A Country Gentleman
VOL. LV. — MAY, 188S5. — No. CCCXXXI.
A Magazine of Literature, Science, art, and Politica.
“ ONE day is the same to us as another. We see nobody.”
“ Oh, of course ! ” said Mrs. Wilberforce. “ Dear Mrs. Warrender, it is so noble of you to make such an effort. I hope Theo will appreciate it as it deserves.”
Mrs. Warrender colored a little, as one is apt to do when condemned by too much praise. It is difficult sometimes to tell which is worst, the too little or the too much : she did not make any reply.
“ But I am glad it does not make any difference to have us to-night; that is, if you meant me to come ? — or perhaps it was only the two gentlemen? I see now: to be sure, two gentlemen is no party; they need not even come back to the drawing-room at all. I am so glad I came to inquire, for now I understand perfectly. And you are sure it will quite suit you to have them tonight ? ”
“ Of course,” said Minnie, “ mamma does not look upon you as company, dear Mrs. Wilberforce; it will be only a relief if you come, for gentlemen, and especially new people, who don’t know what we have lost nor anything about us, are trying. Mr. Cavendish, I remember, was quite nice when we had tea in his rooms at Commemoration,
and if all had been well — But I am sure mamma forms too high an estimate of her own powers. What I am afraid of is that she will break down.”
“ To be sure, dear Minnie, if you are afraid of that ”— said the rector’s wife : and so it was settled. Chatty took no part at all in the arrangements. She had not joined in her sister’s severe animadversions as to the dinner-party. For herself, she was glad of the change; it might be wrong, but she could not help being glad. It was, she acknowledged to herself, rather dull never to see any but the same faces day after day. And Mr. Cavendish was very nice; he had a cheerful face, and such a merry laugh. Chatty knew that it would not he right for herself to laugh, in the circumstances, in her deep mourning: but it was a mild and surely innocent gratification to listen to the laugh of another. The Wilberforces were very great friends and very nice, but they always remembered what had happened, and toned themselves — these were the words Mrs. Wilberforce used — toned themselves to the subdued condition of the family. Chatty thought that, however nice (and most thoughtful) that might be, it was pleasant now and then to be in company with somebody who did not tone himself, but laughed freely when he had a mind to do so. And accordingly she kept very quiet, and took no part, but inclined silently to her mother’s side.
Copyright, 1885, by HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & Co.
This day was to Dick Cavendish like a bad dream. He could not move outside the inclosure of the rectory grounds without seeing before him in the distance the high garden wall, the higher range of windows, the big trees which gave its name to the Elms. Going through the village street, he saw twice — which seemed a superfluity of ill fortune — Lizzie Hampson, with her demure air, passing without lifting her eyes, as if she had never seen him before. Had any one else known what he alone knew, how extraordinary would his position have appeared ! But he had no leisure to think of the strangeness of his position, all his faculties being required to keep himself going, to look as if everything was as usual. The terror which was in his mind of perhaps, for anything he could tell, meeting some one in these country roads, without warning, whose encounter would be very different from that of Lizzie Hampson, by times got the better of his composure altogether. He did not know what he would do or say in such an emergency. But he could do nothing to avoid it. The Wilberforces, anxious to amuse him, drove him over in the wagonette, in the morning, to Pierrepoint, making a little impromptu picnic among the ruins. Under no circumstances could the party have been very exciting, except to the children, who enjoyed it hugely, with the simple appetite for anything that is supposed to be pleasure which belongs to their age, — which pleased their parents quite as much as if Dick had been enthusiastic. They passed the Elms coming and going. Mrs. Wilberforce put her parasol between her and that objectionable house, but all the same made a rapid inspection of it through the fringes. Dick turned his head away ; but he, too, saw more than any one could be supposed to see who was looking in the other direction,
and at the same time, with an almost convulsion of laughter, which to himself was horrible, perceived the lady’s double play of curiosity and repugnance with a fierce amusement. He had to make some sort of poor jest, he did not know what, to account for the laugh which tore him asunder, which he could not keep in. What the joke was he did not know, but it had an unmerited success, and the carriage rattled along past the garden wall in a perfect riot of laughter from the fine lungs of the rector and Flo and Georgie, and all the little ones. If any one had but known ! The tragedy was horrible, but the laughter was fresh and innocent on all lips but his own. Coming back he laughed no more. The gates were being opened; a sound of horses’ hoofs and the jingle of their furniture was audible. The inhabitants were about to drive out. “If you look back you may catch a glimpse of — those people,” the rector whispered. But Dick did not look back. The danger made him pale. Had they met face to face, what would have happened ? Would he have sat there safe among the innocent children, and made no sign ? But when the evening came, and it was time for the dinner at the Warren, he had regained his composure, which, however, so far as his companions knew, had never been lost. In the Warren there were strong emotions, perhaps passions, which he did not understand, but which gave him a sort of fellow feeljug— conditions more sympathetic than the well-being of the rector and his wife. Nothing is more pleasant to see than the calm happiness of a wedded pair, who suit each other, who have passed the youthful period of commotion, and have not reached that which so often comes when the children in their turn tempt the angry billows. But there is something in that self-satisfied and sell-concentrated happiness which jars upon those who in the turmoil of existence have not much prospect of anything so peaceful. And then domestic comfort is often so sure that it is its own virtue which has purchased such an exemption from the ills of life. The Warren had been a few months ago a pattern of monotonous peacefulness. The impatience that sometimes lit up a little fire in Mrs. Warrender’s eyes was so out of character, so improbable, that any one who suspected it supposed himself to have been deceived ; for who could suppose the mother to be tired of her quiet life? And the girls were not impatient; they lived their half-vegetable life with the serenest and most complacent calm. Now, however, new emotions were at work. The young master of the house was full of abstraction and dreams, wrapped in some pursuit, some hope, some absorbing preoccupation of his own. His mother was straining at her bonds like a greyhound in a leash. Minnie, who had been the chief example of absolute self-satisfaction and certainty that everything was right, had developed a keenness of curiosity and censure which betrayed her conviction that something had gone wrong. These three were all, as it were, on tiptoe, on the boundary line, the thinnest edge which divided the known from the unknown ; conscious that at any moment something might happen which would disperse them and shatter all the remains of the old life. Chatty alone, amid these smouldering elements of change, sat calm in her accustomed place, as yet unawakened except to the mild pleasure of a new face among those to which she was accustomed, and of a cheerful voice and laugh which broke the monotony. She had not even gone so far as to say to herself that such a cheerful presence coming and going might make life more interesting. The new-comer, she was quite well aware, was going away to-morrow, nor was there any reason within her power of divination why he should not go ; but he was a pleasant break. Chatty reasoned with herself that though a love of novelty is a bad thing and quite unjustifiable in a woman, still that when something new comes of itself across one’s point of vision, there is no harm in taking the good of it. And accordingly she looked up with her face of pleasure, and smiled at the very sound of Dick’s cheerful voice, thinking how delightful it must be to be so cheerful as that. What a happy temperament! If Theo had been as cheerful! But then to think of Theo as cheerful was beyond the power of mortal imagination. Thus they sat round the table lighted by a large lamp standing up tall in the midst, according to the fashion of the time. In those days the light was small, not because of æsthetic principles, but because people had not as yet learned how to make more light, and the moderator lamp was the latest invention.
“ We took Mr. Cavendish to Pierrepoint, as you suggested,” said Mrs. Wilberforce. “ We had a very nice drive, but the place is really infested by persons from Highcombe ; the woman at the gate told us there had been a party of thirty people from the works the day before yesterday. Sir Edward will soon find the consequences if he goes on in that way. If everybody is allowed to go, not only will they ruin the place, but other people, people like ourselves, will give up going. He might as well make it a penny show.”
“ It is a show without the penny,” said the rector.
“ If the poor people did any harm, he would, no doubt, stop their coming,” said Mrs. Warrender, mildly.
“ Harm ! but of course they do harm. The very idea of thirty working-people, with their heavy boots, and their dinner in a basket: and smoking, no doubt!”
“ That is bad,” said Dick. “ Wilberforce and I did nothing of that kind. We only made experiments on the damp, and used a little tobacco to keep off the bad air. The air in the guard-room was close, and Georgie had a puff at a cigarette, but only with a sanitary view: aud our dinner was in a hamper; these are distinctions. By the way, it was not dinner at all; it was only lunch.”
“ And we, I hope, Mr. Cavendish, are very different from ” —
“ Oh, very different. We have most things we wish to have, and live in nice houses, and have gardens of our own, and woods to walk in.”
“ That is quite true,” said Minnie; “we have always been Liberal, — not against the people, as the Conservatives are; but still it cannot be good to teach them to be discontented with what they have. We should ail be contented with what we’ve got. If it had not been the best for us, it would not have been chosen for us.”
“ Perhaps we had better not go into the abstract question, Minnie. I suppose, Mr. Cavendish, you go back to Oxford after the vacation.”
“ For hard work,” he said, with a laugh. “ I am such an old fellow I have no time to lose. I am not an honor man, like Warrender.”
“ And you, Theo, — you are going, too ? ” said the rector.
Warrender woke up as out of a dream. “ I have not made up my mind. Perhaps I shall, perhaps not; it is not of much importance.”
“ Not of much importance ! Your first class ” —
“ f should not take a first class,” he said, coldly.
“ But, my dear fellow ! ” The rector’s air of puzzled consternation, and the look he cast round him, as if to ask the world in general for the reason of this extraordinary self-sacrifice, was so seriously comic that Dick’s gravity was in danger, especially as all the other members of the party replied to the look with a seriousness, in some cases disapproval, in some astonishment, which heightened the effect. Where does he expect to go to ? ” he asked, solemnly.
“ Theo thinks,” said his mother, “ that a first class is not everything in the world as it is in the University.”
“ But my dear Mrs. Warrender, that is precisely one of the things that ladies never understand.”
“ I have no chance of one, so I agree with Warrender,” said Dick. “ The Dons will bother, but what does that matter ? They have no souls beyond the Class lists.”
“ This is all extremely unnecessary,” said Warrender, with an air of suppressed irritation. “ Perhaps you will allow me to know best. I have no more chance of a first class than you have, Cavendish. I have not worked for it, and I have no expectation of it. All that was over long ago. I thought every one knew.”
“ Every one knew that you could have whatever you chose, Warrender. Some thought it foolish, and some fine ; but every one knew exactly the cause.”
“ Fine ! ” said the young master of the house, growing red. “ But it is of no consequence to me what they say. I may go back, or I may not ; it is not of the slightest importance to any one but myself.” He added, in a tone which he tried to make lighter, “ What use is a class of any kind to a small country gentleman ? To know the cost of cultivation and what pays is better than a dozen firsts. I want to find out how to cut my trees, and How to manage my farmers, and how not to make a fool of myself at petty sessions. Neither Plato nor Aristotle could throw any light on these subjects.”
“ For the last you must come to me,” said Dick ; “ on that point you ’ll find me superior to all the sages put together. And as for drawing leases — but I suppose you have some beggar of a man of business who will take the bread out of a poor beginner’s mouth.” “ Though Mr. Cavendish talks in that way,” said Mrs. Wilberforce aside to Minnie, " as though he wanted employment so much, he has a very nice little fortune of his own. It is just his way of talking. And as for connection, there is no one better. His father is a cousin — it may be a good many times removed, but still it is quite traceable — of the Duke. I am not sure, even, that they are not in the peerage as collaterals; indeed, I am almost sure they are, and that we should find him there and everything about him, if we looked.”
“ Of course everybody knows they are very well connected,” said Minnie,
“ but young men all talk nonsense. Listen to Theo ! Why should n’t he go back to Oxford and take his degree, like other people ? I don’t care about the class. A gentleman need not be particularly clever ; but if he has been at the University and does not take his degree, it is always supposed that there is some reason. I don’t think it is respectable, for my part.”
“ Ah, my dear, the young men of the present day — they are a law to themselves,” said her friend. “ They don’t care for what is respectable. Indeed, so far as I can see, they make it a sort of reproach; they let nobodies pick up the prizes. And what do they expect it is all to end in ? I could tell them very well, if they would listen to me. The French Revolution is what it will end in ; but of course they will not listen to anything one can say.”
“ Oh, you know we are Liberals,” cried Minnie; “ we don’t go in with all that.”
“ If you are going to town to-morrow, I don’t mind if I go with you,” said Warrender. “ I have some business to look after. At least, it is not exactly business,” for he saw his mother’s eyes turned on him inquiringly; “ it is a commission from a friend. I shall only stay the day, mother; you need not look so surprised.” “ It will do you good,” she said, quietly. “ And why should you hurry back ? You will be the better for the change.”
He gave her a suspicious, half-angry look, as if he saw more in her words than met the eye. “ I shall be back in the evening,” he said.
“I will do all I can to upset his good resolutions, Mrs. Warrender. He shall go to all sorts of riotous places, to keep me in countenance. If he can be beguiled into any little improprieties, I am your man.”
“ Don’t be afraid,” said the rector. “ Dick’s wickednesses are all theoretical. I’d trust Georgie in the worst haunt he knows.”
Dick looked up with a laugh, with some light word of contradiction ; and in a moment there gleamed before him, as by the touching of a spring, as by the opening of a door, the real state of the case so far as he was himself concerned. The present scene melted away to give place to another, — to others which were burnt upon his memory in lines of fire; to one which he could see in his imagination, with which he had a horrible connection, which he could not dismiss out of his thoughts, though he was in reality a fugitive from it, flying the vicinity, the possible sight, the spectre of a ruin which was beyond description. Merely to think of this amid an innocent company, around this decorous table, brought a sickening sensation, a giddiness both mental and physical. He turned his head away from the eyes of the mother, who he felt must in her experience divine something from the expression in his, to meet the pleased and guileless look with which Chatty was listening to that laughing disclaimer which he had just made. She was sitting by his side, saying nothing herself, listening to the talk, amused and almost excited by the new voice, the little play of light intercourse ; even the charm of a new voice was something to Chatty. And she was so certain that what the rector had said was true, that Georgie, or even she herself, more delicate still, a simple-hearted young woman, might have been trusted in his worst haunt. He read her look with a keen pang of feelings contradictory, of sharp anguish and a kind of pleasure. For indeed it was true ; and yet — and yet — Did they but know!
Warrender walked back with the party as far as the rectory gate. Indeed, so simple was the place, the entire family came out with them, straying along under the thick shade of the trees to the little gate.
It was a lovely summer night, as different as possible from the haze and chill of the preceding one, with a little new moon just disappearing, and everything softened and whitened by her soft presence in the sky. Mrs. Wilberforce and Minnie went first, invisible in the dimness of the evening, then the two solid darknesses of the rector and Warrender. Dick came behind with Mrs. Warrender, and Chatty followed a step in the rear of all. The mother talked softly, but more frankly than she had done as yet. She told him that their home henceforward would probably be in Highcombe, not here,— “ That is, not yet, perhaps, but soon,” she said, with a little eagerness not like the melancholy tone with which a new-made widow talks of leaving her home, — and that it would please her to see him there, if, according to the common formula, “ he ever came that way.” And Dick declared with a little fervor which was unnecessary that Highcombe was very much in his way, that it would be always a pleasure to come. Why should he have said it ? He had no right to say it; for he knew, though he could not see, with once more that pang of mingled pleasure and misery, that there was a look of pleased satisfaction on Chatty’s face as she came softly in the darkness behind.
Dick was astir very early next morning. He did his packing hurriedly, and strolled out in the freshness of the early day. But not to enjoy the morning sunshine. He walked along resolutely towards the house which had suddenly acquired for him so painful an interest. For why ? With no intention of visiting it; with a certainty that he would see no one there ; perhaps with an idea of justifying himself to himself for flying from its neighborhood, for putting distance, at least the breadth of the island, between him and that place, which he could not henceforward get out of his mind. To think that he had come here so lightly two days ago with his old uncle’s commission, and that now no inducement in the world, except death or hopeless necessity, could make him cross that threshold. If the woman were on her death-bed, yes ; if she were abandoned by all and without other help, as well might be, as would be, without doubt, one time or another. But for nothing else, nothing less. He walked along under the wall, and round the dark shrubberies behind, which enveloped the house. All was quiet and peace for the moment, at least; the curtains drawn over the windows ; the household late of stirring ; no lively housewife there to rouse maids and men, and stir up a wholesome sound of living. The young man’s cheerful face was stern as he made this round, like a sentinel, thinking of many things that were deep in the gulf of the past: two years of his life which looked like a life-time, and which were over, with all the horrors that were in them, and done with, and never to be recalled again. He was still young, and yet how much older than any one was aware ! Twenty-seven, yet with two lives behind him : one that of youth, to which he had endeavored to piece his renewed existence ; and the other all complete and ended, a tragedy, yet like many tragedies in life, cut off not by death. Not by death: for here were both the actors again within reach of each other, — one within the sleeping house, one outside in the fresh air of the morning, — with a gulf like that between Dives and Lazarus, a gulf which no man might cross, of disgust and loathing, of pain and hatred, between.
The door in the wall opened stealthily, softly, and some one came out. It was so early that such precautions seemed scarcely necessary. Perhaps it was in fear of this encounter which was actually taking place that Lizzie looked round so jealously. If so, her precautions were useless, as she stepped out immediately in front of the passenger whom she most desired to avoid. He did not speak to her for a moment, but walked on, quickening his pace as hers fluttered into a run, as if to escape him. “ Stop,” he said at length. “ You need not take the trouble to conceal yourself from me.”
“ I ’m not concealing—anything,” said Lizzie, half angry, half sullen, with a flush on her face. “ I’ve done nothing wrong,” she added, quickly.
“ I don’t say you’ve done anything wrong; for what I can tell, you may be doing the work of an angel.”
She looked up at him eagerly, and the tears sprang to her eyes. “ I don’t know for that — I — I don’t ask nothing but not to be blamed.”
“ Lizzie,” he said, “ you were always a good girl, and to be faithful as you seem may, for anything I know, be angels’ work. I could not do it, for my part.”
“Oh, no,” she said, hurriedly. “It would not be looked for from you, — oh, no, no ! ”
“ But think, if you were to ruin yourself,” he said. “ The rector saw you, the other day, but he will say nothing. Yet think if others saw you.”
“ Sir,” cried Lizzie, drawing back, “ it will do me more harm and vex granny more to see a gentleman walking by my side and talking like that, as if he took an interest in me, — which you don’t, all the same,” she added, with a little bitterness. “ only for — others.”
“ I do,” he cried, “ if I could help you without harming you. But it is chiefly for the other. I want you to act for me, Lizzie. If trouble should come, as come, of course, it will ” —
“ I am none so sure. You never saw her half so pretty — and he ” —
“ Silence ! ” cried Dick, with a voice that was like the report of deep guns. “ If trouble comes, let me know. She must not want or be miserable. There is my address. Do not apply to me unless there is absolute need; but if that happens, write, telegraph, — no matter which ; help shall come.”
“ And what am I to do with a gentleman’s card ? ” said Lizzie. “ Granny or some one will be sure to see it. It will drop out of my pocket, or it will be seen in my drawers, or something. And if I were to die it would be found, and folks would think badly of me. I will not take your card.”
“ This is folly, Lizzie.”
“ If it is, folly’s natural. I don’t believe there will be any need ; but if there is, I ‘ll find you out, if it’s wanted, but I won’t take the card. Will you please, sir, to walk on ? I’ve got my character to think of.”
The girl stopped short, leaning against the corner of the wall, defying him, though she was not hostile to him. He put back his card in his pocket, and took off his hat, a token of respect which brought the color to Lizzie’s cheek.
“ Go away, sir ; I’ve got my character to think of,” she said. Then she curtsied deeply, with a certain dignity in her rustic manners. “ Thank you,” she said, “ all the same.”
Dick walked into the rector’s diningroom with little Georgie seated on his shoulder. “ Fancy where we found him, mamma!” said Flo. ‘‘Buying barley sugar from old Mrs. Bagley at the shop. What does a gentleman want with barley sugar ? He is too old. You never eat it, nor papa.”
“He give it all to me,” said Georgie, “and Fluffy had some. Fluffy and me, we are very fond of Mr. Cavendish. Don’t go away, Mr. Cavendish, or come back to-morrow.”
“ Yes, turn back to-morrow,” cried the other little ones. Flo was old enough to know that the future had vistas deeper than to-morrow. She said, “ Don’t be so silly, all you little things. If he was coming back to-morrow, why should he go to-day ? He will come back another time.”
“ When dere’s need ob him,” said his little godson gravely; at which there was much laughing. But for his part Dick did not laugh. He hid his serious countenance behind little Dick’s curly head, and thus nobody knew that there was not upon it even a smile.
At Underwood, which is a very small village, there is no station ; so that Dick had to be driven over in the wagonette, the rector making this an occasion to give the children and the governess a drive, which left the two gentlemen no opportunity to say much to each other. They had a moment for a last word solely at the door of the railway carriage, in which Warrender had already taken his place. The rector said, hesitating, “ And yon won’t forget ? Tell Mr. Cornwall if he refuses to do anything, so as to drive these people away, it will be the kindest thing he can do for the parish. Tell him ” — But here the guard interposed to examine the tickets, and there was a slamming of doors and a shriek of whistles, and the train glided away.
“ I think I understand what Wilberforce means,” said Warrender. “ He is speaking of that house. Oh, you need not smile ; nothing could be more entirely out of my way.” “ I did not smile,” said Dick, who was as grave as all the judges in a row.
“ Perhaps you have not heard about it. It was there Markland spent the last afternoon before his accident, almost the last day of his life. It gives her a bitter sort of association with the place.”
“Markland?” said Dick. “Oh, yes, I remember. Lord Markland, who — He died, did n’t he ? It may not be a satisfactory household, but still he may have gone there without any harm.”
“ Oh, I don’t suppose there was any harm; except the love of bad company ; that seems a fascination which some men cannot resist. I don’t care two straws myself whether there was harm or not; but it is a bitter sort of recollection for her.”
“ They were both quite young, were they not ? ”
“ Markland was over thirty,” said the young man, who was but twenty-two; “ and she is — oh, she is, I suppose, about my age.”
He knew, indeed, exactly what was her age ; but what did that matter to a stranger ? She was superior to him in that as in all other things.
“ I have heard they were not very happy,” Dick said. He cared no more for the Marklands than he did for the domestic concerns of the guard who had looked at his ticket two minutes ago; but anything answered for conversation, which in the present state of his mind he could not exert himself to make brilliant.
“ Oh, happy ! ” cried Warrender. “How could they be happy? She a woman with the finest perceptions, and a mind — such as you seldom find in a woman; and he the sort of person who could take his pleasure in the conversation that goes on in a house like that.”
Dick did not say anything for some time ; he felt as though all the people he met were under some horrible compulsion to talk on this subject in absolute unconsciousness, giving him blow after blow. “ I don’t mean to take up the cudgels for that sort of people,” he said, at last; “ but they are — not always stupid, you know.” To this protest, however, his companion gave no heed.
“ She was no more than a child when she was married,” said Warrender, with excitement, “ a little girl out of the nursery. How was she to know ? She had never seen anybody, and to expect her to be able to judge at sixteen ” —
“ That is always bad,” said Dick, musing. He was like the other, full of his own thoughts. “ Yet some girls are very much developed at sixteen. I knew a fellow once who — And she went entirely to the bad.”
“What are you talking of?” cried Warrender, almost roughly. “ She was like a little angel herself, and knew nothing different; and when that fellow — who had been a handsome fellow they say — fell in love with her, and would not leave her alone for a moment, I, for one, forgive her for being deceived. I admire her for it,” he went on. “ She was as innocent as a flower. Was it possible she could suspect what sort of a man he was ? It has given her such a blow in her ideal that I doubt if she will ever recover. It seems as if she could not believe again in genuine, unselfish love.”
“ Perhaps it is too early to talk to her about such subjects.”
“ Too early ! Do you think I talk to her about such subjects ? But one cannot talk of the greatest subjects as we do without touching on them. Lady Markland is very fond of conversation. She lets me talk to her, which is great condescension, for she is — much more thoughtful, has far more insight and mental power, than I.”
“ And more experience,” said Dick.
“ What do you mean ? Well, yes ; no doubt her marriage has given her a sort
of dolorous experience. She is acquainted with actual life. When it so happens that in the course of conversation we touch on such subjects I find she always leans to the darker side.” He paused for a moment, adding abruptly, “ And then there is her boy.”
“ Oh,” said Dick, “ has she a boy? ”
“ That’s what I ’m going to town about. She is very anxious for a tutor for this boy. My opinion is that he is a great deal too much for her. And who can tell what he may turn out? She has been brought to see that he wants a man to look after him.”
“ She should send him to school. With a child who has been a pet at home, that is the best way.”
“ Did I say he had been a pet at home ? Site is a great deal too wise for that. Still, the boy is too much for her: and if I could hear of a tutor — Cavendish, you are just the sort of fellow to know. I have not told her what I am going to do, but I think if I find some one who would answer, I have influence enough ” — Warrender said this with a sudden glow of color to his face, and a conscious glance ; a glance which dared the other to form any conclusions from what he said, yet in a moment avowed and justified them. Dick was very full of his own thoughts, and yet at sight of this he could not help but smile. His heart was touched by the sight of the young passion, which had no intention of disclosing itself, yet could think of nothing and talk of nothing but the person beloved.
“ I don’t know how you feel about it, Warrender,” he said, “ but if I had a — friend whom I prized so much, I should not introduce another fellow to be near her constantly, and probably to — win her confidence, you know ; for a lady in these circumstances must stand greatly in need of some one to — to consult with, and to take little things off her hands, and save her trouble, and — and all that.” “That is just what I am trying to do,” said Warrender. “ As for her grief, you know, — which is n’t so much grief as a dreadful shock to her nerves, and the constitution of her mind, and many things we need n’t mention, — as for that, no one can meddle. But just to make her feel that there is some one to whom nothing is a trouble, who will go anywhere, or do anything ” —
“ Well, that’s what the tutor will get into doing, if you don’t mind. I ‘ll tell you, Warrender, what I would do if I were you. I’d be the tutor myself.”
“ I am glad I spoke to you,” said the young man. “ It is very pleasant to meet with a mind that, is sympathetic. You perceive what I mean. I must think it all over. I do not know if I can do what you say, but if it could be managed, certainly — Anyhow, I am very much obliged to you for the advice.”
“ Oh, that is nothing,” said Dick; “ but I think I can enter into your feelings.”
“ And so few do,” said Warrender; “either it is made the subject of injurious remarks, — remarks which, if they came to her ears, would — or a succession of feeble jokes more odious still, or suggestions that it would be better for me to look after my own business. I am not neglecting my own business that I am aware of ; a few trees to cut down, a few farms to look after, are not so important. I hope now,” he added, “ you are no longer astonished that the small interests of the University don’t tell for very much in comparison.”
“ I beg you a thousand pardons, Warrender. I had forgotten all about the University.”
“ It does not matter,” he said, waving his hand ; “ it does not make the least difference to me. It would not change my determination in any way, whatever might depend upon it; and nothing really depends upon it. I can’t tell you how much obliged I am to you for your sympathy, Cavendish.” He added, after a moment, “ It is doubly good of you to enter into my difficulties, everything being so easy-going in your own life.”
Cavendish looked at his companion with eyes that twinkled with a sort of tragic laughter. It was natural for the young one to feel himself in a grand and unique position, as a very young man seized by a grande passion is so apt to do; but Theo’s fine superiority and conviction that he was not as other men gave a grim amusement to the man who was so easy-going, whose life was all plain sailing in the other’s sight. “ All the more reason,” he said, with a laugh, “being safe myself, that I should take an interest in you.” He laughed again, so that for the moment Warrender, with momentary rage, believed himself the object of his friend’s derision. But a glance at Cavendish dispelled this fear. Presently each retired into his corner, where they sat opposite to each other saying nothing, while the long levels of the green country flew past them, and the clang of the going swept every other sound away. They were alone in their compartment, each buried in his thoughts : the one in all the absorption of a sudden and overwhelming passion, not without a certain pride in it and in himself, although consciously thinking of nothing but of her, going over and over their last interviews, and forming visions to himself of the next; while the other, he who was so easy-going, the cheerful companion, unexpectedly found to be so sympathetic, but otherwise somewhat compassionately regarded as superficial and commonplace by the youth newly plunged into life, — the other went back into those recollections which were his, which had been confided to none, which he had thought laid to rest and half forgotten, but which had suddenly surged up again with so extraordinary a revival of pain. The presence of Warrender opposite to him, and the unconscious revelation he had made of the condition of his own mind and thoughts, had transported Dick back again for a moment into what seemed an age, a century past,— the time when he find been as his friend was, in the ecstasy of a youthful passion. He remembered that; then with quick scorn and disdain turned from the thought, arid plunged into the deep abysses of possibility which he now saw opening at his feet. He had said to himself that the past was altogether past, and that he could begin in his own country, far from the associations of his brief and unhappy meddling with fate, a new existence, one natural to him, among his own people, in the occupations he understood. He had not understood either himself or life in that strange, extravagant essay at living which he had made and ended, as he had thought, and of which nobody knew anything. How could he tell, he asked himself now, how much or how little was known? Was anything ever ended until death had put the finis to mortal history ?
These young men were two excellent examples of the well-born and well-bred young Englishman, admirably dressed, with that indifference to and ease in their well-fitting garments, that satisfied and careful simplicity, which only the Anglo-Saxon seems able to attain to in such apparel; Warrender, indeed, with something of that dreamy look about the eyes which betrays the abstraction of the mind in a realm of imagination, but nothing besides which could have suggested to any spectator the presence of either mystery in the past or danger in the future, beyond the dangers of flood or field. They were both above the reach of need, yet both with that wholesome necessity for doing which is in English blood, and all the world before them, public duty and private happiness, the inheritance of the class to which they belonged. Yet to one care had come in the guise of passion ; and the other was setting out upon a second beginning, no one knew how heavily laden and handicapped in the struggle of life.
By this time London was on the eve of its periodical moment of desertion : the fashionable people all gone or going ; legislators weary and worn, blaspheming the hot, late July days, and everything grown shabby with dust and sunshine ; the trees and the grass in the parks no longer green, but brown ; the flowers in the balconies overgrown ; the atmosphere all used up and exhausted ; and the great town, on the eve of holiday, grown impatient of itself. Although the world of fashion is but so small a part of the myriads of London, it is astonishing how its habits affect the general living, and how many, diversely and afar off, form a certain law to themselves of its dictates, though untouched by its tide.
Warrender had never known anything about London. His habits were entirely distinct from those of the young men, high and low, who find their paradise in its haunts and crowds. When he left Cavendish, on their arrival, — not without a suggestion on Dick’s part of after meeting, which the other did not accept, for no reason but because in his present condition it was pleasanter to him to be alone, — Warrender, who did not know where to go, or what to do in order to carry out the commission which he had so vaguely taken upon him, walked vaguely along, carrying about him the same mist of dreams which made other scenes dim. Where was he to find a tutor in the streets of London ? He turned to the Park by habit, as that was the direction in which, half mechanically, he was in the habit of finding himself when he went to town. But he was still less likely to find a tutor for Lady Markland’s boy in the lessened ranks of the loungers in Rotten Row than he was in the streets. He walked among them with his head in the clouds, thinking of what she had said when last he saw her ; inquiring into every word she had uttered ; finding out, with a sudden flash of delight, a new meaning which might perchance lurk in a phrase of hers, and which could be construed into the intoxicating belief that she had thought of him in his absence. This was far more interesting than any of the vague processional effects that glided half seen before his eyes ; the streams of people, with no apparent meaning in them, who were going and coming, flowing this way and the other, on their commonplace business. The phantasmagoria of moving forms and faces went past and past, as he thought, altogether insignificant, meaning nothing. She had said, “ I wondered if you remarked ” — something that had happened when they were apart from each other ; a sunset it was, now he remembered, of wonderful splendor, which she had spoken of next day. “I wondered if you remarked:" not “I wonder,” which would have meant that at that moment she was in the act of wondering, but I wondered, in the past tense; as if, when the glorious crimsons and purples struck her imagination, and gave her that high delight which nature always gives to the lofty mind (the adjectives too were his, poor boy), she had thought of him, perhaps, as the one of all her friends who was most likely to feel as she was feeling. Poor Warrender was conscious, with bitter shame and indignation against himself, that at that moment he was buried in his father’s gloomy library, in the shadow of those trees which he had no longer leisure to think of cutting, and was not so much as aware that there was a sunset; and this he had been obliged to confess, with passionate regret (since she had seen it, and given it thus an interest beyond sunsettings), but with tempestuous sudden joy and misery. In the middle of Rotten Row ! with still so many pretty
creatures on so many fine horses cantering past, and even, what was more wonderful, Bronson, that inevitable competitor, the substance of solid success to Warrender’s romance of shadowy glory, walking along with his arm in that of another scholar, and pointing to the man of dreams who saw them not. “ He is working out that passage in the Politics that your tutor makes such a potter about,” said the other. “ Not a bit of it,” cried Bronson, “for that would pay! ” But they gave him credit, at all events, for some classic theme, and not for the discoveries he was making in that other subject, which is not classic, though universal ; whereas the only text that entered into his dreams was that past tense, opening up so many vistas of thought which he had not realized before. Was there ever a broken sentence of Aristotle that moved so much the scholar to whom a new reading has suddenly appeared ? There is no limiting that power of human emotion which can flow in almost any channel, but enthusiastic indeed must be the son of learning iu whose bosom the difference of the past and the present would raise so great a ferment. “ I wondered if you remarked.” It lit up heaven and earth with new lights to Warrender. He wanted nothing more to raise his musings into ecstasy. He pictured her standing looking out upon the changing sky, feeling perhaps a loneliness about her, wanting to say her word, but with no one near whose ear was fit to receive it. “ I wondered ” — and he all the while unconscious, like a dolt, like a clod, with his dim windows already full of twilight, his heavy old trees hanging over him, his back turned, even could it have penetrated through dead walls and heavy shade, to the glow in the west ! While he thought of it his countenance, too, glowed with shame. He said to himself that never, should he live a hundred years, would he again be thus insensible to that great and splendid ceremonial which ends the day. For that moment she had wanted him, she had need of him ; and not even in spirit had he been at hand, as her knight and servant ought to be.
And all this, as we have said, in the middle of Rotten Row ! He remembered the spot afterwards, the very place where that revelation had been made to him, but never was aware that he had met Bronson, who was passing through London on his way to join a reading party, and was in the mean time, in passing, making use of all the diversions that came in his way, in the end of the season, as so reasonable and practical a person naturally would do.
Warrender went long and far in the strength of this marvelous supply of spiritual food, and wanted no other ; but at last, a long time after, when it was nearly time to go back to his train, bethought himself that it would be better to lunch somewhere, for the sake of the questions which would certainly be put to him when lie got home. In the mean time he had occupied himself by looking out and buying certain new books, which he had either heard her inquire about or thought she would like to see; and had remembered one or two trifles she had mentioned which she wanted from town, and even laid in a stock of amusements for little Geoff, — boys’ books, suited rather to his years than to his precocity. About the other and more serious part of his self - constituted mission Warrender, however, had done nothing. He had passed one of those “ Scholastic Agencies,” which it had been his (vague) intention to inquire at, had paused and passed it by. There was truth, he reflected, in what Cavendish said. How could he tell who might be recommended to him as tutor to Geoff ? Perhaps some man who would be his own superior, to whom she might talk of the sunset or even of other matters, who might worm his way into the place which had already begun to become Warrender’s place, — that of referee and executor of the troublesome trifles, adviser at least in small affairs. He began to reflect then that in all probability a tutor in the house would be a trouble and embarrassment to Lady Markland: one who could come for a few hours every day (and was there not one who would be too happy of the excuse to wait upon his mistress daily ?) ; one who could engage Geoff with work to be done, so that the mother might be free ; one, indeed, who would thus supplant the offices already held, and become indispensable where now he was only precariously necessary, capable of being superseded. It is very possible that in any case, even had he not asked the valuable advice of Dick Cavendish, his journey to London would have come to nothing ; for he was in the condition to which a practical proceeding of such a kind is inharmonious, and in which all action is somewhat against the grain. But with the support of Dick’s advice his reluctance was justified to himself, and he returned to Underwood with a consciousness of having given up his first plan for a better one, and of having found by much thought an expedient calculated to answer all needs.
Meanwhile he carried with him everywhere the delight of that discovery which he had made. To say over the words was enough, — I wondered if you remarked. Had Cavendish been with him on the return journey, or had any stranger addressed him on the way, this was the phrase which he would have used in reply. He watched the sunset eagerly as he walked home from the station, laden with his parcel of books. It was not this time a remarkable sunset. It was even a little pale, as if it might possibly rain to-morrow; but still he watched it, with an eye to all the changes of color. Perhaps nature had not hitherto called him with a very strong voice ; but there came a great many scraps of poetry floating into his head which might have given an interest to sunsets even before Lady Markland. There was a word or two about that very golden greenness which was before his eyes, “ beginning to fade in the light he loves on a bed of daffodil sky.” He identified that and all the rims of color that marked the shining horizon. Perhaps she would ask him if he had remarked, and he would be able to reply.
“ Books ? ” cried Minnie, — “are all those books? Don’t you know we have a great many books already, more than we have shelves for ? The library is quite full, and even the little bookcase in the drawing-room. You should get rid of some of the old ones if you bring in so many new.”
“ And whom did you see in town, Theo?” said his mother. He had no club, being so young and so little accustomed to London ; but yet a young man brought up as he had been can scarcely fail to have many friends.
“ Most people seem to have gone away,” he said. “ I saw nobody. Yes, there were people riding in the Row, and people walking, too, I suppose, but nobody I knew.”
“ And did you go up all that way only to buy books ? You might have written to the bookseller for them, and saved your fare.”
Theo made his sister no reply, but when Chatty asked, rather shyly, if he had seen much of Mr. Cavendish, he answered warmly that Cavendish was a very good fellow ; that he took the greatest interest in his friends’ concerns, and was always ready to do anything he could for you. “ I had no idea what a man he was,” he said, with fervor. Mrs. Warrender looked up, at this, with a little anxiety ; for according to the ordinary rules which govern the reasoning of women she was led from it to the induction, not immediately visible to the unconcerned spectator, that her son had got into some scrape, and had found it necessary to have recourse to his friend’s advice. Theo in a scrape ! It seemed impossible : but yet there are few women who are not prepared for something of this character happening even to the best of men.
“ I hope,” she said, " that he is a prudent adviser, Theo; but he is still quite a young man.”
“ Not so young; he must be six or seven and twenty,” said the young man ; and then he paused, remembering that this was the perfect age, — the age which she had attained, which he had described to Cavendish as “ about my own,” — and he blushed a little and contradicted himself. “ Yes, to be sure, he is young : but that makes him only the more sympathetic; and it was not his advice I was thinking of so much as his sympathy. He is full of sympathy.”
“ You have us to sympathize with you,” said Minnie. I don’t know what you want from strangers. We ought to stand by each other, and not care what outsiders say.”
“ I hope Theo will never despise the sympathy of his own people, but — a friend of one’s own choosing is a great help,” said Mrs. Warrender. Yet she was uneasy. She did not think young Cavendish’s sympathy could be on account of Theo’s late bereavement, and wbat trouble could the boy have that he confided to Cavendish, and did not mention to his mother? She became more and more convinced that there must be some scrape, or at least that something had gone wrong. But save in these speeches about Cavendish there was no proof of anything of the kind. He gave no further explanation, however, of the business which had taken him to town, unless the fact that he drove over to Markland next morning, with the half of the pile of books which he had brought from town, in his dogcart, should afford an explanation ; and that was so vague that it was hard to say what it did or did not prove. He went over to Markland with his books, but left them in the dog-cart; shy, when he was actually in her presence, of carrying her that bribe. Books were a bribe to her ; she had been out of the way of gratifications of this kind, and too solitary and forsaken during the latter part of her married life to know what was going on and to supply herself. She was sitting with Geoff upon the terrace, which ran along one side of the house, when Warrender appeared, and both teacher and pupil received him with something that looked very like relief ; for the day was warm, and the terrace was but ill chosen as a school-room. The infinite charm of a summer day, the thousand invitations to idleness with which the air is full, the waving trees (though there were not many of them), the scent of the flowers, the singing of the birds, all distracted Geoff’s attention, and, sooth to say, his mother’s, too. She would have been glad to sit quiet, to escape the boy’s questioning, to put away the irksome lessons which she herself did not much more than understand, and to which she brought a mind unaccustomed and full of other thoughts. Of these other thoughts there were so many, both of the future and the past, that it was very hard to keep her attention to the little boy’s Latin grammar. Geoff on his side was weary, too ; he should have been in a school-room, shut out from temptations, with maps hung along the walls, instead of waving trees, and where he could not have stopped to cry out, in the midst of his exercises, “ I say, mamma, there’s a squirrel. I am certain it is a squirrel.” That, of course, was very bad. And then up to a recent period he had shared all, or almost all, his mother’s thoughts; but since his father s death these had become so full of complications that a child could no longer share them, though neither quite understood the partial severance which had ensued. Both were relieved, however, when the old butler appeared at the end of the terrace, pointing out to Warrender where the little group was. The man did not think it necessary to expose himself to the full blaze of the sunshine in order to lead “ a great friend ” like Mr. Warrender close up to my lady’s chair.
“ We are very glad to see you; in fact, we are much too glad to see you,” said Lady Markland, with a smile. “ We are ashamed to say that we were not, entering into our work as we ought. Nature is always so busy doing a hundred things, and calling us to come and look what she is about. We take more interest in her occupations than in our own.”
“ Mamma makes a story of everything,” said Geoff, half aggrieved; “but I’m in earnest. Grammar is dreadful stuff ; there is no reflection in it. Why can’t one begin to read books straight off, without nasty, stupid rules ? ”
Warrender took little note of what the boy said. Meanwhile he had shaken hands and made his salutations, and the sovereign lady, with a smile, had given him a chair. He felt himself entering, out of the blank world outside, into the sphere of her existence, which was his Vita Nuova, and was capable for the moment of no other thought.
“ I think,” said Lady Markland, — “ for we have really been at it conscientiously for a long time and doing our best, — I think, Geoff, we may shut up our books for to-day. You know there will be your lessons to prepare to-night.”
“ I ’ll go and look at Theo’s horse. Have you got that big black one ? I shall be hack in a moment, mamma.”
“If you look into the cart you will find some books, Geoff; some that perhaps you may like.”
“ Oh, good ! ” said the boy, with his elfish little countenance lighting up. He was very slight and small for his age, a little shadow darting across the sunshine. The half of the terrace lay in a blaze of light, but all was cool and fresh in the corner where Lady Markland’s light chairs and table were placed in the angle of the balustrade, there half hidden by a luxuriant climbing rose. Above Lady Markland’s head rose a cluster of delicate golden roses, tinged in their hearts with faint red, in all the wealth of their second bloom. Her black dress, profound black, without any relief, was the only dark point in the scene. A little faint color of recovering health, and perhaps of brightening life, had come to her face. She was very tranquil, resting as people rest after a long illness, in a sort of convalescence of the heart.
“You must forgive his familiarity, Mr. Warrender; you are so good to him, and at his age one is so apt to presume on that.”
Warrender had no inclination to waste the few minutes in which he had her all to himself in any discussion of Geoff. He said hastily, “I have brought some other books to be looked at, — things which people are talking of. I don’t know if you will care for them, but there is a little novelty in them, at least. I was in town yesterday ” —
“ You are very good to me, too,” she said. “ A new book is a wonderful treat. I thought you must be occupied, or absent, that we did not see you here.”
Again that past tense, that indication that in his absence— Warrender felt his head grow giddy with too much delight. “ I was afraid to come too often, lest you should think me — importunate.”
“ How so ? ” she said, simply. “ You have been like a young brother ever since — How could I think you other than kind ? The only thing is that you do too much for me. I ought to be trying to walk alone.”
“ Why, while I am here ? ” cried the young man ; “ asking nothing better, nothing half so good, as to be allowed to do what I can, — which, after all, is nothing.”
She gave a slight glance at him under her eyelids, with a faint dawning of surprise at the fervor of his tone. “ The world which people say is so hard is really very kind,” she said. “ I never knew till now how kind : at least when one has a great evident claim upon its sympathy, — or pity, should I say ? Those who find it otherwise are perhaps those whose troubles cannot be made public, and yet who expect their fellow creatures to divine ” —
Warrender was sadly cast down to be considered only as the world, a type, so to speak, of mankind in general, kind to those whose claims were undeniable. He replied with a swelling heart, “ There must always be individuals who divine, though perhaps they may not dare to show their sympathy, — ah, don’t say pity, Lady Markland ! ”
“ You humor me,” she said, “ because you know I love to talk. But pity is very sweet; there is a balm in it to those who are wounded.”
“ Sympathy is better.
The lading of a single pain,
And part it, giving half to him.’ ”
“ All,” she cried, with a glimmer in her eyes, “ if you go to the poets, Mr. Warrender! And that is more than sympathy. What did he call it himself? ‘Such a friendship as had mastered time.’ ”
“ Mamma, mamma, look here ! ” came in advance of his appearance the voice of Geoff. He came panting, flying round the other angle of the terrace, with his arms full of books. And here, as if it were a type of all that was coming, the higher intercourse, the exchange of thought, the promotion of the man over the child, came suddenly to an end.
M. O. W. Oliphant.