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Title: Lady Car - The Sequel of A Life
Author: Oliphant, Mrs. Margaret
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                               LADY CAR

                              PRINTED BY
                 SPOTTISWOODE & CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
                                LONDON



                               LADY CAR

                         THE SEQUEL OF A LIFE

                                  BY

                             MRS OLIPHANT

              AUTHOR OF ‘CHRONICLES OF CARLINGFORD’ ETC.

                             _NEW EDITION_

                                LONDON
                       LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
                                 1890

                         _All rights reserved_



                               LADY CAR

                        _THE SEQUEL OF A LIFE_



CHAPTER I


Lady Caroline Beaufort was supposed to be, as life goes, an unusually
fortunate woman. It is true that things had not always gone well with
her. In her youth she had been married almost by force--as near it as
anything ever is in an age when parental tyranny is of course an
anachronism--to a man unlike herself in every way--an uncultured, almost
uncivilised, rich boor of the neighbourhood, the descendant of a navvy
who had become a millionaire, and who inherited all the characteristics
of his race along with their money, although he had never known anything
of navvydom, but had been born a Scotch country gentleman with a great
estate. It is to be supposed that her father and mother believed it to
be for her real good when they placed poor Car, fainting with fright and
horror, in the arms of a man whose manners made even them wince, though
they were forced into no such constant contact with him, for they were
far from being wicked parents or bad people in any way. There is nothing
in the world so difficult to understand as the motives which lead
fathers and mothers to such acts, not so common as they used to be, yet
not so rare as they ought to be. They think, perhaps, that a little
aversion at first tells for next to nothing in the long run, and that an
affectionate, gentle creature, submissive to law and custom, will end by
loving any man who belongs to her, or having at least some sort of
sentiment which will answer for love; and that, on the other hand, no
fantastic passion of youth is to be trusted to surmount all the risks of
life in the lottery of marriage, which affords so many changed points
of view; whereas wealth is a solid and unchangeable good which outlives
every sentiment. These, I suppose, were the conclusions of Lord and Lady
Lindores when they married their daughter to Mr. Thomas Torrance--or,
rather, these were the conclusions of the Earl, in which his wife
concurred very doubtfully, and with much reluctance, rather failing in
courage to support her child in any effort for liberty than helping to
coerce her. If Lord Lindores was determined as to the value of wealth,
Lady Lindores was one of those women who have come to the silent
conclusion that nothing is of any great value, and that life has no
prizes at all. What does it matter? she was in the habit of saying to
herself. She did not believe in happiness--a little less comfort or a
little more was scarcely worth struggling for; and no doubt, as Lord
Lindores said, wealth was one of the few really solid and reliable
things in the world, a thing with which many minor goods could be
purchased--relief to the poor, which was always a subject of
satisfaction, and other alleviations of life. Lady Car was sacrificed
to these tenets. But Providence had been good to her: and while she was
still young her husband had died. If he did not justify Lord Lindores’
expectations in his life he did in his death. For he left everything in
his wife’s hands; not only had she the excellent jointure which her
settlements secured her--a jointure without any mean and petty clause
about marrying again--but everything was left in her hands--the control
of the property during little Tom’s minority, and almost every advantage
which a queen-mother could have. Tom was a little fellow of six, so that
a long period of supremacy was in Carry’s hands, and the rough fellow
whom she had almost hated, from whom her very soul had shrunk with a
loathing indescribable, had done her the fullest justice. It is doubtful
whether Lady Car was at all touched by these evidences of devotion on
the part of a man who had bullied and oppressed her for years. But she
was startled into violent and passionate compunction, extraordinary in
so gentle a person, by the still wilder and more impassioned joy which
swept over her soul when she heard of his sudden death. Poor Lady Car
had not been able to resist that flood of exultation which took
possession of her against her will. What did she want with his money? He
was dead and she was free. It filled her with a guilty, boundless
delight, and then with compunction beyond expression, as she tried to
return from that wild joy and took herself to task.

And then, after a very short interval, she had married again; she had
married what in the earlier years of the century people called the man
of the heart--the lover of old days who had been dropped, who had been
ignored when Lord Lindores came to his title and the prospects of the
family had changed. How much Lady Caroline knew or did not know of the
developments through which Mr. Beaufort had passed in the meantime no
one ever discovered. She found him much as he had been when her family
had dropped him, only not so young. A man who had made no way, a man
without reproach, yet without success, who had kept stationary all the
time, and was still a man of promise when his contemporaries had
attained all that they were likely to attain. Beaufort was poor, but
Lady Car was now rich. There was not the least reason why they should
not marry unless he had been fantastic and refused to do so on account
of her superior wealth. But he had no such idiotic idea. So that Lady
Car was considered by most people, especially those who had a turn for
the sentimental, as a very lucky woman. There had been the Torrance
episode when she had not been happy, and which had left her the mother
of two children, destined, perhaps, some time or other, to give her
trouble. But they were children amply provided for, and she had an
excellent jointure, and had been able to marry at thirty the man of her
heart. She was a very lucky woman, more fortunate than most--far more
fortunate than three parts of those women who make, compulsorily or
otherwise, ill-assorted marriages to begin with. In very few cases
indeed does the undesirable husband die, leaving his wife so much money
as that, unburdened by any condition as to marrying again; and very
seldom indeed does the woman so happily left pick up again in the nick
of time her first love, and find him unchanged. It was quite a romantic
story, and pleased people: for, however worldly minded we may be, we all
like to hear of a fortunate chance like this, and that all is well that
ends well, and that the hero and heroine live happy ever after, which
was the conclusion in this case.

The first part of Lady Car’s history has been written before: but
probably the reader remembers nothing of it, and no one would blame him;
for it is an old story, and a great many episodes of that human history
which we call fiction have been presented to his attention since then.
She was tall, of a pliant, willowy figure, soft grey eyes, and an
abundance of very soft light-brown hair. Her complexion was pale but
clear, and her nose a trifle, the merest trifle, longer than the
majority of noses. This conduced greatly (though I don’t deny that it
was a defect) to the general impression made by Lady Caroline, who was
what is called aristocratic in appearance from the crown of her head to
the sole of her foot. It was the grand distinction, an air such as some
of the humblest-minded and most simple of women often have of that
ethereal superiority of race which we all believe in. As a matter of
fact, her brother, Lord Rintoul, had a great deal less distinction in
his appearance than many a poor clerk. But Lady Car might have been a
princess in her own right, and so, to be sure, she was. Unfortunately, I
am obliged to describe her to begin with, since it is impossible to
bring her forward in her own person until I have told a little of her
story. She was amazingly, passionately happy in her second marriage--at
first. If she saw any drawbacks she closed her eyes to them, as
passionately determined to admit nothing that went against her
bliss--but perhaps she did not see anything. And, after all, there was
not much to see. Mr. Beaufort was a gentleman. He was a man of great
cultivation of mind, an excellent scholar, understanding every literary
allusion that could be made, never at a loss for a happy phrase or
quotation, quite an exceptional man in the way of culture and
accomplishment. He was extremely good-looking, his manners were
admirable, his character without reproach. Nothing seemed wanting in him
that a woman could desire. And, notwithstanding the uncomfortable
episode of her first marriage, and the two black-browed children, who
had not a feature of their mother’s, he was Lady Car’s only love, and,
so far as anybody knows, or as was ever known, she was his. By how many
devious ways a pair may be led who are destined to meet at last! He in
various wanderings over the world; she, in the blank of her dreadful
life, through all her martyrdoms, had all the time been tending to this.
And now they were happy at last.

‘No,’ she said, ‘Edward; don’t let us settle down; I can’t: a house
would not contain me. I want the grand air, as the French say. I should
be making horrible comparisons, I should be thinking’--she stopped with
a shiver--‘of the past. Let us go abroad. I have not been abroad since
we were parted; it will look like taking up the story where it dropped.’

Beaufort gave a half-conscious glance towards the spot outside where the
black-browed children were playing. He felt, perhaps, that it would not
be so easy to take up the story where it had dropped; but he assented,
with quiet gentleness soothing her. ‘I am always fond of wandering. I
have done little else all my life--and with you!’

‘Yes, with you!’ she repeated. She was accustomed to the children, and
did not think of the anachronism of their presence at the moment of
taking up the story. ‘You shall take me to all the new places where you
have been alone, and we’ll go to the old places where we were that
summer together; we’ll go everywhere and see everything, and then when
all the novelty is exhausted we shall come back and make a home of our
own. And then, Edward, you shall be left free for your work. How we used
to talk of it _that_ summer! You have not done much to it yet?’

‘Nothing at all,’ he said, with something like a blush.

‘So much the better,’ cried Lady Car. ‘I should have been jealous had
you done it without me--you could not do it without me. You shall not
touch a pen while we are away, but observe everything, and investigate
mankind in all aspects, and then we’ll come home--and then, Edward, what
care I shall take that you are not disturbed--how shall I watch and keep
off every care! You shall have no trouble about anything, no noises or
foolish interruption, no one to disturb you but me. And I will be no
interruption.’

‘Never, my love,’ he said fervently; but this was the only thing to
which he responded clearly. He had not, perhaps, the same intentions
about that great work as once he had. He did not see it in the same
light; but it gave him a certain pleasure to see her enthusiasm. It
surprised him, indeed, that she could be capable of that enthusiasm just
as if the story had never dropped. Women, sweet souls! are so strange.
There had been nothing in his life so definite as the Torrance marriage
and the black-browed children; but yet she was capable of taking up the
dropped story just where it had been thrown aside. So far as love went
he felt himself capable of that too, but then he had not dropped the
love when the story was dropped. Whereas she--In all these records there
was something to be got over with a faint uneasiness, to be ignored if
possible. He could not return with the same unity of mind as she
displayed to the half-forgotten things of the past. But he was sure that
her presence would never be any interruption, and he was pleased to fall
into her eager, delightful plans, and to think of wandering with her
wherever two people can wander, and when the two people are man and wife
that is virtually everywhere. He was very ready for that dream of life.

Besides, if there is anything out of the way in the conditions of a new
beginning, it is always a good thing to go abroad. Little anomalies
which stand out from the surface of quiet life at home look so much less
in the atmosphere of strange places and among the varieties of travel.
The best way to forget that there has been once a great gap between two
who are to be one, and a lifetime passed by each in surroundings so
different, is to go far away and make new joint associations for each
which will bridge over that severance. Neither of them gave this reason:
she, perhaps, because she was unconscious of it; he, because he had no
desire to state the case either to the world or to her--or even to
himself. He was, in his way, with the many precautions which he had
taken to keep disagreeable subjects at a distance, a genuine
philosopher in the old-fashioned sense of the word.

Accordingly they went abroad, for something more than the longest
honeymoon, the black-browed children accompanying them more or less,
that is, they performed certain journeys in the wake of the pair, and
were settled here and there, at suitable centres, with all the
attendance of skilled nurses and governesses which wealth makes it so
easy to procure, while Lady Car and her husband pursued their further
way, never altogether out of reach. She never forgot she was a mother
even in the first rapture of her new happiness. And he was very good to
the children. At their early age most children are amusing, and Mr.
Beaufort was eminently gentle and kind. His wife’s eyes shone when she
saw him enter into their little lives as if they had been his own. What
a thing for them to have such a man from whom to derive their first
ideas of what a man should be! What a thing! She stopped and shuddered
when she realised her own meaning; and yet how true it was--that the
instructor they might have had, the example, the warning, the man who
was their father, had been taken away, to leave the room open for so
much better a teacher, for a perfect example, for one who would be a
real father to them! Poor children! Lady Car felt for them something of
the conventional pity for the fatherless even in the midst of the
swelling of her heart over this great gift that had come to them. Their
father indeed!

The years of the honeymoon flew like so many days of happiness. They
went almost everywhere where a sea voyage was not indispensable, for
Lady Car was a very bad sailor. They avoided everything that could have
been troublesome or embarrassing in the conversations, and were quite
old married people, thoroughly used to each other, and to all their
mutual diversities of feeling and ways of thinking, before they returned
home. They were both vaguely aware that the homecoming would be a trying
moment, but not enough so to be afraid of it or resist the conviction
that the time had come when it was no longer possible to put it off. It
was before they returned home, however, in the first consultations over
their future dwelling, that the first real divergence of opinion arose.



CHAPTER II


‘We must think of where we are going to live,’ Lady Car said; ‘we have
never discussed that question. The world is all before us where to
choose----’

The boat lay faintly rocking upon the little wavelets from which the
ruddy reflection of the sunset was just fading. The beautiful outline of
the mountains on the Savoy side stood out blue and half-cold against the
glowing west, the Dent du Midi had still a flush of rose colour upon its
pinnacles, but had grown white and cold too in the breadth of its great
bosom. Evening was coming on, and, though there was still little chill
in the air, the sentiment of the September landscape was cold. That
suspicion of coming winter which tells the birds so distinctly that it
is time to be gone breathed a hint to-night into human faculties more
obtuse. Carry threw her shawl round her with a little shiver which was
quite fantastic and unnecessary. She did not really mean that it began
to be cold, but only that something had made her think of a fireside.

He was seated in front of her with his oars resting idly in the
rowlocks. It was a lovely night, and they were close to their temporary
home, within a few minutes of the shore. ‘Where we are going to live?’
he said. ‘Then you don’t think of going to your own house.’

She started a little. He would never have found it out had they been on
solid ground, but the boat responded to every movement. It was only from
this that he knew he had startled her, for she recovered herself
immediately, and said, ‘Would you like that, Edward?’ in a voice which
she evidently meant to be as easy as usual, but from which consciousness
was not altogether banished.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘my love, it will be the time of year for Scotland, and
I suppose there is plenty of game; but I neither like nor dislike, Car.
I have not thought about it. I suppose I had taken it for granted that
your own house would be the place to which you would go.’

‘I never thought of it as my own home,’ she said, in a low, hurried
tone, which he could scarcely hear. ‘Oh, no, no. I could not go there.’

‘Well,’ he said cheerfully, ‘then of course we sha’n’t go there. I don’t
care where we go; wherever you are, there is my home. I had not known
one till I had you: it is for you to choose.’

She said nothing more for a time, but leant a little over the side of
the boat, putting down her hand into the darkening ripples. ‘After all,
the lake is as warm as if it were summer still,’ she said. It was she
who had introduced the subject, but something had blown across her, a
breath from the past, which had taken all the pleasure out of it. She
shivered a little again, with a contradictoriness of which she was
unaware. ‘There must have been snow somewhere, I think, up among the
hills.’

‘It is you who are blowing hot and cold, Carry,’ he said, smiling at
her. ‘I think myself it is a perfect evening. Look at the last steamer,
passing along against the line of the hills, with its lights, and
crammed with tourists from stem to stern. Shall we go in? There’s time
enough before it gets here, but I know you don’t like the wash.’

‘I don’t like anything that agitates the water, or anything else,
perhaps.’

‘Not so bad as that; it is I who am most tolerant of the dead level. You
like a little agitation, or commotion, or what shall I call it?’

‘Do you think so, Edward? No, I love calm; I am most fond of peace, the
quiet lake, and the still country, and everything that goes softly.’

‘My love,’ he said, ‘you like what is best always, and the best has
always movement in it. You never liked monotony. Let things go softly,
yes, but let them go; whereas I can do very well without movement. I
like to lie here and let the water sway us where it pleases; you want me
to take the oars and move as we will.’

‘Yes,’ she said, with a soft laugh, ‘perhaps I do. You see through me,
but not altogether,’ she added, with another hasty movement, betrayed
once more by the boat.

‘No, not altogether,’ he said, with a look which, in the gathering
dimness of the twilight, she did not perceive. Besides, his head was
turned away, and his mind also. She hoped indeed he did not, he would
never divine the almost horror that had sprung up in her at the idea
which he had taken so calmly, that of going back to what he called her
own house. Her own house! it had never been hers. She thought that she
would never go back then to a place full of the old life that was past,
thank God! yet never could be quite past so long as her recollection so
ached at the thought of it. It seemed to Lady Car that if she went back
she might find that _he_ was still there, and that everything that had
been since was but a dream.

The night falls faster in these regions than in the lingering North. It
was almost dark already, though so short a time since the sun set. The
steamer came rustling along, more audible than visible, a bustling
shadow against the opal gleam of the water and the cold blue of the
hills, with its little bright lights like jewels, and swift progress,
throbbing along through the heart of the twilight. Lights began to
appear in the windows of the tall houses along the bank. The night was
gradually stealing into the vacant place of the day. The steamer came on
with a rush of purpose and certain destruction, and roused her from her
thoughts to a little nervous tremor. ‘I wish you would take the oars,
Edward, as you say, and let us go in, please. I know it will do us no
harm; but----’

‘You are frightened all the same,’ he said, leisurely settling to the
oars.

‘It is like a spirit of evil,’ she cried.

He took the boat in, making haste to free her from that little nervous
thrill of apprehension, though with a laugh. She was aware that she was
fantastic in somethings, and that he was aware of it. It was a little
imperfection that did no harm. A woman is the better of having these
little follies. He felt a fond superiority as he rowed her in with a few
strokes, amused at her sense of danger. And it was not till some time
later, after they had climbed a somewhat rugged path to their villa
among the trees, and had looked into the room where little Janet lay
fast asleep, and then had supped cheerfully at a table close to the
broad window, that the subject was resumed. By this time all the noises
were stilled, a full moon was rising slowly, preparing to march along
the sky in full majesty in the midst of the silent tranquillity of the
night; there was not a breath of air stirring, not a cloud upon the blue
heavens, which were already almost as clear as day by the mere
resplendence of her coming over the solid mountains, with their many
peaks, which ‘stepped along the deep.’ The steamer had rustled away to
its resting-place, wherever that was. The tourists had found shelter in
the hotels, which shone with their many lights along the edge of the
lake. These big caravansaries were unseen from the villa, all that was
noisy and common was out of sight; the lake all still, not a boat out,
with a silver line of ripples making a straight but broken line across
the large glimmer of its surface; the dark hills opposite, with a silver
touch here and there, and the great open-eyed, abundant moon above
looking down upon them, they and she the only things living in that
wonderful space which was all beauty and calm. They sat looking out for
some time without saying anything. Such a night is in itself a sort of
ecstasy, especially to those who want nothing, and with whom, as with
the whole apparent world stretched out before them, all is well.

‘And to think we shall have to leave all this presently and enter into
the fret and care of settling down!’ he said, with a half-laugh. ‘I
interrupted you, dear, to-night when you were talking of that. I suppose
it was I that diverted your thoughts. Since it is not to be your Towers,
where is it to be?’

‘Not my Towers,’ she said, with a little half-reproachful look at him
and a sudden clasping together of her lightly interlaced fingers.

‘Well, let us say Tom’s Towers; but in present circumstances it is very
much the same.’

Once more a little shiver ran over her, though there was no chill at all
in the soft air that came in from the lake and the moonlight. But her
voice was a little uncertain with it, as if her teeth had chattered.
‘Don’t talk of it,’ she said; ‘I want no Towers. I want not a _place_ at
all, or any quarters, but a house, a pretty house, just big enough for
us and them, somewhere, wherever you would like, Edward.’

‘I shall like what you like,’ he said.

‘But that is not what I wish at all; I want you to tell me what will
please _you_. You would like to be within reach of the great libraries,
within reach of what is going on. No one can write what is to live
without being within reach----’

He shook his head. ‘You are too partial in your estimate of what I am
likely to do; so long as I am within reach of you--and thank God nothing
can put me out of that!--I don’t know that I care for anything more.’

‘That is what I should say, Edward,’ she said, with some vehemence, ‘not
you. Do you think I am such a silly woman as to wish you to be entirely
occupied with me? No, no; that is the woman’s part.’

‘Well,’ he said, with his usual soft laugh, ‘mine is the feminine
_rôle_, you know, to a great extent. Fortunately, my disposition quite
chimes in with it.’

‘What do you mean by the feminine _rôle_?’

‘My love, I don’t mean anything. I mean that life was too many for me
when you and I were parted. I was the divided half, don’t you know, “of
such a friendship as had mastered time.” Being sundered from my mate,
time mastered me: I took to floating, as you don’t like to do, even on
the lake.’

‘Edward,’ she cried, ‘if anything could make it more dreadful to me to
think of that time, it would be hearing you speak so.’

‘Don’t,’ he said, ‘there is no occasion; after all, neither time nor
anything else masters one if it is not in one’s nature. You think too
well of me, Carry. Some people are made to float.’

‘And what was I then?’ she said. ‘I was swept away. I could not resist
the force against me. It was worse for me, oh! far worse, Edward, than
for you. I was caught by the torrent: there was no floating in my case.
Perhaps you will say I was made to be carried away.’

‘My darling,’ he said, ‘that’s all over and past. Don’t let us think of
what is done with. Here we are now, two people, not very old, quite able
to enjoy all the good things of this life, and who have got them, thank
Heaven! in a large share. What would you and I have attained with all
the fighting possible, compared to the happiness of being together,
having each other’s constant company? And we have got that, with many
pretty things besides,’ he added, with his gentle laugh.

Lady Car felt the words like a flood pouring to her lips, but she was
silent; how could she speak? Did it never occur to him how these pretty
things were attained--how it was that he and she sat out here by this
window looking out upon Lake Leman and the moonlight in circumstances
such as only rich people can secure, both of them to start with being so
poor--how it was that they had been able to wander about together, a
pair of lovers, for years, with all the accessories of happiness as well
as the happiness itself? She clasped her slight fingers together till
the pressure hurt; but she said nothing, having nothing--having far too
much to say. Such thoughts had glanced across her mind before, faintly,
for a moment. She could not have told why they had become so much more
vivid now. It was, no doubt, because of the change which was about to
take place in their life, the giving up of the wandering, the settling
down. Her thoughts carried her away altogether as she sat gazing out
with vacant eyes at the lake and the moonlight, forgetting where she was
and that she had an answer to make to the question addressed to her. At
last her husband’s gentle voice, so refined and soft, startled her back
to the reality of the moment.

‘You don’t say anything, Carry. If I were of a jealous temper I might
ask whether, perhaps, you were beginning to doubt? but I don’t, I don’t,
my love; you need not defend yourself. We both know that is the best
that life could give us, and it has come to us almost without an effort.
Isn’t it so? For my part, I’ve got all I want, and the rest of the
circumstances are indifferent to me--where we live or what we do--you in
my house and my home--and my occupation--and my content. I want no
more.’

Could anything be said more sweet to a woman? According to all the
conventionalities, no--according to many of the most natural feelings,
no. What could be better than each other’s constant society, to be
together always, to share everything, to own no thought that was not
within the charmed circle of their happiness? As he said these words
slowly, with little pauses between, she took in all the sweetness of
them, with a commentary in her mind that was not sweet, an impatience
which scarcely could be controlled, a blank sensation as of
impossibility which held back the impatience. Was there not something
more to be said--something more?

Mr. Beaufort had lit his cigarette, which was so habitual to him, so
completely the breath of his reflective leisure and gentleness and calm,
that the most sensitive of women could not have objected to it; nothing
so aggressive as a cigar ever touched his lips, as little as any lady
could he tolerate a pipe. The little curl of blue smoke, the pungent but
aromatic odour, the very attitude of the shapely hand holding it, were
characteristic. The smoke curled softly upwards from his soft brown
beard and moustache. He was a very handsome man, handsomer in his way
than Carry, whose nose was a trifle too long and her mobile lips a
trifle too thin. She was, indeed, a little too thin altogether, whereas
he was perfect in the fullness of his manhood, just over forty, but as
young and strong as, and enjoying his youth and strength more than, at
twenty-five. She looked at him and was silent. Is not a man better than
a woman at that age above all? Is not he more likely to have discovered
the real secret of life? Was not he better able to judge than Carry, a
creature who had never been wise, who had been hurried, passive, through
so many horrors, and dragged out of a tragedy of awful life, to be
landed at last on this pleasant shore? Surely, seeing it must be so, her
troubled mind made a wild circle from the point where they had parted
until this, when they were one, and for a moment, in the dimness behind
his chair, it seemed to Lady Car that she saw a spectre rise. She almost
thought a shadowy face looked at her over Beaufort’s head--a face
black-browed, with big, light, fiery eyes, burning as she had often
seen them burn--the same eyes that were closed in sleep in little
Janet’s crib--the same that sometimes gloomed out from her little boy’s
dark countenance. Her faithful recollection made his picture on the air
while Beaufort took dainty puffs of his cigarette. He had no such ghost
to daunt him, his memory was pure and calm, while hers was filled with
that dreadful shadow, and with reason, for without that shadow this
happiness could never have been. What a thought for a woman--what a
thought! and to think that it should never once cross the imagination of
the man who was enjoying all the other had lost--all and so much more,
and that but for the other this happiness could never have been!

These thoughts came like a wave over Carry while she sat with her
fingers clasped tight, arrested, dumb, incapable of any reply. What a
blessed thing that even one’s nearest and dearest cannot divine the
quick thoughts that come and go, the visions that flash across us, while
we sit by their side and reveal nothing! If Beaufort could have seen
that black-browed spectre, and realised all that Torrance had brought
for him, would he have maintained that attitude of thoughtful leisure,
that calm of assured satisfaction and happiness? To be sure he did know;
there was no secret in it; everybody knew. There was nothing wrong, no
guilt, nothing to blush for. The shame was all fanciful, as was that
sense of her husband’s strange obtuseness and want pf perception which
had seized upon Carry, as if they had been horrible things, when they
were quite innocent, natural things, which she ought to have most
desired for him. It was curious, too, to think that between two people
who loved each other so, who were so entirely in sympathy, one could be
so unimpressed by the feelings of the other; that the air should be so
full for her of ghosts, of passion, and misery past, of the strange,
horrible thought that it was by those passions and miseries that she had
purchased both for him and herself this calm, and yet that he should
divine nothing, but think it only a light question of locality, of
where to settle down, of a desirable neighbourhood! Apparently the
lightness of the decision they had to make, its entirely unimportant
character, struck him as he lay back in his chair with his face towards
the lake and the moonlight, and the faint blue curl of fragrant smoke
rising in the air. ‘I’ll tell you what we’ll do,’ he said suddenly, with
a laugh, ‘to facilitate this tremendous decision. We’ll take a
succession of houses in different places, and find out by experiment
which we like best.’

She brought herself back to the triviality of the discussion with a
gasp, as if she had fallen, and with a great effort to dismiss those
other thoughts. ‘But that would be no better than travelling,’ she said,
‘of which I am a little tired. I want a home of my own, a house which
belongs to no one else,’ she added, with a slight shiver, ‘but you and
me, Edward, no ghosts of other people in it.’

‘Do you call their little pictures ghosts?’ he said, looking round at
the dim walls, which were hung with portraits of the Swiss family to
whom the villa belonged; ‘not lovely ones certainly, but quite innocent.
Then, Carry my love, do just as you please. I shall come with you, like
Tom and Janet, to see the new place. If you choose one that’s very ugly
and out of the way, we will all protest. But, so far as I am concerned,
it can’t be ugly while you are there,’ he said, putting his hands upon
hers with a tender pressure. Then added, with a look of solicitude,
putting away the cigarette, ‘Why, you are in a fever, Carry. Your poor
little hands are like fire. I hope you haven’t taken cold on the lake.’

‘I never take cold,’ she said, smiling. ‘I suppose it is mere silliness,
thinking that this time is over, and that we are going back to the
world.’

‘If that vexes you, my darling, don’t let us go back to the world.’

‘Edward, you make me wild, you are so indifferent! You speak as if
nothing mattered, as if we could go on and just please ourselves and
think of nothing else for ever.’

‘Well, my love, I tell you nothing matters to me except yourself, and I
don’t think the world would mind much. But don’t be vexed, Carry. I know
the boy must go to school and all the rest of it. We’ll do our duty like
men--I mean like women, which is far more thorough. And, for my part,
I’m not a bit afraid of the world. Even London I can face quite
tranquilly with you by my side, especially as at this time of the year
there’s nobody there.’

‘Oh, Edward!’ she said, with a tender exasperation; ‘it is very soothing
to be everything in the world to the man you love; and yet----’



CHAPTER III


They all came home, as people say--though it was no home to which they
were coming, and they had been very much at home in their Swiss villa,
notwithstanding the portraits of the Swiss owners of the place on all
the walls. It is very delightful after a long absence to come home when
that familiar place is open and waiting for you, and the children run
about the rooms in a tumult of joy, recognising everything, and you
settle into your old chair, in your old corner, as if you had never been
away. It is quite a different thing when a family comes home to settle
down. Looking for a house is apt to be a weary operation, and a small
house in London in autumn, in the meantime, is not very gay. But, on the
other hand, in October London is not the dismal place it often appears
to the stranger: there are still days of bright and sunny weather; the
brown grass in the parks has begun to recover itself a little, the trees
grow red and yellow, and lend a little light of their own to supplement
the skies. Though St. James’s Park is rarely more than in monotone, like
a drawing in sepia, the wider breadths between the Marble Arch and Hyde
Park Corner are brighter, and there is a little stir in the air of
people coming back. It was rather a depressed and downcast family party
that arrived after a brief but rough crossing of the Channel and all the
wear and tear of the journey--Lady Car very pale, with lines on her
forehead that showed all the freshly awakened anxiety with which the
sight of her native country, involving, as it did, the renewing of many
responsibilities and of life in its commonplace aspect after a long
holiday, had filled her; little Janet, very fretful and tired, almost
paler than her mother, with her black brow and black hair, and big blue
lips accentuating the whiteness of her face; Tom, distracted with the
confinement and the impossibility of any play or commotion beyond that
which could be carried on within the limited space of a railway
carriage, exasperated and exasperating; and an attendant group of tired
maids, rendered half frantic by his pranks and the impossibility of
keeping him in order. Mr. Beaufort had an immense superiority amid this
group. He had not turned a hair, the rough crossing had no effect upon
him. He was very kind to little Janet, who had succumbed, and was
quietly miserable, lying on a bench, and he took the tenderest care of
his wife, who never at the worst moment lost her air of distinction or
was humbled to a common level even by the waves of the Channel. His tall
figure, in a long ulster, with his fine brown beard blowing a little in
the wind, his cigarette always giving forth a curl of dainty smoke, was
a comfort to see, even at a distance, facing the breeze at the other end
of the ship. Tom, who would not be kept down, clung to his stepfather,
whom on other occasions he showed no great love for, trotting after him,
standing in his shelter, with little legs set well apart, and now and
then a clutch at the ulster to steady himself, characteristically
selecting the most sturdy member of the party to hold by. When the party
tumbled into the hotel in the winterly evening, half dazed with fatigue,
Beaufort was still the master of the situation. He was quite fresh and
self-possessed. Coming back to England, which oppressed Lady Car with so
many thoughts, did not affect him any more than crossing to Paris, or to
Vienna, or to any other capital. The fact of beginning a new chapter of
existence did not affect him. He felt it, indeed, to be no new chapter
of existence, only a continuance of the former. He was pleased enough to
arrive, not sorry to end the wandering, glad enough to settle down. It
meant rather rest to him than any excitement of a new beginning. He was
half amused at and altogether indulgent and tolerant of Carry’s fancy
about not going to her own house. It was, perhaps, a little absurd, for
Scotland, of course, was the right place to go to at this time of the
year; and to look for a new house in a new place, when a house that
belongs to you, in the most eligible position, is standing vacant, was,
no doubt, a strange caprice. But if that was how she felt, far should it
be from him to cross her. He was not a great sportsman. A day or two’s
shooting, even a week or two, perhaps, could not harm any man, but he
did not very much care if he never touched a gun. Still it was so
obvious that it was the natural place to go to. He smiled to himself as
he walked to the club after dinner, taking himself off that she might
get to bed, to the rest she wanted so much, at this caprice of hers.
Dear Carry, if it had been a much greater matter, so far as he was
concerned, she should have her way; but he allowed to himself, with a
smile, that it was a little silly. When you have been married for a time
you are able to allow this without any derogation to your divinity. He
admired and loved her as much as a man could do, but it was a pleasure
to feel that a little indulgence had to be exercised, to mingle now and
then with his chivalrous reverence and love. He would do nothing to
cross her. She should get her house where she pleased, furnish it--with
some aid from his own taste--how she pleased, and be happy as she would.
He smiled as he walked along the familiar streets; it was a pleasure to
be in London again. It was a pleasure to be so well off, he who had
often been poorly enough off, doubtful sometimes whether he could afford
to order his dinner at the club. All that was over now, and he had no
objection to owe it to his wife. What did it matter which of them had
the money? Had he possessed it, how gladly would he have spent it upon
Carry, to give her everything that heart could desire! This is, when one
comes to think of it, the real generosity, the most noble way of taking
such a matter. To think that it was not Carry’s money, but the money of
Torrance, that made everything so comfortable for them, happily did not
dwell in his mind as it did in hers. He did not even think of it--it was
so of course, and of course she had purchased this competence which she
shared with her second husband by being an excellent wife to the
previous husband, and winning his trust and confidence. Mr. Beaufort
luckily did not feel that there was any reason for dwelling upon that
side of the question.

Next morning the whole party was revived and cheerful. The children,
when they burst into the room, after a long enforced waiting in the
temporary nursery which looked to the back, and from which they saw
nothing but chimneys and the backs of other houses, rushed to the large
window of the room in which Lady Car was breakfasting, with a scream of
pleasure. To look out upon the busy road full of carriages and people,
and the trees and space of Hyde Park beyond, delighted them. Little Tom
stood smacking the whip which was his perpetual accompaniment, and
making ejaculations. ‘Oh, I say! What lots and lots of people! There’s a
pony! but he can’t ride a bit, that fellow on it. Where’s he going to
ride? What’s inside those gates? is it a palace or is it a park, or what
is it? I say, Beau!--what a liar he is, Jan! he said there was nobody
in London--and there’s millions!’

‘Tom,’ said Lady Car; ‘if you say such things you will be sent away.’

‘Let him talk,’ said Beaufort; ‘he is quite right from his point of
view. You must remember, Tom, that, though you’re a clever fellow, you
don’t know everything; and there may be millions of people in London
though there’s nobody.’

They both turned upon him incredulous faces, with that cynicism of
childhood which is as remarkable as its trust, overawed by a sense of
his superior knowledge, yet quite unconvinced of his good faith. Their
faces were very like each other--rather large and without colour, their
eyebrows shaggy and projecting, their large round eyes _à fleur de
tête_. Janet’s little red mouth, which was her pretty feature, was open
with suspicion and wonder. Tom’s bore an expression of half-assumed
scorn. He was a little afraid of ‘Beau,’ and had an alarmed belief in
him, at the bottom of much doubt of his meaning and resistance
generally.

‘You seem to have a great budget of correspondence this morning, Car.’

‘From the house-agents; there seem to be houses to be had everywhere.
Instead of any difficulty in finding one, we shall only be troubled
where to choose. What do you say to Richmond? the river is so lovely,
and the park so delightful for the children, and----’

‘If Tom is going to school, as I suppose he is, there will only be one
child to consider, and little Jan is not _difficile_.’

‘Am I going to school, mother?’ Tom faced round again suddenly from the
window and stood against the light with his legs apart, a very square,
solid little form to reckon with.

‘You must, my dear boy; your education has been kept back so long. To be
sure, he knows French,’ said Carry, with a wistful look at her husband,
seeking approval, ‘which so few boys of his age do.’ Mr. Beaufort had
considered that it would be advantageous for Tom to be at school before
now.

‘I don’t mind,’ said the boy. ‘I like it. I want to go. I hated all
those French fellows--but they’re different here.’

‘The first thing they will ask you at Eton is whether you will take a
licking,’ said Beaufort; ‘that was how it was in my day.’

‘I won’t,’ cried Tom; ‘not if it was the biggest fellow in the school.
Did you, Beau?’

‘I can’t remember, it’s so long ago,’ said the stepfather. ‘No, not
Richmond, if you please, Car; it’s pretty, but it’s cockney. Sunday
excursions spoil all the places about London.’

‘Windsor? One would still have the river within reach, and rides in the
forest without end.’

‘Windsor still less, Carry my love. It’s a show place. Royal persons
always coming and going, and crowds to stare at them. If you love me,
no.’

‘That’s a large argument, Edward. We should not live in the town, of
course, and to see the Queen driving about would always be a little
excitement.’

‘Does she drive in a big umbrella like the gentlemen upon the omnibus?’
said Janet, whose eyes had been caught by that wonder. Tom had seen it
too, and was full of curiosity, but kept his eye upon Beaufort to see
whether he would laugh at the question.

‘Much grander, with gold fringe and a little royal standard flying from
the top,’ said Beaufort gravely. ‘You know the Doge at Venice always had
an umbrella, and other great princes.’

Tom stared very steadily, with his big, round eyes, to watch for the
suspicion of a smile, but, seeing none, ventured, with a little
suppressed doubt and defiance of the possibly ‘humbugging’ answer, ‘Who
are the men on the omnibuses? They can’t all be princes; they’re just
like _cochers_,’ cried Tom.

‘Don’t you trust to appearances, my boy. Did you never hear that the
greatest swells drove mail coaches? Not Windsor, Car, not Windsor.’

‘Surrey, Edward? Guildford, Haslemere, Dorking--somewhere in that
direction?’

‘At Dorking we should be in the way of the battle, Tom.’

‘I should like that,’ cried the boy; ‘and I suppose _you_ can fire a
gun, Beau,’ he added, after a moment’s hesitation, scrutinising his
stepfather closely, glad to have the chance of one insult, but something
afraid of the response.

‘Tom!’ cried his mother, in a warning tone.

‘More or less,’ said Beaufort languidly; ‘enough to hit a Dutchman if
there was one before me--you know they’re very broad. At Guildford
people are buried on the top of a hill for the sake of the view. Yes, I
think Surrey would do.’

‘Am I to go to Eton straight off, mother--is that in Surrey? I want to
go a good long way off. I don’t want to be near home. You would be
coming to see me, and Jan, and kiss me, and call me “Tom,” and make the
other fellows laugh.’

‘What should you be called but Tom?’ said Lady Car, with a smile.

‘Torrance!’ cried the child with pride, as who should say Plantagenet.
She had been looking at him, smiling, but at this utterance of the boy
Lady Car started and turned burning red, then coldly pale. Why should
she? Nothing could be more fantastic, more absurd, than the feeling. She
had done no harm in making a second marriage, in which she had found
happiness, after the first one, which had brought nothing but misery.
She had offended against no law, written or unwritten. She had wiped out
Torrance and his memory, and all belonging to him (except his money),
for years. Why should the name which she had once borne, which was
undeniably her son’s name, affect her so deeply now? The smile became
fixed about the corner of her mouth, but the boy, of course, understood
nothing of what was passing in his mother’s mind, though he stared at
her a little as if he did, increasing her confusion. ‘The fellows never
call a fellow by his christened name,’ said Tom, great in the
superiority of what he had learned from various schoolboys on their
travels. These were things, he was aware, which of course women didn’t
know.

‘You’d better come and have a stroll with me, Master Tom,’ said
Beaufort. ‘I’ll show you Piccadilly, which is always something; as for
the park, you wouldn’t care for it: there are no riders in the Row now.
You see, as I told you, there’s nobody in London. Come, get your hat,
quickly.’

‘Me too,’ said little Janet, with a pout of her small mouth.

‘Not any ladies to-day, only two fellows, as Tom says, taking a stroll
together.’

‘In a moment, Beau!’ cried Tom, delighted, rushing to get his hat. ‘I
told you, Jan, old Beau’s a gentleman--sometimes,’ the boy added, as his
sister ran after him to see what arrangements of her own she could make
to the same end.

‘You are very good to them, Edward--oh! very good. How can I ever thank
you?’ said Lady Car, with tears in her eyes. Her nerves had been a
little shaken by that shock, and by the vain perception that stole over
her of two parties in the family, two that would become more distinctly
two by the progress of years, unlike in nature and constitution, and
even in name. It is not necessary to insist upon the family name of
children travelling with their mother. No one had been much the wiser
during these years of wandering. But Tom’s ‘Torrance!’ was a revelation,
and opened before her possibilities unknown.

‘Good, am I? That’s all right, that’s something to the credit side, but
I was not aware of it,’ said Beaufort, in his easy way; ‘all the same,’
he added, laughing, ‘Master Tom will want looking after if we are to
make anything of him. He will want a tight hand, which, I fear, does not
belong either to you or me.’

It cost Lady Car a pang to hear even this mild expression of opinion
about her boy. A mother says many things, and feels many things, about
her children which no one else may say before her. She looked at him
wistfully, with a faint smile, which was full of pain. ‘He is only a
child,’ she said, apologetically, ‘and then he will get that at school.’
She could not contradict him, and she could not argue with him. Poor
little Tom! he was her own, though he might not be all she wished him to
be--the plea rose to her lips unconsciously that he was fatherless, that
he had drawbacks to contend against, poor child. What a plea to form
even unconsciously in her mind! She looked at her husband with such a
troubled and wistful appeal that his heart smote him. He laid his hand
upon her head caressingly, and stooped to kiss her.

‘To be sure,’ he said; ‘the boy will be all right, Car. He has plenty of
spirit, and that is the best thing, after all. Ready, Tom? Come along,
then. I’m ready too.’

Lady Car followed him with her wistful eyes. They were not full of
admiring delight, as when a mother watches her children going out with
their father, proud of both him and them, and of their love for each
other. What it must be to have a life without complications, full of
unity, in which a woman can feel like that! Carry longed to whisper in
her child’s ear, to bid him, oh! to be good, to mind what Beau said to
him, to behave like a gentleman to one who was so kind--so kind! But she
had to let him go without that warning, fearing that he would be
disrespectful, and come back in disgrace, though Edward was so gentle
with him, and never complained, except to say that he would want a tight
hand. How well she knew that he wanted a tight hand! and how certain she
was that it was not from her he would get that needful restraint! And
from whom, then? At school, from some master who would know nothing
about him, nor give him credit for the complications in his lot, his
having no father. Perhaps, she said to herself in her troubled thoughts,
it is better for a boy to have any kind of a father than no father at
all. His father would have flogged him, had no mercy upon him, taught
him to swear and swagger, and ride wild horses, and run wild about the
country. Would that have been better? She stopped, with a shudder,
unable to pursue the question. Better--oh heavens! But for her what
would it have been? She turned to meet little Janet’s large eyes fixed
upon her, and started with alarm and a kind of horror. It seemed to her
that the child must have read her thoughts.

‘Are you cold, mozer?’ Janet said. Though she was eight, she had still
difficulties with the ‘th,’ difficulties perhaps rather of a foreigner
than a child.

‘No, dear,’ said Lady Car, again shuddering, but smiling upon the little
girl. ‘It is not at all cold.’

‘Mozer, take me out with you, since Tom has gone with Beau. I don’t want
to go out with nurse. I want to be wiz you.’

‘Dear,’ said Carry, wooing her little daughter for a favourable reply
with soft caresses, ‘isn’t Beau kind to Tom? Don’t you love Beau?’

The child searched her face, as children do, in an unconscious but
penetrating search for motives unknown. Janet saw that her mother was
wistful and unassured, though she did not probably know how to name
these motives. ‘I do well enough,’ she said. ‘I don’t think of him.
Mozer, take me out with you.’

And this was all that could be got out of Janet. The black brow and the
dark hair made her look so much more resolute and determined than usual
that poor Carry was almost afraid of her little girl, and believed that
she hid beneath that careless answer thoughts and feelings which were
quite determined and well-assured.



CHAPTER IV


The house was found after a great many not unpleasurable
researches--little expeditions, now and then, which Lady Caroline and
her husband took together, with reminiscences of their first honeymoon
travels, which had been so sweet. She forgot, as a woman is so ready to
do, all the little deceptions and disappointments of the intervening
years, and when they found at last the very thing they wanted the
elation and exhilaration of a new beginning entered fully into Carry’s
mind. If Edward had shown himself too contented with his life, too
little ambitious, too indifferent to any stimulant, there was something
in the fact of being unsettled, of having no certain motive of his life,
of moving about constantly from one place to another, which would very
well account for that. But when he was no longer subject to
interruption, when his time and his thoughts were free, who could doubt
that a new spring of energy would burst forth? In the old days, when
they had first met, he had been full of projects. Was not that one of
the charms that had caught her girlish heart? He had so fully meant to
make himself a great influence in the world, to help to sway the course
of events, to make the world a better place. They had talked of that
before even they talked of love--and her enthusiasm had been roused and
fired by his. He had told her--how well she remembered!--that it was a
mistake of dull minds to think that it was hard to obtain an influence
upon one’s fellow-men. On the contrary, if you are but in earnest--in
such earnest that none could mistake your sincerity and true
feeling--then the response, especially of the young, especially of the
working people, whom it was of so much importance to influence for good,
was most ready, almost immediate. So he said, discoursing for hours as
they wandered about the Swiss valley in which they had met, Carry
Lindores all in a flame of enthusiastic listening, responding with her
whole heart. What a beautiful lot it had seemed to her to share this
work and this life of this new crusader, this chief of men! She was not
Lady Caroline then, but a poor little girl in a faded frock, her father
far out of the succession, and no grandeur of rank or anything else
surrounding the wandering family. Carry’s imagination went back to that
moment with a leap, ignoring, oh so thankfully! all that had gone
between. She had hardly done much with her unfaithfulness to congeal her
Edward’s enthusiasm, to turn him from his hopefulness to misanthropy and
pessimism. He had fallen into apathy because he had been forsaken and
unhappy. But now everything was to begin anew--a settled home on English
ground, a position of his own in which his leisure and his peace should
be undisturbed and his mind free to throw itself into the old studies.
Who could doubt that with all this his energy and his enthusiasm would
come back to him again?

The house was near one of the charming little towns of Surrey. It was on
the slope of a hill, a house partly antique for beauty, and with a new
part built on behind, happily out of sight, for comfort. A wide
landscape of breezy undulations stretched before the windows; the town,
upon another low hill, all its red roofs picturesquely outlined among
the trees, stood out a charming object in the view, not near enough to
add any association of noise or gossip. The very railway ran in a
cutting, invisible, though near enough to be exceedingly convenient,
nothing but a puff of steam showing now and then over the trees. The
landscape embraced, as it were, two worlds--heather and fir trees on one
side, luxuriant English cornfields, woods, and villages on the other.
The altitude of their hillside was not great, but as there was nothing
greater about it, it might have been Mont Blanc for the feeling of wide
atmosphere and sky; yet they were within a mile or two of the little
country town, and within an hour and a half of London! What could be
more delightful, combining every advantage? Carry had all the delight of
a bride in furnishing her house--nay, of a bridegroom too, for one of
her chief cares was to fit up a study for Beaufort, in which every taste
should be satisfied. Though she was by nature so gentle and yielding a
woman, she it was who was the purveyor of everything, who had the purse
in her hands. The only thing upon which Beaufort had made a stand at the
time of his marriage was this--that the money which was hers should
remain with her, that he should have nothing to do with its expenditure.
He had his own little income, which was very small, yet sufficed for his
personal wants. He lived a fairy life, without any necessity for money,
his house kept for him, his living all arranged, everything that he
wanted or could desire coming without a thought; but he preserved his
feeling of independence by having nothing to do with the expenditure.
Thus Carry combined everything in her own person, the bride and the
bridegroom--even something of the mother. Her drawing-room was fitted up
according to all the new lights. She had weaknesses towards the
æsthetic, and something of the delicacy of those heroines of Mr. Du
Maurier whose _bibelots_ are their religion, and who cannot be happy in
a room which has curtains not of the right tint. But even the anxiety to
secure everything right in the drawing-room was secondary to her anxiety
about the library, which was to be Beaufort’s room, the future centre of
all his occupations. He had himself a number of books laid up in various
stores, and they had bought a number more in their wanderings--fine old
examples in delicate old vellum like ivory and luxurious editions. Carry
was occupied for weeks in arranging them, in procuring the right kind of
bookcases, and hanging and decorating the room in just the subdued
beauty which is appropriate for a place of study. There was one great
window commanding the finest view, there was another looking into a
sunny nook of the garden. The writing table stood within reach of the
fire, and near that sunny window, so that it might always command both
warmth and light. The chairs were few, but luxurious to sit in, and
moving at a touch, without noise, upon the deep, mossy softness of the
carpet. The bookcases were inlaid and exquisite with lines of delicate
sculpture and gilding between the shelves, out of which the mellow gold
of the old bindings and the sober background of Russia leather and the
tempered ivory of the vellum showed like a picture. He had not even seen
it till it was completed. No lover ever spent upon his lady’s boudoir
more tender care and delicate fancy than Carry lavished upon her
husband’s study. When they went down finally to take possession of
Easton Manor there were various things incomplete in the rest of the
house, but this was perfect. She took him by the arm and led him to the
door. ‘This is my present to you, Edward,’ she said, a little breathless
with happiness and anxiety to know if it would please him. At this
period when furniture is supposed to make so great a part of our
comfort, the moment was intense--would it please him, after all?

It did please him, or, at least, he graciously declared it did, with an
enthusiasm perhaps a little strained, but Carry, who was half crying
with joy and pleasure, never found this out, if, indeed, there was
anything to find out. She ran about the room, pointing out
everything--all the details of the arrangements, the drawers for papers,
the portfolios for prints, the shelves that could be filled at pleasure,
the space that still was vacant to be filled up. Everything that heart
could desire was in this dilettante shrine. There was a little picture
on the mantelpiece, an original, a lovely little Fra Angelico, in the
daintiest of carved shrines, which good luck had thrown in their way in
Italy--a gem for an emperor’s closet. He gave a little cry when he saw
this. ‘Carry, your own picture--the one you love best!’

‘I shall love it better here than anywhere else,’ said Carry, falling
a-weeping and a-laughing with a joy that was not hysterical, but only
driven to the bounds of all things to find expression. She was so happy!
She had never in all her life been so happy before. In her own house,
her own home, all hers and his, the sanctuary of their joint life to
come. When a woman comes to this climax of happiness, she generally does
so more thoroughly with her _arrière-pensée_ than a man. Only one thing
could have made Carry’s bliss more exquisite--if he had done it for
her--and yet, on the whole, I am not sure that to have done it for him
was not a higher pleasure still. Little Janet had held by her mother’s
dress coming into the new, strange house, and thus had been swept into
this rapture without intention, and stood gazing at it with great eyes,
half wondering, half critical. What there was to cry about Janet did not
know. She was a spectator, though she was only a child, and broke the
spell. Lady Car felt more than Beaufort did what the interruption was.
And thus the edge was a little taken off her delight. But in the
evening, when Janet was happily in bed, she led her husband back to his
beautiful room. He would rather, perhaps, as a matter of fact, have
remained in the uncompleted drawing-room with her. A thing which is
incomplete has a charm of its own. He was suggesting various things
which were needed to fill up, and enjoying the occupation. He had even
made a few rough sketches, rough, yet full of ‘feeling,’ showing with
only a line or two how many improvements could still be made. She was
delighted by the suggestions, but a little impatient, longing to make
sure that he had seen all the many luxuries provided for himself. She
took his arm when he had shown her where he would place the little
fantastic Venetian _étagère_. ‘Yes, Edward; but I don’t want to stay
here any longer: I want to spend the first evening in the library, in
your own room.’

‘In the library,’ he said with a slight vexation; then recovering
himself he followed her impulse with the best grace in the world. Poor
Carry! it would ill become him not to humour her. ‘But is there a lamp
there?’ he said. She laughed for pleasure at the question. A lamp!
There was the most beautiful arrangement of lights which the art of that
period had yet devised. The reign of the electric light had not begun,
but candles with every kind of silvery shading that had been then
invented were round the walls, and the light was so soft, so equable, so
diffused, that no electric lighting could have been more perfect. ‘You
who are so fond of light, how could you think I would forget that?’ she
said.

‘You never forget anything: you are my good angel,’ he said, holding her
in his arms: the perfect tenderness and the perfect taste went to his
heart. ‘You are too good to me--and all this is far too good for a
useless fellow who never did anything.’

‘It is the circumstances that are to blame for that,’ she said, vaguely.
‘You have never had the leisure and the ease that is necessary for great
work.’

He laughed a little, and perhaps coloured too, could she have seen it in
the flattering soft glow of the shaded light. ‘I am afraid,’ he said,
‘that a man who is overcome by circumstances is rather a poor sort of
creature; but we won’t enter into that.’

‘No, indeed,’ she said; ‘there is no such question before the house,
Edward. Now sit down in your own chair and let us talk. How many talks
we are to have here! This is the place where we shall discuss
everything, and you will tell me how your thoughts are taking shape, and
read me a page here and there, and here I’ll bring my little troubles to
be calmed down, but never to interrupt anything, you may trust me for
that.’

‘My love,’ he cried, ‘I trust you for everything; but, Carry, I am sadly
afraid you are preparing disappointment for yourself. I am by no means
sure that I could write anything were I to try; and as for plans----’

‘Don’t say that, Edward. Don’t you remember how we used to talk in the
dark old Kander Thal long ago? You had planned it out all so clearly. I
think _I_ could write down the plan, and even the names of the chapters,
if you have forgotten. But I am sure you have not forgotten. It has
only been suspended for want of time--for want of the books you
needed--for want--oh! if I might flatter myself so far?--for want,
perhaps, of me; but that’s the vainest thing to say.’

‘It is the only truth in the whole matter,’ he said--‘for want of you! I
think I must have invented that plan on the spot to please you.’

‘Hush, hush!’ said Carry, putting up her hand to his mouth. ‘Don’t
blaspheme. You were full of it, it was a new world to me. First to think
that I _knew_ a man with such great things in his mind, then that he
would talk to me about it, then that my enthusiasm helped him on a
little, that he looked to me for sympathy. Edward,’ she said, with a
little nervous laugh, changing colour, and casting down her eyes, ‘I
wrote some little verses about it in the old days, but never finished
them, and this morning I found them, and scribbled a little more.’

‘My love, my love!’ he cried, in a troubled tone, in which love, shame,
compunction, and even a far-off trembling of ridicule had place. What
could he say to this? The romance, the sentiment, the good faith, the
enthusiasm, altogether overwhelmed him. He could have laughed, he could
have wept, he did not know what to say. How he despised himself for
being so much below her expectations, for being, as he said himself,
such a poor creature! He changed colour; her moist eyes, her little
verses filled him with shame and penitence, yet a rueful amusement too.
The verses were very pretty: he did not despise them, it was only
himself whom he despised.

‘My darling, that’s so long ago! I was a fool, puffed up by your
enthusiasm and by seeing that you believed in me. A young man, don’t you
know, is always something of an actor when he begins to see that a girl
has faith in him. It is--how long, Carry?--fifteen years ago?’

‘And what of that?’ she said. ‘If I could pick up my little thread, as I
tell you, how much more easily could you pick up your great one? This
was why I wanted to be within reach of London, within reach of the
great libraries. It is quite easy to run up for the day to refer to
anything you want--indeed, I might do it for you if you were very busy.
And I can see that you have no interruptions, Edward. We must settle our
hours and everything from that point of view.’

He felt himself at liberty to laugh as she came down to this more
familiar ground. ‘I fear,’ he said, ‘all my plans were in the air--they
never came to execution of any kind. I don’t know even, as I told you,
whether I can write _at all_.’

‘Edward!’ she cried, in an indignant tone.

‘Well, my love’--the flattery went to his heart, notwithstanding all he
knew against it--‘that is the easiest of the matter to be sure; but
everybody can write nowadays, and why should the world listen to me more
than another? Besides, my favourite questions of social economy, as
against political, have all been _exploités_ by other hands since then.’

‘Not by other hands so capable as yours.’

‘Oh, Carry!’ he cried, with a laugh in which there was pleasure as well
as a little ridicule; ‘I fear you have a quite unwarrantable confidence
in me; I am only----’

‘Hush!’ she said, again putting up her hand to his mouth; ‘I don’t want
to hear your opinion of yourself. I am a better judge than you are on
that point. Besides, let us hear who have written on that question?’ She
sat quite upright in her chair. ‘Bring them forward, and let them be
judged,’ she said.

‘I cannot bring forth a whole school of writers before your tribunal, my
lady. Well,’ he said, laughing, ‘there’s Ruskin for one--who has said
all I once wanted to say, in an incomparable way, and gone a great deal
further than I could go.’

‘Ah!’ she cried; ‘that is just the whole matter. Mr. Ruskin is
incomparable, as you say, but he goes a great deal too far. He is a
poet. People adore him, but don’t put serious faith in him. Mr. Ruskin
has nothing to do with it, Edward: he could not forestall _you_.’

‘No, no more than the sun could forestall a farthing candle. Carry, my
dear, don’t make me blush for myself. Come,’ he added, ‘let me see the
little verses--for the moment that is more to the point. Perhaps when
you have showed me how you have picked up your threads I may see how to
pick up mine.’

‘Should you really like to see them, Edward? They are nothing: they are
very little verses indeed. I have left them in my writing-book.’

‘Get them, then,’ he said, opening the door for her, with a smile. Poor
Lady Car! She raised a happy face to him as she passed, with eyes
glistening, still a little moist, very bright, full of sweetness and
gentle agitation. The soft sound of her dress, sweeping after her, the
graceful movement, the gracious turn of the head, were all so many
exquisite additional details to the exquisite room, so perfect in every
point, in which she had housed him. But Beaufort’s face was full of
uneasiness and perplexity. He had floated so far away from those
innocent days in the Kander Thal. He had ceased to believe in the
panaceas that had seemed all-powerful to him then. The wrongs of
political economy and the rights of the helpless had ceased to occupy
his mind. He had become one of the helpless himself, and yet had
drifted, and been not much the worse. Now he had drifted into the most
charming, sunshiny, landlocked harbour, where no fierce wind could
trouble him more. He had no desire to invent labours and troubles for
himself, to spend his strength in putting up beacons and lighthouses to
which the people whom they were intended to help would pay no attention.
He opened one of the windows and looked out upon the night, upon the
soft, undulating landscape, half-lighted by a misty moon. Everything
looked like peace out of doors, peace and every tranquil pleasure that
the soul could desire were within. He gave an impatient laugh at himself
and his wife, and life in general, as he stood cooling his hot forehead,
looking out waiting her return. He was quite contented; why should he
be goaded forth to fight with windmills which he no longer believed to
be knights in armour? Don Quixote disenchanted, ready himself to burn
all his chevalier books, and see the fun of his misadventures, but urged
to take the field by some delicate Dulcinea, could not have been more
embarrassed and disturbed. It was too annoying to be amusing, and too
tender and beautiful either to be angry with or to laugh at. What under
these circumstances was a man who had long abandoned the heroic to do?



CHAPTER V


After a great deal of travelling in the most beautiful scenery in the
world, and after the excitement of settling down, of furnishing, of
arranging, of putting all your future life in order, there is apt to
follow a certain blank, a somewhat disconcerting consciousness that all
expectation is now over, when you are left alone with everything
completed to live that life to which you have been for so long looking
forward. Lady Car was very conscious of this in her sensitive and
delicate soul, although there was for a long time a sustaining force of
expectation of another kind in her that kept her up. All the people in
the neighbourhood, it is needless to say, made haste to call upon Lady
Caroline Beaufort: and she found them a little flat, as country society
is apt to be. She went out with her husband a number of times to dinner
parties, specially convoked in her honour, and did not find them
enlivening. She was one of those women who never get rid of the ideal
and always retain a vague hope in coming to a new place, in beginning
anything new, that the perfect is at last to be revealed to her--the
good society, the spirits _d’élite_, whom she has always longed for but
never yet encountered. She did not encounter them here any more than in
other places, and a sense of dull certainty settled down upon her after
a while, which was depressing. Such impressions are modified when the
idealist finds out that, however much his or her surroundings may lack
the superlative, there is always a certain _fond_ of goodness and of the
agreeable and sympathetic in the dullest circle when you come to know
it. Surrey, however, no more than any other place, discloses these
homely, compensating qualities all at once, and the period of
disenchantment came. Everything settled down, even the landscape became
less wide, less attractive, the woods less green, the cottage roofs less
picturesque. The real encroached upon the glamour of the imagination at
every corner, and Carry felt herself settle down. It is a process which
every dreamer has to go through.

But it was a long time before her mind would consent to the other
settling down, which took place slowly but surely as the days and the
years went on. Beaufort was in reality a little stirred up at first by
the revival of so many old plans and thoughts, though it was in her
mind, not in his, that they revived. He was constrained by a hundred
subtle influences to resume at least the attitude of a student. Her
verses, which were so pretty, the gentle feminine music of a true,
though small singer, were such a reproach to him as words cannot
describe. She had picked up her thread, so slight, so fragile as it was,
and resumed her little melodious strain with enthusiasm not less, but
greater, than when she had dropped it in the despair of parting with her
hero. The little poem brought back to him faint, undefinable echoes of
that past which seemed to be a thousand years off. What was it that he
had intended to do which she remembered so well, which to him was like a
forgotten dream? He could not pick up his thread; he had smiled at
himself by turns during the progress of the intervening centuries over
the futility of his forgotten ambition. ‘I, too, used to mean great
things,’ he had said with a laugh and a sigh to the younger men: the
sigh had been fictitious, the laugh more genuine. What a fool any man
was to think that he could accomplish any revolution! What a silly
business to think that with your feeble hand you could upset the economy
of ages! The conceit, too! but he had been very young, he had said to
himself, and youth is an excuse for everything. That any faithful memory
should preserve the image of him as he was in those old days of
delusion, ambition, and self-opinion, had seemed incredible to him. He
was half affronted, as well as astonished, that Carry should have
retained that visionary delusion in her mind: but still her expectation
was a curious stimulus. And the first steps into which he was forced by
it deluded her as well as himself. He began to arrange his books, to
search, as he persuaded himself, for old notes, a search which occupied
a great deal of time and involved many discoveries, amusing to him,
delightful to her. For weeks together this investigation, through all
manner of old notebooks, occupied them both and kept Carry very happy.
She was full of excitement as to what each new collection would bring
forth. He had a great many notebooks, dating not only from his college
days but even from his school time, and there was hardly one of them out
of which some little fossil of the past, some scrap of verse or
translation, did not come. Carry, delighted, listened to them all as to
so many revelations. She traced him back to his boyhood, and found a
pleasure beyond description in that record of all his intellectual
vagaries, and the hopes and ambitions they expressed. Perhaps had she
read them calmly with her own eyes, although those eyes were full of
glamour, faint lights of criticism might have arisen and revealed the
imperfections. But he read them to her in his mellow voice, with little
explanations, reminiscences not disagreeable to himself, and which
suggested other and more lengthened recollections, all of which were
delightful to his admiring wife. It was not till Christmas, when she
suddenly woke up to the passage of time by the startling reminder of
little Tom’s return from school for the holidays, that she remembered
how much time had passed. To be brought suddenly to a pause in the midst
of one’s enthusiasm is always disagreeable, and the thought had been
uneasy in Carry’s mind for several days before she put it timidly into
words.

‘It has all been delightful,’ she said. ‘To trace you back through all
your school-boy time and at college is so nice that I know I have been
persuading you to make the most of it for my sake. But, Edward, you
must not humour me any more. I feel that it is wasting your time.’

‘No,’ he said, ‘when one has to pick up one’s thread it is best to do it
thoroughly. This will all be of service, every word of it.’

‘I see, you mean to begin with a retrospect,’ she cried, brightening
again.

‘Not so much as a retrospect,’ he said, with a twinge of conscience,
‘but one’s early ideas, though they are often absurd, are very
suggestive.’

‘Oh, not absurd,’ she cried. It wounded her to hear such a word applied
to anything of his.

But little Tom had come home for his holidays, which showed that it was
four or five months since the settling down. They had taken possession
of Easton in the end of August. Tom came home very manly and grown up
after his first ‘half’ at school. He was close upon eleven, and he had a
very high opinion of his own position and prospects. His school was a
large preparatory one, where things were done as much as possible on
the model of Eton, which was the goal of all the little boy’s ambitions.
It was a little disappointing after the first genuine moment of pleasure
in coming home, and the ecstatic sense of being a very great man to
Janet, to find that after all Janet was only a little girl and did not
understand the half of what he told her. He felt the want of male
society very much upon the second day, and to think that there would not
be a fellow to speak to for a whole month damped the delightful prospect
of being his own master for that time, which had smiled so much upon
him. Janet, it is scarcely necessary to say, gave a boundless faith to
her brother, and listened to the tale of his achievements, and of what
the fellows did, with an interest unalloyed by criticism. Her mouth and
her eyes were full of a round O! of wonder and admiration. She never
tired of hearing of the feats and the scrapes and the heroic incidents
of school. To dazzle her so completely was something; but a mind
accustomed to the company of the nobler sex soon tired of the tameness
of feminine society, and with the candour of his age Tom very soon made
it apparent that he was bored.

‘There’s a lot of houses about,’ he said. ‘Aren’t there any fellows down
there, or there’--he pointed to distant roofs and groups of chimneys
appearing at intervals from among the leafless trees--’ that one could
speak to? It’s awfully dull here after knowing so many at school.’

‘There are some children at that white house with the blue roof,’ said
Janet, ‘but they’re not good enough, nurse says; and I don’t know nobody
to play wiz,’ the little girl added rather wistfully--she made all her
‘th’s’ into ‘z’s’ still--‘I only take walks.’

‘Children!’ said Tom contemptuously. ‘I wasn’t asking about children. I
meant fellows at school. If they’re at a good school they’re good
enough. I’ll soon find out. When a fellow has been out in the world, and
goes to school, you don’t suppose he minds what nurse says.’

‘Oh, but nurse says a great, great many zings,’ said Janet. ‘She says
Easton’s a little poky house, and that we should be in our own family
place. What’s a family place? Do you know? It is something fazer is
buried in,’ the little girl added after a moment, with a little thrill
of solemnity. Tom burst into a laugh in the pleasure of his superior
knowledge.

‘You _are_ a little ass, Jan! Of course I know. My family place is a
grand one, with a big tower, and a flag on it when I’m at home--like the
Queen at Windsor! The worst is I’m never at home: but I shall be when
I’m big, and then shan’t we have times! I’ve told a lot of fellows. I’ll
have them up to my place in Scotland for the shooting, don’t you know.’

Janet only gave him a look out of her large light eyes. ‘Girls don’t
shoot,’ she said. ‘I don’t want to be at your shooting. Tom, do you
remember fazer? He’s buried there.’

‘Oh, humbug! he’s buried in the church-yard, where all the dead people
are buried. Of course I remember him. What’s that got to do with it? I
remember having a ride on his big black mare, such a big tall beast, and
nobody could ride her except me and--him you know. He was behind when I
rode her, and she carried us both as easy as a lamb. Old Duncan told me
so--as easy as a lamb--because she knew who was her master!’ the boy
cried, with the colour mounting up into his cheeks. He began to switch
the chairs with a little cane he had in his hand, and bade them to ‘get
on’ and ‘gee-up,’ to Janet’s considerable disturbance, for she had
already learned that a boy’s boots were apt to be muddy, and that chairs
covered with brocade, and carved and gilded, were not meant to be ridden
or to gee-up.

‘Don’t, Tom,’ she said; ‘they’re mozer’s pretty chairs.’

‘Oh, bother!’ cried the boy, ‘where’s mother? I want to tell her lots of
things, but I won’t if she’s so particular about her chairs and stays so
long away.’

‘She’s in the library with Beau,’ said Janet; ‘they are always in the
library. It is so pretty. Mozer likes it better than the drawing-room.
But they will soon come in for tea.’

‘I say,’ cried Tom, ‘do you have tea here always, not in the nursery?
Oh, I say! I am not going to stand that. I know what they do at
afternoon tea. You have a small piece of bread and butter, or perhaps an
atom of cake, and you mustn’t make any crumbs or enjoy yourself at all.
You should see our teas at school. There’s sometimes three kinds of jam,
and in summer the fellows have strawberries as many as ever they like,
and this half Summerfield major was allowed cold partridge.’

‘For tea!’ cried Janet with ever so many notes of admiration.

‘Oh, his people send him such whopping hampers,’ said Tom; ‘he could
never get through it all if he didn’t have it for tea.’

‘Nasty meat!’ said little Janet with a grimace; ‘but the jam is very
nice,’ she added with a sigh. ‘There’s no nursery when you’re gone.
Mozer gives us very nice tea and plenty of cake; but she thinks I am
better downstairs, not always with nurse.’

‘And do you think so? You were always a little----’

‘It’s nice when mozer talks to me and not to Beau,’ said Janet with
reluctance. The grievance of the many times when the reverse was the
case was implied, not put into words. ‘But when there is you and me it
will be very nice,’ cried the little girl. ‘There is a plain little
table in the corner not carved or anything. It has a cover on, but that
comes off, and I am allowed to have it to paint pictures upon and play
at anything you like. We’ll have it between us in the corner as if it
was a little party,’ cried little Janet, ‘and they will never mind us,
as long as we don’t make much noise.’

‘But I want to make a noise. I want to have a real square meal. It isn’t
good for a fellow, when he’s growing, to be kept short of his grub. I
want----’

‘Oh, Tom, what a horrible, horrible word!’

‘Much you know!’ cried the boy. ‘Fellows’ sisters all like it--to learn
the same words as we say. But if you think I’m coming back from Hall’s,
where they have all Eton rules, to sit as quiet as a mouse in the
drawing-room, and have afternoon tea like an old fogey, I shan’t, and
there’s an end of it,’ cried Tom.

Lady Car came in as he gave forth this determination in a loud voice.
She came in very softly, as was her wont, with the soft trail of her
satin gown on the soft mossy carpet, on which her light steps made no
sound. In her eyes was still the dreamy smile of her pleasure in all the
details and chronicles of a school-boy life, so elevated and ethereal,
its dreams and its visions and its high purposes. She was imagining to
herself a poem in which it might all be set forth in chapters or cantos.
‘The dawning genius’ would be the title of the first. She saw before her
the spiritual being, all thought and enthusiasm, making a hundred
chimeras divine--the boy-poet, the heir of all the ages, the fine
flower of human promise. Half the adoring wife and half the woman of
genius, she came in softly, with delicate charms of verses already
sounding in her mind, and the scheme of the poem rising before her. Not
like the Prelude: oh no; but the development, the dawn (a far more
lovely word), the dawning of genius, of which in its time it might be
her delightful mission to record the completion too.

She was roused from this vision by the noisy boyish voice. ‘I shan’t,
and there’s an end of it,’ cried Tom, and she raised her dreamy eyes,
startled to see the boy standing red in the face and defiant, his legs
apart, his sturdy little square figure relieved against the window. How
different from the ideal boy of whom she had been dreaming! the real
boy, her son.

They both looked at her with an alarmed aspect, not knowing what would
happen. Poor Carry was the gentlest of mothers. She never punished them,
never scolded, but yet no one could tell why, they had always the air
of being afraid of her. They looked at her now as children might have
looked who were accustomed to be sent into solitary confinement, shut up
in a dark closet, or some other torture. Tom’s voice fell in a moment,
and Janet came out in defence like the little woman in a weatherhouse,
when the little man skulks indoors disconcerted by the good weather.
Janet came forward with a little hand raised. ‘Mozer, it was not
naughtiness. It was because he has been out in the world and knows
things different from me.’

‘Yes?’ said Lady Car, smiling upon them, ‘and what are the things this
man of the world knows? To be sure, dear, he must be greatly in advance
of you and me.’

The children were all the more abashed by this speech, though its tone
was so gentle. They stared at her for a moment with their father’s face,
dark and stolid, the likeness intensified in Tom by the sullen alarm of
his look. She put out her hand to him, to draw him close to her. ‘What
is it,’ she said, ‘my little boy?’ She was, to tell the truth, rather
afraid of him too.

‘It’s nothing,’ Tom replied. ‘It’s something she’s said.’

‘Oh, Tom,’ cried Janet with a sense of injury. ‘Mozer, he says, they
have such nice teas at school--strawberries, and sometimes cold
partridge, and whopping hampers.’

‘My dear!’

‘That’s how the fellows talk,’ said Tom. ‘That’s not the right thing for
a girl.’

‘Was the cold partridge in the whopping hamper?’ said a voice behind.
‘Carry, I don’t wonder the boy’s indignant. You have sent him no
hampers. A first half at school and not so much as a big cake. I feel
for Tom. Never mind, old fellow; you see she never was at school.’

They had both turned round their anxious faces to him as he came in.
They were instinctively jealous of him. Yet both turned with a certain
relief, or at least Tom did so, who was aware that Beau was one of his
own faction, a man, against the sway of the everlasting feminine. Janet
took the hand which the mother had stretched out towards her boy and
clung to it, drawing herself close into Lady Car’s skirts. Beau was not
of her faction in any sense of the word. The little girl pulled her
mother’s face towards her, and whispered her tale into Carry’s ear.

‘To have your tea upstairs! Why, doesn’t he want to be with us, dear,
after being away so long? You shall have what you like best, my dear
children. If you really prefer the nursery to the drawing-room, and my
company.’

‘He says they have three kinds of jam,’ said Janet in her mother’s ear,
‘and do whatever they like,’ she added after a pause.

Lady Car gave her husband a look which the children noted though they
did not understand. There was a slight appeal in it, and some relief. He
had said that she must keep them with her, as much as if he had not been
there: that he would not separate her not for an hour, not for a meal
from her children: and she had thought it her duty to have them there,
though their presence and his together kept Carry in a harassed
consciousness of the two claims upon her. They concluded that mother was
not angry with great relief; but they did not understand the guilty
satisfaction of Carry in finding that they liked the nursery best.



CHAPTER VI


The time of Tom’s holidays was rather a holiday also for Beaufort, who,
having got a certain amount of amusement out of the notebooks and their
record of school-life, was beginning to be bored by himself, and to
think, under his breath, what a little prig and ass he had been in his
boyish days, and how astounding it was that Carry should take it all in
with such undoubting faith. He was a little of a philosopher in his idle
way, and Carry began to be a sometimes disconcerting but often amusing
problem to him. He laughed softly sometimes when he was by himself to
see how seriously she took him, and how much his youthful superiority
impressed her. It had not been in his intention when he unearthed the
notebooks to increase, as he had certainly done, her admiration, and,
consequently, her expectations of himself. He had hoped, if anything, to
beguile her a little from the pursuit of results, to make her less in
earnest about the great work on which she had set her heart. But his
expedient had not succeeded. She was more than ever bent upon the
fulfilling of that early promise which was so beautiful and so wonderful
in her eyes. Beaufort was half flattered, half vexed by this result. It
is hard to resent a woman’s admiration even if it is of something which
is no longer yourself. It softened his heart, but it embarrassed him
more than ever, as it made her more and more sure. He took advantage of
Tom with a little secret chuckle to himself behind backs. Tom amused
this philosopher too. He liked to draw him out, to watch the movements
of character in him, even to speculate what kind of a man it had been
that had produced this child. He must be like his father, Beaufort said
to himself, without any sentiment even of animosity towards Carry’s
husband. Certainly he had got the better of that man. He had
obliterated Torrance, as it were, from the face of the earth; but he
had no such feeling as Carry had about Torrance’s life and Torrance’s
money. He took it all much more calmly than she could do, not even
thinking of the curiousness of the succession which made him owe all his
comfort and happiness to Torrance. Tom, however, was the subject of
various speculations in his stepfather’s mind. If this was what the
little Torrance was modified by Lindores, what must the original have
been? And what would this one turn to? an ordinary country gentleman, no
better or worse than his neighbours, or what? A vague sense in his mind
that there might be future trouble to Carry in the child’s development
moved him mildly--for the distance between childhood and manhood seems
long looking forward to it, though so short when we look back: and any
such danger must be far in the future. It was rather as a droll little
problem, which it was amusing to study, that Mr. Beaufort looked at Tom;
but for that reason, and to free himself a little from the
ever-increasing pressure of his wife’s solicitude in respect to his
work and eager anticipation of something from him, he took during the
holidays the greatest interest in the boy, going out with him, sometimes
riding, sometimes driving, sometimes to the meet, where Tom’s eagerness
was scarcely to be restrained. Mr. Beaufort himself did not hunt. He was
not an ungraceful horseman for a moderate and mild canter; but if he had
ever been possessed of sufficient energy to follow the hounds, that
energy had long left him. He did not dislike, however, to ride to the
meet or drive his wife over, Tom accompanying them upon his pony. Lady
Car thought it was nothing less than devotion to her son which induced
him to depart from his studious seclusion on account of the boy. She was
very grateful to her husband, yet deprecated gently. ‘You are so very,
very good to Tom: but I cannot bear to think of all the sacrifices you
are making for him, Edward, wasting your time which is so much too
valuable to be thrown away upon a little boy.’

‘I wish my time was more valuable, to show you how willingly I would
give it up for anything belonging to you, Carry, not to say for your
boy.’

‘Oh thanks, thanks, dear Edward; but I can’t have you burdened with
Tom.’

‘I like it,’ he said. ‘I like--boys.’ It was almost too much for him to
say that he liked this particular boy. ‘And Tom interests me very much,’
he added. Carry looked at him with a wistful curiosity. A gleam of
colour passed over her face. Was it possible that Tom was interesting to
such a man as Edward Beaufort? She felt guilty to ask herself that
question. She had been afraid that Tom was not very interesting, not a
child to attract any one much who did not belong to him. To be sure the
child did belong to him, in a sort of a way.

‘So you like school, Tom,’ said Beaufort, looking down from his tall
horse at the little fellow on his pony, strenuously keeping up with him.
Had Beaufort been a more athletic person, he would have appreciated more
the boy’s determination not to be left a step behind.

‘Well,’ said Tom, reflectively, ‘I like it, and I don’t like it. I think
lessons are great rot.’

‘Oh, do you?’ said his tall companion.

‘Don’t _you_, Beau? They don’t teach anything a fellow wants. What’s the
good of Latin, let alone Greek? They’re what you call dead languages,
and we don’t want what’s dead. When you’ve got to make your living by
them it’s different, like Hall’s sons that are going to be the
schoolmasters when he dies.’

‘Did you think of all that by yourself, Tom?’

‘No,’ said the boy after a stare of a moment, and some hesitation. ‘It
wasn’t me, it was Harrison major. His father’s very rich, and he’s in
trade. And Harrison says what’s the good of these things. You never want
them. They’re only an excuse for sending in heavy bills, Harrison says.’

‘He must be a great authority,’ said Mr. Beaufort gravely.

‘He knows a deal,’ said Tom reassured, for he had some doubts whether
Harrison major’s opinions would have been received with the deference
they deserved. ‘He’s the biggest fellow in the school, though he’s not
very swell in learning. But he doesn’t mind. He says fellows that are to
have plenty of money don’t want it.’

‘That’s a frequent opinion of people in trade,’ said Beaufort. ‘I would
not put too much faith in it if I were you.’

‘Eh?’ cried Tom, opening his big light eyes under his dark brows more
widely than ever, and staring up into his stepfather’s face.

‘You will have plenty of money, I suppose?’ said Beaufort calmly.

‘Oh, don’t you know? I’ll be one of the richest fellows in Scotland,’
cried the boy.

‘Who told you that, Tom?’

‘I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I know it, that’s all. It was perhaps
only nurse,’ he added with reluctance; ‘but she’s been to my place, and
she knows all about it. You can ask her if you haven’t heard.’

‘So you have got a place besides being so rich?’ Beaufort said, in calm
interrogation, without surprise.

Tom was very much embarrassed by this questioning. He stared at his
stepfather more than ever. ‘Hasn’t mother told you? I thought she told
you everything.’

‘So did I. But all this about your place I never heard. Let’s have the
rest of it, Tom.’

‘Oh, I don’t know that there’s much more,’ said the boy. ‘It’s a great
big place with a high tower, and a flag flying when I’m at home--like
the Queen--and acres upon acres in the park. It was my father’s, don’t
you know? and now it’s mine.’

‘How old are you, Master Tom?’

‘Eleven in April,’ said Tom, promptly.

‘Then it will be ten years before you have anything to say to your
place, as you call it. I’ve seen your place, Tom. It is not so very much
of a place; as for a flag, you know we might mount a flag at Easton if
we liked and nobody would mind.’

Tom’s black brows had gathered, and his eyes looked with that
fierceness mingled with fear which belongs to childhood, into his
stepfather’s face. He was very wroth to have his pretensions thus made
light of, but the habitual faith of his age alarmed him with a sense
that it might be true.

‘We’ll mount one this afternoon,’ his tormentor said; ‘it will be fun
for you and me taking it down when your mother goes out for her drive,
and hoisting it again when she comes back. She deserves a flag better
than you do, don’t you think? Almost as well as the Queen. The only
danger is that the country people might take Easton for the Beaufort
Arms, and want to come in and drink beer. What do you think?’

‘I say, Beau, are you in real earnest about a flag?’

‘To be sure. I don’t know what you have on yours at the Towers, but we
have a famous blazon on the Beaufort side. We’ll get a square of silk
from your mother, and paint it as soon as we go in. I forget what your
arms are, Tom?’

‘I don’t know,’ said the boy, humbly. ‘I never heard anything about
them. I didn’t know you had arms on a flag.’

‘Ah!’ said Beaufort, ‘you see there are a great many things you don’t
know yet. And about matters that concern gentlemen, I wouldn’t advise
you either to take nurse’s opinion or that of your young man whose
father is in trade.’

Tom rode along by his stepfather’s side in silence for some time. He
felt much taken down--crushed by a superiority which he could not
resist, yet very unwilling to yield. There was always the uncomfortable
conviction in his mind that what Beaufort said must be true, mingled
with the uneasy feeling that Beau might be chaffing all the time, a
combination confusing for every simple mind. Tom was not at all willing
to give in. He felt instinctively that a flag at Easton would turn his
own grandeur, which he believed in so devoutly, into ridicule: for
Easton was not much more than a villa, in the suburbs of a little town.
At the same time he could not but feel that to haul it up and down when
his mother went out or came in would be fun; and the painting of the
flag with a general muddle of paints and means of _barbouillage_ in
general still greater fun, and the most delightful way of spending the
afternoon.

‘I say, Beau,’ he asked, after a long interval, ‘what’s in your arms, as
you call them? I should like to know.’

Beaufort laughed. ‘You must not ask what’s in them, but what they are,
Tom. A fellow of your pretensions ought to know. Fancy a chatelain in
ignorance of such a matter!’

‘What’s a chatelain? You are only laughing at me,’ cried the boy, with
lowering eyebrows. ‘It’s a thing mother wears at her side, all hanging
with silver chains.’

‘It’s the master of a place--like what you suppose yours to be. My arms
are rather too grand for a simple gentleman to bear. We quarter the
shields of France and England,’ said Beaufort, gravely, forgetting who
his companion was for the moment. Then he laughed again. ‘You see, Tom,
though I have not a castle, I have a flag almost as grand as the
Queen’s.’

All this was rather humbling to poor Tom’s pride, and confusing to his
intellect, but he came home full of the plan of painting and putting up
this wonderful flag. There was an old flagstaff somewhere, which had
been used for the decorations of some school feast. Beaufort, much
amused, instructed his small assistant to paint this in alternate strips
of blue and white. ‘The colours of the bordure, you know, Tom.’ ‘Oh, are
they?’ cried Tom, determined to pretend to understand. And Lady Car
found him in the early afternoon, in a shed appropriated to carpentering
behind the house, delightfully occupied about his task, and with patches
of blue and white all over him from shoe to chin.

‘What are you doing, Tom?’ she cried. Janet following stood transfixed
with her eyes widening every moment--half with wonder, half with envy.
What she would have given to paint the staff and herself in imitation of
Tom!

‘It’s the colours of the bordure,’ said the boy. ‘I’m doing it for
Beau.’

‘The colours of what?’ Lady Car was as ignorant of heraldry as Tom
himself.

‘Have we got a bordure? and what’s our colours? and I want to know what
are the arms, mother. I mean my arms: for I suppose,’ he said, pausing
in his work to look at her, ‘yours are just Beau’s now?’

‘What does the boy mean?’ said Carry. ‘Janet, you must not go too near
him; you will spoil your frock. Tom, your jacket will never be fit to be
seen again.’

‘I don’t care for my jacket. Mother, look here. Beau’s going to put up a
flag for you like the Queen, and I’m doing the stick. But I want to know
about my own shield, and my colours; and if I’ve got a bordure, and if
we’re in quarters, or what. I want to know about the flag at the
Towers.’

Lady Car made a step backward as if she had received a blow. ‘There was
no flag at the Towers--I mean there were no arms upon it.--There were
no--who put such nonsense into your head, Tom?’

‘It’s not nonsense. Beau told me--he’s going to give me a lesson how to
do it. He knows all about it. He says it’s no use asking nurse or
Harrison major whose father is in trade. It’s only gentlemen that have
this sort of thing. Mother, have I got a bordure?’

‘Mozer,’ said little Janet, ‘please buy him a bordure.’

Poor Carry was not fond of any allusion to her former home. She was glad
to laugh at the little girl’s petition--though with a tremor that was
half hysterical. ‘I don’t know anything about it,’ she said. ‘I will buy
him anything that he wants, that is good for him, but oh, dear, what a
mess he is in! Your lines are not straight, and you are all over paint.
Jan, come away from that painted boy.’

‘Oh, mozer, let me stay!’ cried Janet, possessing herself of a stray
brush.

It was perhaps those black brows of theirs that gave them such an air of
determination. Carry did not feel herself able to cope with the two
little creatures who looked at her with their father’s eyes. She had to
yield oftener than was good for them or than she felt to be becoming.
She took her usual expedient of hurrying in to her husband to consult
him as to what it was best to do. He was in his library, and she had no
doubt he was hard at work. It was generally with some little difficulty
and after some delay that on ordinary occasions he had to be gently
beguiled into his own sacred room after luncheon: but he had gone to-day
at once with an alacrity which made Carry sure he had some new ideas to
put down. And her heart was light and full of satisfaction. He was
seated at his table leaning over it, so busy that he did not hear the
door open, and she paused there for a moment, happiness expanding her
breast, and a smile of tender pleasure on her face. She would not
interrupt him when he was busy with any trivial matter of hers. She
stood and watched him with the purest satisfaction. Then she stole in
quietly, not to interrupt him, only to look over his shoulder, to give
him perhaps a kiss of thanks for being so busy. Poor Carry! what she
found when she approached was that Beaufort’s head was bent with every
appearance of profound interest over an emblazoned book, from which he
was drawing on a larger scale, upon a big sheet of paper, the Beaufort
arms. She breathed forth an ‘Oh!’ of sickening disappointment; and he
turned his head.

‘Is it you, Carry? Look here. I have got a new toy.’

‘So I perceive,’ she said. It was all she could do to keep the tears
from showing in her eyes; but he would not have seen them, having turned
back to his work again.

‘A moral purpose is a feeble thing,’ he said over his compasses and
pencils. ‘I began it as a lesson to Tom, to take him down a bit; but I
find it quite interesting enough on its own account. Look here. We are
going to rig you up a flag, as Tom says, like the Queen.’

Poor Carry! How her tender heart went up and down like a shuttlecock, as
she stood with her hand on the back of his chair. Her eyes full of
bitter tears of disappointment; the thought that it was out of interest
in Tom and love for her that this futile occupation had been taken up,
melted her altogether. How could she allow, even in her own mind, a
shadow of blame to rest on one so tender and so good? She laid her hand
upon his shoulder, and patted it softly, like the mother of a foolish,
delightful child.

‘Dear Edward, I almost grudge that you should think of so many things
for me,’ she said.

‘My dear, it was not primarily for you, but as a lesson to Tom,’ he
said, fixing the leg of his compasses firmly in the paper. ‘You must
take him to--his place as he calls it, Carry. But I confess that for the
moment I had forgotten my object. To give a moral lesson is a fine
thing; but it’s nothing to the invention of a new toy.’



CHAPTER VII


The flag, so casually suggested, became in effect a very favourite toy,
both with Beaufort and his stepson. The one was a very ordinary little
boy, the other a highly cultivated man. But they seemed to take equal
pleasure in the flutter of the flag from the blue and white staff which
Tom had painted with so much trouble, and in rushing out to pull it down
when Lady Car in her little pony carriage drove from the door. They
sometimes tumbled over each other in their haste and zeal to perform
this office. And Beau’s legs were so much the longest. It gave him a
great and scarcely just advantage over Tom.

Carry was pleased, she was touched and flattered, and such vanity as she
had was so delicately ministered to, that for some time this little
folly which took the air of homage to her, made her feel happy. To see
the grave and gentle philosopher, with a long swift stride, almost
stepping over the children to get at the cord, and pull up the
fluttering flag, a brilliant piece of colour among the bare trees, as
she appeared with her ponies in the little avenue! It was a little
absurd, but so sweet. Edward did it, she allowed herself to imagine, as
he had said, for a lesson to Tom--to teach him thus broadly though
symbolically the honour that was due to his mother--not to Carry
individually who never claimed homage, but to the mother whose claims,
perhaps, the boy was not sufficiently conscious of. This was not at all
the lesson which Beaufort had intended to teach Tom--but what did that
matter? It had a certain effect in that way, though none in the way that
Beaufort intended. It did give Tom an impression of the importance of
his mother. ‘Mother’s not just a woman like the rest,’ he said to Janet.
‘She is what you may call a great lady, Jan, don’t you know? There’s
Mrs. Howard and that sort; you don’t run up flags for them. Mother’s
really something like the Queen--it’s in earnest. Beau thinks so. I can
tell you he’s awfully proud of mother. And so am I too.’

‘Oh, Tom, so am I.’

‘Yes, but you’re just natural. You don’t understand. But me and Beau
know why we do it,’ said Tom. And when he got back to school if he did
not boast so much of his place in Scotland, having acquired an uneasy
sort of doubt of its magnificence, he intimated that his parentage was
not like that of the others. ‘When my people drive from the door the
flag goes down,’ he said. ‘It’s such fun rushing and getting hold of the
rope and up with a tug, as soon as they come into the avenue. Sometimes,
when it’s been raining, the rope won’t run. It’s such fun,’ cried Tom,
while even Harrison major’s mouth was closed. The flag was beyond him.
As for Janet, she looked on staring and observed everything, and drew
many silent conclusions never perhaps to be revealed.

But when the holidays were over Carry’s anxious expectations and
suspense increased again. Beaufort kept to his new toy even when Tom was
gone. He would interrupt his studies, springing up, whatever he was
doing, to pull down or put up that flag, till poor Carry’s heart grew
sick of the little formula which accompanied all her movements. She
began to feel that he liked to be disturbed and that idling forth into
the air to perform this little ceremony was more delightful to him than
to get on with that work, which, so far as she could make out, was not
yet begun. He had found more notebooks after Tom went away, but the
notebooks now began to pall a little. And slowly, slowly, Carry’s eyes
began to open. She never whispered it to herself, but she began to
understand, as the years went on many things that were never put into
words. She became first of all very sick of the notebooks and the
wonderful number of them, and all those tantalising scraps which never
came to anything. Her own little poem which she had begun had gone no
further. The dawning of genius--but the dawn was still going on. It had
never come to be day yet. Would it ever come? Slowly, reluctantly, this
began to be revealed to her, broken by many gleams of better hope, by
moments when she said to herself that she was the most unjust woman in
the world, grudging her husband the leisure in which alone great
thoughts can develop--grudging him the very quiet which it had been the
desire of her heart to attain for him. The most unjust of women! not his
wife and assistant, but his judge, and so hard a one! It was bitter
sweet to Carry to be able thus to condemn herself; but it did not change
the position of affairs.

One evening they were seated together in a happy mood. It was summer,
and it was some years after the incidents above described. Carry by this
time knew almost everything about Beaufort, and what he could not or
would not do. And yet her expectations were not quenched. For it is
hard to obliterate hope in a woman; and now and then at intervals there
would still spring up little impulses in him, and for a few days she
would forget (yet all the same never forget) her dolorous discoveries
and certainties. It was after one of those _élans_ when he had displayed
every appearance of being at work for several days, and Lady Car’s heart
despite of a thousand experiences had risen again, that in the evening,
in a very sweet summer twilight, they sat together and watched the stars
coming out over the tops of the waving trees. Janet, now grown almost to
her full height--she was never very tall--had been wandering about
flitting among the flowers in her white frock not unlike (at a distance)
one of the great white lilies which stood about in all the borders. It
was early in July, the time when these flowers are at their sweetest.
The air was full of their delicate fragrance, yet not too full; for
there was a little warm breeze which blew it over the whole country away
to the heather and gorse on the Haslemere side, and brought back faint
echoes of wilder scents, the breath of the earth and of the moors. Janet
had been roaming about, never without a glance through the branches at
the two figures on the lawn. She was like one of the lilies at a
distance, tall for fourteen, though not tall for a full-grown woman, and
slim too in the angularity of her age, though of a square solid
construction which contradicted all poetical symbols. She had always an
eye upon them wherever she went. Nothing had changed her spectator
attitude, not even the development of many tender and loyal feelings
altogether unknown to the outer world. So far as appeared outside, Janet
was still the same steady little champion of her brother that she had
been from her baby days, and not much more. The pair who were seated on
the lawn were as always conscious of the girl’s presence, which was a
certain restraint upon their freedom. There was not between them all the
same ease that generally exists in a family. Though she was quite out of
hearing, they did not even talk with perfect freedom. When she had gone
to bed, called by the all-authoritative nurse of whom even her mistress
was a little afraid, Beaufort drew a long breath. He had a sort of
habitual tenderness for Janet as a child who had grown up under his eyes
and was one of the accessories of daily life. But yet he was more at his
ease when she was gone. ‘How dark it is getting!’ he said; ‘the light
comes from the lilies not from the sky, and Janet’s white frock, now she
has gone, has taken a little away.’

‘My poor little Janet,’ said Lady Car. ‘I wish I could think she would
be one of those who give light.’

‘Like her mother. It is a pity they are so little like you Carry. Both
the same type, and that so much inferior. But children are very perverse
in their resemblances as much as in other things.’

‘Nobody can say Janet is perverse,’ said Lady Car with that parental
feeling which, though not enthusiastic itself, can bear no remark upon
the children who are its very own; and then she went back to a more
interesting subject. ‘Edward, in that chapter you have just begun----’

‘My dearest, let us throw all the chapters to the winds. In this calm
and sweetness what do we want with those wretched little philosophical
pretences? The world as far as we can see it seems all at peace.’

‘But there is trouble in it, Edward, all the same, trouble to be set
right.’

‘Not much, so far as we can see. There is nothing very far wrong in our
little town: every “poor person,” as you ladies call them, has
half-a-dozen soft philanthropists after him to set him right; and we
don’t even see the town. Look at all those dim lines of country, Carry.
What a breadth in them, and no harm anywhere, the earth almost as soft
as the sky! Don’t let us think of anything, but only how sweet it all
is. I am glad that shrubbery was cut away. I like to see over half the
world--which is what we are doing--as far as eye can carry, it comes to
much the same. May I light my cigarette?’

‘Edward,’ she cried, ‘it is all quite true. There is not much harm just
here; but think how much there is in the world, how helpless the poor
people are, how little, how little they can do. And what does it matter
that we all try a little in the way of charity? Right principles are the
only things that can set us all right. I have heard you say a hundred
times--in the old days----’

‘You have heard me say a great deal of nonsense in the old days.’

‘Was it all nonsense,’ cried Lady Car, ‘all that was said and thought
then? There seemed so many splendid things we could do; set up a
standard of higher justice, show a better way both to the poor and the
rich, and--and other things. I love the landscape and the sweet evening,
Edward, oh so much! and to sit and look at them with you, and to feel
all the peace around us, and the quiet, and that there is no reason why
we should not be happy; but better than that I should love to see you
lift up that standard, and show the better way, you who can do it, you
who understand all the problems. That is what I wish, that is what I
have always wished--above all, above all!’ she cried, clasping her
hands. The enthusiasm of her sensitive nature overwhelmed Carry. She
could not contain herself any longer. ‘I would rather even not have been
happy and seen you great and doing great work,’ she said.

He stretched out his hand and took hers which he held and caressed
softly. ‘My dear little enthusiast!’ he said.

‘Don’t say that, Edward!’ she cried quickly; ‘that was all very well in
the old days, which you say were nonsense. I was only a girl then, but
now I am middle-aged and not to be put off in that way. I am not a
little enthusiast, I am an anxious woman. You should not put me off with
phrases of the past.’

‘You are always a girl, Carry, if you should live to be a thousand,’ he
said with a faint laugh. ‘If you were so middle-aged as you say, you
would be content with results as we have them. Here we are, we two,
together with all the happiness we once so eagerly looked forward to,
and which seemed for a time hopeless--very well off, thanks to you. Able
to surround ourselves with everything that is delightful and pleasant,
besides the central fact of being together, able to help our poor
neighbours in a practical way: thanks to you again. Not so much as a
crumple in our bed of roses--not a thorn. My dear, that is what you
would think of, if you were middle-aged as you say.’

‘Then let me be a silly girl, as in the old times,’ she cried, ‘though
it was all nonsense, nothing but nonsense, as you say.’

‘Softly, softly,’ he said, taking her hand again, ‘let us discriminate,
Carry. Love can never be nonsense which has lasted like ours. My love,
you must not blaspheme.’

‘Love!’ she cried. Carry’s whole frame was trembling, her heart beating
to her feet, to her fingers, in her throat. She seemed to herself only
to be a slim sheath, the merest covering for that convulsive heart.
There was something like--could it be scorn in the inflection of her
voice. He took her by both hands now, throwing down the cigarette which
had betokened the entire ease of his mind, and drew her towards him.
Something like alarm had come into his tone, and something like
indignation too.

‘Carry,’ he said, holding her hands fast, ‘Carry, what do you mean? Not
that my love was nonsense, which never wavered from you, notwithstanding
everything--not that you distrust me?’

The darkness is an advantage in many an interview like this. It
prevented him from seeing all that was in Lady Car’s face, the impetuous
terrible question, the impulse of wild scepticism and unbelief, the
intolerable impatience of the idealist not to be altogether restrained.
Her eyes asked what her lips could never say. Why did you leave me to be
another man’s wife? Why let me be strained, humbled, trodden under foot?
Why expose me to all the degradations which nobody could impose on
you--and why, why? But Carry said none of these things. She could not.
There are some things which the religion of the heart forbids ever to be
put in words. She could not say them. He might have read them in her
eyes, but the darkness kept that revelation from him which would have
been more startling than anything Beaufort had ever encountered in his
life. Finally Carry, being only a woman, and a sensitive and delicate
one, fell into the universal feminine anti-climax, the foolishness of
tears. How often does their irrestrainable _non-sequitur_ put the
deepest reasons out of court, and turn the most solemn burden of the
soul into apparent foolishness--a woman’s tears, which often gain a
foolish cause, but as often lose a strong one, reducing the deep-hearted
to the level of the shallow, and placing the greatest offender in the
delightful superior position of the man who makes allowances for and
pardons! Beaufort gathered her into his arms, made her have her cry out
upon his shoulder, soothed and calmed and caressed her out of her
passion of feeling. If any one could have whispered in his ear what was
in the passionate heart that throbbed on his shoulder! but he would have
smiled and would not have believed. She was a little enthusiast, still
the same young ethereal poet as ever, a creature made up of lovely
impulses and sympathies and nerve and feelings--his sweet Carry, his
only love.

After this evening Lady Car had a little illness, nothing of any
consequence, a chill taken sitting out too late on the lawn, a headache,
probably neuralgic--a little ailment, quite simple, such as ladies often
have, keeping them, in their rooms and dressing-gowns for a day or two.
A woman scarcely respects herself who has not these little breaks from
time to time, just to show of what delicate and fragile stuff she is
made. But she emerged from her room a little different, no one could
quite tell how, with a different look in her face, quieter, less given
to restless fits, more composed and gentle. She had always been gentle,
with the softest manners in the world, so that the change was not
apparent to the vulgar. Beaufort perceived it for the first day or two,
and it gave him a faint shock, as of something invisible, some sudden
mystery between them; but the feeling passed over very quickly with a
conviction of the utter absurdity of any such impression. Janet, who had
never any words in which to convey her discoveries, and no one to say
them to if she had found the words, saw it more clearly, and knew that
something had happened, though what she could not divine. There were
some faint changes scarcely perceptible, but developing gradually, in
Lady Car’s habits too. She was less in the library with her husband,
abandoning this custom very slowly in the most natural way in the world,
compelled by other duties which naturally, with a daughter growing up,
became more important every day.



CHAPTER VIII


Lady Car did many things after this period which she had previously
disliked to do; but there was one thing which she did not for a long
time consent to, and that was to open the house in the North which was
called the Towers, which Tom had been used to speak of as ‘my place,’
and which Beaufort thought it foolish of her not to inhabit. He did not
know the ghosts that dwelt there. He did not consider that it was the
house of her first husband, the house she was taken to as a most
wretched bride after the marriage into which she had been forced, and
that the dreadful time of that bridehood, and the years she had lived
with Torrance, and the moment of awful ecstasy when she had heard of his
death, all lingered there waiting for her. Mr. Beaufort only thought it
was foolish, when she had a handsome house in Scotland at her command,
that the family did not go there in the autumn, where it was natural
that families should go. But he was not a man to bore her by any
repetition of this wonder. He had been a little surprised, and even, it
must be allowed, a little disconcerted, to find himself so much more at
his own disposal than of old, and now that Carry was not always at his
side his habits, too, changed imperceptibly. His beautiful library was
still his chief haunt, but he read the papers there and all kinds of
profane things. And he went a great deal to Codalton, where the county
club was, and spent a part almost of every day there. It was not that he
had any great liking for the gentlemen who found it such a resource. He
kept the position among them of a man who was not as they were--a person
superior in many ways, a writer (though he never wrote anything), a
philosopher. No doubt he was entitled to that last character. He was
very civil to them all, but regarded them from an altitude, making
notes of what he called their ‘humours’ and making them the subject of
many satirical descriptions when he went home. Sometimes he went up to
London for the day, at first to consult books, but latterly without
alleging any such reason, and went to many places where there were no
books to consult. But it was very rarely that he did not return home in
the evening. He had no desire for dissipations of any kind. He was far
too much a philosopher, not to say a gentleman. Tom, perhaps, described
it best in his school-boy language when he said that Beau liked to loaf.
So he did. He had no twist in his character. Had Lady Car followed him
in all his excursions she would have found nothing to object to, and
indeed he would have enjoyed them much more if she had. But he had, as a
matter of fact, no mission such as she had credited him with; he had no
gospel to preach, nothing at all to say. If there had ever been anything
more than youthful excitement and ambition in his plans, it had all
evaporated in his listless life. He might have pushed on--many young men
do--and insisted upon marrying his love, and saved her from Tom Torrance
and the dreadful episode of her first marriage. He might have realised
at last some of his early promises and anticipations. He might at least
have roused himself from his sloth, and written that book upon which her
heart was so set. But, indeed, that last was doubtful, for he might only
have proved that he could not write a book, which would have been harder
on Lady Car than to think he would not. The end of all thing was,
however, that he was immensely relieved, and yet made vaguely miserable
by the change that had now come over his life. There was a change. The
sweet and constant, if sometimes a little exacting companionship of the
early years was over, which gave him a vague ache as of desertion,
especially at first. And Carry was changed. Her questions, her
arguments, her constant persuasions and inducements to go on with that
book (expressing always a boundless trust in his powers which it pained
him to part with) were all over. On the other hand, he had regained his
liberty, was now free to do as he pleased--an indescribable boon. What
he pleased to do was always quite gentlemanlike, quite _comme il faut_.
There was no reason why he should be restrained in doing it. He liked to
read, and also to think, without it being supposed to be necessary that
anything should come of his reading and thinking. He liked to go to his
London club now and then and have the stimulus of a little conversation;
he liked, when there was nothing else to do, to go into Codalton, and
talk a little to the country gentlemen and the smaller fry about who
were sufficiently important to belong to the county club, and to come in
occasionally to sit with his wife in her drawing-room, to read to her,
to tempt her to talk, even to give Janet a little lecture upon
literature, which she cared nothing about. He was on those occasions a
delightful companion, so easy in his superior knowledge, so
unpretending. In their rich and easy life, without cares, without any
embarrassment about ways and means, or any need to think of to-morrow,
he was indeed an admirable husband, a most charming stepfather, pleasant
all round. What could any woman have wished for more?

There was one period in this easy and delightful life which brought the
change home to Beaufort with curious force for a moment and no more. It
was just after the publication of a book which went over his ground, the
ground which it had always been supposed he was going to take. It
forestalled him on many points, but in some went quite against him,
contradicting his views. He brought in the volume with some excitement
to his wife, and read to her those portions with which he disagreed. ‘I
must do something about this,’ he said; ‘you see the fellow takes half
my argument, and works out from it quite a different conclusion. I have
been too supine. I must really get to work at once, and not suffer
myself to be forestalled and contradicted like this.’

‘Yes, Edward,’ said Carry gently. She smiled very sweetly upon him, with
a curious tender smile, but she did not say any more.

‘You speak as if you did not think it worth my while,’ he said, a little
annoyed by her composure.

‘Oh, no. I think it quite worth your while,’ she said. He went off a
little disturbed, vexed, half angry, half sad, but certainly stimulated
by her. Was it indifference? What was it? Had she responded as of old
they would have talked the matter over between them and taken away all
its interest; but as she did not respond Beaufort felt the fire burn. He
went off to his room, and got out all his preparatory notes and the
beginning of the long interrupted manuscript, and worked with vigour all
night, throwing his opposite views hastily upon paper. Next day he
announced to his wife that he meant ‘to review that fellow’s book’--as
the quickest and surest way of expressing his dissent. ‘Yes,’ she said
once more, but with a little rising colour, ‘when, Edward?’ ‘Oh, I’ll
send it to “Bowles,”’ he said, meaning ‘The Nineteenth Century’ of that
day. Of course, ‘The Nineteenth Century’ itself had not yet begun its
dignified career. And he did an hour’s work that morning, but with
softened zeal; and in the afternoon he repeated to himself that it was
scarcely worth his while. The people who had read that fellow’s book
would not care to read a review; they would be people on the other side,
quite unlikely to pay any attention to the opposite argument. And as for
the general public, the general public did not care a straw for all the
social philosophy or political economy in the world. So, after another
hour’s deliberation he put all the papers back again--What was the
use?--and went into the county club and brought back a very amusing
story of the complicated metaphors and confused reasoning of some of the
gentlemen there. It did not strike him that Carry never asked whether he
had finished the review, or how he was going to treat the subject. But
he remarked her smile with a curious sensation which he could not
explain. It seemed to him something new--very sweet (her smile had
always been sweet), very patient, indulgent, with a look of forgiving in
it, though he did not know very well what there was to forgive. He
forgot in a short time all about the answer he had intended to write to
that book, and even the review into which his intended answer had so
soon slid--in intention; but he was haunted for a very long time by
Carry’s smile. What did it mean?

Tom and Janet were just as little aware why it was that their mother was
so much more with them than of old, but this had come on gradually, and
it did not strike them except by moments. ‘Why, you’re always with
mother now,’ Tom said when he came home for his holidays. He was now at
Eton, and, though he had been in several scrapes, had managed to keep
his place and was in high hopes of getting into the boats, which was the
only distinction he had any chance of.

‘Yes,’ said Janet sedately, ‘for I’m growing up now, and mother says I
want her most----’

‘Isn’t it awful sap?’ said Tom, which was Eton (at that time) for
boredom and hard work. He had the grace to speak low, and Janet gave him
a glance upward with raised eyelids, and they both laughed, but softly
that no one might ask why.

‘She thinks of such a lot of things that no one can be expected to
know,’ said Tom; ‘not that I mind, for she lets me alone now. But I
suppose you’ve got to read books all day.’

‘Oh, no. Oh, Tom, we oughtn’t to talk like this and laugh, for
she’s--mother’s very kind. She is indeed. She sees in a moment if I’m
tired.’

‘She’d need to,’ said Tom, ‘but I don’t suppose girls mind. You come out
now and have a game. Will she let you? If she won’t, just steal away----
’

‘Oh, Tom,’ cried Janet again, ‘how can you speak of mother so? She never
stops any fun, never--when there is any,’ the girl added after a pause.

Lady Car was at the other end of the room, seated in the recess of a
broad window which looked over the wide landscape. She had been waiting
for Janet, who had asked her assistance in some work she was
doing--trumpery work such as disturbed all Carry’s prejudices. Janet was
painting flowers upon some little three-legged stools for a bazaar, and
though she only copied the ‘patterns,’ she required in the execution
some hints from her mother, who had once made considerable progress in
the study of art. Janet was entirely unaware that Lady Car’s dreamy
landscapes, which were full of distance and suggestion if nothing else,
were in any way superior to her ‘patterns,’ and had made her call for
aid with the frankest confidence that what she was doing was excellent
art. And Carry had prepared the palette from which the dahlias and red
geraniums were to be painted with as much care as if it had been wanted
by Raphael. When she saw the two, after their whispered conversation at
the door, suddenly disappear, perhaps she was not altogether sorry. It
is possible that the painting of the stools was ‘sap’ to the mother
also. She smiled at them with a little wave of her hand and shake of her
head as they passed the window, in mild allusion to the abandoned work;
but perhaps she was as much relieved as Janet was. She laid back her
head upon the dim-coloured satin of her chair, and watched the two young
creatures with their racquets, Janet carrying in her apron a supply of
balls for their game. Seventeen and a half, fifteen and a half--in the
bloom which was half infantile, half grown up, all fresh about them,
nothing as yet to bring in black care. They were not handsome, but Tom
had a sturdy manliness and strength, and Janet, her mother thought,
looked everything that was simple and trustworthy--a good girl, not
clever--but very good-natured and kind; and Tom not at all a bad
boy--rough a little, but that was mere high spirits and boyish
exuberance. They were neither of them clever. She said to herself, with
a faint smile, how silly she had been!

How she had worshipped talent--no, not talent, genius--and had hoped
that they would surely have had some gleam of it--the two whom she had
brought into the world. They had been surrounded with beautiful things
all their lives. When other people read foolish nursery stories to their
children she had nourished them upon the very best--fables and legends
which were literature as well as story--yet Janet liked the patterns for
her stools better than all the poems and pictures, and Tom never opened
a book if he could help it. And what matter? she said to herself, with
that faint smile of self-ridicule. The children were none the worse for
that. Her fantastic expectations, her fantastic disappointment, what did
they matter? She was altogether a most fantastic woman--everybody had
said it all her life, and she recognised fully the truth of the
accusation now. Who should be so happy as she? Her husband so kind,
always with her, thinking of everything that would make her happy. Her
children so good (really so good!), nice, well-conditioned--Tom so
manly, Janet all that a girl should be, very, very different indeed from
Carry as a girl. But what a good thing that was; Janet would have no
silly ideal, would desire no god to come from the skies, would not
torment herself and every one about her with fantastic aspirations. She
would love some good honest young fellow when her time came, and would
live the common life, the common happy life, as the family at Easton
were doing now. Edward, gone over to Codalton to the county club--the
natural resource of a man in the country; the brother and sister playing
tennis on the lawn--the boy expecting to get into the boats, the girl
delighted with a new pattern for her stools. And no cloud anywhere, no
trouble about settling them in life, no embarrassment about money or
anything else. How happy a family! Everything right and pleasant and
comfortable. As Carry lay back in her chair, thinking all these
happinesses over, her eyes ran over with sudden tears--for satisfaction
surely and joy.

When the tea-tray came in the young ones appeared with it, very hungry,
and ready for the good things which covered the little table. Lady Car
watched them consume the cakes with the same smile which had puzzled
Beaufort. ‘Would you really like so very much,’ she said with a little
hesitation, a lingering in her voice, ‘to go to the--Towers for the next
holidays, Tom?’

‘Should I like!’ cried the boy, jumping up with his mouth full of bread
and butter. ‘Why, mother, better than anything in the world!’

‘Oh mother!’ Janet cried, with a glow upon her face. She had passed the
bread-and-butter stage, and was cutting herself a hunk of cake. The
knife fell out of her hand from excitement and pleasure.

‘Shall you both like it so very much? Then,’ said Lady Car, sitting
straight up with a look of pale resolution in her face which did not
seem called for by such a simple determination, ‘then, children, you
shall go----’

‘Hurrah!’ cried Tom, ‘that’s the jolliest thing I’ve heard for long;
that’s exactly what I want! I want to know it,’ he cried; ‘I do want to
know it before I go there and settle down.’

Lady Car turned her eyes upon him with a wonderful, inquiring look.
Nothing, indeed, could be more natural. Yet to hear that someone would
go there, not for holidays, but to settle down, oppressed poor Carry’s
soul. She faded into whiteness, as if she were fainting. It seemed to
her that his father looked over Tom’s shoulder--the father whom the boy
was so like--his living image, as people said. Not so tall and strong,
but with the features and the eyes and the aspect, which poor Carry had
so feared.

‘Beau!’ cried both the young people in one voice. ‘Oh, I believe it’s
his doing, Tom!’ ‘He must have a hand in it, Jan!’ ‘Beau, next holidays
we are going to the Towers. Mother says so. We are going next holidays
to the Towers.’

‘Your mother is full of sense,’ said Beaufort, who had just come in. ‘I
knew that she would see it to be the right thing to do.’

Poor Carry! She felt as if she could not bear it, this sacrifice of all
her own feelings and wishes. She said to herself that she could not do
it; that before the time came she must die! And perhaps there was a
forlorn hope that this was what would happen in her heart as she sat and
saw her husband and her children rejoicing over the tea-table--most
naturally, most justly, she knew; at least it was but natural and just
so far as the children were concerned.

She had to give great orders and make many arrangements about the
opening up of the house. It was so long since it had been shut up. Tom
had been only six, and now he was seventeen and a half. She wrote to her
sister Edith and to Edith’s husband, John Erskine, as well as to the
factor on the estate and the servants who were in charge. And there were
a number of things sent from town ‘to make it habitable.’ To make it
habitable! She could not help the feeling that this was what _he_ would
have liked least of all, when she remembered the wonderful costly
catafalques of furniture of which he had been so proud, and the
decorations that would make poor Edward miserable. Edward did not mind
the fact that it was _his_ money which made Easton so comfortable; but
to put up with his wardrobes and sideboards--that was a different
matter. Even in her humiliation and in the much greater troubles she had
to occupy her, she could not help a shudder to think of Edward in the
midst of all those showy relics of the past. Eleven years had not dimmed
her own recollection of her old surroundings. She remembered with an
acute recollection, which was pain, where everything stood, and sent
detailed directions as to how all was to be altered. ‘Dear Edith, do see
that everything is changed. Don’t let anything look as it used to do. It
would kill me if the rooms were left as they were,’ she wrote to her
sister. ‘Do--do see that everything is changed.’

Perhaps it was by dint of having thus exhausted all feeling and
forestalled all emotion that when she did find herself at the Towers at
last, it was almost without sentiment of any kind. Edith had carried out
her _consigne_ very well, and she was standing under the mock mediæval
doorway to receive her sister when Lady Car drove up. The sisters had
not met for a long time--not for several years, and the meeting in
itself did much to break the spell. Carry awoke with wonder and a little
relief to find herself next morning in her old home, and to feel that
she did not mind. Torrance did not meet her at his own hearth; he did
not look at her from the mirror; he did not follow her about the
corridor. She was very much relieved after all her imaginary anguish to
feel that the reality was less dreadful than she had feared.

And it was something to see the children so truly happy. The quiet
little Janet, who said so little, was quite roused out of herself. She
became almost noisy, rushing with Tom from the top of the tower to the
very cellars, going over everything. Her voice mingled shrill in the
hurrah! with which Tom contemplated the flag of which he had dreamed,
the sign of his own domination in this house of his fathers, which was
to the boy as if it had been the shrine of the noblest of races. ‘I see
now,’ he said, ‘that rag at Easton was all sham, but this is the real
thing.’ ‘This is the real thing,’ said Janet decisively, ‘the other was
only nonsense.’ They had not been twenty-four hours in the place before
they had seen, and as they said recognised, everything. All their
upbringing in scenes so different, all the associations of their lives,
seemed to go for nothing. They were intoxicated with pleasure and pride.
A couple of young princes restored to their kingdom could not have
accepted their grandeur with a more undoubting sense that they had at
last recovered their rights.

The house soon filled with visitors and company, guests who came for
sport, and guests who came for curiosity, and the great county people
who were friends of the Lindores, and the smaller people who were
friends of Torrance. And with both sets of these visitors Carry could
not help seeing--or perhaps she only imagined it--that though her
husband and herself were treated with great courtesy, it was Tom who was
looked to with the chief interest. He was the future possessor of all.
Though she had entire sway in the house as she never had before, yet she
was nothing but a shadow, as she had always been. And the children in
their haste to enjoy would have liked if possible to ignore her too. As
for Tom, he got altogether beyond her control. When he was not shooting,
taking upon himself premature airs of the master, he was riding about
the country as his father had done, going to all kinds of places, making
acquaintances everywhere. He came home on several occasions, after a day
of roaming, with wild eyes, half-falling, half-leaping off his horse,
making his entrance audible by all the tumult of rough excitement,
calling loudly to the servants, discharging oaths at them for imaginary
delay. The first time this happened, Lady Car only suspected it with
alarm, which everybody about stilled as best they could, getting the
young culprit out of the way. ‘The matter? there is nothing the matter?’
Beaufort said, coming to her, a little pale, but with a laugh. ‘Tom has
lost his temper. He is vexed with himself for being late for dinner.
I’ll have a talk with him by-and-by.’ ‘Is that all, Edward?’ she said.
‘What should it be more?’ her husband replied. But on another occasion,
as evil luck would have it, Tom made his entrance just as the party, a
large one, in which his place was vacant, was sweeping across the hall
to dinner, and his mother, who came last, had the full advantage of that
spectacle. Her son, standing all bespattered, unsteady, his dull eyes
fierce with angry light. ‘Hallo, mother! I’m a bit late. Never mind.
I’ll come as I am,’ he cried, steadying himself, beating his muddy boot
with his whip. Lady Car threw an anguished look at the new butler, who
stood splendid and indifferent at the door. There was not even an old
servant full of resource to coax the foolish wretched boy away.

She had to go in and sit down smiling at the head of her table, and
entertain her guests, not knowing any minute whether the boy might not
burst in and make his shame visible to all. In the midst of the sounds
of the dinner-table, the talk, and the ring of the knives and forks, and
the movements of the servants, other sounds seemed to reach her ear of
loud voices and noise outside. She had to bear it all and make no sign,
but talk that her neighbours on each side might not notice, with what
was almost noisiness for Carry. Perhaps, though it seems more horrible
at such a crisis to be in the midst of the compulsory make-belief of
society, it is better for the sufferer. She kept up, and never winced
till the dinner was over, and the endless hour in the drawing-room
after, and all the guests gone, those who were from the neighbourhood to
their homes, those who were in the house to their rooms. Then, and only
then, did she dare to breathe, to give way to the devouring anxiety in
her mind. She had bidden her husband ‘Go, go!’ to the smoking-room, or
anywhere with the last guests, and she was alone. The whole house had
been changed; the old furniture displaced, all its associations altered:
and yet in that moment everything came back again, the catafalques of
old, the vulgar splendour, the old dreary surroundings. Her boy! Her
boy! She thought she saw his father come out before her, as she had
feared to see him all these years, saying with his old brutal laugh,
‘_Your_ boy! none of yours. Mine! mine!’



CHAPTER IX


Beaufort behaved very well at this crisis of domestic history. He shook
off his usual languor and became at once energetic and active. What he
said to Tom remains undisclosed, but he ‘spoke to’ the boy with great
force, and even eloquence, representing to him the ruin entailed by
certain bad habits, which--more than other vices, probably worse in
themselves--destroy a man’s reputation and degrade him among his
fellows. Though he was himself a man over-refined in his ways, he was
clever enough to seize the only motives which were likely to influence
the ruder nature of his stepson. And then he went to poor Carry, who in
this home of evil memories sat like a ghost surrounded by the
recollections of the past, and seeing for ever before her eyes the
disordered looks and excited eyes of her boy. He was not, alas! the son
of her dreams, the child whom every mother hopes for, who is to restore
the ideal of what a man should be. Many disappointments had already
taught Lady Car that her son had little of the ideal in him, and
nothing, or next to nothing, of herself; but still he was her son: and
to think of him as the rude and violent debauchee of the country-side
seemed more than she could bear. Beaufort came in upon her miserable
seclusion like a fresh breeze of comfort and hope. This was so far from
his usual aspect that the effect was doubled. Tender he always was, but
to-day he was cheerful, hopeful, full of confidence and conscious power.
‘There must be no more of this,’ he cried. ‘Come, Carry, have a little
courage. Because the boy has been a fool once--or even twice--that is
not to say that there is anything tragical in it, or that he is
abandoned to bad habits. It is probably scarcely his fault at all--a
combination of circumstances. Nobody’s fault, indeed. Some silly man,
forgetting he was a boy, persuading him out of supposed hospitality to
swallow something his young head could not stand. How was the boy in his
innocence to know that he could not stand it? It is a mere accident. My
love, you good women are often terribly unjust and sweeping in your
judgments. You must not from one little foolish misdemeanour judge Tom.’

‘Oh, Edward!’ she cried, ‘judge him! my own boy! All that I feel is that
I would rather have died than seen that look, that dreadful look, in my
child’s face.’

‘Nonsense, Carry. That is what I call judging him. You should never have
seen it, but as for rather dying---- Would Tom be the better for it if
he lost his mother, the best influence a boy can have----?’

She shook her head: but how to tell her husband of the spectre who had
risen before her in the house that was his, claiming the son who was
his, his heir and not Carry’s, she did not know. Influence! she had been
helpless by the side of the father, and in the depths of that dreadful
experience Carry foresaw that the son, so like him, so moulded upon that
man whom she had feared to the bottom of her heart, and alas!
unwillingly hated, had now escaped her too. There are moments which are
prophetic, and in which the feeblest vision sees clear. He had escaped
her influence, if, indeed, he had ever acknowledged any influence of
hers. As a child he had been obliged to obey her, and even as a youth
the influence of the household--that decent, tranquil, graceful
household at Easton--which henceforward Tom would compare so
contemptuously with his own ‘place,’ and the wealth which was soon to be
his--had kept him in a fashion of submission. But Tom had always looked
at his mother with eyes in which defiance lurked: there had never been
in them anything of that glamour with which some children regard their
mother, finding in her their first ideal. It had always been a weariness
to Tom to be confined to the restraint of her society. When they were
children even, he and his sister had schemed together to escape from
it. She was dimly aware that even Janet---- These things are hard for a
mother to realise, but there are moments when they come upon her with
all the certainty of fate. Her influence! She could have laughed or
wept. As it was with the father, so would it be with the son. For that
moment at least poor Carry’s perceptions were clear.

But what could she say? She said nothing; not even to Beaufort could she
disclose that miserable insight which had come to her. Your own
children, how can you blame them to another, even if that other is your
husband? how say that, though so near in blood and every tie, they are
alien in soul? how disclose that sad intuition? Carry never said a word.
She shook her head; not even perhaps to their own father could she have
revealed that discovery. A mother’s part is to excuse, to pardon, to
bear with everything, even to pretend that she is deceived and blinded
by the partiality of love, never to disclose the profound and
unutterable discouragement with which she has recognised the truth. She
shook her head at Beaufort’s arguments, leaving him to believe that it
was only a woman’s natural severity of judgment against the sins with
which she had no sympathy. And by-and-by she allowed herself to be
comforted. He thought that he had brought her back to good sense and the
moderation of a less exacting standard, and had convinced her that a
boyish escapade, however blamable, was not of the importance she
imagined. He thought he had persuaded her not to be hard upon Tom, not
to reproach him, to pass it over as a thing which might be trusted to
his good sense not to occur again. Carry did not enter into any
explanations. She had by this time come to understand well enough that
she must not expect anyone to divine what was in her heart.

Meanwhile Janet, who was vaguely informed on the matter, and knew that
Tom was in disgrace, though not very clearly why, threw herself into his
defence with all the fervour that was in her nature. She went and sat
by him while he lingered over a late breakfast with all the ruefulness
of headache. ‘Oh, Tom, what have you done?’ she said. ‘Oh, why didn’t
you come in time for dinner? Oh, where were you all the afternoon? We
were looking for you everywhere, Jock and I.’ Jock was an Erskine
cousin, the eldest of the tribe.

‘What does it matter to you where I was?’ said the sullen boy.

‘Tom! everything about you matters to me,’ said Janet, ‘and for one
thing we couldn’t make up our game.’

‘Oh, that humbugging game. Do you think I’m a baby or a girl? I hate
your tennis. It isn’t a game for a man.’

‘Quantities and quantities of gentlemen play. Beau plays. Why, the
officers play,’ cried Janet, feeling that nothing more was to be said.

Tom could not refuse to acknowledge such authority. ‘Well, then, it
isn’t a game for me, playing with girls and children. A gallop across
country, that’s what I like, and to see all father’s old friends, and
to hear what they thought of him. By Jove, Janet, father was a man! not
one to lounge about in a drawing-room like old Beau;’ here the boy’s
heart misgave him a little. ‘Beau’s kind enough,’ he said; ‘he doesn’t
look at a fellow as if--as if you had murdered somebody. But if father
had lived----’

‘I wonder----’ Janet said, but she did not go any further. Her light
eyes, wondering under her black brows, were round with a question which
something prevented her from putting. The possibility of her father
having lived confused all her thoughts. She had an instinctive sense of
the difficulties conveyed in that suggestion. She changed the subject by
saying unadvisedly, ‘How bad you look, Tom! Were you ill last night?’

He pushed her away with a vigorous arm. ‘Shut up--you!’ he cried.

‘You are always telling me to shut up; but I know you were to have taken
in Miss Ogilvie to dinner--that pretty Miss Ogilvie--and when you did
not come, it put them all out. I heard Hampshire telling Nurse. He said
something about “your boozing Mr. Tom,” and Nurse fired up. But
afterwards she cried--and mother has been crying this morning; and then
you look so bad. Do tell me if you were ill, Tom.’

He did not reply for some time, and then he burst out: ‘Mother’s such a
bore with her crying! Does she think I’m to be a baby all my life?’

‘Do you know,’ said Janet, ‘you’re very much like that portrait of
father in the hall--that great big one with the horse? Mother looks
frightened when she passes it. He does look a little fierce, as if he
would have scolded dreadfully,’ the girl added, with the air of making
an admission.

‘I would rather have been scolded by him,’ cried the boy--‘No, he
wouldn’t have scolded, he would have known better. A man like that
understands fellows. Jan, we’re rather badly off, you and me, with only
a woman to look after us, and _that_ Beau.’

‘Do you call mother a woman? You might be more civil,’ said Janet: but
she did not contradict this assertion, which was not made for the first
time. She, too, had always thought that the ideal father, the vague
impersonation of kindness and understanding, who would never mock like
Beau, nor look too grave like mother, was something to sigh for, in
whose guard all would have gone well. But the portrait in the hall had
daunted Janet. She had felt that those black brows could frown and those
staring eyes burn beyond anything that her softly nurtured childhood had
known. She would not betray herself by a word or even a thought if she
could help it, but it could not be denied that her heart sank. ‘I wish,’
she said, quickly, ‘you’d leave off breakfasting, Tom, and come out with
me for a walk. What is the good of pretending? One can see you don’t
want anything to eat.’

‘Walk!’ said Tom. ‘You can get that little sap to walk with you. I’ve
got to meet a fellow--Blackmore’s his name--away on the other side of
the moor at twelve. Just ring the bell, Jan. In five minutes I must
have Bess at the door.’

‘It’s twelve o’clock now. Don’t go to-day. Besides, mother----’

‘What has mother to do with it?’ cried Tom, starting up. ‘I’m going, if
it was only to spite mother, and you can tell her so. Do you think I’m
tied to mother’s apron-string? Oh, is it you, Beau? I--am going out for
a ride.’

‘So am I,’ said Beaufort, entering. ‘I thought it likely that would be
your intention, so I ordered your horse when I ordered mine. Where did
you say you were going? I caught somebody’s name as I came in.’

‘He said he was--a friend of my father’s,’ said Tom, sullenly.

‘Ah! it is easy for a man to say he is the friend of another who cannot
contradict him. Anyhow, we can ride together so far. What’s the matter?
Aren’t you ready?’ Beaufort said.

‘He has not finished his breakfast,’ said Janet, springing to Tom’s
defence.

‘Oh, nonsense! at twelve o’clock!’ said Beaufort, with a laugh. And
presently, notwithstanding the youth’s reluctance, he was carried off in
triumph. Janet, much marvelling, followed them to the door to see them
mount. She stood upon the steps, following their movements with her
eyes, dimly comprehending, divining, with her feminine instincts half
awakened. Tom’s sullen, reluctant look was more than ever like the
portrait, which Janet paused once more to look at as she went back
through the hall. She stood looking for a long time at the heavy,
lowering face. It was a fine portrait, which Torrance had boasted of in
his time, the money it had cost filling him with ill-concealed pride. It
was the first thing which had shaken Janet in her devotion to the
imaginary father who had been the god of her childhood. Tom was not so
big; he was not tall at all, not more than middle height, though broadly
and heavily made. It was very like Tom, and yet there was something in
it which made the girl afraid. As she stood gazing with more and more
uncertainty upon the pictured face, Lady Car came quickly into the
hall--almost running--in evident anxiety and concern. She stopped
suddenly as Janet turned round, casting a half-frightened, shuddering
look from the picture to the girl before it. There was something like an
apology in her nervous pause.

‘I--thought Tom was here,’ she said.

‘He has gone out riding--with Beau.’

‘With Beau?’ Lady Car breathed something that sounded like ‘Thank God!’

‘Is there anything wrong--with Tom?’ said Janet, gazing round upon her
mother with defiance in her eyes.

‘Wrong? I hope not. They say not. Oh, God forbid!’ Lady Car put her
hands together. She was very pale, with a little redness under her eyes.

‘Then, mother, if there’s nothing wrong, why do you look like that?’

‘Like that?’ Lady Car attempted a little laugh. ‘Like what, my dear?’
She added, with a long-drawn breath, ‘It is my foolish anxiety;
everybody says it is foolish. It is _plus forte que moi_.’

‘I wish you would not speak French. Tom,’ said Janet, ‘is well enough,
though he doesn’t look well. He ate no breakfast; and he looked as if he
would like to take my head off. Isn’t Tom--very like father?’ she added,
in a low voice.

They were standing at the foot of the picture, a full-length, which
overbore them as much in reality as imagination, and made the woman and
the girl look like pigmies at his feet. Carry gave a slight shiver in
spite of herself.

‘Yes,’ she said faintly; ‘and, my dear--so are you too.’

Janet met her mother’s look with a stolid steadiness. She saw, half
sorry, half pleased, Lady Car’s eyes turn from the picture to her own
face and back again. She had very little understanding of her mother,
but a great deal of curiosity. She thought to herself that most mothers
were pleased with such a resemblance--so at least Janet had read in
books. She supposed her own mother did not care for it--perhaps
disliked it because she had married again.

‘You never told us anything about father,’ she said, ‘but Nurse does a
great deal. She told me how he--was killed. Was that the horse?’

‘Yes,’ said Lady Car, with a trembling which she could not conceal.

‘Is it because you are sorry that you are so nervous?’ said Janet, with
those dull, light eyes fixed upon her, which were Torrance’s eyes.

‘Janet!’ cried her mother, ‘do not ask me about it.’ She said, in a low,
hurried voice, ‘Is it not enough that it was the most terrible thing
that ever happened? I cannot go back upon it.’

‘But afterwards,’ said the girl, impelled by she knew not what--some
influence of vague exasperation, which was half opposition to her
mother, and half disappointment to find the dead father, the tutelary
divinity of this house to which she had been eager to come, so
different from her expectations--‘afterwards--you married Beau.’

‘Janet!’ Lady Car cried again, but this time the shock brought back her
dignity and self-control. ‘I don’t know what has got possession of you,
my dear, to-day. You forget yourself--and me. You are not the judge of
my actions, nor will I justify myself before you.’ She added, after a
time, ‘Both Tom and you are very like your father. After a while he will
be master here, and you perhaps mistress till he marries. Your
father--might have been living now’ (poor Carry grew pale and shuddered
even while she pointed her moral)--‘if he had not been such a hard
rider, so--so careless, thinking he could go anywhere. Do you wonder
that I am anxious about Tom? You will have to learn to do what you can
to restrain him, to keep him from those wild rides, to keep him----’
Lady Car’s voice faltered, the tears came to her eyes. ‘I believe it is
common,’ she said, ‘that a young man, such as he is growing to be,
should not mind his mother much. Sometimes, people tell me, they mind
their sisters more.’

‘Tom does not mind me a bit,’ said Janet, ‘oh, not a bit--and he will
never marry. He does not like girls.’

‘Perhaps he will change his mind,’ said Carry, with a faint smile. ‘Boys
often do. Will you remember what I have said, dear, if you should ever
be mistress here?’

‘But how can I be mistress? Where will you be? Why should there be any
change?’

‘The house is Tom’s, not mine. And I shall be at my own house at
Easton--if I am living.’

‘Oh,’ said Janet. Carry, though a little roused in her own defence,
almost quailed before the look in the girl’s eyes. ‘You will be happier
then,’ she said, with the air of an assailant hurling a stone at his
victim; ‘for you will be all by yourself--with Beau.’

‘Go upstairs, Janet: I can have no more of this!’

‘I will not,’ she cried; ‘you said it was Tom’s house, not yours. He
would not let me be sent away out of his hall, from father’s picture,
for--anyone--if he were here.’

Carry raised her eyes and saw him standing behind his child. There
seemed a dull smile of triumph in his painted eyes. ‘You thought they
were yours--but they are mine,’ Torrance seemed to say. Both of them!
their father’s in every nerve and fibre--nothing to do with her.



CHAPTER X


Apart from these painful struggles with her children which were quite
new to Lady Car, there were many things that pained her in her residence
at the Towers.

First of all there was her nearest neighbour, her dearest friend, her
only sister Edith; the dearest companion of her life, who had stood by
her in all her troubles, and to whom she had given a trembling support
in her struggle, more successful than poor Carry’s against the husband
her father had chosen for her. Edith had succeeded at last in marrying
her only love, which was a poor marriage for an Earl’s daughter. They
had, indeed, finally, both of them, made poor marriages; but what a
contrast between them! Carry living ignobly with the husband of her
choice upon Torrance’s money, the result of her humiliation; while
Edith was at the head of a happy, frugal family, carefully ordered, with
little margin for show or pleasure, but yet in all the plenitude of
cheerful life, without a recollection to rankle, or any discord or
complication in all her candid existence. Her father had not been able
to force the will of Edith. She had not loved her John any better than
poor Carry had loved in her early tender youth the lover of all her
dreams, the Edward Beaufort who was now her husband; but Carry had not
been able to resist the other husband, the horrible life. Even in that
Edith had so much, so much the advantage over her sister! And then--oh,
wonder to think of it---- John--John, from whom nothing had been
expected, except that he should show himself, as he had always done, the
good fellow, the honest gentleman, the true friend he was, whether by
development of his own respectable mind or by the influence of Edith
(though she was never clever like Carry), or by the united force of
both, John had long been one of the most important men in the district,
member for his county, trusted and looked up to both by his constituency
at home and the people at head-quarters, who took his advice, it was
said, on Scotch affairs more than anyone’s; whereas Edward---- Carry had
long made that poignant comparison in her heart, but to see them
together now bowed her to the ground with a secret humiliation which she
could never acknowledge--not to her sister, who also in the old days had
put so much faith in Beaufort’s genius; not to Edward himself--oh no, to
humiliate him. He did not seem to feel the contrast at all himself, or,
if he did perceive it, he thought it apparently to be to his own
advantage, speaking now and then of the narrowness of practical men, of
the deadening influence of politics, and of how completely John
Erskine’s interest was limited to matters of local expediency and
questions before Parliament. ‘And he used to have his share of
intelligence,’ said all unconscious the useless man, whose failure his
wife felt so passionately. Then, as if this were not enough, there was
Jock, little Jock, who was younger than Janet, only fourteen, but
already at Eton like Tom, and holding a place above that of the
seventeen-year-old big lower boy. The reader must understand that this
history is not of to-day, and that in those times big lower boys were
still possible, though it is so no longer. Tom was only a lower boy, and
little Jock might have fagged his cousin, had it not been that Jock was
in college, on the foundation, saving the money which was not too
plentiful at Dalrulzian. ‘A Tug!’ Tom had cried with contempt
intensified by the sense of something in his mother’s eyes, the
comparison which made her heart sick. Little Jock at fourteen, so far
above the boy who was almost a man: John Erskine, in his solid good
sense, so much more important a man than Edward with his genius
_manqué_. It went to Carry’s heart.

It is difficult to feel that sense of humiliation, that overwhelming
consciousness of the superiority of another family, however closely
connected, to our very own, without a little grudge against the happy,
the worthy, the fortunate. Carry loved her sister tenderly, and Edith’s
happiness was dear to her; but the sight of that happiness before her
eyes was more than the less fortunate sister could bear. She could not
look upon Edith’s bright boy, with his candid countenance, without
thinking with a deeper pang of Tom’s lowering brows, and that horrible
look of intoxication which she had seen in his face; nor could she see
her brother-in-law busy and cheerful with his public work, his table
piled with letters, blue-books, all the paraphernalia of business,
without thinking of Beaufort’s dilettante ease, his dislike of being
appealed to, his ‘Oh, I know nothing of business!’ Why did he know
nothing of business; why was he idle, always idle, good for nothing,
while others--oh, with not half his powers!--were working for the
country? It was still Carry’s desperate belief that no one had half his
powers--yet sometimes she said to herself that, had he been stupid as
some were, she could have borne it, but that it was the waste of these
higher qualities which she could not bear. Even this little refuge of
fancy was taken from her on the occasion of a meeting about some county
movement, to which her husband was called as the guardian of young Tom,
and where he had to make a speech much against his will. His speech was
foolish, tedious, and ignorant--how indeed should he know about the
affairs of a Scotch county?--while John Erskine held the matter and the
attention of the hearers in his hand. ‘I thought Lady Car’s new husband
had been a very clever man,’ she heard, or fancied she heard, someone
say as the people dispersed. Perhaps she only fancied she heard it,
caught it in a look. And how they applauded John Erskine, who did so
well!--oh, she knew he did well, the master of his subject and of the
people’s sympathies; whereas what information could poor Edward have,
what common interest with all these people? Poor Edward! Carry’s heart
contracted with an ineffable pang to think she could have called him
so.

She loved Edith all the same--oh, yes! how could she fail to love her
only sister, the person most near to her in all the world? But yet she
shrank from seeing Edith, and felt at the sound of her happy voice as if
she, Carry, must fly and hide herself in some dark and unknown place,
and could not bear the contact of the other, who had the best of
everything, and in whose path all was bright. To sympathise with one’s
neighbour’s blessedness, when all that makes her happy is reversed in
one’s own lot, is hard, the hardest of all the exercises of charity.
Carry said to herself that she was glad and thankful that all was so
well with Edith; but to hide her own face, to turn to the wall, not to
be the witness of it, was the best thing to do. To look on at all, with
the aching consciousness of failure on her own part, and smile over her
own trouble at Edith’s happiness, was more than she was able to do: yet
this was what she did day after day. And she read in Edith’s eyes that
happy woman’s opinion of Tom, her verdict upon Beaufort, and her
disappointment in Janet. Though Edith said nothing, Carry knew all that
she could have said, and even heard over intervening miles, and through
stone walls, how her sister breathed with a sigh her melancholy name.
Poor Carry! Her heart fainted within her to realise everything, yet she
did it, and covered her face and covered her ears not to hear and see
that pity, which she could neither have heard nor seen by any exercise
of ordinary faculties. But the mind by other means both sees and hears.

‘Edward,’ she said to her husband suddenly one day, ‘we must leave this
place. I cannot bear it any more!’

He turned round upon her with a look of astonishment. ‘Leave this place!
But why, my love?’ he said. His surprise was quite genuine. He had not
then, during the whole of her martyrdom, acquired the faintest insight
into her mind.

‘There is no reason,’ she said hastily, ‘only that I cannot--I cannot
bear it any more.’

‘But is not that a little unreasonable, Carry? Why should you go away?
It is only the middle of September. Tom does not go back to school for
ten days at least--and after that----’

‘Edward, I hate the place. You knew that I hated the place.’

‘Yes, my love; and felt that it was not quite like my Carry to hate any
place, especially the place which must be her son’s home.’

‘I never wanted to come,’ she said, ‘and now that we have proved--how
inexpedient it was----’

‘Don’t say so, dear. I have told you my opinion already. The best women
are unjust to boys in these respects. I don’t blame you. Your point of
view is so different. On the contrary, we should have brought Tom here
long ago. He ought to have learned as a child that there were men
calling themselves his father’s friends who were not fit company for
him. I think he has learned that lesson now, and to force him away from
a place he is fond of, as if to show him that you could not trust
him----’

‘It is not for Tom,’ she said; ‘Edward, cannot you understand? it is for
myself.’

‘You are not the sort of woman to think of yourself when Tom’s interests
are at stake. We ought to stay even after he is gone, to make all the
friends we can for him. For my own part, I like the place very well,’
Beaufort said. ‘And then there is your sister so near at hand. You must
try to forget the little accident that has disgusted you, Carry. Think
of the pleasure of having Edith so near at hand--and that excellent
fellow John--though he’s too much of an M.P.’

It was with purpose that Beaufort laughed, with that gentle and friendly
ridicule of his brother-in-law, to carry her thoughts away from the
accident--from Tom’s escapade, which he thought was the foundation of
Carry’s trouble. And what could she say more? She did not, could not,
tell him that Tom’s look had reminded her of another, and that Torrance
himself, standing in full length in the hall, claiming its sovereignty,
master of all that was within, kept the miseries of her past life and
her unsatisfied heart too terribly before her. Of that she could say
nothing to her husband, nor of Janet’s rebellion, nor above all of what
was intolerable in Edith’s gentle society, the sense of her superior
happiness, her pity for poor Carry! He might have divined what it was
which made the house intolerable to her; but if he did not, how could
she say it? Thus Lady Car gradually achieved the power of living on, of
smiling upon all who surrounded her with something in her eyes which
nobody comprehended, but which some few people were vaguely aware of,
though they comprehended it not.

‘Poor Carry!’ Lady Edith said, in the very tone which Lady Car heard in
her heart: but it was said in John Erskine’s library at Dalrulzian, with
the windows closed, five miles away.

‘Why poor Carry?’ asked her husband; ‘if you were to ask her, she would
say she was a happy woman, happy beyond anything she could have hoped.
When I think of her with that brute Torrance--where is she now, but in
such different circumstances.’

‘Oh, John, the circumstances are different; Edward is very nice: but----
’

‘But what?’

‘Carry is not like you and me,’ said Edith, shaking her head.

‘No: perhaps so much the better for us. She is fanciful and poetical and
nervous, not easy to satisfy; but the comparison--must be like heaven
after hell.’

Edith continued to shake her head, but said no more. What was there to
say? She could not perhaps have put it into words had she tried, and how
get John to understand it?--a man immersed in public business, fearing
that soon he should need a private secretary, which was an expense quite
unjustified by his means. She patted him on the shoulder as she stood
behind his chair, and said, ‘Poor John, have you all these letters to
answer?’

‘Every one,’ he said, with a laugh. ‘You are in a compassionate humour
to-day. Suppose you answer a few of them for me, instead of saying poor
John.’

This was so easy! If she had not been so busy with the children she was
the best of private secretaries! Alas! there was nothing to be done for
poor Carry in the same simple way. Nor in any way, Edith reflected, as
she sat down at her husband’s table: a sympathetic sister must not even
venture to show that she was compassionate. She must conceal the
consciousness of his father’s look in Tom Torrance’s face, and of the
fact that Beaufort’s book had never been written, and that his name was
altogether unknown to the world save as that of Lady Caroline Torrance’s
second husband. Oh, poor Carry! Edith said again. But this time only in
the depths of her own heart, not to John.

The only other person who saw the change in Lady Car’s look was Janet,
who had defied her mother. The girl was in high rebellion still. She
spent her life as much as she could with Tom, seconding powerfully,
without being aware of it, the watchful supervision of Beaufort, who, if
he had failed her in so many respects, was anxiously and zealously
acting for Lady Car in her son’s interests. Janet seized upon her
brother on every occasion when it was possible. She managed to ride with
him, to walk with him, to occupy his attention as nobody else could have
done. It is true that Tom had no delicacy on the subject of Janet, and
sent her away with a push of his elbow when she bored him, without the
least hesitation; but in her vehemence and passion she did not bore him
for the short period of his holidays which remained. She had told him of
her rebellion with a thrill of excitement which shook her from head to
foot. The crisis was the greatest that had ever happened in her life.
She could not forget it, not a word that had passed nor a look. Tom had
contemplated her with an admiration mingled with alarm when he first
heard the tale of her exploit. ‘You cheeked mother!’ He had scarcely
done more himself, though he was a man and the master of all: and Janet
was only a little girl, of no account at all. But her fervour, her
passion seized hold upon him, and as it occupied herself in the
overwhelming way with which a family conflict occupies the mind, Janet
became as the sharer of an exciting secret to Tom. They watched their
mother’s looks and every word she said in the light of that encounter.
Neither of them was capable of believing that it had passed from Lady
Car’s mind, while still they dwelt upon it, making it the theme of long
conversations. ‘I say, do you think she’ll say anything to me?’ Tom
asked, with some anxiety.

‘I don’t know; but if she does you’ll stand by me, won’t you, Tom?’

‘Oh, I say!’ Tom replied. ‘Beau would make a fuss if I said anything to
mother. He has a way of speaking that makes you feel small somehow.’

‘Small? You! When you are the master! Why, mother said so, though she
was so cross.’

‘Oh yes, of course I’m the master,’ said Tom. ‘But you should hear Beau
when he gets on about a gentleman, don’t you know? What’s a gentleman? A
man that has a place of his own and lots of money, and no need to do
anything unless he likes--if that’s not a gentleman, I don’t know what
is.’

‘And does Beau say--something different?’ Janet asked, with a little
awe.

‘Oh, all kinds of nonsense; that it’s not what you have but what you do,
and all that. Never take a good glass--well, that’s what Blackmore,
father’s friend, calls it--a good glass--nor say a rude word--and all
that sort of thing. By Jove! Jan, if it’s all true they say, father was
a jolly fellow, and no mistake.’

‘Do you mean that he did--that?’

Tom gave vent to a large laugh. ‘Did--what? Oh, I can’t tell you all he
did. He rode like anything; flew over every fence and every ditch that
nobody else would take, and enjoyed himself. That’s what he did--till he
married, which spoils all a man’s fun.’

‘Oh, Tom!’

‘Well, it does--you have to give up--ever so many things, and live like
an old woman. I shan’t marry, I can tell you, Jan, not for years.’

‘Then I shall stop with you, Tom, and keep the house.’

‘Don’t you be too sure of that,’ said Tom; ‘I shall have too many
fellows coming and going to do with a girl about the place.’

‘But you must have some one to keep house. Mother said so! She is not
going to have me at Easton--that I am sure of; and if I am not to keep
house for you, Tom, what shall I do?’ said Janet, with symptoms of
coming tears.

Then Tom did what the men of a family generally do when a foolish sister
relies upon them. He promptly threw her over. ‘You should not have
cheeked mother,’ he said.



CHAPTER XI


Next day the brother and sister went out riding by themselves. The game
had been but poorly preserved during Lady Car’s sway, and had not been
of great importance at any time, so that Tom’s time was by no means
absorbed by the shooting to be had, and Janet had begged for one long
ride with him before he went back to school. It was a bright September
afternoon, the air crisp with an autumnal chill, enough to make the
somewhat sluggish blood thrill in the veins of the boy and girl, who
were so like each other and had a certain attachment to each other--more
strong, as was natural, on Janet’s side than on Tom’s. Lady Car had come
out to the door to see them ride away. ‘Take care of Janet,’ she had
said. Beaufort’s warning look, and her own consciousness, very different
from that of Beaufort, that what she said would not bear the least
weight, prevented her from saying more. But perhaps she looked more as
she followed them with anxious eyes. ‘Don’t, Carry,’ her husband said as
he drew her into the house--‘don’t show any distrust of the boy.’

‘Distrust?’ she said. ‘I don’t think he cares what I show.’

‘My love! don’t think so badly of the children.’

‘Oh, no; I don’t think badly of them. They are so young, they don’t
know; but it is true all the same. They don’t mind how I look, Edward:
which must be my blame and not theirs,’ she added, with a faint smile;
‘how should it be theirs? It is only part of the failure. Some people
make no impression on--anyone. They are ineffective, like what you say
of a wall-paper or a piece of furniture.’

‘These are strange things to say,’ said Beaufort, gravely.

‘Silly things,’ said Lady Car. ‘If you are not busy, let us take a
stroll about the gardens. I have not been out to-day.’

She knew he was not busy, and she had given over even wishing him to be
so. Desire grows faint with long deception and disappointment; but he
was always kind--ready to stroll in the gardens or anything she pleased.

‘What did mother think I was going to do with you? Take you round by the
Red Scaur and break your neck?’ Tom said to Janet.

‘Oh!’ cried Janet to Tom, with wide-open eyes; then added in a low tone,
‘that was where father was killed. I have never been there.’

‘And I’m not going to take you there. It’s all shut up ever since. But
I’ll tell you what we’ll do, Jan. We’ll have a long spin--as far as
Blackmore’s farm.’

‘Blackmore’s farm! That is the place----’

He gave a loud laugh.

‘Well, and what then? A thing may happen once and not again. They were
tremendous friends of father’s. I don’t mean friends like--like the
Erskines and so forth. Blackmore’s not a gentleman, but he’s a rattling
good fellow. And you should just see his stables. There’s one hunter I’d
buy in a minute if I had my liberty. It’s ten miles, or perhaps a little
more. Perhaps you’re not up to that.’

‘Oh, yes, I’m quite up to it. But I wonder if we should go--it gets dark
so soon--and perhaps mother----’

‘Oh, bother mother!’ cried the boy. ‘We can’t at our age be always
stopping to consider what an old lady thinks.’

‘Mother’s not an old lady, Tom.’

‘She’s a great deal older than we are, or she couldn’t be our mother.
Come, Jan, are you game for a long spin? It’s almost the last time these
holidays. Hurrah, then, off we go!’ And off they went in a wild career,
Janet following breathless, gasping, her dark hair flying behind her,
her hat often in danger, wherever he led. She would not allow that she
had any fear; but it was a long ride, and the way was confused by the
cross cuts which Tom knew only imperfectly, and which made it longer,
besides leading them over moors and across fields which excited their
horses and kept the young riders at a full strain, to which Janet’s
immature powers were quite unaccustomed. She was dreadfully dishevelled
and shaken to pieces upon their arrival at the large rough establishment
to which her brother had already paid many visits, and where they were
received by a chorus of innumerable dogs and lounging men whose
appearance was very alarming to Janet. They looked like keepers, she
thought, or grooms, not like people who would naturally be greeted as
friends, which was what Tom was doing, shaking hands with the big and
bearded master of the house and the younger man, presumably his son, and
calling out salutations in as good an imitation of the broad country
dialect as he could accomplish to the others. Janet was aware that her
own aspect was very wild, and she was very tired; but she clung to her
saddle when that big gamekeeper approached with a mixture of pride and
shame. ‘So this is your sister, Maister Tom? Charlie, cry on your
mother,’ cried the man; ‘the mistress will be here in a moment, missie.
Let me lift ye down.’

‘No, no,’ Janet said, ‘we can’t wait long. We must soon go back, it will
be dark. Oh, Tom, we must get back.’

‘Nonsense, Jan! Now I’ve got here I mean to stay awhile. And Blackmore’s
awfully jolly; he’ll take you through the stables. Come, jump down.’

‘Cry upon your mother, Charlie,’ said Blackmore again. ‘The young leddy
thinks we’re a’ men folk here, and she’s frichtened. But ye must not be
frichtened, my bonnie doo. Hey, Marget, where’s the mistress? And the
powney’s a’ in a lather. Pit your hand upon my shoulder if you’ll no let
me lift ye down.’

When Janet saw a woman appear at the door hurrying out in a cap and a
white apron, she allowed herself to be lifted from her horse, feeling
all the time as if she had fallen into some strange adventures such as
were described in books, not anything that would happen to girls like
herself in common life. She did not know that she might not be
detained, locked up somewhere, forced to sign something, or to come
under some fatal obligation as happened to the heroines of some
old-fashioned novels which she had found in the library at the Towers.
The mist of fatigue and alarm in her eyes made her even more confused
than it was natural she should be in so new and unexpected a scene. And
the rough and dingy house, the clamour of the dogs, the heavy steps of
the man who followed her in, the sense of her own dishevelled and
disorderly condition, and of the distance from home, quite overcame poor
Janet. ‘Oh, Tom, let us go home,’ she cried, in an agony of compunction
and fear.

‘Is it Miss Torrance from the Towers? Dear me, but it’s a long ride for
her--over long--and a wild road. But you must rest a little now you’re
here, and I’ll get you a cup of tea,’ said the woman of the house. She
was a fresh-coloured, buxom woman, not at all like a brigand’s
housekeeper, and she smiled upon Janet with encouraging kindly looks.
‘I’m real glad to see your sister, Maister Tom; but you’re a thoughtless
laddie to bring her so far, and her not accustomed to rough riding.
Marget, is the kettle boiling--for the young leddie must have some tea?’

‘And you can bring in the hot water, and a’ the rest of it,’ said
Blackmore, ‘for us that are no so fond of tea--eh, Maister Tom? After
your ride a good glass will do ye nae harm.’

Janet sat still and gazed while these hospitable preparations were going
on. The large table was covered with oilcloth, not unconscious of
stains. And the men gathered round one side upon which a tray with ‘the
hot water’ and a black bottle and a strange array of glasses, big and
little, had been placed. This seemed the first thing thought of in the
house; for Marget, the big servant-woman (everything was big), brought
the tray, pushing open the door with it as she bore it in in front of
her before the order had been given. And presently the fumes of the hot
‘toddy’ filled the room, pungent and strong, making Janet feel faint and
sick. The men flung themselves into chairs or stood about, filling the
other end of the room--a small, rough, dark crowd, with Tom in the
midst. They were all very ‘kind’ to Tom, patting him on the shoulder,
addressing him by name, filling his glass for him, while Janet, alone at
the end of the table, looked on alarmed. The mistress was bringing out
from a cupboard cups and saucers, a basin of sugar, and other
preparations for tea.

‘It would do the little miss far more good to taste a glass o’ my brew,
and put some colour into her cheeks,’ said the master of the house.

‘Haud your tongue, goodman, and leave the young lady to me. Tak’ you
care what you’re about. You’ll get both yoursel’ and other folk into
trouble if you dinna pay attention.’

‘Toots! a glass will harm naebody,’ Blackmore said.

‘I want my sister to see that mare,’ said Tom--‘that mare, you know,
Blackmore, that you said you’d keep for me. I want her to see the
stables. I told her all about you, and that you were tremendous
friends----’

‘Ah, laddie!’ said Blackmore, ‘the sight of you brings many a thing
back. Many and many’s the time that your father----’

‘I told her so,’ said Tom with his glass in his hands. ‘Here’s to all of
you. And I mean to stick to father’s friends.’

‘Tom!’ cried Janet with a start. The smell of the whisky, the crowd of
men, the loud voices and sound of their feet upon the floor, scarcely
deadened by the thin carpet, scared her altogether. ‘Oh, Tom,’ she said,
‘I’m too tired to see anything. Let us get home--oh, let us get home!’
and overcome by excitement and confusion, Janet began to cry.

‘My bonnie dawtie,’ said the mistress, ‘wait till ye get your tea.’

‘Oh, let us get home,’ cried Janet; ‘it will soon be dark. I’m
frightened to ride after it is dark. All those dreadful roads! Oh, Tom,
let us get home--oh, Tom, let us get home!’

‘Maister Tom,’ said the mistress, ‘it’s true she says. It’s not fit for
a bit thing like her to be gallopin’ a’ those uncivilised roads in the
dark. Charlie shall put in one of the horses in the dog-cart and drive
her hame.’

‘That will I,’ said Charlie, rising with a great deal of noise. He was
the best looking of the young men, and he put down his steaming glass
with alacrity. ‘I’ll put in Spanker, and she’ll gang like the wind.’

‘Ye’ll have to be very canny with her, for she’s awfu’ fresh,’ said
another of the men.

‘Don’t be a fool, Jan,’ cried the boy; ‘she’ll ride home fast enough.
And I’m not going to have it; do you hear, Charlie? What’s the good of
making a fuss? I’m not going to have it,’ he cried, stamping his foot.
‘Do you want to get me into a row? Why, I as good as gave my word----’

He stopped short himself, and they all paused. Janet too, hastily
choking the sob in her throat, gazed at him with a startled look.

‘Maybe it was never to come back here that ye gave your word, Mr. Tom?’
said Blackmore rising up; ‘I would guess that by the looks of ye. Well,
ye’ll keep your word, my young man; at least, ye’ll as near keep it as
is possible now. Charlie, out with the cairt, man! what are ye waiting
for? and take the young lady hame. It was nane of her own will, that’s
clear, that brought her here. Ye can say that; if it was his fault, it’s
clear that it was nane of hers. Ye had better take him on behint, and
we’ll send the horses back the morn.’

‘By Jove,’ shouted Tom, ‘I’ll not be taken on behind! I’ll ride my own
horse or I’ll not stir a step--and catch me ever coming out with her
again,’ he cried with an oath which made the heart which was beating so
wildly in Janet’s breast drop down, down to her shoes. But when she
found herself in the dog-cart by Charlie Blackmore’s side, wrapped up
warm, and flying like the wind, behind Madam Spanker who was so fresh,
Janet’s sensations turned into a consciousness of _bien-être_ which was
very novel and very sweet. She had been persuaded to take the cup of
tea. She had even eaten a bit of scone with fresh butter and marmalade,
which was very good. A warm shawl was wrapped round her shoulders; and
the delicious sensation of repose and warmth over her tired limbs, while
yet sweeping at so great a pace over the country, with the wind in her
face and the long darkling roads flying past, was delightful to Janet.
The sound of Tom’s horse’s hoofs galloping, now behind, now in advance,
added to the sense of supreme comfort and pleasure. She had been so
tired, and the prospect of riding back had been so terrible. She felt as
if flying through the air, which caressed her cheek, as, warmly tucked
in by Charlie Blackmore’s side, she was carried home. Charlie was very
‘kind’--almost unnecessarily kind. He spoke loud in her ear, with
intonations at which Janet wondered vaguely, finding them very pleasant.
He told her a great many things about himself, how he had never intended
to stay at home ‘among the beasts’: how he had been a session at college
and meant to go back again: how he had once hoped to be something very
much better than a horse-couper like his father, and how to-day all his
ambition had come back. Swept along so lightly, so smoothly, with such
ease, with such warmth and comfort, almost leaning against Charlie
Blackmore’s strong shoulder, with his voice in her ear, and the
sweetness of the wind in her face, Janet felt herself held in a
delightful trance almost like sleep, yet which was not sleep, or how
could she have felt the pleasure that was in it? It was only when the
drive was almost over, and the mare made a whirl into the avenue,
scarcely to be held in till the gates were opened, and, flying after
that momentary enforced pause like an arrow under the dark waving of the
trees, that her heart suddenly sprang up with a sickening throb at the
thought of what mother would say. Janet had been in a sort of paradise.
She came down now in a moment to all the anguishes of earth. She broke
in upon something Charlie Blackmore was saying with the utmost
inattention and inconsequence. ‘Can you hear Tom?’ she said. ‘Oh, where
is he? Tom, Tom!’

‘He is just behint us; don’t be frightened. He is all safe,’ said
Charlie, casting a glance behind.

The mare made a start at this moment, and, straining at the curb,
bounded on again. Someone had come out upon the road almost under her
nose--a dark figure, which just eluded the wheel, and from which came a
voice almost echoing Janet’s--

‘Is that Tom?’

‘Oh, it’s me, Beau,’ cried Janet wildly, ‘and Tom’s behind.’ She was
carried on so quickly that half the words were lost.

‘Was that your stepfather? They will be anxious about ye. I would
say’--Charlie made a little pause to secure her attention--‘I would say
you were passing near our place, never thinking ye had come so far, and
that my mother came out to ye, seeing ye so tired, and bid me to bring
you hame in the cairt--that’s what I would say.’

‘Say!’ cried Janet, fully roused up. ‘Do you mean that I should tell
mother that? But it would be a lie.’

‘’Deed, and so it would,’ said the young man with a shamefaced laugh.
‘But to make an excuse for yourself is aye pardonable, do ye no think?
And then it would save Mr. Tom. Be you sure now my father knows he’s
given his word against it, he shall never be asked into our house more.’

‘Oh,’ said Janet, ‘I could not say anything I had made up. When the
moment comes and mother looks at me, I can only say--what has happened.’

‘But nothing has happened,’ said Charlie. ‘Except,’ he added, ‘one
thing, that I’ll maybe tell you about some day. But that has happened to
me, and not to you. Miss Janet, you’ll not forget me clean altogether?’

‘Oh, how should I forget you,’ cried Janet with a sob, ‘when I know I
shall get into such dreadful trouble as I never was in before in all my
life! Oh, mother!’

The girl had thrown off her wraps and tumbled down from the dog-cart,
almost before it had stopped, into the middle of the group on the
steps, which consisted of Lady Car, wrapped in a great shawl, her
sister, and half the servants in the house.

‘Janet! Oh, where have you been? And where is Tom? What has
happened?--tell me,’ cried Lady Car, taking her daughter by the arms and
gazing into her eyes with an agonised question. The arrival of the cart
at such headlong speed seemed to give a sort of certainty to all the
fears that had been taking shape among the watchers.

‘Oh, Mozer!’ Janet cried, her childish outcry coming back in the
extremity of her apprehension and consciousness. But Charlie Blackmore,
with his wits about him, called out from the cart, ‘There’s nothing
wrong. Mr. Tom he’s just behind. They’ve ridden owre far and wearied
themselves. Mr. Tom he’s just behind. But my mare’s fresh--she’ll no’
stand. Let go her head, dash ye! Do ye hear? She’ll no stand.’

The little incident of the mare whirling round, the gravel flying under
her feet, the groom recoiling backwards, turning an unintentional
summersault upon the grass, made a pause in which everybody took breath.

‘Thank God!’ cried Lady Car, ‘if that’s all. Is that all? You are not
concealing anything, dear?’

Janet stood in the hall when she had managed to twist out of her
mother’s hold. Her eyes had a wild sparkle in them, dazzled from the
night; her hair was hanging dank about her shoulders; her hat tied on
with Mr. Blackmore’s handkerchief. She looked dazed, speechless, guilty,
with fear in her face and in her soul. She looked as if she might
be--have had the habit of being--struck and beaten, standing trembling
before her mother, who had never harmed a fly in all her gentle life.

‘Mother, we went too far; and then the--woman came out--the--the lady,
and said I was too tired. He was to drive me home.’

‘Well! and that was all? God be thanked there has been no accident! But
where is Tom?’

‘Mr. Tom is just coming up the avenue, my lady,’ said one of the men.

‘Then all is right, and there was really nothing to be afraid of,’ said
Lady Car, with an agitated laugh.

Was Janet to be let off so easily? She stood watching her mother with
uneasy alarm, while all attention was diverted to Tom, who jumped off
his horse in a similar pale suspicion and fear, but with brows more
lowering and eyes half shadowed by the eyelids. Tom had made up his mind
as he came along what he was to do. He did not wait for the outburst of
scolding which he expected. ‘It wasn’t my fault,’ he said, with a gleam
of his shadowed eyes to where Beaufort was coming in behind him. ‘She
had made up her mind she would see the mare, and I had to take her. I
knew it was too far.’

Janet stood aghast with her mouth open taking in every word. A cry of
protest rose up in her breast, which she had just comprehension enough
to stifle. ‘Never mind just now, my boy,’ said Beaufort; ‘all’s well
that ends well: but you have given your mother a great fright. You can
tell me after how it was.’

‘I’d better tell you at once,’ Tom repeated. ‘She had set her heart on
seeing the mare. There was no harm, I suppose, in telling her about the
mare. And I thought she was more game than she is. That’s all about it.
I thought we could have gone into the stables without seeing--the people
you made me promise about, Beau. But I couldn’t help it when I saw how
tired she was. And Charlie drove her home--that’s all.’

The cry of protest in Janet’s throat did not get utterance, but it
produced a gasp of horror and astonishment as she stood staring in her
mother’s face. She could not look at Tom. Lady Car was looking at him
unsuspectingly with her faint smile--that smile which Janet felt meant
something more than anyone thought. And there was no more said.



CHAPTER XII


Janet went upon no more expeditions with Tom. His lie struck her like a
shot, going through all her defences. She had almost lied for him,
according to Charlie Blackmore’s instructions; lied, or at least
suppressed the truth, giving her mother to understand that there was no
purpose at all in their ride, but only that they had gone too far--to
save him, that he might not be blamed. But when Tom arrived with his lie
all ready, in which there was no hesitation, Janet, standing aghast
looking on, too much startled to contradict him or say a word, felt as
if he had suddenly landed a blow at her, flung an arrow like the savages
she had read of--which went through and through, cutting not only to her
heart, but to the last refuge of her intelligence, the recesses of her
not too lively brain. It was not only pain, but a painful desire to
understand, which moved her. Why did he do it? What did he mean by it?
It seemed almost impossible to believe that it was only the familiar
childish effort to clear himself by blaming her. ‘It’s Janet--it’s not
me.’ She had said herself in the nursery days, ‘It’s not me--it’s Tom,’
in the sudden shock of a fault found out. Was that all he meant, or was
it something more? Tom’s explanation afterwards did not mend matters.

‘Well!’ he said, ‘it _was_ you--you know you wanted to see the mare. I
told you you weren’t game for it, but you swore you were. And whose
fault was it but yours for breaking down and letting it all
out?--spoiling my fun in every way. For the Blackmores are as proud as
the devil----’

‘Don’t speak like that,’ cried Janet with a shudder.

‘They are though, just as proud as the devil, though they’re nothing but
horse-coupers. I knew I was done for when I said that I had given my
word. The old man fired up like a rocket, and I’ll never be able to go
there any more, which is all your fault.’

‘But, Tom; if you gave your word----’

‘Don’t be silly,’ cried Tom, ‘that’s not like giving your honour between
you and another man. What’s Beau? he’s like one of the masters in
school. They know you don’t mean it; they know you’ll get out of it if
you can, and they’re always on the watch. Not the least like another
fellow of your own sort that you give your honour to. Of course I should
keep that. But mother or Beau is quite different. You’re forced to do
that, and they know you never mean to keep it all the time.’

This reasoning silenced Janet, though it did not convince her. She did
not know what reply to make. A boy’s code of honour was a thing she did
not understand, and she had always been accustomed to serious
discrepancies between his ideas of what was meant by a promise and her
own. Their training had been the same, but Janet had always dumbly in
the depths of her mind put a different meaning to words from that which
Tom adopted. It was possible that his point of view might be right--for
him--about giving one’s word to a master, or to Beau; but her mind
returned to the question that concerned herself with a keener sentiment.

‘I don’t know about that,’ she said; ‘but you needn’t surely have said
it was me?’

‘Why, I did it--to please you!’ cried Tom. ‘I thought you’d rather. They
can’t do anything to you. And _you_ never promised. And they can do a
deal to me,’ said the boy reflectively. ‘They can stop all my fun--or
nearly. They’ve got all my money, and whatever I say it does matter.
People will take Beau’s word sooner than mine. But they can do nothing
to you, a girl at home. Mother would never put you on bread and water,
or shut you up in your room, or that sort of thing. You’ll have a jaw,
and that will be all. Now they would never let me off with a jaw. I
thought you’d be the first to say I should put it upon you, Jan.’

Once more Janet was silenced. She felt vaguely that to take it upon
herself and to have the blame thrown upon her by another were two
different things: but at the same time she felt the imputation of not
having put herself in the breach at once to defend her brother. She had
done so to her own consciousness, falteringly putting forth Charlie
Blackmore’s fib. But Tom did not know that, and he thought her
ungenerous, wanting to vindicate herself, not ready to screen him, so
that she was silenced on all sides of the question, and could not make
any stand. But in her heart Janet still felt the startling pang with
which she heard him make his excuse. No doubt there had been already
similar crises in her life: but she was no longer in the nursery age.
This made her less anxious for his company during the rest of his stay
before he went back to school, though Janet was staunch to his side, and
refused to breathe a word to his disadvantage, even during the serious
‘jaw’ which she received. Lady Car’s ‘jaw’ however was very mild. She
put her arm around the passively resisting girl, and talked to her of
what was a woman’s duty. ‘A sister is such a thing for a boy,’ she said.
‘Often when he will not listen to anybody with authority he will listen
to his sister; if, instead of going with him on wild expeditions, she
tries to persuade him the other way--rather to go with her.’

Janet listened with a great sense of wrong in her heart, but she
restrained everything that would harm Tom. All that she said was--

‘We went out merely for a ride, mother. We did not mean--to go
anywhere.’

‘I am willing to believe that, Janet,’ said Lady Car. And there the
incident ended, but not the effects of it. Nothing more followed indeed
till Tom had gone, but the next day after that, Janet, going to her
cousin’s at Dalrulzian, where she was allowed to ride alone upon the old
pony, suddenly came upon Charlie Blackmore walking along the road. She
recognised him with a leap of her heart. Oh, would he stop and talk? Oh,
what would he say to her and she to him? It was with terror, yet with a
thrill of pleasure as well, that Janet saw him start, as if he had
suddenly seen her, and stand still until she came up. He meant to keep
up the acquaintance it was clear.

‘Miss Torrance, I scarcely hoped I would have had this chance. It seemed
ower good to be true.’

‘Oh, yes, it is me,’ said Janet, embarrassed.

‘You need not tell me that; I saw it was you as far off as een could
carry,’ said Charlie, forgetting his dramatic start. ‘I hope you are
quite well; but I need not ask, for you’re blooming like any rose.’

Janet felt herself grow red in reply to this compliment. She knew that
she was usually pale, and did not bloom like the rose, but it was kind
of him to say so. She had a consciousness that in books girls had
generally things like this said to them, and she was not ill pleased.

‘I hope,’ said Charlie, ‘all passed off well, Miss Janet, yon night.’

‘Oh, yes,’ said Janet, ‘quite well.’

‘Mr. Tom never came back to bid us good-bye; and ’deed it was better
not, for there’s always a rabble of loose fellows about a stable-yard,
and he was just as well away. Young lads at his age are better to keep
out of mischief--as long as they can.’

‘Tom has gone back to school,’ said Janet demurely.

‘Dod,’ cried Charlie, ‘it’s a droll thing to hear of a lad going back to
school that’s man-grown like Mr. Tom. I had the care of all the beasts
on my hands at his age; but he’ll be going in for Parliament and that
kind o’ thing, and much learning, no doubt.’

‘Oh, no,’ said Janet; ‘he says it’s too much sap. He would like to be
with the horses best.’

‘And are you fond of horses too, Miss Janet?’ said Blackmore with an
ingratiating tone. ‘We’ve got a bonnie wee beast yonder that would just
do for you. If Mr. Tom were the master himsel’ I would ask his leave to
send it over to let you try it. It’s a bonnie little thing just fit for
your riding. But I daur not take such a liberty,’ said Charlie, ‘while
the auld folk are there.’

‘My mother is not old,’ said Janet with some indignation.

‘Na; not her ladyship; but there’s more than her. I would like to let
you see that little beastie, Miss Janet. Some day if I should be this
way with her--would you mount and try? You’re too good a rider for an
old brute like that.’

‘Oh, mother would not be pleased,’ cried Janet alarmed.

‘It would do her ladyship no harm, for she need never know.--I’ll take
my chance; if you will but say ye would like to see her.’

‘Oh----’ said Janet. But someone just then appeared on the road, and
Blackmore took off his hat and hurried away. The girl was much disturbed
by this encounter, but there was something in the little mystery of it
that pleased her. She went on to Dalrulzian with her heart beating a
little, thinking that Mr. Charlie was very kind. He was a man much
older than Tom--almost twice as old. And he was a handsome fellow in his
velvet coat, with a blue tie which was very becoming, and blue eyes
which seemed to say a great many things which confused Janet. Next day
she went out for a little along that quiet road with a faint
expectation, wondering if perhaps--it might be possible? and lo, there
was Charlie on horseback leading the most charming pony. He jumped off
his horse when he saw her, and fastening it to a tree, showed her all
the beauties of the other. ‘What ails ye to jump on,’ he said, ‘and I’ll
take ye for a ride, not far, nothing to tire you?’

‘Oh, I am not so easily tired,’ said Janet, her eyes lighting up, ‘but I
have no habit--and then mother----’

‘Her ladyship will be none the wiser,’ said Charlie, ‘and she knows I
would take good care of you. She would never mind.’

‘Do you think so?’ said the girl. And in a moment--it seemed but a
moment--she was pacing along by the side of the big horse, every
movement of which was restrained to harmony with her pony’s smaller
paces. Janet had been Tom’s victim to follow at his pace--to do what he
pleased. She had never before known the delight of being cared for,
considered as the first object. She rode for an hour by Blackmore’s
side, excited, delighted, half persuaded that she was a fairy princess,
with everything that was beautiful and pleasant made for her use.

This happened again and again, and nobody found it out. It was thought
at the Towers that she had taken to wandering in the woods in her
loneliness now that Tom had gone away, and though Lady Car remarked a
changing colour, and that Janet’s eyes sometimes were bright and
sometimes dreamy, yet nothing like suspicion of any secret ever crossed
her mind. No such thing entered the mind of anyone. And already the
household was full of preparations for going away, which absorbed
everybody. The first of October was the last day before the departure of
the family from the Towers, and Janet stole out unobserved as usual,
for her last ride. Never had the pony carried her so lightly; never had
the little escapade been so delightful: they came back slowly side by
side, lingering, unwilling to acknowledge that it was over. ‘I’ll keep
the pony for you, Miss Janet,’ said Blackmore. ‘Nobody shall touch her
but myself. She shall be kept like a lady, like the bonnie lady she
belongs to, till you come back.’

‘Oh, but Mr. Charlie,’ cried Janet, ‘you must not do that. They would
not let me buy her, and I’ll have no money of my own for a long
time--not for five years.’

‘Money!’ he cried; ‘did you suppose I was thinking of money? Ye do me
great injustice, Miss Janet--but it’s no fault of yours.’

‘Oh,’ she cried, ‘it was because you said she was mine. Now she cannot
be mine unless I buy her--and I cannot buy her. Oh, what have I said
wrong? I did not mean to say anything wrong.’

‘That I’m sure of,’ said Charlie, ‘and maybe you’re too young to
understand that the pony’s yours and her master’s yours, and not a penny
wanted--but something else.’

Janet was greatly bewildered by the look in his eyes. She glanced at
him, then turned her eyes away. She could not think what had happened.
He was not angry. He looked quite kind; almost more kind than ever. But
she could not look at him any more (she said to herself) than she could
look at the sun shining. He was leaning down towards her from his big
horse, and Janet felt very uncomfortable, confused, and distressed.

‘Oh, but you must not,’ she said--‘not keep her for me. It is very kind,
and I will never forget it, to let me ride her--and she is a delightful
pony. But I could not take her as a present, and I could not buy her,
and you must just--you must just--never mind, for I cannot help it. Oh,
I am afraid it has been all wrong,’ cried Janet, though she could not
tell why.

‘Not a bit,’ said Charlie Blackmore. ‘It’s been the happiest time I’ve
had all my life, and if you will never forget, as you say----’

‘How should I forget?’ said Janet. ‘You have been so very kind, and she
is the most delightful pony I ever saw. But please let us go home now,
for they will be sure to miss me, and everything is in a confusion; for
it is our last day.’

‘That’s just the very reason why I would like to keep you a little
longer,’ said Charlie; ‘for what am I to do after you’re gone? I will
just wait and think long till you come back. It’s a long, long time till
next year, and I’m feared you’ll never think more of me, or the pony,
when you’re gone.’

‘Oh yes I will, indeed I will,’ said Janet. ‘Oh, Mr. Charlie, let us get
back. I am afraid somebody will see us--and mother will be vexed.’

‘Well, if it must be so--here we are at the little gate,’ he said with a
sigh. He got off his horse and fastened it, and then lifted her off the
pony. ‘What are ye going to give me for my hire,’ he said, holding her
for a moment. ‘I’ve been a good groom to ye. Just a kiss for my pains
before you go.’

‘Oh!’ cried Janet, wrenching herself away. Fright and shame and anger
gave her wings. She darted in at the little gate which gave access to a
side path towards the back of the house, and fled without ever looking
back. But she had not gone far when she ran full upon Beaufort, who was
going tranquilly along across the park, just where the path debouched.
She was upon him before either of them perceived. Janet was flushed with
shame and terror, and her eyes full of tears. She gave a cry of alarm
when she saw who it was.

‘Janet! What’s the matter? You look as if something had happened.’

‘Oh!’ she cried, with a long breath. ‘It is nothing, Beau. I was only
frightened!’

‘Who frightened you?’ he said. ‘What’s the matter? Why, child, you are
trembling all over. Are you running from anyone?’

‘N---- no!’ said Janet, drawing herself away from his observation--and
it flashed into her guilty mind that she had passed some cows
peacefully grazing. ‘I was frightened--for the cows,’ she said.

‘The cows!’ It was greatly in Beaufort’s way that he was too much a
gentleman to be able to suggest to anyone, especially a lady, that what
she said was not true. He said with some severity, ‘I did not know you
were so nervous. You had better go at once to your mother. She has been
looking for you everywhere.’ He took off his hat in a grave way which
made Janet more ashamed than ever, and went on without even looking
back. She threw herself down on the grass when he was out of sight, and
cried in a wild tumult and passion which she herself did not understand.
Beau did not believe her. What did he think; what would he say? But this
was not what made Janet cry.

Mr. Beaufort walked on startled to the gate, and when he emerged upon
the road he saw someone riding off in the distance, a tall figure on a
tall horse, which he thought he recognised; for Charlie Blackmore was a
very well-known figure. The horseman was leading a pony with a lady’s
saddle. Beaufort did not put two and two together, being too much
bewildered by the suggestion of something mysterious that darted through
his mind. But he shook his head as he walked along, and said ‘Poor
Carry!’ under his breath.

Lady Car did not see Janet till she had bathed her eyes and calmed
herself down. She had not, however, quite effaced the traces of her
agitation. Her mother called her, and put an arm round her--‘Janet, I
can see you have been crying. Is it because you’re sorry to go away?’

‘Yes, mother,’ said Janet trembling.

‘It is very strange,’ said Lady Car, ‘and I am glad. Oh, I wish we could
feel alike, dear, you and I. I used to think a girl would always follow
her mother. The boy might take his own way, but the girl----. Why are
you so fond of the Towers, dear?’

Janet trembled, for she was not thinking of the Towers, nor was she
sorry, but only startled, and frightened, and confused. But she dared
not throw herself on her mother, and tell her what was in her mind. She
said dully, with a summoning of old artificial enthusiasms which would
not answer to her call, ‘I suppose it is because we were born here.’

‘Perhaps that is a reason,’ Carry said.

‘And then it’s father’s house, and it will be Tom’s,’ said the girl.

Her mother loosed her arm faintly with a sigh. ‘Yes, my dear, these are
all good reasons,’ she said, resuming her habitual gentle calm. She had
not been able to help making another little futile effort to draw her
child to herself. And it had not been successful, that was all she knew.
She could not have guessed with what tumultuous passion that young bosom
was beating, nor how difficult it had been for Janet to keep down her
agitation and say no more.



CHAPTER XIII


It was some years before the Towers was visited again. Tom went to
Oxford and had a not very fortunate career there, which gave his mother
a certain justification in resisting all attempts to take her back to
what she felt to be so ill-omened a house. Beaufort took the
common-sense part in these controversies. What did one house or another
matter? he said. Why should one be ill-omened more than another? As well
say that Oxford was ill-omened where Tom got into scrapes rather more
easily than he could have done elsewhere; indeed, even Easton, the most
peaceable place in the world, had not been without dangers for the
headstrong boy whose passions were so strong and his prudence so small.
A boy who is not to be trusted to keep his word, who cares only for his
own pleasure, who likes everything he ought not to like, and cares for
nothing that he ought, how should he be safe anywhere? Beaufort was too
polite to say all these things about Carry’s boy, but he tried his best
to persuade her that the discipline of having guests to entertain, and
the occupation of shooting--‘something to do,’ which is so essential for
every creature--would be the best things possible for Tom. Probably he
was right, and she injudicious. Who can tell beforehand what procedure
is the best? But poor Lady Car could not get out of her eyes Tom’s wild
aspect as he had burst into the hall on that dreadful evening across the
track of the procession going in to dinner. Peccadilloes of this kind
had since been kept out of her sight, and she had tried to convince
herself that it was the place and not the boy who had been in the wrong.
And Janet somehow had come to share her mother’s disinclination for the
Towers. Janet had received a letter, not long after her return to
Easton, which had plunged her into the deepest alarm; it had, indeed,
reached her innocently enough without any remark, being taken for a
letter from one of her cousins at Dalrulzian, but it frightened her more
than words could say. She had despatched a furtive note in reply,
imploring ‘Mr. Charlie’ not to write--oh, not to write any more!--and
promising eagerly not to forget either him or the pony if he only would
do what she asked, and not write again. And poor Janet had been on the
tenterhooks for a long time, terrified every day to see another missive
arrive. She could scarcely believe in her good fortune when she found
herself unmolested: but she was too much frightened to wish to return to
the Towers. And thus time went on, which is so much longer to the young
than it is to the old. Lady Car indeed was not old, but the children
were so determined on believing her so, and her life of disappointments
had been so heavy, that she fell very early into the passive stage. All
that she had done had been so ineffectual, the result had been so
completely unresponsive to her efforts; at least, it seemed the only
policy to accept everything, to attempt nothing. Life at Easton had
accordingly fallen into a somewhat dull but exceedingly comfortable
routine. Beaufort’s beautiful library was a place where he read the
papers, or a novel, or some other unfatiguing book. Sometimes his
studies were classical; that is to say, he went over his favourite bits
of classical authors, in delightful dilettantism, and felt that his
occupations were not frivolous, but the highest that could occupy the
mind. He was quite contented, though his life was not an eventful one.
He had, he said, no desire to shine. Sometimes he rode into Codalton to
the County Club; sometimes he went up to town to the Athenæum, to see
what was going on. His wife’s society was always pleasant to him in the
intervals. Nothing could be more agreeable, more smooth, and soft, and
refined, and pleasurable than his life; nothing more unlike the life of
high endeavour and power of which Lady Car had dreamed. Poor Lady Car!
She had dreamed of so many things which had come to nothing. And she had
much to make her happy: a serene and tranquil life; a husband full of
affection. Her son, indeed, was likely, people thought, to give her
trouble. No doubt she had reason to be anxious about her son. But,
happily, he was not dependent upon his own industry, nor was it of very
much importance to him to do well at college. A young man with a good
estate may sow his wild oats, and all be well. And this was the only
rumpled leaf in her bed of roses, people said.

She herself never disclosed to anybody what was in her inmost heart. She
had a smile for them all. The only matter in which she stood for her own
way was that question of going to Scotland--not there, not there! but
anywhere else--anything else. She fell into a sort of _petite santé_
during these years. She said she was not ill--not ill at all, only
languid and lazy; but gradually fell into the quiescent condition which
might be appropriate to a mother of seventy, but not to one of forty.
Tom and Janet did not see much difference between these ages, and as for
Beaufort, the subdued and gentle charm of his wife’s character was quite
appropriate to a cessation from active ventures. He liked her better
almost upon her sofa, or taking a quiet walk through the garden leaning
upon his arm, her wishes all confined within that peaceful enclosure,
happy to watch the moon rise and the sun set, and apparently caring for
nothing more. He talked to her of the light and shade, the breadth of
the quiet soft landscape, the stars in the sky, or about the new books,
and sometimes what was going on--everything he would have said. They
were spectators of the uneasy world, which rolled on as if they were
outside of it in some little Paradise of their own, watching how men
‘play such pranks before high heaven as make the angels weep.’ He was
fond of commenting on all this, on the futility of effort, on the way in
which people flung themselves against the impossible, trying to do what
no man could ever do, to affect the movement of the spheres. He would
smile at statesmen and philanthropists, and all kinds of restless
people, from his little throne on the lawn, looking out over the
peaceful landscape. And Lady Car would respond with a smile, with a
glance that often lingered upon him as he talked, and in which he
sometimes felt there was something which he did not quite understand.
But what could that be--that something that he did not understand? He
understood most things, and talked beautifully. He was the most perfect
gentleman; his every tone, his every thought was full of refinement. And
Lady Car was well pleased, who could doubt? to lie back in her deep
chair and listen. What happiness could a woman--a woman no longer young,
not in very good health, an idealist, a minor poet--what could she
desire more?

There came, however, a time when the claims of the Towers could no
longer be ignored. Tom came of age, and Lady Car could no longer combat
the necessity of going back to hold the necessary festivities and put
him in possession of his lands and his home. Tom had come altogether to
blows with his college and all its functionaries by this time, and had
been requested to remove himself from the University in a somewhat hasty
manner, which he declared loudly was very good fun, but did not perhaps
in his secret heart enjoy the joke of so much as he made appear--for he
had a great deal of that Scotch pride which cannot bear to fail, even
when he had done everything to bring the catastrophe about. He had not
met with many reproaches at home, for Lady Car was so convinced of the
great futility of anything she could say that, save for the ‘Oh, Tom!’
with which he was received, and the tear which made her eyes more lucid
than usual, she made no demonstration at all of her distress. Beaufort
looked very grave, but took little notice. ‘It was evident that this
must have come sooner or later,’ he said coldly, with a tone in which
Tom read contempt.

‘Why did you send me then,’ the young man cried, reddening sullenly,
‘if you knew that this was what must come?’

‘I suppose your mother sent you--because it is considered necessary for
a gentleman,’ Beaufort said.

‘And I suppose you mean I’m not one,’ cried Tom.

‘I never said so,’ his stepfather answered coldly. Janet seized upon her
brother’s arm and drew him away.

‘Oh, what is the good of quarrelling with Beau? Did you expect nobody
was to say a word?’ cried Janet.

‘Well,’ said Tom, ‘they can’t prevent me coming of age next year,
whatever they do: and then I should like to know, who will have any
right to say a word?’

‘Mother will always have a right to say whatever she pleases, Tom.’

‘Oh, mother!’ he said. Janet shook him by the arm she held. She cried
passionately--

‘I wouldn’t if it had been me. I shouldn’t have let anyone say that what
was needed for a gentleman was too much for me. Oh, I would have died
sooner!’ Janet said.

He shook her off with a muttered oath. ‘Much you know about
gentlemen--or ladies either. I know something of you that if I were to
tell mother----’

‘What?’ Janet cried, almost with a shriek.

‘Oh, I know--and if you don’t sing very small I’ll tell; but, mind, I’ll
not say Oh Den! like mother. I’ll turn you out of house and home if you
carry on with any fellow when you’re with me.’

‘What do you mean?’ said Janet: but her conscience was too much for her.
She could not maintain a bold front. The recollection came burning to
her cheeks, and brought a hot flood of tears to her eyes. ‘I only rode
the pony. I meant no harm. I didn’t know it was wrong. Oh Tom! Tom,
don’t tell mother,’ she cried.

‘You had better behave, then,’ said Tom, ‘and don’t think you can crow
over me. I’ve done nothing at all. It’s only those old saps that cannot
bear to see a young fellow having his fun.’

It was certainly a great contrast to the humiliated condition in which
he came home to think of all the immense preparations that were making
to do the young scapegrace honour. Very far from pointing a moral to
young men of Tom’s tastes was his triumphant coming of age after the
academical disgrace. No disgrace, however, can hinder a young man from
attaining his twenty-first birthday, nor change the universal custom
which makes that moment a period of congratulation and celebration, as
if it were by any virtue of his that the boy became a man. It occurred
to some of the family counsellors who had to be summoned for the great
occasion that, considering his past behaviour, Tom’s majority should be
passed over with as little merry-making as possible. But Beaufort once
more was the young fellow’s champion. He was not the sort of man to take
lightly the stigma of the University, and therefore he was listened to
with all the more attention. ‘I must repeat again,’ he said, ‘that
there is nothing in all this to prevent Tom from doing well enough in
his natural position. It might be ruin to some boys, but not to him. I
never expected him to do anything at Oxford, and I am not surprised at
what has happened. But everybody is not thinking of this as we are. A
great many people will never have heard of it, nor would they attach any
importance to it if they did hear. I have told you before, Carry, that
the best of women are unjust to boys. It is very natural that it should
be so. Even now, however, there is nothing to prevent Tom from doing
very well.’

‘The thing is that he seems to be getting a reward for his foolishness,
instead of any punishment,’ said Edith Erskine, who was, as she thought,
upholding her sister’s view. As for Carry herself, she had said nothing.
To discuss her boy’s follies was more than she was capable of. She could
not silence the others who spoke, but she only looked at them, she could
not speak.

‘He has been foolish at Oxford, and the authorities there have punished
him; but we have no right to put back the clock in his life, and keep
him out of his rights for anything he has done. I am sure that is what
his mother thinks----’

‘His mother has always been too indulgent, and this is what has come of
it,’ said old Lord Lindores, shaking his head. He would have sent Tom
off to Africa or somewhere with an unfortunate if highly paid
bear-leader from the University to keep him in order, if Tom would have
submitted on the verge of his lawful freedom to any such bondage; but
this his grandfather did not take into account. He shook his head over
Carry’s indulgence, and did not at all understand the look which she
turned upon him and in which there were unspeakable things. ‘You may be
angry if you please, my dear, but I must tell you my opinion. The boy
has been spoilt all along. He is not of a nature to stand it; he wanted
a vigorous hand over him. You should have remembered the stock of which
he came.’

Lady Car looked at her father with a light in her mild eyes such as no
one could remember to have seen there before. ‘Why was my boy of that
stock?’ she said, in a voice which was very low, but full of a passion
that could not be restrained. Her mother and sister started with one
impulse to stop further utterance. ‘Carry!’ they cried.

‘What? What did she say?’ cried Lord Lindores; but neither Carry nor any
of the others repeated what she had said.

After this strange little scene there was, however, no more said about
Tom’s coming of age, which they could not have kept back if they would.
But all kinds of preparations were made to make the celebration worthy,
if not of Tom, yet of the position which he ought to take in the county
so far as wealth went. His long minority, and the scrupulous care with
which both his estate and his money had been managed, made Tom one of
the richest commoners in Scotland, the very richest perhaps whose income
came from property alone, and not from trade; and though the county did
not recollect his father with very particular regard, nor anticipate
very much from himself--for everybody knew those unsatisfactory points
in Tom’s history which it was hoped had attracted no observation--yet
Lady Car had gained all respect, and for her sake, and perhaps a little
for their own amusement, the neighbours threw themselves readily into
all the details of the feastings, and drank his health, and wished him
joy, with every appearance of friendliness and sincerity. And there were
many ladies heard to declare that a good wife would just be the making
of the young man. Perhaps this sentiment as much as respect for Lady Car
made the county people warm in their sympathy. There were a great many
young ladies in the county; it might very well happen that one of these
was destined by Providence to be the making of the second Tom Torrance
of the Towers. And the parents who thought, with a softened
consideration of all the circumstances that had been against him, that a
daughter of theirs might perhaps have that mission to fulfil, had
certainly much less to tolerate and forgive than Lord Lindores had when
he married his daughter to Tom’s father. Therefore everybody accepted
the invitations that were sent out, and for a week the house blazed with
light and rang with festive sounds, and life stirred and quickened
throughout the entire neighbourhood. The long interregnum was over, and
Tom had come into his kingdom.

Happily an event of this kind exercises a certain influence on all
minds. Perhaps Lady Car allowed herself to be moved by her husband’s
optimism, and was able with him to believe that Tom might do very well
notwithstanding his youthful indiscretions; perhaps it was only that
mild and indulgent despair which had taken possession of her inmost
soul, and which made it evident that nothing that could be done by her
would affect her boy, and that all she was now good for was to tolerate
and forgive; but at least she presided over all the rejoicings with
apparent pleasure, sparing no fatigue, thinking of everything, resuming
to a wonderful extent the more active habits of former years. And
Beaufort played to perfection the _rôle_ of the _père noble_, the
dignified disinterested paternal guardian giving his support and
countenance to the novice without ever interfering with his pretensions
as the real master of the house. Indeed Beaufort, with his fastidious
superiority, had much greater influence over Tom than his mother had,
and overawed him as no one else was capable of doing; so that everything
went well during this great era, and the young Laird appeared to the
best advantage, making those parents of daughters say to each other that
really there was nothing that May or Beatrice need object to. Such birds
of prey as hung about the horizon even in these moral regions perhaps
sharpened their beaks--but that was out of sight. And the only one of
the party who did not wear a guise of happiness was Janet, about whom
there hung a nervous haze of suppressed feeling altogether alien to her
character and which no one could fathom. Perhaps it would have been
more comprehensible had anyone heard the occasional word which now and
then dropped from Tom, and which he repeated with a mischievous boy’s
pleasure in the trouble he could create. ‘Are you going on the pony
to-day?’ he would ask in Lady Car’s presence, with a significant look
and laugh. ‘Are you off for the East road?’ No one but Janet knew what
he meant. He threw these stones at her, out of the very height of his
own triumph. And Janet dared scarcely go out, even in the protection of
her mother’s company, lest she should see Charlie Blackmore turning
reproachful eyes upon her. He did pass the carriage on one occasion and
took off his hat, but the salutation was so universal that no one noted
who the individual was: and Janet alone saw the look. Yet even for Janet
nothing disagreeable happened during these eight days.



CHAPTER XIV


Lady Car had done too much, the doctor said. The last dinner had been
given; the last guest had departed, and life at the Towers was about to
begin under its new aspect--a changed aspect, and one which those of the
spectators who were free from any personal feeling on the subject
regarded with some curiosity. How was Tom to assume his new position as
head of the house in presence of his mother and stepfather? Were they to
remain there as his guests? Were they to leave along with the other
visitors? Tom himself had fully made up his mind on this subject. He was
indeed a little nervous about what Beau would say, and kept his eyes
steadily away from that gentleman when he made his little announcement,
which was done at breakfast on the first morning after the family party
was left alone. It must be premised that Tom’s birthday was in the end
of July, and that by this time August had begun.

‘I say, mother,’ Tom said. He gave a glance round to make quite sure
that the newspaper widely unfolded made a screen between himself and
Beau. ‘I mean to go in for the grouse this year on the Patullo moor.’

‘I have always heard it was too small for such sport,’ said Lady Car.

‘Oh, I don’t know that. You never would let me try. The keepers have had
it all to themselves, and I daresay they’ve made a good thing out of it.
But this year I’m going to make a change. I’ve asked a lot of fellows
for the 12th.’

‘You are losing no time, Tom. I am glad to find you are so hospitable,’
said his mother.

‘Oh, hospitable be hanged! I want to have some fun,’ said the young
master. ‘And I say, mother’--he gave another glance at the newspaper
which was still opened out in front of his stepfather. And Beau had made
no remark. ‘Mother, I say, I don’t want, you know, to hurry you; but a
lot of fellows together are sometimes a bit rowdy. I mean, you know, you
mightn’t perhaps like---- You’re so awfully quiet at Easton. I mean, you
know----’

‘That you want us to leave the Towers, Tom.’

‘Oh, I don’t go so far as that. I only meant---- Why, mother, don’t you
know? It’s all different. It’s--not the same kind of thing--it’s----’

‘I understand,’ she said, in her quiet tones, and with her usual smile.
‘We had taken thought for that. Edward, we had spoken of going--when was
it?’

‘To-morrow,’ said Beaufort, behind his paper. ‘That’s all settled. I had
meant to tell you this morning, Tom. No need to have been in such a
hurry; you know your mother is not fond of the Towers.’

‘I didn’t mean that there was any hurry,’ cried Tom, very red.

‘Perhaps not, my boy, but it looks like it. However, we’re both of one
mind, which is convenient. The only thing that is wanted is a Bradshaw,
for we had not settled yet about the trains.’

‘To-morrow’s awfully soon. I hope you won’t go to-morrow, mother. I
never thought you’d move before a week at the soonest. I say! I’ll be
left all alone here if you go to-morrow,’ Tom cried. But Beaufort took
no notice of his remonstrance, and got his Bradshaw, and made out his
plans as if it had been the most natural thing in the world. A few hours
after, however, Lady Car, who had allowed that she was tired after the
racket of the past week, was found to have fainted without giving any
sign of such intentions. It was Janet who found her lying insensible on
her sofa, and as the girl thought dead. Janet flew downstairs for help,
and meeting her brother, cried, ‘You have killed mother!’ as she darted
past. And the alarm and horror of the household was great. Tom himself
galloped off for the doctor at the most breakneck pace, and in great
compunction and remorse. But the doctor was, on the whole, reassuring
when he came. He pronounced the patient, who had by that time come to
herself and was just as usual, though a trifle paler, to be overdone,
which was very well explained by all that she had been going through,
and the unusual strain upon her--and pronounced her unfit for so long a
journey so soon. When, however, Beaufort informed him that the Towers
had never agreed with his wife--an intimation at which the doctor, who
knew much better than Beaufort did what the Towers had been to poor Lady
Car, nodded his head understandingly--he suggested breaking the journey.
And this was how it happened that the family went to St. Andrews, where
many things were to happen which no one had foreseen. Tom, still
compunctious, and as tender as it was possible for him to be, and unable
to persuade himself that he was not to blame for his mother’s illness,
as well as much overwhelmed by the prospect of being left entirely to
his own company for nearly a fortnight, accompanied the party to that
place. He thought he would take a look at the golf, and at least would
find it easier to get rid of a few days there than alone in his own
house. To do him justice he was a little anxious about his mother, too.
To think that you have killed your mother, or even have been
instrumental in killing her, is not a pleasant thought.

Lady Car got quickly well amid the sea breezes. They got her a house on
the cliff, where from her sofa she could look out upon the sea, and all
the lights and shades on the Forfar coast, and the shadows of the far
distant ships like specks on the horizon, like hopes (she thought),
always appearing afar, passing away, never near enough to be possible.
She floated away from all acute pain as she lay recovering, and
recovered, too, her beloved gift of verse, and made a very charming, but
sad, little poem called ‘Sails on the Horizon,’ expressing this idea.
Lady Car thought to herself, as she lay there, that her hopes had all
been like that, far away, just within sight, passing without an
approach, without a possibility of coming near. None of these ships ever
changed their course or drew near St. Andrews Bay: yet the white distant
sail would hang upon the horizon line as if it might turn its helm at
any moment and come. And hope had come only so to Carry--never to stay,
only in the distance. In the quiet of convalescence and of that profound
immeasurable despair which took the form of perfect peace, that
renunciation of all that she had wished for on earth, it was a pleasure
for her to put that conceit into words. It was only a conceit, she was
aware.

Presently she became able to go out, to be drawn in a chair along the
sands, or away in the other direction to the line of the eastern coast,
with all its curious rocks and coves. About ten days after her arrival
in St. Andrews Lady Car made one of those expeditions accompanied by
Beaufort and Janet. They took her in her little vehicle as far as it
would go, and then she walked a little down to the shore, to a spot
which she recollected in her youth, where a grassy bank of the close
short seaside grass bordered a ridge of broken rocks higher than the
level of the beach. Over this line of rock there was a wonderful view of
the little town isolated upon its headland, with the fine cluster of the
ruined cathedral, the high square tower of St. Rule, the grey heap of
the destroyed castle, and the little port below, set in the shining sea;
and great breadths of the blue firmament banded with lines of pearly
cloud. Here Carry sat down to rest while her companions went further
along the coast to the curious little bay with its bristling rocks,
where stands the famous Spindle, left among the seapools by some
gigantic Norma of the North. The wide air, the great sky, the sense of
space and freshness, and separation from all intrusive things; and, on
the other hand, the picture made by that cluster of human habitations
and ancient work of man defaced and worn, standing in the rays of the
afternoon sun, which streamed over it from the west, made a perfect
combination. The ridge of red rocks and piled stones which cut off all
vulgarities of the foreground and relieved it in warm colour against the
grey headland and the wonderful blue sea, shut in Lady Car’s retreat,
though the coast road wound on behind her, communicating by a rocky
passage, almost like a stair, with the sands below. Lady Car seated
herself upon the grass. She did not care even to sketch; all her old
pursuits had dropped from her. She was content to sit still, with her
eyes more often upon the wide line of the horizon than on any
intermediate point, however attractive. There was a sort of luxury of
the soul in that width of stainless silent air, which required nothing,
not even thought, but filled her with a faint yet exquisite sense of
calm. The peace of God--did she dare to call it so? Certainly it passed
understanding. That she should sit in this beatitude in a calm so
complete, with so many--oh, so many--things to make her anxious and to
make her sad. Still so it was.

She did not know how long she had sat there in that wide universe of
sea and sky, when her attention was first called to voices underneath
the ridge of rock. The sands beyond were on a lower level, and it might
well be that people underneath might discuss the most private affairs
without any thought of possible listeners above. Carry had heard the
murmur of the voices for some time before she took any heed of them, or
distinguished one from another. These tones she presently observed were
very unlike the peace all around: there was a sound of conflict in them,
and now and then a broken note as if the woman sobbed. For it was
apparent at once that the two were a man and woman, and soon that there
was some controversy between them. When Lady Car began to awaken out of
her dream of calm to become aware of these two people below and the
discussion or quarrel which was every moment increasing in intensity,
she did not perhaps know how to make her presence known, or rather,
perhaps, it was something in the sound of one of the voices which
bewildered and confused her. At first she thought with a vague trouble
it was a voice she knew. Then she started from her grassy seat with a
horrible sensation, as if she were hearing over again, though not
addressed to herself, one of those mocking, threatening, insulting
floods of words which had once been the terror of her life. Torrance!
Had she lived to hear him speak again? She had escaped from all
imagination of him in this beautiful and distant scene. What was it that
like a terrible wind of recollection, like an hour come back from the
miserable past, made her hear his voice again?

She had risen up in her dismay and alarm, almost with an impulse of
flight, to get out of his way, lest he should find her again, when an
impression almost more terrible still made her pause and hold her
throbbing breast with both her hands. She turned her face towards the
rock with a faint cry, and sank down again upon the grass. There could
be no doubt that it was a man speaking to a woman over whom he had
almost absolute power, a husband to a wife--or perhaps--but Carry knew
no other relationship than that which permitted such tones, and when her
first irrational panic was over, she became aware that it was the voice
of Tom.

To whom was he speaking? She did not ask what he was saying. She could
not hear the words, but she knew them. A woman who has once borne such a
storm recognises it again. To whom could Tom speak in that voice of the
supreme?--mocking, threatening, pouring forth abuse and wrath. To whom
did the boy dare to speak so? He had no wife.

The voices grow louder; the two seem to be parting; the man hurrying
away, discharging a volley at his companion as he left her, the woman
weeping, following, calling him back. Lady Car sat breathless, her
terrified eyes fixed on the path behind, up which she heard him coming.
‘Go back, I tell you; I have nothing more to say to you,’ he cried.

His countenance, flushed with rage, appearing above the edge of the
rocks, while he half-turned back, waving the other away--brought
confirmation certain of Lady Car’s fears. She rose again and made a step
towards him, tottering in every limb, as in other days, when his father
had beaten her to the ground with such another torrent. But to whom, to
whom was the boy speaking? She cried out in a voice of anguish, ‘Tom!’

He started in his turn so violently that he stumbled on the rocks and
almost fell. ‘Mother!’ he cried instinctively. Then turned round with a
hoarse roar of ‘Back! back!’ cursing himself for that betrayal.

‘Tom, what is it? to whom were you speaking?--answer me! To whom did you
dare to speak like that?’

‘What are you doing here?’ he said. ‘Listening! I never knew you do that
before, mother--come along! this isn’t a place for you.’

‘To whom were you speaking, Tom?’

‘Me! I was speaking to nobody; there’s some sweethearts or something
carrying on down there. I don’t meddle with what is none of my
concerns. Come along! I am not going to leave you here.’

He seized her arm to draw her away, and Lady Car saw that his rage had
turned to tremor. He looked at her from under his lowering eyebrows with
that fierce panic which is sometimes in the eyes of a terrified dog
ready to fly at and rend anyone in wild truculence of fear.

‘I am not going from here till my husband comes for me--nor till I know
what this means,’ said Lady Car. She was trembling all over, and her
heart so beating that every wild throb shook her frame. But she was not
afraid of her son’s violence. And other steps were drawing near. As Lady
Car leaned upon a corner of the rock supporting herself, there gradually
appeared up the ascent a young woman in very fine, but flimsy attire,
her face flushed with crying and quarrelling, dabbing her cheeks with a
handkerchief like a ball all gathered up in her hand. The impression of
bright colour and holiday dress so inconsistent with the violent scene
through which she had been passing, and the probable tragical
circumstances in which the unhappy girl stood, threw a sort of grotesque
misery into the midst of the horror.

‘Oh!’ cried the new comer, ‘he called you his mother, he did! If you are
his mother, it’s you most as I ought to see.’

‘Hold your cursed tongue,’ cried Tom beside himself, ‘and get off with
you! I’ve told you so before. You’re not fit to speak to my----to a
lady. Go! go.’

‘You think it grand to say that,’ cried the girl, evidently emboldened
by the presence of a third party, ‘but you may just give it up. I’m not
ashamed to speak to any lady. I’ve done nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve
got my marriage lines to show, and my wedding ring on my finger. Look at
that, ma’am,’ she cried, dragging a glove off a red and swollen hand. It
was with tears, and trouble, and excitement that she was so swollen and
red. She thrust her hand with indeed a wedding ring upon it in Lady
Car’s face. ‘Look at that, ma’am; there can’t be no mistake about
that.’

‘I must sit down; I cannot stand,’ said Carry. ‘Come here, if you
please, and tell me who you are.’

‘She’s not fit to come where you are. I told you to go,’ said Tom. ‘Go,
and I’ll send somebody to settle--you’ve no business here.’

‘If she’s your mother, Frank, I won’t deceive nobody. I’m Mrs. Francis
Lindores, and I’ve got my marriage lines to show for it. I’m not ashamed
to look anybody in the face. I’ve got my marriage li----’

‘Mrs.---- what?’ said Lady Car.

‘Mrs. Francis Lindores. I never thought but what he meant honourable,
and my own mother was at the wedding and everything right. He wants to
say now that it’s no marriage; but it is--it is. It’s in the register
all right where we signed in the vestry. Oh Frank, I know you’re only
talking to frighten me, but your mother will make it all right.’

Lady Car and her son exchanged but one glance--on her part, a look of
anguished inquiry searching his face for confirmation of this
tremendous statement--on his, the look of a fierce but whipped hound,
ready to tear anyone asunder that came near him, yet abject in conscious
guilt. The mother put her hand to her breast as if to hide where the
bullet had gone in. She said in a voice interrupted by her quickened
breathing,

‘Excuse me a little, I am not very well: but tell me everything--tell me
the truth. Did you say that you were----married to this young
gentleman?’

‘She’ll say anything,’ cried Tom hoarsely. ‘She’ll swear anything. She’s
not fit to come near you. Go away, I tell you, curse you--you shall have
everything you want if you go away.’

‘Be silent, Tom; at present she has me, not you, to answer. Tell me----
’

‘You call him Tom,’ said the young woman with surprise; ‘it’s perhaps a
pet name--for his real name is Frank Lindores: and that’s on my cards
that I got printed--and that’s who I am: and I can bring witnesses. My
marriage lines, I’ve got ’em in the hotel where I’m staying. If you’re
his mother, I’m his wife, and he can’t deny it. Oh, Frank! the lady
looks kind. Don’t deny it, don’t deny it! She’ll forgive you. Don’t deny
the truth.’

‘The truth,’ cried Tom, forgetting himself in his heat. ‘You can see how
much truth is in it by the name she tells you--and I wasn’t of age till
last week,’ cried the precocious ruffian, with a laugh which again was
like the fierce bark of the whipped hound.

All Lady Car’s senses had come back to her in the shock of this horror.
‘You married her--in the name of Francis Lindores--thinking _that_, and
that you were under age would make it void. If you’ve anything to say
that I should not believe this, say it quick, Tom--lest I should die
first and think my boy a----’

She leant back her pale head against the rocks, and one of those spasms
passed over her which had already scared the household at the Towers:
but the superior poignancy of the mental anguish kept Lady Car from
complete unconsciousness. She heard their voices vaguely contending
through the half-trance: then slowly the light came back to her eyes.
The young woman was kneeling beside her with a vinaigrette in her hot
hand. ‘Oh, smell at this, do! it’s the best thing in the world for a
faint. Oh, poor lady! I wish I had never said a word rather than make
her so bad!’

Lady Car opened her eyes to see the stranger kneeling with an anxious
face by her side, while Tom stood, lowering, looking on. It crossed her
mind that perhaps the boy would have been glad had she died, and this
disclosure been buried with her. The stab of this thought was so keen
that she came completely to herself, restored by that sharp remedy of
superior pain.

‘I do not think she is bad,’ she said faintly. ‘I think she has an
honest face. Tom, is that true?’

‘It’s all a piece of nonsense, mother, as I told you. It was just to
please her. She was not too particular--to have the show of a wedding,
that was all. She knew very well----’

The girl struggled to her feet. She seized him by the arm and shook him
in her passion.

‘I’ll tear your eyes out,’ she cried, ‘if you speak like that of me! Oh,
lady! we’re married as safe as any clergyman could marry two people.’

‘You fool!’ cried Tom, ‘there’s no such person as Frank Lindores. And I
wasn’t of age.’

The young woman looked at him for a moment confounded. The colour left
her excited face, she stood staring as if unable to comprehend, then, as
her senses came back to her, burst into a loud fit of sobbing and
crying, throwing herself down on the grass. ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ she cried,
sobbing and rocking herself. ‘Oh, whatever shall I do? Oh, what will
become of mother?’ Then rising suddenly to her knees she caught Lady
Car’s dress. ‘Oh, lady, lady! you’ve got a kind face; do something for
me; make him do me justice; make him, make him----oh, my God, listen to
him!’ cried the girl, for Tom, in the horrible triumph he thought he had
gained, was pealing forth a harsh laugh--a sort of tempest tone of
exultation over the two helpless women at his feet.

Beaufort, with Janet at a little distance behind him, came suddenly upon
this strange scene. He thought at first that his wife was ill, and
hurried forward anxiously, asking, ‘What is the matter?’ He saw Carry
pale as death, her mouth drawn, her eyes dilated, leaning back against
the rocks, holding the hand of a girl unknown who knelt beside her,
while Tom, who had laughed, stood over the pair with still that
mirthless grimace distending his lips.

‘Edward,’ Lady Car said, ‘I have something to ask you; something at
once, before you ask me a question. A marriage under a false name--is
that no marriage? Tell me--tell me quick, quick!’

‘What a strange question!’ he said. ‘But I know nothing about marriages
in Scotland. You know people say----’

‘It was not in Scotland. Quick, quick!’

‘A marriage--when a false name is given?--meaning to deceive?’

She said ‘Yes’ with her lips without any sound, a faint flame as of
shame passing over the whiteness of her face. Tom thrust his hands into
his pockets and screwed his mouth as if he would have whistled, but no
sound came. The girl faced round, always upon her knees, a strange
intruder into that strange group, and stared at Beaufort as if he had
been a god.

‘I don’t understand why you should ask me such a question. The marriage
is good enough. The law doesn’t permit----’

‘Not if the man is under age?’

‘He can be imprisoned for perjury if he has sworn he is of age--as some
fools do; but what in the world can you want with such information as
that?’

‘Edward,’ said Lady Car with some difficulty, her throat and lips being
so dry, ‘this is Tom’s wife.’



CHAPTER XV


She never knew how she was taken home. A horrible dream of
half-conscious misery, of dreadful movement when all she wanted was to
lie down and be still, of a confusion of sights and sounds, things dimly
seen in strange unnatural motion, voices all broken into one bewildering
hum, always that sense of being taken somewhere where she did not want
to go, when quiet and silence was all she desired, interposed between
the rocky plateau of the shore, and her room, in which she opened her
eyes in the evening in the waning light to find Janet and her maid by
her bedside, her windows wide open to admit the air, and Beaufort in
consultation with the doctor at the other end of the room. She had
opened her eyes for a minute or two before everything settled into its
place, and she perceived fully where she was. She lay in great weakness,
but no pain, remembering nothing, feeling the soft all-enveloping peace
which had been round her like a mantle, covering all her wounds again.
‘Are you there, my Den: and is that Edward?’ she said. And it was not
till some time after, till the soft shaded lights were lit in the room
and all quiet, and Beaufort seated by her bedside reading to her, that
she suddenly remembered what had passed. She put out her thin hand and
grasped him by the arm. ‘Edward, was that true?’

‘What, Carry? Nothing has happened but that you have been ill a little,
and now you are better, my love, and you must be quiet, very quiet.’

‘It _is_ true,’ she said, with her fingers clasping his arm. ‘My son did
that; _my_ son.’

‘It is put all right,’ said Beaufort; ‘there is no deadly wrong done.
And the girl is very young; she can be trained. Carry, my love!’

‘Yes, I know. I must keep quiet, and I will. I can put everything out
of my thoughts now. God has given me the power. But he meant _that_,
Edward.’

‘God knows what he meant,’ said Beaufort. ‘He did not realise. Half the
harm these boys do is that they never realise--’

‘You say women are often unjust. Would men--look over that?’

He got up from his chair and put down his book. ‘You must not question
me,’ he said, ‘you must not think of it at all. Put it out of your
thoughts altogether, my dear love. You must think of the rest of us--of
me, and poor little Janet.’ He added, after a moment, ‘no one need ever
know.’

Certainly Beaufort was very kind. He behaved in all this like a true
gentleman and true lover. He would have plucked out altogether the sting
of that great wound had it been possible, and he was quite unaware of
the other stings he had himself planted undermining her strength. She
looked up at him, lying there in her weakness, with her beautiful smile
coming back, the smile which was so soft, so indulgent, so tender, so
all-forgiving, the smile that meant despair. What could she do more,
that gentle, shipwrecked creature, unable to contend with the wild seas
and billows that went over her head? What had she ever been able to do?

Janet, who did not know what was the meaning of it all, but had vague
horrible fancies about Tom which she could not clear up, went out next
day by herself in the bright August morning to get a little air. She had
enough of her mother in her to like the sound of the sea, and to be
soothed by it. And the half-comprehended incidents of the previous night
and the alarm about Lady Car’s state had shaken Janet. She thought, with
the simplicity of her age, that perhaps if she went away a little, was
absent for an hour or so from the room, that her mother would not look
so pale when she came back, and Lady Car’s smile went to Janet’s heart.
It was too like an angel’s, she thought to herself. A living woman ought
not to be too like an angel. Her eyes kept filling with tears as she
wandered along looking out upon the sea. But gradually the bright air
and the light that was in the atmosphere and the warmth of the sunshine
stole into Janet’s heart and dried the tears in her eyes. She went into
the green enclosure of the ruined castle and sat down upon the old wall
looking out to sea. She could see the place where she and Beau had come
upon that strange group among the rocks. She had not made out yet what
it meant.

As she sat there gazing out and lost in her own thoughts and wonderings,
a voice suddenly sounded at her ear which made her start--‘Oh, my bonnie
Miss Janet,’ it said, ‘have I found you at last!’ Janet turned slowly
round aghast. The colour forsook her face, and all strength seemed to
die out of her. She had known it would come one time or other. She had
steeled herself for such a meeting every time she had been compelled to
leave the shelter of the Towers; but now that she was far away, in a
place which had no association with him, surely--surely she should have
been safe now. And yet she had known beforehand, always known that some
time this would come. His voice sank into her soul, taking away all her
strength and courage. What hold Janet supposed this man to have over her
who could tell? She feared him as if he had it in his power to carry her
away against her will or do some dreadful harm. The imagination of a
girl has wild and causeless panics as well as gracious visions. She
trembled before this man with a terror which she did not attempt to
account for. She turned round slowly a panic-stricken, colourless face.

‘Why, what is the matter with you, my bonnie little lady? Are ye feared
for me?’

‘Oh, Mr. Charlie,’ said Janet, ‘don’t speak to me here. If anybody were
to see you! And mother--mother is in great trouble already. Oh, don’t
speak to me here!’

‘Do you mean you will speak to me in some other place? I’m well content
if ye’ll do that--some place where we will be more private, by
ourselves. Ye may be sure that’s what I would like best.’

‘I did not mean that,’ said Janet in great distress. ‘Oh, Mr. Charlie,
don’t speak to me at all! I am very unhappy--already.’

‘It will not make you more unhappy to speak to an old friend like me.
And who has made you unhappy, my bonnie lady? I wish I had the paying of
him. It’ll be that loon of a brother of yours.’

‘How dare you speak so of my brother?’ cried Janet with momentary
energy, and then she began to cry, unable to restrain herself in her
agitation. ‘Oh, go away! If you please, will you go away?’

‘And do you want to hear no more of the pony?’ said Charlie Blackmore.
‘She’s as bonny a little beast as ever stepped, and fit to carry a
princess--or Miss Janet Torrance. I’ve kept my word. She’s just been
bred like a princess, without doing a day’s work. I’ve kept her, as I
said I would for you.’

‘Oh, I hope you do not mean that,’ cried Janet. ‘Oh, Mr. Charlie, I hope
it was not my fault! I was very, very young then, and I did not know
there was any harm in it. Oh, I hope you have not kept her for me!’

‘What harm was there in it?’ he said, putting his hand on her arm, which
Janet drew away as if his touch had been fire. ‘Come now, Miss Janet,
you must be reasonable. There was no harm in it more than there is in a
little crack by ourselves, between you and me.’

Janet shrank into the corner of the seat away from him. ‘There was
harm,’ she said, ‘for I never told mother; and there is harm now, for if
anyone I knew were to come here and see us I would die of shame.’

‘No, my bonnie lady, you would not die; that’s too strong,’ said
Blackmore. ‘And do you know it’s not civil to draw away like that. When
we met in the East road you were not so frightened. You gave me many a
glint of your eyes then, and many a pleasant word. And do you mind the
long rides we had, and you as sorry when they were over as me? And the
miles that I rode to bring you the pony and give you pleasure, though
you turn from me now?’

‘You were very kind, Mr Charlie,’ said Janet in a trembling voice.

‘I am not saying I was kind. I would not have done it if I had not liked
it. But you were kind then, Miss Janet, and you’re not kind now.’

‘I was only a child,’ Janet cried; ‘I never thought. I know now it was
very silly--oh, more than silly. If I beg your pardon, oh, Mr. Charlie,
will you forgive me, and--leave me alone?’

‘And what if that was to break my heart?’ he said.

‘Break your heart! Why should it do that? Oh, no, no, it would not do
that; you are only laughing----’

‘Me laughing! What if I had taken a fancy, then, for a bit small girl,
and set my heart upon her, but kept out of the way for years not to see
the bonnie little thing till now that you’re woman grown and
understand? And all you say is to ask me to leave you alone? Is that a
kind thing to say?’

‘Mr Charlie,’ said Janet desperately, ‘I can hear by your voice that you
are not in earnest; and as for taking a fancy, I was only a child, and
that could mean nothing. And the whole of it was just--just sport to you
and it is for a joke you’re doing it now.’

‘Joke! it’s no joke,’ he said. ‘I know what you think; you think I’m not
gentleman enough for you. But I’ll have plenty of money, and your
father, if he had lived, would not have turned me from his door. Hallo!
who’s there?’ he cried, starting up as some one hit him sharply on the
shoulder. Janet, looking up in fresh alarm, felt a mingled rush of
terror and relief when she saw over Blackmore’s head the lowering
countenance of Tom.

‘I say, Charlie get out of that,’ said Tom. ‘I’m not going to stand this
sort of thing, you know. I may be going to the dogs myself, but my
sister shan’t. Be off, I tell you, and leave her alone.’

‘Am I the dogs, Mr. Tom? No such black dogs as you’re going to, my
friend. Keep your good advice to yourself, and don’t intrude where you
are not wanted. We can manage our affairs without you.’

‘By Jove!’ cried Tom, ‘if you speak another word to my sister, I’ll
pitch you over the cliff!’

Blackmore began to laugh with an exasperating contempt--contempt which
exasperated Janet, though Tom too had touched the same note of the
intolerable. She sprang up hastily, putting out her arm between them.
‘You are two men,’ she said, ‘but Tom is not much more than a boy, and
you are quarrelling about me that wants nothing in the world so much as
to get away from both of you. Do you hear me? I would not vex mother,’
Janet cried, ‘for all the men in the world. Oh, can’t you see that you
are like two fools wrangling over me?’

‘Let him take himself off, then,’ said Tom.

‘And let him hold his tongue, the confounded young scamp!’ cried the
other, ‘that dares to challenge me--when he knows I could lick him
within an inch of his life.’

Tom was half mad with disappointment and humiliation. He was very proud
in his way, with the mingled pride of the peasant and the _nouveau
riche_, the millionaire and the (Scotch) clown. He had meant, after he
had ‘had his fun,’ to have settled down when his time came, and to have
married a lady like his mother. Without imagination, or sense, or
principle, or restraint of honour, he had pursued his reckless career,
too precipitate and eager in pursuit of pleasure to leave time to think,
even if he had been able to think. The abominable treachery of which he
had intended to be guilty had not touched his conscience, not having
appeared to his obtuse understanding as anything worse than many
‘dodges’ which other fellows adopted to get what they wanted. And it was
with a rage and humiliation unspeakable that he found himself--he, the
son of the man who had married Lady Caroline Lindores, married in his
turn to a girl from a little Oxford shop, a little shopgirl, a common
little flirt, less than nobody, not so good by ever so many grades as
his mother’s maid. To find that he had married her when he meant only to
deceive her, and made her mistress of the Towers, which was as Windsor
Castle to Tom, and put her in the place of Lady Car, was gall and
bitterness to him. His conscience had given him little trouble, but his
wounded pride, his mortification, his humiliation were torture to him.
He had come out raging with these furious pangs, eager to find
something, anything, with which he could fight and assuage his burning
wrath. To pitch Charlie Blackmore over the cliffs, even to be pitched
over them himself, and roll down the sharp rocks and plunge in the cold
sea beneath, he felt as though it would be a relief from the gnawing and
the rage within.

‘Come on, then!’ he cried, furious; ‘I’ll take no licking from any man,
if he were Goliath. Come on!’

‘Mr. Charlie,’ cried Janet, putting out her hands, ‘if it’s true, you
may do one thing for me. One thing I ask you to do as if you were the
best gentleman in the world, and I will think you so if you will do it:
leave me to him and him to me. And good-bye; and neither say you like us
nor hate us, but just go--oh go! Do you hear me?’ she said, stamping her
foot. ‘I ask you as a gentleman.’ She had caught her brother by the arm
and held him while she waved the other away.

‘That’s a strong argument,’ said Blackmore. He was moved by what she
said, and also by common sense which told him his suit was folly. ‘If
we’re fools, you’re none, Miss Janet Torrance,’ he said with a laugh,
‘which is more than I thought. What! am I to turn my back upon a man
that’s clenching his neives at me? Well, maybe you’re right! There’s
none in the county will think Charlie Blackmore stands in fear of Tom
Torrance. Yes, missie, you shall have your will. I’m going--good-bye to
both him and you.’

‘Do you think I’ll let the fellow go like that?’ cried Tom, making a
step after him, but perhaps his fury fell at the sight of the might and
strength of the retiring champion--perhaps it was only the wretchedness
in his mind that fell from the burning to the freezing point. He sat
down gloomily, after having watched him disappear, on the bench from
which Charlie Blackmore had risen.

‘I don’t care what becomes of me, Jan,’ he said. ‘I’m done. Nothing that
ever happens will be any good to me now. I’ve choked that fellow off,
that’s one thing, and he’ll never dare speak to you again. But as for
me, I’m done, and I’ll never lift my head any more.’

‘Oh Tom!’ Janet cried. She was too much excited by her own affairs to
turn in a moment with this new evolution to his--but that panting cry
bore any meaning according to the hearer’s apprehension, and he was too
deep in his own thoughts to need more.

‘Yes,’ said Tom, ‘it’s all over with me. Just come of age and lots of
money to spend, and all the world before me, as you might say--but I’ll
never have the heart to make any stand again. To think that all I’ve
got, and might have done so much with, is to go to a woman that never
had sixpence in her life and knows no more than a dog how to behave
herself! As for hurting her, it wouldn’t have hurt her, not a bit--and
if she’d had the chance she would have done just as bad by me. Law,’
cried Tom, with bitter contempt, ‘what’s the good of law when it can’t
protect a fellow before he comes to his full senses! To think I should
have tied such a burden on my back, and done for myself for ever before
I came of age. It’s horrible,’ he cried with the earnestness of
conviction; ‘it’s damnable--that’s what it is.’

‘Oh Tom, perhaps it will not be so bad,’ said Janet, putting her hand
within his to show her sympathy. She was very uncertain as to what it
was that caused this despair, and she had been vaguely impressed with
the fact that this time what Tom had done was something terrible; but
neither her own trouble nor any doubt about his conduct (which was so
seldom blameless) could quench the sympathy with which she responded to
his appeal.

‘Oh, yes, it will be quite as bad and worse--and I’m a ruined man,’
cried Tom. ‘Done for! although it was only last week,’ he said with a
piteous quiver of the lip which a half-grown moustache nearly shaded,
‘that I came of age.’

Janet felt the pathos of this appeal go to the bottom of her heart. She
did not know what to say to comfort him, and she could not keep her own
eyes from straying after Charlie, who after all had been very kind, who
had gone away at her prayer like the most complete of gentlemen. She was
very thankful to be released, yet her eyes followed him with something
like pride in his docility, and in the vigour and strength and
magnanimity of her first lover. Though she was much afraid of him, Janet
forgave him kindly as soon as he was gone. The tears came into her eyes
for Tom’s distress, while yet, with a thought for the other, she watched
him with a corner of her eye over Tom’s bowed head. He turned round and
took off his hat to her before he disappeared under the low arch, and
Janet, in politeness and regret, made the faintest little bow and gave
him a last glance. This made her pause before she answered Tom.

‘It’s all Beau’s fault,’ said Tom, as if he had been talking of stolen
apples. ‘She would never have been any wiser, nor mother either, if it
hadn’t been for Beau with his confounded law. And I don’t believe it
now,’ he said; ‘I won’t believe it. Think, Jan--to be married and done
for, and no way of getting out of it, before you are twenty-one!’

‘But wasn’t it--your own doing, Tom?’

Then Tom got up and gave vent to a great moral aphorism. ‘There is
nothing in this world your own doing,’ he said; ‘you’re put up to it, or
you’re led into it, and one tells you one thing and another another. But
when you’ve been and done it after what’s been told you, and every one
has had a hand in it to lead you on, then they all turn round upon you,
and you have to bear it by yourself. And everybody says it’s your own
doing. And neither the law nor your friends will help you. And you’re
just ruined and done for--before you ever had begun at all.’

‘Oh Tom,’ cried Janet, ‘come home--and perhaps it will not turn out so
bad after all.’

‘It can’t turn out anything but bad--and I’ll just go and drown myself
and be done with it all.’

‘Oh Tom, Tom!’

He got up from her with his hands deep in his pockets and his gloomy
head bent. ‘Leave alone,’ he said, pushing her away with his shoulder as
in the old nursery days. ‘Where’s dinner? But I’ll dine at the club, you
can tell Beau, if they’ll have me there.’



CHAPTER XVI


There could be no doubt that Beaufort behaved throughout this business
in the most admirable way. He made the very best of it to Lady Car, who
lay and listened to his voice as to the playing of a pleasant tune,
sometimes closing her eyes to hear the better. She had got her death
wound. Tom had never been the son she had dreamed. He was his father’s
son, not hers, and to see him succumb to the grosser temptations had
been misery and torture to her. But the story of that fraud, so fully
intended, made with such clear purpose, was one of those overwhelming
revelations which go to the very heart. If a woman is unhappy in her
married life, if she is tricked and cheated by fate in every other way,
there is still always the natural justice to fall back upon, that the
children will be left to her--her children in whom to live a new life;
to see heaven unfolding again; to have some faint reflection of herself;
some flower of her planting, some trace that she has been. And when she
has to confess to herself that the child of her affections, the thing
that has come from her, the climax of her own being, is in fact all
unworthy, a creature of the dunghill, not only base, but incapable of
comprehending what is good and true, that final disenchantment is too
great for flesh and blood. Nature, merciful, sometimes blinds the
woman’s eyes, makes her incapable of judging, fills her with fond folly
that sees no imperfection in her own--and that folly is blessed. But
there are some who are not blinded by love, but made more keen and quick
of sight. She lay silent and listened while Beaufort performed that
melody in her ears, feeling a poignant sweetness in it, since at least
it was the most beautiful thing for him to do, yet with every word
feeling more and more the anguish of the failure and the depth of the
death wound which was in her heart.

‘There are boys who torture cats and dogs and tear flies asunder, and
yet are not evil creatures,’ Beaufort said; ‘they have not the power of
realising the pain they cause. They want imagination. They know nothing
of the animals they hurt, except that they are there in their power to
be done what they please with. My love, Tom is like that: it is part of
the dreadful cynicism that young men seem to originate somehow among
themselves. They think they are the subjects of every kind of interested
wile, and that such a thing as--this’--Beaufort was not philosopher
enough to name Tom’s act more distinctly--‘is nothing more than a sort
of balance on their side.’

Lady Car opened her eyes, which were clear with fever and weakness,
lucid like an evening sky, and looked at her husband with a piteous
smile.

‘My dearest,’ he said hastily, ‘I am saying only how they represent
such things to themselves. They don’t take time to think--they rush on
to the wildest conclusions. The thing is done before they see or realise
what it is. And then, as I tell you, they think themselves the prey, and
those, those others the hunters--and take their revenge--when they can.’

But it was hard to go on with that argument with her eyes upon him. When
she closed them he could speak. When they opened again in the midst of
his plea, those eyes so clear with fever, so liquid, as if every film
had been swept from them, and only an all-seeing, unquenchable vision,
yet tender as the heavens, left behind--he stopped and faltered in his
tale: and then he took refuge in that last resort of human feeling--the
thing that had to be done, the expedients by which a wrong can be made
to appear as if it were right, and trouble and misery smoothed away, so
that the world should believe that all was well.

The conclusion, which was not arrived at for some time, was that which
old Lord Lindores took credit to himself for having suggested before,
‘and which might have put a stop to all this,’ he said with a wave of
his hand. It was Africa and big game for two or three years, during
which ‘the young woman’--the family spoke of her as if she had no
name--should be put under careful training. It had been ascertained,
still by Beaufort, who conducted himself to everybody’s admiration, that
‘the young woman’ had no bad antecedents, and that so much hope as there
could be in such a miserable business might be theirs. Tom was so
thoroughly broken down by the discovery which humbled his clownish pride
to the dust, and made him feel almost as poor a creature as he was, that
he gave in with little resistance to the dictates of the family council.
No unhappy university man, however, was beguiled into accompanying this
unlikely pupil. He was given into the hands of a mighty sportsman, who
treated him like a powder boy, and brought Tom, the Lord of the Towers,
the wealthiest commoner in the North, the experienced man of Oxford,
into complete and abject subjection--which was the best thing that could
have happened to him.

The ‘young woman’ was less easily subdued. She wrote to her relations
that it had been all a mistake, but that family reasons had made it
impossible for her husband and herself to disclose the true state of
affairs before. That instead of being Mrs. Francis Lindores, she was
Mrs. Thomas Francis Lindores Torrance, of the Towers, her dear husband
being the son of Thomas Torrance, Esq., of the Towers, and of Lady
Caroline Lindores, the daughter of the Earl of Lindores, from whom dear
Tom took his second name, as they might see in any peerage; that her
mother-in-law and all her new family were very nice to her, and that she
was going off upon a visit with Lady Edith Erskine, who was her aunt,
and dear grandmamma the Countess. And she ordered for herself at once
new cards with Mrs. F. T. Lindores Torrance upon them, which she
thought looked far more distinguished-looking than the original name.
But when Mrs. Tom became aware that dear grandmamma and her dear aunt
meant to conduct her to an educational establishment, where she was to
pass at least the two next years of her life, the young woman rebelled
at once. She had never heard, she declared, of a married woman going to
school; that her place was with her husband; that she had passed all the
standards, and learnt to play the piano, and had taken lessons in
French; that no woman, unless she were going to be a governess, wanted
more; and, finally, that she flatly refused to go. It was more
difficult, much more difficult, than with Tom to convince his wife: for
she was still more ignorant than Tom, and thought his giving in
ridiculous, and did not see why, with him or without him, she should not
go and take up her abode at the Towers, ‘and look after things,’ which
she felt must be in great want of someone to look after them. She was
made to yield at last, but not without difficulty, declaring to the last
moment that she could not be refused alimony, and that she would take
her alimony and go and live independent at home till her husband came to
claim her, rather than go to school at her age. But Beaufort managed
this too, to the admiration of everybody. He brought to bear upon the
young woman pressure from her ‘ome, where her mother, under his skilful
manipulation, was brought to see the necessity of going to school, and
declined to receive her rebellious daughter. This was at the cost of
another allowance from Tom’s estate, for it was not fit that Tom’s
mother-in-law should continue to earn her bread poorly without her
daughter’s assistance, in a poor little confectioner’s shop. Beaufort
managed all this without even betraying the name of this poor old woman,
or where she lived, to the researches of the Lindores, for Lady Car was
very tender of her boy’s name even now.

And she was taken home--to Easton, which she loved: and said she was
much better, and was able to be out on her husband’s arm, and sit on the
lawn and watch the sun setting and the stars coming out over the trees.
But she had got her death wound. She lay on the sofa for months, for one
lingering winter after another, smiling upon all that was done for her,
very anxious that Janet should go everywhere and enjoy everything, and
that Beaufort should be pleased and happy. She asked nothing for
herself, but gave them her whole heart of love and interest to
everything that was done by them. She had her sofa placed where she
could see them when they went out, and smiled when Beaufort said, always
with a slight hesitation, for he thought it was not right to leave her,
that he was going to ride over to the club, or to spend a day in town.
‘Do; and bring us back all the news,’ she said. And when Janet went away
with compunctions to go to balls with her grandmother, Lady Car was the
one who explained away all objections. ‘Quite pleased to have you
go--to have Beau to myself for a little,’ Lady Car said sometimes, a
little vexing her child; but, when Janet was gone, urging Beaufort to
the pleasure he longed for but did not like to take. ‘It is just what I
wanted that you should go to town: and you can bring me back news of my
little Den.’ Sometimes they were even a little piqued that she wanted
them so little--poor Lady Car!

And thus quite gently she faded away, loved--as other people love, not
as she loved: cherished and revered, but not as she would have revered
and cherished; with a husband who read the papers and went to his club,
and got very gracefully through life, in which he was of no importance
to anyone, and her only son banished in Africa shooting big game. Janet
was a good child, very good: but her mother never knew how near the girl
was to her in the shadowy land where people may wander side by side, but
without the intervention of words or some self-betrayal never find each
other out. Perhaps had Janet found the courage to fling herself down at
her mother’s side, and say all that was in her heart, the grasp of that
warm hand might still have brought Lady Car back to life. But Janet had
not the courage and everything went on in its daily calm, and the woman
whose every hope had faded into blank disappointment, and all her
efforts ended in failure, faded away. During the first summer Lady Car
still went out to dine, and walked a little about the garden with her
husband’s arm; the next she was carried out to her sofa on the lawn. All
went so very gradually, so very softly, that no one noted. She was very
delicate. When that gets to be fully recognised, there seems no reason
why it should not go on for ever; not so happy a state as perfect
health, to be sure, but with no reason in it why there should be any
further change.

One evening she was out of doors longer than usual--a soft lingering
summer night--so warm that even an invalid could get no harm out of
doors. She loved so to see the daylight gradually fade away, and the
stars come out above, and over all the wide champaign below a twinkle of
little human lights here and there. She took almost a childish pleasure
in those lights, thinking as much of the villages and scattered
houses--identifying their humanity low down among the billows of the
wood or the sweep of the upland slopes--as of the stars above. ‘The
greater and the lesser lights,’ she said, and then murmured low to
herself, ‘Compensations,’ under her breath.

‘What do you mean by compensations, Carry?’

‘I do not much believe in them,’ she said. ‘Nothing can compensate for
what one loses. It is better not. Looking to the east, Edward, see,
there are no lights, but only that silvery misty greyness where any
glory might lie hidden only we see it not. Now I have come so far as
this I think I like that best.’

‘So far as what, Carry’ Something cold and chill seemed to come over
them like a cloud. ‘It is growing chilly, you ought to come indoors, my
love.’

‘Yes, presently. I have always been fond of the lights--like a baby; but
look the other way. You would say at first there was nothing to be seen
at all; but there are all the shades of greyness from one tint to
another, and everything lying still, putting out no self-assertion,
content to be in God’s hand. And so am I, Edward.’

‘Yes, my love.’

‘Quite content. I have had everything, and--and nothing. The heart of it
has always been stolen from me, all the lights put out; but the dark is
sweet too; it is only dim, dim, not discernible--don’t call it dark.’

‘Carry! whatever you please, dear.’

‘Edward, do you know what this means--the peace that passeth
understanding?’

‘Carry, my darling, you break my heart. No--how should I know?’

I think I do,’ she said softly. ‘It lies upon your heart like the dew,
yet nothing to bring it, no cause, a thing that is without reason, what
you would call irrational altogether--that passeth understanding.
Edward, if ever you think afterwards, remember that I told you. I think
that I have got it--I wanted other things, but they were not given me. I
begin to think that this--is the best.’

‘My dearest, let me carry you in; it is getting quite dark and chilly.’

‘You are tired of my little sermon, Edward,’ she said, with the faint
tender smile which he divined rather than saw.

‘I--tired? of anything you may say or do! But you must not be longer out
in the night air. Come, Carry, let me lift you.’

Whether her mind had begun to wander, or if it was a prevision, or what
moved her, no one could ever tell. She resisted a little, putting her
hands on his arm. ‘You must not forget,’ she said, ‘to give my love to
Tom.’

Beaufort called loudly to her maid, who was waiting. ‘It is too late,
too late for her to be out! Come and take the cushions,’ he said in the
sudden panic that had moved him.

‘And my little Den,’ she said, ‘my little Den--they will perhaps as they
get older--Edward, I am afraid I feel a little faint.’

He took her in his arms, his heart sinking with a sudden panic and blind
terror as if the blackness of darkness was sweeping over him. But they
succeeded in getting her to her room and her bed, where she said
good-night and kissed him, and dropped sweetly asleep, as they
thought--but never woke again. They found her in the morning lying in
the same attitude, with the same smile.

Thus Lady Car ended the tragedy which had been going on unseen, unknown
to anyone--the profound, unrivalled tragedy of her life. But so sweetly
that no one ever knew the tragedy it had been. Her husband understood
more or less the failure of her heart over her children--her son--but he
never even imagined that it was he himself that had given the first and
perhaps the deepest blow; though not the _coup de grâce_, which had
been left for Tom.

Poor little Janet was summoned home from the merry house to which she
had gone, where there were many entertainments going on. She was roused
out of the fatigue of pleasure, out of her morning sleep after the ball,
to be told that her mother was dead. They thought the girl’s heart would
have burst. The cry of ‘Mozer, Mozer!’ her old child’s cry, sounded to
those who heard it like something that no consolation could touch. But,
to be sure, her tears were dried, like all other tears, after awhile.


                              PRINTED BY
                SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
                                LONDON





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