The Golden Calf
M. E. Braddon
Part 1 out of 9
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Mary Meehan and Distributed Proofreaders
THE GOLDEN CALF
BY M.E. BRADDON
'LADY AUDLEY'S SECRET,' 'AURORA FLOYD,'
'VIXEN,' 'ISHMAEL,' ETC., ETC.
[Illustration: "Ida stood with clasped hands, and lips moving dumbly in
I. THE ARTICLED PUPIL
II. 'I AM GOING TO MARRY FOR MONEY'
III. AT THE KNOLL
IV. WENDOVER ABBEY
V. DR. RYLANCE ASSERTS HIMSELF
VI. A BIRTHDAY FEAST
VII. IN THE RIVER-MEADOW
VIII. AT THE LOCK-HOUSE
IX. A SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT
X. A BAD PENNY
XI. ACCOMPLISHMENTS AT A DISCOUNT
XII. THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES
XIII. KINGTHORPE SOCIETY
XIV. THE TRUE KNIGHT
XV. MR. WENDOVER PLANS AN EXCURSION
XVI. THICKER THAN WATER
XVII. OUGHT SHE TO STAY?
XVIII. AFTER A STORM COMES A CALM
XIX. AFTER A CALM A STORM
XX. WAS THIS THE MOTIVE?
XXI. TAKING LIFE QUIETLY
XXII. LADY PALLISER STUDIES THE UPPER TEN
XXIII. 'ALL OUR LIFE is MIXED WITH DEATH'
XXIV. 'FRUITS FAIL AND LOVE DIES AND TIME RANGES'
XXV. 'MY SEED WAS YOUTH, MY CROP WAS ENDLESS CARE'
XXVI. 'AND, IF I DIE, NO SOUL WILL PITY ME'
XXVII. JOHN JARDINE SOLVES THE MYSTERY
XXVIII. AN ENGLISHMAN'S HOUSE IS HIS CASTLE
XXIX. 'AS ONE DEAD IN THE BOTTOM OF A TOMB'
XXX. A FIERY DAWN
XXXI. 'SOLE PARTNER AND SOLE PART OF ALL THESE JOYS'
THE GOLDEN CALF
THE ARTICLED PUPIL.
'Where is Miss Palliser?' inquired Miss Pew, in that awful voice of hers,
at which the class-room trembled, as at unexpected thunder. A murmur ran
along the desks, from girl to girl, and then some one, near that end of
the long room which was sacred to Miss Pew and her lieutenants, said that
Miss Palliser was not in the class-room.
'I think she is taking her music lesson, ma'am,' faltered the girl who
had ventured diffidently to impart this information to the
'Think?' exclaimed Miss Pew, in her stentorian voice. 'How can you think
about an absolute fact? Either she is taking her lesson, or she is not
taking her lesson. There is no room for thought. Let Miss Palliser be
sent for this moment.'
At this command, as at the behest of the Homeric Jove himself, half a
dozen Irises started up to carry the ruler's message; but again Miss
Pew's mighty tones resounded in the echoing class-room.
'I don't want twenty girls to carry one message. Let Miss Rylance go.'
There was a grim smile on the principal's coarsely-featured countenance
as she gave this order. Miss Rylance was not one of the six who had
started up to do the schoolmistress's bidding. She was a young lady who
considered her mission in life anything rather than to carry a message--a
young lady who thought herself quite the most refined and elegant thing
at Mauleverer Manor, and so entirely superior to her surroundings as to
be absolved from the necessity of being obliging. But Miss Pew's voice,
when fortified by anger, was too much even for Miss Rylance's calm sense
of her own merits, and she rose at the lady's bidding, laid down her
ivory penholder on the neatly written exercise, and walked out of the
room quietly, with the slow and stately deportment imparted by a long
course of instruction from Madame Rigolette, the fashionable
'Rylance won't much like being sent on a message,' whispered Miss
Cobb, the Kentish brewer's daughter, to Miss Mullins, the Northampton
'And old Pew delights in taking her down a peg,' said Miss Cobb, who was
short, plump, and ruddy, a picture of rude health and unrefined good
looks--a girl who bore 'beer' written in unmistakable characters across
her forehead, Miss Rylance had observed to her own particular circle. 'I
will say that for the old lady,' added Miss Cobb, 'she never cottons to
Vulgarity of speech is the peculiar delight of a schoolgirl off duty. She
spends so much of her life under the all-pervading eye of authority, she
is so drilled, and lectured, and ruled and regulated, that, when the eye
of authority is off her, she seems naturally to degenerate into licence.
No speech so interwoven with slang as the speech of a schoolgirl--except
that of a schoolboy.
There came a sudden hush upon the class-room after Miss Rylance had
departed on her errand. It was a sultry afternoon in late June, and the
four rows of girls seated at the two long desks in the long bare room,
with its four tall windows facing a hot blue sky, felt almost as
exhausted by the heat as if they had been placed under an air-pump. Miss
Pew had a horror of draughts, so the upper sashes were only lowered a
couple of inches, to let out the used atmosphere. There was no chance of
a gentle west wind blowing in to ruffle the loose hair upon the foreheads
of those weary students.
Thursday afternoons were devoted to the study of German. The sandy-haired
young woman at the end of the room furthest from Miss Pew's throne was
Fraeulein Wolf, from Frankfort, and it was Fraeulein Wolf's mission to go
on eternally explaining the difficulties of her native language to the
pupils at Mauleverer Manor, and to correct those interesting exercises of
Ollendorff's which ascend from the primitive simplicity of golden
candlesticks and bakers' dogs, to the loftiest themes in romantic
For five minutes there was no sound save the scratching of pens, and the
placid voice of the Fraeulein demonstrating to Miss Mullins that in an
exercise of twenty lines, ten words out of every twenty were wrong, and
then the door was opened suddenly--not at all in the manner so carefully
instilled by the teacher of deportment. It was flung back, rather, as if
with an angry hand, and a young woman, taller than the generality of her
sex, walked quickly up the room to Miss Pew's desk, and stood before that
bar of justice, with head erect, and dark flashing eyes, the incarnation
_'Was fuer ein Maedchen.'_ muttered the Fraeulein, blinking at that distant
figure, with her pale gray-green eyes.
Miss Pew pretended not to see the challenge in the girl's angry eyes. She
turned to her subordinate, Miss Pillby, the useful drudge who did a
little indifferent teaching in English grammar and geography, looked
after the younger girls' wardrobes, and toadied the mistress of the
'Miss Pillby, will you be kind enough to show Ida Palliser the state of
her desk?' asked Miss Pew, with awe-inspiring politeness.
'She needn't do anything of the kind, 'said Ida coolly. 'I know the state
of my desk quite as well as she does. I daresay it's untidy. I haven't
had time to put things straight.'
'Untidy!' exclaimed Miss Pew, in her appalling baritone; 'untidy is not
the word. It's degrading. Miss Pillby, be good enough to call over the
various articles which you have found in Ida Palliser's desk.'
Miss Pillby rose to do her employer's bidding. She was a dull piece of
human machinery to which the idea of resistance to authority was
impossible. There was no dirty work she would not have done meekly,
willingly even, at Miss Pew's bidding. The girls were never tired of
expatiating upon Miss Pillby's meanness; but the lady herself did not
even know that she was mean. She had been born so.
She went to the locker, lifted the wooden lid, and proceeded in a flat,
drawling voice to call over the items which she found in that receptacle.
'A novel, "The Children of the Abbey," without a cover.'
'Ah!' sighed Miss Pew.
'One stocking with a rusty darning-needle sticking in it. Five apples,
two mouldy. A square of hardbake. An old neck-ribbon. An odd cuff. Seven
letters. A knife, with the blade broken. A bundle of pen-and-ink--well, I
suppose they are meant for sketches.'
'Hand them over to me,' commanded Miss Pew.
She had seen some of Ida Palliser's pen-and-ink sketches before
to-day--had seen herself represented in every ridiculous guise and
attitude by that young person's facile pen. Her large cheeks reddened in
anticipation of her pupil's insolence. She took the sheaf of crumpled
paper and thrust it hastily into her pocket.
A ripple of laughter swept over Miss Palliser's resolute face; but she
said not a word.
'Half a New Testament--the margins shamefully scribbled over,' pursued
Miss Pillby, with implacable monotony. 'Three Brazil nuts. A piece of
slate-pencil. The photograph of a little boy--'
'My brother,' cried Ida hastily. 'I hope you are not going to confiscate
that, Miss Pew, as you have confiscated my sketches.'
'It would be no more than you deserve if I were to burn everything in
your locker, Miss Palliser,' said the schoolmistress.
'Burn everything except my brother's portrait. I might never get another.
Papa is so thoughtless. Oh, please, Miss Pillby, give me back the photo.'
'Give her the photograph,' said Miss Pew, who was not all inhuman,
although she kept a school, a hardening process which is supposed to
deaden the instincts of womanhood. 'And now, pray, Miss Palliser, what
excuse have you to offer for your untidiness?'
'None,' said Ida, 'except that I have no time to be tidy. You can't
expect tidiness from a drudge like me.'
And with this cool retort Miss Palliser turned her back upon her mistress
and left the room.
'Did you ever see such cheek?' murmured the irrepressible Miss Cobb to
'She can afford to be cheeky,' retorted the neighbour. 'She has nothing
to lose. Old Pew couldn't possibly treat her any worse than she does. If
she did, it would be a police case.'
When Ida Palliser was in the little lobby outside the class room, she
took the little boy's photograph from her pocket, and kissed it
passionately. Then she ran upstairs to a small room on the landing, where
there was nothing but emptiness and a worn-out old square piano, and sat
down for her hour's practice. She was always told off to the worst pianos
in the house. She took out a book of five-finger exercises, by a Leipsic
professor, placed it on the desk, and then, just as she was beginning to
play, her whole frame was shaken like a bulrush in a sudden gust of wind;
she let her head fall forward on the desk, and burst into tears, hot,
passionate tears, that came like a flood, in spite of her determination
not to cry.
What was the matter with Ida Palliser? Not much, perhaps. Only poverty,
and poverty's natural corollary, a lack of friends. She was the
handsomest girl in the school, and one of the cleverest--clever in an
exceptional way, which claimed admiration even from the coldest. She
occupied the anomalous position of a pupil teacher, or an articled pupil.
Her father, a military man, living abroad on his half pay, with a young
second wife, and a five-year old son, had paid Miss Pew a lump sum of
fifty pounds, and for those fifty pounds Miss Pew had agreed to maintain
and educate Ida Palliser during the space of three years, to give her the
benefit of instruction from the masters who attended the school, and to
befit her for the brilliant and lucrative career of governess in a
gentleman's family. As a set-off against these advantages, Miss Pew had
full liberty to exact what services she pleased from Miss Palliser,
stopping short, as Miss Green had suggested, of a police case.
Miss Pew had not shown herself narrow in her ideas of the articled
pupil's capacity. It was her theory that no amount of intellectual
labour, including some manual duties in the way of assisting in the
lavatory on tub-nights, washing hair-brushes, and mending clothes, could
be too much for a healthy young woman of nineteen. She always talked of
Ida as a young woman. The other pupils of the same age she called girls;
but of Ida she spoke uncompromisingly as a 'young woman.'
'Oh, how I hate them all!' said Ida, in the midst of her sobs. 'I hate
everybody, myself most of all!'
Then she pulled herself together with an effort, dried her tears
hurriedly, and began her five-finger exercises, _tum, tum, tum,_ with the
little finger, all the other fingers pinned resolutely down upon the
'I wonder whether, if I had been ugly and stupid, they would have been a
little more merciful to me?' she said to herself.
Miss Palliser's ability had been a disadvantage to her at Mauleverer
Manor. When Miss Pew discovered that the girl had a knack of teaching she
enlarged her sphere of tuition, and from taking the lowest class only, as
former articled pupils had done, Miss Palliser was allowed to preside
over the second and third classes, and thereby saved her employers forty
pounds a year.
To teach two classes, each consisting of from fifteen to twenty girls,
was in itself no trifling labour. But besides this Ida had to give music
lessons to that lowest class which she had ceased to instruct in English
and French, and whose studies were now conducted by Miss Pillby. She had
her own studies, and she was eager to improve herself, for that career of
governess in a gentleman's family was the only future open to her. She
used to read the advertisements in the governess column of the _Times_
supplement, and it comforted her to see that an all-accomplished teacher
demanded from eighty to a hundred a year for her services. A hundred a
year was Ida's idea of illimitable wealth. How much she might do with
such a sum! She could dress herself handsomely, she could save enough
money for a summer holiday in Normandy with her neglectful father and her
weak little vulgar step-mother, and the half-brother, whom she loved
better than anyone else in the world.
The thought of this avenue to fortune gave her fortitude. She braced
herself up, and set herself valourously to unriddle the perplexities of a
nocturne by Chopin.
'After all I have only to work on steadily,' she told herself; 'there
will come an end to my slavery.'
Presently she began to laugh to herself softly:
'I wonder whether old Pew has looked at my caricatures,' she thought,
'and whether she'll treat me any worse on account of them?'
She finished her hour's practice, put her music back into her portfolio,
which lived in an ancient canterbury under the ancient piano, and went to
the room where she slept, in company with seven other spirits, as
mischievous and altogether evilly disposed as her own.
Mauleverer Manor had not been built for a school, or it would hardly have
been called a manor. There were none of those bleak, bare dormitories,
specially planned for the accommodation of thirty sleepers--none of those
barrack-like rooms which strike desolation to the soul. With the
exception of the large classroom which had been added at one end of the
house, the manor was very much as it had been in the days of the
Mauleverers, a race now as extinct as the Dodo. It was a roomy, rambling
old house of the time of the Stuarts, and bore the date of its erection
in many unmistakable peculiarities. There were fine rooms on the ground
floor, with handsome chimney-pieces and oak panelling. There were small
low rooms above, curious old passages, turns and twists, a short flight
of steps here, and another flight there, various levels, irregularities
of all kinds, and, in the opinion of every servant who had ever lived in
the house, an unimpeachable ghost. All Miss Pew's young ladies believed
firmly in that ghost; and there was a legend of a frizzy-haired girl
from Barbados who had seen the ghost, and had incontinently gone out
of one epileptic fit into another, until her father had come in a
fly--presumably from Barbados--and carried her away for ever, epileptic
to the last.
Nobody at present located at Mauleverer Manor remembered that young lady
from Barbados, nor had any of the existing pupils ever seen the ghost.
But the general faith in him was unshaken. He was described as an elderly
man in a snuff-coloured, square-cut coat, knee-breeches, and silk
stockings rolled up over his knees. He was supposed to be one of the
extinct Mauleverers; harmless and even benevolently disposed; given
to plucking flowers in the garden at dusk; and to gliding along
passages, and loitering on the stairs in a somewhat inane manner. The
bolder-spirited among the girls would have given a twelve-month's
pocket money to see him. Miss Pillby declared that the sight of that
snuff-coloured stranger would be her death.
'I've a weak 'art, you know,' said Miss Pillby, who was not mistress
of her aspirates,--she managed them sometimes, but they often evaded
her,--'the doctor said so when I was quite a little thing.'
'Were you ever a little thing, Pillby?' asked Miss Rylance with superb
disdain, the present Pillby being long and gaunt.
And the group of listeners laughed, with that frank laughter of school
girls keenly alive to the ridiculous in other people. There was as much
difference in the standing of the various bedrooms at Mauleverer Manor as
in that of the London squares, but in this case it was the inhabitants
who gave character to the locality. The five-bedded room off the front
landing was occupied by the stiffest and best behaved of the first
division, and might be ranked with Grosvenor Square or Lancaster Gate.
There were rooms on the second floor where girls of the second and third
division herded in inelegant obscurity, the Bloomsbury and Camden Town
of the mansion. On this story, too, slept the rabble of girls under
twelve--creatures utterly despicable in the minds of girls in their
teens, and the rooms they inhabited ranked as low as St. Giles's.
Ida Palliser was fortunate enough to have a bed in the butterfly-room, so
called on account of a gaudy wall paper, whereon Camberwell Beauties
disported themselves among roses and lilies in a strictly conventional
style of art. The butterfly-room was the most fashionable and altogether
popular dormitory at the Manor. It was the May Fair--a district not
without a shade of Bohemianism, a certain fastness of tone. The wildest
girls in the school were to be found in the butterfly-room.
It was a pleasant enough room in itself, even apart from its association
with pleasant people. The bow window looked out upon the garden and
across the garden to the Thames, which at this point took a wide curve
between banks shaded by old pollard willows. The landscape was purely
pastoral. Beyond the level meadows came an undulating line of low hill
and woodland, with here and there a village spire dark against the blue.
Mauleverer Manor lay midway between Hampton and Chertsey, in a land of
meadows and gardens which the speculating builder had not yet invaded.
The butterfly-room was furnished a little better than the common run of
boarding-school bedchambers. Miss Pew had taken a good deal of the
Mauleverer furniture at a valuation when she bought the old house; and
the Mauleverer furniture being of a _rococo_ and exploded style, the
valuation had been ridiculously low. Thus it happened that a big wainscot
wardrobe, with doors substantial enough for a church, projected its
enormous bulk upon one side of the butterfly-room, while a tall narrow
cheval glass stood in front of a window. That cheval was the glory of the
butterfly-room. The girls could see how their skirts hung, and if the
backs of their dresses fitted. On Sunday mornings there used to be an
incursion of outsiders, eager to test the effect of their Sabbath
bonnets, and the sets of their jackets, by the cheval.
And now Ida Palliser came into the butterfly-room, yawning wearily, to
brush herself up a little before tea, knowing that Miss Pew and her
younger sister, Miss Dulcibella--who devoted herself to dress and the
amenities of life generally--would scrutinize her with eyes only too
ready to see anything amiss.
The butterfly-room was not empty. Miss Rylance was plaiting her long
flaxen hair in front of the toilet table, and another girl, a plump
little sixteen-year-old, with nut-brown hair, and a fresh complexion, was
advancing and retiring before the cheval, studying the effect of a
cherry-coloured neck-ribbon with a gray gown.
'Cherry's a lovely colour in the abstract,' said this damsel, 'but it
reminds one too dreadfully of barmaids.'
'Did you ever see a barmaid?' asked Miss Rylance, languidly, slowly
winding the long flaxen plait into a shining knob at the back of her
head, and contemplating her reflection placidly with large calm blue eyes
which saw no fault in the face they belonged to.
With features so correctly modelled, and a complexion so delicately
tinted, Miss Rylance ought to have been lovely. But she had escaped
loveliness by a long way. There was something wanting, and that something
was very big.
'Good gracious, yes; I've seen dozens of barmaids,' answered Bessie
Wendover, with her frank voice. 'Do you suppose I've never been into an
hotel, or even into a tavern? When I go for a long drive with papa he
generally wants brandy and soda, and that's how I get taken into the bar
and introduced to the barmaid.'
'When you say introduced, of course you don't mean it,' said Miss
Rylance, fastening her brooch. 'Calling things by their wrong names is
your idea of wit.'
'I would rather have a mistaken idea of wit than none at all,' retorted
Miss Wendover, and then she pirouetted on the tips of her toes, and
surveyed her image in the glass from head to foot, with an aggravated
air. 'I hope I'm not vulgar-looking, but I'm rather afraid I am,' she
said. 'What's the good of belonging to an old Saxon family if one has a
thick waist and large hands?'
'What's the good of anything at Mauleverer Manor?' asked Ida, coming into
the room, and seating herself on the ground with a dejected air.
Bessie Wendover ran across the room and sat down beside her.
'So you were in for it again this afternoon, you poor dear thing,' she
murmured, in a cooing voice. 'I wish I had been there. It would have been
"Up, guards, and at 'em!" if I had. I'm sure I should have said something
cheeky to old Pew. The idea of overhauling your locker! I should just
like her to see the inside of mine. It would make her blood run cold.'
'Ah!' sighed Ida, 'she can't afford to make an example of you. You mean a
hundred and fifty pounds a year. I am of no more account in her eyes than
an artist's lay figure, which is put away in a dark closet when it isn't
in use. She wanted to give you girls a lesson in tidiness, so she put me
into her pillory. Fortunately I'm used to the pillory.'
'But you are looking white and worried, you dear lovely thing,' exclaimed
Bessie, who was Ida Palliser's bosom friend. 'It's too bad the way they
use you. Have this neck-ribbon,' suddenly untying the bow so carefully
elaborated five minutes ago. 'You must, you shall; I don't want it; I
hate it. Do, dear.'
And for consolation Miss Wendover tied the cherry-coloured ribbon under
her friend's collar, patted Ida's pale cheeks, and kissed and hugged her.
'Be happy, darling, do,' she said, in her loving half-childish way, while
Miss Rylance looked on with ineffable contempt. 'You are so clever and so
beautiful; you were born to be happy.'
'Do you think so, pet?' asked Ida, with cold scorn; 'then I ought to have
been born with a little more money.'
'What does money matter?' cried Bessie.
'Not very much to a girl like you, who has never known the want of it.'
'That's not true, darling. I never go home for the holidays that I don't
hear father grumble about his poverty. The rents are so slow to come in;
the tenants are always wanting drain-pipes and barns and things. Last
Christmas his howls were awful. We are positive paupers. Mother has to
wait ages for a cheque.'
'Ah, my pet, that's a very different kind of poverty from mine. You have
never known what it is to have only three pairs of wearable stockings.'
Bessie looked as if she were going to cry.
'If you were not so disgustingly proud, you horrid thing, you need never
feel the want of stockings,' she said discontentedly.
'If it were not for what you call my disgusting pride, I should
degenerate into that loathsome animal a sponge,' said Ida, rising
suddenly from her dejected attitude, and standing up before her admiring
'A daughter of the gods, divinely tall And most divinely fair.'
That fatal dower of beauty had been given to Ida Palliser in fullest
measure. She had the form of a goddess, a head proudly set upon shoulders
that were sloping but not narrow, the walk of a Moorish girl, accustomed
to carrying a water-jug on her head, eyes dark as night, hair of a deep
warm brown rippling naturally across her broad forehead, a complexion
of creamiest white and richest carnation. These were but the sensual
parts of beauty which can be catalogued. But it was in the glorious
light and variety of expression that Ida shone above all compeers. It
was by the intellectual part of her beauty that she commanded the
admiration--enthusiastic in some cases, in others grudging and
unwilling--of her schoolfellows, and reigned by right divine, despite her
shabby gowns and her cheap ready-made boots, the belle of the school.
'I AM GOING TO MARRY FOR MONEY.'
When a schoolgirl of sixteen falls in love with one of her schoolfellows
there are no limits to her devotion. Bessie Wendover's adoration of Miss
Palliser was boundless. Ida's seniority of three years, her beauty, her
talent, placed her, as it were, upon a pinnacle in the eyes of the
younger girl. Her poverty, her inferior position in the school, only made
her more interesting to the warm-hearted Bessie, who passionately
resented any slight offered to her friend. It was in vain that Miss
Rylance took Bessie to task, and demonstrated the absurdity of this
childish fancy for a young person whose future sphere of life must be
necessarily remote from that of a Hampshire squire's daughter. Bessie
despised this worldly wisdom.
'What is the use of attaching yourself to a girl whom you are never
likely to see after you leave school?' argued Miss Rylance.
'I shall see her. I shall ask her home,' said Bessie, sturdily.
'Do you think your people will let you ?'
'Mother will do anything I ask her, and father will do anything mother
asks him. I am going to have Ida home with me all the summer holidays.'
'How do you know that she will come?'
'I shall make her come. It is very nasty of you to insinuate that she
'Palliser has a good deal of pride--pride and poverty generally go
together, don't you know. I don't think she'll care about showing herself
at the Grange in her old clothes and her three pairs of stockings, one
on, one off, and one at the laundress's,' said Miss Rylance, winding up
with a viperish little laugh as if she had said something witty.
She had a certain influence with Bessie, whom she had known all her life.
It was she who had inspired Bessie with the desks to come to Mauleverer
Manor, to be finished, after having endured eight years of jog-trot
education from a homely little governess at home--who grounded the boys
in Latin and mathematics before they went to Winchester, and made herself
generally useful. Miss Rylance was the daughter of a fashionable
physician, whose head-quarters were in Cavendish Square, but who spent
his leisure at a something which he called 'a place' at Kingthorpe, a
lovely little village between Winchester and Romsey, where the Wendovers
were indigenous to the soil, whence they seemed to have sprung, like the
armed men in the story; for remotest tradition bore no record of their
having come there from anywhere else, nor was there record of a time when
the land round Kingthorpe belonged to any other family.
Dr. Rylance, whose dainty verandah shaded cottage stood in gardens of
three and a half acres, and who rented a paddock for his cow, was always
lamenting that he could not buy more land.
'The Wendovers have everything,' he said. 'It is impossible for a new man
to establish himself.'
It was to be observed, however, that when land within a reasonable
distance of Kingthorpe came into the market, Dr. Rylance did not put
himself forward as a buyer. His craving for more territory always ended
Urania Rylance had spent much of her girlhood at Kingthorpe, and had
always been made welcome at The Knoll; but although she saw the Wendovers
established upon their native soil, the rulers of the land, and revered
by all the parish, she had grown up with the firm conviction that Dr.
Rylance, of Cavendish Square, and Dr. Rylance's daughter were altogether
superior to these country bumpkins, with their narrow range of ideas and
their strictly local importance.
The summer days wore on at Mauleverer Manor, not altogether unpleasantly
for the majority of the girls, who contrived to enjoy their lives in
spite of Miss Pew's tyranny, which was considered vile enough to rank
that middle-aged, loud-voiced lady with the Domitians and Attilas of
history. There was a softening influence, happily, in the person of Miss
Dulcibella, who was slim and sentimental, talked about sweetness and
light, loved modern poetry, spent all her available funds upon dress, and
was wonderfully girlish in her tastes and habits at nine-and-thirty years
It was a splendid summer, a time of roses and sunshine, and the girls
were allowed to carry on their studies in the noble old garden, in the
summer-houses and pleasure domes which the extinct Mauleverers had made
for themselves in their day of power. Grinding at history, grammar, and
geography did not seem so oppressive a burden when it could be done
under the shade of spreading cedars, amid the scent of roses, in an
atmosphere of colour and light. Even Ida's labours seemed a little easier
when she and her pupils sat in a fast-decaying old summer-house in the
rose-garden, with a glimpse of sunlit river flashing athwart the roses.
So the time wore on until the last week in July, and then all the school
was alive with excitement, and every one was looking forward to the great
event of the term, 'breaking up.' 'Old Pew,' had sent out her invitations
for a garden party, an actual garden party--not a mere namby-pamby
entertainment among the girls themselves, in which a liberal supply of
blanc-mange and jam tarts was expected to atone for the absence of the
outside world. Miss Pew had taken it into her head that Mauleverer Manor
ought to be better known, and that a garden party would be a good
advertisement. With this idea, she had ordered a hundred invitation
cards, and had disseminated them among the most eligible of her old
pupils, and the parents and guardians of those damsels now at the Manor.
The good old gardens, where velvet greensward and cedars of Lebanon cost
little labour to maintain in perfect order, were worthy to be exhibited.
The roses, Miss Dulcibella's peculiar care, were, in that lady's opinion,
equal to anything outside Chatsworth or Trentham. A garden party, by all
means, said Miss Dulcibella, and she gave the young ladies to understand
that the whole thing was her doing.
'I waited till Sarah was in a good temper,' she told her satellites, half
a dozen or so of the elder girls who worshipped her, and who, in the
slang phraseology of the school, were known as Miss Dulcie's 'cracks,'
'and then I proposed a garden party. It required a great deal of talking
to bring her even to think about such a thing. You see the expense will
be enormous! Ices, tea and coffee, cakes, sandwiches, claret-cup. Thank
goodness it's too late in the year for people to expect strawberries.
Yes, my dears, you may thank me for your garden party.'
'Dear Miss Dulcibella,' exclaimed one.
'You too delicious darling,' cried another.
'What will you wear?' asked a third, knowing that Miss Dulcie was weak
about dress, and had a morbid craving for originality.
'Well, dears,' began Miss Dulcie, growing radiant at the thrilling
question, 'I have been thinking of making up my art needlework tunic--the
pale green, you know, with garlands of passion flowers, worked in
crewels--over a petticoat of the faintest primrose.'
'That will be quite too lovely,' exclaimed four enthusiasts in a chorus.
'You know how fond I am of those delicate tints in that soft Indian
cashmere, that falls in such artistic folds.'
'Heavenly,' sighed the chorus, and Miss Dulcie went on talking for
half-an-hour by Chertsey clock, in fact till the tea-bell broke up the
What was Ida Palliser going to wear at the garden party? The question was
far more serious for her than for Miss Dulcibella, who had plenty of
money to spend upon her adornment. In Ida the necessity for a new gown
meant difficulty, perhaps mortification.
'Why should I not spend the day in one of the garrets, darning stockings
and packing boxes?' she said bitterly, when a grand discussion about the
garden party was being held in the butterfly-room; 'nobody will want me.
I have no relations coming to admire me.'
'You know you don't mean what you say,' said Miss Rylance. 'You expect to
have half-a-dozen prizes, and to lord it over all of us.'
'I have worked hard enough for the prizes,' answered Ida. 'I don't think
you need grudge me them.'
'I do not,' said Miss Rylance, with languid scorn. 'You know I never go
in for prizes. My father looks upon school as only a preliminary kind of
education. When I am at home with him in the season I shall have lessons
from better masters than any we are favoured with here.'
'What a comfort it is for us to know that!' retorted Ida, her eyes
It was now within a week of the garden party. Miss Pew was grimmer of
aspect and louder of voice than usual, and it was felt that, at the
slightest provocation, she might send forth an edict revoking all her
invitations, and the party might be relegated to the limbo of unrealized
hopes. Never had the conduct of Miss Pew's pupils been so irreproachable,
never had lessons been learned, and exercises prepared, so diligently.
Ida had received a kind little note from Mrs. Wendover, asking her to
spend her summer holidays at Kingthorpe, and at Bessie's earnest desire
had accepted the cordial invitation.
'You don't know what a foolish thing you are doing, Bess,' said Miss
Palliser, when--reluctant to the last--she had written her acceptance,
Bessie looking over her shoulder all the while. 'Foolish for you, foolish
for me. It is a mistake to associate yourself with paupers. You will feel
ashamed of me half-a-dozen times a day at Kingthorpe.'
'No, no, no!' cried the energetic Bessie; 'I shall never feel anything
but pride in you. I shall be proud to show my people what a beautiful,
brilliant, wonderful friend I have chosen for myself.'
'Ardent child!' exclaimed Ida, with a touch of sadness even in her
mockery. 'What a pity you have not a bachelor brother to fall in love
'Never mind the brother. I have two bachelor cousins.'
'Of course! The rich Brian, and the poor Brian, whose histories I have
heard almost as often as I heard the story of "Little Red Ridinghood" in
my nursery days. Both good-looking, both clever, both young. One a man of
landed estate. All Kingthorpe parish belongs to him, does it not?'
'All except the little bit that belongs to papa.'
'And Dr. Rylance's garden and paddock; don't forget that.'
'Could I forget the Rylances? Urania says that although her father has no
land at Kingthorpe, he has influence.'
'The other cousin dependent on his talents, and fighting his way at the
Bar. Is not that how the story goes, Bess?'
'Yes, darling. I am afraid poor Brian has hardly begun fighting yet. He
is only eating his terms. I have no idea what that means, but it sounds
'Well, Bess, if I am to marry either of your cousins, it must be the rich
one,' said Ida, decisively.
'Oh, Ida, how can you say so? You can't know which you will like best.'
'My likes and dislikes have nothing to do with it. I am going to marry
Miss Rylance had brought her desk to that end of the table where the two
girls were sitting, during the latter part of the conversation. It was
evening, the hour or so of leisure allowed for the preparation of studies
and the writing of home letters. Miss Rylance unlocked her desk, and took
out her paper and pens; but, having got so far as this, she seemed rather
inclined to join in the conversation than to begin her letter.
'Isn't that rather a worldly idea for your time of life?' she asked,
looking at Ida with her usual unfriendly expression.
'No doubt. I should be disgusted if you or Bessie entertained such a
notion. But in me it is only natural. I have drained the cup of poverty
to the dregs. I thirst for the nectar of wealth. I would marry a
soap-boiler, a linseed-crusher, a self-educated navvy who had developed
into a great contractor--any plebian creature, always provided that he
was an honest man.'
'How condescending!' said Miss Rylance. 'I suppose, Bessie, you know that
Miss Pew has especially forbidden us all to indulge in idle talk about
courtship and marriage?'
'Quite so,' said Bessie; 'but as old Pew knows that we are human, I've no
doubt she is quite aware that this is one of her numerous rules which we
diligently set at nought.'
Urania began her letter, but although her pen moved swiftly over her
paper in that elegant Italian hand which was, as it were, a badge of
honour at Mauleverer Manor, her ears were not the less open to the
conversation going on close beside her.
'Marry a soap-boiler, indeed!' exclaimed Bessie, indignantly; 'you ought
to be a duchess!'
'No doubt, dear, if dukes went about the world, like King Cophetua, on
the look out for beggar-maids.'
'I am so happy to think you are coming to Kingthorpe! It is the dearest
old place. We shall be so happy!'
'It will not be your fault if we are not, darling,' said Ida, looking
tenderly at the loving face, uplifted to hers. 'Well, I have written to
my father to ask him for five pounds, and if he sends the five pounds I
will go to Kingthorpe. If not, I must invent an excuse--mumps, or
measles, or something--for staying away. Or I must behave so badly for
the last week of the term that old Pew will revoke her sanction of the
intended visit. I cannot come to Kingthorpe quite out at elbows.'
'You look lovely even in the gown you have on,' said Bessie.
'I don't know anything about my loveliness, but I know that this gown is
Bessie, sighed despondently. She knew her friend's resolute temper, and
that any offer of clothes or money from her would be worse than useless.
It would make Ida angry.
'What kind of man is your father, darling?' she asked, thoughtfully.
'Ah! Then he will send the five pounds.'
'Ah! Then he may change his mind about it.'
'Then he may not have the money.'
'The lot is in the urn of fate, Bess, We must take our chance. I think,
somehow, that the money will come. I have asked for it urgently, for I do
want to come to Kingthorpe.' Bessie kissed her. 'Yes, dear, I wish with
all my heart to accept your kind mother's invitation; though I know, in
my secret soul, that it is foolishness for me to see the inside of a
happy home, to sit beside a hospitable hearth, when it is my mission in
life to be a dependent in the house of a stranger. If you had half a
dozen small sisters, now, and your people would engage me as a nursery
'You a nursery governess!' cried Bessie, 'you who are at the top of every
class, and who do everything better than the masters who teach you?'
'Well, if my perfection prove worth seventy pounds a-year when I go out
into the world, I shall be satisfied,' said Ida.
'What will you buy with your five pounds?' asked Bessie.
'A black cashmere gown, as plain as a nun's, a straw hat, and as many
collars, cuffs, and stockings as I can get for the rest of the money.'
Miss Rylance listened, smiling quietly to herself as she bent over her
desk. To the mind of an only daughter, who had been brought up in a
supremely correct manner, who had had her winter clothes and summer
clothes at exactly the right season, and of the best that money could
buy, there was a piteous depth of poverty and degradation in Ida
Palliser's position. The girl's beauty and talents were as nothing when
weighed against such sordid surroundings.
The prize-day came, a glorious day at the beginning of August, and the
gardens of Mauleverer Manor, the wide reach of blue river, the meadows,
the willows, the distant woods, all looked their loveliest, as if Nature
was playing into the hands of Miss Pew.
'I am sure you girls ought to be very happy to live in such a place!'
said one of the mothers, as she strolled about the velvet lawn with her
daughters, 'instead of being mewed up in a dingy London square.'
'You wouldn't say that if you saw the bread and scrape and the sloppy tea
we have for breakfast,' answered one of the girls,
'It's all very well for you, who see this wretched hole in the sunshine,
and old Pew in her best gown and her company manners. The place is a
whited sepulchre. I should like you to have a glimpse behind the scenes,
'Ma' smiled placidly, and turned a deaf ear to these aspersions of the
schoolmistress. Her girls looked well fed and healthy. Bread and scrape
evidently agreed with them much better than that reckless consumption of
butter and marmalade which swelled the housekeeping bills during the
It was a great day. Miss Pew the elder was splendid in apple-green moire
antique; Miss Pew the younger was elegant in pale and flabby raiment of
cashmere and crewel-work. The girls were in that simple white muslin of
the _jeune Meess Anglaise_, to which they were languishing to bid an
eternal adieu. There were a great many pretty girls at Mauleverer Manor,
and on this day, when the white-robed girlish forms were flitting to and
fro upon the green lawns, in the sweet summer air and sunshine, it seemed
as if the old manorial mansion were a bower of beauty. Among the parents
of existing pupils who had accepted the Misses Pew's invitation was Dr.
Rylance, the fashionable physician, whose presence there conferred
distinction upon the school. It was Miss Rylance's last term, and the
doctor wished to assist at those honours which she would doubtless reap
as the reward of meritorious studies. He was not blindly devoted to his
daughter, but he was convinced that, like every thing else belonging to
him, she was of the best quality; and he expected to see her appreciated
by the people who had been privileged to educate her.
The distribution of prizes was the great feature of the day. It was to
take place at four o'clock, in the ball room, a fine old panelled saloon,
in which the only furniture was a pair of grand pianos, somewhat the
worse for wear, a table at the end of the room on which the prizes were
arranged, and benches covered with crimson cloth for the accommodation of
There was to be a concert before the distribution. Four of the best
pianoforte players in the school were to hammer out an intensely noisy
version of the overture to _Zampa_, arranged for eight hands on two
pianos. The crack singer was to sing 'Una voce,' and Ida Palliser was to
play the 'Moonlight Sonata.'
Dr. Rylance had come early, on purpose to be present at this ceremonial.
He was the most important guest who had yet arrived, and Miss Pew devoted
herself to his entertainment, and went rustling up and down the terrace
in front of the ballroom windows in her armour of apple-green moire,
listening deferentially to the physician's remarks.
Dr. Rylance was a large fair-complexioned man, who had been handsome in
his youth, and who at seven-and-forty was still remarkably good-looking.
He had fine teeth, good hair, full blue eyes, capable of the hardest,
coldest stare that ever looked out of a human countenance. Mr. Darwin has
told us that the eyes do not smile, that the radiance we fancy we see in
the eye itself is only produced by certain contractions of the muscles
surrounding it. Assuredly there was no smile in the eyes of Dr. Rylance.
His smile, which was bland and frequent, gave only a vague impression of
white teeth and brown whiskers. He had a fine figure, and was proud of
his erect carriage. He dressed carefully and well, and was as particular
as Brummel about his laundress. His manners were considered pleasing by
the people who liked him; while those who disliked him accused him of an
undue estimate of his own merits, and a tendency to depreciate the rest
of humanity. His practice was rather select than extensive, for Dr.
Rylance was a specialist. He had won his reputation as an adviser in
cases of mental disease; and as, happily, mental diseases are less common
than bodily ailments, Dr. Rylance had not the continuous work of a Gull
or a Jenner. His speciality paid him remarkably well. His cases hung long
on hand, and when he had a patient of wealth and standing Dr. Rylance
knew how to keep him. His treatment was soothing and palliative, as
befitted an enlightened age. In an age of scepticism no one could expect
Dr. Rylance to work miraculous cures. It is in no wise to his discredit
to say that he was more successful in sustaining and comforting the
patient's friends than in curing the patient.
This was Laurence Rylance, a man who had begun life in a very humble way,
had raised himself by his own efforts, if not to the top of the medical
tree, certainly to a very comfortable and remunerative perch among its
upper branches; a man thoroughly satisfied with himself and with what
destiny had done for him; a man who, to be a new Caesar, would hardly
have foregone the privilege of being Laurence Rylance.
'My daughter has done well during this last term, I hope, Miss Pew?' he
said, interrogatively, but rather as if the question were needless, as he
walked beside the rustling moire.
'She has earned my entire approval,' replied Miss Pew, in her oiliest
accents. 'She has application.' Dr. Rylance nodded assentingly. 'She has
a charming deportment. I know of no girl in the school more thoroughly
ladylike. I have never seen her with a collar put on crookedly, or with
rough hair. She is a pattern to many of my girls.'
'That is all gratifying to my pride as a father; but I hope she has made
progress in her studies.'
Miss Pew coughed gently behind a mittened hand.
'She has not made quite so great an advance as I should have wished. She
has talent, no doubt; but it is hardly of a kind that comes into play
among other girls. In after-life, perhaps, there may be development. I am
sorry to say she is not in our roll-call of honour to-day. She has won no
'Perhaps she may have hardly thought it worth her while to compete,' said
Dr. Rylance, hurt in his own individual pride by the idea that his
daughter had missed distinction, just as he would have been hurt if
anybody had called one of his pictures a copy, or made light of his blue
china. 'With the Rylances it has always been Caesar or nothing.'
'I regret to say that my three most important prizes have been won by a
young woman whom I cannot esteem,' said Miss Pew, bristling in her
panoply of apple-green, at the thought of Ida Palliser's insolence. 'I
hope I shall ever be just, at whatever sacrifice of personal feeling. I
shall to-day bestow the first prize for modern languages, for music, and
for English history and literature, upon a young person of whose moral
character I have a very low opinion.'
'And pray who is this young lady?' asked Dr. Rylance.
'Miss Palliser, the daughter of a half-pay officer residing in the
neighbourhood of Dieppe--for very good reasons, no doubt.
'Palliser; yes, I have heard my daughter talk of her. An insolent,
ill-bred girl. I have been taught to consider her somewhat a disgrace to
your excellent and well-managed school.'
'Her deportment is certainly deplorable,' admitted Miss Pew; 'but the
girl has remarkable talents.'
More visitors were arriving from this time forward, until everyone was
seated in the ball-room. Miss Pew was engaged in receiving people, and
ushering them to their seats, always assisted by Miss Dulcibella--an
image of limp gracefulness--and the three governesses--all as stiff as
perambulating black-boards. Dr. Rylance strolled by himself for a little
while, sniffed at the great ivory cup of a magnolia, gazed dreamily at
the river--shining yonder across intervening gardens and meadows--and
ultimately found his daughter.
'I am sorry to find you are not to be honoured with a prize, Ranie,' he
said, smiling at her gently.
In no relation of life had he been so nearly perfect as in his conduct as
a father. Were he ever so disappointed in his daughter, he could not
bring himself to be angry with her.
'I have not tried for prizes, papa. Why should I compete with such a girl
as Ida Palliser, who is to get her living as a governess, and who knows
that success at school is a matter of life and death with her?'
'Do you not think it might have been worth your while to work as hard as
Miss Palliser, for the mere honour and glory of being first in your
'Did you ever work for mere honour and glory, papa?' asked Urania, with
her unpleasant little air of cynicism.
'Well, my love, I confess there has been generally a promise of solid
pudding in the background. Pray, who is this Miss Palliser, whom I hear
of at every turn, and whom nobody seems to like?'
'There you are mistaken, papa. Miss Palliser has her worshippers, though
she is the most disagreeable girl in the school. That silly little Bessie
raves about her, and has actually induced Mrs. Wendover to invite her to
'That is a pity, if the girl is ill-bred and unpleasant,' said Dr.
'She's a horror,' exclaimed Urania, vindictively.
Five minutes later Dr. Rylance and his daughter made their entrance into
the ball-room, which was full of people, and whence came the opening
crash of an eight-handed 'Zampa.' Father and daughter went in softly, and
with a hushed air, as if they had been going into church; yet the firing
of a cannon or two more or less would hardly have disturbed the
performers at the two pianos, so tremendous was their own uproar. They
were taking the overture in what they called orchestral time; though it
is doubtful whether even their playing could have kept pace with the
hurrying of excited fiddles in a presto passage, or the roll of the big
drum, simulating distant thunder. Be that as it may, the four performers
were pounding along at a breathless pace; and if their pianissimo
passages failed in delicacy, there was no mistake about their fortissimo.
'What an abominable row!' whispered Dr. Rylance. 'Is this what they call
Urania smiled, and felt meritorious in that, after being chosen as one of
the four for this very 'Zampa,' she had failed ignominiously as a timist,
and had been compelled to cede her place to another pupil.
'I might have toiled for six weeks at the horrid thing,' she thought,
'and papa would have only called it a row.'
'Zampa' ended amidst polite applause, the delighted parents of the four
players feeling that they had not lived in vain. And now the music
mistress took her place at one of the pianos, the top of the instrument
was lowered, and Miss Fane, a little fair girl with a round face and
frizzy auburn hair, came simpering forward to sing 'Una voce,' in a reedy
soprano, which had been attenuated by half-guinea lessons from an Italian
master, and which frequently threatened a snap.
Happily on this occasion the thin little voice got through its work
without disaster; there was a pervading sense of relief when the crisis
was over, and Miss Fane had simpered her acknowledgments of the applause
which rewarded a severely conscientious performance.
'Any more singing?' inquired Dr. Rylance of his daughter, not with the
air of a man who pants for vocal melody.
'No, the next is the "Moonlight Sonata."'
Dr. Rylance had a dim idea that he had heard of this piece before. He
waited dumbly, admiring the fine old room, with its lofty ceiling, and
florid cornice, and the sunny garden beyond the five tall windows.
Presently Ida Palliser came slowly towards the piano, carrying herself
like an empress. Dr. Rylance could hardly believe the evidence of his
eyes. Was this the girl whose deportment had been called abominable, whom
Urania had denounced as a horror? Was this the articled pupil, the girl
doomed to life-long drudgery as a governess, this superb creature, with
her noble form and noble face, looking grave defiance at the world which
hitherto had not used her too kindly?
She was dressed in black, a sombre figure amidst the white muslins and
rainbow sashes of her comrades. Her cashmere gown was of the simplest
fashion, but it became the tall full figure to admiration. Below her
linen collar she wore a scarlet ribbon, from which hung a silver locket,
the only ornament she possessed. It was Bessie Wendover who had insisted
on the scarlet ribbon, as a relief to that funereal gown.
'I was never so surprised in my life,' whispered Dr. Rylance to his
daughter. 'She is the handsomest girl I ever saw.'
'Yes, she is an acknowledged beauty, said Urania, with a contraction of
her thin lips; 'nobody disputes her good looks. It is a pity her manners
are so abominable.'
'She moves like a lady.'
'She has been thoroughly drilled,' sneered Urania. 'The original savage
in her has been tamed as much as possible.'
'I should like to know more of that girl,' said Dr. Rylance, 'for she
looks as if she has force of character. I'm sorry you and she are not
Ida seated herself at the piano and began to play, without honouring the
assembly with one glance from her dark eyes. She sat looking straight
before her, like one whose thoughts are far away. She played by memory,
and at first her hands faltered a little as they touched the keys, as if
she hardly knew what she was going to play. Then she recollected herself
in a flash, and began the firm, slow, legato movement with the touch of a
master hand, the melody rising and falling in solemn waves of sound, like
the long, slow roll of a calm sea.
The 'Moonlight Sonata' is a composition of some length. Badly, or even
indifferently performed, the 'Moonlight Sonata' is a trial; but no one
grew weary of it to-day, though the strong young hands which gave
emphasis to the profound beauties of that wonderful work were only the
hands of a girl. Those among the listeners who knew least about music,
knew that this was good playing; those who cared not at all for the
playing were pleased to sit and watch the mobile face of the player as
she wove her web of melody, her expression changing with every change in
the music, but unmoved by a thought of the spectators.
Presently, just as the sonata drew to its close, an auburn head was
thrust between Dr. Rylance and his daughter, and a girl's voice
'Is she not splendid? Is she not the grandest creature you ever saw?'
The doctor turned and recognized Bessie Wendover.
'She is, Bessie,' he said, shaking hands with her. 'I never was so struck
by anyone in my life.'
Urania grew white with anger. Was it not enough that Ida Palliser should
have outshone her in every accomplishment upon which school-girls pride
themselves? Was it not enough that she should have taken complete
possession of that foolish little Bessie, and thus ingratiated herself
into the Wendover set, and contrived to get invited to Kingthorpe? No.
Here was Urania's own father, her especial property, going over to the
'I am glad you admire her so much, papa,' she said, outwardly calm and
sweet, but inwardly consumed with anger; 'for it will be so pleasant for
you to see more of her at Kingthorpe.'
'Yes,' he said heartily, 'I am glad she is coming to Kingthorpe. That was
a good idea of yours, Bessie.'
'Wasn't it? I am so pleased to find you like her. I wish you could get
Ranie to think better of her.'
Now came the distribution of prizes and accessits. Miss Pew took her seat
before the table on which the gaudily-bound books were arranged, and
began to read out the names. It was a hard thing for her to have to award
the three first prizes to a girl she detested; but Miss Pew knew the
little world she ruled well enough to know that palpable injustice would
weaken her rule. Ninety-nine girls who had failed to win the prize would
have resented her favouritism if she had given the reward to a hundredth
girl who had not fairly won it. The eyes of her little world were upon
her, and she was obliged to give the palm to the real victor. So, in her
dull, hard voice, looking straight before her, with cold, unfriendly
eyes, she read out--
'The prize for modern languages has been obtained by Miss Palliser!' and
Ida came slowly up to the table and received a bulky crimson volume,
containing the poetical works of Sir Walter Scott.
'The prize for proficiency in instrumental music is awarded to Miss
Another bulky volume was handed to Ida. For variety the binding was
green, and the inside of the book was by William Cowper.
'The greatest number of marks for English history and literature nave
been obtained by Miss Palliser.'
Miss Palliser was now the happy possessor of a third volume bound in
blue, containing a selection from the works of Robert Southey.
With not one word of praise nor one smile of approval did Miss Pew
sweeten the gifts which she bestowed upon the articled pupil. She gave
that which justice, or rather policy, compelled her to give. No more.
Kindliness was not in the bond.
Ida came slowly away from the table, laden with her prizes, her head held
high, but not with pride in the trophies she carried. Her keenest feeling
at this moment was a sense of humiliation. The prizes had been given her
as a bone might be flung to a strange dog, by one whose heart held no
love for the canine species. An indignant flush clouded the creamy
whiteness of her forehead, angry tears glittered in her proud eyes. She
made her way to the nearest door, and went away without a word to the
crowd of younger girls, her own pupils, who had crowded round to
congratulate and caress her. She was adored by these small people, and it
was her personal influence as much as her talent which made her so
successful a teacher.
Dr. Rylance followed her to the door with his eyes. He was not capable of
wide sympathies, or of projecting himself into the lives of other people;
but he did sympathize with this girl, so lonely in the splendour of her
beauty, so joyless in her triumph.
'God help her, poor child, in the days to come!' he said to himself.
AT THE KNOLL.
Between Winchester and Romsey there lies a region of gentle hills and
grassy slopes shadowed by fine old yew trees, a land of verdure, lonely
and exceeding fair; and in a hollow of this undulating district nestles
the village of Kingthorpe, with its half-dozen handsome old houses, its
richly cultivated gardens, and quaint old square-towered church. It is a
prosperous, well-to-do little settlement, where squalor and want are
unknown. Its humbler dwellings belong chiefly to the labourers on the
Wendover estate, and those are liberally paid and well cared for. An
agricultural labourer's wages at Kingthorpe might seem infinitely small
to a London mechanic; but when it is taken into account that the tiller
of the fields has a roomy cottage and an acre of garden for sixpence
a-week, his daily dole of milk from the home farm, as much wood as he can
burn, blankets and coals at Christmas, and wine and brandy, soup and
bread from the great house, in all emergencies, he is perhaps not so very
much worse off than his metropolitan brother.
There was an air of comfort and repose at Kingthorpe which made the place
delightful to the eye of a passing wanderer--a spot where one would
gladly have lain down the burden of life and rested for awhile in one of
those white cottages that lay a little way back from the high road,
shadowed by a screen of tall elms. There was a duck-pond in front of a
low red-brick inn which reminded one of Birkett Foster, and made the
central feature of the village; a spot of busy life where all else was
stillness. There were accommodation roads leading off to distant farms,
above which the tree-tops interlaced, and where the hedges were rich
in blackberry and sloe, dog-roses and honeysuckle, and the banks in
spring-time dappled with violet and primrose, purple orchids and wild
crocus, and all the flowers that grow for the delight of village
Ida Palliser sat silent in her corner of the large landau which was
taking Miss Wendover and her schoolfellows from Winchester station to
Kingthorpe. Miss Rylance had accepted a seat in the Wendover landau at
her father's desire; but she would have preferred to have had her own
smart little pony-carriage to meet her at the station. To drive her own
carriage, were it ever so small, was more agreeable to Urania's temper
than to sit behind the over-fed horses from The Knoll, and to be thus, in
some small measure, indebted to Bessie Wendover.
Ida Palliser's presence made the thing still more odious. Bessie was
radiant with delight at taking her friend home with her. She watched
Ida's eyes as they roamed over the landscape. She understood the girl's
'They are darling old hills, aren't they, dear?' she asked, squeezing
Ida's hand, as the summer shadows and summer lights went dancing over the
sward like living things.
'Yes, dear, they are lovely,' answered Ida, quietly.
She was devouring the beauty of the scene with her eyes. She had seen
nothing like it in her narrow wanderings over the earth--nothing so
simple, so beautiful, and so lonely. She was sorry when they left that
open hill country and came into a more fertile scene, a high road, which
was like an avenue in a gentleman's park, and then the village duck-pond
and red homestead, the old gray church, with its gilded sun-dial, marking
the hour of six, the gardens brimming over with roses, and as full of
sweet odours as those spicy islands which send their perfumed breath to
greet the seaman as he sails to the land of the Sun.
The carriage stopped at the iron gate of an exquisitely kept garden,
surrounding a small Gothic cottage of the fanciful order of
architecture,--a cottage with plate-glass windows, shaded by Spanish
blinds, a glazed verandah sheltering a tesselated walk, sloping banks and
terraces, on a very small scale, stone vases full of flowers, a tiny
fountain sparkling in the afternoon sun.
This was Dr. Rylance's country retreat. It had been a yeoman's cottage,
plain, substantial and homely as the yeoman and his household. The doctor
had added a Gothic front, increased the number of rooms, but not the
general convenience of the dwelling. He had been his own architect, and
the result was a variety of levels and a breakneck arrangement of stairs
at all manner of odd corners, so ingenious in their peril to life and
limb that they might be supposed to have been designed as traps for the
'Don't say good-bye, Ranie,' said Bessie, when Miss Rylance had alighted,
and was making her adieux at the carriage door; 'you'll come over to
dinner, won't you, dear? Your father won't be down till Saturday. You'll
be dreadfully dull at home.'
'Thanks, dear, no; I'd rather spend my first evening at home. I'm never
dull,' answered Urania, with her air of superiority.
'What a queer girl you are!' exclaimed Bessie, frankly. 'I should be
wretched if I found myself alone in a house. Do run over in the evening,
at any rate. We are going to have lots of fun.'
Miss Rylance shuddered. She knew what was meant by lots of fun at The
Knoll; a romping game at croquet, or the newly-established lawn-tennis,
with girls in short petticoats and boys in Eton jackets; a raid upon
the plum-trees on the crumbling red brick walls of the fine old
kitchen-garden; winding up with a boisterous bout at hide-and-seek in the
twilight; and finally a banquet of sandwiches, jam tarts, and syllabub in
the shabby old dining-room.
'I'll come over to see Mrs. Wendover, if I am not too tired,' she said,
with languid politeness, and then she closed the gate, and the carriage
drove on to The Knoll.
Colonel Wendover's house was a substantial dwelling of the Queen Anne
period, built of unmixed red brick, with a fine pediment, a stone shell
over the entrance, four long narrow windows on each side of the tall
door, and nine in each upper story, a house that looked all eyes, and was
a blaze of splendour when the western sun shone upon its many windows.
The house stood on a bit of rising ground at the end of the village, and
dominated all meaner habitations. It was the typical squire's house, and
Colonel Wendover was no bad representative of the typical squire.
A fine old iron gate opened upon a broad gravel drive, which made the
circuit of a well-kept _parterre_, where the flowers grew as they only
grow for those who love them dearly. This gate stood hospitably open at
all times, and many were the vehicles which drove up to the tall door of
The Knoll, and friendly the welcome which greeted all comers.
The door, like the gate, stood open all day long--indeed, open doors
were the rule at Kingthorpe. Ida saw a roomy old hall, paved with black
and white marble, a few family portraits, considerably the worse for
wear, against panelled walls painted white, a concatenation of guns,
fishing-rods, whips, canes, cricket-bats, croquet-mallets, and all things
appertaining to the out-door amusements of a numerous family. A large
tiger skin stretched before the drawing-room door was one memorial of
Colonel Wendover's Indian life; a tiger's skull gleaming on the wall,
between a pair of elephant's ears, was another. One side of the wall was
adorned with a collection of Indian arms, showing all those various
curves with which oriental ingenuity has improved upon the straight
simplicity of the western sword.
It was not a neatly kept hall. There had been no careful study of colour
in the arrangement of things--hats and caps were flung carelessly on the
old oak chairs--there was a licentious mixture of styles in the
furniture--half Old English, half Indian, and all the worse for wear: but
Ida Palliser thought the house had a friendly look, which made it better
than any house she had ever seen before.
Through an open door at the back of the hall she saw a broad gravel walk,
long and straight, leading to a temple or summer-house built of red
brick, like the mansion itself. On each side of the broad walk there was
a strip of grass, just about wide enough for a bowling-green, and on the
grass were orange-trees in big wooden tubs, painted green. Slowly
advancing along the broad walk there came a large lady.
'Is that you mother?' asked Ida.
'No, it's Aunt Betsy. You ought to have known Aunt Betsy at a glance. I'm
sure I've described her often enough. How good of her to be here to
welcome us!' and Bessie flew across the hall and rushed down the broad
walk to greet her aunt.
Ida followed at a more sober pace. Yes, she had heard of Aunt Betsy--a
maiden aunt, who lived in her own house a little way from The Knoll. A
lady who had plenty of money and decidedly masculine tastes, which she
indulged freely; a very lovable person withal, if Bessie might be
believed. Ida wondered if she too would be able to like Aunt Betsy.
Miss Wendover's appearance was not repulsive. She was a woman of heroic
mould, considerably above the average height of womankind, with a large
head nobly set upon large well-shaped shoulders. Bulky Miss Wendover
decidedly was, but she carried her bulkiness well. She still maintained a
waist, firmly braced above her expansive hips. She walked well, and was
more active than many smaller women. Indeed, her life was full of
activity, spent for the most part in the open air, driving, walking,
gardening, looking after her cows and poultry, and visiting the
labouring-classes round Kingthorpe, among whom she was esteemed an
Bessie hung herself round her large aunt like ivy on an oak, and the two
thus united came up the broad walk to meet Ida, Bessie chattering all the
'So this is Miss Palliser,' said Aunt Betsy heartily, and in a deep
masculine voice, which accorded well with her large figure. 'I have heard
a great deal about you from this enthusiastic child,--so much that I was
prepared to be disappointed in you. It is the highest compliment I can
pay you to say I am not.'
'Where's mother?' asked Bessie.
'Your father drove her to Romsey to call on the new vicar. There's the
phaeton driving in at the gate.'
It was so. Before Ida had had breathing time to get over the introduction
to Aunt Betsy, she was hurried off to see her host and hostess.
They were very pleasant people, who did not consider themselves called on
to present an icy aspect to a new acquaintance.
The Colonel was the image of his sister, tall and broad of figure, with
an aquiline nose and a commanding eye, thoroughly good-natured withal,
and a man whom everybody loved. Mrs. Wendover was a dumpy little woman,
who had brought dumpiness and a handsome fortune into the family. She had
been very pretty in girlhood, and was pretty still, with a round-faced
innocent prettiness which made her look almost as young as her eldest
daughter. Her husband loved her with a fondly protecting and almost
paternal affection, which was very pleasant to behold; and she held him
in devoted reverence, as the beginning and end of all that was worth
loving and knowing in the Universe. She was not an accomplished woman,
and had made the smallest possible use of those opportunities which
civilization affords to every young lady whose parents have plenty of
money; but she was a lady to the marrow of her bones--benevolent, kindly.
thinking no evil, rejoicing in the truth--an embodiment of domestic love.
Such a host and hostess made Ida feel at home in their house in less than
five minutes. If there had been a shade of coldness in their greeting her
pride would have risen in arms against them, and she would have made
herself eminently disagreeable. But at their hearty welcome she expanded
like a beautiful flower which opens its lovely heart to the sunshine.
'It is so good of you to ask me here,' she said, when Mrs. Wendover had
kissed her, 'knowing so little of me.'
'I know that my daughter loves you,' answered the mother, 'and it is not
in Bessie's nature to love anyone who isn't worthy of love.'
Ida smiled at the mother's simple answer.
'Don't you think that in a heart so full of love some may run over and
get wasted on worthless objects?' she asked.
'That's very true,' cried a boy in an Eton jacket, one of a troop that
had congregated round the Colonel and his wife since their entrance. 'You
know there was that half-bred terrier you doted upon, Bess, though I
showed you that the roof of his mouth was as red as sealing-wax.'
'I hope you are not going to compare me to a half-bred terrier,' said
'If you were a terrier, the roof of your mouth would be as black as my
hat,' said the boy decisively. It was his way of expressing his
conviction that Ida was thoroughbred.
The ice being thus easily broken, Ida found herself received into the
bosom of the family, and at once established as a favourite with all.
There were two boys in Eton jackets, answering to the names of Reginald
and Horatio, but oftener to the friendly abbreviations Reg and Horry.
Both had chubby faces, liberally freckled, warts on their hands, and
rumpled hair; and it was not easy for a new comer to distinguish Horatio
from Reginald, or Reginald from Horatio. There was a girl of fourteen
with flowing hair, who looked very tall because her petticoats were very
short, and who always required some one to hug and hang upon. If she
found herself deprived of human support she lolled against a wall.
This young person at once pounced upon Ida, as a being sent into the
world to sustain her.
'Do you think you shall like me?' she asked, when they had all swarmed up
to the long corridor, out of which numerous bedrooms opened.
'I like you already,' answered Ida.
'Do thoo like pigs?' asked a smaller girl, round and rosy, in a holland
pinafore, putting the question as if it were relevant to her sister's
'I don't quite know,' said Ida doubtfully.
''Cos there are nine black oneths, tho pwutty. Will thoo come and thee
Ida said she would think about it: and then she received various
pressing invitations to go and see lop-eared rabbits, guinea-pigs, a tame
water-rat in the rushes of the duck-pond, a collection of eggs in the
schoolroom, and the new lawn-tennis ground which father had made in the
'Now all you small children run away!' cried Bessie, loftily. 'Ida and I
are going to dress for dinner.'
The crowd dispersed reluctantly, with low mutterings about rabbits, pigs,
and water-rats, like the murmurs of a stage mob; and then Bessie led her
friend into a large sunny room fronting westward, a room with three
windows, cushioned window-seats, two pretty white-curtained beds, and a
good deal of old-fashioned and heterogeneous furniture, half English,
'You said you wouldn't mind sleeping in my room,' said Bessie, as she
showed her friend an exclusive dressing-table, daintily draperied, and
enlivened with blue satin bows, for the refreshment of the visitor's eye.
While the girls were contemplating this work of art the door was suddenly
opened and Blanche's head was thrust in.
'I did the dressing-table, Miss Palliser, every bit, on purpose for you.'
And the door then slammed to, and Bessie rushed across the room and drew
'We shall have them all one after another,' she said.
'Don't shut them out on my account.'
'Oh, but I must. You would have no peace. I can see they are going to be
appallingly fond of you.'
'Let them like me as much as they can. Do you know, Bessie, this is my
first glimpse into the inside of a home!'
'Oh, Ida, dear, but your father,' remonstrated Bessie.
'My father has never been unkind to me, but I have had no home with him.
When my mother brought me home from India--she died very soon after we
got home, you know'--Ida strangled a sob at this point--'I was placed
with strangers, two elderly maiden ladies, who reared me very well, no
doubt, in their stiff business-like way, and who really gave me a very
good education. That went on for nine years,--a long time to spend with
two old maids in a dull little house at Turnham Green,--and then I had a
letter from my father to say he had come home for good. He had sold his
commission and meant to settle down in some quiet spot abroad. His first
duty would be to make arrangements for placing me in a high-class school,
where I could finish my education; and he told me, quite at the end of
his letter, that he had married a very sweet young lady, who was ready to
give me all a mother's affection, and who would be able to receive me in
my holidays, when the expense of the journey to France and back was
'Poor darling!' sighed Bessie. 'Did your heart warm to the sweet young
'No, Bess; I'm afraid it must be an unregenerate heart, for I took a
furious dislike to her. Very unjust and unreasonable, wasn't it?
Afterwards, when my father took me over to his cottage, near Dieppe, to
spend my holidays, I found that my stepmother was a kind-hearted, pretty
little thing, whom I might look down upon for her want of education, but
whom I could not dislike. She was very kind to me; and she had a baby
boy. I have told you about him, and how he and I fell in love with each
other at first sight.'
'I am horribly jealous of that baby boy,' protested Bessie. 'How old is
'Nearly five. He was two years and a half old when I was at Les
Fontaines, and that was before I went to Mauleverer Manor.'
'And you have been at Mauleverer Manor more than two years without once
going home for the holidays,' said Bessie. 'That seems hard.'
'My dear, poverty is hard. It is all of a piece. It means deprivation,
humiliation, degradation, the severance of friends. My father would have
had me home if he could have afforded it; but he couldn't. He has only
just enough to keep himself and his wife and boy. If you were to see the
little box of a house they inhabit in that tiny French village, you would
wonder that anybody bigger than a pigeon could live in so small a place.
They have a narrow garden, and there is an orchard on the slope of a hill
behind the cottage, and a long white road leading to nowhere in front. It
is all very nice in the summer, when one can live half one's life out of
doors, but I am sure I don't know how they manage to exist through the
'Poor things!' sighed Bessie, who had a large stock of compassion always
And then she tied a bright ribbon at the back of Ida's collar, by way of
finishing touch to the girl's simple toilet, which had been going on
while they talked, and then, Bessie in white and Ida in black, like
sunlight and shadow, they went downstairs to the drawing-room, where
Colonel Wendover was stretched on his favourite sofa, reading a county
paper. Since his retirement from active service into domestic idleness
the Colonel had required a great deal of rest, and was to be found at all
hours of the day extended at ease on his own particular sofa. During his
intervals of activity he exhibited a large amount of energy. When he was
indoors his stentorian voice penetrated from garret to cellar; when he
was out of doors the same deep-toned thunder could be heard across a
couple of paddocks. He pervaded the gardens and stables, supervised the
home farm, and had a finger in every pie.
Mrs. Wendover was sitting in her own particular arm-chair, close to her
husband's sofa--they were seldom seen far apart--with a large basket of
crewel-work beside her, containing sundry squares of kitchen towelling
and a chaos of many-coloured wools, which never seemed to arrive at any
The impression which Mrs. Wendover's drawing-room conveyed to a stranger
was a general idea of homeliness and comfort. It was not fine, it was not
aesthetic, it was not even elegant. A great bay window opened upon the
garden, a large old-fashioned fireplace, with carved wooden chimney-piece
faced the bay. The floor was polished oak, with only an island of faded
Persian carpet in the centre, and Indian prayer rugs lying about here and
there. There were chairs and tables of richly carved Bombay blackwood,
Japanese cabinets in the recesses beside the fire-place, a five-leaved
Indian screen between the fire-place and the door. There was just enough
Oriental china to give colour to the room, and to relieve by glowing reds
and vivid purples the faded dead-leaf tint of curtains and chair covers.
The gong began to boom as the two girls came into the room, and the rest
of the family dropped in through the open windows at the same moment,
Aunt Betsey bringing up the rear. There was no nursery dinner at The
Knoll. Colonel Wendover allowed his children to dine with him from the
day they were able to manage their knives and forks. Save on state
occasions, the whole brood sat down with their father and mother to the
seven o'clock dinner; as the young sprigs of the House of Orleans used to
sit round good King Louis Philippe in his tranquil retirement at
Claremont. Even the lisping girl who loved pigs had her place at the
board, and knew how to behave herself. There was a subdued struggle for
the seat next Ida, whom the Colonel had placed on his right, but
Reginald, the elder of the Winchester boys, asserted his claim with a
quiet firmness that proved irresistible. Grace was said with solemn
brevity by the Colonel, whose sum total of orthodoxy was comprised in
that brief grace, and in regular attendance at church on Sunday mornings;
and then there came a period of chatter and laughter which might have
been a little distracting to a stranger. Each of the boys and girls had
some wonderful fact, usually about his or her favourite animal, to
communicate to the father. Aunt Betsy broke in with her fine manly voice
at every turn in the conversation. Ripples of laughter made a running
accompaniment to everything. It was a new thing to Ida Palliser to find
herself in the midst of so much happiness.
After dinner they all rushed off to play lawn tennis, carrying Ida along
'It's a shame,' protested Bessie. 'I know you're tired, darling. Come and
rest in a shady corner of the drawing-room.'
This sounded tempting, but it was not to be.
'No she's not,' asserted Blanche, boldly. 'You're not tired, are you,
'Not too tired for just one game,' replied Ida. 'But you are never to
call me Miss Palliser.'
'May I really call you Ida? That's too lovely.'
'May we all call you Ida?' asked Horatio. 'Don't begin by making
distinctions. Blanche is no better than the rest of us.'
'Don't be jealous,' said Miss Palliser, laughing. 'I am going to be
On this she was borne off to the garden as in a whirlwind.
There were some bamboo chairs and sofas on the grass in front of the bay
window, and here the elder members of the family established themselves.
'I like that schoolfellow of Bessie's,' said Aunt Betsy, with her decided
air, whereupon the Colonel and his wife assented, as they always did to
any proposition of Miss Wendover's.
'She is remarkably handsome,' said the Colonel.
'She is good and thorough, and that's of much more consequence,' said his
'She takes to the children, and that is so truly nice in her' murmured
The next day was fine. The children had all been praying for fine
weather, that they might entertain Miss Palliser with an exploration of
the surrounding neighbourhood. Loud whoops of triumph and sundry
breakdown dances were heard in the top story soon after five o'clock, for
the juvenile Wendovers were early risers, and when in high spirits made
themselves distinctly audible.
The eight o'clock breakfast in the old painted dining-room--all oak
panelling, but painted stone colour by generations of Goths and
Vandals--was even more animated than the seven o'clock dinner.
Such a breakfast, after the thick bread and butter and thin coffee at
Mauleverer. Relays of hot buttered cakes, and eggs and bacon, fish,
honey, fresh fruit from the garden, a picturesque confusion of form and
colour on the lavishly-furnished table, and youthful appetites ready to
do justice to the good cheer.
'What are you going to do with Miss Palliser?' asked the Colonel. 'Am I
to take her for a drive?'
'No, father, you can't have Miss Palliser to-day. She's going in the
jaunting-car,' said Reginald, talking of the lady as if she were a horse.
'We're going to take her over to the Abbey.'
The Abbey was the ancestral home of the Wendovers, now in possession of
Brian Wendover, only son of the Colonel's eldest brother, and head of the
'Well, don't upset her oftener than you can help,' replied the father. 'I
suppose you don't much mind being spilt off an outside car, Miss
Palliser? I believe young ladies of your age rather relish the
'She needn't be afraid,' said Reginald; 'I am going to drive.'
'Then we are very likely to find ourselves reposing in a ditch before the
day is over,' retorted Bessie. 'I hope you--or the pony--will choose a
'I'll risk it, ditches and all,' said Ida, good-naturedly. 'I am longing
to see the Abbey.'
'The rich Brian's Abbey,' said Bessie, laughing. 'What a pity he is not
at home for you to see him too! Do you think Brian will be back before
Ida's holidays are over, father?'
'I never know what that young man is going to do,' answered the Colonel.
'When last I heard from him he was fishing in Norway. He doesn't care
much about the sport, he tells me; indeed, he was never a very
enthusiastic angler; but he likes the country and the people. He ought to
stay at home, and stand for the county at the next election. A young man
in his position has no business to be idle.'
'Is he clever?' asked Ida.
'Too clever for my money,' answered the Colonel. 'He has too much
book-learning, and too little knowledge of men and things. What is the
good of a man being a fine Greek scholar if he knows nothing about the
land he owns, or the cattle that graze upon it, and has not enough tact
to make himself popular in his own neighbourhood? Brian is a man who
would starve if his bread depended on his own exertions.'
'He's a jolly kind of cousin for a fellow to have,' suggested Horry,
looking up from his eggs and bacon. 'He lets us do what we like at the
Abbey. By the way, Blanche, have you packed the picnic basket?'
'What have you put in?'
'That's my secret,' answered Blanche. 'Do you think I am going to tell
you what you are to have for lunch? That would spoil all the fun.'
'Blanche isn't half a bad caterer,' said Reg. 'I place myself in her
hands unreservedly; I will only venture to hint that I hope she hasn't
forgotten the chutnee, Tirhoot, and plenty of it. What's the good of
having a father who was shoulder to shoulder with Gough in the Punjab, if
we are to run short of Indian condiments?'
At nine o'clock the young people were all ready to start. The
jaunting-car held five, including the driver; Bessie and her friend were
to occupy one side, Eva, the round child who loved pigs, was to have a
seat, and a place was to be kept for Miss Rylance, who was to be invited
to join the exploration party, much to the disgust of the Winchester
lads, who denounced her as a stuck-up minx, and distinguished her with
various other epithets of an abusive character selected from a vocabulary
known only to Wyckhamists. Blanche and Horatio and a smaller boy, called
Ernest, who was dressed like a gillie, and had all the wildness of a
young Highlander, were to walk, with the occasional charity of a lift.
The jaunting-car was drawn by a large white pony, fat and pampered,
overfed with dainties from the children's tables, and petted and played
with until he had become almost human in his intelligence, and a match
for his youthful masters in cunning and mischief. This impish animal had
been christened Robin Goodfellow, a name that was shortened for
convenience to Robin. Robin's eagerness to depart was now made known to
the family by an incessant rattling of his bit.
Reginald took the reins, and got into his seat with the quiet grandeur of
a celebrity in the four-in-hand club. Ida and Bessie were handed to their
places by Horatio, the chubby Eva scrambled into her seat, with a liberal
display of Oxford blue stocking, under the shortest of striped
petticoats; and off they drove to the cottage, Dr. Rylance's miniature
dwelling, where the plate-glass windows were shining in the morning sun,
and the colours of the flower-beds were almost too bright to be looked
Bessie found Miss Rylance in the dainty little drawing-room, all ebonized
wood and blue china, as neat as an interior by Mieris. The fair Urania
was yawning over a book of travels--trying to improve a mind which was
not naturally fertile--and she was not sorry to be interrupted by an
irruption of noisy Wendovers, even though they left impressions of their
boots on the delicate tones of the carpet, and made havoc of the cretonne
Miss Rylance had no passion for country life. Fields and trees, hills and
winding streams, even when enlivened by the society of the lower animals,
were not all-sufficient for her happiness. It was all very well for her
father to oscillate between Cavendish Square and Kingthorpe, avoiding the
expense and trouble of autumn touring, and taking his rest and his
pleasure in this rustic retreat. But her summer holidays for the last
three years had been all Kingthorpe, and Miss Rylance detested the
picturesque village, the busy duck-pond, the insignificant hills, which
nobody had ever heard of, and the monotonous sequence of events.
'We are going to the Abbey for a nice long day, taking our dinner with
us, and coming round to Aunt Betsy's to tea on our way home,' said
Bessie, as if she were proposing an entirely novel excursion; 'and we
want you to come with us, Ranie.'
Miss Rylance stifled a yawn. She had been trying to pin her thoughts to a
particular tribe of Abyssinians, who fought all the surrounding tribes,
and always welcomed the confiding stranger with a shower of poisoned
arrows. She did not care for the Wendover children, but they were better
than those wearisome Abyssinians.
'You are very kind, but I know the Abbey so well,' she said, determined
to yield her consent as a favour.
'Never mind that. Ida has never seen it. We are going to show her
everything. We want her to feel one of us.'
'We shall have a jolly lunch,' interjected Blanche. 'There are some lemon
cheesecakes that I made myself yesterday afternoon. Cook was in a good
temper, and let me do it.'
'I hope you washed your hands first,' said Horatio. 'I'd sooner cook had
made the cheesecakes.'
'Of course I washed my hands, you too suggestive pig. But I should-hope
that in a general way my hands are cleaner than cook's. It is only
schoolboys who luxuriate in dirt.'
'You'll come, Ranie?' pleaded Bess.
'If you really wish it.'
'I do, or I shouldn't be here. But I hope you wish it too. You ought to
be longing to get out of doors on such a lovely morning. Houses were
never intended for such weather as this Come and join the birds and
butterflies, and all the happiest things in creation.'
'I must go for my hat and sunshade. I wasn't born full-dressed, like the
birds and butterflies,' replied Urania.
She ran away, leaving Bessie and Ida in the drawing-room. The younger
children having rushed in and left their mark upon the room, had now
rushed out again to the jaunting-car.
'A pretty drawing-room, isn't it?' asked Bess. 'It looks so neat and
fresh and bright after ours.'
'It doesn't look half so much like home,' said Ida.
'Perhaps not. But I believe it is just the exact thing a drawing-room
ought to be in this latter part of the nineteenth century; or, at least,
so Dr. Rylance says. How do you like the blue china? Dr. Rylance is an
amateur of blue china. He will have no other. Dresden and Sevres have no
existence for him. He recognizes nothing beyond his own particular breed
Miss Rylance came back, dressed as carefully as if she had been going for
a morning lounge in Hyde Park, hat and feather, pongee sunshade,
mousquetaire gloves. The Wendovers all wore their gloves in their
pockets, and cultivated blisters on the palms of their hands, as a mark
of distinction, which implied great feats in rowing, or the pulling in of
Now they were all mounted on the car, just as the church clock struck
ten. Reginald gave the reins a shake, cracked his whip, and Robin, who
always knew where his young friends wanted to go, twisted the vehicle
sharply round a corner and started at an agreeable canter, expressive of
Robin carried them joltingly along a lovely lane till they came to a
gentle acclivity, by which time, having given vent to his exuberance, the
pony settled down into a crawl. Vainly did Reginald crack his whip--vain
even stinging switches on Robin's fat sides. Out of that crawl nothing
could move him. The sun was gaining power with every moment, and blazing
down upon the occupants of the car; but Robin cared not at all. He was an
animal of tropical origin, and had no apprehension of sunshine; his eyes
were so constructed as to accommodate themselves to a superfluity of
'I think we shall be tolerably well roasted by the time we get to the
Abbey,' said Bessie. 'Don't you think if we were all to get down and push
the back of the car, Robin might go a little faster?'
'He'll go fast enough when he has blown a bit,' said Reg. 'Can't you
admire the landscape?'
'We could, if we were not being baked,' replied Ida.
Miss Rylance sat silent under her pongee umbrella, and wished herself in
Cavendish Square; even though western London were as empty and barren as
the great wilderness.
They were on the ridge of a hill, overlooking undulating pastures and
quiet sheep-walks, fair hills on which the yew-trees cast their dark
shadows, a broad stretch of pastoral country with sunny gleams of water
shining low in the distance.
Suddenly the road dipped, and Robin was going downhill with alarming
'This means that we shall all be in the ditch presently,' said Bessie.
'Never mind. It's only a dry bed of dock and used-up stinging nettles. We
shan't be much hurt.'
After two or three miraculous escapes they landed at the bottom of the
hill, and Ida beheld the good old gates of Kingthorpe Abbey, low iron
gates that stood open, between tall stone pillars supporting the
sculptured escutcheon of the Wendovers. There was a stone lodge on each
side of the gate, past which the car drove in triumph into an avenue of
ancient yew-trees, low and wide-spreading, with a solemn gloom that would
better have become a churchyard than a gentleman's park.
It was a noble old park, richly timbered with oaks as old as those
immemorial trees that make the glory of Stoneleigh. There was a lake in a
wooded hollow in front of the Abbey, a long low pile of stone, the newest
part of which was as old as the days of the last Tudor. Nor had much
money been spent on the restoration or decorative repair of that fine old
house. It had been kept wind and weather proof. It had been protected
against the injuries of time; and that was all. There it stood, a brave
and solid monument of the remote past, grand in its stern simplicity and
its historic associations.
'Oh, what a dear old house!' cried Ida, clasping her hands, as the car
came out of the yew-tree avenue into the open space in front of the
Abbey; a wide lawn, where four mighty cedars of Lebanon spread their
dense shadows--grave old trees--which were in somewise impostors, as they
looked older than the house, and yet had been saplings in the days of
Queen Anne. 'What a sweet old place!' repeated Ida; 'and how I envy the
'Don't you think the rich Brian's wife will be still more enviable
sneered Miss Rylance.
'That depends. She may be a Vere-de-Vereish kind of person, and pine
amongst her halls and towers,' said Ida.
'Not if she had been brought up in poverty. She would revel in the
advantages of her position as Mrs. Wendover of the Abbey,' asserted Miss
'Would she? The Earl of Burleigh's wife had been poor, and yet did not
enjoy being rich and great,' said Bessie. 'It killed her, poor thing. And
yet she had married for love, and had no remorse of conscience to weigh
'She was a sensitive little fool,' said Ida; 'I have no patience with
'Modern young ladies are not easily crushed,' remarked Miss Rylance;
'they make marrying for money a profession.'
'Is that your idea of life?' asked Ida.
'No; but I understand it is yours. I heard you say you meant to marry for
'Then you must have been listening to a conversation in which you had no
concern,' Ida answered coolly. 'I never said as much to you.'
The three girls, and the chubby Eva, had alighted from the car, which was
being conveyed to the stables at a hand-gallop, and this conversation was
continued on the broad gravel sweep in front of the Abbey. Just as the
discussion was intensifying in unpleasantness, the arrival of the
pedestrians made an agreeable diversion. Blanche and her two brothers had
come by a short cut, across fields and common, had given chase to
butterflies, experimented with tadpoles, and looked for hedge-birds' eggs
in the course of their journey, and were altogether in a state of
dilapidation--perspiration running down their sunburnt faces--their hats
anyhow--their hands embellished with recent scratches--their boots coated
'Did ever anyone see such objects?' exclaimed Bessie, who had imbibed
certain conventional ideas of decency at Mauleverer Manor: 'you ought to
be ashamed of yourselves.'
'I daresay we ought, but we aren't,' retorted Horatio. 'I found a tadpole
in an advanced stage of transmutation, Miss Palliser, and it has almost
converted me to Darwinism. Given a single step and you may accept the
whole ladder. If from tadpoles frogs, why not from monkeys man?'
'Go and be a Darwinian, and don't prose,' said Blanche, impatiently. 'We
are going to show Ida the Abbey. How do you like the outside, darling?'
asked the too-affectionate girl, favouring Miss Palliser with the full
weight of her seven stone and three-quarters.
'I adore it. It is like a page out of an old chronicle.'
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