Ayala. Therefore she
prepared a present which she could give to the girl at Stalham
without offence. If it was to be the girl's high fate to become Mrs.
Jonathan Stubbs, it would be proper that she should be adorned and
decked, and made beautiful among others of her class,--as would
become the wife of such a hero.

Of all that passed between her and Ayala word was sent down to
Aldershot. "The stupid little wretch will throw you out, I know,"
wrote Lady Albury, "by making you start two hours before you have
done your work. But you must let your work do itself for this
occasion. There is nothing like a little journey together to make
people understand each other."

The Colonel was clearly determined to have the little journey
together. Whatever might be the present military duties at Aldershot,
the duties of love were for the nonce in the Colonel's mind more
imperative. Though his Royal Highness had been coming that afternoon
to inspect all the troops, still he would have resolved so to have
arranged matters as to travel down with Ayala to Stalham. But not
only was he determined to do this, but he found it necessary also to
arrange a previous meeting with Lady Albury before that important
twentieth of the month. This he did by making his friend believe that
her presence in London for a few hours would be necessary for various
reasons. She came up as he desired, and there he met her at her
hotel in Jermyn Street. On his arrival here he felt that he was
almost making a fool of himself by the extent of his anxiety. In his
nervousness about this little girl he was almost as insane as poor
Tom Tringle, who, when she despised his love, was altogether unable
to control himself. "If I cannot persuade her at last, I shall be
knocking somebody over the head, as he did." It was thus he was
talking to himself as he got out of the cab at the door of the hotel.

"And now, Jonathan," said Lady Albury, "what can there possibly be to
justify you in giving me all this trouble?"

"You know you had to come up about that cook's character."

"I know that I have given that as a reason to Sir Harry; but I know
also that I should have gone without a cook for a twelvemonth had you
not summoned me."

"The truth is I could not get down to Stalham and back without losing
an additional day, which I cannot possibly spare. With you it does
not very much matter how many days you spare."

"Nor how much money I spend, nor how much labour I take, so that I
obey all the commands of Colonel Jonathan Stubbs! What on earth is
there that I can say or do for you more?"

"There are one or two things," said he, "that I want you to
understand. In the first place, I am quite in earnest about this."

"Don't I know that you're in earnest?"

"But perhaps you do not understand the full extent of my earnestness.
If she were to refuse me ultimately I should go away."

"Go away! Go where?"

"Oh; that I have not at all thought of;--probably to India, as I
might manage to get a regiment there. But in truth it would matter
very little."

"You are talking like a goose."

"That is very likely, because in this matter I think and feel like
a goose. It is not a great thing in a man to be turned out of his
course by some undefined feeling which he has as to a young woman.
But the thing has occurred before now, and will occur again, in my
case, if I am thrown over."

"What on earth is there about the girl?" asked Lady Albury. "There
is that precious brother-in-law of ours going to hang himself
incontinently because she will not look at him. And that unfortunate
friend of yours, Tom Tringle, is, if possible, worse than Ben Batsby
or yourself."

"If two other gentlemen are in the same condition it only makes it
the less singular that I should be the third. At any rate, I am the
third."

"You do not mean to liken yourself to them?"

"Indeed I do. As to our connection with Miss Dormer, I can see no
difference. We are all in love with her, and she has refused us
all. It matters little whether a man's ugliness or his rings or his
natural stupidity may have brought about this result."

"You are very modest, Jonathan."

"I always was, only you never could see it. I am modest in this
matter; but not for that reason the less persistent in doing the
best I can for myself. My object now in seeing you is to let you
understand that it is--well, not life and death, because she will
not suffice either to kill me or to keep me alive,--but one of those
matters which, in a man's career, are almost as important to him as
life and death. She was very decided in her refusal."

"So is every girl when a first offer is made to her. How is any girl
so to arrange her thoughts at a moment's notice as to accept a man
off-hand?"

"Girls do do so."

"Very rarely, I think; and when they do they are hardly worth
having," said Lady Albury, laying down the law on the matter with
great precision. "If a girl accept a man all at once when she has
had, as it were, no preparation for such a proposal, she must always
surely be in a state of great readiness for matrimonial projects.
When there has been a prolonged period of spooning then of course it
is quite a different thing. The whole thing has in fact been arranged
before the important word has been spoken."

"What a professor in the art you are!" said he.

"The odd thing is, that such a one as you should be so ignorant.
Can't you understand that she would not come to Stalham if her mind
were made up against you? I said nothing of you as a lover, but I
took care to let her know that you were coming. You are very ready
to put yourself in the same boat with poor Ben Batsby or that other
unfortunate wretch. Would she, do you think, have consented to come
had she known that Ben would have been there, or your friend Tom
Tringle?"

There was much more of it, but the upshot was,--as the Colonel had
intended that it should be,--that Lady Albury was made to understand
that Ayala's good-will was essential to his happiness. "Of course
I will do my best," she said, as he parted from her. "Though I am
not quite as much in love with her myself as you are, yet I will
do my best." Then when she was left alone, and was prosecuting her
inquiries about the new cook, and travelling back in the afternoon
to Stalham, she again considered how wonderful a thing it was such a
girl as Ayala, so small, apparently so unimportant, so childish in
her manner, with so little to say for herself, should become a person
of such terrible importance.

The twentieth came, and at ten minutes before two Ayala was at the
Paddington Railway Station. The train, which was to start at 2.15,
had been chosen by herself so that she might avoid the Colonel, and
there she was, with her aunt, waiting for it. Mrs. Dosett had thought
it to be her duty to see her off, and had come with her in the cab.
There were the two boxes laden with her wardrobe, such as it was.
Both she and her aunt had worked hard; for though,--as she had
declared to herself,--there was no special reason for it, still she
had wished to look her best. As she saw the boxes put into the van,
and had told herself how much shabbier they were than the boxes of
other young ladies who went visiting to such houses as Stalham,
she rejoiced that Colonel Stubbs was not there to see them. And
she considered whether it was possible that Colonel Stubbs should
recognise a dress which she had worn at Stalham before, which was
now to appear in a quite altered shape. She wondered also whether it
would be possible that Colonel Stubbs should know how poor she was.
As she was thinking of all this there was Colonel Stubbs on the
platform.

She had never doubted but that little plan would be efficacious. Nor
had her aunt doubted,--who had seen through the plan, though not a
word had been spoken between them on the subject. Mrs. Dosett had
considered it to be impossible that a Colonel engaged on duties of
importance at Aldershot should run away from them to wait upon a
child like Ayala,--even though he had professed himself to be in love
with the child. She had never seen the Colonel, and on this occasion
did not expect to see him. But there he was, all suddenly, shaking
hands with Ayala.

"My aunt, Mrs. Dosett," whispered Ayala. Then the Colonel began to
talk to the elder lady as though the younger lady were a person of
very much less importance. Yes; he had run up from Aldershot a little
earlier than he had intended. There had been nothing particular to
keep him down at Aldershot. It had always been his intention to go to
Stalham on this day, and was glad of the accident which was bringing
Miss Dormer there just at the same time. He spent a good deal of his
time at Stalham because Sir Harry and he, who were in truth cousins,
were as intimate as brothers. He always lived at Stalham when he
could get away from duty and was not in London. Stalham was a very
nice place certainly; one of the most comfortable houses he knew in
England. So he went on till he almost made Mrs. Dosett believe, and
did make Ayala believe, that his visit to Stalham had nothing to
do with herself. And yet Mrs. Dosett knew that the offer had been
made. Ayala bethought herself that she did not care so much for the
re-manufactured frock after all, nor yet for the shabby appearance
of the boxes. The real Angel of Light would not care for her frock
nor for her boxes; and certainly would not be indifferent after the
fashion of,--of,--! Then she began to reflect that she was making a
fool of herself.

She was put into the carriage, Mr. Dosett having luckily decided
against the use of the second class. Going to such a house as Stalham
Ayala ought, said Mr. Dosett, to go as any other lady would. Had it
been himself or his wife it would have been very different; but for
Ayala, on such an occasion as this, he would be extravagant. Ayala
was therefore put into her seat while the Colonel stood at the door
outside, still talking to Mrs. Dosett. "I don't think she will be
let to come away at the end of a week," said the Colonel. "Sir
Harry doesn't like people to come away very soon." Ayala heard this,
and thought that she remembered that Sir Harry himself was very
indifferent as to the coming and going of the visitors. "They go up
to London about the end of March," said the Colonel, "and if Miss
Dormer were to return about a week before it would do very well."

"Oh, no," said Ayala, putting her head out of the window; "I couldn't
think of staying so long as that." Then the last final bustle was
made by the guard; the Colonel got in, the door was shut, and Mrs.
Dosett, standing on the platform, nodded her head for the last time.

There were only four persons in the carriage. In the opposite corner
there were two old persons, probably a husband and wife, who had been
very careful as to a foot-warming apparatus, and were muffled up very
closely in woollen and furs. "If you don't mind shutting the door,
Sir," said the old gentleman, rather testily, "because my wife has a
pain in her face." The door absolutely was shut when the words were
spoken, but the Colonel made some sign of closing all the apertures.
But there was a ventilator above, which the old lady spied. "If you
don't mind shutting that hole up there, Sir, because my husband is
very bad with neuralgia." The Colonel at once got up and found that
the ventilator was fast closed, so as not to admit a breath of air.
"There are draughts come in everywhere," said the old gentleman. "The
Company ought to be prosecuted." "I believe the more people they kill
the better they like it," said the old lady. Then the Colonel looked
at Ayala with a very grave face, with no hint at a smile, with a face
which must have gratified even the old lady and gentleman. But Ayala
understood the face, and could not refrain from a little laugh. She
laughed only with her eyes,--but the Colonel saw it.

"The weather has been very severe all day," said the Colonel, in a
severe voice.

Ayala protested that she had not found it cold at all. "Then, Miss, I
think you must be made of granite," said the old lady. "I hope you'll
remember that other people are not so fortunate." Ayala again smiled,
and the Colonel made another effort as though to prevent any possible
breath of air from making its way into the interior of the vehicle.

There was silence among them for some minutes, and then Ayala was
quite surprised by the tone in which her friend addressed her. "What
an ill-natured girl you must be," said he, "to have put me to such a
terrible amount of trouble all on purpose."

"I didn't," said Ayala.

"Yes, you did. Why wouldn't you come down by the four o'clock train
as I told you? Now I've left everything undone, and I shouldn't
wonder if I get into such a row at the Horse Guards that I shall
never hear the end of it. And now you are not a bit grateful."

"Yes, I am grateful; but I didn't want you to come at all," she said.

"Of course I should come. I didn't think you were so perverse."

"I'm not perverse, Colonel Stubbs."

"When young persons are perverse, it is my opinion they oughtn't to
be encouraged," said the old lady from her corner.

"My dear, you know nothing about it," said the old gentleman.

"Yes, I do," said the old lady. "I know all about it. Whatever she
does a young lady ought not to be perverse. I do hate perversity. I
am sure that hole up there must be open, Sir, for the wind does come
in so powerful." Colonel Stubbs again jumped up and poked at the
ventilator.

In the meantime Ayala was laughing so violently that she could with
difficulty prevent herself from making a noise, which, she feared,
would bring down increased wrath upon her from the old lady. That
feigned scolding from the Colonel at once brought back upon her the
feeling of sudden and pleasant intimacy which she had felt when he
had first come and ordered her to dance with him at the ball in
London. It was once again with her as though she knew this man almost
more intimately, and certainly more pleasantly, than any of her other
acquaintances. Whatever he said she could answer him now, and pretend
to scold him, and have her joke with him as though no offer had ever
been made. She could have told him now all the story of that turned
dress, if that subject had come naturally to her, or have laughed
with him at her own old boxes, and confided to him any other of the
troubles of her poverty, as if they were jokes which she could share
at any rate with him. Then he spoke again. "I do abominate a perverse
young woman," he said. Upon this Ayala could no longer constrain
herself, but burst into loud laughter.

After a while the two old people became quite familiar, and there
arose a contest, in which the lady took part with the Colonel, and
the old man protected Ayala. The Colonel spoke as though he were
quite in earnest, and went on to declare that the young ladies of
the present time were allowed far too much licence. "They never have
their own bread to earn," he said, "and they ought to make themselves
agreeable to other people who have more to do."

"I quite agree with you, Sir," said the old lady. "They should run
about and be handy. I like to see a girl that can jump about the
house and make herself useful."

"Young ladies ought to be young ladies," said the old man, putting
his mouth for a moment up out of his comforter.

"And can't a young lady be useful and yet be a young lady?" said the
Colonel.

"It is her special province to be ornamental," said the old
gentleman. "I like to see young ladies ornamental. I don't think
young ladies ought to be scolded, even if they are a little
fractious."

"I quite agree with you, Sir," said Ayala. And so the fight went on
with sundry breaks and changes in the matter under discussion till
the station for Stalham had been reached. The old gentleman, indeed,
seemed to lose his voice before the journey was half over, but
the lady persevered, so that she and the Colonel became such fast
friends that she insisted on shaking hands with him when he left the
carriage.

"How could you be so wicked as to go on hoaxing her like that?" said
Ayala, as soon as they were on the platform.

"There was no hoax at all. I was quite in earnest. Was not every word
true that I said? Now come and get into the carriage quickly, or you
will be as bad as the old gentleman himself."

Ayala did get into the carriage quickly, where she found Nina.

The two girls were full of conversation as they went to Stalham; but
through it all Ayala could not refrain from thinking how the Jonathan
Stubbs of to-day had been exactly like that Jonathan Stubbs she had
first known,--and how very unlike a lover.



CHAPTER XLVII.

CAPTAIN BATSBY AT MERLE PARK.


When Ayala went to Stalham Captain Batsby went to Merle Park. They
had both been invited by Lady Tringle, and when the letter was
written to Ayala she was assured that Tom should not be there. At
that time Tom's last encounter with the police had not as yet become
known to the Tringles, and the necessity of keeping Tom at the house
in the country was not manifest. The idea had been that Captain
Batsby should have an opportunity of explaining himself to Ayala. The
Captain came; but, as to Ayala, Mrs. Dosett sent word to say that she
had been invited to stay some days just at that time with her friend
Lady Albury at Stalham.

What to do with Captain Batsby had been felt to be a difficulty by
Lady Albury. It was his habit to come to Stalham some time in March
and there finish the hunting season. It might be hoped that Ayala's
little affair might be arranged early in March, and then, whether he
came or whether he did not, it would be the same to Ayala. But the
Captain himself would be grievously irate when he should hear the
trick which would have been played upon him. Lady Albury had already
desired him not to come till after the first week in March, having
fabricated an excuse. She had been bound to keep the coast clear both
for Ayala's sake and the Colonel's; but she knew that when her trick
should be discovered there would be unmeasured wrath. "Why the deuce
don't you let the two men come, and then the best man may win!"
said Sir Harry, who did not doubt but that, in such a case, the
Colonel would prove to be the best man. Here too there was another
difficulty. When Lady Albury attempted to explain that Ayala would
not come unless she were told that she would not meet the Captain,
Sir Harry declared that there should be no such favour. "Who the
deuce is this little girl," he asked, "that everybody should be
knocked about in this way for her?" Lady Albury was able to pacify
the husband, but she feared that any pacifying of the Captain would
be impossible. There would be a family quarrel;--but even that must
be endured for the Colonel's sake.

In the meantime the Captain was kept in absolute ignorance of Ayala's
movements, and went down to Merle Park hoping to meet her there.
He must have been very much in love, for Merle Park was by no
means a spot well adapted for hunting. Hounds there were in the
neighbourhood, but he turned up his nose at the offer when Sir Thomas
suggested that he might bring down a hunter. Captain Batsby, when he
went on hunting exhibitions, never stirred without five horses, and
always confined his operations to six or seven favoured counties. But
Ayala just at present was more to him than hunting, and therefore,
though it was now the end of February, he went to Merle Park.

"It was all Sir Thomas's doing." It was thus that Lady Tringle
endeavoured to console herself when discussing the matter with her
daughters. The Honourable Septimus Traffick had now gone up to
London, and was inhabiting a single room in the neighbourhood of the
House. Augusta was still at Merle Park, much to the disgust of her
father. He did not like to tell her to be gone; and would indeed have
been glad enough of her presence had it not been embittered by the
feeling that he was being "done." But there she remained, and in
discussing the affairs of the Captain with her mother and Gertrude
was altogether averse to the suggested marriage for Ayala. To her
thinking Ayala was not entitled to a husband at all. Augusta had
never given way in the affair of Tom;--had declared her conviction
that Stubbs had never been in earnest; and was of opinion that
Captain Batsby would be much better off at Merle Park without Ayala
than he would have been in that young lady's presence. When he
arrived nothing was said to him at once about Ayala. Gertrude,
who recovered from the great sickness occasioned by Mr. Houston's
misconduct, though the recovery was intended only to be temporary,
made herself as pleasant as possible. Captain Batsby was made
welcome, and remained three days before he sought an opportunity of
asking a question about Ayala.

During this time he found Gertrude to be a very agreeable companion,
but he made Mrs. Traffick his first confidant. "Well, you know,
Captain Batsby, to tell you the truth, we are not very fond of our
cousin."

"Sir Thomas told me she was to be here."

"So we know. My father is perhaps a little mistaken about Ayala."

"Was she not asked?" demanded Captain Batsby, beginning to think that
he had been betrayed.

"Oh, yes; she was asked. She has been asked very often, because she
is mamma's niece, and did live with us once for a short time. But she
did not come. In fact she won't go anywhere, unless--"

"Unless what?"

"You know Colonel Stubbs?"

"Jonathan Stubbs. Oh dear, yes; very intimately. He is a sort of
connection of mine. He is my half-brother's second cousin by the
father's side."

"Oh indeed! Does that make him very near?"

"Not at all. I don't like him, if you mean that. He always takes
everything upon himself down at Stalham."

"What we hear is that Ayala is always running after him."

"Ayala running after Jonathan?"

"Haven't you heard of that?" asked Mrs. Traffick. "Why;--she is at
Stalham with the Alburys this moment, and I do not doubt that Colonel
Stubbs is there also. She would not have gone had she not been sure
of meeting him."

This disturbed the Captain so violently that for two or three hours
he kept himself apart, not knowing what to do with himself or where
to betake himself. Could this be true about Jonathan Stubbs? There
had been moments of deep jealousy down at Stalham; but then he had
recovered from that, having assured himself that he was wrong. It
had been Larry Twentyman and not Jonathan Stubbs who had led the two
girls over the brook,--into which Stubbs had simply fallen, making
himself an object of pity. But now again the Captain believed it all.
It was on this account, then, that his half-sister-in-law, Rosaline,
had desired him to stay away from Stalham for the present! He knew
well how high in favour with Lady Albury was that traitor Stubbs;
how it was by her favour that Stubbs, who was no more than a second
cousin, was allowed to do just what he pleased in the stables, while
Sir Harry himself, the master of the hounds, confined himself to
the kennel! He was determined at first to leave Merle Park and
start instantly for Stalham, and had sent for his servant to begin
the packing of his things; but as he thought of it more maturely
he considered that his arrival at Stalham would be very painful
to himself as well as to others. For the others he did not much
care, but he saw clearly that the pain to himself would be very
disagreeable. No one at Stalham would be glad to see him. Sir Harry
would be disturbed, and the other three persons with whom he was
concerned,--Lady Albury, Stubbs, and Ayala,--would be banded together
in hostility against him. What chance would he have under such
circumstances? Therefore he determined that he would stay at Merle
Park yet a little longer.

And, after all, was Ayala worth the trouble which he had proposed to
take for her? How much had he offered her, how scornfully had his
offer been received, and how little had she to give him in return!
And now he had been told that she was always running after Jonathan
Stubbs! Could it be worth his while to run after a girl who was
always running after Jonathan Stubbs? Was he not much higher in the
world than Jonathan Stubbs, seeing that he had, at any rate, double
Stubbs's income? Stubbs was a red-haired, ugly, impudent fellow, who
made his way wherever he went simply by "cheek"! Upon reflection, he
found that it would be quite beneath him to run after any girl who
could so demean herself as to run after Jonathan Stubbs. Therefore he
came down to dinner on that evening with all his smiles, and said not
a word about Ayala to Sir Thomas, who had just returned from London.

"Is he very much provoked?" Sir Thomas asked his wife that evening.

"Provoked about what?"

"He was expressly told that he would meet Ayala here."

"He seems to be making himself very comfortable, and hasn't said a
word to me about Ayala. I am sick of Ayala. Poor Tom is going to be
really ill." Then Sir Thomas frowned, and said nothing more on that
occasion.

Tom was certainly in an uncomfortable position, and never left his
bed till after noon. Then he would mope about the place, moping even
worse than he did before, and would spend the evening all alone in
the housekeeper's room, with a pipe in his mouth, which he seemed
hardly able to take the trouble to keep alight. There were three
or four other guests in the house, including two Honourable Miss
Trafficks, and a couple of young men out of the City, whom Lady
Tringle hoped might act as antidotes to Houston and Hamel. But with
none of them would Tom associate. With Captain Batsby he did form
some little intimacy; driven to it, no doubt, by a community of
interest. "I believe you were acquainted with my cousin, Miss Dormer,
at Stalham?" asked Tom. At the moment the two were sitting over the
fire in the housekeeper's room, and Captain Batsby was smoking a
cigar, while Tom was sucking an empty pipe.

"Oh, yes," said Captain Batsby, pricking up his ears, "I saw a good
deal of her."

"A wonderful creature!" ejaculated Tom.

"Yes, indeed!"

"For a real romantic style of beauty, I don't suppose that the world
ever saw her like before. Did you?"

"Are you one among your cousin's admirers?" demanded the Captain.

"Am I?" asked Tom, surprised that there should be anybody who had
not as yet heard his tragic story. "Am I one of her admirers?
Why,--rather! Haven't you heard about me and Stubbs?"

"No, indeed."

"I thought that everybody had heard that. I challenged him, you
know."

"To fight a duel?"

"Yes; to fight a duel. I sent my friend Faddle down with a letter to
Stalham, but it was of no use. Why should a man fight a duel when he
has got such a girl as Ayala to love him?"

"That is quite true, then?"

"I fear so! I fear so! Oh, yes; it is too true. Then you know;"--and
as he came to this portion of his story he jumped up from his chair
and frowned fiercely;--"then, you know, I met him under the portico
of the Haymarket, and struck him."

"Oh,--was that you?"

"Indeed it was."

"And he did not do anything to you?"

"He behaved like a hero," said Tom. "I do think that he behaved like
a hero,--though of course I hate him." The bitterness of expression
was here very great. "He wouldn't let them lock me up. Though, in
the matter of that, I should have been best pleased if they would
have locked me up for ever, and kept me from the sight of the world.
Admire that girl, Captain Batsby! I don't think that I ever heard of
a man who loved a girl as I love her. I do not hesitate to say that I
continue to walk the world,--in the way of not committing suicide, I
mean,--simply because there is still a possibility while she has not
as yet stood at the hymeneal altar with another man. I would have
shot Stubbs willingly, though I knew I was to be tried for it at the
Old Bailey,--and hung! I would have done it willingly,--willingly; or
any other man." After that Captain Batsby thought it might be prudent
not to say anything especial as to his own love.

And how foolish would it be for a man like himself, with a good
fortune of his own, to marry any girl who had not a sixpence!
The Captain was led into this vain thought by the great civility
displayed to him by the ladies of the house. With Lucy, whom he knew
to be Ayala's sister, he had not prospered very well. It came to
his ears that she was out of favour with her aunt, and he therefore
meddled with her but little. The Tringle ladies, however, were very
kind to him,--so kind that he was tempted to think less than ever of
one who had been so little courteous to him as Ayala. Mrs. Traffick
was of course a married woman, and it amounted to nothing. But
Gertrude--! All the world knew that Septimus Traffick without a
shilling of his own had become the happy possessor of a very large
sum of money. He, Batsby, had more to recommend him than Traffick!
Why should not he also become a happy possessor? He went away for a
week's hunting into Northamptonshire, and then, at Lady Tringle's
request, came back to Merle Park.

At this time Miss Tringle had quite recovered her health. She had
dropped all immediate speech as to Mr. Houston. Had she not been
provoked, she would have allowed all that to drop into oblivion. But
a married sister may take liberties. "You are well rid of him, I
think," said Augusta. Gertrude heaved a deep sigh. She did not wish
to acknowledge herself to be rid of him until another string were
well fitted to her bow. "After all, a man with nothing to do in the
world, with no profession, no occupation, with no money--"

"Mr. Traffick had not got very much money of his own."

"He has a seat in Parliament, which is very much more than fortune,
and will undoubtedly be in power when his party comes in. And he is a
man of birth. But Frank Houston had nothing to recommend him."

"Birth!" said Gertrude, turning up her nose.

"The Queen, who is the fountain of honour, made his father a
nobleman, and that constitutes birth." This the married sister
said with stern severity of manner, and perfect reliance on the
constitutional privileges of her Sovereign.

"I don't know that we need talk about it," said Gertrude.

"Not at all. Mr. Houston has behaved very badly, and I suppose there
is an end of him as far as this house is concerned. Captain Batsby
seems to me to be a very nice young man, and I suppose he has got
money. A man should certainly have got money,--or an occupation."

"He has got both," said Gertrude, which, however, was not true, as
Captain Batsby had left the service.


      *      *      *      *      *      *


"Have you forgotten my cousin so soon?" Gertrude asked one day, as
she was walking with the happy Captain in the park. The Captain, no
doubt, had been saying soft things to her.

"Do you throw that in my teeth as an offence?"

"Inconstancy in men is generally considered as an offence," said
Gertrude. What it might be in women she did not just then declare.

"After all I have heard of your cousin since I have been here, I
should hardly have thought that it would be reckoned so in this
case."

"You have heard nothing against her from me."

"I am told that she has treated your brother very badly."

"Poor Tom!"

"And that she is flirting with a man I particularly dislike."

"I suppose she does make herself rather peculiar with that Colonel
Stubbs."

"And, after all, only think how little I saw of her! She is pretty."

"So some people think. I never saw it myself," said Gertrude. "We
always thought her a mass of affectation. We had to turn her out of
the house once you know. She was living here, and then it was that
her sister had to come in her place. It is not their fault that they
have got nothing;--poor girls! They are mamma's nieces, and so papa
always has one of them." After that forgiveness was accorded to the
Captain on account of his fickle conduct, and Gertrude consented to
accept of his services in the guise of a lover. That this was so Mrs.
Traffick was well aware. Nor was Lady Tringle very much in the dark.
Frank Houston was to be considered as good as gone, and if so it
would be well that her daughter should have another string. She
was tired of the troubles of the girls around her, and thought
that as Captain Batsby was supposed to have an income he would do
as a son-in-law. But she had not hitherto been consulted by the
young people, who felt among themselves that there still might be
a difficulty. The difficulty lay with Sir Thomas. Sir Thomas had
brought Captain Batsby there to Merle Park as Ayala's lover, and as
he had been very little at home was unaware of the changes which
had taken place. And then Gertrude was still supposed to be engaged
to Mr. Houston, although this lover had been so violently rejected
by himself. The ladies felt that, as he was made of sterner stuff
than they, so would it be more difficult to reconcile him to the
alterations which were now proposed in the family arrangements. Who
was to bell the cat? "Let him go to papa in the usual way, and ask
his leave," said Mrs. Traffick.

"I did suggest that," said Gertrude, "but he seems not to like to do
it quite yet."

"Is he such a coward as that?"

"I do not know that he is more a coward than anybody else. I remember
when Septimus was quite afraid to go near papa. But then Benjamin has
got money of his own, which does make a difference."

"It's quite untrue saying that Septimus was ever afraid of papa. Of
course he knows his position as a Member of Parliament too well for
that. I suppose the truth is, it's about Ayala."

"It is a little odd about Ayala," said Gertrude, resuming her
confidential tone. "It is so hard to make papa understand about these
kind of things. I declare I believe he thinks that I never ought to
speak to another man because of that scoundrel Frank Houston."

All this was in truth so strange to Sir Thomas that he could not
understand any of the existing perplexities. Why did Captain Batsby
remain as a guest at Merle Park? He had no special dislike to the
man, and when Lady Tringle had told him that she had asked the
Captain to prolong his visit he had made no objection. But why should
the man remain there, knowing as he did now that there was no chance
of Ayala's coming to Merle Park? At last, on a certain Saturday
evening, he did make inquiry on the subject. "What on earth is that
man staying here for?" he said to his wife.

"I think he likes the place."

"Perhaps he likes the place as well as Septimus Traffick, and means
to live here always!" Such allusions as these were constant with Sir
Thomas, and were always received by Lady Tringle with dismay and
grief. "When does he mean to go away?" asked Sir Thomas, gruffly.

Lady Tringle had felt that the time had come in which some word
should be said as to the Captain's intentions; but she feared to
say it. She dreaded to make the clear explanation to her husband.
"Perhaps," said she, "he is becoming fond of some of the young
ladies."

"Young ladies! What young ladies? Do you mean Lucy?"

"Oh dear no!" said Lady Tringle.

"Then what the deuce do you mean? He came here after Ayala, because
I wanted to have all that nonsense settled about Tom. Ayala is not
here, nor likely to be here; and I don't know why he should stay here
philandering away his time. I hate men in a country-house who are
thorough idlers. You had better take an opportunity of letting him
know that he has been here long enough."

All this was repeated by Lady Tringle to Mrs. Traffick, and by Mrs.
Traffick to Gertrude. Then they felt that this was no time for
Captain Batsby to produce himself to Sir Thomas as a suitor for his
youngest daughter.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

THE JOURNEY TO OSTEND.


"No doubt it will be very hard to make papa understand." This was
said by Gertrude to her new lover a few days after that order had
been given that the lover should be sent away from Merle Park. The
purport of the order in all its severity had not been conveyed
to Captain Batsby. The ladies had felt,--Gertrude had felt very
strongly,--that were he informed that the master of the house
demanded his absence he would take himself off at once. But still
something had to be said,--and something done. Captain Batsby was,
just at present, in a matrimonial frame of mind. He had come to Merle
Park to look for a wife, and, as he had missed one, was, in his
present mood, inclined to take another. But there was no knowing
how long this might last. Augusta had hinted that "something must
be done, either with papa's consent or without it." Then there had
come the conversation in which Gertrude acknowledged the existing
difficulty. "Papa, too probably, would not consent quite at once."

"He must think it very odd that I am staying here," said the Captain.

"Of course it is odd. If you could go to him and tell him
everything!" But the Captain, looking at the matter all round,
thought that he could not go to Sir Thomas and tell him anything.
Then she began gently to introduce the respectable clergyman at
Ostend. It was not necessary that she should refer at length to the
circumstances under which she had studied the subject, but she gave
Captain Batsby to understand that it was one as to which she had
picked up a good deal of information.

But the money! "If Sir Thomas were made really angry, the
consequences would be disastrous," said the Captain. But Gertrude was
of a different way of thinking. Her father was, no doubt, a man who
could be very imperious, and would insist upon having his own way
as long as his own way was profitable to him. But he was a man who
always forgave.

"If you mean about the money," said Gertrude, "I am quite sure
that it would all come right." He did mean about the money, and
was evidently uneasy in his mind when the suggested step was made
manifest to him. Gertrude was astonished to see how long and
melancholy his face could become. "Papa was never unkind about money
in his life," said Gertrude. "He could not endure to have any of us
poor."

On the next Saturday Sir Thomas again came down, and still found his
guest at Merle Park. We are now a little in advance of our special
story, which is, or ought to be, devoted to Ayala. But, with the
affairs of so many lovers and their loves, it is almost impossible to
make the chronicle run at equal periods throughout. It was now more
than three weeks since Ayala went to Stalham, and Lady Albury had
written to the Captain confessing something of her sin, and begging
to be forgiven. This she had done in her anxiety to keep the Captain
away. He had not answered his sister-in-law's letter, but, in his
present frame of mind, was not at all anxious to finish up the
hunting-season at Stalham. Sir Thomas, on his arrival, was very full
of Tom's projected tour. He had arranged everything,--except in
regard to Tom's own assent. He had written to New York, and had
received back a reply from his correspondent assuring him that Tom
should be made most heartily welcome. It might be that Tom's fighting
propensities had not been made known to the people of New York. Sir
Thomas had taken a berth on board of one of the Cunard boats, and had
even gone so far as to ask the Captain to come down for a day or two
to Merle Park. He was so much employed with Tom that he could hardly
afford time and consideration to Captain Batsby and his affairs.
Nevertheless he did ask a question, and received an answer with which
he seemed to be satisfied. "What on earth is that man staying here
for?" he said to his wife.

"He is going on Friday," replied Lady Tringle, doubtingly;--almost
as though she thought that she would be subjected to further anger
because of this delay. But Sir Thomas dropped the subject, and passed
on to some matter affecting Tom's outfit. Lady Tringle was very
glad to change the subject, and promised that everything should be
supplied befitting the hottest and coldest climates on the earth's
surface.

"She sails on the nineteenth of April," said Sir Thomas to his son.

"I don't think I could go as soon as that, Sir," replied Tom,
whining.

"Why not? There are more than three weeks yet, and your mother will
have everything ready for you. What on earth is there to hinder you?"

"I don't think I could go--not on the nineteenth of April."

"Well then, you must. I have taken your place, and Firkin expects you
at New York. They'll do everything for you there, and you'll find
quite a new life. I should have thought you'd have been delighted to
get away from your wretched condition here."

"It is wretched," said Tom; "but I'd rather not go quite so soon."

"Why not?"

"Well, then--"

"What is it, Tom? It makes me unhappy when I see you such a fool."

"I am a fool! I know I am a fool!"

"Then make a new start of it. Cut and run, and begin the world again.
You're young enough to forget all this."

"So I would, only--"

"Only what?"

"I suppose she is engaged to that man Stubbs! If I knew it for
certain then I would go. If I went before, I should only come back as
soon as I got to New York. If they were once married and it were all
done with I think I could make a new start."

In answer to this his father told him that he must go on the
nineteenth of April, whether Ayala were engaged or disengaged,
married or unmarried;--that his outfit would be bought, his cabin
would be ready, circular notes for his use would be prepared,
and everything would be arranged to make his prolonged tour as
comfortable as possible; but that if he did not start on that day
all the Tringle houses would be closed against him, and he would be
turned penniless out into the world. "You'll have to learn that I'm
in earnest," said Sir Thomas, as he turned his back and walked away.
Tom took himself off to reflect whether it would not be a grand thing
to be turned penniless out into the world,--and all for love!

By the early train on Monday Sir Thomas returned to London, having
taken little or no heed of Captain Batsby during his late visit to
the country. Even at Merle Park Captain Batsby's presence was less
important than it would otherwise have been to Lady Tringle and Mrs.
Traffick, because of the serious nature of Sir Thomas's decision as
to his son. Lady Tringle perhaps suspected something. Mrs. Traffick,
no doubt, had her own ideas as to her sister's position; but nothing
was said and nothing was done. Both on the Wednesday and on the
Thursday Lady Tringle went up to town to give the required orders on
Tom's behalf. On the Thursday her elder daughter accompanied her, and
returned with her in the evening. On their arrival they learnt that
neither Captain Batsby nor Miss Gertrude had been seen since ten
o'clock; that almost immediately after Lady Tringle's departure in
the morning Captain Batsby had caused all his luggage to be sent into
Hastings; and that it had since appeared that a considerable number
of Miss Gertrude's things were missing. There could be no doubt that
she had caused them to be packed up with the Captain's luggage. "They
have gone to Ostend, mamma," said Augusta. "I was sure of it, because
I've heard Gertrude say that people can always get themselves married
at Ostend. There is a clergyman there on purpose to do it."

It was at this time past seven o'clock, and Lady Tringle when she
heard the news was so astounded that she did not at first know how
to act. It was not possible for her to reach Dover that night before
the night-boat for Ostend should have started,--even could she have
done any good by going there. Tom was in such a condition that she
hardly dared to trust him; but it was settled at last that she should
telegraph at once to Sir Thomas, in Lombard Street, and that Tom
should travel up to London by the night train.

On the following morning Lady Tringle received a letter from
Gertrude, posted by that young lady at Dover as she passed through on
her road to Ostend. It was as follows;--


   DEAR MAMMA,

   You will be surprised on your return from London to
   find that we have gone. After much thinking about it we
   determined it would be best, because we had quite made
   up our mind _not to be kept separated_. Ben was so eager
   about it that I was obliged to yield. We were afraid that
   if we asked papa at once he would not have given his
   consent. Pray give him my most dutiful love, and tell him
   that I am sure he will never have occasion to be ashamed
   of his son-in-law. I don't suppose he knows, but it is
   the fact that Captain Batsby has about three thousand a
   year of his own. It is very different from having nothing,
   like that wretch Frank Houston, or, for that matter, Mr.
   Traffick. Ben was quite in a position to ask papa, but
   things had happened which made us both feel that papa
   would not like it just at present. We mean to be married
   at Ostend, and then will come back as soon as you and papa
   say that you will receive us. In the meantime I wish you
   would send some of my clothes after me. Of course I had to
   come away with very little luggage, because I was obliged
   to have my things mixed up with Ben's. I did not dare to
   have my boxes brought down by the servants. Could you send
   me the green silk in which I went to church the last two
   Sundays, and my pink gauze, and the grey poplin? Please
   send two or three flannel petticoats, as I could not put
   them among his things, and as many cuffs and collars as
   you can cram in. I suppose I can get boots at Ostend,
   but I should like to have the hat with the little brown
   feather. There is my silk jacket with the fur trimming;
   I should like to have that. I suppose I shall have to be
   married without any regular dress, but I am sure papa will
   make up my trousseau to me afterwards. I lent a little
   lace fichu to Augusta; tell her that I shall so like to
   have it.

   Give papa my best love, and Augusta, and poor Tom, and
   accept the same from your affectionate daughter,

   GERTRUDE.

   I suppose I must not add the other name yet.


Sir Thomas did not receive the telegram till eleven o'clock, when he
returned from dinner, and could do nothing that night. On the next
morning he was disturbed soon after five o'clock by Tom, who had come
on the same errand. "Idiots!" exclaimed Sir Thomas, "What on earth
can they have gone to Ostend for? And what can you do by coming up?"

"My mother thought that I might follow them to Ostend."

"They wouldn't care for you. No one will care for you until you have
got rid of all this folly. I must go. Idiots! Who is to marry them at
Ostend? If they are fools enough to want to be married, why shouldn't
they get married in England?"

"I suppose they thought you wouldn't consent."

"Of course I shan't consent. But why should I consent a bit more
because they have gone to Ostend? I don't suppose anybody ever had
such a set of fools about him as I have." This would have been hard
upon Tom had it not been that he had got beyond the feeling of any
hardness from contempt or contumely. As he once said of himself,
all sense of other injury had been washed out of him by Ayala's
unkindness.

On that very day Sir Thomas started for Ostend, and reached the place
about two o'clock. Captain Batsby and Gertrude had arrived only
during the previous night, and Gertrude, as she had been very sick,
was still in bed. Captain Batsby was not in bed. Captain Batsby had
been engaged since an early hour in the morning looking for that
respectable clergyman of the Church of England of whose immediate
services he stood in need. By the time that Sir Thomas had reached
Ostend he had found that no such clergyman was known in the place.
There was a regular English clergyman who would be very happy to
marry him,--and to accept the usual fees,--after the due performance
of certain preliminaries as ordained by the law, and as usual at
Ostend. The lady, no doubt, could be married at Ostend, after such
preliminaries,--as she might have been married also in England. All
this was communicated by the Captain to Gertrude,--who was still very
unwell,--at her bedroom door. Her conduct during this trying time was
quite beyond reproach,--and also his,--as Captain Batsby afterwards
took an opportunity of assuring her father.

"What on earth, Sir, is the meaning of all this?" said Sir Thomas,
encountering the man who was not his son-in-law in the sitting-room
of the hotel.

"I have just run away with your daughter, Sir Thomas. That is the
simple truth."

"And I have got the trouble of taking her back again."

"I have behaved like a gentleman through it all, Sir Thomas," said
the Captain, thus defending his own character and the lady's.

"You have behaved like a fool. What on earth am I to think of
it, Sir? You were asked down to my house because you gave me to
understand that you proposed to ask my niece, Miss Dormer, to be your
wife; and now you have run away with my daughter. Is that behaviour
like a gentleman?"

"I must explain myself?"

"Well, Sir?" Captain Batsby found the explanation very difficult; and
hummed and hawed a great deal. "Do you mean to say that it was a lie
from beginning to end about Miss Dormer?" Great liberties of speech
are allowed to gentlemen whose daughters have been run away with, and
whose hospitality has been outraged.

"Oh dear no. What I said then was quite true. It was my intention.
But--but--." The perspiration broke out upon the unhappy man's brow
as the great immediate trouble of his situation became clear to him.
"There was no lie,--no lie at all. I beg to assure you, Sir Thomas,
that I am not a man to tell a lie."

"How has it all been, then?"

"When I found how very superior a person your daughter was!"

"It isn't a month since she was engaged to somebody else," said the
angry father, forgetting all propriety in his indignation.

"Gertrude?" demanded Captain Batsby.

"You are two fools. So you gave up my niece?"

"Oh dear yes, altogether. She didn't come to Merle Park, you know.
How was I to say anything to her when you didn't have her there?"

"Why didn't you go away then, instead of remaining under a false
pretence? Or why, at any rate, didn't you tell me the truth?"

"And what would you have me to do now?" asked Captain Batsby.

"Go to the d----," said Sir Thomas, as he left the room, and went to
his daughter's chamber.

Gertrude had heard that her father was in the house, and endeavoured
to hurry herself into her clothes while the interview was going on
between him and her father. But she was not yet perfectly arrayed
when her father burst into her room. "Oh, papa," she said, going down
on her knees, "you do mean to forgive us?"

"I mean to do nothing of the kind. I mean to carry you home and have
you locked up."

"But we may be married!"

"Not with my leave. Why didn't you come and ask if you wanted to get
yourselves married? Why didn't you tell me?"

"We were ashamed."

"What has become of Mr. Houston, whom you loved so dearly?"

"Oh, papa!"

"And the Captain was so much attached to Ayala!"

"Oh, papa!"

"Get up, you stupid girl. Why is it that my children are so much more
foolish than other people's? I don't suppose you care for the man in
the least."

"I do, I do. I love him with all my heart."

"And as for him,--how can he care for you when it is but the other
day he was in love with your cousin?"

"Oh, papa!"

"What he wants is my money, of course."

"He has got plenty of money, papa."

"I can understand him, fool as he is. There is something for him to
get. He won't get it, but he might think it possible. As for you,
I cannot understand you at all. What do you expect? It can't be for
love of a hatchet-faced fellow like that, whom you had never seen a
fortnight ago."

"It is more than a month ago, papa."

"Frank Houston was, at any rate, a manly-looking fellow."

"He was a scoundrel," said Gertrude, now standing up for the first
time.

"A good-looking fellow was Frank Houston; that at least may be said
for him," continued the father, determined to exasperate his daughter
to the utmost. "I had half a mind to give way about him, because he
was a manly, outspoken fellow, though he was such an idle dog. If
you'd gone off with him, I could have understood it;--and perhaps
forgiven it," he added.

"He was a scoundrel!" screamed Gertrude, remembering her ineffectual
attempts to make her former lover perform this same journey.

"But this fellow! I cannot bring myself to believe that you really
care for him."

"He has a good income of his own, while Houston was little better
than a beggar."

"I'm glad of that," said Sir Thomas, "because there will be something
for you to live upon. I can assure you that Captain Batsby will never
get a shilling of my money. Now, you had better finish dressing
yourself, and come down and eat your dinner with me if you've got any
appetite. You will have to go back to Dover by the boat to-night."

"May Ben dine with us?" asked Gertrude, timidly.

"Ben may go to the d----. At any rate he had better not show himself
to me again," said Sir Thomas.

The lovers, however, did get an opportunity of exchanging a few
words, during which it was settled between them that as the young
lady must undoubtedly obey her father's behests, and return to Dover
that night, it would be well for Captain Batsby to remain behind at
Ostend. Indeed, he spoke of making a little tour as far as Brussels,
in order that he might throw off the melancholy feelings which had
been engendered. "You will come to me again, Ben," she said. Upon
this he looked very grave. "You do not mean to say that after all
this you will desert me?"

"He has insulted me so horribly!"

"What does that signify? Of course he is angry. If you could only
hear how he has insulted me."

"He says that you were in love with somebody else not a month since."

"So were you, Ben, for the matter of that." He did, however, before
they parted, make her a solemn promise that their engagement should
remain an established fact, in spite both of father and mother.

Gertrude, who had now recovered the effects of her
sea-sickness,--which, however, she would have to encounter again
so very quickly,--contrived to eat a hearty dinner with her father.
There, however, arose a little trouble. How should she contrive to
pack up the clothes which she had brought with her, and which had
till lately been mixed with the Captain's garments. She did, however,
at last succeed in persuading the chamber-maid to furnish her with
a carpet-bag, with which in her custody she arrived safely on the
following day at Merle Park.



CHAPTER XLIX.

THE NEW FROCK.


Ayala's arrival at Stalham was full of delight to her. There was
Nina with all her new-fledged hopes and her perfect assurance in the
absolute superiority of Lord George Bideford to any other man either
alive or dead. Ayala was quite willing to allow this assurance to
pass current, as her Angel of Light was as yet neither alive nor
dead. But she was quite certain,--wholly certain,--that when the
Angel should come forth he would be superior to Lord George. The
first outpouring of all this took place in the carriage as Nina and
Ayala were driven from the station to the house, while the Colonel
went home alone in a dog-cart. It had been arranged that nothing
should be said to Ayala about the Colonel, and in the carriage the
Colonel's name was not mentioned. But when they were all in the
hall at Stalham, taking off their cloaks and depositing their wraps,
standing in front of the large fire, Colonel Stubbs was there. Lady
Albury was present also, welcoming her guests, and Sir Harry, who
had already come home from hunting, with one or two other men in red
coats and top breeches, and a small bevy of ladies who were staying
in the house. Lady Albury was anxious to know how her friend had
sped with Ayala, but at such a moment no question could be asked.
But Ayala's spirits were so high that Lady Albury was at a loss to
understand whether the whole thing had been settled by Jonathan with
success,--or whether, on the other hand, Ayala was so happy because
she had not been troubled by a word of love.

"He has behaved so badly, Lady Albury," said Ayala.

"What;--Stubbs?" asked Sir Harry, not quite understanding all the ins
and outs of the matter.

"Yes, Sir Harry. There was an old lady and an old gentleman. They
were very funny and he would laugh at them."

"I deny it," said the Colonel.

"Why shouldn't he laugh at them if they were funny?" asked Lady
Albury.

"He knew it would make me laugh out loud. I couldn't help myself, but
he could be as grave as a judge all the time. So he went till the old
woman scolded me dreadfully."

"But the old man took your part," said the Colonel.

"Yes;--he did. He said that I was ornamental."

"A decent and truth-speaking old gentleman," said one of the
sportsmen in top-boots.

"Quite so;--but then the old lady said that I was perverse, and
Colonel Stubbs took her part. If you had been there, Lady Albury, you
would have thought that he had been in earnest."

"So I was," said the Colonel.

All this was very pleasant to Ayala. It was a return to the old
joyousness when she had first discovered the delight of having such a
friend as Colonel Stubbs. Had he flattered her, paid her compliments,
been soft and delicate to her,--as a lover might have been,--she
would have been troubled in spirit and heavy at heart. But now it
seemed as though all that love-making had been an episode which had
passed away, and that the old pleasant friendship still remained.
As yet, while they were standing there in the hall, there had come
no moment for her to feel whether there was anything to regret in
this. But certainly there had been comfort in it. She had been able
to appear before all her Stalham friends, in the presence even of
the man himself, without any of that consciousness which would have
oppressed her had he come there simply as her acknowledged lover, and
had she come there conscious before all the guests that it was so.

Then they sat for a while drinking tea and eating buttered toast in
the drawing-room. A supply of buttered toast fully to gratify the
wants of three or four men just home from hunting has never yet been
created by the resources of any establishment. But the greater marvel
is that the buttered toast has never the slightest effect on the
dinner which is to follow in an hour or two. During this period the
conversation turned chiefly upon hunting,--which is of all subjects
the most imperious. It never occurs to a hunting-man to suppose
that either a lady, or a bishop, or a political economist, can be
indifferent to hunting. There is something beyond millinery,--beyond
the interests of the church,--beyond the price of wheat,--in that
great question whether the hounds did or did not change their fox in
Gobblegoose Wood. On the present occasion Sir Harry was quite sure
that the hounds did carry their fox through Gobblegoose Wood, whereas
Captain Glomax, who had formerly been master of the pack which now
obeyed Sir Harry, was perfectly certain that they had got upon
another animal, who went away from Gobblegoose as fresh as paint. He
pretended even to ridicule Sir Harry for supposing that any fox could
have run at that pace up Buddlecombe Hill who had travelled all the
way from Stickborough Gorse. To this Sir Harry replied resentfully
that the Captain did not know what were the running powers of a
dog-fox in March. Then he told various stories of what had been done
in this way at this special period of the year. Glomax, however,
declared that he knew as much of a fox as any man in England, and
that he would eat both the foxes, and the wood, and Sir Harry, and,
finally, himself, if the animal which had run up Buddlecombe Hill was
the same which they brought with them from Stickborough Gorse into
Gobblegoose Wood. So the battle raged, and the ladies no doubt were
much interested;--as would have been the bishop had he been there, or
the political economist.

After this Ayala was taken up into her room, and left to sit there by
herself for a while till Lady Albury should send her maid. "My dear,"
said Lady Albury, "there is something on the bed which I expect you
to wear to-night. I shall be broken-hearted if it doesn't fit you.
The frock is a present from Sir Harry; the scarf comes from me. Don't
say a word about it. Sir Harry always likes to make presents to young
ladies." Then she hurried out of the room while Ayala was still
thanking her. Lady Albury had at first intended to say something
about the Colonel as they were sitting together over Ayala's fire,
but she had made up her mind against this as soon as she saw their
manner towards each other on entering the house. If Ayala had
accepted him at a word as they were travelling together, then there
would be need of no further interference in the matter. But if not,
it would be better that she should hold her peace for the present.

Ayala's first instinct was to look at the finery which had been
provided for her. It was a light grey silk, almost pearl colour, as
to which she thought she had never seen anything so lovely before.
She measured the waist with her eye, and knew at once that it
would fit her. She threw the gauzy scarf over her shoulders and
turned herself round before the large mirror which stood near the
fire-place. "Dear Lady Albury!" she exclaimed; "dear Lady Albury!"
It was impossible that she should have understood that Lady Albury's
affection had been shown to Jonathan Stubbs much rather than to her
when those presents were prepared.

She got rid of her travelling dress and her boots, and let down her
hair, and seated herself before the fire, that she might think of
it all in her solitude. Was she or was she not glad,--glad in sober
earnest, glad now the moment of her mirth had passed by, the mirth
which had made her return to Stalham so easy for her,--was she or was
she not glad that this change had come upon the Colonel, this return
to his old ways? She had got her friend again, but she had lost her
lover. She did not want the lover. She was sure of that. She was
still sure that if a lover would come to her who would be in truth
acceptable,--such a lover as would enable her to give herself up to
him altogether, and submit herself to him as her lord and master,--he
must be something different from Jonathan Stubbs. That had been the
theory of her life for many months past, a theory on which she had
resolved to rely with all her might from the moment in which this
man had spoken to her of his love. Would she give way and render
up herself and all her dreams simply because the man was one to be
liked? She had declared to herself again and again that it should not
be so. There should come the Angel of Light or there should come no
lover for her. On that very morning as she was packing up her boxes
at Kingsbury Crescent she had arranged the words in which, should
he speak to her on the subject in the railway train, she would make
him understand that it could never be. Surely he would understand
if she told him so simply, with a little prayer that his suit might
not be repeated. His suit had not been repeated. Nothing apparently
had been further from his intention. He had been droll, pleasant,
friendly,--just like his old dear self. For in truth the pleasantness
and the novelty of his friendship had made him dear to her. He had
gone back of his own accord to the old ways, without any little
prayer from her. Now was she contented? As the question would thrust
itself upon her in opposition to her own will, driving out the
thoughts which she would fain have welcomed, she gazed listlessly at
the fire. If it were so, then for what purpose, then for what reason,
had Lady Albury procured for her the pale grey pearl-coloured dress?

And why were all these grand people at Stalham so good to her,--to
her, a poor little girl, whose ordinary life was devoted to the
mending of linen and to the furtherance of economy in the use of
pounds of butter and legs of mutton? Why was she taken out of her own
sphere and petted in this new luxurious world? She had a knowledge
belonging to her,--if not quite what we may call common sense,--which
told her that there must be some cause. Of some intellectual
capacity, some appreciation of things and words which were divine in
their beauty, she was half conscious. It could not be, she felt, that
without some such capacity she should have imaged to herself that
Angel of Light. But not for such capacity as that had she been made
welcome at Stalham. As for her prettiness, her beauty of face and
form, she thought about them not at all,--almost not at all. In
appearing in that pale-pearl silk, with that gauzy scarf upon her
shoulders, she would take pride. Not to be shamed among other girls
by the poorness of her apparel was a pride to her. Perhaps to excel
some others by the prettiness of her apparel might be a pride to
her. But of feminine beauty, as a great gift bestowed upon her, she
thought not at all. She would look in the mirror for the effect of
the scarf, but not for the effect of the neck and shoulders beneath
it. Could she have looked in any mirror for the effect of the dreams
she had thus dreamed,--ah! that would have been the mirror in which
she would have loved yet feared to look!

Why was Lady Albury so kind to her? Perhaps Lady Albury did not know
that Colonel Stubbs had changed his mind. She would know it very
soon, and then, maybe, everything would be changed. As she thought of
this she longed to put the pearl silk dress aside, and not to wear
it as yet,--to put it aside so that it might never be worn by her if
circumstances should so require. It was to be hoped that the man had
changed his mind,--and to be hoped that Lady Albury would know that
he had done so. Then she would soon see whether there was a change.
Could she not give a reason why she should not wear the dress this
night? As she sat gazing at the fire a tear ran down her cheek. Was
it for the dress she would not wear, or for the lover whom she would
not love?

The question as to the dress was settled for her very soon. Lady
Albury's maid came into the room,--not a chit of a girl without a
thought of her own except as to her own grandness in being two steps
higher than the kitchen-maid,--but a well-grown, buxom, powerful
woman, who had no idea of letting such a young lady as Ayala do
anything in the matter of dress but what she told her. When Ayala
suggested something as to the next evening in reference to the
pale-pearl silk the buxom powerful woman pooh-poohed her down in
a moment. What;--after Sir Harry had taken so much trouble about
having it made; having actually inquired about it with his own mouth.
"To-night, Miss; you must wear it to-night! My lady would be quite
angry!" "My lady not know what you wear! My lady knows what all the
ladies wear,--morning, noon, and night." That little plan of letting
the dress lie by till she should know how she should be received
after Colonel Stubbs's change of mind had been declared, fell to the
ground altogether under the hands of the buxom powerful woman.

When she went into the drawing-room some of the guests were
assembled. Sir Harry and Lady Albury were there, and so was Colonel
Stubbs. As she walked in Sir Harry was standing well in front of the
fire, in advance of the rug, so as to be almost in the middle of the
room. Captain Glomax was there also, and the discussion about the
foxes was going on. It had occurred to Ayala that as the dress was a
present from Sir Harry she must thank him. So she walked up to him
and made a little curtsey just before him. "Am I nice, Sir Harry?"
she said.

"Upon my word," said Sir Harry, "that is the best spent
ten-pound-note I ever laid out in my life." Then he took her by the
hand and gently turned her round, so as to look at her and her dress.

"I don't know whether I am nice, but you are," she said, curtseying
again. Everybody felt that she had had quite a little triumph as she
subsided into a seat close by Lady Albury, who called her. As she
seated herself she caught the Colonel's eye, who was looking at her.
She fancied that there was a tear in it. Then he turned himself and
looked away into the fire.

"You have won his heart for ever," said Lady Albury.

"Whose heart?" asked Ayala, in her confusion.

"Sir Harry's heart. As for the other, cela va sans dire. You must go
on wearing it every night for a week or Sir Harry will want to know
why you have left it off. If the woman had made it on you it couldn't
have fitted better. Baker,--" Baker was the buxom female,--"said that
she knew it was right. You did that very prettily to Sir Harry. Now
go up and ask Colonel Stubbs what he thinks of it."

"Indeed, I won't," said Ayala. Lady Albury, a few minutes afterwards,
when she saw Ayala walking away towards the drawing-room leaning
on the Colonel's arm, acknowledged to herself that she did at last
understand it. The Colonel had been able to see it all, even without
the dress, and she confessed in her mind that the Colonel had eyes
with which to see, and ears with which to hear, and a judgment with
which to appreciate. "Don't you think that girl very lovely?" she
said to Lord Rufford, on whose arm she was leaning.

"Something almost more than lovely," said Lord Rufford, with unwonted
enthusiasm.

It was acknowledged now by everybody. "Is it true about Colonel
Stubbs and Miss Dormer?" whispered Lady Rufford to her hostess in the
drawing-room.

"Upon my word, I never inquire into those things," said Lady Albury.
"I suppose he does admire her. Everybody must admire her."

"Oh yes;" said Lady Rufford. "She is certainly very pretty. Who is
she, Lady Albury?" Lady Rufford had been a Miss Penge, and the Penges
were supposed to be direct descendants from Boadicea.

"She is Miss Ayala Dormer. Her father was an artist, and her mother
was a very handsome woman. When a girl is as beautiful as Miss
Dormer, and as clever, it doesn't much signify who she is." Then the
direct descendant from Boadicea withdrew, holding an opinion much at
variance with that expressed by her hostess.

"Who is that young lady who sat next to you?" asked Captain Glomax of
Colonel Stubbs, after the ladies had gone.

"She is a Miss Ayala Dormer."

"Did I not see her out hunting with you once or twice early in the
season?"

"You saw her out hunting, no doubt, and I was there. I did not
specially bring her. She was staying here, and rode one of Albury's
horses."

"Take her top and bottom, and all round," said Captain Glomax, "she
is the prettiest little thing I've seen for many a day. When she
curtsyed to Sir Harry in the drawing-room I almost thought that I
should like to be a marrying man myself." Stubbs did not carry on the
conversation, having felt displeased rather than otherwise by the
admiration expressed.

"I didn't quite understand before," said Sir Harry to his wife that
night, "what it was that made Jonathan so furious about that girl;
but I think I see it now."

"Fine feathers make fine birds," said his wife, laughing.

"Feathers ever so fine," said Sir Harry, "don't make well-bred
birds."

"To tell the truth," said Lady Albury, "I think we shall all have to
own that Jonathan has been right."

This took place upstairs, but before they left the drawing-room Lady
Albury whispered a few words to her young friend. "We have had a
terrible trouble about you, Ayala."

"A trouble about me, Lady Albury? I should be so sorry."

"It is not exactly your fault;--but we haven't at all known what to
do with that unfortunate man."

"What man?" asked Ayala, forgetful at the moment of all men except
Colonel Stubbs.

"You naughty girl! Don't you know that my brother-in-law is
broken-hearted about you?"

"Captain Batsby!" whispered Ayala, in her faintest voice.

"Yes; Captain Batsby. A Captain has as much right to be considered
as a Colonel in such a matter as this." Here Ayala frowned, but said
nothing. "Of course, I can't help it, who may break his heart, but
poor Ben is always supposed to be at Stalham just at this time of the
year, and now I have been obliged to tell him one fib upon another to
keep him away. When he comes to know it all, what on earth will he
say to me?"

"I am sure it has not been my fault," said Ayala.

"That's what young ladies always say when gentlemen break their
hearts."

When Ayala was again in her room, and had got rid of the buxom
female who came to assist her in taking off her new finery, she was
aware of having passed the evening triumphantly. She was conscious
of admiration. She knew that Sir Harry had been pleased by her
appearance. She was sure that Lady Albury was satisfied with her, and
she had seen something in the Colonel's glance that made her feel
that he had not been indifferent. But in their conversation at the
dinner table he had said nothing which any other man might not have
said, if any other man could have made himself as agreeable. Those
hunting days were all again described with their various incidents,
with the great triumph over the brook, and Twentyman's wife and baby,
and fat Lord Rufford, who was at the moment sitting there opposite to
them; and the ball in London, with the lady who was thrown out of the
window; and the old gentleman and the old lady of to-day who had been
so peculiar in their remarks. There had been nothing else in their
conversation, and it surely was not possible that a man who intended
to put himself forward as a lover should have talked in such fashion
as that! But then there were other things which occurred to her. Why
had there been that tear in his eye? And that "cela va sans dire"
which had come from Lady Albury in her railing mood;--what had that
meant? Lady Albury, when she said that, could not have known that the
Colonel had changed his purpose.

But, after all, what is a dress, let it be ever so pretty? The Angel
of Light would not care for her dress, let her wear what she might.
Were he to seek her because of her dress, he would not be the Angel
of Light of whom she had dreamed. It was not by any dress that
she could prevail over him. She did rejoice because of her little
triumph;--but she knew that she rejoiced because she was not an Angel
of Light herself. Her only chance lay in this, that the angels of
yore did come down from heaven to ask for love and worship from the
daughters of men.

As she went to bed, she determined that she would still be true to
her dream. Not because folk admired a new frock would she be ready to
give herself to a man who was only a man,--a man of the earth really;
who had about him no more than a few of the real attributes of an
Angel of Light.



CHAPTER L.

GOBBLEGOOSE WOOD ON SUNDAY.


The next two days were not quite so triumphant to Ayala as had been
the evening of her arrival. There was hunting on both of those days,
the gentlemen having gone on the Friday away out of Sir Harry's
country to the Brake hounds. Ayala and the Colonel had arrived on the
Thursday. Ayala had not expected to be asked to hunt again,--had not
even thought about it. It had been arranged before on Nina's account,
and Nina now was not to hunt any more. Lord George did not altogether
approve of it, and Nina was quite in accord with Lord George,--though
she had held up her whip and shaken it in triumph when she jumped
over the Cranbury Brook. And the horse which Alaya had ridden was no
longer in the stables. "My dear, I am so sorry; but I'm afraid we
can't mount you," Lady Albury said. In answer to this Ayala declared
that she had not thought of it for a moment. But yet the days seemed
to be dull with her. Lady Rufford was,--well,--perhaps a little
patronising to her, and patronage such as that was not at all to
Ayala's taste. "Lady Albury seems to be quite a kind friend to you,"
Lady Rufford said. Nothing could be more true. The idea implied was
true also,--the idea that such a one as Ayala was much in luck's
way to find such a friend as Lady Albury. It was true no doubt; but,
nevertheless, it was ungracious, and had to be resented. "A very kind
friend, indeed. Some people only make friends of those who are as
grand as themselves."

"I am sure we should be very glad to see you at Rufford if you remain
long in the country," said Lady Rufford, a little time afterwards.
But even in this there was not a touch of that cordiality which might
have won Ayala's heart. "I am not at all likely to stay," said Ayala.
"I live with my uncle and aunt at Notting Hill, and I very rarely go
away from home." Lady Rufford, however, did not quite understand it.
It had been whispered to her that morning that Ayala was certainly
going to marry Colonel Stubbs; and, if so, why should she not come to
Rufford?

On that day, the Friday, she was taken out to dinner by Captain
Glomax. "I remember quite as if it were yesterday," said the Captain.
"It was the day we rode the Cranbury Brook."

Ayala looked up into his face, also remembering everything as well
as it were yesterday. "Mr. Twentyman rode over it," she said, "and
Colonel Stubbs rode into it."

"Oh, yes; Stubbs got a ducking; so he did." The Captain had not got a
ducking, but then he had gone round by the road. "It was a good run
that."

"I thought so."

"We haven't been lucky since Sir Harry has had the hounds somehow.
There doesn't seem to be the dash about 'em there used to be when I
was here. I had them before Sir Harry, you know." All this was nearly
in a whisper.

"Were you Master?" asked Ayala, with a tone of surprise which was not
altogether pleasing to the Captain.

"Indeed I was, but the fag of it was too great, and the thanks too
small, so I gave it up. They used to get four days a week out of me."
During the two years that the Captain had had the hounds, there had
been, no doubt, two or three weeks in which he had hunted four days.

Ayala liked hunting, but she did not care much for Captain Glomax,
who, having seen her once or twice on horseback, would talk to her
about nothing else. A little away on the other side of the table Nina
was sitting next to Colonel Stubbs, and she could hear their voices
and almost their words. Nina and Jonathan were first cousins, and,
of course, could be happy together without giving her any cause for
jealousy;--but she almost envied Nina. Yet she had hoped that it
might not fall to her lot to be taken out again that evening by the
Colonel. Hitherto she had not even spoken to him during the day. They
had started to the meet very early, and the gentlemen had almost
finished their breakfast before she had come down. If there had been
any fault it was her fault, but yet she almost felt that there was
something of a disruption between them. It was so evident to her that
he was perfectly happy whilst he was talking to Nina.

After dinner it seemed to be very late before the men came into the
drawing-room, and then they were still engaged upon that weary talk
about hunting, till Lady Rufford, in order to put a stop to it,
offered to sing. "I always do," she said, "if Rufford ventures to
name a fox in the drawing-room after dinner." She did sing, and Ayala
thought that the singing was more weary than the talk about hunting.

While this was going on, the Colonel had got himself shut up in
a corner of the room. Lady Albury had first taken him there, and
afterwards he had been hemmed in when Lady Rufford sat down to the
piano. Ayala had hardly ventured even to glance at him, but yet she
knew all that he did, and heard almost every word that he spoke.
The words were not many, but still when he did speak his voice was
cheerful. Nina now and again had run up to him, and Lady Rufford had
asked him some questions about the music. But why didn't he come out
and speak to her? thought Ayala. Though all that nonsense about love
was over, still he ought not to have allowed a day to pass at Stalham
without speaking to her. He was the oldest friend there in that
house except Nina. It was indeed no more than nine months since she
had first seen him, but still it seemed to her that he was an old
friend. She did feel, as she endeavoured to answer the questions that
Lord Rufford was asking her, that Jonathan Stubbs was treating her
unkindly.

Then came the moment in which Lady Albury marshalled her guests out
of the room towards their chambers. "Have you found yourself dull
without the hunting?" the Colonel said to Ayala.

"Oh dear no; I must have a dull time if I do, seeing that I have
only hunted three days in my life." There was something in the tone
of her voice which, as she herself was aware, almost expressed
dissatisfaction. And yet not for worlds would she have shown herself
to be dissatisfied with him, could she have helped it.

"I thought that perhaps you might have regretted the little pony," he
said.

"Because a thing has been very pleasant, it should not be regretted
because it cannot be had always."

"To me a thing may become so pleasant, that unless I can have it
always my life must be one long regret."

"The pony is not quite like that," said Ayala, smiling, as she
followed the other ladies out of the room.

On the next morning the meet was nearer, and some of the ladies were
taken there in an open carriage. Lady Rufford went, and Mrs. Gosling,
and Nina and Ayala. "Of course there is a place for you," Lady Albury
had said to her. "Had I wanted to go I would have made Sir Harry send
the drag; but I've got to stop at home and see that the buttered
toast is ready by the time the gentlemen all come back." The morning
was almost warm, so that the sportsmen were saying evil things of
violets and primroses, as is the wont of sportsmen on such occasions,
and at the meet the ladies got out of the carriage and walked about
among the hounds, making civil speeches to old Tony. "No, my lady,"
said Tony, "I don't like these sunshiny mornings at all; there ain't
no kind of scent, and I goes riding about these big woods, up and
down, till my shirt is as wet on my back with the sweat as though I'd
been pulled through the river." Then Lady Rufford walked away and did
not ask Tony any more questions.

Ayala was patting one of the hounds when the Colonel, who had given
his horse to a groom, came and joined her. "If you don't regret that
pony," said he, "somebody else does."

"I do regret him in one way, of course. I did like it very much; but
I don't think it nice, when much has been done for me, to say that I
want to have more done."

"Of course I knew what you meant."

"Perhaps you would go and tell Sir Harry, and then he would think me
very ungrateful."

"Ayala," he said, "I will never say anything of you that will make
anybody think evil of you. But, between ourselves, as Sir Harry is
not here, I suppose I may confess that I regret the pony."

"I should like it, of course," whispered Ayala.

"And so should I,--so much! I suppose all these men here would
think me an ass if they knew how little I care about the day's
work,--whether we find, or whether we run, or whether we kill,--just
because the pony is not here. If the pony were here I should have
that feeling of expectation of joy, which is so common to girls when
some much-thought-of ball or promised pleasure is just before them."
Then Tony went off with his hounds, and Jonathan, mounting his horse,
followed with the ruck.

Ayala knew very well what the pony meant, as spoken of by the
Colonel. When he declared that he regretted the pony, it was because
the pony might have carried herself. He had meant her to understand
that the much-thought-of ball or promised pleasure would have been
the delight of again riding with herself. And then he had again
called her Ayala. She could remember well every occasion on which
he had addressed her by her Christian name. It had been but seldom.
Once, however, it had occurred in the full flow of their early
intimacy, before that love-making had been begun. It had struck her
as being almost wrong, but still as very pleasant. If it might be
made right by some feeling of brotherly friendship, how pleasant
would it be! And now she would like it again, if only it might be
taken as a sign of friendship rather than of love. It never occurred
to her to be angry as she would have been angry with any other
man. How she would have looked at Captain Batsby had he dared to
call her Ayala! Colonel Stubbs should call her Ayala as long as he
pleased,--if it were done only in friendship.

After that they were driven about for a while, seeing what Tony did
with the hounds, as tidings came to them now and again that one
fox had broken this way and another had gone the other. But Ayala,
through it all, could not interest herself about the foxes. She was
thinking only of Jonathan Stubbs. She knew that she was pleased
because he had spoken to her, and had said kind, pleasant words to
her. She knew that she had been displeased while he had sat apart
from her, talking to others. But yet she could not explain to herself
why she had been either pleased or displeased. She feared that there
was more than friendship,--than mere friendship, in that declaration
of his that he did in truth regret the pony. His voice had been, oh,
so sweet as he had said it! Something told her that men do not speak
in mere friendship after that fashion. Not even in the softness of
friendship between a man and a woman will the man's voice become
as musical as that! Young as she was, child as she was, there was
an instinct in her breast which declared to her that it was so. But
then, if it were so, was not everything again wrong with her? If it
were so, then must that condition of things be coming back which it
had been, and still was her firm resolve to avoid. And yet, as the
carriage was being driven about, and as the frequent exclamations
came that the fox had traversed this way or that, her pride was
gratified and she was happy.

"What was Colonel Stubbs saying to you?" asked Nina, when they were
at home at the house after lunch.

"He was talking about the dear pony which I used to ride."

"About nothing else?"

"No;--about nothing else." This Ayala said with a short, dry manner
of utterance which she would assume when she was determined not to
have a subject carried on.

"Ayala, why do you not tell me everything? I told you everything as
soon as it happened."

"Nothing has happened."

"I know he asked you," said Nina.

"And I answered him."

"Is that to be everything?"

"Yes;--that is to be everything," said Ayala, with a short, dry
manner of utterance. It was so plain, that even Nina could not pursue
the subject.

There was nothing done on that day in the way of sport. Glomax
thought that Tony had been idle, and had made a holiday of the day
from the first. But Sir Harry declared that there had not been a yard
of scent. The buttered toast, however, was eaten, and the regular
sporting conversation was carried on. Ayala, however, was not there
to hear it. Ayala was in her own room dreaming.

She was taken in to dinner by a curate in the neighbourhood,--to whom
she endeavoured to make herself very pleasant, while the Colonel
sat at her other side. The curate had a good deal to say as to lawn
tennis. If the weather remained as it was, it was thought that
they could all play lawn tennis on the Tuesday,--when there would
be no hunting. The curate was a pleasant young fellow, and Ayala
devoted herself to him and to their joint hopes for next Tuesday.
Colonel Stubbs never once attempted to interfere with the curate's
opportunity. There was Lady Rufford on the other side of him, and
to Lady Rufford he said all that he did say during dinner. At one
period of the repast she was more than generally lively, because she
felt herself called upon to warn her husband that an attack of the
gout was imminent, and would be certainly produced instantaneously
if he could not deny himself the delight of a certain diet which
was going the round of the table. His lordship smiled and denied
himself,--thinking, as he did so, whether another wife, plus
the gout, would or would not have been better for him. All this
either amused Colonel Stubbs so sufficiently, or else made him so
thoughtful, that he made no attempt to interfere with the curate. In
the evening there was again music,--which resulted in a declaration
made upstairs by Sir Harry to his wife that that wife of Rufford's
was a confounded bore. "We all knew that, my dear, as soon as he
married her," said Lady Albury.

"Why did he marry a bore?"

"Because he wanted a wife to look after himself, and not to amuse his
friends. The wonder used to be that he had done so well."

Not a word had there been,--not a word, since that sound of "Ayala"
had fallen upon her ears. No;--he was not handsome, and his name was
Jonathan Stubbs;--but surely no voice so sweet had ever fallen from a
man's lips! So she sat and dreamed far into the night. He, the Angel
of Light, would certainly have a sweeter voice! That was an attribute
without which no angel could be angelic! As to the face and the name,
that would not perhaps signify. But he must have an intellect high
soaring, a soul tuned to music, and a mind versed in nothing but
great matters. He might be an artist, or more probably a poet;--or
perhaps a musician. Yet she had read of poets, artists, and
musicians, who had misused their wives, been fond of money, and had
perhaps been drunkards. The Angel of Light must have the gifts, and
must certainly be without the vices.

The next day was Sunday and they all went to church. In the afternoon
they, as many of them as pleased, were to walk as far as Gobblegoose
Wood, which was only three miles from the house. They could not hunt
and therefore they must go to the very scene of the late contest and
again discuss it there. Sir Harry and the Captain would walk and
so would Ayala and Nina and some others. Lord Rufford did not like
walking, and Lady Rufford would stay at home to console him. Ayala
used her little wiles to keep herself in close company with Nina; but
the Colonel's wiles were more effective;--and then, perhaps, Nina
assisted the Colonel rather than Ayala. It came to pass that before
they had left Gobblegoose Wood Ayala and the Colonel were together.
When it was so he did not beat about the bush for a moment longer. He
had fixed his opportunity for himself and he put it to use at once.
"Ayala," he said, "am I to have any other answer?"

"What answer?"

"Nay, my dearest,--my own, own dearest as I fain would have you,--who
shall say what answer but you? Ayala, you know that I love you!"

"I thought you had given it up."

"Given it up. Never,--never! Does a man give up his joy,--the pride
of his life,--the one only delight on which his heart has set itself!
No, my darling, I have not given it up. Because you would not have it
as I wished when I first spoke to you, I have not gone on troubling
you. I thought I would wait till you were used again to the look of
me, and to my voice. I shall never give it up, Ayala. When you came
into the room that night with your new frock on--" Then he paused,
and she glanced round upon him, and saw that a tear again was in his
eye. "When you came in and curtseyed to Sir Harry I could hardly keep
within myself because I thought you were so beautiful."

"It was the new gown which he had given me."

"No, my pet;--no! You may add a grace to a dress, but it can do but
little for you. It was the little motion, the little word, the light
in your eye! It twinkles at me sometimes when you glance about, so
that I do not know whether it is meant for me or not. I fear that it
is never meant for me."

"It is meant for nothing," said Ayala.

"And yet it goes into my very bosom. When you were talking to that
clergyman at dinner I could see every sparkle that came from it. Then
I wonder to myself whether you can ever be thinking of me as I am
always thinking of you." She knew that she had been thinking of him
every waking moment since she had been at Albury and through many of
her sleeping moments also. "Ayala, one little word, one other glance
from your eyes, one slightest touch from your hand upon my arm, shall
tell me,--shall tell me,--shall tell me that I am the happiest, the
proudest man in all the world." She walked on steadfastly, closing
her very teeth against a word, with her eyes fixed before her so that
no slightest glance should wander. Her two hands were in her little
muff, and she kept them with her fingers clasped together, as though
afraid lest one might rebel, and fly away, and touch the sleeve of
his coat. "Ayala, how is it to be with me?"

"I cannot," she said sternly. And her eyes were still fixed before
her, and her fingers were still bound in one with another. And yet
she loved him. Yet she knew that she loved him. She could have hung
upon his arm and smiled up into his face, and frowned her refusal
only with mock anger as he pressed her to his bosom,--only that those
dreams were so palpable to her and so dear, had been to her so vast a
portion of her young life! "I cannot," she said again. "I cannot."

"Is that to be your answer for ever?" To this she made no immediate
reply. "Must it be so, Ayala?"

"I cannot," she said. But the last little word was so impeded by the
sobs which she could not restrain as almost to be inaudible.

"I will not make you unhappy, Ayala." Yes, she was unhappy. She was
unhappy because she knew that she could not rule herself to her own
happiness; because, even at this moment, she was aware that she was
wrong. If she could only release part of herself from the other, then
could she fly into his arms and tell him that that spirit which had
troubled her had flown. But the spirit was too strong for her, and
would not fly. "Shall we go and join them?" he asked her in a voice
altered, but still so sweet to her ears.

"If you think so," she replied.

"Perhaps it will be best, Ayala. Do not be angry with me now. I will
not call you so again." Angry! Oh, no! She was not angry with him!
But it was very bitter to her to be told that she should never hear
the word again from his lips.

"The hunted fox never went up Buddlecombe Hill;--never. If he did
I'll eat every fox in the Rufford and Ufford country." This was
heard, spoken in most angry tones by Captain Glomax, as the Colonel
and Ayala joined the rest of the party.



CHAPTER LI.

"NO!"


Ayala, on her return from the walk to the wood, spent the remainder
of the afternoon in tears. During the walk she kept close to Sir
Harry, pretending to listen to the arguments about the fox, but she
said nothing. Her ears were really intent on endeavouring to catch
the tones of her lover's voice as he went on in front of them talking
to Nina. Nothing could be more pleasant than the sound as he said a
word or two now and again, encouraging Nina in her rhapsodies as to
Lord George and all Lord George's family. But Ayala learned nothing
from that. She had come to know the man well enough to be aware that
he could tune his voice to the occasion, and could hide his feelings
let them be ever so strong. She did not doubt his love now. She did
not doubt but that at this moment his heart was heavy with rejected
love. She quite believed in him. But nevertheless his words were
pleasant and kind as he encouraged Nina.

Nor did she doubt her own love. She was alone in her room that
afternoon till she told herself at last the truth. Oh, yes; she loved
him. She was sure of that. But now he was gone! Why had she been
so foolish? Then it seemed as though at that moment the separation
took place between herself and the spirit which had haunted her. She
seemed to know now,--now at this very moment,--that the man was too
good for her. The knowledge had been coming to her. It had almost
come when he had spoken to her in the wood. If it could only have
been that he should have delayed his appeal to her yet for another
day or two! She thought now that if he could have delayed it but
for a few hours the cure would have been complete. If he had talked
to her as he so well knew how to talk while they were in the wood
together, while they were walking home,--so as to have exorcised the
spirit from her by the sweetness of his words,--and then have told
her that there was his love to have if she chose to have it, then she
thought she would have taken it. But he had come to her while those
words which she had prepared under the guidance of the spirit were
yet upon her tongue. "I cannot," she had said. "I cannot." But she
had not told him that she did not love him.

"I did love him," she said to herself, almost acknowledging that
the spirit had been wholly exorcised. The fashion of her mind was
altogether different from that which had so strongly prevailed
with her. He was an honest, noble man, high in the world's repute,
clever, a gentleman, a man of taste, and possessed of that gentle
ever-present humour which was so inexpressibly delightful to her. She
never again spoke to herself even in her thoughts of that Angel of
Light,--never comforted herself again with the vision of that which
was to come! There had appeared to her a man better than all other
men, and when he had asked her for her hand she had simply said,--"I
cannot." And yet she had loved him all the time. How foolish, how
false, how wicked she had been! It was thus that she thought of it
all as she sat there alone in her bedroom through the long hours of
the afternoon. When they sent up for her asking her to come down, she
begged that she might be allowed to remain there till dinner-time,
because she was tired with her walk.

He would not come again now. Oh, no,--he was too proud, too firm,
too manly for that. It was not for such a one as he to come whining
after a girl,--like her cousin Tom. Would it be possible that she
should even yet tell him? Could she say to him one little word,
contradicting that which she had so often uttered in the wood?
"Now I can," once whispered in his ear, would do it all. But as to
this she was aware that there was no room for hope. To speak such
a word, low as it might be spoken, simple and little as it might
be, was altogether impossible. She had had her chance and had lost
it,--because of those idle dreams. That the dreams had been all idle
she declared to herself,--not aware that the Ayala whom her lover had
loved would not have been an Ayala to be loved by him, but for the
dreams. Now she must go back to her uncle and aunt and to Kingsbury
Crescent, with the added sorrow that the world of dreams was closed
to her for ever. When the maid came to her she consented to have
the frock put on, the frock which Sir Harry had given her, boldly
resolving to struggle through her sorrow till Lady Albury should have
dismissed her to her home. Nobody would want her now at Stalham, and
the dismissal would soon come.

While she had been alone in her room the Colonel had been closeted
with Lady Albury. They had at least been thus shut up together for
some half-hour during which he had told his tale. "I have to own,"
said he, half-laughing as he began his tale, "that I thoroughly
respect Miss Dormer."

"Why is she to be called Miss Dormer?"

"Because she has shown herself worthy of my respect."

"What is it that you mean, Jonathan?"

"She knew her own mind when she told me at first that she could not
accept the offer which I did myself the honour of making her, and now
she sticks to her purpose. I think that a young lady who will do that
should be respected."

"She has refused you again?"

"Altogether."

"As how?"

"Well, I hardly know that I am prepared to explain the 'as how' even
to you. I am about as thick-skinned a man in such matters as you may
find anywhere, but I do not know that even I can bring myself to tell
the 'as how.' The 'as how' was very clear in one respect. It was
manifest that she knew her own mind, which is a knowledge not in the
possession of all young ladies. She told me that she could not marry
me."

"I do not believe it."

"Not that she told me so?"

"Not that she knew her own mind. She is a little simple fool, who
with some vagary in her brain is throwing away utterly her own
happiness, while she is vexing you."

"As to the vexation you are right."

"Cross-grained little idiot!"

"An idiot she certainly is not; and as to being cross-grained I have
never found it. A human being with the grains running more directly
all in the same way I have never come across."

"Do not talk to me, Jonathan, like that," she said. "When I call
her cross-grained I mean that she is running counter to her own
happiness."

"I cannot tell anything about that. I should have endeavoured,
I think, to make her happy. She has certainly run counter to my
happiness."

"And now?"

"What;--as to this very moment! I shall leave Stalham to-morrow."

"Why should you do that? Let her go if one must go."

"That is just what I want to prevent. Why should she lose her little
pleasure?"

"You don't suppose that we can make the house happy to her now! Why
should we care to do so when she will have driven you away?" He sat
silent for a minute or two looking at the fire, with his hands on his
two knees. "You must acknowledge, Jonathan," continued she, "that I
have taken kindly to this Ayala of yours."

"I do acknowledge it."

"But it cannot be that she should be the same to us simply as a young
lady, staying here as it were on her own behalf, as she was when we
regarded her as your possible wife. Then every little trick and grace
belonging to her endeared itself to us because we regarded her as one
who was about to become one of ourselves. But what are her tricks and
graces to us now?"

"They are all the world to me," said the Colonel.

"But you must wipe them out of your memory,--unless, indeed, you mean
to ask her again."

"Ah!--that is it."

"You will ask her again?"

"I do not say so; but I do not wish to rob myself of the chance. It
may be that I shall. Of course I should to-morrow if I thought there
was a hope. To-morrow there would be none,--but I should like to
know, that I could find her again in hands so friendly as yours,
if at the end of a month I should think myself strong enough to
encounter the risk of another refusal. Would Sir Harry allow her to
remain here for another month?"

"He would say, probably, nothing about it."

"My plan is this," he continued; "let her remain here, say, for three
weeks or a month. Do you continue all your kindness to her,--if not
for her sake then for mine. Let her feel that she is made one of
yourselves, as you say."

"That will be hard," said Lady Albury.

"It would not be hard if you thought that she was going to become so
at last. Try it, for my sake. Say not a word to her about me,--though
not shunning my name. Be to her as though I had told you nothing of
this. Then when the period is over I will come again,--if I find
that I can do so. If my love is still stronger than my sense of
self-respect, I shall do so." All this Lady Albury promised to do,
and then the interview between them was over.

"Colonel Stubbs is going to Aldershot to-morrow," said she to Ayala
in the drawing-room after dinner. "He finds now that he cannot very
well remain away." There was no hesitation in her voice as she said
this, and no look in her eye which taught Ayala to suppose that she
had heard anything of what had occurred in the wood.

"Is he indeed?" said Ayala, trying, but in vain, to be equally
undemonstrative.

"It is a great trouble to us, but we are quite unable to prevent
it,--unless you indeed can control him."

"I cannot control him," said Ayala, with that fixed look of
resolution with which Lady Albury had already become familiar.

That evening before they went to bed the Colonel bade them all
good-bye, as he intended to start early in the morning. "I never saw
such a fellow as you are for sudden changes," said Sir Harry.

"What is the good of staying here for hunting when the ground and
Tony's temper are both as hard as brick-bats. If I go now I can get
another week further on in March if the rain should come." With this
Sir Harry seemed to be satisfied; but Ayala felt sure that Tony's
temper and the rain had had nothing to do with it.

"Good-bye, Miss Dormer," he said, with his pleasantest smile, and his
pleasantest voice.

"Good-bye," she repeated. What would she not have given that her
voice should be as pleasant as his, and her smile! But she failed so
utterly that the little word was inaudible,--almost obliterated by
the choking of a sob. How bitterly severe had that word, Miss Dormer,
sounded from his mouth! Could he not have called her Ayala for the
last time,--even though all the world should have heard it? She was
wide awake in the morning and heard the wheels of his cart as he was
driven off. As the sound died away upon her ear she felt that he
was gone from her for ever. How had it been that she had said, "I
cannot," so often, when all her heart was set upon "I can?"

And now it remained to her to take herself away from Stalham as fast
as she might. She understood perfectly all those ideas which Lady
Albury had expressed to her well-loved friend. She was nothing to
anybody at Stalham, simply a young lady staying in the house;--as
might be some young lady connected with them by blood, or some
young lady whose father and mother had been their friends. She had
been brought there to Stalham, now this second time, in order that
Jonathan Stubbs might take her as his wife. Driven by some madness
she had refused her destiny, and now nobody would want her at Stalham
any longer. She had better begin to pack up at once,--and go. The
coldness of the people, now that she had refused to do as she had
been asked, would be unbearable to her. And yet she must not let it
appear that Stalham was no longer dear to her merely because Colonel
Stubbs had left it. She would let a day go by, and then say with all
the ease she could muster that she would take her departure on the
next. After that her life before her would be a blank. She had known
up to this,--so at least she told herself,--that Jonathan Stubbs
would afford her at any rate another chance. Now there could be no
other chance.

The first blank day passed away, and it seemed to her almost as
though she had no right to speak to any one. She was sure that Lady
Rufford knew what had occurred, because nothing more was said as
to the proposed visit. Mrs. Colonel Stubbs would have been welcome
anywhere, but who was Ayala Dormer? Even though Lady Albury bade her
come out in the carriage, it seemed to her to be done as a final
effort of kindness. Of course they would be anxious to be rid of her.
That evening the buxom woman did not come to help her dress herself.
It was an accident. The buxom woman was wanted here and there till it
was too late, and Ayala had left her room. Ayala, in truth, required
no assistance in dressing. When the first agonizing moment of the new
frock had been passed over, she would sooner have arrayed herself
without assistance. But now it seemed as though the buxom woman was
running away, because she, Ayala, was thought to be no longer worthy
of her services.

On the next morning she began her little speech to Lady Albury.
"Going away to-morrow?" said Lady Albury.

"Or perhaps the next day," suggested Ayala.

"My dear, it has been arranged that you should stay here for another
three weeks."

"No."

"I say it was arranged. Everybody understood it. I am sure your aunt
understood it. Because one person goes, everybody else isn't to
follow so as to break up a party. Honour among thieves!"

"Thieves!"

"Well;--anything else you like to call us all. The party has been
made up. And to tell the truth I don't think that young ladies have
the same right of changing their minds and rushing about as men
assume. Young ladies ought to be more steady. Where am I to get
another young lady at a moment's notice to play lawn tennis with Mr.
Greene? Compose yourself and stay where you are like a good girl."

"What will Sir Harry say?"

"Sir Harry will probably go on talking about the Stillborough fox and
quarreling with that odious Captain Glomax. That is, if you remain
here. If you go all of a sudden, he will perhaps hint--"

"Hint what, Lady Albury?"

"Never mind. He shall make no hints if you are a good girl." Nothing
was said at the moment about the Colonel,--nothing further than the
little allusion made above. Then there came the lawn tennis, and
Ayala regained something of her spirits as she contrived with the
assistance of Sir Harry to beat Nina and the curate. But on the
following day Lady Albury spoke out more plainly, "it was because of
Colonel Stubbs that you said that you would go away."

Ayala paused a moment, and then answered stoutly, "Yes, it was
because of Colonel Stubbs."

"And why?"

Ayala paused again and the stoutness almost deserted her. "Because--"

"Well, my dear?"

"I don't think I ought to be asked," said Ayala.

"Well, you shall not be asked. I will not be cruel to you. But do you
not know that if I ask anything it is with a view to your own good?"

"Oh, yes," said Ayala.

"But though I may not ask I suppose I may speak." To this Ayala made
no reply, either assenting or dissenting. "You know, do you not, that
I and Colonel Stubbs love each other like brother and sister,--more
dearly than many brothers and sisters?"

"I suppose so."

"And that therefore he tells me everything. He told me what took
place in the wood,--and because of that he has gone away."

"Of course you are angry with me;--because he has gone away."

"I am sorry that he has gone,--because of the cause of it. I always
wish that he should have everything that he desires; and now I wish
that he should have this thing because he desires it above all other
things." Does he desire it above all other things?--thought Ayala to
herself. And, if it be really so, cannot I now tell her that he shall
have it? Cannot I say that I too long to get it quite as eagerly
as he longs to have it? The suggestion rushed quickly to her mind;
but the answer to it came as quickly. No;--she would not do so. No
offer of the kind would come from her. By what she had said must she
abide,--unless, indeed, he should come to her again. "But why should
you go, Ayala, because he has gone? Why should you say aloud that you
had come here to listen to his offer, and that you had gone away as
soon as you had resolved that, for this reason or that, it was not
satisfactory to you?"

"Oh, Lady Albury."

"That would be the conclusion drawn. Remain here with us, and see if
you can like us well enough to be one of us."

"Dear Lady Albury, I do love you dearly."

"What he may do I cannot say. Whether he may bring himself to try
once again I do not know,--nor will I ask you whether there might
possibly be any other answer were he to do so."

"No!" said Ayala, driven by a sudden fit of obstinacy which she could
not control.

"I ask no questions about it, but I am sure it will be better for you
to remain here for a few weeks. We will make you happy if we can, and
you can learn to think over what has passed without emotion." Thus it
was decided that Ayala should prolong her visit into the middle of
March. She could not understand her own conduct when she again found
herself alone. Why had she ejaculated that sudden "No," when Lady
Albury had suggested to her the possibility of changing her purpose?
She knew that she would fain change it if it were possible; and yet
when the idea was presented to her she replied with a sudden denial
of its possibility. But still there was hope, even though the hope
was faint. "Whether he may bring himself to try again I do not know."
So it was that Lady Albury had spoken of him, and of what Lady Albury
said to her she now believed every word. "Whether he could bring
himself!" Surely such a one as he would not condescend so far as
that. But if he did one word should be sufficient. By no one else
would she allow it to be thought, for an instant, that she would wish
to reverse her decision. It must still be No to any other person from
whom such suggestion might come. But should he give her the chance
she would tell him instantly the truth of everything. "Can I love
you! Oh, my love, it is impossible that I should not love you!" It
would be thus that the answer should be given to him, should he allow
her the chance of making it.



CHAPTER LII.

"I CALL IT FOLLY."


Three weeks passed by, and Ayala was still at Stalham. Colonel Stubbs
had not as yet appeared, and very little had been said about him.
Sir Henry would sometimes suggest that if he meant to see any more
hunting he had better come at once, but this was not addressed to
Ayala. She made up her mind that he would not come, and was sure
that she was keeping him away by her presence. He could not--"bring
himself to try over again," as Lady Albury had put it! Why should
he--"bring himself"--to do anything on behalf of one who had treated
him so badly? It had been settled that she should remain to the 25th
of March, when the month should be up from the time in which Lady
Albury had decided upon that as the period of her visit. Of her
secret she had given no slightest hint. If he ever did come again it
should not be because she had asked for his coming. As far as she
knew how to carry out such a purpose, she concealed from Lady Albury
anything like a feeling of regret. And she was so far successful that
Lady Albury thought it expedient to bring in other assistance to help
her cause,--as will be seen by a letter which Ayala received when the
three weeks had passed by.

In the meantime there had been at first dismay, then wonder, and
lastly, some amusement, at the condition of Captain Batsby. When
Captain Batsby had first learned at Merle Park that Ayala and
Jonathan Stubbs were both at Stalham, he wrote very angrily to Lady
Albury. In answer to this his sister-in-law had pleaded guilty,--but
still defending herself. How could she make herself responsible
for the young lady,--who did not indeed seem ready to bestow her
affections on any of her suitors? But still she acknowledged that a
little favour was being shown to Colonel Stubbs,--wishing to train
the man to the idea that, in this special matter, Colonel Stubbs must
be recognised as the Stalham favourite. Then no further letters were
received from the Captain, but there came tidings that he was staying
at Merle Park. Ayala heard continually from her sister, and Lucy sent
some revelations as to the Captain. He seemed to be very much at home
at Merle Park, said Lucy; and then, at last, she expressed her own
opinion that Captain Batsby and Gertrude were becoming very fond of
each other. And yet the whole story of Gertrude and Mr. Houston was
known, of course, to Lucy, and through Lucy to Ayala. To Ayala these
sudden changes were very amusing, as she certainly did not wish to
retain her own hold on the Captain, and was not specially attached to
her cousin Gertrude. From Ayala the tidings went to Lady Albury, and
in this way the fears which had been entertained as to the Captain's
displeasure were turned to wonder and amusement. But up to this
period nothing had been heard of the projected trip to Ostend.

Then came the letter to Ayala, to which allusion has been made, a
letter from her old friend the Marchesa, who was now at Rome. It was
ostensibly in answer to a letter from Ayala herself, but was written
in great part in compliance with instructions received from Lady
Albury. It was as follows;--


   DEAR AYALA,--

   I was glad to get your letter about Nina. She is very
   happy, and Lord George is here. Indeed, to tell the truth,
   they arrived together,--which was not at all proper; but
   everything will be made proper on Tuesday, 8th April,
   which is the day at last fixed for the wedding. I wish you
   could have been here to be one of the bridesmaids. Nina
   says that you will have it that the Pope is to marry her.
   Instead of that it is going to be done by Lord George's
   uncle, the Dean of Dorchester, who is coming for this
   purpose. Then they are going up to a villa they have
   taken on Como, where we shall join them some time before
   the spring is over. After that they seem to have no
   plans,--except plans of connubial bliss, which is never to
   know any interruption.

   Now that I have come to connubial bliss, and feel so
   satisfied as to Nina's prospects, I have a word or two
   to say about the bliss of somebody else. Nina is my own
   child, and of course comes first. But one Jonathan Stubbs
   is my nephew, and is also very near to my heart. From all
   that I hear, I fancy that he has set his mind also on
   connubial bliss. Have you not heard that it is so?

   A bird has whispered to me that you have not been kind
   to him. Why should it be so? Nobody knows better than I
   do that a young lady is entitled to the custody of her
   own heart, and that she should not be compelled, or even
   persuaded, to give her hand in opposition to her own
   feelings. If your feelings and your heart are altogether
   opposed to the poor fellow, of course there must be an end
   of it. But I had thought that from the time you first met
   him he had been a favourite of yours;--so much so that
   there was a moment in which I feared that you might think
   too much of the attentions of a man who has ever been a
   favourite with all who have known him. But I have found
   that in this I was altogether mistaken. When he came that
   evening to see the last of you at the theatre, taking, as
   I knew he did, considerable trouble to release himself
   from other engagements, I was pretty sure how it was going
   to be. He is not a man to be in love with a girl for a
   month and then to be in love with another the next month.
   When once he allowed himself to think that he was in
   love, the thing was done and fixed either for his great
   delight,--or else to his great trouble.

   I knew how it was to be, and so it has been. Am I not
   right in saying that on two occasions, at considerable
   intervals, he has come to you and made distinct offers of
   his hand? I fear, though I do not actually know it, that
   you have just as distinctly rejected those offers. I do
   not know it, because none but you and he can know the
   exact words with which you received from him the tender
   of all that he had to give you. I can easily believe that
   he, with all his intelligence, might be deceived by the
   feminine reserve and coyness of such a girl as you. If it
   be so, I do pray that no folly may be allowed to interfere
   with his happiness and with yours.

   I call it folly, not because I am adverse to feminine
   reserve, not because I am prone to quarrel even with what
   I call coyness; but because I know his nature so well, and
   feel that he would not bear rebuffs of which many another
   man would think nothing; that he would not bring himself
   to ask again, perhaps even for a seventh time, as they
   might do. And, if it be that by some frequent asking his
   happiness and yours could be insured, would it not be
   folly that such happiness should be marred by childish
   disinclination on your part to tell the truth?

   As I said before, if your heart be set against him, there
   must be an end of it. I can understand that a girl so
   young as you should fail to see the great merit of such a
   man. I therefore write as I do, thinking it possible that
   in this respect you may be willing to accept from my mouth
   something as to the man which shall be regarded as truth.
   It is on the inner man, on his nature and disposition,
   that the happiness of a wife must depend. A more noble
   nature, a more truthful spirit than his, I have never
   met. He is one on whom in every phase of life you may
   depend,--or I may depend,--as on a rock. He is one without
   vacillation, always steady to his purpose, requiring from
   himself in the way of duty and conduct infinitely more
   than he demands from those around him. If ever there was
   a man altogether manly, he is one. And yet no woman, no
   angel, ever held a heart more tender within his bosom. See
   him with children! Think of his words when he has spoken
   to yourself! Remember the estimation in which those
   friends hold him who know him best,--such as I and your
   friend, Lady Albury, and Sir Harry, and his cousin Nina.
   I could name many others, but these are those with whom
   you have seen him most frequently. If you can love such a
   man, do you not think that he would make you happy? And
   if you cannot, must there not be something wrong in your
   heart,--unless indeed it be already predisposed to some
   one else? Think of all this, dear Ayala, and remember that
   I am always

   Your affectionate friend,

   JULIA BALDONI.


Ayala's first feeling as she read the letter was a conviction that
her friend had altogether wasted her labour in writing it. Of what
use was it to tell her of the man's virtues,--to tell her that the
man's heart was as tender as an angel's, his truth as assured as a
god's, his courage that of a hero,--that he was possessed of all
those attributes which should by right belong to an Angel of Light?
She knew all that without requiring the evidence of a lady from
Rome,--having no need of any evidence on that matter from any other
human being. Of what use could any evidence be on such a subject from
the most truthful lips that ever spoke! Had she not found it all out
herself would any words from others have prevailed with her? But she
had found it out herself. It was already her gospel. That he was
tender and true, manly, heroic,--as brightly angelic as could be
any Angel of Light,--was already an absolute fact to her. No!--her
heart had never been predisposed to any one else. It was of him she
had always dreamed even long before she had seen him. He was the
man, perfect in all good things, who was to come and take her with
him;--if ever man should come and take her. She wanted no Marchesa
Baldoni now to tell her that the angel had in truth come and realised
himself before her in all his glory.

But she had shown herself to be utterly unfit for the angel. Though
she recognised him now, she had not recognised him in time:--and even
when she had recognised him she had been driven by her madness to
reject him. Feminine reserve and coyness! Folly! Yes, indeed; she
knew all that, too, without need of telling from her elders. The kind
of coyness which she had displayed had been the very infatuation of
feminine imbecility. It was because nature had made her utterly unfit
for such a destiny that she had been driven by coyness and feminine
reserve to destroy herself! It was thus that Ayala conversed with
herself.

"I know his nature so well, and feel that he would not bear rebuffs
of which many another man would think nothing." Thus, she did not
doubt, the Marchesa had spoken very truly. But of what value was
all that now? She could not recall the rebuff. She could not now
eradicate the cowardice which had made her repeat those wicked fatal
words,--"I cannot." "I cannot." "I cannot." The letter had come too
late, for there was nothing she could do to amend her doom. She must
send some answer to her friend in Italy, but there could be nothing
in her answer to her to assist her. The feminine reserve and coyness
had become odious to her,--as it had been displayed by herself to
him. But it still remained in full force as to any assistance from
others. She could not tell another to send him back to her. She could
not implore help in her trouble. If he would come himself,--himself
of his own accord,--himself impelled once more by his great
tenderness of heart,--himself once more from his real, real love;
then there should be no more coyness. "If you will still have me,--oh
yes!"

But there was the letter to be written. She so wrote it that by far
the greater part of it,--the larger part at least,--had reference to
Nina and her wedding. "I will think of her on the 8th of April," she
said. "I shall then be at home at Kingsbury Crescent, and I shall
have nothing else to think of." In that was her first allusion to
her own condition with her lover. But on the last side of the sheet
it was necessary that she should say more than that. Something must
be said thoughtfully, carefully, and gratefully in reply to so much
thought, and care, and friendship, as had been shown to her. But it
must be so written that nothing of her secret should be read in it.
The task was so troublesome that she was compelled to recopy the
whole of her long letter, because the sentences as first written did
not please her. "I am so much obliged to you," she said, "by your
kindness about Colonel Stubbs. He did do me the honour of asking me
to be his wife. And I felt it so. You are not to suppose that I did
not understand that. It is all over now, and I cannot explain to
you why I felt that it would not do. It is all over, and therefore
writing about it is no good. Only I want you to be sure of two
things,--that there is no one else, and that I do love you so
much for all your kindness. And you may be sure of a third thing,
too,--that it is all over. I do hope that he will still let me be his
friend. As a friend I have always liked him so much." It was brave
and bold, she thought, in answer to such words as the Marchesa's; but
she did not know how to do it any better.

On Tuesday, the 25th of March, she was to return to Kingsbury
Crescent. Various little words were said at Stalham indicating an
intended break in the arrangement. "The Captain certainly won't come
now," said Lady Albury, alluding to the arrangement as though it had
been made solely with the view of saving Ayala from an encounter with
her objectionable lover. "Croppy has come back," said Sir Harry one
day;--Croppy being the pony which Ayala had ridden. "Miss Dormer can
have him now for what little there is left of the hunting." This was
said on the Saturday before she was to go. How could she ride Croppy
for the rest of the hunting when she would be at Kingsbury Crescent?
On neither of these occasions did she say a word, but she assumed
that little look of contradiction which her friends at Stalham
already knew how to read. Then, on the Sunday morning, there came
a letter for Lady Albury. "What does he say?" asked Sir Harry, at
breakfast. "I'll show it you before you go to church," answered his
wife. Then Ayala knew that the letter was from Colonel Stubbs.

But she did not expect that the letter should be shown her,--which,
however, came to be the case. When she was in the library, waiting
to start to church, Lady Albury came in and threw the letter to her
across the table. "That concerns you," she said, "you had better read
it." There was another lady in the room, also waiting to start on
their walk across the park, and therefore it was natural that nothing
else should be said at the moment. Ayala read the letter, returned
it to the envelope, and then handed it back to Lady Albury,--so that
there was no word spoken about it before church. The letter, which
was very short, was as follows;--

"I shall be at Stalham by the afternoon train on Sunday, 30th,--in
time for dinner, if you will send the dog-cart. I could not leave
this most exigeant of all places this week. I suppose Albury will
go on in the woodlands for a week or ten days in April, and I must
put up with that. I hear that Batsby is altogether fixed by the
fascinations of Merle Park. I hope that you and Albury will receive
consolation in the money." Then there was a postscript. "If Croppy
can be got back again, Miss Dormer might see me tumble into another
river."

It was evident that Lady Albury did not expect anything to be said
at present. She put the letter into her pocket, and there, for the
moment, was the end of it. It may be feared that Ayala's attention
was not fixed that morning so closely as it should have been on the
services of the Church. There was so much in that little letter which
insisted upon having all her attention! Had there been no postscript,
the letter would have been very different. In that case the body
of the letter itself would have intended to have no reference to
her,--or rather it would have had a reference altogether opposite to
that which the postscript gave it. In that case it would have been
manifest to her that he had intentionally postponed his coming till
she had left Stalham. Then his suggestion about the hunting would
have had no interest for her. Everything would have been over. She
would have been at Kingsbury Crescent, and he would have been at
Stalham. But the postscript declared his intention of finding her
still in the old quarters. She would not be there,--as she declared
to herself. After this there would be but one other day, and then she
would be gone. But even this allusion to her and to the pony made the
letter something to her of intense interest. Had it not been so Lady
Albury would not have shown it to her. As it was, why had Lady Albury
shown it to her in that quiet, placid, friendly way,--as though it
were natural that any letter from Colonel Stubbs to Stalham should be
shown to her?

At lunch Sir Harry began about the pony at once. "Miss Dormer," he
said, "the pony will hardly be fit to-morrow, and the distances
during the rest of the week are all too great for you; you had better
wait till Monday week, when Stubbs will be here to look after you."

"But I am going home on Tuesday," said Ayala.

"I've had the pony brought on purpose for you," said Sir Harry.

"You are not going at all," said Lady Albury. "All that has to be
altered. I'll write to Mrs. Dosett."

"I don't think--" began Ayala.

"I shall take it very much amiss," said Sir Harry, "if you go now.
Stubbs is coming on purpose."

"I don't think--" began Ayala again.

"My dear Ayala, it isn't a case for thinking," said Lady Albury. "You
most positively will not leave this house till some day in April,
which will have to be settled hereafter. Do not let us have a word
more about it." Then, on that immediate occasion, no further word
about it was spoken. Ayala was quite unable to speak as she sat
attempting to eat her lunch.



CHAPTER LIII.

HOW LUCY'S AFFAIRS ARRANGED THEMSELVES.


We must go again to Merle Park, where the Tringle family was still
living,--and from which Gertrude had not as yet been violently
abducted at the period to which the reader has been brought in the
relation which has been given of the affairs at Stalham. Jonathan
Stubbs's little note to Lady Albury was received on Sunday, 23rd
March, and Gertrude was not abducted till the 29th. On Sunday, the
30th, she was brought back,--not in great triumph. At that time the
house was considerably perturbed. Sir Thomas was very angry with
his daughter Augusta, having been led to believe that she had been
privy to Gertrude's escapade,--so angry that very violent words had
been spoken as to her expulsion from the house. Tom also was ill,
absolutely ill in bed, with a doctor to see him,--and all from love,
declaring that he would throw himself over the ship's side and drown
himself while there was yet a chance left to him for Ayala. And in
the midst of this Lady Tringle herself was by no means exempt from
the paternal wrath. She was told that she must have known what was
going on between her daughter and that idiot Captain,--that she
encouraged the Trafficks to remain,--that she coddled up her son
till he was sick from sheer lackadaisical idleness. The only one
in the house who seemed to be exempt from the wrath of Sir Thomas
was Lucy,--and therefore it was upon Lucy's head that fell the
concentrated energy of Aunt Emmeline's revenge. When Captain Batsby
was spoken of with contumely in the light of a husband,--this being
always done by Sir Thomas,--Lady Tringle would make her rejoinder to
this, when Sir Thomas had turned his back, by saying that a captain
in Her Majesty's army, with good blood in his veins and a competent
fortune, was at any rate better than a poor artist, who had, so to
say, no blood, and was unable to earn his bread; and when Tom was
ridiculed for his love for Ayala she would go on to explain,--always
after Sir Thomas's back had been turned,--that poor Tom had been
encouraged by his father, whereas Lucy had taken upon herself to
engage herself in opposition to her pastors and masters. And then
came the climax. It was all very well to say that Augusta was
intruding,--but there were people who intruded much worse than
Augusta, without half so much right. When this was said the poor
sore-hearted woman felt her own cruelty, and endeavoured to withdraw
the harsh words; but the wound had been given, and the venom rankled
so bitterly that Lucy could no longer bear her existence among the
Tringles. "I ought not to remain after that," she wrote to her lover.
"Though I went into the poor-house I ought not to remain."

"I wrote to Mr. Hamel," she said to her aunt, "and told him that as
you did not like my being here I had better,--better go away."

"But where are you to go? And I didn't say that I didn't like you
being here. You oughtn't to take me up in that way."

"I do feel that I am in the way, aunt, and I think that I had better
go."

"But where are you to go? I declare that everybody says everything to
break my heart. Of course you are to remain here till he has got a
house to keep you in." But the letter had gone and a reply had come
telling Lucy that whatever might be the poor-house to which she would
be destined he would be there to share it with her.

Hamel wrote this with high heart. He had already resolved, previous
to this, that he would at once prepare a home for his coming bride,
though he was sore distressed by the emergency of his position. His
father had become more and more bitter with him as he learned that
his son would in no respect be guided by him. There was a sum of
money which he now declared to be due to him, and which Isadore
acknowledged to have been lent to him. Of this the father demanded
repayment. "If," said he, "you acknowledge anything of the obedience
of a son, that money is at your disposal,--and any other that you may
want. But, if you determine to be as free from my control and as deaf
to my advice as might be any other young man, then you must be to me
as might be any other young man." He had written to his father saying
that the money should be repaid as soon as possible. The misfortune
had come to him at a trying time. It was, however, before he had
received Lucy's last account of her own misery at Merle Park, so that
when that was received he was in part prepared.

Our Colonel, in writing to Lady Albury, had declared Aldershot to be
a most exigeant place,--by which he had intended to imply that his
professional cares were too heavy to allow his frequent absence; but
nevertheless he would contrive occasionally to fly up to London for
a little relief. Once when doing so he had found himself sitting
in the sculptor's studio, and there listening to Hamel's account
of Lucy's troubles at Merle Park. Hamel said nothing as to his own
difficulties, but was very eager in explaining the necessity of
removing Lucy from the tyranny to which she was subjected. It will
perhaps be remembered that Hamel down in Scotland had declared to his
friend his purpose of asking Lucy Dormer to be his wife, and also
the success of his enterprise after he had gone across the lake to
Glenbogie. It will be borne in mind also that should the Colonel
succeed in winning Ayala to his way of thinking the two men would
become the husbands of the two sisters. Each fully sympathised with
the other, and in this way they had become sincere and intimate
friends.

"Is she like her sister?" asked the Colonel, who was not as yet
acquainted with Lucy.

"Hardly like her, although in truth there is a family likeness. Lucy
is taller, with perhaps more regular features, and certainly more
quiet in her manner."

"Ayala can be very quiet too," said the lover.

"Oh, yes,--because she varies in her moods. I remember her almost as
a child, when she would remain perfectly still for a quarter of an
hour, and then would be up and about the house everywhere, glancing
about like a ray of the sun reflected from a mirror as you move it in
your hand."

"She has grown steadier since that," said the Colonel.

"I cannot imagine her to be steady,--not as Lucy is steady. Lucy, if
it be necessary, can sit and fill herself with her own thoughts for
the hour together."

"Which of them was most like their father?"

"They were both of them like him in their thorough love for things
beautiful;--but they are both of them unlike him in this, that he
was self-indulgent, while they, like women in general, are always
devoting themselves to others." She will not devote herself to me,
thought Jonathan Stubbs to himself, but that may be because, like her
father, she loves things beautiful. "My poor Lucy," continued Hamel,
"would fain devote herself to those around her if they would only
permit it."

"She would probably prefer devoting herself to you," said the
Colonel.

"No doubt she would,--if it were expedient. If I may presume that she
loves me, I may presume also that she would wish to live with me."

"Is it not expedient?" asked the other.

"It will be so, I trust, before long."

"But it seems to be so necessary just at present." To this the
sculptor at the moment made no reply. "If," continued Stubbs, "they
treat her among them as you say, she ought at any rate to be relieved
from her misery."

"She ought to be relieved certainly. She shall be relieved."

"But you say that it is not expedient."

"I only meant that there were difficulties;--difficulties which will
have to be got over. I think that all difficulties are got over when
a man looks at them steadily."

"This, I suppose, is an affair of money."

"Well, yes. All difficulties seem to me to be an affair of money.
A man, of course, would wish to earn enough before he marries to
make his wife comfortable. I would struggle on as I am, and not be
impatient, were it not that I fear she is more uncomfortable as she
is now than she would be here in the midst of my poverty."

"After all, Hamel, what is the extent of the poverty? What are the
real circumstances? As you have gone so far you might as well tell
me everything." Then after considerable pressure the sculptor did
tell him everything. There was an income of less than three hundred
a year,--which would probably become about four within the next
twelvemonth. There were no funds prepared with which to buy the
necessary furniture for the incoming of a wife, and there was that
debt demanded by his father.

"Must that be paid?" asked the Colonel.

"I would starve rather than not pay it," said Hamel, "if I alone were
to be considered. It would certainly be paid within the next six
months if I were alone, even though I should starve."

Then his friend told him that the debt should be paid at once. It
amounted to but little more than a hundred pounds. And then, of
course, the conversation was carried further. When a friend inquires
as to the pecuniary distresses of a friend he feels himself as a
matter of course bound to relieve him. He would supply also the means
necessary for the incoming of the young wife. With much energy, and
for a long time, Hamel refused to accept the assistance offered
to him; but the Colonel insisted in the first place on what he
considered to be due from himself to Ayala's sister, and then on
the fact that he doubted not in the least the ultimate success
which would attend the professional industry of his friend. And so
before the day was over it was settled among them. The money was
to be forthcoming at once, so that the debt might be paid and the
preparations made, and Hamel was to write to Lucy and declare that he
should be ready to receive her as soon as arrangements should be made
for their immediate marriage. Then came the further outrage,--that
cruel speech as to intruders, and Lucy wrote to her lover, owning
that it would be well for her that she should be relieved.

The news was, of course, declared to the family at Merle Park. "I
never knew anything so hard," said Aunt Emmeline. "Of course you have
told him that it was all my fault." When Lucy made no answer to this,
she went on with her complaint. "I know that you have told him that I
have turned you out,--which is not true."

"I told him it was better I should go, as you did not like my being
here."

"I suppose Lucy was in a little hurry to have the marriage come off,"
said Augusta,--who would surely have spared her cousin if at the
moment she had remembered the haste which had been displayed by her
sister.

"I thought it best," said Lucy.

"I'm sure I don't know how it is to be done," said Aunt Emmeline.
"You must tell your uncle yourself. I don't know how you are to be
married from here, seeing the trouble we are in."

"We shall be up in London before that," said Gertrude.

"Or from Queen's Gate either," continued Aunt Emmeline.

"I don't suppose that will much signify. I shall just go to the
church."

"Like a servant-maid?" asked Gertrude.

"Yes;--like a servant-maid," said Lucy. "That is to say, a
servant-maid would, I suppose, simply walk in and be married; and I
shall do the same."

"I think you had better tell your uncle," said Aunt Emmeline. "But I
am sure I did not mean that you were to go away like this. It will be
your own doing, and I cannot help it if you will do it."

Then Lucy did tell her uncle. "And you mean to live upon three
hundred a year!" exclaimed Sir Thomas. "You don't know what you are
talking about."

"I think Mr. Hamel knows."

"He is as ignorant as a babe unborn;--I mean about that kind of
thing. I don't doubt he can make things in stone as well as anybody."

"In marble, Uncle Tom."

"Marble is stone, I suppose;--or in iron."

"Bronze, Uncle Tom."

"Very well. There is iron in bronze, I suppose. But he doesn't know
what a wife will cost. Has he bought any furniture?"

"He is going to buy it,--just a little;--what will do?"

"Why should you want to bring him into this?" Lucy looked wistfully
up into his face. He himself had been personally kind to her, and she
found it to be impossible to complain to him of her aunt. "You are
not happy here?"

"My aunt and cousins think that I am wrong; but I must be married to
him now, Uncle Tom."

"Why did he kick up his heels when I wanted to help him?"
Nevertheless, he gave his orders on the subject very much in Lucy's
favour. She was to be married from Queen's Gate, and Gertrude must
be her bridesmaid. Ayala no doubt would be the other. When his wife
expostulated, he consented that the marriage should be very quiet,
but still he would have it as he had said. Then he bestowed a cheque
upon Lucy,--larger in amount than Stubbs's loan,--saying that after
what had passed in Lombard Street he would not venture to send money
to so independent a person as Mr. Isadore Hamel; but adding that
Lucy, perhaps, would condescend to accept it. There was a smile in
his eye as he said the otherwise ill-natured word, so that Lucy,
without any wound to her feelings, could kiss him and accept his
bounty.

"I suppose I am to have nothing to do in settling the day," said Aunt
Emmeline. It was, however, settled between them that the marriage
should take place on a certain day in May. Upon this Lucy was of
course overjoyed, and wrote to her lover in a full flow of spirits.
And she sent him the cheque, having written her name with great pride
on the back of it. There was a little trouble about this as a part of
it had to come back as her trousseau, but still the arrangement was
pleasantly made. Then Sir Thomas again became more kind to her, in
his rough manner,--even when his troubles were at the worst after
the return of Gertrude. "If it will not be altogether oppressive to
his pride you may tell him that I shall make you an allowance of a
hundred a year as my niece,--just for your personal expenses."

"I don't know that he is so proud, Uncle Tom."

"He seemed so to me. But if you say nothing to him about it, and just
buy a few gowns now and again, he will perhaps be so wrapt up in the
higher affairs of his art as not to take any notice."

"I am sure he will notice what I wear," said Lucy. However she
communicated her uncle's intentions to her lover, and he sent back
his grateful thanks to Sir Thomas. As one effect of all this the
Colonel's money was sent back to him, with an assurance that as
things were now settling themselves such pecuniary assistance was not
needed. But this was not done till Ayala had heard what the Angel of
Light had done on her sister's behalf. But as to Ayala's feelings
in that respect we must be silent here, as otherwise we should make
premature allusion to the condition in which Ayala found herself
before she had at last managed to escape from Stalham Park.

"Papa," said Gertrude, to her father one evening, "don't you think
you could do something for me too now?" Just at this time Sir Thomas,
greatly to his own annoyance, was coming down to Merle Park every
evening. According to their plans as at present arranged, they were
to stay in the country till after Easter, and then they were to go up
to town in time to despatch poor Tom upon his long journey round the
world. But poor Tom was now in bed, apparently ill, and there seemed
to be great doubt whether he could be made to go on the appointed
day in spite of the taking of his berth and the preparation of his
outfit. Tom, if well enough, was to sail on the nineteenth of April,
and there now wanted not above ten days to that time. "Don't you
think you could do something for me now?" asked Gertrude. Hitherto
Sir Thomas had extended no sign of pardon to his youngest daughter,
and never failed to allude to her and to Captain Batsby as "those two
idiots" whenever their names were mentioned before him.

"Yes, my dear; I will endeavour to do a good deal for you if you will
behave yourself."

"What do you call behaving myself, papa?"

"In the first place telling me that you are very sorry for your
misbehaviour with that idiot."

"Of course I am sorry if I have offended you."

"Well, that shall go for something. But how about the idiot?"

"Papa!" she exclaimed.

"Was he not an idiot? Would any one but an idiot have gone on such an
errand as that?"

"Gentlemen and ladies have done it before, papa."

"I doubt it," he said. "Gentlemen have run away with young ladies
before, and generally have behaved very badly when they have done so.
He behaved very badly indeed, because he had come to my house, with
my sanction, with the express purpose of expressing his affection
for another young lady. But I think that his folly in this special
running away was worse even than his conduct. How did he come
to think that he could get himself married merely by crossing
over the sea to Ostend? I should be utterly ashamed of him as a
son-in-law,--chiefly because he has shown himself to be an idiot."

"But, papa, you will accept him, won't you?"

"No, my dear, I will not."

"Not though I love him?"

"If I were to give you a choice which you would take, him or Mr.
Houston?"

"Houston is a scoundrel."

"Very likely; but then he is not an idiot. My choice would be
altogether in favour of Mr. Houston. Shall I tell you what I will do,
my dear? I will consent to accept Captain Batsby as my son-in-law if
he will consent to become your husband without having a shilling with
you."

"Would that be kind, papa?"

"I do not think that I can show you any greater kindness than to
protect you from a man who I am quite sure does not care a farthing
about you. He has, you tell me, an ample income of his own."

"Oh yes, papa."

"Then he can afford to marry you without a fortune. Poor Mr. Houston
could not have done so, because he had nothing of his own. I declare,
as I think of it all, I am becoming very tender-hearted towards Mr.
Houston. Don't you think we had better have Mr. Houston back again?
I suppose he would come if you were to send for him." Then she burst
into tears and went away and hid herself.



CHAPTER LIV.

TOM'S LAST ATTEMPT.


While Gertrude was still away on her ill-omened voyage in quest of a
parson, Lady Tringle was stirred up to a great enterprise on behalf
of her unhappy son. There wanted now little more than a fortnight
before the starting of the ship which his father still declared
should carry him out across the world, and he had progressed so far
in contemplating the matter as to own to himself that it would be
best for him to obey his father if there was no hope. But his mind
was still swayed by a theory of love and constancy. He had heard of
men who had succeeded after a dozen times of asking. If Stubbs, the
hated but generous Stubbs, were in truth a successful rival, then
indeed the thing would be over;--then he would go, the sooner the
better; and, as he told his mother half-a-dozen times a day, it would
matter nothing to him whether he were sent to Japan, or the Rocky
Mountains, or the North Pole. In such case he would be quite content
to go, if only for the sake of going. But how was he to be sure? He
was, indeed, nearly sure in the other direction. If Ayala were in
truth engaged to Colonel Stubbs it would certainly be known through
Lucy. Then he had heard, through Lucy, that, though Ayala was staying
at Stalham, the Colonel was not there. He had gone, and Ayala had
remained week after week without him. Then, towards the end of March,
he wrote a letter to his Uncle Reginald, which was very piteous in
its tone;--

"DEAR UNCLE REGINALD," the letter said,


   I don't know whether you have heard of it, but I have
   been very ill--and unhappy. I am now in bed, and nobody
   here knows that I am sending this letter to you. It is
   all about Ayala, and I am not such a fool as to suppose
   that you can do anything for me. If you could I think
   you would,--but of course you can't. She must choose for
   herself,--only I do so wish that she should choose me.
   Nobody would ever be more kind to her. But you can tell
   me really how it is. Is she engaged to marry Colonel
   Stubbs? I know that she refused him, because he told me
   so himself. If she is not engaged to him I think that
   I would have another shy at it. You know what the poet
   says,--"Faint heart never won fair lady." Do tell me if
   she is or is not engaged. I know that she is with those
   Alburys, and that Colonel Stubbs is their friend. But
   they can't make her marry Colonel Stubbs any more than my
   friends can make her marry me. I wish they could. I mean
   my friends, not his.

   If she were really engaged I would go away and hide myself
   in the furthermost corner of the world. Siberia or Central
   Africa would be the same to me. They would have little
   trouble in getting rid of me if I knew that it was all
   over with me. BUT I WILL NEVER STIR FROM THESE REALMS TILL
   I KNOW MY FATE!--Therefore, waiting your reply, I am your
   affectionate nephew,

   THOMAS TRINGLE, junior.


Mr. Dosett, when he received this letter, consulted his wife before
he replied to it, and then did so very shortly;--


   MY DEAR TOM,

   As far as I know, or her aunt, your cousin Ayala is not
   engaged to marry any one. But I should deceive you if I
   did not add my belief that she is resolved not to accept
   the offer you have done her the honour to make her.

   Your affectionate uncle,

   REGINALD DOSETT.


The latter portion of this paragraph had no influence whatsoever
on Tom. Did he not know all that before? Had he ever attempted to
conceal from his relations the fact that Ayala had refused him again
and again? Was not that as notorious to the world at large as a
minister's promise that the income-tax should be abolished? But the
income-tax was not abolished,--and, as yet, Ayala was not married to
any one else. Ayala was not even engaged to any other suitor. Why
should she not change her mind as well as the minister? Certainly he
would not go either to the North Pole or to New York as long as there
should be a hope of bliss for him in England. Then he called his
mother to his bedside.

"Go to Stalham, my dear!" said his mother.

"Why not? They can't eat you. Lady Albury is no more than a Baronet's
wife,--just the same as you."

"It isn't about eating me, Tom. I shouldn't know what to say to
them."

"You need not tell them anything. Say that you had come to call upon
your niece."

"But it would be such an odd thing to do. I never do call on
Ayala,--even when I am in London."

"What does it matter being odd? You could learn the truth at any
rate. If she does not care for any one else why shouldn't she have
me? I could make her a baronet's wife,--that is, some day when the
governor--"

"Don't, Tom;--don't talk in that way."

"I only mean in the course of nature. Sons do come after their
fathers, you know. And as for money, I suppose the governor is quite
as rich as those Alburys."

"I don't think that would matter."

"It does count, mother. I suppose Ayala is the same as other girls in
that respect. I am sure I don't know why it is that she should have
taken such an aversion to me. I suppose it is that she doesn't think
me so much,--quite such a swell as some other men."

"One can't account for such things, Tom."

"No;--that is just it. And therefore she might come round without
accounting for it. At any rate, you might try. You might tell her
that it is ruining me;--that I shall have to go about wandering over
all the world because she is so hard-hearted."

"I don't think I could, my dear," said Lady Tringle, after
considering the matter for a while.

"Why not? Is it because of the trouble?"

"No, my dear; a mother does not think what trouble she may take for
her child, if any good may be done. It is not the trouble. I would
walk all round England to get her for you if that would do it."

"Why not, then? At any rate you might get an answer from her. She
would tell you something of her intention. Mother, I shall never
go away till I know more about it than I do now. The governor says
that he will turn me out. Let him turn me out. That won't make me go
away."

"Oh, Tom, he doesn't mean it."

"But he says it. If I knew that it was all over,--that every chance
was gone, then I would go away."

"It is not the Alburys that I am afraid of," said Lady Tringle.

"What then?"

"It is your father. I cannot go if he will not let me." Nevertheless
she promised before she left his bedside that she would ask Sir
Thomas when he came home whether he would permit her to make the
journey. All this occurred while Sir Thomas was away in quest of his
daughter. And it may be imagined that immediately after his return he
was hardly in a humour to yield to any such request as that which had
been suggested. He was for the moment almost sick of his children,
sick of Merle Park, sick of his wife, and inclined to think that
the only comfort to be found in the world was to be had among his
millions, in that little back parlour in Lombard Street.

It was on a Sunday that he returned, and on that day he did not see
his son. On the Monday morning he went into the room, and Tom was
about to press upon him the prayer which he had addressed to his
mother when his lips were closed by his father's harshness. "Tom,"
he said, "you will be pleased to remember that you start on the
nineteenth."

"But, father--"

"You start on the nineteenth," said Sir Thomas. Then he left the
room, closing the door behind him with none of the tenderness
generally accorded to an invalid.

"You have not asked him?" Tom said to his mother shortly afterwards.

"Not yet, my dear. His mind is so disturbed by this unfortunate
affair."

"And is not my mind disturbed? You may tell him that I will not go,
though he should turn me out a dozen times, unless I know more about
it than I do now."

Sir Thomas came home again that evening, very sour in temper, and
nothing could be said to him. He was angry with everybody, and Lady
Tringle hardly dared to go near him, either then or on the following
morning. On the Tuesday evening, however, he returned somewhat
softened in his demeanour. The millions had perhaps gone right,
though his children would go so wrong. When he spoke either to his
younger daughter or of her he did so in that jeering tone which he
afterwards always assumed when allusion was made to Captain Batsby,
and which, disagreeable as it was, seemed to imply something of
forgiveness. And he ate his dinner, and drank his glass of wine,
without making any allusion to the parsimonious habits of his
son-in-law, Mr. Traffick. Lady Tringle, therefore, considered that
she might approach him with Tom's request.

"You go to Stalham!" he exclaimed.

"Well, my dear, I suppose I could see her?"

"And what could you learn from her?"

"I don't suppose I could learn much. She was always a pig-headed,
stiff-necked creature. I am sure it wouldn't be any pleasure to me to
see her."

"What good would it do?" demanded Sir Thomas.

"Well, my dear; he says that he won't go unless he can get a message
from her. I am sure I don't want to go to Stalham. Nothing on earth
could be so disagreeable. But perhaps I could bring back a word or
two which would make him go upon his journey."

"What sort of word?"

"Why;--if I were to say that she were engaged to this Colonel Stubbs,
then he would go. He says that he would start at once if he knew that
his cousin were really engaged to somebody else."

"But if she be not?"

"Perhaps I could just colour it a little. It would be such a grand
thing to get him away, and he in this miserable condition! If he were
once on his travels, I do think he would soon begin to forget it
all."

"Of course he would," said Sir Thomas.

"Then I might as well try. He has set his heart upon it, and if he
thinks that I have done his bidding then he will obey you. As for
turning him out, Tom, of course you do not really mean that!"

In answer to this Sir Thomas said nothing. He knew well enough that
Tom couldn't be turned out. That turning out of a son is a difficult
task to accomplish, and one altogether beyond the power of Sir
Thomas. The chief cause of his sorrow lay in the fact that he, as the
head of Travers and Treason, was debarred from the assistance and
companionship of his son. All Travers and Treason was nothing to him,
because his son would run so far away from the right path. There was
nothing he would not do to bring him back. If Ayala could have been
bought by any reasonable, or even unreasonable, amount of thousands,
he would have bought her willingly for his boy's delight. It was a
thing wonderful to him that Tom should have been upset so absolutely
by his love. He did appreciate the feeling so far that he was willing
to condone all those follies already committed if Tom would only put
himself in the way of recovery. That massacreing of the policeman,
those ill-spent nights at the Mountaineers and at Bolivia's, that
foolish challenge, and the almost more foolish blow under the portico
at the Haymarket, should all be forgiven if Tom would only consent
to go through some slight purgation which would again fit him for
Travers and Treason. And the purgation should be made as pleasant as
possible. He should travel about the world with his pocket full of
money and with every arrangement for luxurious comfort. Only he must
go. There was no other way in which he could be so purged as to be
again fit for Travers and Treason. He did not at all believe that
Ayala could now be purchased. Whether pig-headed or not, Ayala was
certainly self-willed. No good such as Tom expected would come from
this projected visit to Stalham. But if he would allow it to be made
in obedience to Tom's request,--then perhaps some tidings might be
brought back which, whether strictly true or not, might induce Tom to
allow himself to be put on board the ship. Arguing thus with himself,
Sir Thomas at last gave his consent.

It was a most disagreeable task which the mother thus undertook.
She could not go from Merle Park to Stalham and back in one day. It
was necessary that she should sleep two nights in London. It was
arranged, therefore, that she should go up to London on the Thursday;
then make her journey down to Stalham and back on the Friday, and
get home on the Saturday. There would then still remain nearly a
fortnight before Tom would have to leave Merle Park. After much
consideration it was decided that a note should be written to Ayala
apprising her of her aunt's coming. "I hope Lady Albury will not be
surprised at my visit," said the note, "but I am so anxious to see
you, just for half-an-hour, upon a matter of great importance, that I
shall run my chance." She would prefer to have seen the girl without
any notice; but then, had no notice been given, the girl would
perhaps have been out of the way. As it was a telegram was received
back in reply. "I shall be at home. Lady Albury will be very glad to
see you at lunch. She says there shall be a room all ready if you
will sleep."

"I certainly shall not stay there," Lady Tringle said to Mrs.
Traffick, "but it is as well to know that they will be civil to me."

"They are stuck-up sort of people I believe," said Augusta; "just
like that Marchesa Baldoni, who is one of them. But, as to their
being civil, that is a matter of course. They would hardly be uncivil
to any one connected with Lord Boardotrade!"

Then came the Thursday on which the journey was to be commenced. As
the moment came near Lady Tringle was very much afraid of the task
before her. She was afraid even of her niece Ayala, who had assumed
increased proportions in her eyes since she had persistently refused
not only Tom but also Colonel Stubbs and Captain Batsby, and then in
spite of her own connexion with Lord Boardotrade,--of whom since her
daughter's marriage she had learned to think less than she had done
before,--she did feel that the Alburys were fashionable people, and
that Ayala as their guest had achieved something for herself. Stalham
was, no doubt, superior in general estimation to Merle Park, and with
her there had been always a certain awe of Ayala, which she had not
felt in reference to Lucy. Ayala's demand that Augusta should go
upstairs and fetch the scrap-book had had its effect,--as had also
her success in going up St. Peter's and to the Marchesa's dance; and
then there would be Lady Albury herself,--and all the Alburys! Only
that Tom was very anxious, she would even now have abandoned the
undertaking.

"Mother," said Tom, on the last morning, "you will do the best you
can for me."

"Oh yes, my dear."

"I do think that, if you would make her understand the real truth,
she might have me yet. She wouldn't like that a fellow should die."

"I am afraid that she is hard-hearted, Tom."

"I do not believe it, mother. I have seen her when she wouldn't kill
even a fly. If she could only be made to see all the good she could
do."

"I am afraid she won't care for that unless she can bring herself
really to love you."

"Why shouldn't she love me?"

"Ah, my boy; how am I to tell you? Perhaps if you hadn't loved her so
well it might have been different. If you had scorned her--"

"Scorn her! I couldn't scorn her. I have heard of that kind of thing
before, but how is one to help oneself? You can't scorn a friend
just because you choose to say so to yourself. When I see her she is
something so precious to me that I could not be rough to her to save
my life. When she first came it wasn't so. I could laugh at her then.
But now--! They talk about goddesses, but I am sure she is a goddess
to me."

"If you had made no more than a woman of her it might have been
better, Tom." All that was too late now. The doctrine which Lady
Tringle was enunciating to her son, and which he repudiated, is one
that has been often preached and never practised. A man when he is
conscious of the presence of a mere woman, to whom he feels that no
worship is due, may for his own purpose be able to tell a lie to her,
and make her believe that he acknowledges a divinity in her presence.
But, when he feels the goddess, he cannot carry himself before her as
though she were a mere woman, and, as such, inferior to himself in
her attributes. Poor Tom had felt the touch of something divine, and
had fallen immediately prostrate before the shrine with his face to
the ground. His chance with Ayala could in no circumstances have been
great; but she was certainly not one to have yielded to a prostrate
worshipper.

"Mother!" said Tom, recalling Lady Tringle as she was leaving the
room.

"What is it, my dear? I must really go now or I shall be too late for
the train."

"Mother, tell her, tell her,--tell her that I love her." His mother
ran back, kissed his brow, and then left the room.

Lady Tringle spent that evening in Queen's Gate, where Sir Thomas
remained with her. The hours passed heavily, as they had not much
present to their mind with which to console each other. Sir Thomas
had no belief whatever in the journey except in so far as it might
help to induce his son to proceed upon his travels;--but his wife had
been so far softened by poor Tom's sorrows as to hope a little, in
spite of her judgment, that Ayala might yet relent. Her heart was
soft towards her son, so that she felt that the girl would deserve
all manner of punishment unless she would at last yield to Tom's
wishes. She was all but sure that it could not be so, and yet, in
spite of her convictions, she hoped.

On the next morning the train took her safely to the Stalham Road
Station, and as she approached the end of her journey her heart
became heavier within her. She felt that she could not but fail to
give any excuse to the Alburys for such a journey,--unless, indeed,
Ayala should do as she would have her. At the station she found the
Albury carriage, with the Albury coachman, and the Albury footman,
and the Albury liveries, waiting for her. It was a closed carriage,
and for a moment she thought that Ayala might be there. In that case
she could have performed her commission in the carriage, and then
have returned to London without going to the house at all. But Ayala
was not there. Lady Tringle was driven up to the house, and then
taken through the hall into a small sitting-room, where for a moment
she was alone. Then the door opened, and Ayala, radiant with beauty,
in all the prettiness of her best morning costume, was in a moment
in her arms. She seemed in her brightness to be different from that
Ayala who had been known before at Glenbogie and in Rome. "Dear
aunt," said Ayala, "I am so delighted to see you at Stalham!"



CHAPTER LV.

IN THE CASTLE THERE LIVED A KNIGHT.


Ayala was compelled to consent to remain at Stalham. The "I don't
think" which she repeated so often was, of course, of no avail to
her. Sir Harry would be angry, and Lady Albury would be disgusted,
were she to go,--and so she remained. There was to be a week before
Colonel Stubbs would come, and she was to remain not only for the
week but also for some short time afterwards,--so that there might
be yet a few days left of hunting under the Colonel. It could
not, surely, have been doubtful to her after she had read that
letter,--with the postscript,--that if she remained her happiness
would be insured! He would not have come again and insisted on
her being there to receive him if nothing were to come of it. And
yet she had fought for permission to return to Kingsbury Crescent
after her little fashion, and had at last yielded, as she told Lady
Albury,--because Sir Harry seemed to wish it. "Of course he wishes
it," said Lady Albury. "He has got the pony on purpose, and nobody
likes being disappointed when he has done a thing so much as Sir
Harry." Ayala, delighted as she was, did not make her secret known.
She was fluttered, and apparently uneasy,--so that her friend did
not know what to make of it, or which way to take it. Ayala's secret
was to herself a secret still to be maintained with holy reticence.
It might still be possible that Jonathan Stubbs should never say
another word to her of his love. If he did,--why then all the world
might know. Then there would be no secret. Then she could sit and
discuss her love, and his love, all night long with Lady Albury,
if Lady Albury would listen to her. In the meantime the secret
must be a secret. To confess her love, and then to have her love
disappointed,--that would be death to her!

And thus it went on through the whole week, Lady Albury not quite
knowing what to make of it. Once she did say a word, thinking that
she would thus extract the truth, not as yet understanding how potent
Ayala could be to keep her secret. "That man has, at any rate, been
very true to you," she said. Ayala frowned, and shook her head,
and would not say a word upon the subject. "If she did not mean to
take him now, surely she would have gone," Lady Albury said to her
husband.

"She is a pretty little girl enough," said Sir Harry, "but I doubt
whether she is worth all the trouble."

"Of course she is not. What pretty little girl ever was? But as long
as he thinks her worth it the trouble has to be taken."

"Of course she'll accept him?"

"I am not at all so sure of it. She has been made to believe that you
wanted her to stay, and therefore she has stayed. She is quite master
enough of herself to ride out hunting with him again and then to
refuse him." And so Lady Albury doubted up to the Sunday, and all
through the Sunday,--up to the very moment when the last preparations
were to be made for the man's arrival.

The train reached the Stalham Road Station at 7 P.M., and the
distance was five miles. On Sundays they usually dined at Stalham at
7.30. The hour fixed was to be 8 on this occasion,--and even with
this there would be some bustling. The house was now nearly empty,
there being no visitors there except Mr. and Mrs. Gosling and Ayala.
Lady Albury gave many thoughts to the manner of the man's reception,
and determined at last that Jonathan should have an opportunity of
saying a word to Ayala immediately on his arrival if he so pleased.
"Mind you are down at half-past seven," she said to Ayala, coming to
her in her bedroom.

"I thought we should not dine till eight."

"There is no knowing. Sir Harry is so fussy. I shall be down, and I
should like you to be with me." Then Ayala promised. "And mind you
have his frock on."

"You'll make me wear it out before any one else sees it," she said,
laughing. But again she promised. She got a glimmer of light from it
all, nearly understanding what Lady Albury intended. But against such
intentions as these she had no reason to fight. Why should she not be
ready to see him? Why should she not have on her prettiest dress when
he came? If he meant to say the word,--then her prettiest dress would
all be too poor, and her readiest ears not quick enough to meet so
great a joy. If he were not to say the other word,--then should she
shun him by staying behind, or be afraid of the encounter? Should she
be less gaily attired because it would be unnecessary to please his
eye?

Oh, no! "I'll be there at half-past seven," she said. "But I know the
train will be late, and Sir Harry won't get his dinner till nine."

"Then, my dear, great as the Colonel is, he may come in and get what
is left for him in the middle. Sir Harry will not wait a minute after
eight."

The buxom woman came and dressed her. The buxom woman probably knew
what was going to happen;--was perhaps more keenly alive to the truth
than Lady Albury herself. "We have taken great care of it, haven't
we, Miss?" she said, as she fastened the dress behind. "It's just as
new still."

"New!" said Ayala. "It has got to be new with me for the next two
years."

"I don't know much about that, Miss. Somebody will have to pay for
a good many more new dresses before two years are over, I take it."
To this Ayala made no answer, but she was quite sure that the buxom
woman intended to imply that Colonel Stubbs would have to pay for the
new dresses.

Punctually at half-past seven she was in the drawing-room, and there
she remained alone for a few minutes. She endeavoured to sit down
and be quiet, but she found it impossible to compose herself. Almost
immediately he would be there, and then,--as she was quite sure,--her
fate would be known to her instantly. She knew that the first moment
of his presence in the room with her would tell her everything.
If that were told to her which she desired to hear, everything
should be re-told to him as quickly. But, if it were otherwise,
then she thought that when the moment came she would still have
strength enough to hide her sorrow. If he had come simply for the
hunting,--simply that they two might ride a-hunting together so that
he might show to her that all traces of his disappointment were
gone,--then she would know how to teach him to think that her heart
towards him was as it had ever been. The thing to be done would be so
sad as to call from her tears almost of blood in her solitude; but
it should be so done that no one should know that any sorrow such as
this had touched her bosom. Not even to Lucy should this secret be
told.

There was a clock on the mantelpiece to which her eye was continually
turned. It now wanted twenty minutes to eight, and she was aware that
if the train was punctual he might now be at the hall-door. At this
moment Lady Albury entered the room. "Your knight has come at last,"
she said; "I hear his wheels on the gravel."

"He is no knight of mine," said Ayala, with that peculiar frown of
hers.

"Whose ever knight he is, there he is. Knight or not, I must go and
welcome him." Then Lady Albury hurried out of the room and Ayala
was again alone. The door had been left partly open, so that she
could hear the sound of voices and steps across the inner hall or
billiard-room. There were the servants waiting upon him, and Sir
Harry bidding him to go up and dress at once so as not to keep
the whole house waiting, and Lady Albury declaring that there was
yet ample time as the dinner certainly would not be on the table
for half-an-hour. She heard it all, and heard him to whom all her
thoughts were now given laughing as he declared that he had never
been so cold in his life, and that he certainly would not dress
himself till he had warmed his fingers. She was far away from the
door, not having stirred from the spot on which she was standing
when Lady Albury left her; but she fancied that she heard the murmur
of some slight whisper, and she told herself that Lady Albury was
telling him where to seek her. Then she heard the sound of the man's
step across the billiard-room, she heard his hand upon the door, and
there he was in her presence!

When she thought of it all afterwards, as she did so many scores of
times, she never could tell how it had occurred. When she accused him
in her playfulness, telling him that he had taken for granted that
of which he had had no sign, she never knew whether there had been
aught of truth in her accusation. But she did know that he had hardly
closed the door behind him when she was in his arms, and felt the
burning love of his kisses upon her cheeks. There had been no more
asking whether he was to have any other answer. Of that she was quite
sure. Had there been such further question she would have answered
him, and some remembrance of her own words would have remained with
her. She was quite sure that she had answered no question. Some
memory of mingled granting and denying, of repulses and assents all
quickly huddled upon one another, of attempts to escape while she was
so happy to remain, and then of a deluge of love terms which fell
upon her ears,--"his own one, his wife, his darling, his Ayala, at
last his own sweet Ayala,"--this was what remained to her of that
little interview. She had not spoken a word. She thought she was sure
of that. Her breath had left her,--so that she could not speak. And
yet it had been taken for granted,--though on former occasions he had
pleaded with slow piteous words! How had it been that he had come to
know the truth so suddenly? Then she became aware that Lady Albury
was speaking to Mrs. Gosling in the billiard-room outside, detaining
her other guest till the scene within should be over. At that moment
she did speak a word which she remembered afterwards. "Go;--go; you
must go now." Then there had been one other soft repulse, one other
sweet assent, and the man had gone. There was just a moment for her,
in which to tell herself that the Angel of Light had come for her,
and had taken her to himself.

Mrs. Gosling, who was a pretty little woman, crept softly into the
room, hiding her suspicion if she had any. Lady Albury put out her
hand to Ayala behind the other woman's back, not raising it high, but
just so that her young friend might touch it if she pleased. Ayala
did touch it, sliding her little fingers into the offered grasp. "I
thought it would be so," whispered Lady Albury. "I thought it would
be so."

"What the deuce are you all up to," said Sir Harry, bursting into
the room. "It's eight now, and that man has only just gone up to his
room."

"He hasn't been in the house above five minutes yet," said Lady
Albury, "and I think he has been very quick." Ayala thought so too.

During dinner and afterwards they were very full of hunting for the
next day. It was wonderful to Ayala that there should be thought for
such a trifle when there was such a thing as love in the world. While
there was so much to fill her heart, how could there be thoughts
of anything else? But Jonathan,--he was Jonathan to her now, her
Jonathan, her Angel of Light,--was very keen upon the subject. There
was but one week left. He thought that Croppy might manage three days
as there was to be but one week. Croppy would have leisure and rest
enough afterwards. "It's a little sharp," said Sir Harry.

"Oh, pray don't," said Ayala.

But Lady Albury and Jonathan together silenced Sir Harry, and Mrs.
Gosling proved the absurdity of the objection by telling the story of
a pony who had carried a lady three days running. "I should not have
liked to be either the pony, or the owner, or the lady," said Sir
Harry. But he was silenced. What did it matter though the heavens
fell, so that Ayala was pleased? What is too much to be done for a
girl who proves herself to be an angel by accepting the right man at
the right time?

She had but one moment alone with her lover that night. "I always
loved you," she whispered to him as she fled away. The Colonel did
not quite understand the assertion, but he was contented with it as
he sat smoking his cigar with Sir Harry and Mr. Gosling.

But, though she could have but one word that night with her lover,
there were many words between her and Lady Albury before they went to
bed. "And so, like wise people, you have settled it all between you
at last," said Lady Albury.

"I don't know whether he is wise."

"We will take that for granted. At any rate he has been very true."

"Oh, yes."

"And you,--you knew all about it."

"No;--I knew nothing. I did not think he would ever ask again. I only
hoped."

"But why on earth did you give him so much trouble?"

"I can't tell you," said Ayala, shaking her head.

"Do you mean that there is still a secret?"

"No, not that. I would tell you anything that I could tell, because
you have been so very, very good to me. But I cannot tell. I cannot
explain even to myself. Oh, Lady Albury, why have you been so good to
me?"

"Shall I say because I have loved you?"

"Yes;--if it be true."

"But it is not true."

"Oh, Lady Albury!"

"I do love you dearly. I shall always love you now. I do hope I shall
love you now, because you will be his wife. But I have not been kind
to you as you call it because I loved you."

"Then why?"

"Because I loved him. Cannot you understand that? Because I was
anxious that he should have all that he wanted. Was it not necessary
that there should be some house in which he might meet you? Could
there have been much of a pleasant time for wooing between you in
your aunt's drawing-room in Kingsbury Crescent?"

"Oh, no," said Ayala.

"Could he have taken you out hunting unless you had been here? How
could he and you have known each other at all unless I had been kind
to you? Now you will understand."

"Yes," said Ayala, "I understand now. Did he ask you?"

"Well,--he consulted me. We talked you all over, and made up our
minds, between us, that if we petted you down here that would be the
best way to win you. Were we not right?"

"It was a very nice way. I do so like to be petted."

"Sir Harry was in the secret, and he did his petting by buying the
frock. That was a success too, I think."

"Did he care about that, Lady Albury?"

"What he?"

"Jonathan," said Ayala, almost stumbling over the word, as she
pronounced it aloud for the first time.

"I think he liked it. But whether he would have persevered without it
you must ask yourself. If he tells you that he would never have said
another word to you only for this frock, then I think you ought to
thank Sir Harry, and give him a kiss."

"I am sure he will not tell me that," said Ayala, with mock
indignation.

"And now, my dear, as I have told you all my secret, and have
explained to you how we laid our heads together, and plotted against
you, I think you ought to tell me your secret. Why was it that you
refused him so pertinaciously on that Sunday when you were out
walking, and yet you knew your mind about it so clearly as soon as he
arrived to-day?"

"I can't explain it," said Ayala.

"You must know that you liked him."

"I always liked him."

"You must have more than liked on that Sunday."

"I adored him."

"Then I don't understand you."

"Lady Albury, I think I fell in love with him the first moment I saw
him. The Marchesa took me to a party in London, and there he was."

"Did he say anything to you then?"

"No. He was very funny,--as he often is. Don't you know his way?
I remember every word he said to me. He came up without any
introduction and ordered me to dance with him."

"And you did?"

"Oh yes. Whatever he told me I should have done. Then he scolded me
because I did not stand up quick enough. And he invented some story
about a woman who was engaged to him and would not marry him because
he had red hair and his name was Jonathan. I knew it was all a joke,
and yet I hated the woman."

"That must have been love at first sight."

"I think it was. From that day to this I have always been thinking
about him."

"And yet you refused him twice over?"

"Yes."

"At ever so long an interval?" Ayala bobbed her head at her
companion. "And why?"

"Ah;--that I can't tell. I shall try to tell him some day, but I know
that I never shall. It was because--. But, Lady Albury, I cannot tell
it. Did you ever picture anything to yourself in a waking dream?"

"Build castles in the air?" suggested Lady Albury.

"That's just it."

"Very often. But they never come true."

"Never have come true,--exactly. I had a castle in the air, and in
the castle lived a knight." She was still ashamed to say that the
inhabitant of the castle was an Angel of Light. "I wanted to find out
whether he was the knight who lived there. He was."

"And you were not quite sure till to-day?"

"I have been sure a long time. But when we walked out on that Sunday
I was such an idiot that I did not know how to tell him. Oh, Lady
Albury, I was such a fool! What should I have done if he hadn't come
back?"

"Sent for him."

"Never;--never! I should have been miserable always! But now I am so
happy."

"He is the real knight?"

"Oh, yes; indeed. He is the real,--real knight, that has always been
living in my castle."

Ayala's promotion was now so firmly fixed that the buxom female came
to assist her off with her clothes when Lady Albury had left her.
From this time forth it was supposed that such assistance would be
necessary. "I take it, Miss," said the buxom female, "there will be a
many new dresses before the end of this time two years." From which
Ayala was quite sure that everybody in the house knew all about it.


      *      *      *      *      *      *


But it was now, now when she was quite alone, that the great sense
of her happiness came to her. In the fulness of her dreams there
had never been more than the conviction that such a being, and none
other, could be worthy of her love. There had never been faith in the
hope that such a one would come to her,--never even though she would
tell herself that angels had come down from heaven and had sought in
marriage the hands of the daughters of men. Her dreams had been to
her a barrier against love rather than an encouragement. But now he
that she had in truth dreamed of had come for her. Then she brought
out the Marchesa's letter and read that description of her lover.
Yes; he was all that; true, brave, tender,--a very hero. But then
he was more than all that,--for he was in truth the very "Angel of
Light."



CHAPTER LVI.

GOBBLEGOOSE WOOD AGAIN.


The Monday was devoted to hunting. I am not at all sure that riding
about the country with a pack of hounds is an amusement specially
compatible with that assured love entertainment which was now within
the reach of Ayala and her Angel. For the rudiments of love-making,
for little endearing attentions, for a few sweet words to be
whispered with shortened breath as one horse gallops beside another,
perhaps for a lengthened half-hour together, amidst the mazes of
a large wood when opportunities are no doubt given for private
conversation, hunting may be very well. But for two persons who are
engaged, with the mutual consent of all their friends, a comfortable
sofa is perhaps preferable. Ayala had heard as yet but very little
of her lover's intentions;--was acquainted only with that one single
intention which he had declared in asking her to be his wife. There
were a thousand things to be told,--the how, the where, and the when.
She knew hitherto the why, and that was all. Nothing could be told
her while she was galloping about a big wood on Croppy's back. "I
am delighted to see you again in these parts, Miss," said Larry
Twentyman, suddenly.

"Oh, Mr. Twentyman; how is the baby?"

"The baby is quite well, Miss. His mamma has been out ever so many
times."

"I ought to have asked for her first. Does baby come out too?"

"Not quite. But when the hounds are near mamma comes for an hour or
so. We have had a wonderful season,--quite wonderful. You have heard,
perhaps, of our great run from Dillsborough Wood. We found him there,
close to my place, you know, and run him down in the Brake country
after an hour and forty minutes. There were only five or six of them.
You'd have been one, Miss, to a moral, if you'd have been here on the
pony. I say we never changed our fox."

Ayala was well disposed towards Larry Twentyman, and was quite aware
that, according to the records and established usages of that hunt,
he was a man with whom she might talk safely. But she did not care
about the foxes so much as she had done before. There was nothing
now for which she cared much, except Jonathan Stubbs. He was always
riding near her throughout the day, so that he might be with her
should there arise anything special to be done; but he was not always
close to her,--as she would have had him. He had gained his purpose,
and he was satisfied. She had entered in upon the fruition of
positive bliss, but enjoyed it in perfection only when she heard the
sound of his voice, or could look into his eyes as she spoke to him.
She did not care much about the great run from Dillsborough, or even
for the compliment with which Mr. Twentyman finished his narrative.
They were riding about the big woods all day, not without killing
a fox, but with none of the excitement of a real run. "After that
Croppy will be quite fit to come again on Wednesday," suggested the
Colonel on their way home. To which Sir Harry assented.

"What do you folks mean to do to-day?" asked Lady Albury at breakfast
on the following morning. Ayala had her own little plan in her head,
but did not dare to propose it publicly. "Will you choose to be
driven, or will you choose to walk?" said Lady Albury, addressing
herself to Ayala. Ayala, in her present position, was considered to
be entitled to special consideration. Ayala thought she would prefer
to walk. At last there came a moment in which she could make her
request to the person chiefly concerned. "Walk with me to the wood
with that absurd name," suggested Ayala.

"Gobblegoose Wood," suggested the Colonel. Then that was arranged
according to Ayala's wishes.

A walk in a wood is perhaps almost as good as a comfortable seat in a
drawing-room, and is, perhaps, less liable to intrusion. They started
and walked the way which Ayala remembered so well when she had
trudged along, pretending to listen to Sir Harry and Captain Glomax
as they carried on their discussion about the hunted fox, but giving
all her ears to the Colonel, and wondering whether he would say
anything to her before the day was over. Then her mind had been in a
perturbed state which she herself had failed to understand. She was
sure that she would say "No" to him, should he speak, and yet she
desired that it should be "Yes." What a fool she had been, she told
herself as she walked along now, and how little she had deserved all
the good that had come to her!

The conversation was chiefly with him as they went. He told her much
now of the how, and the when, and the where. He hoped there might be
no long delay. He would live, he said, for the next year or two at
Aldershot, and would be able to get a house fit for her on condition
that they should be married at once. He did not explain why the house
could not be taken even though their marriage were delayed two or
three months,--but as to this she asked no questions. Of course they
must be married in London if Mrs. Dosett wished it; but if not it
might be arranged that the wedding should take place at Stalham.
Upon all this and many other things he had much to propose, and
all that he said Ayala accepted as gospel. As the Angel of Light
had appeared,--as the knight who was lord of the castle had come
forth,--of course he must be obeyed in everything. He could hardly
have made a suggestion to which she would not have acceded. When they
had entered the wood Ayala in her own quiet way led him to the very
spot in which on that former day he had asked her his question. "Do
you remember this path?" she asked.

"I remember that you and I were walking here together," he said.

"Ay, but this very turn? Do you remember this branch?"

"Well, no; not the branch."

"You put your hand on it when you said that 'never--never,' to me."

"Did I say 'never,--never'?"

"Yes, you did;--when I was so untrue to you."

"Were you untrue?" he asked.

"Jonathan, you remember nothing about it. It has all passed away from
you just as though you were talking to Captain Glomax about the fox."

"Has it, dear?"

"I remember every word of it. I remember how you stood and how you
looked, even to the hat you wore and the little switch you held in
your hand,--when you asked for one little word, one glance, one
slightest touch. There, now;--you shall have all my weight to bear."
Then she leant upon him with both her hands, turned round her arm,
glanced up into his face, and opened her lips as though speaking that
little word. "Do you remember that I said I thought you had given it
all up?"

"I remember that, certainly."

"And was not that untrue? Oh, Jonathan, that was such a story. Had I
thought so I should have been miserable."

"Then why did you swear to me so often that you could not love me?"

"I never said so," replied Ayala; "never."

"Did you not?" he asked.

"I never said so. I never told you such a story as that. I did love
you then, almost as well as I do now. Oh, I had loved you for so long
a time!"

"Then why did you refuse me?"

"Ah; that is what I would explain to you now,--here on this very
spot,--if I could. Does it not seem odd that a girl should have all
that she wants offered to her, and yet not be able to take it?"

"Was it all that you wanted?"

"Indeed it was. When I was in church that morning I told myself that
I never, never, could be happy unless you came to me again."

"But when I did come you would not have me."

"I knew how to love you," she said, "but I did not know how to tell
you that I loved you. I can tell you now; cannot I?" and then she
looked up at him and smiled. "Yes, I think I shall never be tired of
telling you now. It is sweet to hear you say that you love me, but it
is sweeter still to be always telling you. And yet I could not tell
you then. Suppose you had taken me at my word?"

"I told you that I should never give you up."

"It was only that that kept me from being altogether wretched.
I think that I was ashamed to tell you the truth when I had once
refused to do as you would have me. I had given you so much trouble
all for nothing. I think that if you had asked me on that first day
at the ball in London I should have said yes, if I had told the
truth."

"That would have been very sudden. I had never seen you before that."

"Nevertheless it was so. I don't mind owning it to you now, though
I never, never, would own it to any one else. When you came to us at
the theatre I was sure that no one else could ever have been so good.
I certainly did love you then."

"Hardly that, Ayala."

"I did," she said. "Now I have told you everything, and if you choose
to think I have been bad,--why you must think so, and I must put up
with it."

"Bad, my darling?"

"I suppose it was bad to fall in love with a man like that; and
very bad to give him the trouble of coming so often. But now I
have made a clean breast of it, and if you want to scold me you
must scold me now. You may do it now, but you must never scold me
afterwards,--because of that." It may be left to the reader to
imagine the nature of the scolding which she received.

Then on their way home she thanked him for all the good that he
had done to all those belonging to her. "I have heard it all from
Lucy;--how generous you have been to Isadore."

"That has all come to nothing," he said.

"How come to nothing? I know that you sent him the money."

"I did offer to lend him something, and, indeed, I sent him a cheque;
but two days afterwards he returned it. That tremendous uncle of
yours--"

"Uncle Tom?"

"Yes, your Uncle Tom; the man of millions! He came forward and cut
me out altogether. I don't know what went on down there in Sussex,
but when he heard that they intended to be married shortly he put
his hand into his pocket, as a magnificent uncle, overflowing with
millions, ought to do."

"I did not hear that."

"Hamel sent my money back at once."

"And poor Tom! You were so good to poor Tom."

"I like Tom."

"But he did behave badly."

"Well; yes. One gentleman shouldn't strike another, even though he be
ever so much in love. It's an uncomfortable proceeding, and never has
good results. But then, poor fellow, he has been so much in earnest."

"Why couldn't he take a No when he got it?"

"Why didn't I take a No when I got it?"

"That was very different. He ought to have taken it. If you had taken
it you would have been very wrong, and have broken a poor girl's
heart. I am sure you knew that all through."

"Did I?"

"And then you were too good-natured. That was it. I don't think you
really love me;--not as I love you. Oh, Jonathan, if you were to
change your mind now! Suppose you were to tell me that it was a
mistake! Suppose I were to awake and find myself in bed at Kingsbury
Crescent?"

"I hope there may be no such waking as that!"

"I should go mad,--stark mad. Shake me till I find out whether it is
real waking, downright, earnest. But, Jonathan, why did you call me
Miss Dormer when you went away? That was the worst of all. I remember
when you called me Ayala first. It went through and through me like
an electric shock. But you never saw it;--did you?"

On that afternoon when she returned home she wrote to her sister
Lucy, giving a sister's account to her sister of all her happiness.
"I am sure Isadore is second best, but Jonathan is best. I don't want
you to say so; but if you contradict me I shall stick to it. You
remember my telling you that the old woman in the railway said that
I was perverse. She was a clever old woman, and knew all about it,
for I was perverse. However, it has come all right now, and Jonathan
is best of all. Oh, my man,--my man! Is it not sweet to have a man
of one's own to love?" If this letter had been written on the day
before,--as would have been the case had not Ayala been taken out
hunting,--it would h