Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

SIR BROOK FOSSBROOKE.

helped her, and filled her glass, and telling | Lady Lendrick would take me and the the servant that he need not wait, sat down children.'” opposite her. "From what Beattie said I gather," said he, "that the Chief is out of danger; the crisis of the attack is over, and he has only to be cautious to come through. Isn't it like our luck?"

"Hush! — take care."

"No fear. They can't hear even when they try these double doors puzzle them. You are not eating."

"I cannot eat; give me another glass of wine."

[ocr errors]

"Yes, that will do you good; it's the old thirty-four. I took it out in honour of Len-cle drick, but he is a water-drinker. I'm sure I wish Beattie were. I grudged the rascal every glass of that glorious claret which he threw down with such gusto, telling me the while that it was infinitely finer than when he last tasted it."

"I feel better now, but I want rest and sleep. You can wait for all I have to tell you till to-morrow-can't you?"

"If I must, there's no help for it; but considering that my whole future, in a measure, hangs upon it, I'd rather hear it now."

"I am wellnigh worn out," said she, plaintively; and she held out her glass to be filled once more; "but I'll try and tell you."

"He did not offer you a home with himself?" said Sewell, with a diabolical grin.

"No," said she, calmly; "but he objected to our being separated. He said that it was to sacrifice our children, and we had no right to do this; and that, come what might, we ought to live together. He spoke much on this, and asked me more than once if our hard-bought experiences had not taught us to be more patient, more forgiving towards each other."

Supporting her head on both her hands, and with her eyes half closed, she went on in a low monotonous tone, like that of one reading from a book:— "We met at the station, and had but a few minutes to confer together. I told him I had been at his house; that I came to see him, and ask his assistance; that you had got into trouble, and would have to leave the country, and were without means to go. He seemed, I thought, to be aware of all this, and asked me, Was it only now that I had learned or knew of this necessity? He also asked if it were at your instance, and by your wish, that I had come to him? I said, Yes; you had sent me." Sewell started as if something sharp had pierced him, and she went "There was nothing for it but the truth; and, besides, I know him well, and if | he had once detected me in an attempt to deceive him, he would not have forgiven it. He then said, It is not to the wife I will speak harshly of the husband, but what assurance have I that he will go out of the country?' I said, You had no choice between that and a jail.' He nodded assent, and muttered, A jail· and worse; and you,' said he,' what is to become of you?' I told him I did not know; that perhaps

on

6

6

"I hope you told him that I was a miraof tolerance, and that I bore with a saintly submission what more irritable mortals were wont to go half mad about - did you tell him this?"

"Yes; I said you had a very practical way of dealing with life, and never resented an unprofitable insult.”

"How safe a man's honour always is in a good wife's keeping!" said he, with a savage laugh. "I hope your candour encouraged him to more frankness; he must have felt at ease after that?"

*

"Still he persisted in saying there must be no separation."

"That was hard upon you; did you not tell him that was hard upon you?"

66

No; I avoided mixing up myself in the discussion. I had come to treat for you, and you alone."

"But you might have said that he had no right to impose upon you a life of — what shall I call it ?. incompatibility or cruelty.

99

66

6

I did not; I told him I would repeat to you whatever he told me as nearly as I could." He then said, 'Go abroad and live together in some cheap place, where you can find means to educate the children. I,' said he, will take the cost of that, and allow you five hundred a-year for your own expenses. If I am satisfied with your husband's conduct, and well assured of his reformation, I will increase this allowance.'" "He said nothing about you nor your reformation - did he?"

"Not a word."

"How much will he make it if we separate?"

66

He did not say. Indeed he seemed to make our living together the condition of aiding us."

"And if he knew of anything harder or harsher he'd have added it. Why, he has gone about the world these dozen years back telling every one what a brute and blackguard you had for a husband—that, short of murder, I had gone through every crime

towards you. Where was it I beat you with not a word of reproach, not a syllable of a hunting-whip?" blame; his manner was full of gentle and pitying kindness, and when he tried to "And where did I turn you into the comfort and cheer me, it was like the affecstreets at midnight?" tion of a father."

"At Rangoon," said she, calmly.

"At Winchester."

[blocks in formation]

"Last of all, he said, you must give him your answer promptly for he would not be long in this country."

"You mean more money

"Of course I mean more money. Could you make him say one thousand, or at least eight hundred, instead of five ?

99

"It would not be a pleasant mission," said she, with a bitter smile.

6

"I suppose not; a ruined man's wife need not look for many pleasant missions,' as you call them. This same one of to-day was not over-gratifying."

"Less even than you are aware," said she, slowly.

66

Oh, I can very well imagine the tone and manner of the old fellow; how much of rebuke and severity he could throw into his voice; and how minutely and painstakingly he would dwell upon all that could humiliate you."

66

"Where, then, was this great trial and suffering of which you have just said I could take no full measure?"

"Am I to tell you what this man said to me? Is that what you mean?" said she, in a voice that almost hissed with passion. "Better not, perhaps," replied he, calmly,

"As to that, time is fully as pressing to me as to him. The only question is, Can" If the very recollection overcome you so

we make no better terms with him?"

completely."

?"

No; you are quite wrong. There was

"I was thinking of what occurred before I met Sir Brook," said she, looking up, and with her eyes now widely opened, and a nostril distended as she spoke; "I was thinking of an incident of the morning. I have told you that when I reached the cottage where Sir Brook lived, I found that he was absent, and would not return till a late hour. Tired with my long walk from the station, I wished to sit down and rest before I had determined what to do, whether to await his arrival or go back to town. I saw the door open, I entered the little sittingroom, and found myself face to face with Major Trafford."

"Lionel Trafford ?"

"Yes, he had come by that morning's packet from England, and gone straight out to see his friend."

"He was alone, was he?"

"Alone! there was no one in the house but ourselves."

Sewell shrugged his shoulders, and said, "Go on."

The insult of his gesture sent the blood to her face and forehead, and for an instant she seemed too much overcome by anger to speak.

"That is to say, it is better I should bear the insult how I may than reveal it to one who will not resent it."

"When you say resent, do you intend I should call him out? — fight

him?"

"If I were the husband instead of the wife, it is what I should do ay,” cried she, wildly, "and thank Fortune that gave me the chance."

"I don't think I'm going to show any such gratitude," said he, with a cold grin. "If he made love to you, I take it he fancied you had given him some encouragement. When you showed him that he was mistaken, he met his punishment. A woman always knows how to make a man look like a confounded fool at such a moment.” "And is that enough?" "Is what enough?"

me."

"I ask, is it enough to make him like a | are welcome to every farthing I have about confounded fool? Will that soothe a wife's insulted pride, or avenge a husband's injured honour?"

"I don't know much of the wife's part; but as to the husband's share in the matter, if I had to fight every fellow who made up to you, my wedding garment ought to have been a suit of chain-armour.'

"A husband need not fight for his wife's flirtations; besides, he can make her give these up if he likes. There are insults, however, that a man,” and she said the word with a fierce emphasis, "resents with the same instinct that makes him defend his life."

"I know well enough what he'd say; he'd say that there was nothing serious in it, that he was merely indulging in that sort of larking talk one offers to a pretty woman who does not seem to dislike it. The chances are he'd turn the tables a bit, and say that you rather led him on than repressed him."

"And would these pleas diminish your desire to have his heart's blood?" cried she, wild with passion and indignation together. "Having his heart's blood is very fine, if I was sure quite sure - he might not have mine. The fellow is a splendid shot." "I thought so. I could have sworn it," cried she, with a taunting laugh.

"I admit no man my superior with a pistol," said Sewell, stung far more by her laughter than her words; "but what have I to gain if I shoot him? His family would prosecute me to a certainty and it went devilish close with that last fellow who was tried at Newgate."

"If you care so little for my honour, sir, I'll show you how cheaply I can regard yours. I will go back to Sir Brook to-morrow, and return him his money. I will tell him besides that I am married to one so hopelessly lost to every sentiment and feeling, not merely of the gentleman, but of the man, that it is needless to try to help him; that I will accept nothing for him—not a shilling; that he may deal with you on those other matters he spoke of as he pleases; that it will be no favour shown me when he spares you. There, sir, I leave you now to compute whether a little courage would not have served you better than all your cunning."

"You do not leave this room till you give me that pocket-book," said he, rising, and placing his back to the door.

"I foresaw this, sir," said she, laughing quietly, "and took care to deposit the money in a safe place before I came here. You

"

"Your scheme is too glaring, too palpable by half. There is a vulgar shamelessness in the way you make your book,' standing to win whichever of us should kill the other. I read it at a glance," said he, as he threw himself into a chair; "but I'll not help to make you an interesting widow. Are you going? Good-night."

She moved towards the door, and just as she reached it he arose and said, "On what pretext could I ask this man to meet me? What do I charge him with? How could I word my note to him?"

"Let me write it," said she, with a bitter laugh. "You will only have to copy it."

"And if I consent, will you do all the rest? Will you go to Fossbrooke and ask him for the increased allowance ?"

"I will."

[blocks in formation]

turned here would fully warrant any chastisement I might inflict upon you; but for the sake of the cloth you wear, I offer you the alternative which I would extend to a man of honour, and desire you will meet me at once with a friend. I shall leave by the morning packet for Holyhead, and be found at the chief hotel, Bangor, where, waiting your pleasure, I am your obedient servant.

"I hope it is needless to say that my wife's former guardian, Sir B. F., should not be chosen to act for you on this occasion."

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

"And yet I half suspect he'll write some blundering sort of apology; some attempt to show that I was mistaken. I know know it as well as if I saw it- he'll not fire at you."

I

"What makes you think that?"

"He couldn't. It would be impossible for him."

"I'm not so sure of that. There's something very provocative in the sight of a pistol muzzle staring at one a few paces off. I'd fire at my father if I saw him going to shoot at me.'

"I think you would," said she, dryly. "Sit down and copy that note. We must send it by a messenger at once.”

"I don't think you put it strongly enough about old Fossbrooke. I'd have said distinctly, I object to his acting on account of his close and intimate connection with my wife's family."

"No, no; leave it all as it stands. If we begin to change we shall never have an end of the alterations."

[blocks in formation]

door, she put her arm and hand into a large marble vase, several of which stood on the terrace, and drew forth the pocket-book which Sir Brook had given her, and which she had secretly deposited there as she entered the house.

"There, that's done," said he, handing her his note as she came in.

"Put it in an envelope and address it. And now, where are you to find Harding, or whever you mean to take with you?"

"That's easy enough; they'll be at supper at the Club by this time. I'll go in at once. But the money?"

"Write that, and I'll go fetch you the money," said she, leaving the room; and, passing out through the hall and the front

"Here it is. I have not counted it; he gave me the pocket-book as you see."

"There's more than he said. There are two hundred and eighty-five pounds. He must be in funds."

"Don't lose time. It is very late already -nigh two o'clock; these men will have left the Club, possibly?"

"No, no; they play on till daybreak. I suppose I'd better put my traps in a portmanteau at once, and not require to come back here."

[blocks in formation]

A MOMENT OF CONFIDENCE.

MRS. SEWELL'S maid made two ineffectual efforts to awaken her mistress on the following morning, for agitation had drugged her like a narcotic, and she slept the dull heavy sleep of one overpowered by opium. "Why, Jane, it is nigh twelve o'clock," said she, looking at her watch. 'Why did you let me sleep so late?"

66

Indeed, ma'am, I did my best to rouse you. I opened the shutters, and I splashed the water into your bath, and made noise enough, I'm sure, but you didn't mind it all; and I brought up the Doctor to see if there was anything the matter with you, and he felt your pulse, and put his hand on your heart, and said, No, it was just over-fatigue; that you had been sitting up too much of late, and hadn't strength for it."

"Where's Colonel Sewell?" asked she, hurriedly.

66

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

"Whom do you mean by all?"

"Mr. Lendrick, ma'am, and Miss Lucy. I hear as how they are coming back to live here. They were up all the morning in his lordship's room, and there was much laughing, as if it was a wedding."

"Whose wedding? What were you saying about a wedding?”

66

Nothing, ma'am; only that they were
that's all."

as merry

"Sir William must be better, then?" "Yes, ma'am, quite out of danger; and he's to have a partridge for dinner, and the Doctor says he'll be down-stairs and all right before this day week; and I'm sure it will be a real pleasure to see him lookin' like himself again, for he told Mr. Chaytor to take them wigs away, and all the pomatum-pots, and that he'd have the showerbath that he always took long ago. It's a fine day for Mr. Chaytor, for he has given him I don't know how many coloured scarfs, and at least a dozen new waistcoats, all good as the day they were made; and he says he won't wear anything but black, like long ago; and, indeed, some say that old Rives, the butler as was, will be taken back, and the house be the way it used to be formerly. I wonder, ma'am, if the Colonel will let it be they say below-stairs that he

won't."

[ocr errors]

"I'm sure Colonel Sewell cares very little on the subject. Do you know if they are going to dine here to-day?"

66

Yes, ma'am, they are. Miss Lucy said the butler was to take your orders as to what hour you'd like dinner." “Considerate, certainly," said she, with a

faint smile.

"And I heard Mr. Lendrick say, I think you'd better go up yourself, Lucy, and see Mrs. Sewell, and ask if we inconvenience her in any way;' but the Doctor said, 'You need not; she will be charmed to meet you." "He knows me perfectly, Jane," said she, calmly. "Is Miss Lucy so very handsome? Colonel Sewell called her beautiful."

“Yes, ma'am, it always do; every one is much genteeler-looking when they're poorly. Not but old Mr. Haire said she was tar more beautiful than ever."

"That would make a great difference, Jane."

"And is he here too?"

6

"Yes, ma'am. It was he that pushed Miss Lucy down into the arm-chair, and said, Take your old place there, darling, and pour out the tea, and we'll forget that you were ever away at all.""

"How pretty and how playful! The poor children must have felt themselves quite old in such juvenile company."

"They was very happy, ma'am. Miss Cary sat in Miss Lucy's lap all the time, and seemed to like her greatly."

"There's nothing worse for children than taking them out of their daily habits. I'm astonished Mrs. Groves should let them go and breakfast below-stairs without orders from me."

"It's what Miss Lucy said, ma'am. Are we quite sure Mrs. Sewell would like it?'" "She need never have asked the ques tion; or if she did, she might have waited for the answer. Mrs. Sewell could have told her that she totally disapproved of any one interfering with the habits of her children."

"And then old Mr. Haire said, ' Even if she should not like it, when she knows all the pleasure it has given us, she will forgive it."

"What a charming disposition I must have, Jane, without my knowing it!"

"Yes, ma'am," said the girl, with a pursedup mouth, as though she would not trust herself to expatiate on the theme.

66

Did Colonel Sewell take Capper with

him?"

"No, ma'am; Mr. Capper is below. The Colonel gave him a week's leave, and he's going a-fishing with some other gentleman down into Wicklow."

"I suspect, Jane, that you people belowstairs have the pleasantest life of all. You have little to trouble you. When you take a holiday, you can enjoy it with all your hearts."

"The gentlemen does, I believe, ma'am; but we don't. We can't go a-pleasuring like them; and if it ain't a picnic, or a thing of the kind that's arranged for us, we have nothing for it but a walk to church and

"Indeed I don't think so, ma'am. Mr. Chaytor and me thought she was too robust-back, or a visit to one of our friends." eous for a young lady; and she's freckled too, quite dreadful. The picture of her below in the study's a deal more pretty; but perhaps she was delicate in health when it was done."

"So that you know what it is to be bored!" said she, sighing drearily. "I mean, to be very tired of life, and sick of everything and everybody."

"Not quite so bad as that, ma'am: put out, ma'am, and provoked at times despair, like."

not in

I

« ZurückWeiter »