Mr. Scarborough's Family
Part 8 out of 12
is,--we can concoct a letter that shall be efficacious. But I will get
Mountjoy also to go and see him, and explain to him out of his own mouth
what in truth occurred that night when he and you fell out in the
streets. Mr. Prosper must be a more vindictive man than I take him to be
in regard to sermons if he will hold out after that." Then Mr.
Scarborough allowed him to go out, and if possible find the shooters
somewhere about the park.
MOUNTJOY SCARBOROUGH GOES TO BUSTON.
Mr. Grey returned to London after staying but one night, having received
fresh instructions as to the will. The will was to be prepared at once,
and Mr. Barry was to bring it down for execution. "Shall I not inform
Augustus?" asked Mr. Grey.
But this did not suit with Mr. Scarborough's views of revenge. "I think
not. I would do by him whatever honesty requires; but I have never told
him that I mean to leave him anything. Of course he knows that he is to
have the estate. He is revelling in the future poverty of poor Mountjoy.
He turned him out of his house just now because Mountjoy would not obey
him by going to--Brazil. He would turn him out of this house if he could
because I won't at once go--to the devil. He is something overmasterful,
is Master Augustus, and a rub or two will do him good. I'd rather you
wouldn't tell him, if you please." Then Mr. Grey departed, without
making any promise, but he determined that he would be guided by the
squire's wishes. Augustus Scarborough was not of a nature to excite very
warmly the charity of any man.
Harry remained for two or three days' shooting with Mountjoy, and once
or twice he saw the squire again. "Merton and I have managed to concoct
that letter," said the squire. "I'm afraid your uncle will find it
rather long. Is he impatient of long letters?"
"He likes long sermons."
"If anybody will listen to his reading. I think you have a deal to
answer for yourself, when you could not make so small a sacrifice to the
man to whom you were to owe everything. But he ought to look for a wife
in consequence of that crime, and not falsely allege another. If, as I
fear, he finds the wife-plan troublesome, our letter may perhaps move
him, and Mountjoy is to go down and open his eyes. Mountjoy hasn't made
any difficulty about it."
"I shall be greatly distressed--" Harry begun.
"Not at all. He must go. I like to have my own way in these little
matters. He owes you as much reparation as that, and we shall be able to
see what members of the Scarborough family you would trust the most."
Harry, during the two days, shot some hares in company with Mountjoy,
but not a word more was said about the adventure in London. Nor was the
name of Florence Mountjoy ever mentioned between the two suitors. "I'm
going to Buston, you know," Mountjoy said once.
"So your father told me."
"What sort of a fellow shall I find your uncle?"
"He's a gentleman, but not very wise." No more was said between them on
that head, but Mountjoy spoke at great length about his own brother and
his father's will.
"My father is the most singular man you ever came across."
"I think he is."
"I am not going to say a good word for him. I wouldn't let him think
that I had said a good word for him. In order to save the property he
has maligned my mother, and has cheated me and the creditors most
horribly--most infernally. That's my conviction, though Grey thinks
otherwise. I can't forgive him,--and won't; and he knows it. But after
that he is going to do the best thing he can for me. And he has begun by
making me a decent allowance again as his son. But I'm to have that only
as long as I remain here at Tretton. Of course I have been fond of
"I suppose so."
"Not a doubt of it. But I haven't touched a card now for a month nearly.
And then he is going to leave me what property he has to leave. And he
and my brother have paid off those Jews among them. I'm not a bit
obliged to my brother. He's got some game of his own which I don't quite
clearly see, and my father is doing this for me simply to spite my
brother. He'd cut down every tree upon the place if Grey would allow it.
And yet, to give Augustus the property, my father has done this gross
"I suppose the money-lenders would have had the best of it had he not."
"That's true. They would have had it all. They had measured every yard
of it, and had got my name down for the full value. Now they're paid."
"That's a comfort."
"Nothing's a comfort. I know that they're right, and that if I got the
money into my own hand it would be gone to-morrow. I should be off to
Monte Carlo like a shot; and, of course it would go after the other.
There is but one thing would redeem me."
"Never mind. We won't talk of it." Then he was silent, but Harry
Annesley knew very well that he had alluded to Florence Mountjoy.
Then Harry went, and Mountjoy was left to the companionship of Mr.
Merton, and such pleasure as he could find in a daily visit to his
father. He was, at any rate, courteous in his manner to the old man, and
abstained from those irritating speeches which Augustus had always
chosen to make. He had on one occasion during this visit told his father
what he thought about him, but this the squire had taken quite as a
"I believe, you know, that you've done a monstrous injustice to
"I rather like doing what you call injustices."
"You have set the law at defiance."
"Well, yes; I think I have done that."
"According to my belief, it's all untrue."
"You mean about your mother. I like you for that; I do, indeed. I like
you for sticking up for your poor mother. Well, now you shall have fifty
pounds a month,--say twelve pounds ten a week,--as long as you remain at
Tretton, and you may have whom you like here, as long as they bring no
cards with them. And if you want to hunt there are horses, and if they
ain't good enough you can get others. But if you go away from Tretton
there's an end of it. It will all be stopped the next day."
Nevertheless, he did make arrangements by which Mountjoy should proceed
to Buston, stopping two nights as he went to London. "There isn't a club
he can enter," said the squire, comforting himself, "nor a Jew that will
lend him a five-pound note."
Mountjoy had told the truth when he had said that nothing was a comfort.
Though it seemed to his father and to the people around him at Tretton
that he had everything that a man could want, he had, in fact,
nothing,--nothing to satisfy him. In the first place, he was quite alive
to the misery of that decision given by the world against him, which had
been of such comfort to his father. Not a club in London would admit
him. He had been proclaimed a defaulter after such a fashion that all
his clubs had sent to him for some explanation; and as he had given
none, and had not answered their letters, his name had been crossed out
in the books of them all. He knew himself to be a man disgraced, and
when he had fled from London he had gone under the conviction that he
would certainly never return. There were the pistol and bullet as his
last assured resource; but a certain amount of good-fortune had awaited
him,--enough to save him from having recourse to their aid. His brother
had supplied him with small sums of money, and from time to time a
morsel of good luck had enabled him to gamble, not to his heart's
content, but still in some manner so as to make his life bearable. But
now he was back in his own country, and he could gamble not at all, and
hardly even see those old companions with whom he had lived. It was not
only for the card-tables that he sighed, but for the companions of the
card-table. And though he knew that he had been scratched out from the
lists of all clubs as a dishonest man, he knew also, or thought that he
knew, that he had been as honest as the best of those companions. As
long as he could by any possibility raise money he had paid it away,
and by no false trick had he ever endeavored to get it back again.
Had a little time been allowed him all would have been paid; and all had
been paid. He knew that by the rules of such institutions time could not
be granted; but still he did not feel himself to have been a dishonest
man. Yet he had been so disgraced that he could hardly venture to walk
about the streets of London in the daylight. And then there came upon
him, when he found himself alone at Tretton, an irrepressible desire for
gambling. It was as though his throat were parched with an implacable
thirst. He walked about ever meditating certain fortunate turns of the
cards; and when he had worked himself up to some realization of his old
excitement he would remember that it was all a vain and empty bubble. He
had money in his pocket, and could rush up to London if he would, and if
he did so he could, no doubt, find some coarse hell at which he could
stake it till it would be all gone; but the gates of the A---- and the
B---- and the C---- would be closed against him; and he would then be
driven to feel that he had indeed fallen into the nethermost pit. Were
he once to play at such places as his mind painted to him he could never
play at any other; and yet when the day drew nigh on which he was to go
to London, on his way to Buston, he did bethink himself where these
places were to be found. His throat was parched, and the thirst upon him
was extreme. Cards were the weapons he had used. He had played ecarte,
piquet, whist, and baccarat, with an occasional night of some foolish
game such as cribbage or vingt-et-un. Though he had always lost, he had
always played with men who had played honestly. There is much that is,
in truth, dishonest even in honest play. A man who can keep himself
sober after dinner plays with one who flusters himself with drink. The
man with a trained memory plays with him who cannot remember a card. The
cool man plays with the impetuous; the man who can hold his tongue with
him who cannot but talk; the man whose practised face will tell no
secrets with him who loses a point every rubber by his uncontrolled
grimaces. And then there is the man who knows the game, and plays with
him who knows it not at all. Of course, the cool, the collected, the
thoughtful, the practised,--they who have given up their whole souls to
the study of cards,--will play at a great advantage, which in their
calculations they do not fail to recognize. See the man standing by and
watching the table, and leaving all the bets he can on A and B as against
C and D; and, however ignorant you may be, you will soon become sure
that A and B know the game, whereas C and D are simply infants. That is
all fair and acknowledged; but looking at it from a distance, as you lie
under your apple-trees in your orchard, far from the shout of "Two by
honors," you will come to doubt the honesty of making your income after
such a fashion.
Such as it is, Mountjoy sighed for it bitterly,--sighed for it, but could
not see where it was to be found. He had a gentleman's horror of those
resorts in gin-shops, or kept by the disciples of gin-shops, where he
would surely be robbed,--which did not appal him,--but robbed in bad
company. Thinking of all this, he went up to London late in the
afternoon, and spent an uncomfortable evening in town. It was absolutely
innocent as regarded the doings of the night itself, but was terrible to
him. There was a slow drizzling rain; but not the less after dinner at
his hotel he started off to wander through the streets. With his
great-coat and his umbrella he was almost hidden; and as he passed
through Pall Mall, up St. James's Street, and along Piccadilly, he could
pause and look in at the accustomed door. He saw men entering whom he
knew, and knew that within five minutes they could be seated at their
tables. "I had an awfully heavy time of it last night," one said to
another as he went up the steps; and Mountjoy, as he heard the words,
envied the speaker. Then he passed back and went again a tour of all the
clubs. What had he done that he, like a poor Peri, should be unable to
enter the gates of all these paradises? He had now in his pocket fifty
pounds. Could he have been made absolutely certain that he would have
lost it, he would have gone into any paradise and have staked his money
with that certainty.
At last, having turned up Waterloo Place, he saw a man standing in the
door-way of one of these palaces, and he was aware at once that the man
had seen him. He was a man of such a nature that it would be impossible
that he should have seen a worse. He was a small, dry, good-looking
little fellow, with a carefully preserved mustache, and a head from the
top of which age was beginning to move the hair. He lived by cards, and
lived well. He was called Captain Vignolles, but it was only known of
him that he was a professional gambler. He probably never cheated. Men
who play at the clubs scarcely ever cheat,--there are so many with whom
they play sharp enough to discover them; and with the discovered gambler
all in this world is over. Captain Vignolles never cheated; but he found
that an obedience to those little rules which I have named above stood
him well in lieu of cheating. He was not known to have any particular
income, but he was known to live on the best of everything as far as
club life was concerned.
He immediately followed Mountjoy down into the street and greeted him.
"Captain Scarborough as I am a living man!"
"Well, Vignolles; how are you?"
"And so you have come back once more to the land of the living! I was
awfully sorry for you, and think that they treated you uncommon harshly.
As you've paid your money, of course they'll let you in again." In
answer to this, Mountjoy had very little to say: but the interview ended
by his accepting an invitation from Captain Vignolles to supper for the
following evening. If Captain Scarborough would come at eleven o'clock
Captain Vignolles would ask a few fellows to meet him, and they would
have--just a little rubber of whist. Mountjoy knew well the nature of
the man who asked him, and understood perfectly what would be the
result; but there thrilled through his bosom, as he accepted the
invitation, a sense of joy which he could himself hardly understand.
On the following morning Mountjoy was up, for him, very early, and
taking a return ticket went down to Buston. He had written to Mr.
Prosper, sending his compliments, and saying that he would do himself
the honor of calling at a certain hour.
At the hour named he drew up at Buston Hall in a fly from Buntingford
Station, and was told by Matthew, the old butler, that his master was at
home. If Captain Mountjoy would step into the drawing-room Mr. Prosper
should be informed. Mountjoy did as he was bidden, and after half an
hour he was joined by Mr. Prosper. "You have received a letter from my
father," he began by saying.
"A very long letter," said the Squire of Buston.
"I dare say; I did not see it, and have in fact very little to say as to
its contents. I do not know, indeed, what they were."
"The letter refers to my nephew, Mr. Henry Annesley."
"I suppose so. What I have to say refers to Mr. Henry Annesley also."
"You are kind,--very kind."
"I don't know about that; but I have come altogether at my father's
instance, and I think, indeed, that, in fairness, I ought to tell you
the truth as to what took place between me and your nephew."
"You are very good; but your father has already given me his
account,--and I suppose yours."
"I don't know what my father may have done, but I think that you ought
to desire to hear from my lips an account of the transaction. An untrue
account has been told to you."
"I have heard it all from your own brother."
"An untrue account has been told to you. I attacked your nephew."
"What made you do that?" asked the squire.
"That has nothing to do with it; but I did."
"I understood all that before."
"But you didn't understand that Mr. Annesley behaved perfectly well in
all that occurred."
"Did he tell a lie about it afterward?"
"My brother no doubt lured him on to make an untrue statement."
"You may call it so if you will. If you think that Augustus was to have
it all his own way, I disagree with you altogether. In point of fact,
your nephew behaved through the whole of that matter as well as a man
could do. Practically, he told no lie at all. He did just what a man
ought to do, and anything that you have heard to the contrary is
calumnious and false. As I am told that you have been led by my
brother's statement to disinherit your nephew--"
"I have done nothing of the kind."
"I am very glad to hear it. He has not, at any rate, deserved it; and I
have felt it to be my duty to come and tell you."
Then Mountjoy retired, not without hospitality having been coldly
offered by Mr. Prosper, and went back to Buntingford and to London. Now
at last would come, he said to himself through the whole afternoon, now
at last would come a repetition of those joys for which his very soul
had sighed so eagerly.
CAPTAIN VIGNOLLES ENTERTAINS HIS FRIENDS.
Mountjoy, when he reached Captain Vignolles's rooms, was received
apparently with great indifference. "I didn't feel at all sure you
would come. But there is a bit of supper, if you like to stay. I saw
Moody this morning, and he said he would look in if he was passing this
way. Now sit down and tell me what you have been doing since you
disappeared in that remarkable manner." This was not at all what
Mountjoy had expected, but he could only sit down and say that he had
done nothing in particular. Of all club men, Captain Vignolles would be
the worst with whom to play alone during the entire evening. And
Mountjoy remembered now that he had never been inside four walls with
Vignolles except at a club. Vignolles regarded him simply as a piece of
prey whom chance had thrown up on the shore. And Moody, who would no
doubt show himself before long, was another bird of the same covey,
though less rapacious. Mountjoy put his hand up to his breast-pocket,
and knew that the fifty pounds was there, but he knew also that it would
soon be gone.
Even to him it seemed to be expedient to get up and at once to go. What
delight would there be to him in playing piquet with such a face
opposite to him as that of Captain Vignolles, or with such a one as that
of old Moody? There could be none of the brilliance of the room, no
pleasant hum of the voices of companions, no sense of his own equality
with others. There would be none to sympathize with him when he cursed
his ill-luck, there would be no chance of contending with an innocent
who would be as reckless as was he himself. He looked round. The room
was gloomy and uncomfortable. Captain Vignolles watched him, and was
afraid that his prey was about to escape. "Won't you light a cigar?"
Mountjoy took the cigar, and then felt that he could not go quite at
once. "I suppose you went to Monaco?"
"I was there for a short time."
"Monaco isn't bad,--though there is, of course, the pull which the tables
have against you. But it's a grand thing to think that skill can be of
no avail. I often think that I ought to play nothing but rouge et noir."
"Yes; I. I don't deny that I'm the luckiest fellow going; but I never
can remember cards. Of course I know my trade. Every fellow knows his
trade, and I'm up pretty nearly in all that the books tell you."
"That's a great deal."
"Not when you come to play with men who know what play is. Look at
Grossengrannel. I'd sooner bet on him than any man in London.
Grossengrannel never forgets a card. I'll bet a hundred pounds that he
knows the best card in every suit throughout the entire day's play.
That's his secret. He gives his mind to it,--which I can't. Hang it! I'm
always thinking of something quite different,--of what I'm going to eat,
or that sort of thing. Grossengrannel is always looking at the cards,
and he wins the odd rubber out of every eleven by his attention. Shall
we have a game of piquet?"
Now on the moment, in spite of all that he had felt during the entire
day, in the teeth of all his longings, in opposition to all his thirst,
Mountjoy for a minute or two did think that he could rise and go. His
father was about to put him on his legs again,--if only he would abstain.
But Vignolles had the card-table open, with clean packs, and chairs at
the corners, before he could decide. "What is it to be? Twos on the game
I suppose." But Mountjoy would not play piquet. He named ecarte, and
asked that it might be only ten shillings a game. It was many months now
since he had played a game of ecarte. "Oh, hang it!" said Vignolles,
still holding the pack in his hands. When thus appealed to Mountjoy
relented, and agreed that a pound should be staked on each game. When
they had played seven games Vignolles had won but one pound, and
expressed an opinion that that kind of thing wouldn't suit them at all.
"School-girls would do better," he said. Then Mountjoy pushed back his
chair as though to go, when the door opened and Major Moody entered the
room. "Now we'll have a rubber at dummy," said Captain Vignolles.
Major Moody was a gray-headed old man of about sixty, who played his
cards with great attention, and never spoke a word,--either then or at
any other period of his life. He was the most taciturn of men, and was
known not at all to any of his companions. It was rumored of him that he
had a wife at home, whom he kept in moderate comfort on his winnings. It
seemed to be the sole desire of his heart to play with reckless, foolish
young men, who up to a certain point did not care what they lost. He was
popular, as being always ready to oblige every one, and, as was
frequently said of him, was the very soul of honor. He certainly got no
amusement from the play, working at it very hard,--and very constantly.
No one ever saw him anywhere but at the club. At eight o'clock he went
home to dinner, let us hope to the wife of his bosom, and at eleven he
returned, and remained as long as there were men to play with. A tedious
and unsatisfactory life he had, and it would have been well for him
could his friends have procured on his behoof the comparative ease of a
stool in a counting-house. But, as no such Elysium was opened to him,
the major went on accepting the smaller profits and the harder work of
club life. In what regiment he had been a major no one knew or cared to
inquire. He had been received as Major Moody for twenty years or more,
and twenty years is surely time enough to settle a man's claim to a
majority without reference to the Army List.
"How are you, Major Moody?" asked Mountjoy.
"Not much to boast of. I hope you're pretty well, Captain Scarborough."
Beyond that there was no word of salutation, and no reference to
Mountjoy's wonderful absence.
"What's it to be:--twos and tens?" said Captain Vignolles, arranging the
cards and the chairs.
"Not for me," said Mountjoy, who seemed to have been enveloped by a most
"What! are you afraid,--you who used to fear neither man nor devil?"
"There is so much in not being accustomed to it," said Mountjoy. "I
haven't played a game of whist since I don't knew when."
"Twos and tens is heavy against dummy," said Major Moody.
"I'll take dummy, if you like it," said Vignolles. Moody only looked at
"We'll each have our own dummy, of course," said Mountjoy.
"Just as you please," said Vignolles. "I'm host here, and of course will
give way to anything you may propose. What's it to be, Scarborough?"
"Pounds and fives. I shan't play higher than that." There came across
Mountjoy's mind, as he stated the stakes for which he consented to play,
a remembrance that in the old days he had always been called Captain
Scarborough by this man who now left out the captain. Of course he had
fallen since that,--fallen very low. He ought to feel obliged to any man,
who had in the old days been a member of the same club with him, who
would now greet him with the familiarity of his unadorned name. But the
remembrance of the old sounds came back upon his ear; and the
consciousness that, before his father's treatment of him, he had been
known to the world at large as Captain Scarborough, of Tretton.
"Well, well; pounds and fives," said Vignolles. "It's better than
pottering away at ecarte at a pound a game. Of course a man could win
something if the games were to run all one way; but where they alternate
so quickly it amounts to nothing. You've got the first dummy,
Scarborough. Where will you sit? Which cards will you take? I do believe
that at whist everything depends upon the cards,--or else on the hinges.
I've known eleven rubbers running to follow the hinges. People laugh at
me because I believe in luck. I speak as I find it; that's all. You've
turned up an honor already. When a man begins with an honor he'll always
go on with honors; that's my observation. I know you're pretty good at
this game, Moody, so I'll leave it to you to arrange the play, and will
follow up as well as I can. You lead up to the weak, of course." This
was not said till the card was out of his partner's hand. "But when your
adversary has got ace, king, queen in his own hand there is no weak.
Well, we've saved that, and it's as much as we can expect. If I'd begun
by leading a trump it would have been all over with us. Won't you light
a cigar, Moody?"
"I never smoke at cards."
"That's all very well for the club, but you might relax a little here.
Scarborough will take another cigar." But even Mountjoy was too prudent.
He did not take the cigar, but he did win the rubber. "You're in for a
good thing to-night, I feel as certain of it as though the money were in
Mountjoy, though he would not smoke, did drink. What would they have,
asked Vignolles. There was champagne, and whiskey, and brandy. He was
afraid there was no other wine. He opened a bottle of champagne, and
Mountjoy took the tumbler that was filled for him. He always drank
whiskey-and-water himself,--so he said, and filled for himself a glass in
which he poured a very small allowance of alcohol. Major Moody asked for
barley-water. As there was none, he contented himself with sipping
A close record of the events of that evening would make but a tedious
tale for readers. Mountjoy of course lost his fifty pounds. Alas! he
lost much more than his fifty pounds. The old spirit soon came upon him,
and the remembrance of what his father was to do for him passed away
from him, and all thoughts of his adversaries,--who and what they were.
The major pertinaciously refused to increase his stakes, and, worse
again, refused to play for anything but ready money. "It's a kind of
thing I never do. You may think me very odd, but it's a kind of thing I
never do." It was the longest speech he made through the entire evening.
Vignolles reminded him that he did in fact play on credit at the club.
"The committee look to that," he murmured, and shook his head. Then
Vignolles offered again to take the dummy, so that there should be no
necessity for Moody and Scarborough to play against each other, and
offered to give one point every other rubber as the price to be paid for
the advantage. But Moody, whose success for the night was assured by the
thirty pounds which he had in his pocket, would come to no terms. "You
mean to say you're going to break us up," said Vignolles. "That'll be
hard on Scarborough."
"I'll go on for money," said the immovable major.
"I suppose you won't have it out with me at double dummy?" said
Vignolles to his victim. "But double dummy is a terrible grind at this
time of night." And he pushed all the cards up together, so as to show
that the amusement for the night was over. He too saw the difficulty
which Moody so pertinaciously avoided. He had been told wondrous things
of the old squire's intentions toward his eldest son, but he had been
told them only by that eldest son himself. No doubt he could go on
winning. Unless in the teeth of a most obstinate run of cards, he would
be sure to win against Scarborough's apparent forgetfulness of all
rules, and ignorance of the peculiarities of the game he was playing.
But he would more probably obtain payment of the two hundred and thirty
pounds now due to him,--that or nearly that,--than of a larger sum. He
already had in his possession the other twenty pounds which poor
Mountjoy had brought with him. So he let the victim go. Moody went
first, and Vignolles then demanded the performance of a small ceremony.
"Just put your name to that," said Vignolles. It was a written promise
to pay to Captain Vignolles the exact sum of two hundred and
twenty-seven pounds on or before that day week. "You'll be punctual,
"Of course I'll be punctual," said Mountjoy, scowling.
"Well, yes; no doubt. But there have been mistakes."
"I tell you you'll be paid. Why the devil did you win it of me if you
"I saw you just roaming about, and I meant to be good-natured."
"You know as well as any man what chances you should run, and when to
hold your hand. If you tell me about mistakes, I shall make it
"I didn't say anything, Scarborough, that ought to be taken up in that
"Hang your Scarborough! When one gentleman talks another about mistakes
he means something." Then he smashed down his hat upon his head and left
Vignolles emptied the bottle of champagne, in which one glass was left,
and sat himself down with the document in his hand. "Just the same
fellow," he said to himself; "overbearing, reckless, pig-headed, and a
bully. He'd lose the Bank of England if he had it. But then he don't
pay! He hasn't a scruple about that. If I lose I have to pay. By Jove,
yes! Never didn't pay a shilling I lost in my life! It's deuced hard,
when a fellow is on the square like that, to make two ends meet when he
comes across defaulters. Those fellows should be hung. They're the very
scum of the earth. Talk of welchers! They're worse than any welcher.
Welcher is a thing you needn't have to do with if you're careful. But
when a fellow turns round upon you as a defaulter at cards, there is no
getting rid of him. Where the play is all straightforward and honorable,
a defaulter when he shows himself ought to be well-nigh murdered."
Such were Captain Vignolles's plaints to himself, as he sat there
looking at the suspicious document which Mountjoy had left in his hands.
To him it was a fact that he had been cruelly used in having such a bit
of paper thrust upon him instead of being paid by a check which on the
morning would be honored. And as he thought of his own career; his
ready-money payments; his obedience to certain rules of the game,--rules,
I mean, against cheating; as he thought of his hands, which in his own
estimation were beautifully clean; his diligence in his profession,
which to him was honorable; his hard work; his late hours; his devotion
to a task which was often tedious; his many periods of heart-rending
loss, which when they occurred would drive him nearly mad; his small
customary gains; his inability to put by anything for old age; of the
narrow edge by which he himself was occasionally divided from
defalcation, he spoke to himself of himself as of an honest,
hard-working professional man upon whom the world was peculiarly hard.
But Major Moody went home to his wife quite content with the thirty
pounds which he had won.
MR. PROSPER IS VISITED BY HIS LAWYERS.
Mr. Prosper had not been in good spirits at the time at which Mountjoy
Scarborough had visited him. He had received some time previously a
letter from Mr. Grey, as described in a previous chapter, and had also
known exactly what proposal had been made by Mr. Grey to Messrs. Soames
& Simpson. An equal division of the lady's income, one half to go to the
lady herself, and the other half to Mr. Prosper, with an annuity of two
hundred and fifty pounds out of the estate for the lady if Mr. Prosper
should die first: these were the terms which had been offered to Miss
Thoroughbung with the object of inducing her to become the wife of Mr.
Prosper. But to these terms Miss Thoroughbung had declined to accede,
and had gone about the arrangement of her money-matters in a most
precise and business-like manner. A third of her income she would give
up, since Mr. Prosper desired it; but more than that she "would owe it
to herself and her friends to decline to abandon." The payment for the
fish and the champagne must be omitted from any agreement on her part.
As to the ponies, and their harness, and the pony-carriage, she would
supply them. The ponies and the carriage would be indispensable to her
happiness. But the maintenance of the ponies must be left to Mr.
Prosper. As for the dower, she could not consent to accept less than
four hundred--or five hundred, if no house was to be provided. She
thought that seven hundred and fifty would be little enough if there
were no children, as in that case there was no heir for whom Mr. Prosper
was especially anxious. But as there probably would be children, Miss
Thoroughbung thought that this was a matter to which Mr. Prosper would
not give much consideration. Throughout it all she maintained a
beautiful equanimity, and made two or three efforts to induce Mr.
Prosper to repeat his visit to Marmaduke Lodge. She herself wrote to him
saying that she thought it odd that, considering their near alliance, he
should not come and see her. Once she said that she had heard that he
was ill, and offered to go to Buston Hall to visit him.
All this was extremely distressing to a gentleman of Mr. Prosper's
delicate feelings. As to the proposals in regard to money, the letters
from Soames & Simpson to Grey & Barry, all of which came down to Buston
Hall, seemed to be innumerable.
With Soames & Simpson Mr. Prosper declined to have any personal
communication. But every letter from the Buntingford attorneys was
accompanied by a farther letter from the London attorneys, till the
correspondence became insupportable. Mr. Prosper was not strong enough
to stick firmly to his guns as planted for him by Messrs. Grey & Barry.
He did give way in some matters, and hence arose renewed letters which
nearly drove him mad. Messrs. Soames & Simpson's client was willing to
accept four hundred pounds as the amount of the dower without reference
to the house, and to this Mr. Prosper yielded. He did not much care
about any heir as yet unborn, and felt by no means so certain in regard
to children as did the lady. But he fought hard about the ponies. He
could not undertake that his wife should have ponies. That must be left
to him as master of the house. He thought that a pair of carriage-horses
for her use would be sufficient. He had always kept a carriage, and
intended to do so. She might bring her ponies if she pleased, but if he
thought well to part with them he would sell them. He found himself
getting deeper and deeper into the quagmire, till he began to doubt
whether he should be able to extricate himself unmarried if he were
anxious to do so. And all the while there came affectionate little notes
from Miss Thoroughbung asking after his health, and recommending him
what to take, till he entertained serious thoughts of going to Cairo for
Then Mr. Barry came down to see him after Mountjoy had made his visit.
It was now January, and the bargaining about the marriage had gone on
for more than two months. The letter which he had received from the
Squire of Tretton had moved him; but he had told himself that the
property was his own, and that he had a right to enjoy it as he liked
Whatever might have been Harry's faults in regard to that midnight
affair, it had certainly been true that he had declined to hear the
sermons. Mr. Prosper did not exactly mention the sermons to himself, but
there was present to him a feeling that his heir had been wilfully
disobedient, and the sermons no doubt had been the cause. When he had
read the old squire's letter he did not as yet wish to forgive his
nephew. He was becoming very tired of his courtship, but in his
estimation the wife would be better than the nephew. Though he had been
much put out by the precocity of that embrace, there was nevertheless a
sweetness about it which lingered on his lips. Then Mountjoy had come
down, and he had answered Mountjoy very stoutly: "A lie!" he had
exclaimed. "Did he tell a lie?" he had asked, as though all must be over
with a young man who had once allowed himself to depart from the rigid
truth. Mountjoy had made what excuse he could, but Mr. Prosper had been
On the very day after Mountjoy's coming Mr. Barry came. His visit had
been arranged, and Mr. Prosper was, with great care, prepared to
encounter him. He was wrapped in his best dressing-gown, and Matthew had
shaved him with the greatest care. The girls over at the parsonage
declared that their uncle had sent into Buntingford for a special pot of
pomatum. The story was told to Joe Thoroughbung in order that it might
be passed on to his aunt, and no doubt it did travel as it was intended.
But Miss Thoroughbung cared nothing for the pomatum with which the
lawyer from London was to be received. It would be very hard to laugh
her out of her lover while the title-deeds to Buston held good. But Mr.
Prosper had felt that it would be necessary to look his best, so that
his marriage might be justified in the eyes of the lawyer.
Mr. Barry was shown into the book-room at Buston, in which Mr. Prosper
was seated ready to receive him. The two gentlemen had never before met
each other, and Mr. Prosper did no doubt assume something of the manner
of an aristocratic owner of land. He would not have done so had Mr. Grey
come in his partner's place. But there was a humility about Mr. Barry on
an occasion such as the present, which justified a little pride on the
part of the client. "I am sorry to give you the trouble to come down,
Mr. Barry," he said. "I hope the servant has shown you your room."
"I shall be back in London to-day, Mr. Prosper, thank you. I must see
these lawyers here, and when I have received your final instructions I
will return to Buntingford." Then Mr. Prosper pressed him much to stay.
He had quite expected, he said, that Mr. Barry would have done him the
pleasure of remaining at any rate one night at Buston. But Mr. Barry
settled the question by saying that he had not brought a dress-coat. Mr.
Prosper did not care to sit down to dinner with guests who did not bring
their dress-coats. "And now," continued Mr. Barry, "what final
instructions are we to give to Soames & Simpson?"
"I don't think much of Messrs. Soames & Simpson."
"I believe they have the name of being honest practitioners."
"I dare say; I do not in the least doubt it. But they are people to whom
I am not at all desirous of intrusting my own private affairs. Messrs.
Soames & Simpson have not, I think, a large county business. I had no
idea that Miss Thoroughbung would have put this affair into their
"Just so, Mr. Prosper. But I suppose it was necessary for her to employ
somebody. There has been a good deal of correspondence."
"Indeed there has, Mr. Barry."
"It has not been our fault, Mr. Prosper. Now what we have got to decide
is this: What are the final terms which you mean to propose? I think,
sir, the time has come when some final terms should be suggested."
"Just so. Final terms--must be what you call--the very last. That is,
when they have once been offered, you must--must--"
"Just stick to them, Mr. Prosper."
"Exactly, Mr. Barry. That is what I intend. There is nothing I dislike
so much as this haggling about money, especially with a lady. Miss
Thoroughbung is a lady for whom I have the highest possible esteem."
"That's of course."
"For whom, I repeat, I have the highest possible esteem. But she has
friends who have their own ideas as to money. The brewery in Buntingford
belongs to them, and they are very worthy people. I should explain to
you, Mr. Barry, as you are my confidential adviser, that were I about to
form a matrimonial alliance in the heyday of my youth, I should probably
not have thought of connecting myself with the Thoroughbungs. As I have
said before, they are most respectable people; but they do not exactly
belong to that class in which I should, under those circumstances, have
looked for a wife. I might probably have ventured to ask for the hand of
the daughter of some county family. But years have slipped by me, and
now wishing in middle life to procure for myself the comfort of wedded
happiness, I have looked about, and have found no one more likely to
give it me, than Miss Thoroughbung. Her temper is excellent, and her
person pleasing." Mr. Prosper, as he said this, thought of the kiss
which had been bestowed upon him. "Her wit is vivacious, and I think
that upon the whole she will be desirable as a companion. She will not
come to this house empty-handed; but of her pecuniary affairs you
already know so much that I need, perhaps, tell you nothing farther.
But though I am exceedingly desirous to make this lady my wife, and am,
I may say, warmly attached to her, there are certain points which I
cannot sacrifice. Now about the ponies--"
"I think I understand about the ponies. She may bring them on trial."
"I'm not to be bound to keep any ponies at all. There are a pair of
carriage-horses which must suffice. On second thoughts, she had better
not bring the ponies." This decision had at last come from some little
doubt on his mind as to whether he was treating Harry justly.
"And four hundred pounds is the sum fixed on for her jointure."
"She is to have her own money for her own life," said Mr. Prosper.
"That's a matter of course."
"Don't you think that, under these circumstances, four hundred will be
"Quite enough, if you ask me. But we must decide."
"Four hundred it shall be."
"And she is to have two-thirds of her own money for her own expenses
during your life?" asked Mr. Barry.
"I don't see why she should want six hundred a year for herself; I don't
indeed. I am afraid it will only lead to extravagance!" Barry assumed a
look of despair. "Of course, as I have said so, I will not go back from
my word. She shall have two-thirds. But about the ponies my mind is
quite made up. There shall be no ponies at Buston. I hope you understand
that, Mr. Barry?" Mr. Barry said that he did understand it well, and
then, folding up his papers, prepared to go, congratulating himself that
he would not have to pass a long evening at Buston Hall.
But before he went, and when he had already put on his great-coat in the
hall, Mr. Prosper called him back to ask him one farther question; and
for that purpose he shut the door carefully, and uttered his words in a
whisper. Did Mr. Barry know anything of the life and recent adventures
of Mr. Henry Annesley? Mr. Barry knew nothing; but he thought that his
partner, Mr. Grey, knew something. He had heard Mr. Grey mention the
name of Mr. Henry Annesley. Then as he stood there, enveloped in his
great-coat, with his horse standing in the cold, Mr. Prosper told him
much of the story of Harry Annesley, and asked him to induce Mr, Grey to
write and tell him what he thought of Harry's conduct.
MR. PROSPER'S TROUBLES.
As Mr. Prosper sunk into his arm-chair after the fatigue of the
interview with his lawyer, he reflected that, when all was considered,
Harry Annesley was an ungrateful pig,--it was thus he called him,--and
that Miss Thoroughbung had many attractions. Miss Thoroughbung had
probably done well to kiss him, though the enterprise had not been
without its peculiar dangers. He often thought of it when alone, and, as
"distance lent enchantment to the view," he longed to have the
experiment repeated. Perhaps she had been right. And it would be a good
thing, certainly, to have dear little children of his own. Miss
Thoroughbung felt very certain on the subject, and it would be foolish
for him to doubt. Then he thought of the difference between a pretty
fair haired little boy and that ungrateful pig, Harry Annesley. He told
himself that he was very fond of children. The girls over at the
parsonage would not have said so, but they probably did not know his
When Harry had come back with his fellowship, his uncle had for a few
weeks been very proud of him,--had declared that he should never be
called upon to earn his bread, and had allowed him two hundred and fifty
pounds a year to begin with: but no return had been made to this favor.
Harry had walked in and out of the Hall as though it had already
belonged to him,--as many a father delights to see his eldest son doing.
But the uncle in this instance had not taken any delight in seeing it.
An uncle is different from a father,--an uncle who has never had a child
of his own. He wanted deference,--what he would have called respect;
while Harry was at first prepared to give him a familiar affection based
on equality,--on an equality in money matters and worldly
interests,--though I fear that Harry allowed to be seen his own
intellectual superiority. Mr. Prosper, though an ignorant man, and by no
means clever, was not such a fool as not to see all this. Then had come
the persistent refusal to hear the sermons, and Mr. Prosper had
sorrowfully declared to himself that his heir was not the young man that
he should have been.
He did not then think of marrying, nor did he stop the allowance; but he
did feel that his heir was not what he should have been. But then the
terrible disgrace of that night in London had occurred, and his eyes
had been altogether opened by that excellent young man, Mr. Augustus
Scarborough; then he began to look about him. Then dim ideas of the
charms and immediate wealth of Miss Thoroughbung flitted before his
eyes, and he told himself again and again of the prospects and undoubted
good birth of Miss Puffle. Miss Puffle had disgraced herself, and
therefore he had thrown Buston Hall at the feet of Miss Thoroughbung.
But now he had heard stories about that "excellent young man, Augustus
Scarborough," which had shaken his faith. He had been able to exclaim
indignantly that Harry Annesley had told a lie. "A lie!" He had been
surprised to find that a young man who had lived so much in the
fashionable world as Captain Scarborough had cared nothing for this. And
as Miss Thoroughbung became more and more exacting in regard to money,
he thought, himself, less and less of the lie. It might be well that
Harry should ultimately have the property, though he should never again
be taken into favor, and there should be no farther question of the
allowance. As Miss Thoroughbung reiterated her demands for the ponies,
he began to feel that the acres of Buston would not be disgraced forever
by the telling of that lie. But the sermons remained, and he would never
willingly again see his nephew. As he turned all this in his mind, the
idea of spending what was left of the winter at Cairo returned to him.
He would go to Cairo for the winter, and to the Italian lakes for the
spring, and to Switzerland for the summer. Then he might return to
Cairo. At the present moment Buston Hall and the neighborhood of
Buntingford had few charms for him. He was afraid that Miss Thoroughbung
would not give way about the ponies; and against the ponies he was
He was sitting in this state with a map before him, and with the
squire's letter upon the map, when Matthew, the butler, opened the door
and announced a visitor. As soon as Mr. Barry had gone, he had supported
nature by a mutton-chop and a glass of sherry, and the debris were now
lying on the side-table. His first idea was to bid Matthew at once
remove the glass and the bone, and the unfinished potato and the crust
of bread. To be taken with such remnants by any visitor would be bad,
but by this visitor would be dreadful. Lunch should be eaten in the
dining-room, where chop bones and dirty glasses would be in their place.
But here in his book-room they would be disgraceful. But then, as
Matthew was hurriedly collecting the two plates and the salt-cellar, his
master began to doubt whether this visitor should be received at all.
It was no other than Miss Thoroughbung.
Mr. Prosper, in order to excuse his slackness in calling on the lady,
had let it be known that he was not quite well, and Miss Thoroughbung
had responded to this move by offering her services as nurse to her
lover. He had then written to herself that, though he had been a little
unwell, "suffering from a cold in the chest, to which at this inclement
season of the year it was peculiarly liable," he was not in need of
anything beyond a little personal attention, and would not trouble her
for those services, for the offer of which he was bound to be peculiarly
grateful. Thus he had thought to keep Miss Thoroughbung at a distance;
but here she was with those hated ponies at his very door. "Matthew," he
said, making a confidant, in the distress of the moment of his butler,
"I don't think I can see her."
"You must, sir; indeed you must."
"Well, yes; I'm afraid so. Considering all things,--the matrimonial
prospects and the rest of it,--I think you must, sir."
"She hasn't a right to come here, you know,--as yet." It will be
understood that Mr. Prosper was considerably discomposed when he spoke
with such familiar confidence to his servant. "She needn't come in here,
at any rate."
"In the drawing-room, if I might be allowed to suggest, sir."
"Show Miss Thoroughbung into the drawing-room," said he with all his
dignity. Then Matthew retired, and the Squire of Buston felt that five
minutes might be allowed to collect himself, and the mutton-chop bone
need not be removed.
When the five minutes were over, with slow steps he walked across the
intervening billiard-room, and slowly opened the drawing-room door.
Would she rush into his arms, and kiss him again as he entered? He
sincerely hoped that there would be no such attempt; but if there were,
he was sternly resolved to repudiate it. There should be nothing of the
kind till she had clearly declared, and had put it under writing by
herself and her lawyers, that she would consent to come to Buston
without the ponies. But there was no such attempt. "How do you do, Mr.
Prosper?" she said, in a loud voice, standing up in the middle of the
room. "Why don't you ever come and see me? I take it very ill of you;
and so does Miss Tickle. There is no one more partial to you than Miss
Tickle. We were talking of you only last night over a despatched crab
that we had for supper." Did they have despatched crabs for supper every
night? thought Mr. Prosper to himself. It was certainly a strong reason
against his marriage. "I told her that you had a cold in your head."
"In my chest," said Mr. Prosper, meekly.
"'Bother colds!' said Miss Tickle. 'When people are keeping company
together they ought to see each other.' Those were Miss Tickle's very
That it should be said of him, Mr. Prosper, of Buston, that he was
"keeping company" with any woman! He almost resolved, on the spur of the
moment, that under no circumstances could he now marry Miss
Thoroughbung. But unfortunately his offer had been made, and the terms
of the settlement, as suggested by himself, placed in the hands of his
lawyer. If Miss Thoroughbung chose to hold him to his offer, he must
marry her. It was not that he feared an action for breach of promise,
but that, as a gentleman, it would behoove him to be true to his word.
He need not, however, marry Miss Tickle. He had offered no terms in
respect to Miss Tickle. With great presence of mind he resolved at once
that Miss Tickle should never find a permanent resting-place for her
foot at Buston Hall. "I am extremely indebted to Miss Tickle," said he.
"Why haven't you come over just to have a little chat in a friendly way?
It's all because of those stupid lawyers, I suppose. What need you and I
care for the lawyers? They can do their work without troubling us,
except that they will be sure to send in their bills fast enough."
"I have had Mr. Barry, from the firm of Messrs. Grey & Barry, of
Lincoln's Inn, with me this morning."
"I know you have. I saw the little man at Soames & Simpson's, and drove
out here immediately, after five minutes' conversation. Now, Mr.
Prosper, you must let me have those ponies."
That was the very thing which he was determined not to do. The ponies
grew in imagination, and became enormous horses capable of consuming any
amount of oats. Mr. Prosper was not of a stingy nature, but he had
already perceived that his escape, if it were effected, must be made
good by means of those ponies. A steady old pair of carriage-horses had
been kept by him, and by his father before him, and he was not going to
be driven out of the old family ways by a brewer's daughter. And he had,
but that morning, instructed his lawyer to stand out against the ponies.
He felt that this was the moment for firmness. Now, this instant, he
must be staunch, or he would be saddled with this woman,--and with Miss
Tickle,--for the whole of his life. She had left him no time for
consideration, but had come upon him as soon almost as the words spoken
to the lawyer had been out of his mouth. But he would be firm. Miss
Thoroughbung opened out instantly about the ponies, and he at once
resolved that he would be firm. But was it not very indelicate on her
part to come to him and to press him in this manner? He began to hope
that she also would be firm about the ponies, and that in this way the
separation might be effected. At the present moment he stood dumb.
Silence would not in this case be considered as giving consent. "Now,
like a good man, do say that I shall have the ponies," she continued. "I
can keep 'em out of my own money, you know, if that's all." He perceived
at once that the offer amounted to a certain yielding on her part, but
he was no longer anxious that she should give way. "Do'ee now say yes,
like a dear old boy." She came closer to him, and took hold of his arm,
as though she were going to perform that other ceremony. But he was
fully aware of the danger. If there came to be kissing between them it
would be impossible for him to go back afterward in such a manner but
that the blame of the kiss should rest with him. When he should desire
to be "off," he could not plead that the kissing had been all her doing.
A man in Mr. Prosper's position has difficulties among which he must be
very wary. And then the ridicule of the world is so strong a weapon, and
is always used on the side of the women! He gave a little start, but he
did not at once shake her off. "What's the objection to the ponies,
"Two pair of horses! It's more than we ought to keep." He should not
have said "we." He felt, when it was too late, that he should not have
"They aren't horses."
"It's the same, as far as the stables are concerned."
"But there's room enough, Lord bless you! I've been in to look. I can
assure you that Dr. Stubbs says they are required for my health. You ask
him else. It's just what I'm up to--is driving. I've only taken to them
lately, and I cannot bring myself to give 'em up. Do'ee love. You're not
going to throw over your own Matilda for a couple of little beasts like
Every word that came out of her mouth was an offence. But he could not
tell her so; nor could he reject her on that score. He should have
thought beforehand what kind of words might probably come out of her
mouth. Was her name Matilda? Of course he knew the fact. Had any one
asked him he could have said, with two minutes' consideration, that her
name was Matilda. But it had never become familiar to his ears, and now
she spoke of it as though he had called her Matilda since their earliest
youth. And to be called "Love!" It might be very nice when he had first
called her "Love" a dozen times; but now it sounded extravagant--and
almost indelicate. And he was about to throw her over for a couple of
little beasts. He felt that that was his intention, and he blushed
because it was so. He was a true gentleman, who would not willingly
depart from his word. If he must go on with the ponies he must. But he
had never yet yielded about the ponies. He felt now that they were his
only hope. But as the difficulties of his position pressed upon him the
sweat stood out upon his brow. She saw it all and understood it all, and
deliberately determined to take advantage of his weakness. "I don't
think that there is anything else astray between us. We've settled about
the jointure,--four hundred a year. It's too little, Soames & Simpson
say; but I'm soft, and in love, you know." Here she leered at him, and
he began to hate her. "You oughtn't to want a third of my income, you
know. But you're to be lord and master, and you must have your own way.
All that's settled."
"There is Miss Tickle," he said, in a voice that was almost cadaverous.
"Miss Tickle is of course to come. You said that from the very first
moment when you made the offer."
"Oh, Peter, how can you say so!" He shrunk visibly from the sound of his
own Christian name. But she determined to persevere. The time must come
when she should call him Peter, and why not commence the practice now,
at once? Lovers always do call each other Peter and Matilda. She wasn't
going to stand any nonsense, and if he intended to marry her and use a
large proportion of her fortune, Peter he should be to her. "You did,
Peter. You know you told me how much attached you were to her."
"I didn't say anything about her coming with you."
"Oh, Peter, how can you be so cruel? Do you mean to say that you will
deprive me of the friend of my youth?"
"At any rate, there shall never be a pony come into my yard!" He knew
when he made this assertion that he was abandoning his objection to Miss
Tickle. She had called him cruel, and his conscience told him that if he
received Miss Thoroughbung and refused admission to Miss Tickle he
would be cruel. Miss Tickle, for aught that he knew, might have been a
friend of her youth. At any rate, they had been constant companions for
many years. Therefore, as he had another solid ground on which to stand,
he could afford to yield as to Miss Tickle. But as he did so, he
remembered that Miss Tickle had accused him of "keeping company," and he
declared to himself that it would be impossible to live in the same
house with her.
"But Miss Tickle may come?" said Miss Thoroughbung. Was the solid
ground--the rock, as he believed it to be, of the ponies, about to sink
beneath his feet? "Say that Miss Tickle may come. I should be nothing
without Miss Tickle. You cannot be so hard-hearted as that."
"I don't see what is the good of talking about Miss Tickle till we have
come to some settlement about the ponies. You say that you must have the
ponies. To tell you the truth, Miss Thoroughbung, I don't like any such
word as 'must.' And a good many things have occurred to me."
"What kind of things, deary?"
"I think you are inclined to be--gay--"
"While I am sober, and perhaps a little grave in my manners of life. I
am thinking only of domestic happiness, while your mind is intent upon
social circles. I fear that you would look for your bliss abroad."
"In France or Germany?"
"When I say abroad, I mean out of your own house. There is perhaps some
discrepancy of taste of which I ought earlier to have taken cognizance."
"Nothing of the kind," said Miss Thoroughbung. "I am quite content to
live at home and do not want to go abroad, either to France nor yet to
any other English county. I should never ask for anything, unless it be
for a single month in London."
Here was a ground upon which he perhaps could make his stand. "Quite
impossible!" said Mr. Prosper.
"Or for a fortnight," said Miss Thoroughbung.
"I never go up to London except on business."
"But I might go alone, you know--with Miss Tickle. I shouldn't want to
drag you away. I have always been in the habit of having a few weeks in
London about the Exhibition time."
"I shouldn't wish to be left by my wife."
"Of course we could manage all that. We're not to settle every little
thing beforehand, and put it into the deeds. A precious sum we should
have to pay the lawyers!"
"It's as well we should understand each other."
"I think it pretty nearly is all settled that has to go into the deeds.
I thought I'd just run over, after seeing Mr. Barry, and give the final
touch. If you'll give way, dear, about Miss Tickle and the ponies, I'll
yield in everything else. Nothing, surely, can be fairer than that."
He knew that he was playing the hypocrite, and he knew also that it did
not become him as a gentleman to be false to a woman. He was aware that
from minute to minute, and almost from word to word, he was becoming
ever more and more averse to this match which he had proposed to
himself. And he knew that in honesty he ought to tell her that it was
so. It was not honest in him to endeavor to get rid of her by a
side-blow, as it were. And yet this was the attempt which he had
hitherto been making. But how was he to tell her the truth? Even Mr.
Barry had not understood the state of his mind. Indeed, his mind had
altered since he had seen Mr. Barry.
He had heard within the last half hour many words spoken by Miss
Thoroughbung which proved that she was altogether unfit to be his wife.
It was a dreadful misfortune that he should have rushed into such peril;
but was he not bound as a gentleman to tell her the truth? "Say that I
shall have Jemima Tickle!" The added horrors of the Christian name
operated upon him with additional force. Was he to be doomed to have the
word Jemima hallooed about his rooms and staircases for the rest of his
life? And she had given up the ponies, and was taking her stand upon
Miss Tickle, as to whom at last he would be bound to give way. He could
see now that he should have demanded her whole income, and have allowed
her little or no jointure. That would have been grasping, monstrous,
altogether impracticable, but it would not have been ungentleman-like.
This chaffering about little things was altogether at variance with his
tastes,--and it would be futile. He must summon courage to tell her that
he no longer wished for the match; but he could not do it on this
morning. Then,--for that morning,--some benign god preserved him.
Matthew came into the room and whispered into his ear that a gentleman
wished to see him. "What gentleman?" Matthew again whispered that it was
his brother-in-law. "Show him in," said Mr. Prosper, with a sudden
courage. He had not seen Mr. Annesley since the day of his actual
quarrel with Harry. "I shall have the ponies?" said Miss Thoroughbung
during the moment that was allowed to her.
"We are interrupted now. I am afraid that the rest of this interview
must be postponed." It should never be renewed, though he might have to
leave the country forever. Of that he gave himself assurance. Then the
parson was shown into the room.
The constrained introduction was very painful to Mr. Prosper, but was
not at all disagreeable to the lady. "Mr. Annesley knows me very well.
We are quite old friends. Joe is going to marry his eldest girl. I hope
Molly is quite well." The rector said that Molly was quite well. When he
had come away from home just now he had left Joe at the parsonage.
"You'll find him there a deal oftener than at the brewery," said Miss
Thoroughbung. "You know what we're going to do, Mr. Annesley. There are
no fools like old fools." A thunder-black cloud came across Mr.
Prosper's face. That this woman should dare to call him an old fool! "We
were discussing a few of our future arrangements. We've arranged
everything about money in the most amicable manner, and now there is
merely a question of a pair of ponies."
"We need not trouble Mr. Annesley about that, I think."
"And Miss Tickle! I'm sure the rector will agree with me that old
friends like me and Miss Tickle ought not to be separated. And it isn't
as though there was any dislike between them, because he has already
said that he finds Miss Tickle charming."
"D---- Miss Tickle!" he said; whereupon the rector looked astonished, and
Miss Thoroughbung jumped a foot from off the ground. "I beg the lady's
pardon," said Mr. Prosper, piteously, "and yours, Miss Thoroughbung,--and
yours, Mr. Annesley." It was as though a new revelation of character had
been given. No one except Matthew had ever heard the Squire of Buston
swear. And with Matthew the cursings had been by no means frequent, and
had been addressed generally to some article of his clothing, or to some
morsel of food prepared with less than the usual care. But now the oath
had been directed against a female, and the chosen friend of his
betrothed. And it had been uttered in the presence of a clergyman, his
brother-in-law, and the rector of his parish. Mr. Prosper felt that he
was disgraced forever. Could he have overheard them laughing over his
ebullition in the drawing-room half an hour afterward, and almost
praising his violence, some part of the pain might have been removed.
As it was he felt at the time that he was disgraced forever.
"We will return to the subject when next we meet," said Miss
"I am very sorry that I should so far have forgotten myself," said Mr.
"It does not signify,--not as far as I am concerned;" and she made a
little motion to the clergyman, half bow and half courtesy. Mr. Annesley
bowed in return, as though declaring that neither did it signify very
much as far as he was concerned. Then she left the room, and Matthew
handed her into the carriage, when she took the ponies in hand with
quite as much composure as though her friend had not been sworn at.
"Upon my word, sir," said Prosper, as soon as the door was shut, "I beg
your pardon. But I was so moved by certain things which have occurred
that I was carried much beyond my usual habits."
"Don't mention it."
"It is peculiarly distressing to me that I should have been induced to
forget myself in the presence of a clergyman of the parish and my
brother-in-law. But I must beg you to forget it."
"Oh, certainly. I will tell you now why I have come over."
"I can assure you that such is not my habit," continued Mr. Prosper, who
was thinking much more of the unaccustomed oath which he had sworn than
of his brother-in-law's visit, strange as it was. "No one, as a rule, is
more guarded in his expressions than I am. How it should have come to
pass that I was so stirred I can hardly tell. But Miss Thoroughbung had
said certain words which had moved me very much." She had called him
"Peter" and "deary," and had spoken of him as "keeping company" with
her. All these disgusting terms of endearment he could not repeat to his
brother-in-law, but felt it necessary to allude to them.
"I trust that you may be happy with her when she is your wife."
"I can't say. I really don't know. It's a very important step to take at
my age, and I'm not quite sure that I should be doing wisely."
"It's not too late," said Mr. Annesley.
"I don't know. I can't quite say." Then Mr. Prosper drew himself up,
remembering that it would not become him to discuss the matter of his
marriage with the father of his heir.
"I have come over here," said Mr. Annesley, "to say a few words about
Harry." Mr. Prosper again drew himself up. "Of course you're aware that
Harry is at present living with us." Here Mr. Prosper bowed. "Of course,
in his altered circumstances, it will not do that he shall be idle, and
yet he does not like to take a final step without letting you know what
it is." Here Mr. Prosper bowed twice. "There is a gentleman of fortune
going out to the United States on a mission which will probably occupy
him for three or four years. I am not exactly warranted in mentioning
his name, but he has taken in hand a political project of much
importance." Again Mr. Prosper bowed. "Now he has offered Harry the
place of private secretary, on condition that Harry will undertake to
stay the entire term. He is to have a salary of three hundred a year,
and his travelling expenses will of course be paid for him. If he goes,
poor boy! he will in all probability remain in his new home and become a
citizen of the United States. Under these circumstances I have thought
it best to step up and tell you in a friendly manner what his plans
are." Then he had told his tale, and Mr. Prosper again bowed.
The rector had been very crafty. There was no doubt about the wealthy
gentleman with the American project, and the salary had been offered.
But in other respects there had been some exaggeration. It was well
known to the rector that Mr. Prosper regarded America and all her
institutions with a religious hatred. An American was to him an
ignorant, impudent, foul-mouthed, fraudulent creature, to have any
acquaintance with whom was a disgrace. Could he have had his way, he
would have reconstituted the United States as British Colonies at a
moment's notice. Were he to die without having begotten another heir,
Buston must become the property of Harry Annesley; and it would be
dreadful to him to think that Buston should be owned by an American
citizen. "The salary offered is too good to be abandoned," said Mr.
Annesley, when he saw the effect which his story had produced.
"Everything is going against me!" exclaimed Mr. Prosper.
"Well: I will not talk about that. I did not come here to discuss Harry
or his sins,--nor, for the matter of that, his virtues. But I felt it
would be improper to let him go upon his journey without communicating
with you." So saying, he took his departure and walked back to the
A DETERMINED YOUNG LADY.
When this offer had been made to Harry Annesley he found it to be
absolutely necessary that he should write a farther letter to Florence.
He was quite aware that he had been forbidden to write. He had written
one letter since that order had been given to him, and no reply had come
to him. He had not expected a reply; but still her silence had been
grievous to him. It might be that she was angry with him, really angry.
But let that be as it might, he could not go to America, and be absent
for so long a period, without telling her. She and her mother were still
at Brussels when January came. Mrs. Mountjoy had gone there, as he had
understood, for a month, and was still at the embassy when three months
had passed. "I think I shall stay here the winter," Mrs. Mountjoy had
said to Sir Magnus, "but we will take lodgings. I see that very nice
sets of apartments are to be let." But Sir Magnus would not hear of
this. He said, and said truly, that the ministerial house was large; and
at last he declared the honest truth. His sister-in-law had been very
kind to him about money, and had said not a word on that troubled
subject since her arrival. Mrs. Mountjoy, with that delicacy which still
belongs to some English ladies, would have suffered extreme poverty
rather than have spoken on such a matter. In truth she suffered nothing,
and hardly thought about it. But Sir Magnus was grateful, and told her
that if she went to look for lodgings he should go to the lodgings and
say that they were not wanted. Therefore Mrs. Mountjoy remained where
she was, entertaining a feeling of increased good-will toward Sir
Life went on rather sadly with Florence. Anderson was as good as his
word. He pleaded his own cause no farther, telling both Sir Magnus and
Lady Mountjoy of the pledge he had made. He did in fact tell two or
three other persons, regarding himself as a martyr to chivalry. All this
time he went about his business looking very wretched. But though he did
not speak for himself, he could not hinder others from speaking for him.
Sir Magnus took occasion to say a word on the subject once daily to his
niece. Her mother was constant in her attacks. But Lady Mountjoy was the
severest of the three, and was accounted by Florence as her bitterest
enemy. The words which passed between them were not the most
affectionate in the world. Lady Mountjoy would call her 'miss,' to which
Florence would reply by addressing her aunt as 'my lady.' "Why do you
call me 'my lady?' It isn't usual in common conversation." "Why do you
call me 'miss?' If you cease to call me 'miss,' I'll cease to call you
'my lady.'" But no reverence was paid by the girl to the wife of the
British Minister. It was this that Lady Mountjoy specially felt,--as she
complained to her companion, Miss Abbott. Then another cause for trouble
sprang up during the winter, of which mention must be made farther on.
The result was that Florence was instant with her mother to take her
back to England.
We will return, however, to Harry Annesley, and give the letter,
verbatim, which he wrote to Florence:
"DEAR FLORENCE,--I wonder whether you ever think of me or ever remember
that I exist? I know you do. I cannot have been forgotten like that. And
you yourself are the truest girl that ever owned to loving a man. But
there comes a chill across my heart when I think how long it is since I
wrote to you, and that I have not had a line even to acknowledge my
letter. You bade me not to write, and you have not even forgiven me for
disobeying your order. I cannot but get stupid ideas into my mind, which
one word from you would dissipate.
"Now, however, I must write again, order or no order. Between a man and
a woman circumstanced as you and I, things will arise which make it
incumbent on one or the other to write. It is absolutely necessary that
you should now know what are my intentions, and understand the reasons
which have actuated me. I have found myself left in a most unfortunate
condition by my uncle's folly. He is going on with a stupid marriage for
the purpose of disinheriting me, and has in the mean time stopped the
allowance which he had made me since I left college. Of course I have no
absolute claim on him. But I cannot understand how he can reconcile
himself to do so, when he himself prevented my going to the Bar, saying
that it would be unnecessary.
"But so it is, I am driven to look about for myself. It is very hard at
my time of life to find an opening in any profession. I think I told you
before that I had ideas of going to Cambridge and endeavoring to get
pupils, trusting to my fellowship rather than to my acquirements. But
this I have always looked upon with great dislike, and would only have
taken to it if nothing else was to be had. Now there has come forward
an old college acquaintance, a man who is three or four years my senior,
who has offered to take me to America as his private secretary. He
proposes to remain there for three years. I of course shall not bind
myself to stay as long; but I may not improbably do so. He is to pay my
expenses and to give me a salary of three hundred a year. This will,
perhaps, lead to nothing else, but will for the present be better than
nothing. I am to start in just a month from the present time.
"Now you know it all except that the man's name is Sir William Crook. He
is a decent sort of a fellow, and has got a wife who is to go with him.
He is the hardest working man I know, but, between you and me, will
never set the Thames on fire. If the Thames is to be illumined at all, I
rather think that I shall be expected to do it.
"Now, my own one, what am I to say about you, and of myself, as your
husband that is to be? Will you wait, at any rate, for three years with
the conviction that the three years will too probably end in your having
to wait again?
"I do feel that in my altered position I ought to give you back your
troth, and tell you that things shall be as they used to be before that
happy night at Mrs. Armitage's party. I do not know but that it is
clearly my duty. I almost think that it is. But I am sure of this,--that
it is the one thing in the world that I cannot do. I don't think that a
man ought to be asked to tear himself altogether in pieces because some
one has ill-treated him. At any rate I cannot. If you say that it must
be so, you shall say it. I don't suppose it will kill me, but it will go
a long way.
"In writing so far I have not said a word of love, because, as far as I
understand you, that is a subject on which you expect me to be silent.
When you order me not to write, I suppose you intend that I am to write
no love-letters. This, therefore, you will take simply as a matter of
business, and as such, I suppose, you will acknowledge it. In this way I
shall at any rate see your handwriting.
Harry, when he had written this letter, considered that it had been
cold, calm, and philosophical. He could not go to America for three
years without telling her of his purpose; nor could he mention that
purpose, as he thought, in any language less glowing. But Florence, when
she received it, did not regard it in the same light.
To her thinking the letter was full of love, and of love expressed in
the warmest possible language. "Sir William Crook!" she said to herself.
"What can he want of Harry in America for three years? I am sure he is a
stupid man. Will I wait? Of course I will wait. What are three years?
And why should I not wait? But, for the matter of that--" Then thoughts
came into her mind which even to herself she could not express in words.
Sir William Crook had got a wife, and why should not Harry take a wife
also? She did not see why a private secretary should not be a married
man; and as for money, there would be plenty for such a style of life as
they would live. She could not exactly propose this, but she thought
that if she were to see Harry just for one short interview before he
started, that he might probably then propose it himself.
"Things be as they used to be!" she exclaimed to herself. "Never! Things
cannot be as they used to be. I know what is his duty. It is his duty
not to think of anything of the kind. Remember that he exists," she
said, turning back to the earlier words of the letter. "That of course
is his joke. I wonder whether he knows that every moment of my life is
devoted to him. Of course I bade him not to write. But I can tell him
now that I have never gone to bed without his letter beneath my pillow."
This and much more of the same kind was uttered in soliloquies, but need
not be repeated at length to the reader.
But she had to think what steps she must first take. She must tell her
mother of Harry's intention. She had never for an instant allowed her
mother to think that her affection had dwindled, or her purpose failed
her. She was engaged to marry Harry Annesley, and marry him some day she
would. That her mother should be sure of that was the immediate purpose
of her life. And in carrying out that purpose she must acquaint her
mother with the news which this letter had brought to her. "Mamma, I
have got something to tell you."
"Well, my dear?"
"Harry Annesley is going to America!" There was something pleasing to
Mrs. Mountjoy in the sound of these words. If Harry Annesley went to
America he might be drowned, or it might more probably be that he would
never come back. America was, to her imagination, a long way off. Lovers
did not go to America except with the intention of deserting their
ladyloves. Such were her ideas. She felt at the moment that Florence
would be more easily approached in reference either to her cousin
Mountjoy or to Mr. Anderson. Another lover had sprung up, too, in
Brussels, of whom a word shall be said by-and-by. If her Harry, the
pernicious Harry, should have taken himself to America, the chances of
all these three gentlemen would be improved. Any one of them would now
be accepted by Mrs. Mountjoy as a bar fatal to Harry Annesley. Mountjoy
was again the favorite with her. She had heard that he had returned to
Tretton, and was living amicably with his father. She knew, even, of the
income allotted to him for the present,--of the six hundred pounds a
year,--and had told Florence that as a preliminary income it was more
than double that two hundred and fifty pounds which had been taken away
from Harry,--taken away never to be restored. There was not much in this
argument, but still she thought well to use it. The captain was living
with his father, and she did not believe a word about the entail having
been done away with. It was certain that Harry's uncle had quarrelled
with him, and she did understand that a baby at Buston would altogether
rob Harry of his chance. And then look at the difference in the
properties! It was thus that she argued the matter. But in truth her
word had been pledged to Mountjoy Scarborough, and Mountjoy Scarborough
had ever been a favorite with her. Though she could talk about the
money, it was not the money that touched her feelings. "Well;--he may go
to America. It is a dreadful destiny for a young man, but in his case it
may be the best thing that he can do."
"Of course he intends to come back again?"
"That is as it may be."
"I do not understand what you mean by a dreadful destiny, mamma. I don't
see that it is a destiny at all. He is getting a very good offer for a
year or two, and thinks it best to take it. I might go with him, for
A thunder-bolt had fallen at Mrs. Mountjoy's feet! Florence go with him
to America! Among all the trials which had come upon her with reference
to this young man there had been nothing so bad as this proposal. Go
with him! The young man was to start in a month! Then she began to think
whether it would be within her power to stop her daughter. What would
all the world be to her with one daughter, and she in America, married
to Harry Annesley? Her quarrel with Florence was not at all as was the
quarrel of Lady Mountjoy. Lady Mountjoy would be glad to get rid of the
girl, whom she thought to be impertinent and believed to be false. But
to her mother Florence was the very apple of her eye. It was because she
thought that Mountjoy Scarborough was a grand fellow, and because she
thought all manner of evil of Harry Annesley, that she wished Florence
to marry her cousin, and to separate herself forever from the other.
When she had heard that Harry was to go to America she had rejoiced, as
though he was to be transported to Botany Bay. Her ideas were
old-fashioned. But when it was hinted that Florence was to go with him
she nearly fell to the ground.
Florence certainly had behaved badly in making the suggestion. She had
not intended to make it,--had not, in truth, thought of it. But when her
mother talked of Harry's destiny, as though some terrible evil had come
upon him,--as though she were speaking of a poor wretch condemned to be
hanged, when all chances of a reprieve were over,--then her spirit rose
within her. She had not meant to say that she was going. Harry had never
asked her to go. "If you talk of his destiny I am quite prepared to
share it with him." That was her meaning. But her mother already saw her
only child in the hands of those American savages. She threw herself on
to a sofa, buried her face in her hands, and burst into tears.
"I don't say that I am going, mamma."
"My darling--my dearest--my child!"
"Only that there is no reason why I shouldn't, except that it would not
suit him. At least I suppose it would not."
"Has he said so?"
"He has said nothing about it."
"Thank Heaven for that! He does not intend to rob me of my child."
"But, mamma, I am to be his wife."
"No, no, no!"
"It is that that I want to make you understand. You know nothing of his
"I do know that he told a base falsehood."
"Nothing of the kind! I will not admit it. It is of no use going into
that again, but there was nothing base about it. He has got an
appointment in the United States, and is going out to do the work. He
has not asked me to go with him. The two things would probably not be
compatible." Here Mrs. Mountjoy rose from the sofa and embraced her
child, as though liberated from her deepest grief. "But, mamma, you must
remember this:--that I have given him my word, and will never be induced
to abandon it." Here her mother threw up her hands and again began to
weep. "Either to-day or to-morrow, or ten years hence,--if he will wait
as long, I will,--we shall be married. As far as I can see we need not
wait ten years, or perhaps more than one or two. My money will suffice
"He proposes to live upon you?"
"He proposes nothing of the kind. He is going to America because he will
not propose it. Nor am I proposing it,--just at present."
"At any rate I am glad of that."
"And now, mamma, you must take me back home as soon as possible."
"When he has started."
"No, mamma. I must be there before he starts. I cannot let him go
without seeing him. If I am to remain here, here he must come."
"Your uncle would never receive him."
"I should receive him."
This was dreadful--this flying into actual disobedience. Whatever did
she mean? Where was she to receive him? "How could you receive a young
man in opposition to the wishes, and indeed to the commands, of all your
"I'm not going to be at all shamefaced about it, mamma. I am the woman
he has selected to be his wife, and he is the man I have selected to be
my husband. If he were coming I should go to my uncle and ask to have
"Think of your aunt."
"Yes; I do think of her. My aunt would make herself very disagreeable.
Upon the whole, mamma, I think it would be best that you should take me
back to England. There is this M. Grascour here, who is a great trouble,
and you may be sure of this, that I intend to see Harry Annesley before
he starts for America."
So the interview was ended; but Mrs. Mountjoy was left greatly in doubt
as to what she might best do. She felt sure that were Annesley to come
to Brussels, Florence would see him,--would see him in spite of all that
her uncle and aunt, and Mr. Anderson, and M. Grascour could do to
prevent it. That reprobate young man would force his way into the
embassy, or Florence would force her way out. In either case there would
be a terrible scene. But if she were to take Florence back to
Cheltenham, interviews to any extent would be arranged for her at the
house of Mrs. Armitage. As she thought of all this, the idea came across
her that when a young girl is determined to be married nothing can
Florence in the mean time wrote an immediate answer to her lover, as
"DEAR HARRY,--Of course you were entitled to write when there was
something to be said which it was necessary that I should know. When you
have simply to say that you love me, I know that well enough without any
"Go to America for three years! It is very, very serious. But of course
you must know best, and I shall not attempt to interfere. What are three
years to you and me? If we were rich people, of course we should not
wait; but as we are poor, of course we must act as do other people who
are poor. I have about four hundred a year; and it is for you to say how
far that may be sufficient. If you think so, you will not find that I
shall want more.
"But there is one thing necessary before you start. I must see you.
There is no reason on earth for our remaining here, except that mamma
has not made up her mind. If she will consent to go back before you
start, it will be best so. Otherwise, you must take the trouble to come
here,--where, I am afraid, you will not be received as a welcome guest. I
have told mamma that if I cannot see you here in a manner that is
becoming, I shall go out and meet you in the streets, in a manner that
"Your affectionate--wife that is to be,
This letter she took to her mother, and read aloud to her in her own
room. Mrs. Mountjoy could only implore that it might not be sent, but
prevailed not at all. "There is not a word in it about love," said
Florence. "It is simply a matter of business, and as such I must send
it. I do not suppose my uncle will go to the length of attempting to
lock me up. He would, I think, find it difficult to do so." There was a
look in Florence's face as she said this which altogether silenced her
mother. She did not think that Sir Magnus would consent to lock Florence
up, and she did think that were he to attempt to do so he would find the
task very difficult.
M. Grascour was a Belgian, about forty years old, who looked as though
he were no more than thirty, except that his hair was in patches
beginning to be a little gray. He was in the government service of his
country, well educated, and thoroughly a gentleman. As is the case with
many Belgians, he would have been taken to be an Englishman were his
country not known. He had dressed himself in English mirrors, living
mostly with the English. He spoke English so well that he would only be
known to be a foreigner by the correctness of his language. He was a man
of singularly good temper, and there was running through all that he did
somewhat of a chivalric spirit, which came from study rather than
nature. He had looked into things and seen whether they were good, or at
any rate popular, and endeavored to grasp and to make his own whatever
he found to be so. He was hitherto unmarried, and was regarded generally
by his friends as a non-marrying man. But Florence Mountjoy was powerful
over him, and he set to work to make her his wife. He was intimate at
the house of Sir Magnus, and saw, no doubt, that Anderson was doing the
same thing. But he saw also that Anderson did not succeed. He had told
himself from the first that if Anderson did succeed he would not wish to
do so. The girl who would be satisfied with Anderson would hardly
content him. He remained therefore quiet till he saw that Anderson had
failed. The young man at once took to an altered mode of life which was
sufficiently marked. He went, like Sir Proteus, ungartered. Everything
about him had of late "demonstrated a careless desolation." All this M.
Grascour observed, and when he saw it he felt that his own time had
He took occasion at first to wait upon Lady Mountjoy. He believed that
to be the proper way of going to work. He was very intimate with the
Mountjoys, and was aware that his circumstances were known to them.
There was no reason, on the score of money, why he should not marry the
niece of Sir Magnus. He had already shown some attention to Florence,
which, though it had excited no suspicion in her mind, had been seen and
understood by her aunt; and it had been understood also by Mr. Anderson.
"That accursed Belgian! If, after all, she should take up with him! I
shall tell her a bit of my mind if anything of that kind should occur."
"My niece, M. Grascour!"
"Yes, my lady." M. Grascour had not quite got over the way of calling
Lady Mountjoy "my lady." "It is presumption, I know."
"Not at all."
"I have not spoken to her. Nor would I do so till I had first addressed
myself to you or to her mother. May I speak to Mrs. Mountjoy?"
"Oh, certainly. I do not in the least know what the young lady's ideas
are. She has been much admired here and elsewhere, and that may have
turned her head."
"I think not."
"You may be the better judge, M. Grascour."
"I think that Miss Mountjoy's head has not been turned by any
admiration. She does not appear to be a young lady whose head would
easily be turned. It is her heart of which I am thinking." The interview
ended by Lady Mountjoy passing the Belgian lover on to Mrs. Mountjoy.
"Florence!" said Mrs. Mountjoy.
"Yes, Mrs. Mountjoy;--I have the great honor of asking your permission. I
am well known to Sir Magnus and Lady Mountjoy, and they can tell what
are my circumstances. I am forty years of age."
"Oh yes; everything is, I am sure, quite as it should be. But my
daughter thinks about these things for herself." Then there was a pause,
and M. Grascour was about to leave the room, having obtained the
permission he desired, when Mrs. Mountjoy thought it well to acquaint
him with something of her daughter's condition. "I ought to tell you
that my daughter has been engaged."
"Yes; and I hardly know how to explain the circumstances. I should say
that she had been promised to her cousin, Captain Scarborough; but to
this she will not give her assent. She has since met a gentleman, Mr.
Annesley, for whom she professes an attachment. Neither can I, nor can
her uncle and aunt, hear of Mr. Annesley as a husband for Florence. She
is therefore at present disengaged. If you can gain her affections, you
have my leave." With this permission M. Grascour departed, professing
himself to be contented.
He did not see Florence for two or three days, no doubt leaving the
matter to be discussed with her by her mother and her aunt. To him it
was quite indifferent what might be the fate of Captain Scarborough, or
of Mr. Annesley, or indeed of Mr. Anderson. And, to tell the truth, he
was not under any violent fear or hope as to his own fate. He admired
Miss Mountjoy, and thought it would be well to secure for a wife such a
girl, with such a fortune as would belong to her. But he did not intend
to go "ungartered," nor yet to assume an air of "desolation." If she
would come to him, it would be well; if she would not, why, it would
still be well. The only outward difference made by his love was that he
brushed his clothes and his hair a little more carefully, and had his
boots brought to a higher state of polish than was usual.
Her mother spoke to her first. "My dear, M. Grascour is a most excellent
"I am sure he is, mamma."
"And he is a great friend to your uncle and Lady Mountjoy."
"Why do you say this, mamma? What can it matter to me?"
"My dear, M. Grascour wishes you to--to--to become his wife."
"Oh, mamma, why didn't you tell him that it is impossible?"
"How was I to know, my dear?"
"Mamma, I am engaged to marry Harry Annesley, and no word shall ever
turn me from that purpose, unless it be spoken by himself. The crier may
say that all round the town if he wishes. You must know that it is so.
What can be the use of sending M. Grascour or any other gentleman to me?
It is only giving me pain and him too. I wish, mamma, you could be got
to understand this." But Mrs. Mountjoy could not altogether be got as
yet to understand the obstinacy of her daughter's character.
There was one point on which Florence received information from these
two suitors who had come to her at Brussels. They were both favored, one
after the other, by her mother; and would not have been so favored had
her mother absolutely believed in Captain Mountjoy. It seemed to her as
though her mother would be willing that she should marry any one, so
long as it was not Harry Annesley. "It is a pity that there should be
such a difference," she said to herself. "But we will see what firmness
Then Lady Mountjoy spoke to her. "You have heard of M. Grascour, my
"Yes; I have heard of him, aunt."
"He intends to do you the honor of asking you to be his wife."
"So mamma tells me."
"I have only to say that he is a man most highly esteemed here. He is
well known at the court, and is at the royal parties. Should you become
his wife, you would have all the society of Brussels at your feet."
"All the society of Brussels would do no good."
"Nor the court and the royal parties."
"If you choose to be impertinent when I tell you what are his advantages
and condition in life, I cannot help it."
"I do not mean to be impertinent."
"What you say about the royal parties and the court is intended for
impertinence, knowing as you do know your uncle's position."
"Not at all. You know my position. I am engaged to marry another man,
and cannot therefore marry M. Grascour. Why should he be sent to me,
except that you won't believe me when I tell you that I am engaged?"
Then she marched out of the room, and considered within her own bosom
what answer she would give to this new Belgian suitor.
She was made perfectly aware when the Belgian suitor was about to
arrive. On the day but one after the interview with her aunt she was
left alone when the other ladies went out, and suspected that even the
footmen knew what was to happen, when M. Grascour was shown into the
drawing-room. There was a simple mode of dealing with the matter on his
part,--very different from that state of agitation into which Harry had
been thrown when he had made his proposition. She was quite prepared to
admit that M. Grascour's plan might be the wisest; but Harry's manner
had been full of real love, and had charmed her. M. Grascour was not in
the least flustered, whereas poor Harry had been hardly able to speak
his mind. But it had not mattered much whether Harry spoke his mind or
not, whereas all the eloquence in the world could have done no good for
M. Grascour. Florence had known that Harry did love her, whereas of M.
Grascour she only knew that he wanted to make her his wife.
"Miss Mountjoy," he said, "I am charmed to find you here. Allow me to
add that I am charmed to find you alone." Florence, who knew all about
it, only bowed. She had to go through it, and thought that she would be
able to do so with equanimity. "I do not know whether your aunt or your
mother have done me the honor of mentioning my name to you."
"They have both spoken to me."
"I thought it best that they should have the opportunity of doing so. In
our country these things are arranged chiefly by the lady's friends.
With your people I know it is different. Perhaps it is much better that
it should be so in a matter in which the heart has to be concerned."
"It would come to the same thing with me. I must decide for myself."
"I am sure of it. May I venture to feel a hope that ultimately that
decision may not go against me?" M. Grascour, as he said this, did throw
some look of passion into his face. "But I have spoken nothing as yet of
my own feelings."
"It is unnecessary."
This might be taken in either one of two senses; but the gentleman was
not sufficiently vain to think that the lady had intended to signify to
him that she would accept his love as a thing of which she could have no
doubt. "Ah, Miss Mountjoy," he continued, "if you would allow me to say
that since you have been at Brussels not a day has passed in which
mingled love and respect have not grown within my bosom. I have sat by
and watched while my excellent young friend Mr. Anderson has endeavored
to express his feelings. I have said to myself that I would bide my
time. If you could give yourself to him, why then the aspiration should
be quenched within my own breast. But you have not done so, though, as I
am aware, he has been assisted by my friend Sir Magnus. I have seen, and
have heard, and have said to myself at last, 'Now, too, my turn may
come.' I have loved much, but I have been very patient. Can it be that
my turn should have come at last?" Though he had spoken of Mr. Anderson,
he had not thought it expedient to say a word either of Captain
Scarborough or of Mr. Annesley. He knew quite as much of them as he did
of Mr. Anderson. He was clever, and had put together with absolute
correctness what Mrs. Mountjoy had told him, with other little facts
which had reached his ears.
"M. Grascour, I suppose I am very much obliged to you. I ought to be."
Here he bowed his head. "But my only way of being grateful is to tell
you the truth." Again he bowed his head. "I am in love with another man.
That's the truth." Here he shook his head with the smallest possible
shake, as though deprecating her love, but not doing so with any
harshness. "I engaged to marry him, too." There was another shake of the
head, somewhat more powerful. "And I intend to marry him." This she said
with much bold assurance. "All my old friends know that it is so, and
ought not to have sent you to me. I have given a promise to Harry
Annesley, and Harry Annesley alone can make me depart from it." This she
said in a low voice, but almost with violence, because there had come
another shake of the head in reply to her assurance that she meant to
marry Annesley. "And though he were to make me depart from it,--which he
will never do,--I should be just the same as regards anybody else. Can't
you understand that when a girl has given herself, heart and soul, to a
man, she won't change?"
"Girls do change--sometimes."
"You may know them; I don't,--not girls that are worth anything."
"But when all your friends are hostile?"
"What can they do? They can't make me marry another person. They may
hinder my happiness; but they can't hand me over, like a parcel of
goods, to any one else. Do you mean to say that you would accept such a
"Oh yes--such a parcel!"
"You would accept a girl who would come to you telling you that she
loved another man? I don't believe it of you."
"I should know that my tenderness would beget tenderness in you."
"It wouldn't do anything of the kind. It would be all horror,--horror. I
should kill myself, or else you, or perhaps both."
"Is your aversion so strong?"
"No, not at all;--not at present. I like you very much. I do indeed. I'd
do anything for you--in the way of friendship. I believe you to be a
"But you would kill me!"
"You make me talk of a condition of things which is quite, quite
impossible. When I say that I like you, I am talking of the present
condition of things. I have not the least desire to kill you, or myself,
or anybody. I want to be taken back to England, and there to be allowed
to marry Mr. Henry Annesley. That's what I want. But I intend to remain
engaged to him. That's my purpose, and no man and no woman shall stir me
from it." He smiled, and again shook his head, and she began to doubt
whether she did like him so much. "Now I've told you all about myself,"
she said, rising to her feet. "You may believe me or not, as you please;
but, as I have believed you, I have told you all." Then she walked out
of the room.
M. Grascour, as soon as he was alone, left the room and the house, and,
making his way into the park, walked round it twice, turning in his mind
his success and his want of success. For, in truth, he was not at all
dispirited by what had occurred. With her other Belgian lover,--that is,
with Mr. Anderson,--Florence had at any rate succeeded in making the
truth appear to be the truth. He did believe that she had taken such a
fancy to that "fellow Harry Annesley" that there would be no overcoming
it. He had got a glimpse into the firmness of her character which was
denied to M. Grascour. M. Grascour, as he walked up and down the shady
paths of the park, told himself that such events as this so-called love
on the part of Florence were very common in the lives of English young
ladies. "They are the best in the world," he said to himself, "and they
make the most charming wives; but their education is such that there is
no preventing these accidents." The passion displayed in the young
lady's words he attributed solely to her power of expression. One girl
would use language such as had been hers, and such a girl would be
clever, eloquent, and brave; another girl would hum and haw, with half a
"yes" and a quarter of a "no," and would mean just the same thing. He
did not doubt but that she had engaged herself to Harry Annesley; nor
did he doubt that she had been brought to Brussels to break off that
engagement; and he thought it most probable that her friends would
prevail. Under these circumstances, why should he despair?--or why,
rather, as he was a man not given to despair, should he not think that
there was for him a reasonable chance of success? He must show himself
to be devoted, true, and not easily repressed.
She had used, he did not doubt, the same sort of language in silencing
Anderson. Mr. Anderson had accepted her words, but he knew too well the
value of words coming from a young lady's mouth to take them at their
true meaning. He had at this interview affected a certain amount of
intimacy with Florence of which he thought that he appreciated the
value. She had told him that she would kill him,--of course in joke; and
a joke from a girl on such an occasion was worth much. No Belgian girl
would have joked. But then he was anxious to marry Florence because
Florence was English. Therefore, when he went back to his own home he
directed that the system of the high polish should be continued with his
"I don't suppose he will come again," Florence had said to her mother,
misunderstanding the character of her latest lover quite as widely as he
misunderstood hers. But M. Grascour, though he did not absolutely renew
his offer at once, gave it to be understood that he did not at all
withdraw from the contest. He obtained permission from Lady Mountjoy to
be constantly at the Embassy, and succeeded even in obtaining a promise
of support from Sir Magnus. "You're quite up a tree," Sir Magnus had
said to his Secretary of Legation. "It's clear she won't look at you."
"I have pledged myself to abstain," said poor Anderson, in a tone which
seemed to confess that all chance was over with him.
"I suppose she must marry some one, and I don't see why Grascour should
not have as good a chance as another." Anderson had stalked away,
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