Phantom Fortune, A Novel
M. E. Braddon
Part 4 out of 10
life, her books, her favourite colours, her favourite flowers, every
detail studiously arranged for her pleasure and comfort. She was wheeled
into this room every day at noon. When the day was bright and sunny her
couch was placed near the window: and when the day was dull and grey the
couch was drawn close to the low hearth, which flashed and glittered
with brightly coloured tiles and artistic brass.
To-day the sky was dull, and the velvet couch stood beside the hearth.
Halcott sat at work in the adjoining bed-chamber, and came in every now
and then to replenish the fire: a footman was always on duty in the
corridor. A spring bell stood among the elegant trifles upon her
ladyship's table; and the lightest touch of her left hand upon the bell
brought her attendants to her side. She resolutely refused to have any
one sitting with her all day long. Solitude was a necessity of her
being, she told Mr. Horton, when he recommended that she should have
some one always in attendance upon her.
As the weeks wore on her features had been restored to their proud, calm
beauty, her articulation was almost as clear as of old: yet, now and
then, there would be a sudden faltering, the tongue and lips would
refuse their office, or she would forget a word, or use a wrong word
unconsciously. But there was no recovery of power or movement on that
side of the body which had been stricken. The paralysed limbs were still
motionless, lifeless as marble; and it was clear that Mr. Horton had
begun to lose heart about his patient. There was nothing obscure in the
case, but the patient's importance made the treatment a serious matter,
and the surgeon begged to be allowed to summon Sir William Jenner.
This, however, Lady Maulevrier refused.
'I don't want any fuss made about me,' she said. 'I am content to trust
myself to your skill, and I beg that no other doctor may be summoned.'
Mr. Horton understood his patient's feelings on this point. She had a
sense of humiliation in her helplessness, and, like some wounded animal
that crawls to its covert to die, she would fain have hidden her misery
from the eye of strangers. She had allowed no one, not even Maulevrier,
to be informed of the nature of her illness.
'It will be time enough for him to know all about me when he comes
here,' she said. 'I shall be obliged to see him whenever he does come.'
Maulevrier had spent Christmas and New Year in Paris, Mr. Hammond still
his companion. Her ladyship commented upon this with a touch of scorn.
'Mr. Hammond is like the Umbra you were reading about the other day in
Lord Lytton's "Last Days of Pompeii,"' she said to Mary. 'It must be
very nice for him to go about the world with a friend who franks him
'But we don't know that Maulevrier franks him,' protested Mary,
blushing. 'We have no right to suppose that Mr. Hammond does not pay his
'My dear child, is it possible for a young man who has no private means
to go gadding about the world on equal terms with a spendthrift like
Maulevrier--to pay for Moors in Scotland and apartments at the Bristol?'
'But they are not staying at the Bristol,' exclaimed Mary.
'They are staying at an old-established French hotel on the left side of
the Seine. They are going about amongst the students and the workmen,
dining at popular restaurants, hearing people talk. Maulevrier says it
is delightfully amusing--ever so much better than the beaten track of
life in Anglo-American Paris.'
'I daresay they are leading a Bohemian life, and will get into trouble
before they have done,' said her ladyship, gloomily.
'Maulevrier is as wild as a hawk.'
'He is the dearest boy in the world,' exclaimed Mary.
She was deeply grateful for her brother's condescension in writing her a
letter of two pages long, letting her into the secrets of his life. She
felt as if Mr. Hammond were ever so much nearer to her now she knew
where he was, and how he was amusing himself.
'Hammond is such a queer fellow,' wrote Maulevrier, 'the strangest
things interest him. He sits and talks to the workmen for hours; he
pokes his nose into all sorts of places--hospitals, workshops,
poverty-stricken dens--and people are always civil to him. He is what
Lesbia calls _sympatico_. Ah! what a mistake Lesbia and my grandmother
made when they rejected Hammond! What a pearl above price they threw
away! But, you see, neither my lady nor Lesbia could appreciate a gem,
unless it was richly set.'
And now Lady Maulevrier lay on her couch by the fire, waiting for James
Steadman. She had seen him several times since the day of her seizure,
but never alone. There was an idea that Steadman must necessarily talk
to her of business matters, or cause her mind to trouble itself about
business matters; so there had been a well-intentioned conspiracy in the
house to keep him out of her way; but now she was much better, and her
desire to see Steadman need no longer be thwarted.
He came at her bidding, and stood a little way within the door, tall,
erect, square-shouldered, resolute-looking, with a quiet force of
character expressed in every feature. He was very much the same man that
he had been forty years ago, when he went with her ladyship to
Southampton, and accompanied his master and mistress on that tedious
journey which was destined to be Lord Maulevrier's last earthly
pilgrimage. Time had done little to Steadman in those forty years,
except to whiten his hair and beard, and imprint some thoughtful lines
upon his sagacious forehead. Time had done something for him mentally,
insomuch as he had read a great many books and cultivated his mind in
the monotonous quiet of Fellside. Altogether he was a superior man for
the passage of those forty years.
He had married within the time, choosing for himself the buxom daughter
of a lodgekeeper, whose wife had long been laid at rest in Grasmere
churchyard. The buxom girl had grown into a bulky matron, but she was a
colourless personage, and her existence made hardly any difference in
James Steadman's life. She had brought him no children, and their
fireside was lonely; but Steadman seemed to be one of those
self-contained personages to whom a solitary life is no affliction.
'I hope I see you in better health, my lady,' he said, standing straight
and square, like a soldier on parade.
'I am better, thank you, Steadman; better, but a poor lifeless log
chained to this sofa. I sent for you because the time has come when I
must talk to you upon a matter of business. You heard, I suppose, that a
stranger called upon me just before I had my attack?'
'Yes, my lady.'
'Did you hear who and what he was?'
'Only that he was a foreigner, my lady.'
'He is of Indian birth. He claims to be the son of the Ranee of
'He could do you no harm, my lady, if he were twenty times her son.'
'I hope not. Now, I want to ask you a question. Among those trunks and
cases and packages of Lord Maulevrier's which were sent here by heavy
coach, after they were landed at Southampton, do you remember two cases
'There are two large cases among the luggage, my lady; very heavy cases,
iron clamped. I should not be surprised if they were full of books.'
'Have they never been opened?'
'Not to my knowledge.'
'Are they locked?'
'Yes, my lady. There are two padlocks on each chest.'
'And are the keys in your possession?'
'No, my lady.'
'Where are the cases?'
'In the Oak Room, with the rest of the Indian luggage.'
'Let them remain there. No doubt those cases contain the books of which
I have been told. You have not heard that the person calling himself
Rajah of Bisnagar has been here since my illness, have you?'
'No, my lady; I am sure he has not been here.'
Lady Maulevrier gave him a scrutinising look.
'He might have come, and my people might have kept the knowledge from
me, out of consideration for my infirmity,' she said. 'I should be very
angry if it were so. I should hate to be treated like a child.'
'You shall not be so treated, my lady, while I am in this house; but I
know there is no member of the household who would presume so to treat
'They might do it out of kindness; but I should loathe such kindness,'
said Lady Maulevrier, impatiently. 'Though I have been smitten down,
though I lie here like a log, I have a mind to think and to plan; and I
am not afraid to meet danger, face to face. Are you telling me the
truth, Steadman? Have there been no visits concealed from me, no letters
kept from me since I have been ill?'
'I am telling you nothing but the truth, my lady. No letter has been
kept from you; no visitor has been to this house whose coming you have
not been told of.'
'Then I am content,' said her ladyship, with a sigh of relief.
After this there followed some conversation upon business matters. James
Steadman was trusted with the entire management of the dowager's income,
the investment of her savings. His honesty was above all suspicion. He
was a man of simple habits, his wants few. He had saved money in every
year of his service; and for a man of his station was rich enough to be
unassailable by the tempter.
He had reconciled his mind to the monotonous course of life at Fellside
in the beginning of things; and, as the years glided smoothly by, his
character and wants and inclinations had, as it were, moulded themselves
to fit that life. He had easy duties, a comfortable home, supreme
authority in the household. He was looked up to and made much of in the
village whenever he condescended to appear there; and by the rareness of
his visits to the Inn or the Reading-room, and his unwillingness to
accept hospitality from the tradesmen of Grasmere and Ambleside, he
maintained his dignity and exaggerated his importance. He had his books
and his newspapers, his evening leisure, which no one ever dared to
disturb. He had the old wing of the house for his exclusive occupation;
and no one ventured to intrude upon him in his privacy. There was a bell
in the corridor which communicated with his rooms, and by this bell he
was always summoned. There were servants who had been ten years at
Fellside, and who had never crossed the threshold of the red cloth door
which was the only communication between the new house and the old one.
Steadman's wife performed all household duties of cooking and cleaning
in the south wing, where she and her husband took all their meals, and
lived entirely apart from the other servants, an exclusiveness which was
secretly resented by the establishment.
'Mr. Steadman may be a very superior man,' said the butler 'and I know
that in his own estimation the Premier isn't in it compared with him;
but I never was fond of people who set themselves upon pinnacles, and
I'm not fond of the Steadmans.'
'Mrs. Steadman's plain and homely enough,' replied the housekeeper, 'and
I know she'd like to be more sociable, and drop into my room for a cup
of tea now and then; but Steadman do so keep her under his thumb: and
because he's a misanthrope she's obliged to sit and mope alone.'
If Steadman wanted to drive, there was a dogcart and horse at his
disposal; but he did not often leave Fellside. He seemed in his humble
way to model his life upon Lady Maulevrier's secluded habits. It was
growing dusk when Steadman left his mistress, and she lay for some time
looking at the landscape over which twilight shadows were stealing, and
thinking of her own life. Over that life, too, the shadows of evening
were creeping. She had began to realise the fact that she was an old
woman; that for her all personal interest in life was nearly over. She
had never felt her age while her activity was unimpaired. She had been
obliged to remind herself very often that the afternoon and evening of
life had slipped away unawares in that tranquil retirement, and that the
night was at hand.
For her the close of earthly life meant actual night. No new dawn, no
mysterious after-life shone upon her with magical gleams of an unknown
light upon the other side of the dark river. She had accepted the
Materialist's bitter and barren creed, and had taught herself that this
little life was all. She had learned to scorn the idea of a great
Artificer outside the universe, a mighty spirit riding amidst the
clouds, and ruling the course of nature and the fate of man. She had
schooled herself to think that the idea of a blind, unconscious Nature,
working automatically through infinite time and space, was ever so much
grander than the old-world notion of a personal God, a Being of infinite
power and inexhaustible beneficence, mighty to devise and direct the
universe, with knowledge reaching to the farthest confines of space,
with ear to listen to the prayer of His lowest creatures. Her belief
stopped short even of the Deist's faith in an Almighty Will. She saw in
creation nothing but the inevitable development of material laws; and it
seemed to her that there was quite as much hope of a heavenly world
after death for the infusoria in the pool as for man in his pride and
She read her Bible as diligently as she read her Shakespeare, and the
words of the Royal Preacher in some measure embodied her own dreary
creed. And now, in the darkening winter day, she watched the gloomy
shadows creep over the rugged breast of Nabb Scar, and she thought how
there was a time for all things, and that her day of hope and ambition
Of late years she had lived for Lesbia, looking forward to the day when
she was to introduce this beloved grandchild to the great world of
London; and now that hope was gone for ever.
What could a helpless cripple do for a fashionable beauty? What good
would it be for her to be conveyed to London, and to lie on a couch in
Mayfair, while Lesbia rode in the Row and went to three or four parties
every night with a more active chaperon?
She had hoped to go everywhere with her darling, to glory in all her
successes, to shield her from all possibility of failure. And now Lesbia
must stand or fall alone.
It was a hard thing; but perhaps the hardest part of it was that Lesbia
seemed so very well able to get on without her. The girl wrote in the
highest spirits; and although her letters were most affectionately
worded, they were all about self. That note was dominant in every
strain. Her triumphs, her admirers, her bonnets, her gowns. She had had
more money from her grandmother, and more gowns from Paris.
'You have no idea how the people dress in this place,' she wrote. 'I
should have been quite out in the cold without my three new frocks from
Worth. The little Princess bonnets I wear are the rage. Worth
recommended me to adopt special flowers and colours; so I have worn
nothing but primroses since I have been here, and my little primrose
bonnets are to be seen everywhere, sometimes on hideous old women. Lady
Kirkbank hopes you will be able to go to London directly after Easter.
She says I must be presented at the May drawing-room--that is
imperative. People have begun to talk about me; and unless I make my
_debut_ while their interest is fresh I shall be a failure. There is an
American beauty here, and I believe she and I are considered rivals, and
young men lay wagers about us, as to which will look best at a ball, or
a regatta, what colours we shall wear, and so on. It is immense fun. I
only wish you were here to enjoy it. The American girl is a most
insolent person, but I have had the pleasure of crushing her on several
occasions in the calmest way. In the description of the concert in last
week's newspaper I was called _l'Anglais de marbre_. I certainly had the
decency to hold my tongue while Faure was singing. Miss Bolsover's voice
was heard ever so many times above the music. According to our English
ideas she has most revolting manners, and the money she spends on her
clothes would make your hair stand on end. Now do, dearest grandmother,
make all your arrangements for beginning the campaign directly after
Easter. You must take a house in the very choicest quarter--Lady
Kirkbank suggests Grosvenor-place--and it _must_ be a large house, for
of course you will give a ball. Lady K. says we might have Lord
Porlock's house--poor Lady Porlock and her baby died a few weeks ago,
and he has gone to Sweden quite broken-hearted. It is one of the new
houses, exquisitely furnished, and Lady K. thinks you might have it for
a song. Will you get Steadman to write to his lordship's steward, and
see what can be done?
'I hope the dear hand is better. You have never told me how you hurt
it. It is very sweet of Mary to write me such long letters, and quite a
pleasant surprise to find she can spell; but I want to see your own dear
hand once more.'
'AND COME AGEN BE IT BY NIGHT OR DAY.'
Those winter months were unutterably dreary for Lady Mary Haselden. She
felt weighed down by a sense of death and woe near at hand. The horror
of that dreadful moment in which she found her grandmother lying
senseless on the ground, the terror of that distorted countenance, those
starting eyes, that stertorous breathing, was not easily banished from a
vivid girlish imagination; seeing how few distractions there were to
divert Mary's thoughts, and how the sun sank and rose again upon the
same inevitable surroundings, to the same monotonous routine.
Her grandmother was kinder than she had been in days gone by, less
inclined to find fault; but Mary knew that her society gave Lady
Maulevrier very little pleasure, that she could do hardly anything
towards filling the gap made by Lesbia's absence. There was no one to
scold her, no one to quarrel with her. Fraeulein Mueller lectured her
mildly from time to time; but that stout German was too lazy to put any
force or fire into her lectures. Her reproofs were like the fall of
waterdrops on a stone, and infinite ages would have been needed to cause
any positive impression.
February came to an end without sign or token from the outer world to
disturb the even tenor of life at Fellside. Mary read, and read, and
read, till she felt she was made up of the contents of books, crammed
with other people's ideas. She read history, or natural science, or
travels, or German poetry in the morning, and novels or English poetry
in the evening. She had pledged herself to devote her morning indoor
hours to instructive literature, and to accomplish some portion of study
in every day. She was carrying on her education on parole, as before
stated; and she was too honourable to do less than was expected from
March came in with its most leonine aspect, howling and blustering;
north-east winds shrieking along the gorges and wailing from height to
'I wonder the lion and the lamb are not blown into the lake,' said Mary,
looking at Helm Crag from the library window.
She scampered about the gardens in the very teeth of those bitter
blasts, and took her shivering terriers for runs on the green slopes of
the Fell. The snow had gradually melted from the tides of the lowermost
range of hills, but the mountain peaks were still white and ghostly,
the ground was still hard and slippery in the early mornings. Mary had
to take her walks alone in this bleak weather. Fraeulein had a convenient
bronchial affection which forbade her to venture so much as the point of
her nose outside the house in an east wind, and which justified her in
occasionally taking her breakfast in bed. She spent her days for the
most part in her arm-chair, drawn close to the fireplace, which she
still insisted upon calling the oven, knitting diligently, or reading
the _Rundschau_. Even music, which had once been her strong point, was
neglected in this trying weather. It was such a cold journey from the
oven to the piano.
Mary played a good deal in her desultory manner, now that she had the
drawing-room all to herself, and no fear of Lady Maulevrier's critical
ear or Lesbia's superior smile. The Fraeulein was pleased to hear her
pupil ramble on with her favourite bits from Raff, and Hensel, and
Schubert, and Mendelssohn, and Mozart, and was very well content to let
her play just what she liked, and to escape the trouble of training her
to that exquisite perfection into which Lady Lesbia had been drilled.
Lesbia was not a genius, and the training process had been quite as hard
for the governess as for the pupil.
Thus the slow days wore on till the first week in March, and on one
bleak bitter afternoon, when Fraeulein Mueller stuck to the oven even a
little closer than usual, Mary felt she must go out, in the face of the
east wind, which was tossing the leafless branches in the valley below
until the trees looked like an angry crowd, hurling its arms in the air,
fighting, struggling, writhing. She must leave that dreary house for a
little while, were it even to be lashed and bruised and broken by that
fierce wind. So she told Fraeulein that she really must have her
constitutional; and after a feeble remonstrance Fraeulein let her go, and
subsided luxuriously into the pillowed depth of her arm-chair.
There had been a hard frost, and all the mountain ways were perilous, so
Mary set out upon a steady tramp along the road leading towards the
Langdales. The wind seemed to assail her from every side, but she had
accustomed herself to defy the elements, and she only hugged her
sealskin jacket closer to her, and quickened her pace, chirruping and
whistling to Ahab and Ariadne, the two fox-terriers which she had
selected for the privilege of a walk.
The terriers raced along the road, and Mary, seeing that she had the
road all to herself, raced after them. A light snow-shower, large
feathery flakes flying wide apart, fell from the steel-grey sky; but
Mary minded the snow no more than she minded the wind. She raced on, the
terriers scampering, rushing, flying before her, until, just where the
road took a curve, she almost ran into a horse, which was stepping along
at a tremendous pace, with a light, high dogcart behind him.
'Hi!' cried the driver, 'where are you coming, young woman? Have you
never seen a horse till to-day?'
Some one beside the driver leapt out, and ran to see if Mary was hurt.
The horse had swerved to one side, reared a little, and then spun on for
a few yards, leaving her standing in the middle of the road.
'Why, it's Molly!' cried the driver, who was no less distinguished a
whip than Lord Maulevrier, and who had recognised the terriers.
'I hope you are not hurt,' said the gentleman who had alighted,
Maulevrier's friend and shadow, John Hammond.
Mary was covered with confusion by her exploit, and could hardly answer
Mr. Hammond's very simple question.
She looked up at him piteously, trying to speak, and he took alarm at
her scared expression.
'I am sure you are hurt,' he said earnestly, 'the horse must have struck
you, or the shaft perhaps, which was worse. Is it your shoulder that is
hurt, or your chest? Lean on me, if you feel faint or giddy. Maulevrier,
you had better drive your sister home, and get her looked after.'
'Indeed, I am not hurt; not the least little bit,' gasped Mary, who had
recovered her senses by this time. 'I was only frightened, and it was
such a surprise to see you and Maulevrier.'
A surprise--yes--a surprise which had set her heart throbbing so
violently as to render her speechless. Had horse or shaft-point struck
her ever so, she would have hardly been more tremulous than she felt at
this moment. Never had she hoped to see him again. He had set his all
upon one cast--loved, wooed, and lost her sister. Why should he ever
come again? What was there at Fellside worth coming for? And then she
remembered what her grandmother thought of him. He was a hanger-on, a
sponge, a led captain. He was Maulevrier's Umbra, and must go where his
patron went. It was a hard thing so to think of him, and Mary's heart
sank at the thought that Lady Maulevrier's worldly wisdom might have
'It was very foolish of me to run into the horse,' said Mary, while Mr.
Hammond stood waiting for her to recover herself.
'It was very foolish of Maulevrier to run into you. If he didn't drive
at such a break-neck pace it wouldn't have happened.'
Umbra was very plain-spoken, at any rate.
'There's rank ingratitude,' cried Maulevrier, who had turned back, and
was looking down at them from his elevated perch. 'After my coming all
the way round by Langdale to oblige you with a view of Elterwater.
Molly's all safe and sound. She wouldn't have minded if I'd run over
her. Come along, child, get up beside me, Hammond will take the back
This was easier said than done, for the back of the dogcart was piled
with Gladstone bags, fishing rods, and hat-boxes; but Umbra was ready
to oblige. He handed Mary up to the seat by the driver, and clambered up
at the back, when he hooked himself on somehow among the luggage.
'Dear Maulevrier, how delicious of you to come!' said Mary, when they
were rattling on towards Fellside; 'I hope you are going to stay for
'Well, I dare say, if you make yourself very agreeable, I may stay till
Mary's countenance fell.
'Easter is in three weeks,' she said, despondingly.
'And isn't three weeks an age, at such a place as Fellside? I don't know
that I should have come at all on this side of the August sports, only
as the grandmother was ill, I thought it a duty to come and see her. A
fellow mayn't care much for ancestors when they're well, you know; but
when a poor old lady is down on her luck, her people ought to look after
her. So, here I am; and as I knew I should be moped to death here----'
'Thank you for the compliment,' said Mary.
'I brought Hammond along with me. Of course, I knew Lesbia was safe out
of the way,' added Maulevrier in an undertone.
'It is very obliging of Mr. Hammond always to go where you wish,'
returned Mary, who could not help a bitter feeling when she remembered
her grandmother's cruel suggestion. 'Has he no tastes or inclinations of
'Yes, he has, plenty of them, and much loftier tastes than mine, I can
tell you. But he's kind enough to let me hang on to him, and to put up
with my frivolity. There never were two men more different than he and I
are; and I suppose that's why we get on so well together. When we were
in Paris he was always up to his eyes in serious work--lectures, public
libraries, workmen's syndicates, Mary Anne, the International--heaven
knows what, making himself master of the political situation in France;
while I was _rigolant_ and _chaloupant_ at the Bal Bullier.'
It was generous of Maulevrier to speak of his hanger-on thus; and no
doubt the society of a well-informed earnest young man was a great good
for Maulevrier, a good far above the price of those pounds, shillings,
and pence which the Earl might spend for his dependent's benefit; but
when a girl of Mary's ardent temper has made a hero of a man, it galls
her to think that her hero's dignity should be sacrificed, his honour
impeached, were it by the merest tittle.
Maulevrier made a good many inquiries about his grandmother, and seemed
really full of kindness and sympathy; but it was with a feeling of
profound awe, nay, of involuntary reluctance and shrinking, that he
presently entered her ladyship's sitting-room, ushered in by Mary, who
had been to her grandmother beforehand to announce the grandson's
The young man had hardly ever been in a sick room before. He half
expected to see Lady Maulevrier in bed, with a crowd of medicine bottles
and a cut orange on a table by her side, and a sick nurse of the
ancient-crone species cowering over the fire. It was an infinite relief
to him to find his grandmother lying on a sofa by the fire in her pretty
morning room. A little tea-table was drawn close up to her sofa, and she
was taking her afternoon tea. It was rather painful to see her lifting
her tea-cup slowly and carefully with her left hand, but that was all.
The dark eyes still flashed with the old eagle glance, the lines of the
lips were as proud and firm as ever. All sign of contraction or
distortion had passed away. In hours of calm her ladyship's beauty was
unimpaired; but with any strong emotion there came a convulsive working
of the features, and the face was momentarily drawn and distorted, as it
had been at the time of the seizure.
Maulevrier's presence had not an unduly agitating effect on her
ladyship. She received him with tranquil graciousness, and thanked him
for his coming.
'I hope you have spent your winter profitably in Paris,' she said.
'There is a great deal to be learnt there if you go into the right
Maulevrier told her that he had found much to learn, and that he had
gone into circles where almost everything was new to him. Whereupon his
grandmother questioned him about certain noble families in the Faubourg
Saint Germain who had been known to her in her own day of power, and
whose movements she had observed from a distance since that time; but
here she found her grandson dark. He had not happened to meet any of the
people she spoke about: the plain truth being that he had lived
altogether as a Bohemian, and had not used one of the letters of
introduction that had been given to him.
'Your friend Mr. Hammond is with you, I am told,' said Lady Maulevrier,
not altogether with delight.
'Yes, I made him come; but he is quite safe. He will bolt like a shot at
the least hint of Lesbia's return. He doesn't want to meet that young
lady again, I can assure you.'
'Pray don't talk in that injured tone. Mr. Hammond is a gentlemanlike
person, very well informed, very agreeable. I have never denied that.
But you could not expect me to allow my granddaughter to throw herself
away upon the first adventurer who made her an offer.'
'Hammond is not an adventurer.'
'Very well, I will not call him so, if the term offends you. But Mr.
Hammond is--Mr. Hammond, and I cannot allow Lesbia to marry Mr. Hammond
or Mr. Anybody, and I am very sorry you have brought him here again.
There is Mary, a silly, romantic girl. I am very much afraid he has made
an impression upon her. She colours absurdly when she talks of him, and
flew into a passion with me the other day when I ventured to hint that
he is not a Rothschild, and that his society must be expensive to you.'
'His society does not cost me anything. Hammond is the soul of
independence. He worked as a blacksmith in Canada for three months, just
to see what life was like in a wild district. There never was such a
fellow to rough it. And as for Molly, well, now, really, if he happened
to take a fancy to her, and if she happened to like him, I wouldn't bosh
the business, if I were you, grandmother. Take my word for it, Molly
might do worse.'
'Of course. She might marry a chimney sweep. There is no answering for a
girl of her erratic nature. She is silly enough and romantic enough for
anything; but I shall not countenance her if she wants to throw herself
away on a person without prospects or connections; and I look to you,
Maulevrier, to take care of her, now that I am a wretched log chained to
'You may rely upon me, grandmother, Molly shall come to no harm, if I
can help it.'
'Thank you,' said her ladyship, touching her bell twice.
The two clear silvery strokes were a summons for Halcott, the maid, who
'Tell Mrs. Power to get his lordship's room ready immediately, and to
give Mr. Hammond the room he had last summer,' said Lady Maulevrier,
with a sigh of resignation.
While Maulevrier was with his grandmother John Hammond was smoking a
solitary cigar on the terrace, contemplating the mountain landscape in
its cold March greyness, and wondering very much to find himself again
at Fellside. He had gone forth from that house full of passionate
indignation, shaking off the dust from his feet, sternly resolved never
again to cross the threshold of that fateful cave, where he had met his
cold-hearted Circe. And now, because Circe was safe out of the way, he
had come back to the cavern; and he was feeling all the pain that a man
feels who beholds again the scene of a great past sorrow.
Was this the old love and the old pain again, he wondered, or was it
only the sharp thrust of a bitter memory? He had believed himself cured
of his useless love--a great and noble love, wasted on a smaller nature
than his own. He had thought that because his eyes were opened, and he
understood the character of the girl he loved, his cure must needs be
complete. Yet now, face to face with the well-remembered landscape,
looking down upon that dull grey lake which he had seen smiling in the
sunshine, he began to doubt the completeness of his cure. He recalled
the lovely face, the graceful form, the sweet, low voice--the perfection
of gracious womanhood, manner, dress, movements, tones, smiles, all
faultless; and in the absence of that one figure, it seemed to him as if
he had come back to a tenantless, dismantled house, where there was
nothing that made life worth living.
The red sun went down--a fierce and lurid face that seemed to scowl
through the grey--and Mr. Hammond felt that it was time to arouse
himself from gloomy meditation and go in and dress for dinner.
Maulevrier's valet was to arrive by the coach with the heavier part of
the luggage, and Maulevrier's valet did that very small portion of
valeting which was ever required by Mr. Hammond. A man who has worked at
a forge in the backwoods is not likely to be finicking in his ways, or
dependent upon servants for looking after his raiment.
Despite Mr. Hammond's gloomy memories of past joys and disillusions, he
contrived to make himself very agreeable, by-and-by, at dinner, and in
the drawing-room after dinner, and the evening was altogether gay and
sprightly. Maulevrier was in high spirits, full of his Parisian
experiences, and talking slang as glibly as a student of the Quartier
Latin. He would talk nothing but French, protesting that he had almost
forgotten his native tongue, and his French was the language of
Larchey's Dictionary of Argot, in which nothing is called by its right
name. Mary was enchanted with this new vocabulary, and wanted to have
every word explained to her; but Maulevrier confessed that there was a
good deal that was unexplainable.
The evening was much livelier than those summer evenings when the
dowager and Lady Lesbia were present. There was something less of
refinement, perhaps, and Fraeulein remonstrated now and then about some
small violation of the unwritten laws of 'Anstand,' but there was more
mirth. Maulevrier felt for the first time as if he were master at
Fellside. They all went to the billiard room soon after dinner, and
Fraeulein and Mary sat by the fire looking on, while the two young men
played. In such an evening there was no time for bitter memories: and
John Hammond was surprised to find how little he had missed that
enchantress whose absence had made the house seem desolate to him when
he re-entered it.
He was tired with his journey and the varying emotions of the day, for
it was not without strong emotion that he had consented to return to
Fellside--and he slept soundly for the earlier part of the night. But he
had trained himself long ago to do with a very moderate portion of
sleep, and he was up and dressed while the dawn was still slowly
creeping along the edges of the hills. He went quietly down to the hall,
took one of the bamboos from a collection of canes and mountain sticks,
and set out upon a morning ramble over the snowy slopes. The snow
showers of yesterday had only sprinkled the greensward upon the lower
ground, but in the upper regions the winter snows still lingered, giving
an Alpine character to the landscape.
John Hammond was too experienced a mountaineer to be deterred by a
little snow. He went up Silver Howe, and from the rugged breast of the
mountain saw the sun leap up from amidst a chaos of hill and crag, in
all his majesty, while the grey mists of night slowly floated up from
the valley that had lain hidden below them, and Grasmere Lake sparkled
and flashed in the light of the newly-risen sun.
The church clock was striking eight as Hammond came at a brisk pace down
to the valley. There was still an hour before breakfast, so he took a
circuitous path to Fellside, and descended upon the house from the Fell,
as he had done that summer morning when he saw James Steadman sauntering
about in his garden.
Within about a quarter of a mile of Lady Maulevrier's shrubberies Mr.
Hammond encountered a pedestrian, who, like himself, was evidently
taking a constitutional ramble in the morning air, but on a much less
extended scale, for this person did not look capable of going far
He was an old man, something under middle height, but looking as if he
had once been taller; for his shoulders were much bent, and his head was
sunk on his chest. His whole form looked wasted and shrunken, and John
Hammond thought he had never seen so old a man--or at any rate any man
who was so deeply marked with all the signs of extreme age; and yet in
the backwoods of America he had met ancient settlers who remembered
Franklin, and who had been boys when the battle of Bunker's Hill was
fresh in the memory of their fathers and mothers.
The little old man was clad in a thick grey overcoat of some shaggy kind
of cloth which looked like homespun. He wore a felt hat, and carried a
thick oak stick, and there was nothing in his appearance to indicate
that he belonged to any higher grade than that of the shepherds and
guides with whom Hammond had made himself familiar during his previous
visit. And yet there was something distinctive about the man, Hammond
thought, something wild and uncanny, which made him unlike any of those
hale and hearty-looking dalesmen on whom old age sate so lightly. No,
John Hammond could not fancy this man, with his pallid countenance and
pale crafty eyes, to be of the same race as those rugged and
honest-looking descendants of the Norsemen.
Perhaps it was the man's exceeding age, for John Hammond made up his
mind that he must be a centenarian, which gave him so strange and unholy
an air. He had the aspect of a man who had been buried and brought back
to life again.
So might look one of those Indian Fakirs who have the power to suspend life
by some mysterious process, and to lie in the darkness of the grave for a
given period, and then at their own will to resume the functions of the
living. His long white hair fell upon the collar of his grey coat, and
would have given him a patriarchal appearance had the face possessed the
dignity of age: but it was a countenance without dignity, a face deeply
scored with the lines of evil passions and guilty memories--the face of
the vulture, with a touch of the ferret--altogether a most unpleasant
face, Mr. Hammond thought.
And yet there was a kind of fascination about that bent and shrunken
figure, those feeble movements, and shuffling gait. John Hammond turned
to look after the old man when he had passed him, and stood to watch him
as he went slowly up the Fell, plant his crutch stick upon the ground
before every footstep, as if it were a third leg, and more serviceable
than either of the other two.
Mr. Hammond watched him for two or three minutes, but, as the old man's
movements had an automatic regularity, the occupation soon palled, and
he turned and walked toward Fellside. A few yards nearer the grounds he
met James Steadman, walking briskly, and smoking his morning pipe.
'You are out early this morning,' said Hammond, by way of civility.
'I am always pretty early, sir. I like a mouthful of morning air.'
'So do I. By-the-bye, can you tell me anything about a queer-looking old
man I passed just now a little higher up the Fell? Such an old, old man,
with long white hair.'
'Yes, sir. I believe I know him.'
'Who is he? Does he live in Grasmere?'
Steadman looked puzzled.
'Well, you see, sir, your description might apply to a good many; but if
it's the man I think you mean he lives in one of the cottages behind the
church. Old Barlow, they call him.'
'There can't be two such men--he must be at least a century old. If any
one told me he were a hundred and twenty I shouldn't be inclined to
doubt the fact. I never saw such a shrivelled, wrinkled visage,
bloodless, too, as if the poor old wretch never felt your fresh mountain
air upon his hollow cheeks. A dreadful face. It will haunt me for a
'It must be old Barlow,' replied Steadman. 'Good day, sir.'
He walked on with his swinging step, and at such a pace that he was up
the side of the Fell and close upon old Barlow's heels when Hammond
turned to look after him five minutes later.
'There's a man who shows few traces of age, at any rate,' thought
Hammond. 'Yet her ladyship told me that he is over seventy.'
THE OLD MAN ON THE FELL.
Having made up his mind to stay at Fellside until after Easter,
Maulevrier settled down very quietly--for him. He rode a good deal,
fished a little, looked after his dogs, played billiards, made a devout
appearance in the big square pew at St. Oswald's on Sunday mornings, and
behaved altogether as a reformed character. Even his grandmother was
fain to admit that Maulevrier was improved, and that Mr. Hammond's
influence upon him must be exercised for good and not for evil.
'I plunged awfully last year, and the year before that,' said
Maulevrier, sitting at tea in her ladyship's morning room one afternoon
about a week after his return, when she had expressed her gracious
desire that the two young men should take tea with her.
Mary was in charge of the tea-pot and brass kettle, and looked as
radiant and as fresh as a summer morning. A regular Gainsborough girl,
Hammond called her, when he praised her to her brother; a true English
beauty, unsophisticated, a little rustic, but full of youthful
'You see, I didn't know what a racing stable meant,' continued
Maulevrier, mildly apologetic--'in fact, I thought it was an easy way
for a nobleman to make as good a living as your City swells, with their
soft goods or their Brummagem ware, a respectable trade for a gentleman
to engage in. And it was only when I was half ruined that I began to
understand the business; and as soon as I did understand it I made up my
mind to get out of it; and I am happy to say that I sold the very last
of my stud in February, and Tony Lumpkin is his own man again. So you
may welcome the prodigal grandson, and order the fatted calf to be
Lady Maulevrier stretched out her left hand to him, and the young man
bent over it and kissed it affectionately. He felt really touched by her
misfortunes, and was fonder of her than he had ever been before. She had
been somewhat hard with him in his boyhood, but she had always cared for
his dignity and protected his interests: and, after all, she was a noble
old woman, a grandmother of whom a man might be justly proud. He thought
of the painted harridans, the bare-shouldered skeletons, whom some of
his young friends were obliged to own in the same capacity, and he was
thankful that he could reverence his father's mother.
'That is the best news I have heard for a long time, Maulevrier,' said
her ladyship graciously; 'better medicine for my nerves than any of Mr.
Horton's preparations. If Mr. Hammond's advice has influenced you to get
rid of your stable I am deeply grateful to Mr. Hammond.'
Hammond smiled as he sipped his tea, sitting close to Mary's tray, ready
to fly to her assistance on the instant should the brazen kettle become
troublesome. It had a threatening way of hissing and bubbling over its
'Oh, you have no idea what a fellow Hammond is to lecture,' answered
Maulevrier. 'He is a tremendous Radical, and he thinks that every young
man in my position ought to be a reformer, and devote the greater part
of his time and trouble to turning out the dirty corners of the world,
upsetting those poor dear families who like to pig together in one room,
ordering all the children off to school, marrying the fathers and
mothers, thrusting himself between free labour and free beer, and
interfering with the liberty of the subject in every direction.'
'All that may sound like Radicalism, but I think it is the true
Conservatism, and that every young man ought to do as much, if he wants
this timeworn old country to maintain its power and prosperity,'
answered Lady Maulevrier, with an approving glance at John Hammond's
'Right you are, grandmother,' returned Maulevrier, 'and I believe
Hammond calls himself a Conservative, and means to vote with the
Means to vote! An idle phrase, surely, thought her ladyship, where the
young man's chance of getting into Parliament was so remote.
That afternoon tea in Lady Maulevrier's room was almost as cheerful as
the tea-drinkings in the drawing-room, unrestrained by her ladyship's
presence. She was pleased with her grandson's conduct, and was therefore
inclined to be friendly to his friend. She could see an improvement in
Mary, too. The girl was more feminine, more subdued, graver, sweeter;
more like that ideal woman of Wordsworth's, whose image embodies all
that is purest and fairest in womanhood.
Mary had not forgotten that unlucky story about the fox-hunt, and ever
since Hammond's return she had been as it were on her best behaviour,
refraining from her races with the terriers, and holding herself aloof
from Maulevrier's masculine pursuits. She sheltered herself a good deal
under the Fraeulein's substantial wing, and took care never to intrude
herself upon the amusements of her brother and his friend. She was not
one of those young women who think a brother's presence an excuse for a
perpetual _tete-a-tete_ with a young man. Yet when Maulevrier came in
quest of her, and entreated her to join them in a ramble, she was not
too prudish to refuse the pleasure she so thoroughly enjoyed. But
afternoon tea was her privileged hour--the time at which she wore her
prettiest frock, and forgot to regret her inferiority to Lesbia in all
the graces of womanhood.
One afternoon, when they had all three walked to Easedale Tarn, and were
coming back by the side of the force, picking their way among the grey
stones and the narrow threads of silvery water, it suddenly occurred to
Hammond to ask Mary about that queer old man he had seen on the Fell
nearly a fortnight before. He had often thought of making the inquiry
when he was away from Mary, but had always forgotten the thing when he
was with her. Indeed, Mary had a wonderful knack of making him forget
everything but herself.
'You seem to know every creature in Grasmere, down to the two-year-old
babies,' said Hammond, Mary having just stopped to converse with an
infantine group, straggling and struggling over the boulders. 'Pray, do
you happen to know a man called Barlow, a very old man?'
'Old Sam Barlow,' exclaimed Mary; 'why, of course I know him.'
She said it as if he were a near relative, and the question palpably
'He is an old man, a hundred, at least, I should think,' said Hammond.
'Poor old Sam, not much on the wrong side of eighty. I go to see him
every week, and take him his week's tobacco, poor old dear. It is his
'Is it?' asked Hammond. 'I should have doubted his having so humanising
a taste as tobacco. He looks too evil a creature ever to have yielded to
the softening influence of a pipe.'
'An evil creature! What, old Sam? Why he is the most genial old thing,
and as cheery--loves to hear the newspaper read to him--the murders and
railway accidents. He doesn't care for politics. Everybody likes old Sam
'I fancy the Grasmere idea of reverend and amiable age must be strictly
local. I can only say that I never saw a more unholy countenance.'
'You must have been dreaming when you saw him,' said Mary. 'Where did
you meet him?'
'On the Fell, about a quarter of a mile from the shrubbery gate.'
'_Did_ you? I shouldn't have thought he could have got so far. I've a
good mind to take you to see him, this very afternoon, before we go
'Do,' exclaimed Hammond, 'I should like it immensely. I thought him a
hateful-looking old person; but there was something so thoroughly
uncanny about him that he exercised an absolute fascination upon me: he
magnetised me, I think, as the green-eyed cat magnetises the bird. I
have been positively longing to see him again. He is a kind of human
monster, and I hope some one will have a big bottle made ready for him
and preserve him in spirits when he dies.'
'What a horrid idea! No, sir, dear old Barlow shall lie beside the
Rotha, under the trees Wordsworth planted. He is such a man as
Wordsworth would have loved.'
Mr. Hammond shrugged his shoulders, and said no more. Mary's little
vehement ways, her enthusiasm, her love of that valley, which might be
called her native place, albeit her eyes had opened upon heaven's light
far away, her humility, were all very delightful in their way. She was
not a perfect beauty, like Lesbia; but she was a fresh, pure-minded
English girl, frank as the day, and if he had had a brother he would
have recommended that brother to choose just such a girl for his wife.
Mr. Samuel Barlow occupied a little old cottage, which seemed to consist
chiefly of a gable end and a chimney stack, in that cluster of dwellings
behind St. Oswald's church, which was once known as the Kirk Town.
Visitors went downstairs to get to Mr. Barlow's ground-floor, for the
influence of time and advancing civilisation had raised the pathway in
front of Mr. Barlow's cottage until his parlour had become of a
cellar-like aspect. Yet it was a very nice little parlour when one got
down to it, and it enjoyed winter and summer a perpetual twilight, since
the light that crept through the leaded casement was tempered by a
screen of flowerpots, which were old Barlow's particular care. There
were no finer geraniums in all Grasmere than Barlow's, no bigger
carnations or picotees, asters or arums.
It was about five o'clock in the March afternoon, when Mary ushered John
Hammond into Mr. Barlow's dwelling, and, in the dim glow of a cheery
little fire and the faint light that filtered through the screen of
geranium leaves, the visitor looked for a moment or so doubtfully at the
owner of the cottage. But only for a moment. Those bright blue eyes and
apple cheeks, that benevolent expression, bore no likeness to the
strange old man he had seen on the Fell. Mr. Barlow was toothless and
nut-cracker like of outline; he was thin and shrunken, and bent with the
burden of long years, but his healthy visage had none of those deep
lines, those cross markings and hollows which made the pallid
countenance of that other old man as ghastly as would be the abstract
idea of life's last stage embodied by the bitter pencil of a Hogarth.
'I have brought a gentleman from London to see you, Sam,' said Mary. 'He
fancied he met you on the Fell the other morning.'
Barlow rose and quavered a cheery welcome, but protested against the
idea of his having got so far as the Fell.
'With my blessed rheumatics, you know it isn't in me, Lady Mary. I shall
never get no further than the churchyard; but I likes to sit on the wall
hard by Wordsworth's tomb in a warm afternoon, and to see the folks pass
over the bridge; and I can potter about looking after my flowers, I can.
But it would be a dull life, now the poor old missus is gone and the
bairns all out at service, if it wasn't for some one dropping in to have
a chat, or read me a bit of the news sometimes. And there isn't anybody
in Grasmere, gentle or simple, that's kinder to me than you, Lady Mary.
Lord bless you, I do look forward to my newspaper. Any more of them
'No, Sam, thank Heaven, there have been no railway accidents.'
'Ah, we shall have 'em in August and September,' said the old man,
cheerily. 'They're bound to come then. There's a time for all things,
as Solomon says. When the season comes t'smashes all coom. And no more
of these mysterious murders, I suppose, which baffle t'police and keep
me awake o' nights thinking of 'em.'
'Surely you do not take delight in murder, Mr. Barlow?' said Hammond.
'No, sir, I do not wish my fellow-creatures to mak' awa' wi' each other;
but if there is a murder going in the papers I like to get the benefit
of it. I like to sit in front of my fire of an evening and wonder about
it while I smoke my pipe, and fancy I can see the murderer hiding in a
garret in an out-of-the-way alley, or as a stowaway on board a gert
ship, or as a miner deep down in a coalpit, and never thinking that even
there t'police can track him. Did you ever hear tell o' Mr. de Quincey,
'I believe I have read every line he ever wrote.'
'Ah, you should have heard him talk about murders. It would have made
you dream queer dreams, just as he did. He lived for years in the white
cottage that Wordsworth once lived in, just behind the street yonder--a
nice, neat, lile gentleman, in a houseful of books. I've had many a talk
with him when I was a young man.'
'And how old may you he now, Mr. Barlow?'
'Getting on for eighty four, sir.'
'But you are not the oldest man in Grasmere, I should say, by twenty
'I don't think there's many much older than me, sir.'
'The man I saw on the Fell looked at least a hundred. I wish you could
tell me who he is; I feel a morbid curiosity about him.'
He went on to describe the old man in the grey coat, as minutely as he
could, dwelling on every characteristic of that singular-looking old
person; but Samuel Barlow could not identify the description with any
one in Grasmere. Yet a man of that age, seen walking on the hill-side at
eight in the morning, could hardly have come from far afield.
LADY MAULEVRIER'S LETTER-BAG.
Although Maulevrier had assured his grandmother that John Hammond would
take flight at the first warning of Lesbia's return, Lady Maulevrier's
dread of any meeting between her granddaughter and that ineligible lover
determined her in making such arrangements as should banish Lesbia from
Fellside, so long as there seemed the slightest danger of such a
meeting. She knew that Lesbia had loved her fortuneless suitor; and she
did not know that the wound was cured, even by a season in the
little-great world of Cannes. Now that she, the ruler of that
household, was a helpless captive in her own apartments, she felt that
Lesbia at Fellside would be her own mistress, and hemmed round with the
dangers that beset richly-dowered beauty and inexperienced youth.
John Hammond might be playing a very deep game, perhaps assisted by
Maulevrier. He might ostensibly leave Fellside before Lesbia's return,
yet lurk in the neighbourhood, and contrive to meet her every day. If
Maulevrier encouraged this folly, they might be married and over the
border, before her ladyship--fettered, impotent as she was--could
Lady Maulevrier felt that Georgie Kirkbank was her strong rock. So long
as Lesbia was under that astute veteran's wing there could be no danger.
In that embodied essence of worldliness and diplomacy, there was an
ever-present defence from all temptations that spring from romance and
youthful impulses. It was a bitter thing, perhaps, to steep a young and
pure soul in such an atmosphere, to harden a fresh young nature in the
fiery crucible of fashionable life; but Lady Maulevrier believed that
the end would sanctify the means. Lesbia, once married to a worthy man,
such a man as Lord Hartfield, for instance, would soon rise to a higher
level than that Belgravian swamp over which the malarian vapours of
falsehood, and slander, and self-seeking, and prurient imaginings hang
dense and thick. She would rise to the loftier table-land of that really
great world which governs and admonishes the ruck of mankind by examples
of noble deeds and noble thoughts; the world of statesmen, and soldiers,
and thinkers, and reformers; the salt wherewithal society is salted.
But while Lesbia was treading the tortuous mazes of fashion, it was well
for her to be guided and guarded by such an old campaigner as Lady
Kirkbank, a woman who, in the language of her friends, 'knew the ropes.'
Lesbia's last letter had been to the effect that she was to go back to
London with the Kirkbanks directly after Easter, and that directly they
arrived she would set off with her maid for Fellside, to spend a week or
a fortnight with her dearest grandmother, before going back to Arlington
Street for the May campaign.
'And then, dearest, I hope you will make up your mind to spend the
season in London,' wrote Lesbia. 'I shall expect to hear that you have
secured Lord Porlock's house. How dreadfully slow your poor dear hand is
to recover! I am afraid Horton is not treating the case cleverly. Why do
you not send for Mr. Erichsen? It is a shock to my nerves every time I
receive a letter in Mary's masculine hand, instead of in your lovely
Italian penmanship. Strange--isn't it?--how much better the women of
your time write than the girls of the present day! Lady Kirkbank
receives letters from stylish girls in a hand that would disgrace a
Lady Maulevrier allowed a post to go by before she answered this letter,
while she deliberated upon the best and wisest manner of arranging her
granddaughter's future. It was an agony to her not to be able to write
with her own hand, to be obliged to so shape every sentence that Mary
might learn nothing which she ought not to know. It was impossible with
such an amanuensis to write confidentially to Lady Kirkbank. The letters
to Lesbia were of less consequence; for Lesbia, albeit so intensely
beloved, was not in her grandmother's confidence, least of all about
those schemes and dreams which concerned her own fate.
However, the letters had to be written, so Mary was told to open her
desk and begin.
The letter to Lesbia ran thus:--
'My dearest Child,
'This is a world in which our brightest day-dreams generally end in
mere dreaming. For years past I have cherished the hope of
presenting you to your sovereign, to whom I was presented six and
forty years ago, when she was so fair and girlish a creature that
she seemed to me more like a queen in a fairy tale than the actual
ruler of a great country. I have beguiled my monotonous days with
thoughts of the time when I should return to the great world, full
of pride and delight in showing old friends what a sweet flower I
had reared in my mountain home; but, alas, Lesbia, it may not be.
'Fate has willed otherwise. The maimed hand does not recover,
although Horton is very clever, and thoroughly understands my case.
I am not ill, I am not in danger; so you need feel no anxiety about
me; but I am a cripple; and I am likely to remain a cripple for
months; so the idea of a London season this year is hopeless.
'Now, as you have in a manner made your _debut_ at Cannes, it would
never do to bury you here for another year. You complained of the
dullness last summer; but you would find Fellside much duller now
that you have tasted the elixir of life. No, my dear love, it will
be well for you to be presented, as Lady Kirkbank proposes, at the
first drawing-room after Easter; and Lady Kirkbank will have to
present you. She will be pleased to do this, I know, for her letters
are full of enthusiasm about you. And, after all, I do not think you
will lose by the exchange. Clever as I think myself, I fear I should
find myself sorely at fault in the society of to-day. All things are
changed: opinions, manners, creeds, morals even. Acts that were
crimes in my day are now venial errors--opinions that were
scandalous are now the mark of "advanced thought." I should be too
formal for this easy-going age, should be ridiculed as old-fashioned
and narrow-minded, should put you to the blush a dozen times a day
by my prejudices and opinions.
'It is very good of you to think of travelling so long a distance to
see me; and I should love to look at your sweet face, and hear you
describe your new experiences; but I could not allow you to travel
with only the protection of a maid; and there are many reasons why I
think it better to defer the meeting till the end of the season,
when Lady Kirkbank will bring my treasure back to me, eager to tell
me the history of all the hearts she has broken.'
The dowager's letter to Lady Kirkbank was brief and business-like. She
could only hope that her old friend Georgie, whose acuteness she knew of
old, would divine her feelings and her wishes, without being explicitly
told what they were.
'My dear Georgie,
'I am too ill to leave this house; indeed I doubt if I shall ever
leave it till I am taken away in my coffin; but please say nothing
to alarm Lesbia. Indeed, there is no ground for fear, as I am not
dangerously ill, and may drag out an imprisonment of long years
before the coffin comes to fetch me. There are reasons, which you
will understand, why Lesbia should not come here till after the
season; so please keep her in Arlington Street, and occupy her mind
as much as you can with the preparations for her first campaign. I
give you _carte blanche_. If Carson is still in business I should
like her to make my girl's gowns; but you must please yourself in
this matter, as it is quite possible that Carson is a little behind
'I must ask you to present my darling, and to deal with her exactly
as if she were a daughter of your own. I think you know all my views
and hopes about her; and I feel that I can trust to your friendship
in this my day of need. The dream of my life has been to launch her
myself, and direct her every step in the mazes of town life; but
that dream is over. I have kept age and infirmity at a distance,
have even forgotten that the years were going by; and now I find
myself an old woman all at once, and my golden dream has vanished.'
Lady Kirkbank's reply came by return of post, and happily this gushing
epistle had not to be submitted to Mary's eye.
'My dearest Di,
'My heart positively bleeds for you. What is the matter with your
hand, that you talk of being a life-long prisoner to your room? Pray
send for Paget or Erichsen, and have yourself put right at once. No
doubt that local simpleton is making a mess of your case. Perhaps
while he is dabbing with lint and lotions the real remedy is the
knife. I am sure amputation would be less melancholy than the
despondent state of feeling which you are now suffering. If any limb
of mine went wrong, I should say to the surgeon, "Cut it off, and
patch up the stump in your best style; I give you a fortnight, and
at the end of that time I expect to be going to parties again." Life
is not long enough for dawdling surgery.
'As regards Lesbia, I can only say that I adore her, and I am
enchanted at the idea that I am to run her myself. I intend her to
be _the_ beauty of the season--not _one of the loveliest
debutantes_, or any rot of that kind--but just the girl whom
everybody will be crazy about. There shall be a mob wherever she
appears, Di, I promise you that. There is no one in London who can
work a thing of that kind better than your humble servant. And when
once the girl is the talk of the town, all the rest is easy. She can
choose for herself among the very best men in society. Offers will
pour in as thickly as circulars from undertakers and mourning
warehouses after a death.
'Lesbia is so cool-headed and sensible that I have not the least
doubt of her success. With an impulsive or romantic girl there is
always the fear of a _fiasco_. But this sweet child of yours has
been well brought up, and knows her own value. She behaved like a
queen here, where I need not tell you society is just a little
mixed; though, of course, we only cultivate our own set. Your heart
would swell with pride if you could see the way she puts down men
who are not quite good style; and the ease with which she crushes
those odious American girls, with their fine complexions and loud
'Be assured that I shall guard her as the apple of my eye, and that
the detrimental who circumvents me will be a very Satan of schemers.
'I can but smile at your mention of Carson, whose gowns used to fit
us so well in our girlish days, and whose bills seem moderate
compared with the exorbitant accounts I get now.
'Carson has long been forgotten, my dear soul, gone with the snows
of last year. A long procession of fashionable French dressmakers
has passed across the stage since her time, like the phantom kings
in Macbeth; and now the last rage is to have our gowns made by an
Englishman who works for the Princess, and who gives himself most
insufferable airs, or an Irishwoman who is employed by all the best
actresses. It is to the latter, Kate Kearney, I shall entrust our
sweet Lesbia's toilettes.'
The same post brought a loving letter from Lesbia, full of regret at not
being allowed to go down to Fellside, and yet full of delight at the
prospect of her first season.
'Lady Kirkbank and I have been discussing my court dress,' she wrote,
'and we have decided upon a white cut-velvet train, with a border of
ostrich feathers, over a satin petticoat embroidered with seed
pearl. It will be expensive, but we know you will not mind that.
Lady Kirkbank takes the idea from the costume Buckingham wore at the
Louvre the first time he met Anne of Austria. Isn't that clever of
her? She is not a deep thinker like you; is horribly ignorant of
science, metaphysics, poetry even. She asked me one day who Plato
was, and whether he took his name from the battle of Platoea; and
she says she never could understand why people make a fuss about
Shakespeare; but she has read all the secret histories and memoirs
that ever were written, and knows all the ins and outs of court life
and high life for the last three hundred years; and there is not a
person in the peerage whose family history she has not at her
fingers' ends, except my grandfather. When I asked her to tell me
all about Lord Maulevrier and his achievements as Governor of
Madras, she had not a word to say. So, perhaps, she draws upon her
invention a little in talking about other people, and felt herself
restrained when she came to speak of my grandfather.'
This passage in Lesbia's letter affected Lady Maulevrier as if a
scorpion had wriggled from underneath the sheet of paper. She folded the
letter, and laid it in the satin-lined box on her table, with a deep
'Yes, she is in the world now, and she will ask questions. I have never
warned her against pronouncing her grandfather's name. There are some
who will not be so kind as Georgie Kirkbank; some, perhaps, who will
delight in humiliating her, and who will tell her the worst that can be
told. My only hope is that she will make a great marriage, and speedily.
Once the wife of a man with a high place in the world, worldlings will
be too wise to wound her by telling her that her grandfather was an
The die was cast. Lady Maulevrier might dread the hazard of evil
tongues, of slanderous memories; but she could not recall her consent to
Lesbia's _debut_. The girl was already launched; she had been seen and
admired. The next stage in her career must be to be wooed and won by a
ON THE DARK BROW OF HELVELLYN.
While these plans were being settled, and while Lesbia's future was the
all-absorbing subject of Lady Maulevrier's thoughts, Mary contrived to
be happier than she had ever been in her life before. It was happiness
that grew and strengthened with every day; and yet there was no obvious
reason for this deep joy. Her life ran in the same familiar groove. She
walked and rode on the old pathways; she rowed on the lake she had known
from babyhood; she visited her cottagers, and taught in the village
school, just the same as of old. The change was only that she was no
longer alone; and of late the solitude of her life, the ever-present
consciousness that nobody shared her pleasures or sympathised with her
upon any point, had weighed upon her like an actual burden. Now she had
Maulevrier, who was always kind, who understood and shared almost all
her tastes, and Maulevrier's friend, who, although not given to saying
smooth things, seemed warmly interested in her pursuits and opinions. He
encouraged her to talk, although he generally took the opposite side in
every argument; and she no longer felt oppressed or irritated by the
idea that he despised her.
Indeed, although he never flattered or even praised her, Mr. Hammond let
her see that he liked her society. She had gone out of her way to avoid
him, very fearful lest he should think her bold or masculine; but he had
taken pains to frustrate all her efforts in that direction; he had
refused to go upon excursions which she could not share. 'Lady Mary must
come with us,' he said, when they were planning a morning's ramble. Thus
it happened that Mary was his guide and companion in all his walks, and
roamed with him bamboo in hand, over every one of those mountainous
paths she knew and loved so well. Distance was as nothing to
them--sometimes a boat helped them, and they went over wintry Windermere
to climb the picturesque heights above Bowness. Sometimes they took
ponies, and a groom, and left their steeds to perform the wilder part of
the way on foot. In this wise John Hammond saw all that was to be seen
within a day's journey of Grasmere, except the top of Helvellyn.
Maulevrier had shirked the expedition, had always put off Mary and Mr.
Hammond when they proposed it. The season was not advanced enough--the
rugged pathway by the Tongue Ghyll would be as slippery as glass--no
pony could get up there in such weather.
'We have not had any frost to speak of for the last fortnight,' pleaded
Mary, who was particularly anxious to do the honours of Helvellyn, as
the real lion of the neighbourhood.
'What a simpleton you are, Molly!' cried Maulevrier. 'Do you suppose
because there is no frost in your grandmother's garden--and if you were
to ask Staples about his peaches he would tell you a very different
story--that there's a tropical atmosphere on Dolly Waggon Pike? Why, I'd
wager the ice on Grisdale Tarn is thick enough for skating. Helvellyn
won't run away, child. You and Hammond can dance the Highland
Schottische on Striding Edge in June, if you like.'
'Mr. Hammond won't be here in June,' said Mary.
'Who knows?--the train service is pretty fair between London and
Windermere. Hammond and I would think nothing of putting ourselves in
the mail on a Friday night, and coming down to spend Saturday and Sunday
with you--if you are good.'
There came a sunny morning soon after Easter which seemed mild enough
for June; and when Hammond suggested that this was the very day for
Helvellyn, Maulevrier had not a word to say against the truth of that
proposition. The weather had been exceptionally warm for the last week,
and they had played tennis and sat in the garden just as if it had been
actually summer. Patches of snow might still linger on the crests of the
hills--but the approach to those bleak heights could hardly be glacial.
Mary clasped her hands delightedly.
'Dear old Maulevrier!' she exclaimed, 'you are always good to me. And
now I shall be able to show you the Red Tarn, the highest pool of water
in England,' she said, turning to Hammond. 'And you will see Windermere
winding like a silvery serpent between the hills, and Grasmere shining
like a jewel in the depth of the valley, and the sea glittering like a
line of white light between the edges of earth and heaven, and the dark
Scotch hills like couchant lions far away to the north.'
'That is to say these things are all supposed to be on view from the top
of the mountain; but as a peculiar and altogether exceptional state of
the atmosphere is essential to their being seen, I need not tell you
that they are rarely visible,' said Maulevrier. 'You are talking to old
mountaineers, Molly. Hammond has done Cotapaxi and had his little
clamber on the equatorial Andes, and I--well, child, I have done my
Righi, and I have always found the boasted panorama enveloped in dense
'It won't be foggy to-day,' said Mary. 'Shall we do the whole thing on
foot, or shall I order the ponies?'
Mr. Hammond inquired the distance up and down, and being told that it
involved only a matter of eight miles, decided upon walking.
'I'll walk, and lead your pony,' he said to Mary, but Mary declared
herself quite capable of going on foot, so the ponies were dispensed
with as a possible encumbrance.
This was planned and discussed in the garden before breakfast. Fraeulein
was told that Mary was going for a long walk with her brother and Mr.
Hammond; a walk which might last over the usual luncheon hour; so
Fraeulein was not to wait luncheon. Mary went to her grandmother's room
to pay her duty visit. There were no letters for her to write that
morning, so she was perfectly free.
The three pedestrians started an hour after breakfast, in light marching
order. The two young men wore their Argyleshire shooting
clothes--homespun knickerbockers and jackets, thick-ribbed hose knitted
by Highland lasses in Inverness. They carried a couple of hunting flasks
filled with claret, and a couple of sandwich boxes, and that was all.
Mary wore her substantial tailor-gown of olive tweed, and a little toque
to match, with a silver mounted grouse-claw for her only ornament.
It was a delicious morning, the air fresh and sweet, the sun comfortably
warm, a little too warm, perhaps, presently, when they had trodden the
narrow path by the Tongue Ghyll, and were beginning to wind slowly
upwards over rough boulders and last year's bracken, tough and brown and
tangled, towards that rugged wall of earth and stone tufted with rank
grasses, which calls itself Dolly Waggon Pike. Here they all came to a
stand-still, and wiped the dews of honest labour from their foreheads;
and here Maulevrier flung himself down upon a big boulder, with the
soles of his stout shooting boots in running water, and took out his
'How do you like it?' he asked his friend, when he had lighted his
cigarette. 'I hope you are enjoying yourself.'
'I never was happier in my life,' answered Hammond.
He was standing on higher ground, with Mary at his elbow, pointing out
and expatiating upon the details of the prospect. There were the
lakes--Grasmere, a disk of shining blue; Rydal, a patch of silver; and
Windermere winding amidst a labyrinth of wooded hills.
'Aren't you tired?' asked Maulevrier.
'Not a whit.'
'Oh, I forgot you had done Cotapaxi, or as much of Cotapaxi as living
mortal ever has done. That makes a difference. I am going home.'
'Oh, Maulevrier!' exclaimed Mary, piteously.
'I am going home. You two can go to the top. You are both hardened
mountaineers, and I am not in it with either of you. When I rashly
consented to a pedestrian ascent of Helvellyn I had forgotten what the
gentleman was like; and as to Dolly Waggon I had actually forgotten her
existence. But now I see the lady--as steep as the side of a house, and
as stony--no, naught but herself can be her parallel in stoniness. No,
Molly, I will go no further.'
'But we shall go down on the other side,' urged Mary. 'It is a little
steeper on the Cumberland side, but not nearly so far.'
'A little steeper! I Can anything be steeper than Dolly Waggon? Yes, you
are right. It is steeper on the Cumberland side. I remember coming down
a sheer descent, like an exaggerated sugar-loaf; but I was on a pony,
and it was the brute's look-out. I will not go down the Cumberland side
on my own legs. No, Molly, not even for you. But if you and Hammond want
to go to the top, there is nothing to prevent you. He is a skilled
mountaineer. I'll trust you with him.'
Mary blushed, and made no reply. Of all things in the world she least
wanted to abandon the expedition. Yet to climb Helvellyn alone with her
brother's friend would no doubt be a terrible violation of those laws of
maidenly propriety which Fraeulein was always expounding. If Mary were to
do this thing, which she longed to do, she must hazard a lecture from
her governess, and probably a biting reproof from her grandmother.
'Will you trust yourself with me, Lady Mary?' asked Hammond, looking at
her with a gaze so earnest--so much more earnest than the occasion
required--that her blushes deepened and her eyelids fell. 'I have done a
good deal of climbing in my day, and I am not afraid of anything
Helvellyn can do to me. I promise to take great care of you if you will
How could she refuse? How could she for one moment pretend that she did
not trust him, that her heart did not yearn to go with him. She would
have climbed the shingly steep of Cotapaxi with him--or crossed the
great Sahara with him--and feared nothing. Her trust in him was
infinite--as infinite as her reverence and love.
'I am afraid Fraeulein would make a fuss,' she faltered, after a pause.
'Hang Fraeulein,' cried Maulevrier, puffing at his cigarette, and kicking
about the stones in the clear running water. 'I'll square it with
Fraeulein. I'll give her a pint of fiz with her lunch, and make her see
everything in a rosy hue. The good soul is fond of her Heidseck. You
will be back by afternoon tea. Why should there be any fuss about the
matter? Hammond wants to see the Red Tarn, and you are dying to show him
the way. Go, and joy go with you both. Climbing a stony hill is a form
of pleasure to which I have not yet risen. I shall stroll home at my
leisure, and spend the afternoon on the billiard-room sofa reading
Mudie's last contribution to the comforts of home.'
'What a Sybarite,' said Hammond. 'Come, Lady Mary, we mustn't loiter, if
we are to be back at Fellside by five o'clock.'
Mary looked at her brother doubtfully, and he gave her a little nod
which seemed to say, 'Go, by all means;' so she dug the end of her staff
into Dolly's rugged breast, and mounted cheerily, stepping lightly from
boulder to boulder.
The sun was not so warm as it had been ten minutes ago, when Maulevrier
flung himself down to rest. The sky had clouded over a little, and a
cooler wind was blowing across the breast of the hill. Fairfield yonder,
that long smooth slope of verdure which a little while ago looked
emerald green in the sunlight, now wore a soft and shadowy hue. All the
world was greyer and dimmer in a moment, as it were, and Coniston Lake
in its distant valley disappeared beneath a veil of mist, while the
shimmering sea-line upon the verge of the horizon melted and vanished
among the clouds that overhung it. The weather changes very quickly in
this part of the world. Sharp drops of rain came spitting at Hammond and
Mary as they climbed the crest of the Pike, and stopped, somewhat
breathless, to look back at Maulevrier. He was trudging blithely down
the winding way, and seemed to have done wonders while they had been
doing very little.
'How fast he is going!' said Mary.
'Easy is the descent of Avernus. He is going down-hill, and we are going
upwards. That makes all the difference in life, you see,' answered
Mary looked at him with divine compassion. She thought that for him the
hill of life would be harder than Helvellyn. He was brave, honest,
clever; but her grandmother had impressed upon her that modern
civilisation hardly has room for a young man who wants to get on in the
world, without either fortune or powerful connexions. He had better go
to Australia and keep sheep, than attempt the impossible at home.
The rain was a passing shower, hardly worth speaking of, but the glory
of the day was over. The sky was grey, and there were dark clouds
creeping up from the sea-line. Silvery Windermere had taken a leaden
hue; and now they turned their last fond look upon the Westmoreland
valley, and set their faces steadily towards Cumberland, and the fine
grassy plateau on the top of the hill.
All this was not done in a flash. It took them some time to scale
Dolly's stubborn breast, and it took them another hour to reach Seat
Sandal; and by the time they came to the iron gate in the fence, which
at this point divides the two counties, the atmosphere had thickened
ominously, and dark wreaths of fog were floating about and around them,
whirled here and there by a boisterous wind which shrieked and roared at
them with savage fury, as if it were the voice of some Titan monarch of
the mountain protesting against this intrusion upon his domain.
'I'm afraid you won't see the Scottish hills,' shouted Mary, holding on
her little cloth hat.
She was obliged to shout at the top of her voice, though she was close
to Mr. Hammond's elbow, for that shrill screaming wind would have
drowned the voice of a stentor.
'Never mind the view,' replied Hammond in the same fortissimo, 'but I
really wish I hadn't brought you up here. If this fog should get any
worse, it may be dangerous.'
'The fog is sure to get worse,' said Mary, in a brief lull of the
hurly-burly, 'but there is no danger. I know every inch of the hill, and
I am not a bit afraid. I can guide you, if you will trust me.'
'My bravest of girls,' he exclaimed, looking down at her. 'Trust you!
Yes, I would trust my life to you--my soul--my honour--secure in your
purity and good faith.'
Never had eyes of living man or woman looked down upon her with such
tenderness, such fervent love. She looked up at him; looked with eyes
which, at first bewildered, then grew bold, and lost themselves, as it
were, in the dark grey depths of the eyes they met. The savage wind,
hustling and howling, blew her nearer to him, as a reed is blown against
a rock. Dark grey mists were rising round them like a sea; but had that
ever-thickening, ever-darkening vapour been the sea itself, and death
inevitable, Mary Haselden would have hardly cared. For in this moment
the one precious gift for which her soul had long been yearning had been
freely given to her. She knew all at once, that she was fondly loved by
that one man whom she had chosen for her idol and her hero.
What matter that he was fortuneless, a nobody, with but the poorest
chances of success in the world? What if he must needs, only to win the
bare means of existence, go to Australia and keep sheep, or to the Bed
River valley and grow corn? What if he must labour, as the peasants
laboured on the sides of this rude hill? Gladly would she go with him to
a strange country, and keep his log cabin, and work for him, and share
his toilsome life, rough or smooth. No loss of social rank could lessen
her pride in him, her belief in him.
They were standing side by side a little way from the edge of the sheer
descent, below which the Bed Tarn showed black in a basin scooped out of
the naked hill, like water held in the hollow of a giant's hand.
'Look,' cried Mary, pointing downward, 'you must see the Red Tarn, the
highest water in England?'
But just at this moment there came a blast which shook even Hammond's
strong frame, and with a cry of fear he snatched Mary in his arms and
carried her away from the edge of the hill. He folded her in his arms
and held her there, thirty yards away from the precipice, safely
sheltered against his breast, while the wind raved round them, blowing
her hair from the broad, white brow, and showing him that noble forehead
in all its power and beauty; while the darkness deepened round them so
that they could see hardly anything except each other's eyes.
'My love, my own dear love,' he murmured fondly; 'I will trust you with
my life. Will you accept the trust? I am hardly worthy; for less than a
year ago I offered myself to your sister, and I thought she was the only
woman in this wide world who could make me happy. And when she refused
me I was in despair, Mary; and I left Fellside in the full belief that I
had done with life and happiness. And then I came back, only to oblige
Maulevrier, and determined to be utterly miserable at Fellside. I was
miserable for the first two hours. Memories of dead and gone joys and
disappointed hopes were very bitter. And I tried honestly to keep up my
feeling of wretchedness for the first few days. But it was no use,
Molly. There was a genial spirit in the place, a laughing fairy who
would not let me be sad; and I found myself becoming most unromantically
happy, eating my breakfast with a hearty appetite, thinking my cup of
afternoon tea nectar for love of the dear hand that gave it. And so, and
so, till the new love, the purer and better love, grew and grew into a
mighty tree, which was as an oak to an orchid, compared with that
passion flower of earlier growth. Mary, will you trust your life to me,
as I trust mine to you. I say to you almost in the words I spoke last
year to Lesbia,' and here his tone grew grave almost to solemnity,
'trust me, and I will make your life free from the shadow of care--trust
me, for I have a brave spirit and a strong arm to fight the battle of
life--trust me, and I will win for you the position you have a right to
occupy--trust me, and you shall never repent your trust.'
She looked up at him with eyes which told of infinite faith, child-like,
'I will trust you in all things, and for ever,' she said. 'I am not
afraid to face evil fortune. I do not care how poor you are--how hard
our lives may be--if--if you are sure you love me.'
'Sure! There is not a beat of my heart or a thought of my mind that does
not belong to you. I am yours to the very depths of my soul. My innocent
love, my clear-eyed, clear-souled angel! I have studied you and watched
you and thought of you, and sounded the depths of your lovely nature,
and the result is that you are for me earth's one woman. I will have no
other, Mary, no other love, no other wife.'
'Lady Maulevrier will be dreadfully angry,' faltered Mary.
'Are you afraid of her anger?'
'No; I am afraid of nothing, for your sake.'
He lifted her hand to his lips, and kissed it reverently, and there was
a touch of chivalry in that reverential kiss. His eyes clouded with
tears as he looked down into the trustful face. The fog had darkened to
a denser blackness, and it was almost as if they were engulfed in sudden
'If we are never to find our way down the hill; if this were to be the
last hour of our lives, Mary, would you be content?'
'Quite content,' she answered, simply. 'I think I have lived long
enough, if you really love me--if you are not making fun.'
'What, Molly, do you still doubt? Is it strange that I love you?'
'Very strange. I am so different from Lesbia.'
'Yes, very different, and the difference is your highest charm. And now,
love, we had better go down whichever side of the hill is easiest, for
this fog is rather appalling. I forgive the wind, because it blew you
against my heart just now, and that is where I want you to dwell for
'Don't be frightened,' said Mary. 'I know every step of the way.'
So, leaning on her lover, and yet guiding him, slowly, step by step,
groping their way through the darkness, Lady Mary led Mr. Hammond down
the winding track along which the ponies and the guides travel so often
in the summer season. And soon they began to descend out of that canopy
of fog which enveloped the brow of Helvellyn, and to see the whole world
smiling beneath them, a world of green pastures and sheepfolds, with a
white homestead here and there amidst the fields, looking so human and
so comfortable after that gloomy mountain top, round which the tempest
howled so outrageously. Beyond those pastures stretched the dark waters
of Thirlmere, looking like a broad river.
The descent was passing steep, but Hammond's strong arm and steady
steps made Mary's progress very easy, while she had in no wise
exaggerated her familiarity with the windings and twistings of the
track. Yet as they had need to travel very slowly so long as the fog
still surrounded them, the journey downward lasted a considerable time,
and it was past five when they arrived at the little roadside inn at the
foot of the hill.
Here Mr. Hammond insisted that Mary should rest at least long enough to
take a cup of tea. She was very white and tired. She had been profoundly
agitated, and looked on the point of fainting, although she protested
that she was quite ready to walk on.
'You are not going to walk another step,' said Hammond. 'While you are
taking your tea I will get you a carriage.'
'Indeed, I had rather hurry on at once,' urged Mary. 'We are so late
'You will get home all the sooner if you obey me. It is your duty to
obey me now,' said Hammond, in a lowered voice.
She smiled at him, but it was a weak, wan little smile, for that descent
in the wind and the fog had quite exhausted her. Mr. Hammond took her
into a snug little parlour where there was a cheerful fire, and saw her
comfortably seated in an arm chair by the hearth, before he went to look
after a carriage.
There was no such thing as a conveyance to be had, but the Windermere
coach would pass in about half an hour, and for this they must wait. It
would take them back to Grasmere sooner than they could get there on
foot, in Mary's exhausted condition.
The tea-tray was brought in presently, and Hammond poured out the tea
and waited upon Lady Mary. It was a reversal of the usual formula but it
was very pleasant to Mary to sit with her feet on the low brass fender
and be waited upon by her lover. That fog on the brow of Helvellyn--that
piercing wind--had chilled her to the bone, and there was unspeakable
comfort in the glow and warmth of the fire, in the refreshment of a good
cup of tea.
'Mary, you are my own property now, remember,' said Hammond, watching
her tenderly as she sipped her tea.
She glanced up at him shyly, now and then, with eyes full of innocent
wonder. It was so strange to her, as strange as sweet, to know that he
loved her; such a marvellous thing that she had pledged herself to be
'You are my very own--mine to guard and cherish, mine to think and work
for,' he went on, 'and you will have to trust me, sweet one, even if the
beginning of things is not altogether free from trouble.'
'I am not afraid of trouble.'
'Bravely spoken! First and foremost, then, you will have to announce
your engagement to Lady Maulevrier. She will take it ill, no doubt; will
do her utmost to persuade you to give me up. Have you courage and
resolution, do you think, to stand against her arguments? Can you hold
to your purpose bravely, and cry, no surrender?'
'There shall be no surrender,' answered Mary, 'I promise you that. No
doubt grandmother will be very angry. But she has never cared for me
very much. It will not hurt her for me to make a bad match, as it would
have done in Lesbia's case. She has had no day-dreams--no grand ambition
'So much the better, my wayside flower! When you have said all that is
sweet and dutiful to her, and have let her know at the same time that
you mean to be my wife, come weal come woe, I will see her, and will
have my say. I will not promise her a grand career for my darling: but I
will pledge myself that nothing of that kind which the world calls
evil--no penury, or shabbiness of surroundings--shall ever touch Mary
Haselden after she is Mary Hammond. I can promise at least so much as
'It is more than enough,' said Mary. 'I have told you that I would
gladly share poverty with you.'
'Sweet! it is good of you to say as much, but I would not take you at
your word. You don't know what poverty is.'
'Do you think I am a coward, or self-indulgent? You are wrong, Jack. May
I call you Jack, as Maulevrier does?'
The question evoked such a gush of tenderness that he was fain to kneel
beside her chair and kiss the little hand holding the cup, before he
considered he had answered properly.
'You are wrong, Jack. I do know what poverty means. I have studied the
ways of the poor, tried to console them, and help them a little in their
troubles; and I know there is no pain that want of money can bring which
I would not share willingly with you. Do you suppose my happiness is
dependent on a fine house and powdered footmen? I should like to go to
the Red River with you, and wear cotton gowns, and tuck up my sleeves
and clean our cottage.'
'Very pretty sport, dear, for a summer day; but my Mary shall have a
sweeter life, and shall occasionally walk in silk attire.'
That tea-drinking by the fireside in the inn parlour was the most
delicious thing within John Hammond's experience. Mary was a bewitching
compound of earnestness and simplicity, so humble, so confiding, so
perplexed and astounded at her own bliss.
'Confess, now, in the summer, when you were in love with Lesbia, you
thought me a horrid kind of girl,' she said, presently, when they were
standing side by side at the window, waiting for the coach.
'Never, Mary. My crime is to have thought very little about you in those
days. I was so dazzled by Lesbia's beauty, so charmed by her
accomplishments and girlish graces, that I forgot to take notice of
anything else in the world. If I thought of you at all it was as
another Maulevrier--a younger Maulevrier in petticoats, very gay, and
good-humoured, and nice.'
'But when you saw me rushing about with the terriers--I must have seemed
'Why, dearest There is nothing essentially horrible in terriers, or in a
bright lively girl running races with them. You made a very pretty
picture in the sunlight, with your hat hanging on your shoulder, and
your curly brown hair and dancing hazel eyes. If I had not been deep in
love with Lesbia's peerless complexion and Grecian features, I should
have looked below the surface of that Gainsborough picture, and
discovered what treasures of goodness, and courage, and truth and purity
those frank brown eyes and that wide forehead betokened. I was sowing my
wild oats last summer, Mary, and they brought me a crop of sorrow But I
am wiser now--wiser and happier.
'But if you were to see Lesbia again would not the old love revive?'
'The old love is dead, Mary. There is nothing left of it but a handful
of ashes, which I scatter thus to the four winds,' with a wave of his
hand towards the open casement. 'The new love absorbs and masters my
being. If Lesbia were to re-appear at Fellside this evening, I could
offer her my hand in all brotherly frankness, and ask her to accept me
as a brother. Here comes the coach. We shall be at Fellside just in time
WISER THAN LESBIA.
Lady Mary and Mr. Hammond were back at Fellside at a quarter before
eight, by which time the stars were shining on pine woods and Fell. They
managed to be in the drawing-room when dinner was announced, after the
hastiest of toilets; yet her lover thought Mary had never looked
prettier than she looked that night, in her limp white cashmere gown,
and with her brown hair brushed into a largo loose knot on the top of
her head. There had been great uneasiness about them at Fellside when
evening began to draw in, and the expected hour of their return had gone
by. Scouts had been sent in quest of them, but in the wrong direction.
'I did not think you would be such idiots as to come down the north side
of the hill in a tempest,' said Maulevrier; 'we could see the clouds
racing over the crest of Seat Sandal, and knew it was blowing pretty
hard up there, though it was calm enough down here.'
'Blowing pretty hard;' echoed Hammond, 'I don't think I was ever out in
a worse gale; and yet I have been across the Bay of Biscay when the
waves struck the side of the steamer like battering rams, and when the
whole surface of the sea was white with seething foam.'
'It was a most imprudent thing to go up Helvellyn in such weather,' said
Fraeulein Mueller, shaking her head gloomily as she ate her fish.
Mary felt that the Fraeulein's manner boded ill. There was a storm
brewing. A scolding was inevitable. Mary felt quite capable of doing
battle with the Fraeulein; but her feelings were altogether different
when she thought of facing that stern old lady upstairs, and of the
confession she had to make. It was not that her courage faltered. So far
as resolutions went she was as firm as a rock. But she felt that there
was a terrible ordeal to be gone through; and it seemed a mockery to be
sitting there and pretending to eat her dinner and take things lightly,
with that ordeal before her.
'We did not go up the hill in bad weather, Miss Mueller,' said Mr.
Hammond. 'The sun was shining and the sky was blue when we started. We
could not foresee darkness and storm at the top of the hill. That was
the fortune of war.'
'I am very sorry Lady Mary had not more good sense,' replied Fraeulein
with unabated gloom; but on this Maulevrier took up the cudgels.
'If there was any want of sense in the business, that's my look-out,
Fraeulein,' he said, glaring angrily at the governess. 'It was I who
advised Hammond and Lady Mary to climb the hill. And here they are, safe
and sound after their journey I see no reason why there should be any
fuss about it.'
'People have different ways of looking at things, replied Fraeulein,
plodding steadily on with her dinner. Mary rose directly the dessert had
been handed round, and marched out of the room: like a warrior going to
a battle in which the chances of defeat were strong. Fraeulein Mueller
shuffled after her.
'Will you be kind enough to go to her ladyship's room at once, Lady
Mary,' she said. 'She wants to speak to you.'
'And I want to speak to her,' said Mary.
She ran quickly upstairs and arrived in the morning room, a little out
of breath. The room was lighted by one low moderator lamp, under a dark
red velvet shade, and there was the glow of the wood fire, which gave a
more cheerful light than the lamp. Lady Maulevrier was lying on her
couch in a loose brocade tea-gown, with old Brussels collar and ruffles.
She was as well dressed in her day of affliction and helplessness as she
had been in her day of strength; for she knew the value of surroundings,
and that her stateliness and power were in some manner dependent on
details of this kind. The one hand which she could use glittered with
diamonds, as she waved it with a little imperious gesture towards the
chair on which she desired Lady Mary to seat herself; and Mary sat down
meekly, knowing that this chair represented the felon's dock.
'Mary,' began her grandmother, with freezing gravity, 'I have been
surprised and shocked by your conduct to-day. Yes, surprised at such
conduct even in you.'
'I do not think I have done anything very wrong, grandmother.'
'Not wrong! You have done nothing wrong? You have done something
absolutely outrageous. You, my granddaughter, well born, well bred,
reared under my roof, to go up Helvellyn and lose yourself in a fog
alone with a young man. You could hardly have done worse if you were a
Cockney tourist,' concluded her ladyship, with ineffable disgust.
'I could not help the fog,' said Mary, quietly. The battle had to be
fought, and she was not going to flinch. 'I had no intention of going up
Helvellyn alone with Mr. Hammond. Maulevrier was to have gone with us;
but when we got to Dolly Waggon he was tired, and would not go any
further. He told me to go on with Mr. Hammond.'
'_He_ told you! Maulevrier!--a young man who has spent some of the best
hours of his youth in the company of jockeys and trainers--who hasn't
the faintest idea of the fitness of things. You allow Maulevrier to be
your guide in a matter in which your own instinct should have guided
you--your womanly instinct! But you have always been an unwomanly girl.
You have put me to shame many a time by your hoydenish tricks; but I
bore with you, believing that your madcap follies were at least
harmless. To-day you have gone a step too far, and have been guilty of
absolute impropriety, which I shall be very slow to pardon.'
'Perhaps you will be still more angry when you know all, grandmother,'
Lady Maulevrier flashed her dark eyes at the girl with a look which
would have almost killed a nervous subject; but Mary faced her
steadfastly, very pale, but as resolute as her ladyship.
'When I know all! What more is there for me to know?'
'Only that while we were on the top of Helvellyn, in the fog and the
wind, Mr. Hammond asked me to be his wife.'
'I am not surprised to hear it,' retorted her ladyship, with a harsh
laugh. 'A girl who could act so boldly and flirtingly was a natural mark
for an adventurer. Mr. Hammond no doubt has been told that you will have
a little money by-and-by, and thinks he might do worse than marry you.
And seeing how you have flung yourself at his head, he naturally
concludes that you will not be too proud to accept your sister's
'There is nothing gained by making cruel speeches, grandmother,' said
Mary, firmly. 'I have promised to be John Hammond's wife, and there is
nothing you nor anyone else can say which will make me alter my mind. I
wish to act dutifully to you, if I can, and I hope you will be good to
me and consent to this marriage. But if you will not consent, I shall
marry him all the same. I shall be full of sorrow at having to disobey
you, but I have promised, and I will keep my promise.'
'You will act in open rebellion against me--against the kinswoman who
has reared you, and educated you, and cared for you in all these years!'
'But you have never loved me,' answered Mary, sadly. 'Perhaps if you had
given me some portion of that affection which you lavished on my sister
I might be willing to sacrifice this now deep love for your sake--to lay
down my broken heart as a sacrifice on the altar of gratitude. But you
never loved me. You have tolerated me, endured my presence as a
disagreeable necessity of your life, because I am my father's daughter.
You and Lesbia have been all the world to each other; and I have stood
aloof, outside your charmed circle, almost a stranger to you. Can you
wonder, grandmother, recalling this, that I am unwilling to surrender
the love that has been given me to-day--the true heart of a brave and
Lady Maulevrier looked at her for some moments in scornful wonderment;
looked at her with a slow, deliberate smile.
'Poor child!' she said; 'poor ignorant, inexperienced baby! For what a
Will-o-the-wisp are you ready to sacrifice my regard, and all the
privileges of your position as my granddaughter! No doubt this Mr.
Hammond has said all manner of fine things to you; but can you be weak
enough to believe that he who half a year ago was sighing and dying at
the feet of your sister can have one spark of genuine regard for you?
The thing is not in nature; it is an obvious absurdity. But it is easy
enough to understand that Mr. Hammond without a penny in his pocket, and
with his way to make in the world, would be very glad to secure Lady
Mary Haselden and her five hundred a year, and to have Lord Maulevrier
for his brother in-law?'
'Have I really five hundred a year? Shall I have five hundred a year
when I marry?' asked Mary, suddenly radiant.
'Yes; if you marry with your brother's consent.'
'I am so glad--for his sake. He could hardly starve if I had five
hundred a year. He need not be obliged to emigrate.'
'Has he been offering you the prospect of emigration as an additional
'Oh, no, he does not say that he is very poor, but since you say he is
penniless I thought we might be obliged to emigrate. But as I have five
hundred a year--'
'You will stay at home, and set up a lodging-house, I suppose,' sneered
'I will do anything my husband pleases. We can live in a humble way in
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