The Golden Calf
M. E. Braddon
Part 2 out of 9
'Isn't it?' gasped Blanche; 'and you can fancy the fat old monks sitting
on those stone benches, nodding in the sunshine. The house is hardly
altered a bit since it was an actual abbey, except that half a dozen
cells have been knocked into one comfortable bedroom. The long dark
passages are just the same as they were when those sly old monks went
gliding up and down them--such dear old passages, smelling palpably of
'Mice,' said Horatio.
'No, sir, ghosts. Do you suppose my sense of smell is of such inferior
quality that I can't distinguish a ghost from a mouse?'
'Now, how about luncheon?' demanded Horatio. 'I propose that we all go
and sit under that prime old cedar and discuss the contents of the picnic
basket before we discuss the Abbey.'
'Why, it isn't half-past eleven,' said Bessie.
'Ah,' sighed Blanche, 'I'm afraid it's too early for lunch. We should
have nothing left to look forward to all the rest of the day.'
'There'd be afternoon tea at Aunt Betsy's to build upon, said Horry. 'I
gave her to understand we were to have something good: blue gages from
the south wall, cream to a reckless extent.'
'Strawberry jam and pound-cake,' suggested Eva.
'If you go on like that you'll make me distracted with hunger,' said
Blanche, a young person who at the seaside wanted twopence to buy buns
directly after she had swallowed her dinner.
Bessie and Miss Rylance had been walking up and down the velvet sward
beside the beds of dwarf roses and geraniums, with a ladylike stateliness
which did credit to their training at Mauleverer. Ida was the centre of
the juvenile group.
'Come and see the Abbey,' exclaimed Horry, putting his arm through Miss
Palliser's, 'and at the stroke of one we will sit down to lunch under the
biggest of the cedars--the tree which according to tradition was planted
by John Evelyn himself, when he came on a visit to Sir Tristram
They all trooped into the Abbey, the hall door standing open, as in a
fairy tale. Bessie and Urania followed at a more sober pace; but Ida had
given herself over to the children, and they did what they liked with
her, Blanche hanging on her bodily all the time.
They were now joined by Reginald, who appeared mysteriously from the back
premises, where he had been seeing Robin eat his corn, having a fixed
idea that it was in the nature of all grooms and stablemen to cheat
The Abbey was furnished with a sober grandeur, in perfect tone with its
architecture. Everything was solid and ponderous, save here and there,
where in some lady's bower there appeared the spindle-legged tables and
inlaid cabinets of the Chippendale period, which had an air of newness
where all else was so old. The upper rooms were low and somewhat dark,
the heavily mullioned windows being designed to exclude rather than to
admit light. There was much tapestry, subdued in hue, but in good
condition, and as frankly uninteresting in subject as the generality of
old English needlework.
Below, the rooms were large and lofty, rich in carved chimney pieces,
well preserved panelling, and old oak furniture. There were some fine
pictures, from Holbein downwards, and the usual array of family
portraits, which the boys and girls explained and commented upon
'There's my favourite ancestor, Sir Tristram,' cried Blanche pointing to
a dark-eyed cavalier, with strongly-marked brow and bronzed visage. 'He
was middle-aged when that picture was painted, but I know he was handsome
in his youth. The face is still in the family.'
'Of course it is,' said Horatio--'on my shoulders.'
'Your shoulders!' ejaculated Blanche, contemptuously. 'As if my Sir
Tristram ever resembled you. He fought in all the great battles, from
Edgehill to Worcester,' continued the girl; 'and he was wounded seven
times; and he was true to his master through every trial; and he had all
the Wendover plate melted down; and he followed Charles the Second into
exile; he mortgaged his estate to raise money for the king; and he
married a very lovely French woman, who introduced turned-up noses into
the family,' concluded Blanche, giving her tip-tilted nose a complacent
'I thought it was a mercy that we were spared the old housekeeper,' said
Urania, 'but really Blanche is worse.'
'Ida doesn't know all about our family, if you do,' protested Blanche.
'It is all new to her.'
'Yes, dear, it is all new and interesting to me,' said Ida.
'How much more deeply you would have been interested if Mr. Wendover had
been here to expatiate upon his family tree,' said Urania.
'That might have made it still more interesting,' admitted Ida, with a
frankness which took the sting out of Miss Rylance's remark.
The young Wendovers had shown Ida everything. They had opened cabinets,
peered into secret drawers, sniffed at the stale _pot-pourri_ in old
crackle vases; they had dragged their willing victim through all the long
slippery passages, by all the mysterious stairs and by-ways; they had
obliged her to look at the interior of ghostly closets, where the ladies
of old had stored their house linen or hung their mantuas and
farthingales; they had made her look out of numerous windows to admire
the prospect; they had introduced her to the state bedroom in which the
heads of the Wendover race made a point of being born; they made her peep
shuddering into the death-chamber where the family were laid in their
last slumber. The time thus pleasantly occupied slipped away unawares;
and the chapel clock was striking one as they all went trooping down the
broad oak staircase for about the fifteenth time.
A gentleman was entering the hall as they came down. They could only see
the top of his hat.
'It's father,' cried Eva.
'You little idiot; did you ever see my father in a stove-pipe hat on a
week-day?' cried Reg, with infinite scorn.
'Then it's Brian.'
'Brian is in Norway.'
The gentleman looked up and greeted them all with a comprehensive smile.
It was Dr. Rylance.
'So glad I have found you, young people,' he said blandly.
'Papa,' exclaimed Urania, in a tone which did not express unmitigated
pleasure, 'this is a surprise. You told me you would not be down till
late in the evening.'
'Yes, my dear: but the fine morning tempted me. I found my engagements
would stand over till Monday or Tuesday, so I put myself into the eight
o'clock train, and arrived at The Cottage just an hour after you and your
friends had left for your picnic. So I walked over to join you. I hope I
am not in the way.'
'Of course not,' said Bessie. 'I'm afraid you'll find us hardly the kind
of company you are accustomed to; but if you will put up with our
roughness and noise we shall feel honoured.'
'We are going to get lunch ready,' said Blanche. 'You grown-ups will find
us under Evelyn's tree when you're hungry, and you'd better accommodate
yourselves to be hungry soon.'
'Or you may find a dearth of provisions,' interjected Reg. 'I feel in a
The troop rushed off, leaving the three elder girls and Dr. Rylance
standing in the hall, listlessly contemplative of Sir Tristram's dinted
breast-plate, hacked by Roundhead pikes at Marston Moor.
DR. RYLANCE ASSERTS HIMSELF.
The luncheon under Evelyn's tree took a cooler shade from Dr. Rylance's
presence than from the far-reaching branches of the cedar. His politeness
made the whole business different from what it would have been without
Blanche and the boys, accustomed to abandon themselves to frantic
joviality at any outdoor feast of their own contriving, now withdrew into
the background, and established themselves behind the trunk of the tree,
in which retirement they kept up an insane giggling, varied by low and
secret discourse, and from which shelter they issued forth stealthily,
one by one, to pounce with crafty hands upon the provisions. These
unmannerly proceedings were ignored by the elders, but they exercised a
harassing influence upon poor little Eva, who had been told to sit
quietly by Bessie, and who watched her brothers' raids with round-eyed
wonder, and listened with envious ears to that distracting laughter
behind the tree.
'Did you see Horry take quite half the cake, just now?' she whispered to
Bessie, in the midst of a polite conversation about nothing particular.
And anon she murmured in horrified wonder, after a stolen peep behind the
tree,' Reg is taking off Dr. Rylance.'
The grown-up luncheon party was not lively. Tongue and chicken,
pigeon-pie, cheese-cakes, tarts, cake, fruit--all had been neatly spread
upon a tablecloth laid on the soft turf. Nothing had been forgotten.
There were plates and knives and forks enough for everybody--picnicking
being a business thoroughly well understood at The Knoll; but there was a
good deal wanting in the guests.
Ida was thoughtful, Urania obviously sullen, Bessie amiably stupid; but
Dr. Rylance appeared to think that they were all enjoying themselves
'Now this is what I call really delightful,' he said, as he poured out
the sparkling Devonshire cider with as stately a turn of his wrist as if
the liquor had been Cliquot or Roederer. 'An open-air luncheon on such a
day as this is positively inspiring, and to a man who has breakfasted at
seven o'clock on a cup of tea and a morsel of dry toast--thanks, yes, I
prefer the wing if no one else, will have it--such an unceremonious meal
is doubly welcome. I'm so glad I found you. Lucky, wasn't it, Ranie?'
He smiled at his daughter, as if deprecating that stolid expression of
hers, which would have been eminently appropriate to the funeral of an
indifferent acquaintance,--a total absence of all feeling, a grave
'I don't see anything lucky in so simple a fact,' answered Urania. 'You
were told we had come here, and you came here after us.'
'You might have changed your minds at the last moment and gone somewhere
else. Might you not, now, Miss Palliser?'
'Yes, if we had been very frivolous people; but as to-day's exploration
of the Abbey was planned last night, it would have indicated great
weakness of mind if we had been tempted into any other direction,'
answered Ida, feeling somewhat sorry for Dr. Rylance.
The coldest heart might compassionate a man cursed in such a disagreeable
'I am very glad you were not weak-minded, and that I was so fortunate as
to find you,' said the doctor, addressing himself henceforward
exclusively to Ida and her friend.
Bessie took care of his creature-comforts with a matronly hospitality
which sat well upon her. She cut thin slices of tongue, she fished out
savouriest bits of pigeon and egg, when he passed, by a natural
transition, from chicken to pie. She was quite distressed because he did
not care for tarts or cake. But the doctor's appetite, unlike that of the
young people on the other side of the cedar, had its limits. He had
satisfied his hunger long before they had, and was ready to show Miss
Palliser the gardens.
'They are fine old gardens,' he said, approvingly. 'Perhaps their chief
beauty is that they have not a single modern improvement. They are as
old-fashioned as the gardens of Sion Abbey, before the good queen Bess
ousted the nuns to make room for the Percies.'
They all rose and walked slowly away from the cedar, leaving the
fragments of the feast to Blanche and her three brothers. Eva stayed
behind, to make one of that exuberant group, and to see Reg 'take off'
Urania and her father. His mimicry was cordially admired, though it was
not always clear to his audience which was the doctor and which was his
daughter. A stare, a strut, a toss, an affected drawl were the leading
features of each characterization.
'I had no opportunity of congratulating you on your triumphs the other
day, Miss Palliser,' said Dr. Rylance, who had somehow managed that Ida
and he should be side by side, and a little in advance of the other two.
'But, believe me, I most heartily sympathized with you in the delight of
'Delight?' echoed Ida. 'Do you think there was any real pleasure for me
in receiving a gift from the hands of Miss Pew, who has done all she
could do to make me feel the disadvantages of my position, from the day I
first entered her house to the day I last left it? The prizes gave me no
pleasure. They have no value in my mind, except as an evidence that I
have made the most of my opportunities at Mauleverer, in spite of my
contempt for my schoolmistress.'
'You dislike her intensely, I see.'
'She has made me dislike her. I never knew unkindness till I knew her. I
never felt the sting of poverty till she made me feel all its sharpness.
I never knew that I was steeped in sinful pride until she humiliated me.'
'Your days of honour and happiness will come, said the doctor, 'days when
you will think no more of Miss Pew than of an insect which once stung
'Thank you for the comforting forecast,' answered Ida, lightly. 'But it
is easy to prophesy good fortune.'
'Easy, and safe, in such a case as yours. I can sympathize with you
better than you may suppose, Miss Palliser. I have had to fight my
battle. I was not always Dr. Rylance, of Cavendish Square; and I did not
enter a world in which there was a fine estate waiting for me, like the
owner of this place.'
'But you have conquered fortune, and by your own talents,' said Ida.
'That must be a proud thought.'
Dr. Rylance, who was not utterly without knowledge of himself, smiled at
the compliment. He knew it was by tact and address, smooth speech and
clean linen, that he had conquered fortune, rather than by shining
abilities. Yet he valued himself not the less on that account. In his
mind tact ranked higher than genius, since it was his own peculiar gift:
just as blue ginger-jars were better than Sevres, because he, Dr.
Rylance, was a collector of ginger-jars. He approved of himself so
completely that even his littlenesses were great in his own eyes.
'I have worked hard,' he said, complacently, 'and I have been patient.
But now, when my work is done, and my place in the world fixed, I begin
to find life somewhat barren. A man ought to reap some reward--something
fairer and sweeter than pounds, shillings, and pence, for a life of
labour and care.'
'No doubt,' assented Ida, receiving this remark as abstract philosophy,
rather than as having a personal meaning. 'But I think I should consider
pounds, shillings, and pence a very fair reward, if I only had enough of
'Yes, now, when you are smarting under the insolence of a purse-proud
schoolmistress; but years hence, when you have won independence, you will
feel disappointed if you have won nothing better.'
'What could be better?'
'Sympathetic companionship--a love worthy to influence your life.'
Ida looked up at the doctor with naive surprise. Good heavens, was this
middle-aged gentleman going to drop into sentiment, as Silas Wegg dropped
into poetry? She glanced back at the other two. Happily they were close
'What have you done with the children, Bessie?' asked Ida, as if she were
suddenly distracted with anxiety about their fate.
'Left them to their own devices. I hope they will not quite kill
themselves. We are all to meet in the stable yard at four, so that we may
be with Aunt Betsy at five.'
'Don't you think papa and I had better walk gently home?' suggested
Urania; 'I am sure it would be cruel to inflict such an immense party
upon Miss Wendover.'
'Nonsense,' exclaimed Bessie. 'Why, if all old Pew's school was to march
in upon her, without a moment's notice Aunt Betsy would not be put out of
the way one little bit. If Queen Victoria were to drop in unexpectedly to
luncheon, my aunt would be as cool as one of her own early cucumbers, and
would insist on showing the Queen her stables, and possibly her pigs.'
'How do you know that?' asked Ida.
'Because she never had a visitor yet whom she did not drag into her
stables, from archbishops downwards; and I don't suppose she'd draw the
line at a queen,' answered Bessie, with conviction.
'I am going to drink tea with Miss Wendover, whatever Urania may do,'
said Dr. Rylance, who felt that the time had come when he must assert
himself. 'I am out for a day's pleasure, and I mean to drink the cup to
Urania looked at her father with absolute consternation. He was
transformed; he had become a new person; he was forgetting himself in a
ridiculous manner; letting down his dignity to an alarming extent. Dr.
Rylance, the fashionable physician, the man whose nice touch adjusted the
nerves of the aristocracy, to disport himself with unkempt, bare-handed
young Wendovers! It was an upheaval of things which struck horror to
Urania's soul. Easy, after beholding such a moral convulsion, to believe
that the Wight had once been part of the mainland; or even that Ireland
had originally been joined to Spain.
They all roamed into the rose-garden, where there were alleys of standard
rose-trees, planted upon grass that was soft and springy under the foot.
They went into the old vineries, where the big bunches of grapes were
purpling in the gentle heat. Dr. Rylance went everywhere, and he
contrived always to be near Ida Palliser.
He did not again lapse into sentiment, and he made himself fairly
agreeable, in his somewhat stilted fashion. Ida accepted his attention
with a charming unconsciousness; but she was perfectly conscious of
Urania's vexation, and that gave a zest to the whole thing.
'Well, Ida, what do you think of Kingthorpe Abbey?' asked Bessie, when
they had seen everything, even to the stoats and weasles, and various
vermin nailed flat against the stable wall, and were waiting for Robin to
'It is a noble old place. It is simply perfect. I wonder your cousin can
live away from it.'
'Oh, Brian's chief delight is in roaming about the world. The Abbey is
thrown away upon him. He ought to have been an explorer or a missionary.
However, he is expected home in a month, and you will be able to judge
for yourself whether he deserves to be master of this old place. I only
wish it belonged to the other Brian.'
'The other Brian is your favourite.'
'He is ever so much nicer than his cousin--at least, the children and I
like him best. My father swears by the head of the house.'
'I think I would rather accept the Colonel's judgment than yours, Bess,'
said Ida. 'You are so impulsive in your likings.'
'Don't say that I am wanting in judgment,' urged Bessie, coaxingly, 'for
you know how dearly I love you. You will see the two Brians, I hope,
before your holidays are over; and then you can make your own selection.
Brian Walford will be with us for my birthday picnic, I daresay, wherever
he may be now. I believe he is mooning away his time in Herefordshire,
with his mother's people.'
'Is his father dead?'
'Yes, mother and father both, ages ago, in the days when I was a
hard-hearted little wretch, and thought it a treat to go into mourning,
and rather nice to be able to tell everybody, "Uncle Walford's dead. He
had a fit, and he never speaked any more." It was news, you know, and in
a village that goes for something.'
After a lengthy discussion, and some squabbling, it was decided that the
children were to have the benefit of the jaunting-car for the homeward
journey, and that Dr. Rylance and the three young ladies were to walk,
attended by Reginald, who insisted upon attaching himself to their
service, volunteering to show them the very nearest way through a wood,
and across a field, and over a common, and down a lane, which led
straight to the gate of Aunt Betsy's orchard.
Urania wore fashionable boots, and considered walking exercise a
superstition of medical men and old-fashioned people; yet she stoutly
refused a seat in the car.
'No, thanks, Horatio; I know your pony too well. I'd rather trust myself
upon my own feet.'
'There's more danger in your high heels than in my pony, retorted
Horatio. 'I shouldn't wonder if you dropped in for a sprained ankle
before you got home.'
Urania risked the sprained ankle. She began to limp before she had
emerged from the wood. She hobbled painfully along the rugged footpath
between the yellow wheat. She was obliged to sit down and rest upon a
furzy hillock on the common, good-natured Bess keeping her company, while
Ida and Reginald were half a mile ahead with Dr. Rylance. Her delicate
complexion was unbecomingly flushed by the time she and Bessie arrived
wearily at the little gate opening into Miss Wendover's orchard.
There were only some iron hurdles between Aunt Betsy's orchard and the
lawn before Aunt Betsy's drawing-room. The house was characteristic of
the lady. It was a long red-brick cottage, solid, substantial, roomy,
eschewing ornament, but beautified in the eyes of most people by an air
of supreme comfort, cleanliness, and general well-being. In all
Kingthorpe there were no rooms so cool as Aunt Betsy's in summer--none so
warm in winter. The cottage had originally been the homestead of a small
grass-farm, which had been bequeathed to Betsy Wendover by her father,
familiarly known as the Old Squire, the chief landowner in that part of
the country. With this farm of about two hundred and fifty acres of the
most fertile pasture land in Hampshire and an income of seven hundred a
year from consols, Miss Wendover found herself passing rich. She built a
drawing-room with wide windows opening on to the lawn, and a bed-room
with a covered balcony over the drawing-room. These additional rooms made
the homestead all-sufficient for a lady of Aunt Betsy's simple habits.
She was hospitality itself, receiving her friends in a large-hearted,
gentleman-like style, keeping open house for man and beast, proud of her
wine, still prouder of her garden and greenhouses, proudest of her
stables; fond of this life, and of her many comforts, yet without a
particle of selfishness; ready to leave her cosy fireside at a moment's
notice on the bitterest winter night, to go and nurse a sick child, or
comfort a dying woman; religious without ostentation, charitable without
weakness, stern to resent an injury, implacable against an insult.
A refreshing sight, yet not altogether a pleasant one for Miss Rylance,
met the eyes of the two young ladies as they neared the little iron gate
opening from the orchard to the lawn. A couple of tea-tables had been
brought out upon the grass before the drawing-room window. The youngsters
were busily engaged at one table, Blanche pouring out tea, while her
brothers and small sister made havoc with cake and fruit, home-made bread
and butter, and jams of various hues. At the other table, less lavishly
but more elegantly furnished, sat Miss Wendover and Ida Palliser, with
Dr. Rylance comfortably established in a Buckinghamshire wickerwork chair
'Does not that look a picture of comfort?' exclaimed Bessie.
'My father seems to be making himself very comfortable,' said Urania.
She hobbled across the lawn, and sank exhausted into a low chair, near
'My poor child, how dilapidated you look after your walk,' said Dr.
Rylance; 'Miss Palliser and I enjoyed it immensely.'
'I cannot boast of Miss Palliser's robust health,' retorted Urania
contemptuously, as if good health were a sign of vulgarity. 'I had my
neuralgia all last night.'
Whenever the course of events proved objectionable, Miss Rylance took
refuge in a complaint which she called her neuralgia, indicating that it
was a species of disorder peculiar to herself, and of a superior quality
to everybody else's neuralgia.
'You should live in the open air, like my sunburnt young friends yonder,'
said the doctor, with a glance at the table where the young Wendovers
were stuffing themselves; 'I am sure they never complain of neuralgia.'
Urania looked daggers but spoke none.
It was a wearisome afternoon for that injured young lady. Dr. Rylance
dawdled over his tea, handed teacups and bread and butter, was assiduous
with the sugar basin, devoted with the cream jug, talked and laughed with
Miss Palliser, as if they had a world of ideas in common, and made
himself altogether objectionable to his only child.
By-and-by, when there was a general adjournment to the greenhouses and
stables, Urania contrived to slip her arm through her father's.
'I thought I told you that Miss Palliser was my favourite aversion,
papa,' she said, tremulous with angry feeling.
'I have some faint idea that you did express yourself unfavourably about
her,' answered the doctor, with his consulting-room urbanity, 'but I am
at a loss to understand your antipathy. The girl is positively charming,
as frank as the sunshine, and full of brains.'
'I know her. You do not,' said Urania tersely.
'My dear, it is the speciality of men in my profession to make rapid
'Yes, and very often to make them wrong. I was never so much annoyed in
my life. I consider your attention to that girl a deliberate insult to
me; a girl with whom I never could get on--who has said the rudest things
'Can I be uncivil to a friend of your friend Bessie?'
'There is a wide distance between being uncivil and being obsequiously,
'Urania,' said the doctor in his gravest voice, 'I have allowed you to
have your own way in most things, and I believe your life has been a
'Of course, papa. I never said otherwise.'
'Very well, my dear, then you must be good enough to let me take my own
way of making life pleasant to myself, and you must not take upon
yourself to dictate what degree of civility I am to show to Miss
Palliser, or to any other lady.'
Urania held her peace after this. It was the first deliberate snub she
had ever received from her father, and she added it to her lengthy score
A BIRTHDAY FEAST.
Ida Palliser's holidays were coming to an end, like a tale that is told.
There was only one day more left, but that day was to be especially
glorious; for it was Bessie Wendover's birthday, a day which from time
immemorial--or, at all events, ever since Bessie was ten years old--had
been sacred to certain games or festivities--a modernized worship of the
great god Pan.
Sad was it for Bessie and all the junior Wendovers when the seventh of
September dawned with gray skies, or east winds, rain, or hail. It was
usually a brilliant day. The clerk of the weather appeared favourably
disposed to the warm-hearted Bessie.
On this particular occasion the preparations for the festival were on a
grander scale than usual, in honour of Ida, who was on the eve of
departure. A cruel, cruel car was to carry her off to Winchester at six
o'clock on the morning after the birthday; the railway station was to
swallow her up alive; the train was to rush off with her, like a fiery
dragon carrying off the princess of fairy tale; and the youthful
Wendovers were to be left lamenting.
In six happy weeks their enthusiasm for their young guest had known no
abatement. She had realized their fondest anticipations. She had entered
into their young lives and made herself a part of them. She had given
herself up, heart and soul, to childish things and foolish things, to
please these devoted admirers; and the long summer holiday had been very
sweet to her. The open-air life--the balmy noontides in woods and
meadows, beside wandering trout streams--on the breezy hill-tops--the
afternoon tea-drinking in gardens and orchards--the novels read aloud,
seated in the heart of some fine old tree, with her auditors perched on
the branches round about her, like gigantic birds--the boating excursions
on a river with more weeds than water in it--the jaunts to Winchester,
and dreamy afternoons in the cathedral--all had been delicious. She had
lived in an atmosphere of homely domestic love, among people who valued
her for herself, and did not calculate the cost of her gowns, or despise
her because she had so few. The old church was lovely in her eyes; the
old vicar and his wife had taken a fancy to her. Everything at Kingthorpe
was delightful, except Urania. She certainly was a drawback; but she had
been tolerably civil since the first day at the Abbey.
Ida had spent many an hour at the Abbey since that first inspection. She
knew every room in the house--the sunniest windows--the books in the long
library, with its jutting wings between the windows, and cosy nooks for
study. She knew almost every tree in the park, and the mild faces of the
deer looking gravely reproachful, as if asking what business she had
there. She had lain asleep on the sloping bank above the lake on drowsy
afternoons, tired by wandering far a-field with her young esquires. She
knew the Abbey by heart--better than even Urania knew it; though she had
used that phrase to express utter satiety. Ida Palliser had a deeper love
of natural beauty, a stronger appreciation of all that made the old place
interesting. She had a curious feeling, too, about the absent master of
that grave, gray old house--a fond, romantic dream, which she would not
for the wealth of India have revealed to mortal ear, that in the days to
come Brian's life would be in somewise linked with hers. Perhaps this
foolish thought was engendered of the blankness of her own life, a stage
on which the players had been so few that this figure of an unknown young
man assumed undue proportions.
Then, again, the fact that she could hear very little about Mr. Wendover
from his cousins, stimulated her curiosity about him, and intensified her
interest in him. Brian's merits were a subject which the Wendover
children always shirked, or passed over so lightly that Ida was no wiser
for her questioning; and maidenly reserve forbade her too eager inquiry.
About Brian Walford, the son of Parson Wendover, youngest of the three
brothers, for seven years vicar of a parish near Hereford, and for the
last twelve years at rest in the village churchyard, the young Wendovers
had plenty to say. He was good-looking, they assured Ida. She would
inevitably fall in love with him when they met. He was the cleverest
young man in England, and was certain to finish his career as Lord
Chancellor, despite the humility of his present stage of being.
'He has no fortune, I suppose?' hazarded Ida, in a conversation with
She did not ask the question from any interest in the subject. Brian
Walford was a being whose image never presented itself to her mind. She
only made the remark for the sake of saying something.
'Not a denarius,' said Horry, who liked occasionally to be classical.
'But what of that? If I were as clever as Brian I shouldn't mind how poor
I was. With his talents he is sure to get to the top of the tree.'
'What can he do?' asked Ida.
'Ride a bicycle better than any man I know.'
'Sing a first-rate comic song.'
'Get longer breaks at billiards than any fellow I ever played with.'
'Pick the winner out of a score of race-horses in the preliminary
'Those are great gifts, I have no doubt,' said Ida. 'But do eminent
lawyers, in a general way, win their advancement by riding bicycles and
singing comic songs?'
'Don't sneer, Ida. When a fellow is clever in one thing he is clever in
other things. Genius is many-sided, universal. Carlyle says as much. If
Napoleon Bonaparte had not been a great general, he would have been a
great writer like Voltaire--or a great lawyer like Thurlow.'
From this time forward Ida had an image of Brian Walford in her mind. It
was the picture of a vapid youth, fair-haired, with thin moustache
elaborately trained, and thinner whiskers--a fribble that gave half its
little mind to its collar, and the other half to its boots. Such images
are photographed in a flash of lightning on the sensitive brain of youth,
and are naturally more often false guesses than true ones.
There was delightful riot in the house of the Wendovers on the night
before the picnic. The Colonel had developed a cold and cough within the
last week, so he and his wife had jogged off to Bournemouth, in the
T-cart, with one portmanteau and one servant, leaving Bessie mistress of
all things. It was a grief to Mrs. Wendover to be separated from home and
children at any time, and she was especially regretful at being absent on
her eldest daughter's birthday; but the Colonel was paramount. If his
cough could be cured by sea air, to the sea he must go, with his faithful
wife in attendance upon him.
'Don't let the children turn the house quite out of windows, darling,'
said Mrs. Wendover, at the moment of parting.
'No, mother dear, we are all going to be goodness itself.'
'I know, dears, you always are. And I hope you will all enjoy
'We're sure to do that, mother,' answered Reginald, with a cheerfulness
that seemed almost heartless.
The departing parent would not have liked them to be unhappy, but a few
natural tears would have been a pleasing tribute. Not a tear was shed.
Even the little Eva skipped joyously on the doorstep as the phaeton drove
away. The idea of the picnic was all-absorbing.
The Colonel and his wife were to spend a week, at Bournemouth. Ida would
see them no more this year.
'You must come again next summer, Mrs. Wendover said heartily, as she
kissed her daughter's friend.
'Of course she must,' cried Horry. 'She is coming every summer. She is
one of the institutions of Kingthorpe. I only wonder how we ever managed
to get on so long without her.'
All that evening was devoted to the packing of hampers, and to general
skirmishing. The picnic was to be held on the highest hill-top between
Kingthorpe and Winchester, one of those little Lebanons, fair and green,
on which the yew-trees flourished like the cedars of the East, but with a
sturdy British air that was all their own.
The birthday dawned with the soft pearly gray and tender opal tints which
presage a fair noontide. Before six o'clock the children had all besieged
Bessie's door, with noisy tappings and louder congratulations. At seven,
they were all seated at breakfast, the table strewn with birthday gifts,
mostly of that useless and semi-idiotic character peculiar to such
tributes-ormolu inkstands, holding a thimbleful of ink--penholders
warranted to break before they have been used three times--purses with
impossible snaps--photograph frames and pomatum-pots.
Bessie pretended to be enraptured with everything. The purse Horry gave
her was 'too lovely.' Reginald's penholder was the very thing she had
been wanting for an age. Dear little Eva's pomatum-pot was perfection.
The point-lace handkerchief Ida had worked in secret was exquisite.
Blanche's crochet slippers were so lovely that their not being big enough
was hardly a fault. They were much too pretty to be worn. Urania
contributed a more costly gift, in the shape of a perfume cabinet, all
cut-glass, walnut-wood, and ormolu.
'Urania's presents are always meant to crush one,' said Blanche
disrespectfully; 'they are like the shields and bracelets those rude
soldiers flung at poor Tarpeia.'
Urania was to be one of the picnic party. She was to be the only stranger
present. There had been a disappointment about the two cousins. Neither
Brian had accepted the annual summons. One was supposed to be still in
Norway, the other had neglected to answer the letter which had been sent
more than a week ago to his address in Herefordshire.
'I'm afraid you'll find it dreadfully like our every-day picnics,' Bessie
said to Ida, as they were starting.
'I shall be satisfied if it be half as pleasant.'
'Ah, it would have been nice enough if the two Brians had been with us.
Brian Walford is so amusing.'
'He would have sung comic songs, I suppose?' said Ida rather
'Oh, no; you must not suppose that he is always singing comic songs. He
is one of those versatile people who can do anything.'
'I don't want to be rude about your own flesh and blood Bess, but in a
general way I detest versatile people,' said Ida.
'What a queer girl you are, Ida! I'm afraid you have taken a dislike to
Brian Walford,' complained Bessie.
'No,' said Ida, deep in thought,--the two girls were standing at the
hall-door, waiting for the carriage,--'it is not that.'
'You like the idea of the other Brian better?'
Ida's wild-rose bloom deepened to a rich carnation.
'Oh, Ida,' cried Bessie; 'do you remember what you said about marrying
'It was a revolting sentiment; but it was wrung from me by the infinite
vexations of poverty.'
'Wouldn't it be too lovely if Brian the Great were to fall in love with
you, and ask you to be mistress of that dear old Abbey which you admire
'Don't be ecstatic, Bessie. I shall never be the mistress of the Abbey. I
was not born under a propitious star. There must have been a very ugly
concatenation of planets ruling the heavens at the hour of my birth. You
see, Brian the Great does not even put himself in the way of falling
captive to my charms.'
This was said half in sport, half in bitterness; indeed, there was a
bitter flavour in much of Ida Palliser's mirth. She was thinking of the
stories she had read in which a woman had but to be young and lovely, and
all creation bowed down to her. Yet her beauty had been for the most part
a cause of vexation, and had made people hate her. She had been
infinitely happy during the last six weeks; but embodied hatred had been
close at hand in the presence of Miss Rylance; and if anyone had fallen
in love with her during that time, it was the wrong person.
The young ladies were to go in the landau, leaving the exclusive
enjoyment of Robin's variable humours to Horatio and the juveniles. There
was a general idea that Robin, in conjunction with a hilly country, might
be sooner or later fatal to the young Wendovers; but they went on driving
him, nevertheless, as everybody knew that if he did ultimately prove
disastrous to them it would be with the best intentions and without loss
Bessie and Ida took their seats in the roomy carriage, Reginald mounted
to the perch beside the coachman, and they drove triumphantly through the
village to the gate of Dr. Rylance's cottage, where Urania stood waiting
'I hope we haven't kept you long?' said Bessie.
'Not more than a quarter of an hour,' answered Urania, meekly; 'but that
seems rather long in a broiling sun. You always have such insufferably
hot weather on your birthdays, Bessie.'
'It will be cool enough on the hills by-and-by,' said Bess,
'I daresay there will be a cold wind,' returned Urania, who wore an
unmistakable air of discontent. 'There generally is on these unnatural
'One would think you bore a grudge against the month of September because
I was born in it,' retorted Bessie. And then, remembering her
obligations, she hastened to add, 'How can I thank you sufficiently for
that exquisite scent-case? It is far too lovely.'
'I am very glad you like it. One hardly knows what to choose.'
Miss Rylance had taken her seat in the landau by this time, and they were
bowling along the smooth high road at that gentle jog-trot pace affected
by a country gentleman's coachman.
The day was heavenly; the wind due south; a day on which life--mere
sensual existence--is a delight. The landscape still wore its richest
summer beauty--not a leaf had fallen. They were going upward, to the
hilly region between Kingthorpe and Winchester, to a spot where there was
a table-shaped edifice of stones, supposed to be of Druidic origin.
The young Wendovers were profoundly indifferent to the Druids, and to
that hypothetical race who lived ages before the Druids, and have broken
out all over the earth in stony excrescences, as yet vaguely classified.
That three-legged granite table, whose origin was lost in the remoteness
of past time, seemed to the young Wendovers a thing that had been created
expressly for their amusement, to be climbed upon or crawled under as the
fancy moved them. It was a capital rallying-point for a picnic or a gipsy
'We are to have no grown-ups to-day,' said Reginald, looking down from
his place beside the coachman. 'The pater and mater are away, and Aunt
Betsy has a headache; so we can have things all our own way.'
'You are mistaken, Reginald,' said Urania; 'my father is going to join us
by-and-by. I hope he won't be considered an interloper. I told him that
it was to be a young party, and that I was sure he would be in the way;
but he wouldn't take my advice. He is going to ride over in the broiling
sun. Very foolish, I think.'
'I thought Dr. Rylance was in London?'
'He was till last night. He came down on purpose to be at your picnic.'
'I am sure I feel honoured,' said Bessie.
'Do you? I don't think _you_ are the attraction,' answered Urania, with a
cantankerous glance at Miss Palliser.
Ida's dark eyes were looking far away across the hills. It seemed as if
she neither heard Miss Rylance's speech nor saw the sneer which
Dr. Rylance's substantial hunter came plodding over the turfy ridge
behind them five minutes afterwards, and presently he was riding at a
measured trot beside the carriage door, congratulating Bessie on the
beauty of the day, and saying civil things to every one.
'I could not resist the temptation to give myself a day's idleness in the
Hampshire air,' he said.
Reginald felt an utterably savage. What a trouble-feast the man was. They
would have to adapt the proceedings of the day to his middle-aged good
manners. There could be no wild revelry, no freedom. Dr. Rylance was an
embodiment of propriety.
Half-an-hour after dinner they were all scattered upon the hills.
Reginald, who cherished a secret passion for Ida, which was considerably
in advance of his years, and who had calculated upon being her guide,
philosopher, and friend all through the day, found himself ousted by the
West End physician, who took complete possession of Miss Palliser, under
the pretence of explaining the history--altogether speculative--of the
spot. He discoursed eloquently about the Druids, expatiated upon the City
of Winchester, dozing in the sunshine yonder, among its fat water
meadows. He talked of the Saxons and the Normans, of William of Wykeham,
and his successors, until poor Ida felt sick and faint from very
weariness. It was all very delightful talk, no doubt--the polished
utterance of a man who read his _Saturday Review_ and _Athenaeum_
diligently, saw an occasional number of _Fors Clavigera_, and even
skimmed the more aesthetic papers in the _Architect_; but to Ida this
expression of modern culture was all weariness. She would rather have
been racing those wild young Wendovers down the slippery hill-side, on
which they were perilling their necks; she would rather have been lying
beside the lake in Kingthorpe Park, reading her well-thumbed Tennyson, or
her shabby little Keats.
Her thoughts had wandered ever so far away when she was called back to
the work-a-day world by finding that Dr. Rylance's conversation had
suddenly slipped from archaeology into a more personal tone.
'Are you really going away to-morrow?' he asked.
'Yes,' answered Ida, sadly, looking at one of the last of the
butterflies, whose brief summertide of existence was wearing to its
close, like her own.
'You are going back to Mauleverer Manor?'
'Yes. I have another half-year of bondage, I am going back to drudgery
and self-contempt, to be brow-beaten by Miss Pew, and looked down upon by
most of her pupils. The girls in my own class are very fond of me, but
I'm afraid their fondness is half pity. The grown-up girls with happy
homes and rich fathers despise me. I hardly wonder at it. Genteel poverty
certainly is contemptible. There is nothing debasing in a smock-frock or
a fustian jacket. The labourers I see about Kingthorpe have a glorious
air of independence, and I daresay are as proud, in their way, as if they
were dukes. But shabby finery--genteel gowns worn threadbare: there is a
deep degradation in those.'
'Not for you,' answered Dr. Rylance, earnestly, with an admiring look in
his blue-gray eyes. They were somewhat handsome eyes when they did not
put on their cruel expression. 'Not for you. Nothing could degrade,
nothing could exalt you. You are superior to the accident of your
'It's very kind of you to say that; but it's a fallacy, all the same,'
said Ida. 'Do you think Napoleon at St. Helena, squabbling with Sir
Hudson Lowe, is as dignified a figure as Napoleon at the Tuileries, in
the zenith of his power? But I ought not to be grumbling at fate. I have
been happy for six sunshiny weeks. If I were to live to be a century old,
I could never forget how good people at Kingthorpe have been to me. I
will go back to my old slavery, and live upon the memory of that
'Why should you go back to slavery?' asked Dr. Rylance, taking her hand
in his and holding it with so strong a grasp that she could hardly have
withdrawn it without violence. 'There is a home at Kingthorpe ready to
receive you. If you have been happy there in the last few weeks, why not
try if you can be happy there always? There is a house in Cavendish
Square whose master would be proud to make you its mistress. Ida, we have
seen very little of each other, and I may be precipitate in hazarding
this offer; but I am as fond of you as if I had known you half a
lifetime, and I believe that I could make your life happy.'
Ida Palliser's heart thrilled with a chill sense of horror and aversion.
She had talked recklessly enough of her willingness to marry for money,
and, lo! here was a prosperous man laying two handsomely furnished houses
at her feet--a man of gentlemanlike bearing, good-looking, well-informed,
well-spoken, with no signs of age in his well-preserved face and figure;
a man whom any woman, friendless, portionless, a mere waif upon earth's
surface, at the mercy of all the winds that blow, ought proudly and
gladly to accept for her husband.
No, too bold had been her challenge to fate. She had said that she would
marry any honest man who would lift her out of the quagmire of poverty:
but she was not prepared to accept Dr. Rylance's offer, generous as it
sounded. She would rather go back to the old treadmill, and her old
fights with Miss Pew, than reign supreme over the dainty cottage at
Kingthorpe and the house in Cavendish Square. Her time had not come.
Dr. Rylance had not risen to eloquence in making his offer; and Ida's
reply was in plainest words.
'I am very sorry,' she faltered. 'I feel that it is very good of you to
make such a proposal; but I cannot accept it.'
'There is some one else,' said the doctor. 'Your heart is given away
'No,' she answered sadly; 'my heart is like an empty sepulchre.'
'Then why should I not hope to win you? I have been hasty, no doubt: but
I want if possible to prevent your return to that odious school. If you
would but make me happy by saying yes, you could stay with your kind
friends at The Knoll till the day that makes you mistress of my house. We
might be married in time to spend November in Italy. It is the nicest
month for Rome. You have never seen Italy, perhaps?'
'No. I have seen very little that is worth seeing.'
'Ida, why will you not say yes? Do you doubt that I should try my
uttermost to make you happy?'
'No,' she answered gravely, but I doubt my own capacity for that kind of
Dr. Rylance was deeply wounded. He had been petted and admired by women
during the ten years of his widowhood, favoured and a favourite
everywhere. He had made up his mind deliberately to marry this penniless
girl. Looked at from a worldling's point of view, it would seem, at the
first glance, an utterly disadvantageous alliance: but Dr. Rylance had an
eye that could sweep over horizons other than are revealed to the average
gaze, and he told himself that so lovely a woman as Ida Palliser must
inevitably become the fashion in that particular society which Dr.
Rylance most affected: and a wife famed for her beauty and elegance
Would assuredly be of more advantage to a fashionable physician than a
common-place wife with a fortune. Dr. Rylance liked money; but he liked
it only for what it could buy. He had no sons, and he was much too fond
of himself to lead laborious days in order to leave a large fortune to
his daughter. He had bought a lease of his London house, which would last
his time; he had bought the freehold of the Kingthorpe cottage; and he
was living up to his income. When he died there would be two houses of
furniture, plate, pictures, horses and carriages, and the Kingthorpe
cottage, to be realized for Urania. He estimated these roughly as worth
between six and seven thousand pounds, and he considered seven thousand
pounds an ample fortune for his only daughter. Urania was in happy
ignorance of the modesty of his views. She imagined herself an heiress on
a much larger scale.
To offer himself to a penniless girl of whose belongings he knew
absolutely nothing, and to be peremptorily refused! Dr. Rylance could
hardly believe such a thing possible. The girl must be trifling with him,
playing her fish, with the fixed intention of landing him presently. It
was in the nature of girls to do that kind of thing. 'Why do you reject
me?' he asked seriously 'is it because I am old enough to be your
'No, I would marry a man old enough to be my grandfather if I loved him,'
answered Ida, with cruel candour.
'And I am to understand that your refusal is irrevocable? he urged.
'Quite irrevocable. But I hope you believe that I am grateful for the
honour you have done me.'
'That is the correct thing to say upon such occasions, answered Dr.
Rylance, coldly; 'I wonder the sentence is not written in your copy
books, among those moral aphorisms which are of so little use in after
'The phrase may seem conventional, but in my case it means much more than
usual,' said Ida; 'a girl who has neither money nor friends has good
reason to be grateful when a gentleman asks her to be his wife.'
'I wish I could be grateful for your gratitude,' said Dr. Rylance, 'but I
can't. I want your love, and nothing else. Is it on Urania's account that
you reject me?' he urged. 'If you think that she would be a hindrance to
your happiness, pray dismiss the thought. If she did not accommodate
herself pleasantly to my choice her life would have to be spent apart
from us. I would brook no rebellion.'
The cruel look had come into Dr. Rylance's eyes. He was desperately
angry. He was surprised, humiliated, indignant. Never had the possibility
of rejection occurred to him. It had been for him to decide whether he
would or would not take this girl for his wife; and after due
consideration of her merits and all surrounding circumstances, he had
decided that he would take her.
'Is my daughter the stumbling-block?' he urged.
'No,' she answered, 'there is no stumbling-block. I would marry you
to-morrow, if I felt that I could love you as a wife ought to love her
husband. I said once--only a little while ago--that I would marry for
money. I find that I am not so base as I thought myself.'
'Perhaps the temptation is not large enough,' said Dr. Rylance. 'If I had
been Brian Wendover, and the owner of Kingthorpe Abbey, you would hardly
have rejected me so lightly.'
Ida crimsoned to the roots of her hair. The shaft went home. It was as if
Dr. Rylance had been inside her mind and knew all the foolish day-dreams
she had dreamed in the idle summer afternoons, under the spreading cedar
branches, or beside the lake in the Abbey grounds. Before she had time to
express her resentment a cluster of young Wendovers came sweeping down
the greensward at her side, and in the next minute Blanche was hanging
upon her bodily, like a lusty parasite strangling a slim young tree.
'Darling,' cried Blanche gaspingly, 'such news. Brian has come--cousin
Brian--after all, though he thought he couldn't. But he made a great
effort, and he has come all the way as fast as he could tear to be here
on Bessie's birthday. Isn't it too jolly?'
'All the way from Norway?' asked Ida.
'Yes,' said Urania, who had been carried down the hill with the torrent
of Wendovers, 'all the way from Norway. Isn't it nice of him?'
Blanche's frank face was brimming over with smiles. The boys were all
laughing. How happy Brian's coming had made them!
Ida looked at them wonderingly.
'How pleased you all seem!' she said. 'I did not know you were so fond of
your cousin. I thought it was the other you liked.'
'Oh, we like them both,' said Blanche, 'and it is so nice of Brian to
come on purpose for Bessie's birthday. Do come and see him. He is on the
top of the hill talking to Bess; and the kettle boils, and we are just
going to have tea. We are all starving.'
'After such a dinner!' exclaimed Ida.
'Such a dinner, indeed!--two or three legs of fowls and a plate or so of
pie!' ejaculated Reginald, contemptuously. 'I began to be hungry a
quarter of an hour afterwards. Come and see Brian.'
Ida looked round her wonderingly, feeling as if she was in a dream.
Dr. Rylance had disappeared. Urania was smiling at her sweetly, more
sweetly than it was her wont to smile at Ida Palliser.
'One would think she knew that I had refused her father,' mused Ida.
They all climbed the hill, the children talking perpetually, Ida
unusually silent. The smoke of a gipsy fire was going up from a hollow
near the Druid altar, and two figures were standing beside the altar;
one, a young man, with his arm resting on the granite slab, and his head
bent as he talked, with seeming earnestness, to Bessie Wendover. He
turned as the crowd approached, and Bessie introduced him to Miss
Palliser. 'My cousin Brian--my dearest friend Ida,' she said.
'She is desperately fond of the Abbey,' said Blanche; 'so I hope she will
like you. "Love me, love my dog," says the proverb, so I suppose one
might say, "Love my house, love me."'
Ida stood silent amidst her loquacious friends, looking at the stranger
with a touch of wonder. No, this was not the image which she had pictured
to herself. Mr. Wendover was very good-looking--interesting even; he had
the kind of face which women call nice--a pale complexion, dreamy gray
eyes, thin lips, a well-shaped nose, a fairly intellectual forehead. But
the Brian of her fancies was a man of firmer mould, larger features, a
more resolute air, an eye with more fire, a brow marked by stronger
lines. For some unknown reason she had fancied the master of the Abbey
like that Sir Tristram Wendover who had been so loyal a subject and so
brave a soldier, and before whose portrait she had so often lingered in
'And you have really come all the way from Norway to be at Bessie's
picnic?' she faltered at last, feeling that she was expected to say
'I would have come a longer distance for the sake of such a pleasant
meeting,' he answered, smiling at her.
'Bessie,' cried Blanche, who had been grovelling on her knees before the
gipsy fire, 'the kettle will go off the boil if you don't make tea
instantly. If it were not your birthday I should make it myself.'
'You may,' said Bessie, 'although it is my birthday.'
She had walked a little way apart with Urania, and they two were talking
'Those girls seem to be plotting something,' said Reginald; 'a charade
for to-night, perhaps. It's sure to be stupid if Urania's in it.'
'You mean that it will be too clever,' said Horatio.
'Yes, that kind of cleverness which is the essence of stupidity.'
While Bessie and Miss Rylance conversed apart, and all the younger
Wendovers devoted their energies to the preparation of a tremendous meal,
Ida and Brian Wendover stood face to face upon the breezy hill-top, the
girl sorely embarrassed, the young man gazing at her as if he had never
seen anything so lovely in his life.
'I have heard so much about you from Bessie,' he said after a silence
which seemed long to both. 'Her letters for the last twelve months have
been a perpetual paean--like one of the Homeric hymns, with you for the
heroine. I had quite a dread of meeting you, feeling that, after having
my expectations strung up to such a pitch, I must be disappointed.
Nothing human could justify Bessie's enthusiasm.'
'Please don't talk about it. Bessie's one weak point is her affection for
me. I am very grateful. I love her dearly, but she does her best to make
'I am beginning to think Bessie a very sensible girl,' said Brian,
longing to say much more, so deeply was he impressed by this goddess in a
holland gown, with glorious eyes shining upon him under the shadow of a
coarse straw hat.
'Have you come back to Hampshire for good?' asked Ida, as they strolled
towards Bessie and Urania.
'For good! No, I never stay long.'
'What a pity that lovely old Abbey should be deserted!'
'Yes, it is rather a shame, is it not? But then no one could expect a
young man to live there except in the hunting season--or for the sake of
'Could anyone ever grow tired of such a place?' asked Ida.
She was wondering at the young man's indifferent air, as if that solemn
abbey, those romantic gardens, were of no account to him. She supposed
that this was in the nature of things. A man born lord of such an elysium
would set little value upon his paradise. Was it not Eve's weariness of
Eden which inclined her ear to the serpent?
And now the banquet was spread upon the short smooth turf, and everybody
was ordered to sit down. They made a merry circle, with the tea-kettle in
the centre, piles of cake, and bread and butter, and jam-pots surrounding
it. Blanche and Horatio were the chief officiators, and were tremendously
busy ministering to the wants of others, while they satisfied their own
hunger and thirst hurriedly between whiles. The damsel sat on the grass
with a big crockery teapot in her lap, while her brother watched and
managed the kettle, and ran to and fro with cups and saucers. Bessie, as
the guest of honour, was commanded to sit still and look on.
'Dreadfully babyish, isn't it?' said Urania, smiling with her superior
air at Brian, who had helped himself to a crust of home-made bread, and a
liberal supply of gooseberry jam.
'Uncommonly jolly,' he answered gaily. 'I confess to a weakness for bread
and jam. I wish people always gave it at afternoon teas.'
'Has it not a slight flavour of the nursery?'
'Of course it has. But a nursery picnic is ever so much better than a
swell garden-party, and bread and jam is a great deal more wholesome than
salmon-mayonaise and Strasbourg pie. You may despise me as much as you
like, Miss Rylance. I came here determined to enjoy myself.'
'That is the right spirit for a picnic,' said Ida, 'People with grand
ideas are not wanted.'
'And I suppose in the evening you will join in the dumb charades, and
play hide-and-seek in the garden, all among spiders and cockchafers.'
'I will do anything I am told to do,' answered Brian, cheerily. 'But I
think the season of the cockchafer is over.'
'What has become of Dr. Rylance?' asked Bessie, looking about her as if
she had only that moment missed him.
'I think he went back to the farm for his horse,' said Urania. 'I suppose
he found our juvenile sports rather depressing.'
'Well, he paid us a compliment in coming at all,' answered Bessie, 'so we
must forgive him for getting tired of us.'
The drive home was very merry, albeit Bessie and her friend were to part
next morning--Ida to go back to slavery. They were both young enough to
be able to enjoy the present hour, even on the edge of darkness.
Bessie clasped her friend's hand as they sat side by side in the landau.
'You must come to us at Christmas,' she whispered: 'I shall ask mother to
Brian was full of talk and gaiety as they drove home through the dusk. He
was very different from that ideal Brian of Ida's girlish fancy--the
Brian who embodied all her favourite attributes, and had all the finest
qualities of the hero of romance. But he was an agreeable, well-bred
young man, bringing with him that knowledge of life and the active world
which made his talk seem new and enlightening after the strictly local
and domestic intellects of the good people with whom she had been living.
With the family at The Knoll conversation had been bounded by Winchester
on one side, and Romsey on the other. There was an agreeable freshness in
the society of a young man who could talk of all that was newest in
European art and literature, and who knew how the world was being
But this fund of information was hinted at rather than expressed.
To-night Mr. Wendover seemed most inclined to mere nonsense talk--the
lively nothings that please children. Of himself and his Norwegian
adventures he said hardly anything.
'I suppose when a man has travelled so much he gets to look upon strange
countries as a matter of course,' speculated Ida. 'If I had just come
from Norway, I should talk of nothing else.'
The dumb-charades and hide-and-seek were played, but only by the lower
orders, as Bessie called her younger brothers and sisters.
Ida strolled in the moonlit garden with Mr. Wendover, Bessie Urania, and
Mr. Ratcliffe, a very juvenile curate, who was Bessie's admirer and
slave. Urania had no particular admirer She felt that every one at
Kingthorpe must needs behold her with mute worship; but there was no one
so audacious as to give expression to the feeling; no one of sufficient
importance to be favoured with her smiles. She looked forward to her
first season in London next year, and then she would be called upon to
make her selection.
'She is worldly to the tips of her fingers,' said Ida, as she and Bessie
talked apart from the others for a few minutes: 'I wonder she does not
try to captivate your cousin.'
'What--Brian? Oh, he is not at all in her line. He would not suit her a
'But don't you think it would suit her to be mistress of the Abbey?'
Bessie gave a little start, as if the idea were new.
'I don't think she has ever thought of him in that light,' she said.
'Don't you? If she hasn't she is not the girl I think her.'
'Oh, I know she is very worldly; but I don't think she's so bad as that.'
'Not so bad as to be capable of marrying for money--no, I suppose not,'
said Ida, thoughtfully.
'I'm sure you would not, darling, said Bessie. 'You talked about it once,
when you were feeling bitter; but I know that in your heart of hearts you
never meant it. You are much too high-minded.'
'I am not a bit high-minded. All my high-mindedness, if I ever had any,
has been squeezed out of me by poverty. My only idea is to escape from
subjection and humiliation--a degrading bondage to vulgar-minded people.'
'But would the escape be worth having at the cost of your own
degradation?' urged Bessie, who felt particularly heroic this evening,
exalted by the moonlight, the loveliness of the garden, the thought of
parting with her dearest friend. 'Marry for love, dearest. Sacrifice
everything in this world rather than be false to yourself.'
'You dear little enthusiast, I may never be asked to make any such
sacrifice. I have not much chance of suitors at Mauleverer, as you
know--and as for falling in love--'
'Oh, you never know when the fatal moment may come. How do you like
'He is very gentlemanlike; he seems very well informed.'
'He is immensely clever,' answered Bessie, almost offended at this
languid praise; 'he is a man who might succeed in any line he chose for
himself. Do you think him handsome?'
'He is certainly nice looking.'
'How cool you are! I had set my heart upon your liking him.'
'What could come of my liking?' asked Ida with a touch of bitterness. 'Is
there a portionless girl in all England who would not like the master of
'But for his own sake,' urged Bessie, with a vexed air; 'surely he is
worthy of being liked for his own sake, without a thought of the Abbey.'
'I cannot dissociate him from that lovely old house and gardens. Indeed,
to my mind he rather belongs to the Abbey than the Abbey belongs to him.
You see I knew the Abbey first.'
Here they were interrupted by Brian and Urania, and presently Ida found
herself walking in the moonlight in a broad avenue of standard roses, at
the end of the garden, with Mr. Wendover by her side, and the voices of
the other three sounding ever so far away. On the other side of a low
quickset hedge stretched a wide expanse of level meadow land, while in
the farther distance rose the Wiltshire hills, and nearer the heathy
highlands of the New Forest. The lamp-lit windows of Miss Wendover's
cottage glimmered a little way off, across gardens and meadows.
'And so you are really going to leave us to-morrow morning?' said Brian,
'By the eight o'clock train from Winchester. To-morrow evening I shall be
sitting on a form in a big bare class-room, listening to the babble of a
lot of girls pretending to learn their lessons.'
'Are you fond of teaching?'
'Just imagine to yourself the one occupation which is most odious to you,
and then you may know how fond I am of teaching; and of school-girls; and
of school-life altogether.'
'It is very hard that you should have to pursue such an uncongenial
'It seems so to me; but, perhaps, that is my selfishness. I suppose half
the people in this world have to live by work they hate.'
'Allowing for the number of people to whom all kind of work is hateful, I
dare say you are right. But I think, in a general way, congenial work
means successful work. No man hates the profession that brings him fame
and money; but the doctor without patients, the briefless barrister, can
hardly love law or medicine.'
He beguiled Ida into talking of her own life, with all its bitterness.
There was something in his voice and manner which tempted her to confide
in him. He seemed thoroughly sympathetic.
'I keep forgetting what strangers we are,' she said, apologizing for her
'We are not strangers. I have heard of you from Bessie so much that I
seem to have known you for years. I hope you will never think of me as a
'I don't think I ever can, after this conversation. I am afraid you will
think me horribly egotistical.'
She had been talking of her father and stepmother, the little brother she
loved so fondly, dwelling with delight upon his perfections.
'I think you all that is good and noble. How I wish this were not your
last evening at the Knoll!'
'Do you think I do not wish it? Hark, there's Bessie calling us.'
They went back to the house, and to the drawing-room, which wore quite a
festive appearance, in honour of Bessie's birthday; ever so many extra
candles dotted about, and a table laid with fruit and sandwiches, cake
and claret-cup, the children evidently considering a superfluity of meals
indispensable to a happy birthday. Blanche and her juniors were sitting
about the room, in the last stage of exhaustion after hide-and-seek.
'This has been a capital birthday,' said Horatio, wiping the perspiration
from his brow, and then filling for himself a bumper of claret-cup; 'and
now we are going to dance. Blanche, give us the Faust Waltz, and go on
playing till we tell you to leave off.'
Blanche, considerably blown, and with her hair like a mop, sat down and
began to touch the piano with resolute fingers and forcible rhythm. ONE,
two, three, ONE, two, three. The boys pushed the furniture into the
corners. Brian offered himself to Ida; Bessie insisted upon surrendering
the curate to Urania, and took one of her brothers for a partner; and the
three couples went gliding round the pretty old room, the cool night
breezes blowing in upon them from wide-open windows.
They danced and played, and sang and talked, till midnight chimed from
the old eight-day clock in the hall,--a sound which struck almost as much
consternation to Bessie's soul as if she had been Cinderella at the royal
'TWELVE O'CLOCK! and the little ones all up!' she exclaimed, looking
round the circle of towzled heads with remorseful eyes. 'What would
mother say? And she told me she relied on my discretion! Go to bed, every
one of you, this instant!'
'Oh, come, now,' remonstrated Blanche, 'there's no use in hustling us off
like that, after letting us sit up hours after our proper time. I'm going
to have another sandwich; and there's not a bit of good in leaving all
those raspberry tarts. The servants won't thank us. _They_ have as many
jam tarts as they like.'
'You greedy little wretches; you have been doing nothing but eat all
day,' said Ida. 'When I am back at Mauleverer I shall remember you only
as machines for the consumption of pudding and jam. Obey your grown-up
sister, and go to bed directly.'
'Grown up, indeed! How long has she been grown up, I should like to
know!' exclaimed Blanche vindictively. 'She's only an inch and a quarter
taller than me, and she's a mere dumpling compared with Horry.'
The lower orders were got rid of somehow--driven to their quarters, as it
were, at the point of the bayonet; and then the grown-ups bade each other
good-night; the curate escorting Miss Rylance to her home, and Brian
going up to the top floor to a bachelor's room.
'Who is going to drive Miss Palliser to the station?' he asked, as they
stood, candlestick in hand, at the foot of the stairs.
'I am, of course,' answered Reginald. 'Robin will spin us over the hills
in no time. I've ordered the car for seven sharp.'
There was very little sleep for either Bessie or her guest that night.
Both girls were excited by memories of the day that was past, and by
thoughts of the day that was coming. Ida was brooding a little upon her
disappointment in Brian Wendover. He had very pleasant manners, he seemed
soft-hearted and sympathetic, he was very good-looking--but he was not
the Brian of her dreams. That ideal personage had never existed outside
her imagination. It was a shock to her girlish fancy. There was a sense
of loss in her mind.
'I must be very silly,' she told herself, 'to make a fancy picture of a
person, and to be vexed with him because he does not resemble my
She was disappointed, and yet she was interested in this new
acquaintance. He was the first really interesting young man she had ever
met, and he was evidently interested in her. And then she pictured him at
the Abbey, in the splendid solitude of those fine old rooms, leading the
calm, studious life which Bessie had talked of--an altogether enviable
life, Ida thought.
Mr. Wendover was in the dining-room at half-past six when the two girls
went down to breakfast. All the others came trooping down a few minutes
afterwards, Reginald got up to the last degree of four-in-handishness
which the resources of his wardrobe allowed, and with a flower in his
buttonhole. There was a loud cry for eggs and bacon, kippered herrings,
marmalade, Yorkshire cakes; but neither Ida nor Bessie could eat.
'Do have a good breakfast,' pleaded Blanche affectionately; 'you will be
having bread and scrape to-morrow. We have got a nice hamper for you,
with a cake and a lot of jam puffs and things; but those will only last a
'You dear child, I wouldn't mind the bread and scrape, if there were only
a little love to flavour it,' answered Ida softly.
The jaunting-car came to the door as the clock struck seven. Ida's
luggage was securely bestowed, then, after a perfect convulsion of
kissing, she was banded to her place, Reginald jumped into his seat and
took the reins, and Brian seated himself beside Ida.
'You are not going with them?' exclaimed Bessie.
'Yes I am, to see that Miss Palliser is not spilt on the hills.'
'What rot!' cried Reginald. 'I should be rather sorry for myself if I
were not able to manage Robin.'
'This is a new development in you, who are generally the laziest of
living creatures,' said Bessie to Brian, and before he could reply, Robin
was bounding cheerily through the village, making very little account of
the jaunting-car and its occupants. Urania was at her garden gate, fresh
and elegant-looking in pale blue cambric. She smiled at Ida, and waved
her a most gracious farewell.
'I don't think I ever saw Miss Rylance look so amiable,' said Ida. 'She
does not often favour me with her smiles.'
'Are you enemies?' asked Brian.
'Not open foes; we have always maintained an armed neutrality. I don't
like her, and she doesn't like me, and we both know it. But perhaps I
ought not to be so candid. She may be a favourite of yours.'
'She might be, but she is not. She is very elegant, very
lady-like--according to her own lights--very viperish.'
It was a lovely drive in the crisp clear air, across the breezy hills.
Ida could not help enjoying the freshness of morning, the beauty of
earth, albeit she was going from comfort to discomfort, from love to cold
indifference or open enmity.
'How I delight in this landscape!' she exclaimed. 'Is it not ever so much
better than Norway?' appealing to Brian.
'It is a milder, smaller kind of beauty,' he answered. 'Would you not
like to see Norway?'
'I would like to see all that is lovely on earth; yet I think I could be
content to spend, a life-time here. This must seem strange to you, who
grow weary of that beautiful Abbey.'
'It is not of his house, but of himself, that a man grows weary,'
Robin was in a vivacious humour, and rattled the car across the hills at
a good pace. They had a quarter of an hour to wait at the busy little
station. Brian and Ida walked up and down the platform talking, while
Reginald looked after the pony and the luggage. They found so much to say
to each other, that the train seemed to come too soon.
They bade each other good-bye with a tender look on Brian's part, a blush
on Ida's. Reginald had to push his cousin away from the carriage window,
in order to get a word with the departing guest.
'We shall all miss you awfully,' he said; 'but mind, you must come back
'I shall be only too glad, if Mrs. Wendover will have me. Good-bye.'
The train moved slowly forward, and she was gone.
'Isn't she a stunner?' asked Reginald of his cousin, as they stood on the
platform looking at each other blankly.
'She is the handsomest girl I ever saw, and out and away the nicest,'
IN THE RIVER-MEADOW.
The old hackneyed round of daily life at Mauleverer Manor seemed just a
little worse to Ida Palliser after that happy break of six weeks' pure
and perfect enjoyment. Miss Pew was no less exacting than of old. Miss
Pillby, for whose orphaned and friendless existence there had been no
such thing as a holiday, and who had spent the vacation at Mauleverer
diligently employed in mending the house-linen, resented Ida's visit to
The Knoll as if it were a personal injury, and vented her envy in sneers
and innuendoes of the coarsest character.
'If _I_ were to spoon upon one of the rich pupils, I dare say I could get
invited out for the holidays,' she said, _apropos_ to nothing particular;
'but I am thankful to say I am above such meanness.'
'I never laid myself under an obligation I didn't feel myself able to
return,' said Miss Motley, the English governess, who had spent her
holidays amidst the rank and fashion of Margate. 'When I go to the
sea-side with my sister and her family, I pay my own expenses, and I feel
I've a right to be made comfortable.'
Miss Pillby, who had flattered and toadied every well-to-do pupil, and
laboured desperately to wind herself into the affections of Bessie
Wendover, that warm-hearted young person seeming particularly accessible
to flattery, felt herself absolutely injured by the kindness that had
been lavished upon Ida. She drank in with greedy ears Miss Palliser's
description of The Knoll and its occupants--the picnics, carpet-dances,
afternoon teas; and the thought that all these enjoyments and
festivities, the good things to eat and drink, the pleasant society,
ought to have been hers instead of Ida's, was wormwood.
'When I think of my kindness to Bessie Wendover,' she said to Miss
Motley, in the confidence of that one quiet hour which belonged to the
mistresses after the pupils' curfew-bell had rung youth and hope and
gaiety into retirement, 'when I think of the mustard poultices I have put
upon her chest, and the bronchial troches I have given her when she had
the slightest touch of cold or cough, I am positively appalled at the
ingratitude of the human race.'
'I don't think she likes bronchial troches,' said Miss Motley, a very
matter-of-fact young person who saved money, wore thick boots, and was
never unprovided with an umbrella: 'I have seen her throw them away
directly after you gave them to her.'
'She ought to have liked them,' exclaimed Miss Pillby, sternly. 'They are
'No doubt she appreciated your kindness,' said Miss Motley, absently,
being just then absorbed in an abstruse calculation as to how many yards
of merino would be required for her winter gown.
'No, she did not,' said Miss Pillby. 'If she had been grateful she would
have invited me to her home. I should not have gone, but the act would
have given me a higher idea of her character.'
'Well, she is gone, and we needn't trouble ourselves any more about her,'
retorted Miss Motley, who hated to be plagued about abstract questions,
being a young woman of an essentially concrete nature, born to consume
and digest three meals a day, and having no views that go beyond that
Miss Pillby sighed at finding herself in communion with so coarse a
'I don't easily get over a blow of that sort,' she said; 'I am too
'So you are,' acquiesced Miss Motley. 'It doesn't pay in a big
boarding-school, however it may answer in private families.'
Ida, having lost her chief friend and companion, Bessie Wendover, found
life at Mauleverer Manor passing lonely. She even missed the excitement
of her little skirmishes, her passages-at-arms, with Urania Rylance, in
which she had generally got the best of the argument. There had been life
and emotion in these touch-and-go speeches, covert sneers, quick retorts,
innuendoes met and flung back in the very face of the sneerer. Now there
was nothing but dull, dead monotony. Many of the old pupils had departed,
and many new pupils had come, daughters of well-to-do parents,
prosperous, well-dressed, talking largely of the gaieties enjoyed by
their elder sisters, of the wonderful things done by their brothers at
Oxford or Cambridge, and of the grand things which were to happen two or
three year hence, when they themselves should be 'out.' Ida took no
interest in their prattle. It was so apt to sting her with the reminder
of her own poverty, the life of drudgery and dependence that was to be
her portion till the end of her days. She did not, in the Mauleverer
phraseology, 'take to' the new girls. She left them to be courted by Miss
Pillby, and petted by Miss Dulcibella. She felt as lonely as one who has
outlived her generation.
Happily the younger girls in the class which she taught were fond of her,
and when she wanted company she let these juveniles cluster round her in
her garden rambles; but in a general way she preferred loneliness, and to
work at the cracked old piano in the room where she slept. Beethoven and
Chopin, Mozart and Mendelssohn were companions of whom she never grew
So the slow days wore on till nearly the end of the month, and on one
cool, misty, afternoon, when the river flowed sluggishly under a dull
grey sky she walked alone along that allotted extent of the river-side
path which the mistresses and pupil-teachers were allowed to promenade
without _surveillance_. This river walk skirted a meadow which was in
Miss Pew's occupation, and ranked as a part of the Mauleverer grounds,
although it was divided by the high road from the garden proper.
A green paling, and a little green gate, always padlocked, secured this
meadow from intrusion on the road-side, but it was open to the river. To
be entrusted with the key of this pastoral retreat was a privilege only
accorded to governesses and pupil-teachers.
It was supposed by Miss Pew that no young person in her employment would
be capable of walking quite alone, where it was within the range of
possibility that her solitude might be intruded upon by an unknown member
of the opposite sex. She trusted, as she said afterwards, in the refined
feeling of any person brought into association with her, and, until
rudely awakened by facts, she never would have stooped from the lofty
pinnacle of her own purity to suspect the evil consequences which arose
from the liberty too generously accorded to her dependents.
Ida detested Miss Pillby and despised Miss Motley; and the greatest
relief she knew to the dismal monotony of her days was a lonely walk by
the river, with a shabby Wordsworth or a battered little volume of
Shelley's minor poems for her companions. She possessed so few books that
it was only natural for her to read those she had until love ripened with
On this autumnal afternoon she walked with slow steps, while the river
went murmuring by, and now and then a boat drifted lazily down the
stream. The boating season was over for the most part--the season of
picnics and beanfeasts, and Cockney holiday-making, and noisy revelry,
smart young women, young men in white flannels, with bare arms and
sunburnt noses. It was the dull blank time when everybody who could
afford to wander far from this suburban paradise, was away upon his and
her travels. Only parsons, doctors, schoolmistresses, and poverty stayed
at home. Yet now and then a youth in boating costume glided by, his
shoulders bending slowly to the lazy dip of his oars, his keel now and
then making a rushing sound among long trailing weeds.
Such a youth presently came creeping along the bank, almost at Ida's
feet, but passed her unseen. Her heavy lids were drooping, her eyes
intent upon the familiar page. The young man looked up at her with keen
gray eyes, recognised her, and pushed his boat in among the rushes by the
bank, moored it to a pollard willow, and with light footstep leaped on
He landed a few yards in the rear of Ida's slowly moving figure, followed
softly, came close behind her, and read aloud across her shoulder:
'There was a Power in this sweet place,
An Eve in this garden; a ruling grace
Which to the flowers, did they waken or dream,
Was as God is to the starry scheme.'
Ida looked round, first indignant, then laughing.
'How you startled me!' she exclaimed; 'I thought you were some horrid,
impertinent stranger; and yet the voice had a familiar sound. How are
they all at The Knoll? It is nearly a fortnight since Bessie wrote to me.
If she only knew how I hunger for her letters.'
'Very sweet of you,' answered Mr. Wendover, holding the girl's hand with
a lingering pressure, releasing it reluctantly when her rising colour
told him it would be insolent to keep it longer.
How those large dark eyes beamed with pleasure at seeing him! Was it for
his own sake, or for love of her friends at Kingthorpe? The smile was
perhaps too frank to be flattering.
'Very sweet of you to care so much for Bessie's girlish epistles,' he
said lazily; 'they are full of affection, but the style of composition
always recalls our dear Mrs. Nickleby. "Aunt Betsy was asking after you
the other day: and that reminds me that the last litter of black
Hampshires was sixteen--the largest number father ever remembers having.
The vicar and his wife are coming to dinner on Tuesday, and do tell me if
this new picture that everybody is talking about is really better than
the Derby Day," and that sort of thing. Not a very consecutive style,
don't you know.'
'Every word is interesting to me,' said Ida, with a look that told him
she was not one of those young ladies who enjoy a little good-natured
ridicule of their nearest and dearest. 'Is it long since you left
'Not four-and-twenty hours. I promised Bessie that my very first
occupation on coming to London should be to make my way down here to see
you, in order that I may tell her faithfully and truly whether you are
well and happy. She has a lurking conviction that you are unable to live
without her, that you will incontinently go into a galloping consumption,
and keep the fact concealed from all your friends until they receive a
telegram summoning them to your death-bed. I know that is the picture
Bessie's sentimental fancies have depicted.'
'I did not think Bessie was so morbid,' said Ida, laughing. 'No, I am not
one of those whom the gods love. I am made of very tough material, or I
should hardly have lived till now. I see before me a perspective of
lonely, loveless old age--finishing in a governess' almshouse. I hope
there are almshouses for governesses.
'Nobody will pity your loneliness or lovelessness,' retorted Brian,' for
they will both be your own fault.'
She blushed, looking dreamily across the dark-gray river to the level
shores beyond--the low meadows--gentle hills in the back-ground--the
wooded slopes of Weybridge and Chertsey. If this speaker, whose voice
dropped to so tender a tone, had been like the Brian of her
imaginings--if he had looked at her with the dark eyes of Sir Tristram's
picture, how differently his speech would have affected her! As it was,
she listened with airy indifference, only blushing girlishly at his
compliment, and wondering a little if he really admired her--he the
owner of that glorious old Abbey--the wealthy head of the house of
Wendover--the golden fish for whom so many pretty fishers must have
angled in days gone by.
'Did you stay at The Knoll all the time,' she inquired, her thoughts
having flown back to Kingthorpe; 'or at the Abbey?'
'At The Knoll. It is ever so much livelier, and my cousins like to have
me with them.'
'Naturally. But I wonder you did not prefer living in that lovely old
house of yours. To occupy it must seem like living in the Middle Ages.'
'Uncommonly. One is twelve miles from a station, and four from
post-office, butcher, and baker. Very like the Middle Ages. There is no
gas even in the offices, and there are as many rats behind the wainscot
as there were Israelites in Egypt. All the rooms are draughty and some
are damp. No servant who has not been born and bred on the estate will
stay more than six months. There is a deficient water supply in dry
summers, and there are three distinct ghosts all the year round.
Extremely like the Middle Ages.'
'I would not mind ghosts, rats, anything, if it were my house' exclaimed
Ida, enthusiastically. 'The house is a poem.'
'Perhaps; but it is not a house; in the modern sense of the word, that is
to say, which implies comfort and convenience.'
Ida sighed, deeply disgusted at this want of appreciation of the romantic
spot where she had dreamed away more than one happy summer noontide,
while the Wendover children played hide-and-seek in the overgrown old
No doubt life was always thus. The people to whom blind fortune gave such
blessings were unable to appreciate them, and only the hungry outsiders
could imagine the delight of possession.
'Are you living in London now?' she asked, as Mr. Wendover lingered at
her side, and seemed to expect the conversation to be continued
His boat was safe enough, moving gently up and down among the rushes,
with the gentle flow of the tide. Ida looked at it longingly, thinking
how sweet it would be to step into it and let it carry her--any whither,
so long as it was away from Mauleverer Manor.
'Yes, I am in London for the present.'
'But not for long, I suppose.'
'I hardly know. I have no plans. I won't say with Romeo that I am
fortune's fool--but I am fortune's shuttlecock; and I suppose that means
pretty much the same.'
'It was very kind of you to come to see me,' said Ida.
'Kind to myself, for in coming I indulged the dearest wish of my soul,'
said the young man, looking at her with eyes whose meaning even her
inexperience could not misread.
'Please don't pay me compliments,' she said, hastily, 'or I shall feel
very sorry you came. And now I must hurry back to the house--the tea-bell
will ring in a few minutes. Please tell Bessie I am very well, and only
longing for one of her dear letters. Good-bye.'
She made him a little curtsey, and would have gone without shaking hands,
but he caught her hand and detained her in spite of herself.
'Don't be angry,' he pleaded; 'don't look at me with such cold, proud
eyes. Is it an offence to admire, to love you too quickly? If it is, I
have sinned deeply, and am past hope of pardon. Must one serve an
apprenticeship to mere formal acquaintance first, then rise step by step
to privileged friendship, before one dares to utter the sweet word love?
Remember, at least, that I am your dearest friend's first cousin, and
ought not to appear to you as a stranger.'
'I can remember nothing when you talk so wildly,' said Ida, crimson to
the roots of her hair. Never before had a young lover talked to her of
love. 'Pray let me go. Miss Pew will be angry if I am not at tea.'
'To think that such a creature as you should be under the control of any
such harpy,' exclaimed Brian. 'Well, if I must go, at least tell me I am
forgiven, and that I may exist upon the hope of seeing you again. I
suppose if I were to come to the hall-door, and send in my card, I should
not be allowed to see you?'
'Certainly not. Not if you were my own cousin instead of Bessie's.
'Then I shall happen to be going by in my boat every afternoon for the
next month or so. There is a dear good soul at the lock who lets
lodgings. I shall take up my abode there.'
'Please never land on this pathway again,' said Ida earnestly 'Miss Pew
would be horribly angry if she heard I had spoken to you. And now I must
She withdrew her hand from his grasp, and ran off across the meadow,
light-footed as Atalanta. Her heart was beating wildly, beating
furiously, when she flew up to her room to take off her hat and jacket
and smooth her disordered hair. Never before had any man, except
middle-aged Dr. Rylance, talked to her of love: and that this man of all
others, this man, sole master of the old mansion she so intensely
admired, her friend's kinsman, owner of a good old Saxon name; this man,
who could lift her in a moment from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to
place and station; that this man should look at her with admiring eyes,
and breathe impassioned words into her ear, was enough to set her heart
beating tumultuously, to bring hot blushes to her cheeks. It was too wild
True, that for the man himself, considered apart from his belongings, his
name and race, she cared not at all. But just now, in this tumult of
excited feeling, she was disposed to confuse the man with his
surroundings--to think of him, not as that young man with gray eyes and
thin lips, who had walked with her at The Knoll, who had stood beside her
just now by the river, but as the living embodiment of fortune, pride,
Perhaps the vision really dominant in her mind was the thought of
Herself as mistress of the Abbey, herself as living for ever among the
people she loved, amidst those breezy Hampshire hills, in the odour of
pine-woods--rich, important, honoured, and beloved, doing good to all who
came within the limit of her life. Yes, that was a glorious vision, and
its reflected light shone upon Brian Wendover, and in somewise glorified
She went down to tea with such a triumphant light in her eyes that the
smaller pupils who sat at her end of the table, so as to be under her
_surveillance_ during the meal, exclaimed at her beauty.
'What a colour you've got, Miss Palliser!' said Lucy Dobbs, 'and how your
eyes sparkle! You look as if you'd just had a hamper.'
'I'm not quite so greedy as you, Lucy,' retorted Ida; 'I don't think a
hamper would make my eyes sparkle, even if there were anybody to send me
'But there is somebody to send you one,' argued Lucy, with her mouth full
of bread and butter; 'your father isn't dead?'
'Then he might send you a hamper.'
'He might, if he lived within easy reach of Mauleverer Manor,' replied
Ida; 'but as he lives in France--'
'He could send a post-office order to a confectioner in London, and the
confectioner would send you a big box of cakes, and marmalade, and jam,
and mixed biscuits, and preserved ginger,' said Lucy, her cheeks glowing
with the rapture of her theme. 'That is what my mamma and papa did, when
they were in Switzerland, on my birthday. I never had such a hamper as
that one. I was ill for a week afterwards.'
'And I suppose you were very glad your mother and father were away,' said
Ida, while the other children laughed in chorus.
'It was a splendid hamper,' said Lucy, stolidly. 'I shall never forget
it. So you see your father might send you a hamper,' she went on, for the
sake of argument, 'though he is in France.'
'Certainly,' said Ida, 'if I were not too old to care about cakes and
'_We_ are not too old,' persisted Lucy; 'you might share them among us.'
Ida's heart had not stilled its stormy vehemence yet. She talked likely
to her young companions, and tried to eat a little bread and butter, but
that insipid fare almost choked her. Her mind was overcharged with
thought and wonder.
Could he have meant all or half he said just now?--this young man with
the delicate features, pale complexion, and thin lips. He had seemed
intensely earnest. Those gray eyes of his, somewhat too pale of hue for
absolutely beauty, had glowed with a fire which even Ida's inexperience
recognised as something above and beyond common feeling. His hand had
trembled as it clasped hers. Could there be such a thing as love at first
sight? and was she destined to be the object of that romantic passion?
She had read of the triumphs of beauty, and she knew that she was
handsome. She had been told the fact in too many ways--by praise
sometimes, but much more often by envy--to remain unconscious of her
charms. She was scornful of her beauty, inclined to undervalue the gift
as compared with the blessings of other girls--a prosperous home, the
world's respect, the means to gratify the natural yearnings of youth--but
she knew that she was beautiful. And now it seemed to her all at once
that beauty was a much more valuable gift than she had supposed
hitherto--indeed, a kind of talisman or Aladdin's lamp, which could win
for her all she wanted in this world--Wendover Abbey and the position of
a country squire's wife. It was not a dazzling or giddy height to which
to aspire; but to Ida just now it seemed the topmost pinnacle of social
'Oh, what a wretch I am!' she said to herself presently; 'what a
despicable, mercenary creature! I don't care a straw for this man; and
yet I am already thinking of myself as his wife.'
And then, remembering how she had once openly declared her intention of
marrying for money, she shrugged her shoulders disdainfully.
'Ought I to hesitate when the chance comes to me?' she thought. 'I always
meant to marry for money, if ever such wonderful fortune as a rich
husband fell in my way.'
And yet she had refused Dr. Rylance's offer, without a moment's
hesitation. Was it really as he had said, in the bitterness of his wrath,
because the offer was not good enough, the temptation not large enough?
No, she told herself, she had rejected the smug physician, with his West
End mansion and dainty Hampshire villa, his courtly manners, his perfect
dress, because the man himself was obnoxious to her. Now, she did not
dislike Brian Wendover--indeed, she was rather inclined to like him. She
was only just a little disappointed that he was not the ideal Brian of
her dreams. The dark-browed cavalier, with grave forehead and eagle eyes.
She had a vague recollection of having once heard Blanche say that her
cousin Brian of the Abbey was like Sir Tristram's portrait; but this must
have been a misapprehension upon her part, since no two faces could have
differed more than the pale delicate-featured countenance of the living
man and the dark rugged face in the picture.
She quieted the trouble of her thoughts as well as she could before tea
was over and the evening task of preparation,--the gulfs and straits, the
predicates and noun sentences, rule of three, common denominators, and
all the dry-as-dust machinery was set in motion again.
Helping her pupils through their difficulties, battling with their
stupidities, employed her too closely for any day-dreams of her own. But
when prayers had been read, and the school had dispersed, and the
butterfly-room was hushed into the silence of midnight, Ida Palliser lay
broad awake, wondering at what Fate was doing for her.
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