Mr. Scarborough's Family
Part 9 out of 12
brooding over the injustice of his position, and declaring to himself
that this Belgian should never be allowed to marry Florence Mountjoy in
But M. Grascour continued his attentions; and this it was which had
induced Florence to tell her mother that the Belgian was "a great
trouble," which ought to be avoided by a return to England.
FLORENCE BIDS FAREWELL TO HER LOVERS.
"Mamma, had you not better take me back to Cheltenham at once?"
"Has that unfortunate young man written to you?"
"Yes. The young man whom you call unfortunate has written. Of course I
cannot agree to have him so called. And, to tell the truth, I don't
think he is so very unfortunate. He has got a girl who really loves him,
and that, I think, is a step to happiness."
Every word of this was said by Florence as though with the purpose of
provoking her mother; and so did Mrs. Mountjoy feel it. But behind this
purpose there was that other fixed resolution to get Harry at last
accepted as her husband, and perhaps the means taken were the best. Mrs
Mountjoy was already beginning to feel that there would be nothing for
her but to give up the battle, and to open her motherly arms to Harry
Annesley. Sir Magnus had told her that M. Grascour would probably
prevail. M. Grascour was said to be exactly the man likely to be
effective with such a girl as Florence. That had been the last opinion
expressed by Sir Magnus. But Mrs. Mountjoy had found no comfort in it.
Florence was going to have her own way. Her mother knew that it was so,
and was very unhappy. But she was still anxious to continue a weak,
ineffective battle. "It was very impertinent of him writing," she said.
"When he was going to America for years! Dear mamma, do put yourself in
my place. How was it possible that he should not write?"
"A young man has no business to come and insinuate himself into a family
in that way; and then, when he knows he is not welcome, to open a
"But, mamma, he knows that he is welcome. If he had gone to America
without writing to me--Oh, it would have been impossible! I should have
gone after him."
"I am quite in earnest, mamma. But it is no good talking about what
could not have taken place."
"We ought to have prevented you from receiving or sending letters." Here
Mrs. Mountjoy touched on a subject on which the practice of the English
world has been much altered during the last thirty or forty
years;--perhaps we may say fifty or sixty years. Fifty years ago young
ladies were certainly not allowed to receive letters as they chose, and
to write them, and to demand that this practice should be carried on
without any supervision from their elder friends. It is now usually the
case that they do so. A young lady, before she falls into a
correspondence with a young man, is expected to let it be understood
that she does so. But she does not expect that his letters, either
coming or going, shall be subject to any espial, and she generally feels
that the option of obeying or disobeying the instructions given to her
rests with herself. Practically the use of the post-office is in her own
hands. And, as this spirit of self-conduct has grown up, the morals and
habits of our young ladies have certainly not deteriorated. In America
they carry latch-keys, and walk about with young gentlemen as young
gentlemen walk about with each other. In America the young ladies are as
well-behaved as with us,--as well-behaved as they are in some Continental
countries in which they are still watched close till they are given up
as brides to husbands with whom they have had no means of becoming
acquainted. Whether the latch-key system, or that of free
correspondence, may not rob the flowers of some of that delicate aroma
which we used to appreciate, may be a question; but then it is also a
question whether there does not come something in place of it which in
the long-run is found to be more valuable. Florence, when this remark
was made as to her own power of sending and receiving letters, remained
silent, but looked very firm. She thought that it would have been
difficult to silence her after this fashion. "Sir Magnus could have done
it, at any rate, if I had not been able."
"Sir Magnus could have done nothing, I think, which would not have been
within your power. But it is useless talking of this. Will you not take
me back to England, so as to prevent the necessity of Harry coming
"Why should he come?"
"Because, mamma, I intend to see my future husband before he goes from
me for so great a distance, and for so long a time. Don't you feel any
pity for me, mamma?"
"Do you feel pity for me?"
"Because one day you wish me to marry my cousin Scarborough, and the
next Mr. Anderson, and then the next M. Grascour? How can I pity you for
that? It is all done because you have taken it in your head to think ill
of one whom I believe to be especially worthy. You began by disliking
him, because he interfered with your plans about Mountjoy. I never would
have married my cousin Mountjoy. He is not to my taste, and he is a
gambler. But you have thought that you could do what you liked with me."
"It has always been for your own happiness."
"But I must be the judge of that. How could I be happy with any of these
men, seeing that I do not care for them in the least? It would be
utterly impossible for me to have myself married to either of them. To
Harry Annesley I have given myself altogether; but you, because you are
my mother, are able to keep us apart. Do you not pity me for the sorrow
and trouble which I must suffer?"
"I suppose a mother always pities the sufferings of a child."
"And removes them when she can do so. But now, mamma, is he to come
here, or will you take me back to England?"
This was a question which Mrs. Mountjoy found it very difficult to
answer. On the spur of the moment she could not answer it, as it would
be necessary that she should first consult Sir Magnus. Could Sir Magnus
undertake to confine her daughter within the precincts of the Embassy,
and to exclude the lover during such time as Harry Annesley night remain
As she thought of the matter in her own room she conceived that there
would be a great difficulty. All the world of Brussels would become
aware of what was going on. The young lady would endeavor to get out,
and could only be constrained by the co-operation of the servants; and
the young gentleman, in his endeavors to get in, could only be prevented
by the assistance of the police. Dim ideas presented themselves to her
mind of farther travel. But wherever she went there would be a
post-office, and she was aware that the young man could pursue her much
quicker than she could fly. How good it would be that in such an
emergency she might have the privilege of locking her daughter up in
some convent! And yet it must be a Protestant convent, as all things
savoring of the Roman Catholic religion were abhorrent to her.
Altogether, as she thought of her own condition and that of her
daughter, she felt that the world was sadly out of joint.
"Coming here, is he?" said Sir Magnus. "Then he will just have to go
back again as wise as he came."
"But can you shut your doors against him?"
"Shut my doors! Of course I can. He'll never be able to get his nose in
here if once an order has been given for his exclusion. Who's Mr.
Annesley? I don't suppose he knows an Englishman in Brussels."
"But she will go out to meet him."
"What! in the streets?" said Sir Magnus, in horror.
"I fear she would."
"By George! she must be a stiff-necked one if she'll do that." Then Mrs.
Mountjoy, with tears in her eyes, began to explain with very many
epithets that her daughter was the best girl in all the world. She was
entirely worthy of confidence. Those who knew her were aware that no
better behaved young woman could exist. She was conscientious,
religious, and high-principled. "But she'll go out in the streets and
walk with a young man when all her friends tell her not. Is that her
idea of religion?" Then Mrs. Mountjoy, with some touch of anger in the
tone of her voice, said that she would return to England, and carry her
daughter with her. "What the deuce can I do, Sarah, when the young lady
is so unruly? I can give orders to have him shut out, and can take care
that they are obeyed; but I cannot give orders to have her shut in. I
should be making her a prisoner, and everybody would talk about it. In
that matter you must give her the orders;--only you say that she would
not comply with them."
On the following day Mrs. Mountjoy informed her daughter that they would
go back to Cheltenham. She did not name an immediate day, because it
would be well, she thought, to stave off the evil hour. Nor did she name
a distant day, because, were she to do so, the terrible evil of Harry
Annesley's arrival in Brussels would not be prevented. At first she
wished to name no day, thinking that it would be a good thing to cross
Harry on the road. But here Florence was too strong for her, and at last
a day was fixed. In a week's time they would take their departure and go
home by slow stages. With this arrangement Florence expressed herself
well pleased, and of course made Harry acquainted with the probable time
of their arrival.
M. Grascour, when he heard that the day had been suddenly fixed for the
departure of Mrs. Mountjoy and her daughter, not unnaturally conceived
that he himself was the cause of the ladies' departure. Nor did he on
that account resign all hope. The young lady's mother was certainly on
his side, and he thought it quite possible that were he to appear in
England he might be successful. But when he had heard of her coming
departure of course it was necessary that he should say some special
farewell. He dined one evening at the British Embassy, and took an
opportunity during the evening of finding himself alone with Florence.
"And so, Miss Florence," he said, "you and your estimable mamma are
about to return to England?"
"We have been here a very long time, and are going home at last."
"It seems to me but the other day when you came." said M. Grascour, with
all a lover's eagerness.
"It was in autumn, and the weather was quite mild and soft. Now we are
in the middle of January."
"I suppose so. But still the time has gone only too rapidly. The heart
can hardly take account of days and weeks." As this was decidedly
lover's talk, and was made in terms which even a young lady cannot
pretend to misunderstand, Florence was obliged to answer it in some
manner equally direct. And now she was angry with him. She had informed
him that she was in love with another man. In doing so she had done much
more than the necessity of the case demanded, and had told him, as the
best way of silencing him, that which she might have been expected to
keep as her own secret. And yet here he was talking to her about his
heart! She made him no immediate answer, but frowned at him and looked
stern. It was clear to her intelligence that he had no right to talk to
her about his heart after the information she had given him. "I hope,
Miss Mountjoy, that I may look forward to the pleasure of seeing you
when I go over to England."
"But we don't live in London, or near it. We live down in the
"Distance would be nothing."
This was very bad, and must be stopped, thought Florence. "I suppose I
shall be married by that time. I don't know where we may live, but I
shall be happy to see you if you call."
She had here made a bold assertion, and one which M. Grascour did not at
all believe. He was speaking of a visit which he might make, perhaps, in
a month or six weeks, and the young lady told him that he would find her
married! And yet, as he knew very well, her mother and her uncle and her
aunt were all opposed to this marriage. And she spoke of it without a
blush,--without any reticence! Young ladies were much emancipated, but he
did not think that they generally carried their emancipation so far as
this. "I hope not that," he said.
"I don't know why you should be so ill-natured as to hope it. The fact
is, M. Grascour, you don't believe what I told you the other day.
Perhaps as a young lady I ought not to have alluded to it, but I did so
in order to set the matter at rest altogether. Of course I can't tell
when you may come. If you come quite at once I shall not be married."
"But I shall be as much engaged as is possible for a girl to be. I have
given my word, and nothing will make me false to it. I don't suppose you
will come on my account."
"Solely on your account."
"Then stay at home. I am quite in earnest. And now I must say good-bye."
She departed, and left him seated alone on the sofa. He at first told
himself that she was unfeminine. There was a hard way with her of
talking about herself which he almost pronounced to be unladylike. An
unmarried girl should, he thought, under no circumstances speak of the
gentleman to whom her affections had been given as Miss Mountjoy spoke
of Mr. Annesley. But nevertheless he would sooner possess her as his own
wife than any other girl he had ever met. Something of the real passion
of unsatisfied love made him feel chill at his heart. Who was this Harry
Annesley, for whom she professed so warm a feeling? Her mother declared
Harry Annesley to be a scapegrace, and something of the story of a
discreditable midnight street quarrel between him and the young lady's
cousin had reached his ears. He did not suppose it to be possible that
the young lady could actually get married without her mother's
co-operation, and therefore he thought that he still would go to
England. In one respect he was altogether untouched. If he could
ultimately succeed in marrying the young lady, she would not be a bit
the worse as his wife because she had been attached to Harry Annesley.
That was a kind of folly which a girl could very quickly get over when
she had not been allowed to have her own way. Therefore, upon the whole,
he thought that he would go to England.
But the parting with Anderson had also to be endured, and must
necessarily be more difficult. She owed him a debt for having abstained,
and she could not go without paying the debt by some expression of
gratitude. That she would have done so had he kept aloof was a matter of
course; but equally a matter of course was it that he would not keep
aloof. "I shall want to see you for just five minutes to-morrow morning
before you take your departure," he said, in a lugubrious voice, during
her last evening.
He had kept his promise to the very letter, mooning about in his
desolate manner very conspicuously. The desolation had been notorious,
and very painful to Florence,--but the promise had been kept, and she was
grateful. "Oh, certainly, if you wish it," she said.
"I do wish it." Then he made an appointment and she promised to keep it.
It was in the ball-room, a huge chamber, very convenient for its
intended purpose, and always handsome at night-time, but looking as
desolate in the morning as did poor Anderson himself. He was stalking up
and down the long room when she entered it, and being at the farther
end, stalked up to her and addressed her with words which he had chosen
for the purpose. "Miss Mountjoy," he said, "you found me here a happy,
light-hearted young man."
"I hope I leave you soon to be the same, in spite of this little
He did not say that he was a blighted being, because the word had, he
thought, become ridiculous; but he would have used it had he dared, as
expressing most accurately his condition.
"A cloud has passed over me, and its darkness will never be effaced. It
has certainly been your doing."
"Oh, Mr. Anderson! what can I say?"
"I have loved before,--but never like this."
"And so you will again."
"Never! When I declare that, I expect my word to be respected," He
paused for an answer, but what could she say? She did not at all respect
his word on such a subject, but she did respect his conduct. "Yes; I
call upon you to believe me when I say that for me all that is over. But
it can be nothing to you."
"It will be very much to me."
"I shall go on in the same disconsolate, miserable way, I suppose I
shall stay here, because I shall be as well here as anywhere else. I
might move to Lisbon,--but what good would that do me? Your image would
follow me to whatever capital I might direct my steps. But there is one
thing you can do." Here he brightened up, putting on quite an altered
"I will do anything, Mr. Anderson--in my power."
"If--if--if you should change--"
"I shall never change!" she said, with an angry look.
"If you should change, I think you should remember the promise you
exacted and the fidelity with which it has been kept."
"I do remember it."
"And then I should be allowed to come again and have my chance. Wherever
I may be, at the court of the Shah of Persia or at the Chinese capital,
I will instantly come. I promised you when you asked me. Will you not
now promise me?"
"I cannot promise anything--so impossible."
"It will bind you to nothing but to let me know that Mr. Annesley has
gone his way." But she had to explain to him that it was impossible she
should make any promise founded on the idea that Mr. Henry Annesley
should ever go any way in which she would not accompany him. With that
he had to be as well satisfied as the circumstances of the case would
admit, and he left her with an assurance, not intended to be quite
audible, that he was and ever should be a blighted individual.
When the carriage was at the door Sir Magnus came down into the hall,
full of smiles and good-humor; but at that moment Lady Mountjoy was
saying a last word of farewell to her relatives in her own chamber.
"Good-bye, my dear; I hope you will get well through all your troubles."
This was addressed to Mrs. Mountjoy. "And as for you, my dear," she
said, turning to Florence, "if you would only contrive to be a little
less stiff-necked, I think the world would go easier with you."
"I think my stiff neck, aunt, as you call it, is what I have chiefly to
depend upon,--I mean in reference to other advice than mamma's. Good-bye,
"Good-bye, Florence." And the two parted, hating each other as only
female enemies can hate. But Florence, when she was in the carriage,
threw herself on to her mother's neck and kissed her.
MR. PROSPER CHANGES HIS MIND.
When Florence with her mother reached Cheltenham she found a letter
lying for her, which surprised her much. The the letter was from Harry,
and seemed to have been written in better spirits than he had lately
displayed. But it was very short:
"DEAREST FLORENCE,--When can I come down? It is absolutely necessary
that I should see you. All my plans are likely to be changed in the most
"Nobody can say that this is a love-letter.
"Yours affectionately, H. A."
Florence, of course, showed the letter to her mother, who was much
frightened by its contents. "What am I to say to him when he comes?" she
"If you will be so very, very good as to see him you must not say
"Unkind! How can I say anything else than what you would call unkind? I
disapprove of him altogether. And he is coming here with the express
object of taking you away from me."
"Oh no;--not at once."
"But at some day,--which I trust may be very distant. How can I speak to
him kindly when I feel that he is my enemy?" But the matter was at last
set at rest by a promise from Florence that she would not marry her
lover in less than three years without her mother's express consent.
Three years is a long time, was Mrs. Mountjoy's thought, and many things
might occur within that term. Harry, of whom she thought all manner of
unnatural things, might probably in that time have proved himself to be
utterly unworthy. And Mountjoy Scarborough might again have come forward
in the light of the world. She had heard of late that Mountjoy had been
received once more into his father's full favor. And the old man had
become so enormously rich through the building of mills which had been
going on at Tretton, that, as Mrs. Mountjoy thought, he would be able to
make any number of elder sons. On the subject of entail her ideas were
misty; but she felt sure that Mountjoy Scarborough would even yet become
a rich man. That Florence should be made to change on that account she
did not expect. But she did think that when she should have learned that
Harry was a murderer, or a midnight thief, or a wicked conspirator, she
would give him up. Therefore she agreed to receive him with not actually
expressed hostility when he should call at Montpelier Place.
But now, in the proper telling of our story, we must go back to Harry
Annesley himself. It will be remembered that his father had called upon
Mr. Prosper, to inform him of Harry's projected journey to America; that
Mountjoy Scarborough had also called at Buston Hall; and that previous
to these two visits old Mr. Scarborough had himself written a long
letter giving a detailed account of the conflict which had taken place
in the London streets. These three events had operated strongly on Mr.
Prosper's mind; but not so strongly as the conduct of Miss Thoroughbung
and Messrs. Soames & Simpson. It had been made evident to him, from the
joint usage which he had received from these persons, that he was simply
"made use of," with the object of obtaining from him the best possible
establishment for the lady in question.
After that interview, at which the lady, having obtained in way of
jointure much more than was due to her, demanded also for Miss Tickle a
life-long home, and for herself a pair of ponies, he received a farther
letter from the lawyers. This offended him greatly. Nothing on earth
should induce him to write a line to Messrs. Soames & Simpson. Nor did
he see his way to writing again to Messrs. Grey & Barry about such
trifles as those contained in the letter from the Buntingford lawyers.
Trifles to him they were not; but trifles they must become, if put into
a letter addressed to a London firm. "Our client is anxious to know
specifically that she is to be allowed to bring Miss Tickle with her,
when she removes to Buston Hall. Her happiness depends greatly on the
company of Miss Tickle, to which she had been used now for many years.
Our client wishes to be assured also that she shall be allowed to keep a
pair of ponies in addition to the carriage-horses, which will be
maintained, no doubt, chiefly for your own purposes." These were the
demands as made by Messrs. Soames & Simpson, and felt by Mr. Prosper to
be altogether impossible. He recollected the passionate explosion of
wrath to which the name of Miss Tickle had already brought him in
presence of the clergyman of his parish. He would endure no farther
disgrace on behalf of Miss Tickle. Miss Tickle should never be an inmate
of his house, and as for the ponies, no pony should ever be stabled in
his stalls. A pony was an animal which of its very nature was
objectionable to him. There was a want of dignity in a pony to which
Buston Hall should never be subjected. "And also," he said to himself at
last, "there is a lack of dignity about Miss Thoroughbung herself which
would do me an irreparable injury."
But how should he make known his decision to the lady herself? and how
should he escape from the marriage in such a manner as to leave no stain
on his character as a gentleman? If he could have offered her a sum of
money, he would have done so at once; but that he thought would not be
gentleman-like,--and would be a confession on his own part that he had
At last he determined to take no notice of the lawyers' letter, and
himself to write to Miss Thoroughbung, telling her that the objects
which they proposed to themselves by marriage were not compatible, and
that therefore their matrimonial intentions must be allowed to subside.
He thought it well over, and felt assured that very much of the success
of such a measure must depend upon the wording of the letter. There need
be no immediate haste. Miss Thoroughbung would not come to Buston again
quite at once to disturb him by a farther visit. Before she would come
he would have flown to Italy. The letter must be courteous, and somewhat
tender, but it must be absolutely decisive. There must be no loop-hole
left by which she could again entangle him, no crevice by which she
could creep into Buston. The letter should be a work of time. He would
give himself a week or ten days for composing it. And then, when it
should have been sent, he would be off to Italy.
But before he could allow himself to go upon his travels he must settle
the question about his nephew, which now lay heavy upon his conscience.
He did feel that he had ill treated the young man. He had been so told
in very strong language by Mr. Scarborough of Tretton, and Mr.
Scarborough of Tretton was a man of very large property, and much talked
about in the world. Very wonderful things were said about Mr.
Scarborough, but they all tended to make Mr. Prosper believe that he was
a man of distinction. And he had also heard lately about Mr.
Scarborough's younger son,--or, indeed, his only son, according to the
new way of speaking of him,--tidings which were not much in that young
man's favor. It was from Augustus Scarborough that he had heard those
evil stories about his own nephew. Therefore his belief was shaken; and
it was by no means clear to him that there could be any other heir for
Miss Thoroughbung had proved herself to be altogether unfit for the high
honor he had intended her. Miss Puffle had gone off with Farmer
Tazlehurst's son. Mr. Prosper did not think that he had energy enough to
look for a third lady who might be fit at all points to become his wife.
And now another evil had been added to all these. His nephew had
declared his purpose of emigrating to the United States and becoming an
American. It might be true that he should be driven to do so by absolute
want. He, Mr. Prosper, had stopped his allowance, and had done so after
deterring him from following any profession by which he might have
earned his bread. He had looked into the law, and, as far as he could
understand it, Buston must become the property of his nephew, even
though his nephew should become an American citizen. His conscience
pricked him sorely as he thought of the evil which might thus accrue,
and of the disgrace which would be attached to his own name. He
therefore wrote the following letter to his nephew, and sent it across
to the parsonage, done up in a large envelope, and sealed carefully with
the Buston arms. And on the corner of the envelope "Peter Prosper" was
written very legibly:
"MY DEAR NEPHEW, HENRY ANNESLEY,--
"Under existing circumstances you will, I think, be surprised at a
letter written in my handwriting; but facts have arisen which make it
expedient that I should address you.
"You are about, I am informed, to proceed to the United States, a
country against which I acknowledge I entertain a serious antipathy.
They are not a gentlemanlike people, and I am given to understand that
they are generally dishonest in all their dealings. Their President is a
low person, and all their ideas of government are pettifogging. Their
ladies, I am told, are very vulgar, though I have never had the pleasure
of knowing one of them. They are an irreligious nation, and have no
respect for the Established Church of England and her bishops. I should
be very sorry that my heir should go among them.
"With reference to my stopping the income which I have hitherto allowed
you, it was a step I took upon the best advice, nor can I allow it to be
thought that there is any legal claim upon me for a continuance of the
payment. But I am willing for the present to continue it, on the full
understanding that you at once give up your American project.
"But there is a subject on which it is essentially necessary that I
should receive from you, as my heir, a full and complete explanation.
Under what circumstances did you beat Captain Scarborough in the streets
late on the night of the 3d of June last? And how did it come to pass
that you left him bleeding, speechless, and motionless on that occasion?
"As I am about to continue the payment of the sum hitherto allowed, I
think it only fitting that I should receive this explanation under your
own hand.--I am your affectionate uncle,
"P.S.--A rumor may probably have reached you of a projected alliance
between me and a young lady belonging to a family with which your sister
is about to connect herself. It is right that I should tell you that
there is no truth in this report."
This letter, which was much easier to write than the one intended for
Miss Thoroughbung, was unfortunately sent off a little before the
completion of the other. A day's interval had been intended. But the
missive to Miss Thoroughbung was, under the press of difficulties,
delayed longer than was intended.
There was, we grieve to say, much of joy but more of laughter at the
rectory when this letter was received. As usual, Joe Thoroughbung was
there, and it was found impossible to keep the letter from him. The
postscript burst upon them all as a surprise, and was welcomed by no one
with more vociferous joy than by the lady's nephew. "So there is an end
forever to the hope that a child of the Buntingford Brewery should sit
upon the throne of the Prospers." It was thus that Joe expressed
"Why shouldn't he have sat there?" said Polly. "A Thoroughbung is as
good as a Prosper any day." But this was not said in the presence of
Mrs. Annesley, who on that subject entertained views very different from
"I wonder what his idea is of the Church of England?" said Mr.
Annesley. "Does he think that the Archbishop of Canterbury is supreme in
all religious matters in America?"
"How on earth he knows that the women are all vulgar, when he has never
seen one of them, is a mystery," said Harry.
"And that they are dishonest in all their dealings," said Joe. "I
suppose he got that out of some of the radical news papers." For Joe,
after the manner of brewers, was a staunch Tory.
"And their President, too, is vulgar as well as the ladies," said Mr.
Annesley. "And this is the opinion of an educated Englishman, who is not
ashamed to own that he entertains serious antipathies against a whole
But at the parsonage they soon returned to a more serious consideration
of the matter. Did Uncle Prosper intend to forgive the sinner
altogether? And was he coerced into doing so by a conviction that he had
been told lies, or by the uncommon difficulties which presented
themselves to him in reference to another heir? At any rate, it was
agreed by them all that Harry must meet his uncle half-way, and write
the "full and complete explanation," as desired. "'Bleeding, speechless,
and motionless!'" said Harry. "I can't deny that he was bleeding; he
certainly was speechless, and for a few moments may have been
motionless. What am I to say?" But the letter was not a difficult one to
write, and was sent across on the same day to the Hall. There Mr.
Prosper gave up a day to its consideration,--a day which would have been
much better devoted to applying the final touch to his own letter to
Miss Thoroughbung. And he found at last that his nephew's letter
required no rejoinder.
But Harry had much to do. It was first necessary that he should see his
friend, and explain to him that causes over which he had no control
forbade him to go to America. "Of course, you know, I can't fly in my
uncle's face. I was going because he intended to disinherit me; but he
finds that more troublesome than letting me alone, and therefore I must
remain. You see what he says about the Americans." The gentleman, whose
opinion about our friends on the other side of the Atlantic was very
different from Mr. Prosper's, fell into a long argument on the subject.
But he was obliged at last to give up his companion.
Then came the necessity of explaining the change in all his plans to
Florence Mountjoy, and with this view he wrote the short letter given at
the beginning of the chapter, following it down in person to
Cheltenham. "Mamma, Harry is here," said Florence to her mother.
"Well, my dear? I did not bring him."
"But what am I to say to him?"
"How can I tell? Why do you ask me?"
"Of course he must come and see me," said Florence. "He has sent a note
to say that he will be here in ten minutes."
"Oh dear! oh dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Mountjoy.
"Do you mean to be present, mamma? That is what I want to know." But
that was the question which at the moment Mrs. Mountjoy could not
answer. She had pledged herself not to be unkind, on condition that no
marriage should take place for three years. But she could not begin by
being kind, as otherwise she would immediately have been pressed to
abandon that very condition. "Perhaps, mamma, it would be less painful
if you would not see him."
"But he is not to make repeated visits."
"No, not at present; I think not."
"He must come only once," said Mrs. Mountjoy, firmly. "He was to have
come because he was going to America. But now he has changed all his
plans. It isn't fair, Florence."
"What can I do? I cannot send him to America because you thought he was
to go there. I thought so too; and so did he. I don't know what has
changed him; but it wasn't likely that he'd write and say he wouldn't
come because he had altered his plans. Of course he wants to see me; and
so do I want to see him--very much. Here he is!"
There was a ring at the bell, and Mrs. Mountjoy was driven to resolve
what she would do at the moment. "You mustn't be above a quarter of an
hour. I won't have you together for above a quarter of an hour,--or
twenty minutes at the farthest." So saying, Mrs. Mountjoy escaped from
the room, and within a minute or two Florence found herself in Harry
The twenty minutes had become forty before Harry had thought of
stirring, although he had been admonished fully a dozen times that he
must at that moment take his departure. Then the maid knocked at the
door, and brought word "that missus wanted to see Miss Florence in her
"Now, Harry, you must go. You really shall go,--or I will. I am very,
very happy to hear what you have told me."
"But three years!"
"Unless mamma will agree."
"It is quite out of the question. I never heard of anything so absurd."
"Then you must get mamma to consent. I have promised her for three
years, and you ought to know that I will keep my word. Harry, I always
keep my word; do I not? If she will consent, I will. Now, sir, I really
must go." Then there was a little form of farewell which need not be
especially explained, and Florence went up stairs to her mother.
CAPTAIN VIGNOLLES GETS HIS MONEY.
When we last left Captain Scarborough, he had just lost an additional
sum of two hundred and twenty-seven pounds to Captain Vignolles, which
he was not able to pay, besides the sum of fifty pounds which he had
received the day before, as the first instalment of his new allowance.
This was but a bad beginning of the new life he was expected to lead
under the renewed fortunes which his father was preparing for him. He
had given his promissory note for the money at a week's date, and had
been extremely angry with Captain Vignolles because that gentleman had,
under the circumstances, been a little anxious about it. It certainly
was not singular that he should have been so, as Captain Scarborough had
been turned out of more than one club in consequence of his inability to
pay his card debts. As he went home to his lodgings, with Captain
Vignolles's champagne in his head, he felt very much as he had done that
night when he attacked Harry Annesley. But he met no one whom he could
consider as an enemy, and therefore got himself to bed, and slept off
the fumes of the drink.
On that day he was to return to Tretton; but, when he awoke, he felt
that before he did so he must endeavor to make some arrangements for
paying the amount due at the end of the week. He had already borrowed
twenty pounds from Mr. Grey, and had intended to repay him out of the
sum which his father had given him; but that sum now was gone, and he
was again nearly penniless. In this emergency there was nothing left to
him but again to go to Mr. Grey.
As he was shown up the stairs to the lawyer's room he did feel
thoroughly ashamed of himself. Mr. Grey knew all the circumstances of
his career, and it would be necessary now to tell him of this last
adventure. He did tell himself, as he dragged himself up the stairs,
that for such a one as he was there could be no redemption. "It would be
better that I should go back," he said, "and throw myself from the
Monument." But yet he felt that if Florence Mountjoy could still be his,
there might yet be a hope that things would go well with him.
Mr. Grey began by expressing surprise at seeing Captain Scarborough in
town. "Oh yes, I have come up. It does not matter why, because, as
usual, I have put my foot in it. It was at my father's bidding; but that
does not matter."
"How have you put your foot in it?" said the attorney. There was one way
in which the captain was always "putting" both his "feet in it;" but,
since he had been turned out of his clubs, Mr. Grey did not think that
that way was open to him.
"The old story."
"Do you mean that you have been gambling again?"
"Yes;--I met a friend last night and he asked me to his rooms."
"And he had the cards ready?"
"Of course he had. What else would any one have ready for me?"
"And he won that remnant of the twenty pounds which you borrowed from
me, and therefore you want another?" Hereupon the captain shook his
head. "What is it, then, that you do want?"
"Such a man as I met," said the captain, "would not be content with the
remnant of twenty pounds. I had received fifty from my father, and had
intended to call here and pay you."
"That has all gone too?"
"Yes, indeed. And in addition to that I have given him a note for two
hundred and twenty-seven pounds, which I must take up in a week's time.
Otherwise I must disappear again,--and this time forever."
"It is a bottomless gulf," said the attorney. Captain Scarborough sat
silent, with something almost approaching to a smile on his mouth; but
his heart within him certainly was not smiling. "A bottomless gulf,"
repeated the attorney. Upon this the captain frowned. "What is it that
you wish me to do for you? I have no money of your father's in my hands,
nor could I give it you if I had it."
"I suppose not. I must go back to him, and tell him that it is so."
Then it was the lawyer's turn to be silent; and he remained thinking of
it all till Captain Scarborough rose from his seat and prepared to go.
"I won't trouble you any more Mr. Grey," he said.
"Sit down," said Mr. Grey. But the captain still remained standing. "Sit
down. Of course I can take out my check-book, and write a check for this
sum of money;--nothing would be so easy; and if I could succeed in
explaining it to your father during his lifetime, he, no doubt, would
repay me. And, for the sake of auld lang syne, I should not be unhappy
about my money, whether he did so or not. But would it be wise? On your
own account would it be wise?"
"I cannot say that anything done for me would be wise,--unless you could
cut my throat."
"And yet there is no one whose future life might be easier. Your father,
the circumstances of whose life are the most singular I ever knew--"
"I shall never believe all this about my mother."
"Never mind that now. We will pass that by for the present. He has
"That will be a question some day for the lawyers--should I live."
"But circumstances have so gone with him that he is enabled to leave you
another fortune. He is very angry with your brother, in which anger I
sympathize. He will strip Tretton as bare as the palm of my hand for
your sake. You have always been his favorite, and so, in spite of all
things, you are still. They tell me he cannot last for six months
"Heaven knows I do not wish him to die."
"But he thinks that your brother does. He feels that Augustus begrudges
him a few months' longer life, and he is angry. If he could again make
you his heir, now that the debts are all paid, he would do so." Here the
captain shook his head. "But as it is, he will leave you enough for all
the needs of even a luxurious life. Here is his will, which I am going
to send down to him for final execution this very day. My senior clerk
will take it, and you will meet him there. That will give you ample for
life. But what is the use of it all, if you can lose it in one night or
in one month among a pack of scoundrels?"
"If they be scoundrels, I am one of them."
"You lose your money. You are their dupe. To the best of my belief you
have never won. The dupes lose, and the scoundrels win. It must be so."
"You know nothing about it, Mr. Grey."
"This man who had your money last;--does he not live on it as a
profession? Why should he win always, and you lose?"
"It is my luck."
"Luck! There is no such thing as luck. Toss up, right hand against left
for an hour together, and the result will be the same. If not for an
hour, then do it for six hours. Take the average, and your cards will be
the same as another man's."
"Another man has his skill," said Mountjoy.
"And uses it against the unskillful to earn his daily bread. That is the
same as cheating. But what is the use of all this? You must have thought
of it all before."
"And thinking of it, you are determined to persevere. You are impetuous,
not thoughtless, with your brain clouded with drink, and for the mere
excitement of the thing, you are determined to risk all in a contest for
which there is no chance for you,--and by which you acknowledge you will
be driven to self-destruction, as the only natural end."
"I fear it is so," said the captain.
"How much shall I draw it for?" said the attorney, taking out his
check-book,--"and to whom shall I make it payable? I suppose I may date
it to-day, so that the swindler who gets it may think that there is
plenty more behind for him to get."
"Do you mean that you are going to lend it me?"
"And how do you mean to get it again?"
"I must wait, I suppose, till you have won it back among your friends.
If you will tell me that you do not intend to look for it in that
fashion, then I shall have no doubt as to your making me a legitimate
payment in a very short time. Two hundred and twenty pounds won't ruin
you, unless you are determined to ruin yourself." Mr. Grey the meanwhile
went on writing the check. "Here is provided for you a large sum of
money," and he laid his hand upon the will, "out of which you will be
able to pay me without the slightest difficulty. It is for you to say
whether you will or not."
"You need not say it in that fashion;--that's easy. You must say it at
some moment when the itch of play is on you; when there shall be no one
by to hear: when the resolution if held, shall have some meaning in it.
Then say, 'there's that money which I had from old Grey. I am bound to
pay it. But if I go in there I know what will be the result. The very
coin that should go into his coffers will become a part of the prey on
which those harpies will feed.' There's the check for the two hundred
and twenty-seven pounds. I have drawn it exact, so that you may send the
identical bit of paper to your friend. He will suppose that I am some
money-lender who has engaged to supply your needs while your recovered
fortune lasts. Tell your father he shall have the will to-morrow. I
don't suppose I can send Smith with it to-day."
Then it became necessary that Scarborough should go; but it would be
becoming that he should first utter some words of thanks. "I think you
will get it back, Mr. Grey."
"I dare say."
"I think you will. It may be that the having to pay you will keep me for
a while from the gambling-table."
"You don't look for more than that?"
"I am an unfortunate man, Mr. Grey. There is one thing that would cure
me, but that one thing is beyond my reach."
"Well;--it is a woman. I think I could keep my money for the sake of her
comfort. But never mind. Good-bye, Mr. Grey. I think I shall remember
what you have done for me." Then he went and sent the identical check to
Captain Vignolles, with the shortest and most uncourteous epistle:
"DEAR SIR,--I send you your money. Send back the note.
"Yours. M. SCARBOROUGH."
"I hardly expected this," said the captain to himself as he pocketed the
check,--"at any rate not so soon. 'Nothing venture, nothing have.' That
Moody is a slow coach, and will never do anything. I thought there'd be
a little money about with him for a time." Then the captain turned over
in his mind that night's good work with the self-satisfied air of an
industrious professional worker.
But Mr. Grey was not so well satisfied with himself, and determined for
a while to say nothing to Dolly of the two hundred and twenty-seven
pounds which he had undoubtedly risked by the loan. But his mind misgave
him before he went to sleep, and he felt that he could not be
comfortable till he had made a clean breast of it. During the evening
Dolly had been talking to him of all the troubles of all the
Carrolls,--how Amelia would hardly speak to her father or her mother
because of her injured lover, and was absolutely insolent to her, Dolly,
whenever they met; how Sophia had declared that promises ought to be
kept, and that Amelia should be got rid of; and how Mrs. Carroll had
told her in confidence that Carroll _pere_ had come home the night
before drunker than usual, and had behaved most abominably. But Mr. Grey
had attended very little to all this, having his mind preoccupied with
the secret of the money which he had lent.
Therefore Dolly did not put out her candle, and arrayed herself for bed
in the costume with which she was wont to make her nocturnal visits. She
had perceived that her father had something on his mind which it would
be necessary that he should tell. She was soon summoned, and having
seated herself on the bed, began the conversation: "I knew you would
want me to-night."
"Because you've got something to tell. It's about Mr. Barry."
"That's well. Just at this moment I seem to care about Mr. Barry more
than any other trouble. But I fear that he has forgotten me
altogether,--which is not complimentary."
"Mr. Barry will turn up all in proper time," said her father. "I have
got nothing to say about Mr. Barry just at present, so if you are
love-lorn you had better go to bed."
"Very well. When I am love-lorn I will. Now, what have you got to tell
"I have lent a man a large sum of money,--two hundred and twenty-seven
"You are always lending people large sums of money."
"I generally get it back again."
"From Mr. Carroll, for instance,--when he borrows it for a pair of
breeches and spends it in gin-and-water."
"I never lent him a shilling. He is a burr, and has to be pacified, not
by loans but gifts. It is too late now for me to prevent the
brother-in-lawship of poor Carroll."
"Who has got this money?"
"A professed gambler, who never wins anything, and constantly loses more
than he is able to pay. Yet I do think this man will pay me some day."
"It is Captain Scarborough," said Dolly. "Seeing that his father is a
very rich man indeed, and as far as I can understand gives you a great
deal more trouble than he is worth, I don't see why you should lend a
large sum of money to his son."
"Simply because he wanted it."
"Oh dear! oh dear!"
"He wanted it very much. He had gone away a ruined man because of his
gambling; and now, when he had come back and was to be put upon his legs
again, I could not see him again ruined for the need of such a sum. It
was very foolish."
"Perhaps a little rash, papa."
"But now I have told you; and so there may be an end of it. But I'll
tell you what, Dolly: I'll bet you a new straw hat he pays me within a
month of his father's death." Then Dolly was allowed to escape and
betake herself to her bed.
On that same day Mountjoy Scarborough went down to Tretton, and was at
once closeted with his father. Mr. Scarborough had questions to ask
about Mr. Prosper, and was anxious to know how his son had succeeded in
his mission. But the conversation was soon turned from Mr. Prosper to
Captain Vignolles and Mr. Grey. Mountjoy had determined, as soon as he
had got the check from Mr. Grey, to say nothing about it to his father.
He had told Mr. Grey in order that he need not tell his father,--if the
money were forthcoming. But he had not been five minutes in his father's
room before he rushed to the subject. "You got among those birds of prey
again?" said his father.
"There was only one bird,--or at least two. A big bird and a small one."
"And you lost how much?" Then the captain told the precise sum. "And
Grey has lent it you?" The captain nodded his head. "Then you must ride
into Tretton and catch the mail to-night with a check to repay him. That
you should have been able in so short a time to have found a man willing
to fleece you! I suppose it's hopeless?"
"I cannot tell."
"What am I to say, sir? If I make a promise it will go for nothing."
"For absolutely nothing."
"Then what would be the use of my promising?"
"You are quite logical, and look upon the matter in altogether a proper
light. As you have ruined yourself so often, and done your best to ruin
those that belong to you, what hope can there be? About this money that
I have left you, I do not know that anything farther can be said,--unless
I leave it all to an hospital. It is better that you should have it and
throw it away among the gamblers, than that it should fall into the
hands of Augustus. Besides, the demand is moderate. No doubt it is only
a beginning, but we will see."
Then he got out his check-book, and made Mountjoy himself write the
check, including the two sums which had been borrowed. And he dictated
the letter to Mr. Grey:
"MY DEAR GREY,--I return the money which Mountjoy has had from you,--two
hundred and twenty-seven pounds, and twenty. That, I think, is right.
You are the most foolish man I know with your money. To have given it to
such a scapegrace as my son Mountjoy! But you are the sweetest and
finest gentleman I ever came across. You have got your money now, which
is a great deal more than you can have expected or ought to have
obtained. However, on this occasion you have been in great luck.
This letter his son himself was forced to write, though it dealt
altogether with his own delinquencies; and yet, as he told himself, he
was not sorry to write it, as it would declare to Mr. Grey that he had
himself acknowledged at once his own sin. The only farther punishment
which his father exacted was that his son should himself ride into
Tretton and post the letter before he ate his dinner.
"I've got my money," said Mr. Grey, waving the check as he went into his
dressing-room, with Dolly at his heels.
"Who has paid it?"
"Old Scarborough; and he made Mountjoy write the letter himself, calling
me an old fool for lending it. I don't think I was such a fool at all.
However, I've got my money, and you may pay the bet and not say anything
more about it."
THE LAST OF MISS THOROUGHBUNG.
Mr. Prosper, with that kind of energy which was distinctively his own,
had sent off his letter to Harry Annesley, with his postscript in it
about his blighted matrimonial prospects,--a letter easy to be
written,--before he had completed his grand epistle to Miss Thoroughbung.
The epistle to Miss Thoroughbung was one requiring great consideration.
It had to be studied in every word, and re-written again and again with
the profoundest care. He was afraid that he might commit himself by an
epithet. He dreaded even an adverb too much. He found that a full stop
expressed his feelings too violently, and wrote the letter again, for
the fifth time, because of the big initial which followed the full stop.
The consequence of all this long delay was, that Miss Thoroughbung had
heard the news, through the brewery, before it reached her in its
legitimate course. Mr. Prosper had written his postscript by accident,
and, in writing it, had forgotten the intercourse between his
brother-in-law's house and the Buntingford people. He had known well of
the proposed marriage; but he was a man who could not think of two
things at the same time, and thus had committed the blunder.
Perhaps it was better for him as it was; and the blow came to him with a
rapidity which created less of suffering than might have followed the
slower mode of proceeding which he had intended. He was actually making
the fifth copy of the letter, rendered necessary by that violent full
stop, when Matthew came to him and announced that Miss Thoroughbung was
in the drawing-room. "In the house!" ejaculated Mr. Prosper.
"She would come into the hall; and then where was I to put her?"
"Matthew Pike, you will not do for my service." This had been said about
once every three months throughout the long course of years in which
Matthew had lived with his master.
"Very well, sir. I am to take it for a month's warning, of course."
Matthew understood well enough that this was merely an expression of his
master's displeasure, and, being anxious for his master's welfare, knew
that it was decorous that some decision should be come to at once as to
Miss Thoroughbung, and that time should not be lost in his own little
personal quarrel. "She is waiting, you know, sir, and she looks uncommon
irascible. There is the other lady left outside in the carriage."
"Miss Tickle! Don't let her in, whatever you do. She is the worst. Oh
dear! oh dear! Where are my coat and waistcoat, and my braces? And I
haven't brushed my hair. And these slippers won't do. What business has
she to come at this time of day, without saying a word to anybody?" Then
Matthew went to work, and got his master into decent apparel, with as
little delay as possible. "After all," said Mr. Prosper, "I don't think
I'll see her. Why should I see her?"
"She knows you are at home, sir."
"Why does she know I'm at home? That's your fault. She oughtn't to know
anything about it. Oh dear! oh dear! oh dear!" These last ejaculations
arose from his having just then remembered the nature of his postscript
to Harry Annesley, and the engagement of Joe Thoroughbung to his niece.
He made up his mind at the moment,--or thought that he had made up his
mind,--that Harry Annesley should not have a shilling as long as he
lived. "I am quite out of breath. I cannot see her yet. Go and offer the
lady cake and wine, and tell her that you had found me very much
indisposed. I think you will have to tell her that I am not well enough
to receive her to-day."
"Get it over, sir, and have done with it."
"It's all very well to say have done with it. I shall never have done
with it. Because you have let her in to-day she'll think that she can
come always. Good Lord! There she is on the stairs! Pick up my
slippers." Then the door was opened, and Miss Thoroughbung herself
entered the room. It was an up-stairs chamber, known as Mr. Prosper's
own: and from it was the door into his bedroom. How Miss Thoroughbung
had learned her way to it he never could guess. But she had come up the
stairs as though she had been acquainted with all the intricacies of the
house from her childhood.
"Mr. Prosper," she said, "I hope I see you quite well this morning, and
that I have not disturbed you at your toilet." That she had done so was
evident, from the fact that Matthew, with the dressing-gown and
slippers, was seen disappearing into the bedroom.
"I am not very well, thank you," said Mr. Prosper, rising from his
chair, and offering her his hand with the coldest possible salutation.
"I am sorry for that,--very. I hope it is not your indisposition which
has prevented you from coming to see me. I have been expecting you every
day since Soames wrote his last letter. But it's no use pretending any
longer. Oh, Peter, Peter!" This use of his Christian name struck him
absolutely dumb, so that he was unable to utter a syllable. He should,
first of all, have told her that any excuse she had before for calling
him by his Christian name was now at an end. But there was no opening
for speech such as that. "Well," she continued, "have you got nothing to
say to me? You can write flippant letters to other people, and turn me
into ridicule glibly enough."
"I have never done so."
"Did you not write to Joe Thoroughbung, and tell him you had given up
all thoughts of having me?"
"Joe!" he exclaimed. His very surprise did not permit him to go farther,
at the moment, than this utterance of the young man's Christian name.
"Yes, Joe,--Joe Thoroughbung, my nephew, and yours that is to be. Did you
not write and tell him that everything was over?"
"I never wrote to young Mr. Thoroughbung in my life. I should not have
dreamed of such a correspondence on such a subject."
"Well, he says you did. Or, if you didn't write to Joe himself, you
wrote to somebody."
"I may have written to somebody, certainly."
"And told them that you didn't mean to have anything farther to say to
me?" That traitor Harry had now committed a sin worse that knocking a
man down in the middle of the night and leaving him bleeding,
speechless, and motionless; worse than telling a lie about it;--worse
even than declining to listen to sermons read by his uncle. Harry had
committed such a sin that no shilling of allowance should evermore be
paid to him. Even at this moment there went through Mr. Prosper's brain
an idea that there might be some unmarried female in England besides
Miss Puffle and Miss Thoroughbung. "Peter Prosper, why don't you answer
like a man, and tell me the honest truth?" He had never before been
called Peter Prosper in his whole life.
"Perhaps you had better let me make a communication by letter," he said.
At that very moment the all but completed epistle was lying on the table
before him, where even her eyes might reach it. In the flurry of the
moment he covered it up.
"Perhaps that is the letter which has taken you so long to write?" she
"It is the letter."
"Then hand it me over, and save yourself the penny stamp." In his
confusion he gave her the letter, and threw himself down on the sofa
while she read it. "You have been very careful in choosing your
language, Mr. Prosper: 'It will be expedient that I should make known to
you the entire truth.' Certainly, Mr. Prosper, certainly. The entire
truth is the best thing,--next to entire beer, my brother would say."
"The horrid vulgar woman!" Mr. Prosper ejaculated to himself. "'There
seems to have been a complete misunderstanding with regard to that
amiable lady, Miss Tickle.' No misunderstanding at all. You said you
liked her, and I supposed you did. And when I had been living for twenty
years with a female companion, who hasn't sixpence in the world to buy a
rag with but what she gets from me, was it to be expected that I should
turn her out for any man?"
"An annuity might have been arranged, Miss Thoroughbung."
"Bother an annuity! That's all you think about feelings! Was she to go
and live alone and desolate because you wanted some one to nurse you?
And then those wretched ponies. I tell you, Peter Prosper, that let me
marry whom I will, I mean to drive a pair of ponies, and am able to do
so out of my own money. Ponies, indeed! It's an excuse. Your heart has
failed you. You've come to know a woman of spirit, and now you are
afraid that she'll be too much for you. I shall keep this letter, though
it has not been sent."
"You can do as you please about that, Miss Thoroughbung."
"Oh yes; of course I shall keep it, and shall give it to Messrs. Soames
& Simpson. They are most gentlemanlike men, and will be shocked at such
conduct as this from the Squire of Buston. The letter will be published
in the newspapers, of course. It will be very painful to me, no doubt,
but I shall owe it to my sex to punish you. When all the county are
talking of your conduct to a lady, and saying that no man could have
done it, let alone no gentleman, then you will feel it. Miss Tickle,--and
a pair of ponies! You expected to get my money and nothing to give for
it. Oh, you mean man!"
She must have been aware that every word she spoke was a dagger. There
was a careful analysis of his peculiar character displayed in every word
of reproach which she uttered. Nothing could have wounded him more than
the comparison between himself and Soames & Simpson. They were
gentlemen! "The vulgarest men in all Buntingford!" he declared to
himself, and always ready for any sharp practice. Whereas he was no man,
Miss Thoroughbung said,--a mean creature, altogether unworthy to be
regarded as a gentleman. He knew himself to be Mr. Prosper of Buston
Hall, with centuries of Prospers for his ancestors; whereas Soames was
the son of a tax-gatherer, and Simpson had come down from London as a
clerk from a solicitor's office in the City. And yet it was true that
people would talk of him as did Miss Thoroughbung! His cruelty would be
in every lady's mouth. And then his stinginess about the ponies would be
the gossip of the county for twelve months. And, as he found out what
Miss Thoroughbung was, the disgrace of even having wished to marry her
loomed terribly large before him.
But there was a twinkle of jest in the lady's eyes all the while which
he did not perceive, and which, had he perceived it, he could not have
understood. Her anger was but simulated wrath. She, too, had thought
that it might be well, under circumstances, if she were to marry Mr.
Prosper, but had quite understood that those circumstances might not be
forthcoming. "I don't think it will do at all, my dear," she had said to
Miss Tickle. "Of course an old bachelor like that won't want to have
"I beg you won't think of me for a moment," Miss Tickle had answered,
"Bother! why can't you tell the truth? I'm not going to throw you over,
and of course you'd be just nowhere if I did. I shan't break my heart
for Mr. Prosper. I know I should be an old fool if I were to marry him;
and he is more of an old fool for wanting to marry me. But I did think
he wouldn't cut up so rough about the ponies." And then, when no answer
came to the last letter from Soames & Simpson, and the tidings reached
her, round from the brewery, that Mr. Prosper intended to be off, she
was not in the least surprised. But the information, she thought, had
come to her in an unworthy manner. So she determined to punish the
gentleman, and went out to Buston Hall and called him Peter Prosper. We
may doubt, however, whether she had ever realized how terribly her
scourges would wale him.
"And to think that you would let it come round to me in that way,
through the young people,--writing about it just as a joke!"
"I never wrote about it like a joke," said Mr. Prosper, almost crying.
"I remember now. It was to your nephew; and of course everybody at the
rectory saw it. Of course they were all laughing at you." There was one
thing now written in the book of fate, and sealed as certainly as the
crack of doom: no shilling of allowance should ever be paid to Harry
Annesley. He would go abroad. He said so to himself as he thought of
this, and said also that, if he could find a healthy young woman
anywhere, he would marry her, sacrificing every idea of his own
happiness to his desire of revenge upon his nephew. This, however, was
only the passionate feeling of the moment. Matrimony had become
altogether so distasteful to him, since he had become intimately
acquainted with Miss Thoroughbung, as to make any release in that manner
quite impossible to him. "Do you propose to make me any amends?" asked
"Money?" said he.
"Yes; money. Why shouldn't you pay me money? I should like to keep three
ponies, and to have Miss Tickle's sister to come and live with me."
"I do not know whether you are in earnest, Miss Thoroughbung."
"Quite in earnest, Peter Prosper. But perhaps I had better leave that
matter in the hands of Soames & Simpson,--very gentleman-like men,--and
they'll be sure to let you know how much you ought to pay. Ten thousand
pounds wouldn't be too much, considering the distress to my wounded
feelings." Here Miss Thoroughbung put her handkerchief up to her eyes.
There was nothing that he could say. Whether she were laughing at him,
as he thought to be most probable, or whether there was some grain of
truth in the demand which she made, he found it equally impossible to
make any reply. There was nothing that he could say; nor could he
absolutely turn her out of the room. But after ten minutes' farther
continuation of these amenities, during which it did at last come home
to his brain that she was merely laughing at him, he began to think that
he might possibly escape, and leave her there in possession of his
"If you will excuse me, Miss Thoroughbung, I will retire," he said,
rising from the sofa.
"Regularly chaffed out of your own den!" she said, laughing.
"I do not like this interchange of wit on subjects that are so serious."
"Interchange! There is very little interchange, according to my idea.
You haven't said anything witty. What an idea of interchange the man
"At any rate I will escape from your rudeness."
"Now, Peter Prosper, before you go let me ask you one question. Which of
the two has been the rudest to the other? You have come and asked me to
marry you, and have evidently wished to back out of it from the moment
in which you found that I had ideas of my own about money. And now you
call me rude, because I have my little revenge. I have called you Peter
Prosper, and you can't stand it. You haven't spirit enough to call me
Matty Thoroughbung in reply. But good-bye, Mr. Prosper,--for I never will
call you Peter again. As to what I said to you about money, that, of
course, is all bosh. I'll pay Soames's bill, and will never trouble you.
There's your letter, which, however, would be of no use, because it is
not signed. A very stupid letter it is. If you want to write naturally
you should never copy a letter. Good-bye, Mr. Prosper--Peter that never
shall be." Then she got up and walked out of the room.
Mr. Prosper, when he was left alone, remained for a while nearly
paralyzed. That he should have ever entertained the idea of making that
woman his wife! Such was his first thought. Then he reflected that he
had, in truth, escaped from her more easily than he had hoped, and that
she had certainly displayed some good qualities in spite of her
vulgarity and impudence. She did not, at any rate, intend to trouble him
any farther. He would never again hear himself called Peter by that
terribly loud voice. But his anger became very fierce against the whole
family at the rectory. They had ventured to laugh at him, and he could
understand that, in their eyes, he had become very ridiculous.
He could see it all,--the manner in which they had made fun of him, and
had been jocose over his intended marriage. He certainly had not
intended to be funny in their eyes. But, while he had been exercising
the duty of a stern master over them, and had been aware of his own
extreme generosity in his efforts to forgive his nephew, that very
nephew had been laughing at him, in conjunction with the nephew of her
whom he had intended to make his wife! Not a shilling, again, should
ever be allowed to Harry Annesley. If it could be so arranged, by any
change of circumstances, he might even yet become the father of a family
of his own.
MR. PROSPER IS TAKEN ILL.
When Harry Annesley returned from Cheltenham, which he did about the
beginning of February, he was a very happy man. It may be said, indeed,
that within his own heart he was more exalted than is fitting for a man
mortal,--for a human creature who may be cut off from his joys to-morrow,
or may have the very source of his joy turned into sorrow. He walked
like a god, not showing it by his outward gesture, not declaring that it
was so by any assumed grace or arrogant carriage of himself; but knowing
within himself that that had happened down at Cheltenham which had all
but divested him of humanity, and made a star of him. To no one else had
it been given to have such feelings, such an assurance of heavenly
bliss, together with the certainty that, under any circumstances, it
must be altogether his own, for ever and ever. It was thus he thought of
himself and what had happened to him. He had succeeded in getting
himself kissed by a young woman.
Harry Annesley was in truth very proud of Florence, and altogether
believed in her. He thought the better of himself because Florence loved
him,--not with the vulgar self-applause of a man who fancies himself to
be a lady-killer and therefore a grand sort of fellow, but in conceiving
himself to be something better than he had hitherto believed, simply
because he had won the heart of this one special girl. During that
half-hour at Cheltenham she had so talked to him, and managed in her own
pretty way so to express herself, as to make him understand that of all
that there was of her he was the only lord and master. "May God do so to
me, and more also, if to the end I do not treat her not only with all
affection, but also with all delicacy of observance." It was thus that
he spoke to himself of her, as he walked away from the door of Mrs.
Mountjoy's house in Cheltenham.
From thence he went back to Buston, and entered his father's house with
all that halo of happiness shining round his heart. He did not say much
about it, but his mother and his sisters felt that he was altered; and
he understood their feelings when his mother said to him, after a day or
two, that "it was a great shame" that they none of them knew his
"But you will have to know her--well."
"That's of course; but it's a thousand pities that we should not be able
to talk of her to you as one whom we know already." Then he felt that
they had, among them all, acknowledged her to be such as she was.
There came to the rectory some tidings of the meeting which had taken
place at the Hall between his uncle and Miss Thoroughbung. It was Joe
who brought to them the first account; and then farther particulars
leaked out among the servants of the two houses. Matthew was very
discreet; but even Matthew must have spoken a word or two. In the first
place there came the news that Mr. Prosper's anger against his nephew
was hotter than ever. "Mr. Harry must have put his foot in it somehow."
That had been Matthew's assurance, made with much sorrow to the
house-keeper, or head-servant, at the rectory. And then Joe had declared
that all the misfortunes which had attended Mr. Prosper's courtship had
been attributed to Harry's evil influences. At first this could not but
be a matter of joke. Joe's stories as he told them were full of
ridicule, and had no doubt come to him from Miss Thoroughbung, either
directly or through some of the ladies at Buntingford. "It does seem
that your aunt has been too many for him." This had been said by Molly,
and had been uttered in the presence both of Joe Thoroughbung and of
"Why, yes," said Joe. "She has had him under the thong altogether, and
has not found it difficult to flog him when she had got him by the hind
leg." This idea had occurred to Joe from his remembrance of a peccant
hound in the grasp of a tyrant whip. "It seems that he offered her
"I should hardly think that," said Harry, standing up for his uncle.
"She says so; and says that she declared that ten thousand pounds would
be the very lowest sum. Of course she was laughing at him."
"Uncle Prosper doesn't like to be laughed at," said Molly.
"And she did not spare him," said Joe. And then she had by heart the
whole story, how she had called him Peter, and how angry he had been at
"Nobody calls him Peter except my mother," said Harry.
"I should not dream of calling him Uncle Peter," said Molly. "Do you
mean to say that Miss Thoroughbung called him Peter? Where could she
have got the courage?" To this Joe replied that he believed his aunt had
courage for anything under the sun. "I don't think that she ought to
have called him Peter," continued Molly. "Of course after that there
couldn't be a marriage."
"I don't quite see why not," said Joe. "I call you Molly, and I expect
you to marry me."
"And I call you Joe, and I expect you to marry me; but we ain't quite
"The Squire of Buston," said Joe, "considers himself Squire of Buston. I
suppose that the old Queen of Heaven didn't call Jupiter Jove till
they'd been married at any rate some centuries."
"Well done, Joe," said Harry.
"He'll become fellow of a college yet," said Molly.
"If you'll let me alone I will," said Joe. "But only conceive the kind
of scene there must have been at the house up there when Aunt Matty had
forced her way in among your uncle's slippers and dressing-gowns. I'd
have given a five-pound note to have seen and heard it."
"I'd have given two if it had never occurred. He had written me a letter
which I had taken as a pardon in full for all my offences. He had
assured me that he had no intention of marrying, and had offered to give
me back my old allowance. Now I am told that he has quarrelled with me
again altogether, because of some light word as to me and my concerns
spoken by this vivacious old aunt of yours. I wish your vivacious old
aunt had remained at Buntingford."
"And we had wished that your vivacious old uncle had remained at Buston
when he came love-making to Marmaduke Lodge."
"He was an old fool! and, among ourselves, always has been," said Molly,
who on the occasion thought it incumbent upon her to take the
Thoroughbung rather than the Prosper side of the quarrel.
But, in truth, this renewed quarrel between the Hall and the rectory was
likely to prove extremely deleterious to Harry Annesley's interests. For
his welfare depended not solely on the fact that he was at present heir
presumptive to his uncle, nor yet on the small allowance of two hundred
and fifty pounds made to him by his uncle, and capable of being
withdrawn at any moment, but also on the fact, supposed to be known to
all the world,--which was known to all the world before the affair in the
streets with Mountjoy Scarborough,--that Harry was his uncle's heir. His
position had been that of eldest son, and indeed that of only child to a
man of acres and squire of a parish. He had been made to hope that this
might be restored to him, and at this moment absolutely had in his
pocket the check for sixty-two pounds ten which had been sent to him by
his uncle's agent in payment of the quarter's income which had been
stopped. But he also had a farther letter, written on the next day,
telling him that he was not to expect any repetition of the payment.
Under these circumstances, what should he do?
Two or three things occurred to him. But he resolved at last to keep the
check without cashing it for some weeks, and then to write to his uncle
when the fury of his wrath might be supposed to have passed by, offering
to restore it. His uncle was undoubtedly a very silly man; but he was
not one who could acknowledge to himself that he had done an unjust act
without suffering for it. At the present moment, while his wrath was
hot, there would be no sense of contrition. His ears would still tingle
with the sound of the laughter of which he had supposed himself to have
been the subject at the rectory. But that sound in a few weeks might die
away, and some feeling of the propriety of justice would come back upon
the poor man's mind. Such was the state of things upon which Harry
resolved to wait for a few weeks.
But in the mean time tidings came across from the Hall that Mr. Prosper
was ill. He had remained in the house for two or three days after Miss
Thoroughbung's visit. This had given rise to no special remarks, because
it was well known that Mr. Prosper was a man whose feelings were often
too many for him. When he was annoyed it would be long before he would
get the better of the annoyance; and during such periods he would remain
silent and alone. There could be no question that Miss Thoroughbung had
annoyed him most excessively. And Matthew had been aware that it would
be better that he should abstain from all questions. He would take the
daily newspaper in to his master, and ask for orders as to the daily
dinner, and that would be all. Mr. Prosper, when in a fairly good humor,
would see the cook every morning, and would discuss with her the
propriety of either roasting or boiling the fowl, and the expediency
either of the pudding or the pie. His idiosyncrasies were well known,
and the cook might always have her own way by recommending the contrary
to that which she wanted,--because it was a point of honor with Mr.
Prosper not to be led by his servants. But during these days he simply
said, "Let me have dinner and do not trouble me." This went on for a day
or two without exciting much comment at the rectory. But when it went on
beyond a day or two it was surmised that Mr. Prosper was ill.
At the end of a week he had not been seen outside the house, and then
alarm began to be felt. The rumor had got abroad that he intended to go
to Italy, and it was expected that he would start, but no sign came of
his intended movements; not a word more had been said to Matthew on the
subject. He had been ordered to admit no visitor into the house at all,
unless it were some one from the firm of Grey & Barry. From the moment
in which he had got rid of Miss Thoroughbung he had been subject to some
dread lest she should return. Or if not she herself, she might, he
thought, send Soames & Simpson, or some denizen from the brewery. And he
was conscious that not only all Buston, but all Buntingford was aware of
what he had attempted to do. Every one whom he chanced to meet would, as
he thought, be talking of him, and therefore he feared to be seen by the
eye of man, woman, or child. There was a self-consciousness about him
which altogether overpowered him. That cook with whom he used to have
the arguments about the boiled chicken was now an enemy, a domestic
enemy, because he was sure that she talked about his projected marriage
in the kitchen. He would not see his coachman or his groom, because some
tidings would have reached them about that pair of ponies. Consequently
he shut himself up altogether, and the disease became worse with him
because of his seclusion.
And now from day to day, or, it may be more properly said, from hour to
hour, news came across to the rectory of the poor squire's health.
Matthew, to whom alone was given free intercourse with his master,
became very gloomy. Mr. Prosper was no doubt gloomy, and the feeling was
contagious. "I think he's going off his head; that's what I do think,"
he said, in confidential intercourse with the cook.
That conversation resulted in Matthew's walking across to the rectory,
and asking advice from the rector; and in the rector paying a visit to
the Hall. He had again consulted with his wife, and she had recommended
him to endeavor to see her brother. "Of course, what we hear about his
anger only comes from Joe, or through the servants. If he is angry, what
will it matter?"
"Not in the least to me," said the rector; "only I would not willingly
"I would go," said the rector's wife, "only I know he would require me
to agree with him about Harry. That, of course, I cannot do."
Then the rector walked across to the Hall, and sent up word by Matthew
that he was there, and would be glad to see Mr. Prosper, if Mr. Prosper
were disengaged. But Matthew, after an interval of a quarter of an hour,
came back with merely a note: "I am not very well, and an interview at
the present moment would only be depressing. But I would be glad to see
my sister, if she would come across to-morrow at twelve o'clock. I think
it would be well that I should see some one, and she is now the
nearest.--P.P." Then there arose a great discussion at the rectory as to
what this note indicated. "She is now the nearest!" He might have so
written had the doctor who attended him told him that death was
imminent. Of course she was the nearest. What did the "now" mean? Was it
not intended to signify that Harry had been his heir, and therefore the
nearest; but that now he had been repudiated? But it was of course
resolved that Mrs. Annesley should go to the Hall at the hour indicated
on the morrow.
"Oh yes; I'm up here; where else should I be,--unless you expected to
find me in my bed?" It was thus that he answered his sister's first
inquiry as to his condition.
"In bed? Oh no! Why should any one expect to find you in bed, Peter?"
"Never call me by that name again!" he said, rising up from his chair,
and standing erect, with one arm stretched out. She called him Peter,
simply because it had been her custom so to do during the period of
nearly fifty years in which they had lived in the same parish as brother
and sister. She could, therefore, only stare at him and his tragic
humor, as he stood there before her. "Though of course it is madness on
my part to object to it! My godfather and godmother christened me Peter,
and our father was Peter before me, and his father too was Peter
Prosper. But that woman has made the name sound abominable in my ears."
"Miss Thoroughbung, you mean?"
"She came here, and so be-Petered me in my own house,--nay, up in this
very room,--that I hardly knew whether I was on my head or my heels."
"I would not mind what she said. They all know that she is a little
"Nobody told me so. Why couldn't you let me know that she was flighty
beforehand? I thought that she was a person whom it would have done to
"If you will only think of it, Peter--" Here he shuddered visibly. "I
beg your pardon, I will not call you so again. But it is unreasonable to
blame us for not telling you about Miss Thoroughbung."
"Of course it is. I am unreasonable, I know it."
"Let us hope that it is all over now."
"Cart-ropes wouldn't drag me up to the hymeneal altar,--at least not with
"You have sent for me, Peter--I beg pardon. I was so glad when you sent.
I would have come before, only I was afraid that you would be annoyed.
Is there anything that we can do for you?"
"Nothing at all that you can do, I fear."
"Somebody told us that you were thinking of going abroad." Here he shook
his head. "I think it was Harry." Here he shook his head and frowned.
"Had you not some idea of going abroad?"
"That is all gone," he said, solemnly.
"It would have enabled you to get over this disappointment without
feeling it so acutely."
"I do feel it; but not exactly the disappointment. There I think I have
been saved from a misfortune which would certainly have driven me mad.
That woman's voice daily in my ear could have had no other effect. I
have at any rate been saved from that."
"What is it, then, that troubles you?"
"Everybody knows that I intended it. All the country has heard of it.
But yet was not my purpose a good one? Why should not a gentleman marry
if he wants to leave his estate to his own son?"
"Of course he must marry before he can do that."
"Where was I to get a young lady--just outside of my own class? There
was Miss Puffle. I did think of her. But just at the moment she went off
with young Tazlehurst. That was another misfortune. Why should Miss
Puffle have descended so low just before I had thought of her? And I
couldn't marry quite a young girl. How could I expect such a one to live
here with me at Buston, where it is rather dull? When I looked about
there was nobody except that horrid Miss Thoroughbung. You just look
about and tell me if there was any one else. Of course my circle is
circumscribed. I have been very careful whom I have admitted to my
intimacy, and the result is that I know almost nobody. I may say that I
was driven to ask Miss Thoroughbung."
"But why marry at all unless you're fond of somebody to be attached to?"
"Why marry at all? I say. I ask the question knowing very well why you
intended to do it."
"Then why do you ask?" he said, angrily.
"Because it is so difficult to talk of Harry to you. Of course I cannot
help feeling that you have injured him."
"It is he that has injured me. It is he that has brought me to this
condition. Don't you know that you've all been laughing at me down at
the rectory since this affair of that terrible woman?" While he paused
for an answer to his question Mrs. Annesley sat silent. "You know it is
true. He and that man whom Molly means to marry, and the other girls,
and their father and you, have all been laughing at me."
"I have never laughed."
"But the others?" And again he waited for a reply. But the no reply
which came did as well as any other answer. There was the fact that he
had been ridiculed by the very young man whom it was intended that he
should support by his liberality. It was impossible to tell him that a
man who had made himself so absurd must expect to be laughed at by his
juniors. There was running through his mind an idea that very much was
due to him from Harry; but there was also an idea that something too was
due from him. There was present, even to him, a noble feeling that he
should bear all the ignominy with which he was treated, and still be
generous. But he had sworn to himself, and had sworn to Matthew, that he
would never forgive his nephew. "Of course you all wish me to be out of
"Why do you say that?"
"Because it is true. How happy you would all be if I were dead, and
Harry were living here in my place."
"Do you think so?"
"Yes, I do. Of course you would all go into mourning, and there would be
some grimace of sorrow among you for a few weeks, but the sorrow would
soon be turned into joy. I shall not last long, and then his time will
come. There! you may tell him that his allowance shall be continued, in
spite of all his laughing. It was for that purpose that I sent for you.
And, now you know it, you can go and leave me." Then Mrs. Annesley did
go, and rejoiced them all up at the rectory by these latest tidings from
the Hall. But now the feeling was, how could they show their gratitude
and kindness to poor Uncle Prosper?
MR. BARRY AGAIN.
"Mr. Barry has given me to understand that he means to come down
to-morrow." This was said by Mr. Grey to his daughter.
"What does he want to come here for?"
"I suppose you know why he wants to come here?" Then the father was
silent, and for some time Dolly remained silent also. "He is coming to
ask you to consent to be his wife."
"Why do you let him come, papa?"
"I cannot hinder him. That, in the first place. And then I don't want to
prevent his coming."
"I do not want to prevent his coming. And I do not wish you now at this
instant to pledge yourself to anything."
"I cannot but pledge myself."
"You can at any rate remain silent while I speak to you." There was a
solemnity in his manner which almost awed her, so that she could only
come nearer to him and sit close to him, holding his hand in hers. "I
wish you to hear what I have got to say to you, and to make no answer
till you shall make it to-morrow to him, after having fully considered
the whole matter. In the first place, he is an honest and good man, and
certainly will not ill-treat you."
"Is that so much?"
"It is a great deal, as men go. It would be a great deal to me to be
sure that I had left you in the hands of one who is, of his nature,
tender and affectionate."
"That is something; but not enough."
"And then he is a careful man, who will certainly screen you from all
want; and he is prudent, walking about the world with his eyes
open,--much wider than your father has ever done." Here she only pressed
his hand. "There is nothing to be said against him, except that
something which you spotted at once when you said that he was not a
gentleman. According to your ideas, and to mine, he is not quite a
gentleman; but we are both fastidious."
"We must pay the penalty of our tastes in that respect."
"You are paying the penalty now by your present doubts. But it is not
yet too late for you to get the better of it. Though I have acknowledged
that he is not quite a gentleman, he is by no means the reverse. You are
quite a lady."
"I hope so."
"But you are not particularly good-looking."
"Papa, you are not complimentary."
"My dear, I do not intend to be so. To me your face, such as it is, is
the sweetest thing on earth to look upon."
"Oh, papa;--dear papa!" and she threw her arms round his neck and kissed
"But having lived so long with me you have acquired my habits and
thoughts, and have learned to disregard utterly your outward
"I would be decent and clean and womanly."
"That is not enough to attract the eyes of men in general. But he has
seen deeper than most men do."
"Into the value of the business, you mean?" said she.
"No, Dolly; I will not have that! that is ill-natured, and, as I
believe, altogether untrue. I think of Mr. Barry that he would not marry
any girl for the sake of the business, unless he loved her."
"That is nonsense, papa. How can Mr. Barry love me? Did he and I ever
have five minutes of free conversation together?"
"Unless he meant to love, would be nearer the mark; and knew that he
could do so. You will be quite safe in his hands."
"So much for yourself; and now I must say a few words as to myself. You
are not bound to marry him, or any one else, to do me a good turn; but I
think you are bound to remember what my feelings would be if on my
death-bed I were leaving you quite alone in the world. As far as money
is concerned, you would have enough for all your wants; but that is all
that you would have. You have become so thoroughly my friend, that you
have hardly another real friend in the world."
"That is my disposition."
"Yes; but I must guard against the ill-effects of that disposition. I
know that if some man came the way, whom you could in truth love, you
would make the sweetest wife that ever a man possessed."
"Oh, papa, how you talk! No such man will come the way, and there's an
end of it."
"Mr. Barry has come the way,--and, as things go, is deserving of your
regard. My advice to you is to accept him. Now you will have twenty-four
hours to think of that advice, and to think of your own future
condition. How will life go with you if you should be left living in
this house all alone?"
"Why do you speak as though we were to be parted to-morrow?"
"To-morrow or next day," he said very solemnly. "The day will surely
come before long. Mr. Barry may not be all that your fancy has
"But he has those good qualities which your reason should appreciate.
Think it over, my darling. And now we will say nothing more about Mr.
Barry till he shall have been here and pleaded his own cause."
Then there was not another word said on the subject between them, and on
the next morning Mr. Grey went away to his chambers as usual.
Though she had strenuously opposed her father through the whole of the
conversation above given, still, as it had gone on, she had resolved to
do as he would her; not indeed, that is, to marry this suitor, but to
turn him over in her mind yet once again, and find out whether it would
be possible that she should do so. She had dismissed him on that former
occasion, and had not since given a thought to him, except as to a
nuisance of which she had so far ridded herself. Now the nuisance had
come again, and she was to endeavor to ascertain how far she could
accustom herself to its perpetual presence without incurring perpetual
misery. But it has to be acknowledged that she did not begin the inquiry
in a fair frame of mind. She declared to herself that she would think
about it all the night and all the morning without a prejudice, so that
she might be able to accept him if she found it possible.
But at the same time there was present to her a high, black stone wall,
at one side of which stood she herself while Mr. Barry was on the other.
That there should be any clambering over that wall by either of them she
felt to be quite impossible, though at the same time she acknowledged
that a miracle might occur by which the wall would be removed,
So she began her thinking, and used all her father's arguments. Mr.
Barry was honest and good, and would not ill-treat her. She knew nothing
about him, but would take all that for granted as though it were
gospel,--because her father had said so. And then it was to her a fact
that she was by no means good-looking,--the meaning of which was that no
other man would probably want her. Then she remembered her father's
words,--"To me your face is the sweetest thing on earth to look upon."
This she did believe. Her plainness did not come against her there. Why
should she rob her father of the one thing which to him was sweet in the
world? And to her, her father was the one noble human being whom she had
ever known. Why should she rob herself of his daily presence? Then she
told herself,--as she had told him,--that she had never had five minutes
free conversation with Mr. Barry in her life. That certainty was no
reason why free conversation should not be commenced. But then she did
not believe that free conversation was within the capacity of Mr. Barry.
It would never come, though she might be married to him for twenty
years. He too might, perhaps, talk about his business; but there would
be none of those considerations as to radical good or evil which made
the nucleus of all such conversations with her father. There would be a
flatness about it all which would make any such interchange of words
impossible. It would be as though she had been married to a log of wood,
or rather a beast of the field, as regarded all sentiment. How much
money would be coming to him? Now her father had never told her how much
money was coming to him. There had been no allusion to that branch of
And then there came other thoughts as to that interior life which it
would be her destiny to lead with Mr. Barry. Then came a black cloud
upon her face as she sat thinking of it. "Never," at last she said,
"never, never! He is very foolish not to know that it is impossible."
The "he" of whom she then spoke was her father, and not Mr. Barry. "If I
have to be left alone, I shall not be the first. Others have been left
alone before me. I shall at any rate be left alone." Then the wall
became higher and more black than ever, and there was no coming of that
miracle by which it was to be removed. It was clearer to her than ever
that neither of them could climb it. "And, after all," she said to
herself, "to know that your husband is not a gentleman! Ought that not
to be enough? Of course a woman has to pay for her fastidiousness. Like
other luxuries, it is costly; but then, like other luxuries, it cannot
be laid aside." So, before that morning was gone, she made up her mind
steadily that Mr. Barry should never be her lord and master.
How could she best make him understand that it was so, so that she might
be quickly rid of him? When the first hour of thinking was done after
breakfast, it was that which filled her mind. She was sure that he would
not take an answer easily and go. He would have been prepared by her
father to persevere,--not by his absolute words, but by his mode of
speaking. Her father would have given him to understand that she was
still in doubt, and therefore might possibly be talked over. She must
teach him at once, as well as she could, that such was not her
character, and that she had come to a resolution which left him no
chance. And she was guilty of one weakness which was almost unworthy of
her. When the time came she changed her dress, and put on an old shabby
frock, in which she was wont to call upon the Carrolls. Her best dresses
were all kept for her father,--and, perhaps, accounted for that opinion
that to his eyes her face was the sweetest thing on earth to look upon.
As she sat there waiting for Mr. Barry, she certainly did look ten years
older than her age.
In truth both Mr. Grey and Dolly had been somewhat mistaken in their
reading of Mr. Barry's character. There was more of intellect and merit
in him than he had obtained credit for from either of them. He did care
very much for the income of the business, and perhaps his first idea in
looking for Dolly's hand had been the probability that he would thus
obtain the whole of that income for himself. But, while wanting money,
he wanted also some of the good things which ought to accompany it. A
superior intellect,--an intellect slightly superior to his own, of which
he did not think meanly, a power of conversation which he might imitate,
and that fineness of thought which, he flattered himself, he might be
able to achieve while living with the daughter of a gentleman,--these
were the treasures which Mr. Barry hoped to gain by his marriage with
Dorothy Grey. And there had been something in her personal appearance
which, to his eyes, had not been distasteful. He did not think her face
the sweetest thing in the world to look at, as her father had done, but
he saw in it the index of that intellect which he had desired to obtain
for himself. As for her dress, that, of course, should all be altered.
He imagined that he could easily become so far master of his wife as to
make her wear fine clothes without difficulty. But then he did not know
He had studied deeply his manner of attacking her. He would be very
humble at first, but after a while his humility should be discontinued,
whether she accepted or rejected him. He knew well that it did not
become a husband to be humble; and as regarded a lover, he thought that
humility was merely the outside gloss of love-making. He had been
humble enough on the former occasion, and would begin now in the same
strain. But after a while he would stir himself, and assume the manner
of a man. "Miss Grey," he said, as soon as they were alone, "you see
that I have been as good as my word, and have come again." He had
already observed her old frock and her mode of dressing up her hair, and
had guessed the truth.
"I knew that you were to come, Mr. Barry."
"Your father has told you so."
"And he has spoken a good word in my favor?"
"Yes, he has."
"Which I trust will be effective."
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