A Country Gentleman

XVII.

LADY MARKLAND had recovered in a great degree from the shock of her husband’s death. It had been, as Mrs. Warrender said, a shock rather than a

sorrow. There is no such reconciler of those who have been severed, no such softener of the wounds which people closely connected in life often give one another, as death. A long illness ending so has often the effect of blotting out altogether the wrongs and bitternesses of many troubled years. The unkind husband becomes once more a hero, the child who has stung its parents to the quick a young and tender saint, by that blessed process. When death comes in a moment the effect is more startling if not so lasting. The horror, the pity, the intolerable pang of sympathy, with which we realize what the sudden end must have been to him who met it, without time to think, without time to repent, without a moment to prepare himself for that incalculable change, affects every mind, even that of the merest spectator ; how much more that of one whom the victim had left a few hours before with a careless word, perhaps an insult, perhaps a jest! What changes of mood, what revelations, what sudden adaptation to the supreme necessity, may come with the blow, the spectator, even if he be nearest and dearest to the sufferer, cannot know. He knows only what was and is, and his soul is overwhelmed with pity. In that moment those who have been most deeply injured forgive and forget. They remember the time when all was well, — the sweet childhood, the blooming youth, the first love, the halcyon days before trouble came. Lady Markland had felt this universal influence. But when she showed her husband’s portrait to Mrs. Warrender, it was not so much with a renewal of love as with a subduing hush of pity that her mind was filled. This for a time veiled even the relief of her deliverance from what had seemed a hopeless lot, which was never altogether to be ignored, but which gradually grew upon her, yet still with great gravity and pain. She was free from a bondage which had become intolerable to her, which day by day she had felt herself less able to bear; but this gain was at his cost. To gain anything at the cost of another is painful to a generous mind ; but that it should be at such a price, — the price not only of another’s life, but of a life to which it had seemed almost impossible that there could be any harmonious completion or extension ! For what could he do in another world, in a world of spirits ? He had been all fleshly; nothing in him that was not of the earth.

In the majority of cases it is hard enough to understand how a spirit, formed apparently for nothing but the uses of earth, should be able to adapt itself in a moment to those occupations and interests which are congenial to another state of existence ; but with young Lord Markland this was peculiarly the case. He had seemed to care for nothing except things which he could not carry with him into the unseen. Had other capacities, other desires, developed in a moment with the new life? This is a question which no one can answer, and his wife could only think of him as he had been. There seemed nothing but suffering, deprivation, for him, in such a change. The wind, when it blew wildly of nights, seemed to her like the moan of a wandering spirit trying vainly to get back to the world which it understood, to the pleasures of which it was capable. And had she attained relief and freedom by such a sacrifice exacted from another ? When comforters bade her believe that he had gone to a better place, that it was her loss but his gain,

— which may be, for aught we know, true in every case, not only in those of the saints whose natural home is heaven,

— her heart rose against them, and contradicted them, though she said nothing. It was — alas that it should be so! — her gain. She dared not, even to herself, deny that; but how could it be his ? He was a man who had no thought but of the beggarly elements of life, no aspiration beyond its present enjoyments; and it was by this dreadful overturn in his existence, this taking from him of everything he cared for, that she had been made free ! Such a thought as this is more terrible than sorrow, it is sadder than death. It left her for a long time very grave, full of something which was almost remorse, as if she had done it; wondering whether God himself could make up to poor Geoffrey, who had never thought of Him, for the loss of everything which he had ever thought of or cared for. She could not confide this trouble to any spiritual guide, — and indeed she was not a woman to whom a spiritual guide was possible. Her problems, her difficulties, remained in her own breast, where she worked them out as she could, or, perhaps, in process of time, forgot them, which, in the darkness of human understanding, was probably the better way.

But in one respect he had been just, nay, generous, to his wife. He had left the burdened estates, the no-money, the guardianship of her child, entirely to her. His old uncle, indeed, was associated with her in the guardianship; but this was merely nominal, for old John Markland was very indifferent, more interested in his own comforts than in all the children in the world, and had no mind to interfere. She found herself thus not only a free woman, but with what was equal to a new profession upon her shoulders, — the care of her boy’s fortune and of considerable estates, at the moment in as low a condition and as badly managed as it was possible for estates to be. It was not the fault of Mr. Longstaffe, who had all the business of the county in his hands, and who had tried in vain to save from encumbrance the property which Lord Markland had weighed down almost beyond redemption. Mr. Longstaffe, indeed, when he heard of the fatal accident to his client, had been unable to refrain from a quick burst of self-congratulation as to the advantages of a long minority before he composed his countenance to the distress and pity which were becoming on such an occasion. When the funeral was over, indeed, he permitted himself to say piously that, though such

an end was very shocking, it was an intervention of Providence for the property, which could not have stood another year of Lord Markland’s goingson. He was a little dubious of Lady Markland’s wisdom in taking the burden of the business upon her own shoulders ; but on the whole he respected her and her motives, and gave her all the help in his power.

And Lady Markland let no grass grow under her feet. She began proceedings at once, with an energy which nobody had expected from her. The horses were sold and the establishment reduced without delay. The two other houses, both expensive, — the villa in the Isle of Wight, the shooting-box in the Highlands, — which had been necessary to Lord Markland’s pursuits, were let as soon as it was possible to secure tenants. And Geoff and his mother began, in one wing of the big house at Markland, a life not much different from their past life, except in so far that it was free from interruption and anxiety. The pang of loss in such a case does not last; and Lady Markland entered with all the zest of an active-minded and intelligent woman into the work from which she had been debarred all her previous life. No man, perhaps, — seeing that men can always find serious occupation when they choose to do so, — can throw himself into unexpected work with the same delight as a woman does, to whom it is salvation from many lesser miseries, as well as an advantage in itself. She had known nothing hitherto, except that everything was going badly, and that she was helpless to interfere, to arrest the ruin which stared them in the face. And now to feel that she might stop that ruin, might even make up for all the losses of the past, and place her son in the position his father had lost, was a secret happiness beyond description, and gave new life and exhilaration to all her thoughts.

This change, however, occasioned other changes, which marked the alteration from the old life to the new with difficulties and embarrassments which were inevitable. One of these, and the most important, has been already indicated. It concerned Geoff. The change in Geoff’s existence was great. Into the morning-room, where his mother and he had constantly sat together, where he had his lessons, where all the corners were full of his toys, where his little life had been spent from morning till night in such a close and absorbing companionship as can only exist between a parent and an only child, there suddenly intruded things and thoughts with which Geoff had little to do. First came a large writing-table, occupying the centre of the room, with all sorts of drawers full of papers, and so many letters and notes and account-books that Geoff looked at them with astonishment, mingled with awe and admiration. “ Did you write all these ? ” he said to his mother, touching with a finger a pile of letters. He was proud of the achievement, without remembering that he had himself sat very forlorn all the morning, in the light of the great bow-window, with his lesson books, and had asked a great many questions, without more response than a smile and a “ Presently, dear,” from the mother who was generally so ready to meet and reply to everything he said. Geoff kept his place in the window, as he had always done, and after Lady Markland had got through her work there would be an attempt at the lessons, which heretofore had been the pleasant occupation of the whole morning, — a delightful dialogue, in which the mind of the teacher was as much stimulated as that of the pupil, since Geoff conducted his own education by means of a multitude of questions, to which it was not always very easy to reply. Under the new regime, however, this long process was not possible, and the lessons had to be said in a summary manner which did not at all suit Geoff’s ways of thinking. He did not complain, but he was puzzled, turning it over in his mind with slow but progressive understanding. The big writing-table seemed typical to Geoff. It threw a deep shadow behind it, making the thick, light-colored, much-worn carpet, on which he had trotted all his life, dark and gloomy, like the robber’s cave he had often found so much difficulty in inventing in the lightness of the room. He had a robbers’ cave to his desire now in the dark, dark hole between the two lines of drawers; but it was dearly bought.

Geoff, however, without being as yet quite clear in his mind as to his grievance, had instinctively taken what means were in his power to make up for it. There was that robbers’ cave, for one thing, which had many dramatic possibilities. And he was a hoy who took a great interest in his fellow-creatures, and liked to listen to everything that was said, especially when it was of a personal character. He was delighted to be there, notwithstanding the strange silence to which he was condemned, when Dickinson, the bailiff, came in to make his report and to receive his orders. Geoff took the greatest interest in Dickinson’s long-winded stories about what was wanted in the village, the cottages that were tumbling to pieces, the things that must be done for the farmers : and Lady Markland was at first amused and delighted to see how her boy entered into everything, and even made a gentle boast that Geoff understood better than she did. It was only when Mr. Longstaffe and her clergyman simultaneously snubbed her that this foolish woman came to herself. Mr. Longstaffe said, in his brusque way, that he thought Master Geoff—he begged his pardon, little Lord Markland — would be better at his lessons ; while Mr. Scarsdale put on a very grave air, and remarked that he feared Dickinson might have things to tell his mistress which were not fit for a little boy’s ears. This last rebuke had disconcerted the young mother sadly, and cost her some tears; for she was as innocent as Geoff, and the idea that there were in the village things to tell her that were unfit for the child’s ears threw her into daily terror, not only for him, but for herself.

This was one of the things that made it apparent that a new rule was necessary. Her business grew day by day, as she began to understand it better, and the lessons fell more and more into the background. Geoff was the soul of loyalty, and did not complain. He developed a quite new faculty of silence, as he sat at his table in the window, now and then stealing a glance at her to see if he might hazard a question. That little figure, seated against the light, was all that Lady Markland had to cheer her, as she set out upon this new and stony path of life. He represented everything that made her task possible and her burden grateful to her. Without him within her sight, what, she asked herself, would existence he to her ? She asked herself this question when it first began to be suggested by her friends that Geoff should be sent to school. It is one special feature in the change and downfall that happens to a woman when she becomes a widow that all Her friends find themselves at liberty to advise her. However bad or useless her husband may he, so long as he lives she is sale from this exercise of friendship; but when he is dead, all mouths are opened. Mr. Scarsdale paid her a visit solemnly, in order to deliver his soul in this respect. “I came on purpose,” he said, as if that was an additional virtue, “ to speak to you, dear Lady Markland, very seriously about Geoff.” And whether it was by his own impulse, or because he was written to on the subject, and inspired by zealous friends nearer home, old Mr. Markland wrote to his dear niece in the same strain, assuring her that it would be far the best thing to send Geoff to school. To school! Her little delicate boy, not nine till Christmas, who had never been out of his mother’s care ! Lady Markland suffered a great deal from these attacks, and she tried hard, by getting up early, by sitting up late, to find time for Geoff, as of old ; but Geoff himself had fallen into the new ways, and the lessons languished. What was she to do ?

And then it was that the alternative of a tutor was suggested to her. A tutor ! That did not seem so terrible. She confided her troubles to Warrender, who had fallen into the way of riding over to Markland two or three times a week, of checking Dickinson’s accounts for her, looking up little bits of law as between landlord and tenant, and doing his best to make himself necessary ; not with any deep-laid plan, but only because to be near her, and serve, was becoming more and more the desire of his life. Warrender was not fond of Geoff. It is possible, indeed, that His spirits rose with a sense of relief at the suggestion of sending that inevitable third in all their interviews away; but he was at that stage when the wish of a person beloved is strong enough in a young mind to make all endurance possible, and to justify the turning upside down of heaven and earth. He had therefore replied boldly that there would be nothing more easy than to find a tutor; that he himself would go to town, and make inquiries ; and that she need contemplate the other and dreadful alternative no more. Lady Markland was more grateful to Theo than words could say, and she told all her friends, with a serene countenance, that she had made up her mind to the tutor. It is a great thing to have made up one’s mind. It gave a satisfaction and calm to her spirits that nothing else could have done. Indeed, she was so satisfied that she avoided the subject thereafter, and said nothing more to Warrender, who had constituted himself her agent, and took great care not to question him about what he had been doing in London, when she heard that he had been there. For after all, to come to a determination is the great thing. The practical part may be put in operation at any moment. What is really necessary is to make up one’s mind.

Something of the same feeling moved Warrender when he returned from that expedition to London which has been already recorded. Dick Cavendish’s suggestion had been to him a suggestion from heaven. But when he returned home, and as he began to think, there were a great many secondary matters to be taken into account. He began to realize the interest that would be taken by the entire county in a matter which did not concern them in the very least. He realized the astonished look of his mother, and felt already his ear transfixed by Minnie’s persistent “Why?” Theo saw all these hindrances by degrees. He said to himself, indignantly, that it was nobody’s business but his own, and that he hoped he was able to judge for himself. But such reflections do not make an end of a difficulty; they only show more distinctly a consciousness of it. And thus it was that he put off making to Lady Markland the proposal he intended to make, just as she, on her side, put off asking him whether he had done anything in the matter. In the mean time, while the summer lasted, there were many reasons and excuses for putting off from day to day.

XVIII.

The moment, however, was approaching when Warrender had to declare for himself what he was going to do. It is true that he had given indications of previous intention which had put his family on their guard. He had said to Cavendish and to others that it was doubtful whether he should return to Oxford, — words which had made the la-

dies look at each other, which had drawn a sharp exclamation from Minnie, but which even she had consented to say nothing of until his resolution was more evident. It might be but a caprice of the moment, one of the hasty expressions which Theo was not unaccustomed to launch at his little audience, making them stare and exclaim, but which were never meant to come to anything. Most likely this was the case now. And the preparations went on as usual without anything further said. Mrs. Warrender had curbed her own impatience ; she had yielded to his wishes and remained at the Warren, with a sympathy for his sudden fascination and for the object of it which no one else shared; but she looked not without longing for the time when he should return to his studies, — when there should no longer be any duty to keep her to the Warren, nothing to make self-denial necessary. The thought of the free air outside this little green island of retreat almost intoxicated her by times, as the autumn days stole on, and October came red and glowing, with sharp winds but golden sunsets which tinged the woods. By this time, Chatty, too, began to have sensations unusual to her, — such as must thrill through the boat upon the shore when the little waves run up and kiss its sides, wooing it to the water, for which it was made. Chatty had been almost as much a piece of still life as the boat, but the baptism of the spray had been flung in her face, and dreams of triumphant winds and dazzling waves outside had crept into her cave. Minnie was conscious of no longings, but she knew that it was time to prepare Theo’s linen, to see that everything was marked, so that he might have a chance at least of getting his things back from the wash. And Chatty had knitted him half a dozen pairs of silk socks, — some in stripes of black and white, some violet, like a cardinal’s, — suitable for his mourning. No one, however, mentioned the subject until the beginning of October, when, as they sat at luncheon one day, it was suddenly introduced by Miss Warrender without timidity or recollection that there was any doubt about it. “ When does term begin, Theo ? ” his sister asked, in the midst of the usual conversation. The other ladies, who were more quick to sympathize with Theo’s feelings, held their breath; but Minnie put her question quite simply, as if she expected him (as she did) to say “ the 15th ” or “ the 17th,” as the case might be.

Theo paused a moment, and cast a glance round them all. Then he answered in a voice which seemed louder than usual because it was somewhat defiant. “ I don’t know,” he said slowly ; “ and if you want the truth, I don’t care.”

“ Theo ! ” cried Minnie, with a little scream. Chatty, who had been contemplating at her ease, when this conversation began, the bubbles rising in a glass of aerated water which she was holding up to the light, set it down very quickly, and gave him an appealing look across the table. Mrs. Warrender looked at him, too, pretending, poor lady, not to understand. " But, my dear,” she said, “ we must get everything ready; so it is very necessary to know.”

“ There is nothing to be got ready, so far as I am aware,” he replied, with a flush on his face, and the look of a man who is making a stand against his opponents. “ I am not going up this term, if that is what you mean.”

Then all three looked at him with different degrees of remonstrance, protest, or appeal. Mrs. Warrender was much too sensible of incapacity to prevail to risk any controversy. And even Minnie was so confounded by the certainty of his tone that, except another resounding “ Theo ! ” the sound of which was enough to have made any man pause in an evil career, she too, for the moment, found nothing to say.

“ My dear, don’t you think that’s a great pity ? ” his mother said very mildly, but with a countenance which said much more.

“ I don’t wish to discuss the question,” he said. “ I thought I had told you before. I don’t mean to be disagreeable, mother ; but don’t you think that in my own case I should know best ? ”

“ Theo ! ” cried Minnie for the third time, “ you are more than disagreeable ; you are ridiculous. How should you know best, — a boy like you ? You think you can do what you like because poor papa is dead, and we are nothing but women. Oh, it is very ungenerous and undutiful to my mother : but it is ridiculous, too.”

“ My mother can speak for herself,” said the young man. “ I don’t owe any explanations to you.”

“ You will have to give explanations to every one, whether you owe them or not! ” cried Minnie. “ 1 know what people think and how they talk. There is always supposed to be some reason for it when a young man does n’t go back to his college. They think he lias got into disgrace; they think it is some bad scrape. We shall have to make up excuses and explanations.”

“ They may think what they please, so far as I am concerned,” he replied.

“ But, my dear, she is right, though that does not matter very much,” said Mrs. Warrender. “ There will be a great many inquiries ; and explanations will have to be given. That is not the most important, Theo. Did n’t you tell me that if you lost this term you could not go in, as you call it, for honors ? I thought you had told me so.”

“ Honors ! ” he said contemptuously. “ What do honors mean ? I found out the folly of that years ago. They are a sort of trademark, very good for business purposes. Bronson has sense on his side when he goes in for honors. They are good for the college to keep up its reputation as a teaching machine ; and they are good for a schoolmaster in the same way. But what advantage would all the honors of the University be to me ! ” he added, with a laugh of scorn.

There’s an agricultural college somewhere. There would be some meaning in it if I took honors there.”

“ You have a strange idea of your own position, Theo,” said Mrs. Warrender, roused to indignation. “ You are not a farmer, but a country gentleman.”

“ Of the very smallest,” he said, — “a little squire. If I were a good farmer and knew my trade, I should be of more use in the world.”

“ A country gentleman,” cried Minnie, who had kept silence with difficulty, and now seized the first opportunity to break in, " is just the very finest thing a man can be. Why, what are half the nobility compared to us ? There are all sorts of people in the nobility, — people who have been in trade, brewers and bankers and all sorts ; even authors, and those kind of people. But I have always heard that an English country gentleman who has been in the same position for hundreds of years— Why, Theo, there is not such a position in the world ! We are the bulwark of the country. We are the support of the constitution. Where would the Queen be, or the Church, or anything, without the gentry ? Why, Theo, an English country gentleman” —

She paused from mere want of breath. On such a subject Miss Warrender felt that words should never have failed ; and she devoutly believed everything she said.

“ If he’s so grand as that,” said Theo, with a laugh, “ what do you suppose is the consequence to him of a little more Latin and Greek ? ”

Minnie would have said with all sincerity, Nothing at all ; but she paused, remembering that there were prejudices on this subject. “ You might as well say, What’s the use of shoes and stockings,” she said, “ or of nice, well-made clothes, such as a gentleman ought to wear ? (By the bye, Mr. Cavendish, though I did not care so much for him this time as the last, had his clothes very well made.) Education is just like well-made things,” she added, with a sense that she had made, if not an epigram, something very like it, — a phrase to be remembered and quoted as summing up the discussion.

“ If that ’sail,” said Warrender, “ I’ve got enough for that.” The reference to Cavendish, and the epigram, had cleared the atmosphere and given a lighter tone to the family controversy, and the young man felt that he had got over the crisis better than he hoped, lie waved his hand to Minnie amicably as he rose from the table. “ I thank thee, Jew,” he said, with a lighter tone and laugh than were at all usual with him, as he went away.

The ladies sat silent, listening to his steps as he went through the hall, pausing to get his hat; and no one spoke till he suddenly appeared again, crossing the lawn towards the gate that led into the village. Then there was a simultaneous long breath of fulfilled expectation, not to be called a sigh.

“ Ah! ” said Minnie, “ I thought so. He always goes that way.”

“ It is the way that leads to all the places Theo would be likely to go to.”

“ You mean it leads to Markland, mamma. Oh, I know very well what Theo means. He thinks he is very deep, but I see through him ; and so would you, if you were to think. I never thought him so clever as you all did : but that he should let that woman twist him round her little finger, and give up everything for her ! — I could not have supposed he would be so silly as that.”

Mrs. Warrender made no reply except a brief reproof to her daughter for speaking of Lady Markland as " that woman.” Perhaps she was herself a little vexed with Lady Markland, though she was aware it was unjust. But she was not vexed with Theo. She followed his foolishness (for to be sure it was foolishness, poor boy !) with a warmth of sympathy such as very rarely animates a mother in such circumstances. In her growing anxiety about him, in the commotion of mind with which she had watched the rising passion in his, there had been something which seemed to Mrs. Warrender like a new vicarious life. She had been, as it were, the spectator of the drama from the day when, to her great surprise, Theo had insisted, almost compelled her to offer her services and society to the young widow. His vehemence then, and a look in his eyes with which she was noways acquainted, but of which, as a woman capable of similar emotion, she divined the meaning, had awakened her, with a curious upspringing of her whole being, to the study of this new thing, to see what was going to come of it, and how it would develop. She had never known in her own person what passion was ; she had never been the object of it, nor had she felt that wild and all-absorbing influence; but she recognized it when she saw it in her son, with the keenest thrill of sympathetic feeling. She watched him with a kind of envy, a kind of admiration, a wondering enthusiasm, which absorbed her almost as much as his love absorbed him. She who had been surrounded by dullness all her life, mild affections, stagnant minds, an easy, humdrum attachment which had all the external features of indifference, — it brought a curious elation to her mind to see that her boy was capable of this flaming and glowing passion. This had curbed her impatience to leave the Warren as nothing else could have done, and made her willing to wait and watch, to withstand the pressure of the long, monotonous days, and content herself with the dead quiet of her life. She had not known even anxiety in the past. That of itself was a vivifying influence now.

A little later Mrs. Warrender drove into Highcombe with Chatty, an expedition which she had made several times of late, as often as the horses could be spared. The house in Highcombe, which was her own, which she was to live in with the girls if Theo married, or anything happened, was being put in order, and this was a gentle interest. Fortunately, upon this afternoon Minnie was occupied in the parish. It was her “ day : ” and nothing in heaven or earth was ever permitted to interfere with Minnie’s “ day.” The other two were pleased to be alone together, though they never said so, but kept up even between themselves the little fiction of saying, What a pity Minnie could not come! Chatty sympathized with her mother more than Minnie had ever done, and was very glad in her heart to ask a question or two about what was happening and what Theo could mean, to which Mrs. Warrender answered with much greater ease and fullness than if her elder daughter had been present to give her opinion. Chatty asked with bated breath whether there was not something wicked and terrible in the thought that Lady Markland, a woman who was married, and who had been consoled in her affliction by the clergyman and all her friends, reminding her that her husband was not lost but gone before, and that she would meet him again, — that she should be loved and wooed by another man. Chatty grew red with shame as she asked the question. It seemed to her an insult to any woman. “ As if our ties were for this world only ! ” she said.

Mrs. Warrender in her reply waived the theological question altogether, and shook her head, and declared that it was not the thought that Lady Markland was a widow or that she was Theo’s senior which troubled her. “ But she will never think of him,” said the mother. “Oh, Chatty, my heart is sorry for my poor boy. He is throwing away his love and the best of his life. She will never think of him. She is full of her own affairs and of her child. She will take all that Theo gives her, and never make him any return.”

“ Then, mamma, would you wish ” — cried Chatty, astonished.

“ I wish anything that would make him happy,” her mother said. “It is a great thing to be happy.” She said this more to herself than to her daughter; and to be sure, it was a most unguarded admission for a woman to make to a young person.

“ Does being happy always mean ” — Here Chatty paused, with the sudden flame of a blush almost scorching her cheeks. She had turned her head in the opposite direction, as if looking at something among the trees ; and perhaps this was why Mrs. Warrender did not hear what she said. Always love— Chatty did not say. Various events had suggested this question, which she was very glad her mother did not hear.

XIX.

Warrender went off very quickly upon his long walk. He could not but feel, notwithstanding his little bravado of indifference, that it was a very important decision, which he had made irrevocable by thus publishing it. For some time it had been a certainty in his mind ; but nothing seems a certainty until it lias been said, and now that it had been said, the thought that he had absolutely delivered himself over into the nameless crowd, that he had renounced all further thought of distinction in the only way he knew of for acquiring it, was somewhat awful to him. The unimaginable difference which exists between a man within whose reach a first class is still dangling and he who lias no hope but to be “gulfed ” is little comprehensible by the unacademical mind ; but it is one not to be contemplated without a shudder. When he thought of what he was resigning, when he thought of what

he must resort to, the blood seemed to boil in Theo’s veins and to ring in his ears. To be a passman; to descend among the crowd ; to consort with those who had “ pulled through,” perhaps with difficulty, who had gone through all sorts of dull workings and struggles, and to whom their hooks were mere necessary instruments of torture, to he got done with as soon as possible, — these were things terrible to contemplate. And in the silence of his own soul, it was difficult to console himself with those theories about the trademark, and the merely professional use of academic distinction. It was all true enough, and yet it was not true. Even now he thought of his tutor with a pang ; not the tutor at college, who had dropped him for Bronson, but the genial old tutor at school, who had hoped such great things for him. He said, “ Poor old Boreas! ” to himself, sympathizing in the disappointment with which the news would be received. Warrender a passman! Warrender “ gulfed” ! Nobody would believe it. This gave him many pangs as he set out upon his walk. He had sacrificed his early glories to the fastidious fancy of youth; but he had never really intended to be distanced by Bronson, to fall out of the ranks at the end.

Softer thoughts began to steal over him as he pursued his way, as he began to draw near the neighborhood of Markland. Halfway between the houses was a little wood, through which the road passed, and which was like a vestibule to the smiling place where her throne and empire was. To other eyes it was no more smiling than the other side, but as soon as Theo became conscious, in the distance, of the bare height, all denuded of trees, on which Markland stood, the landscape seemed to change for him. There was sunshine in it which was nowhere else, more quiet skies and warmer light. He threw down the burden of his thoughts among the autumn leaves that strewed the brook in that bit of woodland, and, on the other side, remembered with an elation that went to his head that he had this sacrifice, though she might never know it, to lay at her feet; the flower of his life, the garland of honor, the violet crown, all to scatter on her path. He would rather she should put her foot on them than that they should decorate his brows, — even if she never knew.

With these thoughts, he sped along the country road, which no longer was so green and so warm with sunshine as before. Markland looked cold in its bareness against the distant sky, all flushed with flying clouds ; the young saplings about bent before the wind, as if they supplicated for shelter and a little warmth, and the old tottering cedar behind the house looked as if the next blast would bring it down with a crash. There had been a great deal of planting going on, but this only added to the straggling lines of weak-kneed, uncomfortable younglings, which fluttered their handful of leaves, and shivered in every wind that blew. Lady Markland no longer sat on the terrace. She received her familiar visitor where only intimate friends were allowed to come, in the morning-room, to which its new distinction gave something of the barrenness and rigidity of a room of business. The big writing-table filled up the centre, and nothing remained of its old aspect except Geoff’s little settlement within the round of the window ; a low table for his few lesson books, where less lawful publications, in the shape of stories, were but too apt to appear, and a low, but virtuously hard chair, on which he was supposed to sit, and — work ; but there was not much work done, as everybody knew.

Lady Markland did not rise to receive her visitor. She had a book in her right hand, which she did not even disturb herself to put down. It was her left hand which she held out to Warrender, with a smile : and this sign of a friendship which had gone beyond all ceremony made his heart overflow. By an unusual chance, Geoff was not there, staring with his little sharp eyes, and this made everything sweeter. He had her to himself at last.

“ Do I disturb you ? Are you busy ? ” he said.

“ Not at all. At least, if I am busy, it is nothing that requires immediate attention. I am a little stupid about those drainages, and what is the landlord’s part. I wonder if you know any better? You must have the same sort of things to do ? ”

“ I am ashamed to say I don’t, now ; but I ’ll get it all up,” he said, eagerly, — “ that must be perfectly easy, — and give you the result.”

“ You will cram me, in short,” said Lady Markland, with a smile. “ You ought to be somebody’s private secretary. How well you would do it! That was all right about the lease. Mr. Longstaffe was very much astonished that I should know so much. I did not tell him it was yon.”

“ It was not I ! ” cried Warrender. “ I had only the facts, and you supplied the understanding. I suppose that is to be my trade, too ; it will be something to think that you have trained me for it.”

“ That we have studied together,” she said, “with most of the ignorance on my side, and most of the knowledge on yours. Oh, I am not too humble. I allow that I sometimes see my way out of a difficulty, with a jump, before you have reasoned it out. That sort of thing is conceded to a woman. I am ‘ not without intelligence,’ Mr. Longstaffe himself says. But what do you mean to imply by that tone of regret — you suppose it is to be your trade ? ”

“ I don’t mean anything, — to make you ask, perhaps. I have no doubt I mean that finding out what was the exact pound of flesh the farmers could demand, and how much on our side we could exact, did not seem very lofty work : until I remembered that you were doing it, too.”

“My doing it makes no difference,” said Lady Markland. “You ought to know better than to make me those little compliments. But for all that, it is a fine trade. Looking after the land is the best of trades. Everything must have begun with it, and it will go on forever. And the pleasure of thinking one can improve and hand it over richer and better for the expenditure of a little brains upon it, — as well as other condiments,” she said, with a laugh. “ Guano, you will say, is of more use perhaps, than the brains.”

She carried off a little enthusiasm, which had lit up her eyes, with this laugh at (he end.

“ I don’t think so,” said Warrender. “ Did you suppose I meant a compliment? but to see you giving yourself up to this, you, who — and to remember that I had been perhaps grumbling, thinking of the Schools, and other such paltry honors.”

“ Oh, not paltry, — not paltry at all; very, very much the reverse. I am sure no one interested in you can think so.”

“ I think so myself,” he said. “ I must tell you my experiences on that subject.” And with this he told her all his little story about the devotion of the Dons; about their discovery of his pursuits, and the slackening of their approbation ; and about how Bronson (a very good fellow, and quite aware of their real meaning) had taken his place. Lady Markland was duly interested, amused, and indignant; interested enough to be quite sincere in her expressions of sympathy, and yet independent enough to smile a little at the conflict between wounded feeling and philosophy on Warrender’s part.

“ But,” she added, with a woman’s liking for a practicable medium, “ you might have postponed your deeper reading till you had done what was necessary, and so pleased both them and yourself.”

“ I thought one could not serve two masters,” said Theo ; “ and that is why I encourage myself, by your example, to take to the land and its duties, and give the other poor little bubble of reputation up.”

“ Don’t talk of my example,” she said. “ I am not disinterested. I am making no choice. What I am doing is for the only object I have in life, the only thing I have in the world.”

He did not ask any question, but he fixed her with intent, inquiring eyes.

“ You need not look as if you had any doubt what it was. It is Geoff, of course. I don’t care very much for anything else. But to hand back his inheritance unburdened, to make a man of my poor little Geoff”— Her bright eyes moistened with quick - springing tears. She smiled, and her face looked to Theo like the face of an angel; though he was impatient of the motive, he adored the result. And then she gave her head a little shake, as if to throw off this undue emotion. “ I need not talk any high-flown nonsense about such a simple duty, need I ? ” she said, once more with a soft laugh. Instead of making the most of her pathetic position, she would always ignore the claims she had upon sympathy. Her simple duty,— that was all.

“ We must not discuss that question,” he said; “ for if I were to say what I thought— And this brings me to what I wanted to talk to you about, Lady Markland. Geoff ” —

She looked at him, with a sudden catching of her breath. She had no expectation of a sudden invasion of the practical into the vague satisfaction of the pause which kept Geoff still by his mother’s side. And yet she knew that it was her duty to listen, to accept any reasonable suggestion that might be made.

“There was that question, — between a school and a tutor,” he said. “ I have been thinking a great deal about it. We settled, you remember, that to send him away to school would be too much ; not good for himself, as he is delicate : and for you it would be hard. You would miss him dreadfully.”

“ Miss him ! ” she said. As if these common words could express the vacancy, the blank solitude, into which her life without Geoff would settle down !

“ But it seems to me now that there is another side to the question,” he continued, with what seemed to Lady Markland a pitiless persistency. “ A tutor here would be too much in your way. You would not like to let him live by himself altogether, His presence would be a constant embarrassment. You could not have him with you, nor could you, for Geoff’s sake, keep him quite at a distance.”

She held out her hands to stop this too clear exposition. “ Don’t! ” she cried. “ Do you think I have not considered all that ? You only make me see the difficulties more and more clearly, and I see them so clearly already. But what am I to do ? ”

“ Dear Lady Markland,” he said, rising from his chair, “ I want to propose something to you.” The young man had grown so pale, yet by moments flushed so suddenly, and had altogether such an air of agitation and passionate earnestness, that a certain alarm flashed into her mind. The word had an ominous sound. Could he be thinking — was it possible— She felt a hot flush of shame and a cold shiver of horror and fear at the thought, which after all was not a thought, but only a sharp pang of fright, which went through her like an arrow. He saw that she looked nervously at him, but that was easily explained by what had gone before.

“ It is this,” he said. “ It is quite simple ; it will cost nobody anything, and give a great deal of pleasure to me. I want you to let me be Geoff’s tutor.

Wait a moment before you answer. It will be no trouble. I have absolutely nothing to do. My father left all his affairs in complete order ; all my farms are let, everything is going on smoothly. And you must remember our little bit of a place is very different from all you have to think of. No, I don’t want to thrust myself upon you. I will ride over, or drive over, or walk over every day. The distance is nothing; it will do me all the good in the world. And honors or no honors, I have plenty of scholarship for Geoff. Ah, don’t refuse me; it will be such a pleasure. I have set my heart on being tutor to Geoff.”

She had listened to him with a great many endeavors to break in. She stopped him at last almost by force, putting out her hand and taking his when he came to a little pause for breath. “ Mr. Warrender,” she said, almost as breathless as he, tears in her eyes, her voice almost choked, “ how can I thank you for the thought! God bless you for the thought. Oh, how good, how kind, how full of feeling ! I hope if you are ever in trouble you will have as good a friend as you have been to me.”

“ If you will be my friend, Lady Markland ” —

“ That I will,” she cried, “ all my life ; yet never be able to make up to you for this.” She had put out both her hands, which he held trembling, but dared not stoop to kiss lest he should betray himself. After a moment, half laughing, half sobbing, she bade him sit down again beside her. “ You are very, very good,” she said ; “ but there are a few things to be talked over. First, you are going back to Oxford in a week or two.”

“ I am not going up this term ; that is settled already.”

“ Not going up ! But I thought you must go up. You have not taken your degree.”

Oh, that is not till next year,” he said, lightly, confident in her ignorance of details. “ There is no reason why I should hurry ; and, in fact, I had made up my mind some time since, so there is no difficulty so far as that goes.”

She looked at him with keen scrutiny ; her mind in a moment flashing over the whole course of their conversation like a light over a landscape, yet seeing it imperfectly, as a landscape under a sudden flash can only be seen, with a perception of its chief features, but nothing more. This young man had been tenderly kind all through. Since the moment when he came into this very room to tell her of her husband’s accident he had never forsaken her. She had not thought that such chivalrous kindness existed in the world: but she was yet young enough and inexperienced enough to believe in it and in its complete disinterestedness ; for what return could she ever make for all he had done ? And now, was this a crowning service, an offer of brotherly kindness which was almost sublime, or — what was it ? She looked at him as if she would see into his soul. “ Oh,” she said, “ I know your generosity. I feel as if I could not trust you when you say it does n’t matter. How could I ever forgive myself if you were injuring your own prospects for Geoff ! — if it was for Geoff.”

For Geoff ! Warrender laughed aloud, almost roughly, in a way which half offended her. Could anybody suppose for a moment that for that ugly, precocious little boy— “ You need not dis-

tress yourself on that account, Lady Markland,” he said. “ It is not for Geoff, — I had made up my mind on that question long ago, — but by way of occupying my idle time. And if you think me good enough ” —

“ Oh, good enough ! ” she cried. But she was too much alarmed and startled to make any definite reply. Almost for the first time she became conscious that Theo was neither a boy nor a visionary young hero of the Sir Galahad kind, but a man like other men. The further discovery which awaited her, that she her-

self was not a dignified recluse from life, a queen mother ruling the affairs of her son’s kingdom for him and not for herself, but in other people’s eyes, at least, a young woman, still open to other thoughts, was still far from Lady Markland’s mind.

XX.

“ You will give me my answer after you have thought it all over.”

“ Certainly you shall have an answer: and in the mean time my thanks; or if there is any word more grateful than thanks, — more than words can say ” —

He turned to look back as he closed the little gate for foot passengers at the end of the bare road which was called the avenue, and took off his hat as she waved her hand to him. Then she turned back again towards the house. It was a ruddy October afternoon, the sun going down in gold and crimson, with already the deeper, more gorgeous colors of winter in the sky. Geoff was hanging upon her arm, clinging to it with both of his, walking in her very shadow, as was his wont.

“ Why do you thank Theo Warrender like that ? What has he done for us ? ” asked Geoff.

“ I don’t think, dear, that you should talk of him in that familiar way, — Theo ! He is old enough to be ” — here she paused for a moment, not pleased with the suggestion, and then added — “ he might be your elder brother, at least.”

“ Not unless I had another mamma,” said Geoff. “Theo is about as old as you.”

“ Oh, no; much younger than I am. Do you remember you once said you would like him for your tutor, Geoff ? ”

“ I don’t think I should now,” said the little boy. “ That was because he was so clever. I begin to think now perhaps it would be better not to have such a clever one. When you are very small you don’t understand.”

“ You are not very big still, my dear boy.”

“ No, but things change.” Geoff had a way of twisting his little face, as he made an observation wiser than usual, which amused the world in general, but not his mother. He was not a pretty boy; there was nothing in his appearance to satisfy a young woman in her ambition and vanity for her child ; but his little face was turned into a grotesque by those queer contortions. She put her hand upon his arm hastily.

“ Don’t make such faces, Geoff. Why should you twist your features out of all shape, with every word you say ? ”

This was perhaps too strong, and Geoff felt it so. “ I don’t want to make faces,” he said, “ but what else have you got to do it with when you are thinking ? I ’ll tell you how I have found out that Theo Warrender would be too clever. That day when he showed me how to do my Latin ” — The boy here paused, with a curious elfish gravity. “ It was a long time ago.”

“ I remember, dear.”

“ Well, you were all talking, saying little speeches, as people do, you know, that come to pay visits ; and he was out of it — so he talked to me. But now, when he comes, he makes the speeches, and you answer him, and you two run on till I think you never will be done ; and it is I who am out of it,” said Geoff, with great gravity, though without offense. His mother pressed his clinging arms to her side, with a sudden exclamation.

“ My own boy, you feel out of it when I am talking ! — you, my only child, my only comfort! ” Lady Markland held him close to her, and quick tears sprang to her eyes.

“ It is nothing to make any fuss about, mamma. Sometimes I like it. I listen, and you are very funny when you talk — that is, not you, but Theo Warrender. He talks as if nothing was right but only as you thought. I suppose he thinks you are very clever.” Geoff paused for a moment, and gave her an investigating look ; and then added in a less assured tone, " And I suppose you are clever, ain’t you, mamma ? ”

She was moved to a laugh, in the midst of other feelings. “ Not that I know of, Geoff. I was never thought to be clever, so far as I am aware.”

“ You are, though,” he said, “ when you don’t make speeches as all the people do. I think you are cleverer with Theo than with anybody. What was he talking of to-day, for instance, when I was away ? ”

The question was put so suddenly that she was almost embarrassed by it.

“ He was saying that he wished to be your tutor, Geoff. It was very kind. To save me from parting with you, — which I think would be more than I could bear, — and to save me the trouble of having a — strange gentleman in the house.”

“ But he would be a strange gentleman, just the same.”

“He is a friend, the kindest friend; and then he would not be in the house. He means to come over every day, just for your lessons. But it is too much, — it is too much to accept from any one,” she said suddenly, struck for the first time with that view.

“ That would be very jolly ! ” cried Geoff. " I should like that: if he came only for my lessons, and then went away, and afterwards there would be only you and me, — nobody but you and me, just as we used to be all the time, before ” —

“ Oh, don’t say that! We were not always alone — before : there was ” —

“ I know ” said the little boy ; but after a moment’s pause he resumed : “ You know that generally we were alone, mamma. I like that, — you and me, and no one else. Yes, let Theo come and teach me; and then when lessons are over go away.”

Lady Markland laughed. “ You must think it a great privilege to teach you, Geoff. He is to be allowed that favor, — to do all he can for us, — and as soon as he has done it to be turned from the door. That would be kiud on his part, but rather churlish on ours, don’t you think ? ”

“ Oh,” said the boy, “then he does it for something? You said tutors worked for money, and that Theo was well off, and did not want money. I see; then he wants something else ? Is no one kind just for kindness ? Must everybody be paid ? ”

“ In kindness, surely, Geoff.”

The boy looked at her with his little twinkling eyes and a twist in the corner of his mouth. Perhaps he did not understand the instinctive suspicion in his mind, — indeed, there is no possibility that he could understand it; but it moved him with a keen premonition of danger. “ I should think it was easiest to pay in money,” he said, with precocious wisdom. “ How could you and me be kind to Theo? I don’t know what he could want from you and me.”

They strolled homeward, during this conversation, along the bare avenue, through the lines of faint, weak-kneed young trees which had been planted with a far-off hope of some time, twenty years hence, filling up the gaps. Little Geoff, with all the chaos of ideas in his mind, a child unlike other children, just saved from the grave of his race, the last little feeble representative of a house which had been strong and famous in its day, was not unlike one of the feeble saplings which rustled and swayed in the wailing autumn wind. The sunshine slanted upon the two figures, throwing long shadows across the damp grass and copse, which only differed from the long slim shadows of the young trees in their steadiness as they moved along by their own impulse, instead of blowing about at the mercy of the breeze, like I he shades of the old oaks and beeches. The scene had a mixture of desolation and hopefulness which was very characteristic : everything young and new, where all should have been mature and well established, if not old; yet in the mere fact of youth conveying a promise of victory over the winds and chills of winter, over the storms and tribulations of life. If they survived, the old avenue would rustle again with forest wealth, the old house would raise up its head ; but for the present, what was wanted was warmth and shelter and protection, tempered winds and sunshine and friends, protection from the cold north and blighting east. The little human sapling was the one most difficult to guard; and who could tell before the event which method would be best for Geoff ?

Happily, no serious question keeps possession long of a child’s brain, and the evening passed, as all their quiet evenings passed, without any further discussion. But Geoff’s question echoed in Lady Markland’s mind after the child had forgotten it and was fast asleep : “ How could you and me be kind ? ” How was she to repay Theo for a devotion so great? It was like the devotion of a knight in the times of chivalry. She had said to herself and others many times, how kind he was, how could she ever repay him, he was like a brother. But it was true, after all, that everybody had to be paid. How could she reward Theo for his devotion ? What could she do for him ? There was nothing within her power; she had no influence to help him on, no social advantage, no responsive favor of any kind. He was better off, better educated, more befriended, more surrounded, than she was. He wanted nothing from her. How could she show her gratitude, even ? “ How can you and me be kind ? ” she said to herself, with a forlorn pride that Geoff always saw the heart of the difficulty. But this did not help her to any reply.

Next morning Mr. Longstaffe, the “ man of business,” who had the affairs of half the county in his hands, came to Markland to see her, and any idea there might have been of Geoff’s lessons had to be laid aside. He had to be dismissed even from his seat in the window, where he generally superintended almost everything that went on. With an internal reflection how much better it would have been had Theo begun his labors, Lady Markland sent the boy away. “ Take care of yourself, Geoff. If you go out, take Bowen with you, or old Black.” Bowen was the nurse, whom Geoff felt himself to have long outgrown, and Black was an old groom, whose company was dear to Geoff on ordinary occasions, but for whom he felt no particular inclination to-day. The little boy went out and took a meditative walk, his thoughts returning to the question which had been put before them last night: Theo Warrender for his tutor, to come daily for his lessons, and then to go away. With the unconscious egotism of a child, Geoff would have received this as perfectly reasonable, a most satisfactory arrangement ; and indeed it appeared to him, on thinking it over, that his mother’s suggestion of a payment in kindness was on the whole somewhat absurd. “ Kindness ! ” Geoff said to himself, “ who’s going to be unkind? ” He now proceeded to consider the subject at large. After a time he slapped his little thigh, as Black did when he was excited.

I ’ll tell you! ” he cried to himself. “ I ’ll offer to go over there half the time.” He paused at this, for, besides the practical proof of kindness to Theo which he felt would thus be given, a sudden pleasure seized upon and expanded his little soul. To go over there : to save Theo the trouble, and for himself to burst forth into a new world, a universe of sensations unknown, — into freedom, independence, self-guidance ! An exhilaration and satisfaction hitherto unexperienced went up in fumes to Geoff’s brain. It was scarcely noon, a still and beautiful October day ; the sky as blue as summer, the trees all russet and gold, the air with just enough chill in it to make breathing a keen delight. Why not now ? These words, Geoff said afterwards, came into his mind as if somebody had said them ; but the boldness and wildness of the daring deed suggested by them ran through his little veins like wine. He rather flew than ran to the stables, which were sadly shorn of their ancient splendor, two horses and Geoff’s pony being all that remained.

“ Saddle me my pony, Black ! ” the boy cried. “ Yes, Master Geoff ” (the old man would not say, my lord) ; “ but the cob’s lame, and I can’t take Mirah without my lady’s leave.” “ Never mind. I’m going such a little way. Mamma never says anything when I go a little way.” Was it a lie, or only a fib ? This question of casuistry gave Geoff great trouble afterwards ; for (he said to himself) it was only a little way, nothing at all, though mamma of course thought otherwise. “ You ’ll be very careful, Master Geoff,” said the old man. Black had his own reasons for not desiring to go out that day, which made him all the more willing to give credence to Geoff’s promise; and the boy had never shown any signs of foolhardiness to make his attendants nervous. With an exultation which he could scarcely restrain, Geoff found himself on his pony, unrestrained and alone. When he got beyond the park, from which he made his exit by a gate which the servants used, and which generally stood open in the morning, a sort of awful delight was in his little soul. He was on the threshold of the world. The green lane before him led into the unknown. He paused a moment, rising in his stirrups, and looked back at the house standing bare upon the ridge, with all its windows twinkling in the sun. His heart beat, as the heart beats when we leave all we love behind us, yet rose with a thrill and throb of anticipation as he faced again towards the outer universe. Not nine till Christmas, and yet already daring adventure and fortune. This was the consciousness that rose in the little fellow’s breast, and made his small gray eyes dance with light, as he turned his pony’s head towards the Warren, which meant into the world.

Geoff was very confident that he knew the road. He had gone several times with his mother in the carriage direct to the Warren ; one time in particular, when the route was new to him, — when he went clinging to her, as he always did, but she, frozen into silence, making no reply to him, leant back in Mrs. Warrender’s little brougham, like a mother made of marble. Very clearly the child remembered that dreadful drive. But others more cheerful had occurred since. He had got to know the Warren, which was so different from Markland, with those deep old shadowing trees, and everything so small and well filled. And they had all been kind to Geoff. He liked the ladies more than he liked Theo. On the whole, Geoff found ladies more agreeable than men. His father had not left a very tender image in his mind, whereas his mother was all the world to the invalid boy. It occurred to him that he would get a very warm reception at the Warren, whither he meant to go to convey to Theo his gracious acceptance of the offered lessons ; and this gave brightness and pleasure to the expedition. But the real object of it was to show kindness which his mother had suggested as the only payment Theo would accept. Geoff in his generosity was going to give the price beforehand, to intimate his intention of saving Theo trouble by coming to the Warren every second day, and generally to propitiate and please his new tutor. It was a very important expedition, and after this nobody would say that Theo’s kindness was not repaid.

The pony trotted along very steadily so long as Geoff remembered to keep his attention to it; and it cantered a little, surprising Geoff, when it found the turf under its hoofs, along another stretch of sunny road which Geoff turned into without remembering it, with a thrill of fresh delight in its novelty and in the long vista under its overarching boughs. Then he went through the wood, making the pony walk, his little heart all melting with the sweetness and shade as he picked his way across the brook, in which the leaves lay as in Valombrosa. The pony liked that gentle pace. Perhaps he had thoughts of his own which were as urgent, yet as idle, as Geoff’s, and like the boy felt the delight of the unknown. Anyhow, he walked along the smooth, level stretch of road beyond the wood; and Geoff, upon his back, made no remonstrance. He began to get a little confused by the turnings, by the landscapes, by the effect of the wide atmosphere and the wind blowing in his face. He forgot almost that he was Geoff. He was a little boy on his way to fairyland, riding on and on in a dream.

M. O. W. Oliphant.