Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

Monckton raised his eyebrows. “But “I should not have imagined her so surely Miss Huntley doesn't think of parting superior to all compromise ; but if it be so, with it, does she ?” he asked.

you won't do much good by applying to her “I don't know; but I presume that she will now, will you ?"

v after-well, after she is married. Monckton, “Oh, I didn't mean to apply to her old man, I am sure you know why Gilbert directly," answered Brian; “I thought I backed out of his engagement to poor little would just see Gilbert and sound him upon Kitty Greenwood; and you know too how I the subject.” used to feel about Miss Huntley. I shall get According to you, that will be rather a over that by-and-by, I hope ; I see now that waste of breath. Your view is that he is she isn't what I thought she was, and I might about to marry a very rich woman, therefore have seen it before if I hadn't chosen to keep it would hardly be for the sake of the my eyes shut. In the meantime I don't want purchase-money that he would urge her to to talk about her. As for the Manor House, sell a part of her property to Mr. Buswell. I don't see why they should wish to keep Would it make you very angry, Brian, if I the place, and I have scarcely spent a shilling were to say that I doubt very much whether of the money that I received for it. You your purpose in coming here was to open know, Monckton, I never did like parting negotiations for the recovery of the Manor with the old house.

House ?" “Well, but assuming that Miss Huntley “As if anything that you could say would will be willing to sell, don't you think she make me angry, Monckton! But if you doubt may expect some return for what she has my having come here for that, what in the laid out on her property since she came into world do you suppose that I have come for? It possession of it?"

isn't over and above pleasant for me to be Brian's face fell a little. “I didn't think here just now, I can assure you." of that,” he confessed. “However, I suppose “Why, I think," answered Monckton, I might raise something on a mortgage, smiling, “that you are here because you mightn't I?"

don't in the least believe all the rumours Monckton smiled and shook his head. that have reached you, and because you want “Brian,” said he, “however long you may to satisfy yourself that they are untrue. And, live, and whatever experiences you may pass between you and me, I don't believe them through, you will remain sublimely indifferent either." to expenditure to the end of your days. I “No wonder you don't !” sighed Brian. don't admire you for it ; you ought to know "I only wish I could disbelieve them, but better by this time.”

unfortunately I can't. I heard from her own “I don't think I'm as extravagant as I lips in London that- He broke off used to be," answered Brian meekly. "I suddenly and, pointing to the window, exhave learnt all sorts of economical dodges, claimed, “Mercy upon us, look there !” and I can live upon very little nowadays. Monckton, who had risen just in time to Of course it sounds insane to invest all one's catch a glimpse of Miss Huntley herself, capital in the purchase of a place that one advancing composedly towards the door, can't afford to inhabit, but surely you wouldn't began to laugh at Brian's dismayed counadvise me to look on quietly while Buswell tenance. grabs the Manor House and tears it to pieces. “Don't be so alarmed," said he ; "she is

“I am not convinced that Mr. Buswell not likely to come in, and if she does she will be allowed to grab the Manor House : won't eat you.” my impression is that Miss Huntley is as But Brian had already clutched his hat, little anxious as you are to hand it over to and was preparing for flight. "I can't meet him. Your brother might perhaps ; but even her, Monckton," he said hurriedly; "I'll if he marries Miss Huntley the Manor House slip out by the back way. Good-bye for the won't belong to him. There is such a thing present; we shall meet again before I leave, as a Married Woman's Property Act, you I hope." And without more ado he took to must remember.”

his heels. “If she marries Gilbert she will dispose of The smile had not quite faded from her property in any way that may please Monckton's face when Miss Huntley was him," Brian declared confidently. “After all announced. She looked a little embarrassed ”

the sacrifices that she has made for him it and also rather cross. isn't likely that she will care to dispute with “Am I violating etiquette ?" she asked. him about comparative trifles.”

“I suppose I am ; but it can't be helped.

[ocr errors]

"

[ocr errors]

I went to church, hoping to catch you as does not make a rule, and I shall always you came out; but I found a tiresome little think that in this particular instance intercurate on duty, so, as I didn't want to have ference of any kind was justifiable. How my walk for nothing, I proceeded here and you can say that Kitty would have had even demanded admission. Since you won't come a chance of being happy with that wretch and see me, I must come and see you." passes my comprehension.

“Please sit down," said Monckton. “I “I shouldn't say it if I didn't think it. can't often find time for paying visits ; but You see, Miss Huntley, in my trade it is I need not say that I am quite at your ser- | necessary to study human nature, and after vice whenever you want me.”

a time one gets to understand the meaning “ I quite understand; that is a polite way of certain common symptoms. Now, I should of saying What is your business ?' I won't never dream of classing this man Segrave keep you long, I only wish to ask you one among the hopeless cases--if indeed there or two questions. First of all, I should like be any hopeless cases. I believe that a good you to tell me--and I know you will answer | wife might have done much for him; for honestly-what you think of the way in he is still young, he is quite capable of which I have been turning things topsy- shame, and, from what I have seen, I doubt turvy this autumn.'

whether his efforts at humbugging himself “I am not sure that I am quite in a posi- have been very successful.” tion to judge,” replied Monckton, “but as “See what comes of looking at things far as I can understand your intentions, they from a professional point of view! You have been good. I must confess that your speak quite cheerfully of sacrificing the good way of carrying them out seems to me to wife ; you are like those doctors who don't have been both

wrong and foolish.” mind torturing hundreds of animals upon She drew a long breath. “Well,” she the off chance of prolonging one or two, said, “I am glad that you give me credit probably worthless, human lives. I don't for good intentions, at any rate. You are know, I'm sure, whether your interesting the first person who has had the common patient is capable of repentance or not; but intelligence to see that much, and I dare I do know—and so do you—that he is say you will be the last. Naturally you capable of defrauding his brother, breaking wouldn't approve of my method, but really, his promises to his father, pretending to if you will think of it, no other method was hold political opinions which he doesn't open to me, and it has at least the merit of really hold, and sneaking out of a marriage having been completely successful."

engagement in the hope of making a more “ Has it ? "

profitable one. You may possibly underWell, hasn't it? I have saved Kitty stand how to deal with such cases better Greenwood from binding herself for life to a than I do; but it does seem to me that a man who is, upon the whole, the most despi- good wholesome dose of punishment is the cable specimen of humanity that I have ever most promising thing to begin with. Meanencountered.”

while, I decline to be a party to any experi“Yes, that is your opinion of him, only ments in vivisection for his benefit." it wouldn't have been hers if she had mar- Monckton smiled, but made no reply. If ried him. Nobody likes and respects Miss his studies of human nature had taught him Greenwood more than I do; but I don't nothing else, they had most likely convinced think she possesses much insight into cha- him that argument with irate ladies is seldom racter, and I fancy that her husband's faults profitable. would have to be very conspicuous indeed Presently Beatrice went on, in a much before she could be made to recognise them. more conciliatory tone, and even with a touch I will admit that I am glad she is not going of timidity : "Mr. Monckton, I want you to to marry him ; nevertheless, I am not in the do something for me, if you will ; I want you least sure that he would have made her un- to make peace between Kitty and me. I suphappy. A nice nest of hornets the world pose she is very angry with me now-perwould become if we all insisted upon haps you know that she is ?” choosing our friends' husbands and wives "I don't think she is best pleased with for them.'

," answered Monckton ; “it would be “There is no danger of such a catastrophe. rather strange if she were, wouldn't it ?” Most people are a great deal too selfish to Yes; but I always thought that as soon lay themselves open to abuse and slander as she knew the truth she would understand, for the sake of their friends. Besides, once I and now I am afraid-Well I had better believe you.

you,

tell you that Mr. Segrave called upon me whom one would care to make a friend of. yesterday and did me the great honour to I sincerely hope that I shall not see him Offer me his hand and heart. I made him while he is here." the answer that you may imagine, and then, "Perhaps you won't," observed Monckton among other insolent and detestable things, quietly. « At all events, I can answer for it he said that nobody would ever believe I had that he is not anxious to see you; for he done all that I have done for Kitty's sake was sitting with me just now, and the moalone. I am afraid he is right; I am afraid ment that he caught sight of you approachit does sound a rather unlikely story.” ing he jumped up and fled through the back

“I am afraid it does," agreed Monckton. door. I don't know whether anything that “But you at least saw—for you said so- he

may

hear from his brother will cause him that my intentions were good, and if you to change his mind; butwere to explain that to Kitty, she would “It is a matter of complete indifference to

me whether he changes his mind or not,” "Perhaps she would. I suppose I may interrupted Beatrice ; " but it might be a tell her with truth that you had no other kindness on your part to warn him that anyobject than her welfare ?"

thing which his brother says is pretty sure * You don't mean to imply that you doubt to be false. I must not take up your time it, I hope ?"

any longer now." “Well, you know, Miss Huntley, you “Have I offended you by what you call said something about punishment just now." my insinuation ?"

“Oh, I throw you in the punishment; far Oh, no, not at all. I think it was rather be it from me to deny that I thoroughly rude; but never mind; I don't mean to enjoyed punishing Mr. Segrave.”

quarrel with you, Mr. Monckton, whatever “ But what for ? Not for an offence you may say to me. Perhaps you will look which he had not yet committed and which in upon me some evening after you have you were trying to make him commit, I pre- seen the Greenwoods." sume? I wouldn't for the world suggest “I will not fail to do so," answered such a thing to Miss Greenwood ; but it may Monckton. And after he had seen her to occur to her that you were more anxious to the door, he sat down in his arm-chair and avenge

Brian
upon

his brother than to rescue laughed softly. her. It is so easy to misinterpret motives ! “So I am to tell Brian that there is no I can even imagine her turning your own sort of hope for him," thought he. surgical illustration against you, and I don't was what she came here for, I suppose ; besee what rejoinder you could make, except cause she does not really need my interventhe one which I didn't make to you— tion to set matters straight between her and namely, that it doesn't happen to apply. Miss Kitty. Well, I shall not deliver her Such rejoinders are not very convincing. message, though it would serve her right if

“I am glad that you have said that, Mr. I did. She really has behaved in a most Monckton," cried Beatrice, rising and turn- inexcusable manner; and yet she was pering a face of calm fury upon her interlocutor; fectly sincere, I am sure. There is a deter'I am very glad that you have said it, be- mined self-reliance about her, too, which is cause it gives me an opportunity of telling rather fine in its way and only wants direct you that I perfectly understand your insinua- ing. What a time she must have had of it tion (though I must own that you are the during the last three months, with everylast person in the world from whom I should body against her and her conscience not have expected to hear it), and that it is as quite at ease, and probably with a strong devoid of any shadow of excuse as any insi- suspicion that her own happiness was at nuation can possibly be. Mr. Segrave was stake! Yes; all things considered, Brian is pleased to give utterance to it yesterday, and a fortunate fellow.” it would be just like him to repeat it to his brother, who, I am told, has suddenly made

CHAPTER XLV. --THE LAST STRAW. his appearance

here. Not for any man living FROM the earliest times even until now a would I go through one-tenth of the annoy- man who has received a blow without avengance and humiliation that I have submitted ing it has been held to be a man deserving, to since the summer, and most certainly not perhaps, of pity, but certainly of contempt. for Mr. Brian Segrave, whom I used rather | Under the somewhat anomalous social code to like at one time, but whom I have since which prevails in our own country at the prefound to be not at all the sort of person sent day it may be safely asserted that there

[ocr errors]

is one course, and only one for those who have he had come by that ugly mark upon

his been assaulted to pursue, and that is to hit brow. Any man may tumble down-stairs or their assailant back again as hard and as expe- hit his head against a tree; these are acciditiously as may be. Having done that they dents to which the best and soberest of us can wait with some measure of calmness for are liable; but unfortunately a censorious the decision of outsiders as to what it may world is slow to believe in them. behove them to do next. But should they “Shall I be taken ill, or shall I brazen it fail to fulfil this essential condition, it is out ?” thought Gilbert. “After all, it is hardly possible for them to come out of the best not to show the white feather, and I affair with credit. Apologies are all very can't possibly remain in seclusion for the well; but the general, and surely the correct next ten days. Anyhow, I won't see a soul view of mankind is that when a blow has to-day, unless Brian comes.' been struck the time for apologies has gone

He rose from his chair, intending to give by. Now Gilbert, through no fault of his instructions to that effect. But he was just own, had been prevented from wiping out a minute too late ; for while his hand was the affront put upon him by Mitchell; there- still on the bell the door was opened and fore it was not surprising that, when he rose Mr. Buswell was announced. in the morning, examined his face in the Buswell entered the room slowly, mopping looking-glass, and found it adorned just his forehead with his handkerchief as he above the bridge of the nose by a conspi- advanced, although the day was not a warm cuous red swelling, he should have heartily one. execrated his too-officious brother. “Con- “Good morning, Mr. Segrave—how do found the fellow!” he exclaimed; "what you do, sir ?" said he. brought him here at that moment of all He was perhaps the very last man in others? And what did he want to take my Kingscliff whom Gilbert would have chosen part for? He ought to have been glad to to receive at that particular juncture. There, see me thrashed; he ought to have enjoyed it. however, he was, and there was nothing for If he must needs interfere, why couldn't he it but to make the best of him. Gilbert wait at least another minute ? But Brian assumed as cordial manner as he could, always was a perfect fool!"

placed a chair for his unwelcome visitor, His reflections, as he proceeded with his seated himself with his back to the light, toilet, were of a most unenviable character. and said cheerfullyWith all the will in the world to chastise “Well, Mr. Buswell, what is the news ?” Mitchell, he did not see how the thing was "The noos, sir," replied Mr. Buswell, "is to be accomplished. He dreaded scandal ; not what I could wish it to be. Some of it's he dreaded ridicule; he saw plainly enough no noos to you and bad noos for me; some that the utmost that he could hope for was of it's t'other way on; none of it's just what to extort some expression of penitence for you could call pleasant for either of us. To an act of unprovoked aggression. Mitchell, begin with, it's known all over the town that if brought to book, would probably have to you've broke off your marriage, sir.” admit that his attack was in no way justified “It is quite true that the marriage which by the circumstances; but would it be ad- was to have taken place between me and visable to bring Mitchell to book ? That Miss Greenwood will not now take place," was the question, and it was rather an awk- answered Gilbert; “but that is a private ward one.

Gilbert had not been able to matter and has nothing to do with the elecmake an affirmative reply to it when he went tion. Of course, when I asked

you

what the down-stairs, uncomfortably conscious of his news was, it was to the election prospects bruised forehead. If the servants did not that I referred.” exchange significant grins as he passed them, "Nothing to do with the election !" echoed he thought they did. After breakfast he Buswell. “Bless your 'eart, it has everything shut himself up in his study and was very to do with it! Why, if you heard the things miserable. During the past twenty-four said that I heard yesterday, but you'll hear hours Fate had treated him so cruelly that it 'em soon enough. The fact of the matter is, seemed as if things could hardly be worse Mr. Segrave, that you've played your cards with him ; and yet of course they might be uncommon badly. From the very beginning worse. The meeting of electors which he I told you, 'Get 'old of the Manor 'Ouse and had promised to address on the morrow you'll win ’and over 'and;' but you wouldn't might hoot him, for instance, and some of listen to me, and what was the consequence ? them would assuredly want to know how Why, that you lost a couple o' 'undred votes

straight off. I can't put it at no less. Now, bought the Manor 'Ouse property from your with a man like Giles against you, it was no brother. I suppose if that has been said to joke to lose that number of votes; but to me once, it has been said a ’undred times; quarrel on the very eve of the election with and what's the good of my answering that a young lady who has done more for you by you're incapable of the action ? Bless you! canvassing in certain quarters of the town they only laugh at me, and say they know than ever I could have done—well, all I can better.” say is it looks to me like the act of a loona- "Perhaps I shall find out presently what tic! I make no observation of my own, but you are driving at,” remarked Gilbert. “In the pop'lar opinion is that your beyaviour to the meantime, allow me to tell you that this that young lady has been atrocious, sir." assumption of innocent probity on your part

“Mr. Buswell,” said Gilbert, with some has a somewhat grotesque effect. I think dignity, "please to understand, once for all, you must be forgetting that there is nobody that I cannot allow my private affairs to be in the room but ourselves. Whether I have made the subject of public discussion." or have not been 'making up' to Miss Hunt

“Ah! but you can't help it, you see,” re- ley, as you elegantly phrase it, there is someturned Buswell. “A public man, Mr. Se thing rather comical in your professing to grave, has no private affairs.” And as if to think me incapable of the very action which illustrate his dictum, Mr. Buswell, who had you have been urging me to commit from been staring fixedly at his entertainer during the first day when you undertook to support the last few minutes, went on, "You've got my candidature.” a nasty bump right in the middle of your “Not me, Mr. Segrave," returned Busforehead, I see. What have you been doing well emphatically. I grant you that when to yourself ? Not been running up against you was a free man I advised you to marry anybody's fist, I 'ope.”

Miss 'Untley, and very sound advice it was Gilbert ground his teeth, but did not lose too; but you wouldn't be guided by me, and his temper. “I met with a slight accident you went and engaged yourself to Miss yesterday,” he said, “and I am afraid I shall Greenwood instead. Well and good; you hardly be fit to show myself upon a platform were free to choose ; and the only remark I for a day or two. In fact, I was thinking of made to you on the subject was, that if asking you whether our meeting for to-mor- Kingscliff didn't get the Manor 'Ouse estate row might not be postponed.”

through you, a fairish number of Kingscliff “I dare say we can manage to get you ex- voters might think you wasn't the right man cused from attending the meeting," replied to represent 'em. Just what they 'ace Mr. Buswell, with a short laugh. "So you thought! Well, you might ’ave persuaded met with an accident, did you? Well, well

, Miss 'Untley to sell, and if you had dropped accidents will 'appen in the best regʻlated a thousand or two over the transaction, that'd families. Your brother arrived yesterday, have been the price you'd have had to pay I'm told. Now, if there's been anything in for your fancy; butthe natur' of a fracas between you and “Do you mean to tell me that that was 'im

what you advised ?" interrupted Gilbert. “There has been nothing of the kind," in- "Just so, sir; that and nothing else. Now terrupted Gilbert, "and you must excuse look 'ere, Mr. Segrave; I'm a peaceable citimy adding that that is a very impertinent zen, and as such I make it a rule to keep a suggestion.

civil tongue in my ’ead; but if any man ac“No offence, sir; we're all of us liable to cuses me of 'aving advised him to play a have turbulent relatives, and a cousin of my dirty trick, why, I don't see what I'm to do own was in the county gaol not so many in justice to myself except give him the years ago. But I'm glad I was mistaken in lie direct.” my little conjectur', because any such episode This only was wanting.

After having at a time like this would perdooce a painful been scornfully rejected by Beatrice, knocked impression. Not, to be sure, that you could down by Mitchell

, and magnanimously prestand much lower in the public estimation served from a thrashing by Brian, to be than

you do already. As I was saying just called a liar by Ir. Buswell was no more now, pop'lar opinion is very adverse to you, than might have been expected. For one sir ; and then it's openly asserted—mind, I moment Gilbert thought of doing as he had don't make myself responsible for the truth been done by and reverting to the use of of the assertion—that you've been making those simple weapons with which Nature has up to our friend Miss 'Untley ever since she supplied us for our protection, but this w&s

« ZurückWeiter »