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Title: Chippinge Borough
Author: Weyman, Stanley J.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          Chippinge Borough


                                  BY

                          STANLEY J. WEYMAN

                   Author of "The Long Night," Etc.



                               NEW YORK
                       McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.
                                MCMVI



                       _Copyright_, 1906, _by_
                       McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.



             Copyright, 1905, 1905, by Stanley J. Weyman.



                               CONTENTS

   CHAPTER

         I. The Dissolution.

        II. The Spirit of the Storm.

       III. Two Letters.

        IV. Tantivy! Tantivy! Tantivy!

         V. Rosy-fingered Dawn.

        VI. The Patron of Chippinge.

       VII. The Winds of Autumn.

      VIII. A Sad Misadventure.

        IX. The Bill for Giving Everybody Everything.

         X. The Queen's Square Academy for Young Ladies.

        XI. Don Giovanni Flixton.

       XII. A Rotten Borough.

      XIII. The Vermuyden Dinner.

       XIV. Miss Sibson's Mistake.

        XV. Mr. Pybus's Offer.

       XVI. Less than a Hero.

      XVII. The Chippinge Election.

     XVIII. The Chippinge Election (_Continued_).

       XIX. The Fruits of Victory.

        XX. A Plot Unmasked.

       XXI. A Meeting of Old Friends.

      XXII. Women's Hearts.

     XXIII. In the House.

      XXIV. A Right and Left.

       XXV. At Stapylton.

      XXVI. The Scene in the Hall.

     XXVII. Wicked Shifts.

    XXVIII. Once More, Tantivy!

      XXIX. Autumn Leaves.

       XXX. The Mayor's Reception in Queen's Square.

      XXXI. Sunday in Bristol.

     XXXII. The Affray at the Palace.

    XXXIII. Fire.

     XXXIV. Hours of Darkness.

      XXXV. The Morning of Monday.

     XXXVI. Forgiveness.

    XXXVII. In the Mourning Coach.

   XXXVIII. Threads and Patches.



   CHIPPINGE BOROUGH



                                  I

                           THE DISSOLUTION


Boom!

It was April 22, 1831, and a young man was walking down Whitehall in
the direction of Parliament Street. He wore shepherd's plaid trousers
and the swallow-tail coat of the day, with a figured muslin cravat
wound about his wide-spread collar. He halted opposite the Privy
Gardens, and, with his face turned skywards, listened until the sound
of the Tower guns smote again on the ear and dispelled his doubts. To
the experienced, his outward man, neat and modestly prosperous,
denoted a young barrister of promise or a Treasury clerk. His figure
was good, he was above the middle height, and he carried himself with
an easy independence. He seemed to be one who both held a fair opinion
of himself and knew how to impress that opinion on his fellows; yet
was not incapable of deference where deference was plainly due. He was
neither ugly nor handsome, neither slovenly nor a _petit-maître_;
indeed, it was doubtful if he had ever seen the inside of Almack's.
But his features were strong and intellectual, and the keen grey eyes
which looked so boldly on the world could express both humour and good
humour. In a word, this young man was one upon whom women, even great
ladies, were likely to look with pleasure, and one woman--but he had
not yet met her--with tenderness.

Boom!

He was only one among a dozen, who within the space of a few yards had
been brought to a stand by the sound; who knew what the salute meant,
and in their various ways were moved by it. The rumour which had flown
through the town in the morning that the King was about to dissolve
his six-months-old Parliament was true, then! so true that already in
the clubs, from Boodle's to Brooks's, men were sending off despatches,
while the long arms of the semaphore were carrying the news to the
Continent. Persons began to run by Vaughan--the young man's name was
Arthur Vaughan; and behind him the street was filling with a multitude
hastening to see the sight, or so much of it as the vulgar might see.
Some ran towards Westminster without disguise. Some, of a higher
station, walked as fast as dignity and their strapped trousers
permitted; while others again, who thought themselves wiser than their
neighbours, made quickly for Downing Street and the different openings
which led into St. James's Park, in the hope of catching a glimpse of
the procession before the crowd about the Houses engulfed it.

Nine out of ten, as they ran or walked--nay, it might be said more
truly, ninety-nine out of a hundred--evinced a joy quite out of the
common, and such as no political event of these days produces. One
cried, "Hip! Hip! Hip!"; one flung up his cap; one swore gaily.
Strangers told one another that it was a good thing, bravely done! And
while the whole of that part of the town seemed to be moving towards
the Houses, the guns boomed on, proclaiming to all the world that the
unexpected had happened; that the Parliament which had passed the
People's Bill by one--a miserable one in the largest House which had
ever voted--and having done that, had shelved it by some shift, some
subterfuge, was meeting the fate which it deserved.

No man, be it noted, called the measure the Reform Bill, or anything
but the Bill, or, affectionately, the People's Bill. But they called
it that repeatedly, and in their enthusiasm, exulted in the fall of
its enemies as in a personal gain. And though here and there amid the
general turmoil a man of mature age stood aside and scowled on the
crowd as it swept vociferating by him, such men were but as straws in
a backwater of the stream--powerless to arrest the current, and liable
at any moment to be swept within its influence.

That generation had seen many a coach start laurel-clad from St.
Martin's and listened many a time to the salvoes that told of
victories in France or Flanders. But it was no exaggeration to say
that even Waterloo had not flung abroad more general joy, nor sown the
dingy streets with brighter faces, than this civil gain. For now--now,
surely--the People's Bill would pass, and the people be truly
represented in Parliament! Now, for certain, the Bill's ill-wishers
would get a fall! And if every man--about which some doubts were
whispered even in the public-houses--did not get a vote which he could
sell for a handful of gold, as his betters had sold their votes time
out of mind, at least there would be beef and beer for all! Or, if not
that, something indefinite, but vastly pleasant. Few, indeed, knew
precisely what they wished and what they were going to gain, but


              _Hurrah for Mr. Brougham!_
              _Hurrah for Gaffer Grey!_
              _Hurrah for Lord John!_


Hurrah, in a word, for the Ministry, hurrah for the Whigs! And above
all, three cheers for the King, who had stood by Lord Grey and
dissolved this niggling, hypocritical Parliament of landowners.

Meanwhile the young man who has been described resumed his course; but
slowly, and without betraying by any marked sign that he shared the
general feeling. Still, he walked with his head a little higher than
before; he seemed to sniff the battle; and there was a light in his
eyes as if he saw a wider arena before him. "It is true, then," he
muttered. "And for to-day I shall have my errand for my pains. He will
have other fish to fry, and will not see me. But what of that! Another
day will do as well."

At this moment a ragamuffin in an old jockey-cap attached himself to
him, and, running beside him, urged him to hasten.

"Run, your honour," he croaked in gin-laden accents, "and you'll 'ave
a good place! And I'll drink your honour's health, and Billy the
King's! Sure he's the father of his country, and seven besides. Come
on, your honour, or they'll be jostling you!"

Vaughan glanced down and shook his head. He waved the man away.

But the lout looked only to his market, and was not easily repulsed.
"He's there, I tell you," he persisted. "And for threepence I'll get
you to see him. Come on, your honour! It's many a Westminster election
I've seen, and beer running, from Mr. Fox, that was the gentleman had
always a word for the poor man, till now, when maybe it's your
honour's going to stand! Anyway, it's, Down with the mongers!"

A man who was clinging to the wall at the corner of Downing
Street waved his broken hat round his head. "Ay, down with the
borough-mongers!" he cried. "Down with Peel! Down with the Dook! Down
with 'em all! Down with everybody!"

"And long live the Bill!" cried a man of more respectable appearance
as he hurried by. "And long live the King, God bless him!"

"They'll know what it is to balk the people now," chimed in a fourth.
"Let 'em go back and get elected if they can. Ay, let 'em!"

"Ay, let 'em! Mr. Brougham'll see to that!" shouted the other. "Hurrah
for Mr. Brougham!"

The cry was taken up by the crowd, and three cheers were given for the
Chancellor, who was so well known to the mob by the style under which
he had been triumphantly elected for Yorkshire that his peerage was
ignored.

Vaughan, however, heard but the echo of these cheers. Like most young
men of his time, he leant to the popular side. But he had no taste for
the populace in the mass; and the sight of the crowd, which was fast
occupying the whole of the space before Palace Yard and even surging
back into Parliament Street, determined him to turn aside. He shook
off his attendant and, crossing into Whitehall Place, walked up and
down, immersed in his reflections.

He was honestly ambitious, and his thoughts turned naturally on the
influence which this Bill--which must create a new England, and for
many a new world--was likely to have on his own fortunes. The owner of
a small estate in South Wales, come early to his inheritance, he had
sickened of the idle life of an officer in peacetime; and after three
years of service, believing himself fit for something higher, he had
sold his commission and turned his mind to intellectual pursuits. He
hoped that he had a bent that way; and the glory of the immortal
three, who thirty years before had founded the "Edinburgh Review,"
and, by so doing, made this day possible, attracted him. Why should
not he, as well as another, be the man who, in the Commons, the
cockpit of the nation, stood spurred to meet all comers--in an uproar
which could almost be heard where he walked? Or the man who, in the
lists of Themis, upheld the right of the widow and the poor man's
cause, and to whom judges listened with reluctant admiration? Or best
of all, highest of all, might he not vie with that abnormal and
remarkable man who wore at once the three crowns, and whether as
Edinburgh Reviewer, as knight of the shire for York, or as Chancellor
of England, played his part with equal ease? To be brief, it was
prizes such as these, distant but luminous, that held his eyes,
incited him to effort, made him live laborious days. He believed that
he had ability, and though he came late to the strife, he brought his
experience. If men living from hand to mouth and distracted by
household cares could achieve so much, why should not he who had his
independence and his place in the world? Had not Erskine been such
another? He, too, had sickened of barrack life. And Brougham and the
two Scotts, Eldon and Stowell. To say nothing of this young Macaulay,
whose name was beginning to run through every mouth; and of a dozen
others who had risen to fame from a lower and less advantageous
station.

The goal was distant, but it was glorious. Nor had the eighteen months
which he had given to the study of the law, to attendance at the
Academic and at a less ambitious debating society, and to the output
of some scientific feelers, shaken his faith in himself. He had not
yet thought of a seat at St. Stephen's; for no nomination had fallen
to him, nor, save from one quarter, was likely to fall. And his
income, some six hundred a year, though it was ample for a bachelor,
would not stretch to the price of a seat at five thousand for the
Parliament, or fifteen hundred for the Session--the quotations which
had ruled of late. A seat some time, however, he must have; it was a
necessary stepping-stone to the heights he would gain. And the subject
in his mind as he paced Whitehall Place was the abolition of the close
boroughs and the effect which the transfer of electoral power to the
middle-class would have on his chances.

A small thing--no more than a quantity of straw laid thickly before
one of the houses--brought his thoughts down to the present. By a
natural impulse he raised his eyes to the house; by a coincidence,
less natural, a hand, even as he looked, showed itself behind one of
the panes of a window on the first floor, and drew down the blind.
Vaughan stood after that, fascinated, and watched the lowering of
blind after blind. And the solemn contrast between his busy thoughts
and that which had even then happened in the house--between that which
lay behind the darkened windows and the bright April sunshine about
him, the twittering of the sparrows in the green, and the tumult of
distant cheering--went home to him.

He thought of the lines, so old and so applicable:


             _Omnes eodem cogimur, omnium_
             _Versatur urna, serius, ocius_,
               _Sors exitura, et nos in æternum_
                 _Exilium impositura cymbæ_.


He was still rolling the words on his tongue with that love of the
classical rhythm which was a mark of his day--and returns no more than
the taste for the prize-ring which was coeval with it--when the door
of the house opened and a man came clumsily and heavily out, closed
the door behind him, and, with his head bent low and the ungainly
movements of an automaton, made off down the street.

The man was very stout as well as tall, his dress slovenly and
disordered. His hat was pulled awry over his eyes, and his hands were
plunged deep in his breeches pockets. Vaughan saw so much. Then the
door opened again, and a face, unmistakably that of a butler, looked
out.

The servant's eyes met his, and though the man neither spoke nor
beckoned, his eyes spoke for him. Vaughan crossed the way to him.
"What is it?" he asked.

The man was blubbering. "Oh, Lord; oh, Lord!" he said. "My lady's gone
not five minutes, and he'll not be let nor hindered! He's to the
House, and if the crowd set upon him he'll be murdered. For God's
sake, follow him, sir! He's Sir Charles Wetherell, and a better master
never walked, let them say what they like. If there's anybody with
him, maybe they'll not touch him."

"I will follow him," Vaughan answered. And he hastened after the stout
man, who had by this time reached the corner of the street.

Vaughan was surprised that he had not recognised Wetherell. For in
every bookseller's window caricatures of the "Last of the
Boroughbridges," as the wits called him, after the pocket borough for
which he sat, were plentiful as blackberries. Not only was he the
highest of Tories, but he was a martyr in their cause; for,
Attorney-General in the last Government, he had been dismissed for
resisting the Catholic Claims. Since then he had proved himself, of
all the opponents of the Bill, the most violent, the most witty, and,
with the exception of Croker perhaps, the most rancorous. At this date
he passed for the best hated man in England; and representative to the
public mind of all that was old-fashioned and illiberal and exclusive.
Vaughan knew, therefore, that the servant's fears were not unfounded,
and with a heart full of pity--for he remembered the darkened
house--he made after him.

By this time Sir Charles was some way ahead and already involved in
the crowd. Fortunately the throng was densest opposite Old Palace
Yard, whence the King was in the act of departing; and the space
before the Hall and before St. Stephen's Court--the buildings about
which abutted on the river--though occupied by a loosely moving
multitude, and presenting a scene of the utmost animation, was not
impassable. Sir Charles was in the heart of the crowd before he was
recognised; and then his stolid unconsciousness and the general
good-humour, born of victory, served him well. He was too familiar a
figure to pass altogether unknown; and here and there a man hissed
him. One group turned and hooted after him. But he was within a dozen
yards of the entrance of St. Stephen's Court, with Vaughan on his
heels, before any violence was offered. There a man whom he happened
to jostle recognised him and, bawling abuse, pushed him rudely; and
the act might well have been the beginning of worse things. But
Vaughan touched the man on the shoulder and looked him in the face. "I
shall know you," he said quietly. "Have a care!" And the fellow,
intimidated by his words and his six feet of height, shrank into
himself and stood back.

Wetherell had barely noticed the rudeness. But he noted the
intervention by a backward glance. "Much obliged," he grunted. "Know
you, too, again, young gentleman." And he went heavily on and passed
out of the crowd into the court, followed by a few scattered hisses.

Behind the officers of the House who guarded the entrance a group of
excited talkers were gathered. They were chiefly members who had just
left the House and had been brought to a stand by the sight of the
crowd. On seeing Wetherell, surprise altered their looks. "Good G--d!"
cried one, stepping forward. "You've come down, Wetherell?"

"Ay," the stricken man answered without lifting his eyes or giving the
least sign of animation. "Is it too late?"

"By an hour. There's nothing to be done. Grey and Bruffam have got the
King body and soul. He was so determined to dissolve, he swore that
he'd come down in a hackney-coach rather than not come. So they say!"

"Ay!"

"But I hope," a second struck in, in a tone of solicitude, "that as
you are here, Lady Wetherell has rallied."

"She died a quarter of an hour ago," he muttered. "I could do no more.
I came here. But as I am too late, I'll go back."

Yet he stood awhile, as if he had no longer anything to draw him one
way more than another; with his double chin and pendulous cheeks
resting on his breast and his leaden eyes sunk to the level of the
pavement. And the others stood round him with shocked faces, from
which his words and manner had driven the flush of the combat.
Presently two members, arguing loudly, came up, and were silenced by a
glance and a muttered word. The ungainly attitude, the ill-fitting
clothes, did but accentuate the tragedy of the central figure. They
knew--none better--how fiercely, how keenly, how doggedly he had
struggled against death, against the Bill.

And yet, had they thought of it, the vulgar caricatures that had hurt
her, the abuse that had passed him by to lodge in her bosom, would
hurt her no more!

Meanwhile, Vaughan, as soon as he had seen Sir Charles within the
entrance reserved for members, had betaken himself to the main door of
the Hall, a few paces to the westward. He had no hope that he would
now be able to perform the errand on which he had set forth; for the
Chancellor, for certain, would have other fish to fry and other people
to see. But he thought that he would leave a card with the usher, so
that Lord Brougham might know that he had not failed to come, and
might make a fresh appointment if he still wished to see him.

Of the vast congeries of buildings which then encased St. Stephen's
Chapel and its beautiful but degraded cloisters, little more than the
Hall is left to us. The Hall we have, and in the main in the condition
in which the men of that generation viewed it; as Canning viewed it,
when with death in his face he paced its length on Peel's arm, and
suspecting, perhaps, that they two would meet no more, proved to
all men the good-will he bore his rival. Those among us whose memories
go back a quarter of a century, and who can recall its aspect in
term-time, with three score barristers parading its length, and thrice
as many suitors and attorneys darting over its pavement--all under the
lofty roof which has no rival in Europe--will be able to picture it as
Vaughan saw it when he entered. To the bustle attending the courts of
law was added on this occasion the supreme excitement of the day. In
every corner, on the steps of every court, eager groups wrangled and
debated; while above the hubbub of argument and the trampling of feet,
the voices of ushers rose monotonously, calling a witness or enjoining
order.

Vaughan paused beside the cake-stall at the door and surveyed the
scene. As he stood, one of two men who were pacing near saw him, and
with a whispered word left his companion and came towards him.

"Mr. Vaughan," he said, extending his hand with bland courtesy, "I
hope you are well. Can I do anything for you? We are dissolved, but a
frank is a frank for all that--to-day."

"No, I thank you," Vaughan answered. "The truth is, I had an
appointment with the Chancellor for this afternoon. But I suppose he
will not see me now."

The other's eyebrows met, with the result that his face looked less
bland. He was a small man, with keen dark eyes and bushy grey
whiskers, and an air of hawk-like energy which sixty years had not
tamed. He wore the laced coat of a sergeant at law, powdered on the
shoulders, as if he had but lately and hurriedly cast off his wig.
"Good G--d!" he said. "With the Chancellor!" And then, pulling himself
up, "But I congratulate you. A student at the Bar, as I believe you
are, Mr. Vaughan, who has appointments with the Chancellor, has
fortune indeed within his grasp."

Vaughan laughed. "I fear not," he said. "There are appointments and
appointments, Sergeant Wathen. Mine is not of a professional nature."

Still the sergeant's face, do what he would, looked grim. He had his
reasons for disliking what he heard. "Indeed!" he said drily. "Indeed!
But I must not detain you. Your time," with a faint note of sarcasm,
"is valuable." And with a civil salutation the two parted.

Wathen went back to his companion. "Talk of the Old One!" he said. "Do
you know who that is?"

"No," the other answered. They had been discussing the coming
election. "Who is it?"

"One of my constituents."

His friend laughed. "Oh, come," he said. "I thought you had but one,
sergeant--old Vermuyden."

"Only one," Wathen answered, his eyes travelling from group to group,
"who counts; or rather, who did count. But thirteen who poll. And
that's one of them." He glanced frowning in the direction which
Vaughan had taken. "And what do you think his business is here,
confound him?"

"What?"

"An appointment with old Wicked Shifts."

"With the Chancellor? Pheugh!"

"Ay," the sergeant answered morosely, "you may whistle. There's some
black business on foot, you may depend upon it. And ten to one it's
about my seat. He's a broom," he continued, tugging at the whiskers
which the late King had stamped with the imprimatur of fashion, "that
will make a clean sweep of us if we don't take care. Whatever he does,
there's something behind it. Some bedchamber plot, or some intrigue to
get A. out and put B. in. If it was a charwoman's place he wanted,
he'd not ask for it and get it. That wouldn't please him. But he'd
tunnel and tunnel and tunnel--and so he'd get it."

"Still," the other replied, with secret amusement--for he had no seat,
and the woes of our friends, especially our better-placed friends,
have their comic side--"I thought that you had a safe thing, Wathen?
That old Vermuyden's nomination at Chippinge was as good as an order
on the Bank of England?"

"It was," Wathen answered drily. "But with the country wild for the
Bill, there's no saying what may happen anywhere. Safe!" he continued,
with a snarl. "Was there ever a safer seat than Westbury? Or a man who
had a place in better order than old Lopes, who owned it, and died
last month; taken from the evil to come, Jekyll said, for he never
could have existed in a world without rotten boroughs! It's not far
from Chippinge, so I know--know it well. And I tell you his system was
beautiful--beautiful! Yet when Peel was there--after he had rattled on
the Catholic Claims and been thrown out at Oxford, Lopes made way for
him, you remember?--he would not have got in, no, by G--d, he wouldn't
have got in if there had been a man against him. And the state in
which the country was then, though there was a bit of a Protestant
cry, too, wasn't to compare with what it will be now. That man"--he
shook his fist stealthily in the direction of the Chancellor's
Court--"has lighted a fire in England that will never be put out till
it has consumed King, Lords, and Commons--ay, every stick and stone of
the old Constitution. You take my word for it. And to think--to
think," he added still more savagely, "that it is the Whigs have done
this. The Whigs! who own more than half the land in the country; who
are prouder and stiffer than old George the Third himself; who
wouldn't let you nor me into their Cabinet to save our lives. By the
Lord," he concluded with gusto, "they'll soon learn the difference!"

"In the meantime--there'll be dead cats and bad eggs flying, you
think?"

Wathen groaned. "If that were the end of it," he said, "I'd not mind."

"Still, with it all, you are pretty safe, I suppose?"

"With that fellow closeted with the Chancellor? No, no!"

"Who is the young spark!" the other asked carelessly. "He looked a
decentish kind of fellow. A little of the prig, perhaps."

"He's that!" Wathen answered. "A d----d prig. What's more, a cousin of
old Vermuyden's. And what's worse, his heir. That's why they put him
in the corporation and made him one of the thirteen. Thought the vote
safe in the family, you see? And cheaper?" He winked. "But there's no
love lost between him and old Sir Robert. A bed for a night once a
year, and one day in the season among the turnips, and glad to see
your back, my lad! That's about the position. Now I wonder if Brougham
is going to try--but Lord! there's no guessing what is in that man's
head! He's fuller of mischief than an egg of meat!"

The other was about to answer when one of the courts, in which a case
of some difficulty had caused a late sitting, discharged its noisy,
wrangling, perspiring crowd. The two stepped aside to avoid the
evasion, and did not résumé their talk. Wathen's friend made his way
out by the main door near which they had been standing; while the
sergeant, with looks which mirrored the gloom that a hundred Tory
faces wore on that day, betook himself to the robing-room. There he
happened upon another unfortunate. They fell to talking, and their
talk ran naturally upon the Chancellor, upon old Grey's folly in
letting himself be led by the nose by such a rogue; finally, upon the
mistakes of their own party. They differed on the last topic, and in
that natural and customary state we may leave them.



                                  II

                       THE SPIRIT OF THE STORM


The Court of Chancery, the preserve for nearly a quarter of a
century of Eldon and Delay, was the farthest from the entrance on the
right-hand side of the Hall--a situation which enabled the Chancellor
to pass easily to that other seat of his labours, the Woolsack. Two
steps raised the Tribunals of the Common Law above the level of the
Hall. But as if to indicate that this court was not the seat of
anything so common as law, but was the shrine of that more august
conception, Patronage, and the altar to which countless divines of the
Church of England looked with unwinking devotion, a flight of six or
eight steps led up to the door.

The privacy thus secured had been much to the taste of Lord Eldon.
Doubt and delay flourish best in a close and dusty atmosphere; and if
ever there was a man to whom that which was was right, it was "Old
Bags." Nor had Lord Lyndhurst, his immediate successor, quarrelled
with an arrangement which left him at liberty to devote his time to
society and his beautiful wife. But the man who now sat in the marble
chair was of another kind from either of these. His worst enemy could
not lay dulness to his charge; nor could he who lectured the
Whitbreads on brewing, who explained their art to opticians, who vied
with Talleyrand in the knowledge of French literature, who wrote
eighty articles for the first twenty numbers of the "Edinburgh
Review," be called a sluggard. Confident of his powers, Brougham loved
to display them; and the wider the arena the better he was pleased.
His first sitting had been graced by the presence of three royal
dukes, a whole Cabinet, and a score of peers in full dress. Having
begun thus auspiciously, he was not the man to vegetate in the gloom
of a dry-as-dust court, or to be content with an audience of suitors,
whom equity, blessed word, had long stripped of their votes.

Again and again during the last six months, by brilliant declamations
or by astounding statement, he had filled his court to the last inch.
The lions in the Tower, the tombs in the Abbey, the New Police--all
were deserted; and countryfolk flocked to Westminster, not to hear the
judgments of the highest legal authority in the land, but to see with
their own eyes the fugleman of reform--the great orator, whose voice,
raised at the Yorkshire election, had found an echo that still
thundered in the ears and the hearts of England.

"I am for Reform!" he had said in the castle yard of York; and the
people of England had answered: "So are we; and we will have it,
or----"

The lacuna they had filled, not with words, but with facts stronger
than words--with the flames of Kentish farmhouses and Wiltshire
factories; with political unions counting their numbers by scores of
thousands; with midnight drillings and vague and sullen murmurings;
above all, with the mysterious terror of some great change which was
to come--a terror that shook the most thoughtless and affected even
the Duke, as men called the Duke of Wellington in that day. For was
not every crown on the Continent toppling?

Vaughan did not suppose that, in view of the startling event of the
day, he would be admitted. But the usher, who occupied a high stool
outside the great man's door, no sooner read his card than he slid to
the ground. "I think his lordship will see you, sir," he murmured
blandly; and he disappeared.

He was back on the instant, and, beckoning to Vaughan to follow him,
he proceeded some paces along a murky corridor, which the venerable
form of Eldon seemed still to haunt. Opening a door, he stood aside.

The room which Vaughan saw before him was stately and spacious, and
furnished with quiet richness. A deep silence, intensified by the fact
that the room had no windows, but was lighted from above, reigned in
it--and a smell of law-calf. Here and there on a bookcase or a
pedestal stood a marble bust of Bacon, of Selden, of Blackstone. And
for a moment Vaughan fancied that these were its only occupants. On
advancing further, however, he discovered two persons, who were
writing busily at separate side-tables; and one of them looked up and
spoke.

"Your pardon, Mr. Vaughan!" he said. "One moment, if you please!"

He was almost as good as his word, for less than a minute later he
threw down the pen, and rose--a gaunt figure in a black frockcoat, and
with a black stock about his scraggy neck--and came to meet his
visitor.

"I fear that I have come at an untimely moment, my lord," Vaughan
said, a little awed in spite of himself by what he knew of the man.

But the other's frank address put him at once at his ease. "Politics
pass, Mr. Vaughan," the Chancellor answered lightly, "but science
remains." He did not explain, as he pointed to a seat, that he loved,
above all things, to produce startling effects; to dazzle by the ease
with which he flung off one part and assumed another.

Henry Brougham--so, for some time after his elevation to the peerage,
he persisted in signing himself--was at this time at the zenith of his
life, as of his fame. Tall, but lean and ungainly, with a long neck
and sloping shoulders, he had one of the strangest faces which genius
has ever worn. His clownish features, his high cheek-bones, and queer
bulbous nose are familiar to us; for, something exaggerated by the
caricaturist, they form week by week the trailing mask which mars the
cover of "Punch." Yet was the face, with all its ugliness, singularly
mobile; and the eyes, the windows of that restless and insatiable
soul, shone, sparkled, laughed, wept, with incredible brilliance. That
which he did not know, that which his mind could not perform--save sit
still and be discreet--no man had ever discovered. And it was the
knowledge of this, the sense of the strange and almost uncanny
versatility of the man, which for a moment overpowered Vaughan.

The Chancellor seated himself opposite his visitor, and placed a hand
on each of his wide-spread knees. He smiled.

"My friend," he said, "I envy you."

Vaughan coloured shyly. "Your lordship has little cause," he answered.

"Great cause," was the reply, "great cause! For as you are I
was--and," he chuckled, as he rocked himself to and fro, "I have not
found life very empty or very unpleasant. But it was not to tell you
this that I asked you to wait on me, Mr. Vaughan, as you may suppose.
Light! It is a singular thing that you at the outset of your
career--even as I thirty years ago at the same point of mine--should
take up such a parergon, and alight upon the same discovery."

"I do not think I understand."

"In your article on the possibility of the permanence of
reflection--to which I referred in my letter, I think?"

"Yes, my lord, you did."

"You have restated a fact which I maintained for the first time more
than thirty years ago! In my paper on colours, read before the Royal
Society in--I think it was '96."

Vaughan stared. His colour rose slowly. "Indeed?" he said, in a tone
from which he vainly strove to banish incredulity.

"You have perhaps read the paper?"

"Yes, I have."

The Chancellor chuckled. "And found nothing of the kind in it?" he
said.

Vaughan coloured still more deeply. He felt that the position was
unpleasant. "Frankly, my lord, if you ask me, no."

"And you think yourself," with a grin, "the first discoverer?"

"I did."

Brougham sprang like a boy to his feet, and whisked his long, lank
body to a distant bookshelf. Thence he took down a much-rubbed
manuscript book. As he returned he opened this at a place already
marked, and, laying it on the table, beckoned to the young man to
approach. "Read that," he said waggishly, "and confess, young sir,
that there were chiefs before Agamemnon."

Vaughan stooped over the book, and having read looked up in
perplexity. "But this passage," he said, "was not in the paper read
before the Royal Society in '96?"

"In the paper read? No. Nor yet in the paper printed? There, too, you
are right. And why? Because a sapient dunder-head who was in authority
requested me to omit this passage. He did not believe that light
passing through a small hole in the window-shutter of a darkened room
impresses a view of external objects on white paper; nor that, as I
suggested, the view might be made permanent if cast instead on ivory
rubbed with nitrate of silver!"

Vaughan was dumbfounded, and perhaps a little chagrined. "It is most
singular!" he said.

"Do you wonder now that I could not refrain from sending for you?"

"I do not, indeed."

The Chancellor patted him kindly on the shoulder, and by a gesture
made him résumé his seat. "No, I could not refrain," he continued;
"the coincidence was too remarkable. If you come to sit where I sit,
the chance will be still more singular."

Vaughan coloured with pleasure. "Alas!" he said, smiling, "one
swallow, my lord, does not made a summer."

"Ah, my friend," with a benevolent look. "But I know more of you than
you think. You were in the service, I hear, and left it. _Cedant arma
togæ_, eh?"

"Yes."

"Well, I, too, after a fashion. Thirty years ago I served a gun with
Professor Playfair in the Volunteer Artillery of Edinburgh. God
knows," he continued complacently, "if I had gone on with it, where I
should have landed! Where the Duke is, perhaps! More surprising things
have happened."

Vaughan did not know whether to take this, which was gravely and even
sentimentally spoken, for jest or earnest. He did not speak. And
Brougham, seated in his favourite posture, with a hand on either knee,
his lean body upright, and the skirts of his black coat falling to the
floor on either side of him, resumed. "I hear, too, that you have done
well at the Academic," he said, "and on the right side, Mr. Vaughan.
Light? Ay, always light, my friend, always light! Let that be our
motto. For myself," he continued earnestly, "I have taken it in hand
that this poor country shall never lack light again; and by God's help
and Johnny Russell's Bill I'll bring it about! And not the
phosphorescent light of rotten boroughs and corrupt corporations, Mr.
Vaughan. No, nor the blaze of burning stacks, kindled by wretched,
starving, ignorant--ay, above all, Mr. Vaughan, ignorant men! But the
light of education, the light of a free Press, the light of good
government and honest representation; so that, whatever they lack,
henceforth they shall have voices and means and ways to make their
wants known. You agree with me? But I know you do, for I hear how well
you have spoken on that side. Mr. Cornelius," turning and addressing
the gentleman who still continued to write at his table, "who was it
told us of Mr. Vaughan's speech at the Academic?"

"I don't know," Mr. Cornelius answered gruffly.

"No?" the Chancellor said, not a whit put out. "He never knows
anything!" And then, throwing one knee over the other, he regarded
Vaughan with closer attention. "Mr. Vaughan," he said, "have you ever
thought of entering Parliament?"

Vaughan's heart bounded, and his face betrayed his emotions. Good
heavens, was the Chancellor about to offer him a Government seat? He
scarcely knew what to expect or what to say. The prospect, suddenly
opened, blinded him. He muttered that he had not as yet thought of it.

"You have no connection," Brougham continued, "who could help you to a
seat? For if so, now is the time. Presently there will be a Reformed
Parliament and a crowd of new men, and the road will be blocked by the
throng of aspirants. You are not too young. Palmerston was not so old
when Perceval offered him a seat in the Cabinet."

The words, the tone, the assumption that such things were for
him--that he had but to hold out his hand and they would fall into
it--dropped like balm into the young man's soul. Yet he was not sure
that the other was serious, and he made a tremendous effort to hide
the emotion he felt. "I am afraid," he said, with a forced smile,
"that I, my lord, am not Lord Palmerston."

"No?" Brougham answered with a faint sneer. "But not much the worse
for that, perhaps. So that if you have any connection who commands a
seat, now is the time."

Vaughan shook his head. "I have none," he said, "except my cousin, Sir
Robert Vermuyden."

"Vermuyden of Chippinge?" the Chancellor exclaimed, in a voice of
surprise.

"The same, my lord."

"Good G--d!" Brougham cried. It was not a mealy-mouthed age. And he
leant back and stared at the young man. "You don't mean to say that he
is your cousin?"

"Yes."

The Chancellor laughed grimly. "Oh, dear, dear!" he said. "I am afraid
that he won't help us much. I remember him in the House--an old high
and dry Tory. I am afraid that, with your opinions, you've not much to
expect of him. Still--Mr. Cornelius," to the gentleman at the table,
"oblige me with Oldfield's 'House of Commons,' the Wiltshire volume,
and the private Borough List. Thank you. Let me see--ah, here it is!"

He proceeded to read in a low tone, skipping from heading to heading:
"Chippinge, in the county of Wilts, has returned two members since the
twenty-third of Edward III. Right of election in the Alderman and the
twelve capital burgesses, who hold their places for life. Number of
voters, thirteen. Patron, Sir Robert Vermuyden, Bart., of Stapylton
House.

"Umph, as I thought," he continued, laying down the book. "Now what
does the list say?" And, taking it in turn from his knee, he read:

"In Schedule A for total disfranchisement, the population under 2000.
Present members, Sergeant Wathen and Mr. Cooke, on nomination of Sir
Robert Vermuyden; the former to oblige Lord Eldon, the latter by
purchase. Both opponents of Bill; nothing to be hoped from them. The
Bowood interest divides the corporation in the proportion of four to
nine, but has not succeeded in returning a member since the election
of 1741--on petition. The heir to the Vermuyden interest is----" He
broke off sharply, but continued to study the page. Presently he
looked over it.

"Are you the Mr. Vaughan who inherits?" he asked gravely.

"The greater part of the estates--yes."

Brougham laid down the book and rubbed his chin. "Under those
circumstances," he said, after musing a while, "don't you think that
your cousin could be persuaded to return you as an independent
member?"

Vaughan shook his head with decision.

"The matter is important," the Chancellor continued slowly, and as if
he weighed his words. "I cannot precisely make a promise, Mr. Vaughan;
but if your cousin could see the question of the Bill in another
light, I have little doubt that any object in reason could be secured
for him. If, for instance, it should be necessary in passing the Bill
through the Upper House to create new--eh?"

He paused, looking at Vaughan, who laughed outright. "Sir Robert would
not cross the park to save my life, my lord," he said. "And I am sure
he would rather hang outside the White Lion in Chippinge marketplace
than resign his opinions or his borough!"

"He'll lose the latter, whether or no," Brougham answered, with a
touch of irritation. "Was there not some trouble about his wife? I
think I remember something."

"They were separated many years ago."

"She is alive, is she not?"

"Yes."

Brougham saw, perhaps, that the subject was not palatable, and he
abandoned it. With an abrupt change of manner he flung the books from
him with the recklessness of a boy, and raised his sombre figure to
its height. "Well, well," he said, "I hoped for better things; but I
fear, as Tommy Moore sings--


      "_He's pledged himself, though sore bereft
          Of ways and means of ruling ill,
        To make the most of what are left
          And stick to all that's rotten still!_


And by the Lord, I don't say that I don't respect him. I respect every
man who votes honestly as he thinks." And grandly, with appropriate
gestures, he spouted:


      "_Who spurns the expedient for the right
          Scorns money's all-attractive charms,
        And through mean crowds that clogged his flight
          Has nobly cleared his conquering arms_.


That's the Attorney-General's. He turns old Horace well, doesn't he?"

Vaughan coloured. Young and candid, he could not bear the thought of
taking credit where he did not deserve it. "I fear," he said
awkwardly, "that would bear rather hardly on me if we had a contest at
Chippinge, my lord. Fortunately it is unlikely."

"How would it bear hardly on you?" Brougham asked, with interest.

"I have a vote."

"You are one of the twelve burgesses?" in a tone of surprise.

"Yes, by favour of Sir Robert."

The Chancellor, smiling gaily, shook his head. "No," he said, "no; I
do not believe you. You do yourself an injustice. Leave that sort of
thing to older men, to Lyndhurst, if you will, d----d Jacobin as he
is, preening himself in Tory feathers, and determined whoever's in
he'll not be out; or to Peel. Leave it! And believe me you'll not
repent it. I," he continued loftily, "have seen fifty years of life,
Mr. Vaughan, and lived every year of them and every day of them, and I
tell you that the thing is too dearly bought at that price."

Vaughan felt himself rebuked; but he made a fight. "And yet," he said,
"are there no circumstances, my lord, in which such a vote may be
justified?"

"A vote against your conscience--to oblige someone?"

"Well, yes."

"A Jesuit might justify it. There is nothing which a Jesuit could not
justify, I suppose. But though no man was stronger for the Catholic
Claims than I was, I do not hold a Jesuit to be a man of honour. And
that is where the difference lies. There! But," he continued, with an
abrupt change from the lofty to the confidential, "let me tell you a
fact, Mr. Vaughan. In '29--was it in April or May of '29, Mr.
Cornelius?"

"I don't know to what you refer," Mr. Cornelius grunted.

"To be sure you don't," the Chancellor replied, without any loss of
good-humour; "but in April or May of '29, Mr. Vaughan, the Duke
offered me the Rolls, which is £7000 a year clear for life, and
compatible with a seat in the Commons. It would have suited me better
in every way than the Seals and the House of Lords. It was the prize,
to be frank with you, at which I was aiming; and as at that time the
Duke was making his right-about-face on the Catholic question, and was
being supported by our side, I might have accepted it with an
appearance of honour and consistency. But I did not accept it. I did
not, though my refusal injured myself, and did no one any good. But
there, I am chattering." He broke off, with a smile, and held out his
hand. "However,


             "_Est et fideli tuta silentio
               Merces!_


You won't forget that, I am certain. And you may be sure I shall
remember you. I am pleased to have made your acquaintance, Mr.
Vaughan. Decide on the direction, politics or the law, in which you
mean to push, and some day let me know. In the meantime follow the
light! Light, more light! Don't let them lure you back into old Giant
Despair's cave, or choke you with all the dead bones and rottenness
and foulness they keep there, and that, by God's help, I'll sweep out
of the world before it's a year older!"

And still talking, he saw Vaughan, who was murmuring his
acknowledgments, to the door.

When that had closed on the young man Brougham came back, and,
throwing wide his arms, yawned prodigiously. "Now," he said, "if
Lansdowne doesn't effect something in that borough, I am mistaken."

"Why," Cornelius muttered curtly, "do you trouble about the borough?
Why don't you leave those things to the managers?"

"Why? Why, first because the Duke did that last year, and you see the
result--he's out and we're in. Secondly, Corny, because I am like the
elephant's trunk, that can tear down a tree or pick up a pin."

"But in picking up a pin," the other grunted, "it picks up a deal of
something else."

"Of what?"

"Dirt!"

"Old Pharisee!" the Chancellor cried.

Mr. Cornelius threw down his pen, and, turning in his seat, opened
fire on his companion. "Dirt!" he reiterated sternly. "And for what?
What will be the end of it when you have done all for them, clean and
dirty? They'll not keep you. They use you now, but you're a new man.
What, you--_you_ think to deal on equal terms with the Devonshires and
the Hollands, the Lansdownes and the Russells! Who used Burke, and
when they had squeezed him tossed him aside? Who used Tierney till
they wore him and his fortune out? Who would have used Canning, but he
did not trust them, and so they worried him--though they were all dumb
dogs before him--to his death. Ay, and presently, when you have served
their turn, they will cast you aside."

"They will not dare!" Brougham cried.

"Pshaw! You are Samson, but you are shorn of your strength. They have
been too clever for you. While you were in the Commons they did not
dare. Harry Brougham was their master. So they lured you, poor fool,
into the trap, into the Lords, where you may spout, and spout, and
spout, and it will have as much effect as the beating of a bird's
wings against the bars of its cage!"

"They will not dare!" Brougham reiterated.

"You will see. They will throw you aside."

Brougham walked up and down the room, his eyes glittering, his quaint,
misshapen features working passionately.

"They will throw you aside," Mr. Cornelius repeated, watching him
keenly. "You are a man of the people. You are in earnest. You are
honestly in favour of retrenchment, of education, of reform. But to
these Whigs--save and except to Althorp, who is that _lusus naturæ_,
an honest man, and to Johnny Russell, who is a fanatic--these are
but catchwords, stalking-horses, the means by which, after the
dull old fashion of their fathers and their grandfathers and their
great-grandfathers, they think to creep into power. Reform, if reform
means the representation of the people by the people, the rule of the
people by the people, or by any but the old landed families--why, the
very thought would make them sick!"

Brougham stopped in his pacing to and fro. "You are right," he said
sombrely.

"You acknowledge it?"

"I have known it--here!" And, drawing himself to his full height, he
clapped his hand to his breast. "I have known it here for months. Ay,
and though I have sworn to myself that they would not dare to treat me
as they treated Burke, and Sheridan, and Tierney, and as they would
have treated Canning, I knew it was a lie, my lad; I knew they would.
My mother--ay, my old mother, sitting by the chimneyside, out of the
world there, knew it, and warned me."

"Then why did you go into the Lords?" Cornelius asked. "Why be lured
into the gilded cage, where you are helpless?"

"Because, mark you," Brougham replied sternly, "if I had not, they had
not brought in this Bill. And we had waited, and the people had
waited, another twenty years, maybe!"

"And so you went into the prison-house shorn of your strength?"

Brougham looked at him with a gleam of ferocity in his brilliant eyes.
"Ay," he said, "I did. And by that act," he continued, stretching his
long arms to their farthest extent, "mark you, mark you, never forget
it, I avenged all--not only all I may suffer at their hands, but all
that every slave who ever ground in their mill has suffered, the
slights, the grudged meticulous office, the one finger lent to
shake--all, all! I went into the prison-house, but when I did so I
laid my hands upon the pillars. And their house falls, falls. I
hear it--I hear it falling even now about their ears. They may
throw me aside. But the house is falling, and the great Whig
families--pouf!--they are not in the heaven above, or in the earth
beneath, or in the water that is under the earth. You call Reform
their stalking-horse? Ay, but it is into their own Troy that they
have dragged it; and the clatter of strife which you hear is the
death-knell of their power. They have let in the waves of the sea, and
dream fondly that they can say where they shall stop and what they
shall not touch. They may as well speak to the tide when it flows;
they may as well command the North Sea in its rage; they may as well
bid Hume be silent, or Wetherell be sane. You say I am spent,
Cornelius; and so I am, it may be. I know not. But this I know. Never
again will the families say 'Go!' and he goeth, and 'Do!' and he
doeth, as in the old world that is passing--passing even at this
minute, passing with the Bill. No," he continued, flinging out his
arms with passion; "for when they thought to fool me, and to shut me
dumb among dumb things behind the gilded wires, I knew--I knew that I
was dragging down their house upon their heads."

Mr. Cornelius stared at him. "By G--d!" he said, "I believe you are
right. I believe that you are a cleverer man than I thought you were."



                                 III

                             TWO LETTERS


The Hall was empty when Vaughan came forth; and as the young man
strode down its echoing length there was nothing save his own
footsteps on the pavement to distract his mind from the scene in which
he had taken part. He was excited and a little uplifted, as was
natural. The promises made, if they were to be counted as promises,
were of the vague and indefinite character which it is as easy to
evade as to fulfil. But the Chancellor had spoken to him as to an
equal and treated him as one who had but to choose a career to succeed
in it, and to win the highest prizes which it could bestow. This was
flattering; nor was it to a young man who had little experience of the
world, less flattering to be deemed the owner of a stake in the
country, and a person through whom offers of the most confidential and
important character might be properly made.

He walked to his rooms in Bury Street with a pleasant warmth at his
heart. And at the Academic that evening, where owing to the events of
the day there was a fuller house than had ever been known, and a
fiercer debate, he championed the Government and upheld the
dissolution in a speech which not only excelled his previous efforts,
but was a surprise to those who knew him best. Afterwards he
recognised that his peroration had been only a paraphrase of
Brougham's impassioned "Light! More Light!" and that the whole owed
more than he cared to remember to the same source. But, after all, why
not? It was not to be expected that he could at once rise to the
heights of the greatest of living orators. And it was much that he had
made a hit; that as he left the room he was followed by all eyes.

Nor did a qualm worthy of the name trouble him until the morning of
the 27th, five days later--a Wednesday. Then he found beside his
breakfast plate two letters bearing the postmark of Chippinge.

"What's afoot?" he muttered. But he had a prevision before he broke
the seal of the first. And the contents bore out his fears. The letter
ran thus:


                                         "Stapylton, Chippinge.

"Dear Sir--I make no apology for troubling you in a matter in which
your interest is second only to mine and which is also of a character
to make apology beside the mark. It has not been necessary to require
your presence at Chippinge upon the occasion of former elections. But
the unwholesome ferment into which the public mind has been cast by
the monstrous proposals of Ministers has nowhere been more strongly
exemplified than here, by the fact that, for the first time in half a
century, the right of our family to nominate the members for the
Borough is challenged. Since the year 1783 no serious attempt has
been made to disturb the Vermuyden interest. And I have yet to learn
that--short of this anarchical Bill, which will sweep away all the
privileges attaching to property--such an attempt can be made with any
chance of success.

"I am informed nevertheless that Lord Lansdowne, presuming on a small
connection in the Corporation, intends to send at least one candidate
to the poll. Our superiority is so great that I should not, even so,
trouble you to be present, were it not an object to discourage these
attempts by the exhibition of our full strength, and were it not still
more important to do so at a time when the existence of the Borough
itself is at stake.

"Isaac White will apprise you of the arrangements to be made and will
keep you informed of all matters which you should know. Be good enough
to let Mapp learn the day and hour of your arrival, and he will see
that the carriage and servants meet the coach at Chippenham. Probably
you will come by the York House. It is the most convenient.

                    "I have the honour to be

                         "Your sincere kinsman,

                             "Robert Vermuyden.


"To Arthur Vermuyden Vaughan, Esquire,

"17 Bury Street, St. James's."


Vaughan's face grew long, and his fork hung suspended above his plate,
as he perused the old gentleman's epistle. When all was read he laid
it down, and whistled. "Here's a fix!" he muttered. And he thought of
his speech at the Academic; and for the first time he was sorry that
he had made it. "Here's a fix!" he repeated. "What's to be done?"

He was too much disturbed to go on with his breakfast, and he tore
open the other letter. It was from Isaac White, his cousin's attorney
and agent. It ran thus:


                                  "High Street, Chippinge,

                                               "April 25, 1831.

                 "_Chippinge Parliamentary Election_.

"Sir.--I have the honour to inform you, as upon former occasions, that
the writ in the above is expected and that Tuesday the 3rd day of May
will be appointed for the nomination. It has not been needful to
trouble you heretofore, but on this occasion I have reason to believe
that Sir Robert Vermuyden's candidates will be opposed by nominees in
the Bowood Interest, and I have therefore, honoured Sir, to intimate
that your attendance will oblige.

"The Vermuyden dinner will take place at the White Lion on Monday the
2nd, when the voters and their friends will sit down at 5 P. M. The
Alderman will preside, and Sir Robert hopes that you will be present.
The procession to the Hustings will leave the White Lion at ten on
Tuesday the 3d, and a poll, if demanded, will be taken after the usual
proceedings.

"Any change in the order of the arrangements will be punctually
communicated to you.

                    "I have the honour to be, Sir,

                       "Your humble obedient servant,

                                           "Isaac White.

"Arthur V. Vaughan, Esq.,
(late H.M.'s 14th Dragoons),

"17 Bury Street, London."


Vaughan flung the letter down and resumed his breakfast moodily. It
was a piece of shocking ill-fortune, that was all there was to be
said.

Not that he really regretted his speech! It had committed him a little
more deeply, but morally he had been committed before. It is a poor
conscience that is not scrupulous in youth; and he was convinced, or
almost convinced, that if he had never seen the Chancellor he would
still have found it impossible to support Sir Robert's candidates.

For he was sincere in his support of the Bill; a little because it
flattered his intellect to show himself above the prejudices of the
class to which he belonged; more, because he was of an age to view
with resentment the abuses which the Bill promised to sweep away. A
Government truly representative of the people, such as this Bill must
create, would not tolerate the severities which still disgraced the
criminal law. It would not suffer the heartless delays which made the
name of Chancery synonymous with ruin. Under it spring-guns and
man-traps would no longer scare the owner from his own coverts. The
poor would be taught, the slave would be freed. Above all, whole
classes of the well-to-do would no longer be deprived of a voice in
the State. No longer would the rights of one small class override the
rights of all other classes.

He was at an age, in a word, when hope invites to change; and he was
for the Bill. "Ay, by Jove, I am!" he muttered, casting the die in
fancy, "and I'll not be set down! It will be awkward! It will be
odious! But I must go through with it!"

Still, he was sorry. He sprang from the class which had profited by
the old system--that system under which some eight-score men returned
a majority of the House of Commons. He had himself the prospect of
returning two members. He could, therefore enter, to a degree--at
times to a greater degree than he liked,--into the feelings with which
the old-fashioned and the interested, the prudent and the timid,
viewed a change so great and so radical. But his main objection was
personal. He hated the necessity which forced him to cross the wishes
and to trample on the prejudices of an old man whom he regarded with
respect, and even with reverence: a solitary old man, the head of his
family, to whom he owed the very vote he must withhold; and who would
hardly, even by the logic of facts, be brought to believe that one of
his race and breeding could turn against him.

Still it must be done; the die was cast. The sooner, therefore, it was
done, the better. He would go down to Stapylton at once, while his
courage was high; and he would tell Sir Robert. Then, whatever came of
it, he would have nothing with which to reproach himself. In the heat
of resolve he felt very brave and very virtuous; and the moment he
rose from breakfast he went to the coach office, and finding that the
York House, the fashionable Bath, coach was full for the following
day, he booked an outside seat on the Bristol White Lion Coach, which
also passed through Chippenham. From Chippenham, Chippinge is distant
a short nine miles.

That evening proved to be memorable; for the greater part of London
was illuminated by the Reformers in honour of the Dissolution; not
without rioting and drunkenness, violence on the part of the mob, and
rage on the side of the minority. When Vaughan passed through the
streets before six next morning, on his way to the White Horse
Cellars, traces of the night's work still remained; and where the
early sun fell on them showed ugly and grisly and menacing enough. A
moderate reformer might well have blenched at the sight, and
questioned--as many did question--whither this was tending. But
Vaughan was late; the coach, one out of three which were waiting to
start, was horsed. He had only eyes, as he came hurriedly up, for the
seat he had reserved behind the coachman.

It was empty, and so far his fears were vain. But it annoyed him to
find that his next-door neighbour was a young lady travelling alone.
She had the seat on the near side.

He climbed up quickly, and to reach his place had to pass before her.
The space between the seat and the coachman's box was narrow, and as
she rose to allow him to pass she glanced up. Their eyes met; Vaughan
raised his hat in mute apology, and took his seat. He said no word.
But a miracle had happened, as miracles do happen, when the world is
young. In his mind, as he sat down, he was not repeating, "What a
nuisance!" but was saying, "What eyes! What a face! And, oh, heaven,
what beauty! What blush-rose cheeks! What a lovely mouth!"


             _For 'twas from eyes of liquid blue
                 A host of quivered Cupids flew,
              And now his heart all bleeding lies
                 Beneath the army of the eyes_.


He gazed gravely at the group of watermen and night-birds who stood in
the roadway below waiting to see the coach start. And apparently he
was unmoved. Apparently he was the same Arthur Vermuyden Vaughan who
had passed round the boot of the coach to reach the ladder and his
place. But he was not the same. His thoughts were no longer querulous,
full of the haste he had made, and the breakfast he had to make; but
of a pair of gentle eyes which had looked for one instant into his, of
a modest face, sweet and shy, of a Quaker-like bonnet that ravished as
no other bonnet had ever ravished the most susceptible!

He was still gazing at the group of loiterers, without seeing them,
when he became aware that an elderly woman plainly but respectably
dressed, who was standing by the forewheel of the coach, was looking
up at him, and trying to attract his attention. Seeing that she had
caught his eye she spoke:

"Gentleman! Gentleman!" she said--but in a restrained voice, as if she
did not wish to be generally heard. "The young lady's address! Please
say that she's not left it! For the laundress!"

He turned and made sure that there was only one of the sex on the
coach. Then--to be honest, not without a tiny flutter at his heart--he
addressed his neighbour. "Pardon me," he said "but there is someone
below who wants your address."

She turned her eyes on him and his heart gave a perceptible jump. "My
address?" she echoed in a voice as sweet as her face. "I think that
there must be some mistake." And then for a moment she looked at him
as if she doubted his intentions.

The doubt was intolerable. "It's for the laundress," he said. "See,
there she is!"

The girl rose to look over the side of the coach and perforce leant
across him. He saw that she had the slenderest waist and the prettiest
figure--he had every opportunity of seeing. Then the coach started
with a jerk, and if she had not steadied herself by laying her hand on
his shoulder, she must have relapsed on his knees. As it was she fell
back safely into her seat. She blushed.

"I beg your pardon," she said.

But he was looking back. He had his eye on the woman, who remained in
the roadway, pointing after the coach and apparently asking a
bystander some question respecting it--perhaps where it stopped.
"There she is!" he exclaimed. "The woman with the umbrella! She is
pointing after us."

His neighbour looked back but made nothing of it. "I know no one in
London," she said a little primly--but with sweet primness--"except
the lady at whose house I stayed last night. And she is not able to
leave the house. It must be a mistake." And with a gentle reserve
which had in it nothing of coquetry, she turned her face from him.

Tantivy! Tantivy! Tantivy! They were away, bowling down the slope of
broad empty Piccadilly with the four nags trotting merrily, and the
April sun gilding the roofs of the houses, and falling aslant on the
verdure of the Green Park. Then merrily up the rise to Hyde Park
Corner, where the new Grecian Gates looked across at the equally new
arch on Constitution Hill; and where Apsley House, the residence of
"the Duke," hiding with its new coat of Bath stone the old brick
walls, peeped through the trees at the statue of Achilles, erected ten
years back in the Duke's honour.

But, alas! what was this? Wherefore the crowd that even at this early
hour was large enough to fill the roadway and engage the attention of
the New Police? Vaughan looked and saw that every blind in Apsley
House was lowered, and that more than half of the windows were
shattered. And the little French gentleman who, to the coachman's
disgust, had taken the box-seat, saw it too; nay, had seen it before,
for he had come that way to the coach office. He pointed to the
silent, frowning mansion, and snapped his fingers.

"That is your reward for your Vellington!" he cried, turning in his
excitement to the two behind him. "And his lady, I am told, she lie
dead behind the broken vindows! They did that last night, your
_canaille!_ But he vill not forget! And when the refolution
come--bah--he vill have the iron hand! He vill be the Emperor and he
vill repay!"

No one answered; they treated him with silent British scorn. But they
one and all stared back at the scene, at the grim blind house in the
early sunshine, and the gaping crowd--as long as it remained in sight.
And some, no doubt, pondered the sight. But who, with a pretty face
beside him and a long day's drive before him, a drive by mead and
shining river, over hill and down, under the walls of grey churches
and by many a marketplace and cheery inn-yard--who would long dwell on
changes past or to come? Or fret because in the womb of time might lie
that "refolution" of which the little Frenchman spoke?



                                  IV

                      TANTIVY! TANTIVY! TANTIVY!


The White Lion coach was a light coach carrying only five passengers
outside, and merrily it swept by Kensington Church, whence the
travellers had a peep of Holland House--home of the Whigs--on their
right. And then in a twinkling they were swinging through
Hammersmith, where the ale-houses were opening and lusty girls were
beginning to deliver the milk. They passed through Turnham, through
Brentford, awakening everywhere the lazy with the music of their horn.
They saw Sion House on their left, and on their right had a glimpse of
the distant lawns of Osterley--the seat of Lady Jersey, queen of
Almack's, and the Holland's rival. Thence they travelled over Hounslow
Heath, and by an endless succession of mansions and lawns and orchards
rich at this season with apple blossom, and framing here and there a
view of the sparkling Thames.

Vaughan breathed the air of spring and let his eyes dwell on scene
after scene; and he felt that it was good to be young and to sit
behind fast horses. He stole a glance at his neighbour and judged by
the brightness of her eyes, her parted lips and rapt expression, that
she felt with him. And he would have said something to her, but he
could think of nothing worthy of her. At last:

"It's a beautiful morning," he ventured, and cursed his vapidity.

But she did not seem to find bathos in the words. "It is, indeed!" she
answered with an enthusiasm which showed that she had forgotten her
doubts of him. "And," she added simply, "I have not been on a coach
since I was a child!"

"Not on a coach?" he cried in astonishment.

"No. Except on the Clapham Stage. And that is not a coach like this!"

"No, perhaps it is not," he said. And he thought of her, and--oh,
Lord!--of Clapham! And yet after all there was something about her,
about her grey, dove-like dress and her gentleness, which smacked of
Clapham. He wondered who she was and what she was; and he was still
wondering when she turned her eyes on him, and, herself serenely
unconscious, sent a tiny shock through him.

"I enjoy it the more," she said, "because I--I am not usually free in
the morning."

"Oh, yes!"

He could say no more; not another word. It was the stupidest thing in
the world, but he was tongue-tied. Seeing, however, that she had
turned from him and was absorbed in the view of Windsor rising stately
amid its trees, he had the cleverness to steal a glance at the neat
little basket which nestled at her feet. Surreptitiously he read the
name on the label.


                     Mary Smith
                        Miss Sibson's
                           Queen's Square, Bristol.


Mary Smith! Just Mary Smith! For the moment--it is not to be
denied--he was sobered by the name. It was not a romantic name. It was
anything but high-sounding. The author of "Tremayne" or "De Vere,"
nay, the author of "Vivian Grey"--to complete the trio of novels which
were in fashion at the time--would have turned up his nose at it. But
what did it matter? He desired no more than to make himself agreeable
for the few hours which he and this beautiful creature must pass
together--in sunshine and with the fair English landscape gliding by
them. And that being so, what need he reck what she called herself or
whence she came. It was enough that under her modest bonnet her ears
were shells and her eyes pure cornflowers, and that a few pleasant
words, a little April dalliance--if only that Frenchman would cease to
peep behind him and grin--would harm neither the one nor the other.

But opportunities let slip do not always recur. As he turned to
address her they rose the ascent of Maidenhead Bridge, had on either
hand a glimpse of the river framed in pale green willows, and halted
with sweating horses before the King's Arms. The boots advanced, amid
a group of gazers, and reared a ladder against the coach. "Half an
hour for breakfast, gentlemen!" he cried briskly. And through the
windows of the inn the travellers had a view of a long table whereat
the passengers on the up night-coach were already feasting.

Our friends hastened to descend, but not so fast that Vaughan failed
to note the girl's look of uncertainty, almost of distress. He guessed
that she was not at ease in a scene so bustling and so new to her. And
the thought gave him the courage that he needed.

"Will you allow me to find you a place at the table?" he said. "I know
this inn and they know me. Guard, the ladder here!" And he took her
hand--oh, such a little, little hand!--and aided her in her descent.

"Will you follow me?" he said. And he made way for her through the
knot of starers who cumbered the doorway. But once in the coffee-room
he had, cunning fellow, an inspiration. "Find this lady a seat!" he
commanded one of the attendant damsels. And when he had seen her
seated and the coffee set before her, he took himself deliberately to
the other end of the room. But whether he did so out of pure respect
for her feelings, or because he thought--and hugged himself on the
thought--that he would be missed, he did not himself know. Nor was he
so much a captive, though he counted how many rolls she ate, and
looked a dozen times to see if she looked at him, as to be unable to
make an excellent breakfast.

The cheery, noisy throng at the tables, the brisk coming and going of
the servants, the smell of hot coffee, the open windows, and the
sunshine outside--where the fresh team of the up night-coach were
already tossing their heads impatiently--he wondered how it all struck
her, new to such scenes and to this side of life. And then while he
wondered he saw that she had risen from the table and was going out
with one of the waiting-maids. To reach the door she had to pass near
him; and, oh bliss, her eyes found him--and she blushed. She blushed,
ye heavens! He saw it clearly, and he sat thinking about it until,
though the coach was not due to start for another five minutes and he
might count on the guard summoning him, he was taken with fear lest
some one should steal his seat. And he hurried out.

She was alone on the top of the coach, and a youthful waterman, one of
the crowd of loiterers below, was making eyes at her to the delight of
his companions. When Vaughan came forth, "I'd like to be him," the wag
said, winking with vulgar gusto. And the bystanders grinned at the
good-looking young man who stood in the doorway buttoning up his
box-coat. The position might soon have become embarrassing to her if
not to him; but in the nick of time the eye of an inside passenger,
who had followed him through the doorway, alighted on a huge placard
which hung behind the coach.

"Take that down!" the stranger cried loudly and pompously. And in a
moment all eyes were upon him. He prodded with his umbrella at the
offending bill. "Do you hear me? Take it down, sir," he repeated,
turning to the guard. He was a portly man, reddish about the gills.
"Take it down, sir, or I will! It is disgraceful! I shall report this
conduct to your employers."

The guard hesitated. "It don't harm you, sir," he pleaded, anxious, it
was clear, to propitiate a man who would presently be good for half a
crown.

"Don't harm me?" the choleric gentleman retorted. "Don't harm me?
What's that to do with it? What right--what right have you, man, to
put party filth like that on a public vehicle in which I pay to ride?
'The Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill!' D--n the Bill,
sir!" with violence. "Take it down! Take it down at once!" he
repeated, as if his order closed the matter.

The guard frowned at the placard, which bore, largely printed, the
legend which the gentleman found so little to his taste. He rubbed his
head. "Well, I don't know, sir," he said. And then--the crowd about
the coach was growing--he looked at the driver. "What do you say,
Sammy?" he asked.

"Don't touch it," growled the driver, without deigning to turn his
head.

"You see, sir, it is this way," the guard ventured civilly. "Mr.
Palmer has a Whig meeting at Reading to-day and the town will be full.
And if we don't want rotten eggs and broken windows--we'll carry
that!"

"I'll not travel with it!" the stout gentleman answered positively.
"Do you hear me, man? If you don't take it down I will!"

"Best not!" cried a voice from the little crowd about the coach. And
when the angry gentleman turned to see who spoke, "Best not!" cried
another behind him. And he wheeled about again, so quickly that the
crowd laughed. This raised his wrath to a white heat.

He grew purple. "I shall have it taken down!" he said. "Guard, remove
it!"

"Don't touch it," growled the driver--one of a class noted in that day
for independence and surly manners. "If the gent don't choose to
travel with it, let him stop here and be d--d!"

"Do you know," the insulted passenger cried, "that I am a Member of
Parliament?"

"I'm hanged if you are!" coachee retorted. "Nor won't be again!"

The crowd roared at this repartee. The guard was in despair. "Anyway,
we must go on, sir," he said. And he seized his horn. "Take your
seats, gents! Take your seats!" he cried. "All for Reading! I'm sorry,
sir, but I've to think of the coach."

"And the horses!" grumbled the driver. "Where's the gent's sense?"

They all scrambled to their seats except the ex-member. He stood,
bursting with rage and chagrin. But at the last moment, when he saw
that the coach would really go without him, he swallowed his pride,
plucked open the coach-door, and amid the loud jeers of the crowd,
climbed in. The driver, with a chuckle, bade the helpers let go, and
the coach swung cheerily away through the streets of Maidenhead, the
merry notes of the horn and the rattle of the pole-chains drowning the
cries of the gutter-boys.

The little Frenchman turned round. "You vill have a refolution," he
said solemnly. "And the gentleman inside he vill lose his head."

The coachman, who had hitherto looked askance at Froggy, as if he
disdained his neighbourhood, now squinted at him as if he could not
quite make him out. "Think so?" he said gruffly. "Why, Mounseer?"

"I have no doubt," the Frenchman answered glibly. "The people vill
have, and the nobles vill not give! Or they vill give a leetle--a
leetle! And that is the worst of all. I have seen two refolutions!" he
continued with energy. "The first when I was a child--it is forty
years! My bonne held me up and I saw heads fall into the basket--heads
as young and as lofly as the young Mees there! And why? Because the
people would have, and the King, he give that which is the worst of
all--a leetle! And the trouble began. And then the refolution of last
year--it was worth to me all that I had! The people would have, and
the Polignac, our Minister--who is the friend of your Vellington--he
would not give at all! And the trouble began."

The driver squinted at him anew. "D'you mean to say," he asked, "that
you've seen heads cut off?"

"I have seen the white necks, as white and as small as the Mees there;
I have seen the blood spout from them; bah! like what you call pump!
Ah, it was ogly, it was very ogly!"

The coachman turned his head slowly and with difficulty, until he
commanded a full view of Vaughan's pretty neighbour; at whom he gazed
for some seconds as if fascinated. Then he turned to his horses and
relieved his feelings by hitting one of the wheelers below the trace;
while Vaughan, willing to hear what the Frenchman had to say, took up
the talk.

"Perhaps here," he said, "those who have will give, and give enough,
and all will go well."

"Nefer! Nefer!" the Frenchman answered positively. "By example, the
Duke whose château we pass--what you call it--Jerusalem House?"

"Sion House," Vaughan answered, smiling. "The Duke of Northumberland."

"By example he return four members to your Commons House. Is it not
so? And they do what he tell them. He have this for his nefew, and
that for his niece, and the other thing for his _maître d'hôtel!_ And
it is he and the others like him who rule the country! Gives he up all
that? To the _bourgeoisie?_ Nefer! Nefer!" he continued with emphasis.
"He will be the Polignac! They will all be the Polignacs! And you will
have a refolution. And by-and-by, when the _bourgeoisie_ is frightened
of the _canaille_ and tired of the blood-letting, your Vellington he
will be the Emperor. It is as plain as the two eyes in the face! So
plain for me, I shall not take off my clothes the nights!"

"Well, King Billy for me!" said the driver. "But if he's willing,
Mounseer, why shouldn't the people manage their own affairs?"

"The people! The people! They cannot! Your horses, will they govern
themselves? Will you throw down the reins and leave it to them, up
hill, down hill? The people govern themselves Bah!" And to express his
extreme disgust at the proposition, the Frenchman, who had lost his
all with Polignac, bent over the side and spat into the road. "It is
no government at all!"

The driver looked darkly at his horses as if he would like to see them
try it on. "I am afraid," said Vaughan, "that you think we are in
trouble either way then, whether the Tories give or withhold?"

"Eizer way! Eizer way!" the Frenchman answered _con amore_. "It is
fate! You are on the edge of the what you call it--_chute!_ And you
must go over! We have gone over. We have bumped once, twice! We shall
bump once, twice more, _et voilà_--Anarchy! Now it is your turn, sir.
The government has to be--shifted--from the one class to the other!"

"But it may be peacefully shifted?"

The little Frenchman shrugged his shoulders impatiently. "I have nefer
seen the government shifted without all that that I have told you.
There will be the guillotine, or the barricades. For me, I shall not
take off my clothes the nights!"

He spoke with a sincerity so real and a persuasion so clear that even
Vaughan was a little shaken, and wondered if those who watched the
game from the outside saw more than the players. As for the coachman:

"Dang me," he said that evening to his cronies in the tap of the White
Lion at Bristol, "if I feel so sure about this here Reform! We want
none of that nasty neck-cutting here! And if I thought Froggy was
right I'm blest if I wouldn't turn Tory!"

And for certain the Frenchman voiced what a large section of the timid
and the well-to-do were thinking. For something like a hundred and
fifty years a small class, the nobility and the greater gentry,
turning to advantage the growing defects in the representation--the
rotten boroughs and the close corporations--had ruled the country
through the House of Commons. Was it to be expected that the basis of
power could be shifted in a moment? Or that all these boroughs and
corporations, in which the governing class were so deeply interested,
could be swept away without a convulsion; without opening the
floodgates of change, and admitting forces which no man could measure?
Or, on the other side, was it likely that, these defects once seen and
the appetite of the middle class for power once whetted, their claims
could be refused without a struggle from which the boldest must
flinch? No man could say for certain, and hence these fears in the
air. The very winds carried them. They were being discussed in that
month of April not only on the White Lion coach, not on the Bath road
only, but on a hundred coaches, and a hundred roads over the length
and breadth of England. Wherever the sway of Macadam and Telford
extended, wherever the gigs of "riders" met, or farmers' carts stayed
to parley, at fair and market, sessions and church, men shook their
heads or raised their voices in high debate; and the word _Reform_
rolled down the wind!

Vaughan soon overcame his qualms; for his opinions were fixed. But he
thought that the subject might serve him with his neighbour, and he
addressed her.

"You must not let them alarm you," he said. "We are still a long way,
I fancy, from guillotines or barricades."

"I hope so," she answered. "In any case I am not afraid."

"Why, if I may ask?"

She glanced at him with a gleam of humour in her eyes. "Little shrubs
feel little wind," she murmured.

"But also little sun, I fear," he replied.

"That does not follow," she said, without raising her eyes again.
"Though it is true that I--I am so seldom free in a morning that a
journey such as this, with the sunshine, is like heaven to me."

"The morning is a delightful time," he said.

"Oh!" she cried, as if she now knew that he felt with her. "That is
it! The afternoon is different."

"Well, fortunately, you and I have--much of the morning left."

She made no reply to that, and he wondered in silence what was the
employment which filled her mornings and fitted her to enjoy with so
keen a zest this early ride. The Gloucester up-coach was coming to
meet them, the guard tootling merrily on his horn, and a blue and
yellow flag--the Whig colours--flying on the roof of the coach, which
was crowded with smiling passengers. Vaughan saw the girl's eyes
sparkle as the two coaches passed one another amid a volley of
badinage; and demure as she was, he was sure that she had a store of
fun within. He wished that she would remove her cheap thread gloves
that he might see if her hands were as white as they were small. She
was no common person, he was sure of that; her speech was correct,
though formal, and her manner was quiet and refined. And her eyes--he
must make her look at him again!

"You are going to Bristol?" he said. "To stay there?"

Perhaps he threw too much feeling into his voice. At any rate the tone
of her answer was colder. "Yes," she said, "I am."

"I am going as far as Chippenham," he volunteered.

"Indeed!"

There! He had lost all the ground he had gained. She thought him a
possible libertine, who aimed at putting himself on a footing of
intimacy with her. And that was the last thing--confound it, he meant
that to do her harm was the last thing he had in his mind.

It annoyed him that she should think anything of that kind. And he
cudgelled his brain for a subject at once safe and sympathetic,
without finding one. But either she was not so deeply offended as he
fancied, or she thought him sufficiently punished. For presently she
addressed him; and he saw that she was ever so little embarrassed.

"Would you please to tell me," she said, in a low voice, "how much I
ought to give the coachman?"

Oh. bless her! She did not think him a horrid libertine. "You?" he
said audaciously. "Why nothing, of course."

"But--but I thought it was usual?"

"Not on this road," he answered, lying resolutely. "Gentlemen are
expected to give half a crown, others a shilling. Ladies nothing at
all. Sam," he continued, rising to giddy heights of invention, "would
give it back to you, if you offered it."

"Indeed!" He fancied a note of relief in her tone, and judged that
shillings were not very plentiful. Then, "Thank you," she added. "You
must think me very ignorant. But I have never travelled."

"You must not say that," he returned. "Remember the Clapham Stage!"

She laughed at the jest, small as it was; and her laugh gave him the
most delicious feeling--a sort of lightness within, half exhilaration,
half excitement. And of a sudden, emboldened by it, he was grown so
foolhardy that there is no knowing what he would not have said, if the
streets of Reading had not begun to open before them and display a
roadway abnormally thronged.

For Mr. Palmer's procession, with its carriages, riders, and flags,
was entering ahead of them; and the train of tipsy rabble which
accompanied it blocked King Street, and presently brought the coach to
a stand. The candidate, lifting his cocked hat from time to time, was
a hundred paces before them and barely visible through a forest of
flags and banners. But a troop of mounted gentry in dusty black, and
smiling dames in carriages--who hardly masked the disgust with which
they viewed the forest of grimy hands extended to them to shake--were
under the travellers' eyes, and showed in the sunlight both tawdry and
false. Our party, however, were not long at ease to enjoy the
spectacle. The crowd surrounded the coach, leapt on the steps, and
hung on to the boot. And presently the noise scared the horses, which
at the entrance to the marketplace began to plunge.

"The Bill! The Bill!" cried the rabble. And with truculence called on
the passengers to assent. "You lubbers," they bawled, "shout for the
Bill! Or we'll have you over!"

"All right! All right!" replied Sammy, controlling his horses as well
as he could. "We're all for the Bill here! Hurrah!"

"Hurrah! Palmer for ever, Tories in the river!" cried the mob.
"Hurrah!"

"Hurrah!" echoed the guard, willing to echo anything. "The Bill for
ever! But let us pass, lads! Let us pass! We're for the Bear, and
we've no votes."

"Britons never will be slaves!" shrieked a drunken butcher as the
marketplace opened before them. The space was alive with flags and gay
with cockades, and thronged by a multitude, through which the
candidate's procession clove its way slowly. "We'll have votes now!
Three cheers for Lord John!"

"Hurrah! Hurrah!"

"And down with Orange Peel!" squeaked a small tailor in a high
falsetto.

The roar of laughter which greeted the sally startled the horses
afresh. But the guard had dropped down by this time and fought his way
to the head of one of the leaders; and two or three good-humoured
fellows seconded his efforts. Between them the coach was piloted
slowly but safely through the press; which, to do it justice, meant
only to exercise the privileges which the Election season brought with
it.



                                  V

                          ROSY-FINGERED DAWN


"_Beaucoup de bruit, pas de mal!_" Vaughan muttered in his neighbour's
ear; and saw with as much surprise as pleasure that she understood.

And all would have gone well but for the imprudence of the inside
passenger who had distinguished himself by his protest against the
placard. The coach was within a dozen paces of the Bear, the crowd was
falling back from it, the peril, if it had been real, seemed past, the
most timid was breathing again, when he thrust out his foolish head,
and flung a taunt--which those on the roof could not hear--at the
rabble.

Whatever the words, their effect was disastrous. A bystander caught
them up and repeated them, and in a trice half-a-dozen louts flung
themselves on the door and strove to drag it open, and get at the man;
while others, leaning over their shoulders, aimed missiles at the
inside passengers.

The guard saw that more than the glass of his windows was at stake;
but he could do nothing. He was at the leaders' heads. And the
passengers on the roof, who had risen to their feet to see the fray,
were as helpless. Luckily the coachman kept his head and his reins.
"Turn 'em into the yard!" he yelled. "Turn 'em in!"

The guard did so, almost too quickly. The frightened horses wheeled
round, and, faster than was prudent, dashed under the low arch,
dragging the swaying coach after them.

There was a cry of "Heads! Heads!" and then, more imperatively,
"Heads! Stoop! Stoop!"

The warning was needed. The outsides were on their feet engrossed in
the struggle at the coach door. And so quickly did the coach turn
that--though a score of spectators in the street and on the balcony of
the inn saw the peril--it was only at the last moment that Vaughan and
the two passengers at the back, men well used to the road, caught the
warning, and dropped down. And it was only at the very last moment
that Vaughan felt rather than saw that the girl was still standing. He
had just time, by a desperate effort, and amid a cry of horror--for to
the spectators she seemed to be already jammed between the arch and
the seat--to drag her down. Instinctively, as he did so, he shielded
her face with his arm; but the horror was so near that, as they swept
under the low brow, he was not sure that she was safe.

He was as white as she was, when they emerged into the light again.
But he saw that she was safe, though her bonnet was dragged from her
head; and he cried unconsciously, "Thank God! Thank God!" Then, with
that hatred of a scene which is part of the English character, he put
her quickly back into her seat again, and rose to his feet, as if he
wished to separate himself from her.

But a score of eyes had seen the act; and however much he might wish
to spare her feelings, concealment was impossible.

"Christ!" cried the coachman, whose copper cheeks were perceptibly
paler. "If your head's on your shoulders, Miss, it is to that young
gentleman you owe it. Don't you ever go to sleep on the roof of a
coach again! Never! Never!"

"Here, get a drop of brandy!" cried the landlady, who, from one of the
doors flanking the archway, had seen all. "Do you stay where you are,
Miss," she continued, "and I'll send it up to you."

Then amid a babel of exclamations and a chorus of blame and praise,
the ladder was brought, and Vaughan made haste to descend. A waiter
tripped out with the brown brandy and water on a tray; and the young
lady, who had not spoken, but had remained, sitting white and still,
where Vaughan had placed her, sipped it obediently. Unfortunately the
landlady's eyes were sharp; and as Vaughan passed her to go into the
house--for the coach must be driven up the yard and turned before they
could set off again--she let fall a cry.

"Lord, sir!" she said, "your hand is torn dreadful! You've grazed
every bit of skin off it!"

He tried to silence her; and failing, hurried into the house. She
fussed after him to attend to him; and Sammy, who was not a man of the
most delicate perceptions, seized the opportunity to drive home his
former lesson. "There, Miss," he said solemnly, "I hope that'll teach
you to look out another time! But better his hand than your head.
You'd ha' been surely scalped!"

The girl, a shade whiter than before, did not answer. And he thought
her, for so pretty a wench, "a right unfeelin' un!"

Not so the Frenchman. "I count him a very locky man!" he said
obscurely. "A very locky man."

"Well," the coachman answered with a grunt, "if you call that
lucky----"

"_Vraiment! Vraiment!_ But I--alas!" the Frenchman answered with an
eloquent gesture, "I have lost my all, and the good fortunes are no
longer for me!"

"Fortunes!" the coachman muttered, looking askance at him. "A fine
fortune, to have your hand flayed! But where's"--recollecting
himself--"where's that there fool that caused the trouble! D--n me, if
he shall go any further on my coach. I'd like to double-thong him, and
it'd serve him right!"

So when the ex-M.P. presently appeared, Sammy let go his tongue to
such purpose that the political gentleman; finding himself in a
minority of one, retired into the house and, with many threats of what
he would do when he saw the management, declined to go on.

"And a good riddance of a d--d Tory!" the coachman muttered. "Think
all the world's made for them! Fifteen minutes he's cost us already!
Take your seats, gents, take your seats! I'm off!"

Vaughan, with his hand hastily bandaged, was the last to come out. He
climbed as quickly as he could to his place, and, without looking at
his neighbour, he said some common-place word. She did not reply, and
they swept under the arch. For a moment the sight of the thronged
marketplace diverted him. Then he looked at her, and he saw that she
was trembling.

If he was not quite so wise as the Frenchman, having had no _bonnes
fortunes_ to speak of, he had, nevertheless, keen perceptions. And he
guessed that the girl, between her maiden shyness and her womanly
gratitude, was painfully placed. It could not be otherwise. A girl who
had spent her years, since childhood, within the walls of a school at
Clapham, first as genteel apprentice, and then as assistant; who had
been taught to consider young men as roaring lions with whom her own
life could have nothing in common, and from whom it was her duty to
guard the more giddy of her flock; who had to struggle at once
with the shyness of youth, the modesty of her sex, and her
inexperience--above all, perhaps with that dread of insult which
becomes the instinct of lowly beauty--how was she to carry herself in
circumstances so different from any which she had ever imagined? How
was she to express a tithe of the feelings with which her heart was
bursting, and which overwhelmed her as often as she thought of the
hideous death from which he had snatched her?

She could not; and with inborn good taste she refrained from the
commonplace word, the bald acknowledgment, in which a shallow nature
might have taken refuge. On his side, he guessed some part of this,
and discerned that if he would relieve her he must himself speak.
Accordingly, when they had left the streets behind them and were
swinging merrily along the Newbury Road, he leant towards her.

"May I beg," he said in a low voice, "that you won't think of what has
happened? The coachman would have done as much, and scolded you! I
happened to be next you. That was all."

In a strangled voice, "But your hand," she faltered. "I fear--I----"
She shuddered, unable to go on.

"It is nothing!" he protested. "Nothing! In three days it will be
well!"

She turned her eves on him, eyes which possessed an eloquence of which
their owner was unconscious. "I will pray for you," she murmured. "I
can do no more."

The pathos of her simple gratitude was such that Vaughan could not
laugh it off. "Thank you," he said quietly. "We shall then be more
than quits." And having given her a few moments in which to recover
herself, "We are nearly at Speenhamland," he resumed cheerfully.
"There is the George and Pelican! It's a great baiting-house for
coaches. I am afraid to say how much corn and hay they give out in a
day. They have a man who does nothing else but weigh it out." And so
he chattered on, doing his utmost to talk of indifferent matters in an
indifferent tone.

She could not repulse him after what had passed. And now and then, by
a timid word, she gave him leave to talk. Presently he began to speak
of things other than those under their eyes, and when he thought that
he had put her at her ease, "You understand French?" he said looking
at her suddenly.

"I spoke it as a child," she answered. "I was born abroad. I did not
come to England until I was nine."

"To Clapham?"

"Yes. I have been employed in a school there."

Prudently he hastened to bring the talk back to the road again. And
she took courage to steal a look at him when his eyes were elsewhere.
He seemed so strong and gentle and courteous; this unknown creature
which she had been taught to fear. And he was so thoughtful of her! He
could throw so tender a note into his voice. Beside d'Orsay or
Alvanley--but she had never heard of them--he might have passed muster
but tolerably; but to her he seemed a very fine gentleman. She had a
woman's eye for the fineness of his linen, and the smartness of his
waistcoat--had not Sir James Graham, with his chest of Palermo stuffs,
set the seal of Cabinet approval on fancy waistcoats? Nor was she
blind to the easy carriage of his head, and his air of command.

And there she caught herself up: reflecting with a blush that it was
by the easy path of thoughts such as these that the precipice was
approached; that so it was the poor and pretty let themselves be led
from the right road. Whither was she travelling? In what was this to
end? She trembled. And if they had not at that moment swung out of
Savernake Forest and sighted the red roofs of Marlborough, lying warm
and sung at the foot of the steep London Hill, she did not know what
she should have done, since she could not repulse him.

They rattled in merry style through the town, the leaders cantering,
the bars swinging, the guard tootling, the sun shining; past a score
of inn signs before which the heavy stages were baiting; past the two
churches, while all the brisk pleasantness of this new, this living
world, appealed to her to go its way. Ta-ra-ra! Ta-ra-ra! Swerving to
the right they pulled up bravely, with steaming horses, before the
door of the far-famed Castle Inn. Ta-ra-ra! Ta-ra-ra! "Half an hour
for dinner, gentlemen!"

"Now," said Vaughan, thinking that all was well, or rather declining
to think of anything but her shy glances and the delightful present.
"You must cut my meat for me!"

She did not reply, and he saw that her eyes went to the basket at her
feet. He guessed that she wished to avoid the expense of dining. "Or,
perhaps, you are not coming in?" he said.

"I did not intend to do so," she replied. "I suppose," she continued
timidly, "that I may stay here?"

"Certainly. You have something with you?"

"Yes."

He nodded pleasantly and left her; and she remained in her seat. As
she ate, the target for many a sly glance of admiration, she was
divided between gratitude and self-reproach; now thinking of him with
a quickened heart, now taking herself to task for her weakness. The
result was that when he strode out, confident and at ease, and looked
up at her with laughing eyes, she blushed furiously--to her own
unspeakable mortification.

Vaughan was no Lothario, and for a moment the telltale colour took him
aback. Then he told himself that at Chippenham, less than twenty miles
down the road, he was leaving her. It was absurd to suppose that, in
the short space which remained, either could be harmed. And he mounted
gaily, and masking his knowledge of her emotion with a skill which
surprised himself, he chatted pleasantly, unaware that with every word
he was stamping the impression of her face, her long eyelashes, her
graceful head, her trick of this and that, more deeply upon his
memory. While she, reassured by the same thought that they would part
in an hour--and in an hour what harm could happen?--closed her eyes
and drank the sweet draught--the sweeter for its novelty, and for the
bitter which lurked at the bottom of the cup. Meantime Sammy winked
sagely at his horses, and the Frenchman cast envious glances over his
shoulders, and Silbury Hill, Fyfield, and the soft folds of the downs
swept by, and on warm commons and southern slopes the early bees
hummed above the gorse.

Here was Chippenham at last; and the end was come. He must descend. A
hasty touch, a murmured word, a pang half-felt; she veiled her eyes.
If her colour fluttered and she trembled, why not? She had cause to be
grateful to him. And if he felt as his foot touched the ground that
the world was cold, and the prospect cheerless, why not, when he had
to face Sir Robert, and when his political embarrassments, forgotten
for a time, rose nearer and larger?

It had often fallen to him to alight before the Angel at Chippenhan.
From boyhood he had known the wide street, in which the fairs were
held, the red Georgian houses, and the stone bridge of many arches
over the Avon. But he had never seen these things, he had never
alighted there, with less satisfaction than on this day.

Still this was the end. He raised his hat, saluted silently, and
turned to speak to the guard. In the act he jostled a person who was
approaching to accost him. Vaughan stared. "Hallo, White!" he said. "I
was coming to see you."

White's hat was in his hand. "Your servant, sir," he said. "Your
servant, sir. I am glad to be here to meet you, Mr. Vaughan."

"But you didn't expect me?"

"No, sir, no; I came to meet Mr. Cooke, who was to arrive by this
coach. But I do not see him."

A light broke in upon Vaughan. "Gad! he must be the man we left behind
at Reading," he said. "Is he a peppery chap?"

"He might be so called, sir," the agent answered with a smile. "I
fancied that you knew him."

"No. Sergeant Wathen I know; not Mr. Cooke. Any way, he's not come,
White."

"All the better, sir, if I can get a message to him by the up-coach.
For he's not needed. I am glad to say that the trouble is at an end.
My Lord Lansdowne has given up the idea of contesting the borough, and
I came over to tell Mr. Cooke, thinking that he might prefer to go on
to Bristol. He has a house at Bristol."

"Do you mean," Vaughan said, "that there will be no contest?"

"No, sir, no. Not now. And a good thing, too. Upset the town for
nothing! My lord has no chance, and Pybus, who is his lordship's man
here, he told me himself----"

He paused with his mouth open, and his eyes on a tall lady wearing a
veil, who, after standing a couple of minutes on the further side of
the street, was approaching the coach. To enter it she had to pass by
him, and he stared, as if he saw a ghost. "By Gosh!" he muttered under
his breath. And when, with the aid of the guard, she had taken her
seat inside, "By Gosh!" he muttered again, "if that's not my
lady--though I've not seen her for ten years--I've the horrors!"

He turned to Vaughan to see if he had noticed anything. But Vaughan,
without waiting for the end of his sentence, had stepped aside to tell
a helper to replace his valise on the coach. In the bustle he had
noted neither White's emotion nor the lady.

At this moment he returned. "I shall go on to Bristol for the night,
White," he said. "Sir Robert is quite well?"

"Quite well, sir, and I shall be happy to tell him of your promptness
in coming."

"Don't tell him anything," the young man said, with a flash of
peremptoriness. "I don't want to be kept here. Do you understand,
White? I shall probably return to town to-morrow. Anyway, say
nothing."

"Very good, sir," White answered. "But I am sure Sir Robert would be
pleased to know that you had come down so promptly."

"Ah, well, you can let him know later. Good-bye, White."

The agent, with one eye on the young squire and one on the lady, whose
figure was visible through the small coach-window, seemed to be about
to refer to her. But he checked himself. "Good-bye, sir," he said.
"And a pleasant journey! I'm glad to have been of service, Mr.
Vaughan."

"Thank you, White, thank you," the young man answered. And he swung
himself up, as the coach moved. A good-natured nod, and--Tantivy!
Tantivy! Tantivy! The helpers sprang aside, and away they went down
the hill, and over the long stone bridge, and so along the Bristol
road; but now with the shades of evening beginning to spread on the
pastures about them, and the cawing rooks, that had been abroad all
day on the uplands, streaming across the pale sky to the elms beside
the river.

But _varium et mutabile femina_. When he turned, eager to take up the
fallen thread, Clotho could not have been more cold than his
neighbour, nor Atropos with her shears more decisive. "I've had good
news," he said, as he settled his coat about him. "I came down with a
very unpleasant task before me. And it is lifted from me."

"Indeed!"

"So I am going on to Bristol instead of staying at Chippenham."

No answer.

"It is a great relief to me," he continued cheerfully.

"Indeed!" She spoke in the most distant of voices.

He raised his brows in perplexity. What had happened to her? She had
been so grateful, so much moved, a few minutes before. The colour had
fluttered in her cheek, the tear had been visible in her eye, she had
left her hand the fifth of a second in his. And now!

Now she was determined that she would blush and smile and be kind no
more. She was grateful--God knew she was grateful, let him think what
he would. But there were limits. Her weakness, as long as she believed
that Chippenham must part them, had been pardonable. But if he had it
in his mind to attend her to Bristol, to follow her or haunt her--as
she had known foolish young cits at Clapham to haunt the more giddy of
her flock--then her mistake was clear; and his conduct, now merely
suspicious, would appear in its black reality. She hoped that he was
innocent. She hoped that his change of plan at Chippenham had been no
subterfuge; that he was not a roaring lion. But appearances were
deceitful and her own course was plain.

It was the plainer, as she had not been blind to the respect with
which all at the Angel had greeted her companion; even White, a man of
substance, with a gold chain and seals hanging from his fob, had stood
bareheaded while he talked to him. It was plain that he was a fine
gentleman; one of those whom young persons in her rank of life must
shun.

So he drew scarcely five words out of her in as many miles. At last,
thrice rebuffed, "I am afraid you are tired," he said. Was it for this
that he had chosen to go on to Bristol?

"Yes," she answered. "I am rather tired. If you please I would prefer
not to talk."

He was a little huffed then, and let her be; nor did he guess, though
he was full of conjectures about her, how she hated her seeming
ingratitude. But there was nought else for it; better seem thankless
now than be worse hereafter. For she was growing frightened. She was
beginning to have more than an inkling of the road by which young
things were led to be foolish. Her ear retained the sound of his
voice though he was silent. The fashion in which he had stooped to
her--though he was looking another way now--clung to her memory.
His laugh, though he was grave now, rang for her, full of glee and
good-fellowship. She could have burst into tears.

They stayed at Marshfield to take on the last team. And she tried to
divert her mind by watching a woman in a veil who walked up and down
beside the coach, and seemed to return her curiosity. But she tried to
little purpose, for she felt strained and weary, and more than ever
inclined to cry. Doubtless the peril through which she had passed had
shaken her.

So that she was thankful when, after descending perilous Tog Hill,
they saw from Kingswood heights the lights of Bristol shining through
the dusk; and she knew that she was at her journey's end. To arrive in
a strange place on the edge of night is trying to anyone. But to
alight friendless and alone, amid the bustle of a city, and to know
that new relations must be created and a new life built up--this may
well raise in the most humble and contented bosom a feeling of
loneliness and depression. And doubtless that was why Mary Smith,
after evading Vaughan with a success beyond her hopes, felt as she
followed her modest trunk through the streets that--but she bent her
head to hide the unaccustomed tears.



                                  VI

                       THE PATRON OF CHIPPINGE


Much about the time that the "Spectator" was painting in Sir Roger the
most lovable picture of an old English squire which our gallery
contains, Cornelius Vermuyden, of a younger branch of the Vermuydens
who drained the fens, was making a fortune in the Jamaica trade.
Having made it in a dark office at Bristol, and being, like all
Dutchmen, of a sedentary turn, he proceeded to found a family,
purchase a borough, and, by steady support of Whig principles and the
Protestant succession, to earn a baronetcy in the neighbouring county
of Wilts.

Doubtless the first Vermuyden had things to contend with, and at
assize ball and sessions got but two fingers from the De Coverleys and
their long-descended dames. But he went his way stolidly, married his
son into a family of like origin--the Beckfords--and, having seen
little George II. firmly on the throne, made way for his son.

This second Sir Cornelius rebuilt Stapylton, the house which his
father had bought from the decayed family of that name, and after
living for some ten years into the reign of Farmer George, vanished in
his turn, leaving Cornelius Robert to succeed him, Cornelius George,
the elder son, having died in his father's lifetime.

Sir Cornelius Robert was something after the pattern of the famous Mr.
Onslow--


             _What can Tommy Onslow do?
              He can drive a chaise and two.
              What can Tommy Onslow more?
              He can drive a chaise and four._


Yet he fitted the time, and, improving his father's pack of
trencher-fed hounds by a strain of Mr. Warde's blood, he hunted the
country so conscientiously that at his death a Dutch bottle might have
been set upon his table without giving rise to the slightest
reflection. He came to an end, much lamented, with the century, and
Sir Robert, fourth and present baronet, took over the estates.

By that time, rid of the foreign prenomen, well allied by three good
marriages, and since the American war of true blue Tory leanings, and
thorough Church and King principles, the family was able to hold up
its head among the best in the south of England. There might be some
who still remembered that--


             _Saltash was a borough town
              When Plymouth was a breezy down_.


But the property was good, the borough safe, and any time these twenty
years their owner might have franked his letters "Chippinge" had he
willed it. As it was, he passed, almost as much as Mr. Western in the
east or Sir Thomas Acland in the west, for the type of a country
gentleman. The most powerful Minister gave him his whole hand; and at
county meetings, at Salisbury or Devizes, no voice was held more
powerful, nor any man's hint more quickly taken than Sir Robert
Vermuyden's.

He was a tall and very thin man, of almost noble aspect, with a nose
after the fashion of the Duke's, and a slight stoop. In early days he
had been something of a beau, though never of the Prince's following,
and he still dressed finely and with taste. With a smaller sense of
personal dignity, or with wider sympathies, he might have been a
happier man. But he had married too late--at forty-five; and the four
years which followed, and their sequel, had darkened the rest of his
life, drawn crow's-feet about his eyes and peevish lines about his
mouth. Henceforth he had lived alone, nursing his pride; and the
solitude of this life--which was not without its dignity, since no
word of scandal touched it--had left him narrow and vindictive, a man
just but not over-generous, and pompous without complacency.

The neighbourhood knew that he and Lady Sybil--he had married the
beautiful daughter of the last Earl of Portrush--had parted under
circumstances which came near to justifying divorce. Some held that he
had divorced her; but in those days an Act of Parliament was
necessary, and no such Act stood on the Statute-book. Many thought
that he ought to have divorced her. And while the people who knew that
she still lived and still plagued him were numerous, few save Isaac
White were aware that it was because his marriage had been made and
marred at Bowood--and not purely out of principle--that Sir Robert
opposed the very name of Lansdowne, and would have wasted a half of
his fortune to wreck his great neighbour's political power.

Not that his Tory principles were not strong. During five Parliaments
he had filled one of his own seats, and had spoken from time to time
after a dignified fashion, with formal gestures and a copious
sprinkling of classical allusions. The Liberal Toryism of Canning had
fallen below his ideal, but he had continued to sit until the betrayal
of the party by Peel and the Duke--on the Catholic Claims--drove him
from the House in disgust, and thenceforth Warren's Hotel, his
residence when in town, saw him but seldom. He had fancied then that
nothing worse could happen; that the depths were plumbed, and that he
and those who thought with him might punish the traitor and take
no harm. With the Duke of Cumberland, the best hated man in
England--which was never tired of ridiculing his moustachios--Eldon,
Wetherell, and the ultra-Tories, he had not rested until he had seen
the hated pair flung from office; nor was any man more surprised and
confounded when the result of the work began to show itself. The
Whigs, admitted to power by this factious movement, and after an exile
so long that Byron could write of them--


             _Naught's permanent among the human race
              Except the Whigs not getting into place_


--brought in no mild and harmless measure of reform, promising little
and giving nothing, such as foe and friend had alike expected; but a
measure of reform so radical that O'Connell blessed it, and Cobbett
might have fathered it: a measure which, if it passed, would sweep
away Sir Robert's power and the power of his class, destroy his
borough, and relegate him to the common order of country squires.

He was at first incredulous, then furious, then aghast. To him the
Bill was not only the doom of his own influence but the knell of the
Constitution. Behind it he saw red revolution and the crash of things.
Lord Grey was to him Mirabeau, Lord John was Lafayette, Brougham was
Danton; and of them and of their kind, when they had roused the
many-headed, he was sure that the end would be as the end of the
Gironde.

He was not the less furious, not the less aghast, when the moderates
of his party pointed out that he had himself to thank for the
catastrophe. From the refusal to grant the smallest reform, from the
refusal to transfer the franchise of the rotten borough of Retford to
the unrepresented city of Birmingham--a refusal which he had urged his
members to support--the chain was complete; for in consequence of that
refusal Mr. Huskisson had left the Duke's Cabinet. The appointment of
Mr. Fitzgerald to fill his seat had rendered the Clare election
necessary. O'Connell's victory at the Clare election had converted
Peel and the Duke to the necessity of granting the Catholic Claims.
That conversion had alienated the ultra-Tories, and among these Sir
Robert. The opposition of the ultra-Tories had expelled Peel and the
Duke from power--which had brought in the Whigs--who had brought in
the Reform Bill.

_Hinc illæ lacrimæ!_ For, in place of the transfer of the franchise of
one rotten borough to one large city--a reform which now to the most
bigoted seemed absurdly reasonable--here were sixty boroughs to be
swept away, and nearly fifty more to be shorn of half their strength,
a Constitution to be altered, an aristocracy to be dethroned!

And Calne, Lord Lansdowne's pocket borough, was spared!

Sir Robert firmly believed that the limit had been fixed with an eye
to Calne. They who framed the Bill, sitting in wicked, detestable
confabulation, had fixed the limit of Schedule B so as to spare Calne
and Tavistock--_Arcades ambo_, Whig boroughs both. Or why did they
just escape? In the whole matter it was this, strangely enough, which
troubled him most sorely. For the loss of his own borough--if the
worst came to the worst--he could put up with it. He had no
children, he had no one to come after him except Arthur Vaughan, the
great-grandson of his grandmother. But the escape of Calne, this clear
proof of the hypocrisy of the righteous Grey, the blatant Durham, the
whey-faced Lord John, the demagogue Brougham--this injustice kept him
in a state of continual irritation.

He was thinking of this as he paced slowly up and down the broad walk
beside the Garden Pool, at Stapylton--a solitary figure dwarfed by the
great elms. The placid surface of the pool, which mirrored the shaven
lawns beyond it and the hoary church set amidst the lawns, the silence
about him, broken only by the notes of song-birds or a faint yelp from
the distant kennels, the view over the green undulations of park and
covert--all vainly appealed to him to-day, though on summer evenings
his heart took sad and frequent leave of them. For that which
threatened him every day jostled aside for the present that which must
happen one day. The home of his fathers might be his for some years
yet, but shorn of its chief dignity, of its pride, its mastery; while
Calne--Calne would survive, to lift still higher the fortunes of those
who had sold their king and country, and betrayed their order.

Daily a man and horse awaited the mail-coach at Chippenham that he
might have the latest news; and, seeing a footman hurrying towards him
from the house, he supposed that the mail was in. But when the man,
after crossing the long wooden bridge which spanned the pool,
approached with no diminution of speed, he remembered that it was too
early for the post; and hating to be disturbed in his solitary
reveries, he awaited the servant impatiently.

"What it is?" he asked.

"If you please, Sir Robert, Lady Lansdowne's carriage is at the door."

Only Sir Robert's darkening colour betrayed his astonishment. He had
made his feelings so well known that none but the most formal
civilities now passed between Stapylton and Bowood.

"Who is it?"

"Lady Lansdowne, Sir Robert. Her ladyship bade us say that she wishes
to see you urgently, sir." The man, as well as the master, knew that
the visit was unusual.

The baronet was a proud man, and he bethought him that the
drawing-rooms, seldom used and something neglected, were not in the
state in which he would wish his enemy's wife to see them. "Where have
you put her ladyship?" he asked.

"In the hall, Sir Robert."

"Very good. I will come."

The man hastened away over the bridge, and Sir Robert followed, more
at leisure, but still quickly. When he had passed the angle of the
church which stood in a line with the three blocks of building,
connected by porticos, which formed the house, and which, placed on a
gentle eminence, looked handsomely over the park, he saw that a
carriage with four greys ridden by postillions and attended by two
outriders stood before the main door. In the carriage, her face shaded
by the large Tuscan hat of the period, sat a young lady reading. She
heard Sir Robert's footstep, and looked up, and in some embarrassment
met his eyes.

He removed his hat. "It is Lady Louisa, is it not?" he said, looking
gravely at her.

"Yes," she said; and she smiled prettily at him.

"Will you not go into the house?"

"Thank you," she replied, with a faint blush; "I think my mother
wishes to see you alone, Sir Robert."

"Very good." And with a bow, cold but perfectly courteous, he turned
and passed up the broad, shallow steps, which were of the same
time-tinted lichen-covered stone as the rest of the building. Mapp,
the butler, who had been looking out for him, opened the door, and he
entered the hall.

In his heart, which was secretly perturbed, was room for the wish that
he had been found in other than the high-buttoned gaiters and breeches
of his country life. But he suffered no sign of that or of his more
serious misgivings to appear, as he advanced to greet the still
beautiful woman, who sat daintily warming one sandalled foot at the
red embers on the hearth. She was far from being at ease herself.
Warnings which her husband had addressed to her at parting recurred
and disturbed her. But it is seldom that a woman of the world betrays
her feelings, and her manner was perfect as he bent low over her hand.

"It is long," she said gently, "much longer than I like to remember,
Sir Robert, since we met."

"It is a long time," he answered gravely; and when she had reseated
herself he sat down opposite her.

"It is an age," she said slowly; and she looked round the hall, with
its panelled walls, its deep window-seats, and its panoply of
fox-masks and antlers, as if she recalled the past, "It is an age,"
she repeated. "Politics are sad dividers of friends."

"I fear," he replied, in a tone as cold as courtesy permitted, "that
they are about to be greater dividers."

She looked at him quickly, with appeal in her eyes. "And yet," she
said, "we saw more of you once."

"Yes." He was wondering much, behind the mask of his civility, what
had drawn her hither. He knew that it could be no light, no passing
matter which had brought her over thirteen miles of Wiltshire roads to
call upon a man with whom intercourse had been limited, for years
past, to a few annual words, a formal invitation as formally declined,
a measured salutation at race or ball. She must have a motive, and a
strong one. It was only the day before that he had learned that Lord
Lansdowne meant to drop his foolish opposition at Chippinge; was it
possible that she was here to make a favour of this? And perhaps a
bargain? If that were her errand, and my lord had sent her, thinking
to make refusal less easy, Sir Robert felt that he would know how to
answer. He waited.



                                 VII

                         THE WINDS OF AUTUMN


Lady Lansdowne looked pensively at the tapering sandal which she held
forward to catch the heat. "Time passes so very, very quickly," she
said with a sigh.

"With some," Sir Robert answered. "With others," he bowed, "it stands
still."

His gallantry did not deceive her. She knew it for the salute which
duellists exchange before the fray, and she saw that if she would do
anything she must place herself within his guard. She looked at him
with sudden frankness. "I want you to bear with me for a few minutes,
Sir Robert," she said in a tone of appeal. "I want you to remember
that we were once friends, and, for the sake of old days, to believe
that I am here to play a friend's part. You won't answer me? Very
well. I do not ask you to answer me." She pointed to the space above
the mantel. "The portrait which used to hang there?" she said. "Where
is it? What have you done with it? But there, I said I would not ask,
and I am asking!"

"And I will answer!" he replied. This was the last, the very last
thing for which he had looked; but he would show her that he was not
to be overridden. "I will tell you," he repeated. "Lady Lansdowne, I
have destroyed it."

"I do not blame you," she rejoined. "It was yours to do with as you
would. But the original--no, Sir Robert," she said, staying him
intrepidly--she had taken the water now, and must swim--"you shall not
frighten me! She was, she is your wife. But not yours, not your
property to do with as you will, in the sense in which that
picture--but there, I am blaming where I should entreat. I----"

He stayed her by a peremptory gesture. "Are you here--from her?" he
asked huskily.

"I am not."

"She knows?"

"No, Sir Robert, she does not."

"Then why,"--there was pain, real pain mingled with the indignation in
his tone--"why, in God's name, Madam, have you come?"

She looked at him with pitying eyes. "Because," she said, "so many
years have passed, and if I do not say a word now I shall never say
it. And because--there is still time, but no more than time."

He looked at her fixedly. "You have another reason," he said. "What is
it?"

"I saw her yesterday. I was in Chippenham when the Bristol coach
passed, and I saw her face for an instant at the window."

He breathed more quickly; it was evident that the news touched him
home. But he would not blench nor lower his eyes. "Well?" he said.

"I saw her for a few seconds only, and she did not see me. And of
course--I did not speak to her. But I knew her face, though she was
changed."

"And because"--his voice was harsh--"you saw her for a few minutes at
a window, you come to me?"

"No, but because her face called up the old times. And because we are
all growing older. And because she was--not guilty."

He started. This was getting within his guard with a vengeance. "Not
guilty?" he cried in a tone of extreme anger. And he rose. But as she
did not move he sat down again.

"No," she replied firmly. "She was not guilty."

His face was deeply red. For a moment he looked at her as if he would
not answer her, or, if he answered, would bid her leave his house.
Then, "If she had been," he said grimly, "guilty, Madam, in the sense
in which you use the word, guilty of the worst, she had ceased to be
my wife these fifteen years, she had ceased to bear my name, ceased to
be the curse of my life!"

"Oh, no, no!"

"It is yes, yes!" And his face was dark. "But as it was, she was
guilty enough! For years"--he spoke more rapidly as his passion
grew--"she made her name a byword and dragged mine in the dirt. She
made me a laughing-stock and herself a scandal. She disobeyed me--but
what was her whole life with me, Lady Lansdowne, but one long
disobedience? When she published that light, that foolish book, and
dedicated it to--to that person--a book which no modest wife should
have written, was not her main motive to harass and degrade me? Me,
her husband? While we were together was not her conduct from the first
one long defiance, one long harassment of me? Did a day pass in which
she did not humiliate me by a hundred tricks, belittle me by a hundred
slights, ape me before those whom she should not have stooped to know,
invite in a thousand ways the applause of the fops she drew round her?
And when"--he rose, and paced the room--"when, tried beyond patience
by what I heard, I sent to her at Florence and bade her return to me,
and cease to make herself a scandal with that person, or my house
should no longer be her home, she disobeyed me flagrantly, wilfully,
and at a price she knew! She went out of her way to follow him to
Rome, she flaunted herself in his company, ay, and flaunted herself in
such guise as no Englishwoman had been known to wear before! And after
that--after that----"

He stopped, proud as he was, mastered by his feelings; she had got
within his guard indeed. For a while he could not go on. And she,
picturing the old days which his passionate words brought back, days
when her children had been infants, saw, as it had been yesterday, the
young bride, beautiful as a rosebud and wild and skittish as an Irish
colt--and the husband staid, dignified, middle-aged, as little in
sympathy with his captive's random acts and flighty words as if he had
spoken another tongue.

Thus yoked, and resisting the lightest rein, the young wife had shown
herself capable of an infinity of folly. Egged on by the plaudits of a
circle of admirers, she had now made her husband ridiculous by
childish familiarities: and again, when he found fault with these, by
airs of public offence, which covered him with derision. But beauty's
sins are soon forgiven; and fretting and fuming, and leading a
wretched life, he had yet borne with her, until something which she
chose to call a passion took possession of her. "The Giaour" and "The
Corsair" were all the rage that year; and with the publicity with
which she did everything she flung herself at the head of her soul's
affinity; a famous person, half poet, half dandy, who was staying at
Bowood.

The world which knew her decided that the affair was more worthy of
laughter than of censure, and laughed immoderately. But to the
husband--the humour of husbands is undeveloped--it was terrible. She
wrote verses to the gentleman, and he to her; and she published, with
ingenuous pride, the one and the other. Possibly this or the laughter
determined the admirer. He fled, playing the innocent Æneas; and her
lamentations, crystallising in the shape of a silly romance which made
shop-girls weep and great ladies laugh, caused a separation between
the husband and wife. Before this had lasted many months the illness
of their only child brought them together again; and when, a little
later, the doctors advised a southern climate, Sir Robert reluctantly
entrusted the girl to her. She went abroad with the child, and the
parents never met again.

Lady Lansdowne, recalling the story, could have laughed with her mind
and wept with her heart; scenes so absurd under the leafy shades of
Bowood or Lacock jostled the tragedy; and the ludicrous--with the
husband an unwilling actor in it--so completely relieved the pathetic!
But her bent towards laughter was short. Sir Robert, unable to bear
her eyes, had turned away; and she must say something.

"Think," she said gently, "how young she was!"

"I have thought of it a thousand times!" he retorted. "Do you
suppose," turning on her with harshness, "that there is a day on which
I do not think of it!"

"So young!"

"She had been three years a mother!"

"For the dead child's sake, then," she pleaded with him, "if not for
hers."

"Lady Lansdowne!" There were both anger and pain in his voice as he
halted and stood before her. "Why do you come to me? Why do you
trouble me? Why? Is it because you feel yourself--responsible? Because
you know, because you feel, that but for you my home had not been left
to me desolate? Nor a foolish life been ruined?"

"God forbid!" she said solemnly. And in her turn she rose in
agitation; moved for once out of the gracious ease and self-possession
of her life, so that in the contrast there was something unexpected
and touching. "God forbid!" she repeated. "But because I feel that I
might have done more. Because I feel that a word from me might have
checked her, and it was not spoken. True, I was young, and it might
have made things worse--I do not know. But when I saw her face at the
window yesterday--and she was changed, Sir Robert--I felt that I might
have been in her place, and she in mine!" Her voice trembled. "I might
have been lonely, childless, growing old; and alone! Or again, if I
had done something, if I had spoken as I would have another speak,
were the case my girl's, she might have been as I am! Now," she added
tremulously, "you know why I came. Why I plead for her! In our world
we grow hard, very hard; but there are things which touch us still,
and her face touched me yesterday--I remembered what she was." She
paused a moment, and then, "After long years," she continued softly,
"it cannot be hard to forgive; and there is still time. She did
nothing that need close your door, and what she did is forgotten.
Grant that she was foolish, grant that she was wild, indiscreet, what
you will--she is alone now, alone and growing old, Sir Robert, and if
not for her sake, for the sake of your dead child----"

He stopped her by a peremptory gesture, but for the moment he seemed
unable to speak. At length, "You touch the wrong chord," he said
hoarsely. "It is for the sake of my dead child I shall never, never
forgive her! She knew that I loved it. She knew that it was all to me.
It grew worse! Did she tell me? It was in danger; did she warn me? No!
But when I heard of her disobedience, of her folly, of things which
made her a byword, and I bade her return, or my house should no longer
be her home, then, then she flung the news of the child's death at me,
and rejoiced that she had it to fling. Had I gone out then and found
her in the midst of her wicked gaiety, God knows what I should have
done! I did try to go. But the Hundred Days had begun, I had to
return. Had I gone, and learned that in her mad infatuation she had
neglected the child, left it to servants, let it fade, I think--I
think, Madam, I should have killed her!"

Lady Lansdowne raised her hands. "Hush! Hush!" she said.

"I loved the child. Therefore she was glad when it died, glad that she
had the power to wound me. Its death was no more to her than a weapon
with which to punish me! There was a tone in her letter--I have it
still--which betrayed that. And, therefore--therefore, for the child's
sake, I will never forgive her!"

"I am sorry," she murmured in a voice which acknowledged defeat. "I am
very sorry."

He stood for a moment gazing at the blank space above the fireplace;
his head sunk, his shoulders brought forward. He looked years older
than the man who had walked under the elms. At length he made an
effort to speak in his usual tone. "Yes," he said, "it is a sorry
business."

"And I," she said slowly, "can do nothing."

"Nothing," he replied. "Time will cure this, and all things."

"You are sure that there is no mistake?" she pleaded. "That you are
not judging her harshly?"

"There is no mistake."

Then she saw the hopelessness of argument and held out her hand.

"Forgive me," she said simply. "I have given you pain, and for
nothing. But the old days were so strong upon me--after I saw
her--that I could not but come. Think of me at least as a friend, and
forgive me."

He bowed low over her hand, but he gave her no assurance. And seeing
that he was mastering his agitation, and fearing that if he had
leisure to think he might resent her interference, she wasted no time
in adieux. She glanced round the well-remembered hall--the hall once
smart, now shabby--in which she had seen the flighty girl play many a
mad prank. Then she turned sorrowfully to the door, more than
suspecting that she would never pass through it again.

He had rung the bell, and Mapp, the butler, and the two men were in
attendance. But he handed her to the carriage himself, and placed her
in it with old-fashioned courtesy, and with the same scrupulous
observance stood bareheaded until it moved away. None the less, his
face by its set expression betrayed the nature of the interview; and
the carriage had scarcely swept clear of the grounds and entered the
park when Lady Louisa turned to her mother.

"Was he very angry?" she asked, eager to be instructed in the
mysteries of that life which she was entering.

Lady Lansdowne essayed to snub her. "My dear," she said, "it is not a
fit subject for you."

"Still, mother dear, you might tell me. You told me something, and it
is not fair to turn yourself into Mrs. Fairchild in a moment. Besides,
while you were with him I came on a passage so beautiful, and so pat,
it almost made me cry."

"My dear, don't say 'pat,' say 'apposite.'"

"Then apposite, mother," Lady Louisa answered. "Do you read it. There
it is."

Lady Lansdowne sniffed, but suffered the book to be put into her hand.
Lady Louisa pointed with enthusiasm to a line. "Is it a case like
that, mother?" she asked eagerly.


             _But never either found another
              To free the hollow heart from paining.
              They stood aloof, the scars remaining,
              Like cliffs which had been rent asunder.
              A dreary sea now flows between,
              But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder,
              Shall wholly do away, I ween,
              The marks of that which once hath been_.


The mother handed the book back to the daughter without looking at
her. "No," she said; "I don't think it is a case like that."

But a moment later she wiped her eyes furtively, and then she told her
daughter more, it is to be feared, than Mrs. Fairchild would have
approved.


                          *   *   *   *   *


Sir Robert, when they were gone, went heavily to the library, a
panelled room looking to the back, in which it was his custom to sit.
For many years he had passed some hours of every day, when he was at
home, in that room; and until now it had never occurred to his mind
that it was dull or shabby. But it was old Mapp's habit to lower the
blinds for his master's after-luncheon nap, and they were still down;
and the half light which filtered in was like the sheet which rather
accentuates than hides the sharp features of the dead. The faded
engravings and the calf-bound books which masked the walls, the
escritoire, handsome and massive, but stained with ink and strewn with
dog's eared accounts, the leathern-covered chair long worn out of
shape by his weight, the table beside it with yesterday's "Standard,"
two or three volumes of the "Anti-Jacobin," and the "Quarterly," a
month old and dusty--all to his opened eyes wore a changed aspect.
They spoke of the slow decay of years, unchecked by a woman's eye, a
woman's hand. They told of the slow degradation of his lonely life.
They indicated a like change in himself.

He stood a few moments on the hearth, looking about him with a
shocked, pained face. The months and the years had passed irrevocably,
while he sat in that chair, poring in a kind of lethargy over those
books, working industriously at those accounts. Asked, he had answered
that he was growing old, and grown old. But he had never for a moment
comprehended, as he comprehended now, that he was old. He had never
measured the difference between this and that; between those days
troubled by a hundred annoyances, vexations, cares, when in spite of
all he had lived, and these days of sullen stagnancy and mere
vegetation.

He found the room, he found the reflection, intolerable. And he went
out, took with an unsteady hand his garden hat and returned to that
broad walk under the elms beside the pool which was his favourite
lounge. Perhaps he fancied that the wonted scene would deaden the pain
of memory and restore him to his wonted placidity. But his thoughts
had been too violently broken. His hands shook, hid lip trembled with
the tearless passion of later life. And when his agitation began to
die down and something like calmness supervened, this did but enable
him to feel more keenly the pangs, not of remorse, but of regret; of
bitter, unavailing regret for all the things of which the woman who
had lain on his bosom had robbed his life.

Stapylton stood in a side valley projected among the low green hills
which fringe the vale of the Wiltshire Avon. From where he stood all
within sight, the gentle downs above the house, the arable land which
fringed them, the rich pastures below--all, mill and smithy and inn,
snug farm and thatched cottage, called him lord. Nay, from the south
end of the pool, where a wicket gave entrance to the park--whence also
a side view of the treble front of the house could be obtained--the
spire of Chippinge church was visible, rising from its ridge in the
Avon alley; and to the base of that spire all was his, all had been
his father's and his grandfather's. But not an acre, not a rood, would
be his child's.

This was no new thought. It was a thought that had saddened him on
many and many a summer evening when the shadow of the elms lay far
across the sward, and the silence of the stately house, the pale
water, the far-stretching farms whispered of the passing of the
generations, of the passage of time, of the inevitable end. Where he
walked his father had walked; and soon he would go whither his father
had gone. And the heir would walk where he walked, listen to the same
twilight carollings, hear the first hoot of the distant owl.


             _Cedes coemptis saltibus, el domo
              Villaque, flavus quam Tiberis lavit,
                 Cedes, et exstructis in altum
                 Divitiis potietur heres_.


But no heir of his blood. No son of his. No man of the Vermuyden name.
And for that he had to thank her.

It was this which to-day gave the old thought new poignancy. For that
he had to thank her. Truly, in the words wrung from him by the
bitterness of his feelings, she had left his house unto him desolate.
If even the little girl had lived, the child would have succeeded; and
that had been something, that had been much. But the child was dead;
and in his heart he laid her death at his wife's door. And a stranger,
or one in essentials a stranger, the descendant by a second marriage
of his grandmother, Katherine Beckford, was the heir.

Presently the young man would succeed and the old chattels would be
swept away to cottage or lumber-room. The old horses would be shot,
the old dogs would be hanged, the old servants discharged, perhaps the
very trees under which he walked and which he loved would be cut down.
The house, the stables, the kennels, all but the cellars would be
refurnished; and in the bustle and glitter of the new _régime_, begun
in the sunshine, the twilight of his own latter days would be
forgotten in a month.


      _We die and are forgotten, 'tis Heaven's decree,
       And thus the lot of others will be the lot of me!_


Sunday by Sunday he had read those lines on the grave of a kinsman, a
man whom he had known. He had often repeated them, he could as soon
forget them as his prayers. To-day the old memories and the old times,
which Lady Lansdowne had made to rise from the dead, gave them a new
meaning and a new bitterness.



                                 VIII

                          A SAD MISADVENTURE


Arthur Vaughan was not a little relieved by the tidings which Isaac
White had conveyed to him at Chippenham. The news freed him from a
duty which did not appear the less distasteful because it was no
longer inevitable. To cast against Sir Robert the vote which he owed
to Sir Robert must have exposed him to odium, whatever the matter at
stake. But at this election, at which the issue was, aye or no, was
the borough to be swept away or not, to vote "aye" was an act from
which the least sensitive must have shrunk, and which the most honest
must have performed with reluctance. Add the extreme exasperation of
public feeling, of which every day and every hour brought to light the
most glaring proofs, and he had been fortunate indeed if he had not
incurred some general blame as well as the utmost weight of Sir
Robert's displeasure.

He was spared all this, and he was thankful. Yet, when he rose on the
morning after his arrival at Bristol, his heart was not as light as a
feather. On the contrary, as he looked from the window of the White
Lion into the bustle of Broad Street, he yawned dolefully; admitting
that life, and particularly the prospect before him, of an immediate
return to London, was dull. Why go back? Why stay here? Why do
anything? The Woolsack? Bah! The Cabinet? Pooh! They were but gaudy
baits for the shallow and the hard-hearted. Moreover, they were so
distant, so unattainable, that pursuit of them seemed the merest
moonshine; more especially on this fine April morning, made for
nothing but a coach ride through an enchanted country, by the side of
the sweetest face, the brightest eyes, the most ravishing figure, the
prettiest bonnet that ever tamed the gruffest of coachmen.

Heigh-ho! If it were all to do over again how happy would he be! How
happy had he been, and not known it, the previous morning! It was
pitiful to think of him in his ignorance, with that day, that blissful
day, before him.

Well, it was over. And he must return to town. For he would play no
foolish tricks. The girl was not in his rank in life, and he could not
follow her without injury to her. He was no preacher, and he had lived
for years among men whose lives, if not worse than the lives of their
descendants, wore no disguise; who, if they did not sin more, sinned
more openly. But he had a heart, and to mar an innocent life for his
pleasure had shocked him; even if the girl's modesty and self-respect,
disclosed by a hundred small things, had not made the notion of
wronging her abhorrent. None the less he took his breakfast in a kind
of dream, whispered "Mary!" three times in different tones, and, being
suddenly accosted by the waiter, was irritable.

With all this he was wise enough to know his own weakness, and that
the sooner he was out of Bristol the better. He sent to the Bush
office to book a place by the midday coach to town; and then only,
when he had taken the irrevocable step, he put on his hat to kill the
intervening time in Bristol.

Unfortunately, as he crossed the hall, intending to walk towards
Clifton, he heard himself named; and turning, he saw that the speaker
was the lady in black, and wearing a veil, whom he had remarked
walking up and down beside the coach, while the horses were changing
at Marshfield.

"Mr. Vaughan?" she said.

He raised his hat, much surprised. "Yes," he answered. He fancied that
she was inspecting him very closely through her veil. "I am Mr.
Vaughan."

"Pardon me," she continued--her voice was refined and low--"but they
gave me your name at the office. I have something which belongs to the
lady who travelled with you yesterday, and I am anxious to restore
it."

He blushed; nor could he have repressed the blush if his life had hung
upon it. "Indeed?" he murmured. His confusion did not permit him to
add another word.

"Doubtless it was left in the coach," the lady explained, "and was
taken to my room with my luggage. Unfortunately I am leaving Bristol
at once, within a few minutes, and I cannot myself return it. I shall
be much obliged if you will see that she has it safely."

She spoke as if the thing were a matter of course. But Vaughan had now
recovered himself. "I would with pleasure," he said; "but I am myself
leaving Bristol at midday, and I really do not know how--how I can do
it."

"Then perhaps you will arrange the matter," the lady replied in a tone
of displeasure. "I have sent the parcel to your room and I have not
time to regain it. I must go at once. There is my maid! Good morning!"
And with a distant bow she glided from him, and disappeared through
the nearest doorway.

He stood where she had left him, looking after her in bewilderment.
For one thing he was sure that she was a stranger, and yet she had
addressed him in the tone of one who had a right to be obeyed. Then
how odd it was! What a coincidence! He had made up his mind to end the
matter, to go and walk the Hot Wells like a good boy; and this
happened and tempted him!

Yes, tempted him.

He would---- But he could not tell what he would do until he had seen
if the parcel were really in his room. The parcel! The mere thought
that it was hers sent a foolish thrill through him. He would go and
see, and then----

But he was interrupted. There were people standing or sitting round
the hall, a low-ceiled, dark wainscoted room, with sheaves of
way-bills hung against the square pillars, and theatre notices
flanking the bar window. As he turned to seek his rooms a hand gripped
his arm and twitched him round, and he met the grinning face of a man
in his old regiment, Bob Flixton, commonly called the Honourable Bob.

"So I've caught you, my lad," said he. "This is mighty fine. Veiled
ladies, eh? Oh, fie! fie!"

Vaughan, innocent as he was, was a little put out. But he answered
good-humouredly, "What brought you here, Flixton?"

"Ay, just so! Very unlucky, ain't it?" grinning. "Fear I'll cut you
out, eh? You're a neat artist, I must say."

"I don't know the good lady from Eve!"

"Tell that to---- But here, let me make you known to Brereton,"
hauling him towards a gentleman who was seated in one of the window
recesses. "Old West Indian man, in charge of the recruiting district,
and a good fellow, but a bit of a saint! Colonel," he rattled on, as
they joined the gentleman, "here's Vaughan, once of ours, become a
counsellor, and going to be Lord Chancellor. As to the veiled lady,
mum, sir, mum!" with an exaggerated wink.

Vaughan laughed. It was impossible to resist Bob's impudent
good-humour. He was a fair young man, short, stout, and inclining to
baldness, with a loud, hearty voice, and a manner which made those who
did not know him for a peer's son, think of a domestic fowl with a
high opinion of itself. He was for ever damning this and praising that
with unflagging decision; a man with whom it was impossible to be
displeased, and in whom it was next to impossible not to believe. Yet
at the mess-table it was whispered that he did not play his best when
the pool was large; nor had he ever seen service, save in the lists of
love, where his reputation stood high.

His companion, Vaughan saw, was of a different stamp. He was tall and
lean, with the air and carriage of a soldier, but with features of a
refined and melancholy cast, and with a brooding sadness in his eyes
which could not escape the most casual observer. He was somewhat
sallow, the result of the West Indian climate, and counted twenty
years more than Flixton, for whom his gentle and quiet manner formed
an admirable foil. He greeted Vaughan courteously, and the Honourable
Bob forced our hero into a seat beside them.

"That's snug!" he said. "And now mum's the word, Vaughan. We'll not
ask you what you're doing here among the nigger-nabobs. It's clear
enough."

Vaughan explained that the veiled lady was a stranger who had come
down in the coach with him, and that, for himself, it was election
business which had brought him.

"Old Vermuyden?" returned the Honourable Bob. "To be sure! Man you've
expectations from! Good old fellow, too. I know him. Go and see him
one of these days. Gad, Colonel, if old Sir Robert heard your views
he'd die on the spot! D----n the Bill, he'd say! And I say it too!"

"But afterwards?" Brereton returned, drawing Vaughan into the argument
by a courteous gesture. "Consider the consequences, my dear fellow, if
the Bill does not pass."

"Oh, hang the consequences!"

"You can't," drily. "You can hang men--we've been too fond of hanging
them--but not consequences! Look at the state of the country;
everywhere you will find excitement, and dangerous excitement.
Cobbett's writings have roused the South; the papers are full of
rioters and special commission to try them! Not a farmer can sleep for
thinking of his stacks, nor a farmer's wife for thinking of her
husband. Then for the North; look at Birmingham and Manchester and
Glasgow, with their Political Unions preaching no taxation without
representation. Or, nearer home, look at Bristol here, ready to drown
the Corporation, and Wetherell in particular, in the Float! Then, if
that is the state of things while they still expect the Bill to pass,
what will be the position if they learn it is not to pass? No, no! You
may shrug your shoulders, but the three days in Paris will be nothing
to it."

"What I say is, shoot!" Flixton answered hotly. "Shoot! Shoot! Put 'em
down! Put an end to it! Show 'em their places! What do a lot of d----d
shopkeepers and peasants know about the Bill? Ride 'em down! Give 'em
a taste of the Float themselves! I'll answer for it a troop of the
14th would soon bring the Bristol rabble to their senses!"

"I should be sorry to see it tried," Brereton answered, shaking his
head. "They took that line in France last July, and you know the
result. You'll agree with me, Mr. Vaughan, that where Marmont failed
we are not likely to succeed. The more as his failure is known. The
three days of July are known."

"Ay, by the Lord," the Honourable Bob cried. "The revolution in France
bred the whole of this trouble!"

"The mob there won, and the mob here know it. In my opinion," Brereton
continued, "conciliation is our only card, if we do not want to see a
revolution."

"Hang your conciliation! Shoot, I say!"

"What do you think, Mr. Vaughan?"

"I think with you, Colonel Brereton," Vaughan answered, "that the only
way to avoid such a crisis as has befallen France is to pass the Bill,
and to set the Constitution on a wider basis by enlisting as large a
number as possible in its defence."

"Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord!" from Flixton.

"On the other hand," Vaughan continued, "I would put down the
beginnings of disorder with a strong hand. I would allow no
intimidation, no violence. The Bill should be passed by argument."

"Argument? Why, d----n me, intimidation is your argument!" the
Honourable Bob struck in, with more acuteness than he commonly
evinced. "Pass the Bill or we'll loose the dog! At 'em, Mob, good dog!
At 'em! That's your argument!" triumphantly. "But I'll be back in a
minute." And he left them.

Vaughan laughed. Brereton, however, seemed to be unable to take the
matter lightly. "Do you really mean, Mr. Vaughan," he said, "that if
there were trouble, here, for instance, you would not hesitate to give
the order to fire?"

"Certainly, sir, if it could not be put down with the cold steel."

The Colonel shook his head despondently. "I don't think I could," he
said. "I don't think I could. You have not seen war, and I have. And
it is a fearful thing. Bad enough abroad, infinitely worse here. The
first shot--think, Mr. Vaughan, of what it might be the beginning!
What hundreds and thousands of lives might hang upon it! How many
scores of innocent men shot down, of daughters made fatherless!" He
shuddered. "And to give such an order on your own responsibility, when
the first volley might be the signal for a civil war, and twenty-four
hours might see a dozen counties in a blaze! It is horrible to think
of! Too horrible! It's too much for one man's shoulders! Flixton
would do it--he sees no farther than his nose! But you and I, Mr.
Vaughan--and on one's own judgment, which might be utterly, fatally
wrong! My God, no!"

"Yet there must be a point," Vaughan replied, "at which such an order
becomes necessary; becomes mercy!"

"Ay," Brereton answered eagerly; "but who is to say when that point is
reached; and that peaceful methods can do no more? Or, granted that
they can do no more, that provocation once given, your force is
sufficient to prevent a massacre! A massacre in such a place as this!"

Vaughan saw that the idea had taken possession of the other's mind,
and, aware that he had distinguished himself more than once on foreign
service, he wondered. It was not his affair, however; and "Let us hope
that the occasion may not arise," he said politely.

"God grant it!" Brereton replied. And then again, to himself and more
fervently, "God grant it!" he muttered. The shadow lay darker on his
face.

Vaughan might have wondered more, if Flixton had not returned at that
moment and overwhelmed him with importunities to dine with him the
next evening. "Gage and Congreve of the 14th are coming from
Gloucester," he said, "and Codrington and two or three yeomanry chaps.
You must come. If you don't, I'll quarrel with you and call you out!
It'll do you good after the musty, fusty, goody-goody life you've been
leading. Brereton's coming, and we'll drink King Billy till we're
blind!"

Vaughan hesitated. He had taken his place on the coach, but--but after
all there was that parcel. He must do something about it. It seemed to
be his fate to be tempted, yet--what nonsense that was! Why should he
not stay in Bristol if he pleased?

"You're very good," he said at last. "I'll stay."

Yet on his way to his room he paused, half-minded to go. But he was
ashamed to change his mind again, and he strode on, opened his door,
and saw the parcel, a neat little affair, laid on the table.

It bore in a clear handwriting the address which he had seen on the
basket at Mary Smith's feet. But, possibly because an hour of the
Honourable Bob's company had brushed the bloom from his fancy, it
moved him little. He looked at it with something like indifference,
felt no inclination to kiss it, and smiled at his past folly as he
took it up and set off to return it to its owner. He had exaggerated
the affair and his feelings; he had made much out of little, and a
romance out of a chance encounter. He could smile now at that which
had moved him yesterday. Certainly:


      _Man's love is of man's life a thing apart,
         'Tis woman's whole existence; man may range
       The Court, camp, Church, the vessel and the mart,
         Sword, gown, gain, glory, offer in exchange
       Pride, fame, ambition to fill up his heart_.


And the Honourable Bob, with his breezy self-assertion, had brought
this home to him and, with a puff of everyday life, had blown the
fantasy away.

He was still under this impression when he reached Queen's Square,
once the pride of Bristol, and still, in 1831, a place handsome and
well inhabited. Uniformly and substantially built, on a site
surrounded on three sides by deep water, it lay, indeed, rather
over-near the quays, of which, and of the basins, it enjoyed a view
through several openings. But in the reign of William IV. merchants
were less averse from living beside their work than they are now. The
master's eye was still in repute, and though many of the richest
citizens had migrated to Clifton, and the neighbouring Assembly Rooms
in Prince's Street had been turned into a theatre, the spacious
square, with its wide lawn, its lofty and umbrageous elms, its colony
of rooks, and, last of all, its fine statue of the Glorious and
Immortal Memory, was still the abode of many respectable people. In
one corner stood the Mansion House; a little further along the same
side the Custom House; and a third public department, the Excise, also
had offices here.

The Cathedral and the Bishop's Palace, on College Green, stood, as the
crow flies, scarce a bow-shot from the Square; on which they looked
down from the westward, as the heights of Redcliffe looked down on it
from the east. But marsh as well as water divided the Square from
these respectable neighbours; nor, it must be owned, was this the only
drawback. The centre of the city's life, but isolated on three sides
by water, the Square was as easily reached from the worse as from the
better quarters, and owing to the proximity of the Welsh Back, a
coasting quay frequented by the roughest class, it was liable in times
of excitement to abrupt and boisterous inroads.

Vaughan entered the Square by Queen Charlotte Street, and had
traversed one half of its width when his nonchalance failed him. Under
the elms, in the corner which he was approaching, were a dozen
children. They were at play, and overlooking them from a bench, with
their backs to him, sat two young persons, the one in that mid-stage
between childhood and womanhood when the eyes are at their sharpest
and the waist at its thickest, the other, Mary Smith.

The colour rose to his brow, and to his surprise he found that he was
not indifferent. Nor was the discovery that the back of her head and
an inch of the nape of her neck had this effect upon him the worst. He
had to ask himself what, if he was not indifferent, he was doing
there, sneaking on the skirts of a ladies' school. What were his
intentions, and what his aim? For to healthy minds there is something
distasteful in the notion of an intrigue connected, ever so remotely,
with a girls' school. Nor are conquests gained on that scene laurels
of which even a Lothario is over-proud. If Flixton saw him, or some
others of the gallant Fourteenth!

And yet, in the teeth of all this, and under the eyes of all Queen's
Square, he must do his errand. And sheepish within, brazen without, he
advanced and stood beside her. She heard his step, and, unsuspicious
as the youngest of her flock, looked up to see who came--looked, and
saw him standing within a yard of her, with the sunshine falling
through the leaves on his wavy, fair hair. For the twentieth part of a
second he fancied a glint of glad surprise in her eyes. Then, if
anything could have punished him, it was the sight of her confusion;
it was the blush of distress which covered her face as she rose to her
feet.

Oh, cruel! He had pursued her, when to pursue was an insult! He had
followed her when he should have known that in her position a breath
of scandal was ruin! And oh, the round eyes of the round-faced child
beside her!

"I must apologise," he murmured humbly, "but I am not trespassing upon
you without a cause. I--I think that this is yours." And rather
lamely, for the distress in her face troubled him, he held out the
parcel.

She put her hand behind her, and as stiffly as Miss Sibson--of the
Queen's Square Academy for Young Ladies of the Genteel and
Professional Classes--could have desired. "I do not understand, sir,"
she said. She was pale and red by turns, as the round eyes saw.

"You left this in the coach."

"I beg your pardon?"

"You left this in the coach," he repeated, turning very red himself.
Was it possible that she meant to repudiate her own property because
he brought it? "It is yours, is it not?"

"No."

"It is not!" in incredulous astonishment.

"No."

"But I am sure it is," he persisted. Confound it, this was a little
overdoing modesty! He had no desire to eat the girl! "You left it
inside the coach, and it has your address upon it. See!" And he tried
to place it in her hands.

But she drew back with a look of reprobation of which he would not
have believed her eyes capable. "It is not mine, sir," she said. "Be
good enough to leave us!" And then, drawing herself up, mild creature
as she was, "You are intruding, sir," she said.

Now, if Vaughan had really been guilty of approaching her upon a
feigned pretext, he had certainly retired on that with his tail
between his legs. But being innocent, and both incredulous and angry,
he stood his ground, and his eyes gave back some of the reproach which
hers darted.

"I am either mad or it is yours," he said stubbornly, heedless of the
ring of staring children who, ceasing to play, had gathered round
them. "It bears your name and address, and it was left in the coach by
which you travelled yesterday. I think, Miss Smith, you will be sorry
afterwards if you do not take it."

She fancied that his words imported a bribe; and in despair of ridding
herself of him, or in terror of the tale which the children would
tell, she took her courage in both hands. "You say that it is mine?"
she said, trembling visibly.

"Certainly I do," he answered. And again he held it out to her.

But she did not take it. Instead, "Then be good enough to follow
me," she replied, with something of the prim dignity of the
school-mistress. "Miss Cooke, will you collect the children and bring
them into the house?"

And, avoiding his eyes, she led the way across the road to the door of
one of the houses. He followed, but reluctantly, and after a moment of
hesitation. He detested the scene which he now foresaw, and bitterly
regretted that he had ever set foot inside Queen's Square. To be
suspected of thrusting an intrigue upon a little schoolmistress, to be
dragged, with a pack of staring, chattering children in his train,
before some grim-faced duenna--he, a man of years and affairs, with
whom the Chancellor of England did not scorn to speak on equal terms!
It was hateful; it was an intolerable position. Yet to turn back, to
say that he would not go, was to acknowledge himself guilty. He
wished--he wished to heaven that he had never seen the girl. Or at
least that he had had the courage, when she first denied the thing, to
throw the parcel on the seat and go.

It was not an heroic frame of mind; but neither was the position
heroic. And something may be forgiven him in the circumstances.

Fortunately the trial was short. She opened the door of the house, and
on the threshold he found himself face to face with a tall, bulky
woman, with a double chin, and an absurdly powdered nose, who wore a
cameo of the late Queen Charlotte on her ample bosom. Miss Sibson had
viewed the encounter from an upper window, and her face was a picture
of displeasure, slightly tempered by powder.

"What is this?" she asked, in an intimidating voice. "Miss Smith, what
is this, if you please?"

Perhaps Mary, aware that her place was at stake, was desperate. At any
rate she behaved with a dignity which astonished Vaughan. "This
gentleman, Madam," she explained, speaking with firmness though her
face was on fire, "travelled with me on the coach yesterday. A few
minutes ago he appeared and addressed me, and insisted that the--the
parcel he carries is mine, and that I left it in the coach. It is not
mine, and I have not seen it before."

Miss Sibson folded her arms upon her ample person. The position was
not altogether new to her.

"Sir," she said, eying the offender majestically, "have you any
explanation to offer--of this extraordinary conduct?"

He had, indeed. As clearly as his temper permitted he told his tale,
his tone half ironical, half furious.

When he paused, "Who do you say gave it to you?" Miss Sibson asked in
a deep voice.

"I do not know her name. A lady who travelled in the coach."

Miss Sibson's frown grew even deeper. "Thank you," she replied, "that
will do. I have heard enough, and I understand. I understand, sir. Be
good enough to leave the house."

"But, Madam----"

"Be good enough to leave the house," she repeated. "That is the door,"
pointing to it. "That is the door, sir! Any apology you may wish to
make, you can make by letter to me. To me, you understand! I think one
were not ill-fitting!"

He lost his temper altogether at that, and he flung the parcel with
violence, and with a violent word, on a chair. "Then at any rate I
shall not take that, for it's not mine!" he cried. "You may keep it,
Madam!"

And he flung out, his retreat hampered and made humiliating by the
entrance of the pupils, who, marshalled by the round-eyed one, and all
round-eyed themselves, blocked the doorway at that unlucky moment. He
broke through them without ceremony, though they represented the most
respectable families in Bristol, and with his head bent he strode
wrathfully across the Square.

To be turned out of a girls' boarding-school! To be shown the door
like some wretched philandering schoolboy, or a subaltern in his first
folly! He, the man of the world, of experience, of ambition! The man
with a career! He was furious.

"The little cat!" he cried as he went. "I wish I had never seen her
face! What a fool, what a fool I was to come!"

Unheroic words and an unheroic mood. But though there were heroes
before Agamemnon, it is not certain that there were any after George
the Fourth. At any rate, any who, like that great man, were heroic
always and in all circumstances.

Probably Vaughan would have forgiven the little cat had he known that
she was at that moment weeping very bitterly, with her face plunged
into the pillow of her not over-luxurious bed. For she was young, and
a woman. And because, in her position, the name of love was taboo;
because to her the admiring look, which to a more fortunate sister was
homage, was an insult; because the _petits soins_, the flower, the
note, the trifle that to another were more precious than jewels, were
not for her, it did not follow that she was not flesh and blood, that
she had not feeling, affection, passion. True, the pang was soon
deadened, for habit is strong. True, the bitter tears were soon dried,
for employers like not gloomy looks. True, she soon cried shame on her
own discontent, for she was good as gold. And yet to be debarred, in
the tender springtime, from the sweet scents, the budding blooms, the
gay carols, to have but one April coach-ride in a desert of days, is
hard--is very hard. Mary Smith, weeping on her hopeless pillow--not
without thought of the cruel arch stooping to crush her, the cruel
fate from which he had snatched her, not without thought of her own
ingratitude, her black ingratitude--felt that it was hard, very hard.



                                  IX

                    THE BILL FOR GIVING EVERYBODY
                             EVERYTHING!


It is difficult to describe and impossible to exaggerate the heat of
public feeling which preceded the elections of '31. Four-fifths of the
people of this country believed that the Bill--from which they
expected so much that a satirist has aptly given it the title at the
head of this chapter--had been defeated in the late House by a trick.
That trick the King, God bless him, had punished by dissolving the
House. It remained for the people to show their sense of the trick by
returning a very different House; such a House as would not only pass
the Bill, but pass it by a majority so decisive that the Lords, and
particularly the Bench of Bishops, whose hostility was known, would
not dare to oppose the public will.

But as no more than a small proportion of these four-fifths had votes,
they were forced to act, if they would make their will obeyed,
indirectly; in one place by the legitimate pressure of public opinion,
in another by bribery, in a third by intimidation, in a fourth, and a
fifth, and a sixth by open violence; everywhere by the unspoken threat
of revolution. And hence arose the one good, sound, and firm argument
against the Bill which the Tory party enjoyed.

One or two of their other arguments are not without interest, if only
as the defence set up for a system so anomalous as to seem to us
incredible--a system under which Gatton, with no inhabitants, returned
two members, and Sheffield, with something like a hundred thousand
inhabitants, returned none; under which Dunwich, long drowned under
the North Sea, returned two members, and Birmingham returned none;
under which the City of London returned four and Lord Lonsdale
returned nine; under which Cornwall, with one-fourth of the population
of Lancashire, returned thrice as many representatives; under which
the South vastly outweighed the North, and land mightily outweighed
all other property.

Moreover, in no two boroughs was the franchise the same. One man lived
in a hovel and had a vote; his neighbour lived in a mansion and had no
vote. Frequently the whole of the well-to-do townsfolk were voteless.
Then, while any man with five thousand pounds might buy a seat, nor
see the face of a single elector, on the other hand, the poll might be
kept open for fifteen days, and a single county election might cost
two hundred thousand pounds. Bribery, forbidden in theory, was
permitted in practice. The very Government bribed under the rose, and
it was humorously said that all that a man's constituents required was
to be satisfied of the _impurity_ of his intentions!

An anomalous system; yet its defenders had something to say for it.

First, that narrow as the franchise seemed, every class found
somewhere in England its mouthpiece. At Preston, where all could vote
who slept in the borough the previous night, the poorest class; in the
potwalloping boroughs where a fireplace gave a vote, the next class;
in a city like Westminster, the ratepayers; in the counties, the
freeholders; in the universities, the clergy. And so on, the argument
being that the very anomalies of the system provided a mixed
representation without giving the masses a preponderant voice.

Secondly, they said that it insured a House of ability, by enabling
young men of parts, but small means, to obtain seats. Those who put
this forward flourished a long list of statesmen who had come in for
nomination boroughs. It began with Pitt and ended with Macaulay--a
feather plucked from the enemy's wing; and Burke stood for much in it.
It became one of the commonplaces of the struggle.

The third contention was of greater weight. It was that, with all its
abuses, the old system had worked well. This argument, too, had its
commonplace. The proverb, _stare super antiquas vias_, was thundered
from a thousand platforms, coupled with copious references to the
French wars, and to the pilot who had weathered the storm. This was
the argument of the old, and the rich, and the timid--of those who
clung to top-boots in the daytime and to pantaloons in the evening.
But as the struggle progressed it came to be merged in the one sound
argument to which reference has been made.

"If you do not pass the Bill," said the Whigs, "there will be a
revolution."

"Possibly," the Tories rejoined. "And whom have we to thank for that?
Who, using the French Revolution of last July as a fulcrum, have
unsettled the whole country? And now, having disturbed everything,
tell us that we must grant to force what is not due to reason? You!
But if the Bill is to pass, not because it is a good Bill, but because
the mob desire it, where will this end? Pass Bills out of fear, and
where will you end? Presently there will arise a ranting adventurer,
more violent than Brougham, a hoary schemer more unscrupulous than
Grey, an angry boy, outscolding Durham, a pedant more bloodless than
Lord John, an honest fanatic blinder than Althorp! And when _they_
threaten _you_ with the terrors of the mob, what will you say?"

To which the Whigs could only reply that the people must be trusted;
and--and that the Bill must pass, or not only coronets but crowns
would be flying.

Dry arguments nowadays; but in those days alive, and to the party on
its defence--the party which found itself thrust against the wall,
that its pockets might be emptied--of vital interest. From scores of
platforms candidates, leaning forward, bland and smiling, with one
hand under the coat-tails and the other gently pumping, pumping,
pumping, enunciated them--old hands these; or, red in the face,
thundered them, striking fist into palm and overawing opposition; or,
hopeless amid the rain of dead cats and stale eggs, muttered them in a
reporter's ear, since the hootings of the crowd made other utterance
impossible. But ever as the contest went on, the smiling candidate
grew rarer; for day by day the Tories, seeing their cause hopeless,
seeing even Whigs, such as Sir Thomas Acland in Devonshire and Mr.
Wilson Patten in Lancashire, cast out if they were lukewarm, grew more
desperate, cried more loudly on high heaven, asserted more frantically
that justice was dead on the earth. All this, while those who believed
that the Bill was going to give everything to everybody pushed their
advantage without mercy. Many a borough which had not known a contest
for a generation, many a county, was fought and captured. No Tory felt
safe; no bargain, though signed and sealed, held good; no patron,
though he had held his income from his borough as secure as any part
of his property, could say that his voters would dare to go to the
poll.

This last was the apprehension in the mind of Isaac White, Sir Robert
Vermuyden's agent, as on the day after Lady Lansdowne's visit he drove
his gig and fast-trotting cob up the avenue. The treble front of the
house looked down on him from its gentle eminence; its windows blinked
in the afternoon sunshine, and the mellow tints of the stone
harmonised with the russet bloom which in April garbs the poplar and
the later-bursting trees. Tradition said that the second baronet had
built a wing for each of his two sons. After the death of the elder,
however, the east wing had been devoted to kitchens and offices, and
the west to a splendid hospitality. In these days the latter wing was
so seldom used that it had almost fallen into decay. Laurels grew up
before the side windows and darkened them, and bats lived in the dry
chimneys. The rooms above stairs were packed with the lumber of the
last century, with the old wig-boxes, the old travelling-trunks, the
old harpsichords, even an old sedan chair; while the lower rooms,
swept and bare, and hung with flat, hard portraits, enjoyed an evil
reputation in the servants' quarters, where many a one could tell of
skirts that rustled unseen, and dead feet that trod the polished
floors.

But to Isaac White all this was nought. He had seen the house in every
aspect; and to-day his mind was filled with other things--with votes
and voters, with some anxiety on his own account and more on his
patron's. What would Sir Robert say if aught went wrong at Chippinge?
True, the loss of the borough seemed barely possible; it had been held
securely for many years. But the times were so stormy, public feeling
ran so high, the mob was so rough, that nothing seemed impossible, in
view of the stress to which the soundest candidates were exposed. If
Mr. Bankes stood to fail in Dorset, if Mr. Duncombe had small chance
in Yorkshire, if Sir Edward Knatchbull was a lost man in Kent, if Mr.
Hart Davies was no better in Bristol, if no man but an out-and-out
Reformer could count on success, who was safe?

White's grandfather, his father, he himself had lived and thriven by
the system which he saw tottering to its fall. He belonged to it, he
was part of it; did he not mark his allegiance to it by wearing
top-boots in the daytime and shorts in full dress? And he was
prepared--were it only out of gratitude to the ladder by which he had
risen--to stand by it and by his patron to the last. But, strange
anomaly, White was at heart a Cobbett man. His sneaking sympathies
were, in his own despite, with the class from which he sprang. He saw
commons filched from the poor, while the labourers fell on the rates.
He saw large taxes wrung from the country to be spent in the town. He
saw the severity of the laws, and especially the game laws. He saw
absentee rectors and starving curates. He saw the dumb impotence of
nine-tenths of the people; and he felt that the system under which
these things had grown up was wrong. But wrong or right, he was part
of it, he was pledged to it; and all the theories in the world, and
all the "Political Registers" which he digested of an evening, would
not induce him to betray it.

Notwithstanding, he feared that in the matter of the borough he had
not been quite so wide-awake as became him; or Pybus, the Bowood man,
would not have stolen a march upon him. His misgivings grew as he came
in sight of the door, and saw Sir Robert on the flight of steps which
led to it. Apparently the baronet had seen him, for as White drove up
a servant appeared to lead the mare to the stables.

Sir Robert looked her over as she was led away. "The grey looks well,
White," he said. She was of his breeding.

"Yes, Sir Robert. Give me a good horse and they may have the
new-fangled railroads that like them. But I am afraid, sir----"

"One moment!" The servant was out of hearing, and the baronet's tone,
as he caught White up, betrayed agitation. "Who is that looking over
the Lower Wicket, White?" he continued. "She has been there a quarter
of an hour, and--and I can't make her out."

His tone surprised White, who looked and saw at a distance of a
hundred paces the figure of a woman leaning on the wicket-gate nearest
the stables. She was motionless, and he had not looked many seconds
before he caught the thought in Sir Robert's mind. "He's heard," he
reflected, "that her ladyship is in the neighbourhood, and it has
alarmed him."

"I cannot see at this distance, sir," he answered prudently, "who it
is."

"Then go and ask her her business," Sir Robert said, as indifferently
as he could. "She has been there a long time."

White went, a little excited himself; but half-way to the woman, who
continued to gaze at the house as if unconscious of his approach, he
discovered that, whoever she was, she was not Lady Sybil. She was
stout, middle-aged, plain; and he took a curt tone with her when he
came within earshot. "What are you doing here?" he said. "That's the
way to the servants' hall."

The woman looked at him. "You don't know me, Mr. White?" she said.

He looked hard in return. "No," he answered bluntly, "I don't."

"Ah, well, I know you," she replied. "More by token----"

He cut her short. "Have you any message?" he asked.

"If I have, I'll give it myself," she retorted drily. "Truth is, I'm
in two minds about it. What you have, you have, d'you see, Mr. White;
but what you've given ain't yours any more. Anyway----"

"Anyway," impatiently, "you can't stay here!"

"Very good," she replied, "very good. As you are so kind, I'll take a
day to think of it." And with a cool nod she turned her back on the
puzzled White, and went off down the park towards the town.

He went back to Sir Robert. "She's a stranger, sir," he said; "and, I
think, a bit gone in the head. I could make nothing of her."

Sir Robert drew a deep breath. "You're sure she was a stranger?" he
said.

"She's no one I know, sir. After one of the men, perhaps."

Sir Robert straightened himself. He had spent a bad ten minutes gazing
at the distant figure. "Just so," he said. "Very likely. And now what
is it, White?"

"I've bad news, sir, I'm afraid," the agent said, in an altered tone.

"What is it?"

"It's that d----d Pybus, sir! I'm afraid that, after all----"

"They're going to fight?"

"I'm afraid, Sir Robert, they are."

The old gentleman's eyes gleamed. "Afraid, sir, afraid?" he cried. "On
the contrary, so much the better. It will cost me some money, but I
can spare it; and it will cost them more, and nothing for it. Afraid?
I don't understand you."

The agent, standing on the step below him, coughed dubiously. "Well,
sir," he said, "what you say is reasonable. But----"

"But! But what?"

"There is so much excitement in the country at this time----"

"So much greediness in the country," Sir Robert retorted, striking his
stick upon the stone steps. "So much unscrupulousness, sir; so many
liars promising, and so many fools listening; so much to get, and so
many who would like it! There's all that, if you please; but for
excitement, I don't know"--with a severe look--"what you mean, or what
it has to do with us."

"I am afraid, sir, there is bad news from Devon, where it is said our
candidate is retiring."

"A good man, but weak; neither one side nor the other."

"And from Dorset, sir, where they say Mr. Bankes will be beaten."

"I'll not believe it," Sir Robert answered positively. "I'll never
believe it. Mr. Bankes beaten in Dorset! Absurd! Why do you listen to
such tales? Why do you listen? By G--d, White, what is the matter with
you? Or how does it touch us if Mr. Bankes is beaten? Nine votes to
four! Nine will still be nine, and four four, if he be beaten. When
you can make four to be more than nine you may come whining to me!"

White coughed. "Dyas, the butcher----"

"What of him?"

"Well, Sir Robert, I am afraid he has been getting some queer
notions."

"Notions?" the baronet echoed in astonishment.

"He has been listening to someone, and--and thinks he has views on the
Bill."

Sir Robert exploded. "Views!" he cried. "Views! The butcher with
views! Why, damme, White, you must be mad! Mad! Since when have
butchers taken to politics, or had views?"

"I don't know anything about that, sir," White mumbled.

Sir Robert struck his stick fiercely on a step. "But I do! I do! And I
know this," he continued, "that for twenty years he's had thirty
pounds a year to vote as I tell him. By gad, I never heard such a
thing in my life! Never! You don't mean to tell me that the man thinks
the vote's his own to do what he likes with?"

"I am afraid," the agent admitted reluctantly, "that that is what he's
saying, sir."

Sir Robert's thin face turned a dull red. "I never heard of such
impudence in all my life," he said, "never! A butcher with views! And
going to vote for them! Why, damme," he continued, with angry sarcasm,
"we'll have the tailors, the bakers, and the candlestickmakers voting
their own way next. Good G--d! What does the man think he's had thirty
pounds a year for for all these years, if not to do as he is bid?"

"He's behaving very ill, sir," White said, severely, "very ill."

"Ill!" Sir Robert cried; "I should think he was, the scoundrel!" And
he foamed over afresh, though we need not follow him. When he had
cooled somewhat, "Well," he said, "I can turn him out, and that I'll
do, neck and crop! By G--d, I will! I'll ruin him. But there, it's the
big rats set the fashion and the little ones follow it. This is
Spinning Jenny's work. I wish I had cut off my hand before I voted for
him. Well, well, well!" And he stood a moment in bitter contemplation
of Sir Robert Peel's depravity. It was nothing that Sir Robert was
sound on reform. By adopting the Catholic side on the claims he--he,
whose very nickname was Orange Peel--had rent the party. And all these
evils were the result!

The agent coughed.

Sir Robert, who was no fool, looked sharply at him. "What!" he said
grimly. "Not another renegade?"

"No, sir," White answered timidly. "But Thrush, the pig-killer--he's
one of the old lot, the Cripples, that your father put into the
corporation----"

"Ay, and I wish I had kept them cripples." Sir Robert growled. "All
cripples! My father was right, and I was a fool to think better men
would do as well, and do us credit. In his time there were but two of
the thirteen could read and write; but they did as they were bid. They
did as they were bid. And now--well, man, what of Thrush?"

"He was gaoled yesterday by Mr. Forward, of Steynsham, for assault."

"For how long?"

"For a fortnight, sir."

Sir Robert nearly had a fit. He reared himself to his full height, and
glared at White. "The infernal rascal!" he cried. "He did it on
purpose!"

"I've no doubt, sir, that it determined them to fight," the agent
answered. "With Dyas they are five. And five to seven is not
such--such odds that they may not have some hope of winning."

"Five to seven!" Sir Robert repeated; and at an end of words, at an
end of oaths, could only stare aghast. "Five to seven!" he muttered.
"You're not going to tell me--there's something more."

"No, sir, no; that's the worst," White answered, relieved that his
tale was told. "That's the worst, and may be bettered. I've thought it
well to postpone the nomination until Wednesday the 4th, to give
Sergeant Wathen a better chance of dealing with Dyas."

"Well, well!" Sir Robert muttered. "It has come to that. It has come
to dealing with such men as butchers, to treating them as if they had
minds to alter and views to change. Well, well!"

And that was all Sir Robert could say. And so it was settled; the
Vermuyden dinner for the 2nd, the nomination and polling for the 4th.
"You'll let Mr. Vaughan know," Sir Robert concluded. "It's well we can
count on somebody."



                                  X

                    THE QUEEN'S SQUARE ACADEMY FOR
                             YOUNG LADIES


Miss Sibson sat in state in her parlour in Queen's Square. Rather more
dignified of mien than usual, and more highly powdered of nose, the
schoolmistress was dividing her attention between the culprit in the
corner, the elms outside--between which fledgeling rooks were making
adventurous voyages--and the longcloth which she was preparing for the
young ladies' plain-sewing; for in those days plain-sewing was still
taught in the most select academies. Nor, while she was thus engaged
in providing for the domestic training of her charges, was she without
assurance that their minds were under care. The double doors which
separated the schoolroom from the parlour were ajar, and through the
aperture one shrill voice after another could be heard, raised in
monotonous perusal of Mrs. Chapone's "Letters to a Young Lady upon the
Improvement of the Mind."

Miss Sibson wore her best dress, of black silk, secured half-way down
the bodice by the large cameo brooch. But neither this nor the reading
in the next room could divert her attention from her duties.

"The tongue," she enunciated with great clearness, as she raised the
longcloth in both hands and carefully inspected it over her glasses,
"is an unruly member. Ill-nature," she continued, slowly meting off a
portion, and measuring a second portion against it, "is the fruit of a
bad heart. Our opinions of others"--this with a stern look at Miss
Hilhouse, fourteen years old, and in disgrace--"are the reflections of
ourselves."

The young lady, who was paying with the backboard for a too ready wit,
put out the unruly member, and, narrowly escaping detection, looked
inconceivably sullen.

"The face is the mirror to the mind," Miss Sibson continued
thoughtfully, as she threaded a needle against the light. "I hope,
Miss Hilhouse, that you are now sorry for your fault."

Miss Hilhouse maintained a stolid silence. Her shoulders ached, but
she was proud.

"Very good," said Miss Sibson placidly; "very good! With time comes
reflection."

Time, a mere minute, brought more than reflection. A gentleman walked
quickly across the fore-court to the door, the knocker fell sharply,
and Miss Hilhouse's sullenness dropped from her. She looked first
uncomfortable, then alarmed. "Please, may I go now?" she muttered.

Wise Miss Sibson paid no heed. "A gentleman?" she said to the maid who
had entered. "Will I see him? Procure his name."

"Oh, Miss Sibson," came from the corner in an agonised whisper,
"please may I go?" Fourteen standing on a stool with a backboard could
not bear to be seen by the other sex.

Miss Sibson looked grave. "Are you sincerely sorry for your fault?"
she asked.

"Yes."

"And will you apologise to Miss Smith for your--your gross rudeness?"

"Ye-es."

"Then go and do so," Miss Sibson replied; "and close the doors after
you."

The girl fled. And simultaneously Miss Sibson rose, with a mixture of
dignity and blandness, to receive Arthur Vaughan. The schoolmistress
of that day who had not manner at command had nothing; for deportment
ranked among the essentials. And she was quite at her case. The same
could not be said of the gentleman. But that his pride still smarted,
but that the outrage of yesterday was fresh, but that he drew a savage
satisfaction from the prospect of the apologies he was here to
receive, he had not come. Even so, he had told himself more than once
that he was a fool to come; a fool to set foot in the house. He was
almost sure that he had done more wisely had he burned the letter in
which the schoolmistress informed him that she had an explanation to
offer--and so had made an end.

But if in place of meeting him with humble apologies, this confounded
woman were going to bear herself as if no amends were due, he had
indeed made a mistake.

Yet her manner said almost as much as that. "Pray be seated, sir," she
said; and she indicated a chair.

He sat down stiffly, and glowered at her. "I received your note," he
said.

She smoothed her ample lap, and looked at him more graciously. "Yes,"
she said, "I was relieved to find that the unfortunate occurrence of
yesterday was open to another explanation."

"I have yet," he said curtly, "to hear the explanation." Confound the
woman's impudence!

"Exactly," she said slowly. "Exactly. Well, it turns out that the
parcel you left behind you when you"--for an instant a smile broke the
rubicund placidity of her face--"when you retired so hurriedly
contained a pelisse."

"Indeed?" he said drily.

"Yes; and a letter."

"Oh?"

"Yes; a letter from a lady who has for some years taken an interest in
Miss Smith. The pelisse proved to be a gift from her."

"Then I fail to see----"

"Exactly," Miss Sibson interposed blandly, indeed too blandly. "You
fail to see why you came to be selected as the bearer? So do I.
Perhaps you can explain that."

"No," he answered shortly. "Nor is that my affair. What I fail to see,
Madam, is why Miss Smith did not at once suspect that the present came
from the lady in question."

"Because," Miss Sibson replied, "the lady was not known to be in this
part of England; and because you, sir, maintained that Miss Smith had
left the parcel in the coach."

"I maintained what I was told."

"But it was not the fact. However, let that pass."

"No," Vaughan retorted, with some warmth. "For it seems to me, Madam,
very extraordinary that in a matter which was capable of so simple an
explanation you should have elected to insult a stranger--a stranger
who----"

"Who was performing no more than an office of civility, you would
say?"

"Precisely."

"Well--yes." Miss Sibson spoke slowly, and was silent for a moment
after she had spoken. Then, somewhat abruptly, "You are an usher, I
think," she said, "at Mr. Bengough's?"

Vaughan almost jumped in his chair. "I, Madam?" he cried. "Certainly
not!"

"Not at Mr. Bengough's?"

"Certainly not!" he repeated, with indignation. Was the woman mad? An
usher? Good heavens!

"I know your name," she said slowly. "But----"

"I came from London the day before yesterday. I am staying at the
White Lion, and I am late of the 14th Dragoons."

She raised her eyebrows. "Oh, indeed," she said. "Is that so? Well,"
rubbing a little of the powder from her nose with a needlecase, and
looking at him very shrewdly, "I think," she continued, "that that is
the answer to your question."

Vaughan stared.

"I do not understand you," he said.

"Then I must speak more plainly. Were you an usher at Mr. Bengough's
your civility--civility, I think you called it?--to my assistant had
passed very well, Mr. Vaughan. But the civility of a gentleman, late
of the 14th Dragoons, fresh from London, and staying at the White
Lion, to a young person in Miss Smith's position is apt, as in this
case--eh?--to lead to misconstruction."

"You do me an injustice!" he said, reddening to the roots of his hair.

"Possibly, possibly," Miss Sibson said. But on that, without warning,
she gave way to a fit of silent laughter, which caused her portly form
to shake like a jelly. It was a habit with her, attributed by some to
her private view of Mrs. Chapone's famous letters on the improvement
of the mind; by others, to that knowledge of the tricks and turns of
her sex with which thirty years of schoolkeeping had endowed her.

No doubt the face of rueful resentment with which Arthur Vaughan
regarded her did not shorten the fit. But at last, "Young gentleman,"
she said, "you do not deceive me! You did not come here to-day merely
to hear an old woman make an apology."

He tried to maintain an attitude of dignified surprise. But her jolly
laugh, her shrewd red face were too much for him. His eyes fell. "Upon
my honour," he said, "I meant nothing."

She shook with fresh laughter. "It is just of that I complain, sir,"
she said.

"You can trust me."

"I can trust Miss Smith," she retorted, shaking her head. "Her I know,
though our acquaintance is of the shortest. Still, I know her from top
to toe. You, young gentleman, I don't know. Mind," she continued, with
good-nature, "I don't say that you meant any harm when you came
to-day. But I'll wager you thought that you'd see her."

Vaughan laughed out frankly. Her humour had conquered him. "Well," he
said audaciously, "and am I not to see her?"

Miss Sibson looked at him, and rubbed a little more powder from her
nose. "Umph!" she said doubtfully. "If I knew you I'd know what to say
to that. A pretty girl, eh?" she added with her head on one side.

He smiled.

"And a good one! And if you were the usher at Mr. Bengough's I'd ask
no more, but I'd send for her. But----"

She stopped. Vaughan said nothing, but a little out of countenance
looked at the floor.

"Just so, just so," Miss Sibson said, as quietly as if he had answered
her. "Well, I am afraid I must not send for her."

He looked at the carpet. "I have seen so little of her," he said.

"And I daresay you are a man of property?"

"I am independent."

"Well, well, there it is." Miss Sibson smoothed out the lap of her
silk dress.

"I do not think," he said, in some embarrassment, "that five minutes'
talk would hurt her."

"Umph!"

He laughed--an awkward laugh. "Come, Miss Sibson," he said. "Let us
have the five minutes, and let us both have the chance."

She looked out of the window, and rubbed her glasses reflectively.
"Well," she said at length, as if she had not quite made up her mind,
"I will be quite frank with you, Mr. Vaughan. I did not intend to be
so, but you have met me half-way, and I believe you to be a gentleman.
The truth is, I should not have gone as far with you as I have
unless"--she looked at him suddenly--"I had had a character of you."

"Of me?" he cried in astonishment.

"Yes."

"From Miss Smith?"

Miss Sibson smiled at his simplicity. "Oh, no," she said; "you are
going to see the character." And with that the schoolmistress drew
from her workbox a small slip of paper, which she unfolded and gave to
him. "It is from the lady," she said, "who made use of you yesterday."

He took it in much astonishment. On the inner side of the paper, which
was faintly scented, he read a dozen words in a fine handwriting:

"Mary Smith, from her fairy godmother. The bearer may be trusted."

Vaughan stared at the paper in undiminished surprise. "I don't
understand," he said. "Who is the lady, and what does she know of me?"

"I cannot tell you, nor can Miss Smith," Miss Sibson replied. "Who,
indeed, has seen her only twice or thrice, at long intervals, and has
not heard her name. But Miss Smith's education--she has never known
her parents--was defrayed, I presume, by this godmother. And once a
year Miss Smith has been in the habit of receiving a gift, of some
value to a young person in her position, accompanied by a few words in
that handwriting."

Vaughan stared. "And," he said, "you draw the inference
that--that----"

"I draw no inference," Miss Sibson replied drily, "save that I have
authority from--shall I say her godmother--to trust you farther than I
should have trusted you. That is the only inference I draw. But I have
one thing to add," she continued. "Miss Smith did not enter my
employment in an ordinary way. My late assistant left me abruptly.
While I was at a loss an attorney of character in this city called on
me and said that a client desired to place a young person in safe
hands; that she was a trained teacher, and must live by teaching, but
that care was necessary, since she was very young, and had more than
her share of good looks. He hinted, Mr. Vaughan, at the inference
which you, I believe, have already drawn. And--and that is all."

Vaughan looked thoughtfully at the carpet.

Miss Sibson waited awhile. At last: "The point is," she said shrewdly,
"do you still wish to have the five minutes?"

Arthur Vaughan hesitated. He knew that he ought, that it was his duty,
to say "No." But something in the woman's humorous eye challenged him,
and recklessly--for the gratification of a moment--he said: "Yes, if
you please, I will see her."

"Very good, very good," Miss Sibson answered slowly. She had not been
blind to the momentary hesitation. "Then I will send her to you to
make her apologies. Only be kind enough to remember that she does not
know that you have seen that slip of paper."

He assented, and with a good-natured nod Miss Sibson rose and went
heavily from the room. Not for nothing was she held in Bristol a woman
of sagacity, whose game of whist it was a pleasure to watch; nor
without reason had that attorney of character, of whom we have heard,
chosen 'her _in custodiam puellæ_.

Vaughan waited, and to be frank, his heart beat more quickly than
usual. He knew that he was doing a foolish thing, though he had
refused to commit himself; and an unworthy thing, though Miss Sibson,
perhaps for her own reasons, had winked at it. He knew that he had no
right to see the girl if he did not mean her well; and how could he
mean her well when he had no intention of marrying her? For, for a man
with his career in prospect to marry a girl in her position--to say
nothing of the stigma which no doubt lay upon her birth--was a folly
of which none but boys and old men were capable.

He listened, ill at ease, already repenting. The voices in the next
room, reduced to a faint murmur by the closed doors, ceased. She was
being told. She was being sent to him. He coloured. Yes, he was
ashamed of himself. He rose and went to the window, and wished that he
had said "No"; that he had taken himself off. What was he doing here
at his time of life--the most sane and best balanced time of life--in
this girls' school? It was unworthy of him.

The door opened, and he forgot his unworthiness, he forgot all. The
abnormal attraction, allurement, charm, call it what you will, which
had overcome him when she turned her eyes on him on the coach overcame
him again--and tenfold. He thought that it must lie in her eyes,
gentle as a dove's. And yet he did not know. He had not seen her
indoors before, and her hair gathered in a knot at the back of her
head was a Greek surprise to him; while her blushes, the quivering of
her mouth, her figure slender but full of grace, and high-girdled
after the mode of the day--all, all were so perfect, so enticing, that
he knew not where the magic lay.

But magic there was. And such magic that though he had prepared
himself, and though the last thing in his thoughts was to insult her,
he forgot himself. As she paused, her hand still resting on the door,
her face downcast and distressed, "Good G--d," he cried, "how
beautiful you are!"

And she saw that he meant no insult, that the words burst from him
spontaneously. But not the less for that was their effect on her. She
turned white, her very heart seeming to stop, she appeared to be about
to swoon. While he, forgetting all but her shrinking beauty, devoured
her with his eyes.

Until he remembered himself. Then he turned from her to the window.
"Forgive me!" he cried. "I did not know what I said. You came on me so
suddenly; you looked so beautiful----"

He stopped; he could not go on.

And she was trembling from head to foot; but she made an effort to
escape back to the commonplace. "I came," she stammered--it was clear
that she hardly knew what she was saying--"Miss Sibson told me to come
to say that I--I was sorry, sir, that I--I misjudged you yesterday."

"Yesterday? Yesterday?" he cried, almost angrily. "Bah, it is an age
since yesterday!"

She could make no answer to that, though she knew well what he meant.
If she answered him it was only by suffering him to gaze at her in an
eloquent silence--a silence in which his eyes cried again and again,
"How beautiful you are!" While her eyes, downcast, under trembling
lashes, her heart beaten down, defenceless, cried only for "Quarter,
quarter!"

They were yards apart. The table, and on it Miss Sibson's squat
workbox and a pile of longcloth, was between them. Miss Sibson herself
could have desired nothing more proper. And yet--


      _Farewell, farewell, my faithless shield,
       Thy lord at length is forced to yield.
       Vain, vain is every outward care,
       The foe's within and triumphs there!_


It was all over. In her ears would ring for ever his words of
worship--the cry of the man to the woman, "How beautiful you are!" She
would thrill with pleasure when she thought of them, and burn with
shame, and never, never, never be the same again! And for him, with
that cry forced from him, love had become present, palpable, real, and
the idea of marriage real also; an idea to be withstood, to be
combated, to be treated as foolish, Byronic, impossible. But an idea
which would not leave him any more than the image of her gentle
beauty, indelibly stamped on his brain, would leave him. He might
spend some days or some weeks in doubt and wretchedness. But from that
moment the odds were against him--he was young, and passion had never
had her way with him--as seriously against him as against the army
that with spies and traitors in its midst moves against an united foe.

Not a word that was _convenant_ had passed between them, though so
much had passed, when a hasty footstep crossed the forecourt, and
stopped at the door. The knocker fell sharply twice, and recalled them
to realities.

"I--I must go," she faltered, wresting herself from the spell of his
eyes. "I have said what I--I hope you understand, and I--it is time I
went." How her heart was beating!

"Oh, no, no!"

"Yes, I must go!"

Too late! A loud voice in the passage, a heavy step, announced a
visitor. The door flew open, and there entered, pushing the startled
maid aside, the Honourable Bob Flixton, at the height of his glory,
loud, impudent, and unabashed.

"Run to earth, my lad!" he cried boisterously. "Run to earth! Run----"

He broke off, gaping, as his eyes fell upon poor Mary, who, in making
way for him, had partly hidden herself behind the door. He whistled
softly, in great amazement, and "Hope I don't intrude," he continued.
And he grinned; while Vaughan, looking blackest thunder at him, could
find no words that were adequate. To think that this loud-voiced,
confident fool, the Don Giovanni of the regiment, had stumbled on his
pearl!

"Well, well, well!" the Honourable Bob resumed, casting down his eyes
as if he were shocked. And again: "I hope I don't intrude," he
continued--it was the parrot cry of that year. "I didn't know. I'll
take myself off again"--he whistled low--"as fast as I can."

But Vaughan felt that to let him go thus, to spread the tale with a
thousand additions and innuendoes, was worst of all. "Wait, if you
please," he said, with a note of sternness in his tone. "I am coming
with you, Flixton. Good-morning, Miss Smith."

"See here, won't you introduce me?" cried the irrepressible Bob.

"No!" Vaughan answered curtly, and without staying to reflect. "You
will kindly tell Miss Sibson, Miss Smith, that I am obliged, greatly
obliged to her. Now come, Flixton! I have done my business, and we are
not wanted here."

"I come reluctantly," said Bob, allowing himself to be dragged out,
but not until he had cast a last languishing look at the beauty. And
on the doorstep, "Sly dog, sly dog!" he said. "To think that in
Bristol, where pretty girls are as scarce as mushrooms in March, there
should be such an angel! Damme, an angel! And you the discoverer. It
beats all!"

"Shut up," Vaughan answered angrily. "You know nothing about it!" And
then, still more sourly, "See here, Flixton, I take it ill of you
following me here. It was too cool, I say."

But the Honourable Bob was not quick to quarrel. "I saw you go in,
dear chap," he cried heartily. "I wanted to tell you that the hour of
dinner was changed. See? Did my own errand, and coming back thought
I'd--truth was, I fancied you'd some little game on hand."

"Nothing of the kind!"

The Honourable Bob stopped. "Honour bright? Honour bright?" he
repeated eagerly. "Mean to say, Vaughan, you're not on the track of
that little filly?"

Vaughan scowled. "Not in the way you mean," he said sternly. "You make
a mistake. She's a good girl."

Flixton winked. "Heard that before, my lad," he said, "more than once.
From my grandmother. I'll take my chance of that."

Vaughan in his heart would have been glad to fall upon him and pommel
him. But there were objections to that course. On the other hand, his
feelings had cooled in the last few minutes, and he was far from
prepared to announce offhand that he was going to marry the beauty. So
"No, you will not, Flixton," he said. "Let it go! Do you hear? The
fact is," he continued, in some embarrassment, "I'm in a sort of
fiduciary relation to the young lady, and--and I am not going to see
her played with. That's the fact."

"Fiduciary relation?" the Honourable Bob retorted, in perplexity.
"What the deuce is that? Never heard of it! D'you mean, man, that you
are--eh?--related to her? Of course, if so----"

"No, I am not related to her."

"Then----"

"But I'm not going to see her made a fool of, that's all!"

An idea struck the Honourable Bob. He stared. "See here," he said in a
tone of horror, "you ain't--you ain't thinking of marrying her?"

Vaughan's cheeks burned. "May be, and may be not," he said curtly.
"But either way, it is my business!"

"But surely you're not! Man alive!"

"It is my business, I say!"

"Of course, of course, if it is as bad as that," Flixton answered with
a grin. "But--hope I don't intrude, Vaughan, but ain't you making a
bit of a fool of yourself? What'll old Vermuyden say, eh?"

"That's my business too!" Vaughan answered haughtily.

"Just so, just so; and quite enough for me. All I say is--if you are
not in earnest yourself, don't play the dog in the manger!"



                                  XI

                         DON GIOVANNI FLIXTON


In the political world the last week of April and the first week of
May of that year were fraught with surprises. It is probable that they
saw more astonished people than are to be found in England in an
ordinary twelvemonth. The party which had monopolised power for half a
century, and to that end and the advancement of themselves, their
influence, their friends, and their dependants, had spent the public
money, strained the law, and supported the mob, were incredibly, nay,
were bitterly surprised when they saw all these engines turned against
them; when they found dependants falling off and friends growing cold;
above all, when they found that rabble, which they had so often
directed, aiming its yells and brickbats against their windows.

But it is unlikely that any Tory of them all was more surprised by the
change in the political aspect than Arthur Vaughan--when he came to
think of it--by the position in which he had put himself. Certainly he
had taken no step that was not revocable. He had said nothing
positive; his honour was not engaged. But he had said a good deal. On
the spur of the moment, moved by the strange attraction which the girl
had for him, he had spoken after a fashion which only farther speech
could justify. And then, not content with that, as if fortune were
determined to make sport of his discretion, he had been led by another
impulse--call it generosity, call it jealousy, call it what you
will--to say more to Bob Flixton than he had said to her.

He had done this who had hitherto held himself a little above the
common run of men. Who had chalked out his career and never doubted
that he had the strength to follow it. Who had not been content to
wait, idle and dissipated, for a dead man's shoes, but in the pride of
a mind which he believed to be the master of his passions had set his
face towards the high prizes of the senate and the forum. He, who if
he could not be Fox, would be Erskine. Who would be anything, in a
word, except the empty-headed man of pleasure, or the plain dullard
satisfied to sit in a corner with a little.

He, who had planned such a future, now found himself on the brink--ay,
on the very point--of committing as foolish an act as the most
thoughtless could commit. He was proposing to marry a girl below him
in station, still farther below him in birth, whom he had only known
three days, whom he had only seen three times! And all because she had
beautiful eyes, and looked at him--Heavens, how she had looked at him!

He went hot as he pictured her with her melting eyes, hanging towards
him a little as the ivy inclines to the oak. And then he turned cold.
And cold, he considered what he was going to do!

Of course he was not going to marry her.

No doubt he had said to her more than he had the right to say. But his
honour was not engaged. The girl was not the worse for him; even if
that which he had read in her eyes were true, she would get over it as
quickly as he would. But marry her, give way to a feeling doubtless
evanescent, let himself be swayed by a fancy at which he would laugh a
year later--no! No! He was not so weak. He had not only his career to
think of, but the family honours which would be his one day. What
would old Vermuyden say if he impaled a baton sinister with the family
arms, added a Smith to the family alliances, married the nameless,
penniless teacher in a girls' school?

No, of course, he was not going to marry her. He had said what he had
said to the Honourable Bob merely to shield her from a Don Juan. He
had not meant it. He would go for a long fatiguing walk and put the
notion and the girl out of his head, and come back cured of his folly,
and make a merry night of it with the old set. And to-morrow--no, the
morrow was Sunday--on Monday he would return to London and to all the
chances which the changing political situation must open to an
ambitious man. He regretted that he had not taken the Chancellor's
hint and sought for a seat in the House.

But the solitary ramble in the valley of the Avon, which was a
hundredfold more beautiful in those days than in these, because less
spoiled by the hand of man, a ramble by the Logwood Mills, with their
clear-running weedy stream, by King's Weston and Leigh Woods--such a
ramble, tuneful with the songs of birds and laden with the scents of
spring, may not be the surest cure for that passion, which


                 _is not to be reasoned down or lost
              In high ambition or a thirst for greatness!_


At any rate he returned uncured, and for the first part of the
Honourable Bob's dinner was wildly merry. After that, and suddenly, he
fell into a moody silence which his host was not the last to note.

Fortunately with the removal of the cloth and the first brisk journey
of the decanters came news. A waiter brought it. Hart Davies, the Tory
candidate for Bristol, and for twenty years its popular member, had
withdrawn, seeing his chance hopeless. The retirement was unexpected,
and it caused so much surprise that the party could think of nothing
else. Nine-tenths of those present were Tories, and Flixton proposed
that they should sally forth and vent their feelings by smashing the
windows of the Bush, the Radical headquarters; a feat performed many a
time before with no worse consequences than a broken head or two. But
Colonel Brereton set his foot sharply on the proposal.

"I'll put you under arrest if you do," he said. "I'm senior officer of
the district, and I'll not have it, Flixton! Do you think that this is
the time, you madmen," he continued, looking round the table and
speaking with indignation, "to provoke the rabble, and get the throats
of half Bristol cut?"

"Oh, come, Colonel, it is not as bad as that!" Flixton remonstrated.

"You don't know how bad it is," Brereton answered, his brooding eyes
kindling. And he developed anew his fixed idea that the forces of
disorder, once provoked, were irresistible; that the country was at
their mercy, and that only by humouring them, a course suggested also
by humanity, could the storm be weathered.

The company consisted, for the most part, of reckless young subalterns
flushed with wine. They listened out of respect to his rank, but they
winked and grinned behind his back; until, half conscious of ridicule,
he grew angry. On ordinary occasions Flixton would have been the worst
offender. But he had the grace to remember that the Colonel was his
guest, and he sought to turn the subject.

"Come, come!" he cried, hammering the table and pushing the bottle.
"Let the Colonel alone. For Heaven's sake shelve the cursed Bill! I'm
sick of it! It's the death of all fun and jollity. I'll give you a
sentiment: 'The Fair when they are Kind, and the Kind when they are
Fair.' Fill up! Fill up, all, and drink it!"

They echoed the toast in various tones, sober or fuddled. And some
began to grow excited. A glass was shattered and flung noisily into
the fire. A new one was called for, also noisily.

"Now, Bill," Flixton continued to his right-hand neighbour, "it's your
turn! Give us something spicy!" And he hammered the table. "Captain
Codrington's sentiment."

"Let's have a minute!" pleaded the gentleman assailed.

"Not a minute," boisterously. "See, the table's waiting for you!
Captain Codrington's sentiment!"

Men of small genius kept a written list, and committed some lines to
memory before dinner. The Captain was one of these. But the call on
him was sudden, and he sought, with an agonised mind, for one which
would seem in the least degree novel. At last, with a sigh of relief,
"_Maids and Missuses!_" he cried.

"Ay, ay, Maids and Missuses!" the Honourable Bob echoed, raising his
glass. "And especially," he whispered, calling his neighbour's
attention to Vaughan by a shove, "schoolmissuses! Schoolmissuses, my
lad! Here, Vaughan," he continued aloud, "you must drink this, and no
heeltaps!"

Vaughan caught his name and awoke from a reverie. "Very good," he
said, raising his glass. "What is it?"

"Maids and Missuses!" the Honourable Bob replied, with a wink at his
neighbour. And then, incited by the fumes of the wine he had taken, he
rose to his feet and raised his glass. "Gentlemen," he said,
"gentlemen!"

"Silence," they cried. "Silence! Silence for Bob's speech."

"Gentlemen," he resumed, a spark of malice in his eyes, "I've a piece
of news to give you! It's news that--that's been mighty slyly kept by
a gentleman here present. Devilish close he's kept it, I'll say that
for him! But he's a neat hand that can bamboozle Bob Flixton, and I've
run him to earth, run him to earth this morning and got it out of
him."

"Hear! Hear! Bob! Go on, Bob; what is it?" from the company.

"You are going to hear, my Trojans! And no flam! Gentlemen, charge
your glasses! I've the honour to inform you that our old friend and
tiptopper, Arthur Vaughan, otherwise the Counsellor, has got himself
regularly put up, knocked down, and sold to as pretty a piece of the
feminine as you'll see in a twelvemonth! Prettiest in Bristol, 'pon
honour," with feeling, "be the other who she may! Regular case
of--" and in irresistibly comic accents, with his head and glass alike
tilted, he drolled,


            "_There first for thee my passion grew,
                Sweet, sweet Matilda Pottingen;
              Thou wast the daughter of my tu-
                tor, law professor at the U-
                  niversity of Göttingen!_


'Niversity of Göttingen! Don't laugh, gentlemen! It's so! He's entered
on the waybill, book through to matrimony, and"--the Honourable Bob
was undoubtedly a little tipsy--"and it only remains for us to give
him a good send-off. So charge your glasses, and----"

Brereton laid his hand on his arm. He was sober and he did not like
the look on Vaughan's disgusted face. "One moment, Flixton," he said;
"is this true, Mr. Vaughan?"

Vaughan's brow was as black as thunder. He had never dreamt that,
drunk or sober, Flixton would be guilty of such a breach of
confidence. He hesitated. Then, "No!" he said.

"It's not true?" Codrington struck in. "You are not going to be
married, old chap?"

"No!"

"But, man," Flixton hiccoughed, "you told me so--or something like
it---only this morning."

"You either misunderstood me," Vaughan answered, in a tone so distinct
as to be menacing, "for you have said far more than I said. Or, if you
prefer it, I've changed my mind. In either case it is my business! And
I'll trouble you to leave it alone!"

"Oh, if you put it--that way, old chap?"

"I do put it that way!"

"And any way," Brereton said, interposing hurriedly, "this is no time
for marrying! I've told you boys before, and I tell you again----"

And he plunged into a fresh argument on the old point. Two or three
joined issue, grinning. And Vaughan, as soon as attention was diverted
from him, slipped away.

He was horribly disgusted, and sunk very low in his own eyes. He
loathed what he had done. He had not, indeed, been false to the girl,
for he had given her no promise. He had not denied her, for her name
had not been mentioned. And he had not gone back on his resolution,
for he had never formed one seriously. Yet in a degree he had done all
these things. He had played a shabby part by himself and by the girl.
He had been meanly ashamed of her. And though his conduct had followed
the lines which he had marked out for himself, he hoped that he might
never again feel so unhappy, and so poor a thing, as he felt as he
walked the streets and cursed his discretion.

Discretion! Cowardice was the right name for it. Because the girl, the
most beautiful, pure, and gentle creature on whom his eyes had ever
rested, was called Mary Smith, and taught in a school, he disavowed
her and turned his back on her.

He did not know that he was suffering what a man, whose mind has so
far governed his heart, must suffer when the latter rebels. In
planning his life he had ignored his heart; now he must pay the
penalty. He went to bed at last, but not to sleep. Instead he lived
the scene over and over again, now wondering what he ought to have
done; now brooding on what Flixton must think of him; now on what she,
whose nature, he was sure, was as perfect as her face, would think of
him, if she knew. How she would despise him!

The next day was Sunday, and he spent it, in accordance with a
previous promise, with Brereton, at his pleasant home at Newchurch, a
mile from the city. Though the most recent of his Bristol
acquaintances, Brereton was the most congenial; and a dozen times
Vaughan was on the point of confiding his trouble to him. He was
deterred by the melancholy cast of Brereton's character, which gave
promise of no decisive advice. And early in the evening he took leave
of his host and strolled towards the Downs, balancing _I would_
against _I will not_; now facing the bleak of a prudent decision, now
thrilling with foolish rapture, as he pondered another event. Lord
Eldon had married young and with as little prudence; it had not
impeded his rise, nor Erskine's. Doubtless Sir Robert Vermuyden would
say that he had disgraced himself; but he cared little for that. What
he had to combat was the more personal pride of the man who, holding
himself a little wiser than his fellows, cannot bear to do a thing
that in the eyes of the foolish may set him below them!

Of course he came to no decision; though he wandered on Brandon Hill
until the Float at his feet ceased to mirror the lights, and Bristol
lay dark below him. And Monday found him still hesitating. Thrice he
started to take his place on the coach. And thrice he turned back,
hating himself for his weakness. If he could not overcome a foolish
fancy, how could he hope to scale the heights of the Western Circuit,
or hurl Coleridge and Follett from their pride of place? Or, still
harder task, how would he dare to confront in the House the cold eye
of Croker or of Goulburn? No, he could not hope to do either. He had
been wrong in his estimate of himself. He was a poor creature, unable
to hold his own amongst his fellows, impotent to guide his own life!

He was still contesting the matter when, a little before noon, he
espied Flixton in the act of threading his way through the busy crowd
of Broad Street. The Honourable Bob was wearing hessians, and a
high-collared green riding-coat, with an orange vest and a soft
many-folded cravat. In fine, he was so smart that suspicion entered
Vaughan's head; and on its heels--jealousy.

In a twinkling he was on Flixton's track. Broad Street, the heart of
Bristol, was thronged, for Hart Davies's withdrawal was in the air and
an election crowd was abroad. Newsboys with their sheets, tipsy
ward-leaders, and gossiping merchants jostled one another. The beau's
green coat, however, shone conspicuous,


                             _Glorious was his course,
              And long the track of light he left behind him!_


and before Vaughan had asked himself if he were justified in
following, pursued and pursuer were over Bristol Bridge, and making,
by way of the Welsh Back--a maze of coal-hoys and dangling cranes--for
Queen's Square.

Vaughan doubted no longer, weighed the propriety of his course no
longer. For a cool-headed man of the world, who asked nothing better
than to master a silly fancy, he was foolishly perturbed. He made on
with a grim face; but a dray loading at a Newport coal-hulk drew
across his path, and Flixton was pacing under the pleasant elms and
amid the groups that loitered up and down the sunlit Square, before
Vaughan came within hail, and called him by name.

Flixton turned then, saw who it was, and grinned--nothing abashed.
"Well," he said, tipping his hat a little to one side, "well, old
chap! Are you let out of school too?"

Vaughan had already discovered Mary Smith and her little troop under
the trees in the farthest corner. But he tried to smile--and did so, a
little awry. "This is not fair play, Flixton," he said.

"That is just what I think it is," the Honourable Bob answered
cheerfully. "Eh, old chap? Neat trick of yours the other day, but not
neat enough! Thought to bamboozle me and win a clear field! Neat! But
no go, I found you out and now it is my turn. That's what I call fair
play."

"Look here, Flixton," Vaughan replied--he was fast losing his
composure--"I'm not going to have it. That's plain."

The Honourable Bob stared. "Oh!" he answered. "Let's understand one
another. Are you going to marry the girl after all?"

"I've told you----"

"Oh, you've told me, yes, and you've told me, no. The question is,
which is it?"

Vaughan controlled himself. He could see Mary out of the corner of his
eye, and knew that she had not yet taken the alarm. But the least
violence might attract her attention. "Whichever it be," he said
firmly, "is no business of yours."

"If you claim the girl----"

"I do not claim her, Flixton. I have told you that. But----"

"But you mean to play the dog in the manger?"

"I mean to see," Vaughan replied sternly, "that you don't do her any
harm."

Flixton hesitated. Secretly he held Vaughan in respect; and he would
have postponed his visit to Queen's Square had he foreseen that that
gentleman would detect him. But to retreat now was another matter. The
duel was still in vogue; barely two years before the Prime Minister
had gone out with a brother peer in Battersea Fields; barely twenty
years before one Cabinet Minister had shot another on Wimbledon
Common. He could not, therefore, afford to show the white feather, and
though he hesitated, it was not for long. "You mean to see to that, do
you?" he retorted.

"I do."

"Then come and see," he returned flippantly. "I'm going to have a chat
with the young lady now. That's not murder, I suppose?" And he turned
on his heel and strolled across the turf towards the group of which
Mary was the centre.

Vaughan followed with black looks; and when Mary Smith, informed of
their approach by one of the children, turned a startled face towards
them, he was at Flixton's shoulder, and pressing before him.

But the Honourable Bob had the largest share of presence of mind, and
he was the first to speak. "Miss Smith," he said, raising his hat with
_aplomb_, "I--you remember me, I am sure?"

Vaughan pushed before him; and before the girl could speak--for
jealousy is a fine spoiler of manners, "This gentleman," he said,
"wishes to see----"

"To see----" said Flixton, with a lower bow.

"Miss Sibson!" Vaughan exclaimed.

The children stared; gazing up into the men's faces with the
undisguised curiosity of childhood. Fortunately the Mary Smith who had
to confront these two was no longer the Mary Smith whom Vaughan's
appearance had stricken with panic three days before. For one thing,
she knew Miss Sibson better, and feared her less. For another, her
fairy godmother--the gleam of whose gifts never failed to leave a hope
of change, a prospect of something other than the plodding, endless
round--had shown a fresh sign. And last, not least, a more potent
fairy, a fairy whose wand had power to turn Miss Sibson's house into a
Palace Beautiful, and Queen's Square, with its cawing rooks and
ordered elms, into an enchanted forest, had visited her.

True, Vaughan had left her abruptly--to cool her burning cheeks and
still her heart as she best might! But he had said what she would
never forget, and though he had left her doubting, he had left her
loving. And so the Mary who found herself addressed by two gallants
was much less abashed than she who on Friday had had to do with one.

Still she was astonished by their address; and she showed this,
modestly and quietly. "If you wish to see Miss Sibson," she
said--instinctively she looked at Vaughan's companion--"I will send
for her." And she was in the act of turning, with comparative ease, to
despatch one of the children on the errand, when the Honourable Bob
interposed.

"But we don't want Miss Sibson--now," he said. "A man may change his
mind as well as a woman! Eh, old chap?" turning to his friend with
simulated good-humour. "I'm sure you will say so, Miss Smith."

She wondered what their odd manner to one another meant. And, to add
to her dignity, she laid her hand on the shoulder of one of her
charges and drew her closer.

"Moreover, I'm sure," Flixton continued--for Vaughan after his first
hasty intervention, stood sulkily silent--"I'm sure Mr. Vaughan will
agree with me----"

"I?"

"Oh, yes he will, Miss Smith, because he is the most changeable of men
himself! A weathercock, upon my honour!" And he pointed to the tower
of St. Mary, which from the high ground of Redcliffe Parade on the
farther side of the water, looks down on the Square. "Never of the
same mind two days together!"

Vaughan snubbed him savagely. "Be good enough to leave me out!" he
said.

"There!" the Honourable Bob answered, laughing, "he wants to stop my
mouth! But I'm not to be stopped. Of all men he's the least right to
say that I mustn't change my mind. Why, if you'll believe me, Miss
Smith, no farther back than Saturday morning he was all for being
married! 'Pon honour! Went away from here talking of nothing else! In
the evening he was just as dead the other way! Nothing was farther
from his thoughts. Shuddered at the very idea! Come, old chap, don't
look fierce!" And he grinned at Vaughan. "You can't deny it!"

Vaughan could have struck him; the trick was so neat and so malicious.
Fortunately a man who had approached the group touched Vaughan's elbow
at this critical moment, and diverted his wrath. "Express for you,
sir," he said. "Brought by chaise, been looking for you everywhere,
sir!"

Vaughan smothered the execration which rose to his lips, snatched the
letter from the man, and waved him aside. Then, swelling with rage, he
turned upon Flixton. But before he could speak the matter was taken
out of his hands.

"Children," said Mary Smith in a clear, steady voice, "it is time we
went in. The hour is up, collect your hoops. I think," she continued,
looking stiffly at the Honourable Bob, "you have addressed me under a
misapprehension, sir, intending to address yourself to Miss Sibson.
Good-morning! Good-morning!" with a slight and significant bow which
included both gentlemen. And taking a child by either hand, she turned
her back on them, and with her little flock clustering about her, and
her pretty head held high, she went slowly across the road to the
school. Her lips were trembling, but the men could not see that. And
her heart was bursting, but only she knew that.

Without that knowledge Vaughan was furiously angry. It was not only
that the other had got the better of him by a sly trick; but he
was conscious that he had shown himself at his worst--stupid when
tongue-tied, and rude when he spoke. Still, he controlled himself
until Mary was out of earshot, and then he turned upon Flixton.

"What right--what right," he snarled, "had you to say what I would do!
And what I would not do? I consider your conduct----"

"Steady, man!" Flixton, who was much the cooler of the two, said. He
was a little pale. "Think before you speak. You would interfere. What
did you expect? That I was going to play up to you?"

"I expected at least----"

"Ah, well, you can tell me another time what you expected. I have an
engagement now and must be going," the Honourable Bob said. "See you
again!" And with a cool nod he turned on his heel, and assured that,
whatever came of the affair, he had had the best of that bout, he
strode off.

Vaughan was only too well aware of the same fact; and but that he held
himself in habitual control, he would have followed and struck his
rival. As it was, he stood a moment looking blackly after him. Then,
sobered somewhat, though still bitterly chagrined, he took his way
towards his hotel, carrying in his oblivious hand the letter which had
been given him. Once he halted, half-minded to return to Miss Sibson's
and to see Mary and explain. He took, indeed, some steps in the
backward direction. But he reflected that if he went he must speak,
and plainly. And, angry as he was, furiously in love as he was, was he
prepared to speak?

He was not prepared. And while he stood doubting between that eternal
would, and would not, his eyes fell on the letter in his hand.



                                 XII

                           A ROTTEN BOROUGH


Chippinge, Sir Robert Vermuyden's borough, was in no worse case than
two-thirds of the small boroughs of that day. Still, of its great men
Cowley might have written:


             _Nothing they but dust can show,
              Or bones that hasten to be so._


And of its greatness he might have said the same. The one and the
other belonged to the past.

The town occupies a low, green hill, dividing two branches of the Avon
which join their waters a furlong below. Built on the ridge and
clinging to the slopes of this eminence the stone-tiled houses look
pleasantly over the gentle undulations of the Wiltshire pastures--no
pastures more green; and at a distance are pleasantly seen from them.
But viewed more closely--at the date of which we write--the
picturesque in the scene became mean or incongruous. Of the Mitred
Abbey that crowned the hill and had once owned these fertile slopes
there remained but the maimed hulk, patched and botched, and long
degraded to the uses of that parish church its neighbour, of which
nothing but the steeple survived. The crown-shaped market cross, once
a dream of beauty in stone, still stood, but battered and defaced;
while the Abbot's gateway, under which sovereigns had walked, was sunk
to a vile lock-up, the due corrective of the tavern which stood cheek
by jowl with it.

Still, to these relics, grouped as they were upon an open triangular
green, the hub of the town, there clung in spite of all some shadow of
greatness. The stranger whose eye fell on the doorway of the Abbey
Church, with its whorls of sculptured images, gazed and gazed again
with a sense of wondering awe. But let him turn his back on these
buildings, and his eye met, in cramped street and blind alley, a lower
depth. Everywhere were things once fine, sunk to base uses; old stone
mansions converted into tenements; the solid houses of mediæval
burghers into crazy taverns; fretted cloisters into pigsties and
hovels; a Gothic arch propped the sagging flank of a lath-and-plaster
stable. Or if anything of the beauty of a building survived, it was
masked by climbing penthouses; or, like the White Lion, the old inn
which had been the Abbot's guesthouse, it was altered out of all
likeness to its former self. For the England of '31, gross and
matter-of-fact, was not awake to the value of those relics of a noble
past which generations of intolerance had hurried to decay.

Doubtless in this mouldering, dusty shell was snug, warm living.
Georgian comfort had outlived the wig and the laced coat, and though
the influence of the Church was at its lowest ebb, and morals were not
much higher, inns were plenty and flourished, and in the panelled
parlours of the White Lion or the Heart and Hand was much good eating,
followed by deep drinking. The London road no longer passed through
the town; the great fair had fallen into disuse. But the cloth trade,
by which Chippinge had once thriven, had been revived, and the town
was not quite fallen. Still, of all its former glories, it retained
but one intact. It returned two members to Parliament. That which
Birmingham and Sheffield had not, this little borough of eighteen
hundred souls enjoyed. Fallen in all other points, it retained, or
rather its High Steward, Sir Robert Vermuyden, retained the right of
returning, by the votes of its Alderman and twelve capital burgesses,
two members to the Commons' House.

And Sir Robert could not by any stretch of fancy bring himself to
believe that the town would willingly part with this privilege. Why
should it strip itself? he argued. It enjoyed the honour vicariously,
indeed. But did he not year by year pay the Alderman and eight of the
capital burgesses thirty pounds apiece for their interest, a sum which
quickly filtered through their pockets and enriched the town, besides
taking several of the voters off the rates? Did he not also at
election times set the taps running and distribute a moderate largesse
among the commonalty, and--and in fact do everything which it behoved
a liberal and enlightened patron to do? Nay, had he not, since his
accession, raised the status of the voters, long and vulgarly known as
"The Cripples," so that they, who in his father's time had been,
almost without exception, drunken illiterates, were now to the extent
of at least one half, men of respectable position?

No, Sir Robert wholly declined to believe that Chippinge had any wish
for a change so adverse to its interests. The most he would admit was
that there might be some slight disaffection in the place, due to that
confounded Bowood, which was for ever sapping and mining and seeking
to rob its neighbours.

But even he was presently to be convinced that there was a very odd
spirit abroad in this year '31. The new police and the new steam
railways and this cholera of which people were beginning to talk, were
not the only new things. There were new ideas in the air; and the
birds seemed to carry them. They took possession not only of the
troublesome and discontented--poachers whom Sir Robert had gaoled, or
the sons of men whom his father had pressed--but of the most unlikely
people. Backs that had never been aught but pliant grew stiff. Men who
had put up with the old system for more years than they could remember
grew restive. Others, who had all their lives stood by while their
inferiors ruled the roost, discovered that they had rights. Nay--and
this was the strangest thing of all--some who had thriven by the old
management and could not hope to gain by a change revolted, after the
fashion of Dyas the butcher, and proved the mastery of mind over
matter. Not many, indeed, these; martyrs for ideas are rare. But their
action went for much, and when later the great mass of the voteless
began to move, there were rats in plenty of the kind that desert
sinking ships. By that time he was a bold man who in tavern or
workshop spoke for the rule of the few, to which Sir Robert fondly
believed his borough to be loyal.

His agent had never shared that belief, fortunately for him; or he had
had a rude awakening on the first Monday in May. It was customary for
the Vermuyden interest to meet the candidates on the Chippenham road,
half an hour before the dinner hour, and to attend them in procession
through the town to the White Lion. Often this was all that the
commonalty saw of an election, and a little horseplay was both
expected and allowed. In old days, when the "Cripples" had belonged to
the very lowest class, their grotesque appearance in the van of the
gentlemanly interest had given rise to many a home-jest. The crowd
would follow them, jeering and laughing, and there would be some
pushing, and a drunken man or two would fall. But all had passed in
good humour; the taps had been running in one interest, the ale was
Sir Robert's, and the crowd envied while they laughed.

White, as he stood on the bridge reviewing the first comers, wished he
might have no worse to expect to-day. But he did not hope as much. The
town was crowded, and the streets down to the bridge were so cumbered
with moving groups that it was plain the procession would have to push
its way. For certain, too, many of the people did not belong to
Chippinge. With the townsfolk White knew he could deal. He did not
believe that there was a Chippinge man who, eye to eye with him, would
cast a stone. But here were yokels from Calne and Bowood, who knew not
Sir Robert; with Bristol lambs and men as dangerous, and not a few
Radicals from a distance, rabid with zeal and overflowing with
promises. Made up of such elements the crowd hooted from time to time,
and there was a threat in the sound that filled White with misgivings.

Nor was this the worst. The cloth factory stood close to the bridge.
The procession must pass it. And the hands employed in it, hostile to
a man, were gathered before the doorway, in their aprons and paper
caps, waiting to give the show a reception. They had much to say
already, their jeers and taunts filling the air; but White had a
shrewd suspicion that they had worse missiles in their pockets.

Still, he had secured the attendance of a score of sturdy fellows,
sons of Sir Robert's farmers, and these, with a proportion of the
tagrag and bobtail of the town, gave a fairly solid aspect to his
party. Nor was the jeering all on one side, though that deep and
unpleasant groaning which now and again rolled down the street was
wholly Whiggish.

Alas, it was when the agent came to analyse his men that he had most
need of the smile that deceives. True, the rector was there and the
curate of Eastport, and the clerk and the sexton--the two last-named
were voters. And there were also four or five squires arrayed in
support of the gentlemanly interest, and as many young bucks come to
see the fun. Then there were three other voters: the Alderman, who
was a small grocer, and Annibal the basketmaker--these two were
stalwarts--and Dewell the barber, also staunch, but a timid man. There
was no Dyas, however, Sir Robert's burliest supporter in old days, and
his absence was marked. Nor any Thrush the pig-killer--the jaws of a
Radical gaol held him. Nor, last and heaviest blow of all--for it had
fallen without warning--was there any Pillinger of the Blue Duck.
Pillinger, his wife said, was ill. What was worse he was in the hands
of a Radical doctor capable, the agent believed, of hocussing him
until the polling was over. The truth about Pillinger--whether he lay
ill or whether he lay shamming, whether he was at the mercy of the
apothecary or under the thumb of his wife--White could not learn. He
hoped to learn it before it was too late. But for the present
Pillinger was not here.

The Alderman, Annibal, Dewell, the clerk, the sexton, and Arthur
Vaughan. White totted them up again and again and made them six. The
Bowood voters he made five--four stalwarts and Dyas the butcher.

Certainly he might still poll Pillinger. But, on the other hand, Mr.
Vaughan might arrive too late. White had written to his address in
town, and receiving no answer had sent an express to Bristol on the
chance that the young gentleman was still there. Probably he would be
in time. But when things are so very close--and when there were alarm
and defeat in the air--men grow nervous. White smiled as he chatted
with the pompous Rector and the country squires, but he was very
anxious. He thought of old Sir Robert at Stapylton, and he sweated at
the notion of defeat. Cobbett had reached his mind, but Sir Robert had
his heart!

"Boo!" moaned the crowd higher up the street. The sound sank and the
harsh voice of a speaker came fitfully over the heads of the people.

"Who's that?" asked old Squire Rowley, one of the country gentlemen.

"Some spouter from Bristol, sir, I fancy," the agent replied
contemptuously. And with his eye he whipped in a couple of
hobbledehoys who seemed inclined to stray towards the enemy.

"I suppose," the Squire continued, lowering his voice, "you can depend
on your men, White?"

"Oh, Lord, yes, sir," White answered; like a good election agent he
took no one into his confidence. "We've enough here to do the trick.
Besides, young Mr. Vaughan will be here to-morrow, and the landlord of
the Blue Duck, who is not well enough to walk to-day, will poll. He'd
break his heart, bless you," White continued, with a brow of brass,
"if he could not vote for Sir Robert!"

"Seven to five."

"Seven to four, sir."

"But Dyas, I hear, the d----d rogue, will vote against you?"

White winked.

"Bad," he said cryptically, "but not as bad as that, sir."

"Oh! oh!" quoth the other, nodding, "I see." And then, glancing at the
gang before the cloth works, whose taunts of "Flunkies!" and "Sell
your birthright, will you?" were constant and vicious, "You've no fear
there'll be violence, White?" he asked.

"Lord, no, sir," White answered; "you know what election rows are, all
bark and no bite!"

"Still I hear that at Bath, where I'm told Lord Brecknock stands a
poor chance, they are afraid of a riot."

"Ay, ay, sir," White answered indifferently, "this isn't Bath."

"Precisely," the Rector struck in, in pompous tones. "I should like to
see anything of that kind here! They would soon," he continued with an
air, "find that I am not on the commission of the peace for nothing! I
shall make, and I am sure you will make," he went on, turning to his
brother justice, "very short work of them! I should like to see
anything of that kind tried here!"

White nodded, but in his heart he thought that his reverence was
likely to have his wish gratified. However, no more was said, for the
approach of the Stapylton carriages, with their postillions, outriders
and favours, was signalled by persons who had been placed to watch for
them, and the party on the bridge, falling into violent commotion,
raised their flags and banners and hastened to form an escort on
either side of the roadway. As the gaily-decked carriages halted on
the crest of the bridge, loud greetings were exchanged. The five
voters took up a position of honour, seats in the carriages were found
for three or four of the more important gentry, and seven or eight
others got to horse. Meanwhile those of the smaller folk, who thought
that they had a claim to the recognition of the candidates, were
gratified, and stood back blushing, or being disappointed stood back
glowering; all this amid confusion and cheering on the bridge and
shrill jeers on the part of the cloth hands. Then the flags were waved
aloft, the band of five, of which the drummer could truly say "_Pars
magna fui_," struck up "See, the Conquering Hero Comes!" and White
stood back for a last look.

Then, "Shout, lads, shout!" he cried, waving his hat. "Don't let 'em
have it all their own way!" And with a roar of defiance, not quite so
loud or full as the gentlemanly interest had raised of old, the
procession got under way, and, led by a banner bearing "Our Ancient
Constitution!" in blue letters on a red ground, swayed spasmodically
up the street. The candidates for the suffrages of the electors of
Chippinge had passed the threshold of the borough. "Hurrah! Yah!
Hurrah! Yah! Yah! Yah! Down with the Borough-mongers. Our Ancient
Constitution! Hurrah! Boo! Boo!"

White had his eye on the clothmen, and under its spell they did not go
beyond hooting and an egg or two, spared from the polling day, and
flung at long range when the Tories had passed. No one was struck, and
the carriages moved onward, more or less triumphantly. Sergeant
Wathen, who was in the first, and whose sharp black eyes moved hither
and thither in search of friends, rose repeatedly to bow. But Mr.
Cooke, who did not forget that he was paying two thousand five hundred
pounds for his seat, and thought that it should be a soft one,
scarcely deigned to move. For as the procession advanced into the town
the clamour of the crowd which lined the narrow High Street and
continually shouted "The Bill! The Bill!" drowned the utmost efforts
of Sir Robert's friends, and left no doubt of the popular feeling.

There was some good-humoured pushing and thrusting, the drum beating
and the church bells jangling bravely above the hubbub. And once or
twice the rabble came near to cutting the procession in two. But there
was no real attempt at mischief, and all went well until the foremost
carriage was abreast of the Cross, which stands at the head of the
High Street, where the latter debouches into the space before the
Abbey.

Then some foolish person gave the word to halt before Dyas the
butcher's. And a voice--it was not White's--cried, "Three groans for
the Radical Rat! Rat! Rat!"

The groans were given before the crowd fully understood their meaning
or the motive for the stoppage. The drummer beat out something which
he meant for the Rogues' March, and an unseen hand raising a large
dead rat, tied to a stick, waved it before the butcher's first-floor
windows.

The effect was surprising--to old-fashioned folk. In a twinkling, with
a shout of "Down with the Borough-mongers!" a gang of white-aproned
clothmen rushed the rear of the procession, drove it in upon the main
body, and amid screams and uproar forced the whole line out of the
narrow street into the space before the Abbey. Fortunately the White
Lion, which faced the Abbey, stood only a score of paces to the left
of the Cross, and the carriages were able to reach it; but in
disorder, pressed on by such a fighting, swaying, shouting crowd as
Chippinge had not seen for many a year.

It was no time to stand on dignity. The candidates tumbled out as best
they could, their chief supporters followed them, and while half a
dozen single combats proceeded at their elbows, they hastened across
the pavement into the house. The Rector alone disdained to flee. Once
on the threshold of the inn, he turned and raised his hat above his
head:

"Order!" he cried, "Order! Do you hear me!"

But "Yah! Borough-monger!" the rabble answered, and before he could
say more a young farmer was hurled against him, and a whip, of which a
postillion had just been despoiled, whizzed past his head. He, too,
turned tail at that, with his face a shade paler than usual; and with
his retreat resistance ceased. The carriages were hustled somehow and
anyhow into the yard, and there the greater part of the procession
also took refuge. A few, sad to say, sneaked off and got rid of their
badges, and a few more escaped through a neighbouring alley. No one
was much hurt; a few black eyes were the worst of the mischief, nor
could it be said that any vindictive feeling was shown. But the town
was swept clear, and the victory of the Radicals was complete. Left in
possession of the open space before the Abbey, they paraded for some
time under the windows of the White Lion, waving a captured flag, and
cheering and groaning by turns.

Meantime in the hall of the inn the grandees were smoothing their
ruffled plumes, in a state of mind in which it was hard to say whether
indignation or astonishment had larger place. Oaths flew thick as
hail, unrebuked by the Church, the most outspoken perhaps being by the
landlord, who met them with a pale face.

"Good Lord, good Lord, gentlemen!" he said, "what violence! What
violence! What are we coming to next? What's took the people,
gentlemen? Isn't Sir Robert here?"

For to this simple person it seemed impossible that people should
behave badly in that presence.

"No, he's not!" Mr. Cooke answered with choler. "I'd like to know why
he's not! I wish to Heaven"--only he did not say "Heaven"--"that he
were here, and he'd see what sort of thing he has let us into!"

"Ah, well, ah, well!" returned the more discreet and philosophic
Sergeant, "shouting breaks no bones. We are all here, I hope? And
after all, this shows up the Bill in a pretty strong light, eh,
Rector? If it is to be carried by methods such as these--these---"

"D----d barefaced intimidation!" Squire Rowley growled.

"Or if it is to give votes to such persons as these----"

"D----d Jacobins! Republicans every one!" interposed the Squire.

"It will soon be plain to all," the Sergeant concluded, in his House
of Commons manner, "that it is a most revolutionary, dangerous,
and--and unconstitutional measure, gentlemen."

"By G--d!" Mr. Cooke cried--he was thinking that if this was the kind
of thing he was to suffer he might as well have fought Taunton or
Preston, or any other open borough, and kept his money in his
pocket--"by G--d, I wish Lord John were stifled in the mud he's
stirred up, and Gaffer Grey with him!"

"You can add Bruffam, if you like," Wathen answered
good-humouredly--he was not paying two thousand five hundred guineas
for his seat. "And rid me of a rival and the country of a pest, Cooke!
But come, gentlemen, now we're here and no bones broken, shall we sit
down? We are all safe, I trust, Mr. White? And especially--my future
constituents?" with a glance of his shrewd Jewish-looking eyes.

"Yes, sir, no harm done," White replied as cheerfully as he could;
which was not overcheerfully, for in all his experience of Chippinge
he had known nothing like this; and he was a trifle scared. "Yes,
sir," he continued, looking round, "all here, I think! And--and by
Jove," in a tone of relief, "one more than I expected! Mr. Vaughan! I
am glad, sir, very glad, sir," he added heartily, "to see you. Very
glad!"

The young man who had alighted from his postchaise a few minutes
before did not, in appearance at least, reciprocate the feeling. He
looked sulky and bored. But he shook the outstretched hand; he could
do no less. Then, saying scarcely a word, he stood back again. He had
hastened to Chippinge on receiving White's belated express, but rather
because, irritated by the collision with Flixton, he welcomed any
change, than because he was sure what he would do. In the chaise he
had thought more of Mary than of politics, more of the Honourable Bob
than of his cousin. And though, as far as Sir Robert was concerned, he
was resolved to be frank and to play the man, his mind had travelled
no farther.

Now, thrown suddenly among these people, he was, in a churlish way,
taken somewhat aback. But, in a thoroughly bad temper, he told himself
it did not matter. If they did not like the line he was going to take,
that was their business. He was not responsible to them. In fine, he
was in a savage mood, with half his mind here and the other half
dwelling on the events of the morning. For the moment politics seemed
to him a poor game, and what he did or did not do of little
consequence!

White and the others were not blind to his manner, and might have
resented it in another. But Sir Robert's heir was a great man and had
a right to moods if any man had; doubtless he was become a fine
gentleman and thought it a nuisance to vote in his own borough. They
were all politeness to him, therefore, and while his eyes passed
haughtily beyond them, seeking Sir Robert, they presented to him those
whom he did not know.

"Very kind of you to come, Mr. Vaughan," said the Sergeant, who, like
many browbeaters, could be a sycophant at need. "Very kind indeed! I
don't know whether you know Mr. Cooke? He, equally with me, is obliged
to you for your attendance."

"Greatly obliged, sir," Mr. Cooke muttered. "Certainly, certainly."

Vaughan bowed coldly.

"Is not Sir Robert here?" he asked.

He was still looking beyond those to whom he spoke.

"No, Mr. Vaughan."

And then, "This way to dinner," White cried loudly. "Come, gentlemen!
Dinner, gentlemen, dinner!"

And Vaughan, heedless what he did or where he dined, but inclined in a
sardonic way to amuse himself, went in with them. What did it matter?
He was not going to vote for them. But that was his business, and Sir
Robert's. He was not responsible to them.

Certainly he was in a very bad temper.



                                 XIII

                         THE VERMUYDEN DINNER


Vaughan began to think more soberly of his position when he found
himself set down at the table. He had White, who took one end, on his
right; and the Sergeant was opposite him. At the other end the
Alderman presided, supported by Mr. Cooke and the Rector.

The young man looked down the board, at the vast tureens that smoked
on it, and at the faces, smug or jolly, hungry or expectant, that
surrounded them; and amid the flood of talk which burst forth the
moment his reverence had said a short grace, he began to feel the
situation uncomfortable. True, he had a sort of right to be there, as
the heir, and a Vermuyden. True, too, he owed nothing to anyone there;
nothing to the Sergeant, whom he secretly disliked, nothing to Mr.
Cooke, whom he despised--in his heart he was as exclusive as Sir
Robert himself--nothing to White, who would one day be his paid
dependant. He owed them no explanation. Why then should he expose
himself to their anger and surprise? He would be silent and speak only
when the time came, and he could state his views to Sir Robert with a
fair chance of a fair hearing.

Still he saw that the position in which he had placed himself was a
false one: and might become ridiculous. And it crossed his mind to
feign illness and to go out and incontinently walk over to Stapylton
and see Sir Robert. Or he might tell White quietly that he did not
find himself able to support his cousin's nominations: and before the
news got abroad he might withdraw and let them think what they would.
But he was too proud to do the one, and in too sulky a mood to do the
other. And he sat still.

"Where is Sir Robert?" he asked.

"He left home on a sudden call, this morning, sir," White explained;
wondering what made the young squire--who was wont to be affable--so
distant. "On unexpected business."

"It must have been important as well as unexpected," Wathen said, with
a smile, "to take Sir Robert away today, Mr. White."

"It was both, sir, as I understood," White answered, "for Sir Robert
did not make me acquainted with it. He seemed somewhat put out--more
put out than I have often seen him. But he said that whatever happened
he would be back before the nomination." And then, turning to Vaughan,
"You must have passed him, sir?" he added.

"Well, now I think of it," Vaughan answered, his spoon suspended, "I
did. I met a travelling carriage and four with jackets like his. But,
I thought it was empty."

"No, sir, that was Sir Robert. He will not be best pleased," White
continued, turning to the Sergeant, "when he hears what a reception we
had!"

"Ah, well, ah, well!" the Sergeant replied--pleasantness was his cue
to-day. "Things are worse in Bath I'll be sworn, Mr. White."

"No doubt, sir, no doubt! I think," White added, forgetting his study
of Cobbett, "the nation has gone mad."

After that Vaughan's other neighbour, Squire Rowley, who met him
annually at Stapylton, claimed his ear. The old fellow, hearty and
good-natured, but a bigoted Tory, who would have given Orator Hunt
four dozen and thought Lord Grey's proper reward a block on Tower
Hill, was the last person whom Vaughan would have chosen for a
confidant; since only to hear of a Vermuyden turned Whig would have
gone near to giving him a fit. Perforce, nevertheless, Vaughan had to
listen to him and answer him; he could not without rudeness cut him
short. But all the time as they talked, Vaughan's uneasiness
increased. With every minute his eyes wandered more longingly to the
door. Improved in temper by the fare and by the politeness of his
neighbours, he began to see that he had been foolish to thrust himself
among people with whom he did not agree. Still he was there; and he
must see the dinner to an end. After all a little more or a little
less would not add to Sir Robert's anger. He could explain that he
thought it more delicate to avoid an open scandal.

Meanwhile the collision with the crowd had loosened the guests'
tongues and never had a Vermuyden dinner gone more freely. Even the
"Cripples," whose wont it was to begin the evening with odious
obsequiousness and close it with a freedom as unpleasant, found speech
early, and were loudest in denunciation of a Bill which threatened to
deprive them of their annuities. By the time huge joints had taken the
place of the tureens, and bowls of potatoes and mounds of asparagus
dotted the table, the noise was incessant. There was claret for those
who cared for it, and strong ale for all. And while some discussed the
effect which a Bill that disfranchised Chippinge would have on their
pockets and interests, others driving their arguments home with blows
on the table recalled, almost with tears, the sacred name of Pitt--the
pilot who weathered the storm; or held up to execration a cabinet of
Whigs dead to every Whig principle, and alive only to the chance of
power which a revolution might afford.

"But what was to be expected? What was to be expected?" old Rowley
insisted. "We've only ourselves to thank! When Peel and the Duke took
up the Catholic Claims they stepped into the Whigs' shoes--and
devilishly may they pinch them! The Whigs had to find another pair,
you see, sir, and stepped into the Radicals'! And the only people left
at a loss are the honest part of us; who are likely to end not only
barefoot but barebacked! Ay, by G--d, we are!"

And so on, and so on; even White, who was vastly relieved by Vaughan's
arrival, which made his majority safe, talked freely, and gave Dyas
and Pillinger of the Blue Duck the rough side of his tongue. While
Vaughan, used to a freer atmosphere, listened to their one-sided
arguments, their trite prophecies, their incredible prejudices--such
they seemed to him--and now turned up his nose, now pitied them, as an
effete, a doomed, a dying race.

While he thought of this the dinner wore on, the joints vanished, and
huge steaming puddings made their appearance on the board; those who
cared not for plum puddings could have marrow-puddings. Then cheese
and spring onions, and some special old ale, light coloured, heady,
and served in tall, spare glasses, went round. At length the rector, a
trifle flushed, rose to say grace, and Vaughan saw that the cloth was
about to be removed. Bottles of strong port and tawny Madeira were at
hand. Some called already for their favourite punch, or for hot grog.

"Now," he thought, "I can escape with a good grace. And I will!"

But as he made a movement to rise, the Sergeant rose opposite him,
lifted his glass, and fixed him with his eye. And Vaughan felt that he
could not leave at that moment without rudeness. "Gentlemen, on your
feet, if you please," he cried blandly. "The King! The King, God bless
him! The King, gentlemen, and may he never suffer for the faults of
his servants! May the Grey mare never run away with him. May William
the Good ne'er be ruined by a--bad Bill! Gentlemen, the King, God
bless him, and deliver him from the Whigs!"

They drank the toast amid a roar of laughter and applause. And once
more as they sat down Vaughan thought that he would escape. Again he
was hindered. This time the interruption came from behind.

"Hallo, Vaughan!" someone muttered in his ear. "You're the last person
I expected to see here!"

He turned and disgust filled him. The speaker, who had just entered,
was the son of a clergyman in the neighbourhood and had gone to the
bar. He was a shifty, flattering fellow, at once a toady and a
backbiter; who had wormed himself into society too good for him, and
in London was Vaughan's _bête noir_. But had that been all! Alas, he
was also a member of the Academic. He had been present at Vaughan's
triumph ten days before, and had heard him proclaim himself a Reformer
of the Reformers.

For a moment Vaughan could find not a word. He could only mutter "Oh!"
in a tone of dismay. He feared that his face betrayed the chagrin he
felt.

"I thought you were quite the other way?" Mowatt said. And he grinned.
He was a weedy, pale young man, with thin lips and a false smile.

Vaughan hesitated. "So I am!" he said curtly.

"But--but I thought----"

"Order! Order!" cried the Alderman, a trifle uplifted by wine and his
position. "Silence, if you please, gentlemen, for the Senior
Candidate! And charge your glasses!"

Vaughan turned to the table, a frown on his brow. Wathen was on his
feet, holding his wine glass before his breast with one hand, while
the other rested on the table. His attitude was that of a man
confident of his powers and pleased to exert them. Nevertheless, as he
prepared to speak, he lowered his eyes to the table as if he thought
that a little mock-modesty became him.

"Gentlemen," he said, "it is my privilege to propose a toast, that at
this time and in this place--this time, gentlemen, when to an extent
unknown within living memory, all is at stake, and this place which
has so much to lose--it is my privilege, I say, to propose a toast
that must go straight to the heart of every man in this room, nay, of
every true-born Englishman, and every lover of his country! It is _Our
Ancient Constitution, our Chartered Rights, our Vested Interests!_
[Loud and continued applause.] Yes, gentlemen, our ancient
Constitution, the security of every man, woman, and child in this
realm! And coupled with it our Chartered Rights, our Vested Interests,
which, unassailed for generations, are to-day called in question by
the weakness of many, by the madness of some, by the wicked ambition
of a few. [Loud cheering]. Gentlemen, to one Cromwell this town owes
the destruction of your famous Abbey, once the pride of this county!
To another Cromwell it owes the destruction of the walls that in
troublous times secured the hearths of your forefathers! It lies with
us--but we must be instant and diligent--it lies with us, I say, to
see that those civil bulwarks which protect us and ours in the
enjoyment of all we have and all we hope for----"

"In this world!" the Rector murmured in a deep bass voice.

"In this world," the Sergeant continued, accepting the amendment with
a complimentary bow, "are not laid low by a third Cromwell! I care not
whether he mask himself under the name of Grey, or of Russell, or of
Brougham, or of Lansdowne!"

He paused amid such a roar of applause as shook the room.

"For think not"--the Sergeant resumed when it died down--"think not,
gentlemen, whatever the easily led vulgar may think, that sacrilegious
hands can be laid on the Ark of the Constitution without injury to
many other interests; without the shock being felt through all the
various members of the State down to the lowest: without endangering
all those multiform rights and privileges for which the Constitution
is our guarantee! Let the advocates of this pernicious, this
revolutionary Bill say what they will, they cannot deny that its
effect will be to deprive you in Chippinge who, for nearly five
centuries, have enjoyed the privilege of returning members to
Parliament--of that privilege, with all"--here he glanced at the rich
array of bottles that covered the board--"the amenities which it
brings with it! And for whose benefit? For that of men no better
qualified--nay, by practice and heredity less qualified--than
yourselves. But, gentlemen, mark me, that is not all! That is but the
beginning, and it may be the least part. That loss they cannot hide
from you. That loss they do not attempt to hide from you. But they do
hide from you," he continued in his deepest and most tragic tone, "a
fact to which the whole course of history is witness--that a policy of
robbery once begun is rarely stayed, if it be stayed, until the victim
is bare! Bare, gentlemen! Gentlemen, the freemen of this borough have
of ancient right, conferred by an ancient sovereign----"

"God bless him!" from Annibal, now somewhat drunk. "God bless him!
Here's his health!"

The Sergeant paused an instant and looked round the table. Then more
slowly, "Ay, God bless him!" he said. "God bless King Canute! But
what--what if those grants of land---I care not whether you call them
chartered rights or vested interests--which you freemen enjoy of
him--what if they do not enure? You have them," with a penetrating
glance from face to face, "but for how long, gentlemen, if this Bill
pass? You are too clear-sighted to be blind to the peril! Too shrewd
to think that you can part with one right, as old, as well vested, as
perfectly secured--and keep the others undiminished? Gentlemen, if you
are so blind, take warning! For wherever this anarchical, this
dangerous, this revolutionary Bill----"

"Hear! Hear! Hear!" from Vaughan's neighbour, the Squire.

"Wherever, I say, this Bill finds supporters--and I can well believe
that in Birmingham and Sheffield, where they have all to gain and
nothing to lose, it will find supporters, it should find none in
Chippinge! Where we have all to lose and nothing to gain, and where no
man but a fool or a rogue can in reason support it! Gentlemen, you are
neither fools nor rogues----"

"No! No! No! No!"

"No, gentlemen, and therefore, though a few silly fellows may shout
for the Bill in the streets, I am sure that I shall have the whole of
this influential company with me when I give you the toast of 'Our
Ancient Constitution, Our Chartered Rights, Our Vested Interests!' May
the Bill that assails them be defeated by the good sense of a sober
and united people! May those who urge it and those who support
it--rogues where they are not fools, and fools where they are not
rogues--meet with the fate they deserve! And may we be there to see!
Gentlemen," he continued, raising his hand for silence, "in the
absence upon pressing business of our beloved High Steward, the model
of an English gentleman and the pattern of an English landlord, I beg
to couple this toast"--here the Sergeant's sharp black eyes fixed
themselves suddenly on his opposite neighbour--"with the name of his
kinsman, Mr. Arthur Vaughan!"

"Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!" The room shook with the volume of applause,
the tables trembled. And through it all Arthur Vaughan's heart beat
hard, and he swallowed nervously. He was caught. Whether the Sergeant
knew it or not, he was trapped. From the beginning of the speech he
had had his misgivings. He had listened anxiously; and though he had
lost nothing, though one half of his mind had followed the speaker's
thread, the other half had scanned the prospect feverishly, weighed
the chances of escape, and grown chill with the fear of what was
coming. If he had only withdrawn in time! If he had only----

"Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!" They were pounding the table with fist and
glass, and looking towards him--two long rows of flushed, excited,
tipsy faces. Some were drinking to him. Others were scanning him
curiously. All were waiting.

He leant forward. "I don't wish to speak," he said, addressing the
Sergeant in a troubled voice. "Call on some one else, if you please."

But "Impossible, sir!" White, surprised by his evident nervousness,
answered. He had thought Vaughan anything but a shy person.
"Impossible, sir!"

"Get up! Get up!" cried the Squire, his neighbour, laying a jocund
hand on him and trying to lift him to his feet.

But Vaughan resisted; his throat was so dry that he could hardly frame
his words. "I don't wish to speak," he muttered. "I don't agree----"

"Say what you like, my dear sir!" the Sergeant rejoined blandly, but
with a gleam of amusement in his eyes. He had had his doubts of Master
Vaughan ever since he had caught him on his way to the Chancellor: now
he thought that he had him pinned. He did not suppose that the young
man would dare to revolt openly.

"Yes, sir, you must get up," said White, who had no suspicion that his
hesitation arose from any cause but shyness. "Anything will do."

Vaughan rose--slowly, and with a beating heart. He rose perforce. For
a moment he stood, deafened by his reception. For the smaller men saw
in him one of the old family, the future landlord of two-thirds of
them, the sometime owner of the very roof under which they were
gathered. And he, while they greeted his rising and he stood waiting
with an unhappy face for silence, wondered, even at this last moment,
what he would say. And Heaven knows what he would have said--so hard
was it to disappoint those cheering men, all looking at him with
worship in their eyes--so painful was it to break old ties--if he had
not caught behind him Mowatt's whisper, "Eat his words! He'll have to
unsay----"

No more than that, a fragment, but enough; enough to show him that he
had better, far better seem false to these men, to his blood, to the
past, than be false to himself. He straightened his shoulders, and
lifted his head.

"Gentlemen," he said, and now his voice though low was steady, "I rise
unwillingly--unwillingly, because I feel too late that I ought not to
be here. That I have no right to be here. [No! No!] No right to be
here, for this reason," he continued, raising his hand for silence,
"for this reason, that in much of what Sergeant Wathen has said, I
cannot go with him."

There, it was out! But no more than a stare of perplexity passed from
the more intelligent faces about him to the duller faces lower down
the table. They did not understand; it was only clear that he could
not mean what he seemed to mean. But he was going on in a silence so
complete that a pin falling to the floor might have been heard!

"I rise unwillingly, I say again, gentlemen," he continued, "and I beg
you to remember this, and that I did not come here of set purpose to
flaunt my opinions before you. For I, too"--here he betrayed his
secret agitation--"thus far I do go with Sergeant Wathen,--I, too, am
for Our Ancient Constitution, I give place to no man in love of it.
And I, too, am against revolution, I will stand second to none in
abhorrence of it."

"Hear! Hear!" cried the Rector in a tone of unmistakable relief.
"Hear, hear!"

"Ay, go on," chimed in the Squire. "Go on, lad, go on! That's all
right!" And half aside in his neighbour's ear, "Gad! he frightened
me!" he muttered.

"But--but to be plain," Vaughan resumed, pronouncing every word
clearly, "I do not regard the Bill which the Sergeant has mentioned,
the Bill which is in all your minds, as assailing the one, or as being
tantamount to the other! On the contrary, I believe that it restores
the ancient balance of the Constitution, and will avert, as nothing
else will avert, a Revolution!"

As he paused on that word, the Squire, who was of a free habit, tried
to rise and speak, but choked. The Rector gasped. Only Mr. Cooke found
his voice. He sprang to his feet, purple in the face. "By G--d!" he
roared, "are we going to listen to this?"

Vaughan sat down, pale but composed. But he found all eyes on him, and
he rose again.

"It was against my will I said what I have said," he resumed. "I did
not wish to speak. I do not wish you to listen. I rose only because I
was forced to rise. But being up, I owed it to myself to say enough to
clear myself of--of the appearance of duplicity. That is all."

The Sergeant did not speak, but gazed darkly at him, his mind busy
with the effect which this would have on the election. White, too, did
not speak--he sat stricken dumb. The Squire swore, and five or six of
the more intelligent hissed. But again it was Cooke who found words.

"That all? But that is not all!" he shouted. "That is not all! What
are you, sir?" For still, in common with most of those at the table,
he could not believe that he heard aright. He fancied that this was
some trope, some nice distinction, which he had not followed. "You may
be Sir Robert Vermuyden's cousin ten times over," he continued,
vehemently, "but we'll have it clear what we have to expect. Speak
like a man, sir! Say what you mean!"

Vaughan had taken his seat, but he rose again, a gleam of anger in his
eyes. "Have I not spoken plainly?" he said. "I thought I had. If you
have still any doubt, sir, I am for the Constitution, but I think that
it has suffered by the wear and tear of time and needs repair. I think
that the shifting of population during the last two centuries, the
decay of one place and the rise of another, call for some change in
the representation! I hold that the spread of education and the
creation of a large and wealthy class unconnected with the land,
render that change more urgent if we would avoid a revolution! I
believe that the more we enlarge the base upon which our institutions
rest, the more safely, the more steadily, and the longer will they
last!"

They knew now, they understood, and the storm broke. The smaller men,
or such of them as were sober, stared. But the greater number burst
into a roar of dissent, of reprobation, of anger, led by the Squire.

"A Whig, by Heaven!" he cried violently. And he thrust his chair as
far as possible from his neighbour. "A Whig, by Heaven! And here!"
While others cried, "Renegade!" "Radical!" and "What are you doing
here?" and hissed him. But above all, in some degree stilling all,
rose Cooke's crucial question, "Are you for the Bill? Answer me that!"
And he extended his hand for silence. "Are you for the Bill?"

"I am," Vaughan answered. The storm steadied him.

"You are?"

"Yes."

"Fool or rogue, then! which are you?" shrieked a voice from the lower
end of the table. "Fool or rogue? Which are you?"

Vaughan turned sharply in the direction of the voice. "That reminds
me," he said with a vigour which seemed after a few seconds to gain
him a hearing--for the noise died down--"that reminds me, Sergeant
Wathen is against the Bill. But he has addressed himself solely and
only to your prejudices, gentlemen! I am for the Bill--I am for the
Bill," he repeated, seeing that their attention was wandering, "I----"

He stopped, silenced and taken aback. For some were on their feet,
others were rising; the faces of nine out of ten were turned from him.
What was it? He turned to see; and he saw.

A few paces within the door stood Sir Robert himself; his fur collared
travelling cloak hanging loose about him and showing his tall spare
figure at its best. He stooped, but his high-bred face, cynically
smiling, was turned full on the speaker; it was certain that he had
heard much, if not all. And Vaughan had been brave indeed, he had been
a hero, if taken by surprise and at this disadvantage he had not shown
some discomfiture.

It is easy to smile now! Easy to say that this was but an English
gentleman, bound like others by the law! And Vaughan's own kinsman!
But few would have smiled then. He, through whose hands passed a
quarter of the patronage of a county, who dammed or turned the stream
of promotion, who had made many there and could unmake them, whose
mere hint could have consigned, a few years back, the troublesome to
the press-gang, who belonged almost as definitely, almost as
exclusively, to a caste, as do white men in the India of to-day; who
seldom showed himself to the vulgar save in his coach and four, or
riding with belted grooms behind him--about such an one in '81 there
was, if no divinity, at least the ægis of real power, that habit which
unquestioned authority confers, that port of Jove to which men bow!
Scan the pictured faces of the men who steered this country through
the long war--the faces of Liverpool and Castlereagh--


                    _Daring pilots in extremity,
              Scorning the danger when the waves ran high_;


or of those men, heirs to their traditions, who, for nearly twenty
years, confronted the no less formidable forces of discontent and
disaffection--of Peel and Wellington, Croker and Canning, and he is
blind who does not find there the reflection of that firm rule, the
shadow of that power which still survived, though maimed and weakened
in the early thirties.

Certainly it was not easy to smile at such men then; at their pride or
their prejudices, their selfishness or their eccentricity. For behind
lay solid power. Small blame to Vaughan therefore, if in the face of
the servile attitude, the obsequious rising of the company about him,
he felt his countenance change, if he could not quite hide his dismay.
And though he told himself that his feelings were out of place, that
the man did but stand in the shoes which would one day be his, and was
but now what he would be, _vox faucibus hæsit_--he was dumb. It was
Sir Robert who broke the silence.

"I fear, Mr. Vaughan," he said, the gleam in his eyes alone betraying
his passion--for he would as soon have walked the country lanes in his
dressing robe as given way to rage in that company--"I fear you are
saying in haste words which you will repent at leisure! Did I hear
aright that--that you are in favour of the Bill?"

"I am," Vaughan replied a little huskily. "I----"

"Just so, just so!" Sir Robert replied with a certain lightness. And
raising his walking cane he pointed gravely and courteously to the
door a pace or two from him. "That is the door, Mr. Vaughan," he said.
"You must be here, I am sure, under an error."

Vaughan coloured painfully. "Sir Robert," he said, "I owe you, I
know----"

"You will owe me very little by to-morrow evening," Sir Robert
rejoined, interrupting him suavely. "Much less than you now think! But
that is not to the point. Will you--kindly withdraw?"

"I would like at least to say this! That I came here----"

"Will you kindly withdraw?" Sir Robert persisted. "That is all." And
he pointed again, and still more blandly, to the door. "Any
explanation you may please to offer--and I do not deny that one may be
in place--you can give to my agent to-morrow. He, on his part, will
have something to say. For the present--Annibal," turning with kindly
condescension, "be good enough to open the door for this gentleman.
Good-evening, Mr. Vaughan. You will not, I am sure, compel me to
remove with my friends to another room?"

And as he continued to point to the door, and would listen to
nothing--and the room was certainly his--Vaughan walked out. And
Annibal closed the door behind him.



                                 XIV

                        MISS SIBSON'S MISTAKE


It was perhaps fortunate for Miss Hilhouse that she did not hazard any
remarks on that second escapade in the Square. Whether this amendment
in her manners was due to Miss Sibson's apothegms, or to the general
desire of the school to see the new teacher's new pelisse--which could
only be gratified by favour--or to a threatening rigidity in Mary
Smith's bearing must remain a question. But children are keen
observers. Their senses are as sharp as their tongues are cruel. And
it is certain that Miss Smith had not read four lines of the fifth
chapter of The Fairchild Family before a certain sternness in her tone
was noted by those who had not already marked the danger signal in her
eyes. For the gentlest eyes can dart lightnings on occasion. The sheep
will turn in defence of its lamb. Nor ever walked woman who could not
fight for her secret and her pride.

So Miss Hilhouse bit her tongue and kept silence, the girls behaved
beautifully, and Mary read The Fairchild Family to them in a tone of
monotony that perfectly reflected the future as she saw it. She had
been very foolish, and very weak, but she was not without excuse. He
had saved her life, she could plead that. True, brought up as she had
been at Clapham, shielded from all dealings with the other sex, taught
to regard them as wolves, or at best as a race with which she could
have no safe parley, she should have known better. She should have
known that handsome, courteous, masterful-eyed, as they were--and with
a way with them that made poor girls' hearts throb at one moment and
stand still at another--she should have known that they meant nothing.
That they were still men, and that she must not trust them, must not
think of them, must not expect to find them more steadfast to a point
than the weather-cock on St. Mary's at Redcliffe.

The weather-cock? Ah!

She had no sooner framed the thought in the middle of the reading than
she was aware of a sensation; and a child, one of the youngest, raised
her hand. "Please--"

Mary paused.

"Yes?" she asked. "What is it?"

"Please, Miss Smith, did the weather-cock speak?"

Mary reddened violently.

"Speak? The weather-cock? What do you mean, child?"

"Please, Miss Smith, you said that the weather-cock told Lucy the
truth, the truth, and all the truth."

"Impossible!" Mary stammered. "I--I should have said, the coachman."
And Mary resumed the story, but with a hot face; a face that blushed
more painfully and more intolerably because she was conscious that
every eye was upon it, and that a score of small minds were groping
for the cause of her confusion.

She remembered, oh, how well she remembered, that the schoolmistress
at Clapham had told her that she had every good quality except
strength of will. And how thoroughly, how rapidly had she proved the
truth of the exception! Freed from control for only twenty-four hours,
left for that time to her own devices, she had listened to the first
voice that addressed her, believed the first flattering look that fell
on her, taken the most ordinary attentions--attentions at which any
girl with knowledge of the world or strength of will would have
smiled--for gold, real red gold! So that a light look without a spoken
word had drawn her heart from her. How it behoved her to despise
herself, loathe herself, discipline herself! How she ought to guard
herself in the future! Above all, how thankful should she be for the
dull but safe routine that fenced, and henceforth would fence, her
life from such dangers!

True. Yet how dreary to her young eyes seemed that routine stretched
before her! How her courage fainted at the prospect of morning added
to morning, formal walk to formal walk, lesson to lesson, one
generation of pupils to another! For generation would follow
generation, one chubby face would give place to another, and still she
would be there, plodding through the stale task, listening with an
aching head to the strumming on the harpsichord, saying the same
things, finding the same faults, growing slowly into a correcting,
scolding, punishing machine. By and by she would know The Fairchild
Family by heart, and she would sicken at the "Letters on the
Improvement of the Mind." The children would still be young, but grey
hairs would come to her, she would grow stout and dull; and those
slender hands, those dainty fingers still white and fine, still meet
for love, would be seared by a million needle-pricks and roughened by
the wear and tear of ten thousand hours of plain sewing.

She was ungrateful, oh, she was ungrateful to think such thoughts! For
in what was her lot worse than the lot of others? Or worse than it had
been a week before when, who more humble-minded or contented, more
cheerful or helpful than Mary Smith? When her only fault had been a
weakness of character which her old schoolmistress hoped would be
cured by time? When, though the shadow of an unknown Miss Sibson
loomed formidable before her, she had faced her fate bravely and
hopefully, supported not a little by the love and good wishes--won by
a thousand kind offices--which went with her into the unknown world.

What had happened in the meantime? A little thing, oh, a very little
thing. But to think of it under the childrens' eyes made her face burn
again. She had lost her heart--to a man. To a man! The very word
seemed improper in that company. How much more improper when the man
cared nothing for her, but tossing her a smile for guerdon, had taken
her peace of mind and gone his way, with a laugh. At the best, if he
had ever dreamt seriously of her, ever done more than deem her an
innocent, easily flattered and as lightly to be won, he had changed
his mind as quickly as a weather-cock shifts in April. And he had
talked--that hurt her, that hurt her most! He had talked of her
freely, boasted of her silliness, told his companions what he would
do, or what he would not do; made her common to them!

She got away for a few minutes at tea-time. But twenty pairs of eyes
followed her from the room and seized on her as she returned. And
"Miss Smith, ain't you well?" piped a tiny treble.

She was controlling her voice to answer--that she was quite well, when
Miss Sibson intervened. "Miss Fripp," she said sombrely, "write 'Are
you not,' twenty times on your slate after tea! Miss Hilhouse, if you
stare in that fashion you will be goggle-eyed. Young ladies, elbows,
elbows! Have I not told you a score of times that the art of
deportment consists in the right use of the elbow? Now, Miss Claxton,
in what does the art of deportment consist?"

"In the right use of the elbow, Ma'am."

"And what is the right use of the elbow?"

"To efface it, Ma'am."

"That is better," Miss Sibson replied, somewhat mollified. "Understood
is half done. Miss Smith," looking about her with benevolence, "had
you occasion to commend any young lady's needle this afternoon?"

Miss Smith looked unhappy: conscious that she had not been as
attentive to her duties as became her. "I had no occasion to find
fault, Ma'am," she said timidly.

"Very good. Then every fourth young lady beginning at my right hand
may take a piece of currant cake. I see that Miss Burges is wearing
the silver medal for good conduct. She may take a piece, and give a
piece to a friend. When you have eaten your cake you may go to the
schoolroom and play for half an hour at Blind Man's Buff. But--elbows!
Elbows, young ladies," gazing austerely at them over her glasses. "In
all your frolics let deportment be your first consideration."

The girls trooped out and Mary Smith rose to go with them. But Miss
Sibson bade her remain. "I wish to speak to you," she said.

Poor Mary trembled. For Miss Sibson was still in some measure an
unknown quantity, a perplexing mixture of severity and benevolence,
sound sense and Mrs. Chapone.

"I wish to speak to you," Miss Sibson continued when they were alone.
And then after a pause during which she poured herself out a third cup
of tea, "My dear," she said soberly, "the sooner a false step is
retraced the better. I took a false step yesterday--I blame myself for
it--when I allowed you--in spite of my rule to the contrary--to see a
gentleman. I made that exception partly out of respect to the note
which the parcel contained; the affair was strange and out of the
ordinary. And partly because I liked the gentleman's face. I thought
him a gentleman; he told me that he had an independence: I had no
reason to think him more than that. But I have heard to-day, my
dear--I thought it right to make some enquiry in view of the
possibility of a second visit--that he is a gentleman of large
expectations, who will one day be very rich and a man of standing in
the country. That alters the position," Miss Sibson continued gravely.
"Had I known it"--she rubbed her nose thoughtfully with the handle of
her teaspoon--"I should not have permitted the interview." And then
after a few seconds of silence, "You understand me, I think, my dear?"
she asked.

"Yes," Mary said in a low voice. She spoke with perfect composure.

"Just so, just so," Miss Sibson answered, pleased to see that the girl
was too proud to give way before her--though she was sure that she
would cry by and by. "I am glad to think that there is no harm done.
As I have said, the sooner a false step is retraced, the better; and
therefore if he calls again I shall not permit him to see you."

"I do not wish to see him," Mary said with dignity.

"Very good. Then that is understood."

But strangely enough, the words had barely fallen from Miss Sibson's
lips when there came a knock at the house door, and the same thought
leapt to the mind of each; and to Mary's cheek a sudden vivid blush
that, fading as quickly as it came, left her paler than before. Miss
Sibson saw the girl's distress, and she was about to suggest, in
words equivalent to a command, that she should retire, when the door
opened and the neat maidservant announced--with poorly masked
excitement--that a gentleman wished to see Miss Smith.

Miss Sibson frowned.

"Where is he?" she asked, with majesty; as if she already scented the
fray.

"In the parlour, Ma'am."

"Very good. Very good. I will see him." But not until the maid had
retired did the schoolmistress rise to her feet. "You had better stay
here," she said, looking at her companion, "until my return. It is of
course your wish that I should dismiss him?"

Mary shivered. Those dreams of something brighter, something higher,
something fuller than the daily round; of a life in the sunshine, of
eyes that looked into hers--this was their end! But she said "Yes,"
bravely.

"Good girl," said Miss Sibson, feeling, good, honest creature, more
than she showed. "I will do so." And she swam forth.

Poor Mary! The door was barely shut before her heart whispered that
she had only to cross the hall and she would see him; that, on the
other hand, if she did not cross the hall, she would never, never,
never see him again! She would stay here for all time, bound hand and
foot to the unchanging round of petty duties, a blind slave in the
mill, no longer a woman--though her woman's heart hungered for
love--but a dull, formal, old maid, growing more stiff and angular
with every year! No farther away than the other side of the hall were
love and freedom. And she dared not, she dared not open the door!

And then she bethought her, that he was no weathercock, for he had
come again! He had come! And it must be for something. For what?

She heard the door open on the parlour side of the hall, and she knew
that he was going. And she stood listening, waiting with blanched
cheeks.

The door opened and Miss Sibson came in, met her look--and started.

"Oh!" the schoolmistress exclaimed; and for a moment she stood,
looking strangely at the girl, as if she did not know what to say to
her. Then, "We were mistaken," she said, with a serious face. "It is
not the gentleman you were expecting, my dear. On the contrary, it's a
stranger who wishes to see you on business."

Mary tried to gain command of herself. "I had rather not," she said
faintly. "I don't think I can."

"I fear--you must," Miss Sibson rejoined, with unusual gravity.
"Still, there is no hurry. He can wait a few minutes. He can await
your leisure. Do you sit down and compose yourself. You have no reason
to be disturbed. The gentleman"--she continued, with an odd inflection
in her voice--"is old enough to be your father."



                                  XV

                          MR. PYBUS'S OFFER


"A note for you, sir." Vaughan turned moodily to take it. It was the
morning after the Vermuyden dinner, and he had slept ill, he had risen
late, he was still sitting before his breakfast, toying with it rather
than eating it. His first feeling on leaving the dining-room had been
bitter chagrin at the ease with which Sir Robert had dealt with him.
This had given place a little later to amusement; for he had a sense
of humour. And he had laughed, though sorely, at the figure he had cut
as he beat his retreat. Still later, as he lay, excited and wakeful,
he had fallen a prey to doubt; that horrible three o'clock in the
morning doubt, which defies reason, which sees all the _cons_ in the
strongest light and reduces the _pros_ to shadows. However, one thing
was certain. He had crossed the Rubicon. He had divorced himself by
public act from the party to which his forbears--for the Vaughans as
well as the Vermuydens had been Tories--had belonged. He had joined
the Whigs; nay, he had joined the Reformers. But though he had done
this deliberately and from conviction, though his reason approved the
step, and his brain teemed with arguments in its favour, the chance
that he might be wrong haunted him.

That governing class from which he was separating himself, from which
his policy would snatch power, which in future would dub him traitor,
what had it not done for England? With how firm a hand had it not
guided the country through storm and stress, with what success
shielded it not from foreign foes only, but from disruption and
revolution? He scanned the last hundred and fifty years and saw the
country, always under the steady rule of that class which had the
greatest stake in its prosperity, advancing in strength and riches and
comfort, ay, and, though slowly in these, in knowledge also and the
humanities and decencies. And the question forced itself upon him,
would that great middle class into whose hands the sway now fell, use
it better? Would they produce statesmen more able than Walpole or
Chatham, generals braver than Wolfe or Moore, a higher heart than
Nelson's? Nay, would the matter end there? Would not power slip into
the hands of a wider and yet a wider circle? Would Orator Hunt's dream
of Manhood Suffrage, Annual Parliaments and the Ballot become a
reality? Would government by the majority, government by tale of
heads, as if three chawbacons must perforce be wiser than one squire,
government by the ill-taught, untrained mass, with the least to lose
and the most to gain--would that in the long run plunge the country in
fatal misfortunes?

It was just possible that those who deemed the balance of power,
established in 1688, the one perfect mean between despotism and
anarchy--it was just possible that they were right. And that he was a
fool.

Then to divert his mind he had allowed himself to think of Mary Smith.
And he had tossed and tumbled, ill-satisfied with himself. He was
brave, he told himself, in the wrong place. He had the courage to
break with old associations, to defy opinion, to disregard Sir
Robert--where no more than a point of pride was concerned; for it was
absurd to fancy that the fate of England hung on his voice. But in a
matter which went to the root of his happiness--for he was sure that
he loved Mary Smith and would love no other--he had not the spirit to
defy a little gossip, a few smiles, the contempt of the worldly. He
flushed from head to foot at the thought of a life which, however
modest--and modesty was not incompatible with ambition--was shared by
her, and would be pervaded by her. And yet he dared not purchase that
life at so trifling a cost! No, he was weak where he should be strong,
and strong where he should be weak. And so he had tossed and turned,
and now after two or three hours of feverish sleep, he sat glooming
over his tea cup.

Presently he broke open the note which the waiter had handed to him.
He read it, and "Who brought this?" he asked, with a perplexed face.

"Don't know, sir," Sam replied glibly, beginning to collect the
breakfast dishes.

"Will you enquire?"

"Found it on the hall table, sir," the man answered, in the same tone.
"Fancy," with a grin, "it's a runaway knock, sir. Known a man find a
cabbage at the door and a whole year's wages under it--at election
time, sir! Yes, sir. Find funny things in funny places--election time,
sir."

Vaughan made no reply, but a few minutes later he took his hat and
descending the stairs, strolled with an easy air into the street. He
paused as if to contemplate the Abbey Church, beautiful even in its
disfigurement. Then, but as if he were careless which way he went, he
turned to the right.

The main street, with its whitened doorsteps and gleaming knockers,
lay languid in the sunshine; perhaps, enervated by the dissipation of
the previous evening. The candidates who would presently pay formal
visits to the voters were not yet afoot: and though taverns where the
tap was running already gave forth maudlin laughter, no other sign of
the coming event declared itself. A few tradesmen stood at their
doors, a few dogs lay stretched in the sun; and only Vaughan's common
sense told him that he was watched.

From the High Street he presently turned into a narrow alley on the
right which descended between garden walls to the lower level of the
town. A man who was lounging in the mouth of the alley muttered
"second door on the left," as Vaughan passed, and the latter moved on
counting the doors. At the one indicated he paused, and, after making
certain that he was not observed, he knocked. The door opened a little
way.

"For whom are you?" asked someone who kept himself out of sight.

"Buff and Blue," Vaughan answered.

"Right; sir," the voice rejoined briskly. The door opened wide and
Vaughan passed in. He found himself in a small walled garden smothered
in lilac and laburnum, and shaded by two great chestnut trees already
so fully in leaf as to hide the house to which the garden belonged.

The person who had admitted him, a very small, very neat gentleman in
a high-collared blue coat and nankeen trousers, with a redundant soft
cravat wound about his thin neck, bowed low. "Happy to see you, Mr.
Vaughan," he chirped. "I am Mr. Pybus, his lordship's man of business.
Happy to be the intermediary in so pleasant a matter."

"I hope it may turn out so," Vaughan replied drily. "You wrote me a
very mysterious note."

"Can't be too careful, sir," the little man, who was said to model
himself upon Lord John Russell, answered with an important frown.
"Can't be too careful in these matters. You're watched and I am
watched, sir."

"I dare say," Vaughan replied.

"And the responsibility is great, very great. May I----" he continued,
pulling out his box, "but I dare say you don't take snuff?"

"No."

"No? The younger generation! Just so! Many of the young gentry smoke,
I am told. Other days, other manners! Well--we know of course what
happened last night. And I'm bound to say, I honour you, Mr. Vaughan!
I honour you, sir."

"You can let that pass," Vaughan replied coldly.

"Very good! Very good! Of course," he continued with importance, "the
news was brought to me at once, and his lordship knew it before he
slept."

"Oh!"

"Yes, indeed. Yes. And he wrote to me this morning--in his dressing
gown, I don't doubt. He commanded me to tell you----"

But here Vaughan stopped him--somewhat rudely. "One minute, Mr.
Pybus," he said, "I don't wish to know what Lord Lansdowne said or
did--because it will not affect my conduct. I am here because you
requested me to grant you an interview. But if your purpose be merely
to convey to me Lord Lansdowne's approval--or disapproval," in a tone
a little more contemptuous than was necessary, "be good enough to
understand that they are equally indifferent to me. I have done what I
have done without regard to my cousin's--to Sir Robert Vermuyden's
feelings. You may take it for certain," he added loftily, "that I
shall not be led beyond my own judgment by any regard for his
lordship's."

"But hear me out!" the little man cried, dancing to and fro in his
eagerness; so that, in the shifting lights under the great chestnut
tree, he looked like a pert, bright-coloured bird. "Hear me out, and
you'll not say that!"

"I shall say, Mr. Pybus----"

"I beg you to hear me out!"

Vaughan shrugged his shoulders.

"Go on!" he said. "I have said my say, and I suppose you understand
me."

"I shall hold it unsaid," Mr. Pybus rejoined warmly, "until I have
spoken!" And he waved an agitated finger in the air. "Observe, Mr.
Vaughan--his lordship bade me take you entirely into confidence, and I
do so. We've only one candidate--Mr. Wrench. Colonel Petty is sure of
his election in Ireland and we've no mind to stand a second contest to
fill his seat: in fact we are not going to nominate him. Lord Kerry,
my lord's eldest son thought of it, but it is not a certainty, and my
lord wishes him to wait a year or two and sit for Calne. I say it's
not a certainty. But it's next door to a certainty since you have
declared yourself. And my lord's view, Mr. Vaughan, is that he who
hits the buck should have the haunch. You take me?"

"Indeed, I don't."

"Then I'll be downright, sir. To the point, sir. Will you be our
candidate?"

"What?" Vaughan cried. He turned very red. "What do you mean?"

"What I said, sir. Will you be our candidate? For the Bill, the whole
Bill, and nothing but the Bill? If so, we shall not say a word until
to-morrow and then we shall nominate you with Mr. Wrench, and take 'em
by surprise. Eh? Do you see? They've got their speeches ready full of
my lord's interference and my lord's dictation, and they will point to
Colonel Petty, my lord's cousin, for proof! And then," Mr. Pybus
winked, much after the fashion of a mischievous paroquet, "we'll knock
the stool from under 'em by nominating you! And, mind you, Mr.
Vaughan, we are going to win. We were hopeful before, for we've one of
their men in gaol, and another, Pillinger of the Blue Duck, is tied by
the leg. His wife owes a bit of money and thinks more of fifty guineas
in her own pocket than of thirty pounds a year in her husband's. And
she and the doctor have got him in bed and will see that he's not well
enough to vote! Ha! Ha! So there it is, Mr. Vaughan! There it is! My
lord's offer, not mine. I believe he'd word from London what you'd be
likely to do. Only he felt a delicacy about moving--until you declared
yourself."

"I see," Vaughan replied. And indeed he did see more than he liked.

"Just so, sir. My lord's a gentleman if ever there was one!" And Mr.
Pybus, pulling down his waistcoat, looked as if he suspected that he
had imbibed much of his lordship's gentility.

Vaughan stood, thinking; his eyes gazing into the shimmering depths of
green where the branches of the chestnut tree under which he stood
swept the sun-kissed turf. And as he thought he tried to still the
turmoil in his brain. Here within reach of his hand, to take or leave,
was that which had been his ambition for years! No longer to play at
the game, no longer to make believe while he addressed the Forum or
the Academic that he was addressing the Commons of England; but verily
and really to be one of that august body, and to have all within
reach. Had not the offer of cabinet honours fallen to Lord Palmerston
at twenty-five? And what Lord Palmerston had done at twenty-five, he
might do at thirty-five! And more easily, if he gained a footing
before the crowd of new members whom the Bill would bring in, took the
floor. The thought set his pulse a-gallop. His chance! His chance at
last! But if he let it slip now, it might not be his for long years.
It is poor work waiting for dead men's shoes.

And yet he hesitated, with a flushed face. For the thing offered
without price or preface, by a man who had power to push him, by the
man who even now was pushing Mr. Macaulay at Calne, tempted him
sorely. Nor less--nor less because he remembered with bitterness that
Sir Robert had made him no such offer, and now never would! So that if
he refused this offer, he could look for no second from either side!

And yet he could not forget that Sir Robert was his kinsman, was the
head of his family, the donor of his vote. And in the night watches he
had decided that, his mind delivered, his independence declared, he
would not vote. Neither for Sir Robert--for conscience's sake; nor
against Sir Robert, for his name's sake!

Then how could he not only take an active part against him, but raise
his fortunes on his fall?

He drew a deep breath. And he put the temptation from him. "I am much
obliged to his lordship," he said quietly. "But I cannot accept his
offer."

"Not accept it?" Mr. Pybus cried. "Mr. Vaughan! You don't mean it,
sir! You don't mean it! It's a safe seat! It's in your own hands, I
tell you! And after last night! Besides, it is not as if you had not
declared yourself."

"I cannot accept it," Vaughan repeated coldly. "I am obliged to Lord
Lansdowne for his kind thought of me. I beg you to convey my thanks to
him. But I cannot--in the position I occupy--accept the offer."

Mr. Pybus stared. Was it possible that the scene at the Vermuyden
dinner had been a ruse? A piece of play-acting to gain his secrets? If
so--he was undone! "But," he quavered with an unhappy eye, "you are in
favour of the Bill, Mr. Vaughan?"

"I am.

"And--and of Reform generally, I understand?"

"Certainly."

"Then--I don't understand? Why do you refuse?"

Vaughan raised his head and looked at him with a movement which would
have reminded Isaac White of Sir Robert. "That is my business," he
said.

"But you see," Mr. Pybus remonstrated timidly--he was rather a
crestfallen bird by this time--"I confess I was never more surprised
in my life! Never! You see I've told you all our secrets."

"I shall keep them."

"Yes, but--oh dear! oh dear!" Pybus was thinking of what he had said
about Mrs. Pillinger of the Blue Duck. "I--I don't know what to say,"
he added. "I am afraid I have been too hasty, very hasty! Very
precipitate! Of course, Mr. Vaughan," he continued, "the offer would
not have been made if we had not thought you certain to accept it!"

"Then," Vaughan replied with dignity, "you can consider that it has
not been made. I shall not name it for certain."

"Well! Well!"

"I can say no more," Vaughan continued coldly. "Indeed, there is
nothing more to be said, Mr. Pybus?"

"No," piteously, "I suppose not. If you really won't change your mind,
sir?"

"I shall not do that," the young man answered. And a minute later with
Mr. Pybus's faint appeals still sounding in his ears he was on the
other side of the garden door, and striding down the alley, towards
the King's Wall, whence making a detour he returned to the High
Street.



                                 XVI

                           LESS THAN A HERO


It was the evening of the day on which the meeting between Arthur
Vaughan and Mr. Pybus had taken place, and from the thirty-six windows
in the front of Stapylton lights shone on the dusky glades of the
park; here, twinkling fairy-like over the long slope of sward that
shimmered pale-green as with the ghostly reflection of dead daylight,
there, shining boldly upon the clump of beeches that topped an
eminence with blackness. Vaughan sat beside Isaac White in the
carriage which Sir Robert had sent for him; and looking curiously
forth on the demesne which would be his if he lived, he could scarcely
believe his eyes. Was the old squire so sure of victory that he
already illuminated his windows? Or was the house, long sparely
inhabited, and opened only at rare intervals and to dull and formal
parties, full now from attic to hall? Election or no election, it
seemed unlikely. Yet every window, yes, every window had its light!

He was too proud to question the agent who, his errand done, and his
message delivered, showed no desire to talk. More than once, indeed,
in the course of their short companionship, Vaughan had caught White
looking at him strangely; with something like pity in his eyes. And
though the young man was far from letting this distress him--probably
White, with his inborn reverence for Sir Robert, despaired of all who
fell under his displeasure--it closed his lips and hardened his heart.
He was no paid servant; but a kinsman and the heir. And he would have
Sir Robert remember this. For his own part, he was not going to forget
who he was; that a Chancellor had stooped to flatter him and a Cabinet
Minister had offered him a seat. He had refused for a point of honour
a bait which few would have refused; and he was not going to be
browbeaten by an old gentleman whom the world had out-paced, and whose
beliefs, whose prejudices, whose views, were of yesterday. Who, in his
profound ignorance of present conditions, would plunge England into
civil war rather than resign a privilege as obsolete as ship-money,
and as illegal as the Dispensing Power.

While he thought of this the carriage stopped at the door. He alighted
and ascended the steps.

The hall more than made good the outside promise; it was brilliantly
lighted, and behind Mapp and the servant who received him Vaughan had
a passing glimpse of three or four men in full-dress livery. From the
dining-room on his left issued peals of laughter, and voices, so clear
that, though he had not the smallest reason to expect to hear them
there, he was sure that he caught Bob Flixton's tones. The discovery
was not pleasing; but Mapp, turning the other way and giving him no
time to think, went before him to the suite of state-rooms--which he
had not seen in use more than thrice within his knowledge of the
house. It must be so then--he thought with a slight shock of surprise.
The place must be full! For the gilt mirrors in both the large and
small drawing-rooms reflected the soft light of many candles, wood
fires burned and crackled on the hearths, the "Morning Chronicle," the
"Quarterly," and other signs of life lay about on the round tables,
and an air of cheerful _bienséance_ pervaded all. What did it mean?

"Sir Robert has finished dinner, sir," Mapp said--even he seemed to
wear an unusual air of solemnity. "He will be with you, sir,
immediately. Hope you are well, sir?"

"Quite well, Mapp, thank you."

Then he was left alone--to wonder if a second surprise awaited him. He
had had one that day. If a second were in store for him what was its
nature? Could Sir Robert on his side be going to offer him one of the
seats--if he would recant? He hoped not. But he had not time to give
more than a thought to that before he heard footsteps and voices
crossing the hall. The next moment there entered the outer room--at
such a distance from the hearth of the room in which he stood, that he
had a leisurely view of all before they reached him--three persons.
The first was a tall burly man in slovenly evening clothes, and with
an ungainly rolling walk; after him came Sir Robert himself, and after
him again, Isaac White.

Vaughan advanced a step or two, and Sir Robert passed by the burly
man, who had a pendulous under lip, and a face at once flabby and
melancholy. The baronet held out his hand. "We have not quarrelled
yet, Mr. Vaughan," he said, with a cordiality which took Vaughan quite
by surprise. "I trust and believe that we are not going to quarrel. I
bid you welcome therefore. This," he continued with a gesture of
courteous deference, "is Sir Charles Wetherell, whom you know by
reputation, and whom, for a reason which you will understand by and
by, I have asked to be present at our interview."

The stout man eyed Vaughan from under bushy eyebrows. "I think we have
met before," he said in a deep voice. "At Westminster, Mr. Vaughan, on
the 22nd of last month." He had a habit of blinking as he talked. "I
was beholden to you on that occasion."

Vaughan had already recognised him and recalled the incident in Palace
Yard. He bowed with an expression of silent sympathy. But he wondered
all the more. The presence of the late attorney-general, a man of mark
in the political world, whose defeat at Norwich was in that morning's
paper--what did it mean? Did they think to browbeat him? Or--had Sir
Charles Wetherell also an offer to make to him? In any event it seemed
that he had made himself a personage by his independence. Sought by
the one side, sought by the other! A résumé of the answer he would
give flashed before him. However, they were not come to that yet!

"Will you sit down," said Sir Robert. The great man's voice and
manner--to Vaughan's surprise--were less autocratic and more friendly
than he had ever known them. Indeed, in comparison of the lion of last
evening he was but a mouse. "In the first place," he continued, "I am
obliged to you for your compliance with my wishes."

Vaughan murmured that he had come at no inconvenience to himself.

"I hope not," Sir Robert replied. "In the next place let me say, that
we have to speak to you on a matter of the first importance; a matter
also on which we have the advantage of knowledge which you have not.
It is my desire, therefore, to admit you to a parity with us in that
respect, Mr. Vaughan, before you express yourself on any subject on
which we are likely to differ."

Vaughan looked keenly, almost suspiciously at him; and an observer
would have noticed that there was a closer likeness between the two
men than the slender tie of blood warranted. "If it is a question, Sir
Robert," he said slowly, "of the subject on which we differed last
evening, I would prefer to say at once----"

"Don't!" Wetherell, who was seated within a long reach of him, struck
in. "Don't!" And he laid an elephantine and not over-clean hand on
Vaughan's knee. "You can spill words as easy as water," he continued,
"and they are as hard to pick up again. Hear what Vermuyden has
to say, and what I've to say--'tisn't much--and then blow your
trumpet--if you've any breath left!" he added _sotto voce_, as he
threw himself back.

Vaughan hesitated a moment. Then, "Very good," he said, "if you will
hear me afterwards. But----"

"But and If are two wenches always raising trouble!" Wetherell cried
coarsely. "Do you listen, Mr. Vaughan. Do you listen. Now, Vermuyden,
go on."

But Sir Robert did not seem to have words at command. He took a pinch
of snuff from the gold box with which his fingers trifled: and he
opened his mouth to resume; but he hesitated. At length, "What I have
to tell you, Mr. Vaughan," he said, in a voice more diffident than
usual, "had perhaps been more properly told by my attorney to yours. I
fully admit that," dusting the snuff from his frill. "And it would
have been so told but for--but for exigencies not immediately
connected with it, which are nevertheless so pressing as to--to induce
me to take the one step immediately possible. Less regular, but
immediately possible! In spite of this, you will believe, I am sure,
that I do not wish to take any advantage of you other than," he paused
with an embarrassed look at Wetherell, "that which my position gives
me. For the rest I"--he looked again at his snuffbox and hesitated--"I
think--I----"

"You'd better come to the point!" Wetherell growled impatiently,
jerking his ungainly person back in his chair, and lurching forward
again. "To the point, man! Shall I tell him?"

Sir Robert straightened himself--with a sigh of relief. "If you
please," he said, "I think you had better. It--it may come better from
you, as you are not interested."

Vaughan looked from one to the other, and wondered what on earth they
meant, and what they would be at. His cordial reception followed by
this strange exordium, the preparations, the presence of the three men
seated about him and all, it seemed, ill at ease--these things begot
instinctive misgivings; and an uneasiness, which it was not in the
power of reason to hold futile. What were they meditating? What
threat, what inducement? And what meant this strange illumination of
the house, this air of festivity? It could be nothing to him. And
yet--but Wetherell was speaking.

"Mr. Vaughan," he said gruffly--and he swayed himself as was his habit
to and fro in his seat, "my friend here, and your kinsman, has made a
discovery of--of the utmost possible importance to him; and, speaking
candidly, of scarcely less importance to you. I don't know whether you
read the trash they call novels now-a-days--'The Disowned'" with a
snort of contempt, "and 'Tremayne' and the rest? I hope not, I don't!
But it's something devilish like the stuff they put in them that I've
to tell you. You'll believe it or not, as you please. You think
yourself heir to the Stapylton estates? Of course you do. Sir Robert
has no more than a life-interest, and if he has no children, the
reversion in fee, as we lawyers call it, is yours. Just so. But if he
has children, son or daughter, you are ousted, Mr. Vaughan."

"Are you going to tell me," Vaughan said, his face grown suddenly
rigid, "that he has children?" His heart was beating furiously under
his waistcoat, but, taken aback as he was, he maintained outward
composure.

"That's it," Wetherell answered bluntly.

"Then----"

"He has a daughter."

"It will have to be proved!" Vaughan said slowly and in the tone of a
man who chose his words. And he rose to his feet. He felt, perhaps he
was justified in feeling, that they had taken him at a disadvantage.
That they had treated him unfairly in trapping him hither, one to
three; in order that they might see, perhaps, how he took it! Not--his
thoughts travelled rapidly over the facts known to him--that the thing
could be true! The punishment for last night's revolt fell too pat,
too _à propos_, he'd not believe it! And besides, it could not be
true. For Lady Vermuyden lived, and there could be no question of a
concealed marriage, or a low-born family. "It will have to be proved!"
he repeated firmly. "And is matter rather for my lawyers than for me."

Sir Robert, too, had risen to his feet. But it was Wetherell who
spoke.

"Perhaps so!" he said. "Perhaps so. Indeed I admit it, young sir! It
will have to be proved. But----"

"It should have been told to them rather than to me!" Vaughan
repeated, with a sparkling eye. And he turned as if he were determined
to treat them as hostile and to have nothing farther to say to them.

But Wetherell stopped him. "Stay, young man," he said, "and be ashamed
of yourself! You forget yourself!" And before Vaughan, stung and
angry, could retort upon him, "You forget," he continued, "that this
touches another as closely as it touches you--and more closely! You
are a gentleman, sir, and Sir Robert's kinsman. Have you no word then,
for him!" pointing, with a gesture roughly eloquent, to his host. "You
lose, but have you no word for him who gains! You lose, but is it
nothing to him that he finds himself childless no longer, heirless no
longer? That his house is no longer lonely, his hearth no longer
empty! Man alive," he added, dropping with honest indignation to a low
note, "you lose, but what does he not gain? And have you no word, no
generous thought for him? Bah!" throwing himself back in his seat.
"Poor human nature."

"Still it must be proved," said Vaughan sullenly, though in his heart
he acknowledged the truth of the reproach.

"Granted! But will you not hear what it is, that is to be proved?"
Wetherell retorted. "If so, sit down, sir, sit down, and hear what we
have to tell you like a man. Will you do that," in a tone of extreme
exasperation, which did but reflect the slowly hardening expression of
Sir Robert's face, "or are you quite a fool?"

Vaughan hesitated, looking with angry eyes on Wetherell. Then he sat
down. "Am I to understand," he said coldly, "that this is news to Sir
Robert?"

"It was news to him yesterday."

Vaughan bowed and was silent; aware that a more generous demeanour
would better become him, but unable to compass it on the spur of the
moment. He was ignorant--unfortunately--of the spirit in which he had
been summoned: consequently he could not guess that every word he
uttered rang churlishly in the ears of more than one of his listeners.
He was no churl; but he was taken unfairly--as it seemed to him. And
to be called upon in the first moment of chagrin to congratulate Sir
Robert on an event which ruined his own prospects and changed his
life--was too much. Too much! But again Wetherell was speaking.

"You shall know what we know from the beginning," he said, in his
heavy melancholy way. "You are aware, I suppose, that Sir Robert
married--in the year '10, was it not?--Yes, in the year '10, and that
Lady Vermuyden bore him one child, a daughter, who died in Italy in
the year '15. It appears now--we are in a position to prove, I
think--that that child did not die in that year, nor in any year; but
is now alive, is in this country and can be perfectly identified."

Vaughan coughed. "This is strange news," he said, "after all these
years; and somewhat sudden, is it not?"

Sir Robert's face grew harder, but Wetherell only shrugged his
shoulders. "If you will listen," he replied, "you will know all that
we know. It is no secret, at any rate in this room it is no secret,
that in the year '14 Sir Robert fancied that he had grave reason to be
displeased with Lady Vermuyden. It was thought by her friends that a
better agreement might be produced by a temporary separation, and the
child's health afforded a pretext. Accordingly, Sir Robert suffered
Lady Vermuyden to take it abroad, her suite consisting of a courier, a
maid, and a nurse. The nurse she sent back to England not long
afterwards on the plea that an Italian woman from whom the child might
learn the language would be better. For my part, I believe that she
acted bonâ-fide in this. But in other respects," puffing out his
cheeks, "her conduct was such as to alarm her husband; and, in terms
perhaps too peremptory, Sir Robert bade her return at once--or cease
to consider his house as her home. Her answer was the announcement of
the child's death."

"And that it did not die," Vaughan murmured, "as Lady Vermuyden said?"

"We have this evidence. But first let me say, that Sir Robert on the
receipt of the news set out for Italy overland. The Hundred Days,
however, stopped him; he could not cross France, and he returned
without certifying the child's death. He had indeed no suspicion, no
reason for suspicion. Well, then, for evidence that it did not die.
The courier is dead, and there remains only the maid. She is alive,
she is here, she is in this house. And it is from her that we have
learned the truth--that the child did not die."

He paused a moment, brooding in his fat, melancholy way on the pattern
of the carpet between his feet. Sir Robert, with a face hard and
proud, sat upright, listening to the tale of his misfortunes--and
doubtless suffered torments as he listened.

"Her story," Wetherell resumed--possibly he had been arranging his
thoughts--"is this. Lady Vermuyden was living a life of the wildest
gaiety. She had no affection for the child; if the woman is to be
believed, she hated it. To part with it was nothing to her one way or
the other, and on receipt of Sir Robert's order to return, her
ladyship conceived the idea of punishing him by abducting the child
and telling him it was dead. She set out from Florence with it; on the
way she left it at Orvieto in charge of the Italian nurse, and
arriving in Rome she put about the story of its death. Shortly
afterwards she had it carried to England and bred up in an
establishment near London--always with the aid and connivance of her
maid."

"The maid's name?" Vaughan asked.

"Herapath--Martha Herapath. But to proceed. By and by Lady Vermuyden
returned to England, and settled at Brighton, and the maid left her
and married, but continued to draw a pension from her. Lady Vermuyden
persisted here--in the company of Lady Conyng--but I need name no
names--in the same course of giddiness, if no worse, which she had
pursued abroad; and gave little if any heed to the child. But this
woman Herapath never forgot that the pension she enjoyed was dependent
on her power to prove the truth: and when a short time back the girl,
now well-grown, was withdrawn from her knowledge, she grew restive.
She sought Lady Vermuyden, always a creature of impulse, and when her
ladyship, foolish in this as in all things, refused to meet her views
she--she came to us," he continued, lifting his head abruptly and
looking at Vaughan, "and told us the story."

"It will have to be proved," Vaughan said stubbornly.

"No doubt, strictly proved," Wetherell replied. "In the meantime if
you would like to peruse the facts in greater detail, they are here,
as taken down from the woman's mouth." He drew from his capacious
breast-pocket a manuscript consisting of several sheets which he
unfolded and flattened on his knee. He handed it to Vaughan.

The young man took it, without looking at Sir Robert: and with his
thoughts in a whirl--and underlying them a sick feeling of impending
misfortune--he proceeded to read it, line after line, without taking
in a single word. For all the time his brain was at work measuring the
change. His modest competence would be left to him. He would have
enough to live as he was now living, and to pursue his career; or, in
the alternative, he might settle down as a small squire in his
paternal home in South Wales. But the great inheritance which had
loomed large in the background of his life and had been more to him
than he had admitted, the future dignity which he had undervalued
while he thought it his own, the position more enviable than many a
peer's, and higher by its traditions than any to which he could attain
by his own exertions, though he reached the Woolsack--these were gone
if Wetherell's tale was true. Gone in a moment, at a word! And though
he might have lost more, though many a man had lost his all by such a
stroke and smiled, he was no hero, and he could not on the instant
smile. He could not in a moment oust all bitterness. He knew that he
was taking the news unworthily; that he was playing a poor part. But
he could not force himself to play a better--on the instant. When he
had read with unseeing eyes to the bottom of the first page and had
turned it mechanically, he let the papers fall upon his knee.

"You do not wish me," he said slowly, "to express an opinion now, I
suppose?"

"No," Wetherell answered. "Certainly not. But I have not quite done. I
have not quite done," he repeated ponderously. "I should tell you that
for opening the matter to you now--we have two reasons, Mr. Vaughan.
Two reasons. First, we think it due to you--as one of the family. And
secondly, Vermuyden desires that from the beginning, his intentions
shall be clear and--be understood."

"I thoroughly understand them," Vaughan answered drily. No one was
more conscious than he that he was behaving ill.

"That is just what you do not!" Wetherell retorted stolidly. "You
spill words, young man, and by and by you will wish to pick them up
again. You cannot anticipate, at any rate, you have no right to
anticipate, Sir Robert's intentions, of which he has asked me to be
the mouthpiece. The estate, of course, and the settled funds must go
to his daughter. But there is, it appears, a large sum arising from
the economical management of the property, which is at his disposal.
He feels," Wetherell continued sombrely, an elbow on each knee and his
eyes on the floor, "that some injustice has been done to you, and he
desires to compensate you for that injustice. He proposes, therefore,
to secure to you the succession to two-thirds of this sum; which
amounts--which amounts, in the whole I believe"--here he looked at
White--"to little short of eighty thousand pounds."

Vaughan, who had been more than once on the point of interrupting him,
did so at last. "I could not accept it!" he exclaimed impulsively. And
he rose, with a hot face, from his seat. "I could not accept it."

"As a legacy?" Wetherell, who was fond of money, said with a queer
look. "As a legacy, eh? Why not?" While Sir Robert, with compressed
lips, almost repented of his generosity. He had looked for some show
of good-feeling, some word of sympathy, some felicitation from the
young man, who, after all, was his blood relation. But if this was to
be his return, if his advances were to be met with suspicion, his
benevolence with churlishness, then all, all in this young man was of
a piece--and detestable!

And certainly Vaughan was not showing himself in the best light. He
was conscious that he had taken the news ill; but he could not change
his attitude in a moment. Under no circumstances is it an easy thing
to take a gift with grace: to take one with grace under these
circumstances--and when he had already misbehaved--was beyond him, as
it would have been beyond most men.

For a moment drawn this way by his temper, that way by his better
feelings, he did not know how to answer Wetherell's last words. At
last and lamely, "May I ask," he said, "why Sir Robert makes me this
offer while the matter lies open?"

"Sir Robert will prove his case," Wetherell answered gruffly, "if that
is what you mean."

"I mean----"

"He does not ask you to surrender anything."

"I am bound to say, then, that the offer is very generous," Vaughan
replied, melting, and speaking with some warmth. "Most generous.
But----"

"He asks you to surrender nothing," Wetherell repeated stolidly, his
face between his knees.

"But I still think it is premature," Vaughan persisted doggedly. "And
handsome as it is, more than handsome as it is, I think that it would
have come with greater force, were my position first made clear!"

"Maybe," Wetherell said, his face still hidden. "I don't deny that."

"As it is," with a deep breath, "I am taken by surprise. I do not know
what to say. I find it hard to say anything in the first flush of the
matter." And Vaughan looked from one to the other. "So, for the
present, with Sir Robert's permission," he continued, "and without any
slight to his generosity, I will take leave. If he is good enough, to
repeat on some future occasion, this very handsome--this uncalled for
and generous offer, which he has now outlined, I shall know, I hope,
what is due to him, without forgetting what is due also to myself. In
the meantime I have only to thank him and----"

But the belated congratulation which was on his lips and which might
have altered many things, was not to be uttered.

"One moment!" Sir Robert struck in. "One moment!" He spoke with a
hardness born of long suppressed irritation. "You have taken your
stand, Mr. Vaughan, strictly on the defensive, I see----"

"But I think you understand----"

"Strictly on the defensive," the baronet repeated, requiring silence
by a gesture. "You must not be surprised therefore, if I--nay, let me
speak!--if I also say a word on a point which touches me."

"I wouldn't!" Wetherell growled in his deep voice; and for an instant
he raised his huge face, and looked stolidly at the wall before him.

But Sir Robert was not to be bidden. "I think otherwise," he said.
"Mr. Vaughan, the election to-morrow touches me very nearly--in more
ways than one. The vote you have, you received at my hands and hold
only as my heir. I take it for granted, therefore, that under the
present circumstances, you will use it as I desire."

"Oh!" Vaughan said. And drawing himself up to his full height he
passed his eyes slowly from one to the other with a singular smile.
"Oh!" he repeated--and there was a world of meaning in his tone. "Am I
to understand then----"

"I have made myself quite clear," Sir Robert cried, his manner
betraying his agitation.

"Am I to understand," Vaughan persisted, "that the offer which you
made me a few minutes back, the generous and handsome offer," he
continued with a faint note of irony in his voice, "was dependent on
my conduct to-morrow? Am I to understand that?"

"If you please to put it so," Sir Robert replied, his voice quivering
with the resentment he had long and patiently suppressed. "And if your
own sense of honour does not dictate to you how to act."

"But do you put it so?"

"Do you mean----"

"I mean," Vaughan said, "does the offer depend on the use I make of my
vote to-morrow? That is the point, Sir Robert!"

"No," Wetherell muttered indistinctly.

But again Sir Robert would not be bidden. "I will be frank," he said
haughtily. "And my answer is, yes! yes! For I do not conceive, Mr.
Vaughan, that a gentleman would take so great a benefit, and refuse so
slight a service! A service, too, which, quite apart from this offer,
most men----"

"Thank you," Vaughan replied, interrupting him. "That is clear
enough." And he looked from one to the other with a smile of
amusement; the smile of a man suddenly reinstated in his own
opinion--and once more master of his company. "Now I understand," he
continued. "I see now why the offer which a few minutes ago seemed so
premature, so strangely premature, was made this evening. To-morrow it
had been made too late! My vote had been cast and I could no longer
be--bribed!"

"Bribed, sir?" cried Sir Robert, red with anger.

"Yes, bribed, sir. But let me tell you," Vaughan went on, allowing the
bitterness which he had been feeling to appear, "let me tell you, Sir
Robert, that if not only my future, but my present, if my all, were at
stake--I should resent such an offer as an insult!"

Sir Robert took a step towards the bell and stopped.

"An insult!" Vaughan repeated firmly. "As great an insult as I should
inflict upon you, if I were unwise enough to do the errand I was asked
to do a week ago--by a cabinet minister. And offered you, Sir Robert,
here in your own house, a peerage conditional on your support of the
Bill!"

"A peerage?" Sir Robert's eyes seemed to be starting from his head. "A
peerage! Conditional on my----"

"Yes, sir, conditional on your renunciation of those opinions which
you honestly hold as I honestly hold mine!" Vaughan repeated coolly.
"I will make the offer if you wish it."

Wetherell rose ponderously. "See here!" he said. "Listen to me, will
you, you two! You, Vermuyden, as well as the young man. You will both
be sorry for what you are saying now! Listen to me! Listen to me,
man!"

But the baronet was already tugging at the bell-rope. He was no
longer red; he was white with anger. And not without reason. This
whipper-snapper, this pettifogging lad, just out of his teens, to talk
to him of peerages, to patronise him, to offer him--to--to----

For a moment he stammered and could not speak. At last, "Enough!
Enough, sir; leave my house!" he cried, shaking from head to foot with
passion, and losing for the first time in many years his self-control.
"Leave my house," he repeated furiously, "and never set foot in it
again! Not a pound, and not a penny will you have of mine! Never!
Never! Never!"

Vaughan smiled, "Very good, sir," he said, shrugging his shoulders.
"Your fortune is your own. But----"

"Begone, sir! Not another word, but go!"

Vaughan raised his eyebrows, bowed in a ceremonious fashion to
Wetherell, and nodded to White, who stood petrified and gaping. Then
he walked slowly through that room and the next, and with one backward
smile--vanished.

And this time, as he passed through the hall, narrowly missing Flixton
who was leaving the dining-room, there could be no doubt that the
breach was complete, that the small cordiality which had existed
between the two men was at an end. The Bill, which had played so many
mischievous tricks, severed so many old friends, broken the ties of so
many years, had dealt no one a more spiteful blow than it had dealt
Arthur Vaughan.



                                 XVII

                        THE CHIPPINGE ELECTION


The great day on which the Borough of Chippinge was to give its vote,
Aye or No, Reform or No Reform, the Rule of the Few or the Rule of the
Many, was come; and in the large room on the first floor of the White
Lion were assembled a score of persons deeply interested in the issue.
Those who had places at the three windows were gazing on what was
going forward in the space below; and it was noticeable that while the
two or three who remained in the background talked and joked, these
were silent; possibly because the uproar without made hearing
difficult. The hour was early, the business of the day was to come,
but already the hub-bub was indescribable. Nor was that all; every
minute some missile, a much enduring cabbage-stalk, or a dead
cat in Tory colours, rose to a level with the windows, hovered, and
sank--amid a storm of groans or cheers. For the most part, indeed,
these missiles fell harmless. But that the places of honour at the
windows were not altogether places of safety was proved by a couple of
shattered panes, as well as by the sickly hue of some among the
spectators.

Nearly all who had attended the Vermuyden dinner were in the room.
But, for certain, things which had worn one aspect across the
mahogany, wore another now. At the table old and young had made light
of the shoving and mauling and drubbing through which they had forced
their way to the good things before them; they had even made a jest of
the bit of a rub they were likely to have on the polling day. Now, the
sight of the noisy crowd which filled the open space, from the head of
the High Street to the wall of the Abbey, and from the Vineyard east
of it, almost to the West Port--made their bones ache. They looked,
even the boldest, at one another. The heart of Dewell, the barber, was
in his boots; the rector stared aghast; and Mowatt, the barrister,
Arthur Vaughan's ill-found friend, wished for once that he was on the
vulgar side.

True, the doors of the White Lion were guarded by a sturdy phalanx of
Vermuyden lads; mustered with what difficulty and kept together by
what arguments, White best knew. But what were two or three score,
however faithful, and however strong, against the hundreds and
thousands who swayed and cheered and groaned before the Inn? Who
swarmed upon the old town-cross until they hid every inch of the
crumbling stonework; who clung to every niche and buttress of the
Abbey; and from whose mass as from a sea the solitary church spire
rose like some lighthouse cut off by breakers? Who, here, forgetful of
their Wiltshire birth cheered the Birmingham tub-thumper to the echo,
and there, roared stern assent to the wildest statements of the
Political Union?

True, a dozen banners and thrice as many flags gave something of a
festive air to the scene. But the timid who tried to draw solace from
these retreated appalled by the daring "Death or Freedom!" inscribed
on one banner: or the scarcely less bold "The Sovereign People," which
bellied above the clothiers. The majority of the placards bore nothing
worse than the watchword of the party: "The Bill, the whole Bill, and
nothing but the Bill!" or "Retrenchment and Reform!" or--in reference
to the King--"God bless the two Bills!" But for all that, Dewell, the
barber--and some more who would not have confessed it--wished the day
well over and no bones broken! A great day for Chippinge, but a day on
which many an old score was like to be paid, many a justice to hear
the commonalty's opinion of him, many a man who had thriven under the
old rule, to read the writing on the wall!

Certainly nothing like the spectacle visible from the White Lion
windows had been seen in Chippinge within living memory. The Abbey,
indeed, which had seen the last of the mitred Abbots pass out--shorn
of his strength, and with weeping townsfolk about him in lieu of
belted knights--that pile, stately in its ruin, which had witnessed a
revolution greater even than this which impended, and more tragic,
might have viewed its pair, might have seen its precincts seethe as
they seethed now. But no living man. Nor did those who scanned the
crowd from the White Lion find aught to lessen its terrors. There
were, indeed, plenty of decent, respectable people in the crowd, who,
though they were set on gaining their rights, had no notion of
violence. But wood burns when it is kindled: and here at the corner of
the Heart and Hand, the Whig headquarters, was a spark like to light
the fire--Boston, the bruiser, and a dozen of his fellows; men who
were, one and all, the idols of the yokels who stood about them and
stared. Pybus, who had brought them hither, was not to be seen; he was
weaving his spells in the Heart and Hand. But Mr. Williams, White-Hat
Williams, the richest man in Chippinge, who, voteless, had only lived
of late to see this day--he was here at the head of his clothmen, and
as fierce as the poorest. And half-a-dozen lesser men there were of
the same kind; sallow Blackford, the Methodist, the fugleman of every
dissenter within ten miles; and two or three small lawyers whom the
landlords did not employ, and two or three apothecaries who were in
the same case. With these were one or two famished curates, with
Sydney Smith for their warranty, and his saying about Dame
Partington's Mop and the Atlantic on their lips; and a sprinkling of
spouters from the big towns--men who had the glories of Orator Hunt
and William Cobbett before their eyes. And everywhere, working in the
mass like yeast, moved a score of bitter malcontents--whom the old
system had bruised under foot--poachers whom Sir Robert had jailed, or
the lovers of maids as frail as fair, or labourers whom the Poor Laws
had crushed--a score of malcontents whose grievances long muttered in
pothouses now flared to light and cried for vengeance. In a word,
there were the elements of mischief in the crowd: and under the
surface an ugly spirit. Even the most peaceable were grim, knowing it
was now or never. So that the faces at the White Lion windows grew
longer as their owners gazed and listened.

"I don't know what's come to the people!" the Rector bawled, turning
about to make himself heard by his neighbour. "Eh, what?"

"I'd like to see Lord Grey hung!" answered Squire Rowley, his face
purple. "And Lord Lansdowne with him! What do you say, sir?" to
Sergeant Wathen.

"Fortunate a show of hands don't carry it!" the Sergeant cried,
shrugging his shoulders with an assumption of easiness.

"Carry it? Of course we'll carry it!" the Squire replied wrathfully.
"I suppose two and two still make four!"

Isaac White, who was whispering with a man in a corner of the room,
wished that he was sure of that; or, rather, that three and two made
six. But the Squire was continuing. "Bah!" he cried in disgust. "Give
these people votes? Look at 'em! Look at 'em, sir! Votes indeed! Votes
indeed! Give 'em oakum, I say!"

He forgot that nine-tenths of those below were as good as the voters
at his elbow, who were presently to return two members for Chippinge.
Or rather, it did not occur to him, good old Tory as he was, and
convinced,


          _'Twas the Jacobins brought every mischief about_,


that Dewell's vote was Dewell's, or Annibal's Annibal's.

Meanwhile, "I wish we were safe at the hustings!" young Mowatt shouted
in the ear of the man who stood in front of him.

The man chanced to be Cooke, the other candidate. He turned. "At the
hustings?" he said irascibly. "Do you mean, sir, that we are expected
to fight our way through that rabble?"

"I am afraid we must," Mowatt answered.

"Then it--has been d----d badly arranged!" retorted the outraged
Cooke, who never forgot that as he paid well for his seat it ought to
be a soft one. "Go through this mob, and have our heads broken?"

The faces of those who could hear him grew longer. "And it wants only
five minutes of ten," complained a third. "We ought to be going now."

"D----n me, but suppose they don't let us go!" cried Cooke. "Badly
arranged! I should think it is, sir! D----d badly arranged! The
hustings should have been on this side."

But hitherto the hustings had been at Chippinge a matter of form, and
it had not occurred to anyone to alter their position--cheek by jowl
with the Whig headquarters, but divided by seventy yards of seething
mob from the White Lion. However, White, on an appeal being made to
him, put a better face on the matter. "It's all right, gentlemen," he
said, "it's all right! If they have the hustings, we have the
returning officer, and they can do nothing without us. I've seen Mr.
Pybus, and I have his safe conduct for our party to go to the
hustings."

But it is hard to satisfy everybody, and at this there was a fresh
outcry. "A safe conduct?" cried the Squire, redder about the gills
than before. "For shame, sir! Are we to be indebted to the other side
for a safe conduct! I never heard of such a thing!"

"I quite agree with you," cried the Rector. "Quite! I protest, Mr.
White, against anything of the kind."

But White was unmoved. "We've got to get our voters there," he said.
"Sir Robert will be displeased, I know, but----"

"Never was such a thing heard of!"

"No, sir, but never was such an election," White answered with spirit.

"Where is Sir Robert?"

"He'll be here presently," White replied. "He'll be here presently.
Anyway, gentlemen," he continued, "we had better be going down to the
hall. In a body, gentlemen, if you please, and voters in the middle.
And keep together, if you please. A little shouting," he added
cheerfully, "breaks no bones. We can shout too!"

The thing was unsatisfactory, and without precedent; nay, humiliating.
But there seemed to be nothing else for it. As White said, this
election was not as other elections; Bath was lost, and Bristol, too,
it was whispered; the country was gone mad. And so, frowning and
ill-content, the magnates trooped out, and led by White began to
descend the stairs. There was much confusion, one asking if the
Alderman was there, another demanding to see Sir Robert, here a man
grumbling about White's arrangements, there a man silent over the
discovery, made perhaps for the first time, that here was like to be
an end of old Toryism and the loaves and the fishes it had dispensed.

In the hall where the party was reinforced by a crowd of their smaller
supporters a man plucked White's sleeve and drew him aside. "She's out
now!" he whispered. "Pybus has left two with him and they won't leave
him for me. But if you went and ordered them out there's a chance
they'd go, and----"

"The doctor's not there?"

"No, and Pillinger's well enough to come, if you put it strong. He's
afraid of his wife and they've got him body and soul, but----"

White cast a despairing eye on the confusion about him. "How can I
come?" he muttered. "I must get these to the poll first."

"Then you'll never do it!" the man retorted. "There'll be no coming
and going, to-day, Mr. White, you take it from me. Now's the time
while they're waiting for you in front. You can slip out at the back
and bring him in and take him with you. It's the only way, so help me!
They're in that temper we'll be lucky if we're all alive to-morrow!"

The man was right; and White knew it, yet he hesitated. If he had had
an _aide_ fit for the task, the thing might be done. But to go
himself--he on whom everything fell! He reflected. Possibly Arthur
Vaughan might not vote for the enemy after all. But if he did, Sir
Robert would poll only five to six, and be beaten! Unless he polled
Pillinger, when the returning officer's vote, of which he was sure,
would give him the election. Pillinger's vote, therefore, was vital;
everything turned upon it. And he determined to go. His absence would
only cause a little delay, and he must risk that. He slipped away.

He was missed at once, and the discovery redoubled the confusion. One
asked where he was, and another where Sir Robert was; while Cooke in
tones louder and more irritable than was prudent found fresh fault,
and wished to heaven that he had never seen the place. Long accustomed
to one-sided contests of which both parties knew the issue, the Tory
managers were helpless; they were aware that the hour had struck, and
that they were expected, but without White they were uncertain how to
act. Some cried that White had gone on, and that they should follow;
some that Sir Robert was to meet them at the hustings, others that
they might as well be home as waiting there! While the babel without
deafened and distracted them. At last, without order given, they found
themselves moving out.

Their reception did not clear their brains. Such a roar of execration
as greeted them had never been heard in Chippinge: the hair on Dewell,
the barber's, head stood up, the Alderman's checks grew pale, Cooke
dropped his cane, the stoutest flinched. Changed indeed were the times
from those a year or two past when their exit had been greeted by
sycophantic cheers, or, at worst, by a little good-humoured jesting!
Now the whole multitude in the open, not in one part, but in every
part, knew as by instinct of their setting forth, brandished on the
instant a thousand arms at them, deafened them with a thousand voices,
demanded monotonously "The Bill! The Bill!" Nor had the demonstration
stopped there, but for the intervention of a body of a hundred Whig
stalwarts who, posting themselves on the flanks of the derided
procession, conferred on its slow march an ignoble safety.

No wonder that many a one who found himself thus guarded rubbed his
eyes. The times were changed indeed! No more despotism of Squire and
Parson, no more monopoly of places, no more nominated members, no more
elections that did but mock men who had no share in them, no more
"Cripples," no more snug jobs! The Tories might agree with Mr. Fudge


      _That this passion for roaring had come in of late
       Since the rabble all tried for a voice in the State_,


and foretell the ruinous outcome of it. But the thing was, the
many-headed, the many-handed had them in its grip. They must go
meekly, or not at all; with visions of French fish-fags and
guillotines before their eyes, and wondering, most of them--as they
tried to show a bold front, tried to wave their banners and give some
answering shout to the sea that beat upon them--how they would get
home again with whole skins!

Perhaps there was only one of them who never had that thought; though
he, alone of them all, was unaware of the precautions taken for his
safety. That was Sir Robert Vermuyden, the master of all, the patron,
the Borough-monger! Attended by Bob Flixton, who had come with him
from Bristol to see the fun--and whose voice it will be remembered
Vaughan had overheard at Stapylton the evening before--and by two or
three other guests, he had entered the White Lion from the rear;
arriving in time to fall in--somewhat surprised at his supporters'
precipitation--at the tail of the procession. The moment he was
recognised by the crowd he was greeted with a roar of "Down with the
Borough-monger!" that fairly appalled his companions. But he faced it
calmly, imperturbably, quietly; a little paler, a little prouder, and
a little sterner perhaps than usual, but with a gleam in his eyes that
had not been seen in them for years. For answer to all he smiled with
a curling lip: and it is probable that as much as any hour in his life
he enjoyed this hour, which put him to the test before those over whom
he had ruled so long. His caste might be passing, the days of his
power might be numbered, the waves of democracy might be rising about
the system in which he believed the safety of England to lie; but no
man should see him falter. No veteran of the old noblesse in days
which Sir Robert could remember had gone to his fate more proudly than
the English patrician was prepared to go to his, ay, and though worse
than the guillotine awaited him.

His contemptuous attitude, his fearless bearing, impressed the crowd,
appreciative at bottom, of courage. And presently, where he turned his
cold, smiling eyes they gaped instead of hissing: and one here and
there under the magic of his look doffed hat or carried hand to
forehead, and henceforth was mute. And so great is the sympathy of all
parts of a mob that this silence spread quickly, mysteriously, at
last, wholly. So that when he, last of his party, stepped on the
hustings, there was for a moment a complete stillness; a stillness of
expectation, while he looked round; such a stillness as startled the
leaders of the opposition. It could not be--it could not be, that
after all, the old lion would prove too much for them!

White-Hat Williams roared aloud in his rage. "Up hats and shout,
lads," he yelled, "or by G--d the d----d Tories will do us after all!
Are you afraid of them, you lubbers! Shout, lads, shout!"



                                XVIII

                  THE CHIPPINGE ELECTION (Continued)


The beast that was in the crowd answered to the spur. "Ye've robbed us
long enough, ye old rascal!" a harsh Midland voice shrieked over the
heads of the throng. "We'll have our rights now, you blood-sucker!"
And "Boo! Boo!" the lower elements of the mob broke forth. And then in
stern cadence, "The Bill! The Bill! The Bill!"

"Out of Egypt, and out of the House of Bondage!" shrieked a Methodist
above the hub-bub.

"Ay, ay!"

"Slaves no longer!"

"No! No! No!"

"Hear that, ye hoary tyrant!" in a woman's shrill tones. "Who jailed
my man for a hare?"

A roar of laughter which somewhat cleared the air followed this. Sir
Robert smiled grimly.

The hustings, a mere wooden platform, raised four feet above the
ground, rested against the Abbey gateway. It was closed at the rear
and at each end; but in front it was guarded only by a stout railing.
And so public was it, and so exposed its dangerous eminence, that the
more timid of the unpopular party were no sooner upon it than they
yearned for the safe obscurity of the common level. Of the three
booths into which the interior was divided, the midmost was reserved
for the returning officer and his staff.

Bob Flixton, who kept close to Sir Robert's elbow, looked down on the
sea of jeering faces. "I tell you what it is," he said. "We're going
to have a confounded row!"

Mowatt, at some distance from him, was of the same opinion, but
regarded the outlook differently. "It's my belief," he muttered, "that
we shall all be murdered."

And "D----n the Bill!" the old Squire ejaculated. "The people are off
their heads! Jack as good as his master, and better too!"

These four, with the candidates, were in the front row. The Rector,
the Alderman, and one or two of the neighbouring gentry shared the
honour; and faced as well as they could the hooting and yelling, and
the occasional missile. In the front of the other booth were White-Hat
Williams and Blackford, the minister, Mr. Wrench, the candidate,
wreathed in smiles, a pair of Whig Squires from the Bowood side, a
curate of the same colour, Pybus--and Arthur Vaughan!

A thrill ran through Sir Robert's supporters when they saw his young
kinsman on the other side; actually on the other side and arrayed
against them. Their hearts, already low, sank a peg lower. Of evil
omens this seemed the worst; sunk is the cause the young desert! And
many were the curious eyes that searched the renegade's features and
strove to read his thoughts.

But in vain. His head high, his face firmly composed, Vaughan looked
stonily before him. Nor was it possible to say whether he was really
unmoved, was stolidly indifferent, or merely masked agitation. Sir
Robert on his side never looked at him, nor betrayed any sense of his
presence. But he knew. He knew! And with the first bitter presage of
defeat--for he was not a man to be intimidated by noise--he repeated
his vow: "Not a pound, nor a penny! Never! Never!" This public
renunciation, this wanton defiance--he would never forgive it!
Henceforth, it must be war to the knife between them. No thousands, no
compensation, no compromise! As the young man was sowing, so he should
reap. He who, in its darkest hour not only insulted but abandoned his
family, what punishment was too severe for him?

Vaughan could make a good guess at the proud autocrat's feelings: and
he averted his eyes with care. The proceedings here opened, and he
listened laughingly; until midway in the reading of some document
which no one heeded--the crowd jeering and flouting merrily--he caught
a new note in the turmoil. The next moment he was conscious of a
swirling movement among those below him, there was a rush of the
throng to his right, and he looked quickly to see what it meant.

A man--one of a group of three or four who appeared to be trying to
push their way through the crowd--was being hustled and flung to and
fro amid jeers and taunts. He was striving to gain the hustings, but
was still some way from it; and his chance of reaching it with his
clothes on his back seemed small. Vaughan saw so much; then the man
lost his temper, and struck a blow. It was returned--and then, not
till then, Vaughan saw that the man was Isaac White. He cried
"Shame!"--and had passed one leg over the barriers to go to the
rescue, when he saw that another was before him. Sir Robert's tall,
spare figure was down among the crowd--which opened instinctively
before his sharp command. His eyes, his masterful air still had power;
the press opened instinctively before his sharp command. He had
reached White, had extricated him, and turned to make good his
retreat, when it seemed to strike the more brutal element in the
crowd--mostly strangers to him--that here was the prime enemy of the
cause, on foot amongst them, at their mercy! A rush was made at his
back. He turned undaunted, White and two more at his side; the rabble
recoiled. But when he wheeled again, a second rush was made, and they
were upon him, and hustled him before he could turn. A man with a long
stick struck off his hat, another--a lout with a cockade of amber and
blue, the Whig colours--tried to trip him up. He stumbled, at the same
moment a third man knocked White down.

"Yah! Down with him!" roared the crowd, "Down with the
Borough-monger!"

But Vaughan, who had anticipated rather than seen the stumble, was
over the rail, and cleaving the crowd, was at his side. He reached him
a little in front of Bob Flixton, who had descended to the rescue from
the other end of the booth. Vaughan hurled back the man who had
tripped Sir Robert and who was still trying to throw him down; and the
sight of the amber and blue which the new champion wore checked the
assailants, and gave White time to rise.

Vaughan was furious. "Back, you cowards!" he cried fiercely. "Would
you murder an old man? Shame on you! Shame!"

"Ay, you bullies!" cried Flixton, hitting one on the jaw very
neatly--and completely disposing of that one for the day. "Back with
you!"

As Vaughan spoke, half-a-dozen of his Tory supporters surrounded the
baronet and bore him back out of danger. Though Sir Robert was
undaunted, he was shaken; and breathing quickly, he let his hand rest
for support on the nearest shoulder. It was Vaughan's, and the next
instant he saw that it was; and he withdrew the hand as if he had let
it rest on a hot iron.

"Mr. Flixton," he said--and the words reached a dozen ears at least,
"your arm, if you please? I would rather be without this gentleman's
assistance."

Vaughan's face flamed. But neither the words nor the action took him
unawares. He stepped back with dignity, slightly touched his hat, and
so returned to his side of the hustings.

But he was wounded and very angry. Alone of his party he had
intervened--and this was his reward. When Pybus pushed his way to his
side and stooped to his ear, talking quickly and earnestly, he did not
repel him.

Episode as it was, the affray startled Sir Robert's friends: and White
in particular took it very seriously. If violence of this sort was to
rule, if even Sir Robert's person was not respected, he saw that he
would not be able to bring his voters to the poll. They would run some
risk of losing their lives, and one or two for certain would not dare
to vote. The thing must be stopped, and at once. With this in view he
made his way to the passage at the back of the hustings, which was
common to all three booths, and heated and angry--his lip was cut by
the blow he had received--he called for Pybus. But the press at the
back of the hustings was great, and one of White-Hat Williams's
foremen, who blocked the gangway, laughed in his face.

"I want to speak to Pybus," said White, glaring at the man, who on
ordinary days would have touched his hat to him.

"Then want'll be your master," the other retorted, with a wink. And
when White tried to push by him, the man gave him the shoulder.

"Let me pass," White foamed. No thought of Cobbett now, had the agent!
These miserable upstarts, their insolence, their certainty of triumph
fired his blood. "Let me pass!" he repeated.

"See you d----d first!" the other answered bluntly. "Your game's up,
old cock! Your master has held the pit long enough, but his time's
come."

"If you don't----"

"If you put your nose in here, we'll pitch you over the rail!" the
other declared.

White almost had a fit. Fortunately White-Hat Williams himself
appeared at this moment: and White appealed to him.

"Mr. Williams," he said, "is this your safe conduct?"

"I gave none," with a grin.

"Pybus did."

"Ay, for your party! But if you choose to straggle in one by one, we
can't be answerable for every single voter," with a wink. "Nor for any
of you getting back again! No, no, White.


   "_Beneath the ways of Ministers, and it's the truth I tell,
     You've bought us very cheap, good White, and you've sold
        us very well!_


But that's over! That's at an end to-day! But--what's this?"

This, was Sir Robert stepping forward to propose his candidates: or
rather, it was the roar, mocking and defiant, which greeted his
attempt to do so. It was a roar that made speech impossible. No doubt,
among the crowd which filled the space through which he had driven so
often with his four horses, the great man, the patron, the master of
all, there were some who still respected, and more who feared him; and
many who would not have insulted him. For if he had used his power
stiffly, he had not used it ill. But there were also in the crowd men
whose hearts were hot against the exclusiveness which had long effaced
them; who believed that freedom or slavery hung on the issue of this
day; who saw the prize of a long and bitter effort at stake, and were
set on using every intimidation, ay, and every violence, if victory
could not be had without them. And, were the others many or few, these
swept them away, infected them with recklessness, gave that stern and
mocking ring to the roar which continued and thwarted Sir Robert's
every effort to make himself heard.

He stood long facing them, waiting, and never blenching. But after a
while his lip curled and his eyes looked disdain on the mob below him:
such disdain as the old Duke in after days hurled at the London
rabble, when for answer to their fulsome cheers he pointed to the iron
shutters of Apsley House. Sir Robert Vermuyden had done something, and
thought that he had done more, for the men who yelped and snarled and
snapped at him. According to his lights, acting on his maxim, all for
the people and nothing by the people, he had treated them generously,
granted all he thought good for them, planned for them, wrought for
them. He had been master, but no task-master. He had indeed
illustrated the better side of that government of the many by the few,
of the unfit by the fit, with which he honestly believed the safety
and the greatness of his country to be bound up.

And this was their return! No wonder that, seeing things as he saw
them, he felt a bitter contempt for them. Freedom? Such freedom as was
good for them, such freedom as was permanently possible--they had. And
slavery? Was it slavery to be ruled, wisely and firmly, by a class
into which they might themselves rise, a class which education and
habit had qualified to rule. In his mind's eye, as he looked down on
this fretting, seething mass, he saw that which they craved granted,
and he saw, too, the outcome; that most cruel of all tyrannies, the
tyranny of the many over the few, of the many who have neither a heart
to feel nor a body to harm!

Once, twice, thrice one of his supporters thrust himself forward, and
leaning on the rail, appealed with frantic gestures for silence, for a
hearing, for respect. But each in turn retired baffled. Not a word in
that tempest of sound was audible. And no one on the other side
intervened. For they were pitiless. They in the old days had suffered
the same thing: and it was their turn now. Even Vaughan stood with
folded arms and a stern face: feeling the last contempt for the
howling rabble before him, but firmly determined to expose himself to
no second slight. At length Sir Robert saw that it was hopeless,
shrugged his shoulders with quiet scorn, and shouting the names of his
candidates in a clerk's ear, put on his hat, and stood back.

The old Squire seconded him in dumb show.

Then the Sergeant stood forward to state his views. He grasped the
rail with both hands and waited, smiling blandly. But he might have
waited an hour, he might have waited until night. The leaders for the
Bill were determined to make their power felt. They were resolved that
not a word on the Tory side should be heard. The Sergeant waited, and
after a time, still smiling blandly, bowed and stood back.

It was Mr. Cooke's turn. He advanced. "Shout, and be hanged to you!"
he cried, apoplectic in the face. An egg flew within a yard of him,
and openly shaking his fist at the crowd he retired amid laughter.

Then White-Hat Williams, who had looked forward to this as to the
golden moment of his life and had conned his oration until he knew its
thunderous periods by heart, stepped forward to nominate the Whig
candidates. He took off his hat; and as if that had been the signal
for silence, such a stillness fell on all that his voice rang above
the multitude like a trumpet.

"Gentlemen," he said, and smiling looked first to the one side and
then to the other. "Gentlemen----"

Alas, he smiled too soon. The Tories grasped the situation, and,
furious at the reception which had fallen to the lot of their leaders,
determined that if they were not heard, no one should be heard. Before
he could utter another word they broke into rabid bellowings, and what
their shouts lacked in volume they made up in ill-will. In a twinkling
they drowned White-Hat Williams's voice; and now who so indignant as
the Whigs? In thirty seconds half-a-dozen single combats were
proceeding in front of the Tory booth, blood flowed from as many
noses, and amid a terrific turmoil respectable men and justices of the
peace leant across the barriers and shook their fists and flung
frenzied challenges broadcast.

All to no purpose. The Tories, though so much the weaker party, though
but one to eight, could not be silenced. After making three or four
attempts to gain a hearing White-Hat Williams saw that he must reserve
his oration: and with a scowl he shouted his names into the ear of the
clerk.

"Who? Who did he say?" growled the Squire, panting with rage and
hoarse with shouting. His face was crimson, his cravat awry, he had
lost his hat. "Who? Who?"

"Wrench and--one moment, sir!"

"Eh? Who do you say?"

"I couldn't hear! One moment, sir! Oh, yes! Wrench and Vaughan!"

"Vaughan?" old Rowley cried with a profane oath. "Impossible!"

But it was not impossible! Though so great was the surprise, so
striking the effect upon Sir Robert's supporters that for a few
seconds something like silence supervened. The serpent! The serpent!
Here was a blow indeed--in the back!

Then as Blackford, the Methodist, rose to second the nomination, the
storm broke out anew and more furiously than before. "What?" foamed
the Squire, "be ruled by a rabble of grinning, yelling monkeys? By
gad, I'll leave the country first! I--I hope someone will shoot that
young man! I wish I'd never shaken his hand! By G--d, I'm glad my
father is in his grave! He'd never ha' believed this! Never! Never!"

And from that time until the poll was declared open--in dumb show--not
a word was audible.

Then at last the shouting of the rival bands sank to a confused babel
of jeers, abuse, and laughter. Exhausted men mopped their faces,
voiceless men loosened their neck-cloths, the farthest from the
hustings went off to drink, and there was a lull until the sound of a
drum and fife announced a new event, and forth from the Heart and Hand
advanced a procession of five led by the accursed Dyas.

They were the Whig voters and they marched proudly to the front of the
polling-booth, the mob falling back on either side to give them place.

Dyas flung his hat into the booth. "Wrench and Vaughan!" he cried in a
voice which could be heard in the White Lion. "And I care not who
knows it!"

They put to him the bribery oath. "I can take it," he answered.
"Swallow it yourselves, if you can!"

"You should know the taste, Jack," cried a sly friend: and for a
moment the laugh was against him.

One by one--the process was slow in those days--they voted. "Five for
Wrench and Vaughan." Wrench rose and bowed to each as he retired.
Arthur Vaughan took no notice.

Sir Robert's voters looked at one another uneasily. They had the day
before them, but--and then he saw the look, and, putting White and his
remonstrances on one side, he joined them, bade them follow him, and
descended before them. He would ask no man to do what he would not do
himself.

But the moment his action was understood, the moment the men were seen
behind him, there was a yell so fierce and a movement so threatening,
that on the lowest step of the hustings he stood bareheaded, raised
his hand for silence and for a wonder was obeyed. In a clear, loud
voice:

"Do you expect to terrify me," he cried, "either by threats or
violence? Let any man look in my face and see if it change colour? Let
him come and lay his hand on my heart and feel if it beats the
quicker. Keep my voters from the poll and you stultify your own, for
there will be no election. Make way then, and let them pass to their
duty!"

And the crowd made way; and Arthur Vaughan felt a reluctant pang of
admiration. The five were polled; the result so far, five for each of
the candidates.

There remained to poll only Arthur Vaughan and Pillinger of the Blue
Duck, if he could be brought up by the Tories. If neither of these
voted the Returning Officer would certainly give the casting vote for
Sir Robert's candidates--if he dared.

Isaac White believed that he would not dare, and for some time past
the agent had been in covert talk with Pybus at the back of the
hustings, two or three of the friends of each masking the conference.
Now he drew aside his employer who had returned in safety to his
place; and he conferred with him. But for a time it was clear that Sir
Robert would not listen to what he had to say. He looked pale and
angry, and returned but curt answers. But White persisted, holding him
by the sleeve.

"Mr. Vaughan--bah, what a noise they make--does not wish to vote," he
explained. "But in the end he will, sir, it is my opinion, and that
will give it to them unless we can bring up Pillinger--which I doubt,
sir. Even if we do, it is a tie----"

"Well? Well?" Sir Robert struck in, eyeing him sternly. "What more do
we want? The Returning Officer----"

"He will not dare," White whispered, "and if he does, sir, it is my
belief he will be murdered. More, if we win they will rush the booth
and destroy the books. They have as good as told me they will stick at
nothing. Believe me, sir," he continued earnestly, "better than one
and one we can't look for now. And better one than none!"

But it was long before Sir Robert would be persuaded. No, defeat or
victory, he would fight to the last! He would be beholden to the other
side for nothing! White, however, was an honest man and less afraid of
his master than usual: and he held to it. And at length the reflection
that the bargain would at least shut out his kinsman prevailed with
Sir Robert, and he consented.

He was too chivalrous to return on his own side the man whose success
would fill his pockets. He elected for Wathen and never doubted that
the Bowood interest would return their first love, Wrench. But when
the landlord of the Blue Duck was brought up by agreement to vote for
a candidate on either side, Pillinger voted by order for Wathen and
Vaughan.

"There's some d----d mistake!" shrieked the Squire, as the words
reached his ears.

But there was no mistake, and to the silent disgust of the Tories and
amid the frantic cheering of the Whigs, the return was made in favour
of Sergeant John Wathen, and Arthur Vermuyden Vaughan, esquire. Loud
and long was the cheering: the air was black with caps. But when the
crowd sought for the two to chair them according to immemorial custom,
only the Sergeant could be found, and he with great prudence declined
the honour.



                                 XIX

                        THE FRUITS OF VICTORY


Arthur Vaughan could write himself Member of Parliament. The plaudits
of the Academic and the mimic contests of the Debating Club were no
longer for him. Fortune had placed within his grasp the prize of which
he had often dreamt; and henceforth all lay open to him. But, as a
contemporary in a letter written on a like occasion says, he had gone
through innumerable horrors to reach the goal. And the moment the
result was known and certain he slipped away from his place, and from
the oppressive good-wishes of his new and uncongenial friends--the
Williamses and the Blackfords; and shutting himself up in his rooms at
the White Lion, where his entrance was regarded askance, he set
himself to look the future in the face.

He could not blame himself for the past, for he had done nothing of
which he was ashamed. He had been put by circumstances in a false
position, but he had freed himself frankly and boldly; and every
candid man must acknowledge that he could not have done otherwise than
he had. Yet he was aware that his conduct was open to misconstruction.
Some, even on his own side, would say that he had gone to Chippinge
prepared to support his kinsman; and that then, tempted by the
opportunity of gaining the seat for himself, he had faced about. Few
would believe the truth--that twenty-four hours before the election he
had declined to stand. Still fewer would believe that in withdrawing
his "No," he had been wholly moved by the offer which Sir Robert had
made to him and the unworthy manner in which he had treated him.

Yet that was the truth; and so entirely the truth, that but for that
offer he would have resigned the seat even now. For he had no mind to
enter the House under a cloud. He knew that to do so was to endanger
the boat in which his fortunes were embarked. But in face of that
offer he could not withdraw. Sir Robert, Wetherell, White, all would
believe that he had resigned, not on the point of honour, but for a
bribe, and because the bribe, refused at first, grew larger the longer
he eyed it.

So, for good or evil, his mind was made up. And for a few minutes,
while the roar of the mob applauding him rose to his windows, he was
happy. He was a member of the Commons' House. He stood on that
threshold on which Harley and St. John, Walpole the wise, and the
inspired Cornet, Pitt and Fox, spoiled children of fortune,
Castlereagh the illogical, and Canning


      _Born with an ancient name of little worth,
       And disinherited before hit birth_,


and many another had stood; knowing no more than he knew what fortune
had in womb for them, what of hushed silence would one day mark their
rising, what homage of loyal hearts and thundering feet would hang
upon their words. As their fortunes his might be; to sway to tears or
laughter, to a nation's weal or woe, the men who ruled; to know his
words were fateful, and yet to speak with no uncertain voice; to give
the thing he did not deign to wear, and make the man whom he must
follow after, ay,


             _To fall as Walpole and to fail at Pitt!_


this, all this might be his, if he were worthy! If the dust of that
arena knew no better man!

His heart rose on the wave of thought and he felt himself fit for all,
equipped for all. He owned no task too hard, no enterprise too high.
Nor did he fall from the clouds until he remembered the change in his
fortunes, and bethought him that henceforth he must depend upon
himself. The story would be sifted, of course, and its truth or
falsehood be made clear. But whatever use Sir Robert might have
deigned to make of it, Vaughan did not believe that he would have
stooped to invent it. And if it were true, then all the importance
which had attached to himself as the heir to a great property, all the
privileges, all the sanctity of coming wealth, were gone.

But with them the responsibilities of that position were gone also.
The change might well depress his head and cloud his heart. He had
lost much which he could hardly hope to win for himself. Yet--yet
there were compensations.

He had passed through much in the last twenty-four hours; and, perhaps
for that reason, he was peculiarly open to emotion. In the thought
that henceforth he might seek a companion where he pleased, in the
remembrance that he had no longer any tastes to consult but his own,
any prejudices to respect save those which he chose to adopt, he found
a comfort at which he clutched eagerly and thankfully. The world which
shook him off--he would no longer be guided by its dictates! The race,
strenuous and to the swift, ay, to the draining of heart and brain, he
would not run it alone, uncheered, unsolaced--merely because while
things were different he had walked by a certain standard of conduct!
If he was now a poor man he was at least free! Free to take the one he
loved into the boat in which his fortunes floated, nor ask too closely
who were her forbears. Free to pursue his ambition hand in hand with
one who would sweeten failure and share success, and who in that life
of scant enjoyment and high emprise to which he must give himself,
would be a guardian angel, saving him from the spells of folly and
pleasure!

He might please himself now, and he would. Flixton might laugh, the
men of the 14th might laugh. And in Bury Street he might have winced.
But in Mecklenburgh Square, where he and she would set up their modest
tent, he would not care.

He could not go to Bristol until the morrow, for he had to see Pybus,
but he would write and tell her of his fortunes and ask her to share
them. The step was no sooner conceived than attempted. He sat down and
took pen and paper, and with a glow at his heart, in a state of
generous agitation, he prepared to write.

But he had never written to her, he had never called her by her name.
And the difficulty of addressing her overwhelmed him. In the end,
after sitting appalled by the bold and shameless look of "Dear Mary,"
"Dearest Mary," and of addresses warmer than these, he solved the
difficulty, after a tame and proper fashion by writing to Miss Sibson.
And this is what he wrote:


"Dear Madame,

"At the interview which I had with you on Saturday last, you were good
enough to intimate that if I were prepared to give an affirmative
answer to a question which you did not put into words, you would
permit me to see Miss Smith. I am now in a position to give the
assurance as to my intentions which you desired, and trust that I may
see Miss Smith on my arrival in Bristol to-morrow.

"Believe me to remain, Madame,

                    "Truly yours,

                           "Arthur V. Vaughan."


And all his life, he told himself, he would remember the use to which
he had put his first frank!

That night the toasting and singing, drunkenness and revelry of which
the borough was the scene, kept him long waking. But eleven o'clock on
the following morning saw him alighting from a chaise at Bristol, and
before noon he was in Queen's Square.

For the time at least he had put the world behind him. And it was in
pure exultation and the joyous anticipation of what was to come that
he approached the house. He came, a victor from the fight; nor, he
reflected, was it every suitor who had it in his power to lay such
offerings at the feet of his mistress. In the eye of the world,
indeed, he was no longer what he had been; for the matchmaking mother
he had lost his value. But he had still so much to give which Mary had
not, he could still so alter the tenor of her life, he could still so
lift her in the social scale, those hopes which she was to share still
flew on pinions so ambitious--ay, to the very scattering of garters
and red-ribbons--that his heart was full of the joy of giving. He must
not be blamed if he felt as King Cophetua when he stooped to the
beggar-maiden, or as the Lord of Burleigh when he woo'd the farmer's
daughter. After all, he did but rejoice that she had so little and he
had so much; that he could give and she could grace.

When he came to the house he paused a moment in wonder that when all
things were altered, his prospects, views, plans, its face rose
unchanged. Then he knocked boldly; the time for hesitation was past.
He asked for Miss Smith--thinking it likely that he would have to wait
until the school rose at noon. The maid, however, received him as if
she expected him, and ushered him at once into a room on the left of
the entrance. He stood, holding his hat, waiting, listening; but not
for long. The door had scarcely closed on the girl before it opened
again, and Mary Smith came in. She met his eyes, and started, blushed
a divine rosy-red and stood wide-eyed and uncertain, with her hand on
the door.

"Did you not expect me?" he said, taken aback on his side. For this
was not the Mary Smith with whom he travelled on the coach; nor the
Mary Smith with whom he had talked in the Square. This was a Mary
Smith, no less beautiful, but gay and fresh as the morning, in dainty
white with a broad blue sash, with something new, something of a
franker bearing in her air. "Did you not expect me?" he repeated
gently, advancing a step towards her.

"No," she murmured, and she stood blushing before him, blushing more
deeply with every second. For his eyes were beginning to talk, and to
tell the old tale.

"Did not Miss Sibson get my letter?" he asked gently.

"I think not," she murmured.

"Then I have all--to do," he said nervously. It was--it was certainly
a harder thing to do than he had expected. "Will you not sit down,
please," he pleaded. "I want you to listen to me."

For a moment she looked as if she would flee instead. Then she let him
lead her to a seat.

He sat down within reach of her. "And you did not know that it was I?"
he said, feeling the difficulty increase with every second.

"No."

"I hope," he said, hesitating, "that you are glad that it is?"

"I am glad to see you again--to thank you," she murmured. But while
her blushes and her downcast eyes seemed propitious to his suit, there
was something--was it, could it be a covert smile hiding at the
corners of her little mouth?--some change in her which oppressed him,
and which he did not understand. One thing he did understand, however:
that she was more beautiful, more desirable, more intoxicating than he
had pictured her. And his apprehensions grew upon him, as he paused
tongue-tied, worshipping her with his eyes. If, after all, she would
not? What if she said, "No"? For what, now he came to measure them
beside her, were those things he brought her, those things he came to
offer, that career which he was going to ask her to share? What were
they beside her adorable beauty and her modesty, the candour of her
maiden eyes, the perfection of her form? He saw their worthlessness;
and the bold phrase with which he had meant to open his suit, the
confident, "Mary, I am come for you," which he had repeated so often
to the rhythm of the chaise-wheels, that he was sure he would never
forget it, died on his lips.

At last, "You speak of thanks--it is to gain your thanks I am come,"
he said nervously. "But I don't ask for words. I want you to think
as--as highly as you can of what I did for you--if you please! I want
you to believe that I saved your life on the coach. I want you to
think that I did it at great risk to myself. I want you," he continued
hurriedly, "to exaggerate a hundredfold--everything I did for you. And
then I want you to think that you owe all to a miser, who will be
content with nothing short of--of immense interest, of an extortionate
return."

"I don't think that I understand," she answered in a low tone, her
cheeks glowing. But beyond that, he could not tell aught of her
feelings; she kept her eyes lowered so that he could not read them,
and there were, even in the midst of her shyness, an ease and an
aloofness in her bearing, which were new to him and which frightened
him. He remembered how quickly she had on other occasions put him in
his place; how coldly she had asserted herself. Perhaps, she had no
feeling for him. Perhaps, apart from the incident in the coach, she
even disliked him!

"You do not understand," he said unsteadily, "what is the return I
want?"

"No-o," she faltered.

He stood up abruptly, and took a pace or two from her. "And I hardly
dare tell you," he said. "I hardly dare tell you. I came to you, I
came here as brave as a lion. And now, I don't know why, I am
frightened."

She--astonishing thing!--leapt the gulf for him. Possibly the greater
distance at which he stood gave her courage. "Are you afraid," she
murmured, moving her fingers restlessly, and watching them, "that you
may change your mind again?"

"Change my mind?" he ejaculated, not for the moment understanding her.
So much had happened since his collision with Flixton in the Square.

"As that gentleman--said you were in the habit of doing."

"Ah!"

"It was not true?"

"True?" he exclaimed hotly. "True that I--that I----"

"Changed your mind?" she said with her face averted. "And not--not
only that, sir?"

"What else?" he asked bitterly.

"Talked of me--among your friends?"

"A lie! A miserable lie!" he cried on impulse, finding his tongue
again. "But I will tell you all. He saw you--that first morning, you
remember, and never having seen anyone so lovely, he intended to make
you the object of--of attentions that were unworthy of you. And to
protect you I told him that I was going--to make you my wife."

"Is that what you mean to-day?" she asked faintly.

"Yes."

"But you did not mean it then?" she answered--though very gently. "It
was to shield me you said it?"

He looked at her, astonished at her insight and her boldness. How
different, how very different was this from that to which he had
looked forward! At last, "I think I meant it," he said gloomily. "God
knows I mean it now! But that evening," he continued, seeing that she
still waited with averted face for the rest of his explanation, "he
challenged me at dinner before them all, and I," he added jerkily, "I
was not quite sure what I meant--I had no mind that you should be made
the talk of the--of my friends----"

"And so--you denied it?" she said gently.

He hung his head. "Yes," he said.

"I think I--I understand," she answered unsteadily. "What I do not
understand is why you are here to-day. Why you have changed your mind
again. Why you are now willing that I should be--the talk of your
friends, sir."

He stood, the picture of abasement. Must he acknowledge his doubts and
his hesitation, allow that he had been ashamed of her, admit that he
had deemed the marriage he now sought, a mésalliance? Must he open to
her eyes those hours of cowardly vacillation during which he had
walked the Clifton Woods weighing _I would_ against _I dare not?_ And
do it in face of that new dignity, that new aloofness which he
recognised in her and which made him doubt if he had an ally in her
heart.

More, if he told her, would she understand? How should she, bred so
differently, understand how heavily the old name with its burden of
responsibilities, how heavily the past with its obligations to duty
and sacrifice, had weighed upon him! And if he told her and she did
not understand, what mercy had he to expect from her?

Still, for a moment he was on the point of telling her: and of telling
her also why he was now free to please himself, why, rid of the burden
with the inheritance, he could follow his heart. But the tale was long
and roundabout, she knew nothing of the Vermuydens, of their
importance, or his expectations, or what he had lost or what he had
gained. And it seemed simpler to throw himself on her mercy. "Because
I love you!" he said humbly. "I have nothing else to say."

"And you are sure that you will not change your mind again?"

There was that in her voice, though he could not see her face, which
brought him across two squares of the carpet as if she had jerked him
with a string. In a second he was on his knees beside her, and had
laid a feverish hand on hers. "Mary," he cried, "Mary!" seeking to
look up into her face, "you will! You will! You will let me take you?
You will let me take you from here! I cannot offer you what I once
thought I could, but I have enough, and, you will?" There was a
desperate supplication in his voice; for close to her, so close that
his breath was on her cheek, she seemed, with her half-averted face
and her slender figure, so dainty a thing, so delicate and rare, that
he could hardly believe that she could ever be his, that he could be
so lucky as to possess her, that he could ever take her in his arms.
"You will? You will?" he repeated, empty of all other words.

She did not speak, she could not speak. But she bowed her head.

"You will?"

She turned her eyes on him then; eyes so tender and passionate that
they seemed to draw his heart, his being, his strength out of him.
"Yes," she whispered shyly. "If I am allowed."

"Allowed? Allowed?" he cried. How in a moment was all changed for
him! "I would like to see----" And then breaking off--perhaps it was
her fault for leaning a little towards him--he did that which he had
thought a moment before that he would never dare to do. He put his arm
round her and drew her gently and reverently to him until--for she did
not resist--her head lay on his shoulder. "Mine!" he murmured, "Mine!
Mine! Mary, I can hardly believe it. I can hardly think I am so
blest."

"And you will not change?" she whispered.

"Never! Never!"

They were silent. Was she thinking of the dark night, when she had
walked lonely and despondent to her new and unknown home? Or of many
another hour of solitary depression, spent in dull and dreary
schoolrooms, while others made holiday? Was he thinking of his doubts
and fears, his cowardly hesitation? Or only of his present monstrous
happiness? No matter. At any rate, they had forgotten the existence of
anything outside the room, they had forgotten the world and Miss
Sibson, they were in a Paradise of their own, such as is given to no
man and to no woman more than once, they were a million miles from
Bristol City, when the sound made by the opening door surprised them
in that posture. Vaughan turned fiercely to see who it was, to see who
dared to trespass on their Eden. He looked, only looked, and he sprang
to his feet, amazed. He thought for a moment that he was dreaming, or
that he was mad.

For on the threshold, gazing at them with a face of indescribable
astonishment, rage and incredulity, was Sir Robert Vermuyden. Sir
Robert Vermuyden, the one last man in the world whom Arthur Vaughan
would have expected to see there!



                                  XX

                           A PLOT UNMASKED


For a few moments the old man and the young man gazed at one another,
alike in this only that neither found words equal to his feelings.
While Mary, covered with confusion, blushing for the situation in
which she had been found, could not hold up her head. It was Sir
Robert who at last broke the silence in a voice which trembled with
passion.

"You viper!" he said. "You viper! You would sting me--here also."

Vaughan stared at him, aghast. The intrusion was outrageous, but
astonishment rather than anger was the young man's first feeling.
"Here also?" he repeated, as if he thought that he must have heard
amiss. "_I_ sting you? What do you mean? Why have you followed me?"
And then more warmly, "How dare you, sir, spy on me?" And he threw
back his head in wrath.

The old man, every nerve and vein in his lean, high forehead swollen
and leaping, raised his cane and shook it at him. "Dare? Dare?" he
cried, and then for very rage his voice failed him.

Vaughan closed his eyes and opened them again. "I am dreaming," he
said. "I must be dreaming. Are you Sir Robert Vermuyden? Is this house
Miss Sibson's school? Are we in Bristol? Or is it all--but first,
sir," recalling abruptly and with indignation the situation in which
he had been surprised, and raising his tone, "how come you here? I
have a right to know that!"

"How come I here?"

"Yes! How come you here, sir?"

"You ask me! You ask me!" Sir Robert repeated, as if he could not
believe his ears. "How I come here! You scoundrel! You scoundrel!"

Vaughan started under the lash of the word. The insult was gratuitous,
intolerable! No relationship, no family tie could excuse it. No wonder
that the astonishment and irritation which had been his first
feelings, gave way to pure anger. Sir Robert might be this or that. He
might have, or rather, he might have had certain rights. But now all
that was over, the relationship was a thing of the past. And to
suppose that he was still to suffer the old gentleman's interference,
to put up with his insults, to permit him in the presence of a young
girl, his promised wife, to use such language as he was using, was out
of the question. Vaughan's face grew dark.

"Sir Robert," he said, "you are too old to be called to account. You
may say, therefore, what you please. But not--not if you are a
gentleman--until this young lady has left the room."

"This--young--lady!" Sir Robert gasped in an indescribable tone: and
with the cane quivering in his grasp he looked from Vaughan to the
girl.

"Yes," Vaughan answered sternly. "That young lady! And do not let me
hear you call her anything else, sir, for she has promised to be my
wife."

"You lie!" the baronet cried, the words leaping from his lips.

"Sir Robert!"

"My daughter--promised to be your wife! My--my----"

"Your daughter!"

"Hypocrite!" Sir Robert retorted, flinging the word at him. "You knew
it! You knew it!"

"Your daughter?"

"Ay, that she was my daughter!"

"Your daughter!"

This time the words fell from Arthur Vaughan in a whisper. And he
stood, turned to stone. His daughter? Sir Robert's daughter? The
girl--he tried desperately to clear his mind--of whom Wetherell had
told the story, the girl whom her mother had hidden away, while in
Italy, the girl whose reappearance in life had ousted him or was to
oust him from his inheritance? Mary Smith--was that girl! His
daughter!

But no! The blood leapt back to his heart. It was impossible, it was
incredible! The coincidence was too great, too amazing. His reason
revolted against it. And "Impossible!" he cried in a louder, a bolder
tone--though fear underlay its confidence. "You are playing with me!
You must be jesting!" he repeated angrily.

But the elder man, though his hand still trembled on his cane and his
face was sallow with rage, had regained some control of himself.
Instead of retorting on Vaughan--except by a single glance of
withering contempt--he turned to Mary. "You had better go to your
room," he said, coldly but not ungently. For how could he blame her,
bred amid such surroundings, for conduct that in other circumstances
had irritated him indeed? For conduct that had been unseemly,
unmaidenly, improper. "You had better go to your room," he repeated.
"This is no fit place for you and no fit discussion for your ears. I
am not--the fault is not with you, but it will be better if you leave
us."

She was rising, too completely overwhelmed to dream of refusing, when
Vaughan interposed. "No," he said with a gleam of defiance in his
eyes. "By your leave, sir, no! This young lady is my affianced wife.
If it be her own wish to retire, be it so. But if not, there is no one
who has the right to bid her go or stay. You"--checking Sir Robert's
wrathful rejoinder by a gesture--"you may be her father, but before
you can exercise a father's rights you must make good your case."

"Make good my case!" Sir Robert ejaculated.

"And when you have made it good, it will still be for her to choose
between us," Vaughan continued with determination. "You, who have
never played a father's part, who have never guided or guarded,
fostered or cherished her--do not think, sir, that you can in a moment
arrogate to yourself a father's authority."

Sir Robert gasped. But the next moment he took up the glove so boldly
flung down. He pointed to the door, and with less courtesy than the
occasion demanded--but he was sore pressed by his anger, "Leave the
room, girl," he said.

"Do as you please, Mary," Vaughan said.

"Go!" cried the baronet, stung by the use of her name. "Stay!" said
Vaughan.

Infinitely distressed, infinitely distracted by this appeal from the
one, from the other, from this side, from that, she turned her
swimming eyes on her lover. "Oh, what," she cried, "what am I to do?"

He did not speak, but he looked at her, not doubting what she would
do, nor conceiving it possible that she could prefer to him, her
lover, whose sweet professions were still honey in her ears, whose arm
was still warm from the pressure of her form--that she could prefer to
him, a father who was no more than the shadow of a name.

But he did not know Mary yet, either in her strength or her weakness.
Nor did he consider that her father was already more than a name to
her. She hung a moment undecided and wretched, drooping as the white
rose that hangs its head in the first shower. Then she turned to the
elder man, and throwing her arms about his neck hung in tears on his
breast. "You will be good to him, sir," she whispered passionately.
"Oh, forgive him! Forgive him, sir!"

"My dear----"

"Oh, forgive him, sir!"

Sir Robert smoothed her hair with a caressing hand, and with pinched
lips and bright eyes looked at his adversary over her head. "I would
forgive him," he said, "I could forgive him--all but this! All but
this, my dear! I could forgive him had he not tricked you and deceived
you, cozened you and flattered you--into this! Into the belief that he
loves you, while he loves only your inheritance! Or that part," he
added bitterly, "of which he has not already robbed you!"

"Sir Robert," Vaughan said, "you have stooped very low. But it will
not avail you."

"It has availed me so far," the baronet retorted. With confidence he
was regaining also command of himself.

Vaughan winced. In proportion as the other recovered his temper, he
lost his.

"It will avail me still farther," Sir Robert continued exultantly,
"when my daughter understands, as she shall understand, sir, that when
you came here to-day, when you stole a march on me, as you thought,
and proposed marriage to her behind my back, you knew all that I knew!
Knew, sir, that she was my daughter, knew that she was my heiress,
knew that she ousted you, knew that by a marriage with her, and by
that only, you could regain all that you had lost!"

"It is a lie!" Vaughan cried, stung beyond endurance. He was pale with
anger.

"Then refute it!" Sir Robert said, clasping the girl, who had
involuntarily winced at the word, more closely to him. "Refute it,
sir! Refute it!"

"It is absurd! It--it needs no refutation!" Vaughan cried.

"Why?" Sir Robert retorted. "I state it. I am prepared to prove it! I
have three witnesses to the fact!"

"To the fact that I----"

"That you knew," Sir Robert replied. "Knew this lady to be my daughter
when you came here this morning--as well as I knew it myself."

Vaughan returned his look in speechless indignation. Did the man
really believe in a charge, which at first had seemed to be mere
vulgar abuse. It was not possible! "Sir Robert," he said, speaking
slowly and with dignity, "I never did you harm by word or deed until a
day or two ago. And then, God knows, perforce and reluctantly. How
then can you lower yourself to--to such a charge as this?"

"Do you deny then," the baronet replied with contemptuous force, "do
you dare to deny--to my face, that you knew?"

Vaughan stared. "You will say presently," he replied, "that I knew her
to be your daughter when I made her acquaintance on the coach a week
ago. At a time when you knew nothing yourself."

"As to that I cannot say one way or the other," Sir Robert rejoined.
"I do not know how nor where you made her acquaintance. But I do know
that an acquaintance so convenient, so coincident, could hardly be the
work of chance!"

"Good G--d! Then you will say also that I knew who she was when I
called on her the day after, and again two days after that--while you
were still in ignorance?"

"I have said," the baronet answered with cold decision, "that I do not
know how you made, nor why you followed up your acquaintance with her.
But I have, I cannot but have my suspicions."

"Suspicions? Suspicions?" Vaughan cried bitterly. "And on suspicion,
the base issue of prejudice and dislike----"

"No, sir, no!" Sir Robert struck in. "Though it may be that if I knew
who introduced you to her, who opened this house to you, and the rest,
I might find ground for more than suspicion! The schoolmistress might
tell me somewhat, and--you wince, sir! Ay," he continued in a tone of
triumph. "I see there is something to be learned! But it is not upon
suspicion that I charge you to-day! It is upon the best of grounds.
Did you not before my eyes and in the presence of two other witnesses,
read, no farther back than the day before yesterday, in the
drawing-room of my house, the whole story of my daughter's movements
up to her departure from London for Bristol! With the name of the
school to which she was consigned? Did you not, sir? Did you not?"

"Never! Never!"

"What?" The astonishment in Sir Robert's voice was so real, so
unfeigned, that it must have carried conviction to any listener.

Vaughan passed his hand across his brow; and Mary, who had hitherto
kept her face hidden, shivering under the stroke of each harsh
word--for to a tender heart what could be more distressing than this
strife between the two beings she most cherished?--raised her head
imperceptibly. What would he answer? Only she knew how her heart beat;
how sick she was with fear; how she shrank from that which the next
minute might unfold!

And yet she listened.

"I--I remember now," Vaughan said--and the consternation he felt made
itself heard in his voice. "I remember that I looked at a paper----"

"At a paper!" Sir Robert cried in a tone of withering contempt. "At a
detailed account, sir, of my daughter's movements down to her arrival
at Bristol! Do you deny that?" he continued grimly. "Do you deny that
you perused that account?"

Vaughan stood for a moment with his hand pressed to his brow. He
hesitated. "I remember taking a paper in my hands," he said slowly,
his face flushing, as the probable inference from his words occurred
to him. "But I was thinking so much of the disclosure you had made to
me, and of the change it involved---to me, that----"

"That you took no interest in the written details!" Sir Robert cried
in a tone of bitter irony.

"I did not."

"You did not read a word, I suppose?"

"I did not."

Before the baronet could utter the sneer which was on his lips, Mary
interposed. "I--I would like to go," she murmured. "I feel rather
faint!"

She detached herself from her father's arm as she spoke, and with her
face averted from her lover, she moved uncertainly towards the door.
She had no wish to look on him. She shrank from meeting his shamed
eyes. But something, either the feeling that she would never see him
again, and that this was the end of her maiden love, or the desperate
hope that even at this last moment he might explain his admission--and
those facts, "confirmation strong as hell" which she knew, but which
Sir Robert did not know--one or other of these feelings made her
falter on the threshold, made her turn. Their eyes met.

He stepped forward impulsively. He was white with pain, his face
rigid. For what pain is stronger than the pang of innocence accused?

"One moment!" he said, in an unsteady voice. "If we part so, Mary, we
part indeed! We part forever! I said awhile ago that you must choose
between us. And you have chosen--it seems," he continued unsteadily.
"Yet think! Give yourself, give me a chance. Will you not believe my
word?" And he held out his arms to her. "Will you not believe that
when I came to you this morning I thought you penniless? I thought you
the unknown schoolmistress you thought yourself a week ago! Will you
not trust me when I say that I never connected you with the missing
daughter? Never dreamed of a connection? Why should I?" he added, in
growing agitation as the words of his appeal wrought on himself. "Why
should I? Or why do you in a moment think me guilty of the meanest,
the most despicable, the most mercenary of acts?"

He was going to take her hand, but Sir Robert stepped between them,
grim as fate and as vindictive. "No!" he said. "No! No more! You have
given her pain enough, sir! Take your dismissal and go! She has
chosen--you have said it yourself!"

He cast one look at Sir Robert, and then, "Mary," he asked, "am I to
go?"

She was leaning, almost beside herself, against the door. And oh, how
much of joy and sorrow she had known since she crossed the threshold.
A man's embrace, and a man's treachery. The sweetness of love and the
bitterness of--reality!

"Mary!" Vaughan repeated.

But the baronet could not endure this. "By G--d, no!" he cried,
infuriated by the other's persistence, and perhaps a little by fear
that the girl would give way. "You shall not soil her name with your
lips, sir! You shall torture her no longer! You have your dismissal!
Take it and go!"

"When she tells me with her own lips to go," Vaughan answered
doggedly, "I will go. Not before!" For never had she seemed more
desirable to him. Never, though contempt of her weakness wrestled with
his love, had he wanted her more. Except that seat in the House which
had cost him so dearly, she was all he had left. And it did not seem
possible that she whom he had held so lately in his arms, she who had
confessed her love for him, with whom he had vowed to share his life
and his success, his lot good or bad--it did not seem possible that
she could really believe this miserable, this incredible, this
impossible thing of him! She could not! Or, if she could, he was
indeed mistaken in her. "I shall go," he repeated coldly, "and I shall
not return."

And Mary had not believed it of him, had she known him longer or
better; had she known him as girls commonly know their lovers. But his
wooing had been short, we know: and we know, too, the distrust of men
in which she had been trained. He had taken her by storm, stooping to
her from the height of his position, having on his side her poverty
and loneliness, her inexperience and youth. Now all these things, and
her ignorance of his world weighed against him. Was it to be supposed,
could it be credited that he, who had come to her bearing her mother's
commendation, knew nothing, though he was her kinsman? That he, who
after plain hesitation and avowed doubt, laid all at her feet as soon
as her father was prepared to acknowledge her--still sought her in
ignorance? That he, who had read her story in black and white, still
knew nothing?

No, she could not believe it. But it was a bitter thing to know that
he did not love her, that he had not loved her! That he had come to
her for gain! She must speak if it were only to escape, only to save
herself from--from collapse. She yearned for nothing now so much as to
be alone in her room.

"Good-bye," she muttered, with averted eyes and pallid lips. "I--I
forgive you. Good-bye."

And she opened the door with groping fingers; and still, still looking
away from him lest she should break down, she went out.

He drew a deep breath as she passed the threshold; and his eyes did
not leave her. But he did not speak. Nor did Sir Robert Vermuyden
until his daughter's step, light as thistledown that morning, and now
uncertain and lagging, passed out of hearing, and--and at last a door
closed on the floor above.

Then the elder man looked at the other. "Are you not going?" he said
with stern meaning. "You have robbed me of my borough, sir--I give you
joy of your cleverness. But you shall not rob me of my daughter!"

"I wonder which you love the better!" Vaughan snarled. And with the
vicious gibe he took his hat and went.



                                 XXI

                       A MEETING OF OLD FRIENDS


It was September. The House elected in those first days of May was
four months old, and already it had fulfilled the hopes of the
country. Without a division it had decreed the first reading, and by a
majority of one hundred and thirty-six, the second reading of the
People's Bill; that Bill by which the preceding House slaying, had
been slain. New members were beginning to lose the first gloss of
their enthusiasm; the youngest no longer ogled the M.P. on their
letters, nor franked for the mere joy of franking. But the ministry
still rode the flood tide of favour, Lord Grey was still his country's
pride, and Brougham a hero. It only remained to frighten the House of
Lords, and in particular those plaguy out-of-date fellows, the
Bishops, into passing the Bill; and the battle would be won,


             _The streets be paved with mutton pies,
                 Potatoes eat like pine!_


And, in fine, everyone would live happily ever afterwards.

To old Tories of the stamp of Sir Robert Vermuyden, the outlook was
wholly dark. But it is not often that public care clouds private joy;
and had Eldon been prime minister, with Wetherell for his Chancellor,
the grounds of Stapylton could hardly have worn a more smiling aspect
than they presented on the fine day in early September, which Sir
Robert had chosen for his daughter's first party. The abrupt addition
of a well-grown girl to a family of one is a delicate process. It is
apt to open the door to scandal. And a little out of discretion, and
more that she, who was now the apple of his eye, might not wear her
wealth with a difference, nor lack anything of the mode, he had not
hastened the occasion. A word had been dropped here and there--with
care; the truth had been told to some, the prepossessions of others
had been consulted. But at length the day was come on which she must
stand by his side and receive the world of Wiltshire.

And she had so stood for more than an hour of this autumn afternoon;
with such pride on his side as was fitting, and such blushes on hers
as were fitting also. Now, the prime duty of reception over, and his
company dispersed through the gardens, Sir Robert lingered with one or
two of his intimates on the lawn before the house. In the hollow of
the park hard by, stood the ample marquee in which his poorer
neighbours were presently to feed; gossip had it that Sir Robert was
already at work rebuilding his political influence. Near the tent,
Hunt the Slipper and Kiss in the Ring were in progress, and Moneymusk
was being danced to the strains of the Chippinge church band; the
shrill voices of the rustic youth proving that their first shyness was
wearing off. Within the gardens, a famous band from Bath played the
new-fashioned quadrilles turn about with Moore's Irish Melodies; and a
score of the fair, gorgeous as the dragon-flies which darted above the
water, meandered delicately up and down the sward; or escorted by
gentlemen in tightly strapped white trousers and blue coats--or in
Wellington frocks, the latest mode--appeared and again disappeared
among the elms beside the Garden Pool. In the background, the house,
adorned and refurnished, winked with all its windows at the sunshine,
gave forth from all its doors the sweet scent of flowers, throbbed to
the very recesses of the haunted wing with small talk and light
laughter, the tap of sandalled feet and the flirt of fans.

Sir Robert thanked his God as he looked upon it all. And five years
younger in face and more like the Duke than ever, he listened, almost
purring, to the praises of his new-found darling. The odds had been
great that with such a breeding, she had been coarse or sly, common or
skittish. And she was none of these things, but fair as a flower,
slender as Psyche, sweet-eyed as a loving woman, dainty and virginal
as the buds of May! And withal gentle and kind and obedient--above
all, obedient. He could not thank God enough, as he read in the eyes
of young men and old women, what they thought of her. And he was
thanking Him, though in outward seeming he was attentive to an old
friend's prattle, when his eyes fell on a carriage and four which,
followed by two outriders, was sweeping past the marquee and breasting
the gentle ascent to the house. All who were likely to arrive in such
state, the Beauforts, Suffolks, Methuens, were come; the old Duke of
Beaufort, indeed, and his daughter-in-law were gone again. So Sir
Robert stared at the approaching carriage, wondering whom it might
contain.

"They are the Bowood liveries," said his friend, who had longer sight.
"I thought they had gone to town for the Coronation."

Sir Robert too had thought so. Indeed, though he had invited the
Lansdownes upon the principle, which even the heats attending the
Reform Bill did not wholly abrogate, that family friendships were
above party--he had been glad to think that he would not see the
spoliators. The trespass was too recent, the robbery too gross! Ay,
and the times too serious.

Here they were, however; Lady Lansdowne, her daughter, and a small
gentleman with a merry eye and curling locks. And Sir Robert repressed
a sigh, and advanced four or five paces to meet them. But though he
sighed, no one knew better what became a host; and his greeting was
perfect. One of his bitterest flings at Bowood painted it as the
common haunt of fiddlers and poets, actors and the like. But he
received her ladyship's escort, who was no other than Mr. Moore of
Sloperton, and of the Irish Melodies, with the courtesy which he would
have extended to an equal; nor when Lady Lansdowne sent her girl to
take tea under the poet's care did he let any sign of his reprobation
appear. Those with whom he had been talking had withdrawn to leave him
at liberty, and he found himself alone with Lady Lansdowne.

"We leave for Berkeley Square to-morrow, for the Coronation on the
8th," she said, playing with her fan in a way which would have
betrayed to her intimates that she was not at ease. "I had many things
to do this morning in view of our departure and I could not start
early. You must accept our apologies, Sir Robert."

"It was gracious of your ladyship to come at all," he said.

"It was brave," she replied, with a gleam of laughter in her eyes. "In
fact, though I bear my lord's warmest felicitations on this happy
event, and wreathe them with mine, Sir Robert----"

"I thank your ladyship and Lord Lansdowne," he said formally.

"I do not think that I should have ventured," she continued with
another glint of laughter, "did I not bear also an olive branch."

He bowed, but waited in silence for her explanation.

"One of a--a rather delicate nature," she said. "Am I permitted, Sir
Robert, to--to speak in confidence?"

He did not understand and he sought refuge in compliments.
"Permitted?" he said, with the gallant bow of an old beau. "All things
are permitted to so much----"

"Hush!" she said. "But there! I will take you at your word. You know
that the Bill--there is but one Bill now-a-days--is in Committee?"

He frowned, disliking the subject. "I don't think," he said, "that any
good can come of discussing it, Lady Lansdowne."

"I think it may," she replied, with a confidence which she did not
feel, "if you will hear me. It is whispered that there is a question
in Committee of one of the doomed boroughs. One, I am told, Sir
Robert, hangs between schedule A and schedule B; and that borough is
Chippinge. Those who know whisper Lord Lansdowne that ultimately it
will be plucked from the burning, and will be found in schedule B.
Consequently it will retain one member."

Sir Robert's thin face turned a dull red. So the wicked Whigs, who had
drawn the line of disfranchisement at such a point as to spare their
pet preserves, their Calne and Bedford and the like, had not been able
with all their craft to net every fish. One had evaded the mesh, and
by Heavens, it was Chippinge! Chippinge, though shorn of its full
glory, would still return one member. He had not hoped, he had not
expected this. Now


             _Non omnis moriar, multaque pars mei
              Vitabit Libitinam!_


he thought with jubilation. And then another thought darted through
his mind and changed his joy to chagrin. A seat had been left to
Chippinge. But why? That Arthur Vaughan, that his renegade cousin,
might continue to fill it, might continue to hold it, under his nose
and to his daily, hourly, his constant mortification. By Heaven, it
was too much! They had said well, who said that an enemy's gift was to
be dreaded. But he would fight the seat, at the next election and at
every election, rather than suffer that miserable person, miserable on
so many accounts, to fill it at his will. And after all the seat was
saved; and no one could tell the future. The lasting gain might
outlive the temporary vexation.

So, after frowning a moment, he tried to smooth his brow. "And your
mission, Lady Lansdowne," he said politely, "is to tell me this?"

"In part," she said, with hesitation, for the course, of his feelings
had been visible in his countenance. "But also----"

"But also--and in the main," he answered with a smile, "to make a
proposition, perhaps?"

"Yes."

He thought of the most obvious proposition, and he spoke in pursuance
of his thought. "Then forgive me if I speak plainly," he said.
"Whether the borough lose one member or both, whether it figure in
schedule B, or in schedule A, cannot affect my opposition to the Bill!
If you have it in commission, therefore, to make any proposal, based
on a contrary notion, I cannot listen even to your ladyship."

"I have not," she answered with a smile. "Sir Robert Vermuyden's
malignancy is too well known. Yet I am the bearer of a proposition.
Suppose the Bill to become law, and I am told that it will surely
become law, can we not avoid future conflict, and--I will not say
future ill-will, for God knows there is none on our side, Sir
Robert--but future friction, by an agreement? Of course it will not be
possible to nominate members in the future as in the past. But for
some time to come whoever is returned for Chippinge must be returned
by your influence, or by my lord's."

He coughed drily. "Possibly," he said.

"In view of that," she continued, flirting her fan, as she watched his
face--his manner was not encouraging, "and for the sake of peace
between families, and a little, perhaps, because I do not wish Kerry
to be beggared by contested elections, can we not now, while the
future is on the lap of the gods----"

"In Committee," Sir Robert corrected with a grave bow.

She laughed pleasantly. "Well," she allowed, "perhaps it is not quite
the same thing. But no matter! Whoever the Fates in charge, can we
not," with her head on one side and a charming smile, "make a treaty
of peace?"

"And what," Sir Robert asked with urbane sarcasm, "becomes of the
rights of the people in that case, Lady Lansdowne? And of the purity
of elections? And of the new and independent electors whom my lord has
brought into being? Must we not think of these things?"

She looked for an instant rather foolish. Then she rallied, and with a
slightly heightened colour, "In good time, we must," she replied. "But
for the present it is plain that they will not be able to walk without
assistance."

"What?" it was on the tip of his tongue to answer. "The new and
independent electors? Not walk without assistance? Oh, what a change
is here!" But he forbore. He said instead--but with the faintest shade
of irony, "Without _our_ assistance, I think you mean, Lady
Lansdowne?"

"Yes. And that being so, why should we not agree, my lord and you--to
save Kerry's pocket shall I say--to bring forward a candidate
alternately?"

Sir Robert shook his head gravely. He would fight.

"Allowing to you, Sir Robert, as the owner of the influence hitherto
dominant in the borough, the first return."

"The first return--after the Bill passes?"

"Yes."

That was a different thing. That was another thing altogether. A gleam
of satisfaction shone for an instant under the baronet's bushy
eyebrows. The object he had most at heart was to oust his treacherous
cousin. And here was a method, sure and safe: more safe by far than
any contest under the new Bill?

"Well I--I cannot say anything at this moment," he said, at last,
trying to hide his satisfaction. "These heats once over I do not
see--your ladyship will pardon me--why my influence should not still
predominate."

It was Lady Lansdowne's turn. "And things be as before?" she answered.
"No, Sir Robert, no. You forget those rights of the people which you
were so kind as to support a moment ago. Things will not be as before.
But--but perhaps I shall hear from you? Of course it is not a matter
that can be settled, as in the old days, by our people."

"You shall certainly hear," he said, with something more than
courtesy. "In the meantime----"

"I am dying to see your daughter," she answered. "I am told that she
is very lovely. Where is she?"

"A few minutes ago she was in the Elm Walk," Sir Robert answered, a
slight flush betraying his gratification. "I will send for her."

But her ladyship would not hear of this; nor would she suffer him to
leave his post to escort her. "Here's la belle Suffolk coming to take
leave of you," she said. "And I know my way."

"But you will not know her," Sir Robert answered.

Lady Lansdowne let her parasol sink over her shoulder. "I think I
shall," she said with a glance of meaning, "if she is like her
mother."

And without waiting to see the effect of her words, she moved away. It
was said of old time of Juno, that she walked a Goddess confessed. And
of Lady Lansdowne as she moved slowly across the sunny lawn before the
church, her dainty skirts trailing and her parasol inclined, it might
with equal justice have been said, that she walked a great lady, of
that day when great ladies still were,


             _Nor mill nor mart had mocked the guinea's stamp_.


Whether she smiled on this person or bowed to that, or with a slighter
movement acknowledged the courtesy of those who, without claiming
recognition made respectful way for her, a gracious ease and a quiet
nonchalance were in all her actions. The deeper emotions seemed as far
from her as were Hodge and Joan playing Kiss in the Ring. But her last
words to Sir Robert had reacted on herself, and as she crossed the
rustic bridge, she paused a moment to gaze on the water. The band was
playing the air of "She is far from the Land," and tears rose to her
eyes as she recalled the past and pictured scene after scene, absurd
or pathetic in the career of the proud beauty who had once queened it
here, whose mad pranks and madder sayings had once filled these
shrubberies with mirth or chagrin, and whose child she was about to
see.

She sighed, as she resumed her course, unable even now to blame Lady
Sybil as her conduct to her child deserved. But where was the child?
Not on the walk under the elms, which was deserted in favour of the
more lively attractions of the park. Lady Lansdowne looked this way
and that; at length availing herself of the solitude, she paced the
walk to its end. Thence a short path which she well remembered, led to
the kennels; and rather to indulge her sentiment and recall the days
when she was herself young, and had been intimate here, than because
she expected to meet Mary, she took this path. She had not followed it
a dozen steps, and was hesitating whether to go on or return, the
strains of Moore's melody were scarcely blurred by the intervening
laurels, when a tall dark-robed figure stepped with startling
abruptness from the shrubbery, and stood before her.

"Louisa," said the stranger. And she raised her veil. "Don't you know
me?"

"Sybil!"

"Yes, Sybil!" the other answered curtly. And then as if something in
Lady Lansdowne's tone had wounded her, "Why not?" she continued,
raising her head proudly. "My name came easily enough to your
ladyship's lips once! And I am not aware that I have done anything to
deprive me of the right to call my friends by their names, be they
whom they may!"

"No, no! But----"

"But you meant it, Louisa!" the other retorted with energy. "Or is it
that you find me so changed, so old, so worn, so altered from her you
once knew, that it astonishes you to trace in this face the features
of Sybil Matching!"

"You are changed," the other answered kindly. "I fear you have been
ill?"

"I am ill. I am more, I am dying. Not here, nor to-day, nor
to-morrow----"

Lady Lansdowne interrupted her. "In that sense," she said gently, "we
are all dying." But though she said it, the change in Lady Sybil's
appearance did indeed shock her; almost as much as her presence in
that place amazed her.

"I have but three months to live," Lady Sybil answered feverishly; and
her sunken cheeks and bright eyes, which told of some hidden disease,
confirmed her words. "I am dying in that sense! Do you hear? But I
dare say," with a flash of her old levity, "it is my presence here
that shocks you? You are thinking what Vermuyden would say if he
turned the corner behind you, and found us together!" And, as Lady
Lansdowne, with a nervous start, looked over her shoulder, with the
old recklessness, "I'd like--I'd like to see his face, my dear, and
yours, too, if he found us. But," she continued, with an abrupt change
to impassioned earnestness, "it's not to see you that I came to-day!
Don't think it! It's not to see you that I've been waiting for two
hours past. I want to see my girl! I am going to see her, do you hear!
You must bring her to me!"

"Sybil!"

"Don't contradict me, Louisa," she cried peremptorily. "Haven't I told
you that I am dying? Don't you hear what I say! Am I to die and not
see my child? Cruel woman! Heartless creature! But you always were!
And cold as an icicle!"

"No, indeed, I am not! And I think you should see her," Lady
Lansdowne answered, in no little distress. How could she not be
distressed by the contrast between this woman plainly and almost
shabbily dressed--for the purpose perhaps of evading notice--and with
illness stamped on her face, and the brilliant, harum-scarum Lady
Sybil, with whom her thoughts had been busy a few minutes before? "I
think you ought to see her," she repeated in a soothing tone. "But you
should take the proper steps to do so. You----"

"You think--yes, you do!" Lady Vermuyden retorted with fierce
energy--"you think that I have treated her so ill that I have no right
to see her! That I cannot care to see her! But you do not know how I
was tried! How I was suspected, how I was watched! What wrongs I
suffered! And--and I never meant to hide her for good. When I died,
she would have come home. And I had a plan too--but never mind
that--to right her without Vermuyden's knowledge and in his teeth. I
saw her on a coach one day along with--what is it?"

"There is someone coming," Lady Lansdowne said hurriedly. Her ladyship
indeed was in a state of great apprehension. She knew that at any
moment she might be found, perhaps by Sir Robert: and the thought of
the scene which would follow--aware as she was of the exasperation of
his feelings--appalled her. She tried to temporise. "Another time,"
she said. "I think someone is coming now. See me another time and I
will do what I can."

"No!" the other broke in, her face flushing with sudden anger. "See
you, Louisa? What do I care for seeing you? It is my girl I wish to
see, that I'm come to see, that I'm going to see! I'm her mother,
fetch her to me! I have a right to see her, and I will see her! I
demand her! If you do not go for her----"

"Sybil! Sybil!" Lady Lansdowne cried, thoroughly alarmed by her
friend's violence. "For Heaven's sake be calm!"

"Calm?" Lady Vermuyden answered. "Do you cease to dictate to me, and
do as I bid you! Go, and fetch her, or I will go myself and claim her
before all his friends. He has no heart. He never had a heart! It's
sawdust," with a hysterical laugh. "But he has pride and I'll trample
on it! I'll tread it in the mud--if you don't fetch her! Are you
going, Miss Gravity? We used to call you Miss Gravity, I remember. You
were always," with a faint sneer, "a bit of a prude, my dear!"

Miss Gravity! What long-forgotten trifles, what thoughts of youth the
nickname brought back to Lady Lansdowne's recollection. What wars of
maidens' wits, and half-owned jealousies, and light resentments, and
sunny days of pique and pleasure! Her heart, never anything but soft,
under the mask of her great-lady's manner, waxed sore and pitiful. Yet
how was she to do the other's bidding? How could she betray Sir
Robert's confidence? How----

Someone was coming--really coming this time. She looked round.

"I'll give you five minutes!" Lady Sybil whispered. "Five minutes,
Louisa! Remember!"

And when Lady Lansdowne turned again to her, she had vanished among
the laurels.



                                 XXII

                            WOMEN'S HEARTS


Lady Lansdowne walked slowly away in a state of perplexity, from which
the monotonous lilt of the band which was now playing quadrille music
did nothing to free her. Whether Sybil Vermuyden were dying or not, it
was certain that she was ill. Disease had laid its hand beyond
mistaking on that once beautiful face; the levity and wit which had
formerly dazzled beholders now gleamed but fitfully and with such a
ghastly light as the corpse candle gives forth. The change was great
since Lady Lansdowne had seen her in the coach at Chippenham; and it
might well be that if words of forgiveness were to be spoken, no time
was to be lost. Old associations, a mother's feelings for a mother,
pity, all urged Lady Lansdowne to compliance with her request; nor did
the knowledge that the woman, who had once queened it so brilliantly
in this place, was now lurking on the fringe of the gay crowd, athirst
for a sight of her child, fail to move a heart which all the
jealousies of a Whig coterie had not hardened or embittered.

Unluckily the owner of that heart felt that she was the last person
who ought to interfere. It behoved her, more than it behoved anyone,
to avoid fresh ground of quarrel with Sir Robert. Courteously as he
had borne himself on her arrival, civilly as he had veiled the
surprise which her presence caused him, she knew that he was sore hurt
by his defeat in the borough. And if those who had thwarted him
publicly were to intervene in his private concerns, if those who had
suborned his kinsman were now to tamper with his daughter, ay, or were
to incur a suspicion of tampering, she knew that his anger would know
no bounds. She felt, indeed, that it would be justified.

She had to think, too, of her husband, who had sent her with the
olive-branch. He was a politic, long-sighted man; who, content with
the solid advantage he had gained, had no mind to push to extremity a
struggle which must needs take place at his own door. He would be
displeased, seriously displeased, if her mission, in place of closing,
widened the breach.

And yet--and yet her heart ached for the woman, who had never wholly
lost a place in her affections. And there was this. If Lady Sybil were
thwarted no one was more capable of carrying out her threat and of
taking some violent step, which would make matters a hundred times
worse, alike for Sir Robert and his daughter.

While she weighed the matter, Lady Lansdowne found herself back at the
rustic bridge. She was in the act of stepping upon it--still deep in
thought--when her eyes encountered those of a young couple who were
waiting at the farther end to give her passage. She looked a second
time; and she stood. Then, smiling, she beckoned to the girl to come
to her. Meanwhile, a side-thought, born of the conjunction of the two
young people, took form in her mind. "I hope that may come to
nothing," she reflected.

Possibly it was for this reason, that when the man would have come
also, she made it clear that the smile was not for him. "No, Mr.
Flixton," she said, the faintest possible distance in her tone. "I do
not want you. I will relieve you of your charge."

And when Mary, timid and blushing, had advanced to her, "My dear," she
said, holding out both her hands, and looking charmingly at her, "I
should have known you anywhere." And she drew her to her and kissed
her. "I am Lady Lansdowne. I knew your mother, and I hope that you and
my daughter will be friends."

The mention of her mother increased Mary's shyness. "Your ladyship is
very kind," she murmured. She did not know that her embarrassment was
so far from hurting her, that the appeal in her eyes went straight to
the elder woman's heart.

"I mean to be kind at any rate," Lady Lansdowne answered, smiling on
the lovely face before her. And then, "My dear," she said, "have they
told you that you are very beautiful? More beautiful, I think, than
your mother was: I hope"--and she did not try to hide the depth of her
feelings--"that you may be more happy."

The girl's colour faded at this second reference to her mother; made,
she could not doubt, with intention. Her father, even while he had
overwhelmed her with benefits, even while he had opened this new life
to her with a hand full of gifts, had taught her--tacitly or by a word
at most--that that name was the key to a Bluebeard's chamber; that it
must not be used. She knew that her mother lived; she guessed that she
had sinned against her husband; she understood that she had wronged
her child. But she knew no more: and with this, since this at the
least she must know, Sir Robert would have had her content.

And yet, to speak correctly, she did know more. She knew that the
veiled lady who had intervened at long intervals in her life must have
been her mother. But she felt no impulse of affection towards that
woman--whom she had not seen. Her heart went out instead to a shadowy
mother who walked the silent house at sunset, whose skirts trailed in
the lonely passages, of whose career of wild and reckless gaiety she
had vague hints here and there. It was to this mother, radiant and
young, with the sheen of pearls in her hair, and the haunting smile,
that she yearned. She had learned in some subtle way that the vacant
place over the mantel in the hall which her own portrait by Maclise
was to fill, had been occupied by her mother's picture. And dreaming
of the past, as what young girl alone in that stately house would not,
she had seen her come and go in the half lights, a beautiful, spoilt
child of fashion. She had traced her up and down the wide polished
stairway, heard the tap of her slender sandal on the shining floors,
perceived in long-closed chambers the fading odours of her favourite
scent. And in a timid, frightened way she had longed to know her and
to love her, to feel her touch on her hair and give her pity in
return.

It is possible that she might have dwelt more intimately on Lady
Sybil's fate, possible that she might have ventured on some line of
her own in regard to her, if her new life had been free from
preoccupation; if there had not been with her an abiding regret, which
clouded the sunniest prospects. But love, man's love, woman's love, is
the most cruel of monopolists: it tramples on the claims of the
present, much more of the absent. And if the novelty of Mary's new
life, the many marvels to which she must accustom herself, the new
pleasures, the new duties, the strange new feeling of wealth--if, in
fine, the necessity of orientating herself afresh in relation to every
person and everything--was not able to put thoughts of her lover from
her mind, the claims of an unknown mother had an infinitely smaller
chance of asserting themselves.

But now at that word, twice pronounced by Lady Lansdowne, the girl
stood ashamed and conscience-stricken. "You knew my mother?" she
faltered.

"Yes, my dear," the elder woman answered gravely. "I knew her very
well."

The gravity of the speaker's tone presented a new idea to Mary's mind.
"She is not happy?" she said slowly.

"No."

With that word Lady Lansdowne looked over her shoulder; conscience
makes cowards, and her nervousness communicated itself to Mary. A
possibility, at which the girl had never glanced, presented itself,
and so abruptly that all the colour left her face. "She is not here?"
she said.

"Yes, she is here. And--don't be frightened, my dear!" Lady Lansdowne
continued earnestly. "But listen to me! A moment ago I thought of
throwing you in her way without your knowledge. But, since I have seen
you, I have your welfare at heart, as well as hers. And I must, I
ought to tell you, that I do not think your father would wish you to
see her. I think that you should know this; and that you should decide
for yourself--whether you will see her. Indeed, you must decide for
yourself," she repeated, her eyes fixed anxiously on the girl's face.
"I cannot take the responsibility."

"She is unhappy?" Mary asked, looking most unhappy herself.

"She is unhappy, and she is ill."

"I ought to go to her? You think so? Please--your ladyship, will you
advise me?"

Lady Lansdowne hesitated. "I cannot," she said.

"But--there is no reason," Mary asked faintly, "why I should not go to
her?"

"There is no reason. I honestly believe," Lady Lansdowne repeated
solemnly, "that there is no reason--except your father's wish. It is
for you to say how far that, which should weigh with you in all other
things, shall weigh with you in this."

Suddenly a burning colour dyed Mary's face. "I will go to her," she
cried impulsively. She had been weak once, she had been weak! And how
she had suffered for that weakness! But she would be strong now.
"Where is she, if you please?" she continued bravely. "Can I see her
at once?"

"She is in the path leading to the kennels. You know it? No, you need
not take leave of me, child! Go, and," Lady Lansdowne added with
feeling, "God forgive me if I have done wrong in sending you!"

"You have not done wrong!" Mary cried, an unwonted spirit in her tone.
And, without taking other leave, she turned and went--though her limbs
trembled under her. She was going to her mother! To her mother! Oh,
strange, oh, impossible thought!

Yet, engrossing as was that thought, it could not quite oust fear of
her father and of his anger. And the blush soon died; so that the
whiteness of her cheeks when she reached the Kennel Path was a poor
set off for the ribbons that decked her muslin robe. What she
expected, what she wished or feared or hoped she could never remember.
What she saw, that which awaited her, was a woman, ill, and plainly
clad, with only the remains of beauty in her wasted features; but
withal cynical and hard-eyed, and very, very far from the mother of
her day-dreams.

Such as she was the unknown scanned Mary with a kind of scornful
amusement. "Oh," she said, "so this is what they have made of Miss
Vermuyden? Let me look at you, girl?" And laying her hands on Mary's
shoulders she looked long into the tearful, agitated face. "Why, you
are like a sheet of paper!" she continued, raising the girl's chin
with her finger. "I wonder you dared to come with Sir Robert saying
no! And, you little fool," she continued in a swift spirit of
irritation, "as soon not come at all, as look at me like that! You've
got my chin and my nose, and more of me than I thought. But God knows
where you got your hare's eyes! Are you always frightened?"

"No, Ma'am, no!" she stammered.

"No, Ma'am? No, goose!" Lady Sybil retorted, mimicking her. "Why, ten
kings on ten thrones had never made me shake as you are shaking! Nor
twenty Sir Roberts in twenty passions! What is it you are afraid of?
Being found with me?"

"No! "Mary cried. And, to do her justice, the emotion with which Lady
Sybil found fault was as much a natural agitation, on seeing her
mother, as fear on her own account.

"Then you are afraid of me?" Lady Sybil rejoined. And again she
twitched the girl's face to the light.

Mary was amazed rather than afraid: but she could not say that. And
she kept silence.

"Or is it dislike of me?" the mother continued--a slight grimace, as
of pain, distorting her face. "You hate me, I suppose? You hate me?"

"Oh, no, no!" the girl cried in distress.

"You do, Miss!" And with no little violence she pushed Mary from her.
"You set down all to me, I suppose! I've kept you from your own,
that's it! I am the wicked mother, worse than a step-mother, who
robbed you of your rights! And made a beggar of you and would have
kept you a beggar! I am she who wronged you and robbed you--the
unnatural mother! And you never ask," she went on with fierce,
impulsive energy, "what I suffered? How I was wronged! What I bore!
No, nor what I meant to do--with you!"

"Indeed, indeed----"

"What I meant to do, I say!" Lady Sybil repeated violently. "At my
death--and I am dying, but what is that to you?--all would have been
told, girl! And you would have got your own. Do you believe me?" she
added passionately, advancing a step in a manner almost menacing. "Do
you believe me, girl?"

"I do, I do!" Mary cried, inexpressibly pained by the other's
vehemence.

"I'll swear it, if you like! But I hoped that he--your father--would
die first and never know! He deserved no better! He deserved nothing
of me! And then you'd have stepped into all! Or better still--do you
remember the day you travelled to Bristol? It's not so long ago that
you need forget it, Miss Vermuyden! I was in the coach, and I saw you,
and I saw the young man who was with you. I knew him, and I told
myself that there was a God after all, though I'd often doubted it, or
you two would not have been brought together! I saw another way then,
but you'd have parted and known nothing, if," she continued, laughing
recklessly, "I had not helped Providence, and sent him with a present
to your school! But--why, you're red enough now, girl! What is it?"

"He knew?" Mary murmured, with an effort. "You told him who I was,
Ma'am?"

"He knew no more than a doll!" Lady Sybil answered. "I told him
nothing, or he'd have told again! I know his kind. No, I thought to
get all for you and thwart Vermuyden, too! I thought to marry his heir
to the little schoolmistress--it was an opera touch, my dear, and
beyond all the Tremaynes and Vivian Greys in the world! But there,
when all promised well, that slut of a maid went to my husband, and
trumped my trick!"

"And Mr.--Mr. Vaughan," Mary stammered, "had no knowledge--who I was?"

"Mr.--Mr. Vaughan!" Lady Sybil repeated, mocking her, "had no
knowledge? No! Not a jot, not a tittle! But what?" she went on, in a
tone of derision, "Sits the wind there, Miss Meek? You're not all milk
and water, bread and butter and backboard, then, but have a spice of
your mother, after all? Mr.--Mr. Vaughan!" again she mimicked her.
"Why, if you were fond of the man, didn't you say so?"

Mary, under the fire of those sharp, hard eyes, could not restrain her
tears. But, overcome as she was, she managed in broken words to
explain that her father had forbidden it.

"Oh, your father, was it?" Lady Sybil rejoined. "He said 'No,' and no
it was! And the lord of my heart and the Man of Feeling is dismissed
in disgrace! And now we weep in secret and the worm feeds on our
damask cheek!" she ran on in a tone of raillery, assumed perhaps to
hide a deeper feeling. "I suppose," she added shrewdly, "Sir Robert
would have you think that Vaughan knew who you were, and was
practising on you?"

"Yes."

"And you dismissed him at papa's command, eh? That was it, was it?"

Mary could only confess the fact with tears, her distress in as
strange contrast with the gaiety of her dress as with the strains of
the neighbouring band, which told of festivity and pleasure. Perhaps
some thought of this nature forced itself upon Lady Sybil's light and
evasive mind: for as she looked, the cynical expression of her eyes
gave place to one of feeling and emotion, better fitted to those
wasted features as well as to the relation in which the two stood to
one another. She looked down the path, as if for the first time she
feared an intrusive eye. Then her glance reverted to her daughter's
slender form and drooping head: and again it changed, it grew soft, it
grew pitiful. The laurels shut all in, the path was empty. The
maternal feeling, long repressed, long denied, long buried under a
mountain of pique and resentment, of fancied wrongs and real neglect,
broke forth irresistibly. In a step she was at the girl's side, and
snatching her to her bosom in a fierce embrace, was covering her face,
her neck, her hair with hungry kisses.

The action was so sudden, so unexpected, that crushed and even hurt by
the other's grasp, and frightened by her vehemence, Mary would have
resisted, would have tried to free herself. Then she understood. And a
rush of pent-up affection, of love and pity, carried away the barriers
of constraint and timidity. She clung to Lady Sybil with tears of joy,
murmuring low broken words, calling her "Mother, Mother," burying her
face on her shoulder, pressing herself against her. In a moment her
being was stirred to its depths. In all her life no one had caressed
her after this fashion, no one had embraced her with passion, no one
had kissed her with more than the placid affection which gentleness
and goodness earn, and which kind offices kindly performed warrant.
Even Sir Robert, even her father, proud as he was of her, much as he
loved her, had awakened in her respect and gratitude--mingled with
fear--rather than love.

After a time, warned by approaching voices, Lady Sybil put her from
her; but with a low and exultant laugh. "You are mine, now!" she said,
"Mine! Mine! You will come to me when I want you. And I shall want you
soon! Very soon!"

Mary laid hold of her again. "Let me come now!" she cried with
passion, forgetting all but the mother she had gained, the clinging
arms which had cherished her, the kisses that had rained on her. "Let
me come to you! You are ill!"

"No, not now! Not now! I will send for you when I want you," Lady
Sybil answered. "I will promise to send for you. And you will come,"
she added with the same ring of triumph in her voice. "You will come!"
For it was joy to her, even amid the satisfaction of her mother-love,
to know that she had tricked her husband; it was joy to her to know
that though she had taken all from the child and he had given all, the
child was hers--hers, and could never be taken from her! "You will
come! For you will not have me long. But," she whispered, as the
voices came nearer, "go now! Go now! And not a word! Not a word,
child, as you love me. I will send for you when--when my time comes."

And with a last look, strangely made up of love and pain and triumph,
Lady Sybil moved out of sight among the laurels. And Mary, drying her
tears and composing her countenance as well as she could, turned to
meet the intruders' eyes.

Fortunately--for she was far from being herself--the two persons who
had wandered that way, did but pause at the end of the Kennel Path,
and, murmuring small talk, turn again to retrace their steps. She
gained a minute or two, in which to collect her thoughts and smooth
her hair; but more than a minute or two she dared not linger lest her
continued absence should arouse curiosity. As sedately as she could,
she emerged from the shrubbery and made her way--though her breast
heaved with a hundred emotions--towards the rustic bridge on which she
saw that Lady Lansdowne was standing, keeping Sir Robert in talk.

In talk, indeed, of her. For as she approached he placed the
coping-stone on the edifice of her praises which her ladyship had
craftily led him to build. "The most docile," he said, "I assure you,
the most docile child you can imagine! A beautiful disposition. She is
docility itself!"

"I hope she may always remain so," Lady Lansdowne answered slily.

"I've no doubt she will," Sir Robert replied with fond assurance, his
eye on the Honourable Bob, who was approaching the bridge from the
lawns.

Lady Lansdowne followed the look with her eyes and smiled. But she
said nothing. She turned to Mary, who was now near at hand, and
reading in the girl's looks plain traces of trouble, and agitation,
she contented herself with sending for Lady Louisa, and asking that
her carriage might be called. In this way she cloaked under a little
bustle the girl's embarrassment as she came up to them and joined
them. Five minutes later Lady Lansdowne was gone.


                          *   *   *   *   *


After that, Mary would have had only too much food for thought, had
her mother alone filled her mind; had those kisses which had so
stirred her being, those clinging arms, and that face which bore the
deep imprint of illness, alone burdened her memory. Years afterwards
the beat of the music which played in the gardens that evening, while
the party within sat at dinner, haunted her; bringing back, as such
things will, the scene and her aching heart, the outward glitter and
the inward care, the Honourable Bob's gallantries and her father's
stately figure as he rose and drank wine with her; ay, and the hip,
hip, hurrah which shook the glasses when an old Squire, a privileged
person, rose, before she could leave, and toasted her.

Burdened only with the sacred memories of the afternoon, and the
anxiety, the pity, the love which they engendered, she had been far
from happy, far from free. But in truth, with all her feeling for her
mother, Mary bore about with her a keener and more bitter regret. The
dull pain which had troubled her of late when thoughts of Arthur
Vaughan would beset her was grown to a pang of shame, almost
intolerable. She had told herself a hundred times before this that it
was her weakness, her fear of her father, her mean compliance that had
led her to give him up--rather than any real belief in his baseness.
For she had never, she was sure now, believed in that baseness. But
now, now when her mother, whose word it never struck her to doubt,
had affirmed his innocence, now that she knew, now since a phrase
of that mother's had brought to her mind every incident of the
never-to-be-forgotten coach-drive, the May morning, the sunshine and
the budding trees, the birth of love--pain gnawed at her heart. She
was sick with misery.

For, oh, how vile, how thankless, how poor and small a thing he must
think her! He would have given her all, and she had robbed him of all.
And then when she had robbed him and he could give her little she had
turned her back on him, abandoned him, believed evil of him, heard him
insulted, and joined in the outrage! Over that thought, over that
memory, she shed many and many a bitter tear. Romance had come to her
in her lowliness, and a noble lover, stooping to her; and she had
killed the one and denied the other. And now, now there was nothing
she could do, nothing she would dare to do.

For that she had for a moment believed in his baseness--if she had
indeed believed--was not the worst. In that she had been the sport of
circumstances; appearances had deceived her, and the phase had been
brief. But that she had been weak, that she had been swayed, that she
had given him up at a word, that she had shown herself wholly unworthy
of him--there was the rub. Now, how happy had she been could she have
gone back to Miss Sibson's, and the dull schoolroom and the old stuff
dress and the children's prattle--and heard his step as he came across
the forecourt to the door!



                                XXIII

                             IN THE HOUSE


In truth Mary's notion of the opinion which Arthur Vaughan had of her
was above, rather than below, the reality. In her most despondent
moments she scarcely exaggerated the things he thought of her, the
contempt in which he held her, or the resentment which set his blood
boiling when he remembered how she had treated him. He had gone to her
and laid all that was left to him at her feet; and she, who had
already dealt his fortunes so terrible a blow, had paid him for his
unselfish offer, for his sacrifice of much that was dear to him, with
suspicion, with contumely, with mistrust! Instead of clinging to him,
to whom she had that moment plighted her troth, she had deserted him
at a word. In place of trusting the man who had woo'd her in her
poverty, she had believed the first whisper against him. She had shown
herself heartless, faithless, inconstant as the wind--a very woman!
And


             _Away, away--your smile's a curse
              Oh, blot me from the race of men,
              Kind pitying Heaven! by death or worse
              Before I love such things again!_


he might have murmured with a bitterness of which the author of the
lines had been incapable. But then, Mr. Moore, though his poetry and
his singing brought tears to the eyes of hardened women of fashion,
had never lost at a blow a great estate, a high position, and his
love.

Certainly Vaughan had, if man ever had, grounds for a quarrel with
fate. He had left London heart-whole and happy, the heir to a large
fortune. He returned a fortnight later, a member of the Commons House
indeed, but heart-sick and soured, beggared of his expectations and
tortured by the thought of what might have been--if his love had
proved true as she was fair, and constant as she was sweet. Fond
dreams of her beauty still tormented him. Visions of the modest home
in which he would have found consolation in failure, and smiles in
success, rose up before him and derided him. He hated Sir Robert. He
hated, or tried to hate, the weakest and the most despicable of women.
He saw all things and all men with a jaundiced eye, the sound of his
voice and the look of his face were altered. Men who knew him and who
passed him in the street, or who saw him eating his chop in solitary
churlishness, nudged one another and said that he took his reverses
ill; while others, wounded by his curtness or his ill-humour, added
that he did not go the right way to make the most of what was left.

For a certainty he was become a man unpleasant to handle. But within,
under the thorns, was a very human soul, wounded, sore, and miserable,
seeking every way for an outlet from its pains, and finding hope of
escape at one point only. Men were right, when they said that he did
not go the way to make the most of his chances. For he laid himself
out to please no one at this time; it was not in him. But he worked
late and early, and with a furious energy to fit himself for a
political career; believing that success in that career was all that
was left to him, and that by the necessary labour he could best put
the past behind him. Love and pleasure, and those sweets of home life
of which he had dreamed, were gone from him. But the stern prizes of
ambition, the crown of those who live laborious days, might still be
his--if the Mirror of Parliament were never out of his hands, and if
Mr. Hume himself were not more constant to his favourite pillar under
the gallery than he to such chance seat as might fall to him on the
same side of the House.

Alas, he had not taken the oaths an hour--with a sore heart, in a ruck
of undistinguished new Members--before he saw that success was not so
near or so clearly within reach, as hope, with her flattering tale,
had argued. The times were propitious, certainly. The debates were
close and fiery, and were scanned out of doors with an interest
unknown before. The strife between Croker and Macaulay in the Commons,
the duel between Brougham and Lyndhurst in the Lords, were followed in
the country with as much attention as a battle between Belcher and Tom
Cribb; and by the same classes. Everywhere men talked politics, talked
of Reform, and of little else. The clubs, the 'Change, the taverns,
nay, the drawing-rooms and the schools rang with the Bill, the whole
Bill, and nothing but the Bill; with Schedule A, cruel as Herod, and
Schedule B, which spared one of twins. Before the window in the
Haymarket which weekly displayed H.B.'s Political Caricatures, crowds
stood gazing all day long, whatever the weather.

These things were in his favour. He remembered, too, the stress which
the Chancellor had laid on the advantage of entering the House in
advance of the crowd of new men whom the first Reformed Parliament
must contain.

Unfortunately it seemed to him that he was one of just such a mob of
new men, as it was. Nearly a fourth of his colleagues were strange to
St. Stephen's; and the greater part of these, owing to the
circumstances of the election, were Whigs and sat on his side of the
House. To raise his head above the level of a hundred competitors,
numbering not a few men of wit and ability, and to do so within the
short life of the present Parliament---for he saw no certain prospect
of being returned again--was no mean task. Little wonder that he was
as regular in his attendance as Mr. Speaker, and grew pale of nights
over Woodfall's Important Debates.

In the pride of his first return he had dreamed of a reputation to be
gained by his maiden speech; of burning periods that would astonish
all who heard them, of flights of fancy to live forever in the mouths
of men, of a marshalling of facts so masterly, and an exposition of
figures so clear, as to obscure the fame of Single-speech Hamilton, or
of that modern phenomenon, Mr. Sadler. But whatever the effect of
the present chamber on the minds of novices, there was that in the
old,--mean and dingy as was its wainscotted interior, and cumbered by
overhanging galleries--there was a something, were it but the memory
that those walls had echoed the diatribes of Chatham and given back
the voice of Burke, had heard the laugh of Walpole and the snore of
North, which cooled the spirit of a new member; which shook his knees
as effectually as if the panelling of the room had vanished at a
touch, and revealed the glories of the Gothic Chapel which lay behind
it. For behind that panelling and those galleries, the ancient Chapel,
with its sumptuous tracery and statues, its frescoed walls and stained
glass, still existed; no unfit image of the stately principles which
lie behind the dull everyday working of our Constitution.

To Arthur Vaughan, a student of the history of the House, this effect
of the Chamber upon a new member was a commonplace. But he was a
practised speaker in the mimic arena; and he thought that he might
rise above this feeling in his own case. He fancied that he understood
the _Genius Loci_; its hatred of affectation, and almost of eloquence,
its dislike to be bored, its preference for the easy, the
conversational, and the personal. And when he had waited three
weeks--so much he gave to prudence--his time came.

He rose in a moderately thin house in the middle of the dinner-hour;
and rose as he thought fully prepared. Indeed he started well. He
brought out two or three sentences with ease and aplomb; and he
fancied the difficulty over, the threshold passed. But then--he knew
not why, nor could he overcome the feeling--the silence, kindly meant,
in which as a new Member, he was received, had a terrifying effect
upon him. A mist rose before his eyes, his voice sounded strange to
him--and distant. He dropped the thread of what he was saying,
repeated himself, lost his nerve. For some seconds, standing there
with all faces turned to him--they seemed numberless seconds to him,
though in truth they were few--he could see nothing but the Speaker's
wig, grown to an immense white cauliflower, which swelled and swelled
and swelled until it filled the whole House. He stammered, repeated
himself again--and was silent. And then, seeing that he was
embarrassed, they cheered him--and the mist cleared; and he went
on--hurriedly and nervously. But he was aware that he had dropped a
link in his argument--which he had not now the coolness to supply. And
when he had murmured a few sentences, more or less inept and
incoherent, he sat down.

In fact, though he had made no mark, he had also incurred no
discredit. But he felt that the eyes of all were on him, that they
were gloating over his failure, and comparing what he had done with
what he had hoped to do, his achievement with those secret hopes,
those cherished aspirations, he felt all the shame of open and
disgraceful defeat. His face burned; he sat looking before him, not
daring for a while to divert his gaze, or to learn in others' eyes how
great had been his mishap.

Unfortunately, when he ventured to change his posture, and to put on
his hat, which he discovered he had been holding in his hand, he
encountered Sergeant Wathen's eyes; and he read in them a look of
amusement, which wounded his pride more than the open ridicule of a
crowd. That was the finishing stroke. He walked out soon afterwards,
bearing himself as indifferently as he could. But no man ever carried
out of the House a lower heart or a sense of more utter failure. He
had mistaken his talents, he had no aptitude for debate. Success as a
speaker was not within his reach.

He thought something better of it next day, but not much. Nor could he
put off a sneaking, hang-dog air as he entered the lobby. A number of
members were gathered inside the double doors, where the stairs from
the cloisters came up by a third door; and one or two whom he knew
spoke to him--but not of his attempt. He fancied that he read in their
looks a knowledge that he had failed, that he was no longer a man to
be reckoned with. He imagined that they used a different tone to him.
And at last one of them spoke of it.

"Well, Vaughan," he said pleasantly, "you got through yesterday. But
if you'll take my advice you'll wait a bit. It's only one here and
there can make much of it to begin."

"I certainly cannot," Vaughan said, smiling frankly, the better to
hide his mortification.

"Ah, well, you're not alone," the other answered, shrugging his
shoulders. "You'll pick it up by and by, I dare say." And he turned to
speak to another member.

Vaughan turned on his side to the paper for the day winch hung against
each of the four pillars of the lobby; and he pretended to be absorbed
in it. The employment helped him to keep his countenance. But he was
sore wounded. He had held his head so high in imagination, he had
given so loose a rein to his ambition; he had dreamt of making such an
impression on the House as Mr. Macaulay, though new to it, had made in
his speech on the second reading of the former Bill, and had deepened
by his speech at the like stage of the present Bill. Now he was told
that he was no worse than the common run of country members, who twice
in three sessions rose and blundered through half a dozen sentences!
He was consoled with the reflection that only "one here and there"
succeeded! Only one here and there! When to him it was everything to
succeed, and to succeed quickly. When it was all he had left.

The stream of members, entering the House, was large; for the motion
to commit the Bill was down for that afternoon, and if carried, would
virtually put an end to opposition in the Commons. Out of the corner
of his eye Vaughan scanned them, as they passed, and envied them.
Peel, cold, proud and unapproachable, went by on the arm of Goulburn.
Croker, pale and saturnine, casting frowning glances here and there,
went in alone. The handsome, portly form of Sir James Graham passed,
in talk with the Rupert of Debate. After these a rush of members; and
at the tail of all slouched in the unwieldy, slovenly form of Sir
Charles Wetherell, followed by a couple of his satellites.

Vaughan, glancing on one side of the paper which he appeared to be
studying, caught Sir Charles's eye, and reddened. Seated on opposite
sides of the House--and no man on either side was more bitter,
virulent, and pugnacious than the late Attorney-General--the two had
not encountered one another since that evening at Stapylton, when the
existence of Sir Robert's daughter had been disclosed to Vaughan. They
had not spoken, much less had there been any friendly passage between
them. But now Sir Charles paused, and held out his hand.

"How do you do, Mr. Vaughan?" he said, in his deep bass voice. "Your
maiden essay yesterday, eh?"

Vaughan winced. "Yes," he said stiffly, fancying that he read
amusement in the other's moist eye.

To his surprise, "You'll do," Sir Charles rejoined, looking at the
floor and speaking in a despondent tone. "The House would rather you
began in that way, than like some d----d peacock on a lady's terrace.
Take the opportunity of saying three or four sentences some fine day,
and repeat it a week later. And I'll wager you'll do."

"But little, I am afraid," Vaughan said. None the less was his heart
full of gratitude to the fat, ungainly man.

"All, may be," Wetherell answered. "I shouldn't wonder. I've been
told, by one who heard him, that Canning hesitated in his first
speech, very much as you did. It was on the Sardinian Subsidy. The men
who don't feel the House never know the House. They dazzle it, Mr.
Vaughan, but they don't guide it. And that's what we've got to do."

He passed on then, with a melancholy nod and averted eyes, but Vaughan
could have blest him for that "we." "There's one man at least believes
in me," he told himself. And when a few hours later, in the midst of a
scene as turbulent as any which the House of Commons had ever
witnessed--nine times without a pause it divided on the motion that
"this House do now adjourn"--he watched the man who had commended him,
riding the storm and directing the whirlwind, now lashing the Whigs to
fury by his sarcasm, and now, carrying the whole House away in a
hurricane of laughter, if he did not approve--and with his views he
could not approve--he learnt, and learnt much. He saw that the fat,
slovenly man, with the heavy face and that hiatus between his breeches
and his waistcoat which had made him famous, was allowed to do things,
and to say things, and to look things, for which a less honest man had
been hurried long ago to the Clock Tower. And this, because the House
believed in him; because it knew that he was fighting for a principle
really dear to him; because it knew that he honestly put faith in
those predictions of woe, which he scattered so freely, and in that
ruin of the Constitution, with which he twitted his opponents.

A week later Vaughan acted upon his advice. He seized an opportunity
and, catching the Chairman's eye--the Bill was in Committee--delivered
himself of a dozen sentences, with so much spirit and propriety, that
Sir Robert Peel, speaking an hour later, referred to the "plausible
defence raised by the Honourable Member for Chippinge." The reference
drew all eyes to Vaughan: and though nothing was said to him and he
took care to bear himself as if he had done no better than before, he
left the House with a lighter step and a comfortable warmth about the
heart. He was more at ease that evening, if not more happy, than he
had been for weeks past. Love, pleasure, and the rest were gone; and
faith in woman. But if he could be sure of gaining a seat in the next
Parliament, the way might be longer than he had hoped, it might be
more toilsome and more dusty: but in the end he would arrive at the
Treasury Bench.

He little thought, alas, that the effort on which he hugged himself
was to prove a source of misfortunes. But so it was. His maiden speech
had attracted neither notice nor envy. But those few sentences, short
and simple as they were, by drawing an answer from the leader of the
Opposition, had gained both for him. Within five minutes a score of
members had asked "Who is he?" and another score had detailed the
circumstances of his election for Chippinge. He had gone down to vote
for his cousin, in his cousin's borough, family vote and the rest; so
the story ran. Then, finding on the morning of the polling that if he
threw over his cousin, he might gain the seat for himself, he had
turned his coat in a--well, in a very dubious manner, snatched the
seat, and--here he was!

In a word, it was the version of the facts which he had once dreaded,
and about which he had afterwards ceased to trouble himself.

There were, perhaps, half a dozen persons in the House who knew the
facts, and knew that the young man had professed from the first the
opinions which he was now supporting. But there was just so much truth
in the version, garbled as it was, just so much _vraisemblance_ in the
tale that even those who knew the facts, could not wholly contradict
it. The story did not come to Wetherell's ears; or he, for certain,
would have gainsaid it. But it did come to Wathen's. Now the Sergeant
was capable of spite, and he had not forgotten the manner after which
Vaughan had flouted him at Chippinge; his defence--if a defence it
could be called--was accompanied by so many nods and shrugs, that
persons less prejudiced than Tories, embittered by defeat, and wounded
by personalities, might have been forgiven, if they went from the
Sergeant with a lower opinion of our friend than before.

From that day Vaughan, though he knew nothing of it, and though no one
spoke to him of it, was a marked man in the eyes of the opposite
party. They regarded him as a renegade; while his own side were not
overanxious to make his cause their own. The May elections had been
contested with more spirit and less scruple than any elections within
living memory; and many things had been done and many said, of which
honourable men were not proud. Still it was acknowledged that such
things must be done--here and there--and even that the doers must not
be repudiated. But it was felt that the party was not required to
grapple the latter to its breast with hooks of steel. Rumour had it
that Lord Lansdowne felt himself to blame; and that the offender had
been disinherited by his cousin was asserted. The man would be of no
great importance, therefore, in the future; and if he did not make a
second appearance in Parliament, the loss in the end would be small.
Not a few summed up the matter in that way.

If Vaughan had been intimate with anyone in the House he would have
learned what was afoot; and he might have taken steps to set himself
right. But he had lived little of his life in London, he had but made
his bow to Society; of late, also, he had been too sore to make new
friends. Of course he had acquaintances, every man has acquaintances.
But no one in political circles knew him well enough to think it worth
while to put him on his guard.

Unluckily, the next occasion which brought him to his feet, was of a
kind to give point to the feeling against him. On a certain Thursday,
Sergeant Wathen moved that the Borough of Chippinge be removed from
Schedule A, to Schedule B--his object being that it might retain one
member; and Vaughan, thinking the opening favourable, rose, intending
to make a few remarks in a strain to which the House, proverbially
fond of a personal explanation, is prone to listen with indulgence.
For the motion itself, he had not much hope that it would be carried:
in a dozen other cases, a similar motion had failed.

"It can only be," he began--and this time the sound of his voice did
not perturb him--"from a strict sense of duty, Mr. Bernal, it cannot
be without pain that any Member--and I say this not on my account
only, but on behalf of many Honourable Members of this House----"

"No! No! Leave us out."

The words were uttered so loudly and so rudely that they silenced him;
and he looked in the direction whence they came. At once cries of "No,
no! Divide! No! No!" poured on him from all parts of the House,
accompanied by a dropping fire of catcalls and cockcrows. He lost the
thread of his remarks, and for a moment stood abashed and confounded.
The Chairman did not interfere and for an instant it looked as if the
young speaker would be compelled to sit down.

But he recovered himself, gaining courage from the very vigour with
which he was attacked; and which seemed out of proportion to his
importance. The moment a lull in the fire of interruption occurred, he
spoke in a louder voice.

"I say, sir," he proceeded, looking about him courageously, "that it
is only with pain, only under the _force majeure_ of a love of their
country, that any Member can support the deletion from the Borough
Roll of this House, of that Constituency which has honoured him with
its confidence."

"Divide! Divide!" roared many on both sides of the House.
For the Tories were uncertain on which side he was speaking.
"Cock-a-doodle-doo-doo-doo!"

But this fresh burst of disapproval found him better prepared. Firmly,
though the beads of perspiration stood on his brow, he persisted. "And
if," he continued, "in the case which appeals so nearly to himself an
Honourable Member sees that the standard which justifies the survival
of a representative can be reached, with what gratification, sir,
whether he sits on this side of the House or on that----"

"No! No! Leave us out!" in a roar of sound. And "Divide! Divide!"

"Or on that," he repeated.

"Divide! Divide!"

"Must he not press its claims and support its interests?" he persisted
gallantly. "Ay, sir, welcome in the event of success a decision at
once just, and of so much advantage, I will not say to himself----"

"It never will be to you!" shrieked a voice from the darker corner
under the opposite gallery.

The shaft went home. He faltered. A roar of laughter drowned his last
words, and he sat down with a burning face; in some confusion, but in
greater perplexity. Had he transgressed, he wondered ruefully, some
unwritten law of the House! Had he offended in ignorance, and
persisted in his offence? Should he not, though Wathen had spoken,
have spoken in his own case? In a matter so nearly touching himself?

He spoke to the Member who chanced to sit next him. "What was it?" he
asked humbly. "Did I do something wrong?"

The man glanced at him coldly. "Oh, no," he said. And he shrugged his
shoulders.

"But----"

"On the contrary, I fancy you've to congratulate yourself," with a
sneer so faint that Vaughan did not perceive it. "I understand that
we're to do as we like on this--and they know it on the other side.
Eh? Yes, there's the division. I think," he added with the same faint
sneer, "you'll save your seat."

"By Jove!" Vaughan exclaimed. "You don't say so!"

He could hardly believe it. But so it turned out. And so great
was the boon--the greater as no other borough was transferred in
Committee--that it swept away for the time the memory of what had
happened. His eyes sparkled. The seat saved, it was odd if with the
wider electorate created by the Bill, he was not sure of return! Still
more odd, if he was not sure of beating Wathen--he, who had opened the
borough and been returned by the Whig interest even while it was
closed! No longer need he feel so anxious and despondent when the
Dissolution, which must follow the passage of the Bill, rose to his
mind. No longer need he be in so great a hurry to make his mark, so
envious of Mr. Macaulay, so jealous of Mr. Sadler.

Certainly as far as his political career was in question the horizon
was clearing. If only other things had been as favourable! If only
there had been someone, were it in a cottage at Hammersmith or in a
dull street off Bloomsbury Square, to whom he might take home this
piece of news; certain that other eyes would sparkle more brightly
than his, and another heart beat quick with joy!

That could not be. There was an end of that. And his face settled back
into its gloom. Still he was less unhappy. The certainty of a seat in
the next Parliament was a great point gained! A great point to the
good!



                                 XXIV

                           A RIGHT AND LEFT


If anything was certain in a political world so changed, it was
certain that if the Reform Bill passed the Lords--in the teeth of
those plaguy Bishops of whose opposition so much was heard--a
Dissolution would immediately follow. To not a few of the members this
contingency was a spectre, ever present, seated at bed and board, and
able to defy the rules even of Almack's and Crockford's. For how could
a gentleman, who had just given five thousand pounds for his seat,
contemplate with equanimity a notice to quit, so rude and so
premature? And worse, a notice to quit which meant extrusion into a
world in which seats at five thousand for a Parliament would be few
and far between; and fair agreements to pay a thousand a year while
the privilege lasted, would be unknown!

Many a member asked loudly and querulously, "What will happen to the
country if the Bill pass?" But more asked themselves in their hearts,
and more often and more querulously, "What will happen to me if the
Bill pass? How shall I fare at the hands of these new constituencies,
which, unwelcome as a gipsy's brats, I am forced to bring into the
world?"

Hitherto few on his own side of the House, and not many on the Tory
side, had regarded a Dissolution with more misgiving than Arthur
Vaughan. The borough for which he sat lay under doom; and he saw no
opening elsewhere. He had no longer the germs of influence nor great
prospects: nor yet such a fortune as justified him in an appeal to one
of the new and populous boroughs. It was a pleasant thing to go in and
out by the door of the privileged, to take his chop at Bellamy's, to
lounge in the dignified seclusion of the library, or to air his new
honours in Westminster Hall; pleasant also to have that sensation of
living at the hub of things, to receive whips, to give franks, to feel
that the ladder of ambition was open to him. But he knew that an
experience of the House counted by months did no man good; and the
prospect of losing his plumes and going forth again a common biped,
was the more painful to him because his all was embarked in the
venture. He might, indeed, fall back on the bar; but with half a heart
and the reputation of a man who had tried to fly before he could walk.

His relief, therefore, when Chippinge, alone of all the Boroughs in
Schedule A, was removed in Committee to Schedule B, may be imagined.
The road before him was once more open, while the exceptional nature
of his luck almost persuaded him that he was reserved for greatness.
True, Sergeant Wathen might pride himself on the same fact; but at the
thought Vaughan smiled. The Sergeant and Sir Robert would find it a
trifle harder, he thought, to deal with the hundred-and-odd voters
whom the Act enfranchised, than with the old Cripples! And very, very
ungrateful would those hundred-and-odd be, if they did not vote for
the man who had made their cause his own!

A load, indeed, was lifted from his mind, and for some days his relief
could be read in the lightness of his step, and the returning gaiety
of his eyes. He knew nothing of the things which were being whispered
about him. And though he had cause to fancy that he was not _persona
grata_ on his own benches, he thought sufficiently well of himself to
set this down to jealousy. There is a stage in the life of a rising
man when many hands are against him; and those most cruelly which will
presently applaud him most loudly. He flattered himself that he had
set a foot on the ladder: and while he waited for an opportunity to
raise himself another step, he came as near to a kind of feverish
happiness as thoughts of Mary, ever recurring when he was alone, would
permit. For the time the loss of his prospects ceased to trouble him
seriously. He lived less in his rooms, more among men. He was less
crabbed, less moody. And so the weeks wore away in Committee, and a
day or two after the Coronation, the Bill came on for the third
reading.

The House was utterly weary. The leaders on both sides were reserving
their strength for the final debate, and Vaughan had some hope that he
might find an opening to speak with effect. With this in his mind he
was on his way across the Park about three in the afternoon, conning
his peroration, when a hand was clapped on his shoulder, and he turned
to find himself face to face with Flixton.

So much had happened since they stood together on the hustings at
Chippinge, Vaughan's fortunes had changed so greatly since they had
parted in anger in Queen's Square, that he, at any rate, had no
thought of bearing malice. To Flixton's "Well, my hearty, you're a
neat artist, ain't you? Going to the House, I take it?" he gave a
cordial answer.

"Yes," he said. "That's it."

"Bringing ruination on the country, eh?" Flixton continued. And he
passed his arm through Vaughan's, and walked on with him. "That's the
ticket?"

"Some say so, but I hope not."

"Hope's a cock that won't fight, my boy!" the Honourable Bob rejoined.
"Fact is, you're doing your best, only the House of Lords is in the
way, and won't let you! They'll pull you up sweetly by and by, see if
they don't!"

"And what will the country say to that?" Vaughan rejoined
good-humouredly.

"Country be d----d! That's what all your chaps are saying. And
I tell you what! That book-in-breeches man--what do you call
him--Macaulay?--ought to be pulled up! He ought indeed! I read one of
his farragoes the other day and it was full of nothing but 'Think
long, I beg, before you thwart the public will!' and 'The might of an
angered people!' and 'Let us beware of rousing!' and all that rubbish!
Meaning, my boy, only he didn't dare to say it straight out, that if
the Lords did not give way to you chaps, there'd be a revolution; and
the deuce to pay! And I say he ought to be in the dock. He's as bad as
old Brereton down in Bristol, predicting fire and flames and all the
rest of it."

"But you cannot deny, Flixton," Vaughan answered soberly, "that the
country is excited as we have never known it excited before? And that
a rising is not impossible!"

"A rising! I wish we could see one! That's just what we want," the
Honourable Bob answered, stopping and bringing his companion to a
sudden stand also. "Eh? Who was that old Roman--Poppæa, or some name
like that, who said he wished the people had all one head that he
might cut it off?" suiting the action to the word with his cane. "A
rising, begad? The sooner the better! The old Fourteenth would know
how to deal with it!"

"I don't know," Vaughan answered, "that you would be so confident if
you were once face to face with it!"

"Oh, come! Don't talk nonsense!"

"Well, but----"

"Oh, I know all that! But I say, old chap," he continued, changing his
tone, and descending abruptly from the political to the personal
situation, "You've played your cards badly, haven't you? Eh?"

Vaughan fancied that he referred to Mary; or at best to his quarrel
with Sir Robert. And he froze visibly, "I won't discuss that," he said
in a different tone. And he moved on again.

"But I was there the evening you had the row!"

"At Stapylton?"

"Yes."

"Well?" stiffly.

"And, lord, man, why didn't you sing a bit small? And the old
gentleman would have come round in no time!"

Vaughan halted, with anger in his face. "I won't discuss it!" he said
with something of violence in his tone.

"Very well, very well!" Flixton answered with the superabundant
patience of the man whose withers are not wrung. "But when you did get
your seat--why didn't you come to terms with someone?" with a wink.
"As it is, what's the good of being in the House three months, or six
months--and out again?"

Vaughan wished most heartily that he had not met the Honourable Bob;
who, he remembered, had always possessed, hearty and jovial as he
seemed, a most remarkable knack of rubbing him the wrong way. "How do
you know?" he asked with a touch of contempt--was he, a rising Member
of Parliament to be scolded after this fashion?--"How do you know that
I shall be out?"

"You'll be out, if it's Chippinge you are looking to!"

"Why, if you please, my friend? Why so sure?"

Flixton winked with deeper meaning than before. "Ah, that's telling,"
he said. "Still--why not? If you don't hear it from me, old chap,
you'll soon hear it from someone. Why, you ask? Well, because a little
bird whispered to me that Chippinge was--arranged! That Sir Robert and
the Whigs understood one another, and whichever way it went it would
not come your way!"

Vaughan reddened deeply. "I don't believe it," he said bluntly.

"Did you know that Chippinge was going to be spared?"

"No."

"They didn't tell you?"

"No."

"Ah!" shrugging his shoulders, with a world of meaning, and preparing
to turn away. "Well, other people did, and there it is. I may be
wrong, I hope I am, old chap. Hope I am! But anyway--I must be going.
I turn here. See you soon, I hope!"

And with a wave of the hand the Honourable Bob marched off through
Whitehall, his face breaking into a mischievous grin as soon as he was
out of Vaughan's sight. "Return hit for your snub, Miss Mary!" he
muttered. "If you prick me, at least I can prick him! And do him good,
too! He was always a most confounded prig."

Meanwhile, Vaughan, freed from his companion, was striding on past
Downing Street; the old street, long swept away, in which Walpole
lived, and to which the dying Chatham was carried. And unconsciously,
under the spur of his angry thoughts, he quickened his pace. It was
incredible, it was inconceivable that so monstrous an injustice had
been planned, or could be perpetrated. He, who had stepped into the
breach, well-nigh in his own despite, he, who had refused, so
scrupulous had he been, to stand on a first invitation, he, who had
been elected almost against his will, was, for all thanks, to be set
aside, and by his friends! By those whose unsolicited act it had been
to return him and to put him into this position! It was impossible, he
told himself. It was unthinkable! Were this true, were this a fact,
the meanness of political life had reached its apogee! The
faithlessness of the Whigs, their incredible treachery to their
dependants, could need no other exemplar!

"I'll not bear it! By Heaven, I'll not bear it!" he muttered. And as
he spoke, striding along in the hurry of his spirits as if he carried
a broom and swept the whole Whig party before him, he overtook no less
a person than Sergeant Wathen, who had been lunching at the Athenæum.

The Sergeant heard his voice and turning, saw who it was. He fancied
that Vaughan had addressed him. "I beg your pardon," he said politely.
"I did not catch what you said, Mr. Vaughan."

For a moment Vaughan glowered at him, as if he would sweep him from
his path, along with the Whigs. Then out of the fullness of the heart
the mouth spoke. "Mr. Sergeant," he said, in a not very friendly tone,
"do you know anything of an agreement disposing of the future
representation of Chippinge?"

The Sergeant who knew all under the rose, looked shrewdly at his
companion to see, if possible, what he knew. And, to gain time, "I beg
your pardon," he said. "I don't think I--quite understand you."

"I am told," Vaughan said haughtily, "that an agreement has been made
to avoid a contest at Chippinge."

"Do you mean," the Sergeant asked blandly, "at the next election, Mr.
Vaughan?"

"At future elections!"

The Sergeant shrugged his shoulders. "As a member," he said primly, "I
take care to know nothing of such agreements. And I would recommend
you, Mr. Vaughan, to adopt that rule. For the rest," he added, with a
candid smile, "I give you fair warning that I shall contest the seat.
May I ask who was your informant?"

"Mr. Flixton."

"Flixton? Flixton? Ah! The gentleman who is to marry Miss Vermuyden!
Well, I can only repeat that I, at any rate, am no party to such an
agreement."

His sly look which seemed to deride his companion's inexperience, said
as plainly as a look could say, "You find the game of politics less
simple than you thought?" And at another time it would have increased
Vaughan's ire. But as one pellet drives out another, the Sergeant's
reference to Miss Vermuyden had in a second driven the prime subject
from his mind. He did not speak for a moment. Then with his face
averted, "Is Mr. Flixton--going to marry Miss Vermuyden?" he asked, in
a muffled tone. "I had not heard of it."

"I only heard it yesterday," the Sergeant answered, not unwilling to
shelve the other topic. "But it is rumoured, and I believe it is true.
Quite a romance, wasn't it?" he continued airily. "Quite a nine days'
wonder! But"--he pulled himself up--"I beg your pardon! I was
forgetting how nearly it concerned you. Dear me, dear me! It is a fair
wind indeed that blows no one any harm!"

Vaughan made no reply. He could not speak for the hard beating of his
heart. Wathen saw that there was something wrong and looked at him
inquisitively. But the Sergeant had not the clue, and could only
suspect that the marriage touched the other, because issue of it would
entirely bar his succession. And no more was said. As they crossed New
Palace Yard, a member drew the Sergeant aside, and Vaughan went up
alone to the lobby.

But all thought of speaking was flown from his mind; nor did the
thinness of the House when he entered tempt him. There were hardly
more than a hundred present; and these were lolling here and there
with their hats on, half asleep it seemed, in the dull light of a
September afternoon. A dozen others looked sleepily from the
galleries, their arms flattened on the rail, their chins on their
arms. There were a couple of ministers on the Treasury Bench, and Lord
John Russell was moving the third reading. No one seemed to take much
interest in the matter; a stranger entering at the moment would have
learned with amazement that this was the mother of parliaments, the
renowned House of Commons; and with still greater amazement would he
have learned that the small, boyish-looking gentleman in the
high-collared coat, and with lips moulded on Cupid's bow, who appeared
to be making some perfunctory remarks upon the weather, or the state
of the crops, was really advancing by an important stage the famous
Bill, which had convulsed three kingdoms and was destined to change
the political face of the land.

Lord John sat down presently, thrusting his head at once into a packet
of papers, which the gloom hardly permitted him to read. A clerk at
the table mumbled something; and a gentleman on the other side of the
House rose and began to speak. He had not uttered many sentences,
however, before the members on the Reform benches awoke, not only to
life, but to fury. Stentorian shouts of "Divide! Divide!" rendered the
speaker inaudible; and after looking towards the door of the House
more than once he sat down, and the House went to a division. In a few
minutes it was known that the Bill had been read a third time, by 113
to 58.

But the foreign gentleman would have made a great mistake had he gone
away, supposing that Lord John's few placid words--and not those
spiteful shouts--represented the feelings of the House. In truth
the fiercest passions were at work under the surface. Among the
fifty-eight who shrugged their shoulders and accepted the verdict in
gloomy silence were some primed with the fiercest invective; and
others, tongue-tied men, who nevertheless honestly believed that Lord
John Russell was a republican, and Althorp a fool; who were certain
that the Whigs wittingly or unwittingly were working the destruction
of the country, were dragging her from the pride of place to which a
nicely-balanced Constitution had raised her, and laying her choicest
traditions at the feet of the rabble. Men who believed such things,
and saw the deed done before their eyes, might accept their doom in
silence--even as the King of old went silently to the Banquet Hall
hard by--but not with joy or easy hearts!

Vaughan, therefore, was not the only one who walked into the lobby
that evening, brooding darkly on his revenge. Yet, even he behaved
himself as men, so bred, so trained do behave themselves. He held his
peace. And no one dreamed, not even Orator Hunt, who sat not far from
him under the shadow of his White Hat, that this well-conducted young
gentleman was revolving thoughts of the Social Order, and of the Party
System, and of most things which the Church Catechism commends, beside
which that terrible Radical's own opinions were mere Tory prejudices.
The fickleness of women! The treachery of men! Oh, Aetna bury them!
Oh, Ocean overwhelm them! Let all cease together and be no more! But
give me sweet, oh, sweet, oh, sweet Revenge!



                                 XXV

                             AT STAPYLTON


It was about a week before his encounter with Vaughan in the park--and
on a fine autumn day--that the Honourable Bob, walking with Sir Robert
by the Garden Pool, allowed his eyes to travel over the prospect. The
smooth-shaven lawns, the stately, lichened house, the far-stretching
park, with its beech-knolls and slopes of verdure, he found all fair;
and when to these, when to the picture on which his bodily eyes
rested, that portrait of Mary--Mary, in white muslin and blue ribbons,
bowing her graceful head while Sir Robert read prayers--which he
carried in his memory, he told himself that he was an uncommonly happy
fellow.

Beauty he might have had, wealth he might have had, family too. But to
alight on all in such perfection, to lose his heart where his head
approved the step, was a gift of fortune so rare, that as he strutted
and talked by the side of his host, his face beamed with ineffable
good-humour.

Nevertheless for a few moments silence had fallen between the two; and
gradually Sir Robert's face had assumed a grave and melancholy look.
He sighed more than once, and when he spoke, it was to repeat in
different words what he had already said.

"Certainly, you may speak," he said, in a tone of some formality. "And
I have little doubt, Mr. Flixton, that your overtures will be received
as they deserve."

"Yes? Yes? You think so?" Flixton answered with manifest delight. "You
really think so, Sir Robert, do you?"

"I think so," his host replied. "Not only because your suit is in
every way eligible, and one which does us honour." He bowed
courteously as he uttered the compliment. "But because, Mr. Flixton,
for docility--and I think a husband may congratulate himself on the
fact----"

"To be sure! To be sure!" Flixton cried, not permitting him to finish.
"Yes, Sir Robert, capital! You mean that if I am not a happy man----"

"It will not be the fault of your wife," Sir Robert said; remembering
with a faint twinge of conscience that the Honourable Bob's past had
not been without its histories.

"No! By gad, Sir Robert, no! You're quite right! She's got an ank----"
He stopped abruptly, his mouth open; bethinking himself, when it
was almost too late, that her father was not the person to whom to
detail her personal charms.

But Sir Robert had not divined the end of the sentence. He was a
trifle deaf. "Yes?" he said.

"She's an--an--animated manner, I was going to say," Flixton answered
with more readiness than fervour. And he blessed himself for his
presence of mind.

"Animated? Yes, but gentle also," Sir Robert replied, well-nigh
purring as he did so. "I should say that gentleness, and--and indeed,
my dear fellow, goodness, were the--but perhaps I am saying more than
I should."

"Not at all!" Flixton answered with heartiness. "Gad, I could listen
to you all day, Sir Robert."

He had listened, indeed, during a large part of the last week; and
with so much effect, that those histories to which reference has been
made, had almost faded from the elder man's mind. Flixton seemed to
him a hearty, manly young fellow, a little boastful and self-assertive
perhaps--but remarkably sound. A soldier, who asked nothing better
than to put down the rabble rout which was troubling the country; a
Tory, of precisely his, Sir Robert's opinions; the younger son of a
peer, and a West Country peer to boot. In fine, a staunch, open-air
patrician, with good old-fashioned instincts, and none of that
intellectual conceit, none of those cranks, and fads, and follies,
which had ruined a man who also might have been Sir Robert's
son-in-law.

Well that man, Sir Robert, perhaps because his conscience pricked him
at times by suggesting impossible doubts, was still bitterly angry. So
angry that, had the Baronet been candid, he must have acknowledged
that the Honourable Bob's main virtue was his unlikeness to Arthur
Vaughan; it was in proportion as he differed from the young fellow who
had so meanly intrigued to gain his daughter's affections, that
Flixton appeared desirable to the father. Even those histories proved
that at any rate he had blood in him; while his loud good-nature, his
positiveness, as long as it marched with Sir Robert's positiveness,
his short views, all gained by contrast. "I am glad he is a younger
son," the Baronet thought. "He shall take the old Vermuyden name!" And
he lifted his handsome old chin a little higher as he pictured the
honours, that even in a changed and worsened England, might cluster
about his house. At the worst, and if the Bill passed, he had a seat
alternately with the Lansdownes; and in a future, which would know
nothing of Lord Lonsdale's cat-o'-nine-tails, when pocket boroughs
would be rare, and great peers and landowners would be left with
scarce a representative, much might be done with half a seat.

Suddenly, "Damme, Sir Robert," Flixton cried, "there is the little
beauty--hem!--there she is, I think. With your permission I think I'll
join her."

"By all means, by all means," Sir Robert answered indulgently. "You
need not stand on ceremony."

Flixton waited for no more. Perhaps he had no mind to be bored, now
that he had gained what he wanted. He hurried after the slim figure
with the white floating skirts and the Leghorn hat, which had
descended the steps of the house, moved lightly across the lawns--and
vanished. He guessed, however, whither she was bound. He knew that she
had a liking for walking in the wilderness behind the house; a beech
wood which was already beginning to put on its autumn glory. And sure
enough, hastening to a point among the smooth grey trunks where three
paths met, he discerned her a hundred paces away, walking slowly from
him with her eyes raised.

"Squirrels!" Flixton thought. And he made up his mind to bring the
terriers and have a hunt on the following Sunday afternoon. In the
meantime he had another quarry in view, and he made after the
white-gowned figure.

She heard his tread on the carpet of dry beech leaves, and she turned
and saw him. She had come out on purpose that she might be alone, at
liberty to think at her ease and orientate herself, in relation to her
new environment, and the fresh and astonishing views which were
continually opening before her. Or, perhaps, that was but her pretext:
an easy explanation of silence and solitude, which might suffice for
her father and possibly for Miss Sibson. For, for certain, amid sombre
thoughts of her mother, she thought more often and more sombrely in
these days of another; of happiness which had been forfeited by her
own act; of weakness, and cowardice, and ingratitude; of a man's head
that stooped to her adorably, and then again of a man's eyes that
burned her with contempt.

It is probable, therefore, that she was not overjoyed when she saw Mr.
Flixton. But Sir Robert was so far right in his estimate of her nature
that she hated to give pain. It was there, perhaps, that she was weak.
And so, seeing the Honourable Bob, she smiled pleasantly on him.

"You have discovered a favourite haunt of mine," she said. She did not
add that she spent a few minutes of every day there: that the smooth
beech-trunks knew the touch of her burning cheeks, and the rustle of
the falling leaves the whisper of her penitence. Daily she returned by
way of the Kennel Path and there breathed a prayer for her mother,
where a mother's arms had first enfolded her, and a mother's kisses
won her love. What she did add was, "I often come here."

"I know you do," the Honourable Bob answered, with a look of
admiration. "I assure you, Miss Mary, I could astonish you with the
things I know about you!"

"Really!"

"Oh, yes. Really."

There was a significant chuckle in his voice which brought the blood
to her check. But she was determined to ignore its meaning. "You are
observant?" she said.

"Of those--yes, by Jove, I am--of those, I--admire," he rejoined. He
had it on his tongue to say "those I love," but she turned her eyes on
him at the critical moment, and though he was doing a thing he had
often done, and he had impudence enough, his tongue failed him. There
are women so naturally modest that until the one man who awakens the
heart appears, it seems an outrage to speak to them of love. Mary
Vermuyden, perhaps by reason of her bringing up, was one of these; and
though Flixton had had little to do with women of her kind, he
recognised the fact and bowed to it. He came, having her father's
leave to speak to her; yet he found himself less at his ease, than on
many a less legitimate occasion. "Yes, by Jove," he repeated. "I
observe them, I can tell you."

Mary laughed. "Some are more quick to notice than others," she said.

"And to notice some than others!" he rejoined, gallantly. "That is
what I mean. Now that old girl who is with you----"

"Miss Sibson?" Mary said, setting him right with some stiffness.

"Yes! Well, she isn't young! Anyway, you don't suppose I could say
what she wore yesterday! But what you wore, Miss Mary"--trying to
catch her eye and ogle her--"ah, couldn't I! But then you don't wear
powder on your nose, nor need it!"

"I don't wear it," she said, laughing in spite of herself. "But you
don't know what I may do some day! And for Miss Sibson, it does not
matter, Mr. Flixton, what she wears. She has one of the kindest
hearts, and was one of the kindest friends I had--or could have
had--when things were different with me."

"Oh, yes, good old girl," he rejoined, "but snubby! Bitten my nose off
two or three times, I know. And, come now, not quite an angel, you
know, Miss Mary!"

"Well," she replied, smiling, "she is not, perhaps, an angel to look
at. But----"

"She can't be! For she is not like you!" he cried. "And you are one,
Miss Mary! You are the angel for me!" looking at her with impassioned
eyes. "I'll never want another nor ask to see one!"

His look frightened her; she began to think he meant--something. And
she took a new way with him. "How singular it is," she said,
thoughtfully, "that people say those things in society! Because they
sound so very silly to one who has not lived in your world!"

"Silly!" Flixton replied, in a tone of mortification; and for a
moment he felt the check. He was really in love, to a moderate extent;
and on the way to be more deeply in love were he thwarted. Therefore
he was, to a moderate extent, afraid of her. And, "Silly?" he
repeated. "Oh, but I mean it, so help me! I do, indeed! It's not silly
to call you an angel, for I swear you are as beautiful as one! That's
true, anyway!"

"How many have you seen?" she asked, ridiculing him. "And what
coloured wings had they?" But her cheek was hot. "Don't say, if you
please," she continued, before he could speak, "that you've seen me.
Because that is only saying over again what you've said, Mr. Flixton.
And that is worse than silly. It is dull."

"Miss Mary," he cried, pathetically, "you don't understand me! I want
to assure you--I want to make you understand----"

"Hush!" she said, cutting him short, in an earnest whisper. And,
halting, she extended a hand behind her to stay him. "Please don't
speak!" she continued. "Do you see them, the beauties? Flying round
and round the tree after one another faster than your eyes can follow
them. One, two, three--three squirrels! I never saw one, do you know,
until I came here," she went on, in a tone of hushed rapture. "And
until now I never saw them at play. Oh, who could harm them?"

He stood behind her, biting his lip with vexation; and wholly
untouched by the scene, which, whether her raptures were feigned or
not, was warrant for them. Hitherto he had had to do with women who
met him halfway; who bridled at a compliment, were alive to an
_équivoque_, and knew how to simulate, if they did not feel, a soft
confusion under his gaze. For this reason Mary's backwardness, her
apparent unconsciousness that they were not friends of the same sex,
puzzled him, nay, angered him. As she stood before him, a hand still
extended to check his advance, the sunshine which filtered through the
beech leaves cast a soft radiance on her figure. She seemed more
dainty, more graceful, more virginal than aught that he had ever
conceived. It was in vain that he told himself, with irritation, that
she was but a girl after all. That, under her aloofness, she was a
woman like the others, as vain, passionate, flighty, as jealous as
other women. He knew that he stood in awe of her. He knew that the
words which he had uttered so lightly many a time--ay, and to those to
whom he had no right to address them--stuck in his throat now. He
wanted to say "I love you!" and he had the right to say it, he was
commissioned to say it. Yet he was dumb. All the boldness which he had
exhibited in her presence in Queen's Square--where another had stood
tongue-tied--was gone.

He took at last a desperate step. The girl was within arm's reach of
him; her delicate waist, the creamy white of her slender neck, invited
him. Be she never so innocent, never so maidenly, a kiss, he told
himself, would awaken her. It was his experience, it was a scrap drawn
from his store of worldly wisdom, that a woman kissed was a woman won.

True, as he thought of it, his heart began to riot, as it had not
rioted from that cause since he had kissed the tobacconist's daughter
at Exeter, his first essay in gallantry. But only the bold deserve the
fair! And how often had he boasted that, where women were concerned,
lips were made for other things than talking!

And--in a moment it was done.

Twice! Then she slipped from his grasp, and stood at bay, with flaming
checks and eyes that--that had certainly not ceased to be virginal.
"You! You!" she cried, barely able to articulate. "Don't touch me!"

She had been taken utterly, wholly by surprise; and the shock was
immensely increased by the facts of her bringing up and the restraints
and conditions of school-life. In his grasp, with his breath on her
cheek, all those notions about ravening wolves and the danger which
attached to beauty in low places--notions no longer applicable, had
she taken time to reason--returned upon her in force. The man had
kissed her!

"How---how dare you?" she continued, trembling with rage and
indignation.

"But your father----"

"How dare you----"

"Your father sent me," he pleaded, quite crestfallen. "He gave me
leave----"

She stared at him, as at a madman. "To insult me?" she cried.

"No, but--but you won't understand!" he answered, almost querulously.
He was quite chapfallen. "You don't listen to me. I want to marry you.
I want you to be my wife. Your father said I might come to you,
and--and ask you. And--and you'll say 'Yes,' won't you? That's a good
girl!"

"Never!" she answered.

He stared at her, turning red. "Oh, nonsense!" he stammered. And he
made as if he would go nearer. "You don't mean it. My dear girl!
Listen to me! I do love you! I do indeed! And I--I tell you what it
is, I never loved any woman----"

But she looked at him in such a way that he could not go on. "Do not
say those things!" she said. And her austerity was terrible to him.
"And go, if you please. My father, if he sent you to me----"

"He did!"

"Then he did not," she replied with dignity, "understand my feelings."

"But--but you must marry someone," he complained. "You know--you're
making a great fuss about nothing!"

"Nothing!" she cried, her eyes sparkling. "You insult me, Mr. Flixton,
and----"

"If a man may not kiss the girl he wants to marry----"

"If she does not want to marry him?"

"But it's not as bad as that," he pleaded. "No, by Jove, it's not.
You'll not be so cruel. Come, Miss Mary, listen to me a minute. You
must marry someone, you know. You are young, and I'm sure you have the
right to choose----"

"I've heard enough," she struck in, interrupting him with something of
Sir Robert's hauteur. "I understand now what you meant, and I forgive
you. But I can never be anything to you, Mr. Flixton----"

"You can be everything to me," he declared. It couldn't, it really
couldn't be that she meant to refuse him! Finally and altogether!

"But you can be nothing to me!" she answered, cruelly--very cruelly
for her, but her cheek was tingling. "Nothing! Nothing! And that being
so, I beg that you will leave me now."

He looked at her with a mixture of supplication, resentment, chagrin.

But she showed no sign of relenting. "You really--you really do mean
it?" he muttered, with a sickly smile. "Come, Miss Mary!"

"Don't! Don't!" she cried, as if his words pained her. And that was
all. "Please go! Or I shall go."

The Honourable Bob's conceit had been so far taken out of him that he
felt that he could make no farther fight. He could see no sign of
relenting, and feeling that, with all his experience, he had played
his cards ill, he turned away sullenly. "Oh, I will go," he said. And
he longed to add something witty and careless. But he could not add
anything. He, Bob Flixton, the hero of so many _bonnes fortunes_, to
be refused! He had laid his all, and _pour le ban motif_ at the feet
of a girl who but yesterday was a little schoolmistress. And she had
refused him! It was incredible! But, alas, it was also fact.

Mary, the moment his back was turned, hurried with downcast face
towards the Kennels; to hide her hot cheeks and calm her feelings in
the depths of the shrubbery. Oddly enough, her first thoughts were
less of that which had just happened to her than of that suit which
had been paid to her months before. This man might love her or not;
she could not tell. But Arthur Vaughan had loved her: the fashion of
this love taught her to prize the fashion of that.

He had loved her. And if he had treated her as Mr. Flixton had treated
her? Would she have held to him, she wondered. She believed that she
would. But the mere thought set her knees trembling, made her cheeks
flame afresh, filled her with rapture. So that, shamefaced,
frightened, glancing this way and that, as one hunted, she longed to
be safe in her room, there to cry at her ease.

Doubtless it was natural that the incident should turn her thoughts to
that other love-making; and presently to her father's furious dislike
of that other lover. She could not understand that dislike; for the
Bill and the Borough, Franchise or No Franchise, were nothing to her.
And the grievance, when Sir Robert had essayed to explain it, had been
nothing. To her mind, Trafalgar and Waterloo and the greatness of
England were the work of Nelson and Wellington--at the remotest,
perhaps, of Mr. Pitt and Lord Castlereagh. She could not enter into
the reasoning which attributed these and all other blessings of her
country to a System! To a System which it seemed her lover was pledged
to overthrow.

She walked until the tumult of her thoughts had somewhat abated; and
then, still yearning for the security of her own chamber, she made for
the house. She saw nothing of Flixton, no one was stirring. Already
she thought herself safe; and it was the very spirit of mischief which
brought her, at the corner of the church, face to face with her
father. Sir Robert's brow was clouded, and the "My dear, one moment,"
with which he stayed her, was pitched in a more decisive tone than he
commonly used to her.

"I wish to speak to you, Mary," he continued. "Will you come with me
to the library?"

She would fain have postponed the discussion of Mr. Flixton's
proposal, which she foresaw. But her father, affectionate and gentle
as he was, was still unfamiliar; and she had not the courage to make
her petition. So she accompanied him, with a sinking heart, to the
library. And, when he pointed to a seat, she was glad to sit down.

He took up his own position on the hearth rug; whence he looked at her
gravely before he spoke. At length:

"My dear," he said, "I'm sorry for this! Though I do not blame you. I
think that you do not understand, owing to those drawbacks of your
early life, which have otherwise, thank God, left so slight a mark
upon you, that there are things which at your time of life you must
leave to--to the decision of your elders."

She looked at him. And there was not that complete docility in her
look which he expected to find. "I don't think I understand, sir," she
murmured.

"But you can easily understand this, Mary," he replied. "That young
girls of your age, without experience of life or of--of the darker
side of things, cannot be allowed to judge for themselves on all
occasions. There are sometimes circumstances to be weighed which it is
not possible to detail to them."

She closed her eyes for an instant, to collect her thoughts.

"But--but, sir," she said, "you cannot wish me to have no will--no
choice--in a matter which affects me so nearly."

"No," he said, speaking seriously and with something approaching
sternness. "But that will and that choice must be guided. They should
be guided. Your feelings are natural--God forbid that I should think
them otherwise! But you must leave the decision to me."

She looked at him, aghast. She had heard, but had never believed, that
in the upper classes matches were arranged after this fashion. But to
have no will and no choice in such a thing as marriage! She must be
dreaming.

"You cannot," he continued, looking at her firmly but not unkindly,
"have either the knowledge of the past," with a slight grimace, as of
pain, "or the experience needful to enable you to measure the result
of the step you take. You must, therefore, let your seniors decide for
you."

"But I could never--never," she answered, with a deep blush, "marry a
man without--liking him, sir."

"Marry?" Sir Robert repeated. He stared at her.

She returned the look. "I thought, sir," she faltered, with a still
deeper blush, "that you were talking of that."

"My dear," he said, gravely, "I am referring to the subject on which I
understood that you requested Miss Sibson to speak to me."

"My mother?" she whispered, the colour fading quickly from her face.

He paused a moment. Then, "You would oblige me," he said, slowly and
formally, "by calling her Lady Sybil Vermuyden. And not--that."

"But she is--my mother," she persisted.

He looked at her, his head slightly bowed, his lower lip thrust out.
"Listen," he said, with decision. "What you propose--to go to her, I
mean--is impossible. Impossible, you understand. There must be an end
of any thought of it!" His tone was cold, but not unkind. "The thing
must not be mentioned again, if you please," he added.

She was silent a while. Then, "Why, sir?" she asked. She spoke
tremulously, and with an effort. But he had not expected her to speak
at all.

Yet he merely continued, as he stood on the hearth rug, to look at her
askance. "That is for me," he said, "to decide."

"But----"

"But I will tell you," he said, stiffly. "Because she has already
ruined part of your life!"

"I forgive her, from my heart!" Mary cried.

"And ruined, also," he continued, putting the interruption aside, "a
great part of mine. At your age I do not think fit to tell you--all.
It is enough, that she has robbed me of you, and deceived me. Deceived
me," he repeated, more bitterly, "through long years when you, my
daughter, might have been my comfort and--" he ended, almost
inaudibly, "my joy."

He turned his back on her with the word and began to walk the room,
his chin sunk on his breast, his hands clasped. It was clear to Mary,
watching him with loving, pitying eyes, that his thoughts were with
the unhappy past, with the short fever, the ignoble contentions of his
married life, or with the lonely, soured years which had followed. She
felt that he was laying to his wife's charge the wreck of his life,
and the slow dry-rot which had sapped hope, and strength, and
development.

Mary waited until his step trod the carpet less hurriedly. Then, as he
paused to turn, she stepped forward.

"Yet, sir--forgive her!" she cried. And there were warm tears in her
voice.

He turned and looked at her. Possibly he was astonished at her
persistence.

"Never!" he said in a tone of finality. "Never! Let that be the end."

But Mary had been dreaming of this moment for days. And she had
resolved that, come what might, though he frown, though his tone grow
hard and his eye angry, though he bring to bear on her the stern
command of his eagle visage, she would not be found lacking a second
time. She would not again give way to her besetting weakness, and
spend sleepless nights in futile remorse. Diffidence in the lonely
schoolmistress had been pardonable, had been natural. But now, if she
were indeed sprung from those who had a right to hold their heads
above the crowd, if the doffed hats which greeted her when she went
abroad, in the streets of Chippinge as well as in the lanes and
roads,--if these meant anything--shame on her if she proved craven.

"It cannot be the end, sir," she said, in a low voice. "For she
is--still my mother. And she is alone and ill--and she needs me."

He had begun to pace the room anew, this time with an impatient, angry
step. But at that he stood and faced her, and she needed all her
courage to support the gloom of his look. "How do you know?" he said.
For Miss Sibson, discharging an ungrateful task, had not entered into
details. "Have you seen her?"

She felt that she must judge for herself; and though her mother had
said something to the contrary, and hitherto she had obeyed her, she
thought it best to tell all. "Yes, sir," she said.

"When?"

"A fortnight ago?" She trembled under the growing darkness of his
look.

"Here?"

"In the grounds, sir."

"And you never told me!" he cried. "You never told me!" he repeated,
with a strange glance, a glance which strove with terror to discern
the mother's features in the daughter's face. "You, too--you, too,
have begun to deceive me!"

And he threw up his hands in despair.

"Oh, no! no!" Mary cried, infinitely distressed.

"But you have!" he rejoined. "You have kept this from me."

"Only, believe me, sir," she cried, eagerly, "until I could find a
fitting time."

"And now you want to go to her!" he answered, unheeding. "She has
suborned you! She, who has done the greatest wrong to you, has now
done the last wrong to me!"

He began again to pace up and down the room.

"Oh, no! no!" she sobbed.

"It is so!" he answered, darting an angry glance at her. "It is so!
But I shall not let you go! Do you hear, girl? I shall not let you go!
I have suffered enough," he continued, with a gesture which called
those walls to witness to the humiliations, the sorrows, the
loneliness, from which he had sought refuge within them. "I will
not--suffer again! You shall not go!"

She was full of love for him, and of pity. She understood even that
gesture, and the past wretchedness to which it bore witness. And she
yearned to comfort him, and to convince him that nothing that had gone
before, nothing that could happen in the future, would set her against
him. Had he been seated, she would have knelt and kissed his hand, or
cast herself on his breast and his love, and won him to her. But as he
walked she could not approach him, she did not know how to soften him.
Yet her duty was clear. It lay beside her dying mother. Nevertheless,
if he forbade her to go, if he withstood her, how was she to perform
it?

At length, "But if she be dying, sir," she murmured. "Will you not
then let me see her?"

He looked at her from under his heavy eyebrows. "I tell you, I will
not let you go!" he said stubbornly. "She has forfeited her right to
you. When she made you die to me--you died to her! That is my
decision. You hear me? And now--now," he continued, returning in a
measure to composure, "let there be an end!"

She stood silenced, but not conquered; knowing him more intimately
than she had known him before; and loving him not less, but more,
since pity and sympathy entered into her love and drove out fear; but
assured that he was wrong. It could not be her duty to forsake: it
must be his duty to forgive. But for the present she saw that in spite
of all his efforts he was cruelly agitated, that she had stirred pangs
long lulled to rest, that he had borne as much as he could bear. And
she would not press him farther for the time.

Meanwhile he, as he stood fingering his trembling lips, was trying to
bring the cunning of age to bear. He was silently forming his plan.
She had been too much alone, he reflected; that was it. He had
forgotten that she was young, and that change and movement and life
and gaiety were needful for her. This about--that woman--was an
obsession, an unwholesome fancy, which a few days in a new place, and
amid lively scenes, would weaken and perhaps remove. And by and by,
when he thought that he could trust his voice, he spoke.

"I said, let there be an end! But--you are all I have," he continued,
with emotion, "and I will say instead, let this be for a time. I must
have time to think. You want--there are many things you want that you
ought to have--frocks, laces, and gew-gaws," he added, with a sickly
smile, "and I know not what, that you cannot get here, nor I choose
for you. Lady Worcester has offered to take you with her to town--she
goes the day after to-morrow. I was uncertain this morning whether to
send you or not, whether I could spare you or not. Now, I say, go. Go,
and when you return, Mary, we will talk again."

"And then," she said, pleading softly, "you will let me go!"

"Never!" he cried, lifting his head in a sudden, uncontrollable
recurrence of rage. "But there, there! There! there! I shall have
thought it over--more at leisure. Perhaps! I don't know! I will tell
you then. I will think it over."

She saw with clear eyes that this was an evasion, that he was
deceiving her. But she felt no resentment, only pity. She had no
reason to think that her mother needed her on the instant. And much
was gained by the mere discussion of the subject. At least he promised
to consider it: and though he meant nothing now, perhaps when he was
alone he would think of it, and more pitifully. Yes, she was sure he
would.

"I will go, if you wish it," she said, submissively. She would show
herself obedient in all things lawful.

"I do wish it," he answered. "My daughter must know her way about. Go,
and Lady Worcester will take care of you. And when--when you come back
we will talk. You will have things to prepare, my dear," he continued,
avoiding her eyes, "a good deal to prepare, I dare say, since this is
sudden, and you had better go now. I think that is all."



                                 XXVI

                        THE SCENE IN THE HALL


Arthur Vaughan had been quick to see that he could not step at once
into place and fame; that success in political life could not in these
days be attained at a bound. But had he been less quick, the great
debate which preceded the passage of the Bill through the Commons must
have availed to persuade him. That their last words of warning to the
country, their solemn remonstrances, might have more effect, the
managers of the Opposition had permitted the third reading to be
carried in the manner which has been described. But, that done, they
unmasked all their forces, bent on proving that if in the time to come
the peers threw out the Bill they would do so with a respectable
weight, not only of argument, but of public feeling behind them; and
that, not only in the country, but in the popular House. All that the
bitter invective of Croker, the mingled gibes and predictions of
Wetherell, the close and weighty reasoning of Peel, the precedents of
Sugden could do to warn the timid and arouse the prudent was done.
That ancient Chamber, which was never again to echo the accents of a
debate so great, which stood indeed already doomed, as if it could not
long survive the order of things of which it had been for centuries
the centre, had heard, it may be, speeches more lofty, men more
eloquent--for whom had it not heard?--but never men more in earnest,
or words more keenly barbed by the prejudices of the passing, or the
aspirations of the coming, age. Of the one party were those who could
see naught but glory in the bygone, naught but peril in change, of the
other, those whose strenuous aim it was to make the future redress the
wrongs of the past. The former were like children, viewing the Armada
hangings which tapestried the neighbouring Chamber, and seeing only
the fair front: the latter like the same children, picking with soiled
fingers at the backing, coarse, dusty and cobwebbed, which for two
hundred years had clung to the roughened masonry.

Vaughan sat through the three nights, brooding darkly on the feats
performed before him. If they who fought in the arena were not giants,
if the House no longer held a match for Canning and Brougham, the
combatants seemed giants to him; for a man's opinion of himself is
never far from the opinion which others hold of him. And he soon
perceived that a common soldier might as easily step from the ranks
and set the battle in order as he, Arthur Vaughan, rise up, without
farther training, and lead the attack or cover the defence. He sat
soured and gloomy, a mere spectator; dwelling, even while he listened
to the flowery periods of Macaulay, or the trenchant arguments of
Peel, on the wrong done to himself by the disposal of his seat.

It was so like the Whigs, he told himself. Here on the floor of the
House who so loud as they in defence of the purity of elections, of
the people's right to be represented, of the unbiassed vote of the
electors? But behind the scenes they were as keenly bent on jobbing a
seat here, or neutralising a seat there, and as careless of the
people's rights as they had ever been! It was atrocious, it was
shameful! If this were political life, if this were political honesty,
he had had enough of it!

But alas, though he said it in his anger, there was the rub! He had
not had, and now he was not likely to have, enough of it. The
hostility to himself, of which he had come slowly to be conscious, as
a man grows slowly to perceive a frostiness in the air, had insensibly
sapped his self-confidence and lowered his claims. He no longer dreamt
of rising and outshining the chiefs of his party. But he still
believed that he had it in him to succeed--were time given him. And
all through the long hours of the three nights' debates his thoughts
were as often on his wrongs as on the momentous struggle which was
passing before his eyes, and for the issue of which the clubs of
London were keeping vigil.

But enthusiasm is infectious. And when the tellers for the last time
walked up to the table, at five o'clock on the morning of the 22nd of
September, with the grey light of daybreak stealing in to shame the
candles and betray the jaded faces--when he and all men knew that for
them the end of the great struggle was come--Vaughan waited breathless
with the rest and strained his ears to catch the result. And when, a
moment later, peal upon peal of fierce cheering shook the old panels
in their frames, and being taken up by waiting crowds without, carried
the news through the dawn to the very skirts of London--the news that
Reform had passed the People's House, and that only the peers now
stood between the country and its desire--he shared the triumph and
shouted with the rest, shook hands with exultant neighbours, and waved
his hat, perspiring.

But in his case the feeling of exultation was short-lived; perhaps in
the case of many another, who roared himself hoarse and showed a
gleeful face to the daylight. Certainly it was something to have taken
part in such a scene, the memory of which must survive for
generations. It was something to have voted in such a division. He
might talk of it in days to come to his grandchildren. But for him
personally it meant that all was over; that here, if the Lords passed
the Bill, was the end. A Dissolution must follow, and when the House
met again, his place would know him no more. He would be gone, and no
man would feel the blank.

Nor were less selfish doubts wanting. As he stood, caught in the press
and awaiting his turn to leave the crowded House, his eyes rested on
the pale, scowling faces which dotted the opposite benches; the faces
of men who, honestly believing that here and now the old Constitution
of England had got its deathblow, could not hide their bitter chagrin,
or their scorn of the foe. Nor could he, at any rate, view those men
without sympathy; without the possibility that they were right
weighing on his spirits; without a faint apprehension that this might
indeed be the beginning of decay, the starting point of that decadence
which every generation since Queen Anne's had foreseen. For if many on
that side represented no one but themselves, they still represented
vast interests, huge incomes, immense taxation. They were those who,
if England sank, had most to lose. He, in the past, had given up
almost his all that he might stand aloof from them; and that, because
he thought them prejudiced, wrong-headed, unreasonable. But he
respected them. And--what if they were right?

Meanwhile the persistent cheering of his friends began to jar on his
tired nerves. He seemed to see in this a beginning of disorder, of
license, of revolution, of all those evils which the other party
foretold. And then he had little liking for the statistics of Hume:
and Hume with his arm about his favourite pillar, was high among the
triumphant. Hard by him again was the tall, thin form of Orator Hunt,
for whom the Bill was too moderate; and the taller, thinner form of
Burdett. They, crimson with shouting, were his partners in this; the
bedfellows among whom his opinions had cast him.

Thinking such thoughts, he was among the last to leave the House,
which he did by way of Westminster Hall. The scene as he descended to
the Hall was so striking that he stood an instant on the steps to view
it. The hither half of the great space was comparatively bare, but the
farther half was occupied by a throng of people held back by a line of
the New Police, who were doing all they could to keep a passage
for the departing Members. As groups of the latter, after chatting
awhile at the upper end, passed, conscious of the greatness of the
occasion, down the lane thus formed, bursts of loud cheering greeted
the better-known Reformers. Some of the more forward of those who
waited shook hands with them, or patted them on the back; while others
cried "God bless you, sir! Long life to you, sir!" On the other hand,
an angry moan, or a spirit of hissing, marked the passage of a known
Tory; or a voice was raised calling to these to bid the Lords beware.
A few lamps, which had burned through the night, contended pallidly
with the growing daylight, and gave to the scene that touch of
obscurity, that mingling of light and shadow--under the dusky,
far-receding roof--which is necessary to the picturesque.

Vaughan did not suspect that, as he paused, looking down on the Hall,
he was himself watched, and by some sore enough that moment to be glad
to wreak their feelings in any direction. As he set his foot on the
stone pavement a group near at hand raised a cry of "Turncoat!
Turncoat!" and that so loudly that he could not but hear it. An
unmistakable hiss followed; and then, "Who stole a seat?" cried one of
the men.

"And isn't going to keep it?" cried another.

Vaughan turned short at the last words--he had not felt sure that the
first were addressed to him. With a hot face, and every fibre in his
body tingling with defiance, he stepped up to the group. "Did you
speak to me?" he said.

A man with a bullying air put himself before the others. He was a
ruined Irish Member, who had sat for years for a close borough, and
for whom the Bill meant duns, bailiffs, a sponging-house, in a word,
the loss of all those thing's which made life tolerable. He was full
of spite and spoiling for a fight with someone, no matter with whom.

"Who are you?" he replied, confronting our friend with a sneer. "I
have not the pleasure of your acquaintance, sir!"

Vaughan was about to answer him in kind, when he espied in the middle
of the group the pale, keen face and greyish whiskers of Sergeant
Wathen. And, "Perhaps you have not," he retorted, "but that gentleman
has." He pointed to Wathen. "And, if what was said a moment ago," he
continued, "was meant for me, I have the honour to ask for an
explanation."

"Explanation?" a Member in the background cried, in a jeering tone.
"Is there need of one?"

Vaughan was no longer red, he was white with anger. "Who spoke?" he
asked, his voice ringing.

The Irishman looked over his shoulder and laughed. "Right you are,
Jerry!" he said: "I'll not give you up!" And then to Vaughan, "I did
not," he said rudely. "For the rest, sir, the Hall is large enough.
And we have no need of your heroics here!"

"Your pleasure, however," Vaughan replied, haughtily, "is not my law.
Some one of you used words a moment ago which seemed to imply----"

"What, sir?"

"That I obtained my seat by unfair means! And the truth being
perfectly well known to that gentleman"--again he pointed to the
Sergeant in a way which left Wathen anything but comfortable. "I am
sure that he will tell you that the statement----"

"Statement?"

"Statement or imputation, or whatever you please to call it," Vaughan
answered, sticking to his point in spite of interruptions, "is
absolutely unfounded--and false. And false! And, therefore, must be
retracted."

"Must, sir?"

"Yes, must!" Vaughan replied--he was no coward. "Must, if you call
yourselves gentlemen. But first, Mr. Sergeant," he continued, fixing
Wathen with his eye, "I will ask you to tell these friends of yours
that I did not turn my coat at Chippinge. And that there was nothing
in my election which in any degree touched my honour."

The Sergeant looked flurried. He was of those who love to wound, but
do not love to fight. And at this moment he wished from the crown of
his head to the soles of his feet, that he had held his tongue. But
unluckily, whether the cloud upon Vaughan's reputation had been his
work or not, he had certainly said more than he liked to remember;
and, worse still, had said some part of it within the last five
minutes, in the hearing of those about him. To retract, therefore, was
to dub himself a liar; and he sought refuge, the perspiration standing
on his brow, in that half-truth which is at once worse than a lie--and
safer.

"I must say, Mr. Vaughan," he said, "that the--the circumstances in
which you used the vote given to you by your cousin, and--and the way
in which you turned against him after attending a dinner of his
supporters----"

"Openly, fairly, and after warning, I turned against him," Vaughan
cried, enraged at the show of justice which the accusation wore. "And
that, sir, in pursuance of opinions which I had publicly professed.
More, I allowed myself to be elected only after I had once refused
Lord Lansdowne's offer of the seat! And after, only after, Sir Robert
Vermuyden had so treated me that all ties were broken. Sergeant
Wathen, I appeal to you again! Was that not so?"

"I know nothing of that," Wathen answered, sullenly.

"Nothing? You know nothing of that?" Vaughan cried.

"No," the Sergeant answered, still more sullenly. "I know nothing of
what passed between you and your cousin. I know only that you were
present, as I have said, at a dinner of his supporters on the eve of
the election, and that on a sudden, at that dinner, you declared
yourself against him--with the result that you were elected by the
other side!"

For a moment Vaughan stood glowering at him, struck dumb by his denial
and by the unexpected plausibility, nay, the unexpected strength of
the case against him. He was sure that Wathen knew more, he was sure
that if he would he could say more! He was sure that the man was
dishonest. But he did not see how he could prove it, and----

The Irish Member laughed. "Well, sir," he said, derisively, "is the
explanation, now you've got it, to your mind?"

The taunt stung Vaughan. He took a step forward. The next moment would
have seen him commit himself to a foolish action, that could only have
led him to Wimbledon Common or Primrose Hill. But in the nick of time
a voice stayed him.

"What's this, eh?" it asked, its tone more lugubrious than usual. And
Sir Charles Wetherell, who had just descended the stairs from the
lobby, turned a dull eye from one disputant to the other. "Can't you
do enough damage with your tongues?" he rumbled. "Brawl upstairs as
much as you like! That's the way to the Woolsack! But you mustn't
brawl here!" And the heavy-visaged man, whose humour had again and
again conciliated a House which his coarse invective had offended,
once more turned from one to the other. "What is it?" he repeated.
"Eh?"

Vaughan hastened to appeal to him. "Sir Charles," he said, "I will
abide by your decision! Though I do not know, indeed, that I ought to
take any man's decision on a point which touches my honour!"

"Oh!" Wetherell said in an inimitable tone. "Court of Honour, is it?"
And he cast a queer look round the circle. "That's it, is it? Well, I
dare say I'm eligible. I dare swear I know as much about honour as
Brougham about equity! Or the Sergeant there"--Wathen reddened
angrily--"about law! Or Captain McShane here about his beloved
country! Yes," he continued, amid the unconcealed grins of those of
the party whose weak points had escaped, "you may proceed, I think."

"You are a friend, Sir Charles," Vaughan said, in a voice which
quivered with anxiety, "you are a friend of Sir Robert Vermuyden's?"

"Well, I won't deny him until I know more!" Wetherell answered
quaintly. "What of it?"

"You know what occurred at Chippinge before the election?"

"None better. I was there."

"And what passed between Sir Robert Vermuyden and me?" Vaughan
continued, eagerly.

"I think I do," Wetherell answered. "In the main I do."

"Thank you, Sir Charles. Then I appeal to you. You are opposed to me
in politics, but you will do me justice. These gentlemen have thought
fit to brand me here and now as a turncoat; and, worse, as one who
was--who was elected"--he could scarcely speak for passion--"in
opposition to Sir Robert's, to my relative's candidates, under
circumstances dishonourable to me!"

"Indeed? Indeed? That is serious."

"And I ask you, sir, is there a word of truth in that charge?"

Wetherell had his eyes fixed gloomily on the pavement. He appeared to
weigh the matter a moment or two. Then he shook his head.

"Not a word," he said, ponderously.

"You--you bear me out, sir."

"Quite, quite," the other answered slowly, as he took out his
snuffbox. "To tell the truth, gentlemen," he continued, in the same
melancholy tone, "Mr. Vaughan was fool enough to quarrel with his
bread and butter for the sake of the most worthless, damnable and
mistaken convictions any man ever held! That's the truth. He showed
himself a very perfect fool, but an honourable and an honest fool--and
that's a rare thing. I see none here."

No one laughed at the gibe, and he turned to Vaughan, who stood,
relieved indeed, but stiff and uncomfortable, uncertain what to do
next. "I'll take your arm," he said. "I've saved you," coolly, "from
the ragged regiment on my side. Do you take me safe," he continued,
with a look towards the lower end of the Hall, "through your ragged
regiment outside, my lad!"

Vaughan understood only too well the generous motive which underlay
the invitation. But for a moment he hung back.

"I am your debtor, Sir Charles," he said, deeply moved, "as long as I
live. But I would like to know before I go," and he raised his head,
with a look worthy of Sir Robert, "whether these gentlemen are
satisfied. If not----"

"Oh, perfectly," the Sergeant cried, hurriedly. "Perfectly!" And he
muttered something about being glad--hear explanation--satisfactory.

But the Irish Member stepped up and held out his hand. "Faith," he
said, "there's no man whose word I'd take before Sir Charles's!
There's no hiatus in his honour, whatever may be said of his breeches!
That's one for you," he added, addressing Wetherell. "I owed you one,
my good sir!" And then he turned to Vaughan. "There's my hand, sir! I
apologise," he said. "You're a man of honour, and it's mistaken we
were!"

"I am obliged to you for your candour," Vaughan said, gratefully.

Half a dozen others raised their hats to him, or shook hands with him
frankly. The Sergeant did the same less frankly. But Vaughan saw that
he was cowed. Wetherell was Sir Robert Vermuyden's friend, and the
Sergeant was Sir Robert's nominee. So he pushed his triumph no
farther. With a feeling of gratitude too deep for words, he offered
his arm to Sir Charles, and went down the Hall in his company.

By this time the crowd at the lower end had carried their joy and
their horseplay elsewhere; and no attempt was made--Vaughan only
wished an attempt had been made--to molest Wetherell. They walked
across the yard to Parliament Street, as the first sunshine of the day
fell on the bridge and the river. Flocks of gulls were swinging to and
fro in the clear air above the water, and dumb barges were floating up
with the tide. The hub-bub in that part was past and over; at that
moment a score of coaches were speeding through the suburbs, bearing
to market-town and busy city, ay, and to village greens, where the
news was awaited eagerly, the tidings that the Bill had passed the
Lower House.

Sir Charles walked a short distance in silence. Then, "I thought some
notion of the kind was abroad," he said. "It's as well this happened.
What are you going to do about your seat if the Bill pass, young man?"

"I am told that it is pre-empted," Vaughan answered, in a tone between
jest and earnest.

"It is. But----"

"Yes, Sir Charles?"

"You should see your own side about it," Wetherell answered gruffly.
"I can't say more than that."

"I am obliged to you for that."

"You should be!" Wetherell retorted in a peculiar tone. And with an
oath and a strange gesture he disengaged his arm. Halting and wheeling
about, he pointed with a shaking hand to the towers of the Abbey,
which rose against the blue, beatified by the morning sunshine. "If I
said 'batter down those walls, undig the dead, away with every hoary
thing of time, the present and the future are enough, and we, the
generation that burns the mummies, which three thousand years have
spared--we are wiser than all our forbears--' what would you say? You
would call me mad. Yet what are you doing? Ay, you, you among the
rest! The building that our fathers built, patiently through many
hundred years, adding a little here and strengthening there, the
building that Hampden and Shrewsbury and Walpole, Chatham and his son,
and Canning, and many others tended reverently, repairing here and
there, as time required, you, you, who think you know more than all
who have gone before you, hurry in ruin to the ground! That you may
build your own building, built in a day, to suit the day, and to
perish with the day! Oh, mad, mad, mad! Ay,


     "_Hostis habet muros; ruit alta a culmine Troja.
       Sat patriæ Priamoque datum; si Pergama linquâ.
       Defendi possent, etiam, hoc defensa fuissent!_"


His voice quavered on the last accent, his chin sank on his breast. He
turned wearily and resumed his course. When Vaughan, who did not
venture to address him again, parted from him in silence at the door
of his house, the fat man's pendulous lip quivered, and a single tear
ran down his cheek.



                                XXVII

                            WICKED SHIFTS


It was with a lighter heart that Vaughan walked on to Bury Street.
There were still, it seemed, faith and honour in the world, and some
men who could be trusted. But if he expected much to come of this, if
he expected to be received with an ovation on his next appearance at
Westminster, he was doomed to disappointment. Wetherell's defence
convinced those who heard it; and in time, no doubt, passing from
mouth to mouth, would improve the young Member's relations, not only
on the floor of the House, but in the lobbies and at Bellamy's. But
the English are not dramatic. They have no love for scenes. And no one
of those whose silence or whose catcalls had wronged him thought fit
to take his hand in cold blood and ask his pardon; nor did any Don
Quixote cast down his glove in Westminster Hall and offer to do battle
with his traducers. The manner of one man became a shade more cordial;
another spoke where he would have nodded. And if Vaughan had risen at
this time to speak on any question which he understood he would have
been heard upon his merits.

But the change, slow though genial, like the breaking up of an English
frost, came too late to do him much service. With the transfer of the
Bill to the House of Lords public interest deserted the Commons. They
sat, indeed, through the month of September, to the horror of many a
country gentleman, who saw in this the herald of evil days; and they
debated after a fashion. But the attendance was sparse, and the
thoughts and hopes of all men were in another place. Vaughan saw that
for all the reputation he could now make the Dissolution might be come
already. And with this, and the emptiness of his heart, from which he
could no more put the craving for Mary Vermuyden than he could dismiss
her image from the retina of his mind, he was very miserable. The void
left by love, indeed, was rendered worse by the void left unsatisfied
by ambition. Mary's haunting face was with him at his rising, went
with him to his pillow, her little hand was often on his sleeve, her
eyes often pleaded to his. In his lonely rooms he would pace the floor
feverishly, savagely, pestering himself with what might have been;
kicking the furniture from his path and--and hating her! For the idea
of marriage, once closely presented to man or woman, leaves neither
unchanged, leaves neither as it found them, however quickly it be put
aside.

Still it was not possible for one who sprang from the governing
classes, and was gifted with political instincts, to witness the
excitement which moved the whole country during those weeks of
September and the early days of October, without feeling his own blood
stirred; without sharing to some extent the exhilaration with which
the adventurous view the approach of adventures. What would the peers
do? All England was asking that question. At Crockford's, in the
little supper-room, or at the French Hazard table itself, men turned
to put it and to hear the answer. At White's and Boodle's, in the hall
of the Athenæum, as they walked before Apsley House, or under the
gas-lamps of Pall Mall, men asked that question again and again. It
shared with Pasta and the slow-coming cholera--which none the less was
coming--the chit-chat of drawing-rooms; and with the next prize fight
or with ridicule of the New Police, the wrangling debates of every
tavern and posthouse. Would the peers throw out the Bill? Would
they--would those doting old Bishops in particular--dare to thwart the
People's will? Would they dare to withhold the franchise from
Birmingham and Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield? On this husbands took
one side, wives the other, families quarrelled. What Croker thought,
what Lord Grey threatened, what the Duke had let drop, what Brougham
had boasted, how Lady Lyndhurst had sneered, or her husband retorted,
what the Queen wished--scraps such as these were tossed from mouth to
mouth, greedily received, carried far into the country, and
eventually, changed beyond recognition, were repeated in awestruck
ears, in county ballrooms and at Sessions.

One member of the Privy Council, who had left his party on the Bill,
and whose vote, it was thought, had turned a division, shot himself.
And many another, it was whispered, never recovered wholly from the
strain of those days.

For far more hung upon the Lords' decision than the mere fate of the
Bill. If they threw it out, what would the Ministry do? And--more
momentous still, and looming larger in the minds of men--what would
the country do? What would Birmingham and Sheffield, Manchester and
Leeds do? What would they do?

Lord Grey, strong in the King's support, would persevere, said some.
He would bring in the Bill again, and create peers in number
sufficient to carry it. And Macaulay's squib was flung from club to
club, from meeting to meeting, until it reached the streets:


             _What, though new opposed I be,
                Twenty peers shall carry me!
              If twenty won't, thirty will,
                For I am his Majesty's bouncing Bill_.


Ay, his Majesty's Bill, God bless him! His Majesty's own Bill! Hurrah
for Lord Grey! Hurrah for Brougham! Hurrah for Lord John, and down
with the Bishops! So the word flew from mouth to mouth, so errand boys
yelled it under the windows of London House, in St. James's Square,
and wherever aproned legs might be supposed to meet under the
mahogany.

But others maintained that Lord Grey would simply resign, and let the
consequences fall on the heads of those who opposed the People's will.
Those consequences, it was whispered everywhere--and not by the timid
and the rich only--spelled Revolution! Revolution, red and anarchical,
was coming, said many. Was not Scotland ready to rise? Was not the
Political Union of Birmingham threatening to pay no taxes? Were not
the Political Unions everywhere growling and lashing their sides? The
winter was coming, and there would be fires by night and drillings by
day, as there had been during the previous autumn. Through the long
dark nights there would be fear and trembling, and barring of doors,
and waiting for the judgment to come. And then some morning the
crackling sound of musketry would awaken Pall Mall and Mayfair, the
mob would seize the Tower and Newgate, the streets would run blood and
the guillotine would rise in Leicester Square or Finsbury Fields.

So widely were these fears spread--fostered as they were by both
parties, by the Tories for the purpose of proving whither Reform was
leading the country, by the Whigs to show to what the obstinacy of the
borough-mongers was driving it--that few were proof against them. So
few, that when the Bill was rejected in the early morning of Saturday,
the 8th of October, the Tory peers, from Lord Eldon downwards, though
they had not shrunk from doing their duty, could hardly be made to
believe that they were at liberty to go to their homes unscathed.

They did so, however. But the first mutterings of the storm soon made
themselves heard. Within twenty-four hours the hearts of many failed
them for fear. The Funds fell at once. The journals appeared in
mourning borders. In many towns the bells were tolled and the shops
were shut. The mob of Nottingham rose and burned the Castle and fired
the house of an unpopular squire. The mob of Derby besieged the gaol
and released the prisoners. At Darlington, Lord Tankerville narrowly
escaped with his life; Lord Londonderry was left for dead; no Bishop
dared to wear his apron in public. Everywhere rose the cry of "No
Taxes!" Finally, the rabble rose in immense numbers, paraded the West
End of London, broke the windows of many peers, assaulted others, and
were only driven from Apsley House by the timely arrival of the Life
Guards. The country, amazed and shaken from end to end, seemed to be
already in the grip of rebellion; so that within the week the very
Tories hastened to beg Lord Grey to retain office. Even the King, it
was supposed, was shaken; and his famous distich--his one contribution
to the poetry of the country,


                    _I consider Dissolution
                     Tantamount to Revolution_,


found admirers for its truth, if not for its beauty.

Such a ferment could not but occupy Vaughan's mind and divert his
thoughts from his own troubles, even from thoughts of Mary. Every day
there was news: every day, in the opinion of many, the sky grew
darker. But though the rejection of the Bill promised him a second
short session, and many who sat for close boroughs chuckled privately
over the respite, he was ill-content with a hand-to-mouth life. He saw
that the Bill must pass eventually. He did not believe that there
would be a revolution. It was clear that his only chance lay in
following Wetherell's advice, and laying his case before one of his
chiefs.

Some days after the division he happened on an opportunity. He was
walking down Parliament Street when he came on a scene, much of a
piece of the unrest of the time. A crowd was pouring out of Downing
Street, and in the van of the rabble he espied the tall, ungainly
figure of no less a man than Lord Brougham. Abreast of the Chancellor,
but keeping himself to the wall as if he desired to dissociate himself
from the demonstration, walked another tall figure, also in black,
with shepherd's plaid trousers. A second glance informed Vaughan that
this was no other than Mr. Cornelius, who had been present at his
interview with Brougham; and accepting the omen, he made up to the
Chancellor just as the latter halted to rid himself of the ragged
tail, which had, perhaps, been more pleasing to his vanity in the
smaller streets.

"My friends," Brougham cried, checking with his hand the ragamuffins'
shrill attempt at a cheer, "I am obliged to you for your approval; but
I beg to bid you good-day! Assemblages such as these are----"

"Disgusting!" Cornelius muttered audibly, wrinkling his nose as he
eyed them over his high collar.

"Are apt to cause disorder!" the Chancellor continued, smiling. "Rest
assured that your friends, of whom, if I am the highest in office I am
not the least in good-will, will not desert you."

"Hurrah! God bless you, my lord! Hurrah!" cried the tatterdemalions in
various tones more or less drunken. And some held out their caps.
"Hurrah! If your lordship would have the kindness to----"

"Disgusting!" Cornelius repeated, wheeling about.

Vaughan seized the opportunity to intervene. "May I," he said, raising
his hat and addressing the Chancellor as he turned, "consult you, my
lord, for two minutes as you walk?"

Brougham started on finding a gentleman of his appearance at his
elbow; and looked as if he were somewhat ashamed of the guise in which
he had been detected. "Ah!" he said. "Mr.--Mr. Vaughan? To be sure!
Oh, yes, you can speak to me, what can I do for you? It is," he added,
with affected humility, "my business to serve."

Vaughan looked doubtfully at Mr. Cornelius, who raised his hat. "I
have no secrets from Mr. Cornelius," said the Chancellor pleasantly.
And then with a backward nod and a tinge of colour in his cheek,
"Gratifying, but troublesome," he continued. "Eh? Very troublesome,
these demonstrations! I often long for the old days when I could walk
out of Westminster Hall, with my bag and my umbrella, and no one the
wiser!"

"Those days are far back, my lord," Vaughan said politely.

"Ah, well! Ah, well! Perhaps so." They were walking on by this time.
"I can't say that since the Queen's trial I've known much privacy.
However, it is something that those whom one serves are grateful.
They----"

"Cry 'Hosanna' to-day," Cornelius said gruffly, with his eyes fixed
steadily before him, "and 'Crucify him' tomorrow!"

"Cynic!" said the Chancellor, with unabated good-humour. "But even you
cannot deny that they are better employed in cheering their friends
than in breaches of the peace? Not that"--cocking his eye at Vaughan
with a whimsical expression of confidence--"a little disorder here and
there, eh, Mr. Vaughan--though to be deplored, and by no one more than
by one in my position--has not its uses? Were there no apprehension of
mob-rule, how many borough-mongers, think you, would vote with us? How
many waverers, like Harrowby and Wharncliffe, would waver? And how, if
we have no little ebullitions here and there, are we to know that the
people are in earnest? That they are not grown lukewarm? That
Wetherell is not right in his statement--of which he'll hear more than
he will like at Bristol, or I am mistaken--that there is a Tory
re-action, an ebb in the tide which so far has carried us bravely? But
of course," he added, with a faint smile, "God forbid that we should
encourage violence!"

"Amen!" said Mr. Cornelius. And sniffed in a very peculiar manner.

"But to discern that camomile," the Chancellor continued gaily,
"though bitter to-day makes us better tomorrow, is a different thing
from----"

"Administering a dose!" Vaughan laughed, falling into the great man's
humour.

"To be sure. But enough of that. Now I think of it, Mr. Vaughan," he
continued, looking at his companion, "I have not had the pleasure of
seeing you since--but I need not remind you of the occasion. You've
had good cause to remember it! Yes, yes," he went on with voluble
complacency--he was walking as well as talking very fast--"I seldom
speak without meaning, or interfere without result. I knew well what
would come of it. It was not for nothing, Mr. Vaughan, that I got down
our Borough List and asked you if you had no thought of entering the
House. The spark--and tinder! For there you are in the House!"

"Yes," Vaughan replied, astonished at the coolness with which the
other unveiled, and even took credit for, the petty intrigue of six
months back. "But----"

"But," Brougham said, taking him up with a quick, laughing glance,
"you are not yet on the Treasury Bench? That's it?"

"No, not yet," Vaughan answered, good-humouredly.

"Ah, well, time and patience and Bellamy's chops, Mr. Vaughan, will
carry you far, I am sure."

"It is on that subject--the subject of time--I venture to trouble your
lordship."

The Chancellor's lumpish but singularly mobile features underwent a
change. Caught in a complacent, vain humour, he had forgotten a thing
which, with Vaughan's last words, recurred to him. "Yes?" he said,
"yes, Mr. Vaughan?" But the timbre of that marvellously flexible voice
with which he boasted that he could whisper so as to be heard to the
very door of the House of Commons, was changed. "Yes, what is it,
pray?"

"It is time I require," Vaughan answered. "And, in fine, I have done
some service, yeoman service, my lord, and I think that I ought not to
be cast aside by the party in whose interest I was returned, and with
whose objects I am in sympathy."

"Cast aside? Tut, tut! What do you mean?"

"I am told that though the borough for which I sit will continue to
return one member, I shall not have the support of the party in
retaining my seat."

"Indeed! Indeed!" Brougham answered, "Is it so? I am sorry to hear
that."

"But----"

"Very sorry, Mr. Vaughan."

"But, with submission, my lord, it is something more than sorrow I
seek," Vaughan answered, too sore to hide his feelings. "You have
owned very candidly that I derived from you the impulse which has
carried me so far. Is it unreasonable if I venture to turn to you,
when advised to see one of the chiefs of my party?"

"Who," Brougham asked with a quick look, "gave you that advice, Mr.
Vaughan?"

"Sir Charles Wetherell."

"Um!" the Chancellor replied through pinched lips. And he stood, "they
had crossed Piccadilly and Berkeley Square, and had reached the corner
of Hill Street, where at No. 5, Brougham lived.

"I repeat, my lord," Vaughan continued, "is it unreasonable if I apply
to you in these circumstances, rather----"

"Rather than to one of the whips?" Brougham said drily.

"Yes."

"But I know nothing of the matter, Mr. Vaughan."

But Vaughan was in no mood to put up with subterfuges. If the other
did not know, he should know. He had been all-powerful, it seemed, to
bring him in: was he powerless to keep him in? "There is a compact, I
am told," he said, "under which the seat is to be surrendered--for
this turn, at any rate--to my cousin's nominee."

Brougham shrugged his shoulders, and looked at Mr. Cornelius. "Dear
me, dear me," he said. "That's not a thing of which I can approve. Far
from it! Far from it! But you must see, Mr. Vaughan, that I cannot
meddle in my position with arrangements of that kind. Impossible, my
dear sir, it is clearly impossible!"

Vaughan stared; and with some spirit and more temper, "But the spark,
my lord! I'm sure you won't forget the spark?" he said.

For an instant a gleam of fun shone in the other's eyes. Then he was
funereal again. "Before the Bill, and after the Bill, are two things,"
he said drily. "Before the Bill all is, all was impure. And in an
impure medium--you understand me, I am sure? You are scientific, I
remember. But after the Bill--to ask me, who in my humble measure, Mr.
Vaughan, may call myself its prime cause--to ask me to infringe its
first principles by interposing between the Electors and their rights,
to ask me to use an influence which cannot be held legitimate--no, Mr.
Vaughan, no!" He shook his head solemnly and finally. And then to Mr.
Cornelius, "Yes, I am coming, Mr. Cornelius," he said. "I know I am
late."

"I can wait," said Mr. Cornelius.

"But I cannot. Good-day, Mr. Vaughan. Good-day," he repeated, refusing
to see the young man's ill-humour. "I am sorry that I cannot help you.
Or, stay!" he continued, halting in the act of turning away. "One
minute. I gather that you are a friend of Sir Charles Wetherell's?"

"He has been a friend to me," Vaughan answered sullenly.

"Ah, well, he is going to Bristol to hold his sessions--on the 29th, I
think. Go with him. Our fat friend hates me like poison, but I would
not have a hair of his head injured. We have been warned that there
will be trouble, and we are taking steps to protect him. But an
able-bodied young soldier by his side will be no bad thing. And
upon my honour," he continued, eyeing Vaughan with impudent
frankness--impudent in view of all that had gone before--"upon my
honour, I am beginning to think that we spoiled a good soldier when
we--eh!"

"The spark!" Mr. Cornelius muttered grimly.

"Good-day, my lord," said Vaughan with scant ceremony; his blood was
boiling. And he turned and strode away, scarcely smothering an
execration. The two, who did not appear to be in a hurry after all,
remained looking after him. And presently Mr. Cornelius smiled.

"What amuses you?" Brougham asked, with a certain petulence. For at
bottom, and in cases where no rivalry existed, he was good-natured;
and in his heart he was sorry for the young man. But then, if one
began to think of the pawn's feelings, the game he was playing would
be spoiled. "What is it?"

"I was thinking," Mr. Cornelius answered slowly, "of purity." He
sniffed. "And the Whigs!"

Meanwhile Arthur Vaughan was striding down Bruton Street with every
angry passion up in arms. He was too clever to be tricked twice, and
he saw precisely what had happened. Brougham--well, well was he called
Wicked Shifts!--reviewing the Borough List before the General
Election, had let his eyes fall on Sir Robert's seats at Chippinge;
and looking about, with his customary audacity, for a means of
snatching them, had alighted on him--and used him for a tool! Now, he
was of no farther use. And, as the loss of his expectations rendered
it needless to temporise with him, he was contemptuously tossed aside.

And this was the game of politics which he had yearned to play! This
was the party whose zeal for the purity of elections and the
improvement of all classes he had shared, and out of loyalty to which
he had sacrificed a fortune! He strode along the crowded pavement of
Parliament Street--it was the fashionable hour of the afternoon and
the political excitement kept London full--his head high, his face
flushed. And unconsciously as he shouldered the people to right and
left, he swore aloud.

As he uttered the word, regardless in his anger of the scene about
him, his fixed gaze pierced for an instant the medley of gay bonnets
and smiling faces, moving chariots and waiting footmen, which even in
those days filled Parliament Street--and met another pair of eyes.

The encounter lasted for a second only. Then half a dozen heads and a
parasol intervened. And then--in another second--he was abreast of the
carriage in which Mary Vermuyden sat, her face the prettiest and her
bonnet the daintiest--Lady Worcester had seen to that--of all the
faces and all the bonnets in Parliament Street that day. The landau in
which she sat was stationary at the edge of the pavement; and on the
farther side of her reposed a lady of kind face and ample figure.

For an instant their eyes met again; and Mary's colour, which had
fled, returned in a flood of crimson, covering brow and cheeks. She
leaned from the carriage and held out her white-gloved hand. "Mr.
Vaughan!" she said. And he might have read in her face, had he chosen,
the sweetest and frankest appeal. "Mr. Vaughan!"

But the moment was unlucky. The devil had possession of him. He raised
his hat and passed on, passed on wilfully. He fancied--afterwards,
that is, he fancied--that she had risen to her feet after he had gone
by and called him a third time in a voice at which the convenances of
Parliament Street could only wink. But he went on. He heard, but he
went on. He told himself that all was of a piece. Men and women, all
were alike. He was a fool who trusted any, believed in any, loved any.



                                XXVIII

                         ONCE MORE, TANTIVY!


Vaughan had been sore at heart before the meeting in Parliament
Street. After that meeting he was in a mood to take any step which
promised to salve his self-esteem. The Chancellor, Lord Lansdowne, Sir
Robert, and--and Mary, all, he told himself, were against him. But
they should not crush him. He would prove to them that he was no
negligible quantity. Parliament was prorogued; the Long Vacation was
far advanced; the world, detained beyond its time, was hurrying out of
town. He, too, would go out of town; and he would go to Chippinge.
There, in defiance alike of his cousin and the Bowood interest, he
would throw himself upon the people. He would address himself to those
whom the Bill enfranchised, he would appeal to the future electors of
Chippinge, he would ask them whether the will of their great
neighbours was to prevail, and the claims of service and of gratitude
were to go for nothing. Surely at this time of day the answer could
not be adverse!

True, the course he proposed matched ill with the party notions which
still prevailed. It was a complete breach with the family traditions
in which he had been reared. But in his present mood Vaughan liked his
plan the better for this. Henceforth he would be iron, he would be
adamant! And only by a little thing did he betray that under the iron
and under the adamant he carried an aching heart. When he came to book
his place, deliberately, wilfully, he chose to travel by the Bath road
and the White Lion coach, though he could have gone at least as
conveniently by another coach and another route. Thus have men ever,
since they first felt the pangs of love, rejoiced to press the dart
more deeply in the wound.

A dark October morning was brooding over the West End when he crossed
Piccadilly to take his place outside the White Horse Cellar. Now, as
on that distant day in April, when the car of rosy-fingered love had
awaited him ignorant, the coaches stood one behind the other in a long
line before the low-blind windows of the office. But how different was
all else! To-day the lamps were lighted and flickered on wet
pavements, the streets were windy and desolate, the day had barely
broken above the wet roofs, and on all a steady rain was falling. The
watermen went to and fro with sacks about their shoulders, and the
guards, bustling from the office with their waybills and the late
parcels, were short of temper and curt of tongue. The shivering
passengers, cloaked to the eyes in boxcoats and wrap-rascals, climbed
silently and sullenly to the roof, and there sat shrugging their
shoulders to their ears. Vaughan, who had secured a place beside the
driver, cast an eye on all, on the long dark vista of the street, on
the few shivering passers; and he found the change fitting. Let it
rain, let it blow, let the sun rise niggardly behind a mask of clouds!
Let the world wear its true face! He cared not how discordantly the
guard's horn sounded, nor how the coachman swore at his cattle, nor
how the mud splashed up, as two minutes after time they jostled and
rattled and bumped down the slope and through the dingy narrows of
Knightsbridge.

Perhaps to please him, the rain fell more heavily as the light
broadened and the coach passed through Kensington turnpike. The
passengers, crouching inside their wraps, looked miserably from under
dripping umbrellas on a wet Hammersmith, and a wetter Brentford. Now
the coach ploughed through deep mud, now it rolled silently over a bed
of chestnut or sycamore leaves which the first frost of autumn had
brought down. Swish, swash, it splashed through a rivulet. It was full
daylight now; it had been daylight an hour. And, at last, joyous
sight, pleasant even to the misanthrope on the box-seat, not far in
front, through a curtain of mist and rain, loomed Maidenhead--and
breakfast.

The up night-coach, retarded twenty minutes by the weather, rattled up
to the door at the same moment. Vaughan foresaw that there would be a
contest for seats at the table, and, without waiting for the ladder,
he swung himself to the ground, and entered the house. Hastily doffing
his streaming overcoats, he made for the coffee-room, where roaring
fires and a plentiful table awaited the travellers. In two minutes he
was served, and isolated by his gloomy thoughts and almost unconscious
of the crowded room and the clatter of plates, he was eating his
breakfast when his next-door neighbour accosted him.

"Beg your pardon, sir," he said in a meek voice. "Are you going to
Bristol, sir?"

Vaughan looked at the speaker, a decent, clean-shaven person in a
black high-collared coat, and a limp white neck-cloth. The man's face
seemed familiar to him, and instead of answering the question, Vaughan
asked if he knew him.

"You've seen me in the Lobby, sir," the other answered, fidgeting in
his humility. "I'm Sir Charles Wetherell's clerk, sir."

"Ah! To be sure!" Vaughan replied. "I thought I knew your face. Sir
Charles opens the Assizes to-morrow, I understand?"

"Yes, sir, if they will let him. Do you think that there is much
danger, sir?"

"Danger?" Vaughan answered with a smile. "No serious danger."

"The Government did not wish him to go, sir," the other rejoined with
an air of mystery.

"Oh, I don't believe that," Vaughan said.

"Well, the Corporation didn't, for certain, sir," the man persisted in
a low voice. "They wanted him to postpone the Assizes. But he doesn't
know what fear is, sir. And now the Government's ordered troops to
Bristol, and I'm afraid that'll make 'em worse. They're so set against
him for saying that Bristol was no longer for the Bill. And they're a
desperate rough lot, sir, down by the Docks!"

"So I've heard," Vaughan said. "But you may be sure that the
authorities will see that Sir Charles is well guarded!"

The clerk said nothing to that, although it was clear that he was far
from convinced, or easy. And Vaughan returned to his thoughts. But by
and by it chanced that as he raised his eyes he met those of a girl
who was passing his table on her way from the room; and he remembered
with a sharp pang how Mary had passed his table and looked at him, and
blushed; and how his heart had jumped at the sight. Why, there was the
very waiting-maid who had gone out with her! And there, where the
April sun had shone on her through the window, she had sat! And there,
three places only from his present seat, he had sat himself. Three
seats only--and yet how changed was all! The unmanly tears rose very
near to his eyes as he thought of it.

He sat so long brooding over this, in that mood in which a man recks
little of time, or of what befalls him, that the guard had to summon
him. And even then, as he donned his coats, with the "boots" fussing
about him, and the coachman grumbling at the delay, his memory was
busy with that morning. There, in the porch, he had stood and heard
the young waterman praise her looks! And there Cooke had stood and
denounced the Reform placard! And there----

"Let go!" growled the coachman, losing patience a last. "The
gentleman's not coming!"

"I'm coming," he answered curtly. And crossing the pavement in two
strides, he swung himself up hand over hand, as the stableman released
the horses. The coach started as his foot left the box of the wheel.
And something else started--furiously.

His heart. For in the place behind the coachman, in the very seat
which Mary Smith had occupied on that far-off April morning, sat Mary
Vermuyden! For an infinitely small fraction of a second, as he turned
himself to drop into his seat, his eyes swept her face. The rain had
ceased to fall, the umbrellas were furled; for that infinitely short
space his eyes rested on her features. Then his back was turned to
her.

Her eyes had been fixed elsewhere, her face had been cold--she had not
seen him. So much, in the confused pounding rush of his thoughts, as
he sat tingling in every inch of his frame, he could remember; but
nothing else except that in lieu of the plain Quaker-like dress which
Mary Smith had worn--oh, dress to be ever remembered!--she was
wearing rich furs, with a great muff and a small hat of sable, and was
Mary Smith no longer.

Probably she had been there from the start, seated behind him under
cover of the rain and the umbrellas. If so--and he remembered that
that seat had been occupied when he got to his place--she had
perceived his coming, had seen him mount, had been aware of him from
the first. She could see him now, watch every movement, read his
self-consciousness in the stiff pose of his head, perceive the rush of
colour which dyed his ears and neck.

And he was planted there, he could not escape. And he suffered. Asked
beforehand, he would have said that his uppermost feeling in such
circumstances would be resentment. But, in fact, he could think of
nothing except that meeting in Parliament Street, and the rudeness
with which he had treated her. If he had not refused to speak to her,
if he had not passed her by, rejecting her hand with disdain, he might
have been his own master now; he would have been free to speak, or
free to be silent, as he pleased. And she who had treated him so ill
would have been the one to suffer. But, as it was, he was hot all
over. The intolerable _gêne_ of the situation rested on him and
weighed him down.

Until the coachman called his attention to a passing waggon, and
pointed out a something unusual in its make; which broke the spell and
freed his thoughts. After that he began to feel a little of the wonder
which the coincidence demanded. How came she in the same seat, on the
same coach on which she had travelled before. He could not bring
himself to look round and meet her eyes. But he remembered that a
man-servant, doubtless in attendance on her, shared the hind seat with
the clerk who had spoken to him; and the middle-aged woman who sat
with her was doubtless her maid. Still, he knew Sir Robert well enough
to be sure that he would not countenance her journeying, even with
this attendance, on a public vehicle; and therefore, he argued, she
must be doing it without Sir Robert's knowledge, and probably in
pursuance of some whim of her own. Could it be that she, too, wished
to revive the bitter-sweet of recollection, the memory of that April
day? And, to do so, had gone out of her way to travel on this cold wet
morning on the same coach, which six months before had brought them
together?

If so, she must love him in spite of all. And in that case, what must
her feelings have been when she saw him take his place? What, when she
knew that she would not taste the bitter-sweet alone, but in his
company? What, when she foresaw that, through the day she would not
pass a single thing of all those well-remembered things, that
milestone which he had pointed out to her, that baiting-house of
which she had asked the name, that stone bridge with the hundred
balustrades which they had crossed in the gloaming--her eyes would not
alight on one of these, without another heart answering to every throb
of hers, and another breast aching as hers ached.

At that thought a subtle attraction, almost irresistible, drew him to
her, and he could have cried to her, under the pain of separation. For
it was all true. Before his eyes those things were passing. There was
the milestone which he had pointed out to her. And there the ruined
inn. And here were the streets of Reading opening before them, and the
Market Place, and the Bear Inn, where he had saved her from injury,
perhaps from death.


                          *   *   *   *   *


They were out of the town, they were clear of the houses, and he had
not looked, he had not been able to look at her. Her weakness, her
inconstancy deserved their punishment: but for all her fortune, to
recover all that he had lost and she had gained, he would not have
looked at her there. Yet, while the coach changed horses in the Square
before the Bear, he had had a glimpse of her--reflected in the window
of a shop; and he had marked with greedy eyes each line of her figure
and seen that she had wound a veil round her face and hat, so that,
whatever her emotions, she might defy curious eyes. And yet, as far as
he was concerned, she had done it in vain. The veil could not hide the
agitation, could not hide the strained rigidity of her pose, or the
convulsive force with which one hand gripped the other in her lap.

Well, that was over, thank God! For he had as soon seen a woman
beaten. The town was behind them; Newbury was not far in front. And
now with shame he began to savour a weak pleasure in her presence, in
her nearness to him, in the thought that her eyes were on him and her
thoughts full of him, and that if he stretched out his hand he could
touch her; that there was that between them, that there must always be
that between them, which time could not destroy. The coach was loaded,
but for him it carried her only: and for Mary he was sure that he
filled the landscape were it as wide as that which, west of Newbury,
reveals to the admiring traveller the whole wide vale of the Kennet.
He thrilled at the thought; and the coachman asked him if he were
cold. But he was far from cold; he knew that she too trembled, she,
too, thrilled. And a foolish exultation possessed him. He had hungry
thoughts of her nearness, and her beauty; and insane plans of
snatching her to his breast when she left the coach, and covering her
with kisses though a hundred looked on. He might suffer for it, he
would deserve to suffer for it, it would be an intolerable outrage.
But he would have kissed her, he would have held her to his heart.
Nothing could undo that.

Yet it was only in fancy that he was reckless, for still he did not
dare to look at her. And when they came at last to Marlborough, and
drew up at the door of the Castle Inn, where west-bound travellers
dined, he descended hurriedly and went into the coffee-room to secure
a place in a corner, whence he might see her enter without meeting her
eyes.

But she did not enter the house, soon or late. And a vain man might
have thought that she was not only bent on doing everything which she
had done on the former journey, but that it was not without intention
that she remained alone on the coach, exposed to his daring--if he
chose to dare. Not a few indeed, of his fellow-passengers, wandered
out before the time, and on the pretence of examining the façade of
the handsome old house, shot sidelong glances at the young lady, who,
wrapped in her furs and veiled to the throat, sat motionless in the
keen October air. But Vaughan was not of these; nor was he vain. When
he found that she did not come in, he decided that she would not meet
him, that she remained on the coach rather than sit in his company;
and forgetting the overture in Parliament Street, he remembered only
her fickleness and weakness. He fell to the depths. She had never
loved him, never, never!

On that he almost made up his mind to stay there; and to go on by the
next coach. His presence must be hateful to her, a misery, a torment,
he told himself. It was bad enough to force her to remain exposed to
the weather while others dined; it would be monstrous to go on and
continue to make her wretched.

But, before the time for leaving came, he changed his mind, and he
went out, feeling cowed and looking hard. He could not mount without
seeing her out of the corner of his eye; but the veil masked all, and
left him no wiser. The sun had burst through the clouds, and the sky
above the curving line of the downs was blue. But the October air was
still chilly, and he heard the maid fussing about her, and wrapping
her up more warmly. Well, it mattered little. At Chippenham, the
carriage with its pomp of postillions and outriders--Sir Robert was
particular about such things--would meet her; and he would see her no
more.

His pride weakened at that thought. She could never be anything to him
now; he had no longer the least notion of kissing her. But at
Chippenham, before she passed out of his life, he would speak to her.
Yes, he would speak. He did not know what he would say, but he would
not part from her in anger. He would tell her that, and bid her
good-bye. Later, he would be glad to remember that they had parted in
that way, and that he had forgiven!

While he thought of it they fell swiftly from the lip of the downs,
and rattling over the narrow bridge and through the stone-built
streets of Calne, were out again on the Bath road. After that, though
they took Black Dog hill at a slow pace, they seemed to be at
Chippenham in a twinkling. Before he could calm his thoughts the coach
was rattling between houses, and the wide straggling street was
opening before them, and the group assembled in front of the Angel to
see the coach arrive was scattering to right and left.

A glance told him that there was no carriage-and-four in waiting. And
because his heart was jumping so foolishly he was glad to put off the
moment of speaking to her. She would go into the house to wait for the
carriage, and when the coach, with its bustle and its many eyes, had
gone its way, he would be able to speak to her.

Accordingly, the moment the coach stopped he descended and hastened
into the house. He sent out the "boots" for his valise and betook
himself to the bar-parlour, where he called for something and jested
cheerily with the smiling landlady, who came herself to attend upon
him. He kept his back to the door which Mary must pass to ascend the
stairs, for well he knew the parlour of honour to which she would be
ushered. But though he listened keenly for the rustle of her skirts, a
couple of minutes passed and he heard nothing.

"You are not going on, sir?" the landlady asked. She knew too much of
the family politics to ask point-blank if he were going to Chippinge.

"No," he replied; "no, I"--his attention wandered--"I am not."

"I hope we may have the honour of keeping you tonight, sir?" she said.

"Yes, I"--was that the coach starting?--"I think I shall stay the
night." And then, "Sir Robert's carriage is not here?" he asked,
setting down his glass.

"No, sir. But two gentlemen have just driven in from Sir Robert's in a
chaise. They are posting to Bath. One's Colonel Brereton, sir. The
other's a young gentleman, short and stout. Quite the gentleman, sir,
but that positive, the postboy told me, and talkative, you'd think he
was the Emperor of China! That's their chaise coming out of the yard
now, sir."

A thought, keen as a knife-stab, darted through Vaughan's mind. In
three strides he was out of the bar-parlour, in three more he was at
the door of the Angel.

The coach was in the act of starting, the ostlers were falling back,
the guard was swinging himself up; and Mary Vermuyden was where he had
left her, in the place behind the coachman. And in the box-seat, the
very seat which he had vacated, was Bob Flixton, settling himself in
his wraps and turning to talk to her.

Vaughan let fall a word which we will not chronicle. It was true,
then! They were engaged! Doubtless Flixton had come to meet her, and
all was over. Fan-fa-ra! Fan-fa-ra! The coach was growing small in the
distance. It veered a little, a block of houses hid it, Vaughan saw it
again. Then in the dusk of the October evening the descent to the
bridge swallowed it, and he turned away miserable.

He walked a little distance from the door that his face might not be
seen. He did not tell himself that, because the view grew misty before
his eyes, he was taking the blow contemptibly; he told himself only
that he was very wretched, and that she was gone. It seemed as if so
much had gone with her; so much of the hope and youth and fortune, and
the homage of men, which had been his when he and she first saw the
streets of Chippenham together and he alighted to talk to Isaac White,
and mounted again to ride on by her side.

He was standing with his back to the inn thinking of this--and not
bitterly, but in a broken fashion--when he heard his name called, and
he turned and saw Colonel Brereton striding after him.

"I thought it was you," Brereton said. But though he had not met
Vaughan for some months, and the two had liked one another, he spoke
with little cordiality, and there was a vague look in his face. "I was
not sure," he added.

"You came with Flixton?" Vaughan said, speaking, on his side also,
rather dully.

"Yes, and meant to go on with him. But there's no counting on men in
love," Brereton continued with more irritation than the occasion
seemed to warrant. "He saw his charmer on the coach, and a vacant
seat--and I may find my way to Bath as I can."

"They are to be married, I hear?" Vaughan said in the same dull tone
and with his face averted.

"I don't know," Brereton answered sourly. "What I do know is that I'm
not best pleased that he has left me. I heard Sir Charles Wetherell
was sleeping at your cousin's last evening, and I posted there to see
him about the arrangements for his entry. But I missed him. He's gone
to Bath for this evening. Well, I took Flixton with me because I
didn't know Sir Robert and he did, and he's supposed to be playing
aide-de-camp to me. But a fine aide-de-camp he's like to prove, if
this is the way he treats me. You know Wetherell opens the Assizes at
Bristol tomorrow?"

"Yes, I saw his clerk on my way here."

"There'll be trouble, Vaughan!"

"Really?"

"Ay, really! And bad trouble! I wish it was over." He passed his hand
across his brow.

"I heard something of it in London," Vaughan answered.

"Not much, I'll wager," Brereton rejoined, with a brusqueness which
betrayed his irritation. "They don't know much, or they wouldn't be
sending me eighty sabres to keep order in a city of a hundred thousand
people! Enough, you see, to anger, and not enough to intimidate! It's
just plain madness. It's madness. But I've made up my mind! I've made
up my mind!" he repeated, speaking in a tone which betrayed the
tenseness of his nerves. "Not a man will I show if I can help it! Not
a man! And not a shot will I fire, whatever comes of it! I'll be no
butcherer of innocent folk."

"I hope nothing will come of it," Vaughan answered, interested in
spite of himself. "You're in command, sir, of course?"

"Yes, and I wish to heaven I were not! But there, there!" he
continued, pulling himself up as if he kept a watch on himself and
feared that he had said too much. "Enough of my business. What are you
doing here?"

"Well, I was going to Chippinge."

"Come to Bath with me! I shall see Wetherell, and you know him. You
may be of use to me. There's half the chaise at your service, and I
will tell you about it, as we go."

Vaughan at that moment cared little where he went, and after the
briefest hesitation, he consented. A few minutes later they started
together. It happened that as they drove in the last of the twilight
over the long stone bridge, an open car drawn by four horses and
containing a dozen rough-looking men overtook them and raced them for
a hundred yards.

"There's another!" Brereton said, rising with an oath and looking
after it. "I was told that two had gone through!"

"What is it? Who are they?" Vaughan asked, leaning out on his side to
see.

"Midland Union men, come to stir up the Bristol lambs!" Brereton
answered. "They may spare themselves the trouble," he continued
bitterly. "The fire will need no poking, I'll be sworn!"

And brought back to the subject, he never ceased from that moment to
talk of it. It was plain to anyone who knew him that a nervous
excitability had taken the place of his usual thoughtfulness. Long
before they reached Bath, Vaughan was sure that, whatever his own
troubles, there was one man in the world more unhappy than himself,
more troubled, less at ease; and that that man sat beside him in the
chaise.

He believed that Brereton exaggerated the peril. But if his fears were
well-based, then he agreed that the soldiers sent were too few.

"Still a bold front will do much!" he argued.

"A bold front!" Brereton replied feverishly. "No, but management may!
Management may. They give me eighty swords to control eighty thousand
people! Why, it's my belief"--and he dropped his voice and laid his
hand on his companion's arm,--"that the Government wants a riot! Ay,
by G--d, it is! To give the lie to Wetherell and prove that the
country, and Bristol in particular, is firm for the Bill!"

"Oh, but that's absurd!" Vaughan answered; though he recalled what
Brougham had said.

"Absurd or not, nine-tenths of Bristol believe it," Brereton retorted.
"And I believe it! But I'll be no butcher. Besides, do you see how I
am placed? If in putting down this riot which is in the Government
interest, and is believed to be fostered by them, I exceed my duty by
a jot, I am a lost man! A lost man! Now do you see?"

"I can't think it's as bad as that," Vaughan said.



                                 XXIX

                            AUTUMN LEAVES


Miss Sibson paused to listen, but heard nothing. And disappointed, and
with a sigh, she spread a clean handkerchief over the lap of her gown
and helped herself to part of a round of buttered toast.

"She'll not come," she muttered. "I was a fool to think it! An old
fool to think it!" And she bit viciously into the toast.

It was long past her usual tea-time, yet she paused a second time to
listen, before she raised her first cup of tea to her lips. A covered
dish which stood on a brass trivet before the bright coal fire gave
forth a savoury smell, and the lamplight which twinkled on sparkling
silver and old Nantgarw, discovered more than the tea-equipage. The
red moreen curtains were drawn before the windows, a tabby cat purred
sleepily on the hearth; in all Bristol was no more cosy or more
cheerful scene. Yet Miss Sibson left the savoury dish untouched, and
ate the toast with less than her customary appetite.

"I shall set," she murmured, "'The Deceitfulness of Riches' for the
first copy when the children return. And for the second 'Fine Feathers
Make Fine Birds!' And"--she continued with determination, though there
was no one to be intimidated--"for the third, 'There's No Fool Like an
Old Fool!'"

She had barely uttered the words when she set down her cup. The roll
of distant wheels had fallen on her ears. She listened for a few
seconds, then she rose in haste and rang the bell. "Martha," she said
when the maid appeared, "are the two warming-pans in the bed?"

"To be sure, Ma'am."

"And well filled?" Miss Sibson spoke suspiciously.

"The sheets are as nigh singeing as you'd like, Ma'am," the maid
answered. "You can smell 'em here! I only hope," she continued, with a
quaver in her voice, "as we mayn't smell fire before long!"

"Smell fiddlesticks!" Miss Sibson retorted. Then "That will do," she
continued. "I will open the door myself."

When she did so the lights of the hackney-coach which had stopped
before the house disclosed first Mary Vermuyden in her furs, standing
on the step; secondly, Mr. Flixton, who had placed himself as near her
as he dared; and thirdly and fourthly, flanking them at a distance of
a pace or two, a tall footman and a maid.

"Good gracious!" Miss Sibson exclaimed, dismay in her tone.

"Yes," Mary answered, almost crying. "They would come! I said I wished
to come alone. Good-night, Mr. Flixton!"

"Oh, but I--I couldn't think of leaving you like this!" the Honourable
Bob answered. He had derived a minimum of satisfaction from his ride
on the coach, for Mary had shown herself of the coldest. And if he was
to part from her here he might as well have travelled with Brereton.
Besides, what the deuce was afoot? What was she doing here?

"And Baxter is as bad," Mary said plaintively. "As for Thomas----"

"Beg pardon, Ma'am," the man said, touching his hat, "but it is as
much as my place is worth."

The maid, a woman of mature years, said nothing, but held her ground,
the image of stolid disapproval. She knew Miss Sibson. But Bristol was
strange to her; and the dark windy square, with its flickering lights,
its glimpses of gleaming water and skeleton masts, and its unseen but
creaking windlasses, seemed to her, fresh from Lady Worcester's, a
most unfitting place for her young lady.

Miss Sibson cut the knot after her own fashion. "Well, I can't take
you in," she said bluffly. "This gentleman," pointing to Mr. Flixton,
"will find quarters for you at the White Lion or the Bush. And your
mistress will see you to-morrow. Thomas, bring in your young lady's
trunk. Good-night, sir," she added, addressing the Honourable Bob.
"Miss Vermuyden will be quite safe with me."

"Oh, but I say, Miss Sibson!" he remonstrated. "You can't mean to take
the moon out of the sky like this, and leave us in the dark? Miss
Vermuyden----"

"Good-night," Mary said, not a whit placated by the compliment. And
she slipped past Miss Sibson into the passage.

"Oh, but it's not safe, you know!" he cried. "You're not a hundred
yards from the Mansion House here. And if those beggars make trouble
to-morrow--positively there's no knowing what will happen!"

"We can take care of ourselves, sir," Miss Sibson replied curtly.
"Good-night, sir!" And she shut the door in his face.

The Honourable Bob glared at it for a time, but it remained closed and
dark. There was nothing to be done save to go. "D----n the woman!" he
cried. And he turned about.

It was something of a shock to him to find the two servants still at
his elbow, patiently regarding him. "Where are we to go, sir?" the
maid asked, as stolid as before.

"Go?" cried he, staring. "Go? Eh? What? What do you mean?"

"Where are we to go, sir, for the night? If you'll please to show us,
sir. I'm a stranger here."

"Oh! This is too much!" the Honourable Bob cried, finding himself
on a sudden a family man. "Go? I don't care if you go to----" But
there he paused. He put the temptation to tell them to go to blazes
from him. After all, they were Mary's servants. "Oh, very well! Very
well!" he resumed, fuming. "There, get in! Get in!" indicating the
hackney-coach. "And do you," he continued, turning to Thomas, "tell
him to drive to the White Lion. Was there ever? That old woman's a
neat artist, if ever I saw one!"

And a moment later Flixton trundled off, boxed in with the mature
maid, and vowing to himself that in all his life he had never been so
diddled before.

Meanwhile, within doors--for farce and tragedy are never far
apart--Mary, with her furs loosened, but not removed, was resisting
all Miss Sibson's efforts to restrain her. "I must go to her!" she
said with painful persistence. "I must go to her at once, if you
please, Miss Sibson. Where is she?"

"She is not here," Miss Sibson said, plump and plain.

"Not here!" Mary cried, springing from the chair into which Miss
Sibson had compelled her. "Not here!"

"No. Not in this house."

"Then why--why did she tell me to come here?" Mary cried dumbfounded.

"Her ladyship is next door. No, my dear!" And Miss Sibson interposed
her ample form between Mary and the door. "You cannot go to her until
you have eaten and drunk. She does not expect you, and there is no
need of such haste. She may live a fortnight, three weeks, a month
even! And she must not, my dear, see you with that sad face."

Mary gave way at that. She sat down and burst into tears.

The schoolmistress knew nothing of the encounter in Parliament Street,
nothing of the meeting on the coach. But she was a sagacious woman,
and she discerned something more than the fatigue of the journey,
something more than grief for her mother, in the girl's depression.
She said nothing, however, contenting herself with patting her guest
on the shoulder and gently removing her wraps and shoes. Then she set
a footstool for her in front of the fire and poured out her tea, and
placed hot sweetbread before her, and toast, and Sally Lunn. And when
Mary, touched by her kindness, flung her arms round her neck and
kissed her, she said only, "That's better, my dear, drink your tea,
and then I will tell you all I know."

"I cannot eat anything."

"Oh, yes, you can! After that you are going to see your mother, and
then you will come back and take a good night's rest. To-morrow you
will do as you like. Her ladyship is with an old servant next door,
through whom she first heard of me."

"Why did she not remain in Bath?" Mary asked.

"I cannot tell you," Miss Sibson answered. "She has whims. If you ask
me, I should say that she thought Sir Robert would not find her here,
and so could not take you from her."

"But the servants?" Mary said in dismay. "They will tell my father.
And indeed----"

"Indeed what, my dear?"

"I do not wish to hide from him."

"Quite right!" Miss Sibson said. "Quite right, my dear. But I fancy
that that was her ladyship's reason. Perhaps she thought also that
when she--that afterwards I should be at hand to take care of you. As
a fact," Miss Sibson continued, rubbing her cheek with the handle of a
teaspoon, a sure sign that she was troubled, "I wish that your mother
had chosen another place. You don't ask, my dear, where the children
are."

Mary looked at her hostess. "Oh, Miss Sibson!" she exclaimed,
conscience-stricken. "You cannot have sent them away for my sake?"

"No, my dear," Miss Sibson answered, noting with satisfaction that
Mary was making a meal. "No, their parents have removed them. The
Recorder is coming to-morrow, and he is so unpopular on account of
this nasty Bill--which is setting everyone on horseback whether they
can ride or not--and there is so much talk of trouble when he enters,
that all the foolish people have taken fright and removed their
children for the week. It's pure nonsense, my dear," Miss Sibson
continued comfortably. "I've seen the windows of the Mansion House
broken a score of times at elections, and not another house in the
Square a penny the worse! Just an old custom. And so it will be
to-morrow. But the noise may disturb her ladyship, and that's why I
wish her elsewhere."

Mary did not answer, and the schoolmistress, noting her spiritless
attitude and the dark shadows under her eyes, was confirmed in her
notion that here was something beyond grief for the mother whom the
girl had scarcely known. And Miss Sibson felt a tug at her own
heartstrings. She was well-to-do and well considered in Bristol, and
she was not conscious that her life was monotonous. But the gay scrap
of romance which Mary's coming had wrought into the dull patchwork of
days, long toned to the note of Mrs. Chapone, was welcome to her. Her
little relaxations, her cosy whist-parties, her hot suppers to follow,
these she had: but here was something brighter and higher. It stirred
a long-forgotten youth, old memories, the ashes of romance. She loved
Mary for it.

To rouse the girl, she rose from her chair. "Now, my dear," she said,
"you can go to your room, if you will. And in ten minutes we will step
next door."

Mary looked at her with grateful eyes. "I am glad now," she said, "I
am glad that she came here."

"Ah!" the schoolmistress answered, pursing up her lips. And she looked
at the girl uncertainly. "It's odd," she said, "I sometimes think that
you are just--Mary Smith."

"I am!" the other answered warmly. "Always Mary Smith to you!" And the
old woman took the young one to her arms.

A quarter of an hour later Mary came down, and she was Mary Smith in
truth. For she had put on the grey Quaker-like dress in which she had
followed her trunk from the coach-office six months before. "I
thought," she said, "that I could nurse her better in this than in my
new clothes!" But she blushed deeply as she spoke: for if she had this
thought she had others also in her mind. She might not often wear that
dress, but she would never part with it. Arthur Vaughan's eyes had
worshipped it; his hands had touched it. And in the days to come it
would lie, until she died, in some locked coffer, perfumed with
lavender, and sweet with the dried rose-leaves of her dead romance.
And on one day in the year she would visit it, and bury her face in
its soft faded folds, and dream the old dreams.

It was but a step to the door of the neighbouring house. But the
distance, though short, steadied the girl's mind and enabled her to
taste that infinity of the night, that immensity of nature, which,
like a fathomless ocean, islands the littleness of our lighted homes.
The groaning of strained cordage, the creaking of timbers, the far-off
rattle of a boom came off the dark water that lipped the wharves
which still fringe three sides of the Square. Here and there a rare
gas-lamp, lately set up, disclosed the half-bare arms of trees, or
some vague opening leading to the Welsh Back. But for all the two
could see, as they glided from the one door to the other, the busy
city about them, seething with so many passions, pregnant with so much
danger, hiding in its entrails the love, the fear, the secrets of a
myriad lives, might have been in another planet.

Mary owned the calming influence of the night and the stars, and
before the door opened to Miss Sibson's knock, the blush had faded
from her cheek. It was with solemn thoughts that she went up the wide
oaken staircase, still handsome, though dusty and fallen from its high
estate. The task before her, the scene on the threshold of which she
trod, brought the purest instincts of her nature into play. But her
guide knocked, someone within the room bade them enter, and Mary
advanced. She saw lights and a bed--a four-poster, heavily curtained.
And half blinded by her tears, she glided towards the bed--or was
gliding, when a querulous voice arrested her midway.

"So you are come!" it said. And Lady Sybil, who, robed in a silken
dressing-gown, was lying on a small couch in a different part of the
room, tossed a book, not too gently, to the floor. "What stuff! What
stuff!" she ejaculated wearily. "A schoolgirl might write as good!
Well, you are come," she continued. "There," as Mary, flung back on
herself, bent timidly and kissed her, "that will do! That will do! I
can't bear anyone near me! Don't come too near me! Sit on that chair,
where I can see you!"

Mary beat back her tears and obeyed with a quivering lip. "I hope you
are better," she said.

"Better!" her mother retorted in the same peevish tone. "No, and shall
not be!" Then, with a shrill scream, "Heavens, child, what have you
got on?" she continued. "What have you done to yourself? You look like
a _s[oe]ur de Charité!_"

"I thought that I could nurse you better in this," Mary faltered.

"Nurse me!"

"Yes, I----"

"Rubbish!" Lady Sybil exclaimed with petulant impatience. "You nurse?
Don't be silly! Who wants you to nurse me? I want you to amuse me. And
you won't do that by dressing yourself like a dingy death's-head moth!
There, for Heaven's sake," with a catch in her voice which went to
Mary's heart, "don't cry! I'm not strong enough to bear it. Tell me
something! Tell me anything to make me laugh. How did you trick Sir
Robert, child? How did you escape? That will amuse me," with a
mirthless laugh. "I wish I could see his solemn face when he hears
that you are gone!"

Mary explained that the summons had found her in London; that her
father was not there, but that still she had had to beat down Lady
Worcester's resistance before she could have her way and leave.

"I don't know her," Lady Sybil said shortly.

"She was very kind to me," Mary answered.

"I dare say," in the same tone.

"But she would not let me go until I gave her my address."

Lady Sybil sat up sharply. "And you did that?" she shrieked. "You gave
it her?"

"I was obliged to give it," Mary stammered, "or I could not have left
London."

"Obliged? Obliged?" Lady Sybil retorted, in the same passionate tone.
"Why, you fool, you might have given her fifty addresses! Any address!
Any address but this! There!" Lady Sybil continued sullenly, as she
sank back and pressed her handkerchief to her lips. "You've done it
now. You've excited me. Give me those drops! There! Are you blind?
Those! Those! And--and sit farther from me! I can't breathe with you
close to me!"

After which, when Mary, almost heartbroken, had given her the
medicine, and seated herself in the appointed place, she turned her
face to the wall and lay silent and morose, uttering no sound but an
occasional sigh of pain.

Meantime, to eyes that could read, the room told her story, and told
it eloquently. The table beside the couch was strewn with rose-bound
Annuals and Keepsakes, and a dozen volumes bearing the labels of more
than one library; books opened only to be cast aside. Costly toys and
embroidered nothings, vinaigrettes and scent-bottles, lay scattered
everywhere; and on other tables, on the mantelpiece, on the floor, a
litter of similar trifles elbowed and jostled the gloomy tokens of
illness. Near the invalid's hand lay a miniature in a jewelled frame,
while a packet of letters tied with a fragment of gold lace, and a
buhl desk half-closed upon a broken fan told the same tale of ennui,
and of a vanity which survived the charms on which it had rested. The
lesson was not lost on the daughter's heart. It moved her to purest
pity; and presently, wrung by a sigh more painful than usual, she
crept to the couch, sank on her knees, and pressed her cool lips to
the wasted hand which hung from it. Even then for a time her mother
did not move or take notice. But slowly the weary sighs grew more
frequent, grew to sobs--how much less poignant!--and her weak arm drew
Mary's head to her bosom.

And by-and-by the arm tightened its hold and gripped her convulsively,
the sobs grew deeper and shook the worn form at each respiration; and
presently, "Ah, God, what will become of me?" burst from the depths of
the poor quaking heart, too proud hitherto to make its fear known.
"What will become of me?"

That cry pierced Mary like a knife, but its confession of weakness
made mother and daughter one. Her feeble arms could not avert the
approach of the dark shadow, whose coming terrified though it
could not change. But what human love could do, what patient
self-forgetfulness might teach, she vowed that she would do and teach;
and what clinging hands might compass to delay the end, her hands
should compass. When Miss Sibson's message, informing her that it was
time to return, was brought to her, she shook her head, smiling, and
locked the door. "I shall be your nurse, after all!" she said. "I
shall not leave you." And before midnight, with a brave contentment,
for which Lady Sybil's following eyes were warrant, she had taken
possession of the room and all its contents; she had tidied as much as
it was good to tidy, she had knelt to heat the milk or brush the
hearth, she had smoothed the pillow, and sworn a score of times that
nothing, no Sir Robert, no father, no force should tear her from this
her duty, this her joy--until the end.

No memory of her dull childhood, or of the days of labour and
servitude which she owed to the dying woman, no thought of the joys of
wealth and youth which she had lost through her, rose to mar the
sincerity of her love. Much less did such reflections trouble her on
whose flighty mind they should have rested so heavily. So far indeed
was this from being the case, that when Mary stooped to some office
which the mother's fastidiousness deemed beneath her, "How can you do
that?" Lady Sybil cried peevishly. "I'll not have you do it! Do you
hear me, girl? Let some servant see to it! What else are they for!"

"But I used to do it every day at Clapham," Mary answered cheerfully.
She had not spoken before, aware of the reproach which her words
conveyed, she could have bitten her tongue.

But Lady Sybil did not wince. "Then why did you do it?" she retorted,
"Why did you do it? Why were you so foolish as to stoop to such
things? I'm sure you didn't get your poor spirit from me! And
Vermuyden was as stiff as a poker! But there! I remember the prince
saying once that ladies went out of fashion with hoops, and gentlemen
with snuffboxes. You make me think he was right. Oh, clumsy!" she
continued, raising her voice, "now you are turning the light on my
face! Do you wish to see me hideous?"

Mary moved it. "Is that better, mother?" she asked.

Lady Sybil cast a resentful glance at her. "There, there, let it be!"
she said. "You can't help it. You're like your father. He could never
do anything right! I suppose I am doomed to have none but helpless
people about me."

And so on, and so on. Like many invalids, she was most lively at
night, and she continued to complain through long restless hours, with
the candles burning lower and lower, and the snuffers coming into more
frequent request. Until with the chill before the dawn she fell at
last into a fitful sleep; and Mary, creeping to the close-curtained
windows to cool her weary eyes, peeped out and saw the grey of the
morning. Outside, the Square was beginning to discover its half-bare
trees and long straight rows of houses. Through openings, here and
there, the water glimmered mistily; and on the height facing her, the
tall tower of St. Mary Redcliffe rose above the roofs and pointed
skywards. Little did Mary think what the day would bring forth in that
grey deserted place on which she looked; or in what changed
conditions, under what stress of mind and heart, she would, before the
sun set twice, view that Square.



                                 XXX

               THE MAYOR'S RECEPTION IN QUEEN'S SQUARE


The day, of which Mary watched the cloudy opening from her mother's
window, was drawing to a close; and from a house in the same
Square--but on the north side, whereas Miss Sibson's was on the
west--another pair of eyes looked out, while a heart, which a few
hours before had been as sore as hers, rose a little at the prospect.
Arthur Vaughan, ignorant of her proximity--to love's shame be it
said--sat in a window on the first floor of the Mansion House, and,
undismayed by the occasional crash of glass, watched the movements of
the swaying, shouting, mocking crowd; a crowd, numbering some
thousands, which occupied the middle space of the Square, as well as
the roadways, clustered upon the Immortal Memory, overflowed into the
side streets, and now joined in one mighty roar of "Reform! Reform!"
now groaned thunderously at the name of Wetherell. Behind Vaughan in
the same room, the drawing-room of the official residence, some twenty
or thirty persons argued and gesticulated; at one time approaching a
window to settle a debated point, at another scattering with
exclamations of anger as a stone fell or some other missile alighted
among them.

"Boo! Boo!" yelled the mob below. "Throw him out! Reform! Reform!"

Vaughan looked down on the welter of moving faces. He saw that the
stone-throwers were few, and the daredevils, who at times adventured
to pull up the railings which guarded the forecourt, were fewer. But
he saw also that the mass sympathised with them, egged them on, and
applauded their exploits. And he wondered what would happen when night
fell, and wondered again why the peaceable citizens who wrangled
behind him made light of the position. The glass was flying, here and
there an iron bar had vanished from the railings, night was
approaching. For him it was very well. He had accompanied Brereton to
Bristol to see what would happen, and for his part, if the adventure
proved to be of the first class, so much the better. But the good
pursy citizens behind him, who, when they were not deafening the
little Mayor with their counsels, were making a jest of the turmoil,
had wives and daughters, goods and houses within reach. And in their
place he felt that he would have been far from easy.

By and by it appeared that some of them shared his feelings. For
presently, in a momentary lull of the babel outside, a voice he knew
rose above those in the room.

"Nothing? You call it nothing?" Mr. Cooke--for his was the
voice--cried. "Nothing, that his Majesty's Judge has been hooted and
pelted from Totterdown to the Guildhall? Nothing, that the Recorder of
Bristol has been hunted like a criminal from the Guildhall to this
place! You call it nothing, sir, that his Majesty's Commission has
been flouted for six hours past by all the riffraff of the Docks? And
with half of decent Bristol looking on and applauding!"

"Oh, no, no!" the little Mayor remonstrated. "Not applauding, Mr.
Cooke!"

"Yes, sir, applauding!" Cooke retorted with vigour.

"And teach Wetherell a lesson!" someone in the background muttered.

The man spoke low, but Cooke heard the words and wheeled about.
"There, sir, there!" he cried, stuttering in his indignation. "What do
you say to that? Here, in your presence, the King's Judge is insulted.
But I warn you," he continued, "I warn you all! You are playing with
fire! You are laughing in your sleeves, but you'll cry in your shirts!
You, Mr. Mayor, I call upon you to do your duty! I call upon you to
summon the military and give the order to clear the streets before
worse comes of it."

"I don't--I really don't--think that it is necessary," the Mayor
answered pacifically. "I have seen as bad as this at half a dozen
elections, Mr. Cooke."

The Town-clerk, a tall, thin man, who still wore his gown though he
had laid aside his wig, struck in. "Quite true, Mr. Mayor!" he said.
"The fact is, the crowd thinks itself hardly used on these occasions
if it is not allowed to break the windows and do a little mischief on
the lower floor."

"By G--d, I'd teach it a lesson then!" Cooke retorted. "It seems to me
it is time someone did!"

Two or three expressed the same opinion, though they did so with less
decision. But the main part smiled at Cooke's heat as at a foolish
display of temper. "I've seen as much half a dozen times," said one,
shrugging his shoulders. "And no harm done!"

"I've seen worse!" another answered. "And after all," the speaker
added with a wink, "it is good for the glaziers."

Fortunately, Cooke did not hear this last. But Vaughan heard it, and
he judged that the rioters had their backers within as well as
without; and that within, as without, the notion prevailed that the
Government would not be best pleased if the movement were too roughly
checked. An old proverb about the wisdom of dealing with the
beginnings of mischief occurred to him. But he supposed that the
authorities knew their business and Bristol, and, more correctly than
he, could gauge the mob and the danger, of both of which they made so
light.

Still he wondered. And he wondered more three minutes later. Two
servants brought in lights. Unfortunately the effect of these was to
reveal the interior of the room to the mob, and the change was the
signal for a fusillade of stones so much more serious and violent than
anything which had gone before that a quick _sauve qui peut_ took
place. Vaughan was dislodged with the others--he could do no good by
remaining; and in two minutes the room was empty, and the mob were
celebrating their victory with peals of titanic laughter, accompanied
by fierce cries of "Throw him out! Throw out the d----d Recorder!
Reform!"

Meanwhile the company, with one broken head and one or two pale faces,
had taken refuge on the landing behind the drawing-room, the stairs
ascending to which were guarded by a reserve of constables. Vaughan
saw that the Mayor and his satellites were beginning to look at one
another, and leaning, quietly observant, against the wall, he noticed
that more than one was shaken. Still the little Mayor retained his
good-humour. "Oh, dear, dear!" he said indulgently. "This is too bad!
Really too bad!"

"We'd better go upstairs," Sergeant Ludlow, the Town-clerk, suggested.
"We can see what passes as well from that floor as from this, and with
less risk!"

"No, but really this is growing serious," a third said timidly. "It's
too bad, this."

He had scarcely spoken, and the Mayor was still standing undecided, as
if he did not quite like the idea of retreat, when two persons, one
with his head bandaged, came quickly up the stairs. "Where's the
Mayor?" cried the first. And then, "Mr. Mayor, they are pushing us too
hard," said the second, an officer of special constables. "We must
have help, or they will pull the house about our ears."

"Oh, nonsense!"

"But it's not nonsense, sir," the man answered angrily.

"But----"

"You must read the Riot Act, sir," the other, who was the
Under-Sheriff, chimed in. "And the sooner the better, Mr. Mayor," he
added with decision. "We've half a dozen men badly hurt. In my opinion
you should send for the military."

The group on the landing looked aghast at one another. What, danger?
Really--danger? Half a dozen men badly hurt? Then one made an effort
to carry it off. "Send for the military?" he gasped. "Oh, but that is
absurd! That would only make matters worse!"

The others did not speak, and the Mayor in particular looked upset.
Perhaps for the first time he appreciated the responsibility which lay
on his shoulders. Meanwhile Vaughan saw all; and Cooke also, and the
latter laughed maliciously. "Perhaps you will listen now," he said
with an ill-natured chuckle. "You would not listen to me!"

"Dear, dear," the Mayor quavered. "Is it really as serious as that,
Mr. Hare?" He turned to the Town-clerk. "What do you advise?" he
asked.

"I think with Mr. Hare that you had better read the Riot Act, sir."

"Very well, I'll come down! I'll come down at once," the Mayor
assented with spirit. "Only," he continued, looking round him, "I beg
that some gentleman known to be on the side of Reform, will come with
me. Who has the Riot Act?"

"Mr. Burges. Where is he?"

"I am here, sir," replied the gentleman named. "I am quite ready, Mr.
Mayor. If you will say a few words to the crowd; I am sure they will
listen. Let us go down!"


                          *   *   *   *   *


Twenty minutes later the same group, but with disordered clothes and
sickly faces--and as to Mr. Burges, with a broken head--were gathered
again on the landing. In those twenty minutes, despite the magic of
the Riot Act, the violence of the mob had grown rather than
diminished. They were beginning to talk of burning the Mansion House,
they were calling for straw, they were demanding lights. Darkness had
fallen, too, and there could be no question now that the position was
serious. The Mayor, who, below stairs, had shown no lack of courage,
turned to the Town-clerk. "Ought I to call out the military?" he
asked.

"I think that we should take Sir Charles Wetherell's opinion," the
tall, thin man answered, deftly shifting the burden from his own
shoulders.

"The sooner Sir Charles is gone the better, I should say!" Cooke said
bluntly. "If we don't want to have his blood on our heads."

"I am with Mr. Cooke there," the Under-Sheriff struck in. He was
responsible for the Judge's safety, and he spoke strongly. "Sir
Charles should be got away," he continued. "That's the first thing to
be done. He cannot hold the Assizes, and I say frankly that I will not
be responsible if he stays."

"Jonah!" someone muttered with a sneering laugh.

The Mayor turned about. "That's very improper!" he said.

"It's very improper to send a Judge who is a politician!" the voice
answered.

"And against the Bill!" a second jeered.

"For shame! For shame!" the Mayor cried.

"And I fancy, sir," the Under-Sheriff struck in with heat, "that the
gentlemen who have just spoken--I think I can guess their names--will
be sorry before morning! They will find that it is easier to kindle a
fire than to put it out! But--silence, gentlemen! Silence! Here is Sir
Charles!"

Wetherell had that moment opened the door of his private room, of
which the window looked to the back. His face betrayed his surprise on
finding twenty or thirty persons huddled in disorder at the head of
the stairs. The two lights which had survived the flight from the
drawing-room flared in the draught of the shattered windows, and
the wavering illumination gave a sinister cast to the scene.
The dull rattle of stones on the floor of the rooms exposed to the
Square--varied at times by a roar of voices or a rush of feet in the
hall below--suggested that the danger was near at hand, and that the
assailants might at any moment break into the building.

Nevertheless Sir Charles showed no signs of fear. After letting
his eyes travel over the group, "How long is this going on, Mr.
Under-Sheriff?" he asked, plunging his hands deep in his breeches
pockets.

"Well, Sir Charles----"

"They seem," with a touch of sternness, "to be carrying the jest
rather too far."

"Mr. Cooke," the Mayor said, "wishes me to call out the military."

Wetherell shook his head. "No, no," he said. "The occasion is not so
serious as to justify that. You cannot say that life is in danger?"

The Under-Sheriff put himself forward. "I can say, sir," he answered
firmly, "that yours is in danger. And in serious danger!"

Wetherell planted his feet further apart, and thrust his hands lower
into his pockets. "Oh, no, no," he said.

"It is yes, yes, sir," the Under-Sheriff replied bluntly. "Unless you
leave the house I cannot be responsible! I cannot, indeed, Sir
Charles."

"But----"

"Listen, sir! If you don't wish a very terrible catastrophe to happen,
you must go! By G--d you must!" the Under-Sheriff repeated, forgetting
his manners.

The noise below had swollen suddenly. Cries, blows, and shrieks rose
up the staircase, and announced that at any moment the party above
might have to defend their lives. At the prospect suddenly presented,
respect for dignities took flight; panic seized the majority.
Constables, thrusting aldermen and magistrates aside, raced up the
stairs, and bundled down again laden with beds with which to block the
windows: while the picked men who had hitherto guarded the foot of the
staircase left their posts in charge of two or three of the wounded,
who groaned dismally. Apparently the mob had broken into part of the
ground floor, and were with difficulty held at bay.

One of the party struck his hand on the balusters--it was Mr. Cooke.
"By Heavens!" he said, "this is what comes of your d----d Reform! Your
d----d Reform! We shall all be murdered, every man of us! Murdered!"

"For God's sake, Mr. Mayor," cried a quavering voice, "send for the
military."

"Ay, ay! the soldiers. Send for the soldiers, sir!" echoed two or
three.

"Certainly I will," said the Mayor, who was cooler than most. "Who
will go?"

A man volunteered. On which Vaughan, who had so far remained silent,
stepped forward. "Sir Charles," he said, "you must retire. Your duties
are at an end, and your presence hampers the defence. Permit me to
escort you. I am unknown here, and can pass through the streets."

Wetherell, as brave, stout and as solid a man as any in England,
hesitated. But he saw that it would soon be everyone for himself; and
in that event he was doomed. The din was waxing louder and more
menacing; the group on the stairs was melting away. In terror on their
own account, the officials were beginning to forget his presence.
Several had already disappeared, seeking to save themselves, this way
and that. Others were going. Every moment the confusion increased, and
the panic. He gave way. "You think I ought to go, Vaughan?" he asked
in a low voice.

"I do, sir," Vaughan answered. And, entering the Recorder's room, he
brought out Sir Charles's hat and cloak and hastily thrust them on
him, scarcely anyone else attending to them. As he did this his eye
alighted on a constable's staff which lay on the floor where its owner
had dropped it. Thinking that, as he was without arms, he might as
well possess himself of it, Vaughan left Wetherell's side and went to
pick it up. At that moment a roar of sound, as sudden as the explosion
of a gun, burst up the staircase. Two or three cried in a frenzied way
that the mob were coming; some fled this way, some that, a few to
windows at the back, more to the upper story, while a handful obeyed
Vaughan's call to stand and hold the head of the stairs. For a brief
space all was disorder and--save in his neighbourhood--panic. Then a
voice below shouted that the soldiers were come, and a general "Thank
God! Not a moment too soon!" was heard on all sides. Vaughan made sure
that it was true, and then he turned to rejoin Sir Charles.

But Wetherell had vanished, and no one could say in which direction.
Vaughan hurried upstairs and along the passages in anxious search; but
in vain. One told him that Sir Charles had left by a window at the
back; another, that he had been seen going upstairs with the
Under-Sheriff. He could learn nothing certain; and he was asking
himself what he should do next, when the sound of cheering reached his
ear.

"What is that?" he asked a man who met him as he descended the stairs
from the second floor.

"They are cheering the soldiers," the man replied.

"I am glad to hear it!" Vaughan exclaimed.

"I'd say so too," the other rejoined glumly, "if I was certain on
which side the soldiers were! But you're wanted, sir, in the
drawing-room. The Mayor asked me to find you."

"Very good," Vaughan said, and without delay he followed the messenger
to the room he had named. Here, with the relics of the fray about
them, he found the Mayor and four or five officials who looked
woefully shaken and flustered. With them were Brereton and the
Honourable Bob, both in uniform. The stone-throwing had ceased, for
the front of the house was now guarded by a double line of troopers in
red cloaks. Lights, too, had been brought, and in the main the danger
seemed to be over. But about this council there was none of that
lightheartedness, none of that easy contempt which had characterised
the one held in the same room an hour or two before. The lesson had
been learnt in a measure.

The Mayor looked at Vaughan as he entered. "Is this the gentleman?" he
asked.

"Yes, that is the gentleman who got us together at the head of the
stairs," a person, a stranger to Vaughan, answered. "If he," the man
continued, "were put in charge of the constables, who are at present
at sixes and sevens, we might manage something."

A voice in the background mentioned that it was Mr. Vaughan, the
Member for Chippinge. "I shall be glad to do anything I can," Vaughan
said.

"In support of the military," the tall, thin Town-clerk interposed, in
a decided tone. "That must be understood. Eh, Mr. Burges?"

"Certainly," the City Solicitor answered. And they both looked at
Colonel Brereton, who, somewhat to Vaughan's surprise, had not
acknowledged his presence.

"Of course, of course," said the Mayor pacifically. "That is
understood. I am quite sure that Colonel Brereton will use his utmost
force to clear the streets and quiet the city."

"I shall do what I think right," Brereton replied, standing up
straight, with his hand on his sword-hilt, and looking, among the
disordered citizens, like a Spanish hidalgo among a troop of peasants.
"I shall do what is right," he repeated stubbornly; and Vaughan,
knowing the man well, perceived that, quiet as he seemed, he was
labouring under strong excitement. "I shall walk my horses about. The
crowd are perfectly good-humoured, and only need to be kept moving."

The Town-clerk exchanged a glance with a neighbour. "But do you think,
sir," he said, "that that will be sufficient? You are aware, I
suppose, that great damage has been done already, and that had your
troop not arrived when it did many lives might have been sacrificed?"

"That is all I shall do," Brereton answered. "Unless," with a faint
ring of contempt in his tone, "the Mayor gives me an express and
written order to attack the people."

The Mayor's face was a picture. "I?" he gasped.

"Yes, sir."

"But I--I could not take that responsibility on myself," the Mayor
cried. "I couldn't, I really couldn't!" he repeated, taken aback by
the burden it was proposed to put on him. "I can't judge, Colonel
Brereton--I am not a military man--whether it is necessary or not."

"I should consider it unwise," Brereton replied formally.

"Very good! Then--then you must use your discretion."

"Just so. That's what I supposed," Brereton replied, not masking his
contempt for the vacillation of those about him. "In that case I shall
pursue the line of action I have indicated. I shall walk my horses up
and down. The crowd are perfectly good-humoured. What is it, pray?"

He turned, frowning. A man had entered the room and was whispering in
the Town-clerk's ear. The latter straightened himself with a heated
face. "You call them good-humoured, sir?" he said. "I hear that two of
your men, Colonel Brereton, have just been brought in severely
wounded. I do not know whether you call that good-humour?"

Brereton looked a little discomposed. "They must have brought it on
themselves," he said, "by some rashness. Your constables have no
discretion."

"I think you should at least clear the Square and the neighbouring
streets," the Town-clerk persisted.

"I have indicated what I shall do," Brereton replied, with a gloomy
look. "And I am prepared to be responsible for the safety of the city.
If you wish me to act beyond my judgment, the civil power must give me
an express and written order."

Still the Mayor and those about him looked uneasy, though they did not
dare to do what Brereton suggested. The howls of the rabble still rang
in their ears, and before their eyes they had the black, gaping
casements, through which an ominous murmur entered. They had waited
long before calling in the Military, they had hesitated long; for
Peterloo had erased Waterloo from the memory of an ungrateful
generation, and men, secure abroad and straining after Reform at home,
held a red-coat in small favour, if not in suspicion. But having
called the red-coats in, they looked for something more than this, for
some vindication of the law and the civil power, some stroke which
would cast terror into the hearts of misdoers. The Town-clerk, in
particular, had his doubts, and when no one else spoke he put them
into words.

"May I ask," he said formally, "if you have any orders, Colonel
Brereton, from the Secretary of State or the Horse Guards, which
prevent you from obeying the directions of the magistrates?"

Brereton looked at him sternly.

"No," he said, "I am prepared to obey your orders, stated in the
manner I have laid down. Then the responsibility will not lie with
me."

But the Mayor stepped back. "I couldn't take it on myself, sir. I--God
knows what the consequences might be!" He looked round piteously. "We
don't want another Manchester massacre."

"I fancy," Brereton answered grimly, "that if we have another
Manchester business, it will go ill with those who sign the order!
Times are changed since '19, gentlemen--and governments! And I think
we understand that. You leave it to me, then, gentlemen?"

No one spoke.

"Very good," he continued. "If your constables will do their duty with
discretion--and you could not have a better man to command them than
Mr. Vaughan, but he ought to be going about it now--I will answer for
the peace of the city."

"But--but we shall see you again, Colonel Brereton," the Mayor cried
in some agitation.

"See me, sir?" Brereton answered contemptuously.

"Oh, yes, you can see me, if you wish to! But----" He shrugged his
shoulders, and turned away without finishing the sentence.

Vaughan, when he heard that, knew that, cool as Brereton seemed, he
was not himself. A moody stubbornness had taken the place of last
night's excitement; but that was all. And as the party trooped
downstairs--he had requested the Mayor to say a few words, placing the
constables under his control--he swallowed his private feelings and
approached Flixton.

"Flixton," he whispered, throwing what friendliness he could into his
voice. "Do you think Brereton's right?"

Flixton turned an ill-humoured face towards him, and dragged at his
sword-belt. "Oh, I don't know," he said irritably. "It's his business,
and I suppose he can judge. There's a deuce of a crowd, I know, and if
we go charging into it we shall be swallowed up in a twinkling!"

"But it has been whispered to me," Vaughan replied, "that he told the
people on his way here that he's for Reform. Isn't it unwise to let
them think that the soldiers may side with them?"

"Fine talking," Flixton answered with a sneer. "And God knows if we
had five hundred men, or three hundred, I'd agree. But what can sixty
or eighty men do galloping over slippery pavements in the dark? And if
we fire and kill a dozen, the Government will hang us to clear
themselves! And these d----d nigger-drivers and sugar-boilers behind
us would be the first to swear against us!"

Vaughan had his own opinion. But they had to part then. Flixton, in
his blue uniform--there were two troops present, one of the 3rd
Dragoon Guards in red, and one of the 14th Dragoons in blue--went out
by Brereton's side with his spurs ringing on the stone pavement and
his sword clanking. He was not acting with his troop, but as the
Colonel's aide-de-camp. Meanwhile Vaughan, who could not see the old
blue uniform without a pang, went with the Mayor to marshal the
constables.

Of these no more than eighty remained, and with little stomach for the
task before them. This task, indeed, notwithstanding the check which
the arrival of the troopers had given the mob, was far from easy. The
ground-floor of the Mansion House looked like a place taken by storm
and sacked. The railings which guarded the forecourt were gone, and
even the wall on which they stood had been demolished to furnish
missiles. The doorways and windows, where they were not clumsily
barricaded, were apertures inviting entrance. In one room lay a pile
of straw ready for lighting. In another lay half a dozen wounded men.
Everywhere the cold wind, blowing off the water of the Welsh Back,
entered a dozen openings and extinguished the flares as quickly as
they could be lighted, casting now one room and now another into black
shadow.

But if the men had little heart for further exertions, Vaughan's
manhood rose the higher to meet the call. Bringing his soldier's
training into play, in a few minutes he had his force divided into
four companies, each under a leader. Two he held in reserve, bidding
them get what rest they could; with the other two he manned the
forecourt, and guarded the flank which lay open to the Welsh Back. And
as long as the troopers rode up and down within a stone's-throw all
was well. But when the soldiers passed to the other side of the Square
a rush was made on the house--mainly by a gang of the low Irish of the
neighbourhood--and many a stout blow was struck before the rabble, who
thirsted for the strong ale and wine in the cellars, could be
dislodged from the forecourt and driven to a distance. The danger to
life was not great, though the tale of wounded grew steadily; nor
could the post of Chief Constable be held to confer much honour on one
who so short a time before had dreamt of Cabinets and portfolios, and
of a Senate hanging on his words. But the joy of conflict was
something to a stout heart, and the sense of success. Something, too,
it was to feel that where he stood his men stood also; and that where
he was not, the Irish, with their brickbats and iron bars, made a way.
There was a big lout, believed by some to be a Brummagem man and a
tool of the Political Union, who more than once led on the assailants;
and when Vaughan found that this man shunned him and chose the side
where he was not, that too was a joy.

"After all, this is what I am good for," he told himself as he stood
to take breath after a _mêlée_ which was at once the most serious and
the last. "I was a fool to leave the regiment," he continued,
staunching a trickle of blood which ran from a cut on his cheek bone.
"For, after all, better a good blow than a bad speech! Better,
perhaps, a good blow than all the speeches, good and bad!" And in the
heat of the moment he swung his staff. Then--then he thought of Mary
and of Flixton, and his heart sank, and his joy was at an end.

"Don't think they'll try us again, sir," said an old pensioner, who
had constituted himself his orderly, and who had known the neigh of
the war-horse in the Peninsula. "If we had had you at the beginning
we'd have had no need of the old Blues, nor the Third either!"

"Oh, that's rubbish!" Vaughan replied. But he owned the flattery, and
his heart warmed to the pensioner, whose prediction proved to be
correct. The crowd melted slowly but certainly after that. By eleven
o'clock there were but a couple of hundred in the Square. By twelve,
even these were gone. A half-dozen troopers, and as many
tatterdemalions, slinking about the dark corners, were all that
remained of the combatants; and the Mayor, with many words, presented
Vaughan with the thanks of the city for his services.

"It is gratifying, Mr. Vaughan," he added, "to find that Colonel
Brereton was right."

"Yes," Vaughan agreed. And he took his leave, carrying off his staff
for a memento.

He was very weary, and it was not the shortest way to the White Lion,
yet his feet carried him across the dark Square and past the Immortal
Memory to the front of Miss Sibson's house. It showed no lights
to the Square, but in a first-floor window of the next house he
marked a faint radiance as of a shaded taper, and the outline of a
head--doubtless the head of someone looking out to make sure that the
disorder was at an end. He saw, but love was at fault. No inner voice
told him that the head was Mary's! No thrill revealed to him that at
that very moment, with her brow pressed to the cold pane, she was
thinking of him! None! With a sigh, and a farther fall from the
lightheartedness of an hour before, he went his way.

Broad Street was quiet, but half a dozen persons were gathered outside
the White Lion. They were listening: and one of them told him, as he
passed in, that the Blues, in beating back a party from the Council
House, a short time before, had shot one of the rioters. In the hall
he found several groups debating some point with heat, but they fell
silent when they saw him, one nudging another; and he fancied that
they paid especial attention to him. As he moved towards the office, a
man detached himself from them and approached him with a formal air.

"Mr. Vaughan, I think?" he said.

"Yes."

"Mr. Arthur Vaughan?" the man, who was a complete stranger to Vaughan,
repeated. "Member of Parliament for Chippinge, I believe?"

"Yes."

"Reform Member?"

Vaughan eyed him narrowly. "If you are one of my constituents," he
said drily, "I will answer that question."

"I am not one," the man rejoined, with a little less confidence. "But
it's my business, nevertheless, to warn you, Mr. Vaughan, in your own
interests, that the part you have been taking here will not commend
you to them! You have been handling the people very roughly, I am
told. Very roughly! Now, I am Mr. Here----"

"You may be Mr. Here or Mr. There," Vaughan said, cutting him
short--but very quietly. "But if you say another word to me, I will
throw you through that door for your impudence! That is all. Now--have
you any more to say?"

The man tried to carry it off. For there was sniggering behind him.
But Vaughan's blood was up, the agitator read it in the young man's
eye, and being a man of words, not deeds, he fell back. Vaughan went
up to bed.



                                 XXXI

                          SUNDAY IN BRISTOL


It was far from Vaughan's humour to play the bully, and before he had
even reached his bedroom, which looked to the back, he repented of his
vehemence. Between that and the natural turmoil of his feelings he lay
long waking; and twice, in a stillness which proclaimed that all was
well, he heard the Bristol clocks tell the hour. After all, then,
Brereton had been right! For himself, had the command been his, he
would have adopted more strenuous measures. He would have tried to put
fear into the mob before the riot reached its height. And had he done
so, how dire might have been the consequences! How many homes might at
this moment be mourning his action, how many innocent persons be
suffering pain and misery!

Whereas Brereton, the strong, quiet man, resisting importunity,
shunning haste, keeping his head where others wavered, had carried the
city through its trouble, with scarce the loss of a single life. Truly
he was one whom


             _Non civium ardor prava jubentium,
                Non vultus instantis tyranni
                  Mente quatit solida!_


Vaughan thought of him with a new respect, and of himself with a new
humility. He was forced to acknowledge that even in that field of
action which he had quitted, and to which he was now inclined to
return, he was not likely to pick up a marshal's bâton.

He slept at length, and long and heavily, awaking towards ten o'clock
with aching limbs and a cheek so sore that it brought all that had
passed to instant recollection. He found his hot water at his door,
and he dressed slowly and despondently, feeling the reaction and
thinking of Mary, and of that sunny morning, six months back, when he
had looked into Broad Street from a window of this very house, and
dreamed of a modest bonnet and a sweet blushing face. An hour
after that, he remembered, he had happened on the Honourable--oh,
d---- Flixton! All his troubles had started from that unlucky meeting
with him.

He found his breakfast laid in the next room, the coffee and bacon in
a Japan cat by the fire. He ate and drank in an atmosphere of gloomy
retrospect. If he had never met Flixton! If he had not gone to that
unlucky dinner at Chippinge! If he had spoken to her in Parliament
Street! If--if--if! The bells of half a dozen churches were ringing,
drumming his regrets into him; and he stood awhile irresolute, looking
through the window. The inn-yard, which was all the prospect the
window commanded, was empty; an old liver-and-white pointer,
scratching itself in a corner, was the only living thing in it. But
while he looked, wondering if the dog had been a good dog in its time,
two men came running into the yard with every sign of haste and
pressure. One, in a yellow jacket, flung himself against a stable door
and vanished within, leaving the door open. The other pounced on a
chaise, one of half a dozen ranged under a shed, and by main force
dragged it into the open.

The men's actions impressed Vaughan with a vague uneasiness. He
listened. Was it fancy, or did he catch the sound of a distant shot?
And--there seemed to be an odd murmur in the air. He seized his hat,
put on his caped coat--for a cold drizzle was falling--and went
downstairs.

The hall was empty, but through the open doorway he could see a knot
of people, standing outside, looking up the street. He made for the
threshold, and asked the rearmost of the starers what it was.

"Eh, what is it?" the man answered volubly. "Oh, they're gone! It's
true enough! And such a crowd as was never seen, I'm told--stoning
them, and shouting 'Bloody Blues!' after them. They're gone right away
to Keynsham, and glad to be there with whole bones!"

"But what is it?" Vaughan asked impatiently. "What has happened, my
man? Who're gone?"

The man turned for the first time, and saw who it was. "You have not
heard, sir?" he exclaimed.

"Not a word."

"Not that the people have risen? And most part pulled down the Mansion
House? Ay, first thing this morning, sir! They say old Pinney, the
Mayor, got out at the back just in time or he'd have been murdered!
He's had to send the military away--anyways, the Blues who killed the
lad last night on the Pithay."

"Impossible!" Vaughan exclaimed, turning red with anger. "You cannot
have heard aright."

"It's as true as true!" the man replied, rubbing his hands in
excitement. "As for me," he continued, "I was always for Reform! And
this will teach the Lords a lesson! They'll know our mind now, and
that Wetherell's a liar, begging your pardon, sir. And the old
Corporation's not much better. A set of Tories mostly! If the Welsh
Back drinks their cellars dry it won't hurt me, nor Bristol."

Vaughan was too sharply surprised to rebuke the man. Could the story
be true! And if it were, what was Brereton doing? He could not have
been so foolish as to halve his force in obedience to the people he
was sent to check! But the murmur in the air was a fact, and past the
end of the street men were running in anything but a Sunday fashion.

He went back to his room and pocketed his staff. Then he descended
again and was on his way out, when a person belonging to the house
stopped him.

"Mr. Vaughan," she said earnestly, "don't go, sir. You are known after
last night and will come to harm. You will indeed, sir. And you can do
no good. My father says that nothing can be done until to-morrow."

"I will take care of myself," he replied, lightly. But his eyes
thanked her. He pushed his way through the gazers at the door, and set
off towards Queen's Square.

At every door men and women were standing looking out. In the distance
he could hear cheering, which waxed louder and more insistent as,
prudently avoiding the narrower lanes, he passed down Clare Street to
Broad Quay, from which there was an entrance to the northwest corner
of the Square. Alongside the quay, which was fringed with warehouses
and sheds, and from which the huge city crane towered up, lay a line
of brigs and schooners; the masts of the more distant of these
tapering to vanishing points in the mist which lay upon the water. At
the moment, however, Vaughan had no eye for them. He saw them, but his
thoughts were with the rioters, and in a twinkling he was within the
Square, and seeing what was to be seen.

He judged that there were not more than fifteen hundred persons
present. Of the whole about one-half belonged to the lowest class.
These were gathered about the Mansion House, some drinking before it,
others bearing up liquor from the cellars, while others again were
tearing out the woodwork of the casements, or wantonly flinging the
last remnants of furniture from the windows. The second moiety of the
crowd, less reckless or of higher position, looked on as at a show; or
now and again, at the bidding of some active rioter, raised a cheer
for Reform, "The King and Reform! Reform!"

There was nothing dreadful, nothing awe-inspiring in the sight. Yet it
was such a sight, for an English city on a Sunday morning, that
Vaughan's gorge rose at it. A hundred resolute men might have put the
mob to flight. And meantime, on every point of vantage, on Redcliffe
Parade, eastward of the Square, on College Green, and Brandon Hill, to
the westward of it, thousands stood looking in silence on the scene,
and by their supineness encouraging the work of destruction.

He thought for a moment of pushing to the front and trying what a few
reasonable words would effect. But as he advanced, his eye caught a
gleam of colour, and in the corner of the Square, most remote from the
disorder, he discovered a handful of dragoons, seated motionless in
their saddles, watching the proceedings.

The folly of this struck him dumb. And he hurried, at a white heat,
across the Square to remonstrate. He was about to speak to the
sergeant in charge, when Flixton, with a civilian cloak masking his
uniform, rode up to the men at a foot-pace. Vaughan turned to him
instead.

"Good Heavens, man!" he cried, too hot to mince his words or remember
at the moment what there was between him and Flixton, "What's Brereton
doing? What has happened! It is not true that he has sent the
Fourteenth away?"

Flixton looked down at him sulkily. "He's sent 'em to Keynsham," he
said, shortly. "If he hadn't, the crowd would have been out of hand!"

"But what do you call them now?" Vaughan retorted, with angry sarcasm.
"They are destroying a public building in broad daylight! Aren't they
sufficiently out of hand?"

Flixton shrugged his shoulders, but did not answer. He was flushed and
has manner was surly.

"And your squad here, looking on and doing nothing? They're worse than
useless!" Vaughan continued. "They encourage the beggars! They'd be
better in their quarters than here! Better at Keynsham," he added
bitterly.

"So I've told him," Flixton answered, taking the last words literally.
"He sent me to see how things are looking. And a d----d pleasant way
this is of spending a wet Sunday!" On which, without more, having
seen, apparently, what he came to see, he turned his horse to go out
of the Square by the Broad Quay.

Vaughan walked a few paces beside the horse. "But, Flixton, press
him," he said urgently; "press him, man, to act! To do something!"

"That's all very fine," the Honourable Bob answered churlishly, "but
Brereton's in command. And you don't catch me interfering. I am not
going to take the responsibility off his shoulders."

"But think what may happen to-night!" Vaughan urged. Already he saw
that the throng was growing denser and its movements less random.
Somewhere in the heart of it a man was speaking. "Think what may
happen after dark, if they are as bad as this in daylight?"

Flixton looked askance at him. "Ten to one, only what happened last
night," he answered. "You all croaked then; but Brereton was right."

Vaughan saw that he argued to no purpose. For Flixton, forward and
positive in small things and on the surface, was discovered by the
emergency; all that now remained of his usual self-assertion was a
sense of injury. Vaughan inquired, instead, where he would find
Brereton, and as by this time the crowd had clearly outgrown the
control of a single man, he contented himself with walking round the
Square, and learning, by mingling with the fringe, what manner of
spirit moved it.

That spirit, though he heard some ugly threats against Wetherell and
the Bishops and the Lords, was rather a reckless and mischievous than
a bloodthirsty one. To obtain drink, to destroy this or that gaol, and
by and by to destroy all gaols seemed to the crowd the first
principles of Reform.

Presently a cry of "To the Bridewell! Come on! To the Bridewell!"
was raised, and led by a dozen hobbledehoys, armed with iron bars
plucked from the railings, a body of some hundreds trooped off,
helter-skelter, in the direction of the prison of that name.

Vaughan saw that someone must be induced to act; and to him the
following hours of that wet, dismal Sunday were a waking nightmare. He
hurried hither and thither, from Guildhall to Council House, from
Brereton's lodgings to the dragoons' quarters, striving to effect
something and always failing; seeking some cohesion, some decision,
some action, and finding none. Always there had just been a meeting,
or was going to be a meeting, or would be a meeting by and by. The
civil power would not act without the military; and the military did
not think itself strong enough to act, but would act if the civil
power would do something which the civil power had made up its mind
not to do. And meantime the supineness of the mass of the citizens was
marvellous. He seemed to be moving endlessly between lines of men who
lounged at their doors, and joked, or waited for the crowd to pass
that way. Nothing, it seemed to him, would rouse these men to a sense
of the position. It would be a lesson to Wetherell, they said. It
would be a lesson to the Peers. It would be a lesson to the Tories.
The Bridewell was sacked and fired, the great gaol across the New Cut
was firing, the Gloucester gaol in the north of the city was
threatened. And still it did not occur to these householders, as they
looked down the wet, misty streets, that presently it would be a
lesson to them.

But at half-past three, with the dusk on that rainy day scarce an hour
off, there was a meeting at the Guildhall. Still no cohesion, no
action. On the other hand, much recrimination, many opinions. One was
for casting all firearms into the float. Another for arming all, fit
or unfit. One was for fetching the Fourteenth back, another for
sending the Third to join them at Keynsham. One was for appeasing the
people by parading a dummy figure of their own Recorder through the
city and burning it on College Green. Another for relying on the
Political Union. In vain Vaughan warned them that the mob would
presently attack private property; in vain he offered, in a few
spirited words, to lead the Special Constables to the rescue of the
gaol. The meeting, small to begin and always divided, dwindled fast.
The handful who were ready to follow him made the support of the
military a condition. Everybody said, "To-morrow!" To-morrow the
_posse comitatus_ might be called out; to-morrow the yeomanry,
summoned by the man in the yellow jacket, would be here! To-morrow the
soldiers might act. And in fine--To-morrow!

There was over the door of the Council House of those days a statue of
Justice, lacking the sword and the bandage. Vaughan, passing out in
disgust from the meeting, pointed to it. "There is Bristol,
gentlemen," he said bitterly. "Your authorities have dropped the
sword, and until they regain it we are helpless. I have done my best."
And, shrugging his shoulders, he started for Brereton's lodgings to
try a last appeal.

He might well think it necessary. For a night which Bristol was long
to remember was closing down upon the city. Though it was Sunday, the
churches were empty; in few was a second service held. The streets, on
the contrary, were full, in spite of the cold; full of noise and
turmoil and disorder; of bands of men hastening up and down with
reckless cries and flaring lights, at the bidding of leaders as
unwitting. In Queen's Square the rioters were drinking themselves
drunk as at a fair, while amid the falling rain, through which the
last stormy gleams of daylight strove to pass, amid the thickening
dusk, those who all day long had jested at their doors began to turn
doubtful looks on one another. From three points the smoke of fired
prisons rose to the clouds and floated in a dense pall over the city;
and men whispered that a hundred, two hundred, five hundred criminals
had been set free. On Clifton Downs, on Brandon Hill, on College
Green, on Redcliffe the thousand gazers of the morning were doubled
and redoubled. But they no longer wore the cynical faces of the
morning. On the contrary there were some who, following with their
eyes the network of waterways laden with inflammable shipping, which
pierced the city in every direction--who, tracing these and the
cutthroat alleys and lanes about them, predicted that the morning
would find Bristol a heap of ruins. And not a few, taking fright at
the last moment, precipitately removed their families to Clifton, and
locked up their houses.

Vaughan, as he walked through the dusk, had those waterways, those
lanes, those alleys, the congested heart of the old city, in his mind.
He doubted, even he, if the hour for action was not past. Nor was he
surprised when Brereton met his appeal with a flat _non possumus_. He
was more struck with the change which twenty-four hours had wrought in
the man. He looked worn and haggard. The shadows under his eyes were
deeper, the eyes shone with a more feverish light. His dress, too, was
careless and disordered, and while he was not still for a moment, he
repeated what he said over and over again as if to persuade himself of
its truth.

Naturally Vaughan laid stress on the damage already done. "But, I tell
you," Brereton replied angrily, "we are well clear for that! It's not
a tithe of the harm which would have befallen if I had given way! I
tell you, we're well clear for that. No, I've done, thank God, I've
done the only thing it was possible to do. A little too much, and if
I'd succeeded I'd have been hung--for they're all against me, they're
all against me, above and below! And if I'd failed, a thousand lives
would have paid the bill! And do you ever consider, man," he
continued, striking the table, "what a massacre in this crowded place
would be! Think of the shipyards, the dockyards, the quays! The water
pits and the sunk alleys! How could I clear them with ninety swords?
How could I clear them? Eh, with ninety swords? I tell you they never
meant me to clear them."

"But why not clear the wider streets, sir?" Vaughan persisted, "and
keep a grip on those?"

"No! I say, no!"

"Yet even now, if you were to move your full force to Queen's Square,
sir, you might clear it. And driven from their headquarters, and
taught that they are not going to have it all their own way, the more
prudent would fall off and go home."

"I know," Brereton answered. "I know the argument. I know it. But
who's to thank for the whole trouble? Your Blues, who went beyond
their orders last night. The Fourteenth, sir! The Fourteenth! But I'll
have no more of it. Flixton is of my opinion, too."

"Flixton is an ass!" Vaughan cried incautiously.

"And you think me one too!" Brereton retorted, with so strange a look
that for the first time Vaughan was sure that his mind was tottering.
"Well, think what you like! Think what you like! But I'll trouble you
not to take that tone here."



                                XXXII

                       THE AFFRAY AT THE PALACE


A little before the hour at which Vaughan interviewed Brereton, Sir
Robert Vermuyden, the arrival of whose travelling carriage at the
White Lion about the middle of the afternoon had caused some
excitement, walked back to the inn. He was followed by Thomas, the
servant who had attended Mary to Bristol, and by another servant. As
he passed through the streets the signs of the times were not lost
upon him; far from it. But the pride of caste was strong upon him, and
he hid his anxiety.

On the threshold of the inn he turned to the servants. "Are you sure,"
he asked for the fourth time, "that that was the house at which you
left her?"

"Certain sure, Sir Robert," Thomas answered earnestly.

"And sure--but, ah!" the baronet broke off abruptly, his tone one of
relief. "Here's Mr. Cooke! Go now, but be within call. Mr. Cooke,"--he
stepped, as he spoke, in front of that gentleman, who was about to
enter the house--"well met!"

Cooke was hot with haste and ire, but at the unexpected sight of Sir
Robert he stood still. "God bless my soul!" he cried. "You here, sir?"

"Yes. And you know Bristol well. You can help me."

"I wish I could help myself!" Cooke cried, forgetting himself in his
excitement.

"My daughter is in Bristol."

"Indeed?" the angry merchant replied. "Then she could not be in a
worse place. That is all I can say."

"I am inclined to agree with you."

"This is your Reform!"

Sir Robert stared. "Not my Reform, Mr. Cooke," he said in a tone of
displeasure.

"I beg your pardon, Sir Robert," Cooke rejoined, speaking more coolly.
"I beg your pardon. But what I have suffered to-day is beyond telling.
By G--d, it's my opinion that there's only one man worthy of the name
in Bristol! And that's your cousin, Vaughan!"

Sir Robert struck his stick on the pavement. "Mr. Vaughan?" he
exclaimed. "He is here, then? I feared so!"

"Here? You feared? I tell you he's the only man to be called a man,
who is here! If it had not been for him and the way he handled the
constables last night we should have been burnt out then instead of
to-night! I don't know that the gain's much, but for what it's worth
we have him to thank!"

Sir Robert frowned. "I am surprised. He behaved well? Indeed!" he
said.

"D----d well! D----d well! If there had been half a dozen like him,
we'd be out of the wood!"

"Where is he staying?" Sir Robert asked after a moment's hesitation.
"I've lost my daughter in the confusion, and I think it possible that
he may know where she is."

"He is staying here at the Lion," Cooke answered. "But he's been up
and down all day trying to put heart into poltroons." And he ran over
the chief events of the last few hours.

He punctuated the story with oaths and bitter complaints, and perhaps
it was for this reason that Sir Robert, after he had heard the main
facts, broke away. He went through the hall to the bar where the
landlord, who knew him well, came forward and greeted him
respectfully. But to Sir Robert's inquiry as to Mr. Vaughan's
whereabouts he shook his head.

"I wish he was in the house, Sir Robert," he said in a low voice. "For
he's a marked man in Bristol since last night. I was in the Square
myself, and it was wonderful what spirit he put into his men. But the
scum and the riffraff who are uppermost to-day say he handled them
cruelly, and my daughter tried to persuade him from going out to-day.
But he would go, sir."

Sir Robert reflected with a gloomy face. "Where are Mr. Flixton's
quarters?" he asked at last. He might possibly learn something from
him.

The man told him, and Sir Robert summoned his servants and went out.
It was dark by this time, but a faint glare shone overhead and there
was a murmur in the air, as if, in the gloom beneath, the heart of the
city was palpitating, in dread of it knew not what. Sir Robert had not
far to go. He had barely passed into College Green when he met Flixton
under a lamp. And so it happened that two minutes later, Vaughan, on
his way from Brereton's lodgings in Unity Street, came plump upon the
two. He might have gone by in ignorance, but as he passed the taller
man looked up, and Vaughan with a shock of surprise recognised Sir
Robert Vermuyden.

Flixton caught sight of Vaughan at the same moment, and "Here's your
man, Sir Robert," he cried with a little malice in his tone. "Here,
Vaughan," he continued, "Here's Sir Robert Vermuyden! He's looking for
you. He wants to know----"

Sir Robert stopped him. "I will speak for myself, Mr. Flixton, if you
please," he said with the dignity which seldom deserted him. "Mr.
Vaughan," he continued, with a piercing glance, "where is my
daughter?"

Vaughan returned his look, frowning. Since the parting in Miss
Sibson's parlour, the remembrance of which still set his blood in a
flame, Sir Robert and he had not met. Now, in the wet gloom of College
Green, under a rare gaslamp, with turmoil about them, and the murmur
of fresh trouble drawing near through the streets, Sir Robert asked
him for his daughter! He could have laughed. As it was, "I know
nothing, sir, of your daughter," he replied, in a tone between
contempt and anger.

"But," Sir Robert retorted, "you travelled with her, from London!"

"How do you know that I did?"

"The servants, sir, have told me that you did."

"Then they must also have told you," Vaughan rejoined keenly, "that I
did not take the liberty of speaking to Miss Vermuyden. And that I
left the coach at Chippenham. That being so, I can only refer you," he
continued with a sneer, raising his hat and preparing to move on, "to
Mr. Flixton, who went with her the rest of the way to Bristol."

He turned away. But he had not taken two paces before Sir Robert
touched his shoulder, and with that habit of command which few
questioned. "Wait, sir," he said, "Wait, if you please. You do not
escape me so easily. You will attend to me one moment, if you please.
Mr. Flixton accompanied Miss Vermuyden, as did her man and maid, to
Miss Sibson's house. She gave that address to Lady Worcester, in whose
care she was; and I sought her there this afternoon. But she is not
there." Sir Robert continued, striving to read Vaughan's face. "The
house is empty. So is the house on either side. I can make no one
hear."

"And you come to me for news of her?" Vaughan asked in the tone he had
used throughout. He was very sore.

"I do."

"You do not think that I am the last person of whom you should ask
tidings of your daughter?"

"She came here," Sir Robert answered sternly, "to see Lady Sybil."

Vaughan stared. The answer seemed to be irrelevant. Then he
understood. "Oh," he said, "I see. You are still under the impression
that your wife and I are in a conspiracy to delude you? Your daughter
also? You think that she is in the plot? And that she gave the
schoolmistress's address to deceive you?"

"No!" Sir Robert cried. But, after all, that was what he did think.
Had he not told himself, more than once, that she was her mother's
daughter? Had he not told himself that it could not have been by
chance that Vaughan and she met a second time on the coach? He knew
that she had left London and gone to her mother in defiance of him. He
knew that. And though she had entwined herself about his heart, though
she had seemed to him all gentleness, goodness, truth--she was still
her mother's daughter! Nevertheless, he said "No!"--and said it
angrily.

"Then I do not know what you mean!" Vaughan retorted.

"I believe that you can tell me something, if you will."

Vaughan looked at him. "I have nothing to tell you," he said.

"You mean, sir, that you will tell me nothing!"

"That, if you like."

For nearly half a century the old man had found few to oppose him; and
now by good luck he had not time to reply. A man running out of the
darkness in the direction of Unity Street--the open space was full of
moving groups, of alarms and confusion--caught sight of Vaughan's
face, checked himself and addressed him.

"Mr. Vaughan!" he said. "They are coming! They are making for the
Palace! The Bishop must be got away, if he's not gone! I am fetching
the Colonel! The Mayor is following with all he can get together. If
you will give warning at the Palace, there will be time for his
lordship to escape."

"Right!" Vaughan cried, glad to leave his company. And he started
without the loss of a moment. Even so, he had not gone twenty paces
down the Green before the head of the mob entered it from St.
Augustine's, and passed, with hoarse shouts, along the south side,
towards the ancient Archway which led to the Lower Green. It was a
question whether he or they reached the Archway first; but he won the
race by a score of yards.

The view from the Lower Green, which embraced the burning gaol, as
well as all Queen's Square and the Floating Basin that islanded it,
had drawn together a number of gazers. These impeded Vaughan's
progress, but he got through them at last, and as the mob burst into
the Lower Green he entered the paved passage leading to the Precincts,
hurried along it, turned the dark elbow near the inner end, and halted
before the high gates which shut off the Cloisters. The Palace door
was in the innermost or southeast corner of the Cloisters.

It was very dark at the end of the passage; and fortunately! For the
gates were fast closed, and before he could, groping, find the
knocker, the rabble had entered the passage behind him and cut off his
retreat. The high wall which rose on either side made escape
impossible. Nor was this all. As he awoke to the trap in which he had
placed himself, a voice at his elbow muttered, "My God, we shall be
murdered!" And he learned that Sir Robert had followed him.

He had no time to remonstrate, nor thought of remonstrance. "Stand
flat against the wall!" he muttered, his fingers closing upon the
staff in his pocket. "It is our only chance!"

He had basely spoken before the leaders of the mob swept round the
elbow. They had one light, a flare borne above them, which shone on
their tarpaulins and white smocks, and on the huge ship-hammers they
carried. There was a single moment of great peril, and instinctively
Vaughan stepped before the older man. He could not have made a happier
movement, for it seemed--to the crowd who caught a glimpse of the two
and took them for some of their own party--as if he advanced against
the gates along with their leaders.

The peril indeed, or the worst of it, was over the moment they fell
into the ranks. "Hammers to the front!" was the cry. And Sir Robert
and Vaughan were thrust back into the second line, that those who
wielded the hammers might have room. Vaughan tipped his hat over his
face, and the villains who pressed upon the two and jostled them, and
whose cries of "Burn him out! Burn the old devil out!" were dictated
by greed rather than by hate, were too full of the work in hand to
regard their neighbours closely. In three or four minutes--long
minutes they seemed to the two inclosed in that unsavoury company--the
bars gave way, the gates were thrown open, and Vaughan and Sir Robert,
hardly keeping their feet in the rush, were borne into the Cloisters.

The rabble, with cries of triumph, raced across the dark court to the
Palace door and began to use their hammers on that. Vaughan hoped that
the Bishop had had warning--as a fact he had escaped some hours
earlier. At any rate he and his companion could do no more, and under
cover of the darkness they retreated to the porch of a smaller house
which opened on the Cloisters. Here they were safe for the time; and,
his heart opened and his tongue loosed by the danger through which
they had passed, he turned to his companion and remonstrated with him.

"Sir Robert," he said, "this is no place for a man of your years."

"England will soon be no place for any man of my years," the Baronet
answered bitterly. "I would your leaders, sir, were here to see their
work! I would Lord Grey were here to see how well his friends carry
out his hints!"

"I doubt if he would be more pleased than you or I!" Vaughan answered.
"In the meantime----"

"The soldiers! Have a care!" The alarm came from the gate by which
they had entered, and Vaughan broke off, with an exclamation of joy.
"We have them now!" he said. "And red-handed! Brereton has only to
close the passage, and he must take them all!"

But the rioters took that view also, and the alarm. And they streamed
out panic-stricken. When the soldiers rode in, Brereton at their head,
not more than twenty or thirty remained in the Precincts. And on that
followed the most remarkable of all the scenes that disgraced Bristol
that night; the scene which beyond others convinced many of the
complicity of the troops, if not of the Government, in the outrage.

Not a man could leave the Palace except with the troops' good-will.
Yet they let the rascals pass. In vain a handful of constables--who
had arrived on the heels of the military--exerted themselves to seize
the worst offenders, and such as passed with plunder in their hands.
The soldiers discouraged the attempt, and even beat back the
constables. "Let them go! Let them go!" was the cry. And the
nimbleness of the scamps in effecting their escape was greeted with
laughter and applause.

Vaughan and the companion whom fate had so strangely joined saw it
with indignation. But Vaughan had made up his mind that he would not
approach Brereton again; and he controlled himself, until a blackguard
bolting from the Palace with his arms full of spoil was seized, close
to him, by an elderly man, who seemed to be one of the Bishop's
servants. The two wrestled fiercely, the servant calling for help, the
soldiers looking on and laughing. A moment and the two fell to the
ground, the servant undermost. He uttered a cry of pain.

That was too much for Vaughan. He sprang forward, dragged the ruffian
from his prey, and with his other hand he drew his staff. He was
about to strike his prisoner--for the man continued to struggle
desperately--when a voice above them shouted "Put that up! Put that
up!" And a trooper urged his horse almost on the top of them, at the
same time threatening him with his naked sword.

Vaughan lost his temper at that. "You blackguard!" he cried. "Stand
back. The man is my prisoner!"

For answer the soldier struck at him. Fortunately the blade was turned
by his hat and only the flat alighted on his head. But the man, drunk
or reckless, repeated the blow, and this time would certainly have cut
him down if Sir Robert, with a quickness beyond his years, had not
turned aside the stroke with his walking-cane. At the same time "Are
you mad?" he shouted peremptorily. "Where is your Colonel?"

The tone, rather than the words, sobered the trooper. He swore
sulkily, reined in his horse, and moved back to his fellows. Sir
Robert turned to Vaughan, who, dazed by the blow, was leaning against
the porch of the house. "I hope you are not wounded?" he said.

"It's thanks to you, sir, he's not killed!" the man whom Vaughan had
rescued, replied; and he hung about him solicitously. "He'd have cut
him to the chin! Ay, to the chin he would!" with quavering gusto.

Vaughan was regaining his coolness. He tried to smile. "I hardly
saw--what happened," he said. "I am only sure I am not hurt. Just--a
rap on the head!"

"I am glad that it is no worse," Sir Robert said gravely. "Very glad!"
Now it was over he had to bite his lower lip to repress its trembling.

"You feel better, sir, now?" the servant asked, addressing Vaughan.

"Yes, yes," Vaughan said. But after that he was silent, thinking. And
Sir Robert was silent, too. The soldiers were withdrawing; the
constables, outraged and indignant, were following them, declaring
aloud that they were betrayed. And for certain the walls of the
Cathedral had looked down on few stranger scenes, even in those
troubled days when the crosslets of the Berkeleys first shone from
their casements.

Vaughan thought of the thing which had happened; and what was he to
say? The position was turned upside down. The obligation was on the
wrong person; the boot was on the wrong foot. If he, the young, the
strong, and the injured, had saved Sir Robert, that had been well
enough. But this? It required some magnanimity to take it gracefully,
to bear it with dignity.

"I owe you sincere thanks," he said at last, but awkwardly and with
constraint.

"The blackguard!" Sir Robert cried.

"You saved me, sir, from a very serious injury."

"It was as much threat as blow!" Sir Robert rejoined.

"I don't think so," Vaughan answered. And then he was silent, finding
it hard to say more. But after a pause, "I can only make you one
return," he said with an effort. "Perhaps you will believe me when I
say, that upon my honour I do not know where your daughter is. I have
neither spoken to her nor communicated with her since I saw her in
Queen's Square in May. And I know nothing of Lady Sybil."

"I am obliged to you," Sir Robert said.

"If you believe me," Vaughan said. "Not otherwise!"

"I do believe you, Mr. Vaughan." And Sir Robert said it as if he meant
it.

"Then that is something gained," Vaughan answered, "besides the
soundness of my head." Try as he might he felt the position irksome,
and was glad to seek refuge in flippancy.

Sir Robert removed his hat, and stood in perplexity. "But where can
she be then?" he asked. "If you know nothing of her."

Vaughan paused before he answered. Then "I think I should look for her
in Queen's Square," he suggested. "In that neighbourhood neither life
nor property will be safe until Bristol comes to its senses. She
should be removed, therefore, if she be there."

"I will take your advice and try the house again," Sir Robert
answered. "I think you are right, and I am much obliged to you."

He put his hat on his head, but removed it to salute his cousin.
"Thank you," he repeated, "I am much obliged to you." And he departed
slowly across the court.

Halfway to the entrance, he paused, and fingered his chin. He went on
again--again he paused. He took a step or two, turned, hesitated. At
last he came slowly back.

"Perhaps you will go with me?" he asked.

"You are very good," Vaughan answered, his voice shaking a little. Was
it possible that Sir Robert meant more than he said? It did seem
possible.

But after all they did not go out that way. For, as they approached
the broken gates, shouts of "Reform!" and "Down with the Lords!"
warned them that the rioters were returning. And the Bishop's servant,
approaching them anew, insisted on taking them through the Palace, and
by way of the garden and a low wall conducted them into Trinity
Street. Here they were close to the Drawbridge which crossed the water
to the foot of Clare Street; and they passed over it, one of them
walking with a lighter heart, notwithstanding Mary's possible danger,
than he had borne for weeks. Soon they were in Queen's Square, and,
avoiding as far as possible the notice of the mob, were knocking
doggedly at Miss Sibson's door. But by that time the Palace, high
above them on College Green, had burst into flames, and, a mark for
all the countryside, had flung the red banner of Reform to the night.



                                XXXIII

                                 FIRE


Sir Robert and his companion might have knocked longer and more
loudly, and still to no purpose. For the schoolmistress, prepared to
witness a certain amount of disorder on the Saturday, had been taken
aback by the sight which met her eyes when she rose on Sunday morning.
And long before noon she had sent her servants to their friends,
locked up her house, and gone next door, to dispel by her cheerful
face and her comfortable common sense the fears which she knew would
prevail there. The sick lady was not in a state to withstand alarm;
Mary was a young girl and timid; and neither the landlady nor Lady
Sybil's maid were persons of strong mind. Miss Sibson felt that here
was an excellent occasion for the display of that sturdy indifference
with which firm nerves and a long experience of Bristol elections had
endowed her.

"La, my dear," was her first remark, "it's all noise and nonsense!
They look fierce, but there's not a man of them all, that if I took
him soundly by the ear and said, 'John Thomas Gaisford, I know you
well and your wife! You live in the Pithay, and if you don't go
straight home this minute I'll tell her of your goings on!'--there's
not one of them, my dear," with a jolly laugh, "wouldn't sneak off
with his tail between his legs! Hurt us, my lady? I'd like to see them
doing it. Still, it will be no harm if we lock the door downstairs,
and answer no knocks. We shall be cosy upstairs, and see all that's to
be seen besides!"

These were Miss Sibson's opinions, a little after noon on the Sunday.
Nor, when the day began to draw in, without abating the turmoil, did
she recant them aloud. But when the servant of the house, who found
amusement in listening at the locked door to the talk of those who
passed, came open-eyed to announce that the people had fired the
Bridewell, and were attacking the gaol, Miss Sibson did rub her nose
reflectively. And privately she began to wonder whether the prophecies
of evil, which both parties had sown broadcast, were to be fulfilled.

"It's that nasty Brougham!" she said. "Alderman Daniel told me that he
was stirring up the devil; and we're going to get the dust. But la,
bless your ladyship," she continued comfortably, "I know the Bristol
lads, and they'll not hurt us. Just a gaol or two, for the sake of the
frolic. My dear, your mother'll have her tea, and will feel the better
for it. And we'll draw the curtains and light the lamps and take no
heed. Maybe there'll be bones broken, but they'll not be ours!"

Lady Sybil, with her face turned away, muttered something about Paris.

"Well, your ladyship knows Paris and I don't," the schoolmistress
replied respectfully. "I can fancy anything there. But you may depend
upon it, my lady, England is different. I know old Alderman Daniel
calls Lord John Russell 'Lord John Robespierre,' and says he's worse
than a Jacobin. But I'll never believe he'd cut the King's head off!
Never! And don't you believe it, either, my lady. No, English are
English! There's none like them, and never will be. All the same," she
concluded, "I shall set 'Honour the King!' for a copy when the young
ladies come back."

Her views might not have convinced by themselves. But taken with tea
and buttered toast, a good fire and a singing kettle, they availed.
Lady Sybil was a shade easier that afternoon; and, naturally of a high
courage, found a certain alleviation in the exciting doings under her
windows. She was gracious to Miss Sibson, whose outpourings she
received with languid amusement; and when Mary was not looking, she
followed her daughter's movements with mournful eyes. Uncertain as the
wind, she was this evening in her best mood; as patient as she could
be fractious, and as gentle as she was sometimes violent. She scouted
the notion of danger with all Miss Sibson's decision; and after tea
she insisted that the lights should be shaded, and her couch be
wheeled to the window, in order that, propped high with pillows, she
might amuse herself with the hurly-burly in the Square below.

"To be sure," Miss Sibson commented, "it will do no good to anyone,
this; and many a poor chap will suffer for it by and by. That's the
worst of these Broughams and Besoms, my lady. It's the low down that
swallow the dust. It's very fine to cry 'King and Reform!' and drink
the Corporation wine! But it will be 'Between our sovereign lord the
King and the prisoner at the bar!' one of these days! And their
throats will be dry enough then!"

"Poor misguided people!" Mary murmured.

"They've all learned the Church Catechism," the schoolmistress replied
shrewdly. "Or they should have; it's lucky for them--ay, you may
shout, my lads--that there's many a slip between the neck and the
rope--Lord ha' mercy!"

The last words fitted the context well enough; but they fell so
abruptly from her lips that Mary, who was bending over her mother,
looked up in alarm. "What is it?" she asked.

"Only," Miss Sibson answered with composure, "what I ought to have
said long ago--that nothing can be worse for her ladyship than the
cold air that comes in at the cracks of this window!"

"It's not that," Lady Sybil replied, smiling. "They have set fire to
the Mansion House, Mary. You can see the flames in the room on the
farther side of the door."

Mary uttered an exclamation of horror, and they all looked out. The
Mansion House was the most distant house on the north, or left-hand,
side of the Square, viewed from the window at which they stood; the
house next Miss Sibson's being about the middle of the west side.
Nearer them, on the same side as the Mansion House, stood another
public building--the Custom House. And nearer again, being the most
northerly house on their own side of the Square, stood a third--the
Excise Office.

They had thus a fair, though a side view, of the front of the Mansion
House, and were able to watch, with what calmness they might, the
flames shoot from one window after another; until, presently, meeting
in a waving veil of fire, they hid--save when the wind blew them
aside--all the upper part of the house from their eyes.

A great fire in the night, the savage, uncontrollable revolt of man's
tamed servant--is at all times a terrible sight. Nor on this occasion
was it only the horror of the flames, roaring and crackling and
pouring forth a million of sparks, which chained their eyes. For as
these rose, they shed an intense light, not only on the heights of
Redcliffe, visible above the east side of the Square, and on the
stately tower which rose from them, but on the multitude below; on the
hurrying forms that, monkey-like, played before the flames and seemed
to feed them, and on a still stranger sight, the expanse of up-turned
faces that, in the rear of the active rioters, extended to the
farthest limit of the Square.

For it was the quiescence, it was the inertness of the gazing crowd
which most appalled the spectators at the window. To see that great
house burn and to see no man stretch forth a hand to quench it, this
terrified. "Oh, but it is frightful! It is horrible!" Mary exclaimed.

"I should like to knock their heads together!" Miss Sibson cried
sternly. "What are the soldiers doing? What is anyone doing?"

"They have hounded on the dogs," Lady Sybil said slowly--she alone
seemed to view the sight with a dispassionate eye, "and they are
biting instead of barking! That is all."

"Dogs?" Miss Sibson echoed.

"Ay, the dogs of Reform!" Lady Sybil replied cynically. "Brougham's
dogs! Grey's dogs! Russell's dogs! I could wish Sir Robert were here,
it would so please him to see his words fulfilled!" And then, as in
surprise at the thing she had uttered, "I wonder when I wished to
please him before?" she muttered.

"Oh, but it is frightful!" Mary repeated, unable to remove her eyes
from the flames.

It was frightful; even while they were all sane people in the room,
and, whatever their fears, restrained them. What then was it a moment
later, when the woman of the house burst in upon them, with a maid in
wild hysterics clinging to her, and another on the threshold screaming
"Fire! Fire!"

"It's all on fire at the back!" the woman panted. "It's on fire, it's
all on fire, my lady, at the back!"

"It's all--what?" Miss Sibson rejoined, in a tone which had been known
to quell the pertest of seventeen-year-old rebels. "It is what, woman?
On fire at the back? And if it is, is that a ground for forgetting
your manners? Where is your deportment? Fire, indeed! Are you aware
whose room this is? For shame! And you, silly," she continued,
addressing herself to the maid, "be silent, and go outside, as becomes
you."

But the maid, though she retreated to the door, continued to scream,
and the woman of the house to wring her hands. "You had better go and
see what it is," Lady Sybil said, turning to the schoolmistress. For,
strange to say, she who a few hours before had groaned if a coal fell
on the hearth, and complained if her book slid from the couch, was now
quite calm.

"They are afraid of their own shadows," Miss Sibson cried
contemptuously. "It is the reflection they have seen."

But she went. And as it was but a step to a window overlooking the
rear, Mary went with her.

They looked. And for a moment something like panic seized them. The
back of the house was not immediately upon the quay, but through an
opening in the warehouses which fringed the latter it commanded a view
of the water and the masts, and of the sloping ground which rose to
College Green. And high above, dyeing the Floating Basin crimson, the
Palace showed in a glow of fire; fire which seemed to be on the point
of attacking the Cathedral, of which every pinnacle and buttress, with
every chimney of the old houses clustered about it, stood out in the
hot glare. It was clear that the building had been burning some time,
for the roar of the flames could be heard, and almost the hiss of the
water as innumerable sparks floated down to it.

Horror-struck, Mary grasped her companion's arm. And "Good Heavens!"
Miss Sibson muttered. "The whole city will be burned!"

"And we are between the two fires," Mary faltered. An involuntary
shudder might be pardoned her.

"Ay, but far enough from them," the schoolmistress answered,
recovering herself. "On this side, the water makes us safe."

"And on the other?"

"La, my dear," Miss Sibson replied confidently. "The folks are not
going to burn their own houses. They are angry with the Corporation.
They hold them all one with Wetherell. And for the Bishop, they've so
abused him the last six months that he's hardly dared to show his wig
on the streets, and it's no wonder the poor ignorants think him fair
game. But we're just ordinary folk, and they'll no more harm us than
fly. But we must go back to your mother."

They went back, and wisely Miss Sibson made no mystery of the truth;
repeating, however, those arguments against giving way to alarm which
she had used to Mary.

"The poor dear gentleman has lost his house," she concluded piously.
"But we should be thankful he has another."

Lady Sybil took the news with calmness; her eyes indeed seemed
brighter, as if she enjoyed the excitement. But the frightened woman
at the door refused to be comforted, and underlying the courage of the
two who stood by Lady Sybil's couch was a secret uneasiness, which
every cheer of the crowd below the windows, every "huzza" which rose
from the revellers, every wild rush from one part of the Square to
another tended to strengthen. In her heart Miss Sibson owned that in
all her experience she had known nothing like this; no disorder so
flagrant, so unbridled, so daring. She could carry her mind back to
the days when the cheek of England had paled at the Massacres of
September in Paris. The deeds of '98 in Ireland, she had read morning
by morning in the journals. The Three Days of July, with their street
fighting, were fresh in all men's minds--it was impossible to ignore
their bearing on the present conflagration. And if here was not the
dawn of Revolution, if here were not signs of the crash of things,
appearances deceived her. But even so, she was not to be dismayed. She
believed that even in revolutions a comfortable courage, sound sense,
and a good appetite went far. And "I'd like to hear John Thomas
Gaisford talk to me of guillotines!" she thought. "I'd make his ears
burn!"

Meanwhile, Mary was thinking that, whatever the emergency, her mother
was too ill to be moved. Miss Sibson might be right, the danger might
be remote. But it was barely midnight; and long hours of suspense must
be lived through before morning came. Meanwhile there were only women
in the house, and, bravely as the girl controlled herself, a cry more
reckless than usual, an outburst of cheering more savage, a rush below
the windows, drove the blood to her heart. And presently, while she
gazed with shrinking eyes on the crowd, now blood-red in the glow of
the burning timbers, now lost for a moment in darkness, a groan broke
from it, and she saw pale flames appear at the windows of the house
next the Mansion House. They shot up rapidly, licking the front of the
buildings.

Miss Sibson saw them at the same moment, and "The villains!" she
exclaimed. "God grant it be an accident!"

Mary's lips moved, but no sound came from them.

Lady Sybil laughed her shrill laugh. "The curs are biting bravely!"
she said. "What will Bristol say to this?"

"Show them that they have gone too far!" Miss Sibson answered stoutly.
"The soldiers will act now, and put them in their places, as they did
in Wiltshire in the winter! And high time too!"

But though they watched in tense anxiety for the first sign of action
on the part of the troops, for the first movement of the authorities,
they gazed in vain. The miscreants, who fed the flames and spread
them, were few; and in the Square were thousands who had property to
lose, and friends and interests in jeopardy. If a tithe only of those
who looked on, quiescent and despairing, had raised their hands, they
could have beaten the rabble from the place. But no man moved. The
fear of coming trouble, which had been long in the air, paralysed even
the courageous, while the ignorant and the timid believed that they
saw a revolution in progress, and that henceforth the mob would
rule--and woe betide the man who set himself against it! As it had
been in Paris, so it would be here. And so the flames spread, before
the eyes of the terrified women at the window, before the eyes of the
inert multitude, from the house first attacked to its neighbour, and
from that to the next and the next. Until the noise of the
conflagration, the crash of sinking walls, the crackling of beams were
as the roar of falling waters, and the Square in that hideous red
light, which every moment deepened, resembled an inferno, in which the
devils of hell played awful pranks, and wherein, most terrible sight
of all, thousands who in ordinary times held the salvation of property
to be the first of duties, stood with scared eyes, passive and cowed.

It was such a scene--and they were only women, and alone in the
house--as the mind cannot imagine and the eye views but once in a
generation, nor ever forgets. In quiet Clifton, and on St. Michael's
Hill, children were snatched from their midnight slumbers and borne
into the open, that they might see the city stretched below them in a
pit of flame, with the overarching fog at once confining and
reflecting the glare. Dundry Tower, five miles from the scene, shone a
red portent visible for leagues; and in Chepstow and South Monmouth,
beyond the wide estuary of the Severn, the light was such that men
could see to read. From all the distant Mendips, and from the Forest
of Dean, miners and charcoal-burners gazed southward with scared
faces, and told one another that the revolution was begun; while
Lansdowne Chase sent riders galloping up the London Road with the news
that all the West was up. Long before dawn on the Monday horsemen and
yellow chaises were carrying the news through the night to Gloucester,
to Southampton, to Salisbury, to Exeter, to every place where scanty
companies of foot lay, or yeomanry had their headquarters. And where
these passed, alarming the sleeping inns and posthouses, panic sprang
up upon their heels, and the travellers on the down nightcoaches
marvelled at the tales which met them with the daylight.

If the sight viewed from a distance was so terrible as to appal a
whole countryside, if, on those who gazed at it from vantage spots of
safety, and did not guess at the dreadful details, it left an
impression of terror never to be effaced, what was it to the three
women who, in the Square itself, watched the onward march of the
flames towards them, were blinded by the glare, choked by the smoke,
deafened by the roar? Whom distance saved from no feature of the scene
played under their windows: who could shun neither the savage cries of
the drunken rabble, dancing before the doomed houses, nor the sight,
scarce less amazing, of the insensibility which watched the march of
the flames and stretched forth not a finger to stay them! Who, chained
by Lady Sybil's weakness to the place where they stood, saw house
after house go up in flames, until all the side of the Square
adjoining their own was a wall of fire; and who then were left to
guess the progress, swift or slow, which the element was making
towards them! For whom the copper-hued fog above them must have
seemed, indeed, the roof of a furnace, from which escape grew moment
by moment less likely?



                                XXXIV

                          HOURS OF DARKNESS


Long before this the women of the house had fled, taking Lady Sybil's
maid with them. And dreadful as was the situation of those who
remained, appalling as were the fears of two of them, they were able
to control themselves; the better because they knew that they had no
aid but their own to look to, and that their companion was helpless.
Fortunately Lady Sybil, who had watched the earlier phases of the riot
with the detachment which is one of the marks of extreme weakness, had
at a certain point turned faint, and demanded to be removed from the
window. She was ignorant, therefore, of the approach of the flames and
of the imminence of the peril. She had even, in spite of the uproar,
dozed off, after a few minutes of trying irritation, into an uneasy
sleep.

Mary and Miss Sibson were thus left free. But for what? Compelled to
watch in suspense the progress of the flames, driven at times to fancy
that they could feel the heat of the fire, assailed more than once by
gusts of fear, as one or the other imagined that they were already cut
off, they could not have held their ground but for their
unselfishness; but for their possession of those qualities of love and
heroism which raise women to the height of occasion, and nerve them to
a pitch of endurance of which men are rarely capable. In the
schoolmistress, with her powdered nose and her portly figure, and her
dull past of samplers and backboards and Mrs. Chapone, there dwelt as
sturdy a spirit as in any of the rough Bristol shipmasters from whom
she sprang. She might be fond of a sweetbread, and a glass of port
might not come amiss to her. But the heart in her was stout and large,
and she had as soon dreamed of forsaking her forlorn companions as
those bluff sailormen would have dreamed of striking their flag to a
codfish Don, or to a shipload of mutinous slaves.

And Mary? Perchance the gentlest and the mildest are also the bravest,
when the stress is real. Or perhaps those who have never known a
mother's love cling to the veriest shred and tatter of it, if it fall
in their way. Or perhaps--but why explain that which all history has
proved a hundred times over---that love casts out fear. Mary quailed,
deafened by the thunder of the fire, with the walls of the room
turning blood-red round her, and the smoke beginning to drift before
the window. But she stood; and only once, assailed by every form of
fear, did her courage fail her, or sink below the stronger nerve of
the elder woman.

That was when Miss Sibson, after watching that latest and most
pregnant sign, the eddying of smoke past the window, spoke out. "I'm
going next door," she cried in Mary's ear. "There are papers I must
save; they are all I have for my old age. The rest may go, but I can't
see them burn when five minutes may save them."

But Mary clung to her desperately. "Oh!" she cried, "don't leave me!"

Miss Sibson patted her shoulder. "I shall come back," she said. "I
shall come back, my dear, never fear. And then we must move your
mother--into the Square if no better can be. Do you come down and let
me in when I knock three times."

Lady Sybil was still dozing, with a woollen wrap about her head to
deaden the noise; and giving way to the cooler brain Mary went down
with the schoolmistress. In the hall the roar of the fire was less,
for the only window was shuttered. But the raucous voices of the mob,
moving to and fro outside, were more clearly heard.

Miss Sibson, however, remained undaunted. "Put up the chain the moment
I am outside," she said.

"But are you not afraid?" Mary cried, holding her back.

"Of those scamps?" Miss Sibson replied truculently. "They had better
not touch me!" And she turned the key and slipped out. Nor did she
leave the step until Mary had put up the chain and re-locked the door.

Mary waited--oh, many, many minutes it seemed--in the gloom of the
hall, pierced here and there by a lurid ray; with half her mind on her
mother upstairs, and the other half on the ribald laughter, the
drunken oaths and threats and curses which penetrated from the Square.
It was plain that Miss Sibson had not gone too soon, for twice or
thrice the door was struck with some heavy instrument, and harsh
voices called on the inmates to open if they did not wish to be
burned. Uncertain how the fire advanced, Mary heard them with a sick
heart. But she held her ground, until, oh, joy! she heard voices
raised in altercation, and among them the schoolmistress's. A hand
knocked thrice, she turned the key and let down the chain. The door
opened upon her, and on the steps, with her hand on a man's shoulder,
appeared Miss Sibson. Behind her and her captive, between them and
that background of flame and confusion, stood a group of four or five
men--dock labourers, in tarpaulins and frocks, who laughed tipsily.

"This lad will help to carry your mother out," Miss Sibson said with
the utmost coolness. "Come, my lad, and no nonsense! You don't want to
burn a sick lady in her bed!"

"No, I don't, Missis," the man grumbled sheepishly. "But I'm none here
for that! I'm none here for that, and----"

"You'll do it, all the same," the schoolmistress replied. "And I want
one more. Here, you," she continued, addressing a grinning hobbledehoy
in a sealskin cap. "I know your face, and you'll want someone to speak
for you at the Assizes. Come in, you two, and the rest must wait until
the lady's carried out!"

And thereon, with that strange mixture of humanity and unreasoning
fury of which the night left many examples, the men complied. The two
whom she had chosen entered, the others suffered her to shut the door
in their faces. Only, "You'll be quick!" one bawled after her. "She's
afire next door!"

That was the warning that went with them upstairs, and it nerved them
for the task before them. Over that task it were well to draw a veil.
The poor sick woman, roused anew and abruptly to a sense of her
surroundings, to the flickering lights, the smell of smoke, the
strange faces, to all the horrors of that scene rarely equalled in our
modern England, shrieked aloud. The courage, which had before upheld
her, deserted her. She refused to be moved, refused to believe that
they were there to save her; she failed even to recognise her
daughter, she resisted their efforts, and whatever Mary could say or
do, she added to the peril of the moment all the misery which frantic
terror and unavailing shrieks could add. They did not know, while they
reasoned with her, and tried to lift her, and strove to cloak her
against the outer air, the minute at which the house might be entered;
nor even that it was not already entered, already in some part on
fire. The girl, though her hands were steady, though she never
wavered, though she persisted, was white as paper. And even Miss
Sibson was almost unnerved, when at last nature came to their aid, and
with a frantic protest, a last attempt to thrust them from her, the
poor woman swooned; and the men who had looked on, as unhappy as those
engaged, lifted the couch and bore her down the stairs. Odd are the
windings of chance and fate. These men, in whom every good instinct
was awakened by the sight before them, might, had the schoolmistress's
eye alighted on others, have plundered on with their fellows; and with
the more luckless of those fellows have stood on the scaffold a month
later!

Still, time had been lost. And perforce the men descended slowly, so
that as they reached the hall the door gave way, and admitted a dozen
rascals, who tumbled over one another in their greed. The moment was
critical, the inrush of horrid sounds and sights appalling. But Mary
rose to the occasion. With a courage which from this time remained
with her to the end, she put herself forward.

"Will you let us pass out?" she said. "My mother is ill. You do not
wish to harm her?"

Now Lady Sybil had made Mary put off the Quaker-like costume in which
she had wished to nurse her, and she had had no time to cover the
light muslin dress she wore. The men saw before them a beautiful
creature, white-robed, bareheaded, barenecked--even the schoolmistress
had not snatched up so much as a cloak--a Una with sweet shining eyes,
before whom they fell aside abashed.

"Lord love you, Miss!" one cried heartily. "Take her out! And God
bless you!" while the others grinned fatuously.

So down the steps and into the turmoil of the seething Square, walled
on two sides by fire, and full of a drunken, frenzied rabble--for all
decent onlookers had fled, awake at last to the result of their
quiescence--the strange procession moved, the girl going first. Tipsy
groups, singing and dancing delirious jigs to the music of falling
walls, pillagers hurrying in ruthless haste from house to house, or
quarrelling over their spoils, householders striving to save a remnant
of their goods from dwellings past saving--all made way for it. Men
who swayed on their feet, brandishing their arms and shouting obscene
songs, being touched on the shoulder by others, stared, and gave place
with mouths agape. Even boys, whom the madness of that night made
worse than men, and unsexed women, shrank at sight of it, and were
silent--nay, followed with a strange homage the slender white figure,
the shining eyes, the pure sweet face.

In the worst horrors of the French Revolution it is said that the
devotion of a daughter stayed the hands which were raised to slay her
father. Even so, on this night in Bristol, amid surroundings less
bloody, but almost as appalling, the wildest and the most furious made
way for the daughter and the mother.

Led by instinct rather than by calculation, Mary did not pause, or
look aside, but moved onward, until she reached the middle of the
Square; until some sixty or seventy yards divided her charge from the
nearest of the burning houses. The heat was less scorching here, the
crowd less compact. A fixed seat afforded shelter on one side, and by
it she signed to the bearers to set the couch down. The statue stood
not far away on the other side, and secured them against the ugly
rushes which were caused from time to time by the fall of a roof or a
rain of sparks.

Mary gazed round her in stupor. And no wonder. The whole of the north
side of the great Square, and a half of the west side--thirty lofty
houses in all--were in flames, or were sinking in red-hot ruin. The
long wall of fire, the canopy of glowing smoke, the ceaseless roar of
the element, the random movements of the forms which, pigmy-like,
played between her and the conflagration, the doom which threatened
the whole city, held her awestruck, spellbound, fascinated.

But even the feelings which she experienced, confronted by that sight,
were exceeded by the emotions of one who had seen her advance, and, at
first with horror, then as he recognised her, with incredulity, had
watched the white figure which threaded its way through this rout of
satyrs, this orgy of recklessness. She had not succeeded in wresting
her eyes from the spectacle before a trembling hand fell on her arm,
and the last voice she expected to hear called her by name.

"Mary!" Sir Robert cried. "Mary! My God! What are you doing here?"
For, taken up with staring at her, he had seen neither who accompanied
her nor what they bore.

A sob of relief and joy broke from her, as she recognised him and
flung herself into his arms and clung to him.

"Oh!" she cried. "Oh!" She could say no more at that moment. But the
joy of it! To have at last a man to turn to, a man to lean upon, a man
to look to!

And still he could not grasp the position. "My God!" he repeated in
wonder. "What, child, what are you doing here?"

But before she could answer him, his eyes sank to the level of the
couch, which the figures about it shaded from the scorching light. And
he started--and stepped back. In a lower voice and a quavering tone he
called upon his Maker. He was beginning to understand.

"We had to bring her out," she sobbed. "We had to bring her out. The
house is on fire. See!" She pointed to the house beside Miss Sibson's,
from the upper windows of which smoke was beginning to curl and eddy.
Men were pouring from the door below, carrying their booty and
jostling others who sought to enter.

"You have been here all day?" he asked, passing his hand over his
brow.

"Yes."

"All day? All day?" he repeated.

"Yes."

He covered his eyes with his hand, while Mary, recalled by a touch
from Miss Sibson, knelt beside her mother, to feel her pulse, to rub
her hands, to make sure that life still lingered in the inanimate
frame. He had not asked, he did not ask who it was over whom his
daughter hung with so tender a solicitude. He did not even look at the
cloaked figure. But the sidelong glance which at once sought and
shunned, the quivering of his mouth, which his shaking fingers did not
avail to hide, the agitation which unnerved a frame, erect but feeble,
all betrayed his knowledge. And what must have been his thoughts, how
poignant his reflections as he considered that there, there, enveloped
in those shapeless wraps, there lay the bride whom he had wedded with
hopes so high a score of years before! The mother of his child, the
wife whom he had last seen in the pride of her beauty, the woman from
whom he had been parted for sixteen years, and who through all those
sixteen years had never been absent from his thoughts for an hour,
nor ever been aught in them but an abiding, clinging, embittering
memory--she lay there!

What wonder, if the scene about them rolled away and he saw her again
in the stately gardens at Stapylton, walking, smiling, talking,
flirting, the gayest of the gay, the lightest of the butterflies, the
admired of all? Or if his heart bled at the remembrance--at that
remembrance and many another? Or again, what wonder if his mind went
back to long hours of brooding in his sombre library, hours given up
to the rehearsal of grave remonstrances, vain reproofs, bitter
complaints, all destined to meet with defiance? And if his head sank
lower, his hands trembled more senilely, his breast heaved at this
picture of the irrevocable past?

Of all the strange things wrought in Bristol that night, of all the
strangely begotten brood of riot and fire, and Reform, none were
stranger than this meeting, if meeting that could be called where one
was ignorant of the other's presence, and he would not look upon her
face. For he would not, perhaps he dared not. He stood with bent head,
pondering and absorbed, until an uprush of sparks, more fiery than
usual, and the movement of the crowd to avoid them, awoke him from his
thoughts. Then his eyes fell on Mary's uncovered head and neck, and he
took the cloak from his own shoulders and put it on her, with a touch
as if he blessed her. She was kneeling beside the couch at the moment,
her head bent to her mother's, her hair mingling with her mother's,
but he contrived to close his eyes and would not see his wife's face.

After that he moved to the farther side of the couch, where some
sneaking hobbledehoys showed a disposition to break in upon them. And
old as he was, and shaken and weary, he stood sentry there, a gaunt
stooping figure, for long hours, until the prayed-for day began to
break above Redcliffe and to discover the grim relics of the night's
work.



                                 XXXV

                        THE MORNING OF MONDAY


It has been said that midnight of that Sunday saw the alarm speeding
along every road by which the forces of order could hope to be
recruited; nevertheless in Bristol itself nothing was done to stay the
work of havoc. A change had indeed come over the feeling in the city;
for to acquiescence had succeeded the most lively alarm, and to
approval, rage and boundless indignation. But the handful of officials
who all day long had striven, honestly if not very capably, to restore
order, were exhausted; and the public without cohesion or leaders were
in no state to make head against the rioters. So great, indeed, was
the confusion that a troop of Gloucestershire Yeomanry which rode in
soon after dark received neither orders nor billets; and being poorly
led, withdrew within the hour. This, with the tumult at Bath, where
the quarters of the Yeomanry were beset by a mob of Reformers, who
would not let them go to the rescue, completed the isolation of the
city.

One man only, indeed, in the midst of that welter, had it in his power
to intervene with effect. And he could not be found. From Queen's
Square to Leigh's Bazaar, where the Third Dragoons stood inactive by
their horses; from Leigh's to the Recruiting Office on College Green,
where a couple of non-commissioned officers stood inactive; from the
Recruiting Office to his lodgings in Unity Street, men, panting and
protesting, in terror for their property, hurried in vain nightmare
pursuit of that man. For to such men it seemed impossible that in face
of the damage already done, of thirty houses in flames, of a mob which
had broken all bounds, of a city disturbed to its entrails, he could
still refuse to act.

But to go to Unity Street was one thing, and to gain speech with
Brereton was another. He had gone to bed. He was asleep. He was not
well. He was worn out and was resting. The seekers, with the roar of
the fire in their ears and ruin staring them in the face, heard these
incredible things, and went away, swearing profanely. Nor did anyone,
it would seem, gain speech with him, until the small hours were well
advanced. Then Arthur Vaughan, unable to abide by the vow he had taken
not to importune him, arrived, he, too, furious, at the door, and
found a knot of gentlemen clamouring for admission.

Vaughan had parted from Sir Robert Vermuyden some hours earlier,
believing that, bad as things were, he might make head against the
rioters, if he could rally his constables. But he had found no one
willing to act without the soldiery; and he was here in the last
resort, determined to compel Colonel Brereton to move, if it were by
main force. For Vaughan had the law-keeping instincts of an Englishman
and his blood boiled at the sights he had seen in the streets, at the
wanton destruction of property, at the jeopardy of life, at the women
made homeless, at the men made paupers. Nor was it quite out of his
thoughts that if anything could harm the cause of Reform it was these
deeds done in its name, these outrages fulfilling to the letter the
worst which its enemies had predicted of it!

He spoke a few words to the persons who, angry and nonplussed, were
wrangling at the door, then he pushed his way in, deaf to the
remonstrances of the woman of the house. He did not believe, he could
not believe the excuse given--that Brereton was in bed. Nero, fiddling
while Rome burned, seemed nought beside that! And his surprise was
great when, opening the sitting-room door, he saw before him only the
Honourable Bob; who, standing on the hearth-rug, met his indignant
look with one of forced and sickly amusement.

"Good Heavens!" Vaughan cried, staring at him. "What are you doing
here? Where's the Chief?"

Flixton shrugged his shoulders. "There," he said irritably, "it's no
use blaming me! Man alive, if he won't, he won't! And it's his
business, not mine!"

"Then I'd make it mine!" Vaughan retorted. "Where is he?"

Flixton flicked his thumb in the direction of an inner door. "He's
there," he said. "He's there safe enough! For the rest, it is easy to
find fault! Very easy for you, my lad! You're no longer in the
service."

"There are a good many will leave the service for this!" Vaughan
replied; and he saw on the instant that the shot told. Flixton's face
fell, he opened his mouth to reply. But disdaining to listen to
excuses, of which the speaker's manner betrayed the shallowness,
Vaughan opened the bedroom door and passed in.

To his boundless astonishment Brereton was really in bed, with a light
beside him. Asleep he probably was not, for he rose at once to a
sitting posture and, with wild and dishevelled hair, confronted the
intruder with a mingling of wrath and discomfiture in his looks. His
sword and an undress cap, blue with a silver band, lay beside the
candle on the table, and Vaughan saw that though in his shirt-sleeves
he was not otherwise undressed.

"Mr. Vaughan!" he cried. "What, if you please, does this mean?"

"That is what I am here to ask you!" Vaughan answered, his face
flushed with indignation. He was too angry to pick his words. "Are
you, can you be aware, sir, what is done while you sleep?"

"Sleep?" Brereton rejoined, with a sombre gleam in his eyes. "Sleep,
man? God knows it is the last thing I do!" He clapped his hand to his
brow and for a moment remained silent, holding it there. Then, "Sleep
has been a stranger to me these three nights!" he said.

"Then what do you do here?" Vaughan answered, in astonishment. And
looked round the room as if he might find his answer there.

"Ah!" Brereton rejoined, with a look half suspicious, half cunning.
"That is another matter. But never mind! Never mind! I know what I am
doing."

"Know----"

"Yes, well!" the soldier replied, bringing his feet to the floor, but
continuing to keep his seat on the bed. "Very well, sir, I assure
you."

Vaughan looked aghast at him. "But, Colonel Brereton," he rejoined,
"do you consider that you are the only person in this city able to
act? That without you nothing can be done and nothing can be
ventured?"

"That," Brereton returned, with the same shrewd look, "is just what I
do consider! Without me they cannot act! They cannot venture. And
I--go to bed!"

He chuckled at it, as at a jest; and Vaughan, checked by the oddity of
his manner, and with a growing suspicion in his mind, knew not what to
think. For answer, at last, "I fear that you will not be able to go to
bed, Colonel Brereton," he said gravely, "when the moment comes to
face the consequences."

"The consequences?"

"You cannot think that a city such as this can be destroyed, and no
one be called to account?"

"But the civil power----"

"Is impotent!" Vaughan answered, with returning indignation, "in the
face of the disorder now prevailing! I warn you! A little more delay,
a little more license, let the people's passions be fanned by farther
impunity, and nothing, nothing, I warn you, Colonel Brereton," he
continued with emphasis, "can save the major part of the city from
destruction!"

Brereton rose to his feet, a certain wildness in his aspect. "Good
God!" he exclaimed. "You don't mean it! Do you really mean it,
Vaughan? But--but what can I do?" He sank down on the bed again, and
stared at his companion. "Eh? What can I do? Nothing!"

"Everything!"

He sprang to his feet. "Everything! You say everything?" he cried, and
his tone rose shrill and excited. "But you don't know!" he continued,
lowering his voice as quickly as he had raised it and laying his hand
on Vaughan's sleeve--"you don't know! You don't know! But I know! Man,
I was set in command here on purpose. If I acted they counted on
putting the blame on me. And if I didn't act--they would still put the
blame on me."

His cunning look shocked Vaughan.

"But even so, sir," he answered, "you can do your duty."

"My duty?" Brereton repeated, raising his voice again. "And do you
think it is my duty to precipitate a useless struggle? To begin a
civil war? To throw away the lives of my own men and cut down innocent
folk? To fill the streets with blood and slaughter? And the end the
same?"

"Ay, sir, I do," Vaughan answered sternly. "If by so doing a worse
calamity may be averted! And, for your men's lives, are they not
soldiers? For your own life, are you not a soldier? And will you shun
a soldier's duty?"

Brereton clapped his hand to his brow, and, holding it there, paced
the room in his shirt and breeches.

"My God! My God!" he cried, as he went. "I do not know what to do! But
if--if it be as bad as you say----"

"It is as bad, and worse!"

"I might try once more," looking at Vaughan with a troubled, undecided
eye, "what showing my men might do? What do you think?"

Vaughan thought that if he were once on the spot, if he saw with his
own eyes the lawlessness of the mob, he might act. And he assented.
"Shall I pass on the order, sir," he added, "while you dress?"

"Yes, I think you may. Yes, certainly. Tell the officer commanding to
march his men to the Square and I'll meet him there."

Vaughan waited for no more. He suspected that the burden of
responsibility had proved too heavy for Brereton's mind. He suspected
that the Colonel had brooded upon his position between a Whig
Government and a Whig mob until the notion that he was sent there to
be a scapegoat had become a fixed idea; and with it the determination
that he would not be forced into strong measures, had become also a
fixed idea.

Such a man, if he was to be blamed, was to be pitied also. And
Vaughan, even in the heat of his indignation, did pity him. But he
entertained no such feeling for the Honourable Bob, and in delivering
the order to him he wasted no words. After Flixton had left the room,
however, he remembered that he had noted a shade of indecision in the
aide's manner. And warned by it, he followed him. "I will come with
you to Leigh's," he said.

"Better come all the way," Flixton replied, with covert insolence.
"We've half a dozen spare horses."

The next moment he was sorry he had spoken. For, "Done with you!"
Vaughan cried. "There's nothing I'd like better!"

Flixton grunted. He had overreached himself, but he could not withdraw
the offer.

Vaughan was by his side, and plainly meant to accompany him.

Let no man think that the past is done with, though he sever it as he
will. The life from which he has cut himself off in disgust has none
the less cast the tendrils of custom about his heart, which shoot and
bud when he least expects it. Vaughan stood in the doorway of the
stable while the men bridled. He viewed the long line of tossing
heads, and the smoky lanthorns fixed to the stall-posts; he sniffed
the old familiar smell of "Stables." And he felt his heart leap to the
past. Ay, even as it leapt a few minutes later, when he rode down
College Green, now in darkness, now in glare, and heard beside him the
familiar clank of spur and scabbard, the rattle of the bridle-chains,
and the tramp of the shod hoofs. On the men's left, as they descended
the slope at a walk, the tall houses stood up in bright light; below
them on the right the Float gleamed darkly; above them, the mist
glowed red. Wild hurrahing and an indescribable babel of shouts,
mingled with the rushing roar of the flames, rose from the Square.
When the troop rode into it with the first dawn, they saw that two
whole sides--with the exception of a pair of houses--were burnt or
burning. In addition a monster warehouse was on fire in the rear, a
menace to every building to windward of it.

The Colonel, with Flixton attending him, fell in on the flank, as the
troop entered the Square. But apparently--since he gave no orders--he
did not share the tingling indignation which Vaughan experienced as he
viewed the scene. A few persons were still engaged in removing their
goods from houses on the south side; but save for these, the decent
and respectable had long since fled the place, and left it a prey to
all that was most vile and dangerous in the population of a rough
seaport. The rabble, left to themselves, and constantly recruited as
the news flew abroad, had cast off the fear of reprisals, and believed
that at last the city was their own. Vaughan saw that if the dragoons
were to act with effect they must act at once. Nor was he alone in
this opinion. The troop had not ridden far into the open before he was
shocked, as well as astonished, by the appearance of Sir Robert
Vermuyden, who stumbled across the Square towards them. He was
bareheaded--for in an encounter with a prowler who had approached too
near he had lost his hat; he was without his cloak, though the morning
was cold. His face, too, unshorn and haggard, added to the tragedy of
his appearance; yet in a sense he was himself, and he tried to steady
his voice, as, unaware of Vaughan's presence, he accosted the nearest
trooper.

"Who is in command, my man?" he said.

Flixton, who had also recognised him, thrust his horse forward. "Good
Heavens, Sir Robert!" he cried. "What are you doing here? And in this
state?"

"Never mind me," the Baronet replied. "Are you in command?"

Colonel Brereton had halted his men. He came forward. "No, Sir
Robert," he said. "I am. And very sorry to see you in this plight."

"Take no heed of me, sir," Sir Robert replied sternly. Through how
many hours, hours long as days, had he not watched for the soldiers'
coming! "Take no heed of me, sir," he repeated. "Unless you have
orders to abandon the loyal people of Bristol to their fate--act! Act,
sir! If you have eyes, you can see that the mob are beginning to fire
the south side on which the shipping abuts. Let that take fire and you
cannot save Bristol!"

Brereton looked in the direction indicated, but he did not answer.
Flixton did. "We understand all that," he said, somewhat cavalierly.
"We see all that, Sir Robert, believe me. But the Colonel has to think
of many things; of more than the immediate moment. We are the only
force in Bristol, and----"

"Apparently Bristol is no better for you!" Sir Robert replied with
tremulous passion.

So far Vaughan, a horse's length behind Brereton and his aide, heard
what passed; but with half his mind. For his eyes, roving in the
direction whence Sir Robert had come, had discerned, amid a medley of
goods and persons huddled about the statue, in the middle of the
Square, a single figure, slender, erect, in black and white, which
appeared to be gazing towards him. At first he resisted as incredible
the notion which besieged him--at sight of that figure. But the longer
he looked the more sure he became that it was, it was Mary! Mary,
gazing towards him out of that welter of miserable and shivering
figures, as if she looked to him for help!

Perhaps he should have asked Sir Robert's leave, to go to her. Perhaps
Colonel Brereton's to quit the troop, which he had volunteered to
accompany. But he gave no thought to either. He slipped from his
saddle, flung the reins to the nearest man, and, crossing the roadway
in three strides, he made towards her through the skulking groups who
warily watched the dragoons, or hailed them tipsily, and in the name
of Reform invited them to drink.

And Mary, who had risen in alarm to her feet, and was gazing after her
father, her only hope, her one protection through the night, saw
Vaughan coming, tall and stern, through the prowling night-birds about
her, as if she had seen an angel! She said not a word, when he came
near and she was sure. Nor did he say more than "Mary!" But he threw
into that word so much of love, of joy, of relief, of forgiveness--and
of the appeal for forgiveness--that it brought her to his arms, it
left her clinging to his breast. All his coldness in Parliament
Street, his cruelty on the coach, her father's opposition, all were
forgotten by her, as if they had not been!

And for him, she might have been the weakest of the weak, and fickle
and changeable as the weather, she might have been all that she was
not--though he had yet to learn that and how she had carried herself
that night--but he knew that in spite of all he loved her. She had the
old charm for him! She was still the one woman in the world for him!
And she was in peril. But for that there is no knowing how long he
might have held her. That thought, however, presently overcame all
others, made him insensible even to the sweetness of that embrace, ay,
even put words in his mouth.

"How come you here?" he cried. "How come you here, Mary?"

She freed herself and pointed to her mother. "I am with her," she
said. "We had to bring her here. It was all we could do."

He lowered his eyes and saw what she was guarding; and he understood
something of the tragedy of that night. From the couch came a low
continuous moaning which made the hair rise on his head. He looked at
Mary.

"She is insensible," she said quietly. "She does not know anything."

"We must remove her!" he said.

She looked at him, and from him to that part of the Square where the
rioters wrought still at their fiendish work. And she shuddered.
"Where can we take her?" she answered. "They are beginning to burn
that side also."

"Then we must remove them!" he answered sternly.

"That's sense!" a hearty voice cried at his elbow. "And the first I've
heard this night!" On which he became aware of Miss Sibson, or rather
of a stout body swathed in queer wrappings, who spoke in the
schoolmistress's tones, and though pale with fatigue continued to show
a brave face to the mischief about her. "That's talking!" she
continued. "Do that, and you'll do a man's work!"

"Will you have courage if I leave you?" he asked. And when Mary,
bravely but with inward terror, answered "Yes," he told her in brief
sentences--with his eyes on the movements in the Square--what to do,
if the rabble made a rush in that direction, and what to do, if the
troops charged too near them, and how, by lying down, to avoid danger
if the crowd resorted to firearms, since untrained men fired high.
Then he touched Miss Sibson on the arm. "You'll not leave her?" he
said.

"God bless the man, no!" the schoolmistress replied. "Though, for the
matter of that, she's as well able to take care of me as I of her!"

Which was not quite true. Or why in after-days did Miss Sibson, at
many a cosy whist-party and over many a glass of hot negus, tell of a
particular box on the ear with which she routed a young rascal, more
forward than civil? Ay, and dilate with boasting on the way his teeth
had rattled, and the gibes with which his fellows had seen him driven
from the field?

But, if not quite true, it satisfied Vaughan. He went from them in a
cold heat, and finding Sir Robert, still at words and almost at blows
with the officers, was going to strike in, when another did so.
Daylight was slowly overcoming the glare of the fire and dispelling
the shadows which had lain the deeper and more confusing for that
glare. It laid the grey of reality upon the scene, showing all things
in their true colours, the ruins more ghastly, the pale licking flames
more devilish. The fire, which had swept two sides of the Square,
leaving only charred skeletons of houses, with vacant sockets gaping
to the sky, was now attacking the third side, of which the two most
westerly houses were in flames. It was this, and the knowledge of its
meaning, that, before Vaughan could interpose, flung at Colonel
Brereton a man white with passion, and stuttering under the pressure
of feelings too violent for utterance.

"Do you see? Do you see?" he cried brandishing his fist in Brereton's
face--it was Cooke. "You traitor! If the fire catches the fourth house
on that side, it'll get the shipping! The shipping, d'you hear, you
Radical? Then the Lord knows what'll escape? But, thank God, you'll
hang! You'll--if it gets to the fourth house, I tell you, it'll catch
the rigging by the Great Crane! Are you going to move?"

Vaughan did not wait for Brereton's answer. "We must charge, Colonel
Brereton!" he cried, in a voice which burst the bonds of discipline,
and showed that he was determined that others should burst them also.
"Colonel Brereton," he repeated, setting his horse in motion, "we must
charge without a moment's delay!"

"Wait!" Brereton answered hoarsely. "Wait! Let me----"

"We must charge!" Vaughan replied, his face pale, his mind made up.
And turning in his saddle he waved his hand to the men. "Forward!" he
cried, raising his voice to its utmost. "Trot! Charge, men, and charge
home!"

He spurred his horse to the front, and the whole troop, some thirty
strong, set in motion by the magic of his voice, followed him. Even
Brereton, after a moment's hesitation, fell in a length behind him.
The horses broke into a trot, then into a canter. As they bore down
along the south side upon the southwest corner, a roar of rage and
alarm rose from the rioters collected there; and scores and hundreds
fled, screaming, and sought safety to right and left.

Vaughan had time to turn to Brereton, and cry, "I beg your pardon,
sir; I could not help it!" The next moment he and the leading troopers
were upon the fleeing, dodging, ducking crowd; were upon them and
among them. Half a dozen swords gleamed high and fell, the horses did
the rest. The rabble, taken by surprise, made no resistance. In a
trice the dragoons were through the mob, and the roadway showed clear
behind them. Save where here and there a man rose slowly and limped
away, leaving a track of blood at his heels.

"Steady! Steady!" Vaughan cried. "Halt! Halt! Right about!" and then,
"Charge!"

He led the men back over the same ground, chasing from it such as had
dared to return, or to gather upon the skirts of the troop. Then he
led his men along the east side, clearing that also and driving the
rioters in a panic into the side streets. Resistance worthy of the
name there was none, until, having led the troop back across the open
Square and cleared that of the skulkers, he came back again to the
southwest corner. There the rabble, rallying from their surprise, had
taken up a position in the forecourts of the houses, where they were
protected by the railings. They met the soldiers with a volley of
stones, and half a dozen pistol-shots. A horse fell, two or three of
the men were hit; for an instant there was confusion. Then Vaughan
spurred his horse into one of the forecourts, and, followed by half a
dozen troopers, cleared it, and the next and the next; on which,
volunteers who sprang up, as by magic, at the first act of authority,
entered the houses, killed one rioter, flung out the rest, and
extinguished the flames. Still the more determined of the rascals,
seeing the small number against them, clung to the place and the
forecourts; and, driven from one court, retreated to another, and
still protected by the railings, kept the troopers at bay with
missiles.

Vaughan, panting with his exertions, took in the position, and looked
round for Brereton.

"We must send for the Fourteenth, sir!" he said. "We are not enough to
do more than hold them in check."

"There is nothing else for it now," Brereton replied, with a gloomy
face and in such a tone that the very men shrank from looking at him;
understanding, the very dullest of them, what his feelings must be,
and how great his shame, who, thus superseded, saw another successful
in that which it had been his duty to attempt.

And what were Vaughan's feelings? He dared not allow himself the
luxury of a glance towards the middle of the Square. Much less--but
for a different reason--had he the heart to meet Brereton's eyes. "I'm
not in uniform, sir," he said. "I can pass through the crowd. If you
think fit, and will give me the order, I'll fetch them, sir?"

Brereton nodded without a word, and Vaughan wheeled his horse to
start. As he pushed it clear of the troop he passed Flixton.

"That was capital!" the Honourable Bob cried heartily. "Capital! We'll
handle 'em easily now, till you come back!"

Vaughan did not answer, nor did he look at Flixton; his look would
have conveyed too much. Instead, he put his horse into a trot along
the east side of the Square, and, regardless of a dropping fire of
stones, made for the opening beside the ruins of the Mansion House. At
the last moment, he looked back, to see Mary if it were possible. But
he had waited too long, he could distinguish only confused forms about
the base of the statue; and he must look to himself. His road to
Keynsham lay through the lowest and most dangerous part of the city.

But though the streets were full of rough men, navigators and seamen,
whose faces were set towards the Square, and who eyed him suspiciously
as he rode by them, none made any attempt to stop him. And when he had
crossed Bristol Bridge and had gained the more open outskirts towards
Totterdown, where he could urge his horse to a gallop, the pale faces
of men and women at door and window announced that it was not only the
upper or the middle class which had taken fright, and longed for help
and order. Through Brislington and up Durley Hill he pounded; and it
must be confessed that his heart was light. Whatever came of it,
though they court-martialled him, were that possible, though they
tried him, he had done something, he had done right, and he had
succeeded. Whatever the consequences, whatever the results to himself,
he had dared; and his daring, it might be, had saved a city! Of the
charge, indeed, he thought nothing, though she had seen it. It was
nothing, for the danger had been of the slightest, the defence
contemptible. But in setting discipline at defiance, in superseding
the officer commanding the troops, in taking the whole responsibility
on his own shoulders--a responsibility which few would have dreamed of
taking--there he had dared, there he had played the man, there he had
risen to the occasion! If he had been a failure in the House, here, by
good fortune, he had not been a failure. And she would know it. Oh,
happy thought! And happy man, riding out of Bristol with the murk and
smoke and fog at his back, and the sunshine on his face!

For the sun was above the horizon as, with full heart, he rode down
the hill into Keynsham, and heard the bugle sound "Boots and saddles!"
and poured into sympathetic ears---and to an accompaniment of strong
words--the tale of the night's doings.


                          *   *   *   *   *


An hour later he rode in with the Fourteenth and heard the Blues
welcomed with thanksgiving, in the very streets which had stoned them
from the city twenty-four hours before. By that time the officer in
command of the main body of the Fourteenth at Gloucester had posted
over, followed by another troop, and, seeing the state of things, had
taken his own line and assumed, though junior to Colonel Brereton, the
command of the forces.

After that the thing became a military evolution. One hour, two hours
at most, and twenty charges along the quays and through the streets
sufficed--at the cost of a dozen lives--to convince the most obstinate
of the rabble of several things. _Imprimis_, that the reign of terror
was not come. On the contrary, that law and order, and also Red
Judges, survived. That Reform did not spell fire and pillage, and that
at these things even a Reforming Government could not wink. In a word,
by noon of that day, Monday, and many and many an hour before the
ruins had ceased to smoke, the bubble which might have been easily
burst before was pricked. Order reigned in Bristol, patrols were
everywhere, two thousand zealous constables guarded the streets. And
though troops still continued to hasten by every road to the scene,
though all England trembled with alarm, and distant Woolwich sent its
guns, and Greenwich horsed them, and the Yeomanry of six counties
mustered on Clifton Down, or were quartered on the public buildings,
the thing was nought by that time. Arthur Vaughan had pricked it in
the early morning light when he cried "Charge!" in Queen's Square.



                                XXXVI

                             FORGIVENESS


The first wave of thankfulness for crowning blessings or vital escapes
has a softening quality against which the hearts of few are wholly
proof. Old things, old hopes, old ties, old memories return on that
gentle flood tide to eyes and mind. The barriers raised by time, the
furrows of ancient wrong are levelled with the plain, and the generous
breast cries "_Non nobis!_ Not to us only be the benefit!"

Lady Lansdowne, with something of this kind in her thoughts and pity
in her heart, sat eying Miss Sibson in a silence which disclosed
nothing, and which the schoolmistress found irksome. Miss Sibson could
beard Sir Robert at need; but of the great of her own sex--and she
knew Lady Lansdowne for a very great lady, indeed--her sturdy nature
went a little in awe. Had her ladyship encroached indeed, Miss Sibson
would have known how to put her in her place. But a Lady Lansdowne
perfectly polite and wholly silent imposed on her. She rubbed her nose
and was glad when the visitor spoke.

"Sir Robert has not seen her, then?"

Miss Sibson smoothed out the lap of her dress. "No, my lady, not since
she was brought into the house. Indeed, I can't say that he saw her
before, for he never looked at her."

"Do you think that I could see her?"

The schoolmistress hesitated. "Well, my lady," she said, "I am afraid
that she will hardly live through the day."

"Then he must see her," Lady Lansdowne replied quickly. And Miss
Sibson observed with surprise that there were tears in the great
lady's eyes. "He must see her. Is she conscious?"

"She's so-so," Miss Sibson answered more at her ease. After all, the
great lady was human, it seemed. "She wanders, and thinks that she is
in France, my lady; believes there's a revolution, and that they are
come to take her to prison. Her mind harps continually on things of
that kind. And not much wonder either! But, then again she's herself.
So that you don't know from one minute to another whether she's
sensible or not."

"Poor thing!" Lady Lansdowne murmured. "Poor woman!" Her lips moved
without sound. Presently, "Her daughter is with her?" she asked.

"She has scarcely left her for a minute since she was carried in,"
Miss Sibson answered warmly. And to her eyes, too, there rose
something like a tear. "Only with difficulty have I made her take the
most necessary rest. But if your ladyship pleases, I will ask whether
she will see you."

"Do so, if you please."

Miss Sibson retired for this purpose, and Lady Lansdowne, left to
herself, rose and looked from the window. As soon as it had been
possible to move her, the dying woman had been carried into the
nearest house which had escaped the flames, and Lady Lansdowne, gazing
out, looked on the scene of conflict, saw lines of ruins, still asmoke
in parts, and discerned between the scorched limbs of trees, from
which the last foliage had fallen, the blackened skeletons of houses.
A gaping crowd was moving round the Square, under the eyes of special
constables, who, distinguished by white bands on their arms, guarded
the various entrances. Hundreds, doubtless, who would fain have robbed
were there to stare; but for the most part the guilty shunned the
scene, and the gazers consisted mainly of sightseers from the country,
or from Bath, or of knots of merchants and traders and the like who
argued, some that this was what came of Reform, others that not Reform
but the refusal of Reform was to blame for it.

Presently she saw Sir Robert's stately figure threading its way
through the crowd. He walked erect, but with effort; yet though her
heart swelled with pity, it was not with pity for him. He would have
his daughter and in a few days, in a few weeks, in a few months at
most, the clouds would pass and leave him to enjoy the clear evening
of his days.

But for her whom he had taken to his house twenty years before in the
bloom of her beauty, the envied, petted, spoiled child of fortune, who
had sinned so lightly and paid so dearly, and who now lay distraught
at the close of all, what evening remained? What gleam of light? What
comfort at the last?

In her behalf, the heart which Whig pride, and family prejudice, and
the cares of riches had failed to harden, swelled to bursting. "He
must forgive her!" she ejaculated. "He shall forgive her!" And gliding
to the door she stayed Mary, who was in the act of entering.

"I must see your father," she said. "He is mounting the stairs now. Go
to your mother, my dear, and when I ring, do you come!"

What Mary read in her face, of feminine pity and generous purpose,
need not be told. Whatever it was, the girl seized the woman's hand,
kissed it with wet eyes, and fled. And when Sir Robert, ushered
upstairs by Miss Sibson, entered the room and looked round for his
daughter, he found in her stead the wife of his enemy.

On the instant he remembered the errand on which she had sought him
six months before, and he was quick to construe her presence by its
light, and to feel resentment. The wrong of years, the daily, hourly
wrong, committed not against him only but against the innocent and the
helpless, this woman would have him forgive at a word; merely because
the doer, who had had no ruth, no pity, no scruples, hung on the verge
of that step which all, just and unjust, must take! And some, he knew,
standing where he stood, would forgive; would forgive with their lips,
using words which meant nought to the sayer, though they soothed the
hearers. But he was no hypocrite; he would not forgive. Forgive? Great
Heaven, that any should think that the wrongs of a lifetime could be
forgiven in an hour! At a word! Beside a bed! As soon might the
grinding wear of years be erased from the heart, the wrinkles of care
from the brow, the snows of age from the head! As easily might a word
give back to the old the spring and flame and vigour of their youth!

Something of what he thought impressed itself on his face. Lady
Lansdowne marked the sullen drop of his eyebrows, and the firm set of
the lower face; but she did not flinch. "I came upon your name," she
said, "in the report of the dreadful doings here--in the 'Mercury,'
this morning. I hope, Sir Robert, I shall be pardoned for intruding."

He murmured something, as much no as yes, and with a manner as frigid
as his breeding permitted. And standing--she had reseated herself--he
continued to look at her, his lips drawn down.

"I grieve," she continued, "to find the truth more sad than the
report."

"I do not know that you can help us," he said.

"No?"

"No."

"Because," she rejoined, looking at him softly, "you will not let me
help you. Sir Robert----"

"Lady Lansdowne!" He broke in abruptly, using her name with emphasis,
using it with intention. "Once before you came to me. Doubtless you
remember. Now, let me say at once, that if your errand to-day be the
same, and I think it likely that it is the same----"

"It is not the same," she replied with emotion which she did not try
to hide. "It is not the same! For then there was time. And now there
is no time. Let a day, it may be an hour, pass, and at the cost of all
you possess you will not be able to buy that which you can still have
for nothing!"

"And what is that?" he asked, frowning.

"An easy heart." He had not looked for that answer, and he started.
"Sir Robert," she continued, rising from her seat, and speaking with
even deeper feeling, "forgive her! Forgive her, I implore you. The
wrong is past, is done, is over! Your daughter is restored----"

"But not by her!" he cried, taking her up quickly. "Not by her act!"
he repeated sternly, "or with her will! And what has she done that I
should forgive? I, whose life she blighted, whose pride she stabbed,
whose hopes she crushed? Whom she left solitary, wifeless, childless
through the years of my strength, the years that she cannot, that no
one can give back to me? Through the long summer days that were a
weariness, and the dark winter days that were a torpor? Yet--yet I
could forgive her, Lady Lansdowne, I could forgive her, I do forgive
her that!"

"Sir Robert!"

"That, all that!" he continued, with a gesture and in a tone of
bitterness which harmonised but ill with the words he uttered. "All
that she ever did amiss to me I forgive her. But--but the child's
wrong, never! Had she relented indeed, at the last, had she of her own
motion, of her own free will given me back my daughter, had she
repented and undone the wrong, then--but no matter! she did not! She
did not one," he repeated with agitation, "she did not any of these
things. And I ask, what has she done that I should forgive her?"

She did not answer him at once, and when she did it was in a tone so
low as to be barely audible.

"I cannot answer that," she said. "But is it the only question? Is
there not another question, Sir Robert--not what she has done, or left
undone, but what you--forgive me and bear with me--have left undone,
or done amiss? Are you--you clear of all spot or trespass, innocent
of all blame or erring? When she came to you a young girl, a young
bride--and, oh, I remember her, the sunshine was not brighter, she was
a child of air rather than of earth, so fair and heedless, so
capricious, and yet so innocent!--did you in the first days never lose
patience? Never fail to make allowance? Never preach when wisdom would
have smiled, never look grave when she longed for lightness, never
scold when it had been better to laugh? Did you never forget that she
was a score of years younger than you, and a hundred years more
frivolous? Or"--Lady Lansdowne's tone was a mere whisper now--"if you
are clear of all offence against her, are you clear of all offence
against any, of all trespass? Have you no need to be forgiven, no
need, no----"

Her voice died away into silence. She left the appeal unfinished.

Sir Robert paced the room. And other scenes than those on which he had
taught himself to brood, other days than those later days of wasted
summers and solitary winters, of dulness and decay, rose to his
memory. Sombre moods by which it had pleased him--at what a cost!--to
make his displeasure known. Sarcastic words, warrant for the facile
retort that followed, curt judgments and ill-timed reproofs; and
always the sense of outraged dignity to freeze the manner and embitter
the tone.

So much, so much which he had forgotten came back to him as he walked
the room with averted face! While Lady Lansdowne waited with her hand
on the bell. Minutes were passing, minutes; who knew how precious they
might be? And with them was passing his opportunity.

He spoke at last. "I will see her," he said huskily.

And on that Lady Lansdowne performed a last act of kindness. She said
nothing, bestowed no thanks. But when Mary entered--pale, yet with
that composure which love teaches the least experienced--she was gone.
Nor as she drove in all the pomp of her liveries and outriders through
Bath, through Corsham, through Chippenham, did those who ran out to
watch my lady's four greys go by, see her face as the face of an
angel. But Lady Louisa, flying down the steps to meet her--four at a
time and hoidenishly--was taken to her arms, unscolded; and knew by
instinct that this was the time to pet and be petted, to confess and
be forgiven, and to learn in the stillness of her mother's room those
thrilling lessons of life, which her governess had not imparted, nor
Mrs. Fairchild approved.


      _But more than wisdom sees, love knows.
       What eye has scanned the perfume of the rose?
       Has any grasped the low grey mist which stands
       Ghost-like at eve above the sheeted lands?_


Meanwhile Sir Robert paused on the threshold of the room--_her_ room,
which he had first entered two-and-twenty years before. And as the
then and the now, the contrast between the past and the present,
forced themselves upon him, what could he do but pause and bow his
head? In the room a voice, her voice, yet unlike her voice, high,
weak, never ceasing, was talking as from a great distance, from
another world; talking, talking, never ceasing. It filled the room.
Yet it did not come from a world so distant as he at first fancied,
hearing it; a world that was quite aloof. For when, after he had
listened for a time in the shadow by the door, his daughter led him
forward, Lady Sybil's eyes took note of their approach, though she
recognised neither of them. Her mind was still busy amid the scenes of
the riot; twisting and weaving them, it seemed, into a piece with old
impressions of the French Terror, made on her mind in childhood by
talk heard at her nurse's knee.

"They are coming! They are coming now," she muttered, her bright eyes
fixed on his. "But they shall not take her. They shall not take her,"
she repeated. "Hide behind me, Mary. Hide, child! Don't tremble! They
shan't take you. One neck's enough and mine is growing thin. It used
not to be thin. But that's right. Hide, and they'll not see you, and
when I am gone you'll escape. Hush! Here they are!" And then in a
louder tone, "I am ready," she said, "I am quite ready."

Mary leant over her.

"Mother!" she cried, unable to bear the scene in silence. "Mother!
Don't you know me?"

"Hush!" the dying woman answered, a look of terror crossing her face.
"Hush, child! Don't speak! I'm ready, gentlemen; I will go with you. I
am not afraid. My neck is small, and it will be but a squeeze." And
she tried to raise herself in the bed.

Mary laid gentle hands on her, and restrained her. "Mother," she said.
"Mother! Don't you know me? I am Mary."

But Lady Sybil, heedless of her, looked beyond her, with fear and
suspicion in her eyes. "Yes," she said. "I know you. I know you. I
know you. But who is--that? Who is that?"

"My father. It is my father. Don't you know him?"

But still, "Who is it? Who is it?" Lady Sybil continued to ask. "Who
is it?"

Mary burst into tears.

"What does he want? What does he want? What does he want?" the dying
woman asked in endless, unreasoning repetition.

Sir Robert had entered the room in the full belief that with the best
of wills it would be hard, it would be well-nigh impossible to
forgive; to forgive his wife with more than the lips. But when he
heard her, weak and helpless as she was, thinking of another; when he
understood that she who had done so great a wrong to the child was
willing to give up her own life for the child; when he felt the sudden
drag at his heart-strings of many an old and sacred recollection,
shared only by her, and which that voice, that face, that form brought
back, he fell on his knees by the bed.

She shrank from him, terrified. "What does he want?" she repeated.

"Sybil," he said, in a husky voice, "I want your forgiveness, Sybil,
wife! Do you hear me? Will you forgive me? Can you forgive me, late as
it is?"

Strange to say, his voice pierced the confusion which filled the sick
brain. She looked at him steadily and long; and she sighed, but she
did not answer.

"Sybil," he repeated in a quavering voice. "Do you not know me? Don't
you remember me? I am your husband."

"Yes, I know," she muttered.

"This is your daughter."

She smiled.

"Our daughter," he repeated. "Our daughter!"

"Mary?" she murmured. "Mary?"

"Yes, Mary."

She smiled faintly on him. Mary's head was touching his, but she did
not answer. She remained looking at them. They could not tell whether
she understood, or was slipping away again. He took her hand and
pressed it gently. "Do you hear me?" he said. "If I was harsh to you
in the old days, if I made mistakes, if I wronged you, I want
you--wife, say that you forgive me."

"I--forgive you," she murmured. A faint gleam of mischief, of
laughter, of the old Lady Sybil, shone for an instant in her eyes, as
if she knew that she had the upper hand. "I forgive you--everything,"
she murmured. Yes, for certain now, she was slipping away.

Mary took her other hand. But she did not speak again. And before the
watch on the table beside her had ticked many times she had slipped
away for good, with that gleam of triumph in her eyes--forgiving.



                                XXXVII

                        IN THE MOURNING COACH


It is a platitude that the flood is followed by the ebb. In the heat
of action, and while its warmth cheered his spirits, Arthur Vaughan
felt that he had done something. True, what he had done brought him no
nearer to making his political dream a reality. Not for him the
promise,


             _It shall be thine in danger's hour
              To guide the helm of Britain's power
              And midst thy country's laurelled crown
              To twine a garland all thy own_.


Yet he had done something. He had played the man when some others had
not played the man.

But now that the crisis was over, and he had made his last round, now
that he had inspected for the last time the patrols over whom he was
set, seen order restored on the Welsh Back, and panic driven from
Queen's Square, he owned the reaction. There is a fatigue which one
night's rest fails to banish; and low in mind and tired in body, he
felt, when he rose late on Tuesday afternoon, that he had done nothing
worth doing; nothing that altered his position in essentials.

For a time, indeed, he had fancied that things were changed. Sir
Robert had requested his assistance, and allowed him to share his
search; and though it was possible that the merest stranger, cast by
fortune into the same adventure, had been as welcome, it was also
possible that the Baronet viewed him with a more benevolent eye. And
Mary--Mary, too, had flown to his arms as to a haven; but in such a
position, amid surroundings so hideous, was that wonderful? Was it not
certain that she would have behaved in the same way to the merest
acquaintance if he brought her aid and protection?

The answer might be yes or no! What was certain was that it could not
avail him. For between him and her there stood more than her father's
aversion, more than the doubt of her affection, more than the unlucky
borough, of which he had despoiled Sir Robert. There were her
possessions, there was the suspicion which Sir Robert had founded on
them--on Mary's gain and his loss--there was the independence, which
he must surrender, and which pride and principle alike forbade him to
relinquish.

In the confusion of the night Vaughan had almost forgotten and quite
forgiven. Now he saw that the thing, though forgotten, though
forgiven, was there. He could not owe all to a man who had so
misconstrued him, and who might misconstrue him again. He could not be
dependent on one whose views, thoughts, prejudices, were opposed to
his own. No, the night and its doing must stand apart. He and she had
met, they had parted. He had one memory more, and nothing was changed.

In this mood the fact that the White Lion regarded him as a hero
brought him no comfort. Neither the worshipping eyes of the young lady
who had tried to dissuade him from going forth on the Sunday, nor the
respectful homage which dogged his movements, uplifted him. He had
small appetite for his solitary dinner, and was languidly reading the
"Bristol Mercury," when a name was brought up to him, and a letter.

"Gentleman will wait your pleasure, sir," the man said.

He broke open the letter, and felt the blood rise to his face as his
eyes fell on the signature. The few lines were from his cousin, and
ran as follows:


"Dear Sir,--I feel it my duty to inform you, as a connection of the
family, that Lady Sybil Vermuyden died at five minutes past three
o'clock this afternoon. Her death, which I am led to believe could in
no event have been long delayed, was doubtless hastened by the
miserable occurrences of the last few days.

"I have directed Isaac White to convey this intimation to your hands,
and to inform you from time to time of the arrangements made for her
ladyship's funeral, which will take place at Stapylton. I have the
honour to be, sir,

                    "Your obedient servant,

                                  "Robert Vermuyden."


Vaughan laid the letter down with a groan. As he did so he became
aware that Isaac White was in the room. "Halloa, White," he said. "Is
that you?"

White looked at him with unconcealed respect. "Yes, sir," he said.
"Sir Robert bade me wait on you in person without delay. If I may
venture," he continued, "to compliment you on my own account, sir--a
very great honour to the family, Mr. Vaughan--in all the west country,
I may say----"

Vaughan stopped him, and said something of Lady Sybil's death; adding
that he had never seen her but once.

"Twice, begging your pardon," White answered, smiling. "Do you
remember I met you at Chippenham before the election, Mr. Vaughan?
Well, sir, she came up to the coach, and as good as touched your
sleeve, poor lady, while I was talking to you. Of course, she knew
that her daughter was on the coach."

"I learned afterwards that Lady Sybil travelled by it that day,"
Vaughan replied. Then with a frown he took up the letter. "Of course,"
he continued, "I have no intention of attending the funeral."

"But I think his honour wishes much----"

"There is no possible reason," Vaughan said doggedly.

"Pardon me, sir," White answered anxiously. "You are not aware, I am
sure, how highly Sir Robert appreciates your gallant conduct
yesterday. No one in Bristol can view it in a stronger light. It is a
happy thing he witnessed it. He thinks, indeed, that but for you her
ladyship would have died in the crowd. Moreover----"

"That's enough, White," Vaughan said coldly. "It is not so much what
Sir Robert thinks now, too, as what he thought formerly."

"But indeed, sir, his honour's opinion of that matter, too----"

"That's enough, White," the young gentleman repeated, rising from his
seat. He was telling himself that he was not a dog to be kicked away
and called to heel again. He would forgive, but he would not return.
"I don't wish to discuss the matter," he added with an air of
finality.

And White did not venture to say more.

He did wisely. For Vaughan, left to himself, had not reflected two
minutes before he felt that he had played the churl. To make amends,
he called at the house to inquire after the ladies at an hour next
morning when they could not be stirring. Having performed that duty,
and having learned that no inquiry into the riots would be opened for
some days--and also that a proposal to give him a piece of gold plate
was under debate at the Commercial Rooms, he fled, pride and love at
odds in his breast.

It is possible that in Sir Robert's heart, also, there was a battle
going on. On the eve of the funeral he sat alone in the library at
Stapylton, that room in which he had passed so many unhappy hours, and
with which the later part of his life seemed bound up. Doubtless, as
he sat, he gave solemn thought to the past and the future. The room
was no longer dusty, the furniture was no longer shabby; there were
fresh flowers on his table; and by his great leather chair, a smaller
chair, filled within the last few minutes, had its place. Yet he could
not forget what he had suffered there; how he had brooded there. And
perhaps he thanked God, amid his more solemn thoughts, that he was not
glad that she who had plagued him would plague him no more. All that
her friend had urged in her behalf, all that was brightest and best in
his memories of her, this generous whim, that quixotic act rose, it
may be supposed, before him. And the picture of her fair young beauty,
of her laughing face in the bridal veil or under the Leghorn, of her
first words to him, of her first acts in her new home! And but that
the tears of age flow hardly, it is possible that he would have wept.

Presently--perhaps he was not sorry for it--a knock came at the door
and Isaac White entered. He came to take the last instructions for the
morrow. A few words settled what remained to be settled, and then,
after a little hesitation, "I promised to name it to you, sir," White
said. "I don't know what you'll say to it. Dyas wishes to walk with
the others."

Sir Robert winced. "Dyas?" he muttered.

"He says he's anxious to show his respect for the family, in every way
consistent with his opinions."

"Opinions?" Sir Robert echoed. "Opinions? Good Lord! A butcher's
opinions! Who knows but some day he'll have a butcher to represent
him? Or a baker or a candlestick-maker! If ever they have the ballot,
that'll come with it, White."

White waited, but as the other said no more, "You won't forbid him,
sir?" he said, a note of appeal in his voice.

"Oh, let him come," Sir Robert answered wearily. "I suppose," he
continued, striving to speak in the same tone, "you've heard nothing
from his--Member?"

"From--oh, from Mr. Vaughan, sir? No, sir. But Mr. Flixton is coming."

Sir Robert muttered something under his breath, and it was not
flattering to the Honourable Bob. Then he turned his chair and held
his hands over the blaze. "That will do, White," he said. "That will
do." And he did not look round until the agent had left the room.

But White was certain that even on this day of sad memories, with the
ordeal of the morrow before him, Arthur Vaughan's attitude troubled
his patron. And when, twenty-four hours later, the agent's eyes
travelling round the vast assemblage which regard for the family had
gathered about the grave, fell upon Arthur Vaughan, and he knew that
he had repented and come, he was glad.

The young Member held himself a little apart from the small group of
family mourners; a little apart also from the larger company whom
respect or social ties had brought thither. Among these last, who were
mostly Tories, many were surprised to see Lord Lansdowne and his son.
But more, aware of the breach between Mr. Vaughan and his cousin, and
of the former's peculiar position in the borough, were surprised to
see him. And these, while their thoughts should have been elsewhere,
stole furtive glances at the sombre figure; and when Vaughan left,
still alone and without speaking to any, followed his departure with
interest. In those days of mutes and crape-coloured staves, mourning
cloaks and trailing palls, it was not the custom for women to bury
their dead. And Vaughan, when he had made up his mind to come, knew
that he ran no risk of seeing Mary.

That he might escape with greater case, he had left his post-chaise at
a side-gate of the park. The moment the ceremony was over, he made his
way to it, now traversing beds of fallen chestnut and sycamore leaves,
now striding across the sodden turf. The solemn words which he had
heard, emphasised as they were by the scene, the grey autumn day, the
lonely park, and the dark groups threading their way across it, could
not hold his thoughts from Mary. She would be glad that he had come.
Perhaps it was for that reason that he had come.

He had passed through the gate of the park and his foot was on the
step of the chaise, when he heard White's voice, calling after him. He
turned and saw the agent hurrying desperately after him. White's
mourning suit was tight and new and ill made for haste; and he was hot
and breathless. For a moment, "Mr. Vaughan! Mr. Vaughan!" was all he
could say.

Vaughan turned a reluctant, almost a stern face to him. Not that he
disliked the agent, but he thought that he had got clear.

"What is it?" he asked, without removing his foot from the step.

White looked behind him. "Sir Robert, sir," he said, "has something to
say to you. The carriage is following. If you'll be good enough," he
continued, mopping his face, "to wait a moment!"

"Sir Robert cannot wish to see me at such a time," Vaughan answered,
between wonder and impatience. "He will write, doubtless."

"The carriage should be in sight," was White's answer. As he spoke it
came into view; rounding the curve of a small coppice of beech trees,
it rolled rapidly down a declivity, and ascended towards them as
rapidly.

A moment and it would be here. Vaughan looked uncertainly at his
post-boy. He wished to catch the York House coach at Chippenham, and
he had little time to spare.

It was not the loss of time, however, that he really had in his mind.
But he could guess, he fancied, what Sir Robert wished to say; and he
did not deny that the old man was generous in saying it at such a
moment, if that were his intention. But his own mind was made up; he
could only repeat what he had said to White. It was not a question of
what Sir Robert had thought, or now thought, but of what _he_ thought.
And the upshot of all his thoughts was that he would not be dependent
upon any man. He had differed from Sir Robert once, and the elder had
treated the younger man with injustice, and contumely; that might
occur again. Indeed, taking into account the difference in their
political views in an age when politics counted for much, it was sure
to occur again. But his mind was made up that it should not occur to
him. Unhappy as the resolution made him, he would be free. He would be
his own man. He would remember nothing except that that night had
changed nothing.

It was with a set face, therefore, that he watched the carriage draw
near. Apparently it was a carriage which had conveyed guests to the
funeral, for the blinds were drawn.

"It will save time, if it takes you a mile on your way," White said,
with some nervousness. "I will tell your chaise to follow." And he
opened the door.

Vaughan raised his hat, and stepped in. It was only when the door was
closing behind him and the carriage starting anew at a word from
White, that he saw that it contained, not Sir Robert Vermuyden, but a
lady.

"Mary!" he cried. The name broke from him in his astonishment.

She looked at him with self-possession, and a gentle, unsmiling
gravity. She indicated the front seat, and "Will you sit there?" she
said. "I can talk to you better, Mr. Vaughan, if you sit there."

He obeyed her, marvelling. The blind on the side on which she sat was
raised a few inches, and in the subdued light her graceful head showed
like some fair flower rising from the depth of her mourning. For she
wore no covering on her head, and he might have guessed, had he had
any command of his thoughts, that she had sprung as she was into the
nearest carriage. Amazement, however, put him beyond thinking.

Her eyes met his seriously. "Mr. Vaughan," she said, "my presence must
seem extraordinary to you. But I am come to ask you a question. Why
did you tell me six months ago that you loved me if you did not?"

He was as deeply agitated as she was quiet on the surface. "I told you
nothing but the truth," he said.

"No," she said.

"But yes! A hundred times, yes!" he cried.

"Then you are altered? That is it?"

"Never!" he cried. "Never!"

"And yet--things are changed? My father wrote to you, did he not,
three days ago? And said as much as you could look to him to say?"

"He said----"

"He withdrew what he had uttered in an unfortunate moment. He withdrew
that which, I think, he had never believed in his heart. He said as
much as you could expect him to say?" she repeated, her colour
mounting a little, her eyes challenging him with courageous firmness.

"He said," Vaughan answered in a low voice, "what I think it became
him to say."

"You understood that his feelings were changed towards you?"

"To some extent."

She drew a deep breath and sat back. "Then it is for you to speak,"
she said.

But before, agitated as he was, he could speak, she leant forward
again. "No," she said, "I had forgotten. I had forgotten." And the
slight quivering of her lips, a something piteous in her eyes,
reminded him once more, once again--and the likeness tugged at his
heart--of the Mary Smith who had paused on the threshold of the inn at
Maidenhead, alarmed and abashed by the bustle of the coffee-room. "I
had forgotten! It is not my father you cannot forgive--it is I, who am
unworthy of your forgiveness? You cannot make allowance," she
continued, stopping him by a gesture, as he opened his mouth to speak,
"for the weakness of one who had always been dependent, who had lived
all her life under the dominion of others, who had been taught by
experience that, if she would eat, she must first obey. You can make
no allowance, Mr. Vaughan, for such an one placed between a father,
whom it was her duty to honour, and a lover to whom she had indeed
given her heart, she knew not why--but whom she barely knew, with
whose life she had no real acquaintance, whose honesty she must take
on trust, because she loved him? You cannot forgive her because,
taught all her life to bend, she could not, she did not stand upright
under the first trial of her faith?"

"No!" he cried violently. "No! No! It is not that!"

"No?" she said. "You do forgive her then? You have forgiven her? The
more as to-day she is not weak. The earth is not level over my
mother's grave, some may say hard things of me--but I have come to you
to-day."

"God bless you!" he cried.

She drew a deep breath and sat back. "Then," she said, with a sigh as
of relief, "it is for you to speak."

There was a gravity in her tone, and so complete an absence of all
self-consciousness, all littleness, that he owned that he had never
known her as she was, had never measured her true worth, had never
loved her as she deserved to be loved. Yet--perhaps because it was all
that was left to him--he clung desperately to the resolution he had
formed, to the position which pride and prudence alike had bidden him
to take up.

"What am I to say?" he asked hoarsely.

"Why, if you love me, if you forgive me," she answered softly, "do you
leave me?"

"Can you not understand?"

"In part, I can. But not altogether. Will you explain? I--I think,"
she continued with a movement of her flower-like head, that for gentle
dignity he had never seen excelled, "I have a right to an
explanation."

"You know of what Sir Robert accused me?"

"Yes."

"Am I to justify him? You know what was the difference which came
between us, which first divided us? And what I thought right then, I
still think right. Am I to abandon it? You know what I bore. Am I to
live on the bounty of one who once thought so ill of me, and may think
as ill again? Of one who, differing from me, punished me so cruelly?
Am I to sink into dependence, to sacrifice my judgment, to surrender
my political liberty into the hands of one who----"

"Of my father!" she said gravely.

He could not, so reminded, say what he had been going to say, but he
assented by a movement of the head. And after an interval of silence,
"I cannot," he cried passionately, "I cannot, even to secure my
happiness, run that risk!"

She looked from the window of the carriage, and in a voice which shook
a little, "No," she said, "I suppose not."

He was silent and he suffered. He dared not meet her eyes. Why had she
sought this interview? Why had she chosen to torment him? Ah, if she
knew, if she only knew what pain she was inflicting upon him!

But apparently she did not know. For by and by she spoke again. "No,"
she said. "I suppose not. Yet have you thought"--and now there was a
more decided tremor in her voice--"that that which you surrender is
not all there is at stake? Your independence is precious to you, and
you have a right, Mr. Vaughan, to purchase it even at the cost of your
happiness. But have you a right to purchase it at the cost of
another's? At the cost of mine? Have you thought of my happiness?" she
continued, "or only of yours--and of yourself? To save your
independence--shall I say, to save your pride?--you are willing to set
your love aside. But have you asked me whether I am willing to pay my
half of the price? My heavier half? Whether I am willing to set my
happiness aside? Have you thought of--me at all?"

If he had not, then, when he saw how she looked at him, with what
eyes, with what love, as she laid her hand on his arm, he had been
more than man if he had resisted her long! But he still fought with
himself, and with her; staring with hard, flushed face straight before
him, telling himself that by all that was left to him he must hold.

"I think, I think," she said gently, yet with dignity, "you have not
thought of me."

"But your father--Sir Robert----"

"He is an ogre, of course," she cried in a tone suddenly changed. "But
you should have thought of that before, sir," she continued, tears and
laughter in her voice. "Before you travelled with me on the coach!
Before you saved my life! Before you--looked at me! For you can never
take it back. You can never give me myself again. I think that you
must take me!"

And then he did not resist her any longer. And the carriage was
stayed; and orders were given. And, empty and hugely overpaid, the
yellow post-chaise ambled on to Chippenham; and bearing two inside,
and a valise on the roof, the mourning coach drove slowly and solemnly
back to Stapylton. As it wound its way over the green undulations of
the park, the rabbits that ran, and then stopped, cocking their scuts,
to look at it, saw nothing strange in it. Nor the fallow-deer of the
true Savernake breed, who, before they fled through the dying bracken,
eyed it with poised heads. Nay, the heron which watched its approach
from the edge of the Garden Pool, and did not even deign to drop a
second leg, saw nothing strange in it. Yet it bore for all that the
strangest of all earthly passengers, and the strongest, and the
bravest, and the fairest--and withal, thank God, the most familiar.
For it carried Love. And love the same yet different, love gaunt and
grey-haired, yet kind and warm of heart, met it at the door and gave
it welcome.



                               XXXVIII

                         THREADS AND PATCHES


Though England had not known for fifty years an outbreak so formidable
or so destructive as that of which the news was laid on men's
breakfast-tables on the Tuesday morning, it had less effect on the
political situation than might have been expected. It sent, indeed, a
thrill of horror through the nation. And had it occurred at an earlier
stage of the Reform struggle, before the middle class had fully
committed itself to a trial of strength with the aristocracy, it must
have detached many more of the timid and conservative of the
Reformers. But it came too late. The die was cast; men's minds were
made up on the one side and the other. Each saw events coloured to his
wish. And though Wetherell and Croker, and the devoted band who still
fought manfully round those chieftains, called heaven and earth to
witness the first-fruits of the tree of Reform, the majority of the
nation preferred to see in these troubles the alternative to the
Bill--the abyss into which the whole country would be hurled if that
heaven-sent measure were not passed.

On one thing, however, all were agreed. The outrage was too great to
be overlooked. The law must be vindicated, the lawbreakers must be
punished. To this end the Government, anxious to clear themselves of
the suspicion of collusion, appointed a special Commission, and sent
it to Bristol to try the rioters; and four poor wretches were hanged,
a dozen were transported, and many received minor sentences. Having
thus, a little late in the day, taught the ignorant that Reform did
not spell Revolution after the French pattern, the Cabinet turned
their minds to the measure again. And in December they brought in the
Third Reform Bill, with the fortunes and passage of which this story
is not at pains to deal.

But of necessity the misguided creatures who kindled the fires in
Queen's Square on that fatal Sunday, and swore that they would not
leave a gaol standing in England, were not the only men who suffered.
Sad as their plight was, there was one whose plight--if pain be
measured by the capacity to feel--was sadder. While they were being
tried in one part of Bristol, there was proceeding in another part an
inquiry charged with deeper tragedy. Not those only who had done the
deed, but those who had suffered them to do it, must answer for it.
And the fingers of all pointed to one man. The magistrates might
escape--the Mayor indeed had done his duty creditably, if to little
purpose; for war was not their trade, and the thing at its crisis had
become an affair of war. But Colonel Brereton could not shield himself
behind that plea: so many had behaved poorly that the need to bring
one to book was the greater.

He was tried by court-martial, and among the witnesses was Arthur
Vaughan. By reason of his position, as well as of the creditable part
he had played, the Member for Chippinge was heard by the Court with
more than common attention; and he moved all who listened to him by
his painful anxiety to set the accused's conduct in the best light; to
show that what was possible by daylight on the Monday morning might
not have been possible on the Sunday night, and that the choice
from first to last was between two risks. No question of Colonel
Brereton's courage--for he had served abroad with credit, nay, with
honour--entered into the inquiry; and it was proved that a soldier's
duty in such a case was not well defined. But afterwards Vaughan much
regretted that he had not laid before the Court the opinion he had
formed at the time--that during the crisis of the riots Brereton,
obsessed by one idea, was not responsible for his actions. For, sad to
say, on the fifth day of the inquiry, sinking under a weight of mental
agony which a man of his reserved and melancholy temper was unable to
support, the unfortunate officer put an end to his life. Few have paid
so dearly for an error of judgment and the lack of that coarser fibre
which has enabled many an inferior man to do his duty. The page
darkens with his fate, too tragical for such a theme as this. And if
by chance these words reach the eye of any of his descendants, theirs
be the homage due to the memory of a signal misfortune and an
honourable but hapless man.

Of another and greater personage whose life touched Arthur Vaughan's
once and twice, and of whom, with all his faults, it was never said by
his worst enemy that he feared responsibility or shunned the post of
danger, a brief word must suffice. If Lord Brougham did not live to
see that complete downfall of the great Whig houses which he had
predicted, he lived to see their power ruinously curtailed. He lived
to see their influence totter under the blow which the Repeal of the
Corn Laws dealt the landed interest, he lived to see the Reform Bill
of 1867, he lived almost to see the _coup de grâce_ given to their
leadership by the Ballot Act. And in another point his prophecy came
true. As it had been with Burke and Sheridan and Tierney, it was with
him. His faults were great, as his merits were transcendent; and
presently in the time of his need his highborn associates remembered
only the former. They took advantage of them to push him from power;
and he spent nearly forty years, the remnant of his long life, in the
cold shade of Opposition. The most brilliant, the most versatile, and
the most remarkable figure of the early days of the century, whose
trumpet voice once roused England as it has never been roused from
that day to this, and whose services to education and progress are
acknowledged but slightly even now, paid for the phenomenal splendour
of his youth by long years spent in a changed and changing world,
jostled by a generation forgetful or heedless of his fame. To us he is
but the name of a carriage; remembered otherwise, if at all, for his
part in Queen Caroline's trial. While Wetherell, that stout fighter,
Tory of the Tories, witty, slovenly, honest man, whose fame was once
in all mouths, whose caricature was once in all portfolios, and whose
breeches made the fortune of many a charade, is but the shadow of a
name.


                          *   *   *   *   *


The year had waned and waxed, and it was June again. At Stapylton the
oaks were coming to their full green; the bracken was lifting its
million heads above the sod, and by the edge of the Garden Pool the
water voles sat on the leaves of the lilies and clean their fur.
Arthur Vaughan--strolling up and down with his father-in-law, not
without an occasional glance at Mary, recumbent on a seat on the
lawn--looked grave.

"I fancy," he said presently, "that we shall learn the fate of the
Bill to-day."

"Very like, very like," Sir Robert answered, in an offhand fashion, as
if the subject were not to his taste. And he turned about and by the
aid of his stick expounded his plan for enlarging the flower garden.

But Vaughan returned to the subject. "If not to-day, to-morrow," he
said. "And that being so, I've wanted for some time, sir, to ask you
what you wish me to do."

"To do?"

"As to the seat at Chippinge."

Sir Robert's face expressed his annoyance. "I told you--I told you
long ago," he replied, "that I should never interfere with your
political movements."

"And you have kept your word, sir. But as Lord Lansdowne cedes the
seat to you for this time, I assume----"

"I don't know why you assume anything!" Sir Robert retorted irritably.

"I assume only that you will wish me to seek another seat."

"I certainly don't wish you to lead an idle life," Sir Robert
answered. "When the younger men of our class do that, when they cease
to take an interest in political life, on the one side or the other,
our power will, indeed, be ended. Nothing is more certain than that.
But for Chippinge, I don't choose that a stranger should hold a seat
close to my own door. You might have known that! For the party, I have
taken steps to furnish Mr. Cooke, a man whose opinions I thoroughly
approve, with a seat elsewhere; and I have therefore done my duty in
that direction. For the rest, the mischief is done. I suppose," he
continued in his driest tones, "you won't want to bring in another
Reform Bill immediately?"

"No, sir," Vaughan answered gratefully. "Nor do I think that we are so
far apart as you assume. The truth is, Sir Robert, that we all fear
one of two things, and according as we fear the one or the other we
are dubbed Whigs or Tories."

"What are your two things?"

"Despotism, or anarchy," Vaughan replied modestly.

Sir Robert sniffed. "You don't refine enough," he said, pleased with
his triumph. "We all fear despotism; you, the despotism of the one: I,
a worse, a more cruel, a more hopeless despotism, the despotism of the
many! That's the real difference between us."

Vaughan looked thoughtful. "Perhaps you are right," he said.
"But--what is that, sir?" He raised his hand. The deep note of a
distant gun rolled up the valley from the town.

"The Lords have passed the Bill," Sir Robert replied. "They are
celebrating the news in Chippinge. Well, I am not sorry that my day is
done. I give you the command. See only, my boy," he continued, with a
loving glance at Mary, who had risen, and, joined by Miss Sibson, was
coming to the end of the bridge to meet them, "see only that you hand
it on to others--I do not say as I give it to you, but as little
impaired as may be."

And again, as Mary called to them to know what it was, the sound of
the gun rolled up the valley--the knell of the system, good or bad,
under which England had been ruled so long. The battle of which
Brougham had fired the first shot in the Castle Yard at York was past
and won.

_Boom!_



                               THE END





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