A Country Gentleman
WARRENDER met his mother and sister with a face somewhat cloudy, which, however, he did his best to clear as he came in, in response to their pleasure at the sight of him. It did not become him, in his position, to look otherwise than blessed ; but a man has less power of recognizing and adapting himself to this necessity than a woman. He did his best, however, to take an interest in the house ; to have all its conveniences pointed out to him, and the beauty of the view over the garden, and the coolness of the drawing-room in which they sat. What pleased him still more, however, or at least called forth a warmer response, was the discovery of some inconveniences which had already been remarked. “ I am very glad you have told me,” he said. “ I must have everything put right for you, mother. A thing that can be put right by bricks and mortar is so easy a matter.”
“It is the easiest way, perhaps, of setting things right,” she said, not without an anxious glance ; “ but even bricks and mortar are apt to lead you further than you think. You remember Mr. Briggs, in Punch ? ”
“They will not lead me too far,” said Theo. “ I am all in the way of renovation and restoration. You should see — or rather, you should not see, for I am afraid you would be shocked — our own house ” —
“ What are you doing ? No, I should not be shocked. I never was a devotee of the Warren. I always thought there were a great many improvements I could make.”
“ Oh, mamma ! ”
“ You must remember, Chatty, I was not born to it, like you. What are you doing ? Are you building ? Your letters were not very explicit, my dear.”
“ You shall see. I cannot describe. I have not the gift.” Here the cloud came again over Theo’s face — the cloud which he had pushed back on his entrance as if it had been a veil. “We have let in a little light, at all events,” he said : “ that will always be something to the good. Now, mother, let me have some lunch ; for I cannot stay above an hour or so. I have to see Longstaffe. There has been a great deal to do.”
“ Mr. Longstaffe, I am sure, will not give you any trouble that he can help.”
“ He is giving me a great deal of trouble,” said the young man, with lowering brows. Then he cleared up again with an effort. “You have not told me anything about your doings in town.”
“ Oh, we did a great deal in town.” Here Mrs. Warrender paused for a moment, feeling that neither did the auditor care to hear, nor the person concerned in those doings care to have them told. Between these two, her words were arrested. Chatty’s head was more than ever bent over her muslin, and Theo had walked to the window, and was looking out with the air of a man whose thoughts were miles away. No one said anything more for a full minute, when he suddenly came back, so to speak, and said with a sort of smile, —
“ So you were very gay ? ” as if in the mean time she had been pouring an account of many gayeties into his ear.
So far as Theo was concerned, it was evidently quite unnecessary to say any more ; but there was now the other silent listener to think of, who desired that not a word should be said, yet would be equally keen to note and put a meaning to the absence of remark. Between the two, the part of Mrs. Warrender was a hard one. She said, which perhaps was the last thing she ought to have said, “ We saw a great deal of your friend Mr. Cavendish.”
“Ah, Dick ! Yes, he’s about town I suppose — pretending to do law, and doing society. Mother, if you want me to stay to luncheon ” —
“I will go and see after it,” said Chatty. She gave her mother a look, as she put down her work. A look — what did it mean ? A reproach for having mentioned him ? an entreaty to ask more about him ? Mrs. Warrender could not tell. When they were left alone, her son’s restlessness increased. He felt, it was evident., the dangers of being left with her tête-à-tête.
“ I hope you did n’t see too much of him,” he said, hastily, as if seizing upon the first subject he could think of to defend himself. “ Cavendish is a fellow with a story, and no one knows exactly what it is.”
“ I am sure he is honorable and good,” said Mrs. Warrender; and then she cried, “ Theo ! don’t keep me in this suspense — there is something amiss.”
He came at once and sat down opposite to her, gazing at her across the little table. “Yes ?” he said, with defiance. “ You have made up your mind to that beforehand. I could see it in your eyes. What should be amiss ?”
“ Theo, you do me wrong. I had made up ray mind to nothing beforehand — but I am very anxious. I know there must be difficulties. What are your negotiations with Mr. Longstaffe ? Is it about settlements ? Is it ” —
“ Longstaffe is an old fool, mother : that is about what it is.”
“ No, my dear. I am sure he is a kind friend, who has your interests at heart.
“ Whose interests ? ” he said, with a harsh laugh. “ You must remember there are two sides to the question. I should say that the interests of a husband and wife were identical ; but that is not the view taken by those wretched little pettifogging country lawyers.”
“ Dear Theo, it is never, I believe, the view taken by the law. They have to provide against the possibility of everything that is bad ; they must suppose that it is possible for every man to turn out a domestic tyrant.”
“ Every man ! ” he said, with a smile of scorn. “ Do you think I should be careful about that ? They may bind me down as much as they please : I have held out my hands to them ready for the fetters. What I do grudge,” he went on, as if, the floodgates once opened, the stream could not be restrained, “ is all that they are trying to impose upon her : giving her the appearance of feelings entirely contrary to her nature ; making her out to be under the sway of — That’s what I can’t tolerate. If I knew her less, I might imagine — But thank God, I am sure on that point,” he added, with a sharpness in his voice which did not breathe conviction to his mother’s ear.
She laid her hand upon his arm, soothing him. “ You must remember that, in the circumstances, a woman is not her own mistress. oh, Theo, that was always the difficulty I feared. You are so sensitive, so ready to start aside like a restive horse, so intolerant of anything that seems less than perfect.”
“ Am I so, mother ? ” He gathered her hand into his, and laid down his head upon it, kissing it tremulously. “ God bless you for saying so. My own mother says it, — a fastidious fool, always looking out for faults, putting meanings to everything, starting at a touch, like a restive horse.”
How it was that she understood him, and perceived that to put his faults in the clearest light was the best thing she could do for him, it would be hard to tell. She laid her other hand upon his bent head. “ Yes, my dear, yes, my dear, that was always your fault ; if your taste was offended, if anything jarred, — though it might be no more than was absolutely essential, no more than common necessity required.”
“ Mother, you do me more good than words can say. Yes, I know, I know. I never have friends for that cause. I have always wanted more, more ” —
“ More than any one could give.” she said, softly. “ Those whom you love should be above humanity, Theo; their feet should not tread the ground at all. I have always been afraid, not knowing how you would take it when necessary commonplaces came in.”
“ I wonder,” he said, raising his head, “ whether mothers are always as perfect comforters as you are. That was what I wanted : but nobody in the world could have said it but you.”
“ Because,” she said, carrying out her rôle unhesitatingly, though to her own surprise and without knowing why, “ only your mother could know your faults, without there being the smallest possibility that any fault could ever stand between you and me.”
His eyes had the look of being strained and hot, yet there seemed a little moisture in the corners, — a moisture which corresponded with the slight quiver in his lip, rather than with the light in his eyes. He held her hand still in his, and caressed it almost unconsciously. “ I am not like you in that,” he said. Alas, no ! he was not like her in that. Though the accusation of being fastidious, fantastic, intolerant of the usual conditions of humanity, was, for the moment, the happiest thing that could be said to him, yet a fault — a fault would stand between him and whosoever was guilty of it ; mother, even,— love still more. A fault ! he was determined that she should be perfect, the woman whom he had chosen. To keep her perfect he was glad to seize at that suggestion of personal blame ; to acknowledge that he himself was impatient of every condition, intolerant even of the bonds of humanity. But if there ever should arise the time when the goddess should be taken from her pedestal, when the woman should be found fallible, like all women, Heaven preserve poor Theo then. The thought went through Mrs. Warrender’s mind like a knife. What would become of him ? He had given himself up so unreservedly to his love ; he had sacrificed even his own fastidious temper in the first place, had borne the remarks of the county, had supported Geoff, had allowed himself to be laughed at and blamed. But now, if he should chance to discover that the woman for whom he had done all this was not in herself a piece of perfection — His mother felt her very heart sink at the thought. No one was perfect enough to satisfy Theo ; no one was perfect at all so far as her own experience went. And when he made this terrible discovery, what would he do ?
In the mean time they went to luncheon, and there was talk of the repairs wanted in the house, and of what Theo was doing “ at home.” He was very unwilling, however, to speak of “ home,” or of what he had begun to do there. He told them, indeed, of the trees that had been cut down, over which Chatty made many exclamations, mourning for them ; but even Chatty was not vigorous in her lamentations. They sat and talked, not interested in anything they were saying, the mother seated between them, watching each, herself scarcely able to keep up the thread of coherent conversation ; making now and then incursions on either side from which she was obliged to retreat hurriedly ; referring now to some London experience which Chatty’s extreme dignity and silence showed she did not want to be mentioned, or to something on the other side from which Theo withdrew with still more distinct reluctance to be put under discussion. It was not till this uncomfortable meal was over that Theo made any further communication about his own affairs. He was on his way to the door, whither his mother had followed him, when he suddenly turned round as if accidentally. “ By the bye,” he said, “ I forgot to tell you. She will be here presently, mother. She wanted to lose no time in seeing you.”
“ Lady Markland ! ” said Mrs. Warrender, with a little start.
He fixed his eyes upon her severely. “ Who else? She is coming about three. I shall come back, and go home with her.”
“ Theo, before I meet your future wife — You have never given me any details. Oh, tell me what has happened and what is going to happen. Don’t leave me to meet her in ignorance of everything.”
“ What is it you want to know ?” he said, with his sombre air, setting his back against the wall. “ You know all that I know.”
“ Which is no more than that she has accepted you, Theo.”
“ Well, what more would you have ? That is how it stands now, and may for months, for anything I can tell.”
“ I should have thought it would have been better to get everything settled quickly. Why should there be any delay ? ”
“ Ah, why ? You must ask that of Mr. Longstaffe,” he said, and turned away.
Mrs. Warrender was much fluttered by the announcement of this visit. She had expected, no doubt, to meet Lady Markland very soon ; to pay her, perhaps, a solemn visit ; to receive her, so to speak, as a member of the family, which had been an alarming thought. For Lady Markland, though always grateful to her, and on one or two occasions offering something that looked like a close, confidential friendship, had been always a great lady in the opinion of the squire’s wife, a more important person than herself, intimacy with whom would carry embarrassments with it. She had not been, like other people in her position, familiarly known in the society of the county. Her seclusion even during her husband’s lifetime, the almost hermit life she led, the pity she had called forth, the position as of one apart from the world which she had maintained, all united to place Lady Markland out of the common circle, on a little eminence of her own. She had been very cordial, especially on the last evening they had spent together, the summer night when she had come to fetch Geoff. But still they had never been altogether at their ease with Lady Markland. Mrs. Warrender went back into the drawing-room, and looked round upon it with eyes more critical than when she had regarded it in relation to herself ; wondering if Lady Markland would think it a homely place, a residence unworthy her future husband’s mother. She made some little changes in it instinctively, put away the work on which she had been engaged, and looked at Chatty’s little workbox with an inclination to put that too out of the way. The rooms at Markland were not so fine as to make such precautions necessary ; yet there was a faded splendor about them very different from the limitation and comfortable, prim neatness of this. When she had done all that it was possible to do, she sat down to wait for her visitor, trying to read, though she could not give much attention to what she read. “ Lady Markland is to be here at three,” she said to Chatty, who was slightly startled for a moment, but much less than her mother, taking a strip of muslin out of her box, and beginning to work at it as if this was the business of life, and nothing else could excite her more. The blinds were all drawn down for the sunshine, and the light came in green and cool, though everything was blazing out-of-doors. These lowered blinds made it impossible to see the arrival, though Mrs. Warrender heard it acutely, — every prance of the horses, every word Lady Markland said. It seemed a long time before, through the many passages of the oldfashioned house, the visitor appeared. She made a slight pause on the threshold of the door, apparently waiting for an invitation, for a special reception. Mrs. Warrender, with her heart beating, had risen, and stood with her hands clasped, in tremulous expectation. They looked at each other for a moment across the parlor-maid, who did not know how to get out of the room from between the two ladies, neither of whom advanced towards the other. Then Mrs. Warrender went hurriedly forward with extended hands. “ Theo told me you were coming. I am very glad to see you.” They took each other’s hands, and Mrs. Warrender bent forward to give the kiss of welcome. They were two equal powers, meeting on a debatable ground, fulfilling all the necessary courtesies. Not like this should Theo’s mother have met his wife. It should have been a young creature, whom she could have taken into her arms, who would have flung herself upon the breast of his mother, or at her knees, like a child of her own. Instead of this, they were two equal powers, — if, indeed, Lady Markland were not the principal, the one to give, and not receive. Mrs. Warrender felt herself almost younger, less imposing altogether, than the new member of the family, to whom it should have been her part to extend a tender patronage, to draw close to her and set at her ease. Things were better when this difficult first moment was over. It was suitable and natural that Lady Markland should give to Chatty that kiss of peace ; and then they all seated themselves in a little circle.
“You have just arrived ? ” Lady Markland said.
“ Yesterday. We have scarcely settled down.”
“ And you enjoyed your stay in town ? Chatty, at least, — Chatty must have enjoyed it.” Lady Markland turned to her with a soft smile.
“ Oh, yes, very much,” said Chatty, almost under her breath.
And then there was a brief pause, after which, “ I hope Geoff is quite well,” Mrs. Warrender said.
“ Quite well, and I was to bring you his love.” Lady Markland hesitated a little, and then said, “ I should like if I might — to consult you about Geoff.”
“ Surely,” Mrs. Warrender replied, and again there was a pause.
In former times, Chatty would not have perceived the embarrassment of her two companions, but she had learned to divine since her three weeks’ experience. She rose quietly. “ I think, mamma, you will be able to talk better, if I go away.”
“ I don’t know, my dear,” said Mrs. Warrender, with a slight tremulousness. Lady Markland did not say anything. She retained the advantage of the position, not denying that she wished it, and Chatty accordingly, putting down her work, went away. Mrs. Warrender felt the solemnity of the interview more and more ; but she did not know what to say.
Presently Lady Markland took the initiative. She rose and approached nearer to Mrs. Warrender’s side. “ I want you to tell me,” she said, herself growing for the first time a little tremulous, “ if you dislike this very much — for Theo? ”
“ Dislike it ! Oh, how can you think so ? His happiness is all I desire : and if you ” —
“ If I can make him happy ? That is a dreadful question, Mrs. Warrender. How can any one tell ? I hope so ; but if I should deceive myself ” —
“ That was not what I meant : there is no happiness for him but that which you can give : — if you think him good enough, — that was what I was going to say.”
“ Good enough ! Theo ? Oh, then you do not know what he is, though he is your son ; and so far I am better than you are.”
“ Lady Markland, you are better in a great many ways. It is this that frightens me. In some things you are so much above any pretensions of his. He has so little experience ; he is not rich, nor even is he clever (though he is very clever) according to the ways of the world. I seem to be disparaging my boy. It is not that, Lady Markland.”
“ No ; do you think I don’t understand ? I am too old for him ; I am not the kind of woman you would have chosen, or even that he would have chosen, had he been in his right senses.”
“ It is folly to say that you are old. You are not old ; you are a woman that any man might be proud to love. And his love — has been a wonder to me to see,” said his mother, her voice faltering, her eyes filling. “ I have never known such adoration as that.”
“ Ah, has it not ! ” cried the woman who was the object of it, a sudden melting and ineffable change coming over her face. “ That was what gave me the courage,” she said, after a moment’s pause. “ How could I refuse ? It is not often, is it, that a man — that a woman ” — Here her voice died away in a confusion and agitation which melted all Mrs. Warrender’s reluctance. She found herself with her arms round the great lady, comforting her, holding her head against her own breast. They shed some tears together, and kissed each other, and for a moment came so close that all secondary matters that could divide them seemed to fade away. “ But now,” said Lady Markland, after this little interval, “ he is worried and disturbed again, by all the lawyers think it right to do. I should like to spare him all that, but I am helpless in their hands. Oh, dear Mrs. Warrender, you will understand. There are so many things that make it more difficult. There is — Geoff.”
Mrs. Warrender pressed her hands and gave her a look full of sympathy ; but she said nothing. She did not make a cheerful protest that all these things were without importance, and that Geoff was no drawback, as perhaps it was hoped she might do. Lady Markland drew back a little, discouraged, — waiting for some word of cheer which did not come.
“ You know,” she said, her voice trembling, “ what my boy has been to me : everything, until this new light that I never dreamed of, that I never had hoped for, or thought of— You know how we lived together, he and I. He was my companion, more than a child, sharing every thought. You know ” —
“ Lady Markland, you have had a great deal of trouble, but how much with it ! — a child like that, and then " —
“ And then — Theo ! Was there ever a woman so blessed — or so — Oh, help me to know what I am to do between them ! You can understand better than any of the young ones. Don’t you see,” said Lady Markland, with a smile in which there was a kind of despair, “ that though I am not old, as you say, I am on your level rather than on his, — that you can understand better than he ? ”
If it were possible that a woman who is a mother could cease to be that in the first place, and become a friend first of all, a sympathizer in the very difficulties that overwhelm her son, that miracle was accomplished then. The woman whom she had with difficulty accepted as Theo’s future wife became for a moment nearer to her in the flood of sympathy than Theo himself. The woman’s pangs and hindrances were closer to her experience than the man’s. To him, in the heat of his young passion, nothing was worth considering that interfered with the perfect accomplishment of his love. But to her — the young woman, who had to piece on the present to the past, who though she might have abandoned father and mother could never abandon her child — the other woman’s heart went out with a pang of fellow feeling. Mrs. Warrender, like most women, had an instinctive repugnance to the idea of a second marriage at all ; but that being determined and beyond the reach of change, her heart ached for the dilemma which was more painful than any which enters into the possibilities of younger life. As Lady Markland leant towards her, claiming her sympathy, her face full of sentiments so conflicting, the joy of love and yet the anguish of it, and all the contrariety of a heart torn in two ; the youthfulness, when all was said, of her expressive countenance ; the recollection that, after all, this woman who claimed to be on her own level was not too old to be her child, seized upon Mrs. Warrender. Nothing that is direct and simple can be so poignant as those complications in which right and wrong and all the duties of human life are so confused that no sharply cut division is possible. What was she to do ? She would owe all her heart to her husband, and what was to remain for her child ? Geoff had upon her the first claim of nature — her love, her care, was his right ; but then Theo ? The old mother took the young one into her arms, with an ache of sympathy. “ Oh, my dear, what can I say to you ? We must leave it to Providence. Things come round when we do not think too much of them, but do our best.”
How poor a panacea, how slight a support ! and yet in how many cases all that one human creature can say to another ! To do our best and to think as little as possible, and things will come round ! The absolute mind scorns such mild consolation. To Theo it would have been an irritation, a wrong ; but Theo’s betrothed received it with humbler consciousness. The sympathy calmed her, and that so moderate, so humble voucher of experience that things come round. Was it really so? Was nothing so bad as it appeared ? Was it true that the way opened before you little by little in treading it, as she who had gone so much further on the path went on to say ? Lady Markland regained her composure as she listened.
“ You are speaking to me like a true mother,” she said. “ I have never known what it was. Help me, only help me, — even to know that you understand me is so much, — and do not blame me.”
“ Dear Lady Markland ” —
“ I have a name,” she said, with a smile which was full of pain, as if touching another subject of trouble, “ which is my own, which cannot be made any question of. Will you call me Frances ? It would please him. They say it would be unusual, unreasonable, a thing which is never done — to give up — Is that Theo ? Dear Mrs. Warrender, I shall be far happier, now that I know I have a friend in you.”
She grasped his mother’s hands with a hurried gesture, and an anxious, imploring look ; then gave a hasty glance into the glass, and recovered in a moment her air of gentle dignity, her smile. It was this that met Theo when he came in eager, yet doubtful, his eyes finding her out, with a rapid question, the instant that he entered. Whatever her troubles might be, none of them were made apparent to him.
Next day Mr. Longstaffe called upon Mrs. Warrender, nominally about the alterations that had to be made in her house, but really with objects much more important. He made notes scrupulously of what she wanted, and hoped that she would not allow anything to be neglected that was necessary for her comfort. When these preliminaries were over, there was a pause. He remained silent, with an expectant air, waiting to be questioned ; and though she had resolved, if possible, to refrain from doing so, the restriction was more than her faculties could bear.
“ My son tells me,” she said, as indifferently as possible, “ that there is a great deal going on between him and you.”
“ Naturally ! ” cried Mr. Longstaffe, with a certain indignation. “ He is making a marriage which is not at all a common kind of marriage, and yet he would have liked it to be without any settle meats at all.”
“ He could not wish anything that was not satisfactory to Lady Markland.”
“ Do you think so ? Then I must undeceive you. He would have liked Lady Markland to give herself to him absolutely, with no precautions, no restrictions.”
“ Mr. Longstaffe, Theo is very much in love. He has always been very sensitive ; he cannot bear (I suppose) mixing up business matters, which he hates, with ” —
“It is all very well for him to hate business: though between you and me, if you will allow me to say so, I think it very silly. Ladies may entertain such sentiments, but a man ought to know better. If you will believe me, he wants to marry her as if she were fifteen and had not a penny ! — to make her Mrs. Theodore Warrender and take her home to his own house ! ”
“ What should he do else ? Is not that the natural thing that every man wishes to do ? ”
“ Yes, if he marries a girl of fifteen without a penny, as I said. Mrs. Warrender, I know you are full of sense. Perhaps you will be able to put it before him in a better light. When a man marries a lady with an established position of her own, like Lady Markland, and a great many responsibilities, — especially when she is a sort of queen mother and has a whole noble family to be accountable to ” —
“ I do not wonder that Theo should be impatient, Mr. Longstaffe ; all these things must be terrible to him, in the midst of his — Why should not they marry first, and let all these details arrange themselves afterwards ? ”
“ Marry first ! and leave her altogether unsecured ! ”
“ I hope you know that my son is a man of honor, Mr. Longstaffe.”
“ My dear madam, we have nothing to do with men of honor in the law. I felt sure that you would understand at last. Suppose we had left Miss Minnie dependent upon the honor (though I don’t doubt it at all) of the Thynne family ?”
“ I don’t mean in respect to money,” said Mrs. Warrender, with a slight flush. “ He will not interfere with her money, — of that I am certain.”
“ No, only with herself; and she has been left the control of everything, and she must be free to administer her son’s property and look after his interests. If you will allow me to say it, Mrs. Warrender, Lady Markland is a much better man of business than Theo.”
Mr. Longstaffe had known Theo all his life, and had never addressed him otherwise than by that name : but it seemed an over-familiarity, a want of respect, even a sign of contempt, in the position in which Theo now stood. She replied with a little offense : —
“ That is very possible. He has had little experience, and he is a scholar, not a person of business. But why should the marriage be delayed ? This is the worst moment for them both. I know my son, Mr. Longstaffe. All this frets him beyond description now ; but when the uncertainty is over, and all these negotiations, everything will come round. He will never interfere or prevent her from doing what is necessary for her son. When they are once married all will go well.”
This was a long speech for Mrs. Warrender, and she made it with interruptions, with trepidation, not quite so sure, perhaps, of her own argument as she had thought she was. The lawyer looked at her with a kind of respectful contempt.
“ There may be a certain justice in what you say, that this is the worst moment, but I for one could never agree to anything so unbusinesslike as you seem to suggest. Marriage first, and business afterwards — no, no. And then there is the little boy. You would not have him sent off to nurse while his mother goes upon her honeymoon ? Poor little fellow, so devoted as she was to him before ! ”
“ A second marriage,” said Mrs. Warrender, subdued, “ can never be so simple, so easy, as one in which there are no complications.”
“ They are better, if they so abide,” said Mr. Longstaffe. “ I agree with St. Paul, for my part. But no doubt it would be hard upon a young woman, poor thing, that made such a failure in her first. If Theo were not so restive, if you could get him to take things a little more easily — Dear me, of course I trust in his honor; no one doubts that. But he will lead her a pretty dance ! Whether it will be better for her to have a good, crotchety, high-tempered young fellow who adores her, or a rough young scamp who neglected her” —
“ There can be no comparison between the two.”
“No,” said Mr. Longstaffe ruefully, but perhaps his judgment did not lean to Theo’s side.
“ And why should not they live at the Warren ? ” she asked. “It is not a fine house, but it is a good house, and with the improvements Theo is making " —
“My dear lady, to me the Warren is a delightful little place, or at least it could be made delightful. But Markland, — Markland is a very different matter. To change the one for the other would be — well, it would be, you won’t deny, something like a sacrifice. And why should she ? when Markland is all ready, wanting no alteration, an excellent house, and in the middle of the property which she has to manage : whereas the Warren ” —
“ I have lived in the Warren all my life,” said Mrs. Warrender, with a little natural indignation. It wounded her that he should talk of it patronizingly as “ a delightful little place.” She was not in any way devoted to the Warren ; still, this patronage, this unfavorable comparison, irritated her, and she began to range herself with more warmth upon her own side. “ I can see no reason why my son’s wife should not live there.”
“ But there are reasons why Lady Markland should not live there.”
Mrs. Warrender’s eyes shot forth fire. She no longer wondered that Theo was driven to the verge of distraction. Oh, that he had loved some young creature on his own level, some girl who would have gone sweetly to his home with him and glorified the old life ! His mother had wept over and soothed the woman of his choice only yesterday, entering into all the difficulties that beset her path, and pledging her own assistance to overcome them ; but now her mind was all in arms in behalf of her boy, whose individuality was to be crushed among them, who was to be made into an appendage to Lady Markland, and have no place of his own. Instead of giving her assistance to tame Theo, she felt herself take fire in his defense.
“ You are very right, no doubt, to consider Lady Markland in the first place,” she said, “ but I don’t think we can argue the question further, for to me my son must be the first.”
It is the right way,” said the lawyer ; " but when a young man lifts his eyes”—
“ We will say no more on the subject,” she said, quickly ; and Mr. Longstaffe was too judicious to do anything else than resume the question about the garden palings, and then to bow himself out. He turned, indeed, at the door to express his regrets that he had not brought her to his way of thinking, — that he had lost her valuable help, upon which he had calculated : but this did not conciliate Mrs. Warrender. She had no carriage at her orders, or she would have gone to the Warren at once, with the impulsiveness of her nature, to see what Theo was doing, what he was thinking of. But Theo was at Markland, alternating between the Paradiso and the Inferno, between the sweetness of his betrothed’s company and all the hard conditions of his happiness; and the Warren was in the hands of a set of leisurely country tradespeople, who, if Theo had meant to carry his bride there, must have postponed that happiness for a year or two, — not much wonder, perhaps, since they were left by the young master to dawdle on their own way.
Mrs. Warrender, however, had another and a surprising visitor on this same day. The ladies were sitting together in their usual way, in the heat of the afternoon, waiting until it should be cool enough for their walk, when the parlor-maid, not used, perhaps, to such visitors, opened the door, with a little excitement, and announced, " Lord Markland.” Mrs. Warrender rose quickly to her feet, with a low cry, and a sudden wild imagination such as will dart across a troubled mind. Lord Markland ! Had he never died, then ? Was it all a dream ? Had he come back to stop it in time ? A small voice interrupted this flash of thought, and brought her back to herself with a giddy sense of the ridiculous and a sensation of shame quite out of proportion to the momentary illusion. “ It is only me, Geoff : but I thought, when she asked me my name, I was obliged to give my right name.” He seemed smaller than ever, as he came across the room, twitching his face as his habit was, and paler, or rather grayer, with scanty locks and little twinkling eyes. “ Did you think it was some one else ? ” he said.
“ Of course it could be no one but you. I was startled for the moment, not thinking of you by that title. And have you come all this way alone — without any ” —
“ Oh, you were thinking of that other time. There is a great deal of difference since that other time. It is nearly a year since ; and now I do a great many things by myself,” said the boy, looking at her keenly. “ I am let to go wherever I please.”
“ Because you are now old enough to take care of yourself,” said Mrs. Warrender, “ with the help of Black.”
“ Yes,” said Geoff : “ how did you know ? I have got Black. But there is more in it than that. Would mamma have ruined me, if she had kept on always coddling me, Mrs. Warrender ? That is what the servants say.”
“ My dear, one never allows the servants to say things of that kind. You should understand your mother’s meaning much better than they can do.”
“ I see a great deal of the servants now,” said Geoff ; then he corrected himself with a look of sudden recollection — “ that is, I am afraid I disobey mamma, Mrs. Warrender. I am rather fond of the servants ; they are more amusing than other people. I go to the stables often when I know I ought n’t. To know you ought n’t, and yet to do it, is very bad, don’t you think ? ”
“ I am afraid it is, Geoff. Don’t you have any lessons now ? ”
“ They say this is holiday time,” said the boy. “ Of course I am glad of the holidays, but it is a little stupid, too, not having any one to play with — But I may come out a great deal more than I used to : and that is a great advantage, is n’t it ? I read, too, chiefly stories ; but a whole day is a very long time, don’t you think so ? I did not say where I was coming this afternoon, in case the pony might get tired, or Black turn cross, or something : but it appears Black likes to come to Highcombe ; he has friends here.” The boy had come close to Mrs. Warrender’s work-table, and was lifting up and putting down again the reels of silk, the thimbles and scissors. He went on with this occupation for some time very gravely, his back turned to the light. At length he said, “ I want you to tell me one thing. They say Warrender is coming to live at our house.”
“ I am afraid it is true, Geoff.”
“ Don’t you like it, then ? ” said the boy. “ I thought if you did not like it you would not let it be.”
“ My dear, my son Theo is a man. I cannot tell him what he must do, as your mother does to you. And if I do not like it, it is because he has a good house of his own.”
“ Ah, the Warren ! ” said Geoff ; then he added, pulling all the reels about in the work-table, and without raising his eyes to her face, “ if he is coming, I wish he would come, Mrs. Warrender ; then perhaps I should go to school. Don’t you think school is a good thing for a boy ? ”
“ Everybody says so, Geoff.”
“Yes, I know ; it is in all the books. Mrs. Warrender, if — Warrender is coming to live with us, will you be a sort of grandmother to me ? ”
This startled her very much. She looked at the odd child with a sensation almost of alarm.
“ Because,” he continued, “ I never had one, and I could come and talk to you when things were bad.”
“ I hope you will never have any experience of things being bad, Geoff.”
He gave a glance at her face, his hands still busy among the threads and needles.
“ Oh, no, never, perhaps — but, Mrs. Warrender, if — Warrender is coming to Markland to live, I wish he would do it now, directly. Then it would be settled what was going to be done with me — and — and other things.” Geoff’s face twitched more than ever, and she understood that the reason why he did not look at her was because his little eyelids were swollen with involuntary tears. “ There are a lot of things — that perhaps would get — settled then,” he said.
“ Geoff,” she said, putting her arm round him, “ I am afraid you don’t like it any more than I, my poor boy.”
Geoff would not yield to the demoralizing influence of this caress. He held himself away from her, swaying backwards, resisting the pressure of her arm. His eyelids grew bigger and bigger, his mouth twitched and quivered. “ Oh, it is not that,” he said, with a quiver in his voice, “ if mamma likes it. I am only little, I am rather backward, I am not — company enough for mamma.”
“ That must be one of the things that the servants say. You must not listen, Geoff, to what the servants say.”
“ But it is quite true. Mamma knows just exactly what is best.. I used to be the one that was always with her—and now it is Warrender. He can talk of lots of things, — things I don’t understand. For I tell you I am very backward ; I don’t know half, nor so much as half, what some boys do at my age.”
“ That is a pity, perhaps ; but it does not matter, Geoff, to your — to the people who are fond of you, my dear.”
“ Oh, yes, it does ! ” cried the boy. “Don’t hold me, please ! I am a little beast ; I am not grateful to people nor anything ! The best thing for me will just be to be sent to school.” Here Geoff turned his back upon her abruptly, forced thereto by the necessity of getting rid of those tears. When he had thus relieved himself, and cleared his throat of the climbing sorrow that threatened to choke his voice, he came back and stood once more by her table. The great effort of swallowing down all that emotion had made him pale, and left the strained look which the passage of a sudden storm leaves both upon the human countenance and the sky. “ They say it’s very jolly at Eton,” he resumed suddenly, taking up with his hot little nervous fingers Mrs. Warrender’s piece of work.
But at this point Geoff’s confidences were interrupted by the entrance of visitors, who not only meant to make themselves agreeable to Mrs. Warrender on her first arrival at Highcombe, but who were very eager to find out all that they could about the marriage of Theo : if it really were going to take place, and when, and everything about it. It added immensely to the excitement, but little to the information acquired, when, in answer to the first question, Mrs. Warrender indicated to her visitors that the little boy standing at her side, and contemplating them, with his hands in his pockets, was little Lord Markland. “ Oh, the boy,” they said under their breath, and stopped their questioning most unwillingly, all but the elder lady, who got Mrs. Warrender into a corner, and carried on the interrogatory. Was she quite pleased ? But of course she was pleased. The difference of age was so little that it did not matter ; and though the Markland family were known not to be rich, yet to be sure it was a very nice position. And such a fine character ! not a woman that was very popular, but quite above criticism. “ There never was a whisper against her, — oh, never a whisper ! and that is a great thing to say.” Geoff did not hear, and probably would not have understood, these comments. He still stood by the work-table, taking the reels of silk out of their places, and putting them back again with the gravity of a man who has something very important in hand. He seemed altogether absorbed in this simple occupation, bending over it with eyebrows contracted over his eyes, and every sign of earnestness. “ What a curious thing for a boy to take pleasure in ! But I suppose being always with his mother has rather spoiled him. It will be so good for the child to have a man in the house,” said the lady who was interviewing Mrs. Warrender. There was a little group of the younger ladies round Chatty, talking about the parish and the current amusements, and hoping that she would join the archery club, and that she loved croquet. The conversation was very animated on that side, one voice echoing another, although the replies of Chatty were mild. Geoff had all the centre of the room to himself, and stood there as on a stage; putting the reel of red silk into the square which was intended for the blue, and arranging the colors in squares and parallels. He was much absorbed in this, and yet he did not know what he was doing. his little bosom swelled high with thought ; his heart was wrung with the poignancy of love rejected, — of loss and change. It was not that he was jealous ; the sensations which he experienced had little bitterness or anger in them. Presently he turned round and said, “ I think I shall go home, Mrs. Warrender,” with a disagreeable consciousness that everybody paused and looked at him, when his small voice broke the murmur of the feminine conversation. But what did that matter to Geoff ? He had much to occupy him, — too much to leave him free to think how people looked, or what they said.
Geoff’s heart was full. He pondered all the way home, neglecting all the blandishments of Black’s conversation, who had visited a friend or two in Highcombe, and was full of cheerfulness and very loquacious. Geoff let him talk, but paid no attention. He himself had gone to Mrs. Warrender, whom he liked, with the hope of disburdening from his little bosom some of the perilous stuff which weighed upon his soul. He had wanted to sfogarsi, as the Italians say, to relieve a heart too full to go on any longer: but Geoff found, as so many others have found before him, that the relief thus obtained but made continued silence more intolerable. He could not shut up the doors again which had thus been forced open. The sensation which overwhelmed him was one which most people at one time or another have felt : that the circumstances amid which he was placed had become insupportable ; that life could no longer go on, under such conditions, — a situation terrible to the maturest man or woman, but what word can describe it in the heart of a child ? In his mother was summed up all love and reliance, all faith and admiration, for Geoff. She had been as the sun to him. She had been as God, the only known and visible representative of love and authority, the one unchangeable, ever right, ever true. And now she had changed, and all life was out of gear. His heart was sick, not because he was wronged, but because everything had gone wrong. He did not doubt his mother’s love ; he was not clear enough in his thoughts to doubt anything, or to put the case into any arrangement of words. He felt only that he could not bear it, that anything would be better than the present condition of affairs. Geoff’s heart filled, and his eyes, and there came a constriction of his throat when he realized the little picture of himself wandering about, with nobody to care for him, no lessons ; for the first time in his life forbidden to dart into his mother’s room at any moment, with a rush against the door, in full certainty that there could never be a time when she did not want him. Selfpity is very strong and very simple in a child, and to see, as it were, a picture in his mind of a little boy, shut out from his mother, and wanted by no one, was more poignant still than the reality. The world was out of joint ; and Geoff felt with Hamlet that there was nobody but him to set it right. The water came into his eyes, as he rode along, but except what he could get rid of by winking violently he left it to the breeze to dry ; no hand or handkerchief, not even a little knuckle piteously unabsorbent, would he employ to show to Black that he was crying. Crying ! No, he would not cry ; what could that do for him ? But something would have to be done, or said ; once the little floodgates had been burst open, they could not close any more.
Geoff pondered long, though with much confusion in his thoughts. He was very magnanimous : not even in his inmost soul did he blame his mother, being still young enough to believe that unhappy events come of themselves, and not by anybody’s fault. To think that she liked Theo better than himself made his heart swell, but rather with a dreadful sense of fatality than with blame. And then he was a little backward boy, not knowing things like Theo, whom, by the way, he no longer called Theo, having shrunk involuntarily, unawares, out of that familiarity as soon as matters had grown serious. As he thought it all over, Geoff’s very heart was rent. His mother had cried when she took him into her arms ; he remembered that she had kissed his cold feet, that she had looked as if she were begging his pardon, kneeling by his side on that terrible night when he had come dimly to an understanding of what it all meant. Geoff, like Hamlet in his little way, felt that nothing that could be done could ever undo that night. It was there, a fact which no after-revolution could change. No vengeance could have put back the world to what it was before Hamlet’s mother had married her brother-in-law, and the soft Ophelia turned into an innocent traitor, and all grown false : neither could anything undo to little Geoff the dreadful revolution of heaven and earth through which his little life had gone. All the world was out of joint, and what could he do to mend it, a little boy of ten, — a backward little boy, not knowing half so much as many at his age ? His little bosom swelled, his eyes grew wet, and that strange sensation came in his throat. But he kept on riding in front of Black, so that nothing could be seen.
Lady Markland was in the avenue as he rode up to the gate. Geoff knew very well that she had walked as far as the gate with Warrender, whom he had seen taking the road to the right, the short way across the fields. But when he saw his mother he got down from his pony, and walked home with her. “ Where have you been ? ” she cried. “ I was getting very anxious ; you must not go those long rides by yourself.”
“ I had Black,” said Geoff, “and you said I must learn to be independent, to be able to take care of myself.”
“ Did I say so, dear ? Perhaps it is true : but still you know how nervous I am, how anxious I grow.”
Geoff looked his mother in the face like an accusing angel ; not severely, but with all the angelic regret and tenderness of one who cannot be deceived, yet would fain blot out the fault with a tear. “Poor mamma !” he said, clasping her arm in his old childish way.
“ Why do you call me poor mamma ? Geoff, some one has been saying something to you ; your face is not like the face of my own boy,”
She was seized with sudden alarm, with a wild desire to justify herself, and the sudden wrath with which a conscious culprit takes advantage of the suggestion that ill tongues alone or evil representations have come between her and those whom she has wronged. The child, on his side, took no notice of this. He had gone so much further, — beyond the sphere in which there are accusations or defenses ; indeed, he was too young for anything of the kind. “Mamma,” he said, clasping her arm, “ I think I should like to go to school. Don’t you think it would be better for me to go to school ?”
“ To school ! ” she cried. “ Do you want to leave me, Geoff ? ” in a tone of sudden dismay.
“ They say a boy ought to go to school ; and they say it’s very jolly at Eton ; and I ’m very backward, don’t you know, — Warrender says so.”
“Geoff ! he has never said it to me.”
“ But if it is true, mamma ! There is no difference between me and a girl, staying at home. And there I should have other fellows to play with. You had better send me. I should like it.”
She gave him an anxious look, which Geoff did not lift his eyes to meet ; then, with a sigh, “If you think you would like it, Geoff. To be sure, it is what would have to be sooner or later.” Here she made a hurried breathless pause, as if her thoughts went quicker than she could follow. “ But now it is July, and you could not go before Michaelmas,” she said.
Was she sorry he could not go at once, though she had exclaimed at the first suggestion that he wanted to leave her at all ? Geoff was too young to ask himself this question, but there was a vague sensation in his mind of something like it, and of a mingled satisfaction and disappointment in his mother’s tone.
“ Warrender says there are fellows who prepare you for Eton,” the boy said, holding his breath hard that he might not betray himself. “ He is sure to know somebody. Send me now.”
“ You are very anxious to leave me,” she cried, in a tone of piteous excitement and misery. “ Why, why should you wish it so much ? ” Then she paused, and asked suddenly, “ Is it Mr. Warrender who has put this in your mind ?”
“ I don’t know nothing about Warrender,” said Geoff, blinking his eyes to keep the tears away. “ I never spoke to Warrender. He said that when he was not thinking about me.”
And then she clasped her arms about him suddenly in a transport of pain and trouble and relief. “ Oh, Geoff, Geoff,” she cried, “ why, why do you want to leave me ?” The boy could not but sob, pressed closely against her, feeling her heart swell as his own was doing : but neither did he make any attempt to answer, nor did she look for any reply.
Various scenes to which Markland was all unaccustomed had been taking place in these days : alternations of rapture and gloom on the part of Warrender, of shrinking and eagerness on the part of Lady Markland, which made their intercourse one of perpetual vicissitude. From the quiet of her seclusion she had been roused into all the storms of passion, and though this was sweetened by the absolute devotion of the young man who adored her, there were yet moments in which she felt like Geoff that the position was becoming insupportable. Everything in her life was turned upside down by this new element in it, which came between her and her child, between her and her business, the work to which she had so lately made up her mind to devote herself, as to the great object of her existence. All that was suspended now. When Theo was with her, he would not brook, nor did she desire, any interruption ; and when he was not with her the bewildering thoughts that would rush upon her, the questions in her mind as to what she ought to do, — whether it might not even now be better for everybody to break, if it were possible, those engagements which brought so much agitation, which hindered everything, which disturbed even the bond between herself and her child, — would sometimes almost destroy her moral balance altogether. And then her young lover would arrive, and all the miseries and difficulties would be forgotten, and it would seem as if earthly conditions and circumstances had rolled away, and there were but these two in a new life, a new world, where no troubles were. Then Lady Markland would say to herself that it was the transition only that was painful, that they were all in a false position, but that afterwards, when the preliminaries were over and all accomplished, everything would be well. When she was his, and he hers, beyond drawing back or doubt, beyond the possibility of separation, then all that was overanxious, over-sensitive, in Theo would settle down in the sober certainty of happiness secured, and Geoff, who was so young, would reconcile himself to that which would so soon appear the only natural condition of life, and the new would seem as good as, nay, better than, the old. She trembled herself upon the verge of the new, fearing any change and shrinking from it, as is natural for a woman, and yet in her heart felt that it would be better this great change should come and be accomplished, rather than to look forward to it, to go through all its drawbacks and pay its penalties every day.
A few days after these incidents Theo came to Markland, one morning, with brows more than usually cloudy. He had been annoyed about his house, the improvements about which had been going on very slowly : one of his tradespeople worse than another, the builder waiting for the architect, the carpenter for the builder, the new furniture and decorations naturally lagging behind all. And to make these things more easy to bear he had met Mrs. Wilberforce, who had told him that she wondered to see so much money being spent at the Warren, as she heard his home was to be at Markland, and so natural, as it was so much better a house; and that she had heard little Lord Markland was going to school immediately, which no doubt was the best thing that could be done, and would leave his mother free. When he arrived at. Markland he was full of the excitement of this information. “ I am never told,” he said. “ I do not wish to exact anything, but if you have made up your mind about Geoff, I think I might have heard it from yourself.”
“ Dear Theo ! ” Lady Markland said, and that was all.
Then he threw himself at her feet in sudden compunction. “ I am a brute,” he said. “ I come to you with my idiotic stories, and you listen to me with that sweet patience of yours, and never reprove me. Tell me I am a fool and not worthy of your trust ; I am so, I am so ! But it is because I can’t bear this state of affairs : to be everything to you, and yet nothing ; to know that you are mine, and yet have a stranger informing me what you are going to do.”
“ No stranger need inform you, Theo. Geoff has asked me to send him to school, though I can’t tell how any one could know. He wishes to go — directly. He is not happy, either. Oh, Theo, I think I make everybody unhappy instead of ” —
“ Not you,” he cried, “ not you ; those men, with their idiotic delays. Geoff is wise, — wiser than they are. Let us follow his example, dearest. You don’t distrust me ; you know that whatever is best for you, even what they think best, all their ridiculous conditions, I will carry out. Don’t you know that the less my hands are bound, the more I should accept the fetters, all, as much as they please, that they think needful for you ? — but not as conditions of having you. That is what I cannot bear.”
“ You have me,” she said, smiling upon him with a smile very close upon tears, “youknow, without any conditions at all.”
“ Then let it be so ! ” he cried. “ Oh, let it be so — directly, as Geoff wishes : dear little Geoff, wise Geoff, — let him be our example.”
“ Theo — oh, try to love my boy ! ”
“ I will make him my model, if you will take his example : directly, directly ! The child is wise, he knows better than any of us. Darling, let us take his example, let us cut this knot. When the uncertainty is over, all these difficulties will melt away.”
“ He is wise, Theo, — you don’t know how right you are. Oh, my boy ! and I am taking so little thought of him. I felt my heart leap when he asked to go away. Can you believe it ? My own boy, my only one ! I was glad, and I hate myself for it, though it was for you.”
“ All this,” he said, eagerly addressing himself with all the arts he knew to comfort and reassure her, “ is this state of miserable delay. We are in the transition from one to another. What good can we do to keep hanging on, to keep the whole county in talk, to make Geoff unhappy ? He goes by instinct, and he sees it : my own love, let us do so, too. Let us do it, without a word to any one, my dearest! ”
“ Oh, Theo,”she cried, “ if you will but promise me to love my boy ! ”
In the distracted state in which she was, this no-argumeut of Geoff’s little example went to her heart. It seemed to bring him somehow into the decision, to make it look like a concession to Geoff, a carrying out of his wishes, and at the same time a supreme plea with Theo for love and understanding of Geoff. Yet it was with falterings and sinkings of soul indescribable that Lady Markland went through the two following days. They were days wonderful, not to be ever forgotten. Theo did not appear, — he had gone away, she said, for a little while upon business, — and Geoff and she were left alone. They went back into all the old habitudes, as if nothing were changed ; and the house fell again into a strange calm, a quietness almost unnatural. There were no lessons, no business, nothing to be done, but only an abandonment to that pleasure of being together which had been so long broken. He went with her for her drives, and she went with him for his walk. She called for Geoff whenever he disappeared for a moment, as if she could not bear him away from her side. They were as they had been before Theo existed for them, when they were all in all to each other. Alas, they were, yet were not, as they had been. When they drove through the fair country, where the sheaves were standing in the fields and everything was aglow with the mirth of harvest, they were both lost in long reveries, only calling themselves back by intervals with a recollection of the necessity of saying something to each other. When they walked, though Geoff still clung to his mother’s arm, his thoughts as well as hers were away. They discovered in this moment of close reunion that they had lost each other. Not only did the mother no longer belong to the child, but the child even, driven from her side he knew not how, was lost to the mother ; they had set out unconsciously each upon a new and separate way. Geoff was not grieved, scarcely even startled, when she told him, on the second evening, that she was going to town next day ; for shopping, she said. He did not ask to be taken with her, nor thought of asking ; it appeared to Geoff that he had known all along that she would go. Lady Markland proposed to him that he should pay Mrs. Warrender a visit, and he consented, not asking why. He drove in with her to the station at Highcombe, where Chatty met him, and took leave of his mother strangely, in a curious, dreamy way, as if he were not sure what he was doing. To be sure, it was a parting of little importance. She was going to town, to do some shopping, and in less than a week she was to be back. It had never happened before, which gave the incident a distinguishing character, that was all. But she seated herself on the other side of the railway carriage, and did not keep him in her eye till she could see him no more. And though she cried under her veil some tears which were salt and bitter, yet in her heart there was a feeling of relief, — of relief to have parted with her boy ! Could such a thing be possible ? Geoff, on his side, went back with Chatty very quietly, saying little. He sat down in a corner of the drawingroom, with a book, his face twitching more than usual, his eyes puckered up tight ; but afterwards became, as Chatty said, “ very companionable,” which was indeed the chief quality of this little forsaken boy.
It was not till nearly a week after that Lady Markland came back. She arrived suddenly, one evening, with Theo, unexpected, unannounced. Dinner was over, and they had all gone into the garden in the warm summer twilight when these unlooked-for visitors came. Lady Markland was clad from head to foot in gray, the color of the twilight, — she who had been for so long all black. Theo followed her closely, in light attire also, and with a face all alight with happiness, more bright than in all his life his face had ever been before. He took Geoff by the shoulders with a sort of tender roughness, which was almost like an embrace. “ Is that you, my old boy ?” he said, with an unsteady laugh, pushing him into his mother’s arms. And then there was some crying and kissing, and Geoff heard it said that they had thought it better so, to avoid all fuss and trouble, and that it had taken place in town five days ago. To him no further explanations were made, but he seemed to understand it as well as the most grown-up person among them all.
This sudden step, which put all the power in Theo’s hands to thwart the lawyers and regulate matters at his own pleasure, made him at once completely subservient to them, accepting everything which he had struggled against before. He took up his abode at Markland with his wife without so much as a protest : from thence he found it an amusement to watch the slow progress of the works at the Warren ; riding over two or three times a week, sometimes accompanied by Geoff on his pony, sometimes by Geoff’s mother, who it appeared could ride very well, too. And when they went into society it was as Lady Markland and Mr. Warrender. Even on this point, without a word, Theo had given in.
There was, of course, a great outcry in the country about this almost runaway marriage. It was not dignified for Lady Markland, people said ; but there were some good-natured souls who said they did not wonder, for that a widow’s wedding was not a pretty spectacle, like a young girl’s, and of course there were always embarrassments, especially with a child so old as Geoff. What could his mother have done with him, had he been present at the wedding ? — and he must have been present at the wedding, if it had been performed in the ordinary way. Poor little Geoff ! If only the new husband would be good to him, everybody said.
M. O. W. Oliphant.