The Duke's Children
Part 13 out of 14
word. But I shall always think of it; and remembering the way in
which my character struck an educated Englishman,--who was not
altogether ill-disposed towards me,--I may hope to improve myself.'
'I Have Never Loved You.'
Silverbridge had now been in town three or four weeks, and Lady
Mabel Grex had also been in London all that time, and yet he had
not seen her. She had told him that she loved him and had asked
him plainly to make her his wife. He had told her he could not do
so,--that he was altogether resolved to make another woman his
wife. Then she had rebuked him, and had demanded from him how he
had dared to treat her as he had done. His conscience was clear.
He had his own code or morals as to such matters; and had, as he
regarded it, kept within the law. But she thought that she was
badly treated, and had declared that she was now left out in the
cold for ever through his treachery. Then her last word had been
almost the worst of all, 'Who can tell what may come to pass?'--
showing too plainly that she would not even now give up her hope.
Before the month was up she wrote to him as follows:
'DEAR LORD SILVERBRIDGE,
'Why do you not come and see me? Are friends so plentiful with
you that one so staunch as I may be thrown over? But of course I
know why you do not come. Put all that aside,--and come. I cannot
hurt you. I have learned to feel that certain things which the
world regards as too awful to be talked of,--except in the way of
scandal, may be discussed and then laid aside just like other
subjects. What though I wear a wig or a wooden leg, I may still be
fairly comfortable among my companions unless I crucify myself by
trying to hide my misfortune. It is not the presence of the
skeleton that crushes us. Not even that will hurt us much if we
let him go about the house as he lists. It is the everlasting
effort which the horror makes to peep out of his cupboard that
robs us of our ease. At any rate come and see me.
'Of course I know that you are to be married to Miss Boncassen.
Who does not know it? The trumpeters have been at work for the
'Your very sincere Friend,
He wished that she had not written. Of course he must go to her.
And though there was a word or two in her letter which angered
him, his feelings towards her were kindly. Had not that American
angel flown across the Atlantic to his arms he could have been
well content to make her his wife. But the interview at the
present moment could hardly be other than painful. She could, she
said, talk of her own misfortunes, but the subject would be very
painful to him. It was not to him a skeleton, to be locked out of
sight, but it had been a misfortune, and the sooner that such
misfortune could be forgotten the better.
He knew what she meant about trumpeters. She had intended to
signify that Isabel in her pride had boasted of her matrimonial
prospects. Of course there had been trumpets. Are there not always
trumpets when a marriage is contemplated, magnificent enough to be
called an alliance? As for that he himself had blown the
trumpets. He had told everybody that he was going to be married to
Miss Boncassen. Isabel had blown no trumpets. In her own
straightforward way she had told the truth to whom it concerned.
Of course he would go and see Lady Mabel, but he trusted that for
her own sake nothing would be said about trumpets.
'So you have come at last,' Mabel said when he entered the room.
'No;--Miss Cassewary is not here. As I wanted to see you alone I
got her to go out this morning. Why did you not come before?'
'You said in your letter you knew why.'
'But in saying so I was accusing you of cowardice;--was I not?'
'It was not cowardice.'
'Why then did you not come?'
'I thought you would hardly wish to see me so soon,--after what
'That is honest at any rate. You felt that I must be too much
ashamed of what I said to be able to look you in the face.'
'Not that exactly.'
'Any other man would have felt the same, but no other man would be
honest enough to tell me so. I do not think that ever in your life
you have constrained yourself to the civility of a lie.'
'I hope not.'
'To be civil and false is often better than to be harsh and true.
I may be soothed by the courtesy and yet not deceived by the lie.
But what I told you in my letter,--which I hope you have destroyed--'
'I will destroy it.'
'Do. It was not intended for the partner of your future joys. As I
told you then I can talk freely. Why not? We know it,--both of us.
How your conscience may be I cannot tell; but mine is clear from
that soil with which you think it should be smirched.'
'I think nothing of the sort.'
'Yes, Silverbridge, you do. You have said to yourself this;--That
girl has determined to get me, and she has not stopped as to how
she would do it.'
'No such idea ever crossed my mind.'
'But you have never told yourself of the engagement which you gave
me. Such condemnation as I have spoken of would have been just if
my efforts had been sanctioned by no words, no looks, no deeds
from you. Did you give me warrant for thinking that you were my
That theory by which he had justified himself to himself seemed to
fall away from him under her questioning. He could not now
remember his words to her in those old days before Miss Boncassen
had crossed his path; but he did know that he had once intended to
make her understand that he loved her. She had not understood
him;--or understanding, had not accepted his words; and therefore
he had thought himself free. But it now seemed that he had not
been entitled so to regard himself. There she sat, looking at him,
waiting for his answer; and he who had been so sure that he had
committed no sin against her, had not a word to say to her.
'I want you to answer that, Lord Silverbridge. I have told you
that I would have no skeleton in the cupboard. Down at Matching,
and before that at Killancodlem, I appealed to you, asking you to
take me as your wife.'
'Altogether that! I will have nothing denied what I have done,--
nor will I be ashamed of anything. I did do so,--even after this
infatuation. I thought then that one so volatile might perhaps fly
'I shall not do that,' said he, frowning at her.
'You need trouble yourself with no assurance, my friend. Let us
understand each other now. I am not now supposing that you can fly
back again. You have found your perch, and you must settle on it
like a good domestic barn-door fowl.' Again he scowled. If she
were too hard upon him he would certainly turn upon her. 'No; you
will not fly back again now;--but was I, or was I not, justified
when you came to Killancodlem in thinking that my lover had come
'How can I tell? It is my own justification I am thinking of.'
'I see all that. But we cannot both be justified. Did you mean me
to suppose that you were speaking to me words in earnest when
there,--sitting in that very spot,--you spoke to me of your love.'
'Did I speak of my love?'
'Did you speak of your love! And now, Silverbridge,--for if there
be an English gentleman on earth I think you are one,--as a
gentleman tell me this. Did you not even tell your father that I
should be your wife? I know you did.'
'Did he tell you?'
'Men such as you and he, who cannot even lie with your eyelids,
who will not condescend to cover up a secret by a moment of
feigned inanimation, have many voices. He did tell me; but he
broke no confidence. He told me, but did not mean to tell me. Now
you also have told me.'
'I did. I told him so. And then I changed my mind.'
'I know you changed your mind. Men often do. A pinker pink, a
whiter white,--a finger that will press you just half an ounce the
closer,--a cheek that will consent to let itself come just a little
'No; no; no! It was because Isabel had not easily consented to
'Trifles such as these will do it;--and some such trifles have done
it with you. It would be beneath me to make comparisons where I
might seem to be the gainer. I grant her beauty. She is very
lovely. She has succeeded.'
'I have succeeded.'
'But;--I am justified, and you are condemned. Is it not so? Tell
me like a man.'
'You are justified.'
'And you are condemned? When you told me that I should be your
wife, and then told your father the same story, was I to think it
all meant nothing? Have you deceived me?'
'I did not mean it.'
'Have you deceived me? What; you cannot deny it, and yet have not
the manliness to own it to a poor woman who can only save herself
from humiliation by extorting the truth from you!'
'Oh, Mabel, I am so sorry that it should be so.'
'I believe you are,--with a sorrow that will last till she is again
sitting close to you. Nor, Silverbridge, do I wish it to be
longer. No;--no;--no. Your fault after all has not been great. You
deceived, but did not mean to deceive me?'
'And I fancy you have never known how much you bore about with
you. Your modesty has been so perfect that you have not thought of
yourself as more than other men. You have forgotten that you have
had in your hand the disposal to some one woman of a throne in
'I don't suppose you thought of that.'
'But I did. Why should I tell falsehoods now. I have determined
that you should know everything,--but I could better confess to you
my own sins, when I had shown that you too have not been innocent.
Not think of it! Do not men think of high titles and great wealth
and power and place? And if men, why should not women? Do not
men try to get them;--and are they not even applauded for their
energy? A woman has but one way to try. I tried.'
'I do not think it was well for that.'
'How shall I answer that without a confession which even I am not
hardened enough to make? In truth, Silverbridge, I have never
He drew himself up slowly before he answered her, and gradually
assumed a look very different from that easy boyish smile which
was customary to him. 'I am glad of that,' he said.
'Why are you glad?'
'Now I can have no regrets.'
'You need have none. It was necessary to me that I should have my
little triumph;--that I should show you that I knew how far you had
wronged me! But now I wish you should know everything. I have
never loved you.'
'There is an end of it then.'
'But I have liked you so well;--so much better than all others! A
dozen men have asked me to marry them. And though they might be
nothing till they made the request, then they became,--things of
horror to me. But you were not a thing of horror. I could have
become your wife, and I think I would have learned to love you.'
'It is best as it is.'
'I ought to say so too; but I have a doubt I should have liked to
be Duchess of Omnium, and perhaps I might have fitted the place
better than one who can as yet know but little of its duties or
its privileges. I may, perhaps, think that that other arrangement
would have been better even for you.'
'I can take care of myself in that.'
'I should have married you without loving you, but I should have
done so determined to serve you with a devotion which a woman who
does love hardly thinks necessary. I would have so done my duty
that you should never have guessed that my heart had been in the
keeping of another man.'
'Yes; of course. If there had been no other man, why not you? Am
I so hard, do you think that I can love no one? Are you not such
a one that a girl would naturally love,--were she not preoccupied?
That a woman should love seems as necessary as that a man should
'A man can love too.'
'No;--hardly. He can admire, and he can like, and he can fondle and
be fond. He can admire, and approve, and perhaps worship. He can
know of a woman that she is part of himself, the most sacred part,
and therefore will protect her from the very winds. But all that
will not make love. It does not come to a man that to be separated
from a woman is to be dislocated from his very self. A man has but
one centre, and that is himself. A woman has two. Though the
second may never be seen by her, may live in the arms of another,
may do all for that other that man can do for a woman,--still,
still, though he be half the globe asunder from her, still he is
to her the other half of her existence. If she really love, there
is, I fancy, no end of it. To the end of time I shall love Frank
'He is engaged to Mary.'
'Of course he is. Why not;--to her or to whomsoever else he might
like best? He is as true I doubt not to your sister as you are to
your American beauty,--or as you would have been to me had fancy
held. He used to love me.'
'You were always friends.'
'Always;--dear friends. And he would have loved me if a man were
capable of loving. But he could sever himself from me easily, just
when he was told to do so. I thought that I could do the same.
But I cannot. A jackal is born a jackal, and not lion, and cannot
help himself. So is a woman born--a woman. They are clinging,
parasite things, which cannot but adhere; though they destroy
themselves by adhering. Do not suppose that I take pride in it. I
would give one of my eyes to be able to disregard him.'
'Time will do it.'
'Yes; time,--that brings wrinkles and rouge-pots and rheumatism.
Though I have so hated those men as to be unable to endure them,
still I want some man's house, and his name,--some man's bread and
wine,--some man's jewels and titles and woods and parks and
gardens,--if I can get them. Time can help a man in his sorrow. If
he begins at forty to make speeches, or to win races, or to breed
oxen, he can yet live a prosperous life. Time is but a poor
consoler for a young woman who has to be married.'
'And now let there be not a word more about it. I know--that I can
'Indeed you may.'
'Though you will tell her everything else you will not tell her
'And surely you will not tell your sister!'
'I shall tell no one.'
'It is because you are so true that I have dared to trust you. I
had to justify myself,--and then to confess. Had I at that moment
taken you at your word, you would have never have known anything
of all this. "There is a tide in the affairs of men-!" But I let
the flood go by! I shall not see you again before you are
married; but come to me afterwards.'
'Let Us Drink a Glass of Wine Together'
Silverbridge pondered it all much as he went home. What a terrible
story was that he had heard! The horror to him was chiefly in
this,--that she should yet be driven to marry some man without even
fancying that she could love him! And his was Lady Mabel Grex,
who, on his own first entrance into London life, now not much more
than twelve months ago, had seemed to him to stand above all other
girls in beauty, charm, and popularity!
As he opened the door of his house with his latch-key, who should
be coming out but Frank Tregear,--Frank Tregear with his arm in a
sling, but still with an unmistakable look of general
satisfaction. 'When on earth did you come up?' asked Silverbridge.
Tregear told him that he had arrived on the previous evening from
Harrington. 'And why? The doctor would not have let you come if
he could have helped it.'
'When he found he could not help it, he did let me come. I am
nearly all right. If I had been nearly all wrong I should have had
'And what are you doing here?'
'Well; if you'll allow me I'll go back with you for a moment. What
do you think I have been doing?'
'Have you seen my sister?'
'Yes, I have seen your sister. And I have done better than that. I
have seen your father. Lord Silverbridge,--behold your brother-in-
'You don't mean to say that it is arranged?'
'What did he say?'
'He made me understand by most unanswerable arguments, that I had
no business to think of such a thing. I did not fight the point
with him,--but simply stood there, as conclusive evidence of my
business. He told me that we should have nothing to live on unless
he gave us an income. I assured him that I would never ask him
for a shilling. "But I cannot allow her to marry a man without an
income," he said.'
'I know his way so well.'
'I have just two facts to go upon,--that I would not give her up,
and that she would not give me up. When I pointed that out he tore
up his hair,--in a mild way, and said that he did not understand
that kind of thing at all.'
'And yet he gave way.'
'Of course he did. They say that when a king of old would consent
to see a petitioner for his life, he was bound by his royalty to
mercy. So it was with the Duke. Then, very early in the argument,
he forgot himself, and called her,--Mary. I knew that he had
thrown up the sponge then.'
'How did he give way at last?'
'He asked me what were my ideas about life in general. I said that
I thought Parliament was a good sort of thing, that I was lucky
enough to have a seat, and that I should take lodgings somewhere
near Westminster till-"Till what?" he asked. Till something is
settled I replied. Then he turned away from me and remained
silent. May I see Lady Mary? I asked. "Yes; you may see her," he
replied, as he rang the bell. Then when the servant was gone he
stopped me. "I love her too dearly to see her grieve," he said. "I
hope you will show that you can be worthy of her." Then I made
some sort of protestation and went upstairs. While I was with Mary
there came a message to me, telling me to come to dinner.'
'The Boncassens are all dining there.'
'Then we shall be a family party. So far I suppose I may say it is
settled. When he will let us marry heaven only knows. Mary
declares that she will not press him. I certainly cannot do so.
It is all a matter of money.'
'He won't care about that.'
'But he may perhaps think that a little patience will do us good.
You will have to soften him.' Then Silverbridge told all he knew
about himself. He was to be married in May; was to go to Matching
for a week or two after his wedding, was then to see the Session
to an end, and after that to travel with his wife to the United
States. 'I don't suppose we shall be allowed to run about the
world together so soon as that,' said Tregear, 'but I am too well
satisfied with my day's work to complain.'
'Did he say what he meant to give her?'
'Oh dear no;--nor even that he meant to give her anything. I should
not dream of asking a question about it. Nor when he makes any
proposition shall I think of having any opinion of my own.'
'He'll make it all right;--for her sake you know.'
'My chief object as regards him, is that he should not think I
have been looking for her money. Well; good-bye. I suppose we
shall all meet at dinner?'
When Tregear left him Silverbridge went to his father's room. He
was anxious that they should understand each other as to Mary's
engagement. 'I thought you were at the House,' said the Duke.
'I was going there, but I met Tregear at the door. He tells me you
have accepted him for Mary.'
'I wish that he had never seen her. Do you think that a man can be
thwarted in everything and not feel it?'
'I thought--you had reconciled yourself--to Isabel.'
'If it were that alone I could do so the more easily, because
personally she wins upon me. And this man too;--it is not that I
find fault with himself.'
'He is in all respects a high-minded gentleman.'
'I hope so. But yet, had he a right to set his heart there, where
he could make his fortune,--having none of his own?'
'He did not think of it.'
'A gentleman should do more than not think of it. He should think
that it shall not be so. a man should own his means or should earn
'How many, sir, do neither?'
'Yes, I know,' said the Duke. 'Such a doctrine nowadays is caviare
to the general. One must live as others live around one, I
suppose. I could not see her suffer. It was too much for me. When
I became convinced that this was no temporary passion, no romantic
love which time might banish, that she was of such a temperament
that she could not change,--that I had to give way. Gerald I
suppose will bring me some kitchen-maid for his wife.'
'Oh sir, you should not say that to me.'
'No;--I should not have said it to you. I beg your pardon,
Silverbridge.' Then he paused a moment, turning over certain
thoughts within his own bosom. 'Perhaps after all it is well that
a pride of which I am conscious should be rebuked. And it may be
that the rebuke has come in such a form that I should be thankful.
I know that I can love Isabel.'
'That to me will be everything.'
'And this young man has nothing that should revolt me. I think he
has been wrong. But now that I have said it I will let all that
pass from me. He will dine with us today.'
Silverbridge then went to see his sister. 'So you have settled
your little business, Mary.'
'Oh Silverbridge, you will wish me joy?'
'Certainly. Why not?'
'Papa is so stern with me. Of course he has given way, and of
course I am grateful. But he looks at me as though I had done
something to be forgiven.'
'Take the good the gods provide you, Mary. That will all come
'But I have not done anything wrong, have I?'
'That is a matter of opinion. How can I answer you when I don't
quite know whether I have done anything wrong or not myself. I am
going to marry the girl that I have chosen. That's enough for me.'
'But you did change.'
'We need not say anything about that.'
'But I have never changed. Papa just told me that he would
consent, and that I might write to him. So I did write, and he
came. But papa looks at me as though I had broken his heart.'
'I tell you what it is, Mary. You expect too much from him. He has
not had his own way with either of us, and of course he feels it.'
As Tregear had said there was quite a family party in Carlton
Terrace, though as yet the family was not bound together by family
ties. All the Boncassens were there, the father, the mother, and
the promised bride. Mr Boncassen bore himself with more ease than
anyone in the company, having at his command a gift of manliness
which enabled him to regard this marriage exactly as he would have
done any other. America was not so far distant but what he would
be able to see his girl occasionally. He liked the young man and
he believed in the comfort of wealth. Therefore he was satisfied.
But when the marriage was spoken of, or written of, as an
'alliance', then he would say a hard word or two about dukes and
lords in general. On such an occasion as this he was happy and at
So much could not be said for his wife, with whom the Duke
attempted to place himself on terms of family equality. But in
doing this he failed to hide the attempt even from her, and she
broke down under it. Had he simply walked into the room with her
as he would have done on any other occasion, and then remarked
that the frost was keen or the thaw disagreeable, it would have
been better for her. But when he told her that he hoped that she
would often make herself at home in that house, and looked, as he
said it, as though he were asking her to take a place among the
goddesses of Olympus, she was troubled as to her answer. 'Oh, my
Lord Duke,' she said, 'when I think of Isabel living here and
being called by such a name, it almost upsets me.'
Isabel had all her father's courage, but she was more sensitive;
and though she would have borne her honours well, was oppressed by
the feeling that the weight was too much for her mother. She could
not keep her ear from listening to her mother's words, or her eye
from watching her mother's motions. She was prepared to carry her
mother everywhere. 'As other girls have to be taken with their
belongings, so must I, if I be taken at all.' This she had said
plainly enough. There should be no division between her and her
mother. But still knowing that her mother was not quite at ease,
she was hardly at ease herself.
Silverbridge came in at the last moment, and of course occupied a
chair next to Isabel. As the House was sitting, it was natural
that he should come in a flurry. 'I left Phineas,' he said,
'pounding away in his old style at Sir Timothy. By-the-bye,
Isabel, you must come down some day and hear Sir Timothy badgered.
I must be back again about ten. Well, Gerald, how are they all at
Lazarus?' He made an effort to be free and easy, but even he soon
found that it was an effort.
Gerald had come up from Oxford for the occasion that he might make
acquaintance with the Boncassens. He had taken Isabel in to
dinner, but had been turned out of his place when his brother came
in. He had been a little confused by the first impression made
upon him by Mrs Boncassen, and had involuntarily watched his
father. 'Silver is going to have an odd sort of mother-in-law,' he
said afterwards to Mary, who remarked in reply that this would not
signify, as the mother-in-law would be in New York.
Tregear's part was very difficult to play. He could not but feel
that though he had succeeded, still he was looked upon askance.
Silverbridge had told him that by degrees the Duke would be won
round, but that it was not to be expected that he should swallow
at once all his regrets. The truth of this could not but be
accepted. The immediate inconvenience, however, was not the less
felt. Each and everyone there knew the position of each and
everyone;--but Tregear felt it difficult to act up to his. He
could not play the well-pleased lover openly, as did Silverbridge.
Mary herself was disposed to be very silent. The heart-breaking
tedium of her dull life had been removed. Her determination had
been rewarded. All that she had wanted had been granted to her,
and she was happy. But she was not prepared to show off her
happiness before others. And she was aware that she was thought to
have done evil by introducing her lover into her august family.
But it was the Duke who made the greatest efforts, and with the
least success. He had told himself again and again that he was
bound be every sense of duty to swallow all regrets. He had taken
himself to task on this matter. He had done so even out loud to
his son. He had declared that he would 'let it all pass from' him.
But who does not know how hard it is for a man in such matters to
keep his word to himself? Who has not said to himself at the very
moment of his own delinquency, 'Now,--it is now,--at this very
instant of time, that I should abate my greed, or smother my ill-
humour, or abandon my hatred. It is now, and here, that I should
drive out the fiend, as I have sworn to myself that I would do.'--
and yet has failed?
That it would be done, would be done at last, by this man was very
certain. When Silverbridge assured his sister that 'it would all
come right very soon,' he had understood his father's character.
But it could not be completed quite at once. Had he been required
to take Isabel only to his heart, it would have been comparatively
easy. There are men, who do not seem at first sight very
susceptible to feminine attractions, who nevertheless are
dominated by the grace of flounces, who succumb to petticoats
unconsciously, and who are half in love with every woman merely
for her womanhood. So it was with the Duke. He had given way in
regard to Isabel with less than half the effort that Frank Tregear
was likely to cost him.
'You were not at the House, sir,' said Silverbridge when he felt
that there was a pause.
'No, not today.' Then there was a pause again.
'I think that we shall beat Cambridge this year to a moral,' said
Gerald, who was sitting at the round table opposite to his father.
Mr Boncassen, who was next him, asked, in irony probably rather
than in ignorance, whether the victory was to be achieved by
mathematical or classical proficiency. Gerald turned and looked
at him. 'Do you mean to say that you have never heard of the
'Papa, you have disgraced yourself for ever,' said Isabel.
'Have I, my dear? Yes, I have heard of them. But I thought Lord
Gerald's protestation was too great for a mere aquatic triumph.'
'Now you are poking your fun at me,' said Gerald.
'Well he may,' said the Duke sententiously. 'We have laid
ourselves very open to having fun poked at us in this matter.'
'I think,' said Tregear, 'that they are learning to do the same
sort of thing in American Universities.'
'Oh, indeed,' said the Duke in a solemn, dry, funereal tone. And
then all the little life which Gerald's remark about the boat-race
had produced, was quenched at once. The Duke was not angry with
Tregear for his little word of defence,--but he was not able to
bring himself into harmony with this one guest, and was almost
savage to him without meaning it. He was continually asking
himself why Destiny had been so hard upon him as to force him to
receive there at his table as his son-in-law a man who was
distasteful to him. And he was endeavouring to answer the
question, taking himself to task and telling himself that his
destiny had done him no injury, and that the pride which had been
wounded was a false pride. He was making a brave fight; but during
the fight he was hardly fit to be the genial father and father-in-
law of young people who were going to be married to one another.
But before the dinner was over he made a great effort. 'Tregear,'
he said,--and even that was an effort, for he had never hitherto
mentioned the man's name without the formal Mister, 'Tregear, as
this is the first time you have sat at my table, let me be old-
fashioned, and ask you to drink a glass of wine with me.'
The glass of wine was drunk and the ceremony afforded infinite
satisfaction to one person there. Mary could not keep herself from
some expression of joy by pressing her finger for a moment against
her lover's arm. He, though not usually given to such
manifestations, blushed up to his eyes. But the feeling produced
on the company was solemn rather than jovial. Everyone there
understood it all. Mr Boncassen could read the Duke's mind down to
the last line. Even Mrs Boncassen was aware that an act of
reconciliation had been intended. 'When the governor drank that
glass of wine it seemed as though half the marriage ceremony had
been performed,' Gerald said to his brother that evening. When the
Duke's glass was replaced on the table, he himself was conscious
of the solemnity of what he had done, and was half ashamed of it.
When the ladies had gone upstairs the conversation became
political and lively. The Duke could talk freely about the state
of things to Mr Boncassen, and was able gradually to include
Tregear in the badinage with which he attacked the conservatism of
his son. And so the half hour passed well. Upstairs the two girls
immediately came together, leaving Mrs Boncassen to chew the cud
of the grandeur around her in the sleepy comfort of an arm-chair.
'And so everything is settled for both of us,' said Isabel.
'Of course I knew it was to be settled for you. You told me so at
'I did not know it then. I only told you that he had asked me. And
you hardly believed me.'
'I certainly believed you.'
'But you knew about--Lady Mabel Grex.'
'I only suspected something, and now I know it was a mistake. It
has never been more than a suspicion.'
'And why, when we were at Custins, did you not tell me about
'I had nothing to tell.'
'I can understand that. But is it not joyful that it should all be
settled? Only poor Lady Mabel! You have got no Lady Mabel to
trouble your conscience.' From which it was evident that
Silverbridge had not told all.
The Major's Story
By the end of March Isabel was in Paris, whither she had forbidden
her lover to follow her. Silverbridge was therefore reduced to the
shifts of a bachelor's life, in which his friends seemed to think
that he ought now to take special delight. Perhaps he did not take
much delight in them. He was no doubt impatient to commence that
steady married life for which he had prepared himself. But
nevertheless, just at present, he lived a good deal at the
Beargarden. Where was he to live? The Boncassens were in Paris,
his sister was at Matching with a houseful of other Pallisers, and
his father was again deep in politics.
Of course he was much in the House of Commons, but that also was
stupid. Indeed everything would be stupid till Isabel came back.
Perhaps dinner was more comfortable at the club than at the House.
And then, as everybody knew, it was a good thing to change the
scene. Therefore he dined at the club, and though he would keep
his hansom and go down to the House again in the course of the
evening, he spent many long hours at the Beargarden. 'There'll
very soon be an end of this as far as you are concerned,' said Mr
Lupton to him one evening as they were sitting in the smoking-room
'The sooner the better as far as this place is concerned.'
'This place is as good as any other. For the matter of that I like
the Beargarden since we got rid of two or three not very charming
'You mean my poor friend Tifto,' said Silverbridge.
'No;--I was not thinking of Tifto. There were one or two here who
were quite as bad as Tifto. I wonder what has become of that poor
'I don't know in the least. You heard of that row about the
'And his letter to you.'
'He wrote to me,--and I answered him, as you know. But whither he
vanished or what he is doing, or how he is living, I have not the
'Gone to join those other fellows abroad I should say. Among them
they got a lot of money,--as the Duke ought to remember.'
'He is not with them,' said Silverbridge, as though he were in
some degree mourning over the fate of his unfortunate friend.
'I suppose Captain Green was the leader in all that.'
'Now it is all done and gone I own to a certain regard for the
Major. He was true to me till he thought I snubbed him. I would
not let him go down to Silverbridge with me. I always thought that
I drove the poor Major to his malpractice.'
At this moment Dolly Longstaff sauntered into the room and came up
to them. It may be remembered that Dolly had declared his purpose
of emigrating. As soon as he heard that the Duke's heir had
serious thoughts of marrying the lady whom he loved he withdrew at
once from the contest, but, as he did so, he acknowledged that
there could be no longer a home for him in the country which
Isabel was to inhabit as the wife of another man. Gradually,
however, better thoughts returned to him. After all, what was she
but a 'pert poppet'? He determined that marriage 'clips a
fellow's wings confoundedly', and so he set himself to enjoy life
after his old fashion. There was perhaps a little swagger as he
threw himself into a chair and addressed the happy lover. 'I'll be
shot if I didn't meet Tifto at the corner of the street.'
'Yes, Tifto. He looked awfully seedy, with a greatcoat buttoned up
to his chin, a shabby hat and gloves.'
'Did he speak to you?' asked Silverbridge.
'No;--nor I to him. He hadn't time to think whether he would speak
or not, and you may be sure I didn't.'
Nothing further was said about the man, but Silverbridge was
uneasy and silent. When his cigar was finished he got up saying
that he should go back to the House. As he left the club he looked
about him as though expecting to see his old friend, and when he
had passed through the first street and had got into the Haymarket
there he was! The Major came up to him, touched his hat, asked to
be allowed to say a few words. 'I don't think it can do any good,'
said Silverbridge. The man had not attempted to shake hands with
him, or affected familiarity; but seemed to be thoroughly
humiliated. 'I don't think I can be of any service to you, and
therefore I had rather decline.'
'I don't want you to be of any service, my Lord.'
'Then what's the good?'
'I have something to say. May I come to you tomorrow?'
Then Silverbridge allowed himself to make an appointment, and an
hour was named at which Tifto might call into Carlton Terrace. He
felt that he almost owed some reparation to the wretched man,--whom
he had unfortunately admitted among his friends, whom he had used,
and to whom he had been uncourteous. Exactly at the hour named the
Major was shown into the room.
Dolly had said that he was shabby,--but the man was altered rather
than shabby. He still had rings on his fingers and studs in his
shirt, and a jewelled pin in his cravat,--but he had shaven off his
moustache and the tuft from his chin, and his hair had been cut
short, and in spite of his jewellery there was a hang-dog look
about him. 'I've got something that I particularly want to say to
you, my Lord.' Silverbridge would not shake hands with him, but
could not refrain from offering him a chair.
'Well;--you can say it now.'
'Yes;--but it isn't so very easy to be said. There are some things,
though you want to say them ever, so you don't quite know how to
'You have your choice, Major Tifto. You can speak or hold your
Then there was a pause, during which Silverbridge sat with his
hands in his pockets trying to look unconcerned. 'But if you've
got it here, and feel it as I do,'--the poor man as he said this
put his hand upon his heart,--'you can't sleep in your bed till
it's out. I did that thing that they said I did.'
'Why, the nail! It was I lamed the horse.'
'I am sorry for it. I can say nothing else.'
'You ain't so sorry for it as I am. Oh no; you can never be that,
my Lord. After all what does it matter to you.'
'Very little. I meant that I was sorry for your sake.'
'I believe you are, my Lord. For though you could be rough you was
always kind. Now I will tell you everything, and then you can do
as you please.'
'I wish to do nothing. As far as I am concerned the matter is
over. It made me sick of horses, and I do not wish to have to
think of it again.'
'Nevertheless, my Lord, I've got to tell it. It was Green who put
me up to it. He did it just for the plunder. As God is my judge it
was not for the money I did it.'
'Then it was revenge.'
'It was the devil got hold of me, my Lord. Up to that I had always
been square,--square as a die! I got to think that your Lordship
was upsetting. I don't know whether your Lordship remembers, but
you did put me down once or twice rather uncommon.'
'I hope I was not unjust.'
'I don't say you was, my Lord. But I got a feeling on me that you
wanted to get rid of me, and I all the time doing the best I could
for the 'orses. I did do the best I could up to that very morning
at Doncaster. Well;--it was Green put me up to it. I don't say I
was to get nothing; but it wasn't so much more than I could have
got by the 'orse winning. And I've lost pretty nearly all that I
did get. Do you remember, my Lord,'--and now the Major sank his
voice to a whisper,--'when I come up to your bedroom that morning?'
'I remember it.'
'The first time?'
'Yes; I remember it.'
'Because I came twice, my Lord. When I came first it hadn't been
done. You turned me out.'
'That is true, Major Tifto.'
'You was very rough then. Wasn't you rough?'
'A man's bedroom is generally supposed to be private.'
'Yes, my Lord,--that's true. I ought to have sent your man first. I
came then to confess it all, before it was done.'
'Then why couldn't you let the horse alone?'
'I was in their hands. And then you was so rough with me! So I
said to myself I might as well do it,--and I did it.'
'What do you want me to say? As far as my forgiveness goes, you
'That saying a great deal, my Lord,--a great deal,' said Tifto, now
in tears. 'But I ain't said it all yet. He's here; in London!'
'Green. He's here. He doesn't think I know, but I could lay my
hands on him tomorrow.'
'There is no human being alive, Major Tifto, whose presence or
absence could be a matter of more indifference to me.'
'I'll tell you what I'll do, my Lord. I'll go before any judge, or
magistrate, or police-officer in the country, and tell the truth.
I won't ask even for a pardon. They shall punish me and him too.
I'm in that state of mind that any change would be for the better.
But he,--he ought to have it heavy.'
'It won't be done by me, Major Tifto. Look here, Major Tifto, you
have come here to confess that you have done me a great injury.'
'Yes, I have.'
'And you say you are sorry for it.'
'Indeed I am.'
'And I have forgiven you. There is only one way in which you can
show your gratitude. Hold your tongue about it. Let it be as a
thing done and gone. The money has been paid. The horse has been
sold. The whole thing has gone out of my mind, and I don't want to
have it brought back again.'
'And nothing is to be done to Green?'
'I should say nothing,--on that score.'
'And he has got they say five-and-twenty thousand pounds clear
'It is a pity, but it cannot be helped. I will have nothing
further to do with it. Of course I cannot bind you, but I have
told you my wishes.' The poor wretch was silent, but still it
seemed as though he did not wish to go quite yet. 'If you have
said what you have got to say, Major Tifto, I may as well tell you
that my time is engaged.'
'And must that be all?'
'I am in such a state of mind, Lord Silverbridge, that it would be
satisfaction to tell it all, even against myself.'
'I can't prevent you.'
Then Tifto got up from his chair, as though he were going. 'I wish
I knew what I was going to do with myself.'
'I don't know that I can help you, Major Tifto.'
'I suppose not, my Lord. I haven't twenty pounds left in all the
world. It's the only thing that wasn't square that ever I did in
all my life. Your Lordship couldn't do anything for me? We was
very much together at one time, my Lord.'
'Yes, Major Tifto, we were.'
'Of course I was a villain. But it was only once; and your
Lordship was so rough with me! I am not saying but what I was a
villain. Think of what I did for myself by that one piece of
wickedness! Master of Hounds! Member of the club! And the horse
would have run in my name and won the Leger! And everybody knew
as your Lordship and me was together in him!' Then he burst out
into a paroxysm of tears and sobbing.
The young Lord certainly could not take the man into partnership
again, nor could he restore to him either the hounds or his club,--
or his clean hands. Nor did he know in what way he could serve the
man, except by putting his hand into his pocket,--which he did.
Tifto accepted the gratuity, and ultimately became an annual
pensioner on his former noble partner, living on the allowance
made him in some obscure corner of South Wales.
Frank Tregear had come up to town at the end of February. He
remained in London, with an understanding that he was not to see
Lady Mary again till the Easter holidays. He was then to pay a
visit to Matching, and to enter it, it may be presumed, on the
full fruition of his advantages as accepted suitor. All this had
been arranged with a good deal of precision,--as though there had
still been a hope left that Lady Mary might change her mind. Of
course there was no such hope. When the Duke asked the young man
to dine with him, when he invited him to drink that memorable
glass of wine, when the young man was allowed, in the presence of
the Boncassens, to sit next to Lady Mary, it was of course
settled. But the father probably found some relief in yielding by
slow degrees. 'I would rather that there should be no
correspondence till then,' he said both to Tregear and to his
daughter. And they had promised there should be no correspondence.
At Easter they would meet. After Easter Mary was to come up to
London to be present at her brother's wedding, to which also
Tregear had been formally invited; and it was hoped that then
something might be settled as to their own marriage. Tregear, with
the surgeon's permission, took his seat in Parliament. He was
introduced by two leading Members on the conservative side, but
immediately afterwards found himself seated next to his friend
Silverbridge on the top bench behind the ministers. The House was
very full, as there was a feverish report abroad that Sir Timothy
Beeswax intended to make a statement. No one quite knew what the
statement was to be; but every politician in the House and out of
it thought that he knew that the statement would be a bid for
higher power on the part of Sir Timothy himself. If there had been
dissensions in the Cabinet, the secret of them had been well kept.
To Tregear who was not as yet familiar with the House there was no
special appearance of activity; but Silverbridge could see that
there was more than wonted animation. That the Treasury bench
should be full at this time was a thing of custom. A whole
broadside of questions would be fired off, one after another, like
a rattle of musketry down the ranks, when as nearly as possible
the report of each gun is made to follow close upon that of the
gun before,--with this exception, that in such case each little
sound is intended to be as like as possible to the preceding,
whereas with the rattle of the questions and answers, each
question and each answer becomes a little more authoritative and
less courteous than the last. The Treasury bench was ready for its
usual responsive firing, as the questioners were of course in
their places. The opposition front bench was also crowded, and
those behind were nearly equally full. There were many Peers in
the gallery, and a general feeling of sensation prevailed. All
this Silverbridge had been long enough in the House to
appreciate;--but to Tregear the House was simply the House.
'It's odd enough we should have a row the very first day you
come,' said Silverbridge.
'You think there will be a row?'
'Beeswax has something special to say. He's not here yet you see.
They've left about six inches for him between Roper and Sir
Orlando. You'll have the privilege of looking just down on the top
of his head when he does come. I shan't stay much longer after
'Where are you going?'
'I don't mean today. But I should not have been here now,--in this
very place I mean,--but I want to stick to you just at first. I
shall move down below the gangway; and not improbably creep over
to the other side before long.'
'You don't mean it?'
'I think I shall. I begin to feel I've made a mistake.'
'In coming to this side at all?'
'I think I have. After all it is not very important.'
'What is not important? I think it is very important.'
'Perhaps it may be to you, and perhaps you may be able to keep it
up. But the more I think of it the less excuse I seem to have for
deserting the old ways of the family. What is there in those
fellows down there to make a fellow feel that he ought to bind
himself to them neck and heels?'
'Yes, their principles! I believe I have some vague idea as to
supporting property and land and all that kind of thing. I don't
know that anybody wants to attack anything.'
'Somebody soon would want to attack if there no defenders.'
'I suppose there is an outside power,--the people, or public
opinion, or whatever they choose to call it. And the country will
have to go very much as that outside power chooses. Here, in
Parliament, everybody will be as conservative as the outside will
let them. I don't think it matters on which side you sit;--but it
does matter that you shouldn't have to act with those who go
against the grain with you.'
'I never heard worse political arguments in my life.'
'I daresay not. However, there's Sir Timothy. When he looks in
that way, all buckram, deportment, and solemnity, I know he's
going to pitch into somebody.'
At this moment the Leader of the House came in from behind the
Speaker's chair and took his place between Mr Roper and Sir
Orlando Drought. When a man has to declare a solemn purpose on a
solemn occasion in a solemn place, it is needful that he should be
solemn himself. And though the solemnity which befits a man best
will be that which the importance of the moment may produce,
without thought given by himself to his own outward person, still,
who is there can refrain himself from some attempt? Who can boast,
who that has been versed in the ways and duties of high places,
that he has kept himself free from all study of grace, of feature,
or attitude, of gait--or even of dress? For most of our bishops,
for most of our judges, or our statesmen, our orators, our
generals, for many even of our doctors and our parsons, even our
attorneys, our taxgatherers, and certainly our butlers and our
coachmen. Mr Turveydrop, the great professor of deportment, has
done much. But there should always be the art to underlie and
protect the art;--the art that can hide the art. The really clever
archbishop,--the really potent chief justice, the man, who as a
politician, will succeed in becoming a king of men, should know
how to carry his buckram without showing it. It was in this that
Sir Timothy perhaps failed a little. There are men who look as
though they were born to wear blue ribbons. It has come, probably,
from study, but it seems to be natural. Sir Timothy did not impose
on those who looked at him as do these men. You see a little of
the paint, you could hear the crumple of the starch and the
padding; you could trace something of the uneasiness in the would-
be composed grandeur of the brow. 'Turveydrop!' the spectator
would say to himself. But after all it may be a question whether a
man be open to reproach for not doing that well which the greatest
among us,--if we could find one great enough,--would not do at all.
For I think we must hold that true personal dignity should be
achieved,--must, if it is to be quite true, have been achieved,--
without any personal effort. Though it be evinced, in part, by the
carriage of the body, that carriage should be the fruit of the
operation of the mind. Even when it be assisted by external
garniture such as special clothes, and wigs, and ornaments, such
garniture should be prescribed by the sovereign or by custom, and
should not have been selected by the wearer. In regard to speech a
man may study all that which may make him suasive, but if he go
beyond that he will trench on those histrionic efforts, which he
will know to be wrong because he will be ashamed to acknowledge
them. It is good to be beautiful, but it should come of God and
not of the hairdresser. And personal dignity is a great
possession; but a man should struggle for it no more than he would
for beauty. Many, however, do struggle for it, and with such
success that, though they do not achieve quite the real thing,
still they get something on which they can bolster themselves up
and be mighty.
Others, older men than Silverbridge, saw as much as did our young
friends, but they were more complaisant and more reasonable. They,
too, heard the crackle of the buckram, and were aware that the
last touch of awe had come upon that brow just as its owner was
emerging from the shadow of the Speaker's chair;--but to them it
was a thing of course. A real Csar is not to be found every day,
nor can we always have a Pitt to control our debates. That kind of
thing, that last touch has its effect. Of course it is all paint,--
but how would the poor girl look before the gaslights if there
were no paint? The House of Commons likes a little deportment on
occasions. If a special man looks bigger than you, you can console
yourself by reflecting that he also looks bigger than your
fellows. Sir Timothy probably knew what he was about, and did
himself on the whole more good than harm by his little tricks.
As soon as Sir Timothy had taken his seat, Mr Rattler got up from
the opposition bench to ask him some questions on a matter of
finance. The brewers were anxious about publican licences. Could
the Chancellor of the Exchequer say a word on the matter? Notice
had of course been given, and the questioner had stated a quarter
of an hour previously that he would postpone his query till the
Chancellor of the Exchequer was in the House.
Sir Timothy rose from his seat, and in his blandest manner began
by apologising for his late appearance. He was sorry that he had
been prevented by public business from being in place to answer
the honourable gentleman's question in proper turn. And even now,
he feared, that he must decline to give any answer which could be
supposed to be satisfactory. It would probably be his duty to make
a statement to the House on the following day,--a statement which
he was not quite prepared to make at the present moment. But in
the existing state of things he was unwilling to make any reply to
any question by which he might seem to bind the government to any
opinion. Then he sat down. And rising again not long afterwards,
when the House had gone through certain formal duties, he moved
that it should be adjourned till the next day. Then all the
members trooped out, and with the others Tregear and Lord
Silverbridge. 'So that is the end our your first day in
Parliament,' said Silverbridge.
'What does it all mean?'
'Let us go down to the Carlton and hear what the fellows are
On that evening both the young men dined at Mr Boncassen's house.
Though Tregear had been cautioned not to write to Lady Mary, and
though he was not to see her before Easter, still it was so
completely understood that he was about to become her husband,
that he was entertained in that capacity by all those who were
concerned in the family. 'And so they will all go out,' said Mr
'That seems to be the general idea,' said the expectant son-in-
law. 'When two men want to be first and neither will give way,
they can't very well get on in the same boat together.' Then he
expatiated angrily on the treachery of Sir Timothy, and Tregear in
a more moderate way joined in the same opinion.
'Upon my word, young men, I doubt whether you are right,' said Mr
Boncassen. 'Whether it can be possible that a man should have
risen to such a position with so little patriotism as you
attribute to our friend, I will not pretend to say. I should think
that in England it was impossible. But of this I am sure, that the
facility which exists here for a minister or ministers to go out
of office without disturbance of the Crown, is a great blessing.
You say the other party will come in.'
'That is most probable,' said Silverbridge.
'With us the other party never comes in,--never has a chance of
coming in,--except once in four years, when the President is
elected. That one event binds us for four years.'
'But you do change your ministers,' said Tregear.
'A secretary may quarrel with the President, or he may have the
gout, or be convicted of peculation.'
'And yet you think yourselves more nearly free than we are.'
'I am not so sure of that. We have had a pretty difficult task,
that of carrying on a government in a new country, which is
nevertheless more populous than almost any old country. The
influxions are so rapid, that every ten years the nature of the
people is changed. It isn't easy; and though I think on the whole
we've done pretty well, I am not going to boast that Washington is
as yet a seat of political Paradise.'
When Tregear first came to town with his arm in a sling, and
bandages all round him,--in order that he might be formally
accepted by the Duke,--he had himself taken to one other house
besides the house in Carlton Terrace. He went to Belgrave Square,
to announce his fate to Lady Mabel Grex;--but Lady Mabel Grex was
not there. The Earl was ill at Brighton, and Lady Mabel had gone
down to nurse him. The old woman who came to him in the hall told
him that the Earl was very ill;--he had been attacked by the gout,
but in spite of the gout, and in spite of the doctors, he had
insisted on being taken to his club. Then he had been removed to
Brighton, under the doctor's advice, chiefly in order that he
might be kept out of the way of temptation. Now he was supposed to
be very ill indeed. 'My Lord is so imprudent!' said the old woman,
shaking her old head in real unhappiness. For though the Earl had
been a tyrant to everyone near him, yet when a poor woman becomes
old it is something to have a tyrant to protect her. 'My Lord!'
always had been imprudent. Tregear knew that it had been the
theory of my Lord's life that to eat and drink, and die was better
than to abstain and live. Then Tregear wrote to his friend as
'MY DEAR MABEL,
'I am up in town again as you will perceive, although I am still
in a helpless condition and hardly able to write even this letter.
I called today and was very sorry to hear so bad an account of
your father. Had I been able to travel I should have come down to
you. When I am able I will do so if you would wish to see me. In
the meantime pray tell me how he is, and how you are.
'My news is this. The Duke accepted me. It is great news to me,
and I hope will be acceptable to you. I do believe that if a
friend has been anxious for a friend's welfare you have been
anxious for mine,--as I have been and ever shall be for yours.'
'Of course this thing will be very much to me. I will not speak
now of my love for the girl who is to become my wife. You might
again call me Romeo. Nor do I like to say much of what may now be
pecuniary prospects. I did not ask Mary to become my wife because
I supposed she would be rich. But I could not have married her or
anyone else who had not money. What are the Duke's intentions I
have not the slightest idea, nor shall I ask him. I am to go down
to Matching at Easter, and shall endeavour to have some time
fixed. I suppose the Duke will say something about money. If he
does not, I shall not.
'Pray write me at once, and tell me when I shall see you.
'Your affectionate Cousin,
'F. O. TREGEAR.'
In answer to this there came a note in a very few words. She
congratulated him,--not very warmly,--but expressed a hope that she
might see him soon. But she told him not to come to Brighton. The
Earl was better but very cross, and she would be up in town before
Towards the end of the month it became suddenly known in London
that Lord Grex had died at Brighton. There was a Garter to be
given away, and everybody was filled with regret that such an
ornament to the Peerage should have departed from them. The
conservative papers remembered how excellent a politician he had
been in his younger days, and the world was informed that the
family of Grex of Grex was about the oldest in Great Britain of
which authentic records were in existence. Then there came another
note from Lady Mabel to Tregear.
'I shall be in town on the thirty-first in the old house, with
Miss Cassewary, and will see you if can come down on the first.
Come early, at eleven, if you can.'
On the day named and at the hour fixed he was in Belgrave Square.
He had known this house since he was a boy, and could well
remember how, when he first entered it, he had thought with some
awe of the grandeur of the Earl. The Earl had then not paid much
attention to him, but he had become very much taken with the grace
and good nature of the girl who had owned him as a cousin. 'You
are my cousin, Frank,' she had said; 'I am so glad to have a
cousin.' He could remember the words now as though they had been
spoken only yesterday. Then there had quickly grown to be
friendship between him and this, as he thought, sweetest of all
girls. At that time he had just gone to Eton; but before he left
Eton they had sworn to love each other. And so it had been and the
thing had grown, till at last, just when he had taken his degree
two matters had been settled between them; the first was that each
loved the other irretrievably, irrevocably, passionately; the
second, that it was altogether out of the question that they
should ever marry each other.
It is but fair to Tregear to say that this last decision
originated with the lady. He had told her that he certainly would
hold himself engaged to marry her at some future time; but she had
thrown this aside at once. How was it possible, she said, that two
such beings, brought up in luxury, and taught to enjoy all the
good things of the world, should expect to live and be happy
together without an income? He offered to go to the bar;--but she
asked him whether he thought it well that such a one as she should
wait say a dozen years for such a process. 'When the time comes, I
should be an old woman and you would be a wretched man.' She
released him,--declared her own purpose of marrying well; and then,
though there had been a moment in which her own assurance of her
own love had been passionate enough, she went so far as to tell
him that she was heartwhole. 'We have been two foolish children
but we cannot be children any longer,' she said. 'There must be an
end of it.'
What had hitherto been the result of this the reader knows,--and
Tregear knew also. He had taken the privilege given to him, and
had made so complete a use of it that he had in truth transferred
his heart as well as his allegiance. Where is the young man who
cannot do so;--how few are there who do not do so when their first
passion has come on them at one-and-twenty? And he had thought
that she would do the same. But gradually he found that she had
not done so, did not do so, could not do so! When she first heard
of Lady Mary she had not reprimanded him,--but she could not keep
herself from showing the bitterness of her disappointment. Though
she would still boast of her own strength and of her own purpose,
yet it was too clear to him that she was wounded and very sore.
She would have liked him to remain single at any rate till she
herself had married. But the permission had hardly been given
before he availed himself of it. And then he talked to her not
only of the brilliancy of his prospects,--which she would have
forgiven,--but of his love--his love!
Then she had refused one offer after another, and he had known it
all. There was nothing in which she was concerned that she did not
tell him. Then young Silverbridge had come across her, and she had
determined that he should be her husband. She had been nearly
successful,--so nearly that at moments she felt sure of success.
But the prize had slipped from her through her own fault. She knew
well enough that it was her own fault. When a girl submits to play
such a game as that, she could not stand on too nice scruples. She
had told herself this many a time since;--but the prize was gone.
All this Tregear knew, and knowing it almost dreaded the coming
interview. He could not without actual cruelty have avoided her.
Had he done so before he could not have continued to do so now,
when she was left alone in the world. Her father had not been much
to her, but still his presence had enabled her to put herself
before the world as being somebody. Now she would be almost
nobody. And she had lost her rich prize, while he,--out of the same
treasury as it were,--had won his!
The door opened to him by the same old woman, and he was shown, at
a funereal pace, up into the drawing-room which he had known so
well. He was told that Lady Mabel would be down to him directly.
As he looked about him he could see that already had been
commenced that work of division of spoil which is sure to follow
the death of most of us. Things were already gone which used to be
familiar to his eyes, and the room, though not dismantled, had
been deprived of many of its little prettiness and was ugly.
In about ten minutes she came down to him,--with so soft a step
that he would not have been aware of her entrance had he not seen
her form in the mirror. Then, when he turned round to greet her,
he was astonished by the blackness of her appearance. She looked
as though she had become ten years older since he had last seen
her. As she came up to him she was grave and almost solemn in her
gait, but there was no sign of any tears. Why should there have
been a tear? Women weep, and men too, not from grief, but from
emotion. Indeed, grave and slow as she was her step, and serious,
almost solemn, as was her gait, there was something of a smile on
her mouth as she gave him her hand. And yet her face was very sad,
declaring to him too plainly something of the hopelessness of her
heart. 'And so the Duke has consented,' she said. He had told her
that in his letter, but since that, her father had died, and she
had been left, he did not as yet know how impoverished, but, he
feared, with no pleasant worldly prospects before her.
'Yes, Mabel;--that I suppose will be settled. I have been so
shocked to hear all this.'
'It has been very sad;--has it not? Sit down, Frank. You and I
have a good deal to say to each other now that we have met. It was
no good your going down to Brighton. He would not have seen you,
and at last I never left him.'
'Was Percival there?' She only shook her head. 'That was
'It was not Percival's fault. He would not see him; nor till the
last hour or two would he believe in his own danger. Nor was he
ever to frightened for a moment,--not even then.'
'Was he good to you?'
'Good to me! Well;--he liked my being there. Poor papa! It had
gone so far with him that he could not be good to any one. I think
that he felt that it would be unmanly not to be the same till the
'He would not see Percival.'
'When it was suggested he would only ask what good Percival could
do him. I did send for him at last, in my terror, but he did not
see his father alive. When he did come he only told me how badly
his father had treated him! It was very dreadful!'
'I did so feel for you.'
'I am sure you did, and will. After all, Frank, I think that the
pious godly people have the best of it in this world. Let them be
ever so covetous, ever so false, ever so hard-hearted, the mere
fact that they must keep up appearances, makes them comfortable to
those around them. Poor papa was not comfortable to me. A little
hypocrisy, a little sacrifice to the feelings of the world, may be
such a blessing.'
'I am sorry that you should feel it so.'
'Yes; it is sad. But you;--everything is smiling with you! Let us
talk about your plans.'
'Another time will do for that. I had come to hear about your own
'There they are,' she said, pointing round the room. 'I have no
other affairs. You see that I am going from here.'
'And where are you going?' She shook her head. 'With whom will
'With Miss Cass,--two old maids together. I know nothing further.'
'But about money? That is if I am justified in asking.'
'What would you not be justified in asking? Do you not know that
I would tell you every secret of my own heart;--if my heart had a
secret? It seems that I have given up what was to have been my
fortune. There was a claim of twelve thousand pounds on Grex. But
I have abandoned it.'
'And there is nothing?'
'There will be scrapings they tell me,--unless Percival refuses to
agree. This house is mortgaged, but not for its value. And there
are some jewels. But all that is detestable,--a mere grovelling
among mean hundreds; whereas you,--you will soar among--'
'Oh Mabel! do not say hard things to me.'
'No, indeed! why should I,--I who have been preaching that
comfortable doctrine of hypocrisy? I will say nothing hard. But I
would sooner talk of your good things than my evil ones.'
'I would not.'
'Then you must talk about them for my sake. How was it that the
Duke came round at last?'
'I hardly know. She sent for me.'
'A fine high-spirited girl. These Pallisers have more courage
about them than one expects from their outward manner.
Silverbridge has plenty of it.'
'I remember telling you he could be obstinate.'
'And I remember that I did not believe you. Now I know it. He has
that sort of pluck which enables a man to break a girl's heart,--or
to destroy a girl's hopes,--without wincing. He can tell a girl to
her face that she can go to the--mischief for him. There are so
many men who can't do that, from cowardice, though their hearts be
ever so well inclined. "I have changed my mind." There is
something great in the courage of a man who can say that to a
woman in so many words. Most of them, when they escape by lies and
subterfuges. Or they run away and won't allow themselves to be
heard of. They trust to a chapter of accidents, and leave things
to arrange themselves. But when a man can look a girl in the face
with those seemingly soft eyes, and say with that seemingly soft
mouth,--"I have changed my mind",--though she would look him dead in
return, if she could, still she must admire him.'
'Are you speaking of Silverbridge now?'
'Of course I am speaking of Silverbridge. I suppose I ought to
hide it all and not tell you. But as you are the only person I do
tell, you must put up with me. Yes;--when I taxed him with his
falsehood,--for he had been false,--he answered me with those very
words! "I have changed my mind." He could not lie. To speak the
truth was a necessity to him, even at the expense of his
gallantry, almost of his humanity.'
'Has he been false to you, Mabel?'
'Of course he has. But there is nothing to quarrel about if you
mean that. People do not quarrel now about such things. A girl has
to fight her own battle with her own pluck and her own wits. As
with these weapons she is generally stronger than her enemy, she
succeeds sometimes although everything else is against her. I
think I am courageous, but his courage beat mine. I craned at the
first fence. When he was willing to swallow my bait, my hand was
not firm enough to strike the hook in his jaws. Had I not quailed
then I think I should have-"had him".'
'It is horrid to hear you talk like this.' She was leaning over
from her seat, looking black as she was, so much older than her
wont, with something about her of the unworldly serious
thoughtfulness which a mourning always gives. And yet her words
were so worldly, so unfeminine!
'I have got to tell the truth to somebody. It was so, just as I
have said. Of course I did not love him. How could I love him
after what has passed? But there need have been nothing much in
that. I don't suppose that Duke's eldest sons often get married
'Miss Boncassen loves him.'
'I dare say the beggar's daughter loved King Cophetua. When you
come to distances such as that, there can be love. The very fact
that a man should have descended so far in the quest of beauty,--
the flattery of it alone,--will produce love. When the angels came
after the daughters of men of course the daughters of men loved
them. The distance between him and me is not great enough to have
produced that sort of worship. There was no reason why Lady Mabel
Grex should not be good enough wife for the son of the Duke of
'And therefore I was not struck, as by the shining of la light
from heaven. I cannot say that I loved him, Frank,--I am beyond
worshipping even an angel from heaven.'
'Then I do not know that you can blame him,' he said very
'Just so;--and as I have chosen to be honest I have told him
everything. But I had my revenge first.'
'I would have said nothing.'
'You would have recommended--delicacy! No doubt you think that
women should be delicate let them suffer what they may. A woman
should not let it be known that she has any human nature in her. I
had him on the hip, and for a moment I used my power. He had
certainly done me a wrong. He had asked for my love,--and with the
delicacy which you commend, I had not at once grasped at all that
such a request conveyed. Then, as he told me so frankly, he
"changed his mind"! Did he not wrong me?'
'He should not have raised false hopes.'
'He told me that--he had changed his mind. I think I loved him then
as nearly as I ever did,--because he looked me full in the face.
Then,--I told him that I had never cared for him, and that he need
have nothing on his conscience. But I doubt whether he was glad to
hear it. Men are so vain! I have talked too much about myself.
And so you are to be the Duke's son-in-law. And she will have
hundreds of thousands.'
'Thousands perhaps, but I do not think very much about it. I feel
that he will provide for her.'
'And that you, having secured her, can creep under his wing like
an additional ducal chick. It is very comfortable. The Duke will
be quite a Providence to you. I wonder that all young gentlemen do
not marry heiresses;--it is so easy. And you have got your seat in
Parliament too! Oh, your luck! When I look back upon it all it
seems so hard to me! It was for you;--for you that I used to be
anxious. Now it is I who have not an inch of ground to stand
upon.' Then he approached her and put out his hand to her. 'No,'
she said, putting both her hands behind her back, 'for God's sake
let there be no tenderness. But is it not cruel? Think of my
advantages at that moment when you and I agreed that our paths
should be separate. My fortune then had not been made quite
shipwreck by my father and brother. I had before me all that
society could offer. I was called handsome and clever. Where was
there a girl more likely to make her way to the top?'
'You may do still.'
'No;--no;--I cannot. And you at least should not tell me so. I did
not know then the virulence of the malady which had fallen on me.
I did not know that, because of you, other men would have been
abhorrent to me. I thought that I was as easy-hearted as you have
'How cruel you can be.'
'Have I done anything to interfere with you? Have I said a word
even to that young lad when I might have said a word? Yes; to him
I did say something; but I waited, and would not say it, while a
word could hurt you. Shall I tell you what I told him? Just
everything that has ever happened between you and me.'
'Yes;--because I saw that I could trust him. I told him because I
wanted him to be quite sure that I had never loved him. But,
Frank, I have put no spoke in your wheel. There has not been a
moment since you told me of your love for this rich young lady in
which I would not have helped you had help been in my power.
Whomever I may have harmed, I have never harmed you.'
'Am I not as clear from blame towards you?'
'No, Frank. You have done me the terrible evil of ceasing to love
'It was at your own bidding.'
'Certainly! But if I were to bid you to cut your throat, would
you do it?'
'Was it not you who decided that we could not wait for each
'And should it not have been for you to decide that you would
'You also would have married.'
'It almost angers me that you should not see the difference. A
girl unless she marries becomes nothing, as I have become nothing
now. A man does not want a pillar on which to lean. A man, when he
has done as you have done with me, and made a girl's heart all his
own, even though his own heart had been flexible and plastic as
yours is, should have been true to her, at least for a while. Did
it never occur to you that you owed something to me?'
'I have always owed you very much.'
'There should have been some touch of chivalry if not of love to
make you feel that a second passion should have been postponed for
a year or two. You could wait without growing old. You might have
allowed yourself a little space to dwell--I was going to say on the
sweetness of your memories. But they were not sweet, Frank, they
were not sweet to you.'
'These rebukes, Mabel, will rob them of their sweetness,--for a
'It is gone; all gone,' she said, shaking her head,--'gone from me
because I have been so easily deserted; gone from you because the
change has been so easy to you. How long was it, Frank, after you
had left me before you were basking happily in the smiles of Lady
'It was not very long, as months go.'
'Say days, Frank.'
'I have to defend myself, and I will do so with truth. It was not
very long,--as months go; but why should it have been less long,
whether for months or days? I had to cure myself of a wound.'
'To put plaster on a scratch, Frank.'
'And the sooner a man can do that the more manly he is. Is it a
sign of strength to wail under a sorrow that cannot be cured,--or
of truth to perpetuate the appearance of a woe?'
'Has it been an appearance with me?'
'I am speaking of myself now. I am driven to speak of myself by
the bitterness of your words. It was you who decided.'
'You accepted my decision easily.'
'Because it was based not only on my unfitness for such a
marriage, but on yours. When I saw that there would be perhaps
some years of misery for you, of course I accepted your decision.
The sweetness had been very sweet to me.'
'Oh Frank, was it ever sweet to you?'
'And the triumph of it had been very great. I had been assured of
the love of her who among all the high ones of the world seemed to
me to be the highest. Then came your decision. Do you really
believe that I could abandon the sweetness, that I could be robbed
of my triumph, that I could think I could never again be allowed
to put my arm round your waist, never again feel your cheek close
to mine, that I should lose all that had seemed left to me among
the gods, without feeling it?'
'Frank, Frank!' she said, rising to her feet, and stretching out
her hands as though she were going to give him back all these
'Of course I felt it. I did not then know what was before me.'
When he said this she sank immediately back upon her seat. 'I was
wretched enough. I had lost a limb and could not walk; my eyes,
and must always hereafter be blind; my fitness to be among men,
and must always hereafter be secluded. It is so that a man is
stricken down when some terrible trouble comes upon him. But it is
given to him to retrick his beams.'
'You have retricked yours.'
'Yes;--and the strong man will show his strength by doing it
quickly. Mabel, I sorrowed for myself greatly when that word was
spoken, partly because I thought that your love could be so easily
taken from me. And, since I have found that it has not been so, I
have sorrowed for you also. But I do not blame myself, and I will
not submit to have blame even from you.' She stared at him in the
face as he said this. 'A man should never submit to blame.'
'But if he has deserved it?'
'Who is to be the judge? But why should we contest this? You do
not really wish to trample on me!'
'Nor to disgrace me; nor to make me feel myself disgraced in my
own judgement?' Then there was a pause for some moments as though
he had left her without another word to say. 'Shall I go now?' he
'I fear that my presence only makes you unhappy.'
'Then what will your absence do? When shall I see you again?
But, no; I will not see you again. Not for many days,--not for
years. Why should I? Frank, is it wicked that I should love you?'
He could only shake his head in answer to this. 'If it be so
wicked that I must be punished for it eternally, still I love you.
I can never, never, never love another. You cannot understand it.
Oh God,--that I had never understood it myself! I think, I think,
that I would go with you now anywhere, facing all misery, all
judgements, all disgrace. You know, do you not, that if it were
possible, I should not say so. But as I know that you would not
stir a step with me, I do say so.'
'I know that it is not meant.'
'It is meant, though it could not be done. Frank, I must not see
her, not for awhile; not for years. I do not wish to hate her, but
how can I help it? Do you remember when she flew into your arms
in this room?'
'I remember it.'
'Of course you do. It is your great joy now to remember that, and
such like. She must be very good! Though I hate her!'
'Do not say that you hate her, Mabel.'
'Though I hate her she must be good. It was a fine and brave thing
to do. I have done it; but never before the world like that; have
I, Frank? Oh, Frank, I shall never do it again. Go now, and do
not touch me. Let us both pray that in ten years we may meet as
passionate friends.' He came to her hardly knowing what he meant,
but purposing, as though by instinct, to take her hand as he
parted from her. But she, putting both her hands before her face,
and throwing herself on to the sofa, buried her head among the
'Is there not to be another word?' he said. Lying as she did, she
still was able to make a movement of dissent and he left her,
muttering just one word between his teeth, 'Mabel, good-bye.'
The Duke Returns to Office
That farewell took place on the Friday morning. Tregear as he
walked out of the Square knew now that he had been the cause of a
great shipwreck. At first when that passionate love had been
declared,--he could hardly remember whether with the fullest
passion by him or by her,--he had been as a god walking upon air.
That she who seemed to be so much above him should have owned that
she was all his own seemed then to be world enough for him. For a
few weeks he lived a hero to himself, and was able to tell
himself that for him, the glory of a passion was sufficient. In
those halcyon moments no common human care is allowed to intrude
itself. To one who has thus entered in upon the heroism of romance
his own daily work, his dinners, clothes, income, father and
mother, sisters and brothers, his own street and house are
nothing. Hunting, shooting, rowing, Alpine-climbing, even speeches
in Parliament,--if they perchance have been attained to,--all become
leather or prunella. The heavens have been opened to him and he
walks among them like a god. So it had been with Tregear. Then had
come the second phase of his passion,--which is not uncommon young
men who soar high in their first assaults. He was told that it
would not do; and was not so told by the hard-pressed parent, but
by the young lady herself. And she had spoken so reasonably, that
he had yielded, and had walked away with the sudden feeling of a
vile return to his own mean belongings, to his lodgings, and his
income, which not a few ambitious young men have experienced. But
she had convinced him. Then had come the journey to Italy, and the
reader knows all the rest. He certainly had not derogated in
transferring his affections,--but it may be doubted whether in his
second love he had walked among the stars as in the first. A man
can hardly mount twice among the stars. But he had been as eager,--
and as true. And he had succeeded, without any flaw on his
conscience. It had been agreed, when that first disruption took
place, that he and Mabel should be friends; and, as to friends, he
had told her of his hopes. When first she had mingled something of
sarcasm in her congratulations, though it had annoyed him, it had
hardly made him unhappy. When she called him Romeo and spoke of
herself as Rosaline, he took her remark as indicating some
petulance rather than an enduring love. That had been womanly and
he could forgive it. He had his other great and solid happiness to
support him. Then he had believed that she would soon marry, if
not Silverbridge, then some other fitting young nobleman, and that
all would be well. But now things were very far from well. The
storm which was now howling round her afflicted her much.
Perhaps the bitterest feeling of all was that her love should have
been so much stronger, so much more enduring than his own. He
could not but remember how in his first agony he had blamed her
because she had declared that they should be severed. He had then
told himself that such severing would be to him impossible, and
that her nature been as high as his, it would have been as
impossible to her. Which nature must he now regard as the higher?
She had done her best to rid herself of the load of her passion
and had failed. But he had freed himself with convenient haste.
All that he had said as the manliness of conquering grief had been
wise enough. But still he could not quit himself of some feeling
of disgrace in that he had changed and she had not. He tried to
comfort himself with reflecting that Mary was all his own,--that in
the matter he had been victorious and happy;--but for an hour or
two he thought more of Mabel than Mary.
When the time came in which he could employ himself he called for
Silverbridge, and they walked together across the park to
Westminster. Silverbridge was gay and full of eagerness as to the
coming ministerial statement, but Tregear could not turn his mind
from the work of the morning. 'I don't seem to care very much
about it,' he said at last.
'I do care very much,' said Silverbridge.
'What difference will it make?'
'I breakfasted with the governor this morning, and I have not seen
him in such good spirits since,--well for a long time.' The date
to which Silverbridge would have referred, had he not checked
himself was that of the evening on which it had been agreed
between him and his father that Mabel Grex should be promoted to
the seat of the highest honour in the house of Palliser,--but that
was a matter which must henceforward be buried in silence. 'He did
not say much, but I feel perfectly sure that he and Mr Monk have
arranged a new government.'
'I don't see any matter for joy in that to Conservatives like you
'He is my father,--and as he is going to be your father-in-law I
should have thought that you would have been pleased.'
'Oh, yes;--if he likes it. But I have heard so often of the
crushing cares of office, and I had thought that of all living men
he had been the most crushed by them.'
All that had to be done in the House of Commons on that afternoon
was finished before five o'clock. By half-past five the House, and
all the purlieus of the House, were deserted. And yet at four,
immediately after prayers, there had been such a crowd that
members had been unable to find seats! Tregear and Silverbridge
having been early succeeded, but those who had been less careful
were obliged to listen as best they could in the galleries. The
stretching out of necks and the holding of hands behind the ears
did not last long. Sir Timothy had not much to say, but what he
did say was spoken with dignity which seemed to anticipate future
exaltation rather than present downfall. There had arisen a
question in regard to revenue,--he need hardly tell them that it
was the question in reference to brewers' licences which the
honourable gentlemen opposite had alluded on the previous day,--as
to which unfortunately he was not in accord with his noble friend
the Prime Minister. Under the circumstances it was hardly possible
that they should at once proceed to business, and he therefore
moved that the House should stand adjourned till Tuesday next.
That was the whole statement.
Not very long afterwards the Prime Minister made another statement
in the House of Lords. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer had very
suddenly resigned and had thereby broken up the Ministry, he had
found himself compelled to place his resignation in the hands of
her Majesty. Then that House was also adjourned. On that
afternoon all the clubs were alive with admiration at the great
cleverness played by Sir Timothy in this transaction. It was not
only that he had succeeded in breaking up the Ministry, and that
he had done this without incurring violent disgrace; but he had
done it as to throw all the reproach upon his late unfortunate
colleague. It was thus that Mr Lupton explained it. Sir Timothy
had been at the pains to ascertain on what matters connected with
the revenue, Lord Drummond--or Lord Drummond's closest advisers,--
had opinions of their own, opinions strong enough not to be
abandoned, and having discovered that, he also discovered
arguments on which to found an exactly opposite opinion. But as
the Revenue had been entrusted specially to his unworthy hands, he
was entitled to his own opinion in the matter. 'The majority of
the House,' said Mr Lupton, 'and the entire public, will no doubt
give him credit for self-abnegation.'
All this happened on the Friday. During the Saturday it was
considered probable that the Cabinet would come to terms with
itself, and that internal wounds would be healed. The general
opinion was that Lord Drummond would give way. But on the Sunday
morning it was understood that Lord Drummond would not yield. It
was reported that Lord Drummond was willing to purchase his
separation from Sir Timothy even at the expense of his office.
That Sir Timothy should give way seemed to be impossible. Had he
done so it would have been impossible for him to recover the
respect of the House. Then it was rumoured that two or three
others had gone with Sir Timothy. And on Monday morning it was
proclaimed that the Prime Minister was not in a position to
withdraw his resignation. On the Tuesday the House met and Mr Monk
announced, still from Opposition benches, that he had that morning
been with the Queen. Then there was another adjournment, and all
the Liberals knew that the gates of Paradise were again about to
be opened to them.
This is only interesting to us as affecting the happiness and
character of the Duke. He had consented to assist Mr Monk in
forming a government, and to take office under Mr Monk's
leadership. He had had many contests with himself before he could
bring himself to this submission. He knew that if anything could
once again make him contented it would be work; he knew that if he
could serve his country it was his duty to serve it; and he knew
also that it was only by the adhesion of such men as himself that
the tradition of his party could be maintained. But he had been
Prime Minister,--and he was sure he could never be Prime Minister
again. There are in all matters certain little, almost hidden,
signs, by which we can measure within our own bosoms the extent of
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