The Duke's Children
Part 7 out of 14
it so much as I do! Nobody can feel so acutely the position in
which I am placed! I have sat in this House for many years, and
many gentlemen know me well. I think, sir, that they will
acknowledge that I am a man not deficient in filial piety or
general humanity. Sir, I am sorry for what I did in a moment of
heat. I have now spoken the truth, and I shall leave myself in the
hands of the House. My belief is that I should get such a round of
applause as I certainly shall never achieve in any other way. It
is not only that a popular man may do it,--like Phineas Finn,--but
the most unpopular man in the House may make himself liked by
owning freely that he has done something that he ought to be
ashamed of.' Nidderdale's unwonted eloquence was received in good
part by the assembled legislators.
'Taking it altogether,' said the Duke, 'I know of no assembly in
any country in which good-humour prevails so generally, in which
the members behave to each other so well, in which the rules are
so universally followed, or in which the president is so
thoroughly sustained by the feeling of the members.
'I hear men say that it isn't quite what it used to be,' said
'Nothing will ever be quite what it used to be.'
'Changes for the worse, I mean. Men are doing all kinds of things,
just because the rules of the House allow them.'
'If they be within the rule,' said the Duke, 'I don't know who is
to blame them. In my time, if any man stretched a rule too far the
House would not put up with it.'
'That's just it,' said Nidderdale. 'The House puts up with
anything now. There is a great deal of good feeling no doubt, but
there's no earnestness about anything. I think you are more
earnest than we; but then you are such horrid bores. And each
earnest man is in earnest about something that nobody else cares
When they were again in the drawing-room, Lord Popplecourt was
seated next to Lady Mary. 'Where are you going this autumn?' he
'I don't know in the least. Papa said something about going
'You won't be at Custins?' Custins was Lord Cantrip's country seat
'I know nothing about myself as yet. But I don't think I shall go
anywhere unless papa goes too.'
'Lady Cantrip has asked me to be at Custins in the middle of
October. They say it is about the best pheasant shooting in
'Do you shoot much?'
'A great deal. I shall be in Scotland on the Twelfth. I and
Reginald Dobbs have a place together. I shall get to my own
partridges on the first of September. I always manage that.
Popplecourt is in Suffolk, and I don't think any man in England
can beat me for partridges.'
'What do you do with all you slay?'
'Leadenhall Market. I make it pay,--or very nearly. Then I shall
run back to Scotland for the end of the stalking, and I can easily
manage to be at Custins by the middle of October. I never touch my
own pheasants till November.'
'Why are you so abstemious?'
'The birds are heavier and it answer better. But if I thought you
would be at Custins it would be much nicer.' Lady Mary again told
him that as yet she knew nothing of her father's autumn
But at the same time the Duke was arranging his autumn movements,
or at any rate those of his daughter. Lady Cantrip had told him
that the desirable son-in-law had promised to go to Custins, and
suggested that he and Mary should also be there. In his daughter's
name he promised, but he would not bind himself. Would it not be
better that he should be absent? Now that the doing of the thing
was brought nearer to him so that he could see and feel its
details, he was disgusted by it. And yet it had answered so well
with his wife!
'Is Lord Popplecourt intimate with her?' Lady Mabel asked her
friend, Lord Silverbridge.
'I don't know. I am not.'
'Lady Cantrip seems to think a great deal about him.'
'I daresay. I don't.'
'Your father seems to like him.'
'That's possible too. They're going back to London together in the
governor's carriage. My father will talk high politics all the
way, and Popplecourt will agree with everything.'
'He isn't intended to--to--? You know what I mean.'
'I can't say that I do.'
'To cut out poor Frank.'
'It is quite possible.'
'You had a great deal better say poor Popplecourt!-or poor
governor, or poor Lady Cantrip.'
'But a hundred countesses can't make your sister marry a man she
'Just that. They don't go the right way about it.'
'What would you do?'
'Leave her alone. Let her find out gradually that what she wants
can't be done.'
'And so linger on for years,' said Lady Mabel reproachfully.
'I say nothing about that. The man is my friend.'
'And you ought to be proud of him.'
'I never knew anybody yet who was proud of his friends. I like him
well enough, but I can quite understand that the governor should
'Yes, we all know that,' said she sadly.
'What would your father say if you wanted to marry someone who
hadn't a shilling?'
'I should object myself,--without waiting for my father. But then,--
neither have I a shilling. If I had money, do you think I wouldn't
like to give it to the man I loved?'
'But this is a case of giving somebody else's money. They won't
make her give it up by bringing such a young ass as that down
here. If my father has persistency enough to let her cry her eyes
out, he'll succeed.'
'And break her heart. Could you do that?'
'Certainly not. But then I'm soft. I can't refuse.'
'Not if the person who asks me is in my good books. You try me.'
'What shall I ask for?'
'Give me the ring off your finger,' she said. He at once took it
off his hand. 'Of course you know I am in joke. You don't imagine
that I would take it from you.' He still held it towards her.
'Lord Silverbridge, I expect that with you I may say a foolish
thing without being brought to sorrow by it. I know that that ring
belonged to your great uncle,--and to fifty Pallisers before.'
'What would it matter?'
'And it would be wholly useless to me, as I would not wear it.'
'Of course it would be too big,' said he, replacing the ring on
his own finger. 'But when I talk of anyone being in my good books,
I don't mean a thing like that. Don't you know there is nobody on
earth I--' there he paused and blushed, and she sat motionless,
looking at him, expecting, with her colour too somewhat raised,--
'whom I like so well as I do you?' It was a lame conclusion. She
felt it to be lame. But as regarded him, the lameness of the
moment had come from a timidity which forbade him to say the word
'love' even though he had meant to say it.
She recovered herself instantly. 'I do believe it,' she said. 'I
do think that we are real friends.'
'Not that ring;--nor a ring at all after I had asked for it in
joke. You understand it all. But to go back to what we were
talking about,--if you can do anything for Frank, pray do. You know
it will break his heart. A man of course bears it better, but he
does not perhaps suffer the less. It is all his life to him. He
can do nothing while this is going on. Are you not true enough to
your friendship to exert yourself for him?' Silverbridge put his
hand up and rubbed his head as though he were vexed. 'Your aid
would turn everything in his favour.'
'You do not know my father.'
'Is he so inexorable?'
'It is not that, Mabel. But he is so unhappy. I cannot add to his
unhappiness by taking part against him.'
In another part of the room Lady Cantrip was busy with Lord
Popplecourt. She had talked about pheasants, and had talked about
grouse, had talked about moving the address in the House of Lords
in some coming session, and the great value of political alliances
early in life, till the young Peer began to think that Lady
Cantrip was the nicest of women. Then after a short pause she
changed the subject. 'Don't you think Lady Mary very beautiful?'
'Uncommon,' said his lordship.
'And her manners so perfect. She has all her mother's ease without
any of that--You know what I mean.'
'Quite so,' said his lordship.
'And then she has got so much in her.'
'Has she though?'
'I don't know of any girl her age so thoroughly well educated. The
Duke seems to take to you.'
'Well yes;--the Duke is very kind.'
'Don't you think-?'
'You have heard of her mother's fortune?'
'She will have, I take it, quite a third of it. Whatever I say I'm
sure you will take in confidence; but she is a dear girl; and I am
anxious for her happiness almost as though she belonged to me.'
Lord Popplecourt went back into town in the Duke's carriage, but
was unable to say a word about politics. His mind was altogether
filled with the wonderful words that had been spoken to him. Could
it be that Lady Mary had fallen violently in love with him? He
would not at once give himself up to the pleasing idea, having so
thoroughly grounded himself in the belief that female nets were to
be avoided. But when he got home he did think favourably of it.
The daughter of a Duke,--and such a Duke! So lovely a girl, and
with such gifts! And then a fortune which would make a material
addition to his own large property!
We all know that very clever distich concerning the great fleas
and the little fleas which tell us that no animal is too humble to
have its parasite. Even Major Tifto had his inferior friend. This
was a certain Captain Green,--for the friend also affected military
honours. Tifto, of whose antecedents no one was supposed to know
anything. It was presumed of him that he lived by betting, and it
was boasted by those who wished to defend his character that when
he lost he paid his money like a gentleman. Tifto during the last
year or two had been anxious to support Captain Green, and had
always made use of this argument; 'Where the D---- he gets his
money I don't know;--but when he loses it, there it is.'
Major Tifto had a little 'box' of his own in the neighbourhood of
Egham, at which he had a set of stables a little bigger than his
house, and a set of kennels a little bigger than his stables. It
was here he kept his horses and hounds, and himself too when
business connected with his sporting life did not take him to
town. It was now the middle of August and he had come to Tally-ho
Lodge, there to look after his establishments, to make
arrangements for cub-hunting, and to prepare for the autumn racing
campaign. On this occasion Captain Green was enjoying his
hospitality and assisting him by sage counsels. Behind the little
box was a little garden,--a garden that was very little; but,
still, thus close to the parlour window, there was room for a
small table to be put on the grass-plat, and for a couple of
armchairs. Here the Major and the Captain were seated about eight
o'clock one evening, with convivial good things within their
reach. The good things were gin-and-water and pipes. The two
gentlemen had not dressed strictly for dinner. They had spent a
great part of the day handling the hounds and the horses, dressing
wounds, curing sores, and ministering to canine ailments, and had
been detained over their work too long to think of their toilet.
As it was they had an eye to business. The stables at one corner
and the kennels at the other were close to the little garden, and
the doings of a man and a boy who were still at their work could
be directed from the armchairs on which the two sportsmen were
It must be explained that ever since the Silverbridge election
there had been a growing feeling in Tifto's mind that he had been
ill-treated by his partner. The feeling was strengthened by the
admirable condition of Prime Minister. Surely more consideration
had been due to a man who had produced such a state of things?
'I wouldn't quarrel with him, but I'd make him pay his way,' said
the prudent Captain.
'As for that, of course he does pay,--his share.'
'Who does all the work?'
'The fact is, Tifto, you don't make enough out of it. When a small
man like you has to deal with a big man like that, he may take it
out of him in one of two ways. But he must be deuced clever if he
can get it both ways.'
'What are you driving at?' asked Tifto, who did not like being
called a small man, feeling himself to be every inch a master of
'Why, this!--Look at d--- fellow fretting that 'orse with a switch.
If you can't strap a 'orse without a stick in your hand, don't you
strap him at all, you--' Then there came volley of abuse out of the
Captain's mouth, in the middle of which the man threw down the
rubber he was using and walked away.
'You come back,' halloed Tifto, jumping up from his seat with his
pipe in his mouth. Then there was a general quarrel between the
man and his two masters, in which the man was at last victorious.
And the horse was taken into the stable in an unfinished
condition. 'It's all very well to say "Get rid of him", but where
am I to get anybody better? It has come to such a pass that now if
you speak to a fellow he walks out of the yard.'
They then returned to the state of affairs, as it was between
Tifto and Lord Silverbridge. 'What I was saying is this,'
continued the Captain. 'If you choose to put yourself up to live
with a fellow like that on equal terms--'
'One gentleman with another, you mean?'
'Put it so. it don't quite hit it off, but put it so. why then you
get your wages when you take his arm and call him Silverbridge.'
'I don't want wages from any man,' said the indignant Major.
'That comes from not knowing what wages is. I do want wages. If I
do a thing I like to be paid for it. You are paid for it after one
fashion, I prefer the other.'
'Do you mean he should give me--a salary?'
'I'd have it out of him someway. What's the good of young chaps of
that sort if they aren't made to pay? You've got this young swell
in tow. He's going to be about the richest man in England;--and
what the deuce better are you for it?' Tifto sat meditating,
thinking of the wisdom of the wisdom which was being spoken. The
same ideas had occurred to him. The happy chance which had made in
intimate with Lord Silverbridge had not yet enriched him. 'What is
the good of chaps of that sort if they are not made to pay?' The
words were wise words. But yet how glorious he had been when he
was elected at the Beargarden, and had entered the club as the
special friend of the heir of the Duke of Omnium.
After a short pause, Captain Green pursued his discourse. 'You
'I did mention the word.'
'Salary and wages is one. A salary is a nice thing if it's paid
regular. I had a salary once myself for looking after a stud of
'orses at Newmarket, only the gentleman broke up and it never went
'Was that Marley Bullock?'
'Yes; that was Marley Bullock. He's abroad somewhere now with
nothing a year paid quarterly to live on. I think he does a little
at cards. He'd had a good bit of money once, but most of it was
gone when he came my way.'
'You didn't make by him?'
'I didn't lose nothing. I didn't have a lot of 'orses under me
without getting something out of it.'
'What am I to do?' asked Tifto. 'I can sell him a horse now and
again. But if I give him anything good there isn't much to come
out of that.'
'Very little I should say. Don't he put his money on his 'orses?'
'Not very free. I think he's coming out freer now.'
'What did he stand to win on the Derby?'
'A thousand or two perhaps.'
'There may be something got handsome out of that,' said the
Captain, not venturing to allow his voice above a whisper. Major
Tifto looked hard at him but said nothing. 'Of course you must see
'I don't quite understand.'
'Race 'orses are expensive animals,--and races generally
'When so much is dropped, somebody has to pick it up. That's what
I've always said to myself. I'm as honest as another man.'
'That's of course, said the Major civilly.
'But if I don't keep my mouth shut, somebody'll have my teeth out
of my head. Every one for himself and God for us all. I suppose
there's a deal of money flying about. He'll put a lot of money on
this 'orse of yours for the Leger if he's managed right. There's
more to be got out of that than calling him Silverbridge and
walking arm-in-arm. Business is business. I don't know whether I
make myself understood.'
The gentleman did not quite make himself understood; but Tifto
endeavoured to read the riddle. He must in some way make money out
of his friend Lord Silverbridge. Hitherto he had contented himself
with the brilliancy of the connection; but now his brilliant
friend had taken to snubbing him, and had on more than one
occasion made himself disagreeable. It seemed to him that Captain
Green counselled him to put up with that, but counselled him at
the same time to--pick up some of his friend's money. He didn't
think he could ask Lord Silverbridge for a salary. He who was
Master of Foxhounds, and a member of the Beargarden. Then his
friend had suggested something about the young Lord's bets. He was
endeavouring to unriddle all this with a brain that was already
somewhat muddled with alcohol, when Captain Green got up from his
chair and standing over the Major spoke his last words for that
night as an oracle. 'Square is all very well, as long as others
are square with you;--but when they aren't, then I say square be
d-. Square! what comes of it? Work your heart out, and then it's
The Major thought about it much that night, and was thinking about
it still when he awoke on the next morning. He would like to make
Lord Silverbridge pay for his late insolence. It would answer his
purpose to make a little money,--as he told himself,--in any honest
way. At the present moment he was in want of money, and on looking
into his affairs declared to himself that he certainly
impoverished himself by his devotion to Lord Silverbridge's
interests. At breakfast on the following morning he endeavoured to
bring his friend back on to the subject. But the Captain was
cross, rather than oracular. 'Everybody,' he said, 'ought to know
his own business.' He wasn't going to meddle or make. What he had
said had been taken amiss. This was hard upon Tifto, who had taken
'Square be d-!' There was a great deal in the lesson there
enunciated which demanded consideration. Hitherto the Major had
fought his battles with a certain adherence to squareness. If his
angles had not all been perfect angles, still there had always
been an attempt at geometrical accuracy. He might now and then
have told a lie about a horse--but who that deals in horses has not
done that? He had been alive to the value of underhand information
from racing-stables, but who won't use a tip if he can get it? He
had lied about the expense of his hounds, in order to enhance the
subscription of his members. Those were things which everybody did
in his line. But Green had meant something beyond this.
As far as he could see out in the world at large, nobody was
square. You had to keep your mouth shut, or your teeth would be
stolen out of it. He didn't look into a paper without seeing that
on all sides of him men had abandoned the idea of squareness.
Chairmen, directors, members of Parliament, ambassadors,--all the
world, as he told himself,--were trying to get on by their wits. He
didn't see why he should be more square than anybody else. Why
hadn't Silverbridge taken him down to Scotland for the grouse?
Far away from all known places, in the northern limit of the Craven
district, on the borders of Westmoreland but in Yorkshire, there
stands a large rambling most picturesque old house called Grex.
The people around call it the Castle, but it is not a castle. It
is an old brick building supposed to have been erected in the days
of James the First, having oriel windows, twisted chimneys, long
galleries, gable ends, a quadrangle of which the house surrounds
three sides, terraces, sundials, and fish-ponds. But it is sadly
out of repair as to be altogether unfit for the residence of a
gentleman and his family. It stands not in a park, for the land
about it is divided into paddocks by low stone walls, but in the
midst of lovely scenery, the ground rising all round it in low
irregular hills or fells, and close to it, a quarter of a mile
from the back of the house, there is a small dark lake, not
serenely lovely as are some of the lakes in Westmoreland, but
attractive by the darkness of its waters and the gloom of the
woods around it.
This is the country seat of Earl Grex,--which however he had not
visited for some years. Gradually the place had got into such a
condition in his absence was not surprising. An owner of Grex,
with large means at his disposal and with a taste for the
picturesque to gratify,--one who could afford to pay for memories
and who was willing to pay dearly for such luxuries, might no
doubt restore Grex, but the Earl had neither the money nor the
Lord Grex had latterly never gone near the place, nor was his son
Lord Percival fond of looking upon the ruin of his property. But
Lady Mabel loved it with a fond love. With all her lightness of
spirit she was prone to memories, prone to melancholy, prone at
times almost to seek the gratification of sorrow. Year after year
when the London season was over she would come down to Grex and
spend a week or two amidst its desolation. She was now going to a
seat in Scotland belonging to Mrs Montacute Jones called
Killancodlem; but she was now passing a desolate fortnight in
company with Miss Cassewary. The gardens were let,--and being let
of course were not kept in further order than as profit might
require. The man who rented it lived in the big house with his
wife, and they on occasions as this would cook and wait upon Lady
Lady Mabel was at the home of her ancestors, and the faithful Miss
Cass was with her. But at the moment and at the spot at which the
reader shall see her, Miss Cass was not with her. She was sitting
on a rock about twelve feet above the lake looking upon the black
water; and on another rock a few feet from her sat Frank Tregear.
'No,' she said, 'you should not have come. Nothing can justify it.
Of course, as you are here I could not refuse to come out with
you. To make a fuss about it would be the worst of all. But you
should not have come.'
'Why not? Whom does it hurt? It is a pleasure to me. If it be the
reverse to you, I will go.'
'Men are so unmanly. They take such mean advantages. You know it
is a pleasure to me to see you.'
'I had hoped so.'
'But it is a pleasure I ought not to have,--at least not here.'
'That is what I do not understand,' said he. 'In London, where the
Earl could bark at me if he happened to find me, I could see the
inconvenience of it. But here, where there is nobody but Miss
'There are a great many others. There are the rooks and stones and
old women;---all of which have ears.'
'But of what is there to be ashamed? There is nothing in the world
to me so pleasant as the companionship of old friends.'
'Then go after Silverbridge.'
'I mean to do so;--but I am taking you by the way.'
'It is all unmanly,' she said, rising from her stone; 'you know
that it is so. Friends! Do you mean to say that it would make no
difference whether you were here with me or Miss Cass?'
'The greatest difference in the world.'
'Because she is an old woman and I am a young one, and because in
intercourse between young men and young women there is something
dangerous to the woman and therefore pleasant to the man.'
'I never heard anything more unjust. You cannot think I desire
anything injurious to you.'
'I do think so.' She was still standing and spoke now with great
vehemence. 'I do think so. You force me to throw aside the
reticence I ought to keep. Would it help me in my purpose if your
friend Lord Silverbridge knew that I was here?'
'How should he know?'
'But if he did? Do you suppose that I want to have visits paid to
me of which I am afraid to speak? Would you dare tell Lady Mary
that you had been sitting alone with me on the rocks at Grex?'
'Certainly I would.'
'Then it would be because you have not dared to tell her certain
other things which have gone before. You have sworn to her no
doubt that you love her better than all the world.'
'And you have taken the trouble to come her to tell me that,--to
wound me to the core by saying so; to show me that though I may
still be sick, you have recovered,--that is if you ever suffered!
Go your way and let me go mine. I do not want you.'
'I do not want you. I know you will not help me, but you need not
'You know that you are wronging me.'
'No! You understand it all though you look so calm. I hate your
Lady Mary Palliser. There! But if by anything I could do I could
secure her to you I would do it,--because you want it.'
'She will be your sister-in-law,--probably.'
'Never. It will never be so.'
'Why do you hate me?'
'There again! You are so little of a man that you can ask me
why!' Then she turned away as though she intended to go down to
the marge of the lake.
But he rose up and stopped her. 'Let us have this out, Mabel,
before we go,' he said. 'Unmanly is a heavy word to hear from you,
and you have used it a dozen times.'
'It is because I have thought it a thousand times. Go and get her
if you can,--but why tell me about it?'
'You said you would help me.'
'So I would, as I would help you do anything you might want; but
you can hardly think that after what has passed I can wish to hear
'It was you spoke of her.'
'I told you you should not be here,--because of her and because of
me. And I tell you again. I hate her. Do you think I can hear you
speak of her as though she were the only woman you had ever seen
without feeling it? Did you ever swear that you loved anyone
'Certainly, I have so sworn.'
'Have you ever said that nothing could alter that love?'
'Indeed I have.'
'But it is altered. It has all gone. It has been transferred to
one who has more advantages of beauty, youth, wealth, and
'Oh Mabel, Mabel!'
'But it is so.'
'When you say this do you think of yourself?'
'Yes. But I have never been false to anyone. You are false to me.'
'Have I not offered to face all the world with you?'
'You would not offer it now?'
'No,' he said, after a pause,--'not now. Were I to do so, I should
be false. You bade me take my love elsewhere, and I did so.'
'With the greatest care.'
'We agreed it should be so; and you have done the same.'
'That is false. Look me in the face and tell me whether you do not
know it to be false?'
'And yet I am told that I am injuring you with Silverbridge.'
'Oh,--so unmanly again! Of course I have to marry. Who does not
know it? Do you want to see me begging my bread about the
streets? You have bread; or if not, you might earn it. If you
marry for money--'
'The accusation is altogether unjustifiable.'
'Allow me to finish what I have to say. If you marry for money you
will do that which is in itself bad, and which is also
unnecessary. What other course would you recommend me to take? No
one goes into the gutter while there is a clean path open. If
there be no escape but through the gutter, one has to take it.'
'You mean that my duty to you should have kept me from marrying
all my life.'
'Not that;--but a little while, Frank; just a little while. Your
bloom is not fading; your charms are not running from you. Have
you not a strength which I cannot have? Do you not feel that you
are a tree, standing firm in the ground, while I am a bit of ivy
that will be trodden in the dirt unless it can be made to cling to
something? You should not liken yourself to me, Frank.'
'If I could do you any good!'
'Good! What is the meaning of good? If you love, it is good to
be loved again. It is good not to have your heart torn to pieces.
You know that I love you.' He was standing close to her, and put
out his hand as though he would twine his arm round her waist.
'Not for worlds,' she said. 'It belongs to the Palliser girl. And
as I have taught myself to think that what there is left of me may
perhaps belong to some other one, worthless as it is, I will keep
it for him. I love you,--but there can be none of that softness of
love between us.'
Then there was a pause, but as he did not speak she went on. 'But
remember, Frank,--our position is not equal. You have got over your
little complaint. It probably did not go deep with you, and you
have found a cure. Perhaps there is a satisfaction in finding that
two young women love you.'
'You are trying to be cruel to me.'
'Why else should you be here? You know I love you,--with all my
heart, with all my strength, and that I would give the world to
cure myself. Knowing this, you come and talk to me of your passion
for this other girl.'
'I had hoped we might both talk rationally as friends.'
'Friends! Frank Tregear, I have been bold enough to tell you I
love you; but you are not my friend, and cannot be my friend. If I
have before asked you to help me in this mean catastrophe of mine,
in my attack upon that poor boy, I withdraw my request. I think I
will go back to the house now.'
'I will walk back to Ledburgh if you wish it without going to the
'No; I will have nothing that looks like being ashamed. You ought
not to have come, but you need not run away.' Then they walked
back to the house together and found Miss Casseawary on the
terrace. 'We have been to the lake,' said Mabel, 'and have been
talking of old days. I have but one ambition now in the world.'
Of course Miss Cassewary asked what the remaining ambition was.
'To get money enough to purchase this place from the ruins of the
Grex property. If I could own the house and the lake, and the
paddocks about, and had enough income to keep one servant and
bread for us to eat--of course including you, Miss Cass--'
'Thank'ee, my dear; but I am not sure I should like it.'
'Yes; you would. Frank would come and see us perhaps once a year.
I don't suppose anybody else cares about the place, but to me it
is the dearest spot in the world.' So she went on in almost high
spirits, though alluding to the general decadence of the Grex
family, till Tregear took his leave.
'I wish he had not come,' said Miss Cassewary when he was gone.
'Why should you wish that? There is not so much here to amuse me
that you should begrudge me a stray visitor.'
'I don't think I grudge you anything in the way of pleasure, my
dear, but still he should not have come. My Lord, if he knew it,
would be angry.'
'Then let him be angry. Papa does not do much for me that I am
bound to think of him at every turn.'
'But I am,--or rather I am bound to think of myself, if I take his
'Well;--I do take his bread, and I take it on the understanding
that I will be to you what a mother might be,--or an aunt.'
'Well,--and if so! Had I a mother living would not Frank Tregear
have come to visit her, and in visiting her, would he not have
seen me,--and should not we have walked out together?'
'Not after all that has come and gone.'
'But you are not a mother nor yet an aunt, and you have to do just
what I tell you. And don't I know that you trust me in all things?
And am I not trustworthy?'
'I think you are trustworthy.'
'I know what my duty is and I mean to do it. No one shall ever
have to say of me that I have given way to self-indulgence. I
couldn't help his coming here, you know.'
That same night, after Miss Cassewary had gone to bed, when the
moon was high in the heavens and the world round her was all
asleep, Lady Mabel again wandered out to the lake, and again
seated herself on the same rock, and there sat thinking of her
past life and trying to think of that before her. It is so much
easier to think of the past than of the future,--to remember what
has been than to resolve what shall be! She had reminded him of
the offer which he had made and repeated to her more than once,--to
share with her all his chances in life. There would have been
almost no income for them. All the world would have been against
her. She would have caused his ruin. Her light on the matter had
been so clear that it had not taken her very long to decide that
such a thing must not be thought of. She had at last been quite
stern in her decision.
Now she was broken-hearted because she found that he had left her
in very truth. Oh yes;--she would marry the boy, if she could so
arrange. Since that meeting at Richmond he had sent her the ring
reset. She was to meet him down in Scotland within a week or two
from the present time. Mrs Montacute Jones had managed that. He
had all but offered to her a second time at Richmond. But all that
would not serve to make her happy. She declared to herself that
she did not wish to see Frank Tregear again; but still it was a
misery to her that his heart should in truth be given to another
Almost at the last moment Silverbridge and his brother Gerald were
induced to join Lord Popplecourt's shooting-party in Scotland.
The party perhaps might more properly be called the party of
Reginald Dobbes, who as a man knowing in such matters. It was he
who made the party up. Popplecourt and Silverbridge were to share
the expense between them, each bringing three guns. Silverbridge
brought his brother and Frank Tregear,--having refused a most
piteous petition on the subject from Major Tifto. With Popplecourt
of course came Reginald Dobbes, who was, in truth, to manage
everything, and Lord Nidderdale, whose wife had generously
permitted him this recreation. The shooting was in the west of
Perthshire, known as Crummie-Toddie, and comprised an enormous
acreage of so-called forest and moor. Mr Dobbes declared that
nothing like it had as yet been produced in Scotland. Everything
had been made to give way to deer and grouse. The thing had been
managed so well that the tourist nuisance had been considerably
abated. There was hardly a potato patch left in the district, nor
a head of cattle to be seen. There were no inhabitants remaining,
or so few that they could be absorbed in game-preserving or
cognate duties. Reginald Dobbes, who was very great at grouse, and
supposed to be capable of outwitting deer by venatical wiles more
perfectly than any other sportsman in Great Britain, regarded
Crummie-Toddie as the nearest thing there was to a Paradise on
Earth. Could he have been allowed to pass one or two special laws
for his own protection, there might still have been improvements.
He would like the right to have all intruders thrashed by the
gillies within an inch of their lives; and he would have had a
clause in his lease against the making of any new roads, opening
of footpaths, or building of bridges. He had seen somewhere in
print a plan for running a railway from Callender to Fort Augustus
right through Crummie-Toddie! If this were done in his time the
beauty of the world would be over. Reginald Dobbes was a man of
about forty, strong, active, well-made, about five feet ten in
height, with broad shoulders and greatly-developed legs. He was
not a handsome man, having a protrusive nose, high cheek-bones,
and long upper lip; but there was a manliness about his face which
redeemed it. Sport was the business of his life, and he thoroughly
despised all who were not sportsmen. He fished and shot and hunted
during nine or ten months of the year, filling up his time as best
he might with coaching polo, and pigeon-shooting. He regarded it
as a great duty to keep his body in the firmest possible
condition. All his eating and all his drinking was done upon a
system, and he would consider himself to be guilty of weak self-
indulgence were he to allow himself to break through sanitary
rules. But it never occurred to him that his whole life was one of
self-indulgence. He could walk his thirty miles with his gun on
his shoulder as well now as he could ten years ago; and being sure
of this, was thoroughly contented with himself. He had a patrimony
amounting to perhaps 1000 pounds a year, which he husbanded so as
to enjoy all his amusements to perfection. No one had ever heard
of his sponging on his friends. Of money he rarely spoke, sport
being in his estimation the only subject worthy of a man's words.
Such was Reginald Dobbes, who was now to be the master of the
shooting at Crummie-Toddie.
Crummie-Toddie was but twelve miles from Killancodlem, Mrs
Montacute Jones's highland seat; and it was this vicinity which
first induced Lord Silverbridge to join the party. Mabel Grex was
to be at Killancodlem, and, determined as he still was to ask her
to be his wife, he would make this opportunity. Of real
opportunity there had been none at Richmond. Since he had had his
ring altered and had sent it to her there had come but a word or
two of answer. 'What am I to say? You unkindest of men! To keep
it or to send it back would make me equally miserable. I shall
keep it till you are married, and then give it to your wife.'
This affair of the ring had made him more intent than ever. After
that he heard that Isabel Boncassen would also be at Killancodlem,
having been induced to join Mrs Montacute Jones's swarm of
visitors. Though he was dangerously devoid of experience, still he
felt that this was unfortunate. He intended to marry Mabel Grex.
And he could assure himself that he thoroughly loved her.
Nevertheless he liked making love to Isabel Boncassen. He was
quite willing to marry and settle down, and looked forward with
satisfaction to having Mabel Grex for his wife. But it would be
pleasant to have a six-month run of flirting and love-making
before this settlement, and he had certainly never seen anyone
with whom this would be so delightful as with Miss Boncassen. But
that the two ladies should be at the same house was unfortunate.
He and Gerald reached Crummie-Toddie late on the evening of August
the eleventh, and found Reginald Dobbes alone. That was on
Wednesday. Popplecourt and Niddledale ought to have made their
appearance on that morning, but had telegraphed to say that they
would be detained two days on their route. Tregear, whom hitherto
Dobbes had never seen, had left his arrival uncertain. This
carelessness on such matters was very offensive to Mr Dobbes, who
loved discipline and exactitude. He ought to have received the two
young men with open arms because they were punctual; but he had
been somewhat angered by what he considered the extreme youth of
Lord Gerald. Boys who could not shoot were, he thought, putting
themselves forward before their time. And Silverbridge himself was
by no means a first-rate shot. Such a one as Silverbridge had to
be endured because from his position and wealth he could
facilitate such arrangements as these. It was much to have to do
with a man who could not complain if an extra fifty pounds were
wanted. But he ought to have understood that he was bound in
honour to bring down competent friends. Of Tregear's shooting
Dobbes had been able to learn nothing. Lord Gerald was a lad from
the Universities; and Dobbes hated University lads. Popplecourt
and Niddledale were known to be efficient. They were men who could
work hard and do their part of the required slaughter. Dobbes
proudly knew that he could make up for some deficiency by his own
prowess; but he could not struggle against three bad guns. What
was the use of so perfecting Crummie-Toddie as to make it the best
bit of ground for grouse and deer in Scotland, if the men who came
there failed by their own incapacity to bring up the grand total
of killed to a figure which would render Dobbes and Crummie-Toddie
famous throughout the whole shooting world? He had been hard at
work on other matters. Dogs had gone amiss;--or guns, and he had
been made angry by the champagne which Popplecourt had caused to
be sent down. He knew what champagne meant. Whisky-and-water, and
not much of it, was the liquor which Reginald Dobbes loved in the
'Don't you call this a very ugly country?' Silverbridge asked as
soon as he arrived. Now it is the case that the traveller who
travels into Argyleshire, Perthshire, and Inverness, expects to
find lovely scenery; and it was also true that the country through
which they had passed for the last twenty miles had been not only
bleak and barren, but uninteresting and ugly. It was all rough
open moorland, never rising into mountains, and graced by no
running streams, by no forest scenery, almost by no foliage. The
lodge itself did indeed stand close upon a little river, and was
reached by a bridge that crossed it; but there was nothing pretty
either in the river or the bridge. It was a placid black little
streamlet, which in that portion of its course was hurried by no
steepness, had not broken rocks in its bed, no trees on its low
banks, and played none of those gambols which make running water
beautiful. The bridge was a simple low construction with a low
parapet, carrying an ordinary roadway up to the hall door. The
lodge itself was as ugly a house could be, white, of two stories,
with the door in the middle and windows on each side, with a slate
roof, and without a tree near it. It was in the middle of the
shooting, and did not create a town round itself as do sumptuous
mansions, to the great detriment of that seclusion which is
favourable to game. 'Look at Killancodlem,' Dobbes had been heard
to say--'a very fine house for ladies to flirt in; but if you find
a deer within six miles of it I will eat him first and shoot him
afterwards.' There was a Spartan simplicity about Crummie-Toddie
which pleased the Spartan mind of Reginald Dobbes.
'Ugly do you call it?'
'Infernally ugly,' said Lord Gerald.
'What did you expect to find? A big hotel, and a lot of cockneys.
If you come after grouse, you must come to what the grouse think
'Nevertheless, it is ugly,' said Silverbridge, who did not choose
to be 'sat upon'. 'I have been at shootings in Scotland before,
and sometimes they are not ugly. This I call beastly.' Whereupon
Reginald Dobbes turned upon his heel and walked away.
'Can you shoot?' he said afterwards to Lord Gerald.
'I can fire off a gun, if you mean that,' said Gerald.
'You have never shot much?'
'Not what you call very much. I'm not so old as you are, you know.
Everything must have a beginning.' Mr Dobbes wished 'the
beginning' might have taken place elsewhere; but there had been
some truth in the remark.
'What on earth made you tell him crammers like that?' asked
Silverbridge, as the brothers sat together afterwards smoking on
the wall of the bridge.
'Because he made an ass of himself; asking me whether I could
On the next morning they started at seven. Dobbes had determined
to be cross, because, as he thought, the young men would certainly
keep him waiting; and was cross because by their punctuality they
robbed him of any just cause for offence. During the morning on
the moor they were hardly near enough each other for much
conversation, and very little was said. According to the
arrangement made they returned to the house for lunch, it being
their purpose not to go far from home till their numbers were
complete. As they came over the bridge and put down their guns
near the door, Mr Dobbes spoke the first good-humoured word they
had heard from his lips. 'Why did you tell me such an infernal-, I
would say lie, only perhaps you mightn't like it.'
'I told you no lie,' said Gerald.
'You've only missed two birds all the morning, and you have shot
forty-two. That's uncommonly good sport.'
'What have you done?'
'Only forty,' and Mr Dobbes seemed for the moment to be gratified
by his own inferiority. 'You are a deuced sight better than your
'Gerald's about the best shot I know,' said Silverbridge.
'Why didn't he tell?'
'Because you were angry when we said the place was ugly.'
'I see all about it,' said Dobbes. 'Nevertheless when a fellow
comes to shoot he shouldn't complain because a place isn't pretty.
What you want is a decent house as near as you can have it to your
ground. If there is anything in Scotland to beat Crummie-Toddie I
don't know where to find it. Shooting is shooting you know, and
touring is touring.'
Upon that he took very kindly to Lord Gerald, who, even after the
arrival of the other men, was second only in skill to Dobbes
himself. With Nidderdale, who was an old companion, he got on very
well. Nidderdale drank and ate too much, and refused to be driven
beyond a certain amount of labour, but was in other respects
obedient and knew what he was about. Popplecourt was disagreeable,
but he was a fairly good shot and understood what was expected of
him. Silverbridge was so good-humoured, that even his manifest
faults,--shooting carelessly, lying in bed, and wanting his
dinner,--were, if not forgiven at least endured. But Tregear was an
abomination. He could shoot well enough and was active, and when
he was at the work seemed to like it;--but he would stay away whole
days by himself, and when spoken to would answer in a manner which
seemed to Dobbes to flat mutiny. 'We are not doing it for our
bread,' said Tregear.
'I don't know what you mean.'
'There's not a duty in killing a certain number of these animals.'
They had been driving deer on the day before and were to continue
the work on the day in question. 'I'm not paid fifteen shillings a
week for doing it.'
'I suppose if you undertake to do a thing you mean to do it. Of
course you're not wanted. We can make the double party without
'Then why the mischief should you growl at me?'
'Because I think a man should do what he undertakes to do. A man
who gets tired after three days' work of this kind would become
tired if he were earning his bread.'
'Who says I am tired? I came here to amuse myself.'
'And as long as it amuses me, I shall shoot, and when it does not
I shall give it up.'
This vexed the governor of Crummie-Toddie much. He had learned to
regard himself as the arbiter of the fate of men while they were
sojourning under the same autumnal roof as himself. But a
defalcation which occurred immediately afterwards was worse.
Silverbridge declared his intention of going over one morning to
Killancodlem. Reginald Dobbes muttered a curse between his teeth,
which was visible by the anger of his brow, to all the party. 'I
shall be back tonight, you know,' said Silverbridge.
'A lot of men and women who pretend to come here for shooting,'
said Dobbes angrily, 'but do all the mischief they can.'
'One must go and see one's friends you know.'
'Some girl!' said Dobbes.
But worse happened than the evil so lightly mentioned.
Silverbridge did go over to Killancodlem; and presently there came
back a man with a cart, who was to return with a certain not small
proportion of his luggage.
'It's hardly honest, you know,' said Reginald Dobbes.
Mr Dobbes was probably right in his opinion that hotels, tourists,
and congregations of men are detrimental to shooting. Crummie-
Toddie was in all respects suited for sport. Killancodlem, though
it had the name of a shooting-place, certainly was not so. Men
going there took their guns. Gamekeepers were provided with
gillies,--and, in a moderate quantity, game. On certain grand days
a deer or two might be shot,--and would be very much talked about
afterwards. But a glance at the place would suffice to show that
Killancodlem was not intended for sport. It was a fine castellated
mansion, with beautiful though narrow grounds, standing in the
valley of the Archay River, with a mountain behind and the river
in front. Between the gates and the river there was a public road
on which a stage-coach ran, with loud-blown horns and the noise of
many tourists. A mile beyond the Castle was the famous
Killancodlem hotel which made up a hundred and twenty beds, and at
which half as many more guests would sleep on occasions under the
tables. And there was the Killancodlem post-office halfway between
the two. At Crummie-Toddie they had to send nine miles for their
letters and newspapers. At Killancodlem there was lawn-tennis and
a billiard-room and dancing every night. The costumes of the
ladies were lovely, and those of the gentlemen, who were wonderful
in knickerbockers, picturesque hats and variegated stockings,
hardly less so. and then there were carriages and saddle-horses,
and paths had been made hither and thither through the rocks and
hills for the sake of the scenery. Scenery! To hear Mr Dobbes
utter the single word was as good as a play. Was it for such
cockney purposes as those that Scotland had been created, fit
mother for grouse and deer?
Silverbridge arrived just before lunch, and was soon made to
understand that it was impossible that he should go back that day.
Mrs Jones was very great on that occasion. 'You are afraid of
Reginald Dobbes,' she said severely.
'I think I am rather.'
'Of course you are. How came it to pass that you of all men should
submit yourself to such a tyrant?'
'Good shooting, you know,' said Silverbridge.
'But you dare not call an hour your own,--or your soul. Mr Dobbes
and I are sworn enemies. We both like Scotland, and unfortunately
we have fallen into the same neighbourhood. He looks upon me as
the genius of sloth. I regard him as the incarnation of tyranny.
He once said there should be no women in Scotland,--just an old one
here and there, who would know how to cook grouse. I offered to go
and cook his grouse!
'Any friend of mine,' continued Mrs Jones, 'who comes down to
Crummie-Toddie without staying a day or two with me,--will never be
my friend any more. I do not hesitate to tell you, Lord
Silverbridge, that I call for your surrender, in order that I may
show my power over Reginald Dobbes. Are you a Dobbite?'
'Not thorough-going,' said Silverbridge.
'Then be a Montacute Jones-ite, or a Bocassen-ite, if, as
possible, you prefer a young woman to an old one.' At this moment
Isabel Boncassen was standing close to them.
'Killancodlem against Crummie-Toddie forever,' said Miss
barbarian, waving her handkerchief. As a matter of course a
messenger was sent back to Crummie-Toddie for the young lord's
The whole of that afternoon was spent playing lawn-tennis with
Miss Boncassen. Lady Mabel was asked to join the party, but she
refused, having promised to take a walk to a distant waterfall
where the Codlem falls into the Archay. A gentleman in
knickerbockers was to have gone with her, and two other young
ladies, but when the time came she was weary, she said,--and she
sat almost the entire afternoon looking at the game from a
distance. Silverbridge played well, but not so well as the pretty
American. With them were joined two others, somewhat inferior, so
that Silverbridge and Miss Boncassen were on different sides. They
played game after game, and Miss Boncassen's side always won.
Very little was said between Silverbridge and Miss Boncassen which
did not refer to the game. But Lady Mabel, looking on, told
herself that they were making love to each other before her eyes.
And why shouldn't they? She asked herself that question in perfect
good faith. Why should they not be lovers? Was ever anything
prettier than the girl in her country dress, active as a fawn and
as graceful? Or could anything be more handsome, more attractive
to a girl, more good-humoured, or better bred in his playful
emulation than Silverbridge?
'When youth and pleasure meet. To chase the glowing hours with
flying feet!' she said to herself over and over again.
But why had he sent her the ring? She would certainly give him
back the ring and bid him bestow it at once upon Miss Boncassen.
Inconstant boy! Then she would get up and wander away for a time
and rebuke herself. What right had she even to think of
inconstancy? Could she be so irrational, so unjust, as to be sick
for his love, as to be angry with him because he seemed to prefer
another? Was she not well aware that she herself did not love
him,--but that she did love another man? She had made up her mind
to marry him in order that she might be a duchess, and because she
would give herself to him without any of that horror which would
be her fate in submitting to matrimony with one or another of the
young men around her. There might be disappointment. If he escaped
her there would be bitter disappointment. But seeing how it was,
had she any further ground for hope? She certainly had no ground
It was thus, within her own bosom, she put questions to herself.
And yet all this before her was simply a game of play in which the
girl and the young man were as eager for victory as though they
were children. They were thinking neither of love nor love-making.
That the girl should be so lovely was not doubt a pleasure to
him;--and perhaps to her also that she should be joyous to look at
and sweet of voice. But he, could he have been made to tell all
the truth within him, would have still owned that it was his
purpose to make Mabel his wife.
When the game was over and the propositions made for further
matches and the like,--Miss Boncassen said that she would betake
herself to her own room. 'I never worked so hard in my life
before,' she said. 'And I feel like a navvie. I could drink beer
out of a jug and eat bread and cheese. I won't play with you any
more, Lord Silverbridge, because I am beginning to think it is
unladylike to exert myself.'
'Are you not glad you came over?' said Lady Mabel to him as he was
going off the ground without seeing her.
'Pretty well,' he said.
'Is it not better than stalking?'
'Yes;--lawn-tennis--with Miss Boncassen.'
'She plays uncommonly well.'
'And so do you.'
'Ah, she has such an eye for distances.'
'And you,--what have you an eye for? Will you answer me a
'Well,--yes; I think so.'
'Certainly; if I do answer it.'
'Do you not think her the most beautiful creature you ever saw in
your life?' He pushed back his cap and looked at her without
making any immediate answer. 'I do. Now tell me what you think.'
'I think that perhaps she is.'
'I knew you would say so. You are so honest that you could not
bring yourself to tell a fib,--even to me about that. Come here
and sit down for a moment.' Of course he sat down by her. 'You
know that Frank came to see me at Grex?'
'He never mentioned it.'
'Dear me;--how odd!'
'It was odd,' said he in a voice which showed that he was angry.
She could hardly explain it to herself why she told him at the
present moment. It came partly from jealousy, as though she had
said to herself, 'Though he may neglect me, he shall know that
there is someone else who does not;'--and partly from an eager
half-angry feeling that she would have nothing concealed. There
were moments with her in which she thought that she could arrange
her future life in accordance with certain wise rules over which
her heart should have no influence. There were others, many
others, in which her feelings completely got the better of her.
And now she told herself that she would be afraid of nothing.
There should be no deceit, no lies!
'He went to see you at Grex?' said Silverbridge.
'Why should he not have come to me at Grex?'
'Only it is so odd that he did not mention it. It seems to me that
he is always having secrets with you of some kind.'
'Poor Frank! There is no one else who would come to see me at
that tumble-down old place. But I have another thing to say to
you. You have behaved badly to me.'
'Yes, sir. After my folly about that ring you should have known
better than to send it to me. You must take it back again.'
'You shall do exactly what you said you would. You shall give it
to me wife,--when I have one.'
'That did very well for me to say it in a note. I did not want to
send my anger to you over a distance of two or three hundred miles
by the postman. But now that we are together you must take it
'I will do no such thing,' said he sturdily.
'You speak as though this were a matter in which you can have your
'I mean to have my own about that.'
'Any lady then must be forced to take any present that a gentleman
may send her! Allow me to assure you that the usages of society
do not run in that direction. Here is the ring. I knew that you
would come over to see,--well, to see someone here, and I have kept
it ready in my pocket.'
'I came over to see you.'
'Lord Silverbridge! But we know that in certain employments all
things are fair.' He looked at her not knowing what were the
employments to which she alluded. 'At any rate you will oblige me
by--by--by not being troublesome, and putting this little trinket
into your pocket.'
'Never! Nothing on earth shall make me do it.'
At Killancodlem they did not dine till half-past eight. Twilight
was now stealing on these two, who were still out in the garden,
all the others having gone in to dress. She looked round to see
that no other eyes were watching them as she still held the ring.
'It is there,' she said, putting it on the bench between them.
Then she prepared to rise from the seat so that she might leave it
But he was too quick for her, and was away at a distance before
she had collected her dress. And from a distance he spoke again.
'If you choose that it shall be lost, so be it.'
'You had better take it,' said she, following him slowly. But he
would not turn back;--nor would she. They met again in the hall for
a moment. 'I should be sorry it should be lost,' said he, 'because
it belonged to my great uncle. And I had hoped that I might live
to see it very often.'
'You can fetch it,' she said, as she went to her room. He however
would not fetch it. She had accepted it, and he would not take it
back again, let the fate of the gem be what it might.
But to the feminine and more cautious mind the very value of the
trinket made its position out there on the bench, within the grasp
of any dishonest gardener, a burden to her. She could not
reconcile it to her conscience that it should be so left. The
diamond was a large one, and she had heard it spoken of as a stone
of great value,--so much so, that Silverbridge had been blamed for
wearing it ordinarily. She had asked for it in a joke, regarding
it as a thing which could not be given away. She could not go down
herself and take it up again; but neither could she allow it to
remain. As she went to her room she met Mrs Jones already coming
from hers. 'You will keep us waiting,' said the hostess.
'Oh, no;--nobody ever dressed so quickly. But, Mrs Jones, will you
do me a favour?'
'Any will you let me explain something?'
'Anything you like;--from a hopeless engagement down to a broken
'I am suffering neither from one or the other. But there is a most
valuable ring lying out in the garden. Will you send for it?'
Then of course the story had to be told. 'You will, I hope,
understand how I came to ask for it foolishly. It was because it
was the one thing which I was sure he would not give away.'
'Why not take it?'
'Can't you understand? I wouldn't for the world. But you will be
good enough,--won't you, to see that there is nothing else in it?'
'Nothing of love?'
'Nothing in the least. He and I are excellent friends. We are
cousins, and intimate, and all that. I thought I might have had my
joke, and now I am punished for it. As for love, don't you see
that he is head and ears in love with Miss Boncassen?'
This was very imprudent on the part of Lady Mabel, who, had she
been capable of clinging to her policy, would not now in a moment
of strong feeling have done so much to raise obstacles in her own
way. 'But you will send for it, won't you, and have it put on his
dressing-table tonight?' When he went to bed Lord Silverbridge
found it on his table.
But before that time came he had twice danced with Miss Boncassen.
Lady Mabel having refused to dance with him. 'No;' she said. 'I am
angry with you. You ought to have felt that it did not become you
as gentleman to subject me to inconvenience by throwing upon me
the charge of that diamond. You may be foolish enough to be
indifferent about its value, but as you have mixed me up with it I
cannot afford to have it lost.'
'It is yours.'
'No, sir; it is not mine, nor will it ever be mine. But I wish you
to understand that you have offended me.'
This made him so unhappy for the time that he almost told the
story to Miss Boncassen. 'If I were to give you a ring,' he said,
'would not you accept it?'
'What a question!'
'What I mean is, don't you think all those conventional rules
about men and women are absurd?'
'As a progressive American, of course I am bound to think all
conventional rules are an abomination.'
'If you had a brother and I gave him a stick he'd take it.'
'Not across his back, I hope.'
'Or if I gave your father a book?'
'He'd take books to any extent, I should say.'
'And why not you a ring?'
'Who said I wouldn't? But after all this you mustn't try me.'
'I was not thinking of it.'
'I'm so glad of that! Well;--if you'll promise me that you'll
never offer me one, I'll promise that I'll take it when it comes.
But what does all this mean?'
'It is not worth talking about.'
'You have offered someone somebody a ring, and somebody hasn't
taken it. May I guess?'
'I had rather you did not.'
'I could, you know.'
'Never mind about that. Now come and have a turn. I am bound not
to give you a ring; but you are bound to accept anything else I
'No, Lord Silverbridge;--not at all. Nevertheless we'll have a
That night before he went up to his room he had told Isabel
Boncassen that he loved her. And when he spoke he was telling her
the truth. It had seemed to him that Mabel had become hard to him,
and had over and over again rejected the approaches to tenderness
which he had attempted to make in his intercourse with her. Even
though she were to accept him, what would that be worth to him if
she did not love him? So many things had been added together! Why
had Tregear gone to Grex, and having gone there why had he kept
his journey a secret? Tregear he knew was engaged to his sister;--
but for all that, there was a closer intimacy between Mabel and
Tregear than between Mabel and himself. And surely she might have
taken his ring!
And then Isabel Boncassen was so perfect! Since he had first met
her he had heard her loveliness talked of on all sides. It seemed
to be admitted that so beautiful a creature had never before been
seen in London. There is even a certain dignity attached to that
which is praised by all lips. Miss Boncassen as an American girl,
had she been judged to be beautiful only by his own eyes,--might
perhaps have seemed to him to be beneath his serious notice. In
such a case he might have felt himself unable to justify so
extraordinary a choice. But there was an acclamation of assent as
to this girl! Then came the dancing,--the one dance after another;
the pressure of the hand, the entreaty that she would not, just on
this occasion, dance with any other man, the attendance on her
when she took her glass of wine, the whispered encouragement of
Mrs Montacute Jones, the half-resisting and yet half-yielding
conduct of the girl. 'I shall not dance at all again,' she said
when he asked to stand up for another. 'Think of all the lawn-
tennis this morning.'
'But you will play tomorrow?'
'I thought you were going.'
'Of course I shall stay now,' he said, and as he said it he put
his hand on her hand, which was on his arm. She drew it away at
once. 'I love you so dearly,' he whispered to her, 'so dearly.'
'I do. I do. Can you say that you will love me in return?'
'I cannot,' she said slowly. 'I have never dreamed of such a
thing. I hardly know now whether you are in earnest.'
'Indeed, indeed I am.'
'Then I will say good-night, and think about it. Everybody is
going. We shall have our game tomorrow at any rate.'
When he went to his room he found the ring on his dressing-table.
On the next morning Miss Boncassen did not appear at breakfast.
Word came that she had been so fatigued by the lawn-tennis as not
to be able to leave her bed. 'I have been to see her,' said Mrs
Montacute Jones, whispering to Lord Silverbridge, as though he
were particularly interested. 'There's nothing really the matter.
She will be down to lunch.'
'I was afraid she might be ill,' said Silverbridge, who was now
hardly anxious to hide his admiration.
'Oh, no;--nothing of that sort, but she will not be able to play
again today. It was your fault. You should not have made her dance
last night.' After that Mrs Jones said a word about it all to
Lady Mabel. 'I hope the Duke will not be angry with me.'
'Why should he be angry with you?'
'I don't suppose he will approve of it, and perhaps he'll say I
brought them together on purpose.'
Soon afterwards Mabel asked Silverbridge to walk with her to the
waterfall. She had worked herself into such a state of mind that
she hardly knew what to do, what to wish, or how to act. At one
moment she would tell herself that it was better in every respect
that she should cease to think of being the Duchess of Omnium. It
was not fit that she should think of it. She herself cared but
little for the young man, and he,--she would now tell herself,--now
appeared to care as little for her. And yet to be Duchess of
Omnium! But was it not clear that he was absolutely in love with
this other girl? She had played her cards so badly that the game
was now beyond her powers. Then other thoughts would come. Was it
beyond her powers? Had he not told her in London that he loved
her? Had he not given her the ring which she well knew he valued?
Ah;--if she could but have been aware of all that had passed
between Silverbridge and the Duke, how different would have been
her feelings! And then would it be not so much better for him
that he should marry her, one of his own class, than this American
girl, of whom nobody knew anything? And then,--to be the daughter
of the Duke of Omnium, to be the future Duchess, to escape from
all the cares which her father's vices and follies had brought
upon her, to have to come an end all of her troubles! Would it not
She had made her mind up to nothing when she asked him to walk up
to the waterfall. There was present to her only the glimmer of an
idea that she ought to caution him not to play with the American
girl's feelings. She knew herself to be aware that when the time
for her own action came her feminine feelings would get the better
of her purpose. She could not craftily bring him to the necessity
of bestowing himself upon her. Had that been within the compass of
her powers, opportunities had not been lacking to her. On such
occasions she had always 'spared him'. And should the opportunity
come again, again she would spare him. But she might perhaps do
some good,--not to herself, that was now out of the question,--but
to him by showing him how wrong he was in trifling with this
And so they started for their walk. He of course would have
avoided it had it been possible. When men in such matters have two
strings to their bow, much inconvenience is felt when the two
become entangled. Silverbridge no doubt had come over to
Killancodlem for the sake of making love to Mabel Grex, and
instead of doing so, he had made love to Isabel Boncassen. And
during the wakes of the night, and as he had dressed himself in
the morning, and while Mrs Jones had been whispering to him her
little bulletin as to the state of the young lady's health, he had
not repented himself of the change. Mabel had been, he thought, so
little gracious to him that he would have given up that notion
earlier, but for his indiscreet declaration to his father. On the
other hand, making love to Isabel Boncassen seemed to him to
possess some divine afflatus of joy which made it of all
imaginable occupations the sweetest and most charming. She had
admitted of no embrace. Indeed he had attempted none unless that
touch of the hand might be so called, from which she had
immediately withdrawn. Her conduct had been such that he had felt
it to be incumbent on him, at the very moment, to justify the
touch by a declaration of love. Then she had told him that she
would not promise to love him in return. And yet it had been so
sweet, so heavenly sweet!
During the morning he had almost forgotten Mabel. When Mrs Jones
told him that Isabel would keep her room, he longed to ask for
leave to go and make some inquiry at the door. She would not play
lawn-tennis with him. Well;--he did not now care much for that.
After what he had said to her she must at any rate give him some
answer. She had been so gracious to him that his hopes ran very
high. It never occurred to him to fancy that she might be gracious
to him because he was heir to the Dukedom of Omnium. She herself
was so infinitely superior to all wealth, to all rank, to all
sublunary arrangements, conventions, and considerations, that
there was no room for confidence of that nature. But he was
confident because he smile had been sweet, her eyes bright,--and
because he was conscious, though unconsciously conscious of
something of the sympathy of love.
But he had to go to the waterfall with Mabel. Lady Mabel was
always dressed perfectly,--having great gifts of her own in that
direction. There was a freshness about her which made her morning
costume more charming than that of evening, and never did she look
so well as when arrayed for a walk. On this occasion she had
certainly done her best. But he, poor blind idiot, saw nothing of
this. The white gauzy fabric which had covered Isabel's satin
petticoat on the previous evening still filled his eyes. Those
perfect boots, the little glimpses of party-coloured stockings
above them, the looped-up skirt, the jacket fitting but never
binding that lovely body and waist, the jaunty hat with its small
fresh feathers, all were nothing to him. Nor was the bright honest
face beneath the hat anything to him now;--for it was an honest
face, though misfortunes which had come had somewhat marred the
honesty of the heart.
At first the conversation was about indifferent things,--
Killancodlem and Mrs Jones, Crummie-Toddie and Reginald Dobbs.
They had gone along the high-road as far as the post-office, and
had turned through the wood and reached a seat whence there was a
beautiful view down upon the Archay before a word was said
affecting either Miss Boncassen or the ring. 'You got the ring
safe,' she said.
'How could you be so foolish as to risk it?'
'I did not regard it as mine. You had accepted it,--I thought.'
'But if I had, and then repented of my fault in doing so, should
you not have been willing to help me in setting myself right with
myself? Of course after what had passed, it was a trouble to me
when it came. what was I to do? for a day or two I thought I would
take it, not as liking to take it, but as getting rid of the
trouble in that way. Then I remembered its value, its history, the
fact that all who knew you would want to know what had become of
it,--and I felt that it should be given back. There is only one
person to whom we must give it.'
'Who is that?' he said quickly.
'Your wife;--or to her who is to become your wife. No other woman
can be justified in accepting such a present.'
'There has been a great deal more said about it than it's worth,'
said he, not anxious at the present moment to discuss any
matrimonial projects with her. 'Shall we go to the Fall?' Then
she got up and led the way till they came to the little bridge
from which they could see the Falls of the Codlem below them. 'I
call that very pretty,' he said.
'I thought you would like it.'
'I never saw anything of that kind more jolly. Do you care for
'Very much. I know no pleasure equal to it. You have never seen
'Is it like this?'
'Not in the least. It is wilder than this, and there are not so
many trees; but to my eye it is very beautiful. I wish you had
'Perhaps I may some day.'
'That is not likely now,' she said. 'The house is in ruins. If I
had just money enough to keep it for myself, I think I could live
alone there and be happy.'
'You;--alone. Of course you mean to marry?'
'Mean to marry! Do persons marry because they mean it? With
nineteen men out of twenty the idea of marrying them would convey
the idea of hating them. No doubt you do mean it.'
'I suppose I shall,--some day. How very well the house looks from
here.' It was incumbent upon him at the present moment to turn
But when she had a project in her head it was not easy to turn her
away. 'Yes indeed,' she said, 'very well. But as I was saying,--you
can mean to marry.'
'Anybody can mean it.'
'But you can carry out a purpose. What are you thinking of doing
'Upon my honour, Mabel, that is unfair.'
'Are we not friends?'
'I think so.'
'I hope so.'
'Then may I not tell you what I think? If you do not mean to marry
that American young lady you should not raise false hopes.'
'False hopes!' He had hopes, but he had never thought that Isabel
could have any.
'False hopes;--certainly. Do you not know that everyone was looking
at you last night?'
'And that old woman is going about talking of it as her doing,
pretending to be afraid of your father, whereas nothing would
please her better than to humble a family so high as yours.'
'Humble!' exclaimed Lord Silverbridge.
'Do you think your father would like it? Would you think that
another man would be doing well for himself by marrying Miss
'I do,' said he energetically.
'Then you must be very much in love with her.'
'I say nothing about that.'
'If you are so much in love with her that you mean to face the
displeasure of your friends--'
'I do not say what I mean. I could talk more freely to you than to
anyone else, but I won't talk about that even to you. As regards
Miss Boncassen, I think that any man might marry her, without
discredit. I won't have it said that she can be inferior to me,--or
There was a steady manliness in this which took Lady Mabel by
surprise. She was convinced that he intended to offer his hand to
the girl, and now was actuated chiefly by a feeling that his doing
so would be an outrage to all English propriety. If a word might
have an effect it would be her duty to speak the word. 'I think
you are wrong there, Lord Silverbridge.'
'I am sure I am right.'
'What have you yourself felt about your sister and Mr Tregear?'
'It is altogether different;--altogether. Frank's wife will be
simply his wife. Mine, should I outlive my father, will be the
Duchess of Omnium.'
'But your father? I have heard you speak with bitter regret of
this affair of Lady Mary's because it vexes him. Would your
marriage with an American lady vex him less?'
'Why should it vex him at all? Is she vulgar, or ill to look at,
'Think of her mother.'
'I am not going to marry her mother. Or for that matter am I going
to marry her. You are taking all that for granted in most unfair
'How can I help it after what I saw yesterday?'
'I will not talk any more about it. We had better go down or we
shall get no lunch.' Lady Mabel, as she followed him, tried to
make herself believe that all her sorrow came from regret that so
fine a scion of the British nobility should throw himself away
upon an American adventuress.
The guests were still at lunch when they entered the dining-room,
and Isabel was seated close to Mrs Jones. Silverbridge at once
went up to her,--and place was made for him as though he had almost
a right to be next to her. Miss Boncassen herself bore the honours
well, seeming to regard the little change at table as though it
was of no moment. 'I became so eager about that game,' she said,
'that I went on too long.'
'I hope you are now none the worse.'
'At six o'clock this morning I thought I should never use my legs
'Were you awake at six?' said Silverbridge, with pitying voice.
'That was it. I could not sleep. Now I begin to hope that sooner
or later I shall unstiffen.'
During every moment, at every word that he uttered, he was
thinking of the declaration of love which he had made to her. But
it seemed to him as though the matter had not dwelt on her mind.
When they drew their chairs away from the table he thought that
not a moment was to be lost before some further explanation of
their feelings for each other should be made. Was not the matter
which had been so far discussed of vital importance for both of
them? And, glorious as she was above all other women, the offer
which he had made must have some weight with her. He did not think
that he proposed to give more than she deserved, but still that
which he was so willing to give was not a little. Or was it
possible that she had not understood his meaning? If so, he would
not willingly lose a moment before he made it plain to her. But
she seemed content to hang about with the other women, and when
she sauntered about the grounds seated herself on a garden-chair
with Lady Mabel, and discussed with great eloquence the general
beauty of Scottish scenery. An hour went on in this way. Could it
be that she knew that he had offered to make her his wife? During
this time he went and returned more than once, but still she was
there, on the same garden-seat, talking to those who came in her
Then on a sudden she got up and put her hand on his arm. 'Come and
take a turn with me,' she said. 'Lord Silverbridge, do you
remember anything of last night?'
'I thought for a while this morning that I would let it all pass
as though it had been a mere trifling!'
'It would have wanted two to let it pass in that way,' he said,
On hearing this she looked up at him, and there came over her face
that brilliant smile, which to him was perhaps the most potent of
her spells. 'What do you mean by wanting two?'
'I must have voice in it as well as you.'
'And what is your voice?'
'My voice is this. I told you last night that I loved you. This
morning I ask you to be my wife.'
'It is a very clear voice,' she said,--almost in a whisper; but in
a tone so serious that it startled him.
'It ought to be clear,' he said doggedly.
'Do you think I don't know that? Do you think that if I liked you
well last night I don't like you better now?'
'But do you like me?'
'That is just the thing I am going to say nothing about.'
'Just the one thing I will not allude to. Now you must listen to
'I know a great deal about you. We Americans are an inquiring
people, and I have found out pretty much everything.' His mind
misgave him as he felt she had ascertained his former purpose
respecting Mabel. 'You,' she said, 'among young men in England are
about the foremost, and therefore,--as I think,--about the foremost
in the world. And you have all personal gifts;--youth and spirits--
Well, I will not go on and name the others. You are, no doubt,
supposed to be entitled to the best and sweetest of God's feminine
'You are she.'
'Whether you be entitled to me or not I cannot yet say. Now I will
tell you something of myself. My father's father came to New York
as a labourer from Holland, and worked upon the quays in that
city. Then he built houses, and became rich, and was almost a
miser;--with the good sense, however, to educate his only son. What
my father is you see. To me he is sterling gold, but he is not
like your people. My dear mother is not at all like your ladies.
She is not a lady in your sense,--though with her unselfish
devotion to others she is something infinitely better. For myself
I am,--well, meaning to speak honestly, I will call myself pretty
and smart. I think I know how to be true.'
'I am sure you do.'
'But what right have you to suppose I shall know how to be a
'I am sure you will.'
'Now listen to me. Go to your friends and ask them. Ask that Lady
Mabel;--ask your father,--ask that Lady Cantrip. And above all, ask
yourself. And allow me to require you to take three months to do
this. Do not come to see me for three months.'
'What may happen then I cannot tell, for I want three months also
to think of it myself. Till then, good-bye.' She gave him her
hand and left it in his for a few seconds. He tried to draw her to
him, but she resisted him, still smiling. Then she left him.
It was custom with Mrs Finn almost every autumn to go off to
Vienna, where she possessed considerable property, and there to
inspect the circumstances of her estate. Sometimes her husband
would accompany her, and he did so in this year of which we are
now speaking. One morning in September they were together at an
hotel at Ischi, whither they had come from Vienna, when as they
went through the hall into the courtyard, they came, in the very
doorway, upon the Duke of Omnium and his daughter. The Duke and
Lady Mary had just arrived, having passed through the mountains
from the salt-mine district, and were about to take up their
residence in the hotel for a few days. They had travelled very
slowly, for Lady Mary had been ill, and the Duke had expressed his
determination to see a doctor at Ischi.
There is no greater mistake than in supposing that only the young
blush. But the blushes of middle-life are luckily not seen through
the tan which has come from the sun and the gas and the work and
wiles of the world. Both the Duke and Phineas blushed; and though
their blushes were hidden, that peculiar glance of the eye which
always accompanies a blush was visible enough from the one to the
other. The elder lady kept her countenance admirably, and the
younger one had no occasion for blushing. She at once ran forward
and kissed her friend. The Duke stood with his hat off waiting to
give his hand to the lady, and then took that of his late
colleague. 'How odd that we should meet here,' he said, turning to
'Odd enough to us that your Grace should be here,' she said,
'because we had heard nothing of your intended coming.'
'It is so nice to find you,' said Lady Mary. 'We are this moment
come. Don't say that you are this moment going.'
'At this moment we are only going as far as Halstadt.'
'And are coming back to dinner? Of course they will dine with us.
Will they not, papa?' The Duke said that he hoped they would. To
declare that you are engaged at an hotel, unless there be some
real engagement is almost an impossibility. There was no escape,
and before they were allowed to get into their carriage they had
promised that they would dine with the Duke and his daughter.
'I don't know that it is especially a bore,' Mrs Finn said to her
husband in the carriage. 'You may be quite sure that of whatever
trouble there may be in it, he has much more than his share.'
'His share would be the whole,' said the husband. 'No one else has
done anything wrong.'
When the Duke's apology had reached her, so that there was no
longer any ground for absolute hostility, then she had told the
whole story to her husband. He at first was very indignant. What
right had the Duke to expect that any ordinary friend should act
duenna over his daughter in accordance with his caprices? This was
said and much more of this kind. But any humour towards
quarrelling which Phineas Finn might have felt for a day or so was
quieted by his wife's prudence. 'A man,' she said, 'can do no more
than apologise. After that there is not room for reproach.'
At dinner the conversation turned at first on British politics, in
which Mrs Finn was quite able to take her part. Phineas was
decidedly of the opinion that Sir Timothy Beeswax and Lord
Drummond could not live another session. And on this subject a
good deal was said. Later in the evening the Duke found himself
sitting with Mrs Finn in the broad verandah over the hotel garden,
while Lady Mary was playing to Phineas within. 'How do you think
she is looking?' asked the father.
'Of course I see that she has been ill. She tells me that she was
far from well at Salzburg.'
'Yes;--indeed for three or four days she frightened me much. She
suffered terribly from headaches.'
'So they said there. I feel quite angry with myself because I did
not bring a doctor with us. The trouble and ceremony of such an
accompaniment is no doubt disagreeable.'
'And I suppose seemed when you started to be unnecessary.'
'Does she complain again now?'
'She did today;--a little.'
The next morning Lady Mary could not leave her bed, and the Duke
in his sorrow was obliged to apply to Mrs Finn. After what had
passed on the previous day Mrs Finn of course called, and was
shown at once up to her young friend's room. There she found the
girl in great pain, lying with her two thin hands up to her head,
and hardly able to utter more than a word. Shortly after that Mrs
Finn was alone with the Duke, and then there took place a
conversation between them which the lady thought to be very
'Had I better send for a doctor from England?' he asked. In answer
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