The Duke's Children
Part 6 out of 14
'Is there anything else wrong,--except about Mary?' Silverbridge
'I am told Gerald owes about fifteen hundred pounds at Cambridge.'
'So much as that! I knew that he had a few horses there.'
'It is not the money, but the absence of principle,--that a young
man should have no feeling that he ought to live within certain
prescribed means! Do you know what you have had from Mr Morton?'
'Not exactly, sir.'
'It is different with you. But a man, let him be who he may,
should live within certain means. As for your sister, I think she
will break my heart.' Silverbridge found it impossible to say
anything in answer to this. 'Are you going to church?' asked the
'I was not thinking of doing so particularly.'
'Do you not ever go?'
'Yes;--sometimes. I will go with you now, if you like it, sir.'
'I had thought of going, but my mind is too much harassed. I do
not see why you should not go.'
But Silverbridge, though he had been willing to sacrifice his
morning to his father,--for it was, I fear, in that way that he
looked at it,--did not see any reason for performing a duty which
his father himself omitted. And there were various matters also
which harassed him. On the previous evening, after dinner, he had
allowed himself to back the Prime Minister for the Leger to a very
serious amount. In fact he had plunged, and now stood to lose some
twenty thousand pounds on the doings of the last night. And he had
made these bets under the influence of Major Tifto. It was the
remembrance of this, after the promise he had made to his father,
that annoyed him the most. He was imbued with a feeling that it
behoved him as a man to 'pull himself together' as he would have
said himself, and to live in accordance with certain rules. He
could make the rules easily enough, but he had never yet succeeded
in keeping any one of them. He had determined to sever himself
from Tifto, and, in doing that, had intended to sever himself from
the affairs of the turf generally. This resolution was not yet a
week old. It was on that evening that he had resolved that Tifto
should no longer be his companion; and now he had to confess to
himself that because he had drunk three or four glasses of
champagne he had been induced by Tifto to make those wretched
And he had told his father that he intended to ask Mabel Grex to
be his wife. He had so committed himself that the offer must now
be made. He did not specially regret that, though he wished that
he had been more reticent. 'What a fool a man is to blurt out
everything!' he said to himself. A wife would be a good thing for
him; and where could he possibly find a better wife than Mabel
Grex? In beauty she was no doubt inferior to Miss Boncassen. There
was something about Miss Boncassen which made it impossible to
forget her. But Miss Boncassen was an American, and on many
accounts out of the question. It did not occur to him that he
would fall in love with Miss Boncassen for a few weeks. No doubt
there were objections to marriage. It clipped a fellow's wings.
But then, if he were married, he might be sure that Tifto would be
laid aside. It was a great thing to have got his father's assured
consent to a marriage. It meant complete independence in money
Then his mind ran away to a review of his father's affairs. It was
a genuine trouble to him that his father should be so unhappy. Of
all the griefs which weighed upon the Duke's mind, that in
reference to his sister was the heaviest. The money which Gerald
owed at Cambridge would be nothing if that sorrow could be
conquered. Nor had Tifto and his own extravagances caused the Duke
any incurable wounds. If Tregear could be got out of the way his
father, he thought, might be reconciled to other things. He felt
very tender-hearted about his father; but he had no remorse in
regard to his sister as he made up his mind that he would speak
very seriously to Tregear.
He had wandered into St James's Park, and had lighted by this time
half-a-dozen cigarettes one after another, as he sat on one of the
benches. He was a handsome youth, all but six feet high, with
light hair, with round blue eyes, and with all that aristocratic
look, which had belonged so peculiarly to the late Duke but which
was less conspicuous in the present head of the family. He was a
young man whom you would hardly pass in a crowd without
observing,--but of whom you would say, after due observation, that
he had not as yet put off all his childish ways. He now sat with
his legs stretched out, with his cane in his hands, looking down
upon the water. He was trying to think. He worked hard at
thinking. But the bench was hard, and, upon the whole, he was not
satisfied with his position. He had just made up his mind that he
would look up Tregear, when Tregear himself appeared on the path
'Tregear!' exclaimed Silverbridge.
'Silverbridge!' exclaimed Tregear.
'What on earth makes you walk about here on a Sunday morning?'
'What on earth makes you sit there? That I should walk here, which
I often do, does not seem to me odd. But that I should find you is
marvellous. Do you often come?'
'Never was here in my life before. I strolled because I had things
to think of.'
'Questions to be asked in Parliament? Notices of motions,
Amendments in Committee, and that kind of thing?'
'Go on, old fellow.'
'Or perhaps Major Tifto has made important revelations.'
'D--- Major Tifto.'
'With all my heart,' said Tregear.
'Sit down here,' said Silverbridge. 'As it happened, at the moment
when you came up I was thinking of you.'
'That was kind.'
'And I was determined to go to you. All this about my sister must
be given up.'
'Must be given up!'
'It can never lead to any good. I meant that there can never be a
marriage.' Then he paused, but Tregear was determined to hear him
out. 'It is making my father so miserable that you would pity him
if you could see him.'
'I dare say I should. When I see people unhappy I always pity
them. What I would ask you to think of is this. If I were to
commission you to tell your sister that everything between us
should be given up, would not she be so unhappy that you would
have to pity her?'
'She would get over it.'
'And so will your father.'
'He has a right to have his own opinion on such a matter.'
'And so have I. And so has she. His rights in the matter are very
clear and very potential. I am quite ready to admit that we cannot
marry for many years to come, unless he will provide the money.
You are quite at liberty to tell him that I say so. I have no
right to ask your father for a penny, and I will never do so. The
power is all in his hands. As far as I know my own purposes, I
shall not make any immediate attempt even to see her. We did meet,
as you saw, the other day, by the merest chance. After that, do
you think that your sister wishes me to give her up?'
'As for supposing that girls are to have what they wish, that is
'For young men I suppose equally so. Life ought to be a life of
self-denial no doubt. Perhaps it might be my duty to retire from
this affair, if by doing so I should sacrifice only myself. The
one person of whom I am bound to think in this matter is the girl
'That is just what she says about you.'
'I hope so.'
'In that way you support each other. If it were any other man
circumstanced just like you are, and any other girl placed like
Mary, you would be the first to say that the man was behaving
badly. I don't like to use hard language to you, but in such a
case you would be the first to say of another man--that he was
looking after the girl's money.'
Silverbridge as he said this looked forward steadfastly on to the
water, regretting much that cause for quarrel should have arisen,
but thinking that Tregear would find himself obliged to quarrel.
But Tregear, after a few moments' silence, having thought it out,
determined that he would not quarrel. 'I think I probably might,'
he said laying his hand on Silverbridge's arm. 'I think I perhaps
might express such an opinion.'
'I have to examine myself, and find whether I am guilty of the
meanness which I might perhaps be too ready to impute to another.
I have done so, and I am quite sure that I am not drawn to your
sister by any desire for her money. I did not seek her because she
was a rich man's daughter, nor,--because she is a rich man's
daughter will I give her up. Nothing but a word from her shall
induce me to leave her;--but a word from her, if it comes from her
own lips,--shall do so.' Then he took his friend's hand in his,
and having grasped it, walked away without saying another word.
Miss Boncassen's River-Party No. 1
Thrice within the next three weeks did Lord Silverbridge go forth
to ask Mabel to be his wife, but thrice in vain. On one occasion
she would talk on other things. On the second Miss Cassewary would
not leave her. On the third the conversation turned in a very
disagreeable way on Miss Boncassen, as to whom Lord Silverbridge
could not but think that Lady Mabel said some very ill-natured
things. It was no doubt true that he, during the last three weeks,
had often been in Miss Boncassen's company, that he had danced
with her, ridden with her, taken her to the House of Lords and the
House of Commons, and was now engaged to attend upon her at a
river-party up above Maidenhead. But Mabel had certainly no right
to complain. Had he not thrice during the same period come there
to lay the coronet at her feet;--and now, at this very moment, was
it not her fault that he was not going through the ceremony?
'I suppose,' she said, laughing, 'that it is all settled.'
'What is all settled?'
'About you and the American beauty.'
'I am not aware that anything in particular has been settled.'
'Then it ought to be,--oughtn't it? For her sake, I mean.'
'That is so like an English woman,' said Lord Silverbridge.
'Because you cannot understand a manner of life a little different
from your own you will impute evil.'
'I have imputed no evil, Lord Silverbridge, and you have no right
to say so.'
'If you mean to assert,' said Miss Cass, 'that the manners of
American young ladies are freer than those of English young
ladies, it is you that are taking away their characters.'
'I don't say it would be at all bad,' continued Lady Mabel. 'She
is a beautiful girl, and very clever, and would make a charming
Duchess. And then it would be such a delicious change to have an
'She wouldn't be a Duchess.'
'Well, Countess, with Duchessship before her in the remote future.
Wouldn't it be a change, Miss Cass?'
'Oh decidedly!' said Miss Cass.
'And very much for the better. Quite a case of new blood, you
know. Pray don't suppose that I mean to object. Everybody who
talks about it approves. I haven't heard a single dissentient
voice. Only as it has gone so far, and English people are too
stupid you know to understand all these new ways,--don't you think
'No, I don't think. I don't think anything except that you are
very ill-natured.' Then he got up and, after making formal adieux
to both the ladies, left the house.
As soon as he was gone Lady Mabel began to laugh, but the least
apprehensive ears would have perceived that the laughter was
affected. Miss Cassewary did not laugh at all, but sat bolt
upright and looked very serious. 'Upon my honour,' said the
younger lady, 'he is the most beautifully simple-minded human
being I ever knew in my life.'
'Then I wouldn't laugh at him.'
'How can one help it? But of course I do it with a purpose.'
'I think he is making a fool of himself. If somebody does not
interfere he will go so far that he will not be able to draw back
'I thought,' said Miss Cassewary, in a very low voice, almost
whispering. 'I thought that he was looking for a wife elsewhere.'
'You need not think of it again,' said Lady Mab, jumping up from
her seat. 'I had thought of it too. But as I told you before, I
spared him. He did not really mean it with me;--nor does he mean it
with this American girl. Such young men seldom mean. They drift
into matrimony. But she will not spare him. It would be a national
triumph. All the States would sing a paean of glory. Fancy a New
York belle having compassed a Duke!'
'I don't think it possible. It would be too horrid.'
'I think it is quite possible. As for me, I could teach myself to
think it best as it is, were I not so sure that I should be better
for him than to many others. But I shouldn't love him.'
'Why not love him?'
'He is such a boy. I should always treat him like a boy,--spoiling
him and petting him, but never respecting him. Don't run away with
any idea that I should refuse him from conscientious motives, if
he were really to ask me. I too should like to be a Duchess. I
should like to bring all this misery at home to an end.'
'But you did refuse him.'
'Not exactly;--because he never asked me. For the moment I was
weak, and so I let have another chance. I shall not have been a
good friend to him if it ends in his marrying this Yankee.'
Lord Silverbridge went out of the house in a very ill humour,--
which however left him when in the course of the afternoon he
found himself up at Maidenhead with Miss Boncassen. Miss Boncassen
at any rate did not laugh at him. And then she was so pleasant, so
full of common sense, and so completely intelligent! 'I like
you,' she said, 'because I feel that you will not think that you
ought to make love to me. There is nothing I hate so much as the
idea that a young man and a young woman can't be acquainted with
each other without some tomfoolery as that.' This had exactly
expressed his own feeling. Nothing could be so pleasant as his
intimacy with Isabel Boncassen.
Mrs Boncassen seemed to be a homely person, with no desire either
to speak, or to be spoken to. She went out but seldom, and on
those rare occasions did not in any way interfere with her
daughter. Mr Boncassen filled a prouder situation. Everybody knew
that Miss Boncassen was in England because it suited Mr Boncassen
to spend many hours in the British Museum. But still the daughter
hardly seemed to be under control from her father. She went alone
where she liked; talked to those she liked; and did what she
liked. Some of the young ladies of the day thought that there was
a good deal to be said in favour of the freedom which she enjoyed.
There is however a good deal to be said against it. All young
ladies cannot be Miss Boncassens, with such an assurance of
admirers as to be free from all fear of loneliness. There is
comfort for a young lady in having a pied-a-terre to which she may
retreat in case of need. In American circles, where girls
congregate without their mothers, there is a danger felt by young
men that if a lady be once taken in hand, there will be no
possibility of getting rid of her,--no mamma to whom she may be
taken and under whose wings she may be dropped. 'My dear,' said an
old gentleman the other day walking through an American ball-room,
and addressing himself to a girl whom he knew well,--'My dear--' But
the girl bowed and passed on, still clinging to the arm of the
young man who accompanied her. But the old gentleman was cruel,
and possessed of a determined purpose. 'My dear,' he said again,
catching the young man tightly by the collar and holding him fast.
'Don't be afraid; I've got him; he shan't desert you; I'll hold
him here till you have told me how your father does.' The young
lady looked as if she didn't like it, and the sight of her misery
gave rise to a feeling that, after all, mammas perhaps may be a
But in her present phase of life Miss Boncassen suffered no
misfortune of this kind. It had become a privilege to be allowed
to attend upon Miss Boncassen, and the feeling of this privilege
had been enhanced by the manner in which Lord Silverbridge had
devoted himself to her. Fashion of course makes fashion. Had not
Lord Silverbridge been so very much struck by the charm of the
young lady, Lords Glasslough and Popplecourt would not perhaps
have found it necessary to run after her. As it was, even that
most unenergetic of young men, Dolly Longstaff, was moved to
On this occasion they were all up the river at Maidenhead. Mr
Boncassen had looked about for some means of returning the
civilities offered to him, and had been instigated by Mrs
Montacute Jones to do it after this fashion. There was a
magnificent banquet spread in a summer-house on the river bank.
There were boats, and there was a band, and there was a sward for
dancing. There was lawn-tennis, and fishing-rods,--which nobody
used,--and better still, long shady secluded walks in which
gentlemen might stroll,--and ladies too, if they were kind enough.
The whole thing had been arranged by Mrs Montacute Jones. As the
day was fine, as many of the old people had abstained from coming,
as there were plenty of young men of the best sort, and as nothing
had been spared in reference to external comforts, the party
promised to be a success. Every most lovely girl in London of
course was there,--except Lady Mabel Grex. Lady Mabel was in the
habit of going everywhere, but on this occasion, she had refused
Mrs Boncassen's invitation. 'I don't want to see her triumphs,'
she had said to Miss Cass.
Everybody went down by railway of course, and innumerable flies
and carriages had been provided to take them to the scene of
action. Some immediately got into boats and rowed themselves up
from the bridge,--which, as the thermometer was standing at eighty
in the shade, was an inconsiderate proceeding. 'I don't think I am
quite up to that,' said Dolly Longstaff, when it was proposed to
him to take an oar. 'Miss Amazon will do it. She rows so well, and
is strong.' Whereupon Miss Amazon, not at all abashed, did take
the oar; and as Lord Silverbridge was on the seat behind her with
the other oar she probably enjoyed the task.
'What a very nice sort of person Lady Cantrip is.' This was said
to Silverbridge by that generally silent young nobleman Lord
Popplecourt. The remark was the more singular because Lady Cantrip
was not at the party,--and the more so again because, as
Silverbridge thought, there could be but little in common between
the Countess who had his sister in charge and the young lord
beside him, who was not fast only because he did not like to risk
'Well;--I dare say she is.'
'I thought so, peculiarly. Because I was at that place at Richmond
'The devil you were! What were you doing at the Horns?'
'Lady Cantrip's grandmother was,--I don't quite know what she was,
but something to us. I know I've got a picture of her at
Popplecourt. Lady Cantrip wanted to ask me something about it, and
so I went down. I was so glad to make acquaintance with your
'You saw Mary, did you?'
'Oh yes; I lunched there. I'm to go down and meet the Duke some
'Meet the Duke!'
'No reason on earth,--only I can't imagine the governor going to
Richmond for his dinner. Well! I am very glad to hear it. I hope
you'll get on well with him.'
'I was so much struck by your sister.'
'Yes I dare say,' said Silverbridge, turning away into the path
where he saw Miss Boncassen standing with some other ladies. It
certainly did not occur to him that Popplecourt was to be brought
forward as a suitor for his sister's hand.
'I believe this is the most lovely place in the world,' Miss
Boncassen said to him.
'We are so much the more obliged to you for bringing us here.'
'We don't bring you. You allow us to come with you and see all
that is pretty and lovely.'
'Is it not your party?'
'Father will pay the bill, I suppose,--as far as that goes. And
mother's name was put on the cards. But of course we know what
that means. It is because you and a few others like you have been
so kind to us, that we are able to be here at all.'
'Everybody, I should think, must be kind to you.'
'I do have a good time pretty much; but nowhere so good as here. I
fear that when I get back I shall not like New York.'
'I have heard you say, Miss Boncassen, that Americans were more
likeable than the English.'
'Have you? Well, yes; I think I have said so. And I think it is
so. I'd sooner have to dance with a bank clerk in New York, than
with a bank clerk here.'
'Do you ever dance with bank clerks?'
'Oh dear yes. At least I suppose so. I dance with whoever comes
up. We haven't got lords in America, you know!'
'You have got gentlemen.'
'Plenty of them.-but they are not so easily defined as lords. I do
'Oh yes,--and ladies;--Countesses I mean and women of that sort.
Your Lady Mabel Grex is not here. Why wouldn't she come?'
'Perhaps you didn't ask her.'
'Oh yes I did;--especially for your sake.'
'She is not my Lady Mabel Grex,' said Lord Silverbridge with
'But she will be.'
'What makes you think that?'
'You are devoted to her.'
'Much more to you, Miss Boncassen.'
'That is nonsense, Lord Silverbridge.'
'Not at all.'
'It is also--untrue.'
'Surely I must be the best judge of that myself.'
'Not a doubt; a judge not only whether it be true, but if true
whether expedient,--or even possible. What did I say to you when we
first began to know each other?'
'What did you say?'
'That I liked knowing you;--that was frank enough;--not that I liked
knowing you because I knew that there would be no tomfoolery of
lovemaking.' Then she paused; but he did not quite know how to go
on with the conversation at once, and she continued her speech.
'When you condescend to tell me that you are devoted to me, as
though that were the kind of thing that I expect to have said when
I take a walk with a young man in a wood, is not that the
tomfoolery of love-making?' She stopped and looked at him, so
that he was obliged to answer.
'Then why do you ask me if I am devoted to Lady Mabel Grex? Would
not that be tomfoolery too?'
'No. If I thought so, I would not have asked the question. I did
specially invite her to come her because I thought you would like
it. You have got to marry somebody.'
'Some day, perhaps.'
'And why not her?'
'If you come to that, why not you?' He felt himself to be getting
into deep waters as he said this,--but he had a meaning to express
if only he could find the words to express it. 'I don't say
whether it is tomfoolery, as you call it, or not; but whatever it
is, you began it.'
'Yes;--yes. I see. You punish me for my unpremeditated impertinence
in suggesting that you are devoted to Lady Mabel by the
premeditated impertinence of pretending to be devoted to me.'
'Stop a moment. I cannot follow that.' Then she laughed. 'I will
swear that I did not intend to be impertinent.'
'I hope not.'
'I am devoted to you.'
'I think you are--'
'Stop, stop. Do not say it.'
'Well I won't;--not now. But there has been no tomfoolery.'
'May I ask a question, Lord Silverbridge? You will not be angry?
I would not have you angry with me.'
'I will not be angry,' he said.
'Are you not engaged to marry Lady Mabel Grex?'
'Then I beg your pardon. I was told that you were engaged to her.
And I thought your choice was so fortunate, so happy! I have seen
no girl here that I admire half so much. She almost comes up to my
idea of what a young woman should be.'
'Now I am sure that if you are not engaged to her you must be in
love with her, or my praise would have sufficed.'
'Though one knows a Lady Mabel Grex, one may become acquainted
with a Miss Boncassen.'
There are moments in which stupid people say clever things, obtuse
people say sharp things, and good-natured people say ill-natured
things. 'Lord Silverbridge,' she said, 'I did not expect that from
'Expect what? I meant it simply.'
'I have no doubt you meant it simply. We Americans think ourselves
sharp, but I have long since found out that we may meet more than
our matches here. I think we will go back. Mother means to try to
get up a quadrille.'
'You will dance with me?'
'I think not. I have been walking with you, and I had better dance
with someone else.'
'You can let me have one dance.'
'I think not. There will not be many.'
'Are you angry with me?'
'Yes, I am; there.' But as she said this she smiled. 'The truth
is, I thought I was getting the better of you, and you turned
round and gave me a pat on the head to show me that you could be
master when it pleased you. You have defended your intelligence at
the expense of your good-nature.'
'I'll be shot if I know what it all means,' he said, just as he
was parting with her.
Miss Boncassen's River-Party No.2
Lord Silverbridge made up his mind that as he could not dance with
Miss Boncassen he would not dance at all. He was not angry at
being rejected, and when he saw her stand up with Dolly Longstaff
he felt no jealousy. She had refused to dance with him not because
she did not like him, but because she did not wish to show that
she did like him. He could understand that, though he had not
quite followed all the ins and outs of her little accusations
against him. She had flattered him--without any intention of
flattery on her part. She had spoken of his intelligence and had
complained that he had been too sharp to her. Mabel Grex when most
sweet to him, when most loving, always made him feel that he was
her inferior. She took no trouble to hide her conviction of his
youthfulness. This was anything but flattering. Miss Boncassen, on
the other hand, professed herself almost to be afraid of him.
'There shall be no tomfoolery of love-making,' she had said. But
what if it were not tomfoolery at all? What if it were good,
genuine, earnest love-making? He certainly was not pledged to Lady
Mabel. As regarded his father there would be a difficulty. In the
first place he had been fool enough to tell his father that he was
going to make an offer to Mabel Grex. And then his father would
surely refuse his consent to a marriage with an American stranger.
In such case there would be no unlimited income, no immediate
pleasantness of magnificent life such as he knew would be poured
out upon him if he were to marry Mabel Grex. As he thought of
this, however, he told himself that he would not sell himself for
money and magnificence. He could afford to be independent, and
gratify his own taste. Just at this moment he was of the opinion
that Isabel Boncassen would be the sweeter companion of the two.
He had sauntered down to the place where they were dancing and
stood by, saying a few words to Mrs Boncassen. 'Why are you not
dancing, my Lord?' she asked.
'There are enough without me.'
'I guess you young aristocrats are never overfond of doing much
with your own arms and legs.'
'I don't know about that; polo, you know, for the legs, and lawn-
tennis for the arms, is hard work enough.'
'But it must always be something new-fangled; and after all it
isn't of much account. Our young men like to have quite a time at
It all came through her nose! And she looked so common! What
would the Duke say to her, or Mary, or even Gerald? The father was
by no means so objectionable. He was a tall, straight, ungainly
man, who always wore black clothes. He had dark, stiff, short
hair, a long nose, and a forehead that was both high and broad.
Ezekiel Boncassen was the very man,--from his appearance,--- for a
President of the United States; and there were men who talked of
him for that high office. That he had never attended to politics
was supposed to be in his favour. He had the reputation of being
the most learned man in the States, and reputation itself often
suffices to give a man a dignity of manner. He, too, spoke through
his nose, but the peculiar twang coming from a man would be
supposed to be virile and incisive. From a woman, Lord
Silverbridge thought it to be unbearable. But as to Isabel, had
she been born within the confines of some lordly park in
Hertfordshire, she could not have been more completely free from
'I am sorry that you should not be enjoying yourself,' said Mr
Boncassen, coming to his wife's rescue.
'Nothing could have been nicer. To tell the truth, I am standing
idle by way of showing my anger against your daughter, who would
not dance with me.'
'I am sure she would have felt herself honoured,' said Mr
'Who is the gentleman with her?' asked the mother.
'A particular friend of mine--Dolly Longstaff.'
'Dolly!' ejaculated Mrs Boncassen.
'Everybody calls him so. His real name I believe to be Adolphus.'
'Is he,--is he--just anybody?' asked the anxious mother.
'He is a very great deal,--as people go here. Everybody knows him.
He is asked everywhere, but he goes nowhere. The greatest
compliment paid to you here is his presence.'
'Nay, my Lord, there are the Countess Montague, and the
Marchioness of Capulet, and Lord Tybalt, and--'
'They go everywhere. They are nobodies. It is a charity to even
invited them. But to have Dolly Longstaff once is a triumph for
'Laws!,' said Mrs Boncassen, looking at the young man who was
dancing. 'What has he done?'
'He never did anything in his life.'
'I suppose he's very rich.'
'I don't know. I should think not. I don't know anything about his
riches, but I can assure you that having him down here will quite
give a character to the day.'
In the meantime Dolly Longstaff was in a state of great
excitement. Some part of the character assigned to him by Lord
Silverbridge was true. He very rarely did go anywhere, and yet was
asked to a great many places. He was a young man,--though not a
very young man,--with a fortune of his own and the expectation of
future fortune. Few men living could have done less for the world
than Dolly Longstaff,--and yet he had a position of his own. Now he
had taken into his head to fall in love with Miss Boncassen. This
was an accident which had probably never happened to him before,
and which had disturbed him much. He had known Miss Boncassen a
week or two before Lord Silverbridge had seen her, having by some
chance dined out and sat next to her. From that moment he had
become changed, and had gone hither and thither in pursuit of the
American beauty. His passion having become suspected by his
companions had excited their ridicule. Nevertheless he had
persevered;--and now he was absolutely dancing with the lady out in
the open air. 'If this goes on, your friends will have to look
after you and put you somewhere,' Mr Lupton had said to him in one
of the intervals of the dance. Dolly had turned round and scowled,
and suggested that if Mr Lupton would mind his own affairs it
would be as well for the world at large.
At the present crisis Dolly was very much excited. When the dance
was over, as a matter of course, he offered the lady his arm, and
as a matter of course she accepted it. 'You'll take a turn; won't
you?' he said.
'It must be a very short turn,' she said,--'as I am expected to
make myself busy.'
'Oh, bother that.'
'It bothers me; but it has to be done.'
'You have set everything going now. They'll begin dancing again
without your telling them.'
'I hope so.'
'And I've got something I want to say.'
'Dear me;--what is it?'
They were now on a path close to the riverside, in which there
were many loungers. 'Would you mind coming up to the temple?' he
'Oh such a beautiful place. The Temple of the Wind, I think they
call it; or Venus;--or--or--Mrs Arthur de Bever.'
'Was she a goddess?'
'It was something built to her memory. Such a view of the river!
I was here once before and they took me up. Everybody who comes
here goes and see Mrs Arthur de Bever. They ought to have told
'Let us go then,' said Miss Boncassen. 'Only it must not be long.'
'Five minutes will do it all.' Then he walked rather quickly up a
flight of rural steps. 'Loverly spot, isn't it?'
'That's Maidenhead Bridge;--that's somebody's place;--and now, I've
got something to say to you.'
'You're not going to murder me now you've got me up here alone,'
said Miss Boncassen, laughing.
'Murder you!' said Dolly, throwing himself into an attitude that
was intended to express devoted affection. 'Oh no!'
'I am glad of that.'
'Mr Longstaff! If you sigh like that you'll burst yourself.'
'Burst yourself!' and she nodded her head at him.
Then he clasped his hands together, and turned his head away from
her towards the little temple. 'I wonder whether she knows what
love is,' he said, as though he were addressing himself to Mrs
Arthur de Bever.
'No, she don't,' said Miss Boncassen.
'But I do,' he shouted, turning back towards her. 'I do. If any man
were ever absolutely, actually, really in love, I am the man.'
'Are you indeed, Mr Longstaff? Isn't this pleasant?'
'Pleasant;--pleasant? Oh, it could be so pleasant.'
'But who is the lady? Perhaps you don't mean to tell me that.'
'You mean to say you don't know?'
'Haven't the least idea in life.'
'Let me tell you then that it could only be one person. It never
was but one person. It never could have been but one person. It is
'Me!' said Miss Boncassen, choosing to be ungrammatical in order
that he might be more absurd.
'Of course it is you. Do you think that I should have brought you
all the way up here to tell that I was in love with anybody else?'
'I thought I was brought up here to see Mrs de Somebody, and the
'Not at all,' said Dolly emphatically.
'Then you have deceived me.'
'I will never deceive you. Only say that you will love me, and I
will be as true to you as the North Pole.'
'Is that true to me?'
'You know what I mean.'
'But if I don't love you?'
'Yes, you do!'
'I beg your pardon,' said Dolly. 'I didn't mean to say that. Of
course a man shouldn't make sure of a thing.'
'Not in this case, Mr Longstaff; because really I entertain no
'But you can if you please. Just let me tell you who I am.'
'That will do no good whatever, Mr Longstaff.'
'Let me tell you at any rate. I have a very good income of my own
as it is.'
'Money can have nothing to do with it.'
'But I want you to know that I can afford it. You might perhaps
have thought that I wanted your money.'
'I will attribute nothing evil to you, Mr Longstaff. Only it is
quite out of the question that I should--respond as I suppose you
wish me to; and therefore, pray, do not say anything further.'
She went to the head of the little steps but he interrupted her.
'You ought to hear me,' he said.
'I have heard you.'
'I can give you as good a position as any man without a title in
'Mr Longstaff, I rather fancy that wherever I may be I can make a
position for myself. At any rate I shall not marry with a view of
getting one. If my husband were an English Duke I should think
myself nothing, unless I was something as Isabel Boncassen.'
When she said that she did not bethink herself that Lord
Silverbridge would be in the course of nature an English Duke. But
the allusion to an English Duke told intensely on Dolly, who had
suspected that he had a noble rival. 'English Dukes aren't so
easily got,' he said.
'Very likely not. I might have expressed my meaning better had I
said an English Prince.'
'That's quite out of the question,' said Dolly. 'They can't do
it,--by Act of Parliament,--except in some hugger-mugger left-handed
way, that wouldn't suit you at all.'
'Mr Longstaff,--you must forgive me,--if I say--that of all the
gentlemen--I have ever met in this country or in any other--you
are the--most obtuse.' This she brought out in little disjointed
sentences, not with any hesitation, but in a way to make every
word she uttered more clear to an intelligence which she did not
believe to be bright. But in this belief she did some injustice to
Dolly. He was quite alive to the disgrace of being called obtuse,
and quick enough to avenge himself at the moment.
'Am I?' said he. 'How humble-minded you must be when you think me
a fool because I have fallen in love with such a one as yourself.'
'I like you for that,' she replied laughing, 'and withdraw the
epithet as not being applicable. Now we are quits and can forget
and forgive;--only let there be the forgetting.'
'Never!' said Dolly, with his hand again on his heart.
'Then let it be a little dream of your youth,--that you once met a
pretty American girl who was foolish enough to refuse all that you
would have given her.'
'So pretty! So awfully pretty!' Thereupon she curtsied. 'I have
seen all the handsome woman in England going for the last ten
years, and there has not been one who has made me think that it
would be worth me while to get off my perch for her.'
'And now you would desert your perch for me?'
'I have already.'
'But you can get up again. Let it be all a dream. I know men like
to have had such dreams. And in order that the dream may be
pleasant the last word between us shall be kind. Such admiration
from such a one as you is an honour,--and I will reckon it among my
honours. But it can be no more than a dream.' Then she gave him
her hand. 'It shall be so;--shall it not?' Then she paused. 'It
must be so, Mr Longstaff.'
'That and no more. Now I wish to go down. Will you come with me?
It will be better. Don't you think it is going to rain?'
Dolly looked up at the clouds. 'I wish it would with all my
'I know you are not so ill-natured. It would spoil it all.'
'You have spoiled all.'
'No, no. I have spoiled nothing. It will only be a little dream
about "that strange American girl, who really did make me feel
queer for half an hour". Look at that. A great big drop--and the
cloud has come over us as black as Erebus. Do hurry down.' He was
leading the way. 'What shall we do for carriages to get us to the
'There's the summer-house.'
'It will hold about half of us. And think what it will be to be in
there waiting till the rain shall be over! Everybody has been so
good-humoured and now they will be so cross!'
The rain was falling in big heavy drops, slow and far between, but
almost black with their size. And the heaviness of the cloud which
had gathered over them made everything black.
'Will you have my arm?' said Silverbridge, who saw Miss Boncassen
scudding along, with Dolly Longstaff following as fast as he
'Oh dear no. I have got to mind my dress. There;--I have gone
right into a puddle. Oh dear!' So she ran on, and Silverbridge
followed close behind her, leaving Dolly Longstaff in the
It was not only Miss Boncassen who got her feet into a puddle and
splashed her stockings. Many did so who were not obliged by their
position to maintain good-humour under misfortunes. The storm had
come on with such unexpected quickness that there had been a
general stampede to the summer-house. As Isabel had said, there
was comfortable room for not more than half of them. In a few
minutes people were crushed who never ought to be crushed. A
Countess for whom treble-piled sofas were hardly good enough was
seated on the corner of a table till some younger and less
gorgeous lady could be made to give way. And the Marchioness was
declaring she was as wet through as though she had been dragged in
a river. Mrs Boncassen was so absolutely quelled as to have
retired into the kitchen attached to the summer-house. Mr
Boncassen, with all his country's pluck and pride, was proving to
a knot of gentlemen round him on the verandah, that such treachery
in the weather was a thing unknown in his happier country. Miss
Boncassen had to do her best to console the splashed ladies. 'Oh
Mrs Jones, is it not a pity! What can I do for you?'
'We must bear it, my dear. It often does rain, but why on this
special day should it come down in buckets?'
'I never was so wet in all my life,' said Dolly Longstaff, poking
in his head.
'There's somebody smoking,' said the Countess angrily. There was a
crowd of men smoking out on the verandah. 'I never knew anything
so nasty,' the Countess continued, leaving it in doubt whether she
spoke of the rain, or the smoke, or the party generally.
Damp gauzes, splashed stockings, trampled muslins, and features
which have perhaps known something of rouge and certainly
encountered something of rain may be made, but can only, by
supreme high breeding, be made compatible with good-humour. To be
moist, muddy, rumpled and smeared, when by the very nature of your
position it is your duty to be clear-starched up to the
pellucidity of crystal, to be spotless as the lily, to be crisp as
the ivy-leaf, and as clear in complexion as a rose,--is it not, O
gentle readers, felt to be a disgrace? It came to pass, therefore,
that many were now very cross. Carriages were ordered under the
idea that some improvement might be made at the inn which was
nearly a mile distant. Very few, however, had their own carriages,
and there was jockeying for the vehicles. In the midst of all this
Silverbridge remained near to Miss Boncassen as circumstances
would admit. 'You are not waiting for me,' she said.
'Yes I am. We might as well go up to town together.'
'Leave me with father and mother. Like the captain of a ship, I
must be the last to leave the wreck.'
'But I'll be the gallant sailor of the day, who always at the risk
of his life sticks to the skipper to the last moment.'
'Not at all;--just because there will be no gallantry. But come and
see us tomorrow and find out whether we have got through it alive.'
The Langham Hotel
'What an abominable climate,' Mrs Boncassen had said when they
were quite alone at Maidenhead.
'My dear, you didn't think you were going to bring New York along
with you when you came here,' replied her husband.
'I wish I was going back tomorrow.'
'That's a foolish thing to say. People here are very kind, and you
are seeing a great deal more of the world than you would ever see
at home. I am having a very good time. What do you say, Bell?'
'I wish I could have kept my stockings clean.'
'But what about the young men?'
'Young men are pretty much the same everywhere, I guess. They
never have their wits about them. They never mean what they say,
because they don't understand the use of words. They are generally
half impudent and half timid. When in love they do not at all
understand what has befallen them. What they want they try to
compass as a cow does when it stands stretching out its head
towards a stack of hay which it cannot reach. Indeed there is no
such thing as a young man, for a man is not really a man till he
is middle-aged. But take them at their worst they are a deal too
good for us, for they become men some day, whereas we must only be
women to the end.'
'My word, Bella!' exclaimed the mother.
'You have managed to be tolerably heavy upon God's creatures,
taking them in a lump,' said the father. 'Boys, girls, and cows!
Something has gone wrong with you besides the rain.'
Nothing on earth, sir,--except the boredom.'
'Some young man has been talking to you, Bella.'
'One or two, mother; and I got to thinking if any one of them
should ask me to marry him, and if moved by some evil destiny I
were to take him, whether I should murder him, or myself, or run
away with one of the others.'
'Couldn't you bear with him till, according to your own theory, he
would grow out of his folly?' said the father.
'Being a woman,--no. The present moment is always everything to me.
When that horrid old harridan halloed out that somebody was
smoking, I thought I should have died. It was very bad just then.'
'Awful!' said Mrs Boncassen, shaking her head.
'I didn't seem to feel it much,' said the father. 'One doesn't
look to have everything just what one wants always. If I did I
should go nowhere;--but my total of life would be less enjoyable.
If ever you do get married, Bell, you should remember that.'
'I mean to get married some day, so that I shouldn't be made love
to any longer.'
'I hope it will have that effect,' said the father.
'Mr Boncassen!' ejaculated the mother.
'What I say is true. I hope it will have that effect. It had with
you, my dear.'
'I don't know that people didn't think of me as much as of anybody
else, even though I was married.'
'Then, my dear, I never knew it.'
Miss Boncassen, though she had behaved serenely and with good
temper during the process of Dolly's proposal, had not liked it.
She had a very high opinion of herself, and was certainly entitled
to have it by the undisguised admiration of all that came near
her. She was not more indifferent to the admiration of young men
than are other young ladies. But she was not proud of the
admiration of Dolly Longstaff. She was here among strangers whose
ways were unknown to her, and wonderful in their dimness. She knew
that she was associating with men very different from those at
home where young men were supposed to be under the necessity of
earning their bread. At New York she would dance, as she had said,
with bank clerks. She was not prepared to admit that a young
London lord was better than a New York bank clerk. Judging the men
on their own individual merits she might find the bank clerk to be
the better of the two. But a certain sweetness of the aroma of
rank was beginning to permeate her republican senses. The softness
of life in which no occupation was compulsory had its charms for
her. Though she had complained of the insufficient intelligence of
young men she was alive to the delight of having nothings said to
her pleasantly. All this had affected her so strongly that she had
almost felt that a life among these English luxuries would be a
pleasant life. Like most Americans who do not as yet know the
country, she had come with an inward feeling that as an American
and a republican she might probably be despised.
There is not uncommonly a savageness of assertion about Americans
which arises from a too great anxiety to be admitted to fellowship
with Britons. She had felt this, and conscious of reputation
already made by herself in the social life of New York, she had
half trusted that she would be well received in London, and had
half convinced herself that she would be rejected. She had not
been rejected. She must have become quite aware of that. She had
dropped very quickly the idea that she would be scorned. Ignorant
as she had been of English life, she perceived that she had at
once become popular. And this had been so in spite of her mother's
homeliness and her father's awkwardness. By herself and by her own
gifts she had done it. She had found out concerning herself that
she had that which would commend her to other society than that of
the Fifth Avenue. Those lords of whom she had heard were as plenty
with her as blackberries. Young Lord Silverbridge, of whom she was
told that of all the young lords of the day he stood first in rank
and wealth, was peculiarly her friend. Her brain was firmer than
that of most girls, but even her brain was a little turned. She
never told herself that it would be well for her to become the
wife of such a one. In her more thoughtful moments she told
herself that it would not be well. But still the allurement was
strong upon her. Park Lane was sweeter than the Fifth Avenue. Lord
Silverbridge was nicer than the bank clerk.
But Dolly Longstaff was not. She would certainly prefer the bank
clerk to Dolly Longstaff. And yet Dolly Longstaff was the one
among her English admirers who had come forward and spoken out.
She did not desire that anyone should come forward and speak out.
But it was an annoyance to her that this special man should have
The waiter at the Langham understood American ways perfectly, and
when a young man called between three and four o'clock, asking for
Mrs Boncassen, said that Miss Boncassen was at home. The young man
took off his hat, brushed up his hair, and followed the waiter up
to the sitting-room. The door was opened and the young man was
announced. 'Mr Longstaff.'
Miss Boncassen was rather disgusted. She had had enough of this
English lover. Why should he have come here after what had
occurred yesterday? He ought to have felt that he was absolved
from the necessity of making personal inquiries. 'I am glad to see
that you got home safe,' she said as she gave him her hand.
'And you too, I hope?'
'Well;--so, so; with my clothes a good deal damaged and my temper
'I am so sorry.'
'It should not rain on such days. Mother has gone to church.'
'Oh;--indeed. I like going to church myself sometimes.'
'Do you now?'
'I know what would make me like to go to church.'
'And father is at the Athenaeum. He goes there to do a little
light reading in the library on Sunday afternoon.'
'I shall never forget yesterday, Miss Boncassen.'
'You wouldn't if your clothes had been spoilt as mine were.'
'Money will repair that.'
'Well; yes; but when I've had a petticoat flounced particularly to
order I don't like to see it ill-used. There are emotions of the
heart which money can't touch.'
'Just so;--emotions of the heart. That's the very phrase.'
She was determined if possible to prevent a repetition of the
scene which had taken place up at Mrs de Bever's temple. 'All my
emotions are about my dress.'
'Well; yes; all. I guess I don't care much for eating and
drinking.' In saying this she actually contrived to produce
something of a nasal twang.
'Eating and drinking!' said Dolly. 'Of course they are
necessities;--and so are clothes.'
'But new things are such ducks!'
'Trousers may be,' said Dolly.
Then she took a prolonged gaze at him, wondering whether he was or
was not such a fool as he looked. 'How funny you are,' she said.
'A man does not generally feel funny after going through what I
suffered yesterday, Miss Boncassen.'
'Would you mind ringing the bell?'
'Must it be done, quite at once?'
'Quite,--quite,' she said. 'I can do it myself for the matter of
that.' and she rang the bell somewhat violently. Dolly sank back
again into his seat, remarking in his usual apathetic way that he
had intended to obey her behest but had not understood that she
was in so great a hurry. 'I am always in a hurry,' she said. 'I
like things to be done--sharp.' And she hit the table with a
crack. 'Please bring me some iced water,' this of course was
addressed to the waiter. 'And a glass for Mr Longstaff.'
'None for me, thank you.'
'Perhaps you'd like a soda and brandy?'
'Oh dear no;--nothing of the kind. But I am much obliged to you all
the same.' As the water-bottle was in fact standing in the room,
and as the waiter had only to hand the glass all this created by
little obstacle. Still it had its effect, and Dolly, when the man
retired, felt that there was a difficulty in proceeding. 'I have
called today--' he began.
'That has been very kind of you. But mother has gone to church.'
'I am very glad she has gone to church, because I wish to--'
'Oh laws! There's a horse tumbled down in the street. I heard
'He has got up again,' said Dolly, looking leisurely out of the
window. 'But as I was saying--'
'I don't think the water we Americans drink can be good. It makes
the women become ugly so young.'
'You will never become ugly.'
She got up and curtsied him, and then, still standing, make him a
speech. 'Mr Longstaff, it would be absurd of me to pretend not to
understand what you mean. But I won't have any more of it. Whether
you are making fun of me, or whether you are in earnest, it is
just the same.'
'Making fun of you!'
'It does not signify. I don't care which it is. But I won't have
'A gentleman should be allowed to express his feelings and to
explain his position.'
'You have expressed and explained more than enough, and I won't
have any more. If you will sit down and talk about something else,
or else go away, there shall be an end of it;--but if you go on, I
will ring the bell again. What can a man gain by going on when a
girl has spoken as I have done?' They were both at this time
standing up, and he was now as angry as she was.
'I've paid you the greatest compliment a man can pay a woman,' he
'Very well. If I remember rightly I thanked you for it yesterday.
If you wish it, I will thank you again today. But it is a
compliment which becomes very much the reverse if it be repeated
too often. You are sharp enough to understand that I have done
everything in my power to save us both from this trouble.'
'What makes you so fierce, Miss Boncassen?'
'What makes you so foolish?'
'I suppose it must be something peculiar to American ladies.'
'Just that;--something peculiar to American ladies. They don't
like;--well; I don't want to say anything more that can be called
At this moment the door was again opened and Lord Silverbridge was
announced. 'Halloa, Dolly, are you here?'
'It seems that I am.'
'And I am here too,' said Miss Boncassen, smiling her prettiest.
'None the worse for yesterday's troubles, I hope?'
'A good deal the worse. I have been explaining all that to Mr
Longstaff who has been quite sympathetic with me about my things.'
'A terrible pity that shower,' said Dolly.
'For you,' said Silverbridge, 'because if I remember right, Miss
Boncassen was walking with you;--but I was rather glad of it.'
'I regarded it as a direct interposition of Providence, because
you would not dance with me.'
'Any news today, Silverbridge?' asked Dolly.
'Nothing particular. They say that Coalheaver can't run for the
'What's the matter?' asked Dolly vigorously.
'Broke down at Ascot. But I daresay it's a lie.'
'Sure to be a lie,' said Dolly. 'What do you think of Madame
Scholzdam, Miss Boncassen?'
'I am not a good judge.'
'Never heard anything equal to it yet in this world,' said Dolly.
'I wonder whether that's true about Coalheaver.'
'Tifto says so.'
'Which at the present moment,' asked Miss Boncassen, 'is the
greater favourite with the public, Madame Scholzdam or
'Coalheaver is a horse.'
'Perhaps I ought to say a colt.'
'Do you suppose, Dolly, that Miss Boncassen doesn't know all
that?' asked Silverbridge.
'He supposes that my American ferocity has never been sufficiently
softened for the reception of polite erudition.
'You two have been quarrelling, I fear.'
'I never quarrel with a woman,' said Dolly.
'Nor with a man in my presence, I hope, said Miss Boncassen.
'Somebody seems to have got out of bed at the wrong side,' said
'I did,' said Miss Boncassen. 'I got out of bed at the wrong side.
I am cross. I can't get over the spoiling of my flounces. I think
you had better both go away and leave me. If I could walk about
the room for half an hour and stamp my feet, I should get better.'
Silverbridge thought that as he had come last, he certainly ought
to be left last. Miss Boncassen felt that, at any rate, Mr
Longstaff should go. Dolly felt that his manhood required him to
remain. After what had taken place he was not going to leave the
field vacant for another. Therefore he made no effort to move.
'That seems rather hard upon me,' said Silverbridge. 'You told me
'I told you to come and ask after us all. You have come and asked
after us, and have been informed that we are very bad. What more
can I say? you accuse me of getting out of bed the wrong side, and
I own that I did.'
'I meant to say that Dolly Longstaff had done so.'
'And I say it was Silverbridge,' said Dolly.
'We are aren't very agreeable together, are we? Upon my word I
think you'd better both go.' Silverbridge immediately got up from
his chair; upon which Dolly also moved.
'What the mischief is up?' asked Silverbridge, when they were
under the porch together.
'The truth is, you never can tell what you are to do with those
'I suppose you have been making up to her.'
'Nothing in earnest. She seemed to me to like admiration, so I
told her I admired her.'
'What did she say then?'
'Upon my word, you seem to be very great at cross-examining.
Perhaps you had better go back and ask her.'
'I will next time I see her.' Then he stepped into his cab, and
in a loud voice ordered the man to drive him to the Zoo. But when
he had gone a little way up Portland Place, he stopped the driver
and desired that he might be taken back again to the hotel. As he
left the vehicle he looked round for Dolly, but Dolly had
certainly gone. Then he told the waiter to take his card to Miss
Boncassen, and explain that he had something to say which he had
'So you have come back again?' said Miss Boncassen, laughing.
'Of course I have. You didn't suppose I was going to let that
fellow get the better of me. Why should I be turned out because he
made an ass of himself?'
'Who said he made an ass of himself?'
'But he had; hadn't he?'
'No;--by no means,' said she after a little pause.
'Tell me what he had been saying.'
'Indeed I shall do nothing of the kind. If I told you all he said,
then I should have to tell the next man all that you may say.
Would that be fair?'
'I should not mind,' said Silverbridge.
'I dare say not, because you have nothing particular to say. But
the principle is the same. Lawyers and doctors and parsons talk of
privileged communications. Why should not a young lady have her
'But I have something particular to say.'
'I hope not.'
'Why should you hope not?'
'I hate having things said particularly. Nobody likes conversation
so well as I do; but it should never be particular.'
'I was going to tell you that I came back to London yesterday in
the same carriage with old Lady Clanfiddle, and that she swore
that no consideration on earth would ever induce her to go to
'That isn't particular.'
'She went on to say;--you won't tell of me, will you?'
'It shall be privileged.'
'She went on to say that Americans couldn't be expected to
understand English manners.'
'Perhaps they may all be the better for that.'
'Then I spoke up. I swore that I was awfully in love with you.'
'I did;--that you were, out and away, the finest girl I ever saw in
my life. Of course you understand that her two daughters were
there. And that as for manners,--unless the rain could be
attributed to American manners,--I did not think anything had gone
'What about the smoking?'
'I told her they were all Englishmen, and that if she had been
giving the party herself they would have smoked just as much. You
must understand that she never does give parties.'
'How could you be so ill-natured?'
'There was ever so much more of it. And it ended by her telling me
that I was a schoolboy. I found out the cause of it all. A great
spout of rain had come upon her daughter's hat, and that had
produced a most melancholy catastrophe.'
'I would have given her mine willingly.'
'An American hat;--to be worn by Lady Violet Clanfiddle!'
'It came from Paris last week, sir.'
'But must have been contaminated by American contact.'
'Now, Lord Silverbridge,' said she, getting up, 'if I had a stick
I'd whip you.'
'It was such fun.'
'And you come here and tell it all to me.'
'Of course I do. It was a deal too good to keep to myself.
"American manners"!' As he said this he almost succeeded in
looking like Lady Clanfiddle.
At that moment Mr Boncassen entered the room, and was immediately
appealed to his by his daughter. 'Father, you must turn Lord
Silverbridge out of the room.'
'Dear me! If I must,--of course I must. But why?'
'He is saying everything horrid he can about Americans.'
After this they settled down for a few minutes to general
conversation, and then Lord Silverbridge again took his leave.
When he was gone Isabel Boncassen almost regretted that the
'something particular' which he had threatened to say had not been
less comic in its nature.
When the reader was told that Lord Popplecourt had found Lady
Cantrip very agreeable it is to be hoped that the reader was
disgusted. Lord Popplecourt would certainly not have given a
second thought to Lady Cantrip unless he had been specifically
flattered. And why should such a man have been flattered by a
woman who was in all respects his superior? The reader will
understand. It had been settled by the wisdom of the elders that
it would be a good thing that Lord Popplecourt should marry Lady
The mutual assent which leads to marriage should no doubt be
spontaneous. Who does not feel that? Young love should speak from
its first doubtful unconscious spark,--a spark which any breath of
air may quench or cherish,--till it becomes a flame which nothing
can satisfy but the union of two lovers. No one should be told to
love, or bidden to marry this man or that woman. The theory of
this is plain to us all, and till we have sons or daughters whom
we feel imperatively obliged to control, the theory is
unassailable. But the duty is so imperative! The Duke taught
himself to believe that as his wife would have been thrown away on
the world had she been allowed to marry Burgo Fitzgerald, so would
his daughter be thrown away were she allowed to marry Mr Tregear.
Therefore the theory of spontaneous love must in this case be set
aside. Therefore the spark,--would that it had been no more,--must
be quenched. Therefore there could be no union of two lovers;--but
simply a prudent and perhaps a splendid marriage.
Lord Popplecourt was a man in possession of a large estate which
was unencumbered. His rank in the peerage was not high, but his
barony was of an old date,--and, if things went well with him,
something higher in rank might be open to him. He had good looks
of that sort which recommend themselves to pastors and masters, to
elders and betters. He had regular features. He looked as though
he were steady. He was not impatient or rollicking. Silverbridge
was also good-looking;--but his good looks were such as would give
a pang to the hearts of anxious mothers of daughters. Tregear was
the handsomest man of the three;--but then he looked as though he
had not betters and did not care for his elders. Lord Popplecourt,
though a very young man, had once stammered through half-a-dozen
words in the House of Lords, and had been known to dine with the
'Benevolent Funds'. Lord Silverbridge had declared him to be a
fool. No one thought him to be bright. But in the eyes of the
Duke,--and of Lady Cantrip,--he had his good qualities.
But the work was very disagreeable. It was the more hard upon Lady
Cantrip because she did not believe in it. If it could be done, it
would be expedient. But she felt very strongly that it could not
be done. No doubt that Lady Glencora had been turned from her evil
destiny; but Lady Glencora had been younger than her daughter was
now, and possessed of less character. Nor was Lady Cantrip blind
to the difference between a poor man with bad character, such as
that Burgo had been, and a poor man with good character, such as
was Tregear. Nevertheless she undertook to aid the work, and
condescended to pretend to be so interested in the portrait of
some common ancestor as to persuade the young man to have it
photographed, in order that the bringing down of the photograph
might lead to something.
He took the photograph, and Lady Cantrip said very much to him
about his grandmother, who was the old lady in question. She
could, she said, just remember the features of the dear old woman.
She was not habitually a hypocrite, and she hated herself for what
she was doing, and yet her object was simply good,--to bring
together two young people who might advantageously marry each
other. The mere talking about the old woman would be of no
service. She longed to bring out the offer plainly, and say,
'There is Lady Mary Palliser. Don't you think she'd make a good
wife for you?' But she could not, as yet, bring herself to be so
indelicately plain. 'You haven't seen the Duke since?' she asked.
'He spoke to me only yesterday in the House. I like the Duke.'
'If I may be allowed to say so, it would be to your advantage that
he should like you;--that is, if you mean to take a part in
'I suppose I shall,' said Popplecourt. 'There isn't much else to
'You don't go to races.' He shook his head. 'I am glad of that,'
said Lady Cantrip. 'Nothing so bad as the turf. I fear Lord
Silverbridge is devoting himself to the turf.'
'I don't think it can be good for any man to have much to do with
Major Tifto. I suppose Silverbridge knows what he is about.'
Here was an opportunity which might have been used. It would have
been so easy for her to glide from the imperfections of the
brother to the perfections of the sister. But she could not bring
herself to do it quite at once. She approached the matter however
as nearly as she could without making her grand proposition. She
shook her head sadly in reference to Silverbridge, and then spoke
of the Duke. 'His father is so anxious about him.'
'I dare say.'
'I don't know any man who is more painfully anxious about his
children. He feels the responsibility so much since his wife's
death. There is Lady Mary.'
'She's all right, I should say.'
'All right! Oh yes. But when a girl is possessed of so many
things,--rank, beauty, intelligence, large fortune,--'
'Will Lady Mary have much?'
'A large portion of her mother's money, I should say. When all
these things are joined together, a father of course feels most
anxious as to their disposal.'
'I suppose she is clever.'
'Very clever,' said Lady Cantrip.
'I think a girl may be too clever, you know,' said Lord
'Perhaps she may. But I know more who are too foolish. I am so
much obliged to you for the photograph.'
'Don't mention it.'
'I really did mean that you should send a man down.'
On that occasion the two young people did not see each other. Lady
Mary did not come down, and Lady Cantrip lacked the courage to
send for her. As it was, might it not be possible that the young
man should be induced to make himself agreeable to the young lady
without any further explanation? But love-making between young
people cannot well take place unless they be brought together.
There was a difficulty in bringing them together at Richmond. The
Duke had indeed spoken of meeting Lord Popplecourt at dinner
there;--but this was to have followed the proposition which Lady
Cantrip should make to him. She could not yet make the
proposition, and therefore she hardly knew how to arrange the
dinner. She was obliged at last to let the wished-for lover go
away without arranging anything. When the Duke should have settled
his autumn plans, then an attempt must be made to induce Lord
Popplecourt to travel in the same direction.
That evening Lady Cantrip said a few words to Mary respecting the
proposed suitor. 'There is nothing I have such a horror of as
'It is dreadful.'
'I am very glad to think that Nidderdale does not do anything of
that sort.' It was perhaps on the cards that Nidderdale should do
things of which she knew nothing. 'I hope Silverbridge does not
'I don't think he does.'
'There's Lord Popplecout,--quite a young man,--with everything at
his own disposal, and a very large estate. Think of the evil he
might do if he given that way.'
'Does he gamble?'
'Not at all. It must be such a comfort to his mother.'
'He looks to me as though he never would do anything,' said Lady
Mary. Then the subject was dropped.
It was a week after this, towards the end of July, that the Duke
wrote a line to Lady Cantrip, apologising for what he had done,
but explaining that he had asked Lord Popplecourt to dine at The
Horns on a certain Sunday. He had, he said, been assured by Lord
Cantrip that such an arrangement would be quite convenient. It was
clear from his letter that he was much in earnest. Of course there
was no reason why the dinner should not be eaten. Only the
specialty of the invitation to Lord Popplecourt must not be so
glaring that he himself should be struck by the strangeness of it.
There must be a little party made up. Lord Nidderdale and his wife
were therefore bidden to come down, and Silverbridge, who at first
consented rather unwillingly,--and Lady Mabel Grex, as to whom the
Duke had made a special request that she might be asked. This last
invitation was sent express from Lady Mary, and included Miss
Cass. So the party was made up. The careful reader will perceive
that there were to be ten of them.
'Isn't it odd papa wanting to have Lady Mabel,' Mary said to Lady
'Does he not know her, my dear?'
'He hardly ever spoke to her. I'll tell you what; I expect
Silverbridge is going to marry her.'
'Why shouldn't he?'
'I don't know why he shouldn't. She is very beautiful, and very
clever. But if so, papa must know all about it. It does seem odd
that papa of all people should turn match-maker, or even that he
should think of it.'
'So much is thrown upon him now,' said Lady Cantrip.
Lady Mabel was surprised by the invitation, but she was not slow
to accept it. 'Papa will be here and will be so glad to meet you.'
Lady Mary had said. Why should the Duke of Omnium wish to meet
her? 'Silverbridge will be there too.' Mary had gone on to say.
'It is just a family party. Papa, you know, is not going anywhere;
nor am I.' By all this Lady Mabel's thoughts were much stirred,
and her bosom somewhat moved. And Silverbridge was also moved by
it. Of course he could not but remember that he had pledged
himself to his father to ask Lady Mabel to be his wife. He had
faltered since. She had been, he thought, unkind to him, or at any
rate indifferent. He had surely said enough to her to make her
know what he meant; and yet she had taken no trouble to meet him
half way. And then Isabel Boncassen had intervened. Now he was
asked to dinner in a most unusual manner!
Of all the guests invited Lord Popplecourt was perhaps the least
disturbed. He was quite alive to the honour of being noticed by
the Duke of Omnium, and alive also to the flattering courtesy
shown to him by Lady Cantrip. But justice would not be done him
unless it were acknowledged that he had as yet flattered himself
with no hopes in regard to Lady Mary Palliser. He, when he
prepared himself for his journey down to Richmond, thought much
more of the Duke than of the Duke's daughter.
'Oh yes, I can drive you down if you like that kind of thing,'
Silverbridge said to him on the Saturday evening.
'And bring me back?'
'If you will come when I am coming. I hate waiting for a fellow.'
'Suppose we leave at half-past ten.'
'I won't fix any time; but if we can't make it suit there'll be
the governor's carriage.'
'Will the Duke go down in his own carriage?'
'I suppose so. it's quicker and less trouble than the railway.'
Then Lord Popplecourt reflected that he would certainly come back
with the Duke if he could so manage it, and there floated before
his eyes visions of under-secretaryships, all which might own
their origin to this proposed drive from Richmond.
At six o'clock on the Sunday evening Silverbridge called for Lord
Popplecourt. 'Upon my word,' said he, 'I didn't ever expect to see
you in my cab.'
'Why not me especially?'
'Because you're not one of our lot.'
'You'd sooner have Tifto.'
'No, I wouldn't. Tifto is not all a pleasant companion, though he
understands horses. You're going in for heavy politics, I
'Not particularly heavy.'
'If not, why on earth does the governor take you up? You won't
mind my smoking I dare say.' After this there was no conversation
'Don't You Think-?'
It was pretty to see the Duke's reception of Lady Mabel. 'I knew
your mother many years ago,' he said, 'when I was young myself.
Her mother and my mother were first cousins and dear friends.' He
held her hand as he spoke and looked at her as though he meant to
love her. Lady Mabel saw that it was so. could it be possible that
the Duke had heard anything;--that he should wish to receive her?
She had told herself and had told Miss Cassewary that though she
had spared Silverbridge, yet she knew that she would make him a
good wife. If the Duke thought so also, then surely she need not
'I knew we were cousins,' she said, 'and have been so proud of the
connection! Lord Silverbridge does come and see us sometimes.'
Soon after that Silverbridge and Popplecourt came in. If the story
of the old woman in the portrait may be taken as evidence of a
family connection between Lady Cantrip and Lord Popplecourt,
everybody there was more or less connected with everybody else.
Nidderdale had been a first cousin of Lady Glencora, and he had
married a daughter of Lady Cantrip. They were manifestly a family
party,--thanks to the old woman in the picture.
It is a point of conscience among the--perhaps not ten thousand,
but say one thousand of bluest blood,--that everybody should know
who everybody is. Our Duke, though he had not given his mind much
to the pursuit, had nevertheless learned his lesson. It is a
knowledge which the possession of the blue blood itself produces.
There are countries with bluer blood than our own in which to be
without such knowledge is a crime.
When the old lady in the portrait had been discussed, Popplecourt
was close to Lady Mary. They two had no idea why such vicinity had
been planned. The Duke knew of course, and Lady Cantrip. Lady
Cantrip had whispered to her daughter that such a marriage would
be suitable, and the daughter had hinted it to her husband. Lord
Cantrip of course was not in the dark. Lady Mabel had expressed a
hint on the matter to Miss Cass, who had not repudiated it. Even
Silverbridge had suggested to himself that something of the kind
might be in the wind, thinking that, if so, none of them knew very
much about his sister Mary. But Popplecourt himself was divinely
innocent. His ideas of marriage had as yet gone no farther than a
conviction that girls generally were things which would be pressed
on him, and against which he must arm himself with some shield.
Marriage would have to come, no doubt, but not the less was it his
duty to live as though it were a pit towards which he would be
tempted by female allurements. But that a net should be spread
over him here he was much too humble-minded to imagine.
'Very hot,' he said to Lady Mary.
'We found it warm in church today.'
'I dare say. I came down here with your brother in his hansom cab.
What a very odd thing to have a hansom cab!'
'I should like one.'
'Should you indeed?'
'Particularly if I could drive it myself. Silverbridge does, at
night, when he thinks people won't see him.'
'Drive the cab in the streets! What does he do with his man?'
'Puts him inside. He was out once without the man and took up a
fare,--an old woman, he said. And when she was going to pay him he
touched his hat and said he never took money from ladies.'
'Do you believe that?'
'Oh yes. I call that good fun, because it did no harm. He had his
lark. The lady was taken where she wanted to go, and she saved her
'Suppose he had upset her,' said Lord Popplecourt, looking as an
old philosopher might have looked when he had found something
clenching answer to another philosopher's argument.
'The real cabman might have upset her worse,' said Lady Mary.
'Don't you feel it odd that we should meet here?' said Lord
Silverbridge to his neighbour Lady Mabel.
'Anything unexpected is odd,' said Lady Mabel. It seemed to her to
be very odd,--unless certain people had made up their minds as to
the expediency of a certain event.
'That is what you call logic;--isn't it? Anything unexpected is
'Lord Silverbridge, I won't be laughed at. You have been at Oxford
and ought to know what logic is.'
'That at any rate is ill-natured,' he replied, turning very red in
'You don't think I meant it. Oh, Lord Silverbridge, say that you
don't think I meant it. You cannot think I would willingly wound
you. Indeed, indeed, I was not thinking.' It had, in truth been
an accident. She could speak aloud because they were closely
surrounded by others, but she looked up in his face to see whether
he were angry with her. 'Say that you do not think I meant it.'
'I do not think you meant it.'
'I would not say a word to hurt you,--oh for more than I can tell
'It is all bosh of course,' said he laughing, 'but I do not like
to hear the old place named. I have always made a fool of myself,
some men do it and don't care about it. But I do it, and yet it
makes me miserable.'
'If that be so you will soon give over making--what you call a fool
of yourself, for my self I like the idea of wild oats. I look upon
them like measles. Only you should have a doctor ready when the
disease shows itself.'
'What sort of doctor should I have?'
'Ah;--you must find that out for yourself. That sort of feeling
which makes you feel miserable;--that is a doctor itself.'
'Or a wife?'
'Or a wife,--if you can find a good one. There are wives, you know,
who aggravate the disease. If I had a fast husband I should make
him faster by being fast myself. There is nothing I envy so much
as the power of doing half-mad things.'
'Women can do that too.'
'But they go to the dogs. We are dreadfully restricted. If you
like champagne you can have a bucketful. I am obliged to pretend
that I only want a very little. You can bet thousands. I must
confine myself to gloves. You can flirt with any woman you please.
I must wait till somebody comes,--and put up with it if nobody does
'Plenty come no doubt.'
'But I want to pick and choose. A man turns the girls over one
after another as one does the papers when one if fitting up a
room, or rolls them out as one rolls out the carpets. A very
careful young man like Lord Popplecourt might reject a young woman
because her hair didn't suit the colour of his furniture.'
'I don't think that I shall choose my wife as I would papers and
The Duke, who sat between Lady Cantrip and her daughter, did his
best to make himself agreeable. The conversation had been semi-
political,--political to the usual feminine extent, and had
consisted chiefly of sarcasms from Lady Cantrip against Sir
Timothy Beeswax. 'That England should put up with such a man,'
Lady Cantrip had said, 'is to me shocking! There used to be a
feeling in favour of gentlemen.' To this the Duke had responded
by asserting that Sir Timothy had displayed great aptitudes for
parliamentary life, and knew the House of Commons better than most
men. He said nothing against his foe, and very much in his foe's
praise. But Lady Cantrip perceived that she had succeeded in
When the ladies were gone the politics became more serious. 'That
unfortunate quarrel is to go on the same as ever I suppose,' said
the Duke, addressing himself to the two young men who had seats in
the House of Commons. They were both on the Conservative side in
politics. The three peers were all Liberals.
'Till next session, I think, sir,' said Silverbridge.
'Sir Timothy, though he did lose his temper, has managed it well,'
said Lord Cantrip.
'Phineas Finn lost his temper worse than Sir Timothy,' said Lord
'But yet I think he had the feeling of the House with him,' said
the Duke. 'I happened to be present in the gallery at the time.'
'Yes,' said Nidderdale, 'because he "owned up". The fact is if you
"own up" in a genial sort of way the House will forgive anything.
If I were to murder my grandmother, and when questioned about it
were to acknowledge that I had done it--' Then Lord Nidderdale
stood up and made his speech as he might have made it in the House
of Commons. 'I regret to say, sir, that the old woman did get in
my way when I was in a passion. Unfortunately I had a heavy stick
in my hand and I did strike her over the head. Nobody can regret
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