The Irrational Knot
George Bernard Shaw
Part 3 out of 8
Susanna murmured something. Marmaduke, after making an effort to bid his
guest good-bye genially, opened the gate, and stood for a minute
watching him as he strode away.
"What does _he_ care what becomes of me, the selfish brute!" cried
"He didnt complain: he has nothing to complain of," said Marmaduke.
"Anyhow, why didnt he stay at home and look after you? By George,
Susanna, he is the coolest card I ever came across."
"What brought him here?" she demanded, vehemently.
"That reminds me. I am afraid I must go down to Carbury for a few
"And what am I to do here alone? Are _you_ going to leave me too?"
"Well, I cannot be in two places at the same time. I suppose you can
manage to get on without me for a few days."
"I will go home. I can get on without you altogether. I will go home."
"Come, Susanna! what is the use of kicking up a row? I cant afford to
quarrel with all my people because you choose to be unreasonable."
"What do I care about your people, or about you either?"
"Very well, then," said Marmaduke, offended, "you can go home if you
like. Perhaps your brother appreciates this sort of thing. I dont."
"Ah, you coward! You taunt me because you think I have no home. Do you
flatter yourself that I am dependent on you?"
"Hold your tongue," said Marmaduke, fiercely. "Dont you turn on me in
that fashion. Keep your temper if you want me to keep mine."
"You have ruined me," said Susanna, sitting down on the grass, and
beginning to cry.
"Oh, upon my soul, this is too much," said Marmaduke, with disgust. "Get
up out of that and dont make a fool of yourself. Ruined indeed! Will you
"No!" screamed Susanna.
"Then stay where you are and be damned," retorted Marmaduke, turning on
his heel and walking toward the house. In the hall he met a maid
carrying an empty champagne bottle and goblet.
"Missis is looking for you, sir," said the maid.
"All right," said Marmaduke, "I have seen her. Listen to me. I am going
to the country. My man Mason will come here to-day to pack up my traps,
and bring them after me. You had better take a note of my address from
the card in the strap of my valise."
"Yes, sir," said the maid. "Any message for missis?"
"No," said Marmaduke. He then changed his coat and hat, and went out
again. As he approached the gate he met Susanna, who had risen and was
walking toward the house.
"I am going to Carbury," he said. "I dont know when I shall be back."
She passed on disdainfully, as if she had not heard him.
Three days later Lord Carbury came to luncheon with a letter in his
hand. Marian had not yet come in; and the Rev. George was absent, his
place being filled by Marmaduke.
"Good news for you and Constance, mother."
"Indeed?" said the Countess, smiling.
"Yes. Conolly is coming down this afternoon to collect his traps and
leave you forever."
"Really, Jasper, you exaggerate Mr. Conolly's importance. Intelligence
of his movements can hardly be news--good or bad--either to me or to
"I am glad he is going," said Constance, "for Jasper's sake."
"Thank you," replied Jasper. "I thought you would be. He will be a great
loss to me."
"Nonsense!" said the Countess. "If another workman is needed, another
can easily be had."
"If I can be of any assistance to you, old man," said Marmaduke, "make
what use of me you like. I picked up something about the business
"Yes," said Elinor. "While you were away, Jasper, he went to the
laboratory with Constance, and fired off a brass cannon with your new
pile until he had used up all the gunpowder and spoiled the panels of
the door. That is what he calls picking up something about the
"Nothing like experiment for convincing you of the power of
electricity," said Marmaduke. "Is there, Conny?"
"It's very wonderful; but I hate shots."
"Where is Marian?" said Lady Carbury.
"I left her in the summer-house in the fruit garden," said Elinor. "She
"She must have forgotten the hour," said the Countess. "She has been
moping, I think, for the last few days. I hope she is not unwell. But
she would never stay away from luncheon intentionally. I shall send for
"I'll go," said Marmaduke, eagerly.
"No, no, Duke. You must not leave the table. I will send a servant."
"I will fetch her here in half the time that any servant will. Poor
Marian, why shouldnt she have her lunch? I shall be back in a jiffy."
"What a restless, extraordinary creature he is!" said Lady Carbury,
displeased, as Marmaduke hastily left the room. "The idea of a man
leaving the table in that way!"
"I suspect he has his reasons," said Elinor.
"I think it is a perfectly natural thing for him to do," said Constance,
pettishly. "I see nothing extraordinary in it."
Marmaduke found Marian reading in the summer-house in the fruit garden.
She looked at him in lazy surprise as he seated himself opposite to her
at the table.
"This is the first chance I've had of talking to you privately since I
came down," he said. "I believe you have been keeping out of my way on
"Well, I concluded that you wanted as many chances as possible of
talking to some one else in private; so I gave you as many as I could."
"Yes, you and the rest have been uncommonly considerate in that respect:
thank you all awfully. But I mean to have it out with you, Miss Marian,
now that I have caught you alone."
"With me! Oh, dear! What have I done?"
"What have you done? I'll tell you what youve done. Why did you send
Conolly, of all men in the world, to tell me that I was in disgrace
"There was no one else, Marmaduke."
"Well, suppose there wasn't! Suppose there had been no one else alive on
the earth except you, and I, and he, and Constance, and Su--and
Constance! how could you have offered him such a job?"
"Why not? Was there any special reason--"
"Any special reason! Didnt your common sense tell you that a meeting
between him and me must be particularly awkward for both of us?"
"No. At least I--. Marmaduke: I think you must fancy that I told him
more than I did. I did not know where you were; and as he was going to
London, and I thought you knew him well, and I had no other means of
warning you, I had to make use of him. Jasper will tell you how
thoroughly trustworthy he is. But all I said--and I really could not say
less--was that I was afraid you were in bad company, or under bad
influence, or something like that; and that I only wanted you to come
down here at once."
"Oh! Indeed! That was _all_, was it? Merely that I was in bad company."
"I think I said under bad influence. I was told so; and I believed it at
the time. I hope it's not true, Marmaduke. If it is not, I beg your
pardon with all my heart."
Marmaduke stared very hard at her for a while, and then said, with the
emphasis of a man baffled by utter unreason: "Well, I _am_ damned!" at
which breach of good manners she winced. "Hang me if I understand you,
Marian," he continued, more mildly. "Of course it's not true. Bad
influence is all bosh. But it was a queer thing to say to his face. He
knew very well you meant his sister. Hallo! what's the matter? Are you
going to faint?"
"No, I--Never mind me."
"Never mind you!" said Marmaduke. "What are you looking like that for?"
"Because--it is nothing: I only blushed. Dont be stupid, Duke."
"Blushed! Why dont you blush red, like other people, and not green?
Shall I get you something?"
"No, no. Oh, Duke, why did you not tell me? How could you be so
heartless as to leave us all in the dark when we were talking about you
before him every day! Oh, are you in earnest, Duke? Pray dont jest about
it. What do you mean by his sister? I never knew he had one. Who is she?
What happened? I mean when you saw him?"
"Nothing happened. I was mowing in the garden. He just walked in; bade
me good morning; admired the place; and told me he came with a message
from you that things were getting hot here. Then he went off, as cool as
you please. He didnt seem to mind."
"And he warned you, in spite of all."
"More for your sake than for mine, I suspect. He's rather sweet on you,
"Oh, Duke, Duke, are you not ashamed of yourself?"
"Deuce a bit. But I'm in trouble; and I want you to stand by me. Look
here, Marian, you have no nonsense about you, I know. I may tell you
frankly how I am situated, maynt I?"
Marian looked at him apprehensively, and said nothing.
"You see you will only mix up matters worse than before unless you know
the truth. Besides, I offered to marry her: upon my soul I did; but she
refused. Her real name is Susanna Conolly: his sister, worse luck."
"Dont tell me any more of this, Duke. It is not right."
"I suppose it's not right, as you say. But what am I to do? I must tell
you; or you will go on making mischief with Constance."
"As if I would tell her! I promise that she shall never know from me. Is
"No: its too much. The plain truth is that I dont care whether she finds
me out or not. I want her to understand thoroughly, once and for ever,
that I wont marry her."
"Not if I were fifty Marmadukes!"
"Then you will break her heart."
"Never fear! Her heart is pretty tough, if she has one. Whether or no, I
am not going to have her forced on me by the Countess or any one else.
The truth is, Marian, they have all tried to bully me into this match.
Constance can't complain."
"No, not aloud."
"Neither aloud or alow. I never proposed to her."
"Very well, Marmaduke: there is no use now in blaming Auntie or excusing
yourself. If you have made up your mind, there is an end."
"But you cant make out that I am acting meanly, Marian. Why, I have
everything to lose by giving her up. There is her money, and I suppose I
must prepare for a row with the family; unless the match could be
dropped quietly. Eh?"
"And is that what you want me to manage for you?"
"Well--. Come, Marian! dont be savage. I have been badly used in this
affair. They forced it on me. I did all I could to keep out of it. She
was thrown at my head. Besides, I once really used to think I could
settle down with her comfortably some day. I only found out what an
insipid little fool she was when I had a woman of sense to compare her
"Dont say hard things about her. I think you might have a little
forbearance towards her under the circumstances."
"Hm! I dont feel very forbearing. She has been sticking to me for the
last few days like a barnacle. Our respectable young ladies think a lot
of themselves, but--except you and Nelly--I dont know a woman in society
who has as much brains in her whole body as Susanna Conolly has in her
little finger nail. I cant imagine how the deuce you all have the cheek
to expect men to talk to you, much less marry you."
"Perhaps there is something that honest men value more than brains."
"I should like to know what it is. If it is something that ladies have
and Susanna hasnt, it is not either good looks or good sense. If it's
respectability, that depends on what you consider respectable. If
Conny's respectable and Susanna isnt, then I prefer disrepu--"
"Hush, Duke, you know you have no right to speak to me like this. Let
us think of poor Constance. How is she to be told the truth?"
"Let her find it out. I shall go back to London as soon as I can; and
the affair will drop somehow or another. She will forget all about me."
"Happy-go-lucky Marmaduke. I think if neglect and absence could make her
forget you, you would have been forgotten before this."
"Yes. You see you must admit that I gave her no reason to suppose I
"I am afraid you have consulted your own humor both in your neglect and
your attentions, Duke. The more you try to excuse yourself, the more
inexcusable your conduct appears. I do not know how to advise you. If
Constance is told, you may some day forget all about your present
infatuation; and then a mass of mischief and misery will have been made
for nothing. If she is not told, you will be keeping up a cruel
deception and wasting her chances of----but she will never care for
"Better do as I say. Leave matters alone for the present. But mind! no
speculating on my changing my intentions. I wont marry her."
"I wish you hadnt told me about it."
"Well, Marian, I couldnt help it. I know, of course, that you only
wanted to make us all happy; but you nursed this match and kept it in
Constance's mind as much as you could. Besides--though it was not your
fault--that mistake about Conolly was too serious not to explain. Dont
be downcast: I am not blaming you a bit."
"It seems to me that the worst view of things is always the true one in
this world. Nelly and Jasper were right about you."
"Aha! So _they_ saw what I felt. You cant say I did not make my
intentions plain enough to every unbiassed person. The Countess was
determined to get Constance off her hands; Constance was determined to
have me; and you were determined to stick up for your own notions of
love and honeysuckles."
"I was determined to stick up for _you_, Marmaduke."
"Dont be indignant: I knew you would stick up for me in your own way.
But what I want to shew is, that only three people believed that I was
in earnest; and those three were prejudiced."
"I wish you had enlightened Constance, and deceived all the rest of the
world, instead. No doubt I was wrong, very wrong. I am very sorry."
"Pshaw! It doesnt matter. It will all blow over some day. Hush, I hear
the garden gate opening. It is Constance, come to spy what I am doing
here with you. She is as jealous as a crocodile--very nearly made a
scene yesterday because I played with Nelly against her at tennis. I
have to drive her to Bushy Copse this afternoon, confound it!"
"And _will_ you, after what you have just confessed?"
"I must. Besides, Jasper says that Conolly is coming this evening to
pack up his traps and go; and I want to be out of the way when he is
"Yes. Between ourselves, Marian, Susanna and I were so put out by the
cool way he carried on when he called, that we had a regular quarrel
after he went; and we haven't made it up yet."
"Pray dont talk about it to me, Duke. Here is Constance."
"So you are here," said Constance, gaily, but with a quick glance at
them. "That is a pretty way to bring your cousin in to luncheon, sir."
"We got chatting about you, my ownest," said Marmaduke; "and the subject
was so sweet, and the moments were so fleet, that we talked for quite an
hour on the strict q.t. Eh, Marian?"
"As a punishment, you shall have no lunch. Mamma is very angry with you
"Always ready to make allowances for her, provided she sends you to
lecture me, Conny. Why dont you wear your hat properly?" He arranged her
hat as he spoke. Constance laughed and blushed. Marian shuddered. "Now
youre all that fancy painted you: youre lovely, youre divine. Are you
ready for Bushy Copse?"
Constance replied by singing:
"Oh yes, if you please, kind sir, she said; sir, she said; sir, she said;
Oh! yes if you ple--ease, kind sir, she said."
"Then come along. After your ladyship," he said, taking her elbows as if
they were the handles of a wheelbarrow, and pushing her out before him
through the narrow entrance to the summer-house. On the threshold he
turned for a moment; met Marian's reproachful eyes with a wink; grinned;
For half an hour afterward Marian sat alone in the summer-house,
thinking of the mistake she had made. Then she returned to the Cottage,
where she found Miss McQuinch writing in the library, and related to her
all that had passed in the summer-house. Elinor listened, seated in a
rocking-chair, restlessly clapping her protended ankles together. When
she heard of Conolly's relationship to Susanna, she kept still for a
few moments, looking with widely opened eyes at Marian. Then, with a
sharp laugh, she said:
"Well, I beg his pardon. I thought he was another of that woman's
retainers. I never dreamt of his being her brother."
Marian was horror stricken. "You thought--! Oh, Nelly, what puts such
things into your head?"
"So would you have thought it if you had the least gumption about
people. However, I was wrong; and I'm glad of it. However, I was right
about Marmaduke. I told you so, over and over and over again."
"I know you did; but I didnt think you were in earnest."
"No, you never can conceive my being in earnest when I differ from you,
until the event proves me to be right."
"I am afraid it will kill Constance."
"_Dont_, Marian!" cried Elinor, giving her chair a violent swing.
"I am quite serious. You know how delicate she is."
"Well, if she dies of any sentiment, it will be wounded vanity. Serve
her right for allowing a man to be forced into marrying her. I believe
she knows in her soul that he does not care about her. Why else should
she be jealous of me, of you, and of everybody?"
"It seems to me that instead of sympathizing with the unfortunate girl,
both you and Marmaduke exult in her disappointment."
"I pity her, poor little wretch. But I dont sympathize with her. I dont
pity Marmaduke one bit: if the whole family cuts him he will deserve it
richly, but I do sympathize with him. Can you wonder at his preference?
When we went to see that woman last June I envied her. There she was,
clever, independent, successful, holding her own in the world, earning
her living, fascinating a crowd of people, whilst we poor respectable
nonentities sat pretending to despise her--as if we were not waiting
until some man in want of a female slave should offer us our board and
lodging and the privilege of his lordly name with 'Missis' before it for
our lifelong services. You may make up as many little bread-and-butter
romances as you please, Marian; but I defy you to give me any sensible
reason why Marmaduke should chain himself for ever to a little inane
thing like Constance, when he can enjoy the society of a capable woman
like that without binding himself at all."
"Nonsense, Nelly! Really, you oughtnt to say such things."
"No. I ought to keep both eyes tight shut so that I may be contented in
that station to which it has pleased God to call me."
"Imagine his proposing to marry her, Nell! I am just as wicked as you;
for I am very glad she refused; though I cant conceive why she did it."
"Perhaps," said Miss McQuinch, becoming excited, "she refused because
she had too much good sense: aye, and too much common decency to accept.
It is all very well for us fortunate good-for-nothings to resort to
"--I say, to prostitution, to secure ourselves a home and an income.
Somebody said openly in Parliament the other day that marriage was the
true profession of women. So it is a profession; and except that it is a
harder bargain for both parties, and that society countenances it, I
dont see how it differs from what we--bless our virtuous
indignation!--stigmatize as prostitution. _I_ dont mean ever to be
married, I can tell you, Marian. I would rather die than sell myself
forever to a man, and stand in a church before a lot of people whilst
George or somebody read out that cynically plain-spoken marriage service
"Stop Nelly! Pray stop! If you thought for a moment you would never say
such awful things."
"I thought we had agreed long ago that marriage is a mistake."
"Yes; but that is very different to what you are saying now."
"I cannot see----"
"Pray stop, Nelly. Dont go on in that strain. It does no good; and it
makes me very uncomfortable."
"I'll take it out in work," said Nelly calmly, returning to her
manuscript. "I can see that, as you say, talking does no good. All the
more reason why I should have another try at earning my own living. When
I become a great novelist I shall say what I like and do what I please.
For the present I am your obedient, humble servant."
At any other time Marian would have protested, and explained, and
soothed. Now she was too heavily preoccupied by her guilty conscience.
She strolled disconsolately to the window, and presently, seeing that
Miss McQuinch was at work in earnest and had better not be disturbed,
went off for a lonely walk. It was a glorious afternoon; and nature
heaped its peculiar consolations on her; so that she never thought of
returning until the sun was close to the horizon. As she came, tired,
through the plantation, with the evening glow and the light wind, in
which the branches were rustling and the leaves dropping, lulling her
luxuriously, she heard some one striding swiftly along the path behind.
She looked back; but there was a curve in the way; and she could not see
who was coming. Then it occurred to her that it might be Conolly.
Dreading to face him after what had happened, she stole aside among the
trees a little way, and sat down on a stone, hoping that he might pass
by without seeing her. The next moment he came round the curve, looking
so resolute and vigorous that her heart became fainter as she watched
him. Just opposite where she sat, he stopped, having a clear view of the
path ahead for some distance, and appeared puzzled. Marian held her
breath. He looked to the left through the trees, then to the right,
where she was.
"Good-evening, Miss Lind," he said respectfully, raising his hat.
"Good-evening," said she, trembling.
"You are not looking quite well."
"I have walked too much; and I feel a little tired. That is why I had to
sit down. I shall be rested presently."
Conolly sat down on a felled trunk opposite Marian. "This is my last
visit to Carbury Towers," he said. "No doubt you know that I am going
"Yes," said Marian. "I--I am greatly obliged to you for all the pains
you have taken with me in the laboratory. You have been very patient. I
suppose I have often wasted your time unreasonably."
"No," said Conolly, unceremoniously, "you have not wasted my time: I
never let anybody do that. My time belonged to Lord Carbury, not to
myself. However, that is neither here nor there. I enjoyed giving you
lessons. Unless you enjoyed taking them, the whole obligation rests on
"They were very pleasant."
He shifted himself into an easier position, looking well pleased. Then
he said, carelessly, "Has Mr. Marmaduke Lind come down?"
Marian reddened and felt giddy.
"I want to avoid meeting him," continued Conolly; "and I thought perhaps
you might know enough of his movements this evening to help me to do so.
It does not matter much; but I have a reason."
Marian felt the hysteric globe at her throat as she tried to speak; but
she repressed it, and said:
"Mr. Conolly: I know the reason. I did not know before: I am sure you
did not think I did. I made a dreadful mistake."
"Why!" said Conolly, with some indignation, "who has told you since?"
"Marmaduke," said Marian, roused to reply quickly by the energy of the
questioner. "He did not mean to be indiscreet: he thought I knew."
"Thought! He never thought in his life, Miss Lind. However, he was right
enough to tell you; and I am glad you know the truth, because it
explains my behavior the last time we met. It took me aback a bit for
"You were very forbearing. I hope you will not think me intrusive if I
tell you how sincerely sorry I am for the misfortune which has come to
Marian lost confidence again, and looked at him in silent distress.
"To be sure," he interposed, quickly. "I know; but you had put it all
out of my head. I am much obliged to you. Not that I am much concerned
about it. You will perhaps think it an instance of the depravity of my
order, Miss Lind; but I am not one of those people who think it pious to
consider their near relatives as if they were outside the natural course
of things. I never was a good son or a good brother or a good patriot in
the sense of thinking that my mother and my sister and my native country
were better than other people's because I happened to belong to them. I
knew what would happen some day, though, as usual, my foreknowledge did
not save me from a little emotion when the event came to pass. Besides,
to tell you the truth, I dont feel it as a misfortune. You know what my
sister's profession is. You told me how you felt when you saw her act.
Now, tell me fairly, and without stopping to think of whether your
answer will hurt me, would you consent to know her in private even if
you had heard nothing to her disadvantage? Would you invite her to your
house, or go to a party at which all the other women were like her?
Would you introduce young ladies to her, as you would introduce them to
Miss McQuinch? Dont stop to imagine exceptional circumstances which
might justify you in doing these things; but tell me yes or no, _would_
"You see, Mr. Conolly, I should really never have an opportunity of
"By your leave, Miss Lind, that means No. Honestly, then, what has
Susanna to lose by disregarding your rules of behavior? Even if, by
marrying, she conciliated the notions of your class, she would only give
some man the right to ill-treat her and spend her earnings, without
getting anything in return--and remember there is a special danger of
that on the stage, for several reasons. She would not really conciliate
you by marrying, for you wouldnt associate with her a bit the more
because of her marriage certificate. Of course I am putting her
self-respect out of the question, that being a matter between herself
and her conscience, with which we have no concern. Believe me, neither
actresses nor any other class will trouble themselves about the opinion
of a society in which they are allowed to have neither part nor lot.
Perhaps I am wrong to talk about such matters to you; but you are
trained to feel all the worst that can be felt for my sister; and I feel
bound to let you know that there is something to be said in her defence.
I have no right to blame her, as she has done me no harm. The only way
in which her conduct can influence my prospects will be through her
being an undesirable sister-in-law in case I should want to marry."
"If the person you choose hesitate on that account, you can let her go
without regret," said Marian. "She will not be worthy of your regard."
"I am not so sure of that," said Conolly, laughing. "You see, Miss Lind,
if that invention of mine succeeds, I may become a noted man; and it is
fashionable nowadays for society to patronize geniuses who hit on a new
illustration of what people call the marvels of science. I am ambitious.
As a celebrity, I might win the affections of a duchess. Who knows?"
"I should not advise you to marry a duchess. I do not know many of them,
as I am a comparatively humble person; but I am sure you would not like
"Aye. And possibly a lady of gentle nurture would not like me."
"On the contrary, clever people are so rare in society that I think you
would have a better chance than most men."
"Do you think my manners would pass? I learnt to dance and bow before I
was twelve years old from the most experienced master in Europe; and I
used to mix with all the counts, dukes, and queens in my father's opera
company, not to mention the fashionable people I have read about in
"You are jesting, Mr. Conolly. I do not believe that your manners give
you the least real concern."
"And you think that I may aspire in time--if I am successful in
public--to the hand of a lady?"
"Surely you know as much of the world as I. Why should you not marry a
lady, if you wish to?"
"I am afraid class prejudice would be too strong for me, after all."
"I dont think so. What hour is it now, Mr. Conolly?"
"It wants ten minutes of seven."
"Oh!" cried Marian, rising. "Miss McQuinch is probably wondering whether
I am drowned or lost. I must get back to the Hall as fast as I can. They
have returned from Bushy Copse before this; and I am sure they are
asking about me."
Conolly rose silently and walked with her as far as the path from the
cottage to the laboratory.
"This is my way, Miss Lind," said he. "I am going to the laboratory.
Will you be so kind as to give my respects to Miss McQuinch. I shall not
see her again, as I must return to town by the last train to-night."
"And are you not coming back--not at all, I mean?"
"Not at all."
"Oh!" said Marian slowly.
"Good bye, Miss Lind."
He was about to raise his hat as usual; but Marian, with a smile, put
out her hand. He took it for the first time; looked at her for a moment
gravely; and left her.
Lest they should surprise one another in the act, neither of them looked
back at the other as they went their several ways.
In the spring, eighteen months after his daughter's visit to Carbury
Towers, Mr. Reginald Harrington Lind called at a house in Manchester
Square and found Mrs. Douglas at home. Sholto's mother was a widow lady
older than Mr. Lind, with a rather glassy eye and shaky hand, who would
have looked weak and shiftless in an almshouse, but who, with plenty of
money, unlimited domestic service, and unhesitating deference from
attendants who were all trained artists in their occupation, made a fair
shew of being a dignified and interesting old lady. When he was seated,
her first action was to take a new photograph from a little table at her
side, and hand it to him without a word, awaiting his recognition of it
with a shew of natural pride and affection which was amateurish in
comparison to the more polished and skilful comedy with which her
visitor took it and pretended to admire it.
"Capital. Capital," said Mr. Lind. "He must give us one."
"You dont think that the beard has spoiled him, do you?" said Mrs.
"Certainly not: it is an improvement," said Mr. Lind, decisively. "You
are glad to have him back again with you, I dare say. Ah yes, yes" (Mrs.
Douglas's eyes had answered for her). "Did he tell you that he met me? I
saw him on Wednesday last for the first time since his return to London.
How long was he away?"
"Two years," she replied, with slow emphasis, as if such an absence
were hardly credible. "Two long years. He has been staying in Paris, in
Venice, in Florence: a month here, a week there, dissatisfied
everywhere. He would have been almost as happy with me at home. And how
"Well," said Mr. Lind, smiling, "I believe she is still disengaged; and
she professes to be fancy free. She is fond of saying, generally, that
she will never marry, and so forth. That is the new fashion with young
women--if saying what they dont mean can be called a new fashion."
"Marian is sure to get married," said Mrs. Douglas. "She must have had
offers already. There are few parents who have not cause to envy you."
"We have both been happy in that respect, Mrs. Douglas. Sholto is a
highly distinguished young man. I wish I had started in life with half
his advantages. I thought at one time he was perhaps becoming attached
"You are quite sure, Mr. Lind, that you could forgive his being a plain
gentleman? A little bird whispered to me that you desired a title for
"My dear Mrs. Douglas, we, who are familiar with titles, understand
their true value. I should be very sorry to see Marian lose, by an
unsuitable alliance, the social position I have been able to give her. I
should set my face resolutely against such an alliance. But few English
titles can boast a pedigree comparable with Sholto's. The name of
Douglas is historic--far more so than that of Lind, which is not even
English except by naturalization. Besides, Sholto's talents are very
remarkable. He will certainly adopt a political career; and, with his
opportunities and abilities, a peerage is anything but a remote
"Sholto, you know, is perfectly unembarrassed. There is not a charge on
his property. I think that even Marian, good as she is, and lovely as
she is, will not easily find a better match. But I am well known to be a
little crazy about my dear boy. That is because I know him so much
better than anyone else does. Now let us talk about other matters. Let
me see. Oh yes, I got a prospectus of some company from the city the
other day; and whose name should there be upon the list of directors but
Reginald Harrington Lind's! And Lord Carbury's, too! Pray, is the entire
family going into business?"
"Well, I believe the undertaking to be a commercially sound one; and--"
"Fancy _you_ talking about commercial soundness!"
"True. It must sound strange to you. But it is no longer unusual for men
in my position to take an active part in the direction of commerce. We
have duties as well as privileges. I gave my name and took a few shares
chiefly on the recommendation of Jasper and of my own stockbroker. I
think there can be no doubt that Jasper and Mr. Conolly have made a very
remarkable discovery, and one which must prove highly remunerative and
"What is the discovery? I did not quite understand the prospectus."
"Well, it is called the Conolly Electro-motor."
"Yes, I know that."
"And it--it turns all sorts of machinery. I cannot explain it
scientifically to you: you would not understand me. But it is, in short,
a method of driving machinery by electricity at a less cost than by
steam. It is connected in principle with the conservation of energy and
other technical matters. You must come and see the machinery at work
"I must, indeed. And is it true that Mr. Conolly was a common working
"Yes, a practical man, undoubtedly, but highly educated. He speaks
French and Italian fluently, and is a remarkable musician. Altogether a
man of very superior attainments, and by no means deficient in culture."
"Dear me! Jasper told me something of that sort about him; but Lady
Carbury gave him a very different character. She assured me that he was
sprung from the dregs of the people, and that she had a great deal of
trouble to teach him his proper place. Still, we know that she is not
very particular as to what she says when she dislikes people. Yet she
ought to know; for he was Jasper's laboratory servant--at least so she
"Oh, surely not a servant. Jasper never regarded him in that light. The
Countess disapproves of Jasper's scientific pursuits, and sets her face
against all who encourage him in them. However, I really know nothing
about Mr. Conolly's antecedents. His manner when he appears at our board
meetings is quiet and not unpleasant. Marian, it appears, met him at
Towers Cottage the year before last, and had some scientific lessons
from him. He was quite unknown then. It was rather a curious
coincidence. I did not know of it until about a month ago, when he read
a paper at the Society of Arts on his invention. I attended the meeting
with Marian; and when it was over, I introduced him to her, and was
surprised to learn that they knew one another already. He told me
afterward that Marian had shewn an unusual degree of cleverness in
studying electricity, and that she greatly interested him at the time."
"No doubt. Marian interests everybody; and even great discoverers, when
they are young, are only human."
"Ah! Perhaps so. But she must have shewn some ability or she would never
have elicited a remark from him. He is full of his business."
"And what is the latest news of the family scamp?"
"Do you mean my Reginald?"
"Dear me, no! What a shame to call poor Reggy a scamp! I mean young
Marmaduke, of course. Is it true that he has a daughter now?"
"Oh yes. Perfectly true."
"The reprobate! And he was always such a pleasant fellow."
"Yes; but he is annoyingly inconsiderate. About a fortnight ago, Marian
and Elinor went to Putney to a private view at Mr. Scott's studio. On
their way back they saw Marmaduke on the river, and, rather
unnecessarily, I think, entered into conversation with him. He begged
them to come to Hammersmith in his boat, saying that he had something
there to shew them. Elinor, it appears, had the sense to ask whether it
was anything they ought not to see; but he replied on his honor that it
was something perfectly innocent, and promised that they should be
delighted with it. So they foolishly consented, and went with him to
Hammersmith, where they left the river and walked some distance with
him. He left them in a road somewhere in West Kensington, and came back
after about fifteen minutes with a little girl. He actually presented
her to Marian and Elinor as a member of the family whom they, as a
matter of course, would like to know."
"Well, _such_ a thing to do! And what happened?"
"Marian seems to have thought of nothing but the prettiness of the
unhappy child. She gravely informed me that she forgave Marmaduke
everything when she saw how he doted on it. Elinor has always shewn a
disposition to defend him----"
"She is full of perversity, and always was."
"----and this incident did not damage his credit with _her_. However,
after the little waif had been sufficiently petted and praised to
gratify Master Marmaduke's paternal feelings, they came home, and,
instead of holding their tongues, began to tell all our people what a
dear little child Marmaduke had, and how they considered that it ought
not to be made to suffer for his follies. In fact, I think they would
have adopted it, if I had allowed them."
"That is Marian all over. Some of her ideas will serve her very well
when she goes to heaven; but they will get her into scrapes in this
wicked world if you do not take care of her."
"I fear so. For that reason I tolerate a degree of cynicism in Elinor's
character which would otherwise be most disagreeable to me. It is often
useful in correcting Marian's extravagances. Unfortunately, the incident
at Hammersmith did not pass off without making mischief. It happens that
my sister Julia is interested in a Home for foundling girls--a
semi-private place, where a dozen children are trained as domestic
"Yes. I have been through it. It is very neat and pretty; but they
really treat the poor girls as if they ought to be thankful for
permission to exist. Their dresses are so ugly!"
"Possibly. I assure you that presentations are much sought after, and
are very difficult to get. Julia is a patroness. Marian told her about
this child of Marmaduke's; and it happened that a vacancy had just
occurred at the Home in consequence of one of the girls dying of
melancholia and spinal affection. Julia, who has perhaps more piety than
tact, wrote to Marmaduke offering to present his daughter, and
expatiating on the advantages of the Home to the poor little lost one.
In her desire to reclaim Marmaduke also, she entrusted the letter to
George, who undertook to deliver it, and further Julia's project by
personal persuasion. George described the interview to me, and shewed
me, I am sorry to say, how much downright ferocity may exist beneath an
apparently frank, jovial, reckless exterior like Marmaduke's."
"Well, I hardly wonder at his refusing. Of course, he might have known
that the motive of the offer was a kind one."
"Refused! A gentleman can always refuse an offer with dignity. Marmaduke
was outrageous. George--a clergyman--owed his escape from actual
violence to the interference of the woman, and to a timely
representation that he had undertaken to bear the message in order to
soften any angry feelings that it might give rise to. Marmaduke
repeatedly applied foul language to his aunt and to her offer; and
George with great difficulty dissuaded him from writing a most offensive
letter to her. Julia was so hurt by this that she complained to
Dora--Marmaduke's mother--who had up to that time been kept in ignorance
of his doings; and now it is hard to say where the mischief will end.
Dora is overwhelmed by the revelation of the life her son is leading.
Marmaduke has consequently forfeited his father's countenance, which
had to be extended to him so far as to allow of his occasional
appearance at home, in order to keep Dora in the dark. Now that she is
enlightened, of course there is an end of all that, and he is forbidden
"What a lot of mischief! Dear me!"
"So I said to Marian. Had she refused to go up the river with Marmaduke,
as she should have done, all this would not have occurred. She will not
see it in that light, but lays all the blame on her aunt Julia, whose
offer fell somewhat short of her own notions of providing for the
"How does Marmaduke stand with respect to money? I suppose his father
has stopped his allowance."
"No. He threatened to do it, and went so far as to make his solicitor
write to that effect to Marmaduke, who had the consummate impudence to
reply that he should in that case be compelled to provide for himself by
contracting a marriage of which he could not expect his family to
approve. Still, he added, if the family chose to sever their connexion
with him, they could not expect him to consult their feelings in his
future disposal of himself. In plain English, he threatened to marry
this woman if his income was cut off. He carried his point, too; for no
alteration has been made in his allowance. Indeed, as he has money of
his own, and as part of the property is entailed, it would be easier to
irritate him uselessly than to subject him to any material deprivation."
"The young scamp! I wonder he was clever enough to take advantage like
"He has shewn no lack of acuteness of late. I suspect he is under shrewd
"Have you ever seen the--the guidance?"
"Not in person. I seldom enter a theatre now. But I am of course
familiar with her appearance from the photographic portraits of her.
They are in all the shop windows."
"Yes. I think I have noticed them."
"And now, Mrs. Douglas, I fear I have paid you a very long visit."
"Why dont you come oftener?"
"I wish I could find time. I have not so much leisure for enjoyment as I
"I am not so sure of that. But we are always glad to have a chat with
one another, I know. We are agreed about the dear children, I think?"
"Cordially. Cordially. Good-bye."
On the morning of the first Friday in May Marian received this letter:
"Uxbridge Road, Holland Park, W.
"DEAR MISS LIND: I must begin by explaining why I make this
communication to you by letter instead of orally. It is because I
am about to ask you to do me a favor. If you asked me to do
anything for you, then, no matter how much my judgment might
protest against my compliance, I could not without pain to myself
refuse you face to face. I have no right to assume that your heart
would plead on my behalf against your head in this fashion; but, on
the other hand--the wish is father to the thought here--I have no
right to assume that it would not. Therefore, to spare you all
influences except the fair ones of your own interest and
inclination, I make my proposal in writing. You will please put the
usual construction on the word 'proposal.' What I desire is your
consent to marry me. If your first impulse now is to refuse, I beg
you to do so in plain terms at once, and destroy this letter
without reading further. If you think, on the contrary, that we
could achieve a future as pleasant as our past association has
been--to me at least, here is what, as I think, you have to
"You are a lady, rich, well-born, beautiful, loved by many persons
besides myself, too happily circumstanced to have any pressing
inducement to change your condition, and too fortunately endowed in
every way to have reason to anticipate the least difficulty in
changing it to the greatest worldly advantage when you please.
"What I am and have been, you know. I may estrange from you some of
the society which you enjoy, and I can introduce you to none that
would compensate you for the loss. I am what you call poor: my
income at present does not amount to much more than fifteen
hundred pounds; and I should not ask you to marry me if it were not
that your own inheritance is sufficient, as I have ascertained, to
provide for you in case of my early death. You know how my sister
is situated; how your family are likely to feel toward me on her
account and my own; and how impatient I am of devoting much time to
what is fashionably supposed to be pleasure. On the other hand, as
I am bidding for a consent and not for a refusal, I hope you will
not take my disadvantages for more, or my advantages for less, than
they are honestly worth. At Carbury Park you often said that you
would never marry; and I have said the same myself. So, as we
neither of us overrate the possibilities of happiness in marriage,
perhaps we might, if you would be a little forbearing with me,
succeed in proving that we have greatly underrated them. As for the
prudence of the step, I have seen and practised too much prudence
to believe that it is worth much as a rule of conduct in a world of
accidents. If there were a science of life as there is one of
mechanics, we could plan our lives scientifically and run no risks;
but as it is, we must--together or apart--take our chance:
cautiousness and recklessness divide the great stock of regrets
"Perhaps you will wonder at my selfishness in wanting you, for my
own good, to forfeit your present happy independence among your
friends, and involve your fortunes with those of a man whom you
have only seen on occasions when ceremony compelled him to observe
his best behavior. I can only excuse myself by reminding you that
no matter whom you marry, you must do so at the same disadvantages,
except as to the approval of your friends, of which the value is
for you to consider. That being so, why should I not profit by your
hazard as well as another? Besides, there are many other feelings
impelling me. I should like to describe them to you, and would if I
understood them well enough to do it accurately.
"However, nothing is further from my intention than to indite a
love letter; so I will return to graver questions. One, in
particular, must be clearly understood between us. You are too
earnest to consider an allusion to religious matters out of place
here. I do not know exactly what you believe; but I have gathered
from stray remarks of yours that you belong to what is called the
Broad Church. If so, we must to some extent agree to differ. I
should never interfere in any way with your liberty as far as your
actions concerned yourself only. But, frankly, I should not permit
my wife to teach my children to know Christianity in any other way
than that in which an educated Englishman knows Buddhism. I will
not go through any ceremony whatever in a church, or enter one
except to play the organ. I am prejudiced against religions of all
sorts. The Church has made itself the natural enemy of the theatre;
and I was brought up in the theatre until I became a poor workman
earning wages, when I found the Church always taking part against
me and my comrades with the rich who did no work. If the Church had
never set itself against me, perhaps I should never have set myself
against the Church; but what is done is done: you will find me
irreligious, but not, I hope, unreasonable.
"I will be at the Academy to-morrow at about four o'clock, as I do
not care to remain longer in suspense than is absolutely necessary;
but if you are not prepared to meet me then, I shall faithfully
help you in any effort I may perceive you make to avoid me.
"I am, dear Miss Lind,
This letter conveyed to Marian hardly one of the considerations set
forth in it. She thought it a frank, strong, admirable letter, just what
she should have hoped from her highest estimate of him. In the quaint
earnestness about religion, and the exaggerated estimate (as she
thought) of the advantages which she might forfeit by marrying him,
there was just enough of the workman to make them characteristic. She
wished that she could make some real sacrifice for his sake. She was
afraid to realize her situation at first, and, to keep it off, occupied
herself during the forenoon with her household duties, with some
pianoforte practice, and such other triflings as she could persuade
herself were necessary. At last she quite suddenly became impatient of
further delay. She sat down in a nook behind the window curtain, and
re-read the letter resolutely. It disappointed her a little, so she read
it again. The third time she liked it better than the first; and she
would have gone through it yet again but for the arrival of Mrs. Leith
Fairfax, with whom they had arranged to go to Burlington House.
"It is really a tax on me, this first day at the Academy," said Mrs.
Fairfax, when they were at luncheon. "I have been there at the press
view, besides seeing all the pictures long ago in the studios. But, of
course, I am expected to be there."
"If I were in your place," said Elinor, "I----"
"Last night," continued Mrs. Fairfax, deliberately ignoring her, "I was
not in bed until half-past two o'clock. On the night before, I was up
until five. On Tuesday I did not go to bed at all."
"Why do you do such things?" said Marian.
"My dear, I _must_. John Metcalf, the publisher, came to me on Tuesday
at three o'clock, and said he must have an article on the mango
experiments at Kew ready for the printer before ten next morning. For
his paper, the _Fortnightly Naturalist_, you know. 'My dear John
Metcalf,' I said, 'I dont know what a mango is.' 'No more do I, Mrs.
Leith Fairfax,' said he: 'I think it's something that blooms only once
in a hundred years. No matter what it is, you must let me have the
article. Nobody else can do it.' I told him it was impossible. My London
letter for the _Hari Kari_ was not even begun; and the last post to
catch the mail to Japan was at a quarter-past six in the morning. I had
an article to write for your father, too. And, as the sun had been
shining all day, I was almost distracted with hay fever. 'If you were to
go down on your knees,' I said, 'I could not find time to read up the
_flora_ of the West Indies and finish an article before morning.' He
went down on his knees. 'Now Mrs. Leith Fairfax,' said he, 'I am going
to stay here until you promise.' What could I do but promise and get rid
of him? I did it, too: how, I dont know; but I did it. John Metcalf told
me yesterday that Sir James Hooker, the president of the Society for
Naturalizing the Bread Fruit Tree in Britain, and the greatest living
authority on the subject, has got the credit of having written my
"How flattered he must feel!" said Elinor.
"What article had you to write for papa?" said Marian.
"On the electro-motor--the Conolly electro-motor. I went down to the
City on Wednesday, and saw it working. It is most wonderful, and very
interesting. Mr. Conolly explained it to me himself. I was able to
follow every step that his mind has made in inventing it. I remember him
as a common workman. He fitted the electric bell in my study four years
ago with his own hands. You may remember that we met him at a concert
once. He is a thorough man of business. The Company is making upward of
fifty pounds an hour by the motor at present; and they expect their
receipts to be a thousand a day next year. My article will be in the
_Dynamic Statistician_ next week. Have you seen Sholto Douglas since he
came back from the continent?"
"I want to see him. When you meet him next, tell him to call on me. Why
has he not been here? Surely you are not keeping up your old quarrel?"
"What old quarrel?"
"I always understood that he went abroad on your account."
"I never quarreled with him. Perhaps he did with me, as he has not come
to see us since his return. It used to be so easy to offend him that his
retirement in good temper after a visit was quite exceptional."
"Come, come, my dear child! that is all nonsense. You must be kind to
the poor fellow. Perhaps he will be at the Academy."
"I hope not," said Marian, quickly.
"I mean if he cherishes any grudge against me; for he will be very
"A grudge against you! Ah, Marian, how little you understand him! What
perverse creatures all you young people are! I must bring about an
"I advise you not to," said Elinor. "If you succeed, no one will admit
that you have done anything; and if you fail, everybody will blame you."
"But there is nothing to be _eclairci_," said Marian. We are talking
nonsense, which is silly----"
"And French, which is vulgar," interposed Miss McQuinch, delivering the
remark like a pistol shot at Mrs. Fairfax, who had been trying to convey
by facial expression that she pitied the folly of Elinor's advice, and
was scandalized by her presumption in offering it. "It is time to start
for the Academy."
When they arrived at Burlington House, Mrs. Fairfax put on her gold
rimmed spectacles, and led the way up the stairs like one having
important business in a place to which others came for pleasure. When
they had passed the turnstiles, Elinor halted, and said:
"There is no sort of reason for our pushing through this crowd in a gang
of three. Besides, I want to look at the pictures, and not after you to
see which way you go. I shall meet you here at six o'clock, sharp.
"What an extraordinary girl!" said Mrs. Fairfax, as Elinor opened her
catalogue at the end, and suddenly disappeared to the right amongst the
"She always does so," said Marian; "and I think she is quite right. Two
people cannot make their way about as easily as one; and they never want
to see the same pictures."
"But, my dear, consider the impropriety of a young girl walking about by
"Surely there is no impropriety in it. Lots of people--all sensible
women do it. Who can tell, in this crowd, whether you are by yourself or
not? And what does it matter if----"
Here Mrs. Fairfax's attention was diverted by the approach of one of her
numerous acquaintances. Marian, after a moment's indecision, slipped
away and began her tour of the rooms alone, passing quickly through the
first in order to escape pursuit. In the second she tried to look at the
pictures; but as she now for the first time realized that she might meet
Conolly at any moment, doubt as to what answer she should give him
seized her; and she felt a strong impulse to fly. The pictures were
unintelligible to her: she kept her face turned to the inharmonious shew
of paint and gilding only because she shrank from looking at the people
about. Whenever she stood still, and any man approached and remained
near her, she contemplated the wall fixedly, and did not dare to look
round or even to stir until he moved away, lest he should be Conolly.
When she passed from the second room to the large one, she felt as
though she were making a tremendous plunge; and indeed the catastrophe
occurred before she had accomplished the movement, for she came suddenly
face to face with him in the doorway. He did not flinch: he raised his
hat, and prepared to pass on. She involuntarily put out her hand in
remonstrance. He took it as a gift at once; and she, confused, said
anxiously: "We must not stand in the doorway. The people cannot pass
us," as if her action had meant nothing more than an attempt to draw him
out of the way. Then, perceiving the absurdity of this pretence, she was
quite lost for a moment. When she recovered her self-possession they
were standing together in the less thronged space near a bust of the
Queen; and Conolly was saying:
"I have been here half an hour; and I have not seen a single picture."
"Nor I," she said timidly, looking down at her catalogue. "Shall we try
to see some now?"
He opened his catalogue; and they turned together toward the pictures
and were soon discussing them sedulously, as if they wished to shut out
the subject of the very recent crisis in their affairs, which was
nevertheless constantly present in their minds. Marian was saluted by
many acquaintances. At each encounter she made an effort to appear
unconcerned, and suffered immediately afterward from a suspicion that
the effort had defeated its own object, as such efforts often do.
Conolly had something to say about most of the pictures: generally an
unanswerable objection to some historical or technical inaccuracy, which
sometimes convinced her, and always impressed her with a confiding sense
of ignorance in herself and infallible judgment in him.
"I think we have done enough for one day," she said at last. "The
watercolors and the sculpture must wait until next time."
"We had better watch for a vacant seat. You must be tired."
"I am, a little. I think I should like to sit in some other room. Mrs.
Leith Fairfax is over there with Mr. Douglas--a gentleman whom I know
and would rather not meet just now. You saw him at Wandsworth."
"Yes. That tall man? He has let his beard grow since."
"That is he. Let us go to the room where the drawings are: we shall have
a better chance of a seat there. I have not seen Sholto for two years;
and our last meeting was rather a stormy one."
Marian was a little hurt by being questioned. She missed the reticence
of a gentleman. Then she reproached herself for not understanding that
his frank curiosity was a delicate appeal to her confidence in him, and
answered: "He proposed to me."
Conolly immediately dropped the subject, and went in search of a vacant
seat. They found one in the little room where the architects' drawings
languish. They were silent for some time.
Then he began, seriously: "Is it too soon to call you by your own name?
'Miss Lind' is distant; but 'Marian' might shock you if it came too
confidently without preparation."
"Whichever you please."
"Whichever I please!"
"That is the worst of being a woman. Little speeches that are sheer
coquetry when you analyze them, come to our lips and escape even when we
are most anxious to be straightforward."
"In the same way," said Conolly, "the most enlightened men often express
themselves in a purely conventional manner on subjects on which they
have the deepest convictions." This sententious utterance had the effect
of extinguishing the conversation for some moments, Marian being unable
to think of a worthy rejoinder. At last she said:
"What is your name?"
"Edward, or, familiarly, Ned. Commonly Ted. In America, Ed. With, of
course, the diminutives Neddy, Teddy, and Eddy."
"I think I should prefer Ned."
"I prefer Ned myself."
"Have you any other name?"
"Yes; but it is a secret. Why people should be plagued with two
Christian names, I do not know. No one would have believed in the motor
if they had known that my name was Sebastian."
"Hush. I was actually christened Edoardo Sebastiano Conolly. My father
used to spell his name Conollj whilst he was out of Italy. I have
frustrated the bounty of my godfathers by suppressing all but the
sensible Edward Conolly."
There was a pause. Then Marian spoke.
"Do you intend to make our--our engagement known at once?"
"I have considered the point; and as you are the person likely to be
inconvenienced by its publication, I am bound to let you conceal it for
the present, if you wish to. It must transpire sometime: the sooner the
better. You will feel uncomfortably deceitful with such a secret; and as
for me, every time your father greets me cordially in the City I shall
feel mean. However, you can watch for your opportunity. Let me know at
once when the cat comes out of the bag."
"I will. I think, as you say, the right course is to tell at once."
"Undoubtedly. But from the moment you do so until we are married you
will be worried by remonstrances, entreaties, threats, and what not; so
that we cannot possibly make that interval too short."
"We must take Nelly into our confidence. You will not object to that?"
"Certainly not. I like Miss McQuinch."
"You really do! Oh, I am so glad. Well, we are accustomed to go about
together, especially to picture galleries. We can come to the Academy as
often as we like; and you can come as often as you like, can you not?"
"Opening day, for instance."
"Yes, if you wish."
"Let us say between half-past four and five, then. I would willingly be
here when the doors open in the morning; but my business will not do
itself while I am philandering and making you tired of me before your
time. The consciousness of having done a day's work is necessary to my
"I, too, have my day's work to do, silly as it is. I have to housekeep,
to receive visitors, to write notes about nothing, and to think of the
future. We can say half-past four or any later hour that may suit you."
"Agreed. And now, Marian----"
"Dont let me disturb you," said Miss McQuinch, at his elbow, to Marian;
"but Mrs. Leith Fairfax will be here with Sholto Douglas presently; and
I thought you might like to have an opportunity of avoiding him. How do
you do, Mr. Conolly?"
"I must see him sooner or later," said Marian, rising. "Better face him
at once and get it over. I will go back by myself and meet them." Then,
with a smile at Conolly, she went out through the door leading to the
"Marian does not stand on much ceremony with you, Mr. Conolly," said
Miss McQuinch, glancing at him.
"No," said Conolly. "Do you think you could face the Academy again on
Monday at half-past four?"
"Miss Lind is coming to meet me here at that hour."
"Precisely. Marian. She has promised to marry me. At present it is a
secret. But it was to be mentioned to you."
"It will not be a secret very long if you allow people to overhear you
calling her by her Christian name in the middle of the Academy, as you
did me just now," said Elinor, privately much taken aback, but resolute
not to appear so.
"Did you overhear us? I should have been more careful. You do not seem
"Just a little, at your audacity. Not in the least at Marian's
"I did not mean it in that way at all," said Elinor resentfully. "I
think you have been very fortunate, as I suppose you would have married
somebody in any case. I believe you are able to appreciate her. That's a
"Yes. I hope I deserve it. Do you think you will ever forgive me for
supplanting the hero Marian deserves?"
"If you had let your chance of her slip, I should have despised you, I
think: at least, I should if you had missed it with your eyes open. I am
so far prejudiced in your favor that I think Marian would not like you
unless you were good. I have known her to pity people who deserved to be
strangled; but I never knew her to be attracted by any unworthy person
except myself; and even I have my good points. You need not trouble
yourself to agree with me: you could not do less, in common politeness.
As I am rather tired, I shall go and sit in the vestibule until the
others are ready to go home. In the meantime you can tell me all the
particulars you care to trust me with. Marian will tell me the rest when
we go home."
"That is an undeserved stab," said Conolly.
"Never mind: I am always stabbing people. I suppose I like it," she
added, as they went together to the vestibule.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Leith Fairfax had not been wasting her time. She had
come upon Douglas in the large room, and had recognized him by his
stature and proud bearing, in spite of the handsome Assyrian beard he
had allowed to grow during his stay abroad.
"I have been very anxious to see you," said she, forcing a conversation
upon him, though he had saluted her formally, and had evidently intended
to pass on without speaking. "If your time were not too valuable to be
devoted to a poor hard-working woman, I should have asked you to call on
me. Dont deprecate my forbearance. You are Somebody in the literary
"Indeed? I was not aware that I had done anything to raise me from
"I assure you you are very much mistaken, or else very modest. Has no
one told you about the effect your book produced here?"
"I know nothing of it, Mrs. Leith Fairfax. I never enquire after the
effect of my work. I have lived in comparative seclusion; and I scarcely
know what collection of fugitive notes of mine you honor by describing
as a book."
"I mean your 'Note on three pictures in last year's _Salon_,' with the
sonnets, and the fragment from your unfinished drama. Is it finished,
may I ask?"
"It is not finished. I shall never finish it now."
"I will tell you--between ourselves--that I heard one of the foremost
critics of the age say, in the presence of a great poet (whom we both
know), that it was such another fragment as the Venus of Milo, 'whose
lost arms,' said he, 'we should fear to see, lest they should be
unworthy of her.' 'You are right,' said the poet: 'I, for one, should
shudder to see the fragment completed.' That is a positive fact. But
look at some of the sonnets! Burgraves says that his collection of
English sonnets is incomplete because it does not contain your
'Clytemnestra,' which he had not seen when his book went to press. You
stand in the very forefront of literature--far higher than I, who
am--dont tell anybody--five years older than you."
"You are very good. I do not value any distinction of the sort. I write
sometimes because, I suppose, the things that are in me must come out,
whether I will or not. Let us talk of something else. You are quite well
"Very far from it. I am never well; but since I never have a moment's
rest from work, I must bear with it. People expect me to think, when I
have hardly time to eat."
"If you have no time to think, I envy you. But I am truly sorry that
your health remains so bad."
"Thank you. But what is the cause of all this gloomy cynicism, Mr.
Douglas? Why should you, who are young, distinguished, gifted, and
already famous, envy me for having no leisure to think?"
"You exaggerate the sadness of my unfortunate insensibility to the
admiration of the crowd," said Douglas, coldly. "I am, nevertheless,
flattered by the interest you take in my affairs."
"You need not be, Mr. Douglas," said Mrs. Fairfax, earnestly, fearing
that he would presently succeed in rebuffing her. "I think you are much
better off than you deserve. You may despise your reputation as much as
you like: that only affects yourself. But when a beautiful girl pays you
the compliment of almost dying of love for you, I think you ought to buy
a wedding-ring and jump for joy, instead of sulking in remote corners of
"And pray, Mrs. Leith Fairfax, what lady has so honored me?"
"You must know, unless you are blind."
"Pardon me. I do not habitually imply what is not the case. I beg you to
believe that I do _not_ know."
"Not know! What moles men are! Poor Marian!"
"Oblige me by taking this seat," said Douglas, sternly, pointing to one
just vacated. "I shall not detain you many minutes," he added, sitting
down beside her. "May I understand that Miss Lind is the lady of whom
you spoke just now?"
"Yes. Remember that I am speaking to you as a friend, and that I trust
to you not to mention the effort I am making to clear up the
misunderstanding which causes her so much unhappiness."
"Are you then in Miss Lind's confidence? Did she ask you to tell me
"What do you mean, Mr. Douglas?"
"I am quite innocent of any desire to shock or offend you, Mrs. Leith
Fairfax. Does your question imply a negative?"
"Most certainly. Marian ask me to tell! you must be dreaming. Do you
think, even if Marian were capable of making an advance, that _I_ would
consent to act as a go-between? Really, Mr. Douglas!"
"I confess I do not understand these matters; and you must bear with my
ineptitude. If Miss Lind entertains any sentiment for me but one of
mistrust and aversion, her behavior is singularly misleading."
"Mistrust! Aversion! I tell you she is in love with you."
"But you have not, you admit, her authority for saying so, whereas I
_have_ her authority for the contrary."
"You do not understand girls. You are mistaken."
"Possibly; but you must pardon me if I hesitate to set aside my own
judgment in deference to your low estimate of it."
"Very well," said Mrs. Fairfax, her patience yielding a little to his
persistent stiffness: "be it so. Many men would be glad to beg what you
will not be bribed to accept."
"No doubt. I trust that when they so humble themselves they may not
encounter a flippant repulse."
"If they do, it will spring from her unmerited regard for you."
He bowed slightly, and turned away, arranging his gloves as if about to
"Pray what is that large picture which is skied over there to the
right?" said Mrs. Fairfax, after a pause, during which she had feigned
to examine her catalogue. "I cannot see the number at this distance."
"Do you defend her conduct on the ground of that senseless and cruel
caprice which your sex seem to consider becoming to them; or has she
changed her mind in my absence?"
"Oh! you are talking of Marian. I do not know what you have to complain
of in her conduct. Mind, she has never breathed a word to me on the
subject. I am quite ignorant of the details of your difference with her.
But she has confessed to me that she is very sorry for what passed--I am
abusing her confidence by telling you so--and I am a woman, with eyes
and brains, and know what the poor girl feels well enough. I will tell
you nothing more: I have no right to; and Marian would be indignant if
she knew how much I have said already. But I know what I should do were
I in your place."
"Expose myself to another refusal, perhaps?"
Mrs. Fairfax, learning now for the first time that he had actually
proposed to Marian, looked at him for some moments in silence with a
smile which was assumed to cover her surprise. He thought it expressed
incredulity at the idea of his being refused again.
"Are you sure?" he began, speaking courteously to her for the first
time. "May I rely upon the accuracy of your impressions on this subject?
I know you are incapable of trifling in a matter which might expose me
to humiliation; but can you give me any guarantee--any--"
"Certainly not, Mr. Douglas. I am really sorry that I cannot give you a
written undertaking that your suit shall succeed: perhaps that might
encourage you to brave the scorn of a poor child who adores you. But if
you need so much encouragement, I fear you do not greatly relish the
prospect of success. Doubtless it has already struck her that since you
found absence from her very bearable for two years, and have avoided
meeting her on your return, her society cannot be very important to your
"But it was her own fault. If she accuses me of having gone away to
enjoy myself, her thoughts are a bitter sarcasm on the truth."
"Granted that it was her own fault, if you please. But surely you have
punished her enough by your long seclusion, and can afford to shew a
tardy magnanimity by this time. There she is, I think, just come in at
the door on the left. My sight is so wretched. Is it not she?"
"Then let us get up and speak to her. Come."
"You must excuse me, Mrs. Leith Fairfax. I have distinctly given her my
word that I will not intrude upon her again."
"Dont be so foolish."
Douglas's face clouded. "You are privileged to say so," he said.
"Not at all," said Mrs. Fairfax, frightened. "But when I think of
Marian, I feel like an old woman, and venture to remonstrate with all
the presumption of age. I beg your pardon."
He bowed. Then Marian joined them, and Mrs. Fairfax again gave tongue.
"Where have you been?" she cried. "You vanished from my side like a
sprite. I have been searching for you ever since."
"I have been looking at the pictures, of course. I am so glad you have
come back, Sholto. I think you might have made time to pay us a visit
before this. You look so strong and well! Your beard is a great
improvement. Have you met Nelly?"
"I think we saw her at some distance," said Douglas. "I have not been
speaking to her."
"How did you enjoy yourself while you were away?"
"As best I could."
"You look as if you had succeeded very fairly. What o'clock is it?
Remember that we have to meet Nelly at the turnstiles at six."
"It is five minutes to six now, Miss Lind."
"Thank you, Mr. Douglas. We had better go, I think."
As they left the room, Mrs. Fairfax purposely lingered behind them.
"Am I right in concluding that you are as frivolous as ever, Marian?"
"Quite," she replied. "To-day especially so. I am very happy to-day."
"May I ask why?"
"Something has happened. I will tell you what it is some day perhaps,
but not now. Something that realizes a romantic dream of mine. The dream
has been hovering vaguely about me for nearly two years; but I never
ventured to teach myself exactly what it was until to-day."
"Realized here? in the Academy?"
"It was foreshadowed--promised, at home this morning; but it was
"Did you know beforehand that I was coming?"
"Not until to-day. Mrs. Leith Fairfax said that you would most likely be
"And you are happy?"
"So much so that I cannot help talking about my happiness to you, who
are the very last person--as you will admit when everything is
explained--to whom I should unlock my lips on the subject."
"And why? Am I not interested in your happiness?"
"I suppose so. I hope so. But when you learn the truth, you will be more
astonished than gratified."
"I dare swear that you are mistaken. Is this dream of yours an affair of
"Now you are beginning to ask questions."
"Well, I will ask no more at present. But if you fear that my long
absence has rendered me indifferent in the least degree to your
happiness, you do me a great injustice."
"Well, you were not in a very good humor with me when you went away."
"I will forget that if you wish me to."
"I do wish you to forget it. And you forgive me?"
"Then we are the best friends in the world again. This is a great deal
better than meeting and pretending to ignore the very thing of which our
minds are full. You will not delay visiting us any longer now, I hope."
"I will call on your father to-morrow morning. May I?"
"He is out of town until Monday. He will be delighted to see you then.
He has been talking to me about you a great deal of late. But if you
want to see him in the morning you had better go to the club. I will
write to him to-night if you like; so that he can write to you and make
"Do. Ah, Marian, instinct is better and truer than intellect. I have
been for two years trying to believe all kinds of evil of you; and yet I
knew all the time that you were an angel."
Marian laughed. "I suppose that under our good understanding I must let
you say pretty things to me. You must write me a sonnet before your
enthusiasm evaporates. I am sure I deserve it as well as Clytemnestra."
"I will. But I fear I shall tear it up for its unworthiness afterward."
"Dont: I am not a critic. Talking of critics, where has Mrs. Leith
Fairfax gone to? Oh, there she is!"
Mrs. Fairfax came up when she saw Marian look round for her. "My dear,"
she said: "it is past six. We must go. Elinor may be waiting for us."
They found Elinor seated in the vestibule with Conolly, at whom Mrs.
Fairfax plunged, full of words. Conolly and Douglas, introduced to one
another by Marian, gravely raised their hats. When they had descended
the stairs, they stood in a group near one of the doors whilst Conolly
went aside to get their umbrellas. Just then Marmaduke Lind entered the
building, and halted in surprise at finding himself among so many
"Hallo!" he cried, seizing Douglas's hand, and attracting the attention
of the bystanders by his boisterous tone. "Here you are again, old man!
Delighted to see you. Didnt spot you at first, in the beard. George told
me you were back. I met your mother in Knightsbridge last Thursday; but
she pretended not to see me. How have you enjoyed yourself abroad, eh?
Very much in the old style, I suppose?"
"Thank you," said Douglas. "I trust your people are quite well."
"Hang me if I know!" said Marmaduke. "I have not troubled them much of
late. How d'ye do, Mrs. Leith Fairfax? How are all the celebrities?"
Mrs. Fairfax bowed coldly.
"Dont roar so, Marmaduke," said Marian. "Everybody is looking at you."
"Everybody is welcome," said Marmaduke, loudly. "Douglas: you must come
and see me. By Jove, now that I think of it, come and see me, all of
you. I am by myself on week-nights from six to twelve; and I should
enjoy a housewarming. If Mrs. Leith Fairfax comes, it will be all proper
and right. Let us have a regular party."
Mrs. Fairfax looked indignantly at him. Elinor looked round anxiously
for Conolly. Marian, struck with the same fear, moved toward the door.
"Here, Marmaduke," she said, offering him her hand. "Good-bye. You are
in one of your outrageous humors this afternoon."
"What am I doing?" he replied. "I am behaving myself perfectly. Let us
settle about the party before we go."
"Good evening, Mr. Lind," said Conolly, coming up to them with the
umbrellas. "This is yours, I think, Mrs. Leith Fairfax."
"Good evening," said Marmaduke, subsiding. "I----Well, you are all off,
"Quite time for us, I think," said Elinor. "Good-bye."
Mrs. Fairfax, with a second and more distant bow, passed out with
Conolly and Douglas. Elinor waited a moment to whisper to Marmaduke.
"First rate," said Marmaduke, in reply to the whisper; "and beginning to
talk like one o'clock. Oh yes, I tell you!" He shook Elinor's hand at
such length in his gratitude for the inquiry that she was much relieved
when a servant in livery interrupted him.
"Missus wants to speak to you, sir, afore she goes," said the man.
Elinor shook her head at Marmaduke, and hurried away to rejoin the rest
outside. As they went through the courtyard, they passed an open
carriage, in which reclined a pretty woman with dark eyes and delicate
artificial complexion. Her beauty and the elegance of her dress
attracted their attention. Suddenly Marian became aware that Conolly was
watching her as she looked at the woman in the carriage. She was about
to say something, when, to her bewilderment, Elinor nudged her. Then she
understood too, and looked solemnly at Susanna. Susanna, observing her,
stared insolently in return, and Marian averted her head like a guilty
person and hurried on. Conolly saw it all, and did not speak until they
rejoined Mrs. Fairfax and Douglas in Piccadilly.
"How do you propose to go home?" said Douglas.
"Walk to St. James's Street, where the carriage is waiting at the club;
take Uncle Reginald with us; and drive home through the park," said
"I will come with you as far as the club, if you will allow me," said
Conolly then took leave of them, and stood still until they disappeared,
when he returned to the courtyard, and went up to his sister's carriage.
"Well, Susanna," said he. "How are you?"
"Oh, there's nothing the matter with me," she replied carelessly, her
eyes filling with tears, nevertheless.
"I hear that I have been an uncle for some time past."
"Yes, on the wrong side of the blanket."
"What is its name?" he said more gravely.
"Is it quite well?"
"I suppose not. According to Nurse, it is always ill."
Conolly shrugged his shoulders, and relapsed into the cynical manner in
which he had used to talk with his sister. "Tired of it already?" he
said. "Poor little wretch!"
"It is very well off," she retorted, angrily: "a precious deal better
than I was at its age. It gets petting enough from its father, heaven
knows! He has nothing else to do. I have to work."
"You have it all your own way at the theatre now, I suppose. You are
"Yes," she said, bitterly. "We are both celebrities. Rather different
from old times."
"We certainly used to get more kicks than halfpence. However, let us
hope all that is over now."
"Who were those women who were with you a minute ago?"
"Cousins of Lind. Miss Marian Lind and Miss McQuinch."
"I remember. She is pretty. I suppose, as usual, she hasnt an idea to
bless herself with. The other looks more of a devil. Now that you are a
great man, why dont you marry a swell?"
"I intend to do so."
"The Lord help her then!"
"Oh, good-bye. Go on to Soho," she added, to the coachman, settling
herself fretfully on the cushions.
On Monday morning Douglas received a note inviting him to lunch at Mr.
Lind's club. He had spent the greater part of the previous night
composing a sonnet, which he carried with him in his pocket to St.
James's Street. Mr. Lind received him cordially; listened to an account
of his recent stay abroad; and described his own continental excursions,
both gentlemen expressing great interest at such coincidences as their
having put up at the same hotel or travelled by the same line of
railway. When luncheon was over, Mr. Lind proposed that they should
retire to the smoking-room.
"I should like to have a few words with you first, as we are alone
here," said Douglas.
"Certainly," said Mr. Lind, assuming a mild dignity in anticipation of
being appealed to as a parent. "Certainly, Sholto."
"What I have to say, coming so soon after my long absence, will probably
surprise you. I had it in contemplation before my departure, and was
only prevented from broaching it to you then by circumstances which have
happily since lost their significance. When I tell you that my
communication has reference to Marian, you will perhaps guess its
"Indeed!" said Mr. Lind, affecting surprise. "Well, Sholto, if it be so,
you have my heartiest approval. You know what a lonely life her marriage
will entail on me; so you will not expect me to consent without a few
regrets. But I could not desire a better settlement for her. She must
leave me some day. I have no right to complain."
"We shall not be very far asunder, I hope; and it is in Marian's nature
to form many ties, but to break none."
"She is an amiable girl, my--my darling child. Does she know anything of
"I am here at her express request; and there remains to me the pleasure
of getting her own final consent, which I would not press for until
armed with your sanction."
Except for an involuntary hitch of his eyelids, Mr. Lind looked as
if he believed perfectly in Douglas's respect for his parental claims.
"Quite right," he said, "quite right. You have my best wishes. I have
no doubt you will succeed: none. There are, of course, a few
affairs to be settled--a few contingencies to be provided
for--children--accidents--and so forth. No difficulty is likely to arise
between us on that score; but still, these things have to be arranged."
"I propose a very simple method of arranging them. You are a man of
honor, and more conversant with business than I. Give me your
instructions. My lawyer shall have them within half an hour."
"That is said like a gentleman and a Douglas, Sholto. But I must
consider before giving you an answer. You have thrown upon me the duty
of studying your position as well as Marian's; and I must neither abuse
your generosity nor neglect her interest."
"You will, nevertheless, allow me to consider the conditions as settled,
since I leave them entirely in your hands."
"My own means have been seriously crippled by the extravagance of
Reginald. Indeed both my boys have cost me much money. I had not, like
you, the good fortune to be an only son. I was the fourth son of a
younger son: there was very little left for me. I will treat Marian as
liberally as I can; but I fear I cannot do anything for her that will
bear comparison with your munificence."
"Surely I can give her enough. I should prefer to be solely responsible
for her welfare."
"Oh no. That would be too bad. Oh no, Sholto: I will give her something,
"As you wish, Mr. Lind. We can arrange it to your satisfaction
afterward. Do you intend returning to Westbourne Terrace soon?"
"I am afraid not. I have to go into the City. If you would care to come
with me, I can shew you the Company's place there, and the working of
the motor. It is well worth seeing. Then you can return with me to the
Terrace and dine with us. After dinner you can talk to Marian."
Douglas consented; and they went to Queen Victoria Street, to a building
which had on each doorpost a brass shield inscribed THE CONOLLY
ELECTRO-MOTOR COMPANY OF LONDON, LIMITED. At the offices, on the first
floor, they were received obsequiously and informed that Mr. Conolly was
within. They then went to a door on which appeared the name of the
inventor, and entered a handsomely furnished office containing several
working models of machinery, and a writing-table, from his seat at which
Conolly rose to salute his visitors.
"Good evening, Mr. Lind. How do you do, Mr. Douglas?"
"Oh!" said Mr. Lind. "You two are acquainted. I did not know that."
"Yes," said Conolly, "I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Douglas at the
Academy yesterday evening."
"Indeed? Marian did not mention that you were there. Well, can we see
the wonders of the place, Mr. Conolly; or do we disturb you?"
"Not at all," replied Conolly, turning to one of the models, and
beginning his showman's lecture with disquieting promptitude. "Hitherto,
as you are no doubt aware, Mr. Douglas, steam has kept electricity, as a
motive power, out of the field; because it is much less expensive. Even
induced magnetic currents, the cheapest known form of electric energy,
can be obtained only by the use of steam power. You generate steam by
the combustion of coal: electricity, without steam, can only be
generated by the combustion of metals. Coal is much cheaper than metal:
consider the vast amount of coal consumed in smelting metals. Still,
electricity is a much greater force than steam: it's stronger, so to
speak. Sixpennorth of electricity would do more work than sixpennorth of
steam if only you could catch it and hold it without waste. Up to the
present the waste has been so enormous in electric engines as compared
with steam engines that steam has held its own in spite of its inferior
strength. What I have invented is, to put it shortly, an electric engine
in which there is hardly any waste; and we can now pump water, turn
mill-stones, draw railway trains, and lift elevators, at a saving, in
fuel and labor, of nearly seventy per cent, of the cost of steam. And,"
added Conolly, glancing at Douglas, "as a motor of six-horsepower can be
made to weigh less than thirty pounds, including fuel, flying is now
"What!" said Douglas, incredulously. "Does not all trustworthy evidence
prove that flying is a dream?"
"So it did; because a combination of great power with little weight,
such as an eagle, for instance, possesses, could not formerly be
realized in a machine. The lightest known four-horse-power steam engine
weighs nearly fifty pounds. With my motor, a machine weighing thirty
pounds will give rather more than six-horse-power, or, in other words,
will produce a wing power competent to overcome much more than its own
gravity. If the Aeronautical Society does not, within the next few
years, make a machine capable of carrying passengers through the air to
New York in less than two days, I will make one myself."
"Very wonderful, indeed," said Douglas, politely, looking askance at
"No more wonderful than the flight of a sparrow, I assure you. We shall
presently be conveyed to the top of this building by my motor. Here you
have a model locomotive, a model steam hammer, and a sewing machine: all
of which, as you see, I can set to work. However, this is mere show. You
must always bear in mind that the novelty is not in the working of these
machines, but the smallness of the cost of working."
Douglas endured the rest of the exhibition in silence, understanding
none of the contrivances until they were explained, and not always
understanding them even then. It was disagreeable to be instructed by
Conolly--to feel that there were matters of which Conolly knew
everything and he nothing. If he could have but shaped a pertinent
question or two, enough to prove that he was quite capable of the
subject if he chose to turn his attention to it, he could have accepted
Conolly's information on the machinery as indifferently as that of a
policeman on the shortest way to some place that it was no part of a
gentleman's routine to frequent. As it was, he took refuge in his
habitual reserve, and, lest the exhibition should be prolonged on his
account, took care to shew no more interest in it than was barely
necessary to satisfy Mr. Lind. At last it was over; and they returned
westward together in a hansom.
"He is a Yankee, I suppose,'" said Douglas, as if ingenuity were a low
habit that must be tolerated in an American.
"Yes. They are a wonderful people for that sort of thing. Curious turn
of mind the mechanical instinct is!"
"It is one with which I have no sympathy. It is generally subject to the
delusion that it has a monopoly of utility. Your mechanic hates art;
pelts it with lumps of iron; and strives to extinguish it beneath all
the hard and ugly facts of existence. On the other hand, your artist
instinctively hates machinery. I fear I am an artist."
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