Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

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

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The American Senator" ***

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



and revised by Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D.



THE AMERICAN SENATOR

by

Anthony Trollope



First published in serial form in _Temple Bar Magazine_ May, 1876,
through July, 1877, and in book form in 1877 by Chapman and Hall.



CONTENTS

   VOLUME I.

          I. DILLSBOROUGH.
         II. THE MORTON FAMILY.
        III. THE MASTERS FAMILY.
         IV. THE DILLSBOROUGH CLUB.
          V. REGINALD MORTON.
         VI. NOT IN LOVE.
        VII. THE WALK HOME.
       VIII. THE PARAGON'S PARTY AT BRAGTON.
         IX. THE OLD KENNELS.
          X. GOARLY'S REVENGE.
         XI. FROM IMPINGTON GORSE.
        XII. ARABELLA TREFOIL.
       XIII. AT BRAGTON.
        XIV. THE DILLSBOROUGH FEUD.
         XV. A FIT COMPANION,--FOR ME AND MY SISTERS.
        XVI. MR. GOTOBED'S PHILANTHROPY.
       XVII. LORD RUFFORD'S INVITATION.
      XVIII. THE ATTORNEY'S FAMILY IS DISTURBED.
        XIX. "WHO VALUED THE GEESE?"
         XX. THERE ARE CONVENANCES.
        XXI. THE FIRST EVENING AT RUFFORD HALL.
       XXII. JEMIMA.
      XXIII. POOR CANEBACK.
       XXIV. THE BALL.
        XXV. THE LAST MORNING AT RUFFORD HALL.
       XXVI. GIVE ME SIX MONTHS.
      XXVII. "WONDERFUL BIRD!"

   VOLUME II.

          I. MOUNSER GREEN.
         II. THE SENATOR'S LETTER.
        III. AT CHELTENHAM.
         IV. THE RUFFORD CORRESPONDENCE.
          V. "IT IS A LONG WAY."
         VI. THE BEGINNING OF PERSECUTION.
        VII. MARY'S LETTER.
       VIII. CHOWTON FARM FOR SALE.
         IX. MISTLETOE.
          X. HOW THINGS WERE ARRANGED.
         XI. "YOU ARE SO SEVERE."
        XII. THE DAY AT PELTRY.
       XIII. LORD RUFFORD WANTS TO SEE A HORSE.
        XIV. THE SENATOR IS BADLY TREATED.
         XV. MR. MAINWARING'S LITTLE DINNER.
        XVI. PERSECUTION.
       XVII. "PARTICULARLY PROUD OF YOU."
      XVIII. LORD RUFFORD MAKES UP HIS MIND.
        XIX. IT CANNOT BE ARRANGED.
         XX. "BUT THERE IS SOME ONE."
        XXI. THE DINNER AT THE BUSH.
       XXII. MISS TREFOIL'S DECISION.
      XXIII. "IN THESE DAYS ONE CAN'T MAKE A MAN MARRY."
       XXIV. THE SENATOR'S SECOND LETTER.
        XXV. PROVIDENCE INTERFERES.
       XXVI. LADY USHANT AT BRAGTON.
      XXVII. ARABELLA AGAIN AT BRAGTON.

   VOLUME III.

          I. "I HAVE TOLD HIM EVERYTHING."
         II. "NOW WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO SAY?"
        III. MRS. MORTON RETURNS.
         IV. THE TWO OLD LADIES.
          V. THE LAST EFFORT.
         VI. AGAIN AT MISTLETOE.
        VII. THE SUCCESS OF LADY AUGUSTUS.
       VIII. "WE SHALL KILL EACH OTHER."
         IX. CHANGES AT BRAGTON.
          X. THE WILL.
         XI. THE NEW MINISTER.
        XII. "I MUST GO."
       XIII. IN THE PARK.
        XIV. LORD RUFFORD'S MODEL FARM.
         XV. SCROBBY'S TRIAL.
        XVI. AT LAST.
       XVII. "MY OWN, OWN HUSBAND."
      XVIII. "BID HIM BE A MAN."
        XIX. "IS IT TANTI?"
         XX. BENEDICT.
        XXI. ARABELLA'S SUCCESS.
       XXII. THE WEDDING.
      XXIII. THE SENATOR'S LECTURE.--NO. I.
       XXIV. THE SENATOR'S LECTURE.--NO. II.
        XXV. THE LAST DAYS OF MARY MASTERS.
       XXVI. CONCLUSION.



VOLUME I.

CHAPTER I.

DILLSBOROUGH.


I never could understand why anybody should ever have begun to live
at Dillsborough, or why the population there should have been at any
time recruited by new comers. That a man with a family should cling
to a house in which he has once established himself is intelligible.
The butcher who supplied Dillsborough, or the baker, or the
ironmonger, though he might not drive what is called a roaring trade,
nevertheless found himself probably able to live, and might well
hesitate before he would encounter the dangers of a more energetic
locality. But how it came to pass that he first got himself to
Dillsborough, or his father, or his grandfather before him, has
always been a mystery to me. The town has no attractions, and never
had any. It does not stand on a bed of coal and has no connection
with iron. It has no water peculiarly adapted for beer, or for
dyeing, or for the cure of maladies. It is not surrounded by beauty
of scenery strong enough to bring tourists and holiday travellers.
There is no cathedral there to form, with its bishops, prebendaries,
and minor canons, the nucleus of a clerical circle. It manufactures
nothing specially. It has no great horse fair, or cattle fair, or
even pig market of special notoriety. Every Saturday farmers and
graziers and buyers of corn and sheep do congregate in a sleepy
fashion about the streets, but Dillsborough has no character of its
own, even as a market town. Its chief glory is its parish church,
which is ancient and inconvenient, having not as yet received any of
those modern improvements which have of late become common throughout
England; but its parish church, though remarkable, is hardly
celebrated. The town consists chiefly of one street which is over a
mile long, with a square or market-place in the middle, round which
a few lanes with queer old names are congregated, and a second small
open space among these lanes, in which the church stands. As you
pass along the street north-west, away from the railway station and
from London, there is a steep hill, beginning to rise just beyond
the market-place. Up to that point it is the High Street, thence
it is called Bullock's Hill. Beyond that you come to Norrington
Road,--Norrington being the next town, distant from Dillsborough
about twelve miles. Dillsborough, however, stands in the county of
Rufford, whereas at the top of Bullock's Hill you enter the county
of Ufford, of which Norrington is the assize town. The Dillsborough
people are therefore divided, some two thousand five hundred of
them belonging to Rufford, and the remaining five hundred to the
neighbouring county. This accident has given rise to not a few
feuds, Ufford being a large county, with pottery, and ribbons,
and watches going on in the farther confines; whereas Rufford is
small and thoroughly agricultural. The men at the top of Bullock's
Hill are therefore disposed to think themselves better than their
fellow-townsfolks, though they are small in number and not specially
thriving in their circumstances.

At every interval of ten years, when the census is taken, the
population of Dillsborough is always found to have fallen off in some
slight degree. For a few months after the publication of the figures
a slight tinge of melancholy comes upon the town. The landlord of the
Bush Inn, who is really an enterprising man in his way and who has
looked about in every direction for new sources of business, becomes
taciturn for a while and forgets to smile upon comers; Mr. Ribbs,
the butcher, tells his wife that it is out of the question that she
and the children should take that long-talked-of journey to the
sea-coast; and Mr. Gregory Masters, the well-known old-established
attorney of Dillsborough, whispers to some confidential friend that
he might as well take down his plate and shut up his house. But in a
month or two all that is forgotten, and new hopes spring up even in
Dillsborough; Mr. Runciman at the Bush is putting up new stables for
hunting-horses, that being the special trade for which he now finds
that there is an opening; Mrs. Ribbs is again allowed to suggest
Mare-Slocumb; and Mr. Masters goes on as he has done for the last
forty years, making the best he can of a decreasing business.

Dillsborough is built chiefly of brick, and is, in its own way,
solid enough. The Bush, which in the time of the present landlord's
father was one of the best posting inns on the road, is not only
substantial, but almost handsome. A broad coach way, cut through the
middle of the house, leads into a spacious, well-kept, clean yard,
and on each side of the coach way there are bay windows looking into
the street,--the one belonging to the commercial parlour, and the
other to the so-called coffee-room. But the coffee-room has in truth
fallen away from its former purposes, and is now used for a farmer's
ordinary on market days, and other similar purposes. Travellers who
require the use of a public sitting-room must all congregate in the
commercial parlour at the Bush. So far the interior of the house has
fallen from its past greatness. But the exterior is maintained with
much care. The brickwork up to the eaves is well pointed, fresh, and
comfortable to look at. In front of the carriage-way swings on two
massive supports the old sign of the Bush, as to which it may be
doubted whether even Mr. Runciman himself knows that it has swung
there, or been displayed in some fashion, since it was the custom for
the landlord to beat up wine to freshen it before it was given to the
customers to drink. The church, too, is of brick--though the tower
and chancel are of stone. The attorney's house is of brick, which
shall not be more particularly described now as many of the scenes
which these pages will have to describe were acted there; and almost
the entire High Street in the centre of the town was brick also.

But the most remarkable house in Dillsborough was one standing in a
short thoroughfare called Hobbs Gate, leading down by the side of the
Bush Inn from the market-place to Church Square, as it is called. As
you pass down towards the church this house is on the right hand, and
it occupies with its garden the whole space between the market-place
and Church Square. But though the house enjoys the privilege of a
large garden,--so large that the land being in the middle of a town
would be of great value were it not that Dillsborough is in its
decadence,--still it stands flush up to the street upon which the
front door opens. It has an imposing flight of stone steps guarded
by iron rails leading up to it, and on each side of the door there
is a row of three windows, and on the two upper stories rows of
seven windows. Over the door there is a covering, on which there are
grotesquely-formed, carved wooden faces; and over the centre of each
window, let into the brickwork, is a carved stone. There are also
numerous underground windows, sunk below the earth and protected
by iron railings. Altogether the house is one which cannot fail to
attract attention; and in the brickwork is clearly marked the date,
1701,--not the very best period for English architecture as regards
beauty, but one in which walls and roofs, ceilings and buttresses,
were built more substantially than they are to-day. This was the only
house in Dillsborough which had a name of its own, and it was called
Hoppet Hall, the Dillsborough chronicles telling that it had been
originally built for and inhabited by the Hoppet family. The only
Hoppet now left in Dillsborough is old Joe Hoppet, the ostler at the
Bush; and the house, as was well known, had belonged to some member
of the Morton family for the last hundred years at least. The garden
and ground it stands upon comprise three acres, all of which are
surrounded by a high brick wall, which is supposed to be coeval
with the house. The best Ribston pippins,--some people say the only
real Ribston pippins,--in all Rufford are to be found here, and its
Burgundy pears and walnuts are almost equally celebrated. There are
rumours also that its roses beat everything in the way of roses for
ten miles round. But in these days very few strangers are admitted
to see the Hoppet Hall roses. The pears and apples do make their way
out, and are distributed either by Mrs. Masters, the attorney's wife,
or Mr. Runciman, the innkeeper. The present occupier of the house
is a certain Mr. Reginald Morton, with whom we shall also be much
concerned in these pages, but whose introduction to the reader shall
be postponed for awhile.

The land around Dillsborough is chiefly owned by two landlords, of
whom the greatest and richest is Lord Rufford. He, however, does not
live near the town, but away at the other side of the county, and is
not much seen in these parts unless when the hounds bring him here,
or when, with two or three friends, he will sometimes stay for a few
days at the Bush Inn for the sake of shooting the coverts. He is much
liked by all sporting men, but is not otherwise very popular with
the people round Dillsborough. A landlord if he wishes to be popular
should be seen frequently. If he lives among his farmers they will
swear by him, even though he raises his rental every ten or twelve
years and never puts a new roof to a barn for them. Lord Rufford is
a rich man who thinks of nothing but sport in all its various shapes,
from pigeon-shooting at Hurlingham to the slaughter of elephants in
Africa; and though he is lenient in all his dealings, is not much
thought of in the Dillsborough side of the county, except by those
who go out with the hounds. At Rufford, where he generally has a full
house for three months in the year and spends a vast amount of money,
he is more highly considered.

The other extensive landlord is Mr. John Morton, a young man, who, in
spite of his position as squire of Bragton, owner of Bragton Park,
and landlord of the entire parishes of Bragton and Mallingham,--the
latter of which comes close up to the confines of Dillsborough,--was
at the time at which our story begins, Secretary of Legation at
Washington. As he had been an absentee since he came of age,--soon
after which time he inherited the property,--he had been almost
less liked in the neighbourhood than the lord. Indeed, no one in
Dillsborough knew much about him, although Bragton Hall was but four
miles from the town, and the Mortons had possessed the property
and lived on it for the last three centuries. But there had been
extravagance, as will hereafter have to be told, and there had been
no continuous residence at Bragton since the death of old Reginald
Morton, who had been the best known and the best loved of all the
squires in Rufford, and had for many years been master of the
Rufford hounds. He had lived to a very great age, and, though the
great-grandfather of the present man, had not been dead above twenty
years. He was the man of whom the older inhabitants of Dillsborough
and the neighbourhood still thought and still spoke when they gave
vent to their feelings in favour of gentlemen. And yet the old
squire in his latter days had been able to do little or nothing
for them,--being sometimes backward as to the payment of money he
owed among them. But he had lived all his days at Bragton Park,
and his figure had been familiar to all eyes in the High Street of
Dillsborough and at the front entrance of the Bush. People still
spoke of old Mr. Reginald Morton as though his death had been a sore
loss to the neighbourhood.

And there were in the country round sundry yeomen, as they ought
to be called,--gentlemen-farmers as they now like to style
themselves,--men who owned some acres of land, and farmed these acres
themselves. Of these we may specially mention Mr. Lawrence Twentyman,
who was quite the gentleman-farmer. He possessed over three hundred
acres of land, on which his father had built an excellent house. The
present Mr. Twentyman,--Lawrence Twentyman, Esquire, as he was called
by everybody,--was by no means unpopular in the neighbourhood. He not
only rode well to hounds but paid twenty-five pounds annually to the
hunt, which entitled him to feel quite at home in his red coat. He
generally owned a racing colt or two, and attended meetings; but was
supposed to know what he was about, and to have kept safely the five
or six thousand pounds which his father had left him. And his farming
was well done; for though he was, out-and-out, a gentleman-farmer,
he knew how to get the full worth in work done for the fourteen
shillings a week which he paid to his labourers,--a deficiency in
which knowledge is the cause why gentlemen in general find farming so
expensive an amusement. He was a handsome, good-looking man of about
thirty, and would have been a happy man had he not been too ambitious
in his aspirations after gentry. He had been at school for three
years at Cheltenham College, which, together with his money and
appearance and undoubted freehold property, should, he thought, have
made his position quite secure to him; but, though he sometimes
called young Hampton of Hampton Wick "Hampton," and the son of the
rector of Dillsborough "Mainwaring," and always called the rich young
brewers from Norrington "Botsey,"--partners in the well-known firm of
Billbrook & Botsey; and though they in return called him "Larry" and
admitted the intimacy, still he did not get into their houses. And
Lord Rufford, when he came into the neighbourhood, never asked him to
dine at the Bush. And--worst of all,--some of the sporting men and
others in the neighbourhood, who decidedly were not gentlemen, also
called him "Larry." Mr. Runciman always did so. Twenty or twenty-five
years ago Runciman had been his father's special friend,--before
the house had been built and before the days at Cheltenham College.
Remembering this Lawrence was too good a fellow to rebuke Runciman;
but to younger men of that class he would sometimes make himself
objectionable. There was another keeper of hunting stables, a younger
man, named Stubbings, living at Stanton Corner, a great hunting
rendezvous about four miles from Dillsborough; and not long since
Twentyman had threatened to lay his whip across Stubbings' shoulders
if Stubbings ever called him "Larry" again. Stubbings, who was a
little man and rode races, only laughed at Mr. Twentyman who was six
feet high, and told the story round to all the hunt. Mr. Twentyman
was more laughed at than perhaps he deserved. A man should not have
his Christian name used by every Tom and Dick without his sanction.
But the difficulty is one to which men in the position of Mr.
Lawrence Twentyman are often subject.

Those whom I have named, together with Mr. Mainwaring the rector,
and Mr. Surtees his curate, made up the very sparse aristocracy of
Dillsborough. The Hamptons of Hampton Wick were Ufford men, and
belonged rather to Norrington than Dillsborough. The Botseys, also
from Norrington, were members of the U. R. U., or Ufford and Rufford
United Hunt Club; but they did not much affect Dillsborough as a
town. Mr. Mainwaring, who has been mentioned, lived in another brick
house behind the church,--the old parsonage of St. John's. There
was also a Mrs. Mainwaring, but she was an invalid. Their family
consisted of one son, who was at Brasenose at this time. He always
had a horse during the Christmas vacation, and if rumour did not
belie him, kept two or three up at Oxford. Mr. Surtees, the curate,
lived in lodgings in the town. He was a painstaking, eager, clever
young man, with aspirations in church matters, which were always
being checked by his rector. Quieta non movere was the motto by which
the rector governed his life, and he certainly was not at all the man
to allow his curate to drive him into activity.

Such, at the time of our story, was the little town of Dillsborough.



CHAPTER II.

THE MORTON FAMILY.


I can hardly describe accurately the exact position of the Masters
family without first telling all that I know about the Morton family;
and it is absolutely essential that the reader should know all the
Masters family intimately. Mr. Masters, as I have said in the last
chapter, was the attorney in Dillsborough, and the Mortons had been
for centuries past the squires of Bragton.

I need not take the reader back farther than old Reginald Morton.
He had come to the throne of his family as a young man, and had sat
upon it for more than half a century. He had been a squire of the old
times, having no inclination for London seasons, never wishing to
keep up a second house, quite content with his position as squire of
Bragton, but with considerable pride about him as to that position.
He had always liked to have his house full, and had hated petty
oeconomies. He had for many years hunted the county at his own
expense,--the amusement at first not having been so expensive as it
afterwards became. When he began the work, it had been considered
sufficient to hunt twice a week. Now the Rufford and Ufford
hounds have four days, and sometimes a bye. It went much against
Mr. Reginald Morton's pride when he was first driven to take a
subscription.

But the temporary distress into which the family fell was caused not
so much by his own extravagance as by that of two sons, and by his
indulgence in regard to them. He had three children, none of whom
were very fortunate in life. The eldest, John, married the daughter
of a peer, stood for Parliament, had one son, and died before he was
forty, owing something over £20,000. The estate was then worth £7,000
a year. Certain lands not lying either in Bragton or Mallingham were
sold, and that difficulty was surmounted, not without a considerable
diminution of income. In process of time the grandson, who was a
second John Morton, grew up and married, and became the father of a
third John Morton, the young man who afterwards became owner of the
property and Secretary of Legation at Washington. But the old squire
outlived his son and his grandson, and when he died had three or
four great-grandchildren playing about the lawns of Bragton Park.
The peer's daughter had lived, and had for many years drawn a dower
from the Bragton property, and had been altogether a very heavy
incumbrance.

But the great trial of the old man's life, as also the great romance,
had arisen from the career of his second son, Reginald. Of all his
children, Reginald had been the dearest to him. He went to Oxford,
and had there spent much money; not as young men now spend money,
but still to an extent that had been grievous to the old squire. But
everything was always paid for Reginald. It was necessary, of course,
that he should have a profession, and he took a commission in the
army. As a young man he went to Canada. This was in 1829, when all
the world was at peace, and his only achievement in Canada was to
marry a young woman who is reported to have been pretty and good, but
who had no advantages either of fortune or birth. She was, indeed,
the daughter of a bankrupt innkeeper in Montreal. Soon after this
he sold out and brought his wife home to Bragton. It was at this
period of the squire's life that the romance spoken of occurred. John
Morton, the brother with the aristocratic wife, was ten or twelve
years older than Reginald, and at this time lived chiefly at Bragton
when he was not in town. He was, perhaps, justified in regarding
Bragton as almost belonging to him, knowing as he did that it must
belong to him after his father's lifetime, and to his son after him.
His anger against his brother was hot, and that of his wife still
hotter. He himself had squandered thousands, but then he was the
heir. Reginald, who was only a younger brother, had sold his
commission. And then he had done so much more than this! He had
married a woman who was not a lady! John was clearly of opinion
that at any rate the wife should not be admitted into Bragton House.
The old squire in those days was not a happy man; he had never been
very strong-minded, but now he was strong enough to declare that
his house-door should not be shut against a son of his,--or a son's
wife, as long as she was honest. Hereupon the Honourable Mrs. Morton
took her departure, and was never seen at Bragton again in the old
squire's time. Reginald Morton came to the house, and soon afterwards
another little Reginald was born at Bragton Park. This happened as
long ago as 1835, twenty years before the death of the old squire.

But there had been another child, a daughter, who had come between
the two sons, still living in these days, who will become known to
any reader who will have patience to follow these pages to the end.
She married, not very early in life, a certain Sir William Ushant,
who was employed by his country in India and elsewhere, but who
found, soon after his marriage, that the service of his country
required that he should generally leave his wife at Bragton. As her
father had been for many years a widower, Lady Ushant became the
mistress of the house.

But death was very busy with the Mortons. Almost every one died,
except the squire himself and his daughter, and that honourable
dowager, with her income and her pride who could certainly very well
have been spared. When at last, in 1855, the old squire went, full of
years, full of respect, but laden also with debts and money troubles,
not only had his son John, and his grandson John, gone before him,
but Reginald and his wife were both lying in Bragton Churchyard.

The elder branch of the family, John the great-grandson, and
his little sisters, were at once taken away from Bragton by the
honourable grandmother. John, who was then about seven years old,
was of course the young squire, and was the owner of the property.
The dowager, therefore, did not undertake an altogether unprofitable
burden. Lady Ushant was left at the house, and with Lady Ushant, or
rather immediately subject to her care, young Reginald Morton, who
was then nineteen years of age, and who was about to go to Oxford.
But there immediately sprang up family lawsuits, instigated by the
honourable lady on behalf of her grandchildren, of which Reginald
Morton was the object. The old man had left certain outlying
properties to his grandson Reginald, of which Hoppet Hall was a part.
For eight or ten years the lawsuit was continued, and much money was
expended. Reginald was at last successful, and became the undoubted
owner of Hoppet Hall; but in the meantime he went to Germany for his
education, instead of to Oxford, and remained abroad even after the
matter was decided,--living, no one but Lady Ushant knew where, or
after what fashion.

When the old squire died the children were taken away, and Bragton
was nearly deserted. The young heir was brought up with every
caution, and, under the auspices of his grandmother and her family,
behaved himself very unlike the old Mortons. He was educated at
Eton, after leaving which he was at once examined for Foreign Office
employment, and commenced his career with great éclat. He had been
made to understand clearly that it would be better that he should not
enter in upon his squirearchy early in life. The estate when he came
of age had already had some years to recover itself, and as he went
from capital to capital, he was quite content to draw from it an
income which enabled him to shine with peculiar brilliance among his
brethren. He had visited Bragton once since the old squire's death,
and had found the place very dull and uninviting. He had no ambition
whatever to be master of the U. R. U.; but did look forward to a time
when he might be Minister Plenipotentiary at some foreign court.

For many years after the old man's death, Lady Ushant, who was then a
widow, was allowed to live at Bragton. She was herself childless, and
being now robbed of her great-nephews and nieces, took a little girl
to live with her, named Mary Masters. It was a very desolate house
in those days, but the old lady was careful as to the education of
the child, and did her best to make the home happy for her. Some two
or three years before the commencement of this story there arose a
difference between the manager of the property and Lady Ushant, and
she was made to understand, after some half-courteous manner, that
Bragton house and park would do better without her. There would
be no longer any cows kept, and painters must come into the house,
and there were difficulties about fuel. She was not turned out
exactly; but she went and established herself in lonely lodgings at
Cheltenham. Then Mary Masters, who had lived for more than a dozen
years at Bragton, went back to her father's house in Dillsborough.

Any reader with an aptitude for family pedigrees will now understand
that Reginald, Master of Hoppet Hall, was first cousin to the father
of the Foreign Office paragon, and that he is therefore the paragon's
first cousin once removed. The relationship is not very distant, but
the two men, one of whom was a dozen years older than the other, had
not seen each other for more than twenty years,--at a time when one
of them was a big boy, and the other a very little one; and during
the greater part of that time a lawsuit had been carried on between
them in a very rigorous manner. It had done much to injure both, and
had created such a feeling of hostility that no intercourse of any
kind now existed between them.

It does not much concern us to know how far back should be dated the
beginning of the connection between the Morton family and that of
Mr. Masters, the attorney; but it is certain that the first attorney
of that name in Dillsborough became learned in the law through the
patronage of some former Morton. The father of the present Gregory
Masters, and the grandfather, had been thoroughly trusted and
employed by old Reginald Morton, and the former of the two had made
his will. Very much of the stewardship and management of the property
had been in their hands, and they had thriven as honest men, but
as men with a tolerably sharp eye to their own interests. The late
Mr. Masters had died a few years before the squire, and the present
attorney had seemed to succeed to these family blessings. But the
whole order of things became changed. Within a few weeks of the
squire's death Mr. Masters found that he was to be entrusted no
further with the affairs of the property, but that, in lieu of such
care, was thrown upon him the task of defending the will which he
had made against the owner of the estate. His father and grandfather
had contrived between them to establish a fairly good business,
independently of Bragton, which business, of course, was now his. As
far as reading went, and knowledge, he was probably a better lawyer
than either of them; but he lacked their enterprise and special
genius, and the thing had dwindled with him. It seemed to him,
perhaps not unnaturally, that he had been robbed of an inheritance.
He had no title deeds, as had the owners of the property; but his
ancestors before him, from generation to generation, had lived by
managing the Bragton property. They had drawn the leases, and made
the wills, and collected the rents, and had taught themselves to
believe that a Morton could not live on his land without a Masters.
Now there was a Morton who did not live on his land, but spent his
rents elsewhere without the aid of any Masters, and it seemed to the
old lawyer that all the good things of the world had passed away. He
had married twice, his first wife having, before her marriage, been
well known at Bragton Park. When she had died, and Mr. Masters had
brought a second wife home, Lady Ushant took the only child of the
mother, whom she had known as a girl, into her own keeping, till
she also had been compelled to leave Bragton. Then Mary Masters had
returned to her father and stepmother.

The Bragton Park residence is a large, old-fashioned, comfortable
house, but by no means a magnificent mansion. The greater part of it
was built one hundred and fifty years ago, and the rooms are small
and low. In the palmy days of his reign, which is now more than half
a century since, the old squire made alterations, and built new
stables and kennels, and put up a conservatory; but what he did then
has already become almost old-fashioned now. What he added he added
in stone, but the old house was brick. He was much abused at the time
for his want of taste, and heard a good deal about putting new cloth
as patches on old rents; but, as the shrubs and ivy have grown up, a
certain picturesqueness has come upon the place, which is greatly due
to the difference of material. The place is somewhat sombre, as there
is no garden close to the house. There is a lawn, at the back, with
gravel walks round it; but it is only a small lawn; and then divided
from the lawn by a ha-ha fence, is the park. The place, too, has that
sad look which always comes to a house from the want of a tenant.
Poor Lady Ushant, when she was there, could do little or nothing.
A gardener was kept, but there should have been three or four
gardeners. The man grew cabbages and onions, which he sold, but cared
nothing for the walks or borders. Whatever it may have been in the
old time, Bragton Park was certainly not a cheerful place when Lady
Ushant lived there. In the squire's time the park itself had always
been occupied by deer. Even when distress came he would not allow the
deer to be sold. But after his death they went very soon, and from
that day to the time of which I am writing, the park has been leased
to some butchers or graziers from Dillsborough.

The ground hereabouts is nearly level, but it falls away a little
and becomes broken and pretty where the river Dill runs through
the park, about half a mile from the house. There is a walk called
the Pleasance, passing down through shrubs to the river, and then
crossing the stream by a foot-bridge, and leading across the fields
towards Dillsborough. This bridge is, perhaps, the prettiest spot in
Bragton, or, for that matter, anywhere in the county round; but even
here there is not much of beauty to be praised. It is here, on the
side of the river away from the house, that the home meet of the
hounds used to be held; and still the meet at Bragton Bridge is
popular in the county.



CHAPTER III.

THE MASTERS FAMILY.


At six o'clock one November evening, Mr. Masters, the attorney, was
sitting at home with his family in the large parlour of his house,
his office being on the other side of the passage which cut the house
in two and was formally called the hall. Upstairs, over the parlour,
was a drawing-room; but this chamber, which was supposed to be
elegantly furnished, was very rarely used. Mr. and Mrs. Masters
did not see much company, and for family purposes the elegance of
the drawing-room made it unfit. It added, however, not a little to
the glory of Mrs. Masters' life. The house itself was a low brick
building in the High Street, at the corner where the High Street runs
into the market-place, and therefore, nearly opposite to the Bush.
It had none of the elaborate grandeur of the inn nor of the simple
stateliness of Hoppet Hall, but, nevertheless, it maintained the
character of the town and was old, substantial, respectable, and
dark.

"I think it a very spirited thing of him to do, then," said Mrs.
Masters.

"I don't know, my dear. Perhaps it is only revenge."

"What have you to do with that? What can it matter to a lawyer
whether it's revenge or anything else? He's got the means, I
suppose?"

"I don't know, my dear."

"What does Nickem say?"

"I suppose he has the means," said Mr. Masters, who was aware that if
he told his wife a fib on the matter, she would learn the truth from
his senior clerk, Mr. Samuel Nickem. Among the professional gifts
which Mr. Masters possessed, had not been that great gift of being
able to keep his office and his family distinct from each other.
His wife always knew what was going on, and was very free with her
advice; generally tendering it on that side on which money was to be
made, and doing so with much feminine darkness as to right or wrong.
His clerk, Nickem, who was afflicted with no such darkness, but who
ridiculed the idea of scruple in an attorney, often took part against
him. It was the wish of his heart to get rid of Nickem; but Nickem
would have carried business with him and gone over to some enemy,
or, perhaps have set up in some irregular manner on his own bottom;
and his wife would have given him no peace had he done so, for she
regarded Nickem as the mainstay of the house.

"What is Lord Rufford to you?" asked Mrs. Masters.

"He has always been very friendly."

"I don't see it at all. You have never had any of his money. I don't
know that you are a pound richer by him."

"I have always gone with the gentry of the county."

"Fiddlesticks! Gentry! Gentry are very well as long as you can make a
living out of them. You could afford to stick up for gentry till you
lost the Bragton property." This was a subject that was always sore
between Mr. Masters and his wife. The former Mrs. Masters had been a
lady--the daughter of a neighbouring clergyman; and had been much
considered by the family at Bragton. The present Mrs. Masters was the
daughter of an ironmonger at Norrington, who had brought a thousand
pounds with her, which had been very useful. No doubt Mr. Masters'
practice had been considerably affected by the lowliness of his
second marriage. People who used to know the first Mrs. Masters, such
as Mrs. Mainwaring, and the doctor's wife, and old Mrs. Cooper, the
wife of the vicar of Mallingham, would not call on the second Mrs.
Masters. As Mrs. Masters was too high-spirited to run after people
who did not want her, she took to hating gentry instead.

"We have always been on the other side," said the old attorney,--"I
and my father and grandfather before me."

"They lived on it and you can't. If you are going to say that you
won't have any client that isn't a gentleman, you might as well put
up your shutters at once."

"I haven't said so. Isn't Runciman my client?"

"He always goes with the gentry. He a'most thinks he's one of them
himself."

"And old Nobbs, the greengrocer. But it's all nonsense. Any man is my
client, or any woman, who can come and pay me for business that is
fit for me to do."

"Why isn't this fit to be done? If the man's been damaged, why
shouldn't he be paid?"

"He's had money offered him."

"If he thinks it ain't enough, who's to say that it is,--unless a
jury?" said Mrs. Masters, becoming quite eloquent. "And how's a
poor man to get a jury to say that, unless he comes to a lawyer? Of
course, if you won't have it, he'll go to Bearside. Bearside won't
turn him away." Bearside was another attorney, an interloper of about
ten years' standing, whose name was odious to Mr. Masters.

"You don't know anything about it, my dear," said he, aroused at last
to anger.

"I know you're letting anybody who likes take the bread out of the
children's mouths." The children, so called, were sitting round the
table and could not but take an interest in the matter. The eldest
was that Mary Masters, the daughter of the former wife, whom Lady
Ushant had befriended, a tall girl, with dark brown hair, so dark as
almost to be black, and large, soft, thoughtful grey eyes. We shall
have much to say of Mary Masters, and can hardly stop to give an
adequate description of her here. The others were Dolly and Kate,
two girls aged sixteen and fifteen. The two younger "children" were
eating bread and butter and jam in a very healthy manner, but still
had their ears wide open to the conversation that was being held. The
two younger girls sympathised strongly with their mother. Mary, who
had known much about the Mortons, and was old enough to understand
the position which her grandfather had held in reference to the
family, of course leaned in her heart to her father's side. But
she was wiser than her father, and knew that in such discussions
her mother often showed a worldly wisdom which, in their present
circumstances, they could hardly afford to disregard, unpalatable
though it might be.

Mr. Masters disliked these discussions altogether, but he disliked
them most of all in presence of his children. He looked round upon
them in a deprecatory manner, making a slight motion with his hand
and bringing his head down on one side, and then he gave a long sigh.
If it was his intention to convey some subtle warning to his wife,
some caution that she alone should understand, he was deceived. The
"children" all knew what he meant quite as well as did their mother.

"Shall we go out, mamma?" asked Dolly.

"Finish your teas, my dears," said Mr. Masters, who wished to stop
the discussion rather than to carry it on before a more select
audience.

"You've got to make up your mind to-night," said Mrs. Masters, "and
you'll be going over to the Bush at eight."

"No, I needn't. He is to come on Monday. I told Nickem I wouldn't see
him to-night; nor, of course, to-morrow."

"Then he'll go to Bearside."

"He may go to Bearside and be ----! Oh, Lord! I do wish you'd let me
drop the business for a few minutes when I am in here. You don't know
anything about it. How should you?"

"I know that if I didn't speak you'd let everything slip through your
fingers. There's Mr. Twentyman. Kate, open the door."

Kate, who was fond of Mr. Twentyman, rushed up and opened the front
door at once. In saying so much of Kate, I do not mean it to be
understood that any precocious ideas of love were troubling that
young lady's bosom. Kate Masters was a jolly bouncing schoolgirl of
fifteen, who was not too proud to eat toffy, and thought herself
still a child. But she was very fond of Lawrence Twentyman, who
had a pony that she could ride, and who was always good-natured to
her. All the family liked Mr. Twentyman,--unless it might be Mary,
who was the one that he specially liked himself. And Mary was not
altogether averse to him, knowing him to be good-natured, manly,
and straightforward. But Mr. Twentyman had proposed to her, and she
had--certainly not accepted him. This, however, had broken none of
the family friendship. Every one in the house, unless it might be
Mary herself, hoped that Mr. Twentyman might prevail at last. The
man was worth six or seven hundred a year, and had a good house, and
owed no one a shilling. He was handsome, and about the best-tempered
fellow known. Of course they all desired that he should prevail with
Mary. "I wish that I were old enough, Larry, that's all!" Kate had
said to him once, laughing. "I wouldn't have you, if you were ever
so old," Larry had replied; "you'd want to be out hunting every day."
That will show the sort of terms that Larry was on with his friend
Kate. He called at the house every Saturday with the declared object
of going over to the club that was held that evening in the parlour
at the Bush, whither Mr. Masters also always went. It was understood
at home that Mr. Masters should attend this club every Saturday from
eight till eleven, but that he was not at any other time to give way
to the fascinations of the Bush. On this occasion, and we may say on
almost every Saturday night, Mr. Twentyman arrived a full hour before
the appointed time. The reason of his doing so was of course well
understood, and was quite approved by Mrs. Masters. She was not, at
any rate as yet, a cruel stepmother; but still, if the girl could be
transferred to so eligible a home as that which Mr. Twentyman could
give her, it would be well for all parties.

When he took his seat he did not address himself specially to the
lady of his love. I don't know how a gentleman is to do so in the
presence of her father, and mother, and sisters. Saturday after
Saturday he probably thought that some occasion would arise; but, if
his words could have been counted, it would have been found that he
addressed fewer to her than to any one in the room.

"Larry," said his special friend Kate, "am I to have the pony at the
Bridge meet?"

"How very free you are, Miss!" said her mother.

"I don't know about that," said Larry. "When is there to be a meet at
the Bridge? I haven't heard."

"But I have. Tony Tuppett told me that they would be there this day
fortnight." Tony Tuppett was the huntsman of the U. R. U.

"That's more than Tony can know. He may have guessed it."

"Shall I have the pony if he has guessed right?"

Then the pony was promised; and Kate, trusting in Tony Tuppett's
sagacity, was happy.

"Have you heard of all this about Dillsborough Wood?" asked Mrs.
Masters. The attorney shrank at the question, and shook himself
uneasily in his chair.

"Yes; I've heard about it," said Larry.

"And what do you think about it? I don't see why Lord Rufford is to
ride over everybody because he's a lord." Mr. Twentyman scratched
his head. Though a keen sportsman himself, he did not specially like
Lord Rufford,--a fact which had been very well known to Mrs. Masters.
But, nevertheless, this threatened action against the nobleman was
distasteful to him. It was not a hunting affair, or Mr. Twentyman
could not have doubted for a moment. It was a shooting difficulty,
and as Mr. Twentyman had never been asked to fire a gun on the
Rufford preserves, it was no great sorrow to him that there should be
such a difficulty. But the thing threatened was an attack upon the
country gentry and their amusements, and Mr. Twentyman was a country
gentleman who followed sport. Upon the whole his sympathies were with
Lord Rufford.

"The man is an utter blackguard, you know," said Larry. "Last year he
threatened to shoot the foxes in Dillsborough Wood."

"No!" said Kate, quite horrified.

"I'm afraid he's a bad sort of fellow all round," said the attorney.

"I don't see why he shouldn't claim what he thinks due to him," said
Mrs. Masters.

"I'm told that his lordship offered him seven-and-six an acre for the
whole of the two fields," said the gentleman-farmer.

"Goarly declares," said Mrs. Masters, "that the pheasants didn't
leave him four bushels of wheat to the acre."

Goarly was the man who had proposed himself as a client to Mr.
Masters, and who was desirous of claiming damages to the amount of
forty shillings an acre for injury done to the crops on two fields
belonging to himself which lay adjacent to Dillsborough Wood, a
covert belonging to Lord Rufford, about four miles from the town, in
which both pheasants and foxes were preserved with great care.

"Has Goarly been to you?" asked Twentyman.

Mr. Masters nodded his head. "That's just it," said Mrs. Masters. "I
don't see why a man isn't to go to law if he pleases--that is, if he
can afford to pay for it. I have nothing to say against gentlemen's
sport; but I do say that they should run the same chance as others.
And I say it's a shame if they're to band themselves together and
make the county too hot to hold any one as doesn't like to have his
things ridden over, and his crops devoured, and his fences knocked to
Jericho. I think there's a deal of selfishness in sport and a deal of
tyranny."

"Oh, Mrs. Masters!" exclaimed Larry.

"Well, I do. And if a poor man,--or a man whether he's poor or no,"
added Mrs. Masters, correcting herself, as she thought of the money
which this man ought to have in order that he might pay for his
lawsuit,--"thinks hisself injured, it's nonsense to tell me that
nobody should take up his case. It's just as though the butcher
wouldn't sell a man a leg of mutton because Lord Rufford had a spite
against him. Who's Lord Rufford?"

"Everybody knows that I care very little for his lordship," said Mr.
Twentyman.

"Nor I; and I don't see why Gregory should. If Goarly isn't entitled
to what he wants he won't get it; that's all. But let it be tried
fairly."

Hereupon Mr. Masters took up his hat and left the room, and Mr.
Twentyman followed him, not having yet expressed any positive opinion
on the delicate matter submitted to his judgment. Of course, Goarly
was a brute. Had he not threatened to shoot foxes? But, then, an
attorney must live by lawsuits, and it seemed to Mr. Twentyman that
an attorney should not stop to inquire whether a new client is a
brute or not.



CHAPTER IV.

THE DILLSBOROUGH CLUB.


The club, so called at Dillsborough, was held every Saturday evening
in a back parlour at the Bush, and was attended generally by seven
or eight members. It was a very easy club. There was no balloting,
and no other expense attending it other than that of paying for the
liquor which each man chose to drink. Sometimes, about ten o'clock,
there was a little supper, the cost of which was defrayed by
subscription among those who partook of it. It was one rule of the
club, or a habit, rather, which had grown to be a rule, that Mr.
Runciman might introduce into it any one he pleased. I do not know
that a similar privilege was denied to any one else; but as Mr.
Runciman had a direct pecuniary advantage in promoting the club, the
new-comers were generally ushered in by him. When the attorney and
Twentyman entered the room Mr. Runciman was seated as usual in an
arm-chair at the corner of the fire nearest to the door, with the
bell at his right hand. He was a hale, good-looking man about fifty,
with black hair, now turning grey at the edges, and a clean-shorn
chin. He had a pronounced strong face of his own, one capable of
evincing anger and determination when necessary, but equally apt for
smiles or, on occasion, for genuine laughter. He was a masterful but
a pleasant man, very civil to customers and to his friends generally
while they took him the right way; but one who could be a Tartar if
he were offended, holding an opinion that his position as landlord
of an inn was one requiring masterdom. And his wife was like him in
everything,--except in this, that she always submitted to him. He was
a temperate man in the main; but on Saturday nights he would become
jovial, and sometimes a little quarrelsome. When this occurred
the club would generally break itself up and go home to bed, not
in the least offended. Indeed Mr. Runciman was the tyrant of the
club, though it was held at his house expressly with the view of
putting money into his pocket. Opposite to his seat was another
arm-chair,--not so big as Mr. Runciman's, but still a soft and easy
chair,--which was always left for the attorney. For Mr. Masters was
a man much respected through all Dillsborough, partly on his own
account, but more perhaps for the sake of his father and grandfather.
He was a round-faced, clean-shorn man, with straggling grey hair, who
always wore black clothes and a white cravat. There was something in
his appearance which recommended him among his neighbours, who were
disposed to say he "looked the gentleman;" but a stranger might have
thought his cheeks to be flabby and his mouth to be weak.

Making a circle, or the beginning of a circle, round the fire, were
Nupper, the doctor,--a sporting old bachelor doctor who had the
reputation of riding after the hounds in order that he might be
ready for broken bones and minor accidents; next to him, in another
arm-chair, facing the fire, was Ned Botsey, the younger of the two
brewers from Norrington, who was in the habit during the hunting
season of stopping from Saturday to Monday at the Bush, partly
because the Rufford hounds hunted on Saturday and Monday and on
those days seldom met in the Norrington direction, and partly because
he liked the sporting conversation of the Dillsborough Club. He
was a little man, very neat in his attire, who liked to be above
his company, and fancied that he was so in Mr. Runciman's parlour.
Between him and the attorney's chair was Harry Stubbings, from
Stanton Corner, the man who let out hunters, and whom Twentyman had
threatened to thrash. His introduction to the club had taken place
lately, not without some opposition; but Runciman had set his foot
upon that, saying that it was "all d---- nonsense." He had prevailed,
and Twentyman had consented to meet the man; but there was no great
friendship between them. Seated back on the sofa was Mr. Ribbs, the
butcher, who was allowed into the society as being a specially modest
man. His modesty, perhaps, did not hinder him in an affair of sheep
or bullocks, nor yet in the collection of his debts; but at the club
he understood his position, and rarely opened his mouth to speak.
When Twentyman followed the attorney into the room there was a vacant
chair between Mr. Botsey and Harry Stubbings; but he would not get
into it, preferring to seat himself on the table at Botsey's right
hand.

"So Goarly was with you, Mr. Masters," Mr. Runciman began as soon as
the attorney was seated. It was clear that they had all been talking
about Goarly and his law-suit, and that Goarly and the law-suit would
be talked about very generally in Dillsborough.

"He was over at my place this evening," said the attorney.

"You are not going to take his case up for him, Mr. Masters?" said
young Botsey. "We expect something better from you than that."

Now Ned Botsey was rather an impudent young man, and Mr. Masters,
though he was mild enough at home, did not like impudence from the
world at large. "I suppose, Mr. Botsey," said he, "that if Goarly
were to go to you for a barrel of beer you'd sell it to him?"

"I don't know whether I should or not. I dare say my people would.
But that's a different thing."

"I don't see any difference at all. You're not very particular as
to your customers, and I don't ask you any questions about them.
Ring the bell, Runciman, please." The bell was rung, and the two
new-comers ordered their liquor.

It was quite right that Ned Botsey should be put down. Every one in
the room felt that. But there was something in the attorney's tone
which made the assembled company feel that he had undertaken Goarly's
case; whereas, in the opinion of the company, Goarly was a scoundrel
with whom Mr. Masters should have had nothing to do. The attorney
had never been a sporting man himself, but he had always been, as it
were, on that side.

"Goarly is a great fool for his pains," said the doctor. "He has had
a very fair offer made him, and, first or last, it'll cost him forty
pounds."

"He has got it into his head," said the landlord, "that he can sue
Lord Rufford for his fences. Lord Rufford is not answerable for his
fences."

"It's the loss of crop he's going for," said Twentyman.

"How can there be pheasants to that amount in Dillsborough Wood,"
continued the landlord, "when everybody knows that foxes breed there
every year? There isn't a surer find for a fox in the whole county.
Everybody knows that Lord Rufford never lets his game stand in the
way of foxes."

Lord Rufford was Mr. Runciman's great friend and patron and best
customer, and not a word against Lord Rufford was allowed in that
room, though elsewhere in Dillsborough ill-natured things were
sometimes said of his lordship. Then there came on that well-worn
dispute among sportsmen, whether foxes and pheasants are or are not
pleasant companions to each other. Every one was agreed that, if not,
then the pheasants should suffer, and that any country gentleman who
allowed his gamekeeper to entrench on the privileges of foxes in
order that pheasants might be more abundant, was a "brute" and a
"beast," and altogether unworthy to live in England. Larry Twentyman
and Ned Botsey expressed an opinion that pheasants were predominant
in Dillsborough Wood, while Mr. Runciman, the doctor, and Harry
Stubbings declared loudly that everything that foxes could desire was
done for them in that Elysium of sport.

"We drew the wood blank last time we were there," said Larry. "Don't
you remember, Mr. Runciman, about the end of last March?"

"Of course I remember," said the landlord. "Just the end of the
season, when two vixens had litters in the wood! You don't suppose
Bean was going to let that old butcher, Tony, find a fox in
Dillsborough at that time." Bean was his lordship's head gamekeeper
in that part of the country. "How many foxes had we found there
during the season?"

"Two or three," suggested Botsey.

"Seven!" said the energetic landlord; "seven, including
cub-hunting,--and killed four! If you kill four foxes out of an
eighty-acre wood, and have two litters at the end of the season, I
don't think you have much to complain of."

"If they all did as well as Lord Rufford, you'd have more foxes than
you'd know what to do with," said the doctor.

Then this branch of the conversation was ended by a bet of a new
hat between Botsey and the landlord as to the finding of a fox in
Dillsborough Wood when it should next be drawn; as to which, when the
speculation was completed, Harry Stubbings offered Mr. Runciman ten
shillings down for his side of the bargain.

But all this did not divert the general attention from the important
matter of Goarly's attack. "Let it be how it will," said Mr.
Runciman, "a fellow like that should be put down." He did not address
himself specially to Mr. Masters, but that gentleman felt that he was
being talked at.

"Certainly he ought," said Dr. Nupper. "If he didn't feel satisfied
with what his lordship offered him, why couldn't he ask his lordship
to refer the matter to a couple of farmers who understood it?"

"It's the spirit of the thing," said Mr. Ribbs, from his place on the
sofa. "It's a hodious spirit."

"That's just it, Mr. Ribbs," said Harry Stubbings. "It's all meant
for opposition. Whether it's shooting or whether it's hunting, it's
all one. Such a chap oughtn't to be allowed to have land. I'd take it
away from him by Act of Parliament. It's such as him as is destroying
the country."

"There ain't many of them hereabouts, thank God!" said the landlord.

"Now, Mr. Twentyman," said Stubbings, who was anxious to make friends
with the gentleman-farmer, "you know what land can do, and what land
has done, as well as any man. What would you say was the real damage
done to them two wheat-fields by his lordship's game last autumn? You
saw the crops as they were growing, and you know what came off the
land."

"I wouldn't like to say."

"But if you were on your oath, Mr. Twentyman? Was there more than
seven-and-sixpence an acre lost?"

"No, nor five shillings," said Runciman.

"I think Goarly ought to take his lordship's offer--if you mean
that," said Twentyman.

Then there was a pause, during which more drink was brought in, and
pipes were re-lighted. Everybody wished that Mr. Masters might be
got to say that he would not take the case, but there was a delicacy
about asking him. "If I remember right he was in Rufford Gaol once,"
said Runciman.

"He was let out on bail and then the matter was hushed up somehow,"
said the attorney.

"It was something about a woman," continued Runciman. "I know that on
that occasion he came out an awful scoundrel."

"Don't you remember," asked Botsey, "how he used to walk up and down
the covert-side with a gun, two years ago, swearing he would shoot
the fox if he broke over his land?"

"I heard him say it, Botsey," said Twentyman.

"It wouldn't have been the first fox he's murdered," said the doctor.

"Not by many," said the landlord.

"You remember that old woman near my place?" said Stubbings. "It was
he that put her up to tell all them lies about her turkeys. I ran it
home to him! A blackguard like that! Nobody ought to take him up."

"I hope you won't, Mr. Masters," said the doctor. The doctor was as
old as the attorney, and had known him for many years. No one else
could dare to ask the question.

"I don't suppose I shall, Nupper," said the attorney from his chair.
It was the first word he had spoken since he had put down young
Botsey. "It wouldn't just suit me; but a man has to judge of those
things for himself."

Then there was a general rejoicing, and Mr. Runciman stood broiled
bones, and ham and eggs, and bottled stout for the entire club;
one unfortunate effect of which unwonted conviviality was that Mr.
Masters did not get home till near twelve o'clock. That was sure to
cause discomfort; and then he had pledged himself to decline Goarly's
business.



CHAPTER V.

REGINALD MORTON.


We will now go back to Hoppet Hall and its inhabitants. When the old
squire died he left by his will Hoppet Hall and certain other houses
in Dillsborough, which was all that he could leave, to his grandson
Reginald Morton. Then there arose a question whether this property
also was not entailed. The former Mr. Masters, and our friend of the
present day, had been quite certain of the squire's power to do what
he liked with it; but others had been equally certain on the other
side, and there had been a lawsuit. During that time Reginald Morton
had been forced to live on a very small allowance. His aunt, Lady
Ushant, had done what little she could for him, but it had been felt
to be impossible that he should remain at Bragton, which was the
property of the cousin who was at law with him. From the moment
of his birth the Honourable Mrs. Morton, who was also his aunt by
marriage, had been his bitter enemy. He was the son of an innkeeper's
daughter, and according to her theory of life, should never even have
been noticed by the real Mortons. And this honourable old lady was
almost equally adverse to Lady Ushant, whose husband had simply been
a knight, and who had left nothing behind him. Thus Reginald Morton
had been friendless since his grandfather died, and had lived in
Germany, nobody quite knew how. During the entire period of this
law-suit Hoppet Hall had remained untenanted.

When the property was finally declared to belong to Reginald Morton,
the Hall, before it could be used, required considerable repair. But
there was other property. The Bush Inn belonged to Reginald Morton,
as did the house in which Mr. Masters lived, and sundry other smaller
tenements in the vicinity. There was an income from these of about
five hundred pounds a year. Reginald, who was then nearly thirty
years of age, came over to England, and stayed for a month or two at
Bragton with his aunt, to the infinite chagrin of the old dowager.
The management of the town property was entrusted to Mr. Masters, and
Hoppet Hall was repaired. At this period Mr. Mainwaring had just come
to Dillsborough, and having a wife with some money and perhaps quite
as much pretension, had found the rectory too small, and had taken
the Hall on a lease for seven years. When this was arranged Reginald
Morton again went to Germany, and did not return till the lease had
run out. By that time Mr. Mainwaring, having spent a little money,
found that the rectory would be large enough for his small family.
Then the Hall was again untenanted for awhile, till, quite suddenly,
Reginald Morton returned to Dillsborough, and took up his permanent
residence in his own house.

It soon became known that the new-comer would not add much to the
gaiety of the place. The only people whom he knew in Dillsborough
were his own tenants, Mr. Runciman and Mr. Masters, and the
attorney's eldest daughter. During those months which he had spent
with Lady Ushant at Bragton, Mary had been living there, then a child
of twelve years old; and, as a child, had become his fast friend.
With his aunt he had continually corresponded, and partly at her
instigation, and partly from feelings of his own, he had at once
gone to the attorney's house. This was now two years since, and
he had found in his old playmate a beautiful young woman, in his
opinion very unlike the people with whom she lived. For the first
twelvemonths he saw her occasionally,--though not indeed very often.
Once or twice he had drunk tea at the attorney's house, on which
occasions the drawing-room upstairs had been almost as grand as it
was uncomfortable. Then the attentions of Larry Twentyman began to
make themselves visible, infinitely to Reginald Morton's disgust. Up
to that time he had no idea of falling in love with the girl himself.
Since he had begun to think on such subjects at all he had made up
his mind that he would not marry. He was almost the more proud of his
birth by his father's side, because he had been made to hear so much
of his mother's low position. He had told himself a hundred times
that under no circumstances could he marry any other than a lady of
good birth. But his own fortune was small, and he knew himself well
enough to be sure that he would not marry for money. He was now
nearly forty years of age and had never yet been thrown into the
society of any one that had attracted him. He was sure that he would
not marry. And yet when he saw that Mr. Twentyman was made much of
and flattered by the whole Masters family, apparently because he was
regarded as an eligible husband for Mary, Reginald Morton was not
only disgusted, but personally offended. Being a most unreasonable
man he conceived a bitter dislike to poor Larry, who, at any rate,
was truly in love, and was not looking too high in desiring to marry
the portionless daughter of the attorney. But Morton thought that the
man ought to be kicked and horsewhipped, or, at any rate, banished
into some speechless exile for his presumption.

With Mr. Runciman he had dealings, and in some sort friendship. There
were two meadows attached to Hoppet Hall,--fields lying close to
the town, which were very suitable for the landlord's purposes. Mr.
Mainwaring had held them in his own hands, taking them up from Mr.
Runciman, who had occupied them while the house was untenanted, in a
manner which induced Mr. Runciman to feel that it was useless to go
to church to hear such sermons as those preached by the rector. But
Morton had restored the fields, giving them rent free, on condition
that he should be supplied with milk and butter. Mr. Runciman, no
doubt, had the best of the bargain, as he generally had in all
bargains; but he was a man who liked to be generous when generously
treated. Consequently he almost overdid his neighbour with butter and
cream, and occasionally sent in quarters of lamb and sweetbreads to
make up the weight. I don't know that the offerings were particularly
valued; but friendship was engendered. Runciman, too, had his grounds
for quarrelling with those who had taken up the management of the
Bragton property after the squire's death, and had his own antipathy
to the Honourable Mrs. Morton and her grandson, the Secretary of
Legation. When the law-suit was going on he had been altogether on
Reginald Morton's side. It was an affair of sides, and quite natural
that Runciman and the attorney should be friendly with the new-comer
at Hoppet Hall, though there were very few points of personal
sympathy between them.

Reginald Morton was no sportsman, nor was he at all likely to become
a member of the Dillsborough Club. It was currently reported of him
in the town that he had never sat on a horse or fired off a gun. As
he had been brought up as a boy by the old squire this was probably
an exaggeration, but it is certain that at this period of his life
he had given up any aptitudes in that direction for which his early
training might have suited him. He had brought back with him to
Hoppet Hall many cases of books which the ignorance of Dillsborough
had magnified into an enormous library, and he was certainly a
sedentary, reading man. There was already a report in the town that
he was engaged in some stupendous literary work, and the men and
women generally looked upon him as a disagreeable marvel of learning.
Dillsborough of itself was not bookish, and would have regarded
any one known to have written an article in a magazine almost as a
phenomenon.

He seldom went to church, much to the sorrow of Mr. Surtees, who
ventured to call at the house and remonstrate with him. He never
called again. And though it was the habit of Mr. Surtees' life to
speak as little ill as possible of any one, he was not able to say
any good of Mr. Morton. Mr. Mainwaring, who would never have troubled
himself though his parishioner had not entered a place of worship
once in a twelvemonth, did say many severe things against his former
landlord. He hated people who were unsocial and averse to dining out,
and who departed from the ways of living common among English country
gentlemen. Mr. Mainwaring was, upon the whole, prepared to take the
other side.

Reginald Morton, though he was now nearly forty, was a young-looking,
handsome man, with fair hair, cut short, and a light beard, which was
always clipped. Though his mother had been an innkeeper's daughter in
Montreal he had the Morton blue eyes and the handsome well-cut Morton
nose. He was nearly six feet high, and strongly made, and was known
to be a much finer man than the Secretary of Legation, who was rather
small, and supposed to be not very robust.

Our lonely man was a great walker, and had investigated every lane
and pathway, and almost every hedge within ten miles of Dillsborough
before he had resided there two years; but his favourite rambles
were all in the neighbourhood of Bragton. As there was no one living
in the house,--no one but the old housekeeper who had lived there
always,--he was able to wander about the place as he pleased. On the
Tuesday afternoon, after the meeting of the Dillsborough Club which
has been recorded, he was seated, about three o'clock, on the rail of
the foot-bridge over the Dill, with a long German pipe hanging from
his mouth. He was noted throughout the whole country for this pipe,
or for others like it, such a one usually being in his mouth as he
wandered about. The amount of tobacco which he had smoked since his
return to these parts, exactly in that spot, was considerable, for
there he might have been found at some period of the afternoon at
least three times a week. He would sit on this rail for half an hour
looking down at the sluggish waters of the little river, rolling the
smoke out of his mouth at long intervals, and thinking perhaps of
the great book which he was supposed to be writing. As he sat there
now, he suddenly heard voices and laughter, and presently three girls
came round the corner of the hedge, which, at this spot, hid the
Dillsborough path,--and he saw the attorney's three daughters.

"It's Mr. Morton," said Dolly in a whisper.

"He's always walking about Bragton," said Kate in another whisper.
"Tony Tuppett says that he's the Bragton ghost."

"Kate," said Mary, also in a low voice, "you shouldn't talk so much
about what you hear from Tony Tuppett."

"Bosh!" said Kate, who knew that she could not be scolded in the
presence of Mr. Morton.

He came forward and shook hands with them all, and took off his hat
to Mary. "You've walked a long way, Miss Masters," he said.

"We don't think it far. I like sometimes to come and look at the old
place."

"And so do I. I wonder whether you remember how often I've sat you on
this rail and threatened to throw you into the river?"

"I remember very well that you did threaten me once, and that I
almost believed that you would throw me in."

"What had she done that was naughty, Mr. Morton?" asked Kate.

"I don't think she ever did anything naughty in those days. I don't
know whether she has changed for the worse since."

"Mary is never naughty now," said Dolly. "Kate and I are naughty, and
it's very much better fun than being good."

"The world has found out that long ago, Miss Dolly; only the world is
not quite so candid in owning it as you are. Will you come and walk
round the house, Miss Masters? I never go in, but I have no scruples
about the paths and park."

At the end of the bridge leading into the shrubbery there was a
stile, high indeed, but made commodiously with steps, almost like a
double staircase, so that ladies could pass it without trouble. Mary
had given her assent to the proposed walk, and was in the act of
putting out her hand to be helped over the stile, when Mr. Twentyman
appeared at the other side of it.

"If here isn't Larry!" said Kate.

Morton's face turned as black as thunder, but he immediately went
back across the bridge, leading Mary with him. The other girls, who
had followed him on to the bridge, had of course to go back also.
Mary was made very unhappy by the meeting. Mr. Morton would of course
think that it had been planned, whereas by Mary herself it had been
altogether unexpected. Kate, when the bridge was free, rushed over it
and whispered something to Larry. The meeting had indeed been planned
between her and Dolly and the lover, and this special walk had been
taken at the request of the two younger girls.

Morton stood stock still, as though he expected that Twentyman would
pass by. Larry hurried over the bridge, feeling sure that the meeting
with Morton had been accidental and thinking that he would pass on
towards the house.

Larry was not at all ashamed of his purpose, nor was he inclined
to give way and pass on. He came up boldly to his love, and shook
hands with her with a pleasant smile. "If you are walking back to
Dillsborough," he said, "maybe you'll let me go a little way with
you?"

"I was going round the house with Mr. Morton," she said timidly.

"Perhaps I can join you?" said he, bobbing his head at the other man.

"If you intended to walk back with Mr. Twentyman--," began Morton.

"But I didn't," said the poor girl, who in truth understood more of
it all than did either of the two men. "I didn't expect him, and I
didn't expect you. It's a pity I can't go both ways, isn't it?" she
added, attempting to appear cheerful.

"Come back, Mary," said Kate; "we've had walking enough, and shall be
awfully tired before we get home."

Mary had thought that she would like extremely to go round the house
with her old friend and have a hundred incidents of her early life
called to her memory. The meeting with Reginald Morton had been
altogether pleasant to her. She had often felt how much she would
have liked it had the chance of her life enabled her to see more
frequently one whom as a child she had so intimately known. But at
the moment she lacked the courage to walk boldly across the bridge,
and thus to rid herself of Lawrence Twentyman. She had already
perceived that Morton's manner had rendered it impossible that her
lover should follow them. "I am afraid I must go home," she said.
It was the very thing she did not want to do,--this going home
with Lawrence Twentyman; and yet she herself said that she must do
it,--driven to say so by a nervous dread of showing herself to be
fond of the other man's company.

"Good afternoon to you," said Morton very gloomily, waving his hat
and stalking across the bridge.



CHAPTER VI.

NOT IN LOVE.


Reginald Morton, as he walked across the bridge towards the house,
was thoroughly disgusted with all the world. He was very angry with
himself, feeling that he had altogether made a fool of himself by
his manner. He had shown himself to be offended, not only by Mr.
Twentyman, but by Miss Masters also, and he was well aware, as he
thought of it all, that neither of them had given him any cause of
offence. If she chose to make an appointment for a walk with Mr.
Lawrence Twentyman and to keep it, what was that to him? His anger
was altogether irrational, and he knew that it was so. What right had
he to have an opinion about it if Mary Masters should choose to like
the society of Mr. Twentyman? It was an affair between her and her
father and mother in which he could have no interest; and yet he had
not only taken offence, but was well aware that he had shown his
feeling.

Nevertheless, as to the girl herself, he could not argue himself out
of his anger. It was grievous to him that he should have gone out of
his way to ask her to walk with him just at the moment when she was
expecting this vulgar lover,--for that she had expected him he felt
no doubt. Yet he had heard her disclaim any intention of walking
with the man! But girls are sly, especially when their lovers are
concerned. It made him sore at heart to feel that this girl should be
sly, and doubly sore to think that she should have been able to love
such a one as Lawrence Twentyman.

As he roamed about among the grounds this idea troubled him much. He
assured himself that he was not in love with her himself, and that he
had no idea of falling in love with her; but it sickened him to think
that a girl who had been brought up by his aunt, who had been loved
at Bragton, whom he had liked, who looked so like a lady, should put
herself on a par with such a wretch as that. In all this he was most
unjust to both of them. He was specially unjust to poor Larry, who
was by no means a wretch. His costume was not that to which Morton
had been accustomed in Germany, nor would it have passed without
notice in Bond Street. But it was rational and clean. When he came
to the bridge to meet his sweetheart he had on a dark-green shooting
coat, a billicock hat, brown breeches, and gaiters nearly up to his
knees. I don't know that a young man in the country could wear more
suitable attire. And he was a well-made man,--just such a one as,
in this dress, would take the eye of a country girl. There was a
little bit of dash about him,--just a touch of swagger,--which better
breeding might have prevented. But it was not enough to make him
odious to an unprejudiced observer. I could fancy that an old lady
from London, with an eye in her head for manly symmetry, would have
liked to look at Larry, and would have thought that a girl in Mary's
position would be happy in having such a lover, providing that his
character was good and his means adequate. But Reginald Morton was
not an old woman, and to his eyes the smart young farmer with his
billicock hat, not quite straight on his head, was an odious thing
to behold. He exaggerated the swagger, and took no notice whatever
of the well-made limbs. And then this man had proposed to accompany
him, had wanted to join his party, had thought it possible that a
flirtation might be carried on in his presence! He sincerely hated
the man. But what was he to think of such a girl as Mary Masters when
she could bring herself to like the attentions of such a lover?

He was very cross with himself because he knew how unreasonable
was his anger. Of one thing only could he assure himself,--that he
would never again willingly put himself in Mary's company. What was
Dillsborough and the ways of its inhabitants to him? Why should he
so far leave the old fashions of his life as to fret himself about
an attorney's daughter in a little English town? And yet he did fret
himself, walking rapidly, and smoking his pipe a great deal quicker
than was his custom.

When he was about to return home he passed the front of the house,
and there, standing at the open door, he saw Mrs. Hopkins, the
housekeeper, who had in truth been waiting for him. He said a
good-natured word to her, intending to make his way on without
stopping, but she called him back. "Have you heard the news, Mr.
Reginald?" she said.

"I haven't heard any news this twelvemonth," he replied.

"Laws, that is so like you, Mr. Reginald. The young squire is to be
here next week."

"Who is the young squire? I didn't know there was any squire now."

"Mr. Reginald!"

"A squire as I take it, Mrs. Hopkins, is a country gentleman who
lives on his own property. Since my grandfather's time no such
gentleman has lived at Bragton."

"That's true, too, Mr. Reginald. Any way Mr. Morton is coming down
next week."

"I thought he was in America."

"He has come home, for a turn like,--and is staying up in town with
the old lady." The old lady always meant the Honourable Mrs. Morton.

"And is the old lady coming down with him?"

"I fancy she is, Mr. Reginald. He didn't say as much, but only
that there would be three or four,--a couple of ladies he said,
and perhaps more. So I am getting the east bedroom, with the
dressing-room, and the blue room for her ladyship." People about
Bragton had been accustomed to call Mrs. Morton her ladyship.
"That's where she always used to be. Would you come in and see, Mr.
Reginald?"

"Certainly not, Mrs. Hopkins. If you were asking me into a house of
your own, I would go in and see all the rooms and chat with you for
an hour; but I don't suppose I shall ever go into this house again
unless things change very much indeed."

"Then I'm sure I hope they will change, Mr. Reginald." Mrs. Hopkins
had known Reginald Morton as a boy growing up into manhood,--had
almost been present at his birth, and had renewed her friendship
while he was staying with Lady Ushant; but of the present squire, as
she called him, she had seen almost nothing, and what she had once
remembered of him had now been obliterated by an absence of twenty
years. Of course she was on Reginald's side in the family quarrel,
although she was the paid servant of the Foreign Office paragon.

"And they are to be here next week. What day next week, Mrs.
Hopkins?" Mrs. Hopkins didn't know on what day she was to expect
the visitors, nor how long they intended to stay. Mr. John Morton
had said in his letter that he would send his own man down two days
before his arrival, and that was nearly all that he had said.

Then Morton started on his return walk to Dillsborough, again taking
the path across the bridge. "Ah!" he said to himself with a shudder
as he crossed the stile, thinking of his own softened feelings as he
had held out his hand to help Mary Masters, and then of his revulsion
of feeling when she declared her purpose of walking home with Mr.
Twentyman. And he struck the rail of the bridge with his stick as
though he were angry with the place altogether. And he thought to
himself that he would never come there any more, that he hated the
place, and that he would never cross that bridge again.

Then his mind reverted to the tidings he had heard from Mrs. Hopkins.
What ought he to do when his cousin arrived? Though there had been a
long lawsuit, there had been no actual declared quarrel between him
and the heir. He had, indeed, never seen the heir for the last twenty
years, nor had they ever interchanged letters. There had been no
communication whatever between them, and therefore there could hardly
be a quarrel. He disliked his cousin; nay, almost hated him; he
was quite aware of that. And he was sure also that he hated that
Honourable old woman worse than any one else in the world, and that
he always would do so. He knew that the Honourable old woman had
attempted to drive his own mother from Bragton, and of course he
hated her. But that was no reason why he should not call on his
cousin. He was anxious to do what was right. He was specially anxious
that blame should not be attributed to him. What he would like best
would be that he might call, might find nobody at home,--and that
then John Morton should not return the courtesy. He did not want to
go to Bragton as a guest; he did not wish to be in the wrong himself;
but he was by no means equally anxious that his cousin should keep
himself free from reproach.

The bridge path came out on the Dillsborough road just two miles from
the town, and Morton, as he got over the last stile, saw Lawrence
Twentyman coming towards him on the road. The man, no doubt, had gone
all the way into Dillsborough with the girls, and was now returning
home. The parish of Bragton lies to the left of the high road as you
go into the town from Rufford and the direction of London, whereas
Chowton Farm, the property of Mr. Twentyman, is on the right of
the road, but in the large parish of St. John's, Dillsborough.
Dillsborough Wood lies at the back of Larry Twentyman's land, and
joining on to Larry's land and also to the wood is the patch of
ground owned by "that scoundrel Goarly." Chowton Farm gate opens on
to the high road, so that Larry was now on his direct way home. As
soon as he saw Morton he made up his mind to speak to him. He was
quite sure from what had passed between him and the girls, on the
road home, that he had done something wrong. He was convinced that he
had interfered in some ill-bred way, though he did not at all know
how. Of Reginald Morton he was not in the least jealous. He, too, was
of a jealous temperament, but it had never occurred to him to join
Reginald Morton and Mary Masters together. He was very much in love
with Mary, but had no idea that she was in any way above the position
which she might naturally hold as daughter of the Dillsborough
attorney. But of Reginald Morton's attributes and scholarship and
general standing he had a mystified appreciation which saved him
from the pain of thinking that such a man could be in love with his
sweetheart. As he certainly did not wish to quarrel with Morton,
having always taken Reginald's side in the family disputes, he
thought that he would say a civil word in passing, and, if possible,
apologise. When Morton came up he raised his hand to his head and did
open his mouth, though not pronouncing any word very clearly. Morton
looked at him as grim as death, just raised his hand, and then passed
on with a quick step. Larry was displeased; but the other was so
thoroughly a gentleman,--one of the Mortons, and a man of property in
the county,--that he didn't even yet wish to quarrel with him. "What
the deuce have I done?" said he to himself as he walked on--"I didn't
tell her not to go up to the house. If I offered to walk with her
what was that to him?" It must be remembered that Lawrence Twentyman
was twelve years younger than Reginald Morton, and that a man of
twenty-eight is apt to regard a man of forty as very much too old for
falling in love. It is a mistake which it will take him fully ten
years to rectify, and then he will make a similar mistake as to men
of fifty. With his awe for Morton's combined learning and age, it
never occurred to him to be jealous.

Morton passed on rapidly, almost feeling that he had been a brute.
But what business had the objectionable man to address him? He tried
to excuse himself, but yet he felt that he had been a brute,--and had
so demeaned himself in reference to the daughter of the Dillsborough
attorney! He would teach himself to do all he could to promote the
marriage. He would give sage advice to Mary Masters as to the wisdom
of establishing herself,--having not an hour since made up his mind
that he would never see her again! He would congratulate the attorney
and Mrs. Masters. He would conquer the absurd feeling which at
present was making him wretched. He would cultivate some sort of
acquaintance with the man, and make the happy pair a wedding present.
But, yet, what "a beast" the man was, with that billicock hat on one
side of his head, and those tight leather gaiters!

As he passed through the town towards his own house, he saw Mr.
Runciman standing in front of the hotel. His road took him up Hobbs
gate, by the corner of the Bush; but Runciman came a little out of
the way to meet him. "You have heard the news?" said the innkeeper.

"I have heard one piece of news."

"What's that, sir?"

"Come,--you tell me yours first."

"The young squire is coming down to Bragton next week."

"That's my news too. It is not likely that there should be two
matters of interest in Dillsborough on the same day."

"I don't know why Dillsborough should be worse off than any other
place, Mr. Morton; but at any rate the squire's coming."

"So Mrs. Hopkins told me. Has he written to you?"

"His coachman or his groom has; or perhaps he keeps what they call an
ekkery. He's much too big a swell to write to the likes of me. Lord
bless me,--when I think of it, I wonder how many dozen of orders I've
had from Lord Rufford under his own hand. 'Dear Runciman, dinner at
eight; ten of us; won't wait a moment. Yours R.' I suppose Mr. Morton
would think that his lordship had let himself down by anything of
that sort?"

"What does my cousin want?"

"Two pair of horses,--for a week certain, and perhaps longer, and
two carriages. How am I to let anyone have two pair of horses for a
week certain,--and perhaps longer? What are other customers to do? I
can supply a gentleman by the month and buy horses to suit; or I can
supply him by the job. But I guess Mr. Morton don't well know how
things are managed in this country. He'll have to learn."

"What day does he come?"

"They haven't told me that yet, Mr. Morton."



CHAPTER VII.

THE WALK HOME.


Mary Masters, when Reginald Morton had turned his back upon her
at the bridge, was angry with herself and with him, which was
reasonable; and very angry also with Larry Twentyman, which was
unreasonable. As she had at once acceded to Morton's proposal that
they should walk round the house together, surely he should not have
deserted her so soon. It had not been her fault that the other man
had come up. She had not wanted him. But she was aware that when the
option had in some sort been left to herself, she had elected to walk
back with Larry. She knew her own motives and her own feelings, but
neither of the men would understand them. Because she preferred the
company of Mr. Morton, and had at the moment feared that her sisters
would have deserted her had she followed him, therefore she had
declared her purpose of going back to Dillsborough, in doing which
she knew that Larry and the girls would accompany her. But of course
Mr. Morton would think that she had preferred the company of her
recognised admirer. It was pretty well known in Dillsborough that
Larry was her lover. Her stepmother had spoken of it very freely; and
Larry himself was a man who did not keep his lights hidden under a
bushel. "I hope I've not been in the way, Mary," said Mr. Twentyman,
as soon as Morton was out of hearing.

"In the way of what?"

"I didn't think there was any harm in offering to go up to the house
with you if you were going."

"Who has said there was any harm?" The path was only broad enough for
one and she was walking first. Larry was following her and the girls
were behind him.

"I think that Mr. Morton is a very stuck-up fellow," said Kate, who
was the last.

"Hold your tongue, Kate," said Mary. "You don't know what you are
talking about."

"I know as well as any one when a person is good-natured. What made
him go off in that hoity-toity fashion? Nobody had said anything to
him."

"He always looks as though he were going to eat somebody," said
Dolly.

"He shan't eat me," said Kate.

Then there was a pause, during which they all went along quickly,
Mary leading the way. Larry felt that he was wasting his opportunity;
and yet hardly knew how to use it, feeling that the girl was angry
with him.

"I wish you'd say, Mary, whether you think that I did anything
wrong?"

"Nothing wrong to me, Mr. Twentyman."

"Did I do anything wrong to him?"

"I don't know how far you may be acquainted with him. He was
proposing to go somewhere, and you offered to go with him."

"I offered to go with you," said Larry sturdily. "I suppose I'm
sufficiently acquainted with you."

"Quite so," said Mary.

"Why should he be so proud? I never said an uncivil word to him.
He's nothing to me. If he can do without me, I'm sure that I can do
without him."

"Very well indeed, I should think."

"The truth is, Mary--"

"There has been quite enough said about it, Mr. Twentyman."

"The truth is, Mary, I came on purpose to have a word with you."
Hearing this, Kate rushed on and pulled Larry by the tail of his
coat.

"How did you know I was to be there?" demanded Mary sharply.

"I didn't know. I had reason to think you perhaps might be there. The
girls I knew had been asking you to come as far as the bridge. At any
rate I took my chance. I'd seen him some time before, and then I saw
you."

"If I'm to be watched about in that way," said Mary angrily, "I won't
go out at all."

"Of course I want to see you. Why shouldn't I? I'm all fair and above
board;--ain't I? Your father and mother know all about it. It isn't
as though I were doing anything clandestine." He paused for a reply,
but Mary walked on in silence. She knew quite well that he was
warranted in seeking her, and that nothing but a very positive
decision on her part could put an end to his courtship. At the
present moment she was inclined to be very positive, but he had
hardly as yet given her an opportunity of speaking out. "I think you
know, Mary, what it is that I want." They were now at a rough stile
which enabled him to come close up to her and help her. She tripped
over the stile with a light step and again walked on rapidly. The
field they were in enabled him to get up to her side, and now if ever
was his opportunity. It was a long straggling meadow which he knew
well, with the Dill running by it all the way,--or rather two meadows
with an open space where there had once been a gate. He had ridden
through the gap a score of times, and knew that at the further side
of the second meadow they would come upon the high road. The fields
were certainly much better for his purpose than the road. "Don't you
think, Mary, you could say a kind word to me?"

"I never said anything unkind."

"You can't think ill of me for loving you better than all the world."

"I don't think ill of you at all. I think very well of you."

"That's kind."

"So I do. How can I help thinking well of you, when I've never heard
anything but good of you?"

"Then why shouldn't you say at once that you'll have me, and make me
the happiest man in all the county?"

"Because--"

"Well!"

"I told you before, Mr. Twentyman, and that ought to have been
enough. A young woman doesn't fall in love with every man that she
thinks well of. I should like you as well as all the rest of the
family if you would only marry some other girl."

"I shall never do that."

"Yes you will;--some day."

"Never. I've set my heart upon it, and I mean to stick to it. I'm not
the fellow to turn about from one girl to another. What I want is the
girl I love. I've money enough and all that kind of thing of my own."

"I'm sure you're disinterested, Mr. Twentyman."

"Yes, I am. Ever since you've been home from Bragton it has been the
same thing, and when I felt that it was so, I spoke up to your father
honestly. I haven't been beating about the bush, and I haven't done
anything that wasn't honourable." They were very near the last stile
now. "Come, Mary, if you won't make me a promise, say that you'll
think of it."

"I have thought of it, Mr. Twentyman, and I can't make you any other
answer. I dare say I'm very foolish."

"I wish you were more foolish. Perhaps then you wouldn't be so hard
to please."

"Whether I'm wise or foolish, indeed, indeed, it's no good your going
on. Now we're on the road. Pray go back home, Mr. Twentyman."

"It'll be getting dark in a little time."

"Not before we're in Dillsborough. If it were ever so dark we could
find our way home by ourselves. Come along, Dolly."

Over the last stile he had stayed a moment to help the younger girl,
and as he did so Kate whispered a word in his ear. "She's angry
because she couldn't go up to the house with that stuck-up fellow."
It was a foolish word; but then Kate Masters had not had much
experience in the world.

Whether overcome by Mary's resolute mode of speaking, or aware that
the high road would not suit his purpose, he did turn back as soon
as he had seen them a little way on their return towards the town.
He had not gone half a mile before he met Morton, and had been
half-minded to make some apology to him. But Morton had denied him
the opportunity, and he had walked on to his own house,--low in
spirits indeed, but still with none of that sorest of agony which
comes to a lover from the feeling that his love loves some one else.
Mary had been very decided with him,--more so he feared than before;
but still he saw no reason why he should not succeed at last. Mrs.
Masters had told him that Mary would certainly give a little trouble
in winning, but would be the more worth the winner's trouble when
won. And she had certainly shown no preference for any other young
man about the town. There had been a moment when he had much dreaded
Mr. Surtees. Young clergymen are apt to be formidable rivals, and
Mr. Surtees had certainly made some overtures of friendship to Mary
Masters. But Larry had thought that he had seen that these overtures
had not led to much, and then that fear had gone from him. He did
believe that Mary was now angry because she had not been allowed
to walk about Bragton with her old friend Mr. Morton. It had been
natural that she should like to do so. It was the pride of Mary's
life that she had been befriended by the Mortons and Lady Ushant.
But it did not occur to him that he ought to be jealous of Mr.
Morton,--though it had occurred to Kate Masters.

There was very little said between the sisters on their way back to
the town. Mary was pretty sure now that the two girls had made the
appointment with Larry, but she was unwilling to question them on the
subject. Immediately on their arrival at home they heard the great
news. John Morton was coming to Bragton with a party of ladies and
gentlemen. Mrs. Hopkins had spoken of four persons. Mrs. Masters told
Mary that there were to be a dozen at least, and that four or five
pairs of horses and half a dozen carriages had been ordered from Mr.
Runciman. "He means to cut a dash when he does begin," said Mrs.
Masters.

"Is he going to stay, mother?"

"He wouldn't come down in that way if it was only for a few days I
suppose. But what they will do for furniture I don't know."

"There's plenty of furniture, mother."

"A thousand years old. Or for wine, or fruit, or plate."

"The old plate was there when Lady Ushant left."

"People do things now in a very different way from what they used. A
couple of dozen silver forks made quite a show on the old squire's
table. Now they change the things so often that ten dozen is nothing.
I don't suppose there's a bottle of wine in the cellar."

"They can get wine from Cobbold, mother."

"Cobbold's wine won't go down with them I fancy. I wonder what
servants they're bringing."

When Mr. Masters came in from his office the news was corroborated.
Mr. John Morton was certainly coming to Bragton. The attorney had
still a small unsettled and disputed claim against the owner of the
property, and he had now received by the day mail an answer to a
letter which he had written to Mr. Morton, saying that that gentleman
would see him in the course of the next fortnight.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE PARAGON'S PARTY AT BRAGTON.


There was certainly a great deal of fuss made about John Morton's
return to the home of his ancestors,--made altogether by himself and
those about him, and not by those who were to receive him. On the
Thursday in the week following that of which we have been speaking,
two carriages from the Bush met the party at the Railway Station and
took them to Bragton. Mr. Runciman, after due consideration, put up
with the inconsiderate nature of the order given, and supplied the
coaches and horses as required,--consoling himself no doubt with
the reflection that he could charge for the unreasonableness of the
demand in the bill. The coachman and butler had come down two days
before their master, so that things might be in order. Mrs. Hopkins
learned from the butler that though the party would at first consist
only of three, two other very august persons were to follow on the
Saturday,--no less than Lady Augustus Trefoil and her daughter
Arabella. And Mrs. Hopkins was soon led to imagine, though no
positive information was given to her on the subject, that Miss
Trefoil was engaged to be married to their master. "Will he live here
altogether, Mr. Tankard?" Mrs. Hopkins asked. To this question Mr.
Tankard was able to give a very definite answer. He was quite sure
that Mr. Morton would not live anywhere altogether. According to Mr.
Tankard's ideas, the whole foreign policy of England depended on Mr.
John Morton's presence in some capital, either in Europe, Asia, or
America,--upon Mr. Morton's presence, and of course upon his own
also. Mr. Tankard thought it not improbable that they might soon be
wanted at Hong Kong, or some very distant place,--but in the meantime
they were bound to be back at Washington very shortly. Tankard
had himself been at Washington, and also before that at Lisbon,
and could tell Mrs. Hopkins how utterly unimportant had been the
actual ministers at those places, and how the welfare of England had
depended altogether on the discretion and general omniscience of his
young master,--and of himself. He, Tankard, had been the only person
in Washington who had really known in what order Americans should go
out to dinner one after another. Mr. Elias Gotobed, who was coming,
was perhaps the most distinguished American of the day, and was
Senator for Mickewa.

"Mickey war!" said poor Mrs. Hopkins,--"that's been one of them
terrible American wars we used to hear of." Then Tankard explained to
her that Mickewa was one of the Western States and Mr. Elias Gotobed
was a great Republican, who had very advanced opinions of his own
respecting government, liberty, and public institutions in general.
With Mr. Morton and the Senator was coming the Honourable Mrs.
Morton. The lady had her lady's maid,--and Mr. Morton had his own
man; so that there would be a great influx of persons.

Of course there was very much perturbation of spirit. Mrs. Hopkins,
after that first letter, the contents of which she had communicated
to Reginald Morton, had received various despatches and been asked
various questions. Could she find a cook? Could she find two
housemaids? And all these were only wanted for a time. In her
distress she went to Mrs. Runciman, and did get assistance. "I
suppose he thinks he's to have the cook out of my kitchen?" Runciman
had said. Somebody, however, was found who said she could cook, and
two girls who professed that they knew how to make beds. And in this
way an establishment was ready before the arrival of the Secretary
of Legation and the great American Senator. Those other questions of
wine and plate and vegetables had, no doubt, settled themselves after
some fashion.

John Morton had come over to England on leave of absence for four
months, and had brought with him the Senator from Mickewa. The
Senator had never been in England before and was especially anxious
to study the British Constitution and to see the ways of Britons with
his own eyes. He had only been a fortnight in London before this
journey down to the county had been planned. Mr. Gotobed wished
to see English country life and thought that he could not on his
first arrival have a better opportunity. It must be explained also
that there was another motive for this English rural sojourn. Lady
Augustus Trefoil, who was an adventurous lady, had been travelling in
the United States with her daughter, and had there fallen in with Mr.
John Morton. Arabella Trefoil was a beauty, and a woman of fashion,
and had captivated the Paragon. An engagement had been made, subject
to various stipulations; the consent of Lord Augustus in the first
place,--as to which John Morton who only understood foreign affairs
was not aware, as he would have been had he lived in England, that
Lord Augustus was nobody. Lady Augustus had spoken freely as to
settlements, value of property, life insurance and such matters; and
had spoken firmly, as well as freely, expressing doubt as to the
expediency of such an engagement;--all of which had surprised Mr.
Morton considerably, for the young lady had at first been left in
his hands with almost American freedom. And now Lady Augustus and
her daughter were coming down on a visit of inspection. They had
been told, as had the Senator, that things would be in the rough.
The house had not been properly inhabited for nearly a quarter of
a century. The Senator had expressed himself quite contented. Lady
Augustus had only hoped that everything would be made as comfortable
as possible for her daughter. I don't know what more could have
been done at so short a notice than to order two carriages, two
housemaids, and a cook.

A word or two must also be said of the old lady who made one of the
party. The Honourable Mrs. Morton was now seventy, but no old lady
ever showed less signs of advanced age. It is not to be understood
from this that she was beautiful;--but that she was very strong.
What might be the colour of her hair, or whether she had any, no man
had known for many years. But she wore so perfect a front that some
people were absolutely deluded. She was very much wrinkled;--but as
there are wrinkles which seem to come from the decay of those muscles
which should uphold the skin, so are there others which seem to
denote that the owner has simply got rid of the watery weaknesses
of juvenility. Mrs. Morton's wrinkles were strong wrinkles. She was
thin, but always carried herself bolt upright, and would never even
lean back in her chair. She had a great idea of her duty, and hated
everybody who differed from her with her whole heart. She was the
daughter of a Viscount, a fact which she never forgot for a single
moment, and which she thought gave her positive superiority to all
women who were not the daughters of Dukes or Marquises, or of Earls.
Therefore, as she did not live much in the fashionable world, she
rarely met any one above herself. Her own fortune on her marriage had
been small, but now she was a rich woman. Her husband had been dead
nearly half a century and during the whole of that time she had been
saving money. To two charities she gave annually £5 per annum each.
Duty demanded it, and the money was given. Beyond that she had never
been known to spend a penny in charity. Duty, she had said more than
once, required of her that she do something to repair the ravages
made on the Morton property by the preposterous extravagance of the
old squire in regard to the younger son, and that son's--child. In
her anger she had not hesitated on different occasions to call the
present Reginald a bastard, though the expression was a wicked
calumny for which there was no excuse. Without any aid of hers the
Morton property had repaired itself. There had been a minority of
thirteen or fourteen years, and since that time the present owner
had not spent his income. But John Morton was not himself averse to
money, and had always been careful to maintain good relations with
his grandmother. She had now been asked down to Bragton in order that
she might approve, if possible, of the proposed wife. It was not
likely that she should approve absolutely of anything; but to have
married without an appeal to her would have been to have sent the
money flying into the hands of some of her poor paternal cousins.
Arabella Trefoil was the granddaughter of a duke, and a step had so
far been made in the right direction. But Mrs. Morton knew that Lord
Augustus was nobody, that there would be no money, and that Lady
Augustus had been the daughter of a banker, and that her fortune had
been nearly squandered.

The Paragon was not in the least afraid of his American visitor,
nor, as far as the comforts of his house were concerned, of his
grandmother. Of the beauty and her mother he did stand in awe;--but
he had two days in which to look to things before they would come.
The train reached the Dillsborough Station at half-past three, and
the two carriages were there to meet them. "You will understand, Mr.
Gotobed," said the old lady, "that my grandson has nothing of his own
established here as yet." This little excuse was produced by certain
patches and tears in the cushions and linings of the carriages.
Mr. Gotobed smiled and bowed and declared that everything was
"fixed convenient." Then the Senator followed the old lady into one
carriage; Mr. Morton followed alone into the other; and they were
driven away to Bragton.

When Mrs. Hopkins had taken the old lady up to her room Mr. Morton
asked the Senator to walk round the grounds. Mr. Gotobed, lighting
an enormous cigar of which he put half down his throat for more
commodious and quick consumption, walked on to the middle of the
drive, and turning back looked up at the house, "Quite a pile," he
said, observing that the offices and outhouses extended a long way to
the left till they almost joined other buildings in which were the
stables and coach-house.

"It's a good-sized house,"--said the owner;--"nothing very
particular, as houses are built now-a-days."

"Damp; I should say?"

"I think not. I have never lived here much myself; but I have not
heard that it is considered so."

"I guess it's damp. Very lonely;--isn't it?"

"We like to have our society inside, among ourselves, in the
country."

"Keep a sort of hotel--like?" suggested Mr. Gotobed. "Well, I don't
dislike hotel life, especially when there are no charges. How many
servants do you want to keep up such a house as that?"

Mr. Morton explained that at present he knew very little about it
himself, then led him away by the path over the bridge, and turning
to the left showed him the building which had once been the kennels
of the Rufford hounds. "All that for dogs!" exclaimed Mr. Gotobed.

"All for dogs," said Morton. "Hounds, we generally call them."

"Hounds are they? Well;--I'll remember; though 'dogs' seems to me
more civil. How many used there to be?"

"About fifty couple, I think."

"A hundred dogs! No wonder your country gentlemen burst up so often.
Wouldn't half-a-dozen do as well,--except for the show of the thing?"

"Half-a-dozen hounds couldn't hunt a fox, Mr. Gotobed."

"I guess half-a-dozen would do just as well, only for the show. What
strikes me, Mr. Morton, on visiting this old country is that so much
is done for show."

"What do you say to New York, Mr. Gotobed?"

"There certainly are a couple of hundred fools in New York, who,
having more money than brains, amuse themselves by imitating European
follies. But you won't find that through the country, Mr. Morton. You
won't find a hundred dogs at an American planter's house when ten or
twelve would do as well."

"Hunting is not one of your amusements."

"Yes it is. I've been a hunter myself. I've had nothing to eat but
what I killed for a month together. That's more than any of your
hunters can say. A hundred dogs to kill one fox!"

"Not all at the same time, Mr. Gotobed."

"And you have got none now?"

"I don't hunt myself."

"And does nobody hunt the foxes about here at present?" Then Morton
explained that on the Saturday following the U. R. U. hounds, under
the mastership of that celebrated sportsman Captain Glomax, would
meet at eleven o'clock exactly at the spot on which they were then
standing, and that if Mr. Gotobed would walk out after breakfast he
should see the whole paraphernalia, including about half a hundred
"dogs," and perhaps a couple of hundred men on horseback. "I shall
be delighted to see any institution of this great country," said Mr.
Gotobed, "however much opposed it may be to my opinion either of
utility or rational recreation." Then, having nearly eaten up one
cigar, he lit another preparatory to eating it, and sauntered back to
the house.

Before dinner that evening there were a few words between the Paragon
and his grandmother. "I'm afraid you won't like my American friend,"
he said.

"He is all very well, John. Of course an American member of Congress
can't be an English gentleman. You, in your position, have to be
civil to such people. I dare say I shall get on very well with Mr.
Gotobed."

"I must get somebody to meet him."

"Lady Augustus and her daughter are coming."

"They knew each other in Washington. And there will be so many
ladies."

"You could ask the Coopers from Mallingham," suggested the lady.

"I don't think they would dine out. He's getting very old."

"And I'm told the Mainwarings at Dillsborough are very nice people,"
said Mrs. Morton, who knew that Mr. Mainwaring at any rate came from
a good family.

"I suppose they ought to call first. I never saw them in my life.
Reginald Morton, you know, is living at Hoppet Hall in Dillsborough."

"You don't mean to say you wish to ask him to this house?"

"I think I ought. Why should I take upon myself to quarrel with a man
I have not seen since I was a child, and who certainly is my cousin?"

"I do not know that he is your cousin;--nor do you."

John Morton passed by the calumny which he had heard before, and
which he knew that it was no good for him to attempt to subvert. "He
was received here as one of the family, ma'am."

"I know he was;--and with what result?"

"I don't think that I ought to turn my back upon him because my
great-grandfather left property away from me to him. It would give me
a bad name in the county. It would be against me when I settle down
to live here. I think quarrelling is the most foolish thing a man can
do,--especially with his own relations."

"I can only say this, John;--let me know if he is coming, so that
I may not be called upon to meet him. I will not eat at table with
Reginald Morton." So saying the old lady, in a stately fashion,
stalked out of the room.



CHAPTER IX.

THE OLD KENNELS.


On the next morning Mrs. Morton asked her grandson what he meant to
do with reference to his suggested invitation to Reginald. "As you
will not meet him of course I have given up the idea," he said.
The "of course" had been far from true. He had debated the matter
very much with himself. He was an obstinate man, with something of
independence in his spirit. He liked money, but he liked having his
own way too. The old lady looked as though she might live to be a
hundred,--and though she might last only for ten years longer, was it
worth his while to be a slave for that time? And he was by no means
sure of her money, though he should be a slave. He almost made up his
mind that he would ask Reginald Morton. But then the old lady would
be in her tantrums, and there would be the disagreeable necessity
of making an explanation to that inquisitive gentleman Mr. Elias
Gotobed.

"I couldn't have met him, John; I couldn't indeed. I remember so well
all that occurred when your poor infatuated old great-grandfather
would have that woman into the house! I was forced to have my meals
in my bedroom, and to get myself taken away as soon as I could get a
carriage and horses. After all that I ought not to be asked to meet
the child."

"I was thinking of asking old Mr. Cooper on Monday. I know she
doesn't go out. And perhaps Mr. Mainwaring wouldn't take it amiss.
Mr. Puttock, I know, isn't at home; but if he were, he couldn't
come." Mr. Puttock was the rector of Bragton, a very rich living, but
was unfortunately afflicted with asthma.

"Poor man. I heard of that; and he's only been here about six years.
I don't see why Mr. Mainwaring should take it amiss at all. You can
explain that you are only here a few days. I like to meet clergymen.
I think that it is the duty of a country gentleman to ask them to his
house. It shows a proper regard for religion. By-the-bye, John, I
hope that you'll see that they have a fire in the church on Sunday."
The Honourable Mrs. Morton always went to church, and had no doubt of
her own sincerity when she reiterated her prayer that as she forgave
others their trespasses, so might she be forgiven hers. As Reginald
Morton had certainly never trespassed against her perhaps there was
no reason why her thoughts should be carried to the necessity of
forgiving him.

The Paragon wrote two very diplomatic notes, explaining his temporary
residence and expressing his great desire to become acquainted with
his neighbours. Neither of the two clergymen were offended, and both
of them promised to eat his dinner on Monday. Mr. Mainwaring was very
fond of dining out, and would have gone almost to any gentleman's
house. Mr. Cooper had been enough in the neighbourhood to have
known the old squire, and wrote an affectionate note expressing his
gratification at the prospect of renewing his acquaintance with the
little boy whom he remembered. So the party was made up for Monday.
John Morton was very nervous on the matter, fearing that Lady
Augustus would think the land to be barren.

The Friday passed by without much difficulty. The Senator was driven
about, and everything was inquired into. One or two farm-houses were
visited, and the farmers' wives were much disturbed by the questions
asked them. "I don't think they'd get a living in the States," was
the Senator's remark after leaving one of the homesteads in which
neither the farmer nor his wife had shown much power of conversation.
"Then they're right to stay where they are," replied Mr. Morton, who
in spite of his diplomacy could not save himself from being nettled.
"They seem to get a very good living here, and they pay their rent
punctually."

On the Saturday morning the hounds met at the "Old Kennels," as the
meet was always called, and here was an excellent opportunity of
showing to Mr. Gotobed one of the great institutions of the country.
It was close to the house and therefore could be reached without any
trouble, and as it was held on Morton's own ground, he could do more
towards making his visitor understand the thing than might have been
possible elsewhere. When the hounds moved the carriage would be ready
to take them about the roads, and show them as much as could be seen
on wheels.

Punctually at eleven John Morton and his American guest were on the
bridge, and Tony Tuppett was already occupying his wonted place,
seated on a strong grey mare that had done a great deal of work, but
would live,--as Tony used to say,--to do a great deal more. Round him
the hounds were clustered,--twenty-three couple in all,--some seated
on their haunches, some standing obediently still, while a few moved
about restlessly, subject to the voices and on one or two occasions
to a gentle administration of thong from the attendant whips. Four or
five horsemen were clustering round, most of them farmers, and were
talking to Tony. Our friend Mr. Twentyman was the only man in a red
coat who had yet arrived, and with him, on her brown pony, was Kate
Masters, who was listening with all her ears to every word that Tony
said.

"That, I guess, is the Captain you spoke of," said the Senator
pointing to Tony Tuppett.

"Oh no;--that's the huntsman. Those three men in caps are the
servants who do the work."

"The dogs can't be brought out without servants to mind them! They're
what you call gamekeepers." Morton was explaining that the men were
not gamekeepers when Captain Glomax himself arrived, driving a
tandem. There was no road up to the spot, but on hunt mornings,--or
at any rate when the meet was at the old kennels,--the park-gates
were open so that vehicles could come up on the green sward.

"That's Captain Glomax, I suppose," said Morton. "I don't know him,
but from the way he's talking to the huntsman you may be sure of it."

"He is the great man, is he? All these dogs belong to him?"

"Either to him or the hunt."

"And he pays for those servants?"

"Certainly."

"He is a very rich man, I suppose." Then Mr. Morton endeavoured to
explain the position of Captain Glomax. He was not rich. He was no
one in particular--except that he was Captain Glomax; and his one
attribute was a knowledge of hunting. He didn't keep the "dogs" out
of his own pocket. He received £2,000 a year from the gentlemen of
the county, and he himself only paid anything which the hounds and
horses might cost over that. "He's a sort of upper servant then?"
asked the Senator.

"Not at all. He's the greatest man in the county on hunting days."

"Does he live out of it?"

"I should think not."

"It's a deal of trouble, isn't it?"

"Full work for an active man's time, I should say." A great many more
questions were asked and answered, at the end of which the Senator
declared that he did not quite understand it, but that as far as he
saw he did not think very much of Captain Glomax.

"If he could make a living out of it I should respect him," said the
Senator;--"though it's like knife-grinding or handling arsenic,--an
unwholesome sort of profession."

"I think they look very nice," said Morton, as one or two
well-turned-out young men rode up to the place.

"They seem to me to have thought more about their breeches than
anything else," said the Senator. "But if they're going to hunt why
don't they hunt? Have they got a fox with them?" Then there was a
further explanation.

At this moment there was a murmur as of a great coming arrival, and
then an open carriage with four post-horses was brought at a quick
trot into the open space. There were four men dressed for hunting
inside, and two others on the box. They were all smoking, and all
talking. It was easy to see that they did not consider themselves the
least among those who were gathered together on this occasion. The
carriage was immediately surrounded by grooms and horses, and the
ceremony of disencumbering themselves of great coats and aprons, of
putting on spurs and fastening hat-strings was commenced. Then there
were whispered communications from the grooms, and long faces under
some of the hats. This horse hadn't been fit since last Monday's run,
and that man's hack wasn't as it should be. A muttered curse might
have been heard from one gentleman as he was told, on jumping from
the box, that Harry Stubbings hadn't sent him any second horse to
ride. "I didn't hear nothing about it till yesterday, Captain," said
Harry Stubbings, "and every foot I had fit to come out was bespoke."
The groom, however, who heard this was quite aware that Mr. Stubbings
did not wish to give unlimited credit to the Captain, and he knew
also that the second horse was to have carried his master the whole
day, as the animal which was brought to the meet had been ridden
hard on the previous Wednesday. At all this the Senator looked with
curious eyes, thinking that he had never in his life seen brought
together a set of more useless human beings.

"That is Lord Rufford," said Morton, pointing to a stout,
ruddy-faced, handsome man of about thirty, who was the owner of the
carriage.

"Oh, a lord. Do the lords hunt generally?"

"That's as they like it."

"Senators with us wouldn't have time for that," said the Senator.

"But you are paid to do your work."

"Everybody from whom work is expected should be paid. Then the work
will be done, or those who pay will know the reason why."

"I must speak to Lord Rufford," said Morton. "If you'll come with me,
I'll introduce you." The Senator followed willingly enough and the
introduction was made while his lordship was still standing by his
horse. The two men had known each other in London, and it was natural
that Morton, as owner of the ground, should come out and speak to the
only man who knew him. It soon was spread about that the gentleman
talking to Lord Rufford was John Morton, and many who lived in the
county came up to shake hands with him. To some of these the Senator
was introduced and the conversation for a few minutes seemed to
interrupt the business on hand. "I am sorry you should be on foot,
Mr. Gotobed," said the lord.

"And I am sorry that I cannot mount him," said Mr. Morton.

"We can soon get over that difficulty if he will allow me to offer
him a horse."

The Senator looked as though he would almost like it, but he didn't
quite like it. "Perhaps your horse might kick me off, my lord."

"I can't answer for that; but he isn't given to kicking, and there he
is, if you'll get on him." But the Senator felt that the exhibition
would suit neither his age nor position, and refused.

"We'd better be moving," said Captain Glomax. "I suppose, Lord
Rufford, we might as well trot over to Dillsborough Wood at once. I
saw Bean as I came along and he seemed to wish we should draw the
wood first." Then there was a little whispering between his lordship
and the Master and Tony Tuppett. His lordship thought that as Mr.
Morton was there the hounds might as well be run through the Bragton
spinnies. Tony made a wry face and shook his head. He knew that
though the Old Kennels might be a very good place for meeting there
was no chance of finding a fox at Bragton. And Captain Glomax, who,
being an itinerary master, had no respect whatever for a country
gentleman who didn't preserve, also made a long face and also shook
his head. But Lord Rufford, who knew the wisdom of reconciling a
newcomer in the county to foxhunting, prevailed and the hounds and
men were taken round a part of Bragton Park.

"What 'd t' old squire 've said if he'd 've known there hadn't been
a fox at Bragton for more nor ten year?" This remark was made by
Tuppett to Mr. Runciman who was riding by him. Mr. Runciman replied
that there was a great difference in people. "You may say that, Mr.
Runciman. It's all changes. His lordship's father couldn't bear the
sight of a hound nor a horse and saddle. Well;--I suppose I needn't
gammon any furder. We'll just trot across to the wood at once."

"They haven't begun yet as far as I can see," said Mr. Gotobed
standing up in the carriage.

"They haven't found as yet," replied Morton.

"They must go on till they find a fox? They never bring him with
them?" Then there was an explanation as to bagged foxes, Morton not
being very conversant with the subject he had to explain. "And if
they shouldn't find one all day?"

"Then it'll be a blank."

"And these hundred gentlemen will go home quite satisfied with
themselves?"

"No;--they'll go home quite dissatisfied."

"And have paid their money and given their time for nothing? Do you
know it doesn't seem to me the most heart-stirring thing in the
world. Don't they ride faster than that?" At this moment Tony with
the hounds at his heels was trotting across the park at a huntsman's
usual pace from covert to covert. The Senator was certainly
ungracious. Nothing that he saw produced from him a single word
expressive of satisfaction.

Less than a mile brought them to the gate and road leading up to
Chowton Farm. They passed close by Larry Twentyman's door, and not
a few, though it was not yet more than half-past eleven, stopped
to have a glass of Larry's beer. When the hounds were in the
neighbourhood Larry's beer was always ready. But Tony and his
attendants trotted by with eyes averted, as though no thought of beer
was in their minds. Nothing had been done, and a huntsman is not
entitled to beer till he has found a fox. Captain Glomax followed
with Lord Rufford and a host of others. There was plenty of way here
for carriages, and half a dozen vehicles passed through Larry's
farmyard. Immediately behind the house was a meadow, and at the
bottom of the meadow a stubble field, next to which was the ditch
and bank which formed the bounds of Dillsborough Wood. Just at this
side of the gate leading into the stubble-field there was already a
concourse of people when Tony arrived near it with the hounds, and
immediately there was a holloaing and loud screeching of directions,
which was soon understood to mean that the hounds were at once to be
taken away! The Captain rode on rapidly, and then sharply gave his
orders. Tony was to take the hounds back to Mr. Twentyman's farmyard
as fast as he could, and shut them up in a barn. The whips were put
into violent commotion. Tony was eagerly at work. Not a hound was
to be allowed near the gate. And then, as the crowd of horsemen and
carriages came on, the word "poison" was passed among them from mouth
to mouth!

"What does all this mean?" said the Senator.

"I don't at all know. I'm afraid there's something wrong," replied
Morton.

"I heard that man say 'poison.' They have taken the dogs back again."
Then the Senator and Morton got out of the carriage and made their
way into the crowd. The riders who had grooms on second horses were
soon on foot, and a circle was made, inside which there was some
object of intense interest. In the meantime the hounds had been
secured in one of Mr. Twentyman's barns.

What was that object of interest shall be told in the next chapter.



CHAPTER X.

GOARLY'S REVENGE.


The Senator and Morton followed close on the steps of Lord Rufford
and Captain Glomax and were thus able to make their way into the
centre of the crowd. There, on a clean sward of grass, laid out as
carefully as though he were a royal child prepared for burial, was--a
dead fox. "It's pi'son, my lord; it's pi'son to a moral," said Bean,
who as keeper of the wood was bound to vindicate himself, and his
master, and the wood. "Feel of him, how stiff he is." A good many did
feel, but Lord Rufford stood still and looked at the poor victim in
silence. "It's easy knowing how he come by it," said Bean.

The men around gazed into each other's faces with a sad tragic air,
as though the occasion were one which at the first blush was too
melancholy for many words. There was whispering here and there
and one young farmer's son gave a deep sigh, like a steam-engine
beginning to work, and rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand.
"There ain't nothin' too bad,--nothin'," said another,--leaving his
audience to imagine whether he were alluding to the wretchedness
of the world in general or to the punishment which was due to the
perpetrator of this nefarious act. The dreadful word "vulpecide" was
heard from various lips with an oath or two before it. "It makes me
sick of my own land, to think it should be done so near," said Larry
Twentyman, who had just come up. Mr. Runciman declared that they must
set their wits to work not only to find the criminal but to prove the
crime against him, and offered to subscribe a couple of sovereigns on
the spot to a common fund to be raised for the purpose. "I don't know
what is to be done with a country like this," said Captain Glomax,
who, as an itinerant, was not averse to cast a slur upon the land of
his present sojourn.

"I don't remember anything like it on my property before," said the
lord, standing up for his own estate and the county at large.

"Nor in the hunt," said young Hampton. "Of course such a thing may
happen anywhere. They had foxes poisoned in the Pytchley last year."

"It shows a d---- bad feeling somewhere," said the Master.

"We know very well where the feeling is," said Bean who had by this
time taken up the fox, determined not to allow it to pass into any
hands less careful than his own.

"It's that scoundrel, Goarly," said one of the Botseys. Then there
was an indignant murmur heard, first of all from two or three and
then running among the whole crowd. Everybody knew as well as though
he had seen it that Goarly had baited meat with strychnine and put
it down in the wood. "Might have pi'soned half the pack!" said Tony
Tuppett, who had come up on foot from the barn where the hounds were
still imprisoned, and had caught hold in an affectionate manner of
a fore pad of the fox which Bean had clutched by the two hind legs.
Poor Tony Tuppett almost shed tears as he looked at the dead animal,
and thought what might have been the fate of the pack. "It's him,
my lord," he said, "as we run through Littleton gorse Monday after
Christmas last, and up to Impington Park where he got away from us
in a hollow tree. He's four year old," added Tony, looking at the
animal's mouth, "and there warn't a finer dog fox in the county."

"Do they know all the foxes?" asked the Senator. In answer to this,
Morton only shook his head, not feeling quite sure himself how far a
huntsman's acquaintance in that line might go, and being also too
much impressed by the occasion for speculative conversation.

"It's that scoundrel Goarly" had been repeated again and again; and
then on a sudden Goarly himself was seen standing on the further
hedge of Larry's field with a gun in his hand. He was not at this
time above two hundred yards from them, and was declared by one of
the young farmers to be grinning with delight. The next field was
Goarly's, but the hedge and ditch belonged to Twentyman. Larry rushed
forward as though determined to thrash the man, and two or three
followed him. But Lord Rufford galloped on and stopped them. "Don't
get into a row with a fellow like that," he said to Twentyman.

"He's on my land, my lord," said Larry impatiently.

"I'm on my own now, and let me see who'll dare to touch me," said
Goarly jumping down.

"You've put poison down in that wood," said Larry.

"No I didn't;--but I knows who did. It ain't I as am afeard for
my young turkeys." Now it was well known that old Mrs. Twentyman,
Larry's mother, was fond of young turkeys, and that her poultry-yard
had suffered. Larry, in his determination to be a gentleman, had
always laughed at his mother's losses. But now to be accused in this
way was terrible to his feelings! He made a rush as though to jump
over the hedge, but Lord Rufford again intercepted him. "I didn't
think, Mr. Twentyman, that you'd care for what such a fellow as that
might say." By this time Lord Rufford was off his horse, and had
taken hold of Larry.

"I'll tell you all what it is," screamed Goarly, standing just at the
edge of his own field,--"if a hound comes out of the wood on to my
land, I'll shoot him. I don't know nothing about p'isoning, though I
dare say Mr. Twentyman does. But if a hound comes on my land, I'll
shoot him,--open, before you all." There was, however, no danger of
such a threat being executed on this day, as of course no hound would
be allowed to go into Dillsborough Wood.

Twentyman was reluctantly brought back into the meadow where the
horses were standing, and then a consultation was held as to what
they should do next. There were some who thought that the hounds
should be taken home for the day. It was as though some special
friend of the U. R. U. had died that morning, and that the spirits of
the sportsmen were too dejected for their sport. Others, with prudent
foresight, suggested that the hounds might run back from some distant
covert to Dillsborough, and that there should be no hunting till the
wood had been thoroughly searched. But the strangers, especially
those who had hired horses, would not hear of this; and after
considerable delay it was arranged that the hounds should be trotted
off as quickly as possible to Impington Gorse, which was on the other
side of Impington Park, and fully five miles distant. And so they
started, leaving the dead fox in the hands of Bean the gamekeeper.

"Is this the sort of thing that occurs every day?" asked the Senator
as he got back into the carriage.

"I should fancy not," answered Morton. "Somebody has poisoned a fox,
and I don't think that that is very often done about here."

"Why did he poison him?"

"To save his fowls I suppose."

"Why shouldn't he poison him if the fox takes his fowls? Fowls are
better than foxes."

"Not in this country," said Morton.

"Then I'm very glad I don't live here," said Mr. Gotobed. "These
friends of yours are dressed very nicely and look very well,--but
a fox is a nasty animal. It was that man standing up on the
bank;--wasn't it?" continued the Senator, who was determined to
understand it all to the very bottom, in reference to certain
lectures which he intended to give on his return to the States,--and
perhaps also in the old country before he left it.

"They suspect him."

"That man with the gun! One man against two hundred! Now I respect
that man;--I do with all my heart."

"You'd better not say so here, Mr. Gotobed."

"I know how full of prejudice you all air',--but I do respect him. If
I comprehend the matter rightly, he was on his own land when we saw
him."

"Yes;--that was his own field."

"And they meant to ride across it whether he liked it or no?"

"Everybody rides across everybody's land out hunting."

"Would they ride across your park, Mr. Morton, if you didn't let
them?"

"Certainly they would,--and break down all my gates if I had them
locked, and pull down my park palings to let the hounds through."

"And you could get no compensation?"

"Practically I could get none. And certainly I should not try. The
greatest enemy to hunting in the whole county would not be foolish
enough to make the attempt."

"Why so?"

"He would get no satisfaction, and everybody would hate him."

"Then I respect that man the more. What is that man's name?" Morton
hadn't heard the name, or had forgotten it. "I shall find that man
out, and have some conversation with him, Mr. Morton. I respect that
man, Mr. Morton. He's one against two hundred, and he insists upon
his rights. Those men standing round and wiping their eyes, and
stifled with grief because a fox had been poisoned, as though some
great patriot had died among them in the service of his country,
formed one of the most remarkable phenomena, sir, that ever I beheld
in any country. When I get among my own people in Mickewa and tell
them that,--they won't believe me, sir."

In the meantime the cavalcade was hurrying away to Impington Gorse,
and John Morton, feeling that he had not had an opportunity as yet of
showing his American friend the best side of hunting, went with them.
The five miles were five long miles, and as the pace was not above
seven miles an hour, nearly an hour was occupied. There was therefore
plenty of opportunity for the Senator to inquire whether the
gentlemen around him were as yet enjoying their sport. There was an
air of triumph about him as to the misfortunes of the day, joined to
a battery of continued raillery, which made it almost impossible for
Morton to keep his temper. He asked whether it was not at any rate
better than trotting a pair of horses backwards and forwards over the
same mile of road for half the day, as is the custom in the States.
But the Senator, though he did not quite approve of trotting matches,
argued that there was infinitely more of skill and ingenuity in
the American pastime. "Everybody is so gloomy," said the Senator,
lighting his third cigar. "I've been watching that young man in pink
boots for the last half hour, and he hasn't spoken a word to any
one."

"Perhaps he's a stranger," said Morton.

"And that's the way you treat him!"

It was past two when the hounds were put into the gorse, and
certainly no one was in a very good humour. A trot of five miles is
disagreeable, and two o'clock in November is late for finding a first
fox; and then poisoning is a vice that may grow into a habit! There
was a general feeling that Goarly ought to be extinguished, but
an idea that it might be difficult to extinguish him. The whips,
nevertheless, cantered on to the corner of the covert, and Tony put
in his hounds with a cheery voice. The Senator remarked that the
gorse was a very little place,--for as they were on the side of an
opposite hill they could see it all. Lord Rufford, who was standing
by the carriage, explained to him that it was a favourite resort of
foxes, and difficult to draw as being very close. "Perhaps they've
poisoned him too," said the Senator. It was evident from his voice
that had such been the case, he would not have been among the
mourners. "The blackguards are not yet thick enough in our country
for that," said Lord Rufford, meaning to be sarcastic.

Then a whimper was heard from a hound,--at first very low, and then
growing into a fuller sound. "There he is," said young Hampton. "For
heaven's sake get those fellows away from that side, Glomax." This
was uttered with so much vehemence that the Senator looked up in
surprise. Then the Captain galloped round the side of the covert,
and, making use of some strong language, stopped the ardour of
certain gentlemen who were in a hurry to get away on what they
considered good terms. Lord Rufford, Hampton, Larry Twentyman and
others sat stock-still on their horses, watching the gorse. Ned
Botsey urged himself a little forward down the hill, and was creeping
on when Captain Glomax asked him whether he would be so ---- ----
obliging kind as to remain where he was for half a minute. Ned took
the observations in good part and stopped his horse. "Does he do all
that cursing and swearing for the £2,000?" asked the Senator.

The fox traversed the gorse back from side to side and from corner to
corner again and again. There were two sides certainly at which he
might break, but though he came out more than once he could not be
got to go away.

"They'll kill him now before he breaks," said the elder Botsey.

"Brute!" exclaimed his brother.

"They're hot on him now," said Hampton. At this time the whole side
of the hill was ringing with the music of the hounds.

"He was out then, but Dick turned him," said Larry. Dick was one of
the whips.

"Will you be so kind, Mr. Morton," asked the Senator, "as to tell me
whether they're hunting yet? They've been at it for three hours and a
half, and I should like to know when they begin to amuse themselves."

Just as he had spoken there came from Dick a cry that he was away.
Tony, who had been down at the side of the gorse, at once jumped into
it, knowing the passage through. Lord Rufford, who for the last five
or six minutes had sat perfectly still on his horse, started down the
hill as though he had been thrown from a catapult. There was a little
hand-gate through which it was expedient to pass, and in a minute
a score of men were jostling for the way, among whom were the two
Botseys, our friend Runciman, and Larry Twentyman, with Kate Masters
on the pony close behind him. Young Hampton jumped a very nasty fence
by the side of the wicket, and Lord Rufford followed him. A score of
elderly men, with some young men among them too, turned back into a
lane behind them, having watched long enough to see that they were to
take the lane to the left, and not the lane to the right. After all
there was time enough, for when the men had got through the hand-gate
the hounds were hardly free of the covert, and Tony, riding up the
side of the hill opposite, was still blowing his horn. But they were
off at last, and the bulk of the field got away on good terms with
the hounds. "Now they are hunting," said Mr. Morton to the Senator.

"They all seemed to be very angry with each other at that narrow
gate."

"They were in a hurry, I suppose."

"Two of them jumped over the hedge. Why didn't they all jump? How
long will it be now before they catch him?"

"Very probably they may not catch him at all."

"Not catch him after all that! Then the man was certainly right to
poison that other fox in the wood. How long will they go on?"

"Half an hour perhaps."

"And you call that hunting! Is it worth the while of all those men to
expend all that energy for such a result? Upon the whole, Mr. Morton,
I should say that it is one of the most incomprehensible things that
I have ever seen in the course of a rather long and varied life.
Shooting I can understand, for you have your birds. Fishing I can
understand, as you have your fish. Here you get a fox to begin with,
and are all broken-hearted. Then you come across another, after
riding about all day, and the chances are you can't catch him!"

"I suppose," said Mr. Morton angrily, "the habits of one country
are incomprehensible to the people of another. When I see Americans
loafing about in the bar-room of an hotel, I am lost in amazement."

"There is not a man you see who couldn't give a reason for his being
there. He has an object in view,--though perhaps it may be no better
than to rob his neighbour. But here there seems to be no possible
motive."



CHAPTER XI.

FROM IMPINGTON GORSE.


The fox ran straight from the covert through his well-known haunts
to Impington Park, and as the hounds were astray there for two or
three minutes there was a general idea that he too had got up into a
tree,--which would have amused the Senator very much had the Senator
been there. But neither had the country nor the pace been adapted to
wheels, and the Senator and the Paragon were now returning along the
road towards Bragton. The fox had tried his old earths at Impington
High wood, and had then skulked back along the outside of the covert.
Had not one of the whips seen him he would have been troubled no
further on that day,--a fact, which if it could have been explained
to the Senator in all its bearings, would greatly have added to his
delight. But Dick viewed him; and with many holloas and much blowing
of horns, and prayers from Captain Glomax that gentlemen would only
be so good as to hold their tongues, and a full-tongued volley of
abuse from half the field against an unfortunate gentleman who rode
after the escaping fox before a hound was out of the covert, they
settled again to their business. It was pretty to see the quiet ease
and apparent nonchalance and almost affected absence of bustle of
those who knew their work,--among whom were especially to be named
young Hampton, and the elder Botsey, and Lord Rufford, and, above
all, a dark-visaged, long-whiskered, sombre, military man who had
been in the carriage with Lord Rufford, and who had hardly spoken
a word to any one the whole day. This was the celebrated Major
Caneback, known to all the world as one of the dullest men and best
riders across country that England had ever produced. But he was not
so dull but that he knew how to make use of his accomplishment, so
as always to be able to get a mount on a friend's horses. If a man
wanted to make a horse, or to try a horse, or to sell a horse, or to
buy a horse, he delighted to put Major Caneback up. The Major was
sympathetic and made his friend's horses, and tried them, and sold
them. Then he would take his two bottles of wine,--of course from
his friend's cellar,--and when asked about the day's sport would be
oracular in two words, "Rather slow," "Quick spurt," "Goodish thing,"
"Regularly mulled," and such like. Nevertheless it was a great thing
to have Major Caneback with you. To the list of those who rode well
and quietly must in justice be added our friend Larry Twentyman, who
was in truth a good horseman. And he had three things to do which it
was difficult enough to combine. He had a young horse which he would
have liked to sell; he had to coach Kate Masters on his pony;--and he
desired to ride like Major Caneback.

From Impington Park they went in a straight line to Littleton Gorse
skirting certain small woods which the fox disdained to enter. Here
the pace was very good, and the country was all grass. It was the
very cream of the U. R. U.; and could the Senator have read the
feelings of the dozen leading men in the run, he would have owned
that they were for the time satisfied with their amusement. Could he
have read Kate Masters' feelings he would have had to own that she
was in an earthly Paradise. When the pony paused at the big brook,
brought his four legs steadily down on the brink as though he were
going to bathe, then with a bend of his back leaped to the other
side, dropping his hind legs in and instantly recovering them, and
when she saw that Larry had waited just a moment for her, watching to
see what might be her fate, she was in heaven. "Wasn't it a big one,
Larry?" she asked in her triumph. "He did go in behind!" "Those cats
of things always do it somehow," Larry replied darting forward again
and keeping the Major well in his eye. The brook had stopped one or
two, and tidings came up that Ned Botsey had broken his horse's back.
The knowledge of the brook had sent some round by the road,--steady
riding men such as Mr. Runciman and Doctor Nupper. Captain Glomax had
got into it and came up afterwards wet through, with temper by no
means improved. But the glory of the day had been the way in which
Lord Rufford's young bay mare, who had never seen a brook before,
had flown over it with the Major on her back, taking it, as Larry
afterwards described, "just in her stride, without condescending to
look at it. I was just behind the Major, and saw her do it." Larry
understood that a man should never talk of his own place in a run,
but he didn't quite understand that neither should he talk of having
been close to another man who was supposed to have had the best
of it. Lord Rufford, who didn't talk much of these things, quite
understood that he had received full value for his billet and mount
in the improved character of his mare.

Then there was a little difficulty at the boundary fence of Impington
Hall Farm. The Major who didn't know the ground, tried it at an
impracticable place, and brought his mare down. But she fell at the
right side, and he was quick enough in getting away from her, not to
fall under her in the ditch. Tony Tuppet, who knew every foot of that
double ditch and bank, and every foot in the hedge above, kept well
to the left and crept through a spot where one ditch ran into the
other, intersecting of the fence. Tony, like a knowing huntsman as
he was, rode always for the finish and not for immediate glory. Both
Lord Rufford and Hampton, who in spite of their affected nonchalance
were in truth rather riding against one another, took it all in
a fly, choosing a lighter spot than that which the Major had
encountered. Larry had longed to follow them, or rather to take it
alongside of them, but was mindful at last of Kate and hurried down
the ditch to the spot which Tony had chosen and which was now crowded
by horsemen. "He would have done it as well as the best of them,"
said Kate, panting for breath.

"We're all right," said Larry. "Follow me. Don't let them hustle you
out. Now, Mat, can't you make way for a lady half a minute?" Mat
growled, quite understanding the use which was being made of Kate
Masters; but he did give way and was rewarded with a gracious smile.
"You are going uncommon well, Miss Kate," said Mat, "and I won't stop
you." "I am so much obliged to you, Mr. Ruggles," said Kate, not
scrupling for a moment to take the advantage offered her. The fox had
turned a little to the left, which was in Larry's favour, and the
Major was now close to him, covered on one side with mud, but still
looking as though the mud were all right. There are some men who can
crush their hats, have their boots and breeches full of water, and be
covered with dirt from their faces downwards, and yet look as though
nothing were amiss, while, with others, the marks of a fall are
always provocative either of pity or ridicule. "I hope you're not
hurt, Major Caneback," said Larry, glad of the occasion to speak
to so distinguished an individual. The Major grunted as he rode on,
finding no necessity here even for his customary two words. Little
accidents, such as that, were the price he paid for his day's
entertainment.

As they got within view of Littleton Gorse Hampton, Lord Rufford, and
Tony had the best of it, though two or three farmers were very close
to them. At this moment Tony's mind was much disturbed, and he looked
round more than once for Captain Glomax. Captain Glomax had got into
the brook, and had then ridden down to the high road which ran here
near to them and which, as he knew, ran within one field of the
gorse. He had lost his place and had got a ducking and was a little
out of humour with things in general. It had not been his purpose to
go to Impington on this day, and he was still, in his mind, saying
evil things of the U. R. U. respecting that poisoned fox. Perhaps
he was thinking, as itinerant masters often must think, that it was
very hard to have to bear so many unpleasant things for a poor £2,000
a year, and meditating, as he had done for the last two seasons, a
threat that unless the money were increased, he wouldn't hunt the
country more than three times a week. As Tony got near to the gorse
and also near to the road he managed with infinite skill to get the
hounds off the scent, and to make a fictitious cast to the left as
though he thought the fox had traversed that way. Tony knew well
enough that the fox was at that moment in Littleton Gorse;--but he
knew also that the gorse was only six acres, that such a fox as he
had before him wouldn't stay there two minutes after the first hound
was in it, and that Dillsborough Wood,--which to his imagination was
full of poison,--would then be only a mile and a half before him.
Tony, whose fault was a tendency to mystery,--as is the fault of most
huntsmen,--having accomplished his object in stopping the hounds,
pretended to cast about with great diligence. He crossed the road and
was down one side of a field and along another, looking anxiously
for the Captain. "The fox has gone on to the gorse," said the elder
Botsey; "what a stupid old pig he is;"--meaning that Tony Tuppett was
the pig.

"He was seen going on," said Larry, who had come across a man mending
a drain.

"It would be his run of course," said Hampton, who was generally
up to Tony's wiles, but who was now as much in the dark as others.
Then four or five rode up to the huntsman and told him that the fox
had been seen heading for the gorse. Tony said not a word but bit
his lips and scratched his head and bethought himself what fools
men might be even though they did ride well to hounds. One word of
explanation would have settled it all, but he would not speak that
word till he whispered it to Captain Glomax.

In the meantime there was a crowd in the road waiting to see the
result of Tony's manoeuvres. And then, as is usual on such occasions,
a little mild repartee went about,--what the sportsmen themselves
would have called "chaff." Ned Botsey came up, not having broken
his horse's back as had been rumoured, but having had to drag the
brute out of the brook with the help of two countrymen, and the
Major was asked about his fall till he was forced to open his mouth.
"Double ditch;--mare fell;--matter of course." And then he got
himself out of the crowd, disgusted with the littleness of mankind.
Lord Rufford had been riding a very big chestnut horse, and had
watched the anxious struggles of Kate Masters to hold her place.
Kate, though fifteen, and quite up to that age in intelligence and
impudence, was small and looked almost a child. "That's a nice pony
of yours, my dear," said the Lord. Kate, who didn't quite like being
called "my dear," but who knew that a lord has privileges, said that
it was a very good pony. "Suppose we change," said his lordship.
"Could you ride my horse?" "He's very big," said Kate. "You'd look
like a tom-tit on a haystack," said his lordship. "And if you got on
my pony, you'd look like a haystack on a tom-tit," said Kate. Then it
was felt that Kate Masters had had the best of that little encounter.
"Yes;--I got one there," said Lord Rufford, while his friends were
laughing at him.

At length Captain Glomax was seen in the road and Tony was with him
at once, whispering in his ear that the hounds if allowed to go
on would certainly run into Dillsborough Wood. "D---- the hounds,"
muttered the Captain; but he knew too well what he was about to
face--so terrible a danger. "They're going home," he said as soon as
he had joined Lord Rufford and the crowd.

"Going home!" exclaimed a pink-coated young rider of a hired horse
which had been going well with him; and as he said so he looked at
his watch.

"Unless you particularly wish me to take the hounds to some covert
twenty miles off," answered the sarcastic Master.

"The fox certainly went on to Littleton," said the elder Botsey.

"My dear fellow," said the Captain, "I can tell you where the fox
went quite as well as you can tell me. Do allow a man to know what
he's about some times."

"It isn't generally the custom here to take the hounds off a running
fox," continued Botsey, who subscribed £50, and did not like being
snubbed.

"And it isn't generally the custom to have fox-coverts poisoned,"
said the Captain, assuming to himself the credit due to Tony's
sagacity. "If you wish to be Master of these hounds I haven't the
slightest objection, but while I'm responsible you must allow me
to do my work according to my own judgment." Then the thing was
understood and Captain Glomax was allowed to carry off the hounds
and his ill-humour without another word.

But just at that moment, while the hounds and the master, and Lord
Rufford and his friends, were turning back in their own direction,
John Morton came up with his carriage and the Senator. "Is it all
over?" asked the Senator.

"All over for to-day," said Lord Rufford.

"Did you catch the animal?"

"No, Mr. Gotobed; we couldn't catch him. To tell the truth we didn't
try; but we had a nice little skurry for four or five miles."

"Some of you look very wet." Captain Glomax and Ned Botsey were
standing near the carriage; but the Captain as soon as he heard this,
broke into a trot and followed the hounds.

"Some of us are very wet," said Ned. "That's part of the fun."

"Oh;--that's part of the fun. You found one fox dead and you didn't
kill another because you didn't try. Well; Mr. Morton, I don't think
I shall take to fox hunting even though they should introduce it in
Mickewa. What's become of the rest of the men?"

"Most of them are in the brook," said Ned Botsey as he rode on
towards Dillsborough.

Mr. Runciman was also there and trotted on homewards with Botsey,
Larry, and Kate Masters. "I think I've won my bet," said the
hotel-keeper.

"I don't see that at all. We didn't find in Dillsborough Wood."

"I say we did find in Dillsborough Wood. We found a fox though
unfortunately the poor brute was dead."

"The bet's off I should say. What do you say, Larry?"

Then Runciman argued his case at great length and with much ability.
It had been intended that the bet should be governed by the fact
whether Dillsborough Wood did or did not contain a fox on that
morning. He himself had backed the wood, and Botsey had been strong
in his opinion against the wood. Which of them had been practically
right? Had not the presence of the poisoned fox shown that he was
right? "I think you ought to pay," said Larry.

"All right," said Botsey riding on, and telling himself that that was
what came from making a bet with a man who was not a gentleman.

"He's as unhappy about that hat," said Runciman, "as though beer had
gone down a penny a gallon."



CHAPTER XII.

ARABELLA TREFOIL.


On the Sunday the party from Bragton went to the parish church,--and
found it very cold. The duty was done by a young curate who lived in
Dillsborough, there being no house in Bragton for him. The rector
himself had not been in the church for the last six months, being
an invalid. At present he and his wife were away in London, but the
vicarage was kept up for his use. The service was certainly not
alluring. It was a very wet morning and the curate had ridden over
from Dillsborough on a little pony which the rector kept for him in
addition to the £100 per annum paid for his services. That he should
have got over his service quickly was not a matter of surprise,--nor
was it wonderful that there should have been no soul-stirring matter
in his discourse as he had two sermons to preach every week and to
perform single-handed all the other clerical duties of a parish lying
four miles distant from his lodgings. Perhaps had he expected the
presence of so distinguished a critic as the Senator from Mickewa
he might have done better. As it was, being nearly wet through and
muddy up to his knees, he did not do the work very well. When Morton
and his friends left the church and got into the carriage for their
half-mile drive home across the park, Mrs. Morton was the first to
speak. "John," she said, "that church is enough to give any woman her
death. I won't go there any more."

"They don't understand warming a church in the country," said John
apologetically.

"Is it not a little too large for the congregation?" asked the
Senator.

The church was large and straggling and ill arranged, and on this
particular Sunday had been almost empty. There was in it an harmonium
which Mrs. Puttock played when she was at home, but in her absence
the attempt made by a few rustics to sing the hymns had not been
a musical success. The whole affair had been very sad, and so the
Paragon had felt it who knew,--and was remembering through the whole
service,--how these things are done in transatlantic cities.

"The weather kept the people away I suppose," said Morton.

"Does that gentleman generally draw large congregations?" asked the
persistent Senator.

"We don't go in for drawing congregations here." Under the
cross-examination of his guest the Secretary of Legation almost lost
his diplomatic good temper. "We have a church in every parish for
those who choose to attend it."

"And very few do choose," said the Senator. "I can't say that they're
wrong." There seemed at the moment to be no necessity to carry the
disagreeable conversation any further as they had now reached the
house. Mrs. Morton immediately went up-stairs, and the two gentlemen
took themselves to the fire in the so-called library, which room was
being used as more commodious than the big drawing-room. Mr. Gotobed
placed himself on the rug with his back to the fire and immediately
reverted to the Church. "That gentleman is paid by tithes I suppose."

"He's not the rector. He's a curate."

"Ah;--just so. He looked like a curate. Doesn't the rector do
anything?" Then Morton, who was by this time heartily sick of
explaining, explained the unfortunate state of Mr. Puttock's health,
and the conversation was carried on till gradually the Senator
learned that Mr. Puttock received £800 a year and a house for doing
nothing, and that he paid his deputy £100 a year with the use of a
pony. "And how long will that be allowed to go on, Mr. Morton?" asked
the Senator.

To all these inquiries Morton found himself compelled not only
to answer, but to answer the truth. Any prevarication or attempt
at mystification fell to the ground at once under the Senator's
tremendous powers of inquiry. It had been going on for four years,
and would probably go on now till Mr. Puttock died. "A man of his age
with the asthma may live for twenty years," said the Senator who had
already learned that Mr. Puttock was only fifty. Then he ascertained
that Mr. Puttock had not been presented to, or selected for the
living on account of any peculiar fitness;--but that he had been
a fellow of Rufford at Oxford till he was forty-five, when he had
thought it well to marry and take a living. "But he must have been
asthmatic then?" said the Senator.

"He may have had all the ailments endured by the human race for
anything I know," said the unhappy host.

"And for anything the bishop cared as far as I can see," said the
Senator. "Well now, I guess, that couldn't occur in our country. A
minister may turn out badly with us as well as with you. But we don't
appoint a man without inquiry as to his fitness,--and if a man can't
do his duty he has to give way to some one who can. If the sick
gentleman took the small portion of the stipend and the working man
the larger, would not better justice be done, and the people better
served?"

"Mr. Puttock has a freehold in the parish."

"A freehold possession of men's souls! The fact is, Mr. Morton, that
the spirit of conservatism in this country is so strong that you
cannot bear to part with a shred of the barbarism of the middle ages.
And when a rag is sent to the winds you shriek with agony at the
disruption, and think that the wound will be mortal." As Mr. Gotobed
said this he extended his right hand and laid his left on his breast
as though he were addressing the Senate from his own chair. Morton,
who had offered to entertain the gentleman for ten days, sincerely
wished that he were doing so.

On the Monday afternoon the Trefoils arrived. Mr. Morton, with his
grandmother and both the carriages, went down to receive them,--with
a cart also for the luggage, which was fortunate, as Arabella
Trefoil's big box was very big indeed, and Lady Augustus, though
she was economical in most things, had brought a comfortable amount
of clothes. Each of them had her own lady's maid, so that the two
carriages were necessary. How it was that these ladies lived so
luxuriously was a mystery to their friends, as for some time past
they had enjoyed no particular income of their own. Lord Augustus had
spent everything that came to his hand, and the family owned no house
at all. Nevertheless Arabella Trefoil was to be seen at all parties
magnificently dressed, and never stirred anywhere without her own
maid. It would have been as grievous to her to be called on to live
without food as to go without this necessary appendage. She was a
big, fair girl whose copious hair was managed after such a fashion
that no one could guess what was her own and what was purchased. She
certainly had fine eyes, though I could never imagine how any one
could look at them and think it possible that she should be in love.
They were very large, beautifully blue, but never bright; and the
eyebrows over them were perfect. Her cheeks were somewhat too long
and the distance from her well-formed nose to her upper lip too
great. Her mouth was small and her teeth excellent. But the charm of
which men spoke the most was the brilliance of her complexion. If, as
the ladies said, it was all paint, she, or her maid, must have been
a great artist. It never betrayed itself to be paint. But the beauty
on which she prided herself was the grace of her motion. Though she
was tall and big she never allowed an awkward movement to escape from
her. She certainly did it very well. No young woman could walk across
an archery ground with a finer step, or manage a train with more
perfect ease, or sit upon her horse with a more complete look of
being at home there. No doubt she was slow, but though slow she never
seemed to drag. Now she was, after a certain fashion, engaged to
marry John Morton and perhaps she was one of the most unhappy young
persons in England.

She had long known that it was her duty to marry, and especially her
duty to marry well. Between her and her mother there had been no
reticence on this subject. With worldly people in general, though the
worldliness is manifest enough and is taught by plain lessons from
parents to their children, yet there is generally some thin veil even
among themselves, some transparent tissue of lies, which, though
they never quite hope to deceive each other, does produce among them
something of the comfort of deceit. But between Lady Augustus and
her daughter there had for many years been nothing of the kind. The
daughter herself had been too honest for it. "As for caring about
him, mamma," she had once said, speaking of a suitor, "of course I
don't. He is nasty, and odious in every way. But I have got to do the
best I can, and what is the use of talking about such trash as that?"
Then there had been no more trash between them.

It was not John Morton whom Arabella Trefoil had called nasty and
odious. She had had many lovers, and had been engaged to not a few,
and perhaps she liked John Morton as well as any of them,--except
one. He was quiet, and looked like a gentleman, and was reputed for
no vices. Nor did she quarrel with her fate in that he himself was
not addicted to any pleasures. She herself did not care much for
pleasure. But she did care to be a great lady,--one who would be
allowed to swim out of rooms before others, one who could snub
others, one who could show real diamonds when others wore paste, one
who might be sure to be asked everywhere even by the people who hated
her. She rather liked being hated by women and did not want any man
to be in love with her,--except as far as might be sufficient for the
purpose of marriage. The real diamonds and the high rank would not be
hers with John Morton. She would have to be content with such rank
as is accorded to Ministers at the Courts at which they are employed.
The fall would be great from what she had once expected,--and
therefore she was miserable. There had been a young man, of immense
wealth, of great rank, whom at one time she really had fancied that
she had loved;--but just as she was landing her prey, the prey had
been rescued from her by powerful friends, and she had been all but
broken-hearted. Mr. Morton's fortune was in her eyes small, and
she was beginning to learn that he knew how to take care of his
own money. Already there had been difficulties as to settlements,
difficulties as to pin-money, difficulties as to residence, Lady
Augustus having been very urgent. John Morton, who had really been
captivated by the beauty of Arabella, was quite in earnest; but there
were subjects on which he would not give way. He was anxious to put
his best leg foremost so that the beauty might be satisfied and might
become his own, but there was a limit beyond which he would not go.
Lady Augustus had more than once said to her daughter that it would
not do;--and then there would be all the weary work to do again!

Nobody seeing the meeting on the platform would have imagined that
Mr. Morton and Miss Trefoil were lovers,--and as for Lady Augustus it
would have been thought that she was in some special degree offended
with the gentleman who had come to meet her. She just gave him the
tip of her fingers and then turned away to her maid and called for
the porters and made herself particular and disagreeable. Arabella
vouchsafed a cold smile, but then her smiles were always cold. After
that she stood still and shivered. "Are you cold?" asked Morton. She
shook her head and shivered again. "Perhaps you are tired?" Then she
nodded her head. When her maid came to her in some trouble about the
luggage, she begged that she might not be "bothered;" saying that
no doubt her mother knew all about it. "Can I do anything?" asked
Morton. "Nothing at all I should think," said Miss Trefoil. In the
meantime old Mrs. Morton was standing by as black as thunder--for the
Trefoil ladies had hardly noticed her.

The luggage turned up all right at last,--as luggage always does,
and was stowed away in the cart. Then came the carriage arrangement.
Morton had intended that the two elder ladies should go together with
one of the maids, and that he should put his love into the other,
which having a seat behind, could accommodate the second girl without
disturbing them in the carriage. But Lady Augustus had made some
exception to this and had begged that her daughter might be seated
with herself. It was a point which Morton could not contest out there
among the porters and drivers, so that at last he and his grandmother
had the phaeton together with the two maids in the rumble. "I never
saw such manners in all my life," said the Honourable Mrs. Morton,
almost bursting with passion.

"They are cold and tired, ma'am."

"No lady should be too cold or too tired to conduct herself with
propriety. No real lady is ever so."

"The place is strange to them, you know."

"I hope with all my heart that it may never be otherwise than strange
to them."

When they arrived at the house the strangers were carried into the
library and tea was of course brought to them. The American Senator
was there, but the greetings were very cold. Mrs. Morton took her
place and offered her hospitality in the most frigid manner. There
had not been the smallest spark of love's flame shown as yet, nor did
the girl as she sat sipping her tea seem to think that any such spark
was wanted. Morton did get a seat beside her and managed to take away
her muff and one of her shawls, but she gave them to him almost as
she might have done to a servant. She smiled indeed,--but she smiled
as some women smile at everybody who has any intercourse with them.
"I think perhaps Mrs. Morton will let us go up-stairs," said Lady
Augustus. Mrs. Morton immediately rang the bell and prepared to
precede the ladies to their chambers. Let them be as insolent as
they would she would do what she conceived to be her duty. Then Lady
Augustus stalked out of the room and her daughter swum after her.
"They don't seem to be quite the same as they were in Washington,"
said the Senator.

John Morton got up and left the room without making any reply. He was
thoroughly unhappy. What was he to do for a week with such a houseful
of people? And then, what was he to do for all his life if the
presiding spirit of the house was to be such a one as this? She was
very beautiful,--certainly. So he told himself; and yet as he walked
round the park he almost repented of what he had done. But after
twenty minutes' fast walking he was able to convince himself that all
the fault on this occasion lay with the mother. Lady Augustus had
been fatigued with her journey and had therefore made everybody near
her miserable.



CHAPTER XIII.

AT BRAGTON.


When the ladies went up-stairs the afternoon was not half over and
they did not dine till past seven. As Morton returned to the house in
the dusk he thought that perhaps Arabella might make some attempt to
throw herself in his way. She had often done so when they were not
engaged, and surely she might do so now. There was nothing to prevent
her coming down to the library when she had got rid of her travelling
clothes, and in this hope he looked into the room. As soon as the
door was open the Senator, who was preparing his lecture in his mind,
at once asked whether no one in England had an apparatus for warming
rooms such as was to be found in every well-built house in the
States. The Paragon hardly vouchsafed him a word of reply, but
escaped up-stairs, trusting that he might meet Miss Trefoil on the
way. He was a bold man and even ventured to knock at her door;--but
there was no reply, and, fearing the Senator, he had to betake
himself to his own privacy. Miss Trefoil had migrated to her mother's
room, and there, over the fire, was holding a little domestic
conversation. "I never saw such a barrack in my life," said Lady
Augustus.

"Of course, mamma, we knew that we should find the house such as it
was left a hundred years ago. He told us that himself."

"He should have put something in it to make it at any rate decent
before we came in."

"What's the use if he's to live always at foreign courts?"

"He intends to come home sometimes, I suppose, and, if he didn't, you
would." Lady Augustus was not going to let her daughter marry a man
who could not give her a home for at any rate a part of the year. "Of
course he must furnish the place and have an immense deal done before
he can marry. I think it is a piece of impudence to bring one to such
a place as this."

"That's nonsense, mamma, because he told us all about it."

"The more I see of it all, Arabella, the more sure I am that it won't
do."

"It must do, mamma."

"Twelve hundred a year is all that he offers, and his lawyer says
that he will make no stipulation whatever as to an allowance."

"Really, mamma, you might leave that to me."

"I like to have everything fixed, my dear,--and certain."

"Nothing really ever is certain. While there is anything to get you
may be sure that I shall have my share. As far as money goes I'm not
a bit afraid of having the worst of it,--only there will be so very
little between us."

"That's just it."

"There's no doubt about the property, mamma."

"A nasty beggarly place!"

"And from what everybody says he's sure to be a minister or
ambassador or something of that sort."

"I've no doubt he will. And where'll he have to go to? To Brazil, or
the West Indies, or some British Colony," said her ladyship showing
her ignorance of the Foreign Office service. "That might be very
well. You could stay at home. Only where would you live? He wouldn't
keep a house in town for you. Is this the sort of place you'd like?"

"I don't think it makes any difference where one is," said Arabella
disgusted.

"But I do,--a very great difference. It seems to me that he's
altogether under the control of that hideous old termagant. Arabella,
I think you'd better make up your mind that it won't do."

"It must do," said Arabella.

"You're very fond of him it seems."

"Mamma, how you do delight to torture me;--as if my life weren't bad
enough without your making it worse."

"I tell you, my dear, what I'm bound to tell you--as your mother. I
have my duty to do whether it's painful or not."

"That's nonsense, mamma. You know it is. That might have been all
very well ten years ago."

"You were almost in your cradle, my dear."

"Psha! cradle! I'll tell you what it is, mamma. I've been at it till
I'm nearly broken down. I must settle somewhere;--or else die;--or
else run away. I can't stand this any longer and I won't. Talk of
work,--men's work! What man ever has to work as I do?" I wonder which
was the hardest part of that work, the hairdressing and painting
and companionship of the lady's maid or the continual smiling upon
unmarried men to whom she had nothing to say and for whom she did not
in the least care! "I can't do it any more, and I won't. As for Mr.
Morton, I don't care that for him. You know I don't. I never cared
much for anybody, and shall never again care at all."

"You'll find that will come all right after you are married."

"Like you and papa, I suppose."

"My dear, I had no mother to take care of me, or I shouldn't have
married your father."

"I wish you hadn't, because then I shouldn't be going to marry Mr.
Morton. But, as I have got so far, for heaven's sake let it go on.
If you break with him I'll tell him everything and throw myself into
his hands." Lady Augustus sighed deeply. "I will, mamma. It was you
spotted this man, and when you said that you thought it would do, I
gave way. He was the last man in the world I should have thought of
myself."

"We had heard so much about Bragton!"

"And Bragton is here. The estate is not out of elbows."

"My dear, my opinion is that we've made a mistake. He's not the sort
of man I took him to be. He's as hard as a file."

"Leave that to me, mamma."

"You are determined then?"

"I think I am. At any rate let me look about me. Don't give him an
opportunity of breaking off till I have made up my mind. I can always
break off if I like it. No one in London has heard of the engagement
yet. Just leave me alone for this week to see what I think about it."
Then Lady Augustus threw herself back in her chair and went to sleep,
or pretended to do so.

A little after half-past seven she and her daughter, dressed for
dinner, went down to the library together. The other guests were
assembled there, and Mrs. Morton was already plainly expressing her
anger at the tardiness of her son's guests. The Senator had got hold
of Mr. Mainwaring and was asking pressing questions as to church
patronage,--a subject not very agreeable to the rector of St. John's,
as his living had been bought for him with his wife's money during
the incumbency of an old gentleman of seventy-eight. Mr. Cooper,
who was himself nearly that age and who was vicar of Mallingham, a
parish which ran into Dillsborough and comprehended a part of its
population, was listening to these queries with awe,--and perhaps
with some little gratification, as he had been presented to his
living by the bishop after a curacy of many years. "This kind of
things, I believe, can be bought and sold in the market," said the
Senator, speaking every word with absolute distinctness. But as he
paused for an answer the two ladies came in and the conversation was
changed. Both the clergymen were introduced to Lady Augustus and her
daughter, and Mr. Mainwaring at once took refuge under the shadow of
the ladies' title.

Arabella did not sit down, so that Morton had an opportunity of
standing near to his love. "I suppose you are very tired," he said.

"Not in the least." She smiled her sweetest as she answered him,--but
yet it was not very sweet. "Of course we were tired and cross when we
got out of the train. People always are; aren't they?"

"Perhaps ladies are."

"We were. But all that about the carriages, Mr. Morton, wasn't my
doing. Mamma had been talking to me so much that I didn't know
whether I was on my head or my heels. It was very good of you to come
and meet us, and I ought to have been more gracious." In this way she
made her peace, and as she was quite in earnest,--doing a portion of
the hard work of her life,--she continued to smile as sweetly as she
could. Perhaps he liked it;--but any man endowed with that power of
appreciation which we call sympathy, would have felt it to be as cold
as though it had come from a figure on a glass window.

The dinner was announced. Mr. Morton was honoured with the hand of
Lady Augustus. The Senator handed the old lady into the dining-room
and Mr. Mainwaring the younger lady,--so that Arabella was sitting
next to her lover. It had all been planned by Morton and acceded to
by his grandmother. Mr. Gotobed throughout the dinner had the best of
the conversation, though Lady Augustus had power enough to snub him
on more than one occasion. "Suppose we were to allow at once," she
said, "that everything is better in the United States than anywhere
else, shouldn't we get along easier?"

"I don't know that getting along easy is what we have particularly
got in view," said Mr. Gotobed, who was certainly in quest of
information.

"But it is what I have in view, Mr. Gotobed;--so if you please we'll
take the pre-eminence of your country for granted." Then she turned
to Mr. Mainwaring on the other side. Upon this the Senator addressed
himself for a while to the table at large and had soon forgotten
altogether the expression of the lady's wishes.

"I believe you have a good many churches about here," said Lady
Augustus trying to make conversation to her neighbour.

"One in every parish, I fancy," said Mr. Mainwaring, who preferred
all subjects to clerical subjects. "I suppose London is quite empty
now."

"We came direct from the Duke's," said Lady Augustus,--"and did not
even sleep in town;--but it is empty." The Duke was the brother of
Lord Augustus, and a compromise had been made with Lady Augustus,
by which she and her daughter should be allowed a fortnight every
year at the Duke's place in the country, and a certain amount of
entertainment in town.

"I remember the Duke at Christchurch," said the parson. "He and I
were of the same par. He was Lord Mistletoe then. Dear me, that was
a long time ago. I wonder whether he remembers being upset out of a
trap with me one day after dinner. I suppose we had dined in earnest.
He has gone his way, and I have gone mine, and I've never seen him
since. Pray remember me to him." Lady Augustus said she would,
and did entertain some little increased respect for the clergyman
who could boast that he had been tipsy in company with her worthy
brother-in-law.

Poor Mr. Cooper did not get on very well with Mrs. Morton. All his
remembrances of the old squire were eulogistic and affectionate.
Hers were just the reverse. He had a good word to say for Reginald
Morton,--to which she would not even listen. She was willing enough
to ask questions about the Mallingham tenants;--but Mr. Cooper would
revert back to the old days, and so conversation was at an end.

Morton tried to make himself agreeable to his left-hand
neighbour,--trying also very hard to make himself believe that he was
happy in his immediate position. How often in the various amusements
of the world is one tempted to pause a moment and ask oneself whether
one really likes it! He was conscious that he was working hard,
struggling to be happy, painfully anxious to be sure that he
was enjoying the luxury of being in love. But he was not at all
contented. There she was, and very beautiful she looked; and he
thought that he could be proud of her if she sat at the end of his
table;--and he knew that she was engaged to be his wife. But he
doubted whether she was in love with him; and he almost doubted
sometimes whether he was very much in love with her. He asked her in
so many words what he should do to amuse her. Would she like to ride
with him, as if so he would endeavour to get saddle-horses. Would
she like to go out hunting? Would she be taken round to see the
neighbouring towns, Rufford and Norrington? "Lord Rufford lives
somewhere near Rufford?" she asked. Yes;--he lived at Rufford Hall,
three or four miles from the town. Did Lord Rufford hunt? Morton
believed that he was greatly given to hunting. Then he asked Arabella
whether she knew the young lord. She had just met him, she said, and
had only asked the question because of the name. "He is one of my
neighbours down here," said Morton;--"but being always away of course
I see nothing of him." After that Arabella consented to be taken
out on horseback to see a meet of the hounds although she could not
hunt. "We must see what we can do about horses," he said. She however
professed her readiness to go in the carriage if a saddle-horse could
not be found.

The dinner party I fear was very dull. Mr. Mainwaring perhaps liked
it because he was fond of dining anywhere away from home. Mr. Cooper
was glad once more to see his late old friend's old dining-room. Mr.
Gotobed perhaps obtained some information. But otherwise the affair
was dull. "Are we to have a week of this?" said Lady Augustus when
she found herself up-stairs.

"You must, mamma, if we are to stay till we go to the Gores. Lord
Rufford is here in the neighbourhood."

"But they don't know each other."

"Yes they do;--slightly. I am to go to the meet some day and he'll be
there."

"It might be dangerous."

"Nonsense, mamma! And after all you've been saying about dropping Mr.
Morton!"

"But there is nothing so bad as a useless flirtation."

"Do I ever flirt? Oh, mamma, that after so many years you shouldn't
know me! Did you ever see me yet making myself happy in any way? What
nonsense you talk!" Then without waiting for, or making, any apology,
she walked off to her own room.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE DILLSBOROUGH FEUD.


"It's that nasty, beastly, drunken club," said Mrs. Masters to her
unfortunate husband on the Wednesday morning. It may perhaps be
remembered that the poisoned fox was found on the Saturday, and it
may be imagined that Mr. Goarly had risen in importance since that
day. On the Saturday Bean with a couple of men employed by Lord
Rufford, had searched the wood, and found four or five red herrings
poisoned with strychnine. There had been no doubt about the magnitude
of the offence. On the Monday a detective policeman, dressed of
course in rustic disguise but not the less known to every one in the
place, was wandering about between Dillsborough and Dillsborough Wood
and making futile inquiries as to the purchase of strychnine,--and
also as to the purchase of red herrings. But every one knew, and such
leading people as Runciman and Dr. Nupper were not slow to declare,
that Dillsborough was the only place in England in which one might be
sure that those articles had not been purchased. And on the Tuesday
it began to be understood that Goarly had applied to Bearside, the
other attorney, in reference to his claim against Lord Rufford's
pheasants. He had contemptuously refused the 7_s._ 6_d._ an acre
offered him, and put his demand at 40_s._ As to the poisoned fox and
the herrings and the strychnine Goarly declared that he didn't care
if there were twenty detectives in the place. He stated it to be his
opinion that Larry Twentyman had put down the poison. It was all very
well, Goarly said, for Larry to be fond of gentlemen and to ride to
hounds, and make pretences;--but Larry liked his turkeys as well
as anybody else, and Larry had put down the poison. In this matter
Goarly overreached himself. No one in Dillsborough could be brought
to believe that. Even Harry Stubbings was ready to swear that
he should suspect himself as soon. But nothing was clearer than
this,--that Goarly was going to make a stand against the hunt and
especially against Lord Rufford. He had gone to Bearside and Bearside
had taken up the matter in a serious way. Then it became known very
quickly that Bearside had already received money, and it was surmised
that Goarly had some one at his back. Lord Rufford had lately ejected
from a house of his on the other side of the county a discontented
litigious retired grocer from Rufford, who had made some money
and had set himself up in a pretty little residence with a few
acres of land. The man had made himself objectionable and had been
dispossessed. The man's name was Scrobby; and hence had come these
sorrows. This was the story that had already made itself known in
Dillsborough on the Tuesday evening. But up to that time not a tittle
of evidence had come to light as to the purchase of the red herrings
or the strychnine. All that was known was the fact that had not Tony
Tuppett stopped the hounds before they reached the wood, there must
have been a terrible mortality. "It's that nasty, beastly, drunken
club," said Mrs. Masters to her husband. Of course it was at this
time known to the lady that her husband had thrown away Goarly's
business and that it had been transferred to Bearside. It was also
surmised by her, as it was by the town in general, that Goarly's
business would come to considerable dimensions;--just the sort of
case as would have been sure to bring popularity if carried through,
as Nickem, the senior clerk, would have carried it. And as soon as
Scrobby's name was heard by Mrs. Masters, there was no end to the
money in the lady's imagination to which this very case might not
have amounted.

"The club had nothing to do with it, my dear."

"What time did you come home on Saturday night;--or Sunday morning
I mean? Do you mean to tell me you didn't settle it there?"

"There was no nastiness, and no beastliness, and no drunkenness about
it. I told you before I went that I wouldn't take it."

"No;--you didn't. How on earth are you to go on if you chuck the
children's bread out of their mouths in that way?"

"You won't believe me. Do you ask Twentyman what sort of a man Goarly
is." The attorney knew that Larry was in great favour with his wife
as being the favoured suitor for Mary's hand, and had thought that
this argument would be very strong.

"I don't want Mr. Twentyman to teach me what is proper for my
family,--nor yet to teach you your business. Mr. Twentyman has his
own way of living. He brought home Kate the other day with hardly a
rag of her sister's habit left. She don't go out hunting any more."

"Very well, my dear."

"Indeed for the matter of that I don't see how any of them are to do
anything. What'll Lord Rufford do for you?"

"I don't want Lord Rufford to do anything for me." The attorney was
beginning to have his spirit stirred within him.

"You don't want anybody to do anything, and yet you will do nothing
yourself,--just because a set of drinking fellows in a tap-room,
which you call a club--"

"It isn't a tap-room."

"It's worse, because nobody can see what you're doing. I know how it
was. You hadn't the pluck to hold to your own when Runciman told you
not." There was a spice of truth in this which made it all the more
bitter. "Runciman knows on which side his bread is buttered. He can
make his money out of these swearing-tearing fellows. He can send in
his bills, and get them paid too. And it's all very well for Larry
Twentyman to be hobbing and nobbing with the likes of them Botseys.
But for a father of a family like you to be put off his business by
what Mr. Runciman says is a shame."

"I shall manage my business as I think fit," said the attorney.

"And when we're all in the poor-house what'll you do then?" said
Mrs. Masters,--with her handkerchief out at the spur of the moment.
Whenever she roused her husband to a state of bellicose ire by her
taunts she could always reduce him again by her tears. Being well
aware of this he would bear the taunts as long as he could, knowing
that the tears would be still worse. He was so soft-hearted that when
she affected to be miserable, he could not maintain the sternness
of his demeanour and leave her in her misery. "When everything has
gone away from us, what are we to do? My little bit of money has
disappeared ever so long." Then she sat herself down in her chair and
had a great cry. It was useless for him to remind her that hitherto
she had never wanted anything for herself or her children. She was
resolved that everything was going to the dogs because Goarly's case
had been refused. "And what will all those sporting men do for you?"
she repeated. "I hate the very name of a gentleman;--so I do. I wish
Goarly had killed all the foxes in the county. Nasty vermin! What
good are the likes of them?"

Nickem, the senior clerk, was at first made almost as unhappy as Mrs.
Masters by the weak decision to which his employer had come, and had
in the first flush of his anger resolved to leave the office. He
was sure that the case was one which would just have suited him. He
would have got up the evidence as to the fertility of the land, the
enormous promise of crop, and the ultimate absolute barrenness, to a
marvel. He would have proved clouds of pheasants. And then Goarly's
humble position, futile industry, and general poverty might have been
contrasted beautifully with Lord Rufford's wealth, idleness, and
devotion to sport. Anything above the 7_s._ 6_d._ an acre obtained
against the lord would have been a triumph, and he thought that if
the thing had been well managed, they might probably have got 15_s._
And then, in such a case, Lord Rufford could hardly have taxed the
costs. It was really suicide for an attorney to throw away business
so excellent as this. And now it had gone to Bearside whom Nickem
remembered as a junior to himself when they were both young
hobbledehoys at Norrington,--a dirty, blear-eyed, pimply-faced
boy who was suspected of purloining halfpence out of coat-pockets.
The thing was very trying to Nat Nickem. But suddenly, before that
Wednesday was over, another idea had occurred to him, and he was
almost content. He knew Goarly, and he had heard of Scrobby and
Scrobby's history in regard to the tenement at Rufford. As he could
not get Goarly's case why should he not make something of the case
against Goarly? That detective was merely eking out his time and
having an idle week among the public-houses. If he could set himself
up as an amateur detective he thought that he might perhaps get to
the bottom of it all. It is not a bad thing to be concerned on the
same side with a lord when the lord is in earnest. Lord Rufford was
very angry about the poison in the covert and would probably be ready
to pay very handsomely for having the criminal found and punished.
The criminal of course was Goarly. Nickem did not doubt that for a
moment, and would not have doubted it whichever side he might have
taken. Nickem did not suppose that any one for a moment really
doubted Goarly's guilt. But to his eyes such certainty amounted to
nothing, if evidence of the crime were not forthcoming. He probably
felt within his own bosom that the last judgment of all would depend
in some way on terrestrial evidence, and was quite sure that it was
by such that a man's conscience should be affected. If Goarly had so
done the deed as to be beyond the possibility of detection, Nickem
could not have brought himself to regard Goarly as a sinner. As it
was he had considerable respect for Goarly;--but might it not be
possible to drop down upon Scrobby? Bearside with his case against
the lord would be nowhere, if Goarly could be got to own that he had
been suborned by Scrobby to put down the poison. Or, if in default
of this, any close communication could be proved between Goarly and
Scrobby,--Scrobby's injury and spirit of revenge being patent,--then
too Bearside would not have much of a case. A jury would look at that
question of damages with a very different eye if Scrobby's spirit of
revenge could be proved at the trial, and also the poisoning, and
also machinations between Scrobby and Goarly.

Nickem was a little red-haired man about forty, who wrote a good
flourishing hand, could endure an immense amount of work, and drink a
large amount of alcohol without being drunk. His nose and face were
all over blotches, and he looked to be dissipated and disreputable.
But, as he often boasted, no one could say that "black was the white
of his eye;"--by which he meant to insinuate that he had not been
detected in anything dishonest and that he was never too tipsy to do
his work. He was a married man and did not keep his wife and children
in absolute comfort; but they lived, and Mr. Nickem in some fashion
paid his way.

There was another clerk in the office, a very much younger man, named
Sundown, and Nickem could not make his proposition to Mr. Masters
till Sundown had left the office. Nickem himself had only matured
his plans at dinner time and was obliged to be reticent, till at six
o'clock Sundown took himself off. Mr. Masters was, at the moment,
locking his own desk, when Nickem winked at him to stay. Mr. Masters
did stay, and Sundown did at last leave the office.

"You couldn't let me leave home for three days?" said Nickem. "There
ain't much a doing."

"What do you want it for?"

"That Goarly is a great blackguard, Mr. Masters."

"Very likely. Do you know anything about him?"

Nickem scratched his head and rubbed his chin. "I think I could
manage to know something."

"In what way?"

"I don't think I'm quite prepared to say, sir. I shouldn't use your
name of course. But they're down upon Lord Rufford, and if you could
lend me a trifle of 30_s._, sir, I think I could get to the bottom of
it. His lordship would be awful obliged to any one who could hit it
off."

Mr. Masters did give his clerk leave for three days, and did advance
him the required money. And when he suggested in a whisper that
perhaps the circumstance need not be mentioned to Mrs. Masters,
Nickem winked again and put his fore-finger to the side of his big
carbuncled nose.

That evening Larry Twentyman came in, but was not received with any
great favour by Mrs. Masters. There was growing up at this moment in
Dillsborough the bitterness of real warfare between the friends and
enemies of sport in general, and Mrs. Masters was ranking herself
thereby among the enemies. Larry was of course one of the friends.
But unhappily there was a slight difference of sentiment even in
Larry's own house, and on this very morning old Mrs. Twentyman had
expressed to Mrs. Masters a feeling of wrong which had gradually
risen from the annual demolition of her pet broods of turkeys. She
declared that for the last three years every turkey poult had gone,
and that at last she was beginning to feel it. "It's over a hundred
of 'em they've had, and it is wearing," said the old woman. Larry had
twenty times begged her to give up the rearing turkeys, but her heart
had been too high for that. "I don't know why Lord Rufford's foxes
are to be thought of always, and nobody is to think about your poor
mother's poultry," said Mrs. Masters, lugging the subject in neck and
heels.

"Has she been talking to you, Mrs. Masters, about her turkeys?"

"Your mother may speak to me I suppose if she likes it, without
offence to Lord Rufford."

"Lord Rufford has got nothing to do with it."

"The wood belongs to him," said Mrs. Masters.

"Foxes are much better than turkeys anyway," said Kate Masters.

"If you don't hold your tongue, miss, you'll be sent to bed. The wood
belongs to his lordship, and the foxes are a nuisance."

"He keeps the foxes for the county, and where would the county be
without them?" began Larry. "What is it brings money into such a
place as this?"

"To Runciman's stables and Harry Stubbings and the like of them. What
money does it bring in to steady honest people?"

"Look at all the grooms," said Larry.

"The impudentest set of young vipers about the place," said the lady.

"Look at Grice's business." Grice was the saddler.

"Grice indeed! What's Grice?"

"And the price of horses?"

"Yes;--making everything dear that ought to be cheap. I don't see
and I never shall see and I never will see any good in extravagant
idleness. As for Kate she shall never go out hunting again. She has
torn Mary's habit to pieces. And shooting is worse. Why is a man to
have a flock of voracious cormorants come down upon his corn fields?
I'm all in favour of Goarly, and so I tell you, Mr. Twentyman." After
this poor Larry went away, finding that he had no opportunity for
saying a word to Mary Masters.



CHAPTER XV.

A FIT COMPANION,--FOR ME AND MY SISTERS.


On that same Wednesday Reginald Morton had called at the attorney's
house, had asked for Miss Masters, and had found her alone. Mrs.
Masters at the time had been out, picking up intelligence about the
great case, and the two younger girls had been at school. Reginald,
as he walked home from Bragton all alone on that occasion when Larry
had returned with Mary, was quite sure that he would never willingly
go into Mary's presence again. Why should he disturb his mind about
such a girl,--one who could rush into the arms of such a man as Larry
Twentyman? Or, indeed, why disturb his mind about any girl? That
was not the manner of life which he planned for himself. After that
he shut himself up for a few days and was not much seen by any of
the Dillsborough folk. But on this Wednesday he received a letter,
and,--as he told himself, merely in consequence of that letter,--he
called at the attorney's house and asked for Miss Masters.

He was shown up into the beautiful drawing-room, and in a few minutes
Mary came to him. "I have brought you a letter from my aunt," he
said.

"From Lady Ushant? I am so glad."

"She was writing to me and she put this under cover. I know what it
contains. She wants you to go to her at Cheltenham for a month."

"Oh, Mr. Morton!"

"Would you like to go?"

"How should I not like to go? Lady Ushant is my dearest, dearest
friend. It is so very good of her to think of me."

"She talks of the first week in December and wants you to be there
for Christmas."

"I don't at all know that I can go, Mr. Morton."

"Why not go?"

"I'm afraid mamma will not spare me." There were many reasons. She
could hardly go on such a visit without some renewal of her scanty
wardrobe, which perhaps the family funds would not permit. And, as
she knew very well, Mrs. Masters was not at all favourable to Lady
Ushant. If the old lady had altogether kept Mary it might have been
very well; but she had not done so and Mrs. Masters had more than
once said that that kind of thing must be all over;--meaning that
Mary was to drop her intimacy with high-born people that were of no
real use. And then there was Mr. Twentyman and his suit. Mary had for
some time felt that her step-mother intended her to understand that
her only escape from home would be by becoming Mrs. Twentyman. "I
don't think it will be possible, Mr. Morton."

"My aunt will be very sorry."

"Oh,--how sorry shall I be! It is like having another little bit of
heaven before me."

Then he said what he certainly should not have said. "I thought, Miss
Masters, that your heaven was all here."

"What do you mean by that, Mr. Morton?" she asked blushing up to her
hair. Of course she knew what he meant, and of course she was angry
with him. Ever since that walk her mind had been troubled by ideas as
to what he would think about her, and now he was telling her what he
thought.

"I fancied that you were happy here without going to see an old woman
who after all has not much amusement to offer to you."

"I don't want any amusement."

"At any rate you will answer Lady Ushant?"

"Of course I shall answer her."

"Perhaps you can let me know. She wishes me to take you to
Cheltenham. I shall go for a couple of days, but I shall not stay
longer. If you are going perhaps you would allow me to travel with
you."

"Of course it would be very kind; but I don't suppose that I shall
go. I am sure Lady Ushant won't believe that I am kept away from her
by any pleasure of my own here. I can explain it all to her and she
will understand me." She hardly meant to reproach him. She did not
mean to assume an intimacy sufficient for reproach. But he felt that
she had reproached him. "I love Lady Ushant so dearly that I would go
anywhere to see her if I could."

"Then I think it could be managed. Your father--"

"Papa does not attend much to us girls. It is mamma that manages all
that. At any rate, I will write to Lady Ushant, and will ask papa to
let you know."

Then it seemed as though there were nothing else for him but to
go;--and yet he wanted to say some other word. If he had been cruel
in throwing Mr. Twentyman in her teeth, surely he ought to apologize.
"I did not mean to say anything to offend you."

"You have not offended me at all, Mr. Morton."

"If I did think that,--that--"

"It does not signify in the least. I only want Lady Ushant to
understand that if I could possibly go to her I would rather do that
than anything else in the world. Because Lady Ushant is kind to me I
needn't expect other people to be so." Reginald Morton was of course
the "other people."

Then he paused a moment. "I did so long," he said, "to walk round the
old place with you the other day before these people came there, and
I was so disappointed when you would not come with me."

"I was coming."

"But you went back with--that other man."

"Of course I did when you showed so plainly that you didn't want
him to join you. What was I to do? I couldn't send him away. Mr.
Twentyman is a very intimate friend of ours, and very kind to Dolly
and Kate."

"I wished so much to talk to you about the old days."

"And I wish to go to your aunt, Mr. Morton; but we can't all of us
have what we wish. Of course I saw that you were very angry, but I
couldn't help that. Perhaps it was wrong in Mr. Twentyman to offer to
walk with you."

"I didn't say so at all."

"You looked it at any rate, Mr. Morton. And as Mr. Twentyman is a
friend of ours--"

"You were angry with me."

"I don't say that. But as you were too grand for our friend of course
you were too grand for us."

"That is a very unkind way of putting it. I don't think I am grand.
A man may wish to have a little conversation with a very old friend
without being interrupted, and yet not be grand. I dare say Mr.
Twentyman is just as good as I am."

"You don't think that, Mr. Morton."

"I believe him to be a great deal better, for he earns his bread,
and takes care of his mother, and as far as I know does his duty
thoroughly."

"I know the difference, Mr. Morton, and of course I know how you feel
it. I don't suppose that Mr. Twentyman is a fit companion for any of
the Mortons, but for all that he may be a fit companion for me,--and
my sisters." Surely she must have said this with the express object
of declaring to him that in spite of the advantages of her education
she chose to put herself in the ranks of the Twentymans, Runcimans
and such like. He had come there ardently wishing that she might
be allowed to go to his aunt, and resolved that he would take her
himself if it were possible. But now he almost thought that she had
better not go. If she had made her election, she must be allowed to
abide by it. If she meant to marry Mr. Twentyman what good could
she get by associating with his aunt or with him? And had she not
as good as told him that she meant to marry Mr. Twentyman? She had
at any rate very plainly declared that she regarded Mr. Twentyman
as her equal in rank. Then he took his leave without any further
explanation. Even if she did go to Cheltenham he would not take her.

After that he walked straight out to Bragton. He was of course
altogether unconscious what grand things his cousin John had intended
to do by him, had not the Honourable old lady interfered; but he had
made up his mind that duty required him to call at the house. So he
walked by the path across the bridge and when he came out on the
gravel road near the front door he found a gentleman smoking a cigar
and looking around him. It was Mr. Gotobed who had just returned
from a visit which he had made, the circumstances of which must be
narrated in the next chapter. The Senator lifted his hat and remarked
that it was a very fine afternoon. Reginald lifted his hat and
assented. "Mr. Morton, sir, I think is out with the ladies, taking a
drive."

"I will leave a card then."

"The old lady is at home, sir, if you wish to see her," continued the
Senator following Reginald up to the door.

"Oh, Mr. Reginald, is that you?" said old Mrs. Hopkins taking the
card. "They are all out,--except herself." As he certainly did not
wish to see "herself," he greeted the old woman and left his card.

"You live in these parts, sir?" asked the Senator.

"In the town yonder."

"Because Mr. Morton's housekeeper seems to know you."

"She knows me very well as I was brought up in this house. Good
morning to you."

"Good afternoon to you, sir. Perhaps you can tell me who lives in
that country residence,--what you call a farm-house,--on the other
side of the road." Reginald said that he presumed the gentleman was
alluding to Mr. Twentyman's house.

"Ah, yes,--I dare say. That was the name I heard up there. You are
not Mr. Twentyman, sir?"

"My name is Morton."

"Morton, is it;--perhaps my friend's;--ah--ah,--yes." He didn't like
to say uncle because Reginald didn't look old enough, and he knew he
ought not to say brother, because the elder brother in England would
certainly have had the property.

"I am Mr. John Morton's cousin."

"Oh;--Mr. Morton's cousin. I asked whether you were the owner of that
farm-house because I intruded just now by passing through the yards,
and I would have apologized. Good afternoon to you, sir." Then
Reginald having thus done his duty returned home.

Mary Masters when she was alone was again very angry with herself.
She knew thoroughly how perverse she had been when she declared
that Larry Twentyman was a fit companion for herself, and that she
had said it on purpose to punish the man who was talking to her.
Not a day passed, or hardly an hour of a day, in which she did not
tell herself that the education she had received and the early
associations of her life had made her unfit for the marriage which
her friends were urging upon her. It was the one great sorrow of her
life. She even repented of the good things of her early days because
they had given her a distaste for what might have otherwise been
happiness and good fortune. There had been moments in which she
had told herself that she ought to marry Larry Twentyman and adapt
herself to the surroundings of her life. Since she had seen Reginald
Morton frequently, she had been less prone to tell herself so than
before;--and yet to this very man she had declared her fitness for
Larry's companionship!



CHAPTER XVI.

MR. GOTOBED'S PHILANTHROPY.


Mr. Gotobed, when the persecutions of Goarly were described to him at
the scene of the dead fox, had expressed considerable admiration for
the man's character as portrayed by what he then heard. The man,--a
poor man too and despised in the land,--was standing up for his
rights, all alone, against the aristocracy and plutocracy of the
county. He had killed the demon whom the aristocracy and plutocracy
worshipped, and had appeared there in arms ready to defend his
own territory,--one against so many, and so poor a man against
men so rich! The Senator had at once said that he would call upon
Mr. Goarly, and the Senator was a man who always carried out his
purposes. Afterwards, from John Morton, and from others who knew the
country better than Morton, he learned further particulars. On the
Monday and Tuesday he fathomed,--or nearly fathomed,--that matter of
the 7_s._ 6_d._ an acre. He learned at any rate that the owner of the
wood admitted a damage done by him to the corn and had then, himself,
assessed the damage without consultation with the injured party; and
he was informed also that Goarly was going to law with the lord for
a fuller compensation. He liked Goarly for killing the fox, and he
liked him more for going to law with Lord Rufford.

He declared openly at Bragton his sympathy with the man and his
intention of expressing it. Morton was annoyed and endeavoured to
persuade him to leave the man alone; but in vain. No doubt had he
expressed himself decisively and told his friend that he should be
annoyed by a guest from his house taking part in such a matter, the
Senator would have abstained and would merely have made one more note
as to English peculiarities and English ideas of justice; but Morton
could not bring himself to do this. "The feeling of the country will
be altogether against you," he had said, hoping to deter the Senator.
The Senator had replied that though the feeling of that little bit of
the country might be against him he did not believe that such would
be the case with the feeling of England generally. The ladies had all
become a little afraid of Mr. Gotobed and hardly dared to express an
opinion. Lady Augustus did say that she supposed that Goarly was a
low vulgar fellow, which of course strengthened the Senator in his
purpose.

The Senator on Wednesday would not wait for lunch but started a
little before one with a crust of bread in his pocket to find his
way to Goarly's house. There was no difficulty in this as he could
see the wood as soon as he had got upon the high road. He found
Twentyman's gate and followed directly the route which the hunting
party had taken, till he came to the spot on which the crowd had
been assembled. Close to this there was a hand-gate leading into
Dillsborough wood, and standing in the gateway was a man. The Senator
thought that this might not improbably be Goarly himself, and asked
the question, "Might your name be Mr. Goarly, sir?"

"Me Goarly!" said the man in infinite disgust. "I ain't nothing of
the kind,--and you knows it."

That the man should have been annoyed at being taken for
Goarly,--that man being Bean the gamekeeper who would willingly have
hung Goarly if he could, and would have thought it quite proper that
a law should be now passed for hanging him at once,--was natural
enough. But why he should have told the Senator that the Senator knew
he was not Goarly it might be difficult to explain. He probably at
once regarded the Senator as an enemy, as a man on the other side,
and therefore as a cunning knave who would be sure to come creeping
about on false pretences. Bean, who had already heard of Bearside and
had heard of Scrobby in connection with this matter, looked at the
Senator very hard. He knew Bearside. The man certainly was not the
attorney, and from what he had heard of Scrobby he didn't think he
was Scrobby. The man was not like what in his imagination Scrobby
would be. He did not know what to make of Mr. Gotobed,--who was a
person of an imposing appearance, tall and thin, with a long nose
and look of great acuteness, dressed in black from head to foot, but
yet not looking quite like an English gentleman. He was a man to
whom Bean in an ordinary way would have been civil,--civil in a cold
guarded way; but how was he to be civil to anybody who addressed him
as Goarly?

"I did not know it," said the Senator. "As Goarly lives near here I
thought you might be Goarly. When I saw Goarly he had a gun, and you
have a gun. Can you tell me where Goarly lives?"

"Tother side of the wood," said Bean pointing back with his thumb.
"He never had a gun like this in his hand in all his born days."

"I dare say not, my friend. I can go through the wood I guess;" for
Bean had pointed exactly over the gateway.

"I guess you can't then," said Bean. The man who, like other
gamekeepers, lived much in the company of gentlemen, was ordinarily
a civil courteous fellow, who knew how to smile and make things
pleasant. But at this moment he was very much put out. His covert had
been found full of red herrings and strychnine, and his fox had been
poisoned. He had lost his guinea on the day of the hunt,--the guinea
which would have been his perquisite had they found a live fox in his
wood. And all this was being done by such a fellow as Goarly! And now
this abandoned wretch was bringing an action against his Lordship and
was leagued with such men as Scrobby and Bearside! It was a dreadful
state of things! How was it likely that he should give a passage
through the wood to anybody coming after Goarly? "You're on Mr.
Twentyman's land now, as I dare say you know."

"I don't know anything about it."

"Well;--that wood is Lord Rufford's wood."

"I did know as much as that, certainly."

"And you can't go into it."

"How shall I find Mr. Goarly's house?"

"If you'll get over that there ditch you'll be on Mister Goarly's
land and that's all about it." Bean as he said this put a strongly
ironical emphasis on the term of respect and then turned back into
the wood.

The Senator made his way down the fence to the bank on which Goarly
had stood with his gun, then over into Goarly's field, and so round
the back of the wood till he saw a small red brick house standing
perhaps four hundred yards from the covert, just on the elbow of a
lane. It was a miserable-looking place with a pigsty and a dung-heap
and a small horse-pond or duck-puddle all close around it. The stack
of chimneys seemed to threaten to fall, and as he approached from
behind he could see that the two windows opening that way were
stuffed with rags. There was a little cabbage garden which now seemed
to be all stalks, and a single goose waddling about the duck-puddle.
The Senator went to the door, and having knocked, was investigated by
a woman from behind it. Yes, this was Goarly's house. What did the
gentleman want? Goarly was at work in the field. Then she came out,
the Senator having signified his friendly intentions, and summoned
Goarly to the spot.

"I hope I see you well, sir," said the Senator putting out his hand
as Goarly came up dragging a dung-fork behind him.

Goarly rubbed his hand on his breeches before he gave it to be shaken
and declared himself to be "pretty tidy, considering."

"I was present the other day, Mr. Goarly, when that dead fox was
exposed to view."

"Was you, sir?"

"I was given to understand that you had destroyed the brute."

"Don't you believe a word on it then," said the woman interposing.
"He didn't do nothing of the kind. Who ever seed him a' buying of red
herrings and p'ison?"

"Hold your jaw," said Goarly,--familiarly. "Let 'em prove it. I don't
know who you are, sir; but let 'em prove it."

"My name, Mr. Goarly, is Elias Gotobed. I am an American citizen, and
Senator for the State of Mickewa." Mr. and Mrs. Goarly shook their
heads at every separate item of information tendered to them. "I am
on a visit to this country and am at present staying at the house of
my friend, Mr. John Morton."

"He's the gentl'man from Bragton, Dan."

"Hold your jaw, can't you?" said the husband. Then he touched his hat
to the Senator intending to signify that the Senator might, if he
pleased, continue his narrative.

"If you did kill that fox, Mr. Goarly, I think you were quite right
to kill him." Then Goarly winked at him. "I cannot imagine that even
the laws of England could justify a man in perpetuating a breed of
wild animals that are destructive to his neighbours' property."

"I could shoot 'un; not a doubt about that, Mister. I could shoot
'un;--and I wull."

"Have a care, Dan," whispered Mrs. Goarly.

"Hold your jaw,--will ye? I could shoot 'un, Mister. I don't rightly
know about p'ison."

"That fox we saw was poisoned I suppose," said the Senator,
carelessly.

"Have a care, Dan;--have a care!" whispered the wife.

"Allow me to assure both of you," said the Senator, "that you need
fear nothing from me. I have come quite as a friend."

"Thank 'ee, sir," said Goarly again touching his hat.

"It seems to me," said the Senator, "that in this matter a great many
men are leagued together against you."

"You may say that, sir. I didn't just catch your name, sir."

"My name is Gotobed;--Gotobed; Elias Gotobed, Senator from the State
of Mickewa to the United States Congress." Mrs. Goarly who understood
nothing of all these titles, and who had all along doubted, dropped a
suspicious curtsey. Goarly, who understood a little now, took his hat
altogether off. He was very much puzzled but inclined to think that
if he managed matters rightly, profit might be got out of this very
strange meeting. "In my country, Mr. Goarly, all men are free and
equal."

"That's a fine thing, sir."

"It is a fine thing, my friend, if properly understood and properly
used. Coming from such a country I was shocked to see so many rich
men banded together against one who I suppose is not rich."

"Very far from it," said the woman.

"It's my own land, you know," said Goarly who was proud of his
position as a landowner. "No one can't touch me on it, as long as the
rates is paid. I'm as good a man here,"--and he stamped his foot on
the ground,--"as his Lordship is in that there wood."

This was the first word spoken by the Goarlys that had pleased the
Senator, and this set him off again. "Just so;--and I admire a man
that will stand up for his own rights. I am told that you have found
his Lordship's pheasants destructive to your corn."

"Didn't leave him hardly a grain last August," said Mrs. Goarly.

"Will you hold your jaw, woman, or will you not?" said the man,
turning round fiercely at her. "I'm going to have the law of his
Lordship, sir. What's seven and six an acre? There's that quantity
of pheasants in that wood as'd eat up any mortal thing as ever was
growed. Seven and six!"

"Didn't you propose arbitration?"

"I never didn't propose nothin'. I've axed two pound, and my lawyer
says as how I'll get it. What I sold come off that other bit of
ground down there. Wonderful crop! And this 'd've been the same. His
Lordship ain't nothin' to me, Mr. Gotobed."

"You don't approve of hunting, Mr. Goarly?"

"Oh, I approves if they'd pay a poor man for what harm they does
him. Look at that there goose." Mr. Gotobed did look at the goose.
"There's nine and twenty they've tuk from me, and only left un
that." Now Mrs. Goarly's goose was well known in those parts. It was
declared that she was more than a match for any fox in the county,
but that Mrs. Goarly for the last two years had never owned any goose
but this one.

"The foxes have eaten them all?" asked the Senator.

"Every mortal one."

"And the gentlemen of the hunt have paid you nothing."

"I had four half-crowns once," said the woman.

"If you don't send the heads you don't get it," said the man, "and
then they'll keep you waiting months and months, just for their
pleasures. Who's a going to put up with that? I ain't."

"And now you're going to law?"

"I am,--like a man. His Lordship ain't nothin' to me. I ain't afeard
of his Lordship."

"Will it cost you much?"

"That's just what it will do, sir," said the woman.

"Didn't I tell you, hold your jaw?"

"The gentl'man was going to offer to help us a little, Dan."

"I was going to say that I am interested in the case, and that you
have all my good wishes. I do not like to offer pecuniary help."

"You're very good, sir; very good. This bit of land is mine; not a
doubt of it;--but we're poor, sir."

"Indeed we is," said the woman. "What with taxes and rates, and them
foxes as won't let me rear a head of poultry and them brutes of birds
as eats up the corn, I often tells him he'd better sell the bit o'
land and just set up for a public."

"It belonged to my feyther and grandfeyther," said Goarly.

Then the Senator's heart was softened again and he explained at great
length that he would watch the case and if he saw his way clearly,
befriend it with substantial aid. He asked about the attorney and
took down Bearside's address. After that he shook hands with both of
them, and then made his way back to Bragton through Mr. Twentyman's
farm.

Mr. and Mrs. Goarly were left in a state of great perturbation of
mind. They could not in the least make out among themselves who the
gentleman was, or whether he had come for good or evil. That he
called himself Gotobed Goarly did remember, and also that he had said
that he was an American. All that which had referred to senatorial
honours and the State of Mickewa had been lost upon Goarly. The
question of course arose whether he was not a spy sent out by Lord
Rufford's man of business, and Mrs. Goarly was clearly of opinion
that such had been the nature of his employment. Had he really been a
friend, she suggested, he would have left a sovereign behind him. "He
didn't get no information from me," said Goarly.

"Only about Mr. Bearside."

"What's the odds of that? They all knows that. Bearside! Why should
I be ashamed of Bearside? I'll do a deal better with Bearside than
I would with that old woman, Masters."

"But he took it down in writing, Dan."

"What the d----'s the odds in that?"

"I don't like it when they puts it down in writing."

"Hold your jaw," said Goarly as he slowly shouldered the dung-fork to
take it back to his work. But as they again discussed the matter that
night the opinion gained ground upon them that the Senator had been
an emissary from the enemy.



CHAPTER XVII.

LORD RUFFORD'S INVITATION.


On that same Wednesday afternoon when Morton returned with the ladies
in the carriage he found that a mounted servant had arrived from
Rufford Hall with a letter and had been instructed to wait for an
answer. The man was now refreshing himself in the servants' hall.
Morton, when he had read the letter, found that it required some
consideration before he could answer it. It was to the following
purport. Lord Rufford had a party of ladies and gentlemen at Rufford
Hall, as his sister, Lady Penwether, was staying with him. Would Mr.
Morton and his guests come over to Rufford Hall on Monday and stay
till Wednesday? On Tuesday there was to be a dance for the people of
the neighbourhood. Then he specified, as the guests invited, Lady
Augustus and her daughter and Mr. Gotobed,--omitting the honourable
Mrs. Morton of whose sojourn in the county he might have been
ignorant. His Lordship went on to say that he trusted the abruptness
of the invitation might be excused on account of the nearness of
their neighbourhood and the old friendship which had existed between
their families. He had had, he said, the pleasure of being acquainted
with Lady Augustus and her daughter in London and would be proud to
see Mr. Gotobed at his house during his sojourn in the county. Then
he added in a postscript that the hounds met at Rufford Hall on
Tuesday and that he had a horse that carried a lady well if Miss
Trefoil would like to ride him. He could also put up a horse for Mr.
Morton.

This was all very civil, but there was something in it that was
almost too civil. There came upon Morton a suspicion, which he did
not even define to himself, that the invitation was due to Arabella's
charms. There were many reasons why he did not wish to accept it.
His grandmother was left out and he feared that she would be angry.
He did not feel inclined to take the American Senator to the lord's
house, knowing as he did that the American Senator was interfering in
a ridiculous manner on behalf of Goarly. And he did not particularly
wish to be present at Rufford Hall with the Trefoil ladies. Hitherto
he had received very little satisfaction from their visit to
Bragton,--so little that he had been more than once on the verge
of asking Arabella whether she wished to be relieved from her
engagement. She had never quite given him the opportunity. She
had always been gracious to him in a cold, disagreeable, glassy
manner,--in a manner that irked his spirit but still did not justify
him in expressing anger. Lady Augustus was almost uncivil to him, and
from time to time said little things which were hard to bear; but
he was not going to marry Lady Augustus, and could revenge himself
against her by resolving in his own breast that he would have as
little as possible to do with her after his marriage. That was the
condition of his mind towards them, and in that condition he did not
want to take them to Lord Rufford's house. Their visit to him would
be over on Monday, and it would he thought be better for him that
they should then go on their way to the Gores as they had proposed.

But he did not like to answer the letter by a refusal without saying
a word to his guests on the subject. He would not object to ignore
the Senator, but he was afraid that if nothing were to be said to
Arabella she would hear of it hereafter and would complain of such
treatment. He therefore directed that the man might be kept waiting
while he consulted the lady of his choice. It was with difficulty
that he found himself alone with her,--and then only by sending
her maid in quest of her. He did get her at last into his own
sitting-room and then, having placed her in a chair near the fire,
gave her Lord Rufford's letter to read. "What can it be," said she
looking up into his face with her great inexpressive eyes, "that has
required all this solemnity?" She still looked up at him and did not
even open the letter.

"I did not like to answer that without showing it to you. I don't
suppose you would care to go."

"Go where?"

"It is from Lord Rufford,--for Monday."

"From Lord Rufford!"

"It would break up all your plans and your mother's, and would
probably be a great bore."

Then she did read the letter, very carefully and very slowly,
weighing every word of it as she read it. Did it mean more than it
said? But though she read it slowly and carefully and was long before
she made him any answer, she had very quickly resolved that the
invitation should be accepted. It would suit her very well to know
Lady Penwether. It might possibly suit her still better to become
intimate with Lord Rufford. She was delighted at the idea of riding
Lord Rufford's horse. As her eyes dwelt on the paper she, too, began
to think that the invitation had been chiefly given on her account.
At any rate she would go. She had understood perfectly well from the
first tone of her lover's voice that he did not wish to subject her
to the allurements of Rufford Hall. She was clever enough, and could
read it all. But she did not mean to throw away a chance for the sake
of pleasing him. She must not at once displease him by declaring her
purpose strongly, and therefore, as she slowly continued her reading,
she resolved that she would throw the burden upon her mother. "Had I
not better show this to mamma?" she said.

"You can if you please. You are going to the Gores on Monday."

"We could not go earlier; but we might put it off for a couple of
days if we pleased. Would it bore you?"

"I don't mind about myself. I'm not a very great man for dances."

"You'd sooner write a report,--wouldn't you,--about the products of
the country?"

"A great deal sooner," said the Paragon.

"But you see we haven't all of us got products to write about. I
don't care very much about it myself;--but if you don't mind I'll ask
mamma." Of course he was obliged to consent, and merely informed her
as she went off with the letter that a servant was waiting for an
answer.

"To go to Lord Rufford's!" said Lady Augustus.

"From Monday till Wednesday, mamma. Of course we must go."

"I promised poor Mrs. Gore."

"Nonsense, mamma! The Gores can do very well without us. That was
only to be a week and we can still stay out our time. Of course this
has only been sent because we are here."

"I should say so. I don't suppose Lord Rufford would care to know Mr.
Morton. Lady Penwether goes everywhere; doesn't she?"

"Everywhere. It would suit me to a 't' to get on to Lady Penwether's
books. But, mamma, of course it's not that. If Lord Rufford should
say a word it is so much easier to manage down in the country than up
in London. He has £40,000 a year, if he has a penny."

"How many girls have tried the same thing with him! But I don't mind.
I've always said that John Morton and Bragton would not do."

"No, mamma; you haven't. You were the first to say they would do."

"I only said that if there were nothing else--"

"Oh, mamma, how can you say such things! Nothing else,--as if he were
the last man! You said distinctly that Bragton was £7,000 a year, and
that it would do very well. You may change your mind if you like; but
it's no good trying to back out of your own doings."

"Then I have changed my mind."

"Yes,--without thinking what I have to go through. I'm not going
to throw myself at Lord Rufford's head so as to lose my chance
here;--but we'll go and see how the land lies. Of course you'll go,
mamma."

"If you think it is for your advantage, my dear."

"My advantage! It's part of the work to be done and we may as well do
it. At any rate I'll tell him to accept. We shall have this odious
American with us, but that can't be helped."

"And the old woman?"

"Lord Rufford doesn't say anything about her. I don't suppose he's
such a muff but what he can leave his grandmother behind for a couple
of days." Then she went back to Morton and told him that her mother
was particularly anxious to make the acquaintance of Lady Penwether
and that she had decided upon going to Rufford Hall. "It will be a
very nice opportunity," said she, "for you to become acquainted with
Lord Rufford."

Then he was almost angry. "I can make plenty of such opportunities
for myself, when I want them," he said. "Of course if you and Lady
Augustus like it, we will go. But let it stand on its right bottom."

"It may stand on any bottom you please."

"Do you mean to ride the man's horse?"

"Certainly I do. I never refuse a good offer. Why shouldn't I ride
the man's horse? Did you never hear before of a young lady borrowing
a gentleman's horse?"

"No lady belonging to me will ever do so,--unless the gentleman be a
very close friend indeed."

"The lady in this case does not belong to you, Mr. Morton, and
therefore, if you have no other objection, she will ride Lord
Rufford's horse. Perhaps you will not think it too much trouble to
signify the lady's acceptance of the mount in your letter." Then she
swam out of the room knowing that she left him in anger. After that
he had to find Mr. Gotobed. The going was now decided on as far as he
was concerned, and it would make very little difference whether the
American went or not,--except that his letter would have been easier
to him in accepting the invitation for three persons than for four.
But the Senator was of course willing. It was the Senator's object to
see England, and Lord Rufford's house would be an additional bit of
England. The Senator would be delighted to have an opportunity of
saying what he thought about Goarly at Lord Rufford's table. After
that, before this weary letter could be written, he was compelled to
see his grandmother and explain to her that she had been omitted.

"Of course, ma'am, they did not know that you were at Bragton, as you
were not in the carriage at the 'meet.'"

"That's nonsense, John. Did Lord Rufford suppose that you were
entertaining ladies here without some one to be mistress of the
house? Of course he knew that I was here. I shouldn't have gone;--you
may be sure of that. I'm not in the habit of going to the houses of
people I don't know. Indeed I think it's an impertinence in them
to ask in that way. I'm surprised that you would go on such an
invitation."

"The Trefoils knew them."

"If Lady Penwether knew them why could not Lady Penwether ask
them independently of us? I don't believe they ever spoke to Lady
Penwether in their lives. Lord Rufford and Miss Trefoil may very
likely be London acquaintances. He may admire her and therefore
choose to have her at his ball. I know nothing about that. As far as
I am concerned he's quite welcome to keep her."

All this was not very pleasant to John Morton. He knew already that
his grandmother and Lady Augustus hated each other, and said spiteful
things not only behind each other's backs, but openly to each other's
faces. But now he had been told by the girl who was engaged to be his
wife that she did not belong to him; and by his grandmother,--who
stood to him in the place of his mother,--that she wished that this
girl belonged to some one else! He was not quite sure that he did
not wish it himself. But, even were it to be so, and should there be
reason for him to be gratified at the escape, still he did not relish
the idea of taking the girl himself to the other man's house. He
wrote the letter, however, and dispatched it. But even the writing
of it was difficult and disagreeable. When various details of
hospitality have been offered by a comparative stranger a man hardly
likes to accept them all. But in this case he had to do it. He would
be delighted, he said, to stay at Rufford Hall from the Monday
to the Wednesday;--Lady Augustus and Miss Trefoil would also be
delighted;--and so also would Mr. Gotobed be delighted. And Miss
Trefoil would be further delighted to accept Lord Rufford's offer of
a horse for the Tuesday. As for himself, if he rode at all, a horse
would come for him to the meet. Then he wrote another note to Mr.
Harry Stubbings, bespeaking a mount for the occasion.

On that evening the party at Bragton was not a very pleasant one. "No
doubt you are intimate with Lady Penwether, Lady Augustus," said Mrs.
Morton. Now Lady Penwether was a very fashionable woman whom to know
was considered an honour.

"What makes you ask, ma'am?" said Lady Augustus.

"Only as you were taking your daughter to her brother's house, and as
he is a bachelor."

"My dear Mrs. Morton, really you may leave me to take care of myself
and of my daughter too. You have lived so much out of the world for
the last thirty years that it is quite amusing."

"There are some persons' worlds that it is a great deal better for a
lady to be out of," said Mrs. Morton. Then Lady Augustus put up her
hands, and turned round, and affected to laugh, of all which things
Mr. Gotobed, who was studying English society, made notes in his own
mind.

"What sort of position does that man Goarly occupy here?" the Senator
asked immediately after dinner.

"No position at all," said Morton.

"Every man created holds some position as I take it. The land is his
own."

"He has I believe about fifty acres."

"And yet he seems to be in the lowest depth of poverty and
ignorance."

"Of course he mismanages his property and probably drinks."

"I dare say, Mr. Morton. He is proud of his rights, and talked of his
father and his grandfather, and yet I doubt whether you would find a
man so squalid and so ignorant in all the States. I suppose he is
injured by having a lord so near him."

"Quite the contrary if he would be amenable."

"You mean if he would be a creature of the lord's. And why was that
other man so uncivil to me;--the man who was the lord's gamekeeper?"

"Because you went there as a friend of Goarly."

"And that's his idea of English fair play?" asked the Senator with a
jeer.

"The truth is, Mr. Gotobed," said Morton endeavouring to explain it
all, "you see a part only and not the whole. That man Goarly is a
rascal."

"So everybody says."

"And why can't you believe everybody?"

"So everybody says on the lord's side. But before I'm done I'll find
out what people say on the other side. I can see that he is ignorant
and squalid; but that very probably is the lord's fault. It may be
that he is a rascal and that the lord is to blame for that too. But
if the lord's pheasants have eaten up Goarly's corn, the lord ought
to pay for the corn whether Goarly be a rascal or not." Then John
Morton made up his mind that he would never ask another American
Senator to his house.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE ATTORNEY'S FAMILY IS DISTURBED.


On that Wednesday evening Mary Masters said nothing to any of her
family as to the invitation from Lady Ushant. She very much wished
to accept it. Latterly, for the last month or two, her distaste to
the kind of life for which her stepmother was preparing her, had
increased upon her greatly. There had been days in which she had
doubted whether it might not be expedient that she should accept Mr.
Twentyman's offer. She believed no ill of him. She thought him to be
a fine manly young fellow with a good heart and high principles. She
never asked herself whether he were or were not a gentleman. She had
never even inquired of herself whether she herself were or were not
especially a lady. But with all her efforts to like the man,--because
she thought that by doing so she would relieve and please her
father,--yet he was distasteful to her; and now, since that walk
home with him from Bragton Bridge, he was more distasteful than ever.
She did not tell herself that a short visit, say for a month, to
Cheltenham, would prevent his further attentions, but she felt that
there would be a temporary escape. I do not think that she dwelt much
on the suggestion that Reginald Morton should be her companion on the
journey,--but the idea of such companionship, even for a short time,
was pleasant to her. If he did this surely then he would forgive her
for having left him at the bridge. She had much to think of before
she could resolve how she should tell her tidings. Should she show
the letter first to her stepmother or to her father? In the ordinary
course of things in that house the former course would be expected.
It was Mrs. Masters who managed everything affecting the family.
It was she who gave permission or denied permission for every
indulgence. She was generally fair to the three girls, taking special
pride to herself for doing her duty by her stepdaughter;--but on this
very account she was the more likely to be angry if Mary passed her
by on such an occasion as this and went to her father. But should her
stepmother have once refused her permission, then the matter would
have been decided against her. It would be quite useless to appeal
from her stepmother to her father;--nor would such an appeal come
within the scope of her own principles. The Mortons, and especially
Lady Ushant, had been her father's friends in old days and she
thought that perhaps she might prevail in this case if she could
speak to her father first. She knew well what would be the great, or
rather the real objection. Her mother would not wish that she should
be removed so long from Larry Twentyman. There might be difficulties
about her clothes, but her father, she knew would be kind to her.

At last she made up her mind that she would ask her father. He was
always at his office-desk for half an hour in the morning, before
the clerks had come, and on the following day, a minute or two after
he had taken his seat, she knocked at the door. He was busy reading
a letter from Lord Rufford's man of business, asking him certain
questions about Goarly and almost employing him to get up the case
on Lord Rufford's behalf. There was a certain triumph to him in
this. It was not by his means that tidings had reached Lord Rufford
of his refusal to undertake Goarly's case. But Runciman, who was
often allowed by his lordship to say a few words to him in the
hunting-field, had mentioned the circumstance. "A man like Mr.
Masters is better without such a blackguard as that," the Lord had
said. Then Runciman had replied, "No doubt, my Lord; no doubt. But
Dillsborough is a poor place, and business is business, my Lord."
Then Lord Rufford had remembered it, and the letter which the
attorney was somewhat triumphantly reading had been the consequence.

"Is that you, Mary? What can I do for you, my love?"

"Papa, I want you to read this." Then Mr. Masters read the letter.
"I should so like to go."

"Should you, my dear?"

"Oh yes! Lady Ushant has been so kind to me,--all my life! And I do
so love her!"

"What does mamma say?"

"I haven't asked mamma."

"Is there any reason why you shouldn't go?"

Of that one reason,--as to Larry Twentyman,--of course she would
say nothing. She must leave him to discuss that with her mother.
"I should want some clothes, papa; a dress, and some boots, and a
new hat, and there would be money for the journey and a few other
things." The attorney winced, but at the same time remembered that
something was due to his eldest child in the way of garments and
relaxation. "I never like to be an expense, papa."

"You are very good about that, my dear. I don't see why you shouldn't
go. It's very kind of Lady Ushant. I'll talk to mamma." Then Mary
went away to get the breakfast, fearing that before long there would
be black looks in the house.

Mr. Masters at once went up to his wife,--having given himself a
minute or two to calculate that he would let Mary have twenty pounds
for the occasion,--and made his proposition. "I never heard of such
nonsense in my life," said Mrs. Masters.

"Nonsense,--my dear! Why should it be nonsense?"

"Cocking her up with Lady Ushant! What good will Lady Ushant do her?
She's not going to live with ladies of quality all her life."

"Why shouldn't she live with ladies?"

"You know what I mean, Gregory. The Mortons have dropped you, for any
use they were to you, long ago, and you may as well make up your mind
to drop them. You'll go on hankering after gentlefolks till you've
about ruined yourself."

When he remembered that he had that very morning received a
commission from Lord Rufford he thought that this was a little too
bad. But he was not now in a humour to make known to her this piece
of good news. "I like to feel that she has got friends," he said,
going back to Mary's proposed visit.

"Of course she has got friends, if she'll only take up with them as
she ought to do. Why does she go on shilly-shallying with that young
man, instead of closing upon it at once? If she did that she wouldn't
want such friends as Lady Ushant. Why did the girl come to you with
all this instead of asking me?"

"There would be a little money wanted."

"Money! Yes, I dare say. It's very easy to want money but very hard
to get it. If you send clients away out of the office with a flea in
their ear I don't see how she's to have all manner of luxuries. She
ought to have come to me."

"I don't see that at all, my dear."

"If I'm to look after her she shall be said by me;--that's all. I've
done for her just as I have for my own and I'm not going to have
her turn up her nose at me directly she wants anything for herself.
I know what's fit for Mary, and it ain't fit that she should go
trapesing away to Cheltenham, doing nothing in that old woman's
parlour, and losing her chances for life. Who is to suppose that
Larry Twentyman will go on dangling after her in this way, month
after month? The young man wants a wife, and of course he'll get
one."

"You can't make her marry the man if she don't like him."

"Like him! She ought to be made to like him. A young man well off as
he is, and she without a shilling! All that comes from Ushanting." It
never occurred to Mrs. Masters that perhaps the very qualities that
had made poor Larry so vehemently in love with Mary had come from her
intercourse with Lady Ushant. "If I'm to have my way she won't go a
yard on the way to Cheltenham."

"I've told her she may go," said Mr. Masters, whose mind was
wandering back to old days,--to his first wife, and to the time when
he used to be an occasional guest in the big parlour at Bragton. He
was always ready to acknowledge to himself that his present wife
was a good and helpful companion to him and a careful mother to his
children; but there were moments in which he would remember with soft
regret a different phase of his life. Just at present he was somewhat
angry, and resolving in his own mind that in this case he would have
his own way.

"Then I shall tell her she mayn't," said Mrs. Masters, with a look of
dogged determination.

"I hope you will do nothing of the kind, my dear. I've told her that
she shall have a few pounds to get what she wants, and I won't have
her disappointed." After that Mrs. Masters bounced out of the room,
and made herself very disagreeable indeed over the tea-things.

The whole household was much disturbed that day. Mrs. Masters said
nothing to Mary about Lady Ushant all the morning, but said a great
deal about other things. Poor Mary was asked whether she was not
ashamed to treat a young man as she was treating Mr. Twentyman. Then
again it was demanded of her whether she thought it right that all
the house should be knocked about for her. At dinner Mrs. Masters
would hardly speak to her husband but addressed herself exclusively
to Dolly and Kate. Mr. Masters was not a man who could, usually,
stand this kind of thing very long and was accustomed to give up in
despair and then take himself off to the solace of his office-chair.
But on the present occasion he went through his meal like a Spartan,
and retired from the room without a sign of surrender. In the
afternoon about five o'clock Mary watched her opportunity and found
him again alone. It was incumbent on her to reply to Lady Ushant.
Would it not be better that she should write and say how sorry she
was that she could not come? "But I want you to go," said he.

"Oh, papa;--I cannot bear to cause trouble."

"No, my dear; no; and I'm sure I don't like trouble myself. But in
this case I think you ought to go. What day has she named?" Then Mary
declared that she could not possibly go so soon as Lady Ushant had
suggested, but that she could be ready by the 18th of December. "Then
write and tell her so, my dear, and I will let your mother know that
it is fixed." But Mary still hesitated, desiring to know whether she
had not better speak to her mother first. "I think you had better
write your letter first,"--and then he absolutely made her write it
in the office and give it to him to be posted. After that he promised
to communicate to Reginald Morton what had been done.

The household was very much disturbed the whole of that evening. Poor
Mary never remembered such a state of things, and when there had been
any difference of opinion, she had hitherto never been the cause of
it. Now it was all owing to her! And things were said so terrible
that she hardly knew how to bear them. Her father had promised her
the twenty pounds, and it was insinuated that all the comforts of
the family must be stopped because of this lavish extravagance. Her
father sat still and bore it, almost without a word. Both Dolly
and Kate were silent and wretched. Mrs. Masters every now and then
gurgled in her throat, and three or four times wiped her eyes. "I'm
better out of the way altogether," she said at last, jumping up
and walking towards the door as though she were going to leave the
room,--and the house, for ever.

"Mamma," said Mary, rising from her seat, "I won't go. I'll write and
tell Lady Ushant that I can't do it."

"You're not to mind me," said Mrs. Masters. "You're to do what your
papa tells you. Everything that I've been striving at is to be thrown
away. I'm to be nobody, and it's quite right that your papa should
tell you so."

"Dear mamma, don't talk like that," said Mary, clinging hold of her
stepmother.

"Your papa sits there and won't say a word," said Mrs. Masters,
stamping her foot.

"What's the good of speaking when you go on like that before the
children?" said Mr. Masters, getting up from his chair. "I say that
it's a proper thing that the girl should go to see the old friend who
brought her up and has been always kind to her,--and she shall go."
Mrs. Masters seated herself on the nearest chair and leaning her
head against the wall, began to go into hysterics. "Your letter has
already gone, Mary; and I desire you will write no other without
letting me know." Then he left the room and the house,--and
absolutely went over to the Bush. This latter proceeding was,
however, hardly more than a bravado; for he merely took the
opportunity of asking Mrs. Runciman a question at the bar, and then
walked back to his own house, and shut himself up in the office.

On the next morning he called on Reginald Morton and told him that
his daughter had accepted Lady Ushant's invitation, but could not
go till the 18th. "I shall be proud to take charge of her," said
Reginald. "And as for the change in the day it will suit me all the
better." So that was settled.

On the next day, Friday, Mrs. Masters did not come down to breakfast,
but was waited upon upstairs by her own daughters. This with her was
a most unusual circumstance. The two maids were of opinion that such
a thing had never occurred before, and that therefore Masters must
have been out half the night at the public-house although they had
not known it. To Mary she would hardly speak a word. She appeared
at dinner and called her husband Mr. Masters when she helped him to
stew. All the afternoon she averred that her head was splitting, but
managed to say many very bitter things about gentlemen in general,
and expressed a vehement hope that that poor man Goarly would get at
least a hundred pounds. It must be owned, however, that at this time
she had heard nothing of Lord Rufford's commission to her husband.
In the evening Larry came in and was at once told the terrible news.
"Larry," said Kate, "Mary is going away for a month."

"Where are you going, Mary?" asked the lover eagerly.

"To Lady Ushant's, Mr. Twentyman."

"For a month!"

"She has asked me for a month," said Mary.

"It's a regular fool's errand," said Mrs. Masters. "It's not done
with my consent, Mr. Twentyman. I don't think she ought to stir from
home till things are more settled."

"They can be settled this moment as far as I am concerned," said
Larry standing up.

"There now," said Mrs. Masters. At this time Mr. Masters was not in
the room. "If you can make it straight with Mr. Twentyman I won't say
a word against your going away for a month."

"Mamma, you shouldn't!" exclaimed Mary.

"I hate such nonsense. Mr. Twentyman is behaving honest and genteel.
What more would you have? Give him an answer like a sensible girl."

"I have given him an answer and I cannot say anything more," said
Mary as she left the room.



CHAPTER XIX.

"WHO VALUED THE GEESE?"


Before the time had come for the visit to Rufford Hall Mr. Gotobed
had called upon Bearside the attorney and had learned as much as
Mr. Bearside chose to tell him of the facts of the case. This took
place on the Saturday morning and the interview was on the whole
satisfactory to the Senator. But then having a theory of his own
in his head, and being fond of ventilating his own theories, he
explained thoroughly to the man the story which he wished to hear
before the man was called upon to tell his story. Mr. Bearside of
course told it accordingly. Goarly was a very poor man, and very
ignorant; was perhaps not altogether so good a member of society as
he might have been; but no doubt he had a strong case against the
lord. The lord, so said Mr. Bearside, had fallen into a way of paying
a certain recompense in certain cases for crops damaged by game;--and
having in this way laid down a rule for himself did not choose to
have that rule disturbed. "Just feudalism!" said the indignant
Senator. "No better, nor yet no worse than that, sir," said the
attorney who did not in the least know what feudalism was. "The
strong hand backed by the strong rank and the strong purse determined
to have its own way!" continued the Senator. "A most determined man
is his lordship," said the attorney. Then the Senator expressed his
hope that Mr. Bearside would be able to see the poor man through it,
and Mr. Bearside explained to the Senator that the poor man was a
very poor man indeed, who had been so unfortunate with his land that
he was hardly able to provide bread for himself and his children. He
went so far as to insinuate that he was taking up this matter himself
solely on the score of charity, adding that as he could not of course
afford to be money out of pocket for expenses of witnesses, &c.,
he did not quite see how he was to proceed. Then the Senator made
certain promises. He was, he said, going back to London in the course
of next week, but he did not mind making himself responsible to the
extent of fifty dollars if the thing were carried on, bonâ fide, to
a conclusion. Mr. Bearside declared that it would of course be bonâ
fide, and asked the Senator for his address. Would Mr. Gotobed object
to putting his name to a little docket certifying to the amount
promised? Mr. Gotobed gave an address, but thought that in such a
matter as that his word might be trusted. If it were not trusted then
the offer might fall to the ground. Mr. Bearside was profuse in his
apologies and declared that the gentleman's word was as good as his
bond.

Mr. Gotobed made no secret of his doings. Perhaps he had a feeling
that he could not justify himself in so strange a proceeding without
absolute candour. He saw Mr. Mainwaring in the street as he left
Bearside's office and told him all about it. "I just want, sir, to
see what'll come of it."

"You'll lose your fifty dollars, Mr. Gotobed, and only cause a little
vexation to a high-spirited young nobleman."

"Very likely, sir. But neither the loss of my dollars, nor Lord
Rufford's slight vexation will in the least disturb my rest. I'm
not a rich man, sir, but I should like to watch the way in which
such a question will be tried and brought to a conclusion in this
aristocratic country. I don't quite know what your laws may be, Mr.
Mainwaring."

"Just the same as your own, Mr. Gotobed, I take it."

"We have no game laws, sir. As I was saying I don't understand your
laws, but justice is the same everywhere. If this great lord's game
has eaten up the poor man's wheat the great lord ought to pay for
it."

"The owners of game pay for the damage they do three times over,"
said the parson, who was very strongly on that side of the question.
"Do you think that such men as Goarly would be better off if the
gentry were never to come into the country at all?"

"Perhaps, Mr. Mainwaring, I may think that there would be no Goarlys
if there were no Ruffords. That, however, is a great question which
cannot be argued on this case. All we can hope here is that one poor
man may have an act of justice done him though in seeking for it he
has to struggle against so wealthy a magnate as Lord Rufford."

"What I hope is that he may be found out," replied Mr. Mainwaring
with equal enthusiasm, "and then he will be in Rufford gaol before
long. That's the justice I look for. Who do you think put down the
poison in Dillsborough wood?"

"How was it that the poor woman lost all her geese?" asked the
Senator.

"She was paid for a great many more than she lost, Mr. Gotobed."

"That doesn't touch upon the injustice of the proceeding. Who
assessed the loss, sir? Who valued the geese? Am I to keep a pet
tiger in my garden, and give you a couple of dollars when he destroys
your pet dog, and think myself justified because dogs as a rule are
not worth more than two dollars each? She has a right to her own
geese on her own ground."

"And Lord Rufford, sir, as I take it," said Runciman, who had been
allowed to come up and hear the end of the conversation, "has a right
to his own foxes in his own coverts."

"Yes,--if he could keep them there, my friend. But as it is the
nature of foxes to wander away and to be thieves, he has no such
right."

"Of course, sir, begging your pardon," said Runciman, "I was speaking
of England." Runciman had heard of the Senator Gotobed, as indeed had
all Dillsborough by this time.

"And I am speaking of justice all the world over," said the Senator
slapping his hand upon his thigh. "But I only want to see. It may be
that England is a country in which a poor man should not attempt to
hold a few acres of land."

On that night the Dillsborough club met as usual and, as a matter
of course, Goarly and the American Senator were the subjects
chiefly discussed. Everybody in the room knew,--or thought that he
knew,--that Goarly was a cheating fraudulent knave, and that Lord
Rufford was, at any rate, in this case acting properly. They all
understood the old goose, and were aware, nearly to a bushel, of the
amount of wheat which the man had sold off those two fields. Runciman
knew that the interest on the mortgage had been paid, and could only
have been paid out of the produce; and Larry Twentyman knew that if
Goarly took his 7_s._ 6_d._ an acre he would be better off than if
the wood had not been there. But yet among them all they didn't quite
see how they were to confute the Senator's logic. They could not
answer it satisfactorily, even among themselves; but they felt that
if Goarly could be detected in some offence, that would confute
the Senator. Among themselves it was sufficient to repeat the
well-known fact that Goarly was a rascal; but with reference to this
aggravating, interfering, and most obnoxious American it would be
necessary to prove it.

"His Lordship has put it into Masters's hands, I'm told," said the
doctor. At this time neither the attorney nor Larry Twentyman was in
the room.

"He couldn't have done better," said Runciman, speaking from behind a
long clay pipe.

"All the same he was nibbling at Goarly," said Ned Botsey.

"I don't know that he was nibbling at Goarly at all, Mr. Botsey,"
said the landlord. "Goarly came to him, and Goarly was refused. What
more would you have?"

"It's all one to me," said Botsey; "only I do think that in a
sporting county like this the place ought to be made too hot to hold
a blackguard like that. If he comes out at me with his gun I'll ride
over him. And I wouldn't mind riding over that American too."

"That's just what would suit Goarly's book," said the doctor.

"Exactly what Goarly would like," said Harry Stubbings.

Then Mr. Masters and Larry entered the room. On that evening two
things had occurred to the attorney. Nickem had returned, and had
asked for and received an additional week's leave of absence. He
had declined to explain accurately what he was doing but gave the
attorney to understand that he thought that he was on the way to
the bottom of the whole thing. Then, after Nickem had left him, Mr.
Masters had a letter of instructions from Lord Rufford's steward.
When he received it, and found that his paid services had been
absolutely employed on behalf of his Lordship, he almost regretted
the encouragement he had given to Nickem. In the first place he might
want Nickem. And then he felt that in his present position he ought
not to be a party to anything underhand. But Nickem was gone, and he
was obliged to console himself by thinking that Nickem was at any
rate employing his intellect on the right side. When he left his
house with Larry Twentyman he had told his wife nothing about Lord
Rufford. Up to this time he and his wife had not as yet reconciled
their difference, and poor Mary was still living in misery. Larry,
though he had called for the attorney, had not sat down in the
parlour, and had barely spoken to Mary. "For gracious sake, Mr.
Twentyman, don't let him stay in that place there half the night,"
said Mrs. Masters. "It ain't fit for a father of a family."

"Father never does stay half the night," said Kate, who took more
liberties in that house than any one else.

"Hold your tongue, miss. I don't know whether it wouldn't be better
for you, Mr. Twentyman, if you were not there so often yourself."
Poor Larry felt this to be hard. He was not even engaged as yet, and
as far as he could see was not on the way to be engaged. In such
condition surely his possible mother-in-law could have no right to
interfere with him. He condescended to make no reply, but crossed the
passage and carried the attorney off with him.

"You've heard what that American gentleman has been about, Mr.
Masters?" asked the landlord.

"I'm told he's been with Bearside."

"And has offered to pay his bill for him if he'll carry on the
business for Goarly. Whoever heard the like of that?"

"What sort of a man is he?" asked the doctor.

"A great man in his own country everybody says," answered Runciman.
"I wish he'd stayed there. He comes over here and thinks he
understands everything just as though he had lived here all his life.
Did you say gin cold, Larry;--and rum for you, Mr. Masters?" Then the
landlord gave the orders to the girl who had answered the bell.

"But they say he's actually going to Lord Rufford's," said young
Botsey who would have given one of his fingers to be asked to the
lord's house.

"They are all going from Bragton," said Runciman.

"The young squire is going to ride one of my horses," said Harry
Stubbings.

"That'll be an easy three pounds in your pockets, Harry," said the
doctor. In answer to which Harry remarked that he took all that as it
came, the heavies and lights together, and that there was not much
change to be got out of three sovereigns when some gentlemen had had
a horse out for the day,--particularly when a gentleman didn't pay
perhaps for twelve months.

"The whole party is going," continued the landlord. "How he is to
have the cheek to go into his Lordship's house after what he is doing
is more than I can understand."

"What business is it of his?" said Larry angrily. "That's what I want
to know. What'd he think if we went and interfered over there? I
shouldn't be surprised if he got a little rough usage before he's out
of the county. I'm told he came across Bean when he was ferretting
about the other day, and that Bean gave him quite as good as he
brought."

"I say he's a spy," said Ribbs the butcher from his seat on the sofa.
"I hates a spy."

Soon after that Mr. Masters left the room and Larry Twentyman
followed him. There was something almost ridiculous in the way
the young man would follow the attorney about on these Saturday
evenings,--as though he could make love to the girl by talking to the
father. But on this occasion he had something special to say. "So
Mary's going to Cheltenham, Mr. Masters."

"Yes, she is. You don't see any objection to that, I hope."

"Not in the least, Mr. Masters. I wish she might go anywhere to enjoy
herself. And from all I've heard Lady Ushant is a very good sort of
lady."

"A very good sort of lady. She won't do Mary any harm, Twentyman."

"I don't suppose she will. But there's one thing I should like to
know. Why shouldn't she tell me before she goes that she'll have me?"

"I wish she would with all my heart."

"And Mrs. Masters is all on my side."

"Quite so."

"And the girls have always been my friends."

"I think we are all your friends, Twentyman. I'm sure Mary is. But
that isn't marrying;--is it?"

"If you would speak to her, Mr. Masters."

"What would you have me say? I couldn't bid my girl to have one man
or another. I could only tell her what I think, and that she knows
already."

"If you were to say that you wished it! She thinks so much about
you."

"I couldn't tell her that I wished it in a manner that would drive
her into it. Of course it would be a very good match. But I have only
to think of her happiness and I must leave her to judge what will
make her happy."

"I should like to have it fixed some way before she starts," said
Larry in an altered tone.

"Of course you are your own master, Twentyman. And you have behaved
very well."

"This is a kind of thing that a man can't stand," said the young
farmer sulkily. "Good night, Mr. Masters." Then he walked off home
to Chowton Farm meditating on his own condition and trying to make
up his mind to leave the scornful girl and become a free man. But
he couldn't do it. He couldn't even quite make up his mind that he
would try to do it. There was a bitterness within as he thought
of permanent fixed failure which he could not digest. There was a
craving in his heart which he did not himself quite understand, but
which made him think that the world would be unfit to be lived in if
he were to be altogether separated from Mary Masters. He couldn't
separate himself from her. It was all very well thinking of it,
talking of it, threatening it; but in truth he couldn't do it. There
might of course be an emergency in which he must do it. She might
declare that she loved some one else and she might marry that other
person. In that event he saw no other alternative but,--as he
expressed it to himself,--"to run a mucker." Whether the "mucker"
should be run against Mary, or against the fortunate lover, or
against himself, he did not at present resolve.

But he did resolve as he reached his own hall-door that he would make
one more passionate appeal to Mary herself before she started for
Cheltenham, and that he would not make it out on a public path, or in
the Masters' family parlour before all the Masters' family;--but that
he would have her secluded, by herself, so that he might speak out
all that was in him, to the best of his ability.



CHAPTER XX.

THERE ARE CONVENANCES.


Before the Monday came the party to Rufford Hall had become quite a
settled thing and had been very much discussed. On the Saturday the
Senator had been driven to the meet, a distance of about ten miles,
on purpose that he might see Lord Rufford and explain his views about
Goarly. Lord Rufford had bowed and stared, and laughed, and had then
told the Senator that he thought he would "find himself in the wrong
box." "That's quite possible, my Lord. I guess, it won't be the first
time I've been in the wrong box, my Lord. Sometimes I do get right.
But I thought I would not enter your lordship's house as a guest
without telling you what I was doing." Then Lord Rufford assured him
that this little affair about Goarly would make no difference in that
respect. Mr. Gotobed again scrutinised the hounds and Tony Tuppett,
laughed in his sleeve because a fox wasn't found in the first quarter
of an hour, and after that was driven back to Bragton.

The Sunday was a day of preparation for the Trefoils. Of course they
didn't go to church. Arabella indeed was never up in time for church
and Lady Augustus only went when her going would be duly registered
among fashionable people. Mr. Gotobed laughed when he was invited
and asked whether anybody was ever known to go to church two Sundays
running at Bragton. "People have been known to refuse with less
acrimony," said Morton. "I always speak my mind, sir," replied the
Senator. Poor John Morton, therefore, went to his parish church
alone.

There were many things to be considered by the Trefoils. There was
the question of dress. If any good was to be done by Arabella at
Rufford it must be done with great despatch. There would be the
dinner on Monday, the hunting on Tuesday, the ball, and then the
interesting moment of departure. No girl could make better use of
her time; but then, think of her difficulties! All that she did
would have to be done under the very eyes of the man to whom she
was engaged, and to whom she wished to remain engaged,--unless, as
she said to herself, she could "pull off the other event." A great
deal must depend on appearance. As she and her mother were out on a
lengthened cruise among long-suffering acquaintances, going to the De
Brownes after the Gores, and the Smijthes after the De Brownes, with
as many holes to run to afterwards as a four-year-old fox,--though
with the same probability of finding them stopped,--of course she had
her wardrobe with her. To see her night after night one would think
that it was supplied with all that wealth would give. But there were
deficiencies and there were make-shifts, very well known to herself
and well understood by her maid. She could generally supply herself
with gloves by bets, as to which she had never any scruple in taking
either what she did win or did not, and in dunning any who might
chance to be defaulters. On occasions too, when not afraid of
the bystanders, she would venture on a hat, and though there was
difficulty as to the payment, not being able to give her number as
she did with gloves, so that the tradesmen could send the article,
still she would manage to get the hat,--and the trimmings. It was
said of her that she once offered to lay an Ulster to a sealskin
jacket, but that the young man had coolly said that a sealskin jacket
was beyond a joke and had asked her whether she was ready to "put
down" her Ulster. These were little difficulties from which she
usually knew how to extricate herself without embarrassment; but she
had not expected to have to marshal her forces against such an enemy
as Lord Rufford, or to sit down for the besieging of such a city this
campaign. There were little things which required to be done, and the
lady's-maid certainly had not time to go to church on Sunday.

But there were other things which troubled her even more than her
clothes. She did not much like Bragton, and at Bragton, in his own
house, she did not very much like her proposed husband. At Washington
he had been somebody. She had met him everywhere then, and had heard
him much talked about. At Washington he had been a popular man and
had had the reputation of being a rich man also;--but here, at home,
in the country he seemed to her to fall off in importance, and he
certainly had not made himself pleasant. Whether any man could be
pleasant to her in the retirement of a country house,--any man whom
she would have no interest in running down,--she did not ask herself.
An engagement to her must under any circumstances be a humdrum
thing,--to be brightened only by wealth. But here she saw no signs
of wealth. Nevertheless she was not prepared to shove away the
plank from below her feet, till she was sure that she had a more
substantial board on which to step. Her mother, who perhaps did not
see in the character of Morton all the charms which she would wish to
find in a son-in-law, was anxious to shake off the Bragton alliance;
but Arabella, as she said so often both to herself and to her mother,
was sick of the dust of the battle and conscious of fading strength.
She would make this one more attempt, but must make it with great
care. When last in town this young lord had whispered a word or two
to her, which then had set her hoping for a couple of days; and now,
when chance had brought her into his neighbourhood, he had gone out
of his way,--very much out of his way,--to renew his acquaintance
with her. She would be mad not to give herself the chance;--but yet
she could not afford to let the plank go from under her feet.

But the part she had to play was one which even she felt to be almost
beyond her powers. She could perceive that Morton was beginning to
be jealous,--and that his jealousy was not of that nature which
strengthens a tie but which is apt to break it altogether. His
jealousy, if fairly aroused, would not be appeased by a final return
to himself. She had already given him occasion to declare himself
off, and if thoroughly angered he would no doubt use it. Day by day,
and almost hour by hour, he was becoming more sombre and hard, and
she was well aware that there was reason for it. It did not suit her
to walk about alone with him through the shrubberies. It did not suit
her to be seen with his arm round her waist. Of course the people
of Bragton would talk of the engagement, but she would prefer that
they should talk of it with doubt. Even her own maid had declared to
Mrs. Hopkins that she did not know whether there was or was not an
engagement,--her own maid being at the time almost in her confidence.
Very few of the comforts of a lover had been vouchsafed to John
Morton during this sojourn at Bragton and very little had been done
in accordance with his wishes. Even this visit to Rufford, as she
well knew, was being made in opposition to him. She hoped that her
lover would not attempt to ride to hounds on the Tuesday, so that
she might be near the lord unseen by him,--and that he would leave
Rufford on the Wednesday before herself and her mother. At the ball
of course she could dance with Lord Rufford, and could keep her eye
on her lover at the same time.

She hardly saw Morton on the Sunday afternoon, and she was again
closeted on the Monday till lunch. They were to start at four and
there would not be much more than time after lunch for her to put on
her travelling gear. Then, as they all felt, there was a difficulty
about the carriages. Who was to go with whom? Arabella, after lunch,
took the bull by the horns. "I suppose," she said as Morton followed
her out into the hall, "mamma and I had better go in the phaeton."

"I was thinking that Lady Augustus might consent to travel with Mr.
Gotobed and that you and I might have the phaeton."

"Of course it would be very pleasant," she answered smiling.

"Then why not let it be so?"

"There are convenances."

"How would it be if you and I were going without anybody else? Do you
mean to say that in that case we might not sit in the same carriage?"

"I mean to say that in that case I should not go at all. It isn't
done in England. You have been in the States so long that you forget
all our old-fashioned ways."

"I do think that is nonsense." She only smiled and shook her head.
"Then the Senator shall go in the phaeton, and I will go with you and
your mother."

"Yes,--and quarrel with mamma all the time as you always do. Let me
have it my own way this time."

"Upon my word I believe you are ashamed of me," he said leaning back
upon the hall table. He had shut the dining-room door and she was
standing close to him.

"What nonsense!"

"You have only got to say so, Arabella, and let there be an end of it
all."

"If you wish it, Mr. Morton."

"You know I don't wish it. You know I am ready to marry you
to-morrow."

"You have made ever so many difficulties as far as I can understand."

"You have unreasonable people acting for you, Arabella, and of course
I don't mean to give way to them."

"Pray don't talk to me about money. I know nothing about it and have
taken no part in the matter. I suppose there must be settlements?"

"Of course there must."

"And I can only do what other people tell me. You at any rate have
something to do with it all, and I have absolutely nothing."

"That is no reason you shouldn't go in the same carriage with me to
Rufford."

"Are you coming back to that,--just like a big child? Do let us
consider that as settled. I'm sure you'll let mamma and me have the
use of the phaeton." Of course the little contest was ended in the
manner proposed by Arabella.

"I do think," said Arabella, when she and her mother were seated in
the carriage, "that we have treated him very badly."

"Quite as well as he deserves! What a house to bring us to;--and what
people! Did you ever come across such an old woman before! And she
has him completely under her thumb. Are you prepared to live with
that harridan?"

"You may let me alone, mamma, for all that. She won't be in my way
after I'm married, I can tell you."

"You'll have something to do then."

"I ain't a bit afraid of her."

"And to ask us to meet such people as this American!"

"He's going back to Washington and it suited him to have him. I don't
quarrel with him for that. I wish I were married to him and back in
the States."

"You do?"

"I do."

"You have given it all up about Lord Rufford then?"

"No;--that's just where it is. I haven't given it up, and I still see
trouble upon trouble before me. But I know how it will be. He doesn't
mean anything. He's only amusing himself."

"If he'd once say the word he couldn't get back again. The Duke would
interfere then."

"What would he care for the Duke? The Duke is no more than anybody
else nowadays. I shall just fall to the ground between two stools.
I know it as well as if it were done already. And then I shall have
to begin again! If it comes to that I shall do something terrible.
I know I shall." Then they turned in at Lord Rufford's gates; and as
they were driven up beneath the oaks, through the gloom, both mother
and daughter thought how charming it would be to be the mistress of
such a park.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE FIRST EVENING AT RUFFORD HALL.


The phaeton arrived the first, the driver having been especially
told by Arabella that he need not delay on the road for the other
carriage. She had calculated that she might make her entrance with
better effect alone with her mother than in company with Morton and
the Senator. It would have been worth the while of any one who had
witnessed her troubles on that morning to watch the bland serenity
and happy ease with which she entered the room. Her mother was fond
of a prominent place but was quite contented on this occasion to
play a second fiddle for her daughter. She had seen at a glance that
Rufford Hall was a delightful house. Oh,--if it might become the
home of her child and her grandchildren,--and possibly a retreat
for herself! Arabella was certainly very handsome at this moment.
Never did she look better than when got up with care for travelling,
especially as seen by an evening light. Her slow motions were adapted
to heavy wraps, and however she might procure her large sealskin
jacket she graced it well when she had it. Lord Rufford came to the
door to meet them and immediately introduced them to his sister.
There were six or seven people in the room, mostly ladies, and tea
was offered to the new-comers. Lady Penwether was largely made,
like her brother; but was a languidly lovely woman, not altogether
unlike Arabella herself in her figure and movements, but with a more
expressive face, with less colour, and much more positive assurance
of high breeding. Lady Penwether was said to be haughty, but it was
admitted by all people that when Lady Penwether had said a thing
or had done a thing, it might be taken for granted that the way in
which she had done or said that thing was the right way. The only
other gentleman there was Major Caneback, who had just come in from
hunting with some distant pack and who had been brought into the room
by Lord Rufford that he might give some account of the doings of
the day. According to Caneback, they had been talking in the Brake
country about nothing but Goarly and the enormities which had been
perpetrated in the U. R. U. "By-the-bye, Miss Trefoil," said Lord
Rufford, "what have you done with your Senator?"

"He's on the road, Lord Rufford, examining English institutions as he
comes along. He'll be here by midnight."

"Imagine the man coming to me and telling me that he was a friend of
Goarly's. I rather liked him for it. There was a thorough pluck about
it. They say he's going to find all the money."

"I thought Mr. Scrobby was to do that?" said Lady Penwether.

"Mr. Scrobby will not have the slightest objection to have that part
of the work done for him. If all we hear is true Miss Trefoil's
Senator may have to defend both Scrobby and Goarly."

"My Senator as you call him will be quite up to the occasion."

"You knew him in America, Miss Trefoil?" asked Lady Penwether.

"Oh yes. We used to meet him and Mrs. Gotobed everywhere. But we
didn't exactly bring him over with us;--though our party down to
Bragton was made up in Washington," she added, feeling that she might
in this way account in some degree for her own presence in John
Morton's house. "It was mamma and Mr. Morton arranged it all."

"Oh my dear it was you and the Senator," said Lady Augustus, ready
for the occasion.

"Miss Trefoil," said the lord, "let us have it all out at once. Are
you taking Goarly's part?"

"Taking Goarly's part!" ejaculated the Major.

Arabella affected to give a little start, as though frightened by
the Major's enthusiasm. "For heaven's sake let us know our foes,"
continued Lord Rufford. "You see the effect such an announcement had
upon Major Caneback. Have you made an appointment before dawn with
Mr. Scrobby under the elms? Now I look at you I believe in my heart
you're a Goarlyite,--only without the Senator's courage to tell me
the truth beforehand."

"I really am very much obliged to Goarly," said Arabella, "because it
is so nice to have something to talk about."

"That's just what I think, Miss Trefoil," declared a young lady, Miss
Penge, who was a friend of Lady Penwether. "The gentlemen have so
much to say about hunting which nobody can understand! But now this
delightful man has scattered poison all over the country there is
something that comes home to our understanding. I declare myself
a Goarlyite at once, Lord Rufford, and shall put myself under the
Senator's leading directly he comes."

During all this time not a word had been said of John Morton, the
master of Bragton, the man to whose party these new-comers belonged.
Lady Augustus and Arabella clearly understood that John Morton was
only a peg on which the invitation to them had been hung. The feeling
that it was so grew upon them with every word that was spoken,--and
also the conviction that he must be treated like a peg at Rufford.
The sight of the hangings of the room, so different to the
old-fashioned dingy curtains at Bragton, the brilliancy of the
mirrors, all the decorations of the place, the very blaze from the
big grate, forced upon the girl's feelings a conviction that this was
her proper sphere. Here she was, being made much of as a new-comer,
and here if possible she must remain. Everything smiled on her with
gilded dimples, and these were the smiles she valued. As the softness
of the cushions sank into her heart, and mellow nothingnesses from
well-trained voices greeted her ears, and the air of wealth and
idleness floated about her cheeks, her imagination rose within her
and assured her that she could secure something better than Bragton.
The cautions with which she had armed herself faded away. This,--this
was the kind of thing for which she had been striving. As a girl of
spirit was it not worth her while to make another effort even though
there might be danger? Aut Cæsar aut nihil. She knew nothing about
Cæsar; but before the tardy wheels which brought the Senator and Mr.
Morton had stopped at the door she had declared to herself that she
would be Lady Rufford. The fresh party was of course brought into the
drawing-room and tea was offered; but Arabella hardly spoke to them,
and Lady Augustus did not speak to them at all, and they were shown
up to their bedrooms with very little preliminary conversation.

It was very hard to put Mr. Gotobed down; or it might be more
correctly said,--as there was no effort to put him down,--that it
was not often that he failed in coming to the surface. He took Lady
Penwether out to dinner and was soon explaining to her that this
little experiment of his in regard to Goarly was being tried simply
with the view of examining the institutions of the country. "We don't
mind it from you," said Lady Penwether, "because you are in a certain
degree a foreigner." The Senator declared himself flattered by being
regarded as a foreigner only "in a certain degree." "You see you
speak our language, Mr. Gotobed, and we can't help thinking you are
half-English."

"We are two-thirds English, my lady," said Mr. Gotobed; "but then we
think the other third is an improvement."

"Very likely."

"We have nothing so nice as this;" as he spoke he waved his right
hand to the different corners of the room. "Such a dinner-table as
I am sitting down to now couldn't be fixed in all the United States
though a man might spend three times as many dollars on it as his
lordship does."

"That is very often done, I should think."

"But then as we have nothing so well done as a house like this, so
also have we nothing so ill done as the houses of your poor people."

"Wages are higher with you, Mr. Gotobed."

"And public spirit, and the philanthropy of the age, and the
enlightenment of the people, and the institutions of the country all
round. They are all higher."

"Canvas-back ducks," said the Major, who was sitting two or three off
on the other side.

"Yes, sir, we have canvas-back ducks."

"Make up for a great many faults," said the Major.

"Of course, sir, when a man's stomach rises above his intelligence
he'll have to argue accordingly," said the Senator.

"Caneback, what are you going to ride to-morrow?" asked the lord who
saw the necessity of changing the conversation, as far at least as
the Major was concerned.

"Jemima;--mare of Purefoy's; have my neck broken, they tell me."

"It's not improbable," said Sir John Purefoy who was sitting at Lady
Penwether's left hand. "Nobody ever could ride her yet."

"I was thinking of asking you to let Miss Trefoil try her," said Lord
Rufford. Arabella was sitting between Sir John Purefoy and the Major.

"Miss Trefoil is quite welcome," said Sir John. "It isn't a bad idea.
Perhaps she may carry a lady, because she has never been tried. I
know that she objects strongly to carry a man."

"My dear," said Lady Augustus, "you shan't do anything of the kind."
And Lady Augustus pretended to be frightened.

"Mamma, you don't suppose Lord Rufford wants to kill me at once."

"You shall either ride her, Miss Trefoil, or my little horse Jack.
But I warn you beforehand that as Jack is the easiest ridden horse in
the country, and can scramble over anything, and never came down in
his life, you won't get any honour and glory; but on Jemima you might
make a character that would stick to you till your dying day."

"But if I ride Jemima that dying day might be to-morrow. I think I'll
take Jack, Lord Rufford, and let Major Caneback have the honour. Is
Jack fast?" In this way the anger arising between the Senator and the
Major was assuaged. The Senator still held his own, and, before the
question was settled between Jack and Jemima, had told the company
that no Englishman knew how to ride, and that the only seat fit for a
man on horseback was that suited for the pacing horses of California
and Mexico. Then he assured Sir John Purefoy that eighty miles a
day was no great journey for a pacing horse, with a man of fourteen
stone and a saddle and accoutrements weighing four more. The Major's
countenance, when the Senator declared that no Englishman could ride,
was a sight worth seeing.

That evening, even in the drawing-room, the conversation was chiefly
about horses and hunting, and those terrible enemies Goarly and
Scrobby. Lady Penwether and Miss Penge who didn't hunt were distantly
civil to Lady Augustus of whom of course a woman so much in the world
as Lady Penwether knew something. Lady Penwether had shrugged her
shoulders when consulted as to these special guests and had expressed
a hope that Rufford "wasn't going to make a goose of himself." But
she was fond of her brother and as both Lady Purefoy and Miss Penge
were special friends of hers, and as she had also been allowed to
invite a couple of Godolphin's girls to whom she wished to be civil,
she did as she was asked. The girl, she said to Miss Penge that
evening, was handsome, but penniless and a flirt. The mother she
declared to be a regular old soldier. As to Lady Augustus she was
right; but she had perhaps failed to read Arabella's character
correctly. Arabella Trefoil was certainly not a flirt. In all the
horsey conversation Arabella joined, and her low, clear, slow voice
could be heard now and then as though she were really animated
with the subject. At Bragton she had never once spoken as though
any matter had interested her. During this time Morton fell into
conversation first with Lady Purefoy and then with the two Miss
Godolphins, and afterwards for a few minutes with Lady Penwether
who knew that he was a county gentleman and a respectable member of
the diplomatic profession. But during the whole evening his ear was
intent on the notes of Arabella's voice; and also, during the whole
evening, her eye was watching him. She would not lose her chance with
Lord Rufford for want of any effort on her own part. If aught were
required from her in her present task that might be offensive to Mr.
Morton,--anything that was peremptorily demanded for the effort,--she
would not scruple to offend the man. But if it might be done without
offence, so much the better. Once he came across the room and said a
word to her as she was talking to Lord Rufford and the Purefoys. "You
are really in earnest about riding to-morrow."

"Oh dear, yes. Why shouldn't I be in earnest?"

"You are coming out yourself I hope," said the Lord.

"I have no horses here of my own, but I have told that man Stubbings
to send me something, and as I haven't been at Bragton for the last
seven years I have nothing proper to wear. I shan't be called a
Goarlyite I hope if I appear in trowsers."

"Not unless you have a basket of red herrings on your arm," said Lord
Rufford. Then Morton retired back to the Miss Godolphins finding that
he had nothing more to say to Arabella.

He was very angry,--though he hardly knew why or with whom. A girl
when she is engaged is not supposed to talk to no one but her
recognised lover in a mixed party of ladies and gentlemen, and she
is especially absolved from such a duty when they chance to meet in
the house of a comparative stranger. In such a house and among such
people it was natural that the talk should be about hunting, and as
the girl had accepted the loan of a horse it was natural that she
should join in such conversation. She had never sat for a moment
apart with Lord Rufford. It was impossible to say that she had
flirted with the man,--and yet Morton felt that he was neglected,
and felt also that he was only there because this pleasure-seeking
young Lord had liked to have in his house the handsome girl whom he,
Morton, intended to marry. He felt thoroughly ashamed of being there
as it were in the train of Miss Trefoil. He was almost disposed to
get up and declare that the girl was engaged to marry him. He thought
that he could put an end to the engagement without breaking his
heart;--but if the engagement was an engagement he could not submit
to treatment such as this, either from her or from others. He
would see her for the last time in the country at the ball on the
following evening,--as of course he would not be near her during the
hunting,--and then he would make her understand that she must be
altogether his or altogether cease to be his. And so resolving he
went to bed, refusing to join the gentlemen in the smoking-room.

"Oh, mamma," Arabella said to her mother that evening, "I do so wish
I could break my arm to-morrow."

"Break your arm, my dear!"

"Or my leg would be better. I wish I could have the courage to chuck
myself off going over some gate. If I could be laid up here now with
a broken limb I really think I could do it."



CHAPTER XXII.

JEMIMA.


As the meet on the next morning was in the park the party at Rufford
Hall was able to enjoy the luxury of an easy morning together with
the pleasures of the field. There was no getting up at eight o'clock,
no hurry and scurry to do twenty miles and yet be in time, no
necessity for the tardy dressers to swallow their breakfasts while
their more energetic companions were raving at them for compromising
the chances of the day by their delay. There was a public breakfast
down-stairs, at which all the hunting farmers of the country were to
be seen, and some who only pretended to be hunting farmers on such
occasions. But up-stairs there was a private breakfast for the ladies
and such of the gentlemen as preferred tea to champagne and cherry
brandy. Lord Rufford was in and out of both rooms, making himself
generally agreeable. In the public room there was a great deal
said about Goarly, to all of which the Senator listened with eager
ears,--for the Senator preferred the public breakfast as offering
another institution to his notice. "He'll swing on a gallows afore
he's dead," said one energetic farmer who was sitting next to Mr.
Gotobed,--a fat man with a round head, and a bullock's neck, dressed
in a black coat with breeches and top-boots. John Runce was not a
riding man. He was too heavy and short-winded;--too fond of his beer
and port wine; but he was a hunting man all over, one who always had
a fox in the springs at the bottom of his big meadows, one to whom it
was the very breath of his nostrils to shake hands with the hunting
gentry and to be known as a staunch friend to the U. R. U. A man did
not live in the county more respected than John Runce, or who was
better able to pay his way. To his thinking an animal more injurious
than Goarly to the best interests of civilisation could not have been
produced by all the evil influences of the world combined. "Do you
really think," said the Senator calmly, "that a man should be hanged
for killing a fox?" John Runce, who was not very ready, turned round
and stared at him. "I haven't heard of any other harm that he has
done, and perhaps he had some provocation for that." Words were
wanting to Mr. Runce, but not indignation. He collected together his
plate and knife and fork and his two glasses and his lump of bread,
and, looking the Senator full in the face, slowly pushed back his
chair and, carrying his provisions with him, toddled off to the other
end of the room. When he reached a spot where place was made for him
he had hardly breath left to speak. "Well," he said, "I never--!" He
sat a minute in silence shaking his head, and continued to shake his
head and look round upon his neighbours as he devoured his food.

Up-stairs there was a very cosy party who came in by degrees. Lady
Penwether was there soon after ten with Miss Penge and some of the
gentlemen, including Morton, who was the only man seen in that room
in black. Young Hampton, who was intimate in the house, made his
way up there and Sir John Purefoy joined the party. Sir John was a
hunting man who lived in the county and was an old friend of the
family. Lady Purefoy hunted also, and came in later. Arabella was the
last,--not from laziness, but aware that in this way the effect might
be the best. Lord Rufford was in the room when she entered it and
of course she addressed herself to him. "Which is it to be, Lord
Rufford, Jack or Jemima?"

"Which ever you like."

"I am quite indifferent. If you'll put me on the mare I'll ride
her,--or try."

"Indeed you won't," said Lady Augustus.

"Mamma knows nothing about it, Lord Rufford. I believe I could do
just as well as Major Caneback."

"She never had a lady on her in her life," said Sir John.

"Then it's time for her to begin. But at any rate I must have some
breakfast first." Then Lord Rufford brought her a cup of tea and Sir
John gave her a cutlet, and she felt herself to be happy. She was
quite content with her hat, and though her habit was not exactly a
hunting habit, it fitted her well. Morton had never before seen her
in a riding dress and acknowledged that it became her. He struggled
to think of something special to say to her, but there was nothing.
He was not at home on such an occasion. His long trowsers weighed him
down, and his ordinary morning coat cowed him. He knew in his heart
that she thought nothing of him as he was now. But she said a word to
him,--with that usual smile of hers. "Of course, Mr. Morton, you are
coming with us."

"A little way perhaps."

"You'll find that any horse from Stubbings can go," said Lord
Rufford. "I wish I could say as much of all mine."

"Jack can go, I hope, Lord Rufford." Lord Rufford nodded his head.
"And I shall expect you to give me a lead." To this he assented,
though it was perhaps more than he had intended. But on such an
occasion it is almost impossible to refuse such a request.

At half-past eleven they were all out in the park, and Tony was elate
as a prince having been regaled with a tumbler of champagne. But the
great interest of the immediate moment were the frantic efforts made
by Jemima to get rid of her rider. Once or twice Sir John asked the
Major to give it up, but the Major swore that the mare was a good
mare and only wanted riding. She kicked and squealed and backed and
went round the park with him at a full gallop. In the park there was
a rail with a ha-ha ditch, and the Major rode her at it in a gallop.
She went through the timber, fell in the ditch, and then was brought
up again without giving the man a fall. He at once put her back
at the same fence, and she took it, almost in her stride, without
touching it. "Have her like a spaniel before the day's over," said
the Major, who thoroughly enjoyed these little encounters.

Among the laurels at the bottom of the park a fox was found, and then
there was a great deal of riding about the grounds. All this was
much enjoyed by the ladies who were on foot,--and by the Senator who
wandered about the place alone. A gentleman's park is not always
the happiest place for finding a fox. The animal has usually many
resources there and does not like to leave it. And when he does go
away it is not always easy to get after him. But ladies in a carriage
or on foot on such occasions have their turn of the sport. On this
occasion it was nearly one before the fox allowed himself to be
killed, and then he had hardly been outside the park palings. There
was a good deal of sherry drank before the party got away and hunting
men such as Major Caneback began to think that the day was to be
thrown away. As they started off for Shugborough Springs, the little
covert on John Runce's farm which was about four miles from Rufford
Hall, Sir John asked the Major to get on another animal. "You've had
trouble enough with her for one day, and given her enough to do." But
the Major was not of that way of thinking. "Let her have the day's
work," said the Major. "Do her good. Remember what she's learned."
And so they trotted off to Shugborough.

While they were riding about the park Morton had kept near to Miss
Trefoil. Lord Rufford, being on his own place and among his own
coverts, had had cares on his hand and been unable to devote himself
to the young lady. She had never for a moment looked up at her lover,
or tried to escape from him. She had answered all his questions,
saying, however, very little, and had bided her time. The more
gracious she was to Morton now the less ground would he have for
complaining of her when she should leave him by-and-by. As they were
trotting along the road Lord Rufford came up and apologized. "I'm
afraid I've been very inattentive, Miss Trefoil; but I dare say
you've been in better hands."

"There hasn't been much to do,--has there?"

"Very little. I suppose a man isn't responsible for having foxes that
won't break. Did you see the Senator? He seemed to think it was all
right. Did you hear of John Runce?" Then he told the story of John
Runce, which had been told to him.

"What a fine old fellow! I should forgive him his rent."

"He is much better able to pay me double. Your Senator, Mr. Morton,
is a very peculiar man."

"He is peculiar," said Morton, "and I am sorry to say can make
himself very disagreeable."

"We might as well trot on as Shugborough is a small place, and a fox
always goes away from it at once. John Runce knows how to train them
better than I do." Then they made their way on through the straggling
horses, and John Morton, not wishing to seem to be afraid of his
rival, remained alone. "I wish Caneback had left that mare behind,"
said the lord as they went. "It isn't the country for her, and she is
going very nastily with him. Are you fond of hunting, Miss Trefoil?"

"Very fond of it," said Arabella who had been out two or three times
in her life.

"I like a girl to ride to hounds," said his lordship. "I don't think
she ever looks so well." Then Arabella determined that come what
might she would ride to hounds.

At Shugborough Springs a fox was found before half the field was up,
and he broke almost as soon as he was found. "Follow me through the
handgates," said the lord, "and from the third field out it's fair
riding. Let him have his head, and remember he hangs a moment as he
comes to his fence. You won't be left behind unless there's something
out of the way to stop us." Arabella's heart was in her mouth, but
she was quite resolved. Where he went she would follow. As for being
left behind she would not care the least for that if he were left
behind with her. They got well away, having to pause a moment while
the hounds came up to Tony's horn out of the wood. Then there was
plain sailing and there were very few before them. "He's one of the
old sort, my lord," said Tony as he pressed on, speaking of the fox.
"Not too near me, and you'll go like a bird," said his lordship.
"He's a nice little horse, isn't he? When I'm going to be married,
he'll be the first present I shall make her."

"He'd tempt almost any girl," said Arabella.

It was wonderful how well she went, knowing so little about it as she
did. The horse was one easily ridden, and on plain ground she knew
what she was about in a saddle. At any rate she did not disgrace
herself and when they had already run some three or four miles Lord
Rufford had nearly the best of it and she had kept with him. "You
don't know where you are I suppose," he said when they came to a
check.

"And I don't in the least care, if they'd only go on," said she
eagerly.

"We're back at Rufford Park. We've left the road nearly a mile to our
left, but there we are. Those trees are the park."

"But must we stop there?"

"That's as the fox may choose to behave. We shan't stop unless he
does." Then young Hampton came up, declaring that there was the very
mischief going on between Major Caneback and Jemima. According to
Hampton's account, the Major had been down three or four times, but
was determined to break either the mare's neck or her spirit. He had
been considerably hurt, so Hampton said, in one shoulder, but had
insisted on riding on. "That's the worst of him," said Lord Rufford.
"He never knows when to give up."

Then the hounds were again on the scent and were running very fast
towards the park. "That's a nasty ditch before us," said the Lord.
"Come down a little to the left. The hounds are heading that way, and
there's a gate." Young Hampton in the meantime was going straight for
the fence.

"I'm not afraid," said Arabella.

"Very well. Give him his head and he'll do it."

Just at that moment there was a noise behind them and the Major on
Jemima rushed up. She was covered with foam and he with dirt, and
her sides were sliced with the spur. His hat was crushed, and he
was riding almost altogether with his right hand. He came close to
Arabella and she could see the rage in his face as the animal rushed
on with her head almost between her knees. "He'll have another fall
there," said Lord Rufford.

Hampton who had passed them was the first over the fence, and the
other three all took it abreast. The Major was to the right, the lord
to the left and the girl between them. The mare's head was perhaps
the first. She rushed at the fence, made no leap at all, and of
course went headlong into the ditch. The Major still stuck to her
though two or three voices implored him to get off. He afterwards
declared that he had not strength to lift himself out of the saddle.
The mare lay for a moment;--then blundered out, rolled over him,
jumped on to her feet, and lunging out kicked her rider on the
head as he was rising. Then she went away and afterwards jumped the
palings into Rufford Park. That evening she was shot.

The man when kicked had fallen back close under the feet of Miss
Trefoil's horse. She screamed and half-fainting, fell also;--but fell
without hurting herself. Lord Rufford of course stopped, as did also
Mr. Hampton and one of the whips,--with several others in the course
of a minute or two. The Major was senseless,--but they who understood
what they were looking at were afraid that the case was very bad. He
was picked up and put on a door and within half an hour was on his
bed in Rufford Hall. But he did not speak for some hours and before
six o'clock that evening the doctor from Rufford had declared that he
had mounted his last horse and ridden his last hunt!

"Oh Lord Rufford," said Arabella, "I shall never recover that. I
heard the horse's feet against his head." Lord Rufford shuddered and
put his hand round her waist to support her. At that time they were
standing on the ground. "Don't mind me if you can do any good to
him." But there was nothing that Lord Rufford could do as four men
were carrying the Major on a shutter. So he and Arabella returned
together, and when she got off her horse she was only able to throw
herself into his arms.



CHAPTER XXIII.

POOR CANEBACK.


A closer intimacy will occasionally be created by some accident, some
fortuitous circumstance, than weeks of ordinary intercourse will
produce. Walk down Bond Street in a hailstorm of peculiar severity
and you may make a friend of the first person you meet, whereas you
would be held to have committed an affront were you to speak to
the same person in the same place on a fine day. You shall travel
smoothly to York with a lady and she will look as though she would
call the guard at once were you so much as to suggest that it were
a fine day; but if you are lucky enough to break a wheel before you
get to Darlington, she will have told you all her history and shared
your sherry by the time you have reached that town. Arabella was
very much shocked by the dreadful accident she had seen. Her nerves
had suffered, though it may be doubted whether her heart had been
affected much. But she was quite conscious when she reached her room
that the poor Major's misfortune, happening as it had done just
beneath her horse's feet, had been a godsend to her. For a moment the
young lord's arm had been round her waist and her head had been upon
his shoulder. And again when she had slipped from her saddle she had
felt his embrace. His fervour to her had been simply the uncontrolled
expression of his feeling at the moment,--as one man squeezes another
tightly by the hand in any crisis of sudden impulse. She knew
this;--but she knew also that he would probably revert to the
intimacy which the sudden emotion had created. The mutual galvanic
shock might be continued at the next meeting,--and so on. They had
seen the tragedy together and it would not fail to be a bond of
union. As she told the tragedy to her mother, she delicately laid
aside her hat and whip and riding dress, and then asked whether it
was not possible that they might prolong their stay at Rufford. "But
the Gores, my dear! I put them off, you know, for two days only."
Then Arabella declared that she did not care a straw for the Gores.
In such a matter as this what would it signify though they should
quarrel with a whole generation of Gores? For some time she thought
that she would not come down again that afternoon or even that
evening. It might well be that the sight of the accident should have
made her too ill to appear. She felt conscious that in that moment
and in the subsequent half hour she had carried herself well, and
that there would be an interest about her were she to own herself
compelled to keep her room. Were she now to take to her bed they
could not turn her out on the following day. But at last her mother's
counsel put an end to that plan. Time was too precious. "I think you
might lose more than you'd gain," said her mother.

Both Lord Rufford and his sister were very much disturbed as to what
they should do on the occasion. At half-past six Lord Rufford was
told that the Major had recovered his senses, but that the case was
almost hopeless. Of course he saw his guest. "I'm all right," said
the Major. The Lord sat there by the bedside, holding the man's hand
for a few moments, and then got up to leave him. "No nonsense about
putting off," said the Major in a faint voice; "beastly bosh all
that!"

But what was to be done? The dozen people who were in the house must
of course sit down to dinner. And then all the neighbourhood for
miles round were coming to a ball. It would be impossible to send
messages to everybody. And there was the feeling too that the man was
as yet only ill, and that his recovery was possible. A ball, with a
dead man in one of the bedrooms, would be dreadful. With a dying man
it was bad enough;--but then a dying man is always also a living man!
Lord Rufford had already telegraphed for a first-class surgeon from
London, it having been whispered to him that perhaps Old Nokes from
Rufford might be mistaken. The surgeon could not be there till four
o'clock in the morning by which time care would have been taken to
remove the signs of the ball; but if there was reason to send for a
London surgeon, then also was there reason for hope;--and if there
were ground for hope, then the desirability of putting off the ball
was very much reduced. "He's at the furthest end of the corridor,"
the Lord said to his sister, "and won't hear a sound of the music."

Though the man were to die why shouldn't the people dance? Had the
Major been dying three or four miles off, at the hotel at Rufford,
there would only have been a few sad looks, a few shakings of the
head, and the people would have danced without any flaw in their
gaiety. Had it been known at Rufford Hall that he was lying at that
moment in his mortal agony at Aberdeen, an exclamation or two,--"Poor
Caneback!"--"poor Major!"--would have been the extent of the wailing,
and not the pressure of a lover's hand would have been lightened, or
the note of a fiddle delayed. And nobody in that house really cared
much for Caneback. He was not a man worthy of much care. He was
possessed of infinite pluck, and now that he was dying could bear it
well. But he had loved no one particularly, had been dear to no one
in these latter days of his life, had been of very little use in
the world, and had done very little more for society than any other
horse-trainer! But nevertheless it is a bore when a gentleman dies in
your house,--and a worse bore if he dies from an accident than from
an illness for which his own body may be supposed to be responsible.
Though the gout should fly to a man's stomach in your best bedroom,
the idea never strikes you that your burgundy has done it! But here
the mare had done the mischief.

Poor Caneback;--and poor Lord Rufford! The Major was quite certain
that it was all over with himself. He had broken so many of his bones
and had his head so often cracked that he understood his own anatomy
pretty well. There he lay quiet and composed, sipping small modicums
of brandy and water, and taking his outlook into such transtygian
world as he had fashioned for himself in his dull imagination. If he
had misgivings he showed them to no bystander. If he thought then
that he might have done better with his energies than devote them to
dangerous horses, he never said so. His voice was weak, but it never
quailed; and the only regret he expressed was that he had not changed
the bit in Jemima's mouth. Lord Rufford's position was made worse by
an expression from Sir John Purefoy that the party ought to be put
off. Sir John was in a measure responsible for what his mare had
done, and was in a wretched state. "If it could possibly affect the
poor fellow I would do it," said Lord Rufford; "but it would create
very great inconvenience and disappointment. I have to think of other
people." "Then I shall send my wife home," said Sir John. And Lady
Purefoy was sent home. Sir John himself of course could not leave the
house while the man was alive. Before they all sat down to dinner the
Major was declared to be a little stronger. That settled the question
and the ball was not put off.

The ladies came down to dinner in a melancholy guise. They were not
fully dressed for the evening and were of course inclined to be
silent and sad. Before Lord Rufford came in Arabella managed to get
herself on to the sofa next to Lady Penwether, and then to undergo
some little hysterical manifestation, "Oh Lady Penwether; if you had
seen it;--and heard it!"

"I am very glad that I was spared anything so horrible."

"And the man's face as he passed me going to the leap! It will haunt
me to my dying day!" Then she shivered, and gurgled in her throat,
and turning suddenly round, hid her face on the elbow of the couch.

"I've been afraid all the afternoon that she would be ill," whispered
Lady Augustus to Miss Penge. "She is so susceptible!"

When Lord Rufford came into the room Arabella at once got up and
accosted him with a whisper. Either he took her or she took him
into a distant part of the room where they conversed apart for five
minutes. And he, as he told her how things were going and what was
being done, bent over her and whispered also. "What good would it
do, you know?" she said with affected intimacy as he spoke of his
difficulty about the ball. "One would do anything if one could be
of service,--but that would do nothing." She felt completely that
her presence at the accident had given her a right to have peculiar
conversations and to be consulted about everything. Of course she was
very sorry for Major Caneback. But as it had been ordained that Major
Caneback was to have his head split in two by a kick from a horse,
and that Lord Rufford was to be there to see it, how great had been
the blessing which had brought her to the spot at the same time!

Everybody there saw the intimacy and most of them understood the way
in which it was being used. "That girl is very clever, Rufford," his
sister whispered to him before dinner. "She is very much excited
rather than clever just at present," he answered;--upon which Lady
Penwether shook her head. Miss Penge whispered to Miss Godolphin
that Miss Trefoil was making the most of it; and Mr. Morton, who had
come into the room while the conversation apart was going on, had
certainly been of the same opinion.

She had seated herself in an arm-chair away from the others after
that conversation was over, and as she sat there Morton came up to
her. He had been so little intimate with the members of the party
assembled and had found himself so much alone, that he had only
lately heard the story about Major Caneback, and had now only
heard it imperfectly. But he did see that an absolute intimacy had
been effected where two days before there had only been a slight
acquaintance; and he believed that this sudden rush had been in some
way due to the accident of which he had been told. "You know what has
happened?" he said.

"Oh, Mr. Morton; do not talk to me about it!"

"Were you not speaking of it to Lord Rufford?"

"Of course I was. We were together."

"Did you see it?" Then she shuddered, put her handkerchief up to her
eyes, and turned her face away. "And yet the ball is to go on?" he
asked.

"Pray, pray, do not dwell on it,--unless you wish to force me back to
my room. When I left it I felt that I was attempting to do too much."
This might have been all very well had she not been so manifestly
able to talk to Lord Rufford on the same subject. If there is any
young man to whom a girl should be able to speak when she is in a
state of violent emotion, it is the young man to whom she is engaged.
So at least thought Mr. John Morton.

Then dinner was announced, and the dinner certainly was sombre
enough. A dinner before a ball in the country never is very much
of a dinner. The ladies know that there is work before them, and
keep themselves for the greater occasion. Lady Purefoy had gone,
and Lady Penwether was not very happy in the prospects for the
evening. Neither Miss Penge nor either of the two Miss Godolphins
had entertained personal hopes in regard to Lord Rufford, but
nevertheless they took badly the great favour shown to Arabella.
Lady Augustus did not get on particularly well with any of the
other ladies,--and there seemed during the dinner to be an air of
unhappiness over them all. They retired as soon as it was possible,
and then Arabella at once went up to her bedroom.

"Mr. Nokes says he is a little stronger, my Lord," said the butler
coming into the room. Mr. Nokes had gone home and had returned again.

"He might pull through yet," said Mr. Hampton. Lord Rufford shook his
head. Then Mr. Gotobed told a wonderful story of an American who had
had his brains knocked almost out of his head and had sat in Congress
afterwards. "He was the finest horseman I ever saw on a horse," said
Hampton.

"A little too much temper," said Captain Battersby, who was a very
old friend of the Major.

"I'd give a good deal that that mare had never been brought to my
stables," said Lord Rufford. "Purefoy will never get over it, and
I shan't forget it in a hurry." Sir John at this time was up-stairs
with the sufferer. Even while drinking their wine they could not
keep themselves from the subject, and were convivial in a cadaverous
fashion.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE BALL.


The people came of course, but not in such numbers as had been
expected. Many of those in Rufford had heard of the accident, and
having been made acquainted with Nokes's report, stayed away.
Everybody was told that supper would be on the table at twelve, and
that it was generally understood that the house was to be cleared
by two. Nokes seemed to think that the sufferer would live at least
till the morrow, and it was ascertained to a certainty that the music
could not affect him. It was agreed among the party in the house that
the ladies staying there should stand up for the first dance or two,
as otherwise the strangers would be discouraged and the whole thing
would be a failure. This request was made by Lady Penwether because
Miss Penge had said that she thought it impossible for her to dance.
Poor Miss Penge, who was generally regarded as a brilliant young
woman, had been a good deal eclipsed by Arabella and had seen the
necessity of striking out some line for herself. Then Arabella had
whispered a few words to Lord Rufford, and the lord had whispered
a few words to his sister, and Lady Penwether had explained what
was to be done to the ladies around. Lady Augustus nodded her head
and said that it was all right. The other ladies of course agreed,
and partners were selected within the house party. Lord Rufford
stood up with Arabella and John Morton with Lady Penwether. Mr.
Gotobed selected Miss Penge, and Hampton and Battersby the two
Miss Godolphins. They all took their places with a lugubrious but
business-like air, as aware that they were sacrificing themselves
in the performance of a sad duty. But Morton was not allowed to
dance in the same quadrille with the lady of his affections. Lady
Penwether explained to him that she and her brother had better divide
themselves,--for the good of the company generally,--and therefore he
and Arabella were also divided.

A rumour had reached Lady Penwether of the truth in regard to their
guests from Bragton. Mr. Gotobed had whispered to her that he had
understood that they certainly were engaged; and, even before that,
the names of the two lovers had been wafted to her ears from the
other side of the Atlantic. Both John Morton and Lady Augustus were
"somebodies," and Lady Penwether generally knew what there was to
be known of anybody who was anybody. But it was quite clear to
her,--more so even than to poor John Morton,--that the lady was
conducting herself now as though she were fettered by no bonds, and
it seemed to Lady Penwether also that the lady was very anxious to
contract other bonds. She knew her brother well. He was always in
love with somebody; but as he had hitherto failed of success where
marriage was desirable, so had he avoided disaster when it was not.
He was one of those men who are generally supposed to be averse to
matrimony. Lady Penwether and some other relatives were anxious that
he should take a wife;--but his sister was by no means anxious that
he should take such a one as Arabella Trefoil. Therefore she thought
that she might judiciously ask Mr. Morton a few questions. "I believe
you knew the Trefoils in Washington?" she said. Morton acknowledged
that he had seen much of them there. "She is very handsome,
certainly."

"I think so."

"And rides well I suppose."

"I don't know. I never heard much of her riding."

"Has she been staying long at Bragton?"

"Just a week."

"Do you know Lord Augustus?" Morton said that he did not know Lord
Augustus and then answered sundry other questions of the same nature
in the same uncommunicative way. Though he had once or twice almost
fancied that he would like to proclaim aloud that the girl was
engaged to him, yet he did not like to have the fact pumped out of
him. And if she were such a girl as she now appeared to be, might
it not be better for him to let her go? Surely her conduct here at
Rufford Hall was opportunity enough. No doubt she was handsome. No
doubt he loved her,--after his fashion of loving. But to lose her
now would not break his heart, whereas to lose her after he was
married to her, would, he knew well, bring him to the very ground.
He would ask her a question or two this very night, and then come to
some resolution. With such thoughts as these crossing his mind he
certainly was not going to proclaim his engagement to Lady Penwether.
But Lady Penwether was a determined woman. Her smile, when she
condescended to smile, was very sweet,--lighting up her whole face
and flattering for the moment the person on whom it shone. It was as
though a rose in emitting its perfume could confine itself to the
nostrils of its one favoured friend. And now she smiled on Morton
as she asked another question. "I did hear," she said, "from one of
your Foreign Office young men that you and Miss Trefoil were very
intimate."

"Who was that, Lady Penwether?"

"Of course I shall mention no name. You might call out the poor lad
and shoot him, or, worse still, have him put down to the bottom of
his class. But I did hear it. And then, when I find her staying with
her mother at your house, of course I believe it to be true."

"Now she is staying at your brother's house,--which is much the same
thing."

"But I am here."

"And my grandmother is at Bragton."

"That puts me in mind, Mr. Morton. I am so sorry that we did not know
it, so that we might have asked her."

"She never goes out anywhere, Lady Penwether."

"And there is nothing then in the report that I heard?"

Morton paused a moment before he answered, and during that moment
collected his diplomatic resources. He was not a weak man, who could
be made to tell anything by the wiles of a pretty woman. "I think,"
he said, "that when people have anything of that kind which they wish
to be known, they declare it."

"I beg your pardon. I did not mean to unravel a secret."

"There are secrets, Lady Penwether, which people do like to unravel,
but which the owners of them sometimes won't abandon." Then there was
nothing more said on the subject. Lady Penwether did not smile again,
and left him to go about the room on her business as hostess, as soon
as the dance was over. But she was sure that they were engaged.

In the meantime, the conversation between Lord Rufford and Arabella
was very different in its tone, though on the same subject. He was
certainly very much struck with her, not probably ever waiting to
declare to himself that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever
seen in his life, but still feeling towards her an attraction which
for the time was strong. A very clever girl would frighten him; a
very horsey girl would disgust him; a very quiet girl would bore him;
or a very noisy girl annoy him. With a shy girl he could never be
at his ease, not enjoying the labour of overcoming such a barrier;
and yet he liked to be able to feel that any female intimacy which
he admitted was due to his own choice and not to that of the young
woman. Arabella Trefoil was not very clever, but she had given
all her mind to this peculiar phase of life, and, to use a common
phrase, knew what she was about. She was quite alive to the fact that
different men require different manners in a young woman; and as she
had adapted herself to Mr. Morton at Washington, so could she at
Rufford adapt herself to Lord Rufford. At the present moment the lord
was in love with her as much as he was wont to be in love. "Doesn't
it seem an immense time since we came here yesterday?" she said to
him. "There has been so much done."

"There has been a great misfortune."

"I suppose that is it. Only for that how very very pleasant it would
have been!"

"Yes, indeed. It was a nice run, and that little horse carried you
charmingly. I wish I could see you ride him again." She shook her
head as she looked up into his face. "Why do you shake your head?"

"Because I am afraid there is no possible chance of such happiness.
We are going to such a dull house to-morrow! And then to so many dull
houses afterwards."

"I don't know why you shouldn't come back and have another day or
two;--when all this sadness has gone by."

"Don't talk about it, Lord Rufford."

"Why not?"

"I never like to talk about any pleasure because it always vanishes
as soon as it has come;--and when it has been real pleasure it never
comes back again. I don't think I ever enjoyed anything so much as
our ride this morning,--till that tragedy came."

"Poor Caneback!"

"I suppose there is no hope?" He shook his head. "And we must go on
to those Gores to-morrow without knowing anything about it. I wonder
whether you could send me a line."

"Of course I can, and I will." Then he asked her a question looking
into her face. "You are not going back to Bragton?"

"Oh dear, no."

"Was Bragton dull?"

"Awfully dull;--frightfully dull."

"You know what they say?"

"What who say, Lord Rufford? People say anything,--the more
ill-natured the better they like it, I think."

"Have you not heard what they say about you and Mr. Morton?"

"Just because mamma made a promise when in Washington to go to
Bragton with that Mr. Gotobed. Don't you find they marry you to
everybody?"

"They have married me to a good many people. Perhaps they'll marry me
to you to-morrow. That would not be so bad."

"Oh, Lord Rufford! Nobody has ever condemned you to anything so
terrible as that."

"There was no truth in it then, Miss Trefoil?"

"None at all, Lord Rufford. Only I don't know why you should ask me."

"Well; I don't know. A man likes sometimes to be sure how the land
lies. Mr. Morton looks so cross that I thought that perhaps the very
fact of my dancing with you might be an offence."

"Is he cross?"

"You know him better than I do. Perhaps it's his nature. Now I must
do one other dance with a native and then my work will be over."

"That isn't very civil, Lord Rufford."

"If you do not know what I meant, you're not the girl I take you to
be." Then as she walked with him back out of the ball-room into the
drawing-room she assured him that she did know what he meant, and
that therefore she was the girl he took her to be.

She had determined that she would not dance again and had resolved to
herd with the other ladies of the house,--waiting for any opportunity
that chance might give her for having a last word with Lord Rufford
before they parted for the night,--when Morton came up to her and
demanded rather than asked that she would stand up with him for a
quadrille. "We settled it all among ourselves, you know," she said.
"We were to dance only once, just to set the people off." He still
persisted, but she still refused, alleging that she was bound by the
general compact; and though he was very urgent she would not yield.
"I wonder how you can ask me," she said. "You don't suppose that
after what has occurred I can have any pleasure in dancing." Upon
this he asked her to take a turn with him through the rooms, and to
that she found herself compelled to assent. Then he spoke out to her.
"Arabella," he said, "I am not quite content with what has been going
on since we came to this house."

"I am sorry for that."

"Nor, indeed, have I been made very happy by all that has occurred
since your mother and you did me the honour of coming to Bragton."

"I must acknowledge you haven't seemed to be very happy, Mr. Morton."

"I don't want to distress you;--and as far as possible I wish to
avoid distressing myself. If it is your wish that our engagement
should be over, I will endeavour to bear it. If it is to be
continued,--I expect that your manner to me should be altered."

"What am I to say?"

"Say what you feel."

"I feel that I can't alter my manner, as you call it."

"You do wish the engagement to be over then?"

"I did not say so. The truth is, Mr. Morton, that there is some
trouble about the lawyers."

"Why do you always call me Mr. Morton?"

"Because I am aware how probable it is that all this may come to
nothing. I can't walk out of the house and marry you as the cookmaid
does the gardener. I've got to wait till I'm told that everything is
settled; and at present I'm told that things are not settled because
you won't agree."

"I'll leave it to anybody to say whether I've been unreasonable."

"I won't go into that. I haven't meddled with it, and I don't know
anything about it. But until it is all settled as a matter of course
there must be some little distance between us. It's the commonest
thing in the world, I should say."

"What is to be the end of it?"

"I do not know. If you think yourself injured you can back out of it
at once. I've nothing more to say about it."

"And you think I can like the way you're going on here?"

"If you're jealous, Mr. Morton, there's an end of it. I tell you
fairly once for all, that as long as I'm a single woman I will
regulate my conduct as I please. You can do the same, and I shall not
say a word to you." Then she withdrew her arm from him, and, leaving
him, walked across the room and joined her mother. He went off at
once to his own room resolving that he would write to her from
Bragton. He had made his propositions in regard to money which he was
quite aware were as liberal as was fit. If she would now fix a day
for their marriage, he would be a happy man. If she would not bring
herself to do this, then he would have no alternative but to regard
their engagement as at an end.

At two o'clock the guests were nearly all gone. The Major was alive,
and likely to live at least for some hours, and the Rufford people
generally were glad that they had not put off the ball. Some of them
who were staying in the house had already gone to bed, and Lady
Penwether, with Miss Penge at her side, was making her last adieux
in the drawing-room. The ball-room was reached from the drawing-room,
with a vestibule between them, and opening from this was a small
chamber, prettily furnished but seldom used, which had no peculiar
purpose of its own, but in which during the present evening many
sweet words had probably been spoken. Now, at this last moment, Lord
Rufford and Arabella Trefoil were there alone together. She had just
got up from a sofa, and he had taken her hand in his. She did not
attempt to withdraw it, but stood looking down upon the ground. Then
he passed his arm round her waist and lifting her face to his held
her in a close embrace from which she made no effort to free herself.
As soon as she was released she hastened to the door which was
all but closed, and as she opened it and passed through to the
drawing-room said some ordinary word to him quite aloud in her
ordinary voice. If his action had disturbed her she knew very well
how to recover her equanimity.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE LAST MORNING AT RUFFORD HALL.


"Well, my love?" said Lady Augustus, as soon as her daughter had
joined her in her bedroom. On such occasions there was always a
quarter of an hour before going to bed in which the mother and
daughter discussed their affairs, while the two lady's maids were
discussing their affairs in the other room. The two maids probably
did not often quarrel, but the mother and daughter usually did.

"I wish that stupid man hadn't got himself hurt."

"Of course, my dear; we all wish that. But I really don't see that it
has stood much in your way."

"Yes it has. After all there is nothing like dancing, and we
shouldn't all have been sent to bed at two o'clock."

"Then it has come to nothing?"

"I didn't say that at all, mamma. I think I have done uncommonly
well. Indeed I know I have. But then if everything had not been
upset, I might have done so much better."

"What have you done?" asked Lady Augustus, timidly. She knew
perfectly well that her daughter would tell her nothing, and yet she
always asked these questions and was always angry when no information
was given to her. Any young woman would have found it very hard to
give the information needed. "When we were alone he sat for five
minutes with his arm round my waist, and then he kissed me. He didn't
say much, but then I knew perfectly well that he would be on his
guard not to commit himself by words. But I've got him to promise
that he'll write to me, and of course I'll answer in such a way that
he must write again. I know he'll want to see me, and I think I can
go very near doing it. But he's an old stager and knows what he's
about: and of course there'll be ever so many people to tell him I'm
not the sort of girl he ought to marry. He'll hear about Colonel de
B----, and Sir C. D----, and Lord E. F----, and there are ever so
many chances against me. But I've made up my mind to try it. It's
taking the long odds. I can hardly expect to win, but if I do pull
it off I'm made for ever!" A daughter can hardly say all that to her
mother. Even Arabella Trefoil could not say it to her mother,--or, at
any rate, she would not. "What a question that is to ask, mamma?" she
did say tossing her head.

"Well, my dear, unless you tell me something how can I help you?"

"I don't know that I want you to help me,--at any rate not in that
way."

"In what way?"

"Oh, mamma, you are so odd."

"Has he said anything?"

"Yes, he has. He said he liked dry champagne and that he never ate
supper."

"If you won't tell me how things are going you may fight your own
battles by yourself."

"That's just what I must do. Nobody else can fight my battles for
me."

"What are you going to do about Mr. Morton?"

"Nothing."

"I saw him talking to you and looking as black as thunder."

"He always looks as black as thunder."

"Is that to be all off? I insist upon having an answer to that
question."

"I believe you fancy, mamma, that a lot of men can be played like a
parcel of chessmen, and that as soon as a knight is knocked on the
head you can take him up and put him into the box and have done with
him."

"You haven't done with Mr. Morton then?"

"Poor Mr. Morton! I do feel he is badly used because he is so honest.
I sometimes wish that I could afford to be honest too and to tell
somebody the downright truth. I should like to tell him the truth
and I almost think I will. 'My dear fellow, I did for a time think I
couldn't do better, and I'm not at all sure now that I can. But then
you are so very dull, and I'm not certain that I should care to be
Queen of the English society at the Court of the Emperor of Morocco!
But if you'll wait for another six months, I shall be able to tell
you.' That's what I should have to say to him."

"Who is talking nonsense now, Arabella?"

"I am not. But I shan't say it. And now, mamma, I'll tell you what we
must do."

"You must tell me why also."

"I can do nothing of the kind. He knows the Duke." The Duke with the
Trefoils always meant the Duke of Mayfair who was Arabella's ducal
uncle.

"Intimately?"

"Well enough to go there. There is to be a great shooting at
Mistletoe,"--Mistletoe was the duke's place,--"in January. I got that
from him, and he can go if he likes. He won't go as it is: but if I
tell him I'm to be there, I think he will."

"What did you tell him?"

"Well;--I told him a tarradiddle of course. I made him understand
that I could be there if I pleased, and he thinks that I mean to be
there if he goes."

"But I'm sure the Duchess won't have me again."

"She might let me come."

"And what am I to do?"

"You could go to Brighton with Miss De Groat;--or what does it matter
for a fortnight? You'll get the advantage when it's done. It's as
well to have the truth out at once, mamma,--I cannot carry on if I'm
always to be stuck close to your apron-strings. There are so many
people won't have you."

"Arabella, I do think you are the most ungrateful, hard-hearted
creature that ever lived."

"Very well; I don't know what I have to be grateful about, and I need
to be hard-hearted. Of course I am hard-hearted. The thing will be to
get papa to see his brother."

"Your papa!"

"Yes;--that's what I mean to try. The Duke, of course, would like me
to marry Lord Rufford. Do you think that if I were at home here it
wouldn't make Mistletoe a very different sort of place for you? The
Duke does like papa in a sort of way, and he's civil enough to me
when I'm there. He never did like you."

"Everybody is so fond of you! It was what you did when young
Stranorlar was there which made the Duchess almost turn us out of the
house."

"What's the good of your saying that, mamma? If you go on like that
I'll separate myself from you and throw myself on papa."

"Your father wouldn't lift his little finger for you."

"I'll try at any rate. Will you consent to my going there without you
if I can manage it?"

"What did Lord Rufford say?" Arabella here made a grimace. "You
can tell me something. What are the lawyers to say to Mr. Morton's
people?"

"Whatever they like."

"If they come to arrangements do you mean to marry him?"

"Not for the next two months certainly. I shan't see him again now
heaven knows when. He'll write no doubt,--one of his awfully sensible
letters, and I shall take my time about answering him. I can stretch
it out for two months. If I'm to do any good with this man it will be
all arranged before that time. If the Duke could really be made to
believe that Lord Rufford was in earnest I'm sure he'd have me there.
As to her, she always does what he tells her."

"He is going to write to you?"

"I told you that before, mamma. What is the good of asking a lot of
questions? You know now what my plan is, and if you won't help me
I must carry it out alone. And, remember, I don't want to start
to-morrow till after Morton and that American have gone." Then
without a kiss or wishing her mother good night she went off to her
own room.

The next morning at about nine Arabella heard from her maid that the
Major was still alive but senseless. The London surgeon had been
there and had declared it to be possible that the patient should
live,--but barely possible. At ten they were all at breakfast, and
the carriage from Bragton was already at the door to take back Mr.
Morton and his American friend. Lady Augustus had been clever enough
to arrange that she should have the phaeton to take her to the
Rufford Station a little later on in the day, and had already hinted
to one of the servants that perhaps a cart might be sent with the
luggage. The cart was forthcoming. Lady Augustus was very clever
in arranging her locomotion and seldom paid for much more than her
railway tickets.

"I had meant to say a few words to you, my lord, about that
man Goarly," said the Senator, standing before the fire in the
breakfast-room, "but this sad catastrophe has stopped me."

"There isn't much to say about him, Mr. Gotobed."

"Perhaps not; only I would not wish you to think that I would oppose
you without some cause. If the man is in the wrong according to law
let him be proved to be so. The cost to you will be nothing. To him
it might be of considerable importance."

"Just so. Won't you sit down and have some breakfast? If Goarly ever
makes himself nuisance enough it may be worth my while to buy him out
at three times the value of his land. But he'll have to be a very
great nuisance before I shall do that. Dillsborough wood is not the
only fox covert in the county." After that there was no more said
about it; but neither did Lord Rufford understand the Senator nor
did the Senator understand Lord Rufford. John Runce had a clearer
conviction on his mind than either of them. Goarly ought to be
hanged, and no American should, under any circumstances be allowed to
put his foot upon British soil. That was Runce's idea of the matter.

The parting between Morton and the Trefoils was very chill and
uncomfortable. "Good-bye, Mr. Morton;--we had such a pleasant time at
Bragton!" said Lady Augustus. "I shall write to you this afternoon,"
he whispered to Arabella as he took her hand. She smiled and murmured
a word of adieu, but made him no reply. Then they were gone, and as
he got into the carriage he told himself that in all probability he
would never see her again. It might be that he would curtail his
leave of absence and get back to Washington as quickly as possible.

The Trefoils did not start for an hour after this, during which
Arabella could hardly find an opportunity for a word in private. She
could not quite appeal to him to walk with her in the grounds, or
even to take a turn with her round the empty ball-room She came down
dressed for walking, thinking that so she might have the best chance
of getting him for a quarter of an hour to herself, but he was either
too wary or else the habits of his life prevented it. And in what she
had to do it was so easy to go beyond the proper line! She would wish
him to understand that she would like to be alone with him after what
had passed between them on the previous evening,--but she must be
careful not to let him imagine that she was too anxious. And then
whatever she did she had to do with so many eyes upon her! And when
she went, as she would do now in so short a time, so many hostile
tongues would attack her! He had everything to protect him;--and she
had nothing, absolutely nothing, to help her! It was thus that she
looked at it; and yet she had courage for the battle. Almost at the
last moment she did get a word with him in the hall. "How is he?"

"Oh, better, decidedly."

"I am so glad. If I could only think that he could live! Well, my
Lord, we have to say good-bye."

"I suppose so."

"You'll write me a line,--about him."

"Certainly."

"I shall be so glad to have a line from Rufford. Maddox Hall, you
know; Stafford."

"I will remember."

"And dear old Jack. Tell me when you write what Jack has been doing."
Then she put out her hand and he held it. "I wonder whether you will
ever remember--" But she did not quite know what to bid him remember,
and therefore turned away her face and wiped away a tear, and then
smiled as she turned her back on him. The carriage was at the door,
and the ladies flocked into the hall, and then not another word could
be said.

"That's what I call a really nice country house," said Lady Augustus
as she was driven away. Arabella sat back in the phaeton lost in
thought and said nothing. "Everything so well done, and yet none of
all that fuss that there is at Mistletoe." She paused but still her
daughter did not speak. "If I were beginning the world again I would
not wish for a better establishment than that. Why can't you answer
me a word when I speak to you?"

"Of course it's all very nice. What's the good of going on in that
way? What a shame it is that a man like that should have so much and
that a girl like me should have nothing at all. I know twice as much
as he does, and am twice as clever, and yet I've got to treat him
as though he were a god. He's all very well, but what would anybody
think of him if he were a younger brother with £300 a year." This was
a kind of philosophy which Lady Augustus hated. She threw herself
back therefore in the phaeton and pretended to go to sleep.

The wheels were not out of sight of the house before the attack on
the Trefoils began. "I had heard of Lady Augustus before," said
Lady Penwether, "but I didn't think that any woman could be so
disagreeable."

"So vulgar," said Miss Penge.

"Wasn't she the daughter of an ironmonger?" asked the elder Miss
Godolphin.

"The girl of course is handsome," said Lady Penwether.

"But so self-sufficient," said Miss Godolphin.

"And almost as vulgar as her mother," said Miss Penge.

"She may be clever," said Lady Penwether, "but I do not think I
should ever like her."

"She is one of those girls whom only gentlemen like," said Miss
Penge.

"And whom they don't like very long," said Lady Penwether.

"How well I understand all this," said Lord Rufford turning to
the younger Miss Godolphin. "It is all said for my benefit, and
considered to be necessary because I danced with the young lady last
night."

"I hope you are not attributing such a motive to me," said Miss
Penge.

"Or to me," said Miss Godolphin.

"I look on both of you and Eleanor as all one on the present
occasion. I am considered to be falling over a precipice, and she has
got hold of my coat tails. Of course you wouldn't be Christians if
you didn't both of you seize a foot."

"Looking at it in that light I certainly wish to be understood as
holding on very fast," said Miss Penge.



CHAPTER XXVI.

GIVE ME SIX MONTHS.


There was a great deal of trouble and some very genuine sorrow
in the attorney's house at Dillsborough during the first week in
December. Mr. Masters had declared to his wife that Mary should go
to Cheltenham and a letter was written to Lady Ushant accepting the
invitation. The £20 too was forthcoming and the dress and the boots
and the hat were bought. But while this was going on Mrs. Masters
took care that there should be no comfort whatever around them and
made every meal a separate curse to the unfortunate lawyer. She told
him ten times a day that she had been a mother to his daughter, but
declared that such a position was no longer possible to her as the
girl had been taken altogether out of her hands. To Mary she hardly
spoke at all and made her thoroughly wish that Lady Ushant's kindness
had been declined. "Mamma," she said one day, "I had rather write now
and tell her that I cannot come."

"After all the money has been wasted!"

"I have only got things that I must have had very soon."

"If you have got anything to say you had better talk to your father.
I know nothing about it."

"You break my heart when you say that, mamma."

"You think nothing about breaking mine;--or that young man's
who is behaving so well to you. What makes me mad is to see you
shilly-shallying with him."

"Mamma, I haven't shilly-shallied."

"That's what I call it. Why can't you speak him fair and tell him
you'll have him and settle yourself down properly? You've got some
idea into your silly head that what you call a gentleman will come
after you."

"Mamma, that isn't fair."

"Very well, miss. As your father takes your part of course you can
say what you please to me. I say it is so." Mary knew very well what
her mother meant and was safe at least from any allusion to Reginald
Morton. There was an idea prevalent in the house, and not without
some cause, that Mr. Surtees the curate had looked with an eye of
favour on Mary Masters. Mr. Surtees was certainly a gentleman, but
his income was strictly limited to the sum of £120 per annum which
he received from Mr. Mainwaring. Now Mrs. Masters disliked clergymen,
disliked gentlemen, and especially disliked poverty; and therefore
was not disposed to look upon Mr. Surtees as an eligible suitor for
her stepdaughter. But as the curate's courtship had hitherto been
of the coldest kind and as it had received no encouragement from
the young lady, Mary was certainly justified in declaring that
the allusion was not fair. "What I want to know is this;--are you
prepared to marry Lawrence Twentyman?" To this question, as Mary
could not give a favourable answer, she thought it best to make none
at all. "There is a man as has got a house fit for any woman, and
means to keep it; who can give a young woman everything that she
ought to want;--and a handsome fellow too, with some life in him; one
who really dotes on you,--as men don't often do on young women now as
far as I can see. I wonder what it is you would have?"

"I want nothing, mamma."

"Yes you do. You have been reading books of poetry till you don't
know what it is you do want. You've got your head full of claptraps
and tantrums till you haven't a grain of sense belonging to you. I
hate such ways. It's a spurning of the gifts of Providence not to
have such a man as Lawrence Twentyman when he comes in your way. Who
are you, I wonder, that you shouldn't be contented with such as him?
He'll go and take some one else and then you'll be fit to break your
heart, fretting after him, and I shan't pity you a bit. It'll serve
you right and you'll die an old maid, and what there will be for you
to live upon God in heaven only knows. You're breaking your father's
heart, as it is." Then she sat down in a rocking-chair and throwing
her apron over her eyes gave herself up to a deluge of hysterical
tears.

This was very hard upon Mary for though she did not believe all the
horrible things which her stepmother said to her she did believe
some of them. She was not afraid of the fate of an old maid which
was threatened, but she did think that her marriage with this man
would be for the benefit of the family and a great relief to her
father. And she knew too that he was respectable, and believed him
to be thoroughly earnest in his love. For such love as that it is
impossible that a girl should not be grateful. There was nothing to
allure him, nothing to tempt him to such a marriage, but a simple
appreciation of her personal merits. And in life he was at any rate
her equal. She had told Reginald Morton that Larry Twentyman was a
fit companion for her and for her sisters, and she owned as much to
herself every day. When she acknowledged all this she was tempted to
ask herself whether she ought not to accept the man,--if not for her
own sake at least for that of the family.

That same evening her father called her into the office after the
clerks were gone and spoke to her thus. "Your mamma is very unhappy,
my dear," he said.

"I'm afraid I have made everybody unhappy by wanting to go to
Cheltenham."

"It is not only that. That is reasonable enough and you ought to go.
Mamma would say nothing more about that,--if you would make up your
mind to one thing."

"What thing, papa?" Of course she knew very well what the thing was.

"It is time for you to think of settling in life, Mary. I never would
put it into a girl's head that she ought to worry herself about
getting a husband unless the opportunity seemed to come in her way.
Young women should be quiet and wait till they're sought after. But
here is a young man seeking you whom we all like and approve. A good
house is a very good thing when it's fairly come by."

"Yes, papa."

"And so is a full house. A girl shouldn't run after money, but plenty
is a great comfort in this world when it can be had without blushing
for."

"Yes, papa."

"And so is an honest man's love. I don't like to see any girl
wearying after some fellow to be always fal-lalling with her. A good
girl will be able to be happy and contented without that. But a lone
life is a poor life, and a good husband is about the best blessing
that a young woman can have." To this proposition Mary perhaps agreed
in her own mind but she gave no spoken assent. "Now this young man
that is wanting to marry you has got all these things, and as far as
I can judge with my experience in the world, is as likely to make a
good husband as any one I know." He paused for an answer but Mary
could only lean close upon his arm and be silent. "Have you anything
to say about it, my dear? You see it has been going on now a long
time, and of course he'll look to have it decided." But still she
could say nothing. "Well, now;--he has been with me to-day."

"Mr. Twentyman?"

"Yes,--Mr. Twentyman. He knows you're going to Cheltenham and of
course he has nothing to say against that. No young man such as he
would be sorry that his sweetheart should be entertained by such a
lady as Lady Ushant. But he says that he wants to have an answer
before you go."

"I did answer him, papa."

"Yes,--you refused him. But he hopes that perhaps you may think
better of it. He has been with me and I have told him that if he will
come to-morrow you will see him. He is to be here after dinner and
you had better just take him up-stairs and hear what he has to say.
If you can make up your mind to like him you will please all your
family. But if you can't,--I won't quarrel with you, my dear."

"Oh papa, you are always so good."

"Of course I am anxious that you should have a home of your own;--but
let it be how it may I will not quarrel with my child."

All that evening, and almost all the night, and again on the
following morning Mary turned it over in her mind. She was quite sure
that she was not in love with Larry Twentyman; but she was by no
means sure that it might not be her duty to accept him without being
in love with him. Of course he must know the whole truth; but she
could tell him the truth and then leave it for him to decide. What
right had she to stand in the way of her friends, or to be a burden
to them when such a mode of life was offered to her? She had nothing
of her own, and regarded herself as being a dead weight on the
family. And she was conscious in a certain degree of isolation in the
household,--as being her father's only child by the first marriage.
She would hardly know how to look her father in the face and tell him
that she had again refused the man. But yet there was something awful
to her in the idea of giving herself to a man without loving him,--in
becoming a man's wife when she would fain remain away from him! Would
it be possible that she should live with him while her feelings were
of such a nature? And then she blushed as she lay in the dark, with
her cheek on her pillow, when she found herself forced to inquire
within her own heart whether she did not love some one else. She
would not own it, and yet she blushed, and yet she thought of it. If
there might be such a man it was not the young clergyman to whom her
mother had alluded.

Through all that morning she was very quiet, very pale, and in
truth very unhappy. Her father said no further word to her, and her
stepmother had been implored to be equally reticent. "I shan't speak
another word," said Mrs. Masters; "her fortune is in her own hands
and if she don't choose to take it I've done with her. One man may
lead a horse to water but a hundred can't make him drink. It's just
the same with an obstinate pig-headed young woman."

At three o'clock Mr. Twentyman came and was at once desired to go up
to Mary who was waiting for him in the drawing-room. Mrs. Masters
smiled and was gracious as she spoke to him, having for the moment
wreathed herself in good humour so that he might go to his wooing in
better spirit. He had learned his lesson by heart as nearly as he was
able and began to recite it as soon as he had closed the door. "So
you're going to Cheltenham on Thursday?" he said.

"Yes, Mr. Twentyman."

"I hope you'll enjoy your visit there. I remember Lady Ushant myself
very well. I don't suppose she will remember me, but you can give her
my compliments."

"I certainly will do that."

"And now, Mary, what have you got to say to me?" He looked for a
moment as though he expected she would say what she had to say at
once,--without further question from him; but he knew that it could
not be so and he had prepared his lesson further than that. "I think
you must believe that I really do love you with all my heart."

"I know that you are very good to me, Mr. Twentyman."

"I don't say anything about being good; but I'm true:--that I am. I'd
take you for my wife to-morrow if you hadn't a friend in the world,
just for downright love. I've got you so in my heart, Mary, that I
couldn't get rid of you if I tried ever so. You must know that it's
true."

"I do know that it's true."

"Well! Don't you think that a fellow like that deserves something
from a girl?"

"Indeed I do."

"Well!"

"He deserves a great deal too much for any girl to deceive him. You
wouldn't like a young woman to marry you without loving you. I think
you deserve a great deal too well of me for that."

He paused a moment before he replied. "I don't know about that," he
said at last. "I believe I should be glad to take you just anyhow.
I don't think you can hate me."

"Certainly not. I like you as well, Mr. Twentyman, as one friend can
like another,--without loving."

"I'll be content with that, Mary, and chance it for the rest. I'll be
that kind to you that I'll make you love me before twelve months are
over. You come and try. You shall be mistress of everything. Mother
isn't one that will want to be in the way."

"It isn't that, Larry," she said.

She hadn't called him Larry for a long time and the sound of his
own name from her lips gave him infinite hope. "Come and try. Say
you'll try. If ever a man did his best to please a woman I'll do it
to please you." Then he attempted to take her in his arms but she
glided away from him round the table. "I won't ask you not to go to
Cheltenham, or anything of that. You shall have your own time. By
George you shall have everything your own way." Still she did not
answer him but stood looking down upon the table. "Come;--say a word
to a fellow."

Then at last she spoke--"Give me--six months to think of it."

"Six months! If you'd say six weeks."

"It is such a serious thing to do."

"It is serious, of course. I'm serious, I know. I shouldn't hunt
above half as often as I do now; and as for the club,--I don't
suppose I should go near the place once a month. Say six weeks, and
then, if you'll let me have one kiss, I'll not trouble you till
you're back from Cheltenham."

Mary at once perceived that he had taken her doubt almost as a
complete surrender, and had again to become obdurate. At last she
promised to give him a final answer in two months, but declared as
she said so that she was afraid she could not bring herself to do
as he desired. She declined altogether to comply with that other
request which he made, and then left him in the room declaring that
at present she could say nothing further. As she did so she felt sure
that she would not be able to accept him in two months' time whatever
she might bring herself to do when the vast abyss of six months
should have passed by.

Larry made his way down into the parlour with hopes considerably
raised. There he found Mrs. Masters and when he told her what
had passed she assured him that the thing was as good as settled.
Everybody knew, she said, that when a girl doubted she meant to
yield. And what were two months? The time would have nearly gone by
the end of her visit to Cheltenham. It was now early in December, and
they might be married and settled at home before the end of April.
Mrs. Masters, to give him courage, took out a bottle of currant wine
and drank his health, and told him that in three months' time she
would give him a kiss and call him her son. And she believed what she
said. This, she thought, was merely Mary's way of letting herself
down without a sudden fall.

Then the attorney came in and also congratulated him. When the
attorney was told that Mary had taken two months for her decision he
also felt that the matter was almost as good as settled. This at any
rate was clear to him,--that the existing misery of his household
would for the present cease, and that Mary would be allowed to go
upon her visit without further opposition. He at present did not
think it wise to say another word to Mary about the young man;--nor
would Mrs. Masters condescend to do so. Mary would of course now
accept her lover like any other girl, and had been such a fool,--so
thought Mrs. Masters,--that she had thoroughly deserved to lose him.



CHAPTER XXVII.

"WONDERFUL BIRD!"


There were but two days between the scenes described in the last
chapter and the day fixed for Mary's departure, and during these
two days Larry Twentyman's name was not mentioned in the house. Mrs.
Masters did not make herself quite pleasant to her stepdaughter,
having still some grudge against her as to the £20. Nor, though she
had submitted to the visit to Cheltenham, did she approve of it. It
wasn't the way, she said, to make such a girl as Mary like her life
at Chowton Farm, going and sitting and doing nothing in old Lady
Ushant's drawing-room. It was cocking her up with gimcrack notions
about ladies till she'd be ashamed to look at her own hands after
she had done a day's work with them. There was no doubt some truth
in this. The woman understood the world and was able to measure
Larry Twentyman and Lady Ushant and the rest of them. Books and
pretty needlework and easy conversation would consume the time at
Cheltenham, whereas at Chowton Farm there would be a dairy and a
poultry yard,--under difficulties on account of the foxes,--with a
prospect of baby linen and children's shoes and stockings. It was
all that question of gentlemen and ladies, and of non-gentlemen and
non-ladies! They ought, Mrs. Masters thought, to be kept distinct.
She had never, she said, wanted to put her finger into a pie that
didn't belong to her. She had never tried to be a grand lady. But
Mary was perilously near the brink on either side, and as it was to
be her lucky fate at last to sit down to a plentiful but work-a-day
life at Chowton Farm she ought to have been kept away from the
maundering idleness of Lady Ushant's lodgings at Cheltenham. But Mary
heard nothing of this during these two days, Mrs. Masters bestowing
the load of her wisdom upon her unfortunate husband.

Reginald Morton had been twice over at Mrs. Masters' house with
reference to the proposed journey. Mrs. Masters was hardly civil
to him, as he was supposed to be among the enemies;--but she had
no suspicion that he himself was the enemy of enemies. Had she
entertained such an idea she might have reconciled herself to it, as
the man was able to support a wife, and by such a marriage she would
have been at once relieved from all further charge. In her own mind
she would have felt very strongly that Mary had chosen the wrong
man, and thrown herself into the inferior mode of life. But her
own difficulties in the matter would have been solved. There was,
however, no dream of such a kind entertained by any of the family.
Reginald Morton was hardly regarded as a young man, and was supposed
to be gloomy, misanthropic, and bookish. Mrs. Masters was not at all
averse to the companionship for the journey, and Mr. Masters was
really grateful to one of the old family for being kind to his girl.

Nor must it be supposed that Mary herself had any expectations or
even any hopes. With juvenile aptness to make much of the little
things which had interested her, and prone to think more than was
reasonable of any intercourse with a man who seemed to her to be
so superior to others as Reginald Morton, she was anxious for an
opportunity to set herself right with him about that scene at the
bridge. She still thought that he was offended and that she had given
him cause for offence. He had condescended to make her a request
to which she had acceded,--and she had then not done as she had
promised. She thought she was sure that this was all she had to say
to him, and yet she was aware that she was unnaturally excited at
the idea of spending three or four hours alone with him. The fly
which was to take him to the railway station called for Mary at the
attorney's door at ten o'clock, and the attorney handed her in. "It
is very good of you indeed, Mr. Morton, to take so much trouble with
my girl," said the attorney, really feeling what he said. "It is very
good of you to trust her to me," said Reginald, also sincerely. Mary
was still to him the girl who had been brought up by his aunt at
Bragton, and not the fit companion for Larry Twentyman.

Reginald Morton had certainly not made up his mind to ask Mary
Masters to be his wife. Thinking of Mary Masters very often as he
had done during the last two months, he was quite sure that he did
not mean to marry at all. He did acknowledge to himself that were he
to allow himself to fall in love with any one it would be with Mary
Masters,--but for not doing so there were many reasons. He had lived
so long alone that a married life would not suit him; as a married
man he would be a poor man; he himself was averse to company, whereas
most women prefer society. And then, as to this special girl, had he
not reason for supposing that she preferred another man to him, and a
man of such a class that the very preference showed her to be unfit
to mate with him? He also cozened himself with an idea that it was
well that he should have the opportunity which the journey would give
him of apologising for his previous rudeness to her.

In the carriage they had the compartment to themselves with the
exception of an old lady at the further end who had a parrot in a
cage for which she had taken a first-class ticket. "I can't offer
you this seat," said the old lady, "because it has been booked and
paid for for my bird." As neither of the new passengers had shown
the slightest wish for the seat the communication was perhaps
unnecessary. Neither of the two had any idea of separating from the
other for the sake of the old lady's company.

They had before them a journey of thirty miles on one railway, then
a stop of half an hour at the Hinxton Junction; and then another
journey of about equal length. In the first hour very little was said
that might not have been said in the presence of Lady Ushant,--or
even of Mrs. Masters. There might be a question whether, upon the
whole, the parrot had not the best of the conversation, as the
bird, which the old lady declared to be the wonder of his species,
repeated the last word of nearly every sentence spoken either by our
friends or by the old lady herself. "Don't you think you'd be less
liable to cold with that window closed?" the old lady said to Mary.
"Cosed,--cosed,--cosed," said the bird, and Morton was of course
constrained to shut the window. "He is a wonderful bird," said the
old lady. "Wonderful bird;--wonderful bird;--wonderful bird," said
the parrot, who was quite at home with this expression. "We shall be
able to get some lunch at Hinxton," said Reginald. "Inxton," screamed
the bird--"Caw,--caw--caw." "He's worth a deal of money," said the
old lady. "Deal o' money, Deal o' money," repeated the bird as he
scrambled round the wire cage with a tremendous noise, to the great
triumph of the old lady.

No doubt the close attention which the bird paid to everything that
passed, and the presence of the old lady as well, did for a time
interfere with their conversation. But, after awhile, the old lady
was asleep, and the bird, having once or twice attempted to imitate
the somnolent sounds which his mistress was making, seemed also to go
to sleep himself. Then Reginald, beginning with Lady Ushant and the
old Morton family generally, gradually got the conversation round to
Bragton and the little bridge. He had been very stern when he had
left her there, and he knew also that at that subsequent interview,
when he had brought Lady Ushant's note to her at her father's house,
he had not been cordially kind to her. Now they were thrown together
for an hour or so in the closest companionship, and he wished to make
her comfortable and happy. "I suppose you remember Bragton?" he said.

"Every path and almost every tree about the place."

"So do I. I called there the other day. Family quarrels are so silly,
you know."

"Did you see Mr. Morton?"

"No;--and he hasn't returned my visit yet. I don't know whether he
will,--and I don't much mind whether he does or not. That old woman
is there, and she is very bitter against me. I don't care about the
people, but I am sorry that I cannot see the place."

"I ought to have walked with you that day," she said in a very low
tone. The parrot opened his eyes and looked at them as though he were
striving to catch his cue.

"Of course you ought." But as he said this he smiled and there was no
offence in his voice. "I dare say you didn't guess how much I thought
of it. And then I was a bear to you. I always am a bear when I am not
pleased."

"Peas, peas, peas," said the parrot.

"I shall be a bear to that brute of a bird before long."

"What a very queer bird he is."

"He is a public nuisance,--and so is the old lady who brought him
here." This was said quite in a whisper. "It is very odd, Miss
Masters, but you are literally the only person in all Dillsborough in
regard to whom I have any genuine feeling of old friendship."

"You must remember a great many."

"But I did not know any well enough. I was too young to have seen
much of your father. But when I came back at that time you and I were
always together."

"Gedder, gedder, gedder," said the parrot.

"If that bird goes on like that I'll speak to the guard," said Mr.
Morton with affected anger.

"Polly mustn't talk," said the old lady waking up.

"Tok, tok, tok, tok," screamed the parrot. Then the old lady threw a
shawl over him and again went to sleep.

"If I behaved badly I beg your pardon," said Mary.

"That's just what I wanted to say to you, Miss Masters,--only a man
never can do those things as well as a lady. I did behave badly, and
I do beg your pardon. Of course I ought to have asked Mr. Twentyman
to come with us. I know that he is a very good fellow."

"Indeed he is," said Mary Masters, with all the emphasis in her
power. "Deedy is, deedy is, deedy is, deedy is," repeated the parrot
in a very angry voice about a dozen times under his shawl, and while
the old lady was remonstrating with her too talkative companion their
tickets were taken and they ran into the Hinxton Station. "If the old
lady is going on to Cheltenham we'll travel third class before we'll
sit in the same carriage again with that bird," said Morton laughing
as he took Mary into the refreshment-room. But the old lady did not
get into the same compartment as they started, and the last that was
heard of the parrot at Hinxton was a quarrel between him and the
guard as to certain railway privileges.

When they had got back into the railway carriage Morton was very
anxious to ask whether she was in truth engaged to marry the young
man as to whose good fellowship she and the parrot had spoken up so
emphatically, but he hardly knew how to put the question. And were
she to declare that she was engaged to him, what should he say then?
Would he not be bound to congratulate her? And yet it would be
impossible that any word of such congratulation should pass his lips.
"You will stay a month at Cheltenham?" he said.

"Your aunt was kind enough to ask me for so long."

"I shall go back on Saturday. If I were to stay longer I should feel
myself to be in her way. And I have come to live a sort of hermit's
life. I hardly know how to sit down and eat my dinner in company, and
have no idea of seeing a human being before two o'clock."

"What do you do with yourself?"

"I rush in and out of the garden and spend my time between my books
and my flowers and my tobacco pipes."

"Do you mean to live always like that?" she asked,--in perfect
innocency.

"I think so. Sometimes I doubt whether it's wise."

"I don't think it wise at all," said Mary.

"Why not?"

"People should live together, I think."

"You mean that I ought to have a wife?"

"No;--I didn't mean that. Of course that must be just as you might
come to like any one well enough. But a person need not shut himself
up and be a hermit because he is not married. Lord Rufford is not
married and he goes everywhere."

"He has money and property and is a man of pleasure."

"And your cousin, Mr. John Morton."

"He is essentially a man of business, which I never could have been.
And they say he is going to be married to that Miss Trefoil who has
been staying there. Unfortunately I have never had anything that I
need do in all my life, and therefore I have shut myself up as you
call it. I wonder what your life will be." Mary blushed and said
nothing. "If there were anything to tell I wish I knew it."

"There is nothing to tell."

"Nothing?"

She thought a moment before she answered him and then she said,
"Nothing. What should I have to tell?" she added trying to laugh.

He remained for a few minutes silent, and then put his head out
towards her as he spoke. "I was afraid that you might have to tell
that you were engaged to marry Mr. Twentyman."

"I am not."

"Oh!--I am so glad to hear it."

"I don't know why you should be glad. If I had said I was, it would
have been very uncivil if you hadn't declared yourself glad to hear
that."

"Then I must have been uncivil for I couldn't have done it. Knowing
how my aunt loves you, knowing what she thinks of you and what she
would think of such a match, remembering myself what I do of you, I
could not have congratulated you on your engagement to a man whom I
think so much inferior to yourself in every respect. Now you know it
all,--why I was angry at the bridge, why I was hardly civil to you
at your father's house; and, to tell the truth, why I have been so
anxious to be alone with you for half an hour. If you think it an
offence that I should take so much interest in you, I will beg your
pardon for that also."

"Oh, no!"

"I have never spoken to my aunt about it, but I do not think that she
would have been contented to hear that you were to become the wife of
Mr. Twentyman."

What answer she was to make to this or whether she was to make any
she had not decided when they were interrupted by the reappearance
of the old lady and the bird. She was declaring to the guard at the
window, that as she had paid for a first-class seat for her parrot
she would get into any carriage she liked in which there were two
empty seats. Her bird had been ill-treated by some scurrilous
ill-conditioned travellers and she had therefore returned to the
comparative kindness of her former companions. "They threatened to
put him out of the window, sir," said the old woman to Morton as she
was forcing her way in.

"Windersir, windersir," said the parrot.

"I hope he'll behave himself here, ma'am," said Morton.

"Heremam, heremam, heremam," said the parrot.

"Now go to bed like a good bird," said the old lady putting her shawl
over the cage,--whereupon the parrot made a more diabolical noise
than ever under the curtain.

Mary felt that there was no more to be said about Mr. Twentyman and
her hopes and prospects, and for the moment she was glad to be left
in peace. The old lady and the parrot continued their conversation
till they had all arrived in Cheltenham;--and Mary as she sat alone
thinking of it afterwards might perhaps feel a soft regret that
Reginald Morton had been interrupted by the talkative animal.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



VOLUME II.

CHAPTER I.

MOUNSER GREEN.


"So Peter Boyd is to go to Washington in the Paragon's place, and
Jack Slade goes to Vienna, and young Palliser is to get Slade's
berth at Lisbon." This information was given by a handsome man,
known as Mounser Green, about six feet high, wearing a velvet
shooting coat,--more properly called an office coat from its present
uses,--who had just entered a spacious well-carpeted comfortable
room in which three other gentlemen were sitting at their different
tables. This was one of the rooms in the Foreign Office and looked
out into St. James's Park. Mounser Green was a distinguished clerk
in that department,--and distinguished also in various ways, being
one of the fashionable men about town, a great adept at private
theatricals, remarkable as a billiard player at his club, and a
contributor to various magazines. At this moment he had a cigar in
his mouth, and when he entered the room he stood with his back to
the fire ready for conversation and looking very unlike a clerk who
intended to do any work. But there was a general idea that Mounser
Green was invaluable to the Foreign Office. He could speak and write
two or three foreign languages; he could do a spurt of work,--ten
hours at a sitting when required; he was ready to go through fire
and water for his chief; and was a gentleman all round. Though still
nominally a young man,--being perhaps thirty-five years of age--he
had entered the service before competitive examination had assumed
its present shape and had therefore the gifts which were required for
his special position. Some critics on the Civil Service were no doubt
apt to find fault with Mounser Green. When called upon at his office
he was never seen to be doing anything, and he always had a cigar in
his mouth. These gentlemen found out too that he never entered his
office till half-past twelve, perhaps not having also learned that he
was generally there till nearly seven. No doubt during the time that
he remained there he read a great many newspapers, and wrote a great
many private notes,--on official paper! But there may be a question
whether even these employments did not help to make Mounser Green the
valuable man he was.

"What a lounge for Jack Slade," said young Hoffmann.

"I'll tell you who it won't be a lounge for, Green," said Archibald
Currie, the clerk who held the second authority among them. "What
will Bell Trefoil think of going to Patagonia?"

"That's all off," said Mounser Green.

"I don't think so," said Charley Glossop, one of the numerous younger
sons of Lord Glossop. "She was staying only the other day down at
the Paragon's place in Rufford, and they went together to my cousin
Rufford's house. His sister,--that's Lady Penwether, told me they
were certainly engaged then."

"That was before the Paragon had been named for Patagonia. To tell
you a little bit of my own private mind,--which isn't scandal," said
Mounser Green, "because it is only given as opinion,--I think it just
possible that the Paragon has taken this very uncomfortable mission
because it offered him some chance of escape."

"Then he has more sense about him than I gave him credit for," said
Archibald Currie.

"Why should a man like Morton go to Patagonia?" continued Green. "He
has an independent fortune and doesn't want the money. He'd have been
sure to have something comfortable in Europe very soon if he had
waited, and was much better off as second at a place like Washington.
I was quite surprised when he took it."

"Patagonia isn't bad at all," said Currie.

"That depends on whether a man has got money of his own. When I heard
about the Paragon and Bell Trefoil at Washington, I knew there had
been a mistake made. He didn't know what he was doing. I'm a poor
man, but I wouldn't take her with £5,000 a year, settled on myself."
Poor Mounser Green!

"I think she's the handsomest girl in London," said Hoffmann, who was
a young man of German parentage and perhaps of German taste.

"That may be," continued Green;--"but, heaven and earth! what a
life she would lead a man like the Paragon! He's found it out, and
therefore thought it well to go to South America. She has declined
already, I'm told; but he means to stick to the mission." During all
this time Mounser Green was smoking his cigar with his back to the
fire, and the other clerks looked as though they had nothing to do
but talk about the private affairs of ministers abroad and their
friends. Of course it will be understood that since we last saw John
Morton the position of Minister Plenipotentiary at Patagonia had been
offered to him and that he had accepted the place in spite of Bragton
and of Arabella Trefoil.

At that moment a card was handed to Mounser Green by a messenger who
was desired to show the gentleman up. "It's the Paragon himself,"
said Green.

"We'll make him tell us whether he's going out single or double,"
said Archibald Currie.

"After what the Rufford people said to me I'm sure he's going to
marry her," said young Glossop. No doubt Lady Penwether had been
anxious to make it understood by every one connected with the family
that if any gossip should be heard about Rufford and Arabella Trefoil
there was nothing in it.

Then the Paragon was shown into the room and Mounser Green and
the young men were delighted to see him. Colonial governors at
their seats of government, and Ministers Plenipotentiary in their
ambassadorial residences are very great persons indeed; and when
met in society at home, with the stars and ribbons which are common
among them now, they are less indeed, but still something. But at
the colonial and foreign offices in London, among the assistant
secretaries and clerks, they are hardly more than common men. All the
gingerbread is gone there. His Excellency is no more than Jones, and
the Representative or Alter Ego of Royalty mildly asks little favours
of the junior clerks.

"Lord Drummond only wants to know what you wish and it shall be
done," said Mounser Green. Lord Drummond was the Minister for Foreign
Affairs of the day. "I hope I need hardly say that we were delighted
that you accepted the offer."

"One doesn't like to refuse a step upward," said Morton; "otherwise
Patagonia isn't exactly the place one would like."

"Very good climate," said Currie. "Ladies I have known who have gone
there have enjoyed it very much."

"A little rough I suppose?"

"They didn't seem to say so. Young Bartletot took his wife out
there,--just married. He liked it. There wasn't much society, but
they didn't care about that just at first."

"Ah;--I'm a single man," said Morton laughing. He was too good a
diplomate to be pumped in that simple way by such a one as Archibald
Currie.

"You'll like to see Lord Drummond. He is here and will be glad to
shake hands with you. Come into my room." Then Mounser Green led the
way into a small inner sanctum in which it may be presumed that he
really did his work. It was here at any rate that he wrote the notes
on official note paper.

"They haven't settled as yet how they're to be off it," said Currie
in a whisper, as soon as the two men were gone, "but I'll bet a
five-pound note that Bell Trefoil doesn't go out to Patagonia as his
wife."

"We know the Senator here well enough." This was said in the inner
room by Mounser Green to Morton, who had breakfasted with the Senator
that morning and had made an appointment to meet him at the Foreign
Office. The Senator wanted to secure a seat for himself at the
opening of Parliament which was appointed to take place in the course
of the next month, and being a member of the Committee on Foreign
Affairs in the American Senate of course thought himself entitled to
have things done for him by the Foreign Office clerks. "Oh yes, I'll
see him. Lord Drummond will get him a seat as a matter of course. How
is he getting on with your neighbour at Dillsborough?"

"So you've heard of that."

"Heard of it! who hasn't heard of it?"--At this moment the messenger
came in again and the Senator was announced. "Lord Drummond will
manage about the seats in the House of Lords, Mr. Gotobed. Of course
he'll see you if you wish it; but I'll take a note of it."

"If you'll do that, Mr. Green, I shall be fixed up straight. And I'd
a great deal sooner see you than his lordship."

"That's very flattering, Mr. Gotobed, but I'm sure I don't know why."

"Because Lord Drummond always seems to me to have more on hand than
he knows how to get through, and you never seem to have anything to
do."

"That's not quite so flattering,--and would be killing, only that I
feel that your opinion is founded on error. Mens conscia recti, Mr.
Gotobed."

"Exactly. I understand English pretty well;--better, as far as I can
see than some of those I meet around me here; but I don't go beyond
that, Mr. Green."

"I merely meant to observe, Mr. Gotobed, that as, within my own
breast, I am conscious of my zeal and diligence in Her Majesty's
service your shafts of satire pass me by without hurting me. Shall I
offer you a cigar? A candle burned at both ends is soon consumed." It
was quite clear that as quickly as the Senator got through one end of
his cigar by the usual process of burning, so quickly did he eat the
other end. But he took that which Mounser Green offered him without
any displeasure at the allusion. "I'm sorry to say that I haven't a
spittoon," said Mounser Green, "but the whole fire-place is at your
service." The Senator could hardly have heard this, as it made no
difference in his practice.

Morton at this moment was sent for by the Secretary of State, and the
Senator expressed his intention of waiting for him in Mr. Green's
room. "How does the great Goarly case get on, Mr. Gotobed?" asked the
clerk.

"Well! I don't know that it's getting on very much."

"You are not growing tired of it, Senator?"

"Not by any means. But it's getting itself complicated, Mr. Green. I
mean to see the end of it, and if I'm beat,--why I can take a beating
as well as another man."

"You begin to think you will be beat?"

"I didn't say so, Mr. Green. It is very hard to understand all the
ins and outs of a case like that in a foreign country."

"Then I shouldn't try it, Senator."

"There I differ. It is my object to learn all I can."

"At any rate I shouldn't pay for the lesson as you are like to do.
What'll the bill be? Four hundred dollars?"

"Never mind, Mr. Green. If you'll take the opinion of a good deal
older man than yourself and one who has perhaps worked harder, you'll
understand that there's no knowledge got so thoroughly as that for
which a man pays." Soon after this Morton came out from the great
man's room and went away in company with the Senator.



CHAPTER II.

THE SENATOR'S LETTER.


Soon after this Senator Gotobed went down, alone, to Dillsborough
and put himself up at the Bush Inn. Although he had by no means the
reputation of being a rich man, he did not seem to care much what
money he spent in furthering any object he had taken in hand. He
never knew how near he had been to meeting the direst inhospitality
at Mr. Runciman's house. That worthy innkeeper, knowing well the
Senator's sympathy with Goarly, Scrobby and Bearside, and being heart
and soul devoted to the Rufford interest, had almost refused the
Senator the accommodation he wanted. It was only when Mrs. Runciman
represented to him that she could charge ten shillings a day for
the use of her sitting-room, and also that Lord Rufford himself had
condescended to entertain the gentleman, that Runciman gave way. Mr.
Gotobed would, no doubt, have delighted in such inhospitality. He
would have gone to the second-rate inn, which was very second-rate
indeed, and have acquired a further insight into British manners
and British prejudices. As it was, he made himself at home in the
best upstairs sitting-room at the Bush, and was quite unaware of the
indignity offered to him when Mr. Runciman refused to send him up
the best sherry. Let us hope that this refusal was remembered by the
young woman in the bar when she made out the Senator's bill.

He stayed at Dillsborough for three or four days during which he saw
Goarly once and Bearside on two or three occasions,--and moreover
handed to that busy attorney three bank notes for £5 each. Bearside
was clever enough to make him believe that Goarly would certainly
obtain serious damages from the lord. With Bearside he was fairly
satisfied, thinking however that the man was much more illiterate and
ignorant than the general run of lawyers in the United States; but
with Goarly he was by no means satisfied. Goarly endeavoured to keep
out of his way and could not be induced to come to him at the Bush.
Three times he walked out to the house near Dillsborough Wood, on
each of which occasions Mrs. Goarly pestered him for money, and
told him at great length the history of her forlorn goose. Scrobby,
of whom he had heard, he could not see at all; and he found that
Bearside was very unwilling to say anything about Scrobby. Scrobby,
and the red herrings and the strychnine and the dead fox were,
according to Bearside, to be kept quite distinct from the pheasants
and the wheat. Bearside declared over and over again that there was
no evidence to connect his client with the demise of the fox. When
asked whether he did not think that his client had compassed the
death of the animal, he assured the Senator that in such matters he
never ventured to think. "Let us go by the evidence, Mr. Gotobed," he
said.

"But I am paying my money for the sake of getting at the facts."

"Evidence is facts, sir," said the attorney. "Any way let us settle
about the pheasants first."

The condition of the Senator's mind may perhaps be best made known
by a letter which he wrote from Dillsborough to his especial and
well-trusted friend Josiah Scroome, a member of the House of
Representatives from his own state of Mickewa. Since he had been
in England he had written constantly to his friend, giving him the
result of his British experiences.


   Bush Inn, Dillsborough,
   Ufford County, England,
   December 16, 187--.

   MY DEAR SIR,

   Since my last I have enjoyed myself very well and I am I
   trust beginning to understand something of the mode of
   thinking of this very peculiar people. That there should
   be so wide a difference between us Americans and these
   English, from whom we were divided, so to say, but the
   other day, is one of the most peculiar physiological
   phenomena that the history of the world will have
   afforded. As far as I can hear a German or even a
   Frenchman thinks much more as an Englishman thinks than
   does an American. Nor does this come mainly from the
   greater prevalence with us of democratic institutions. I
   do not think that any one can perceive in half an hour's
   conversation the difference between a Swiss and a German;
   but I fancy, and I may say I flatter myself, that an
   American is as easily distinguished from an Englishman, as
   a sheep from a goat or a tall man from one who is short.

   And yet there is a pleasure in associating with those here
   of the highest rank which I find it hard to describe, and
   which perhaps I ought to regard as a pernicious temptation
   to useless luxury. There is an ease of manner with them
   which recalls with unfavourable reminiscences the hard
   self-consciousness of the better class of our citizens.
   There is a story of an old hero who with his companions
   fell among beautiful women and luscious wine, and, but
   that the hero had been warned in time, they would all
   have been turned into filthy animals by yielding to the
   allurements around them. The temptation here is perhaps
   the same. I am not a hero; and, though I too have been
   warned by the lessons I have learned under our happy
   Constitution, I feel that I might easily become one of the
   animals in question.

   And, to give them their due, it is better than merely
   beautiful women and luscious wine. There is a reality
   about them, and a desire to live up to their principles
   which is very grand. Their principles are no doubt
   bad, utterly antagonistic to all progress, unconscious
   altogether of the demand for progressive equality which is
   made by the united voices of suffering mankind. The man
   who is born a lord and who sees a dozen serfs around him
   who have been born to be half-starved ploughmen, thinks
   that God arranged it all and that he is bound to maintain
   a state of things so comfortable to himself, as being
   God's vicegerent here on earth. But they do their work as
   vicegerents with an easy grace, and with sweet pleasant
   voices and soft movements, which almost make a man doubt
   whether the Almighty has not in truth intended that such
   injustice should be permanent. That one man should be rich
   and another poor is a necessity in the present imperfect
   state of civilisation;--but that one man should be born
   to be a legislator, born to have everything, born to
   be a tyrant,--and should think it all right, is to me
   miraculous. But the greatest miracle of all is that they
   who are not so born,--who have been born to suffer the
   reverse side,--should also think it to be all right.

   With us it is necessary that a man, to shine in society,
   should have done something, or should at any rate have
   the capacity of doing something. But here the greatest
   fool that you meet will shine, and will be admitted to
   be brilliant, simply because he has possessions. Such a
   one will take his part in conversation though he knows
   nothing, and, when inquired into, he will own that he
   knows nothing. To know anything is not his line in life.
   But he can move about, and chatter like a child of ten,
   and amuse himself from morning to night with various empty
   playthings,--and be absolutely proud of his life!

   I have lately become acquainted with a certain young lord
   here of this class who has treated me with great kindness,
   although I have taken it into my head to oppose him as to
   a matter in which he is much interested. I ventured to
   inquire of him as to the pursuits of his life. He is a
   lord, and therefore a legislator, but he made no scruple
   to tell me that he never goes near the Chamber in which it
   is his privilege to have a seat. But his party does not
   lose his support. Though he never goes near the place, he
   can vote, and is enabled to trust his vote to some other
   more ambitious lord who does go there. It required the
   absolute evidence of personal information from those
   who are themselves concerned to make me believe that
   legislation in Great Britain could be carried on after
   such a fashion as this! Then he told me what he does do.
   All the winter he hunts and shoots, going about to other
   rich men's houses when there is no longer sufficient for
   him to shoot left on his own estate. That lasts him from
   the 1st of September to the end of March, and occupies
   all his time. August he spends in Scotland, also shooting
   other animals. During the other months he fishes, and
   plays cricket and tennis, and attends races, and goes
   about to parties in London. His evenings he spends at a
   card table when he can get friends to play with him. It
   is the employment of his life to fit in his amusements
   so that he may not have a dull day. Wherever he goes
   he carries his wine with him and his valet and his
   grooms;--and if he thinks there is anything to fear,
   his cook also. He very rarely opens a book. He is more
   ignorant than a boy of fifteen with us, and yet he manages
   to have something to say about everything. When his
   ignorance has been made as clear as the sun at noon-day,
   he is no whit ashamed. One would say that such a life
   would break the heart of any man; but upon my word,
   I doubt whether I ever came across a human being so
   self-satisfied as this young lord.

   I have come down here to support the case of a poor man
   who is I think being trampled on by this do-nothing
   legislator. But I am bound to say that the lord in his
   kind is very much better than the poor man in his. Such
   a wretched, squalid, lying, cowardly creature I did not
   think that even England could produce. And yet the man has
   a property in land on which he ought to be able to live
   in humble comfort. I feel sure that I have leagued myself
   with a rascal, whereas I believe the lord, in spite of his
   ignorance and his idleness, to be honest. But yet the man
   is being hardly used, and has had the spirit, or rather
   perhaps has been instigated by others, to rebel. His crops
   have been eaten up by the lord's pheasants, and the lord,
   exercising plenary power as though he were subject to no
   laws, will only pay what compensation he himself chooses
   to award. The whole country here is in arms against the
   rebel, thinking it monstrous that a man living in a hovel
   should contest such a point with the owner of half-a-dozen
   palaces. I have come forward to help the man for the sake
   of seeing how the matter will go; and I have to confess
   that though those under the lord have treated me as though
   I were a miscreant, the lord himself and his friends have
   been civil enough.

   I say what I think wherever I go, and I do not find
   it taken in bad part. In that respect we might learn
   something even from Englishmen. When a Britisher over in
   the States says what he thinks about us, we are apt to be
   a little rough with him. I have, indeed, known towns in
   which he couldn't speak out with personal safety. Here
   there is no danger of that kind. I am getting together
   the materials for a lecture on British institutions in
   general, in which I shall certainly speak my mind plainly,
   and I think I shall venture to deliver it in London before
   I leave for New York in the course of next spring. I will,
   however, write to you again before that time comes.

   Believe me to be,
   Dear sir,
   With much sincerity,
   Yours truly,

   ELIAS GOTOBED.

   The Honble. Josiah Scroome,
   125 Q Street,
   Minnesota Avenue,
   Washington.


On the morning of the Senator's departure from Dillsborough, Mr.
Runciman met him standing under the covered way leading from the inn
yard into the street. He was waiting for the omnibus which was being
driven about the town, and which was to call for him and take him
down to the railway station. Mr. Runciman had not as yet spoken to
him since he had been at the inn, and had not even made himself
personally known to his guest. "So, sir, you are going to leave us,"
said the landlord, with a smile which was intended probably as a
smile of triumph.

"Yes, sir," said the Senator. "It's about time, I guess, that I
should get back to London."

"I dare say it is, sir," said the landlord. "I dare say you've seen
enough of Mr. Goarly by this time."

"That's as may be. I don't know whom I have the pleasure of speaking
to."

"My name is Runciman, sir. I'm the landlord here."

"I hope I see you well, Mr. Runciman. I have about come to an end of
my business here."

"I dare say you have, sir. I should say so. Perhaps I might express
an opinion that you never came across a greater blackguard than
Goarly either in this country or your own."

"That's a strong opinion, Mr. Runciman."

"It's the general opinion here, sir. I should have thought you'd
found it out before this."

"I don't know that I am prepared at this moment to declare all that I
have found out."

"I thought you'd have been tired of it by this time, Mr. Gotobed."

"Tired of what?"

"Tired of the wrong side, sir."

"I don't know that I am on the wrong side. A man may be in the right
on one point even though his life isn't all that it ought to be."

"That's true, sir; but if they told you all that they know up
street,"--and Runciman pointed to the part of the town in which
Bearside's office was situated,--"I should have thought you would
have understood who was going to win and who was going to lose. Good
day, sir; I hope you'll have a pleasant journey. Much obliged to you
for your patronage, sir," and Runciman, still smiling unpleasantly,
touched his hat as the Senator got into the omnibus.

The Senator was not very happy as to the Goarly business. He had paid
some money and had half promised more, and had found out that he was
in a boat with thoroughly disreputable persons. As he had said to the
landlord, a man may have the right on his side in an action at law
though he be a knave or a rascal; and if a lord be unjust to a poor
man, the poor man should have justice done him, even though he be
not quite a pattern poor man. But now he was led to believe by what
the landlord had said to him that he was being kept in the dark, and
that there were facts generally known that he did not know. He had
learned something of English manners and English institutions by his
interference, but there might be a question whether he was not paying
too dearly for his whistle. And there was growing upon him a feeling
that before he had done he would have to blush for his colleagues.

As the omnibus went away Dr. Nupper joined Mr. Runciman under the
archway. "I'm blessed if I can understand that man," said Runciman.
"What is it he's after?"

"Notoriety," said the doctor, with the air of a man who has
completely solved a difficult question.

"He'll have to pay for it, and that pretty smart," said Runciman. "I
never heard of such a foolish thing in all my life. What the dickens
is it to him? One can understand Bearside, and Scrobby too. When a
fellow has something to get, one does understand it. But why an old
fellow like that should come down from the moon to pay ever so much
money for such a man as Goarly, is what I don't understand."

"Notoriety," said the doctor.

"He evidently don't know that Nickem has got round Goarly," said the
landlord.



CHAPTER III.

AT CHELTENHAM.


The month at Cheltenham was passed very quietly and would have been a
very happy month with Mary Masters but that there grew upon her from
day to day increasing fears of what she would have to undergo when
she returned to Dillsborough. At the moment when she was hesitating
with Larry Twentyman, when she begged him to wait six months and then
at last promised to give him an answer at the end of two, she had
worked herself up to think that it might possibly be her duty to
accept her lover for the sake of her family. At any rate she had at
that moment thought that the question of duty ought to be further
considered, and therefore she had vacillated. When the two months'
delay was accorded to her, and within that period the privilege of
a long absence from Dillsborough, she put the trouble aside for a
while with the common feeling that the chapter of accidents might do
something for her. Before she had reached Cheltenham the chapter of
accidents had done much. When Reginald Morton told her that he could
not have congratulated her on such prospects, and had explained to
her why in truth he had been angry at the bridge,--how he had been
anxious to be alone with her that he might learn whether she were
really engaged to this man,--then she had known that her answer to
Larry Twentyman at the end of the two months must be a positive
refusal.

But as she became aware of this a new trouble arose and harassed her
very soul. When she had asked for the six months she had not at the
moment been aware, she had not then felt, that a girl who asks for
time is supposed to have already surrendered. But since she had made
that unhappy request the conviction had grown upon her. She had read
it in every word her stepmother said to her and in her father's
manner. The very winks and hints and little jokes which fell from her
younger sisters told her that it was so. She could see around her the
satisfaction which had come from the settlement of that difficult
question,--a satisfaction which was perhaps more apparent with her
father than even with the others. Then she knew what she had done,
and remembered to have heard that a girl who expresses a doubt
is supposed to have gone beyond doubting. While she was still at
Dillsborough there was a feeling that no evil would arise from this
if she could at last make up her mind to be Mrs. Twentyman;--but when
the settled conviction came upon her, after hearing Reginald Morton's
words, then she was much troubled.

He stayed only a couple of days at Cheltenham and during that time
said very little to her. He certainly spoke no word which would give
her a right to think that he himself was attached to her. He had been
interested about her, as was his aunt, Lady Ushant, because she had
been known and her mother had been known by the old Mortons. But
there was nothing of love in all that. She had never supposed that
there would be;--and yet there was a vague feeling in her bosom that
as he had been strong in expressing his objection to Mr. Twentyman
there might have been something more to stir him than the memory of
those old days at Bragton!

"To my thinking there is a sweetness about her which I have never
seen equalled in any young woman." This was said by Lady Ushant to
her nephew after Mary had gone to bed on the night before he left.

"One would suppose," he answered, "that you wanted me to ask her to
be my wife."

"I never want anything of that kind, Reg. I never make in such
matters,--or mar if I can help it."

"There is a man at Dillsborough wants to marry her."

"I can easily believe that there should be two or three. Who is the
man?"

"Do you remember old Twentyman of Chowton?"

"He was our near neighbour. Of course I remember him. I can remember
well when they bought the land."

"It is his son."

"Surely he can hardly be worthy of her, Reg."

"And yet they say he is very worthy. I have asked about him, and
he is not a bad fellow. He keeps his money and has ideas of living
decently. He doesn't drink or gamble. But he's not a gentleman or
anything like one. I should think he never opens a book. Of course it
would be a degradation."

"And what does Mary say herself?"

"I fancy she has refused him." Then he added after a pause, "Indeed I
know she has."

"How should you know? Has she told you?" In answer to this he
only nodded his head at the old lady. "There must have been close
friendship, Reg, between you two when she told you that. I hope you
have not made her give up one suitor by leading her to love another
who does not mean to ask her."

"I certainly have not done that," said Reg. Men may often do much
without knowing that they do anything, and such probably had been the
case with Reginald Morton during the journey from Dillsborough to
Cheltenham.

"What would her father wish?"

"They all want her to take the man."

"How can she do better?"

"Would you have her marry a man who is not a gentleman, whose wife
will never be visited by other ladies;--in marrying whom she would go
altogether down into another and a lower world?"

This was a matter on which Lady Ushant and her nephew had conversed
often, and he thought he knew her to be thoroughly wedded to the
privileges which she believed to be attached to her birth. With him
the same feeling was almost the stronger because he was so well aware
of the blot upon himself caused by the lowness of his own father's
marriage. But a man, he held, could raise a woman to his own rank,
whereas a woman must accept the level of her husband.

"Bread and meat and chairs and tables are very serious things, Reg."

"You would then recommend her to take this man, and pass altogether
out of your own sphere?"

"What can I do for her? I am an old woman who will be dead probably
before the first five years of her married life have passed over her.
And as for recommending, I do not know enough to recommend anything.
Does she like the man?"

"I am sure she would feel herself degraded by marrying him."

"I trust she will never live to feel herself degraded. I do not
believe that she could do anything that she thought would degrade
her. But I think that you and I had better leave her to herself in
this matter." Further on in the same evening, or rather late in the
night,--for they had then sat talking together for hours over the
fire,--she made a direct statement to him. "When I die, Reg, I have
but £5,000 to leave behind me, and this I have divided between you
and her. I shall not tell her because I might do more harm than good.
But you may know."

"That would make no difference to me," he said.

"Very likely not, but I wish you to know it. What troubles me is
that she will have to pay so much out of it for legacy duty. I might
leave it all to you and you could give it her." An honester or more
religious or better woman than old Lady Ushant there was not in
Cheltenham, but it never crossed her conscience that it would be
wrong to cheat the revenue. It may be doubted whether any woman has
ever been brought to such honesty as that.

On the next morning Morton went away without saying another word
in private to Mary Masters and she was left to her quiet life with
the old lady. To an ordinary visitor nothing could have been less
exciting, for Lady Ushant very seldom went out and never entertained
company. She was a tall thin old lady with bright eyes and grey hair
and a face that was still pretty in spite of sunken eyes and sunken
cheeks and wrinkled brow. There was ever present with her an air of
melancholy which told a whole tale of the sadness of a long life. Her
chief excitement was in her two visits to church on Sunday and in the
letter which she wrote every week to her nephew at Dillsborough. Now
she had her young friend with her, and that too was an excitement
to her,--and the more so since she had heard the tidings of Larry
Twentyman's courtship.

She made up her mind that she would not speak on the subject to her
young friend unless her young friend should speak to her. In the
first three weeks nothing was said; but four or five days before
Mary's departure there came up a conversation about Dillsborough and
Bragton. There had been many conversations about Dillsborough and
Bragton, but in all of them the name of Lawrence Twentyman had been
scrupulously avoided. Each had longed to name him, and yet each had
determined not to do so. But at length it was avoided no longer. Lady
Ushant had spoken of Chowton Farm and the widow. Then Mary had spoken
of the place and its inhabitants. "Mr. Twentyman comes a great deal
to our house now," she said.

"Has he any reason, my dear?"

"He goes with papa once a week to the club; and he sometimes lends my
sister Kate a pony. Kate is very fond of riding."

"There is nothing else?"

"He has got to be intimate and I think mamma likes him."

"He is a good young man then?"

"Very good;" said Mary with an emphasis.

"And Chowton belongs to him?"

"Oh yes;--it belongs to him."

"Some young men make such ducks and drakes of their property when
they get it."

"They say that he's not like that at all. People say that he
understands farming very well and that he minds everything himself."

"What an excellent young man! There is no other reason for his coming
to your house, Mary?"

Then the sluice-gates were opened and the whole story was told.
Sitting there late into the night Mary told it all as well as she
knew how,--all of it except in regard to any spark of love which
might have fallen upon her in respect of Reginald Morton. Of Reginald
Morton in her story of course she did not speak; but all the rest
she declared. She did not love the man. She was quite sure of that.
Though she thought so well of him there was, she was quite sure, no
feeling in her heart akin to love. She had promised to take time
because she had thought that she might perhaps be able to bring
herself to marry him without loving him,--to marry him because her
father wished it, and because her going from home would be a relief
to her stepmother and sisters, because it would be well for them
all that she should be settled out of the way. But since that she
had made up her mind,--she thought that she had quite made up her
mind,--that it would be impossible.

"There is nobody else, Mary?" said Lady Ushant putting her hand on
to Mary's lap. Mary protested that there was nobody else without any
consciousness that she was telling a falsehood. "And you are quite
sure that you cannot do it?"

"Do you think that I ought, Lady Ushant?"

"I should be very sorry to say that, my dear. A young woman in such
a matter must be governed by her feelings. Only he seems to be a
deserving young man!" Mary looked askance at her friend, remembering
at the moment Reginald Morton's assurance that his aunt would have
disapproved of such an engagement. "But I never would persuade a girl
to marry a man she did not love. I think it would be wicked. I always
thought so."

There was nothing about degradation in all this. It was quite clear
to Mary that had she been able to tell Lady Ushant that she was head
over ears in love with this young man and that therefore she was
going to marry him, her old friend would have found no reason to
lament such an arrangement. Her old friend would have congratulated
her. Lady Ushant evidently thought Larry Twentyman to be good enough
as soon as she heard what Mary found herself compelled to say in the
young man's favour. Mary was almost disappointed; but reconciled
herself to it very quickly, telling herself that there was yet time
for her to decide in favour of her lover if she could bring herself
to do so.

And she did try that night and all the next day, thinking that if
she could so make up her mind she would declare her purpose to Lady
Ushant before she left Cheltenham. But she could not do it, and in
the struggle with herself at last she learned something of the truth.
Lady Ushant saw nothing but what was right and proper in a marriage
with Lawrence Twentyman, but Reginald Morton had declared it to be
improper, and therefore it was out of her reach. She could not do it.
She could not bring herself, after what he had said, to look him in
the face and tell him that she was going to become the wife of Larry
Twentyman. Then she asked herself the fatal question;--was she in
love with Reginald Morton? I do not think that she answered it in the
affirmative, but she became more and more sure that she could never
marry Larry Twentyman.

Lady Ushant declared herself to have been more than satisfied with
the visit and expressed a hope that it might be repeated in the next
year. "I would ask you to come and make your home here while I have
a home to offer you, only that you would be so much more buried here
than at Dillsborough. And you have duties there which perhaps you
ought not to leave. But come again when your papa will spare you."

On her journey back she certainly was not very happy. There were
yet three weeks wanting to the time at which she would be bound to
give her answer to Larry Twentyman; but why should she keep the man
waiting for three weeks when her answer was ready? Her stepmother she
knew would soon force her answer from her, and her father would be
anxious to know what had been the result of her meditations. The real
period of her reprieve had been that of her absence at Cheltenham,
and that period was now come to an end. At each station as she
passed them she remembered what Reginald Morton had been saying to
her, and how their conversation had been interrupted,--and perhaps
occasionally aided,--by the absurdities of the bird. How sweet it
had been to be near him and to listen to his whispered voice! How
great was the difference between him and that other young man, the
smartness of whose apparel was now becoming peculiarly distasteful to
her! Certainly it would have been better for her not to have gone to
Cheltenham if it was to be her fate to become Mrs. Twentyman. She was
quite sure of that now.

She came up from the Dillsborough Station alone in the Bush omnibus.
She had not expected any one to meet her. Why should any one meet
her? The porter put up her box and the omnibus left her at the door.
But she remembered well how she had gone down with Reginald Morton,
and how delightful had been every little incident of the journey.
Even to walk with him up and down the platform while waiting for the
train had been a privilege. She thought of it as she got out of the
carriage and remembered that she had felt that the train had come too
soon.

At her own door her father met her and took her into the parlour
where the tea-things were spread, and where her sisters were already
seated. Her stepmother soon came in and kissed her kindly. She was
asked how she had enjoyed herself, and no disagreeable questions were
put to her that night. No questions, at least, were asked which she
felt herself bound to answer. After she was in bed Kate came to her
and did say a word. "Well, Mary, do tell me. I won't tell any one."
But Mary refused to speak a word.



CHAPTER IV.

THE RUFFORD CORRESPONDENCE.


It might be surmised from the description which Lord Rufford had
given of his own position to his sister and his sister's two friends,
when he pictured himself as falling over the edge of the precipice
while they hung on behind to save him, that he was sufficiently aware
of the inexpediency of the proposed intimacy with Miss Trefoil. Any
one hearing him would have said that Miss Trefoil's chances in that
direction were very poor,--that a man seeing his danger so plainly
and so clearly understanding the nature of it would certainly avoid
it. But what he had said was no more than Miss Trefoil knew that he
would say,--or, at any rate would think. Of course she had against
her not only all his friends,--but the man himself also and his own
fixed intentions. Lord Rufford was not a marrying man,--which was
supposed to signify that he intended to lead a life of pleasure till
the necessity of providing an heir should be forced upon him, when
he would take to himself a wife out of his own class in life twenty
years younger than himself for whom he would not care a straw. The
odds against Miss Trefoil were of course great;--but girls have won
even against such odds as these. She knew her own powers, and was
aware that Lord Rufford was fond of feminine beauty and feminine
flutter and feminine flattery, though he was not prepared to marry.
It was quite possible that she might be able to dig such a pit for
him that it would be easier for him to marry her than to get out in
any other way. Of course she must trust something to his own folly
at first. Nor did she trust in vain. Before her week was over at Mrs.
Gore's she received from him a letter, which, with the correspondence
to which it immediately led, shall be given in this chapter.


   LETTER NO. 1.

   Rufford, Sunday.

   MY DEAR MISS TREFOIL,

   We have had a sad house since you left us. Poor Caneback
   got better and then worse and then better,--and at last
   died yesterday afternoon. And now;--there is to be
   the funeral! The poor dear old boy seems to have had
   nobody belonging to him and very little in the way of
   possessions. I never knew anything of him except that he
   was, or had been, in the Blues, and that he was about the
   best man in England to hounds on a bad horse. It now turns
   out that his father made some money in India,--a sort
   of Commissary purveyor,--and bought a commission for
   him twenty-five years ago. Everybody knew him but nobody
   knew anything about him. Poor old Caneback! I wish he
   had managed to die anywhere else and I don't feel at all
   obliged to Purefoy for sending that brute of a mare here.
   He said something to me about that wretched ball;--not
   altogether so wretched! was it? But I didn't like what
   he said and told him a bit of my mind. Now we're two for
   a while; and I don't care for how long unless he comes
   round.

   I cannot stand a funeral, and I shall get away from this.
   I will pay the bill and Purefoy may do the rest. I'm going
   for Christmas to Surbiton's near Melton with a string of
   horses. Surbiton is a bachelor, and as there will be no
   young ladies to interfere with me I shall have the more
   time to think of you. We shall have a little play there
   instead. I don't know whether it isn't the better of the
   two, as if one does get sat upon, one doesn't feel so
   confoundedly sheep-faced. I have been out with the hounds
   two or three times since you went, as I could do no good
   staying with that poor fellow and there was a time when we
   thought he would have pulled through. I rode Jack one day,
   but he didn't carry me as well as he did you. I think he's
   more of a lady's horse. If I go to Mistletoe I shall have
   some horses somewhere in the neighbourhood and I'll make
   them take Jack, so that you may have a chance.

   I never know how to sign myself to young ladies. Suppose I
   say that I am yours,

   Anything you like best,

   R.


This was a much nicer letter than Arabella had expected, as there
were one or two touches in it, apart from the dead man and the
horses, which she thought might lead to something,--and there was
a tone in the letter which seemed to show that he was given to
correspondence. She took care to answer it so that he should get
her letter on his arrival at Mr. Surbiton's house. She found out Mr.
Surbiton's address, and then gave a great deal of time to her letter.


   LETTER NO. 2.

   Murray's Hotel, Green Street,
   Thursday.

   MY DEAR LORD RUFFORD,

   As we are passing through London on our way from one
   purgatory with the Gores to another purgatory with old
   Lady De Browne, and as mamma is asleep in her chair
   opposite, and as I have nothing else on earth to do, I
   think I might as well answer your letter. Poor old Major!
   I am sorry for him, because he rode so bravely. I shall
   never forget his face as he passed us, and again as he
   rose upon his knee when that horrid blow came! How very
   odd that he should have been like that, without any
   friends. What a terrible nuisance to you! I think you were
   quite wise to come away. I am sure I should have done so.
   I can't conceive what right Sir John Purefoy can have had
   to say anything, for after all it was his doing. Do you
   remember when you talked of my riding Jemima? When I think
   of it I can hardly hold myself for shuddering.

   It is so kind of you to think of me about Jack. I am never
   very fond of Mistletoe. Don't you be mischievous now
   and tell the Duchess I said so. But with Jack in the
   neighbourhood I can stand even her Grace. I think I shall
   be there about the middle of January but it must depend on
   all those people mamma is going to. I shall have to make a
   great fight, for mamma thinks that ten days in the year at
   Mistletoe is all that duty requires. But I always stick up
   for my uncle, and mean in this instance to have a little
   of my own way. What are parental commands in opposition to
   Jack and all his glories? Besides mamma does not mean to
   go herself.

   I shall leave it to you to say whether the ball was
   "altogether wretched." Of course there must have been
   infinite vexation to you, and to us who knew of it all
   there was a feeling of deep sorrow. But perhaps we were
   able, some of us, to make it a little lighter for you. At
   any rate I shall never forget Rufford, whether the memory
   be more pleasant or more painful. There are moments which
   one never can forget!

   Don't go and gamble away your money among a lot of men.
   Though I dare say you have got so much that it doesn't
   signify whether you lose some of it or not. I do think it
   is such a shame that a man like you should have such a
   quantity, and that a poor girl such as I am shouldn't
   have enough to pay for her hats and gloves. Why shouldn't
   I send a string of horses about just when I please? I
   believe I could make as good a use of them as you do, and
   then I could lend you Jack. I would be so good-natured.
   You should have Jack every day you wanted him.

   You must write and tell me what day you will be at
   Mistletoe. It is you that have tempted me and I don't mean
   to be there without you,--or I suppose I ought to say,
   without the horse. But of course you will have understood
   that. No young lady ever is supposed to desire the
   presence of any young man. It would be very improper of
   course. But a young man's Jack is quite another thing.

So far her pen had flown with her, but then there came the necessity
for a conclusion which must be worded in some peculiar way, as his
had been so peculiar. How far might she dare to be affectionate
without putting him on his guard? Or in what way might she be saucy
so as best to please him? She tried two or three, and at last she
ended her letter as follows.

   I have not had much experience in signing myself to young
   gentlemen and am therefore quite in as great a difficulty
   as you were; but, though I can't swear that I am
   everything that you like best, I will protest that I am
   pretty nearly what you ought to like,--as far as young
   ladies go.

   In the meantime I certainly am,

   Yours truly,

   A. T.

   P.S. Mind you write--about Jack; and address to Lady
   Smijth--Greenacres Manor--Hastings.


There was a great deal in this letter which was not true. But then
such ladies as Miss Trefoil can never afford to tell the truth.

The letter was not written from Murray's Hotel, Lady Augustus having
insisted on staying at certain lodgings in Orchard Street because
her funds were low. But on previous occasions they had stayed at
Murray's. And her mamma, instead of being asleep when the letter was
written, was making up her accounts. And every word about Mistletoe
had been false. She had not yet secured her invitation. She was
hard at work on the attempt, having induced her father absolutely
to beg the favour from his brother. But at the present moment she
was altogether diffident of success. Should she fail she must only
tell Lord Rufford that her mother's numerous engagements had at the
last moment made her happiness impossible. That she was going to
Lady Smijth's was true, and at Lady Smijth's house she received the
following note from Lord Rufford. It was then January, and the great
Mistletoe question was not as yet settled.


   LETTER NO. 3.

   December 31.

   MY DEAR MISS TREFOIL,

   Here I am still at Surbiton's and we have had such good
   sport that I'm half inclined to give the Duke the slip.
   What a pity that you can't come here instead. Wouldn't
   it be nice for you and half a dozen more without any of
   the Dowagers or Duennas? You might win some of the money
   which I lose. I have been very unlucky and, if you had
   won it all, there would be plenty of room for hats and
   gloves,--and for sending two or three Jacks about all the
   winter into the bargain. I never did win yet. I don't care
   very much about it, but I don't know why I should always
   be so uncommonly unlucky.

   We had such a day yesterday,--an hour and ten minutes all
   in the open, and then a kill just as the poor fellow was
   trying to make a drain under the high road. There were
   only five of us up. Surbiton broke his horse's back at
   a bank, and young De Canute came down on to a road and
   smashed his collar bone. Three or four of the hounds were
   so done that they couldn't be got home. I was riding Black
   Harry and he won't be out again for a fortnight. It was
   the best thing I've seen these two years. We never have it
   quite like that with the U. R. U.

   If I don't go to Mistletoe I'll send Jack and a groom if
   you think the Duke would take them in and let you ride the
   horse. If so I shall stay here pretty nearly all January,
   unless there should be a frost. In that case I should go
   back to Rufford as I have a deal of shooting to do. I
   shall be so sorry not to see you;--but there is always a
   sort of sin in not sticking to hunting when it's good. It
   so seldom is just what it ought to be.

   I rather think that after all we shall be down on that
   fellow who poisoned our fox, in spite of your friend the
   Senator.

   Yours always faithfully,

   R.


There was a great deal in this letter which was quite terrible to
Miss Trefoil. In the first place by the time she received it she had
managed the matter with her uncle. Her father had altogether refused
to mention Lord Rufford's name,--though he had heard the very plain
proposition which his daughter made to him with perfect serenity. But
he had said to the Duke that it would be a great convenience if Bell
could be received at Mistletoe for a few days, and the Duke had got
the Duchess to assent. Lady Augustus, too, had been disposed of, and
two very handsome new dresses had been acquired. Her habit had been
altered with reckless disregard of the coming spring and she was
fully prepared for her campaign. But what would Mistletoe be to her
without Lord Rufford? In spite of all that had been done she would
not go there. Unless she could turn him by her entreaties she would
pack up everything and start for Patagonia, with the determination
to throw herself overboard on the way there if she could find the
courage.

She had to think very much of her next letter. Should she write in
anger or should she write in love,--or should she mingle both? There
was no need for care now, as there had been at first. She must reach
him at once, or everything would be over. She must say something that
would bring him to Mistletoe, whatever that something might be. After
much thought she determined that mingled anger and love would be the
best. So she mingled them as follows:


   LETTER NO. 4.

   Greenacre Manor, Monday.

   Your last letter which I have just got has killed me. You
   must know that I have altered my plans and done it at
   immense trouble for the sake of meeting you at Mistletoe.
   It will be most unkind,--I might say worse,--if you put me
   off. I don't think you can do it as a gentleman. I'm sure
   you would not if you knew what I have gone through with
   mamma and the whole set of them to arrange it. Of course
   I shan't go if you don't come. Your talk of sending the
   horse there is adding an insult to the injury. You must
   have meant to annoy me or you wouldn't have pretended to
   suppose that it was the horse I wanted to see. I didn't
   think I could have taken so violent a dislike to poor Jack
   as I did for a moment. Let me tell you that I think you
   are bound to go to Mistletoe though the hunting at Melton
   should be better than was ever known before. When the
   hunting is good in one place of course it is good in
   another. Even I am sportsman enough to know that. I
   suppose you have been losing a lot of money and are
   foolish enough to think you can win it back again.

   Please, please come. It was to be the little cream of the
   year for me. It wasn't Jack. There! That ought to bring
   you. And yet, if you come, I will worship Jack. I have not
   said a word to mamma about altering my plans, nor shall
   I while there is a hope. But to Mistletoe I will not go,
   unless you are to be there. Pray answer this by return of
   post. If we have gone your letter will of course follow
   us. Pray come. Yours if you do come--; what shall I say?
   Fill it as you please.

   A. T.


Lord Rufford when he received the above very ardent epistle was
quite aware that he had better not go to Mistletoe. He understood
the matter nearly as well as Arabella did herself. But there was a
feeling with him that up to that stage of the affair he ought to do
what he was asked by a young lady, even though there might be danger.
Though there was danger there would still be amusement. He therefore
wrote again as follows:


   LETTER NO. 5.

   DEAR MISS TREFOIL,

   You shan't be disappointed whether it be Jack or any less
   useful animal that you wish to see. At any rate Jack,--and
   the other animal,--will be at Mistletoe on the 15th. I
   have written to the Duke by this post. I can only hope
   that you will be grateful. After all your abuse about
   my getting back my money I think you ought to be very
   grateful. I have got it back again, but I can assure you
   that has had nothing to do with it.

   Yours ever,

   R.

   We had two miserably abortive days last week.


Arabella felt that a great deal of the compliment was taken away by
the postscript; but still she was grateful and contented.



CHAPTER V.

"IT IS A LONG WAY."


While the correspondence given in the last chapter was going on Miss
Trefoil had other troubles besides those there narrated, and other
letters to answer. Soon after her departure from Rufford she received
a very serious but still an affectionate epistle from John Morton
in which he asked her if it was her intention to become his wife
or not. The letter was very long as well as very serious and need
not be given here at length. But that was the gist of it; and he
went on to say that in regard to money he had made the most liberal
proposition in his power, that he must decline to have any further
communication with lawyers, and that he must ask her to let him know
at once,--quite at once,--whether she did or did not regard herself
as engaged to him. It was a manly letter and ended by a declaration
that as far as he himself was concerned his feelings were not at
all altered. This she received while staying at the Gores', but, in
accordance with her predetermined strategy, did not at once send any
answer to it. Before she heard again from Morton she had received
that pleasant first letter from Lord Rufford, and was certainly
then in no frame of mind to assure Mr. Morton that she was ready
to declare herself his affianced wife before all the world. Then,
after ten days, he had written to her again and had written much more
severely. It wanted at that time but a few days to Christmas, and she
was waiting for a second letter from Lord Rufford. Let what might
come of it she could not now give up the Rufford chance. As she
sat thinking of it, giving the very best of her mind to it, she
remembered the warmth of that embrace in the little room behind the
drawing-room, and those halcyon minutes in which her head had been on
his shoulder, and his arm round her waist. Not that they were made
halcyon to her by any of the joys of love. In giving the girl her due
it must be owned that she rarely allowed herself to indulge in simple
pleasures. If Lord Rufford, with the same rank and property, had been
personally disagreeable to her it would have been the same. Business
to her had for many years been business, and her business had been
so very hard that she had never allowed lighter things to interfere
with it. She had had justice on her side when she rebuked her mother
for accusing her of flirtations. But could such a man as Lord
Rufford--with his hands so free,--venture to tell himself that such
tokens of affection with such a girl would mean nothing? If she might
contrive to meet him again of course they would be repeated, and
then he should be forced to say that they did mean something. When
therefore the severe letter came from Morton,--severe and pressing,
telling her that she was bound to answer him at once and that were
she still silent he must in regard to his own honour take that as an
indication of her intention to break off the match,--she felt that
she must answer it. The answer must, however, still be ambiguous. She
would not if possible throw away that stool quite as yet, though her
mind was intent on ascending to the throne which it might be within
her power to reach. She wrote to him an ambiguous letter,--but a
letter which certainly was not intended to liberate him. "He ought,"
she said, "to understand that a girl situated as she was could not
ultimately dispose of herself till her friends had told her that she
was free to do so. She herself did not pretend to have any interest
in the affairs as to which her father and his lawyers were making
themselves busy. They had never even condescended to tell her what it
was they wanted on her behalf;--nor, for the matter of that, had he,
Morton, ever told her what it was that he refused to do. Of course
she could not throw herself into his arms till these things were
settled."--By that expression she had meant a metaphorical throwing
of herself, and not such a flesh and blood embracing as she had
permitted to the lord in the little room at Rufford. Then she
suggested that he should appeal again to her father. It need hardly
be said that her father knew very little about it, and that the
lawyers had long since written to Lady Augustus to say that better
terms as to settlement could not be had from Mr. John Morton.

Morton, when he wrote his second letter, had received the offer of
the mission to Patagonia and had asked for a few days to think of it.
After much consideration he had determined that he would say nothing
to Arabella of the offer. Her treatment of him gave her no right to
be consulted. Should she at once write back declaring her readiness
to become his wife, then he would consult her,--and would not only
consult her but would be prepared to abandon the mission at the
expression of her lightest wish. Indeed in that case he thought that
he would himself advise that it should be abandoned. Why should he
expatriate himself to such a place with such a wife as Arabella
Trefoil? He received her answer and at once accepted the offer.
He accepted it, though he by no means assured himself that the
engagement was irrevocably annulled. But now, if she came to him, she
must take her chance. She must be told that he at any rate was going
to Patagonia, and that unless she could make up her mind to do so
too, she must remain Arabella Trefoil for him. He would not even tell
her of his appointment. He had done all that in him lay and would
prepare himself for his journey as a single man. A minister going
out to Patagonia would of course have some little leave of absence
allowed him, and he arranged with his friend Mounser Green that he
should not start till April.

But when Lord Rufford's second letter reached Miss Trefoil down at
Greenacre Manor, where she had learned by common report that Mr.
Morton was to be the new minister at Patagonia,--when she believed as
she then did that the lord was escaping her, that, seeing and feeling
his danger, he had determined not to jump into the lion's mouth by
meeting her at Mistletoe, that her chance there was all over; then
she remembered her age, her many seasons, the hard work of her
toilet, those tedious long and bitter quarrels with her mother, the
ever-renewed trouble of her smiles, the hopelessness of her future
should she smile in vain to the last, and the countless miseries of
her endless visitings; and she remembered too the £1200 a year that
Morton had offered to settle on her and the assurance of a home of
her own though that home should be at Bragton. For an hour or two she
had almost given up the hope of Rufford and had meditated some letter
to her other lover which might at any rate secure him. But she had
collected her courage sufficiently to make that last appeal to the
lord, which had been successful. Three weeks now might settle all
that and for three weeks it might still be possible so to manage her
affairs that she might fall back upon Patagonia as her last resource.

About this time Morton returned to Bragton, waiting however till he
was assured that the Senator had completed his visit to Dillsborough.
He had been a little ashamed of the Senator in regard to the great
Goarly conflict and was not desirous of relieving his solitude by the
presence of the American. On this occasion he went quite alone and
ordered no carriages from the Bush and no increased establishment
of servants. He certainly was not happy in his mind. The mission to
Patagonia was well paid, being worth with house and etceteras nearly
£3000 a year; and it was great and quick promotion for one so young
as himself. For one neither a lord nor connected with a Cabinet
Minister Patagonia was a great place at which to begin his career
as Plenipotentiary on his own bottom;--but it is a long way off and
has its drawbacks. He could not look to be there for less than four
years; and there was hardly reason why a man in his position should
expatriate himself to such a place for so long a time. He felt that
he should not have gone but for his engagement to Arabella Trefoil,
and that neither would he have gone had his engagement been solid
and permanent. He was going in order that he might be rid of that
trouble, and a man's feelings in such circumstances cannot be
satisfactory to himself. However he had said that he would go, and he
knew enough of himself to be certain that having said so he would not
alter his mind. But he was very melancholy and Mrs. Hopkins declared
to old Mrs. Twentyman that the young squire was "hipped,"--"along of
his lady love," as she thought.

His hands had been so full of his visitors when at Bragton before,
and he had been carried off so suddenly to Rufford, and then had
hurried up to London in such misery, that he had hardly had time to
attend to his own business. Mr. Masters had made a claim upon him
since he had been in England for £127 8_s._ 4_d._ in reference to
certain long-gone affairs in which the attorney declared he had been
badly treated by those who had administered the Morton estate. John
Morton had promised to look into the matter and to see Mr. Masters.
He had partially looked into it and now felt ashamed that he had not
fully kept his promise. The old attorney had not had much hope of
getting his money. It was doubtful to himself whether he could make
good his claim against the Squire at law, and it was his settled
purpose to make no such attempt although he was quite sure that the
money was his due. Indeed if Mr. Morton would not do anything further
in the matter, neither would he. He was almost too mild a man to be a
successful lawyer, and had a dislike to asking for money. Mr. Morton
had promised to see him, but Mr. Morton had probably--forgotten it.
Some gentlemen seem apt to forget such promises.

Mr. Masters was somewhat surprised therefore when he was told one
morning in his office that Mr. Morton from Bragton wished to see him.
He thought that it must be Reginald Morton, having not heard that
the Squire had returned to the country. But John Morton was shown
into the office, and the old attorney immediately arose from his
arm-chair. Sundown was there, and was at once sent out of the room.
Sundown on such occasions was accustomed to retire to some settlement
seldom visited by the public which was called the back office. Nickem
was away intent on unravelling the Goarly mystery, and the attorney
could ask his visitor to take a confidential seat. Mr. Morton however
had very little to say. He was full of apologies and at once handed
out a cheque for the sum demanded. The money was so much to the
attorney that he was flurried by his own success. "Perhaps," said
Morton, "I ought in fairness to add interest."

"Not at all;--by no means. Lawyers never expect that. Really, Mr.
Morton, I am very much obliged. It was so long ago that I thought
that perhaps you might think--"

"I do not doubt that it's all right."

"Yes, Mr. Morton--it is all right. It is quite right. But your coming
in this way is quite a compliment. I am so proud to see the owner of
Bragton once more in this house. I respect the family as I always
did; and as for the money--"

"I am only sorry that it has been delayed so long. Good morning, Mr.
Masters."

The attorney's affairs were in such a condition that an unexpected
cheque for £127 8_s._ 4_d._ sufficed to exhilarate him. It was as
though the money had come down to him from the very skies. As it
happened Mary returned from Cheltenham on that same evening and the
attorney felt that if she had brought back with her an intention to
be Mrs. Twentyman he could still be a happy and contented man.

And there had been another trouble on John Morton's mind. He had
received his cousin's card but had not returned the visit while his
grandmother had been at Bragton. Now he walked on to Hoppet Hall and
knocked at the door.--Yes;--Mr. Morton was at home, and then he was
shown into the presence of his cousin whom he had not seen since he
was a boy. "I ought to have come sooner," said the Squire, who was
hardly at his ease.

"I heard you had a house full of people at Bragton."

"Just that,--and then I went off rather suddenly to the other side
of the country; and then I had to go up to London. Now I'm going to
Patagonia."

"Patagonia! That's a long way off."

"We Foreign Office slaves have to be sent a long way off."

"But we heard, John," said Reginald, who did not feel it to be his
duty to stand on any ceremony with his younger cousin,--"we heard
that you were going to be married to Miss Trefoil. Are you going to
take a wife out to Patagonia?"

This was a question which he certainly had not expected. "I don't
know how that may be," he said frowning.

"We were told here in Dillsborough that it was all settled. I hope I
haven't asked an improper question."

"Of course people will talk."

"If it's only talk I beg pardon. Whatever concerns Bragton is
interesting to me, and from the way in which I heard this I thought
it was a certainty. Patagonia;--well! You don't want an assistant
private secretary I suppose? I should like to see Patagonia."

"We are not allowed to appoint those gentlemen ourselves."

"And I suppose I should be too old to get in at the bottom. It seems
a long way off for a man who is the owner of Bragton."

"It is a long way."

"And what will you do with the old place?"

"There's no one to live there. If you were married you might perhaps
take it." This was of course said in joke, as old Mrs. Morton would
have thought Bragton to be disgraced for ever, even by such a
proposition.

"You might let it."

"Who would take such a place for five years? I suppose old Mrs.
Hopkins will remain, and that it will become more and more desolate
every year. I mustn't let the old house tumble down;--that's all."
Then the Minister Plenipotentiary to Patagonia took his departure and
walked back to Bragton thinking of the publicity of his engagement.
All Dillsborough had heard that he was to be married to Miss Trefoil,
and this cousin of his had been so sure of the fact that he had not
hesitated to ask a question about it in the first moment of their
first interview. Under such circumstances it would be better for him
to go to Patagonia than to remain in England.



CHAPTER VI.

THE BEGINNING OF PERSECUTION.


When Mary Masters got up on the morning after her arrival she knew
that she would have to endure much on that day. Everybody had smiled
on her the preceding evening, but the smiles were of a nature which
declared themselves to be preparatory to some coming event. The
people around her were gracious on the presumption that she was
going to do as they wished, and would be quite prepared to withdraw
their smiles should she prove to be contumacious. Mary, as she crept
down in the morning, understood all this perfectly. She found her
stepmother alone in the parlour and was at once attacked with the all
important question. "My dear, I hope you have made up your mind about
Mr. Twentyman."

"There were to be two months, mamma."

"That's nonsense, Mary. Of course you must know what you mean to tell
him." Mary thought that she did know, but was not at the present
moment disposed to make known her knowledge and therefore remained
silent. "You should remember how much this is to your papa and me and
should speak out at once. Of course you need not tell Mr. Twentyman
till the end of the time unless you like it."

"I thought I was to be left alone for two months."

"Mary, that is wicked. When your papa has so many things to think of
and so much to provide for, you should be more thoughtful of him. Of
course he will want to be prepared to give you what things will be
necessary." Mrs. Masters had not as yet heard of Mr. Morton's cheque,
and perhaps would not hear of it till her husband's bank book fell
into her hands. The attorney had lately found it necessary to keep
such matters to himself when it was possible, as otherwise he was
asked for explanations which it was not always easy for him to give.
"You know," continued Mrs. Masters, "how hard your father finds it to
get money as it is wanted."

"I don't want anything, mamma."

"You must want things if you are to be married in March or April."

"But I shan't be married in March or April. Oh, mamma, pray don't."

"In a week's time or so you must tell Larry. After all that has
passed of course he won't expect to have to wait long, and you can't
ask him. Kate, my dear,"--Kate had just entered the room,--"go into
the office and tell your father to come into breakfast in five
minutes. You must know, Mary, and I insist on your telling me."

"When I said two months,--only it was he said two months--"

"What difference does it make, my dear?"

"It was only because he asked me to put it off. I knew it could make
no difference."

"Do you mean to tell me, Mary, that you are going to refuse him after
all?"

"I can't help it," said Mary, bursting out into tears.

"Can't help it! Did anybody ever see such an idiot since girls were
first created? Not help it, after having given him as good as a
promise! You must help it. You must be made to help it."

There was an injustice in this which nearly killed poor Mary. She had
been persuaded among them to put off her final decision, not because
she had any doubt in her own mind, but at their request, and now she
was told that in granting this delay she had "given as good as a
promise!" And her stepmother also had declared that she "must be made
to help it,"--or in other words be made to marry Mr. Twentyman in
opposition to her own wishes! She was quite sure that no human being
could have such right of compulsion over her. Her father would not
attempt it, and it was, after all, to her father alone, that she was
bound by duty. At the moment she could make no reply, and then her
father with the two girls came in from the office.

The attorney was still a little radiant with his triumph about the
cheque and was also pleased with his own discernment in the matter
of Goarly. He had learned that morning from Nickem that Goarly
had consented to take 7_s._ 6_d._ an acre from Lord Rufford and
was prepared to act "quite the honourable part" on behalf of his
lordship. Nickem had seemed to think that the triumph would not end
here, but had declined to make any very definite statements. Nickem
clearly fancied that he had been doing great things himself, and that
he might be allowed to have a little mystery. But the attorney took
great credit to himself in that he had rejected Goarly's case, and
had been employed by Lord Rufford in lieu of Goarly. When he entered
the parlour he had for the moment forgotten Larry Twentyman, and was
disposed to greet his girl lovingly;--but he found her dissolved in
bitter tears. "Mary, my darling, what is it ails you?" he said.

"Never mind about your darling now, but come to breakfast. She is
giving herself airs,--as usual."

But Mary never did give herself airs and her father could not endure
the accusation. "She would not be crying," he said, "unless she had
something to cry for."

"Pray don't make a fuss about things you don't understand," said his
wife. "Mary, are you coming to the table? If not you had better go
up-stairs. I hate such ways, and I won't have them. This comes of
Ushanting! I knew what it would be. The place for girls is to stay
at home and mind their work,--till they have got houses of their own
to look after. That's what I intend my girls to do. There's nothing
on earth so bad for girls as that twiddle-your-thumbs visiting about
when they think they've nothing to do but to show what sort of
ribbons and gloves they've got. Now, Dolly, if you've got any hands
will you cut the bread for your father? Mary's a deal too fine a
lady to do anything but sit there and rub her eyes." After that the
breakfast was eaten in silence.

When the meal was over Mary followed her father into the office and
said that she wanted to speak to him. When Sundown had disappeared
she told her tale. "Papa," she said, "I am so sorry, but I can't do
what you want about Mr. Twentyman."

"Is it so, Mary?"

"Don't be angry with me, papa."

"Angry! No;--I won't be angry. I should be very sorry to be
angry with my girl. But what you tell me will make us all very
unhappy;--very unhappy indeed. What will you say to Lawrence
Twentyman?"

"What I said before, papa."

"But he is quite certain now that you mean to take him. Of course we
were all certain when you only wanted a few more days to think of
it." Mary felt this to be the cruellest thing of all. "When he asked
me I said I wouldn't pledge you, but I certainly had no doubt. What
is the matter, Mary?"

She could understand that a girl might be asked why she wanted to
marry a man, and that in such a condition she ought to be able to
give a reason; but it was she thought very hard that she should be
asked why she didn't want to marry a man. "I suppose, papa," she said
after a pause, "I don't like him in that way."

"Your mamma will be sure to say that it is because you went to Lady
Ushant's."

And so in part it was,--as Mary herself very well knew; though Lady
Ushant herself had had nothing to do with it. "Lady Ushant," she
said, "would be very well pleased,--if she thought that I liked him
well enough."

"Did you tell Lady Ushant?"

"Yes; I told her all about it,--and how you would all be pleased. And
I did try to bring myself to it. Papa,--pray, pray don't want to send
me away from you."

"You would be so near to us all at Chowton Farm!"

"I am nearer here, papa." Then she embraced him, and he in a manner
yielded to her. He yielded to her so far as to part with her at the
present moment with soft loving words.

Mrs. Masters had a long conversation with her husband on the subject
that same day, and condescended even to say a few words to the
two girls. She had her own theory and her own plan in the present
emergency. According to her theory girls shouldn't be indulged in any
vagaries, and this rejecting of a highly valuable suitor was a most
inexcusable vagary. And, if her plan were followed, a considerable
amount of wholesome coercion would at once be exercised towards this
refractory young woman. There was in fact more than a fortnight
wanting to the expiration of Larry's two months, and Mrs. Masters was
strongly of opinion that if Mary were put into a sort of domestic
"Coventry" during this period, if she were debarred from friendly
intercourse with the family and made to feel that such wickedness as
hers, if continued, would make her an outcast, then she would come
round and accept Larry Twentyman before the end of the time. But this
plan could not be carried out without her husband's co-operation.
Were she to attempt it single-handed, Mary would take refuge in her
father's softness of heart and there would simply be two parties in
the household. "If you would leave her to me and not speak to her, it
would be all right," Mrs. Masters said to her husband.

"Not speak to her!"

"Not cosset her and spoil her for the next week or two. Just leave
her to herself and let her feel what she's doing. Think what Chowton
Farm would be, and you with your business all slipping through your
fingers."

"I don't know that it's slipping through my fingers at all," said the
attorney mindful of his recent successes.

"If you mean to say you don't care about it--!"

"I do care about it very much. You know I do. You ought not to talk
to me in that way."

"Then why won't you be said by me? Of course if you cocker her up,
she'll think she's to have her own way like a grand lady. She don't
like him because he works for his bread,--that's what it is; and
because she's been taught by that old woman to read poetry. I never
knew that stuff do any good to anybody. I hate them fandangled lines
that are all cut up short to make pretence. If she wants to read why
can't she take the cookery book and learn something useful? It just
comes to this;--if you want her to marry Larry Twentyman you had
better not notice her for the next fortnight. Let her go and come and
say nothing to her. She'll think about it, if she's left to herself."

The attorney did want his daughter to marry the man and was half
convinced by his wife. He could not bring himself to be cruel and
felt that his heart would bleed every hour of the day that he
separated himself from his girl;--but still he thought that he might
perhaps best in this way bring about a result which would be so
manifestly for her advantage. It might be that the books of poetry
and the modes of thought which his wife described as "Ushanting" were
of a nature to pervert his girl's mind from the material necessities
of life and that a little hardship would bring her round to a more
rational condition. With a very heavy heart he consented to do his
part,--which was to consist mainly of silence. Any words which might
be considered expedient were to come from his wife.

Three or four days went on in this way, which were days of absolute
misery to Mary. She soon perceived and partly understood her father's
silence. She knew at any rate that for the present she was debarred
from his confidence. Her mother did not say much, but what she did
say was all founded on the theory that Ushanting and softness in
general are very bad for young women. Even Dolly and Kate were hard
to her,--each having some dim idea that Mary was to be coerced
towards Larry Twentyman and her own good. At the end of that time,
when Mary had been at home nearly a week, Larry came as usual on the
Saturday evening. She, well knowing his habit, took care to be out of
the way. Larry, with a pleasant face, asked after her, and expressed
a hope that she had enjoyed herself at Cheltenham.

"A nasty idle place where nobody does anything as I believe," said
Mrs. Masters. Larry received a shock from the tone of the lady's
voice. He had allowed himself to think that all his troubles were
now nearly over, but the words and the voice frightened him. He had
told himself that he was not to speak of his love again till the two
months were over, and like an honourable man he was prepared to wait
the full time. He would not now have come to the attorney's house but
that he knew the attorney would wait for him before going over to the
club. He had no right to draw deductions till the time should be up.
But he could not help his own feelings and was aware that his heart
sank within him when he was told that Cheltenham was a nasty idle
place. Abuse of Cheltenham at the present moment was in fact abuse of
Mary;--and the one sin which Mary could commit was persistence in her
rejection of his suit. But he determined to be a man as he walked
across the street with his old friend, and said not a word about
his love. "They tell me that Goarly has taken his 7_s._ 6_d._, Mr.
Masters."

"Of course he has taken it, Larry. The worse luck for me. If he had
gone on I might have had a bill against his Lordship as long as my
arm. Now it won't be worth looking after."

"I'm sure you're very glad, Mr. Masters."

"Well; yes; I am glad. I do hate to see a fellow like that who hasn't
got a farthing of his own, propped up from behind just to annoy his
betters."

"They say that Bearside got a lot of money out of that American."

"I suppose he got something."

"What an idiot that man must be. Can you understand it, Mr. Masters?"

They now entered the club and Goarly and Nickem and Scrobby were of
course being discussed. "Is it true, Mr. Masters, that Scrobby is to
be arrested?" asked Fred Botsey at once.

"Upon my word I can't say, Mr. Botsey; but if you tell me it is so I
shan't cry my eyes out."

"I thought you would have known."

"A gentleman may know a thing, Mr. Botsey," said the landlord, "and
not exactly choose to tell it."

"I didn't suppose there was any secret," said the brewer. As Mr.
Masters made no further remark it was of course conceived that he
knew all about it and he was therefore treated with some increased
deference. But there was on that night great triumph in the club as
it was known as a fact that Goarly had withdrawn his claim, and that
the American Senator had paid his money for nothing. It was moreover
very generally believed that Goarly was going to turn evidence
against Scrobby in reference to the poison.



CHAPTER VII.

MARY'S LETTER.


The silent system in regard to Mary was carried on in the attorney's
house for a week, during which her sufferings were very great. From
the first she made up her mind to oppose her stepmother's cruelty by
sheer obstinacy. She had been told that she must be made to marry
Mr. Twentyman, and the injustice of that threat had at once made
her rebel against her stepmother's authority. She would never allow
her stepmother to make her marry any one. She put herself into a
state of general defiance and said as little as was said to her. But
her father's silence to her nearly broke her heart. On one or two
occasions, as opportunity offered itself to her, she said little soft
words to him in privacy. Then he would partly relent, would kiss her
and bid her be a good girl, and would quickly hurry away from her.
She could understand that he suffered as well as herself, and she
perhaps got some consolation from the conviction. At last, on the
following Saturday she watched her opportunity and brought to him
when he was alone in his office a letter which she had written to
Larry Twentyman. "Papa," she said, "would you read that?" He took and
read the letter, which was as follows:--


   MY DEAR MR. TWENTYMAN,

   Something was said about two months which are now very
   nearly over. I think I ought to save you from the trouble
   of coming to me again by telling you in a letter that it
   cannot be as you would have it. I have thought of it a
   great deal and have of course been anxious to do as my
   friends wish. And I am very grateful to you, and know how
   good and how kind you are. And I would do anything for
   you,--except this. But it never can be. I should not write
   like this unless I were quite certain. I hope you won't be
   angry with me and think that I should have spared you the
   trouble of doubting so long. I know now that I ought not
   to have doubted at all; but I was so anxious not to seem
   to be obstinate that I became foolish about it when you
   asked me. What I say now is quite certain.

   Dear Mr. Twentyman, I shall always think of you with
   esteem and regard, because I know how good you are; and
   I hope you will come to like somebody a great deal better
   than me who will always love you with her whole heart.

   Yours very truly,

   MARY MASTERS.

   P.S. I shall show this letter to papa.


Mr. Masters read it as she stood by him,--and then read it again very
slowly rubbing one hand over the other as he did so. He was thinking
what he should do;--or rather what he should say. The idea of
stopping the letter never occurred to him. If she chose to refuse
the man of course she must do so; and perhaps, if she did refuse him,
there was no way better than this. "Must it be so, Mary?" he said at
last.

"Yes, papa."

"But why?"

"Because I do not love him as I should have to love any man that I
wanted to marry. I have tried it, because you wished it, but I cannot
do it."

"What will mamma say?"

"I am thinking more, papa, of you," she said putting her arm over his
shoulder. "You have always been so good to me, and so kind!" Here his
heart misgave him, for he felt that during the last week he had not
been kind to her. "But you would not wish me to give myself to a man
and then not to care for him."

"No, my dear."

"I couldn't do it. I should fall down dead first. I have thought
so much about it,--for your sake; and have tried it with myself. I
couldn't do it."

"Is there anybody else, Mary?" As he asked the question he held her
hand beneath his own on the desk, but he did not dare to look into
her face. He had been told by his wife that there was somebody
else;--that the girl's mind was running upon Mr. Surtees, because
Mr. Surtees was a gentleman. He was thinking of Mr. Surtees, and
certainly not of Reginald Morton.

To her the moment was very solemn and when the question was asked
she felt that she could not tell her father a falsehood. She had
gradually grown bold enough to assure herself that her heart was
occupied with that man who had travelled with her to Cheltenham; and
she felt that that feeling alone must keep her apart from any other
love. And yet, as she had no hope, as she had assured herself that
her love was a burden to be borne and could never become a source
of enjoyment, why should her secret be wrested from her? What good
would such a violation do? But she could not tell the falsehood, and
therefore she held her tongue.

Gradually he looked up into her face, still keeping her hand pressed
on the desk under his. It was his left hand that so guarded her,
while she stood by his right shoulder. Then he gently wound his right
arm round her waist and pressed her to him. "Mary," he said, "if it
is so, had you not better tell me?" But she was sure that she had
better not mention that name even to him. It was impossible that she
should mention it. She would have outraged to herself her own maiden
modesty by doing so. "Is it,"--he asked very softly,--"is it--Mr.
Surtees?"

"Oh no!" she said quickly, almost escaping from the grasp of his arm
in her start.

Then he was absolutely at a loss. Beyond Mr. Surtees or Larry
Twentyman he did not know what possible lover Dillsborough could have
afforded. And yet the very rapidity of her answer when the curate's
name had been mentioned had convinced him that there was some other
person,--had increased the strength of that conviction which her
silence had produced. "Have you nothing that you can tell me, Mary?"

"No, papa." Then he gave her back the letter and she left the room
without another word. Of course his sanction to the letter had now
been given, and it was addressed to Chowton Farm and posted before
half an hour was over. She saw him again in the afternoon of the same
day and asked him to tell her stepmother what she had done. "Mamma
ought to know," she said.

"But you haven't sent it."

"Yes, papa;--it is in the post."

Then it occurred to him that his wife would tell him that he should
have prevented the sending of the letter,--that he should have
destroyed it and altogether taken the matter with a high hand. "You
can't tell her yourself?" he asked.

"I would rather you did. Mamma has been so hard to me since I came
home."

He did tell his wife and she overwhelmed him by the violence of her
reproaches. He could never have been in earnest, or he would not have
allowed such a letter as that to pass through his hands. He must be
afraid of his own child. He did not know his own duty. He had been
deceiving her,--his wife,--from first to last. Then she threw herself
into a torrent of tears declaring that she had been betrayed. There
had been a conspiracy between them, and now everything might go to
the dogs, and she would not lift up her hands again to save them. But
before the evening came round she was again on the alert, and again
resolved that she would not even yet give way. What was there in a
letter more than in a spoken word? She would tell Larry to disregard
the letter. But first she made a futile attempt to clutch the letter
from the guardianship of the Post Office, and she went to the
Postmaster assuring him that there had been a mistake in the family,
that a wrong letter had been put into a wrong envelope, and begging
that the letter addressed to Mr. Twentyman might be given back to
her. The Postmaster, half vacillating in his desire to oblige a
neighbour, produced the letter and Mrs. Masters put out her hand to
grasp it; but the servant of the public,--who had been thoroughly
grounded in his duties by one of those trusty guardians of
our correspondence who inspect and survey our provincial post
offices,--remembered himself at the last moment and expressing the
violence of his regret, replaced the letter in the box. Mrs. Masters,
in her anger and grief, condescended to say very hard things to her
neighbour;--but the man remembered his duty and was firm.

On that evening Larry Twentyman did not attend the Dillsborough
Club,--having in the course of the week notified to the attorney that
he should be a defaulter. Mr. Masters himself went over earlier than
usual, his own house having become very uncomfortable to him. Mrs.
Masters for an hour sat expecting that Larry would come, and when the
evening passed away without his appearance, she was convinced that
the unusual absence was a part of the conspiracy against her.

Larry did not get his letter till the Monday morning. On the last
Thursday and Saturday he had consoled himself for his doubts with the
U. R. U., and was minded to do so on the Monday also. He had not gone
to the club on Saturday and had moped about Chowton all the Sunday
in a feverish state because of his doubts. It seemed to him that the
two months would never be over. On the Monday he was out early on
the farm and then came down in his boots and breeches, and had his
red coat ready at the fire while he sat at breakfast. The meet was
fifteen miles off and he had sent on his hunter, intending to travel
thither in his dog cart. Just as he was cutting himself a slice of
beef the postman came, and of course he read his letter. He read it
with the carving knife in his hand, and then he stood gazing at his
mother. "What is it, Larry?" she asked; "is anything wrong?"

"Wrong,--well; I don't know," he said. "I don't know what you call
wrong. I shan't hunt; that's all." Then he threw aside the knife
and pushed away his plate and marched out of the room with the open
letter in his hand.

Mrs. Twentyman knew very well of his love,--as indeed did nearly all
Dillsborough; but she had heard nothing of the two months and did
not connect the letter with Mary Masters. Surely he must have lost a
large sum of money. That was her idea till she saw him again late in
the afternoon.

He never went near the hounds that day or near his business. He
was not then man enough for either. But he walked about the fields,
keeping out of sight of everybody. It was all over now. It must
be all over when she wrote to him a letter like that. Why had she
tempted him to thoughts of happiness and success by that promise of
two months' grace? He supposed that he was not good enough;--or that
she thought he was not good enough. Then he remembered his acres, and
his material comforts, and tried to console himself by reflecting
that Mary Masters might very well do worse in the world. But there
was no consolation in it. He had tried his best because he had
really loved the girl. He had failed, and all the world,--all his
world,--would know that he had failed. There was not a man in the
club,--hardly a man in the hunt,--who was not aware that he had
offered to Mary Masters. During the last two months he had not been
so reticent as was prudent, and had almost boasted to Fred Botsey of
success. And then how was he to live at Chowton Farm without Mary
Masters as his wife? As he returned home he almost made up his mind
that he would not continue to live at Chowton Farm.

He came back through Dillsborough Wood; and there, prowling about, he
met Goarly. "Well, Mr. Twentyman," said the man, "I am making it all
straight now with his Lordship."

"I don't care what you're doing," said Larry in his misery. "You are
an infernal blackguard and that's the best of you."



CHAPTER VIII.

CHOWTON FARM FOR SALE.


John Morton had returned to town soon after his walk into
Dillsborough and had there learned from different sources that
both Arabella Trefoil and Lord Rufford had gone or were going to
Mistletoe. He had seen Lord Augustus who, though he could tell him
nothing else about his daughter, had not been slow to inform him
that she was going to the house of her noble uncle. When Morton had
spoken to him very seriously about the engagement he declared that he
knew nothing about it,--except that he had given his consent if the
settlements were all right. Lady Augustus managed all that. Morton
had then said that under those circumstances he feared he must regard
the honour which he had hoped to enjoy as being beyond his reach.
Lord Augustus had shrugged his shoulders and had gone back to his
whist, this interview having taken place in the strangers' room of
his club. That Lord Rufford was also going to Mistletoe he heard
from young Glossop at the Foreign Office. It was quite possible that
Glossop had been instructed to make this known to Morton by his
sister Lady Penwether. Then Morton declared that the thing was
over and that he would trouble himself no more about it. But this
resolution did not make him at all contented, and in his misery he
went again down to his solitude at Bragton.

And now when he might fairly consider himself to be free, and when he
should surely have congratulated himself on a most lucky escape from
the great danger into which he had fallen, his love and admiration
for the girl returned to him in a most wonderful manner. He thought
of her beauty and her grace, and the manner in which she would sit
at the head of his table when the time should come for him to be
promoted to some great capital. To him she had fascinations which
the reader, who perhaps knows her better than he ever did, will not
share. He could forgive the coldness of her conduct to himself--he
himself not being by nature demonstrative or impassioned,--if only
she were not more kind to any rival. It was the fact that she should
be visiting at the same house with Lord Rufford after what he had
seen at Rufford Hall which had angered him. But now in his solitude
he thought that he might have been wrong at Rufford Hall. If it were
the case that the girl feared that her marriage might be prevented by
the operations of lawyers and family friends, of course she would be
right not to throw herself into his arms,--even metaphorically. He
was a cold, just man who, when he had loved, could not easily get rid
of his love, and now he would ask himself whether he was not hard
upon the girl. It was natural that she should be at Mistletoe; but
then why should Lord Rufford be there with her?

His prospects at Patagonia did not console him much. No doubt it
was a handsome mission for a man of his age and there were sundry
Patagonian questions of importance at the present moment which would
give him a certain weight. Patagonia was repudiating a loan, and it
was hoped that he might induce a better feeling in the Patagonian
Parliament. There was the Patagonian railway for joining the Straits
to the Cape the details of which he was now studying with great
diligence. And then there was the vital question of boundary between
Patagonia and the Argentine Republic by settling which, should he be
happy enough to succeed in doing so, he would prevent the horrors of
warfare. He endeavoured to fix his mind with satisfaction on these
great objects as he pored over the reports and papers which had been
heaped upon him since he had accepted the mission. But there was
present to him always a feeling that the men at the Foreign Office
had been glad to get any respectable diplomate to go to Patagonia,
and that his brethren in the profession had marvelled at his
acceptance of such a mission. One never likes to be thanked over much
for doing anything. It creates a feeling that one has given more
than was expedient. He knew that he must now go to Patagonia, but he
repented the alacrity with which he had acceded to the proposition.
Whether he did marry Arabella Trefoil or whether he did not, there
was no adequate reason for such a banishment. And yet he could not
now escape it!

It was on a Monday morning that Larry Twentyman had found himself
unable to go hunting. On the Tuesday he gave his workmen about the
farm such a routing as they had not received for many a month. There
had not been a dungheap or a cowshed which he had not visited, nor a
fence about the place with which he had not found fault. He was at it
all day, trying thus to console himself, but in vain; and when his
mother in the evening said some word of her misery in regard to the
turkeys he had told her that as far as he was concerned Goarly might
poison every fox in the county. Then the poor woman knew that matters
were going badly with her son. On the Wednesday, when the hounds met
within two miles of Chowton, he again stayed at home; but in the
afternoon he rode into Dillsborough and contrived to see the attorney
without being seen by any of the ladies of the family. The interview
did not seem to do him any good. On the Thursday morning he walked
across to Bragton and with a firm voice asked to see the Squire.
Morton who was deep in the boundary question put aside his papers and
welcomed his neighbour.

Now it must be explained that when, in former years, his son's debts
had accumulated on old Mr. Reginald Morton, so that he had been
obliged to part with some portion of his unentailed property, he had
sold that which lay in the parish of St. John's, Dillsborough. The
lands in Bragton and Mallingham he could not sell;--but Chowton
Farm which was in St. John's had been bought by Larry Twentyman's
grandfather. For a time there had been some bitterness of feeling;
but the Twentymans had been well-to-do respectable people, most
anxious to be good neighbours, and had gradually made themselves
liked by the owner of Bragton. The present Squire had of course known
nothing of Chowton as a part of the Morton property, and had no
more desire for it than for any of Lord Rufford's acres which were
contiguous to his own. He shook hands cordially with his neighbour,
as though this visit were the most natural thing in the world, and
asked some questions about Goarly and the hunt.

"I believe that'll all come square, Mr. Morton. I'm not interesting
myself much about it now." Larry was not dressed like himself. He had
on a dark brown coat, and dark pantaloons and a chimney-pot hat. He
was conspicuous generally for light-coloured close-fitting garments
and for a billycock hat. He was very unlike his usual self on the
present occasion.

"I thought you were just the man who did interest himself about those
things."

"Well; yes; once it was so, Mr. Morton. What I've got to say now, Mr.
Morton, is this. Chowton Farm is in the market! But I wouldn't say a
word to any one about it till you had had the offer."

"You going to sell Chowton!"

"Yes, Mr. Morton, I am."

"From all I have heard of you I wouldn't have believed it if anybody
else had told me."

"It's a fact, Mr. Morton. There are three hundred and twenty acres. I
put the rental at 30_s._ an acre. You know what you get, Mr. Morton,
for the land that lies next to it. And I think twenty-eight years'
purchase isn't more than it's worth. Those are my ideas as to price,
Mr. Morton. There isn't a halfpenny owing on it--not in the way of
mortgage."

"I dare say it's worth that."

"Up at auction I might get a turn more, Mr. Morton;--but those are my
ideas at present."

John Morton, who was a man of business, went to work at once with his
pencil and in two minutes had made out a total. "I don't know that
I could put my hand on £14,000 even if I were minded to make the
purchase."

"That needn't stand in the way, sir. Any part you please could lie
on mortgage at 4½ per cent." Larry in the midst of his distress had
certain clear ideas about business.

"This is a very serious proposition, Mr. Twentyman."

"Yes, indeed, sir."

"Have you any other views in life?"

"I can't say as I have any fixed. I shan't be idle, Mr. Morton. I
never was idle. I was thinking perhaps of New Zealand."

"A very fine colony for a young man, no doubt. But, seeing how well
you are established here--."

"I can't stay here, Mr. Morton. I've made up my mind about that.
There are things which a man can't bear,--not and live quiet. As for
hunting, I don't care about it any more than--nothing."

"I am sorry that anything should have made you so unhappy."

"Well;--I am unhappy. That's about the truth of it. And I always
shall be unhappy here. There's nothing else for it but going away."

"If it's anything sudden, Mr. Twentyman, allow me to say that you
ought not to sell your property without grave consideration."

"I have considered it,--very grave, Mr. Morton."

"Ah,--but I mean long consideration. Take a year to think of it.
You can't buy such a place back in a year. I don't know you well
enough to be justified in inquiring into the circumstances of your
trouble;--but unless it be something which makes it altogether
inexpedient, or almost impossible that you should remain in the
neighbourhood, you should not sell Chowton."

"I'll tell you, Mr. Morton," said Larry almost weeping. Poor Larry
whether in his triumph or his sorrow had no gift of reticence and now
told his neighbour the whole story of his love. He was certain it had
become quite hopeless. He was sure that she would never have written
him a letter if there had been any smallest chance left. According to
his ideas a girl might say "no" half-a-dozen times and yet not mean
much; but when she had committed herself to a letter she could not go
back from it.

"Is there anybody else?" asked Morton.

"Not as I know. I never saw anything like--like lightness with her,
with any man. They said something about the curate but I don't
believe a word of it."

"And the family approve of it?"

"Every one of them,--father and stepmother and sisters and all. My
own mother too! There ain't a ha'porth against it. I don't want any
one to give me sixpence in money. And she should live just like a
lady. I can keep a servant for her to cook and do every mortal thing.
But it ain't nothing of all that, Mr. Morton."

"What is it then?"

The poor man paused before he made his answer; but when he did, he
made it plain enough. "I ain't good enough for her! Nor more I ain't,
Mr. Morton. She was brought up in this house, Mr. Morton, by your own
grand-aunt."

"So I have heard, Mr. Twentyman."

"And there's more of Bragton than there is of Dillsborough about
her;--that's just where it is. I know what I am and I know what she
is, and I ain't good enough for her. It should be somebody that can
talk books to her. I can tell her how to plant a field of wheat or
how to run a foal;--but I can't sit and read poetry, nor yet be read
to. There's plenty of 'em would sell themselves because the land's
all there, and the house, and the things in it. What makes me mad is
that I should love her all the better because she won't. My belief
is, Mr. Morton, they're as poor as Job. That makes no difference
to me because I don't want it;--but it makes no difference to her
neither! She's right, Mr. Morton. I'm not good enough, and so I'll
just cut it as far as Dillsborough is concerned. You'll think of what
I said of taking the land?"

Mr. Morton said much more to him, walking with him to the gate of
Chowton Farm. He assured him that the young lady might yet be won.
He had only, Morton said, to plead his case to her as well as he
had pleaded up at Bragton and he thought that she would be won. "I
couldn't speak out free to her,--not if it was to save the whole
place," said the unfortunate lover. But Morton still continued his
advice. As to leaving Chowton because a young lady refused him, that
would be unmanly--"There isn't a bit of a man left about me," said
Larry weeping. Morton nevertheless went on. Time would cure these
wounds; but no time would give him back Chowton should he once
part with it. If he must leave the place for a time let him put a
caretaker on the farm, even though by doing so the loss might be
great. He should do anything rather than surrender his house. As
to buying the land himself, Morton would not talk about it in the
present circumstances. Then they parted at Chowton gate with many
expressions of friendship on each side.

John Morton, as he returned home, could not help thinking that the
young farmer's condition was after all better than his own. There was
an honesty about both the persons concerned of which at any rate they
might be proud. There was real love,--and though that love was not at
present happy it was of a nature to inspire perfect respect. But in
his own case he was sure of nothing.



CHAPTER IX.

MISTLETOE.


When Arabella Trefoil started from London for Mistletoe, with no
companion but her own maid, she had given more serious consideration
to her visit than she had probably ever paid to any matter up to
that time. She had often been much in earnest but never so much in
earnest as now. Those other men had perhaps been worthy,--worthy as
far as her ideas went of worth,--but none of them so worthy as this
man. Everything was there if she could only get it;--money, rank,
fashion, and an appetite for pleasure. And he was handsome too,
and good-humoured, though these qualities told less with her than
the others. And now she was to meet him in the house of her great
relations,--in a position in which her rank and her fashion would
seem to be equal to his own. And she would meet him with the
remembrance fresh in his mind as in her own of those passages of love
at Rufford. It would be impossible that he should even seem to forget
them. The most that she could expect would be four or five days of
his company, and she knew that she must be upon her mettle. She must
do more now than she had ever attempted before. She must scruple at
nothing that might bind him. She would be in the house of her uncle
and that uncle a duke, and she thought that those facts might help
to quell him. And she would be there without her mother, who was so
often a heavy incubus on her shoulders. She thought of it all, and
made her plans carefully and even painfully. She would be at any rate
two days in the house before his arrival. During that time she would
curry favour with her uncle by all her arts, and would if possible
reconcile herself to her aunt. She thought once of taking her aunt
into her full confidence and balanced the matter much in her mind.
The Duchess, she knew, was afraid of her,--or rather afraid of the
relationship, and would of course be pleased to have all fears set
at rest by such an alliance. But her aunt was a woman who had never
suffered hardships, whose own marriage had been easily arranged, and
whose two daughters had been pleasantly married before they were
twenty years old. She had had no experience of feminine difficulties,
and would have no mercy for such labours as those to which her less
fortunate niece was driven. It would have been a great thing to have
the cordial co-operation of her aunt;--but she could not venture to
ask for it.

She had stretched her means and her credit to the utmost in regard to
her wardrobe, and was aware that she had never been so well equipped
since those early days of her career in which her father and mother
had thought that her beauty, assisted by a generous expenditure,
would serve to dispose of her without delay. A generous expenditure
may be incurred once even by poor people, but cannot possibly be
maintained over a dozen years. Now she had taken the matter into her
own hands and had done that which would be ruinous if not successful.
She was venturing her all upon the die,--with the prospect of
drowning herself on the way out to Patagonia should the chances of
the game go against her. She forgot nothing. She could hardly hope
for more than one day's hunting and yet that had been provided for
as though she were going to ride with the hounds through all the
remainder of the season.

When she reached Mistletoe there were people going and coming every
day, so that an arrival was no event. She was kissed by her uncle and
welcomed with characteristic coldness by her aunt, then allowed to
settle in among the other guests as though she had been there all
the winter. Everybody knew that she was a Trefoil and her presence
therefore raised no question. The Duchess of Omnium was among the
guests. The Duchess knew all about her and vouchsafed to her the
smallest possible recognition. Lady Chiltern had met her before, and
as Lady Chiltern was always generous, she was gracious to Arabella.
She was sorry to see Lady Drummond, because she connected Lady
Drummond with the Foreign Office and feared that the conversation
might be led to Patagonia and its new minister. She contrived to
squeeze her uncle's hand and to utter a word of warm thanks,--which
his grace did not perfectly understand. The girl was his niece and
the Duke had an idea that he should be kind to the family of which he
was the head. His brother's wife had become objectionable to him, but
as to the girl, if she wanted a home for a week or two, he thought it
to be his duty to give it to her.

Mistletoe is an enormous house with a frontage nearly a quarter of
a mile long, combining as it does all the offices, coach houses,
and stables. There is nothing in England more ugly or perhaps more
comfortable. It stands in a huge park which, as it is quite flat,
never shows its size and is altogether unattractive. The Duke
himself was a hospitable, easy man who was very fond of his dinner
and performed his duties well; but could never be touched by any
sentiment. He always spent six months in the country, in which he
acted as landlord to a great crowd of shooting, hunting, and flirting
visitors, and six in London, in which he gave dinners and dined out
and regularly took his place in the House of Lords without ever
opening his mouth. He was a grey-haired comely man of sixty, with
a large body and a wonderful appetite. By many who understood the
subject he was supposed to be the best amateur judge of wine in
England. His son Lord Mistletoe was member for the county and as the
Duke had no younger sons he was supposed to be happy at all points.
Lord Mistletoe, who had a large family of his own, lived twenty miles
off,--so that the father and son could meet pleasantly without fear
of quarrelling.

During the first evening Arabella did contrive to make herself very
agreeable. She was much quieter than had been her wont when at
Mistletoe before, and though there were present two or three very
well circumstanced young men she took but little notice of them.
She went out to dinner with Sir Jeffrey Bunker, and made herself
agreeable to that old gentleman in a remarkable manner. After dinner,
something having been said of the respectable old game called cat's
cradle, she played it to perfection with Sir Jeffrey,--till her aunt
thought that she must have been unaware that Sir Jeffrey had a wife
and family. She was all smiles and all pleasantness, and seemed to
want no other happiness than what the present moment gave her. Nor
did she once mention Lord Rufford's name.

On the next morning after breakfast her aunt sent for her to come
up-stairs. Such a thing had never happened to her before. She could
not recollect that, on any of those annual visits which she had made
to Mistletoe for more years than she now liked to think of, she had
ever had five minutes' conversation alone with her aunt. It had
always seemed that she was to be allowed to come and go by reason
of her relationship, but that she was to receive no special mark of
confidence or affection. The message was whispered into her ear by
her aunt's own woman as she was listening with great attention to
Lady Drummond's troubles in regard to her nursery arrangements. She
nodded her head, heard a few more words from Lady Drummond, and then,
with a pretty apology and a statement made so that all should hear
her, that her aunt wanted her, followed the maid up-stairs. "My
dear," said her aunt, when the door was closed, "I want to ask you
whether you would like me to ask Mr. Morton to come here while you
are with us?" A thunderbolt at her feet could hardly have surprised
or annoyed her more. If there was one thing that she wanted less than
another it was the presence of the Paragon at Mistletoe. It would
utterly subvert everything and rob her of every chance. With a great
effort she restrained all emotion and simply shook her head. She
did it very well, and betrayed nothing. "I ask," said the Duchess,
"because I have been very glad to hear that you are engaged to marry
him. Lord Drummond tells me that he is a most respectable young man."

"Mr. Morton will be so much obliged to Lord Drummond."

"And I thought that if it were so, you would be glad that he should
meet you here. I could manage it very well, as the Drummonds are
here, and Lord Drummond would be glad to meet him."

They had not been above a minute or two together, and Arabella had
been called upon to expend her energy in suppressing any expression
of her horror; but still, by the time that she was called on to
speak, she had fabricated her story. "Thanks, aunt; it is so good of
you;--and if everything was going straight, there would be nothing of
course that I should like so much."

"You are engaged to him?"

"Well; I was going to tell you. I dare say it is not his fault; but
papa and mamma and the lawyers think that he is not behaving well
about money;--settlements and all that. I suppose it will all come
right; but in the meantime perhaps I had better not meet him."

"But you were engaged to him?"

This had to be answered without a moment's pause. "Yes," said
Arabella; "I was engaged to him."

"And he is going out as minister to Patagonia almost immediately?"

"He is going, I know."

"I suppose you will go with him?"

This was very hard. She could not say that she certainly was not
going with him. And yet she had to remember that her coming campaign
with Lord Rufford must be carried on in part beneath her aunt's eyes.
When she had come to Mistletoe she had fondly hoped that none of
the family there would know anything about Mr. Morton. And now she
was called upon to answer these horrid questions without a moment's
notice! "I don't think I shall go with him, aunt; though I am unable
to say anything certain just at present. If he behaves badly of
course the engagement must be off."

"I hope not. You should think of it very seriously. As for money, you
know, you have none of your own, and I am told that he has a very
nice property in Rufford. There is a neighbour of his coming here
to-morrow, and perhaps he knows him."

"Who is the neighbour, aunt?" asked Arabella, innocently.

"Lord Rufford. He is coming to shoot. I will ask him about the
property."

"Pray don't mention my name, aunt. It would be so unpleasant if
nothing were to come of it. I know Lord Rufford very well."

"Know Lord Rufford very well!"

"As one does know men that one meets about."

"I thought it might settle everything if we had Mr. Morton here."

"I couldn't meet him, aunt; I couldn't indeed. Mamma doesn't think
that he is behaving well." To the Duchess condemnation from Lady
Augustus almost amounted to praise. She felt sure that Mr. Morton
was a worthy man who would not probably behave badly, and though she
could not unravel the mystery, and certainly had no suspicion in
regard to Lord Rufford, she was sure that there was something wrong.
But there was nothing more to be said at present. After what Arabella
had told her Mr. Morton could not be asked there to meet her niece.
But all the slight feeling of kindness to the girl which had been
created by the tidings of so respectable an engagement were at once
obliterated from the Duchess's bosom. Arabella, with many expressions
of thanks and a good-humoured countenance, left the room, cursing the
untowardness of her fate which would let nothing run smooth.

Lord Rufford was to come. That at any rate was now almost certain.
Up to the present she had doubted, knowing the way in which such men
will change their engagements at the least caprice. But the Duchess
expected him on the morrow. She had prepared the way for meeting him
as an old friend without causing surprise, and had gained that step.
But should she succeed, as she hoped, in exacting continued homage
from the man,--homage for the four or five days of his sojourn at
Mistletoe,--this must be carried on with the knowledge on the part
of many in the house that she was engaged to that horrid Patagonian
Minister! Was ever a girl called upon to risk her entire fate under
so many disadvantages?

When she went up to dress for dinner on the day of his expected
arrival Lord Rufford had not come. Since the interview in her aunt's
room she had not heard his name mentioned. When she came into the
drawing-room, a little late, he was not there. "We won't wait,
Duchess," said the Duke to his wife at three minutes past eight. The
Duke's punctuality at dinner-time was well known, and everybody else
was then assembled. Within two minutes after the Duke's word dinner
was announced, and a party numbering about thirty walked away into
the dinner-room. Arabella, when they were all settled, found that
there was a vacant seat next herself. If the man were to come,
fortune would have favoured her in that.

The fish and soup had already disappeared and the Duke was wakening
himself to eloquence on the first entrée when Lord Rufford entered
the room. "There never were trains so late as yours, Duchess," he
said, "nor any part of the world in which hired horses travel so
slowly. I beg the Duke's pardon, but I suffer the less because I know
his Grace never waits for anybody."

"Certainly not," said the Duke, "having some regard for my friends'
dinners."

"And I find myself next to you," said Lord Rufford as he took his
seat. "Well; that is more than I deserve."



CHAPTER X.

HOW THINGS WERE ARRANGED.


"Jack is here," said Lord Rufford, as soon as the fuss of his late
arrival had worn itself away.

"I shall be proud to renew my acquaintance."

"Can you come to-morrow?"

"Oh yes," said Arabella, rapturously.

"There are difficulties, and I ought to have written to you about
them. I am going with the Fitzwilliam." Now Mistletoe was in
Lincolnshire, not very far from Peterborough, not very far from
Stamford, not very far from Oakham. A regular hunting man like Lord
Rufford knew how to compass the difficulties of distance in all
hunting countries. Horses could go by one train or overnight, and
he could follow by another. And a postchaise could meet him here or
there. But when a lady is added, the difficulty is often increased
fivefold.

"Is it very far?" asked Arabella.

"It is a little far. I wonder who are going from here?"

"Heaven only knows. I have passed my time in playing cat's cradle
with Sir Jeffrey Bunker for the amusement of the company, and in
confidential communications with my aunt and Lady Drummond. I haven't
heard hunting mentioned."

"Have you anything on wheels going across to Holcombe Cross
to-morrow, Duke?" asked Lord Rufford. The Duke said that he did not
know of anything on wheels going to Holcombe Cross. Then a hunting
man who had heard the question said that he and another intended to
travel by train to Oundle. Upon this Lord Rufford turned round and
looked at Arabella mournfully.

"Cannot I go by train to Oundle?" she asked.

"Nothing on earth so jolly if your pastors and masters and all that
will let you."

"I haven't got any pastors and masters."

"The Duchess!" suggested Lord Rufford.

"I thought all that kind of nonsense was over," said Arabella.

"I believe a great deal is over. You can do many things that your
mother and grandmother couldn't do; but absolute freedom,--what you
may call universal suffrage,--hasn't come yet, I fear. It's twenty
miles by road, and the Duchess would say something awful if I were to
propose to take you in a postchaise."

"But the railway!"

"I'm afraid that would be worse. We couldn't ride back, you know, as
we did at Rufford. At the best it would be rather a rough and tumble
kind of arrangement. I'm afraid we must put it off. To tell you the
truth I'm the least bit in the world afraid of the Duchess."

"I am not at all," said Arabella, angrily.

Then Lord Rufford ate his dinner and seemed to think that that matter
was settled. Arabella knew that he might have hunted elsewhere,--that
the Cottesmore would be out in their own county within twelve miles
of them, and that the difficulty of that ride would be very much
less. The Duke might have been persuaded to send a carriage that
distance. But Lord Rufford cared more about the chance of a good run
than her company! For a while she was sulky;--for a little while,
till she remembered how ill she could afford to indulge in such a
feeling. Then she said a demure word or two to the gentleman on the
other side of her who happened to be a clergyman, and did not return
to the hunting till Lord Rufford had eaten his cheese. "And is that
to be the end of Jack as far as I'm concerned?"

"I have been thinking about it ever since. This is Thursday."

"Not a doubt about it."

"To-morrow will be Friday and the Duke has his great shooting on
Saturday. There's nothing within a hundred miles of us on Saturday. I
shall go with the Pytchley if I don't shoot, but I shall have to get
up just when other people are going to bed. That wouldn't suit you."

"I wouldn't mind if I didn't go to bed at all."

"At any rate it wouldn't suit the Duchess. I had meant to go away on
Sunday. I hate being anywhere on Sunday except in a railway carriage.
But if I thought the Duke would keep me till Tuesday morning we might
manage Peltry on Monday. I meant to have got back to Surbiton's on
Sunday and have gone from there."

"Where is Peltry?"

"It's a Cottesmore meet,--about five miles this side of Melton."

"We could ride from here."

"It's rather far for that, but we could talk over the Duke to send a
carriage. Ladies always like to see a meet, and perhaps we could make
a party. If not we must put a good face on it and go in anything we
can get. I shouldn't fear the Duchess so much for twelve miles as I
should for twenty."

"I don't mean to let the Duchess interfere with me," said Arabella in
a whisper.

That evening Lord Rufford was very good-natured and managed to
arrange everything. Lady Chiltern and another lady said that they
would be glad to go to the meet, and a carriage or carriages were
organised. But nothing was said as to Arabella's hunting because the
question would immediately be raised as to her return to Mistletoe in
the evening. It was, however, understood that she was to have a place
in the carriage.

Arabella had gained two things. She would have her one day's hunting,
and she had secured the presence of Lord Rufford at Mistletoe for
Sunday. With such a man as his lordship it was almost impossible to
find a moment for confidential conversation. He worked so hard at his
amusements that he was as bad a lover as a barrister who has to be in
Court all day,--almost as bad as a sailor who is always going round
the world. On this evening it was ten o'clock before the gentlemen
came into the drawing-room, and then Lord Rufford's time was spent in
arranging the party for the meet on Monday. When the ladies went up
to bed Arabella had had no other opportunity than what Fortune had
given her at dinner.

And even then she had been watched. That juxtaposition at the
dinner-table had come of chance and had been caused by Lord Rufford's
late arrival. Old Sir Jeffrey should have been her neighbour, with
the clergyman on the other side, an arrangement which Her Grace
had thought safe with reference to the rights of the Minister to
Patagonia. The Duchess, though she was at some distance down the
table, had seen that her niece and Lord Rufford were intimate, and
remembered immediately what had been said up-stairs. They could
not have talked as they were then talking,--sometimes whispering
as the Duchess could perceive very well,--unless there had been
considerable former intimacy. She began gradually to understand
various things;--why Arabella Trefoil had been so anxious to come to
Mistletoe just at this time, why she had behaved so unlike her usual
self before Lord Rufford's arrival, and why she had been so unwilling
to have Mr. Morton invited. The Duchess was in her way a clever woman
and could see many things. She could see that though her niece might
be very anxious to marry Lord Rufford, Lord Rufford might indulge
himself in a close intimacy with the girl without any such intention
on his part. And, as far as the family was concerned, she would have
been quite contented with the Morton alliance. She would have asked
Morton now only that it would be impossible that he should come in
time to be of service. Had she been consulted in the first instance
she would have put her veto on that drive to the meet: but she had
heard nothing about it until Lady Chiltern had said that she would
go. The Duchess of Omnium had since declared that she also would go,
and there were to be two carriages. But still it never occurred to
the Duchess that Arabella intended to hunt. Nor did Arabella intend
that she should know it till the morning came.

The Friday was very dull. The hunting men of course had gone before
Arabella came down to breakfast. She would willingly have got up at
seven to pour out Lord Rufford's tea, had that been possible; but,
as it was, she strolled into the breakfast room at half-past ten.
She could see by her aunt's eye and hear in her voice that she was
in part detected; and that she would do herself no further service
by acting the good girl; and she therefore resolutely determined to
listen to no more twaddle. She read a French novel which she had
brought with her, and spent as much of the day as she could in her
bedroom. She did not see Lord Rufford before dinner, and at dinner
sat between Sir Jeffrey and an old gentleman out of Stamford who
dined at Mistletoe that evening. "We've had no such luck to-night,"
Lord Rufford said to her in the drawing-room.

"The old dragon took care of that," replied Arabella.

"Why should the old dragon think that I'm dangerous?"

"Because--; I can't very well tell you why, but I dare say you know."

"And do you think I am dangerous?"

"You're a sort of a five-barred gate," said Arabella laughing. "Of
course there is a little danger, but who is going to be stopped by
that?"

He could make no reply to this because the Duchess called him away
to give some account to Lady Chiltern about Goarly and the U. R.
U., Lady Chiltern's husband being a master of hounds and a great
authority on all matters relating to hunting. "Nasty old dragon!"
Arabella said to herself when she was thus left alone.

The Saturday was the day of the great shooting and at two o'clock
the ladies went out to lunch with the gentlemen by the side of the
wood. Lord Rufford had at last consented to be one of the party. With
logs of trees, a few hurdles, and other field appliances, a rustic
banqueting hall was prepared and everything was very nice. Tons of
game had been killed, and tons more were to be killed after luncheon.
The Duchess was not there and Arabella contrived so to place herself
that she could be waited upon by Lord Rufford, or could wait upon
him. Of course a great many eyes were upon her, but she knew how to
sustain that. Nobody was present who could dare to interfere with
her. When the eating and drinking were over she walked with him to
his corner by the next covert, not heeding the other ladies; and she
stood with him for some minutes after the slaughter had begun. She
had come to feel that the time was slipping between her fingers and
that she must say something effective. The fatal word upon which
everything would depend must be spoken at the very latest on their
return home on Monday, and she was aware that much must probably be
said before that. "Do we hunt or shoot to-morrow?" she said.

"To-morrow is Sunday."

"I am quite aware of that, but I didn't know whether you could live a
day without sport."

"The country is so full of prejudice that I am driven to Sabbatical
quiescence."

"Take a walk with me to-morrow," said Arabella.

"But the Duchess?" exclaimed Lord Rufford in a stage whisper. One of
the beaters was so near that he could not but have heard;--but what
does a beater signify?

"H'mh'm the Duchess! You be at the path behind the great conservatory
at half-past three and we won't mind the Duchess." Lord Rufford was
forced to ask for many other particulars as to the locality and then
promised that he would be there at the time named.



CHAPTER XI.

"YOU ARE SO SEVERE."


On the next morning Arabella went to church as did of course a great
many of the party. By remaining at home she could only have excited
suspicion. The church was close to the house, and the family pew
consisted of a large room screened off from the rest of the church,
with a fire-place of its own,--so that the labour of attending divine
service was reduced to a minimum. At two o'clock they lunched, and
that amusement lasted nearly an hour. There was an afternoon service
at three in attending which the Duchess was very particular. The Duke
never went at that time nor was it expected that any of the gentlemen
would do so; but women are supposed to require more church than men,
and the Duchess rather made it a point that at any rate the young
ladies staying in the house should accompany her. Over the other
young ladies there her authority could only be that of influence,
but such authority generally sufficed. From her niece it might be
supposed that she would exact obedience, and in this instance she
tried it. "We start in five minutes," she said to Arabella as that
young lady was loitering at the table.

"Don't wait for me, aunt; I'm not going," said Arabella boldly.

"I hope you will come to church with us," said the Duchess sternly.

"Not this afternoon."

"Why not, Arabella?"

"I never do go to church twice on Sundays. Some people do, and some
people don't. I suppose that's about it."

"I think that all young women ought to go to church on Sunday
afternoon unless there is something particular to prevent them."
Arabella shrugged her shoulders and the Duchess stalked angrily away.

"That makes me feel so awfully wicked," said the Duchess of Omnium,
who was the only other lady then left in the room. Then she got up
and went out and Arabella of course followed her. Lord Rufford had
heard it all but had stood at the window and said nothing. He had not
been to church at all, and was quite accustomed to the idea that as
a young nobleman who only lived for pleasure he was privileged to be
wicked. Had the Duchess of Mayfair been blessed with a third daughter
fit for marriage she would not have thought of repudiating such a
suitor as Lord Rufford because he did not go to church.

When the house was cleared Arabella went upstairs and put on her hat.
It was a bright beautiful winter's day, not painfully cold because
the air was dry, but still a day that warranted furs and a muff.
Having prepared herself she made her way alone to a side door which
led from a branch of the hall on to the garden terrace, and up
and down that she walked two or three times,--so that any of the
household that saw her might perceive that she had come out simply
for exercise. At the end of the third turn instead of coming back she
went on quickly to the conservatory and took the path which led round
to the further side. There was a small lawn here fitted for garden
games, and on the other end of it an iron gate leading to a path into
the woods. At the further side of the iron gate and leaning against
it, stood Lord Rufford smoking a cigar. She did not pause a moment
but hurried across the lawn to join him. He opened the gate and she
passed through. "I'm not going to be done by a dragon," she said as
she took her place alongside of him.

"Upon my word, Miss Trefoil, I don't think I ever knew a human being
with so much pluck as you have got."

"Girls have to have pluck if they don't mean to be sat upon;--a great
deal more than men. The idea of telling me that I was to go to church
as though I were twelve years old!"

"What would she say if she knew that you were walking here with me?"

"I don't care what she'd say. I dare say she walked with somebody
once;--only I should think the somebody must have found it very
dull."

"Does she know that you're to hunt to-morrow?"

"I haven't told her and don't mean. I shall just come down in my
habit and hat and say nothing about it. At what time must we start?"

"The carriages are ordered for half-past nine. But I'm afraid you
haven't clearly before your eyes all the difficulties which are
incidental to hunting."

"What do you mean?"

"It looks as like a black frost as anything I ever saw in my life."

"But we should go?"

"The horses won't be there if there is a really hard frost. Nobody
would stir. It will be the first question I shall ask the man when he
comes to me, and if there have been seven or eight degrees of frost I
shan't get up."

"How am I to know?"

"My man shall tell your maid. But everybody will soon know all about
it. It will alter everything."

"I think I shall go mad."

"In white satin?"

"No;--in my habit and hat. It will be the hardest thing, after all! I
ought to have insisted on going to Holcombe Cross on Friday. The sun
is shining now. Surely it cannot freeze."

"It will be uncommonly ill-bred if it does."

But, after all, the hunting was not the main point. The hunting
had been only intended as an opportunity; and if that were to be
lost,--in which case Lord Rufford would no doubt at once leave
Mistletoe,--there was the more need for using the present hour, the
more for using even the present minute. Though she had said that the
sun was shining, it was the setting sun, and in another half hour
the gloom of the evening would be there. Even Lord Rufford would not
consent to walk about with her in the dark. "Oh, Lord Rufford," she
said, "I did so look forward to your giving me another lead." Then
she put her hand upon his arm and left it there.

"It would have been nice," said he, drawing her hand a little on, and
remembering as he did so his own picture of himself on the cliff with
his sister holding his coat-tails.

"If you could possibly know," she said, "the condition I am in."

"What condition?"

"I know that I can trust you. I am sure that I can trust you."

"Oh dear, yes. If you mean about telling, I never tell anything."

"That's what I do mean. You remember that man at your place?"

"What man? Poor Caneback?"

"Oh dear no! I wish they could change places because then he could
give me no more trouble."

"That's wishing him to be dead, whoever he is."

"Yes. Why should he persecute me? I mean that man we were staying
with at Bragton."

"Mr. Morton?"

"Of course I do. Don't you remember your asking me about him, and my
telling you that I was not engaged to him?"

"I remember that."

"Mamma and this horrid old Duchess here want me to marry him. They've
got an idea that he is going to be ambassador at Pekin or something
very grand, and they're at me day and night."

"You needn't take him unless you like him."

"They do make me so miserable!" And then she leaned heavily upon his
arm. He was a man who could not stand such pressure as this without
returning it. Though he were on the precipice, and though he must go
over, still he could not stand it. "You remember that night after the
ball?"

"Indeed I do."

"And you too had asked me whether I cared for that horrid man."

"I didn't see anything horrid. You had been staying at his house and
people had told me. What was I to think?"

"You ought to have known what to think. There; let me go,"--for now
he had got his arm round her waist. "You don't care for me a bit. I
know you don't. It would be all the same to you whom I married;--or
whether I died."

"You don't think that, Bella?" He fancied that he had heard her
mother call her Bella, and that the name was softer and easier than
the full four syllables. It was at any rate something for her to have
gained.

"I do think it. When I came here on purpose to have a skurry over the
country with you, you went away to Holcombe Cross though you could
have hunted here, close in the neighbourhood. And now you tell me
there will be a frost to-morrow."

"Can I help that, darling?"

"Darling! I ain't your darling. You don't care a bit for me. I
believe you hope there'll be a frost." He pressed her tighter, but
laughed as he did so. It was evidently a joke to him;--a pleasant
joke no doubt. "Leave me alone, Lord Rufford. I won't let you, for I
know you don't love me." Very suddenly he did leave his hold of her
and stood erect with his hands in his pockets, for the rustle of a
dress was heard. It was still daylight, but the light was dim and
the last morsel of the grandeur of the sun had ceased to be visible
through the trees. The church-going people had been released, and the
Duchess having probably heard certain tidings, had herself come to
take a walk in the shrubbery behind the conservatory. Arabella had
probably been unaware that she and her companion by a turn in the
walks were being brought back towards the iron gate. As it was they
met the Duchess face to face.

Lord Rufford had spoken the truth when he had said that he was a
little afraid of the Duchess. Such was his fear that at the moment
he hardly knew what he was to say. Arabella had boasted when she had
declared that she was not at all afraid of her aunt;--but she was
steadfastly minded that she would not be cowed by her fears. She had
known beforehand that she would have occasion for much presence of
mind, and was prepared to exercise it at a moment's notice. She was
the first to speak. "Is that you, aunt? you are out of church very
soon."

"Lord Rufford," said the Duchess, "I don't think this is a proper
time for walking out."

"Don't you, Duchess? The air is very nice."

"It is becoming dark and my niece had better return to the house
with me. Arabella, you can come this way. It is just as short as
the other. If you go on straight, Lord Rufford, it will take you
to the house." Of course Lord Rufford went on straight and of
course Arabella had to turn with her aunt. "Such conduct as this is
shocking," began the Duchess.

"Aunt, let me tell you."

"What can you tell me?"

"I can tell you a great deal if you will let me. Of course I am quite
prepared to own that I did not intend to tell you anything."

"I can well believe that."

"Because I could hardly hope for your sympathy. You have never liked
me."

"You have no right to say that."

"I don't do it in the way of finding fault. I don't know why you
should. But I have been too much afraid of you to tell you my
secrets. I must do so now because you have found me walking with Lord
Rufford. I could not otherwise excuse myself."

"Is he engaged to marry you?"

"He has asked me."

"No!"

"But he has, aunt. You must be a little patient and let me tell it
you all. Mamma did make up an engagement between me and Mr. Morton at
Washington."

"Did you know Lord Rufford then?"

"I knew him, but did not think he was behaving quite well. It is very
hard sometimes to know what a man means. I was angry when I went to
Washington. He has told me since that he loves me,--and has offered."

"But you are engaged to marry the other man."

"Nothing on earth shall make me marry Mr. Morton. Mamma did it, and
mamma now has very nearly broken it off because she says he is very
shabby about money. Indeed it is broken off. I had told him so even
before Lord Rufford had proposed to me."

"When did he propose and where?"

"At Rufford. We were staying there in November."

"And you asked to come here that you might meet him?"

"Just so. Was that strange? Where could I be better pleased to meet
him than in my own uncle's house?"

"Yes;--if you had told us all this before."

"Perhaps I ought; but you are so severe, that I did not dare. Do
not turn against me now. My uncle could not but like that his niece
should marry Lord Rufford."

"How can I turn against you if it is settled? Lord Rufford can do as
he pleases. Has he told your father,--or your mother?"

"Mamma knows it."

"But not from him?" asked the Duchess.

Arabella paused a moment but hardly a moment before she answered. It
was hard upon her that she should have to make up her mind on matters
of such importance with so little time for consideration. "Yes," she
said; "mamma knows it from him. Papa is so very indifferent about
everything that Lord Rufford has not spoken to him."

"If so, it will be best that the Duke should speak to him."

There was another pause, but hardly long enough to attract notice.
"Perhaps so," she said;--"but not quite yet. He is so peculiar, so
touchy. The Duke is not quite like my father and he would think
himself suspected."

"I cannot imagine that if he is in earnest."

"That is because you do not know him as I do. Only think where I
should be if I were to lose him!"

"Lose him!"

"Oh, aunt, now that you know it I do hope that you will be my friend.
It would kill me if he were to throw me over."

"But why should he throw you over if he proposed to you only last
month?"

"He might do it if he thought that he were interfered with. Of course
I should like my uncle to speak to him, but not quite immediately. If
he were to say that he had changed his mind, what could I do, or what
could my uncle do?"

"That would be very singular conduct."

"Men are so different now, aunt. They give themselves so much more
latitude. A man has only to say that he has changed his mind and
nothing ever comes of it."

"I have never been used to such men, my dear."

"At any rate do not ask the Duke to speak to him to-day. I will think
about it and perhaps you will let me see you to-morrow, after we all
come in." To this the Duchess gravely assented. "And I hope you won't
be angry because you found me walking with him, or because I did not
go to church. It is everything to me. I am sure, dear aunt, you will
understand that." To this the Duchess made no reply, and they both
entered the house together. What became of Lord Rufford neither of
them saw.

Arabella when she regained her room thought that upon the whole
fortune had favoured her by throwing her aunt in her way. She had, no
doubt, been driven to tell a series of barefaced impudent lies,--lies
of such a nature that they almost made her own hair stand on end as
she thought of them;--but they would matter nothing if she succeeded;
and if she failed in this matter she did not care much what her aunt
thought of her. Her aunt might now do her a good turn; and some lies
she must have told;--such had been the emergencies of her position!
As she thought of it all she was glad that her aunt had met her;
and when Lord Rufford was summoned to take her out to dinner on
that very Sunday,--a matter as to which her aunt managed everything
herself,--she was immediately aware that her lies had done her good
service.

"This was more than I expected," Lord Rufford said when they were
seated.

"She knew that she had overdone it when she sent you away in that
cavalier way," replied Arabella, "and now she wants to show that she
didn't mean anything."



CHAPTER XII.

THE DAY AT PELTRY.


The Duchess did tell the Duke the whole story about Lord Rufford and
Arabella that night,--as to which it may be said that she also was
false. But according to her conscience there were two ways of telling
such a secret. As a matter of course she told her husband everything.
That idle placid dinner-loving man was in truth consulted about each
detail of the house and family;--but the secret was told to him
with injunctions that he was to say nothing about it to any one for
twenty-four hours. After that the Duchess was of opinion that he
should speak to Lord Rufford. "What could I say to him?" asked the
Duke. "I'm not her father."

"But your brother is so indifferent."

"No doubt. But that gives me no authority. If he does mean to marry
the girl he must go to her father;--or it is possible that he might
come to me. But if he does not mean it, what can I do?" He promised,
however, that he would think of it.

It was still dark night, or the morning was still dark as night,
when Arabella got out of bed and opened her window. The coming of a
frost now might ruin her. The absence of it might give her everything
in life that she wanted. Lord Rufford had promised her a tedious
communication through servants as to the state of the weather. She
was far too energetic, far too much in earnest, to wait for that.
She opened the window and putting out her hand she felt a drizzle of
rain. And the air, though the damp from it seemed to chill her all
through, was not a frosty air. She stood there a minute so as to be
sure and then retreated to her bed.

Fortune was again favouring her;--but then how would it be if it
should turn to hard rain? In that case Lady Chiltern and the other
ladies certainly would not go, and how in such case should she get
herself conveyed to the meet? She would at any rate go down in her
hat and habit and trust that somebody would provide for her. There
might be much that would be disagreeable and difficult, but hardly
anything could be worse than the necessity of telling such lies as
those which she had fabricated on the previous afternoon.

She had been much in doubt whether her aunt had or had not believed
her. That the belief was not a thorough belief she was almost
certain. But then there was the great fact that after the story had
been told she had been sent out to dinner leaning on Lord Rufford's
arm. Unless her aunt had believed something that would not have taken
place. And then so much of it was true. Surely it would be impossible
that he should not propose after what had occurred! Her aunt was
evidently alive to the advantage of the marriage,--to the advantage
which would accrue not to her, Arabella, individually, but to the
Trefoils generally. She almost thought that her aunt would not put
spokes in her wheel for this day. She wished now that she had told
her aunt that she intended to hunt, so that there need not be any
surprise.

She slept again and again looked out of the window. It rained a
little but still there were hours in which the rain might cease.
Again she slept and at eight her maid brought her word that there
would be hunting. It did rain a little but very little. Of course she
would dress herself in riding attire.

At nine o'clock she walked into the breakfast parlour properly
equipped for the day's sport. There were four or five men there in
red coats and top boots, among whom Lord Rufford was conspicuous.
They were just seating themselves at the breakfast table, and her
aunt was already in her place. Lady Chiltern had come into the room
with herself, and at the door had spoken some good-natured words of
surprise. "I did not know that you were a sportswoman, Miss Trefoil."
"I do ride a little when I am well mounted," Arabella had said as
she entered the room. Then she collected herself, and arranged her
countenance, and endeavoured to look as though she were doing the
most ordinary thing in the world. She went round the room and kissed
her aunt's brow. This she had not done on any other morning; but then
on other mornings she had been late. "Are you going to ride?" said
the Duchess.

"I believe so, aunt."

"Who is giving you a horse?"

"Lord Rufford is lending me one. I don't think even his good-nature
will extend to giving away so perfect an animal. I know him well for
I rode him when I was at Rufford." This she said so that all the room
should hear her.

"You need not be afraid, Duchess," said Lord Rufford. "He is quite
safe."

"And his name is Jack," said Arabella laughing as she took her place
with a little air of triumph. "Lord Rufford offered to let me have
him all the time I was here, but I didn't know whether you would take
me in so attended."

There was not one who heard her who did not feel that she spoke as
though Lord Rufford were all her own. Lord Rufford felt it himself
and almost thought he might as well turn himself round and bid his
sister and Miss Penge let him go. He must marry some day and why
should not this girl do as well as any one else? The Duchess did not
approve of young ladies hunting. She certainly would not have had her
niece at Mistletoe had she expected such a performance. But she could
not find fault now. There was a feeling in her bosom that if there
were an engagement it would be cruel to cause obstructions. She
certainly could not allow a lover in her house for her husband's
niece without having official authenticated knowledge of the
respectability of the lover;--but the whole thing had come upon her
so suddenly that she was at a loss what to do or what to say. It
certainly did not seem to her that Arabella was in the least afraid
of being found out in any untruth. If the girl were about to become
Lady Rufford then it would be for Lord Rufford to decide whether or
no she should hunt. Soon after this the Duke came in and he also
alluded to his niece's costume and was informed that she was to ride
one of Lord Rufford's horses. "I didn't hear it mentioned before,"
said the Duke. "He'll carry Miss Trefoil quite safely," said Lord
Rufford who was at the moment standing over a game pie on the
sideboard. Then the subject was allowed to drop.

At half-past nine there was no rain, and the ladies were so nearly
punctual that the carriages absolutely started at ten. Some of the
men rode on; one got a seat on the carriage; and Lord Rufford drove
himself and a friend in a dog-cart, tandem. The tandem was off before
the carriages, but Lord Rufford assured them that he would get the
master to allow them a quarter of an hour. Arabella contrived to say
one word to him. "If you start without me I'll never speak to you
again." He nodded and smiled; but perhaps thought that if so it might
be as well that he should start without waiting for her.

At the last moment the Duchess had taken it into her head that she
too would go to the meet. No doubt she was actuated by some feeling
in regard to her niece; but it was not till Arabella was absolutely
getting on to Jack at the side of the carriage,--under the auspices
of Jack's owner,--that the idea occurred to her Grace that there
would be a great difficulty as to the return home. "Arabella, how do
you mean to get back?" she asked.

"That will be all right, aunt," said Arabella.

"I will see to that," said Lord Rufford.

The gracious but impatient master of the hounds had absolutely waited
full twenty minutes for the Duchess's party;--and was not minded to
wait a minute longer for conversation. The moment that the carriages
were there the huntsmen had started so that there was an excuse
for hurry. Lord Rufford as he was speaking got on to his own horse,
and before the Duchess could expostulate they were away. There was
a feeling of triumph in Arabella's bosom as she told herself that
she had at any rate secured her day's hunting in spite of such
heart-breaking difficulties.

The sport was fairly good. They had twenty minutes in the morning
and a kill. Then they drew a big wood during which they ate their
lunch and drank their sherry. In the big wood they found a fox but
could not do anything with him. After that they came on a third in
a stubble field and ran him well for half an hour, when he went to
ground. It was then three o'clock; and as the days were now at the
shortest the master declined to draw again. They were then about
sixteen miles from Mistletoe, and about ten from Stamford where
Lord Rufford's horses were standing. The distance from Stamford to
Mistletoe was eight. Lord Rufford proposed that they should ride to
Stamford and then go home in a hired carriage. There seemed indeed
to be no other way of getting home without taking three tired
horses fourteen miles out of their way. Arabella made no objection
whatever to the arrangement. Lord Rufford did in truth make a slight
effort,--the slightest possible,--to induce a third person to join
their party. There was still something pulling at his coat-tail, so
that there might yet be a chance of saving him from the precipice.
But he failed. The tired horseman before whom the suggestion was
casually thrown out, would have been delighted to accept it, instead
of riding all the way to Mistletoe;--but he did not look upon it as
made in earnest. Two, he knew, were company and three none.

The hunting field is by no means a place suited for real love-making.
Very much of preliminary conversation may be done there in a pleasant
way, and intimacies may be formed. But when lovers have already
walked with arms round each other in a wood, riding together may be
very pleasant but can hardly be ecstatic. Lord Rufford might indeed
have asked her to be Lady R. while they were breaking up the first
fox, or as they loitered about in the big wood;--but she did not
expect that. There was no moment during the day's sport in which she
had a right to tell herself that he was misbehaving because he did
not so ask her. But in a postchaise it would be different.

At the inn at Stamford the horses were given up, and Arabella
condescended to take a glass of cherry brandy. She had gone through a
long day; it was then half-past four, and she was not used to be many
hours on horseback. The fatigue seemed to her to be very much greater
than it had been when she got back to Rufford immediately after the
fatal accident. The ten miles along the road, which had been done in
little more than an hour, had almost overcome her. She had determined
not to cry for mercy as the hard trot went on. She had passed herself
off as an accustomed horsewoman, and having done so well across the
country, would not break down coming home. But, as she got into
the carriage, she was very tired. She could almost have cried with
fatigue;--and yet she told herself that now,--now,--must the work be
done. She would perhaps tell him that she was tired. She might even
assist her cause by her languor;--but, though she should die for it,
she would not waste her precious moments by absolute rest. "May I
light a cigar?" he said as he got in.

"You know you may. Wherever I may be with you do you think that I
would interfere with your gratifications?"

"You are the best girl in all the world," he said as he took out his
case and threw himself back in the corner.

"Do you call that a long day?" she asked when he had lit his cigar.

"Not very long."

"Because I am so tired."

"We came home pretty sharp. I thought it best not to shock her Grace
by too great a stretch into the night. As it is you will have time to
go to bed for an hour or two before you dress. That's what I do when
I am in time. You'll be right as a trivet then."

"Oh; I'm right now,--only tired. It was very nice."

"Pretty well. We ought to have killed that last fox. And why on
earth we made nothing of that fellow in Gooseberry Grove I couldn't
understand. Old Tony would never have left that fox alive above
ground. Would you like to go to sleep?"

"O dear no."

"Afraid of gloves?" said he, drawing nearer to her. They might pull
him as they liked by his coat-tails but as he was in a postchaise
with her he must make himself agreeable. She shook her head and
laughed as she looked at him through the gloom. Then of course he
kissed her.

"Lord Rufford, what does this mean?"

"Don't you know what it means?"

"Hardly."

"It means that I think you the jolliest girl out. I never liked
anybody so well as I do you."

"Perhaps you never liked anybody," said she.

"Well;--yes, I have; but I am not going to boast of what fortune has
done for me in that way. I wonder whether you care for me?"

"Do you want to know?"

"I should like to know. You have never said that you did."

"Because you have never asked me."

"Am I not asking you now, Bella?"

"There are different ways of asking,--but there is only one way that
will get an answer from me. No;--no. I will not have it. I have
allowed too much to you already. Oh, I am so tired." Then she sank
back almost into his arms,--but recovered herself very quickly. "Lord
Rufford," she said, "if you are a man of honour let there be an end
of this. I am sure you do not wish to make me wretched."

"I would do anything to make you happy."

"Then tell me that you love me honestly, sincerely, with all your
heart,--and I shall be happy."

"You know I do."

"Do you? Do you?" she said, and then she flung herself on to his
shoulder, and for a while she seemed to faint. For a few minutes
she lay there and as she was lying she calculated whether it would
be better to try at this moment to drive him to some clearer
declaration, or to make use of what he had already said without
giving him an opportunity of protesting that he had not meant to make
her an offer of marriage. He had declared that he loved her honestly
and with his whole heart. Would not that justify her in setting her
uncle at him? And might it not be that the Duke would carry great
weight with him;--that the Duke might induce him to utter the fatal
word though she, were she to demand it now, might fail? As she
thought of it all she affected to swoon, and almost herself believed
that she was swooning. She was conscious but hardly more than
conscious that he was kissing her;--and yet her brain was at work.
She felt that he would be startled, repelled, perhaps disgusted were
she absolutely to demand more from him now. "Oh, Rufford;--oh, my
dearest," she said as she woke up, and with her face close to his,
so that he could look into her eyes and see their brightness even
through the gloom. Then she extricated herself from his embrace with
a shudder and a laugh. "You would hardly believe how tired I am," she
said putting out her ungloved hand. He took it and drew her to him
and there she sat in his arms for the short remainder of the journey.

They were now in the park, and as the lights of the house came in
sight he gave her some counsel. "Go up to your room at once, dearest,
and lay down."

"I will. I don't think I could go in among them. I should fall."

"I will see the Duchess and tell her that you are all right,--but
very tired. If she goes up to you you had better see her."

"Oh, yes. But I had rather not."

"She'll be sure to come. And, Bella, Jack must be yours now."

"You are joking."

"Never more serious in my life. Of course he must remain with me
just at present, but he is your horse." Then, as the carriage was
stopping, she took his hand and kissed it.

She got to her room as quickly as possible; and then, before she had
even taken off her hat, she sat down to think of it all,--sending her
maid away meanwhile to fetch her a cup of tea. He must have meant it
for an offer. There had at any rate been enough to justify her in so
taking it. The present he had made to her of the horse could mean
nothing else. Under no other circumstances would it be possible that
she should either take the horse or use him. Certainly it was an
offer, and as such she would instruct her uncle to use it. Then she
allowed her imagination to revel in thoughts of Rufford Hall, of the
Rufford house in town, and a final end to all those weary labours
which she would thus have brought to so glorious a termination.



CHAPTER XIII.

LORD RUFFORD WANTS TO SEE A HORSE.


Lord Rufford had been quite right about the Duchess. Arabella had
only taken off her hat and was drinking her tea when the Duchess came
up to her. "Lord Rufford says that you were too tired to come in,"
said the Duchess.

"I am tired, aunt;--very tired. But there is nothing the matter with
me. We had to ride ever so far coming home and it was that knocked me
up."

"It was very bad, your coming home with him in a postchaise,
Arabella."

"Why was it bad, aunt? I thought it very nice."

"My dear, it shouldn't have been done. You ought to have known that.
I certainly wouldn't have had you here had I thought that there would
be anything of the kind."

"It is going to be all right," said Arabella laughing.

According to her Grace's view of things it was not and could not be
made "all right." It would not have been all right were the girl to
become Lady Rufford to-morrow. The scandal, or loud reproach due
to evil doings, may be silenced by subsequent conduct. The merited
punishment may not come visibly. But nothing happening after could
make it right that a young lady should come home from hunting in a
postchaise alone with a young unmarried man. When the Duchess first
heard it she thought what would have been her feelings if such a
thing had been suggested in reference to one of her own daughters!
Lord Rufford had come to her in the drawing-room and had told her the
story in a quiet pleasant manner,--merely saying that Miss Trefoil
was too much fatigued to show herself at the present moment. She had
thought from his manner that her niece's story had been true. There
was a cordiality and apparent earnestness as to the girl's comfort
which seemed to be compatible with the story. But still she could
hardly understand that Lord Rufford should wish to have it known that
he travelled about the country in such a fashion with the girl he
intended to marry. But if it were true, then she must look after
her niece. And even if it were not true,--in which case she would
never have the girl at Mistletoe again,--yet she could not ignore
her presence in the house. It was now the 18th of January. Lord
Rufford was to go on the following day, and Arabella on the 20th.
The invitation had not been given so as to stretch beyond that.
If it could be at once decided,--declared by Lord Rufford to the
Duke,--that the match was to be a match, then the invitation should
be renewed, Arabella should be advised to put off her other friends,
and Lord Rufford should be invited to come back early in the next
month and spend a week or two in the proper fashion with his future
bride. All that had been settled between the Duke and the Duchess. So
much should be done for the sake of the family. But the Duke had not
seen his way to asking Lord Rufford any question.

The Duchess must now find out the truth if she could,--so that if the
story were false she might get rid of the girl and altogether shake
her off from the Mistletoe roof tree. Arabella's manner was certainly
free from any appearance of hesitation or fear. "I don't know about
being all right," said the Duchess. "It cannot be right that you
should have come home with him alone in a hired carriage."

"Is a hired carriage wickeder than a private one?"

"If a carriage had been sent from here for you, it would have been
different;--but even then he should not have come with you."

"But he would I'm sure;--and I should have asked him. What;--the man
I'm engaged to marry! Mayn't he sit in a carriage with me?"

The Duchess could not explain herself, and thought that she had
better drop that topic. "What does he mean to do now, Arabella?"

"What does who mean, aunt?"

"Lord Rufford."

"He means to marry me. And he means to go from here to Mr. Surbiton's
to-morrow. I don't quite understand the question."

"And what do you mean to do?"

"I mean to marry him. And I mean to join mamma in London on
Wednesday. I believe we are to go to the Connop Green's the next day.
Mr. Connop Green is a sort of cousin of mamma;--but they are odious
people."

"Who is to see Lord Rufford? However, my dear, if you are very tired,
I will leave you now."

"No, aunt. Stay a moment if you will be so very kind. I am tired; but
if I were twice as tired I would find strength to talk about this. If
my uncle would speak to Lord Rufford at once I should take it as the
very kindest thing he could do. I could not send him to my uncle;
for, after all, one's uncle and one's father are not the same. I
could only refer him to papa. But if the Duke would speak to him!"

"Did he renew his offer to-day?"

"He has done nothing else but renew it ever since he has been in
the carriage with me. That's the plain truth. He made his offer at
Rufford. He renewed it in the wood yesterday;--and he repeated it
over and over again as we came home to-day. It may have been very
wrong, but so it was." Miss Trefoil must have thought that kissing
and proposing were the same thing. Other young ladies have, perhaps,
before now made such a mistake. But this young lady had had much
experience and should have known better.

"Lord Rufford had better perhaps speak to your uncle."

"Will you tell him so, aunt?"

The Duchess thought about it for a moment. She certainly could not
tell Lord Rufford to speak to the Duke without getting the Duke's
leave to tell him so. And then, if all this were done, and Lord
Rufford were to assure the Duke that the young lady had made a
mistake, how derogatory would all that be to the exalted quiescence
of the house of Mayfair! She thoroughly wished that her niece were
out of the house; for though she did believe the story, her belief
was not thorough. "I will speak to your uncle," she said. "And now
you had better go to sleep."

"And, dear aunt, pray excuse me at dinner. I have been so excited, so
flurried, and so fatigued, that I fear I should make a fool of myself
if I attempted to come down. I should get into a swoon, which would
be dreadful. My maid shall bring me a bit of something and a glass of
sherry, and you shall find me in the drawing-room when you come out."
Then the Duchess went, and Arabella was left alone to take another
view of the circumstances of the campaign.

Though there were still infinite dangers, yet she could hardly wish
that anything should be altered. Should Lord Rufford disown her,
which she knew to be quite possible, there would be a general
collapse and the world would crash over her head. But she had known,
when she took this business in hand, that as success would open
Elysium to her, so would failure involve her in absolute ruin. She
was determined that she would mar nothing now by cowardice, and
having so resolved, and having fortified herself with perhaps two
glasses of sherry, she went down to the drawing-room a little before
nine, and laid herself out upon a sofa till the ladies should come
in.

Lord Rufford had gone to bed, as was his wont on such occasions, with
orders that he should be called to dress for dinner at half-past
seven. But as he laid himself down he made up his mind that, instead
of sleeping, he would give himself up to thinking about Arabella
Trefoil. The matter was going beyond a joke, and would require some
thinking. He liked her well enough, but was certainly not in love
with her. I doubt whether men ever are in love with girls who throw
themselves into their arms. A man's love, till it has been chastened
and fastened by the feeling of duty which marriage brings with it,
is instigated mainly by the difficulty of pursuit. "It is hardly
possible that anything so sweet as that should ever be mine; and
yet, because I am a man, and because it is so heavenly sweet, I will
try." That is what men say to themselves, but Lord Rufford had had no
opportunity of saying that to himself in regard to Miss Trefoil. The
thing had been sweet, but not heavenly sweet; and he had never for a
moment doubted the possibility. Now at any rate he would make up his
mind. But, instead of doing so, he went to sleep, and when he got up
he was ten minutes late, and was forced, as he dressed himself, to
think of the Duke's dinner instead of Arabella Trefoil.

The Duchess before dinner submitted herself and all her troubles at
great length to the Duke, but the Duke could give her no substantial
comfort. Of course it had all been wrong. He supposed that they
ought not to have been found walking together in the dark on Sunday
afternoon. The hunting should not have been arranged without
sanction; and the return home in the hired carriage had no doubt
been highly improper. But what could he do? If the marriage came
off it would be all well. If not, this niece must not be invited to
Mistletoe again. As to speaking to Lord Rufford, he did not quite see
how he was to set about it. His own girls had been married in so very
different a fashion! He could imagine nothing so disagreeable as to
have to ask a gentleman his intentions. Parental duty might make it
necessary when a daughter had not known how to keep her own position
intact;--but here there was no parental duty. If Lord Rufford would
speak to him, then indeed there would be no difficulty. At last he
told his wife that, if she could find an opportunity of suggesting to
the young Lord that he might perhaps say a word to the young lady's
uncle without impropriety,--if she could do this in a light easy way,
so as to run no peril of a scene,--she might do so.

When the two duchesses and all the other ladies came out into the
drawing-room, Arabella was found upon the sofa. Of course she became
the centre of a little interest for a few minutes, and the more so,
as her aunt went up to her and made some inquiries. Had she had any
dinner? Was she less fatigued? The fact of the improper return home
in the postchaise had become generally known, and there were some
there who would have turned a very cold shoulder to Arabella had not
her aunt noticed her. Perhaps there were some who had envied her
Jack, and Lord Rufford's admiration, and even the postchaise. But as
long as her aunt countenanced her it was not likely that any one at
Mistletoe would be unkind to her. The Duchess of Omnium did indeed
remark to Lady Chiltern that she remembered something of the same
kind happening to the same girl soon after her own marriage. As the
Duchess had now been married a great many years this was unkind;--but
it was known that when the Duchess of Omnium did dislike any one, she
never scrupled to show it. "Lord Rufford is about the silliest man
of his day," she said afterwards to the same lady; "but there is one
thing which I do not think even he is silly enough to do."

It was nearly ten o'clock when the gentlemen came into the room
and then it was that the Duchess,--Arabella's aunt,--must find
the opportunity of giving Lord Rufford the hint of which the Duke
had spoken. He was to leave Mistletoe on the morrow and might not
improbably do so early. Of all women she was the steadiest, the most
tranquil, the least abrupt in her movements. She could not pounce
upon a man, and nail him down, and say what she had to say, let him
be as unwilling as he might to hear it. At last, however, seeing Lord
Rufford standing alone,--he had then just left the sofa on which
Arabella was still lying,--without any apparent effort she made her
way up to his side. "You had rather a long day," she said.

"Not particularly, Duchess."

"You had to come home so far!"

"About the average distance. Did you think it a hard day, Maurice?"
Then he called to his aid a certain Lord Maurice St. John, a
hard-riding and hard-talking old friend of the Trefoil family who
gave the Duchess a very clear account of all the performance, during
which Lord Rufford fell into an interesting conversation with Mrs.
Mulready, the wife of the neighbouring bishop.

After that the Duchess made another attempt. "Lord Rufford," she
said, "we should be so glad if you would come back to us the first
week in February. The Prices will be here and the Mackenzies, and--."

"I am pledged to stay with my sister till the fifth, and on the sixth
Surbiton and all his lot come to me. Battersby, is it not the sixth
that you and Surbiton come to Rufford?"

"I rather think it is," said Battersby.

"I wish it were possible. I like Mistletoe so much. It's so central."

"Very well for hunting,--is it not, Lord Rufford?" But that horrid
Captain Battersby did not go out of the way.

"I wonder whether Lady Chiltern would do me a favour," said Lord
Rufford stepping across the room in search of that lady. He might
be foolish, but when the Duchess of Omnium declared him to be the
silliest man of the day I think she used a wrong epithet. The Duchess
was very patient and intended to try again, but on that evening she
got no opportunity.

Captain Battersby was Lord Rufford's particular friend on this
occasion and had come over with him from Mr. Surbiton's house. "Bat,"
he said as they were sitting close to each other in the smoking-room
that night, "I mean to make an early start to-morrow."

"What;--to get to Surbiton's?"

"I've got something to do on the way. I want to look at a horse at
Stamford."

"I'll be off with you."

"No;--don't do that. I'll go in my own cart. I'll make my man get
hold of my groom and manage it somehow. I can leave my things and you
can bring them. Only say to-morrow that I was obliged to go."

"I understand."

"Heard something, you know, and all that kind of thing. Make my
apologies to the Duchess. In point of fact I must be in Stamford at
ten."

"I'll manage it all," said Captain Battersby, who made a very shrewd
guess at the cause which drew his friend to such an uncomfortable
proceeding. After that Lord Rufford went to his room and gave a good
deal of trouble that night to some of the servants in reference to
the steps which would be necessary to take him out of harm's way
before the Duchess would be up on the morrow.

Arabella when she heard of the man's departure on the following
morning, which she luckily did from her own maid, was for some time
overwhelmed by it. Of course the man was running away from her. There
could be no doubt of it. She had watched him narrowly on the previous
evening, and had seen that her aunt had tried in vain to speak to
him. But she did not on that account give up the game. At any rate
they had not found her out at Mistletoe. That was something. Of
course it would have been infinitely better for her could he have
been absolutely caught and nailed down before he left the house;
but that was perhaps more than she had a right to expect. She could
still pursue him; still write to him;--and at last, if necessary,
force her father to do so. But she must trust now chiefly to her own
correspondence.

"He told me, aunt, the last thing last night that he was going," she
said.

"Why did you not mention it?"

"I thought he would have told you. I saw him speaking to you. He
had received some telegram about a horse. He's the most flighty
man in the world about such things. I am to write to him before I
leave this to-morrow." Then the Duchess did not believe a word of
the engagement. She felt at any rate certain that if there was an
engagement, Lord Rufford did not mean to keep it.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE SENATOR IS BADLY TREATED.


While these great efforts were being made by Arabella Trefoil at
Mistletoe, John Morton was vacillating in an unhappy mood between
London and Bragton. It may be remembered that an offer was made to
him as to the purchase of Chowton Farm. At that time the Mistletoe
party was broken up, and Miss Trefoil was staying with her mother at
the Connop Greens. By the morning post on the next day he received
a note from the Senator in which Mr. Gotobed stated that business
required his presence at Dillsborough and suggested that he should
again become a guest at Bragton for a few days. Morton was so sick
of his own company and so tired of thinking of his own affairs that
he was almost glad to welcome the Senator. At any rate he had no
means of escaping, and the Senator came. The two men were alone at
the house and the Senator was full of his own wrongs as well as
those of Englishmen in general. Mr. Bearside had written to him very
cautiously, but pressing for an immediate remittance of £25, and
explaining that the great case could not be carried on without that
sum of money. This might have been very well as being open to the
idea that the Senator had the option of either paying the money or of
allowing the great case to be abandoned, but that the attorney in the
last paragraph of his letter intimated that the Senator would be of
course aware that he was liable for the whole cost of the action be
it what it might. He had asked a legal friend in London his opinion,
and the legal friend had seemed to think that perhaps he was liable.
What orders he had given to Bearside he had given without any
witness, and at any rate had already paid a certain sum. The legal
friend, when he heard all that Mr. Gotobed was able to tell him about
Goarly, had advised the Senator to settle with Bearside,--taking a
due receipt and having some person with him when he did so. The legal
friend had thought that a small sum of money would suffice. "He went
so far as to suggest," said the Senator with indignant energy, "that
if I contested my liability to the man's charges, the matter would go
against me because I had interfered in such a case on the unpopular
side. I should think that in this great country I should find justice
administered on other terms than that." Morton attempted to explain
to him that his legal friend had not been administering justice but
only giving advice. He had, so Morton told him, undoubtedly taken up
the case of one blackguard, and in urging it had paid his money to
another. He had done so as a foreigner,--loudly proclaiming as his
reason for such action that the man he supported would be unfairly
treated unless he gave his assistance. Of course he could not expect
sympathy. "I want no sympathy," said the Senator;--"I only want
justice." Then the two gentlemen had become a little angry with each
other. Morton was the last man in the world to have been aggressive
on such a matter;--but with the Senator it was necessary either to be
prostrate or to fight.

But with Mr. Gotobed such fighting never produced ill blood. It was
the condition of his life, and it must be supposed that he liked it.
On the next morning he did not scruple to ask his host's advice as
to what he had better do, and they agreed to walk across to Goarly's
house and to ascertain from the man himself what he thought or might
have to say about his own case. On their way they passed up the road
leading to Chowton Farm, and at the gate leading into the garden they
found Larry Twentyman standing. Morton shook hands with the young
farmer and introduced the Senator. Larry was still woe-begone though
he endeavoured to shake off his sorrows and to appear to be gay. "I
never see much of the man," he said when they told him that they were
going across to call upon his neighbour, "and I don't know that I
want to."

"He doesn't seem to have much friendship among you all," said the
Senator.

"Quite as much as he deserves, Mr. Gotobed," replied Larry. The
Senator's name had lately become familiar as a household word in
Dillsborough, and was, to tell the truth, odious to such men as Larry
Twentyman. "He's a thundering rascal, and the only place fit for him
in the county is Rufford gaol. He's like to be there soon, I think."

"That's what provokes me," said the Senator. "You think he's a
rascal, Mister."

"I do."

"And because you take upon yourself to think so you'd send him to
Rufford gaol! There was one gentleman somewhere about here told me
he ought to be hung, and because I would not agree with him he got
up and walked away from me at table, carrying his provisions with
him. Another man in the next field to this insulted me because I said
I was going to see Goarly. The clergyman in Dillsborough and the
hotelkeepers were just as hard upon me. But you see, Mister, that
what we want to find out is whether Goarly or the Lord has the right
of it in this particular case."

"I know which has the right without any more finding out," said
Larry. "The shortest way to his house is by the ride through the
wood, Mr. Morton. It takes you out on his land on the other side.
But I don't think you'll find him there. One of my men told me that
he had made himself scarce." Then he added as the two were going
on, "I should like to have just a word with you, Mr. Morton. I've
been thinking of what you said, and I know it was kind. I'll take
a month over it. I won't talk of selling Chowton till the end of
February;--but if I feel about it then as I do now I can't stay."

"That's right, Mr. Twentyman;--and work hard, like a man, through the
month. Go out hunting, and don't allow yourself a moment for moping."

"I will," said Larry, as he retreated to the house, and then he gave
directions that his horse might be ready for the morrow.

They went in through the wood, and the Senator pointed out the spot
at which Bean the gamekeeper had been so insolent to him. He could
not understand, he said, why he should be treated so roughly, as
these men must be aware that he had nothing to gain himself. "If I
were to go into Mickewa," said Morton, "and interfere there with the
peculiarities of the people as you have done here, it's my belief
that they'd have had the eyes out of my head long before this."

"That only shows that you don't know Mickewa," said the Senator. "Its
people are the most law-abiding population on the face of the earth."

They passed through the wood, and a couple of fields brought them to
Goarly's house. As they approached it by the back the only live thing
they saw was the old goose which had been so cruelly deprived of
her companions and progeny. The goose was waddling round the dirty
pool, and there were to be seen sundry ugly signs of a poor man's
habitation, but it was not till they had knocked at the window as
well as the door that Mrs. Goarly showed herself. She remembered the
Senator at once and curtseyed to him; and when Morton introduced
himself she curtseyed again to the Squire of Bragton. When Goarly was
asked for she shook her head and declared that she knew nothing about
him. He had been gone, she said, for the last week, and had left no
word as to whither he was going;--nor had he told her why. "Has he
given up his action against Lord Rufford?" asked the Senator.

"Indeed then, sir, I can't tell you a word about it."

"I've been told that he has taken Lord Rufford's money."

"He ain't 'a taken no money as I've seed, sir. I wish he had, for
money's sore wanted here, and if the gen'leman has a mind to be
kind-hearted--" Then she intimated her own readiness to take any
contribution to the good cause which the Senator might be willing to
make at that moment. But the Senator buttoned up his breeches pockets
with stern resolution. Though he still believed Lord Rufford to be
altogether wrong, he was beginning to think that the Goarlys were
not worthy his benevolence. As she came to the door with them and
accompanied them a few yards across the field she again told the
tragic tale of her goose;--but the Senator had not another word to
say to her.

On that same day Morton drove Mr. Gotobed into Dillsborough and
consented to go with him to Mr. Bearside's office. They found the
attorney at home, and before anything was said as to payment they
heard his account of the action. If Goarly had consented to take any
money from Lord Rufford he knew nothing about it. As far as he was
aware the action was going on. Ever so many witnesses must be brought
from a distance who had seen the crop standing and who would have no
bias against the owner,--as would be the case with neighbours, such
as Lawrence Twentyman. Of course it was not easy to oppose such a man
as Lord Rufford and a little money must be spent. Indeed such, he
said, was his interest in the case that he had already gone further
than he ought to have done out of his own pocket. Of course they
would be successful,--that is if the matter were carried on with
spirit, and then the money would all come back again. But just at
present a little money must be spent. "I don't mean to spend it,"
said the Senator.

"I hope you won't stick to that, Mr. Gotobed."

"But I shall, sir. I understand from your letter that you look to me
for funds."

"Certainly I do, Mr. Gotobed;--because you told me to do so."

"I told you nothing of the kind, Mr. Bearside."

"You paid me £15 on account, Mr. Gotobed."

"I paid you £15 certainly."

"And told me that more should be coming as it was wanted. Do you
think I should have gone on for such a man as Goarly,--a fellow
without a shilling,--unless he had some one like you to back him? It
isn't likely. Now, Mr. Morton, I appeal to you."

"I don't suppose that my friend has made himself liable for your bill
because he paid you £15 with the view of assisting Goarly," said
Morton.

"But he said that he meant to go on, Mr. Morton. He said that plain,
and I can swear it. Now, Mr. Gotobed, you just say out like an honest
man whether you didn't give me to understand that you meant to go
on."

"I never employed you or made myself responsible for your bill."

"You authorized me, distinctly,--most distinctly, and I shall
stick to it. When a gentleman comes to a lawyer's office and pays
his money and tells that lawyer as how he means to see the case
out,--explaining his reasons as you did when you said all that
against the landlords and squires and nobility of this here
country,--why then that lawyer has a right to think that that
gentleman is his mark."

"I thought you were employed by Mr. Scrobby," said Morton, who had
heard much of the story by this time.

"Then, Mr. Morton, I must make bold to say that you have heard wrong.
I know nothing of Mr. Scrobby and don't want. There ain't nothing
about the poisoning of that fox in this case of ours. Scrobby and
Goarly may have done that, or Scrobby and Goarly may be as innocent
as two babes unborn for aught I know or care. Excuse me, Mr. Morton,
but I have to be on my p's and q's I see. This is a case for trespass
and damage against Lord Rufford in which we ask for 40_s._ an acre.
Of course there is expenses. There's my own time. I ain't to be kept
here talking to you two gentlemen for nothing, I suppose. Well; this
gentleman comes to me and pays me £15 to go on. I couldn't have gone
on without something. The gentleman saw that plain enough. And he
told me he'd see me through the rest of it."

"I said nothing of the kind, sir."

"Very well. Then we must put it to a jury. May I make bold to ask
whether you are going out of the country all at once?"

"I shall be here for the next two months, at least."

"Happy to hear it, sir, and have no doubt it will all be settled
before that time--amiable or otherwise. But as I am money out of
pocket I did hope you would have paid me something on account
to-day."

Then Mr. Gotobed made his offer, informing Mr. Bearside that he had
brought his friend, Mr. Morton, with him in order that there might
be a witness. "I could see that, sir, with half an eye," said the
attorney unabashed. He was willing to pay Mr. Bearside a further sum
of £10 immediately to be quit of the affair, not because he thought
that any such sum was due, but because he wished to free himself
from further trouble in the matter. Mr. Bearside hinted in a very
cavalier way that £20 might be thought of. A further payment of £20
would cover the money he was out of pocket. But this proposition
Mr. Gotobed indignantly refused, and then left the office with his
friend. "Wherever there are lawyers there will be rogues," said the
Senator, as soon as he found himself in the street. "It is a noble
profession, that of the law; the finest perhaps that the work of the
world affords; but it gives scope and temptation for roguery. I do
not think, however, that you would find anything in America so bad as
that."

"Why did you go to him without asking any questions?"

"Of whom was I to ask questions? When I took up Goarly's case he had
already put it into this man's hands."

"I am sorry you should be troubled, Mr. Gotobed; but, upon my word, I
cannot say but what it serves you right."

"That is because you are offended with me. I endeavoured to protect
a poor man against a rich man, and that in this country is cause of
offence."

After leaving the attorney's office they called on Mr. Mainwaring the
rector, and found that he knew, or professed to know, a great deal
more about Goarly, than they had learned from Bearside. According to
his story Nickem, who was clerk to Mr. Masters, had Goarly in safe
keeping somewhere. The rector indeed was acquainted with all the
details. Scrobby had purchased the red herrings and strychnine, and
had employed Goarly to walk over by night to Rufford and fetch them.
The poison at that time had been duly packed in the herrings. Goarly
had done this and had, at Scrobby's instigation, laid the bait down
in Dillsborough Wood. Nickem was now at work trying to learn where
Scrobby had purchased the poison, as it was feared that Goarly's
evidence alone would not suffice to convict the man. But if the
strychnine could be traced and the herrings, then there would be
almost a certainty of punishing Scrobby.

"And what about Goarly?" asked the Senator.

"He would escape of course," said the rector. "He would get a little
money and after such an experience would probably become a good
friend to fox-hunting."

"And quite a respectable man!" The rector did not guarantee this but
seemed to think that there would at any rate be promise of improved
conduct. "The place ought to be too hot to hold him!" exclaimed the
Senator indignantly. The rector seemed to think it possible that he
might find it uncomfortable at first, in which case he would sell the
land at a good price to Lord Rufford and every one concerned would
have been benefited by the transaction,--except Scrobby for whom no
one would feel any pity.

The two gentlemen then promised to come and dine with the rector on
the following day. He feared he said that he could not make up a
party as there was,--he declared,--nobody in Dillsborough. "I never
knew such a place," said the rector. "Except old Nupper, who is
there? Masters is a very decent fellow himself, but he has got out
of that kind of thing;--and you can't ask a man without asking his
wife. As for clergymen, I'm sick of dining with my own cloth and
discussing the troubles of sermons. There never was such a place as
Dillsborough." Then he whispered a word to the Squire. Was the Squire
unwilling to meet his cousin Reginald Morton? Things were said and
people never knew what was true and what was false. Then John Morton
declared that he would be very happy to meet his cousin.



CHAPTER XV.

MR. MAINWARING'S LITTLE DINNER.


The company at the rector's house consisted of the Senator, the
two Mortons, Mr. Surtees the curate, and old Doctor Nupper. Mrs.
Mainwaring was not well enough to appear, and the rector therefore
was able to indulge himself in what he called a bachelor party. As a
rule he disliked clergymen, but at the last had been driven to invite
his curate because he thought six a better number than five for
joviality. He began by asking questions as to the Trefoils which were
not very fortunate. Of course he had heard that Morton was to marry
Arabella Trefoil, and though he made no direct allusion to the fact,
as Reginald had done, he spoke in that bland eulogistic tone which
clearly showed his purpose. "They went with you to Lord Rufford's, I
was told."

"Yes;--they did."

"And now they have left the neighbourhood. A very clever young lady,
Miss Trefoil;--and so is her mother, a very clever woman." The
Senator, to whom a sort of appeal was made, nodded his assent. "Lord
Augustus, I believe, is a brother of the Duke of Mayfair?"

"Yes, he is," said Morton. "I am afraid we are going to have frost
again." Then Reginald Morton was sure that the marriage would never
take place.

"The Trefoils are a very distinguished family," continued the rector.
"I remember the present Duke's father when he was in the cabinet,
and knew this man almost intimately when we were at Christchurch
together. I don't think this Duke ever took a prominent part in
politics."

"I don't know that he ever did," said Morton.

"Dear, dear, how tipsy he was once driving back to Oxford with me in
a gig. But he has the reputation of being one of the best landlords
in the country now."

"I wonder what it is that gives a man the reputation of being a good
landlord. Is it foxes?" asked the Senator. The rector acknowledged
with a smile that foxes helped. "Or does it mean that he lets his
land below the value? If so, he certainly does more harm than good,
though he may like the popularity which he is rich enough to buy."

"It means that he does not exact more than his due," said the rector
indiscreetly.

"When I hear a man so highly praised for common honesty I am of
course led to suppose that dishonesty in his particular trade is
the common rule. The body of English landlords must be exorbitant
tyrants when one among them is so highly eulogised for taking no more
than his own." Luckily at that moment dinner was announced, and the
exceptional character of the Duke of Mayfair was allowed to drop.

Mr. Mainwaring's dinner was very good and his wines were
excellent,--a fact of which Mr. Mainwaring himself was much better
aware than any of his guests. There is a difficulty in the giving
of dinners of which Mr. Mainwaring and some other hosts have become
painfully aware. What service do you do to any one in pouring your
best claret down his throat, when he knows no difference between that
and a much more humble vintage,--your best claret which you feel so
sure you cannot replace? Why import canvas-back ducks for appetites
which would be quite as well satisfied with those out of the next
farm-yard? Your soup, which has been a care since yesterday, your
fish, got down with so great trouble from Bond Street on that very
day, your saddle of mutton, in selecting which you have affronted
every butcher in the neighbourhood, are all plainly thrown away! And
yet the hospitable hero who would fain treat his friends as he would
be treated himself can hardly arrange his dinners according to the
palates of his different guests; nor will he like, when strangers sit
at his board, to put nothing better on his table than that cheaper
wine with which needful economy induces him to solace himself when
alone. I,--I who write this,--have myself seen an honoured guest
deluge with the pump my, ah! so hardly earned, most scarce and most
peculiar vintage! There is a pang in such usage which some will not
understand, but which cut Mr. Mainwaring to the very soul. There was
not one among them there who appreciated the fact that the claret
on his dinner table was almost the best that its year had produced.
It was impossible not to say a word on such a subject at such a
moment;--though our rector was not a man who usually lauded his
own viands. "I think you will find that claret what you like, Mr.
Gotobed," he said. "It's a '57 Mouton, and judges say that it is
good."

"Very good indeed," said the Senator. "In the States we haven't got
into the way yet of using dinner clarets." It was as good as a play
to see the rector wince under the ignominious word. "Your great
statesman added much to your national comfort when he took the duty
off the lighter kinds of French wines."

The rector could not stand it. He hated light wines. He hated cheap
things in general. And he hated Gladstone in particular. "Nothing,"
said he, "that the statesman you speak of ever did could make such
wine as that any cheaper. I am sorry, sir, that you don't perceive
the difference."

"In the matter of wine," said the Senator, "I don't think that I have
happened to come across anything so good in this country as our old
Madeiras. But then, sir, we have been fortunate in our climate. The
English atmosphere is not one in which wine seems to reach its full
perfection." The rector heaved a deep sigh as he looked up to the
ceiling with his hands in his trowsers-pockets. He knew, or thought
that he knew, that no one could ever get a glass of good wine in the
United States. He knew, or thought that he knew, that the best wine
in the world was brought to England. He knew, or thought he knew,
that in no other country was wine so well understood, so diligently
sought for, and so truly enjoyed as in England. And he imagined that
it was less understood and less sought for and less enjoyed in the
States than in any other country. He did not as yet know the Senator
well enough to fight with him at his own table, and could only groan
and moan and look up at the ceiling. Doctor Nupper endeavoured to
take away the sting by smacking his lips, and Reginald Morton, who
did not in truth care a straw what he drank, was moved to pity and
declared the claret to be very fine. "I have nothing to say against
it," said the Senator, who was not in the least abashed.

But when the cloth was drawn,--for the rector clung so lovingly to
old habits that he delighted to see his mahogany beneath the wine
glasses,--a more serious subject of dispute arose suddenly, though
perhaps hardly more disagreeable. "The thing in England," said the
Senator, "which I find most difficult to understand, is the matter of
what you call Church patronage."

"If you'll pass half an hour with Mr. Surtees to-morrow morning,
he'll explain it all to you," said the rector, who did not like that
any subject connected with his profession should be mooted after
dinner.

"I should be delighted," said Mr. Surtees.

"Nothing would give me more pleasure," said the Senator; "but what
I mean is this;--the question is, of course, one of paramount
importance."

"No doubt it is," said the deluded rector.

"It is very necessary to get good doctors."

"Well, yes, rather;--considering that all men wish to live." That
observation, of course, came from Doctor Nupper.

"And care is taken in employing a lawyer,--though, after my
experience of yesterday, not always, I should say, so much care as is
needful. The man who wants such aid looks about him and gets the best
doctor he can for his money, or the best lawyer. But here in England
he must take the clergyman provided for him."

"It would be very much better for him if he did," said the rector.

"A clergyman at any rate is supposed to be appointed; and that
clergyman he must pay."

"Not at all," said the rector. "The clergy are paid by the wise
provision of former ages."

"We will let that pass for the present," said the Senator. "There he
is, however he may be paid. How does he get there?" Now it was the
fact that Mr. Mainwaring's living had been bought for him with his
wife's money,--a fact of which Mr. Gotobed was not aware, but which
he would hardly have regarded had he known it. "How does he get
there?"

"In the majority of cases the bishop puts him there," said Mr.
Surtees.

"And how is the bishop governed in his choice? As far as I can learn
the stipends are absurdly various, one man getting £100 a year for
working like a horse in a big town, and another £1000 for living an
idle life in a luxurious country house. But the bishop of course
gives the bigger plums to the best men. How is it then that the big
plums find their way so often to the sons and sons-in-law and nephews
of the bishops?"

"Because the bishop has looked after their education and principles,"
said the rector.

"And taught them how to choose their wives," said the Senator with
imperturbable gravity.

"I am not the son of a bishop, sir," exclaimed the rector.

"I wish you had been, sir, if it would have done you any good. A
general can't make his son a colonel at the age of twenty-five, or
an admiral his son a first lieutenant, or a judge his a Queen's
Counsellor,--nor can the head of an office promote his to be a chief
secretary. It is only a bishop can do this;--I suppose because a cure
of souls is so much less important than the charge of a ship or the
discipline of twenty or thirty clerks."

"The bishops don't do it," said the rector fiercely.

"Then the statistics which have been put into my hands belie them.
But how is it with those the bishops don't appoint? There seems to me
to be such a complication of absurdities as to defy explanation."

"I think I could explain them all," said Mr. Surtees mildly.

"If you can do so satisfactorily, I shall be very glad to hear it,"
continued the Senator, who seemed in truth to be glad to hear no one
but himself. "A lad of one-and-twenty learns his lessons so well
that he has to be rewarded at his college, and a part of his reward
consists in his having a parish entrusted to him when he is forty
years old, to which he can maintain his right whether he be in any
way trained for such work or no. Is that true?"

"His collegiate education is the best training he can have," said the
rector.

"I came across a young fellow the other day," continued the Senator,
"in a very nice house, with £700 a year, and learned that he had
inherited the living because he was his father's second son. Some
poor clergyman had been keeping it ready for him for the last fifteen
years and had to turn out as soon as this young spark could be made a
clergyman."

"It was his father's property," said the rector, "and the poor man
had had great kindness shown him for those fifteen years."

"Exactly;--his father's property! And this is what you call a cure of
souls! And another man had absolutely had his living bought for him
by his uncle,--just as he might have bought him a farm. He couldn't
have bought him the command of a regiment or a small judgeship. In
those matters you require capacity. It is only when you deal with the
Church that you throw to the winds all ideas of fitness. 'Sir,' or
'Madam,' or perhaps, 'my little dear,' you are bound to come to your
places in Church and hear me expound the Word of God because I have
paid a heavy sum of money for the privilege of teaching you, at the
moderate salary of £600 a year!'"

Mr. Surtees sat aghast, with his mouth open, and knew not how to say
a word. Doctor Nupper rubbed his red nose. Reginald Morton attempted
some suggestion about the wine which fell wretchedly flat. John
Morton ventured to tell his friend that he did not understand the
subject. "I shall be most happy to be instructed," said the Senator.

"Understand it!" said the rector, almost rising in his chair to
rebuke the insolence of his guest--"He understands nothing about
it, and yet he ventures to fall foul with unmeasured terms on an
establishment which has been brought to its present condition by the
fostering care of perhaps the most pious set of divines that ever
lived, and which has produced results with which those of no other
Church can compare!"

"Have I represented anything untruly?" asked the Senator.

"A great deal, sir."

"Only put me right, and no man will recall his words more readily. Is
it not the case that livings in the Church of England can be bought
and sold?"

"The matter is one, sir," said the rector, "which cannot be discussed
in this manner. There are two clergymen present to whom such language
is distasteful; as it is also I hope to the others who are all
members of the Church of England. Perhaps you will allow me to
request that the subject may be changed." After that conversation
flagged and the evening was by no means joyous. The rector certainly
regretted that his "'57" claret should have been expended on such a
man. "I don't think," said he when John Morton had taken the Senator
away, "that in my whole life before I ever met such a brute as that
American Senator."



CHAPTER XVI.

PERSECUTION.


There was great consternation in the attorney's house after the
writing of the letter to Lawrence Twentyman. For twenty-four hours
Mrs. Masters did not speak to Mary, not at all intending to let her
sin pass with such moderate punishment as that, but thinking during
that period that as she might perhaps induce Larry to ignore the
letter and look upon it as though it were not written, it would be
best to say nothing till the time should come in which the lover
might again urge his suit. But when she found on the evening of the
second day that Larry did not come near the place she could control
herself no longer, and accused her step-daughter of ruining herself,
her father, and the whole family. "That is very unfair, mamma," Mary
said. "I have done nothing. I have only not done that which nobody
had a right to ask me to do."

"Right indeed! And who are you with your rights? A decent
well-behaved young man with five or six hundred a year has no right
to ask you to be his wife! All this comes of you staying with an old
woman with a handle to her name."

It was in vain that Mary endeavoured to explain that she had not
alluded to Larry when she declared that no one had a right to ask her
to do it. She had, she said, always thanked him for his good opinion
of her, and had spoken well of him whenever his name was mentioned.
But it was a matter on which a young woman was entitled to judge
for herself, and no one had a right to scold her because she
could not love him. Mrs. Masters hated such arguments, despised
this rodomontade about love, and would have crushed the girl into
obedience could it have been possible. "You are an idiot," she said,
"an ungrateful idiot; and unless you think better of it you'll repent
your folly to your dying day. Who do you think is to come running
after a moping slut like you?" Then Mary gathered herself up and left
the room, feeling that she could not live in the house if she were to
be called a slut.

Soon after this Larry came to the attorney and got him to come out
into the street and to walk with him round the churchyard. It was
the spot in Dillsborough in which they would most certainly be left
undisturbed. This took place on the day before his proposition
for the sale of Chowton Farm. When he got the attorney into the
churchyard he took out Mary's letter and in speechless agony handed
it to the attorney. "I saw it before it went," said Masters putting
it back with his hand.

"I suppose she means it?" asked Larry.

"I can't say to you but what she does, Twentyman. As far as I know
her she isn't a girl that would ever say anything that she didn't
mean."

"I was sure of that. When I got it and read it, it was just as
though some one had come behind me and hit me over the head with a
wheel-spoke. I couldn't have ate a morsel of breakfast if I knew I
wasn't to see another bit of food for four-and-twenty hours."

"I knew you would feel it, Larry."

"Feel it! Till it came to this I didn't think of myself but what I
had more strength. It has knocked me about till I feel all over like
drinking."

"Don't do that, Larry."

"I won't answer for myself what I'll do. A man sets his heart on a
thing,--just on one thing,--and has grit enough in him to be sure of
himself that if he can get that nothing shall knock him over. When
that thoroughbred mare of mine slipped her foal who can say I ever
whimpered. When I got pleuro among the cattle I killed a'most the lot
of 'em out of hand, and never laid awake a night about it. But I've
got it so heavy this time I can't stand it. You don't think I have
any chance, Mr. Masters?"

"You can try of course. You're welcome to the house."

"But what do you think? You must know her."

"Girls do change their minds."

"But she isn't like other girls. Is she now? I come to you because
I sometimes think Mrs. Masters is a little hard on her. Mrs. Masters
is about the best friend I have. There isn't anybody more on my side
than she is. But I feel sure of this;--Mary will never be drove."

"I don't think she will, Larry."

"She's got a will of her own as well as another."

"No man alive ever had a better daughter."

"I'm sure of that, Mr. Masters; and no man alive 'll ever have a
better wife. But she won't be drove. I might ask her again, you
think?"

"You certainly have my leave."

"But would it be any good? I'd rather cut my throat and have done
with it than go about teasing her because her parents let me come
to her." Then there was a pause during which they walked on, the
attorney feeling that he had nothing more to say. "What I want to
know," said Larry, "is this. Is there anybody else?"

That was just the point on which the attorney himself was perplexed.
He had asked Mary that question, and her silence had assured him that
it was so. Then he had suggested to her the name of the only probable
suitor that occurred to him, and she had repelled the idea in a
manner that had convinced him at once. There was some one, but Mr.
Surtees was not the man. There was some one, he was sure, but he had
not been able to cross-examine her on the subject. He had, since
that, cudgelled his brain to think who that some one might be, but
had not succeeded in suggesting a name even to himself. That of
Reginald Morton, who hardly ever came to the house and whom he
regarded as a silent, severe, unapproachable man, did not come into
his mind. Among the young ladies of Dillsborough Reginald Morton was
never regarded as even a possible lover. And yet there was assuredly
some one. "If there is any one else I think you ought to tell me,"
continued Larry.

"It is quite possible."

"Young Surtees, I suppose."

"I do not say there is anybody; but if there be anybody I do not
think it is Surtees."

"Who else then?"

"I cannot say, Larry. I know nothing about it."

"But there is some one?"

"I do not say so. You ask me and I tell you all I know."

Again they walked round the churchyard in silence and the attorney
began to be anxious that the interview might be over. He hardly liked
to be interrogated about the state of his daughter's heart, and yet
he had felt himself bound to tell what he knew to the man who had
in all respects behaved well to him. When they had returned for the
third or fourth time to the gate by which they had entered Larry
spoke again. "I suppose I may as well give it up."

"What can I say?"

"You have been fair enough, Mr. Masters. And so has she. And so has
everybody. I shall just get away as quick as I can, and go and hang
myself. I feel above bothering her any more. When she sat down to
write a letter like that she must have been in earnest."

"She certainly was in earnest, Larry."

"What's the use of going on after that? Only it is so hard for a
fellow to feel that everything is gone. It is just as though the
house was burnt down, or I was to wake in the morning and find that
the land didn't belong to me."

"Not so bad as that, Larry."

"Not so bad, Mr. Masters! Then you don't know what it is I'm feeling.
I'd let his lordship or Squire Morton have it all, and go in upon
it as a tenant at 30_s._ an acre, so that I could take her along
with me. I would, and sell the horses and set to and work in my
shirt-sleeves. A man could stand that. Nobody wouldn't laugh at
me then. But there's an emptiness now here that makes me sick all
through, as though I hadn't got stomach left for anything." Then
poor Larry put his hand upon his heart and hid his face upon the
churchyard wall. The attorney made some attempt to say a kind word
to him, and then, leaving him there, slowly made his way back to his
office.

We already know what first step Larry took with the intention of
running away from his cares. In the house at Dillsborough things were
almost as bad as they were with him. Over and over again Mrs. Masters
told her husband that it was all his fault, and that if he had torn
the letter when it was showed to him, everything would have been
right by the end of the two months. This he bore with what equanimity
he could, shutting himself up very much in his office, occasionally
escaping for a quarter of an hour of ease to his friends at the Bush,
and eating his meals in silence. But when he became aware that his
girl was being treated with cruelty,--that she was never spoken to
by her stepmother without harsh words, and that her sisters were
encouraged to be disdainful to her, then his heart rose within
him and he rebelled. He declared aloud that Mary should not be
persecuted, and if this kind of thing were continued he would defend
his girl let the consequences be what they might.

"What are you going to defend her against?" asked his wife.

"I won't have her ill-used because she refuses to marry at your
bidding."

"Bah! You know as much how to manage a girl as though you were an old
maid yourself. Cocker her up and make her think that nothing is good
enough for her! Break her spirit, and make her come round, and teach
her to know what it is to have an honest man's house offered to her.
If she don't take Larry Twentyman's she's like to have none of her
own before long." But Mr. Masters would not assent to this plan of
breaking his girl's spirit, and so there was continual war in the
place and every one there was miserable.

Mary herself was so unhappy that she convinced herself that it was
necessary that some change should be made. Then she remembered Lady
Ushant's offer of a home, and not only the offer, but the old lady's
assurance that to herself such an arrangement, if possible, would
be very comfortable. She did not suggest to herself that she would
leave her father's home for ever and always; but it might be that an
absence of some months might relieve the absolute misery of their
present mode of living. The effect on her father was so sad that she
was almost driven to regret that he should have taken her own part.
Her stepmother was not a bad woman; nor did Mary even now think her
to be bad. She was a hardworking, painstaking wife, with a good
general idea of justice. In the division of puddings and pies and
other material comforts of the household she would deal evenly
between her own children and her step-daughter. She had not desired
to send Mary away to an inadequate home, or with a worthless husband.
But when the proper home and the proper man were there she was
prepared to use any amount of hardship to secure these good things to
the family generally. This hardship Mary could not endure, nor could
Mary's father on her behalf, and therefore Mary prepared a letter to
Lady Ushant in which, at great length, she told her old friend the
whole story. She spoke as tenderly as was possible of all concerned,
but declared that her stepmother's feelings on the subject were so
strong that every one in the house was made wretched. Under these
circumstances,--for her father's sake if only for that,--she thought
herself bound to leave the house. "It is quite impossible," she said,
"that I should do as they wish me. That is a matter on which a young
woman must judge for herself. If you could have me for a few months
it would perhaps all pass by. I should not dare to ask this but for
what you said yourself; and, dear Lady Ushant, pray remember that I
do not want to be idle. There are a great many things I can do; and
though I know that nothing can pay for kindness, I might perhaps be
able not to be a burden." Then she added in a postscript--"Papa is
everything that is kind;--but then all this makes him so miserable!"

When she had kept the letter by her for a day she showed it to her
father, and by his consent it was sent. After much consultation it
was agreed between them that nothing should be said about it to Mrs.
Masters till the answer should come; and that, should the answer be
favourable, the plan should be carried out in spite of any domestic
opposition. In this letter Mary told as accurately as she could the
whole story of Larry's courtship, and was very clear in declaring
that under no possible circumstances could she encourage any hope.
But of course she said not a word as to any other man or as to any
love on her side. "Have you told her everything?" said her father as
he closed the letter.

"Yes, papa;--everything that there is to be told." Then there arose
within his own bosom an immense desire to know that secret, so that
if possible he might do something to relieve her pain;--but he could
not bring himself to ask further questions.

Lady Ushant on receiving the letter much doubted what she ought to
do. She acknowledged at once Mary's right to appeal to her, and
assured herself that the girl's presence would be a comfort and a
happiness to herself. If Mary were quite alone in the world Lady
Ushant would have been at once prepared to give her a home. But she
doubted as to the propriety of taking the girl from her own family.
She doubted even whether it would not be better that Mary should be
left within the influence of Larry Twentyman's charms. A settlement,
an income, and assured comforts for life are very serious things to
all people who have reached Lady Ushant's age. And then she had a
doubt within her own mind whether Mary might not be debarred from
accepting this young man by some unfortunate preference for Reginald
Morton. She had seen them together and had suspected something of
the truth before it had glimmered before the eyes of any one in
Dillsborough. Had Reginald been so inclined Lady Ushant would have
been very glad to see him marry Mary Masters. For both their sakes
she would have preferred such a match to one with the owner of
Chowton Farm. But she did not think that Reginald himself was that
way minded, and she fancied that poor Mary might be throwing away
her prosperity in life were she to wait for Reginald's love. Larry
Twentyman was at any rate sure;--and perhaps it might be unwise to
separate the girl from her lover.

In her doubt she determined to refer the case to Reginald himself,
and instead of writing to Mary she wrote to him. She did not send him
Mary's letter,--which would, she felt, have been a breach of faith;
nor did she mention the name of Larry Twentyman. But she told him
that Mary had proposed to come to Cheltenham for a long visit because
there were disturbances at home,--which disturbances had arisen from
her rejection of a certain suitor. Lady Ushant said a great deal as
to the inexpediency of fostering family quarrels, and suggested that
Mary might perhaps have been a little impetuous. The presence of this
lover could hardly do her much injury. These were not days in which
young women were forced to marry men. What did he, Reginald Morton,
think about it? He was to remember that as far as she herself was
concerned, she dearly loved Mary Masters and would be delighted
to have her at Cheltenham; and, so remembering, he was to see the
attorney, and Mary herself, and if necessary Mrs. Masters;--and then
to report his opinion to Cheltenham.

Then, fearing that her nephew might be away for a day or two, or
that he might not be able to perform his commission instantly, and
thinking that Mary might be unhappy if she received no immediate
reply to such a request as hers had been, Lady Ushant by the same
post wrote to her young friend as follows;--


   DEAR MARY,

   Reginald will go over and see your father about your
   proposition. As far as I myself am concerned nothing would
   give me so much pleasure. This is quite sincere. But the
   matter is in other respects very important. Of course I
   have kept your letter all to myself, and in writing to
   Reginald I have mentioned no names.

   Your affectionate friend,

   MARGARET USHANT.



CHAPTER XVII.

"PARTICULARLY PROUD OF YOU."


Arabella Trefoil left her uncle's mansion on the day after her
lover's departure, certainly not in triumph, but with somewhat
recovered spirits. When she first heard that Lord Rufford was
gone,--that he had fled away as it were in the middle of the night
without saying a word to her, without a syllable to make good the
slight assurances of his love that had been given to her in the post
carriage, she felt that she was deserted and betrayed. And when she
found herself altogether neglected on the following day, and that
the slightly valuable impression which she had made on her aunt was
apparently gone, she did for half an hour think in earnest of the
Paragon and Patagonia. But after a while she called to mind all that
she knew of great efforts successfully made in opposition to almost
overwhelming difficulties. She had heard of forlorn hopes, and
perhaps in her young days had read something of Cæsar still clinging
to his Commentaries as he struggled in the waves. This was her
forlorn hope, and she would be as brave as any soldier of them all.
Lord Rufford's embraces were her Commentaries, and let the winds
blow and the waves roll as they might she would still cling to them.
After lunch she spoke to her aunt with great courage,--as the Duchess
thought with great effrontery. "My uncle wouldn't speak to Lord
Rufford before he went?"

"How could he speak to a man who ran away from his house in that
way?"

"The running away, as you call it, aunt, did not take place till two
days after I had told you all about it. I thought he would have done
as much as that for his brother's daughter."

"I don't believe in it at all," said the Duchess sternly.

"Don't believe in what, aunt? You don't mean to say that you don't
believe that Lord Rufford has asked me to be his wife!" Then she
paused, but the Duchess absolutely lacked the courage to express her
conviction again. "I don't suppose it signifies much," continued
Arabella, "but of course it would have been something to me that Lord
Rufford should have known that the Duke was anxious for my welfare.
He was quite prepared to have assured my uncle of his intentions."

"Then why didn't he speak himself?"

"Because the Duke is not my father. Really, aunt, when I hear you
talk of his running away I do feel it to be unkind. As if we didn't
all know that a man like that goes and comes as he pleases. It was
just before dinner that he got the message, and was he to run round
and wish everybody good-bye like a schoolgirl going to bed?"

The Duchess was almost certain that no message had come, and from
various little things which she had observed and from tidings which
had reached her, very much doubted whether Arabella had known
anything of his intended going. She too had a maid of her own who on
occasions could bring information. But she had nothing further to say
on the subject. If Arabella should ever become Lady Rufford she would
of course among other visitors be occasionally received at Mistletoe.
She could never be a favourite, but things would to a certain degree
have rectified themselves. But if, as the Duchess expected, no such
marriage took place, then this ill-conducted niece should never be
admitted within the house again.

Later on in the afternoon, some hours after it became dusk, Arabella
contrived to meet her aunt in the hall with a letter in her hand, and
asked where the letter-box was. She knew where to deposit her letters
as well as did the Duchess herself; but she desired an opportunity of
proclaiming what she had done. "I am writing to Lord Rufford. Perhaps
as I am in your house I ought to tell you what I have done."

"The letter-box is in the billiard-room, close to the door," said the
Duchess passing on. Then she added as she went, "The post for to-day
has gone already."

"His Lordship will have to wait a day for his letter. I dare say it
won't break his heart," said Arabella, as she turned away to the
billiard-room.

All this had been planned; and, moreover, she had so written her
letter that if her magnificent aunt should condescend to tamper with
it all that was in it should seem to corroborate her own story. The
Duchess would have considered herself disgraced if ever she had done
such a thing;--but the niece of the Duchess did not quite understand
that this would be so. The letter was as follows:


   Mistletoe, 19th Jany. 1875.

   DEAREST R.,

   Your going off like that was, after all, very horrid. My
   aunt thinks that you were running away from me. I think
   that you were running away from her. Which was true? In
   real earnest I don't for a moment think that either I or
   the Duchess had anything to do with it, and that you did
   go because some horrid man wrote and asked you. I know you
   don't like being bound by any of the conventionalities.
   I hope there is such a word, and that if not, you'll
   understand it just the same.

   Oh, Peltry,--and oh, Jack,--and oh, that road back to
   Stamford! I am so stiff that I can't sit upright, and
   everybody is cross to me, and everything is uncomfortable.
   What horrible things women are! There isn't one here,
   not even old Lady Rumpus, who hasn't an unmarried
   daughter left in the world, who isn't jealous of me,
   because--because--. I must leave you to guess why they
   all hate me so! And I'm sure if you had given Jack to
   any other woman I should hate her, though you may give
   every horse you have to any man that you please. I wonder
   whether I shall have another day's hunting before it is
   all over. I suppose not. It was almost by a miracle that
   we managed yesterday--only fancy--yesterday! It seems to
   be an age ago!

   Pray, pray, pray write to me at once,--to the Connop
   Greens, so that I may get a nice, soft, pleasant word
   directly I get among those nasty, hard, unpleasant people.
   They have lots of money, and plenty of furniture, and
   I dare say the best things to eat and drink in the
   world,--but nothing else. There will be no Jack; and if
   there were, alas, alas, no one to show me the way to ride
   him.

   I start to-morrow, and as far as I understand, shall have
   to make my way into Hampshire all by myself, with only
   such security as my maid can give me. I shall make her go
   in the same carriage and shall have the gratification of
   looking at her all the way. I suppose I ought not to say
   that I will shut my eyes and try to think that somebody
   else is there.

   Good-bye dear, dear, dear R. I shall be dying for a letter
   from you. Yours ever, with all my heart. A.

   I shall write you such a serious epistle when I get to the
   Greens.


This was not such a letter as she thought that her aunt would
approve; but it was, she fancied, such as the Duchess would believe
that she would write to her lover. And if it were allowed to go on
its way it would make Lord Rufford feel that she was neither alarmed
nor displeased by the suddenness of his departure. But it was not
expected to do much good. It might produce some short, joking,
half-affectionate reply, but would not draw from him that serious
word which was so necessary for the success of her scheme. Therefore
she had told him that she intended to prepare a serious missile.
Should this pleasant little message of love miscarry, the serious
missile would still be sent, and the miscarriage would occasion no
harm.

But then further plans were necessary. It might be that Lord Rufford
would take no notice of the serious missile,--which she thought very
probable. Or it might be that he would send back a serious reply,
in which he would calmly explain to her that she had unfortunately
mistaken his sentiments;--which she believed would be a stretch of
manhood beyond his reach. But in either case she would be prepared
with the course which she would follow. In the first she would begin
by forcing her father to write to him a letter which she herself
would dictate. In the second she would set the whole family at him
as far as the family were within her reach. With her cousin Lord
Mistletoe, who was only two years older than herself, she had always
held pleasant relations. They had been children together, and as they
had grown up the young Lord had liked his pretty cousin. Latterly
they had seen each other but rarely, and therefore the feeling still
remained. She would tell Lord Mistletoe her whole story,--that is
the story as she would please to tell it,--and implore his aid. Her
father should be driven to demand from Lord Rufford an execution of
his alleged promises. She herself would write such a letter to the
Duke as an uncle should be unable not to notice. She would move
heaven and earth as to her wrongs. She thought that if her friends
would stick to her, Lord Rufford would be weak as water in their
hands. But it must be all done immediately,--so that if everything
failed she might be ready to start to Patagonia some time in April.
When she looked back and remembered that it was hardly more than two
months since she had been taken to Rufford Hall by Mr. Morton she
could not accuse herself of having lost any time.

In London she met her mother,--as to which meeting there had been
some doubt,--and underwent the tortures of a close examination. She
had thought it prudent on this occasion to tell her mother something,
but not to tell anything quite truly. "He has proposed to me," she
said.

"He has!" said Lady Augustus, holding up her hands almost in awe.

"Is there anything so wonderful in that?"

"Then it is all arranged. Does the Duke know it?"

"It is not all arranged by any means, and the Duke does know it. Now,
mamma, after that I must decline to answer any more questions. I have
done this all myself, and I mean to continue it in the same way."

"Did he speak to the Duke? You will tell me that."

"I will tell you nothing."

"You will drive me mad, Arabella."

"That will be better than your driving me mad just at present. You
ought to feel that I have a great deal to think of."

"And have not I?"

"You can't help me;--not at present."

"But he did propose,--in absolute words?"

"Mamma, what a goose you are! Do you suppose that men do it all now
just as it is done in books? 'Miss Arabella Trefoil, will you do me
the honour to become my wife?' Do you think that Lord Rufford would
ask the question in that way?"

"It is a very good way."

"Any way is a good way that answers the purpose. He has proposed, and
I mean to make him stick to it."

"You doubt then?"

"Mamma, you are so silly! Do you not know what such a man is well
enough to be sure that he'll change his mind half-a-dozen times if
he can? I don't mean to let him; and now, after that, I won't say
another word."

"I have got a letter here from Mr. Short saying that something must
be fixed about Mr. Morton." Mr. Short was the lawyer who had been
instructed to prepare the settlements.

"Mr. Short may do whatever he likes," said Arabella. There were very
hot words between them that night in London, but the mother could
obtain no further information from her daughter.

That serious epistle had been commenced even before Arabella had left
Mistletoe; but the composition was one which required great care, and
it was not completed and copied and recopied till she had been two
days in Hampshire. Not even when it was finished did she say a word
to her mother about it. She had doubted much as to the phrases which
in such an emergency she ought to use, but she thought it safer to
trust to herself than to her mother. In writing such a letter as that
posted at Mistletoe she believed herself to be happy. She could write
it quickly, and understood that she could convey to her correspondent
some sense of her assumed mood. But her serious letter would, she
feared, be stiff and repulsive. Whether her fears were right the
reader shall judge,--for the letter when written was as follows:


   Marygold Place, Basingstoke,
   Saturday.

   MY DEAR LORD RUFFORD,

   You will I suppose have got the letter that I wrote before
   I left Mistletoe, and which I directed to Mr. Surbiton's.
   There was not much in it,--except a word or two as to your
   going and as to my desolation, and just a reminiscence of
   the hunting. There was no reproach that you should have
   left me without any farewell, or that you should have gone
   so suddenly, after saying so much, without saying more. I
   wanted you to feel that you had made me very happy, and
   not to feel that your departure in such a way had robbed
   me of part of the happiness.

   It was a little bad of you, because it did of course leave
   me to the hardness of my aunt; and because all the other
   women there would of course follow her. She had inquired
   about our journey home, that dear journey home, and I had
   of course told her,--well I had better say it out at once;
   I told her that we were engaged. You, I am sure, will
   think that the truth was best. She wanted to know why you
   did not go to the Duke. I told her that the Duke was not
   my father; but that as far as I was concerned the Duke
   might speak to you or not as he pleased. I had nothing to
   conceal. I am very glad he did not, because he is pompous,
   and you would have been bored. If there is one thing I
   desire more than another it is that nothing belonging to
   me shall ever be a bore to you. I hope I may never stand
   in the way of anything that will gratify you,--as I said
   when you lit that cigar. You will have forgotten, I dare
   say. But, dear Rufford,--dearest; I may say that, mayn't
   I?--say something, or do something to make me satisfied.
   You know what I mean;--don't you? It isn't that I am a bit
   afraid myself. I don't think so little of myself, or so
   badly of you. But I don't like other women to look at me
   as though I ought not to be proud of anything. I am proud
   of everything; particularly proud of you,--and of Jack.

   Now there is my serious epistle, and I am sure that
   you will answer it like a dear, good, kind-hearted,
   loving--lover. I won't be afraid of writing the word, nor
   of saying that I love you with all my heart, and that I am
   always your own

   ARABELLA.


She kept the letter till the Sunday, thinking that she might have an
answer to that written from Mistletoe, and that his reply might alter
its tone, or induce her to put it aside altogether; but when on
Sunday morning none came, her own was sent. The word in it which
frightened herself was the word "engaged." She tried various other
phrases, but declared to herself at last that it was useless to "beat
about the bush." He must know the light in which she was pleased to
regard those passages of love which she had permitted so that there
might be no mistake. Whether the letter would be to his liking or
not, it must be of such a nature that it would certainly draw from
him an answer on which she could act. She herself did not like the
letter; but, considering her difficulties, we may own that it was not
much amiss.



CHAPTER XVIII.

LORD RUFFORD MAKES UP HIS MIND.


As it happened, Lord Rufford got the two letters together, the cause
of which was as follows.

When he ran away from Mistletoe, as he certainly did, he had thought
much about that journey home in the carriage, and was quite aware
that he had made an ass of himself. As he sat at dinner on that day
at Mistletoe his neighbour had said some word to him in joke as to
his attachment to Miss Trefoil, and after the ladies had left the
room another neighbour of the other sex had hoped that he had had a
pleasant time on the road. Again, in the drawing-room it had seemed
to him that he was observed. He could not refrain from saying a few
words to Arabella as she lay on the sofa. Not to do so after what
had occurred would have been in itself peculiar. But when he did so,
some other man who was near her made way for him, as though she were
acknowledged to be altogether his property. And then the Duchess had
striven to catch him, and lead him into special conversation. When
this attempt was made he decided that he must at once retreat,--or
else make up his mind to marry the young lady. And therefore he
retreated.

He breakfasted that morning at the inn at Stamford, and as he smoked
his cigar afterwards, he positively resolved that he would under
no circumstances marry Arabella Trefoil. He was being hunted and
run down, and, with the instinct of all animals that are hunted, he
prepared himself for escape. It might be said, no doubt would be
said, that he behaved badly. That would be said because it would not
be open to him to tell the truth. The lady in such a case can always
tell her story, with what exaggeration she may please to give, and
can complain. The man never can do so. When inquired into, he cannot
say that he has been pursued. He cannot tell her friends that she
began it, and in point of fact did it all. "She would fall into my
arms; she would embrace me; she persisted in asking me whether I
loved her!" Though a man have to be shot for it, or kicked for it,
or even though he have to endure perpetual scorn for it, he cannot
say that, let it be ever so true. And yet is a man to be forced
into a marriage which he despises? He would not be forced into
the marriage,--and the sooner he retreated the less would be the
metaphorical shooting and kicking and the real scorn. He must get out
of it as best he could;--but that he would get out of it he was quite
determined.

That afternoon he reached Mr. Surbiton's house, as did also Captain
Battersby, and his horses, grooms, and other belongings. When
there he received a lot of letters, and among others one from Mr.
Runciman, of the Bush, inquiring as to a certain hiring of rooms
and preparation for a dinner or dinners which had been spoken of
in reference to a final shooting decreed to take place in the
neighbourhood of Dillsborough in the last week of January. Such
things were often planned by Lord Rufford, and afterwards forgotten
or neglected. When he declared his purpose to Runciman, he had not
intended to go to Mistletoe, nor to stay so long with his friend
Surbiton. But now he almost thought that it would be better for him
to be back at Rufford Hall, where at present his sister was staying
with her husband, Sir George Penwether.

In the evening of the second or third day his old friend Tom Surbiton
said a few words to him which had the effect of sending him back to
Rufford. They had sat out the rest of the men who formed the party
and were alone in the smoking-room. "So you're going to marry Miss
Trefoil," said Tom Surbiton, who perhaps of all his friends was the
most intimate.

"Who says so?"

"I am saying so at present."

"You are not saying it on your own authority. You have never seen me
and Miss Trefoil in a room together."

"Everybody says so. Of course such a thing cannot be arranged without
being talked about."

"It has not been arranged."

"If you don't mean to have it arranged, you had better look to
it. I am speaking in earnest, Rufford. I am not going to give up
authorities. Indeed if I did I might give up everybody. The very
servants suppose that they know it, and there isn't a groom or
horseboy about who isn't in his heart congratulating the young lady
on her promotion."

"I'll tell you what it is, Tom."

"Well;--what is it?"

"If this had come from any other man than yourself I should quarrel
with him. I am not engaged to the young lady, nor have I done
anything to warrant anybody in saying so."

"Then I may contradict it."

"I don't want you either to contradict it or affirm it. It would be
an impertinence to the young lady if I were to instruct any one to
contradict such a report. But as a fact I am not engaged to marry
Miss Trefoil, nor is there the slightest chance that I ever shall be
so engaged." So saying he took up his candlestick and walked off.

Early on the next morning he saw his friend and made some sort of
laughing apology for his heat on the previous evening. "It is so
d---- hard when these kind of things are said because a man has lent
a young lady a horse. However, Tom, between you and me the thing is a
lie."

"I am very glad to hear it," said Tom.

"And now I want you to come over to Rufford on the twenty-eighth."
Then he explained the details of his proposed party, and got his
friend to promise that he would come. He also made it understood
that he was going home at once. There were a hundred things, he said,
which made it necessary. So the horses and grooms and servant and
portmanteaus were again made to move, and Lord Rufford left his
friend on that day and went up to London on his road to Rufford.

He was certainly disturbed in his mind, foreseeing that there might
be much difficulty in his way. He remembered with fair accuracy all
that had occurred during the journey from Stamford to Mistletoe. He
felt assured that up to that time he had said nothing which could be
taken to mean a real declaration of love. All that at Rufford had
been nothing. He had never said a word which could justify the girl
in a hope. In the carriage she had asked him whether he loved her,
and he had said that he did. He had also declared that he would do
anything in his power to make her happy. Was a man to be bound to
marry a girl because of such a scene as that? There was, however,
nothing for him to do except to keep out of the girl's way. If she
took any steps, then he must act. But as he thought of it, he swore
to himself that nothing should induce him to marry her.

He remained a couple of days in town and reached Rufford Hall on the
Monday,--just a week from the day of that fatal meet at Peltry. There
he found Sir George and his sister and Miss Penge, and spent his
first evening in quiet. On the Tuesday he hunted with the U. R. U.,
and made his arrangements with Runciman. He invited Hampton to shoot
with him. Surbiton and Battersby were coming, and his brother-in-law.
Not wishing to have less than six guns he asked Hampton how he could
make up his party. "Morton doesn't shoot," he said, "and is as stiff
as a post." Then he was told that John Morton was supposed to be very
ill at Bragton. "I'm sick of both the Botseys," continued the lord,
thinking more of his party than of Mr. Morton's health. "Purefoy
is still sulky with me because he killed poor old Caneback." Then
Hampton suggested that if he would ask Lawrence Twentyman it might
be the means of saving that unfortunate young man's life. The story
of his unrequited love was known to every one at Dillsborough and
it was now told to Lord Rufford. "He is not half a bad fellow,"
said Hampton, "and quite as much like a gentleman as either of the
Botseys."

"I shall be delighted to save the life of so good a man on such easy
terms," said the lord. Then and there, with a pencil, on the back of
an old letter, he wrote a line to Larry asking him to shoot on next
Saturday and to dine with him afterwards at the Bush.

That evening on his return home he found both the letters from
Arabella. As it happened he read them in the order in which they had
been written, first the laughing letter, and then the one that was
declared to be serious. The earlier of the two did not annoy him
much. It contained hardly more than those former letters which had
induced him to go to Mistletoe. But the second letter opened up her
entire strategy. She had told the Duchess that she was engaged to
him, and the Duchess of course would have told the Duke. And now she
wrote to him asking him to acknowledge the engagement in black and
white. The first letter he might have ignored. He might have left it
unanswered without gross misconduct. But the second letter, which
she herself had declared to be a serious epistle, was one which he
could not neglect. Now had come his difficulty. What must he do? How
should he answer it? Was it imperative on him to write the words with
his own hand? Would it be possible that he should get his sister to
undertake the commission? He said nothing about it to any one for
four and twenty hours; but he passed those hours in much discomfort.
It did seem so hard to him that because he had been forced to carry
a lady home from hunting in a postchaise, that he should be driven
to such straits as this! The girl was evidently prepared to make a
fight of it. There would be the Duke and the Duchess and that prig
Mistletoe, and that idle ass Lord Augustus, and that venomous old
woman her mother, all at him. He almost doubted whether a shooting
excursion in Central Africa or a visit to the Pampas would not be the
best thing for him. But still, though he should resolve to pass five
years among the Andes, he must answer the lady's letter before he
went.

Then he made up his mind that he would tell everything to his
brother-in-law, as far as everything can be told in such a matter.
Sir George was near fifty, full fifteen years older than his wife,
who was again older than her brother. He was a man of moderate
wealth, very much respected, and supposed to be possessed of almost
infinite wisdom. He was one of those few human beings who seem never
to make a mistake. Whatever he put his hand to came out well;--and
yet everybody liked him His brother-in-law was a little afraid of
him, but yet was always glad to see him. He kept an excellent house
in London, but having no country house of his own passed much of his
time at Rufford Hall when the owner was not there. In spite of the
young peer's numerous faults Sir George was much attached to him, and
always ready to help him in his difficulties. "Penwether," said the
Lord, "I have got myself into an awful scrape."

"I am sorry to hear it. A woman, I suppose."

"Oh, yes. I never gamble, and therefore no other scrape can be awful.
A young lady wants to marry me."

"That is not unnatural."

"But I am quite determined, let the result be what it may, that I
won't marry the young lady."

"That will be unfortunate for her, and the more so if she has a right
to expect it. Is the young lady Miss Trefoil?"

"I did not mean to mention any name,--till I was sure it might be
necessary. But it is Miss Trefoil."

"Eleanor had told me something of it."

"Eleanor knows nothing about this, and I do not wish you to tell her.
The young lady was here with her mother,--and for the matter of that
with a gentleman to whom she was certainly engaged;--but nothing
particular occurred here. That unfortunate ball was going on when
poor Caneback was dying. But I met her since that at Mistletoe."

"I can hardly advise, you know, unless you tell me everything."

Then Lord Rufford began. "These kind of things are sometimes deuced
hard upon a man. Of course if a man were a saint or a philosopher or
a Joseph he wouldn't get into such scrapes,--and perhaps every man
ought to be something of that sort. But I don't know how a man is to
do it, unless it's born with him."

"A little prudence I should say."

"You might as well tell a fellow that it is his duty to be six feet
high."

"But what have you said to the young lady,--or what has she said to
you?"

"There has been a great deal more of the latter than the former. I
say so to you, but of course it is not to be said that I have said
so. I cannot go forth to the world complaining of a young lady's
conduct to me. It is a matter in which a man must not tell the
truth."

"But what is the truth?"

"She writes me word to say that she has told all her friends that I
am engaged to her, and kindly presses me to make good her assurances
by becoming so."

"And what has passed between you?"

"A fainting fit in a carriage and half-a-dozen kisses."

"Nothing more?"

"Nothing more that is material. Of course one cannot tell it all down
to each mawkish word of humbugging sentiment. There are her letters,
and what I want you to remember is that I never asked her to be my
wife, and that no consideration on earth shall induce me to become
her husband. Though all the duchesses in England were to persecute me
to the death I mean to stick to that."

Then Sir George read the letters and handed them back. "She seems to
me," said he, "to have more wit about her than any of the family that
I have had the honour of meeting."

"She has wit enough,--and pluck too."

"You have never said a word to her to encourage these hopes."

"My dear Penwether, don't you know that if a man with a large income
says to a girl like that that the sun shines he encourages hope.
I understand that well enough. I am a rich man with a title, and a
big house, and a great command of luxuries. There are so many young
ladies who would also like to be rich, and to have a title, and a big
house, and a command of luxuries! One sometimes feels oneself like a
carcase in the midst of vultures."

"Marry after a proper fashion, and you'll get rid of all that."

"I'll think about it, but in the meantime what can I say to this
young woman? When I acknowledge that I kissed her, of course I
encouraged hopes."

"No doubt."

"But St. Anthony would have had to kiss this young woman if she had
made her attack upon him as she did on me;--and after all a kiss
doesn't go for everything. These are things, Penwether, that must not
be inquired into too curiously. But I won't marry her though it were
a score of kisses. And now what must I do?" Sir George said that he
would take till the next morning to think about it,--meaning to make
a draft of the reply which he thought his brother-in-law might best
send to the lady.



CHAPTER XIX.

IT CANNOT BE ARRANGED.


When Reginald Morton received his aunt's letter he understood from it
more than she had intended. Of course the man to whom allusion was
made was Mr. Twentyman; and of course the discomfort at home had come
from Mrs. Masters' approval of that suitor's claim. Reginald, though
he had seen but little of the inside of the attorney's household,
thought it very probable that the stepmother would make the girl's
home very uncomfortable for her. Though he knew well all the young
farmer's qualifications as a husband,--namely that he was well to
do in the world and bore a good character for honesty and general
conduct,--still he thoroughly, nay heartily approved of Mary's
rejection of the man's hand. It seemed to him to be sacrilege that
such a one should have given to him such a woman. There was, to his
thinking, something about Mary Masters that made it altogether unfit
that she should pass her life as the mistress of Chowton Farm, and he
honoured her for the persistence of her refusal. He took his pipe and
went out into the garden in order that he might think of it all as he
strolled round his little domain.

But why should he think so much about it? Why should he take so deep
an interest in the matter? What was it to him whether Mary Masters
married after her kind, or descended into what he felt to be an
inferior manner of life? Then he tried to tell himself what were the
gifts in the girl's possession which made her what she was, and he
pictured her to himself, running over all her attributes. It was
not that she specially excelled in beauty. He had seen Miss Trefoil
as she was being driven about the neighbourhood, and having heard
much of the young lady as the future wife of his own cousin, had
acknowledged to himself that she was very handsome. But he had
thought at the same time that under no possible circumstances could
he have fallen in love with Miss Trefoil. He believed that he did not
care much for female beauty, and yet he felt that he could sit and
look at Mary Masters by the hour together. There was a quiet even
composure about her, always lightened by the brightness of her modest
eyes, which seemed to tell him of some mysterious world within, which
was like the unseen loveliness that one fancies to be hidden within
the bosom of distant mountains. There was a poem to be read there
of surpassing beauty, rhythmical and eloquent as the music of the
spheres, if it might only be given to a man to read it. There was an
absence, too, of all attempt at feminine self-glorification which
he did not analyse but thoroughly appreciated. There was no fussy
amplification of hair, no made-up smiles, no affectation either
in her good humour or her anger, no attempt at effect in her gait,
in her speech, or her looks. She seemed to him to be one who had
something within her on which she could feed independently of the
grosser details of the world to which it was her duty to lend her
hand. And then her colour charmed his eyes. Miss Trefoil was white
and red;--white as pearl powder and red as paint. Mary Masters, to
tell the truth, was brown. No doubt that was the prevailing colour,
if one colour must be named. But there was so rich a tint of young
life beneath the surface, so soft but yet so visible an assurance
of blood and health and spirit, that no one could describe her
complexion by so ugly a word without falsifying her gifts. In all her
movements she was tranquil, as a noble woman should be. Even when she
had turned from him with some anger at the bridge, she had walked
like a princess. There was a certainty of modesty about her which was
like a granite wall or a strong fortress. As he thought of it all he
did not understand how such a one as Lawrence Twentyman should have
dared to ask her to be his wife,--or should even have wished it.

We know what were her feelings in regard to himself,--how she had
come to look almost with worship on the walls within which he lived;
but he had guessed nothing of this. Even now, when he knew that she
had applied to his aunt in order that she might escape from her
lover, it did not occur to him that she could care for himself.
He was older than she, nearly twenty years older, and even in his
younger years, in the hard struggles of his early life, had never
regarded himself as a man likely to find favour with women. There
was in his character much of that modesty for which he gave her such
infinite credit. Though he thought but little of most of those around
him, he thought also but little of himself. It would break his heart
to ask and be refused;--but he could, he fancied, live very well
without Mary Masters. Such, at any rate, had been his own idea of
himself hitherto; and now, though he was driven to think much of her,
though on the present occasion he was forced to act on her behalf,
he would not tell himself that he wanted to take her for his wife.
He constantly assured himself that he wanted no wife, that for him
a solitary life would be the best. But yet it made him wretched when
he reflected that some man would assuredly marry Mary Masters. He
had heard of that excellent but empty-headed young man Mr. Surtees.
When the idea occurred to him he found himself reviling Mr. Surtees
as being of all men the most puny, the most unmanly, and the least
worthy of marrying Mary Masters. Now that Mr. Twentyman was certainly
disposed of, he almost became jealous of Mr. Surtees.

It was not till three or four o'clock in the afternoon that he went
out on his commission to the attorney's house, having made up his
mind that he would do everything in his power to facilitate Mary's
proposed return to Cheltenham. He asked first for Mr. Masters and
then for Miss Masters, and learned that they were both out together.
But he had been desired also to see Mrs. Masters, and on inquiring
for her was again shown into the grand drawing-room. Here he remained
a quarter of an hour while the lady of the house was changing her
cap and apron, which he spent in convincing himself that this house
was altogether an unfit residence for Mary. In the chamber in which
he was standing it was clear enough that no human being ever lived.
Mary's drawing-room ought to be a bower in which she at least might
pass her time with books and music and pretty things around her.
The squalor of the real living room might be conjectured from the
untouched cleanliness of this useless sanctum. At last the lady came
to him and welcomed him with very grim courtesy. As a client of her
husband he was very well;--but as a nephew of Lady Ushant he was
injurious. It was he who had carried Mary away to Cheltenham where
she had been instigated to throw her bread-and-butter into the
fire,--as Mrs. Masters expressed it,--by that pernicious old woman
Lady Ushant. "Mr. Masters is out walking," she said. Reginald clearly
understood by the contempt which she threw almost unconsciously into
her words that she did not approve of her husband going out walking
at such an hour.

"I had a message for him--and also for you. My aunt, Lady Ushant,
is very anxious that your daughter Mary should return to her at
Cheltenham for a while." The proposition to Mrs. Masters' thinking
was so monstrous, and was at the same time so unexpected, that it
almost took away her breath. At any rate she stood for a moment
speechless. "My aunt is very fond of your daughter," he continued,
"and if she can be spared would be delighted to have her. Perhaps she
has written to Miss Masters, but she has asked me to come over and
see if it cannot be arranged."

"It cannot be arranged," said Mrs. Masters. "Nothing of the kind can
be arranged."

"I am sorry for that."

"It is only disturbing the girl, and upsetting her, and filling her
head full of nonsense. What is she to do at Cheltenham? This is her
home and here she had better be." Though things had hitherto gone
very badly, though Larry Twentyman had not shown himself since the
receipt of the letter, still Mrs. Masters had not abandoned all hope.
She was fixed in opinion that if her husband were joined with her
they could still, between them, so break the girl's spirit as to
force her into a marriage. "As for letters," she continued, "I don't
know anything about them. There may have been letters but if so they
have been kept from me." She was so angry that she could not even
attempt to conceal her wrath.

"Lady Ushant thinks--" began the messenger.

"Oh yes, Lady Ushant is very well of course. Lady Ushant is your
aunt, Mr. Morton, and I haven't anything to say against her. But Lady
Ushant can't do any good to that girl. She has got her bread to earn,
and if she won't do it one way then she must do it another. She's
obstinate and pigheaded, that's the truth of it. And her father's
just as bad. He has taken her out now merely because she likes to
be idle, and to go about thinking herself a fine lady. Lady Ushant
doesn't do her any good at all by cockering her up."

"My aunt, you know, saw very much of her when she was young."

"I know she did, Mr. Morton; and all that has to be undone,--and I
have got the undoing of it. Lady Ushant is one thing and her papa's
business is quite another. At any rate if I have my say she'll not
go to Cheltenham any more. I don't mean to be uncivil to you, Mr.
Morton, or to say anything as oughtn't to be said of your aunt.
But when you can't make people anything but what they are, it's my
opinion that it's best to leave them alone. Good day to you, sir, and
I hope you understand what it is that I mean."

Then Morton retreated and went down the stairs, leaving the lady in
possession of her own grandeur. He had not quite understood what she
had meant, and was still wondering at the energy of her opposition
when he met Mary herself at the front door. Her father was not with
her, but his retreating form was to be seen entering the portal of
the Bush. "Oh, Mr. Morton!" exclaimed Mary surprised to have the
house-door opened for her by him.

"I have come with a message from my aunt."

"She told me that you would do so."

"Lady Ushant would of course be delighted to have you if it could be
arranged."

"Then Lady Ushant will be disappointed," said Mrs. Masters who had
descended the stairs. "There has been something going on behind my
back."

"I wrote to Lady Ushant," said Mary.

"I call that sly and deceitful;--very sly and very deceitful. If
I know it you won't stir out of this house to go to Cheltenham. I
wonder Lady Ushant would go to put you up in that way against those
you're bound to obey."

"I thought Mrs. Masters had been told," said Reginald.

"Papa did know that I wrote," said Mary.

"Yes;--and in this way a conspiracy is to be made up in the house! If
she goes to Cheltenham I won't stay here. You may tell Lady Ushant
that I say that. I'm not going to be one thing one day and another
another, and to be made a tool of all round." By this time Dolly
and Kate had come down from the upper regions and were standing
behind their mother. "What do you two do there, standing gaping
like fools?" said the angry mother. "I suppose your father has gone
over to the public-house again. That, miss, is what comes from your
pigheadedness. Didn't I tell you that you were ruining everybody
belonging to you?" Before all this was over Reginald Morton had
escaped, feeling that he could do no good to either side by remaining
a witness to such a scene. He must take some other opportunity of
finding the attorney and of learning from him whether he intended
that his daughter should be allowed to accept Lady Ushant's
invitation.

Poor Mary as she shrunk into the house was nearly heartbroken. That
such things should be at all was very dreadful, but that the scene
should have taken place in the presence of Reginald Morton was an
aggravation of the misery which nearly overwhelmed her. How could she
make him understand whence had arisen her stepmother's anger and that
she herself had been neither sly nor deceitful nor pigheaded?



CHAPTER XX.

"BUT THERE IS SOME ONE."


When Mr. Masters had gone across to the Bush his purpose had
certainly been ignoble, but it had had no reference to brandy and
water. And the allusion made by Mrs. Masters to the probable ruin
which was to come from his tendencies in that direction had been
calumnious, for she knew that the man was not given to excess in
liquor. But as he approached his own house he bethought himself that
it would not lead to domestic comfort if he were seen returning from
his walk with Mary, and he had therefore made some excuse as to the
expediency of saying a word to Runciman whom he espied at his own
door. He said his word to Runciman, and so loitered away perhaps a
quarter of an hour, and then went back to his office. But his wife
had kept her anger at burning heat and pounced upon him before he
had taken his seat. Sundown was there copying, sitting with his eyes
intent on the board before him as though he were quite unaware of the
sudden entrance of his master's wife. She in her fury did not regard
Sundown in the least, but at once commenced her attack. "What is
all this, Mr. Masters," she said, "about Lady Ushant and going to
Cheltenham? I won't have any going to Cheltenham and that's flat."
Now the attorney had altogether made up his mind that his daughter
should go to Cheltenham if her friend would receive her. Whatever
might be the consequences, they must be borne. But he thought it best
to say nothing at the first moment of the attack, and simply turned
his sorrowful round face in silence up to the partner of all his
cares and the source of so many of them. "There have been letters,"
continued the lady;--"letters which nobody has told me nothing about.
That proud peacock from Hoppet Hall has been here, as though he
had nothing to do but carry Mary away about the country just as
he pleased. Mary won't go to Cheltenham with him nor yet without
him;--not if I am to remain here."

"Where else should you remain, my dear?" asked the attorney.

"I'd sooner go into the workhouse than have all this turmoil. That's
where we are all likely to go if you pass your time between walking
about with that minx and the public-house opposite." Then the
attorney was aware that he had been watched, and his spirit began to
rise within him. He looked at Sundown, but the man went on copying
quicker than ever.

"My dear," said Mr. Masters, "you shouldn't talk in that way before
the clerk. I wanted to speak to Mr. Runciman, and, as to the
workhouse, I don't know that there is any more danger now than there
has been for the last twenty years."

"It's always off and on as far as I can see. Do you mean to send that
girl to Cheltenham?"

"I rather think she had better go--for a time."

"Then I shall leave this house and go with my girls to Norrington."
Now this threat, which had been made before, was quite without
meaning. Mrs. Masters' parents were both dead, and her brother, who
had a large family, certainly would not receive her. "I won't remain
here, Mr. Masters, if I ain't to be mistress of my own house. What is
she to go to Cheltenham for, I should like to know?"

Then Sundown was desired by his wretched employer to go into the back
settlement and the poor man prepared himself for the battle as well
as he could. "She is not happy here," he said.

"Whose fault is that? Why shouldn't she be happy? Of course you know
what it means. She has got round you because she wants to be a fine
lady. What means have you to make her a fine lady? If you was to
die to-morrow what would there be for any of 'em? My little bit of
money is all gone. Let her stay here and be made to marry Lawrence
Twentyman. That's what I say."

"She will never marry Mr. Twentyman."

"Not if you go on like this she won't. If you'd done your duty by her
like a real father instead of being afraid of her when she puts on
her tantrums, she'd have been at Chowton Farm by this time."

It was clear to him that now was the time not to be afraid of his
wife when she put on her tantrums,--or at any rate, to appear not to
be afraid. "She has been very unhappy of late."

"Oh, unhappy! She's been made more of than anybody else in this
house."

"And a change will do her good. She has my permission to go;--and go
she shall!" Then the word had been spoken.

"She shall!"

"It is very much for the best. While she is here the house is made
wretched for us all."

"It'll be wretcheder yet; unless it would make you happy to see me
dead on the threshold,--which I believe it would. As for her, she's
an ungrateful, sly, wicked slut."

"She has done nothing wicked that I know of."

"Not writing to that old woman behind my back?"

"She told me what she was doing and showed me the letter."

"Yes; of course. The two of you were in it. Does that make it any
better? I say it was sly and wicked; and you were sly and wicked as
well as she. She has got the better of you, and now you are going to
send her away from the only chance she'll ever get of having a decent
home of her own over her head."

"There's nothing more to be said about it, my dear. She'll go to
Lady Ushant." Having thus pronounced his dictum with all the marital
authority he was able to assume he took his hat and sallied forth.
Mrs. Masters, when she was left alone, stamped her foot and hit the
desk with a ruler that was lying there. Then she went up-stairs and
threw herself on her bed in a paroxysm of weeping and wailing.

Mr. Masters, when he closed his door, looked up the street and down
the street and then again went across to the Bush. Mr. Runciman was
still there, and was standing with a letter in his hand, while one
of the grooms from Rufford Hall was holding a horse beside him. "Any
answer, Mr. Runciman?" said the groom.

"Only to tell his lordship that everything will be ready for him.
You'd better go through and give the horse a feed of corn, and get
a bit of something to eat and a glass of beer yourself." The man
wasn't slow to do as he was bid;--and in this way the Bush had
become very popular with the servants of the gentry around the place.
"His lordship is to be here from Friday to Sunday with a party, Mr.
Masters."

"Oh, indeed."

"For the end of the shooting. And who do you think he has asked to be
one of the party?"

"Not Mr. Reginald?"

"I don't think they ever spoke in their lives. Who but Larry
Twentyman!"

"No!"

"It'll be the making of Larry. I only hope he won't cock his beaver
too high."

"Is he coming?"

"I suppose so. He'll be sure to come. His Lordship only tells me
that there are to be six of 'em on Saturday and five on Friday night.
But the lad there knew who they all were. There's Mr. Surbiton and
Captain Battersby and Sir George are to come over with his lordship
from Rufford. And young Mr. Hampton is to join them here, and Larry
Twentyman is to shoot with them on Saturday and dine afterwards.
Won't those two Botseys be jealous; that's all?"

"It only shows what they think of Larry," said the attorney.

"Larry Twentyman is a very good fellow," said the landlord. "I don't
know a better fellow round Dillsborough, or one who is more always on
the square. But he's weak. You know him as well as I, Mr. Masters."

"He's not so weak but what he can keep what he's got."

"This'll be the way to try him. He'd melt away like water into sand
if he were to live for a few weeks with such men as his Lordship's
friends. I suppose there's no chance of his taking a wife home to
Chowton with him?" The attorney shook his head. "That'd be the making
of him, Mr. Masters; a good girl like that who'd keep him at home.
If he takes it to heart he'll burst out somewhere and spend a lot of
money."

The attorney declined Mr. Runciman's offer of a glass of beer and
slowly made his way round the corner of the inn by Hobb's gate to the
front door of Hoppet Hall. Then he passed on to the churchyard, still
thinking of the misery of his position. When he reached the church
he turned back, still going very slowly, and knocked at the door of
Hoppet Hall. He was shown at once by Reginald's old housekeeper up to
the library, and there in a few minutes he was joined by the master
of the house. "I was over looking for you an hour or two ago," said
Reginald.

"I heard you were there, Mr. Morton, and so I thought I would come to
you. You didn't see Mary?"

"I just saw her,--but could hardly say much. She had written to my
aunt about going to Cheltenham."

"I saw the letter before she sent it, Mr. Morton."

"So she told me. My aunt would be delighted to have her, but it seems
that Mrs. Masters does not wish her to go."

"There is some trouble about it, Mr. Morton;--but I may as well tell
you at once that I wish her to go. She would be better for awhile at
Cheltenham with such a lady as your aunt than she can be at home. Her
stepmother and she cannot agree on a certain point. I dare say you
know what it is, Mr. Morton?"

"In regard, I suppose, to Mr. Twentyman?"

"Just that. Mrs. Masters thinks that Mr. Twentyman would make an
excellent husband. And so do I. There's nothing in the world against
him, and as compared with me he's a rich man. I couldn't give the
poor girl any fortune, and he wouldn't want any. But money isn't
everything."

"No indeed."

"He's an industrious steady young man too, and he has had my word
with him all through. But I can't compel my girl to marry him if she
don't like him. I can't even try to compel her. She's as good a girl
as ever stirred about a house."

"I can well believe that."

"And nothing would take such a load off me as to know that she was
going to be well married. But as she don't like the young man well
enough, I won't have her hardly used."

"Mrs. Masters perhaps is--hard to her."

"God forbid I should say anything against my wife. I never did, and
I won't now. But Mary will be better away; and if Lady Ushant will be
good enough to take her, she shall go."

"When will she be ready, Mr. Masters?"

"I must ask her about that;--in a week perhaps, or ten days."

"She is quite decided against the young man?"

"Quite. At the bidding of all of us she said she'd take two months to
think of it. But before the time was up she wrote to him to say it
could never be. It quite upset my wife; because it would have been
such an excellent arrangement."

Reginald wished to learn more but hardly knew how to ask the father
questions. Yet, as he had been trusted so far, he thought that he
might be trusted altogether. "I must own," he said, "that I think
that Mr. Twentyman would hardly be a fit husband for your daughter."

"He is a very good young man."

"Very likely;--but she is something more than a very good young
woman. A young lady with her gifts will be sure to settle well in
life some day." The attorney shook his head. He had lived long enough
to see many young ladies with good gifts find it difficult to settle
in life; and perhaps that mysterious poem which Reginald found in
Mary's eyes was neither visible nor audible to Mary's father. "I did
hear," said Reginald, "that Mr. Surtees--"

"There's nothing in that."

"Oh, indeed. I thought that perhaps as she is so determined not to do
as her friends would wish, that there might be something else." He
said this almost as a question, looking close into the attorney's
eyes as he spoke.

"It is always possible," said Mr. Masters.

"But you don't think there is anybody?"

"It is very hard to say, Mr. Morton."

"You don't expect anything of that sort?"

Then the attorney broke forth into sudden confidence. "To tell the
truth then, Mr. Morton, I think there is somebody, though who it
is I know as little as the baby unborn. She sees nobody here at
Dillsborough to be intimate with. She isn't one of those who would
write letters or do anything on the sly."

"But there is some one?"

"She told me as much herself. That is, when I asked her she would
not deny it. Then I thought that perhaps it might be somebody at
Cheltenham."

"I think not."

"She was there so short a time, Mr. Morton; and Lady Ushant would
be the last person in the world to let such a thing as that go on
without telling her parents."

"I don't think there was any one at Cheltenham. She was only there a
month."

"I did fancy that perhaps that was one reason why she should want to
go back."

"I don't believe it. I don't in the least believe it," said Reginald
enthusiastically. "My aunt would have been sure to have seen it.
It would have been impossible without her knowledge. But there is
somebody?"

"I think so, Mr. Morton;--and if she does go to Cheltenham perhaps
Lady Ushant had better know." To this Reginald agreed, or half
agreed. It did not seem to him to be of much consequence what might
be done at Cheltenham. He felt certain that the lover was not there.
And yet who was there at Dillsborough? He had seen those young
Botseys about. Could it possibly be one of them? And during the
Christmas vacation the rector's scamp of a son had been home from
Oxford,--to whom Mary Masters had barely spoken. Was it young
Mainwaring? Or could it be possible that she had turned an eye of
favour on Dr. Nupper's elegantly-dressed assistant. There was nothing
too monstrous for him to suggest to himself as soon as the attorney
had left him.

But there was a young man in Dillsborough,--one man at any rate young
enough to be a lover,--of whom Reginald did not think; as to whom,
had his name been suggested as that of the young man to whom Mary's
heart had been given, he would have repudiated such a suggestion with
astonishment and anger. But now, having heard this from the girl's
father, he was again vexed, and almost as much disgusted as when he
had first become aware that Larry Twentyman was a suitor for her
hand. Why should he trouble himself about a girl who was ready to
fall in love with the first man that she saw about the place? He
tried to pacify himself by some such question as this, but tried in
vain.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE DINNER AT THE BUSH.


Here is the letter which at his brother-in-law's advice Lord Rufford
wrote to Arabella:


   Rufford, 3 February, 1875.

   MY DEAR MISS TREFOIL,

   It is a great grief to me that I should have to answer
   your letter in a manner that will I fear not be
   satisfactory to you. I can only say that you have
   altogether mistaken me if you think that I have said
   anything which was intended as an offer of marriage. I
   cannot but be much flattered by your good opinion. I have
   had much pleasure from our acquaintance, and I should have
   been glad if it could have been continued. But I have had
   no thoughts of marriage. If I have said a word which has,
   unintentionally on my part, given rise to such an idea I
   can only beg your pardon heartily. If I were to add more
   after what I have now said perhaps you would take it as an
   impertinence.

   Yours most sincerely,

   RUFFORD.


He had desired to make various additions and suggestions which
however had all been disallowed by Sir George Penwether. He had
proposed among other things to ask her whether he should keep Jack
for her for the remainder of the season or whether he should send the
horse elsewhere, but Sir George would not allow a word in the letter
about Jack. "You did give her the horse then?" he asked.

"I had hardly any alternative as the things went. She would have been
quite welcome to the horse if she would have let me alone
afterwards."

"No doubt; but when young gentlemen give young ladies horses--"

"I know all about it, my dear fellow. Pray don't preach more than you
can help. Of course I have been an infernal ass. I know all that. But
as the horse is hers--"

"Say nothing about the horse. Were she to ask for it of course she
could have it; but that is not likely."

"And you think I had better say nothing else."

"Not a word. Of course it will be shown to all her friends and may
possibly find its way into print. I don't know what steps such a
young lady may be advised to take. Her uncle is a man of honour. Her
father is an ass and careless about everything. Mistletoe will not
improbably feel himself bound to act as though he were her brother.
They will, of course, all think you to be a rascal,--and will say
so."

"If Mistletoe says so I'll horsewhip him."

"No you won't, Rufford. You will remember that this woman is a woman,
and that a woman's friends are bound to stand up for her. After all
your hands are not quite clean in the matter."

"I am heavy enough on myself, Penwether. I have been a fool and I own
it. But I have done nothing unbecoming a gentleman." He was almost
tempted to quarrel with his brother-in-law, but at last he allowed
the letter to be sent just as Sir George had written it, and then
tried to banish the affair from his mind for the present so that he
might enjoy his life till the next hostile step should be taken by
the Trefoil clan.

When Larry Twentyman received the lord's note, which was left at
Chowton Farm by Hampton's groom, he was in the lowest depth of
desolation. He had intended to hunt that day in compliance with
John Morton's advice, but had felt himself quite unable to make the
effort. It was not only that he had been thrown over by Mary Masters,
but that everybody knew that he had been thrown over. If he had kept
the matter secret, perhaps he might have borne it;--but it is so
hard to bear a sorrow of which all one's neighbours are conscious.
When a man is reduced by poverty to the drinking of beer instead of
wine, it is not the loss of the wine that is so heavy on him as the
consciousness that those around him are aware of the reason. And he
is apt to extend his idea of this consciousness to a circle that is
altogether indifferent of the fact. That a man should fail in his
love seems to him to be of all failures the most contemptible, and
Larry thought that there would not be one in the field unaware of his
miserable rejection. In spite of his mother's prayers he had refused
to go, and had hung about the farm all day.

Then there came to him Lord Rufford's note. It had been quite
unexpected, and a month or two before, when his hopes had still been
high in regard to Mary Masters, would have filled him with delight.
It was the foible of his life to be esteemed a gentleman, and his
poor ambition to be allowed to live among men of higher social
standing than himself. Those dinners of Lord Rufford's at the Bush
had been a special grief to him. The young lord had been always
courteous to him in the field, and he had been able, as he thought,
to requite such courtesy by little attentions in the way of game
preserving. If pheasants from Dillsborough Wood ate Goarly's wheat,
so did they eat Larry Twentyman's barley. He had a sportsman's heart,
above complaint as to such matters, and had always been neighbourly
to the lord. No doubt pheasants and hares were left at his house
whenever there was shooting in the neighbourhood,--which to his
mother afforded great consolation. But Larry did not care for the
pheasants and hares. Had he so pleased he could have shot them on
his own land; but he did not preserve, and, as a good neighbour,
he regarded the pheasants and hares as Lord Rufford's property. He
felt that he was behaving as a gentleman as well as a neighbour, and
that he should be treated as such. Fred Botsey had dined at the Bush
with Lord Rufford, and Larry looked on Fred as in no way better than
himself.

Now at last the invitation had come. He was asked to a day's shooting
and to dine with the lord and his party at the inn. How pleasant
would it be to give a friendly nod to Runciman as he went into the
room, and to assert afterwards in Botsey's hearing something of
the joviality of the evening. Of course Hampton would be there as
Hampton's servant had brought the note, and he was very anxious to be
on friendly terms with Mr. Hampton. Next to the lord himself there
was no one in the hunt who carried his head so high as young Hampton.

But there arose to him the question whether all this had not arrived
too late! Of what good is it to open up the true delights of life
to a man when you have so scotched and wounded him that he has no
capability left of enjoying anything? As he sat lonely with his
pipe in his mouth he thought for a while that he would decline the
invitation. The idea of selling Chowton Farm and of establishing
himself at some Antipodes in which the name of Mary Masters should
never have been heard, was growing upon him. Of what use would the
friendship of Lord Rufford be to him at the other side of the globe?

At last, however, the hope of giving that friendly nod to Runciman
overcame him, and he determined to go. He wrote a note, which caused
him no little thought, presenting his compliments to Lord Rufford and
promising to meet his lordship's party at Dillsborough Wood.

The shooting went off very well and Larry behaved himself with
propriety. He wanted the party to come in and lunch, and had given
sundry instructions to his mother on that head. But they did not
remain near to his place throughout the day, and his efforts in that
direction were not successful. Between five and six he went home, and
at half-past seven appeared at the Bush attired in his best. He never
yet had sat down with a lord, and his mind misgave him a little; but
he had spirit enough to look about for Runciman,--who, however, was
not to be seen.

Sir George was not there, but the party had been made up, as regarded
the dinner, by the addition of Captain Glomax, who had returned
from hunting. Captain Glomax was in high glee, having had,--as he
declared,--the run of the season. When a Master has been deserted on
any day by the choice spirits of his hunt he is always apt to boast
to them that he had on that occasion the run of the season. He had
taken a fox from Impington right across to Hogsborough, which, as
every one knows, is just on the borders of the U. R. U., had then run
him for five miles into Lord Chiltern's country, and had killed him
in the centre of the Brake Hunt, after an hour and a half, almost
without a check. "It was one of those straight things that one
doesn't often see now-a-days," said Glomax.

"Any pace?" asked Lord Rufford.

"Very good, indeed, for the first forty minutes. I wish you had all
been there. It was better fun I take it than shooting rabbits."

Then Hampton put the Captain through his facings as to time and
distance and exact places that had been passed, and ended by
expressing an opinion that he could have kicked his hat as fast on
foot. Whereupon the Captain begged him to try, and hinted that he did
not know the country. In answer to which Hampton offered to bet a
five-pound note that young Jack Runce would say that the pace had
been slow. Jack was the son of the old farmer whom the Senator had so
disgusted, and was supposed to know what he was about on a horse. But
Glomax declined the bet saying that he did not care a ---- for Jack
Runce. He knew as much about pace as any farmer, or for the matter
of that any gentleman, in Ufford or Rufford, and the pace for forty
minutes had been very good. Nevertheless all the party were convinced
that the "thing" had been so slow that it had not been worth riding
to;--a conviction which is not uncommon with gentlemen when they have
missed a run. In all this discussion poor Larry took no great part
though he knew the country as well as any one. Larry had not as yet
got over the awe inspired by the lord in his black coat.

Perhaps Larry's happiest moment in the evening was when Runciman
himself brought in the soup, for at that moment Lord Rufford put his
hand on his shoulder and desired him to sit down,--and Runciman both
heard and saw it. And at dinner, when the champagne had been twice
round, he became more comfortable. The conversation got upon Goarly,
and in reference to that matter he was quite at home. "It's not my
doing," said Lord Rufford. "I have instructed no one to keep him
locked up."

"It's a very good job from all that I can hear," said Tom Surbiton.

"All I did was to get Mr. Masters here to take up the case for me,
and I learned from him to-day that the rascal had already agreed to
take the money I offered. He only bargains that it shall be paid
into his own hands,--no doubt desiring to sell the attorney he has
employed."

"Bearside has got his money from the American Senator, my lord," said
Larry.

"They may fight it out among them. I don't care who gets the money or
who pays it as long as I'm not imposed upon."

"We must proceed against that man Scrobby," said Glomax with all the
authority of a Master.

"You'll never convict him on Goarly's evidence," said the Lord.

Then Larry could give them further information. Nickem had positively
traced the purchase of the red herrings. An old woman in Rufford was
ready to swear that she herself had sold them to Mrs. Scrobby. Tom
Surbiton suggested that the possession of red herrings was not of
itself a crime. Hampton thought that it was corroborative. Captain
Battersby wanted to know whether any of the herrings were still in
existence, so that they could be sworn to. Glomax was of opinion that
villainy of so deep a dye could not have taken place in any other
hunting country in England.

"There's been strychnine put down in the Brake too," said Hampton.

"But not in cartloads," said the Master.

"I rather think," said Larry, "that Nickem knows where the strychnine
was bought. That'll make a clear case of it. Hanging would be too
good for such a scoundrel." This was said after the third glass of
champagne, but the opinion was one which was well received by the
whole company. After that the Senator's conduct was discussed, and
they all agreed that in the whole affair that was the most marvellous
circumstance. "They must be queer people over there," said Larry.

"Brutes!" said Glomax. "They once tried a pack of hounds somewhere in
one of the States, but they never could run a yard."

There was a good deal of wine drank, which was not unusual at Lord
Rufford's dinners. Most of the company were seasoned vessels, and
none of them were much the worse for what they drank. But the
generous wine got to Larry's heart, and perhaps made his brain a
little soft. Lord Rufford remembering what had been said about the
young man's misery tried to console him by attention; and as the
evening wore on, and when the second cigars had been lit all round,
the two were seated together in confidential conversation at a
corner of the table. "Yes, my lord; I think I shall hook it," said
Larry. "Something has occurred that has made the place not quite so
comfortable to me; and as it is all my own I think I shall sell it."

"We should miss you immensely in the hunt," said Lord Rufford, who of
course knew what the something was.

"It's very kind of you to say so, my lord. But there are things which
may make a man go."

"Nothing serious, I hope."

"Just a young woman, my lord. I don't want it talked about, but I
don't mind mentioning it to you."

"You should never let those troubles touch you so closely," said his
lordship, whose own withers at this moment were by no means unwrung.

"I dare say not. But if you feel it, how are you to help it? I shall
do very well when I get away. Chowton Farm is not the only spot in
the world."

"But a man so fond of hunting as you are!"

"Well;--yes. I shall miss the hunting, my lord,--shan't I? If Mr.
Morton don't buy the place I should like it to go to your lordship.
I offered it to him first because it came from them."

"Quite right. By-the-bye, I hear that Mr. Morton is very ill."

"So I heard," said Larry. "Nupper has been with him, I know, and I
fancy they have sent for somebody from London. I don't know that he
cares much about the land. He thinks more of the foreign parts he's
always in. I don't believe we should fall out about the price, my
lord." Then Lord Rufford explained that he would not go into that
matter just at present, but that if the place were in the market he
would certainly like to buy it. He, however, did as John Morton had
done before, and endeavoured to persuade the poor fellow that he
should not alter the whole tenor of his life because a young lady
would not look at him.

"Good night, Mr. Runciman," said Larry as he made his way down-stairs
to the yard. "We've had an uncommon pleasant evening."

"I'm glad you've enjoyed yourself, Larry." Larry thought that his
Christian name from the hotel keeper's lips had never sounded so
offensively as on the present occasion.



CHAPTER XXII.

MISS TREFOIL'S DECISION.


Lord Rufford's letter reached Arabella at her cousin's house, in due
course, and was handed to her in the morning as she came down to
breakfast. The envelope bore his crest and coronet, and she was sure
that more than one pair of eyes had already seen it. Her mother had
been in the room some time before her, and would of course know that
the letter was from Lord Rufford. An indiscreet word or two had been
said in the hearing of Mrs. Connop Green,--as to which Arabella had
already scolded her mother most vehemently, and Mrs. Connop Green too
would probably have seen the letter, and would know that it had come
from the lover of whom boasts had been made. The Connop Greens would
be ready to worship Arabella down to the very soles of her feet if
she were certainly,--without a vestige of doubt,--engaged to be the
wife of Lord Rufford. But there had been so many previous mistakes!
And they, too, had heard of Mr. John Morton. They too were a little
afraid of Arabella though she was undoubtedly the niece of a Duke.

She was aware now,--as always,--how much depended on her personal
bearing; but this was a moment of moments! She would fain have kept
the letter, and have opened it in the retirement of her own room. She
knew its terrible importance, and was afraid of her own countenance
when she should read it. All the hopes of her life were contained in
that letter. But were she to put it in her pocket she would betray
her anxiety by doing so. She found herself bound to open it and read
it at once,--and she did open it and read it.

After all it was what she had expected. It was very decided, very
short, very cold, and carrying with it no sign of weakness. But it
was of such a letter that she had thought when she resolved that she
would apply to Lord Mistletoe, and endeavour to put the whole family
of Trefoil in arms. She had been,--so she had assured herself,--quite
sure that that kind, loving response which she had solicited,
would not be given to her. But yet the stern fact, now that it was
absolutely in her hands, almost overwhelmed her. She could not
restrain the dull dead look of heart-breaking sorrow which for a few
moments clouded her face,--a look which took away all her beauty,
lengthening her cheeks, and robbing her eyes of that vivacity which
it was the task of her life to assume. "Is anything the matter, my
dear?" asked Mrs. Connop Green.

Then she made a final effort,--an heroic effort. "What do you think,
mamma?" she said, paying no attention to her cousin's inquiry.

"What is it, Arabella?"

"Jack got some injury that day at Peltry, and is so lame that they
don't know whether he'll ever put his foot to the ground again."

"Poor fellow," said Mr. Green. "Who is Jack?"

"Jack is a horse, Mr. Green;--and such a horse that one cannot but be
sorry for him. Poor Jack! I don't know any Christian whose lameness
would be such a nuisance."

"Does Lord Rufford write about his horses?" asked Mrs. Connop Green,
thus betraying that knowledge as to the letter which she had obtained
from the envelope.

"If you must know all the truth about it," said Arabella, "the horse
is my horse, and not Lord Rufford's. And as he is the only horse I
have got, and as he's the dearest horse in all the world, you must
excuse my being a little sorry about him. Poor Jack!" After that the
breakfast was eaten and everybody in the room believed the story of
the horse's lameness--except Lady Augustus.

When breakfast and the loitering after breakfast were well over, so
that she could escape without exciting any notice, she made her way
up to her bedroom. In a few minutes,--so that again there should
be nothing noticeable,--her mother followed her. But her door was
locked. "It is I, Arabella," said her mother.

"You can't come in at present, mamma. I am busy."

"But Arabella."

"You can't come in at present, mamma." Then Lady Augustus slowly
glided away to her own room and there waited for tidings.

The whole form of the girl's face was altered when she was alone.
Her features in themselves were not lovely. Her cheeks and chin were
heavy. Her brow was too low, and her upper lip too long. Her nose and
teeth were good, and would have been very handsome had they belonged
to a man. Her complexion had always been good till it had been
injured by being improved,--and so was the carriage of her head and
the outside lines of her bust and figure, and her large eyes, though
never soft, could be bright and sparkle. Skill had done much for her
and continued effort almost more. But now the effort was dropped and
that which skill had done turned against her. She was haggard, lumpy,
and almost hideous in her bewildered grief.

Had there been a word of weakness in the short letter she might
have founded upon it some hope. It did not occur to her that he had
had the letter written for him, and she was astonished at its curt
strength. How could he dare to say that she had mistaken him? Had she
not lain in his arms while he embraced her? How could he have found
the courage to say that he had had no thought of marriage when he
had declared to her that he loved her? She must have known that she
had hunted him as a fox is hunted;--and yet she believed that she
was being cruelly ill-used. For a time all that dependence on Lord
Mistletoe and her uncle deserted her. What effect could they have on
a man who would write such a letter as that? Had she known that the
words were the words of his brother-in-law, even that would have
given her some hope.

But what should she do? Whatever steps she took she must take at
once. And she must tell her mother. Her mother's help would be
necessary to her now in whatever direction she might turn her mind.
She almost thought that she would abandon him without another word.
She had been strong in her reliance on family aid till the time for
invoking it had come; but now she believed that it would be useless.
Could it be that such a man as this would be driven into marriage
by the interference of Lord Mistletoe! She would much like to bring
down some punishment on his head;--but in doing so she would cut all
other ground from under her own feet. There were still open to her
Patagonia and the Paragon.

She hated the Paragon, and she recoiled with shuddering from the idea
of Patagonia. But as for hating,--she hated Lord Rufford most. And
what was there that she loved? She tried to ask herself some question
even as to that. There certainly was no man for whom she cared a
straw; nor had there been for the last six or eight years. Even when
he was kissing her she was thinking of her built-up hair, of her
pearl powder, her paint, and of possible accidents and untoward
revelations. The loan of her lips had been for use only, and not for
any pleasure which she had even in pleasing him. In her very swoon
she had felt the need of being careful at all points. It was all
labour, and all care,--and, alas, alas, all disappointment!

But there was a future through which she must live. How might she
best avoid the misfortune of poverty for the twenty, thirty, or forty
years which might be accorded to her? What did it matter whom or what
she hated? The housemaid probably did not like cleaning grates; nor
the butcher killing sheep; nor the sempstress stitching silks. She
must live. And if she could only get away from her mother that in
itself would be something. Most people were distasteful to her, but
no one so much as her mother. Here in England she knew that she was
despised among the people with whom she lived. And now she would be
more despised than ever. Her uncle and aunt, though she disliked
them, had been much to her. It was something,--that annual visit to
Mistletoe, though she never enjoyed it when she was there. But she
could well understand that after such a failure as this, after such
a game, played before their own eyes in their own house, her uncle
and her aunt would drop her altogether. She had played this game so
boldly that there was no retreat. Would it not therefore be better
that she should fly altogether?

There was a time on that morning in which she had made up her mind
that she would write a most affectionate letter to Morton, telling
him that her people had now agreed to his propositions as to
settlement, and assuring him that from henceforward she would be all
his own. She did think that were she to do so she might still go with
him to Patagonia. But, if so, she must do it at once. The delay had
already been almost too long. In that case she would not say a word
in reply to Lord Rufford, and would allow all that to be as though it
had never been. Then again there arose to her mind the remembrance of
Rufford Hall, of all the glories, of the triumph over everybody. Then
again there was the idea of a "forlorn hope." She thought that she
could have brought herself to do it, if only death would have been
the alternative of success when she had resolved to make the rush.

It was nearly one when she went to her mother and even then she was
undecided. But the joint agony of the solitude and the doubts had
been too much for her and she found herself constrained to seek a
counsellor. "He has thrown you over," said Lady Augustus as soon as
the door was closed.

"Of course he has," said Arabella walking up the room, and again
playing her part even before her mother.

"I knew it would be so."

"You knew nothing of the kind, mamma, and your saying so is simply an
untruth. It was you who put me up to it."

"Arabella, that is false."

"It wasn't you, I suppose, who made me throw over Mr. Morton and
Bragton."

"Certainly not."

"That is so like you, mamma. There isn't a single thing that you do
or say that you don't deny afterwards." These little compliments were
so usual among them that at the present moment they excited no great
danger. "There's his letter. I suppose you had better read it." And
she chucked the document to her mother.

"It is very decided," said Lady Augustus.

"It is the falsest, the most impudent, and the most scandalous letter
that a man ever wrote to a woman. I could horsewhip him for it myself
if I could get near him."

"Is it all over, Arabella?"

"All over! What questions you do ask, mamma! No. It is not all over.
I'll stick to him like a leech. He proposed to me as plainly as any
man ever did to any woman. I don't care what people may say or think.
He hasn't heard the last of me; and so he'll find." And thus in her
passion she made up her mind that she would not yet abandon the hunt.

"What will you do, my dear?"

"What will I do? How am I to say what I will do? If I were standing
near him with a knife in my hand I would stick it into his heart. I
would! Mistaken him! Liar! They talk of girls lying; but what girl
would lie like that?"

"But something must be done."

"If papa were not such a fool as he is, he could manage it all for
me," said Arabella dutifully. "I must see my father and I must
dictate a letter for him. Where is papa?"

"In London, I suppose."

"You must come up to London with me to-morrow. We shall have to go
to his club and get him out. It must be done immediately; and then
I must see Lord Mistletoe, and I will write to the Duke."

"Would it not be better to write to your papa?" said Lady Augustus,
not liking the idea of being dragged away so quickly from comfortable
quarters.

"No; it wouldn't. If you won't go I shall, and you must give me some
money. I shall write to Lord Rufford too."

And so it was at last decided, the wretched old woman being dragged
away up to London on some excuse which the Connop Greens were not
sorry to accept. But on that same afternoon Arabella wrote to Lord
Rufford.


   Your letter has amazed me. I cannot understand it. It
   seems to be almost impossible that it should really have
   come from you. How can you say that I have mistaken you?
   There has been no mistake. Surely that letter cannot have
   been written by you.

   Of course I have been obliged to tell my father
   everything.

   ARABELLA.


On the following day at about four in the afternoon the mother and
daughter drove up to the door of Graham's Club in Bond Street, and
there they found Lord Augustus. With considerable difficulty he was
induced to come down from the whist room, and was forced into the
brougham. He was a handsome fat man, with a long grey beard, who
passed his whole life in eating, drinking, and playing whist, and
was troubled by no scruples and no principles. He would not cheat at
cards because it was dangerous and ungentlemanlike, and if discovered
would lead to his social annihilation; but as to paying money that
he owed to tradesmen, it never occurred to him as being a desirable
thing as long as he could get what he wanted without doing so. He
had expended his own patrimony and his wife's fortune, and now lived
on an allowance made to him by his brother. Whatever funds his wife
might have not a shilling of them ever came from him. When he began
to understand something of the nature of the business on hand, he
suggested that his brother, the Duke, could do what was desirable
infinitely better than he could. "He won't think anything of me,"
said Lord Augustus.

"We'll make him think something," said Arabella sternly. "You must do
it, papa. They'd turn you out of the club if they knew that you had
refused." Then he looked up in the brougham and snarled at her.
"Papa, you must copy the letter and sign it."

"How am I to know the truth of it all?" he asked.

"It is quite true," said Lady Augustus. There was very much more of
it, but at last he was carried away bodily, and in his daughter's
presence he did write and sign the following letter;--


   MY LORD,

   I have heard from my daughter a story which has surprised
   me very much. It appears that she has been staying with
   you at Rufford Hall, and again at Mistletoe, and that
   while at the latter place you proposed marriage to her.
   She tells me with heart-breaking concern that you have now
   repudiated your own proposition,--not only once made but
   repeated. Her condition is most distressing. She is in all
   respects your Lordship's equal. As her father I am driven
   to ask you what excuse you have to make, or whether she
   has interpreted you aright.

   I have the honour to be,
   Your very humble servant,

   AUGUSTUS TREFOIL.



CHAPTER XXIII.

"IN THESE DAYS ONE CAN'T MAKE A MAN MARRY."


This was going on while Lord Rufford was shooting in the
neighbourhood of Dillsborough; and when the letter was being put into
its envelope at the lodgings in Orchard Street, his Lordship was just
sitting down to dinner with his guests at the Bush. At the same time
John Morton was lying ill at Bragton;--a fact of which Arabella was
not aware.

The letter from Lord Augustus was put into the post on Saturday
evening; but when that line of action was decided upon by Arabella
she was aware that she must not trust solely to her father. Various
plans were fermenting in her brain; all, or any of which, if carried
out at all, must be carried out at the same time and at once. There
must be no delay, or that final chance of Patagonia would be gone.
The leader of a forlorn hope, though he be ever so resolved to die in
the breach, still makes some preparation for his escape. Among her
plans the first in order was a resolution to see Lord Mistletoe whom
she knew to be in town. Parliament was to meet in the course of the
next week and he was to move the address. There had been much said
about all this at Mistletoe from which she knew that he was in London
preparing himself among the gentlemen at the Treasury. Then she
herself would write to the Duke. She thought that she could concoct
a letter that would move even his heart. She would tell him that
she was a daughter of the house of Trefoil,--and "all that kind of
thing." She had it distinctly laid down in her mind. And then there
was another move which she would make before she altogether threw up
the game. She would force herself into Lord Rufford's presence and
throw herself into his arms,--at his feet if need be,--and force him
into compliance. Should she fail, then she, too, had an idea what a
raging woman could do. But her first step now must be with her cousin
Mistletoe. She would not write to the Duke till she had seen her
cousin.

Lord Mistletoe when in London lived at the family house in
Piccadilly, and thither early on the Sunday morning she sent a note
to say that she especially wished to see her cousin and would call
at three o'clock on that day. The messenger brought back word that
Lord Mistletoe would be at home, and exactly at that hour the hired
brougham stopped at the door. Her mother had wished to accompany her
but she had declared that if she could not go alone she would not go
at all. In that she was right; for whatever favour the young heir to
the family honours might retain for his fair cousin, who was at any
rate a Trefoil, he had none for his uncle's wife. She was shown into
his own sitting-room on the ground floor, and then he immediately
joined her. "I wouldn't have you shown upstairs," he said, "because I
understand from your note that you want to see me in particular."

"That is so kind of you."

Lord Mistletoe was a young man about thirty, less in stature than his
father or uncle, but with the same handsome inexpressive face. Almost
all men take to some line in life. His father was known as a manager
of estates; his uncle as a whist-player; he was minded to follow the
steps of his grandfather and be a statesman. He was eaten up by no
high ambition but lived in the hope that by perseverance he might
live to become a useful Under Secretary, and perhaps, ultimately,
a Privy Seal. As he was well educated and laborious, and had no
objection to sitting for five hours together in the House of Commons
with nothing to do and sometimes with very little to hear, it was
thought by his friends that he would succeed. "And what is it I can
do?" he said with that affable smile to which he had already become
accustomed as a government politician.

"I am in great trouble," said Arabella, leaving her hand for a moment
in his as she spoke.

"I am sorry for that. What sort of trouble?" He knew that his uncle
and his aunt's family were always short of money, and was already
considering to what extent he would go in granting her petition.

"Do you know Lord Rufford?"

"Lord Rufford! Yes;--I know him; but very slightly. My father knows
him very much better than I do."

"I have just been at Mistletoe, and he was there. My story is so hard
to tell. I had better out with it at once. Lord Rufford has asked me
to be his wife."

"The deuce he has! It's a very fine property and quite
unembarrassed."

"And now he repudiates his engagement." Upon hearing this the young
lord's face became very long. He also had heard something of the past
life of his handsome cousin, though he had always felt kindly to her.
"It was not once only."

"Dear me! I should have thought your father would be the proper
person."

"Papa has written;--but you know what papa is."

"Does the Duke know of it,--or my mother?"

"It partly went on at Mistletoe. I would tell you the whole story
if I knew how." Then she did tell him her story, during the telling
of which he sat profoundly silent. She had gone to stay with Lady
Penwether at Lord Rufford's house, and then he had first told her
of his love. Then they had agreed to meet at Mistletoe, and she
had begged her aunt to receive her. She had not told her aunt at
once, and her aunt had been angry with her because they had walked
together. Then she had told everything to the Duchess and had begged
the Duchess to ask the Duke to speak to Lord Rufford. At Mistletoe
Lord Rufford had twice renewed his offer,--and she had then accepted
him. But the Duke had not spoken to him before he left the place. She
owned that she thought the Duchess had been a little hard to her. Of
course she did not mean to complain, but the Duchess had been angry
with her because she had hunted. And now, in answer to the note from
herself, had come a letter from Lord Rufford in which he repudiated
the engagement. "I only got it yesterday and I came at once to you. I
do not think you will see your cousin treated in that way without
raising your hand. You will remember that I have no brother?"

"But what can I do?" asked Lord Mistletoe.

She had taken great trouble with her face, so that she was able to
burst out into tears. She had on a veil which partly concealed her.
She did not believe in the effect of a pocket handkerchief, but sat
with her face half averted. "Tell him what you think about it," she
said.

"Such engagements, Arabella," he said, "should always be
authenticated by a third party. It is for that reason that a girl
generally refers her lover to her father before she allows herself to
be considered as engaged."

"Think what my position has been! I wanted to refer him to my uncle
and asked the Duchess."

"My mother must have had some reason. I'm sure she must. There isn't
a woman in London knows how such things should be done better than my
mother. I can write to Lord Rufford and ask him for an explanation;
but I do not see what good it would do."

"If you were in earnest about it he would be--afraid of you."

"I don't think he would in the least. If I were to make a noise about
it, it would only do you harm. You wouldn't wish all the world to
know that he had--"

"Jilted me! I don't care what the world knows. Am I to put up with
such treatment as that and do nothing? Do you like to see your cousin
treated in that way?"

"I don't like it at all. Lord Rufford is a good sort of man in his
way, and has a large property. I wish with all my heart that it had
come off all right; but in these days one can't make a man marry.
There used to be the alternative of going out and being shot at; but
that is over now."

"And a man is to do just as he pleases?"

"I am afraid so. If a man is known to have behaved badly to a girl,
public opinion will condemn him."

"Can anything be worse than this treatment of me?" Lord Mistletoe
could not tell her that he had alluded to absolute knowledge and that
at present he had no more than her version of the story;--or that the
world would require more than that before the general condemnation of
which he had spoken would come. So he sat in silence and shook his
head. "And you think that I should put up with it quietly!"

"I think that your father should see the man." Arabella shook her
head contemptuously. "If you wish it I will write to my mother."

"I would rather trust to my uncle."

"I don't know what he could do;--but I will write to him if you
please."

"And you won't see Lord Rufford?"

He sat silent for a minute or two during which she pressed him over
and over again to have an interview with her recreant lover, bringing
up all the arguments that she knew, reminding him of their former
affection for each other, telling him that she had no brother of her
own, and that her own father was worse than useless in such a matter.
A word or two she said of the nature of the prize to be gained, and
many words as to her absolute right to regard that prize as her own.
But at last he refused. "I am not the person to do it," he said.
"Even if I were your brother I should not be so,--unless with the
view of punishing him for his conduct;--in which place the punishment
to you would be worse than any I could inflict on him. It cannot be
good that any young lady should have her name in the mouths of all
the lovers of gossip in the country."

She was going to burst out at him in her anger, but before the words
were out of her mouth she remembered herself. She could not afford to
make enemies and certainly not an enemy of him. "Perhaps, then," she
said, "you had better tell your mother all that I have told you. I
will write to the Duke myself."

And so she left him, and as she returned to Orchard Street in the
brougham, she applied to him every term of reproach she could bring
to mind. He was selfish, and a coward, and utterly devoid of all
feeling of family honour. He was a prig, and unmanly, and false. A
real cousin would have burst out into a passion and have declared
himself ready to seize Lord Rufford by the throat and shake him
into instant matrimony. But this man, through whose veins water was
running instead of blood, had no feeling, no heart, no capability
for anger! Oh, what a vile world it was! A little help,--so very
little,--would have made everything straight for her! If her aunt had
only behaved at Mistletoe as aunts should behave, there would have
been no difficulty. In her misery she thought that the world was more
cruel to her than to any other person in it.

On her arrival at home, she was astounded by a letter that she found
there,--a letter of such a nature that it altogether drove out of
her head the purpose which she had of writing to the Duke on that
evening. The letter was from John Morton and now reached her through
the lawyer to whom it had been sent by private hand for immediate
delivery. It ran as follows:


   DEAREST ARABELLA,

   I am very ill,--so ill that Dr. Fanning who has come down
   from London, has, I think, but a poor opinion of my case.
   He does not say that it is hopeless,--and that is all. I
   think it right to tell you this, as my affection for you
   is what it always has been. If you wish to see me, you and
   your mother had better come to Bragton at once. You can
   telegraph. I am too weak to write more.

   Yours most affectionately,

   JOHN MORTON.

   There is nothing infectious.


"John Morton is dying," she almost screamed out to her mother.

"Dying!"

"So he says. Oh, what an unfortunate wretch I am! Everything that
touches me comes to grief." Then she burst out into a flood of true
unfeigned tears.

"It won't matter so much," said Lady Augustus, "if you mean to write
to the Duke, and go on with this other--affair."

"Oh, mamma, how can you talk in that way?"

"Well; my dear; you know--"

"I am heartless. I know that. But you are ten times worse. Think how
I have treated him!"

"I don't want him to die, my dear; but what can I say? I can't do him
any good. It is all in God's hands, and if he must die--why, it won't
make so much difference to you. I have looked upon all that as over
for a long time."

"It is not over. After all he has liked me better than any of them.
He wants me to go to Bragton."

"That of course is out of the question."

"It is not out of the question at all. I shall go."

"Arabella!"

"And you must go with me, mamma."

"I will do no such thing," said Lady Augustus, to whom the idea of
Bragton was terrible.

"Indeed you must. He has asked me to go, and I shall do it. You can
hardly let me go alone."

"And what will you say to Lord Rufford?"

"I don't care for Lord Rufford. Is he to prevent my going where I
please?"

"And your father,--and the Duke,--and the Duchess! How can you go
there after all that you have been doing since you left?"

"What do I care for the Duke and the Duchess. It has come to that,
that I care for no one. They are all throwing me over. That little
wretch Mistletoe will do nothing. This man really loved me. He has
never treated me badly. Whether he live or whether he die, he has
been true to me." Then she sat and thought of it all. What would Lord
Rufford care for her father's letter? If her cousin Mistletoe would
not stir in her behalf what chance had she with her uncle? And,
though she had thoroughly despised her cousin, she had understood and
had unconsciously believed much that he had said to her. "In these
days one can't make a man marry!" What horrid days they were! But
John Morton would marry her to-morrow if he were well,--in spite of
all her ill usage! Of course he would die and so she would again be
overwhelmed;--but yet she would go and see him. As she determined to
do so there was something even in her hard callous heart softer than
the love of money and more human than the dream of an advantageous
settlement in life.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE SENATOR'S SECOND LETTER.


In the mean time our friend the Senator, up in London, was much
distracted in his mind, finding no one to sympathise with him in his
efforts, conscious of his own rectitude of purpose, always brave
against others, and yet with a sad doubt in his own mind whether it
could be possible that he should always be right and everybody around
him wrong.

Coming away from Mr. Mainwaring's dinner he had almost quarrelled
with John Morton, or rather John Morton had altogether quarrelled
with him. On their way back from Dillsborough to Bragton the minister
elect to Patagonia had told him, in so many words, that he had
misbehaved himself at the clergyman's house. "Did I say anything that
was untrue?" asked the Senator--"Was I inaccurate in my statements?
If so no man alive will be more ready to recall what he has said and
to ask for pardon." Mr. Morton endeavoured to explain to him that it
was not his statements which were at fault so much as the opinions
based on them and the language in which those opinions were given.
But the Senator could not be made to understand that a man had not
a right to his opinions, and a right also to the use of forcible
language as long as he abstained from personalities. "It was
extremely personal,--all that you said about the purchase of
livings," said Morton. "How was I to know that?" rejoined the
Senator. "When in private society I inveigh against pickpockets
I cannot imagine, sir, that there should be a pickpocket in the
company." As the Senator said this he was grieving in his heart at
the trouble he had occasioned, and was almost repenting the duties
he had imposed on himself; but, yet, his voice was bellicose and
antagonistic. The conversation was carried on till Morton found
himself constrained to say that though he entertained great personal
respect for his guest he could not go with him again into society.
He was ill at the time,--though neither he himself knew it nor the
Senator. On the next morning Mr. Gotobed returned to London without
seeing his host, and before the day was over Mr. Nupper was at
Morton's bedside. He was already suffering from gastric fever.

The Senator was in truth unhappy as he returned to town. The intimacy
between him and the late Secretary of Legation at his capital had
arisen from a mutual understanding between them that each was to be
allowed to see the faults and to admire the virtues of their two
countries, and that conversation between them was to be based on
the mutual system. But nobody can, in truth, endure to be told of
shortcomings,--either on his own part or on that of his country. He
himself can abuse himself, or his country; but he cannot endure it
from alien lips. Mr. Gotobed had hardly said a word about England
which Morton himself might not have said,--but such words coming
from an American had been too much even for the guarded temper of an
unprejudiced and phlegmatic Englishman. The Senator as he returned
alone to London understood something of this,--and when a few days
later he heard that the friend who had quarrelled with him was ill,
he was discontented with himself and sore at heart.

But he had his task to perform, and he meant to perform it to the
best of his ability. In his own country he had heard vehement abuse
of the old land from the lips of politicians, and had found at the
same time almost on all sides great social admiration for the people
so abused. He had observed that every Englishman of distinction was
received in the States as a demigod, and that some who were not
very great in their own land had been converted into heroes in his.
English books were read there; English laws were obeyed there;
English habits were cultivated, often at the expense of American
comfort. And yet it was the fashion among orators to speak of
the English as a worn-out, stupid and enslaved people. He was a
thoughtful man and all this had perplexed him;--so that he had
obtained leave from his State and from Congress to be absent during
a part of a short Session, and had come over determined to learn as
much as he could. Everything he heard and almost everything he saw
offended him at some point. And, yet in the midst of it all, he was
conscious that he was surrounded by people who claimed and made good
their claims to superiority. What was a lord, let him be ever so rich
and have ever so many titles? And yet, even with such a popinjay as
Lord Rufford, he himself felt the lordship. When that old farmer at
the hunt breakfast had removed himself and his belongings to the
other side of the table the Senator, though aware of the justice of
his cause, had been keenly alive to the rebuke. He had expressed
himself very boldly at the rector's house at Dillsborough, and had
been certain that not a word of real argument had been possible
in answer to him. But yet he left the house with a feeling almost
of shame, which had grown into real penitence before he reached
Bragton. He knew that he had already been condemned by Englishmen as
ill-mannered, ill-conditioned and absurd. He was as much alive as any
man to the inward distress of heart which such a conviction brings
with it to all sensitive minds. And yet he had his purpose and would
follow it out. He was already hard at work on the lecture which he
meant to deliver somewhere in London before he went back to his home
duties, and had made it known to the world at large that he meant to
say some sharp things of the country he was visiting.

Soon after his return to town he was present at the opening of
Parliament, Mr. Mounser Green of the Foreign Office having seen
that he was properly accommodated with a seat. Then he went down
to the election of a member of Parliament in the little borough of
Quinborough. It was unfortunate for Great Britain, which was on its
trial, and unpleasant also for the poor Senator who had appointed
himself judge, that such a seat should have fallen vacant at that
moment. Quinborough was a little town of 3,000 inhabitants clustering
round the gates of a great Whig Marquis, which had been spared,--who
can say why?--at the first Reform Bill, and having but one member
had come out scatheless from the second. Quinborough still returned
its one member with something less than 500 constituents, and in
spite of household suffrage and the ballot had always returned the
member favoured by the Marquis. This nobleman, driven no doubt by
his conscience to make some return to the country for the favour
shown to his family, had always sent to Parliament some useful and
distinguished man who without such patronage might have been unable
to serve his country. On the present occasion a friend of the
people,--so called,--an unlettered demagogue such as is in England
in truth distasteful to all classes, had taken himself down to
Quinborough as a candidate in opposition to the nobleman's nominee.
He had been backed by all the sympathies of the American Senator who
knew nothing of him or his unfitness, and nothing whatever of the
patriotism of the Marquis. But he did know what was the population
and what the constituency of Liverpool, and also what were those
of Quinborough. He supposed that he knew what was the theory of
representation in England, and he understood correctly that hitherto
the member for Quinborough had been the nominee of that great
lord. These things were horrid to him. There was to his thinking a
fiction,--more than fiction, a falseness,--about all this which not
only would but ought to bring the country prostrate to the dust. When
the working-man's candidate, whose political programme consisted of a
general disbelief in all religions, received--by ballot!--only nine
votes from those 500 voters, the Senator declared to himself that the
country must be rotten to the core. It was not only that Britons were
slaves,--but that they "hugged their chains." To the gentleman who
assured him that the Right Honble. ---- ---- would make a much better
member of Parliament than Tom Bobster the plasterer from Shoreditch
he in vain tried to prove that the respective merits of the two men
had nothing to do with the question. It had been the duty of those
500 voters to show to the world that in the exercise of a privilege
entrusted to them for the public service they had not been under the
dictation of their rich neighbour. Instead of doing so they had,
almost unanimously, grovelled in the dust at their rich neighbour's
feet. "There are but one or two such places left in all England,"
said the gentleman. "But those one or two," answered the Senator,
"were wilfully left there by the Parliament which represented the
whole nation."

Then, quite early in the Session, immediately after the voting of
the address, a motion had been made by the Government of the day for
introducing household suffrage into the counties. No one knew the
labour to which the Senator subjected himself in order that he might
master all these peculiarities,--that he might learn how men became
members of Parliament, and how they ceased to be so, in what degree
the House of Commons was made up of different elements, how it came
to pass, that though there was a House of Lords, so many lords sat
in the lower chamber. All those matters which to ordinary educated
Englishmen are almost as common as the breath of their nostrils,
had been to him matter of long and serious study. And as the
intent student, who has zealously buried himself for a week among
commentaries and notes, feels himself qualified to question Porson
and to Be-Bentley Bentley, so did our Senator believe, while still
he was groping among the rudiments, that he had all our political
intricacies at his fingers' ends. When he heard the arguments
used for a difference of suffrage in the towns and counties,
and found that even they who were proposing the change were not
ready absolutely to assimilate the two and still held that rural
ascendancy,--feudalism as he called it,--should maintain itself by
barring a fraction of the House of Commons from the votes of the
majority, he pronounced the whole thing to be a sham. The intention
was, he said, to delude the people. "It is all coming," said the
gentleman who was accustomed to argue with him in those days. He
spoke in a sad vein, which was in itself distressing to the Senator.
"Why should you be in such a hurry?" The Senator suggested that if
the country delayed much longer this imperative task of putting its
house in order, the roof would have fallen in before the repairs were
done. Then he found that this gentleman too, avoided his company,
and declined to sit with him any more in the Gallery of the House of
Commons.

Added to all this was a private rankling sore in regard to Goarly
and Bearside. He had now learned nearly all the truth about Goarly,
and had learned also that Bearside had known the whole when he had
last visited that eminent lawyer's office. Goarly had deserted his
supporters and had turned evidence against Scrobby, his partner in
iniquity. That Goarly was a rascal the Senator had acknowledged.
So far the general opinion down in Rufford had been correct. But
he could get nobody to see,--or at any rate could get nobody to
acknowledge,--that the rascality of Goarly had had nothing to do
with the question as he had taken it up. The man's right to his own
land,--his right to be protected from pheasants and foxes, from
horses and hounds,--was not lessened by the fact that he was a poor
ignorant squalid dishonest wretch. Mr. Gotobed had now received a
bill from Bearside for £42 7_s._ 9_d._ for costs in the case, leaving
after the deduction of £15 already paid a sum of £27 7_s._ 9_d._
stated to be still due. And this was accompanied by an intimation
that as he, Mr. Gotobed, was a foreigner soon about to leave the
country, Mr. Bearside must request that his claim might be settled
quite at once. No one could be less likely than our Senator to leave
a foreign country without paying his bills. He had quarrelled with
Morton,--who also at this time was too ill to have given him much
assistance. Though he had become acquainted with half Dillsborough,
there was nobody there to whom he could apply. Thus he was driven to
employ a London attorney, and the London attorney told him that he
had better pay Bearside;--the Senator remembering at the time that
he would also have to pay the London attorney for his advice. He
gave this second lawyer authority to conclude the matter, and at
last Bearside accepted £20. When the London attorney refused to take
anything for his trouble, the Senator felt such conduct almost as an
additional grievance. In his existing frame of mind he would sooner
have expended a few more dollars than be driven to think well of
anything connected with English law.

It was immediately after he had handed over the money in liquidation
of Bearside's claim that he sat down to write a further letter to his
friend and correspondent Josiah Scroome. His letter was not written
in the best of tempers; but still, through it all, there was a desire
to be just, and an anxiety to abstain from the use of hard phrases.
The letter was as follows;--


   Fenton's Hotel, St. James' Street, London,
   Feb. 12, 187--.

   MY DEAR SIR,

   Since I last wrote I have had much to trouble me and
   little perhaps to compensate me for my trouble. I told
   you, I think, in one of my former letters that wherever I
   went I found myself able to say what I pleased as to the
   peculiarities of this very peculiar people. I am not now
   going to contradict what I said then. Wherever I go I do
   speak out, and my eyes are still in my head and my head
   is on my shoulders. But I have to acknowledge to myself
   that I give offence. Mr. Morton, whom you knew at the
   British Embassy in Washington,--and who I fear is now
   very ill,--parted from me, when last I saw him, in
   anger because of certain opinions I had expressed in a
   clergyman's house, not as being ill-founded but as being
   antagonistic to the clergyman himself. This I feel to be
   unreasonable. And in the neighbourhood of Mr. Morton's
   house, I have encountered the ill will of a great
   many,--not for having spoken untruth, for that I have
   never heard alleged,--but because I have not been reticent
   in describing the things which I have seen.

   I told you, I think, that I had returned to Mr. Morton's
   neighbourhood with the view of defending an oppressed
   man against the power of the lord who was oppressing him.
   Unfortunately for me the lord, though a scapegrace, spends
   his money freely and is a hospitable kindly-hearted honest
   fellow; whereas the injured victim has turned out to be a
   wretched scoundrel. Scoundrel though he is, he has still
   been ill used; and the lord, though good-natured, has
   been a tyrant. But the poor wretch has thrown me over and
   sold himself to the other side and I have been held up to
   ignominy by all the provincial newspapers. I have also had
   to pay through the nose $175 for my quixotism--a sum which
   I cannot very well afford. This money I have lost solely
   with the view of defending the weak, but nobody with whom
   I have discussed the matter seems to recognise the purity
   of my object. I am only reminded that I have put myself
   into the same boat with a rascal.

   I feel from day to day how thoroughly I could have enjoyed
   a sojourn in this country if I had come here without any
   line of duty laid down for myself. Could I have swum with
   the stream and have said yes or no as yes or no were
   expected, I might have revelled in generous hospitality.
   Nothing can be pleasanter than the houses here if you will
   only be as idle as the owners of them. But when once you
   show them that you have an object, they become afraid
   of you. And industry,--in such houses as I now speak
   of,--is a crime. You are there to glide through the
   day luxuriously in the house,--or to rush through it
   impetuously on horseback or with a gun if you be a
   sportsman. Sometimes, when I have asked questions about
   the most material institutions of the country, I have felt
   that I was looked upon with absolute loathing. This is
   disagreeable.

   And yet I find it more easy in this country to sympathise
   with the rich than with the poor. I do not here describe
   my own actual sympathies, but only the easiness with which
   they might be evoked. The rich are at any rate pleasant.
   The poor are very much the reverse. There is no backbone
   of mutiny in them against the oppression to which they are
   subjected; but only the whining of a dog that knows itself
   to be a slave and pleads with his soft paw for tenderness
   from his master;--or the futile growlings of the caged
   tiger who paces up and down before his bars and has
   long ago forgotten to attempt to break them. They are a
   long-suffering race, who only now and then feel themselves
   stirred up to contest a point against their masters on the
   basis of starvation. "We won't work but on such and such
   terms, and, if we cannot get them, we will lie down and
   die." That I take it is the real argument of a strike. But
   they never do lie down and die. If one in every parish,
   one in every county, would do so, then the agricultural
   labourers of the country might live almost as well as the
   farmers' pigs.

   I was present the other day at the opening of Parliament.
   It was a very grand ceremony,--though the Queen did not
   find herself well enough to do her duty in person. But the
   grandeur was everything. A royal programme was read from
   the foot of the throne, of which even I knew all the
   details beforehand, having read them in the newspapers.
   Two opening speeches were then made by two young
   lords,--not after all so very young,--which sounded like
   lessons recited by schoolboys. There was no touch of
   eloquence,--no approach to it. It was clear that either of
   them would have been afraid to attempt the idiosyncrasy of
   passionate expression. But they were exquisitely dressed
   and had learned their lessons to a marvel. The flutter of
   the ladies' dresses, and the presence of the peers, and
   the historic ornamentation of the house were all very
   pleasant;--but they reminded me of a last year's nut,
   of which the outside appearance has been mellowed and
   improved by time,--but the fruit inside has withered away
   and become tasteless.

   Since that I have been much interested with an attempt,--a
   further morsel of cobbling,--which is being done to
   improve the representation of the people. Though it be
   but cobbling, if it be in the right direction one is glad
   of it. I do not know how far you may have studied the
   theories and system of the British House of Commons, but,
   for myself, I must own that it was not till the other day
   that I was aware that, though it acts together as one
   whole, it is formed of two distinct parts. The one part
   is sent thither from the towns by household suffrage; and,
   this, which may be said to be the healthier of the two
   as coming more directly from the people, is nevertheless
   disfigured by a multitude of anomalies. Population hardly
   bears upon the question. A town with 15,000 inhabitants
   has two members,--whereas another with 400,000 has only
   three, and another with 50,000 has one. But there is
   worse disorder than this. In the happy little village
   of Portarlington 200 constituents choose a member among
   them, or have one chosen for them by their careful
   lord;--whereas in the great city of London something like
   25,000 registered electors only send four to Parliament.
   With this the country is presumed to be satisfied. But
   in the counties, which by a different system send up
   the other part of the House, there exists still a heavy
   property qualification for voting. There is, apparent to
   all, a necessity for change here;--but the change proposed
   is simply a reduction of the qualification, so that
   the rural labourer,--whose class is probably the
   largest, as it is the poorest, in the country,--is still
   disfranchised, and will remain so, unless it be his chance
   to live within the arbitrary line of some so-called
   borough. For these boroughs, you must know, are sometimes
   strictly confined to the aggregations of houses which
   constitute the town, but sometimes stretch out their arms
   so as to include rural districts. The divisions I am
   assured were made to suit the aspirations of political
   magnates when the first Reform Bill was passed! What is
   to be expected of a country in which such absurdities are
   loved and sheltered?

   I am still determined to express my views on these matters
   before I leave England, and am with great labour preparing
   a lecture on the subject. I am assured that I shall not
   be debarred from my utterances because that which I say
   is unpopular. I am told that as long as I do not touch
   Her Majesty or Her Majesty's family, or the Christian
   religion,--which is only the second Holy of Holies,--I may
   say anything. Good taste would save me from the former
   offence, and my own convictions from the latter. But my
   friend who so informs me doubts whether many will come
   to hear me. He tells me that the serious American is not
   popular here, whereas the joker is much run after. Of
   that I must take my chance. In all this I am endeavouring
   to do a duty,--feeling every day more strongly my own
   inadequacy. Were I to follow my own wishes I should return
   by the next steamer to my duties at home.

   Believe me to be,
   Dear Sir,
   With much sincerity,
   Yours truly,

   ELIAS GOTOBED.

   The Honble. Josiah Scroome,
   125 Q Street,
   Minnesota Avenue,
   Washington.



CHAPTER XXV.

PROVIDENCE INTERFERES.


The battle was carried on very fiercely in Mr. Masters' house in
Dillsborough, to the misery of all within it; but the conviction
gained ground with every one there that Mary was to be sent to
Cheltenham for some indefinite time. Dolly and Kate seemed to think
that she was to go, never to return. Six months, which had been
vaguely mentioned as the proposed period of her sojourn, was to them
almost as indefinite as eternity. The two girls had been intensely
anxious for the marriage, wishing to have Larry for a brother,
looking forward with delight to their share in the unrestricted
plenteousness of Chowton Farm, longing to be allowed to consider
themselves at home among the ricks and barns and wide fields; but
at this moment things had become so tragic that they were cowed and
unhappy,--not that Mary should still refuse Larry Twentyman, but that
she should be going away for so long a time. They could quarrel with
their elder sister while the assurance was still with them that she
would be there to forgive them;--but now that she was going away and
that it had come to be believed by both of them that poor Lawrence
had no chance, they were sad and downhearted. In all that misery
the poor attorney had the worst of it. Mary was free from her
stepmother's zeal and her stepmother's persecution at any rate at
night;--but the poor father was hardly allowed to sleep. For Mrs.
Masters never gave up her game as altogether lost. Though she might
be driven alternately into towering passion and prostrate hysterics,
she would still come again to the battle. A word of encouragement
would, she said, bring Larry Twentyman back to his courtship,
and that word might be spoken, if Mary's visit to Cheltenham
were forbidden. What did the letter signify, or all the girl's
protestations? Did not everybody know how self-willed young women
were; but how they could be brought round by proper usage? Let Mary
once be made to understand that she would not be allowed to be a fine
lady, and then she would marry Mr. Twentyman quick enough. But this
"Ushanting," this journeying to Cheltenham in order that nothing
might be done, was the very way to promote the disease! This Mrs.
Masters said in season and out of season, night and day, till the
poor husband longed for his daughter's departure, in order that that
point might at any rate be settled. In all these disputes he never
quite yielded. Though his heart sank within him he was still firm. He
would turn his back to his wife and let her run on with her arguments
without a word of answer,--till at last he would bounce out of bed
and swear that if she did not leave him alone he would go and lock
himself into the office and sleep with his head on the office desk.

Mrs. Masters was almost driven to despair;--but at last there came to
her a gleam of hope, most unexpectedly. It had been settled that Mary
should make her journey on Friday the 12th February and that Reginald
Morton was again to accompany her. This in itself was to Mrs. Masters
an aggravation of the evil which was being done. She was not in
the least afraid of Reginald Morton; but this attendance on Mary
was in the eyes of her stepmother a cockering of her up, a making
a fine lady of her, which was in itself of all things the most
pernicious. If Mary must go to Cheltenham, why could she not go by
herself, second class, like any other young woman? "Nobody would eat
her,"--Mrs. Masters declared. But Reginald was firm in his purpose of
accompanying her. He had no objection whatever to the second class,
if Mr. Masters preferred it. But as he meant to make the journey on
the same day of course they would go together. Mr. Masters said that
he was very much obliged. Mrs. Masters protested that it was all
trash from beginning to the end.

Then there came a sudden disruption to all these plans, and a sudden
renewal of her hopes to Mrs. Masters which for one half day nearly
restored her to good humour. Lady Ushant wrote to postpone the visit
because she herself had been summoned to Bragton. Her letter to Mary,
though affectionate, was very short. Her grand-nephew John, the head
of the family, had expressed a desire to see her, and with that wish
she was bound to comply. Of course, she said, she would see Mary at
Bragton; or if that were not possible, she herself would come into
Dillsborough. She did not know what might be the length of her visit,
but when it was over she hoped that Mary would return with her to
Cheltenham. The old lady's letter to Reginald was much longer;
because in that she had to speak of the state of John Morton's
health,--and of her surprise that she should be summoned to his
bedside. Of course she would go,--though she could not look forward
with satisfaction to a meeting with the Honble. Mrs. Morton. Then she
could not refrain from alluding to the fact that if "anything were
to happen" to John Morton, Reginald himself would be the Squire
of Bragton. Reginald when he received this at once went over to
the attorney's house, but he did not succeed in seeing Mary. He
learned, however, that they were all aware that the journey had been
postponed.

To Mrs. Masters it seemed that all this had been a dispensation of
Providence. Lady Ushant's letter had been received on the Thursday
and Mrs. Masters at once found it expedient to communicate with Larry
Twentyman. She was not excellent herself at the writing of letters,
and therefore she got Dolly to be the scribe. Before the Thursday
evening the following note was sent to Chowton Farm;


   DEAR LARRY,

   Pray come and go to the club with father on Saturday. We
   haven't seen you for so long! Mother has got something to
   tell you.

   Your affectionate friend,

   DOLLY.


When this was received the poor man was smoking his moody pipe in
silence as he roamed about his own farmyard in the darkness of the
night. He had not as yet known any comfort and was still firm in his
purpose of selling the farm. He had been out hunting once or twice
but fancied that people looked at him with peculiar eyes. He could
not ride, though he made one or two forlorn attempts to break his
neck. He did not care in the least whether they found or not; and
when Captain Glomax was held to have disgraced himself thoroughly by
wasting an hour in digging out and then killing a vixen, he had not a
word to say about it. But, as he read Dolly's note, there came back
something of life into his eyes. He had forsworn the club, but would
certainly go when thus invited. He wrote a scrawl to Dolly,--"I'll
come," and, having sent it off by the messenger, tried to trust that
there might yet be ground for hope. Mrs. Masters would not have
allowed Dolly to send such a message without good reason.

On the Friday Mrs. Masters could not abstain from proposing that
Mary's visit to Cheltenham should be regarded as altogether out of
the question. She had no new argument to offer,--except this last
interposition of Providence in her favour. Mr. Masters said that he
did not see why Mary should not return with Lady Ushant. Various
things, however, might happen. John Morton might die, and then who
could tell whether Lady Ushant would ever return to Cheltenham? In
this way the short-lived peace soon came to an end, especially as
Mrs. Masters endeavoured to utilize for general family purposes
certain articles which had been purchased with a view to Mary's
prolonged residence away from home. This was resented by the
attorney, and the peace was short-lived.

On the Saturday Larry came,--to the astonishment of Mr. Masters, who
was still in his office at half-past seven. Mrs. Masters at once got
hold of him and conveyed him away into the sacred drawing-room. "Mary
is not going," she said.

"Not going to Cheltenham!"

"It has all been put off. She shan't go at all if I can help it."

"But why has it been put off, Mrs. Masters?"

"Lady Ushant is coming to Bragton. I suppose that poor man is dying."

"He is very ill certainly."

"And if anything happens there who can say what may happen anywhere
else? Lady Ushant will have something else except Mary to think of,
if her own nephew comes into all the property."

"I didn't know she was such friends with the Squire as that."

"Well;--there it is. Lady Ushant is coming to Bragton and Mary is not
going to Cheltenham."

This she said as though the news must be of vital importance to Larry
Twentyman. He stood for awhile scratching his head as he thought of
it. At last it appeared to him that Mary's continual residence in
Dillsborough would of itself hardly assist him. "I don't see, Mrs.
Masters, that that will make her a bit kinder to me.'

"Larry, don't you be a coward,--nor yet soft."

"As for coward, Mrs. Masters, I don't know--"

"I suppose you really do love the girl."

"I do;--I think I've shown that."

"And you haven't changed your mind?"

"Not a bit."

"That's why I speak open to you. Don't you be afraid of her. What's
the letter which a girl like that writes? When she gets tantrums into
her head of course she'll write a letter."

"But there's somebody else, Mrs. Masters."

"Who says so? I say there ain't nobody;--nobody. If anybody tells you
that it's only just to put you off. It's just poetry and books and
rubbish. She wants to be a fine lady."

"I'll make her a lady."

"You make her Mrs. Twentyman, and don't you be made by any one to
give it up. Go to the club with Mr. Masters now, and come here just
the same as usual. Come to-morrow and have a gossip with the girls
together and show that you can keep your pluck up. That's the way
to win her." Larry did go to the club and did think very much of it
as he walked home. He had promised to come on the Sunday afternoon,
but he could not bring himself to believe in that theory of books
and poetry put forward by Mrs. Masters. Books and poetry would not
teach a girl like Mary to reject her suitor if she really loved him.



CHAPTER XXVI.

LADY USHANT AT BRAGTON.


On the Sunday Larry came into Dillsborough and had "his gossip with
the girls" according to order;--but it was not very successful. Mrs.
Masters who opened the door for him instructed him in a special
whisper "to talk away just as though he did not care a fig for Mary."
He made the attempt manfully,--but with slight effect. His love was
too genuine, too absorbing, to leave with him the power which Mrs.
Masters assumed him to have when she gave him such advice. A man
cannot walk when he has broken his ankle-bone, let him be ever so
brave in the attempt. Larry's heart was so weighed that he could not
hide the weight. Dolly and Kate had also received hints and struggled
hard to be merry. In the afternoon a walk was suggested, and Mary
complied; but when an attempt was made by the younger girls to leave
the lover and Mary together, she resented it by clinging closely to
Dolly;--and then all Larry's courage deserted him. Very little good
was done on the occasion by Mrs. Masters' manoeuvres.

On the Monday morning, in compliance with a request made by Lady
Ushant, Mary walked over to Bragton to see her old friend. Mrs.
Masters had declared the request to be very unreasonable. "Who is to
walk five miles and back to see an old woman like that?" To this Mary
had replied that the distance across the fields to Bragton was only
four miles and that she had often walked it with her sisters for
the very pleasure of the walk. "Not in weather like this," said Mrs.
Masters. But the day was well enough. Roads in February are often a
little wet, but there was no rain falling. "I say it's unreasonable,"
said Mrs. Masters. "If she can't send a carriage she oughtn't to
expect it." This coming from Mrs. Masters, whose great doctrine it
was that young women ought not to be afraid of work, was so clearly
the effect of sheer opposition that Mary disdained to answer it. Then
she was accused of treating her stepmother with contempt.

She did walk to Bragton, taking the path by the fields and over the
bridge, and loitering for a few minutes as she leant upon the rail.
It was there and there only that she had seen together the two men
who between them seemed to cloud all her life,--the man whom she
loved and the man who loved her. She knew now,--she thought that she
knew quite well,--that her feelings for Reginald Morton were of such
a nature that she could not possibly become the wife of any one else.
But had she not seen him for those few minutes on this spot, had he
not fired her imagination by telling her of his desire to go back
with her over the sites which they had seen together when she was
a child, she would not, she thought, have been driven to make to
herself so grievous a confession. In that case it might have been
that she would have brought herself to give her hand to the suitor of
whom all her friends approved.

And then with infinite tenderness she thought of all Larry's
virtues,--and especially of that great virtue in a woman's eyes, the
constancy of his devotion to herself. She did love him,--but with a
varied love,--a love which was most earnest in wishing his happiness,
which would have been desirous of the closest friendship if only
nothing more were required. She swore to herself a thousand times
that she did not look down upon him because he was only a farmer,
that she did not think herself in any way superior to him. But it
was impossible that she should consent to be his wife. And then she
thought of the other man,--with feelings much less kind. Why had he
thrust himself upon her life and disturbed her? Why had he taught her
to think herself unfit to mate with this lover who was her equal? Why
had he assured her that were she to do so her old friends would be
revolted? Why had he exacted from her a promise,--a promise which was
sacred to her,--that she would not so give herself away? Yes;--the
promise was certainly sacred; but he had been cold and cruel in
forcing it from her lips. What business was it of his? Why should he
have meddled with her? In the shallow streamlet of her lowly life the
waters might have glided on, slow but smoothly, had he not taught
them to be ambitious of a rapider, grander course. Now they were
disturbed by mud, and there could be no pleasure in them.

She went on over the bridge, and round by the shrubbery to the hall
door which was opened to her by Mrs. Hopkins. Yes, Lady Ushant was
there;--but the young Squire was very ill and his aunt was then with
him. Mr. Reginald was in the library. Would Miss Masters be shown in
there, or would she go up to Lady Ushant's own room? Of course she
replied that she would go up-stairs and there wait for Lady Ushant.

When she was found by her friend she was told at length the story
of all the circumstances which had brought Lady Ushant to Bragton.
When John Morton had first been taken ill,--before any fixed idea of
danger had occurred to himself or to others,--his grandmother had
come to him. Then, as he gradually became weaker he made various
propositions which were all of them terribly distasteful to the
old woman. In the first place he had insisted on sending for Miss
Trefoil. Up to this period Mary Masters had hardly heard the name of
Miss Trefoil, and almost shuddered as she was at once immersed in
all these family secrets. "She is to be here to-morrow," said Lady
Ushant.

"Oh dear,--how sad!"

"He insists upon it, and she is coming. She was here before, and it
now turns out that all the world knew that they were engaged. That
was no secret, for everybody had heard it."

"And where is Mrs. Morton now?" Then Lady Ushant went on with her
story. The sick man had insisted on making his will and had declared
his purpose of leaving the property to his cousin Reginald. As Lady
Ushant said, there was no one else to whom he could leave it with any
propriety;--but this had become matter for bitter contention between
the old woman and her grandson.

"Who did she think should have it?" asked Mary.

"Ah;--that I don't know. That he has never told me. But she has had
the wickedness to say,--oh,--such things of Reginald. I knew all that
before;--but that she should repeat them now is terrible. I suppose
she wanted it for some of her own people. But it was so horrible you
know,--when he was so ill! Then he said that he should send for me,
so that what is left of the family might be together. After that she
went away in anger. Mrs. Hopkins says that she did not even see him
the morning she left Bragton."

"She was always high-tempered," said Mary.

"And dictatorial beyond measure. She nearly broke my poor dear
father's heart. And then she left the house because he would not shut
his doors against Reginald's mother. And now I hardly know what I
am to do here, or what I must say to this young lady when she comes
to-morrow."

"Is she coming alone?"

"We don't know. She has a mother, Lady Augustus Trefoil,--but whether
Lady Augustus will accompany her daughter we have not heard. Reginald
says certainly not, or they would have told us so. You have seen
Reginald?"

"No, Lady Ushant."

"You must see him. He is here now. Think what a difference it will
make to him."

"But Lady Ushant,--is he so bad?"

"Dr. Fanning almost says that there is no hope. This poor young woman
that is coming;--what am I to say to her? He has made his will. That
was done before I came. I don't know why he shouldn't have sent for
your father, but he had a gentleman down from town. I suppose he will
leave her something; but it is a great thing that Bragton should
remain in the family. Oh dear, oh dear,--if any one but a Morton were
to be here it would break my heart. Reginald is the only one left now
of the old branch. He's getting old and he ought to marry. It is so
serious when there's an old family property."

"I suppose he will--only--"

"Yes; exactly. One can't even think about it while this poor young
man is lying so ill. Mrs. Morton has been almost like his mother, and
has lived upon the Bragton property,--absolutely lived upon it,--and
now she is away from him because he chooses to do what he likes with
his own. Is it not awful? And she would not put her foot in the house
if she knew that Reginald was here. She told Mrs. Hopkins as much,
and she said that she wouldn't so much as write a line to me. Poor
fellow; he wrote it himself. And now he thinks so much about it.
When Dr. Fanning went back to London yesterday I think he took some
message to her."

Mary remained there till lunch was announced but refused to go down
into the parlour, urging that she was expected home for dinner. "And
there is no chance for Mr. Twentyman?" asked Lady Ushant. Mary shook
her head. "Poor man! I do feel sorry for him as everybody speaks
so well of him. Of course, my dear, I have nothing to say about it.
I don't think girls should ever be in a hurry to marry, and if you
can't love him--"

"Dear Lady Ushant, it is quite settled."

"Poor young man! But you must go and see Reginald." Then she was
taken into the library and did see Reginald. Were she to avoid
him,--specially,--she would tell her tale almost as plainly as
though she were to run after him. He greeted her kindly, almost
affectionately, expressing his extreme regret that his visit to
Cheltenham should have been postponed and a hope that she would be
much at Bragton. "The distance is so great, Reginald," said Lady
Ushant.

"I can drive her over. It is a long walk, and I had made up my mind
to get Runciman's little phaeton. I shall order it for to-morrow if
Miss Masters will come." But Miss Masters would not agree to this.
She would walk over again some day as she liked the walk, but no
doubt she would only be in the way if she were to come often.

"I have told her about Miss Trefoil," said Lady Ushant. "You know, my
dear, I look upon you almost as one of ourselves because you lived
here so long. But perhaps you had better postpone coming again till
she has gone."

"Certainly, Lady Ushant."

"It might be difficult to explain. I don't suppose she will stay
long. Perhaps she will go back the same day. I am sure I shan't know
what to say to her. But when anything is fixed I will send you in
word by the postman."

Reginald would have walked back with her across the bridge but that
he had promised to go to his cousin immediately after lunch. As it
was he offered to accompany her a part of the way, but was stopped by
his aunt, greatly to Mary's comfort. He was now more beyond her reach
than ever,--more utterly removed from her. He would probably become
Squire of Bragton, and she, in her earliest days, had heard the
late Squire spoken of as though he were one of the potentates of
the earth. She had never thought it possible; but now it was less
possible than ever. There was something in his manner to her almost
protective, almost fatherly,--as though he had some authority over
her. Lady Ushant had authority once, but he had none. In every tone
of his voice she felt that she heard an expression of interest in her
welfare,--but it was the interest which a grown-up person takes in a
child, or a superior in an inferior. Of course he was her superior,
but yet the tone of his voice was distasteful to her. As she walked
back to Dillsborough she told herself that she would not go again to
Bragton without assuring herself that he was not there.

When she reached home many questions were asked of her, but she told
nothing of the secrets of the Morton family which had been so openly
confided to her. She would only say that she was afraid that Mr. John
Morton was very ill.



CHAPTER XXVII.

ARABELLA AGAIN AT BRAGTON.


Arabella Trefoil had adhered without flinching to the purpose she had
expressed of going down to Bragton to see the sick man. And yet at
that very time she was in the midst of her contest with Lord Rufford.
She was aware that a correspondence was going on between her father
and the young lord and that her father had demanded an interview.
She was aware also that the matter had been discussed at the family
mansion in Piccadilly, the Duke having come up to London for the
purpose, and that the Duke and his brother, who hardly ever spoke to
each other, had absolutely had a conference. And this conference had
had results. The Duke had not himself consented to interfere, but he
had agreed to a compromise proposed by his son. Lord Augustus should
be authorised to ask Lord Rufford to meet him in the library of the
Piccadilly mansion,--so that there should be some savour of the
dukedom in what might be done and said there. Lord Rufford would
by the surroundings be made to feel that in rejecting Arabella he
was rejecting the Duke and all the Mayfair belongings, and that in
accepting her he would be entitled to regard himself as accepting
them all. But by allowing thus much the Duke would not compromise
himself,--nor the Duchess, nor Lord Mistletoe. Lord Mistletoe, with
that prudence which will certainly in future years make him a useful
assistant to some minister of the day, had seen all this, and so it
had been arranged.

But, in spite of these doings, Arabella had insisted on complying
with John Morton's wish that she go down and visit him in his bed
at Bragton. Her mother, who in these days was driven almost to
desperation by her daughter's conduct, tried her best to prevent the
useless journey, but tried in vain. "Then," she said in wrath to
Arabella, "I will tell your father, and I will tell the Duke, and
I will tell Lord Rufford that they need not trouble themselves any
further." "You know, mamma, that you will do nothing of the kind,"
said Arabella. And the poor woman did do nothing of the kind. "What
is it to them whether I see the man or not?" the girl said. "They are
not such fools as to suppose that because Lord Rufford has engaged
himself to me now I was never engaged to any one before. There isn't
one of them doesn't know that you had made up an engagement between
us and had afterwards tried to break it off." When she heard this
the unfortunate mother raved, but she raved in vain. She told her
daughter that she would not supply her with money for the expenses
of her journey, but her daughter replied that she would have no
difficulty in finding her way to a pawn shop. "What is to be got by
it?" asked the unfortunate mother. In reply to this Arabella would
say, "Mamma, you have no heart;--absolutely none. You ought to
manoeuvre better than you do, for your feelings never stand in your
way for a moment." All this had to be borne, and the old woman was
forced at last not only to yield but to promise that she would
accompany her daughter to Bragton. "I know how all this will end,"
she said to Arabella. "You will have to go your way and I must go
mine." "Just so," replied the daughter. "I do not often agree with
you, mamma; but I do there altogether."

Lady Augustus was absolutely at a loss to understand what were the
motives and what the ideas which induced her daughter to take the
journey. If the man were to die no good could come of it. If he
were to live then surely that love which had induced him to make
so foolish a petition would suffice to ensure the marriage, if the
marriage should then be thought desirable. But, at the present
moment, Arabella was still hot in pursuit of Lord Rufford;--to whom
this journey, as soon as it should be known to him, would give the
easiest mode of escape! How would it be possible that they two should
get out at the Dillsborough Station and be taken to Bragton without
all Rufford knowing it. Of course there would be hymns sung in praise
of Arabella's love and constancy, but such hymns would be absolutely
ruinous to her. It was growing clear to Lady Augustus that her
daughter was giving up the game and becoming frantic as she thought
of her age, her failure, and her future. If so it would be well that
they should separate.

On the day fixed a close carriage awaited them at the Dillsborough
Station. They arrived both dressed in black and both veiled,--and
with but one maid between them. This arrangement had been made with
some vague idea of escaping scrutiny rather than from economy. They
had never hitherto been known to go anywhere without one apiece.
There were no airs on the station now as on that former occasion,--no
loud talking; not even a word spoken. Lady Augustus was asking
herself why,--why she should have been put into so lamentable a
position, and Arabella was endeavouring to think what she would say
to the dying man.

She did think that he was dying. It was not the purport of her
present visit to strengthen her position by making certain of the
man's hand should he live. When she said that she was not as yet
quite so hard-hearted as her mother, she spoke the truth. Something
of regret, something of penitence had at times crept over her in
reference to her conduct to this man. He had been very unlike others
on whom she had played her arts. None of her lovers, or mock lovers,
had been serious and stern and uncomfortable as he. There had been
no other who had ever attempted to earn his bread. To her the
butterflies of the world had been all in all, and the working bees
had been a tribe apart with which she was no more called upon to mix
than is my lady's spaniel with the kennel hounds. But the chance had
come. She had consented to exhibit her allurements before a man of
business and the man of business had at once sat at her feet. She
had soon repented,--as the reader has seen. The alliance had been
distasteful to her. She had found that the man's ways were in no wise
like her ways,--and she had found also that were she to become his
wife, he certainly would not change. She had looked about for a means
of escape,--but as she did so she had recognized the man's truth. No
doubt he had been different from the others, less gay in his attire,
less jocund in his words, less given to flattery and sport and gems
and all the little wickednesses which she had loved. But they,--those
others had, one and all, struggled to escape from her. Through all
the gems and mirth and flattery there had been the same purpose. They
liked the softness of her hand, they liked the flutter of her silk,
they liked to have whispered in their ears the bold words of her
practised raillery. Each liked for a month or two to be her special
friend. But then, after that, each had deserted her as had done the
one before; till in each new alliance she felt that such was to be
her destiny, and that she was rolling a stone which would never
settle itself, straining for waters which would never come lip high.
But John Morton, after once saying that he loved her, had never
tired, had never wished to escape. He had been so true to his love,
so true to his word, that he had borne from her usage which would
have fully justified escape had escape been to his taste. But to the
last he had really loved her, and now, on his death bed, he had sent
for her to come to him. She would not be coward enough to refuse his
request. "Should he say anything to you about his will don't refuse
to hear him, because it may be of the greatest importance," Lady
Augustus whispered to her daughter as the carriage was driven up to
the front door.

It was then four o'clock, and it was understood that the two ladies
were to stay that one night at Bragton, a letter having been received
by Lady Ushant that morning informing her that the mother as well
as the daughter was coming. Poor Lady Ushant was almost beside
herself,--not knowing what she would do with the two women, and
having no one in the house to help her. Something she had heard of
Lady Augustus, but chiefly from Mrs. Hopkins who certainly had not
admired her master's future mother-in-law. Nor had Arabella been
popular; but of her Mrs. Hopkins had only dared to say that she was
very handsome and "a little upstartish." How she was to spend the
evening with them Lady Ushant could not conceive,--it having been
decided, in accordance with the doctor's orders, that the interview
should not take place till the next morning. When they were shown in
Lady Ushant stood just within the drawing-room door and muttered a
few words as she gave her hand to each. "How is he?" asked Arabella,
throwing up her veil boldly, as soon as the door was closed. Lady
Ushant only shook her head. "I knew it would be so. It is always so
with anything I care for."

"She is so distressed, Lady Ushant," said the mother, "that she
hardly knows what she does." Arabella shook her head. "It is so, Lady
Ushant."

"Am I to go to him now?" said Arabella. Then the old lady explained
the doctor's orders, and offered to take them to their rooms.
"Perhaps I might say a word to you alone? I will stay here if you
will go with mamma." And she did stay till Lady Ushant came down to
her. "Do you mean to say it is certain," she asked,--"certain that he
must--die?"

"No;--I do not say that."

"It is possible that he may recover?"

"Certainly it is possible. What is not possible with God?"

"Ah;--that means that he will die." Then she sat herself down and
almost unconsciously took off her bonnet and laid it aside. Lady
Ushant, then looking into her face for the first time, was at a loss
to understand what she had heard of her beauty. Could it be the same
girl of whom Mrs. Hopkins had spoken and of whose brilliant beauty
Reginald had repeated what he had heard? She was haggard, almost old,
with black lines round her eyes. There was nothing soft or gracious
in the tresses of her hair. When Lady Ushant had been young men
had liked hair such as was that of Mary Masters. Arabella's yellow
locks,--whencesoever they might have come,--were rough and uncombed.
But it was the look of age, and the almost masculine strength of the
lower face which astonished Lady Ushant the most. "Has he spoken to
you about me?" she said.

"Not to me." Then Lady Ushant went on to explain that though she was
there now as the female representative of the family she had never
been so intimate with John Morton as to admit of such confidence as
that suggested.

"I wonder whether he can love me," said the girl.

"Assuredly he does, Miss Trefoil. Why else should he send for you?"

"Because he is an honest man. I hardly think that he can love me
much. He was to have been my husband, but he will escape that. If I
thought that he would live I would tell him that he was free."

"He would not want to be--free."

"He ought to want it. I am not fit for him. I have come here, Lady
Ushant, because I want to tell him the truth."

"But you love him?" Arabella made no answer, but sat looking steadily
into Lady Ushant's face. "Surely you do love him."

"I do not know. I don't think I did love him,--though now I may. It
is so horrible that he should die, and die while all this is going
on. That softens one you know. Have you ever heard of Lord Rufford?"

"Lord Rufford;--the young man?"

"Yes;--the young man."

"Never particularly. I knew his father."

"But not this man? Mr. Morton never spoke to you of him."

"Not a word."

"I have been engaged to him since I became engaged to your nephew."

"Engaged to Lord Rufford,--to marry him?"

"Yes,--indeed."

"And will you marry him?"

"I cannot say. I tell you this, Lady Ushant, because I must tell
somebody in this house. I have behaved very badly to Mr. Morton, and
Lord Rufford is behaving as badly to me."

"Did John know of this?"

"No;--but I meant to tell him. I determined that I would tell him had
he lived. When he sent for me I swore that I would tell him. If he is
dying,--how can I say it?" Lady Ushant sat bewildered, thinking over
it, understanding nothing of the world in which this girl had lived,
and not knowing now how things could have been as she described them.
It was not as yet three months since, to her knowledge, this young
woman had been staying at Bragton as the affianced bride of the
owner of the house,--staying there with her own mother and his
grandmother,--and now she declared that since that time she had
become engaged to another man and that that other man had already
jilted her! And yet she was here that she might make a deathbed
parting with the man who regarded himself as her affianced husband.
"If I were sure that he were dying, why should I trouble him?" she
said again.

Lady Ushant found herself utterly unable to give any counsel to such
a condition of circumstances. Why should she be asked? This young
woman had her mother with her. Did her mother know all this, and
nevertheless bring her daughter to the house of a man who had been so
treated! "I really do not know what to say," she replied at last.

"But I was determined that I would tell some one. I thought that Mrs.
Morton would have been here." Lady Ushant shook her head. "I am glad
she is not, because she was not civil to me when I was here before.
She would have said hard things to me,--though not perhaps harder
than I have deserved. I suppose I may still see him to-morrow."

"Oh yes; he expects it."

"I shall not tell him now. I could not tell him if I thought he were
dying. If he gets better you must tell him all."

"I don't think I could do that, Miss Trefoil."

"Pray do;--pray do. I call upon you to tell him everything."

"Tell him that you will be married to Lord Rufford?"

"No;--not that. If Mr. Morton were well to-morrow I would have
him,--if he chose to take me after what I have told you."

"You do love him then?"

"At any rate I like no one better."

"Not the young lord?"

"No! why should I like him? He does not love me. I hate him. I would
marry Mr. Morton to-morrow, and go with him to Patagonia, or anywhere
else,--if he would have me after hearing what I have done." Then she
rose from her chair; but before she left the room she said a word
further. "Do not speak a word to my mother about this. Mamma knows
nothing of my purpose. Mamma only wants me to marry Lord Rufford, and
to throw Mr. Morton over. Do not tell anyone else, Lady Ushant; but
if he is ever well enough then you must tell him." After that she
went, leaving Lady Ushant in the room astounded by the story she had
heard.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



VOLUME III.

CHAPTER I.

"I HAVE TOLD HIM EVERYTHING."


That evening was very long and very sad to the three ladies assembled
in the drawing-room at Bragton Park, but it was probably more so
to Lady Augustus than the other two. She hardly spoke to either of
them; nor did they to her; while a certain amount of conversation
in a low tone was carried on between Lady Ushant and Miss Trefoil.
When Arabella came down to dinner she received a message from the
sick man. He sent his love, and would so willingly have seen her
instantly,--only that the doctor would not allow it. But he was so
glad,--so very glad that she had come! This Lady Ushant said to her
in a whisper, and seemed to say it as though she had heard nothing of
that frightful story which had been told to her not much more than
an hour ago. Arabella did not utter a word in reply, but put out her
hand, secretly as it were, and grasped that of the old lady to whom
she had told the tale of her later intrigues. The dinner did not keep
them long, but it was very grievous to them all. Lady Ushant might
have made some effort to be at least a complaisant hostess to Lady
Augustus had she not heard this story,--had she not been told that
the woman, knowing her daughter to be engaged to John Morton, had
wanted her to marry Lord Rufford. The story having come from the lips
of the girl herself had moved some pity in the old woman's breast
in regard to her; but for Lady Augustus she could feel nothing but
horror.

In the evening Lady Augustus sat alone, not even pretending to open
a book or to employ her fingers. She seated herself on one side of
the fire with a screen in her hand, turning over such thoughts in her
mind as were perhaps customary to her. Would there ever come a period
to her misery, an hour of release in which she might be in comfort
ere she died? Hitherto from one year to another, from one decade to
the following, it had all been struggle and misery, contumely and
contempt. She thought that she had done her duty by her child, and
her child hated and despised her. It was but the other day that
Arabella had openly declared that in the event of her marriage she
would not have her mother as a guest in her own house. There could be
no longer hope for triumph and glory;--but how might she find peace
so that she might no longer be driven hither and thither by this
ungrateful tyrant child? Oh, how hard she had worked in the world,
and how little the world had given her in return!

Lady Ushant and Arabella sat at the other side of the fire, at some
distance from it, on a sofa, and carried on a fitful conversation in
whispers, of which a word would now and then reach the ears of the
wretched mother. It consisted chiefly of a description of the man's
illness, and of the different sayings which had come from the doctors
who had attended him. It was marvellous to Lady Augustus, as she
sat there listening, that her daughter should condescend to take an
interest in such details. What could it be to her now how the fever
had taken him, or why or when? On the very next day, the very morning
on which she would go and sit,--ah so uselessly,--by the dying man's
bedside, her father was to meet Lord Rufford at the ducal mansion in
Piccadilly, to see if anything could be done in that quarter! It was
impossible that she should really care whether John Morton's lease of
life was to be computed at a week's purchase or at that of a month!
And yet Arabella sat there asking sick-room questions and listening
to sick-room replies as though her very nature had been changed. Lady
Augustus heard her daughter inquire what food the sick man took, and
then Lady Ushant at great length gave the list of his nourishment.
What sickening hypocrisy! thought Lady Augustus.

Lady Augustus must have known her daughter well; and yet it was not
hypocrisy. The girl's nature, which had become thoroughly evil from
the treatment it had received, was not altered. Such sudden changes
do not occur more frequently than other miracles. But zealously
as she had practised her arts she had not as yet practised them
long enough not to be cowed by certain outward circumstances. There
were moments when she still heard in her imagination the sound of
that horse's foot as it struck the skull of the unfortunate fallen
rider;--and now the prospect of the death of this man whom she had
known so intimately and who had behaved so well to her,--to whom her
own conduct had been so foully false,--for a time brought her back to
humanity. But Lady Augustus had got beyond that and could not at all
understand it.

By nine they had all retired for the night. It was necessary that
Lady Ushant should again visit her nephew, and the mother and
daughter went to their own rooms. "I cannot in the least make out
what you are doing," said Lady Augustus in her most severe voice.

"I dare say not, mamma."

"I have been brought here, at a terrible sacrifice--"

"Sacrifice! What sacrifice? You are as well here as anywhere else."

"I say I have been brought here at a terrible sacrifice for no
purpose whatever. What use is it to be? And then you pretend to care
what this poor man is eating and drinking and what physic he is
taking when, the last time you were in his company, you wouldn't so
much as look at him for fear you should make another man jealous."

"He was not dying then."

"Psha!"

"Oh yes. I know all that. I do feel a little ashamed of myself when I
am almost crying for him."

"As if you loved him!"

"Dear mamma, I do own that it is foolish. Having listened to you on
these subjects for a dozen years at least I ought to have got rid of
all that. I don't suppose I do love him. Two or three weeks ago I
almost thought I loved Lord Rufford, and now I am quite sure that I
hate him. But if I heard to-morrow that he had broken his neck out
hunting, I ain't sure but what I should feel something. But he would
not send for me as this man has done."

"It was very impertinent."

"Perhaps it was ill-bred, as he must have suspected something as to
Lord Rufford. However we are here now."

"I will never allow you to drag me anywhere again."

"It will be for yourself to judge of that. If I want to go anywhere,
I shall go. What's the good of quarrelling? You know that I mean to
have my way."

The next morning neither Lady Augustus nor Miss Trefoil came down to
breakfast, but at ten o'clock Arabella was ready, as appointed, to
be taken into the sick man's bedroom. She was still dressed in black
but had taken some trouble with her face and hair. She followed Lady
Ushant in, and silently standing by the bedside put her hand upon
that of John Morton which was laying outside on the bed. "I will
leave you now, John," said Lady Ushant retiring, "and come again in
half an hour."

"When I ring," he said.

"You mustn't let him talk for more than that," said the old lady to
Arabella as she went.

It was more than an hour afterwards when Arabella crept into her
mother's room, during which time Lady Ushant had twice knocked at her
nephew's door and had twice been sent away. "It is all over, mamma!"
she said.

Lady Augustus looked into her daughter's eyes and saw that she had
really been weeping. "All over!"

"I mean for me,--and you. We have only got to go away."

"Will he--die?"

"It will make no matter though he should live for ever. I have told
him everything. I did not mean to do it because I thought that he
would be weak; but he has been strong enough for that."

"What have you told him?"

"Just everything--about you and Lord Rufford and myself,--and what an
escape he had had not to marry me. He understands it all now."

"It is a great deal more than I do."

"He knows that Lord Rufford has been engaged to me." She clung to
this statement so vehemently that she had really taught herself to
believe that it was so.

"Well!"

"And he knows also how his lordship is behaving to me. Of course he
thinks that I have deserved it. Of course I have deserved it. We have
nothing to do now but to go back to London."

"You have brought me here all the way for that."

"Only for that! As the man was dying I thought that I would be honest
just for once. Now that I have told him I don't believe that he will
die. He does not look to be so very ill."

"And you have thrown away that chance!"

"Altogether. You didn't like Bragton you know, and therefore it can't
matter to you."

"Like it!"

"To be sure you would have got rid of me had I gone to Patagonia. But
he will not go to Patagonia now even if he gets well; and so there
was nothing to be gained. The carriage is to be here at two to take
us to the station and you may as well let Judith come and put the
things up."

Just before they took their departure Lady Ushant came to Arabella
saying that Mr. Morton wanted to speak one other word to her before
she went. So she returned to the room and was again left alone at the
man's bedside. "Arabella," he said, "I thought that I would tell you
that I have forgiven everything."

"How can you have forgiven me? There are things which a man cannot
forgive."

"Give me your hand," he said,--and she gave him her hand. "I do
forgive it all. Even should I live it would be impossible that we
should be man and wife."

"Oh yes."

"But nevertheless I love you. Try,--try to be true to some one."

"There is no truth left in me, Mr. Morton. I should not dishonour my
husband if I had one, but still I should be a curse to him. I shall
marry some day I suppose, and I know it will be so. I wish I could
change with you,--and die."

"You are unhappy now."

"Indeed I am. I am always unhappy. I do not think you can tell what
it is to be so wretched. But I am glad that you have forgiven me."
Then she stooped down and kissed his hand. As she did so he touched
her brow with his hot lips, and then she left him again. Lady Ushant
was waiting outside the door. "He knows it all," said Arabella. "You
need not trouble yourself with the message I gave you. The carriage
is at the door. Good-bye. You need not come down. Mamma will not
expect it." Lady Ushant, hardly knowing how she ought to behave, did
not go down. Lady Augustus and her daughter got into Mr. Runciman's
carriage without any farewells, and were driven back from the park
to the Dillsborough Station. To poor Lady Ushant the whole thing had
been very terrible. She sat silent and unoccupied the whole of that
evening wondering at the horror of such a history. This girl had
absolutely dared to tell the dying man all her own disgrace,--and had
travelled down from London to Bragton with the purpose of doing so!
When next she crept into the sick-room she almost expected that her
nephew would speak to her on the subject;--but he only asked whether
that sound of wheels which he heard beneath his window had come
from the carriage which had taken them away, and then did not say a
further word of either Lady Augustus or her daughter.

"And what do you mean to do now?" said Lady Augustus as the train
approached the London terminus.

"Nothing."

"You have given up Lord Rufford?"

"Indeed I have not."

"Your journey to Bragton will hardly help you much with him."

"I don't want it to help me at all. What have I done that Lord
Rufford can complain of? I have not abandoned Lord Rufford for the
sake of Mr. Morton. Lord Rufford ought only to be too proud if he
knew it all."

"Of course he could make use of such an escapade as this?"

"Let him try. I have not done with Lord Rufford yet, and so I can
tell him. I shall be at the Duke's in Piccadilly to-morrow morning."

"That will be impossible, Arabella."

"They shall see whether it is impossible. I have got beyond caring
very much what people say now. I know the kind of way papa would be
thrown over if there is no one there to back him. I shall be there
and I will ask Lord Rufford to his face whether we did not become
engaged when we were at Mistletoe."

"They won't let you in."

"I'll find a way to make my way in. I shall never be his wife. I
don't know that I want it. After all what's the good of living with a
man if you hate each other,--or living apart like you and papa?"

"He has income enough for anything!" exclaimed Lady Augustus, shocked
at her daughter's apparent blindness.

"It isn't that I'm thinking of, but I'll have my revenge on him.
Liar! To write and say that I had made a mistake! He had not the
courage to get out of it when we were together; but when he had run
away in the night, like a thief, and got into his own house, then
he could write and say that I had made a mistake! I have sometimes
pitied men when I have seen girls hunting them down, but upon my word
they deserve it." This renewal of spirit did something to comfort
Lady Augustus. She had begun to fear that her daughter, in her
despair, would abandon altogether the one pursuit of her life;--but
it now seemed that there was still some courage left for the battle.

That night nothing more was said, but Arabella applied all her mind
to the present condition of her circumstances. Should she or should
she not go to the house in Piccadilly on the following morning? At
last she determined that she would not do so, believing that should
her father fail she might make a better opportunity for herself
afterwards. At her uncle's house she would hardly have known where or
how to wait for the proper moment of her appearance. "So you are not
going to Piccadilly," said her mother on the following morning.

"It appears not," said Arabella.



CHAPTER II.

"NOW WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO SAY?"


It may be a question whether Lord Augustus Trefoil or Lord Rufford
looked forward to the interview which was to take place at the Duke's
mansion with the greater dismay. The unfortunate father whose only
principle in life had been that of avoiding trouble would have rather
that his daughter should have been jilted a score of times than that
he should have been called upon to interfere once. There was in this
demand upon him a breach of a silent but well-understood compact. His
wife and daughter had been allowed to do just what they pleased and
to be free of his authority, upon an understanding that they were
never to give him any trouble. She might have married Lord Rufford,
or Mr. Morton, or any other man she might have succeeded in catching,
and he would not have troubled her either before or after her
marriage. But it was not fair that he should be called upon to
interfere in her failures. And what was he to say to this young lord?
Being fat and old and plethoric he could not be expected to use a
stick and thrash the young lord. Pistols were gone,--a remembrance
of which fact perhaps afforded some consolation. Nobody now need be
afraid of anybody, and the young lord would not be afraid of him.
Arabella declared that there had been an engagement. The young lord
would of course declare that there had been none. Upon the whole he
was inclined to believe it most probable that his daughter was lying.
He did not think it likely that Lord Rufford should have been such a
fool. As for taking Lord Rufford by the back of his neck and shaking
him into matrimony, he knew that that would be altogether out of
his power. And then the hour was so wretchedly early. It was that
little fool Mistletoe who had named ten o'clock,--a fellow who took
Parliamentary papers to bed with him, and had a blue book brought
to him every morning at half-past seven with a cup of tea. By ten
o'clock Lord Augustus would not have had time to take his first glass
of soda and brandy preparatory to the labour of getting into his
clothes. But he was afraid of his wife and daughter, and absolutely
did get into a cab at the door of his lodgings in Duke Street, St.
James', precisely at a quarter past ten. As the Duke's house was
close to the corner of Clarges Street the journey he had to make was
not long.

Lord Rufford would not have agreed to the interview but that it was
forced upon him by his brother-in-law. "What good can it do?" Lord
Rufford had asked. But his brother-in-law had held that that was a
question to be answered by the other side. In such a position Sir
George thought that he was bound to concede as much as this,--in fact
to concede almost anything short of marriage. "He can't do the girl
any good by talking," Lord Rufford had said. Sir George assented to
this, but nevertheless thought that any friend deputed by her should
be allowed to talk, at any rate once. "I don't know what he'll say.
Do you think he'll bring a big stick?" Sir George who knew Lord
Augustus did not imagine that a stick would be brought. "I couldn't
hit him, you know. He's so fat that a blow would kill him." Lord
Rufford wanted his brother-in-law to go with him;--but Sir George
assured him that this was impossible. It was a great bore. He had to
go up to London all alone,--in February, when the weather was quite
open and hunting was nearly coming to an end. And for what? Was it
likely that such a man as Lord Augustus should succeed in talking
him into marrying any girl? Nevertheless he went, prepared to be
very civil, full of sorrow at the misunderstanding, but strong in
his determination not to yield an inch. He arrived at the mansion
precisely at ten o'clock and was at once shown into a back room on
the ground floor. He saw no one but a very demure old servant who
seemed to look upon him as one who was sinning against the Trefoil
family in general, and who shut the door upon him, leaving him as it
were in prison. He was so accustomed to be the absolute master of his
own minutes and hours that he chafed greatly as he walked up and down
the room for what seemed to him the greater part of a day. He looked
repeatedly at his watch, and at half-past ten declared to himself
that if that fat old fool did not come within two minutes he would
make his escape.

"The fat old fool" when he reached the house asked for his nephew
and endeavoured to persuade Lord Mistletoe to go with him to the
interview. But Lord Mistletoe was as firm in refusing as had been
Sir George Penwether. "You are quite wrong," said the young man
with well-informed sententious gravity. "I could do nothing to help
you. You are Arabella's father and no one can plead her cause but
yourself." Lord Augustus dropped his eyebrows over his eyes as this
was said. They who knew him well and had seen the same thing done
when his partner would not answer his call at whist or had led up
to his discard were aware that the motion was tantamount to a very
strong expression of disgust. He did not, however, argue the matter
any further, but allowed himself to be led away slowly by the same
solemn servant. Lord Rufford had taken up his hat preparatory to his
departure when Lord Augustus was announced just five minutes after
the half hour.

When the elder man entered the room the younger one put down his hat
and bowed. Lord Augustus also bowed and then stood for a few moments
silent with his fat hands extended on the round table in the middle
of the room. "This is a very disagreeable kind of thing, my Lord," he
said.

"Very disagreeable, and one that I lament above all things," answered
Lord Rufford.

"That's all very well;--very well indeed;--but, damme, what's the
meaning of it all? That's what I want to ask. What's the meaning
of it all?" Then he paused as though he had completed the first
part of his business,--and might now wait awhile till the necessary
explanation had been given. But Lord Rufford did not seem disposed to
give any immediate answer. He shrugged his shoulders, and, taking up
his hat, passed his hand once or twice round the nap. Lord Augustus
opened his eyes very wide as he waited and looked at the other man;
but it seemed that the other man had nothing to say for himself. "You
don't mean to tell me, I suppose, that what my daughter says isn't
true."

"Some unfortunate mistake, Lord Augustus;--most unfortunate."

"Mistake be ----." He stopped himself before the sentence was
completed, remembering that such an interview should be conducted
on the part of him, as father, with something of dignity. "I don't
understand anything about mistakes. Ladies don't make mistakes of
that kind. I won't hear of mistakes." Lord Rufford again shrugged his
shoulders. "You have engaged my daughter's affections."

"I have the greatest regard for Miss Trefoil."

"Regard be ----." Then again he remembered himself. "Lord Rufford,
you've got to marry her. That's the long and the short of it."

"I'm sure I ought to be proud."

"So you ought."

"But--"

"I don't know the meaning of but, my Lord. I want to know what you
mean to do."

"Marriage isn't in my line at all."

"Then what the d---- business have you to go about and talk to a
girl like that? Marriage not in your line! Who cares for your line?
I never heard such impudence in all my life. You get yourself
engaged to a young lady of high rank and position and then you say
that--marriage isn't in your line." Upon that he opened his eyes
still wider, and glared upon the offender wrathfully.

"I can't admit that I was ever engaged to Miss Trefoil."

"Didn't you make love to her?"

The poor victim paused a moment before he answered this question,
thereby confessing his guilt before he denied it. "No, my Lord; I
don't think I ever did."

"You don't think! You don't know whether you asked my daughter to
marry you or not! You don't think you made love to her!"

"I am sure I didn't ask her to marry me."

"I am sure you did. And now what have you got to say?" Here there was
another shrug of the shoulders. "I suppose you think because you are
a rich man that you may do whatever you please. But you'll have to
learn the difference. You must be exposed, Sir."

"I hope for the lady's sake that as little as possible may be said of
it."

"D---- the ----!" Lord Augustus in his assumed wrath was about to be
very severe on his daughter, but he checked himself again. "I'm not
going to stop here talking all day," he said. "I want to hear your
explanation and then I shall know how to act." Up to this time he had
been standing, which was unusual with him. Now he flung himself into
an armchair.

"Really, Lord Augustus, I don't know what I've got to say. I admire
your daughter exceedingly. I was very much honoured when she and her
mother came to my house at Rufford. I was delighted to be able to
show her a little sport. It gave me the greatest satisfaction when
I met her again at your brother's house. Coming home from hunting we
happened to be thrown together. It's a kind of thing that will occur,
you know. The Duchess seemed to think a great deal of it; but what
can one do? We could have had two postchaises, of course,--only one
doesn't generally send a young lady alone. She was very tired and
fainted with the fatigue. That I think is about all."

"But,--damme, Sir, what did you say to her?" Lord Rufford again
rubbed the nap of his hat. "What did you say to her first of all, at
your own house?"

"A poor fellow was killed out hunting and everybody was talking about
that. Your daughter saw it herself."

"Excuse me, Lord Rufford, if I say that that's what we used to call
shuffling, at school. Because a man broke his neck out hunting--"

"It was a kick on the head, Lord Augustus."

"I don't care where he was kicked. What has that to do with your
asking my daughter to be your wife?"

"But I didn't."

"I say you did,--over and over again." Here Lord Augustus got out
of his chair, and made a little attempt to reach the recreant
lover;--but he failed and fell back again into his armchair. "It was
first at Rufford, and then you made an appointment to meet her at
Mistletoe. How do you explain that?"

"Miss Trefoil is very fond of hunting."

"I don't believe she ever went out hunting in her life before she saw
you. You mounted her,--and gave her a horse,--and took her out,--and
brought her home. Everybody at Mistletoe knew all about it. My
brother and the Duchess were told of it. It was one of those things
that are plain to everybody as the nose on your face. What did you
say to her when you were coming home in that postchaise?"

"She was fainting."

"What has that to do with it? I don't care whether she fainted or
not. I don't believe she fainted at all. When she got into that
carriage she was engaged to you, and when she got out of it she was
engaged ever so much more. The Duchess knew all about it. Now what
have you got to say?" Lord Rufford felt that he had nothing to say.
"I insist upon having an answer."

"It's one of the most unfortunate mistakes that ever were made."

"By G----!" exclaimed Lord Augustus, turning his eyes up against the
wall, and appealing to some dark ancestor who hung there. "I never
heard of such a thing in all my life; never!"

"I suppose I might as well go now," said Lord Rufford after a pause.

"You may go to the D----, Sir,--for the present." Then Lord Rufford
took his departure leaving the injured parent panting with his
exertions.

As Lord Rufford went away he felt that that difficulty had been
overcome with much more ease than he had expected. He hardly knew
what it was that he had dreaded, but he had feared something much
worse than that. Had an appeal been made to his affections he would
hardly have known how to answer. He remembered well that he had
assured the lady that he loved her, and had a direct question been
asked him on that subject he would not have lied. He must have
confessed that such a declaration had been made by him. But he had
escaped that. He was quite sure that he had never uttered a hint in
regard to marriage, and he came away from the Duke's house almost
with an assurance that he had done nothing that was worthy of much
blame.

Lord Augustus looked at his watch, rang the bell, and ordered a cab.
He must now go and see his daughter, and then he would have done with
the matter--for ever. But as he was passing through the hall his
nephew caught hold of him and took him back into the room. "What does
he say for himself?" asked Lord Mistletoe.

"I don't know what he says. Of course he swears that he never spoke a
word to her."

"My mother saw him paying her the closest attention."

"How can I help that? What can I do? Why didn't your mother pin
him then and there? Women can always do that kind of thing if they
choose."

"It is all over, then?"

"I can't make a man marry if he won't. He ought to be thrashed within
an inch of his life. But if one does that kind of thing the police
are down upon one. All the same, I think the Duchess might have
managed it if she had chosen." After that he went to the lodgings
in Orchard Street, and there repeated his story. "I have done all I
can," he said, "and I don't mean to interfere any further. Arabella
should know how to manage her own affairs."

"And you don't mean to punish him?" asked the mother.

"Punish him! How am I to punish him? If I were to throw a decanter at
his head, what good would that do?"

"And you mean to say that she must put up with it?" Arabella was
sitting by as these questions were asked.

"He says that he never said a word to her. Whom am I to believe?"

"You did believe him, papa?"

"Who said so, Miss? But I don't see why his word isn't as good as
yours. There was nobody to hear it, I suppose. Why didn't you get it
in writing, or make your uncle fix him at once? If you mismanage your
own affairs I can't put them right for you."

"Thank you, papa. I am so much obliged to you. You come back and tell
me that every word he says is to be taken for gospel, and that you
don't believe a word I have spoken. That is so kind of you! I suppose
he and you will be the best friends in the world now. But I don't
mean to let him off in that way. As you won't help me, I must help
myself."

"What did you expect me to do?"

"Never to leave him till you had forced him to keep his word. I
should have thought that you would have taken him by the throat in
such a cause. Any other father would have done so."

"You are an impudent, wicked girl, and I don't believe he was ever
engaged to you at all," said Lord Augustus as he took his leave.

"Now you have made your father your enemy," said the mother.

"Everybody is my enemy," said Arabella. "There are no such things as
love and friendship. Papa pretends that he does not believe me, just
because he wants to shirk the trouble. I suppose you'll say you don't
believe me next."



CHAPTER III.

MRS. MORTON RETURNS.


A few days after that on which Lady Augustus and her daughter left
Bragton old Mrs. Morton returned to that place. She had gone away
in very bitterness of spirit against her grandson in the early days
of his illness. For some period antecedent to that there had been
causes for quarrelling. John Morton had told her that he had been
to Reginald's house, and she, in her wrath, replied that he had
disgraced himself by doing so. When those harsh words had been
forgotten, or at any rate forgiven, other causes of anger had sprung
up. She had endeavoured to drive him to repudiate Arabella Trefoil,
and in order that she might do so effectually had contrived to find
out something of Arabella's doings at Rufford and at Mistletoe. Her
efforts in this direction had had an effect directly contrary to that
which she had intended. There had been moments in which Morton had
been willing enough to rid himself of that burden. He had felt the
lady's conduct in his own house, and had seen it at Rufford. He,
too, had heard something of Mistletoe. But the spirit within him
was aroused at the idea of dictation, and he had been prompted to
contradict the old woman's accusation against his intended bride, by
the very fact that they were made by her. And then she threatened
him. If he did these things,--if he would consort with an outcast
from the family such as Reginald Morton, and take to himself such
a bride as Arabella Trefoil, he could never more be to her as her
child. This of course was tantamount to saying that she would leave
her money to some one else,--money which, as he well knew, had all
been collected from the Bragton property. He had ever been to her as
her son, and yet he was aware of a propensity on her part to enrich
her own noble relatives with her hoards,--a desire from gratifying
which she had hitherto been restrained by conscience. Morton had been
anxious enough for his grandmother's money, but, even in the hope of
receiving it, would not bear indignity beyond a certain point. He had
therefore declared it to be his purpose to marry Arabella Trefoil,
and because he had so declared he had almost brought himself to
forgive that young lady's sins against him. Then, as his illness
became serious, there arose the question of disposing of the property
in the event of his death. Mrs. Morton was herself very old, and was
near her grave. She was apt to speak of herself as one who had but a
few days left to her in this world. But, to her, property was more
important than life or death;--and rank probably more important than
either. She was a brave, fierce, evil-minded, but conscientious old
woman,--one, we may say, with very bad lights indeed, but who was
steadfastly minded to walk by those lights, such as they were. She
did not scruple to tell her grandson that it was his duty to leave
the property away from his cousin Reginald, nor to allege as a reason
for his doing so that in all probability Reginald Morton was not the
legitimate heir of his great-grandfather, Sir Reginald. For such an
assertion John Morton knew there was not a shadow of ground. No one
but this old woman had ever suspected that the Canadian girl whom
Reginald's father had brought with him to Bragton had been other
than his honest wife;--and her suspicions had only come from vague
assertions, made by herself in blind anger till at last she had
learned to believe them. Then, when in addition to this, he asserted
his purpose of asking Arabella Trefoil to come to him at Bragton, the
cup of her wrath was overflowing, and she withdrew from the house
altogether. It might be that he was dying. She did in truth believe
that he was dying. But there were things more serious to her than
life or death. Should she allow him to trample upon all her feelings
because he was on his death-bed,--when perhaps in very truth he
might not be on his death-bed at all? She, at any rate, was near her
death,--and she would do her duty. So she packed up her things--to
the last black skirt of an old gown, so that every one at Bragton
might know that it was her purpose to come back no more. And she went
away.

Then Lady Ushant came to take her place, and with Lady Ushant came
Reginald Morton. The one lived in the house and the other visited
it daily. And, as the reader knows, Lady Augustus came with her
daughter. Mrs. Morton, though she had gone,--for ever,--took care to
know of the comings and goings at Bragton. Mrs. Hopkins was enjoined
to write to her and tell her everything; and though Mrs. Hopkins with
all her heart took the side of Lady Ushant and Reginald, she had
never been well inclined to Miss Trefoil. Presents too were given
and promises were made; and Mrs. Hopkins, not without some little
treachery, did from time to time send to the old lady a record of
what took place at Bragton. Arabella came and went, and Mrs. Hopkins
thought that her coming had not led to much. Lady Ushant was always
with Mr. John,--such was the account given by Mrs. Hopkins;--and the
general opinion was that the squire's days were numbered.

Then the old woman's jealousy was aroused, and, perhaps, her heart
was softened. It was still hard black winter, and she was living
alone in lodgings in London. The noble cousin, a man nearly as old as
herself whose children she was desirous to enrich, took but little
notice of her, nor would she have been happy had she lived with
him. Her life had been usually solitary,--with little breaks to its
loneliness occasioned by the visits to England of him whom she had
called her child. That this child should die before her, should die
in his youth, did not shock her much. Her husband had done so, and
her own son, and sundry of her noble brothers and sisters. She was
hardened against death. Life to her had never been joyous, though the
trappings of life were so great in her eyes. But it broke her heart
that her child should die in the arms of another old woman who had
always been to her as an enemy. Lady Ushant, in days now long gone by
but still remembered as though they were yesterday, had counselled
the reception of the Canadian female. And Lady Ushant, when the
Canadian female and her husband were dead, had been a mother to the
boy whom she, Mrs. Morton, would so fain have repudiated altogether.
Lady Ushant had always been "on the other side;" and now Lady Ushant
was paramount at Bragton.

And doubtless there was some tenderness, though Mrs. Morton was
unwilling to own even to herself that she was moved by any such
feeling. If she had done her duty in counselling him to reject both
Reginald Morton and Arabella Trefoil,--as to which she admitted
no doubt in her own mind;--and if duty had required her to absent
herself when her counsel was spurned, then would she be weak and
unmindful of duty should she allow any softness of heart to lure
her back again. It was so she reasoned. But still some softness was
there; and when she heard that Miss Trefoil had gone, and that her
visit had not, in Mrs. Hopkins's opinion, "led to much," she wrote
to say that she would return. She made no request and clothed her
suggestion in no words of tenderness; but simply told her grandson
that she would come back--as the Trefoils had left him.

And she did come. When the news were first told to Lady Ushant by the
sick man himself, that Lady proposed that she should at once go back
to Cheltenham. But when she was asked whether her animosity to Mrs.
Morton was so great that she could not consent to remain under the
same roof, she at once declared that she had no animosity whatsoever.
The idea of animosity running over nearly half a century was horrible
to her; and therefore, though she did in her heart of hearts dread
the other old woman, she consented to stay. "And what shall Reginald
do?" she asked. John Morton had thought about this too, and expressed
a wish that Reginald should come regularly,--as he had come during
the last week or two.

It was just a week from the day on which the Trefoils had gone that
Mrs. Morton was driven up to the door in Mr. Runciman's fly. This was
at four in the afternoon, and had the old woman looked out of the fly
window she might have seen Reginald making his way by the little path
to the bridge which led back to Dillsborough. It was at this hour
that he went daily, and he had not now thought it worth his while
to remain to welcome Mrs. Morton. And she might also have seen, had
she looked out, that with him was walking a young woman. She would
not have known Mary Masters; but had she seen them both, and had she
known the young woman, she would have declared in her pride that
they were fit associates. But she saw nothing of this, sitting there
behind her veil, thinking whether she might still do anything, and
if so, what she might do to avert the present evil destination of
the Bragton estate. There was an honourable nephew of her own,--or
rather a great-nephew,--who might easily take the name, who would so
willingly take the name! Or if this were impracticable, there was a
distant Morton, very distant, whom she had never seen and certainly
did not love, but who was clearly a Morton, and who would certainly
be preferable to that enemy of forty years' standing. Might there
not be some bargain made? Would not her dying grandson be alive to
the evident duty of enriching the property and leaving behind him a
wealthy heir? She could enrich the property and make the heir wealthy
by her money.

"How is he?" That of course was the first question when Mrs. Hopkins
met her in the hall. Mrs. Hopkins only shook her head and said that
perhaps he had taken his food that day a little better than on the
last. Then there was a whisper, to which Mrs. Hopkins whispered back
her answer. Yes,--Lady Ushant was in the house,--was at this moment
in the sick man's room. Mr. Reginald was not staying there,--had
never stayed there,--but came every day. He had only just left. "And
is he to come still?" asked Mrs. Morton with wrath in her eyes. Mrs.
Hopkins did not know but was disposed to think that Mr. Reginald
would come every day. Then Mrs. Morton went up to her own room,--and
while she prepared herself for her visit to the sick room Lady Ushant
retired. She had a cup of tea, refusing all other refreshment,
and then, walking erect as though she had been forty instead of
seventy-five, she entered her grandson's chamber and took her old
place at his bedside.

Nothing was then said about Arabella, nor, indeed, at any future time
was her name mentioned between them;--nor was anything then said
about the future fate of the estate. She did not dare to bring up the
subject at once, though, on the journey down from London, she had
determined that she would do so. But she was awed by his appearance
and by the increased appanages of his sick-bed. He spoke, indeed, of
the property, and expressed his anxiety that Chowton Farm should be
bought, if it came into market. He thought that the old acres should
be redeemed, if the opportunity arose,--and if the money could be
found. "Chowton Farm!" exclaimed the old woman, who remembered well
the agony which had attended the alienation of that portion of the
Morton lands.

"It may be that it will be sold."

"Lawrence Twentyman sell Chowton Farm! I thought he was well off."
Little as she had been at Bragton she knew all about Chowton
Farm,--except that its owner was so wounded by vain love as to be
like a hurt deer. Her grandson did not tell her all the story, but
explained to her that Lawrence Twentyman, though not poor, had other
plans of life and thought of leaving the neighbourhood. She, of
course, had the money; and as she believed that land was the one
proper possession for an English gentleman of ancient family, she
doubtless would have been willing to buy it had she approved of the
hands into which it would fall. It seemed to her that it was her duty
to do as much for the estate with which all her fortune had been
concerned. "Yes," she said; "it should be bought,--if other things
suited. We will talk of it to-morrow, John." Then he spoke of his
mission to Patagonia and of his regret that it should be abandoned.
Even were he ever to be well again his strength would return to him
too late for this purpose. He had already made known to the Foreign
Office his inability to undertake that service. But she could
perceive that he had not in truth abandoned his hopes of living, for
he spoke much of his ambition as to the public service. The more he
thought of it, he said, the more certain he became that it would suit
him better to go on with his profession than to live the life of a
country squire in England. And yet she could see the change which had
taken place since she was last there and was aware that he was fading
away from day to day.

It was not till they were summoned to dine together that she saw Lady
Ushant. Very many years had passed since last they were together, and
yet neither seemed to the other to be much changed. Lady Ushant was
still soft, retiring, and almost timid; whereas Mrs. Morton showed
her inclination to domineer even in the way in which she helped
herself to salt. While the servant was with them very little was said
on either side. There was a word or two from Mrs. Morton to show that
she considered herself the mistress there,--and a word from the other
lady proclaiming that she had no pretensions of that kind. But after
dinner in the little drawing-room they were more communicative.
Something of course was said as to the health of the invalid. Lady
Ushant was not the woman to give a pronounced opinion on such a
subject. She used doubtful, hesitating words, and would in one minute
almost contradict what she had said in the former. But Mrs. Morton
was clever enough to perceive that Lady Ushant was almost without
hope. Then she made a little speech with a fixed purpose. "It must be
a great trouble to you, Lady Ushant, to be so long away from home."

"Not at all," said Lady Ushant in perfect innocence. "I have nothing
to bind me anywhere."

"I shall think it my duty to remain here now,--till the end."

"I suppose so. He has always been almost the same to you as your
own."

"Quite so; quite the same. He is my own." And yet,--thought Lady
Ushant,--she left him in his illness! She, too, had heard something
from Mrs. Hopkins of the temper in which Mrs. Morton had last left
Bragton. "But you are not bound to him in that way."

"Not in that way certainly."

"In no way, I may say. It was very kind of you to come when business
made it imperative on me to go to town, but I do not think we can
call upon you for further sacrifice."

"It is no sacrifice, Mrs. Morton." Lady Ushant was as meek as a worm,
but a worm will turn. And, though innocent, she was quick enough to
perceive that at this, their first meeting, the other old woman was
endeavouring to turn her out of the house.

"I mean that it can hardly be necessary to call upon you to give up
your time."

"What has an old woman to do with her time, Mrs. Morton?"

Hitherto Mrs. Morton had smiled. The smile indeed had been grim, but
it had been intended to betoken outward civility. Now there came a
frown upon her brow which was more grim and by no means civil. "The
truth is that at such a time one who is almost a stranger--"

"I am no stranger," said Lady Ushant.

"You had not seen him since he was an infant."

"My name was Morton as is his, and my dear father was the owner of
this house. Your husband, Mrs. Morton, was his grandfather and my
brother. I will allow no one to tell me that I am a stranger at
Bragton. I have lived here many more years than you."

"A stranger to him, I meant. And now that he is ill--"

"I shall stay with him--till he desires me to go away. He asked
me to stay and that is quite enough." Then she got up and left
the room with more dignity,--as also she had spoken with more
earnestness,--than Mrs. Morton had given her credit for possessing.
After that the two ladies did not meet again till the next day.



CHAPTER IV.

THE TWO OLD LADIES.


On the next morning Mrs. Morton did not come down to breakfast,
but sat alone upstairs nursing her wrath. During the night she
had made up her mind to one or two things. She would never enter
her grandson's chambers when Lady Ushant was there. She would not
speak to Reginald Morton, and should he come into her presence
while she was at Bragton she would leave the room. She would do her
best to make the house, in common parlance, "too hot" to hold that
other woman. And she would make use of those words which John had
spoken concerning Chowton Farm as a peg on which she might hang her
discourse in reference to his will. If in doing all this she should
receive that dutiful assistance which she thought that he owed
her,--then she should stand by his bed-side, and be tender to him,
and nurse him to the last as a mother would nurse a child. But if, as
she feared, he were headstrong in disobeying, then she would remember
that her duty to her family, if done with a firm purpose, would have
lasting results, while his life might probably be an affair of a few
weeks,--or even days.

At about eleven Lady Ushant was with her patient when a message was
brought by Mrs. Hopkins. Mrs. Morton wished to see her grandson and
desired to know whether it would suit him that she should come now.
"Why not?" said the sick man, who was sitting up in his bed. Then
Lady Ushant collected her knitting and was about to depart. "Must
you go because she is coming?" Morton asked. Lady Ushant, shocked
at the necessity of explaining to him the ill feeling that existed,
said that perhaps it would be best. "Why should it be best?" Lady
Ushant shook her head, and smiled, and put her hand upon the
counterpane,--and retired. As she passed the door of her rival's room
she could see the black silk dress moving behind the partly open
door, and as she entered her own she heard Mrs. Morton's steps
upon the corridor. The place was already almost "too hot" for her.
Anything would be better than scenes like this in the house of a
dying man.

"Need my aunt have gone away?" he asked after the first greeting.

"I did not say so."

"She seemed to think that she was not to stay."

"Can I help what she thinks, John? Of course she feels that she is--"

"Is what?"

"An interloper--if I must say it."

"But I have sent for her, and I have begged her to stay."

"Of course she can stay if she wishes. But, dear John, there must be
much to be said between you and me which,--which cannot interest her;
or which, at least, she ought not to hear." He did not contradict
this in words, feeling himself to be too weak for contest; but
within his own mind he declared that it was not so. The things which
interested him now were as likely to interest his great-aunt as his
grandmother, and to be as fit for the ears of the one as for those of
the other.

An hour had passed after this during which she tended him, giving him
food and medicine, and he had slept before she ventured to allude to
the subject which was nearest to her heart. "John," she said at last,
"I have been thinking about Chowton Farm."

"Well."

"It certainly should be bought."

"If the man resolves on selling it."

"Of course; I mean that. How much would it be?" Then he mentioned the
sum which Twentyman had named, saying that he had inquired and had
been told that the price was reasonable. "It is a large sum of money,
John."

"There might be a mortgage for part of it."

"I don't like mortgages. The property would not be yours at all if
it were mortgaged, as soon as bought. You would pay 5 per cent. for
the money and only get 3 per cent. from the land." The old lady
understood all about it.

"I could pay it off in two years," said the sick man.

"There need be no paying off, and no mortgage, if I did it. I almost
believe I have got enough to do it." He knew very well that she
had much more than enough. "I think more of this property than of
anything in the world, my dear."

"Chowton Farm could be yours, you know."

"What should I do with Chowton Farm? I shall probably be in my grave
before the slow lawyer would have executed the deeds." And I in mine,
thought he to himself, before the present owner has quite made up his
mind to part with his land. "What would a little place like that do
for me? But in my father-in-law's time it was part of the Bragton
property. He sold it to pay the debts of a younger son, forgetting,
as I thought, what he owed to the estate;"--It had in truth been sold
on behalf of the husband of this old woman who was now complaining.
"And if it can be recovered it is our duty to get it back again. A
property like this should never be lessened. It is in that way that
the country is given over to shopkeepers and speculators and is made
to be like France or Italy. I quite think that Chowton Farm should be
bought. And though I might die before it was done, I would find the
money."

"I knew what your feeling would be."

"Yes, John. You could not but know it well. But--" Then she paused a
moment, looking into his face. "But I should wish to know what would
become of it--eventually."

"If it were yours you could do what you pleased with it."

"But it would be yours."

"Then it would go with the rest of the property."

"To whom would it go? We have all to die, my dear, and who can say
whom it may please the Almighty to take first?"

"In this house, ma'am, every one can give a shrewd guess. I know
my own condition. If I die without children of my own every acre I
possess will go to the proper heir. Thinking as you do, you ought to
agree with me in that."

"But who is the proper heir?"

"My cousin Reginald. Do not let us contest it, ma'am. As certainly as
I lie here he will have Bragton when I am gone."

"Will you not listen to me, John?"

"Not about that. How could I die in peace were I to rob him?"

"It is all your own,--to do as you like with."

"It is all my own, but not to do as I like with. With your feelings,
with your ideas, how can you urge me to such an injustice?"

"Do I want it for myself? I do not even want it for any one belonging
to me. There is your cousin Peter."

"If he were the heir he should have it,--though I know nothing of him
and believe him to be but a poor creature and very unfit to have the
custody of a family property."

"But he is his father's son."

"I will believe nothing of that," said the sick man raising himself
in his bed. "It is a slander;--it is based on no evidence whatsoever.
No one even thought of it but you."

"John, is that the way to speak to me?"

"It is the way to speak of an assertion so injurious." Then he fell
back again on his pillows and she sat by his bedside for a full half
hour speechless, thinking of it all. At the end of that time she had
resolved that she would not yet give it up. Should he regain his
health and strength,--and she would pray fervently night and day that
God would be so good to him,--then everything would be well. Then he
would marry and have children, and Bragton would descend in the right
line. But were it to be ordained otherwise,--should it be God's will
that he must die,--then, as he grew weaker, he would become more
plastic in her hands, and she might still prevail. At present he
was stubborn with the old stubbornness, and would not see with her
eyes. She would bide her time and be careful to have a lawyer ready.
She turned it all over in her mind, as she sat there watching him in
his sleep. She knew of no one but Mr. Masters whom she distrusted
as being connected with the other side of the family,--whose
father had made that will by which the property in Dillsborough had
been dissevered from Bragton. But Mr. Masters would probably obey
instructions if they were given to him definitely.

She thought of it all and then went down to lunch. She did not dare
to refuse altogether to meet the other woman lest such resolve on
her part might teach those in the house to think that Lady Ushant
was the mistress. She took her place at the head of the table and
interchanged a few words with her grandson's guest,--which of course
had reference to his health. Lady Ushant was very ill able to carry
on a battle of any sort and was willing to show her submission in
everything,--unless she were desired to leave the house. While they
were still sitting at table, Reginald Morton walked into the room.
It had been his habit to do so regularly for the last week. A daily
visitor does not wait to have himself announced. Reginald had
considered the matter and had determined that he would follow his
practice just as though Mrs. Morton were not there. If she were civil
to him then would he be very courteous to her. It had never occurred
to him to expect conduct such as that with which she greeted him. The
old woman got up and looked at him sternly. "My nephew, Reginald,"
said Lady Ushant, supposing that some introduction might be
necessary. Mrs. Morton gathered the folds of her dress together and
without a word stalked out of the room. And yet she believed,--she
could not but believe,--that her grandson was on his deathbed in the
room above!

"O Reginald, what are we to do?" said Lady Ushant.

"Is she like that to you?"

"She told me last night that I was a stranger, and that I ought to
leave the house."

"And what did you say?"

"I told her I should stay while he wished me to stay. But it is all
so terrible, that I think I had better go."

"I would not stir a step--on her account."

"But why should she be so bitter? I have done nothing to offend her.
It is more than half of even my long lifetime since I saw her. She is
nothing; but I have to think of his comfort. I suppose she is good
to him; and though he may bid me stay such scenes as this in the
house must be a trouble to him." Nevertheless Reginald was strong
in opinion that Lady Ushant ought not to allow herself to be driven
away, and declared his own purpose of coming daily as had of late
been his wont.

Soon after this Reginald was summoned to go upstairs and he again met
the angry woman in the passage, passing her of course without a word.
And then Mary came to see her friend, and she also encountered Mrs.
Morton, who was determined that no one should come into that house
without her knowledge. "Who is that young woman?" said Mrs. Morton to
the old housekeeper.

"That is Miss Masters, my Lady."

"And who is Miss Masters,--and why does she come here at such a time
as this?"

"She is the daughter of Attorney Masters, my Lady. It was she as was
brought up here by Lady Ushant."

"Oh,--that young person."

"She's come here generally of a day now to see her ladyship."

"And is she taken up to my grandson?"

"Oh dear, no, my Lady. She sits with Lady Ushant for an hour or so
and then goes back with Mr. Reginald."

"Oh--that is it, is it? The house is made use of for such purposes as
that!"

"I don't think there is any purposes, my Lady," said Mrs. Hopkins,
almost roused to indignation, although she was talking to the
acknowledged mistress of the house whom she always called "my lady."

Lady Ushant told the whole story to her young friend, bitterly
bewailing her position. "Reginald tells me not to go, but I do
not think that I can stand it. I should not mind the quarrel so
much,--only that he is so ill."

"She must be a very evil-minded person."

"She was always arrogant and always hard. I can remember her just the
same; but that was so many years ago. She left Bragton then because
she could not banish his mother from the house. But to bear it all in
her heart so long is not like a human being,--let alone a woman. What
did he say to you going home yesterday?"

"Nothing, Lady Ushant."

"Does he know that it will all be his if that poor young man should
die? He never speaks to me as if he thought of it."

"He would certainly not speak to me about it. I do not think he
thinks of it. He is not like that."

"Men do consider such things. And they are only cousins; and they
have never known each other! Oh, Mary!"

"What are you thinking of, Lady Ushant?"

"Men ought not to care for money or position, but they do. If he
comes here, all that I have will be yours."

"Oh, Lady Ushant!"

"It is not much but it will be enough."

"I do not want to hear about such things now."

"But you ought to be told. Ah, dear;--if it could be as I wish!" The
imprudent, weak-minded, loving old woman longed to hear a tale of
mutual love,--longed to do something which should cause such a tale
to be true on both sides. And yet she could not quite bring herself
to express her wish either to the man or to the woman.

Poor Mary almost understood it, but was not quite sure of her
friend's meaning. She was, however, quite sure that if such were the
wish of Lady Ushant's heart, Lady Ushant was wishing in vain. She had
twice walked back to Dillsborough with Reginald Morton, and he had
been more sedate, more middle-aged, less like a lover than ever. She
knew now that she might safely walk with him, being sure that he was
no more likely to talk of love than would have been old Dr. Nupper
had she accepted the offer which he had made her of a cast in his
gig. And now that Reginald would probably become Squire of Bragton
it was more impossible than ever. As Squire of Bragton he would seek
some highly born bride, quite out of her way, whom she could never
know. And then she would see neither him--nor Bragton any more. Would
it not have been better that she should have married Larry Twentyman
and put an end to so many troubles beside her own?

Again she walked back with him to Dillsborough, passing as they
always did across the little bridge. He seemed to be very silent as
he went, more so than usual,--and as was her wont with him she only
spoke to him when he addressed her. It was only when he got out on
the road that he told her what was on his mind. "Mary," he said, "how
will it be with me if that poor fellow dies?"

"In what way, Mr. Morton?"

"All that place will be mine. He told me so just now."

"But that would be of course."

"Not at all. He might give it to you if he pleased. He could not have
an heir who would care for it less. But it is right that it should
be so. Whether it would suit my taste or not to live as Squire of
Bragton,--and I do not think it would suit my taste well,--it ought
to be so. I am the next, and it will be my duty."

"I am sure you do not want him to die."

"No, indeed. If I could save him by my right hand,--if I could save
him by my life, I would do it."

"But of all lives it must surely be the best."

"Do you think so? What is such a one likely to do? But then what do I
do, as it is? It is the sort of life you would like,--if you were a
man."

"Yes,--if I were a man," said Mary. Then he again relapsed into
silence and hardly spoke again till he left her at her father's door.



CHAPTER V.

THE LAST EFFORT.


When Mary reached her home she was at once met by her stepmother
in the passage with tidings of importance. "He is up-stairs in
the drawing-room," said Mrs. Masters. Mary whose mind was laden
with thoughts of Reginald Morton asked who was the he. "Lawrence
Twentyman," said Mrs. Masters. "And now, my dear, do, do think of it
before you go to him." There was no anger now in her stepmother's
face,--but entreaty and almost love. She had not called Mary "my
dear" for many weeks past,--not since that journey to Cheltenham. Now
she grasped the girl's hand as she went on with her prayer. "He is
so good and so true! And what better can there be for you? With your
advantages, and Lady Ushant, and all that, you would be quite the
lady at Chowton. Think of your father and sisters;--what a good you
could do them! And think of the respect they all have for him, dining
with Lord Rufford the other day and all the other gentlemen. It isn't
only that he has got plenty to live on, but he knows how to keep it
as a man ought. He's sure to hold up his head and be as good a squire
as any of 'em." This was a very different tale;--a note altogether
changed! It must not be said that the difference of the tale and
the change of the note affected Mary's heart; but her stepmother's
manner to her did soften her. And then why should she regard herself
or her own feelings? Like others she had thought much of her own
happiness, had made herself the centre of her own circle, had, in her
imagination, built castles in the air and filled them according to
her fancy. But her fancies had been all shattered into fragments;
not a stone of her castles was standing; she had told herself
unconsciously that there was no longer a circle and no need for a
centre. That last half-hour which she had passed with Reginald Morton
on the road home had made quite sure that which had been sure enough
before. He was now altogether out of her reach, thinking only of the
new duties which were coming to him. She would never walk with him
again; never put herself in the way of indulging some fragment of an
illusory hope. She was nothing now,--nothing even to herself. Why
should she not give herself and her services to this young man if the
young man chose to take her as she was? It would be well that she
should do something in the world. Why should she not look after his
house, and mend his shirts, and reign over his poultry yard? In this
way she would be useful, and respected by all,--unless perhaps by the
man she loved. "Mary, say that you will think of it once more,"
pleaded Mrs. Masters.

"I may go up-stairs,--to my own room?"

"Certainly; do;--go up and smooth your hair. I will tell him that
you are coming to him. He will wait. But he is so much in earnest
now,--and so sad,--that I know he will not come again."

Then Mary went up-stairs, determined to think of it. She began
at once, woman-like, to smooth her hair as her stepmother had
recommended, and to remove the dust of the road from her face and
dress. But not the less was she thinking of it the while. Could she
do it, how much pain would be spared even to herself! How much that
was now bitter as gall in her mouth would become,--not sweet,--but
tasteless. There are times in one's life in which the absence of all
savour seems to be sufficient for life in this world. Were she to do
this thing she thought that she would have strength to banish that
other man from her mind,--and at last from her heart. He would be
there, close to her, but of a different kind and leading a different
life. Mrs. Masters had told her that Larry would be as good a
squire as the best of them; but it should be her care to keep him
and herself in their proper position, to teach him the vanity of
such aspirations. And the real squire opposite, who would despise
her,--for had he not told her that she would be despicable if she
married this man,--would not trouble her then. They might meet on the
roads, and there would be a cold question or two as to each other's
welfare, and a vain shaking of hands,--but they would know nothing
and care for nothing as to each other's thoughts. And there would
come some stately dame who hearing how things had been many years
ago, would perhaps--. But no;--the stately dame should be received
with courtesy, but there should be no patronising. Even in these few
minutes up-stairs she thought much of the stately dame and was quite
sure that she would endure no patronage from Bragton.

She almost thought that she could do it. There were hideous ideas
afflicting her soul dreadfully, but which she strove to banish. Of
course she could not love him,--not at first. But all those who
wished her to marry him, including himself, knew that;--and still
they wished her to marry him. How could that be disgraceful which all
her friends desired? Her father, to whom she was, as she knew well,
the very apple of his eye, wished her to marry this man;--and yet her
father knew that her heart was elsewhere. Had not women done it by
hundreds, by thousands, and had afterwards performed their duties
well as mothers and wives. In other countries, as she had read, girls
took the husbands found for them by their parents as a matter of
course. As she left the room, and slowly crept down-stairs, she
almost thought she would do it. She almost thought;--but yet, when
her hand was on the lock, she could not bring herself to say that it
should be so.

He was not dressed as usual. In the first place, there was a round
hat on the table, such as men wear in cities. She had never before
seen such a hat with him except on a Sunday. And he wore a black
cloth coat, and dark brown pantaloons, and a black silk handkerchief.
She observed it all, and thought that he had not changed for
the better. As she looked into his face, it seemed to her more
common,--meaner than before. No doubt he was good-looking,--but his
good-looks were almost repulsive to her. He had altogether lost his
little swagger;--but he had borne that little swagger well, and in
her presence it had never been offensive. Now he seemed as though
he had thrown aside all the old habits of his life, and was pining
to death from the loss of them. "Mary," he said, "I have come to
you,--for the last time. I thought I would give myself one more
chance, and your father told me that I might have it." He paused, as
though expecting an answer. But she had not yet quite made up her
mind. Had she known her mind, she would have answered him frankly.
She was quite resolved as to that. If she could once bring herself to
give him her hand, she would not coy it for a moment. "I will be your
wife, Larry." That was the form on which she had determined, should
she find herself able to yield. But she had not brought herself to
it as yet. "If you can take me, Mary, you will,--well,--save me from
lifelong misery, and make the man who loves you the best-contented
and the happiest man in England."

"But, Larry, I do not love you."

"I will make you love me. Good usage will make a wife love her
husband. Don't you think you can trust me?"

"I do believe that I can trust you for everything good."

"Is that nothing?"

"It is a great deal, Larry, but not enough;--not enough to bring
together a man and woman as husband and wife. I would sooner marry a
man I loved, though I knew he would ill-use me."

"Would you?"

"To marry either would be wrong."

"I sometimes think, dearest, that if I could talk better I should be
better able to persuade you."

"I sometimes think you talk so well that I ought to be
persuaded;--but I can't. It is not lack of talking."

"What is it, then?"

"Just this;--my heart does not turn itself that way. It is the same
chance that has made you--partial to me."

"Partial! Why, I love the very air you breathe. When I am near you,
everything smells sweet. There isn't anything that belongs to you but
I think I should know it, though I found it a hundred miles away. To
have you in the room with me would be like heaven,--if I only knew
that you were thinking kindly of me."

"I always think kindly of you, Larry."

"Then say that you will be my wife." She paused, and became red up to
the roots of her hair. She seated herself on a chair, and then rose
again,--and again sat down. The struggle was going on within her, and
he perceived something of the truth. "Say the word once, Mary;--say
it but once." And as he prayed to her he came forward and went down
upon his knees.

"I cannot do it," she replied at last, speaking very hoarsely, not
looking at him, not even addressing herself to him.

"Mary!"

"Larry, I cannot do it. I have tried, but I cannot do it. O Larry,
dear Larry, do not ask me again. Larry, I have no heart to give.
Another man has it all."

"Is it so?" She bowed her head in token of assent. "Is it that young
parson?" exclaimed Larry, in anger.

"It is not. But, Larry, you must ask no questions now. I have told
you my secret that all this might be set at rest. But if you are
generous, as I know you are, you will keep my secret, and will ask no
questions. And, Larry, if you are unhappy, so am I. If your heart is
sore, so is mine. He knows nothing of my love, and cares nothing for
me."

"Then throw him aside."

She smiled and shook her head. "Do you think I would not if I could?
Why do you not throw me aside?"

"Oh, Mary!"

"Cannot I love as well as you? You are a man, and have the liberty to
speak of it. Though I cannot return it, I can be proud of your love
and feel grateful to you. I cannot tell mine. I cannot think of it
without blushing. But I can feel it, and know it, and be as sure that
it has trodden me down and got the better of me as you can. But you
can go out into the world and teach yourself to forget."

"I must go away from here then."

"You have your business and your pleasures, your horses and your
fields and your friends. I have nothing,--but to remain here and know
that I have disobliged all those that love me. Do you think, Larry, I
would not go and be your wife if I could? I have told you all, Larry,
and now do not ask me again."

"Is it so?"

"Yes;--it is so."

"Then I shall cut it all. I shall sell Chowton and go away. You tell
me I have my horses and my pleasures! What pleasures? I know nothing
of my horses,--not whether they are lame or sound. I could not tell
you of one of them whether he is fit to go to-morrow. Business! The
place may farm itself for me, for I can't stay there. Everything
sickens me to look at it. Pleasures indeed!"

"Is that manly, Larry?"

"How can a man be manly when the manliness is knocked out of him?
A man's courage lies in his heart;--but if his heart is broken
where will his courage be then? I couldn't hold my head up here any
more,--and I shall go."

"You must not do that," she said, getting up and laying hold of his
arm.

"But I must do it."

"For my sake you must stay here, Larry;--so that I may not have to
think that I have injured you so deeply. Larry, though I cannot be
your wife I think I could die of sorrow if you were always unhappy.
What is a poor girl that you should grieve for her in that way? I
think if I were a man I would master my love better than that." He
shook his head and faintly strove to drag his arm from out of her
grasp. "Promise me that you will take a year to think of it before
you go."

"Will you take a year to think of me?" said he, rising again to
sudden hope.

"No, Larry, no. I should deceive you were I to say so. I deceived
you before when I put it off for two months. But you can promise me
without deceit. For my sake, Larry?" And she almost embraced him as
she begged for his promise. "I know you would wish to spare me pain.
Think what will be my sufferings if I hear that you have really gone
from Chowton. You will promise me, Larry?"

"Promise what?"

"That the farm shall not be sold for twelve months."

"Oh yes;--I'll promise. I don't care for the farm."

"And stay there if you can. Don't leave the place to strangers. And
go about your business,--and hunt,--and be a man. I shall always
be thinking of what you do. I shall always watch you. I shall
always love you,--always,--always,--always. I always have loved
you;--because you are so good. But it is a different love. And now,
Larry, good-bye." So saying, she raised her face to look into his
eyes. Then he suddenly put his arm round her waist, kissed her
forehead, and left the room without another word.

Mrs. Masters saw him as he went, and must have known from his
gait what was the nature of the answer he had received. But yet
she went quickly upstairs to inquire. The matter was one of too
much consequence for a mere inference. Mary had gone from the
sitting-room, but her stepmother followed her upstairs to her
bed-chamber. "Mamma," she said, "I couldn't do it;--I couldn't do
it. I did try. Pray do not scold me. I did try, but I could not
do it." Then she threw herself into the arms of the unsympathetic
woman,--who, however, was now somewhat less unsympathetic than she
had hitherto been.

Mrs. Masters did not understand it at all; but she did perceive that
there was something which she did not understand. What did the girl
mean by saying that she had tried and could not do it? Try to do
it! If she tried why could she not tell the man that she would have
him? There was surely some shamefacedness in this, some overstrained
modesty which she, Mrs. Masters, could not comprehend. How could she
have tried to accept a man who was so anxious to marry her, and have
failed in the effort? "Scolding I suppose will be no good now," she
said.

"Oh no!"

"But--. Well; I suppose we must put up with it. Everything on earth
that a girl could possibly wish for! He was that in love that it's my
belief he'd have settled it all on you if you'd only asked him."

"Let it go, mamma."

"Let it go! It's gone I suppose. Well;--I ain't going to say any more
about it. But as for not sorrowing, how is a woman not to sorrow when
so much has been lost? It's your poor father I'm thinking of, Mary."
This was so much better than she had expected that poor Mary almost
felt that her heart was lightened.



CHAPTER VI.

AGAIN AT MISTLETOE.


The reader will have been aware that Arabella Trefoil was not a
favourite at Mistletoe. She was so much disliked by the Duchess that
there had almost been words about her between her Grace and the Duke
since her departure. The Duchess always submitted, and it was the
rule of her life to submit with so good a grace that her husband,
never fearing rebellion, should never be driven to assume the tyrant.
But on this occasion the Duke had objected to the term "thoroughly
bad girl" which had been applied by his wife to his niece. He had
said that "thoroughly bad girl" was strong language, and when the
Duchess defended the phrase he had expressed his opinion that
Arabella was only a bad girl and not a thoroughly bad girl. The
Duchess had said that it was the same thing. "Then," said the Duke,
"why use a redundant expletive against your own relative?" The
Duchess, when she was accused of strong language, had not minded
it much; but her feelings were hurt when a redundant expletive was
attributed to her. The effect of all this had been that the Duke
in a mild way had taken up Arabella's part, and that the Duchess,
following her husband at last, had been brought round to own that
Arabella, though bad, had been badly treated. She had disbelieved,
and then believed, and had again disbelieved Arabella's own statement
as to the offer of marriage. But the girl had certainly been in
earnest when she had begged her aunt to ask her uncle to speak to
Lord Rufford. Surely when she did she must have thought that an offer
had been made to her. Such offer, if made, had no doubt been produced
by very hard pressure;--but still an offer of marriage is an offer,
and a girl, if she can obtain it, has a right to use such an offer as
so much property. Then came Lord Mistletoe's report after his meeting
with Arabella up in London. He had been unable to give his cousin
any satisfaction, but he was clearly of opinion that she had been
ill-used. He did not venture to suggest any steps, but did think that
Lord Rufford was bound as a gentleman to marry the young lady. After
that Lord Augustus saw her mother up in town and said that it was a
d---- shame. He in truth had believed nothing and would have been
delighted to allow the matter to drop. But as this was not permitted,
he thought it easier to take his daughter's part than to encounter
family enmity by entering the lists against her. So it came to pass
that down at Mistletoe there grew an opinion that Lord Rufford ought
to marry Arabella Trefoil.

But what should be done? The Duke was alive to the feeling that as
the girl was certainly his niece and as she was not to be regarded
as a thoroughly bad girl, some assistance was due to her from the
family. Lord Mistletoe volunteered to write to Lord Rufford; Lord
Augustus thought that his brother should have a personal interview
with his young brother peer and bring his strawberry leaves to
bear. The Duke himself suggested that the Duchess should see Lady
Penwether,--a scheme to which her Grace objected strongly, knowing
something of Lady Penwether and being sure that her strawberry leaves
would have no effect whatever on the baronet's wife. At last it was
decided that a family meeting should be held, and Lord Augustus was
absolutely summoned to meet Lord Mistletoe at the paternal mansion.

It was now some years since Lord Augustus had been at Mistletoe. As
he had never been separated,--that is formally separated,--from his
wife he and she had been always invited there together. Year after
year she had accepted the invitation,--and it had been declined on
his behalf, because it did not suit him and his wife to meet each
other. But now he was obliged to go there,--just at the time of
the year when whist at his club was most attractive. To meet the
convenience of Lord Mistletoe,--and the House of Commons--a Saturday
afternoon was named for the conference, which made it worse for Lord
Augustus as he was one of a little party which had private gatherings
for whist on Sunday afternoons. But he went to the conference,
travelling down by the same train with his nephew; but not in the
same compartment, as he solaced with tobacco the time which Lord
Mistletoe devoted to parliamentary erudition.

The four met in her Grace's boudoir, and the Duke began by declaring
that all this was very sad. Lord Augustus shook his head and put his
hands in his trousers pockets,--which was as much as to say that his
feelings as a British parent were almost too strong for him. "Your
mother and I think, that something ought to be done," said the Duke
turning to his son.

"Something ought to be done," said Lord Mistletoe.

"They won't let a fellow go out with a fellow now," said Lord
Augustus.

"Heaven forbid!" said the Duchess, raising both her hands.

"I was thinking, Mistletoe, that your mother might have met Lady
Penwether."

"What could I do with Lady Penwether, Duke? Or what could she do with
him? A man won't care for what his sister says to him. And I don't
suppose she'd undertake to speak to Lord Rufford on the subject."

"Lady Penwether is an honourable and an accomplished woman."

"I dare say;--though she gives herself abominable airs."

"Of course, if you don't like it, my dear, it shan't be pressed."

"I thought, perhaps, you'd see him yourself," said Lord Augustus,
turning to his brother. "You'd carry more weight than anybody."

"Of course I will if it be necessary; but it would be
disagreeable,--very disagreeable. The appeal should be made to
his feelings, and that I think would better come through female
influence. As far as I know the world a man is always more prone to
be led in such matters by a woman than by another man."

"If you mean me," said the Duchess, "I don't think I could see him.
Of course, Augustus, I don't wish to say anything hard of Arabella.
The fact that we have all met here to take her part will prove that,
I think. But I didn't quite approve of all that was done here."

Lord Augustus stroked his beard and looked out of the window. "I
don't think, my dear, we need go into that just now," said the Duke.

"Not at all," said the Duchess, "and I don't intend to say a word.
Only if I were to meet Lord Rufford he might refer to things
which,--which,--which--. In point of fact I had rather not."

"I might see him," suggested Lord Mistletoe.

"No doubt that might be done with advantage," said the Duke.

"Only that, as he is my senior in age, what I might say to him would
lack that weight which any observations which might be made on such a
matter should carry with them."

"He didn't care a straw for me," said Lord Augustus.

"And then," continued Lord Mistletoe, "I so completely agree with
what my father says as to the advantage of female influence! With a
man of Lord Rufford's temperament female influence is everything. If
my aunt were to try it?" Lord Augustus blew the breath out of his
mouth and raised his eyebrows. Knowing what he did of his wife, or
thinking that he knew what he did, he did not conceive it possible
that a worse messenger should be chosen. He had known himself to be a
very bad one, but he did honestly believe her to be even less fitted
for the task than he himself. But he said nothing,--simply wishing
that he had not left his whist for such a purpose as this.

"Perhaps Lady Augustus had better see him," said the Duke. The
Duchess, who did not love hypocrisy, would not actually assent to
this, but she said nothing. "I suppose my sister-in-law would not
object, Augustus?"

"G---- Almighty only knows," said the younger brother. The Duchess,
grievously offended by the impropriety of this language, drew herself
up haughtily.

"Perhaps you would not mind suggesting it to her, sir," said Lord
Mistletoe.

"I could do that by letter," said the Duke.

"And when she has assented, as of course she will, then perhaps you
wouldn't mind writing a line to him to make an appointment. If you
were to do so he could not refuse." To this proposition the Duke
returned no immediate answer; but looked at it round and round
carefully. At last, however, he acceded to this also, and so the
matter was arranged. All these influential members of the ducal
family met together at the ducal mansion on Arabella's behalf,
and settled their difficulty by deputing the work of bearding the
lion, of tying the bell on the cat, to an absent lady whom they all
despised and disliked.

That afternoon the Duke, with the assistance of his son, who was a
great writer of letters, prepared an epistle to his sister-in-law and
another to Lord Rufford, which was to be sent as soon as Lady Augusta
had agreed to the arrangement. In the former letter a good deal was
said as to a mother's solicitude for her daughter. It had been felt,
the letter said, that no one could speak for a daughter so well as a
mother;--that no other's words would so surely reach the heart of a
man who was not all evil but who was tempted by the surroundings of
the world to do evil in this particular case. The letter began "My
dear sister-in-law," and ended "Your affectionate brother-in-law,
Mayfair," and was in fact the first letter that the Duke had ever
written to his brother's wife. The other letter was more difficult,
but it was accomplished at last, and confined itself to a request
that Lord Rufford would meet Lady Augustus Trefoil at a place and at
a time, both of which were for the present left blank.

On the Monday Lord Augustus and Lord Mistletoe were driven to the
station in the same carriage, and on this occasion the uncle said a
few strong words to his nephew on the subject. Lord Augustus, though
perhaps a coward in the presence of his brother, was not so with
other members of the family. "It may be very well you know, but it's
all d---- nonsense."

"I'm sorry that you should think so, uncle."

"What do you suppose her mother can do?--a thoroughly vulgar woman.
I never could live with her. As far as I can see wherever she goes
everybody hates her."

"My dear uncle!"

"Rufford will only laugh at her. If Mayfair would have gone himself,
it is just possible that he might have done something."

"My father is so unwilling to mix himself up in these things."

"Of course he is. Everybody knows that. What the deuce was the good
then of our going down there? I couldn't do anything, and I knew
he wouldn't. The truth is, Mistletoe, a man now-a-days may do just
what he pleases. You ain't in that line and it won't do you any good
knowing it, but since we did away with pistols everybody may do just
what he likes."

"I don't like brute force," said Lord Mistletoe.

"You may call it what you please:--but I don't know that it was so
brutal after all." At the station they separated again, as Lord
Augustus was panting for tobacco and Lord Mistletoe for parliamentary
erudition.



CHAPTER VII.

THE SUCCESS OF LADY AUGUSTUS.


Lady Augustus was still staying with the Connop Greens in Hampshire
when she received the Duke's letter and Arabella was with her. The
story of Lord Rufford's infidelity had been told to Mrs. Connop
Green,--and, of course through her to Mr. Connop Green. Both the
mother and daughter affected to despise the Connop Greens;--but it is
so hard to restrain oneself from confidences when difficulties arise!
Arabella had by this time quite persuaded herself that there had been
an absolute engagement, and did in truth believe that she had been
most cruelly ill-used. She was headstrong, fickle, and beyond measure
insolent to her mother. She had, as we know, at one time gone down
to the house of her former lover, thereby indicating that she had
abandoned all hope of catching Lord Rufford. But still the Connop
Greens either felt or pretended to feel great sympathy with her, and
she would still declare from time to time that Lord Rufford had not
heard the last of her. It was now more than a month since she had
seen that perjured lord at Mistletoe, and more than a week since her
father had brought him so uselessly up to London. Though determined
that Lord Rufford should hear more of her, she hardly knew how
to go to work, and on these days spent most of her time in idle
denunciations of her false lover. Then came her uncle's letter, which
was of course shown to her.

She was quite of opinion that they must do as the Duke directed. It
was so great a thing to have the Duke interesting himself in the
matter, that she would have assented to anything proposed by him.
The suggestion even inspired some temporary respect, or at any rate
observance, towards her mother. Hitherto her mother had been nobody
to her in the matter, a person belonging to her whom she had to
regard simply as a burden. She could not at all understand how the
Duke had been guided in making such a choice of a new emissary;--but
there it was under his own hand, and she must now in some measure
submit herself to her mother unless she were prepared to repudiate
altogether the Duke's assistance. As to Lady Augustus herself, the
suggestion gave to her quite a new life. She had no clear conception
what she should say to Lord Rufford if the meeting were arranged,
but it was gratifying to her to find herself brought back into
authority over her daughter. She read the Duke's letter to Mrs.
Connop Green, with certain very slight additions,--or innuendos as to
additions,--and was pleased to find that the letter was taken by Mrs.
Connop Green as positive proof of the existence of the engagement.
She wrote begging the Duke to allow her to have the meeting at the
family house in Piccadilly, and to this prayer the Duke was obliged
to assent. "It would," she said, "give her so much assistance in
speaking to Lord Rufford!" She named a day also, and then spent her
time in preparing herself for the interview by counsel with Mrs.
Green and by exacting explanations from her daughter.

This was a very bad time for Arabella,--so bad, that had she known to
what she would be driven, she would probably have repudiated the Duke
and her mother altogether. "Now, my dear," she began, "you must tell
me everything that occurred first at Rufford, and then at Mistletoe."

"You know very well what occurred, mamma."

"I know nothing about it, and unless everything is told me I will
not undertake this mission. Your uncle evidently thinks that by my
interference the thing may be arranged. I have had the same idea all
through myself, but as you have been so obstinate I have not liked to
say so. Now, Arabella, begin from the beginning. When was it that he
first suggested to you the idea of marriage?"

"Good heavens, mamma!"

"I must have it from the beginning to the end. Did he speak of
marriage at Rufford? I suppose he did because you told me that you
were engaged to him when you went to Mistletoe."

"So I was."

"What had he said?"

"What nonsense! How am I to remember what he said? As if a girl ever
knows what a man says to her."

"Did he kiss you?"

"Yes."

"At Rufford?"

"I cannot stand this, mamma. If you like to go you may go. My uncle
seems to think it is the best thing, and so I suppose it ought to be
done. But I won't answer such questions as you are asking for Lord
Rufford and all that he possesses."

"What am I to say then? How am I to call back to his recollection the
fact that he committed himself, unless you will tell me how and when
he did so?"

"Ask him if he did not assure me of his love when we were in the
carriage together."

"What carriage?"

"Coming home from hunting."

"Was that at Mistletoe or Rufford?"

"At Mistletoe, mamma," replied Arabella, stamping her foot.

"But you must let me know how it was that you became engaged to him
at Rufford."

"Mamma, you mean to drive me mad," exclaimed Arabella as she bounced
out of the room.

There was very much more of this, till at last Arabella found herself
compelled to invent facts. Lord Rufford, she said, had assured her
of his everlasting affection in the little room at Rufford, and had
absolutely asked her to be his wife coming home in the carriage with
her to Stamford. She told herself that though this was not strictly
true, it was as good as true,--as that which was actually done and
said by Lord Rufford on those occasions could have had no other
meaning. But before her mother had completed her investigation,
Arabella had become so sick of the matter that she shut herself up in
her room and declared that nothing on earth should induce her to open
her mouth on the subject again.

When Lord Rufford received the letter he was aghast with new disgust.
He had begun to flatter himself that his interview with Lord Augustus
would be the end of the affair. Looking at it by degrees with
coolness he had allowed himself to think that nothing very terrible
could be done to him. Some few people, particularly interested in
the Mistletoe family, might give him a cold shoulder, or perhaps cut
him directly; but such people would not belong to his own peculiar
circle, and the annoyance would not be great. But if all the family,
one after another, were to demand interviews with him up in London,
he did not see when the end of it would be. There would be the Duke
himself, and the Duchess, and Mistletoe. And the affair would in this
way become gossip for the whole town. He was almost minded to write
to the Duke saying that such an interview could do no good; but at
last he thought it best to submit the matter to his mentor, Sir
George Penwether. Sir George was clearly of opinion that it was Lord
Rufford's duty to see Lady Augustus. "Yes, you must have interviews
with all of them, if they ask it," said Sir George. "You must show
that you are not afraid to hear what her friends have got to say.
When a man gets wrong he can't put himself right without some little
annoyance."

"Since the world began," said Lord Rufford, "I don't think that there
was ever a man born so well adapted for preaching sermons as you
are." Nevertheless he did as he was bid, and consented to meet Lady
Augustus in Piccadilly on the day named by her. On that very day
the hounds met at Impington and Lord Rufford began to feel his
punishment. He assented to the proposal made and went up to London,
leaving the members of the U. R. U. to have the run of the season
from the Impington coverts.

When Lady Augustus was sitting in the back room of the mansion
waiting for Lord Rufford she was very much puzzled to think what she
would say to him when he came. With all her investigation she had
received no clear idea of the circumstances as they occurred. That
her daughter had told her a fib in saying that she was engaged when
she went to Mistletoe, she was all but certain. That something had
occurred in the carriage which might be taken for an offer she
thought possible. She therefore determined to harp upon the carriage
as much as possible and to say as little as might be as to the doings
at Rufford. Then as she was trying to arrange her countenance and her
dress and her voice, so that they might tell on his feelings, Lord
Rufford was announced. "Lady Augustus," said he at once, beginning
the lesson which he had taught himself, "I hope I see you quite well.
I have come here because you have asked me, but I really don't know
that I have anything to say."

"Lord Rufford, you must hear me."

"Oh yes; I will hear you certainly, only this kind of thing is so
painful to all parties, and I don't see the use of it."

"Are you aware that you have plunged me and my daughter into a state
of misery too deep to be fathomed?"

"I should be sorry to think that."

"How can it be otherwise? When you assure a girl in her position in
life that you love her--a lady whose rank is quite as high as your
own--"

"Quite so,--quite so."

"And when in return for that assurance you have received vows of love
from her,--what is she to think, and what are her friends to think?"
Lord Rufford had always kept in his mind a clear remembrance of the
transaction in the carriage, and was well aware that the young lady's
mother had inverted the circumstances, or, as he expressed it to
himself, had put the cart before the horse. He had assured the young
lady that he loved her, and he had also been assured of her love;
but her assurance had come first. He felt that this made all the
difference in the world; so much difference that no one cognisant in
such matters would hold that his assurance, obtained after such a
fashion, meant anything at all. But how was he to explain this to the
lady's mother? "You will admit that such assurances were given?"
continued Lady Augustus.

"Upon my word I don't know. There was a little foolish talk, but it
meant nothing."

"My lord!"

"What am I to say? I don't want to give offence, and I am heartily
sorry that you and your daughter should be under any misapprehension.
But as I sit here there was no engagement between us;--nor, if I must
speak out, Lady Augustus, could your daughter have thought that there
was an engagement."

"Did you not--embrace her?"

"I did. That's the truth."

"And after that you mean to say--"

"After that I mean to say that nothing more was intended." There was
a certain meanness of appearance about the mother which emboldened
him.

"What a declaration to make to the mother of a young lady, and that
young lady the niece of the Duke of Mayfair!"

"It's not the first time such a thing has been done, Lady Augustus."

"I know nothing about that,--nothing. I don't know whom you may have
lived with. It never was done to her before."

"If I understand right she was engaged to marry Mr. Morton when she
came to Rufford."

"It was all at an end before that."

"At any rate you both came from his house."

"Where he had been staying with Mrs. Morton."

"And where she has been since,--without Mrs. Morton."

"Lady Ushant was there, Lord Rufford."

"But she has been staying at the house of this gentleman to whom you
admit that she was engaged a short time before she came to us."

"He is on his death-bed, and he thought that he had behaved badly to
her. She did go to Bragton the other day, at his request,--merely
that she might say that she forgave him."

"I only hope that she will forgive me too. There is really nothing
else to be said. If there were anything I could do to atone to her
for this--trouble."

"If you only could know the brightness of the hopes you have
shattered,--and the purity of that girl's affection for yourself!"

It was then that an idea--a low-minded idea occurred to Lord Rufford.
While all this was going on he had of course made various inquiries
about this branch of the Trefoil family and had learned that Arabella
was altogether portionless. He was told too that Lady Augustus was
much harassed by impecuniosity. Might it be possible to offer a
recompense? "If I could do anything else, Lady Augustus;--but really
I am not a marrying man." Then Lady Augustus wept bitterly; but while
she was weeping, a low-minded idea occurred to her also. It was
clear to her that there could be no marriage. She had never expected
that there would be a marriage. But if this man who was rolling in
wealth should offer some sum of money to her daughter,--something so
considerable as to divest the transaction of the meanness which would
be attached to a small bribe,--something which might be really useful
throughout life, would it not be her duty, on behalf of her dear
child, to accept such an offer? But the beginnings of such dealings
are always difficult. "Couldn't my lawyer see yours, Lady Augustus?"
said Lord Rufford.

"I don't want the family lawyer to know anything about it," said Lady
Augustus. Then there was silence between them for a few moments. "You
don't know what we have to bear, Lord Rufford. My husband has spent
all my fortune,--which was considerable; and the Duke does nothing
for us." Then he took a bit of paper and, writing on it the figures
"£6,000," pushed it across the table. She gazed at the scrap for a
minute, and then, borrowing his pencil without a word, scratched out
his Lordship's figures and wrote "£8,000," beneath them; and then
added, "No one to know it." After that he held the scrap for two or
three minutes in his hands, and then wrote beneath the figures, "Very
well. To be settled on your daughter. No one shall know it." She
bowed her head, but kept the scrap of paper in her possession. "Shall
I ring for your carriage?" he asked. The bell was rung, and Lady
Augustus was taken back to the lodgings in Orchard Street in the
hired brougham. As she went she told herself that if everything else
failed, £400 a year would support her daughter, or that in the event
of any further matrimonial attempt such a fortune would be a great
assistance. She had been sure that there could be no marriage, and
was disposed to think that she had done a good morning's work on
behalf of her unnatural child.



CHAPTER VIII.

"WE SHALL KILL EACH OTHER."


Lady Augustus as she was driven back to Orchard Street and as she
remained alone during the rest of that day and the next in London,
became a little afraid of what she had done. She began to think how
she should communicate her tidings to her daughter, and thinking
of it grew to be nervous and ill at ease. How would it be with her
should Arabella still cling to the hope of marrying the lord? That
any such hope would be altogether illusory Lady Augustus was now
sure. She had been quite certain that there was no ground for such
hope when she had spoken to the man of her own poverty. She was
almost certain that there had never been an offer of marriage made.
In the first place Lord Rufford's word went further with her than
Arabella's,--and then his story had been consistent and probable,
whereas hers had been inconsistent and improbable. At any rate ropes
and horses would not bring Lord Rufford to the hymeneal altar. That
being so was it not natural that she should then have considered
what result would be next best to a marriage? She was very poor,
having saved only some few hundreds a year from the wreck of her own
fortune. Independently of her her daughter had nothing. And in spite
of this poverty Arabella was very extravagant, running up bills for
finery without remorse wherever credit could be found, and excusing
herself by saying that on this or that occasion such expenditure was
justified by the matrimonial prospects which it opened out to her.
And now, of late, Arabella had been talking of living separately from
her mother. Lady Augustus, who was thoroughly tired of her daughter's
company, was not at all averse to such a scheme;--but any such scheme
was impracticable without money. By a happy accident the money would
now be forthcoming. There would be £400 a year for ever and nobody
would know whence it came. She was confident that they might trust
to the lord's honour for secrecy. As far as her own opinion went the
result of the transaction would be most happy. But still she feared
Arabella. She felt that she would not know how to tell her story when
she got back to Marygold Place. "My dear, he won't marry you; but
he is to give you £8,000." That was what she would have to say, but
she doubted her own courage to put her story into words so curt and
explanatory. Even at thirty £400 a year has not the charms which
accompany it to eyes which have seen sixty years. She remained
in town that night and the next day, and went down by train to
Basingstoke on the following morning with her heart not altogether
free from trepidation.

Lord Rufford, the very moment that the interview was over, started
off to his lawyer. Considering how very little had been given to him
the sum he was to pay was prodigious. In his desire to get rid of
the bore of these appeals, he had allowed himself to be foolishly
generous. He certainly never would kiss a young lady in a carriage
again,--nor even lend a horse to a young lady till he was better
acquainted with her ambition and character. But the word had gone
from him and he must be as good as his word. The girl must have her
£8,000 and must have it instantly. He would put the matter into such
a position that if any more interviews were suggested, he might with
perfect safety refer the suggester back to Miss Trefoil. There was to
be secrecy, and he would be secret as the grave. But in such matters
one's lawyer is the grave. He had proposed that two lawyers should
arrange it. Objection had been made to this, because Lady Augustus
had no lawyer ready;--but on his side some one must be employed.
So he went to his own solicitor and begged that the thing might be
done quite at once. He was very definite in his instructions, and
would listen to no doubts. Would the lawyer write to Miss Trefoil on
that very day;--or rather not on that very day but the next. As he
suggested this he thought it well that Lady Augustus should have an
opportunity of explaining the transaction to her daughter before the
lawyer's letter should be received. He had, he said, his own reason
for such haste. Consequently the lawyer did prepare the letter to
Miss Trefoil at once, drafting it in his noble client's presence.
In what way should the money be disposed so as best to suit her
convenience? The letter was very short with an intimation that
Lady Augustus would no doubt have explained the details of the
arrangement.

When Lady Augustus reached Marygold the family were at lunch, and as
strangers were present nothing was said as to the great mission. The
mother had already bethought herself how she must tell this and that
lie to the Connop Greens, explaining that Lord Rufford had confessed
his iniquity but had disclosed that, for certain mysterious reasons,
he could not marry Arabella,--though he loved her better than all the
world. Arabella asked some questions about her mother's shopping and
general business in town, and did not leave the room till she could
do so without the slightest appearance of anxiety. Mrs. Connop Green
marvelled at her coolness knowing how much must depend on the answer
which her mother had brought back from London, and knowing nothing of
the contents of the letter which Arabella had received that morning
from the lawyer. In a moment or two Lady Augustus followed her
daughter upstairs, and on going into her own room found the damsel
standing in the middle of it with an open paper in her hand. "Mamma,"
she said, "shut the door." Then the door was closed. "What is the
meaning of this?" and she held out the lawyer's letter.

"The meaning of what?" said Lady Augustus, trembling.

"I have no doubt you know, but you had better read it."

Lady Augustus read the letter and attempted to smile. "He has been
very quick," she said. "I thought I should have been the first to
tell you."

"What is the meaning of it? Why is the man to give me all that
money?"

"Is it not a good escape from so great a trouble? Think what £8,000
will do. It will enable you to live in comfort wherever you may
please to go."

"I am to understand then you have sold me,--sold all my hopes and my
very name and character, for £8,000!"

"Your name and character will not be touched, my dear. As for his
marrying you I soon found that that was absolutely out of the
question."

"This is what has come of sending you to see him! Of course I shall
tell my uncle everything."

"You will do no such thing. Arabella, do not make a fool of
yourself. Do you know what £8,000 will do for you? It is to be your
own,--absolutely beyond my reach or your father's."

"I would sooner go into the Thames off Waterloo Bridge than touch a
farthing of his money," said Arabella with a spirit which the other
woman did not at all understand. Hitherto in all these little dirty
ways they had run with equal steps. The pretences, the subterfuges,
the lies of the one had always been open to the other. Arabella,
earnest in supplying herself with gloves from the pockets of her male
acquaintances, had endured her mother's tricks with complacency. She
had condescended when living in humble lodgings to date her letters
from a well-known hotel, and had not feared to declare that she had
done so in their family conversations. Together they had fished in
turbid waters for marital nibbles and had told mutual falsehoods to
unbelieving tradesmen. And yet the younger woman, when tempted with a
bribe worth lies and tricks as deep and as black as Acheron, now
stood on her dignity and her purity and stamped her foot with honest
indignation!

"I don't think you can understand it," said Lady Augustus.

"I can understand this,--that you have betrayed me; and that I shall
tell him so in the plainest words that I can use. To get his lawyer
to write and offer me money!"

"He should not have gone to his lawyer. I do think he was wrong
there."

"But you settled it with him;--you, my mother;--a price at which he
should buy himself off! Would he have offered me money if he did not
know that he had bound himself to me?"

"Nothing on earth would make him marry you. I would not for a moment
have allowed him to allude to money if that had not been quite
certain."

"Who proposed the money first?"

Lady Augustus considered a moment before she answered. "Upon my word,
my dear, I can't say. He wrote the figures on a bit of paper; that
was the way." Then she produced the scrap. "He wrote the figures
first,--and then I altered them, just as you see. The proposition
came first from him, of course."

"And you did not spit at him!" said Arabella as she tore the scrap
into fragments.

"Arabella," said the mother, "it is clear that you do not look into
the future. How do you mean to live? You are getting old."

"Old!"

"Yes, my love,--old. Of course I am willing to do everything for you,
as I always have done,--for so many years, but there isn't a man in
London who does not know how long you have been about it."

"Hold your tongue, mamma," said Arabella jumping up.

"That is all very well, but the truth has to be spoken. You and I
cannot go on as we have been doing."

"Certainly not. I would sooner be in a workhouse."

"And here there is provided for you an income on which you can live.
Not a soul will know anything about it. Even your own father need
not be told. As for the lawyer, that is nothing. They never talk of
things. It would make a man comparatively poor quite a fit match. Or,
if you do not marry, it would enable you to live where you pleased
independently of me. You had better think twice of it before you
refuse it."

"I will not think of it at all. As sure as I am living here I will
write to Rufford this very evening and tell him in what light I
regard both him and you."

"And what will you do then?"

"Hang myself."

"That is all very well, Arabella, but hanging yourself and jumping
off Waterloo Bridge do not mean anything. You must live, and you must
pay your debts. I can't pay them for you. You go into your own room,
and think of it all, and be thankful for what Providence has sent
you."

"You may as well understand that I am in earnest," the daughter said
as she left the room. "I shall write to Lord Rufford to-day and tell
him what I think of him and his money. You need not trouble yourself
as to what shall be done with it, for I certainly shall not take it."

And she did write to Lord Rufford as follows:


   MY LORD,

   I have been much astonished by a letter I have received
   from a gentleman in London, Mr. Shaw, who I presume is
   your lawyer. When I received it I had not as yet seen
   mamma. I now understand that you and she between you have
   determined that I should be compensated by a sum of money
   for the injury you have done me! I scorn your money. I
   cannot think where you found the audacity to make such
   a proposal, or how you have taught yourself to imagine
   that I should listen to it. As to mamma, she was not
   commissioned to act for me, and I have nothing to do with
   anything she may have said. I can hardly believe that she
   should have agreed to such a proposal. It was very little
   like a gentleman in you to offer it.

   Why did you offer it? You would not have proposed to give
   me a large sum of money like that without some reason.
   I have been shocked to hear that you have denied that
   you ever engaged yourself to me. You know that you were
   engaged to me. It would have been more honest and more
   manly if you had declared at once that you repented of
   your engagement. But the truth is that till I see you
   myself and hear what you have to say out of your own mouth
   I cannot believe what other people tell me. I must ask you
   to name some place where we can meet. As for this offer
   of money, it goes for nothing. You must have known that I
   would not take it.

   ARABELLA.


It was now just the end of February, and the visit of the Trefoil
ladies to the Connop Greens had to come to an end. They had already
overstaid the time at first arranged, and Lady Augustus, when she
hinted that another week at Marygold,--"just till this painful affair
was finally settled,"--would be beneficial to her, was informed that
the Connop Greens themselves were about to leave home. Lady Augustus
had reported to Mrs. Connop Green that Lord Rufford was behaving very
badly, but that the matter was still in a "transition state." Mrs.
Connop Green was very sorry, but--. So Lady Augustus and Arabella
betook themselves to Orchard Street, being at that moment unable to
enter in upon better quarters.

What a home it was,--and what a journey up to town! Arabella had
told her mother that the letter to Lord Rufford had been written and
posted, and since that hardly a word had passed between them. When
they left Marygold in the Connop Green carriage they smiled, and
shook hands, and kissed their friends in unison, and then sank back
into silence. At the station they walked up and down the platform
together for the sake of appearance, but did not speak. In the train
there were others with them and they both feigned to be asleep. Then
they were driven to their lodgings in a cab, still speechless. It was
the mother who first saw that the horror of this if continued would
be too great to be endured. "Arabella," she said in a hoarse voice,
"why don't you speak?"

"Because I've got nothing to say."

"That's nonsense. There is always something to say."

"You have ruined me, mamma; just ruined me."

"I did for you the very best I could. If you would have been advised
by me, instead of being ruined, you would have had a handsome
fortune. I have slaved for you for the last twelve years. No mother
ever sacrificed herself for her child more than I have done for you,
and now see the return I get. I sometimes think that it will kill
me."

"That's nonsense."

"Everything I say is nonsense,--while you tell me one day that you
are going to hang yourself, and another day that you will drown
yourself."

"So I would if I dared. What is it that you have brought me to? Who
will have me in their houses when they hear that you consented to
take Lord Rufford's money?"

"Nobody will hear it unless you tell them."

"I shall tell my uncle and my aunt and Mistletoe, in order that they
may know how it is that Lord Rufford has been allowed to escape.
I say that you have ruined me. If it had not been for your vulgar
bargain with him, he must have been brought to keep his word at last.
Oh, that he should have ever thought it was possible that I was to be
bought off for a sum of money!"

Later on in the evening, the mother again implored her daughter to
speak to her. "What's the use, mamma, when you know what we think of
each other? What's the good of pretending? There is nobody here to
hear us." Later on still she herself began. "I don't know how much
you've got, mamma; but whatever it is, we'd better divide it. After
what you did in Piccadilly we shall never get on together again."

"There is not enough to divide," said Lady Augustus.

"If I had not you to go about with me I could get taken in pretty
nearly all the year round."

"Who'd take you?"

"Leave that to me. I would manage it, and you could join with some
other old person. We shall kill each other if we stay like this,"
said Arabella as she took up her candle.

"You have pretty nearly killed me as it is," said the old woman as
the other shut the door.



CHAPTER IX.

CHANGES AT BRAGTON.


Day after day old Mrs. Morton urged her purpose with her grandson at
Bragton, not quite directly as she had done at first, but by gradual
approaches and little soft attempts made in the midst of all the
tenderness which, as a nurse, she was able to display. It soon came
to pass that the intruders were banished from the house, or almost
banished. Mary's daily visits were discontinued immediately after
that last walk home with Reginald Morton which has been described.
Twice in the course of the next week she went over, but on both
occasions she did so early in the day, and returned alone just as he
was reaching the house. And then, before a week was over, early in
March, Lady Ushant told the invalid that she would be better away.
"Mrs. Morton doesn't like me," she said, "and I had better go. But I
shall stay for a while at Hoppet Hall, and come in and see you from
time to time till you get better." John Morton replied that he should
never get better; but though he said so then, there was at times
evidence that he did not yet quite despond as to himself. He could
still talk to Mrs. Morton of buying Chowton Farm, and was very
anxious that he should not be forgotten at the Foreign Office.

Lady Ushant had herself driven to Hoppet Hall, and there took up her
residence with her nephew. Every other day Mr. Runciman's fly came
for her and carried her backwards and forwards to Bragton. On those
occasions she would remain an hour with the invalid, and then would
go back again, never even seeing Mrs. Morton, though always seen by
her. And twice after this banishment Reginald walked over. But on the
second occasion there was a scene. Mrs. Morton to whom he had never
spoken since he was a boy, met him in the hall and told him that his
visits only disturbed his sick cousin. "I certainly will not disturb
him," Reginald had said. "In the condition in which he is now he
should not see many people," rejoined the lady. "If you will ask Dr.
Fanning he will tell you the same." Dr. Fanning was the London doctor
who came down once a week, whom it was improbable that Reginald
should have an opportunity of consulting. But he remembered or
thought that he remembered, that his cousin had been fretful and
ill-pleased during his last visit, and so turned himself round and
went home without another word.

"I am afraid there may be--I don't know what," said Lady Ushant to
him in a whisper the next morning.

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know what I mean. Perhaps I ought not to say a word. Only so
much does depend on it!"

"If you are thinking about the property, aunt, wipe it out of your
mind. Let him do what he pleases and don't think about it. No one
should trouble their minds about such things. It is his, to do what
he pleases with it."

"It is not him that I fear, Reginald."

"If he chooses to be guided by her, who shall say that he is wrong?
Get it out of your mind. The very thinking about such things is
dirtiness!" The poor old lady submitted to the rebuke and did not
dare to say another word.

Daily Lady Ushant would send over for Mary Masters, thinking it cruel
that her young friend should leave her alone and yet understanding
in part the reason why Mary did not come to her constantly at Hoppet
Hall. Poor Mary was troubled much by these messages. Of course
she went now and again. She had no alternative but to go, and yet,
feeling that the house was his house, she was most unwilling to enter
it. Then grew within her a feeling, which she could not analyse, that
he had ill-used her. Of course she was not entitled to his love. She
would acknowledge to herself over and over again that he had never
spoken a word to her which could justify her in expecting his love.
But why had he not let her alone? Why had he striven by his words and
his society to make her other than she would have been had she been
left to the atmosphere of her stepmother's home? Why had he spoken so
strongly to her as to that young man's love? And then she was almost
angry with him because, by a turn in the wheel of fortune, he was
about to become, as she thought, Squire of Bragton. Had he remained
simply Mr. Morton of Hoppet Hall it would still have been impossible.
But this exaltation of her idol altogether out of her reach was an
added injustice. She could remember, not the person, but all the
recent memories of the old Squire, the veneration with which he was
named, the masterdom which was attributed to him, the unequalled
nobility of his position in regard to Dillsborough. His successor
would be to her as some one crowned, and removed by his crown
altogether from her world. Then she pictured to herself the stately
dame who would certainly come, and she made fresh resolutions with a
sore heart.

"I don't know why you should be so very little with me," said Lady
Ushant, almost whining. "When I was at Cheltenham you wanted to come
to me."

"There are so many things to be done at home."

"And yet you would have come to Cheltenham."

"We were in great trouble then, Lady Ushant. Of course I would like
to be with you. You ought not to scold me, because you know how I
love you."

"Has the young man gone away altogether now, Mary?"

"Altogether."

"And Mrs. Masters is satisfied?"

"She knows it can never be, and therefore she is quiet about it."

"I was sorry for that young man, because he was so true."

"You couldn't be more sorry than I was, Lady Ushant. I love him as
though he were a brother. But--"

"Mary, dear Mary, I fear you are in trouble."

"I think it is all trouble," said Mary, rushing forward and hiding
her face in her old friend's lap as she knelt on the ground before
her. Lady Ushant longed to ask a question, but she did not dare. And
Mary Masters longed to have one friend to whom she could confide her
secret,--but neither did she dare.

On the next day, very early in the morning, there came a note from
Mrs. Morton to Mr. Masters, the attorney. Could Mr. Masters come
out on that day to Bragton and see Mrs. Morton. The note was very
particular in saying that Mrs. Morton was to be the person seen.
The messenger who waited for an answer, brought back word that Mr.
Masters would be there at noon. The circumstance was one which
agitated him considerably, as he had not been inside the house at
Bragton since the days immediately following the death of the old
Squire. As it happened, Lady Ushant was going to Bragton on the same
day, and at the suggestion of Mr. Runciman, whose horses in the
hunting season barely sufficed for his trade, the old lady and the
lawyer went together. Not a word was said between them as to the
cause which took either of them on their journey, but they spoke much
of the days in which they had known each other, when the old Squire
was alive, and Mr. Masters thanked Lady Ushant for her kindness to
his daughter. "I love her almost as though she were my own," said
Lady Ushant. "When I am dead she will have half of what I have got."

"She will have no right to expect that," said the gratified father.

"She will have half or the whole,--just as Reginald may be situated
then. I don't know why I shouldn't tell her father what it is I mean
to do." The attorney knew to a shilling the amount of Lady Ushant's
income and thought that this was the best news he had heard for many
a day.

While Lady Ushant was in the sick man's room, Mrs. Morton was
closeted with the attorney. She had thought much of this step before
she had dared to take it and even now doubted whether it would avail
her anything. As she entered the book-room in which Mr. Masters
was seated she almost repented. But the man was there and she was
compelled to go on with her scheme. "Mr. Masters," she said, "it is
I think a long time since you have been employed by this family."

"A very long time, Madam."

"And I have now sent for you under circumstances of great
difficulty," she answered; but as he said nothing she was forced to
go on. "My grandson made his will the other day up in London, when he
thought that he was going out to Patagonia." Mr. Masters bowed. "It
was done when he was in sound health, and he is now not satisfied
with it." Then there was another bow, but not a word was spoken. "Of
course you know that he is very ill."

"We have all been very much grieved to hear it."

"I am sure you would be, for the sake of old days. When Dr. Fanning
was last here he thought that my grandson was something better. He
held out stronger hopes than before. But still he is very ill. His
mind has never wavered for a moment, Mr. Masters." Again Mr. Masters
bowed. "And now he thinks that some changes should be made;--indeed
that there should be a new will."

"Does he wish me to see him, Mrs. Morton?"

"Not to-day, I think. He is not quite prepared to-day. But I wanted
to ask whether you could come at a moment's notice,--quite at a
moment's notice. I thought it better, so that you should know why we
sent for you if we did send,--so that you might be prepared. It could
be done here, I suppose?"

"It would be possible, Mrs. Morton."

"And you could do it?"

Then there was a long pause. "Altering a will is a very serious
thing, Mrs. Morton. And when it is done on what perhaps may be a
death-bed, it is a very serious thing indeed. Mr. Morton, I believe,
employs a London solicitor. I know the firm and more respectable
gentlemen do not exist. A telegram would bring down one of the firm
from London by the next train."

A frown, a very heavy frown, came across the old woman's brow.
She would have repressed it had it been possible;--but she could
not command herself, and the frown was there. "If that had been
practicable, Mr. Masters," she said, "we should not have sent for
you."

"I was only suggesting, madame, what might be the best course."

"Exactly. And of course I am much obliged. But if we are driven to
call upon you for your assistance, we shall find it?"

"Madame," said the attorney very slowly, "it is of course part of my
business to make wills, and when called upon to do so, I perform my
business to the best of my ability. But in altering a will during
illness great care is necessary. A codicil might be added--"

"A new will would be necessary."

A new will, thought the attorney, could only be necessary for
altering the disposition of the whole estate. He knew enough of the
family circumstances to be aware that the property should go to
Reginald Morton whether with or without a will,--and also enough to
be aware that this old lady was Reginald's bitter enemy. He did not
think that he could bring himself to take instructions from a dying
man,--from the Squire of Bragton on his death-bed,--for an instrument
which should alienate the property from the proper heir. He too had
his strong feelings, perhaps his prejudices, about Bragton. "I would
wish that the task were in other hands, Mrs. Morton."

"Why so?"

"It is hard to measure the capacity of an invalid."

"His mind is as clear as yours."

"It might be so,--and yet I might not be able to satisfy myself that
it was so. I should have to ask long and tedious questions, which
would be offensive. And I should find myself giving advice,--which
would not be called for. For instance, were your grandson to wish to
leave this estate away from the heir--"

"I am not discussing his wishes, Mr. Masters."

"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Morton, for making the suggestion;--but as I
said before, I should prefer that he should employ--some one else."

"You refuse then?"

"If Mr. Morton were to send for me, I should go to him instantly.
But I fear I might be slow in taking his instructions;--and it is
possible that I might refuse to act on them." Then she got up from
her chair and bowing to him with stately displeasure left the room.

All this she had done without any authority from her grandson, simply
encouraged in her object by his saying in his weakness that he would
think of her proposition. So intent was she on her business that
she was resolved to have everything ready if only he could once be
brought to say that Peter Morton should be his heir. Having abandoned
all hopes for her noble cousin she could tell her conscience that she
was instigated simply by an idea of justice. Peter Morton was at any
rate the legitimate son of a well-born father and a well-born mother.
What had she or any one belonging to her to gain by it? But forty
years since a brat had been born at Bragton in opposition to her
wishes,--by whose means she had been expelled from the place; and now
it seemed to her to be simple justice that he should on this account
be robbed of that which would otherwise be naturally his own. As
Mr. Masters would not serve her turn she must write to the London
lawyers. The thing would be more difficult; but, nevertheless, if
the sick man could once be got to say that Peter should be his heir
she thought that she could keep him to his word. Lady Ushant and Mr.
Masters went back to Dillsborough in Runciman's fly, and it need
hardly be said that the attorney said nothing of the business which
had taken him to Bragton.

This happened on a Wednesday,--Wednesday the 3rd of March. On Friday
morning, at 4 o'clock, during the darkness of the night, John Morton
was lying dead on his bed, and the old woman was at his bedside. She
had done her duty by him as far as she knew how in tending him,--had
been assiduous with the diligence of much younger years; but now as
she sat there, having had the fact absolutely announced to her by Dr.
Nupper, her greatest agony arose from the feeling that the roof which
covered her, probably the chair in which she sat, were the property
of Reginald Morton--"Bastard!" she said to herself between her teeth;
but she so said it that neither Dr. Nupper, who was in the room, nor
the woman who was with her should hear it.

Dr. Nupper took the news into Dillsborough, and as the folk sat down
to breakfast they all heard that the Squire of Bragton was dead.
The man had been too little known, had been too short a time in the
neighbourhood, to give occasion for tears. There was certainly more
of interest than of grief in the matter. Mr. Masters said to himself
that the time had been too short for any change in the will, and
therefore felt tolerably certain that Reginald would be the heir.
But for some days this opinion was not general in Dillsborough. Mr.
Mainwaring had heard that Reginald had been sent away from Bragton
with a flea in his ear, and was pretty certain that when the will was
read it would be found that the property was to go to Mrs. Morton's
friends. Dr. Nupper was of the same opinion. There were many in
Dillsborough with whom Reginald was not popular;--and who thought
that some man of a different kind would do better as Squire of
Bragton. "He don't know a fox when he sees 'un," said Tony Tuppett to
Larry Twentyman, whom he had come across the county to call upon and
to console.



CHAPTER X.

THE WILL.


On that Saturday the club met at Dillsborough,--even though the
Squire of Bragton had died on Friday morning. Through the whole of
that Saturday the town had been much exercised in its belief and
expressions, as to the disposition of the property. The town knew
very well that Mr. Masters, the attorney, had been sent for to
Bragton on the previous Wednesday,--whence the deduction as to a new
will, made of course under the auspices of Mrs. Morton,--would have
been quite plain to the town, had not a portion of the town heard
that the attorney had not been for a moment with the dying man during
his visit. This latter piece of information had come through Lady
Ushant, who had been in her nephew's bedroom the whole time;--but
Lady Ushant had not much personal communication with the town
generally, and would probably have said nothing on this subject had
not Mr. Runciman walked up to Hoppet Hall behind the fly, after
Mr. Masters had left it; and, while helping her ladyship out, made
inquiry as to the condition of things at Bragton generally. "I was
sorry to hear of their sending for any lawyer," said Mr. Runciman.
Then Lady Ushant protested that the lawyer had not been sent for by
her nephew, and that her nephew had not even seen him. "Oh, indeed,"
said Mr. Runciman, who immediately took a walk round his own paddock
with the object of putting two and two together. Mr. Runciman was a
discreet man, and did not allow this piece of information to spread
itself generally. He told Dr. Nupper, and Mr. Hampton, and Lord
Rufford,--for the hounds went out on Friday, though the Squire of
Bragton was lying dead;--but he did not tell Mr. Mainwaring, whom he
encountered in the street of the town as he was coming home early,
and who was very keen to learn whatever news there was.

Reginald Morton on Friday did not go near Bragton. That of course
was palpable to all, and was a great sign that he himself did not
regard himself as the heir. He had for awhile been very intimate at
the house, visiting it daily--and during a part of that time the
grandmother had been altogether absent. Then she had come back, and
he had discontinued his visits. And now he did not even go over to
seal up the drawers and to make arrangements as to the funeral. He
did not at any rate go on the Friday,--nor on the Saturday. And on
the Saturday Mr. Wobytrade, the undertaker, had received orders from
Mrs. Morton to go at once to Bragton. All this was felt to be strong
against Reginald. But when it was discovered that on the Saturday
afternoon Mrs. Morton herself had gone up to London, not waiting even
for the coming of any one else to take possession of the house,--and
that she had again carried all her own personal luggage with
her,--then opinion in Dillsborough again veered. Upon the whole the
betting was a point or two in favour of Reginald, when the club met.

Mrs. Masters, who had been much quelled of late, had been urgent
with her husband to go over to the Bush; but he was unwilling, he
said, to be making jolly while the Squire of Bragton was lying
unburied. "He was nothing to you, Gregory," said his wife, who had
in vain endeavoured to learn from him why he had been summoned to
Bragton--"You will hear something over there, and it will relieve
your spirits." So instigated he did go across, and found all the
accustomed members of the club congregated in the room. Even Larry
Twentyman was present, who of late had kept himself aloof from all
such meetings. Both the Botseys were there, and Nupper and Harry
Stubbings, and Ribbs the butcher. Runciman himself of course was in
the room, and he had introduced on this occasion Captain Glomax, the
master of the hunt, who was staying at his house that night,--perhaps
with a view to hunting duties on the Monday, perhaps in order that he
might hear something as to the Bragton property. It had already been
suggested to him that he might possibly hire the house for a year or
two at little more than a nominal rent, that the old kennels might
be resuscitated, and that such arrangements would be in all respects
convenient. He was the master of the hunt, and of course there was no
difficulty as to introducing him to the club.

Captain Glomax was speaking in a somewhat dictatorial voice,--as
becomes a Master of Hounds when in the field, though perhaps it
should be dropped afterwards--when the Attorney entered. There was
a sudden rise of voices striving to interrupt the Captain, as it
was felt by them all that Mr. Masters must be in possession of
information; but the Captain himself went on. "Of course it is the
place for the hounds. Nobody can doubt that who knows the country and
understands the working of it. The hunt ought to have subscribed and
hired the kennels and stables permanently."

"There would have wanted two to that bargain, Captain," said Mr.
Runciman.

"Of course there would, but what would you think of a man who would
refuse such a proposition when he didn't want the place himself?
Do you think if I'd been there foxes would have been poisoned in
Dillsborough wood? I'd have had that fellow Goarly under my thumb."

"Then you'd have had an awful blackguard under your thumb, Captain
Glomax," said Larry, who could not restrain his wrath when Goarly's
name was mentioned.

"What does that matter, if you get foxes?" continued the Master. "But
the fact is, gentlemen in a county like this always want to have
everything done for them, and never to do anything for themselves.
I'm sick of it, I know. Nobody is fonder of hunting a country than I
am, and I think I know what I'm about."

"That you do," said Fred Botsey, who, like most men, was always ready
to flatter the Master.

"And I don't care how hard I work. From the first of August till the
end of May I never have a day to myself, what with cubbing and then
the season, and entering the young hounds, and buying and selling
horses, by George I'm at it the whole year!"

"A Master of Hounds looks for that, Captain," said the innkeeper.

"Looks for it! Yes; he must look for it. But I wouldn't mind that,
if I could get gentlemen to pull a little with me. I can't stand
being out of pocket as I have been, and so I must let them know.
If the country would get the kennels and the stables, and lay out
a few pounds so that horses and hounds and men could go into them,
I wouldn't mind having a shot for the house. It's killing work
where I am now, the other side of Rufford, you may say." Then he
stopped;--but no one would undertake to answer him. The meaning of
it was that Captain Glomax wanted £500 a year more than he received,
and every one there knew that there was not £500 a year more to be
got out of the country,--unless Lord Rufford would put his hand into
his pocket. Now the present stables and the present kennels had been
"made comfortable" by Lord Rufford, and it was not thought probable
that he would pay for the move to Bragton.

"When's the funeral to be, Mr. Masters?" asked Runciman,--who knew
very well the day fixed, but who thought it well to get back to the
subject of real interest in the town.

"Next Thursday, I'm told."

"There's no hurry with weather like this," said Nupper
professionally.

"They can't open the will till the late squire is buried," continued
the innkeeper, "and there will be one or two very anxious to know
what is in it."

"I suppose it will all go to the man who lives up here at Hoppet
Hall," said the Captain,--"a man that was never outside a horse in
his life!"

"He's not a bad fellow," said Runciman.

"He is a very good fellow," said the Attorney, "and I trust he may
have the property. If it be left away from him, I for one shall think
that a great injustice has been done." This was listened to with
attention, as every one there thought that Mr. Masters must know.

"I can't understand," said Glomax, "how any man can be considered a
good fellow as a country gentleman who does not care for sport. Just
look at it all round. Suppose others were like him what would become
of us all?"

"Yes indeed, what would become of us?" asked the two Botseys in a
breath.

"Ho'd 'ire our 'orses, Runciman?" suggested Harry Stubbings with a
laugh.

"Think what England would be!" said the Captain. "When I hear of a
country gentleman sticking to books and all that, I feel that the
glory is departing from the land. Where are the sinews of war to come
from? That's what I want to know."

"Who will it be, Mr. Masters, if the gent don't get it?" asked Ribbs
from his corner on the sofa.

This was felt to be a pushing question. "How am I to know, Mr.
Ribbs?" said the Attorney. "I didn't make the late squire's
will;--and if I did you don't suppose I should tell you."

"I'm told that the next is Peter Morton," said Fred Botsey. "He's
something in a public office up in London."

"It won't go to him," said Fred's brother. "That old lady has
relations of her own who have had their mouths open for the last
forty years."

"Away from the Mortons altogether!" said Harry. "That would be an
awful shame!"

"I don't see what good the Mortons have done this last half century,"
said the Captain.

"You don't remember the old squire, Captain," said the innkeeper,
"and I don't remember him well. Indeed I was only a little chap when
they buried him. But there's that feeling left behind him to this
day, that not a poor man in the country wouldn't be sorry to think
that there wasn't a Morton left among 'em. Of course a hunting
gentleman is a good thing."

"About the best thing out," said the Captain.

"But a hunting gentleman isn't everything. I know nothing of the old
lady's people,--only this that none of their money ever came into
Dillsborough. I'm all for Reginald Morton. He's my landlord as it is,
and he's a gentleman."

"I hate foreigners coming," said Ribbs.

"'E ain't too old to take it yet," said Harry. Fred Botsey declared
that he didn't believe in men hunting unless they began young.
Whereupon Dr. Nupper declared that he had never ridden over a fence
till he was forty-five, and that he was ready now to ride Fred across
country for a new hat. Larry suggested that a man might be a good
friend to sport though he didn't ride much himself;--and Runciman
again asserted that hunting wasn't everything. Upon the whole
Reginald was the favourite. But the occasion was so special that a
little supper was ordered, and I fear the attorney did not get home
till after twelve.

Till the news reached Hoppet Hall that Mrs. Morton had taken herself
off to London, there was great doubt there as to what ought to be
done, and even then the difficulty was not altogether over. Till she
was gone neither Lady Ushant nor her nephew would go there, and he
could only declare his purpose of attending the funeral whether he
were asked or not. When his aunt again spoke of the will he desired
her with much emphasis not to allude to the subject. "If the property
is to come to me," he said, "anything of good that may be in it
cannot be much sweeter by anticipation. And if it is not I shall only
encourage disappointment by thinking of it."

"But it would be such a shame."

"That I deny altogether. It was his own to do as he liked with it.
Had he married I should not have expected it because I am the heir.
But, if you please, aunt, do not say a word more about it."

On the Sunday morning he heard that Mrs. Morton was gone to London,
and then he walked over to Bragton. He found that she had locked and
sealed up everything with so much precision that she must have worked
hard at the task from the hour of his death almost to that of her
departure. "She never rested herself all day," said Mrs. Hopkins,
"till I thought she would sink from very weariness." She had gone
into every room and opened every drawer, and had had every piece of
plate through her fingers, and then Mrs. Hopkins told him that just
as she was departing she had said that the keys would be given to the
lawyer. After that he wandered about the place, thinking what his
life would be should he find himself the owner of Bragton. At this
moment he almost felt that he disliked the place, though there had
been times in which he had thought that he loved it too well. Of one
thing he was conscious,--that if Bragton should become his, it would
be his duty to live there. He must move his books, and pipes, and
other household gods from Hoppet Hall and become an English Squire.
Would it be too late for him to learn to ride to hounds? Would it be
possible that he should ever succeed in shooting a pheasant, if he
were to study the art patiently? Could he interest himself as to the
prevalence or decadence of ground game? And what must he do with his
neighbours? Of course he would have to entertain Mr. Mainwaring and
the other parsons, and perhaps once in the year to ask Lord Rufford
to dine with him. If Lord Rufford came, what on earth would he say to
him?

And then there arose another question. Would it not be his duty to
marry,--and, if so, whom? He had been distinctly told that Mary
Masters had given her heart to some one, and he certainly was not the
man to ask for the hand of a girl who had not a heart to give. And
yet he thought that it would be impossible that he should marry any
other person. He spent hours in walking about the grounds, looking at
the garden and belongings which would so probably be his own within a
week, and thinking whether it would be possible that he should bring
a mistress to preside over them. Before he reached home he had made
up his mind that only one mistress would be possible, and that she
was beyond his reach.

On the Tuesday he received a scrawl from Mrs. Hopkins with a letter
from the lawyer--addressed to her. The lawyer wrote to say that he
would be down on Wednesday evening, would attend the funeral, and
read his client's will after they had performed the ceremony. He
went on to add that in obedience to Mrs. Morton's directions he
had invited Mr. Peter Morton to be present on the occasion. On the
Wednesday Reginald again went over, but left before the arrival of
the two gentlemen. On the Thursday he was there early, and of course
took upon himself the duty of chief mourner. Peter Morton was there
and showed, in a bewildered way, that he had been summoned rather to
the opening of the will than to the funeral of a man he had never
seen.

Then the will was read. There were only two names mentioned in it.
John Morton left £5,000 and his watch and chain and rings to Arabella
Trefoil, and everything else of which he was possessed to his cousin
Reginald Morton.

"Upon my word I don't know why they sent for me," said the other
cousin, Peter.

"Mrs. Morton seemed to think that you would like to pay a tribute of
respect," said the lawyer. Peter looked at him and went upstairs and
packed his portmanteau. The lawyer handed over the keys to the new
squire, and then everything was done.



CHAPTER XI.

THE NEW MINISTER.


"Poor old Paragon!" exclaimed Archibald Currie, as he stood with his
back to the fire among his colleagues at the Foreign Office on the
day after John Morton's death.

"Poor young Paragon! that's the pity of it," said Mounser Green. "I
don't suppose he was turned thirty, and he was a useful man,--a very
useful man. That's the worst of it. He was just one of those men that
the country can't afford to lose, and whom it is so very hard to
replace." Mounser Green was always eloquent as to the needs of the
public service, and did really in his heart of hearts care about his
office. "Who is to go to Patagonia, I'm sure I don't know. Platitude
was asking me about it, and I told him that I couldn't name a man."

"Old Platitude always thinks that the world is coming to an end,"
said Currie. "There are as good fish in the sea as ever were caught."

"Who is there? Monsoon won't go, even if they ask him. The Paragon
was just the fellow for it. He had his heart in the work. An immense
deal depends on what sort of man we have in Patagonia at the present
moment. If Paraguay gets the better of the Patagonese all Brazil will
be in a ferment, and you know how that kind of thing spreads among
half-caste Spaniards and Portuguese. Nobody can interfere but the
British Minister. When I suggested Morton I knew I had the right man
if he'd only take it."

"And now he has gone and died!" said Hoffmann.

"And now he has gone and died," continued Mounser Green. "'I never
nursed a dear gazelle,' and all the rest of it. Poor Paragon! I fear
he was a little cut about Miss Trefoil."

"She was down with him the day before he died," said young Glossop.
"I happen to know that."

"It was before he thought of going to Patagonia that she was at
Bragton," said Currie.

"That's all you know about it, old fellow," said the indignant young
one. "She was there a second time, just before his death. I had it
from Lady Penwether who was in the neighbourhood."

"My dear little boy," said Mounser Green, "that was exactly what was
likely to happen, and he yet may have broken his heart. I have seen
a good deal of the lady lately, and under no circumstances would she
have married him. When he accepted the mission that at any rate was
all over."

"The Rufford affair had begun before that," said Hoffmann.

"The Rufford affair as you call it," said Glossop, "was no affair at
all."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Currie.

"I mean that Rufford was never engaged to her,--not for an instant,"
said the lad, urgent in spreading the lesson which he had received
from his cousin. "It was all a dead take-in."

"Who was taken in?" asked Mounser Green.

"Well;--nobody was taken in as it happened. But I suppose there can't
be a doubt that she tried her best to catch him, and that the Duke
and Duchess and Mistletoe, and old Trefoil, all backed her up. It was
a regular plant. The only thing is, it didn't come off."

"Look here, young shaver;"--this was Mounser Green again;--"when you
speak of a young lady do you be a little more discreet."

"But didn't she do it, Green?"

"That's more than you or I can tell. If you want to know what I
think, I believe he paid her a great deal of attention and then
behaved very badly to her."

"He didn't behave badly at all," said young Glossop.

"My dear boy, when you are as old as I am, you will have learned how
very hard it is to know everything. I only say what I believe, and
perhaps I may have better ground for believing than you. He certainly
paid her a great deal of attention, and then her friends,--especially
the Duchess,--went to work."

"They've wanted to get her off their hands these six or eight years,"
said Currie.

"That's nonsense again," continued the new advocate, "for there is no
doubt she might have married Morton all the time had she pleased."

"Yes;--but Rufford!--a fellow with sixty thousand a year!" said
Glossop.

"About a third of that would be nearer the mark, Glossy. Take my
word for it, you don't know everything yet, though you have so many
advantages." After that Mounser Green retreated to his own room with
a look and tone as though he were angry.

"What makes him so ferocious about it?" asked Glossop when the door
was shut.

"You are always putting your foot in it," said Currie. "I kept on
winking to you but it was no good. He sees her almost every day now.
She's staying with old Mrs. Green in Portugal Street. There has been
some break up between her and her mother, and old Mrs. Green has
taken her in. There's some sort of relationship. Mounser is the old
woman's nephew, and she is aunt by marriage to the Connop Greens down
in Hampshire, and Mrs. Connop Green is first cousin to Lady
Augustus."

"If Dick's sister married Tom's brother what relation would Dick
be to Tom's mother? That's the kind of thing, isn't it?" suggested
Hoffmann.

"At any rate there she is, and Mounser sees her every day."

"It don't make any difference about Rufford," said young Glossop
stoutly.

All this happened before the will had been declared,--when Arabella
did not dream that she was an heiress. A day or two afterwards she
received a letter from the lawyer, telling her of her good fortune,
and informing her that the trinkets would be given up to her and the
money paid,--short of legacy duty,--whenever she would fix a time and
place. The news almost stunned her. There was a moment in which she
thought that she was bound to reject this money, as she had rejected
that tendered to her by the other man. Poor as she was, greedy as
she was, alive as she was to the necessity of doing something for
herself,--still this legacy was to her at first bitter rather than
sweet. She had never treated any man so ill as she had treated this
man;--and it was thus that he punished her! She was alive to the
feeling that he had always been true to her. In her intercourse with
other men there had been generally a battle carried on with some
fairness. Diamond had striven to cut diamond. But here the dishonesty
had all been on one side, and she was aware that it had been so. In
her later affair with Lord Rufford, she really did think that she had
been ill used; but she was quite alive to the fact that her treatment
of John Morton had been abominable. The one man, in order that he
might escape without further trouble, had in the grossest manner,
sent to her the offer of a bribe. The other,--in regard to whose end
her hard heart was touched, even her conscience seared,--had named
her in his will as though his affection was unimpaired. Of course
she took the money, but she took it with inward groans. She took the
money and the trinkets, and the matter was all arranged for her by
Mounser Green.

"So after all the Paragon left her whatever he could leave," said
Currie in the same room at the Foreign Office. A week had passed
since the last conversation, and at this moment Mounser Green was not
in the room.

"Oh, dear no," said young Glossy. "She doesn't have Bragton. That
goes to his cousin."

"That was entailed, Glossy, my boy."

"Not a bit of it. Everybody thought he would leave the place
to another Morton, a fellow he'd never seen, in one of those
Somerset House Offices. He and this fellow who is to have it, were
enemies,--but he wouldn't put it out of the right line. It's all very
well for Mounser to be down on me, but I do happen to know what goes
on in that country. She gets a pot of money, and no end of family
jewels; but he didn't leave her the estate as he might have done."

At that moment Mounser Green came into the room. It was rather later
than usual, being past one o'clock;--and he looked as though he were
flurried. He didn't speak for a few minutes, but stood before the
fire smoking a cigar. And there was a general silence,--there being
now a feeling among them that Arabella Trefoil was not to be talked
about in the old way before Mounser Green. At last he spoke himself.
"I suppose you haven't heard who is to go to Patagonia after all?"

"Is it settled?" asked Currie.

"Anybody we know?" asked Hoffmann.

"I hope it's no d---- outsider," said the too energetic Glossop.

"It is settled;--and it is somebody you know;--and it is not a d----
outsider; unless, indeed, he may be considered to be an outsider in
reference to that branch of the service."

"It's some consul," said Currie. "Backstairs from Panama, I'll bet a
crown."

"It isn't Backstairs, it isn't a consul. Gentlemen, get out your
pocket-handkerchiefs. Mounser Green has consented to be expatriated
for the good of his country."

"You going to Patagonia!" said Currie. "You're chaffing," said
Glossop. "I never was so shot in my life," said Hoffmann.

"It's true, my dear boys."

"I never was so sorry for anything in all my born days," said
Glossop, almost crying. "Why on earth should you go to Patagonia?"

"Patagonia!" ejaculated Currie. "What will you do in Patagonia?"

"It's an opening, my dear fellow," said Mounser Green leaning
affectionately on Glossop's shoulder. "What should I do by remaining
here? When Drummond asked me I saw he wanted me to go. They don't
forget that kind of thing." At that moment a messenger opened the
door, and the Senator Gotobed, almost without being announced,
entered the room. He had become so intimate of late at the Foreign
Office, and his visits were so frequent, that he was almost able to
dispense with the assistance of any messenger. Perhaps Mounser Green
and his colleagues were a little tired of him;--but yet, after their
fashion, they were always civil to him, and remembered, as they were
bound to do, that he was one of the leading politicians of a great
nation. "I have secured the hall," he said at once, as though aware
that no news could be so important as the news he thus conveyed.

"Have you indeed?" said Currie.

"Secured it for the fifteenth. Now the question is--"

"What do you think," said Glossop, interrupting him without the
slightest hesitation. "Mounser Green is going to Patagonia, in place
of the poor Paragon."

"I beg to congratulate Mr. Green with all my heart."

"By George I don't," said the juvenile clerk. "Fancy congratulating
a fellow on going to Patagonia! It's what I call an awful sell for
everybody."

"But as I was saying I have the hall for the fifteenth."

"You mean to lecture then after all," said Green.

"Certainly I do; I am not going to be deterred from doing my duty
because I am told there is a little danger. What I want to know is
whether I can depend on having a staff of policemen."

"Of course there will be police," said Green.

"But I mean some extra strength. I don't mind for myself, but I
should be so unhappy if there were anything of a commotion." Then he
was assured that the officers of the police force would look to that,
and was assured also that Mounser Green and the other gentlemen in
the room would certainly attend the lecture. "I don't suppose I shall
be gone by that time," said Mounser Green in a melancholy tone of
voice.



CHAPTER XII.

"I MUST GO."


   Rufford, March 5th.

   MY DEAR MISS TREFOIL,

   I am indeed sorry that I should have offended you by
   acceding to a suggestion which, I think I may say,
   originated with your mother. When she told me that her
   circumstances and yours were not in a pecuniary point of
   view so comfortable as they might be, I did feel that it
   was in my power to alleviate that trouble. The sum of
   money mentioned by my lawyer was certainly named by your
   mother. At any rate pray believe that I meant to be of
   service.

   As to naming a place where we might meet, it really could
   be of no service. It would be painful to both of us and
   could have no good result. Again apologizing for having
   inadvertently offended you by adopting the views which
   Lady Augustus entertained, I beg to assure you that I am,

   Yours faithfully,

   RUFFORD.


This letter came from the peer himself, without assistance. After his
interview with Lady Augustus he simply told his Mentor, Sir George,
that he had steadfastly denied the existence of any engagement,
not daring to acquaint him with the offer he had made. Neither,
therefore, could he tell Sir George of the manner in which the young
lady had repudiated the offer. That she should have repudiated it was
no doubt to her credit. As he thought of it afterwards he felt that
had she accepted it she would have been base indeed. And yet, as he
thought of what had taken place at the house in Piccadilly, he was
confident that the proposition had in some way come from her mother.
No doubt he had first written a sum of money on the fragment of
paper which she had preserved;--and the evidence would so far go
against him. But Lady Augustus had spoken piteously of their joint
poverty,--and had done so in lieu of insisting with a mother's
indignation on her daughter's rights. Of course she had intended to
ask for money. What other purpose could she have had? It was so he
had argued at the moment, and so he had argued since. If it were so
he would not admit that he had behaved unlike a gentleman in offering
the money. Yet he did not dare to tell Sir George, and therefore was
obliged to answer Arabella's letter without assistance.

He was not altogether sorry to have his £8000, being fully as much
alive to the value of money as any brother peer in the kingdom, but
he would sooner have paid the money than be subject to an additional
interview. He had been forced up to London to see first the father
and then the mother, and thought that he had paid penalty enough
for any offence that he might have committed. An additional
interview with the young lady herself would distress him beyond
anything,--would be worse than any other interview. He would sooner
leave Rufford and go abroad than encounter it. He promised himself
that nothing should induce him to encounter it. Therefore, he wrote
the above letter.

Arabella, when she received it, had ceased to care very much about
the insult of the offer. She had then quarrelled with her mother, and
had insisted on some separation even without any arrangement as to
funds. Requiring some confidant, she had told a great deal, though
not quite all, to Mrs. Connop Green, and that lady had passed her on
for a while to her husband's aunt in London. At this time she had
heard nothing of John Morton's will, and had perhaps thought with
some tender regret of the munificence of her other lover, which she
had scorned. But she was still intent on doing something. The fury of
her despair was still on her, so that she could not weigh the injury
she might do herself against some possible gratification to her
wounded spirit. Up to this moment she had formed no future hope. At
this epoch she had no string to her bow. John Morton was dead;--and
she had absolutely wept for him in solitude, though she had certainly
never loved him. Nor did she love Lord Rufford. As far as she knew
how to define her feelings, she thought that she hated him. But
she told herself hourly that she had not done with him. She was
instigated by the true feminine Medea feeling that she would find
some way to wring his heart,--even though in the process she might
suffer twice as much as he did. She had convinced herself that in
this instance he was the offender. "Painful to both of us!" No doubt!
But because it would be painful to him, it should be exacted. Though
he was a coward and would fain shirk such pain, she could be brave
enough. Even though she should be driven to catch him by the arm in
the open street, she would have it out with him. He was a liar and a
coward, and she would, at any rate, have the satisfaction of telling
him so.

She thought much about it before she could resolve on what she would
do. She could not ask old Mrs. Green to help her. Mrs. Green was a
kind old woman, who had lived much in the world, and would wish to
see much of it still, had age allowed her. Arabella Trefoil was at
any rate the niece of a Duke, and the Duke, in this affair with Lord
Rufford, had taken his niece's part. She opened her house and as much
of her heart as was left to Arabella, and was ready to mourn with
her over the wicked lord. She could sympathise with her too, as to
the iniquities of her mother, whom none of the Greens loved. But she
would have been frightened by any proposition as to Medean vengeance.

In these days,--still winter days, and not open to much feminine
gaiety in London, even if, in the present constitution of her
circumstances, gaiety would have come in her way,--in these days the
hours in her life which interested her most, were those in which Mr.
Mounser Green was dutifully respectful to his aunt. Patagonia had not
yet presented itself to him. Some four or five hundred a year, which
the old lady had at her own disposal, had for years past contributed
to Mounser's ideas of duty. And now Arabella's presence at the
small house in Portugal Street certainly added a new zest to those
ideas. The niece of the Duke of Mayfair, and the rejected of Lord
Rufford, was at the present moment an interesting young woman in
Mounser Green's world. There were many who thought that she had been
ill-used. Had she succeeded, all the world would have pitied Lord
Rufford;--but as he had escaped, there was a strong party for the
lady. And gradually Mounser Green, who some weeks ago had not thought
very much of her, became one of the party. She had brought her maid
with her; and when she found that Mounser Green came to the house
every evening, either before or after dinner, she had recourse
to her accustomed lures. She would sit quiet, dejected, almost
broken-hearted in the corner of a sofa; but when he spoke to her she
would come to life and raise her eyes,--not ignoring the recognised
dejection of her jilted position, not pretending to this minor stag
of six tines that she was a sprightly unwooed young fawn, fresh out
of the forest,--almost asking him to weep with her, and playing her
accustomed lures, though in a part which she had not hitherto filled.

But still she was resolved that her Jason should not as yet be quit
of his Medea. So she made her plot. She would herself go down to
Rufford and force her way into her late lover's presence in spite of
all obstacles. It was possible that she should do this and get back
to London the same day,--but, to do so, she must leave London by an
early train at 7 A.M., stay seven or eight hours at Rufford, and
reach the London station at 10 P.M. For such a journey there must be
some valid excuse made to Mrs. Green. There must be some necessity
shown for such a journey. She would declare that a meeting was
necessary with her mother, and that her mother was at any town she
chose to name at the requisite distance from London. In this way she
might start with her maid before daylight, and get back after dark,
and have the meeting with her mother--or with Lord Rufford as the
case might be. But Mounser Green knew very well that Lady Augustus
was in Orchard Street, and knew also that Arabella was determined not
to see her mother. And if she declared her purpose, without a caution
to Mounser Green, the old woman would tell her nephew, and the nephew
would unwittingly expose the deceit. It was necessary therefore that
she should admit Mounser Green to, at any rate, half a confidence.
This she did. "Don't ask me any questions," she said. "I know I can
trust you. I must be out of town the whole day, and perhaps the next.
And your aunt must not know why I am going or where. You will help
me?" Of course he said that he would help her; and the lie, with a
vast accompaniment of little lies, was told. There must be a meeting
on business matters between her and her mother, and her mother was
now in the neighbourhood of Birmingham. This was the lie told to Mrs.
Green. She would go down, and, if possible, be back on the same day.
She would take her maid with her. She thought that in such a matter
as that she could trust her maid, and was in truth afraid to travel
alone. "I will come in the morning and take Miss Trefoil to the
station," said Mounser, "and will meet her in the evening." And so
the matter was arranged.

The journey was not without its drawbacks and almost its perils.
Summer or winter Arabella Trefoil was seldom out of bed before nine.
It was incumbent on her now to get up on a cold March morning,--when
the lion had not as yet made way for the lamb,--at half-past five.
That itself seemed to be all but impossible to her. Nevertheless she
was ready and had tried to swallow half a cup of tea, when Mounser
Green came to the door with a cab a little after six. She had
endeavoured to dispense with this new friend's attendance, but he
had insisted, assuring her that without some such aid no cab would
be forthcoming. She had not told him and did not intend that he
should know to what station she was going. "You begged me to ask no
questions," he said when he was in the cab with her, the maid having
been induced most unwillingly to seat herself with the cabman on the
box,--"and I have obeyed you. But I wish I knew how I could help
you."

"You have helped me, and you are helping me. But do not ask anything
more."

"Will you be angry with me if I say that I fear you are intending
something rash?"

"Of course I am. How could it be otherwise with me? Don't you think
there are turns in a person's life when she must do something rash.
Think of yourself. If everybody crushed you; if you were ill-treated
beyond all belief; if the very people who ought to trust you doubted
you, wouldn't you turn upon somebody and rend him?"

"Are you going to rend anybody?"

"I do not know as yet."

"I wish you would let me go down with you."

"No; that you certainly cannot. You must not come even into the
station with me. You have been very good to me. You will not now turn
against me."

"I certainly will do nothing but what you tell me."

"Then here we are,--and now you must go. Jane can carry my hand-bag
and cloak. If you choose to come in the evening at ten it will be an
additional favour."

"I certainly will do so. But Miss Trefoil, one word." They were now
standing under cover of the portico in front of the railway station,
into which he was not to be allowed to enter. "What I fear is
this;--that in your first anger you may be tempted to do something
which may be injurious to--to your prospects in life."

"I have no prospects in life, Mr. Green."

"Ah;--that is just it. There are for most of us moments of
unhappiness in which we are tempted by our misery to think that we
are relieved at any rate from the burden of caution, because nothing
that can occur to us can make us worse than we are."

"Nothing can make me worse than I am."

"But in a few months or weeks," continued Mounser Green, bringing up
in his benevolence all the wisdom of his experience, "we have got a
new footing amidst our troubles, and then we may find how terrible
is the injury which our own indiscretion has brought on us. I do not
want to ask any questions, but--it might be so much better that you
should abandon your intention, and go back with me."

She seemed to be almost undecided for a moment as she thought over
his words. But she remembered her pledge to herself that Lord Rufford
should find that she had not done with him yet. "I must go," she said
in a hoarse voice.

"If you must--"

"I must go. I have no way out of it. Good-bye, Mr. Green; I cannot
tell you how much obliged to you I am." Then he turned back and she
went into the station and took two first-class tickets for Rufford.
At that moment Lord Rufford was turning himself comfortably in his
bed. How would he have sprung up, and how would he have fled, had he
known the evil that was coming upon him! This happened on a Thursday,
a day on which, as Arabella knew, the U. R. U. did not go out;--the
very Thursday on which John Morton was buried and the will was read
at Bragton.

She was fully determined to speak her mind to the man and to be
checked by no feminine squeamishness. She would speak her mind to him
if she could force her way into his presence. And in doing this she
would be debarred by no etiquette. It might be that she would fail,
that he would lack the courage to see her, and would run away, even
before all his servants, when he should hear who was standing in his
hall. But if he did so she would try again, even though she should
have to ride out into the hunting-field after him. Face to face she
would tell him that he was a liar and a slanderer and no gentleman,
though she should have to run round the world to catch him. When she
reached Rufford she went to the town and ordered breakfast and a
carriage. As soon as she had eaten the meal she desired the driver in
a clear voice to take her to Rufford Hall. Was her maid to go with
her? No. She would be back soon, and her maid would wait there till
she had returned.



CHAPTER XIII.

IN THE PARK.


This thing that she was doing required an infinite amount of
pluck,--of that sort of hardihood which we may not quite call
courage, but which in a world well provided with policemen is
infinitely more useful than courage. Lord Rufford himself was endowed
with all the ordinary bravery of an Englishman, but he could have
flown as soon as run into a lion's den as Arabella was doing. She had
learned that Lady Penwether and Miss Penge were both at Rufford Hall,
and understood well the difficulty there would be in explaining her
conduct should she find herself in their presence. And there were
all the servants there to stare at her, and the probability that she
might be shown to the door and told that no one there would speak to
her. She saw it all before her, and knew how bitter it might be;--but
her heart was big enough to carry her through it. She was dressed
very simply, but still by no means dowdily, in a black silk dress,
and though she wore a thick veil when she got out of the fly and rang
the door bell, she had been at some pains with her hair before she
left the inn. Her purpose was revenge; but still she had an eye to
the possible chance,--the chance barely possible of bringing the man
to submit.

When the door was opened she raised her veil and asked for Lord
Rufford;--but as she did so she walked on through the broad passage
which led from the front door into a wide central space which they
called the billiard-room but which really was the hall of the house.
This she did as a manifesto that she did not mean to leave the house
because she might be told that he was out or could not be seen, or
that he was engaged. It was then nearly one o'clock, and no doubt
he would be there for luncheon. Of course he might be in truth away
from home, but she must do her best to judge of that by the servant's
manner. The man knew her well, and not improbably had heard something
of his master's danger. He was, however, very respectful and told her
that his lordship was out in the grounds;--but that Lady Penwether
was in the drawing-room. Then a sudden thought struck her, and she
asked the man whether he would show her in what part of the grounds
she might find Lord Rufford. Upon that he took her to the front door
and pointing across the park to a belt of trees, showed her three or
four men standing round some piece of work. He believed, he said,
that one of those men was his lordship.

She bowed her thanks and was descending the steps on her way to join
the group, when whom should she see but Lady Penwether coming into
the house with her garden-hat and gloves. It was unfortunate; but
she would not allow herself to be stopped by Lady Penwether. She
bowed stiffly and would have passed on without a word, but that was
impossible. "Miss Trefoil!" said Lady Penwether with astonishment.

"Your brother is just across the park. I think I see him and will go
to him."

"I had better send and tell him that you are here," said her
ladyship.

"I need not trouble you so far. I can be my own messenger.
Perhaps you will allow the fly to be sent round to the yard for
half-an-hour." As she said this she was still passing down the steps.

But Lady Penwether knew that it behoved her to prevent this if it
might be possible. Of late she had had little or no conversation
with her brother about Miss Trefoil, but she had heard much from her
husband. She would be justified, she thought, in saying or in doing
almost anything which would save him from such an encounter. "I
really think," she said, "that he had better be told that you are
here," and as she spoke she strove to put herself in the visitor's
way. "You had better come in, Miss Trefoil, and he shall be informed
at once."

"By no means, Lady Penwether. I would not for worlds give him or you
so much trouble. I see him and I will go to him." Then Lady Penwether
absolutely put out her hand to detain her; but Arabella shook it
off angrily and looked into the other woman's face with fierce eyes.
"Allow me," she said, "to conduct myself at this moment as I may
think best. I shall do so at any rate." Then she stalked on and Lady
Penwether saw that any contest was hopeless. Had she sent the servant
on with all his speed, so as to gain three or four moments, her
brother could hardly have fled through the trees in face of the
enemy.

Lord Rufford, who was busy planning the prolongation of a ha-ha
fence, saw nothing of all this; but, after a while he was aware that
a woman was coming to him, and then gradually he saw who that woman
was. Arabella when she had found herself advancing closer went slowly
enough. She was sure of her prey now, and was wisely mindful that
it might be well that she should husband her breath. The nearer she
drew to him the slower became her pace, and more majestic. Her veil
was well thrown back, and her head was raised in the air. She knew
these little tricks of deportment and could carry herself like a
queen. He had taken a moment or two to consider. Should he fly? It
was possible. He might vault over a railed fence in among the trees,
at a spot not ten yards from her, and then it would be impossible
that she should run him down. He might have done it had not the men
been there to see it. As it was he left them in the other direction
and came forward to meet her. He tried to smile pleasantly as he
spoke to her. "So I see that you would not take my advice," he said.

"Neither your advice nor your money, my lord."

"Ah,--I was so sorry about that! But, indeed, indeed,--the fault was
not mine."

"They were your figures that I saw upon the paper, and by your
orders, no doubt, that the lawyer acted. But I have not come to say
much of that. You meant I suppose to be gracious."

"I meant to be--goodnatured."

"I daresay. You were willing enough to give away what you did not
want. But there must be more between us than any question of money.
Lord Rufford you have treated me most shamefully."

"I hope not. I think not."

"And you yourself must be well aware of it,--quite as well aware of
it as I am. You have thrown me over and absolutely destroyed me;--and
why?" He shrugged his shoulders. "Because you have been afraid of
others; because your sister has told you that you were mistaken in
your choice. The women around you have been too many for you, and
have not allowed you to dispose of your hand, and your name, and
your property as you pleased. I defy you to say that this was not
your sister's doing." He was too much astounded to contradict her
rapidly, and then she passed on, not choosing to give him time for
contradiction. "Will you have the hardihood to say that you did
not love me?" Then she paused thinking that he would not dare to
contradict her then, feeling that in that she was on strong ground.
"Were you lying when you told me that you did? What did you mean when
I was in your arms up in the house there? What did you intend me to
think that you meant?" Then she stopped, standing well in front of
him, and looking fixedly into his face.

This was the very thing that he had feared. Lord Augustus had been a
trouble. The Duke's letter had been a trouble. Lady Augustus had been
a trouble; and Sir George's sermons had been troublesome. But what
were they all when compared to this? How is it possible that a man
should tell a girl that he has not loved her, when he has embraced
her again and again? He may know it, and she may know it,--and each
may know that the other knows it;--but to say that he does not and
did not then love her is beyond the scope of his audacity,--unless he
be a heartless Nero. "No one can grieve about this so much as I do,"
he said weakly.

"Cannot I grieve more, do you think,--I who told all my relatives
that I was to become your wife, and was justified in so telling them?
Was I not justified?"

"I think not."

"You think not! What did you mean then? What were you thinking of
when we were coming back in the carriage from Stamford,--when with
your arms round me you swore that you loved me better than all the
world? Is that true? Did you so swear?" What a question for a man to
have to answer! It was becoming clear to him that there was nothing
for him but to endure and be silent. Even to this interview the gods
would at last give an end. The hour would pass, though, alas, so
slowly, and she could not expect that he should stand there to be
rated much after the accustomed time for feeding. "You acknowledge
that, and do you dare to say that I had no right to tell my friends?"

There was a moment in which he thought it was almost a pity that
he had not married her. She was very beautiful in her present
form,--more beautiful he thought than ever. She was the niece of a
Duke, and certainly a very clever woman. He had not wanted money and
why shouldn't he have married her? As for hunting him,--that was a
matter of course. He was as much born and bred to be hunted as a fox.
He could not do it now as he had put too much power into the hands of
the Penwethers, but he almost wished that he had. "I never intended
it," he said.

"What did you intend? After what has occurred I suppose I have a
right to ask such a question. I have made a somewhat unpleasant
journey to-day, all alone, on purpose to ask that question. What did
you intend?" In his great annoyance he struck his shovel angrily
against the ground. "And I will not leave you till I get an answer to
the question. What did you intend, Lord Rufford?" There was nothing
for him but silence and a gradual progress back towards the house.

But from the latter resource she cut him off for a time. "You will do
me the favour to remain with me here till this conversation is ended.
You cannot refuse me so slight a request as that, seeing the trouble
to which you have put me. I never saw a man so forgetful of words.
You cannot speak. Have you no excuse to offer, not a word to say in
explanation of conduct so black that I don't think here in England I
ever heard a case to equal it? If your sister had been treated so!"

"It would have been impossible."

"I believe it. Her cautious nature would have trusted no man as
I trusted you. Her lips, doubtless, were never unfrozen till the
settlements had been signed. With her it was a matter of bargain, not
of love. I can well believe that."

"I will not talk about my sister."

"It seems to me, Lord Rufford, that you object to talk about
anything. You certainly have been very uncommunicative with reference
to yourself. Were you lying when you told me that you loved me?"

"No."

"Did I lie when I told the Duchess that you had promised me your
love? Did I lie when I told my mother that in these days a man does
not always mention marriage when he asks a girl to be his wife? You
said you loved me, and I believed you, and the rest was a thing of
course. And you meant it. You know you meant it. When you held me in
your arms in the carriage you know you meant me to suppose that it
would always be so. Then the fear of your sister came upon you, and
of your sister's husband,--and you ran away! I wonder whether you
think yourself a man!" And yet she felt that she had not hit him yet.
He was wretched enough; and she could see that he was wretched;--but
the wretchedness would pass away as soon as she was gone. How could
she stab him so that the wound would remain? With what virus could
she poison her arrow, so that the agony might be prolonged? "And such
a coward too! I began to suspect it when you started that night from
Mistletoe,--though I did not think then that you could be all mean,
all cowardly. From that day to this, you have not dared to speak a
word of truth. Every word has been a falsehood."

"By heavens, no."

"Every word a falsehood! and I, a lady,--a lady whom you have so
deeply injured, whose cruel injury even you have not the face to
deny,--am forced by your cowardice to come to you here, because you
have not dared to come out to meet me. Is that true!"

"What good can it do?"

"None to me, God knows. You are such a thing that I would not have
you now I know you, though you were twice Lord Rufford. But I have
chosen to speak my mind to you and to tell you what I think. Did you
suppose that when I said I would meet you face to face I was to be
deterred by such girl's excuses as you made? I chose to tell you to
your face that you are false, a coward, and no gentleman, and though
you had hidden yourself under the very earth I would have found you."
Then she turned round and saw Sir George Penwether standing close to
them.

Lord Rufford had seen him approaching for some time, and had made
one or two futile attempts to meet him. Arabella's back had been
turned to the house, and she had not heard the steps or observed the
direction of her companion's eyes. He came so near before he was seen
that he heard her concluding words. Then Lord Rufford with a ghastly
attempt at pleasantry introduced them. "George," he said, "I do not
think you know Miss Trefoil. Sir George Penwether;--Miss Trefoil."

The interview had been watched from the house and the husband had
been sent down by his wife to mitigate the purgatory which she knew
that her brother must be enduring. "My wife," said Sir George, "has
sent me to ask Miss Trefoil whether she will not come into lunch."

"I believe it is Lord Rufford's house," said Arabella.

"If Miss Trefoil's frame of mind will allow her to sit at table with
me I shall be proud to see her," said Lord Rufford.

"Miss Trefoil's frame of mind will not allow her to eat or to drink
with such a dastard," said she turning away in the direction of the
park gates. "Perhaps, Sir George, you will be kind enough to direct
the man who brought me here to pick me up at the lodge." And so she
walked away--a mile across the park,--neither of them caring to
follow her.

It seemed to her as she stood at the lodge gate, having obstinately
refused to enter the house, to be an eternity before the fly came to
her. When it did come she felt as though her strength would barely
enable her to climb into it. And when she was there she wept, with
bitter throbbing woe, all the way to Rufford. It was over now at any
rate. Now there was not a possible chance on which a gleam of hope
might be made to settle. And how handsome he was, and how beautiful
the place, and how perfect would have been the triumph could she have
achieved it! One more word,--one other pressure of the hand in the
post-chaise, might have done it! Had he really promised her marriage
she did not even now think that he would have gone back from his
word. If that heavy stupid duke would have spoken to him that night
at Mistletoe, all would have been well! But now,--now there was
nothing for her but weeping and gnashing of teeth. He was gone, and
poor Morton was gone; and all those others, whose memories rose like
ghosts before her;--they were all gone. And she wept as she thought
that she might perhaps have made a better use of the gifts which
Providence had put in her way.

When Mounser Green met her at the station she was beyond measure
weary. Through the whole journey she had been struggling to restrain
her sobs so that her maid should neither hear nor see them. "Don't
mind me, Mr. Green; I am only tired,--so tired," she said as she got
into the carriage which he had brought.

He had with him a long, formal-looking letter addressed to herself.
But she was too weary to open it that night. It was the letter
conveying the tidings of the legacy which Morton had made in her
favour.



CHAPTER XIV.

LORD RUFFORD'S MODEL FARM.


At this time Senator Gotobed was paying a second visit to Rufford
Hall. In the matter of Goarly and Scrobby he had never given way an
inch. He was still strongly of opinion that a gentleman's pheasants
had no right to eat his neighbour's corn, and that if damage were
admitted, the person committing the injury should not take upon
himself to assess the damage. He also thought,--and very often
declared his thoughts,--that Goarly was justified in shooting not
only foxes but hounds also when they came upon his property, and in
moments of excitement had gone so far as to say that not even horses
should be held sacred. He had, however, lately been driven to admit
that Goarly himself was not all that a man should be, and that Mrs.
Goarly's goose was an impostor. It was the theory,--the principle
for which he combated, declaring that the evil condition of the man
himself was due to the evil institutions among which he had been
reared. By degrees evidence had been obtained of Scrobby's guilt
in the matter of the red herrings, and he was to be tried for the
offence of putting down poison. Goarly was to be the principal
witness against his brother conspirator. Lord Rufford, instigated by
his brother-in-law, and liking the spirit of the man, had invited
the Senator to stay at the Hall while the case was being tried at
the Rufford Quarter Sessions. I am afraid the invitation was given
in a spirit of triumph over the Senator rather than with genuine
hospitality. It was thought well that the American should be made to
see in public the degradation of the abject creature with whom he had
sympathised. Perhaps there were some who thought that in this way
they would get the Senator's neck under their heels. If there were
such they were likely to be mistaken, as the Senator was not a man
prone to submit himself to such treatment.

He was seated at table with Lady Penwether and Miss Penge when Lord
Rufford and his brother-in-law came into the room, after parting
with Miss Trefoil in the manner described in the last chapter. Lady
Penwether had watched their unwelcome visitor as she took her way
across the park and had whispered something to Miss Penge. Miss Penge
understood the matter thoroughly, and would not herself have made the
slightest allusion to the other young lady. Had the Senator not been
there the two gentlemen would have been allowed to take their places
without a word on the subject. But the Senator had a marvellous gift
of saying awkward things and would never be reticent. He stood for
a while at the window in the drawing-room before he went across the
hall, and even took up a pair of field-glasses to scrutinise the
lady; and when they were all present he asked whether that was not
Miss Trefoil whom he had seen down by the new fence. Lady Penwether,
without seeming to look about her, did look about her for a few
seconds to see whether the question might be allowed to die away
unanswered. She perceived, from the Senator's face, that he intended
to have an answer.

"Yes," she said, "that was Miss Trefoil. I am very glad that she is
not coming in to disturb us."

"A great blessing," said Miss Penge.

"Where is she staying?" asked the Senator.

"I think she drove over from Rufford," said the elder lady.

"Poor young lady! She was engaged to marry my friend, Mr. John
Morton. She must have felt his death very bitterly. He was an
excellent young man; rather opinionated and perhaps too much
wedded to the traditions of his own country; but, nevertheless, a
painstaking, excellent young man. I had hoped to welcome her as Mrs.
Morton in America."

"He was to have gone to Patagonia," said Lord Rufford, endeavouring
to come to himself after the sufferings of the morning.

"We should have seen him back in Washington, Sir. Whenever you have
anything good in diplomacy you generally send him to us. Poor young
lady! Was she talking about him?"

"Not particularly," said his lordship.

"She must have remembered that when she was last here he was of
the party, and it was but a few weeks ago,--only a little before
Christmas. He struck me as being cold in his manner as an affianced
lover. Was not that your idea, Lady Penwether?"

"I don't think I observed him especially."

"I have reason to believe that he was much attached to her. She
could be sprightly enough; but at times there seemed to come a cold
melancholy upon her too. It is I fancy so with most of your English
ladies. Miss Trefoil always gave me the idea of being a good type
of the English aristocracy." Lady Penwether and Miss Penge drew
themselves up very stiffly. "You admired her, I think, my Lord."

"Very much indeed," said Lord Rufford, filling his mouth with
pigeon-pie as he spoke, and not lifting his eyes from his plate.

"Will she be back to dinner?"

"Oh dear no," said Lady Penwether. There was something in her tone
which at last startled the Senator into perceiving that Miss Trefoil
was not popular at Rufford Hall.

"She only came for a morning call," said Lord Rufford.

"Poor young woman. She has lost her husband, and, I am afraid, now
has lost her friends also. I am told that she is not well off;--and
from what I see and hear, I fancy that here in England a young lady
without a dowry cannot easily replace a lover. I suppose, too, Miss
Trefoil is not quite in her first youth."

"If you have done, Caroline," said Lady Penwether to Miss Penge, "I
think we'll go into the other room."

That afternoon Sir George asked the Senator to accompany him for
a walk. Sir George was held to be responsible for the Senator's
presence, and was told by the ladies that he must do something with
him. The next day, which was Friday, would be occupied by the affairs
of Scrobby and Goarly, and on the Saturday he was to return to town.
The two started about three with the object of walking round the
park and the home farm--the Senator intent on his duty of examining
the ways of English life to the very bottom. "I hope I did not say
anything amiss about Miss Trefoil," he remarked, as they passed
through a shrubbery gate into the park.

"No; I think not."

"I thought your good lady looked as though she did not like the
subject."

"I am not sure that Miss Trefoil is very popular with the ladies up
there."

"She's a handsome young woman and clever, though, as I said before,
given to melancholy, and sometimes fastidious. When we were all here
I thought that Lord Rufford admired her, and that poor Mr. Morton was
a little jealous."

"I wasn't at Rufford then. Here we get out of the park on to the home
farm. Rufford does it very well,--very well indeed."

"Looks after it altogether himself?"

"I cannot quite say that. He has a land-bailiff who lives in the
house there."

"With a salary?"

"Oh yes; £120 a year I think the man has."

"And that house?" asked the Senator. "Why, the house and garden are
worth £50 a year."

"I dare say they are. Of course it costs money. It's near the park
and had to be made ornamental."

"And does it pay?"

"Well, no; I should think not. In point of fact I know it does not.
He loses about the value of the ground."

The Senator asked a great many more questions and then began his
lecture. "A man who goes into trade and loses by it, cannot be doing
good to himself or to others. You say, Sir George, that it is a model
farm;--but it's a model of ruin. If you want to teach a man any
other business, you don't specially select an example in which the
proprietors are spending all their capital without any return. And if
you would not do this in shoemaking, why in farming?"

"The neighbours are able to see how work should be done."

"Excuse me, Sir George, but it seems to me that they are enabled to
see how work should not be done. If his lordship would stick up over
his gate a notice to the effect that everything seen there was to be
avoided, he might do some service. If he would publish his accounts
half-yearly in the village newspaper--"

"There isn't a village newspaper."

"In the _Rufford Gazette_. There is a _Rufford Gazette_, and Rufford
isn't much more than a village. If he would publish his accounts
half-yearly in the _Rufford Gazette_, honestly showing how much he
had lost by his system, how much capital had been misapplied, and how
much labour wasted, he might serve as an example, like the pictures
of 'The Idle Apprentice.' I don't see that he can do any other
good,--unless it be to the estimable gentleman who is allowed to
occupy the pretty house. I don't think you'd see anything like that
model farm in our country, Sir."

"Your views, Mr. Gotobed, are utilitarian rather than picturesque."

"Oh!--if you say that it is done for the picturesque, that is
another thing. Lord Rufford is a wealthy lord, and can afford to be
picturesque. A green sward I should have thought handsomer, as well
as less expensive, than a ploughed field, but that is a matter of
taste. Only why call a pretty toy a model farm? You might mislead the
British rustics."

They had by this time passed through a couple of fields which formed
part of the model farm, and had come to a stile leading into a large
meadow. "This I take it," said the Senator looking about him, "is
beyond the limits of my Lord's plaything."

"This is Shugborough," said Sir George, "and there is John Runce, the
occupier, on his pony. He at any rate is a model farmer." As he spoke
Mr. Runce slowly trotted up to them touching his hat, and Mr. Gotobed
recognized the man who had declined to sit next to him at the hunting
breakfast. Runce also thought that he knew the gentleman. "Do you
hunt to-morrow, Mr. Runce?" asked Sir George.

"Well, Sir George, no; I think not. I b'lieve I must go to Rufford
and hear that fellow Scrobby get it hot and heavy."

"We seem all to be going that way. You think he'll be convicted,
Sir?"

"If there's a juryman left in the country worth his salt, he'll be
convicted," said Mr. Runce, almost enraged at the doubt. "But that
other fellow;--he's to get off. That's what kills me, Sir George."

"You're alluding to Mr. Goarly, Sir?" said the Senator.

"That's about it, certainly," said Runce, still looking very
suspiciously at his companion.

"I almost think he is the bigger rogue of the two," said the Senator.

"Well," said Runce; "well! I don't know as he ain't. Six of one and
half a dozen of the other! That's about it." But he was evidently
pacified by the opinion.

"Goarly is certainly a rascal all round," continued the Senator.
Runce looked at him to make sure whether he was the man who had
uttered such fearful blasphemies at the breakfast-table. "I think we
had a little discussion about this before, Mr. Runce."

"I am very glad to see you have changed your principles, Sir."

"Not a bit of it. I am too old to change my principles, Mr. Runce.
And much as I admire this country I don't think it's the place in
which I should be induced to do so." Runce looked at him again with a
scowl on his face and with a falling mouth. "Mr. Goarly is certainly
a blackguard."

"Well;--I rather think he is."

"But a blackguard may have a good cause. Put it in your own case, Mr.
Runce. If his Lordship's pheasants ate up your wheat--"

"They're welcome;--they're welcome! The more the merrier. But they
don't. Pheasants know when they're well off."

"Or if a crowd of horsemen rode over your fences, don't you think--"

"My fences! They'd be welcome in my wife's bedroom if the fox took
that way. My fences! It's what I has fences for,--to be ridden over."

"You didn't exactly hear what I have to say, Mr. Runce."

"And I don't want. No offence, sir, if you be a friend of my
Lord's;--but if his Lordship was to say hisself that Goarly was
right, I wouldn't listen to him. A good cause,--and he going about
at dead o'night with his pockets full of p'ison! Hounds and foxes
all one!--or little childer either for the matter o' that, if they
happened on the herrings!"

"I have not said his cause was good, Mr. Runce."

"I'll wish you good evening, Sir George," said the farmer, reining
his pony round. "Good evening to you, sir." And Mr. Runce trotted or
rather ambled off, unable to endure another word.

"An honest man, I dare say," said the Senator.

"Certainly;--and not a bad specimen of a British farmer."

"Not a bad specimen of a Briton generally;--but still, perhaps, a
little unreasonable." After that Sir George said as little as he
could, till he had brought the Senator back to the hall.



"I think it's all over now," said Lady Penwether to Miss Penge, when
the gentlemen had left them alone in the afternoon.

"I'm sure I hope so,--for his sake. What a woman to come here by
herself, in that way!"

"I don't think he ever cared for her in the least."

"I can't say that I have troubled myself much about that," replied
Miss Penge. "For the sake of the family generally, and the property,
and all that, I should be very very sorry to think that he was going
to make her Lady Rufford. I dare say he has amused himself with her."

"There was very little of that, as far as I can learn;--very little
encouragement indeed! What we saw here was the worst of it. He was
hardly with her at all at Mistletoe."

"I hope it will make him more cautious;--that's all," said Miss
Penge. Miss Penge was now a great heiress, having had her lawsuit
respecting certain shares in a Welsh coal-mine settled since we last
saw her. As all the world knows she came from one of the oldest
Commoner's families in the West of England, and is, moreover, a
handsome young woman, only twenty-seven years of age. Lady Penwether
thinks that she is the very woman to be mistress of Rufford, and I do
not know that Miss Penge herself is averse to the idea. Lord Rufford
has been too lately wounded to rise at the bait quite immediately;
but his sister knows that her brother is impressionable and that a
little patience will go a long way. They have, however, all agreed at
the hall that Arabella's name shall not again be mentioned.



CHAPTER XV.

SCROBBY'S TRIAL.


Rufford was a good deal moved as to the trial of Mr. Scrobby. Mr.
Scrobby was a man who not long since had held his head up in Rufford
and had the reputation of a well-to-do tradesman. Enemies had perhaps
doubted his probity; but he had gone on and prospered, and, two or
three years before the events which are now chronicled, had retired
on a competence. He had then taken a house with a few acres of
land, lying between Rufford and Rufford Hall,--the property of Lord
Rufford, and had commenced genteel life. Many in the neighbourhood
had been astonished that such a man should have been accepted as a
tenant in such a house; and it was generally understood that Lord
Rufford himself had been very angry with his agent. Mr. Scrobby
did not prosper greatly in his new career. He became a guardian of
the poor and quarrelled with all the Board. He tried to become a
municipal counsellor in the borough, but failed. Then he quarrelled
with his landlord, insisted on making changes in the grounds which
were not authorised by the terms of his holding, would not pay his
rent, and was at last ejected,--having caused some considerable
amount of trouble. Then he occupied a portion of his leisure with
spreading calumnies as to his Lordship, and was generally understood
to have made up his mind to be disagreeable. As Lord Rufford was a
sportsman rather than anything else Scrobby studied how he might best
give annoyance in that direction, and some time before the Goarly
affair had succeeded in creating considerable disturbance. When a man
will do this pertinaciously, and when his selected enemy is wealthy
and of high standing, he will generally succeed in getting a party
round him. In Rufford there were not a few who thought that Lord
Rufford's pheasants and foxes were a nuisance,--though probably these
persons had never suffered in any way themselves. It was a grand
thing to fight a lord,--and so Scrobby had a party.

When the action against his Lordship was first threatened by Goarly,
and when it was understood that Scrobby had backed him with money,
there was a feeling that Scrobby was doing rather a fine thing. He
had not, indeed, used his money openly, as the Senator had afterwards
done; but that was not Scrobby's way. If Goarly had been ill-used any
help was legitimate, and the party as a party was proud of their man.
But when it came to pass that poison had been laid down, "wholesale"
as the hunting men said, in Dillsborough Wood, in the close vicinity
of Goarly's house, then the party hesitated. Such strategy as that
was disgusting;--but was there reason to think that Scrobby had been
concerned in the matter? Scrobby still had an income, and ate roast
meat or boiled every day for his dinner. Was it likely that such a
man should deal in herrings and strychnine?

Nickem had been at work for the last three months, backed up by funds
which had latterly been provided by the lord's agent, and had in
truth run the matter down. Nickem had found out all about it, and
in his pride had resigned his stool in Mr. Masters' office. But the
Scrobby party in Rufford could not bring itself to believe that
Nickem was correct. That Goarly's hand had actually placed the
herrings no man either at Rufford or Dillsborough had doubted. Such
was now Nickem's story. But of what avail would be the evidence of
such a man as Goarly against such a man as Scrobby? It would be
utterly worthless unless corroborated, and the Scrobby party was not
yet aware how clever Nickem had been. Thus all Rufford was interested
in the case.

Lord Rufford, Sir George Penwether, his Lordship's agent, and Mr.
Gotobed, had been summoned as witnesses,--the expenditure of money by
the Senator having by this time become notorious; and on the morning
of the trial they all went into the town in his Lordship's drag. The
Senator, as the guest, was on the box-seat with his Lordship, and as
they passed old Runce trotting into Rufford on his nag, Mr. Gotobed
began to tell the story of yesterday's meeting, complaining of the
absurdity of the old farmer's anger.

"Penwether told me about it," said the Lord.

"I suppose your tenant is a little crazy."

"By no means. I thought he was right in what he said, if I understood
Penwether."

"He couldn't have been right. He turned from me in disgust simply
because I tried to explain to him that a rogue has as much right to
be defended by the law as an honest man."

"Runce looks upon these men as vermin which ought to be hunted down."

"But they are not vermin. They are men;--and till they have been
found guilty they are innocent men."

"If a man had murdered your child, would he be innocent in your eyes
till he was convicted?"

"I hope so;--but I should be very anxious to bring home the crime
against him. And should he be found guilty even then he should not be
made subject to other punishment than that the law awards. Mr. Runce
is angry with me because I do not think that Goarly should be crushed
under the heels of all his neighbours. Take care, my Lord. Didn't we
come round that corner rather sharp?"

Then Lord Rufford emphatically declared that such men as Scrobby
and Goarly should be crushed, and the Senator, with an inward sigh
declared that between landlord and tenant, between peer and farmer,
between legislator and rustic, there was, in capacity for logical
inference, no difference whatever. The British heart might be all
right; but the British head was,--ah,--hopelessly wooden! It would
be his duty to say so in his lecture, and perhaps some good might be
done to so gracious but so stolid a people, if only they could be got
to listen.

Scrobby had got down a barrister from London, and therefore the case
was allowed to drag itself out through the whole day. Lord Rufford,
as a magistrate, went on to the bench himself,--though he explained
that he only took his seat there as a spectator. Sir George and Mr.
Gotobed were also allowed to sit in the high place,--though the
Senator complained even of this. Goarly and Scrobby were not allowed
to be there, and Lord Rufford, in his opinion, should also have been
debarred from such a privilege. A long time was occupied before
even a jury could be sworn, the barrister earning his money by
brow-beating the provincial bench and putting various obstacles in
the way of the trial. As he was used to practice at the assizes of
course he was able to domineer. This juror would not do, nor that.
The chairman was all wrong in his law. The officers of the Court
knew nothing about it. At first there was quite a triumph for the
Scrobbyites, and even Nickem himself was frightened. But at last
the real case was allowed to begin, and Goarly was soon in the
witness-box. Goarly did not seem to enjoy the day, and was with
difficulty got to tell his own story even on his own side. But the
story when it was told was simple enough. He had met Mr. Scrobby
accidentally in Rufford and they two had together discussed the
affairs of the young Lord. They came to an agreement that the young
Lord was a tyrant and ought to be put down, and Scrobby showed how
it was to be done. Scrobby instigated the action about the pheasants,
and undertook to pay the expenses if Goarly would act in the other
little matter. But, when he found that the Senator's money was
forthcoming, he had been anything but as good as his word. Goarly
swore that in hard cash he had never seen more than four shillings
of Scrobby's money. As to the poison, Goarly declared that he knew
nothing about it; but he certainly had received a parcel of herrings
from Scrobby's own hands, and in obedience to Scrobby's directions,
had laid them down in Dillsborough Wood the very morning on which
the hounds had come there. He owned that he supposed that there
might be something in the herrings, something that would probably be
deleterious to hounds as well as foxes,--or to children should the
herrings happen to fall into children's hands; but he assured the
Court that he had no knowledge of poison,--none whatever. Then he was
made by the other side to give a complete and a somewhat prolonged
account of his own life up to the present time,--this information
being of course required by the learned barrister on the other side;
in listening to which the Senator did become thoroughly ashamed of
the Briton whom he had assisted with his generosity.

But all this would have been nothing had not Nickem secured the old
woman who had sold the herrings,--and also the chemist, from whom the
strychnine had been purchased as much as three years previously. This
latter feat was Nickem's great triumph,--the feeling of the glory
of which induced him to throw up his employment in Mr. Masters'
office, and thus brought him and his family to absolute ruin within
a few months in spite of the liberal answers which were made by Lord
Rufford to many of his numerous appeals. Away in Norrington the
poison had been purchased as much as three years ago, and yet Nickem
had had the luck to find it out. When the Scrobbyites heard that
Scrobby had gone all the way to Norrington to buy strychnine to kill
rats they were Scrobbyites no longer. "I hope they'll hang 'un. I
do hope they'll hang 'un," said Mr. Runce quite out loud from his
crowded seat just behind the attorney's bench.

The barrister of course struggled hard to earn his money. Though he
could not save his client he might annoy the other side. He insisted
therefore on bringing the whole affair of the pheasants before the
Court, and examined the Senator at great length. He asked the Senator
whether he had not found himself compelled to sympathise with the
wrongs he had witnessed. The Senator declared that he had witnessed
no wrongs. Why then had he interfered? Because he had thought that
there might be wrong, and because he wished to see what power a
poor man in this country would have against a rich one. He was
induced still to think that Goarly had been ill-treated about the
pheasants;--but he could not take upon himself to say that he had
witnessed any wrong done. But he was quite sure that the system on
which such things were managed in England was at variance with that
even justice which prevailed in his own country! Yes;--by his own
country he did mean Mickewa. He could tell that learned gentleman
in spite of his sneers, and in spite of his evident ignorance of
geography, that nowhere on the earth's surface was justice more
purely administered than in the great Western State of Mickewa. It
was felt by everybody that the Senator had the best of it.

Mr. Scrobby was sent into durance for twelve months with hard labour,
and Goarly was conveyed away in the custody of the police lest he
should be torn to pieces by the rough lovers of hunting who were
congregated outside. When the sentence had reached Mr. Runce's ears,
and had been twice explained to him, first by one neighbour and then
by another, his face assumed the very look which it had worn when
he carried away his victuals from the Senator's side at Rufford
Hall, and when he had turned his pony round on his own land on the
previous evening. The man had killed a fox and might have killed a
dozen hounds, and was to be locked up only for twelve months! He
indignantly asked his neighbour what had come of Van Diemen's Land,
and what was the use of Botany Bay.

On their way back to Rufford Hall, Lord Rufford would have been
triumphant, had not the Senator checked him. "It's a bad state of
things altogether," he said. "Of course the promiscuous use of
strychnine is objectionable."

"Rather," said his Lordship.

"But is it odd that an utterly uneducated man, one whom his country
has left to grow up in the ignorance of a brute, should have recourse
to any measure, however objectionable, when the law will absolutely
give him no redress against the trespass made by a couple of hundred
horsemen?" Lord Rufford gave it up, feeling the Senator to be a man
with whom he could not argue.



CHAPTER XVI.

AT LAST.


When once Mrs. Morton had taken her departure for London, on the
day after her grandson's death, nothing further was heard of her at
Bragton. She locked up everything and took all the keys away, as
though still hoping,--against hope,--that the will might turn out to
be other than she expected. But when the lawyer came down to read the
document he brought the keys back with him, and no further tidings
reached Dillsborough respecting the old woman. She still drew her
income as she had done for half a century, but never even came to
look at the stone which Reginald put up on the walls of Bragton
church to perpetuate the memory of his cousin. What moans she made
she made in silent obscurity, and devoted the remainder of her years
to putting together money for members of her own family who took no
notice of her.

After the funeral, Lady Ushant returned to the house at the request
of her nephew, who declared his purpose of remaining at Hoppet Hall
for the present. She expostulated with him and received from him an
assurance that he would take up his residence as squire at Bragton as
soon as he married a wife,--should he ever do so. In the meantime he
could, he thought, perform his duties from Hoppet Hall as well as on
the spot. As a residence for a bachelor he preferred, he said, Hoppet
Hall to the park. Lady Ushant yielded and returned once again to her
old home,--the house in which she had been born,--and gave up her
lodgings at Cheltenham. The word that he said about his possible
marriage set her mind at work, and induced her to put sundry
questions to him. "Of course you will marry?" she said.

"Men who have property to leave behind them usually do marry, and
as I am not wiser than others, I probably may do so. But I will not
admit that it is a matter of course. I may escape yet."

"I do hope you will marry. I hope it may be before I die, so that I
may see her."

"And disapprove of her, ten to one."

"Certainly I shall not if you tell me that you love her."

"Then I will tell you so,--to prevent disagreeable results."

"I am quite sure there must be somebody that you like, Reginald," she
said after a pause.

"Are you? I don't know that I have shown any very strong preference.
I am not disposed to praise myself for many things, but I really do
think that I have been as undemonstrative as most men of my age."

"Still I did hope--"

"What did you hope?"

"I won't mention any name. I don't think it is right. I have observed
that more harm than good comes of such talking, and I have determined
always to avoid it. But--." Then there was another pause. "Remember
how old I am, Reginald, and when it is to be done give me at any rate
the pleasure of knowing it." Of course he knew to whom she alluded,
and of course he laughed at her feeble caution. But he would not
say a word to encourage her to mention the name of Mary Masters. He
thought that he was sure that were the girl free he would now ask her
to be his wife. If he loved any one it was her. If he had ever known
a woman with whom he thought it would be pleasant to share the joy
and labours of life, it was Mary Masters. If he could imagine that
any one constant companion would be a joy to him, she would be that
person. But he had been distinctly informed that she was in love with
some one, and not for worlds would he ask for that which had been
given to another. And not for worlds would he hazard the chance of
a refusal. He thought that he could understand the delight, that
he could thoroughly enjoy the rapture, of hearing her whisper with
downcast eyes, that she could love him. He had imagination enough to
build castles in the air in which she reigned as princess, in which
she would lie with her head upon his bosom and tell him that he was
her chosen prince. But he would hardly know how to bear himself
should he ask in vain. He believed he could love as well as Lawrence
Twentyman, but he was sure that he could not continue his quest as
that young man had done.

When Lady Ushant had been a day or two at the house she asked him
whether she might invite Mary there as her guest,--as her perpetual
guest.--"I have no objection in life," he said;--"but take care that
you don't interfere with her happiness."

"Because of her father and sisters?" suggested the innocent old lady.

   "'Has she a father, has she a mother;
     Or has she a dearer one still than all other?'"

said Reginald laughing.

"Perhaps she has."

"Then don't interfere with her happiness in that direction. How is
she to have a lover come to see her out here?"

"Why not? I don't see why she shouldn't have a lover here as well as
in Dillsborough. I don't object to lovers, if they are of the proper
sort;--and I am sure Mary wouldn't have anything else." Reginald told
her she might do as she pleased and made no further inquiry as to
Mary's lovers.

A few days afterwards Mary went with her boxes to Bragton,--Mrs.
Masters repeating her objections, but repeating them with but little
energy. Just at this time a stroke of good fortune befell the Masters
family generally which greatly reduced her power over her husband.
Reginald Morton had spent an hour in the attorney's office, and had
declared his purpose of restoring Mr. Masters to his old family
position in regard to the Bragton estate. When she heard it she felt
at once that her dominion was gone. She had based everything on the
growing inferiority of her husband's position, and now he was about
to have all his glory back again! She had inveighed against gentlemen
from the day of her marriage,--and here he was, again to be immersed
up to his eyes in the affairs of a gentleman. And then she had been
so wrong about Goarly, and Lord Rufford had been so much better a
client! And ready money had been so much more plentiful of late,
owing to poor John Morton's ready-handed honesty! She had very little
to say about it when Mary packed her boxes and was taken in Mr.
Runciman's fly to Bragton.

Since the old days, the old days of all, since the days to which
Reginald had referred when he asked her to pass over the bridge with
him, she had never yet walked about the Bragton grounds. She had
often been to the house, visiting Lady Ushant; but she had simply
gone thither and returned. And indeed, when the house had been empty,
the walk from Dillsborough to the bridge and back had been sufficient
exercise for herself and her sisters. But now she could go whither
she listed and bring her memory to all the old spots. With the
tenacity as to household matters which characterised the ladies of
the country some years since, Lady Ushant employed all her mornings
and those of her young friend in making inventories of everything
that was found in the house; but her afternoons were her own, and she
wandered about with a freedom she had never known before. At this
time Reginald Morton was up in London and had been away nearly a
week. He had gone intending to be absent for some undefined time, so
that Lady Ushant and Mrs. Hopkins were free from all interruption. It
was as yet only the middle of March and the lion had not altogether
disappeared; but still Mary could get out. She did not care much
for the wind; and she roamed about among the leafless shrubberies,
thinking,--probably not of many things,--meaning always to think of
the past, but unable to keep her mind from the future, the future
which would so soon be the present. How long would it be before the
coming of that stately dame? Was he in quest of her now? Had he
perhaps postponed his demand upon her till fortune had made him rich?
Of course she had no right to be sorry that he had inherited the
property which had been his almost of right;--but yet, had it been
otherwise, might she not have had some chance? But, oh, if he had
said a word to her, only a word more than he had spoken already,--a
word that might have sounded like encouragement to others beside
herself, and then have been obliged to draw back because of the duty
which he owed to the property,--how much worse would that have been!
She did own to herself that the squire of Bragton should not look for
his wife in the house of a Dillsborough attorney. As she thought of
this a tear ran down her cheek and trickled down on to the wooden
rail of the little bridge.

"There's no one to give you an excuse now, and you must come and walk
round with me," said a voice, close to her ear.

"Oh, Mr. Morton, how you have startled me!"

"Is there anything the matter, Mary?" said he, looking up into her
face.

"Only you have startled me so."

"Has that brought tears into your eyes?"

"Well,--I suppose so," she said trying to smile. "You were so very
quiet and I thought you were in London."

"So I was this morning, and now I am here. But something else has
made you unhappy."

"No; nothing."

"I wish we could be friends, Mary. I wish I could know your secret.
You have a secret."

"No," she said boldly.

"Is there nothing?"

"What should there be, Mr. Morton!"

"Tell me why you were crying."

"I was not crying. Just a tear is not crying. Sometimes one does
get melancholy. One can't cry when there is any one to look, and so
one does it alone. I'd have been laughing if I knew that you were
coming."

"Come round by the kennels. You can get over the wall;--can't you?"

"Oh yes."

"And we'll go down the old orchard, and get out by the corner of the
park fence." Then he walked and she followed him, hardly keeping
close by his side, and thinking as she went how foolish she had
been not to have avoided the perils and fresh troubles of such a
walk. When he was helping her over the wall he held her hands for a
moment and she was aware of unusual pressure. It was the pressure of
love,--or of that pretence of love which young men, and perhaps old
men, sometimes permit themselves to affect. In an ordinary way Mary
would have thought as little of it as another girl. She might feel
dislike to the man, but the affair would be too light for resentment.
With this man it was different. He certainly was not justified in
making the slightest expression of factitious affection. He at any
rate should have felt himself bound to abstain from any touch of
peculiar tenderness. She would not say a word. She would not even
look at him with angry eyes. But she twitched both her hands away
from him as she sprang to the ground. Then there was a passage across
the orchard,--not more than a hundred yards, and after that a stile.
At the stile she insisted on using her own hand for the custody of
her dress. She would not even touch his outstretched arm. "You are
very independent," he said.

"I have to be so."

"I cannot make you out, Mary. I wonder whether there is still
anything rankling in your bosom against me."

"Oh dear no. What should rankle with me?"

"What indeed;--unless you resent my--regard."

"I am not so rich in friends as to do that, Mr. Morton."

"I don't suppose there can be many people who have the same sort of
feeling for you that I have."

"There are not many who have known me so long, certainly."

"You have some friend, I know," he said.

"More than one I hope."

"Some special friend. Who is he, Mary?"

"I don't know what you mean, Mr. Morton." She then thought that he
was still alluding to Lawrence Twentyman.

"Tell me, Mary."

"What am I to tell you?"

"Your father says that there is some one."

"Papa!"

"Yes;--your father."

Then she remembered it all;--how she had been driven into a half
confession to her father. She could not say there was nobody. She
certainly could not say who that some one was. She could not be
silent, for by silence she would be confessing a passion for some
other man,--a passion which certainly had no existence. "I don't know
why papa should talk about me," she said, "and I certainly don't know
why you should repeat what he said."

"But there is some one?" She clenched her fist, and hit out at the
air with her parasol, and knit her brows as she looked up at him with
a glance of fire in her eye which he had never seen there before.
"Believe me, Mary," he said;--"if ever a girl had a sincere friend,
you have one in me. I would not tease you by impertinence in such a
matter. I will be as faithful to you as the sun. Do you love any
one?"

"Yes," she said turning round at him with ferocity and shouting out
her answer as she pressed on.

"Who is he, Mary?"

"What right have you to ask me? What right can any one have? Even
your aunt would not press me as you are doing."

"My aunt could not have the same interest. Who is he, Mary?"

"I will not tell you."

He paused a few moments and walked on a step or two before he spoke
again. "I would it were I," he said.

"What!" she ejaculated.

"I would it were I," he repeated.

One glance of her eye stole itself round into his face, and then her
face was turned quickly to the ground. Her parasol which had been
raised drooped listless from her hand. All unconsciously she hastened
her steps and became aware that the tears were streaming from
her eyes. For a moment or two it seemed to her that all was still
hopeless. If he had no more to say than that, certainly she had not a
word. He had made her no tender of his love. He had not told her that
in very truth she was his chosen one. After all she was not sure that
she understood the meaning of those words "I would it were I." But
the tears were coming so quick that she could see nothing of the
things around her, and she did not dare even to put her hand up to
her eyes. If he wanted her love,--if it was possible that he really
wished for it,--why did he not ask for it? She felt his footsteps
close to hers, and she was tempted to walk on quicker even than
before. Then there came the fingers of a hand round her waist,
stealing gradually on till she felt the pressure of his body on her
shoulders. She put her hand up weakly, to push back the intruding
fingers,--only to leave it tight in his grasp. Then,--then was the
first moment in which she realized the truth. After all he did love
her. Surely he would not hold her there unless he meant her to know
that he loved her. "Mary," he said. To speak was impossible, but she
turned round and looked at him with imploring eyes. "Mary,--say that
you will be my wife."



CHAPTER XVII.

"MY OWN, OWN HUSBAND."


Yes;--it had come at last. As one may imagine to be the certainty
of paradise to the doubting, fearful, all but despairing soul when
it has passed through the gates of death and found in new worlds a
reality of assured bliss, so was the assurance to her, conveyed by
that simple request, "Mary, say that you will be my wife." It did not
seem to her that any answer was necessary. Will it be required that
the spirit shall assent to its entrance into Elysium? Was there room
for doubt? He would never go back from his word now. He would not
have spoken the word had he not been quite, quite certain. And he had
loved her all that time,--when she was so hard to him! It must have
been so. He had loved her, this bright one, even when he thought
that she was to be given to that clay-bound rustic lover! Perhaps
that was the sweetest of it all, though in draining the sweet draught
she had to accuse herself of hardness, blindness and injustice.
Could it be real? Was it true that she had her foot firmly placed
in Paradise? He was there, close to her, with his arm still round
her, and her fingers grasped within his. The word wife was still
in her ears,--surely the sweetest word in all the language! What
protestation of love could have been so eloquent as that question?
"Will you be my wife?" No true man, she thought, ever ought to ask
the question in any other form. But her eyes were still full of
tears, and as she went she knew not where she was going. She had
forgotten all her surroundings, being only aware that he was with
her, and that no other eyes were on them.

Then there was another stile on reaching which he withdrew his arm
and stood facing her with his back leaning against it. "Why do you
weep?" he said;--"and, Mary, why do you not answer my question? If
there be anybody else you must tell me now."

"There is nobody else," she said almost angrily. "There never was.
There never could be."

"And yet there was somebody!" She pouted her lips at him, glancing up
into his face for half a second, and then again hung her head down.
"Mary, do not grudge me my delight."

"No;--no;--no!"

"But you do."

"No. If there can be delight to you in so poor a thing, have it all."

"Then you must kiss me, dear." She gently came to him,--oh so
gently,--and with her head still hanging, creeping towards his
shoulder, thinking perhaps that the motion should have been his, but
still obeying him, and then, leaning against him, seemed as though
she would stoop with her lips to his hand. But this he did not
endure. Seizing her quickly in his arms he drew her up, till her not
unwilling face was close to his, and there he kept her till she was
almost frightened by his violence. "And now, Mary, what do you say to
my question? It has to be answered."

"You know."

"But that will not do, I will have it in words. I will not be shorn
of my delight."

That it should be a delight to him, was the very essence of her
heaven. "Tell me what to say," she answered. "How may I say it best?"

"Reginald Morton," he began.

"Reginald," she repeated it after him, but went no farther in naming
him.

"Because I love you better than any other being in the world--"

"I do."

"Ah, but say it."

"Because I love you, oh, so much better than all the world besides."

"Therefore, my own, own husband--"

"Therefore, my own, own--" Then she paused.

"Say the word."

"My own, own husband."

"I will be your true wife."

"I will be your own true loving wife." Then he kissed her again.

"That," he said, "is our little marriage ceremony under God's sky,
and no other can be more binding. As soon as you, in the plentitude
of your maiden power, will fix a day for the other one, and when we
can get that over, then we will begin our little journey together."

"But Reginald!"

"Well, dear!"

"You haven't said anything."

"Haven't I? I thought I had said it all."

"But you haven't said it for yourself!"

"You say what you want,--and I'll repeat it quite as well as you
did."

"I can't do that. Say it yourself."

"I will be your true husband for the rest of the journey;--by which
I mean it to be understood that I take you into partnership on equal
terms, but that I am to be allowed to manage the business just as I
please."

"Yes;--that you shall," she said, quite in earnest.

"Only as you are practical and I am vague, I don't doubt that
everything will fall into your hands before five years are over, and
that I shall have to be told whether I can afford to buy a new book,
and when I am to ask all the gentry to dinner."

"Now you are laughing at me because I shall know so little about
anything."

"Come, dear; let us get over the stile and go on for another field,
or we shall never get round the park." Then she jumped over after
him, just touching his hand. "I was not laughing at you at all. I
don't in the least doubt that in a very little time you will know
everything about everything."

"I am so much afraid."

"You needn't be. I know you well enough for that. But suppose I
had taken such a one as that young woman who was here with my poor
cousin. Oh, heavens!"

"Perhaps you ought to have done so."

"I thank the Lord that hath delivered me."

"You ought,--you ought to have chosen some lady of high standing,"
said Mary, thinking with ineffable joy of the stately dame who was
not to come to Bragton. "Do you know what I was thinking only the
other day about it?--that you had gone up to London to look for some
proper sort of person."

"And how did you mean to receive her?"

"I shouldn't have received her at all. I should have gone away. You
can't do it now."

"Can't I?"

"What were you thanking the Lord for so heartily?"

"For you."

"Were you? That is the sweetest thing you have said yet. My own;--my
darling;--my dearest! If only I can so live that you may be able to
thank the Lord for me in years to come!"

I will not trouble the reader with all that was said at every stile.
No doubt very much of what has been told was repeated again and
again so that the walk round the park was abnormally long. At last,
however, they reached the house, and as they entered the hall, Mary
whispered to him, "Who is to tell your aunt?" she said.

"Come along," he replied striding upstairs to his aunt's bedroom,
where he knew she would be at this time. He opened the door without
any notice and, having waited till Mary had joined him, led her
forcibly into the middle of the room. "Here she is," he said;--"my
wife elect."

"Oh, Reginald!"

"We have managed it all, and there needn't be any more said about it
except to settle the day. Mary has been looking about the house and
learning her duty already. She'll be able to have every bedstead and
every chair by heart, which is an advantage ladies seldom possess."
Then Mary rushed forward and was received into the old woman's arms.

When Reginald left them, which he did very soon after the
announcement was made, Lady Ushant had a great deal to say. "I have
been thinking of it, my dear,--oh,--for years;--ever since he came to
Hoppet Hall. But I am sure the best way is never to say anything. If
I had interfered there is no knowing how it might have been."

"Then, dear Lady Ushant, I am so glad you didn't," said Mary,--being
tolerably sure at the same time within her own bosom that her loving
old friend could have done no harm in that direction.

"I wouldn't say a word though I was always thinking of it. But then
he is so odd, and no one can know what he means sometimes. That's
what made me think when Mr. Twentyman was so very pressing--"

"That couldn't--couldn't have been possible."

"Poor young man!"

"But I always told him it was impossible."

"I wonder whether you cared about Reginald all that time." In answer
to this Mary only hid her face in the old woman's lap. "Dear me! I
suppose you did all along. But I am sure it was better not to say
anything, and now what will your papa and mamma say?"

"They'll hardly believe it at first."

"I hope they'll be glad."

"Glad! Why what do you suppose they would want me to do? Dear papa!
And dear mamma too, because she has really been good to me. I wonder
when it must be?" Then that question was discussed at great length,
and Lady Ushant had a great deal of very good advice to bestow.
She didn't like long engagements, and it was very essential for
Reginald's welfare that he should settle himself at Bragton as soon
as possible. Mary's pleas for a long day were not very urgent.

That evening at Bragton was rather long and rather dull. It was
almost the first that she had ever passed in company with Reginald,
and there now seemed to be a necessity of doing something peculiar,
whereas there was nothing peculiar to be done. It was his custom to
betake himself to his books after dinner; but he could hardly do so
with ease in company with the girl who had just promised him to be
his wife. Lady Ushant too wished to show her extreme joy, and made
flattering but vain attempts to be ecstatic. Mary, to tell the truth,
was longing for solitude, feeling that she could not yet realise her
happiness.

Not even when she was in bed could she reduce her mind to order.
It would have been all but impossible even had he remained the
comparatively humble lord of Hoppet Hall;--but that the squire of
Bragton should be her promised husband was a marvel so great that
from every short slumber, she waked with fear of treacherous dreams.
A minute's sleep might rob her of her joy and declare to her in the
moment of waking that it was all an hallucination. It was not that he
was dearer to her, or that her condition was the happier, because of
his position and wealth;--but that the chance of his inheritance had
lifted him so infinitely above her! She thought of the little room
at home which she generally shared with one of her sisters, of her
all too scanty wardrobe, of her daily tasks about the house, of her
stepmother's late severity, and of her father's cares. Surely he
would not hinder her from being good to them; surely he would let the
young girls come to her from time to time! What an added happiness
it would be if he would allow her to pass on to them some sparks of
the prosperity which he was bestowing on her. And then her thoughts
travelled on to poor Larry. Would he not be more contented now;--now,
when he would be certain that no further frantic efforts could avail
him anything. Poor Larry! Would Reginald permit her to regard him as
a friend? And would he submit to friendly treatment? She could look
forward and see him happy with his wife, the best loved of their
neighbours;--for who was there in the world better than Larry? But
she did not know how two men who had both been her lovers, would
allow themselves to be brought together. But, oh, what peril had been
there! It was but the other day she had striven so hard to give the
lie to her love and to become Larry's wife. She shuddered beneath the
bedclothes as she thought of the danger she had run. One word would
have changed all her Paradise into a perpetual wail of tears and
waste of desolation. When she woke in the morning from her long sleep
an effort was wanting to tell her that it was all true. Oh, if it had
slipped from her then;--if she had waked after such a dream to find
herself loving in despair with a sore bosom and angry heart!

She met him downstairs, early, in the study, having her first request
to make to him. Might she go in at once after breakfast and tell them
all? "I suppose I ought to go to your father," he said. "Let me go
first," she pleaded, hanging on his arm. "I would not think that I
was not mindful of them from the very beginning." So she was driven
into Dillsborough in the pony carriage which had been provided for
old Mrs. Morton's use, and told her own story. "Papa," she said,
going to the office door. "Come into the house;--come at once." And
then, within her father's arms, while her stepmother listened, she
told them of her triumph. "Mr. Reginald Morton wants me to be his
wife, and he is coming here to ask you."

"The Lord in heaven be good to us," said Mrs. Masters, holding up
both her hands. "Is it true, child?"

"The squire!"

"It is true, papa,--and,--and--"

"And what, my love?"

"When he comes to you, you must say I will be."

There was not much danger on that score. "Was it he that you told me
of?" said the attorney. To this she only nodded her assent. "It was
Reginald Morton all the time? Well!"

"Why shouldn't it be he?"

"Oh no, my dear! You are a most fortunate girl,--most fortunate! But
somehow I never thought of it, that a child of mine should come to
live at Bragton and have it, one may say, partly as her own! It is
odd after all that has come and gone. God bless you, my dear, and
make you happy. You are a very fortunate child."

Mrs. Masters was quite overpowered. She had thrown herself on to the
old family sofa, and was fanning herself with her handkerchief. She
had been wrong throughout, and was now completely humiliated by the
family success; and yet she was delighted, though she did not dare
to be triumphant. She had so often asked both father and daughter
what good gentlemen would do to either of them; and now the girl was
engaged to marry the richest gentleman in the neighbourhood! In any
expression of joy she would be driven to confess how wrong she had
always been. How often had she asked what would come of Ushanting.
This it was that had come of Ushanting. The girl had been made fit to
be the companion of such a one as Reginald Morton, and had now fallen
into the position which was suited to her. "Of course we shall see
nothing of you now," she said in a whimpering voice. It was not a
gracious speech, but it was almost justified by disappointments.

"Mamma, you know that I shall never separate myself from you and the
girls."

"Poor Larry!" said the woman sobbing. "Of course it is all for the
best; but I don't know what he'll do now."

"You must tell him, papa," said Mary; "and give him my love and bid
him be a man."



CHAPTER XVIII.

"BID HIM BE A MAN."


The little phaeton remained in Dillsborough to take Mary back to
Bragton. As soon as she was gone the attorney went over to the Bush
with the purpose of borrowing Runciman's pony, so that he might ride
over to Chowton Farm and at once execute his daughter's last request.
In the yard of the inn he saw Runciman himself, and was quite unable
to keep his good news to himself. "My girl has just been with me," he
said, "and what do you think she tells me?"

"That she is going to take poor Larry after all. She might do worse,
Mr. Masters."

"Poor Larry! I am sorry for him. I have always liked Larry Twentyman.
But that is all over now."

"She's not going to have that tweedledum young parson, surely?"

"Reginald Morton has made her a set offer."

"The squire!" Mr. Masters nodded his head three times. "You don't say
so. Well, Mr. Masters, I don't begrudge it you. He might do worse.
She has taken her pigs well to market at last!"

"He is to come to me at four this afternoon."

"Well done, Miss Mary! I suppose it's been going on ever so long?"

"We fathers and mothers," said the attorney, "never really know what
the young ones are after. Don't mention it just at present, Runciman.
You are such an old friend that I couldn't help telling you."

"Poor Larry!"

"I can have the pony, Runciman?"

"Certainly you can, Mr. Masters. Tell him to come in and talk it
all over with me. If we don't look to it he'll be taking to drink
regular." At that last meeting at the club, when the late squire's
will was discussed, at which, as the reader may perhaps remember,
a little supper was also discussed in honour of the occasion, poor
Larry had not only been present, but had drunk so pottle-deep that
the landlord had been obliged to put him to bed at the inn, and he
had not been at all as he ought to have been after Lord Rufford's
dinner. Such delinquencies were quite outside the young man's
accustomed way of his life. It had been one of his recognised virtues
that, living as he did a good deal among sporting men and with a full
command of means, he had never drank. But now he had twice sinned
before the eyes of all Dillsborough, and Runciman thought that he
knew how it would be with a young man in his own house who got drunk
in public to drown his sorrow. "I wouldn't see Larry go astray and
spoil himself with liquor," said the good-natured publican, "for more
than I should like to name." Mr. Masters promised to take the hint,
and rode off on his mission.

The entrance to Chowton Farm and Bragton gate were nearly opposite,
the latter being perhaps a furlong nearer to Dillsborough. The
attorney when he got to the gate stopped a moment and looked up the
avenue with pardonable pride. The great calamity of his life, the
stunning blow which had almost unmanned him when he was young, and
from which he had never quite been able to rouse himself, had been
the loss of the management of the Bragton property. His grandfather
and his father had been powerful at Bragton, and he had been brought
up in the hope of walking in their paths. Then strangers had come in,
and he had been dispossessed. But how was it with him now? It had
almost made a young man of him again when Reginald Morton, stepping
into his office, asked him as a favour to resume his old task. But
what was that in comparison with this later triumph? His own child
was to be made queen of the place! His grandson, should she be
fortunate enough to be the mother of a son, would be the squire
himself! His visits to the place for the last twenty years had
been very rare indeed. He had been sent for lately by old Mrs.
Morton,--for a purpose which if carried out would have robbed him of
all his good fortune,--but he could not remember when, before that,
he had even passed through the gateway. Now it would all become
familiar to him again. That pony of Runciman's was pleasant in his
paces, and he began to calculate whether the innkeeper would part
with the animal. He stood thus gazing at the place for some minutes
till he saw Reginald Morton in the distance turning a corner of the
road with Mary at his side. He had taken her from the phaeton and had
then insisted on her coming out with him before she took off her hat.
Mr. Masters as soon as he saw them trotted off to Chowton Farm.

Finding Larry lounging at the little garden gate Mr. Masters got off
the pony and taking the young man's arm, walked off with him towards
Dillsborough Wood. He told all his news at once, almost annihilating
poor Larry by the suddenness of the blow. "Larry, Mr. Reginald Morton
has asked my girl to marry him, and she has accepted him."

"The new squire!" said Larry, stopping himself on the path, and
looking as though a gentle wind would suffice to blow him over.

"I suppose it has been that way all along, Larry, though we have not
known it."

"It was Mr. Morton then that she told me of?"

"She did tell you?"

"Of course there was no chance for me if he wanted her. But why
didn't they speak out, so that I could have gone away? Oh, Mr.
Masters!"

"It was only yesterday she knew it herself."

"She must have guessed it."

"No;--she knew nothing till he declared himself. And to-day, this
very morning, she has bade me come to you and let you know it. And
she sent you her love."

"Her love!" said Larry, chucking the stick which he held in his hands
down to the ground and then stooping to pick it up again.

"Yes;--her love. Those were her words, and I am to tell you from
her--to be a man."

"Did she say that?"

"Yes;--I was to come out to you at once, and bring you that as a
message from her."

"Be a man! I could have been a man right enough if she would have
made me one;--as good a man as Reginald Morton, though he is squire
of Bragton. But of course I couldn't have given her a house like
that, nor a carriage, nor made her one of the county people. If it
was to go in that way, what could I hope for?"

"Don't be unjust to her, Larry."

"Unjust to her! If giving her every blessed thing I had in the world
at a moment's notice was unjust, I was ready to be unjust any day of
the week or any hour of the day."

"What I mean is that her heart was fixed that way before Reginald
Morton was squire of Bragton. What shall I say in answer to her
message? You will wish her happiness;--will you not?"

"Wish her happiness! Oh, heavens!" He could not explain what was in
his mind. Wish her happiness! yes;--the happiness of the angels. But
not him,--nor yet with him! And as there could be no arranging of
this, he must leave his wishes unsettled. And yet there was a certain
relief to him in the tidings he had heard. There was now no more
doubt. He need not now remain at Chowton thinking it possible that
the girl might even yet change her mind.

"And you will bear in mind that she wishes you to be a man."

"Why did she not make me one? But that is all, all over. You tell
her from me that I am not the man to whimper because I am hurt. What
ought a man to do that I can't do?"

"Let her know that you are going about your old pursuits. And, Larry,
would you wish her to know how it was with you at the club last
Saturday?"

"Did she hear of that?"

"I am sure she has not heard of it. But if that kind of thing becomes
a habit, of course she will hear of it. All Dillsborough would hear
of it, if that became common. At any rate it is not manly to drown it
in drink."

"Who says I do that? Nothing will drown it."

"I wouldn't speak if I had not known you so long, and loved you so
well. What she means is that you should work."

"I do work."

"And hunt. Go out to-morrow and show yourself to everybody."

"If I could break my neck I would."

"Don't let every farmer's son in the county say that Lawrence
Twentyman was so mastered by a girl that he couldn't ride on
horseback when she said him nay."

"Everybody knows it, Mr. Masters."

"Go among them as if nobody knew it. I'll warrant that nobody will
speak of it."

"I don't think any one of 'em would dare to do that," said Larry
brandishing his stick.

"Where is it that the hounds are to-morrow, Larry?"

"Here; at the old kennel."

"Go out and let her see that you have taken her advice. She is there
at the house, and she will recognise you in the park. Remember that
she sends her love to you, and bids you be a man. And, Larry, come in
and see us sometimes. The time will come, I don't doubt, when you and
the squire will be fast friends."

"Never!"

"You do not know what time can do. I'll just go back now because he
is to come to me this afternoon. Try and bear up and remember that
it is she who bids you be a man." The attorney got upon his pony and
rode back to Dillsborough.

Larry who had come back to the yard to see his friend off, returned
by the road into the fields, and went wandering about for a while
in Dillsborough Wood. "Bid him be a man!" Wasn't he a man? Was it
disgraceful to him as a man to be broken-hearted, because a woman
would not love him? If he were provoked he would fight,--perhaps
better than ever, because he would be reckless. Would he not be ready
to fight Reginald Morton with any weapon which could be thought of
for the possession of Mary Masters? If she were in danger would he
not go down into the deep, or through fire to save her? Were not his
old instincts of honesty and truth as strong in him as ever? Did
manliness require that his heart should be invulnerable? If so he
doubted whether he could ever be a man.

But what if she meant that manliness required him to hide the wound?
Then there did come upon him a feeling of shame as he remembered how
often he had spoken of his love to those who were little better than
strangers to him, and thought that perhaps such loquacity was opposed
to the manliness which she recommended. And his conscience smote him
as it brought to his recollection the condition of his mind as he
woke in Runciman's bed at the Bush on last Sunday morning. That at
any rate had not been manly. How would it be with him if he made up
his mind never to speak again to her, and certainly not to him, and
to take care that that should be the only sign left of his suffering?
He would hunt, and be keener than ever;--he would work upon the land
with increased diligence; he would give himself not a moment to
think of anything. She should see and hear what he could do;--but
he would never speak to her again. The hounds would be at the old
kennels to-morrow. He would be there. The place no doubt was Morton's
property, but on hunting mornings all the lands of the county,--and
of the next counties if they can be reached,--are the property of the
hunt. Yes; he would be there; and she would see him in his scarlet
coat, and smartest cravat, with his boots and breeches neat as those
of Lord Rufford;--and she should know that he was doing as she bade
him. But he would never speak to her again!

As he was returning round the wood, whom should he see skulking round
the corner of it but Goarly?

"What business have you in here?" he said, feeling half-inclined to
take the man by the neck and drag him out of the copse.

"I saw you, Mr. Twentyman, and I wanted just to have a word with
you."

"You are the biggest rascal in all Rufford," said Larry. "I wonder
the lads have left you with a whole bone in your skin."

"What have I done worse than any other poor man, Mr. Twentyman? When
I took them herrings I didn't know there was p'ison; and if I hadn't
took 'em, another would. I am going to cut it out of this, Mr.
Twentyman."

"May the ---- go along with you!" said Larry, wishing his neighbour
a very unpleasant companion.

"And of course I must sell the place. Think what it would be to you!
I shouldn't like it to go into his Lordship's hands. It's all through
Bean I know, but his Lordship has had a down on me ever since he came
to the property. It's as true as true about my old woman's geese.
There's forty acres of it. What would you say to £40 an acre?"

The idea of having the two extra fields made Larry's mouth water, in
spite of all his misfortunes. The desire for land among such as Larry
Twentyman is almost a disease in England. With these two fields he
would be able to walk almost round Dillsborough Wood without quitting
his own property. He had been talking of selling Chowton within
the last week or two. He had been thinking of selling it at the
moment when Mr. Masters rode up to him. And yet now he was almost
tempted to a new purchase by this man. But the man was too utterly a
blackguard,--was too odious to him.

"If it comes into the market, I may bid for it as well as another,"
he said, "but I wouldn't let myself down to have any dealings with
you."

"Then, Mr. Larry, you shall never have a sod of it," said Goarly,
dropping himself over the fence on to his own field.

A few minutes afterwards Larry met Bean, and told him that Goarly had
been in the wood. "If I catch him, Mr. Twentyman, I'll give him sore
bones," said Bean. "I wonder how he ever got back to his own place
alive that day." Then Bean asked Larry whether he meant to be at the
meet to-morrow, and Larry said that he thought he should. "Tony's
almost afraid to bring them in even yet," said Bean; "but if there's
a herring left in this wood, I'll eat it myself--strychnine and all."

After that Larry went and looked at his horses, and absolutely gave
his mare "Bicycle" a gallop round the big grass field himself. Then
those who were about the place knew that something had happened, and
that he was in a way to be cured. "You'll hunt to-morrow, won't you,
Larry?" said his mother affectionately.

"Who told you?"

"Nobody told me;--but you will, Larry; won't you?"

"May be I will." Then, as he was leaving the room, when he was in the
door-way, so that she should not see his face, he told her the news.
"She's going to marry the squire, yonder."

"Mary Masters!"

"I always hated him from the first moment I saw him. What do you
expect from a fellow who never gets a-top of a horse?" Then he turned
away, and was not seen again till long after tea-time.



CHAPTER XIX.

"IS IT TANTI?"


Reginald Morton entertained serious thoughts of cleansing himself
from the reproach which Larry cast upon him when describing his
character to his mother. "I think I shall take to hunting," he said
to Mary.

"But you'll tumble off, dear."

"No doubt I shall, and I must try to begin in soft places. I don't
see why I shouldn't do it gradually in a small way. I shouldn't ever
become a Nimrod, like Lord Rufford or your particular friend Mr.
Twentyman."

"He is my particular friend."

"So I perceive. I couldn't shine as he shines, but I might gradually
learn to ride after him at a respectful distance. A man at Rome ought
to do as the Romans do."

"Why wasn't Hoppet Hall Rome as much as Bragton?"

"Well;--it wasn't. While fortune enabled me to be happy at Hoppet
Hall--"

"That is unkind, Reg."

"While fortune oppressed me with celibate misery at Hoppet Hall,
nobody hated me for not hunting;--and as I could not very well
afford it, I was not considered to be entering a protest against the
amusement. As it is now I find that unless I consent to risk my neck
at any rate five or six times every winter, I shall be regarded in
that light."

"I wouldn't be frightened into doing anything I didn't like," said
Mary.

"How do you know that I shan't like it? The truth is I have had a
letter this morning from a benevolent philosopher which has almost
settled the question for me. He wants me to join a society for the
suppression of British sports as being barbarous and antipathetic to
the intellectual pursuits of an educated man. I would immediately
shoot, fish, hunt and go out ratting, if I could hope for the least
success. I know I should never shoot anything but the dog and the
gamekeepers, and that I should catch every weed in the river; but I
think that in the process of seasons I might jump over a hedge."

"Kate will show you the way to do that."

"With Kate and Mr. Twentyman to help me, and a judicious system of
liberal tips to Tony Tuppett, I could make my way about on a quiet
old nag, and live respected by my neighbours. The fact is I hate with
my whole heart the trash of the philanimalist."

"What is a--a--I didn't quite catch the thing you hate?"

"The thing is a small knot of self-anxious people who think that they
possess among them all the bowels of the world."

"Possess all the what, Reginald?"

"I said bowels,--using an ordinary but very ill-expressed metaphor.
The ladies and gentlemen to whom I allude, not looking very clearly
into the systems of pains and pleasures in accordance with which
we have to live, put their splay feet down now upon this ordinary
operation and now upon that, and call upon the world to curse the
cruelty of those who will not agree with them. A lady whose tippet is
made from the skins of twenty animals who have been wired in the snow
and then left to die of starvation--"

"Oh, Reginald!"

"That is the way of it. I am not now saying whether it is right
or wrong. The lady with the tippet will justify the wires and the
starvation because, as she will say, she uses the fur. An honest
blanket would keep her just as warm. But the fox who suffers perhaps
ten minutes of agony should he not succeed as he usually does in
getting away,--is hunted only for amusement! It is true that the
one fox gives amusement for hours to perhaps some hundred;--but it
is only for amusement. What riles me most is that these would-be
philosophers do not or will not see that recreation is as necessary
to the world as clothes or food, and the providing of the one is as
legitimate a business as the purveying of the other."

"People must eat and wear clothes."

"And practically they must be amused. They ignore the great doctrine
of 'tanti.'"

"I never heard of it."

"You shall, dear, some day. It is the doctrine by which you should
regulate everything you do and every word you utter. Now do you and
Kate put on your hats and we'll walk to the bridge."

This preaching of a sermon took place after breakfast at Bragton on
the morning of Saturday, and the last order had reference to a scheme
they had on foot to see the meet at the old kennels. On the previous
afternoon Reginald Morton had come into Dillsborough and had very
quietly settled everything with the attorney. Having made up his
mind to do the thing he was very quick in the doing of it. He hated
the idea of secrecy in such an affair, and when Mrs. Masters asked
him whether he had any objection to have the marriage talked about,
expressed his willingness that she should employ the town crier to
make it public if she thought it expedient. "Oh, Mr. Morton, how very
funny you are," said the lady. "Quite in earnest, Mrs. Masters," he
replied. Then he kissed the two girls who were to be his sisters, and
finished the visit by carrying off the younger to spend a day or two
with her sister at Bragton. "I know," he said, whispering to Mary as
he left the front door, "that I ought not to go out hunting so soon
after my poor cousin's death; but as he was a cousin once removed, I
believe I may walk as far as the bridge without giving offence."

When they were there they saw all the arrivals just as they were seen
on the same spot a few months earlier by a very different party. Mary
and Kate stood on the bridge together, while he remained a little
behind leaning on the stile. She, poor girl, had felt some shame in
showing herself, knowing that some who were present would have heard
of her engagement, and that others would be told of it as soon as she
was seen. "Are you ashamed of what you are going to do?" he asked.

"Ashamed! I don't suppose that there is a girl in England so proud as
I am at this minute."

"I don't know that there is anything to be proud of, but if you
are not ashamed, why shouldn't you show yourself? Marriage is an
honourable state!" She could only pinch his arm, and do as he bade
her.

Glomax in his tandem, and Lord Rufford in his drag, were rather late.
First there came one or two hunting men out of the town, Runciman,
Dr. Nupper, and the hunting saddler. Then there arrived Henry
Stubbings with a string of horses, mounted by little boys, ready for
his customers, and full of wailing to his friend Runciman. Here was
nearly the end of March and the money he had seen since Christmas
was little more, as he declared, than what he could put into his eye
and see none the worse. "Charge 'em ten per cent. interest," said
Runciman. "Then they thinks they can carry on for another year," said
Stubbings despondingly. While this was going on, Larry walked his
favourite mare "Bicycle" on to the ground, dressed with the utmost
care, but looking very moody, almost fierce, as though he did not
wish anybody to speak to him. Tony Tuppett, who had known him since
a boy, nodded at him affectionately, and said how glad he was to see
him;--but even this was displeasing to Larry. He did not see the
girls on the bridge, but took up his place near them. He was thinking
so much of his own unhappiness and of what he believed others would
say of him, that he saw almost nothing. There he sat on his mare,
carrying out the purpose to which he had been led by Mary's message,
but wishing with all his heart that he was back again, hidden within
his own house at the other side of the wood.

Mary, as soon as she saw him, blushed up to her eyes, then turning
round looked with wistful eyes into the face of the man she was
engaged to marry, and with rapid step walked across the bridge up to
the side of Larry's horse, and spoke to him with her sweet low voice.
"Larry," she said. He turned round to her very quickly, showing how
much he was startled. Then she put up her hand to him, and of course
he took it. "Larry, I am so glad to see you. Did papa give you a
message?"

"Yes, Miss Masters. He told me, I know it all."

"Say a kind word to me, Larry."

"I--I--I--You know very well what's in my mind. Though it were to
kill me, I should wish you well."

"I hope you'll have a good hunt, Larry." Then she retired back to
the bridge and again looked to her lover to know whether he would
approve. There were so few there, and Larry had been so far apart
from the others, that she was sure no one had heard the few words
which had passed between them; nor could anyone have observed what
she had done, unless it were old Nupper, or Mr. Runciman, or Tony
Tuppett. But yet she thought that it perhaps was bold, and that he
would be angry. But he came up to her, and placing himself between
her and Kate, whispered into her ear, "Bravely done, my girl. After a
little I will try to be as brave, but I could never do it as well."
Larry in the meantime had moved his mare away, and before the Master
had arrived, was walking slowly up his own road to Chowton Farm.

The Captain was soon there, and Lord Rufford with his friends, and
Harry Stubbings' string, and Tony were set in motion. But before they
stirred there was a consultation,--to which Bean the gamekeeper was
called,--as to the safety of Dillsborough Wood. Dillsborough Wood had
not been drawn yet since Scrobby's poison had taken effect on the old
fox, and there were some few who affected to think that there still
might be danger. Among these was the Master himself, who asked Fred
Botsey with a sneer whether he thought that such hounds as those
were to be picked up at every corner. But Bean again offered to eat
any herring that might be there, poison included, and Lord Rufford
laughed at the danger. "It's no use my having foxes, Glomax, if you
won't draw the cover." This the Lord said with a touch of anger,
and the Lord's anger, if really roused, might be injurious. It was
therefore decided that the hounds should again be put through the
Bragton shrubberies,--just for compliment to the new squire;--and
that then they should go off to Dillsborough Wood as rapidly as might
be.

Larry walked his beast all the way up home very slowly, and getting
off her, put her into the stable and went into the house.

"Is anything wrong?" asked the mother.

"Everything is wrong." Then he stood with his back to the kitchen
fire for nearly half an hour without speaking a word. He was trying
to force himself to follow out her idea of manliness, and telling
himself that it was impossible. The first tone of her voice, the
first glance at her face, had driven him home. Why had she called him
Larry again and again, so tenderly, in that short moment, and looked
at him with those loving eyes? Then he declared to himself, without
uttering a word, that she did not understand anything about it; she
did not comprehend the fashion of his love when she thought, as she
did think, that a soft word would be compensation. He looked round
to see if his mother or the servant were there, and when he found
that the coast was clear, he dashed his hands to his eyes and knocked
away the tea