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Title: Kissing the Rod. (Vol. 1 of 3) - A Novel.
Author: Yates, Edmund
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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Transcriber's Notes:
     1. Page scan source: Google Books
        https://books.google.com/books?id=w8gBAAAAQAAJ
        (Oxford University)



KISSING THE ROD.



LONDON:
HOBSON AND SON, GREAT NORTHERN PRINTING WORKS,
PANCRAS ROAD, N.W.



KISSING THE ROD.

A Novel.


BY EDMUND YATES,
AUTHOR OF "BROKEN TO HARNESS," "RUNNING THE GAUNTLET,"
"LAND AT LAST," ETC.



"The heart knoweth its own bitterness."



IN THREE VOLUMES.
VOL. I.



LONDON:
TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18 CATHERINE ST. STRAND.
1866.

[_All rights of translation and reproduction reserved_.]



Inscribed to
THE COUNTESS OF FIFE.



CONTENTS OF VOL. I.

CHAP.

           I. DAZZLED.
          II. A MORNING CALL.
         III. WITHIN THE PALE.
          IV. MR. GUYON'S FRIEND.
           V. HESTER GOULD.
          VI. IN CHAMBERS.
         VII. KATHARINE GUYON.
        VIII. AMARYLLIS IN A MARQUEE.
          IX. INVESTMENTS.
           X. STRUGGLE.
          XI. LEFT LAMENTING.
         XII. VICTORY.



KISSING THE ROD.



CHAPTER I.
DAZZLED.


There was no name on the doorposts, nothing beyond the
number--"48"--to serve as a guide; and yet it may be doubted
whether any firm in the City was better known to the postman, the
bankers'-clerks, and all who had regular business to transact with
them, than that of Streightley and Son. The firm had been Streightley
and Son, and it had been located at 48 Bullion Lane, for the last
hundred and fifty years. They were money-brokers and scrip-sellers at
the time of the South-Sea bubble, and were among the very few who were
not ruined by that disastrous swindle. So little ruined were they that
they prospered by it, and in the next generation extended their
business and enlarged their profits; both of which, however, were
consider curtailed by rash speculations during the French Revolution
and the American War. Within the first quarter of the present century
the business of Streightley and Son recovered itself; and, under the
careful management of old Sam Streightley and his head clerk, Mr.
Fowler, the house became highly esteemed as one of the safest
bill-broking establishments in the City. It was not, however, until
young Mr. Robert, following the bounden career of all the eldest sons
of that family, joined the business, and, after close application, had
thoroughly mastered its details, that fortune could be said to have
smiled steadily on the firm. Young Mr. Robert's views were so large
and his daring so great, that his father, old Mr. Sam, at first stood
aghast, and had to be perpetually supplicated before he gave
permission to experiment on the least hazardous of all the young man's
suggestions; but after the son had been about two years a partner in
the firm it happened that the father was laid up with such a terrible
attack of gout as to be incapable of attending to business for months;
and when he at length obtained the physician's grudging assent to his
visiting the City he found things so prosperous, but withal so totally
changed, that the old gentleman was content to jog down to Bullion
Lane about three times a month until his death, which was not long in
overtaking him.

Prosperous and changed! Yes; no doubt about that. Up that staircase,
hitherto untrodden save by merchants'-clerks leaving bills for
acceptance or notices of bills due; by stags with sham prospectuses of
never-to-be-brought-out companies; or by third-rate City solicitors
giving the quasi-respectability of their names to impotent
semi-swindles, which, though they would never see the light, yet
afforded the means for creating an indisputable and meaty bill of
costs;--up that staircase now came heavy magnates of the City,
directors of the Bank of England, with short ill-made Oxford-mixture
trousers, and puckered coats, and alpaca umbrellas; or natty
stockbrokers, most of them a trifle horsy in garb, all with undeniable
linen, and good though large jewelry, carefully-cultivated whiskers,
and glossy boots. In the little waiting-room might be found an Irish
member of Parliament; the managing director of a great steam-shipping
company; a West-end dandy, with a letter of introduction from some
club acquaintance with a handle to his name, who idiotically imagined
that that handle would serve as a lever to raise money out of Robert
Streightley; a lawyer or two; and, occasionally the bronzed captain of
a steamer arrived with news from the Pacific; or some burnt and
bearded engineer fresh from the inspection of a silver mine in Central
America. A long purgatory, for the most part, did these gentlemen
spend in the little waiting-room, or in the clerk's room beyond it,
where they were exposed to the sharp fusillade of Mr. Fowler's eyes
and the keen glances of the two young men who assisted him. The only
people who were shown by the messenger at once into Mr. Streightley's
presence were the City editors of the various newspapers, and a very
prettily-appointed young gentleman, wise withal beyond his years, who
occasionally drove down to Bullion Lane from Downing Street in a
hansom cab, and who was private secretary to the Chancellor of the
Exchequer.

Robert Streightley had done all this by his own talent and
exertion--"on his own hook," as the Stock Exchange men phrased it. The
keenness of his business intellect was astounding. He seemed to sift a
proposition as it was being laid before him; and as soon as the
proposer ceased speaking, Robert Streightley closed with or
pooh-poohed the offer, with incontrovertible reasons for his decision.
He spoke out plainly and boldly before the oldest and the youngest who
sought his advice; he was neither deferential nor patronising; and
never sought to please--simply for the sake of pleasing--any of his
clients. The young men looked up to him in wonder, and spoke of him
over mid-day chops and sherry as a "cool card," a "long-headed chap,"
"just about one," and in other complimentary slangisms. The older men
scarcely knew what to make of him; they hated him for his daring and
success, for the dashing manner in which he was passing them all in
the race for wealth and distinction; and they would have well liked to
have shrugged their shoulders and hinted about his being "fast," and
"going ahead," and finally making a grand smash of it; but they had no
pretext. So long as Robert Streightley's business relations were
thoroughly sound and wholesome it would have been against that _esprit
de corps_ which largely prevails among City men to breathe a word
against him; and as for his private life, they could scarcely bring a
charge of reckless extravagance against a man who went home to a
seventy-pound-a-year house at Brixton in the "Paragon" omnibus, and
there indulged in the dissipation of a "meat-tea" in the society of
his mother and sister. So they found another vent for their spleen,
and talked of him as a "doosid close-fisted fellow," a "mean
narrow-minded hunks," and a "niggardly screw." He merited none of
these appellations. He was a straightforward, honourable business-man,
bred in a narrow circle, which his own innate business habits were
narrowing year by year. As a boy he had had instilled into him the
value of money and the secret of money-getting; as a young man the
whole scope of his faculties had been directed to this end. Such
little fancy as he possessed--and with such a father the smallness of
that fancy could be easily divined--had been ruthlessly eradicated,
and all the nascent tendencies of his mind had been directed into one
strong channel of fact. That Jack had ever found giants to slay, that
glass slippers were ever worn by cinder-wenches, or pumpkins could by
any possibility become carriages, were fictions not to be found in
Bonnycastle and ignored by Walkinghame; but that two and two made
four, or that a talent of silver hid in a napkin remained an
unproductive talent of silver, whereas a hundred pounds invested in
Consols produced yearly three pounds as interest to its holder, were
as demonstrable as the light and heat of the sun at noonday.

He lived but for his business, nothing else. He was in his office at
ten o'clock, and he never left it, save on some business errand, until
six. He never took a holiday except on Christmas-day and Good Friday,
when the newspapers proclaimed all business suspended; he never dined
out save twice or thrice a-year at the anniversary banquets of the
directors of some of those companies in which his stake was large. His
enemies wronged him when they said he had no heart. He had sincerely
grieved for the old father who had brought him up and loved him deeply
in his own peculiar way; his purse-strings were always at the command
of those good Samaritans on the Stock Exchange who do so much in such
a quiet and unassuming manner; and the clergyman at Brixton knew he
might always count upon Mr. Streightley for a handsome subscription to
any charity brought under his notice. His manner was odd and
_brusque_, arising partly from his preoccupation, partly from his
having never mixed in society; but there was nothing pretentious or
vulgar, fast or underbred in him: he might have been thought an
oddity; he never could have been set down for a snob.

See him now as he sits at his desk, poring over his diary, a tall
strongly-built man, with long limbs lacking in due amount of muscular
development from want of exercise. With a high forehead, a head
prematurely bald, but surrounded with a thick fringe of brown hair,
with sharp gray eyes looking out from overhanging brows, a thinly-cut
aquiline nose, and rather full lips. He has a full whisker, after the
ordinary respectable "mutton-chop" outline, and might, if he so
pleased, have a large beard, as you can tell by the dark-blue outline
round his chin; but Robert Streightley would as soon think of coming
up to town outside the Paragon omnibus in a turban as of committing
any such unbusiness-like atrocity as growing a beard. One other person
is in the room with him just now--Mr. Fowler, his chief clerk, known
in the City as Downy Fowler; an old gentleman, who is looked upon as
the essence of knowingness, and to whom the fortunes of Streightley
and Son are not a little attributable. When this is hinted at, old Mr.
Fowler smiles enigmatically; but only in strictest confidence, and to
one or two very old friends, declares that, whatever he might have
been to the old gentleman, he does not pretend to hold a candle to Mr.
Robert, "whose head, my dear sir, is something won-der-ful!" A short
sleek gray-headed man, Mr. Fowler; with a high-collared coat much too
long in the sleeves, a waistcoat with traces of bygone snuff-pinches
lingering in the creases, gray trousers, and gaiter boots. A silent
little man, rarely speaking, but in the habit of calling his
principal's attention to matters under consideration, such as letters,
invoices, and share-lists, with his pointed forefinger. That
forefinger was at work at the very moment when they are first
presented to reader. It rested on an entry in the diary, and Mr.
Fowler looked up into his principal's face inquiringly.

"Well?" said Robert Streightley, "I see. Markwell, 1350_l_.; Baxter,
870_l_.; Currie and Tull, 340_l_.; Guyon, 180_l_. 17_s_. 3_d_.; Banks,
97_l_. 6_s_. Total, 2888_l_. 3_s_. 3_d_.--paid to us by Davidson--due
to-day--what of that?"

Mr. Fowler did not answer, but placed his forefinger more decidedly on
one of the items of the account.

"O, I see," said Streightley; "Guyon's acceptance! Ay, ay; I recollect
now. You called my attention to that, and declared that it was
doubtful at the time that Davidson paid it in. Of course you made
inquiries?"

Mr. Fowler nodded.

"And they were unsatisfactory? Well, that's no matter to us. The usual
notice has been served, of course? Very well, we look to Davidson; but
let Boswell's people have the usual instructions to proceed. So Tierra
del Fuegos stand the same, do they? All right then; hold on. Ocean
Marine have gone up; so that advance to Walton and Pycroft is well
covered. Let Brattle step round to--well, what is it, Brattle?" this
to the junior clerk, who, after knocking at the door, entered the
room.

"A lady, sir, to speak with you," said Mr. Brattle, in whom his
brother lunch-_convives_ at the Bay Tree would scarcely have
recognised the youth who now stood blushing before his principal.

"A lady to speak with me?"

"With Messrs. Streightley and Son, sir, she said, and in private,
sir."

"Must be some mistake," said Robert Streightley. "Never mind. Show the
lady in through the private door, Mr. Brattle. Leave me, Fowler, and
don't let any one in till I ring."

If Mr. Fowler could have expressed astonishment, he would have done
so, for never had woman entered that sanctum since he had been
connected with Streightley and Son. But his training did not admit of
any such vagary; so he retired without a word, and the door closed
behind him as Mr. Brattle admitted the visitor into Robert
Streightley's presence.

Robert Streightley, who had been pretending to be absorbed in the
diary, looked up, and carefully scrutinised his visitor. She was a
girl of about twenty, above the ordinary height, slightly and
gracefully built. She threw up her veil as she entered, without the
smallest sign of coquetry, and showed a strikingly-handsome face, very
pale, with greenish-gray eyes, delicate Grecian nose, small white
forehead, over which her dark-brown hair was drawn in flat bands,
short upper lip, and small rounded chin. She was dressed in a
dark-brown silk, with a black-lace cloak; and Streightley--usually
unobservant of such things--noticed the wonderful fit of her lavender
gloves. Streightley rose as she entered, and pointing to the usual
client's chair, begged her to be seated. She bowed, and seated
herself. Then there was a little pause, and Robert said, "You wished
to see me, I believe?"

"You are Messrs. Streightley and Son?" said the lady interrogatively,
in a musical but slightly timid voice.

"I am Mr. Streightley, the representative of the firm."

"That is what I wished to know," she replied a little haughtily. "Of
course I--what I would ask is--I am not accustomed to business
terms--You are the--the person--who sent this?"

She laid her parasol on the table as she spoke, and took from the
purse which she carried in her hand a small printed paper. Glancing at
it, Robert Streightley saw that it was an ordinary commercial
document, intimating to Edward Scrope Guyon, of 110 Queen Anne Street,
that a bill for 180_l_. 17_s_. 3_d_., drawn on him by Davidson
Brothers, lay due at Streightley and Son's, 48 Bullion Court, Lombard
Street. As he returned it to her he said, "It is quite right; it was
sent out by this house. It is the usual notice given in such cases,
stating where the money is to be paid."

She was very pale as she said, "It means then that money--that the
amount named--must be paid?"

"It does indeed."

"And at once?"

"This is the day for payment," said Streightley. Then noticing her
deadly pallor, and the trembling of her lips, he said: "May I ask how
this came into your hands?"

With a visible effort at self-control, the young lady replied: "I--I
should have mentioned it before. I am Miss Guyon, daughter of Mr.
Guyon, to whom that paper is addressed."

She hesitated for a minute, and Streightley, whose eyes were fixed
intently on her face, said:

"Ye-es! I think I understand; and he has sent you here to----"

"My father is not in the habit of sending me about on his
business-errands, sir!" interrupted Miss Guyon, flushing scarlet
(Robert thought that in his life he had never seen any thing so lovely
as she looked, with heightened colour, swelling nostril, and curved
lip.) "Mr. Guyon is out of town on--on very important and pressing
business; and as he will not be back until late at night, I thought it
best to come here to explain his absence, which will account for the
money not being ready."

"Which will account for the money not being ready!" repeated Mr.
Streightley absently. "O, of course, of course. Pray do not say
another word about it, Miss Guyon. I am very sorry that you should
have had the trouble of coming here, except that it--it has procured
me the--the great pleasure of seeing you!" (Robert had never before
paid a woman a compliment, and was horribly awkward in his first
attempt) "I'll call on Mr. Guyon to-morrow morning about eleven,
and----"

"And you'll bring your bill with you, will you?" said Miss Guyon with
supreme _hauteur_.

The word "bill" was in itself always disagreeable to her; but she had
no idea but that this was an ordinary tradesman's account, and thought
Robert Streightley was the tradesman to whom it was owing.

"Ye-es!" said he; "I'll bring the bill with me, and----"

"There is nothing more to be said, I think," interrupted Miss Guyon.
"Good morning."

"Good morning, Miss Guyon. Permit me to see you downstairs."

She did not speak; but he construed a very slight bow into a gesture
of assent, and proceeded down the staircase. Arrived at the door he
called the cabman, who was slumbering on his box; but the man's
movements being slow, Streightley opened the cab-door himself, and
bareheaded held it as Miss Guyon, with just the style of
acknowledgment that she would have given to the shop-walker who handed
her a chair at a linendraper's, passed in. Old Mr. Pommylow, chairman
of the West India Plantation Company, who was crossing the street at
the time, gave him a great nod and a sly wink; and made them all laugh
at the Board five minutes afterwards, by telling them he'd seen Bob
Streightley "doing the polite to a doosid fine gal."

She was gone; but Robert Streightley still stood on the pavement,
gazing after the cab that had carried her off. Then, after a minute,
he turned slowly round and retraced his steps up the staircase,
pondering over the interview.

After remaining for about half-an-hour in a brown study, he touched
the small handbell by which he was accustomed to summon Mr. Fowler,
and, without raising his head, said to that worthy gentleman when he
entered:

"Give me that acceptance we were speaking of, please."

"Guyon's acceptance do you men, sir?"

"Mr. Guyon's, if you please," said Streightley rather sternly, the
familiarity jarring on his ear.

"Will you want the others, sir?" asked the old man. "Markwell's and
Banks's are paid; but they haven't sent about the others yet."

"Only Mr. Guyon's, thank you, Fowler. I--I want to make a few
inquiries about it."

"I don't expect you'll hear much good of the acceptor, sir," said old
Fowler with twinkling eyes. "I suspect it's one of Davidson's private
discounts, and we know what they are--he, he!" and the old gentleman
laughed quietly.

"Let me have the letters, if you please, Mr. Fowler, and any thing
else there may be for signature. I shall be going soon."

"Going, sir!" said old Fowler in the greatest astonishment. He had
never known Mr. Robert leave before six o'clock since he had been in
the business, and now it was only four.

"Yes! I'm not very well. I think I want a little fresh air, so I shall
go and get it. And I shall probably not be here till twelve to-morrow,
Mr. Fowler."

"Very well, sir." He said it most mechanically. If the equestrian
statue of the Duke of Wellington had descended from its pedestal and
cantered up Threadneedle Street, Mr. Fowler would have been scarcely
more astonished.


Mr. Robert Streightley went in search of fresh air through Holborn and
Oxford Street to the West-end. He so rarely quitted the City, he was
so seldom out any where in the daylight, that the bright sun and the
splendid shops, the pleasure-seeking crowds idling through the
streets, the handsome carriages, and the general life and bustle
amazed, and under any other circumstances would have amused him. Even
now he felt that he was wasting his life, letting his days pass by
without any adequate enjoyment, and he determined that to a certain
extent he would remedy that for the future by curtailing the hours
devoted to his business, which had hitherto had his every energy. At
the Regent Circus he paused and asked his way to Queen Anne Street;
for he had determined to see the house where dwelt his lovely visitor
of the morning. How lovely she was, and how confused and ridiculous
she must have thought him; how different in manner to those with whom
she was in the habit of associating; and how delightfully ignorant she
was of all business-matters! He wondered whether he should see her the
next day when he called on her father. He would like to see her again,
he thought; and what would he not give to be able to talk to her, and
to get her to talk to him unreservedly, as no doubt she did to--to
those of her own class! Yes, there was some good in his money and his
business, after all. They had brought him in contact with this lovely
girl; and in his transactions with her father he might perhaps be able
to get to know her on other terms than those of mere business
acquaintance. That was the house, No. 110, with traces of her presence
in the lovely flowers in the balcony, and in the splendid Indian
work-box standing on the gilt table in the drawing-room window. A
handsome house, looking like the expenditure of two thousand a-year at
least, Streightley thought to himself; the expenditure, mind, not the
income,--his business education had taught him to look at those
matters in their right light; and he remembered what Fowler had said
about Mr. Guyon, and knew that the old clerk never spoke at random. A
carriage was at the door of No. 110; and a footman standing by it said
to his mistress as Streightley passed, "Not at home, my lady. Ridin'
with Miss Wentworths and the Major in the Park." Not at home! that of
course meant the lady of the house. But was there a Mrs. Guyon, or did
the young lady whom he had seen do the honours of her father's house?
He should imagine so; for she had come alone, and mentioned nothing of
her mother. Riding in the Park, eh? Then he might have a chance of
seeing her again! The Park was free to all, any one might go there,
and--and the Major! who was the Major? Robert Streightley's spirits
fell to zero again, as he remembered Miss Guyon's manner to him that
morning, and reflected how wide was the gulf between them.

He asked his way to the Park, and took up his position by the railings
near the Achilles statue, gazing round him in wonder at all he saw and
heard. The easy familiarity of the conversation between the ladies in
the carriages, or on the chairs, and the gentlemen attendant on them
was very different from the prim politeness of Peckham, or the
boisterous _bonhomie_ of Brixton; and he was particularly struck with
the general acquaintance that nine-tenths of the people lounging about
seemed to have with each other. Robert felt painfully out of his
sphere; he imagined that he was stared at as an interloper. For a long
time he could not muster up courage to take his place at the railings,
until he saw two carpenters returning from work in their flannel
jackets, stop for a minute to look at the passing pageant, and take up
their position at the railings, next to an old gentleman with a very
blue coat; and a very red face, who turned round and muttered
something about "d--d impudence," which delighted the carpenters
immensely. When they moved off, with grins at the old gentleman which
reduced him to the verge of apoplexy, Robert slipped into the place
they had left vacant, and remained there for some time, gazing in
wonder at all he saw, and wishing--O, how fervently wishing!--to see
_her_ again.

At last his perseverance was rewarded. In the midst of a large
cavalcade which came sweeping out of the Row, turning their horses'
heads towards the Marble Arch, sat Miss Guyon, looking, in her neat
hat, with her hair drawn off her face and gathered into a large knot
behind, even more lovely than she had looked in the morning.
Streightley's heart beat hard, and his mouth grew dry as he recognised
her. As she rode past, her glance fell upon him, but she did not take
the smallest notice of him; merely shifting her whip as she held out
her pretty little gauntleted hand to a young man riding between her
and the railings, and who, as he lifted his hat in adieu, said, "Will
you be at the Opera to-night?"

She replied, "At the Opera! O yes; box No. 70. Shall we see you?"

"Delighted!" he replied, bowing low, and turning his horse's head.
"Good day, Major!" and as the old gentleman on the other side of Miss
Guyon acknowledged his salute, the young man turned his horse's head
and rode away.

"At the Opera! she was going to the Opera!" Robert Streightley found
himself vaguely repeating these words as he hurried down Piccadilly.
He left the Park so soon as the cavalcade of which Miss Guyon formed
part had passed out of sight. Good heavens, how lovely she was! how
unlike any thing he had ever seen before! how elegant and graceful! He
remembered noticing how closely her dark-blue riding-habit fitted her,
and he could see the pretty dogskin gauntlet as she put out her hand
to--Ay, who was that she shook hands with? Not the Major; he was the
old gentleman. Who was that who asked her if she were going to the
Opera and--? What on earth was it to him? he was nothing to Miss
Guyon; very probably he should never see her again, and--Yes. He
stopped suddenly in his hurried walk. Yes; he would see her again, and
that night too. He had never been to the Opera; but any one could go
there by paying; and, if he could not speak to her, he should at least
be able to gaze upon her lovely face. He was a fool, and was losing
his senses. What would they say in the City if they knew of this
egregious folly? Here was a man of six-and-thirty running about, like
a schoolboy in his calf-love, after a girl whom he had only seen that
morning, and had scarcely spoken to! It was very ridiculous, he
acknowledged, and he would give it up. He would just call on Mr. Guyon
in the way of business in the morning because he had promised to do
so, and the affair would be at an end. But he thought he would go to
the Opera that night. You see, he had never been there, and had often
wanted to know what the place was like.

He went into a well-known dining establishment and had some dinner,
and--an unusual thing with him--drank a pint of wine. He had learned
of the waiter what time the Opera commenced; and as soon as the
clock-hands reached half-past seven he hurried off and presented
himself at the pit entrance, where, on account of his morning costume,
he was refused admittance. He was told, however, that there would be
no obstacle to his admission into the amphitheatre; and he accordingly
climbed into that wild region, and there secured a front seat. He had
hired a glass from the check-taker, and with it he now proceeded to
scan the house, as yet cold and nearly, empty. Miss Guyon was not
there. The opera commenced, and still she did not arrive. Streightley,
plying his glass at two minutes' intervals, at length saw her advance
to the front of a box on the first tier and take the seat with her
back to the stage. With her was the lady whom he had seen in the
carriage at the door in Queen Anne Street; and they had scarcely been
seated ten minutes before they were joined by the young man who had
been of Miss Guyon's party in the Park. Streightley recognised him in
an instant, and hated him for his easy manners and his good looks; for
he was a good-looking young fellow of six-and-twenty, with fair hair
parted in the middle, regular features, and brilliant teeth. Other men
visited the box during the evening, but this young fellow only went
away once, and then Streightley saw him in the stalls with his glass
rivetted on Miss Guyon, who, as he also remarked, attracted a great
deal of attention. Then he returned to the box and remained there
during the rest of the evening, until nearly the close of the opera,
indeed, when Streightley saw the party preparing to move. Robert
instantly seized his hat, and rushing downstairs arrived at the door
in time to hear loud shouts of "Lady Henmarsh's carriage stops the
way!" and to see the visitor of the morning on the arm of an old
gentleman, and Miss Guyon closely escorted by the fair-haired
equestrian. As she stepped into the carriage Miss Guyon looked up at
her attendant cavalier with a smile that Robert Streightley would at
that instant have sacrificed all his wealth to have had directed at
him. He was mad with rage and jealousy, and could have struck down the
simpering fool, who muttered something inaudible under his breath, and
raised his hat as the carriage drove off.

What had he said in return for that look? That Robert Streightley
could never know. Who was he who created the first pang of jealousy
that had ever rankled in Streightley's heart? That he would learn at
once; he would follow the man, and see where he lived, and learn who
he was.

The young man lit a cigar and strolled leisurely eastward. Following
him at a little distance, Streightley never took his eyes from him,
saw him stop at the Temple gate, and reached the door as it closed
behind him. To the porter Mr. Streightley gave the name of an
acquaintance who resided in Brick Court, and on being admitted saw his
quarry just ahead of him. He needed caution now, for theirs were the
only footsteps that echoed through the courts; but the young man,
without looking round, made his way to Crown-Office Row, and entered
one of the end houses nearest the river. Streightley entered after
him, and remained at the bottom of the staircase listening to his
ascending footsteps, which paused when they reached the topmost story;
and then the listener heard the grating of a key in a lock, and
afterwards the clanging of a closing door. He waited a few minutes,
and then crept softly to the highest story, where were two sets of
chambers. One set, as announced by a painted tin placard, was to let;
over the other were painted the names of Mr. Gordon Frere and Mr.
Charles Yeldham.



CHAPTER II.
A MORNING CALL.


At nine o'clock the next morning, an hour later than his usual time,
Robert Streightley entered his little dining-room and sat down to
breakfast. He looked pale and fatigued; and there was an unnatural and
unusual brightness in his eyes that at once attracted the notice of
old Alice, who had been the nurse of his childhood, and was now the
housekeeper and confidential servant of the little family. The old
lady was jealously careful of the health of "her boy," as she always
spoke of him, and was accustomed to use the license of tongue allowed
her in many caustic remarks. She came into the room just as Robert
seated himself at the table, and at once commenced to address him in
her least conciliatory manner.

"O, you have got down at last, have you, Master Robert? I thought you
was never coming, and there you might have lied before I'd have come
up to help you! That's what I say, and what I mean."

"What's the matter, Alice? you don't seem pleased this morning."

"Pleased? Who should be pleased, and a lovely steak and mushrooms left
to burn itself away to a cinder, and you never coming home to dinner.
To dinner, indeed!--not coming home till all hours of the night. I
heard your key in the lock, though you thought I was asleep, as all
good Christians ought to have been at such an hour--but I heard you.
And not foreign-post night either, nor West Indy mail, nor one of them
City dinners, else you'd have been home to dress or took your bag with
you to the office. Well, it's not for an old woman like me to say, but
there's no doubt you're doing too much, slaving like no blackamoor
that ever I read of, and all for what? All for---- It's as good bacon
as ever was cured, though you do push your plate away in that fashion.
Try a bit, Master Robert--come now!"

"I can't, Alice. My mouth's out of taste. I've no appetite this
morning; give me a cup of tea,--there's a dear soul,--and let me be
quiet."

"Let you be quiet! You don't think I'd bother you, do you? Cup of tea,
indeed. You'll want more than a cup of tea if you go on in this way,
sitting up till all hours and fagging yourself over your business. I'm
sure your 'ma and Miss Ellen will think you looking quite ill, when
they come back from York; and it's all that dratted office as is doing
it. I should like to see any body else who sticks to it as you do, and
all for what--that's what I want to know? All for what? If you was a
struggling on with nine children to educate and do for, you couldn't
grind at it harder than you do; and you'll find it out sooner than you
expect. Ah, Robert!" exclaimed the old woman, suddenly softening in
her tone, and coming up close to him, "Robert, my own dear boy, don't
be so headstrong, deary; don't work your life away in this fashion.
There's no one knows you so well as I do, and I see you're doing too
much, and you're beginning to show it. Don't work so hard, my boy, my
own dear boy!"

Robert Streightley put up his big arm and pulled down the old woman's
head, and pressed her hard rough cheek, down which the tears were
flowing silently, close to his own. Then, with an affectation of
cheerfulness, he said:

"Why, Alice! why, nurse! you must not fancy such foolish things, old
lady. I am perfectly well and hearty; only a little done-up this
morning, perhaps, after an extra pressure of business yesterday, which
kept me up rather later than usual, but otherwise all right."

"I'm a foolish old woman, I know, Robert; but I love you very dearly,
and you're all I've left to love; and when you don't come home, I get
frightened and nervous, and fancy you're doing too much, and, that you
ought to be here, in the dining-room, reading your newspaper or having
your little nap, as usual, in the evenings, instead of working away at
that horrible office to all hours. And you won't be home to-day again,
I suppose?"

"O yes, indeed I shall! What made you think that?"

"Why, you've got on that blue frock-coat, and a white waistcoat, and
your best cravat; just for all as you dress yourself when you go to
them ship-launches, or Greenwich dinners of your companies, or other
places which keep you away from where you're best--at your own home."

Streightley smiled, rather a ghastly smile, as he said: "O no I'm only
going to call on some rather particular people who--it's best to--at
all events--I mean who are accustomed to something different from
us--City fellows, you know!"

It was feebly said, and feebly received by old Alice, who looked very
grim, and only remarked: "Ay, ay--ay, ay!"

He made but a very poor apology for a breakfast, and said not a great
deal more to his old friend, who stood by, vainly hoping for that
"chat" with her boy which was the prime event of her day. But this
morning Robert Streightley was preoccupied; he sat over the table long
after he had finished eating, idly playing with the crumbs, and
evidently buried in thought. At length he roused himself, and after
referring several times nervously to his watch, he started for town.

It was his habit to go by omnibus; and from his long residence at
Brixton he was known to all the coachmen on the road, each of whom on
passing gave him a semi-respectful semi-inviting salutation. But
Robert Streightley was not inclined for an omnibus-ride this morning;
he felt somehow that such a mode of conveyance would not accord with
the world a glimpse of which he had had on the previous day, nor with
the errand on which he was proceeding; so he hailed the first
disengaged hansom, and was driven rapidly to Queen Anne Street. So
rapidly, that when he alighted from the cab at the corner of the
street he found it yet wanted twelve minutes of eleven, the hour he
had named for his interview with Mr. Guyon. He could not be before his
time; that would be as much against the strict business rule in which
he had been brought up as being behind it would argue either leisure
or a strong interest in the matter then on hand, and neither
supposition he thought advisable in respect to him. So he determined
to eke out the time; and for that purpose strolled up a side street,
and found himself gazing vacantly on the dressing and exercising of
horses and the washing of carriages, in a mews, at the entrance to
which he stood for some little time. After walking round and round,
and circling a very narrowed square, he found that the back part of
Mr. Guyon's house looked into this mews; and then he busied himself
with wondering which was Miss Guyon's room, and whether she were there
at that time, and whether she had thought of him since the interview
in the City, and what she had thought of him, and---- And then looking
at his watch, he found the eventful hour had arrived; so he walked
boldly round, and, ringing the bell, demanded to see Mr. Guyon.

A colourless footman with light hair and weak eyes, in a very
washed-out lilac-striped jacket and dusty gray trousers, answered the
bell, and showed Streightley into the dining-room. This was a
cheerless apartment, painted salmon-colour, with a dozen Cromwell
chairs in faded American cloth and spurious oak ranged round the room,
but with some genuine ancestors, a Lely, a couple of Knellers, a
Reynolds--such a conception of female childish purity and grace!--and
a Lawrence, hanging on the walls. The Turkey carpet was faded and
patched; the green table-cover was stained and torn; the window-blinds
were yellow, and damp-stained; and every where there was a _laissez
aller_ which generally bespeaks the absence of female government.
The mantelpiece was covered with purple velvet blurred with sticky
rings made by overflowing glasses; in the centre of it lay an
oxydised-silver cigar-ash holder in the form of an open spread leaf,
in which still remained the ends of a couple of half-smoked cigars;
and in the looking-glass, between the glass and the frame, were
invitation-cards, photographs of boxers, and ladies of the Parisian
theatres, all wearing the same scanty drapery and leering the
selfsame leer,--applications for payment of queen's taxes, and
notices that the "collector had called" for the water-rate. Robert
Streightley had gazed round him; and with the power of appreciation
innate in him had remarked these various objects and indications when
the door opened quickly, and Mr. Guyon entered the room.

Mr. Guyon, none but he; no mistaking him. In the bold face that
flashed upon him Streightley recognised a coarser and stronger
rendering of Miss Guyon's every feature: the delicately-cut slightly
aquiline nose, the small rounded chin, the vivacious green-gray eye.
Mr. Guyon's hair, which was rather sparse and thin, was of a different
colour from his daughter's; was indeed in itself of two distinct hues,
being very black and glossy in certain lights, and very purple and
lustreless in others. His complexion, too, was peculiar,--mottled and
speckled, something like a plover's egg, save just under the eyes, on
the top of the cheekbones, where it had a very roseate hue. He was
dressed in a loose blue-silk jacket with a red collar and red
sleeve-linings, and wore a pair of Turkish trousers, tied round the
waist with a cord like a bell-rope. His turn-down collar was cut very
low, showing a great deal of bony throat; his wristbands were long,
fastened with elaborate carbuncle studs, and coming far down over his
white, well-shaped hands. He wore striped-silk socks of the rather
loud pattern,--which, seen at the theatre under the loose garb of the
mandarin, enables us to make a tolerably accurate guess at the
identity of the person in the pantomime who is to be "afterwards
clown,"--and natty red-morocco slippers. He came into the room with a
rush, had Robert Streightley by the hand in an instant, and forced him
into a chair as he said,

"Mr. Streightley, this is kind indeed! This is an honour I can never
forget!"

Streightley, rather taken aback at the warmth of his reception,
said, "it is nothing, Mr. Guyon. I can assure you I merely called
because----"

"I know, my dear sir, I know. My daughter explained to me what she did
yesterday, and how generously you received her." Robert's eyes
brightened as he listened. "Women, you know, my dear sir, are all
impulse. You are a married man, my dear Mr. Streightley? No! well,
still, my dear sir, I daresay--ha, ha!--that you have thorough
experience of the other sex. When a man is young, and pleasing, and
rich--O yes, by George, rich ha, ha!--he has opportunities of studying
the other sex, even if he be not married. Not married? Let me see,
what was I saying? O, my daughter--who is the prop and sunshine of my
life, the dearest and most devoted creature in the world--my daughter
has told me of the document which caused her such fright. It was--it
was merely the--usual notice, I suppose?"

"It was the usual notice."

As Streightley said this, a loud peal at the door-bell attracted his
attention.

"And the amount?"

"A hundred and eighty pounds odd--stay, I have the bill with me;" and
drawing out his pocketbook, Robert produced the document. As he did
this, he heard the street-door opened, and the sound of a man's
footsteps passing the dining-room and going upstairs. His heart sank
within him. He would swear to that footfall--swear to it any where;
had he not heard it twelve hours before echoing up the hollow
staircase in Crown Office Row? It was that man; and he was going
upstairs to see Miss Guyon, doubtless in fulfilment of some
appointment made during the exchange of bows and glances at the
carriage-door last night. He turned deadly pale, and his lips
trembled.

"Will you allow me to look at that bill?" said Mr. Guyon in his most
mellifluous tones. "Thank you. How your hand trembles!--a little chill
perhaps. Draw closer to the fire. We seem to have begun the cold
weather already. For my own part, I could always endure a fire--O,
this is really very bad of Davidson; very bad indeed!" He had been
surveying the document which Streightley had handed to him through a
pair of gold double eyeglasses perched on the bridge of his nose; and
he now looked over them at Streightley as he repeated, "Very bad
indeed!"

"I--I beg your pardon--my attention was diverted. What did you say?"

"I said, Mr. Streightley," said Mr. Guyon with increased sternness,
"that this is a very bad business of Davidson's. I gave him this
acceptance, sir, to help him in--the what do you call it?--the hour of
need, under the full understanding that he would meet it. It was for
his convenience, not for mine. I never had a shilling of the produce;
and now he leaves me to discharge it at a time when he knows that----"

"That it will be inconvenient to meet it?"

"You anticipate my words, sir. What with paying calls on shares, and
investments in certain other affairs which I have authority--almost as
good as yours, my dear sir--for believing in, my balance at my
banker's is at its lowest permissible ebb."

"If it will be any accommodation to you, Mr. Guyon, I'll send my
cheque to meet this acceptance; and I'll take another from you at
three months," said Streightley nervously. If he were ever to be
received upstairs, it must be through the father's influence.

"My dear sir, a thousand thanks! I'm really very much obliged to
you--very much obliged. I'm sure any terms which----"

"I think the Bank rate is three and a half just now," interrupted
Streightley with a slight smile; "we money-brokers charge one per cent
in advance of that. So that you see I make something of you after
all."

"My dear sir," said Mr. Guyon, advancing towards him with outstretched
hand, "you endeavour to make light of an obligation; but I'm too much
of an old soldier not to know the service you have rendered me. And I
thank you for it--I thank you for it! In these levelling days, when a
gentleman meets a gentleman, they should close ranks and march
together, by George! Give me your hand, sir. I'm proud to make your
acquaintance. I hope to renew it. There are not many that Ned Guyon
sees at his table, because, perhaps, he's infernally particular, and
does not choose to mix with cads. But those who come are of the right
sort; and he'll be proud to see you among them."

"You're very good, I'm sure," said Streightley. "Perhaps you'll give
me a call in the City in a day or two, and we'll put this matter on a
business footing. And now I must be off. I shall be delighted to come
whenever you ask me--and--my compliments to Miss Guyon. Good-day!" and
with a warm shake of his new acquaintance's hand--a shake which was
enthusiastically returned--Robert Streightley took his departure.

Left to himself, Mr. Guyon plunged his hands into the pockets of his
Turkish trousers and strode several times up and down the room,
finally stopping in front of the looking-glass and soliloquising: "A
rum start,--a devilish rum start! I thought I'd seen every variety of
discounters, but I never met one who behaved like that before. What
the devil was his motive? he had one, of course; but what the devil
was it?"


Meanwhile a very different scene was being enacted in the
drawing-room. Robert Streightley's prescience had not deceived him.
The ring at the bell, which acted with such electrical effect on
Streightley's nerves, was given by the young man whom he had followed
to his chambers on the previous evening; the footstep passing up the
staircase was his footstep; and the colourless footman, throwing open
the drawing-room door, announced him as "Mr. Gordon Frere." Miss Guyon
looked up from the flowers she was tending, and her cheek slightly
flushed. The flush was very becoming to Miss Guyon--at least Mr. Frere
approved of it highly, as he did of her high-cut mouse-coloured plush
dress, her neat linen collar fastened with a handsome dead-gold
brooch, her long cuffs, and her simply-arranged hair.

"You are early, Mr. Frere," said Miss Guyon, as she extended her hand
to her visitor; but she made the remark in a tone which marked her
approval of the circumstance.

"Yes," he replied; "I feared you might have gone to the Park, if I
came later."

"I don't ride to-day," said Katharine with a bright smile; "papa is
busy, and I did not make any other arrangements."

She moved away from the table over which she had been bending as she
spoke, and seated herself in a low chair, happily placed in the shade
of the window-curtain. Gordon Frere took his seat upon an ottoman near
her, and contemplated the lining of his hat with close attention. Not
that he was at all awkward--awkwardness was not in Mr. Frere's nature,
certainly not in his habits--but he was not a particularly ready
talker, and under the circumstances this seemed the correct thing to
do. Katharine Guyon's manners were, in certain respects, perfect; they
were, indeed, rather too perfect and independent; she presented too
complete a contrast to the drooping-lily style of girl; and she never
suffered from a sense of embarrassment. It was not, therefore, shyness
which lent her downy cheek that beautiful flush it had worn at the
entrance of her visitor, and continued to wear, or that softened
glance which darkened the colour and deepened the expression of her
eyes. She was very glad to see him, and she showed her gladness; and
there was a pleasant gleeful ring in the tone in which she talked to
him of the various but trivial events of the preceding day, of their
common acquaintances, and of the delights of last night's opera.

Her voice and accent were remarkably refined, and the tone of her
conversation, though its matter was only of the ordinary kind, was far
removed from the commonplace. She touched her topics lightly and
easily, let them go without too much handling, and gradually infused
into her companion some of the brightness and buoyancy which animated
herself. Gordon Frere had seen her sufficiently often to be familiar
with most of her moods, and with all the variations of her appearance,
for hers was by no means the "beauty for ever unchangingly bright,"
which is also undeniably uninteresting; but he began to think that he
had never seen her to so much advantage as on this occasion, and to
discover new charms in her, as she sat and talked to him, in her clear
fresh voice, and her low happy laughter broke every now and then the
tenor of their dialogue.

What did they talk about? That would be difficult to tell; and the
discourse, written down, which suffices to charm and engross two young
persons, already very well disposed to regard each other as the most
bewitching and delightful individuals in the world, would have
singularly little attraction for a third party outside that enchanted
pale, which encloses within a magic circle the sayings and doings of
those under the spell. The pleasantest "talks" are those which have
the least in them; the best-remembered interviews are frequently those
in which there have been no salient features, of which it would be
hardest to render an account,--those in which acquaintance passes into
knowledge, and grows into friendship after a strange fashion,
distinctly felt, but not to be described. When the transition is not
from acquaintance to friendship, but from liking to love, the process
is even more difficult of description; and a transition of this kind
was taking place in the pretty, if not particularly neat, drawing-room
which formed so striking a contrast to the apartment beneath it, in
which Mr. Guyon and Robert Streightley had held a parley, destined to
influence the future fate of Katharine and her visitor very
materially.

What did they not talk of? that is to say, within the wide range of
topics possessing interest for their young light hearts. The
festivities performed during the past week, and anticipated for that
to come; the prospects of a charitable bazaar, at which Miss Guyon had
kindly consented to take a stall (Mr. Frere was very happy in his
anticipation of the unqualified success of the speculation); the Opera
_répertoires_ for the season; the last new varieties of flowers at the
Botanical (Miss Guyon loved flowers and understood them); the last new
novel, and the forthcoming poem by the Laureate. Then they discussed
Tennyson in general, and Katharine quoted him in particular--an
achievement in which Gordon Frere could not imitate her, his
appreciation being vague, though genuine; and Katharine "tried over"
one or two of the airs which they agreed to prefer among those in
fashion just then; and time flew, and the young people felt decidedly
happy.

Miss Guyon played brilliantly; her music had a great deal of the
"dash" about it which characterised her appearance and her general
demeanour. She was one of those women who do every thing well which
they undertake at all, and the finish of her manner extended to all
she did. She had another peculiarity; perhaps not a safe or
advantageous one in the end, but pleasant and effective then. She
could do certain things with impunity which girls in her position,
however effectually "come out," could not have attempted. She set
conventionality aside when it suited her to do so; but the boldest and
most ill-natured critic would never have accused her of outraging it.
The men who tempt women into departure from the rules, made and
appointed for their conduct and customs by a society more remarkable
for suspicion than for intelligence, are precisely those who most
severely condemn them for yielding to the temptation. But there was
neither guidance nor following in Miss Guyon's case. She was an
exceptional woman, placed in circumstances which are, fortunately, not
very common; and she went her own way, and kept, to it unmolested; and
if not uncriticised, criticised as little as any one possessing youth,
beauty, talent, and individuality of character, could expect to be.

So Miss Guyon talked to Gordon Frere, and played for his delectation,
and quoted poetry to him, and made herself most agreeable; and his
stay prolonged itself much beyond the customary limits of a morning
visit; and yet she never felt that this was any thing unusual, or was
conscious that her self-possession was beyond that of other girls, or
her manner more assured than theirs. She never thought about it at
all; she enjoyed the present time and the young man's society; she
accredited him with all sorts of social talents and bright congenial
tastes; and no suspicion ever occurred to her that he was merely
reflecting some of her own readiness, brilliancy, and versatility. And
Gordon Frere, was not "he too in Arcadia"? Over the girl's whole
bearing an indescribable softness, a winning grace was thrown,--the
subtle, all-powerful charm created by the desire of pleasing; perhaps
the most potent, and frequently the most unconscious, in a woman's
possession. She looked her best, she talked her best, the animation of
her manner never passing the bounds of perfect refinement, but ever
spontaneous and unsubdued; the simple grace of her figure, the
sensitive beauty of her face must have touched and warmed a duller man
than Gordon Frere. There was a delicious flattery in her undisguised
pleasure in his society which he felt with a subtler sense than he had
ever before experienced; for there was no one to share it here. She
was shining, she was sparkling for him alone. This was something
different, something much more delightful than the ride in the Row,
or the dance in the ball-room, to which he was tolerably well
accustomed, and which he might have gone on enjoying for some time
longer without being inspired by the intense admiration which began to
possess him as he looked at her, and listened to her, as he recognised
the genuine charm of her manner, unspoiled by the faintest tinge of
self-consciousness or coquetry.

"Do you know much of the City?" Katharine said, after a slight pause
in their conversation; "do you often go there?"

"No, indeed," said Frere; "I seldom have occasion; and my rambles
eastwards rarely extend beyond the Temple. But why do you ask? Do you
take an interest in the City?"

"I do," she returned thoughtfully; "I should like to explore it
thoroughly for the sake of its present and its past. I have never seen
any thing of it since I was a child, and they took me to the Tower,
and Guildhall, and the Thames Tunnel all on the same day; and I
remember nothing but a hideous figure of Queen Elizabeth, the
block--which frightened me--Gog and Magog, and my own fatigue. I was
horribly tired when I came home; and when, on another holiday, they
wanted to take me to St. Paul's, and told me about the winding stairs
and the whispering gallery, I positively declined the proposed
diversion. So I have never really seen the City. I drove through a
part of it yesterday, and a very dingy part it was too; and I thought
how much I should like to see it all and think over it all."

"I don't suppose many people think of it in that way," said Mr. Frere;
"to the world at large it's only a huge counting-house, a busy
beehive, a crowd of places where money is to be made, and of men
intent on making it."

"But even in that aspect it is very interesting," said Katharine; "and
in that aspect I was considering it when I looked at the great
warehouses and offices, and saw the names whose very sound is golden,
the names famous all over the world. But, after all, these people must
lead horribly stupid lives, for ever toiling at money-getting. I don't
suppose they have time to enjoy spending it when it is made. Only
fancy how dreadful to have to go to these dingy places every day, and
stay there all day long."

"That is true," said Gordon Frere. "The lives of City men do not seem
very enviable, or indeed bearable to us; but there must be a
compensation in them. Some of them must absolutely _like_ plodding,
for they go on with it long after they need not, as a matter of
choice."

"Do they?" asked Katharine in a tone of surprise. "I saw a 'City man'
when I was there,--I had a little business to attend to for papa, as
he was not at home,--and he had such a settled, business-like look,
though he was not at all old. I could not fancy him ever taking any
pleasure or amusement, or being like other people--of course, I mean,"
she added explanatorily, "any of the pleasures of his class."

"O, I suppose not," said Frere; "a regular grub, who will be what he
will be content to call rich when he's gray and gouty. But they have
one consolation, Miss Guyon: as their business and their pleasure
alike consist in money-getting, the one is not purchased at the
expense of the other."

"Like ours," she said with a laugh, "when we have any business." Then
she went on again, thoughtfully as before: "I should like to go all
through the City. Not for the sake of seeing the places where all the
money that I have nothing to do with is made; but because so much of
our old history was acted out there. I suppose in the City one can get
a sight of the old landmarks; and they are certainly not to be found
outside it. It is rather odd that every thing that is most dignified
connects itself in one's mind with City places, and every thing that
is most vulgar with City people. If one could only see it after all
the money-grubbers are gone away, and when it is still and quiet in
the evenings, as they say it is----"

"And when, accordingly, the most ingenious and charmingly-sensational
robberies are perpetrated," said Gordon Frere, laughing. "Well, that
is a wish easily gratified. Who was the man who always said, when any
place was mentioned, 'Let's make a party and go'? No matter, we will
echo him. I know a man who knows lots of City men, who would be
delighted to show you every thing worth seeing; and then there are
books, you know, which tell one the history--I was going to say the
pedigree--of every place. But I suppose Mr. Guyon has City
acquaintances also?"

Gordon Frere asked the question inadvertently, and felt rather guilty
when he had done so; for he had heard certain rumours which left him
in no doubt at all as to the nature of Mr. Guyon's acquaintance with
the far east.

"I daresay he has," replied Katharine carelessly; "but I don't know
any thing of them. My business was only with a tradesman, a person
named Streightley, and I have never heard papa mention his business
friends."

And then the conversation drifted to other topics, and Gordon Frere
shortly after took his leave. This morning visit had been unlike the
ordinary events of his days, and he felt towards Katharine Guyon as he
left her as he had never felt before. And Katharine? She had reseated
herself at the piano as he left the room, and her fingers had strayed
for a few momenta over the keys; then her hands fell idly into her
lap, and, in the sunshine of the summer day, unbroken by the stir and
noise in the street, there came upon the fair young girl that
wonderful waking trance whose vision is "love's young dream."

The trance was broken by the entrance of her father. Mr. Guyon's
manner, always light and airy, was on this occasion lighter and airier
than usual. He walked up to the piano, bent over his daughter, and
giving her a paternal kiss, said, "Who was your visitor, Kate?"

Not without a repetition of the blush, Katharine said, "Mr. Frere,
papa."

"Mr. Frere!" repeated Mr. Guyon,--"ay, ay, a good fellow, Gordon
Frere,--a good fellow! Wants ballast perhaps!" added he reflectively,
as though he himself were provided with more than an average amount of
that commodity,--"wants ballast; but that will come. By the way, Kate,
I've had your City friend of yesterday with me,--Mr. Streightley."

"Indeed, papa!" said Katharine carelessly. It was a great descent from
Gordon Frere to the City man, Mr. Streightley. She rose from the piano
as she spoke, and crossed to the mantel-shelf, on which she leaned her
arm.

"Indeed, papa! Yes, and indeed, papa, and no mistake. It's a most
remarkable thing, and I can't make it out. You don't understand
business matters in detail, but you'll be able to follow me when I
tell you that this Streightley, who has the name of being a deuced
sharp man of business, has behaved to me in a deuced liberal and
gentlemanly way--a deuced liberal and gentlemanly way! And what on
earth can have been his motive--for of course he had a motive--what on
earth can have induced him to show me any special favour, I can't
divine."

"Can't you, papa?" said Miss Guyon. She was looking at herself in the
glass, pushing back the hair from off her temples. A slight smile
curved her lip, and she looked splendidly handsome. Mr. Guyon,
glancing at her, caught the expression reflected in the glass and
sprang to his feet.

"By George, Kate, I've hit it! the man's in love with you!"

"Is he?" said Katharine simply. "I noticed him in the Park yesterday
afternoon, and standing outside the Opera last night."

"You're an angel!" said Mr. Guyon, again performing the paternal
salute. "What are you going to do to-morrow?"

"I thought of going to the Botanical Gardens in the afternoon--it's
the last _fête_ of the season."

"You shall go! I'll take you myself! You--you have not asked young
Frere to call again, have you?"

"No, papa. I----"

"Of course. I only wanted to know. Don't, until I tell you. And now I
must be off. God bless you, my child!"

But though Mr. Guyon took farewell of his daughter he was not "off"
yet; for he spent half an hour in his dressing-room, his head resting
on his hand, and his busy mind full of thought.



CHAPTER III.
WITHIN THE PALE.


Three days had elapsed since the interview between Katharine Guyon and
Gordon Frere, which had gone so far towards deciding the destiny of
both, when that haughty young lady learned, with some astonishment and
more disdain, that her father had it in contemplation to invite Mr.
Streightley, the "tradesman" on whom she had called "in the City," to
one of his quiet and limited, but very _recherché_ dinners. She heard
the announcement with such surprise that her father actually took the
trouble of observing the expression of her face, and laughed quite
spontaneously at it.

"That person, papa?" asked Katharine.

"Yes, my dear, 'that person,' as you call him, with the pretty
insolence which is more becoming than reasonable. And more than that,
Kate, you must make yourself agreeable to that person, and we must
have pleasant people to meet him, for he has done me a great service,
and is likely to do me several good turns, and to be a very useful
acquaintance."

"But, papa," pursued Katharine, who was accustomed to hold her ground
in words, as well as to have her way in actions, "he is not in our
set, or in any set, I should think. A City person, a tradesman! I
really cannot see----"

"I daresay not, Kate," said her father, with a perceptible knitting of
the delicately-traced eyebrows over the fine eyes, which indicated
that this exquisite gentleman was not precisely the soul of patience
and good temper. "I daresay not, but _I_ can; and that is the chief
matter just now. I daresay Mr. Streightley is not in any 'set,' as you
say; but when you talk of him as a 'tradesman' you make a very silly
and an ignorant mistake. Yes you do," he continued, in reply to an
indignant look from his daughter, "though you are very clever,
Katie,--almost as clever as you are handsome, my dear. Mr. Streightley
is a very rich and a very influential man, and no more a tradesman
than I am."

"Well then, papa," asked Katharine, "what did he mean by sending in a
bill in that extraordinary way? If he is not a tradesman, what
dealings with him had you, and what services has he done you?"

Mr. Guyon smiled. His daughter's _naïveté_ amused him. "Never mind,
Kate," he said. "Men have money transactions outside their household
bills, my dear, or even their tailors and bootmakers; but women do not
need to understand these things, and I should only bore you if I
explained them. Mr. Streightley's 'bill' was a very different thing to
what you imagine, and his position is, I assure you, a most
respectable one. Take my word for that, Kate, and don't trouble your
pretty little head about the matter. I hope we shall see a good deal
of Mr. Streightley, and I wish this dinner-party to be a success; so
make out your list, and see Watkins about it at once."

"Do you wish any people in particular to be asked to meet this new
friend, papa?" asked Katharine, in a tone which was a little sullen,
and just the least in the world impertinent, "or shall I take them, as
usual, from the visiting-book?"

Mr. Guyon ignored the tone of his daughter's question, but replied to
its matter by saying: "No, no one in particular; either Lady Henmarsh
or Mrs. Stanbourne, of course; but you need not have any girls. I
fancy Streightley knows very few people; they'll all be new to him."

"Bar, Bench, or Bishop, like Mrs. Merdle,--eh, papa?" said Katharine,
as she rose from the breakfast-table, at which this dialogue had taken
place. "Very well, I'll let you see my list when it's done. And now,
the day?"

This point was fixed, after a little discussion; and then Katharine
went to talk with her housekeeper, Mrs. Watkins, to write her notes,
to dawdle over her flowers, until the horses came round; and she
started for the Park with the reasonable expectation of seeing Gordon
Frere--an expectation which was fulfilled before she had been five
minutes in the Row.

During the days which intervened before that named for the
dinner-party, Katharine never gave a passing thought to the subject of
her father's strange and incongruous guest; but when the day came, she
felt rather ill-humoured about the whole thing.

"What on earth can papa want with him?" she thought, impatiently; "and
I am to make myself agreeable to him! Well, that generally comes easy
to me; but not in this case. I can't even talk to him about the City,
which I really should like, because that would be talking shop, though
he's not a tradesman. However, it will soon be over," she thought,
brightening up, and with an exquisite smile of happy anticipation
lighting up her face, moody till then; "and the ball can't fail to be
delightful."

Miss Guyon was going to a ball in the evening, after her dinner-party
at home; and her toilet was made with a view to that festivity. An
ornament or two, and a magical touch added to her head-dress, were all
she would require for the perfect brilliancy of her appearance, in
addition to the white dress, arrayed in which she appeared to the
enchanted gaze of Robert Streightley, when he was ushered into her
drawing-room, like a vision from another world. And it was quite true
that he had never seen so beautiful, so graceful, so elegant a woman
as the girl-hostess, who played her part with perfect self-possession,
while he felt miserably embarrassed in his.

Katharine was seated on an ottoman, placed between the long narrow
windows of the front drawing-room, talking to an elderly lady, whom
Robert Streightley's quick eye recognised, as he advanced from the
door. Mr. Guyon left the group with whom he was talking, on the
announcement of Robert's name; and went forward to meet him with a
decided _empressement_ of manner which had its effect on the other
guests assembled. He led Robert up to Katharine, and presented him to
her. She bent her graceful head, said a gracious word or two, and
resumed her conversation with the lady--whom Robert had recognised,
and who was Lady Henmarsh--with well-bred imperturbability. Did she
remember him? Robert thought. Had she ever thought of him since that
day which had meant to him so much, but to her so little? So little!
nothing! and yet not nothing, if she had only known it, for he had
discovered things about her father since. Robert found himself
thinking these rambling thoughts, and gazing helplessly at Katharine,
unheeding the smooth flow of Mr. Guyon's talk, as that gentleman, in
his very best and airiest manner, addressed himself to the
entertainment of his new and useful guest, and to the task of putting
him at his ease in this strange sphere. With a sudden consciousness of
his absence of mind came self-command to Robert, and before long he
began to examine the other guests with much more of attention and
curiosity than they were at all likely to bestow on him. To the dozen
persons assembled in Mr. Guyon's drawing-room Robert Streightley was
merely a stranger,--well-dressed, well-looking, and though deficient
in the air of fashion, which more or less marked themselves, a
gentleman in whom there was nothing to provoke any adverse or sneering
criticism. To Robert they were all interesting. These were Katharine's
friends,--the people she lived amongst, the people who could influence
her by their tastes and opinions, the people whose manners, and dress,
and conversation she liked. In every man in the room Robert saw a
possible rival, in every woman a possible enemy. He was very foolish,
not only in the ordinary sense in which every man who is in love is
foolish, but in an extraordinary sense,--the result of his peculiar
position, and the isolation of his life. He was possessed by his one
idea; and he allowed it to become a centre round which every thing
revolved. When the announcement of dinner told him that the party was
complete, and relieved him from the apprehension of seeing Gordon
Frere's handsome face amongst the number, he actually sighed audibly
with the sense of relief. He listened eagerly, as Mr. Guyon or
Katharine addressed their guests, and learned with absurd satisfaction
that three of the six gentlemen who composed the male portion of the
company were married to three of the six ladies who composed the
female portion.

Robert Streightley was a very clever man, but there was a dangerously
weak side to his intellect, all the more perilous that he had never
suspected it, and did not suspect it now; and that weak side was
about to be stormed by a strong passion, all the more ungovernable
because it attacked him for the first time. He had never played
with this dangerous enemy; he had not known any of the feints, the
mock-surprises of love, and he was hopelessly at its mercy. Mingled
happiness and misery,--the happiness of this delicious, unexpected
excess to Katharine's presence, the misery of his uncertainty
as to her relations with others, with one terrible other in
particular--the sense of his strangeness in the scene familiar to
her,--ravaged and divided his heart between them. For a time the
misery was predominant; and then Robert, an impressionable man, and
one in whom social tastes were not non-existent, only dormant, yielded
to the charm of the present, and gave himself up to admiration of
Katharine, who never showed to greater advantage than on such
occasions. The _aplomb_ of her manner, the brilliancy of her
conversation, the taste, elegance, and fashion of her dress, the easy
and pleasant grace with which she made the dinner-party "go off" with
a success utterly beyond his experience of any festal occasion
whatever, were full of a marvellous charm for the man who looked at
this girl through the glorified medium of a first and overmastering
passion.

Robert took little heed of the other guests, except as one or other of
them engaged Katharine's attention, and so divided his. He had the
good fortune to be seated near Miss Guyon; and but that Lady Henmarsh
directed much of her conversation to the young hostess, and so won
Streightley's enthusiastic gratitude, she would probably have found
her neighbour rather a dull companion. But Lady Henmarsh was never
dull, and never suffered from other people's dulness. In the first
place, she dearly liked and thoroughly understood a good dinner; and
Mr. Guyon's dinners were invariably and remarkably good. She made it a
practice to eat systematically and steadily through all the courses,
and to do justice to all the wines. She was too fashionable and too
impervious to other people's opinions to care what any body thought;
and so she ate and drank precisely as much as she pleased, and gave
her opinion of the comestibles with perfect candour. She was intimate
with every one there, except that good-looking new man, who was
probably clever in something, but whom nobody knew, and who did not
seem to want to talk much or to be talked to; and she therefore joined
in all the general conversation, and did not mind him particularly,
thereby increasing Robert's gratitude. Lady Henmarsh talked remarkably
well. She was naturally quick and intelligent--well-informed too, for
a woman of fashion, with, of course, no time for improving her mind;
and as she knew every one and had been every where, and probably had a
more extensive epistolary correspondence than any other woman in
London who did not play at either literature or politics, she was
never at a loss for news to communicate or subjects to discuss.

With the exception of Mr. Guyon, whose like was not quite unknown
within the circle of Robert's experience, every type there was a novel
one to him. Few were interesting after a little,--after a cursory
examination extending to their personal appearance and the grooves in
which their conversation ran. There was a new member, who talked
"House" a good deal, and his wife--pretty and well-dressed--who talked
"Ladies' Gallery," who hoped her husband would soon "speak" on the
great topic of the day, and who seemed to regard every one not "in the
House" as in the "butterfly of fashion" and general inutility line.
There was a country gentleman, not at all stupid and not in the least
fat; and a country lady, almost as sprightly as Miss Guyon herself,
though by no means so handsome. The country lady and gentleman were
also going to Mrs. Pendarvis's ball; and from their talk about it at
dinner Robert learned that Katharine was going to another
entertainment that evening, and the tortures of his infatuated state
recommenced. She would disappear, then, after dinner, and he should
see no more of her, thought Robert in his innocent ignorance of
fashionable hours; and she would go and glitter among a crowd of happy
people, and that handsome fellow with the light hair would be one of
them. And so Robert once more stretched himself upon the rack, and
gave himself an excruciating twist. He was miserable from the time the
ball was mentioned. Did he wish that he could go there too? Hardly; he
felt he would be too much out of place in such a scene; and where
could he be more hopelessly parted from her? No, he did not wish to be
going to Mrs. Pendarvis's house; he only wished she were not going.

"Have you a card, Mr. Mostyn?" he heard Katharine say in a charming
accent of interest to a gentleman seated near her, whom Robert had
already regarded with some surprise and amusement.

"Yes," returned Mr. Mostyn in a supremely languid tone, at the same
time permitting his eyes to raise themselves towards Katharine, as if
in slow acknowledgment of the complimentary accent. "I think I shall
look in for an hour very late. Will you give me a dance, Miss Guyon?"
He said this as if he felt bound to make a concession to a wish of
hers. Robert Streightley had very quick eyes, and he saw her steal a
glance of sly, mischievous amusement at Lady Henmarsh as she replied,

"I don't see how I can, Mr. Mostyn, if you only look in for an hour
very late, for I mean to do my looking in rather early."

"Very sorry, I'm sure," said Mr. Mostyn in a slow, measured, would-be
modulated tone, which sounded to Robert's ears like the very voice of
fatuity. "But one has so much to do of an evening just now. It's Lady
Ismaeli's night, and I promised to look in and----"

"Of course, of course," said Miss Guyon, and her eyes danced with
mischievous glee; "who would for the world interfere with Mr. Mostyn's
gaieties? We all know they are but gravities in disguise. He is the
slave of the season only to be its satirist, the pet of society to
requite its indulgence by his teachings as a philosopher and his
dulcet lays as a poet. Who would lay a tax on time spent in the
service of society like Mr. Mostyn's, studying character in a
cotillion, piercing the thin disguises of intrigue at a picnic, and
reading the female soul in the evening lounge on a balcony? Ah, Mr.
Mostyn, what triflers are we all beside you, the _poètephilosophe_,
not only _sous les toits_, but of our dinner- and toilet-tables!"

Lady Henmarsh was listening, pleasure in her face. There was something
under this lively talk, this seeming compliment; and Robert would have
liked well to know what it was. It was something that amused
Katharine, therefore interesting to him.

"Come, Mr. Mostyn," she went on, "you might tell _me_--I am a friend,
you know. When is the new novel coming out? And what and who is it to
be about? Only intimate friends this time, or have outsiders any
chance?"

She paused for a reply, and an expression of candid curiosity was all
her face betrayed. Mr. Mostyn did not look perfectly comfortable; a
dawning doubt showed itself in his smooth features. It was only
momentary, though. It cleared away, and he replied,

"Really, Miss Guyon, you embarrass me. I was not prepared to find you
so much interested in my humble performances. I shall not publish
again, for some little time. I regard the writing of a poem or a novel
as a serious undertaking, and I undertake it in a serious spirit. I
wait for the inspiration, Miss Guyon; I wait until a favourable moment
when my mind is attuned----"

"And when you have got some very good models, Mr. Mostyn; isn't that
so? Your acquaintance is so large, it must be quite delightful and not
at all difficult. Don't be shocked, please, by my talking of such a
little thing as difficulty in the case of such a grand thing as
inspiration; but it must be so easy and pleasant just to sit down and
put your friends in a book. People hardly expect it, do they? They let
you see them as they are, and then that is charming; for you find out
all about them, and they never suspect it; and all their circle
recognise the portrait, and every one talks about it. I have quite a
woman's curiosity about writers, you must know, Mr. Mostyn,--I quite
admire and envy them,--and I should like to know all about them; and I
have heard that even a totally worthless book will be read if it is
very personal indeed. What a comfort that must be, Mr. Mostyn I--of
course I mean to the persons who write worthless books; shouldn't you
think so?"

Katharine threw a perfect tone of interrogation into her voice, and
deliberately awaited an answer. Once more a shadow of doubt came over
Mr. Mostyn's face, and once more a beam from the never-setting sun of
his vanity dispelled it.

"I cannot imagine there being any consolation in or for writing a
worthless book, Miss Guyon," replied Mr. Mostyn with even increased
sententiousness. "For my part, I could only be satisfied with doing
the very best----"

"_The_ very best, or _your_ very best?" said Katharine with
undisguised sauciness. Then recollecting herself, she dropped her
voice to the serious tone again, and went on: "Of course no one is
easily satisfied with his own work; but you really must not be too
modest, Mr. Mostyn,--you mustn't indeed. Every one says your portraits
are wonderful; and what can be more interesting than to depict
accurately persons who are very widely known, and place them in the
most trying situations? The popular authoress, for instance, who makes
love to your last hero--dear, what an exquisite creature he is!--how
odd she must feel it to be 'put in a book' and recognised by every
body! Ah! you are a dangerous man, Mr. Mostyn; perhaps you'll put me
in a book some day, if I am good enough, or bad enough, or ask you
here sufficiently often to do all my sittings properly--but--Lady
Henmarsh looks as if I ought to have moved before this;" and so saying
Katharine rose, and, like "fair Inez," took all the sunshine and light
of every description with her, so far as Robert Streightley was
concerned. Whether Mr. Mostyn was quite so sorry for her departure was
another question. Robert looked at this gentleman with some curiosity
and a little dawning compassion, for it struck him that Katharine had
not spoken altogether _de bonne foi_, and he was curious to ascertain
whether he too was aware of the fact.

Robert had little experience of _persiflage_, and was not behind the
scenes on this occasion; but two or three of the other guests were,
and they enjoyed the quiet little performance which had just been
enacted greatly. As for Mr. Mostyn, his momentary discomfiture passed
off with the characteristic reflection, that jealousy made all women
spiteful, and Miss Guyon had really not had so much of his attention
lately as she deserved,--he must be more considerate of her feelings
for the future. The ladies gone, the gentlemen drew up into the usual
cluster, and commenced the ordinary after-dinner conversation; and
Robert would probably have found the affair very wearisome on its own
account, not to mention that he was longing to be in Katharine's
presence again, had not Mr. Guyon exerted himself to the utmost to
draw 'him out, and to give the conversation a general turn, so as to
include him, and to make it evident to the whole party that the "new
man" was one whom he delighted to honour.

When the ladies were passing through the hall, Lady Henmarsh had said
laughingly to Katharine, "For shame, Kate; you were too hard on the
young author."

"Nonsense!" replied Katharine. "You enjoyed it immensely, and he
deserved it richly."

When the gentlemen came into the drawing-room at Mr. Guyon's that
night, Katharine was seated at the piano. Had any portion of Robert
Streightley's heart remained unvanquished, she would have conquered it
by her music: but he was already as much in love as he could be. Soon
the business of leave-taking commenced. Robert was reluctantly
advancing to make his adieux, when Mr. Guyon took him familiarly by
the arm and said,

"Don't go just yet, Streightley. We'll see the ladies to the carriage,
and then have a chat and a cigar in my room."

Miss Guyon left the room with Lady Henmarsh, but returned in a few
minutes, wrapped in a soft white mantle. Every alteration in her
appearance made her more beautiful in Robert's eyes. He had the
felicity of taking her downstairs; and as she bowed and smiled from
the corner of the carriage in which she had ensconced herself, and was
then borne rapidly away, Robert needed Mr. Guyon's "Come along,
Streightley; don't stand there in the cold," to rouse him from a sort
of trance of admiration.

The ball at Mrs. Pendarvis's was crowded and brilliant, and
Katharine's hopes were realised. Gordon Frere had waited her arrival
on the staircase, and claimed her for the first dance. The hours
passed like a dream to them both; and when Mr. Alured Mostyn "looked
in," and at length succeeded in finding Miss Guyon, he saw her so
radiant with beauty, so sparkling with animation, that he was quite
touched at the idea of the effect produced by her pleasure in seeing
him.

Another person noticed the unusual beauty and the increased animation
of Katharine Guyon that night, and formed a truer estimate of its
origin. This was Lady Henmarsh. She made certain observations, drew
certain conclusions, and determined on a line of conduct which will
develop itself in the course of events.

And Robert? Well, Robert had his chat and his cigar with Mr. Guyon,
and then he went home--home to the house which he had never before
thought vulgar or insignificant, which he had never thought about at
all indeed, and which was in truth much more solidly comfortable than
the gaudier abode which had suddenly been converted into a shrine to
his fancy. He shrunk from it now as he thought, "I wonder what she
would say to this, and our mode of life here?" and he returned the old
nurse's greeting with grudging ill-humour, being inclined to resent
her sitting up for him, though it was not an abnormally late hour, and
her opening the door for him, which, though not her business, was, as
he well knew, her pleasure.

"Any news, nurse? any letters?" he asked, in a tone wholly devoid of
interest in the reply.

"No, Master Robert," said the old woman; "there's no letters, and
there's nobody been but Miss Hester Gould, a-wantin' to know when Miss
Ellen's comin' home."



CHAPTER IV.
MR. GUYON'S FRIEND.


The astonishment of Mr. Guyon at the liberal treatment which he had
received at the hands of his new creditor was by no means feigned.
That worthy gentleman, in the course of a long career of
impecuniosity, had become acquainted with all the various plans of all
the leading discounters of the city of London; knew what he called
their "whole bag of tricks;" understood the different ways of getting
time or obtaining renewal, according to the various idiosyncrasies of
the holders of his stamped paper; and gave to the subject an amount of
talent, industry, and attention which, otherwise employed, might have
brought him in a very fair income. A very fair income was not a thing
to be despised by a gentleman in Mr. Guyon's position, whose actually
reliable income was represented by one figure, and that a round one. A
sum of five thousand pounds indeed stood in the Consols in Edward
Guyon's name; but on that pleasantly-sounding amount was laid a
_distringas_, a horrible legal instrument preventing its withdrawal by
the said Edward Guyon, while the annual interest, which would at least
have kept him in cigars and gloves, found its way into the clutches of
Messrs. Sharkey and Maw, attorneys-at-law, who had a few years
previously advanced a sufficient sum to free Mr. Guyon from an
unpleasant incarceration in the Queen's Bench, leaving him a few
pounds over to convey himself to the Newmarket Spring Meeting, whither
he proceeded immediately on his release. All that pleasant estate
known as Bedingfield, in the county of Cheshire, with its three
thousand acres of arable land, its salt- and coal-mines, its
since-made railway bit, its punctually-paying tenant, and its various
sources of revenue; which belonged to the Honourable Piers Rankley,
and which every one thought he would bequeath to his cousin, Edward
Guyon, had been left to a distant relative of Piers Rankley's
childless dead wife, one Jacob Long, a member of the Plymouth
Brethren, and originally a hide-dresser in Bermondsey, who under the
influence of qualms of conscience agreed to allow his reprobate
connection Edward Guyon a sum of a thousand a-year, "at his pleasure."
It had been a matter of acute annoyance to Ned Guyon that he had no
legal claim or hold on this allowance; so that it was impossible for
him to mortgage or anticipate it in any way, save by a three months'
acceptance for the amount of the quarterly instalment--less commission
and discount--payable on the day that instalment was due; but in
reality it enabled him to pay renewal fees, to have occasional
ready-money for certain _menus plaisirs_ of his own and little treats
for Kate, and to give such an air of respectability as it possessed to
that old house in Queen Anne Street, the lease of which, with its
dingy furniture and ten pounds for a mourning ring, had been his sole
legacy from Piers Rankley.

But no income, however fair, would have tempted Mr. Guyon to undertake
any honest work, or, as he phrased it, any "d--d low ungentlemanlike
slavery;" and the consequence was that, what with an accumulation of
gambling-table (he was a member of the Nob and Heels Club, where they
play whist for twenty-four hours at a sitting, pound points and a
tenner on the rub) and turf debts, he was just at the time of his
introduction into this story in a really desperate condition. It had
been an unlucky season with him. His racing information had been bad
throughout. Commencing ill last Chester, he had been hard hit at
Epsom, had dropped more money at Ascot, and could only pull off a
stake at the coming Doncaster by a most unlikely fluke. He had had
frightful ill-luck at cards. Acknowledged to be one of the best
whist-players of the day, he had scarcely held a trump since the
winter, and had been beaten by the merest tyros. That very acceptance,
which his new acquaintance Streightley held, had been given to
Davidson for a card debt; and Guyon had forgotten all about it,
having, contrary to his usual custom, omitted to enter it in his
book. However, that was staved off for the present; and the few words
which he had had with his daughter on the subject had opened a new
well-spring of life in Mr. Guyon's breast. If what Kate surmised, or
rather half hinted at, were true--and, with all her pride and
wilfulness, she had wonderful common-sense and shrewdness--it might,
with judicious management, be turned to wondrous advantage. It was but
in embryo yet, to be sure; but, with Kate's beauty and his own tact,
it could be brought off at any moment, and the value of it would
be--well, he would see at once what the value of it would be by
representing it as a certainty to his chief creditor and principal
discount-agent, Mr. Daniel Thacker.

Who was Mr. Daniel Thacker? If you had been heir to an entailed
estate, with as large a taste for pleasure and as limited resources as
such heirs usually possess; if you had been an officer in either of
the Guards regiments, or any of the crack _corps_; if you had been a
member of any of the West-end government offices, with fast
tendencies; or an author; or an actor frequenting fast society; or a
theatrical manager; or a pretty _coryphée_ fond of suppers and
admiration,--you would not have had to ask the question; for without
doubt you would have possessed Mr. Thacker's acquaintance. A man
combining the sharpest practice (in a gentlemanly way) as a
bill-discounter with the keenest pursuit of pleasure of a strong,
full-flavoured, not to say of a gross kind, was Mr. Thacker. A man who
made cent per cent of his money by judicious investment, and who at
the same time "parted" freely; living in capital chambers in St.
James's Street, keeping horses and carriages, entertaining frequently
and well, having an Opera-stall for himself and frequently an
Opera-box for a female friend, visiting the theatres, riding to
hounds, and carrying out every thing he attempted in very excellent
style. Life seemed a broad and pleasantly-turfed path for Mr. Daniel
Thacker, down which he could stroll in his easy polished boots without
the smallest stumbling-block to cause him annoyance. But there was one
thing which wrung and chafed him, which he could never shut out from
his happiest hour, which proclaimed itself whenever he looked in the
glass (which was not seldom), which lay like a hideous pitfall for Mr.
Thacker's friends, into which they were perpetually tumbling and
coming out covered with inarticulate excuses, which pointed the
sarcasm of little boys in the streets at first overwhelmed by his
splendour, and edged the repartee of insolent cabmen, to whom he
called to clear the way for his high-stepping steeds,--a fact which
nothing could hide, a brand which no money could obliterate;--Mr.
Daniel Thacker was an unmistakable Jew. Unmistakable! as unmistakable
as if he had retained his old family name of Hart; as if he had
remained in his old family neighbourhood of St. Mary Axe; as if he had
continued his old family occupation of contracting with the government
for the supply of rum and lemons for the navy, and uniforms for the
postmen. In that choice neighbourhood, and out of those apparently not
very meaty contracts, had old Simeon Hart, Daniel's uncle, made all
the wealth which he bequeathed to his nephew; and when, long before
the old gentleman's decease, the young man's aspirations led him to
declare to his senior that he thought the Hebraic name stood in their
way in certain matters of business, and that he had some idea of
taking some less-recognisable cognomen,--the old gentleman remarked,
not without a touch of sarcasm in his voice, "Do ath you like, Daniel,
ma tear; do ath you like. You're a threwd lad, and are thure to turn
out right; but underthand one thing, ma tear,--you may change your
name if you like, but you'll never be able to change your nothe." Mr.
Simeon Hart was right; nothing short of cutting off that feature
could have disguised Mr. Daniel Thacker's nationality. He was as
distinctly marked as is the African; and though, with the addition of
splendid sparkling black eyes, bright scarlet lips, a quantity of
tightly-curling hair, and a fine flowing beard, he passed for a
handsome man among certain of the other sex, there was no man to
whom he had ever rendered a service--and he was in the main a
kindly-disposed fellow so far as his profession permitted--but set him
down for a "d--d Jew."

He never forgot this, it was never absent from his thoughts. If he saw
any one regarding him attentively, he felt at once what they were
thinking about; it haunted him in the theatre, in society, wherever
there was a chance of casual mention of his forsworn race. He had
tried to laugh it over in his business discount-dealings with
money-borrowers, asking them in a light and airy manner "why they came
to the Jews," of whom they must have had such serious warnings: but
the raillery always fell flat and heavy; and sometimes, from cubs of
fashion, produced unintentional clumsy sarcasms which stung him to the
quick. The renegade paid the penalty of his cowardice. With the
blunted notions of an unrefined mind, he thought that the prejudice
was levelled at his race, not at the character which the dealings of
some of his nation had won for it, and which he himself was
supporting. In his blindness he ignored the fact that amongst all
those whose good word was worth having, the prejudice had died out;
that the names of certain proud old Jewish families, who could trace
their pedigree far beyond the barber-surgeon or border-robber founders
of Norman or Scottish families, were honoured amongst the honoured;
and that in any case a man who, brought into contact with a set
socially superior to his own, took up his position calmly on the
strength of his own acquirements, be these what they might, was
received with a courtesy and a kindness which were naturally
refused to the most glowing impostor. With Mr. Guyon Thacker had
long had extensive dealings--dealings which had extended over a long
course of years; but of late he had been a little doubtful of his
client's solvency, a little delicate in the matter of renewals and
holdings-over; and with a clouded brow he heard from his clerk the
announcement that Mr. Guyon was waiting to see him in the ante-room.
He reflected for a moment, and seemed half disposed to deny himself to
his visitor; then carefully shutting the right-hand drawer of his
desk, in which he kept his checkbook, and placing the morocco-bound
volume, which was a ledger, but looked like a diary, close by him, he
said, "Show Mr. Guyon in, James; I've just five minutes at his
disposal."

Dressed in the most perfect manner, with all the latest improvements
of fashion sufficiently tempered to his time of life, calm, collected,
bland, and airy, yet with a certain amount of anxiety visible about
his eyes and in the shifting corners of his mouth, Mr. Guyon entered
the apartment and shook hands warmly with his friend.

Mr. Thacker received him civilly but not cordially, and expressed his
hope that he saw Mr. Guyon well.

"Thanks, my dear Thacker," said that sprightly gentleman; "I think I
may say, never in better case. I was getting a little pulled with the
gaieties of the season--we old fellows can't carry it through like you
young ones, you know--and I was, to tell truth, knocking up a bit; but
last week I went down for a couple of days to Maidenhead--Orkney Arms,
Skindle's, you know--where there was a particularly jolly party, all
of them friends of yours, by the way,--Bob Affington and Adèle, and
Dalrymple and O'Dwyer, and Hattenheim and the Marchesa--a droll lot of
people of the right sort--and we had great fun; and it quite set me
up. Every body said they wished you'd been down there."

"Every body's very good," replied Thacker, sufficiently grimly. He
hated hearing of any pleasure which he had not shared. "Every body's
very good; but every body seems to forget that I've my business to
attend to."

"Business, my dear boy," said Mr. Guyon, stretching out his legs and
clasping his lavender-gloves in front of him; "and have we not all
business to transact? I know, for one, that my time is nearly entirely
devoted to business. Case in point, what brings me here to-day?"

"That's exactly what I can't understand," said Thacker with a rather
sardonic smile; "if it had been this day week," he continued,
referring to his ledger, "I should have known at once; because on that
day your acceptance for three hundred and fifty pounds falls due, and
you would have come down to take it up."

"Or to get you to renew," said Guyon insinuatingly.

"O, in that case you would have wasted your visit," replied Thacker;
"that bill has been renewed once, and it is the rule of my house, as
you know very well, never to do these things a second time."

He looked more than serious as he said this; but Mr. Guyon met his
frown with a cheery laugh, and said in his most off-hand manner,
"Well, my dear fellow, then it will be paid. Gad! you look as black as
though thirty thousand instead of three hundred pounds were coming due
from me next week. It's not for three hundred pounds that Ned Guyon,
who has weathered one or two storms in his time, is going to pieces."

"N-no," said Thacker slowly; "but you see, though only three hundred
and fifty are due next week, I hold a great deal of your paper, Mr.
Guyon, in addition to other mortgages and advances on securities
impossible to realise at once, and altogether I--in fact I----"

"Don't hesitate, sir," said Mr. Guyon, rising with a flushed face and
buttoning the lavender glove with a trembling hand, "don't make any
favour of it, I beg. It's been a pure matter of business hitherto, Mr.
Thacker--a pure matter of business, convenient to both of us, though
I'm sure out of respect for you I've endeavoured to import a friendly
element into our negotiations; a friendly element which, I may say,
and indeed was one of the causes of my visit to you to-day; which
might have been the means of--however, since you choose to look upon
Ned Guyon with suspicion, Ned Guyon wishes you good morning." And Mr.
Guyon settled his hat on his head, and was starting off in his usual
easy swagger when he was stopped by the touch of Mr. Thacker's hand on
his arm.

"Stay one minute, my good sir. Don't misunderstand me, if you please.
I simply tell you that an acceptance of yours will be due next week,
an acceptance which you avow your perfect readiness to meet, and you
talk about my looking on you with suspicion. I am perfectly ready to
allow that our relations have been of a business nature; but I thought
that I might take credit for having introduced into them some of the
elements of private friendship. You have done me the honour of dining
with me, and----"

"I have," murmured Guyon absently; "and doosid good dinners they
were."

"And yet you talk about suspicion. This is not fair, Mr. Guyon; this
is any thing but fair."

"'Pon my soul, I didn't mean any harm; didn't, 'pon my life," said Mr.
Gluon; "always found you doosid good fellow, Thacker, and that kind of
thing----"

"And yet you were going away without telling me of something which, if
I understand you rightly, might be to our mutual benefit, and which
you came down expressly to submit to me? Is that so?"

"Dev'lish stoopid and childish of me to take affront so easily, more
particklerly from good feller," said Mr. Guyon. "Yes, I did want to
say word to you upon matter of importance.--matter on which I think
you'll congratulate me."

"Sit down quietly, then, and let's talk it over.--The dry sherry,
Evans, and a biscuit.--Any thing which benefits you interests me, Mr.
Guyon--though all between us is 'pure matter of business,' eh? O,
unkind, sir; very unkind!"

"There! forget that, Thacker, and listen to what I've got to tell you.
You know my daughter,--at least you've seen her," added Mr. Guyon,
with a rather painful recollection of several broad hints which
Thacker had given of his wish for an introduction to Katharine--hints
which Mr. Guyon had always carefully ignored.

"I have seen Miss Guyon," was the cold reply.

"Yes, of course, yes. Strange girl, very reserved, and--afraid of
society."

"Indeed?"

"O very been a great drawback to her; but at last she has consented to
come out, and--well, I don't know that I ought to say it to any one,
but you're a man not likely to break confidence--she's going to make a
splendid match."

"A splendid match, eh? A title?"

"A title? Pooh much better than that! A millionaire! one of the
merchant princes of the City! A man whose name is good on 'Change for
I don't know how much. What do you say to that, Thacker? Ned Guyon's
in luck at last, eh?"

"It sounds very well, so far," said Mr. Thacker quietly, "Might one
venture to ask the name of the modern Croesus?"

"To any one else I should decline, peremptorily decline to give it;
but it's different with you, Thacker; you're an old friend. The
gentleman's name is Streightley--of the firm of Streightley and Son."

"Is it, by Jove!" cried Mr. Thacker, startled out of his usual
quiescence. "Bullion Lane?--I know him well--by repute, that is to
say, not personally. If you've hooked--I beg your pardon--if Mr.
Streightley is going to marry Miss Guyon, you've done a splendid
stroke of business."

"You think so?"

"Think so--I'm sure of it. They say that there's no more far-seeing
man in the City, and his profits must be tre-mendous."

"Well, that's the man. Now look here, Thacker, I'm open and aboveboard
with you, as two men of the world, or rather two men of honour. Not
the same thing, eh?" and the old man's eye twinkled; "should be. This
thing is well on, a little more will bring it to completion. One
mustn't, as they say, spoil the ship for a pennor'th of tar, eh? One
mustn't let a fine chance slip through one's fingers for want of a
little gold-dust to put on one's hands to render the grip secure, eh?"

"I see your drift," said Thacker; "but you must speak more plainly."

"More plainly to you?" said Mr. Guyon in a whisper--unconsciously each
man had lowered his voice. "Well, what I mean is this. If this scheme
turns out well, as it will undoubtedly, if it be only properly carried
out,--well--Katharine is devoted to me, she will rule her husband--O,
never fear, she has the spirit of a dozen women!--and I shall be in
clover once more, with all my arrears cleared off, and a handsome
annuity! But the thing must be properly managed. Streightley must not
take fright at any aspect of poverty, or want of means rather; he must
not for an instant imagine that I am in any way hampered" (the thought
of the 180_l_. bill flashed across him, but he never changed
countenance); "and he must be properly entertained; and Katharine must
have a proper _trousseau_. He's not the man to speak about
settlements," added Mr. Guyon; "and if he did, he must be told that
there would be nothing until my death."

"And how is 'the thing to be properly managed,' and all the rest of it
done?"

"I only know one way--and that is----"

"Speak out; you're not generally reticent on the score of modesty, Mr.
Guyon."

"Well--that is--by you're holding over the three hundred and fifty due
next week, and making me a further advance of--say a thousand, payable
three months after my daughter's wedding-day."

Mr. Thacker was silent for a few minutes, nor could Mr. Guyon,
intently scanning his face, derive the smallest idea from its
expression. Then he made a few rapid calculations on the blotting-pad
in front of him, and said:

"You play for a big stake, Mr. Guyon, and don't stick at asking
trifles from your friends. Now, I like a big game; it at once invests
any scheme with an interest for me which I cannot give to mere
pottering petty hazards. And I don't say that I won't help you in
this--on certain terms--only----"

"Your terms will be your own, my good fellow," cried Guyon, his eye
sparkling at the thought of success. "But I don't like that 'only.'
What is it? Only what?"

"Only that I should like to be introduced to Mr. Streightley, and have
a little talk with him; of course not on the subject under
consideration, but on general topics, just to get an idea of him, you
know. It's a large sum to advance, in addition to outstanding matters;
and I'm a man of business, you know, Guyon, and like to see my way in
these things."

"All right. Come down with me to the City, and we'll hunt him up in
his den."

"No; I think not. We business-men don't like being hunted up in our
dens, as you call them, unless our visitors bring us a carcass or two
to growl over. You go over and see Streightley, and bring him here to
lunch to-morrow at two. I leave you to find the excuse; your ready wit
serves you always in such matters."

There was a tinge of sarcasm in Mr. Thacker's voice as he uttered
these last words, but Mr. Guyon was in far too excited a state to
perceive it. So he took his leave with much exuberant hand-shaking,
and started off with much self-complacency. After his departure Mr.
Thacker sat for some little time, leaning his head on his hands and
his elbows on the desk, immersed in thought. "He's an unscrupulous
vagabond, is Guyon!" said he to himself after a pause. "He's going to
sell that handsome daughter of his, as he would a bit of land, or a
diamond-ring, or a reversion under a will, or any thing that would
bring him money. A determined heartless dog! But he seems to have
either played his cards well or to have had great luck in hooking so
big a fish as Streightley. Robert Streightley! Yes, yes; they say he
pulled the Ocean Marine through when Overend Gurneys had given them up
and the knowing ones looked for an immediate windup, and now their
shares are at 13 premium, and there are no end of the clever things
he's done. He might be useful to me, might put me up to two or three
wrinkles in the City, where all is big and where one's own natural
talent has some chance of showing itself. Hitherto I've been pottering
on with hard-up swells, and men of the Guyon stamp--safe business
enough, and remunerative so far as it goes; pleasant too in its
introductions to good people; but I know enough people now, and must
look to making money as the chief thing. And this Streightley is the
very man who could help me in such a matter. If I now see him, I'll
back myself to read him like a book, and then I'll see how far this
investment of Guyon's is worth my backing."


A telegram found by Mr. Thacker on his arrival at business the next
morning announced that Mr. Guyon and Mr. Streightley would lunch with
him that day; and at two o'clock the meal was on the table and the
_convives_ were assembled. In addition to Guyon, Streightley,
and the host, there were Lord Bollindar, a pleasant old nobleman,
younger brother of a deceased and uncle to a live duke, who had a
limited income of two hundred a-year and lived at the rate of two
thousand--never owing a penny--on the strength of the handles to his
name and a perennial flow of small talk; Sir Harvey Falmer, a
lieutenant in the 2d Life Guards, who had dealings with Mr. Thacker,
and who was kept to lunch on the strength of a recently negotiated
bill; Mr. Wuff of the Theatre Royal, Hatton Garden; and Mr. Tocsin,
Q.C., the celebrated Old Bailey barrister. The lunch was admirable in
itself and admirably served; and after the champagne had circulated
freely, the conversation, which at first had been rather slow,
improved considerably.

"Doosid good champagne!" said Sir Harvey Falmer, tossing off his
glassful; "that's what I always say about you, Thacker; when you give
a man a drink, it's a good drink, and you give it him; don't stick it
in--swipes and gooseberry, you know--as part of your balance."

Mr. Thacker smiled somewhat ghastlily at this witticism; but Lord
Bollindar came to the rescue by saying, "Good, good! devilish smart,
Falmer! but you fellas are in clover now. Why, I reckleckt the
Dook--you reckleckt the Dook, Mr. Streightley?"

"I--I beg your pardon--the Duke?"

"Dook of Wellington I mean. He used to say, 'Hang your still
champagne!'--only his Grace used a stronger term--'Hang your still
champagne! Champagne without froth is like man without woman!' Said so
indeed, begad!"

"Did he indeed?" said Mr. Tocsin in his strident voice: "I should have
liked to have had his Grace under cross-examination to prove that."

"I don't think you'd have made much of him, Tocsin," said Mr. Thacker,
"What do you think, Mr. Streightley?"

"I? I can't say, of course, so far as my knowledge of his Grace was
concerned; but I'm sure--that--the presence of ladies elevates--and
refines--and----"

"Of course it does," cried Mr. Wuff. "Put on a fellow--I mean a male
fellow--to dance, and see where you are. Patron of mine--noble lord
who shall be nameless--said to me the other night, 'Never again, Wuff;
never again. Many petticoats as you like; but if ever I see again a
fellow in a low-necked dress with grapes in his hair dancing at your
theatre, damme, I leave the house.'"

"The sentiment did him honour, whoever he was," said Mr. Tocsin. "I
don't want to pry into your secrets, Wuff, but the man was right, and
spoke like--a man. What is it nerves to our best efforts? What is it
makes us exert ourselves? Not the thought of the jury--I speak for
myself--not the thought that we are--are--bending the minds of a few
stupid men in--in a box; but the feeling that we are looked up to and
gaining renown in the eyes of--of--those bright eyes which we wish to
shine in delight upon our labours."

"Bravo!" cried Sir Harvey Falmer, who was rapidly falling into a
maudlin state.

"Look at our friend here," said Lord Bollindar, pointing to
Streightley; "one of--as I'm given to understand; never had the
pleasure of meeting him before--pillars of British commerce. Ask him
what prompts his men--Jack Tars and all that kind of thing--to brave
storms and billows and typhoons, and whatever they're called, and
carry British commerce from pole to pole. Is it the mere paltry
gain, wages, advance-rate, whatever it is? No; the poet, what's
his name?--Dibdin--has told us different: Jack's delight is lovely
Nan,--And the wind that blows,--And mill that goes,--And lass that
loves a sailor--and all that."

"There can, I think," said Streightley, "be little doubt that the
influence of a--a wife--can scarcely be overrated. I--I think," he
added in a lower tone to Mr. Guyon, who was his next neighbour, "that
I've not sufficiently appreciated feminine influence; but that is a
fault which can be remedied, eh?" And he said this rather nervously.

"To a man with your advantages, my dear boy," said Guyon, "delay,
instead of being dangerous, has been, I may say, a safeguard. I was
making this very remark--for, curiously enough, I've taken a strong
interest in you--to my daughter this morning, and she perfectly agreed
with me."

This for a sample of the conversation. When his guests had gone, Mr.
Thacker stood looking at but not seeing the _débris_ of the banquet.
He was calmly feeling his chin with his hand, and saying to himself,
"So far so good. The man is weak as water, and seems inclined to mould
himself as old Guyon pleases. But I must have a look at the girl
before I throw myself into the scales."



CHAPTER V.
HESTER GOULD.


"No one but Miss Hester Gould," the old nurse had answered, in reply
to Robert Streightley's question; and he had never bestowed a thought
upon the answer. What was Hester Gould to him, or he to Hester Gould?
To the first section of this inquiry the present chapter will furnish
a reply; to the second, time only; time, just then busy with the
beginning of many complications in the life of a man whose career had
been singularly even, uneventful, and interesting only so far as it
had developed his abilities and the results of their employment.

The young lady, whose brief parley with Alice had simply consisted of
the words reported to her master and darling by the old nurse, had
known the unpretending little family at Brixton for several years, and
had been, for the chief of that number, intimate with Mrs. Streightley
and her daughter Ellen. This intimacy, however, was one-sided; Hester
Gould was completely in the harmless and unimportant confidence of the
two ladies, but they were not in hers. This was no treacherous,
insidious distinction, no deliberate preference of other friends, on
Hester Gould's part; for she was a woman who gave her confidence to no
one; a woman of a self-sufficing nature, and the safest possible
confidante, because she never felt sufficiently interested in any one
person to betray another for his or her sake. No one could justly
accuse Hester Gould of flattery or fawning, yet she induced her
acquaintances to conceive enthusiastic friendships for her, and to
tell her their most intimate concerns, to discover that she was
indispensable to their comfort, and the dearest creature in the world;
to declare that they did not know what they should do without her, and
that her advice was always the best. How did the girl, without
descending to the despicable meanness of toadyism, achieve popularity
in her narrow sphere, though she was undeniably handsome, and that too
after a fashion that was capable of development into downright beauty
of a high type, if circumstances had been more favourable to her? She
achieved it by "masterly inactivity." Whether she had thought over the
life that lay before her, had formed a philosophy of her own, and
decided upon a line of conduct as the result of her meditations,
before she left the second-rate boarding-school at Peckham, where she
had acquired all the technical education she possessed, it would be
impossible to say, and the supposition that she had done so appears
unnatural and far-fetched. It was probably partly by the instinct of
native shrewdness, and partly by the exercise of precocious powers of
observation, that Hester Gould discovered that the great art of making
herself agreeable consisted in letting her friends talk to her of
themselves, without claiming a reciprocal right. However that may have
been, she observed as a rule strict reticence concerning her own
affairs, and endured with smiling patience, paying her friends that
subtlest of compliments, undivided attention; and displaying interest,
which if not demonstrative was practical, in the fullest details
concerning theirs. She was of a cold, silent, repressed nature, not
exactly unamiable or false; but a woman who might become either under
circumstances more disadvantageous than hers were at present, or might
expand under favourable and fostering influences into a higher type of
womanhood than she either physically or intellectually indicated now.

Hester Gould was a handsome woman at twenty, a period of life which
she had reached only a few days before that on which she had made
affectionate inquiries for Ellen Streightley; but she would probably
be a handsomer woman at thirty, and if she then fulfilled the latent
promise of beauty, would have a fair chance of retaining it long past
the period at which the loveliness of women, in all but very
exceptional cases, ceases to be a fact, and becomes a memory. She was
tall and full-formed; but as yet she wanted gracefulness. She had
handsome features and fine keen dark eyes; but her face had not
sufficient colour, and her eyes had too little depth; they lacked
intensity; not that they were shifty and uncertain, but that they bore
the vague, absent expression which tells of discontent, not particular
but general. Looking attentively at Hester Gould, one given to
studying character in faces would know that there was incongruity
between the actual and the potential position of the girl. Without
restlessness, without impatience, always ruled by common sense, she
seemed to be a person who had something in view, which if not a firm
resolve, was at least a cherished purpose. The tenor of her life was
even and simple enough, and there was nothing remarkable in her
history. Her parents had been plain people: her father, secretary to
an old-established insurance office, had patronised the concern to the
extent of securing a decent sum for the maintenance of his sister and
only child. Her mother, who had "disobliged her family," as the phrase
is, by her marriage, had died when Hester was a baby; and the only
member of the disobliged family now living was a wealthy shipowner,
who had declined to take any notice of the sister who had disgraced
herself by wedding a poor man. Mr. Gould came of parents quite as
well-born as his wife's: they were all of the respectable tradesman
class; but their standard was one of money value, and he did not come
up to it. They might have helped him to approach it, without
inconveniencing themselves; but they did not consider or care about
that, and the breach had been complete; indeed it had soon become
irremediable; for Mrs. Gould had survived her marriage only four
years, and had died, taking her infant son with her away from all
family quarrels and human affairs. Hester grew up, under the kindly,
timid, narrow-minded charge of her aunt; a meek spinster given to the
perusal and distribution of tracts, and to the frequentation of
meeting-houses where the doctrine was strong and the preaching
unctuous. The child became "too much" for her timid aunt and her
depressed father at an early period of her existence, and even
rebelled against the vicarious authority of Miss Gould's favourite
"ministers;" so she was sent to school, and there also she gave no
little trouble for a time. But common sense was always Hester's strong
point; and it came to her assistance. School was far from pleasant,
she reflected, but home was worse; and as she had no power to provide
herself with a third alternative at present, she would abide by the
lesser of two evils, and turn it to all the advantage she could. The
result of this rational conclusion was that Hester Gould profited to
the utmost by the limited quantity and mediocre quality of the
education administered at Laburnum Lodge, and acquired at least a
foundation on which to build afterwards according to her taste.

The discretion evinced by the schoolgirl was a clue to her character.
No one was more popular among the small and far from distinguished
community; but only the girls whose social position was a little
higher than her own could claim Hester as an intimate friend. The
gushing nonsense of school friendships had little attraction for her,
and she contracted none that she did not contemplate maintaining when
the association which had produced them should have ceased. Hester was
not brilliantly clever, there was not the least _soupçon_ of genius
about her; but she was certainly a superior person in intellect, in
manners, and in appearance, to the companions of her studies, the
sharers of her school life, in that most unbearable kind of intimacy
which means contact without companionship. When she went home for the
holidays, things were not much better. She had been fond of her father
in a quiet way, though she had taken his intellectual measure pretty
accurately, and almost as as soon as she had arrived at the conclusion
that their life was on a dull mean scale, had recognised his inability
to elevate or enliven it.

"We should grub on like this all our lives, if it depended on _him_,"
the girl had said to herself in emphatic, if not elegant soliloquy;
and there had been no wilful disrespect to the honest, humdrum,
unobservant father in the remark, only Hester's unclouded perception
and resolute custom of telling herself the truth. When she was a
little over fifteen years old her father died, and she had to endure,
in addition to her natural grief, which was unfeigned and sore, a
declension in position, and a narrowing of the narrow income, which at
its best she had regarded with impatience, very keen though never
expressed, or permitted to escape her by so much as a gesture. Her
aunt moved into a smaller house in an inferior situation, discharged
one of the two female servants who had composed their modest
establishment, and told Hester she hoped she had profited sufficiently
by her music and singing lessons to go on without a master, for she
could no longer afford to continue them.

Hester bore the alteration with apparent equanimity, but she took a
resolution and acted upon it. She was a musician by nature, and music
was the one branch of study to which she had taken with avidity,
and which she had pursued with unrelaxed industry. She went to the
schoolmistress (the establishment had not yet attained to the
distinction of possessing a "lady principal"), and asked her to put
her in the immediately-to-be-vacated place of a pupil-teacher,
allowing her to continue her own music and singing lessons as an
equivalent for her services. The proposition took Miss Nickson by
surprise; but she knew Hester Gould's abilities and popularity, and
though she did not like the girl particularly, she trusted her fully.
It never occurred to the schoolmistress--a simple woman, and a
favourable specimen of a generally disagreeable class--that Hester had
not made the proposition at her aunt's suggestion, while that young
lady contented herself with informing Miss Lavinia Gould by letter of
what she had done. "I don't lose caste by it here, where they all know
me and I have been on equal terms with them," thought Hester; "and my
only chance of getting out of our odious mean existence is by making
all I can of such education as I can get. I shall have to teach
anyhow, and I can fit myself for teaching a better class of people
here." It was not a stupid calculation for so young a head, and it
turned out perfectly correct. Hester did not lose caste when her
schoolfellows became her pupils, and her teachers in their turn took
additional pains with her when they knew the object with which she was
learning.

Among Hester's intimates for several of her school years was Ellen
Streightley, a girl who loved and worshipped one who was in most
respects her opposite with a kind of enthusiasm not rare among
unworldly natures, in which the intellect is much less powerful than
the feelings. The boarding-school at Peckham was not altogether such
an establishment as Miss Streightley should have been kept at beyond
the period of primary instruction; but her mother was a shy, gentle,
unworldly woman, who did not understand any thing about social
ambition, and provided she found her daughter brought up in sound
morals and good manners would not have considered for a moment whether
her associates were of a higher class than her own, or came of richer
or poorer people. Mrs. Streightley had never changed her mode of life
in accordance with her increased means; she had but a narrow circle,
which was, however, quite satisfactory to her, and she regarded the
commercial and financial magnates with whom her son associated on the
rare occasions of his "going into society," as completely out of the
sphere of herself and her daughter. This daughter was very dear to
her; a tranquil, gentle, congenial companion, a child who had never
given her an hour's true anxiety in her life, and had even had the
measles and the whooping-cough much more lightly and favourably than
other children. Ellen Streightley was short, slight, and extremely
fair. She was not exactly pretty, but the calm sweetness of her face
was very winning, and the perfect candour and gentleness which sat
upon her smooth forehead and looked out of her full blue eyes had an
unwearying charm for those who knew how true these indications were of
the mind and heart within. Ellen Streightley loved her mother and her
brother Robert with all the devotion and dutifulness of her nature;
but Hester Gould she loved with enthusiasm in addition. From the first
Hester's strong mind had charmed and swayed her, and the imagination
of the girl, not very vivid and but rarely awakened, had surrounded
her with a halo of its weaving. Had Hester's moral nature been much or
openly defective, she never would have won this tribute of love and
worship from Ellen Streightley, who had good sense to come in aid of
her high principle, and her perfect purity of heart, but who succumbed
to the superiority of Hester with a delighted submission. When they
were children together, Hester's word had been the other's law, and
had any thing been needed to perfect her love and admiration, Hester's
conduct in voluntarily assuming the position of pupil-teacher in order
that her aunt might suffer as little as possible from their narrow
circumstances would have supplied their complement. There was no
falsehood in this statement, made by Hester to her friend. It was
quite true, only it was not the whole of her motive, but a part, and
not the chief part of it.

And Hester--what was her share in this strict and loving alliance?
Decidedly she liked Ellen Streightley very much, and she prized
highly, without comprehending it altogether, the enthusiastic
affection of which she was the object, the unreserved confidence of
which she was the recipient. She liked the Saturdays and Sundays which
she passed at Mrs. Streightley's house at Brixton, when Ellen's
schooldays had come to a conclusion, and her friend coaxed Miss
Lavinia Gould to spare Hester to her; a request that lady did not
hesitate to grant, as she had very little need of her niece's society;
her "Sabbaths," as she punctiliously called them, being passed in hot
untiring chase of popular preachers, according to her notions of
popularity and estimate of preachers. She declined to join the family
party on Sundays, firstly on Sabbatarian principles, secondly because
the Streightleys were "Church of England," and she hated that
persuasion only a little less than the Roman Communion, and the
opposition chapel which set itself against the ministrations of her
own particular pastor and saint, the Rev. Malachy Farrell, a powerful
controversialist, and a convert from the Romish heresy and abomination
of desolation. Ellen had enjoined her mother to exert herself to "make
a connection" for Hester, when her days of pupil-teachership came to a
conclusion; that lady had obediently exerted herself; Miss Nickson had
done as much for the girl, with whom she had never had occasion to
find a fault, but who, she rather remorsefully admitted to herself,
had never "gained on her" in all the years of their association; and
Hester, at twenty years old, when we meet her first, was established
as a teacher of music, with a respectable connection, and occupied
with her aunt a pretty small house near the Brixton Villa, which, in
elegance and habitableness was a considerable improvement on that in
which her father had lived and died.

Ellen Streightley had never cooled or wavered in her love for Hester;
and her mother liked the girl very much, though she sometimes had an
uncomfortable sort of feeling that she did not understand her
perfectly, that Hester might perhaps be "too much" for her and Ellen,
if she should think it worth her while to be so. But the kind lady was
little given to mental exercises of any troublesome description, and
never thought of analysing her sensations. That she was an exceptional
person, singularly unsuspicious, and unlike mothers in general, may
surely be conceded, when it is stated that it never occurred to her to
think that Hester might possibly be a dangerous intimate for Robert,
her beloved and precious son, or could cherish any design or idea
whereof he made part. Mrs. Streightley loved her son better than she
loved Ellen; a preference which the girl accepted as a matter of
course, and believed to be perfectly just and well founded. He was
Robert, their Robert, the most important, the most beloved of men, and
of course it was all right; and the two women did but follow the
example of thousands of their sex, whose perceptions and ideas are
confined within a small circle, and whose social sphere and enjoyments
resemble a mill, and the going round therein performed by patient and
tolerably well-fed beasts. Robert was an amiable man on the whole; he
gave no more trouble in the household than was inseparable from the
circumstance that he was a man and "didn't understand things," as the
household phrase has it, and he loved his mother devotedly, and Ellen
very much indeed. It had never occurred to him that her life was a
dull one, and that he was rich enough to make it a very different
life, if he would but waken up and look away from his counting-house,
learn sympathy, and consider what was the real meaning and worth of
money. He had never thought of the light and colour, the stir and
healthful pleasure he might diffuse through the decorous, comfortable,
neutral-tinted existence of the Brixton Villa; he had never noticed
their absence; and as he had no notion of the life led by other girls,
on whom money was lavishly expended, and for whose delectation whole
household systems were organised, there was no standard of comparison
in his mind. He was so much older than his sister, so much nearer his
mother's age than hers, that while perfect affection had always
subsisted between them, it had not been accompanied with much
intimacy, and his confidences, which were wholly confined to business
matters, had been restricted to his mother, on whose mind it had never
dawned that any improvement in their household affairs could be
desirable, who had never looked or desired to look outside the circle
in which she moved, and who would have received any suggestion of an
increase of Ellen's social opportunities and enjoyments with entire
incredulity. To her Ellen was as yet little more than a child; and
though if he had been asked what was her age, and had paused to think
the matter over, Robert would have perceived the absurdity of so
regarding a girl of nineteen, by no means childish of her years,
though simple and unworldly as few children are in these progressive
days, he practically shared her delusion.

Robert was almost as much accustomed to see Hester Gould as he was to
see Ellen. The girls were together as much as possible, due
consideration being had to Hester's occupations, and the social duties
and privileges of her "connection," which she never neglected. She led
an infinitely pleasanter life than did Ellen; for she was very popular
among her pupils, and many of their number contrived to extend to her
their own amusements and pleasures. She had not much leisure, but she
was under no painful necessity to overwork herself; her occupation
need never degenerate into slavery, and such hours as she could devote
to recreation she could always find recreation to fill. She possessed
perfect health and an even temper; not according to the cynical
saying, "A good digestion and a bad heart,"--not yet, at least. Up to
the present time nothing in Hester's conduct had indicated badness of
heart; a little coldness perhaps, but unperceived, and resolution
whose inflexibility might have been suspected, but that her resolves
had all been in the direction of right and duty. If any body had
asked Robert Streightley whether he was acquainted with Miss Hester
Gould, he would have unhesitatingly replied that he knew her most
intimately--as well as his own sister; and he would have made such an
answer in perfectly good faith. It would not have been true,
nevertheless. If any one had asked Hester Gould whether she knew
Robert Streightley, she would have replied that he was an acquaintance
of hers, being the brother of one of her dearest friends--(Hester
would not have said her "dearest friend," for such a sweeping phrase
might have been repeated to her detriment); and she would have said it
in a tone calculated to convince the questioner that her acquaintance
with Mr. Streightley was of the most formal and conventional kind. In
this instance the reply would only have had the exterior of truth, for
no one in the world--certainly not the man himself--knew Robert
Streightley as well, as thoroughly as Hester Gould knew him. Not his
sister, who would talk cheerily about her brother, and extol his
genius, his temper, and his personal appearance; not his mother, who
would tell Hester a dozen times in a week that he had never caused her
an hour's anxiety, and who never admitted that he had a fault, except
his tiresome-objection to sitting for his photograph; not the old
nurse, who would scold Robert freely enough herself, but in whose
hearing no one would have had the boldness to declare him subject to
the faults, the misfortunes, or the maladies of humanity. It was a
fortunate circumstance that Hester Gould had perfectly read Robert
Streightley's character, and had, without any thing like impertinent
inquisitiveness, acquired a thorough knowledge of the family history
and his personal antecedents; for, some time before the period of her
friend's visit to Yorkshire, Hester Gould had made up her mind that
she would marry Robert Streightley if possible, and Ellen's last
letter had induced her to think of doing so at an earlier period than
she had previously contemplated.


"I don't know that Ellen's marriage will not be the best thing that
could possibly happen for me," said Hester to herself as she walked
briskly away from Robert Streightley's house, after her parley with
old Alice. "Of course her brother won't oppose it,--though the girl is
a greater fool than I thought her, to marry a man with no greater
ambition than to spend his life among filthy savages, teaching them a
religion entirely unsuitable to their condition of life and status in
creation. I hope they won't eat him--at least I hope they won't eat
_her_; but she will be better away--I should never succeed in curing
her of Brixton ways, and she has really no tastes to be developed. It
will be a good opportunity, when she will be divided between love for
her Decimus--what a name to be in love with!--and distress at leaving
her mother, to furnish her with a suggestion concerning a substitute:
it must come entirely from her, of course."

Thus thinking, Hester Gould reached home. She greeted aunt Lavinia
kindly; she was scrupulously dutiful and attentive to her wishes,
except in respect to meetings and ministers;--sat down cheerfully to
her tea, during which meal she quite enlivened the pensive spinster by
her gaiety, and then went to her piano for what she called a "real
good practice." Hour after hour she sat there, filling the room and
the house with music; and at length she sang, at her aunt's request,
the very same song--of a trifling kind, which Hester rather despised,
but sang because it was popular--with which Katherine Guyon was at the
selfsame hour achieving the "final pulverisation" of Robert
Streightley's heart.



CHAPTER VI.
IN CHAMBERS.


The summer sun, bright, warm, and cheering, only just past the zenith
of his annual glory, illumined the Temple Gardens; still further
withering the turf, which had been worn by the promenaders of the
season into a very bald and ragged state; gladdening the hearts of
country-bred nursemaids with reminiscences of their earlier days, when
their virgin hearts were yet untouched by the charms of deceivers in
military or police uniforms; loved and cherished by the
valetudinarians, poor and old, to whom this city garden was the
nearest imitation of God's country which they were able to afford, and
who, secluded during the winter in Strand side-street lodging-houses,
ventured thither for their daily meed of light and air; glancing
merrily on the turbid Thames; and even throwing enlivening glances
into the topmost story of the house in Crown-Office Row, which Robert
Streightley had visited one memorable night, and wherein one of its
joint tenants now sat hard at work.

And indeed, let him come when he might, in his spring weakness, in his
summer glory, in his autumn grandeur, in the feeble struggles which he
made during winter, the sun would never have found Charles Yeldham in
any other condition. Work was his life, his idol. As a very young man,
when he first quitted Oxford, he had prayed to be successful in the
profession which he had chosen, and which he had gone into heart and
soul. He had vowed that if his labours were only rewarded with
success, there should be scarcely any end to them; and now, when he
had no rival as a conveyancing barrister among his coevals and very
few superiors among his seniors, he still kept grinding on. Not
intended by nature for such slavery, as you can tell in one glance at
his _physique_, at his broad chest, long sinewy arms and legs, and big
white hands; not destitute of an appreciation of fun, as you can see
in his bright blue eyes, his large happy mouth, and the deep dimples
of his cheeks; what would be generally called a "jolly man," with
thick brown curling hair, and a clear skin, and a great hearty laugh,
breaking out whenever it had the chance.

Which was not very often. There is nothing very humorous in
conveyancing, and in conveyancing Charles Yeldham's life was passed.
Gordon Frere, returning from a ball, a supper, or one of his
"outings," would hear the roar of Yeldham's shower-bath as he came up
the stairs, or would see him, bright and rosy, deep in his books or
scratching away with his pen, as he, Frere, with his gibus hat on one
side, his collars danced down into a state of limp despondency, and
with a faded camellia in his button-hole, peered into the common
sitting-room before he crawled to bed. Five in the summer, six in the
winter,--these were Charles Yeldham's hours of rising. Then, after his
cold bath and his hurried toilette, what he called "treadmill" till
eight. A sharp run five times round the Temple Gardens, no matter what
the weather, a hurried breakfast--chop, bacon, eggs, what-not, and at
it again, "treadmill" till two. Bread-and-cheese, a pint-bottle of
Allsopp, a pipe--generally smoked as he leaned out of the window
looking on to the river--and "treadmill" till half-past six. Old
shooting-coat changed for more presentable garment, hands washed, and
Mr. Yeldham walked to the Oxford and Cambridge Club, where he would
eat a light dinner, take a very small quantity of wine, and walk back
to the Temple to have a final turn of "treadmill" until half-past
eleven, when he would turn into bed. He had reduced sleep to a
minimum, ascertained that five and a half hours were exactly
sufficient for a man, and never wasted a wink.

There was no absolute occasion for Charles Yeldham to slave in this
manner; but when he commenced his work he had had a powerful incentive
to industry, and he had found the work grow on him until he absolutely
took delight in it. He was the only son of the Honourable and Reverend
Stratford Yeldham, a cadet of the Aylmer family, who had been content
to marry the daughter of the clergyman with whom he read during one
long vacation, and afterwards to go into orders and take up the family
living in Norfolk. The living was not a very rich one, and Charley,
who loved his father after a fashion not very common now amongst young
men, and who knew that the old gentleman had somewhat pinched and
straitened himself to send his son to college with a proper allowance,
had made up his mind not only that all that had been spent on him
should be repaid, but that his sister Constance--his own dear little
sister--should have such a dowry as would enable her to decline any
offer whose advantages were merely pecuniary, and at the same time to
bring an adequate income to the man of whom her heart should approve.
The hope of accomplishing this end lightened Charles Yeldham's labour,
mid kept him at his desk and among his law-books without an idea of
repining, generally indeed with a sense of positive pleasure.

He was at his desk that pleasant summer afternoon, when all nature
outside was so bright and gay, so deeply engaged, that he paid not the
slightest attention to the sound of the key in the outer door, and
only looked up when he felt a hand on his shoulder and saw Gordon
Frere standing beside him.

"Grinding away, Charley," said that young gentleman; "hard at it as
usual."

"Just the same as ever, old boy," replied Yeldham; "but just as ready
as ever to knock off for five minutes--exactly five minutes, mind--and
have a chat with you. So there!"--laying down his pen--"now then,
let's begin. Where have you been all the morning? I say, you're rather
a greater swell than usual, are you not, Gordon?"

"Eh--swell? no, I don't think so. Emerged just a little bit from the
chrysalis state perhaps, but not much. But the least bit of colour
lights up tremendously and looks radiant beside your old blacks and
grays. What a fellow you are, Charley! I wish you'd go in for another
style of toggery, and just go to Poole."

"Go to Poole? God forbid!" said Yeldham with ludicrous energy. "Why,
my dear fellow, if I were to be seen in a coat of that sort"--touching
the silk-lined skirts of Frere's frock--"or in a pair of trousers that
fitted me like those, there's not an attorney in London would give me
any more employment. No, sir! In Store Street, Tottenham-Court Road,
resides the artificer who for years has built my garments on what he
assures me are sound mathematical principles, and I shall continue to
employ him until one of us is removed to a sphere where clothes are
unnecessary. And now, once more, where have you been all this
morning?"

"Ah! that's exactly what I came home to talk to you about. I've been
calling on a deuced pretty girl, Master Charley, and I want to tell
you all about it."

"A very pretty girl, eh?" said Yeldham in rather a hard tone of voice.
"A very pretty girl! All right, my boy; tell away."

"I think I've mentioned her before, Charley," said Frere; "Miss
Guyon--Kate Guyon, daughter of old Guyon, whom you've heard me speak
of; a member of the club, you know; fellow who plays a deuced good
game of whist, and that kind of thing. And the girl's really
wonderful; very handsome, and with a regular well-bred look about her.
None of your dumpy, dowdy, slummakin women--I hate that style--but
tall and elegant; carries herself well, and has plenty to say for
herself--when she chooses."

"When she chooses, eh!" said Yeldham, with a slight smile; "and I
suppose she does choose--to you."

"Well, you know, that's not for a fellow to say. She's always been
very civil; and I rode with her yesterday in the Park, and was in her
box at the Opera last night--when I say her box I mean Lady
Henmarsh's, the old cat who is her principal chaperone--and we got on
capitally together, and I think it was all right. I should have told
you of it when I got home, but I looked into your room, and you were
sound as a top; or this morning, but you were closeted in the office
with some fellow on business. So I went off to call on her--there was
a kind of tacit arrangement that I should do so--and, by George, I
really think I'm hit this time, and that I mean more than ever I did
before."

"Mean more! In what way, Gordon?"

"In the way of marriage, of course, you old idiot. Mean that if I were
to ask her, I think she'd have me. And she'd be a deuced creditable
wife to have about with one; and the governor must just stir himself,
and use his influence and get me a consulship, or a commissionership,
or something where there's a decent income, and not very much to do
for it. There are such things, of course."

"I don't know, Gordon. Recollect these are the days when every thing
is won by merit, and not won without a competitive examination."

"O yes; competitive examination be hanged! I'm not going in for any
thing of that sort. If a man who's sat for the same borough for
five-and-twenty-years, and never voted against his party except once,
by mistake, when he'd been dining out and strolled into the wrong
lobby--if such a patriot as this can't get a decent berth for his son
without any bother about examination and all that kind of thing, where
are our privileges as citizens? O no; that'll come all square, of
course. But what do you advise me about the girl?"

"It's difficult to give such advice off-hand, Gordon, more especially
as I have never seen the young lady, and have scarcely heard of her.
But though you're not particularly learned, young un, you've plenty of
knowledge of the world, and are one of the last men likely to be
entrapped into a silly marriage, or to let yourself be made miserable
for life by giving in to a mere passing fancy. So if you and the young
lady are really fond of each other, and if your father can be
persuaded to give himself the trouble to get some tolerably decent
Government appointment for you, I should say, 'Propose to her like an
honourable man; and God speed you!' I--I think I should see my father
first, Gordon, and make sure of what he would do; for, from all I've
heard, I don't think Mr. Guyon is a man of resources--I mean pecuniary
resources."

"N-no," said Frere; "I should not think he was. He's a remarkably
chirpy old boy, tells very good stories, and is always well got-up;
but I shouldn't think his balance at his banker's was very
satisfactory. However, Kate's simply charming; stands out from all the
ruck of girls one knows, and is in the habit of meeting and dancing
with, like a star. I'll write down to the governor and sound him about
what he'd be inclined to do; and I'll just go round before dinner to
Queen Anne Street; not to go in, you know,--of course not; but there's
the last Botanical Fête to-morrow in the Regent's Park, and Kate asked
me if I was going, and I said I'd go if she went, and she said she'd
try and get some one to take her. I suppose the old woman who's always
about with her doesn't care for dissipation by daylight. I say,
Charley, fancy if it comes off all straight! Fancy me a married man!"

Yeldham smiled, but said nothing. There was scarcely any occasion for
him to speak; for Frere was full of his subject, and rattled on.

"How astonished your people will be! I can see the Vicar reading your
letter announcing the news through his double eyeglass, and then
handing it over to little Constance and exclaiming, 'Won-derful!' And
Constance with her large solemn gray eyes, and her pert nose, and her
fresh little mouth; Constance, whom I used to call 'my little wife'
when I was grinding away with the Vicar in those jolly days--ah what a
glorious old fellow he is!--won't she be surprised when she finds I've
got a real wife! And you,--you'll be left alone in chambers, Charley,
old boy; all alone!--though you don't see much of me as it is, do you,
old fellow?"

"No, Gordon; not much," said Yeldham rising; "not so much as I should
wish. But it's pleasant to me to look forward to your coming, to bring
a little of the outside world's life and light into these dreary old
rooms, and to prove to me that I am not actually part and parcel of
these musty old books and parchments, as I'm sometimes half inclined
to believe. However, I could not expect to have you always with me,
any more than I could expect it to be always summer; and indeed, if
you were always here, I should not know what to do with you. Come, my
five minutes' rest has been prolonged into a perfect idleness. Out
with you, and let me get to work again!"

"No, no; not yet, Charley. It's so seldom I have the chance of getting
you to take your nose off the paper, and to open your ears to any
thing that is not law-jargon, that I'm not going to give in so soon.
Besides, I've been talking all this time, and now it's your turn. I
want your advice, and you're going to give it me; and that's all about
it."

"It's a great pity you don't stick to your profession, Gordon," said
Yeldham, half laughingly, half in earnest; "you would have made a
great success at the Old Bailey. You've all the characteristics of
that style of practice charmingly developed; plenty of cheek, plenty
of volubility, and supreme self-reliance. If you had done me the
honour of listening to me instead of thinking what you were going to
say next, you would have heard me advise you half an hour ago."

"Stuff! I heard you fast enough. Propose to the girl, and all that;
very honourable and straightforward, you know, Charley, but a little
old-fashioned, you know,--at least you don't know; how should you,
shut up in this old hole? But what I mean to say is, fellows don't
propose to girls nowadays, old fellow, except in books and on the
stage, and that sort of thing. You understand each other, you know,
without going on your knees, or 'plighting troth,' or any rubbish of
that kind. But what I want to know is, what is my line towards the old
party--Guyon père?"

"Hold on a minute, Gordon," said Charles Yeldham rising from his
chair, plunging his hands into his trousers' pockets, and taking up
his position of vantage on the hearthrug. "Granted all you say about
my being old-fashioned, you yet seem to think that there is a phase of
courtship sufficiently unchanged--I was going to say sufficiently
natural--for me to be able to advise you upon."

"He-ar, he-ar!" said Mr. Frere, knocking the table on which he was
seated.

"But before I attempt to give you any advice, I must know whether you
are really in earnest in this business. Yes; I know you say you're
'hard hit,' and 'serious this time,' and a lot of stuff that I've
heard you say a dozen times before about a dozen different girls. What
I want to know is, do you really think seriously of marrying Miss
Guyon? Has it entered your mind to regard it from any other point than
the mere calf-love view, what you in your slang call 'being spooney'
upon her? I mean, Gordon, old fellow,--I'm a solemn old fogey, you
know; but it's in the fogey light that such a solemn thing should be
looked at--are you prepared to take Miss Guyon as your wife?"

"On my sacred honour, Charley, there's nothing would make me so
happy."

"Then the honourable way to go to work is to see Mr. Guyon at once and
speak to him. Tell him your feelings and----"

"And my prospects, eh, Charley? He's safe to ask about them."

"Well, you can tell him what you've just said of your father's
position, and what you intend to ask him to do for you. And then----"

"Yes; and then?"

"Well, then you'll hear what he's got to say to that."

"Ye-es; it won't take me very long to listen to an exposition of Mr.
Guyon's views on my financial position, I take it. However, I'm almost
certain--quite certain, I may say--of Kate; and as you think it's due
to her to speak to her father----"

"I'm sure of it, Gordon. It's the only honourable course."

"Well, then, I'll do it at once, though I don't much like it, I can
tell you."

"Whatever may be the result, it's best you should know it soon,
Gordon. Nothing unfits a man for every thing so much as being in a
state of doubt."

"I'll end mine at once, Charley. No; not at once. I must first see if
that Botanical-Fête arrangement is coming off, and after that I'll
speak to her father. Devilish solemn phrase that, eh, Charley!"

"It won't be so dreadful in carrying out as it sounds, my boy. Clear
out now; you shan't have another instant!"

Gordon Frere nodded laughingly at his friend; and after making a
hurried toilet in his own room started off for Queen Anne Street,
while Charles Yeldham seated himself at his desk.

But not to work; his mind was too full for that. The short light
conversation just recorded had given Charles Yeldham matter for much
deliberation. When a man's life is thoroughly engrossed by mental
work, the few humanising influences which he allows to operate on him
are infinitely more absorbing than the thousand fleeting affections of
the light-hearted and the thoughtless. When Charles Yeldham gave his
thoughts a holiday from his conveyancing, and turned them from the
attorneys who employed him and the work which they brought him to do,
his mind reverted generally to the loved ones in the vicarage at home
or to the two men whose friendship he had time and opportunity to
cultivate. Never was younger brother better loved than was Gordon
Frere by the large-hearted, large-brained philosopher whose chambers
he shared. It was indeed from the elder-brother point of view that
Yeldham regarded Frere. As a boy Gordon had been the one private pupil
whom the old vicar had admitted into his house; and later in life he
had passed two long vacations reading at the seaside with his old
tutor and the members of his family. Charley loved the young man with
all the large capacity of his loving nature, looked with the most
lenient eye on his boyish frivolities and dissipations, and had
hitherto never feared for his future, hoping that he would settle down
into some useful career before he thought of settling himself for
life. But the conversation just held had entirely changed his ideas.
Gordon, unstable, unsettled, without any means or resources, had
announced his intention of taking a wife. And what a wife! Of the
young lady herself Yeldham knew nothing; but certain pleadings which
he had drawn some twelve months beforehand in a case which never came
into court, and which had been settled by mutual arrangement, had
given him a very clear insight into the character of Mr. Edward Scrope
Guyon, and into that worthy gentleman's resources and manner of life.
With such a man Yeldham felt perfectly certain that an impecunious
scion of a good family like Gordon Frere coming as a pretender for his
daughter's hand would not have the smallest chance of success; and it
was with a heavy heart that he sat idly sketching figures on his
blotting-pad, and turning over all that he had recently heard in his
mind.

"I don't see my way out of it," said he, throwing down his pen
at length, and plunging his hands into his pockets. "I don't
see my way out of it, and that's the truth. Gordon is hard hit, I
believe,--harder hit than he has ever been yet, and means all fairly
and honourably; but fair play and honour won't avail much, I imagine,
in carrying out this connection--at least with the male portion of the
family. A man with the morals of a billiard-marker and an income of a
couple of thousand a-year would have a better chance with old Guyon
than a Bayard or a Galahad. He's a bad lot, this Mr. Guyon, but as
sharp as a ferret, and he'll read Gordon like a book. All the poor
boy's talk about what his political influence and what his father must
do for him, and all that, won't weigh for an instant with a man like
Guyon, who is up to every move on the board, and who will require
money down from any one bidding for his daughter's hand. I wonder what
the girl's like, and how much of the play rests in her hands. That old
rip would never be base enough to make her his instrument in advancing
his own fortune? And yet how often it's done, only in a quieter and
less noticeable manner! Gad! I begin to think I am a bit of a cynic,
as Gordon chaffingly, calls me, when I find these ideas floating
through my head; and I'm sure any one would imagine I was one, or
worse, if; knowing my own convictions, they had heard me advise that
poor boy to see old Guyon and lay his statement before him. But I'm
convinced that that is the only way of dealing with such a matter as
this. Have the tooth out at once; the wrench will do you good and
prevent any chance of floating pains in the future. Guyon will handle
the forceps with strength and skill, and poor Gordon will think that
half his life is gone with the tug. But once over, when he begins to
find that the gap is not so enormous as he at first imagined, when he
sees people don't notice the alteration in his appearance, he'll begin
to think it was a good job that it happened while he was yet young,
and he'll settle down and get to work, and perhaps make the name and
reputation which his talents, if they had any thing like fair play,
entitle him to. It's wonderful the different light in which men see
these things. There's my boy there just mad for this girl, raving
about her beauty, going into ecstasies about her hair and eyes and
figure; and here am I, his chum and intimate, who can safely say that
never in the course of a life extending now to some six-and-thirty
years, have I had the faintest idea of what being in love is like.
Lord, Lord! what a queer world it is! and what is for the best?
Perhaps, if I had had nice smooth fair hair instead of a shock-head of
bristles, I should have been kneeling at ladies' feet instead of
stooping over my desk, and writing sonnets for girls instead of
drawing pleas for attorneys. I know which pays best, but I wonder
which is the most interesting. 'Never felt the kiss of love, nor
maiden's hand in mine,' eh? Well, I don't know that I'm much the worse
for that. Maidens' hands seem to lead one into all sorts of scrapes;
and as for the kiss of love---- Why, what time's that?"

The striking of the clock on the mantelpiece roused him from his
reverie; and looking up, he discovered that his intended five-minutes'
absence from work had been extended over two hours, and that the
daylight of the late summer time was beginning to fade. So, with a
heavy sigh, he lit his reading-lamp and settled down to his desk
again. Like every other man accustomed to hard work, he found it
immediate relief from thought, and soon became immersed in his
writing, at which he slaved away until it was time to get some dinner.
He had no heart to walk up to the club that evening. He might meet
some fellows of his acquaintance there,--very possibly Gordon himself;
and he was not inclined to chatter upon trivial subjects. So he put on
his hat, and strode over to the Cock; the quiet solemnity of the old
tavern at that hour of the evening, when the late diners had departed
and the early supper-eaters had not yet arrived, being thoroughly
congenial to his feelings. After his dinner he went back to his
chambers; and after smoking a pipe, during which process he again fell
a-thinking over Gordon's trouble, he returned to his work, and was in
full swing when he heard a key in the lock, and the next minute Mr.
Gordon Frere entered the room.

"Hallo, Gordon!" said Charley, looking up at the clock; "why, it's not
eleven; what on earth brings you home so early, young un?"

"Happiness, Charley! jolliness, old fellow! It's all right about
to-morrow; Kate's going to the _fête_, and---- After dinner at the
Club I went up into the strangers' smoking-room, and there wasn't any
one there I knew--only a couple of old fellows, who sat and smoked in
silence; and so I got thinking it all over; and what a stunning girl
she is, and how sure I am that she's fond of me, and how fond I am of
her--regularly hit, you know; and so I thought it would be horrible
somehow to go any where after,--to the theatre, you know, or to hear
the fellows chaffing in the way they do about--women and every thing;
and so I came home."

"Just in time to wish me good-night, my boy. I'm off to bed."

"Not until I've extracted a promise from you, Charley, old fellow."

"And that is----? Look sharp, Gordon; I'm sleepy."

"And that is, that you'll come with me to-morrow to the Botanical
Fête."

"To the--to the Botanical Fête! I? Ah, I see, poor Gordon! too much
Guyon has made you mad."

"No, Charley, I'm serious. You know you're my best and dearest friend,
the only real friend I have in the world--for my own people are like
every body else's own people, full of themselves and not caring one
rap for me--and I want you to see my--to see Miss Guyon, and to give
me your real opinion about her."

"By which, of course, you'll be thoroughly influenced, and if I won't
approve give her up at once. No, Gordon, I'm not much experienced in
these things, but I _do_ know enough not to commit myself in the way
you suggest. However, I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll make half
holiday for once, and go with you to the _fête_--reserving my opinion
of the young lady to myself."

"Well, it's something to have got you to leave that old desk for an
hour, to get you to look at trees and flowers instead of foolscap and
red-tape. And as for Miss Guyon--well, you'll say something about her,
I've no doubt."


"I'm not sorry this opportunity offered," said Charley Yeldham
to himself as he was undressing. "I've not much curiosity; but I
confess I'm anxious to see the girl who has so captivated Master
Gordon--partly on her own account, and partly to see if I can trace in
her manner any suspicion of a---- No; no woman could be bad enough to
lay herself out to entrap a man at her father's desire! And besides,
Gordon Frere's not worth snaring!"



CHAPTER VII.
KATHARINE GUYON.


So, three men, all good fellows in their way, and two possessed of
qualities not common, and destined to be influenced throughout all
their lives by the seeming chance that had made them acquainted with
her, were thinking of Katharine Guyon, rather than of any or all their
more immediate and important concerns. She had dawned, a new luminary,
on their horizon; and two were conscious worshippers of the bright
visible presence, the other had not yet turned his eyes that way. He
will do so before long, and then----?

As for Katharine Guyon herself, she had thoughts at present for but
one person, and speculations only on one subject. Her warm, impulsive,
wholly undisciplined heart had accepted Gordon Frere as its tenant
and ruler, after a sudden fashion, which was not to be defended or
excused if judged by the standard of conventionality, or indeed of
common-sense. When the latter quality shall be in any one instance
admitted into a case of love-at-first-sight, it may advance a claim to
invariable acknowledgment; certainly not otherwise. As for
conventionality, Katharine in no way bowed to its authority; and it
was fortunate indeed that her good taste and innate good-breeding
preserved her from any boldness or vulgarity of demeanour; for those
were her only safeguards. Legitimate rule over her there was none, and
she would not for a moment have brooked usurped authority. Her
position was peculiar, and, though there was a good deal of the
glitter of fashion and the reality of enjoyment about it, to
clear-sighted eyes, looking below the surface, pitiable.

Katharine's mother had brought her husband no advantages in their
short, not remarkably happy, marriage, except those attached to an
extensive and distinguished family connection. She had no fortune, no
possessions of any kind, except some handsome jewels, which were
secured to her, to descend to her children. She lived only a short
time; but it is probable she thought the period sufficiently
prolonged; for she died, when Katharine was born, with no further
expression of regret than that she wished she could have taken the
child with her; but was consoled by learning that the physicians
thought the feeble infant very unlikely to live. Isabella
Stanbourne--for such was the name of Katharine's mother--was a
handsome woman, of fine mind and high principles. These qualities had
not availed to prevent her making the tremendous though not unusual
mistake of a wholly uncongenial marriage; but they did her the
questionable service of opening her eyes to the blunder she had
committed before she had been Edward Guyon's wife many weeks. Once
opened, Mrs. Guyon's eyes were not the sort of optics ever to be even
partially closed again; and they perceived and scrutinised every
particular of her husband's character and conduct with merciless
clearness and vigilance. That gentleman furnished them with ample
material for their scrutiny; and from the close of the honeymoon to
the termination of her life Mrs. Guyon held the partner of her
existence, whom she knew to be a liar and a profligate, and suspected
to be a swindler, in quiet, undemonstrative, but supreme contempt. She
was a woman in whom the existence of any kind of regard or even
compassion was incompatible with the least feeling of scorn; and so
she never tried to persuade herself that she entertained either
towards her husband, from the day she found out that the man she had
married was a being of a totally different order to the idol which her
fancy had set up and worshipped. She did not leave him, even when she
made further and more serious discoveries: in the first place, because
she disliked the scandal of a separation; in the second, because she
was conscious of great delicacy of health, and had a strong
presentiment that she should not survive the birth of her child. She
determined to give herself the chance, if, contrary to her conviction,
she lived; she could then decide upon her future. The chance
befriended her, and Mrs. Guyon died. Her last days were undisturbed by
her husband's presence. He had gone to Doncaster when the event which
made him a father and a widower took place; and having made rather a
good thing of the expedition, he returned to town in very tolerable
spirits, and felt that he should now be more interesting and
irresistible than ever as a young widower, and could easily get over
the inconsolable stage by a trip on the Continent. His dead wife's
sister-in-law, the Hon. Mrs. Philip Stanbourne, undertook very gladly
to look after the little motherless infant, at whom the elegant Ned
barely glanced, during her days of babyhood; and she redeemed her
promise well.

It is unnecessary to inquire into the career of Mr. Guyon between the
period of Katharine's birth and that of her _début_ in society. It was
evident that, however well-founded his anticipations of success, it
had not been in the matrimonial direction; and indeed some rather
amusing anecdotes were current in society concerning "Ned's" audacious
attempts and egregious failures. His wife's relatives had never
particularly admired Mr. Guyon; but they were kindly, unaffected
people; and Mrs. Guyon had been strictly and uniformly silent on all
her domestic concerns; so that, though they surmised that the brief
marriage had not been the altogether ecstatic union Isabella had
imagined it would prove, they had nothing but surmise in their minds
respecting it; and they never thought of withholding from the
motherless girl any of the advantages derivable from their social
position and influence. These were far more important to Katharine's
father than her guileless uncles, aunts, and cousins imagined--to whom
a life of shifts, scheming, and pretence was an utterly unknown and
unsuspected possibility--and much more important too to Katharine
herself, as regulating her father's conduct towards her, than the girl
ever knew or dreamed of. She would probably have been placed
economically out of sight, at a foreign boarding-school, and left
there to attain the age of womanhood, unnoticed by her father, had not
the kind relatives under whose care her early childhood had been
happily passed given her consequence in Mr. Guyon's eyes, causing him
to regard her as a valuable possession, a court-card in fact. So,
instead of a cheap foreign school being selected as an _oubliette_ for
the child,--in virtue of whom Mr. Guyon had a seat at the tables of
many who were more great than wise,--an expensive establishment for
young ladies in the Regent's Park was honoured by Mrs. Stanbourne's
choice; and there Katharine was brilliantly, if not solidly educated,
the larger portion of the _pension_ and her personal expenses being
paid by her uncle. In Katharine's early girlhood the Hon. Philip
Stanbourne died; and she sustained by this calamity a double loss:
not only that of her kind relative and friend, but of her aunt's
counsel, training, and protection in the perilous time which lay
before her,--the time of early womanhood, and her entrance into
society. The widow went abroad with her daughter, who was some years
older than Katharine; and though she was in London when the events
just related took place, she was not likely to be again a settled
resident in England, as her daughter had married an Austrian nobleman,
high in the diplomatic world, and desired to have as much of her
mother's society as possible.

The fashionable "establishment" had turned out few girls so well
calculated to do it credit and extend its fame as Katharine Guyon,
when, at a little more than seventeen, she appeared in a circle of
society where, though her father, with all his cleverness and _savoir
faire_, received little more than toleration, she at once made a
favourable impression. In her appearance she combined the personal
attractions of both her parents: she had her mother's high-bred look,
her father's vivacity and his fine features; she had the elegant
carriage, the delicate hands and feet, the refined voice of Isabella
Stanbourne, and the airy easy manner which in Mr. Guyon had a
_soupçon_ of impudence. In disposition she resembled her mother
exclusively; but there were strong points of difference between
them,--difference deepened no doubt by the circumstances of
Katharine's girlhood, by the fact that she had never been the object,
as her mother had been of exclusive and conscientious female care
since she had ceased to be a child. She had not the clear, direct,
keen perception of her mother; but she was her equal in resolution,
and more than her equal in implacability. She was high-spirited now,
and impatient of contradiction to a degree that indicated some
violence of temper; her feelings were keen and impulsive, and her
affections strong and passionate, though undeveloped; for indeed who
had the girl to love? She had gone through the ordinary schoolgirl
friendships, and also through the customary flirtations since the
former had come to a natural end; but she did not really love any body
in the world, except perhaps Mrs. Stanbourne, and of her she had seen
but little for some time.

Her feelings towards her father were of a mixed, and, on the whole, of
an unsatisfactory character; such as any one watching the girl with
anxiety and experience must have recognised with regret. She was fond
of him after a fashion, and there was a good deal of _camaraderie_
between them; but she had an intuitive distrust of him, and she knew
instinctively that all his indulgence, all his flattery, all his
yielding to her wishes and furnishing her pleasures, were superficial
compliances. He liked the kind of life she liked; she knew him well
enough, without formally reasoning upon her knowledge, to feel
convinced that if their tastes or wishes clashed in any way, hers and
not his would be expected, if not obliged, to yield. She admired her
father's pleasant manners and social talents; she had but rarely any
opportunity of contrasting his fulfilment of the paternal relation
with that of other men; and she was full of youth, health, spirits,
and capacity for the enjoyment of every kind of pleasure that offered;
so she went her way carelessly and joyously, and reasoned little upon
the present or the future. Katharine and her father were not real
friends, but they were always technically "good friends;" a result to
which the underlying violence of the girl's nature no doubt
unconsciously conduced. Mr. Guyon hated trouble and detested scenes;
and he had a tolerably correct occult sense that he might find himself
"in for" both if he interfered much with Katharine: consequently he
did not interfere; and as she was totally in the dark respecting his
pecuniary circumstances, and never asked any troublesome questions,
they got on very well together. Real companionship they had none, but
they did not miss it; and while her father's chief anxiety about
Katharine was that she should make a good match before she "went off"
in looks--a good match implying a rich son-in-law, conveniently
indifferent about settlements, and ready to "do" bills to any
reasonable or unreasonable amount--Katharine's chief anxiety about him
was, that he should dye his hair and whiskers with greater success,
and drink less wine on evenings when he went to parties with her. She
knew he was proud of her beauty, and thought her "doosid good
company;" but she did not for a moment imagine he had any sentimental
love for her; indeed she fancied he had not much feeling, for he had
never mentioned her mother to her in his life. Their relation, in
fact, was pleasant, hollow, and heathen; and when Katharine abandoned
herself to her newborn love for Gordon Frere, she never thought of
her father's feelings or wishes in the matter, or had a more dutiful
notion in her mind than that it "made it pleasant that papa liked his
coming about the house." You see she was no exceptional being, no
angel alighted for a little on a sphere unworthy of her footsteps and
her wings; but an interesting, captivating, self-willed woman,--such
as circumstances had made her; a woman whose weaknesses were as
visible as her charms, whose strength was latent and unsuspected.

It was not to be supposed that a girl like Katharine--handsome,
clever, dashing, and independent in her ideas and manners, of
a not precisely-to-be-defined position in society, and with a
not-exactly-to-be-commended father--should escape sharp and not kind
or altogether candid criticism. She was very much admired; she
commanded admiration indeed, however reluctantly accorded; and men
liked her very much, even men who were not in love with her, and with
whom she did not take the trouble to flirt. Women did not like her;
and yet the girl gave them no fair excuse for their prejudice. She was
not a determined coquette, conquering and monopolising; she was not
rudely inattentive to women, as "beauties" and "blues" usually are:
she was smiling and agreeable, and perfectly indifferent to them all;
and, with a host of acquaintances, had but one female friend, her aunt
Mrs. Stanbourne. With Lady Henmarsh, who was a distant relative on her
father's side, Katharine lived on terms of great intimacy,--the lady
was indeed her constant, her official _chaperone_,--but it was an
intimacy of the kind which more frequently precludes than includes
friendship.

Lady Henmarsh was a woman of the world, in every possible meaning and
extent of the term. She was the exact opposite of Mrs. Stanbourne, in
manners, mind, tastes, opinions, and principles; and she disliked Mrs.
Stanbourne so cordially, that she might have endeavoured to influence
Katharine in a contrary direction to that of her wishes, simply to
annoy that lady; but she was saved from any thing so unphilosophical
by the fact that it suited her in every way to appoint herself
high-priestess of Miss Guyon's world-worship. As no one ever saw, and
many had never heard of Lady Henmarsh's husband, it was a pardonable
mistake, frequently made by strangers, to suppose that she was a
widow. This, however, was not the case. A miserable invalid--whose
migrations, if not quite confined to Goldsmith's _itinéraire_, were
only from his dull house in Hampshire to his dull house in Cavendish
Square; a cross, palsied, querulous old man, called Sir Timothy
Henmarsh, who had long since lapsed out of the sight and the memory of
society--still existed, not altogether to the displeasure of his lady,
who would be seriously impoverished by his death; existed in a
condition of illness and suffering which rendered it indispensable
that his wife should, in deference to what society calls common
decency, provide herself with some further excuse for her neglect of
him, and her constant presence at gay and festive scenes of every
description, than the real, but unproduceable one, that she liked
dissipation and disliked him. Lady Henmarsh and Mr. Guyon had been
very good friends indeed in former days, when he was a young widower,
thoroughly consoled, and Hetty Lorimer was a pretty portionless girl,
who knew that she had nothing to look to but marriage, and that if she
desired to secure the enjoyment of such things as her soul loved, she
must take care that it was a "good" one. A marriage with her handsome
cousin would have been any thing but one of the required description;
and indeed neither of them ever contemplated such a possibility. They
were persons of a discreet and practical turn, and Mr. Guyon went to
Hetty Lorimer's wedding (a solemnity at which Sir Timothy Henmarsh's
son, a gentleman some years the bride's senior, sternly declined to be
present) with perfect alacrity and good humour. They had been
excellent friends ever since; and when, the time having arrived at
which Mr. Guyon found it convenient to transfer his daughter from the
"establishment" to Queen Anne Street, Lady Henmarsh gave him her
advice, and offered him her services with enthusiastic friendship,
what more proper and satisfactory arrangement could possibly have been
entered into than that Lady Henmarsh should "do the maternal" by
Katharine?

"I've no doubt you'll do it to perfection, Hetty," said Mr. Guyon, as
he rose and terminated the interview; "only you won't look the part
within a dozen years." And the good-looking deceiver went down the
stairs with a smile, which expanded into a grin when he reached the
street; for Miss Hester Lorimer and Miss Isabella Stanbourne had been
girls together, and the former was a little older than the lady who
had married the irresistible Ned Guyon.

This unexceptionable arrangement had now lasted a considerable time,
and no likelihood of its coming to a conclusion by the marriage of
Katharine had yet presented itself. Lady Henmarsh was better pleased
than Mr. Guyon that it should be so, and less surprised. She
understood Katharine better than her father understood her; she knew
how entirely unscathed she had been amid the lightning flashes of real
admiration and simulated sentiment which had played around her girlish
head; she knew that in Katharine's perfectly impartial brightness, her
frank acceptance of the incense offered before her, her smiling
pleasure and indifference, consisted the barrier to Mr. Guyon's
wishes. For her part, she was in no hurry about the matter; indeed,
the longer Miss Guyon should require some one (meaning herself) to go
about with her, the better pleased she would be. But though Lady
Henmarsh did not disquiet herself because Mr. Guyon's wishes remained
unfulfilled, she would very seriously and earnestly have disapproved
of their being traversed and thwarted. She did not particularly care
that Katharine should marry soon, but she fervently desired that she
should marry well; and it was with a new and very unpleasant sense of
misgiving that she observed the eager and vivacious pleasure which
Katharine evinced in the society of Mr. Gordon Frere, and watched the
faces and the manner of the two from the alcove, whence she beheld the
dancers at Mrs. Pendarvis's ball. Lady Henmarsh knew very little of
Gordon Frere; indeed, only one fact, beyond the good looks and the
good manners patent to all observers. But in that one fact lay the
only important item of knowledge, in the estimation of Lady Henmarsh.
Gordon Frere was a poor man, with no income to speak of, and only very
desultory, undefined, and contingent expectations. Clearly this would
not meet either Mr. Guyon's views or her own. She hoped, she trusted,
nay she believed, that Katharine would not be so infatuated as to
think of marrying Frere; she trusted Frere was too much a man of the
world to think of marrying Katharine. It was only a flirtation,--it
must be only a flirtation; but even that, if she carried it to such an
extent as she had done at the ball, Katharine must be induced to give
up. It would be remarked, it would keep off other men: of course it
was quite foolish to be afraid of any thing serious; so Lady Henmarsh
hoped, and trusted, and believed, and yet she doubted and feared. She
did not altogether like to acknowledge to herself, perhaps, how little
confidence she felt in her own power of "inducing" Katharine to do any
thing which did not accord with her own inclination and humour. The
tie between them was formed of mutual complaisance, not of influence
and respect. Lady Henmarsh did not understand either the strength of
Katharine's feelings or the determination of her temper; she had
never seen either roused into action, and she regarded her as rather
shrewder and more worldly-minded than most girls, as well as cleverer
and better-looking. So, though she knew her to be self-willed, she
calculated on her sense and shrewdness overcoming her obstinacy in a
matter in which her worldliness would teach her that obstinacy was
injurious and misplaced.

Lady Henmarsh pondered these things one fine summer's day, while
Katharine rambled about the Botanical Gardens with Gordon Frere and
others; while every glance caught from his blue eyes, and every
sentence intoned especially for her ear by his earnest musical voice,
bound the girl's heart more closely to him, and rendered the task
which Lady Henmarsh proposed to herself more difficult of fulfilment,
more infructuous in result.

"At all events, it shall not go on like this beyond to-night," said
her ladyship to herself: "if she looks at and dances with him as she
did at Mrs. Pendarvis's, I shall tell Ned Guyon about it, and find out
what he thinks; but my decided opinion is that it is full time _some_
steps were taken." And then she went to visit Sir Timothy.


Mrs. Streightley and her daughter had returned to the Brixton villa,
had been affectionately received by Robert, and had heard from him the
history of all his doings in their absence. Of course Ellen had,
allowed the briefest possible space of time to elapse between her
return and the despatch of an eager summons entreating Hester Gould to
come to her with the least possible delay. Hester arrived about two
hours before the ordinary dinner-hour; and the young ladies passed
that space of time in the interchange of delightful confidences;
complete and heartfelt on the part of Ellen Streightley, and as meagre
as might be on that of Hester Gould. All the particulars of Ellen's
engagement, which she had already detailed by letter, were again
confided to Hester; all the particulars of the visit from which they
had just returned, and which had been made to certain relatives of
Mrs. Streightley's, of the agricultural persuasion, were once more
related in full.

"I used to think Thorswold rather a stupid place, dearest Hester,"
said Ellen, and a fine blush overspread her pretty honest face:
"little did I ever think I should meet my fate there. I do so long for
you to see Decimus. You will think him so delightful."

"I shall be very much pleased to see him, Ellen," returned Hester;
"and I rejoice, as I am sure you know, in your happiness. But tell me
about your brother,--what does he say to it all?"

"Well, indeed, Hester," said Ellen, hesitating and laughing, "that is
what I hardly can tell you, he has said so little. He kissed me, and
pulled my ear, and called me a little goose, in his own kind way, you
know; but he is so taken up with some new friends he has made, I
cannot make him out. He looks quite different, I am sure; and is so
particular about his dress! A lot of new clothes have just come home
from his tailor's, and a whole boxful of lavender-kid gloves. Isn't it
funny, Hester? Dear old Robert, he talks a great deal about _Mr_.
Guyon; but I suspect he thinks more of _Miss_. Though indeed I only
found out there was a Miss Guyon quite by accident."

Hester Gould's face flushed with sudden anger, and into her calm
calculating heart there came a pang of unaccustomed doubt and fear.
But it was quite in her ordinary tone she said:

"So your brother's friend is Mr. Guyon, is he? Does he live in Queen
Anne Street?"

"Yes, yes; I am sure that is the street I have heard him mention.
Stay, there's an invitation stuck in the chimney-glass--here it is.
'Mr. and Miss Guyon request'--and so--yes, '110 Queen Anne Street' Do
you know them, Hester?"

"No, not personally; but I have seen Miss Guyon frequently. I used to
teach singing to the Miss Morrisons in the next house, No. 109--it is
vacant now, and shut up since Sir Christopher died--and I often saw
her going out to ride. She used to go just about at my hour."

"And is she nice, Hester,--is she pretty? Robert never has told me any
thing particular about her. Men never can describe any one."

"She is very handsome, very elegant, and very fashionable," replied
Hester; and then she departed from her usual cautious reticence so far
as to say, "and I heard the Morrisons say Mr. Guyon was very 'fast,'
and lived beyond his means."

"Indeed," said Ellen in a very grave tone, for to her the accusation
of living beyond one's means sounded very portentous; "I am sure
Robert would not approve of that."

Hester Gould watched Robert Streightley quietly and closely the whole
of that evening. She saw him different to any thing he had ever been;
preoccupied, absent, but not unhappy. A smile played frequently over
his features; and though he sunk into frequent fits of abstraction,
they were evidently not painful. He was as kind and affectionate as
usual to his mother and sisters, as attentive to herself; but a change
had passed upon him which she fully understood. In her cold repressed
way, she was bitterly angry.

She went home rather early. As Robert Streightley saw her to the cab,
and bade her good-night, she said to herself:

"Daniel Thacker knows this Mr. Guyon,--his sisters may know something
about the girl. I'll go to Hampstead to-morrow; they don't mind Sunday
visitors; and I may have a chance of seeing their brother. Really that
girl Ellen grows sillier every day."



CHAPTER VIII.
AMARYLLIS IN A MARQUEE.


The prettiest public _fêtes_ in London are those given in the gardens
of the Botanical Society in the Regent's Park. There is to be found
plenty of fresh green turf; there are myriads of lovely flowers
blooming in open beds, or tastefully arranged beneath the marquees;
there are solemn old big trees stretching out their umbrageous arms,
and in their majesty making one think even less favourably than usual
of the perky straggling sticks at South Kensington; there are the
bands of two or three guards regiments, having sufficient compassion
on the visitors to play one after the other, and not, as in some
places, at the same time; and there is generally a collection of the
nicest-looking people in town. There are few _savans_, and not much
literary or artistic talent; but as _savans_ and the professors of
literary and artistic talent are for the most part any thing but
nice-looking, and as flirtation is the science to which at these
gatherings attention is principally devoted, their loss is not felt;
indeed it may be safely said that the general company is happier for
their absence.

Although the last _fête_ of the season is scarcely to be compared to
its immediate predecessor, the warm weather of the two preceding days
had done very much in contributing to its gaiety on the first occasion
when Mr. Charles Yeldham found himself making holiday from his work,
and taking part in a grand ceremony of nothing-doing with those whose
lives were passed in never doing any thing; and, like most men who
rarely emerge from the business of their lives to seek a temporary
respite from perpetual work in a few brief hours of enjoyment, Charley
was determined to make the most of his time, and to reap the full
value of those precious hours which he had grudgingly given up. With
his chum leaning on his arm, he made his way through the fruit-tent
and the flower-tent, round the American garden, where the glorious
azalias, so lately a mass of magnificent beauty, now stood bare and
drooping; now attracting the attention of a group of faded dowagers by
his energy and volubility; anon pausing in rapt attention, listening
to the strains of the melody-breathing "Sonnambula," as performed by
the Grenadiers, or nodding head and beating hand in sufficiently
ill-kept time to a whirlwind galop rattled through by the band of the
Artillery. Into his holiday, as into his work, Charley had thrown his
whole heart; he had determined to shut out temporarily all thoughts of
attorneys, pleas, work, and worry, and he went in for the pleasures of
the day with an eagerness and an impetuosity that perfectly astonished
his companion.

"I'll tell you what it is, Charley," said Gordon Frere, after they had
careered round the gardens, and were standing once more by the gate at
which they had entered--"I'll tell you what it is; you're like a
country cousin, by Jove! or one of those horrible fellows that come up
to town with a letter of introduction. You want to see every thing,
and all at once. It's a deuced good thing that you don't often give
yourself an outing, or you'd be wanting me to take you to the Thames
Tunnel, and the Monument, and Madame Tussaud's, and all sorts of
wonderful places. Here have we been rushing about from pillar to post,
or rather from tent to tent, and from band to band, and you've never
yet given me breathing-time to look round and speak to any of the
people I know. Now you really must hold on for a moment, for it's just
upon three o'clock, and that's the time that Kate--Miss Guyon, I
mean--said she should be here; and I promised to be near the entrance,
to join her at once."

He spoke with animation, and his bright eyes glowed with fire as he
seized his old friend by the shoulders and used a feigned force to
arrest his progress. You see Mr. Gordon Frere was brimming over with
happiness. To be six-and-twenty years of age; to be good-looking; to
have high animal spirits; to have indulgent tradespeople, and a
tolerable sufficiency of pocket-money; to be in love with a very
charming girl, and to have your passion returned, are all things
calculated to make a man content with life, and disposed to regard
human nature from its best point of view. He was pleased to speak of
himself as a "creature of impulse," and, by some accident probably, he
rightly described himself. Whatever best pleased him for the time
being he took up and went in for earnestly and vigorously. He had
done so all his life, in cricketing, rowing, riding, at school and
college--actually once in reading, when he studied so hard and to so
much purpose apparently, that old Mr. Yeldham wrote to Charles,
anticipating for his son's chum and his own pupil the highest
University honours; but Gordon slacked off, and when the class-list
came out, a double-third was all the position awarded him. Up to
this time the "impulse" had not been shown very strongly in any
love-affairs: he had had his ball-room flirtations, involving
bouquet-sending, Rotten-Row riding, Opera-box haunting, &c., as all
men have; but he had never--to Charles Yeldham's idea at least--been
so really smitten with any one as he announced himself to be with Miss
Guyon. So his honest old chum, albeit he had his own views of the
probable reception of Gordon's proposal by Mr. Guyon, could not find
it in his heart to check him, and only smiled pleasantly as he said:

"All right, Gordon; all right, my boy. But you talk of my taking
you about here and there, as though I were not a mere child in
leading-strings in such a place as this, to be shown each separate
sight in the proper order. Now we've seen the fruit and the flowers,
and listened to the bands, let us take a look at the people.
Tremendous, what you call 'swells,' are they not? No end of crinoline,
and flowers, and finery. By Jove! just turn a few of these young
ladies to walk through the Temple Gardens, and there would not be much
work done that day. Every clerk's nose would be glued to the window;
and I verily believe that even old Farrar, our underneath neighbour,
would leave his books and his papers for such a refreshing sight. Now
there's one,--look there! that tall girl just coming in, with--hallo!
steady, young 'un; what's the matter?"

Charley Yeldham might well cry "steady;" for Gordon gave a visible
start as he turned in the direction indicated by his friend; and his
tone was thick and hurried as he said, "That's Miss Guyon and her
father--and--who the devil's that man with them?"

"Now that's a curious thing," said Yeldham with provoking placidity.
"I don't suppose I know another soul in all this large gathering; but
I do know that man intimately, and I can tell you who he is. That's
Robert Streightley, the City man, that you've so often heard me speak
of, and--but what has come to him? Talk of 'swells,' why, I should
scarcely have recognised Bob Sobersides, as they used to call him, in
that costume. And so that is Miss Guyon, is it? that's Miss Guyon I
say, young 'un, she's--she's wonderfully lovely."

"For God's sake, don't stand staring there with your mouth open,
Charley; but let us go up and speak to these people. They've seen us
already;" and Mr. Frere, passing his arm through his friend's, led him
up to the group, and after making his own salutations, freely
presented him to Miss Guyon and her father. Immediately after his
introduction, Yeldham turned and shook hands with Robert Streightley;
and after a few words of astonishment from each at meeting the other
in such a place, they commenced a conversation, in which Mr. Guyon
took part, leaving Gordon Frere and Katharine walking together a
little in advance of them.

There are few things more embarrassing than having something very
particular to say, knowing that you will have great difficulty in
saying it, and being perfectly convinced that if ever it is to be said
at all, the exact time has arrived. This was Gordon Frere's position.
He knew that the end of the season had arrived; that another fortnight
would see Miss Guyon flown, with the rest of the fashionable world, to
some English sea-board, foreign watering-place, or country-house,
whither he could not have the remotest excuse for following her; he
knew the proverbial danger of delay, especially in love-affairs; he
fully shared in Charley Yeldham's only half-expressed doubts as to the
reception of his proposal by Mr. Guyon, and in the sudden and
unexpected appearance upon the scene of Robert Streightley whom he had
never met before, but of whom, his wealth, his talents, his City
position, he had heard frequently from Charley--he saw a new and
important element of danger. If he intended to make his _coup_ for the
winning of this peerless beauty, now was the time. So he screwed up
his courage and began.

"You are a little late, Miss Guyon,"--this in a low, deep, tremulous
voice; "you said you would be here at three."

"You don't pretend to say that you recollect any thing I said about
it, Mr. Frere?" in the same tone. "I scarcely remembered we had
touched upon the subject."

"Don't you pretend to imagine any such thing so far as I am concerned,
Miss Guyon. No, no; pardon me for one instant; you know that whatever
concerns you, in however trifling a degree,--and more especially when
it relates to the chance of my seeing you,--is always of importance to
me."

He had bent his gaze upon her, as he said this, and he received a
faint fluttering glance as his first reply. Then she said,

"I was scarcely conceited enough to think so, and--and of course I
feel the compliment. However, we _have_ met, you see."

"Yes; and so long as that has come about, no matter how late you are;
for you see I still hold to my original opinion. However late or
early, I must be doubly thankful for the chances of meeting you now.
For the season's at an end, and I suppose you will be off with the
rest?"

"I suppose so; though nothing is settled, I believe."

"And where do you go?"

"Papa talked of Scarborough some time ago. He has not said any thing
about it lately; and as I am wholly indifferent on the subject, I'm
very good to him, and let him have his own way."

"Are you similarly complaisant to Mr. Guyon in all things?"

There must have been something special in the tone of his voice; for
she looked up quickly with a slight flush, and said,

"In all matters in which I take no particular interest. Where I am
concerned I am _exigeante_, and--I am afraid--stubborn."

"Let us call it 'firm,' Miss Guyon," said Frere, with a slight smile.
"Firmness is a quality by no means reprehensible, even when exercised
towards one's father. It's a horrible thing this break-up of the
season, especially as one gets older. All the little pleasant--well, I
suppose I may call them friendships--are nipped in the bud until next
April, when one has to begin again and struggle on until August, when
we find ourselves in exactly the same position in which we were a
twelvemonth before."

"That is, unless we take up with a different set of friends," said
Katharine; "and I believe there are instances on record of such a
change."

Gordon Frere looked at her again, and threw an additional warmth into
his voice as he said, "Granted that fidelity is uncommon, Miss Guyon,
it should be the more prized when it is found. You are going to-night
to Mrs. Tresillian's?"

"Yes; Lady Henmarsh has promised to take me. It is almost my 'last
rose of summer;' positively the last of our ball-engagements this
season."

"Let us trust it will be one of the pleasantest. You will come early,
and you will give me the first _valse_, and as many afterwards as you
can."

"I--I shall be very happy; but we shall leave early. Papa has a holy
horror of having his horses kept out late, more especially when he is
not present; and he will not be there to-night, I think; for he's
going to ask Mr. Streightley to dine with us, and I believe he wants
to talk business to him afterwards."

"Mr. Streightley going to dine with you! By the way, who is Mr.
Streightley?"

"Mr. Streightley? he's a horror--I didn't mean that. He's a City
friend of papa's, and, as I'm told, a very rich man."

"Very rich, and in the City, eh!" said Gordon Frere, looking over his
shoulder at the object of their remark. "He's better got up than most
of his genus. I think I could swear to Poole in his coat. Very rich,
and you've been told so, Miss Guyon! He's a lucky man."

"Is he, Mr. Frere? You'll excuse my saying that I don't follow you;
that I don't know why Mr. Streightley is lucky."

"Did you not yourself say that he was very rich, Miss Guyon, and that
you had been told so?" said Gordon, with more warmth than he had
previously exhibited. "Society acts as this gentleman's
_avant-coureur_, and repeats his claim to respect wherever he goes;
and of course he finds people prepared to proffer him ready-made
honour."

The bitterness in his tone jarred on Kate's ear. His face was averted,
so that there was no need for her to restrain the half-inquiring,
half-loving gaze with which she looked up at him as she said,

"I never knew you cynical before, Mr. Frere, and I don't think the
mood becomes you. Surely the notion that wealth is the most desirable
of all possessions is utterly exploded. For my own part, I think
that riches in a man--I mean when they are so great as to be talked
about--are something against him; something to be got over, like his
being black, or having a hump-back."

"This is a very refreshing doctrine, Miss Guyon; but I'm afraid it has
not many disciples; and even you would lean to the side of the modest
competence and----"

"I would lean to nothing; I would give way to nothing so palpably
sordid and base."

"You are strangely in earnest on this point, Miss Guyon."

"I am thoroughly in earnest about it; and I----"

"You cannot tell with what delight I hear it, Miss Guyon. I--you have
removed a certain distrust which has prevented me from----"

"As you say"--broke in the strident voice of Mr. Guyon, as he with
Streightley and Yeldham "formed up in line"--"In a formal dinner-party
you may sit side by side with people and never know any more about
them than if they were at opposite ends of the table. You're quite
right, Streightley, quite right. But to-night we're quite alone.
Katharine, my dear, Mr. Streightley has promised to take us as he
finds us, and come home to dinner to-day."

Miss Guyon bowed, and murmured her delight. Then said _sotto voce_,
"It is Mrs. Tresillian's night, papa, you recollect; and Lady Henmarsh
is coming to fetch me."

"O yes, my dear; of course, of course. Lady Henmarsh coming, eh! But
that won't make any difference."

"No, papa; only you won't mind my running away."

"Of course not, my dear; of course not, And how is my young friend
Gordon Frere? Blooming as usual. No need to ask that. Give your arm to
an old boy, Gordon; and trot him round, and show him all the--the
beauty of the day."

Gordon, who was eminently disgusted at the interruption of his
conversation with Kate, and who was showing his feelings in his
knitted brow and puckered mouth, had any hopes of a further _causerie_
which he might have entertained dashed to the ground by Mr. Guyon, who
passed his delicate lavender-glove through his young friend's arm and
led him off in triumph, while Streightley and Yeldham followed on
either side of Miss Guyon.

Few men could make themselves pleasanter companions than Ned Guyon
when he was so inclined. He had not merely a capital flow of animal
spirits, a store of what in women is called small-talk, but what in
men may better be described as broad talk, a keen perception of the
ludicrous, and a sufficient power of satire, but he had the great
knack--learned in his long experience of life--of exactly suiting his
conversation to his audience. He possessed in perfection the slang of
the clubs, which nowadays passes current for what is called "swell
talk," and which is not merely a peculiar _argot_ with special words
meaning special things, with excised pronouns and abbreviated nouns,
but which, to be perfect, must be spoken in a voice specially pitched
for the purpose. The voice and the language none had studied better
than Guyon; there were few men of his age, indeed, who had taken the
trouble to master either; but in the fashionable sinner's worldly
experience he had found the greatest profit in keeping himself _au
courant_ with the ways and manners of men of the rising generation.
Once let any of them perceive that he was a fogey, in the least
antiquated in his ideas or pursuits, and all hope of influence over
them was gone; but so long as he could take a leading part in their
follies, and blend undoubted past experience with apparent present
enjoyment, their houses, horses, purses were at his disposal; and it
was considered rather an honour among the subalterns of the Rag or the
Plungers from Aldershott to have dropped their money at _écarté_ or
_baccarat_ to such a cool clever hand as Mr. Guyon.

Perhaps the old diplomatist had never been in better force than on the
present occasion, although there was apparently little opportunity for
the exercise of his powers. Frere, _distrait_, if not savage, at
starting, found himself first listening to his companion's remarks;
then laughing at his stories; finally answering him, and leading him
on to further banter. With a fair proportion of the company present
Mr. Guyon had some acquaintance, and of nearly every body who was any
body he had some racy anecdote to whisper laughingly into his
companion's ear. It did not strike Frere until long afterwards
that all these piquant stories were indebted for their piquancy to a
half-sneering cynicism, a half-avowed libertinism; that in all the
broad principles of honour were ridiculed, and the scampish shifts of
so-called "gallantry" exalted; that the whole conversation, in fact,
was such as might have been expected from a _blasé_ youth or a
battered rake, but scarcely to be looked for in a gentleman whose
marriageable daughter was walking within a few feet of him.

They remained in the gardens until past six o'clock, promenading,
visiting the tents, stopping to speak to friends; but never on any
occasion had Gordon Frere another chance of approaching Miss Guyon. He
made several attempts; but invariably her father had something to say
to her--or to him--and cut in between them with the pleasantest smile
and the cheeriest remarks possible. It was not until just as they were
getting into the carriage that Mr. Guyon suddenly turned aside, and
saying, "Ah, by the way!" took out a card, wrote on it in pencil, in
his airiest manner borrowed an envelope from the ticket-taker standing
at his desk in the entrance, and despatched it by a commissionaire who
was in waiting. In that short interval Gordon Frere managed to slip
round to Miss Guyon's side and whisper, "The first valse, to-night?"
and to receive in reply an almost imperceptible acquiescence in the
glance of her eyes and the bending of her head. Then Mr. Guyon,
wheeling round, took a very affectionate leave of Gordon, and made a
polite bow to Charles Yeldham, handed his daughter into the carriage,
motioned to Streightley to follow her; and finally jumping lightly
in himself, they were whirled off, with much door-slamming and
horse-pawing.

The concluding episode of the little drama in which he had asserted
his position with Miss Guyon had reanimated Gordon Frere, and rendered
him happy and amiable. "Such a lord is Love, and Beauty such a
mistress of the world." So he turned cheerily to Yeldham, on whom he
had not bestowed so much as a glance or a thought for the past two
hours, and gripping his arm, said:

"Well, old boy, and what do you think of her?"

Mr. Charles Yeldham was seldom absent or preoccupied: he was far too
practical for that. But on the present occasion his thoughts must have
been engaged, for he started, with something like a flush on his
cheeks, as he said:

"Who? what, Gordon? I wasn't attending, I fear."

"I was asking you what you thought of Miss Guyon, Charley?"

"She is wonderfully beautiful."

"Well said, old fellow. Quite enthusiastic, by Jove!--for you, at all
events. But what I mean is, seriously, is not she something to be
proud of; something different from the ruck of grinning, simpering,
yea-nay girls one meets about--in such places as that we've just
left, for instance?"

"She is, indeed."

"I hope you talked to her. Not that I think--no offence to you, old
fellow--not that perhaps your talk would be exactly suited to her--too
deep, you know, and all that kind of thing--but still you would be
able to make out that she had a head on her shoulders. Doesn't she
talk well?"

"Well, to tell truth, I had not much opportunity of judging, for she
remained tolerably silent; and the conversation--such as it was--was
between Robert Streightley and myself."

"O, by the way, that fellow Streightley,--I've heard you speak of him.
Who is he, and what's all about him? What the deuce did old Guyon
bring him here for? and why has he gone home with them to dinner?"

"Ha, ha!" laughed Charles Yeldham. "'Beware, my lord, of jealousy!'
Here's an Othello for you! I don't think, Gordon, you need look with
much suspicion on Robert Streightley, unless you've fixed your
affections on good investments or early information; and then you
would stand no chance with him, I can tell you. But he's been too long
engaged to Capel Court to waver in his allegiance."

"But what on earth brought him here?"

"What? Who? you should ask, and I would answer, your intended
father-in-law. There's no man with a clearer head for business: what
will be more explanatory, I will say there's no man better able to put
a friend on to 'a good thing' than Streightley; and I fancy Mr. Guyon
would not be above a little stagging if he could act on Streightley's
information."

"But people don't get City information or talk to each other on what
you call 'stagging' topics at Botanical Fêtes. Why did he bring him
here?"

"O impetuous youth, 'still harping on my daughter!' don't you see that
there must be a _quid pro quo_? If Mr. Streightley is to assist Mr.
Guyon, why should not Mr. Guyon show Mr. Streightley the elevated
position which he holds, the society in which he moves?"

"Yes, that's all very well; but I say, Charley, Streightley don't know
Mrs. Tresillian, does he?"

"Who's Mrs. Tresillian?"

"The wife of the member for Penmouth; people who live at Rutland Gate,
and entertain perpetually. He's not likely to be going there to-night,
this Streightley, is he?"

"No more than he's likely to be going to Kamschatka; not so likely.
Why?"

"O, nothing; only Miss Guyon is going there--and so am I."

"Is Miss Guyon going? Ah, well, I hope you'll enjoy yourself."

And during their ride to chambers in the hansom, both men were
singularly silent.


Mr. Streightley had plenty of time to make himself acquainted with the
features of the private friends and the public celebrities who were
enshrined in Miss Guyon's photographic album; with the views of the
Rhine and the Moselle; with the cards of callers "lurking within the
bowl;" with the tastefully-arranged flowers and their elegant basket;
with the paper-knife, like a golden dagger; with Gustave Doré's latest
sketches; and with all the innumerable nicknacks of a lady's table.
Miss Guyon had gone straight to her room; and Mr. Guyon, begging to be
excused, as he had a few little matters of business, had retired into
what he called his "study,"--a very gloomy little den behind the
dining-room, furnished with a battered leather writing-table, a
cane-bottomed chair, a grim bust of a deceased friend powdered with
"blacks," a boot-jack, a clothes-brush, a glass-case of stuffed birds,
and the Court Guide for 1850. Streightley had been shown, at Mr.
Guyon's suggestion, into a spare bedroom, where he had performed a
brief toilet, and then mooned about the drawing-room, occupying
himself in the manner just described. Mr. Guyon was the first to break
in on his solitude; and shortly afterwards Miss Guyon entered the
room, looking so lovely that Robert Streightley remained spell-bound,
and could not take his eyes from her. She wore a pale mauve-silk
dress, with soft _tulle_ half-way over it, looped up with real Cape
jasmine, a tiny _bouquet_ of the same flower in her bosom; and her
hair gave her a certain air of peculiarity, and shed around her a
subtle and intoxicating perfume. Round her neck she wore a string of
pearls with a diamond clasp; and the same on each arm completed her
jewelry. Looking at her, Robert Streightley seemed to lose his
identity, and to become part and portion of some fairy story which he
had read, some picture of _moyen-âge_ pageant which he had seen.
Women? Yes, he had known women before--his mother, Ellen, Hester
Gould. What had they in common with this soft, delicate, queenly
creature, the touch of whose hand on his arm thrilled him to the bone,
the sound of whose voice sent the blood rushing to his heart, the
glance of whose eye--light, fleeting, and uninterested though it
was--he would have purchased at the price of a king's ransom.

The dinner was good, and Mr. Guyon was gay; but neither succulent
dishes nor brilliant sallies had much effect on Robert Streightley.
They were scarcely seated before he learned, from a chance observation
uttered by Miss Guyon, that she was going to Mrs. Tresillian's ball;
and the knowledge that Gordon Frere would probably meet her there--a
fact which he divined intuitively--weighed heavily on Streightley's
mind. He tried to exert himself to respond to his host; he tried to
talk lightly and pleasantly to Kate, who seemed in the highest
spirits, but all unsuccessfully. Whenever there was a lull in the
conversation, he fancied her in Frere's arms being whirled round the
room, or listening to his low voice with such a pleased expression on
her face as he had seen there that night in the Opera-box. Those
bright eyes, that flow of spirits, that general happiness, which even
prompted her to be far more agreeable to him and far more recognisant
of his presence than she had yet ever deigned to be, were not
they all due to the fact that she was going to meet his--well, why
not?--his rival? As he was thinking thus the servant entered the room
bearing a letter, which Miss Guyon read, opened, and flung on the
table with an air of vexation, that contrasted strongly with her
recent good-temper.

"It's too bad!" she cried in a petulant voice; "too bad and I don't
believe a word of it."

"What's the matter, Kate, my child!" asked Mr. Guyon in his blandest
tones.

"After dressing myself, and setting my heart upon it--the last ball of
the season too--it's--it's most horribly annoying!" and Miss Guyon bit
her lip very hard, and threw back her head to stop her tears.

"My dear Kate," said Mr. Guyon, looking like a modern edition of
Lucius Junius Brutus, "you seem to forget that, besides your father,
there is present a gentleman who--no, pardon me, my dear Streightley,
allow me to speak--who should be--hem!--thought of. _What_--if I may
again be allowed to put the question,--_what_ is there in that note
that can have so very much discomposed you?"

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Streightley--I--but it is so annoying! Here's
Lady Henmarsh, papa, writes to say she cannot go to Mrs. Tresillian's
to-night. She's got one of her headaches--those horrible headaches
that I don't believe in one bit--and she knows I was looking forward
to her taking me, and that it will be impossible for me to go without
her. It _is_ so vexing!"

Mr. Guyon was about firing off an elaborate remark; but hearing
Streightley commencing to speak, he stopped himself, and waved his
hand towards his friend.

"I was--eh, you're very kind--no, I was only going to say," said
Streightley, with a hesitation which was quite strange to him, "that
I'm sure I sympathise with you, Miss Guyon--sympathise with you
thoroughly. It is very annoying to be balked in any thing that
we've--set our minds on, as I may say. But what I was going to say
was--I don't know about these kind of things, of course, as you know,
Mr. Guyon, and no doubt you too, Miss Guyon; but could not your papa,
Miss Guyon,--could not your papa be your escort to this ball?"

It was a really grateful glance that Kate shot at him as she said, "O,
thank you so very much for the suggestion, Mr. Streightley. Of course
he could. Papa, do you hear?"

"I do, my dear. I hear Mr. Streightley's suggestion, which is exactly
in accord with that--that--high-mindedness and--and suggestiveness for
which I've always given him credit. But unfortunately it's impossible,
Kate; perfectly impossible to-night. I have some documents in there,"
jerking his head towards the den behind, "the perusal of which will
occupy me until--ah, daybreak."

Miss Guyon said not another word, but rose from the table as her
father ceased speaking. She wished Mr. Streightley "good-night,"
and after a moment's hesitation gave him her hand; she kissed Mr.
Guyon's forehead--the little space which was not covered with his
carefully-poodled hair--with her lips, and left the room. But as she
passed the glass, Streightley caught a glimpse of the reflection of
her face, and saw that every nerve in it was quivering with repressed
passion. He knew the reason well enough, and it did not tend to raise
his already-drooping spirits; so he shortly afterwards took his leave
and went home, where he found his sister Ellen waiting up for him to
tell him that Hester Gould had been spending the evening with her,
having previously been to the Botanical Fête, where she had seen the
beautiful Miss Guyon.

"And you were walking with her, Hester says, Robert," said Miss Ellen;
"she saw you, though you didn't see her. How I should like to see her,
Robert! Now tell me all about her. Is she so beautiful? and is she
going to be married?"

"My dear child," said Robert in rather a harsh tone, "do you imagine I
tell you the names of a tithe of the people I know in business? Mr.
Guyon is a business acquaintance of mine; and I have been introduced
to his daughter. So far as I am a judge, she is very beautiful; but
really though I have seen her a few times, she has not yet confided to
me whether she is going to be married or not."

On the receipt of which short answer, Miss Ellen Streightley, telling
her brother "he need not snap her head off," handed him his candle and
went to bed.

Mr. Guyon had said that the "perusal" of certain "documents" would
occupy him until daybreak; but long before the first faint thread of
dawn appeared in the eastern sky that gentleman was sleeping the sleep
of the just, having immediately after Streightley's departure slipped
down to his Club, and returned lighter in heart and heavier in purse
after playing a few rubbers with consummate skill and great luck. But
gleaming on certain characters in this veracious history, the first
rays of the rising sun found them defiant of sleep, if not actively
engaged. Found Katharine Guyon with her dark hair streaming over her
pillow, bedewed with tears of rage and disappointment, and her eyes,
under their swollen lids, bright and staring; found Robert
Streightley, racked with sharp pangs of jealousy and doubt, vainly
courting repose; found Gordon Frere lounging homeward up Piccadilly,
his hands plunged in his trousers-pockets, his opera-hat hanging
listlessly on the back of his head, a cigar in his mouth, and a faded
flower in his coat, chafing bitterly against the absence of his
heart's idol from Mrs. Tresillian's ball, and at the postponement of
the love-avowal which he had determined to make; finally, found
Charles Yeldham, bright, fresh, and glowing from his morning bath,
just settling down to his desk, with his mind filled partly with
thoughts of the work he was about to commence, partly with
reminiscences of a queenly figure, a stately walk, and a bright pair
of eyes, seen yesterday for the first time.



CHAPTER IX.
INVESTMENTS.


It was seldom that Robert Streightley allowed himself the luxury of
thought. He was so much in the habit of deciding, after a rapid
business calculation, upon any thing that was submitted to him, of
accepting or rejecting the proposition at once, that he scarcely knew
what it was to ponder, and weigh, and calculate chances. In his
business he had never, apparently, had occasion to calculate them. The
knowledge which guided him seemed to come to him intuitively, and
hitherto had scarcely ever failed in producing a good result. But in
these recent days he had proposed to himself a venture such as he had
never previously contemplated, a risk which was a risk indeed, a prize
for which he should have to enter against sharp competition, and
which, even if he gained it, he yet felt would be uncertain and
difficult to deal with. It was a troublous time for this honest,
straightforward, simple man of business, who for the first time in his
life found himself possessed by a mania over which he had not the
least control; this long-headed, cool, calculating fellow, who was
accustomed to look far ahead, and see clearly what would be the end of
any step he proposed to take before he took it, and who now found
himself irresistibly impelled to rush blindly on, ignoring
consequences, content to leave all to Fate, and to console himself
with the victory of the moment. Never before during his career had he
felt the smallest pang of jealousy; never before, when bidding for
great contracts, involving such an amount of capital as made the
boldest hesitate before speculating, had he, after a few minutes'
rapid calculation, wavered for an instant. But the present case was
different: it was "the house" then; it was "the heart" now. Luck,
carefully steered by prudence and by foresight, and acumen more than
prudence, had brought his ventures safely riding over the billows, and
through the shoals and shallows; would it do so now?

He was desperately in love with this girl--this bright, brilliant,
haughty, wilful girl. Even in all the mad fervour of his passion he
allowed to himself that she was haughty and wilful, and he loved her
all the morel--loved her with a depth and earnestness, with a wild
passionate longing such as he had never believed he could have felt.
Haughty and wilful! were not these very qualities great ingredients in
her charm? Had he not for nearly forty years been living with the tame
and commonplace women among whom his lot had been cast, and had any of
them ever had the slightest influence over him? had they ever caused
his heart one extra vibration--his pulse one extra throb? Why should
he not enter the lists and tilt amongst the others for the hand of
this Queen of Beauty, who sat smiling so superciliously in the
balcony? It was an open course, and he brought amongst his attributes
a stout heart and a willing hand to the encounter. In curvettings and
caracoles, and all the dainty manoeuvres of the _manège_, in courtly
skill and trick of fence, there might be his superiors; but when the
issue of the combat came to sheer hard fighting, where courage and
persistency won the day, he would give way to none. And, carelessly
fluttering over the leaves of his ledger, as in his dim City office he
revolved all these thoughts within his mind, he felt--not without a
blush of shame--that he had secured the services of a most potent ally
within the citadel. In these portentous leaves the name of Edward
Guyon, Esquire, of Queen-Anne Street, now had a small space reserved
to itself, the details covering which, though insignificant in such a
business as that of Streightley and Son, were multiplied amazingly
since the first "transaction" which had brought the siren to the abode
of Plutus. Over Robert Streightley Mr. Guyon had obtained an
extraordinary influence; due, let it be stated, of course to a certain
extent to the young merchant's infatuation, but also in a great degree
to his own admirable tact. During the course of a life passed in
business Robert had seen many specimens of _tracasserie_ and humbug,
which his good nurse had enabled him to estimate at their real value;
but he had never been brought in contact with any of their professors
who had, or seemed to have, the real charm of social influence. In Mr.
Guyon's society--and of late he had been admitted into a great deal of
Mr. Guyon's society--Robert Streightley seemed to feel himself a
different being. There was nothing rough or unpleasant in his new
friend and those to whom his new friend introduced him; he became for
the first time in his life aware of the existence of another world,
where well-bred ease, polished manners, and refined conversation
were substituted for that eternal strife and fight and wrangle for
money-getting in which his whole previous existence had been passed.

And she--Katharine--his adoration--she was of this world, and yet not
of it so much as she might be; held not that queenly position in it
which she might hold, were circumstances different. It would have
taken a mind much less acute than Robert Streightley's to perceive at
once the influence which the possession of wealth had among those who
affected to despise it. In an instant he saw--few so rapidly--how many
of the new society into which he had been introduced, while merely
electro-plated and veneered, were endeavouring to pass themselves off
as the genuine article; and he ascribed, correctly enough, the sneers
at money, in which most members of the society indulged, to their lack
of it. Why should he not be the means of giving her the position which
she would so thoroughly adorn? She looked a duchess; why should he not
give her the power of gratifying the tastes of a duchess? Robert
Streightley, constantly engaged in the accumulation of money, had
given very little thought to the amount that he had accumulated.
Confident in the security of his investments, he left the heap to
gather in rolling; his simple life and the even more simple life led
by his mother and sister in the Brixton villa were provided for at a
comparatively infinitesimal cost; and of the bulk of his possessions
he had taken little heed, knowing that it was there "to the good." But
recently, within the last few days, he had looked through his
accounts, and found that he was the possessor of what would be
considered, even in "the City," to be a large fortune. Money he had in
funds, and stocks, and securities of all kinds; money in ships bound
on antipodean voyages, and in semi-cleared Canadian forests; money in
loans to Egyptian viceroys and Nicaraguan republics; money in an
English estate, "all that house and estate known as 'Middlemeads,'
in the county of Bucks, with five hundred acres of parklike land,
well-preserved coverts, lake with fishing-temple, large stabling,
forcing-houses, hothouses, orangery, delightfully situate on the brow
of Holcomb Hill, with the silver Thames winding in the distance," as
it was described in the auctioneer's advertisement. The auctioneer,
whose descriptive powers are here recorded, had not the opportunity of
bringing this "lot" to the hammer; for finding the previous bidding
dull, Robert Streightley, to whom the estate had reverted on the
foreclosure of a mortgage which he held upon it, determined to
withdraw it from public competition, wisely thinking that he could
sell it a better bargain to some private purchaser. When the bold idea
of asking for Miss Guyon's hand first entered his head, the
recollection of this property flashed upon him at once. He had never
seen the place, but he knew from his agent that it was essentially a
gentleman's house, and that the entire estate was large, productive,
and one of which any one might be proud. "Mrs. Streightley of
Middlemeads;" "Middlemeads, August;" "Mrs. R. Streightley
presents"--Robert Streightley found himself sketching these words on
his blotting-pad as these thoughts passed through his mind; and though
he gave a short laugh of semi-contempt at the wildness of his fancy,
the idea had so far possessed him, that he wrote off to his old
friend and legal adviser Charles Yeldham, begging him to be at the
Great-Western station at a given hour on the next morning, and go with
him to see a place down the line which he had purchased as an
investment.

At the appointed time Mr. Streightley walked on to the platform, and
found his friend already awaiting him. Mr. Charles Yeldham was indeed
instantly recognisable. In all the crowd of pushing anxious passengers
he stood perfectly calm and self-possessed, heeding neither the
porters wheeling heavy barrows, who shouted to him "By your leave!"
and charged straight at him with the obvious intention of grinding him
to powder; the grooms, vainly endeavouring to hold their braces of
pointers, which invariably came to grief through disinclination to go
the same side of the columns supporting the roof; the helpless female,
or the excited male passengers. There were men in every variety of
travelling-dress, in wide-awakes, and pork-pie hats, and cloth caps,
and fezzes; in suits of dittoes in every conceivable variety of check,
in knickerbockers and gaiters, in tightly-fitting 'horsy' trousers,
and wearing couriers' bags or slung race-glasses. But among them
placidly walked Charles Yeldham, in his broadish-brimmed chimney-pot,
his high-buttoning black waistcoat, his Oxford-mixture trousers very
baggy at the knees, and his Wellington boots--among them, but not of
them--with a pleasant smile on his cheery face, and with his head full
of the case of Marshland _versus_ the Bagglehole Improvement Company,
the pleadings in which he had to draw. But he saw Streightley at once,
and as he caught sight of him he again noticed the change in his
friend's style of dress, which he had not thought of since their
meeting at the Botanical Gardens, and laughed quietly to himself.

"This is good, Yeldham; I knew you would come," said Streightley, as
the train moved out of the station. "You're just the man I want for a
sound practical opinion."

"On an estate which you've bought, Robert? Yes; my knowledge of the
value of land, derived from occasionally looking out on to and running
round the Temple Gardens; the quick eye with which, from constant
practice, I shall be able to detect any shortcomings in the building,
and suggest improvements; my general acquaintance with farming-stock
and agricultural produce, will enable me to give you some very
valuable advice."

"You're laughing at me, old friend; but it don't much matter; and I
know of old that you always will have your joke. No; it was not
exactly on these points that I wanted to consult you,--in fact,
not at all upon them. With all your pretended ignorance, you are a
country-bred man, and one able to give a thoroughly practical opinion
on the value of Middlemeads and its capabilities; and moreover, by
this means I get you out quietly into the air and away from these
stivy chambers, and have the opportunity of a long quiet talk with you
about--about any subject that may turn up, without the risk of your
being worried by perpetual visits of attorneys' clerks, or the
annoyance of seeing you constantly fidgetting to get to your desk
again and get to work at something else."

"O ho, Master Robert! then this is a trap, is it? a kind of perforce
holiday into which you have led me?"

"Not at all. Wait until the day is over, until I've said all I've got
to say, and you've heard it, before you complain. And even if it
were--supposing it were a holiday, you don't take so many of them that
you need grudge yourself this outing."

"So far as that goes we're both in the same boat, I think; but I have
had a holiday, and only a couple of days ago, when I was at the
Botanical--Why, by Jove! you were there too."

"Of course I was. That _is_ good! our each giving the other credit for
constant industry, and then recollecting that we had lapsed into
idleness together. By the way, that Mr. Frere--who lives with you,
doesn't he?--what sort of fellow is he?"

"A capital fellow," said honest old Charley Yeldham; "a good deal
younger than we are, you know, Robert, and consequently more
impulsive, and what he would call 'gushing'--and yet older in some
respects too; older in cynicism and so-called knowledge of life,
and--; but a very good fellow, a capital youngster. I've known him
since he was a boy. He was a pupil of my father's."

"O, indeed! Has he--has he been very long intimate with Mr. Guyon's
family, do you know?"

"No, not very long, I should say. By the way, I did not know until I
met you with him that you knew Mr. Guyon, Robert."

"Didn't you? Q yes; a business acquaintance of mine."

"Business acquaintance? Hem! I can understand Mr. Guyon's popularity
from a social point of view, but in matters of business I confess I
think that----"

"Don't you fear, dear old Charley; I know all about that; and--and
does Frere go often to the Guyons'?"

"N-no; not very often, I think. He's been once or twice lately; but
he's not likely to see much more of them this season, as he's gone out
of town--down to his father's--on a matter of business. What do you
think of Miss Guyon?"

"She is very handsome--at least I suppose so; I'm not much of a judge
in those matters. And how are we getting on with Hamilton's action?"

Upon which question the gentlemen plunged into a conversation full of
business details, which occupied them until they arrived at their
station, where alighting, they hired a trap and drove over to
Middlemeads.

Passing through a little village, and turning sharply to the right
after sighting the old church, they came upon a quaint one-storied
stone lodge. Standing out from the ivy, in which it otherwise was
buried, stood a sculptured knight in fall armour treading on a
serpent, the well-known crest of the Chevers of Middlemeads, the
glorious old family whose ancestral seat had passed to strangers, and
whose last scion was now dwelling in a little cottage at Capécure near
Boulogne. A few short words of explanation to the old portress gained
them admission, and they entered a long drive leading through groves
of noble trees and over undulating ground--where the deer, half hidden
in the deep fern, were quietly feeding--to the house. Then under the
principal gateway with its long range of gables and unrelieved wall,
through the double arch in the first court, which was carpeted with
greensward, to the second or paved court, fronted with its pure Ionic
colonnade, where the old housekeeper, already apprised of their
coming, was in readiness to receive them. Charles Yeldham's heart,
albeit somewhat incrusted with legal formulæ and a long course of Doe
and Roe, yet filled with reverence for antiquity and appreciation of
architectural beauty, thrilled within him as, preceded by the old
housekeeper, they walked through the great hall, now denuded of its
glorious family pictures, its Holbeins and Lelys, its Jansens and
Knellers, its grand Vandyke, its "Animals reposing" by Snyders, and
its "Riding-party" by Wouvermans--all long since dispersed at the
hands of Christie and Manson, but still retaining its fireplace with
the ornamental fire-dogs bearing the arms and initials H. A. of Henry
VIII. and Anne Boleyn, royal guests of the Chevers in the good old
days. Through the Brown Gallery and Lady Betty Chiddingstone's
chamber, through the Spangled Bedroom, and the King's Room, where
James I. had passed a night, through the Organ Room, where still stood
the ancient instrument which had been used for divine service in
connection with the adjoining chapel, long since dismantled and half
in ruins, they passed; and in each the old cicerone poured forth her
oft-told tale of byegone glories.

While in each of these rooms, Yeldham indulged in retrospect, peopling
them according to his fancy with those who might have inhabited them,
picturing to himself how the stately lords and ladies lived and moved
and had their being; and smiled half-cynically to himself in the
thought that, other differences allowed, they were doubtless swayed by
the same passions, victims of the same hopes and fears and doubts,
moved by the same temptations, and acted on by the same impulses as we
of these degenerate days. He was surprised to find that his companion
was going through the house in the most practical manner, apportioning
the rooms one by one to their several purposes, deciding upon the
Brown Gallery for a drawing-room, the King's Chamber for the principal
bedroom, planning the furniture and fittings for the great hall, and
altogether comporting himself as though he were the head of a large
family come down to make the necessary arrangements for its immediate
induction. This notion struck him at first comically, but when he saw
it persevered in in every detail, he began to think more seriously of
it; and after they had left the house, and were again in the trap
driving back to the station, he turned to his friend and said,

"Why, Robert, what on earth is in your head now? I've been perfectly
astonished in watching you ever since we entered Middlemeads."

"Have you? In what way have I excited your astonishment? Did I swagger
too much about my purchase? did I what they call 'gush' about my
place?"

"Not a bit; and if you had, there would have been every excuse for
you. A more delightful old house and more perfect grounds never were
seen."

"Well, then, what did I do?"

"Well, it seemed to me that you didn't regard the place from a
bachelor point of view. You were planning drawing-rooms, and bedrooms,
and dining-halls, and----"

"You know that my mother and sister form part of my belongings?"

"Ye-es; but I didn't hear any mention of your mother and sister,
and----"

"Speak plainly, Charley, and say that you think I contemplate
matrimony."

"And suppose I were to say so?"

"Suppose you were? Well, then, all I could say would be--that I felt
myself a sneak for not having owned the fact before to you, my dear
old friend. But in any thing out of my regular routine of business I'm
as shy as a great schoolgirl; and I could not bring myself to tell
even you about it."

"Then it's a case, Robert. A case at last with you, of all men in the
world. I feel now that even I myself am not impregnable, after 'Bob
Sobersides' has surrendered at discretion."

"Chat away, old fellow. I've no reply to make, save that the opposing
force was irresistible--as I think you'll allow."

"My dear Streightley, I hope I'm a true friend, but I don't think you
could have a worse confidant in an affair of this kind, so far as
giving any opinion on an unknown young lady is concerned----"

"But suppose the young lady is not unknown to you?"

"Not unknown to me! Well, that alters the case of course. But, God
bless my soul, who can--who can have won your love in this sudden way,
Robert? You're not a man of impulse; you're accustomed to think
deeply, and weigh and balance before committing yourself--you would
not do any thing rash. Who on earth can it be?"

"I'm a bad hand at concealing any thing of this sort," said
Streightley with a half-rueful smile. "Indeed, I think I must seem
awkward about the whole business; but the truth of it is, old
friend--I'm madly in love with Miss Guyon, and I hope to make her my
wife."

"Miss Guyon?"

"Ay, Miss Guyon. It has not been a long acquaintance, I know; but I
believe those things never are--I mean that--you know what I mean. But
you know her; at least you've seen her, and--that must be my excuse
for the rashness, and the folly, and whatever the world chooses to
call it. For she is very lovely, isn't she, Charley?"

"Very lovely, indeed!" said Yeldham.

And then, as though by a tacit understanding, both men leaned back in
the carriage, and delivered themselves up to their own reflections.

Needless to say what were Robert Streightley's. Vague desires to call
up well-remembered expressions of Katharine's faze, which yet refused
to be recalled at the moment; dim distrusts and doubts of his own
chance of winning her hand; soul-disturbing thoughts of her friendship
with Gordon Frere; wild plots of laying Mr. Guyon under even greater
obligations to him, and thus making sure of his alliance and support;
dreamy reminiscences of how she had looked and moved, and what she had
done and said on the several occasions when he had seen her.

Charles Yeldham's thoughts were of a very different kind. Here was
this simple girl, of whose existence he had scarcely known a few days
ago, now exercising influence over the future fate of three--no, of
two men: as for himself--bah! the chambers and the pleadings, the hard
work which was to make up little Clare's dowry,--that was his fate,
and there was an end of it so far as he was concerned. But Gordon?
Poor Gordon, who had gone off full of life and hope to urge upon his
father the necessity of "doing something for him," actuated thereto
solely by the hope of propitiating Mr. Guyon by being able to show
himself in a position to ask for Katharine's hand; poor Gordon, who
was at that moment doubtless promising and vowing all sorts of things
in his own name to his father, and who, if he succeeded in getting
promise of an appointment, would write off triumphantly in prosecution
of his suit, or who, if he failed, would come back to town and try and
pursue it without the necessary qualification, but who in either case
would have a cold shoulder turned upon him and the door shut in his
face so soon as a suitor of Streightley's calibre was known to have
entered the lists. "I hope to make her my wife." Those were Robert
Streightley's words; and from them Yeldham could not gather whether or
not the final question had been asked; but be that as it might, he
knew sufficiently of Mr. Guyon to feel certain that Gordon's hopes
were destined to suffer utter wreck. Would not the girl herself
be true to the--to the what? What could this poor lad adduce in
support of the flame which he had nourished but the ordinary
flirtation-phrases indulged in night after night in hundreds of London
ball-rooms? How could he (Yeldham) tell whether Katharine loved Gordon
or not? He had no clearer indication than the readiness of a joyous,
enthusiastic, rather trivial nature to believe in the existence of
what it hoped and desired; he shrunk from the idea of the lad's
disappointment, but, after all, he knew Gordon Frere too well to
suppose that he would be unlike the remainder of mankind, that he
would not get over it in time--in perhaps no very long time. Had it
been himself now,--had he loved Katharine Guyon and another came to
win her from him by his superior wealth--but he would not pursue so
futile a thought as that,--he had nothing to do with love. Hard work,
and not the indulgence of fancy, was his lot; and he was content. He
wished it was over though, and that Gordon knew the worst.

These and many other thoughts resembling them chased each other
through Yeldham's brain, and rendered it difficult to him to keep up
even the desultory conversation for which only Streightley was
disposed. The friends parted at the railway station, and Yeldham
betook himself at once to his chambers. It was a still, hot evening,
and the airlessness of the rooms oppressed him. He was a man little
influenced by such things ordinarily; yet this evening the grim
cheerlessness, the dust, the ungentle disarray, in whose
disorderliness there was a kind of order, of which he held the key;
the harsh bundles of papers, the very fittings of the rooms, in which
all was scrupulously designed for use, and as devoid of ornament as
only true British business upholstery knows how to be,--all these
things made themselves suddenly apparent. He revolted against them,
against his life in general. It suddenly seemed alike hard and
useless: what was he grinding away like this for? supposing his object
accomplished, _cui bono?_ An unwholesome frame of mind to be betrayed
into, even for a little while--a relaxation, a renunciation of the
great principle of duty which had upheld and guided him so long; and
Charles Yeldham knew that it was so, and felt afraid of himself. He
shrank from the first insidious chill of the advancing tide of
discontent; he recognised the deadliness of it.

"Yes, that's it," he said thoughtfully, when, having emptied his
letter-box, and looked over the memoranda left for his inspection by
his clerk, he sat moodily by the open window, through which faint
sounds from the river reached his ears: "Yes, that's it. I have seen a
fine place to-day, and talked with a rich man--a man who hardly knows
how rich he really is, I fancy--about what he is to do with his money;
and I suppose I am actually envious, cut up by the sight of something
desirable that never can be mine. He is going to invest in happiness,
is he?--to buy a beautiful idol, and set her up in a splendid shrine?
he's rich enough to do it, if he likes. I wonder how it is really. I
wonder whether he will be as happy as he believes. But no--I don't
wonder any thing of the kind, of course; no one ever was or will be,
since life is limited, and faith is infinite. It's a dull business, I
fancy, even at the best--as dull perhaps as it is to me, who am so
very far off the best."

And then Charles Yeldham rose, shook off the unusual and perilous mood
which had held him already too long, and sat down resolutely to his
work. It was very late that night when he went to bed; and sleep kept
away from him in a harassing manner. The events of the day reproduced
themselves in his thoughts, which escaped his control, and dragged him
in their course. The strange imbroglio in which he found himself
engaged; the clashing interests of two friends, in whom he was greatly
though not equally interested; the certain crash of the hopes and
projects of one of them; his uncertainty of the extent to which
Streightley had received encouragement, but which his knowledge of
Robert's real diffidence of character and unconsciousness of his own
value in the eyes of a scheming and mercenary society, induced him to
believe must have been considerable; his doubts as to the course he
ought to pursue towards Gordon;--no wonder he could not sleep while
these conflicting thoughts battled with each other in his mind.

The practical result of his cogitations was, that Charles Yeldham
decided on postponing any communication with Frere until his return.
Gordon was not likely to write to him--he hated letter-writing rather
more than he hated any other kind of mental exertion; and whether his
application to his father might have good results or not, he would no
doubt return without delay. On the other perplexing question--had
Streightley proposed to Miss Guyon?--Yeldham ardently desired
information; but for the present there was no means of attaining it
within his reach. He must wait like the others--only not like them in
this, that he did not wait and hope. He was only an outsider, an
inconsiderable person, the recipient of half-confidence on one side,
the confidant of baseless hopes, as he feared, upon the other; while
to one principally concerned he was nothing. No conjuncture of affairs
could make him an object of importance in the life of the proud
beautiful girl, whose fair face came between him and every thing on
which he strove to fix his attention; the only woman's face which had
ever charmed Charles Yeldham.


Hester Gould had seen a good deal of her friends at Hampstead since
the evening on which she had made so favourable an impression on Mr.
Daniel Thacker. She had accompanied her dear Rachel and Rebecca to the
Botanical promenade, whither they had repaired arrayed in much
splendour, and with the gorgeousness of colouring and richness of
material affected by their nation. Mr. Thacker had joined the party,
and had exerted himself to the utmost to be agreeable to Miss Gould,
whom he admired more than ever, when he contrasted the taste and
propriety of her dress with the splendid array of his sisters, from
which he shrunk with dismay. As it suited Hester's plans for obtaining
information that Daniel Thacker should succeed in these efforts, he
did succeed, and she had enjoyed an opportunity of observing Miss
Guyon closely and attentively, during her animated conversation with
Gordon Frere, and also during her father's _empressé_ introduction of
Streightley to her notice. She had decided, with characteristic
readiness, on entering the grounds, that she would tell Thacker that
she wished to see Miss Guyon; and she had done so. Mr. Thacker had
entertained a distinct purpose of business, in addition to that of
pleasure, in coming to the _fête_; and it was a source of
conscientious gratification to him that he found himself enabled to
serve both. He had been informed by Mr. Guyon that Streightley would
be there, and he resolved to see for himself how that gentleman stood
with Miss Guyon. Thus he and Hester were each bent upon a similar
object. There was, however, one material difference between their
modes of pursuing it. Mr. Thacker did not begin to watch Katharine
until Streightley joined her. Hester Gould watched her from the first
moment she distinguished her figure amid the gay group, which was one
of the most conspicuous in the gardens. She watched her, not with the
jealous gaze of an angry woman watching a dangerous rival, but with
unclouded, unprejudiced senses, with close admiring attention, and the
keen perception of a woman gifted with intuitive knowledge of the
world, a cool temper, and unusual discretion. She had seen expectation
and pleasure in every line of Miss Guyon's expressive face, as Gordon
joined her; she had marked the heightened colour, the brightened eye,
as they passed and repassed each other; she had heard the note of
irrepressible gladness in the sweet musical voice; and Hester Gould
knew that Katharine Guyon loved the fair-haired young man, in whose
air and figure she recognised the ease and self-possession, the
simplicity and frankness, which made Gordon so attractive, as well as
the girl who was giving herself up to all the unrestrained happiness
of young love knew it. Hester did not ask her companion who Gordon
Frere was; she did not attract his attention to the young gentleman at
all; on the contrary, she engrossed it so completely, that when she
said quietly, "There is Ellen Streightley's brother talking to your
friend's daughter now, Mr. Thacker," Daniel looked round with a start,
and felt that he had almost forgotten the business part of his
purpose.

A bow of recognition had passed between Mr. Guyon and Mr. Daniel
Thacker, but Robert Streightley had not seen Miss Gould. It had not
been her intention that he should see her; her purpose was to observe
him closely, and she had effected it. She was no more mistaken in her
estimate of his sentiments than in that of Katharine's; and it vas
characteristic of her that, though her observations changed a vague
surmise into a positive certainty, a threatening risk into a certain
present danger, she betrayed not a sign of uneasiness or
discouragement. Neither her colour nor her countenance changed, though
she saw before her eyes the overthrow of a scheme cherished long and
deeply--though she could only calculate the chances in her favour by a
vague speculation on the possible fortune and position of the young
man she had seen with Katharine; or, supposing he had neither, on
Katharine's strength of determination in opposition to her father. It
was also characteristic of Hester Gould that, though she had
determined to marry Streightley without permitting herself to love
him, she told herself that night that she felt a degree of dislike to
Katharine Guyon, which might, if she did not take care, grow into
hatred.

"She is my unconscious and involuntary rival," said the strange woman,
whose candour towards herself was never laid aside, "and I must not
hate her; for hatred is troublesome--a passion--and I will never put
myself under the tyranny of a passion."

Hester Gould was at the Brixton Villa when Robert returned from his
visit to Middlemeads. Mrs. Streightley and his sister were aware that
he had gone into the country, but they knew no more. When he examined
the letters sent by his orders from the City, he found among them one
from Mr. Guyon, requesting him, if possible, to call on him on the
following day, leaving the hour to his selection, but urging his
attention to the request. The letter was a dainty missive, with a fine
coloured monogram on the seal, and expressing in its appearance as
wide a difference between itself and Robert's ordinary correspondence
as it was in the power of stationery to convey. Ellen Streightley was
one of those young ladies blessed with a taste for simple pleasures,
and who rated the possession of crests and monograms very high among
them. Accordingly she exclaimed,

"O Robert, that's something in my line. Do let me have it!"

He handed her the envelope.

"O, how delightfully intricate! I can't make it out. What are the
letters, Robert? Whose name is it?"

"The letters are K.S.G.," said Robert, rather reluctantly.

Hester watched him closely: "O, that's it, is it? but what is the
name?"

"Katharine Sibylla Guyon," replied Robert; and still Hester watched
his embarrassment. "But the note is from Mr. Guyon--he wants to see
me. I suppose he wrote it at his daughter's desk."

Ellen perceived nothing of her brother's embarrassment, and went on:

"Robert, you never saw Hester the other day at the Botanical Fête, but
she saw you; and you were talking to such a beautiful girl; she says
she is sure it was Miss Guyon,--was it?"

"Yes," returned her brother, "that was Miss Guyon; it must have been,
for I did not know any other lady who was there. I am sorry I did not
see you, Miss Gould. Did you enjoy the _fête_?"

"Very much indeed," said Hester. "I was particularly struck with Miss
Guyon. She seems to be very much admired. I saw a gentleman with her
before you arrived,--a very young man with fair hair, very handsome.
He seemed completely captivated, I thought. You must excuse my talking
such nonsense, ma'am; but I really was amused looking at them. Do you
know who he is, Mr. Streightley?"

"I fancy from your description the gentleman in question is a Mr.
Gordon Frere," Robert answered in a formal tone, whose bitterness and
displeasure Hester Gould did not fail to recognise. She turned the
conversation at once, and took her leave early, having received all
Ellen's confidences before Robert's return, and having duly admired
the mingled piety and sentiment of the Reverend Decimus Dutton's
latest letter.

Ellen retired immediately after Hester's departure, and was soon fast
asleep, with a neat packet of the missionary's love-letters under her
pillow, and a locket containing a photographic likeness of that
apostle, which might have taken a prize for feebleness, resting upon
her innocent breast.

Robert Streightley sat up late with his mother, and told her of his
visit to Middlemeads, his purposes respecting the estate, and the
hopes which had led to their formation.



CHAPTER X.
STRUGGLE.


Robert Streightley slept but little on the night after his visit to
Middlemeads; for that note which he had found awaiting him from Mr.
Guyon sat heavy on his soul. Wanted to see him on particular business,
eh? What did that particular business mean? Not more money advances,
surely? Such transactions as he had had with Mr. Guyon were small
enough to a man accustomed to the particular kind of business, the
loans and contracts and subsidies, with which the firm of Streightley
and Son were in the habit of dealing; but yet Robert, however wilfully
blind, could not shut his eyes to the fact that he had already
supplied Mr. Guyon with loans for which he had nothing like adequate
security. Could Mr. Guyon possibly mean to touch upon that other
subject, which, as a man of the world, he must have already divined
lay very close at Robert Streightley's heart? Could he intend to
broach the question of his daughter----? As the idea crossed
Streightley's mind he felt his cheek flush, and the cold beads of
perspiration start out upon his forehead.

For he was an honourable man, brought up in an honourable school,
where "a fair fight and no favour" had been the motto from time
immemorial, and where any one taking undue advantage or seeking to
compass his ends by unfair means toward his rival would have been
scouted with ignominy. And he felt--how could he but feel?--that the
struggle in which he was at that moment engaged was scarcely being
conducted in the same open manner. He felt that he was creeping up
towards the assault under the protection of a hireling guerilla force,
which, with all the advantage of the knowledge of the ground, was
pushing its renegade advantage, furthering his advance here, throwing
out earthworks for the hindrance of the enemy there, and all from the
mere sordid love of gain and chances of plunder, but without the
smallest heartiness of feeling in the matter. Not a nice feeling
for a man of Robert Streightley's sense of punctilio. It galled him,
and he chafed against it sadly during the long watches of that night.
What was it? a caprice, a sudden fancy, a madness which had stung
him,--that he, a mature man of confirmed bachelor habits, with his
own household gods around him, and his own life completely settled
and hitherto sufficient, should suddenly break through all his
customs--yes, that would be nothing, but break through them in a weak
and feeble manner--break through them in a way in which he, so far as
he read it to himself, took no active part, but suffered himself to be
the mere tool and instrument--for his own purposes indeed--in hands
which were certainly not exempt from suspicion of being soiled. This
was bad, very bad indeed. What should he say to himself suppose a
parallel case in the business world--that world which he understood,
which had hitherto been his sole life, and out of which he felt he
could not with safety emerge--had been submitted to him? Why, he would
have declared that, as a point of honour, a man in that position ought
at once to set himself free from such trammels. And if in business,
surely in love there was all the more reason for his doing so. For his
part he would hesitate no longer; he would at once drop the Guyon
acquaintance, sinking the advances which he had up to that point
made to Mr. Guyon, and writing them off as salutary experience
lightly paid for, and---- And then, as he lay tossing on his fevered
pillow, rose before him a vision of Katharine in all her grace and
beauty--Katharine saucily laughing at Mr. Mostyn's solemn vanity;
Katharine the cynosure of all at the Botanical promenade, queening it
amongst the loveliest and the best-bred, evoking admiration from all;
Katharine with earnest face and downcast eyes, then with flushed cheek
and sparkling glance, in conversation with Gordon Frere--No! that last
thought was too much. In Robert Streightley's nature there lay
hitherto latent an amount of mad, blinding, unreasoning jealousy,
whose existence was suspected by none of his friends, by him least of
all; but it leapt into flame as this last picture crossed his mind,
and all thoughts of withdrawal from the career in which he had
suffered himself to be embarked shrivelled up before its scorching
heat. It should not be from want of perseverance on his part, nor from
want of employment of all the resources at his command, that he would
fail in this the--yes, the really first scheme in his life in which he
had taken hearty interest. He would need all his skill, and tact, and
patience to carry it through--ah if he could only sleep now--if he
could only forget for an instant those haunting eyes, that queenly
form, that sweet winning smile!

He lay awake during all the early hours of that morning; and it was
nearly five o'clock before he sunk into a heavy, unrefreshing slumber,
from which, despite old Alice's repeated warnings, he did not wake
until long past nine. Then he had his bath and dressed himself, and
went slouching down to breakfast with pale face and red eyelids, and a
wearied anxious look. Mrs. Streightley had ere this sallied forth
armed with a complete library of little red books, over which she
waged weekly warfare with the neighbouring tradespeople; and Ellen had
an "early service" on, followed by a little light recreation of
district-visiting and a small interlude of first meeting Of coal and
flannel fund; so that Robert had only his old nurse to watch over him
at breakfast, and render every mouthful additionally distasteful by
her comments.

"Well, Lord knows I never thought to have lived to have seen this
day," said the old woman, when Robert, after a vain attempt at eating,
pushed his plate away from before him--"that any child of your
father's, let alone you, for whom he thought, and cared, and slaved
most, should have quarrelled with the victuals provided for him in
this house, I didn't expect."

"Ah, nurse!" said Robert, trying to smile, "it's not what's
provided--I'm not well just now, somehow--I----"

"Not well, indeed! I know what's the matter with you. You're in love,
and pleased with ruin as the saying is,--that's what ails you. O,
don't frown and look so; do you think the old woman don't know those
signs, Robert, my boy? No appetite, and looking a long way off, and
never speaking when spoke to? Lor' bless yer. And do you think old
Alice don't know what that means? Come, they're all out, Robert! tell
me who it is. Tell the old woman who nursed you when you couldn't
speak, or scarce cry, for the matter of that, you was that weak; and
the doctor never thought to have brought you through it, and wouldn't
if it hadn't been for me, though I say it as shouldn't; tell old Alice
all about it, deary; tell her and trust her, as you used to--O, so
long ago."

"There's nothing to tell, Alice," said Robert with a forced laugh,
rising from his chair; "you've made a pretty story for yourself,
nurse, but I'm too old now to be amused at it even, much less to think
of taking one of the characters. I'm a little overdone with business,
that's all."

"Is it?" said the old woman shortly. "Well,--if it's business, that's
all right. But it's the first time since ever I've been connected with
the house of Streightley and Son, and that's nigh fifty year, that I
heard it was necessary to forward the business of the house, or to
captivate the brokers and the shipping-agents and that like, by
dressing oneself up in fal-lal clothes, and by dancing attendance at
opera and play houses (I found the papers of them in your pockets)
until all hours in the morning. And I'm thinking that if that is the
way, your father made but a poor hand at it, Master Robert; and it's a
great mercy that he didn't ruin the whole concern." And so saying, and
with a sniff of great meaning, the old lady retired from the room.

By no means reassured or made more comfortable even by this short
interview--for he was a nervous man in some things and very much
disliked what he called "being upset"--Robert Streightley pushed the
breakfast things away from him, and started off for town. He had
dropped the omnibus long since, and took a cab as a matter of course;
and as he journeyed along he could not help contrasting the splendour
of the house he had yesterday visited with the meanness of that one
which he had just left. Both were his own, and both were to a certain
extent typical of his life: in the latter with frugal commonplace
people his money had been made; in the former with one bright being
it should be spent. Yes; he had had enough of this daily grind of
business, this sordid strife; and he had determined that
henceforth--if his hopes were realised--he would live a different
life. If his hopes were realised? what forbade their realisation? This
man,--this Gordon Frere, was younger it is true, better-looking, more
of a "lady's man" than he; but he himself was not so old, not so
hideous, not so--Ah! good God! What a fool he was for arguing the
question in this way, even to himself! He felt that he loved this
girl, and that on that deep love and earnest devotion alone must he
rely for the success of his suit.

He found Mr. Guyon awaiting him in the dining-room, with the _Morning
Post_ on the very verge of the table; and a large blotting-book, a
portentous inkstand, and a perfect armoury of steel pens close in
front of him. The flavour of Turkish tobacco hung round the apartment,
and a cut-glass goblet containing the remains of a draught that looked
suspiciously like brandy and soda-water stood on the velvet
mantelpiece. Mr. Guyon himself, dressed in the loose lounging jacket
and the Turkish trousers, lay on the sofa with the butt-end of a
cigarette in his mouth, and extended his hand to his friend in cordial
greeting.

"I take this doosid kind of you, my dear Streightley, coming round in
this way when I asked you. Doosid kind!" said Mr. Guyon; "and I show
my appreciation of it by receiving you without the least ceremony or
the least humbug--which is the greater compliment. When one says to a
fellow, 'I want to see you on a matter of business,' the fellow who's
good enough to come round naturally expects to see the fellow who sent
for him in a state of business--stiff shirt-collar, and almanac, and
all that kind of thing. That's what I myself should do to some
fellows; but I don't to you. I say to myself, 'He's above all that
sort of dodgery. He's a real man of business, and would see through it
at once. Let him take me as I am. I'm an idle, nothing-doing,
pleasure-seeking son of a gun: he knows it; why should I attempt to
disguise my natural self from him and prove myself to be somebody
else? Let him see me as my natural self."

Here Mr. Guyon paused for an instant to take a sip from the cut-glass
goblet and to throw away the butt-end of the cigarette. Feeling it
incumbent on him to say something, Robert Streightley murmured, "Very
kind!"

"No," said Mr. Guyon, raising himself on his elbow, and looking lazily
across the table at his visitor, "not very kind. Shrewd, perhaps, but
not kind. When a man is in want of serious advice, and goes to the
fountain-head for--that kind of thing--boldly and without scruple, he
may be said to be shrewd. Now, that's my case; and I come to you."

This, so far, was so like the commencement of Mr. Guyon's
conversations when loans were in question that Streightley had made up
his mind that more money was required; he changed his opinion,
however, as his host proceeded.

"Now, my dear Robert,--you'll forgive an old fellow's familiarity,
won't you? I don't often indulge in a fancy, but when I do I'm like
the--ivy, damme, I cling. You can see, you must have seen plainly
enough long since, that I'm not a man of business. In three words, I
hate it. If I had been a rich man, I'd have had a fellow to do all my
business for me while I smoked my cigarette and looked on; and
hitherto whenever it's been a question of business, money, and all
those horrible details arising from the want of it, I've shirked it as
long as I could, and then stumbled through it in a devilish blind,
stupid, haphazard kind of manner. That's been all very well so far;
but now another question arises,--a very different question--one
touching the heart and that kind of thing, and the welfare of a person
who--however, I'll go into that by and by;--a question on which, I
feel so deeply, that I've determined to be guided by the advice of the
clearest-headed man of my acquaintance--and so I've sent for you."

Robert Streightley bowed, and murmured a few words of incoherent
thanks. Not money! Question on which he felt so deeply! What was Mr.
Guyon driving at?

"I will be perfectly plain with you, my dear Robert," said Mr. Guyon,
"frank as the day, all open and aboveboard. I won't disguise from you,
I don't attempt to disguise it from myself, that perhaps there never
was a man less fitted than I am to have been blessed with what would
be a crowning solace to many men--a daughter." Streightley
involuntarily started as these words met his ear; and Mr. Guyon
noticed the start, but he did not betray himself, and proceeded. "I'm
not a domestic man, and not cut out for domestic happiness. I believe
my enemies call me a loose fish, and 'pon my soul I think they're
right. I like my rubber and my club, and--in fact, my freedom. I'm a
sort of claret-and-_entrée_ butterfly, and was never intended for the
roast-joint and bread-and-cheese _menagé_ of respectability and home
consumption. However, what was intended and what is are two very
different things. I have a daughter, and--well, you're a man of the
world, and I won't bore you with a father's maudlin praises of his
child. She is--there, I was very near breaking into what I had just
declared I would not do!--what I mean to say is, her future is my
greatest care. I've been a man of the world myself, and I know all she
will be exposed to, and, my dear Robert, I tremble when I think of it.
I've only to refer to my own conscience to see what might be in store
for her. Her poor mother--of whom she is the very image--was weak
enough to marry me; and though--though I always treated her as a
gentleman should treat his wife, by Jove! I know I--many
shortcomings."

Here Mr. Guyon buried his face in a large white pocket-handkerchief;
and Streightley, not knowing what to say or do, drummed vacantly on
the table.

"You follow me, my dear boy? Of course, I knew you would," resumed Mr.
Guyon after a momentary pause. "Now wait and hear the rest. A girl
like Katharine, possessing--well, what I suppose even I may call many
attractions--will necessarily receive a vast amount of admiration from
all sorts of men; and it will be my duty--and a duty which I shall
perform with the greatest strictness; she has no mother, you know,
poor girl! and I must be doubly vigilant--to see that she does not get
led away and tempted into any foolish alliance by any good-looking
young fashionable fop with nothing but his good looks to recommend
him. What my girl requires in a husband--for she is light and giddy,
like the rest of her sex--is ballast, my dear Robert; a man of matured
experience and not too young in years; one whom she could look up to,
who could give her the position which her beauty, and--I may say her
birth--entitle her to;--that's the sort of husband to whom alone I
should be happy in giving my Katharine."

Mr. Guyon paused once more, and Streightley bowed again in an absent
manner, his right hand all the time plucking at his chin.

"The--the ideal, if I may so call it, that I have just drawn by no
means resembles the writer of a letter which I received this morning
honouring me by a proposal for Katharine's hand." Streightley's arm
dropped upon the table, and he leant forward with an eager gaze. "Yes,
my dear Robert, the Goths are already in full march upon the--what
d'ye call 'em?--Capitol; and it is under these circumstances that I
have sent for you to ask your advice."

"You--you're very good," murmured Streightley; "and of course any
thing that I can do--but I really scarcely see in such a matter as
this--and without knowing--knowing any thing of the--the parties----"

"My dear Robert, you don't think I would have sent for you with the
notion of making any half-confidences. You shall know every detail.
The writer of this letter," pursued Mr. Guyon, producing a packet from
his desk,--"of these two letters rather, for there is an enclosure for
Katharine which I have not yet delivered--is a young man whom you may
have seen with us--a Mr. Gordon Frere. A doosid good-looking,
well-born, well-connected young fellow, who seems tremendously in
earnest about it too," continued Mr. Guyon, balancing his trim gold
eyeglasses on the bridge of his nose; "for he writes to me to say--to
say that--there, I need not read his letter--the gist of it is that
he's been down to his father, at some place in the country where he
writes from, and his father, who is a member of the House, has promised
to use his influence with Government to get him a decent berth. Now
that's plucky and honourable--I like that, eh, Robert?"

"O yes, sir--very honourable indeed," said Streightley nervously. "I
think you mentioned that you had not forwarded the enclosure to Miss
Guyon?"

"Not yet,--no. I was desirous of having your opinion--as a man of
business--on the proposal."

It had come at last then, this long-expected blow to that dream of
future happiness in which, spite of his own better reasoning, he had
dared to indulge. She would be wrested from him--be taken to the heart
of that smooth-spoken dandy whom he had loathed from the first instant
of seeing him. All her loveliness--ah, how he remembered each
brilliant charm!--would go to grace the life of that silly fop. The
blood rushed back to Robert Streightley's heart as he thought of all
this; his teeth were clenched, his pallid lips trembled and shook, and
he thought that if he had had Gordon Frere before him at that instant
he could have killed him without remorse. For an instant his better
feeling struggled with his passion--the struggle was short and sharp,
but the passion was victorious; and he said, in a strange dry voice,

"This gentleman scarcely fulfils the requirements you named just now,
Mr. Guyon?"

"Admirably put, my dear Robert--clearly and admirably put! I must
allow it, he does not."

"If there were some one who, by his age and position at least, was
calculated to--to be to this young lady--what you----"

"Yes, my dear Robert, yes I--"

"Who----" Then with a great gulp----"I'm a bad hand at beating about
the bush, sir. What I have seen of Miss Guyon has so enthralled me,
that--that I would give my life to win her for my wife."

He sought his handkerchief to wipe his fevered lips, but Mr. Guyon
caught his hand and pressed it warmly. "You, Robert, you? My dear boy,
those are the happiest words that my ears have heard this many a day.
You? Why, in a father's--what you may call fondest dreams, I could not
have hoped for such good news as this! You? Why, of all people on
earth, the very man!"

"The very man" looked any thing but happy as he sat there with pallid
lips and puckered forehead and rapidly-beating heart--sat there silent
and downcast, only occasionally raising his eyes to glance at the
letter which Mr. Guyon had placed on the table before him. At that
letter he stole long wistful glances; it seemed to possess for him a
kind of baleful attraction; and after a short interval his regard
fixed on it so directly that his companion could not fail to notice
it. But though Mr. Guyon fully comprehended what was passing within
Robert Streightley's breast, it by no means suited him to refer to it
at once.

"My dear Robert," said he, after a few minutes' pause, "the unexpected
delight of your communication just made has really taken me--even old
stager as I am--what I may call off my legs! I understand you to
propose for my daughter's hand?"

"The very man" said never a word, but bowed his head abstractedly.

"Then I congratulate you and myself, my dear boy!" said the elder man,
again seizing his companion's passive hand--"and I think we may regard
it as a settled thing. My daughter has not seen much of you at
present, but I am quite certain that when she once comes to know the
qualities of your head and heart, she will----"

"What about that letter, Mr. Guyon?" said Robert Streightley in a
cold, hard voice, pointing to the envelope still lying on the table.

"That letter!" echoed Mr. Guyon, his face falling considerably. "Well,
my dear Robert, there's no denying that--eh? That letter--you see that
young man Frere, Gordon Frere, gentlemanly fellow, good address, and
all that kind of thing, has had opportunities of--in fact making his
way, which--wilful woman and so on. Gad, if that letter were
delivered, there's no knowing how things might turn out!"

Streightley's heart sunk within him, and he turned faint and sick; but
he controlled himself sufficiently to say:

"Then you were a little rash in your congratulations, Mr. Guyon?"

"Not at all, my dear boy, not at all. Recollect--I spoke of a
contingency. I said--_if_ that letter were delivered."

"_If_ that letter were delivered to Miss Guyon? Do you mean to say
that you would dare to Withhold it from her?"

"'Dare' is a very awkward word, my dear Robert. It appears to me that
if one could select two men as judges of what should or should not be
addressed to a young lady, they would be her father--and her intended
husband."

"But that letter!"

"Well, my dear fellow--that letter? Shall I give it to Katharine?
Shall we instal Mr. Gordon Frere into what should and what will be
your position?--shall I subject myself to a fortnight's confounded
rows, and finally saddle myself for life with a 'detrimental'
son-in-law? or shall I quietly put it by, and acquaint my daughter
with your very delightful proposal? My dear Robert, you look aside
and shake your head; but I am an older man than you, and know that I
am--that we are--acting for the best. Recollect what the fellow--Kean,
I think--says in the play: 'He that is robbed not wanting what is
stolen, let him not know it and he's not robbed at all.' Doosid good
that, and doosid appropriate. So we'll settle upon that course, eh?
and you'll leave all to me?--What! you're not going, my dear
boy--you'll stay to luncheon?"

"Not this morning, thank you; not now, Mr. Guyon--I--I must go now!"
and Robert Streightley passed into the street, and for the first time
in his life felt a sense of shame at his heart, and a desire to shun
the glances of those whom he encountered.

Mr. Guyon, so soon as the door had closed behind his friend, drew his
chair to his desk, carefully read through Gordon Frere's letter to
Katharine, hitherto unopened, replaced it and the letter to himself in
their envelope, which he carefully endorsed with the words "Shown to
R.S." and the date, and locked them away in a private drawer. Then
he wrote a rather long and elaborate letter to Mr. Frere, addressed
it with great care, was very natty in his arrangement of its
postage-stamp, sealed it with a large splodge of red wax bearing his
coat-of-arms, and went upstairs.


On the third night after the events just recorded Charles Yeldham and
Gordon Frere were walking up and down the departure platform at London
Bridge, by the side of the mail-train just about to start. Frere was
dressed in travelling costume, and looked, as most young fellows do in
such garb, sufficiently picturesque. But his face was deadly pale,
save where there were blotches of bright red under his eyes.

"Now listen, Charley," said he, "and hear my last words. I go away,
cursing that woman. You know I'm not romantic, or melodramatic, or any
thing of that kind; but she's spoilt my life for me, and I curse her
for it. It's too bad,--by the Lord, it's too bad! You know how I--yes,
damme, how I loved her. Followed her about like a spaniel, and she
could have done any thing with me. And then never to keep her
appointment, never to send me a line; and then when I write and make
her a regular offer, never to take the least notice--not a line, by
Jove!--and to leave her infernal old father to write to me that she's
engaged to that cold-blooded, mannerless beast, Streightley! O, I know
he's a friend of yours; but, damme it's too bad! And when the
governor, dear old boy, had actually got me a nomination to the
Treasury, and--however, that's thrown up, and I'm going out to an
infernal German principality to be secretary to that bewigged old fool
in that carriage, and leaving you, and all through the tricks of that
heartless coquette! O yes, all right! I hear the bell, and I'm going
to get in. Now, God bless you, old boy; but recollect my last words. I
leave this place cursing that girl, and I'll be even with her yet!"

Mr. Frere wrung his friend's hand and sprang into the carriage as the
train began to move. Charles Yeldham waited until the last glimmer of
its red lamps had died away, then turned slowly round, and walked
towards his dreary chambers.

"It's very bad for you, Gordon, my poor boy!" said he to himself as he
strolled along; "very bad indeed, just now! but I sadly fear it will
be worse for others in the long-run--and for poor Bob Streightley
worst of all!"



CHAPTER XI.
LEFT LAMENTING.


The morning sun, which arose on the world with its accustomed
regularity, shone steadily on to its noonday splendour; but found
Katharine no more resigned or peaceful than she had been on the
previous night. She had been little used to opposition or
contradiction, and she did not brook them easily. That she should have
been disappointed in the matter of Mrs. Tresillian's ball was natural
enough; but that she should have been put so completely out of temper
and out of spirits by the disappointment as to have made the fact
glaringly apparent to her father and the "City man," was not at all
natural to Katharine's well-bred self-command and sense of what was
due to good manners and her self-respect. She was discontented with
herself, provoked with Lady Henmarsh, and miserable in reflecting upon
the disappointment which Gordon Frere had doubtless sustained, and in
fancying that he might have imputed her absence to coldness or
caprice. Love had taken possession of the girl, had utterly humbled
her, and she had no thought of her own charms, her own importance, no
notion that Frere might hesitate to ask her to share a destiny which
could not be represented as brilliant; she never considered or
questioned his position for a moment. She knew he was well-born,
well-connected, and in good society; but she knew and cared to know
nothing beyond. She had acquired the enchanting certainty that he
loved her; she felt that the next time they met he would tell her so;
and her heart had no room for any thing but the mingled rapture and
suspense which proceeded from the delightful experience of the
preceding day, and the pitiable disappointment of the preceding
evening.

Katharine did not see her father on the morning after the Botanical
Fête. When she went down to breakfast the dusty footman gave her a
message from Mr. Guyon, to the effect that he found himself obliged to
go out early on particular business, and as he could not say how long
he might be detained, she must not expect him to ride with her--he
would return to dinner. This message was a fresh annoyance to
Katharine, a new exacerbation of her already irritated temper. There
now, she should be unable to ride, and no doubt Gordon was looking
forward to meeting her in the Park, and would be again disappointed;
indeed he might think she was purposely avoiding him,--who could tell?
Katharine pushed her untasted breakfast from her and hurried upstairs
to the drawing-room, where she paced up and down before the long
windows with an impatient tread. Would he come? Would he call on her
at the delightfully unconventional early hour he had selected for his
first well-remembered visit? Perhaps--nay surely, he would! It was not
far from eleven now; she glanced at the chimney-glass, smoothed her
glossy hair, inspected the condition of her neat morning-dress; and
then sat down to her piano to play all the tunes which he liked, and
so get over the interval before his coming would be possible. But the
expedient was not successful; the gay strains died away in harmonised
reveries, sometimes into silence, as the girl sat and thought of her
lover--glorified by her imagination and exalted by her own fervent
nature into a very different being from the real Gordon Frere. If
Katharine could but have seen him at that hour, what a difference
might it not have made to them and to others! He was turning over the
leaves of a Railway Guide, and talking away to Yeldham in all the
newborn impetuosity of his approval of his friend's advice, and his
resolution to act upon it. Yes, he would go at once; he would not
delay an hour, he would not trust himself to see Katharine again. If
he had met her at the Tresillians, he should certainly have committed
himself; and Yeldham was right, quite right; of course Mr. Guyon would
only laugh at him; and very justly, unless he could put forward some
decided prospect for his consideration. Perhaps it was better that he
had had no understanding with Katharine as to meeting within a day or
two; he might not have been able to resist seeing her again. He would
write her a note though, just a line saying he should be out of town
for a few days--he must indeed, for she had asked him to inquire for
some music she wanted at Cramer's: he could just write the note and
get the music, and send both to Queen Anne Street before starting for
the station. He flung down the Railway Guide, took up his hat and
departed, whistling as he descended the staircase with an invincible
light-heartedness, whereat Charles Yeldham smiled. The smile was not
gay, however, and it vanished quickly, and the barrister laid down his
pen, leaned his chin upon his folded hands, and gazed out of the
window with eyes that saw nothing they looked upon. It was a most
unusual thing for Charles Yeldham to indulge in a fit of abstraction,
and the indulgence was brief. He brought his gaze and his thoughts
back again with an effort, shook his hair from his forehead, and
resumed his work doggedly.

Mr. Guyon, returning from his business expedition at about one
o'clock, and proposing to let himself into the house by means of his
latch-key, as he did not feel particularly desirous of an interview
with Katharine just then, and feared she might come down to seek him,
if she heard a ring, found a commissionaire just in the act of pulling
the bell.

"Wait a minute, my man," said Mr. Guyon in his cheery way; "I'll open
the door," and he suited the action to the word. "What have you got
there? O, I see,--a parcel and a note for my daughter. You're paid,
are you, eh? Never mind; here's another sixpence--good-day."

The man turned away, well pleased, and Mr. Guyon, carrying the parcel
in his hand, went on into his own room. There was a note with the
parcel; which was evidently a roll of music. Mr. Guyon looked at it,
considered it, finally, muttering "It will always be easy to say the
fellow must have lost it," he opened and read the missive. As he did
so, his face brightened up. "Out of town, eh? on important business;
trusts to see her the moment he returns, eh? Not if I know it, Mr.
Frere,--not if I know it." Then Mr. Guyon put the note carefully away
in his pocketbook, for destruction at a convenient season.

He next proceeded to search among a heap of cards stuck into the frame
of the chimney-glass for one bearing the inscription "Mr. Gordon
Frere," passed it under the riband with which the parcel was fastened,
and rang the bell.

"Take this to Miss Guyon," said he to the footman, who answered the
summons. "A commissionaire brought it just now."

Katharine was standing by one of the windows when the man entered the
drawing-room, salver in hand. Her tall graceful figure and proud head
expressed eager anticipation and waiting in their attitude.

"A parcel, ma'am," said the man; "a commissioner 'ave brought it."

"Put it down," she said, without turning her head; and several minutes
elapsed before she looked round, or remembered the interruption. At
length she sighed impatiently, and said aloud: "He will hardly come
now, it is too near lunchtime; and if he comes later, the room is sure
to be full of bores, as usual. However, I had rather he came, no
matter who may be here. But it is very stupid of him not to call
early." At this moment her eye lighted on the parcel, and the card
attached to it. The colour rushed violently into her face, and then
subsided, leaving Katharine many shades paler than usual.

Mr. Guyon was in very good spirits when he met his daughter at lunch.
He talked and laughed and made himself as agreeable as if she had been
somebody else's daughter and worth cultivating. He congratulated
Katharine on her appearance both at the _fête_ and at dinner on the
previous day; he asked her where her bonnet came from, and whether her
milliner was determined to ruin him completely this season? To all
these sallies Katharine replied little; she was pale, _distraite_,
decidedly out of humour. Mr. Guyon shot sharp inquiring glances at her
across the table, wholly unperceived. He was a little surprised at her
mood. "By Jove!" he thought, "she has been harder bit than I
suspected, and this has been a near thing, I fancy. I've only given
Hetty the office just in time. Something must be done before this
dandy fellow comes back,--and it won't be too easy to manage Kate
either."

These reflections troubled Mr. Guyon a little, and repressed the fine
flow of his spirits; but his daughter took as little notice of one of
his moods as of the other.

"Have you heard how Lady Henmarsh is to-day?" she asked absently; and
the seemingly harmless question brought a more impartially diffused
colour to Mr. Guyon's face than the evenly-defined bloom which usually
embellished it.

"No," he replied decisively; "have you?"

"I have not," said Katharine. "I was thinking of walking round there
to inquire for her; but James makes out that there is so much to do,
after yesterday, that I saw he would only grumble if I took him
out,"--Mr. Guyon breathed rather quickly, and then looked
relieved,--"and, as I knew if any thing serious had been the matter
with her or Sir Timothy, she would have put us off for to-day, it
didn't matter."

"Ah, by the bye, yes!" returned her father, "we dine there to-day."

It was rather odd that Mr. Guyon should have said this in a tone of
reminiscent surprise; for his particular business of that morning had
included, if not entirely consisted of, a long interview with Lady
Henmarsh; which interview had concluded with these words:

"Well, then, good-bye until seven. You quite understand?" on the part
of the gentleman; and "Yes, I quite understand," on the part of the
lady.

It will be remembered that Mr. Guyon had despatched a note to his
complaisant cousin in the course of the preceding day, which note had
borne fruit in Katharine's disappointment of the evening. It had also
prepared Lady Henmarsh for Mr. Guyon's visit, and had convinced her
that he "meant business." It is unnecessary to go into the details of
the interview, which had taken place while Katharine had watched and
waited throughout the dreary hours, and in which her fate was settled,
so far as it was in the power of her father and her chaperone to
settle it. Its bearings will all be clearly developed by the results;
it is enough at present that each of the parties was satisfied with
the views entertained and the promises made by the other.

Katharine looked very bright and beautiful that evening, and her
manner was as gay and gracious as if Lady Henmarsh had not inflicted a
severe disappointment upon her and seriously disconcerted all, her
plans and hopes for one day and night at least. Her pride had received
a slight wound, not a deep or deadly one as yet, but it was keen, and
sensitive, and thrilled to a touch; and that card, without note or
message, had touched it. She recalled her last words to Gordon Frere,
his last words to her, and their tone, which meant so much more; and
she could not but recoil from this incident. There was some relief in
fancying that he might have taken this way of evincing pique at her
absence from the ball; and when this idea occurred to her she
cherished it, and at last it gave her complete comfort. There is a
sort of charm in such piques and pets, when they are not carried too
far, and Katharine did not care to remember that had Gordon been
offended, and taken such a way of showing it, he must have indulged
temper at the cost of sense, as he must have known her absence arose
from no fault of hers. But Katharine, a remarkably clear-sighted
person in most cases, was as blind and as silly as the rest of the
world in this, and caught with eagerness at a reason which seemed to
exalt her lover's devotion at the expense of his common sense. Yes,
that was it of course! How foolish she had been! they would meet
to-morrow; even if he did not call, he always went to Lady Tredgold's
"evenings," and there they should meet, and "make it up." Katharine's
girlish spirits rose, under the influence of the conviction that she
had been worrying herself unnecessarily, and she was even unusually
charming. The dinner-party was a pleasantly-assorted one; Sir Timothy,
a perfect gentleman, old and invalided as he was, prosed away indeed,
at the end of the table, but she was not near him at dinner, and he
never appeared in the drawing-room. She talked brilliantly; her low
well-bred laugh was heard like frequent music amid the buzz of
conversation; and Mr. Mostyn, who honoured Lady Henmarsh on the
present occasion, made up his mind that Katharine should be his next
heroine. He calmly contemplated her animated face, and studied the
details of her dress, considering whether she should be wedded to a
clever Irish political adventurer (he knew a man whom he could "do"
for the part admirably, and what was more and better, every one else
knew him also), rescued from his brutality by the hero (Mr. Mostyn
would be his own hero), and suffered to die of a broken heart in
consequence of her hopeless passion for her rescuer; or whether she
should merely retire, in her maiden bloom, into a convent, when the
hero marries the duchess, out of compassion, and hangs wreaths of
_immortelles_ on the bell-handle of the holy house of our Lady of the
Seven Dolours on each anniversary of the double event. While his mind
was agitated by this dilemma, he heard Mr. Guyon say to Lady Henmarsh,

"Yes, we saw him yesterday at the Botanical Fête. I don't know that he
mentioned your invitation. Katharine, did Mr. Frere say whether he was
to dine with Lady Henmarsh to-day?"

Katharine turned her head quickly towards her father, and there was a
slight frown on her fair brow as she answered,

"No, papa,--certainly not! I did not know he had been asked. When did
you invite him, Lady Henmarsh?"

"Several days ago, Kate;--when I asked you all. I suppose he had
something better to do; and really he is so horribly conceited, and
represents himself as in such request every where, he is quite welcome
to stay away for me."

The matter dropped there, but Katharine was very silent now; and Mr.
Mostyn, attributing her depression to the near termination of dinner,
and the inevitable move, decided that her pensive tenderness was even
more charming than her sparkling allurement.

In the drawing-room she was silent still. When opportunity offered she
said to Lady Henmarsh:

"How did you send Mr. Frere your invitation?"

"How? Why, Kate, how inquisitive you are!" and her ladyship
laughed,--rather a forced laugh;--"by post, of course. To the Temple;
that's all right, isn't it? I said, to meet a few friends, the Guyons,
and one or two others. But, my child, I can't stay gossipping with
you; there's Mrs. Weldon preparing to consider herself neglected and
to take offence."

Katharine was not so much annoyed as she was puzzled by this incident.
It is hardly necessary to tell the intelligent reader that no such
invitation had ever been sent to Gordon Frere, and that the
fabrication had been a happy idea of Mr. Guyon's, and hurriedly
imparted to his colleague by a note before dinner. Frere's absence
might be very short, and was undoubtedly very precious; and Mr. Guyon
had determined to play a game which, if not exactly desperate, was
very daring. This was the first card; he had played it, not with
perfect, but with tolerable, success. With increased eagerness
Katharine looked forward to the morrow; with such eagerness as took
the healthy colour from her cheek and the limpid brightness from her
eye, and replaced the one by a flickering flush, and the other by a
look of anxiety and absorption. The morrow came, and she rode in the
Park with her father, but did not see Gordon Frere. The routine of a
London day followed; she drove out with Mrs. Stanbourne, and on her
return looked over the cards which had been left during her absence,
but there was not one bearing the name she longed to see. At dinner
her father was in the gay spirits which had distinguished him since he
had made Robert Streightley's acquaintance, and took no notice of her
silence and dejection. She went to Lady Tredgold's reception, and
there endured such pangs of expectation, suspense, mortification and
anger, love and longing, as only a mind totally undisciplined by
sorrow, and unaccustomed to finding its calculations disturbed by
conflicting results, could undergo.

The history of the two days which succeeded that of the Botanical
Fête, which had been such an eventful date in Katharine's life, and
was destined to remain fixed in her memory for ever, was repeated in
those which followed them. Weary waiting and wondering, heartsick
longing and anger, the blind wrath of a proud heart stung and
outraged, the remorseful relenting of a girlish passionate
heart,--through all these, and numberless other phases of feeling and
suffering, Katharine Guyon struggled friendless and alone. Pride ruled
the girl outwardly, as much as love reigned in her inwardly; and the
only person to whom she would have spoken, Mrs. Stanbourne, had left
town suddenly, having been called away to a friend who was dangerously
ill. Katharine might not have spoken to her indeed, had she been
available for purposes of confidence--the calmness and steadiness of
the lady's nature might have repelled her, for this was an unfortunate
effect which those qualifies had frequently produced upon the
impetuous and passionate young girl; but now that she was away, she
felt that she would have done so, and regarded Mrs. Stanbourne's
absence as an additional grievance and aggravation of the bitterness
of her lot. The season was over, town was thinning fast, their own
particular set had all broken up, and autumn engagements were either
being eagerly discussed or busily entered upon. Days wore on--how
wearily, they only who know how long time is to those who watch and
wait, can tell--and Katharine did not see the face of Gordon Frere or
hear his name. The girl changed visibly under the suffering of this
period; the anxious look, so strange to her lustrous eyes, became
fixed in them; the soft music of her laugh ceased to ring in the ears
of her companions; her girlish gracefulness hardened into something
defiant, very attractive to strangers, but which would have made one
who loved her sad to see, and apprehensive for her future; but no one
who loved her was there to watch the change in Katharine Guyon with
prescient eyes.

The day was hot, sultry, breathless; the autumn had fairly set in, and
beat fiercely upon the weary Londoners; the sense of oppression
produced by the immense circumference of stone and brick was heavy
upon such of the world as had any chance of escaping from it. Such as
had no chance probably did not like it; "but then," in homely
expressive speech, they had to "lump it;" and very few were likely to
trouble themselves about them. The last flicker of the gaieties of the
season had died out; and even Mr. Guyon had found it impossible to get
up a Greenwich dinner-party to comprise more than four individuals,
including Robert Streightley and Daniel Thacker. He had avoided his
daughter as much as possible of late; and Mr. Streightley had
sedulously sought her society, with every kind of tacit encouragement
within her father's power to give him. It was the day named for the
Greenwich dinner; and Katharine, glad to be alone, and yet feverish
and miserable in her solitude, had refused to go to Lady Henmarsh's,
there to hold a _causerie_ on their several autumn plans.

"She will drag poor old Sir Timothy to some German baths or French
watering-place, and she wants me to back her up in the cruelty,"
thought Katharine, as she contemptuously twisted up the note, which
had contained the invitation, and desired Lady Henmarsh's page to tell
his mistress she was busy and could not come; "but I won't. Why can't
she go down to Deanthorpe and keep quiet?" She had been dawdling over
her luncheon and feeding her Skye terrier, without taking any interest
in either occupation; and she now leaned idly against the window-frame
and gazed out wearily. She saw the hot, baked streets; she saw the
poor old woman opposite sitting by her basket of full-blown blowsy
nosegays, sheltering them and herself under the shade of a huge
umbrella, fallen from its high estate on some family coach-box, and
displaying sundry patches ignominious in their discrepancy with each
other and general incongruity with the original fabric. The old woman
was yawning, and sleeping by snatches, and Katharine's impatient
weariness was increased by watching her. She turned away, and went
upstairs to her own room. A newspaper lay on the table in the hall,
and she took it up mechanically, and carried it with her. Her own room
was spacious and airy, and physical ease and refreshment at least came
to her with its stillness and its shade.

She sat down in an arm-chair by the window, and fell a-thinking on the
invariable subject; wondering, yearning, raging, as she had done now
for days which had run on into weeks, during every hour which had not
been tranquillised by the anodyne of sleep. After a while she looked
idly at the newspaper in her hand; and in a few minutes her eyes
lighted on a paragraph which announced the departure of Lord A---- as
British _chargé d'affaires_ to the court of F----, accompanied by Mr.
Gordon Frere, who attended his lordship in the character of private
secretary, and a numerous suite.

Katharine Guyon was not a fainting woman. She had never fainted in her
life, and hysterical affections she held in equal suspicion and
disdain. No merciful weakness came to lessen the physical anguish she
experienced, when these few lines conveyed to her shrinking soul the
full assurance of the fate that had befallen her. The physical
suffering of a sudden grief is always terrible, most terrible where
strength reigns with tolerable equality in body and mind. Her flesh
crept and burned; acute, agonising pain darted into her eyeballs, and
transfixed them; a slow shivering anguish seized upon her limbs, and
caused her lips to part and shudder over the clenched teeth. No cry
escaped her, nor sound except a moan, half of mental pain, half of the
deadly sickness, the actual nausea, which every one who has ever
sustained a severe shock of pain or fear knows is its invariable
accompaniment. Black rings formed themselves in the air, and dropped
from under her eyes, into what seemed to her like infinite space. She
wondered dimly whether this could be any thing like death; and sat
there, so feeling, so wondering, she had no idea what length of time.
Her maid came to her when the hour for dressing for dinner arrived,
and found her pale, motionless, and tearless.

"I'm not well, Marwood," she said; "as papa is out, I need not go
down. If you'll help me to undress, I will go to bed."

The woman was utterly surprised. Illness was unknown to Katharine's
vigorous frame and eager spirit. She acknowledged that her mistress
looked ill, and suggested sending James for a doctor.

"Not on any account," said Katharine; "I am suffering for my obstinacy
in riding too long in the sun yesterday, and eating ices last night. I
shall be quite well in the morning."

The woman assisted her to undress, and left her, and Katharine lay
down in her bed, feeling as if she should never rise from it again.
The evening fell, the beautiful autumn night succeeded the brief
twilight, and the fair morning dawned, and still she lay quite
motionless, tearless, sleepless; speechless too, but for one short
sentence whose agony of anger and outraged feeling defied restraint.
It sounded strangely in the quiet of the room:

"He was only amusing himself, after all. He _dared_ to amuse himself
with ME!"


Hester Gould had fulfilled her intention of finding out all she could
about Robert Streightley's new friends, as she usually fulfilled all
her intentions, quietly and completely. She had paid a friendly visit
to Daniel Thacker's sisters, resident at Hampstead; and having timed
her visit fortunately, or it would be more correct to say judiciously,
she had met Daniel, and extracted from him all the information he was
disposed to give. She was not in the least deceived in her estimate of
his frankness; she knew that he had more to tell respecting Mr. Guyon
and his handsome daughter (Mr. Thacker called her "stunning") than the
general facts into the disclosure of which she led him; but she was
not unreasonable, and she read character accurately. She had not seen
much of Daniel Thacker; for not being mistress of her own time, she
could rarely visit the dwellers at Corby House at the hours which
found that gentleman in the bosom of his family; but she had seen
enough of him to understand him much better than most of his
acquaintances did, and to feel a comfortable assurance that she could
gain an influence over him, if any thing should occur to make it worth
her while to do so.

Daniel Thacker possessed at least one sterling virtue--he was an
excellent brother. Nothing in reason and within the compass of his
means did he deny the handsome, red-lipped, dark-browed girls, who
strongly resembled him, and were even more Jewish-looking than he.
They had a good house, a comfortable establishment, a sufficiency of
society among their own persuasion generally, a sufficiency of
theatre- and concert-going, and plenty of the savoury meat which their
souls loved. They would have been happier perhaps--or they thought
so--if their beloved brother, whom they devoutly believed to be the
handsomest and most elegant man in Christendom or Jewry, had lived
with them at Corby House; but he had fully explained the impossibility
on "business" grounds, and the docile Hebrews, Rebecca and Rachel,
acknowledged the plea without hesitation. They were among the firmest,
warmest, and most useful of Hester Gould's friends, and they had been
for a time her pupils. They had perseveringly spread her fame abroad
among their _habitués_; and as music is an invariable taste among the
Jews, and their musical entertainments are splendid and numerous,
their praises had done her solid service, and Hester's time was fully
filled by very lucrative engagements.

Rachel and Rebecca had been infinitely delighted by Hester's arrival
to pass the evening with them, and had gushingly expressed their
pleasure.

"Tuesday evening too, Daniel's evening: how delightful!--he hardly
ever misses. I am so glad; isn't she a dear?" said Miss Rachel in a
sort of monologue, while she applied her large red lips several times
to Hester's olive cheek.

The calculations of the sisters did not deceive them. Daniel came,
smooth, good-humoured, affectionate, and obliging; and they passed a
very agreeable evening. Miss Gould had what she called a "confidential
cab," which attended her on special occasions, of which this was one;
and as she drove away, having accepted an invitation to accompany the
sisters to a Botanical "promenade" (it was the last of the season they
said, and dear Hester must come), she made a little calculation of the
gain of her visit, thus:

"Mr. Guyon is a fast man out at elbows, and a great friend of Daniel
Thacker's. That means that he is largely in Daniel's power. Miss Guyon
is a handsome, high-spirited girl, much admired, and with no fortune.
I can see that Daniel has no notion of her--he would be snubbed, rich
as he is, I suspect, even by the out-at-elbows father. But he has seen
Robert with Mr. Guyon, and for some reason or other--I don't know what
reason _yet_--he is concerned in promoting a match between him and
Miss Guyon. Can I prevent this? I fear not. We shall see; I must be
most cautious not to purchase even a fair chance of doing so too
dearly,"--here she thought intensely, and her brow clouded over
heavily. "If I could find out that the girl does not care for him, I
might make my way to her and put her on her guard; but suppose she
does? No, no; I must not risk _all_ until I know _all_."

Mr. Daniel Thacker's perfectly appointed brougham was conveying him
rapidly to St. James's half-an-hour later; and as he smoked a choice
cigar (part of a bankrupt lot dirt cheap at the price), he pulled his
silky beard, and meditated upon Hester Gould and her questions.

"Knows Streightley and his mother and sister very well, does she?
Thinks him a 'nice' man, but easily led--thinks his mother is _so_
anxious he should marry, eh? Now what the deuce is _her_ little game?
Can't be to marry him herself, I should think, or she's just the
woman to do it--to have done it long ago. Devilish nice girl; real
good-looking, and a rasper for determination, I should say. 'Gad, I
should like to see a good deal more of Hester Gould."



CHAPTER XII.
VICTORY.


Mr. Guyon was not troubled with sensitive feelings, and bashfulness or
hesitation in the carrying out of any project on whose execution he
had decided were completely foreign to his character. He possessed a
happy mixture of hardness and effrontery, which enabled him to do very
cruel things with charming lightness of heart and an engaging
unconsciousness of demeanour, which had occasionally even deluded his
victims themselves into thinking his intentions more harmless than his
acts. He was a man whom even remorse, the evil form of repentance, had
never visited, and who had never believed in any agency more
supernatural than _luck_. He had been accustomed to watch the
variations of that divinity pretty closely, and had arrived at a sort
of scheme of its operations; and just now he regarded good fortune as
in the ascendant--a conviction which received signal confirmation by
the success of his interview with Streightley. He had not distinctly
acknowledged to himself that he dreaded finding an obstacle in
Robert's conscientiousness; he had rather put his apprehensions to the
score of the "City man's" pride.

"I can't pretend that she likes him, or that she does not like Frere,"
he had said over and over again, as he turned the hopeful project,
which had succeeded so perfectly, in his mind. "He is not quite such a
flat as to believe any thing of that sort. It all depends on his being
satisfied to have the girl at any price; and he knows so little of the
world and of women, that I do believe he'll be idiot enough to take
her against her will. A pretty life she'll lead him; but that's no
business of mine."

Mr. Guyon possessed one trivial and negative virtue--he never tried to
deceive himself. Perhaps one reason why his hypocrisy had frequently
been crowned with success was, that he reserved it entirely for his
transactions, sternly extruding it from his meditations. _Vis-à-vis_
Ned Guyon, he was the soul of candour. True to this characteristic,
when screwing up his courage to the inevitable interview with his
daughter, which was the next performance in his programme, Mr. Guyon
did not try to persuade himself, as a more shallow scoundrel would
have done, that he was in reality doing the very best thing within his
power for her, and establishing, in truth, a clear claim to her
gratitude. He did not repeat that the man she loved was a frivolous
fellow, who could never fill the heart and the intellect of such a
woman, and was unworthy of her affection. He said nothing to himself
of all he had said to Robert Streightley. He knew nothing, and he
cared nothing about Frere's character; and the consideration of
Katharine's unhappiness did not concern him in the least.

"She will be very rich," he thought; "and if that does not make her
happy, she is a greater fool than I take her for--a greater fool even
than Streightley."

Callous and unhesitating as he was, nevertheless Mr. Guyon felt
considerable apprehension about the impending explanation with
Katharine. No material disagreement had ever taken place between his
daughter and himself. He had always had a sense of Katharine's
intellectual superiority which had governed him in certain respects;
and an unexpressed unwillingness to rouse a temper which he felt a
tacit conviction he could not rule had restrained him from opposing
her unnecessarily; so that his daughter had always given him credit
for much more amiability and complaisance than he actually possessed.
He was not afraid of her in any actively restraining sense, or he
would not have entertained such a design as that he was now
prosecuting against her; but he was afraid of a war of words with her;
he was afraid that her keenness might lead her to suspicion; above
all, he dreaded her girlish ignorance, her disregard of wealth, when
wealth only was what he had to urge upon her acceptance.

The announcement of Gordon Frere's departure was the cause of almost
as profound an emotion to Mr. Guyon as to his daughter. To her it
meant the extinction of hope, the blighting of joy, the outraging of
love and pride, the awakening of passionate anger and agonising grief.
To him it meant the termination of a period of most unpleasant
suspense, during which he did not dare to take a step towards the
furtherance of his plans, lest at any moment they might collapse, and
defeat insure detection. But all had turned out rightly for him; he
was safe; the young man--"the biggest fool of the lot" Mr. Guyon
called him, with coarse contempt for the pliability of his victim--had
received his sentence in silence and without protest, and had left
England; a circumstance beyond Mr. Guyon's hopes, which had extended
only to his keeping out of Katharine's way until the scheme should
have succeeded.

On his return from the dinner at Greenwich, which had been rather
tedious, and during which Robert Streightley's abstracted look and
dispirited manner had excited Mr. Guyon's scorn and apprehension,
inducing him to think that if there were much delay Robert might
become troublesome and scrupulous after all, he, too, read in the
evening journals the announcement which had come upon his daughter
like the stroke of doom. Unmixed satisfaction was rapidly succeeded by
a determination to act at once. He had seen as little as possible of
Katharine for some time, pleading engagements and business when the
rapid "thinning" of London prevented his procuring the presence of a
third person to insure him against a _tête-à-tête_. But he had watched
her; he had observed her restlessness, her anxiety, her abstraction
and indifference. He had noted the shadow on her beauty, he had heard
the harsh tone which now sounded in her voice, the unreal ring of her
laugh,--had noted them without one touch of pity or hesitation, and
been satisfied with the result. He recognised grief in all these
symptoms, but he saw still more anger, pride, and defiance. Every
thing that he observed gave him encouragement; and Lady Henmarsh, who
did not know the whole truth, but had guessed at something very like
it, had made satisfactory reports. She understood Katharine much
better than her father understood her, and had played the irritating
game, in his interests, with a charming air of unconsciousness, and
complete success. The first thing to be done was to see Lady Henmarsh;
and as she was going to take Sir Timothy out of town in a day or two,
no time was to be lost. Mr. Guyon could be an early man when it suited
his convenience, and it happened to do so just then. He presented
himself at Lady Henmarsh's breakfast-table, much to the surprise and a
little to the confusion of "cousin Hetty," who had never quite lost
the habit of liking to look well for "cousin Ned," and was conscious
that she might have looked better than on this occasion. But "cousin
Ned" had neither time nor inclination for the revival of _ci-devant_
sentiment, and Lady Henmarsh soon perceived that "business" engrossed
him wholly.


"My dearest Kate," said Lady Henmarsh, as, three hours later, she
entered Miss Guyon's room, and found her up and dressed, indeed, but
sitting icily by her bedroom-window, and looking as though a month's
illness had robbed her eyes of their lustre and her cheek of its
bloom,--"what is wrong with you? Clarke tried to prevent my coming
upstairs, but of course I knew you would see _me_. My dear girl, you
look shockingly!"

"Do I?" said Katharine, forcing a smile; "I feel wretched enough. It
is only the heat, I suppose, and the season. It is time for every one
to leave town."

"Every one seems to think so," returned Lady Henmarsh; "except
yourself and ourselves, almost every one is gone. I had such a number
of callers yesterday, I was quite sick of them. So sorry you could not
come round, dear; but you did quite right to keep quiet, if you did
not feel well. By the way, Mr. Mostyn--I must not say your admirer, I
suppose; but the gentleman who kindly permits you to admire him--came
in while the Daventrys were there, and he looked quite sentimental
when your message came. He actually condescended to ask why you did
not go to Mrs. Tresillian's ball, and to say, but for Miss Guyon's
absence, he should have pronounced it the best ball of the season. You
know his formal way. I am sorry you missed it, Kate; they all agreed
that it was a brilliant affair; and Lily Daventry was in ecstasies
about it. To be sure she's new to balls; but how she did go on about
Coote and Tinney's band and Gordon Frere's waltzing!"

Katharine winced. Lady Henmarsh played with a ring-stand, took up the
rings one by one and examined them, keeping a close watch on the girl
as she talked on.

"What a goose that girl is, to be sure, but so pretty! and if the men
admire her so much, though she has not any sense, she is as well
without it. What a flirt she is too! It amused me to watch her trying
her ringlets and her attitudes upon Mr. Mostyn. Now that Gordon
Frere--as great a flirt as herself--is out of the way, she tries her
hand upon him; and he is so horribly vain, that though he was at the
Tresillians' and saw her flirtation with Frere, he actually believes
she is quite captivated. Why do you wear an opal ring, Kate? you were
not born in October; it's unlucky, my dear."

"Is it?" said Katharine languidly. "I did not know. Are the Daventrys
going to Leyton?"

"Yes, they start to-morrow. By the bye, I was so surprised at Gordon
Frere's appointment; weren't you? I never heard him mention it, and
yet it appears it had been settled a long time. I am sorry I did not
see him when he called."

"How do you mean that his appointment was settled?" asked Katharine,
with great self-command. Lady Henmarsh turned her head away from the
dressing-table, and looked full at her, as she answered:

"Why, Lord A. had promised to take him as his private secretary, when
his turn should come; you know those diplomatic people have their
regular order of succession; he told Lily Daventry all about it at the
Tresillians' ball. He had been idling through the season, he said, and
amusing himself the best way he could, in anticipation of going to
work in earnest. He rather thought he should have gone a little
earlier; and to tell you the truth, Kate, I wish he had." There was
meaning in the speaker's tone, and Katharine understood it. Her eye
lighted angrily, as she asked, in the coldest possible voice:

"Indeed! may I ask you why Mr. Gordon Frere's movements are of
interest to you, Lady Henmarsh?"

"Come, come, Kate, don't speak like that to me," said her friend; "you
know perfectly well how dear you are to me, and what an interest I
take in every thing that nearly or remotely concerns you. I'm sure you
can't deny that, my dear."

A bend of the head, a softened expression in the face were the sole
answer.

"And I must say," continued Lady Henmarsh, "I am very much mortified
at the way Gordon Frere has set people talking about you."

"About _me?_"

"Yes, my dear, about you. He paid you very marked attention, and you
received it with quite enough complacency to set people talking--don't
be angry, Kate, I don't blame you; you were not to know that he meant
nothing. And then, for you, and me, the nearest friend you had--a
friend standing, in the eyes of the world, in the place of a
mother--to be the only people of his acquaintance, as it appears we
are, ignorant of the fact that he was going abroad immediately. Just
suppose, Kate, you had cared for him as much as he tried to make you,
and as I am very much afraid many people think you do! No, a male
flirt is my abhorrence, and Gordon is one _aux bouts des ongles_.
I assure you, Lady Daventry--and you know she is not at all an
ill-natured woman, or given to scandal--asked some very unpleasant
questions. I really wish I had seen the gentleman; every one else
seems to have seen him. He was in town only three days, and I really
believe he called in person on every one else, though he only left a
card for Sir Timothy. Did he call here?" Lady Henmarsh asked the
question very suddenly; and as Katharine answered it, her cheeks
reddened with a painful blush, which did not fade again during the
interview.

"No, Lady Henmarsh, he did not."

"Ah, I thought so. And now, my dear Kate, let me speak to you, as I
feel, with the affection of a mother and the experience of a woman of
the world. Gordon Frere has treated you very ill; he has exposed you
to comments, very injurious and painful to any girl, still more so to
a girl situated as you are. He might have made you miserable, as well
as ridiculous, if he had succeeded in making you love him. Now you
must defeat his unmanly triumph, and silence all the talk among our
countless dear friends who are amusing themselves at your expense.
Your being ill just now is peculiarly unfortunate; I know they will
say you are shutting yourself up, and doing the _Didone abbandonata_.
You have rather unfortunately good health, Katharine, for this sort of
thing, and have long defied hot suns and iced creams too successfully
to escape suspicion by pleading them now. I really wish, my dear girl,
you would come out for a drive; there are still many people to see
you--take an old woman's advice, Kate, and don't disdain precaution,
because you are not conscious of its need. _No one_ can afford to be
laughed at; and if you are wise, you will reject Mr. Gordon Frere's
legacy of ridicule."

Lady Henmarsh spoke earnestly and with much mental trepidation. She
had ventured very, very far; much farther than, when she entered
Katharine's room, she had believed she would dare to venture, for she
too knew that Katharine had what her father called "a devil of a
temper;" and there were few things she would not have preferred to
rousing it. But the silence of the girl, something of forlornness
under her pride, the patience with which she had borne her first
approaches, had given Lady Henmarsh courage, and Katharine's demeanour
satisfied her that all her suspicions had been more than just, that
she had loved Gordon Frere frankly, fully, and with all the truth and
ardour which were characteristic of her better nature. A moment's
silence ensued when she had ceased speaking, and then Katharine,
stately, cold, and graceful, rose from her chair, and, placing her
hand upon the bell to summon her maid, said:

"I appreciate your kindness and your advice, Lady Henmarsh. If you
will come back for me in half an hour, I will go with you any where
you please. But--this subject must never be spoken of again between
you and me."

Katharine's maid entered the room, and Lady Henmarsh left it, merely
saying in an assenting tone, "Very well, my dear," and descended the
stairs to the hall. There she met Mr. Guyon, who attended her to her
carriage with great solicitude. A whisper only passed between them,
for they treated servants with systematic caution. It was from Lady
Henmarsh, who said:

"I don't think you will have much trouble, Ned."

Several persons of her acquaintance met Miss Guyon driving in the Park
that afternoon, and had ample leisure to observe her amid the
diminished throng. A few regarded her with curiosity--for though Lady
Henmarsh had grossly exaggerated the facts, she and Gordon Frere had
been "talked of" in their own set--many with admiration, and remarked
that she looked particularly well and blooming, not at all cut up by
the season. None knew that something had gone out of the beautiful
face that was never to return to it--that the woman they admired that
day was not the same they had been accustomed to see and to admire,
but who was now a thing of the past, never more to have any terrene
existence.


"Katharine," said Mr. Guyon to his daughter on the following day, as
she sat opposite him at breakfast, while he furtively watched her
countenance from behind the defence of a convenient newspaper, "I have
something to say to you."

"Have you, papa? What is it?"

She looked at him uninterested and unconcerned. Mr. Guyon threw down
his newspaper, left his chair, and took up a position on the hearthrug
suggestive of wintry weather. He felt and he looked awkward; he
cleared his throat, and pulled at the blue-silk ribbon which encircled
it, as though its pressure incommoded him. His daughter did not move,
and the expression of her face was still uninterested, unconcerned.

"Yes, Katie," he recommenced. "I have indeed, my dear, something very
particular to say to you. I don't often speak seriously to you, you
know, and never bother you about business. So you must not think I
want to bother you now, and you must really attend to me."

"If it's about going out of town, papa, I really don't care where----"

"No, no, Kate, it's not that," said her father, interrupting her;
"it's nothing so easily settled as that. The fact is--Kate," he said
abruptly, and in a changed tone, "what do you think of our friend
Streightley?"

"What do I think of Mr. Streightley, papa? I can hardly tell you; I
don't think I know,--I don't think I have any thoughts about him. But
what has that to do with any thing important or particular that you
want to speak to me about?"

"It has every thing to do with it, Kate. Robert Streightley is the
best friend I have in the world, and he is the best fellow I know."

Katharine looked at her father with surprise. She was very far from
understanding him perfectly; but she certainly had a notion that Mr.
Streightley did not resemble the sort of person to whom she would have
expected her father to apply the favourite epithet, "good-fellow." She
said nothing, however; and Mr. Guyon, watching her more eagerly than
he suffered his features to tell, continued:

"I need not weary you by explaining the services Streightley has
done me in detail, but I must tell you that I have been unfortunate
in money matters in many ways; I have trusted friends, and been
deceived--" again Katharine's face expressed surprise, which she
certainly felt, and yet would have been puzzled to explain. "I have
been speculating, and have been ill-advised; the result has been
disastrous; in short, Katie, I must have gone to the wall had it not
been for Robert Streightley."

Katharine had become exceedingly pale now, and she fixed her eyes on
her father with more steadiness than he liked. He leaned his right
elbow on the chimney-piece, and kept his right hand hovering about his
mouth and chin, ready to cover an undesirable expression of candour or
embarrassment.

"Do you mean that Mr. Streightley has lent you money, papa?" asked
Katharine.

"Yes, my dear, he has, and large sums too; and I have lost so heavily
by those speculations I mentioned, that I cannot pay him without the
greatest inconvenience indeed almost ruin. He does not know how I am
situated; and of course it would be painful and humiliating to me to
tell him, unless I could also tell him the best news he could hear,
Kate----"

"What is that, papa?" she asked, perfectly without suspicion. Mr.
Guyon found his change of attitude very useful now, and he critically
examined his boots before he said:

"Well, my dear--I know you will be surprised, and indeed I was
astonished when he mentioned the subject to me. The best news that Mr.
Streightley could hear, Katie, would be that you had consented to
become his wife--" and at the last words he raised his head and looked
at her. Katharine started up, and exclaimed:

"Me! I!--O papa, what are you saying?"

Her father approached her, put one arm round her waist, and took her
hand in his. He seldom caressed his daughter, and she instinctively
shrunk from the encircling arm, as if a danger threatened her; but he
held her firmly, and she stood still and listened.

"I daresay you can't understand it, Kate, but it's quite true for all
that; and you know you are a doosid sensible girl, and doosid lucky
too, I can tell you." Mr. Guyon was recovering himself. "Now look
here. You've always lived like a lady--a long way better than many
ladies, by Jove--and you don't know what difficulties and poverty
mean; and it will be your own fault if you do know now, or ever.
You've no fortune, Kate; and a girl who hasn't can't choose for
herself--that's a fact. Men can't and won't marry without money; and
though you don't know much of the world, except the ball, supper,
promenade, and park side of it, Katie, I daresay you know enough of it
not to deny _that_. You don't know much of Streightley; and I daresay
he's not the sort of fellow you would fancy if you _did_ know ever so
much of him. But then, you see, the sort of fellow you would fancy
can't marry you, because you have no money, or won't, which comes to
the same thing,--at all events doesn't--" Here Katharine released
herself, and sat down. Still she turned her white face and attentive
eyes steadfastly upon him, and showed no sign of emotion, save the
occasional twitching of the hand which she laid upon the table.
Immensely reassured by her quietness, Mr. Guyon went on, quite
cheerily:

"It's all nonsense thinking about love-matches in these days; and
indeed at any time I don't think they turned out well. Now, Kate, this
is the real fact. If you don't marry Streightley, who is a first-rate
fellow, and immensely rich, and ready to do all sorts of generous and
noble things, in addition to giving me time to look about me until I
can pay him the money I owe him, absolute ruin is staring me in the
face, and you too. Don't speak, Kate; don't say any thing in a hurry;
and don't say I ask you to marry Streightley for my sake; but just
listen to the alternative. Well, suppose that you determine not to
accept Streightley;--and remember, beautiful and admired as you are,
he is the first man who has ever asked you to marry him--a pretty
strong proof, I think, of the truth of my statement that men won't
marry without money, especially if you will take the trouble to count
up the number of ugly heiresses married since you have been out, and
to several of your own admirers too;--we all go to smash here; I must
shift for myself the best way I can--get off abroad, and escape
imprisonment; though I can't escape disgrace--and never hope to show
my face in England again. And as for you, Katie, don't think me hard
or cruel--I must tell you the truth; I must tell you the whole truth,
that you may know what you really reject or accept. I see nothing for
you but becoming a companion to a lady--which I take it is the most
infernal kind of white slavery going--or being dependent on the
charity of Lady Henmarsh. You can't live with your aunt, because she
is going to live with her daughter; and you can't come abroad with me,
for many reasons, the chief being that I could not afford to take you.
Cousin Hetty is very pleasant and nice now, and a capital chaperone;
but you are, as I said before, a doosid sensible girl, and I daresay
you can guess what cousin Hetty would be to a poor relation, with a
shady father, living on her charity,--so I won't dwell upon _that_."

He paused a little, but still she did not speak. Still she looked at
him, her face white, her lips firmly closed, and the hand on the table
twitching occasionally. Once or twice there was a sound in her throat
as if she swallowed with difficulty, but she uttered no word. Mr.
Guyon felt exceedingly hot and uncomfortable, but he went on, less
glibly perhaps, and looking rather over than at her.

"The other side of the medal is this, Katie. You have the opportunity
of marrying a rich man, in an honourable and advancing position, so
desperately in love with you that you may choose your own manner of
life. He is very good-looking and well-bred, and I don't see any
reason why you may not like him quite well enough to get on with him
as happily as any woman gets on with any man. Let me tell you, my
dear, the strength of your position will be incalculably increased by
your not being in love with him; in nine cases out of ten a woman in
love with her husband bores him horribly, and brings out all the bad
points in his temper, which she might never find out, or at all events
might easily manage, otherwise. You will have every material of
reasonable happiness, and the power of indulging your tastes--and they
are not economical, Kate. And now choose for yourself; and remember I
don't play the sentimental parent, and urge you to this for my sake.
We have always been good friends, Katie, but I don't expect a
sacrifice from you; and I don't talk the absurd nonsense of
representing a splendid offer like this, involving advantages which no
girl in London knows better than yourself how to appreciate, as a
fearful trial, affording you an opportunity of performing martyrdom to
filial duty."

There was a coarse sneer in his voice, which he would have done well
to repress, which was dangerous; but his temper was getting the better
of his prudence. Katharine shrunk from the tone, and felt even in that
moment of tumultuous emotion that the love she had for her father was
but a weak affection. It was dying while he spoke, dying as her fresh
knowledge of him was born; it would soon be dead she knew, with that
other love now for ever lost to her; and only the hopeless pain, the
weariness of contempt, would live where the two honest natural
affections had sprung up, to be blighted. Mutual avoidance, something
like mutual fear, was in the faces that looked at each other, and were
so strangely like, now that the expression of each was one of its
worst. With no enviable sensations Mr. Guyon waited for Katharine to
speak. She rose from her seat before she did so; then she said:

"Mr. Streightley does not imagine that I entertain any feeling of
regard for him, I suppose?"

This was a puzzling question, and Mr. Guyon allowed the embarrassment
it caused him to be evident.

"Except as a friend of mine, and--" he stammered.

"I understand," said Katharine, and she bent her head slowly and
emphatically. "And he is willing to purchase me on those terms? It is
well the bargain should be distinctly understood."

If Mr. Guyon had ever understood, had ever cared to understand his
daughter, these words must have taught him how great a change had
passed upon her. They would have been impossible of utterance to the
Katharine of three weeks ago; but a wide gulf, never to be spanned, of
pain and injury lay between that time and the present. He felt afraid
of the girl; but rallying courage for a decisive effort, he said:

"Your answer, Katharine; you see the case as clearly as I do;--what am
I to say to Mr. Streightley?"

"Nothing," she answered, "but that I will see him myself. Tell him to
come here this evening, to-morrow, any time you please,--I will see
him, I will hear what he has to say. There must be no mistake in
_this_ case, no self-deception, no mutual deception. The truth is not
beautiful or holy, but at least it shall be told."

She left the room as soon as she had spoken the last words. Her father
remained as she had left him; an ugly dark shadow had spread itself
over his face. After some minutes he looked up, shrugged his
shoulders, and strolled over to one of the windows. He looked out idly
for a little then roused himself, and went into his own room. There he
wrote two letters, bestowing considerable: time and pains on the
first, which was addressed to Robert Streightley, but scribbling the
other off with careless rapidity. It bore Lady Henmarsh's name upon
the envelope, and contained the following words:

"DEAR HETTY,--I have done my part of this business, and _I think_
things look well. As to my having very little trouble, perhaps if you
had heard and seen, you would have continued to think so; but I should
be devilish sorry to do it over again.--Yours, E. G."


Katharine did not appear at dinner that day, and Mr. Streightley
partook of that meal, for which he had a very moderate appetite,
_tête-à-tête_ with her father. When the two gentlemen adjourned to the
drawing-room, Katharine was seated by the window, and they could
hardly discern her features, so rapidly was the autumn twilight
deepening into darkness. While Mr. Guyon was calling rather angrily
for lights, Robert Streightley advanced towards the motionless figure,
awaiting his greeting; and as Mr. Guyon heard his daughter reply to
the confused and agitated words which Robert addressed to her, he
started at the changed tone of the voice, as if a stranger had spoken.



END OF VOL. I.



LONDON:
ROBSON AND SON, GREAT NORTHERN PRINTING WORKS,
PANCRAS ROAD, N.W.





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