MISS STANBURY'S WRATH.
Punctually at eleven o'clock on the Friday morning Mr. Gibson knocked at the door of the house in the Close. The reader must not imagine that he had ever wavered in his intention with regard to Dorothy Stanbury, because he had been driven into a corner by the pertinacious ingenuity of Miss French. He never for a moment thought of being false to Miss Stanbury the elder. Falseness of that nature would have been ruinous to him,—would have made him a marked man in the city all his days, and would probably have reached even to the bishop's ears. He was neither bad enough, nor audacious enough, nor foolish enough, for such perjury as that. And, moreover, though the wiles of Arabella had been potent with him, he very much preferred Dorothy Stanbury. Seven years of flirtation with a young lady is more trying to the affection than any duration of matrimony. Arabella had managed to awaken something of the old glow, but Mr. Gibson, as soon as he was alone, turned from her mentally in disgust. No! Whatever little trouble there might be in his way, it was clearly his duty to marry Dorothy Stanbury. She had the sweetest temper in the world, and blushed with the prettiest blush! She would have, moreover, two thousand pounds on the day she married, and there was no saying what other and greater pecuniary advantages might follow. His mind was quite made up; and during the whole morning he had been endeavouring to drive all disagreeable reminiscences of Miss French from his memory, and to arrange the words with which he would make his offer to Dorothy. He was aware that he need not be very particular about his words, as Dorothy, from the bashfulness of her nature, would be no judge of eloquence at such a time. But still, for his own sake, there should be some form of expression, some propriety of diction. Before eleven o'clock he had it all by heart, and had nearly freed himself from the uneasiness of his falsehood to Arabella. He had given much serious thought to the matter, and had quite resolved that he was right in his purpose, and that he could marry Dorothy with a pure conscience, and with a true promise of a husband's love. "Dear Dolly!" he said to himself, with something of enthusiasm as he walked across the Close. And he looked up to the house as he came to it. There was to be his future home. There was not one of the prebends who had a better house. And there was a dove-like softness about Dorothy's eyes, and a winning obedience in her manner, that were charming. His lines had fallen to him in very pleasant places. Yes;—he would go up to her, and take her at once by the hand, and ask her whether she would be his, now and for ever. He would not let go her hand till he had brought her so close to him that she could hide her blushes on his shoulder. The whole thing had been so well conceived, had become so clear to his mind, that he felt no hesitation or embarrassment as he knocked at the door. Arabella French would, no doubt, hear of it soon. Well;—she must hear of it. After all she could do him no injury.
He was shown up at once into the drawing-room, and there he found—Miss Stanbury the elder. "Oh, Mr. Gibson!" she said at once.
"Is anything the matter with—dear Dorothy?"
"She is the most obstinate, pig-headed young woman I ever came across since the world began."
"You don't say so! But what is it, Miss Stanbury?"
"What is it? Why just this. Nothing on earth that I can say to her will induce her to come down and speak to you."
"Have I offended her?"
"Offended a fiddlestick! Offence indeed! An offer from an honest man, with her friends' approval, and a fortune at her back, as though she had been born with a gold spoon in her mouth! And she tells me that she can't, and won't, and wouldn't, and shouldn't, as though I were asking her to walk the streets. I declare I don't know what has come to the young women;—or what it is they want. One would have thought that butter wouldn't melt in her mouth."
"But what is the reason, Miss Stanbury?"
"Oh, reason! You don't suppose people give reasons in these days. What reason have they when they dress themselves up with bandboxes on their sconces? Just simply the old reason—'I do not like thee, Dr. Fell;—why I cannot tell.'"
"May I not see her myself, Miss Stanbury?"
"I can't make her come down-stairs to you. I've been at her the whole morning, Mr. Gibson. Ever since daylight, pretty nearly. She came into my room before I was up, and told me she had made up her mind. I've coaxed, and scolded, and threatened, and cried;—but if she'd been a milestone it couldn't have been of less use. I told her she might go back to Nuncombe, and she just went off to pack up."
"But she's not to go?"
"How can I say what such a young woman will do? I'm never allowed a way of my own for a moment. There's Brooke Burgess been scolding me at that rate I didn't know whether I stood on my head or my heels. And I don't know now."
Then there was a pause, while Mr. Gibson was endeavouring to decide what would now be his best course of action. "Don't you think she'll ever come round, Miss Stanbury?"
"I don't think she'll ever come any way that anybody wants her to come, Mr. Gibson."
"I didn't think she was at all like that," said Mr. Gibson, almost in tears.
"No,—nor anybody else. I've been seeing it come all the same. It's just the Stanbury perversity. If I'd wanted to keep her by herself, to take care of me, and had set my back up at her if she spoke to a man, and made her understand that she wasn't to think of getting married, she'd have been making eyes at every man that came into the house. It's just what one gets for going out of one's way. I did think she'd be so happy, Mr. Gibson, living here as your wife. She and I between us could have managed for you so nicely."
Mr. Gibson was silent for a minute or two, during which he walked up and down the room,—contemplating, no doubt, the picture of married life which Miss Stanbury had painted for him,—a picture which, as it seemed, was not to be realised. "And what had I better do, Miss Stanbury?" he asked at last.
"Do! I don't know what you're to do. I'm groom enough to bring a mare to water, but I can't make her drink."
"Will waiting be any good?"
"How can I say? I'll tell you one thing not to do. Don't go and philander with those girls at Heavitree. It's my belief that Dorothy has been thinking of them. People talk to her, of course."
"I wish people would hold their tongues. People are so indiscreet. People don't know how much harm they may do."
"You've given them some excuse, you know, Mr. Gibson."
This was very ill-natured, and was felt by Mr. Gibson to be so rude, that he almost turned upon his patroness in anger. He had known Dolly for not more than three months, and had devoted himself to her, to the great anger of his older friends. He had come this morning true to his appointment, expecting that others would keep their promises to him, as he was ready to keep those which he had made;—and now he was told that it was his fault! "I do think that's rather hard, Miss Stanbury," he said.
"So you have," said she;—"nasty, slatternly girls, without an idea inside their noddles. But it's no use your scolding me."
"I didn't mean to scold, Miss Stanbury."
"I've done all that I could."
"And you think she won't see me for a minute?"
"She says she won't. I can't bid Martha carry her down."
"Then, perhaps, I had better leave you for the present," said Mr. Gibson, after another pause. So he went, a melancholy, blighted man. Leaving the Close, he passed through into Southernhay, and walked across by the new streets towards the Heavitree road. He had no design in taking this route, but he went on till he came in sight of the house in which Mrs. French lived. As he walked slowly by it, he looked up at the windows, and something of a feeling of romance came across his heart. Were his young affections buried there, or were they not? And, if so, with which of those fair girls were they buried? For the last two years, up to last night, Camilla had certainly been in the ascendant. But Arabella was a sweet young woman; and there had been a time,—when those tender passages were going on,—in which he had thought that no young woman ever was so sweet. A period of romance, an era of enthusiasm, a short-lived, delicious holiday of hot-tongued insanity had been permitted to him in his youth;—but all that was now over. And yet here he was, with three strings to his bow,—so he told himself,—and he had not as yet settled for himself the great business of matrimony. He was inclined to think, as he walked on, that he would walk his life alone, an active, useful, but a melancholy man. After such experiences as his, how should he ever again speak of his heart to a woman? During this walk, his mind recurred frequently to Dorothy Stanbury; and, doubtless, he thought that he had often spoken of his heart to her. He was back at his lodgings before three, at which hour he ate an early dinner, and then took the afternoon cathedral service at four. The evening he spent at home, thinking of the romance of his early days. What would Miss Stanbury have said, had she seen him in his easy chair behind the "Exeter Argus,"—with a pipe in his mouth?
In the meantime, there was an uncomfortable scene in progress between Dorothy and her aunt. Brooke Burgess, as desired, had left the house before eleven, having taken upon himself, when consulted, to say in the mildest terms, that he thought that, in general, young women should not be asked to marry if they did not like to;—which opinion had been so galling to Miss Stanbury that she had declared that he had so scolded her, that she did not know whether she was standing on her head or her heels. As soon as Mr. Gibson left her, she sat herself down, and fairly cried. She had ardently desired this thing, and had allowed herself to think of her desire as of one that would certainly be accomplished. Dorothy would have been so happy as the wife of a clergyman! Miss Stanbury's standard for men and women was not high. She did not expect others to be as self-sacrificing, as charitable, and as good as herself. It was not that she gave to herself credit for such virtues; but she thought of herself as one who, from the peculiar circumstances of life, was bound to do much for others. There was no end to her doing good for others,—if only the others would allow themselves to be governed by her. She did not think that Mr. Gibson was a great divine; but she perceived that he was a clergyman, living decently,—of that secret pipe Miss Stanbury knew nothing,—doing his duty punctually, and, as she thought, very much in want of a wife. Then there was her niece, Dolly,—soft, pretty, feminine, without a shilling, and much in want of some one to comfort and take care of her. What could be better than such a marriage! And the overthrow to the girls with the big chignons would be so complete! She had set her mind upon it, and now Dorothy said that it couldn't, and it wouldn't, and it shouldn't be accomplished! She was to be thrown over by this chit of a girl, as she had been thrown over by the girl's brother! And, when she complained, the girl simply offered to go away!
At about twelve Dorothy came creeping down into the room in which her aunt was sitting, and pretended to occupy herself on some piece of work. For a considerable time,—for three minutes perhaps,—Miss Stanbury did not speak. She had resolved that she would not speak to her niece again,—at least, not for that day. She would let the ungrateful girl know how miserable she had been made. But at the close of the three minutes her patience was exhausted. "What are you doing there?" she said.
"I am quilting your cap, Aunt Stanbury."
"Put it down. You shan't do anything for me. I won't have you touch my things any more. I don't like pretended service."
"It is not pretended, Aunt Stanbury."
"I say it is pretended. Why did you pretend to me that you would have him when you had made up your mind against it all the time?"
"But I hadn't—made up my mind."
"If you had so much doubt about it, you might have done what I wanted you."
"I couldn't, Aunt Stanbury."
"You mean you wouldn't. I wonder what it is you do expect."
"I don't expect anything, Aunt Stanbury."
"No; and I don't expect anything. What an old fool I am ever to look for any comfort. Why should I think that anybody would care for me?"
"Indeed, I do care for you."
"In what sort of way do you show it? You're just like your brother Hugh. I've disgraced myself to that man,—promising what I could not perform. I declare it makes me sick when I think of it. Why did you not tell me at once?" Dorothy said nothing further, but sat with the cap on her lap. She did not dare to resume her needle, and she did not like to put the cap aside, as by doing so it would seem as though she had accepted her aunt's prohibition against her work. For half an hour she sat thus, during which time Miss Stanbury dropped asleep. She woke with a start, and began to scold again. "What's the good of sitting there all the day, with your hands before you, doing nothing?"
But Dorothy had been very busy. She had been making up her mind, and had determined to communicate her resolution to her aunt. "Dear aunt," she said, "I have been thinking of something."
"It's too late now," said Miss Stanbury.
"I see I've made you very unhappy."
"Of course you have."
"And you think that I'm ungrateful. I'm not ungrateful, and I don't think that Hugh is."
"Never mind Hugh."
"Only because it seems so hard that you should take so much trouble about us, and that then there should be so much vexation."
"I find it very hard."
"So I think that I'd better go back to Nuncombe."
"That's what you call gratitude."
"I don't like to stay here and make you unhappy. I can't think that I ought to have done what you asked me, because I did not feel at all in that way about Mr. Gibson. But as I have only disappointed you, it will be better that I should go home. I have been very happy here,—very."
"Bother!" exclaimed Miss Stanbury.
"I have,—and I do love you, though you won't believe it. But I am sure I oughtn't to remain to make you unhappy. I shall never forget all that you have done for me; and though you call me ungrateful, I am not. But I know that I ought not to stay, as I cannot do what you wish. So, if you please, I will go back to Nuncombe."
"You'll not do anything of the kind," said Miss Stanbury.
"But it will be better."
"Yes, of course; no doubt. I suppose you're tired of us all."
"It is not that I'm tired, Aunt Stanbury. It isn't that at all." Dorothy had now become red up to the roots of her hair, and her eyes were full of tears. "But I cannot stay where people think that I am ungrateful. If you please, Aunt Stanbury, I will go." Then, of course, there was a compromise. Dorothy did at last consent to remain in the Close, but only on condition that she should be forgiven for her sin in reference to Mr. Gibson, and be permitted to go on with her aunt's cap.
The night had been fine and warm, and it was now noon on a fine September day when the train from Paris reached St. Michael, on the route to Italy by Mont Cenis,—as all the world knows St. Michael is, or was a year or two back, the end of railway travelling in that direction. At the time Mr. Fell's grand project of carrying a line of rails over the top of the mountain was only in preparation, and the journey from St. Michael to Susa was still made by the diligences,—those dear old continental coaches which are now nearly as extinct as our own, but which did not deserve death so fully as did our abominable vehicles. The coupé of a diligence, or better still, the banquette, was a luxurious mode of travelling as compared with anything that our coaches offered. There used indeed to be a certain halo of glory round the occupant of the box of a mail-coach. The man who had secured that seat was supposed to know something about the world, and to be such a one that the passengers sitting behind him would be proud to be allowed to talk to him. But the prestige of the position was greater than the comfort. A night on the box of a mail-coach was but a bad time, and a night inside a mail-coach was a night in purgatory. Whereas a seat up above, on the banquette of a diligence passing over the Alps, with room for the feet, and support for the back, with plenty of rugs and plenty of tobacco, used to be on the Mont Cenis, and still is on some other mountain passes, a very comfortable mode of seeing a mountain route. For those desirous of occupying the coupé, or the three front seats of the body of the vehicle, it must be admitted that difficulties frequently arose; and that such difficulties were very common at St. Michael. There would be two or three of those enormous vehicles preparing to start for the mountain, whereas it would appear that twelve or fifteen passengers had come down from Paris armed with tickets assuring them that this preferable mode of travelling should be theirs. And then assertions would be made, somewhat recklessly, by the officials, to the effect that all the diligence was coupé. It would generally be the case that some middle-aged Englishman who could not speak French would go to the wall, together with his wife. Middle-aged Englishmen with their wives, who can't speak French, can nevertheless be very angry, and threaten loudly, when they suppose themselves to be ill-treated. A middle-aged Englishman, though he can't speak a word of French, won't believe a French official who tells him that the diligence is all coupé, when he finds himself with his unfortunate partner in a roundabout place behind with two priests, a dirty man who looks like a brigand, a sick maid-servant, and three agricultural labourers. The attempt, however, was frequently made, and thus there used to be occasionally a little noise round the bureau at St. Michael.
On the morning of which we are speaking two Englishmen had just made good their claim, each independently of the other, each without having heard or seen the other, when two American ladies, coming up very tardily, endeavoured to prove their rights. The ladies were without other companions, and were not fluent with their French, but were clearly entitled to their seats. They were told that the conveyance was all coupé, but perversely would not believe the statement. The official shrugged his shoulders and signified that his ultimatum had been pronounced. What can an official do in such circumstances, when more coupé passengers are sent to him than the coupés at his command will hold? "But we have paid for the coupé," said the elder American lady, with considerable indignation, though her French was imperfect;—for American ladies understand their rights. "Bah; yes; you have paid and you shall go. What would you have?" "We would have what we have paid for," said the American lady. Then the official rose from his stool and shrugged his shoulders again, and made a motion with both his hands, intended to shew that the thing was finished. "It is a robbery," said the elder American lady to the younger. "I should not mind, only you are so unwell." "It will not kill me, I dare say," said the younger. Then one of the English gentlemen declared that his place was very much at the service of the invalid,—and the other Englishman declared that his also was at the service of the invalid's companion. Then, and not till then, the two men recognised each other. One was Mr. Glascock, on his way to Naples, and the other was Mr. Trevelyan, on his way,—he knew not whither.
Upon this, of course, they spoke to each other. In London they had been well acquainted, each having been an intimate guest at the house of old Lady Milborough. And each knew something of the other's recent history. Mr. Glascock was aware, as was all the world, that Trevelyan had quarrelled with his wife; and Trevelyan was aware that Mr. Glascock had been spoken of as a suitor to his own sister-in-law. Of that visit which Mr. Glascock had made to Nuncombe Putney, and of the manner in which Nora had behaved to her lover, Trevelyan knew nothing. Their greetings spoken, their first topic of conversation was, of course, the injury proposed to be done to the American ladies, and which would now fall upon them. They went into the waiting-room together, and during such toilet as they could make there, grumbled furiously. They would take post horses over the mountain, not from any love of solitary grandeur, but in order that they might make the company pay for its iniquity. But it was soon apparent to them that they themselves had no ground of complaint, and as everybody was very civil, and as a seat in the banquette over the heads of the American ladies was provided for them, and as the man from the bureau came and apologised, they consented to be pacified, and ended, of course, by tipping half-a-dozen of the servants about the yard. Mr. Glascock had a man of his own with him, who was very nearly being put on to the same seat with his master as an extra civility; but this inconvenience was at last avoided. Having settled these little difficulties, they went into breakfast in the buffet.
There could be no better breakfast than used to be given in the buffet at the railway terminus at St. Michael. The company might occasionally be led into errors about that question of coupé seats, but in reference to their provisions, they set an example which might be of great use to us here in England. It is probably the case that breakfasts for travellers are not so frequently needed here as they are on the Continent; but, still, there is often to be found a crowd of people ready to eat if only the wherewithal were there. We are often told in our newspapers that England is disgraced by this and by that; by the unreadiness of our army, by the unfitness of our navy, by the irrationality of our laws, by the immobility of our prejudices, and what not; but the real disgrace of England is the railway sandwich,—that whited sepulchre, fair enough outside, but so meagre, poor, and spiritless within, such a thing of shreds and parings, such a dab of food, telling us that the poor bone whence it was scraped had been made utterly bare before it was sent into the kitchen for the soup pot. In France one does get food at the railway stations, and at St. Michael the breakfast was unexceptional.
Our two friends seated themselves near to the American ladies, and were, of course, thanked for their politeness. American women are taught by the habits of their country to think that men should give way to them more absolutely than is in accordance with the practices of life in Europe. A seat in a public conveyance in the States, when merely occupied by a man, used to be regarded by any woman as being at her service as completely as though it were vacant. One woman indicating a place to another would point with equal freedom to a man or a space. It is said that this is a little altered now, and that European views on this subject are spreading themselves. Our two ladies, however, who were pretty, clever-looking, and attractive even after the night's journey, were manifestly more impressed with the villainy of the French officials than they were with the kindness of their English neighbours.
"And nothing can be done to punish them?" said the younger of them to Mr. Glascock.
"Nothing, I should think," said he. "Nothing will, at any rate."
"And you will not get back your money?" said the elder,—who, though the elder, was probably not much above twenty.
"Well;—no. Time is money, they say. It would take thrice the value of the time in money, and then one would probably fail. They have done very well for us, and I suppose there are difficulties."
"It couldn't have taken place in our country," said the younger lady. "All the same, we are very much obliged to you. It would not have been nice for us to have to go up into the banquette."
"They would have put you into the interior."
"And that would have been worse. I hate being put anywhere,—as if I were a sheep. It seems so odd to us, that you here should be all so tame."
"Do you mean the English or the French, or the world in general on this side of the Atlantic?"
"We mean Europeans," said the younger lady, who was better after her breakfast. "But then we think that the French have something of compensation, in their manners, and their ways of life, their climate, the beauty of their cities, and their general management of things."
"They are very great in many ways, no doubt," said Mr. Glascock.
"They do understand living better than you do," said the elder.
"Everything is so much brighter with them," said the younger.
"They contrive to give a grace to every-day existence," said the elder.
"There is such a welcome among them for strangers," said the younger.
"Particularly in reference to places taken in the coupé," said Trevelyan, who had hardly spoken before.
"Ah, that is an affair of honesty," said the elder. "If we want honesty, I believe we must go back to the stars and stripes."
Mr. Glascock looked up from his plate almost aghast. He said nothing, however, but called for the waiter, and paid for his breakfast. Nevertheless, there was a considerable amount of travelling friendship engendered between the ladies and our two friends before the diligence had left the railway yard. They were two Miss Spaldings, going on to Florence, at which place they had an uncle, who was minister from the States to the kingdom of Italy; and they were not at all unwilling to receive such little civilities as gentlemen can give to ladies when travelling. The whole party intended to sleep at Turin that night, and they were altogether on good terms with each other when they started on the journey from St. Michael.
"Clever women those," said Mr. Glascock, as soon as they had arranged their legs and arms in the banquette.
"American women always are clever,—and are almost always pretty."
"I do not like them," said Trevelyan,—who in these days was in a mood to like nothing. "They are exigeant;—and then they are so hard. They want the weakness that a woman ought to have."
"That comes from what they would call your insular prejudice. We are accustomed to less self-assertion on the part of women than is customary with them. We prefer women to rule us by seeming to yield. In the States, as I take it, the women never yield, and the men have to fight their own battles with other tactics."
"I don't know what their tactics are."
"They keep their distance. The men live much by themselves, as though they knew they would not have a chance in the presence of their wives and daughters. Nevertheless they don't manage these things badly. You very rarely hear of an American being separated from his wife."
The words were no sooner out of his mouth, than Mr. Glascock knew, and remembered, and felt what he had said. There are occasions in which a man sins so deeply against fitness and the circumstances of the hour, that it becomes impossible for him to slur over his sin as though it had not been committed. There are certain little peccadilloes in society which one can manage to throw behind one,—perhaps with some difficulty, and awkwardness; but still they are put aside, and conversation goes on, though with a hitch. But there are graver offences, the gravity of which strikes the offender so seriously that it becomes impossible for him to seem even to ignore his own iniquity. Ashes must be eaten publicly, and sackcloth worn before the eyes of men. It was so now with poor Mr. Glascock. He thought about it for a moment,—whether or no it was possible that he should continue his remarks about the American ladies, without betraying his own consciousness of the thing that he had done; and he found that it was quite impossible. He knew that he was red up to his hairs, and hot, and that his blood tingled. His blushes, indeed, would not be seen in the seclusion of the banquette; but he could not overcome the heat and the tingling. There was silence for about three minutes, and then he felt that it would be best for him to confess his own fault. "Trevelyan," he said, "I am very sorry for the allusion that I made. I ought to have been less awkward, and I beg your pardon."
"It does not matter," said Trevelyan. "Of course I know that everybody is talking of it behind my back. I am not to expect that people will be silent because I am unhappy."
"Nevertheless I beg your pardon," said the other.
There was but little further conversation between them till they reached Lanslebourg, at the foot of the mountain, at which place they occupied themselves with getting coffee for the two American ladies. The Miss Spaldings took their coffee almost with as much grace as though it had been handed to them by Frenchmen. And indeed they were very gracious,—as is the nature of American ladies in spite of that hardness of which Trevelyan had complained. They assume an intimacy readily, with no appearance of impropriety, and are at their ease easily. When, therefore, they were handed out of their carriage by Mr. Glascock, the bystanders at Lanslebourg might have thought that the whole party had been travelling together from New York. "What should we have done if you hadn't taken pity on us?" said the elder lady. "I don't think we could have climbed up into that high place; and look at the crowd that have come out of the interior. A man has some advantages after all."
"I am quite in the dark as to what they are," said Mr. Glascock.
"He can give up his place to a lady, and can climb up into a banquette."
"And he can be a member of Congress," said the younger. "I'd sooner be senator from Massachusetts than be the Queen of England."
"So would I," said Mr. Glascock. "I'm glad we can agree about one thing."
The two gentlemen agreed to walk up the mountain together, and with some trouble induced the conductor to permit them to do so. Why conductors of diligences should object to such relief to their horses the ordinary Englishman can hardly understand. But in truth they feel so deeply the responsibility which attaches itself to their shepherding of their sheep, that they are always fearing lest some poor lamb should go astray on the mountain side. And though the road be broad and very plainly marked, the conductor never feels secure that his passenger will find his way safely to the summit. He likes to know that each of his flock is in his right place, and disapproves altogether of an erratic spirit. But Mr. Glascock at last prevailed, and the two men started together up the mountain. When the permission has been once obtained the walker may be sure that his guide and shepherd will not desert him.
"Of course I know," said Trevelyan, when the third twist up the mountain had been overcome, "that people talk about me and my wife. It is a part of the punishment for the mistake that one makes."
"It is a sad affair altogether."
"The saddest in the world. Lady Milborough has no doubt spoken to you about it."
"Well;—yes; she has."
"How could she help it? I am not such a fool as to suppose that people are to hold their tongues about me more than they do about others. Intimate as she is with you, of course she has spoken to you."
"I was in hopes that something might have been done by this time."
"Nothing has been done. Sometimes I think I shall put an end to myself, it makes me so wretched."
"Then why don't you agree to forget and forgive and have done with it?"
"That is so easily said;—so easily said." After this they walked on in silence for a considerable distance. Mr. Glascock was not anxious to talk about Trevelyan's wife, but he did wish to ask a question or two about Mrs. Trevelyan's sister, if only this could be done without telling too much of his own secret. "There's nothing I think so grand, as walking up a mountain," he said after a while.
"It's all very well," said Trevelyan, in a tone which seemed to imply that to him in his present miserable condition all recreations, exercises, and occupations were mere leather and prunella.
"I don't mean, you know, in the Alpine Club way," said Glascock. "I'm too old and too stiff for that. But when the path is good, and the air not too cold, and when it is neither snowing, nor thawing, nor raining, and when the sun isn't hot, and you've got plenty of time, and know that you can stop any moment you like and be pushed up by a carriage, I do think walking up a mountain is very fine,—if you've got proper shoes, and a good stick, and it isn't too soon after dinner. There's nothing like the air of Alps." And Mr. Glascock renewed his pace, and stretched himself against the hill at the rate of three miles an hour.
"I used to be very fond of Switzerland," said Trevelyan, "but I don't care about it now. My eye has lost all its taste."
"It isn't the eye," said Glascock.
"Well; no. The truth is that when one is absolutely unhappy one cannot revel in the imagination. I don't believe in the miseries of poets."
"I think myself," said Glascock, "that a poet should have a good digestion. By-the-bye, Mrs. Trevelyan and her sister went down to Nuncombe Putney, in Devonshire."
"They did go there."
"Have they moved since? A very pretty place is Nuncombe Putney."
"You have been there then?"
Mr. Glascock blushed again. He was certainly an awkward man, saying things that he ought not to say, and telling secrets which ought not to have been told. "Well;—yes. I have been there,—as it happens."
"Just lately do you mean?"
Mr. Glascock paused, hoping to find his way out of the scrape, but soon perceived that there was no way out. He could not lie, even in an affair of love, and was altogether destitute of those honest subterfuges,—subterfuges honest in such position,—of which a dozen would have been at once at the command of any woman, and with one of which, sufficient for the moment, most men would have been able to arm themselves. "Indeed, yes," he said, almost stammering as he spoke. "It was lately;—since your wife went there." Trevelyan, though he had been told of the possibility of Mr. Glascock's courtship, felt himself almost aggrieved by this man's intrusion on his wife's retreat. Had he not sent her there that she might be private; and what right had any one to invade such privacy? "I suppose I had better tell the truth at once," said Mr. Glascock. "I went to see Miss Rowley."
"My secret will be safe with you, I know."
"I did not know that there was a secret," said Trevelyan. "I should have thought that they would have told me."
"I don't see that. However, it doesn't matter much. I got nothing by my journey. Are the ladies still at Nuncombe Putney?"
"No, they have moved from there to London."
"Not back to Curzon Street?"
"Oh dear, no. There is no house in Curzon Street for them now." This was said in a tone so sad that it almost made Mr. Glascock weep. "They are staying with an aunt of theirs,—out to the east of the city."
"At St. Diddulph's?"
"Yes;—with Mr. Outhouse, the clergyman there. You can't conceive what it is not to be able to see your own child; and yet, how can I take the boy from her?"
"Of course not. He's only a baby."
"And yet all this is brought on me solely by her obstinacy. God knows, however, I don't want to say a word against her. People choose to say that I am to blame, and they may say so for me. Nothing that any one may say can add anything to the weight that I have to bear." Then they walked to the top of the mountain in silence, and in due time were picked up by their proper shepherd and carried down to Susa at a pace that would give an English coachman a concussion of the brain.
Why passengers for Turin, who reach Susa dusty, tired, and sleepy, should be detained at that place for an hour and a half instead of being forwarded to their beds in the great city, is never made very apparent. All travelling officials on the continent of Europe are very slow in their manipulation of luggage; but as they are equally correct we will find the excuse for their tardiness in the latter quality. The hour and a half, however, is a necessity, and it is very grievous. On this occasion the two Miss Spaldings ate their supper, and the two gentlemen waited on them. The ladies had learned to regard at any rate Mr. Glascock as their own property, and received his services, graciously indeed, but quite as a matter of course. When he was sent from their peculiar corner of the big, dirty refreshment room to the supper-table to fetch an apple, and then desired to change it because the one which he had brought was spotted, he rather liked it. And when he sat down with his knees near to theirs, actually trying to eat a large Italian apple himself simply because they had eaten one, and discussed with them the passage over the Mont Cenis, he began to think that Susa was, after all, a place in which an hour and a half might be whiled away without much cause for complaint.
"We only stay one night at Turin," said Caroline Spalding, the elder.
"And we shall have to start at ten,—to get through to Florence to-morrow," said Olivia, the younger. "Isn't it cruel, wasting all this time when we might be in bed?"
"It is not for me to complain of the cruelty," said Mr. Glascock.
"We should have fared infinitely worse if we hadn't met you," said Caroline Spalding.
"But our republican simplicity won't allow us to assert that even your society is better than going to bed, after a journey of thirty hours," said Olivia.
In the meantime Trevelyan was roaming about the station moodily by himself, and the place is one not apt to restore cheerfulness to a moody man by any resources of its own. When the time for departure came Mr. Glascock sought him and found him; but Trevelyan had chosen a corner for himself in a carriage, and declared that he would rather avoid the ladies for the present. "Don't think me uncivil to leave you," he said, "but the truth is, I don't like American ladies."
"I do rather," said Mr. Glascock.
"You can say that I've got a headache," said Trevelyan. So Mr. Glascock returned to his friends, and did say that Mr. Trevelyan had a headache. It was the first time that a name had been mentioned between them.
"Mr. Trevelyan! What a pretty name. It sounds like a novel," said Olivia.
"A very clever man," said Mr. Glascock, "and much liked by his own circle. But he has had trouble, and is unhappy."
"He looks unhappy," said Caroline.
"The most miserable looking man I ever saw in my life," said Olivia. Then it was agreed between them as they went up to Trompetta's hotel, that they would go on together by the ten o'clock train to Florence.
VERDICT OF THE JURY—"MAD, MY LORD."
Trevelyan was left alone at Turin when Mr. Glascock went on to Florence with his fair American friends. It was imperatively necessary that he should remain at Turin, though he had no business there of any kind whatever, and did not know a single person in the city. And of all towns in Italy Turin has perhaps less of attraction to offer to the solitary visitor than any other. It is new and parallelogrammatic as an American town, is very cold in cold weather, very hot in hot weather, and now that it has been robbed of its life as a capital, is as dull and uninteresting as though it were German or English. There is the Armoury, and the river Po, and a good hotel. But what are these things to a man who is forced to live alone in a place for four days, or perhaps a week? Trevelyan was bound to remain at Turin till he should hear from Bozzle. No one but Bozzle knew his address; and he could do nothing till Bozzle should have communicated to him tidings of what was being done at St. Diddulph's.
There is perhaps no great social question so imperfectly understood among us at the present day as that which refers to the line which divides sanity from insanity. That this man is sane and that other unfortunately mad we do know well enough; and we know also that one man may be subject to various hallucinations,—may fancy himself to be a teapot, or what not,—and yet be in such a condition of mind as to call for no intervention either on behalf of his friends, or of the law; while another may be in possession of intellectual faculties capable of lucid exertion for the highest purposes, and yet be so mad that bodily restraint upon him is indispensable. We know that the sane man is responsible for what he does, and that the insane man is irresponsible; but we do not know,—we only guess wildly, at the state of mind of those, who now and again act like madmen, though no court or council of experts has declared them to be mad. The bias of the public mind is to press heavily on such men till the law attempts to touch them, as though they were thoroughly responsible; and then, when the law interferes, to screen them as though they were altogether irresponsible. The same juryman who would find a man mad who has murdered a young woman, would in private life express a desire that the same young man should be hung, crucified, or skinned alive, if he had moodily and without reason broken his faith to the young woman in lieu of killing her. Now Trevelyan was, in truth, mad on the subject of his wife's alleged infidelity. He had abandoned everything that he valued in the world, and had made himself wretched in every affair of life, because he could not submit to acknowledge to himself the possibility of error on his own part. For that, in truth, was the condition of his mind. He had never hitherto believed that she had been false to her vow, and had sinned against him irredeemably; but he had thought that in her regard for another man she had slighted him; and, so thinking, he had subjected her to a severity of rebuke which no high-spirited woman could have borne. His wife had not tried to bear it,—in her indignation had not striven to cure the evil. Then had come his resolution that she should submit, or part from him; and, having so resolved, nothing could shake him. Though every friend he possessed was now against him,—including even Lady Milborough,—he was certain that he was right. Had not his wife sworn to obey him, and was not her whole conduct one tissue of disobedience? Would not the man who submitted to this find himself driven to submit to things worse? Let her own her fault, let her submit, and then she should come back to him.
He had not considered, when his resolutions to this effect were first forming themselves, that a separation between a man and his wife once effected cannot be annulled, and as it were cured, so as to leave no cicatrice behind. Gradually, as he spent day after day in thinking on this one subject, he came to feel that even were his wife to submit, to own her fault humbly, and to come back to him, this very coming back would in itself be a new wound. Could he go out again with his wife on his arm to the houses of those who knew that he had repudiated her because of her friendship with another man? Could he open again that house in Curzon Street, and let things go on quietly as they had gone before? He told himself that it was impossible;—that he and she were ineffably disgraced;—that, if reunited, they must live buried out of sight in some remote distance. And he told himself, also, that he could never be with her again night or day without thinking of the separation. His happiness had been shipwrecked.
Then he had put himself into the hands of Mr. Bozzle, and Mr. Bozzle had taught him that women very often do go astray. Mr. Bozzle's idea of female virtue was not high, and he had opportunities of implanting his idea on his client's mind. Trevelyan hated the man. He was filled with disgust by Bozzle's words, and was made miserable by Bozzle's presence. Yet he came gradually to believe in Bozzle. Bozzle alone believed in him. There were none but Bozzle who did not bid him to submit himself to his disobedient wife. And then, as he came to believe in Bozzle, he grew to be more and more assured that no one but Bozzle could tell him facts. His chivalry, and love, and sense of woman's honour, with something of manly pride on his own part,—so he told himself,—had taught him to believe it to be impossible that his wife should have sinned. Bozzle, who knew the world, thought otherwise. Bozzle, who had no interest in the matter, one way or the other, would find out facts. What if his chivalry, and love, and manly pride had deceived him? There were women who sinned. Then he prayed that his wife might not be such a woman; and got up from his prayers almost convinced that she was a sinner.
His mind was at work upon it always. Could it be that she was so base as this—so vile a thing, so abject, such dirt, pollution, filth? But there were such cases. Nay, were they not almost numberless? He found himself reading in the papers records of such things from day to day, and thought that in doing so he was simply acquiring experience necessary for himself. If it were so, he had indeed done well to separate himself from a thing so infamous. And if it were not so, how could it be that that man had gone to her in Devonshire? He had received from his wife's hands a short note addressed to the man, in which the man was desired by her not to go to her, or to write to her again, because of her husband's commands. He had shown this to Bozzle, and Bozzle had smiled. "It's just the sort of thing they does," Bozzle had said. "Then they writes another by post." He had consulted Bozzle as to the sending on of that letter, and Bozzle had been strongly of opinion that it should be forwarded, a copy having been duly taken and attested by himself. It might be very pretty evidence by-and-by. If the letter were not forwarded, Bozzle thought that the omission to do so might be given in evidence against his employer. Bozzle was very careful, and full of "evidence." The letter therefore was sent on to Colonel Osborne. "If there's billy-dous going between 'em we shall nobble 'em," said Bozzle. Trevelyan tore his hair in despair, but believed that there would be billy-dous.
He came to believe everything; and, though he prayed fervently that his wife might not be led astray, that she might be saved at any rate from utter vice, yet he almost came to hope that it might be otherwise;—not, indeed, with the hope of the sane man, who desires that which he tells himself to be for his advantage; but with the hope of the insane man, who loves to feed his grievance, even though the grief should be his death. They who do not understand that a man may be brought to hope that which of all things is the most grievous to him, have not observed with sufficient closeness the perversity of the human mind. Trevelyan would have given all that he had to save his wife; would, even now, have cut his tongue out before he would have expressed to anyone,—save to Bozzle,—a suspicion that she could in truth have been guilty; was continually telling himself that further life would be impossible to him, if he, and she, and that child of theirs, should be thus disgraced;—and yet he expected it, believed it, and, after a fashion, he almost hoped it.
He was to wait at Turin till tidings should come from Bozzle, and after that he would go on to Venice; but he would not move from Turin till he should have received his first communication from England. When he had been three days at Turin they came to him, and, among other letters in Bozzle's packet, there was a letter addressed in his wife's handwriting. The letter was simply directed to Bozzle's house. In what possible way could his wife have found out ought of his dealings with Bozzle,—where Bozzle lived, or could have learned that letters intended for him should be sent to the man's own residence? Before, however, we inspect the contents of Mr. Bozzle's dispatch, we will go back and see how Mrs. Trevelyan had discovered the manner of forwarding a letter to her husband.
The matter of the address was, indeed, very simple. All letters for Trevelyan were to be redirected from the house in Curzon Street, and from the chambers in Lincoln's Inn, to the Acrobats' Club; to the porter of the Acrobats' Club had been confided the secret, not of Bozzle's name, but of Bozzle's private address, No. 55, Stony Walk, Union Street, Borough. Thus all letters reaching the Acrobats' were duly sent to Mr. Bozzle's house. It may be remembered that Hugh Stanbury, on the occasion of his last visit to the parsonage of St. Diddulph's, was informed that Mrs. Trevelyan had a letter from her father for her husband, and that she knew not whither to send it. It may well be that, had the matter assumed no other interest in Stanbury's eyes than that given to it by Mrs. Trevelyan's very moderate anxiety to have the letter forwarded, he would have thought nothing about it; but having resolved, as he sat upon the knife-board of the omnibus,—the reader will, at any rate, remember those resolutions made on the top of the omnibus while Hugh was smoking his pipe,—having resolved that a deed should be done at St. Diddulph's, he resolved also that it should be done at once. He would not allow the heat of his purpose to be cooled by delay. He would go to St. Diddulph's at once, with his heart in his hand. But it might, he thought, be as well that he should have an excuse for his visit. So he called upon the porter at the Acrobats', and was successful in learning Mr. Trevelyan's address. "Stony Walk, Union Street, Borough," he said to himself, wondering; then it occurred to him that Bozzle, and Bozzle only among Trevelyan's friends, could live at Stony Walk in the Borough. Thus armed, he set out for St. Diddulph's;—and, as one of the effects of his visit to the East, Sir Marmaduke's note was forwarded to Louis Trevelyan at Turin.
MISS NORA ROWLEY IS MALTREATED.
Hugh Stanbury, when he reached the parsonage, found no difficulty in making his way into the joint presence of Mrs. Outhouse, Mrs. Trevelyan, and Nora. He was recognised by the St. Diddulph's party as one who had come over to their side, as a friend of Trevelyan who had found himself constrained to condemn his friend in spite of his friendship, and was consequently very welcome. And there was no difficulty about giving the address. The ladies wondered how it came to pass that Mr. Trevelyan's letters should be sent to such a locality, and Hugh expressed his surprise also. He thought it discreet to withhold his suspicions about Mr. Bozzle, and simply expressed his conviction that letters sent in accordance with the directions given by the club-porter would reach their destination. Then the boy was brought down, and they were all very confidential and very unhappy together. Mrs. Trevelyan could see no end to the cruelty of her position, and declared that her father's anger against her husband was so great that she anticipated his coming with almost more of fear than of hope. Mrs. Outhouse expressed an opinion that Mr. Trevelyan must surely be mad; and Nora suggested that the possibility of such perversity on the part of a man made it almost unwise in any woman to trust herself to the power of a husband. "But there are not many like him, thank God," said Mrs. Outhouse, bridling in her wrath. Thus they were very friendly together, and Hugh was allowed to feel that he stood upon comfortable terms in the parsonage;—but he did not as yet see how he was to carry out his project for the present day.
At last Mrs. Trevelyan went away with the child. Hugh felt that he ought to go, but stayed courageously. He thought he could perceive that Nora suspected the cause of his assiduity; but it was quite evident that Mrs. Outhouse did not do so. Mrs. Outhouse, having reconciled herself to the young man, was by no means averse to his presence. She went on talking about the wickedness of Trevelyan, and her brother's anger, and the fate of the little boy, till at last the little boy's mother came back into the room. Then Mrs. Outhouse went. They must excuse her for a few minutes, she said. If only she would have gone a few minutes sooner, how well her absence might have been excused. Nora understood it all now; and though she became almost breathless, she was not surprised, when Hugh got up from his chair and asked her sister to go away. "Mrs. Trevelyan," he said, "I want to speak a few words to your sister. I hope you will give me the opportunity."
"Nora!" exclaimed Mrs. Trevelyan.
"She knows nothing about it," said Hugh.
"Am I to go?" said Mrs. Trevelyan to her sister. But Nora said never a word. She sat perfectly fixed, not turning her eyes from the object on which she was gazing.
"Pray,—pray do," said Hugh.
"I cannot think that it will be for any good," said Mrs. Trevelyan; "but I know that she may be trusted. And I suppose it ought to be so, if you wish it."
"I do wish it, of all things," said Hugh, still standing up, and almost turning the elder sister out of the room by the force of his look and voice. Then, with another pause of a moment, Mrs. Trevelyan rose from her chair and left the room, closing the door after her.
Hugh, when he found that the coast was clear for him, immediately began his task with a conviction that not a moment was to be lost. He had told himself a dozen times that the matter was hopeless, that Nora had shown him by every means in her power that she was indifferent to him, that she with all her friends would know that such a marriage was out of the question; and he had in truth come to believe that the mission which he had in hand was one in which success was not possible. But he thought that it was his duty to go on with it. "If a man love a woman, even though it be the king and the beggar-woman reversed,—though it be a beggar and a queen, he should tell her of it. If it be so, she has a right to know it and to take her choice. And he has a right to tell her, and to say what he can for himself." Such was Hugh's doctrine in the matter; and, acting upon it, he found himself alone with his mistress.
"Nora," he said, speaking perhaps with more energy than the words required, "I have come here to tell you that I love you, and to ask you to be my wife."
Nora, for the last ten minutes, had been thinking that this would come,—that it would come at once; and yet she was not at all prepared with an answer. It was now weeks since she had confessed to herself frankly that nothing else but this,—this one thing which was now happening, this one thing which had now happened,—that nothing else could make her happy, or could touch her happiness. She had refused a man whom she otherwise would have taken, because her heart had been given to Hugh Stanbury. She had been bold enough to tell that other suitor that it was so, though she had not mentioned the rival's name. She had longed for some expression of love from this man when they had been at Nuncombe together, and had been fiercely angry with him because no such expression had come from him. Day after day, since she had been with her aunt, she had told herself that she was a broken-hearted woman, because she had given away all that she had to give and had received nothing in return. Had he said a word that might have given her hope, how happy could she have been in hoping. Now he had come to her with a plain-spoken offer, telling her that he loved her, and asking her to be his wife,—and she was altogether unable to answer. How could she consent to be his wife, knowing as she did that there was no certainty of an income on which they could live? How could she tell her father and mother that she had engaged herself to marry a man who might or might not make £400 a year, and who already had a mother and sister depending on him?
In truth, had he come more gently to her, his chance of a happy answer,—of an answer which might be found to have in it something of happiness,—would have been greater. He might have said a word which she could not but have answered softly;—and then from that constrained softness other gentleness would have followed, and so he would have won her in spite of her discretion. She would have surrendered gradually, accepting on the score of her great love all the penalties of a long and precarious engagement. But when she was asked to come and be his wife, now and at once, she felt that in spite of her love it was impossible that she could accede to a request so sudden, so violent, so monstrous. He stood over her as though expecting an instant answer; and then, when she had sat dumb before him for a minute, he repeated his demand. "Tell me, Nora, can you love me? If you knew how thoroughly I have loved you, you would at least feel something for me."
To tell him that she did not love him was impossible to her. But how was she to refuse him without telling him either a lie, or the truth? Some answer she must give him; and as to that matter of marrying him, the answer must be a negative. Her education had been of that nature which teaches girls to believe that it is a crime to marry a man without an assured income. Assured morality in a husband is a great thing. Assured good temper is very excellent. Assured talent, religion, amiability, truth, honesty, are all desirable. But an assured income is indispensable. Whereas, in truth, the income may come hereafter; but the other things, unless they be there already, will hardly be forthcoming. "Mr. Stanbury," she said, "your suddenness has quite astounded me."
"Ah, yes; but how should I not be sudden? I have come here on purpose to say this to you. If I do not say it now—"
"You heard what Emily said."
"No;—what did she say?"
"She said that it would not be for good that you should speak to me thus."
"Why not for good? But she is unhappy, and looks gloomily at things."
"But all the world need not be sad for ever because she has been unfortunate."
"Not all the world, Mr. Stanbury;—but you must not be surprised if it affects me."
"But would that prevent your loving me,—if you did love me? But, Nora, I do not expect you to love me,—not yet. I do not say that I expect it,—ever. But if you would—. Nora, I can do no more than tell you the simple truth. Just listen to me for a minute. You know how I came to be intimate with you all in Curzon Street. The first day I saw you I loved you; and there has come no change yet. It is months now since I first knew that I loved you. Well; I told myself more than once,—when I was down at Nuncombe for instance,—that I had no right to speak to you. What right can a poor devil like me have, who lives from hand to mouth, to ask such a girl as you to be his wife? And so I said nothing,—though it was on my lips every moment that I was there." Nora remembered at the moment how she had looked to his lips, and had not seen the words there. "But I think there is something unmanly in this. If you cannot give me a grain of hope;—if you tell me that there never can be hope, it is my misfortune. It will be very grievous, but I will bear it. But that will be better than puling and moping about without daring to tell my tale. I am not ashamed of it. I have fallen in love with you, Nora, and I think it best to come for an answer."
He held out his arms as though he thought that she might perhaps come to him. Indeed he had no idea of any such coming on her part; but she, as she looked at him, almost thought that it was her duty to go. Had she a right to withhold herself from him, she who loved him so dearly? Had he stepped forward and taken her in his arms it might be that all power of refusal would soon have been beyond her power.
"Mr. Stanbury," she said, "you have confessed yourself that it is impossible."
"But do you love me;—do you think that it is possible that you should ever love me?"
"You know, Mr. Stanbury, that you should not say anything further. You know that it cannot be."
"But do you love me?"
"You are ungenerous not to take an answer without driving me to be uncourteous."
"I do not care for courtesy. Tell me the truth. Can you ever love me? With one word of hope I will wait, and work, and feel myself to be a hero. I will not go till you tell me that you cannot love me."
"Then I must tell you so."
"What is it you will tell me, Nora? Speak it. Say it. If I knew that a girl disliked me, nothing should make me press myself upon her. Am I odious to you, Nora?"
"No; not odious,—but very, very unfair."
"I will have the truth if I be ever so unfair," he said. And by this time probably some inkling of the truth had reached his intelligence. There was already a tear in Nora's eye, but he did not pity her. She owed it to him to tell him the truth, and he would have it from her if it was to be reached. "Nora," he said, "listen to me again. All my heart and soul are in this. It is everything to me. If you can love me you are bound to say so. By Jove, I will believe you do unless you swear to me that it is not so!" He was now holding her by the hand and looking closely into her face.
"Mr. Stanbury," she said, "let me go; pray, pray let me go."
"Not till you say that you love me. Oh, Nora, I believe that you love me. You do; yes; you do love me. Dearest, dearest Nora, would you not say a word to make me the happiest man in the world?" And now he had his arm round her waist.
"Let me go," she said, struggling through her tears and covering her face with her hands. "You are very, very wicked. I will never speak to you again. Nay, but you shall let me go!" And then she was out of his arms and had escaped from the room before he had managed to touch her face with his lips.
As he was thinking how he also might escape now,—might escape and comfort himself with his triumph,—Mrs. Outhouse returned to the chamber. She was very demure, and her manner towards him was considerably changed since she had left the chamber. "Mr. Stanbury," she said, "this kind of thing mustn't go any further indeed;—at least not in my house."
"What kind of thing, Mrs. Outhouse?"
"Well;—what my elder niece has told me. I have not seen Miss Rowley since she left you. I am quite sure she has behaved with discretion."
"Indeed she has, Mrs. Outhouse."
"The fact is my nieces are in grief and trouble, and this is no time or place for love-making. I am sorry to be uncivil, but I must ask you not to come here any more."
"I will stay away from this house, certainly, if you bid me."
"I am very sorry; but I must bid you. Sir Marmaduke will be home in the spring, and if you have anything to say to him of course you can see him."
Then Hugh Stanbury took his leave of Mrs. Outhouse; but as he went home, again on the knifeboard of an omnibus, he smoked the pipe of triumph rather than the pipe of contemplation.
The Miss Spaldings were met at the station at Florence by their uncle, the American Minister, by their cousin, the American Secretary of Legation, and by three or four other dear friends and relations, who were there to welcome the newcomers to sunny Italy. Mr. Glascock, therefore, who ten minutes since had been, and had felt himself to be, quite indispensable to their comfort, suddenly became as though he were nothing and nobody. Who is there that has not felt these sudden disruptions to the intimacies and friendships of a long journey? He bowed to them, and they to him, and then they were whirled away in their grandeur. He put himself into a small, open hackney-carriage, and had himself driven to the York Hotel, feeling himself to be deserted and desolate. The two Miss Spaldings were the daughters of a very respectable lawyer at Boston, whereas Mr. Glascock was heir to a peerage, to an enormous fortune, and to one of the finest places in England. But he thought nothing of this at the time. As he went he was meditating which young woman was the most attractive, Nora Rowley or Caroline Spalding. He had no doubt but that Nora was the prettier, the pleasanter in manner, the better dressed, the more engaging in all that concerned the outer woman; but he thought that he had never met any lady who talked better than Caroline Spalding. And what was Nora Rowley's beauty to him? Had she not told him that she was the property of some one else; or, for the matter of that, what was Miss Spalding to him? They had parted, and he was going on to Naples in two days. He had said some half-defined word as to calling at the American Embassy, but it had not been taken up by either of the ladies. He had not pressed it, and so they had parted without an understanding as to a future meeting.
The double journey, from Turin to Bologna and from Bologna to Florence, is very long, and forms ample time for a considerable intimacy. There had, too, been a long day's journeying together before that; and with no women is a speedy intimacy so possible, or indeed so profitable, as with Americans. They fear nothing,—neither you nor themselves; and talk with as much freedom as though they were men. It may, perhaps, be assumed to be true as a rule that women's society is always more agreeable to men than that of other men,—except for the lack of ease. It undoubtedly is so when the women be young and pretty. There is a feeling, however, among pretty women in Europe that such freedom is dangerous, and it is withheld. There is such danger, and more or less of such withholding is expedient: but the American woman does not recognise the danger; and, if she withhold the grace of her countenance and the pearls of her speech, it is because she is not desirous of the society which is proffered to her. These two American sisters had not withholden their pearls from Mr. Glascock. He was much their senior in age; he was gentle in his manners, and they probably recognised him to be a safe companion. They had no idea who he was, and had not heard his name when they parted from him. But it was not probable that they should have been with him so long, and that they should leave him without further thought of him, without curiosity or a desire to know more of him. They had seen "C. G." in large letters on his dressing-bag, and that was all they had learned as to his identity. He had known their names well, and had once called Olivia by hers, in the hurry of speaking to her sister. He had apologised, and there had been a little laugh, and a discussion about the use of Christian names,—such as is very conducive to intimacy between gentlemen and ladies. When you can talk to a young lady about her own Christian name, you are almost entitled for the nonce to use it.
Mr. Glascock went to his hotel, and was very moody and desolate. His name was very soon known there, and he received the honours due to his rank and station. "I should like to travel in America," he said to himself, "if I could be sure that no one would find out who I was." He had received letters at Turin, stating that his father was better, and, therefore, he intended to remain two days at Florence. The weather was still very hot, and Florence in the middle of September is much preferable to Naples.
That night, when the two Miss Spaldings were alone together, they discussed their fellow-traveller thoroughly. Something, of course, had been said about him to their uncle the minister, to their aunt the minister's wife, and to their cousin the secretary of legation. But travellers will always observe that the dear new friends they have made on their journey are not interesting to the dear old friends whom they meet afterwards. There may be some touch of jealousy in this; and then, though you, the traveller, are fully aware that there has been something special in the case which has made this new friendship more peculiar than others that have sprung up in similar circumstances, fathers and brothers and wives and sisters do not see it in that light. They suspect, perhaps, that the new friend was a bagman, or an opera dancer, and think that the affair need not be made of importance. The American Minister had cast his eye on Mr. Glascock during that momentary parting, and had not thought much of Mr. Glascock. "He was certainly a gentleman," Caroline had said. "There are a great many English gentlemen," the minister had replied.
"I thought you would have asked him to call," Olivia said to her sister. "He did offer."
"I know he did. I heard it."
"Why didn't you tell him he might come?"
"Because we are not in Boston, Livy. It might be the most horrible thing in the world to do here in Florence; and it may make a difference, because Uncle Jonas is minister."
"Why should that make a difference? Do you mean that one isn't to see one's own friends? That must be nonsense."
"But he isn't a friend, Livy."
"It seems to me as if I'd known him for ever. That soft, monotonous voice, which never became excited and never disagreeable, is as familiar to me as though I had lived with it all my life."
"I thought him very pleasant."
"Indeed you did, Carry. And he thought you pleasant too. Doesn't it seem odd? You were mending his glove for him this very afternoon, just as if he were your brother."
"Why shouldn't I mend his glove?"
"Why not, indeed? He was entitled to have everything mended after getting us such a good dinner at Bologna. By-the-bye, you never paid him."
"Yes, I did,—when you were not by."
"I wonder who he is! C. G.! That fine man in the brown coat was his servant, you know. I thought at first that C. G. must have been cracked, and that the tall man was his keeper."
"I never knew any one less like a madman."
"No;—but the man was so queer. He did nothing, you know. We hardly saw him, if you remember, at Turin. All he did was to tie the shawls at Bologna. What can any man want with another man about with him like that, unless he is cracked either in body or mind?"
"You'd better ask C. G. yourself."
"I shall never see C. G. again, I suppose. I should like to see him again. I guess you would too, Carry. Eh?"
"Of course, I should;—why not?"
"I never knew a man so imperturbable, and who had yet so much to say for himself. I wonder what he is! Perhaps he's on business, and that man was a kind of a clerk."
"He had livery buttons on," said Carry.
"And does that make a difference?"
"I don't think they put clerks into livery, even in England."
"Nor yet mad doctors," said Olivia. "Well, I like him very much; and the only thing against him is that he should have a man, six feet high, going about with him doing nothing."
"You'll make me angry, Livy, if you talk in that way. It's uncharitable."
"In what way?"
"About a mad doctor."
"It's my belief," said Olivia, "that he's an English swell, a lord, or a duke;—and it's my belief, too, that he's in love with you."
"It's my belief, Livy, that you're a regular ass;"—and so the conversation was ended on that occasion.
On the next day, about noon, the American Minister, as a part of the duty which he owed to his country, read in a publication of that day, issued for the purpose, the names of the new arrivals at Florence. First and foremost was that of the Honourable Charles Glascock, with his suite, at the York Hotel, en route to join his father, Lord Peterborough, at Naples. Having read the news first to himself, the minister read it out loud in the presence of his nieces.
"That's our friend C. G.," said Livy.
"I should think not," said the minister, who had his own ideas about an English lord.
"I'm sure it is, because of the tall man with the buttons," said Olivia.
"It's very unlikely," said the secretary of legation. "Lord Peterborough is a man of immense wealth, very old, indeed. They say he is dying at Naples. This man is his eldest son."
"Is that any reason why he shouldn't have been civil to us?" asked Olivia.
"I don't think he is the sort of man likely to sit up in the banquette; and he would have posted over the Alps. Moreover, he had his suite with him."
"His suite was Buttons," said Olivia. "Only fancy, Carry, we've been waited on for two days by a lord as is to be, and didn't know it! And you have mended the tips of his lordship's glove!" But Carry said nothing at all.
Late on that same evening, they met Mr. Glascock close to the Duomo, under the shade of the Campanile. He had come out as they had done, to see by moonlight that loveliest of all works made by man's hands. They were with the minister, but Mr. Glascock came up and shook hands with them.
"I would introduce you to my uncle, Mr. Spalding," said Olivia,—"only,—as it happens,—we have never yet heard your name."
"My name is Mr. Glascock," said he, smiling. Then the introduction was made; and the American Minister took off his hat, and was very affable.
"Only think, Carry," said Olivia, when they were alone that evening, "if you were to become the wife of an English lord!"