An Old Man's Love
by Anthony Trollope
AN OLD MAN'S LOVE
In Two Volumes
William Blackwood and Sons Edinburgh and London MDCCCLXXXIV
CHAPTER I. MRS
CHAPTER II. MR
CHAPTER IV. MARY
CHAPTER V. “I
SUPPOSE IT WAS A
CHAPTER VI. JOHN
JOHN GORDON AND
JOHN GORDON AND
CHAPTER IX. THE
CHAPTER X. JOHN
GOES TO CROKER'S
CHAPTER XI. MRS
ONLY IN THE
CHAPTER XII. MR
CHAPTER XIII. AT
CHAPTER XIV. MR
GOING OUT TO
CHAPTER XV. MR
GOES OUT TO
CHAPTER XVI. MRS
CHAPTER XVII. MR
MR AND MRS
CHAPTER XIX. MR
CHAPTER XX. MR
CHAPTER XXI. THE
WRITES A LETTER.
This story, An Old Man's Love, is the last
of my father's novels. As I have stated in the
preface to his Autobiography, The Landleaguers
was written after this book, but was never fully
HENRY M. TROLLOPE.
CHAPTER I. MRS BAGGETT.
Mr William Whittlestaff was strolling very slowly up and down the
long walk at his country seat in Hampshire, thinking of the contents of
a letter which he held crushed up within his trousers' pocket. He
always breakfasted exactly at nine, and the letters were supposed to be
brought to him at a quarter past. The postman was really due at his
hall-door at a quarter before nine; but though he had lived in the same
house for above fifteen years, and though he was a man very anxious to
get his letters, he had never yet learned the truth about them. He was
satisfied in his ignorance with 9.15 A.M., but on this occasion the
post-boy, as usual, was ten minutes after that time. Mr Whittlestaff
had got through his second cup of tea, and was stranded in his chair,
having nothing to do, with the empty cup and plates before him for the
space of two minutes; and, consequently, when he had sent some terrible
message out to the post-boy, and then had read the one epistle which
had arrived on this morning, he thus liberated his mind: I'll be
whipped if I will have anything to do with her. But this must not be
taken as indicating the actual state of his mind; but simply the
condition of anger to which he had been reduced by the post-boy. If any
one were to explain to him afterwards that he had so expressed himself
on a subject of such importance, he would have declared of himself that
he certainly deserved to be whipped himself. In order that he might in
truth make up his mind on the subject, he went out with his hat and
stick into the long walk, and there thought out the matter to its
conclusion. The letter which he held in his pocket ran as follows:
ST. TAWELL'S, NORWICH, February 18.
MY DEAR MR WHITTLESTAFF,Poor Mrs Lawrie has gone at
last. She died this morning at seven o'clock, and poor
Mary is altogether alone in the world. I have asked her
to come in among us for a few days at any rate, till the
funeral shall be over. But she has refused, knowing, I
suppose, how crowded and how small our house is. What is
she to do? You know all the circumstances much better than
I do. She says herself that she had always been intended
for a governess, and that she will, of course, follow out
the intention which had been fixed on between her and her
father before his death. But it is a most weary prospect,
especially for one who has received no direct education
for the purpose. She has devoted herself for the last
twelve months to Mrs Lawrie, as though she had been her
mother. You did not like Mrs Lawrie, nor did I; nor,
indeed, did poor Mary love her very dearly. But she, at
any rate, did her duty by her step-mother. I know that in
regard to actual money you will be generous enough; but do
turn the matter over in your mind, and endeavour to think
of some future for the poor girl.Yours very faithfully,
It was in answer to such a letter as this, that Mr Whittlestaff had
declared that He'd be whipped if he'd have anything to do with her.
But that expression, which must not in truth be accepted as meaning
anything, must not be supposed to have had even that dim shadow of a
meaning which the words may be supposed to bear. He had during the last
three months been asking himself the question as to what should be Mary
Lawrie's fate in life when her step-mother should have gone, and had
never quite solved the question whether he could or would not bring
into his own house, almost as a daughter, a young woman who was in no
way related to him. He had always begun these exercises of thought, by
telling himself that the world was a censorious old fool, and that he
might do just as he pleased as to making any girl his daughter. But
then, before dinner he had generally come to the conclusion that Mrs
Baggett would not approve. Mrs Baggett was his housekeeper, and was to
him certainly a person of importance. He had not even suggested the
idea to Mrs Baggett, and was sure that Mrs Baggett would not approve.
As to sending Mary Lawrie out into the world as a governess;that plan
he was quite sure would not answer.
Two years ago had died his best beloved friend, Captain Patrick
Lawrie. With him we have not anything to do, except to say that of all
men he was the most impecunious. Late in life he had married a second
wife,a woman who was hard, sharp, and possessed of an annuity. The
future condition of his only daughter had been a terrible grief to him;
but from Mr Whittlestaff he had received assurances which had somewhat
comforted him. She shan't want. I can't say anything further. Such
had been the comfort given by Mr Whittlestaff. And since his friend's
death Mr Whittlestaff had been liberal with presents,which Mary had
taken most unwillingly under her step-mother's guidance. Such had been
the state of things when Mr Whittlestaff received the letter. When he
had been walking up and down the long walk for an extra hour, Mr
Whittlestaff expressed aloud the conclusion to which he had come. I
don't care one straw for Mrs Baggett. It should be understood as
having been uttered in direct opposition to the first assurance made by
him, that He'd be whipped if he'd have anything to do with her. In
that hour he had resolved that Mary Lawrie should come to him, and be
made, with all possible honours of ownership, with all its privileges
and all its responsibilities, the mistress of his house. And he made up
his mind also that such had ever been his determination. He was fifty
and Mary Lawrie was twenty-five. I can do just what I please with
her, he said to himself, as though she were my own girl. By this he
meant to imply that he would not be expected to fall in love with her,
and that it was quite out of the question that she should fall in love
with him. Go and tell Mrs Baggett that I'll be much obliged to her if
she'll put on her bonnet and come out to me here. This he said to a
gardener's boy, and the order was not at all an unusual one. When he
wanted to learn what Mrs Baggett intended to give him for dinner, he
would send for the old housekeeper and take a walk with her for twenty
minutes. Habit had made Mrs Baggett quite accustomed to the proceeding,
which upon the whole she enjoyed. She now appeared with a bonnet, and a
wadded cloak which her master had given her. It's about that letter,
sir, said Mrs Baggett.
How do you know?
Didn't I see the handwriting, and the black edges? Mrs Lawrie ain't
Mrs Lawrie has gone to her long account.
I'm afeared, sir, she won't find it easy to settle the bill, said
Mrs Baggett, who had a sharp, cynical way of expressing her
Mrs Baggett, judge not, lest you be judged. Mrs Baggett turned up
her nose and snuffed the air. The woman has gone, and nothing shall be
said against her here. The girl remains. Now, I'll tell you what I mean
She isn't to come here, Mr Whittlestaff?
Here she is to come, and here she is to remain, and here she is to
have her part of everything as though she were my own daughter. And, as
not the smallest portion of the good things that is to come to her, she
is to have her share in your heart, Mrs Baggett.
I don't know nothing about my heart, Mr Whittlestaff. Them as finds
their way to my heart has to work their way there. Who's Miss Lawrie,
that I'm to be knocked about for a new comer?
She is just Mary Lawrie.
I'm that old that I don't feel like having a young missus put over
me. And it ain't for your good, Mr Whittlestaff. You ain't a young
mannor you ain't an old un; and she ain't no relations to you. That's
the worst part of it. As sure as my name is Dorothy Baggett, you'll be
falling in love with her. Then Mrs Baggett, with the sense of the
audacity of what she had said, looked him full in the face and
violently shook her head.
Now go in, he said, and pack my things up for three nights. I'm
going to Norwich, and I shan't want any dinner. Tell John I shall want
the cart, and he must be ready to go with me to the station at 2.15.
I ought to be ready to cut the tongue out of my head, said Mrs
Baggett as she returned to the house, for I might have known it was
the way to make him start at once.
Not in three days, but before the end of the week, Mr Whittlestaff
returned home, bringing with him a dark-featured tall girl, clothed, of
course, in deepest mourning from head to foot. To Mrs Baggett she was
an object of intense interest; because, although she had by no means
assented to her master's proposal, made on behalf of the young lady,
and did tell herself again and again during Mr Whittlestaff's absence
that she was quite sure that Mary Lawrie was a baggage, yet in her
heart she knew it to be impossible that she could go on living in the
house without loving one whom her master loved. With regard to most of
those concerned in the household, she had her own way. Unless she would
favour the groom, and the gardener, and the boy, and the girls who
served below her, Mr Whittlestaff would hardly be contented with those
subordinates. He was the easiest master under whom a servant could
live. But his favour had to be won through Mrs Baggett's smiles. During
the last two years, however, there had been enough of discussion about
Mary Lawrie to convince Mrs Baggett that, in regard to this
interloper, as Mrs Baggett had once called her, Mr Whittlestaff
intended to have his own way. Such being the case, Mrs Baggett was most
anxious to know whether the young lady was such as she could love.
Strangely enough, when the young lady had come, Mrs Baggett, for
twelve months, could not quite make up her mind. The young lady was
very different from what she had expected. Of interference in the house
there was almost literally none. Mary had evidently heard much of Mrs
Baggett's virtues,and infirmities,and seemed to understand that she
also had in many things to place herself under Mrs Baggett's orders.
Lord love you, Miss Mary, she was heard to say; as if we did not all
understand that you was to be missus of everything at Croker's
Hall,for such was the name of Mr Whittlestaff's house. But those who
heard it knew that the words were spoken in supreme good humour, and
judged from that, that Mrs Baggett's heart had been won. But Mrs
Baggett still had her fears; and was not yet resolved but that it might
be her duty to turn against Mary Lawrie with all the violence in her
power. For the first month or two after the young lady's arrival, she
had almost made up her mind that Mary Lawrie would never consent to
become Mrs Whittlestaff. An old gentleman will seldom fall in love
without some encouragement; or at any rate, will not tell his love.
Mary Lawrie was as cold to him as though he had been seventy-five
instead of fifty. And she was also as dutiful,by which she showed Mrs
Baggett more strongly even than by her coldness, that any idea of
marriage was on her part out of the question.
This, strange to say, Mrs Baggett resented. For though she certainly
felt, as would do any ordinary Mrs Baggett in her position, that a wife
would be altogether detrimental to her interest in life, yet she could
not endure to think that a little stuck-up minx, taken in from
charity, should run counter to any of her master's wishes. On one or
two occasions she had spoken to Mr Whittlestaff respecting the young
lady and had been cruelly snubbed. This certainly did not create good
humour on her part, and she began to fancy herself angry in that the
young lady was so ceremonious with her master. But as months ran by she
felt that Mary was thawing, and that Mr Whittlestaff was becoming more
affectionate. Of course there were periods in which her mind veered
round. But at the end of the year Mrs Baggett certainly did wish that
the young lady should marry her old master. I can go down to
Portsmouth, she said to the baker, who was a most respectable old man,
and was nearer to Mrs Baggett's confidence than any one else except her
master, and weary out the rest on 'em there. When she spoke of
wearying out the rest on 'em, her friend perfectly understood that
she alluded to what years she might still have to live, and to the
abject misery of her latter days, which would be the consequence of her
resigning her present mode of life. Mrs Baggett was supposed to have
been born at Portsmouth, and, therefore, to allude to that one place
which she knew in the world over and beyond the residences in which her
master and her master's family had resided.
Before I go on to describe the characters of Mr Whittlestaff and
Miss Lawrie, I must devote a few words to the early life of Mrs
Baggett. Dorothy Tedcaster had been born in the house of Admiral
Whittlestaff, the officer in command at the Portsmouth dockyard. There
her father or her mother had family connections, to visit whom Dorothy,
when a young woman, had returned from the then abode of her loving
mistress, Mrs Whittlestaff. With Mrs Whittlestaff she had lived
absolutely from the hour of her birth, and of Mrs Whittlestaff her mind
was so full, that she did conceive her to be superior, if not
absolutely in rank, at any rate in all the graces and favours of life,
to her Majesty and all the royal family. Dorothy in an evil hour went
back to Portsmouth, and there encountered that worst of military
heroes, Sergeant Baggett. With many lamentations, and confessions as to
her own weakness, she wrote to her mistress, acknowledging that she did
intend to marry B. Mrs Whittlestaff could do nothing to prevent it,
and Dorothy did marry B. Of the misery and ill-usage, of the dirt and
poverty, which poor Dorothy Baggett endured during that year, it needs
not here to tell. That something had passed between her and her old
mistress when she returned to her, must, I suppose, have been
necessary. But of her married life, in subsequent years, Mrs Baggett
never spoke at all. Even the baker only knew dimly that there had been
a Sergeant Baggett in existence. Years had passed since that bad
quarter of an hour in her life, before Mrs Baggett had been made over
to her present master. And he, though he probably knew something of the
abominable Sergeant, never found it necessary to mention his name. For
this Mrs Baggett was duly thankful, and would declare among all
persons, the baker included, that for a gentleman to be a gentleman,
no gentleman was such a gentleman as her master.
It was now five-and-twenty years since the Admiral had died, and
fifteen since his widow had followed him. During the latter period Mrs
Baggett had lived at Croker's Hall with Mr Whittlestaff, and within
that period something had leaked out as to the Sergeant. How it had
come to pass that Mr Whittlestaff's establishment had been mounted with
less of the paraphernalia of wealth than that of his parents, shall be
told in the next chapter; but it was the case that Mrs Baggett, in her
very heart of hearts, was deeply grieved at what she considered to be
the poverty of her master. You're a stupid old fool, Mrs Baggett, her
master would say, when in some private moments her regrets would be
expressed. Haven't you got enough to eat, and a bed to lie on, and an
old stocking full of money somewhere? What more do you want?
A stocking full of money! she would say, wiping her eyes; there
ain't no such thing. And as for eating, of course, I eats as much as I
wants. I eats more than I wants, if you come to that.
Then you're very greedy.
But to think that you shouldn't have a man in a black coat to pour
out a glass of wine for you, sir!
I never drink wine, Mrs Baggett.
Well, whisky. I suppose a fellow like that wouldn't be above
pouring out a glass of whisky for a gentleman;though there's no
knowing now what those fellows won't turn up their noses at. But it's a
come-down in the world, Mr Whittlestaff.
If you think I've come down in the world, you'd better keep it to
yourself, and not tell me. I don't think that I've come down.
You bear up against it finely like a man, sir; but for a poor woman
like me, I do feel it. Such was Mrs Baggett and the record of her
life. But this little conversation took place before the coming of Mary
CHAPTER II. MR WHITTLESTAFF.
Mr Whittlestaff had not been a fortunate man, as fortune is
generally counted in the world. He had not succeeded in what he had
attempted. He had, indeed, felt but little his want of success in
regard to money, but he had encountered failure in one or two other
matters which had touched him nearly. In some things his life had been
successful; but these were matters in which the world does not write
down a man's good luck as being generally conducive to his happiness.
He had never had a headache, rarely a cold, and not a touch of the
gout. One little finger had become crooked, and he was recommended to
drink whisky, which he did willingly,because it was cheap. He was now
fifty, and as fit, bodily and mentally, for hard work as ever he had
been. And he had a thousand a-year to spend, and spent it without ever
feeling the necessity of saving a shilling. And then he hated no one,
and those who came in contact with him always liked him. He trod on
nobody's corns, and was, generally speaking, the most popular man in
the parish. These traits are not generally reckoned as marks of good
fortune; but they do tend to increase the amount of happiness which a
man enjoys in this world. To tell of his misfortunes a somewhat longer
chronicle of his life would be necessary. But the circumstances need
only be indicated here. He had been opposed in everything to his
father's views. His father, finding him to be a clever lad, had at
first designed him for the Bar. But he, before he had left Oxford,
utterly repudiated all legal pursuits. What the devil do you wish to
be? said his father, who at that time was supposed to be able to leave
his son £2000 a-year. The son replied that he would work for a
fellowship, and devote himself to literature. The old admiral sent
literature to all the infernal gods, and told his son that he was a
fool. But the lad did not succeed in getting his fellowship, and
neither father nor mother ever knew the amount of suffering which he
endured thereby. He became plaintive and wrote poetry, and spent his
pocket-money in publishing it, which again caused him sorrow, not for
the loss of his money, but by the obscurity of his poetry. He had to
confess to himself that God had not conferred upon him the gift of
writing poetry; and having acknowledged so much, he never again put two
lines together. Of all this he said nothing; but the sense of failure
made him sad at heart. And his father, when he was in those straits,
only laughed at him, not at all believing the assurances of his son's
misery, which from time to time were given to him by his wife.
Then the old admiral declared that, as his son would do nothing for
himself, he must work for his son. And he took in his old age to going
into the city and speculating in shares. Then the Admiral died. The
shares came to nothing, and calls were made; and when Mrs Whittlestaff
followed her husband, her son, looking about him, bought Croker's Hall,
reduced his establishment, and put down the man-servant whose departed
glory was to Mrs Baggett a matter of such deep regret.
But before this time Mr Whittlestaff had encountered the greatest
sorrow of his life. Even the lost fellowship, even the rejected poetry,
had not caused him such misery as this. He had loved a young lady, and
had been accepted;and then the young lady had jilted him. At this
time of his life he was about thirty; and as to the outside world, he
was absolutely dumfounded by the catastrophe. Up to this period he had
been a sportsman in a moderate degree, fishing a good deal, shooting a
little, and devoted to hunting, to the extent of a single horse. But
when the blow came, he never fished or shot, or hunted again. I think
that the young lady would hardly have treated him so badly had she
known what the effect would be. Her name was Catherine Bailey, and she
married one Compas, who, as years went on, made a considerable
reputation as an Old Bailey barrister. His friends feared at the time
that Mr Whittlestaff would do some injury either to himself or Mr
Compas. But no one dared to speak to him on the subject. His mother,
indeed, did dare,or half dared. But he so answered his mother that he
stopped her before the speech was out of her mouth. Don't say a word,
mother; I cannot bear it. And he stalked out of the house, and was not
seen for many hours.
There had then, in the bitter agony of his spirit, come upon him an
idea of blood. He himself must go,or the man. Then he remembered that
she was the man's wife, and that it behoved him to spare the man for
her sake. Then, when he came to think in earnest of self-destruction,
he told himself that it was a coward's refuge. He took to his classics
for consolation, and read the philosophy of Cicero, and the history of
Livy, and the war chronicles of Cæsar. They did him good,in the same
way that the making of many shoes would have done him good had he been
a shoemaker. In catching fishes and riding after foxes he could not
give his mind to the occupation, so as to abstract his thoughts. But
Cicero's de Natura Deorum was more effectual. Gradually he returned to
a gentle cheerfulness of life, but he never burst out again into the
violent exercise of shooting a pheasant. After that his mother died,
and again he was called upon to endure a lasting sorrow. But on this
occasion the sorrow was of that kind which is softened by having been
expected. He rarely spoke of his mother,had never, up to this period
at which our tale finds him, mentioned his mother's name to any of
those about him. Mrs Baggett would speak of her, saying much in the
praise of her old mistress. Mr Whittlestaff would smile and seem
pleased, and so the subject would pass away. There was something too
reverend to him in his idea of his mother, to admit of his discussing
her character with the servant. But he was well pleased to hear her
thus described. Of the other woman, of Catherine Bailey, of her who had
falsely given herself up to so poor a creature as Compas, after having
received the poetry of his vows, he could endure no mention whatever;
and though Mrs Baggett knew probably well the whole story, no attempt
at naming the name was ever made.
Such had been the successes and the failures of Mr Whittlestaff's
life when Mary Lawrie was added as one to his household. The same idea
had occurred to him as to Mrs Baggett. He was not a young man, because
he was fifty; but he was not quite an old man, because he was only
fifty. He had seen Mary Lawrie often enough, and had become
sufficiently well acquainted with her to feel sure that if he could win
her she would be a loving companion for the remainder of his life. He
had turned it all over in his mind, and had been now eager about it and
now bashful. On more than one occasion he had declared to himself that
he would be whipped if he would have anything to do with her. Should he
subject himself again to some such agony of despair as he had suffered
in the matter of Catherine Bailey? It might not be an agony such as
that; but to him to ask and to be denied would be a terrible pain. And
as the girl did receive from his hands all that she hadher bread and
meat, her bed, her very clotheswould it not be better for her that he
should stand to her in the place of a father than a lover? She might
come to accept it all and not think much of it, if he would take before
himself the guise of an old man. But were he to appear before her as a
suitor for her hand, would she refuse him? Looking forward, he could
perceive that there was room for infinite grief if he should make the
attempt and then things should not go well with him.
But the more he saw of her he was sure also that there was room for
infinite joy. He compared her in his mind to Catherine Bailey, and
could not but feel that in his youth he had been blind and fatuous.
Catherine had been a fair-haired girl, and had now blossomed out into
the anxious mother of ten fair-haired children. The anxiety had no
doubt come from the evil courses of her husband. Had she been contented
to be Mrs Whittlestaff, there might have been no such look of care, and
there might perhaps have been less than ten children; but she would
still have been fair-haired, blowsy, and fat. Mr Whittlestaff had with
infinite trouble found an opportunity of seeing her and her flock,
unseen by them, and a portion of his agony had subsided. But still
there was the fact that she had promised to be his, and had become a
thing sacred in his sight, and had then given herself up to the arms of
Mr Compas. But now if Mary Lawrie would but accept him, how blessed
might be the evening of his life!
He had confessed to himself often enough how sad and dreary he was
in his desolate life. He had told himself that it must be so for the
remainder of all time to him, when Catherine Bailey had declared her
purpose to him of marrying the successful young lawyer. He had at once
made up his mind that his doom was fixed, and had not regarded his
solitude as any deep aggravation of his sorrow. But he had come by
degrees to find that a man should not give up his life because of a
fickle girl, and especially when he found her to be the mother of ten
flaxen haired infants. He had, too, as he declared to himself, waited
But Mary Lawrie was very different from Catherine Bailey. The
Catherine he had known had been bright, and plump, and joyous, with a
quick good-natured wit, and a rippling laughter, which by its silvery
sound had robbed him of his heart. There was no plumpness, and no
silver-sounding laughter with Mary. She shall be described in the next
chapter. Let it suffice to say here that she was somewhat staid in her
demeanour, and not at all given to putting herself forward in
conversation. But every hour that he passed in her company he became
more and more sure that, if any wife could now make him happy, this was
the woman who could do so.
But of her manner to himself he doubted much. She was gratitude
itself for what he was prepared to do for her. But with her gratitude
was mingled respect, and almost veneration. She treated him at first
almost as a servant,at any rate with none of the familiarity of a
friend, and hardly with the reserve of a grown-up child. Gradually, in
obedience to his evident wishes, she did drop her reserve, and allowed
herself to converse with him; but it was always as a young person might
with all modesty converse with her superior. He struggled hard to
overcome her reticence, and did at last succeed. But still there was
that respect, verging almost into veneration, which seemed to crush him
when he thought that he might begin to play the lover.
He had got a pony carriage for her, which he insisted that she
should drive herself. But I never have driven, she had said, taking
her place, and doubtfully assuming the reins, while he sat beside her.
She had at this time been six months at Croker's Hall.
There must be a beginning for everything, and you shall begin to
drive now. Then he took great trouble with her, teaching her how to
hold the reins, and how to use the whip, till at last something of
familiarity was engendered. And he went out with her, day after day,
showing her all those pretty haunts among the downs which are to be
found in the neighbourhood of Alresford.
This did well for a time, and Mr Whittlestaff thought that he was
progressing. But he had not as yet quite made up his mind that the
attempt should be made at all. If he can be imagined to have talked to
a friend as he talked to himself, that friend would have averred that
he spoke more frequently against marriage,or rather against the young
lady's marriage,than in favour of it. After all it will never do,
he would have said to this friend; I am an old man, and an old man
shouldn't ask a young girl to sacrifice herself. Mrs Baggett looks on
it only as a question of butchers and bakers. There are, no doubt,
circumstances in which butchers and bakers do come uppermost. But here
the butchers and bakers are provided. I wouldn't have her marry me for
that sake. Love, I fear, is out of the question. But for gratitude I
would not have her do it. It was thus that he would commonly have been
found speaking to his friend. There were moments in which he roused
himself to better hopes,when he had drank his glass of whisky and
water, and was somewhat elate with the consequences. I'll do it, he
would then have said to his friend; only I cannot exactly say when.
And so it went on, till at last he became afraid to speak out and tell
her what he wanted.
Mr Whittlestaff was a tall, thin man, not quite six feet, with a
face which a judge of male beauty would hardly call handsome, but which
all would say was impressive and interesting. We seldom think how much
is told to us of the owner's character by the first or second glance of
a man or woman's face. Is he a fool, or is he clever; is he reticent or
outspoken; is he passionate or long-suffering;nay, is he honest or
the reverse; is he malicious or of a kindly nature? Of all these things
we form a sudden judgment without any thought; and in most of our
sudden judgments we are roughly correct. It is so, or seems to us to be
so, as a matter of course,that the man is a fool, or reticent, or
malicious; and, without giving a thought to our own phrenological
capacity, we pass on with the conviction. No one ever considered that
Mr Whittlestaff was a fool or malicious; but people did think that he
was reticent and honest. The inner traits of his character were very
difficult to be read. Even Mrs Baggett had hardly read them all
correctly. He was shamefaced to such a degree that Mrs Baggett could
not bring herself to understand it. And there was present to him a
manner of speech which practice had now made habitual, but which he had
originally adopted with the object of hiding his shamefacedness under
the veil of a dashing manner. He would speak as though he were quite
free with his thoughts, when, at the moment, he feared that thoughts
should be read of which he certainly had no cause to be ashamed. His
fellowship, his poetry, and his early love were all, to his thinking,
causes of disgrace, which required to be buried deep within his own
memory. But the true humility with which he regarded them betokened a
character for which he need not have blushed. But that he thought of
those matters at allthat he thought of himself at allwas a matter
to be buried deep within his own bosom.
Through his short dark-brown hair the grey locks were beginning to
show themselvessigns indeed of age, but signs which were very
becoming to him. At fifty he was a much better-looking man than he had
been at thirty,so that that foolish, fickle girl, Catherine Bailey,
would not have rejected him for the cruelly sensuous face of Mr Compas,
had the handsome iron-grey tinge been then given to his countenance.
He, as he looked at the glass, told himself that a grey-haired old
fool, such as he was, had no right to burden the life of a young girl,
simply because he found her in bread and meat. That he should think
himself good-looking, was to his nature impossible. His eyes were
rather small, but very bright; the eyebrows black and almost bushy; his
nose was well-formed and somewhat long, but not so as to give that
peculiar idea of length to his face which comes from great nasal
prolongation. His upper lip was short, and his mouth large and manly.
The strength of his character was better shown by his mouth than by any
other feature. He wore hardly any beard, as beards go now,unless
indeed a whisker can be called a beard, which came down, closely shorn,
about half an inch below his ear. A very common sort of individual,
he said of himself, as he looked in the glass when Mary Lawrie had been
already twelve months in the house; but then a man ought to be common.
A man who is uncommon is either a dandy or a buffoon.
His clothes were all made after one pattern and of one colour. He
had, indeed, his morning clothes and his evening clothes. Those for the
morning were very nearly black, whereas for the evening they were
entirely so. He walked about the neighbourhood in a soft hat such as
clergymen now affect, and on Sundays he went to church with the old
well-established respectable chimney-pot. On Sundays, too, he carried
an umbrella, whereas on week-days he always had a large stick; and it
was observed that neither the umbrella nor the stick was adapted to the
state of the weather.
Such was Mr Whittlestaff of Croker's Hall, a small residence which
stood half-way up on the way to the downs, about a mile from Alresford.
He had come into the neighbourhood, having bought a small freehold
property without the knowledge of any of the inhabitants. It was just
as though he had come out of the sun, said the old baker, forgetting
that most men, or their ancestors, must have come to their present
residences after a similar fashion. And he had brought Mrs Baggett with
him, who had confided to the baker that she had felt herself that
strange on her first arrival that she didn't know whether she was
standing on her head or her heels.
Mrs Baggett had since become very gracious with various of the
neighbours. She had the paying of Mr Whittlestaff's bills, and the
general disposal of his custom. From thence arose her popularity. But
he, during the last fifteen years, had crept silently into the society
of the place. At first no one had known anything about him; and the
neighbourhood had been shy. But by degrees the parsons and then the
squires had taken him by the hand, so that the social endowments of the
place were more than Mr Whittlestaff even desired.
CHAPTER III. MARY LAWRIE.
There is nothing more difficult in the writing of a story than to
describe adequately the person of a hero or a heroine, so as to place
before the mind of the reader any clear picture of him or her who is
described. A courtship is harder stillso hard that we may say
generally that it is impossible. Southey's Lodore is supposed to have
been effective; but let any one with the words in his memory stand
beside the waterfall and say whether it is such as the words have
painted it. It rushes and it foams, as described by the poet, much more
violently than does the real water; and so does everything described,
unless in the hands of a wonderful master. But I have clear images on
my brain of the characters of the persons introduced. I know with fair
accuracy what was intended by the character as given of Amelia Booth,
of Clarissa, of Di Vernon, and of Maggie Tulliver. But as their persons
have not been drawn with the pencil for me by the artists who
themselves created them, I have no conception how they looked. Of
Thackeray's Beatrix I have a vivid idea, because she was drawn for him
by an artist under his own eye. I have now to describe Mary Lawrie, but
have no artist who will take the trouble to learn my thoughts and to
reproduce them. Consequently I fear that no true idea of the young lady
can be conveyed to the reader; and that I must leave him to entertain
such a notion of her carriage and demeanour as must come to him at the
end from the reading of the whole book.
But the attempt must be made, if only for fashion sake, so that no
adventitious help may be wanting to him, or more probably to her, who
may care to form for herself a personification of Mary Lawrie. She was
a tall, thin, staid girl, who never put herself forward in any of those
walks of life in which such a young lady as she is called upon to show
herself. She was silent and reserved, and sometimes startled, even when
appealed to in a household so quiet as that of Mr Whittlestaff. Those
who had seen her former life had known that she had lived under the
dominion of her step-mother, and had so accounted for her manner. And
then, added to this, was the sense of entire dependence on a stranger,
which, no doubt, helped to quell her spirit. But Mr Whittlestaff had
eyes with which to see and ears with which to hear, and was not to be
taken in by the outward appearance of the young lady. He had perceived
that under that quiet guise and timid startled look there existed a
power of fighting a battle for herself or for a friend, if an occasion
should arise which should appear to herself to be sufficient. He had
known her as one of her father's household, and of her step-mother's;
and had seen probably some little instance of self-assertion, such as
had not yet made itself apparent to Mrs Baggett.
A man who had met her once, and for a few minutes only, would
certainly not declare her to be beautiful. She, too, like Mr
Whittlestaff, was always contented to pass unobserved. But the chance
man, had he seen her for long, would surely remark that Miss Lawrie was
an attractive girl; and had he heard her talk freely on any matter of
interest, would have called her very attractive. She would blaze up
into sudden eloquence, and then would become shame-stricken, and
abashed, and dumfounded, so as to show that she had for a moment
forgotten her audience, and then the audience,the chance man,would
surely set his wits to work and try to reproduce in her a renewal of
that intimacy to which she had seemed to yield herself for the moment.
But yet I am not describing her after the accepted fashion. I should
produce a catalogue of features, and tell how every one of them was
formed. Her hair was dark, and worn very plain, but with that graceful
care which shows that the owner has not slurred over her toilet with
hurried negligence. Of complexion it can hardly be said that she had
any; so little was the appearance of her countenance diversified by a
change of hue. If I am bound to declare her colour, I must, in truth,
say that she was brown. There was none even of that flying hue which is
supposed to be intended when a woman is called a brunette. When she
first came to Croker's Hall, health produced no variation. Nor did any
such come quickly; though before she had lived there a year and a half,
now and again a slight tinge of dark ruby would show itself on her
cheek, and then vanish almost quicker than it had come. Mr
Whittlestaff, when he would see this, would be almost beside himself in
Her eyes were deep blue, so deep that the casual observer would not
at first recognise their colour. But when you had perceived that they
were blue, and had brought the fact home to your knowledge, their
blueness remained with you as a thing fixed for ever. And you would
feel, if you yourself were thoughtful and contemplative, and much given
to study a lady's eyes, that, such as they were, every lady would
possess the like if only it were given to her to choose.
Her nose was slight and fine, and perhaps lent to her face, of all
her features, its most special grace. Her lips, alas! were too thin for
true female beauty, and lacked that round and luscious fulness which
seems in many a girl's face to declare the purpose for which they were
made. Through them her white teeth would occasionally be seen, and then
her face was at its best, as, for instance, when she was smiling; but
that was seldom; and at other moments it seemed as though she were too
careful to keep her mouth closed.
But if her mouth was defective, the symmetry of her chin, carrying
with it the oval of her cheek and jaws, was perfect. How many a face,
otherwise lovely to look upon, is made mean and comparatively base,
either by the lengthening or the shortening of the chin! That absolute
perfection which Miss Lawrie owned, we do not, perhaps, often meet. But
when found, I confess that nothing to me gives so sure an evidence of
true blood and good-breeding.
Such is the catalogue of Mary Lawrie's features, drawn out with care
by one who has delighted for many hours to sit and look at them. All
the power of language which the writer possesses has been used in thus
reproducing them. But now, when this portion of his work is done, he
feels sure that no reader of his novel will have the slightest idea of
what Mary Lawrie was like.
An incident must now be told of her early life, of which she never
spoke to man, woman, or child. Her step-mother had known the
circumstance, but had rarely spoken of it. There had come across her
path in Norwich a young man who had stirred her heart, and had won her
affections. But the young man had passed on, and there, as far as the
present and the past were concerned, had been an end of it. The young
man had been no favourite with her step-mother; and her father, who was
almost on his death-bed, had heard what was going on almost without a
remark. He had been told that the man was penniless, and as his
daughter had been to him the dearest thing upon earth, he had been glad
to save himself the pain of expressing disapproval. John Gordon had,
however, been a gentleman, and was fit in all things to be the husband
of such a girl as Mary Lawrie,except that he was penniless, and she,
also, had possessed nothing. He had passed on his way without speaking,
and had goneeven Mary did not know whither. She had accepted her
fate, and had never allowed the name of John Gordon to pass her lips.
The days passed very quickly at Croker's Hall, but not so quickly
but that Mary knew well what was going on in Mr Whittlestaff's mind.
How is it that a girl understands to a certainty the state of a man's
heart in regard to her,or rather, not his heart, but his purpose? A
girl may believe that a man loves her, and may be deceived; but she
will not be deceived as to whether he wishes to marry her. Gradually
came the conviction on Miss Lawrie's mind of Mr Whittlestaff's purpose.
And, as it did so, came the conviction also that she could not do it.
Of this he saw nothing; but he was instigated by it to be more
eager,and was at the same time additionally abashed by something in
her manner which made him feel that the task before him was not an easy
Mrs Baggett, who knew well all the symptoms as her master displayed
them, became angry with Mary Lawrie. Who was Mary Lawrie, that she
should take upon herself to deny Mr Whittlestaff anything? No doubt it
would, as she told herself, be better for Mrs Baggett in many respects
that her master should remain unmarried. She assured herself that if a
mistress were put over her head, she must retire to Portsmouth,which,
of all places for her, had the dreariest memories. She could remain
where she was very well, while Mary Lawrie remained also where she was.
But it provoked her to think that the offer should be made to the girl
and should be refused. What on earth it is they sees in 'em, is what I
never can understand. She ain't pretty,not to say,and she looks as
though butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. But she's got it inside her,
and some of them days it'll come out. Then Mrs Baggett determined that
she would have a few words on the subject with Mary Lawrie.
Mary had now been a year and four months at Croker's Hall, and had,
under pressure from Mr Whittlestaff, assumed something of the manner
rather than of the airs of a mistress to Mrs Baggett. This the old
woman did not at all resent, because the reality of power was still in
her hands; but she could not endure that the idolatry of love should
always be present in her master's face. If the young woman would only
become Mrs Whittlestaff, then the idolatry would pass away. At any
rate, her master would not continue to make an ass of himself, as Mrs
Baggett phrased it.
Don't you think, Miss, as that Mr Whittlestaff is looking very
Is he, Mrs Baggett?
'Deed and he is, to my thinking; and it's all along of you. He's
got a fancy into his mind,and why shouldn't he have his fancy?
I don't know, I'm sure. But Mary did know. She did know what the
fancy was, and why Mr Whittlestaff shouldn't have it.
I tell you fairly, Miss, there is nothing I hate so much as
vagaries in young women.
I hope there are no vagaries to be hated in me, Mrs Baggett.
Well, I'm not quite so sure. You do go as straightforward as most
on 'em; but I ain't quite sure but that there are a few twists and
twirls. What do you suppose he wants to be at?
How am I to say? Then she bethought herself that were she to tell
the truth, she could say very well.
Do you mean as you don't know? said the old woman.
Am I bound to tell you if I do know?
If you wish to do the best for him, you are. What's the good of
beating about the bush? Why don't you have him?
Mary did not quite know whether it behoved her to be angry with the
old servant, and if so, how she was to show her anger. You shouldn't
talk such nonsense, Mrs Baggett.
That's all very well. It is all nonsense; but nonsense has to be
talked sometimes. Here's a gentleman as you owe everything to. If he
wanted your head from your shoulders, you shouldn't make any scruple.
What are you, that you shouldn't let a gentleman like him have his own
way? Asking your pardon, but I don't mean it any way out of disrespect.
Of course it would be all agin me. An old woman doesn't want to have a
young mistress over her head, and if she's my sperrit, she wouldn't
bear it. I won't, any way.
Then why do you ask me to do this thing?
Because a gentleman like him should have his own way. And an old
hag like me shouldn't stand for anything. No more shouldn't a young
woman like you who has had so much done for her. Now, Miss Mary, you
see I've told you my mind freely.
But he has never asked me.
You just sit close up to him, and he'll ask you free enough. I
shouldn't speak as I have done if there had been a morsel of doubt
about it. Do you doubt it yourself, Miss? To this Miss Lawrie did not
find it necessary to return any answer.
When Mrs Baggett had gone and Mary was left to herself, she could
not but think over what the woman had said to her. In the first place,
was she not bound to be angry with the woman, and to express her anger?
Was it not impertinent, nay, almost indecent, that the woman should
come to her and interrogate her on such a subject? The inmost, most
secret feelings of her heart had been ruthlessly inquired into and
probed by a menial servant, who had asked questions of her, and made
suggestions to her, as though her part in the affair had been of no
consequence. What are you, that you shouldn't let a gentleman like him
have his own way? Why was it not so much to her as to Mr Whittlestaff?
Was it not her all; the consummation or destruction of every hope; the
making or unmaking of her joy or of her happiness? Could it be right
that she should marry any man, merely because the man wanted her? Were
there to be no questions raised as to her own life, her own
contentment, her own ideas of what was proper? It was true that this
woman knew nothing of John Gordon. But she must have known that there
might be a John Gordon,whom she, Mary Lawrie, was required to set on
one side, merely because Mr Whittlestaff wanted her. Mrs Baggett had
been grossly impertinent in daring to talk to her of Mr Whittlestaff's
But then, as she walked slowly round the garden, she found herself
bound to inquire of herself whether what the woman said had not been
true. Did she not eat his bread; did she not wear his clothes; were not
the very boots on her feet his property? And she was there in his
house, without the slightest tie of blood or family connection. He had
taken her from sheer charity, and had saved her from the terrible
dependency of becoming a friendless governess. Looking out to the life
which she had avoided, it seemed to her to be full of abject misery.
And he had brought her to his own house, and had made her the mistress
of everything. She knew that she had been undemonstrative in her
manner, and that such was her nature. But her heart welled over with
gratitude as she thought of the sweetness of the life which he had
prepared for her. Was not the question true? What am I, that I should
stand in the way and prevent such a man as that from having what he
And then she told herself that he personally was full of good gifts.
How different might it have been with her had some elderly men wanted
her, such as she had seen about in the world! How much was there in
this man that she knew that she could learn to love? And he was one of
whom she need in no wise be ashamed. He was a gentleman, pleasant to
look at, sweet in manner, comely and clean in appearance. Would not the
world say of her how lucky she had been should it come to pass that she
should become Mrs Whittlestaff? Then there were thoughts of John
Gordon, and she told herself that it was a mere dream. John Gordon had
gone, and she knew not where he was; and John Gordon had never spoken a
word to her of his love. After an hour's deliberation, she thought that
she would marry Mr Whittlestaff if he asked her, though she could not
bring herself to say that she would sit close up to him in order that
he might do so.
CHAPTER IV. MARY LAWRIE ACCEPTS MR
By the end of the week Mary Lawrie had changed her mind. She had
thought it over, and had endeavoured to persuade herself that Mr
Whittlestaff did not care about it very much. Indeed there were moments
during the week in which she flattered herself that if she would
abstain from sitting close up to him, he would say nothing about it.
But she resolved altogether that she would not display her anger to Mrs
Baggett. Mrs Baggett, after all, had done it for the best. And there
was something in Mrs Baggett's mode of argument on the subject which
was not altogether unflattering to Mary. It was not as though Mrs
Baggett had told her that Mr Whittlestaff could make himself quite
happy with Mrs Baggett herself, if Mary Lawrie would be good enough to
go away. The suggestion had been made quite in the other way, and Mrs
Baggett was prepared altogether to obliterate herself. Mary did feel
that Mr Whittlestaff ought to be made a god, as long as another woman
was willing to share in the worship with such absolute self-sacrifice.
At last the moment came, and the question was asked without a minute
being allowed for consideration. It was in this wise. The two were
sitting together after dinner on the lawn, and Mrs Baggett had brought
them their coffee. It was her wont to wait upon them with this
delicacy, though she did not appear either at breakfast or at dinner,
except on remarkable occasions. She now had some little word to say,
meant to be conciliatory and comforting, and remarked that surely Miss
Mary meant to get a colour in her cheeks at last.
Don't be foolish, Mrs Baggett, said Mary. But Mrs Baggett's back
was turned, and she did not care to reply.
It is true, Mary, said Mr Whittlestaff, putting his hand on her
shoulder, as he turned round to look in her face.
Mrs Lawrie used to tell me that I always blushed black, and I think
that she was about right.
I do not know what colour you blush, said Mr Whittlestaff.
I daresay not.
But when it does come I am conscious of the sweetest colour that
ever came upon a lady's cheek. And I tell myself that another grace has
been added to the face which of all faces in the world is to my eyes
the most beautiful. What was she to say in answer to a compliment so
high-flown as this, to one from whose mouth compliments were so
uncommon? She knew that he could not have so spoken without a purpose,
declared at any rate to his own heart. He still held her by the arm,
but did not once progress with his speech, while she sat silent by his
side, and blushing with that dark ruby streak across her cheeks, which
her step-mother had intended to vilify when she said that she had
blushed black. Mary, he continued after a pause, can you endure the
thought of becoming my wife? Now she drew her arm away, and turned her
face, and compressed her lips, and sat without uttering a word. Of
course I am an old man.
It is not that, she muttered.
But I think that I can love you as honestly and as firmly as a
younger one. I think that if you could bring yourself to be my wife,
you would find that you would not be treated badly.
Oh, no, no, no! she exclaimed.
Nothing, at any rate, would be kept from you. When I have a thought
or a feeling, a hope or a fear, you shall share it. As to money
Don't do that. There should be no talk of money from you to me.
Perhaps not. It would be best that I should be left to do as I may
think most fitting for you. I have one incident in my life which I
would wish to tell you. I loved a girl,many years since,and she
ill-used me. I continued to love her long, but that image has passed
from my mind. He was thinking, as he said this, of Mrs Compas and her
large family. It will not be necessary that I should refer to this
again, because the subject is very painful; but it was essential that I
should tell you. And now, Mary, how shall it be? he added, after a
She sat listening to all that he had to say to her, but without
speaking a word. He, too, had had his John Gordon; but in his case
the girl he had loved had treated him badly. She, Mary, had received no
bad treatment. There had been love between them, ample love, love
enough to break their hearts. At least she had found it so. But there
had been no outspoken speech of love. Because of that, the wound made,
now that it had been in some sort healed, had not with her been so
cruel as with Mr Whittlestaff. John Gordon had come to her on the eve
of his going, and had told her that he was about to start for some
distant land. There had been loud words between him and her
step-mother, and Mrs Lawrie had told him that he was a pauper, and was
doing no good about the house; and Mary had heard the words spoken. She
asked him whither he was going, but he did not reply. Your mother is
right. I am at any rate doing no good here, he had said, but had not
answered her question further. Then Mary had given him her hand, and
had whispered, Good-bye. If I return, he added, the first place I
will come to shall be Norwich. Then without further farewell ceremony
he had gone. From that day to this she had had his form before her
eyes; but now, if she accepted Mr Whittlestaff, it must be banished. No
one, at any rate, knew of her wound. She must tell him,should she be
moved at last to accept him. It might be that he would reject her after
such telling. If so, it would be well. But, in that case, what would be
her future? Would it not be necessary that she should return to that
idea of a governess which had been so distasteful to her? Mary, can
you say that it shall be so? he asked quietly, after having remained
silent for some ten minutes.
Could it be that all her fate must be resolved in so short a time?
Since first the notion that Mr Whittlestaff had asked her to be his
wife had come upon her, she had thought of it day and night. But, as is
so usual with the world at large, she had thought altogether of the
past, and not of the future. The past was a valley of dreams, which
could easily be surveyed, whereas the future was a high mountain which
it would require much labour to climb. When we think that we will make
our calculations as to the future, it is so easy to revel in our
memories instead. Mary had, in truth, not thought of her answer, though
she had said to herself over and over again why it should not be so.
Have you no answer to give me? he said.
Oh, Mr Whittlestaff, you have so startled me! This was hardly
true. He had not startled her, but had brought her to the necessity of
knowing her own mind.
If you wish to think of it, you shall take your own time. Then it
was decided that a week should be accorded to her. And during that week
she passed much of her time in tears. And Mrs Baggett would not leave
her alone. To give Mrs Baggett her due, it must be acknowledged that
she acted as best she knew how for her master's interest, without
thinking of herself. I shall go down to Portsmouth. I'm not worth
thinking of, I ain't. There's them at Portsmouth as'll take care of me.
You don't see why I should go. I daresay not; but I am older than you,
and I see what you don't see. I've borne with you as a miss, because
you've not been upsetting; but still, when I've lived with him for all
those years without anything of the kind, it has set me hard sometimes.
As married to him, I wouldn't put up with you; so I tell you fairly.
But that don't signify. It ain't you as signifies or me as signifies.
It's only him. You have got to bring yourself to think of that. What's
the meaning of your duty to your neighbour, and doing unto others, and
all the rest of it? You ain't got to think just of your own self; no
more haven't I.
Mary said to herself silently that it was John Gordon of whom she
had to think. She quite recognised the truth of the lesson about
selfishness; but love to her was more imperious than gratitude.
There's them at Portsmouth as'll take care of me, no doubt. Don't
you mind about me. I ain't going to have a good time at Portsmouth, but
people ain't born to have good times of it. You're going to have a good
time. But it ain't for that, but for what your duty tells you. You that
haven't a bit or a sup but what comes from him, and you to stand
shilly-shallying! I can't abide the idea!
It was thus that Mrs Baggett taught her great lesson,the greatest
lesson we may say which a man or a woman can learn. And though she
taught it immoderately, fancying, as a woman, that another woman should
sacrifice everything to a man, still she taught it with truth. She was
minded to go to Portsmouth, although Portsmouth to her in the present
state of circumstances was little better than a hell upon earth. But
Mary could not quite see Mr Whittlestaff's claim in the same light. The
one point on which it did seem to her that she had made up her mind was
Mr Gordon's claim, which was paramount to everything. Yes; he was gone,
and might never return. It might be that he was dead. It might be even
that he had taken some other wife, and she was conscious that not a
word had passed her lips that could be taken as a promise. There had
not been even a hint of a promise. But it seemed to her that this duty
of which Mrs Baggett spoke was due rather to John Gordon than to Mr
She counted the days,nay, she counted the hours, till the week had
run by. And when the precise moment had come at which an answer must be
given,for in such matters Mr Whittlestaff was very precise,John
Gordon was still the hero of her thoughts. Well, dear, he said,
putting his hand upon her arm, just as he had done on that former
occasion. He said no more, but there was a world of entreaty in the
tone of his voice as he uttered the words.
I do not think I can. I do not think I ought. You never heard
ofMr John Gordon.
He used to come to our house at Norwich, andandI loved him.
What became of him? he asked, in a strangely altered voice. Was
there to be a Mr Compas here too to interfere with his happiness?
He was poor, and he went away when my step-mother did not like
You had engaged yourself to him?
Oh, no! There had been nothing of that kind. You will understand
that I should not speak to you on such a subject, were it not that I am
bound to tell you my whole heart. But you will never repeat what you
There was no engagement?
There was no question of any such thing.
And he is gone?
Yes, said Mary; he has gone.
And will not come back again? Then she looked into his face,oh!
so wistfully. When did it happen?
When my father was on his death-bed. He had come sooner than that;
but then it was that he went. I think, Mr Whittlestaff, that I never
ought to marry any one after that, and therefore it is that I have told
You are a good girl, Mary.
I don't know about that. I think that I ought to deceive you at
least in nothing.
You should deceive no one.
No, Mr Whittlestaff. She answered him ever so meekly; but there
was running in her mind a feeling that she had not deceived any one,
and that she was somewhat hardly used by the advice given to her.
He has gone altogether? he asked again.
I do not know where he is,whether he be dead or alive.
But if he should come back?
She only shook her head;meaning him to understand that she could
say nothing of his purposes should he come back. He had made her no
offer. He had said that if he returned he would come first to Norwich.
There had been something of a promise in this; but oh, so little! And
she did not dare to tell him that hitherto she had lived upon that
I do not think that you should remain single for ever on that
account. How long is it now since Mr Gordon went?
There was something in the tone in which he mentioned Mr Gordon's
name which went against the grain with Mary. She felt that he was
spoken of almost as an enemy. I think it is three years since he
Three years is a long time. Has he never written?
Not to me. How should he write? There was nothing for him to write
It has been a fancy.
Yes;a fancy. He had made this excuse for her, and she had none
stronger to make for herself.
He certainly did not think the better of her in that she had
indulged in such a fancy; but in truth his love was sharpened by the
opposition which this fancy made. It had seemed to him that his
possessing her would give a brightness to his life, and this brightness
was not altogether obscured by the idea that she had ever thought that
she had loved another person. As a woman she was as lovable as before,
though perhaps less admirable. At any rate he wanted her, and now she
seemed to be more within his reach than she had been. The week has
passed by, Mary, and I suppose that now you can give me an answer.
Then she found that she was in his power. She had told him her story,
as though with the understanding that if he would take her with her
fancy, she was ready to surrender herself. Am I not to have an
I suppose so.
What is it to be?
If you wish for me, I will be yours.
And you will cease to think of Mr Gordon?
I shall think of him; but not in a way that you would begrudge me.
That will suffice. I know that you are honest, and I will not ask
you to forget him altogether. But there had better be no speaking of
him. It is well that he should be banished from your mind. And now,
dearest, dearest love, give me your hand. She put her hand at once
into his. And a kiss. She just turned herself a little round, with
her eyes bent upon the ground. Nay; there must be a kiss. Then he
bent over her, and just touched her cheek. Mary, you are now all my
own. Yes;she was now all his own, and she would do for him the best
in her power. He had not asked for her love, and she certainly had not
given it. She knew well how impossible it would be that she should give
him her love. I know you are disturbed, he said. I wish also for a
few minutes to think of it all. Then he turned away from her, and went
up the garden walk by himself.
She, slowly loitering, went into the house alone, and seated herself
by the open window in her bed-chamber. As she sat there she could see
him up the long walk, going and returning. As he went his hands were
folded behind his back, and she thought that he appeared older than she
had ever remarked him to be before. What did it signify? She had
undertaken her business in life, and the duties she thought would be
within her power. She was sure that she would be true to him, as far as
truth to his material interests was concerned. His comforts in life
should be her first care. If he trusted her at all, he should not
become poorer by reason of his confidence. And she would be as tender
to him as the circumstances would admit. She would not begrudge him
kisses if he cared for them. They were his by all the rights of
contract. He certainly had the best of the bargain, but he should never
know how much the best of it he had. He had told her that there had
better be no speaking of John Gordon. There certainly should be none on
her part. She had told him that she must continue to think of him.
There at any rate she had been honest. But he should not see that she
thought of him.
Then she endeavoured to assure herself that this thinking would die
out. Looking round the world, her small world, how many women there
were who had not married the men they had loved first! How few,
perhaps, had done so! Life was not good-natured enough for smoothness
such as that. And yet did not they, as a rule, live well with their
husbands? What right had she to expect anything better than their fate?
Each poor insipid dame that she saw, toddling on with half-a-dozen
children at her heels, might have had as good a John Gordon of her own
as was hers. And each of them might have sat on a summer day, at an
open window, looking out with something, oh, so far from love, at the
punctual steps of him who was to be her husband.
Then her thoughts turned, would turn, could not be kept from
turning, to John Gordon. He had been to her the personification of
manliness. That which he resolved to do, he did with an iron will. But
his manners to all women were soft, and to her seemed to have been
suffused with special tenderness. But he was chary of his words,as he
had even been to her. He had been the son of a banker at Norwich; but,
just as she had become acquainted with him, the bank had broke, and he
had left Oxford to come home and find himself a ruined man. But he had
never said a word to her of the family misfortune. He had been six feet
high, with dark hair cut very short, somewhat full of sport of the
roughest kind, which, however, he had abandoned instantly. Things have
so turned out, he had once said to Mary, that I must earn something
to eat instead of riding after foxes. She could not boast that he was
handsome. What does it signify? she had once said to her step-mother,
who had declared him to be stiff, upsetting, and ugly. A man is not
like a poor girl, who has nothing but the softness of her skin to
depend upon. Then Mrs Lawrie had declared to him that he did no good
coming about the house,and he went away.
Why had he not spoken to her? He had said that one word, promising
that if he returned he would come to Norwich. She had lived three years
since that, and he had not come back. And her house had been broken up,
and she, though she would have been prepared to wait for another three
years,though she would have waited till she had grown grey with
waiting,she had now fallen into the hands of one who had a right to
demand from her that she should obey him. And it is not that I hate
him, she said to herself. I do love him. He is all good. But I am
glad that he has not bade me not to think of John Gordon.
CHAPTER V. I SUPPOSE IT WAS A
It seemed to her, as she sat there at the window, that she ought to
tell Mrs Baggett what had occurred. There had been that between them
which, as she thought, made it incumbent on her to let Mrs Baggett know
the result of her interview with Mr Whittlestaff. So she went
down-stairs, and found that invaluable old domestic interfering
materially with the comfort of the two younger maidens. She was
determined to let them know what was what, as she expressed it.
You oughtn't to be angry with me, because I've done nothing, said
Jane the housemaid, sobbing.
That's just about it, said Mrs Baggett. And why haven't you done
nothing? Do you suppose you come here to do nothing? Was it doing
nothing when Eliza tied down them strawberries without putting in e'er
a drop of brandy? It drives me mortial mad to think what you young
folks are coming to.
I ain't a-going anywhere, Mrs Baggett, because of them strawberries
being tied down which, if you untie them, as I always intended, will
have the sperrits put on them as well now as ever. And as for your
going mad, Mrs Baggett, I hope it won't be along of me.
Drat your imperence.
I ain't imperence at all. Here's Miss Lawrie, and she shall say
whether I'm imperence.
Mrs Baggett, I want to speak to you, if you'll come into the other
room, said Mary.
You are imperent, both of you. I can't say a word but I'm taken up
that short that. They've been and tied all the jam down, so that
it'll all go that mouldy that nobody can touch it. And then, when I
says a word, they turns upon me. Then Mrs Baggett walked out of the
kitchen into her own small parlour, which opened upon the passage just
opposite the kitchen door. They was a-going to be opened this very
afternoon, said Eliza, firing a parting shot after the departing
Mrs Baggett, I've got to tell you, Mary began.
He came to me for an answer, as he said he would.
And I told him it should be as he would have it.
Of course you would. I knew that.
You told me that it was your duty and mine to give him whatever he
I didn't say nothing of the kind, Miss.
Oh, Mrs Baggett!
I didn't. I said, if he wanted your head, you was to let him take
it. But if he wanted mine, you wasn't to give it to him.
He asked me to be his wife, and I said I would.
Then I may as well pack up and be off for Portsmouth.
No; not so. I have obeyed you, and I think that in these matters
you should obey him too.
I daresay; but at my age I ain't so well able to obey. I daresay as
them girls knew all about it, or they wouldn't have turned round upon
me like that. It's just like the likes of them. When is it to be, Miss
Lawrie?because I won't stop in the house after you be the missus of
it. That's flat. If you were to talk till you're deaf and dumb, I
wouldn't do it. Oh, it don't matter what's to become of me! I know
But it will matter very much.
Not a ha'porth.
You ask him, Mrs Baggett.
He's got his plaything. That's all he cares about. I've been with
him and his family almost from a baby, and have grown old a-serving
him, and it don't matter to him whether I goes into the hedges and
ditches, or where I goes. They say that service is no heritance, and
they says true. I'm to go toBut don't mind me. He won't, and why
should you? Do you think you'll ever do half as much for him as I've
done? He's got his troubles before him now;that's the worst of it.
This was very bad. Mrs Baggett had been loud in laying down for her
the line of duty which she should follow, and she, to the best of her
ability, had done as Mrs Baggett had told her. It was the case that Mrs
Baggett had prevailed with her, and now the woman turned against her!
Was it true that he had his troubles before him, because of her
acceptance of his offer? If so, might it not yet be mended? Was it too
late? Of what comfort could she be to him, seeing that she had been
unable to give him her heart? Why should she interfere with the woman's
happiness? In a spirit of true humility she endeavoured to think how
she might endeavour to do the best. Of one thing she was quite, quite
sure,that all the longings of her very soul were fixed upon that
other man. He was away;perhaps he had forgotten her; perhaps he was
married. Not a word had been spoken to her on which she could found a
fair hope. But she had never been so certain of her love,of her love
as a true, undoubted, and undoubtable factof an unchangeable
fact,as she was now. And why should this poor old woman, with her
many years of service, be disturbed? She went again up to her bedroom,
and sitting at her open window and looking out, saw him still pacing
slowly up and down the long walk. As she looked at him, he seemed to be
older than before. His hands were still clasped behind his back. There
was no look about him as that of a thriving lover. Care seemed to be on
his face,nay, even present, almost visibly, on his very shoulders.
She would go to him and plead for Mrs Baggett.
But in that case what should become of herself? She was aware that
she could no longer stay in his house as his adopted daughter. But she
could go forth,and starve if there was nothing better for her. But as
she thought of starvation, she stamped with one foot against the other,
as though to punish herself for her own falsehood. He would not let her
starve. He would get some place for her as a governess. And she was not
in the least afraid of starvation. It would be sweeter for her to work
with any kind of hardship around her, and to be allowed to think of
John Gordon with her heart free, than to become the comfortable
mistress of his house. She would not admit the plea of starvation even
to herself. She wanted to be free of him, and she would tell him so,
and would tell him also of the ruin he was about to bring on his old
She watched him as he came back into the house, and then she rose
from her chair. But I shall never see him again, she said, as she
paused before she left the room.
But what did that matter? Her not seeing him again ought to make,
should make, no difference with her. It was not that she might see him,
but that she might think of him with unsullied thoughts. That should be
her object,that and the duty that she owed to Mrs Baggett. Why was
not Mrs Baggett entitled to as much consideration as was she
herself,or even he? She turned to the glass, and wiped her eyes with
the sponge, and brushed her hair, and then she went across the passage
to Mr Whittlestaff's library.
She knocked at the door,which she had not been accustomed to
do,and then at his bidding entered the room. Oh, Mary, he said
laughing, is that the way you begin, by knocking at the door?
I think one knocks when one wants a moment of reprieve.
You mean to say that you are bashful in assuming your new
privileges. Then you had better go back to your old habits, because you
always used to come where I was. You must come and go now like my very
second self. Then he came forward from the desk at which he was wont
to stand and write, and essayed to put his arm round her waist. She
drew back, but still he was not startled. It was but a cold kiss I
gave you down below. You must kiss me now, you, as a wife kisses her
What! Now he was startled.
Mr Whittlestaff, praypray do not be angry with me.
What is the meaning of it?
Then she bethought herself,how she might best explain the meaning.
It was hard upon her, this having to explain it, and she told herself,
very foolishly, that it would be better for her to begin with the story
of Mrs Baggett. She could more easily speak of Mrs Baggett than of John
Gordon. But it must be remembered, on her behalf, that she had but a
second to think how she might best begin her story. I have spoken to
Mrs Baggett about your wishes.
She has lived with you and your family from before you were born.
She is an old fool. Who is going to hurt her? And if it did hurt
her, are you and I to be put out of our course because of her? She can
remain here as long as she obeys you as her mistress.
She says that after so many years she cannot do that.
She shall leave the house this very night, if she disturbs your
happiness and mine. What! is an old woman like that to tell her master
when he may and when he may not marry? I did not think you had been so
She could not explain it all to him,all that she thought upon the
subject. She could not say that the interference of any domestic
between such a one as John Gordon and his love,between him and her if
she were happy enough to be his love,would be an absurdity too
foolish to be considered. They, that happy two, would be following the
bent of human nature, and would speak no more than a soft word to the
old woman, if a soft word might avail anything. Their love, their happy
love, would be a thing too sacred to admit of any question from any
servant, almost from any parent. But why, in this matter, was not Mrs
Baggett's happiness to be of as much consequence as Mr
Whittlestaff's;especially when her own peace of mind lay in the same
direction as Mrs Baggett's? She says that you are only laying up
trouble for yourself in this, and I think that it is true.
Then he rose up in his wrath and spoke his mind freely, and showed
her at once that John Gordon had not dwelt much on his mind. He had
bade her not to speak of him, and then he had been contented to look
upon him as one whom he would not be compelled to trouble himself with
any further. I think, Mary, that you are making too little of me, and
of yourself, to talk to me, or even to consider, in such a matter, what
a servant says to you. As you have given me your affection, you should
now allow nothing that any one can say to you to make you even think of
changing your purpose. How grossly must he be mistaken, when he could
imagine that she had given him her heart! Had she not expressly told
him that her love had been set upon another person? To me you are
everything. I have been thinking as I walked up and down the path
there, of all that I could do to make you happy. And I was so happy
myself in feeling that I had your happiness to look after. How should I
not let the wind blow too coldly on you? How should I be watchful to
see that nothing should ruffle your spirits? What duties, what
pleasures, what society should I provide for you? How should I change
my habits, so as to make my advanced years fit for your younger life?
And I was teaching myself to hope that I was not yet too old to make
this altogether impossible. Then you come to me, and tell me that you
must destroy all my dreams, dash all my hopes to the ground,because
an old woman has shown her temper and her jealousy!
This was true,according to the light in which he saw her position.
Had there been nothing between them two but a mutual desire to be
married, the reason given by her for changing it all would be absurd.
As he had continued to speak, slowly adding on one argument to another,
with a certain amount of true eloquence, she felt that unless she could
go back to John Gordon she must yield. But it was very hard for her to
go back to John Gordon. In the first place, she must acknowledge, in
doing so, that she had only put forward Mrs Baggett as a false plea.
And then she must insist on her love for a man who had never spoken to
her of love! It was so hard that she could not do it openly. I had
thought so little of the value I could be to you.
Your value to me is infinite. I think, Mary, that there has come
upon you a certain melancholy which is depressing you. Your regard to
me is worth now more than any other possession or gift that the world
can bestow. And I had taken pride to myself in saying that it had been
given. Yes;her regard! She could not contradict him as to that. And
have you thought of your own position? After all that has passed
between us, you can hardly go on living here as you have done.
I know that.
Then, what would become of you if you were to break away from me?
I thought you would get a place for me as a governess,or a
companion to some lady.
Would that satisfy your ambition? I have got a place for you;but
it is here. As he spoke, he laid his hand upon his heart. Not as a
companion to a lady are you required to fulfil your duties here on
earth. It is a fuller task of work that you must do. I trust,I trust
that it may not be more tedious. She looked at him again, and he did
not now appear so old. There was a power of speech about the man, and a
dignity which made her feel that she could in truth have loved
him,had it not been for John Gordon. Unfortunately, I am older than
you,very much older. But to you there may be this advantage, that you
can listen to what I may say with something of confidence in my
knowledge of the world. As my wife, you will fill a position more
honourable, and more suitable to your gifts, than could belong to you
as a governess or a companion. You will have much more to do, and will
be able to go nightly to your rest with a consciousness that you have
done more as the mistress of our house than you could have done in that
tamer capacity. You will have cares,and even those will ennoble the
world to you, and you to the world. That other life is a poor shrunken
death,rather than life. It is a way of passing her days, which must
fall to the lot of many a female who does not achieve the other; and it
is well that they to whom it falls should be able to accommodate
themselves to it with contentment and self-respect. I think that I may
say of myself that, even as my wife, you will stand higher than you
would do as a companion.
I am sure of it.
Not on that account should you accept any man that you cannot
love. Had she not told him that she did not love him;even that she
loved another? And yet he spoke to her in this way! You had better
tell Mrs Baggett to come to me.
There is the memory of that other man, she murmured very gently.
Then the scowl came back upon his face;or not a scowl, but a look
rather of cold displeasure. If I understand you rightly, the gentleman
never addressed you as a lover.
I see it all, Mary. Mrs Baggett has been violent and selfish, and
has made you think thoughts which should not have been put in your head
to disturb you. You have dreamed a dream in your early life,as girls
do dream, I suppose,and it has now to be forgotten. Is it not so?
I suppose it was a dream.
He has passed away, and he has left you to become the happiness of
my life. Send Mrs Baggett to me, and I will speak to her. Then he came
up to her,for they had been standing about a yard apart,and pressed
his lips to hers. How was it possible that she should prevent him?
She turned round, and slowly left the room, feeling, as she did so,
that she was again engaged to him for ever and ever. She hated herself
because she had been so fickle. But how could she have done otherwise?
She asked herself, as she went back to her room, at what period during
the interview, which was now over, she could have declared to him the
real state of her mind. He had, as it were, taken complete possession
of her, by right of the deed of gift which she had made of herself that
morning. She had endeavoured to resume the gift, but had altogether
failed. She declared to herself that she was weak, impotent,
purposeless; but she admitted, on the other hand, that he had displayed
more of power than she had ever guessed at his possessing. A woman
always loves this display of power in a man, and she felt that she
could have loved him had it not been for John Gordon.
But there was one comfort for her. None knew of her weakness. Her
mind had vacillated like a shuttlecock, but no one had seen the
vacillation. She was in his hands, and she must simply do as he bade
her. Then she went down to Mrs Baggett's room, and told the old lady to
go up-stairs at her master's behest. I'm a-going, said Mrs Baggett.
I'm a-going. I hope he'll find every one else as good at doing what he
tells 'em. But I ain't a-going to be a-doing for him or for any one
CHAPTER VI. JOHN GORDON.
Mrs Baggett walked into her master's room, loudly knocking at the
door, and waiting for a loud answer. He was pacing up and down the
library, thinking of the injustice of her interference, and she was
full of the injury to which she had been subjected by circumstances.
She had been perfectly sincere when she had told Mary Lawrie that Mr
Whittlestaff was entitled to have and to enjoy his own wishes as
against both of them. In the first place, he was a man,and as a man,
was to be indulged, at whatever cost to any number of women. And then
he was a man whose bread they had both eaten. Mary had eaten his bread,
as bestowed upon her from sheer charity. According to Mrs Baggett's
view of the world at large, Mary was bound to deliver herself body and
soul to Mr Whittlestaff, were soul sacrifice demanded from her. As
for herself, her first duty in life was to look after him were he to be
sick. Unfortunately Mr Whittlestaff never was sick, but Mrs Baggett was
patiently looking forward to some happy day when he might be brought
home with his leg broken. He had no imprudent habits, hunting,
shooting, or suchlike; but chance might be good to her. Then the making
of all jams and marmalades, for which he did not care a straw, and
which he only ate to oblige her, was a comfort to her. She could manage
occasionally to be kept out of her bed over some boiling till one
o'clock; and then the making of butter in the summer would demand that
she should be up at three. Thus she was enabled to consider that her
normal hours of work were twenty-two out of the twenty-four. She did
not begrudge them in the least, thinking that they were all due to Mr
Whittlestaff. Now Mr Whittlestaff wanted a wife, and, of course, he
ought to have her. His Juggernaut's car must roll on its course over
her body or Mary Lawrie's. But she could not be expected to remain and
behold Mary Lawrie's triumph and Mary Lawrie's power. That was out of
the question, and as she was thus driven out of the house, she was
entitled to show a little of her ill humour to the proud bride. She
must go to Portsmouth;which she knew was tantamount to a living
death. She only hated one person in all the world, and he, as she knew
well, was living at Portsmouth. There were to her only two places in
the world in which anybody could live,Croker's Hall and Portsmouth.
Croker's Hall was on the whole the proper region set apart for the
habitation of the blest. Portsmouth was the other place,and thither
she must go. To remain, even in heaven, as housekeeper to a young
woman, was not to be thought of. It was written in the book of Fate
that she must go; but not on that account need she even pretend to keep
What's all this that you have been saying to Miss Lawrie? began Mr
Whittlestaff, with all the dignity of anger.
What have I been saying of to Miss Mary?
I am not at all well pleased with you.
I haven't said a word again you, sir, nor not again nothing as you
are likely to do.
Miss Lawrie is to become my wife.
So I hears her say.
There was something of a check in thisa check to Mr Whittlestaff's
pride in Mary's conduct. Did Mrs Baggett intend him to understand that
Mary had told the whole story to the old woman, and had boasted of her
You have taught her to think that she should not do as we have
proposed,because of your wishes.
I never said nothing of the kind,so help me. That I should put
myself up again you, sir! Oh no! I knows my place better than that. I
wouldn't stand in the way of anything as was for your good,or even of
what you thought was good,not to be made housekeeper toWell, it
don't matter where. I couldn't change for the better, nor wages
wouldn't tempt me.
What was it you said about going away?
Here Mrs Baggett shook her head. You told Miss Lawrie that you
thought it was a shame that you should have to leave because of her.
I never said a word of the kind, Mr Whittlestaff; nor yet, sir, I
don't think as Miss Lawrie ever said so. I'm begging your pardon for
contradicting you, and well I ought. But anything is better than making
ill-blood between lovers. Mr Whittlestaff winced at being called a
lover, but allowed the word to pass by. I never said nothing about
What did you say?
I said as how I must leave you;nothing but that. It ain't a
matter of the slightest consequence to you, sir.
Very well, sir. I mustn't demean me to say as anything I had said
wasn't rubbish when you said as it wasBut for all that, I've got to
Yes, in course.
Why have you got to go?
Because of my feelings, sir.
I never heard such trash.
That's true, no doubt, sir. But still, if you'll think of it, old
women does have feelings. Not as a young one, but still they're there.
Who's going to hurt your feelings?
In this house, sir, for the last fifteen years I've been top-sawyer
of the female gender.
Then I'm not to marry at all.
You've gone on and you haven't,that's all. I ain't a-finding no
fault. But you haven't,and I'm the sufferer. Here Mrs Baggett began
to sob, and to wipe her eyes with a clean handkerchief, which she must
surely have brought into the room for the purpose. If you had taken
some beautiful young lady
I have taken a beautiful young lady, said Mr Whittlestaff, now
becoming more angry than ever.
You won't listen to me, sir, and then you boil over like that. No
doubt Miss Mary is as beautiful as the best on 'em. I knew how it would
be when she came among us with her streaky brown cheeks, ou'd make an
anchor wish to kiss 'em. Here Mr Whittlestaff again became appeased,
and made up his mind at once that he would tell Mary about the anchor
as soon as things were smooth between them. But if it had been some
beautiful young lady out of another house,one of them from the Park,
for instance,who hadn't been here a'most under my own thumb, I
shouldn't 've minded it.
The long and the short of it is, Mrs Baggett, that I am going to be
I suppose you are, sir.
And, as it happens, the lady I have selected happens to have been
your mistress for the last two years.
She won't be my missus no more, said Mrs Baggett, with an air of
Of course you can do as you like about that. I can't compel any one
to live in this house against her will; but I would compel you if I
knew how, for your own benefit.
There ain't no compelling.
What other place have you got you can go to? I can't conceive it
possible that you should live in any other family.
Not in no family. Wages wouldn't tempt me. But there's them as
supposes that they've a claim upon me. Then the woman began to cry in
earnest, and the clean pocket-handkerchief was used in a manner which
would soon rob it of its splendour.
There was a slight pause before Mr Whittlestaff rejoined. Has he
come back again? he said, almost solemnly.
He's at Portsmouth now, sir. And Mrs Baggett shook her head sadly.
And wants you to go to him?
He always wants that when he comes home. I've got a bit of money,
and he thinks there's some one to earn a morsel of bread for himor
rayther a glass of gin. I must go this time.
I don't see that you need go at all; at any rate, Miss Lawrie's
marriage won't make any difference.
It do, sir, she said, sobbing.
I can't see why.
Nor I can't explain. I could stay on here, and wouldn't be afraid
of him a bit.
Then why don't you stay?
It's my feelings. If I was to stay here, I could just send him my
wages, and never go nigh him. But when I'm alone about the world and
forlorn, I ain't got no excuse but what I must go to him.
Then remain where you are, and don't be a fool.
But if a person is a fool, what's to be done then? In course I'm a
fool. I knows that very well. There's no saying no other. But I can't
go on living here, if Miss Mary is to be put over my head in that way.
Baggett has sent for me, and I must go. Baggett is at Portsmouth,
a-hanging on about the old shop. And he'll be drunk as long as there's
gin to be had with or without paying. They do tell me as his nose is
got to be awful. There's a man for a poor woman to go and spend her
savings on! He's had a'most all on 'em already. Twenty-two pound four
and sixpence he had out o' me the last time he was in the country. And
he don't do nothing to have him locked up. It would be better for me if
he'd get hisself locked up. I do think it's wrong, because a young girl
has been once foolish and said a few words before a parson, as she is
to be the slave of a drunken red-nosed reprobate for the rest of her
life. Ain't there to be no way out of it?
It was thus that Mrs Baggett told the tale of her married
bliss,not, however, without incurring the censure of her master
because of her folly in resolving to go. He had just commenced a
lecture on the sin of pride, in which he was prepared to show that all
the evils which she could receive from the red-nosed veteran at
Portsmouth would be due to her own stiff-necked obstinacy, when he was
stopped suddenly by the sound of a knock at the front door. It was not
only the knock at the door, but the entrance into the hall of some man,
for the hall-door had been open into the garden, and the servant-girl
had been close at hand. The library was at the top of the low stairs,
and Mr Whittlestaff could not but hear the demand made. The gentleman
had asked whether Miss Lawrie was living there.
Who's that? said Mr Whittlestaff to the housekeeper.
It's not a voice as I know, sir. The gentleman in the meantime was
taken into the drawing-room, and was closeted for the moment with Mary.
We must now go down-stairs and closet ourselves for a few moments
with Mary Lawrie before the coming of the strange gentleman. She had
left the presence of Mr Whittlestaff half an hour since, and felt that
she had a second time on that day accepted him as her husband. She had
accepted him, and now she must do the best she could to suit her life
to his requirements. Her first feeling, when she found herself alone,
was one of intense disgust at her own weakness. He had spoken to her of
her ambition; and he had told her that he had found a place for her, in
which that ambition might find a fair scope. And he had told her also
that in reference to John Gordon she had dreamed a dream. It might be
so, but to her thinking the continued dreaming of that dream would
satisfy her ambition better than the performance of those duties which
he had arranged for her. She had her own ideas of what was due from a
girl and to a girl, and to her thinking her love for John Gordon was
all the world to her. She should not have been made to abandon her
thoughts, even though the man had not spoken a word to her. She knew
that she loved him; even though a time might come when she should cease
to do so, that time had not come yet. She vacillated in her mind
between condemnation of the cruelty of Mr Whittlestaff and of her own
weakness. And then, too, there was some feeling of the hardship
inflicted upon her by John Gordon. He had certainly said that which had
justified her in believing that she possessed his heart. But yet there
had been no word on which she could fall back and regard it as a
It might perhaps be better for her that she should marry Mr
Whittlestaff. All her friends would think it to be infinitely better.
Could there be anything more moonstruck, more shandy, more wretchedly
listless, than for a girl, a penniless girl, to indulge in dreams of an
impossible lover, when such a tower of strength presented itself to her
as was Mr Whittlestaff? She had consented to eat his bread, and all her
friends had declared how lucky she had been to find a man so willing
and so able to maintain her. And now this man did undoubtedly love her
very dearly, and there would be, as she was well aware, no peril in
marrying him. Was she to refuse him because of a soft word once spoken
to her by a young man who had since disappeared altogether from her
knowledge? And she had already accepted him,had twice accepted him on
that very day! And there was no longer a hope for escape, even if
escape were desirable. What a fool must she be to sit there, still
dreaming her impossible dream, instead of thinking of his happiness,
and preparing herself for his wants! He had told her that she might be
allowed to think of John Gordon, though not to speak of him. She would
neither speak of him nor think of him. She knew herself, she said, too
well to give herself such liberty. He should be to her as though he had
never been. She would force herself to forget him, if forgetting lies
in the absence of all thought. It was no more than Mr Whittlestaff had
a right to demand, and no more than she ought to be able to accomplish.
Was she such a weak simpleton as to be unable to keep her mind from
running back to the words and to the visage, and to every little
personal trick of one who could never be anything to her? He has gone
for ever! she exclaimed, rising up from her chair. He shall be gone;
I will not be a martyr and a slave to my own memory. The thing came,
and has gone, and there is an end of it. Then Jane opened the door,
with a little piece of whispered information. Please, Miss, a Mr
Gordon wishes to see you. The door was opened a little wider, and John
Gordon stood before her.
There he was, with his short black hair, his bright pleasant eyes,
his masterful mouth, his dark complexion, and broad, handsome, manly
shoulders, such as had dwelt in her memory every day since he had
departed. There was nothing changed, except that his raiment was
somewhat brighter, and that there was a look of prosperity about him
which he had lacked when he left her. He was the same John Gordon who
had seemed to her to be entitled to all that he wanted, and who
certainly would have had from her all that he had cared to demand. When
he had appeared before her, she had jumped up, ready to rush into his
arms; but then she had repressed herself, and had fallen back, and she
leant against the table for support.
So I have found you here, he said.
Yes, I am here.
I have been after you down to Norwich, and have heard it all. Mary,
I am here on purpose to seek you. Your father and Mrs Lawrie are both
gone. He was going when I left you.
Yes, Mr Gordon. They are both gone, and I am alone,but for the
kindness of a most generous friend.
I had heard, of course, of Mr Whittlestaff. I hope I shall not be
told now that I am doing no good about the house. At any rate I am not
a pauper. I have mended that little fault. Then he looked at her as
though he thought that there was nothing for him but to begin the
conversation where it had been so roughly ended at their last meeting.
Did it not occur to him that something might have come across her
life during a period of nearly three years, which would stand in his
way and in hers? But as she gazed into his face, it seemed as though no
such idea had fallen upon him. But during those two or three minutes, a
multitude of thoughts crowded on poor Mary's mind. Was it possible that
because of the coming of John Gordon, Mr Whittlestaff should withdraw
his claim, and allow this happy young hero to walk off with the reward
which he still seemed to desire? She felt sure that it could not be so.
Even during that short space of time, she resolved that it could not be
so. She knew Mr Whittlestaff too well, and was sure that her lover had
arrived too late. It all passed through her brain, and she was sure
that no change could be effected in her destiny. Had he come yesterday,
indeed? But before she could prepare an answer for John Gordon, Mr
Whittlestaff entered the room.
She was bound to say something, though she was little able at the
moment to speak at all. She was aware that some ceremony was necessary.
She was but ill able to introduce these two men to each other, but it
had to be done. Mr Whittlestaff, she said, this is Mr John Gordon
who used to know us at Norwich.
Mr John Gordon, said Mr Whittlestaff, bowing very stiffly.
Yes, sir; that is my name. I never had the pleasure of meeting you
at Norwich, though I often heard of you there. And since I left the
place I have been told how kind a friend you have been to this young
lady. I trust I may live to thank you for it more warmly though not
more sincerely than I can do at this moment.
Of John Gordon's fate since he had left Norwich a few words must be
told. As Mrs Lawrie had then told him, he was little better than a
pauper. He had, however, collected together what means he had been able
to gather, and had gone to Cape Town in South Africa. Thence he had
made his way up to Kimberley, and had there been at work among the
diamond-fields for two years. If there be a place on God's earth in
which a man can thoroughly make or mar himself within that space of
time, it is the town of Kimberley. I know no spot more odious in every
way to a man who has learned to love the ordinary modes of English
life. It is foul with dust and flies; it reeks with bad brandy; it is
fed upon potted meats; it has not a tree near it. It is inhabited in
part by tribes of South African niggers, who have lost all the
picturesqueness of niggerdom in working for the white man's wages. The
white man himself is insolent, ill-dressed, and ugly. The weather is
very hot, and from morning till night there is no occupation other than
that of looking for diamonds, and the works attending it.
Diamond-grubbers want food and brandy, and lawyers and policemen. They
want clothes also, and a few horses; and some kind of education is
necessary for their children. But diamond-searching is the occupation
of the place; and if a man be sharp and clever, and able to guard what
he gets, he will make a fortune there in two years more readily perhaps
than elsewhere. John Gordon had gone out to Kimberley, and had returned
the owner of many shares in many mines.
CHAPTER VII. JOHN GORDON AND MR
Mr Gordon had gone out to South Africa with the settled intention of
doing something that might enable him to marry Mary Lawrie, and he had
carried his purpose through with a manly resolution. He had not found
Kimberley much to his taste, and had not made many dear friends among
the settled inhabitants he had found there. But he had worked on,
buying and selling shares in mines, owning a quarter of an eighth
there, and half a tenth here, and then advancing till he was the
possessor of many complete shares in many various adventures which were
quite intelligible to him, though to the ordinary stay-at-home
Englishman they seem to be so full of peril as not to be worth
possessing. As in other mines, the profit is shared monthly, and the
system has the advantage of thus possessing twelve quarter-days in the
year. The result is, that time is more spread out, and the man expects
to accomplish much more in twelve months than he can at home. In two
years a man may have made a fortune and lost it, and be on his way to
make it again. John Gordon had suffered no reverses, and with
twenty-four quarter-days, at each of which he had received ten or
twenty per cent, he had had time to become rich. He had by no means
abandoned all his shares in the diamond-mines; but having wealth at
command, he had determined to carry out the first purpose for which he
had come to South Africa. Therefore he returned to Norwich, and having
there learned Mary's address, now found himself in her presence at
Mr Whittlestaff, when he heard John Gordon's name, was as much
astonished as had been Mary herself. Here was Mary's lover,the very
man whom Mary had named to him. It had all occurred on this very
morning, so that even the look of her eyes and the tone of her voice,
as those few words of hers had been spoken, were fresh in his memory.
He used to come to our house at Norwich,and I loved him. Then she
had told him that this lover had been poor, and had gone away. He had,
since that, argued it out with himself, and with her too, on the
theory, though not expressed, that a lover who had gone away now nearly
three years ago, and had not been heard of, and had been poor when he
went, was of no use, and should be forgotten. Let there be no mention
of him between us, he had intended to say, and the memory of him will
fade away. But now on this very day he was back among them, and there
was Mary hardly able to open her mouth in his presence.
He had bowed twice very stiffly when Gordon had spoken of all that
he had done on Mary's behalf. Arrangements have been made, he said,
which may, I trust, tend to Miss Lawrie's advantage. Perhaps I ought
not to say so myself, but there is no reason why I should trouble a
stranger with them.
I hope I may never be considered a stranger by Miss Lawrie, said
Gordon, turning round to the young lady.
No, not a stranger, said Mary; certainly not a stranger.
But this did not satisfy John Gordon, who felt that there was
something in her manner other than he would have it. And yet even to
him it seemed to be impossible now, at this first moment, to declare
his love before this man, who had usurped the place of her guardian. In
fact he could not speak to her at all before Mr Whittlestaff. He had
hurried back from the diamond-fields, in order that he might lay all
his surprisingly gotten wealth at Mary's feet, and now he felt himself
unable to say a word to Mary of his wealth, unless in this man's
presence. He told himself as he had hurried home that there might be
difficulties in his way. He might find her married,or promised in
marriage. He had been sure of her love when he started. He had been
quite confident that, though no absolute promise had been made from her
to him, or from him to her, there had then been no reason for him to
doubt. In spite of that, she might have married now, or been promised
in marriage. He knew that she must have been poor and left in want when
her stepmother had died. She had told him of the intentions for her
life, and he had answered that perhaps in the course of events
something better might come up for her. Then he had been called a
pauper, and had gone away to remedy that evil if it might be possible.
He had heard while working among the diamonds that Mr Whittlestaff had
taken her to his own home. He had heard of Mr Whittlestaff as the
friend of her father, and nothing better he thought could have
happened. But Mary might have been weak during his absence, and have
given herself up to some other man who had asked for her hand. She was
still, at heart, Mary Lawrie. So much had been made known to him. But
from the words which had fallen from her own lips, and from the
statement which had fallen from Mr Whittlestaff, he feared that it must
be so. Mr Whittlestaff had said that he need not trouble a stranger
with Mary's affairs; and Mary, in answer to his appeal, had declared
that he could not be considered as a stranger to her.
He thought a moment how he would act, and then he spoke boldly to
both of them. I have hurried home from Kimberley, Mr Whittlestaff, on
purpose to find Mary Lawrie.
Mary, when she heard this, seated herself on the chair that was
nearest to her. For any service that it might be to her, his coming was
too late. As she thought of this, her voice left her, so that she could
not speak to him.
You have found her, said Mr Whittlestaff, very sternly.
Is there any reason why I should go away again? He had not at this
moment realised the idea that Mr Whittlestaff himself was the man to
whom Mary might be engaged. Mr Whittlestaff to his thinking had been a
paternal providence, a God-sent support in lieu of father, who had come
to Mary in her need. He was prepared to shower all kinds of benefits on
Mr Whittlestaff,diamonds polished, and diamonds in the rough,
diamonds pure and white, and diamonds pink-tinted,if only Mr
Whittlestaff would be less stern to him. But even yet he had no fear of
Mr Whittlestaff himself.
I should be most happy to welcome you here as an old friend of
Mary's, said Mr Whittlestaff, if you will come to her wedding. Mr
Whittlestaff also had seen the necessity for open speech; and though he
was a man generally reticent as to his own affairs, thought it would be
better to let the truth be known at once. Mary, when the word had been
spoken as to her wedding, blushed black as her stepmother had said of
her. A dark ruby tint covered her cheeks and her forehead; but she
turned away her face, and compressed her lips, and clenched her two
fists close together.
Miss Lawrie's wedding! said John Gordon. Is Miss Lawrie to be
married? And he purposely looked at her, as though asking her the
question. But she answered never a word.
Yes. Miss Lawrie is to be married.
It is sad tidings for me to hear, said John Gordon. When last I
saw her I was rebuked by her step-mother because I was a pauper. It was
true. Misfortunes had come in my family, and I was not a fit person to
ask Miss Lawrie for her love. But I think she knew that I loved her. I
then went off to do the best within my power to remedy that evil. I
have come back with such money as might suffice, and now I am told of
Miss Lawrie's wedding! This he said, again turning to her as though
for an answer. But from her there came not a word.
I am sorry you should be disappointed, Mr Gordon, said Mr
Whittlestaff; but it is so. Then there came over John Gordon's face a
dark frown, as though he intended evil. He was a man whose displeasure,
when he was displeased, those around him were apt to fear. But Mr
Whittlestaff himself was no coward. Have you any reason to allege why
it should not be so? John Gordon only answered by looking again at
poor Mary. I think there has been no promise made by Miss Lawrie. I
think that I understand from her that there has been no promise on
either side; and indeed no word spoken indicating such a promise. It
was quite clear, at any rate, that this guardian and his ward had fully
discussed the question of any possible understanding between her and
No; there was none: it is true.
It is true. I am left without an inch of ground on which to found a
complaint. There was no word; no promise. You know the whole story only
too well. There was nothing but unlimited love,at any rate on my
part. Mr Whittlestaff knew well that there had been love on her part
also, and that the love still remained. But she had promised to get
over that passion, and there could be no reason why she should not do
so, simply because the man had returned. He said he had come from
Kimberley. Mr Whittlestaff had his own ideas about Kimberley. Kimberley
was to him a very rowdy place,the last place in the world from which
a discreet young woman might hope to get a well-conducted husband.
Under no circumstances could he think well of a husband who presented
himself as having come direct from the diamond-fields, though he only
looked stern and held his peace. If Miss Lawrie will tell me that I
may go away, I will go, said Gordon, looking again at Mary; but how
could Mary answer him?
I am sure, said Mr Whittlestaff, that Miss Lawrie will be very
sorry that there should be any ground for a quarrel. I am quite well
aware that there was some friendship between you two. Then you went, as
you say, and though the friendship need not be broken, the intimacy was
over. She had no special reason for remembering you, as you yourself
admit. She has been left to form any engagement that she may please.
Any other expectation on your part must be unreasonable. I have said
that, as an old friend of Miss Lawrie's, I should be happy to welcome
you here to her wedding. I cannot even name a day as yet; but I trust
that it may be fixed soon. You cannot say even to yourself that Miss
Lawrie has treated you badly.
But he could say it to himself. And though he would not say it to Mr
Whittlestaff, had she been there alone, he would have said it to her.
There had been no promise,no word of promise. But he felt that there
had been that between them which should have been stronger than any
promise. And with every word which came from Mr Whittlestaff's mouth,
he disliked Mr Whittlestaff more and more. He could judge from Mary's
appearance that she was down-hearted, that she was unhappy, that she
did not glory in her coming marriage. No girl's face ever told her
heart's secret more plainly than did Mary's at this moment. But Mr
Whittlestaff seemed to glory in the marriage. To him it seemed that the
getting rid of John Gordon was the one thing of importance. So it was,
at least, that John Gordon interpreted his manner. But the name of the
suitor had not yet been told him, and he did not in the least suspect
it. May I ask you when it is to be? he asked.
That is a question which the lady generally must answer, said Mr
Whittlestaff, turning on his part also to Mary.
I do not know, said Mary.
And who is the happy man? said John Gordon. He expected an answer
to the question also from Mary, but Mary was still unable to answer
him. You at any rate will tell me, sir, the name of the gentleman.
I am the gentleman, said Mr Whittlestaff, holding himself somewhat
more erect as he spoke. The position, it must be acknowledged, was
difficult. He could see that this strange man, this John Gordon, looked
upon him, William Whittlestaff, to be altogether an unfit person to
take Mary Lawrie for his wife. By the tone in which he asked the
question, and by the look of surprise which he put on when he received
the answer, Gordon showed plainly that he had not expected such a
reply. What! an old man like you to become the husband of such a girl
as Mary Lawrie! Is this the purpose for which you have taken her into
your house, and given her those good things of which you have boasted?
It was thus that Mr Whittlestaff had read the look and interpreted the
speech conveyed in Gordon's eye. Not that Mr Whittlestaff had boasted,
but it was thus that he read the look. He knew that he had gathered
himself up and assumed a special dignity as he made his answer.
Oh, indeed! said John Gordon. And now he turned himself altogether
round, and gazed with his full frowning eyes fixed upon poor Mary.
If you knew it all, you would feel that I could not help myself.
It was thus that Mary would have spoken if she could have given vent to
the thoughts within her bosom.
Yes, sir. It is I who think myself so happy as to have gained the
affections of the young lady. She is to be my wife, and it is she
herself who must name the day when she shall become so. I repeat the
invitation which I gave you before. I shall be most happy to see you at
my wedding. If, as may be the case, you shall not be in the country
when that time comes; and if, now that you are here, you will give Miss
Lawrie and myself some token of your renewed friendship, we shall be
happy to see you if you will come at once to the house, during such
time as it may suit you to remain in the neighbourhood. Considering
the extreme difficulty of the position, Mr Whittlestaff carried himself
quite as well as might have been expected.
Under such circumstances, said Gordon, I cannot be a guest in
your house. Thereupon Mr Whittlestaff bowed. But I hope that I may be
allowed to speak a few words to the young lady not in your presence.
Certainly, if the young lady wishes it.
I had better not, said Mary.
Are you afraid of me?
I am afraid of myself. It had better not be so. Mr Whittlestaff has
told you only the truth. I am to be his wife; and in offering me his
hand, he has added much to the infinite kindnesses which he has
bestowed upon me.
Oh, if you think so!
I do think so. If you only knew it all, you would think so too.
How long has this engagement existed? asked Gordon. But to this
question Mary Lawrie could not bring herself to give an answer.
If you are not afraid of what he may say to you? said Mr
I am certainly afraid of nothing that Mr Gordon may say.
Then I would accede to his wishes. It may be painful, but it will
be better to have it over. Mr Whittlestaff, in giving this advice, had
thought much as to what the world would say of him. He had done nothing
of which he was ashamed,nor had Mary. She had given him her promise,
and he was sure that she would not depart from it. It would, he
thought, be infinitely better for her, for many reasons, that she
should be married to him than to this wild young man, who had just now
returned to England from the diamond-mines, and would soon, he
imagined, go back there again. But the young man had asked to see the
girl whom he was about to marry alone, and it would not suit him to be
afraid to allow her so much liberty.
I shall not hurt you, Mary, said John Gordon.
I am sure you would not hurt me.
Nor say an unkind word.
Oh no! You could do nothing unkind to me, I know. But you might
spare me and yourself some pain.
I cannot do it, he said. I cannot bring myself to go back at once
after this long voyage, instantly, as I should do, without having
spoken one word to you. I have come here to England on purpose to see
you. Nothing shall induce me to abandon my intention of doing so, but
your refusal. I have received a blow,a great blow,and it is you who
must tell me that there is certainly no cure for the wound.
There is certainly none, said Mary.
Perhaps I had better leave you together, said Mr Whittlestaff, as
he got up and left the room.
CHAPTER VIII. JOHN GORDON AND MARY
The door was closed, and John Gordon and Mary were alone together.
She was still seated, and he, coming forward, stood in front of her.
Mary, he said,and he put out his right hand, as though to take
hers. But she sat quite still, making no motion to give him her hand.
Nor did she say a word. To her her promise, her reiterated promise, to
Mr Whittlestaff was binding,not the less binding because it had only
been made on this very day. She had already acknowledged to this other
man that the promise had been made, and she had asked him to spare her
this interview. He had not spared her, and it was for him now to say,
while it lasted, what there was to be said. She had settled the matter
in her own mind, and had made him understand that it was so settled.
There was nothing further that she could tell him. Mary, now that we
are alone, will you not speak to me?
I have nothing to say.
Should I not have come to you?
You should not have stayed when you found that I had promised
myself to another.
Is there nothing else that I may wish to say to you?
There is nothing else that you should wish to say to the wife of
You are not his wife,not yet.
I shall be his wife, Mr Gordon. You may be sure of that. And I
thinkthink I can say of myself that I shall be a true wife. He has
chosen to take me; and as he has so chosen, his wishes must be
respected. He has asked you to remain here as a friend, understanding
that to be the case. But as you do not choose, you should go.
Do you wish me to stay, and to see you become his wife?
I say nothing of that. It is not for me to insist on my wishes. I
have expressed one wish, and you have refused to grant it. Nothing can
pass between you and me which must not, I should say, be painful to
both of us.
You would have me go then,so that you should never hear of or see
I shall never see you, I suppose. What good would come of seeing
And you can bear to part with me after this fashion?
It has to be borne. The world is full of hard things, which have to
be borne. It is not made to run smoothly altogether, either for you or
for me. You must bear your cross,and so must I.
And that is the only word I am to receive, after having struggled
so hard for you, and having left all my work, and all my cares, and all
my property, in order that I might come home, and catch just one glance
of your eye. Can you not say a word to me, a word of kindness, that I
may carry back with me?
Not a word. If you will think of it, you ought not to ask me for a
word of kindness. What does a kind word meana kind word coming from
me to you? There was a time when I wanted a kind word, but I did not
ask for it. At the time it did not suit. Nor does it suit now. Put
yourself in Mr Whittlestaff's case; would you wish the girl to whom you
were engaged to say kind words behind your back to some other man? If
you heard them, would you not think that she was a traitor? He has
chosen to trust me,against my advice, indeed; but he has trusted me,
and I know myself to be trustworthy. There shall be no kind word
Mary, said he, when did all this happen?
It has been happening, I suppose, from the first day that I came
into his house.
But when was it settled? When did he ask you to be his wife? Or
when, rather, did you make him the promise? John Gordon fancied that
since he had been at Croker's Hall words had been spoken, or that he
had seen signs, indicating that the engagement had not been of a long
date. And in every word that she had uttered to him he had heard
whispered under her breath an assurance of her perfect love for
himself. He had been sure of her love when he had left the house at
Norwich, in which he had been told that he had been lingering there to
no good purpose; but he had never been more certain than he was at this
moment, when she coldly bade him go and depart back again to his
distant home in the diamond-fields. And now, in her mock anger and in
her indignant words, with the purpose of her mind written so clearly on
her brow, she was to him more lovable and more beautiful than ever.
Could it be fair to him as a man that he should lose the prize which
was to him of such inestimable value, merely for a word of cold assent
given to this old man, and given, as he thought, quite lately? His
devotion to her was certainly assured. Nothing could be more fixed,
less capable of a doubt, than his love. And he, too, was somewhat proud
of himself in that he had endeavoured to entangle her by no promise
till he had secured for himself and for her the means of maintaining
her. He had gone out and he had come back with silent hopes, with hopes
which he had felt must be subject to disappointment, because he knew
himself to be a reticent, self-restrained man; and because he had been
aware that the world, as she had said, is full of hard things which
have to be borne.
But now if, as he believed, the engagement was but of recent date,
there would be a hardship in it, which even he could not bear
patiently,a hardship, the endurance of which must be intolerable to
her. If it were so, the man could hardly be so close-fisted, so
hard-hearted, so cruel-minded, as to hold the girl to her purpose!
When did you promise to be his wife? he said, repeating his question.
Now there came over Mary's face a look of weakness, the opposite to the
strength which she had displayed when she had bade him not ask her for
a word of kindness. To her the promise was the same, was as strong,
even though it had been made but that morning, as though weeks and
months had intervened. But she felt that to him there would be an
apparent weakness in the promise of her engagement, if she told him
that it was made only on that morning. When was it, Mary?
It matters nothing, she said.
But it does matterto me.
Then a sense of what was fitting told her that it was incumbent on
her to tell him the truth. Sooner or later he would assuredly know, and
it was well that he should know the entire truth from her lips. She
could not put up with the feeling that he should go away deceived in
any degree by herself.
It was this morning, she said.
This very morning?
It was on this morning that I gave my word to Mr Whittlestaff, and
promised to become his wife.
And had I been here yesterday I should not have been too late?
Here she looked up imploringly into his face. She could not answer
that question, nor ought he to press for an answer. And the words were
no sooner out of his mouth than he felt that it was so. It was not to
her that he must address any such remonstrance as that. This morning!
he repeatedonly this morning!
But he did not know, nor could she tell him, that she had pleaded
her love for him when Mr Whittlestaff had asked her. She could not tell
him of that second meeting, at which she had asked Mr Whittlestaff that
even yet he should let her go. It had seemed to her, as she had thought
of it, that Mr Whittlestaff had behaved well to her, had intended to do
a good thing to her, and had ignored the other man, who had vanished,
as it were, from the scene of their joint lives, because he had become
one who ought not to be allowed to interest her any further. She had
endeavoured to think of it with stern justice, accusing herself of
absurd romance, and giving Mr Whittlestaff credit for all goodness.
This had been before John Gordon had appeared among them; and now she
struggled hard not to be less just to Mr Whittlestaff than before,
because of this accident. She knew him well enough to be aware that he
could not easily be brought to abandon the thing on which he had set
his mind. It all passed through her mind as she prepared her answer for
John Gordon. It can make no difference, she said. A promise is a
promise, though it be but an hour old.
That is to be my answer?
Yes, that is to be your answer. Ask yourself, and you will know
that there is no other answer that I can honestly make you.
How is your own heart in the affair?
There she was weak, and knew as she spoke that she was weak. It
matters not at all, she said.
It matters not at all? he repeated after her. I can understand
that my happiness should be nothing. If you and he were satisfied, of
course it would be nothing. If you were satisfied, there would be an
end to it; because if your pleasure and his work together, I must
necessarily be left out in the cold. But it is not so. I take upon
myself to say that you are not satisfied.
You will not allow me to answer for myself?
No, not in this matter. Will you dare to tell me that you do not
love me? She remained silent before him, and then he went on to reason
with her. You do not deny it. I hear it in your voice and see it in
your face. When we parted in Norwich, did you not love me then?
I shall answer no such question. A young woman has often to change
her mind as to whom she loves, before she can settle down as one man's
wife or another's.
You do not dare to be true. If I am rough with you, it is for your
sake as well as my own. We are young, and, as was natural, we learnt to
love each other. Then you came here and were alone in the world, and I
was gone. Though there had been no word of marriage between us, I had
hoped that I might be remembered in my absence. Perhaps you did
remember me. I cannot think that I was ever absent from your heart; but
I was away, and you could not know how loyal I was to my thoughts of
you. I am not blaming you, Mary. I can well understand that you were
eating his bread and drinking his cup, and that it appeared to you that
everything was due to him. You could not have gone on eating his bread
unless you had surrendered yourself to his wishes. You must have gone
from this, and have had no home to which to go. It is all true. But the
pity of it, Mary; the pity of it!
He has done the best he could by me.
Perhaps so; but if done from that reason, the surrender will be the
No, no, no; I know more of him than you do. No such surrender will
come easy to him. He has set his heart upon this thing, and as far as I
am concerned he shall have it.
You will go to him with a lie in your mouth?
I do not know. I cannot say what the words may be. If there be a
lie, I will tell it.
Then you do love me still?
You may cheat me out of my thoughts, but it will be to no good.
Whether I lie or tell the truth, I will do my duty by him. There will
be no lying. To the best of my ability I will love him, and him only.
All my care shall be for him. I have resolved, and I will force myself
to love him. All his qualities are good. There is not a thought in his
mind of which he need be ashamed.
Not when he will use his power to take you out of my arms.
No, sir; for I am not your property. You speak of dealing with me,
as though I must necessarily belong to you if I did not belong to him.
It is not so.
It is not so. What might be the case I will not take upon myself to
say,or what might have been. I was yesterday a free woman, and my
thoughts were altogether my own. To-day I am bound to him, and whether
it be for joy or for sorrow, I will be true to him. Now, Mr Gordon, I
will leave you.
Half a moment, he said, standing between her and the door. It
cannot be that this should be the end of all between us. I shall go to
him, and tell him what I believe to be the truth.
I cannot hinder you; but I shall tell him that what you say is
You know it to be true.
I shall tell him that it is false.
Can you bring yourself to utter a lie such as that?
I can bring myself to say whatever may be best for him, and most
conducive to his wishes. But as she said this, she was herself aware
that she had told Mr Whittlestaff only on this morning that she had
given her heart to John Gordon, and that she would be unable to keep
her thoughts from running to him. She had implored him to leave her to
herself, so that the memory of her love might be spared. Then, when
this young man had been still absent, when there was no dream of his
appearing again before her, when the consequence would be that she must
go forth into the world, and earn her own bitter bread alone,at that
moment she knew that she had been true to the memory of the man. What
had occurred since, to alter her purpose so violently? Was it the
presence of the man she did love, and the maidenly instincts which
forbade her to declare her passion in his presence? Or was it simply
the conviction that her promise to Mr Whittlestaff had been twice
repeated, and could not now admit of being withdrawn? But in spite of
her asseverations, there must have been present to her mind some
feeling that if Mr Whittlestaff would yield to the prayer of John
Gordon, all the gulf would be bridged over which yawned between herself
and perfect happiness. Kimberley? Yes, indeed; or anywhere else in the
wide world. As he left the room, she did now tell herself that in spite
of all that she had said she could accompany him anywhere over the
world with perfect bliss. How well had he spoken for himself, and for
his love! How like a man he had looked, when he had asked her that
question, Will you dare to tell me that you do not love me? She had
not dared; even though at the moment she had longed to leave upon him
the impression that it was so. She had told him that she would lie to
Mr Whittlestaff,lie on Mr Whittlestaff's own behalf. But such a lie
as this she could not tell to John Gordon. He had heard it in her voice
and seen it in her face. She knew it well, and was aware that it must
The pity of it, she too said to herself; the pity of it! If he
had but come a week sooner,but a day sooner, before Mr Whittlestaff
had spoken out his mind,no love-tale would ever have run smoother. In
that case she would have accepted John Gordon without a moment's
consideration. When he should have told her of his distant home, of the
roughness of his life, of the changes and chances to which his career
must be subject, she would have assured him, with her heart full of
joy, that she would accept it all and think her lot so happy as to
admit of no complaint. Mr Whittlestaff would then have known the
condition of her heart, before he had himself spoken a word. And as the
trouble would always have been in his own bosom, there would, so to
say, have been no trouble at all. A man's sorrows of that kind do not
commence, or at any rate are not acutely felt, while the knowledge of
the matter from which they grow is confined altogether to his own
But she resolved, sitting there after John Gordon had left her, that
in the circumstances as they existed, it was her duty to bear what
sorrow there was to be borne. Poor John Gordon! He must bear some
sorrow too, if there should be cause to him for grief. There would be
loss of money, and loss of time, which would of themselves cause him
grief. Poor John Gordon! She did not blame him in that he had gone
away, and not said one word to draw from her some assurance of her
love. It was the nature of the man, which in itself was good and noble.
But in this case it had surely been unfortunate. With such a passion at
his heart, it was rash in him to have gone across the world to the
diamond-fields without speaking a word by which they two might have
held themselves as bound together. The pity of it!
But as circumstances had gone, honour and even honesty demanded that
Mr Whittlestaff should not be allowed to suffer. He at least had been
straightforward in his purpose, and had spoken as soon as he had been
assured of his own mind. Mr Whittlestaff should at any rate have his
CHAPTER IX. THE REV MONTAGU BLAKE.
John Gordon, when he left the room, went out to look for Mr
Whittlestaff, but was told that he had gone into the town. Mr
Whittlestaff had had his own troubles in thinking of the unlucky
coincidence of John Gordon's return, and had wandered forth, determined
to leave those two together, so that they might speak to each other as
they pleased. And during his walk he did come to a certain resolution.
Should a request of any kind be made to him by John Gordon, it should
receive not the slightest attention. He was a man to whom he owed
nothing, and for whose welfare he was not in the least solicitous. Why
should I be punished and he be made happy? It was thus he spoke to
himself. Should he encounter the degradation of disappointment, in
order that John Gordon should win the object on which he had set his
heart? Certainly not. His own heart was much dearer to him than that of
But if a request should be made to him by Mary Lawrie? Alas! if it
were so, then there must be sharp misery in store for him. In the first
place, were she to make the request, were she to tell him to his face,
she who had promised to be his wife, that this man was dear to her, how
was it possible that he should go to the altar with the girl, and there
accept from her her troth? She had spoken already of a fancy which had
crossed her mind respecting a man who could have been no more than a
dream to her, of whose whereabouts and conditionnay, of his very
existenceshe was unaware. And she had told him that no promise, no
word of love, had passed between them. Yes, you may think of him, he
had said, meaning not to debar her from the use of thought, which
should be open to all the world, but let him not be spoken of. Then
she had promised; and when she had come again to withdraw her promise,
she had done so with some cock-and-bull story about the old woman,
which had had no weight with him. Then he had her presence during the
interview between the three on which to form his judgment. As far as he
could remember, as he wandered through the fields thinking of it, she
had not spoken hardly above a word during that interview. She had sat
silent, apparently unhappy, but not explaining the cause of her
unhappiness. It might well be that she should be unhappy in the
presence of her affianced husband and her old lover. But now if she
would tell him that she wished to be relieved from him, and to give
herself to this stranger, she should be allowed to go. But he told
himself also that he would carry his generosity no further. He was not
called upon to offer to surrender himself. The man's coming had been a
misfortune; but let him go, and in process of time he would be
forgotten. It was thus that Mr Whittlestaff resolved as he walked
across the country, while he left the two lovers to themselves in his
It was now nearly five o'clock, and Mr Whittlestaff, as Gordon was
told, dined at six. He felt that he would not find the man before
dinner unless he remained at the house,and for doing so he had no
excuse. He must return in the evening, or sleep at the inn and come
back the next morning. He must manage to catch the man alone, because
he was assuredly minded to use upon him all the power of eloquence
which he had at his command. And as he thought it improbable so to find
him in the evening, he determined to postpone his task. But in doing so
he felt that he should be at a loss. The eager words were hot now
within his memory, having been sharpened against the anvil of his
thoughts by his colloquy with Mary Lawrie. To-morrow they might have
cooled. His purpose might be as strong; but a man when he wishes to use
burning words should use them while the words are on fire.
John Gordon had a friend at Alresford, or rather an acquaintance, on
whom he had determined to call, unless circumstances, as they should
occur at Croker's Hall, should make him too ecstatic in his wish for
any such operation. The ecstasy certainly had not come as yet, and he
went forth therefore to call on the Reverend Mr Blake. Of Mr Blake he
only knew that he was a curate of a neighbouring parish, and that they
two had been at Oxford together. So he walked down to the inn to order
his dinner, not feeling his intimacy with Mr Blake sufficient to
justify him in looking for his dinner with him. A man always dines, let
his sorrow be what it may. A woman contents herself with tea, and
mitigates her sorrow, we must suppose, by an extra cup. John Gordon
ordered a roast fowl,the safest dinner at an English country
inn,and asked his way to the curate's house.
The Rev Montagu Blake was curate of Little Alresford, a parish,
though hardly to be called a village, lying about three miles from the
town. The vicar was a feeble old gentleman who had gone away to die in
the Riviera, and Mr Blake had the care of souls to himself. He was a
man to whom his lines had fallen in pleasant places. There were about
250 men, women, and children, in his parish, and not a Dissenter among
them. For looking after these folk he had £120 per annum, and as pretty
a little parsonage as could be found in England. There was a squire
with whom he was growing in grace and friendship, who, being the patron
of the living, might probably bestow it upon him. It was worth only
£250, and was not, therefore, too valuable to be expected. He had a
modest fortune of his own, £300 a-year perhaps, and,for the best of
his luck shall be mentioned last,he was engaged to the daughter of
one of the prebendaries of Winchester, a pretty bright little girl,
with a further sum of £5000 belonging to herself. He was thirty years
of age, in the possession of perfect health, and not so strict in
matters of religion as to make it necessary for him to abandon any of
the innocent pleasures of this world. He could dine out, and play
cricket, and read a novel. And should he chance, when riding his cob
about the parish, or visiting some neighbouring parish, to come across
the hounds, he would not scruple to see them over a field or two. So
that the Rev Montagu Blake was upon the whole a happy fellow.
He and John Gordon had been thrown together at Oxford for a short
time during the last months of their residence, and though they were
men quite unlike each other in their pursuits, circumstances had made
them intimate. It was well that Gordon should take a stroll for a
couple of hours before dinner, and therefore he started off for Little
Alresford. Going into the parsonage gate he was overtaken by Blake, and
of course introduced himself. Don't you remember Gordon at Exeter?
John Gordon! Gracious me! Of course I do. What a good fellow you
are to come and look a fellow up! Where have you come from, and where
are you going to, and what brings you to Alresford, beyond the
charitable intention of dining with me? Oh, nonsense! not dine; but you
will, and I can give you a bed too, and breakfast, and shall be
delighted to do it for a week. Ordered your dinner? Then we'll unorder
it. I'll send the boy in and put that all right. Shall I make him bring
your bag back? Gordon, however, though he assented to the proposition
as regarded dinner, made his friend understand that it was imperative
that he should be at the inn that night.
Yes, said Blake, when they had settled down to wait for their
dinner, I am parson here,a sort of a one at least. I am not only
curate, but live in expectation of higher things. Our squire here, who
owns the living, talks of giving it to me. There isn't a better fellow
living than Mr Furnival, or his wife, or his four daughters.
Will he be as generous with one of them as with the living?
There is no necessity, as far as I am concerned. I came here
already provided in that respect. If you'll remain here till September,
you'll see me a married man. One Kattie Forrester intends to condescend
to become Mrs Montagu Blake. Though I say it as shouldn't, a sweeter
human being doesn't live on the earth. I met her soon after I had taken
orders. But I had to wait till I had some sort of a house to put her
into. Her father is a clergyman like myself, so we are all in a boat
together. She's got a little bit of money, and I've got a little bit of
money, so that we shan't absolutely starve. Now you know all about me;
and what have you been doing yourself?
John Gordon thought that this friend of his had been most
communicative. He had been told everything concerning his friend's
life. Had Mr Blake written a biography of himself down to the present
period, he could not have been more full or accurate in his details.
But Gordon felt that as regarded himself he must be more reticent. I
intended to have joined my father's bank, but that came to grief.
Yes; I did hear of some trouble in that respect.
And then I went out to the diamond-fields.
Dear me! that was a long way.
Yes, it is a long way,and rather rough towards the end.
Did you do any good at the diamond-fields? I don't fancy that men
often bring much money home with them.
I brought some.
Enough to do a fellow any good in his after life?
Well, yes; enough to content me, only that a man is not easily
contented who has been among diamonds.
Crescit amor diamonds! said the parson. I can easily understand
that. And then, when a fellow goes back again, he is so apt to lose it
all. Don't you expect to see your diamonds turn into slate-stones?
Not except in the ordinary way of expenditure. I don't think the
gnomes or the spirits will interfere with them,though the thieves
may, if they can get a hand upon them. But my diamonds have, for the
most part, been turned into ready money, and at the present moment take
the comfortable shape of a balance at my banker's.
I'd leave it there,or buy land, or railway shares. If I had
realised in that venture enough to look at, I'd never go out to the
It's hard to bring an occupation of that kind to an end all at
once, said John Gordon.
Crescit amor diamonds! repeated the Reverend Montagu Blake,
shaking his head. If you gave me three, I could easily imagine that I
should toss up with another fellow who had three also, double or quits,
till I lost them all. But we'll make sure of dinner, at any rate,
without any such hazardous proceeding. Then they went into the
dining-room, and enjoyed themselves, without any reference having been
made as yet to the business which had brought John Gordon into the
neighbourhood of Alresford.
You'll find that port wine rather good. I can't afford claret,
because it takes such a lot to go far enough. To tell the truth, when
I'm alone I confine myself to whisky and water. Blake is a very good
name for whisky.
Why do you make a ceremony with me?
Because it's so pleasant to have an excuse for such a ceremony. It
wasn't you only I was thinking of when I came out just now, and
uncorked the bottle. Think what it is to have a prudent mind. I had to
get it myself out of the cellar, because girls can't understand that
wine shouldn't be treated in the same way as physic. By-the-by, what
brought you into this part of the world at all?
I came to see one Mr Whittlestaff.
What! old William Whittlestaff? Then, let me tell you, you have
come to see as honest a fellow, and as good-hearted a Christian, as any
that I know.
You do know him?
Oh yes, I know him. I'd like to see the man whose bond is better
than old Whittlestaff's. Did you hear what he did about that young lady
who is living with him? She was the daughter of a friend,simply of a
friend who died in pecuniary distress. Old Whittlestaff just brought
her into his house, and made her his own daughter. It isn't every one
who will do that, you know.
Why do you call him old? said John Gordon.
Well; I don't know. He is old.
Just turned fifty.
Fifty is old. I don't mean that he is a cripple or bedridden.
Perhaps if he had been a married man, he'd have looked younger. He has
got a very nice girl there with him; and if he isn't too old to think
of such things, he may marry her. Do you know Miss Lawrie?
Yes; I know her.
Don't you think she's nice? Only my goose is cooked, I'd go in for
her sooner than any one I see about.
Sooner than your own squire's four daughters?
Well,yes. They're nice girls too. But I don't quite fancy one out
of four. And they'd look higher than the curate.
A prebendary is as high as a squire, said Gordon.
There are prebendaries and there are squires. Our squire isn't a
swell, though he's an uncommonly good fellow. If I get a wife from one
and a living from the other, I shall think myself very lucky. Miss
Lawrie is a handsome girl, and everything that she ought to be; but if
you were to see Kattie Forrester, I think you would say that she was A
1. I sometimes wonder whether old Whittlestaff will think of marrying.
Gordon sat silent, turning over one or two matters in his mind. How
supremely happy was this young parson with his Kattie Forrester and his
promised living,in earning the proceeds of which there need be no
risk, and very little labour,and with his bottle of port wine and
comfortable house! All the world seemed to have smiled with Montagu
Blake. But with him, though there had been much success, there had been
none of the world's smiles. He was aware at this moment, or thought
that he was aware, that the world would never smile on him,unless he
should succeed in persuading Mr Whittlestaff to give up the wife whom
he had chosen. Then he felt tempted to tell his own story to this young
parson. They were alone together, and it seemed as though Providence
had provided him with a friend. And the subject of Mary Lawrie's
intended marriage had been brought forward in a peculiar manner. But he
was by nature altogether different from Mr Blake, and could not blurt
out his love-story with easy indifference. Do you know Mr Whittlestaff
well? he asked.
Pretty well. I've been here four years; and he's a near neighbour.
I think I do know him well.
Is he a sort of man likely to fall in love with such a girl as Miss
Lawrie, seeing that she is an inmate of his house?
Well, said the parson, after some consideration, if you ask me, I
don't think he is. He seems to have settled himself down to a certain
manner of life, and will not, I should say, be stirred from it very
quickly. If you have any views in that direction, I don't think he'll
be your rival.
Is he a man to care much for a girl's love?
I should say not.
But if he had once brought himself to ask her? said Gordon.
And if she had accepted him? suggested the other.
That's what I mean.
I don't think he'd let her go very easily. He's a sort of dog whom
you cannot easily persuade to give up a bone. If he has set his heart
upon matrimony, he will not be turned from it. Do you know anything of
I fancy that he is thinking of it.
And you mean that you were thinking of it, too, with the same
No, I didn't mean that. Then he added, after a pause, That is
just what I did not mean to say. I did not mean to talk about myself.
But since you ask me the question, I will answer it truly,I have
thought of the same lady. And my thoughts were earlier in the field
than his. I must say good-night now, he said, rising somewhat
brusquely from his chair. I have to walk back to Alresford, and must
see Mr Whittlestaff early in the morning. According to your view of the
case I shan't do much with him. And if it be so, I shall be off to the
diamond-fields again by the first mail.
You don't say so!
That is to be my lot in life. I am very glad to have come across
you once again, and am delighted to find you so happy in your
prospects. You have told me everything, and I have done pretty much the
same to you. I shall disappear from Alresford, and never more be heard
of. You needn't talk much about me and my love; for though I shall be
out of the way at Kimberley, many thousand miles from here, a man does
not care to have his name in every one's mouth.
Oh no, said Blake. I won't say a word about Miss Lawrie;unless
indeed you should be successful.
There is not the remotest possibility of that, said Gordon, as he
took his leave.
I wonder whether she is fond of him, said the curate to himself,
when he resolved to go to bed instead of beginning his sermon that
night. I shouldn't wonder if she is, for he is just the sort of man to
make a girl fond of him.
CHAPTER X. JOHN GORDON AGAIN GOES TO
On the next morning, when John Gordon reached the corner of the road
at which stood Croker's Hall, he met, outside on the roadway, close to
the house, a most disreputable old man with a wooden leg and a red
nose. This was Mr Baggett, or Sergeant Baggett as he was generally
called, and was now known about all Alresford to be the husband of Mr
Whittlestaff's housekeeper. For news had got abroad, and tidings were
told that Mr Baggett was about to arrive in the neighbourhood to claim
his wife. Everybody knew it before the inhabitants of Croker's Hall.
And now, since yesterday afternoon, all Croker's Hall knew it, as well
as the rest of the world. He was standing there close to the house,
which stood a little back from the road, between nine and ten in the
morning, as drunk as a lord. But I think his manner of drunkenness was
perhaps in some respects different from that customary with lords.
Though he had only one leg of the flesh, and one of wood, he did not
tumble down, though he brandished in the air the stick with which he
was accustomed to disport himself. A lord would, I think, have got
himself taken to bed. But the Sergeant did not appear to have any such
intention. He had come out on to the road from the yard into which the
back-door of the house opened, and seemed to John Gordon as though,
having been so far expelled, he was determined to be driven no
further,and he was accompanied, at a distance, by his wife. Now,
Timothy Baggett, began the unfortunate woman, you may just take
yourself away out of that, as fast as your legs can carry you, before
the police comes to fetch you.
My legs! Whoever heared a fellow told of his legs when there was
one of them wooden. And as for the perlice, I shall want the perlice to
fetch my wife along with me. I ain't a-going to stir out of this place
without Mrs B. I'm a hold man, and wants a woman to look arter me. Come
along, Mrs B. Then he made a motion as though to run after her, still
brandishing the stick in his hand. But she retreated, and he came down,
seated on the pathway by the roadside, as though he had only
accomplished an intended manoeuvre. Get me a drop o' summat, Mrs B.,
and I don't mind if I stay here half an hour longer. Then he laughed
loudly, nodding his head merrily at the bystanders,as no lord under
such circumstances certainly would have done.
All this happened just as John Gordon came up to the corner of the
road, from whence, by a pathway, turned the main entrance into Mr
Whittlestaff's garden. He could not but see the drunken red-nosed man,
and the old woman, whom he recognised as Mr Whittlestaff's servant, and
a crowd of persons around, idlers out of Alresford, who had followed
Sergeant Baggett up to the scene of his present exploits. Croker's Hall
was not above a mile from the town, just where the town was beginning
to become country, and where the houses all had gardens belonging to
them, and the larger houses a field or two. Yes, sir, master is at
home. If you'll please to ring the bell, one of the girls will come
out. This was said by Mrs Baggett, advancing almost over the body of
her prostrate husband. Drunken brute! she said, by way of a salute,
as she passed him. He only laughed aloud, and looked around upon the
bystanders with triumph.
At this moment Mr Whittlestaff came down through the gate into the
road. Oh, Mr Gordon! good morning, sir. You find us rather in a
disturbed condition this morning. I am sorry I did not think of asking
you to come to breakfast. But perhaps, under all the circumstances it
was better not. That dreadful man has put us sadly about. He is the
unfortunate husband of my hardly less unfortunate housekeeper.
Yes, sir, he is my husband,that's true, said Mrs Baggett.
I'm wery much attached to my wife, if you knew all about it, sir;
and I wants her to come home with me. Service ain't no inheritance; nor
yet ain't wages, when they never amounts to more than twenty pounds
It's thirty, you false ungrateful beast! said Mrs Baggett. But in
the meantime Mr Whittlestaff had led the way into the garden, and John
Gordon had followed him. Before they reached the hall-door, Mary Lawrie
had met them.
Oh, Mr Whittlestaff! she said, is it not annoying? that dreadful
man with the wooden leg is here, and collecting a crowd round the
place. Good morning, Mr Gordon. It is the poor woman's ne'er-do-well
husband. She is herself so decent and respectable, that she will be
greatly harassed. What can we do, Mr Whittlestaff? Can't we get a
policeman? In this way the conversation was led away to the affairs of
Sergeant and Mrs Baggett, to the ineffable distress of John Gordon.
When we remember the kind of speeches which Gordon intended to utter,
the sort of eloquence which he desired to use, it must be admitted that
the interruption was provoking. Even if Mary would leave them together,
it would be difficult to fall back upon the subject which Gordon had at
It is matter of consideration whether, when important subjects are
to be brought upon the tapis, the ultimate result will or will
not depend much on the manner in which they are introduced. It ought
not to be the case that they shall be so prejudiced. By-the-by, my
dear fellow, now I think of it, can you lend me a couple of thousand
pounds for twelve months? Would that generally be as efficacious as
though the would-be borrower had introduced his request with the
general paraphernalia of distressing solemnities? The borrower, at any
rate, feels that it would not, and postpones the moment till the
fitting solemnities can be produced. But John Gordon could not postpone
his moment. He could not go on residing indefinitely at the Claimant's
Arms till he could find a proper opportunity for assuring Mr
Whittlestaff that it could not be his duty to marry Mary Lawrie. He
must rush at his subject, let the result be what it might. Indeed he
had no hopes as to a favourable result. He had slept upon it, as people
say when they intend to signify that they have lain awake, and had
convinced himself that all eloquence would be vain. Was it natural that
a man should give up his intended wife, simply because he was asked?
Gordon's present feeling was an anxious desire to be once more on board
the ship that should take him again to the diamond-fields, so that he
might be at peace, knowing then, as he would know, that he had left
Mary Lawrie behind for ever. At this moment he almost repented that he
had not left Alresford without any farther attempt. But there he was on
Mr Whittlestaff's ground, and the attempt must be made, if only with
the object of justifying his coming.
Miss Lawrie, he began, if you would not mind leaving me and Mr
Whittlestaff alone together for a few minutes, I will be obliged to
you. This he said with quite sufficient solemnity, so that Mr
Whittlestaff drew himself up, and looked hard and stiff, as though he
were determined to forget Sergeant Baggett and all his peccadilloes for
Oh, yes; certainly; but Mr Whittlestaff looked sternly at her,
as though to bid her go at once. You must believe nothing as coming
from me unless it comes out of my own mouth. Then she put her hand
upon his arm, as though half embracing him.
You had better leave us, perhaps, said Mr Whittlestaff. And then
Now the moment had come, and John Gordon felt the difficulty. It had
not been lessened by the assurance given by Mary herself that nothing
was to be taken as having come from her unless it was known and heard
to have so come. And yet he was thoroughly convinced that he was
altogether loved by her, and that had he appeared on the scene but a
day sooner, she would have accepted him with all her heart. Mr
Whittlestaff, he said, I want to tell you what passed yesterday
between me and Miss Lawrie.
Is it necessary? he asked.
I think it is.
As far as I am concerned, I doubt the necessity. Miss Lawrie has
said a word to me,as much, I presume, as she feels to be necessary.
I do not think that her feeling in the matter should be a guide for
you or for me. What we have both of us to do is to think what may be
best for her, and to effect that as far as may be within our power.
Certainly, said Mr Whittlestaff. But it may so probably be the
case that you and I shall differ materially as to thinking what may be
best for her. As far as I understand the matter, you wish that she
should be your wife. I wish that she should be mine. I think that as my
wife she would live a happier life than she could do as yours; and as
she thinks also Here Mr Whittlestaff paused.
But does she think so?
You heard what she said just now.
I heard nothing as to her thoughts of living, said John Gordon
Nor in the interview which I had with her yesterday did I hear a word
fall from her as to herself. We have got to form our ideas as to that
from circumstances which shall certainly not be made to appear by her
own speech. When you speak against me
I have not said a word against you, sir.
Perhaps you imply, said Gordon, not stopping to notice Mr
Whittlestaff's last angry tone,perhaps you imply that my life may be
that of a rover, and as such would not conduce to Miss Lawrie's
I have implied nothing.
To suit her wishes I would remain altogether in England. I was very
lucky, and am not a man greedy of great wealth. She can remain here,
and I will satisfy you that there shall be enough for our joint
What do I care for your maintenance, or what does she? Do you know,
sir, that you are talking to me about a lady whom I intend to make my
wife,who is engaged to marry me? Goodness gracious me!
I own, sir, that it is singular.
Very singular,very singular indeed. I never heard of such a
thing. It seems that you knew her at Norwich.
I did know her well.
And then you went away and deserted her.
I went away, Mr Whittlestaff, because I was poor. I was told by her
step-mother that I was not wanted about the house, because I had no
means. That was true, and as I loved her dearly, I started at once,
almost in despair, but still with something of hope,with a shade of
hope,that I might put myself in the way of enabling her to become my
wife. I did not desert her.
Very well. Then you came back and found her engaged to be my wife.
You had it from her own mouth. When a gentleman hears that, what has he
to do but to go away?
There are circumstances here.
What does she say herself? There are no circumstances to justify
you. If you would come here as a friend, I offered to receive you. As
you had been known to her, I did not turn my back upon you. But now
your conduct is so peculiar that I cannot ask you to remain here any
longer. They were walking up and down the long walk, and now Mr
Whittlestaff stood still, as though to declare his intention that the
interview should be considered as over.
I know that you wish me to go away, said Gordon.
Well, yes; unless you withdraw all idea of a claim to the young
But I think you should first hear what I have to say. You will not
surely have done your duty by her unless you hear me.
You can speak if you wish to speak, said Mr Whittlestaff.
It was not till yesterday that you made your proposition to Miss
What has that to do with it?
Had I come on the previous day, and had I been able then to tell
her all that I can tell her now, would it have made no difference?
Did she say so? asked the fortunate lover, but in a very angry
No; she did not say so. It was with difficulty that I forced from
her an avowal that her engagement was so recent. But she did confess
that it was so. And she confessed, not in words, but in her manner,
that she had found it impossible to refuse to you the request that you
I never heard a man assert so impudently that he was the sole owner
of a lady's favours. Upon my word, I think that you are the vainest man
whom I ever met.
Let it be so. I do not care to defend myself, but only her. Whether
I am vain or not, is it not true that which I say? I put it to you, as
man to man, whether you do not know that it is true? If you marry this
girl, will you not marry one whose heart belongs to me? Will you not
marry one of whom you knew two days since that her heart was mine? Will
you not marry one who, if she was free this moment, would give herself
to me without a pang of remorse?
I never heard anything like the man's vanity!
But is it true? Whatever may be my vanity, or self-seeking, or
unmanliness if you will, is not what I say God's truth? It is not about
my weaknesses, or your weaknesses, that we should speak, but about her
Just so; I don't think she would be happy with you.
Then it is to save her from me that you are marrying her,so that
she may not sink into the abyss of my unworthiness.
But if I had come two days since, when she would have received me
with open arms
You have no right to make such a statement.
I ask yourself whether it is not true? She would have received me
with open arms, and would you then have dared, as her guardian, to bid
her refuse the offer made to her, when you had learned, as you would
have done, that she loved me; that I had loved her with all my heart
before I left England; that I had left it with the view of enabling
myself to marry her; that I had been wonderfully successful; that I had
come back with no other hope in the world than that of giving it all to
her; that I had been able to show you my whole life, so that no girl
need be afraid to become my wife
What do I know about your life? You may have another wife living at
No doubt; I may be guilty of any amount of villainy, but then, as
her friend, you should make inquiry. You would not break a girl's heart
because the man to whom she is attached may possibly be a rogue. In
this case you have no ground for the suspicion.
I never heard of a man who spoke of himself so grandiloquently!
But there is ample reason why you should make inquiry. In truth, as
I said before, it is her happiness and not mine nor your own that you
should look to. If she has taken your offer because you had been good
to her in her desolation,because she had found herself unable to
refuse aught to one who had treated her so well; if she had done all
this, believing that I had disappeared from her knowledge, and doubting
altogether my return; if it be soand you know that it is sothen you
should hesitate before you lead her to her doom.
You heard her say that I was not to believe any of these things
unless I got them from her own mouth?
I did; and her word should go for nothing either with you or with
me. She has promised, and is willing to sacrifice herself to her
promise. She will sacrifice me too because of your goodness,and
because she is utterly unable to put a fair value upon herself. To me
she is all the world. From the first hour in which I saw her to the
present, the idea of gaining her has been everything. Put aside the
words which she just spoke, what is your belief of the state of her
I can tell you my belief of the state of her welfare.
There your own prejudice creeps in, and I might retaliate by
charging you with vanity as you have done me,only that I think such
vanity very natural. But it is her you should consult on such a matter.
She is not to be treated like a child. Of whom does she wish to become
the wife? I boldly say that I have won her love, and that if it be so,
you should not desire to take her to yourself. You have not answered
me, nor can I expect you to answer me; but look into yourself and
answer it there. Think how it will be with you, when the girl who lies
upon your shoulder shall be thinking ever of some other man from whom
you have robbed her. Good-bye, Mr Whittlestaff. I do not doubt but that
you will turn it all over in your thoughts. Then he escaped by a
wicket-gate into the road at the far end of the long walk, and was no
more heard of at Croker's Hall on that day.
CHAPTER XI. MRS BAGGETT TRUSTS ONLY
IN THE FUNDS.
Mr Whittlestaff, when he was left alone in the long walk, was
disturbed by many troublesome thoughts. The knowledge that his
housekeeper was out on the road, and that her drunken disreputable
husband was playing the fool for the benefit of all the idlers that had
sauntered out from Alresford to see him, added something to his grief.
Why should not the stupid woman remain indoors, and allow him, her
master, to send for the police? She had declared that she would go with
her husband, and he could not violently prevent her. This was not much
when added to the weight of his care as to Mary Lawrie, but it seemed
to be the last ounce destined to break the horse's back, as is the
proverbial fate of all last ounces.
Just as he was about to collect his thoughts, so as to resolve what
it might be his duty to do in regard to Mary, Mrs Baggett appeared
before him on the walk with her bonnet on her head. What are you going
to do, you stupid woman?
I am a-going with he, she said, in the midst of a torrent of sobs
and tears. It's a dooty. They says if you does your dooty all will
come right in the end. It may be, but I don't see it no further than
taking him back to Portsmouth.
What on earth are you going to Portsmouth for now? And why? why
now? He's not more drunk than he has been before, nor yet less
abominable. Let the police lock him up for the night, and send him back
to Portsmouth in the morning. Why should you want to go with him now?
Because you're going to take a missus, said Mrs Baggett, still
It's more than I know; or you know; or anyone knows, and Mr
Whittlestaff spoke as though he had nearly reduced himself to his
Not marry her! she exclaimed.
I cannot say. If you will let me alone to manage my own affairs, it
will be best.
That man has been here interfering. You don't mean to say that
you're going to be put upon by such a savage as that, as has just come
home from South Africa. Diamonds, indeed! I'd diamond him! I don't
believe, not in a single diamond. They're all rubbish and paste. If
you're going to give her up to that fellow, you're not the gentleman I
take you for.
But if I don't marry you won't have to go, he said, unable to
refrain from so self-evident an argument.
Me going! What's me going? What's me or that drunken old reprobate
out there to the likes of you? I'd stay, only if it was to see that Mr
John Gordon isn't let to put his foot here in this house; and then I'd
go. John Gordon, indeed! To come up between you and her, when you had
settled your mind and she had settled hern! If she favours John Gordon,
I'll tear her best frock off her back.
How dare you speak in that way of the lady who is to be your
She ain't to be my mistress. I won't have no mistress. When her
time is come, I shall be in the poorhouse at Portsmouth, because I
shan't be able to earn a penny to buy gin for him. As she said this,
Mrs Baggett sobbed bitterly.
You're enough to drive a man mad. I don't know what it is you want,
or you don't want.
I wishes to see Miss Lawrie do her dooty, and become your wife, as
a lady should do. You wishes it, and she ought to wish it too. Drat
her! If she is going back from her word
She is not going back from her word. Nothing is more excellent,
nothing more true, nothing more trustworthy than Miss Lawrie. You
should not allow yourself to speak of her in such language.
Is it you, then, as is going back?
I do not know. To tell the truth, Mrs Baggett, I do not know.
Then let me tell you, sir. I'm an old woman whom you've known all
your life pretty nigh, and you can trust me. Don't give up to none of
'em. You've got her word, and keep her to it. What's the good o' your
fine feelings if you're to break your heart. You means well by her, and
will make her happy. Can you say as much for him? When them diamonds is
gone, what's to come next? I ain't no trust in diamonds, not to live
out of, but only in the funds, which is reg'lar. I wouldn't let her see
John Gordon again,never, till she was Mrs Whittlestaff. After that
she'll never go astray; nor yet won't her thoughts.
God bless you! Mrs Baggett, he said.
She's one of them when she's your own she'll remain your own all
out. She'll stand the washing. I'm an old woman, and I knows 'em.
And yet you cannot live with such a lady as her?
No! if she was one of them namby-pambys as'd let an old woman keep
her old place, it might do.
She shall love you always for what you said just now.
Love me! I don't doubt her loving me. She'll love me because she is
lovingnot that I am lovable. She'll want to do a'most everything
about the house, and I shall want the same; and her wants are to stand
uppermost,that is, if she is to be Mrs Whittlestaff.
I do not know; I have to think about it.
Don't think about it no more; but just go in and do it. Don't have
no more words with him nor yet with her,nor yet with yourself. Let it
come on just as though it were fixed by fate. It's in your own hands
now, sir, and don't you be thinking of being too good-natured; there
ain't no good comes from it. A man may maunder away his mind in
softnesses till he ain't worth nothing, and don't do no good to no one.
You can give her bread to eat, and clothes to wear, and can make her
respectable before all men and women. What has he to say? Only that he
is twenty years younger than you. Love! Rot it! I suppose you'll come
in just now, sir, and see my boxes when they're ready to start. So
saying, she turned round sharply on the path and left him.
In spite of the excellent advice which Mr Whittlestaff had received
from his housekeeper, bidding him not have any more words even with
himself on the matter, he could not but think of all the arguments
which John Gordon had used to him. According to Mrs Baggett, he ought
to content himself with knowing that he could find food and raiment and
shelter for his intended wife, and also in feeling that he had her
promise, and her assurance that that promise should be respected. There
was to him a very rock in all this, upon which he could build his house
with absolute safety. And he did not believe of her that, were he so to
act, she would turn round upon him with future tears or neglect her
duty, because she was ever thinking of John Gordon. He knew that she
would be too steadfast for all that, and that even though there might
be some sorrow at her heart, it would be well kept down, out of his
sight, out of the sight of the world at large, and would gradually sink
out of her own sight too. But if it be given to a man to maunder away
his mind in softnesses, he cannot live otherwise than as nature has
made him. Such a man must maunder. Mrs Baggett had understood
accurately the nature of his character; but had not understood that, as
was his character, so must he act. He could not alter his own self. He
could not turn round upon himself, and bid himself be other than he
was. It is necessary to be stern and cruel and determined, a man shall
say to himself. In this particular emergency of my life I will be stern
and cruel. General good will come out of such a line of conduct. But
unless he be stern and cruel in other matters also,unless he has been
born stern and cruel, or has so trained himself,he cannot be stern
and cruel for that occasion only. All this Mr Whittlestaff knew of
himself. As sure as he was there thinking over John Gordon and Mary
Lawrie, would he maunder away his mind in softnesses. He feared it of
himself, was sure of it of himself, and hated himself because it was
He did acknowledge to himself the truth of the position as asserted
by John Gordon. Had the man come but a day earlier, he would have been
in time to say the first word; and then, as Mr Whittlestaff said to
himself, there would not for him have been a chance. And in such case
there would have been no reason, as far as Mr Whittlestaff could see,
why John Gordon should be treated other than as a happy lover. It was
the one day in advance which had given him the strength of his
position. But it was the one day also which had made him weak. He had
thought much about Mary for some time past. He had told himself that by
her means might be procured some cure to the wound in his heart which
had made his life miserable for so many years. But had John Gordon come
in time, the past misery would only have been prolonged, and none would
have been the wiser. Even Mrs Baggett would have held her peace, and
not thrown it in his teeth that he had attempted to marry the girl and
had failed. As it was, all the world of Alresford would know how it had
been with him, and all the world of Alresford as they looked at him
would tell themselves that this was the man who had attempted to marry
Mary Lawrie, and had failed.
It was all true,all that John Gordon alleged on his own behalf.
But then he was able to salve his own conscience by telling himself
that when John Gordon had run through his diamonds, there would be
nothing but poverty and distress. There was no reason for supposing
that the diamonds would be especially short-lived, or that John Gordon
would probably be a spendthrift. But diamonds as a source of income are
volatile,not trustworthy, as were the funds to Mrs Baggett. And then
the nature of the source of income offered, enabled him to say so much
as a plea to himself. Could he give the girl to a man who had nothing
but diamonds with which to pay his weekly bills? He did tell himself
again and again, that Mary Lawrie should not be encouraged to put her
faith in diamonds. But he felt that it was only an excuse. In arguing
the matter backwards and forwards, he could not but tell himself that
he did believe in John Gordon.
And then an idea, a grand idea, but one very painful in its beauty,
crept into his mind. Even though these diamonds should melt away, and
become as nothing, there was his own income, fixed and sure as the
polar star, in the consolidated British three per cents. If he really
loved this girl, could he not protect her from poverty, even were she
married to a John Gordon, broken down in the article of his diamonds?
If he loved her, was he not bound, by some rule of chivalry which he
could not define even to himself, to do the best he could for her
happiness? He loved her so well that he thought that, for her sake, he
could abolish himself. Let her have his money, his house, and his
horses. Let her even have John Gordon. He could with a certain feeling
of delight imagine it all. But then he could not abolish himself. There
he would be, subject to the remarks of men. There is he, men would
say of him, who has maundered away his mind in softnesses;who in his
life has loved two girls, and has, at last, been thrown over by both of
them because he has been no better than a soft maundering idiot. It
would be thus that his neighbours would speak of him in his vain effort
to abolish himself.
It was not yet too late. He had not yielded an inch to this man. He
could still be stern and unbending. He felt proud of himself in that he
had been stern and unbending, as far as the man was concerned. And as
regarded Mary, he did feel sure of her. If there was to be weakness
displayed, it would be in himself. Mary would be true to her
promise;true to her faith, true to the arrangement made for her own
life. She would not provoke him with arguments as to her love for John
Gordon; and, as Mrs Baggett had assured him, even in her thoughts she
would not go astray. If it were but for that word, Mrs Baggett should
not be allowed to leave his house.
But what as to Mary's love? Any such question was maunderingly soft.
It was not for him to ask it. He did believe in her altogether, and was
perfectly secure that his name and his honour were safe in her hands.
And she certainly would learn to love him. She'll stand the washing,
he said to himself, repeating another morsel of Mrs Baggett's wisdom.
And thus he made up his mind that he would, on this occasion, if only
on this occasion, be stern and cruel. Surely a man could bring himself
to sternness and cruelty for once in his life, when so much depended on
Having so resolved, he walked back into the house, intending to see
Mary Lawrie, and so to speak to her as to give her no idea of the
conversation which had taken place between him and John Gordon. It
would not be necessary, he thought, that he should mention to her John
Gordon's name any more. Let his marriage go on, as though there were no
such person as John Gordon. It would be easier to be stern and cruel
when he could enact the character simply by silence. He would hurry on
his wedding as quickly as she would allow him, and then the good
thingthe good that was to come out of sternness and crueltywould be
He went through from the library to knock at Mary's door, and in
doing so, had to pass the room in which Mrs Baggett had slept
tranquilly for fifteen years. There, in the doorway, was a big trunk,
and in the lock of the door was a key. A brilliant idea at once
occurred to Mr Whittlestaff. He shoved the big box in with his foot,
locked the door, and put the key in his pocket. At that moment the
heads of the gardener and the groom appeared up the back staircase, and
after them Mrs Baggett.
Why, Mrs Baggett, the door is locked! said the gardener.
It is, to be sure, said the groom. Why, Mrs Baggett, you must
have the key in your own pocket!
I ain't got no such thing. Do you bring the box down with you.
I have got the key in my pocket, said Mr Whittlestaff, in a voice
of much authority. You may both go down. Mrs Baggett's box is not to
be taken out of that room to-day.
Not taken out! Oh, Mr Whittlestaff! Why, the porter is here with
his barrow to take it down to the station.
Then the porter must have a shilling and go back again empty. And
so he stalked on, to bid Miss Lawrie come to him in the library.
I never heard of such a go in all my life;and he means it, too,
said Thornybush, the gardener.
I never quite know what he means, said Hayonotes, the groom; but
he's always in earnest, whatever it is. I never see one like the master
for being in earnest. But he's too deep for me in his meaning. I
suppose we is only got to go back. So they retreated down the stairs,
leaving Mrs Baggett weeping in the passage.
You should let a poor old woman have her box, she said, whining to
her master, whom she followed to the library.
No; I won't! You shan't have your box. You're an old fool!
I know I'm an old fool;but I ought to have my box.
You won't have it. You may just go down and get your dinner. When
you want to go to bed, you shall have the key.
I ought to have my box, Miss Mary. It's my own box. What am I to do
with Baggett? They have given him more gin out there, and he's as drunk
as a beast. I think I ought to have my own box. Shall I tell Thornybush
as he may come back? The train'll be gone, and then what am I to do
with Baggett? He'll get hisself that drunk, you won't be able to stir
him. And it is my own box, Mr Whittlestaff?
To all which Mr Whittlestaff turned a deaf ear. She should find that
there was no maundering softness with him now. He felt within his own
bosom that it behoved him to learn to become stern and cruel. He knew
that the key was in his pocket, and found that there was a certain
satisfaction in being stern and cruel. Mrs Baggett might sob her heart
out after her box, and he would decline to be moved.
What'll I do about Baggett, sir? said the poor woman, coming back.
He's a lying there at the gate, and the perlice doesn't like to touch
him because of you, sir. He says as how if you could take him into the
stables, he'd sleep it off among the straw. But then he'd be just as
bad after this first go, to-morrow.
To this, however, Mr Whittlestaff at once acceded. He saw a way out
of the immediate difficulty. He therefore called Hayonotes to him, and
succeeded in explaining his immediate meaning. Hayonotes and the
policeman between them lifted Baggett, and deposited the man in an
empty stall, where he was accommodated with ample straw. And an order
was given that as soon as he had come to himself, he should be provided
with something to eat.
Summat to eat! said Mrs Baggett, in extreme disgust. Provide him
with a lock-up and plenty of cold water!
CHAPTER XII. MR BLAKE'S GOOD NEWS.
In the afternoon, after lunch had been eaten, there came a ring at
the back-door, and Mr Montagu Blake was announced. There had been a
little contretemps or misadventure. It was Mr Blake's habit when
he called at Croker's Hall to ride his horse into the yard, there to
give him up to Hayonotes, and make his way in by the back entrance. On
this occasion Hayonotes had been considerably disturbed in his work,
and was discussing the sad condition of Mr Baggett with Thornybush over
the gate of the kitchen-garden. Consequently, Mr Blake had taken his
own horse into the stable, and as he was about to lead the beast up to
the stall, had been stopped and confused by Sergeant Baggett's
protruding wooden leg.
'Alloa! what's up now? said a voice, addressing Mr Blake from
under the straw. Do you go down, old chap, and get us three-penn'orth
of cream o' the valley from the Cock.
Then Mr Blake had been aware that this prior visitor was not in a
condition to be of much use to him, and tied up his own horse in
another stall. But on entering the house, Mr Blake announced the fact
of there being a stranger in the stables, and suggested that the
one-legged gentleman had been looking at somebody taking a glass of
gin. Then Mrs Baggett burst out into a loud screech of agony. The
nasty drunken beast! he ought to be locked up into the darkest hole
they've got in all Alresford.
But who is the gentleman? said Mr Blake.
My husband, sir; I won't deny him. He is the cross as I have to
carry, and precious heavy he is. You must have heard of Sergeant
Baggett;the most drunkenest, beastliest, idlest scoundrel as ever the
Queen had in the army, and the most difficultest for a woman to put up
with in the way of a husband! Let a woman be ever so decent, he'd drink
her gowns and her petticoats, down to her very underclothing. How would
you like, sir, to have to take up with such a beast as that, after
living all your life as comfortable as any lady in the land? Wouldn't
that be a come-down, Mr Blake? And then to have your box locked up, and
be told that the key of your bedroom door is in the master's pocket.
Thus Mrs Baggett continued to bewail her destiny.
Mr Blake having got rid of the old woman, and bethinking himself of
the disagreeable incidents to which a gentleman with a larger
establishment than his own might be liable, made his way into the
sitting-room, where he found Mary Lawrie alone; and having apologised
for the manner of his intrusion, and having said something intended to
be jocose as to the legs of the warrior in the stable, at once asked a
question as to John Gordon.
Mr Gordon! said Mary. He was here this morning with Mr
Whittlestaff, but I know nothing of him since.
He hasn't gone back to London?
I don't know where he has gone. He slept in Alresford last night,
but I know nothing of him since.
He sent his bag by the boy at the inn down to the railway station
when he came up here. I found his bag there, but heard nothing of him.
They told me at the inn that he was to come up here, and I thought I
should either find him here or meet him on the road.
Do you want to find him especially?
Do you know Mr Gordon?
Well, yes; I do. That is to say, he dined with me last night. We
were at Oxford together, and yesterday evening we got talking about our
He told you that he had been at the diamond-fields?
Oh, yes; I know all about the diamond-fields. But Mr Hall
particularly wants to see him up at the Park. (Mr Hall was the squire
with four daughters who lived at Little Alresford.) Mr Hall says that
he knew his father many years ago, and sent me out to look for him. I
shall be wretched if he goes away without coming to Little Alresford
House. He can't go back to London before four o'clock, because there is
no train. You know nothing about his movements?
Nothing at all. For some years past Mr Gordon has been altogether a
stranger to me. Mr Blake looked into her face, and was aware that
there was something to distress her. He at once gathered from her
countenance that Mr Whittlestaff had been like the dog that stuck to
his bone, and that John Gordon was like the other dogthe disappointed
oneand had been turned out from the neighbourhood of the kennel. I
should imagine that Mr Gordon has gone away, if not to London, then in
some other direction. It was clear that the young lady intended him to
understand that she could say nothing and knew nothing as to Mr
I suppose I must go down to the station and leave word for him
there, said Mr Blake. Miss Lawrie only shook her head. Mr Hall will
be very sorry to miss him. And then I have some special good news to
Special good news! Could it be that something had happened which
would induce Mr Whittlestaff to change his mind. That was the one
subject which to her, at the present moment, was capable of meaning
specially good tidings.
Yes, indeed, Miss Lawrie; double good news, I may say. Old Mr
Harbottle has gone at last at San Remo. Mary did know who Mr Harbottle
was,or had been. Mr Harbottle had been the vicar at Little Alresford,
for whose death Mr Blake was waiting, in order that he might enter in
together upon the good things of matrimony and the living. He was a man
so contented, and talked so frequently of the good things which Fortune
was to do for him, that the tidings of his luck had reached even the
ears of Mary Lawrie. That's an odd way of putting it, of course,
continued Mr Blake; but then he was quite old and very asthmatic, and
couldn't ever come back again. Of course I'm very sorry for him,in
one way; but then I'm very glad in another. It is a good thing to have
the house in my own hands, so as to begin to paint at once, ready for
her coming. Her father wouldn't let her be married till I had got the
living, and I think he was right, because I shouldn't have liked to
spend money in painting and such like on an uncertainty. As the old
gentleman had to die, why shouldn't I tell the truth? Of course I am
glad, though it does sound so terrible.
But what are the double good news?
Oh, I didn't tell you. Miss Forrester is to come to the Park. She
is not coming because Mr Harbottle is dead. That's only a coincidence.
We are not going to be married quite at once,straight off the reel,
you know. I shall have to go to Winchester for that. But now that old
Harbottle has gone, I'll get the day fixed; you see if I don't. But I
must really be off, Miss Lawrie. Mr Hall will be terribly vexed if I
don't find Gordon, and there's no knowing where he may go whilst I'm
talking here. Then he made his adieux, but returned before he had shut
the door after him. You couldn't send somebody with me, Miss Lawrie? I
shall be afraid of that wooden-legged man in the stables, for fear he
should get up and abuse me. He asked me to get him some gin,which was
quite unreasonable. But on being assured that he would find the groom
about the place, he went out, and the trot of his horse was soon heard
upon the road.
He did succeed in finding John Gordon, who was listlessly waiting at
the Claimant's Arms for the coming of the four o'clock train which was
to take him back to London, on his way, as he told himself, to the
diamond-fields. He had thrown all his heart, all the energy of which he
was the master, into the manner in which he had pleaded for himself and
for Mary with Mr Whittlestaff. But he felt the weakness of his position
in that he could not remain present upon the ground and see the working
of his words. Having said what he had to say, he could only go; and it
was not to be expected that the eloquence of an absent man, of one who
had declared that he was about to start for South Africa, should be
regarded. He knew that what he had said was true, and that, being true,
it ought to prevail; but, having declared it, there was nothing for him
to do but to go away. He could not see Mary herself again, nor, if he
did so, would she be so likely to yield to him as was Mr Whittlestaff.
He could have no further excuse for addressing himself to the girl who
was about to become the wife of another man. Therefore he sat restless,
idle, and miserable in the little parlour at the Claimant's Arms,
thinking that the long journey which he had made had been taken all in
vain, and that there was nothing left for him in the world but to
return to Kimberley, and add more diamonds to his stock-in-trade.
Oh, Gordon! said Blake, bursting into the room, you're the very
man I want to find. You can't go back to London to-day.
Quite out of the question. Mr Hall knew your father intimately when
you were only a little chap.
Will that prevent my going back to London?
Certainly it will. He wants to renew the acquaintance. He is a most
hospitable, kind-hearted man; and who knows, one of the four daughters
might do yet.
Who is Mr Hall? No doubt he had heard the name on the previous
evening; but Hall is common, and had been forgotten.
Who is Mr Hall? Why, he is the squire of Little Alresford, and my
patron. I forget you haven't heard that Mr Harbottle is dead at last.
Of course I am very sorry for the old gentleman in one sense; but it is
such a blessing in another. I'm only just thirty, and it's a grand
thing my tumbling into the living in this way.
I needn't go back because Mr Harbottle is dead.
But Kattie Forrester is coming to the Park. I told you last night,
but I daresay you've forgotten it; and I couldn't tell then that Mr
Hall was acquainted with you, or that he would be so anxious to be
hospitable. He says that I'm to tell you to take your bag up to the
house at once. There never was anything more civil than that. Of course
I let him know that we had been at Oxford together. That does go for
The university and your society together, suggested Gordon.
Don't chaff, because I'm in earnest. Kattie Forrester will be in by
the very train that was to take you on to London, and I'm to wait and
put her into Mr Hall's carriage. One of the daughters, I don't doubt,
will be there, and you can wait and see her if you like it. If you'll
get your bag ready, the coachman will take it with Kattie's luggage.
There's the Park carriage coming down the street now. I'll go out and
stop old Steadypace the coachman; only don't you keep him long, because
I shouldn't like Kattie to find that there was no one to look after her
at the station.
There seemed to be an opening in all this for John Gordon to remain
at any rate a day longer in the neighbourhood of Mary Lawrie, and he
determined that he would avail himself of the opportunity. He
therefore, together with his friend Blake, saw the coachman, and gave
instructions as to finding the bag at the station, and prepared himself
to walk out to the Park. You can go down to the station, he said to
Blake, and can ride back with the carriage.
Of course I shall see you up at the house, said Blake. Indeed
I've been asked to stay there whilst Kattie is with them. Nothing can
be more hospitable than Mr Hall and his four daughters. I'd give you
some advice, only I really don't know which you'd like the best. There
is a sort of similarity about them; but that wears off when you come to
know them. I have heard people say that the two eldest are very much
alike. If that be so, perhaps you'll like the third the best. The third
is the nicest, as her hair may be a shade darker than the others. I
really must be off now, as I wouldn't for worlds that the train should
come in before I'm on the platform. With that he went into the yard,
and at once trotted off on his cob.
Gordon paid his bill, and started on his walk to Little Alresford
Park. Looking back into his early memories, he could just remember to
have heard his father speak of Mr Hall. But that was all. His father
was now dead, and, certainly, he thought, had not mentioned the name
for many years. But the invitation was civil, and as he was to remain
in the neighbourhood, it might be that he should again have an
opportunity of seeing Mary Lawrie or Mr Whittlestaff. He found that
Little Alresford Park lay between the town and Mr Blake's church, so
that he was at the gate sooner than he expected. He went in, and having
time on his hands, deviated from the road and went up a hill, which was
indeed one of the downs, though between the park paling. Here he saw
deer feeding, and he came after a while to a beech grove. He had now
gone down the hill on the other side, and found himself close to as
pretty a labourer's cottage as he remembered ever to have seen. It was
still June, and it was hot, and he had been on his legs nearly the
whole morning. Then he began to talk, or rather to think to himself.
What a happy fellow is that man Montagu Blake! He has every
thing,not that he wants, but that he thinks that he wants. The work
of his life is merely play. He is going to marry a wife,not who is,
but whom he thinks to be perfection. He looks as though he were never
ill a day in his life. How would he do if he were grubbing for diamonds
amidst the mud and dust of Kimberley? Instead of that, he can throw
himself down on such a spot as this, and meditate his sermon among the
beech-trees. Then he began to think whether the sermon could be made
to have some flavour of the beech-trees, and how much better in that
case it would be, and as he so thought he fell asleep.
He had not been asleep very long, perhaps not five minutes, when he
became aware in his slumbers that an old man was standing over him. One
does thus become conscious of things before the moment of waking has
arrived, so positively as to give to the sleeper a false sense of the
reality of existence. I wonder whether you can be Mr Gordon, said the
But I am, said Gordon. I wonder how you know me.
Because I expect you. There was something very mysterious in
this,which, however, lost all mystery as soon as he was sufficiently
awake to think of things. You are Mr Blake's friend.
Yes; I am Mr Blake's friend.
And I am Mr Hall. I didn't expect to find you sleeping here in Gar
Wood. But when I find a strange gentleman asleep in Gar Wood, I put two
and two together, and conclude that you must be Mr Gordon.
It's the prettiest place in all the world, I think.
Yes; we are rather proud of Gar Wood,especially when the deer are
browsing on the hill-side to the left, as they are now. If you don't
want to go to sleep again, we'll walk up to the house. There's the
carriage. I can hear the wheels. The girls have gone down to fetch your
friend's bride. Mr Blake is very fond of his bride,as I dare say you
have found out.
Then, as the two walked together to the house, Mr Hall explained
that there had been some little difference in years gone by between old
Mr Gordon and himself as to money. I was very sorry, but I had to look
after myself. You knew nothing about it, I dare say.
I have heard your namethat's all.
I need not say anything more about it, said Mr Hall; only when I
heard that you were in the country, I was very glad to have the
opportunity of seeing you. Blake tells me that you know my friend
I did not know him till yesterday morning.
Then you know the young lady there; a charming young lady she is.
My girls are extremely fond of Mary Lawrie. I hope we may get them to
come over while you are staying here.
I can only remain one night,or at the most two, Mr Hall.
Pooh, pooh! We have other places in the neighbourhood to show you
quite as pretty as Gar Wood. Though that's a bounce: I don't think
there is any morsel quite so choice as Gar Wood when the deer are
there. What an eye you must have, Mr Gordon, to have made it out by
yourself at once; but then, after all, it only put you to sleep. I
wonder whether the Rookery will put you to sleep. We go in this way, so
as to escape the formality of the front door, and I'll introduce you to
my daughters and Miss Forrester.
CHAPTER XIII. AT LITTLE ALRESFORD.
Mr Hall was a pleasant English gentleman, now verging upon seventy
years of age, who had never had a headache in his life, as he was
wont to boast, but who lived very carefully, as one who did not intend
to have many headaches. He certainly did not intend to make his head
ache by the cares of the work of the world. He was very well off;that
is to say, that with so many thousands a year, he managed to live upon
half. This he had done for very many years, because the estate was
entailed on a distant relative, and because he had not chosen to leave
his children paupers. When the girls came he immediately resolved that
he would never go up to London,and kept his resolve. Not above once
in three or four years was it supposed to be necessary that he showed
his head to a London hairdresser. He was quite content to have a
practitioner out from Alresford, and to pay him one shilling, including
the journey. His tenants in these bad times had always paid their
rents, but they had done so because their rents had not been raised
since the squire had come to the throne. Mr Hall knew well that if he
was anxious to save himself from headaches in that line, he had better
let his lands on easy terms. He was very hospitable, but he never gave
turtle from London, or fish from Southampton, or strawberries or peas
on the first of April. He could give a dinner without champagne, and
thought forty shillings a dozen price enough for port or sherry, or
even claret. He kept a carriage for his four daughters, and did not
tell all the world that the horses spent a fair proportion of their
time at the plough. The four daughters had two saddle-horses between
them, and the father had another for his own use. He did not hunt,and
living in that part of Hampshire, I think he was right. He did shoot
after the manner of our forefathers;would go out, for instance, with
Mr Blake, and perhaps Mr Whittlestaff, and would bring home three
pheasants, four partridges, a hare, and any quantity of rabbits that
the cook might have ordered. He was a man determined on no account to
live beyond his means; and was not very anxious to seem to be rich. He
was a man of no strong affections, or peculiarly generous feelings.
Those who knew him, and did not like him, said that he was selfish.
They who were partial to him declared that he never owed a shilling
that he could not pay, and that his daughters were very happy in having
such a father. He was a good-looking man, with well-formed features,
but one whom you had to see often before you could remember him. And as
I have said before, he never had a headache in his life. When your
father wasn't doing quite so well with the bank as his friends wished,
he asked me to do something for him. Well; I didn't see my way.
I was a boy then, and I heard nothing of my father's business.
I dare say not; but I cannot help telling you. He thought I was
unkind. I thought that he would go on from one trouble to another;and
he did. He quarrelled with me, and for years we never spoke. Indeed I
never saw him again. But for the sake of old friendship, I am very glad
to meet you. This he said, as he was walking across the hall to the
There Gordon met the young ladies with the clergyman, and had to
undergo the necessary introductions. He thought that he could perceive
at once that his story, as it regarded Mary Lawrie, had been told to
all of them. Gordon was quick, and could learn from the manners of his
companions what had been said about him, and could perceive that they
were aware of something of his story. Blake had no such quickness, and
could attribute none of it to another. I am very proud to have the
pleasure of making you acquainted with these five young ladies. As he
said this he had just paused in his narrative of Mr Whittlestaff's
love, and was certain that he had changed the conversation with great
effect. But the young ladies were unable not to look as young ladies
would have looked when hearing the story of an unfortunate gentleman's
love. And Mr Blake would certainly have been unable to keep such a
This is Miss Hall, and this is Miss Augusta Hall, said the father.
People do think that they are alike.
Oh, papa, what nonsense! You needn't tell Mr Gordon that.
No doubt he would find it out without telling, continued the
I can't see it, for the life of me, said Mr Blake. He evidently
thought that civility demanded such an assertion. Mr Gordon, looking at
the two young ladies, felt that he would never know them apart though
he might live in the house for a year.
Evelina is the third, continued Mr Hall, pointing out the one whom
Mr Blake had specially recommended to his friend's notice. Evelina is
not quite so like, but she's like too.
Papa, what nonsense you do talk! said Evelina.
And this is Mary. Mary considers herself to be quite the hope of
the family; spem gregis. Ha, ha!
What does spem gregis mean? I'm sure I don't know, said
Mary. The four young ladies were about thirty, varying up from thirty
to thirty-five. They were fair-haired, healthy young women, with good
common-sense, not beautiful, though very like their father.
And now I must introduce you to Miss Forrester,Kattie Forrester,
said Mr Blake, who was beginning to think that his own young lady was
being left out in the cold.
Yes, indeed, said Mr Hall. As I had begun with my own, I was
obliged to go on to the end. Miss ForresterMr Gordon. Miss Forrester
is a young lady whose promotion has been fixed in the world.
Mr Hall, how can you do me so much injury as to say that? You take
away from me the chance of changing my mind.
Yes, said the oldest Miss Hall; and Mr Gordon the possibility of
changing his. Mr Gordon, what a sad thing it is that Mr Harbottle
should never have had an opportunity of seeing his old parish once
I never knew him, said Gordon.
But he had been here nearly fifty years. And then to leave the
parish without seeing it any more. It's very sad when you look at it in
He has never resided here permanently for a quarter of a century,
said Mr Blake.
Off and on in the summer time, said Augusta. Of course he could
not take much of the duty, because he had a clergyman's throat. I think
it a great pity that he should have gone off so suddenly.
Miss Forrester won't wish to have his resurgam sung, I
warrant you, said Mr Hall.
I don't know much about resurgams, said the young lady,
but I don't see why the parish shall not be just as well in Mr Blake's
hands. Then the young bride was taken away by the four elder ladies to
dress, and the gentlemen followed them half an hour afterwards.
They were all very kind to him, and sitting after dinner, Mr Hall
suggested that Mr Whittlestaff and Miss Lawrie should be asked over to
dine on the next day. John Gordon had already promised to stay until
the third, and had made known his intention of going back to South
Africa as soon as he could arrange matters. I've got nothing to keep
me here, he said, and as there is a good deal of money at stake, I
should be glad to be there as soon as possible.
Oh, come! I don't know about your having nothing to keep you here,
said Blake. But as to Mr Hall's proposition regarding the inhabitants
of Croker's Lodge, Gordon said nothing. He could not object to the
guests whom a gentleman might ask to his own house; but he thought it
improbable that either Mr Whittlestaff or Mary should come. If he chose
to appear and to bring her with him, it must be his own look-out. At
any rate he, Gordon, could say and could do nothing on such an
occasion. He had been betrayed into telling his secret to this
garrulous young parson. There was no help for spilt milk; but it was
not probable that Mr Blake would go any further, and he at any rate
must be content to bear the man's society for one other evening. I
don't see why you shouldn't manage to make things pleasant even yet,
said the parson. But to this John Gordon made no reply.
In the evening some of the sisters played a few pieces at the piano,
and Miss Forrester sang a few songs. Mr Hall in the meantime went fast
asleep. John Gordon couldn't but tell himself that his evenings at
Kimberley were, as a rule, quite as exciting. But then Kattie Forrester
did not belong to him, and he had not found himself able as yet to make
a choice between the young ladies. It was, however, interesting to see
the manner in which the new vicar hung about the lady of his love, and
the evident but innocent pride with which she accepted the attentions
of her admirer.
Don't you think she's a beautiful girl? said Blake, coming to
Gordon's room after they had all retired to bed; such genuine wit, and
so bright, and her singing, you know, is quite perfect,absolutely
just what it ought to be. I do know something about singing myself,
because I've had all the parish voices under my own charge for the last
three years. A practice like that goes a long way, you know. To this
Mr Gordon could only give that assent which silence is intended to
imply. She'll have £5000 at once, you know, which does make her in a
manner equal to either of the Miss Halls. I don't quite know what
they'll have, but not more than that, I should think. The property is
entailed, and he's a saving man. But if he can have put by £20,000, he
has done very well; don't you think so?
Very well indeed.
I suppose I might have had one of them; I don't mind telling you in
strictest confidence. But, goodness gracious, after I had once seen
Kattie Forrester, there was no longer a doubt. I wish you'd tell me
what you think about her.
About Miss Forrester?
You needn't mind speaking quite openly to me. I'm that sort of
fellow that I shouldn't mind what any fellow said. I've formed my own
ideas, and am not likely to change them. But I should like to hear, you
know, how she strikes a fellow who has been at the diamond-fields. I
cannot imagine but that you must have a different idea about women to
what we have. Then Mr Blake sat himself down in an arm-chair at the
foot of the bed, and prepared himself to discuss the opinion which he
did not doubt that his friend was about to deliver.
A very nice young woman indeed, said John Gordon, who was anxious
to go to bed.
Ah, you know,that's a kind of thing that anybody can say. There
is no real friendship in that. I want to know the true candid opinion
of a man who has travelled about the world, and has been at the
diamond-fields. It isn't everybody who has been at the diamond-fields,
continued he, thinking that he might thereby flatter his friend.
No, not everybody. I suppose a young woman is the same there as
here, if she have the same natural gifts. Miss Forrester would be
That's a matter of course. Any fellow can see that with half an
eye. Absolutely beautiful, I should say, rather than pretty.
Just so. It's only a variation in terms, you know.
But then her manner, her music, her language, her wit, and the
colour of her hair! When I remember it all, I think I'm the luckiest
fellow in the world. I shall be a deal happier with her than with
Augusta Hall. Don't you think so? Augusta was the one intended for me;
but, bless you, I couldn't look at her after I had seen Kattie
Forrester. I don't think you've given me your true unbiassed opinion
Indeed I have, said John Gordon.
Well; I should be more free-spoken than that, if you were to ask me
about Mary Lawrie. But then, of course, Mary Lawrie is not your engaged
one. It does make a difference. If it does turn out that she marries Mr
Whittlestaff, I shan't think much of her, I can tell you that. As it
is, as far as looks are concerned, you can't compare her to my Kattie.
Comparisons are odious, said Gordon.
Well, yes; when you are sure to get the worst of them. You wouldn't
think comparisons odious if you were going to marry Kattie, and it was
my lot to have Mary Lawrie. Well, yes; I don't mind going to bed now,
as you have owned so much as that.
Of all the fools, said Gordon to himself, as he went to his own
chamber,of all the fools who were ever turned out in the world to
earn their own bread, he is the most utterly foolish. Yet he will earn
his bread, and will come to no especial grief in the work. If he were
to go out to Kimberley, no one would pay him a guinea a-week. But he
will perform the high work of a clergyman of the Church of England
On the next morning a messenger was sent over to Croker's Hall, and
came back after due lapse of time with an answer to the effect that Mr
Whittlestaff and Miss Lawrie would have pleasure in dining that day at
Little Alresford Park. That's right, said Mr Blake to the lady of his
love. We shall now, perhaps, be able to put the thing into a proper
groove. I'm always very lucky in managing such matters. Not that I
think that Gordon cares very much about the young lady, judging from
what he says of her.
Then I don't see why you should interest yourself.
For the young lady's sake. A lady always prefers a young gentleman
to an old one. Only think what you'd feel if you were married to Mr
Oh, Montagu! how can you talk such nonsense?
I don't suppose you ever would, because you are not one of those
sort of young ladies. I don't suppose that Mary Lawrie likes it
herself; and therefore I'd break the match off in a moment if I could.
That's what I call good-natured.
After lunch they all went off to the Rookery, which was at the other
side of the park from Gar Wood. It was a beautiful spot, lying at the
end of the valley, through which they had to get out from their
carriage, and to walk for half a mile. Only for the sake of doing
honour to Miss Forrester, they would have gone on foot. But as it was,
they had all the six horses among them. Mr Gordon was put up on one of
the young ladies' steeds, the squire and the parson each had his own,
and Miss Evelina was also mounted, as Mr Blake had suggested, perhaps
with the view to the capture of Mr Gordon. As it's your first day,
whispered Mr Blake to Kattie, it is so nice, I think, that the
carriage and horses should all come out. Of course there is nothing in
the distance, but there should be a respect shown on such an occasion.
Mr Hall does do everything of this kind just as it should be.
I suppose you know the young lady who is coming here to-night,
said Evelina to Mr Gordon.
Oh, yes; I knew her before I went abroad.
But not Mr Whittlestaff?
I had never met Mr Whittlestaff, though I had heard much of his
And now they are to be married. Does it not seem to you to be very
Not in the least. The young lady seems to have been left by her
father and step-mother without any engagement, and, indeed, without any
provision. She was brought here, in the first place, from sheer
charity, and I can certainly understand that when she was here Mr
Whittlestaff should have admired her.
That's a matter of course, said Evelina.
Mr Whittlestaff is not at all too old to fall in love with any
young lady. This is a pretty place,a very lovely spot. I think I like
it almost better than Gar Wood. Then there was no more said about Mary
Lawrie till they all rode back to dinner.
CHAPTER XIV. MR WHITTLESTAFF IS GOING
OUT TO DINNER.
There's an invitation come, asking us to dine at Little Alresford
to-day. This was said, soon after breakfast, by Mr Whittlestaff to
Mary Lawrie, on the day after Mr Gordon's coming. I think we'll go.
Could you not leave me behind?
By no means. I want you to become intimate with the girls, who are
But Mr Gordon is there.
Exactly. That is just what I want. It will be better that you and
he should meet each other, without the necessity of making a scene.
From this it may be understood that Mr Whittlestaff had explained to
Mary as much as he had thought necessary of what had occurred between
him and John Gordon, and that Mary's answers had been satisfactory to
his feelings. Mary had told him that she was contented with her lot in
life, as Mr Whittlestaff had proposed it for her. She had not been
enthusiastic; but then he had not expected it. She had not assured him
that she would forget John Gordon. He had not asked her. She had simply
said that if he were satisfied,so was she. I think that with me,
dearest, at any rate, you will be safe. I am quite sure that I shall
be safe, she had answered. And that had been sufficient.
But the reader will also understand from this that he had sought for
no answer to those burning questions which John Gordon had put to him.
Had she loved John Gordon the longest? Did she love him the best? There
was no doubt a certain cautious selfishness in the way in which he had
gone to work. And yet of general selfishness it was impossible to
accuse him. He was willing to give her everything,to do all for her.
And he had first asked her to be his wife, with every observance. And
then he could always protect himself on the plea that he was doing the
best he could for her. His property was assured,in the three per
cents, as Mrs Baggett had suggested; whereas John Gordon's was all in
diamonds. How frequently do diamonds melt and come to nothing? They are
things which a man can carry in his pocket, and lose or give away. They
cannot,so thought Mr Whittlestaff,be settled in the hands of
trustees, or left to the charge of an executor. They cannot be
substantiated. Who can say that, when looking to a lady's interest,
this bit of glass may not come up instead of that precious stone? John
Gordon might be a very steady fellow; but we have only his own word for
that,as Mr Whittlestaff observed to himself. There could not be a
doubt but that Mr Whittlestaff himself was the safer staff of the two
on which a young lady might lean. He did make all these excuses for
himself, and determined that they were of such a nature that he might
rely upon them with safety. But still there was a pang in his bosoma
silent secretwhich kept on whispering to him that he was not the best
beloved. He had, however, resolved steadfastly that he would not put
that question to Mary. If she did not wish to declare her love, neither
did he. It was a pity, a thousand pities, that it should be so. A
change in her heart might, however, take place. It would come to pass
that she would learn that he was the superior staff on which to lean.
John Gordon might disappear among the diamond-fields, and no more be
heard of. He, at any rate, would do his best for her, so that she
should not repent her bargain. But he was determined that the bargain,
as it had been struck, should be carried out. Therefore, in
communicating to Mary the invitation which he had received from Little
Alresford, he did not find it necessary to make any special speech in
answer to her inquiry about John Gordon.
She understood it all, and could not in her very heart pronounce a
judgment against him. She knew that he was doing that which he believed
would be the best for her welfare. She, overwhelmed by the debt of her
gratitude, had acceded to his request, and had been unable afterwards
to depart from her word. She had said that it should be so, and she
could not then turn upon him and declare that when she had given him
her hand, she had been unaware of the presence of her other lover.
There was an injustice, an unkindness, an ingratitude, a selfishness in
this, which forbade her to think of it as being done by herself. It was
better for her that she should suffer, though the suffering should be
through her whole life, than that he should be disappointed. No doubt
the man would suffer too,her hero, her lover,he with whom she would
so willingly have risked everything, either with or without the
diamonds. She could not, however, bear to think that Mr Whittlestaff
should be so very prudent and so very wise solely on her behalf. She
would go to him, but for other reasons than that. As she walked about
the place half the day, up and down the long walk, she told herself
that it was useless to contend with her love. She did love John Gordon;
she knew that she loved him with her whole heart; she knew that she
must be true to him;but still she would marry Mr Whittlestaff, and do
her duty in that state of life to which it had pleased God to call her.
There would be a sacrificea sacrifice of twobut still it was
Had she not consented to take everything from Mr Whittlestaff; her
bread, her meat, her raiment, the shelter under which she lived, and
the position in the world which she now enjoyed? Had the man come but a
day earlier, it would all have been well. She would have told her love
before Mr Whittlestaff had spoken of his wants. Circumstances had been
arranged differently, and she must bear it. But she knew that it would
be better for her that she should see John Gordon no more. Had he
started at once to London and gone thence to the diamond-fields without
seeing her again there would be a feeling that she had become the
creature of stern necessity; there would have been no hope for her,as
also no fear. Had he started a second time for South Africa, she would
have looked upon his further return with any reference to her own wants
as a thing impossible. But now how would it be with her? Mr
Whittlestaff had told her with a stern indifference that she must again
meet this man, sit at the table with him as an old friend, and be again
subject to his influence. It will be better that you and he should
meet, he had said, without the necessity of making a scene. How
could she assure him that there would be no scene?
Then she thought that she would have recourse to that ordinary
feminine excuse, a headache; but were she to do so she would own the
whole truth to her master; she would have declared that she so loved
the man that she could not endure to be in his presence. She must now
let the matter pass as he had intended. She must go to Mr Hall's house,
and there encounter him she loved with what show of coldness she might
be able to assume.
But the worst of it all lay in this,that she could not but think
that he had been induced to remain in the neighbourhood in order that
he might again try to gain his point. She had told herself again and
again that it was impossible, that she must decide as she had decided,
and that Mr Whittlestaff had decided so also. He had used what
eloquence was within his reach, and it had been all in vain. He could
now appeal only to herself, and to such appeal there could be but one
answer. And how was such appeal to be made in Mr Hall's drawing-room?
Surely John Gordon had been foolish in remaining in the neighbourhood.
Nothing but trouble could come of it.
So you are going to see this young man again! This came from Mrs
Baggett, who had been in great perturbation all the morning. The
Sergeant had slept in the stables through the night, and had had his
breakfast brought to him, warm, by his own wife; but he had sat up
among the straw, and had winked at her, and had asked her to give him
threepence of gin with the cat-lap. To this she had acceded, thinking
probably that she could not altogether deprive him of the food to which
he was accustomed without injury. Then, under the influence of the gin
and the promise of a ticket to Portsmouth, which she undertook to get
for him at the station, he was induced to go down with her, and was
absolutely despatched. Her own box was still locked up, and she had
slept with one of the two maids. All this had not happened without
great disturbance in the household. She herself was very angry with her
master because of the box; she was very angry with Mary, because Mary
was, she thought, averse to her old lover; she was very angry with Mr
Gordon, because she well understood that Mr Gordon was anxious to
disturb the arrangement which had been made for the family. She was
very angry with her husband, not because he was generally a drunken old
reprobate, but because he had especially disgraced her on the present
occasion by the noise which he had made in the road. No doubt she had
been treated unfairly in the matter of the box, and could have
succeeded in getting the law of her master. But she could not turn
against her master in that way. She could give him a bit of her own
mind, and that she did very freely; but she could not bring herself to
break the lock of his door. And then, as things went now, she did think
it well that she should remain a few days longer at Croker's Hall. The
occasion of her master's marriage was to be the cause of her going
away. She could not endure not to be foremost among all the women at
Croker's Hall. But it was intolerable to her feelings that any one
should interfere with her master; and she thought that, if need were,
she could assist him by her tongue. Therefore she was disposed to
remain yet a few days in her old place, and had come, after she had got
the ticket for her husband,which had been done before Mr
Whittlestaff's breakfast,to inform her master of her determination.
Don't be a fool, Mr Whittlestaff had said.
I'm always a fool, whether I go or stay, so that don't much
matter. This had been her answer, and then she had gone in to scold
As soon as she had heard of the intended dinner-party, she attacked
Mary Lawrie. So you're going to see this young man again?
Mr Whittlestaff is going to dine at Little Alresford, and intends
to take me with him.
Oh yes; that's all very well. He'd have left you behind if he'd
been of my way of thinking. Mr Gordon here, and Mr Gordon there! I
wonder what's Mr Gordon! He ain't no better than an ordinary miner.
Coals and diamonds is all one to me;I'd rather have the coals for
choice. But Mary was not in a humour to contest the matter with Mrs
Baggett, and left the old woman the mistress of the field.
When the time arrived for going to the dinner, Mr Whittlestaff took
Mary in the pony carriage with him. There is always a groom about
there, he said, so we need not take the boy. His object was, as Mary
in part understood, that he should be able to speak what last words he
might have to utter without having other ears than hers to listen to
Mary would have been surprised had she known how much painful
thought Mr Whittlestaff gave to the matter. To her it seemed as though
he had made up his mind without any effort, and was determined to abide
by it. He had thought it well to marry her; and having asked her, and
having obtained her consent, he intended to take advantage of her
promise. That was her idea of Mr Whittlestaff, as to which she did not
at all blame him. But he was, in truth, changing his purpose every
quarter of an hour;or not changing it, but thinking again and again
throughout the entire day whether he would not abandon himself and all
his happiness to the romantic idea of making this girl supremely happy.
Were he to do so, he must give up everything. The world would have
nothing left for him as to which he could feel the slightest interest.
There came upon him at such moments insane ideas as to the amount of
sacrifice which would be demanded of him. She should have
everythinghis house, his fortune; and he, John Gordon, as being a
part of her, should have them also. He, Whittlestaff, would abolish
himself as far as such abolition might be possible. The idea of suicide
was abominable to himwas wicked, cowardly, and inhuman. But if this
were to take place he could wish to cease to live. Then he would
comfort himself by assuring himself again and again that of the two he
would certainly make the better husband. He was older. Yes; it was a
pity that he should be so much the elder. And he knew that he was old
of his age,such a one as a girl like Mary Lawrie could hardly be
brought to love passionately. He brought up against himself all the
hard facts as sternly as could any younger rival. He looked at himself
in the glass over and over again, and always gave the verdict against
his own appearance. There was nothing to recommend him. So he told
himself,judging of himself most unfairly. He set against himself as
evils little points by which Mary's mind and Mary's judgment would
never be affected. But in truth throughout it all he thought only of
her welfare. But there came upon him constantly an idea that he hardly
knew how to be as good to her as he would have been had it not been for
Catherine Bailey. To have attempted twice, and twice to have failed so
disastrously! He was a man to whom to have failed once in such a matter
was almost death. How should he bear it twice and still live?
Nevertheless he did endeavour to think only of her welfare. You won't
find it cold, my dear? he said.
Cold! Why, Mr Whittlestaff, it's quite hot.
I meant hot. I did mean to say hot.
I've got my parasol.
Oh!ah!yes; so I perceive. Go on, Tommy. That foolish old woman
will settle down at last, I think. To this Mary could make no answer,
because, according to her ideas, Mrs Baggett's settling down must
depend on her master's marriage. I think it very civil of Mr Hall
asking us in this way.
I suppose it is.
Because you may be sure he had heard of your former acquaintance
Do you think so?
Not a doubt about it. He said as much to me in his note. That young
clergyman of his will have told him everything. 'Percontatorem fugito
nam garrulus idem est.' I've taught you Latin enough to understand
that. But, Mary, if you wish to change your mind, this will be your
last opportunity. His heart at that moment had been very tender
towards her, and she had resolved that hers should be very firm to him.
CHAPTER XV. MR WHITTLESTAFF GOES OUT
This would be her last opportunity. So Mary told herself as she got
out of the carriage at Mr Hall's front door. It was made manifest to
her by such a speech that he did not expect that she should do so, but
looked upon her doing so as within the verge of possibility. She could
still do it, and yet not encounter his disgust or his horror. How
terrible was the importance to herself, and, as she believed, to the
other man also. Was she not justified in so thinking? Mr Gordon had
come home, travelling a great distance, at much risk to his property,
at great loss of time, through infinite trouble and danger, merely to
ask her to be his wife. Had a letter reached her from him but a week
ago bidding her to come, would she not have gone through all the danger
and all the trouble? How willingly would she have gone! It was the one
thing that she desired; and, as far as she could understand the signs
which he had given, it was the one, one thing which he desired. He had
made his appeal to that other man, and, as far as she could understand
the signs which had reached her, had been referred with confidence to
her decision. Now she was told that the chance of changing her mind was
still in her power.
The matter was one of terrible importance; but was its importance to
Mr Whittlestaff as great as to John Gordon? She put herself altogether
out of the question. She acknowledged to herself, with a false
humility, that she was nobody;she was a poor woman living on charity,
and was not to be thought of when the position of these two men was
taken into consideration. It chanced that they both wanted her. Which
wanted the most? Which of the two would want her for the longest? To
which would her services be of the greater avail in assisting him to
his happiness. Could there be a doubt? Was it not in human nature that
she should bind herself to the younger man, and with him go through the
world, whether safely or in danger?
But though she had had time to allow these questions to pass through
her mind between the utterance of Mr Whittlestaff's words and her
entrance into Mr Hall's drawing-room, she did not in truth doubt. She
knew that she had made up her mind on the matter. Mr Gordon would in
all probability have no opportunity of saying another word to her. But
let him say what word he might, it should be in vain. Nothing that he
could say, nothing that she could say, would avail anything. If this
other man would release her,then indeed she would be released. But
there was no chance of such release coming. In truth, Mary did not know
how near the chance was to her;or rather, how near the chance had
been. He had now positively made up his mind, and would say not a word
further unless she asked him. If Mary said nothing to John Gordon on
this evening, he would take an opportunity before they left the house
to inform Mr Hall of his intended marriage. When once the word should
have passed his mouth, he could not live under the stigma of a second
Miss Lawrie, pray let me make you known to my intended. This came
from Mr Montagu Blake, who felt himself to be justified by his peculiar
circumstances in so far taking upon himself the work of introducing the
guests in Mr Hall's house. Of course, you've heard all about it. I am
the happiest young man in Hampshire,and she is the next.
Speak for yourself, Montagu. I am not a young man at all.
You're a young man's darling, which is the next thing to it.
How are you, Whittlestaff? said Mr Hall. Wonderful weather, isn't
it? I'm told that you've been in trouble about that drunken husband
which plagues the life out of that respectable housekeeper of yours.
He is a trouble; but if he is bad to me, how much worse must he be
That's true. He must be very bad, I should think. Miss Mary, why
don't you come over this fine weather, and have tea with my girls and
Kattie Forrester in the woods? You should take your chance while you
have a young man willing to wait upon you.
I shall be quite delighted, said Blake, and so will John Gordon.
Only that I shall be in London this time to-morrow, said Gordon.
That's nonsense. You are not going to Kimberley all at once. The
young ladies expect you to bring out a lot of diamonds and show them
before you start. Have you seen his diamonds, Miss Lawrie?
Indeed no, said Mary.
I think I should have asked just to see them, said Evelina Hall.
Why should they join her name with his in this uncivil manner, or
suppose that she had any special power to induce him to show his
When you first find a diamond, said Mr Hall, what do you do with
it? Do you ring a bell and call together your friends, and begin to
No, indeed. The diamond is generally washed out of the mud by some
nigger, and we have to look very sharp after him to see that he doesn't
hide it under his toe-nails. It's not a very romantic kind of business
from first to last.
Only profitable, said the curate.
That's as may be. It is subject to greater losses than the
preaching of sermons.
I should like to go out and see it all, said Miss Hall, looking
into Miss Lawrie's face. This also appeared to Mary to be ill-natured.
Then the butler announced the dinner, and they all followed Mr Hall
and the curate's bride out of one room into the other. This young
lady, said he, is supposed to be in the ascendant just at the present
moment. She can't be married above two or three times at the most. I
say this to excuse myself to Miss Lawrie, who ought perhaps to have the
post of honour. To this some joking reply was made, and they all sat
down to their dinner. Miss Lawrie was at Mr Hall's left hand, and at
her left hand John Gordon was seated. Mary could perceive that
everything was arranged so as to throw herself and John Gordon
together,as though they had some special interest in each other. Of
all this Mr Whittlestaff saw nothing. But John Gordon did perceive
something, and told himself that that ass Blake had been at work. But
his perceptions in the matter were not half as sharp as those of Mary
I used to be very fond of your father, Gordon, said Mr Hall, when
the dinner was half over. It's all done and gone now. Dear, dear,
He was an unfortunate man, and perhaps expected too much from his
I am very glad to see his son here, at any rate. I wish you were
not going to settle down so far away from us.
Kimberley is a long way off.
Yes, indeed; and when a fellow gets out there he is apt to stay, I
I shall do so, probably. I have nobody near enough to me here at
home to make it likely that I shall come back.
You have uncles and aunts? said Mr Hall.
One uncle and two aunts. I shall suit their views and my cousins'
better by sending home some diamonds than by coming myself.
How long will that take? asked Mr Hall. The conversation was kept
up solely between Mr Hall and John Gordon. Mr Whittlestaff took no
share in it unless when he was asked a question, and the four girls
kept up a whisper with Miss Forrester and Montagu Blake.
I have a share in rather a good thing, said Gordon; and if I
could get out of it so as to realise my property, I think that six
months might suffice.
Oh, dear! Then we may have you back again before the year's out?
Mr Whittlestaff looked up at this, as though apprised that the danger
was not yet over. But he reflected that before twelve months were gone
he would certainly have made Mary Lawrie his wife.
Kimberley is not a very alluring place, said John Gordon. I don't
know any spot on God's earth that I should be less likely to choose as
my abiding resting-place.
Except for the diamonds.
Except for the diamonds, as you remark. And therefore when a man
has got his fill of diamonds, he is likely to leave.
His fill of diamonds! said Augusta Hall.
Shouldn't you like to try your fill of diamonds? asked Blake.
Not at all, said Evelina. I'd rather have strawberries and
I think I should like diamonds best, said Mary. Whereupon Evelina
suggested that her younger sister was a greedy little creature.
As soon as you've got your fill of diamonds, which won't take more
than six months longer, suggested Mr Hall, you'll come back again?
Not exactly. I have an idea of going up the country across the
Zambesi. I've a notion that I should like to make my way out somewhere
in the Mediterranean,Egypt, for instance, or Algiers.
What!across the equator? You'd never do that alive?
Things of that kind have been done. Stanley crossed the continent.
But not from south to north. I don't believe in that. You had
better remain at Kimberley and get more diamonds.
He'd be with diamonds like the boy with the bacon, said the
clergyman; when prepared for another wish, he'd have more than he
To tell the truth, said John Gordon, I don't quite know what I
should do. It would depend perhaps on what somebody else would join me
in doing. My life was very lonely at Kimberley, and I do not love being
Then, why don't you take a wife? said Montagu Blake, very loudly,
as though he had hit the target right in the bull's-eye. He so spoke as
to bring the conversation to an abrupt end. Mr Whittlestaff immediately
looked conscious. He was a man who, on such an occasion, could not look
otherwise than conscious. And the five girls, with all of whom the
question of the loves of John Gordon and Mary Lawrie had been fully
discussed, looked conscious. Mary Lawrie was painfully conscious; but
endeavoured to hide it, not unsuccessfully. But in her endeavour she
had to look unnaturally stern,and was conscious, too, that she did
that. Mr Hall, whose feelings of romance were not perhaps of the
highest order, looked round on Mr Whittlestaff and Mary Lawrie. Montagu
Blake felt that he had achieved a triumph. Yes, said he, if those
are your feelings, why don't you take a wife?
One man may not be so happy as another, said Gordon, laughing.
You have suited yourself admirably, and seem to think it quite easy
for a man to make a selection.
Not quite such a selection as mine, perhaps, said Blake.
Then think of the difficulty. Do you suppose that any second Miss
Forrester would dream of going to the diamond-fields with me?
Perhaps not, said Blake. Not a second Miss Forresterbut
Wellyes; inferior to my Miss Forrester, certainly.
You are the most conceited young man that I ever came across, said
the young lady herself.
And I am not inclined to put up with anything that is very
inferior, said John Gordon. He could not help his eye from glancing
for a moment round upon Mary Lawrie. She was aware of it, though no one
else noticed it in the room. She was aware of it, though any one
watching her would have said that she had never looked at him.
A man may always find a woman to suit him, if he looks well about
him, said Mr Hall, sententiously. Don't you think so, Whittlestaff?
I dare say he may, said Mr Whittlestaff, very flatly. And as he
said so he made up his mind that he would, for that day, postpone the
task of telling Mr Hall of his intended marriage.
The evening passed by, and the time came for Mr Whittlestaff to
drive Miss Lawrie back to Croker's Hall. She had certainly spent a most
uneventful period, as far as action or even words of her own was
concerned. But the afternoon was one which she would never forget. She
had been quite, quite sure, when she came into the house; but she was
more than sure now. At every word that had been spoken she had thought
of herself and of him. Would he not have known how to have chosen a fit
companion,only for this great misfortune? And would she have been so
much inferior to Miss Forrester? Would he have thought her inferior to
any one? Would he not have preferred her to any other female whom the
world had at the present moment produced? Oh, the pity of it; the pity
Then came the bidding of adieu. Gordon was to sleep at Little
Alresford that night, and to take his departure by early train on the
next morning. Of the adieux spoken the next morning we need take no
notice, but only of the word or two uttered that night. Good-bye, Mr
Gordon, said Mr Whittlestaff, having taken courage for the occasion,
and having thought even of the necessary syllables to be spoken.
Good-bye, Mr Whittlestaff, and he gave his rival his hand in
apparently friendly grasp. To those burning questions he had asked he
had received no word of reply; but they were questions which he would
not repeat again.
Good-bye, Mr Gordon, said Mary. She had thought of the moment
much, but had determined at last that she would trust herself to
nothing further. He took her hand, but did not say a word. He took it
and pressed it for a moment, and then turned his face away, and went in
from the hall back to the door leading to the drawing-room. Mr
Whittlestaff was at the moment putting on his great-coat, and Mary
stood with her bonnet and cloak on at the open front door, listening to
a word or two from Kattie Forrester and Evelina Hall. Oh, I wish, I
wish it might have been! said Kattie Forrester.
And so do I, said Evelina. Can't it be?
Good-night, said Mary, boldly, stepping out rapidly into the
moonlight, and mounting without assistance to her place in the open
I beg your pardon, said Mr Hall, following her; but there came not
a word from her.
Mr Whittlestaff had gone back after John Gordon. By-the-by, he
said, what will be your address in London?
The 'Oxford and Cambridge' in Pall Mall, said he.
Oh, yes; the club there. It might be that I should have a word to
send to you. But I don't suppose I shall, he added, as he turned round
to go away. Then he shook hands with the party in the hall, and
mounting up into the carriage, drove Mary and himself away homewards
towards Croker's Hall.
Not a word was spoken between them for the first mile, nor did a
sound of a sob or an audible suspicion of a tear come from Mary. Why
did those girls know the secret of her heart in that way? Why had they
dared to express a hope as to an event, or an idea as to a
disappointment, all knowledge of which ought to be buried in her own
bosom? Had she spoken of her love for John Gordon? She was sure that no
word had escaped her. And were it surmised, was it not customary that
such surmises should be kept in the dark? But here these young ladies
had dared to pity her for her vain love, as though, like some village
maiden, she had gone about in tears bewailing herself that some groom
or gardener had been faithless. But sitting thus for the first mile,
she choked herself to keep down her sobs.
Mary, at last he whispered to her.
Well, Mr Whittlestaff?
Mary, we are both of us unhappy.
I am not unhappy, she said, plucking up herself suddenly. Why do
you say that I am unhappy?
You seem so. I at any rate am unhappy.
What makes you so?
I did wrong to take you to dine in company with that man.
It was not for me to refuse to go.
No; there is no blame to you in it;nor is there blame to me. But
it would have been better for us both had we remained away. Then he
drove on in silence, and did not speak another word till they reached
Well! said Mrs Baggett, following them into the dining-room.
What do you mean by 'well'?
What did the folks say to you at Mr Hall's? I can see by your face
that some of them have been saying summat.
Nobody has been saying anything that I know of, said Mr
Whittlestaff. Do you go to bed. Then when Mrs Baggett was gone, and
Mary had listlessly seated herself on a chair, her lover again
addressed her. I wish I knew what there is in your heart. Yet she
would not tell him; but turned away her face and sat silent. Have you
nothing to say to me?
What should I have to say to you? I have nothing to say of that of
which you are thinking.
He has gone now, Mary.
Yes; he has gone.
And you are contented? It did seem hard upon her that she should
be called upon to tell a lie,to say that which he must know to be a
lie,and to do so in order that he might be encouraged to persevere in
achieving his own object. But she did not quite understand him. Are
you contented? he repeated again.
Then she thought that she would tell the lie. If it was well that
she should make the sacrifice for his sake, why should it not be
completed? If she had to give herself to him, why should not the gift
be as satisfactory as it might be made to his feelings? Yes; I am
And you do not wish to see him again?
Certainly not, as your wife.
You do not wish it at all, he rejoined, whether you be my wife or
I think you press me too hard. Then she remembered herself, and
the perfect sacrifice which she was minded to make. No; I do not wish
again to see Mr Gordon at all. Now, if you will allow me, I will go to
bed. I am thoroughly tired out, and I hardly know what I am saying.
Yes; you can go to bed, he said. Then she gave him her hand in
silence, and went off to her own room.
She had no sooner reached her bed, than she threw herself on it and
burst into tears. All this which she had to endure,all that she would
have to bear,would be, she thought, too much for her. And there came
upon her a feeling of contempt for his cruelty. Had he sternly resolved
to keep her to her promised word, and to forbid her all happiness for
the future,to make her his wife, let her heart be as it might;had
he said: you have come to my house, and have eaten my bread and have
drunk of my cup, and have then promised to become my wife, and now you
shall not depart from it because this interloper has come between
us;then, though she might have felt him to be cruel, still she would
have respected him. He would have done, as she believed, as other men
do. But he wished to gain his object, and yet not appear to be cruel.
It was so that she thought of him. And it shall be as he would have
it, she said to herself. But though she saw far into his character,
she did not quite read it aright.
He remained there alone in his library into the late hours of the
night. But he did not even take up a book with the idea of solacing his
hours. He too had his idea of self-sacrifice, which went quite as far
as hers. But yet he was not as sure as was she that the self-sacrifice
would be a duty. He did not believe, as did she, in the character of
John Gordon. What if he should give her up to one who did not deserve
her,to one whose future would not be stable enough to secure the
happiness and welfare of such a woman as was Mary Lawrie! He had no
knowledge to guide him, nor had she;nor, for the matter of that, had
John Gordon himself any knowledge of what his own future might be. Of
his own future Mr Whittlestaff could speak and think with the greatest
confidence. It would be safe, happy, and bright, should Mary Lawrie
become his wife. Should she not do so, it must be altogether ruined and
He could not conceive it to be possible that he should be required
by duty to make such a sacrifice; but he knew of himself that if her
happiness, her true and permanent happiness, would require it, then the
sacrifice should be made.
CHAPTER XVI. MRS BAGGETT'S
The next day was Saturday, and Mr Whittlestaff came out of his room
early, intending to speak to Mrs Baggett. He had declared to himself
that it was his purpose to give her some sound advice respecting her
own affairs,as far as her affairs and his were connected together.
But low down in his mind, below the stratum in which his declared
resolution was apparent to himself, there was a hope that he might get
from her some comfort and strength as to his present purpose. Not but
that he would ultimately do as he himself had determined; but, to tell
the truth, he had not quite determined, and thought that a word from
Mrs Baggett might assist him.
As he came out from his room, he encountered Mary, intent upon her
household duties. It was something before her usual time, and he was
surprised. She had looked ill overnight and worn, and he had expected
that she would keep her bed. What makes you so early, Mary? He spoke
to her with his softest and most affectionate tone.
I couldn't sleep, and I thought I might as well be up. She had
followed him into the library, and when there he put his arm round her
waist and kissed her forehead. It was a strange thing for him to do.
She felt that it was sovery, very strange; but it never occurred to
her that it behoved her to be angry at his caress. He had kissed her
once before, and only once, and it had seemed to her that he had
intended that their love-making should go on without kisses. But was
she not his property, to do as he pleased with her? And there could be
no ground for displeasure on her part.
Dear Mary, he said, if you could only know how constant my
thoughts are to you. She did not doubt that it was so; but just so
constant were her thoughts to John Gordon. But from her to him there
could be no show of affectionnothing but the absolute coldness of
perfect silence. She had passed the whole evening with him last night,
and had not been allowed to speak a single word to him beyond the
ordinary greetings of society. She had felt that she had not been
allowed to speak a single word to any one, because he had been present.
Mr Whittlestaff had thrown over her the deadly mantle of his ownership,
and she had consequently felt herself to be debarred from all right
over her own words and actions. She had become his slave; she felt
herself in very truth to be a poor creature whose only duty it was in
the world to obey his volition. She had told herself during the night
that, with all her motives for loving him, she was learning to regard
him with absolute hatred. And she hated herself because it was so. Oh,
what a tedious affair was this of living! How tedious, how sad and
miserable, must her future days be, as long as days should be left to
her! Could it be made possible to her that she should ever be able to
do her duty by this husband of hers,for her, in whose heart of hearts
would be seated continually the image of this other man?
By-the-by, said he, I want to see Mrs Baggett. I suppose she is
Oh dear, yes. Since the trouble of her husband has become nearer,
she is earlier and earlier every day. Shall I send her? Then she
departed, and in a few minutes Mrs Baggett entered the room.
Come in, Mrs Baggett.
I have just a few words which I want to say to you. Your husband
has gone back to Portsmouth?
Yes sir; he have. This she said in a very decided tone, as though
her master need trouble himself no further about her husband.
I am very glad that it should be so. It's the best place for
him,unless he could be sent to Australia.
He ain't a-done nothing to fit himself for Botany Bay, Mr
Whittlestaff, said the old woman, bobbing her head at him.
I don't care what place he has fitted himself for, so long as he
doesn't come here. He is a disreputable old man.
You needn't be so hard upon him, Mr Whittlestaff. He ain't a-done
nothing much to you, barring sleeping in the stable one night when he
had had a drop o' drink too much. And the old woman pulled out a great
handkerchief, and began to wipe her eyes piteously.
What a fool you are, Mrs Baggett.
Yes; I am a fool. I knows that.
Here's this disreputable old man eating and drinking your
But they are my wages. And who's a right to them, only he?
I don't say anything about that, only he comes here and disturbs
Well, yes; he is disturbing; if it's only because of his wooden leg
and red nose. I don't mean to say as he's the sort of a man as does a
credit to a gentleman's house to see about the place. But he was my lot
in matrimony, and I've got to put up with him. I ain't a-going to
refuse to bear the burden which came to be my lot. I don't suppose he's
earned a single shilling since he left the regiment, and that is hard
upon a poor woman who's got nothing but her wages.
Now, look here, Mrs Baggett.
Send him your wages.
And have to go in rags myself,in your service.
You won't go in rags. Don't be a fool.
I am a fool, Mr Whittlestaff; you can't tell me that too often.
You won't go in rags. You ought to know us well enough
Who is us, Mr Whittlestaff? They ain't no us;just yet.
Yes, I know you, Mr Whittlestaff.
Send him your wages. You may be quite sure that you'll find
yourself provided with shoes and stockings, and the rest of it.
And be a woluntary burden beyond what I earns! Never;not as long
as Miss Mary is coming to live here as missus of your house. I should
do summat as I should have to repent of. But, Mr Whittlestaff, I've got
to look the world in the face, and bear my own crosses. I never can do
it no younger.
You're an old woman now, and you talk of throwing yourself upon the
world without the means of earning a shilling.
I think I'd earn some, at something, old as I am, till I fell down
flat dead, she said. I have that sperit in me, that I'd still be
doing something. But it don't signify; I'm not going to remain here
when Miss Mary is to be put over me. That's the long and the short of
Now had come the moment in which, if ever, Mr Whittlestaff must get
the strength which he required. He was quite sure of the old
woman,that her opinion would not be in the least influenced by any
desire on her own part to retain her position as his housekeeper. I
don't know about putting Miss Mary over you, he said.
Don't know about it! she shouted.
My mind is not absolutely fixed.
'As she said anything?
Not a word.
Or he? Has he been and dared to speak up about Miss Mary. And
he,who, as far as I can understand, has never done a ha'porth for her
since the beginning. What's Mr Gordon? I should like to know. Diamonds!
What's diamonds in the way of a steady income? They're all a flash in
the pan, and moonshine and dirtiness. I hates to hear of diamonds.
There's all the ill in the world comes from them; and you'd give her up
to be taken off by such a one as he among the diamonds! I make bold to
tell you, Mr Whittlestaff, that you ought to have more strength of mind
than what that comes to. You're telling me every day as I'm an old
So you are.
I didn't never contradict you; nor I don't mean, if you tells me so
as often again. And I don't mean to be that impident as to tell my
master as I ain't the only fool about the place. It wouldn't be no wise
But you think it would be true.
I says nothing about that. That's not the sort of language anybody
has heard to come out of my mouth, either before your face or behind
your back. But I do say as a man ought to behave like a man. What! Give
up to a chap as spends his time in digging for diamonds! Never!
What does it matter what he digs for; you know nothing about his
But I know something about yours, Mr Whittlestaff. I know where you
have set your wishes. And I know that when a man has made up his mind
in such an affair as this, he shouldn't give way to any young diamond
dealer of them all.
Not to him.
And what's she? Are you to give up everything because she's
love-sick for a day or two? Is everything to be knocked to pieces here
at Croker's Hall, because he has come and made eyes at her? She was
glad enough to take what you offered before he had come this way.
She was not glad enough. That is it. She was not glad enough.
She took you, at any rate, and I'd never make myself mean enough to
make way for such a fellow as that.
It isn't for him, Mrs Baggett.
It is for him. Who else? To walk away and just leave the game open
because he has come down to Hampshire! There ain't no spirit of
standing up and fighting about it.
With whom am I to fight?
With both of 'em;till you have your own way. A foolish, stupid,
weak girl like that!
I won't have her abused.
She's very well. I ain't a-saying nothing against her. If she'll do
what you bid her, she'll turn out right enough. You asked her, and she
said she'd do it. Is not that so? There's nothing I hate so much as
them romantic ways. And everything is to be made to give way because a
young chap is six foot high! I hates romance and manly beauty, as they
call it, and all the rest of it. Where is she to get her bread and
meat? That's what I want to know.
There'll be bread and meat for her.
I dare say. But you'll have to pay for it, while she's philandering
about with him! And that's what you call fine feelings. I call it all
rubbish. If you've a mind to make her Mrs Whittlestaff, make her Mrs
Whittlestaff. Drat them fine feelings. I never knew no good come of
what people call fine feelings. If a young woman does her work as it
should be, she's got no time to think of 'em. And if a man is master,
he should be master. How's a man to give way to a girl like that, and
then stand up and face the world around him? A man has to be master;
and when he's come to be a little old-like, he has to see that he will
be master. I never knew no good come of one of them soft-going fellows
who is minded to give up whenever a woman wants anything. What's a
woman? It ain't natural that she should have her way; and she don't
like a man a bit better in the long-run because he lets her. There's
Miss Mary; if you're stiff with her now, she'll come out right enough
in a month or two. She's lived without Mr Gordon well enough since
she's been here. Now he's come, and we hear a deal about these fine
feelings. You take my word, and say nothing to nobody about the young
man. He's gone by this time, or he's a-going. Let him go, say I; and if
Miss Mary takes on to whimper a bit, don't you see it.
Mrs Baggett took her departure, and Mr Whittlestaff felt that he had
received the comfort, or at any rate the strength, of which he had been
in quest. In all that the woman had said to him, there had been a
re-echo of his own thoughts,of one side, at any rate, of his own
thoughts. He knew that true affection, and the substantial comforts of
the world, would hold their own against all romance. And he did not
believe,in his theory of ethics he did not believe,that by yielding
to what Mrs Baggett called fine feelings, he would in the long-run do
good to those with whom he was concerned in the world. Were he to marry
Mary Lawrie now, Mary Whittlestaff would, he thought, in ten years'
time, be a happier woman than were he to leave her. That was the solid
conviction of his mind, and in that he had been strengthened by Mrs
Baggett's arguments. He had desired to be so strengthened, and
therefore his interview had been successful.
But as the minutes passed by, as every quarter of an hour added
itself to the quarters that were gone, and as the hours grew on, and
the weakness of evening fell upon him, all his softness came back
again. They had dined at six o'clock, and at seven he declared his
purpose of strolling out by himself. On these summer evenings he would
often take Mary with him; but he now told her, with a sort of apology,
that he would rather go alone. Do, she said, smiling up into his
face; don't let me ever be in your way. Of course, a man does not
always want to have to find conversation for a young lady.
If you are the young lady, I should always want itonly that I
have things to think of.
Go and think of your things. I will sit in the garden and do my
About a mile distant, where the downs began to rise, there was a
walk supposed to be common to all who chose to frequent it, but which
was entered through a gate which gave the place within the appearance
of privacy. There was a little lake inside crowded with water-lilies,
when the time for the water-lilies had come; and above the lake a path
ran up through the woods, very steep, and as it rose higher and higher,
altogether sheltered. It was about a mile in length till another gate
was reached; but during the mile the wanderer could go off on either
side, and lose himself on the grass among the beech-trees. It was a
favourite haunt with Mr Whittlestaff. Here he was wont to sit and read
his Horace, and think of the affairs of the world as Horace depicted
them. Many a morsel of wisdom he had here made his own, and had then
endeavoured to think whether the wisdom had in truth been taken home by
the poet to his own bosom, or had only been a glitter of the intellect,
never appropriated for any useful purpose. 'Gemmas, marmor, ebur,' he
had said. 'Sunt qui non habeant; est qui non curat habere.' I suppose
he did care for jewels, marble, and ivory, as much as any one. 'Me
lentus Glyceræ torret amor meæ.' I don't suppose he ever loved her
really, or any other girl. Thus he would think over his Horace, always
having the volume in his pocket.
Now he went there. But when he had sat himself down in a spot to
which he was accustomed, he had no need to take out his Horace. His own
thoughts came to him free enough without any need of his looking for
them to poetry. After all, was not Mrs Baggett's teaching a damnable
philosophy? Let the man be the master, and let him get everything he
can for himself, and enjoy to the best of his ability all that he can
get. That was the lesson as taught by her. But as he sat alone there
beneath the trees, he told himself that no teaching was more damnable.
Of course it was the teaching by which the world was kept going in its
present course; but when divested of its plumage was it not absolutely
the philosophy of selfishness? Because he was a man, and as a man had
power and money and capacity to do the things after which his heart
lusted, he was to do them for his own gratification, let the
consequences be what they might to one whom he told himself that he
loved! Did the lessons of Mrs Baggett run smoothly with those of Jesus
Then within his own mind he again took Mrs Baggett's side of the
question. How mean a creature must he not become, if he were now to
surrender this girl whom he was anxious to make his wife! He knew of
himself that in such a matter he was more sensitive than others. He
could not let her go, and then walk forth as though little or nothing
were the matter with him. Now for the second time in his life he had
essayed to marry. And now for the second time all the world would know
that he had been accepted and then rejected. It was, he thought, more
than he could endure,and live.
Then after he had sat there for an hour he got up and walked home;
and as he went he tried to resolve that he would reject the philosophy
of Mrs Baggett and accept the other. If I only knew! he said as he
entered his own gate. If one could only see clearly! Then he found
Mary still seated in the garden. Nothing is to be got, he said, by
asking you for an answer.
In what have I failed?
Never mind. Let us go in and have a cup of tea. But she knew well
in what he accused her of failing, and her heart turned towards him
CHAPTER XVII. MR WHITTLESTAFF
MEDITATES A JOURNEY.
The next day was Sunday, and was passed in absolute tranquillity.
Nothing was said either by Mr Whittlestaff or by Mary Lawrie; nor, to
the eyes of those among whom they lived, was there anything to show
that their minds were disturbed. They went to church in the morning, as
was usual with them, and Mary went also to the evening service. It was
quite pleasant to see Mrs Baggett start for her slow Sabbath morning
walk, and to observe how her appearance altogether belied that idea of
rags and tatters which she had given as to her own wardrobe. A nicer
dressed old lady, or a more becoming black silk gown, you shall not see
on a Sunday morning making her way to any country church in England.
While she was looking so pleasant and demure,one may say almost so
handsome, in her old-fashioned and apparently new bonnet,what could
have been her thoughts respecting the red-nosed, one-legged warrior,
and her intended life, to be passed in fetching two-penn'orths of gin
for him, and her endeavours to get for him a morsel of wholesome food?
She had had her breakfast out of her own china tea-cup, which she used
to boast was her own property, as it had been given to her by Mr
Whittlestaff's mother, and had had her little drop of cream, and, to
tell the truth, her boiled egg, which she always had on a Sunday
morning, to enable her to listen to the long sermon of the Rev Mr
Lowlad. She would talk of her hopes and her burdens, and undoubtedly
she was in earnest. But she certainly did seem to make her hay very
comfortably while the sun shone.
Everything on this Sunday morning was pleasant, or apparently
pleasant, at Croker's Hall. In the evening, when Mary and the
maid-servants went to church, leaving Mrs Baggett at home to look after
the house and go to sleep, Mr Whittlestaff walked off to the wooded
path with his Horace. He did not read it very long. The bits which he
did usually read never amounted to much at a time. He would take a few
lines and then digest them thoroughly, wailing over them or rejoicing,
as the case might be. He was not at the present moment much given to
joy. Intermissa, Venus, diu rursus bella moves? Parce, precor,
precor. This was the passage to which he turned at the present moment;
and very little was the consolation which he found in it. What was so
crafty, he said to himself, or so vain as that an old man should hark
back to the pleasures of a time of life which was past and gone! Non
sum qualis eram, he said, and then thought with shame of the time when
he had been jilted by Catherine Bailey,the time in which he had
certainly been young enough to love and be loved, had he been as
lovable as he had been prone to love. Then he put the book in his
pocket. His latter effort had been to recover something of the
sweetness of life, and not, as had been the poet's, to drain those
dregs to the bottom. But when he got home he bade Mary tell him what Mr
Lowlad had said in his sermon, and was quite cheery in his manner of
picking Mr Lowlad's theology to pieces;for Mr Whittlestaff did not
altogether agree with Mr Lowlad as to the uses to be made of the
On the next morning he began to bustle about a little, as was usual
with him before he made a journey; and it did escape him, while he was
talking to Mrs Baggett about a pair of trousers which it turned out
that he had given away last summer, that he meditated a journey to
London on the next day.
You ain't a-going? said Mrs Baggett.
I think I shall.
Then don't. Take my word for it, sir,don't. But Mr Whittlestaff
only snubbed her, and nothing more was said about the journey at the
In the course of the afternoon visitors came. Miss Evelina Hall with
Miss Forrester had been driven into Alresford, and now called in
company with Mr Blake. Mr Blake was full of his own good tidings, but
not so full but that he could remember, before he took his departure,
to say a half whispered word on behalf of John Gordon. What do you
think, Mr Whittlestaff? Since you were at Little Alresford we've
settled the day.
You needn't be telling it to everybody about the county, said
Why shouldn't I tell it to my particular friends? I am sure Miss
Lawrie will be delighted to hear it.
Indeed I am, said Mary.
And Mr Whittlestaff also. Are you not, Mr Whittlestaff?
I am very happy to hear that a couple whom I like so well are soon
to be made happy. But you have not yet told us the day.
The 1st of August, said Evelina Hall.
The 1st of August, said Mr Blake, is an auspicious day. I am sure
there is some reason for regarding it as auspicious, though I cannot
exactly remember what. It is something about Augustus, I think.
I never heard of such an idea to come from a clergyman of the
Church of England, said the bride. I declare Montagu never seems to
think that he's a clergyman at all.
It will be better for him, said Mr Whittlestaff, and for all
those about him, that he should ever remember the fact and never seem
to do so.
All the same, said Blake, although the 1st of August is
auspicious, I was very anxious to be married in July, only the painters
said they couldn't be done with the house in time. One is obliged to go
by what these sort of people say and do. We're to have a month's
honeymoon,only just a month, because Mr Lowlad won't make himself as
agreeable as he ought to do about the services; and Newface, the
plumber and glazier, says he can't have the house done as Kattie would
like to live in it before the end of August. Where do you think we're
going to, Miss Lawrie? You would never guess.
Perhaps to Rome, said Mary at a shot.
Not quite so far. We're going to the Isle of Wight. It's rather
remarkable that I never spent but one week in the Isle of Wight since I
was born. We haven't quite made up our mind whether it's to be Black
Gang Chine or Ventnor. It's a matter of dresses, you see.
Don't be a fool, Montagu, said Miss Forrester.
Well, it is. If we decide upon Ventnor, she must have frocks and
things to come out with.
I suppose so, said Mr Whittlestaff.
But she'll want nothing of the kind at Black Gang.
Do hold your tongue, and not make an ass of yourself. What do you
know what dresses I shall want? As it is, I don't think I shall go
either to the one place or the other. The Smiths are at Ryde, and the
girls are my great friends. I think we'll go to Ryde, after all.
I'm so sorry, Mr Whittlestaff, that we can't expect the pleasure of
seeing you at our wedding. It is, of course, imperative that Kattie
should be married in the cathedral. Her father is one of the
dignitaries, and could not bear not to put his best foot foremost on
such an occasion. The Dean will be there, of course. I'm afraid the
Bishop cannot come up from Farnham, because he will have friends with
him. I am afraid John Gordon will have gone by that time, or else we
certainly would have had him down. I should like John Gordon to be
present, because he would see how the kind of thing is done. The name
of John Gordon at once silenced all the matrimonial chit-chat which was
going on among them. It was manifest both to Mr Whittlestaff and to
Mary that it had been lugged in without a cause, to enable Mr Blake to
talk about the absent man. It would have been pleasant; eh, Kattie?
We should have been very glad to see Mr Gordon, if it would have
suited him to come, said Miss Forrester.
It would have been just the thing for him; and we at Oxford
together, and everything. Don't you think he would have liked to be
there? It would have put him in mind of other things, you know.
To this appeal there was no answer made. It was impossible that Mary
should bring herself to talk about John Gordon in mixed company. And
the allusion to him stirred Mr Whittlestaff's wrath. Of course it was
understood as having been spoken in Mary's favour. And Mr Whittlestaff
had been made to perceive by what had passed at Little Alresford that
the Little Alresford people all took the side of John Gordon, and were
supposed to be taking the side of Mary at the same time. There was not
one of them, he said to himself, that had half the sense of Mrs
Baggett. And there was a vulgarity about their interference of which
Mrs Baggett was not guilty.
He is half way on his road to the diamond-fields, said Evelina.
And went away from here on Saturday morning! said Montagu Blake.
He has not started yet,not dreamed of it. I heard him whisper to Mr
Whittlestaff about his address. He's to be in London at his club. I
didn't hear him say for how long, but when a man gives his address at
his club he doesn't mean to go away at once. I have a plan in my head.
Some of those boats go to the diamond-fields from Southampton. All the
steamers go everywhere from Southampton. Winchester is on the way to
Southampton. Nothing will be easier for him than to drop in for our
marriage on his way out. That is, if he must go at last. Then he
looked hard at Mary Lawrie.
And bring some of his diamonds with him, said Evelina Hall. That
would be very nice. But not a word more was said then about John
Gordon by the inhabitants of Croker's Hall. After that the visitors
went, and Montagu Blake chaperoned the girls out of the house, without
an idea that he had made himself disagreeable.
That young man is a most egregious ass, said Mr Whittlestaff.
He is good-natured and simple, but I doubt whether he sees things
He has not an idea of what a man may talk about and when he should
hold his tongue. And he is such a fool as to think that his idle
chatter can influence others. I don't suppose a bishop can refuse to
ordain a gentleman because he is a general idiot. Otherwise I think the
bishop is responsible for letting in such an ass as this. Mary said to
herself, as she heard this, that it was the most ill-natured remark
which she had ever known to fall from the mouth of Mr Whittlestaff.
I think I am going away for a few days, Mr Whittlestaff said to
Mary, when the visitors were gone.
Where are you going?
Well, I suppose I shall be in London. When one goes anywhere, it is
generally to London; though I haven't been there for more than two
Not since I came to live with you, she said. You are the most
stay-at-home person by way of a gentleman that I ever heard of. Then
there was a pause for a few minutes, and he said nothing further.
Might a person ask what you are going for? This she asked in the
playful manner which she knew he would take in good part.
Well; I don't quite know that a person can. I am going to see a man
upon business, and if I began to tell you part of it, I must tell it
all,which would not be convenient.
May I not ask how long you will be away? There can't be any
dreadful secret in that. And I shall want to know what to get for your
dinner when you come back. She was standing now at his elbow, and he
was holding her by the arm. It was to him almost as though she were
already his wife, and the feeling to him was very pleasant. Only if she
were his wife, or if it were positively decided among them that she
would become so, he would certainly tell her the reason for which he
might undertake any journey. Indeed there was no reason connected with
any business of his which might not be told, other than that special
reason which was about to take him to London. He only answered her now
by pressing her hand and smiling into her face. Will it be for a
Oh dear, no! what should I do away from home for a month?
How can I tell? The mysterious business may require you to be
absent for a whole year. Fancy my being left at home all that time. You
don't think of it; but you have never left me for a single night since
you first brought me to live here.
And you have never been away.
Oh, no! why should I go away? What business can a woman have to
move from home, especially such a woman as I am.
You are just like Mrs Baggett. She always talks of women with
supreme contempt. And yet she is just as proud of herself as the queen
when you come to contradict her.
You never contradict me.
Perhaps the day may come when I shall. Then he recollected
himself, and added, Or perhaps the day may never come. Never mind. Put
up my things for one week. At any rate I shall not be above a week
gone. Then she left him, and went away to his room to do what was
She knew the business on which he was about to travel to London, as
well as though he had discussed with her the whole affair. In the
course of the last two or three days there had been moments in which
she had declared to herself that he was cruel. There had been moments
in which she had fainted almost with sorrow when she thought of the
life which fate had in store for her. There must be endless misery,
while there might have been joy, so ecstatic in its nature as to make
it seem to her to be perennial. Then she had almost fallen, and had
declared him to be preternaturally cruel. But these moments had been
short, and had endured only while she had allowed herself to dream of
the ecstatic joy, which she confessed to herself to be an unfit
condition of life for her. And then she had told herself that Mr
Whittlestaff was not cruel, and that she herself was no better than a
weak, poor, flighty creature unable to look in its face life and all
its realities. And then she would be lost in amazement as she thought
of herself and all her vacillations.
She now was resolved to take his part, and to fight his battle to
the end. When he had told her that he was going up to London, and going
up on business as to which he could tell her nothing, she knew that it
behoved her to prevent him from taking the journey. John Gordon should
be allowed to go in quest of his diamonds, and Mr Whittlestaff should
be persuaded not to interfere with him. It was for her sake, and not
for John Gordon's, that he was about to make the journey. He had asked
her whether she were willing to marry him, and she had told him that he
was pressing her too hard. She would tell him now,now before it was
too late,that this was not so. His journey to London must at any rate
CHAPTER XVIII. MR AND MRS TOOKEY.
On the day arranged, early on the morning after the dinner at Little
Alresford Park, John Gordon went up to London. He had not been much
moved by the intimation made to him by Mr Whittlestaff that some letter
should be written to him at his London address. He had made his appeal
to Mr Whittlestaff, and had received no answer whatever. And he had,
after a fashion, made his appeal also to the girl. He felt sure that
his plea must reach her. His very presence then in this house had been
an appeal to her. He knew that she so far believed in him as to be
conscious that she could at once become his wifeif she were willing
to throw over his rival. He knew also that she loved him,or had
certainly loved him. He did not know the nature of her regard; nor was
it possible that he should ever know that,unless she were his wife.
She had given a promise to that other man, andit was thus he read her
charactershe could be true to her promise without any great
heart-break. At any rate, she intended to be true to it. He did not for
a moment suspect that Mr Whittlestaff was false. Mary had declared that
she would not withdraw her word,that only from her own mouth was to
be taken her intention of such withdrawal, and that such intention she
certainly would never utter. Of her character he understood much,but
not quite all. He was not aware of the depth of her feeling. But Mr
Whittlestaff he did not understand at all. Of all those vacillating
softnesses he knew nothing,or of those moments spent with the poet,
in which he was wont to fight against the poet's pretences, and of
those other moments spent with Mrs Baggett, in which he would listen
to, and always finally reject, those invitations to manly strength
which she would always pour into his ears. That Mr Whittlestaff should
spend hour after hour, and now day after day, in teaching himself to
regard nothing but what might best suit the girl's happiness,of that
he was altogether in the dark. To his thinking, Mr Whittlestaff was a
hard man, who, having gained his object, intended to hold fast by what
he had gained. He, John Gordon, knew, or thought that he knew, that
Mary, as his wife, would lead a happier life than with Mr Whittlestaff.
But things had turned out unfortunately, and there was nothing for him
but to return to the diamond-fields.
Therefore he had gone back to London with the purpose of preparing
for his journey. A man does not start for South Africa to-morrow, or,
if not to-morrow, then the next day. He was aware that there must be
some delay; but any place would be better in which to stay than the
neighbourhood of Croker's Hall. There were things which must be done,
and people with whom he must do it; but of all that, he need say
nothing down at Alresford. Therefore, when he got back to London, he
meant to make all his arrangementsand did so far settle his affairs
as to take a berth on board one of the mail steamers.
He had come over in company with a certain lawyer, who had gone out
to Kimberley with a view to his profession, and had then, as is the
case with all the world that goes to Kimberley, gone into diamonds.
Diamonds had become more to him than either briefs or pleadings. He had
been there for fifteen years, and had ruined himself and made himself
half-a-dozen times. He had found diamonds to be more pleasant than law,
and to be more compatible with champagne, tinned lobsters, and young
ladies. He had married a wife, and had parted with her, and taken
another man's wife, and paid for her with diamonds. He had then
possessed nothing, and had afterwards come forth a third-part owner of
the important Stick-in-the-Mud claim, which at one time was paying 12
per cent per month. It must be understood that the Stick-in-the-Mud
claim was an almost infinitesimal portion of soil in the Great
Kimberley mine. It was but the sixteenth part of an original
sub-division. But from the centre of the great basin, or rather bowl,
which forms the mine, there ran up two wires to the high mound erected
on the circumference, on which continually two iron cages were
travelling up and down, coming back empty, but going up laden with
gemmiferous dirt. Here travelled the diamonds of the Stick-in-the-Mud
claim, the owner of one-third of which, Mr Fitzwalker Tookey, had come
home with John Gordon.
Taking a first general glance at affairs in the diamond-fields, I
doubt whether we should have been inclined to suspect that John Gordon
and Fitzwalker Tookey would have been likely to come together as
partners in a diamond speculation. But John Gordon had in the course of
things become owner of the other two shares, and when Fitzwalker Tookey
determined to come home, he had done so with the object of buying his
partner's interest. This he might have done at once,only that he
suffered under the privation of an insufficiency of means. He was a man
of great intelligence, and knew well that no readier mode to wealth had
ever presented itself to him than the purchase of his partner's shares.
Much was said to persuade John Gordon; but he would not part with his
documents without seeing security for his money. Therefore Messrs.
Gordon and Tookey put the old Stick-in-the-Mud into the hands of
competent lawyers, and came home together.
I am not at all sure that I shall sell, John Gordon had said.
But I thought that you offered it.
Yes; for money down. For the sum named I will sell now. But if I
start from here without completing the bargain, I shall keep the option
in my own hands. The fact is, I do not know whether I shall remain in
England or return. If I do come back I am not likely to find anything
better than the old Stick-in-the-Mud. To this Mr Tookey assented, but
still he resolved that he would go home. Hence it came to pass that Mr
Fitzwalker Tookey was now in London, and that John Gordon had to see
him frequently. Here Tookey had found another would-be partner, who had
the needed money, and it was fervently desired by Mr Tookey that John
Gordon might not go back to South Africa.
The two men were not at all like in their proclivities; but they had
been thrown together, and each had learned much of the inside life of
the other. The sort of acquaintance with whom a steady man becomes
intimate in such a locality often surprises the steady man himself.
Fitzwalker Tookey had the antecedents and education of a gentleman.
Champagne and lobster suppersthe lobster coming out of tin
cases,diamonds and strange ladies, even with bloated cheeks and
strong language, had not altogether destroyed the vestiges of the
Temple. He at any rate was fond of a companion with whom he could
discuss his English regrets, and John Gordon was not inclined to shut
himself up altogether among his precious stones, and to refuse the
conversation of a man who could talk. Tookey had told him of his great
distress in reference to his wife. By G! you know, the cruellest
thing you ever heard in the world. I was a little tight one night, and
the next morning she was off with Atkinson, who got away with his
pocket full of diamonds. Poor girl! she went down to the Portuguese
settlement, and he was nabbed. He's doing penal service now down at
Cape Town. That's a kind of thing that does upset a fellow. And poor
Fitzwalker began to cry.
Among such confidences Gordon allowed it to escape from him that
were he to become married in England, he did not think it probable that
he should return. Thus it was known, at least to his partner, that he
was going to look for a wife, and the desire in Mr Tookey's breast that
the wife might be forthcoming was intense. Well! he said, immediately
on Gordon's return to London.
What does 'well' mean?
Of course you went down there to look after the lady.
I have never told you so.
But you diddid you not?
I have told you nothing about any lady, though you are constantly
asking questions. As a fact, I think I shall go back next month.
I think so. The stake I have there is of too great importance to be
I have the money ready to pay over;absolute cash on the nail. You
don't call that abandoning it?
The claim has gone up in value 25 per cent, as you have already
Yes; it has gone up a little, but not so much as that. It will come
down as much by the next mail. With diamonds you never can stick to
That's true. But you can only go by the prices as you see them
quoted. They may be up 25 per cent again by next mail. At any rate, I
am going back.
The devil you are!
That's my present idea. As I like to be on the square with you
altogether, I don't mind saying that I have booked a berth by the
The deuce you have! And you won't take a wife with you?
I am not aware that I shall have such an impediment.
Then Fitzwalker Tookey assumed a very long face. It is difficult to
trace the workings of such a man's mind, or to calculate the meagre
chances on which he is too often driven to base his hopes of success.
He feared that he could not show his face in Kimberley, unless as the
representative of the whole old Stick-in-the-Mud. And with that object
he had declared himself in London to have the actual power of disposing
of Gordon's shares. Gordon had gone down to Hampshire, and would no
doubt be successful with the young lady. At any rate,as he described
it to himself,he had gone in for that. He could see his way in that
direction, but in no other. Upon my word, this, you know, iswhat I
callrather throwing a fellow over.
I am as good as my word.
I don't know about that, Gordon.
But I do, and I won't hear any assertion to the contrary. I offered
you the shares for a certain price, and you rejected them.
I did not do that.
You did do that,exactly. Then there came up in my mind a feeling
that I might probably wish to change my purpose.
And I am to suffer for that.
Not in the least. I then told you that you should still have the
shares for the price named. But I did not offer them to any one else.
So I came home,and you chose to come with me. But before I started,
and again after, I told you that the offer did not hold good, and that
I should not make up my mind as to selling till after I got to
We understood that you meant to be married.
I never said so. I never said a word about marriage. I am now going
back, and mean to manage the mine myself.
Without asking me?
Yes; I shall ask you. But I have two-thirds. I will give you for
your share 10 per cent more than the price you offered me for each of
my shares. If you do not like that, you need not accept the offer; but
I don't mean to have any more words about it.
Mr Fitzwalker Tookey's face became longer and longer, and he did in
truth feel himself to be much aggrieved within his very soul. There
were still two lines of conduct open to him. He might move the stern
man by a recapitulation of the sorrow of his circumstances, or he might
burst out into passionate wrath, and lay all his ruin to his partner's
doing. He might still hope that in this latter way he could rouse all
Kimberley against Gordon, and thus creep back into some vestige of
property under the shadow of Gordon's iniquities. He would try both. He
would first endeavour to move the stern man to pity. I don't think you
can imagine the condition in which you are about to place me.
I can't admit that I am placing you anywhere.
I'll just explain. Of course I know that I can tell you everything
in strictest confidence.
I don't know it at all.
Oh yes; I can. You remember the story of my poor wife?
Yes; I remember.
She's in London now.
What! She got back from the Portuguese settlement?
Yes. She did not stay there long. I don't suppose that the
Portuguese are very nice people.
At any rate they don't have much money among them.
Not after the lavish expenditure of the diamond-fields, suggested
Just so. Poor Matilda had been accustomed to all that money could
buy for her. I never used to be close-fisted with her, though sometimes
I would be tight.
As far as I could understand, you never used to agree at all.
I don't think we did hit it off. Perhaps it was my fault.
You used to be a little free in your way of living.
I was. I confess that I was so. I was young then, but I am older
now. I haven't touched a B. and S. before eleven o'clock since I have
been in London above two or three times. I do mean to do the best I can
for my young family. It was the fact that Mr Tookey had three little
children boarding out in Kimberley.
And what is the lady doing in London?
To tell the truth, she's at my lodgings.
I do admit it. She is.
She is indifferent to the gentleman in the Cape Town penal
Altogether, I don't think she ever really cared for him. To tell
the truth, she only wanted some one to take her away fromme.
And now she trusts you again?
Oh dear, yes;completely. She is my wife, you know, still.
I suppose so.
That sacred tie has never been severed. You must always remember
that. I don't know what your feelings are on such a subject, but
according to my views it should not be severed roughly. When there are
children, that should always be borne in mind. Don't you think so?
The children should be borne in mind.
Just so. That's what I mean. Who can look after a family of young
children so well as their young mother? Men have various ways of
looking at the matter. To this John Gordon gave his ready consent, and
was anxious to hear in what way his assistance was to be asked in again
putting Mr and Mrs Tookey, with their young children, respectably on
their feet. There are men, you know, stand-off sort of fellows, who
think that a woman should never be forgiven.
It must depend on how far the husband has been in fault.
Exactly. Now these stand-off sort of fellows will never admit that
they have been in fault at all. That's not my case.
You drank a little.
For the matter of that, so did she. When a woman drinks she gets
herself to bed somehow. A man gets out upon a spree. That's what I used
to do, and then I would hit about me rather recklessly. I have no doubt
Matilda did get it sometimes. When there has been that kind of thing,
forgive and forget is the best thing you can do.
I suppose so.
And then at the Fields there isn't the same sort of prudish life
which one is accustomed to in England. Here in London a man is nowhere
if he takes his wife back. Nobody knows her, because there are plenty
to know of another sort. But there things are not quite so strict. Of
course she oughtn't to have gone off with Atkinson;a vulgar low
And you oughtn't to have licked her.
That's just it. It was tit for tat, I think. That's the way I look
at it. At any rate we are living together now, and no one can say we're
not man and wife.
There'll be a deal of trouble saved in that way.
A great deal. We are man and wife, and can begin again as though
nothing had happened. No one can say that black's the white of our eye.
She'll take to those darling children as though nothing had happened.
You can't conceive how anxious she is to get back to them. And there's
no other impediment. That's a comfort.
Another impediment would have upset you rather?
I couldn't have put up with that. Mr Fitzwalker Tookey looked very
grave and high-minded as he made the assertion. But there's nothing of
that kind. It's all open sailing. Now,what are we to live upon, just
for a beginning?
You have means out there.
Not as things are at present,I am sorry to say. To tell the
truth, my third share of the old Stick-in-the-Mud is gone. I had to
raise money when it was desirable that I should come with you.
Not on my account.
And then I did owe something. At any rate, it's all gone now. I
should find myself stranded at Kimberley without a red cent.
What can I do?
Well,I will explain. Poker &Hodge will buy your shares for the
sum named. Joshua Poker, who is out there, has got my third share.
Poker &Hodge have the money down, and when I have arranged the sale,
will undertake to give me the agency at one per cent on the whole take
for three years certain. That'll be £1000 a-year, and it's odd if I
can't float myself again in that time. Gordon stood silent, scratching
his head. Or if you'd give me the agency on the same terms, it would
be the same thing. I don't care a straw for Poker & Hodge.
I daresay not.
But you'd find me as true as steel.
What little good I did at the Fields I did by looking after my own
Then what do you propose? Let Poker &Hodge have them, and I shall
bless you for ever. To this mild appeal Mr Tookey had been brought by
the manner in which John Gordon had scratched his head. I think you
are bound to do it, you know. To this he was brought by the subsequent
look which appeared in John Gordon's eyes.
I think not.
Men will say so.
I don't care a straw what men say, or women.
And you to come back in the same ship with me and my wife! You
couldn't do it. The Fields wouldn't receive you. Gordon bethought
himself whether this imagined rejection might not arise rather from the
character of his travelling companions. To bring back the mother of
three little sainted babes, and then to walk in upon every shilling of
property which had belonged to their father! You never could hold up
your head in Kimberley again.
I should have to stand abashed before your virtue?
Yes, you would. I should be known to have come back with my poor
repentant wife,the mother of three dear babes. And she would be known
to have returned with her misguided husband. The humanity of the Fields
would not utter a word of reproval to either of us. But, upon my word,
I should not like to stand in your shoes. And how you could sit
opposite to her and look her in the face on the journey out, I don't
It would be unpleasant.
Deuced unpleasant, I should say. You remember the old Roman saying,
'Never be conscious of anything within your own bosom.' Only think how
you would feel when you were swelling it about in Kimberley, while that
poor lady won't be able to buy a pair of boots for herself or her
children. I say nothing about myself. I didn't think you were the man
to do it;I didn't indeed.
Gordon did find himself moved by the diversity of lights through
which he was made to look at the circumstances in question. In the
first place, there was the journey back with Mr Tookey and his wife,
companions he had not anticipated. The lady would probably begin by
soliciting his intimacy, which on board ship he could hardly refuse.
With a fellow-passenger, whose husband has been your partner, you must
quarrel bitterly or be warm friends. Upon the whole, he thought that he
could not travel to South Africa with Mr and Mrs Fitzwalker Tookey. And
then he understood what the man's tongue would do if he were there for
a month in advance. The whole picture of life, too, at the Fields was
not made attractive by Mr Tookey's description. He was not afraid of
the reception which might be accorded to Mrs Tookey, but saw that
Tookey found himself able to threaten him with violent evils, simply
because he would claim his own. Then there shot across his brain some
reminiscence of Mary Lawrie, and a comparison between her and her life
and the sort of life which a man must lead under the auspices of Mrs
Tookey. Mary Lawrie was altogether beyond his reach; but it would be
better to have her to think of than the other to know. His idea of the
diamond-fields was disturbed by the promised return of his late partner
and his wife.
And you mean to reduce me to this misery? asked Mr Tookey.
I don't care a straw for your misery.
Not for your picture of your misery. I do not doubt but that when
you have been there for a month you will be drunk as often as ever, and
just as free with your fists when a woman comes in your way.
And I do not see that I am at all bound to provide for you and for
your wife and children. You have seen many ups and downs, and will be
doomed to see many more, as long as you can get hold of a bottle of
I mean to take the pledge,I do indeed. I must do it gradually,
because of my constitution,but I shall do it.
I don't in the least believe in it;nor do I believe in any man
who thinks to redeem himself after such a fashion. It may still be
possible that I shall not go back.
I may kill beasts in Buenos Ayres, or take a tea-farm in Thibet, or
join the colonists in Tennessee. In that case I will let you know what
arrangement I may propose to make about the Kimberley claim. At any
rate, I may say this,I shall not go back in the same vessel with
I thought it would have been so comfortable.
You and Mrs Tookey would find yourself more at your ease without
Not in the least. Don't let that thought disturb you. Whatever
misery fate may have in store for me, you will always find that, for
the hour, I will endeavour to be a good companion. 'Sufficient for the
day is the evil thereof.' That is the first of my mottoes.
At any rate, I shall not go back in the Kentucky Castle if
I'm afraid our money is paid.
So is mine; but that does not signify. You have a week yet, and I
will let you know by eleven o'clock on Thursday what steps I shall
finally take. If in any way I can serve you, I will do so; but I can
admit no claim.
A thousand thanks! And I am so glad you approve of what I have done
about Matilda. I'm sure that a steady-going fellow like you would have
done the same. To this John Gordon could make no answer, but left his
friend, and went away about his own business. He had to decide between
Tennessee, Thibet, and Buenos Ayres, and wanted his time for his own
When he got to dinner at his club, he found a letter from Mr
Whittlestaff, which had come by the day-mail. It was a letter which,
for the time, drove Thibet and Buenos Ayres, and Tennessee also, clean
out of his mind. It was as follows:
CROKER'S HALL, June 188.
DEAR MR JOHN GORDON,I shall be in town this afternoon,
probably by the same train which will bring this letter,
and will do myself the honour of calling upon you at your
club the next day at twelve.I am, dear Mr John Gordon,
Then there was to be an answer to the appeal which he had made. Of
what nature would be the answer? As he laid his hand upon his heart,
and felt the violence of the emotion to which he was subjected, he
could not doubt the strength of his own love.
CHAPTER XIX. MR WHITTLESTAFF'S
I don't think that if I were you I would go up to London, Mr
Whittlestaff, said Mary. This was on the Tuesday morning.
I don't think I would.
Why should you interfere?
I know I ought not to interfere.
I don't think you ought. Especially as I have taken the trouble to
conceal what I am going about.
I can guess, said Mary.
You ought not to guess in such a matter. You ought not to have it
on your mind at all. I told you that I would not tell you. I shall go.
That's all that I have got to say.
The words with which he spoke were ill-natured and savage. The
reader will find them to be so, if he thinks of them. They were such
that a father would hardly speak, under any circumstances, to a
grown-up daughter,much less that a lover would address to his
mistress. And Mary was at present filling both capacities. She had been
taken into his house almost as an adopted daughter, and had, since that
time, had all the privileges accorded to her. She had now been promoted
still higher, and had become his affianced bride. That the man should
have turned upon her thus, in answer to her counsel, was savage, or at
least ungracious. But at every word her heart became fuller and more
full of an affection as for something almost divine. What other man had
ever shown such love for any woman? and this love was shown to
her,who was nothing to him,who ate the bread of charity in his
house. And it amounted to this, that he intended to give her up to
another man,he who had given such proof of his love,he, of whom she
knew that this was a question of almost life and death,because in
looking into his face she had met there the truth of his heart! Since
that first avowal, made before Gordon had come,made at a moment when
some such avowal from her was necessary,she had spoken no word as to
John Gordon. She had endeavoured to show no sign. She had given herself
up to her elder lover, and had endeavoured to have it understood that
she had not intended to transfer herself because the other man had come
across her path again like a flash of lightning. She had dined in
company with her younger lover without exchanging a word with him. She
had not allowed her eyes to fall upon him more than she could help,
lest some expression of tenderness should be seen there. Not a word of
hope had fallen from her lips when they had first met, because she had
given herself to another. She was sure of herself in that. No doubt
there had come moments in which she had hopednay, almost
expectedthat the elder of the two might give her up; and when she had
felt sure that it was not to be so, her very soul had rebelled against
him. But as she had taken time to think of it, she had absolved him,
and had turned her anger against herself. Whatever he wanted,that she
believed it would be her duty to do for him, as far as its achievement
might be in her power.
She came round and put her arm upon him, and looked into his face.
Don't go to London. I ask you not to go.
Why should I not go?
To oblige me. You pretend to have a secret, and refuse to say why
you are going. Of course I know.
I have written a letter to say that I am coming.
It is still lying on the hall-table down-stairs. It will not go to
the post till you have decided.
Who has dared to stop it?
I have. I have dared to stop it. I shall dare to put it in the fire
and burn it. Don't go! He is entitled to nothing. You are entitled to
have,whatever it is that you may want, though it is but such a
A trifle, Mary!
Yes. A woman has a little gleam of prettiness about her,though
here it is but of a common order.
Anything so uncommon I never came near before.
Let that pass; whether common or uncommon, it matters nothing. It
is something soft, which will soon pass away, and of itself can do no
good. It is contemptible.
You are just Mrs Baggett over again.
Very well; I am quite satisfied. Mrs Baggett is a good woman. She
can do something beyond lying on a sofa and reading novels, while her
good looks fade away. It is simply because a woman is pretty and weak
that she is made so much of, and is encouraged to neglect her duties.
By God's help I will not neglect mine. Do not go to London.
He seemed as though he hesitated as he sat there under the spell of
her little hand upon his shoulder. And in truth he did hesitate. Could
it not be that he should be allowed to sit there all his days, and have
her hand about his neck somewhat after this fashion? Was he bound to
give it all up? What was it that ordinary selfishness allowed? What
depth of self-indulgence amounted to a wickedness which a man could not
permit himself to enjoy without absolutely hating himself? It would be
easy in this case to have all that he wanted. He need not send the
letter. He need not take this wretched journey to London. Looking
forward, as he thought that he could look, judging from the girl's
character, he believed that he would have all that he desired,all
that a gracious God could give him,if he would make her the
recognised partner of his bed and his board. Then would he be proud
when men should see what sort of a wife he had got for himself at last
in place of Catherine Bailey. And why should she not love him? Did not
all her words tend to show that there was love?
And then suddenly there came a frown across his face, as she stood
looking at him. She was getting to know the manner of that frown. Now
she stooped down to kiss it away from his brow. It was a brave thing to
do; but she did it with a consciousness of her courage. Now I may burn
the letter, she said, as though she were about to depart upon the
No, by heaven! he said. Let me have a sandwich and a glass of
wine, for I shall start in an hour.
With a glance of his thoughts he had answered all those questions.
He had taught himself what ordinary selfishness allowed. Ordinary
selfishness,such selfishness as that of which he would have permitted
himself the indulgence,must have allowed him to disregard the misery
of John Gordon, and to keep the girl to himself. As far as John Gordon
was concerned, he would not have cared for his sufferings. He was as
much to himself,or more,than could be John Gordon. He did not love
John Gordon, and could have doomed him to tearing his hair,not
without regret, but at any rate without remorse. He had settled that
question. But with Mary Lawrie there must be a never-dying pang of
self-accusation, were he to take her to his arms while her love was
settled elsewhere. It was not that he feared her for himself, but that
he feared himself for her sake. God had filled his heart with love of
the girl,and, if it was love, could it be that he would destroy her
future for the gratification of his own feelings? I tell you it is no
good, he said, as she crouched down beside him, almost sitting on his
At this moment Mrs Baggett came into the room, detecting Mary almost
in the embrace of her old master. He's come back again, sir, said Mrs
Who has come back?
Then you may tell him to go about his business. He is not wanted,
at any rate. You are to remain here, and have your own way, like an old
I am that, sir.
There is not any one coming to interfere with you.
Then Mary got up, and stood sobbing at the open window. At any
rate, you'll have to remain here to look after the house, even if I go
away. Where is the Sergeant?
He's in the stable again.
Well, no; he's not drunk. I think his wooden leg is affected sooner
than if he had two like mine, or yours, sir. And he did manage to go in
of his self, now that he knows the way. He's there among the hay, and I
do think it's very unkind of Hayonotes to say as he'll spoil it. But
how am I to get him out, unless I goes away with him?
Let him stay there and give him some dinner. I don't know what else
you've to do.
He can't stay always,in course, sir. As Hayonotes says,what's
he to do with a wooden-legged sergeant in his stable as a permanence? I
had come to say I was to go home with him.
You're to do nothing of the kind.
What is it you mean, then, about my taking care of the house?
Never you mind. When I want you to know, I shall tell you. Then
Mrs Baggett bobbed her head three times in the direction of Mary
Lawrie's back, as though to ask some question whether the leaving the
house might not be in reference to Mary's marriage. But she feared that
it was not made in reference to Mr Whittlestaff's marriage also. What
had her master meant when he had said that there was no one coming to
interfere with her, Mrs Baggett? You needn't ask any questions just at
present, Mrs Baggett, he said.
You don't mean as you are going up to London just to give her up to
that young fellow?
I am going about my own business, and I won't be inquired into,
said Mr Whittlestaff.
Then you're going to do what no man ought to do.
You are an impertinent old woman, said her master.
I daresay I am. All the same, it's my duty to tell you my mind. You
can't eat me, Mr Whittlestaff, and it wouldn't much matter if you
could. When you've said that you'll do a thing, you ought not to go
back for any other man, let him be who it may,especially not in
respect of a female. It's weak, and nobody wouldn't think a straw of
you for doing it. It's some idea of being generous that you have got
into your head. There ain't no real generosity in it. I say it ain't
manly, and that's what a man ought to be.
Mary, though she was standing at the window, pretending to look out
of it, knew that during the whole of this conversation Mrs Baggett was
making signs at her,as though indicating an opinion that she was the
person in fault. It was as though Mrs Baggett had said that it was for
her sake,to do something to gratify her,that Mr Whittlestaff was
about to go to London. She knew that she at any rate was not to blame.
She was struggling for the same end as Mrs Baggett, and did deserve
better treatment. You oughtn't to bother going up to London, sir, on
any such errand, and so I tells you, Mr Whittlestaff, said Mrs
I have told him the same thing myself, said Mary Lawrie, turning
If you told him as though you meant it, he wouldn't go, said Mrs
That's all you know about it, said Mr Whittlestaff. Now the fact
is, I won't stand this kind of thing. If you mean to remain here, you
must be less free with your tongue.
I don't mean to remain here, Mr Whittlestaff. It's just that as I'm
coming to. There's Timothy Baggett is down there among the hosses, and
he says as I am to go with him. So I've come up here to say that if
he's allowed to sleep it off to-day, I'll be ready to start to-morrow.
I tell you I am not going to make any change at all, said Mr
You was saying you was going away,for the honeymoon, I did
A man may go away if he pleases, without any reason of that kind.
Oh dear, oh dear, that letter is not gone! I insist that that letter
should go. I suppose I must see about it myself. Then when he began to
move, the women moved also. Mary went to look after the sandwiches, and
Mrs Baggett to despatch the letter. In ten minutes the letter was gone,
and half an hour afterwards Mr Whittlestaff had himself driven down to
What is it he means, Miss? said Mrs Baggett, when the master was
I do not know, said Mary, who was in truth very angry with the old
He wants to make you Mrs Whittlestaff.
In whatever he wants I shall obey him,if I only knew how.
It's what you is bound to do, Miss Mary. Think of what he has done
I require no one to tell me that.
What did Mr Gordon come here for, disturbing everybody? Nobody
asked him;at least, I suppose nobody asked him. There was an
insinuation in this which Mary found it hard to bear. But it was better
to bear it than to argue on such a point with the servant. And he said
things which put the master about terribly.
It was not my doing.
But he's a man as needn't have his own way. Why should Mr Gordon
have everything just as he likes it? I never heard tell of Mr Gordon
till he came here the other day. I don't think so much of Mr Gordon
myself. To this Mary, of course, made no answer. He's no business
disturbing people when he's not sent for. I can't abide to see Mr
Whittlestaff put about in this way. I have known him longer than you
He's a man that'll be driven pretty nigh out of his mind if he's
disappointed. Then there was silence, as Mary was determined not to
discuss the matter any further. If you come to that, you needn't marry
no one unless you pleases. Mary was still silent. They shouldn't make
me marry them unless I was that way minded. I can't abide such doings,
the old woman again went on after a pause. I knows what I knows, and I
sees what I sees.
What do you know? said Mary, driven beyond her powers of silence.
The meaning is, that Mr Whittlestaff is to be disappointed after he
have received a promise. Didn't he have a promise? To this Mrs Baggett
got no reply, though she waited for one before she went on with her
argument. You knows he had; and a promise between a lady and gentleman
ought to be as good as the law of the land. You stand there as dumb as
grim death, and won't say a word, and yet it all depends upon you. Why
is it to go about among everybody, that he's not to get a wife just
because a man's come home with his pockets full of diamonds? It's that
that people'll say; and they'll say that you went back from your word
just because of a few precious stones. I wouldn't like to have it said
of me anyhow.
This was very hard to bear, but Mary found herself compelled to bear
it. She had determined not to be led into an argument with Mrs Baggett
on the subject, feeling that even to discuss her conduct would be an
impropriety. She was strong in her own conduct, and knew how utterly at
variance it had been with all that this woman imputed to her. The
glitter of the diamonds had been merely thrown in by Mrs Baggett in her
passion. Mary did not think that any one would be so base as to believe
such an accusation as that. It would be said of her that her own young
lover had come back suddenly, and that she had preferred him to the
gentleman to whom she was tied by so many bonds. It would be said that
she had given herself to him and had then taken back the gift, because
the young lover had come across her path. And it would be told also
that there had been no word of promise given to this young lover. All
that would be very bad, without any allusion to a wealth of diamonds.
It would not be said that, before she had pledged herself to Mr
Whittlestaff, she had pleaded her affection for her young lover, when
she had known nothing even of his present existence. It would not be
known that though there had been no lover's vows between her and John
Gordon, there had yet been on both sides that unspoken love which could
not have been strengthened by any vows. Against all that she must guard
herself, without thinking of the diamonds. She had endeavoured to guard
herself, and she had thought also of the contentment of the man who had
been so good to her. She had declared to herself that of herself she
would think not at all. And she had determined also that all the
likings,nay, the affection of John Gordon himself,should weigh not
at all with her. She had to decide between the two men, and she had
decided that both honesty and gratitude required her to comply with the
wishes of the elder. She had done all that she could with that object,
and was it her fault that Mr Whittlestaff had read the secret of her
heart, and had determined to give way before it? This had so touched
her that it might almost be said that she knew not to which of her two
suitors her heart belonged. All this, if stated in answer to Mrs
Baggett's accusations, would certainly exonerate herself from the
stigma thrown upon her, but to Mrs Baggett she could not repeat the
It nigh drives me wild, said Mrs Baggett. I don't suppose you
ever heard of Catherine Bailey?
And I ain't a-going to tell you. It's a romance as shall be wrapped
inside my own bosom. It was quite a tragedy,was Catherine Bailey; and
one as would stir your heart up if you was to hear it. Catherine Bailey
was a young woman. But I'm not going to tell you the story;only that
she was no more fit for Mr Whittlestaff than any of them stupid young
girls that walks about the streets gaping in at the shop-windows in
Alresford. I do you the justice, Miss Lawrie, to say as you are such a
female as he ought to look after.
Thank you, Mrs Baggett.
But she led him into such trouble, because his heart is soft, as
was dreadful to look at. He is one of them as always wants a wife. Why
didn't he get one before? you'll say. Because till you came in the way
he was always thinking of Catherine Bailey. Mrs Compas she become.
'Drat her and her babies!' I often said to myself. What was Compas? No
more than an Old Bailey lawyer;not fit to be looked at alongside of
our Mr Whittlestaff. No more ain't Mr John Gordon, to my thinking. You
think of all that, Miss Mary, and make up your mind whether you'll
break his heart after giving a promise. Heart-breaking ain't to him
what it is to John Gordon and the likes of him.
CHAPTER XX. MR WHITTLESTAFF TAKES HIS
Mr Whittlestaff did at last get into the train and have himself
carried up to London. And he ate his sandwiches and drank his sherry
with an air of supreme satisfaction,as though he had carried his
point. And so he had. He had made up his mind on a certain matter; and,
with the object of doing a certain piece of work, he had escaped from
the two dominant women of his household, who had done their best to
intercept him. So far his triumph was complete. But as he sat silent in
the corner of the carriage, his mind reverted to the purpose of his
journey, and he cannot be said to have been triumphant. He knew it all
as well as did Mrs Baggett. And he knew too that, except Mrs Baggett
and the girl herself, all the world was against him. That ass Montagu
Blake every time he opened his mouth as to his own bride let out the
idea that John Gordon should have his bride because John Gordon was
young and lusty, and because he, Whittlestaff, might be regarded as an
old man. The Miss Halls were altogether of the same opinion, and were
not slow to express it. All Alresford would know it, and would
sympathise with John Gordon. And as it came to be known that he himself
had given up the girl whom he loved, he could read the ridicule which
would be conveyed by the smiles of his neighbours.
To tell the truth of Mr Whittlestaff, he was a man very open to such
shafts of ridicule. The robur et æs triplex which fortified
his heart went only to the doing of a good and unselfish action, and
did not extend to providing him with that adamantine shield which
virtue should of itself supply. He was as pervious to these stings as a
man might be who had not strength to act in opposition to them. He
could screw himself up to the doing of a great deed for the benefit of
another, and could as he was doing so deplore with inward tears the
punishment which the world would accord to him for the deed. As he sat
there in the corner of his carriage, he was thinking of the punishment
rather than of the glory. And the punishment must certainly come now.
It would be a punishment lasting for the remainder of his life, and so
bitter in its kind as to make any further living almost impossible to
him. It was not that he would kill himself. He did not meditate any
such step as that. He was a man who considered that by doing an outrage
to God's work an offence would be committed against God which admitted
of no repentance. He must live through it to the last. But he must live
as a man who was degraded. He had made his effort, but his effort would
be known to all Alresford. Mr Montagu Blake would take care of that.
The evil done to him would be one which would admit of no complaint
from his own mouth. He would be left alone, living with Mrs
Baggett,who of course knew all the facts. The idea of Mrs Baggett
going away with her husband was of course not to be thought of. That
was another nuisance, a small evil in comparison with the great
misfortune of his life.
He had brought this girl home to his house to be the companion of
his days, and she had come to have in his mouth a flavour, as it were,
and sweetness beyond all other sweetnesses. She had lent a grace to his
days of which for many years he had not believed them to be capable. He
was a man who had thought much of love, reading about it in all the
poets with whose lines he was conversant. He was one who, in all that
he read, would take the gist of it home to himself, and ask himself how
it was with him in that matter. His favourite Horace had had a fresh
love for every day; but he had told himself that Horace knew nothing of
love. Of Petrarch and Laura he had thought; but even to Petrarch Laura
had been a subject for expression rather than for passion. Prince
Arthur, in his love for Guinevere, went nearer to the mark which he had
fancied for himself. Imogen, in her love for Posthumus, gave to him a
picture of all that love should be. It was thus that he had thought of
himself in all his readings; and as years had gone by, he had told
himself that for him there was to be nothing better than reading. But
yet his mind had been full, and he had still thought to himself that,
in spite of his mistake in reference to Catherine Bailey, there was
still room for a strong passion.
Then Mary Lawrie had come upon him, and the sun seemed to shine
nowhere but in her eyes and in the expression of her face. He had told
himself distinctly that he was now in love, and that his life had not
gone so far forward as to leave him stranded on the dry sandhills. She
was there living in his house, subject to his orders, affectionate and
docile; but, as far as he could judge, a perfect woman. And, as far as
he could judge, there was no other man whom she loved. Then, with many
doubtings, he asked her the question, and he soon learned the
truth,but not the whole truth.
There had been a man, but he was one who seemed to have passed by
and left his mark, and then to have gone on altogether out of sight.
She had told him that she could not but think of John Gordon, but that
that was all. She would, if he asked it, plight her troth to him and
become his wife, although she must think of John Gordon. This thinking
would last but for a while, he told himself; and he at his agewhat
right had he to expect aught better than that? She was of such a nature
that, when she had given herself up in marriage, she would surely learn
to love her husband. So he had accepted her promise, and allowed
himself for one hour to be a happy man.
Then John Gordon had come to his house, falling upon it like the
blast of a storm. He had come at onceinstantlyas though fate had
intended to punish him, Whittlestaff, utterly and instantly. Mary had
told him that she could not promise not to think of him who had once
loved her, when, lo and behold! the man himself was there. Who ever
suffered a blow so severe as this? He had left them together. He had
felt himself compelled to do so by the exigencies of the moment. It was
impossible that he should give either one or the other to understand
that they would not be allowed to meet in his house. They had met, and
Mary had been very firm. For a few hours there had existed in his bosom
the feeling that even yet he might be preferred.
But gradually that feeling had disappeared, and the truth had come
home to him. She was as much in love with John Gordon as could any girl
be with the man whom she adored. And the other rock on which he had
depended was gradually shivered beneath his feet. He had fancied at
first that the man had come back, as do so many adventurers, without
the means of making a woman happy. It was not for John Gordon that he
was solicitous, but for Mary Lawrie. If John Gordon were a pauper, or
so nearly so as to be able to offer Mary no home, then it would clearly
be his duty not to allow the marriage. In such case the result to him
would be, if not heavenly, sweet enough at any rate to satisfy his
longings. She would come to him, and John Gordon would depart to
London, and to the world beyond, and there would be an end of him. But
it became palpable to his senses generally that the man's fortunes had
not been such as this. And then there came home to him a feeling that
were they so, it would be his duty to make up for Mary's sake what was
wanting,since he had discovered of what calibre was the man himself.
It was at Mr Hall's house that the idea had first presented itself
to him with all the firmness of a settled project. It would be, he had
said to himself, a great thing for a man to do. What, after all, is the
meaning of love, but that a man should do his best to serve the woman
he loves? Who cares a straw for him? he said to himself, as though to
exempt himself from any idea of general charity, and to prove that all
the good which he intended to do was to be done for love alone. Not a
straw; whether he shall stay at home here and have all that is sweetest
in the world, or be sent out alone to find fresh diamonds amidst the
dirt and misery of that horrid place, is as nothing, as far as he is
concerned. I am, at any rate, more to myself than John Gordon. I do not
believe in doing a kindness of such a nature as that to such a one. But
for her! And I could not hold her to my bosom, knowing that she would
so much rather be in the arms of another man. All this he said to
himself; but he said it in words fully formed, and with the thoughts,
on which the words were based, clearly established.
When he came to the end of his journey, he had himself driven to the
hotel, and ordered his dinner, and ate it in solitude, still supported
by the ecstasy of his thoughts. He knew that there was before him a
sharp cruel punishment, and then a weary lonely life. There could be no
happiness, no satisfaction, in store for him. He was aware that it must
be so; but still for the present there was a joy to him in thinking
that he would make her happy, and in that he was determined to take
what immediate delight it would give him. He asked himself how long
that delight could last; and he told himself that when John Gordon
should have once taken her by the hand and claimed her as his own, the
time of his misery would have come.
There had hung about him a dream, clinging to him up to the moment
of his hotel dinner, by which he had thought it possible that he might
yet escape from the misery of Pandemonium and be carried into the light
and joy of Paradise. But as he sat with his beef-steak before him, and
ate his accustomed potato, with apparently as good a gusto as any of
his neighbours, the dream departed. He told himself that under no
circumstances should the dream be allowed to become a reality. The
dream had been of this wise. With all the best intentions in his power
he would offer the girl to John Gordon, and then, not doubting Gordon's
acceptance of her, would make the same offer to the girl herself. But
what if the girl refused to accept the offer? What if the girl should
stubbornly adhere to her original promise? Was he to refuse to marry
her when she should insist that such was her right? Was he to decline
to enter in upon the joys of Paradise when Paradise should be thus
opened to him? He would do his best, loyally and sincerely, with his
whole heart. But he could not force her to make him a wretch, miserable
for the rest of his life!
In fact it was she who might choose to make the sacrifice, and thus
save him from the unhappiness in store for him. Such had been the
nature of his dream. As he was eating his beef-steak and potatoes, he
told himself that it could not be so, and that the dream must be flung
to the winds. A certain amount of strength was now demanded of him, and
he thought that he would be able to use it. No, my dear, not me; it
may not be that you should become my wife, though all the promises
under heaven had been given. Though you say that you wish it, it is a
lie which may not be ratified. Though you implore it of me, it cannot
be granted. It is he that is your love, and it is he that must have
you. I love you too, God in his wisdom knows, but it cannot be so. Go
and be his wife, for mine you shall never become. I have meant well,
but have been unfortunate. Now you know the state of my mind, than
which nothing is more fixed on this earth. It was thus that he would
speak to her, and then he would turn away; and the term of his misery
would have commenced.
On the next morning he got up and prepared for his interview with
John Gordon. He walked up and down the sward of the Green Park,
thinking to himself of the language which he would use. If he could
only tell the man that he hated him while he surrendered to him the
girl whom he loved so dearly, it would be well. For in truth there was
nothing of Christian charity in his heart towards John Gordon. But he
thought at last that it would be better that he should announce his
purpose in the simplest language. He could hate the man in his own
heart as thoroughly as he desired. But it would not be becoming in him,
were he on such an occasion to attempt to rise to the romance of
tragedy. It will be all the same a thousand years hence, he said to
himself as he walked in at the club door.
CHAPTER XXI. THE GREEN PARK.
He asked whether Mr John Gordon was within, and in two minutes found
himself standing in the hall with that hero of romance. Mr Whittlestaff
told himself, as he looked at the man, that he was such a hero as ought
to be happy in his love. Whereas of himself, he was conscious of a
personal appearance which no girl could be expected to adore. He
thought too much of his personal appearance generally, complaining to
himself that it was mean; whereas in regard to Mary Lawrie, it may be
said that no such idea had ever entered her mind. It was just because
he had come first, she would have said if asked. And the he alluded
to would have been John Gordon. He had come first, and therefore I had
learned to love him. It was thus that Mary Lawrie would have spoken.
But Mr Whittlestaff, as he looked up into John Gordon's face, felt that
he himself was mean.
You got my letter, Mr Gordon?
Yes; I got it last night.
I have come up to London, because there is something that I want to
say to you. It is something that I can't very well put up into a
letter, and therefore I have taken the trouble to come to town. As he
said this he endeavoured, no doubt, to assert his own dignity by the
look which he assumed. Nor did he intend that Mr Gordon should know
anything of the struggle which he had endured.
But Mr Gordon knew as well what Mr Whittlestaff had to say as did Mr
Whittlestaff himself. He had turned the matter over in his own mind
since the letter had reached him, and was aware that there could be no
other cause for seeing him which could bring Mr Whittlestaff up to
London. But a few days since he had made an appeal to Mr
Whittlestaffan appeal which certainly might require much thought for
its answerand here was Mr Whittlestaff with his reply. It could not
have been made quicker. It was thus that John Gordon had thought of it
as he had turned Mr Whittlestaff's letter over in his mind. The appeal
had been made readily enough. The making of it had been easy; the words
to be spoken had come quickly, and without the necessity for a moment's
premeditation. He had known it all, and from a full heart the mouth
speaks. But was it to have been expected that a man so placed as had
been Mr Whittlestaff, should be able to give his reply with equal
celerity? He, John Gordon, had seen at once on reaching Croker's Hall
the state in which things were. Almost hopelessly he had made his
appeal to the man who had her promise. Then he had met the man at Mr
Hall's house, and hardly a word had passed between them. What word
could have been expected? Montagu Blake, with all his folly, had judged
rightly in bringing them together. When he received the letter, John
Gordon had remembered that last word which Mr Whittlestaff had spoken
to him in the squire's hall. He had thought of the appeal, and had
resolved to give an answer to it. It was an appeal which required an
answer. He had turned it over in his mind, and had at last told himself
what the answer should be. John Gordon had discovered all that when he
received the letter, and it need hardly be said that his feelings in
regard to Mr Whittlestaff were very much kinder than those of Mr
Whittlestaff to him.
Perhaps you wouldn't mind coming out into the street, said Mr
Whittlestaff. I can't say very well what I've got to say in here.
Certainly, said Gordon; I will go anywhere.
Let us go into the Park. It is green there, and there is some shade
among the trees. Then they went out of the club into Pall Mall, and Mr
Whittlestaff walked on ahead without a word. No; we will not go down
there, he said, as he passed the entrance into St. James's Park by
Marlborough House, and led the way through St. James's Palace into the
Green Park. We'll go on till we come to the trees; there are seats
there, unless the people have occupied them all. One can't talk here
under the blazing sun;at least I can't. Then he walked on at a rapid
pace, wiping his brow as he did so. Yes, there's a seat. I'll be
hanged if that man isn't going to sit down upon it! What a beast he is!
No, I can't sit down on a seat that another man is occupying. I don't
want any one to hear what I've got to say. There! Two women have gone a
little farther on. Then he hurried to the vacant bench and took
possession of it. It was placed among the thick trees which give a
perfect shade on the north side of the Park, and had Mr Whittlestaff
searched all London through, he could not have found a more pleasant
spot in which to make his communication. This will do, said he.
Very nicely indeed, said John Gordon.
I couldn't talk about absolutely private business in the hall of
the club, you know.
I could have taken you into a private room, Mr Whittlestaff, had
you wished it.
With everybody coming in and out, just as they pleased. I don't
believe in private rooms in London clubs. What I've got to say can be
said better sub dio. I suppose you know what it is that I've got
to talk about.
Hardly, said John Gordon. But that is not exactly true. I think I
know, but I am not quite sure of it. On such a subject I should not
like to make a surmise unless I were confident.
It's about Miss Lawrie.
I suppose so.
What makes you suppose that? said Whittlestaff, sharply.
You told me that you were sure I should know.
So I am, quite sure. You came all the way down to Alresford to see
her. If you spoke the truth, you came all the way home from the
diamond-fields with the same object.
I certainly spoke the truth, Mr Whittlestaff.
Then what's the good of your pretending not to know?
I have not pretended. I merely said that I could not presume to put
the young lady's name into your mouth until you had uttered it
yourself. There could be no other subject of conversation between you
and me of which I was aware.
You had spoken to me about her, said Mr Whittlestaff.
No doubt I had. When I found that you had given her a home, and had
made yourself, as it were, a father to her
I had not made myself her father,nor yet her mother. I had loved
her, as you profess to do.
My profession is at any rate true.
I daresay. You may or you mayn't; I at any rate know nothing about
Why otherwise should I have come home and left my business in South
Africa? I think you may take it for granted that I love her.
I don't care twopence whether you do or don't, said Mr
Whittlestaff. It's nothing to me whom you love. I should have been
inclined to say at first sight that a man groping in the dirt for
diamonds wouldn't love any one. And even if you did, though you might
break your heart and die, it would be nothing to me. Had you done so, I
should not have heard of you, nor should I have wished to hear of you.
There was an incivility in all this of which John Gordon felt that
he was obliged to take some notice. There was a want of courtesy in the
man's manner rather than his words, which he could not quite pass by,
although he was most anxious to do so. I daresay not, said he; but
here I am and here also is Miss Lawrie. I had said what I had to say
down at Alresford, and of course it is for you now to decide what is to
be done. I have never supposed that you would care personally for me.
You needn't be so conceited about yourself.
I don't know that I am, said Gordon;except that a man cannot
but be a little conceited who has won the love of Mary Lawrie.
You think it impossible that I should have done so.
At any rate I did it before you had seen her. Though I may be
conceited, I am not more conceited for myself than you are for
yourself. Had I not known her, you would probably have engaged her
affections. I had known her, and you are aware of the result. But it is
for you to decide. Miss Lawrie thinks that she owes you a debt which
she is bound to pay if you exact it.
Exact it! exclaimed Mr Whittlestaff. There is no question of
exacting! John Gordon shrugged his shoulders. I say there is no
question of exacting. The words should not have been used. She has my
full permission to choose as she may think fit, and she knows that she
has it. What right have you to speak to me of exacting?
Mr Whittlestaff had now talked himself into such a passion, and was
apparently so angry at the word which his companion had used, that John
Gordon began to doubt whether he did in truth know the purpose for
which the man had come to London. Could it be that he had made the
journey merely with the object of asserting that he had the power of
making this girl his wife, and of proving his power by marrying her.
What is it that you wish, Mr Whittlestaff? he asked.
Wish! What business have you to ask after my wishes? But you know
what my wishes are very well. I will not pretend to keep them in the
dark. She came to my house, and I soon learned to desire that she
should be my wife. If I know what love is, I loved her. If I know what
love is, I do love her still. She is all the world to me. I have no
diamonds to care for; I have no rich mines to occupy my heart; I am not
eager in the pursuit of wealth. I had lived a melancholy, lonely life
till this young woman had come to my table,till I had felt her sweet
hand upon mine,till she had hovered around me, covering everything
with bright sunshine. Then I asked her to be my wife;and she told me
She told you of me?
Yes; she told me of youof you who might then have been dead, for
aught she knew. And when I pressed her, she said that she would think
of you always.
She said so?
Yes; that she would think of you always. But she did not say that
she would always love you. And in the same breath she promised to be my
wife. I was contented,and yet not quite contented. Why should she
think of you always? But I believed that it would not be so. I thought
that if I were good to her, I should overcome her. I knew that I should
be better to her than you would be.
Why should I not be good to her?
There is an old saying of a young man's slave and an old man's
darling. She would at any rate have been my darling. It might be that
she would have been your slave.
My fellow-workman in all things.
You think so now; but the man always becomes the master. If you
grovelled in the earth for diamonds, she would have to look for them
amidst the mud and slime.
I have never dreamed of taking her to the diamond-fields.
It would have been so in all other pursuits.
She would have had none that she had not chosen, said John Gordon.
How am I to know that? How am I to rest assured that the world
would be smooth to her if she were your creature? I am not assuredI
do not know.
Who can tell, as you say? Can I promise her a succession of joys if
she be my wife? She is not one who will be likely to look for such a
life as that. She will know that she must take the rough and smooth
There would have been no rough with me, said Mr Whittlestaff.
I do not believe in such a life, said John Gordon. A woman should
not wear a stuff gown always; but the silk finery and the stuff gown
should follow each other. To my taste, the more there may be of the
stuff gown and the less of the finery, the more it will be to my
I am not speaking of her gowns. It is not of such things as those
that I am thinking. Here Mr Whittlestaff got up from the bench, and
began walking rapidly backwards and forwards under the imperfect shade
on the path. You will beat her.
I think not.
Beat her in the spirit. You will domineer over her, and desire to
have your own way. When she is toiling for you, you will frown at her.
Because you have business on hand, or perhaps pleasure, you will leave
her in solitude. There may a time come when the diamonds shall have all
If she is to be mine, that time will have come already. The
diamonds will be sold. Did you ever see a diamond in my possession? Why
do you twit me with diamonds? If I had been a coal-owner, should I have
been expected to keep my coals?
These things stick to the very soul of a man. They are a poison of
which he cannot rid himself. They are like gambling. They make
everything cheap that should be dear, and everything dear that should
be cheap. I trust them not at all,and I do not trust you, because you
deal in them.
I tell you that I shall not deal in them. But, Mr Whittlestaff, I
must tell you that you are unreasonable.
No doubt. I am a poor miserable man who does not know the world. I
have never been to the diamond-fields. Of course I understand nothing
of the charms of speculation. A quiet life with my book is all that I
care for;with just one other thing, one other thing. You begrudge me
Mr Whittlestaff, it does not signify a straw what I begrudge you.
Mr Whittlestaff had now come close to him, and was listening to him.
Nor, as I take it, what you begrudge me. Before I left England she and
I had learned to love each other. It is so still. For the sake of her
happiness, do you mean to let me have her?
Of course I do. You have known it all along. Of course I do. Do you
think I would make her miserable? Would it be in my bosom to make her
come and live with a stupid, silly old man, to potter on from day to
day without any excitement? Would I force her into a groove in which
her days would be wretched to her? Had she come to me and wanted bread,
and have seen before her all the misery of poverty, the stone-coldness
of a governess's life; had she been left to earn her bread without any
one to love her, it might then have been different. She would have
looked out into another world, and have seen another prospect. A
comfortable home with kindness, and her needs supplied, would have
sufficed. She would then have thought herself happy in becoming my
wife. There would then have been no cruelty. But she had seen you, and
though it was but a dream, she thought that she could endure to wait.
Better that than surrender all the delight of loving. So she told me
that she would think of you. Poor dear! I can understand now the
struggle which she intended to make. Then in the very nick of time, in
the absolute moment of the dayso that you might have everything and I
nothingyou came. You came, and were allowed to see her, and told her
all your story. You filled her heart full with joy, but only to be
crushed when she thought that the fatal promise had been given to me. I
saw it all, I knew it. I thought to myself for a few hours that it
might be so. But it cannot be so.
Oh, Mr Whittlestaff!
It cannot be so, he said, with a firm determined voice, as though
asserting a fact which admitted no doubt.
Mr Whittlestaff, what am I to say to you?
You! What are you to say? Nothing. What should you say? Why should
you speak? It is not for love of you that I would do this thing; nor
yet altogether from love of her. Not that I would not do much for her
sake. I almost think that I would do it entirely for her sake, if there
were no other reason. But to shame myself by taking that which belongs
to another, as though it were my own property! To live a coward in mine
own esteem! Though I may be the laughing-stock and the butt of all
those around me, I would still be a man to myself. I ought to have felt
that it was sufficient when she told me that some of her thoughts must
still be given to you. She is yours, Mr Gordon; but I doubt much
whether you care for the possession.
Not care for her! Up to the moment when I received your note, I was
about to start again for South Africa. South Africa is no place for
her,nor for me either, with such a wife. Mr Whittlestaff, will you
not allow me to say one word to you in friendship?
Not a word.
How am I to come and take her out of your house?
She must manage it as best she can. But no; I would not turn her
from my door for all the world could do for me. This, too, will be part
of the punishment that I must bear. You can settle the day between you,
I suppose, and then you can come down; and, after the accustomed
fashion, you can meet her at the church-door. Then you can come to my
house, and eat your breakfast there if you will. You will see fine
things prepared for you,such as a woman wants on those
occasions,and then you can carry her off wherever you please. I need
know nothing of your whereabouts. Good morning now. Do not say anything
further, but let me go my way.
CHAPTER XXII. JOHN GORDON WRITES A
When they parted in the park, Mr Whittlestaff trudged off to his own
hotel, through the heat and sunshine. He walked quickly, and never
looked behind him, and went as though he had fully accomplished his
object in one direction, and must hurry to get it done in another. To
Gordon he had left no directions whatever. Was he to be allowed to go
down to Mary, or even to write her a letter? He did not know whether
Mary had ever been told of this wonderful sacrifice which had been made
on her behalf. He understood that he was to have his own way, and was
to be permitted to regard himself as betrothed to her, but he did not
at all understand what steps he was to take in the matter, except that
he was not to go again to the diamond-fields. But Mr Whittlestaff
hurried himself off to his hotel, and shut himself up in his own
bedroom,and when there, he sobbed, alas! like a child.
The wife whom he had won for himself was probably more valuable to
him than if he had simply found her disengaged and ready to jump into
his arms. She, at any rate, had behaved well. Mr Whittlestaff had no
doubt proved himself to be an angel, perfect all round,such a man as
you shall not meet perhaps once in your life. But Mary, too, had so
behaved as to enhance the love of any man who had been already engaged
to her. As he thought of the whole story of the past week, the first
idea that occurred to him was that he certainly had been present to her
mind during the whole period of his absence. Though not a word had
passed between them, and though no word of absolute love for each other
had even been spoken before, she had been steady to him, with no actual
basis on which to found her love. He had known, and she had been sure,
and therefore she had been true to him. Of course, being a true man
himself, he worshipped her all the more. Mr Whittlestaff was
absolutely, undoubtedly perfect; but in Gordon's estimation Mary was
not far off perfection. But what was he to do now, so that he might
He had pledged himself to one thing, and he must at once go to work
and busy himself in accomplishing it. He had promised not to return to
Africa; and he must at once see Mr Tookey, and learn whether that
gentleman's friends would be allowed to go on with the purchase as
arranged. He knew Poker &Hodge to be moneyed men, or to be men, at any
rate, in command of money. If they would not pay him at once, he must
look elsewhere for buyers; but the matter must be settled. Tookey had
promised to come to his club this day, and there he would go and await
He went to his club, but the first person who came to him was Mr
Whittlestaff. Mr Whittlestaff when he had left the park had determined
never to see John Gordon again, or to see him only during that ceremony
of the marriage, which it might be that he would even yet escape. All
that was still in the distant future. Dim ideas as to some means of
avoiding it flitted through his brain. But even though he might see
Gordon on that terrible occasion, he need not speak to him. And it
would have to be done then, and then only. But now another idea,
certainly very vague, had found its way into his mind, and with the
object of carrying it out, Mr Whittlestaff had come to the club. Oh,
Mr Whittlestaff, how do you do again?
I'm much the same as I was before, thank you. There hasn't happened
anything to improve my health.
I hope nothing may happen to injure it.
It doesn't much matter. You said something about some property
you've got in diamonds, and you said once that you must go out to look
But I'm not going now. I shall sell my share in the mines. I am
going to see a Mr Tookey about it immediately.
Can't you sell them to me?
The diamond shares,to you!
Why not to me? If the thing has to be done at once, of course you
and I must trust each other. I suppose you can trust me?
Certainly I can.
As I don't care much about it, whether I get what I buy or not, it
does not much matter for me. But in truth, in such an affair as this I
would trust you. Why should not I go in your place?
I don't think you are the man who ought to go there.
I am too old? I'm not a cripple, if you mean that. I don't see why
I shouldn't go to the diamond-fields as well as a younger man.
It is not about your age, Mr Whittlestaff; but I do not think you
would be happy there.
Happy! I do not know that my state of bliss here is very great. If
I had bought your shares, as you call them, and paid money for them, I
don't see why my happiness need stand in the way.
You are a gentleman, Mr Whittlestaff.
Well; I hope so.
And of that kind that you would have your eyes picked out of your
head before you had been there a week. Don't go. Take my word for it,
that life will be pleasanter to you here than there, and that for you
the venture would be altogether dangerous. Here is Mr Tookey. At this
point of the conversation, Mr Tookey entered the hall-door, and some
fashion of introduction took place between the two strangers. John
Gordon led the way into a private room, and the two others followed
him. Here's a gentleman anxious to buy my shares, Tookey, said
What! the whole lot of the old Stick-in-the-Mud? He'll have to
shell down some money in order to do that! If I were to be asked my
opinion, I should say that the transaction was hardly one in the
gentleman's way of business.
I suppose an honest man may work at it, said Mr Whittlestaff.
It's the honestest business I know out, said Fitzwalker Tookey;
but it does require a gentleman to have his eyes about him.
Haven't I got my eyes?
Oh certainly, certainly, said Tookey; I never knew a gentleman
have them brighter. But there are eyes and eyes. Here's Mr Gordon did
have a stroke of luck out there;quite wonderful! But because he
tumbled on to a good thing, it's no reason that others should. And he's
sold his claim already, if he doesn't go himself,either to me, or
else to Poker &Hodge.
I'm afraid it is so, said John Gordon.
There's my darling wife, who is going out with me, and who means to
stand all the hardship of the hard work amidst those scenes of constant
labour,a lady who is dying to see her babies there. I am sure, sir,
that Mr Gordon won't forget his promises to me and my wife.
If you have the money ready.
There is Mr Poker in a hansom cab outside, and ready to go with you
to the bank at once, as the matter is rather pressing. If you will come
with him, he will explain everything. I will follow in another cab, and
then everything can be completed. John Gordon did make an appointment
to meet Mr Poker in the city later on in the day, and then was left
together with Mr Whittlestaff at the club.
It was soon decided that Mr Whittlestaff should give up all idea of
the diamond-fields, and in so doing he allowed himself to be brought
back to a state of semi-courteous conversation with his happy rival.
Well, yes; you may write to her, I suppose. Indeed I don't know what
right I have to say that you may, or you mayn't. She's more yours than
mine, I suppose. Turn her out! I don't know what makes you take such
an idea as that in your head. John Gordon had not suggested that Mr
Whittlestaff would turn Mary Lawrie out,though he had spoken of the
steps he would have to take were he to find Mary left without a home.
She shall have my house as her own till she can find another. As she
will not be my wife, she shall be my daughter,till she is somebody
else's wife. I told you before that you may come and marry her.
Indeed I can't help myself. Of course you may go on as you would with
some other girl;only I wish it were some other girl. You can go and
stay with Montagu Blake, if you please. It is nothing to me. Everybody
knows it now. Then he did say good-bye, though he could not be
persuaded to shake hands with John Gordon.
Mr Whittlestaff did not go home that day, but on the next, remaining
in town till he was driven out of it by twenty-four hours of absolute
misery. He had said to himself that he would remain till he could think
of some future plan of life that should have in it some better promise
of success for him than his sudden scheme of going to the
diamond-fields. But there was no other plan which became practicable in
his eyes. On the afternoon of the very next day London was no longer
bearable to him; and as there was no other place but Croker's Hall to
which he could take himself with any prospect of meeting friends who
would know anything of his ways of life, he did go down on the
following day. One consequence of this was, that Mary had received from
her lover the letter which he had written almost as soon as he had
received Mr Whittlestaff's permission to write. The letter was as
DEAR MARY,I do not know whether you are surprised by
what Mr Whittlestaff has done; but I am,so much so that
I hardly know how to write to you on the matter. If you
will think of it, I have never written to you, and have
never been in a position in which writing seemed to be
possible. Nor do I know as yet whether you are aware of
the business which has brought Mr Whittlestaff to town.
I suppose I am to take it for granted that all that he
tells me is true; though when I think what it is that I
have to accept,and that on the word of a man who is not
your father, and who is a perfect stranger to me,it does
seem as though I were assuming a great deal. And yet it is
no more than I asked him to do for me when I saw him at
his own house.
I had no time then to ask for your permission; nor, had
I asked for it, would you have granted it to me. You had
pledged yourself, and would not have broken your pledge.
If I asked for your hand at all, it was from him that I
had to ask. How will it be with me if you shall refuse to
come to me at his bidding?
I have never told you that I loved you, nor have you
expressed your willingness to receive my love. Dear Mary,
how shall it be? No doubt I do count upon you in my very
heart as being my own. After this week of troubles it
seems as though I can look back upon a former time in
which you and I had talked to one another as though we had
been lovers. May I not think that it was so? May it not be
so? May I not call you my Mary?
And indeed between man and man, as I would say, only that
you are not a man, have I not a right to assume that it
is so? I told him that it was so down at Croker's Hall,
and he did not contradict me. And now he has been the most
indiscreet of men, and has allowed all your secrets to
escape from his breast. He has told me that you love me,
and has bade me do as seems good to me in speaking to you
of my love.
But, Mary, why should there be any mock modesty or
pretence between us? When a man and woman mean to become
husband and wife, they should at any rate be earnest in
their profession. I am sure of my love for you, and of my
earnest longing to make you my wife. Tell me;am I not
right in counting upon you for wishing the same thing?
What shall I say in writing to you of Mr Whittlestaff? To
me personally he assumes the language of an enemy. But he
contrives to do so in such a way that I can take it only
as the expression of his regret that I should be found to
be standing in his way. His devotion to you is the most
beautiful expression of self-abnegation that I have ever
met. He tells me that nothing is done for me; but it is
only that I may understand how much more is done for you.
Next to me,yes, Mary, next to myself, he should be the
dearest to you of human beings. I am jealous already,
almost jealous of his goodness. Would that I could look
forward to a life in which I would be regarded as his
Let me have a line from you to say that it is as I would
wish it, and name a day in which I may come to visit you.
I shall now remain in London only to obey your behests. As
to my future life, I can settle nothing till I can discuss
it with you, as it will be your life also. God bless you,
my own one.Yours affectionately,
We are not to return to the diamond-fields. I have
promised Mr Whittlestaff that it shall be so.
Mary, when she received this letter, retired into her own room to
read it. For indeed her life in public,her life, that is, to which
Mrs Baggett had access,had been in some degree disturbed since the
departure of the master of the house. Mrs Baggett certainly proved
herself to be a most unreasonable old woman. She praised Mary Lawrie up
to the sky as being the only woman fitted to be her master's wife, at
the same time abusing Mary for driving her out of the house were the
marriage to take place; and then abusing her also because Mr
Whittlestaff had gone to town to look up another lover on Mary's
behalf. It isn't my fault; I did not send him, said Mary.
You could make his going of no account. You needn't have the young
man when he comes back. He has come here, disturbing us all with his
diamonds, in a most objectionable manner.
You would be able to remain here and not have to go away with that
dreadfully drunken old man. This Mary had said, because there had been
rather a violent scene with the one-legged hero in the stable.
What's that to do with it? Baggett ain't the worst man in the world
by any means. If he was a little cross last night, he ain't so always.
You'd be cross yourself, Miss, if you didn't get straw enough under you
to take off the hardness of the stones.
But you would go and live with him.
Ain't he my husband! Why shouldn't a woman live with her husband?
And what does it matter where I live, or how. You ain't going to marry
John Gordon, I know, to save me from Timothy Baggett! Then the letter
had comethe letter from Mary's lover; and Mary retired to her own
room to read it. The letter she thought was perfect, but not so perfect
as was Mr Whittlestaff. When she had read the letter, although she had
pressed it to her bosom and kissed it a score of times, although she
had declared that it was the letter of one who was from head to foot a
man, still there was room for that jealousy of which John Gordon had
spoken. When Mary had said to herself that he was of all human beings
surely the best, it was to Mr Whittlestaff and not to John Gordon that
she made allusion.
CHAPTER XXIII. AGAIN AT CROKER'S
About three o'clock on that day Mr Whittlestaff came home. The
pony-carriage had gone to meet him, but Mary remained purposely out of
the way. She could not rush out to greet him, as she would have done
had his absence been occasioned by any other cause. But he had no
sooner taken his place in the library than he sent for her. He had been
thinking about it all the way down from London, and had in some sort
prepared his words. During the next half hour he did promise himself
some pleasure, after that his life was to be altogether a blank to him.
He would go. To that only had he made up his mind. He would tell Mary
that she should be happy. He would make Mrs Baggett understand that for
the sake of his property she must remain at Croker's Hall for some
period to which he would decline to name an end. And then he would go.
Well, Mary, he said, smiling, so I have got back safe.
Yes; I see you have got back.
I saw a friend of yours when I was up in London.
I have had a letter, you know, from Mr Gordon.
He has written, has he? Then he has been very sudden.
He said he had your leave to write.
That is true. He had. I thought that, perhaps, he would have taken
more time to think about it.
I suppose he knew what he had to say, said Mary. And then she
blushed, as though fearing that she had appeared to have been quite
sure that her lover would not have been so dull.
I didn't quite mean that I knew.
But you did.
Oh, Mr Whittlestaff! But I will not attempt to deceive you. If you
left it to him, he would know what to say,immediately.
No doubt! No doubt!
When he had come here all the way from South Africa on purpose to
see me, as he said, of course he would know. Why should there be any
pretence on my part?
But I have not answered him;not as yet.
There need be no delay.
I would not do it till you had come. I may have known what he would
say to me, but I may be much in doubt what I should say to him.
You may say what you like. He answered her crossly, and she heard
the tone. But he was aware of it also, and felt that he was disgracing
himself. There was none of the half-hour of joy which he had promised
himself. He had struggled so hard to give her everything, and he might,
at any rate, have perfected his gift with good humour. You know you
have my full permission, he said, with a smile. But he was aware that
this smile was not pleasant,was not such a smile as would make her
happy. But it did not signify. When he was gone away, utterly
abolished, then she would be happy.
I do not know that I want your permission.
No, no; I daresay not.
You asked me to be your wife.
Yes; I did.
And I accepted you. The matter was settled then.
But you told me of him,even at first. And you said that you would
always think of him.
Yes; I told you what I knew to be true. But I accepted you; and I
determined to love you with all my heart,with all my heart.
And you knew that you would love him without any determination.
I think that I have myself under more control. I think that in
time,in a little time,I would have done my duty by you perfectly.
Loving you with all my heart.
And now? It was a hard question to put to her, and so unnecessary!
You have distrusted me somewhat. I begged you not to go to London.
I begged you not to go.
You cannot love two men. She looked into his face, as though
imploring him to spare her. For though she did know what was
coming,though had she asked herself, she would have said that she
knew,yet she felt herself bound to disown Mr Gordon as her very own
while Mr Whittlestaff thus tantalised her. No; you cannot love two
men. You would have tried to love me and have failed. You would have
tried not to love him, and have failed then also.
Then I would not have failed. Had you remained here, and have taken
me, I should certainly not have failed then.
I have made it easy for you, my dear;very easy. Write your
letter. Make it as loving as you please. Write as I would have had you
write to me, could it have been possible. O, Mary! that ought to have
been my own! O, Mary! that would have made beautiful for me my future
downward steps! But it is not for such a purpose that a young life such
as yours should be given. Though he should be unkind to you, though
money should be scarce with you, though the ordinary troubles of the
world should come upon you, they will be better for you than the ease I
might have prepared for you. It will be nearer to human nature. I, at
any rate, shall be here if troubles come; or if I am gone, that will
remain which relieves troubles. You can go now and write your letter.
She could not speak a word as she left the room. It was not only
that her throat was full of sobs, but that her heart was laden with
mingled joy and sorrow, so that she could not find a word to express
herself. She went to her bedroom and took out her letter-case to do as
he had bidden her;but she found that she could not write. This letter
should be one so framed as to make John Gordon joyful; but it would be
impossible to bring her joy so to the surface as to satisfy him even
with contentment. She could only think how far it might yet be possible
to sacrifice herself and him. She sat thus an hour, and then went back,
and, hearing voices, descended to the drawing-room. There she found Mr
Blake and Kattie Forrester and Evelina Hall. They had come to call upon
Mr Whittlestaff and herself, and were full of their own news. Oh, Miss
Lawrie, what do you think? said Mr Blake. Miss Lawrie, however, could
not think, nor could Mr Whittlestaff. Think of whatever is the
greatest joy in the world, said Mr Blake.
Don't make yourself such a goose, said Kattie Forrester.
Oh, but I am in earnest. The greatest joy in all the world.
I suppose you mean you're going to be married, said Mr
Exactly. How good you are at guessing! Kattie has named the day.
This day fortnight. Oh dear, isn't it near?
If you think so, it shall be this day fortnight next year, said
Oh dear no! I didn't mean that at all. It can't be too near. And
you couldn't put it off now, you know, because the Dean has been
bespoke. It is a good thing to have the Dean to fasten the knot. Don't
you think so, Miss Lawrie?
I suppose one clergyman is just the same as another, said Mary.
So I tell him. It will all be one twenty years hence. After all,
the Dean is an old frump, and papa does not care a bit about him.
But how are you to manage with Mr Newface? asked Mr Whittlestaff.
That's the best part of it all. Mr Hall is such a brick, that when
we come back from the Isle of Wight he is going to take us all in.
If that's the best of it, you can be taken in without me, said
But it is good; is it not? We two, and her maid. She's to be
promoted to nurse one of these days.
If you're such a fool, I never will have you. It's not too late
yet, remember that. All which rebukesand there were many of themMr
Montagu Blake received with loud demonstrations of joy. And so, Miss
Lawrie, you're to be in the same boat too, said Mr Blake. I know all
Mary blushed, and looked at Mr Whittlestaff. But he took upon
himself the task of answering the clergyman's remarks. But how do you
know anything about Miss Lawrie?
You think that no one can go up to London but yourself, Mr
Whittlestaff. I was up there myself yesterday;as soon as ever this
great question of the day was positively settled, I had to look after
my own trousseau. I don't see why a gentleman isn't to have a
trousseau as well as a lady. At any rate, I wanted a new black
suit, fit for the hymeneal altar. And when there I made out John
Gordon, and soon wormed the truth out of him. At least he did not tell
me downright, but he let the cat so far out of the bag that I soon
guessed the remainder. I always knew how it would be, Miss Lawrie.
You didn't know anything at all about it, said Mr Whittlestaff.
It would be very much more becoming if you would learn sometimes to
hold your tongue.
Then Miss Evelina Hall struck in. Would Miss Lawrie come over to
Little Alresford Park, and stay there for a few days previous to the
wedding? Kattie Forrester meant to bring down a sister with her as a
bridesmaid. Two of the Miss Halls were to officiate also, and it would
be taken as a great favour if Miss Lawrie would make a fourth. A great
deal was said to press upon her this view of the case, to which,
however, she made many objections. There was, indeed, a tragedy
connected with her own matrimonial circumstances, which did not make
her well inclined to join such a party. Her heart was not at ease
within her as to her desertion of Mr Whittlestaff. Whatever the future
might bring forth, the present could not be a period of joy But in the
middle of the argument, Mr Whittlestaff spoke with the voice of
authority. Accept Mr Hall's kindness, he said, and go over for a
while to Little Alresford.
And leave you all alone?
I'm sure Mr Hall will be delighted if you will come too, said Mr
Blake, ready at the moment to answer for the extent of his patron's
house and good-nature.
Quite out of the question, said Mr Whittlestaff, in a tone of
voice intended to put an end to that matter. But I can manage to live
alone for a few days, seeing that I shall be compelled to do so before
long, by Miss Lawrie's marriage. Again Mary looked up into his face.
It is so, my dear. This young gentleman has managed to ferret out the
truth, while looking for his wedding garments. Will you tell your papa,
Miss Evelina, that Mary will be delighted to accept his kindness?
And Gordon can come down to me, said Blake, uproariously, rubbing
his hands; and we can have three or four final days together, like two
jolly young bachelors.
Speaking for yourself alone, said Kattie,you'll have to remain
a jolly young bachelor a considerable time still, if you don't mend
I needn't mend my manners till after I'm married, I suppose. But
they who knew Mr Blake well were wont to declare that in the matter of
what Miss Forrester called his manners, there would not be much to make
his wife afraid.
The affair was settled as far as it could be settled in Mr Gordon's
absence. Miss Lawrie was to go over and spend a fortnight at Little
Alresford just previous to Kattie Forrester's marriage, and Gordon was
to come down to the marriage, so as to be near to Mary, if he could be
persuaded to do so. Of this Mr Blake spoke with great certainty. Why
shouldn't he come and spoon a bit, seeing that he never did so yet in
his life? Now I have had a lot of it.
Not such a lot by any means, said Miss Forrester.
According to all accounts he's got to begin it. He told me that he
hadn't even proposed regular. Doesn't that seem odd to you, Kattie?
It seemed very odd when you did it. Then the three of them went
away, and Mary was left to discuss the prospects of her future life
with Mr Whittlestaff. You had better both of you come and live here,
he said. There would be room enough. Mary thought probably of the
chance there might be of newcomers, but she said nothing. I should go
away, of course, said Mr Whittlestaff.
Turn you out of your own house!
Why not? I shan't stay here any way. I am tired of the place, and
though I shan't care to sell it, I shall make a move. A man ought to
make a move every now and again. I should like to go to Italy, and live
at one of those charming little towns.
Without a soul to speak to.
I shan't want anybody to speak to. I shall take with me just a few
books to read. I wonder whether Mrs Baggett would go with me. She can't
have much more to keep her in England than I have. But this plan had
not been absolutely fixed when Mary retired for the night, with the
intention of writing her letter to John Gordon before she went to bed.
Her letter took her long to write. The thinking of it rather took too
long. She sat leaning with her face on her hands, and with a tear
occasionally on her cheek, into the late night, meditating rather on
the sweet goodness of Mr Whittlestaff than on the words of the letter.
It had at last been determined that John Gordon should be her husband.
That the fates seem to have decided, and she did acknowledge that in
doing so the fates had been altogether propitious. It would have been
very difficult,now at last she owned that truth to herself,it would
have been very difficult for her to have been true to the promise she
had made, altogether to eradicate John Gordon from her heart, and to
fill up the place left with a wife's true affection for Mr
Whittlestaff. To the performance of such a task as that she would not
be subjected. But on the other hand, John Gordon must permit her to
entertain and to evince a regard for Mr Whittlestaff, not similar at
all to the regard which she would feel for her husband, but almost
equal in its depth.
At last she took the paper and did write her letter, as follows:
DEAR MR GORDON,I am not surprised at anything that Mr
Whittlestaff should do which shows the goodness of his
disposition and the tenderness of his heart. He is, I
think, the most unselfish of mankind. I believe you to be
so thoroughly sincere in the affection which you express
for me, that you must acknowledge that he is so. If you
love me well enough to make me your wife, what must you
think of him who has loved me well enough to surrender me
to one whom I had known before he had taken me under his
You know that I love you, and am willing to become your
wife. What can I say to you now, except that it is so. It
is so. And in saying that, I have told you everything as
to myself. Of him I can only say, that his regard for me
has been more tender even than that of a father.Yours
always most lovingly,
CHAPTER XXIV. CONCLUSION.
The day came at last on which Mary's visit to Little Alresford was
to commence. Two days later John Gordon was to arrive at the Parsonage,
and Mary's period of being spooned was to be commenced,according to
Mr Blake's phraseology. No, my dear; I don't think I need go with
you, said Mr Whittlestaff, when the very day was there.
Why not come and call?
I don't much care about calling, said Mr Whittlestaff. This was
exactly the state of mind to which Mary did not wish to see her friend
reduced,that of feeling it to be necessary to avoid his
You think Mr Blake is silly. He is a silly young man, I allow; but
Mr Hall has been very civil. As I am to go there for a week, you might
as well take me. As she spoke she put her arm around him, caressing
I don't care particularly for Mr Blake; but I don't think I'll go
to Little Alresford. Mary understood, when he said this the second
time, that the thing was fixed as fate. He would not go to Little
Alresford. Then, in about a quarter of an hour, he began againI
think you'll find me gone when you come back again.
Gone! where shall you have gone?
I'm not quite comfortable here. Don't look so sad, you dear, dear
girl. Then he crossed the room and kissed her tenderly. I have a
nervous irritable feeling which will not let me remain quiet. Of
course, I shall come for your marriage, whenever that may be fixed.
Oh, Mr Whittlestaff, do not talk in that way! That will be a year
to come, or perhaps two or three. Do not let it disturb you in that
way, or I shall swear that I will not be married at all. Why should I
be married if you are to be miserable?
It has been all settled, my dear. Mr Gordon is to be the lord of
all that. And though you will be supposed to have fixed the day, it is
he that will really fix it;he, or the circumstances of his life. When
a young lady has promised a young gentleman, the marriage may be
delayed to suit the young gentleman's convenience, but never to suit
hers. To tell the truth, it will always be felt convenient that she
shall be married as soon as may be after the promise has been given.
You will see Mr Gordon in a day or two, and will find out then what are
Do you think that I shall not consult your wishes?
Not in the least, my dear. I, at any rate, shall have no
wishes,except what may be best for your welfare. Of course I must see
him, and settle some matters that will have to be settled. There will
be money matters.
I have no money, said Mary,not a shilling! He knows that.
Nevertheless there will be money matters, which you will have the
goodness to leave to me. Are you not my daughter, Mary, my only child?
Don't trouble yourself about such matters as these, but do as you're
bid. Now it is time for you to start, and Hayonotes will be ready to go
with you. Having so spoken, Mr Whittlestaff put her into the carriage,
and she was driven away to Little Alresford.
It then wanted a week to the Blake-cum-Forrester marriage, and the
young clergyman was beginning to mix a little serious timidity with his
usual garrulous high spirits. Upon my word, you know I'm not at all
sure that they are going to do it right, he said with much emphasis to
Miss Lawrie. The marriage is to be on Tuesday. She's to go home on the
Saturday. I insist upon being there on the Monday. It would make a
fellow so awfully nervous travelling on the same day. But the other
girlsand you're one of them, Miss Lawrieare to go into Winchester
by train on Tuesday morning, under the charge of John Gordon. If any
thing were to happen to any of you, only think, where should I be?
Where should we be? said Miss Lawrie.
It isn't your marriage, you know. But I suppose the wedding could
go on even if one of you didn't come. It would be such an awful thing
not to have it done when the Dean is coming. But Mary comforted him,
assuring him that the Halls were very punctual in all their comings and
goings when any event was in hand.
Then John Gordon came, and, to tell the truth, Mary was subjected
for the first time to the ceremony of spooning. When he walked up to
the door across from the Parsonage, Mary Lawrie took care not to be in
the way. She took herself to her own bedroom, and there remained, with
feverish, palpitating heart, till she was summoned by Miss Hall. You
must come down and bid him welcome, you know.
I suppose so; but
Of course you must come. It must be sooner or later. He is looking
so different from what he was when he was here before. And so he ought,
when one considers all things.
He has not got another journey before him to South Africa.
Without having got what he came for, said Miss Hall. Then when
they went down, Mary was told that John Gordon had passed through the
house into the shrubbery, and was invited to follow him. Mary,
declaring that she would go alone, took up her hat and boldly went
after him. As she passed on, across the lawn, she saw his figure
disappearing among the trees. I don't think it very civil for a young
lady's young man to vanish in that way, said Miss Hall. But Mary
boldly and quickly followed him, without another word.
Mary, he said, turning round upon her as soon as they were both
out of sight among the trees. Mary, you have come at last.
Yes; I have come.
And yet, when I first showed myself at your house, you would hardly
receive me. But this he said holding her by the hand, and looking into
her face with his brightest smile. I had postponed my coming almost
Yes, indeed. Was it my fault?
No;nor mine. When I was told that I was doing no good about the
house, and reminded that I was penniless, what could I do but go away?
But why go so far?
I had to go where money could be earned. Considering all things, I
think I was quick enough. Where else could I have found diamonds but at
the diamond-fields? And I have been perhaps the luckiest fellow that
has gone and returned.
So nearly too late!
But not too late.
But you were too late,only for the inexpressible goodness of
another. Have you thought what I owewhat you and I oweto Mr
But I am his darling. Only it sounds so conceited in any girl to
say so. Why should he care so much about me?or why should you, for
the matter of that?
Mary, Mary, come to me now. And he held out both his hands. She
looked round, fearing intrusive eyes, but seeing none, she allowed him
to embrace her. My own,at last my own. How well you understood me in
those old days. And yet it was all without a word,almost without a
sign. She bowed her head before she had escaped from his arms. Now I
am a happy man.
It is he that has done it for you.
Am I not thankful?
How can I be thankful as I ought? Think of the gratitude that I owe
him,think of all the love! What man has loved as he has done? Who has
brought himself so to abandon to another the reward he had thought it
worth his while to wish for? You must not count the value of the
But I do.
But the price he had set upon it! I was to be the comfort of his
life to come. And it would have been so, had he not seen and had he not
believed. Because another has loved, he has given up that which he has
It was not for my sake.
But it was for mine. You had come first, and had won my poor heart.
I was not worth the winning to either of you.
It was for me to judge of that.
Just so. But you do not know his heart. How prone he is to hold by
that which he knows he has made his own. I was his own.
You told him the truth when he came to you.
I was his own, said Mary, firmly. Had he bade me never to see you
again, I should never have seen you. Had he not gone after you himself,
you would never have come back.
I do not know how that might be.
It would have been to no good. Having consented to take everything
from his hands, I could never have been untrue to him. I tell you that
I should as certainly have become his wife, as that girl will become
the wife of that young clergyman. Of course I was unhappy.
Were you, dear?
Yes. I was very unhappy. When you flashed upon me there at Croker's
Hall, I knew at once all the joy that had fallen within my reach. You
were there, and you had come for me! All the way from Kimberley, just
for me to smile upon you! Did you not?
Indeed I did.
When you had found your diamonds, you thought of me,was it not
Of you only.
You flatterer! You dear, bonny lover. You whom I had always loved
and prayed for, when I knew not where you were! You who had not left me
to be like Mariana, but had hurried home at once for me when your man's
work was done,doing just what a girl would think that a man should do
for her sake. But it had been all destroyed by the necessity of the
case. I take no blame to myself.
Looking back at it all, I was right. He had chosen to want me, and
had a right to me. I had taken his gifts, given with a full hand. And
where were you, my own one? Had I a right to think that you were
thinking of me?
I was thinking of you.
Yes; because you have turned out to be one in a hundred: but I was
not to have known that. Then he asked me, and I thought it best that he
should know the truth and take his choice. He did take his choice
before he knew the truth,that you were so far on your way to seek my
I was at that very moment almost within reach of it.
But still it had become his. He did not toss it from him then as a
thing that was valueless. With the truest, noblest observance, he made
me understand how much it might be to him, and then surrendered it
without a word of ill humour, because he told himself that in truth my
heart was within your keeping. If you will keep it well, you must find
a place for his also. It was thus that Mary Lawrie suffered the
spooning that was inflicted upon her by John Gordon.
* * * * * *
The most important part of our narrative still remains. When the day
came, the Reverend Montagu Blake was duly married to Miss Catherine
Forrester in Winchester Cathedral, by the Very Reverend the Dean,
assisted by the young lady's father; and it is pleasant to think that
on that occasion the two clergymen behaved to each other with extreme
civility. Mr Blake at once took his wife over to the Isle of Wight, and
came back at the end of a month to enjoy the hospitality of Mr Hall.
And with them came that lady's maid, of whose promotion to a higher
sphere in life we shall expect soon to hear. Then came a period of
thorough enjoyment for Mr Blake in superintending the work of Mr
What a pity it is that the house should ever be finished! said the
bride to Augusta Hall; because as things are now, Montagu is supremely
happy: he will never be so happy again.
Unless when the baby comes, said Augusta.
I don't think he'll care a bit about the baby, said the bride.
The writer, however, is of a different opinion, as he is inclined to
think that the Reverend Montagu Blake will be a pattern for all
fathers. One word more we must add of Mr Whittlestaff and his future
life,and one word of Mrs Baggett. Mr Whittlestaff did not leave
Croker's Hall. When October had come round, he was present at Mary's
marriage, and certainly did not carry himself then with any show of
outward joy. He was moody and silent, and, as some said, almost
uncourteous to John Gordon. But before Mary went down to the train, in
preparation of her long wedding-tour, he took her up to his bedroom,
and there said a final word to her. Give him my love.
Oh, my darling! you have made me so happy.
You will find me better when you come back, though I shall never
cease to regret all that I have lost.
Mrs Baggett accepted her destiny, and remained in supreme dominion
over all women-kind at Croker's Hall. But there was private pecuniary
arrangement between her and her master, of which I could never learn
the details. It resulted, however, in the sending of a money-order
every Saturday morning to an old woman in whose custody the Sergeant