THE new guest's manner of presenting himself with his stick over his shoulder, and his carpet-bag on his back, subjected him to a battery of stares from Kenealy, Talboys, Fountain, and abashed him sore.
This lasted but a moment. He had one friend in the group who was too true to her flirtations while they endured, and too strong-willed, to let her flirtee be discouraged by mortal.
"Why, it is Mr. Dodd," cried she, with enthusiasm, and she put forth both hands to him, the palms downward, with a smiling grace. "Surely you know Mr. Dodd," said she, turning round quickly to the gentlemen, with a smile on her lip, but a dangerous devil in her eye.
The mistress of the house is all-powerful on these occasions. Messrs. Talboys and Fountain were forced to do the amiable, raging within; Lucy anticipated them; but her welcome was a cold one. Says Mrs. Bazalgette, tenderly, "And why do you carry that heavy bag, when you have that great stout lad with you? I think it is his business to carry it, not yours"; and her eyes scathed the boy, fiddle and all.
All the time she was saying this David was winking to her, and making faces to her not to go on that tack. His conduct now explained his pantomime. "Here, youngster," said he, "you take these things in-doors, and here is your half-crown."
Lucy averted her head, and smiled unobserved.
As soon as the lad was out of hearing, David continued: "It was not worth while to mortify him. The fact is, I hired him to carry it; but, bless you, the first mile he began to go down by the head, and would have foundered; so we shifted our cargoes." This amused Kenealy, who laughed good-humoredly. On this, David laughed for company.
"There," cried his inamorata, with rapture, "that is Mr. Dodd all over; thinks of everybody, high or low, before himself." There was a grunt somewhere behind her; her quick ear caught it; she turned round like a thing on a pivot, and slapped the nearest face. It happened to be Fountain's; so she continued with such a treacle smile, "Don't you remember, sir, how he used to teach your cub mathematics gratis?" The sweet smile and the keen contemporaneous scratch confounded Mr. Fountain for a second. As soon as he revived he said stiffly, "We can all appreciate Mr. Dodd."
Having thus established her Adonis on a satisfactory footing, she broke out all over graciousness again, and, smiling and chatting, led her guests beneath the hospitable roof.
But one of these guests did not respond to her cheerful strain. The Norman knight was full of bitterness. Mr. Talboys drew his friend aside and proposed to him to go back again. The senior was aghast. "Don't be so precipitate," was all that he could urge this time. "Confound the fellow! Yes, if that is the man she prefers to you, I will go home with you to-morrow, and the vile hussy shall never enter my doors again."
In this mind the pair went devious to their dressing-rooms.
One day a witty woman said of a man that "he played the politician about turnips and cabbages." That might be retorted (by a snob and brute) on her own sex in general, and upon Mrs. Bazalgette in particular. This sweet lady maneuvered on a carpet like Marlborough on the south of France. She was brimful of resources, and they all tended toward one sacred object, getting her own way. She could be imperious at a pinch and knock down opposition; but she liked far better to undermine it, dissolve it, or evade it. She was too much of a woman to run straight to her je-le-veux, so long as she could wind thitherward serpentinely and by detour. She could have said to Mr. Hardie, "You will take down Lucy to dinner," and to Mr. Dodd, "You will sit next me"; but no, she must mold her males--as per sample.
To Mr. Fountain she said, "Your friend, I hear, is of old family."
"Came in with the Conqueror, madam."
"Then he shall take me down: that will be the first step toward conquering me--ha! ha!" Fountain bowed, well pleased.
To Mr. Hardie she said, "Will you take down Lucy to-day? I see she enjoys your conversation. Observe how disinterested I am."
Hardie consented with twinkling composure.
Before dinner she caught Kenealy, drew him aside, and put on a long face. "I am afraid I must lose you to-day at dinner. Mr. Dodd is quite a stranger, and they all tell me I must put him at his ease.
"Well, then, you had better get next Lucy, as you can't have me."
"And, Captain Kenealy, you are my aid-de-camp. It is a delightful post, you know, and rather a troublesome one."
"You must help me be kind to this sailor."
"Yaas. He is a good fellaa. Carried the baeg for the little caed."
"Oh, did he?"
"And didn't maind been laughed at."
"Now, that shows how intelligent you must be," said the wily one; "the others could not comprehend the trait. Well, you and I must patronize him. Merit is always so dreadfully modest."
This arrangement was admirable, but human; consequently, not without a flaw. Uncle Fountain was left to chance, like the flying atoms of Epicurus, and chance put him at Bazalgette's right hand save one. From this point his inquisitive eye commanded David Dodd and Mrs. Bazalgette, and raked Lucy and her neighbors, who were on the opposite side of the table. People who look, bent on seeing everything, generally see something; item, it is not always what they would like to see.
As they retired to rest for the night, Mr. Fountain invited his friend to his room.
"We shall not have to go home. I have got the key to our antagonist. Young Dodd is her lover." Talboys shook his head with cool contempt. "What I mean is that she has invited him for her own amusement, not her niece's. I never saw a woman throw herself at any man's head as she did at that sailor's all dinner. Her very husband saw it. He is a cool hand, that Bazalgette; he only grinned, and took wine with the sailor. He has seen a good many go the same road--soldiers, sailors, tinkers, tai--"
Talboys interrupted him. "I really must call you to order. You are prejudiced against poor Mrs. Bazalgette, and prejudice blinds everybody. Politeness required that she should show some attention to her neighbor, but her principal attention was certainly not bestowed on Mr. Dodd."
Fountain was surprised. "On whom, then?"
"Well, to tell the truth, on your humble servant."
Fountain stared. "I observed she did not neglect you; but when she turned to Dodd her face puckered itself into smiles like a bag."
"I did not see it, and I was nearer her than you," said Talboys coldly.
"But I was in front of her."
"Yes, a mile off." There being no jurisconsult present to explain to these two magistrates that if fifty people don't see a woman pucker her face like a bag, and one does see her p. h. f. l. a. b., the affirmative evidence preponderates, they were very near coming to a quarrel on this grave point. It was Fountain who made peace. He suddenly remembered that his friend had never been known to change an opinion. "Well," said he, "let us leave that; we shall have other opportunities of watching Dodd and her; meantime I am sorry I cannot convince you of my good news, for I have some bad to balance it. You have a rival, and he did not sit next Mrs. Bazalgette."
"Pray may I ask whom he did sit next?" sneered Talboys.
"He sat--like a man who meant to win--by the girl herself."
"Oh, then it is that sing-song captain you fear, sir?" drawled Talboys.
"No, sir, no more than I dread the épergne. Try the other side."
"What, Mr. Hardie? Why, he is a banker."
"And a rich one."
"She would never marry a banker."
"Perhaps not, if she were uninfluenced; but we are not at Talboys Court or Font Abbey now. We have fallen into a den of parvenues. That Hardie is a great catch, according to their views, and all Mrs. Bazalgette's influence with Lucy will be used in his favor.
"I think not. She spoke quite slightingly of him to me."
"Did she? Then that puts the matter quite beyond doubt. Why should she speak slightingly of him? Bazalgette spoke to me of him with grave veneration. He is handsome, well behaved, and the girl talked to him nineteen to the dozen. Mrs. Bazalgette could not be sincere in underrating him. She undervalued him to throw dust in your eyes."
"It is not so easy to throw dust in my eyes."
"I don't say it is; but this woman will do it; she is as artful as a fox. She hoodwinked even me for a moment. I really did not see through her feigned politeness in letting you take her down to dinner."
"You mistake her character entirely. She is coquettish, and not so well-bred as her niece, but artful she is not. In fact, there is almost a childish frankness about her."
At this stroke of observation Fountain burst out laughing bitterly.
Talboys turned pale with suppressed ire, and went on doggedly: "You are mistaken in every particular. Mrs. Bazalgette has no fixed views for her niece, and I by no means despair of winning her to my side. She is anything but discouraging."
"Mr. Hardie is a new acquaintance, and Miss Fountain told me herself she preferred old friends to new. She looked quite conscious as she said it. In a word, Mr. Dodd is the only rival I have to fear--good-night;" and he went out with a stately wave of the hand, like royalty declining farther conference. Mr. Fountain sank into an armchair, and muttered feebly, "Good-night." There he sat collapsed till his friend's retiring steps were heard no more; then, springing wildly to his feet, he relieved his swelling mind with a long, loud, articulated roar of Anglo-Saxon, "Fool! dolt! coxcomb! noodle! puppy! ass!!!!"
Did ye ever read "Tully 'de Amicitia'?"
David Dodd was saved from misery by want of vanity. His reception at the gate by Miss Fountain was cool and constrained, but it did not wound him. For the last month life had been a blank to him. She was his sun. He saw her once more, and the bare sight filled him with life and joy. His was naturally a sanguine, contented mind. Some lovers equally ardent would have seen more to repine at than to enjoy in the whole situation; not so David. She sat between Kenealy and Hardie, but her presence filled the whole room, and he who loved her better than any other had the best right to be happy in the place that held her. He had only to turn his eyes, and he could see her. What a blessing, after a month of vacancy and darkness. This simple idolatry made him so happy that his heart overflowed on all within reach. He gave Mrs. Bazalgette answers full of kindness and arch gayety combined. He charmed an old married lady on his right. His was the gay, the merry end of the table, and others wished themselves up at it.
After the ladies had retired, his narrative powers, bonhomie and manly frankness soon told upon the men, and peals of genuine laughter echoed up to the very drawing-room, bringing a deputation from the kitchen to the keyhole, and irritating the ladies overhead, who sat trickling faint monosyllables about their three little topics.
Lucy took it philosophically. "Now those are the good creatures that are said to be so unhappy without us. It was a weight off their minds when the door closed on our retiring forms--ha! ha!"
"It was a restraint taken off them, my dear," said Mrs. Mordan, a starched dowager, stiffening to the naked eye as she spoke. "When they laugh like that, they are always saying something improper."
"Oh, the wicked things," replied Lucy, mighty calmly.
"I wish I knew what they are saying," said eagerly another young lady; then added, "Oh!" and blushed, observing her error mirrored in all eyes.
Lucy the Clement instructed her out of the depths of her own experience in impropriety. "They swear. That is what Mrs. Mordan means," and so to the piano with dignity.
Presently in came Messrs. Fountain and Talboys. Mrs. Bazalgette asked the former a little crossly how he could make up his mind to leave the gay party downstairs.
"Oh, it was only that fellow Dodd. The dog is certainly very amusing, but 'there's metal more attractive here.'"
Coffee and tea were fired down at the other gentlemen by way of hints; but Dodd prevailed over all, and it was nearly bedtime when they joined the ladies.
Mr. Talboys had an hour with Lucy, and no rival by to ruffle him.
Next day a riding-party was organized. Mr. Talboys decided in his mind that Kenealy was even less dangerous than Hardie, so lent him the quieter of his two nags, and rode a hot, rampageous brute, whose very name was Lucifer, so that will give you an idea. The grooms had driven him with a kicking-strap and two pair of reins, and even so were reluctant to drive him at all, but his steady companion had balanced him a bit. Lucy was to ride her old pony, and Mrs. Bazalgette the new. The horses came to the door; one of the grooms offered to put Lucy up. Talboys waved him loftily back, and then, strange as it may appear, David, for the first time in his life, saw a gentleman lift a lady into the saddle.
Lucy laid her right hand on the pommel and resigned her left foot; Mr. Talboys put his hand under that foot and heaved her smoothly into the saddle. "That is clever," thought simple David; "that chap has got more pith in his arm than one would think." They cantered away, and left him looking sadly after them. It seemed so hard that another man should have her sweet foot in his hand, should lift her whole glorious person, and smooth her sacred dress, and he stand by helpless; and then the indifference with which that man had done it all. To him it had been no sacred pleasure, no great privilege. A sense of loneliness struck chill on David as the clatter of her pony's hoofs died away. He was in the house; but in that house was a sort of inner circle, of which she was the center, and he was to be outside it altogether.
Liable to great wrath upon great occasions, he had little of that small irritability that goes with an egotistical mind and feminine fiber, so he merely hung his head, blamed nobody, and was sad in a manly way. While he leaned against the portico in this dejected mood, a little hand pulled his coat-tail. It was Master Reginald, who looked up in his face, and said timidly, "Will you play with me?" The fact is, Mr. Reginald's natural audacity had received a momentary check. He had just put this same question to Mr. Hardie in the library, and had been rejected with ignominy, and recommended to go out of doors for his own health and the comfort of such as desired peaceable study of British and foreign intelligence.
"That I will, my little gentleman," said David, "if I know the game."
"Oh, I don't care what it is, so that it is fun. What is your name?"
"And what is yours?"
"What, don't--you--know??? Why, Reginald George Bazalgette. I am seven. I am the eldest. I am to have more money than the others when papa dies, Jane says. I wonder when he will die."
"When he does you will lose his love, and that is worth more than his money; so you take my advice and love him dearly while you have got him."
"Oh, I like papa very well. He is good-natured all day long. Mamma is so ill-tempered till dinner, and then they won't let me dine with her; and then, as soon as mamma has begun to be good-tempered upstairs in the drawing-room, my bedtime comes directly; it's abominable!!" The last word rose into a squeak under his sense of wrong.
David smiled kindly: "So it seems we all have our troubles," said he.
"What! have you any troubles?" and Reginald opened his eyes in wonder. He thought size was an armor against care.
"Not so many as most folk, thank God, but I have some," and David sighed.
"Why, if I was as big as you, I'd have no troubles. I'd beat everybody that troubled me, and I would marry Lucy directly"; and at that beloved name my lord falls into a reverie ten seconds long.
David gave a start, and an ejaculation rose to his lips. He looked down with comical horror upon the little chubby imp who had divined his thought.
Mr. Reginald soon undeceived him. "She is to be my wife, you know. Don't you think she will make a capital one?" Before David could decide this point for him, the kaleidoscopic mind of the terrible infant had taken another turn. "Come into the stable-yard; I'll show you Tom," cried young master, enthusiastically. Finally, David had to make the boy a kite. When made it took two hours for the paste to dry; and as every ten minutes spent in waiting seemed an hour to one of Mr. Reginald's kidney, as the English classics phrase it, he was almost in a state of frenzy at last, and flew his new kite with yells. But after a bit he missed a familiar incident; "It doesn't tumble down; my other kites all tumble down."
"More shame for them," said David, with a dash of contempt, and explained to him that tumbling down is a flaw in a kite, just as foundering at sea is a vile habit in a ship, and that each of these descents, however picturesque to childhood's eye, implies a construction originally derective, or some little subsequent mismanagement. It appeared by Reginald's retort that when his kite tumbled he had the tumultuous joy of flying it again, but, by its keeping the air like this, monotony reigned; so he now proposed that his new friend should fasten the string to the pump-handle, and play at ball with him beneath the kite. The good-natured sailor consented, and thus the little voluptuary secured a terrestrial and ever-varying excitement, while occasional glances upward soothed him with the mild consciousness that there was his property still hovering in the empyrean; amid all which, poor love-sick David was seized with a desire to hear the name of her he loved, and her praise, even from these small lips. "So you are very fond of Miss Lucy?" said he.
"Yes," replied Reginald, dryly, and said no more; for it is a characteristic of the awfu' bairn to be mute where fluency is required, voluble where silence.
"I wonder why you love her so much," said David, cunningly. Reginald's face, instead of brightening with the spirit of explanation, became instantly lack-luster and dough-like; for, be it known, to the everlasting discredit of human nature, that his affection and matrimonial intentions, as they were no secret, so they were the butt of satire from grown-up persons of both sexes in the house, and of various social grades; down to the very gardener, all had had a fling at him. But soon his natural cordiality gained the better of that momentary reserve. "Well, I'll tell you," said he, "because you have behaved well all day."
David was all expectation.
"I like her because she has got red cheeks, and does whatever one asks her."
Oh, breadth of statement! Why was not David one of your repeaters? He would have gone and told Lucy. I should have liked her to know in what grand primitive colors peach-bloom and queenly courtesy strike what Mr. Tennyson is pleased to call "the deep mind of dauntless infancy." But David Dodd was not a reporter, and so I don't get my way; and how few of us do! not even Mr. Reginald, whose joyous companionship with David was now blighted by a footman. At sight of the coming plush, "There, now!" cried Reginald. He anticipated evil, for messages from the ruling powers were nearly always adverse to his joys. The footman came to say that his master would feel obliged if Mr. Dodd would step into his study a minute.
David went immediately.
"There, now!" squeaked Reginald, rising an octave. "I'm never happy for two hours together." This was true. He omitted to add, "Nor unhappy for one." The dear child sought comfort in retaliation. He took stones and pelted the footman's retiring calves. His admirers, if any, will be glad to learn that this act of intelligent retribution soothed his deep mind a little.
Mr. Bazalgette had been much interested by David's conversation the last night, and, hearing he was not with the riding-party, had a mind to chat with him. David found him in a magnificent study, lined with books, and hung with beautiful maps that lurked in mahogany cylinders attached to the wall; and you pulled them out by inserting a brass-hooked stick into their rings, and hauling. Mr. Bazalgette began by putting him a question about a distant port to which he had just sent out some goods. David gave him full information. Began, seaman-like, with the entrance to the harbor, and told him what danger his captain should look out for in running in, and how to avoid it; and from that went to the character of the natives, their tricks upon the sailors, their habits, tastes, and fancies, and, entering with intelligence into his companion's business, gave him some very shrewd hints as to the sort of cargo that would tempt them to sell the very rings out of their ears. Succeeding so well in this, Mr. Bazalgette plied him on other points, and found him full of valuable matter, and, by a rare union of qualities, very modest and very frank. "Now I like this," said Mr. Bazalgette, cheerfully. "This is a return to old customs. A century or two ago, you know, the merchant and the captain felt themselves parts of the same stick, and they used to sit and smoke together before a voyage, and sup together after one, and be always putting their heads together; but of late the stick has got so much longer, and so many knots between the handle and the point, that we have quite lost sight of one another. Here we merchants sit at home at ease, and send you fine fellows out among storms and waves, and think more of a bale of cotton spoiled than of a captain drowned."
David. "And we eat your bread, sir, as if it dropped from the clouds, and quite forget whose money and spirit of enterprise causes the ship to be laid on the stocks, and then built, and then rigged, and then launched, and then manned, and then sailed from port to port."
"Well, well, if you eat our bread, we eat your labor, your skill, your courage, and sometimes your lives, I am sorry to say. Merchants and captains ought really to be better acquainted."
"Well, sir," said David, "now you mention it, you are the first merchant of any consequence I ever had the advantage of talking with."
"The advantage is mutual, sir; you have given me one or two hints I could not have got from fifty merchants. I mean to coin you, Captain Dodd."
David laughed and blushed. "I doubt it will be but copper coin if you do. But I am not a captain; I am only first mate."
"You don't say so! Why, how comes that?"
"Well, sir, I went to sea very young, but I wasted a year or two in private ventures. When I say wasted, I picked up a heap of knowledge that I could not have gained on the China voyage, but it has lost me a little in length of standing; but, on the other hand, I have been very lucky; it is not every one that gets to be first mate at my age; and after next voyage, if I can only make a little bit of interest, I think I shall be a captain. No, sir, I wish I was a captain; I never wished it as now;" and David sighed deeply.
"Humph!" said Mr. Bazalgette, and took a note.
He then showed David his maps. David inspected them with almost boyish delight, and showed the merchant the courses of ships on Eastern and Western voyages, and explained the winds and currents that compelled them to go one road and return another, and in both cases to go so wonderfully out of what seems the track as they do. Bref, the two ends of the mercantile stick came nearer.
"My study is always open to you, Mr. Dodd, and I hope you will not let a day pass without obliging me by looking in upon me."
David thanked him, and went out innocently unconscious that he had performed an unparalleled feat. In the hall he met Captain Kenealy, who, having received orders to amuse him, invited him to play at billiards. David consented, out of good-nature, to please Kenealy. Thus the whole day passed, and les facheux would not let him get a word with Lucy.
At dinner he was separated from her, and so hotly and skillfully engaged by Mrs. Bazalgette that he had scarcely time to look at his idol. After dinner he had to contest her with Mr. Talboys and Mr. Hardie, the latter of whom he found a very able and sturdy antagonist. Mr. Hardie had also many advantages over him. First, the young lady was not the least shy of Mr. Hardie, but the parting scene beyond Royston had put her on her guard against David, and her instinct of defense made her reserved with him. Secondly, Mrs. Bazalgette was perpetually making diversions, whose double object was to get David to herself and leave Lucy to Mr. Hardie.
With all this David found, to his sorrow, that, though he now lived under the same roof with her, he was not so near her as at Font Abbey. There was a wall of etiquette and of rivals, and, as he now began to fear, of her own dislike between them. To read through that mighty transparent jewel, a female heart, Nauta had recourse--to what, do you think? To arithmetic. He set to work to count how many times she spoke to each of the party in the drawing-room, and he found that Mr. Hardie was at the head of the list, and he was at the bottom. That might be an accident; perhaps this was his black evening; so he counted her speeches the next evening. The result was the same. Droll statistics, but sad and convincing to the simple David. His spirits failed him; his aching heart turned cold. He withdrew from the gay circle, and sat sadly with a book of prints before him, and turned the leaves listlessly. In a pause of the conversation a sigh was heard in the corner. They all looked round, and saw David all by himself, turning over the leaves, but evidently not inspecting them.
A sort of flash of satirical curiosity went from eye to eye.
But tact abounded at one end of the room, if there was a dearth of it at the other.
La rusée sans le savoir made a sign to them all to take no notice; at the same time she whispered: "Going to sea in a few days for two years; the thought will return now and then." Having said this with a look at her aunt, that, Heaven knows how, gave the others the notion that it was to Mrs. Bazalgette she owed the solution of David's fit of sadness, she glided easily into indifferent topics. So then the others had a momentary feeling of pity for David. Miss Lucy noticed this out of the tail of her eye.
That night David went to bed thoroughly wretched. He could not sleep, so he got up and paced the deck of his room with a heavy heart. At last, in his despair, he said, "I'll fire signals of distress." So he sat down and took a sheet of paper, and fired: "Nothing has turned as I expected. She treats me like a stranger. I seem to drop astern instead of making any way. Here are three of us, I do believe, and all seem preferred to your poor brother; and, indeed, the only thing that gives me any hope is that she seems too kind to be in earnest, for it is not in her angelic nature to be really unkind; and what have I done? Eve, dear, such a change from what she was at Font Abbey, and that happy evening when she came and drank tea with us, and lighted our little garden up, and won your heart, that was always a little set against her. Now it is so different that I sit and ask myself whether all that is not a dream. Can anyone change so in one short month? I could not. But who knows? perhaps I do her wrong. You know I never could read her at home without your help, and, dear Eve, I miss you now from my side most sadly. Without you I seem to be adrift, without rudder or compass."
Then, as he could not sleep, he dressed himself, and went out at four o'clock in the morning. He roamed about with a heavy heart; at last he bethought him of his fiddle. Since Lucy's departure from Font Abbey this had been a great solace to him. It was at once a depository and vent to him; he poured out his heart to it and by it; sometimes he would fancy, while he played, that he was describing the beauties of her mind and person; at others, regretting the sad fate that separated him from her; or, hope reviving, would see her near him, and be telling her how he loved her; and, so great an inspirer is love, he had invented more than one clear melody during the last month, he who up to that time had been content to render the thoughts of others, like most fiddlers and composers.
So he said to himself, "I had better not play in the house, or I shall wake them out of their first sleep."
He brought out his violin, got among some trees near the stable-yard, and tried to soothe his sorrowful heart. He played sadly, sweetly and dreamingly. He bade the wooden shell tell all the world how lonely he was, only the magic shell told it so tenderly and tunefully that he soon ceased to be alone. The first arrival was on four legs: Pepper, a terrier with a taste for sounds. Pepper arrived cautiously, though in a state of profound curiosity, and, being too wise to trust at once to his ears, avenue of sense by which we are all so much oftener deceived than by any other, he first smelled the musician carefully and minutely all round. What he learned by this he and his Creator alone know, but apparently something reassuring; for, as soon as he had thoroughly snuffed his Orpheus, he took up a position exactly opposite him, sat up high on his tail, cocked his nose well into the air, and accompanied the violin with such vocal powers as Nature had bestowed on him. Nor did the sentiment lose anything, in intensity at all events, by the vocalist. If David's strains were plaintive, Pepper's were lugubrious; and what may seem extraordinary, so long as David played softly the Cerberus of the stableyard whined musically, and tolerably in tune; but when he played loud or fast poor Pepper got excited, and in his wild endeavors to equal the violin vented dismal and discordant howls at unpleasantly short intervals. All this attracted David's attention, and he soon found he could play upon Pepper as well as the fiddle, raising him and subduing him by turns; only, like the ocean, Pepper was not to be lulled back to his musical ripple quite so quickly as he could be lashed into howling frenzy.
While David was thus playing, and Pepper showing a fearful broadside of ivory teeth, and flinging up his nose and sympathizing loudly and with a long face, though not perhaps so deeply as he looked, suddenly rang behind David a chorus of human chuckles. David wheeled, and there were six young women's faces set in the foliage and laughing merrily. Though perfectly aware that David would look round, they seemed taken quite by surprise when he did look, and with military precision became instantly two files, for the four impudent ones ran behind the two modest ones, and there, by an innocent instinct, tied their cap-strings, which were previously floating loose, their custom ever in the early morning.
"Play us up something merry, sir," hazarded one of the mock-modest ones in the rear.
"Shan't I be taking you from your work?" objected David dryly.
"Oh, all work and no play is bad for the body," replied the minx, keeping ostentatiously out of sight.
Good-natured David played a merry tune in spite of his heart; and even at that disadvantage it was so spirit-stirring compared with anything the servants had heard, it made them all frisky, of which disposition Tom, the stable boy, who just then came into the yard, took advantage, and, leading out one of the housemaids by the polite process of hauling at her with both hands, proceeded to country dancing, in which the others soon demurely joined.
Now all this was wormwood to poor David; for to play merriment when the heart is too heavy to be cheered by it makes that heart bitter as well as sad. But the good-natured fellow said to himself: "Poor things, I dare say they work from morning till night, and seldom see pleasure but at a distance; why not put on a good face, and give them one merry hour." So he played horn-pipes and reels till all their hearts were on fire, and faces red, and eyes glittering, and legs aching, and he himself felt ready to burst out crying, and then he left off. As for il penseroso Pepper, he took this intrusion of merry music upon his sympathies very ill. He left singing, and barked furiously and incessantly at these ancient English melodies and at the dancers, and kept running from and running at the women's whirling gowns alternately, and lost his mental balance, and at last, having by a happier snap than usual torn off two feet of the under-housemaid's frock, shook and worried the fragment with insane snarls and gleaming eyes, and so zealously that his existence seemed to depend on its annihilation.
David gave those he had brightened a sad smile, and went hastily in-doors. He put his violin into its case, and sealed and directed his letter to Eve. He could not rest in-doors, so he roamed out again, but this time he took care to go on the lawn. Nobody would come there, he thought, to interrupt his melancholy. He was doomed to be disappointed in that respect. As he sat in the little summer-house with his head on the table, he suddenly heard an elastic step on the dry gravel. He started peevishly up and saw a lady walking briskly toward him: it was Miss Fountain.
She saw him at the same instant. She hesitated a single half-moment; then, as escape was impossible, resumed her course. David went bashfully to meet her.
"Good-morning, Mr. Dodd," said she, in the most easy, unembarrassed way imaginable.
He stammered a "good-morning," and flushed with pleasure and confusion.
He walked by her side in silence. She stole a look at him, and saw that, after the first blush at meeting her, he was pale and haggard. On this she dashed into singularly easy and cheerful conversation with him; told him that this morning walk was her custom--"My substitute for rouge, you know. I am always the first up in this languid house; but I must not boast before you, who, I dare say, turn out--is not that the word?--at daybreak. But, now I think of it, no! you would have crossed my hawse before, Mr. Dodd," using naval phrases to flatter him.
"It was my ill-luck; I always cruised a mile off. I had no idea this bit of gravel was your quarter-deck."
"It is, though, because it is always dry. You would not like a quarter-deck with that character, would you?"
"Oh yes, I should. I'd have my bowsprit always wet, and my quarter-deck always dry. But it is no use wishing for what we cannot have."
"That is very true," said Lucy, quietly.
David reflected on his own words, and sighed deeply.
This did not suit Lucy. She plied him with airy nothings, that no man can arrest and impress on paper; but the tone and smile made them pleasing, and then she asked his opinion of the other guests in such a way as implied she took some interest in his opinion of them, but mighty little in the people themselves. In short, she chatted with him like an old friend, and nothing more; but David was not subtle enough in general, nor just now calm enough, to see on what footing all this cordiality was offered him. His color came back, his eye brightened, happiness beamed on his face, and the lady saw it from under her lashes.
"How fortunate I fell in with you here! You are yourself again--on your quarter-deck. I scarce knew you the last few days. I was afraid I had offended you. You seemed to avoid me."
"Nonsense, Mr. Dodd; what is there about you to avoid?"
"Plenty, Miss Fountain; I am so inferior to your other friends."
"I was not aware of it, Mr. Dodd."
"And I have heard your sex has gusts of caprice, and I thought the cold wind was blowing upon me; and that did seem very sad, just when I am going out, and perhaps shall never see your sweet face or hear your lovely voice again."
"Don't say that, Mr. Dodd, or you will make me sad in earnest. Your prudence and courage, and a kind Providence, will carry you safe through this voyage, as they have through so many, and on your return the acquaintance you do me the honor to value so highly will await you--if it depends on me."
All this was said kindly and beautifully, and almost tenderly, but still with a certain majesty that forbade love-making--rendered it scarce possible, except to a fool. But David was not captious. He could not, like the philosopher, sift sunshine. For some days he had been almost separated from her. Now she was by his side. He adored her so that he could no longer realize sorrow or disappointment to come. They were uncertain--future. The light of her eyes, and voice, and face, and noble presence were here; he basked in them.
He told her not to mind a word he had said. "It was all nonsense. I am happier now--happier than ever."
At this Lucy looked grave and became silent.
David, to amuse her, told her there was "a singing dog aboard," and would she like to hear him?
This was a happy diversion for Lucy. She assented gayly. David ran for his fiddle, and then for Pepper. Pepper wagged his tail, but, strong as his musical taste was, would not follow the fiddle. But at this juncture Master Reginald dawned on the stable-yard with a huge slice of bread and butter. Pepper followed him. So the party came on the lawn and joined Lucy. Then David played on the violin, and Pepper performed exactly as hereinbefore related. Lucy laughed merrily, and Reginald shrieked with delight, for the vocal terrier was mortal droll.
"But, setting Pepper aside, that is a very sweet air you are playing now, Mr. Dodd. It is full of soul and feeling."
"Is it?" said David, looking wonderstruck; "you know best."
"Who is the composer?"
David looked confused and said, "No one of any note."
Lucy shot a glance at him, keen as lightning. What with David's simplicity and her own remarkable talent for reading faces, his countenance was a book to her, wide open, Bible print. "The composer's name is Mr. Dodd," said she, quietly.
"I little thought you would be satisfied with it," replied David, obliquely.
"Then you doubted my judgment as well as your own talent."
"My talent! I should never have composed an air that would bear playing but for one thing."
"And what was that?" said Lucy, affecting vast curiosity. She felt herself on safe ground now--the fine arts.
"You remember when you went away from Font Abbey, and left us all so heavy-hearted?"
"I remember leaving Font Abbey," replied Lucy, with saucy emphasis, and an air of lofty disbelief in the other incident.
"Well, I used to get my fiddle, and think of you so far away, and sweet sad airs came to my heart, and from my heart they passed into the fiddle. Now and then one seemed more worthy of you than the rest were, and then I kept that one."
"You mean you took the notes down," said Lucy coldly.
"Oh no, there was no need; I wrote it in my head and in my heart. May I play you another of your tunes? I call them your tunes."
Lucy blushed faintly, and fixed her eyes on the ground. She gave a slight signal of assent, and David played a melody.
"It is very beautiful," said she in a low voice. "Play it again. Can you play it as we walk?"
"Oh yes." He played it again. They drew near the hall door. She looked up a moment, and then demurely down again.
"Now will you be so good as to play the first one twice?" She listened with her eyelashes drooping. "Tweedle dee! tweedle dum! tweedle dee." "And now we will go into breakfast," cried Lucy, with sudden airy cheerfulness, and, almost with the word, she darted up the steps, and entered the house without even looking to see whether David followed or what became of him.
He stood gazing through the open door at her as she glided across the hall, swift and elastic, yet serpentine, and graceful and stately as Juno at nineteen.
These Junones, severe in youthful beauty, fill us Davids with irrational awe; but, the next moment, they are treated like small children by the very first matron they meet; they resign their judgment at once to hers, and bow their wills to her lightest word with a slavish meanness.
Creation's unmarried lords, realize your true position--girls govern you, and wives govern girls.
Mrs. Bazalgette, on Lucy's entrance, ran a critical eye over her, and scolded her like a six-year-old for walking in thin shoes.
"Only on the gravel, aunt," said the divine slave, submissively.
"No matter; it rained last night. I heard it patter. You want to be laid up, I suppose."
"I will put on thicker ones in future, dear aunt," murmured the celestial serf.
Now Mrs. Bazalgette did not really care a button whether the servile angel wore thick soles or thin. She was cross about something a mile off that. As soon as she had vented her ill humor on a sham cause, she could come to its real cause good-temperedly. "And, Lucy, love, do manage better about Mr. Dodd."
Lucy turned scarlet. Luckily, Mrs. Bazalgette was evading her niece's eye, so did not see her telltale cheek.
"He was quite thrown out last night; and really, as he does not ride with us, it is too bad to neglect him in-doors."
"Oh, excuse me, aunt, Mr. Dodd is your protégé. You did not even tell me you were going to invite him."
"I beg your pardon, that I certainly did. Poor fellow, he was out of spirits last night."
"Well, but, aunt, surely you can put an admirer in good spirits when you think proper," said Lucy slyly.
"Humph! I don't want to attract too much attention. I see Bazalgette watching me, and I don't wish to be misinterpreted myself, or give my husband pain."
She said this with such dignity that Lucy, who knew her regard for her husband, had much ado not to titter. But courtesy prevailed, and she said gravely: "I will do whatever you wish me, only give me a hint at the time; a look will do, you know."
The ladies separated; they met again at the breakfast-room door. Laughter rang merrily inside, and among the gayest voices was Mr. Dodd's. Lucy gave Mrs. Bazalgette an arch look. "Your patient seems better;" and they entered the room, where, sure enough, they found Mr. Dodd the life and soul of the assembled party.
"A letter from Mrs. Wilson, aunt."
"And, pray, who is Mrs. Wilson?"
"My nurse. She tells me 'it is five years since she has seen me, and she is wearying to see me.' What a droll expression, 'wearying.'"
"Ah!" said David Dodd.
"You have heard the word before, Mr. Dodd?"
"No, I can't say I have; but I know what it must mean."
"Lying becalmed at the equator, eh! Dodd?" said Bazalgette, misunderstanding him.
"Mrs. Wilson tells me she has taken a farm a few miles from this."
"Interesting intelligence," said Mrs. Bazalgette.
"And she says she is coming over to see me one of these days, aunt," said Lucy, with a droll expression, half arch, half rueful. She added timidly, "There is no objection to that, is there?"
"None whatever, if she does not make a practice of it; only mind, these old servants are the greatest pests on earth."
"I remember now," said Lucy thoughtfully, "Mrs. Wilson was always very fond of me. I cannot think why, though."
"No more can I," said Mr. Hardie, dryly; "she must be a thoroughly unreasonable woman."
Mr. Hardie said this with a good deal of grace and humor, and a laugh went round the table.
"I mean she only saw me at intervals of several years."
"Why, Lucy, what an antiquity you are making yourself," said Fountain.
But Lucy was occupied with her puzzle. "She calls me her nursling," said Lucy, sotto voce, to her aunt, but, of course, quite audibly to the rest of the company; "her dear nursling;" and says, "she would walk fifty miles to see me. Nursling? hum! there is another word I never heard, and I do not exactly know-- Then she says--"
"Taisez-vous, petite sotte!" said Mrs. Bazalgette, in a sharp whisper, so admirably projected that it was intelligible only to the ear it was meant for.
Lucy caught it and stopped short, and sat looking by main force calm and dignified, but scarlet, and in secret agony. "I have said something amiss," thought Lucy, and was truly wretched.
"We don't believe in Mrs. Wilson's affection on this side the table," said Mr. Hardie; "but her revelations interest us, for they prove that Miss Fountain had a beginning. Now we had thought she rose from the foam like Venus, or sprung from Jove's brow like Minerva, or descended from some ancient pedestal, flawless as the Parian itself."
"What, sir," cried Bazalgette, furiously, "did you think our niece was built in a day? So fair a structure, so accomplished a--"
"Will you be quiet, good people?" said Mrs. Bazalgette. "She was born, she was bred, she was brought up, in which I had a share, and she is a very good girl, if you gentlemen will be so good as not to spoil her for me with your flattery."
"There!" said Lucy, courageously, enforcing her aunt's thunderbolt; and she leaned toward Mrs. Bazalgette, and shot back a glance of defiance, with arching neck, at Mr. Bazalgette.
After breakfast she ran to Mrs. Bazalgette. "What was it?"
"Oh, nothing; only the gentlemen were beginning to grin."
"Oh, dear! did I say anything--ridiculous?"
"No, because I stopped you in time. Mind, Lucy, it is never safe to read letters out from people in that class of life; they talk about everything, and use words that are quite out of date. I stopped you because I know you are a simpleton, and so I could not tell what might pop out next."
"Oh, thank you, aunt--thank you," cried Lucy, warmly. "Then I did not expose myself, after all."
"No, no; you said nothing that might not be proclaimed at St. Paul's Cross--ha! ha!"
"Am I a simpleton, aunt?" inquired Lucy, in the tone of an indifferent person seeking knowledge.
"Not you," replied this oblivious lady. "You know a great deal more than most girls of your age. To be sure, girls that have been at a fashionable school generally manage to learn one or two things you have no idea of."
"As you say--he! he! But you make up for it, my dear, in other respects. If the gentlemen take you for a pane of glass, why, all the better; meantime, shall I tell you your real character? I have only just discovered it myself."
"Oh, yes, aunt, tell me my character. I should so like to hear it from you."
"Should you?" said the other, a little satirically; "well, then, you are an INNOCENT FOX."
"An in-no-cent fox; so run and get your work-box. I want you to run up a tear in my flounce."
Lucy went thoughtfully for her workbox, murmuring ruefully, "I am an innocent fox--I am an in-nocent fox."
She did not like her new character at all; it mortified her, and seemed self-contradictory as well as derogatory.
On her return she could not help remonstrating: "How can that be my character? A fox is cunning, and I despise cunning; and I am sure I am not innocent," added she, putting up both hands and looking penitent. With all this, a shade of vexation was painted on her lovely cheeks as she appealed against her epigram.
Mrs. Bazalgette (with the calm, inexorable superiority of matron despotism). "You are an in-nocent fox!! Is your needle threaded? Here is the tear; no, not there. I caught against the flowerpot frame, and I'll swear I heard my gown go. Look lower down, dear. Don't give it up."
All which may perhaps remind the learned and sneering reader of another fox--the one that "had a wound, and he could not tell where."
They rode out to-day as usual, and David had the equivocal pleasure of seeing them go from the door.
Lucy was one of the first down, and put her hand on the saddle, and looked carelessly round for somebody to put her up. David stepped hastily forward, his heart beating, seized her foot, never waited for her to spring, but went to work at once, and with a powerful and sustained effort raised her slowly and carefully like a dead weight, and settled her in the saddle. His gripe hurt her foot. She bore it like a Spartan sooner than lose the amusement of his simplicity and enormous strength, so drolly and unnecessarily exerted. It cost her a little struggle not to laugh right out, but she turned her head away from him a moment and was quit for a spasm. Then she came round with a face all candor.
"Thank you, Mr. Dodd," said she, demurely; and her eyes danced in her head. Her foot felt encircled with an iron band, but she bore him not a grain of malice for that, and away she cantered, followed by his longing eyes.
David bore the separation well. "To-morrow morning I shall have her all to myself," said he. He played with Kenealy and Reginald, and chatted with Bazalgette. In the evening she was surrounded as usual, and he obtained only a small share of her attention. But the thought of the morrow consoled him. He alone knew that she walked before breakfast.
The next morning he rose early, and sauntered about till eight o'clock, and then he came on the lawn and waited for her. She did not come. He waited, and waited, and waited. She never came. His heart died within him. "She avoids me," said he; "it is not accident. I have driven her out of her very garden; she always walked here before breakfast (she said so) till I came and spoiled her walk; Heaven forgive me."
David could not flatter himself that this interruption of her acknowledged habit was accidental. On the other hand, how kind and cheerful she had been with him on the same spot yesterday morning. To judge by her manner, his company on her quarter-deck was not unwelcome to her yet she kept her room to-day, from the window of which she could probably see him walking to and fro, longing for her. The bitter disappointment was bad enough, but here tormenting perplexity as to its cause was added, and between the two the pining heart was racked.
This is the cruelest separation; mere distance is the mildest. Where land and sea alone lie between two loving hearts, they pine, but are at rest. A piece of paper, and a few lines traced by the hand that reads like a face, and the two sad hearts exult and embrace one another afresh, in spite of a hemisphere of dirt and salt water, that parts bodies but not minds. But to be close, yet kept aloof by red-hot iron and chilling ice, by rivals, by etiquette and cold indifference--to be near, yet far--this is to be apart--this, this is separation.
A gush of rage and bitterness foreign to his natural temper came over Mr. Dodd. "Since I can't have the girl I love, I will have nobody but my own thoughts. I cannot bear the others and their chat to-day. I will go and think of her, since that is all she will let me do"; and directly after breakfast David walked out on the downs and made by instinct for the sea. The wounded deer shunned the lively herd.
The ladies, as they sat in the drawing-room, received visits of a less flattering character than usual. Reginald kept popping in, inquiring, "Where was Mr. Dodd?" and would not believe they had not hid him somewhere. He was followed by Kenealy, who came in and put them but one question, "Where is Dawd?"
"We don't know," said Mrs. Bazalgette sharply; "we have not been intrusted with the care of Mr. Dodd."
Kenealy sauntered forth disconsolate. Finally Mr. Bazalgette put his head in, and surveyed the room keenly but in silence; so then his wife looked up, and asked him satirically if he did not want Mr. Dodd.
"Of course I do," was the gracious reply; "what else should I come here for?"
"Well, he is lost; you had better put him in the 'Hue and Cry.'"
La Bazalgette was getting jealous of her own flirtee: he attracted too much of that attention she loved so dear.
At last Reginald, despairing of Dodd, went in search of another playmate--Master Christmas, a young gentleman a year older than himself, who lived within half a mile. Before he went he inquired what there was for his dinner, and, being informed "roast mutton," was not enraptured; he then asked with greater solicitude what was the pudding, and, being told "rice," betrayed disgust and anger, as was remembered when too late.
At two o'clock, the day being fine, the ladies went for a long ride, accompanied by Talboys only. Kenealy excused himself: "He must see if he could not find Dawd."
Mrs. Bazalgette started in a pet; but, after the first canter, she set herself to bewitch Mr. Talboys, just to keep her hand in; she flattered him up hill and down dale. Lucy was silent and distraite.
"From that hill you look right down upon the sea," said Mrs. Bazalgette; "what do you say? It is only two miles farther."
On they cantered, and, leaving the high road, dived into a green lane which led them, by a gradual ascent, to Mariner's Folly on the summit of the cliff. Mariner's Folly looked at a distance like an enormous bush in the shape of a lion; but, when you came nearer, you saw it was three remarkably large blackthorn-trees planted together. As they approached it at a walk, Mrs. Bazalgette told Mr. Talboys its legend.
"These trees were planted a hundred and fifty years ago by a retired buccaneer."
"Aunt, now, it was only a lieutenant."
"Be quiet, Lucy, and don't spoil me; I call him a buccaneer. Some say it is named his 'Folly,' because, you must know, his ghost comes and sits here at times, and that is an absurd practice, shivering in the cold. Others more learned say it comes from a Latin word 'folio,' or some such thing, that means a leaf; the mariner's leafy screen." She then added with reckless levity, "I wonder whether we shall find Buckey on the other side, looking at the ships through a ghostly telescope--ha! ha!--ah! ah! help! mercy! forgive me! Oh, dear, it is only Mr. Dodd in his jacket--you frightened me so. Oh! oh! There--I am ill. Catch me, somebody;" and she dropped her whip, and, seeing David's eye was on her, subsided backward with considerable courage and trustfulness, and for the second time contrived to be in her flirtee's arms.
I wish my friend Aristotle had been there; I think he would have been pleased at her [Greek] (presence of mind) in turning even her terror of the supernatural so quickly to account, and making it subservient to flirtation.
David sat heart-stricken and hopeless, gazing at the sea. The hours passed by his heavy heart unheeded. The leafy screen deadened the light sound of the horses' feet on the turf, and, moreover, his senses were all turned inward. They were upon him, and he did not move, but still held his head in his hands and gazed upon the sea. At Mrs. Bazalgette's cries he started up, and looked confusedly at them all; but, when she did the feinting business, he thought she was going to faint, and caught her in his arms; and, holding her in them a moment as if she had been a child, he deposited her very gently in a sitting posture at the foot of one of the trees, and, taking her hand, slapped it to bring her to.
"Oh, don't! you hurt me," cried the lady in her natural voice.
Lucy, barbarous girl, never came to her aunt's assistance. At the first fright she seemed slightly agitated, but she now sat impassive on her pony, and even wore a satirical smile.
"Now, dear aunt, when you have done, Mr. Dodd will put you on your horse again."
On this hint David lifted her like a child, malgré a little squeak she thought it well to utter, and put her in the saddle again. She thanked him in a low, murmuring voice. She then plied David with a host of questions. "How came he so far from home?" "Why had he deserted them all day?" David hung his head, and did not answer. Lucy came to his relief: "It would be as well if you would make him promise to be at home in time for dinner; and, by the way, I have a favor to ask of you, Mr. Dodd."
"A favor to ask of me?!"
"Oh, you know we all make demands upon your good-nature in turn."
"That is true," said La Bazalgette, tenderly. "I don't know what will become of us all when he goes."
Lucy then explained "that the masked ball suggested by Mr. Talboys' beautiful dresses was to be very soon, and she wanted Mr. Dodd to practice quadrilles and waltzes with her; it will be so much better with the violin and piano than with a piano alone, and you are such an excellent timist--will you, Mr. Dodd?"
"That I will," said David, his eyes sparkling with delight; "thank you."
"Then, as I shall practice before the gentlemen join us, and it is four o'clock now, had you not better turn your back on the sea, and make the best of your way home?"
"I will be there almost as soon as you."
"Indeed! what, on foot, and we on horseback?"
"Ay; but I can steer in the wind's eye."
"Aunt, Mr. Dodd proposes a race home."
"With all my heart. How much start are we to give him?"
"None at all," said David; "are you ready? Then give way," and he started down the hill at a killing pace.
The equestrians were obliged to walk down the hill, and when they reached the bottom David was going as the crow flies across some meadows half a mile ahead. A good canter soon brought them on a line with him, but every now and then the turns of the road and the hills gave him an advantage. Lucy, naturally kind-hearted, would have relaxed her pace to make the race more equal, but Talboys urged her on; and as a horse is, after all, a faster animal than a sailor, they rode in at the front gate while David was still two fields off.
"Come," said Mrs. Bazalgette, regretfully, "we have beat him, poor fellow, but we won't go in till we see what has become of him."
As they loitered on the lawn, Henry the footman came out with a salver, and on it reposed a soiled note. Henry presented it with demure obsequiousness, then retired grinning furtively.
"What is this--a begging-letter? What a vile hand! Look, Lucy; did you ever? Why, it must be some pauper."
"Have a little mercy, aunt," said Lucy, piteously; "that hand has been formed under my care and daily superintendence: it is Reginald's."
"Oh, that alters the case. What can the dear child have to say to me! Ah! the little wretch! Send the servants after him in every direction. Oh, who would be a mother!"
The letter was written in lines with two pernicious defects. 1st. They were like the wooden part of a bow instead of its string. 2d. They yielded to gravity--kept tending down, down, to the righthand corner more and more. In the use of capitals the writer had taken the copyhead as his model. The style, however, was pithy, and in writing that is the first Christian grace--no, I forgot, it is the second; pellucidity is the first.
"Dear mama, me and johnny
Cristmas are gone to the north
Pole his unkle went twise we
Shall be back in siks munths
Please give my love to lucy and
Papa and ask lucy to be kind to
My ginnipigs i shall want them
Wen i come back. too much
Cabiges is not good for ginnipigs.
Wen i come back i hope there
Will be no rise left. it is very
Unjust to give me those nasty
Messy pudens i am not a child
There filthy there abbommanabel.
Johny says it is funy at the north
Pole and there are bares and they
"Your duteful son
"Reginald George Bazalgette."
This innocent missive set house and premises in an uproar. Henry was sent east through the dirt, multa reluctantem, in white stockings. Tom galloped north. Mrs. Bazalgette sat in the hall, and did well-bred hysterics for Kenealy and Talboys. Lucy pinned up her habit, and ran to the boundary hedge on the bare chance of seeing the figures of the truants somewhere short of the horizon. Lo, and behold, there was David Dodd crossing the very nearest field and coming toward her, an urchin in each hand.
Lucy ran to meet them. "Oh, you dear naughty children, what a fright you have given us! Oh, Mr. Dodd, how good of you! Where did you find them?"
"Under that hedge, eating apples. They tell me they sailed for the North Pole this morning, but fell in with a pirate close under the land, so 'bout ship and came ashore again."
"A pirate, Mr. Dodd? Oh, I see, a beggar--a tramp."
"A deal worse than that, Miss Lucy. Now, youngster, why don't you spin your own yarn?"
"Yes, tell me, Reggy."
"Well, dear, when I had written to mamma, and Johnny had folded it--because I can write but I can't fold it, and he can fold it but he can't write it--we went to the North Pole, and we got a mile; and then we saw that nasty Newfoundland dog sitting in the road waiting to torment us. It is Farmer Johnson's, and it plays with us, and knocks us down, and licks us, and frightens us, and we hate it; so we came home."
"Ha! ha! good, prudent children. Oh, dear, you have had no dinner."
"Oh, yes we had, Lucy, such a nice one: we bought such a lot of apples of a woman. I never had a dinner all apples before; they always spoil them with mutton and things, and that nasty, nasty rice"
"Hear to that!" shouted David Dodd. "They have been dining upon varjese" (verjuice), "and them growing children. I shall take them into the kitchen, and put some cold beef into their little holds this minute, poor little lambs."
"Oh yes, do; and I will run and tell the good news." She ran across the lawn, and came into the hall red with innocent happiness and agitation. "They are found, aunt, they are found; don't cry. Mr. Dodd found them close by, They have had no dinner, so that good, kind Mr. Dodd is taking them into the kitchen. I will send Master Christmas home with a servant. Shall I bring you Reggy to kiss?"
"No, no; wicked little wretch, to frighten his poor mother! Whip him, somebody, and put him to bed."
In the evening, soon after the ladies had left the dining-room, the pianoforte was heard playing quadrilles in the drawing-room. David fidgeted on his seat a little, and presently rose and went for his violin, and joined Lucy in the drawing-room alone. Mrs. B. was trying on a dress. Between the tunes Lucy chatted with him as freely and kindly as ever. David was in heaven. When the gentlemen came up from the dining-room, his joy was interrupted, but not for long. The two musicians played with so much spirit, and the fiddle, in particular, was so hearty, that Mrs. Bazalgette proposed a little quiet dance on the carpet: and this drew the other men away from the piano, and left David and Lucy to themselves.
She stole a look more than once at his bright eyes and rich ruddy color, and asked herself, "Is that really the same face we found looking wan and haggard on the sea? I think I have put an end to that, at all events." The consciousness of this sort of power is secretly agreeable to all men and all women, whether they mean to abuse it or no. She smiled demurely at her mastery over this great heart, and said to herself, "One would think I was a witch." Later in the evening she eyed him again, and thought to herself, "If my company and a few friendly words can make him so happy, it does seem very hard I should select him to shun for the few days he has to pass in England now; but then, if I let him think--I don't know what to do with him. Poor Mr. Dodd."
Miss Fountain did not torment her bolder aspirants with alternate distance and familiarity. She rode out every fine day with Mr. Talboys, and was all affability. She sat next Mr. Hardie at dinner, and was all affability.
Narrative has its limits and, to relate in some sequence the honest sailor's tortures in love with a tactician, I have necessarily omitted concurrent incidents of a still tamer character; but the reader may, by the help of his own intelligence, gather their general results from the following dialogues, which took place on the afternoon and evening of the terrible infant's escapade.
Mrs. Bazalgette. "'Well, my dear friend, and how does this naughty girl of mine use you?"
Mr. Hardie. "As well as I could expect, and better than I deserve."
Mrs. B. "Then she must be cleverer than any girl that ever breathed. However, she does appreciate your conversation; she makes no secret of it."
Mr. H. "I have so little reason to complain of my reception that I will make my proposal to her this evening if you think proper."
Mrs. Bazalgette started, and glanced admiration on a man of eight thousand a year, who came to the point of points without being either cajoled or spurred thither; but she shook her head. "Prudence, my dear Mr. Hardie, prudence. Not just yet. You are making advances every day; and Lucy is an odd girl; with all her apparent tenderness, she is unimpressionable."
"That is only virgin modesty," said Hardie, dogmatically.
"Fiddlestick," replied Mrs. B., good-humoredly. "The greatest flirts I ever met with were virgins, as you call them. I tell you she is not disposed toward marriage as all other girls are until they have tasted its bitters."
Mr. H. "If I know anything of character, she will make a very loving wife."
Mrs. B. (sharply). "That means a nice little negro. Well, I think she might, when once caught; but she is not caught, and she is slippery, and, if you are in too great a hurry, she may fly off; but, above all, we have a dangerous rival in the house just now."
Mr. H. "What, that Mr. Talboys? I don't fear him. He is next door to a fool."
Mrs. B. "What of that? Fools are dangerous rivals for a lady's favor. We don't object to fools. It depends on the employment. There is one office we are apt to select them for."
Mr. H. "A husband, eh?" The lady nodded.
Mrs. B. "I meant to marry a fool in Bazalgette, but I found my mistake. The wretch had only feigned absurdity. He came out in his true colors directly."
Mr. H. "A man of sense, eh? The sinister hypocrite! He only wore the caps and bells to allure unguarded beauty, and doffed them when he donned the wedding-suit."
Mrs. B. "Yes. But these are reminiscences so sweet that I shall be glad to return from them to your little affair. Seriously, then, Mr. Talboys is not to be overlooked, for this reason: he is well backed."
"By some one who has influence with Lucy--her nearest relation, Mr. Fountain."
"What! is he nearer to her than you are?"
"Certainly; and she is fond of him to infatuation. One day I did but hint that selfishness entered into his character (he is eaten up with it), and that he told fibs; Mr. Hardie, she turned round on me like a tigress--Oh, how she made me cry!"
The keen hand, Hardie, smiled satirically, and after a pause answered with consummate coolness: "I believe thus much, that she loves her uncle, and that his influence, exerted unscrupulously--"
"Which it will be. He may be strong enough to spoil us, even though he should not be able to carry his own point; now trust me, my dear friend, Lucy's preference is clearly for you, but I know the weakness of my own sex, and, above all, I know Lucy Fountain. A mouse can help a lion in a matter of small threads, too small for his nobler and grander wisdom to see. Let me be your mouse for once." The little woman caught the great man with the everlasting hook, and the discussion ended in "claw me and I will claw thee," and in the mutual self-complacency that follows that arrangement. Vide "Blackwood," passim.
Mr. H. "I really think she would accept me if I offered to-day; but I have so high an opinion of your sagacity and friendship for me, madam, that I will defer my judgment to yours. I must, however, make one condition, that you will not displace my plan without suggesting a distinct course of action for me to adopt in its place."
This smooth proposal, made quietly but with twinkling eye, would have shut the mouth of nine advisers in ten, but it found the Bazalgette prepared.
"Oh, the pleasure of having a man of ability to deal with!" cried she, with enthusiasm. "This is my advice, then: stay Mr. Fountain out. He must go in a day or two. His time is up, and I will drop a hint of fresh visitors expected. When he is gone, warm by degrees, and offer yourself either in person, or through Bazalgette, or me."
"In person, then, certainly. Of all foibles, employing another pair of eyes, another tongue, another person to make love for one is surely the silliest."
"I am quite of your opinion," cried the lady, with a hearty laugh.
Mr. Fountain. "So you are satisfied with the state of things?"
Mr. Talboys. "Yes, I think I have beaten the sailor out of the field."
"Well, but--this Hardie?"
"Hardie! a shopkeeper. I don't fear him."
"In that case, why not propose? I have been doing the preliminaries--sounding your praises."
Mr. Talboys (tyrannically). "I propose next Saturday."
Mr. Fountain. "Very well."
Talboys. "In the boat."
"In the boat? What boat? There's no boat."
"I have asked her to sail with me from ---- in a boat; there is a very nice little lugger-rigged one. I am having the seats padded and stuffed and lined, and an awning put up, and the boat painted white and gold."
"Bravo! Cleopatra's galley."
"I assure you she looks forward to it with pleasure; she guesses why I want to get her into that boat. She hesitated at first, but at last consented with a look--a conscious look; I can hardly describe it."
"There is no need," cried Fountain. "I know it; the jade turned all eyelashes."
"That is rather exaggerated, but still--"
"But still I have described it--to a hair. Ha! ha!"
Talboys (gravely). "Well, yes."
Mr. Talboys, I am bound to own, was accurate. During the last day or two Lucy had taken a turn; she had been bewitching; she had flattered him with tact, but deliciously; had consulted him as to which of his beautiful dresses she should wear at the masked ball, and, when pressed to have a sail in the boat he was fitting for her, she ended by giving a demure assent.
Chorus of male readers, "Oh, les femmes, les femmes!"
David Dodd had by nature a healthy as well as a high mind; but the fever and ague of an absorbing passion were telling on it. Like many a great heart before his day, his heart was tossed like a ship, and went up to heaven, and down again to despair, as a girl's humor shifted, or seemed to shift, for he forgot that there is such a thing as accident, and that her sex are even more under its dominion than ours. No; whatever she did must be spontaneous, voluntary, premeditated even, and her lightest word worth weighing, her lightest action worth anxious scrutiny as to its cause.
Still he had this about him that the peevish and puny lover has not. Her bare presence was joy to him. Even when she was surrounded by other figures, he saw and felt but the one; the rest were nothings. But when she went out of his sight, some bright illusion seemed to fade into cold and dark reality. Then it fell on him like a weighty, icy hammer, that in three days he must go to sea for two years, and that he was no nearer her heart now than he was at Font Abbey. Was he even as near?
So the next afternoon he thrust in before Talboys, and put Lucy on her horse by brute force, and griped her stout little boot, which she had slyly substituted for a shoe, and touched her glossy habit, and felt a thrill of bliss unspeakable at his momentary contact with her; but she was no sooner out of sight than a hollow ache seized the poor fellow, and he hung his head and sighed.
"I say, capting," said a voice in his ear. He looked up, and there stood Tom, the stable-boy, with both hands in his pockets. Tom was not there by his own proper movement, but was agent of Betsy, the under-housemaid.
Female servants scan the male guests pretty closely too, without seeming to do it, and judge them upon lamentably broad principles--youth, health, size, beauty, and good temper. Oh, the coarse-minded critics! Hence it befell that in their eyes, especially after the fiddle business, David was a king compared with his rivals.
"If I look at him too long, I shall eat him," said the cook-maid.
"He is a darling," said the upper housemaid.
Betsy aforesaid often opened a window to have a sly look at him, and on one of these occasions she inspected him from an upper story at her leisure. His manner drew her attention. She saw him mount Lucy, and eye her departing form sadly and wistfully. Betsy glowered and glowered, and hit the nail on the head, as people will do who are so absurd as to look with their own eyes, and draw their own conclusions instead of other people's. After this she took an opportunity, and said to Tom, with a satirical air, "How are you off for nags, your way?"
"Oh, we have got enough for our corn," replied Tom, on the defensive.
"It seems you can't find one for the captain among you."
"Will you give a kiss if I make you out a liar?"
"Sooner than break my arm. Come, you might, Tom. Now is it reasonable, him never to get a ride with her, and that useless lot prancing about with her all day long?"
"Why don't you ride with 'em, capting?"
"I have no horse."
"I have got a horse for you, sir--master's."
"That would be taking a liberty."
"Liberty, sir! no; master would be so pleased if you would but ride him. He told me so."
"Then saddle him, pray."
"I have a-saddled him. You had better come in the stable-yard, capting; then you can mount and follow; you will catch them before they reach the Downs." In another minute David was mounted.
"Do you ride short or long, capting?" inquired Tom, handling the stirrup-leather.
David wore a puzzled look. "I ride as long as I can stick on;" and he trotted out of the stable-yard. As Tom had predicted, he caught the party just as they went off the turn-pike on to the grass. His heart beat with joy; he cantered in among them. His horse was fresh, squeaked, and bucked at finding himself on grass and in company, and David announced his arrival by rolling in among their horses' feet with the reins tight grasped in his fist. The ladies screamed with terror. David got up laughing; his horse had hoped to canter away without him, and now stood facing him and pulling.
"No, ye don't," said David. "I held on to the tiller-ropes though I did go overboard." Then ensued a battle between David and his horse, the one wanting to mount, the other anxious to be unencumbered with sailors. It was settled by David making a vault and sitting on the animal's neck, on which the ladies screamed again, and Lucy, half whimpering, proposed to go home.
"Don't think of it," cried David. "I won't be beat by such a small craft as this--hallo!" for, the horse backing into Talboys, that gentleman gave him a clandestine cut, and he bolted, and, being a little hard-mouthed, would gallop in spite of the tiller-ropes. On came the other nags after him, all misbehaving more or less, so fine a thing is example. When they had galloped half a mile the ground began to rise, and David's horse relaxed his pace, whereon David whipped him industriously, and made him gallop again in spite of remonstrance.
The others drew the rein, and left him to gallop alone. Accordingly, he made the round of the hill and came back, his horse covered with lather and its tail trembling. "There," said he to Lucy, with an air of radiant self-satisfaction, "he clapped on sail without orders from quarter-deck, so I made him carry it till his bows were under water."
"You will kill my uncle's horse," was the reply, in a chilling tone.
"Look at its poor flank beating."
David hung his head like a school-girl rebuked. "But why did he clap on sail if he could not carry it?" inquired he, ruefully, of his monitress.
The others burst out laughing; but Lucy remained grave and silent.
David rode along crestfallen.
Mrs. Bazalgette brought her pony close to him, and whispered, "Never mind that little cross-patch. She does not care a pin about the horse; you interrupted her flirtation, that is all."
This piece of consolation soothed David like a bunch of stinging-nettles.
While Mrs. Bazalgette was consoling David with thorns, Kenealy and Talboys were quizzing his figure on horseback.
He sat bent like a bow and visibly sticking on: item, he had no straps, and his trousers rucked up half-way to his knee.
Lucy's attention being slyly drawn to these phenomena by David's friend Talboys, she smiled politely, though somewhat constrainedly; but the gentlemen found it a source of infinite amusement during the whole ride, which, by the way, was not a very long one, for Miss Fountain soon expressed a wish to turn homeward. David felt guilty, he scarce knew why.
The promised happiness was wormwood. On dismounting, she went to the lawn to tend her flowers. David followed her, and said bitterly, "I am sorry I came to spoil your pleasure."
Miss Fountain made no answer.
"I thought I might have one ride with you, when others have so many."
"Why, of course, Mr. Dodd. If you like to expose yourself to ridicule, it is no affair of mine." The lady's manner was a happy mixture of frigidity and crossness. David stood benumbed, and Lucy, having emptied her flower-pot, glided indoors without taking any farther notice of him.
David stood rooted to the spot. Then he gave a heavy sigh, and went and leaned against one of the pillars of the portico, and everything seemed to swim before his eyes.
Presently he heard a female voice inquire, "Is Miss Lucy at home?" He looked, and there was a tall, strapping woman in conference with Henry. She had on a large bonnet with flaunting ribbons, and a bushy cap infuriated by red flowers. Henry's eye fell upon these embellishments: "Not at home," chanted he, sonorously.
"Eh, dear," said the woman sadly, "I have come a long way to see her."
"Not at home, ma'am," repeated Henry, like a vocal machine.
"My name is Wilson, young man," said she, persuasively, and the Amazon's voice was mellow and womanly, spite of her coal-scuttle full of field poppies. "I am her nurse, and I have not seen her this five years come Martinmas;" and the Amazon gave a gentle sigh of disappointment.
"Not at home, ma'am!" rang the inexorable Plush.
But David's good heart took the woman's part. "She is at home, now," said he, coming forward. "I saw her go into the house scarce a minute ago."
"Oh, thank you, sir," said Mrs. Wilson. But Mr. Plush's face was instantly puckered all over with signals, which David not comprehending, he said, "Can I say a word with you, sir?" and, drawing him on one side, objected, in an injured and piteous tone. "We are not at home to such gallimaufry as that; it is as much as my place is worth to denounce that there bonnet to our ladies."
"Bonnet be d--d," roared David, aloud. "It is her old nurse. Come, heave ahead;" and he pointed up the stairs.
"Anything to oblige you, captain," said Henry, and sauntered into the drawing-room; "Mrs. Wilson, ma'am, for Miss Fountain."
"Very well; my niece will be here directly."
Lucy had just gone to her own room for some working materials.
"You had better come to an anchor on this seat, Mrs. Wilson," said David.
"Thank ye kindly, young gentleman," said Mrs. Wilson; and she settled her stately figure on the seat. "I have walked a many miles to-day, along of our horse being lame, and I am a little tired. You are one of the family, I do suppose?"
"No, I am only a visitor."
"Ain't ye now? Well, thank ye kindly, all the same. I have seen a worse face than yours, I can tell you," added she; for in the midst of it all she had found time to read countenances more mulierurn.
"And I have seen a good many hundred worse than yours, Mrs. Wilson."
Mrs. Wilson laughed. "Twenty years ago, if you had said so, I might have believed you, or even ten; but, bless you, I am an old woman now, and can say what I choose to the men. Forty-two next Candlemas."
In the country they call themselves old at forty-two, because they feel young. In town they call themselves young at forty-two, because they feel old.
David found that he had fallen in with a gossip; and, being in no humor for vague chat, he left Mrs. Wilson to herself, with an assurance that Miss Fountain would be down to her directly.
In leaving her he went into worse company--his own thoughts; they were inexpressibly sad and bitter. "She hates me, then," said he. "Everybody is welcome to her at all hours, except me. That lady said it was because I interrupted her flirtation. Aha! well, I shan't interrupt her flirtation much longer. I shan't be in her way or anybody's long. A few short hours, and this bitter day will be forgotten, and nothing left me but the memory of the kindness she had for me once, or seemed to have, and the angel face I must carry in my heart wherever I go, by land or sea. The sea? would to God I was upon it this minute! I'd rather be at sea than ashore in the dirtiest night that ever blew."
He had been walking to and fro a good half-hour, deeply dejected and turning bitter, when, looking in accidentally at the hall door, he caught sight of Mrs. Wilson sitting all alone where he had left her. "Why, what on earth is the meaning of that?" thought he; and he went into the hall and asked Mrs. Wilson how she came to be there all alone.
"That is what I have been asking myself a while past," was the dry reply.
"Have you not seen her?"
"No, sir, I have not seen her, and, to my mind, it is doubtful whether I am to see her."
"But I say you shall see her."
"No, no, don't put yourself out, sir," said the woman, carelessly; "I dare say I shall have better luck next time, if I should ever come to this house again, which it is not very likely." She added gently, "Young folk are thoughtless; we must not judge them too hardly."
"Thoughtless they may be, but they have no business to be heartless. I have a great mind to go up and fetch her down."
"Don't ye trouble, sir. It is not worth while putting you about for an old woman like me." Then suddenly dropping the mask of nonchalance which women of this class often put on to hide their sensibility, she said, very, very gravely, and with a sad dignity, that one would not have expected from her gossip and her finery, "I begin to fear, sir, that the child I have suckled does not care to know me now she is a woman grown."
David dashed up the stairs with a red streak on his brow. He burst into the drawing-room, and there sat Mrs. Bazalgette overlooking, and Lucy working with a face of beautiful calm. She looked just then so very like a pure, tranquil Madonna making an altar-cloth, or something, that David's intention to give her a scolding was withered in the bud, and he gazed at her surprised and irresolute, and said not a word.
"Anything the matter?" inquired Mrs. Bazalgette, attracted by the bruskness of his entry.
"Yes, there is," said David sternly.
Lucy looked up.
"Miss Fountain's old nurse has been sitting in the hall more than half an hour, and nobody has had the politeness to go near her."
"Oh, is that all? Well, don't look daggers at me. There is Lucy; give her a lesson in good-breeding, Mr. Dodd." This was said a little satirically, and rather nettled David.
"Perhaps it does not become me to set up for a teacher of that. I know my own deficiencies as well as anybody in this house knows them; but this I know, that, if an old friend walked eight miles to see me, it would not be good-breeding in me to refuse to walk eight yards to see her. And, another thing, everybody's time is worth something; if I did not mean to see her, I would have that much consideration to send down and tell her so, and not keep the woman wasting her time as well as her trouble, and vexing her heart into the bargain."
"Where is she, Mr. Dodd?" asked Lucy quickly.
"Where is she?" cried David, getting louder and louder. "Why, she is cooling her heels in the hall this half hour and more. They hadn't the manners to show her into a room."
"I will go to her, Mr. Dodd," said Lucy, turning a little pale. "Don't be angry; I will go directly"; and, having said this with an abject slavishness that formed a miraculous contrast with her late crossness and imperious chilliness, she put down her work hastily and went out; only at the door she curved her throat, and cast back, Parthian-like, a glance of timid reproach, as much as to say, "Need you have been so very harsh with a creature so obedient as this is?"
That deprecating glance did Mr. Dodd's business. It shot him with remorse, and made him feel a brute.
"Ha! ha! That is the way to speak to her, Mr. Dodd; the other gentlemen spoil her."
"It was very unbecoming of me to speak to her harshly like that."
"Pooh! nonsense; these girls like to be ordered about; it saves them the trouble of thinking for themselves; but what is to become of me? You have sent off my workwoman."
"I will do her work for her."
"What! can you sew?"
"Where is the sailor that can't sew?"
"Delightful! Then please to sew these two thick ends together. Here is a large needle."
David whipped out of his pocket a round piece of leather with strings attached, and fastened it to the hollow of his hand.
"What is that?"
"It is a sailor's thimble." He took the work, held it neatly, and shoved the needle from behind through the thick material. He worked slowly and uncouthly, but with the precision that was a part of his character, and made exact and strong stitches. His task-mistress looked on, and, under the pretense of minute inspection, brought a face that was still arch and pretty unnecessarily close to the marine milliner, in which attitude they were surprised by Mr. Bazalgette, who, having come in through the open folding-doors, stood looking mighty sardonic at them both before they were even aware he was in the room.
Omphale colored faintly, but Hercules gave a cool nod to the newcomer, and stitched on with characteristic zeal and strict attention to the matter in hand.
At this Bazalgette uttered a sort of chuckle, at which Mrs. Bazalgette turned red. David stitched on for the bare life.
"I came to offer to invite you to my study, but--"
"I can't come just now," said David, bluntly; "I am doing a lady's work for her."
"So I see," retorted Bazalgette, dryly.
"We all dine with the Hunts but you and Mr. Dodd," said Mrs. Bazalgette, "so you will be en tête-à-tête all the evening."
"All the better for us both." And with this ingratiating remark Mr. Bazalgette retired whistling.
Mrs. Bazalgette heaved a gentle sigh: "Pity me, my friend," said she, softly.
"What is the matter?" inquired David, rather bluntly.
"Mr. Bazalgette is so harsh to me--ah!--to me, who longs so for kindness and gentleness that I feel I could give my very soul in exchange for them."
The bait did not take.
"It is only his manner," said David, good-naturedly. "His heart is all right; I never met a better. What sort of a knot is that you are tying? Why, that is a granny's knot;" and he looked morose, at which she looked amazed; so he softened, and explained to her with benevolence the rationale of a knot. "A knot is a fastening intended to be undone again by fingers, and not to come undone without them. Accordingly, a knot is no knot at all if it jams or if it slips. A granny's knot does both; when you want to untie it you must pick at it like taking a nail out of a board, and, for all that, sooner or later it always comes undone of itself; now you look here;" and he took a piece of string out of his pocket, and tied her a sailor's knot, bidding her observe that she could untie it at once, but it could never come untied of itself. He showed her with this piece of string half a dozen such knots, none of which could either jam or slip.
"Tie me a lover's knot," suggested the lady, in a whisper.
"Ay! ay!" and he tied her a lover's knot as imperturbably as he had the reef knot, bowling-knot, fisherman's bend, etc.
"This is very interesting," said Mrs. Bazalgette, ironically. She thought David might employ a tête-à-tête with a flirt better than this. "What a time Lucy is gone!"
"All the better."
"Why?" and she looked down in mock confusion.
"Because poor Mrs. Wilson will be glad."
Mrs. Bazalgette was piqued at this unexpected answer. "You seem quite captivated with this Mrs. Wilson; it was for her sake you took Lucy to task. Apropos, you need not have scolded her, for she did not know the woman was in the house."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean Lucy was not in the room when Mrs. Wilson was announced. I was, but I did not tell her; the all-important circumstance had escaped my memory. Where are you running to now?"
"Where? why, to ask her pardon, to be sure."
Mrs. B. [Brute!]
David ran down the stairs to look for Lucy, but he found somebody else instead--his sister Eve, whom the servant had that moment admitted into the hall. It was "Oh, Eve!" and "Oh, David!" directly, and an affectionate embrace.
"You got my letter, David?"
"Well, then you will before long. I wrote to tell you to look out for me; I had better have brought the letter in my pocket. I didn't know I was coming till just an hour before I started. Mother insisted on my going to see the last of you. Cousin Mary had invited me to ----, so I shall see you off, Davy dear, after all. I thought I'd just pop in and let you know I was in the neighborhood. Mary and her husband are outside the gate in their four-wheel. I would not let them drive in, because I want to hear your story, and they would have bothered us."
"Eve, dear, I have no good news for you. Your words have come true. I have been perplexed, up and down, hot and cold, till I feel sometimes like going mad. Eve, I cannot fathom her. She is deeper than the ocean, and more changeable. What am I saying? the sea and the wind; they are to be read; they have their signs and their warnings; but she--"
"There! there! that is the old song. I tell you it is only a girl--a creature as shallow as a puddle, and as easy to fathom, as you call it, only men are so stupid, especially boys. Now just you tell me all she has said, all she has done, and all she has looked, and I will turn her inside out like a glove in a minute."
Cheered by this audacious pledge, David pumped upon Eve all that has trickled on my readers, and some minor details besides, and repeated Lucy's every word, sweet or bitter, and recalled her lightest action--Meminerunt omnia amantes--and every now and then he looked sadly into Eve's keen little face for his doom.
She heard him in silence until the last fatal incident, Lucy's severity on the lawn. Then she put in a question. "Were those her exact words?"
"Do I ever forget a syllable she says to me?"
"Don't be angry. I forgot what a ninny she has made of you. Well, David, it is all as plain as my hand. The girl likes you--that is all."
"The girl likes me? What do you mean? How can you say that? What sign of liking is there?"
"There are two. She avoids you, and she has been rude to you."
"And those are signs of liking, are they?" said David, bitterly.
"Why, of course they are, stupid. Tell me, now, does she shun this Captain Keely?"
"Does she shun Mr. Harvey?"
"Does she shun Mr. Talboys?"
"Oh Eve, you break my heart--no! no! She shuns no one but poor David."
"Now think a little. Here are three on one sort of footing, and one on a different footing; which is likeliest to be the man, the one or the three? You have gained a point since we were all together. She distinguishes you."
"But what a way to distinguish me. It looks more like hatred than love, or liking either."
"Not to my eye. Why should she shun you? You are handsome, you are good-tempered, and good company. Why should she be shy of you? She is afraid of you, that is why; and why is she afraid of you? because she is afraid of her own heart. That is how I read her. Then, as for her snubbing you, if her character was like mine, that ought to go for nothing, for I snub all the world; but this is a little queen for politeness. I can't think she would go so far out of her way as to affront anybody unless she had an uncommon respect for him."
"Listen to that, now! I am on my beam-ends."
"Now think a minute, David," said Eve, calmly, ignoring his late observation; "did you ever know her snub anybody?"
"Never. Did you?"
"No; and she never would, unless she took an uncommon interest in the person. When a girl likes a man, she thinks she has a right to ill-use him a little bit; he has got her affection to set against a scratch or two; the others have not. So she has not the same right to scratch them. La! listen to me teaching him A B C. Why, David, you know nothing; it's scandalous."
Eve's confidence communicated itself at last to David; but when he asked her whether she thought Lucy would consent to be his wife, her countenance fell in her turn. "That is a very different thing. I am pretty sure she likes you; how could she help it? but I doubt she will never go to the altar with you. Don't be angry with me, Davy, dear. You are in love with her, and to you she is an angel. But I am of her own sex, and see her as she is; no matter who she likes, she will never be content to make a bad match, as they call it. She told me so once with her own lips. But she had no need to tell me; worldliness is written on her. David, David, you don't know these great houses, nor the fair-spoken creatures that live in them, with tongues tuned to sentiment, and mild eyes fixed on the main chance. Their drawing-rooms are carpeted market-places; you may see the stones bulge through the flowery pattern; there the ladies sell their faces, the gentlemen their titles and their money; and much I fear Miss Fountain's hand will go like the rest--to the highest bidder."
"If I thought so, my love, deep as it is, would turn to contempt; I would tear her out of my heart, though I tore my heart out of my body." He added, "I will know what she is before many hours."
"Do, David. Take her off her guard, and make hot love to her; that is your best chance. It is a pity you are so much in love with her; you might win her by a surprise if you only liked her in moderation."
"How so, dear Eve?"
"The battle would be more even. Your adoring her gives her the upper hand of you. She is sure to say 'no' at first, and then I am afraid you will leave off, instead of going on hotter and hotter. The very look she will put on to check you will check you, you are so green. What a pity I can't take your place for half an hour. I would have her against her will. I would take her by storm. If she said 'no' twenty times, she should say 'yes' the twenty-first; but you are afraid of her; fancy being afraid of a woman. Come, David, you must not shilly-shally, but attack her like a man; and, if she is such a fool she can't see your merit, forgive her like a man, and forget her like a man. Come, promise me you will."
"I promise you this, that if I lose her it shall not be for want of trying to win her; and, if she refuses me because I am not her fancy, I shall die a bachelor for her sake." Eve sighed. "But if she is the mercenary thing you take her for--if she owns to liking me, but prefers money to love, then from that moment she is no more to me than a picture or a statue, or any other lovely thing that has no soul."
With these determined words he gave his sister his arm, and walked with her through the grounds to the road where her cousin was waiting for her.
Lucy found Mrs. Wilson in the hall. "Come into the library, Mrs. Wilson," said she; "I have only just heard you were here. Won't you sit down? Are you not well, Mrs. Wilson? You tremble. You are fatigued, I fear. Pray compose yourself. May I ring for a glass of wine for you?"
"No, no, Miss Lucy," said the woman, smiling; "it is only along of you coming to me so sudden, and you so grown. Eh! sure, can this fine young lady be the little girl I held in my lap but t'other day, as it seems?"
There was an agitation and ardor about Mrs. Wilson that, coupled with the flaming bonnet, made Miss Fountain uneasy. She thought Mrs. Wilson must be a little cracked, or at least flighty.
"Pray compose yourself, madam," said she, soothingly, but with that dignity nobody could assume more readily than she could. "I dare say I am much grown since I last had the pleasure of seeing you; but I have not outgrown my memory, and I am happy to receive you, or any of our old servants that knew my dear mother."
"Then I must not look for a welcome," said Mrs. Wilson, with feminine logic, "for I was never your servant, nor your mamma's." Lucy opened her eyes, and her face sought an explanation.
"I never took any money for what I gave you, so how could I be a servant? To see me a dangling of my heels in your hall so long, one would say I was a servant; but I am not a servant, nor like to be, please God, unless I should have the ill luck to bury my two boys, as I have their father. So perhaps the best thing I can do, miss, is to drop you my courtesy and walk back as I came." The Amazon's manner was singularly independent and calm, but the tell-tale tears were in the large gray honest eyes before she ended.
Lucy's natural penetration and habit of attending to faces rather than words came to her aid. "Wait a minute, Mrs. Wilson," said she; "I think there is some misunderstanding here. Perhaps the fault is mine. And yet I remember more than one nursery-maid that was kind enough to me; but I have heard nothing of them since."
"Their blood is not in your veins as mine is, unless the doctors have lanced it out."
"I never was bled in my life, if you mean that, madam. But I must ask you to explain how I can possibly have the--the advantage of possessing your blood in my veins."
Mrs. Wilson eyed her keenly. "Perhaps I had better tell you the story from first to last, young lady," said she quietly.
"If you please," said the courtier, mastering a sigh; for in Mrs. Wilson there was much that promised fluency.
"Well, miss, when you came into the world, your mamma could not nurse you. I do notice the gentry that eat the fat of the land are none the better for it; for a poor woman can do a mother's part by her child, but high-born and high-fed folk can't always; so you had to be brought up by hand, miss, and it did not agree with you, and that is no great wonder, seeing it is against nature. Well, my little girl, that was born just two days after you, died in my arms of convulsion fits when she was just a month old. She had only just been buried, and me in bitter grief, when doesn't the doctor call and ask me as a great favor, would I nurse Mrs. Fountain's child, that was pining for want of its natural food. I bade him get out of my sight. I felt as if no woman had a right to have a child living when my little darling was gone. But my husband, a just man as ever was, said, 'Take a thought, Mary; the child is really pining, by all accounts.' Well, I would not listen to him. But next Sunday, after afternoon church, my mother, that had not said a word till then, comes to me, and puts her hand on my shoulder with a quiet way she had. 'Mary,' says she, 'I am older than you, and have known more.' She had buried six of us, poor thing. Says she, scarce above a whisper, 'Suckle that failing child. It will be the better for her, and the better for you, Mary, my girl.' Well, miss, my mother was a woman that didn't interfere every minute, and seldom gave her reasons; but, if you scorned her advice, you mostly found them out to your cost; and then she was my mother; and in those days mothers were more thought of, leastways by us that were women and had suffered for our children, and so learned to prize the woman that had suffered for us. 'Well, then,' I said, 'if you say so, mother, I suppose I didn't ought to gainsay you, on the Lord His day.' For you see my mother was one that chose her time for speaking--eh! but she was wise. 'Mother,' says I, 'to oblige you, so be it'; and with that I fell to crying sore on my mother's neck, and she wasn't long behind me, you may be sure. Whiles we sat a crying in one another's arms, in comes John, and goes to speak a word of comfort. 'It is not that,' says my mother; 'she have given her consent to nurse Mrs. Fountain's little girl.' 'It is much to her credit,' says he: says he, 'I will take her up to the house myself.' 'What for?' says I; 'them that grants the favor has no call to run after them that asks it.' You see, Miss Lucy, that was my ignorance; we were small farmers, too independent to be fawning, and not high enough to weed ourselves of upishness. Your mamma, she was a real lady, so she had no need to trouble about her dignity; she thought only of her child; and she didn't send the child, but she came with it herself. Well, she came into our kitchen, and made her obeisance, and we to her, and mother dusted her a seat. She was pale-like, and a mother's care was in her face, and that went to my heart. 'This is very, very kind of you, Mrs. Wilson,' said she. Those were her words. 'Mayhap it is,' says I; and my heart felt like lead. Mother made a sign to your mamma that she should not hurry me. I saw the signal, for I was as quick as she was; but I never let on I saw it. At last I plucked up a bit of courage, and I said, 'Let me see it.' So mother took you from the girl that held you all wrapped up, and mother put you on my knees; and I took a good look at you. You had the sweetest little face that ever came into the world, but all peaked and pining for want of nature. With you being on my knees, my bosom began to yearn over you, it did. 'The child is starved,' said I; 'that is all its grief. And you did right to bring it' here.' Your mother clasps her hands, 'Oh, Mrs. Wilson,' says she, 'God grant it is not too late.' So then I smiled back to her, and I said, 'Don't you fret; in a fortnight you shan't know her.' You see I was beginning to feel proud of what I knew I could do for you. I was a healthy young woman, and could have nursed two children as easy as some can one. To make a long story short, I gave you the breast then and there; and you didn't leave us long in doubt whether cow's milk or mother's milk is God's will for sucklings. Well, your mamma put her hands before her face, and I saw the tears force their way between her fingers. So, when she was gone, I said to my mother, 'What was that for?' 'I shan't tell you,' says she. 'Do, mother,' says I. So she said, 'I wonder at your having to ask; can't you see it was jealousy-like. Do you think she has not her burden to bear in this world as well as you? How would you like to see another woman do a mother's part for a child of yours, and you sit looking on like a toy-mother? Eh! Miss Lucy, but I was vexed for her at that, and my heart softened; and I used to take you up to the great house, and spend nearly the whole day there, not to rob her of her child more than need be."
"Oh, Mrs. Wilson! Oh, you kind, noble-hearted creature, surely Heaven will reward you."
"That is past praying for, my dear. Heaven wasn't going to be long in debt to a farmer's wife, you may be sure; not a day, not an hour. I had hardly laid you to my breast when you seemed to grow to my heart. My milk had been tormenting me for one thing. My good mother had thought of that, I'll go bail; and of course you relieved me. But, above all, you numbed the wound in my heart, and healed it by degrees: a part of my love that lay in the churchyard seemed to come back like, and settle on the little helpless darling that milked me. At whiles I forgot you were not my own; and even when I remembered it, it was--I don't know--somehow--as if it wasn't so. I knew in my head you were none of mine, but what of that? I didn't feel it here. Well, miss, I nursed you a year and two months, and a finer little girl never was seen, and such a weight! And, of course, I was proud of you; and often your dear mother tried to persuade me to take a twenty-pound note, or ten; but I never would. I could not sell my milk to a queen. I'd refuse it, or I'd make a gift of it, and the love that goes with it, which is beyond price. I didn't say so to her in so many words, but I did use to tell her 'I was as much in her little girl's debt as she was in mine,' and so I was. But as for a silk gown, and a shawl, and the like, I didn't say 'No' to them; who ever does?"
"Can you ever forgive me for confounding you with a servant? I am so inexperienced. I knew nothing of all this."
"Oh, Miss Lucy, 'let that flea stick in the wall,' as the saying is."
"But, dear Mrs. Wilson, now only think that your affection for me should have lasted all these years. You speak as if such tenderness was common. I fear you are mistaken there: most nurses go away and think no more of those to whom they have been as mothers in infancy."
"How do you know that, Miss Lucy? Who can tell what passes inside those poor women that are ground down into slaves, and never dare show their real hearts to a living creature? Certainly hirelings will be hirelings, and a poor creature that is forced to sell her breast, and is bundled off as soon as she has served the grand folks' turn, why, she behooves to steel herself against nature, and she knows that from the first; but whether she always does get to harden herself, I take leave to doubt. Miss Lucy; I knew an unfortunate girl that nursed a young gentleman, leastways a young nobleman it was, and years after that I have known her to stand outside the hedge for an hour to catch a sight of him at play on the lawn among the other children. Ay, and if she had a penny piece to spare she would go and buy him sugar-plums, and lay wait for him, and give them him, and he heir to thousands a year."
"Poor thing! Poor thing!"
"Next to the tie of blood, Miss Lucy, the tie of milk is a binding affection. When you went to live twenty miles from us, I behooved to come in the cart and see you from time to time."
"I remember, nurse, I remember."
"When I came to our new farm hard by, you were away; but as soon as I heard you were come back, it was like a magnet drawing me. I could not keep away from you."
"Heaven forbid you should; and I will come and see you, dear nurse."
"Will ye, now? Do now. I have got a nice little parlor for you. It is a very good house for a farm-house; and there we can set and talk at our ease, and no fine servants, dressed like lords, coming staring in."
Lucy now proffered a timid request that Mrs. Wilson would take off her bonnet. "I want to see your good kind face without any ornament."
"Hear to that, now, the darling;" and off came the bonnet.
"Now your cap."
"Well, I don't know; I hadn't time to do my hair as should be before coming."
"What does that matter with me? I must see you without that cap."
"What! don't you like my new cap? Isn't it a pretty cap? Why, I bought it a purpose to come and see you in."
"Oh, it is a very pretty cap in itself," said the courtier, "but it does not suit the shape of your face. Oh, what a difference! Ah! now I see your heart in your face. Will you let me make you a cap?"
"Will you, now, Miss Lucy? I shall be so proud wearing it our house will scarce hold me."
At this juncture a footman came in with a message from Mrs. Bazalgette to remind Lucy that they dined out.
"I must go and dress, nurse." She then kissed her and promised to ride over and visit her at her farm next week, and spend a long time with her quietly, and so these new old friends parted.
Lucy pondered every word Mrs. Wilson had said to her, and said to herself: "What a child I am still! How little I know! How feebly I must have observed!"
The party at dinner consisted of Mr. Bazalgette, David, and Reginald, who, taking advantage of his mother's absence and Lucy's, had prevailed on the servants to let him dine with the grown-up ones. "Halo? urchin," said Mr. Bazalgette, "to what do we owe this honor?"
"Papa," said Reginald, quaking at heart, "if I don't ever begin to be a man what is to become of me?"
Mr. Reginald did not exhibit his full powers at dinner-time. He was greatest at dessert. Peaches and apricots fell like blackberries. He topped up with the ginger and other preserves; then he uttered a sigh, and his eye dwelt on some candied pineapple he had respited too long. Putting the pineapple's escape and the sigh together, Mr. Bazalgette judged that absolute repletion had been attained. "Come, Reginald," said he, "run away now, and let Mr. Dodd and me have our talk." Before the words were even out of his mouth a howl broke from the terrible infant. He had evidently feared the proposal, and got this dismal howl all ready.
"Oh, papa! Oh! oh!"
"What is the matter?"
"Don't make me go away with the ladies this time. Jane says I am not a man because I go away when the ladies go. And Cousin Lucy won't marry me till I am a man. Oh, papa, do let me be a man this once."
"Let him stay, sir," said David.
"Then he must go and play at the end of the room, and not interrupt our conversation."
Mr. Reginald consented with rapture. He had got a new puzzle. He could play at it in a corner; all he wanted was to be able to stop Jane's mouth, should she ever jeer him again. Reginald thus disposed of, Mr. Bazalgette courted David to replenish his glass and sit round to the fire. The fire was huge and glowing, the cut glass sparkled, and the ruby wine glowed, and even the faces shone, and all invited genial talk. Yet David, on the eve of his departure and of his fate, oppressed with suspense and care, was out of the reach of those genial, superficial influences. He could only just mutter a word of assent here and there, then relapsed into his reverie, and eyed the fire thoughtfully, as if his destiny lay there revealed. Mr. Bazalgette, on the contrary, glowed more and more in manner as well as face, and, like many of his countrymen, seemed to imbibe friendship with each fresh glass of port.
At last, under the double influence of his real liking for David and of the Englishman-thawing Portuguese decoction, he gave his favorite a singular proof of friendship. It came about as follows. Observing that he had all the talk to himself, he fixed his eyes with an expression of paternal benevolence on his companion, and was silent in turn.
David looked up, as we all do when a voice ceases, and saw this mild gaze dwelling on him.
"Dodd, my boy, you don't say a word; what is the matter?"
"I am very bad company, sir, that is the truth."
"Well, fill your glass, then, and I'll talk for you. I have got something to say for you, young gentleman." David filled his glass and forced himself to attend; after a while no effort was needed.
"Dodd," resumed the mature merchant, "I need hardly tell you that I have a particular regard for you; the reason is, you are a young man of uncommon merit."
"Mr. Bazalgette! sir! I don't know which way to look when you praise me like that. It is your goodness; you overrate me."
"No, I don't. I am a judge of men. I have seen thousands, and seen them too close to be taken in by their outside. You are the only one of my wife's friends that ever had the run of my study. What do you think of that, now?"
"I am very proud of it, sir; that is all I can find to say."
"Well, young man, that same good opinion I have of you induces me to do something else, that I have never done for any of your predecessors."
Mr. Bazalgette paused. David's heart beat. Quick as lightning it darted through his mind, "He is going to ask a favor for me. Promotion? Why not? He is a merchant. He has friends in the Company.'"
"I am going to interfere in your concerns, Dodd."
"You are very good, sir."
"Well, perhaps I am. I have to overcome a natural reluctance. But you are worth the struggle. I shall therefore go against the usages of the world, which I don't care a button for, and my own habits, which I care a great deal for, and give you, humph--a piece of friendly advice."
David looked blank.
"Dodd, my boy, you are playing the fool in this house."
David looked blanker.
"It is not your fault; you are led into it by one of those sweet creatures that love to reduce men to the level of their own wisdom. You are in love, or soon will be."
David colored all over like a girl, and his face of distress was painful to see.
"You need not look so frightened; I am your friend, not your enemy. And do you really think others besides me have not seen what is going on? Now, Dodd, my dear fellow, I am an old man, and you are a young one. Moreover, I understand the lady, and you don't."
"That is true, sir; I feel I cannot fathom her."
"Poor fellow! Well, but I have known her longer than you."
"That is true, sir."
"And on closer terms of intimacy."
"No doubt, sir."
"Then listen to me. She is all very charming outside, and full of sensibility outside, but she has no more real feeling than a fish. She will go a certain length with you, or with any agreeable young man, but she can always stop where it suits her. No lady in England values position and luxury more than she does, or is less likely to sacrifice them to love, a passion she is incapable of. Here, then, is a game at which you run all the risk. No! leave her to puppies like Kenealy; they are her natural prey. You must not play such a heart as yours against a marble taw. It is not an even stake."
David groaned audibly. His first thought was, "Eve says the same of her." His second, "All the world is against her, poor thing."
"Is she to bear the blame of my folly?"
"Why not? She is the cause of your folly. It began with her setting her cap at you."
"No, sir, you do her wrong. She is modesty itself."
"Ta! ta! ta! you are a sailor, green as sea-weed."
"Mr. Bazalgette, as I am a gentleman, she never has encouraged me to love her as I do."
"Your statement, sir, is one which becomes a gentleman--under the circumstances. But I happen to have watched her. It is a thing I have taken the trouble to do for some time past. It was my interest in you that made me curious, and apprehensive--on your account."
"Then, if you have watched her, you must have seen her avoid me."
"Pooh! pooh! that was drawing the bait; these old stagers can all do that."
"Old stagers!" and David looked as if blasphemy had been uttered. Bazalgette wore a grin of infinite irony.
"Don't be shocked," said he; "of course, I mean old in flirtation; no lady is old in years."
"She is not, at all events."
"It is agreed. There are legal fictions, and why not social ones?"
"I don't understand you, sir; and, in truth, it is all a puzzle to me. You don't seem angry with me?"
"Why, of course not, my poor fellow; I pity you."
"Yet you discourage me, Mr. Bazalgette."
"But not from any selfish motive. I want to spare you the mortification that is in store for you. Remember, I have seen the end of about a dozen of you."
"Good Heavens! And what is the end of us?"
"The cold shoulder without a day's warning, and another fool set in your place, and the house door slammed in your face, etc., etc. Oh, with her there is but one step from flirtation to detestation. Not one of her flames is her friend at this moment."
David hung his head, and his heart turned sick; there was a silence of some seconds, during which Bazalgette eyed him keenly. "Sir," said David, at last, "your words go through me like a knife."
"Never mind. It is a friendly surgeon's knife, not an assassin's."
"Yet you say it is only out of regard for me you warn me so against her."
"I repeat it."
"Then, sir, if, by Heaven's mercy, you should be mistaken in her character--if, little as I deserve it, I should succeed in winning her regard--I might reckon on your permission--on your kind--support?"
"Hardly," said Mr. Bazalgette, hastily. He then stared at the honest earnest face that was turned toward him. "Well," said he, "you modest gentlemen have a marvelous fund of assurance at bottom. No, sir; with the exception of this piece of friendly advice I shall be strictly neutral. In return for it, if you should succeed, be so good as to take her out of the house, that is the only stipulation I venture to propose."
"I should be sure to do that," cried David, lifting his eyes to Heaven with rapture; "but I shall not have the chance."
"So I keep telling you. You might as well hope to tempt a statue of the Goddess Flirtation. She infinitely prefers wealth and vanity to anything, even to vice."
"Vice, sir! is that a term for us to apply to a lady like her, whom we are all unworthy to approach?" and David turned very red.
"Well, you need not quarrel with me about her, as I don't with you."
"Quarrel with you, dear sir? I hope I feel your kindness, and know my duty better; but, sir, I am agitated, and my heart is troubled; and surely you go beyond reason. She is not old enough to have had so many lovers."
"Humph! she has made good use of her time."
"Even could I believe that she, who seems to me an angel, is a coquette, still she cannot be hard and heartless as you describe her. It is impossible; it does not belong to her years."
"You keep harping on her age, Dodd. Do you know her age? If you do, you have the advantage of me. I have not seen her baptismal register. Have you?"
"No, sir, but I know what she says is her age."
"That is only evidence of what is not her age."
"But there is her face, sir; that is evidence."
"You have never seen her face; it is always got up to deceive the public."
"I have seen it at the dawn, before any of you were up."
"What is that? Halo! the deuce--where?"
"In the garden."
"In the garden? Oh, she does not jump off her down-bed on to a flowerbed. She had been an hour at work on that face before ever the sun or you got leave to look on it."
"I'll stake my head I tell her age within a year, Mr. Bazalgette."
"No you will not, nor within ten years."
"That is soon seen. I call her one-and-twenty."
"One-and-twenty! You are mad! Why, she has had a child that would be fifteen now if it had lived."
"Miss Lucy? A child? Fifteen years? What on earth do you mean?"
"What do you mean? What has Miss Lucy to do with it? You know very well it is MY WIFE I am warning you against, not that innocent girl."
At this David burst out in his turn. "YOUR WIFE! and have you so vile an opinion of me as to think I would eat your bread and tempt your wife under your roof. Oh, Mr. Bazalgette, is this the esteem you profess for me?"
"Go to the Devil!" shouted Bazalgette, in double ire at his own blunder and at being taken to task by his own Telemachus; he added, but in a very different tone, "You are too good for this world."
The best things we say miss fire in conversation; only second-rate shots hit the mind through the ear. This, we will suppose, is why David derived no amusement or delectation from Mr. Bazalgette's inadvertent but admirable bon-mot.
"Go to the Devil! you are too good for this world."
He merely rose, and said gravely, "Heaven forgive you your unjust suspicions, and God bless you for your other kindness. Good-by!"
"Why, where on earth are you going?"
"To stow away my things; to pack up, as they call it."
"Come back! come back! why, what a terrible fellow you are; you make no allowances for metaphors. There, forgive me, and shake hands. Now sit down. I esteem you more than ever. You have come down from another age and a much better one than this. Now let us be calm, quiet, sensible, tranquil. Hallo!" (starting up in agitation), "a sudden light bursts on me. You are in love, and not with my wife; then it is my ward."
"It is too late to deny it, sir."
"That is far more serious than the other," said Bazalgette, very gravely; "the old one would have been sure to cure you of your fancy for her, soon or late, but Lucy! Now, just look at that young buffer's eyes glaring at us like a pair of saucers."
"I am not listening, papa; I haven't heard a word you and Mr. Dodd have said about naughty ladies. I have been such a good boy, minding my puzzle."
"I wish he may not have been minding ours instead," muttered his sire, and rang the bell, and ordered the servant to take away Master Reginald and bring coffee.
The pair sipped their coffee in dead silence. It was broken at last by David saying sadly and a little bitterly, "I fear, sir, your good opinion of me does not go the length of letting me come into your family."
The merchant seemed during the last five minutes to have undergone some starching process, so changed was his whole manner now; so distant, dignified and stiff. "Mr. Dodd," said he, "I am in a difficult position. Insincerity is no part of my character. When I say I have a regard for a man, I mean it. But I am the young lady's guardian, sir. She is a minor, though on the verge of her majority, and I cannot advise her to a match which, in the received sense, would be a very bad one for her. On the other hand, there are so many insuperable obstacles between you and her, that I need not combat my personal sentiments so far as to act against you; it would, indeed, hardly be just, as I have surprised your secret unfairly, though with no unfair intention. My promise not to act hostilely implies that I shall not reveal this conversation to Mrs. Bazalgette; if I did I should launch the deadliest of all enemies--irritated vanity--upon you, for she certainly looks on you as her plaything, not her niece's; and you would instantly be the victim of her spite, and of her influence over Lucy, if she discovered you have the insolence to escape her, and pursue another of her sex. I shall therefore keep silence and neutrality. Meantime, in the character, not of her guardian, but of your friend, I do strongly advise you not to think seriously of her. She will never marry you. She is a good, kind, amiable creature, but still she is a girl of the world--has all its lessons at her finger ends. Bless your heart, these meek beauties are as ambitious as Lucifer, and this one's ambition is fed by constant admiration, by daily matrimonial discussions with the old stager, and I believe by a good offer every now and then, which she refuses, because she is waiting for a better. Come, now, it only wants one good wrench--"
David interrupted him mildly: "Then, sir," said he, thoughtfully; "the upshot is that, if she says 'Yes,' you won't say 'No.'"
The mature merchant stared.
"If," said he, and with this short sentence and a sardonic grin he broke off trying
So nothing more was said or done that evening worth recording.
The next day, being the day of the masquerade, was devoted by the ladies to the making, altering, and trying on of dresses in their bedrooms. This turned the downstairs rooms so dark and unlovely that the gentlemen deserted the house one after the other. Kenealy and Talboys rode to see a cricket match ten miles off. Hardie drove into the town of ---- and David paced the gravel walk in hopes that by keeping near the house he might find Lucy alone, for he was determined to know his fate and end his intolerable suspense.
He had paced the walk about an hour when fortune seemed to favor his desires. Lucy came out into the garden. David's heart beat violently. To his great annoyance, Mr. Fountain followed her out of the house and called her. She stopped, and he joined her; and very soon uncle and niece were engaged in a conversation which seemed so earnest that David withdrew to another part of the garden not to interfere with them.
He waited, and waited, and waited till they should separate; but no, they walked more and more slowly, and the conversation seemed to deepen in interest. David chafed. If he had known the nature of that conversation he would have writhed with torture as well as fretted with impatience, for there the hand of her he loved was sought in marriage before his eyes, and within a few steps of him. On such threads hangs human life. Had he been at the hall door instead of in the garden, he might have anticipated Mr. Fountain. As it was, Mr. Fountain stole the march on him.
TO-MORROW Lucy had agreed to sail, and in the boat Mr. Talboys was to ask and win her band. But from the first Mr. Fountain had never a childlike confidence in the scheme, and his understanding kept rebelling more and more.
"'The man that means to pop, pops," said he; "one needn't go to sea--to pop. Terra firma is poppable on, if it is nothing else. These young fellows are like novices with a gun: the bird must be in a position or they can't shoot it--with their pop-guns. The young sparks in my day could pop them down flying. We popped out walking, popped out riding, popped dancing, popped psalm-singing. Talboys could not pop on horseback, because the lady's pony fidgeted, not his. Well, it will be so to-morrow. The boat will misbehave, or the wind will be easterly, and I shall be told southerly is the popping wind. The truth is, he is faint-hearted. His sires conquered England, and he is afraid of a young girl. I'll end this nonsense. He shall pop by proxy."
In pursuance of this resolve, seeing his niece pass through the hall with her garden hat on, he called to her that he would get his hat and join her. They took one turn together almost in silence. Fountain was thinking how he should best open the subject, and Lucy waiting after her own fashion, for she saw by the old man's manner he had something to say to her.
"Lucy, my dear, I leave you in a day or two."
"So soon, uncle."
"And it depends on you whether I am to go away a happy or a disappointed old man."
At these words, to which she was too cautious to reply in words, Lucy wore a puzzled air; but underneath it a keen observer might have noticed her cheek pale a little, a very little, and a quiver of suppressed agitation pass over her like a current of air in summer over a smooth lake.
Receiving no answer, Mr. Fountain went on to remind her that he was her only kinsman, Mrs. Bazalgette being her relation by half-blood only; and told her that, looking on himself as her father, he had always been anxious to see her position in life secured before his own death.
"I have been ambitious for you, my dear," said he, "but not more so than your beauty and accomplishments, and your family name entitle us to be. Well, my ambition for you and my affection for you are both about to be gratified; at least, it now rests with you to gratify them. Will you be Mrs. Talboys?"
Lucy looked down, and said demurely, "What a question for a third person to put!"
"Should I put it if I had not a right?"
"I don't know."'
"You ought to know, Lucy."
"Mr. Talboys has authorized you, dear?"
"Then this is a formal proposal from Mr. Talboy's?"
"Of course it is," said the old gentleman, fearlessly, for Lucy's manner of putting these questions was colorless; nobody would have guessed what she was at.
She now drew her arm round her uncle's neck, and kissed him, which made him exult prematurely.
"Then, dear uncle," said she lovingly, "you must tell Mr. Talboys that I thank him for the honor he does me, and that I decline."
"Accept, you mean?"
"No I don't--ha! ha!"
Her laugh died rapidly away at sight of the effect of her words. Mr. Fountain started, and his face turned red and pale alternately.
"Refuse my friend--refuse Talboys in that way? Thoughtless girl, you don't know what you are doing. His family is all but noble. What am I saying? noble? why, half the House of Peers is sprung from the dregs of the people, and got there either by pettifogging in the courts of law, or selling consciences in the Lower House; and of the other half, that are gentlemen of descent, not two in twenty can show a pedigree like Talboys. And with that name a princely mansion--antiquity stamped on it--stands in its own park, in the middle of its vast estates, with title-deeds in black-letter, girl."
"But, uncle, all this is encumbered--"
"It is false, whoever told you so. There is not a mortgage on any part of it--only a few trifling copyholds and pepper-corn rents."
"You misunderstand me; I was going to say, it is encumbered with a gentleman for whom I could never feel affection, because he does not inspire me with respect."
"Nonsense! he inspires universal respect."
"It must be by his estates, then, not his character. You know, uncle, the world is more apt to ask, 'What has he, then what is he?'"
"He is a polished gentleman."
"But not a well-bred one."
"The best bred I ever saw.
"Then you never looked in a glass, dear. No, dear uncle, I will tell you. Mr. Talboys has seen the world, has kept good society, is at his ease (a great point), and is perfect in externals. But his good manners are--what shall I say?--coat deep. His politeness is not proof against temptation, however petty. The reason is, it is only a spurious politeness. Real politeness is founded and built on the golden rule, however delicate and artificial its superstructure may be. But, leaving out of the question the politeness of the heart, he has not in any sense the true art of good-breeding; he has only the common traditions. Put him in a novel situation, with no rules and examples to guide him, he would be maladroit as a school-boy. He is just the counterpart of Mr. Dodd in that respect. Poor Mr. Dodd is always shocking one by violating the commonest rules of society; but every now and then he bursts out with a flash of natural courtesy so bright, so refined, so original, yet so worthy of imitation, that you say to yourself this is genius--the genius of good-breeding."
Mr. Fountain chafed with impatience during this tirade, in which he justly suspected an attempt to fritter away a serious discussion.
"Come off your hobby, Lucy," cried he, "and speak to me like a woman and like my niece. If this is your objection, overcome it for my sake."
"I would, dear," said Lucy, "but it is only one of my objections, and by no means the most serious."
On being invited to come at once to the latter, Lucy hesitated. "Would not that be unamiable on my part? Mr. Talboys has just paid me the highest compliment a gentleman can pay a lady; it is for me to decline him courteously, not abuse him to his friend and representative."
"No humbug, Lucy, if you please; I am in no humor for it."
"We should all be savages without a little of it."
"I am waiting."
"Then pledge me your word of honor no word of what I now say to the disadvantage of poor Mr. Talboys shall ever reach him."
"You may take your oath of that."
"Then he is a detractor, a character I despise."
"Who does he detract from? I never heard him."
"From all his superiors--in other words, from everybody he meets. Did you ever know him fail to sneer at Mr. Hardie?"
"Oh, that is the offense, is it?"
"No, it is the same with others; there, the other day, Mr. Dodd joined us on horseback. He did not dress for the occasion. He had no straps on. He came in a hurry to have our society, not to cut a dash. But there was Mr. Talboys, who can only do this one thing well, and who, thanks to his servant, had straps on, sneering the whole time at Mr. Dodd, who has mastered a dozen far more difficult and more honorable accomplishments than putting on straps and sitting on horses. But he is always backbiting and sneering; he admires nothing and nobody."
"He has admired you ever since he saw you."
"What! has he never sneered at me?"
"Never! ungrateful girl, never."
"How humiliating! He takes me for his inferior. His superiors he always sneers at. If he had seen anything good or spirited in me, he could not have helped detracting from me. Is not this a serious reason--that I despise the person who now solicits my love, honor and obedience? Well, then, there is another--a stronger still. But perhaps you will call it a woman's reason."
"I know. You don't like him--that is, you fancy you don't, and can't."
"No, uncle, it is not that I don't like him. It is that I HATE HIM."
"You hate him?" and Mr. Fountain looked at her to see if it was his niece Lucy who was uttering words so entirely out of character.
"I am but a poor hater. I have but little practice; but, with all the power of hating I do possess, I hate that Mr. Talboys. Oh, how delicious it is to speak one's mind out nice and rudely. It is a luxury I seldom indulge in. Yes, uncle," said Lucy, clinching her white teeth, "I hate that man, and I did hope his proposal would come from himself; then there would have been nothing to alloy my quiet satisfaction at mortifying one who is so ready to mortify others. But no, he has bewitched you; and you take his part, and you look vexed; so all my pleasure is turned to pain."
"It is all self-deception," gasped Fountain, in considerable agitation; "you girls are always deceiving yourselves: you none of you hate any man--unless you love him. He tells me you have encouraged him of late. You had better tell me that is a lie."
"A lie, uncle; what an expression! Mr. Talboys is a gentleman; he would not tell a falsehood, I presume."
"Aha! it is true, then, you have encouraged him?"
"There, you see; the moment we come from the generalities to facts, what a simpleton you are proved to be. Come, now, did you or did you not agree to go in a boat with him?"
"I did, dear."
"That was a pretty strong measure, Lucy."
"Very strong, I think. I can tell you I hesitated."
"Now you see how you have mistaken your own feelings."
Lucy hung her head. "Oh uncle, you call me simple--and look at you! fancy not seeing why I agreed to go--dans cette galêre. It was that Mr. Talboys might declare himself, and so I might get rid of him forever. I saw that if I could not bring him to the point, he would dangle about me for years, and perhaps, at last, succeed in irritating me to rudeness. But now, of course, I shall stay on shore with my uncle to-morrow. Qu'irais je faire dana cette galêre? you have done it all for me. Oh, my dear, dear uncle, I am so grateful to you!"
She showed symptoms of caressing Mr. Fountain, but he recoiled from her angrily. "Viper! but no, this is not you. There is a deeper hand than you in all this. This is that Mrs. Bazalgette's doings."
"No, indeed, uncle."
"Give me a proof it is not."
"With pleasure; any proof that is in my power."
"Then promise me not to marry Mr. Hardie."
"My dear uncle, Mr. Hardie has never asked me."
"But he will."
"What right have I to say so? What right have I to constitute Mr. Hardie my admirer? I would not for all the world put it into any gentleman's power to say, 'Why say "no," Miss Fountain, before I have asked you to say "yes"?' Oh!"
And, with this, Lucy put her face into her hands, but they were not large enough to hide the deep blush that suffused her whole face at the bare idea of being betrayed into an indelicacy of this sort.
"How could he say that? how could he know?" said Mr. Fountain, pettishly.
"Uncle, I cannot, I dare not. You and my aunt hate one another; so you might be tempted to tell her, and she would be sure to tell him. Besides, I cannot; my very instinct revolts from it. It would not be modest. I love you, uncle. Let me know your wishes, and have some faith in my affection, but pray do not press me further. Oh, what have I done, to be spoken of with so many gentlemen!"
Lucy was in evident agitation, and the blushes glowed more and more round her snowy hands and between her delicate fingers; and there is something so sacred about the modesty alarmed of an intelligent young woman--it is a feeling which, however fantastical, is so genuine in her, and so manifestly intense beyond all we can ourselves feel of the kind, that no man who is not utterly stupid or depraved can see it without a certain awe. Even Mr. Fountain, who looked on Lucy's distress as transcendent folly with a dash of hypocrisy, could not go on making her cheek burn so. "There! there!" cried he, "don't torment yourself, Lucy. I will spare your fanciful delicacy, though you have no pity on me--on your poor old uncle, whose heart you will break if you decline this match."
At these words, and the old man's change from anger to sadness, Lucy looked up in dismay, and the vivid color died, like a retiring wave, out of her cheek.
"You look surprised, Lucy. What! do you think this will not be a heartbreaking disappointment to me? If you knew how I have schemed for it--what I have done and endured to bring it about! To quarter the arms of Fontaine and Talboys! I put by the £5,000 directly, and as much more of my own, that you should not go into that noble family without a proper settlement. It was the dream of my heart; I could have died contented the next hour. More fool I to care for anybody but myself. Your selfish people escape these bitter disappointments. Well, it is a lesson. From this hour I will live for myself and care for nobody, for nobody cares for me."
These words, uttered with great agitation, and, I believe, with perfect sincerity, on his own unselfishness and hard fate, were terrible to Lucy. She wreathed her arms suddenly round him.
"Oh, uncle," she cried, despairingly, "kill me! send me to Heaven! send me to my mother, but don't stab me with such bitter words;" and she trembled with an emotion so much more powerful and convulsing than his, in which temper had a large share, that she once more cowed him.
"There! there!" he muttered, "I don't want to kill you, child, God knows, or to hurt you in any way."
Lucy trembled, and tried to smile. The good nature, which was the upper crust of this man's character, got the better of him.
"There! there! don't distress yourself so. I know who I have to thank for all this."
"She has not the power," said Lucy, in a faint voice, "to make me ungrateful to you."
Mind is more rapid than lightning. At this moment, in the middle of a sentence, it flashed across Lucy that her aunt had convinced her, sore against her will, that there was a strong element of selfishness in Mr. Fountain. "But it is that he deceives himself," thought Lucy. "He would sacrifice my happiness to his hobby, and think he has done it for love of me." Enlightened by this rapid reflection, she did not say to him as one of his own sex would, "Look in your own heart, and you will see that all this is not love of me, but of your own schemes." Oh, dear, no, that would not have been the woman. She took him round the neck, and, fixing her sapphire eyes lovingly on his, she said, "It is for love of me you set your heart on this great match? You wish to see me well settled in the world, and, above all, happy?"
"Of course it is. I told you so. What other object can I have?"
"Then, if you saw me wretched, and degraded in my own eyes, your heart would bleed for your poor niece--too late. Well, uncle, I love you, too, and I save you this day from remorse. Oh, think what it must be to hate and despise a man, and link yourself body and soul to that man for life. Oh, think and shudder with me. I have a quick eye. I have seen your lip curl with contempt when that fool has been talking--ah! you blush. You are too much his superior in everything but fortune not to despise him at heart. See the thing as it is. Speak to me as you would if my mother stood here beside us, uncle, and to speak to me, you must look her in the face. Could you say to me before her, 'I love you; marry a man we both despise!'?"
Mr. Fountain made no answer. He was disconcerted. Nothing is so easy to resist as logic solo. We see it, as a general rule, resisted with great success in public and private every day; but when it comes in good company, a voice of music, an angel face, gentle, persuasive caresses, and imploring eyes, it ceases to revolt the understanding. And so, caught in his own trap, foiled, baffled, soothed, caressed, all in one breath, Mr. Fountain hung his head, and could not immediately reply.
Lucy followed up her advantage. "No," cried she; "say to me, 'I love you, Lucy; marry nobody; stay with your uncle, and find your happiness in contributing to his comfort.'"
"What is the use my saying that, when I have got Mother Bazalgette against me, and her shopkeeper?"
"Never mind, uncle, you say it, and time will show whether your influence is small with me, and my affections small for you"; and she looked in his face with glistening eyes.
"Well, then," said he, "I do say it, and I suppose that means I must urge you no more about poor Talboys."
A shower of kisses descended upon him that moment. Moral: Lose no time in sealing a good bargain.
"Come, now, Lucy, you must do me a favor."
"Oh, thank you! thank you! what is it?"
"Ah! but it is about Talboys too."
"Never mind," faltered Lucy, "if it is anything short of--" (full stop).
"It is a long way short of that. Look here, Lucy, I must tell you the truth. He intends to ask your hand himself: he confided this to me, but he never authorized me to commit him as I have done, so that this conversation cannot be acted on: it must be a secret between you and me."
"Oh, dear! and I thought I had got rid of him so nicely."
"Don't be alarmed," groaned Fountain; "such matches as this can always be dropped; the difficulty is to bring them on. All I ask of you, then, is not to make mischief between me and my friend, the proudest man in England. If you don't value his friendship, I do. You must not let him know I have got him insulted by a refusal. For instance, you had better go out sailing with him to-morrow as if nothing had passed. Will your affection for me carry you as far as that?"
The proposal was wormwood to Lucy. So she smiled and said eagerly: "Is that all? Why, I will do it with pleasure, dear. It is not like being in the same boat with him for life, you know. Can you give me nothing more than that to do for you?"
"No; it does not do to test people's affection too severely. You have shown me that. Go on with your walk, Lucy. I shall go in."
"May I not come with you?"
"No; my head aches with all this; if I don't mind I shall eat no dinner. Agitation and vexation, don't agree with me. I have carefully avoided them all my life. I must go in and lie down for an hour"; and he left her rather abruptly.
She looked after him; her subtle eye noticed directly that he walked a little more feebly than usual. She ascribed this to his disappointment, justly perhaps, for at his age the body has less elastic force to resist a mental blow. The sight of him creeping away disappointed, and leaning heavier than usual on his stick, knocked at her cool but affectionate heart. She began to cry bitterly. When he was quite out of sight, she turned and paced the gravel slowly and sadly. It was new to her to refuse her uncle anything, still more strange to have to refuse him a serious wish. She was prepared, thoroughly prepared, for the proposal, but not to find the old man's heart so deeply set upon it. A wild impulse came over her to call him back and sacrifice herself; but the high spirit and intelligence that lay beneath her tenderness and complaisance stood firm. Yet she felt almost guilty, and very, very unhappy, as we call it at her age. She kept sighing; "Poor uncle!" and paced the gravel very slowly, hanging her sweet head, and crying as she went.
At the end of the walk David Dodd stood suddenly before her. He came flurried on his own account, but stopped thunder-struck at her tears. "What is the matter, Miss Lucy?"' said he, anxiously.
"Oh, nothing, Mr. Dodd;" and they flowed afresh.
"Can I do anything for you, Miss Lucy?"
"No, Mr. Dodd."
"Won't you tell me what is the matter? Are you not friends with me to-day?"
"I was put out by a very foolish circumstance, Mr. Dodd, and it is one with which I shall not trouble you, nor any person of sense. I prefer to retain your sympathy by not revealing the contemptible cause of my babyish-- There!" She shook her head proudly, as if tears were to be dispersed like dewdrops. "There!" she repeated; and at this second effort she smiled radiantly.
"It is like the sun coming out after a shower," cried David rapturously.
"That reminds me I must be going in, Mr. Dodd."
"Don't say that, Miss Lucy. What for?"
"To arrange another shower, one of pearls, on a dress I am to wear to-night."
David sighed. "Ah! Miss Lucy, at sight of me you always make for the hall door."
Lucy colored. "Oh, do I? I really was not aware of that. Then I suppose I am afraid of you. Is that what you would insinuate? "'
"No, Miss Lucy, you are not afraid of me; but I sometimes fear--" and he hesitated.
"It must blow very hard that day," said Lucy, with a world of politeness. Her tongue was too quick for him. He found it so, and announced the fact after his fashion. "I can't tack fast enough to follow you," said he despondently.
"But you are not required to follow me," replied this amiable eel, with hypocritical benignity; "I am going to my aunt's room to do what I told you. I leave you in charge of the quarter-deck." So saying, she walked slowly up the steps, and left David standing sorrowfully on the gravel. At the top step Miss Lucy turned and inquired gently when he was to sail. He told her the ship was expected to anchor off the fort to-morrow, but she would not sail till she had got all her passengers on board.
"Oh!" said Lucy, with an air of reflection. She then leaned in an easy posture against the wall, and, whether it was that she relented a little, or that, having secured her retreat, she was now indifferent to flight, certain it is that she did after her own fashion what many a daughter of Eve has done before her, and many a duchess and many a dairymaid will do after La Fountain and I are gone from earth. A minute ago it had been, "She must go directly." The more opposition to her departure, the more inexorable the necessity for her going; opposition withdrawn, and the door open, she stayed no end.
Full twenty minutes did that young lady stand there unsolicited, and chat with David Dodd in the kindest, sweetest, most amicable way imaginable.
She little knew she had an auditor--a female auditor, keen as a lynx.
All this day Reginald George Bazalgette, Esq., might have been defined "a pest in search of a playmate." Tom had got a holiday. Lucy only came out of her workshop to be seized by Mr. Fountain. David, who was waiting in the garden for Lucy, begged Reginald to excuse him for once. The young gentleman had recourse as a pis aller to his mamma. He invaded her bedroom, and besought her piteously to play at battledoor. That lady, sighing deeply at being taken from her dress, consented. Her soul not being in it, she played very badly. Her cub did not fail to tell her so. "Why, I can keep up a hundred with Mr. Dodd," said he.
"Oh, we all know Mr. Dodd is perfection," said the lady with a sneer. She was piqued with David. He had gone and left her in a brutal way, to make his apologies to Lucy.
"No, he is not," said Reginald. "I have found him out. He is as unjust as the rest of them."
"Dear me! and, pray, what has he done?"
"I will tell you, mamma, if you will promise not to tell papa, because he told me not to listen, and I didn't listen, mamma, because, you know, a gentleman always keeps his word; but they talked so loud the words would come into my ear; I could not keep them out. Mamma, are there any naughty ladies here?"
"No, my dear."
"Then what did papa mean, warning Mr. Dodd against one?"
Mrs. Bazalgette began to listen as he wished.
"Oh, he called her all the names. He said she was a statue of flirtation."
"Lucy? no! the naughty lady--the one that had twelve husbands. He kept warning him, and warning him, and then Mr. Dodd and papa they began to quarrel almost, because Mr. Dodd said the naughty lady was quite young, and papa said she was ever so old. Mr. Dodd said she was twenty-one. But papa told him she must be more than that, because she had a child that would be fifteen years old; only it died. How old would sister Emily be if she was alive, mamma? La, mamma, how pretty you are: you have got red cheeks like Lucy--redder, oh, ever so much redder--and in general they are so pale before dinner. Let me kiss you, mamma. I do love the ladies when their cheeks are red."
"There! there! now go on, dear; tell me some more."
"It is very interesting, isn't it, dear mamma?"
"It is amusing, at all events."
"No, it is not amusing--at least, what came after, isn't: it is wicked, it is unjust, it is abominable."
"Tell me, dear."
"It turned out it wasn't the naughty lady Mr. Dodd was in love for, and who do you think he is in love of?"
"I have not an idea."
"No, no, mamma, it is not. He owned it plump."
"Are you quite sure, love?"
"Upon my honor."
"What did they say next?"
"Oh, next papa began to talk his fine words that I don't know what the meaning of them is one bit. But Mr. Dodd, he could make them out, I suppose, for he said, 'So, then, the upshot is--' There, now, what is upshot? I don't know. How stupid grown-up people are; they keep using words that one doesn't know the meaning of."
"Never mind, love! tell me. What came after upshot?" said Mrs. Bazalgette, soothingly, with great apparent calmness and flashing eye.
"How kind you are to-day, mamma! That is twice you have called me love, and three times dear; only think. I should love you if you were always so kind, and your cheeks as red as they are now."
"Never mind my cheeks. What did Mr. Dodd say? Try and remember--come--'The upshot was--'"
"The upshot was--what was the upshot? I forget. No, I remember; the upshot was, if Lucy said 'yes,' papa would not say 'no;' that meant to marry him. Now didn't you promise me her ever so long ago--the day you and I agreed if I went a whole day without being naughty once I should have her for ever and ever? and I did go."
"Go to Lucy's room, and tell her to come to me," said Mrs. Bazalgette, in a stern, thoughtful voice, which startled poor Reginald, coming so soon after the cálinerie. However, he told her it was no use his going to Lucy's room, for she was out in the garden; he had seen her there walking with Mr. Fountain. Reginald then ran to the window which commanded the garden, to look for Lucy. He had scarcely reached it when he began to squeak wildly, "Come here! come here! come here!" Mrs. Bazalgette was at the window in a moment, and lo! at the end of the garden, walking slowly side by side, were Lucy and Mr. Dodd.
Ridiculous as it may appear, a pang of jealousy shot through the married flirt's heart that made her almost feel sick. This was followed at the interval of half a second by as pretty a flame of hatred as ever the spretoe injuria formoe lighted up in a coquette's heart. Doubt drove in its smaller sting besides, and at sight of the couple she resolved to have better evidence than Reginald's, especially as to Lucy's sentiments. The plan she hit upon was effective, but vulgar, and must not be witnessed by a boy of inconvenient memory and mistimed fluency. She got rid of him with high-principled dexterity. "Reginald," said she, sadly, "you are a naughty boy, a disobedient boy, to listen when your papa told you not, and to tell me a pack of falsehoods. I must either tell your papa, or I must punish you myself; I prefer to do it myself, he would whip you so"; with this she suddenly opened her dressing-room door, and pushed the terrible infant in, and locked the door. She then told him through the keyhole he had better cease yelling, because, if he kept quiet, his punishment would only last half an hour, and she flew downstairs. There was a large hot-house with two doors, one of which came very near to the house door that opened into the garden. Mrs. Bazalgette entered the hothouse at the other end, and, hidden by the exotic trees and flowers, made rapidly for the door Lucy and David must pass. She found it wide open. She half shut it, and slipped behind it, listening like a hare and spying like a hawk through the hinges. And, strange as it may appear, she had an idea she should make a discovery. As the finished sportsman watches a narrow ride in the wood, not despairing by a snap-shot to bag his hare as she crosses it, though seen but for a moment, so the Bazalgette felt sure that, as the couple passed her ambush, something, either in the two sentences they might utter, or, more probably, in their tones and general manner, would reveal to one of her experience on what footing they were.
A shrewd calculation! But things will be things. They take such turns, I might without exaggeration say twists, that calculation is baffled, and prophecy dissolved into pitch and toss. This thing turned just as not expected. Primo, instead of getting only a snap-shot, Mrs. Bazalgette heard every word of a long conversation; and, secundo, when she had heard it she could not tell for certain on what footing the lady and gentleman were. At first, from their familiarity, she inclined to think they were lovers; but, the more she listened, the more doubtful she seemed. Lucy was the chief speaker, and what she said showed an undisguised interest in her companion; but the subject accounted in great measure for that; she was talking of his approaching voyage, of the dangers and hardships of his profession, and of his return two years hence, his chances of promotion, etc. But here was no proof positive of love; they were acquaintances of some standing. Then Lucy's manner struck her as rather amicable than amorous. She was calm, kind, self-possessed, and almost voluble. As for David, he only got in a word here and there. When he did, there was something so different in his voice from anything he had ever bestowed on her, that she hated him, and longed to stick scissors into him from the rear, unseen. At last Lucy suddenly recollected, or seemed to recollect, she was busy, and retired hastily--so hastily that David saw too late his opportunity lost. But the music of her voice had so charmed him that he did not like to interrupt it even to speak of that which was nearest his heart. David sighed deeply, standing there alone.
Mrs. Bazalgette clinched her little fists and looked round for the means of vengeance. David went down on his knees. La Bazalgette glared through the crack, and wondered what on earth he was at now. Oh! he was praying. "He loves her: he is eccentricity itself; so he is praying for her, and on my doorsteps" (the householder wounded as well as the flirt). It was lucky she had not "a thunderbolt in her eye"--Shakespeare, or a celestial messenger of the wrong sort would have descended on the devout mariner. It was more than Mrs. Bazalgette could bear: she had now and then, not often, unladylike impulses. One of them had set her crouching behind the door of an outhouse, and listening through a crack; and now she had another, an irresistible one: it was, to take that empty flower-pot, fling it as hard as ever she could at the devotee, then shut the door quick, fly out at the other door, and leave her faithless swain in the agony of knowing himself detected and exposed by some unknown and undiscoverable enemy.
For a vengeance extemporized in less than half a second this was very respectable. Well, she clawed the flower-pot noiselessly, put her other hand on the door, cast a hasty glance at the means of retreat, and--things took another twist: she heard the rustle of a coming gown, and drew back again, and out came Lucy, and nearly ran over David, who was not on his knees after all, but down on his nose, prostrate Orientally. The fact is, Lucy, among her other qualities, good and bad, was a born housewife, and solicitously careful of certain odds and ends called property. She found she had dropped one of her gloves in the garden, and she came back in a state of disproportionate uneasiness to find it, and nearly ran over David Dodd.
"What are you doing, Mr. Dodd?"
David arose from his Oriental position, and, being a young man whose impulse always was to tell the simple truth, replied, "I was kissing the place where you stood so long."
He did not feel he had done anything extraordinary, so he gave her this information composedly; but her face was scarlet in an instant; and he, seeing that, began to blush too. For once Lucy's tact was baffled; she did not know what on earth to say, and she stood blushing like a girl of fifteen.
Then she tried to turn it off.
"Mr. Dodd, how can you be so ridiculous?" said she, affecting humorous disdain.
But David was not to be put down now; he was launched.
"I am not ridiculous for loving and worshiping you, for you are worthy of even more love than any human heart can hold."
"Oh, hush, Mr. Dodd. I must not hear this."
"Miss Lucy, I can't keep it any longer--you must, you shall hear me. You can despise my love if you will, but you shall know it before you reject it."
"Mr. Dodd, you have every right to be heard, but let me persuade you not to insist. Oh, why did I come back?"
"The first moment I saw you, Miss Lucy, it was a new life to me. I never looked twice at any girl before. It is not your beauty only--oh, no! it is your goodness--goodness such as I never thought was to be found on earth. Don't turn your head from me; I know my defects; could I look on you and not see them? My manners are blunt and rude--oh, how different from yours! but you could soon make me a fine gentleman, I love you so. And I am only the first mate of an Indiaman; but I should be a captain next voyage, Miss Lucy, and a sailor like me has no expenses; all he has is his wife's. The first lady in the land will not be petted as you will, if you will look kindly on me. Listen to me," trying to tempt her. "No, Miss Lucy, I have nothing to offer you worth your acceptance, only my love. No man ever loved woman as I love you; it is not love, it is worship, it is adoration! Ah! she is going to speak to me at last!"
Lucy presented at this moment a strange contrast of calmness and agitation. Her bosom heaved quickly, and she was pale, but her voice was calm, and, though gentle, decided.
"I know you love me, Mr. Dodd, and I feared this. I have tried to save you the mortification of being declined by one who, in many things, is your inferior. I have even been rude and unkind to you. Forgive me for it. I meant it kindly. I regret it now. Mr. Dodd, I thank you for the honor you do me, but I cannot accept your love." There was a pause, but David's tongue seemed glued to the roof of his mouth. He was not surprised, yet he was stupefied when the blow came.
At last he gasped out, "You love some other man?"
Lucy was silent.
"Answer me, for pity's sake; give me something to help me."
"You have no right to ask me such a question, but--I have no attachment, Mr. Dodd."
"Ah! then one word more. Is it because you cannot love me, or because I am poor, and only first mate of an Indiaman?"
"That I will not answer. You have no right to question a lady why she--Stay! you wish to despise me. Well, why not, if that will cure you of this unfortunate-- Think what you please of me, Mr. Dodd," murmured Lucy, sadly.
"Ah! you know I can't," cried David, despairingly.
"I know that you esteem me more than I deserve. Well, I esteem you, Mr. Dodd. Why, then, can we not be friends? You have only to promise me you will never return to this subject--come!"
"Me promise not to love you! What is the use? Me be your friend, and nothing more, and stand looking on at the heaven that is to be another's, and never to be mine? It is my turn to decline. Never. Betrothed lovers or strangers, but nothing between! It would drive me mad. Away from you, and out of sight of your sweet face, I may make shift to live, and go through my duty somehow, for my mother's and sister's sake."
"You are wiser than I was, Mr. Dodd. Yes, we must part."
"Of course we must. I have got my answer, and a kinder one than I deserve; and now what is the polite thing for me to do, I wonder?" David said this with terrible bitterness.
"You frighten me," sighed Lucy.
"Don't you be frightened, sweet angel; there! I have been used to obey orders all my life, and I am like a ship tossed in the breakers, and you are calm--calm as death. Give me my orders, for God's sake."
"It is not for me to command you, Mr. Dodd. I have forfeited that right. But listen to her who still asks to be your friend, and she will tell you what will be best for you, and kindest and most generous to her."
"Tell me about that last; the other is a waste of words."
"I will, then. Your sister is somewhere in the neighborhood."
"She is at ----; how did you know?"
"I saw her on your arm. I am glad she is so near--Oh, so glad! Bid my uncle and aunt good-by; make some excuse. Go to your sister at once. She loves you. She is better than I am, if you will but see us as we really are. Go to her at once," faltered Lucy, who disliked Eve, and Eve her.
"I will! I will! I have thought too little of my own flesh and blood. Shall I go now?"
"Yes," murmured Lucy softly, trying to disarm the fatal word. "Forget me--and--forgive me!" and, with this last word scarce audible, she averted her face, and held out her hand with angelic dignity, modesty and pity.
The kind words and the gentle action brought down the stout heart that had looked death in the face so often without flinching. "Forgive you, sweet angel!" he cried; "I pray Heaven to bless you, and to make you as happy as I am desolate for your sake. Oh, you show me more and more what I lose this day. God bless you! God bless--" and David's heart filled to choking, and he burst out sobbing despairingly, and the hot tears ran suddenly from his eyes over her hand as he kissed and kissed it. Then, with an almost savage feeling of shame (for these were not eyes that were wont to weep), he uttered one cry of despair and ran away, leaving her pale and panting heavily.
She looked piteously at her hand, wet with a hero's tears, and for the second time to-day her own began to gush. She felt a need of being alone. She wanted to think on what she had done. She would hide in the garden. She ran down the steps; lo! there was Mr. Hardie coming up the gravel-walk. She uttered a little cry of impatience, and dashed impetuously into the hot-house, driving the half-open door before her with her person as well as her arm.
A scream of terror and pain issued from behind it, with a crash of pottery.
Lucy wheeled round at the sound, and there was her aunt, flattened against the flower-frame.
Lucy stood transfixed.
But soon her look of surprise gave way to a frown; ay! and a somber one.
THAT ready-minded lady extricated herself from the pots, and wriggled out of the moral situation. "I was a listener, dear! an unwilling listener; but now I do not regret it. How nobly you behaved!" and with this she came at her with open arms, crying, "My own dear niece."
Her own dear niece recoiled with a shiver, and put up both her hands as a shield.
"Oh, don't touch me, please. I never heard of a lady listening!!!!"
She then turned her back on her aunt in a somewhat uncourtier-like manner, and darted out of the place, every fiber of her frame strung up tight with excitement. She felt she was not the calm, dispassionate being of yesterday, and hurried to her own room and locked herself in.
Mrs. Bazalgette remained behind in a state of bitter mortification, and breathing fury on her small scale. But what could she do? David would be out of her reach in a few minutes, and Lucy was scarce vulnerable.
In the absence of any definite spite, she thought she could not go wrong in thwarting whatever Lucy wished, and her wish had been that David should go. Besides, if she kept him in the house, who knows, she might pique him with Lucy, and even yet turn him her way; so she lay in wait for him in the hall. He soon appeared with his bag in his hand. She inquired, with great simplicity, where he was going. He told her he was going away. She remonstrated, first tenderly, then almost angrily. "We all counted on you to play the violin. We can't dance to the piano alone."
"I am very sorry, but I have got my orders." Then this subtle lady said, carelessly, "Lucy will be au désespoir. She will get no dancing. She said to me just now, 'Aunt, do try and persuade Mr. Dodd to stay over the ball. We shall miss him so.'"
"When did she say that?"
"Just this minute. Standing at the door there."
"Very well; then I'll stay over the ball." And without a word more he carried his bag and violin-case up to his room again. Oh, how La Bazalgette hated him! She now resigned all hope of fighting with him, and contented herself with the pleasure of watching him and Lucy together. One would be wretched, and the other must be uncomfortable.
Lucy did not come down to dinner; she was lying down with headache. She even sent a message to Mrs. Bazalgette to know whether she could be dispensed with at the ball. Answer, "Impossible!" At half-past eight she got up, put on her costume, took it off again, and dressed in white watered silk. Her assumption of a character was confined to wearing a little crown rising to a peak in front. Many of the guests had arrived when she glided into the room looking every inch a queen. David was dazzled at her, and awestruck at her beauty and mien, and at his own presumption.
Her eye fell on him. She gave a little start, but passed on without a word. The carpets had been taken up, and the dancing began.
Mrs. Bazalgette arranged that Lucy and David should play pianoforte and violin until some lady could be found to take her part.
I incline to think Mrs. Bazalgette, spiteful as mortified vanity is apt to be, did not know the depth of anguish her subtle vengeance inflicted on David Dodd.
He was pale and stern with the bitter struggle for composure. He ground his teeth, fixed his eyes on the music-book, and plowed the merry tunes as the fainting ox plows the furrow. He dared not look at Lucy, nor did he speak to her more than was necessary for what they were doing, nor she to him. She was vexed with him for subjecting himself and her to unnecessary pain, and in the eye of society--her divinity.
Another unhappy one was Mr. Fountain. He sat disconsolate on a seat all alone. Mrs. Bazalgette fluttered about like a butterfly, and sparkled like a Chinese firework.
Two young ladies, sisters, went to the piano to give Miss Fountain an opportunity of dancing. She danced quadrilles with four or five gentlemen, including her special admirers. She declined to waltz: "I have a little headache; nothing to speak of."
She then sat down to the piano again. "I can play alone, Mr. Dodd; you have not danced at all."
"I am not in the humor."
This time they played some of the tunes they had rehearsed together that happy evening, and David's lip quivered.
Lucy eyed him unobserved.
"Was this wise--to subject yourself to this?"
"I must obey orders, whatever it costs me--'ri tum ti tum ti tum ti tum.'"
"Who ordered you to neglect my advice?--'ri tum tum tum.'"
"You did--'ri tum ti tum tiddy iddy.'"
A look of silent disdain: "Ri tum, ti tum, tiddy iddy." (Ah! perdona for relating things as they happen, and not as your grand writers pretend they happen.)
Between the quadrilles she asked an explanation.
"Your aunt met me with my bag in my hand, and told me you wanted me to play to the company."
When he said this, David heard a sound like the click of a trigger. He looked up; it was Lucy clinching her teeth convulsively. But time was up: the woman of the world must go on like the prizefighter. The couples were waiting.
"Ri tum ti tum ti tum ti tum tiddy iddy." For all that, she did not finish the tune. In the middle of it she said to David, "'Ri tum ti tum--' can you get through this without me?--'ri tum.'"
"If I can get through life without you, I can surely get through this twaddle: 'ri tum ti tum ti tum ti tum tiddy iddy.'" Lucy started from her seat, leaving David plowing solo. She started from her seat and stood a moment, looking like an angel stung by vipers. Her eye went all round the room in one moment in search of some one to blight. It surprised Mr. Hardie and Mrs. Bazalgette sitting together and casting ironical glances pianoward: "So she has been betraying to Mr. Hardie the secret she gained by listening," thought Lucy. The pair were probably enjoying David's mortification, his misery.
She walked very slowly down the room to this couple. She looked them long and full in the face with that confronting yet overlooking glance which women of the world can command on great occasions. It fell, and pressed on them both like lead, they could not have told you why. They looked at one another ruefully when she had passed them, and then their eyes followed her. They saw her walk straight up to her uncle, and sit down by him, and take his hand. They exchanged another uneasy look.
"Uncle," said Lucy, speaking very quickly, "you are unhappy. I am the cause. I am come to say that I promise you not to marry anyone my aunt shall propose to me."
"My dear girl, then you won't marry that shopkeeper there?"
"What need of names, still less of epithets? I will marry no friend of hers."
"Ah! now you are my brother's daughter again."
"No, I love you no better than I did this morning; but the--"
Celestial happiness diffused itself over old Fountain's face, and Lucy glided back to the piano just as the quadrille ended.
"Give me your arm, Mr. Dodd," said she, authoritatively. She took his arm, and made the tour of the room leaning on him, and chatting gayly.
She introduced him to the best people, and contrived to appear to the whole room joyous and flattered, leaning on David's arm.
The young fellows envied him so.
Every now and then David felt her noble white arm twitch convulsively, and her fingers pinch the cloth of his sleeve where it was loose.
She guided him to the supper-room. It was empty. "Oblige me with a glass of water."
He gave it her. She drank it.
"Mr. Dodd, the advice I gave you with my own lips I never retracted. My aunt imposed upon you. It was done to mortify you. It has failed, as you may have observed. My head aches so, it is intolerable. When they ask you where I am, say I am unwell, and have retired to my room. I shall not be at breakfast; directly after breakfast go to your sister, and tell her your friend Lucy declined you, though she knows your value, and would not let you be mortified by nullities and heartless fools. Good-by, Mr. Dodd; try and believe that none of us you leave in this house are worth remembering, far less regretting."
She vanished haughtily; David crept back to the ball-room. It seemed dark by comparison now she who lent it luster was gone. He stayed a few minutes, then heavy-hearted to bed.
The next morning he shook hands with Mr. Bazalgette, the only one who was up, kissed the terrible infant, who, suddenly remembering his many virtues, formally forgave him his one piece of injustice, and, as he came, so he went away, his bag on his shoulder and his violin-case in his hand.
He went to Cousin Mary and asked for Eve. Cousin Mary's face turned red: "You will find her at No. 80 in this street. She is gone into lodgings." The fact is, the cousins had had a tiff, and Eve had left the house that moment.
Oh! my sweet, my beloved heroines--you young vipers, when will you learn to be faultless, like other people? You have turned my face into a peony, blushing for you at every fourth page.
David came into her apartment. He smiled sweetly, but sadly. "Well, it is all over. I have offered, and been declined."
At seeing him so quiet and resigned, Eve burst out crying.
"Don't you cry, dear," said David. "It is best so. It is almost a relief. Anything before the suspense I was enduring."
Then Eve, recovering her spirits by the help of anger, began to abuse Lucy for a cold-hearted, deceitful girl; but David stopped her sternly.
"Not a word against her--not a word. I should hate anyone that miscalled her. She speaks well of you, Eve; why need you speak ill of her? She and I parted friends, and friends let us be. There is no hate can lie alongside love in a true heart. No, let nobody speak of her at all to me. I shan't; my thoughts, they are my own. 'Go to your sister,' said she, and here I am; and I beg your pardon, Eve, for neglecting you as I have of late."
"Oh, never mind that, David; our affection will outlast this folly many a long year."
"Please God! Your hand in mine, Eve, my lamb, and let us talk of ourselves and mother: the time is short."
They sat hand in hand, and never mentioned Lucy's name again; and, strange to say, it was David who consoled Eve; for, now the battle was lost, her spirit seemed to have all deserted her, and she kept bursting out crying every now and then irrelevantly.
It was three in the afternoon. David was sitting by the window, and Eve packing his chest in the same room, not to be out of his sight a minute, when suddenly he started up and cried, "There she is," and an instinctive unreasonable joy illumined his face; the next moment his countenance fell.
The carriage passed down the street.
"I remember now," muttered David, "I heard she was to go sailing, and Mr. Talboys was to be skipper of the boat. Ah! well."
"Well, let them sail, David. It is not your business."
"That it is not, Eve--nobody's less than mine.
"Eve, there is plenty of wind blowing up from the nor'east."
"Is there? I am afraid that will bring your ship down quick."
"Yes; but it is not that. I am afraid that lubber won't think of looking to windward."
"Nonsense about the wind; it is a beautiful day. Come, David, it is no use lighting against nature. Put on your hat, then, and run down to the beach, and see the last of her; only, for my sake, don't let the others see you, to jeer you."
"And mind and be back to dinner at four. I have got a nice roast fowl for you."
A little before four o'clock a sailor brought a note from David, written hastily in pencil. It was sent up to Eve. She read it, and clasped her hands vehemently.
"Oh, David, she was born to be your destruction."
MR. FOUNTAIN, Miss Fountain, and Mr. Talboys started to go on the boating expedition. As they were getting into the boat, Mr. Fountain felt a little ill, and begged to be excused. Mr. Talboys offered to return with him. He declined: "Have your little sail. I will wait at the inn for you."
This pantomime had, I blush to say, been arranged beforehand. Miss Fountain, we may be sure, saw through it, but she gave no sign. A lofty impassibility marked her demeanor, and she let them do just what they liked with her.
The boat was launched, the foresail set, and Fountain remained on shore in anything but a calm and happy state.
But friendships like these are not free from dross; and I must confess that among the feelings which crossed his mind was a hope that Talboys would pop, and be refused, as he had been. Why should he, Fountain, monopolize defeat? We should share all things with a friend.
Meantime, by one of those caprices to which her sex are said to be peculiarly subject, Lucy seemed to have given up all intention of carrying out her plan for getting rid of Mr. Talboys. Instead of leading him on to his fate, she interposed a subtle but almost impassable barrier between him and destruction; her manner and deportment were of a nature to freeze declarations of love upon the human lip. She leaned back languidly and imperially on the luxurious cushions, and listlessly eyed the sky and the water, and ignored with perfect impartiality all the living creatures in the boat.
Mr. Talboys endeavored in vain to draw her out of this languid mood. He selected an interesting subject of conversation to--himself; he told her of his feats yachting in the Mediterranean; he did not tell her, though, that his yacht was sailed by the master and not by him, her proprietor. In reply to all this Lucy dropped out languid monosyllables.
At last Talboys got piqued and clapped on sail.
There had not been a breath of air until half an hour before they started; but now a stiff breeze had sprung up; so they had smooth water and yet plenty of wind, and the boat cut swiftly through-the bubbling water.
"She walks well," said the yachtsman.
Lucy smiled a gracious, though still rather too queenly assent. I think the motion was pleasing her. Lively motion is very agreeable to her sex.
"This is a very fast boat," said Mr. Talboys. "I should like to try her speed. What do you say, Miss Fountain?"
"With all my heart," said Lucy, in a tone that expressed her utter indifference.
"Here is this lateen-rigged boat creeping down on our quarter; we will stand east till she runs down to us, and then we will run by her and challenge her." Accordingly Talboys stood east.
But he did not get his race; for, somewhat to his surprise, the lateen-rigged boat, instead of holding her course, which was about south-southwest, bore up directly and stood east, keeping about half a mile to windward of Talboys.
This puzzled Talboys. "They are afraid to try it," said he. "If they are afraid of us sailing on a wind, they would not have much chance with us in beating to windward. A lugger can lie two points nearer the wind than a schooner."
All this science was lost on Lucy. She lay back languid and listless.
Mr. Talboy's crew consisted of a man and a boy. He steered the boat himself. He ordered them to go about and sail due west. It was no sooner done than, lo and behold, the schooner came about and sailed west, keeping always half a mile to windward.
"That boat is following us, Miss Fountain."
"What for?" inquired she; "is it my uncle coming after us?"
"No; I see no one aboard but a couple of fishermen."
"They are not fishermen," put in the boy; "they are sailors--coastguard men, likely."
"Besides," said Mr. Talboys, "your uncle would run down to us at once, but these keep waiting on us and dogging us. Confound their impudence."
"It is all fancy," said Lucy; "run away as fast as you can that way," and she pointed down the wind, "and you will see nobody will take the trouble to run after us."
"Hoist the mainsail," cried Talboys.
They had hitherto been sailing under the foresail only. In another minute they were running furiously before the wind with both sails set. The boat yawed, and Lucy began to be nervous; still, the increased rapidity of motion excited her agreeably. The lateen-schooner, sailing under her fore-sail only, luffed directly and stood on in the lugger's wake. Lucy's cheek burned, but she said nothing.
"There," cried Talboys, "now do you believe me? I think we gain on her, though."
"We are going three knots to her two, sir," said the old man, "but it is by her good will; that is the fastest boat in the town, sailing on a wind; at beating to windward we could tackle her easy enough, but not at running free. Ah! there goes her mainsel up; I thought she would not be long before she gave us that."
"Oh, how beautiful!" cried Lucy; "it is like a falcon or an eagle sailing down on us; it seems all wings. Why don't we spread wings too and fly away?"
"You see, miss," explained the boatman, "that schooner works her sails different from us; going down wind she can carry her mainsel on one side of the craft and her foresel on the other. By that she keeps on an even keel, and, what is more, her mainsel does not take the wind out of her foresel. Bless you, that little schooner would run past the fastest frigate in the king's service with the wind dead aft as we have got it now; she is coming up with us hand over head, and as stiff on her keel as a rock; this is her point of sailing, beating to windward is ours. Why, if they ain't reefing the foresel, to make the race even; and there go three reefs into her mainsel too." The old boatman scratched his head.
"Who is aboard her, Dick? they are strangers to me."
By taking in so many reefs the lateen had lowered her rate of sailing, and she now followed in their wake, keeping a quarter of a mile to windward.
Talboys lost all patience. "Who is it, I wonder, that has the insolence to dog us so?" and he looked keenly at Miss Fountain.
She did not think herself bound to reply, and gazed with a superior air of indifference on the sky and the water.
"I will soon know," said Talboys.
"What does it matter?" inquired Lucy. "Probably somebody who is wasting his time as we are."
"The road we are on is as free to him as to us," suggested the old boatman, with a fine sense of natural justice. He added, "But if you will take my advice, sir, you will shorten sail, and put her about for home. It is blowing half a gale of wind, and the sea will be getting up, and that won't be agreeable for the young lady."
"Gale of wind? Nonsense," said Talboys; "it is a fine breeze."
"Oh, thank you, sir," said Lucy to the old man; "I love the sea, but I should not like to be out in a storm."
The old boatman grinned. "'Storm is a word that an old salt reserves for one of those hurricanes that blow a field of turnips flat, and teeth down your throat. You can turn round and lean your back against it like a post; and a carrion-crow making for the next parish gets fanned into another county. That is a storm."
The old boatman went forward grinning, and he and his boy lowered the mainsail. Then Talboys at the helm brought the boat's head round to the wind. She came down to her bearings directly, which is as much as to say that to Lucy she seemed to be upsetting.
Lucy gave a little scream. The sail, too, made a report like the crack of a pistol.
"Oh, what is that?" cried Lucy.
"Wind, mûm," replied the boatman, composedly.
"What is that purple line on the water, sir, out there, a long way beyond the other boat?
"It seems to move. It is coming this way."
"Ay, mûm, that is a thing that always makes to leeward," said the old fellow, grinning. "I'll take in a couple of reefs before it comes to us."
Meantime, the moment the lugger lowered her mainsail, the schooner, divining, as it appeared, her intention, did the same, and luffed immediately, and was on the new tack first of the two.
"Ay, my lass," said the old boatman, "you are smartly handled, no doubt, but your square stern and your try-hanglar sail they will take you to leeward of us pretty soon, do what you can."
The event seemed to justify this assertion; the little lugger was on her best point of sailing, and in about ten minutes the distance between the two boats was slightly but sensibly diminished. The lateen, no doubt, observed this, for she began to play the game of short tacks, and hoisted her mainsail, and carried on till she seemed to sail on her beam-ends, to make up, as far as possible, by speed and smartness for what she lost by rig in beating to windward.
"They go about quicker than we do," said Talboys.
"Of course they do; they have not got to dip their sail, as we have, every time we tack."
This was the true solution, but Mr. Talboys did not accept it.
"We are not so smart as we ought to be. Now you go to the helm, and I and the boy will dip the lug."
The old boatman took the helm as requested, and gave the word of command to Mr. Talboys. "Stand by the foretack."
"Yes," said Mr. Talboys, "here I am."
"Let go the fore-tack"; and, contemporaneously with the order, he brought the boat's head round.
Now this operation is always a nice one, particularly in these small luggers, where the lug has to be dipped, that is to say, lowered, and raised again on the opposite side of the mast; for the lug should not be lowered a moment too soon, or the boat, losing her way, would not come round; nor a moment too late, lest the sail, owing to the new position the boat is taking under the influence of the rudder, should receive the wind while between the wind and the mast, and so the craft be taken aback, than which nothing can well happen more disastrous.
Mr. Talboys, though not the accomplished sailor he thought himself, knew this as well as anybody, and with the boy's help he lowered the sail at the right moment; but, getting his head awkwardly in the way, the yard, in coming down, hit him on the nose and nearly knocked him on to his beam-ends. It would have been better if it had done so quite instead of bounding off his nose on to his shoulder and there resting; for, as it was, the descent of the sail being thus arrested half-way at the critical moment, and the boat's head coming round all the same, a gust of wind caught the sail and wrapped it tight round the mast to windward. The boy uttered a cry of terror so significant that Lucy trembled all over, and by an uncontrollable impulse leaned despairingly back and waved her white handkerchief toward the antagonist boat. The old boatman with an oath darted forward with an agility he could not have shown ashore.
The effect on the craft was alarming. If the whole sail had been thus taken aback, she would have gone down like lead; for, as it was, she was driven on her side and at the same time driven back by the stern; the whole sea seemed to rise an inch above her gunwale; the water poured into her at every drive the gusts of wind gave her, and the only wonder seemed why the waves did not run clean over her.
In vain the old boatman, cursing and swearing, tugged at the canvas to free it from the mast. It was wrapped round it like Dejanira's shirt, and with as fatal an effect; the boat was filling; and as this brought her lower in the water, and robbed her of much of her buoyancy, and as the fatal cause continued immovable, her destruction was certain.
Every cheek was blanched with fear but Lucy's, and hers was red as fire ever since she waved her handkerchief; so powerful is modesty with her sex. A true virgin can blush in death's very grasp.
In the midst of this agitation and terror, suddenly the boat was hailed. They all looked up, and there was the lateen coming tearing down on them under all her canvas, both her broad sails spread out to the full, one on each side. She seemed all monstrous wing. The lugger being now nearly head to wind, she came flying down on her weather bow as if to run past her, then, lowering her foresail, made a broad sweep, and brought up suddenly between the lugger and the wind. As her foresail fell, a sailor bounded over it on to the forecastle, and stood there with one foot on the gunwale, active as Mercury, eye glowing, and a rope in his hand.
"Stand by to lower your mast," roared this sailor in a voice of thunder to the boatman of the lugger; and the moment the schooner came up into the wind athwart the lugger's bows he bounded over ten feet of water into her, and with a turn of the hand made the rope fast to her thwart, then hauling upon it, brought her alongside with her head literally under the schooner's wing.
He and the old boatman then instantly unstepped the mast and laid it down in the boat, sail and all. It was not his great strength that enabled them to do this (a dozen of him could not have done it while the wind pressed on the mast); it was his address in taking all the wind out of the lug by means of the schooner's mainsail. The old man never said a word till the work was done; then he remarked, "That was clever of you."
The new-comer took no notice whatever. "Reef that sail, Jack," he cried; "it will be in the lady's face by and by; and heave your bailer in here; their boat is full of water."
"Not so full as it would if you hadn't brought up alongside," said the old boatman.
"Do you want to frighten the lady?" replied the sailor, in his driest and least courtier-like way.
"I am not frightened, Mr. Dodd," said Lucy. "I was, but I am not now."
"Come and help me get the water out of her, Jack. Stay! Miss Fountain had better step into the dry boat, meantime. Now, Jack, look alive; lash her longside aft."
This done, the two sailors, one standing on the lugger's gunwale, one on the schooner's, handed Miss Fountain into the schooner, and gave her the cushions of the lugger to sit upon. They then went to work with a will, and bailed half a ton of water out.
When she was dry David jumped back into his own boat. "Now, Miss Fountain, your boat is dry, but the sea is getting up, and I think, if I were you, I would stay where you are."
"I mean to," said the lady, calmly. "Mr. Talboys, would you mind coming into this boat? We shall be safer here; it--it is larger."
The gentleman thus addressed was embarrassed between two mortifications, one on each side him. If he came into David's boat he would be second fiddle, he who had gone out of port first fiddle. If he stuck to the lugger Lucy would go off with Dodd, and he would look like a fool coming ashore without her. He hesitated.
David got impatient. "Come, sir," he cried, "don't you hear the lady invite you? and every moment is precious." And he held out his hand to him.
Talboys decided on taking it, and he even unbent so far as to jump vigorously--so vigorously that, David pulling him with force at the same moment, he came flying into the schooner like a cannon-ball, and, toppling over on his heels, went down on the seat with his head resting on the weather gunwale, and his legs at a right angle with his back.
"That is one way of boarding a craft," muttered David, a little discontentedly; then to the old boatman: "Here, fling us that tarpaulin. I say, here is more wind coming; are you sure you can work that lugger, you two?"
"We will be ashore before you can, now there's nobody to bother us," was the prompt reply.
"Then cast loose; here we are, drifting out to sea."
The old man cast the rope loose; David hauled it on board, and the schooner shot away from her companion and bore up north-north-west, leaving the luggar rocking from side to side on the rising waves. But the next minute Lucy saw her sail rise, and she bore up and stood northeast.
"Good-by to you, little horror," said Lucy.
"We shall fall in with her a good many times more before we make the land," said David Dodd.
Lucy inquired what he meant; but he had fallen to hauling the sheet aft and making the sail stand flatter, and did not answer her. Indeed, he seemed much more taken up with Jack than with her, and, above all, entirely absorbed in the business of sailing the boat.
She was a little mortified at this behavior, and held her tongue. Talboys was sulky, and held his. It was a curious situation. In the hurry and bustle, none of the parties had realized it; but now, as the boat breasted the waves, and all was silent on board, they had time to review their position.
Talboys grew gloomier and gloomier at the poor figure he cut. Lucy kept blushing at intervals as she reflected on the obligation she had laid herself under to a rejected lover. The rejected lover alone seemed to mind his business and nothing else; and, as he was almost ludicrously unconscious that he was doing a chivalrous action, a misfortune to which those who do these things are singularly liable, he did not gild the transaction with a single graceful speech, and permitted himself to be more occupied with the sails than with rescued beauty.
Succeeding events, however, explained, and in some degree excused, this commonplace behavior.
The next time they tacked some spray came flying in, and wetted all hands. Lucy laughed. The lugger had also tacked, and the two boats were now standing toward each other; when they met the lugger had weathered on them some sixty or seventy yards.
A furious rain now came on almost horizontally, and the sailors arranged the tarpaulin so as to protect Mr. Talboys and Miss Fountain.
"But you will be wet through yourself, Mr. Dodd. Will you not come under shelter too?"
"And who is to sail the boat?" He added, "I am glad to see the rain. I hope it will still the wind; if it doesn't, we shall have to try something else, that is all."
"Pray, when do you undertake to land us, Mr. Dodd?" inquired Mr. Talboys, superciliously.
"Well, sir, if it does not blow any harder, about eight bells."
"Eight bells? Why, that means midnight," exclaimed Talboys.
"Wind and tide both dead against us," replied David, coolly.
"Oh, Mr. Dodd, tell me the truth: is there any danger?"
"Danger? Not that I see; but it is very uncomfortable, and unbecoming, for you to be beating to windward against the tide for so many hours, when you ought to be sitting on the sofa at home. However, next time you run out of port, I hope those that take charge of you will look to the almanac for the tide, and look to windward for the weather: Jack, the lugger lies nearer the wind than we do.
"A little, sir."
"Will you take the helm a minute, Mr. Talboys? and you come forward and unbend this." The two sailors put their heads together amidships, and spoke in an undertone. "The wind is rising with the rain instead of falling."
"'Seems so, sir."
"What do you think yourself?"
"Well, sir, it has been blowing harder and harder ever since we came out, and very steady."
"It will turn out one of those dry nor'easters, Jack."
"I shouldn't wonder, sir. I wish she was cutter-rigged, sir. A boat has no business to be any other rig but cutter; there ought to be a nact o' parliam't against these outlandish rigs."
"I don't know; I have seen wonders done with this lateen rig in the Pacific."
"The lugger forereaches on us, sir."
"A little, but, for all that, I am glad she is on board our craft; we have got more beam, and, if it comes to the worst, we can run. The lugger can't with her sharp stern. I'll go to the helm."
Just as David was stepping aft to take the helm, a wave struck the boat hard on the weather bow, close to the gunwale, and sent a bucket of salt water flying all over him; he never turned his head even--took no more notice of it than a rock does when the sea spits at it. Lucy shrieked and crouched behind the tarpaulin. David took the helm, and, seeing Talboys white, said kindly: "Why don't you go forward, sir, and make yourself snug under the folksel deck? she is sure to wet us abaft before we can make the land."
No. Talboys resisted his inclination and the deadly nausea that was creeping over him.
"Thank you, but I like to see what is going on; and" (with an heroic attempt at sea-slang) "I like a wet boat."
They now fell in with the lugger again lying on the opposite tack, and a hundred yards at least to windward.
Just before they crossed her wake David sang out to Jack:
"Our masts--are they sound?"
"Bran-new, sir; best Norway pine."
"What d'ye think?"
"Think we are wasting time and daylight."
"Then stand by the main sheet."
"Slack the main sheet."
"Ay, ay, sir."
The boat instantly fell off into the wind, and, as she went round, David stood up in the stern-sheets and waved his cap to the men on board the lugger, who were watching him. The old man was seen to shake his head in answer to the signal, and point to his lug-sail standing flat as a board, and the next moment they parted company, and the lateen was running close-reefed before the wind.
Mr. Talboys was sitting collapsed in the lethargy that precedes seasickness. He started up. "What are you doing?" he shrieked.
"Keep quiet, sir, and don't bother," said David, with calm sternness, and in his deepest tones.
"Pray don't interfere with Mr. Dodd," said Lucy; "he must know best."
"You don't see what he is doing, then," cried Talboys, wildly; "the madman is taking us out to sea."
"Are you taking us out to sea, Mr. Dodd?" inquired Lucy, with dismay.
"I am doing according to my judgment of tide and wind, and the abilities of the craft I am sailing," said David, firmly; "and on board my own craft I am skipper, and skipper I will be. Go forward, sir, if you please, and don't speak except to obey orders."
Mr. Talboys, sick, despondent and sulky, went gloomily forward, coiled himself up under the forecastle deck, and was silent and motionless.
"Don't send me," cried Lucy, "for I will not go. Nothing but your eye keeps up my courage. I don't mind the water," added she, hastily and a little timidly, anxious to meet every reason that could be urged for imprisoning her in the forecastle hold.
"You are all right where you are, miss," said Jack, cheerfully; "we shan't have no more spray come aboard us; it won't come in by the can full if it doesn't come by the ton."
"Will you belay your jaw?" roared David, in a fury that Lucy did not comprehend at the time. "What a set of tarnation babblers in one little boat."
"I won't speak any more, Mr. Dodd; I won't speak."
"Bless your heart, it isn't you I meant. 'Twould be hard if a lady might not put her word in. But a man is different. I do love to see a man belay his jaw, and wait for orders, and then do his duty; hoist the mainsel, you!"
"Ay, ay, sir."
"Shake out a couple of reefs."
"Ay, ay, sir."
And the lateen spread both her great wings like an albatross, and leaped and plunged, and flew before the mighty gale.
"THIS is nice. The boat does not upset or tumble as it did. It only courtesies and plunges. I like it."
"The sea has not got up yet, miss," said Jack.
"Hasn't it? the waves seem very large."
"Lord love you, wait till we have had four or five hours more of this."
"Belay your jaw, Jack."
"Ay, ay, sir."
"Why so, Mr. Dodd?" objected Lucy gently. "I am not so weak as you think me. Do not keep the truth from me. I share the danger; let me share the sense of danger, too. You shall not blush for me."
"Danger? There is not a grain of it, unless we make danger by inattention--and babbling."
"You will not do that," said Lucy.
Equivoque missed fire.
"Not while you are on board," replied David, simply.
Lucy felt inclined to give him her hand. She had it out half-way; but he had lately asked her to marry him, so she drew it back, and her eyes rested on the bottom of the boat.
The wind rose higher. The masts bent so that each sail had every possible reef taken in. Her canvas thus reduced she scudded as fast as before, such was now the fury of the gale. The sea rose so that the boat seemed to mount with each wave as high as the second story of a house, and go down again to the cellar at every plunge. Talboys, prostrated by seasickness in the forehold, lay curled but motionless, like a crooked log, and almost as indifferent to life or death. Lucy, pale but firm, put no more questions that she felt would not be answered, but scanned David Dodd's face furtively yet closely. The result was encouraging to her. His cheek was not pale, as she felt her own. On the contrary, it was slightly flushed; his eye bright and watchful, but lion-like. He gave a word or two of command to Jack every now and then very sharply, but without the slightest shade of agitation, and Jack's "ay, ay" came back as sharply, but cheerfully.
The principal feature she discerned in both sailors was a very attentive, business-like manner. The romantic air with which heroes face danger in story was entirely absent; and so, being convinced by his yarns that David was a hero, she inferred that their situation could not be dangerous, but, as David himself had inferred, merely one in which watchfulness was requisite.
The sun went down red and angry. The night came on dark and howling. No moon. A murky sky, like a black bellying curtain above, and huge ebony waves, that in the appalling blackness seemed all crested with devouring fire, hemmed in the tossing boat, and growled, and snarled, and raged above, below, and around her.
Then, in that awful hour, Lucy Fountain felt her littleness and the littleness of man. She cowered and trembled.
The sailors, rough but tender nurses, wrapped shawls round her one above the other, "to make her snug for the night," they said. They seemed to her to be mocking her. "Snug? Who could hope to outlive such a fearful night? and what did it matter whether she was drowned in one shawl or a dozen?"
David being amidships, bailing the boat out, and Jack at the helm, she took the opportunity, and got very close to the latter, and said in his ear--
"Mr. Jack, we are in danger."
"Not exactly in danger, miss; but, of course, we must mind our eye. But I have often been where I have had to mind my eye, and hope to be again."
"Mr. Jack," said Lucy, shivering, "what is our danger? Tell me the nature of it, then I shall not be so cowardly; will the boat break?"
"Lord bless you, no."
"Will it upset?"
"No fear of that."
"Will not the sea swallow us?"
"No, miss. How can the sea swallow us? She rides like a cork, and there is the skipper bailing her out, to make her lighter still. No; I'll tell you, miss; all we have got to mind is two things; we must not let her broach to, and we must not get pooped."
"But why must we not?"
"Why? Because we mustn't."
"But I mean, what would be the consequence of--broaching to?"
Jack opened his eyes in astonishment. "Why, the sea would run over her quarter, and swamp her."
"Oh!! And if we get pooped?"
"We shall go to Davy Jones, like a bullet."
"Who is Davy Jones?"
"The Old One, you know--down below. Leastways you won't go there, miss; you will go aloft, and perhaps the skipper; but Davy will have me; so I won't give him a chance, if I can help it."
"Where are we, Mr. Jack?"
"I know that; but whereabouts?"
"Heaven knows; and no doubt the skipper, he knows; but I don't. I am only a common sailor. Shall I hail the skipper? he will tell you."
"No, no, no. He is so angry if we speak."
"He won't be angry if you speak to him, miss," said Jack, with a sly grin, that brought a faint color into Lucy's cheek; "you should have seen him, how anxious he was about you before we came alongside; and the moment that lubber went forward to dip the lug, says he, 'Jack, there will be mischief; up mainsail and run down to them. I have no confidence in that tall boy.' (He do seem a long, weedy, useless sort of lubber.) Lord bless you, miss, we luffed, and were running down to you long before you made the signal of distress with your little white flag." Lucy's cheeks got redder. "No, miss, if the skipper speaks severe to you, Jack Painter is blind with one eye, and can't see with t'other."
Lucy's cheeks were carnation.
But the next moment they were white, for a terrible event interrupted this chat. Two huge waves rolled one behind the other, an occurrence which luckily is not frequent; the boat, descending into the valley of the sea, had the wind taken out of her sails by the high wave that was coming. Her sails flapped, she lost her speed, and, as she rose again, the second wave was a moment too quick for her, and its combing crest caught her. The first thing Lucy saw was Jack running from the helm with a loud cry of fear, followed by what looked an arch of fire, but sounded like a lion rushing, growling on its prey, and directly her feet and ankles were in a pool of water. David bounded aft, swearing and splashing through it, and it turned into sparks of white fire flying this way and that. He seized the helm, and discharged a loud volley of curses at Jack.
"Fling out ballast, ye d--d cowardly, useless lubber," cried he; and while Jack, who had recoiled into his normal state of nerves with almost ridiculous rapidity, was heaving out ballast, David discharged another rolling volley at him.
"Oh, pray don't!" cried Lucy, trembling like an aspen leaf. "Oh, think! we shall soon be in the presence of our Maker--of Him whose name you--"
"Not we," cried David, with broad, cheerful incredulity; "we have lots more mischief to do--that lubber and I. And if he thinks he is going there, let him end like a man, not like a skulking lubber, running from the helm, and letting the craft come up in the wind."
"No, no, it was the sea he ran from. Who would not?"
"The lubber! If it had been a tiger or a bear I'd say nothing; but what is the use of trying to run from the sea? Should have stuck to his post, and set that thundering back of his up--it's broad enough--and kept the sea out of your boots. The sea, indeed! I have seen the sea come on board me, and clear the deck fore and aft, but it didn't come in the shape of a cupful o' water and a spoonful o' foam." Here David's wrath and contempt were interrupted by Jack singing waggishly at his work,
At which sly hit David was pleased, and burst into a loud, boisterous laugh.
Lucy put her hands to her ears. "Oh, don't! don't! this is worse than your blasphemies--laughing on the brink of eternity; these are not men--they are devils."
"Do you hear that, Jack? Come, you behave!" roared David.
A faint snarl from Talboys. The water had penetrated him, and roused him from a state of sick torpor; he lay in a tidy little pool some eight inches deep.
The boat was bailed and lightened, but Lucy's fears were not set at rest. What was to hinder the recurrence of the same danger, and with more fatal effect? She timidly asked David's permission to let her keep the sea out. Instead of snubbing her as she expected, David consented with a sort of paternal benevolence tinged with incredulity. She then developed her plan; it was, that David, Jack, and she should sit in a triangle, and hold the tarpaulin out to windward and fence the ocean out. Jack, being summoned aft to council, burst into a hoarse laugh; but David checked him.
"There is more in it than you see, Jack--more than she sees, perhaps. My only doubt is whether it is possible; but you can try."
Lucy and Jack then tried to get the tarpaulin out to windward; instead of which, it carried them to leeward by the force of the wind. The mast brought them up, or Heaven knows where their new invention would have taken them. With infinite difficulty they got it down and kneeled upon it, and even then it struggled. But Lucy would not be defeated; she made Jack gather it up in the middle, and roll it first to the right, then to the left, till it became a solid roll with two narrow open edges. They then carried it abaft, and lowered it vertically over the stern-port; then suddenly turned it round, and sat down. "Crack!" the wind opened it, and wrapped it round the boat and the trio.
"Hallo!" cried David, "it is foul of the rudder;" and, he whipped out his knife and made a slit in the stuff. It now clung like a blister.
"There, Mr. Dodd, will not that keep the sea out?" asked Lucy, triumphantly.
"At any rate, it may help to keep us ahead of the sea. Why, Jack, I seem to feel it lift her; it is as good as a mizzen."
"But, oh, Mr. Dodd, there is another danger. We may broach to."
"How can she broach to when I am at the helm? Here is the arm that won't let her broach to."
"Then I feel safe."
"You are as safe as on your own sofa; it is the discomfort you are put to that worries me."
"Don't think so meanly of me, Mr. Dodd. If it was not for my cowardice, I should enjoy this voyage far more than the luxurious ease you think so dear to me. I despise it."
"Mr. Dodd, now I am no longer afraid. I am, oh, so sleepy."
"No wonder--go to sleep. It is the best thing you can do."
"Thank you, sir. I am aware my conversation is not very interesting." Having administered this sudden bloodless scratch, to show that, at sea or ashore, in fair weather or foul, she retained her sex, Lucy disposed herself to sleep.
David, steering the boat with his left hand, arranged the cushion with his right. She settled herself to sleep, for an irresistible drowsiness had followed the many hours of excitement she had gone through. Twice the heavy plunging sea brought her into light contact with David. She instantly awoke, and apologized to him with gentle dismay for taking so audacious a liberty with that great man, commander of the vessel; the third time she said nothing, a sure sign she was unconscious.
Then David, for fear she might hurt herself, curled his arm around her, and let her head decline upon his shoulder. Her bonnet fell off; he put it reverently on the other side the helm. The air now cleared, but the gale increased rather than diminished. And now the moon rose large and bright. The boat and masts stood out like white stone-work against the flint-colored sky, and the silver light played on Lucy's face. There she lay, all unconscious of her posture, on the man's shoulder who loved her, and whom she had refused; her head thrown back in sweet helplessness, her rich hair streaming over David's shoulder, her eyes closed, but the long, lovely lashes meeting so that the double fringe was as speaking as most eyes, and her lips half open in an innocent smile. The storm was no storm to her now. She slept the sleep of childhood, of innocence and peace; and David gazed and gazed on her, and joy and tenderness almost more than human thrilled through him, and the storm was no storm to him either; he forgot the past, despised the future, and in the delirium of his joy blessed the sea and the wind, and wished for nothing but, instead of the Channel, a boundless ocean, and to sail upon it thus, her bosom tenderly grazing him, and her lovely head resting on his shoulder, for ever, and ever, and ever.
Thus they sailed on two hours and more, and Jack now began to nod.
All of a sudden Lucy awoke, and, opening her eyes, surprised David gazing at her with tenderness unspeakable. Awaking possessed with the notion that she was sleeping at home on a bed of down, she looked dumfounded an instant; but David's eyes soon sent the blood into her cheek. Her whole supple person turned eel-like, and she glided quickly, but not the least bruskly, from him; the latter might have seemed discourteous.
"Oh, Mr. Dodd," she cried, "what am I doing?"
"You have been getting a nice sleep, thank Heaven."
"Yes, and making use of you even in my sleep; but we all impose on your goodness."
"Why did you awake? You were happy; you felt no care, and I was happy seeing you so."
Lucy's eyes filled. "Kind, true friend," she murmured, "how can I ever thank you as I ought? I little deserved that you should watch over my safety as you have done, and, alas! risk your own. Any other but you would have borne me malice, and let me perish, and said, 'It serves her right.'"
"Malice! Miss Lucy. What for, in Heaven's name?"
"For--for the affront I put upon you; for the--the honor I declined."
"Hate cannot lie alongside love in a true heart."
"I see it cannot in a noble one. And then you are so generous. You have never once recurred to that unfortunate topic; yet you have gained a right to request me--to reconsider--Mr. Dodd, you have saved my life!!"
"What! do you praise me because I don't take a mean advantage? That would not be behaving like a man."
"I don't know that. You overrate your sex--and mine. We don't deserve such generosity. The proof is, we reward those who are not so--delicate."
"I don't trouble my head about your sex. They are nothing to me, and never will be. If you think I have done my duty like a man, and as much like a gentleman as my homely education permits, that is enough for me, and I shall sail for China as happy as anything on earth can make me now."
Lucy answered this by crying gently, silently, tenderly.
"Don't ye cry. Have I said something to vex you?"
"Oh no, no."
"Are you alarmed still?"
"Oh, no; I have such faith in you."
"Then go to sleep again, like a lamb."
"I will; then I shall not tease you with my conversation."
"Now there is a way to put it."
"That I will, if you will take some repose. There, I will lash you to my arm with this handkerchief; then you can lie the other way, and hold on by the handkerchief--there."
She closed her eyes and fell apparently to sleep, but really to thinking.
Then David nudged Jack, and waked him. "Speak low now, Jack."
"What is it, sir?"
Jack looked out, and there was a mountain of jet rising out of the sea, and, to a landsman's eye, within a stone's throw of them.
"Is it the French coast, sir? I must have been asleep."
"French coast? no, Channel Island--smallest of the lot."
"Better give it a wide berth, sir. We shall go smash like a teacup if we run on to one of them rocky islands."
"Why, Jack," said David, reproachfully, "am I the man to run upon a leeshore, and such a night as this?"
"Not likely. You will keep her head for Cherbourg or St. Malo, sir; it is our only chance."
"It is not our only chance, nor our best. We have been running a little ahead of this gale, Jack; there is worse in store for us; the sea is rolling mountains high on the French coast this morning, I know. We are like enough to be pooped before we get there, or swamped on some harbor-bar at last."
"Well, sir, we must take our chance."
"Take our chance? What! with heads on our shoulders, and an angel on board that Heaven has given us charge of? No, I sha'n't take my chance. I shall try all I know, and hang on to life by my eyelids. Listen to me. 'Knowledge is gold;' a little of it goes a long way. I don't know much myself, but I do know the soundings of the British Channel. I have made them my study. On the south side of this rocky point there is forty fathoms water close to the shore, and good anchorage-ground."
"Then I wish we could jump over the thundering island, and drop on the lee side of it; but, as we can't, what's the use?"
"We may be able to round the point."
"There will be an awful sea running off that point, sir."
"Of course there will. I mean to try it, for all that."
"So be it, sir; that is what I like to hear. I hate palaver. Let one give his orders, and the rest obey them. We are not above half a mile from it now."
"You had better wake the landsman. We must have a third hand for this."
"No," said a woman's voice, sweet, but clear and unwavering. "I shall be the third hand."
"Curse it," cried David, "she has heard us."
"Every word. And I have no confidence in Mr. Talboys; and, believe me, I am more to be trusted than he is. See, my cowardice is all worn out. Do but trust me, and you shall find I want neither courage nor intelligence."
David eyed her keenly, and full in the face. She met his glance calmly, with her fine nostrils slightly expanding, and her compressed lip curving proudly.
"It is all right, Jack. It is not a flash in the pan. She is as steady as a rock." He then addressed her rapidly and business-like, but with deference. "You will stand by the helm on this side, and the moment I run forward, you will take the helm and hold it in this position. That will require all your strength. Come, try it. Well done."
"How the sea struggles with me! But I am strong, you see," cried Lucy, her brow flushed with the battle.
"Very good; you are strong, and, what is better, resolute. Now, observe me: this is port, this is starboard, and this is amidships."
"I see; but how am I to know which to do?"'
"I shall give you the word of command."
"And all I have to do is to obey it?"
"That is all; but you will find it enough, because the sea will seem to fight you. It will shake the boat to make you leave go, and will perhaps dash in your face to make you leave go."
"Forewarned, forearmed, Mr. Dodd. I will not let go. I will hold on by my eyelids sooner than add to your danger."
"Jack, she is on fire; she gives me double heart."
"So she does me. She makes it a pleasure."
They were now near enough the point to judge what they had to do, and the appearance of the sea was truly terrible; the waves were all broken, and a surge of devouring fire seemed to rage and roar round the point, and oppose an impassable barrier between them and the inky pool beyond, where safety lay under the lee of the high rocks.
"I don't like it," said David. "It looks to me like going through a strip of hell fire."
"But it is narrow," said Lucy.
"That is our chance; and the tide is coming in. We will try it. She will drench us, but I don't much think she will swamp us. Are you ready, all hands?"
"Oh! please wait a minute, till I do up my hair."
"Take a minute, but no more."
"There, it is done. Mr. Dodd, one word. If all should fail, and death be inevitable, tell me so just before we perish, and I shall have something to say to you. Now, I am ready."
"Jump forward, Jack."
"Stand by to jibe the foresail."
"Ay, ay, sir."
"See our sweeps all clear."
David now handled the main sheet, and at the same time looked earnestly at Lucy, who met his eye with a look of eager attention.
"Starboard a little. That will do. Steady--steady as you go," As the boat yielded to the helm, Jack gathered in on the sheet, took two turns round the cleat, and eased away till the sail drew its best: so far so good. Both sails were now on the same side of the boat, the wind on her port quarter; but now came the dangerous operation of coming to the wind, in a rough and broken sea, among the eddies of wind and tide so prevalent off headlands. David, with the main sheet in his right hand, directed Lucy with his left as well as his voice.
"Starboard the helm--starboard yet--now meet her--so!" and, as she rounded to Jack and he kept hauling the sheets aft, and the boat, her course and trim altered, darted among the breakers like a brave man attacking danger. After the first plunge she went up and down like a pickax, coming down almost where she went up; but she held her course, with the waves roaring round her like a pack of hell-hounds.
More than half the terrible strip was passed. "Starboard yet," cried David; and she headed toward the high mainland under whose lee was calm and safety. Alas! at this moment a snorter of a sea broke under her broadside, and hove her to leeward like a cork, and a tide eddy catching her under the counter, she came to more than two points, and her canvas, thus emptied, shook enough to tear the masts out of her by the board.
"Port your helm! PORT! PORT!" roared David, in a voice like the roar of a wounded lion; and, in his anxiety, he bounded to the helm himself; but Lucy obeyed orders at half a word, and David, seeing this, sprang forward to help Jack flatten in the foresheet. The boat, which all through answered the helm beautifully, fell off the moment Lucy ported the helm, and thus they escaped the impending and terrible danger of her making sternway. "Helm amidships!" and all drew again: the black water was in sight. But will they ever reach it? She tosses like a cork. Bang! A breaker caught her bows, and drenched David and Jack to the very bone. She quivered like an aspen-leaf but held on.
"Starboard one point," cried David, sitting down, and lifting an oar out from the boat; but just as Lucy, in obeying the order, leaned a little over the lee gunwale with the tiller, a breaker broke like a shell upon the boat's broadside abaft, stove in her upper plank, and filled her with water; some flew and slapped Lucy in the face like an open hand. She screamed, but clung to the gunwale, and griped the helm: her arm seemed iron, and her heart was steel. While she clung thus to her work, blinded by the spray, and expecting death, she heard oars splash into the water, and mellow stentorian voices burst out singing.
In amazement she turned, squeezed the brine out of her eyes, and looked all round, and lo! the boat was in a trifling bobble of a sea, and close astern was the surge of fire raging, and growling, and blazing in vain, and the two sailors were pulling the boat, with superhuman strength and inspiration, into a monster mill-pool that now lay right ahead, black as ink and smooth as oil, singing loudly as they rowed:
"Cheerily oh oh! (pull) cheerily oh oh! (pull)
To port we go oh (pull), to port we go (pull)."
FLARE!! a great flaming eye opened on them in the center of the universal blackness.
"Look! look!" cried Lucy; "a fire in the mountain."
It was the lantern of a French sloop anchored close to the shore. The crew had heard the sailors' voices. At sight of it David and Jack cheered so lustily that Talboys crawled out of the water and glared vaguely. The sailors pulled under the sloop's lee quarter: a couple of ropes were instantly lowered, the lantern held aloft, ruby heads and hands clustered at the gangway, and in another minute the boat's party were all upon deck, under a hailstorm of French, and the boat fast to her stern.
THE skipper of the ship, hearing a commotion on deck, came up, and, taking off his cap, made Lucy a bow in a style remote from an English sailor's. She courtesied to him, and, to his surprise, addressed him in Parisian French. When he learned she was from England, and had rounded that point in an open boat, he was astonished.
"Diables d'Anglais!" said he.
The good-natured Frenchman insisted on Lucy taking sole possession of his cabin, in which was a cheerful stove. His crew were just as kind to David, Jack, and Talboys. This latter now resumed his right place--at the head of mankind; being the only one who could talk French, he interpreted for his companions. He improved upon my narrative in one particular: he led the Frenchmen to suppose it was he who had sailed the boat from England, and weathered the point. Who can blame him?
Dry clothes were found them, and grog and beef.
While employed on the victuals, a little Anglo-Frank, aged ten, suddenly rolled out of a hammock and offered aid in the sweet accents of their native tongue. The sound of the knives and forks had woke the urchin out of a deep sleep. David filled the hybrid, and then sent him to Lucy's cabin to learn how she was getting on. He returned, and told them the lady was sitting on deck.
"Dear me," said David, "she ought to be in her bed." He rose and went on deck, followed by Mr. Talboys. "Had you not better rest yourself?" said David.
"No, thank you, Mr. Dodd; I had a delicious sleep in the boat."
Here Talboys put in his word, and made her a rueful apology for the turn his pleasure-excursion had taken.
She stopped him most graciously.
"On the contrary, I have to thank you, indirectly, for one of the pleasantest evenings I ever spent. I never was in danger before, and it is delightful. I was a little frightened at first, but it soon wore off, and I feel I should shortly revel in it; only I must have a brave man near just to look at, then I gather courage from his eye; do I not now, Mr. Dodd?"
"Indeed you do," said David, simply enough.
Lucy Fountain's appearance and manner bore out her words. Talboys was white; even David and Jack showed some signs of a night of watching and anxiety; but the young lady's cheek was red and fresh, her eye bright, and she shone with an inspired and sprightly ardor that was never seen, or never observed in her before. They had found the way to put her blood up, after all--the blood of the Funteyns. Such are thoroughbreds: they rise with the occasion; snobs descend as the situation rises. See that straight-necked, small-nosed mare stepping delicately on the turnpike: why, it is Languor in person, picking its way among eggs. Now the hounds cry and the horn rings. Put her at timber, stream, and plowed field in pleasing rotation, and see her now: up ears; open nostril; nerves steel; heart immovable; eye of fire; foot of wind. And ho! there! What stuck in that last arable, dead stiff as the Rosinantes in Trafalgar Square, all but one limb, which goes like a water-wagtail's? Why, by Jove! if it isn't the hero of the turnpike road: the gallant, impatient, foaming, champing, space-devouring, curveting cocktail.
Out of consideration for her male companions' infirmities, and observing that they were ashamed to take needful rest while she remained on deck, Lucy at length retired to her cabin.
She slept a good many hours, and was awakened at last by the rocking of the sloop. The wind had fallen gently, but it had also changed to due east, which brought a heavy ground-swell round the point into their little haven. Lucy made her toilet, and came on deck blooming like a rose. The first person she encountered was Mr. Talboys. She saluted him cordially, and then inquired for their companions.
"Oh, they are gone."
"Gone! What do you mean?"
"Sailed half an hour ago. Look, there is the boat coasting the island. No, not that way--westward; out there, just weathering that point Don't you see?"
"Are they making a tour of the island, then?"
Here the little Anglo-Frank put in his word. "No, ma'ainselle, gone to catch sheep bound for ze East Indeeze."
"Gone! gone! for good?" and Lucy turned very pale. The next moment offended pride sent the blood rushing to her brow. "That is just like Mr. Dodd; there is not another gentleman in the world would have had the ill-breeding to go off like that to India without even bidding us good-morning or good-by. Did he bid you good-by, Mr. Talboys?"
"There, now, it is insolent--it is barbarous." Her vexation at the affront David had put on Mr. Talboys soon passed into indignation. "This was done to insult--to humiliate us. A noble revenge. You know we used sometimes to quiz him a little ashore, especially you; so now, out of spite, he has saved our lives, and then turned his back arrogantly upon us before we could express our gratitude; that is as much as to say he values us as so many dogs or cats, flings us our lives haughtily, and then turned his back disdainfully on us. Life is not worth having when given so insultingly."
Talboys soothed the offended fair. "I really don't think he meant to insult us; but you know Dodd; he is a good-natured fellow, but he never had the slightest pretension to good-breeding."
"Don't you think," replied the lady, "it would be as well to leave off detracting from Mr. Dodd now that he has just saved your life?"
Talboys opened his eyes. "Why, you began it."
"Oh, Mr. Talboys, do not descend to evasion. What I say goes for nothing. Mr. Dodd and I are fast friends, and nobody will ever succeed in robbing me of my esteem for him. But you always hated him, and you seize every opportunity of showing your dislike. Poor Mr. Dodd! He has too many great virtues not to be envied--and hated."
Talboys stood puzzled, and was at a loss which way to steer his tongue, the wind being so shifty. At last he observed a little haughtily that "he never made Mr. Dodd of so much importance as all this. He owned he had quizzed him, but it was not his intention to quiz him any more; for I do feel under considerable obligations to Mr. Dodd; he has brought us safe across the Channel; at the same time, I own I should have been more grateful if he had beat against the wind and landed us on our native coast; the lugger is there long before this, and our boat was the best of the two."
"Absurd!" replied Lucy, with cold hauteur. "The lugger had a sharp stern, but ours was a square stern, so we were obliged to run; if we had beat, we should all have been drowned directly."
Talboys was staggered by this sudden influx of science; but he held his ground. "There is something in that," said he; "but still, a--a----"
"There, Mr. Talboys," said the young lady suddenly, assuming extreme languor after delivering a facer, "pray do not engage me in an argument. I do not feel equal to one, especially on a subject that has lost its interest. Can you inform me when this vessel sails?"
"Not till to-morrow morning."
"Then will you be so kind as to borrow me that little boat? it is dangling from the ship, so it must belong to it. I wish to land, and see whether he has cast us upon an in- or an uninhabited island."
The sloop's boat speedily landed them on the island, and Lucy proposed to cross the narrow neck of land and view the sea they had crossed in the dark. This was soon done, and she took that opportunity of looking about for the lateen, for her mind had taken another turn, and she doubted the report that David had gone to intercept the East-Indiaman. A short glance convinced her it was true. About seven miles to leeward, her course west-northwest, her hull every now and then hidden by the waves, her white sails spread like a bird's, the lateen was flying through the foam at its fastest rate. Lucy gazed at her so long and steadfastly that Talboys took the huff, and strolled along the cliff.
When Lucy turned to go back, she found the French skipper coming toward her with a scrap of paper in his hand. He presented it with a low bow; she took it with a courtesy. It was neatly folded, though not as letters are folded ashore, and it bore her address. She opened it and read:
"It was not worth while disturbing your rest just to see us go off. God bless you, Miss Lucy! The Frenchman is bound for ----, and will take you safe; and mind you don't step ashore till the plank is fast.
That was all. She folded it back thoughtfully into the original folds, and turned away. When she had gone but a few steps she stopped and put her rejected lover's little note into her bosom, and went slowly back to the boat, hanging her sweet head, and crying as she went.
MR. FOUNTAIN remained in the town waiting for his niece's return. Six o'clock came--no boat. Eight o'clock--no boat, and a heavy gale blowing. He went down to the beach in great anxiety; and when he got there he soon found it was shared to the full by many human beings. There were little knots of fishermen and sailors discussing it, and one poor woman, mother and wife, stealing from group to group and listening anxiously to the men's conjectures. But the most striking feature of the scene was an old white-haired man, who walked wildly, throwing his arms about. The others rather avoided him, but Mr. Fountain felt he had a right to speak to him; so he came to him, and told him "his niece was on board; and you, too, I fear, have some one dear to you in danger."
The old man replied sorrowfully that "his lovely new boat was in danger--in such danger that he should never see her again;" then added, going suddenly into a fury, that "as to the two rascally bluejackets that were on board of her, and had borrowed her of his wife while he was out, all he wished was that they had been swamped to all eternity long ago, then they would not have been able to come and swamp his dear boat."
Peppery old Fountain cursed him for a heartless old vagabond, and joined the group whose grief and anxiety were less ostentatious, being for the other boat that carried their own flesh and blood. But all night long that white-haired old man paced the shore, flinging his arms, weeping and cursing alternately for his dear schooner.
Oh holy love--of property! how venerable you looked in the moonlight, with your white hairs streaming! How well you imitated, how close you rivaled, the holiest effusions of the heart, and not for the first time nor the last.
"My daughter! my ducats! my ducats! my daughter!" etc.
The morning broke; no sign of either boat. The wind had shifted to the east, and greatly abated. The fishermen began to have hopes for their comrades; these communicated themselves to Mr. Fountain.
It was about one o'clock in the afternoon when this latter observed people streaming along the shore to a distant point. He asked a coastguard man, whom he observed scanning the place with a glass, "What it was?"
The man lowered his voice and said, "Well, sir, it will be something coming ashore, by the way the folk are running."
Mr. Fountain got a carriage, and, urging the driver to use speed, was hastily conveyed by the road to a part whence a few steps brought him down to the sea. He thrust wildly in among the crowd.
"Make way," said the rough fellows: they saw he was one of those who had the best right to be there.
He looked, and there, scarce fifty yards from the shore, was the lugger, keel uppermost, drifting in with the tide. The old man staggered, and was supported by a beach man.
When the wreck came within fifteen yards of the shore, she hung, owing to the under suction, and could get neither way. The cries of the women broke out afresh at this. Then half a dozen stout fellows swam in with ropes, and with some difficulty righted her, and in another minute she was hauled ashore.
The crowd rushed upon her. She was empty! Not an oar, not a boat-hook--nothing. But jammed in between the tiller and the boat they found a purple veil. The discovery was announced loudly by one of the females, but the consequent outcry was instantly hushed by the men, and the oldest fisherman there took it, and, in a sudden dead and solemn silence, gave it with a world of subdued meaning to Mr. Fountain.
MR. FOUNTAIN'S grief was violent; the more so, perhaps, that it was not pure sorrow, but heated with anger and despair. He had not only lost the creature he loved better than anyone else except himself, but all his plans and all his ambition were upset forever. I am sorry to say there were moments when he felt indignant with Heaven, and accused its justice. At other times the virtues of her he had lost came to his recollection, and he wept genuine tears. Now she was dead he asked himself a question that is sometimes reserved for that occasion, and then asked with bitter regret and idle remorse at its postponement, "What can I do to show my love and respect for her?" The poor old fellow could think of nothing now but to try and recover her body from the sea, and to record her virtues on her tomb. He employed six men to watch the coast for her along a space of twelve miles, and he went to a marble-cutter and ordered a block of beautiful white marble. He drew up the record of her virtues himself, and spelled her "Fontaine," and so settled that question by brute force.
Oh, you may giggle, but men are not most sincere when they are most reasonable, nor most reasonable when most sincere. When a man's heart is in a thing, it is in it--wise or nonsensical, it is all one; so it is no use talking.
I lack words to describe the gloom that fell on Mr. Bazalgette's home when the sad tidings reached it. And, indeed, it would be trifling with my reader to hang many more pages with black when he and I both know Lucy Fontaine is alive all the time.
Meantime the French sloop lay at her anchor, and Lucy fretted with impatience. At noon the next day she sailed, and, being a slow vessel, did not anchor off the port of ---- till daybreak the day after. Then she had to wait for the tide, and it was nearly eleven o'clock when Lucy landed. She went immediately to the principal inn to get a conveyance. On the road, whom should she meet but Mr. Hardie. He gave a joyful start at sight of her, and with more heart than she could have expected welcomed her to life again. From him she learned all the proofs of her death. This made her more anxious to fly to her aunt's house at once and undeceive her.
Mr. Hardie would not let her hire a carriage; he would drive her over in half the time. He beckoned his servant, who was standing at the inn door, and ordered it immediately. "Meantime, Miss Fountain, if you will take my arm, I will show you something that I think will amuse you, though we have found it anything but amusing, as you may well suppose." Lucy took his arm somewhat timidly, and he walked her to the marble-cutter's shop. "Look there," said he. Lucy looked and there was an unfinished slab on which she read these words:
As her beauty endeared her to all eyes,
So her modesty, piety, docilit
At this point in her moral virtues the chisel had stopped. Eleven o'clock struck, and the chisel went for its beer; for your English workman would leave the d in "God" half finished when strikes the hour of beer.
The fact is that the shopkeeper had newly set up, was proud of the commission, and, whenever the chisel left off, he whipped into the workshop and brought the slab out, pro tem., into his window for an advertisement.
Hardie pointed it out to Lucy with a chuckle. Lucy turned pale, and put her hand to her heart. Hardie saw his mistake too late, and muttered excuses.
Lucy gave a little gasp and stopped him. "Pray say no more; it is my fault; if people will feign death, they must expect these little tributes. My uncle has lost no time." And two unreasonable tears swelled to her eyes and trickled one after another down her cheeks; then she turned her back quickly on the thing, and Mr. Hardie felt her arm tremble. "I think, Mr. Hardie," said she presently, with marked courtesy, "I should, under the circumstances, prefer to go home alone. My aunt's nerves are sensitive, and I must think of the best way of breaking to her the news that I am alive."
"It would be best, Miss Fountain; and, to tell the truth, I feel myself unworthy to accompany you after being so maladroit as to give you pain in thinking to amuse you."
"Oh, Mr. Hardie," said Lucy, growing more and more courteous, "you are not to be called to account for my weakness; that would be unjust. I shall have the pleasure of seeing you at dinner?"
"Certainly, since you permit me."
He put Lucy into the carriage and off she drove. "Come," thought Mr. Hardie, "I have had an escape; what a stupid blunder for me to make! She is not angry, though, so it does not matter. She asked me to dinner."
Said Lucy to herself: "The man is a fool! Poor Mr. Dodd! he would not have shown me my tombstone--to amuse me." And she dismissed the subject from her mind.
She sent away the carriage and entered Mr. Bazalgette's house on foot. After some consideration she determined to employ Jane, a girl of some tact, to break her existence to her aunt. She glided into the drawing-room unobserved, fully expecting to find Jane at work there for Mrs. Bazalgette. But the room was empty. While she hesitated what to do next, the handle of the door was turned, and she had only just time to dart behind a heavy window-curtain, when it opened, and Mrs. Bazalgette. walked slowly and silently in, followed by a woman. Mrs. Bazalgette seated herself and sighed deeply. Her companion kept a respectful silence. After a considerable pause, Mrs. Bazalgette said a few words in a voice so thoroughly subdued and solemn, and every now and then so stifled, that Lucy's heart yearned for her, and nothing but the fear of frightening her aunt into a hysterical fit kept her from flying into her arms.
"I need not tell you," said Mrs. Bazalgette, "why I sent for you. You know the sad bereavement that has fallen on me, but you cannot know all I have lost in her. Nobody can tell what she was to all of us, but most of all to me. I was her darling, and she was mine." Here tears choked Mrs. Bazalgette's words, for a while. Recovering herself, she paid a tribute to the character of the deceased. "It was a soul without one grain of selfishness; all her thoughts were for others, not one for herself. She loved us all--indeed, she loved some that were hardly worthy of so pure a creature's love; but the reason was, she had no eye for the faults of her friends; she pictured them like herself, and loved her own sweet image in them. And such a temper! and so free from guile. I may truly say her mind was as lovely as her person."
"She was, indeed, a sweet young lady," sighed the woman.
"She was an angel, Baldwin--an angel sent to bear us company a little while, and now she is a saint in Heaven."
"Ah! ma'am, the best goes first, that is an old saying."
"So I have heard; but my niece was as healthy as she was lovely and good. Everything promised long life. I hoped she would have closed my eyes. In the bloom of health one day, and the next lying cold, stark, and drenched!! Oh, how terrible! Oh, my poor Lucy! oh! oh! oh!"
"In the midst of life we are in death, ma'am. I am sure it is a warning to me, ma'am, as well as to my betters."
"It, is, indeed, Baldwin, a warning to all of us who have lived too much for vanities, to think of this sweet flower, snatched in a moment from our bosoms and from the world; we ought to think of it on our knees, and remember our own latter end. That last skirt you sent me was rather scrimped, my poor Baldwin."
"Was it, ma'am?"
"Oh, it does not matter; I shall never wear it now; and, under such a blow as this, I am in no humor to find fault. Indeed, with my grief I neglect my household and my very children. I forget everything; what did I send for you for?" and she looked with lack-luster eyes full in Mrs. Baldwin's face.
"Jane did not say, ma'am, but I am at your orders."
"Oh, of course; I am distracted. It was to pay the last tribute of respect to her dear memory. Ah! Baldwin, often and often the black dress is all; but here the heart mourns beyond the power of grief to express by any outward trappings. No matter; the world, the shallow world, respects these signs of woe, and let mine be the deepest mourning ever worn, and the richest. And out of that mourning I shall never go while I live."
"No, ma'am," said Baldwin soothingly.
"Do you doubt me?" asked the lady, with a touch of sharpness that did not seemed called for by Baldwin's humble acquiescence.
"Oh, no, ma'am; it is a very natural thought under the present affliction, and most becoming the sad occasion. Well, ma'am, the deepest mourning, if you please, I should say cashmere and crape."
"Yes, that would be deep. Oh, Baldwin, it is her violent death that kills me. Well?"
"Cashmere and crape, ma'am, and with nothing white about the neck and arms."
"Yes; oh yes; but will not that be rather unbecoming?"
"Well, ma'am--" and Baldwin hesitated.
"I hardly see how I could wear that, it makes one look so old. Now don't you think black glacé silk, and trimmed with love-ribbon, black of course, but scalloped--"
"That would be very rich, indeed, ma'am, and very becoming to you; but, being so near and dear, it would not be so deep as you are desirous of."
"Why, Baldwin, you don't attend to what I say; I told you I was never going out of mourning again, so what is the use of your proposing anything to me that I can't wear all my life? Now tell me, can I always wear cashmere and crape?"
"Oh no, ma'am, that is out of the question; and if it is for a permanency, I don't see how we could improve on glacé silk, with crape, and love-ribbons. Would you like the body trimmed with jet, ma'am?"
"Oh, don't ask me; I don't know. If my darling had only died comfortably in her bed, then we could have laid out her sweet remains, and dressed them for her virgin tomb."
"It would have been a satisfaction, ma'am."
"A sad one, at the best; but now the very earth, perhaps, will never receive her. Oh yes, anything you like--the body trimmed with jet, if you wish it, and let me see, a gauze bodice, goffered, fastened to the throat. That is all, I think; the sleeves confined at the wrist just enough not to expose the arm, and yet look light--you understand."
"She kissed me just before she went on that fatal excursion, Baldwin; she will never kiss me again--oh! oh! You must call on Dejazet for me, and bespeak me a bonnet to match; it is not to be supposed I can run about after her trumpery at such a time; besides, it is not usual."
"Indeed, ma'am, you are in no state for it; I will undertake any purchases you may require."
"Thank you, my good Baldwin; you are a good, kind, feeling, useful soul. Oh, Baldwin, if it had pleased Heaven to take her by disease, it would have been bad enough to lose her; but to be drowned! her clothes all wetted through and through; her poor hair drenched, too; and then the water is so cold at this time of year--oh! oh! Send me a cross of jet, and jet beads, with the dress, and a jet brooch, and a set of jet buttons, in case--besides--oh! oh! oh!--I expect every moment to see her carried home, all pale and wetted by the nasty sea--oh! oh!--and an evening dress of the same--the newest fashion. I leave it to you; don't ask me any questions about it, for I can't and won't go into that. I can try it on when it is made--oh! oh! oh!--it does not do to love any creature as I loved my poor lost Lucy--and a black fan---oh! oh!--and a dozen pair of black kid gloves--oh!--and a mourning-ring--and--"
"Stop, aunt, or your love for me will be your ruin!" said Lucy, coldly, and stood suddenly before the pair, looking rather cynical.
"What, Lucy! alive! No, her ghost--ah! ah!"
"Be calm, aunt; I am alive and well. Now, don't be childish, dear; I have been in danger, but here I am."
Mrs. Bazalgette and Mrs. Baldwin flew together, and trembled in one another's arms. Lucy tried to soothe them, but at last could not help laughing at them. This brought Baldwin to her senses quicker than anything; but Mrs. Bazalgette, who, like many false women, was hysterical, went off into spasms--genuine ones. They gave her salts--in vain. Slapped her hands--in vain.
Then Lucy cried to Baldwin, "Quick! the tumbler; I must sprinkle her face and bosom."
"Oh, don't spoil my lilac gown!" gasped the sufferer, and with a mighty effort she came to. She would have come back from the edge of the grave to shield silk from water. Finally she wreathed her arms round Lucy, and kissed her so tenderly, warmly and sobbingly, that Lucy got over the shock of her shallowness, and they kissed and cried together most joyously, while Baldwin, after a heroic attempt at jubilation, retired from the room with a face as long as your arm. A bas les revenants!! She went to the housekeeper's room. The housekeeper persuaded her to stay and take a bit of dinner, and soon after dinner she was sent for to Mrs. Bazalgette's room.
Lucy met her coming out of it. "I fear I came mal apropos, Mrs. Baldwin; if I had thought of it, I would have waited till you had secured that munificent order."
"I am much obliged to you, miss, I am sure; but you were always a considerate young lady. You'll be glad to learn, miss, it makes no difference; I have got the order; it is all right."
"That is fortunate," replied Lucy, kindly, "otherwise I should have been tempted to commit an extravagance with you myself. Well, and what is my aunt's new dress to be now?"
"Oh, the same, miss."
"The same? why, she is not going into mourning on my return? ha! ha!"
"La bless you, miss, mourning? you can't call that mourning--glacé silk and love-ribbons scalloped out, and cetera. Of course it was not my business to tell her so; but I could not help thinking to myself, if that is the way my folk are going to mourn for me, they may just let it alone. However, that is all over now; and your aunt sent for me, and says she, 'Black becomes me; you will make the dresses all the same.'" And Baldwin retired radiant.
Lucy put her hand to her bosom. "Make the dresses all the same--all the same, whether I am alive or dead. No, I will not cry; no, I will not. Who is worth a tear? what is worth a tear? All the same. It is not to be forgotten--nor forgiven. Poor Mr. Dodd!!"
Mr. Fountain learned the good news in the town, so his meeting with Lucy was one of pure joy. Mr. Talboys did not hear anything. He had business up in London, and did not stay ten minutes in ----.
The house revived, and jubilabat, jubilabat. But after the first burst of triumph things went flat. David Dodd was gone, and was missed; and Lucy was changed. She looked a shade older, and more than one shade graver; and, instead of living solely for those who happened to be basking in her rays, she was now and then comparatively inattentive, thoughtful, and distraite.
Mr. Fountain watched her keenly; ditto Mrs. Bazalgette. A slight reaction had taken place in both their bosoms. "Hang the girl! there were we breaking our hearts for her, and she was alive." She had "beguiled them of their tears."--Othello. But they still loved her quite well enough to take charge of her fate.
A sort of itch for settling other people's destinies, and so gaining a title to their curses for our pragmatical and fatal interference, is the commonest of all the forms of sanctioned lunacy.
Moreover, these two had imbibed the spirit of rivalry, and each was stimulated by the suspicion that the other was secretly at work.
Lucy's voluntary promise in the ballroom was a double sheet-anchor to Mr. Fountain. It secured him against the only rival he dreaded. Talboys, too, was out of the way just now, and the absence of the suitor is favorable to his success, where the lady has no personal liking for him. To work went our Machiavel again, heart and soul, and whom do you think he had the cheek, or, as the French say, the forehead, to try and win over?--Mrs. Bazalgette.
This bold step, however, was not so strange as it would have been a month ago. The fact is, I have brought you unfairly close to this pair. When you meet them in the world you will be charmed with both of them, and recognize neither. There are those whose faults are all on the surface: these are generally disliked; there are those whose faults are all at the core: they charm creation. Mrs. Bazalgette is allowed by both sexes to be the most delightful, amiable woman in the county, and will carry that reputation to her grave. Fountain is "the jolliest old buck ever went on two legs." I myself would rather meet twelve such agreeable humbugs--six of a sex--at dinner than the twelve apostles, and so would you, though you don't know it. These two, then, had long ere this found each other mighty agreeable. The woman saw the man's vanity, and flattered it. The man the woman's, and flattered it. Neither saw--am I to say?--his own or her own, or what? Hang language!!! In short, they had long ago oiled one another's asperities, and their intercourse was smooth and frequent: they were always chatting together--strewing flowers of speech over their mines and countermines.
Mr. Fountain, then, who, in virtue of his sex, had the less patience, broke ground.
"My dear Mrs. Bazalgette, I would not have missed this visit for a thousand pounds. Certainly there is nothing like contact for rubbing off prejudices. I little thought, when I first came here, the principal attraction of the place would prove to be my fair hostess."
"I know you were prejudiced, my dear Mr. Fountain. I can't say I ever had any against you, but certainly I did not know half your good qualities. However, your courtesy to me when I invaded you at Font Abbey prepared me for your real character; and now this visit, I trust, makes us friends."
"Ah! my dear Mrs. Bazalgette, one thing only is wanting to make you my benefactor as well as friend--if I could only persuade you to withdraw your powerful opposition to a poor old fellow's dream."
"What poor old fellow?"
"You? why, you are not so very old. You are not above fifty."
"Ah! fair lady, you must not evade me. Come, can nothing soften you?"
"I don't know what you mean, Mr. Fountain"; and the mellifluous tones dried suddenly.
"You are too sagacious not to know everything; you know my heart is set on marrying my niece to a man of ancient family."
"With all my heart. You have only to use your influence with her. If she consents, I will not oppose."
"You cruel little lady, you know it is not enough to withdraw opposition; I can't succeed without your kind aid and support."
"Now, Mr. Fountain, I am a great coward, but, really, I could almost venture to scold you a little. Is not a poor little woman to be allowed to set her heart on things as well as a poor old gentleman who does not look fifty? You know my poor little heart is bent on her marrying into our own set, yet you can ask me to influence her the other way--me, who have never once said a word to her for my own favorites! No; the fairest, kindest, and best way is to leave her to select her own happiness."
"A fine thing it would be if young people were left to marry who they like," retorted Fountain. "My dear lady, I would never have asked your aid so long as there was the least chance of her marrying Mr. Hardie; but, now that she has of her own accord declined him--"
"What is that? declined Mr. Hardie? when did he ever propose for her?"
"You misunderstand me. She came to me and told me she would never marry him."
"When was that? I don't believe it."
"It was in the ball-room."
Mrs. Bazalgette reflected; then she turned very red. "Well, sir," said she, "don't build too much on that; for four months ago she made me a solemn promise she would never marry any lover you should find her, and she repeated that promise in your very house."
"I don't believe it, madam."
"That is polite, sir. Come, Mr. Fountain, you are agitated and cross, and it is no use being cross either with me or with Lucy. You asked my co-operation. You gentlemen can ask anything; and you are wise to do these droll things; that is where you gain the advantage over us poor cowards of women. Well, I will co-operate with you. Now listen. Lucy's penchant is neither for Mr. Hardie, nor Mr. Talboys, but for Mr. Dodd."
"You don't mean it?"
"Oh, she does not care much for him; she has refused him to my knowledge, and would again; besides, he is gone to India, so there is an end of him. She seems a little languid and out of spirits; it may be because he is gone. Now, then, is the very time to press a marriage upon her."
"The very worst time, surely, if she is really such an idiot as to be fretting for a fellow who is away."
Mrs. Bazalgette informed her new ally condescendingly that he knew nothing of the sex he had undertaken to tackle.
"When a cold-blooded girl like this, who has no strong attachment, is out of spirits, and all that sort of thing, then is the time she falls to any resolute wooer. She will yield if we both insist, and we will insist. Only keep your temper, and let nothing tempt you to say an unkind word to her."
She then rang the bell, and desired that Miss Fountain might be requested to come into the drawing-room for a minute.
"But what are you going to do?"
"Give her the choice of two husbands--Mr. Talboys or Mr. Hardie."
"She will take neither, I am afraid."
"Oh, yes, she will."
"Ah! the one she dislikes the least."
"By Jove, you are right--you are an angel." And the old gentleman in his gratitude to her who was outwitting him, and vice versa, kissed Mrs. Bazalgette's hand with great devotion, in which act he was surprised by Lucy, who floated through the folding-doors. She said nothing, but her face volumes.
"Sit down, love."
She sat down, and her eye mildly bored both relatives, like, if you can imagine a gentle gimlet, worked by insinuation, not force.
Then the favored Fountain enjoyed the inestimable privilege of beholding a small bout of female fence.
The accomplished actress of forty began.
The novice held herself apparently all open with a sweet smile, the eye being the only weapon that showed point.
"My love, your uncle and I, who were not always just to one another, have been united by our love for you."
"So I observed as I came in--ahem!"
"Henceforth we are one where your welfare is concerned, and we have something serious to say to you now. There is a report, dearest, creeping about that you have formed an unfortunate attachment--to a person beneath you."
"Who told you that, aunt? Name, as they say in the House."
"No matter; these things are commonly said without foundation in this wicked world; but, still, it is always worth our while to prove them false, not, of course, directly--'qui s'excuse s'accuse'--but indirectly."
"I agree with you, and I shall do so in my uncle's presence. You were present, aunt--though uninvited--when the gentleman you allude to offered me what I consider a great honor, and you heard me decline it; you are therefore fully able to contradict that report, whose source, by the by, you have not given me, and of course you will contradict it."
Mrs. Bazalgette colored a little. But she said affectionately: "These silly rumors are best contradicted by a good marriage, love, and that brings me to something more important. We have two proposals for you, and both of them excellent ones. Now, in a matter where your happiness is at stake, your uncle and I are determined not to let our private partialities speak. We do press you to select one of these offers, but leave you quite free as to which you take. Mr. Talboys is a gentleman of old family and large estates. Mr. Hardie is a wealthy, and able, and rising man. They are both attached to you; both excellent matches.
"Whichever you choose your uncle and I shall both feel that an excellent position for life is yours, and no regret that you did not choose our especial favorite shall stain our joy or our love." With this generous sentiment tears welled from her eyes, whereat Fountain worshiped her and felt his littleness.
But Lucy was of her own sex, and had observed what an unlimited command of eye-water an hysterical female possesses. She merely bowed her head graciously, and smiled politely. Thus encouraged to proceed, her aunt dried her eyes with a smile, and with genial cheerfulness proceeded: "Well, then, dear, which shall it be--Mr. Talboys?"
Lucy opened her eyes so innocently. "My dear aunt, I wonder at that question from you. Did you not make me promise you I would never marry that gentleman, nor any friend of my uncle's?"
"And did you?" cried Fountain.
"I did," replied the penitent, hanging her head. "My aunt was so kind to me about something or other, I forget what."
Fountain bounced up and paced the room.
Mrs. Bazalgette lowered her voice: "It is to be Mr. Hardie, then?"
"Mr. Hardie!!!" cried Lucy, rather loudly, to attract her uncle's attention.
"Oh, no, the same objection applies there; I made my uncle a solemn promise not to marry any friend of yours, aunt. Poor uncle! I refused at first, but he looked so unhappy my resolution failed, and I gave my promise. I will keep it, uncle. Don't fear me."
It caused Mrs. Bazalgette a fierce struggle to command her temper. Both she and Fountain were dumb for a minute; then elastic Mrs. Bazalgette said:
"We were both to blame; you and I did not really know each other. The best thing we can do now is to release the poor girl from these silly promises, that stand in the way of her settlement in life."
"I agree, madam."
"So do I. There, Lucy, choose, for we both release you."
"Thank you," said Lucy gravely; "but how can you? No unfair advantage was taken of me; I plighted my word knowingly and solemnly, and no human power can release persons of honor from a solemn pledge. Besides, just now you would release me; but you might not always be in the same mind. No, I will keep faith with you both, and not place my truth at the mercy of any human being nor of any circumstance. If that is all, please permit me to retire. The less a young lady of my age thinks or talks about the other sex, the more time she has for her books and her needle;" and, having delivered this precious sentence, with a deliberate and most deceiving imitation of the pedantic prude, she departed, and outside the door broke instantly into a joyous chuckle at the expense of the plotters she had left looking moonstruck in one another's faces. If the new allies had been both Fountain, the apple of discord this sweet novice threw down between them would have dissolved the alliance, as the sly novice meant it to do; but, while the gentleman went storming about the room ripe for civil war, the lady leaned back in her chair and laughed heartily.
"Come, Mr. Fountain, it is no use your being cross with a female, or she will get the better of you. She has outwitted us. We took her for a fool, and she is a clever girl. I'll--tell--you--what, she is a very clever girl. Never mind that, she is only a girl; and, if you will be ruled by me, her happiness shall be secured in spite of her, and she shall be engaged in less than a week."
Fountain recognized his superior, and put himself under the lady's orders--in an evil hour for Lucy.
The poor girl's triumph over the forces was but momentary; her ground was not tenable. The person promised can release the person who promises--volenti non fit injuria. Lucy found herself attacked with female weapons, that you and I, sir, should laugh at; but they made her miserable. Cold looks; short answers; solemnity; distance; hints at ingratitude and perverseness; kisses intermitted all day, and the parting one at night degraded to a dignified ceremony. Under this impalpable persecution the young thoroughbred, that had steered the boat across the breakers, winced and pined.
She did not want a husband or a lover, but she could not live without being loved. She was not sent into the world for that. She began secretly to hate the two gentlemen that had lost her her relations' affection, and she looked round to see how she could get rid of them without giving fresh offense to her dear aunt and uncle. If she could only make it their own act! Now a man in such a case inclines to give the obnoxious parties a chance of showing themselves generous and delicate; he would reveal the whole situation to them, and indicate the generous and manly course; but your thorough woman cannot do this. It is physically as well as morally impossible to her. Misogynists say it is too wise, and not cunning enough. So what does Miss Lucy do but turn round and make love to Captain Kenealy? And the cold virgin being at last by irrevocable fate driven to love-making, I will say this for her, she did not do it by halves. She felt quite safe here. The good-natured, hollow captain was fortified against passion by self-admiration. She said to herself: "Now here is a peg with a military suit hanging to it; if I can only fix my eyes on this piece of wood and regimentals, and make warm love to it, the love that poets have dreamed and romances described, I may surely hope to disgust my two admirers, and then they will abandon me and despise me. Ah! I could love them if they would only do that."
Well, for a young lady that had never, to her knowledge, felt the tender passion, the imitation thereof which she now favored that little society with was a wonderful piece of representation. Was Kenealy absent, behold Lucy uneasy and restless; was he present; but at a distance, her eye demurely devoured him; was he near her, she wooed him with such a god-like mixture of fire, of tenderness, of flattery, of tact; she did so serpentinely approach and coil round the soldier and his mental cavity, that all the males in creation should have been permitted to defile past (like the beasts going into the ark), and view this sweet picture a moment, and infer how women would be wooed, and then go and do it. Effect:
Talboys and Hardie mortified to the heart's core; thought they had altogether mistaken her character. "She is a love-sick fool."
On Bazalgette: "Ass! Dodd was worth a hundred of him."
On Kenealy: made him twirl his mustache.
On Fountain: filled him with dismay. There remained only one to be hoodwinked.
A letter is brought in and handed to Captain Kenealy. He reads it, and looks a little--a very little--vexed. Nobody else notices it.
Lucy. "What is the matter? Oh, what has occurred?"
Kenealy. "Nothing particulaa."
Lucy. "Don't deceive us: it is an order for you to join the horrid army." (Clasps her hands.) "You are going to leave us."
Kenealy. "No, it is from my tailaa. He waunts to be paed." (Glares astonished.)
Lucy. "Pay the creature, and nevermore employ him."
Kenealy. "Can't. Haven't got the money. Uncle won't daie. The begaa knows I can't pay him, that is the reason why he duns."
Lucy. "He knows it? then what business has he to annoy you thus? Take my advice. Return no reply. That is not courteous. But when the sole motive of an application is impertinence, silent contempt is the course best befitting your dignity."
Kenealy (twirling his mustache). "Dem the fellaa. Shan't take any notice of him."
Mrs. Bazalgette (to Lucy in passing). "Do you think we are all fools?"
Ibi omnis effusus amor; for La Bazalgette undeceived her ally and Mr. Hardie, and the screw was put harder still on poor Lucy. She was no longer treated like an equal, but made for the first time to feel that her uncle and aunt were her elders and superiors, and, that she was in revolt. All external signs of affection were withdrawn, and this was like docking a strawberry of its water. A young girl may have flashes of spirit, heroism even, but her mind is never steel from top to toe; it is sure to be wax in more places than one.
"Nobody loves me now that poor Mr. Dodd is gone," sighed Lucy. "Nobody ever will love me unless I consent to sacrifice myself. Well, why not? I shall never love any gentleman as others of my sex can love. I will go and see Mrs. Wilson."
So she ordered out her captain, and rode to Mrs. Wilson, and made her captain hold her pony while she went in. Mrs. Wilson received her with a tenor scream of delight that revived Lucy's heart to hear, and then it was nothing but one broad gush of hilarity and cordiality--showed her the house, showed her the cows, showed her the parlor at last, and made her sit down.
"Come, set ye down, set ye down, and let me have a downright good look at ye. It is not often I clap eyes on ye, or on anything like ye, for that matter. Aren't ye well, my dear?"
"Are ye sure? Haven't ye ailed anything since I saw ye up at the house?"
"No, dear nurse."
"Then you are in care. Bless you, it is not the same face--to a stranger, belike, but not to the one that suckled you. Why, there is next door to a wrinkle on your pretty brow, and a little hollow under your eye, and your face is drawn like, and not half the color. You are in trouble or grief of some sort, Miss Lucy; and--who knows?--mayhap you be come to tell it your poor old nurse. You might go to a worse part. Ay! what touches you will touch me, my nursling dear, all one as if it was your own mother."
"Ah! you love me," cried Lucy; "I don't know why you love me so; I have not deserved it of you, as I have of others that look coldly on me. Yes, you love me, or you would not read my face like this. It is true, I am a little-- Oh, nurse, I am unhappy;" and in a moment she was weeping and sobbing in Mrs. Wilson's arms.
The Amazon sat down with her, and rocked to and fro with her as if she was still a child. "Don't check it, my lamb," said she; "have a good cry; never drive a cry back on your heart"; and so Lucy sobbed and sobbed, and Mrs. Wilson rocked her.
When she had done sobbing she put up a grateful face and kissed Mrs. Wilson. But the good woman would not let her go. She still rocked with her, and said, "Ay, ay, it wasn't for nothing I was drawed so to go to your house that day. I didn't know you were there; but I was drawed. I WAS WANTED. Tell me all, my lamb; never keep grief on your heart; give it a vent; put a part on't on me; I do claim it; you will see how much lighter your heart will feel. Is it a young man?"
"Oh no, no; I hate young men; I wish there were no such things. But for them no dissension could ever have entered the house. My uncle and aunt both loved me once, and oh! they were so kind to me. Yes; since you permit me, I will tell you all."
And she told her a part.
She told her the whole Talboys and Hardie part.
Mrs. Wilson took a broad and somewhat vulgar view of the distress.
"Why, Miss Lucy," said she, "if that is all, you can soon sew up their stockings. You don't depend on them, anyways: you are a young lady of property."
"Oh, am I?"
"Sure. I have heard your dear mother say often as all her money was settled on you by deed. Why, you must be of age, Miss Lucy, or near it."
"The day after to-morrow, nurse."
"There now! I knew your birthday could not be far off. Well, then, you must wait till you are of age, and then, if they torment you or put on you, 'Good-morning,' says you; 'if we can't agree together, let's agree to part,' says you."
"What! leave my relations!!"
"It is their own fault. Good friends before bad kindred! They only want to make a handle of you to get 'em rich son-in-laws. You pluck up a sperrit, Miss Lucy. There's no getting through the world without a bit of a sperrit. You'll get put upon at every turn else; and if they don't vally you in that house, why, off to another; y'ain't chained to their door, I do suppose."
"But, nurse, a young lady cannot live by herself: there is no instance of it."
"All wisdom had a beginning. 'Oh, shan't I spoil the pudding once I cut it?' quoth Jack's wife."
"What would people say?"
"What could they say? You come to me, which I am all the mother you have got left upon earth, and what scandal could they make out of that, I should like to know? Let them try it. But don't let me catch it atween their lips, or down they do go on the bare ground, and their caps in pieces to the winds of heaven;" and she flourished her hand and a massive arm with a gesture free, inspired, and formidable.
"Ah! nurse, with you I should indeed feel safe from every ill. But, for all that, I shall never go beyond the usages of society. I shall never leave my aunt's house."
"I don't say as you will. But I shall get your room ready this afternoon, and no later."
"No, nurse, you must not do that."
"Tell'ee I shall. Then, whether you come or not, there 'tis. And when they put on you, you have no call to fret. Says you, 'There's my room awaiting, and likewise my welcome, too, at Dame Wilson's; I don't need to stand no more nonsense here than I do choose,' says you. Dear heart! even a little foolish, simple thought like that will help keep your sperrit up. You'll see else--you'll see."
"Oh, nurse, how wise you are! You know human nature."
"Well, I am older than you, miss, a precious sight; and if I hadn't got one eye open at this time of day, why, when should I, you know?"
After this, a little home-made wine forcibly administered, and then much kissing, and Lucy rode away revivified and cheered, and quite another girl. Her spirits rose so that she proposed to Kenealy to extend their ride by crossing the country to ----. She wanted to buy some gloves.
"Yaas," said the assenter; and off they cantered.
In the glove-shop who should Lucy find but Eve Dodd. She held out her hand, but Eve affected not to observe, and bowed distantly. Lucy would not take the hint. After a pause she said:
"Have you any news of Mr. Dodd?"
"I have," was the stiff reply.
"He left us without even saying good-by."
"Yes, after saving all our lives. Need I say that we are anxious, in our turn, to hear of his safety? It was still very tempestuous when he left us to catch the great ship, and he was in an open boat."
"My brother is alive, Miss Fountain, if that is what you wish to know."
"Alive? is he not well? has he met with any accident? any misfortune? is he in the East Indiaman? has he written to you?"
"You are very curious: it is rather late in the day; but, if I am to speak about my brother, it must be at home, and not in an open shop. I can't trust my feelings."
"Are you going home, Miss Dodd?"
"Shall I come with you?"
"If you like: it is close by."
Lucy's heart quaked. Eve was so stern, and her eyes like basilisks'.
"Sit down, Miss Fountain, and I will tell you what you have done for my brother. I did not court this, you know; I would have avoided your eye if I could; it is your doing."
"Yes, Miss Dodd," faltered Lucy, "and I should do it again. I have a right to inquire after his welfare who saved my life."
"Well, then, Miss Fountain, his saving your life has lost him his ship and ruined him for life."
"He came in sight of the ship; but the captain, that was jealous of him like all the rest, made all sail and ran from him: he chased her, and often was near catching her, but she got clear out of the Channel, and my poor David had to come back disgraced, ruined for life, and broken-hearted. The Company will never forgive him for deserting his ship. His career is blighted, and all for one that never cared a straw for him. Oh, Miss Fountain, it was an evil day for my poor brother when first he saw your face!" Eve would have said more, for her heart was burning with wrath and bitterness, but she was interrupted.
Lucy raised both her hands to Heaven, and then, bowing her head, wept tenderly and humbly.
A woman's tears do not always affect another woman; but one reason is, they are very often no sign of grief or of any worthy feeling. The sex, accustomed to read the nicer shades of emotion, distinguishes tears of pique, tears of disappointment, tears of spite, tears various, from tears of grief. But Lucy's was a burst of regret so sincere, of sorrow and pity so tender and innocent that it fell on Eve's hot heart like the dew.
"Ah! well," she cried, "it was to be, it was to be; and I suppose I oughtn't to blame you. But all he does for you tells against himself, and that does seem hard. It isn't as if he and you were anything to one another; then I shouldn't grudge it so much. He has lost his character as a seaman."
"He valued it a deal more than his life. He was always ready to throw THAT away for you or anybody else. He has lost his standing in the service."
"You see he has no interest, like some of them; he only got on by being better and cleverer than all the rest; so the Company won't listen to any excuses from him, and, indeed, he is too proud to make them."
"He will never be captain of a ship now?"
"Captain of a ship! Will he ever leave the bed of sickness he lies on?"
"The bed of sickness! Is he ill? Oh, what have I done?"
"Is he ill? What! do you think my brother is made of iron? Out all night with you--then off, with scarce a wink of sleep; then two days and two nights chasing the Combermere, sometimes gaining, sometimes losing, and his credit and his good name hanging on it; then to beat back against wind, heartbroken, and no food on board--"
"Oh, it is too horrible."
"He staggered into me, white as a ghost. I got him to bed: he was in a burning fever. In the night he was lightheaded, and all his talk was about you. He kept fretting lest you should not have got safe home. It is always so. We care the most for those that care the least for us."
"Is he in the Indiaman?"
"No, Miss Fountain, he is not in the Indiaman," cried Eve, her wrath suddenly rising again; "he lies there, Miss Fountain, in that room, at death's door, and you to thank for it."
At this stab Lucy uttered a cry like a wounded deer. But this cry was followed immediately by one of terror: the door opened suddenly, and there stood David Dodd, looking as white as his sister had said, but, as usual, not in the humor to succumb. "Me at death's port, did you say?" cried he, in a loud tone of cheerful defiance; "tell that to the marines!!"
"I HEARD your voice, Miss Lucy; I would know it among a million; so I rigged myself directly. Why, what is the matter?"
"Oh, Mr. Dodd," sobbed Lucy, "she has told me all you have gone through, and I am the wicked, wicked cause!"
David groaned. "If I didn't think as much. I heard the mill going. Ah! Eve, my girl, your jawing-tackle is too well hung. Eve is a good sister to me, Miss Lucy, and, where I am concerned, let her alone for making a mountain out of a mole-hill. If you believe all she says, you are to blame. The thing that went to my heart was to see my skipper run out his stunsel booms the moment he saw me overhauling him; it was a dirty action, and him an old shipmate. I am glad now I couldn't catch her, for if I had my foot would not have been on the deck two seconds before his carcass would have been in the Channel. And pray, Eve, what has Miss Fountain got to do with that? the dirty lubber wasn't bred at her school, or he would not have served an old messmate so.
"Belay all that, and let's hear something worth hearing. Now, Miss Lucy, you tell me--oh, Lord, Eve, I say, isn't the thundering old dingy room bright now?--you spin me your own yarn, if you will be so good. Here you are, safe and sound, the Lord be praised! But I left you under the lee of that thundering island: wasn't very polite, was it? but you will excuse, won't you? Duty, you know--a seaman must leave his pleasure for his duty. Tell me, now, how did you come on? Was the vessel comfortable? You would not sail till the wind fell? Had you a good voyage? A tiresome one, I am afraid: the sloop wasn't built for fast sailing. When did you land?"
To this fire of eager questions Lucy was in no state to answer. "Oh, no, Mr. Dodd," she cried, "I can't. I am choking. Yes, Miss Dodd, I am the heartless, unfeeling girl you think me." Then, with a sudden dart, she took David's hand and kissed it, and, both her hands hiding her blushing face, she fled, and a single sob she let fall at the door was the last of her. So sudden was her exit, it left both brother and sister stupefied.
"Eve, she is offended," said David, with dismay.
"What if she is?" retorted Eve; "no, she is not offended; but I have made her feel at last, and a good job, too. Why should she escape? she has done all the mischief. Come, you go to bed."
"Not I; I have been long enough on my beam-ends. And I have heard her voice, and have seen her face, and they have put life into me. I shall cruise about the port. I have gone to leeward of John Company's favor, but there are plenty of coasting-vessels; I may get the command of one. I'll try; a seaman never strikes his flag while there's a shot in the locker."
"Here, put me up, Captain Kenealy! Oh, do pray make haste! don't dawdle so!" Off cantered Lucy, and fanned her pony along without mercy. At the door of the house she jumped off without assistance, and ran to Mr. Bazalgette's study, and knocked hastily, and that gentleman was not a little surprised when this unusual visitor came to his side with some signs of awe at having penetrated his sanctum, but evidently driven by an overpowering excitement. "Oh, Uncle Bazalgette! Oh, Uncle Bazalgette!"
"Why, what is the matter? Why, the child is ill. Don't gasp like that, Lucy. Come, pluck up courage; I am sure to be on your side, you know. What is it?"
"Uncle, you are always so kind to me; you know you are."
"Oh, am I? Noble old fellow!"
"Oh, don't make me laugh! ha! ha! oh! oh! oh! ha! oh!"
"Confound it, I have sent her into hysterics; no, she is coming round. Ten thousand million devils, has anybody been insulting the child in my house? They have. My wife, for a guinea."
"No, no, no. It is about Mr. Dodd."
"Mr. Dodd? oho!"
"I have ruined him."
"How have you managed that, my dear?"
Then Lucy, all in a flutter, told Mr. Bazalgette what the reader has just learned.
He looked grave. "Lucy," said he, "be frank with me. Is not Mr. Dodd in love with you?"
"I will be frank with you, dear uncle, because you are frank. Poor Mr. Dodd did love me once; but I refused him, and so his good sense and manliness cured him directly."
"So, now that he no longer loves you, you love him; that is so like you girls."
"Oh, no, uncle; how ridiculous! If I loved Mr. Dodd, I could repair the cruel injuries I have done him with a single word. I have only to recall my refusal, and he-- But I do not love Mr. Dodd. Esteem him I do, and he has saved my life; and is he to lose his health, and his character, and his means of honorable ambition for that? Do you not see how shocking this is, and how galling to my pride? Yes, uncle, I have been insulted. His sister told me to my face it was an evil day for him when he and I first met--that was at Uncle Fountain's."
"Well, and what am I to do, Lucy?"
"Dear Uncle, what I thought was, if you would be so kind as to use your influence with the Company in his favor. Tell them that if he did miss his ship it was not by a fault, but by a noble virtue; tell them that it was to save a fellow creature's life--a young lady's life--one that did not deserve it from him, your own niece's; tell them it is not for your honor he should be disgraced. Oh, uncle, you know what to say so much better than I do."
Bazalgette grinned, and straightway resolved to perpetrate a practical joke, and a very innocent one. "Well," said he, "the best way I can think of to meet your views will be, I think, to get him appointed to the new ship the Company is building."
Lucy opened her eyes, and the blood rushed to her cheek. "Oh uncle, do I hear right? a ship? Are you so powerful? are you so kind? do you love your poor niece so well as all this? Oh, Uncle Bazalgette!"
"There is no end to my power," said the old man, solemnly; "no limit to my goodness, no bounds to my love for my poor niece. Are you in a hurry, my poor niece? Shall we have his commission down to-morrow, or wait a month?"
"To-morrow? is it possible? Oh, yes! I count the minutes till I say to his sister, 'There, Miss Dodd, I have friends who value me too highly to let me lie under these galling obligations.' Dear, dear uncle, I don't mind being under them to you, because I love you" (kisses).
"And not Mr. Dodd?"
"No, dear; and that is the reason I would rather give him a ship than--the only other thing that would make him happy. And really, but for your goodness, I should have been tempted to--ha! ha! Oh, I am so happy now. No; much as I admire my preserver's courage and delicacy and unselfishness and goodness, I don't love him; so, but for this, he MUST have been unhappy for life, and then I should have been miserable forever."
"Perfectly clear and satisfactory, my dear. Now, if the commission is to be down to-morrow, you must not stay here, because I have other letters to write, to go by the same courier that takes my application for the ship."
"And do you really think I will go till I have kissed you, Uncle Bazalgette?"
"On a subject so important, I hardly venture to give an opin--hallo! kissing, indeed? Why, it is like a young wolf flying at horseflesh."
"Then that will teach you not to be kinder to me than anybody else is."
Lucy ran out radiant and into the garden. Here she encountered Kenealy, and, coming on him with a blaze of beauty and triumph, fired a resolution that had smoldered in him a day or two.
He twirled his mustache and--popped briefly.
AFTER the first start of rueful astonishment, the indignation of the just fired Lucy's eyes.
She scolded him well. "Was this his return for all her late kindness?"
She hinted broadly at the viper of Æsop, and indicated more faintly an animal that, when one bestows the choicest favors on it, turns and rends one. Then, becoming suddenly just to the brute creation, she said: "No, it is only your abominable sex that would behave so perversely, so ungratefully."
"Don't understand," drawled Kenealy, "I thought you would laike it."
"Well, you see, I don't laike it."
"You seemed to be getting rather spooney on me."
"Spooney! what is that? one of your mess-room terms, I suppose."
"Yaas; so I thought you waunted me to pawp."
"Captain Kenealy, this subterfuge is unworthy of you. You know perfectly well why I distinguished you. Others pestered me with their attachments and nonsense, and you spared me that annoyance. In return, I did all in my power to show you the grateful friendship I thought you worthy of. But you have broken faith; you have violated the clear, though tacit understanding that subsisted between us, and I am very angry with you. I have some little influence left with my aunt, sir, and, unless I am much mistaken, you will shortly rejoin the army, sir."
"What a boa! what a dem'd boa!"
"And don't swear; that is another foolish custom you gentlemen have; it is almost as foolish as the other. Yes, I'll tell my aunt of you, and then you will see."
"What a boa! How horrid spaiteful you are."
"Well, I am rather vindictive. But my aunt is ten times worse, as her deserter shall find, unless--"
"Unless you beg my pardon directly." And at this part of the conversation Lucy was fain to turn her head away, for she found it getting difficult to maintain that severe countenance which she thought necessary to clothe her words with terror, and subjugate the gallant captain.
"Well, then, I apolojaize," said Kenealy.
"And I accept your apology; and don't do it again."
"I won't, 'pon honaa. Look heah; I swear I didn't mean to affront yah; I don't waunt yah to mayrry me; I only proposed out of civility."
"Come, then, it was not so black as it appeared. Courtesy is a good thing; and if you thought that, after staying a month in a house, you were bound by etiquette to propose to the marriageable part of it, it is pardonable, only don't do it again, please."
"I'll take caa--I'll take caa. I say your tempaa is not--quite--what those other fools think it is--no, by Jove;" and the captain glared.
"Nonsense: I am only a little fiendish on this one point. Well, then, steer clear of it, and you will find me a good crechaa on every other."
Kenealy vowed he would profit by the advice.
"Then there is my hand: we are friends again."
"You won't tell your aunt, nor the other fellaas?"
"Captain Kenealy, I am not one of your garrison ladies; I am a young person who has been educated; your extra civility will never be known to a soul: and you shall not join the army but as a volunteer."
"Then, dem me, Miss Fountain, if I wouldn't be cut in pieces to oblaige you. Just you tray me, and you'll faind, if I am not very braight, I am a man of honah. If those ether begaas annoy you, jaast tell me, and I'll parade 'em at twelve paces, dem me."
"I must try and find some less insane vent for your friendly feelings; and what can l do for you?"
"Yah couldn't go on pretending to be spooney on me, could yah?"
"Oh, no, no. What for?"
"I laike it; makes the other begaas misable."
"What worthy sentiments! it is a sin to balk them. I am sure there is no reason why I should not appear to adore you in public, so long as you let me keep my distance in private; but persons of my sex cannot do just what they would like. We have feelings that pull us this way and that, and, after all this, I am afraid I shall never have the courage to play those pranks with you again; and that is a pity, since it amused you, and teased those that tease me."
In short, the house now contained two "holy alliances" instead of one. Unfortunately for Lucy, the hostile one was by far the stronger of the two; and even now it was preparing a terrible coup.
This evening the storm that was preparing blew good to one of a depressed class, which cannot fail to gratify the just.
Mrs. Bazalgette. "Jane, come to my room a minute; I have something for you. Here is a cashmere gown and cloak; the cloak I want; I can wear it with anything; but you may have the gown."
"Oh, thank you, mum; it is beautiful, and a'most as good as new. I am sure, mum, I am very much obliged to you for your kindness."
"No, no, you are a good girl, and a sensible girl. By the by, you might give me your opinion upon something. Does Miss Lucy prefer any one of our guests? You understand me."
"Well, mum, it is hard to say. Miss Lucy is as reserved as ever."
"Oh, I thought she might--ahem!"
"No, mum, I do assure you, not a word."
"Well, but you are a shrewd girl; tell me what you think: now, for instance, suppose she was compelled to choose between, say Mr. Hardie and Mr. Talboys, which would it be?"
"Well, mum, if you ask my opinion, I don't think Miss Lucy is the one to marry a fool; and by all accounts, there's a deal more in Mr. Hardies's head than what there isn't in Mr. Talboysese's."
"You are a clever girl. You shall have the cloak as well, and, if my niece marries, you shall remain in her service all the same."
"Thank you kindly, mum. I don't desire no better mistress, married or single; and Mr. Hardies is much respected in the town, and heaps o' money; so miss and me we couldn't do no better, neither of us. Your servant, mum, and thanks you for your bounty"; and Jane courtesied twice and went off with the spoils.
In the corridor she met old Fountain. "Stop, Jane," said he, "I want to speak to you."
"At your service, sir."
"In the first place, I want to give you something to buy a new gown"; and he took out a couple of sovereigns. "Where am I to put them? in your breast-pocket?"
"Put them under the cloak, sir," murmured Jane, tenderly. She loved sovereigns.
He put his hand under the heap of cashmere, and a quick little claw hit the coins and closed on them by almighty instinct.
"Now I want to ask your opinion. Is my niece in love with anyone?"
"Well, Mr. Fountains, if she is she don't show it."
"But doesn't she like one man better than another?"
"You may take your oath of that, if we could but get to her mind."
"Which does she like best, this Hardie or Mr. Talboys? Come, tell me, now."
"Well, sir, you know Mr. Talboys is an old acquaintance, and like brother and sister at Font Abbey. I do suppose she have been a scare of times alone with him for one, with Mr. Hardie's. That she should take up with a stranger and jilt an old acquaintance, now is it feasible?"
"Why, of course not. It was a foolish question; you are a young woman of sense. Here's a £5 note for you. You must not tell I spoke to you."
"Now is it likely, sir? My character would be broken forever."
"And you shall be with my niece when she is Mrs. Talboys."
"I might do worse, sir, and so might she. He is respected far and wide, and a grand house, and a carriage and four, and everything to make a lady comfortable. Your servant, sir, and wishes you many thanks."
"And such as Jane was, all true servants are."
The ancients used to bribe the Oracle of Delphi. Curious.
Lucy's twenty-first birthday dawned, but it was not to her the gay exulting day it is to some. Last night her uncle and aunt had gone a step further, and, instead of kissing her ceremoniously, had evaded her. They were drawing matters to a climax: once of age, each day would make her more independent in spirit as in circumstances. This morning she hoped custom would shield her from unkindness for one day at least. But no, they made it clear there was but one way back to their smiles. Their congratulations at the breakfast-table were cold and constrained; her heart fell; and long before noon on her birthday she was crying. Thus weakened, she had to encounter a thoroughly prepared attack. Mr. Bazalgette summoned her to his study at one o'clock, and there she found him and Mrs. Bazalgette and Mr. Fountain seated solemnly in conclave. The merchant was adding up figures.
"Come, now, business," said he. "Dick has added them up: his figures are in that envelope; break the seal and open it, Lucy. If his total corresponds with mine, we are right; if not, I am wrong, and you will all have to go over it with me till we are right." A general groan followed this announcement. Luckily, the sum totals corresponded to a fraction.
Then Mr. Bazalgette made Lucy a little speech.
"My dear, in laying down that office which your amiable nature has rendered so agreeable, I feel a natural regret on your account that the property my colleague there and I have had to deal with on your account has not been more important. However, as far as it goes, we have been fortunate. Consols have risen amazingly since we took you off land and funded you. The rise in value of your little capital since your mother's death is calculated on this card. You have, also, some loose cash, which I will hand over to you immediately. Let me see--eleven hundred and sixty pounds and five shillings. Write your name in full on that paper, Lucy."
He touched a bell; a servant came. He wrote a line and folded it, inclosing Lucy's signature.
"Let this go to Mr. Hardie's bank immediately. Hardie will give you three per cent for your money. Better than nothing. You must have a check-book. He sent me a new one yesterday. Here it is; you shall have it. I wonder whether you know how to draw a check?"
"Look here, then. You note the particulars first on this counter-foil, which thus serves in some degree for an account-book. In drawing the check, place the sum in letters close to these printed words, and the sum in figures close to the £. For want of this precaution, the holder of the check has been known to turn a £10 check into £110."
"Oh how wicked!"
"Mind what you say. Dexterity is the only virtue left in England; so we must be on our guard, especially in what we write with our name attached."
"I must say, Mr. Bazalgette, you are unwise to put such a sum of money into a young girl's hands."
"The young girl has been a woman an hour and ten minutes, and come into her property, movables, and cash aforesaid."
"If you were her real friend, you would take care of her money for her till she marries."
"The eighth commandment, my dear, the eighth commandment, and other primitive axioms: suum cuique, and such odd sayings: 'Him as keeps what isn't hisn, soon or late shall go to prison,' with similar apothegms. Total: let us keep the British merchant and the Newgate thief as distinct as the times permit. Fountain and Bazalgette, account squared, books closed, and I'm off!"
"Oh, uncle, pray stay!" said Lucy. "When you are by me, Rectitude and Sense seem present in person, and I can lean on them."
"Lean on yourself; the law has cut your leading-strings. Why patch 'em? It has made you a woman from a baby. Rise to your new rank. Rectitude and Sense are just as much wanted in the town of ----, where I am due, as they are in this house. Besides, Sense has spoken uninterrupted for ten minutes; prodigious! so now it is Nonsense's turn for the next ten hours." He made for the door; then suddenly returning, said: "I will leave a grain of sense, etc., behind me. What is marriage? Do you give it up? Marriage is a contract. Who are the parties? the papas and mammas, uncles and aunts? By George, you would think so to hear them talk. No, the contract is between two parties, and these two only. It is a printed contract. Anybody can read it gratis. None but idiots sign a contract without reading it; none but knaves sign a contract which, having read, they find they cannot execute. Matrimony is a mercantile affair; very well, then, import into it sound mercantile morality. Go to market; sell well; but, d--n it all, deliver the merchandise as per sample, viz., a woman warranted to love, honor and obey the purchaser. If you swindle the other contracting party in the essentials of the contract, don't complain when you are unhappy. Are shufflers entitled to happiness? and what are those who shuffle and prevaricate in a church any better than those who shuffle and prevaricate in a counting-house?" and the brute bolted.
"My husband is a worthy man," said Mrs. Bazalgette, languidly, "but now and then he makes me blush for him."
"Our good friend is a humorist," replied Fountain, good-humoredly, "and dearly loves a paradox"; and they pooh-poohed him without a particle of malice.
Then Mrs. Bazalgette turned to Lucy, and hoped that she did her the justice to believe she had none but affectionate motives in wishing to see her speedily established.
"Oh no, aunt," said Lucy. "Why should you wish to part with me? I give you but little trouble in your great house."
"Trouble, child? you know you are a comfort to have in any house."
This pleased Lucy; it was the first gracious word for a long time. Having thus softened her, Mrs. Bazalgette proceeded to attack her by all the weaknesses of her sex and age, and for a good hour pressed her so hard that the tears often gushed from Lucy's eyes over her red cheeks. The girl was worn by the length of the struggle and the pertinacity of the assault. She was as determined as ever to do nothing, but she had no longer the power to resist in words. Seeing her reduced to silence, and not exactly distinguishing between impassibility and yielding, Mrs. Bazalgette delivered the coup-de-grace.
"I must now tell you plainly, Lucy, that your character is compromised by being out all night with persons of the other sex. I would have spared you this, but your resistance compels those who love you to tell you all. Owing to that unfortunate trip, you are in such a situation that you must marry."
"The world is surely not so unjust as all this," sighed Lucy.
"You don't know the world as I do," was the reply. "And those who live in it cannot defy it. I tell you plainly, Lucy, neither your uncle nor I can keep you any longer, except as an engaged person. And even that engagement ought to be a very short one."
"What, aunt? what, uncle? your house is no longer mine?" and she buried her head upon the table.
"Well, Lucy," said Mr. Fountain, "of course we would not have told you this yesterday. It would have been ungenerous. But you are now your own mistress; you are independent. Young persons in your situation can generally forget in a day or two a few years of kindness. You have now an opportunity of showing us whether you are one of that sort."
Here Mrs. Bazalgette put in her word. "You will not lack people to encourage you in ingratitude--perhaps my husband himself; but if he does, it will make a lasting breach between him and me, of which you will have been the cause."
"Heaven forbid!" said Lucy, with a shudder. "Why should dear Mr. Bazalgette be drawn into my troubles? He is no relation of mine, only a loyal friend, whom may God bless and reward for his kindness to a poor fatherless, motherless girl. Aunt, uncle, if you will let me stay with you, I will be more kind, more attentive to you than I have been. Be persuaded; be advised. If you succeeded in getting rid of me, you might miss me, indeed you might. I know all your little ways so well."
"Lucy, we are not to be tempted to do wrong," said Mrs. Bazalgette, sternly. "Choose which of these two offers you will accept. Choose which you please. If you refuse both, you must pack up your things, and go and live by yourself, or with Mr. Dodd."
"Mr. Dodd? why is his name introduced? Was it necessary to insult me?" and her eyes flashed.
"Nobody wishes to insult you, Lucy. And I propose, madam, we give her a day to consider."
"Thank you, uncle."
"With all my heart; only, until she decides, she must excuse me if I do not treat her with the same affection as I used, and as I hope to do again. I am deeply wounded, and I am one that cannot feign."
"You need not fear me, aunt; my heart is turned to ice. I shall never intrude that love on which you set no value. May I retire?"
Mrs. Bazalgette looked to Mr. Fountain, and both bowed acquiescence. Lucy went out pale, but dry-eyed; despair never looked so lovely, or carried its head more proudly.
"I don't like it," said Mr. Fountain. "I am afraid we have driven the poor girl too hard."
"What are you afraid of, pray?"
"She looked to me just like a woman who would go and take an ounce of laudanum. Poor Lucy! she has been a good niece to me, after all;" and the water stood in the old bachelor's eyes.
Mrs. Bazalgette tapped him on the shoulder and said archly, but with a tone that carried conviction, "She will take no poison. She will hate us for an hour; then she will have a good cry: to-morrow she will come to our terms; and this day next year she will be very much obliged to us for doing what all women like, forcing her to her good with a little harshness."
SAID Lucy as she went from the door, "Thank Heaven, they have insulted me!"
This does not sound logical, but that is only because the logic is so subtle and swift. She meant something of this kind: "I am of a yielding nature; I might have sacrificed myself to retain their affection; but they have roused a vice of mine, my pride, against them, so now I shall be immovable in right, thanks to my wicked pride. Thank Heaven, they have insulted me!" She then laid her head upon her bed and moaned, for she was stricken to the heart. Then she rose and wrote a hasty note, and, putting it in her bosom, came downstairs and looked for Captain Kenealy. He proved to be in the billiard-room, playing the spotted ball against the plain one. "Oh, Captain Kenealy, I am come to try your friendship; you said I might command you."
"Then will you mount my pony, and ride with this to Mrs. Wilson, to that farm where I kept you waiting so long, and you were not angry as anyone else would have been?"
"But not a soul must see it, or know where you are gone."
"All raight, Miss Fountain. Don't you be fraightened; I'm close as the grave, and I'll be there in less than haelf an hour."
"Yes; but don't hurt my dear pony either; don't beat him; and, above all, don't come back without an answer."
"I'll bring you an answer in an hour and twenty minutes." The captain looked at his watch, and went out with a smartness that contrasted happily with his slowness of speech.
Lucy went back to her own room and locked herself in, and with trembling hands began to pack up her jewels and some of her clothes. But when it came to this, wounded pride was sorely taxed by a host of reminiscences and tender regrets, and every now and then the tears suddenly gushed and fell upon her poor hands as she put things out, or patted them flat, to wander on the world.
While she is thus sorrowfully employed, let me try and give an outline of the feelings that had now for some time been secretly growing in her, since without their co-operation she would never have been driven to the strange step she now meditated.
Lucy was a very unselfish and very intelligent girl. The first trait had long blinded her to something; the second had lately helped to open her eyes.
If ever you find a person quick to discover selfishness in others, be sure that person is selfish; for it is only the selfish who come into habitual collision with selfishness, and feel how sharp-pointed a thing it is. When Unselfish meets Selfish, each acts after his kind; Unselfish gives way, Selfish holds his course, and so neither is thwarted, and neither finds out the other's character.
Lucy, then, of herself, would never have discovered her relatives' egotism. But they helped her, and she was too bright not to see anything that was properly pointed out to her.
When Fountain kept showing and proving Mrs. Bazalgette's egotism, and Mrs. Bazalgette kept showing and proving Mr. Fountain's egotism, Lucy ended by seeing both their egotisms, as clearly as either could desire; and, as she despised egotism, she lost her respect for both these people, and let them convince her they were both persons against whom she must be on her guard.
This was the direct result of their mines and countermines heretofore narrated, but not the only result. It followed indirectly, but inevitably, that the present holy alliance failed. Lucy had not forgotten the past; and to her this seemed not a holy, but an unholy, hollow, and empty alliance.
"They hate one another," said she, "but it seems they hate me worse, since they can hide their mutual dislike to combine against poor me."
Another thing: Lucy was one of those women who thirst for love, and, though not vain enough to be always showing they think they ought to be beloved, have quite secret amour propre enough to feel at the bottom of their hearts that they were sent here to that end, and that it is a folly and a shame not to love them more or less.
If ever Madame Ristori plays "Maria Stuarda" within a mile of you, go and see her. Don't chatter: you can do that at home; attend to the scene; the worst play ever played is not so unimproving as chit-chat. Then, when the scaffold is even now erected, and the poor queen, pale and tearful, palpitates in death's grasp, you shall see her suddenly illumined with a strange joy, and hear her say, with a marvelous burst of feminine triumph,
Uttered, under a scaffold, as the Italian utters it, this line is a revelation of womanhood.
The English virgin of our humbler tale had a soul full of this feeling, only she had never learned to set the love of sex above other loves; but, mark you, for that very reason, a mortal insult to her heart from her beloved relatives was as mortifying, humiliating and unpardonable as is, to other high-spirited girls, an insult from their favored lover.
What could she do more than she had done to win their love? No, their hearts were inaccessible to her.
"They wish to get rid of me. Well, they shall. They refuse me their houses. Well, I will show them the value of their houses to me. It was their hearts I clung to, not their houses."
A tap came to Lucy's door.
"Who is that? I am busy."
"Oh, miss!" said an agitated voice, "may I speak to you--the captain!"
"What captain?" inquired Lucy, without opening the door.
"I will come out to you. Now. Has Captain Kenealy returned already?"
"La! no, miss. He haven't been anywhere as I know of. He had them about him as couldn't spare him."
"Something is the matter, Jane. What is it?"
Jane lowered her voice mysteriously. "Well, miss, the captain is--in trouble."
"Oh, dear, what has happened?"
"Well, the fact is, miss, the captain's--took"
"I cannot understand you. Pray speak intelligibly."
"Captain Kenealy arrested! Oh, Heaven! for what crime?"
"La, miss, no crime at all--leastways not so considered by the gentry. He is only took in payment of them beautiful reg-mentals. However, black or red, he is always well put on. I am sure he looks just out of a band-box; and I got it all out of one of the men as it's a army tailor, which he wrote again and again, and sent his bill, and the captain he took no notice; then the tailor he sent him a writ, and the captain he took no notice; then the tailor he lawed him, but the captain he kep' on a taking no more notice nor if it was a dog a barking, and then a putting all them ere barks one after another in a letter, and sending them by the post; so the end is, the captain is arrested; and now he behooves to attend a bit to what is a going on around an about him, as the saying is, and so he is waiting to pay you his respects before he starts for Bridewell."
"My fatal advice! I ruin all my friends."
"Keep dark," says he; "don't tell a soul except Miss Fountain."
"Where is he? Oh?"
Jane offered to show her that, and took her to the stable yard. Arriving with a face full of tender pity and concern, Lucy was not a little surprised to find the victim smoking cigars in the center of his smoking captors. The men touched their hats, and Captain Kenealy said: "Isn't it a boa, Miss Fountain? they won't let me do your little commission. In London they will go anywhere with a fellaa."
"London ye knows," explained the assistant, "but this here is full of hins and houts, and folyidge."
"Oh, sir," cried Lucy to the best-dressed captor, "surely you will not be so cruel as to take a gentleman like Captain Kenealy to prison?"
"Very sorry, marm, but we 'ave no hoption: takes 'em every day; don't we, Bill?"
"But, sir, as it is only for money, can you not be induced by--by--money--"
"Bill, lady's going to pay the debtancosts. Show her the ticket. Debt eighty pund, costs seven pund eighteen six."
"What! will you liberate him if I pay you eighty-eight pounds?"
"Well, marm, to oblige you we will; won't we, Bill?"
He winked. Bill nodded.
"Then pray stay here a minute, and this shall be arranged to your entire satisfaction"; and she glided swiftly away, followed by Jane, wriggling.
"Quite the lady, Bill."
"Kevite. Captn is in luck. Hare ve to be at the vedding, capn?"
"Dem your impudence! I'll cross-buttock yah!"
"Hold your tongue, Bill--queering a gent. Draw it mild, captain. Debtancosts ain't paid yet. Here they come, though."
Lucy returned swiftly, holding aloft a slip of paper.
"There, sir, that is a check for £90; it is the same thing as money, you are doubtless aware." The man took it and inspected it keenly.
Very sorry, marm, but can't take it. It's a lady's check."
"What! is it not written properly?"
"Beautiful, marm. But when we takes these beautiful-wrote checks to the bank, the cry is always, 'No assets.'"
"But Uncle Bazalgette said everybody would give me money for it."
"What! is Mr. Bazalgette your uncle, marm? then you go to him, and get his check in place of yours, and the captain will be free as the birds in the hair."
"Oh, thank you, sir," cried Lucy, and the next minute she was in Mr. Bazalgette's study. "Uncle, don't be angry with me: it is for no unworthy purpose; only don't ask me; it might mortify another; but would you give me a check of your own for mine? They will not receive mine."
Mr. Bazalgette looked grave, and even sad; but he sat quietly down without a word, and drew her a check, taking hers, which he locked in his desk. The tears were in Lucy's eyes at his gravity and his delicacy. "Some day I will tell you," said she. "I have nothing to reproach myself, indeed--indeed."
"Make the rogue--or jade--give you a receipt," groaned Bazalgette.
"All right, marm, this time. Captain, the world is hall before you where to chewse. But this is for ninety, marm;" and he put his hand very slowly into his pocket.
"Do me the favor to keep the rest for your trouble, sir."
"Trouble's a pleasure, marm. It is not often we gets a tip for taking a gent. Ve are funk shin hairies as is not depreciated, mam, and the more genteel we takes 'em the rougher they cuts; and the very women no more like you nor dark to light; but flies at us like ryal Bengal tigers, through taking of us for the creditors."
"Verehas we hare honly servants of the ke veen;" suggested No. 2, hashing his mistress's English.
"Stow your gab, Bill, and mizzle. Let the captain thank the lady. Good-day, marm."
"Oh, my poor friend, what language! and my ill advice threw you into their company!"
Captain Kenealy told her, in his brief way, that the circumstance was one of no import, except in so far as it had impeded his discharge of his duty to her. He then mounted the pony, which had been waiting for him more than half an hour.
"But it is five o'clock," said Lucy; "you will be too late for dinner."
"Dinner be dem--d," drawled the man of action, and rode off like a flash.
"It is to be, then," said Lucy, and her heart ebbed. It had ebbed and flowed a good many times in the last hour or two.
Captain Kenealy reappeared in the middle of dinner. Lucy scanned his face, but it was like the outside of a copy-book, and she was on thorns. Being too late, he lost his place near her at dinner, and she could not whisper to him. However, when the ladies retired he opened the door, and Lucy let fall a word at his feet: "Come up before the rest."
Acting on this order, Kenealy came up, and found Lucy playing sad tunes softly on the piano and Mrs. Bazalgette absent. She was trying something on upstairs. He gave Lucy a note from Mrs. Wilson. She opened it, and the joyful color suffused her cheek, and she held out her hand to him; but, as she turned her head away mighty prettily at the same time, she did not see the captain was proffering a second document, and she was a little surprised when, instead of a warm grasp, all friendship and no love, a piece of paper was shoved into her delicate palm. She took it; looked first at Kenealy, then at it, and was sore puzzled.
The document was in Kenealy's handwriting, and at first Lucy thought it must be intended as a mere specimen of caligraphy; for not only was it beautifully written, but in letters of various sizes. There were three gigantic vowels, I. O. U. There were little wee notifications of time and place, and other particulars of medium size. The general result was that Henry Kenealy O'd Lucy Fountain ninety pound for value received per loan. Lucy caught at the meaning. "But, my dear friend," said she, innocently, "you mistake. I did not lend it you; I meant to give it you. Will you not accept it? Are we not friends?"
"Much oblaiged. Couldn't do it. Dishonable."
"Oh, pray do not let me wound your pride. I know what it is to have one's pride wounded; call it a loan if you wish. But, dear friend, what am I to do with this?"
"When you want the money, order your man of business to present it to me, and, if I don't pay, lock me up, for I shall deserve it."
"I think I understand. This is a memorandum--a sort of reminder."
"Then clearly I am not the person to whom it should be given. No; if you want to be reminded of this mighty matter, put this in your desk; if it gets into mine, you will never see it again; I will give you fair warning. There--hide it--quick--here they come."
They did come, all but Mr. Bazalgette, who was at work in his study. Mr. Talboys came up to the piano and said gravely, "Miss Fountain, are you aware of the fate of the lugger--of the boat we went out in?"
Indeed I am. I have sent the poor widow some clothes and a little money."
"I have only just been informed of it," said Mr. Talboys, "and I feel under considerable obligations to Mr. Dodd."
"The feeling does you credit."
"Should you meet him, will you do me the honor to express my gratitude to him?"
"I would, with pleasure, Mr. Talboys, but there is no chance whatever of my seeing Mr. Dodd. His sister is staying in Market Street, No. 80, and if you would call on them or write to them, it would be a kindness, and I think they would both feel it."
"Humph!" said Talboys, doubtfully. Here a servant stepped up to Miss Fountain. "Master would be glad to see you in his study, miss."
"I have got something for you, Lucy. I know what it is, so run away with it, and read it in your own room, for I am busy." He handed her a long sealed packet. She took it, trembling, and flew to her own room with it, like a hawk carrying off a little bird to its nest. She broke the enormous seal and took out the inclosure. It was David Dodd's commission. He was captain of the Rajah, the new ship of eleven hundred tons' burden.
While she gazes at it with dilating eye and throbbing heart, I may as well undeceive the reader. This was not really effected in forty-eight hours. Bazalgette only pretended that, partly out of fun, partly out of nobility. Ever since a certain interview in his study with David Dodd, who was a man after his own heart, he had taken a note, and had worked for him with "the Company;" for Bazalgette was one of those rare men who reduce performance to a certainty long before they promise. His promises were like pie-crust made to be eaten, and eaten hot.
Lucy came out of her room, and at the same moment issued forth from hers Mrs. Bazalgette in a fine new dress. It was that black glacé silk, divested of gloom by cheerful accessories, in which she had threatened to mourn eternally Lucy's watery fate. Fire flashed from the young lady's eyes at the sight of it. She went down to her uncle, muttering between her ivory teeth: "All the same--all the same;" and her heart flowed. The next minute, at sight of Mr. Bazalgette it ebbed. She came into his room, saying: "Oh, Uncle Bazalgette, it is not to thank you--that I can never do worthily; it is to ask another favor. Do, pray, let me spend this evening with you; let me be where you are. I will be as still as a mouse. See, I have brought some work; or, if you would but let me help you. Indeed, uncle, I am not a fool. I am very quick to learn at the bidding of those I love. Let me write your letters for you, or fold them up, or direct them, or something--do, pray!"
"Oh, the caprices of young ladies! Well, can you write large and plain? Not you."
"I can imitate anything or anybody."
"Imitate this hand then. I'll walk and dictate, you sit and write."
"Oh, how nice!"
"Delicious! The first is to--Hetherington. Now, Lucy, this is a dishonest, ungrateful old rogue, who has made thousands by me, and now wants to let me into a mine, with nothing in it but water. It would suck up twenty thousand pounds as easily as that blotting-paper will suck up our signature."
"Heartless traitor! monster!" cried Lucy.
"Are you ready?"
"Yes," and her eye flashed and the pen was to her a stiletto.
Bazalgette dictated, "My dear Sir--"
"What? to a cheat?"
"Custom, child. I'll have a stamp made. Besides, if we let them see we see through them, they would play closer and closer--"
"My dear Sir--In answer to yours of date 11th instant, I regret to say--that circumstances prevent--my closing--with your obliging--and friendly offer."
They wrote eight letters; and Lucy's quick fingers folded up prospectuses, and her rays brightened the room. When the work was done, she clung round Mr. Bazalgette and caressed him, and seemed strangely unwilling to part with him at all; in fact, it was twelve o'clock, and the drawing-room empty, when they parted.
At one o'clock the whole house was dark except one room, and both windows of that room blazed with light. And it happened there was a spectator of this phenomenon. A man stood upon the grass and eyed those lights as if they were the stars of his destiny.
It was David Dodd. Poor David! he had struck a bargain, and was to command a coasting vessel, and carry wood from the Thames to our southern ports. An irresistible impulse brought him to look, before he sailed, on the place that held the angel who had destroyed his prospects, and whom he loved as much as ever, though he was too proud to court a second refusal.
"She watches, too," thought David, "but it is not for me, as I for her."
At half past one the lights began to dance before his wearied eyes, and presently David, weakened by his late fever, dozed off and forgot all his troubles, and slept as sweetly on the grass as he had often slept on the hard deck, with his head upon a gun.
Luck was against the poor fellow. He had not been unconscious much more than ten minutes when Lucy's window opened and she looked out; and he never saw her. Nor did she see him; for, though the moon was bright, it was not shining on him; he lay within the shadow of a tree. But Lucy did see something--a light upon the turnpike road about forty yards from Mr. Bazalgette's gates. She slipped cautiously down, a band-box in her hand, and, unbolting the door that opened on the garden, issued out, passed within a few yards of Dodd, and went round to the front, and finally reached the turnpike road. There she found Mrs. Wilson, with a light-covered cart and horse, and a lantern. At sight of her Mrs. Wilson put out the light, and they embraced; then they spoke in whispers.
"Come, darling, don't tremble; have you got much more?"
"Oh, yes, several things."
"Look at that, now! But, dear heart, I was the same at your age, and should be now, like enough. Fetch them all, as quick as you like. I am feared to leave Blackbird, or I'd help you down with 'em."
"Is there nobody with you to take care of us?"
"What do you mean--men folk? Not if I know it."
"You are right. You are wise. Oh, how courageous!" And she went back for her finery. And certain it is she had more baggage than I should choose for a forced march.
But all has an end--even a female luggage train; so at last she put out all her lights and came down, stepping like a fairy, with a large basket in her hand.
Now it happened that by this time the moon's position was changed, and only a part of David lay in the shade; his head and shoulders glittered in broad moonlight; and Lucy, taking her farewell of a house where she had spent many happy days, cast her eyes all around to bid good-by, and spied a man lying within a few paces, and looking like a corpse in the silver sheen. She dropped her basket; her knees knocked together with fear, and she flew toward Mrs. Wilson. But she did not go far, for the features, indistinct as they were by distance and pale light, struck her mind, and she stopped and looked timidly over her shoulder. The figure never moved. Then, with beating heart, she went toward him slowly and so stealthily that she would have passed a mouse without disturbing it, and presently she stood by him and looked down on him as he lay.
And as she looked at him lying there, so pale, so uncomplaining, so placid, under her windows, this silent proof of love, and the thought of the raging sea this helpless form had steered her through, and all he had suffered as well as acted for her, made her bosom heave, and stirred all that was woman within her. He loved her still, then, or why was he here? And then the thought that she had done something for him too warmed her heart still more toward him. And there was nothing for her to repel now, for he lay motionless; there was nothing for her to escape--he did not pursue her; nothing to negative--he did not propose anything to her. Her instinct of defense had nothing to lay hold of; so, womanlike, she had a strong impulse to wake him and be kind to him--as kind as she could be without committing herself. But, on the other hand, there was shy, trembling, virgin modesty, and shame that he should detect her making a midnight evasion, and fear of letting him think she loved him.
While she stood thus, with something drawing her on and something drawing her back, and palpitating in every fiber, Mrs. Wilson's voice was heard in low but anxious tones calling her. A feather turned the balanced scale. She must go. Fate had decided for her. She was called. Then the sprites of mischief tempted her to let David know she had been near him. She longed to put his commission into his pocket; but that was impossible. It was at the very bottom of her box. She took out her tablets, wrote the word "Adieu," tore out half the leaf, and, bending over David, attached the little bit of paper by a pin to the tail of his coat. If he had been ever so much awake he could not have felt her doing it; for her hand touching him, and the white paper settling on his coat, was all done as lights a spot of down on still water from the bending neck of a swan.
"No, dear Mrs. Wilson, we must not go yet. I will hold the horse, and you must go back for me for something."
"I'm agreeable. What is it? Why, what is up? How you do pant!"
"I have made a discovery. There is a gentleman lying asleep there on the wet grass."
"Lackadaisy! why, you don't say so."
"It is a friend; and he will catch his death."
"Why, of course he will. He will have had a drop too much, Miss Lucy. I'll wake him, and we will take him along home with us."
"Oh, not for the world, nurse. I would not have him see what I am doing, oh, not for all the world!"
"Where is he?"
"In there, under the great tree."
"Well, you get into the cart, miss, and hold the reins"; and Mrs. Wilson went into the grounds and soon found David.
She put her hand on his shoulder, and he awoke directly, and looked surprised at Mrs. Wilson.
"Are you better, sir?" said the good woman. "Why, if it isn't the handsome gentleman that was so kind to me! Now do ee go in, sir--do ee go in. You will catch your death o' cold." She made sure he was staying at the house.
David looked up at Lucy's windows. "Yes, I will go home, Mrs. Wilson; there is nothing to stay for now"; and he accompanied her to the cart. But Mrs. Wilson remembered Lucy's desire not to be seen; so she said very loud, "I'm sure it's very lucky me and my niece happened to be coming home so late, and see you lying there. Well, one good turn deserves another. Come and see me at my farm; you go through the village of Harrowden, and anybody there will tell you where Dame Wilson do live. I would ask you to-night, but--" she hesitated, and Lucy let down her veil.
"No, thank you, not now; my sister will be fretting as it is. Good-morning"; and his steps were heard retreating as Mrs. Wilson mounted the cart.
"Well, I should have liked to have taken him home and warmed him a bit," said the good woman to Lucy; "it is enough to give him the rheumatics for life. However, he is not the first honest man as has had a drop too much, and taken 's rest without a feather-bed. Alack, miss, why, you are all of a tremble! What ails you? I'm a fool to ask. Ah! well, you'll soon be at home, and naught to vex you. That is right; have a good cry, do. Ay, ay, 'tis hard to be forced to leave our nest. But all places are bright where love abides; and there's honest hearts both here and there, and the same sky above us wherever we wander, and the God of the fatherless above that; and better a peaceful cottage than a palace full of strife." And with many such homely sayings the rustic consoled her nursling on their little journey, not quite in vain.
NEXT morning the house was in an uproar. Servants ran to and fro, and the fish-pond was dragged at Mr. Fountain's request. But on these occasions everybody claims a right to speak, and Jane came into the breakfast-room and said: "If you please, mum, Miss Lucy isn't in the pond, for she have taken a good part of her clothes, and all her jewels."
This piece of common sense convinced everybody on the spot except Mrs. Bazalgette. That lady, if she had decided on "making a hole in the water," would have sat on the bank first, and clapped on all her jewels, and all her richest dresses, one on the top of another. Finally, Mr. Bazalgette, who wore a somber air, and had not said a word, requested everybody to mind their own business. "I have a communication from Lucy," said he, "and I do not at present disapprove the step she has taken."
All eyes turned with astonishment toward him, and the next moment all voices opened on him like a pack of hounds. But he declined to give them any further information. Between ourselves he had none to give. The little note Lucy left on his table merely begged him to be under no anxiety, and prayed him to suspend his judgment of her conduct till he should know the whole case. It was his strong good sense which led him to pretend he was in the whole secret. By this means he substituted mystery for scandal, and contrived that the girl's folly might not be irreparable.
At the same time he was deeply indignant with her, and, above all, with her hypocrisy in clinging round him and kissing him the very night she meditated flight from his house.
"I must find the girl out and get her back;" said he, and directly after breakfast he collected his myrmidons and set them to discover her retreat.
The outward frame-work of the holy alliance remained standing, but within it was dissolving fast. Each of the allies was even now thinking how to find Lucy and make a separate peace. During the flutter which now subsided, one person had done nothing but eat pigeon-pie. It was Kenealy, captain of horse.
Now eating pigeon-pie is not in itself a suspicious act, but ladies are so sharp. Mrs. Bazalgette said to herself, "This creature alone is not a bit surprised (for Bazalgette is fibbing); why is this creature not surprised? humph! Captain Kenealy," said she, in honeyed tones, "what would you advise us to do?"
"Advertaize," drawled the captain, as cool as a cucumber.
"Advertise? What! publish her name?"
"No, no names. I'll tell you;" and he proceeded to drawl out very slowly, from memory, the following advertisement. N. B.--The captain was a great reader of advertisements, and of little else.
"If L. F. will retarn--to her afflicted--relatives--she shall be received with open aams. And shall be forgotten and forgiven--and reunaited affection shall solace every wound.
"That is the style. It always brings 'em back--dayvilish good paie--have some moa."
Mr. Fountain and Mrs. Bazalgette raised an outcry against the captain's advice, and, when the table was calm again, Mrs. Bazalgette surprised them all by fixing her eyes on Kenealy, and saying quietly, "You know where she is." She added more excitedly: "Now don't deny it. On your honor, sir, have you no idea where my niece is?"
"Upon my honah, I have an idea."
"Then tell me."
"I'd rayther not."
"Perhaps you would prefer to tell me in private?"
"No; prefer not to tell at all."
Then the whole table opened on him, and appealed to his manly feeling, his sense of hospitality, his humanity--to gratify their curiosity.
Kenealy stretched himself out from the waist downward, and delivered himself thus, with a double infusion of his drawl:--
"See yah all dem--d first."
At noon on the same day, by the interference of Mrs. Bazalgette, the British army was swelled with Kenealy, captain of horse.
The whole day passed, and Lucy's retreat was not yet discovered. But more than one hunter was hemming her in.
The next day, being the second after her elopement with her nurse, at eleven in the forenoon, Lucy and Mrs. Wilson sat in the little parlor working. Mrs. Wilson had seen the poultry fed, the butter churned, and the pudding safe in the pot, and her mind was at ease for a good hour to come, so she sat quiet and peaceful. Lucy, too, was at peace. Her eye was clear; and her color coming back; she was not bursting with happiness, for there was a sweet pensiveness mixed with her sweet tranquillity; but she looked every now and then smiling from her work up at Mrs. Wilson, and the dame kept looking at her with a motherly joy caused by her bare presence on that hearth. Lucy basked in these maternal glances. At last she said: "Nurse."
"If you had never done anything for me, still I should know you loved me."
"Should ye, now?"
"Oh yes; there is the look in your eye that I used to long to see in my poor aunt's, but it never came."
"Well, Miss Lucy, I can't help it. To think it is really you setting there by my fire! I do feel like a cat with one kitten. You should check me glaring you out o' countenance like that."
"Check you? I could not bear to lose one glance of that honest tender eye. I would not exchange one for all the flatteries of the world. I am so happy here, so tranquil, under my nurse's wing."
With this declaration came a little sigh.
Mrs. Wilson caught it. "Is there nothing wanting, dear?"
"Well, I do keep wishing for one thing."
"What is that?"
"Oh, I can't help my thoughts."
"But you can help keeping them from me, nurse."
"Well, my dear, I am like a mother; I watch every word of yours and every look; and it is my belief you deceive yourself a bit: many a young maid has done that. I do judge there is a young man that is more to you than you think for."
"Who on earth is that, nurse?" asked Lucy, coloring.
"The handsome young gentleman."
"Oh, they are all handsome--all my pests."
"The one I found under your window, Miss Lucy; he wasn't in liquor; so what was he there for? and you know you were not at your ease till you had made me go and wake him, and send him home; and you were all of a tremble. I'm a widdy now, and can speak my mind to men-folk all one as women-folk; but I've been a maid, and I can mind how I was in those days. Liking did use to whisper me to do so and so; Shyness up and said, 'La! not for all the world; what'll he think?'"
"Oh, nurse, do you believe me capable of loving one who does not love me?"
"No. Who said he doesn't love you? What was he there for? I stick to that."
"Now, nurse, dear, be reasonable; if Mr. Dodd loved me, would he go to sleep in my presence?"
"Eh! Miss Lucy, the poor soul was maybe asleep before you left your room."
"It is all the same. He slept while I stood close to him ever so long. Slept while I-- If I loved anybody as these gentlemen pretend they love us, should I sleep while the being I adored was close to me?"
"You are too hard upon him. 'The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.' Why, miss, we do read of Eutychus, how he snoozed off setting under Paul himself--up in a windy--and down a-tumbled. But parson says it wasn't that he didn't love religion, or why should Paul make it his business to bring him to life again, 'stead of letting un lie for a warning to the sleepy-headed ones. ' 'Twas a wearied body, not a heart cold to God,' says our parson."
"Now, nurse, I take you at your word. If Eutychus had been Eutycha, and in love with St. Paul, Eutycha would never have gone to sleep, though St. Paul preached all day and all night; and if Dorcas had preached instead of St. Paul, and Eutychus been in love with her, he would never have gone to sleep, and you know it."
At this home-thrust Mrs. Wilson was staggered, but the next moment her sense of discomfiture gave way to a broad expression of triumph at her nursling's wit.
"Eh! Miss Lucy," cried she, showing a broadside of great white teeth in a rustic chuckle, "but ye've got a tongue in your head. Ye've sewed up my stocking, and 'tisn't many of them can do that." Lucy followed up her advantage.
"And, nurse, even when he was wide awake and stood by the cart, no inward sentiment warned him of my presence; a sure sign he did not love me. Though I have never experienced love, I have read of it, and know all about it." [Jus-tice des Femmes!]
"Well, Miss Lucy, have it your own way; after all, if he loves you he will find you out."
"Of course he would, and you will see he will do nothing of the kind."
"Then I wish I knew where he was; I would pull him in at my door by the scruf of the neck."
"And then I should jump out at the window. Come, try on your new cap, nurse, that I have made for you, and let us talk about anything you like except gentlemen. Gentlemen are a sore subject with me. Gentlemen have been my ruin."
"La, Miss Lucy!"
"I assure you they have; why, have they not set my uncle's heart against me, and my aunt's, and robbed me of the affection I once had for both? I believe gentlemen to be the pests of society; and oh! the delight of being here in this calm retreat, where love dwells, and no gentleman can find me. Ah! ah! Oh! What is that?"
For a heavy blow descended on the door. "That is Jenny's knock," said Mrs. Wilson; dryly. "Come in, Jenny." The servant, thus invited, burst the door open as savagely as she had struck it, and announced with a knowing grin, "A GENTLEMAN--for Miss Fountain!!"
DAVID and Eve sat together at their little breakfast, and pressed each other to eat; but neither could eat. David's night excursion had filled Eve with new misgivings. It was the act of a madman; and we know the fears that beset her on that head, and their ground. He had come home shivering, and she had forced him to keep his bed all that day. He was not well now, and bodily weakness, added to his other afflictions, bore his spirit down, though nothing could cow it.
"When are you to sail?" inquired Eve, sick-like.
"In three days. Cargo won't be on board before."
"A coasting vessel?"
"A man can do his duty in a coaster as well as a merchantman or a frigate." But he sighed.
"Would to God you had never seen her!"
"Don't blame her--blame me. I had good advice from my little sister, but I was willful. Never mind, Eve, I needn't to blush for loving her; she is worthy of it all."
"Well, think so, David, if you can." And Eve, thoroughly depressed, relapsed into silence. The postman's rap was heard, and soon after a long inclosure was placed in Eve's hand.
Poor little Eve did not receive many letters; and, sad as she was, she opened this with some interest; but how shall I paint its effect? She kept uttering shrieks of joy, one after another, at each sentence. And when she had shrieked with joy many times, she ran with the large paper round to David. "You are captain of the Rajah! ah! the new ship! ah! eleven hundred tons! Oh, David! Oh, my heart! Oh! oh! oh!" and the poor little thing clasped her arms round her brother's neck, and kissed him again and again, and cried and sobbed for joy.
All men, and most women, go through life without once knowing what it is to cry for joy, and it is a comfort to think that Eve's pure and deep affection brought her such a moment as this in return for much trouble and sorrow. David, stout-hearted as he was, was shaken as the sea and the wind had never yet shaken him. He turned red and white alternately, and trembled. "Captain of the Rajah! It is too good--it is too good! I have done nothing for it"; and he was incredulous.
Eve was devouring the inclosure. "It is her doing," she cried; "it is all her doing."
"Who do you think? I am in the air! I am in heaven! Bless her--oh, God, bless her for this. Never speak against cold-blooded folk before me; they have twice the principle of us hot ones: I always said so. She is a good creature; she is a true friend; and you accused her of ingratitude!"
"That I never did."
"You did--Rajah--he! he! oh!--and I defended her. Here, take and read that: is that a commission or not? Now you be quiet, and let us see what she says. No, I can't; I cannot keep the tears out of my eyes. Do take and read it, David; I'm blind."
David took the letter, kissed it, and read it out to Eve, and she kept crowing and shedding tears all the time.
"DEAR MISS DODD--I admire too much your true affection for your brother to be indifferent to your good opinion. Think of me as leniently as you can. Perhaps it gives me as much pleasure to be able to forward you the inclosed as the receipt of it, I hope, may give you.
"It would, I think, be more wise, and certainly more generous, not to let Mr. Dodd think he owes in any degree to me that which, if the world were just, would surely have been his long ago. Only, some few months hence, when it can do him no harm, I could wish him not to think his friend Lucy was ungrateful, or even cold in his service, who saved her life, and once honored her with so warm an esteem. But all this I confide to your discretion and your justice. Dear Miss Dodd, those who give pain to others do not escape it themselves, nor is it just they should. My insensibility to the merit of persons of the other sex has provoked my relatives; they have punished me for declining Mr. Dodd's inferiors with a bitterness Mr. Dodd, with far more cause, never showed me; so you see at each turn I am reminded of his superiority.
"The result is, I am separated from my friends, and am living all alone with my dear old nurse, at her farmhouse.
"Since, then, I am unhappy, and you are generous, you will, I think, forgive me all the pain I have caused you, and will let me, in bidding you adieu, subscribe myself,
"It is the letter of a sweet girl, David, with a noble heart; and she has taken a noble revenge of me for what I said to her the other day, and made her cry, like a little brute as I am. Why, how glum you look!"
"Eve," said David, "do you think I will accept this from her without herself?"
"Of course you will. Don't be too greedy, David. Leave the girl in peace; she has shown you what she will do and what she won't. One such friend as this is worth a hundred lovers. Give me her dear little note."
While Eve was persuing it, David went out, but soon returned, with his best coat on, and his hat in his hand. Eve asked in some surprise where he was going in such a hurry.
"Well, David, now I come to read her letter quietly, it is a woman's letter all over; you may read it which way you like. What need had she to tell me she has just refused offers? And then she tells me she is all alone. That sounds like a hint. The company of a friend might he agreeable. Brush your coat first, at any rate; there's something white on it; it is a paper; it is pinned on. Come here. Why, what is this? It is written on. 'Adieu.'" And Eve opened her eyes and mouth as well.
She asked him when he wore the coat last.
"The day before yesterday."
"Were you in company of any girls?"
"But this is written by a girl, and it is pinned on by a girl; see how it is quilted in!! that's proof positive. Oh! oh! oh! look here. Look at these two 'Adieus'--the one in the letter and this; they are the same--precisely the same. What, in Heaven's name, is the meaning of this? Were you in her company that night?"
"Will you swear that?"
"No, I can't swear it, because I was asleep a part of the time; but waking in her company I was not."
"It is her writing, and she pinned it on you."
"How can that be, Eve?"
"I don't know; I am sure she did, though. Look at this 'Adieu' and that; you'll never get it out of my head but what one hand wrote them both. You are so green, a girl would come behind you and pin it on you, and you never feel her."
While saying these words, Eve slyly repinned it on him without his feeling or knowing anything about it.
David was impatient to be gone, but she held him a minute to advise him.
"Tell her she must and shall. Don't take a denial. If you are cowardly, she will be bold; but if you are bold and resolute, she will knuckle down. Mind that; and don't go about it with such a face as that, as long as my arm. If she says 'No,' you have got the ship to comfort you. Oh! I am so happy!"
"No, Eve," said David, "if she won't give me herself, I'll never take her ship. I'd die a foretopman sooner;" and, with these parting words, he renewed all his sister's anxiety. She sat down sorrowfully, and the horrible idea gained on her that there was mania in David's love for Lucy.
DAVID had one advantage over others that were now hunting Lucy. Mrs. Wilson had unwittingly given him pretty plain directions how to find her farmhouse; and as Eve, in the exercise of her discretion, or indiscretion, had shown David Lucy's letter, he had only to ride to Harrowden and inquire. But, on the other hand, his competitors were a few miles nearer the game, and had a day's start.
David got a horse and galloped to Harrowden, fed him at the inn, and asked where Mrs. Wilson's farm was. The waiter, a female, did not know, but would inquire. Meantime David asked for two sheets of paper, and wrote a few lines on each; then folded them both (in those days envelopes were not), but did not seal them. Mrs. Wilson's farm turned out to be only two miles from Harrowden, and the road easy to find. He was soon there; gave his horse to one of the farm-boys, and went into the kitchen and asked if Miss Fountain lived there. This question threw him into the hands of Jenny, who invited him to follow her, and, unlike your powdered and noiseless lackey, pounded the door with her fist, kicked it open with her foot, and announced him with that thunderbolt of language which fell so inopportunely on Lucy's self-congratulations.
The look Mrs. Wilson cast on Lucy was droll enough; but when David's square shoulders and handsome face filled up the doorway, a second look followed that spoke folios.
Lucy rose, and with heightened color, but admirable self-possession, welcomed David like a valued friend.
Mrs. Wilson's greeting was broad and hearty; and, very soon after she had made him sit down, she bounced up, crying: "You will stay dinner now you be come, and I must see as they don't starve you." So saying, out she went; but, looking back at the door, was transfixed by an arrow of reproach from her nursling's eye.
Lucy's reception of David, kind as it was, was not encouraging to one coming on David's errand, for there was the wrong shade of amity in it.
In times past it would have cooled David with misgivings, but now he did not give himself time to be discouraged; he came to make a last desperate effort, and he made it at once.
"Miss Lucy, I have got the Rajah, thanks to you."
"Thanks to me, Mr. Dodd? Thanks to your own high character and merit."
"No, Miss Lucy, you know better, and I know better, and there is your own sweet handwriting to prove it."
"Miss Dodd has showed you my letter?"
"How could she help it?"
"What a pity! how injudicious!"
"The truth is like the light; why keep it out? Yes; what I have worked for, and battled the weather so many years, and been sober and prudent, and a hard student at every idle hour--that has come to me in one moment from your dear hand."
"It is a shame."
"Bless you, Miss Lucy," cried David, not noting the remark.
Lucy blushed, and the water stood in her eyes. She murmured softly: "You should not say Miss Lucy; it is not customary. You should say Lucy, or Miss Fountain."
This apropos remark by way of a female diversion.
"Then let me say Lucy to-day, for perhaps I shall never say that, or anything that is sweet to say again. Lucy, you know what I came for?"
"Oh, yes, to receive my congratulations."
"More than that, a great deal--to ask you to go halves in the Rajah."
Lucy's eyebrows demanded an explanation.
"She is worth two thousand a year to her commander; and that is too much for a bachelor."
Lucy colored and smiled. "Why, it is only just enough for bachelors to live upon."
"It is too much for me alone under the circumstances," said David, gravely; and there was a little silence.
"Lucy, I love you. With you the Rajah would be a godsend. She will help me keep you in the company you have been used to, and were made to brighten and adorn; but without you I cannot take her from your hand, and, to speak plain, I won't."
"Oh, Mr. Dodd!"
"No, Lucy; before I knew you, to command a ship was the height of my ambition--her quarter-deck my Heaven on earth; and this is a clipper, I own it; I saw her in the docks. But you have taught me to look higher. Share my ship and my heart with me, and certainly the ship will be my child, and all the dearer to me that she came to us from her I love. But don't say to me, 'Me you shan't have; you are not good enough for that; but there is a ship for you in my place.' I wouldn't accept a star out of the firmament on those terms."
"How unreasonable! On the contrary you should say, 'I am doubly fortunate: I escape a foolish, weak companion for life, and I have a beautiful ship.' But friendship such as mine for you was never appreciated; I do you injustice; you only talk like that to tease me and make me unhappy."
"Oh, Lucy, Lucy, did you ever know me--"
"There, now, forgive me; and own you are not in earnest."
"This will show you," said David, sadly; and he took out two letters from his bosom. "Here are two letters to the secretary. In one I accept the ship with thanks, and offer to superintend her when her rigging is being set up; and in this one I decline her altogether, with my humble and sincere thanks."
"Oh yes, you are very humble, sir," said Lucy. "Now--dear friend--listen to reason. You have others--"
"Excuse my interrupting you, but it is a rule with me never to reason about right and wrong; I notice that whoever does that ends by choosing wrong. I don't go to my head to find out my duty, I go to my heart; and what little manhood there is in me all cries out against me compounding with the woman I love, and taking a ship instead of her."
"How unkind you are! It is not as if I was under no obligations to you. Is not my life worth a ship? an angel like me?"
"I can't see it so. It was a greater pleasure to me to save your life, as you call it, than it could be to you. I can't let that into the account. A woman is a woman, but a man is a man; and I will be under no obligation to you but one."
"Don't you be angry; I'll love you and bless you all the same. But I am a man, and a man I'll die, whether I die captain of a ship or of a foretop. Poor Eve!"
"See how power tries people, and brings out their true character. Since you commanded the Rajah you are all changed. You used to be submissive; now you must have your own way entirely. You will fling my poor ship in my face unless I give you--but this is really using force--yes, Mr. Dodd, this is using force. Somebody has told you that my sex yield when downright compulsion is used. It is true; and the more ungenerous to apply it;" and she melted into a few placid tears.
David did not know this sign of yielding in a woman, and he groaned at the sight and hung his head.
"Advise me what I had better do."
To this singular proposal, David, listening to the ill advice of the fiend Generosity, groaned out, "Why should you be tormented and made cry?"
"Nothing can change me; I advise you to cut it short."
"Oh, do you? very well. Why did you say 'poor Eve'?"
"Ah, poor thing! she cried for joy when she read your letter, but when I go back she will cry for grief;" and his voice faltered.
"I will cut this short, Mr. Dodd; give me that paper."
"The wicked one, where you refuse my Rajah."
"You are no gentleman, sir, if you refuse a lady. Give it me this instant," cried Lucy, so haughtily and imperiously that David did not know her, and gave her the letter with a half-cowed air.
She took it, and with both her supple white hands tore it with insulting precision exactly in half. "There, sir and there, sir" (exactly in four); "and there" (in eight, with malicious exactness); "and there"; and, though it seemed impossible to effect another separation, yet the taper fingers and a resolute will reduced it to tiny bits. She then made a gesture to throw them in the fire, but thought better of it and held them.
David looked on, almost amused at this zealous demolition of a thing he could so easily replace. He said, part sadly, part doggedly, part apologetically, "I can write another."
"But you will not. Oh, Mr. Dodd, don't you see?!"
He looked up at her eagerly. To his surprise, her haughty eagle look had gone, and she seemed a pitying goddess, all tenderness and benignity; only her mantling, burning cheek showed her to be woman.
She faltered, in answer to his wild, eager look. "Was I ever so rude before? What right have I to tear your letter unless I--"
The characteristic full stop, and, above all, the heaving bosom, the melting eye, and the red cheek, were enough even for poor simple David. Heaven seemed to open on him. His burning kisses fell on the sweet hands that had torn his death-warrant. No resistance. She blushed higher, but smiled. His powerful arm curled round her. She looked a little scared, but not much. He kissed her sweet cheek: the blush spread to her very forehead at that, but no resistance. As the winged and rapid bird, if her feathers be but touched with a speck of bird-lime, loses all power of flight, so it seemed as if that one kiss, the first a stranger had ever pressed on Lucy's virgin cheek, paralyzed her eel-like and evasive powers; under it her whole supple frame seemed to yield as David drew her closer and closer to him, till she hid her forehead and wet eyelashes on his shoulder, and murmured:
"How could I let you be unhappy?!"
Neither spoke for a while. Each felt the other's heart beat; and David drank that ecstasy of silent, delirious bliss which comes to great hearts once in a life.
Had he not earned it?
By some mighty instinct Mrs. Wilson knew when to come in. She came to the door just one minute after Lucy had capitulated, and, turning the handle, but without opening the door, bawled some fresh directions to Jenny: this was to enable Lucy to smooth her ruffled feathers, if necessary, and look Agnes. But Lucy's actual contact with that honest heart seemed to have made a change in her; instead of doing Agnes, she confronted (after a fashion of her own) the situation she had so long evaded.
"Oh, nurse!" she cried, and wreathed her arms round her.
"Don't cry, my lamb! I can guess."
"Cry? Oh no; I would not pay him so poor a compliment. It was to say, 'Dear nurse, you must love Mr. Dodd as well as me now.'"
The dame received this indirect intelligence with hearty delight.
"That won't cost me much trouble," said she. "He is the one I'd have picked out of all England for my nursling. When a young man is kind to an old woman, it is a good sign; but la! his face is enough for me: who ever saw guile in such a face as that. Aren't ye hungry by this time? Dinner will be ready in about a minute."
"Nurse, can I speak to you a word?"
It was to inquire whether she would invite Miss Dodd.
"She loves her brother very dearly, and it is cruel to separate them. Mr. Dodd will be nearly always here now, will he not?"
"You may take your davy of that."
In a very few minutes a note was written, and Mrs. Wilson's eldest son, a handsome young farmer, started in the covered cart with his mother's orders "to bring the young lady willy-nilly."
The holy allies both openly scouted Kenealy's advice, and both slyly stepped down into the town and acted on it. Mr. Fountain then returned to Font Abbey. Their two advertisements appeared side by side, and exasperated them.
After dinner Mrs. Wilson sent Lucy and David out to take a walk. At the gate they met with a little interruption; a carriage drove up; the coachman touched his hat, and Mrs. Bazalgette put her head out of the window.
"I came to take you back, love."
"Thank you, aunt; but it is not worth while now."
"Ah!" said Mrs. Bazalgette, casting a venomous look on David; "I am too late, am I? Poor girl!"
Lucy soothed her aunt with the information that she was much happier now than she had been for a long time past. For this was a fencing-match.
"May I have a word in private with my niece?" inquired Mrs. Bazalgette, bitterly, of David.
"Why not?" said David stoutly; but his heart turned sick as he retired. Lucy saw the look of anxiety.
"Lucy," said Mrs. Bazalgette, "you left me because you are averse to matrimony, and I urged you to it; of course, with those sentiments, you have no idea of marrying that man there. I don't suspect you of such hypocrisy, and therefore I say come home with me, and you shall marry nobody; your inclination shall be free as air."
"Aunt," said Lucy, demurely, "why didn't you come yesterday? I always said those who love me best would find me first, and you let Mr. Dodd come first. I am so sorry!"
"Then your pretended aversion to marriage was all hypocrisy, was it?"
Lucy informed her that marriage was a contract, and the contracting parties two, and no more--the bride and bridegroom; and that to sign a contract without reading it is silly, and meaning not to keep it is wicked. "So," said she, "I read the contract over in the prayer-book this morning, for fear of accidents."
My reader may, perhaps, be amused at this admission; but Mrs. Bazalgette was disgusted, and inquired, "What stuff is the girl talking now?"
"It is called common sense. Well, I find the contract is one I can carry out with Mr. Dodd, and with nobody else. I can love him a little, can honor him a great deal, and obey him entirely. I begin now. There he is; and if you feel you cannot show him the courtesy of making him one in our conversation, permit me to retire and relieve his solitude."
"Mighty fine; and if you don't instantly leave him and come home, you shall never enter my house again."
"Unless sickness or trouble should visit your house, and then you will send for me, and I shall come."
Mrs. Bazalgette (to the coachman).-- "Home!"
Lucy made her a polite obeisance, to keep up appearances before the servants and the farm-people, who were gaping. She, whose breeding was inferior, flounced into a corner without returning it. The carriage drove off.
David inquired with great anxiety whether something had not been said to vex her.
"Not in the least," replied Lucy, calmly. "Little things and little people can no longer vex me. I have great duties to think of and a great heart to share them with me. Let us walk toward Harrowden; we may perhaps meet a friend."
Sure enough, just on this side Harrowden they met the covered cart, and Eve in it, radiant with unexpected delight. The engaged ones--for such they had become in those two miles--mounted the cart, and the two men sat in front, and Eve and Lucy intertwined at the back, and opened their hearts to each other.
Eve. And you have taken the paper off again?
Lucy. What paper? It was no longer applicable.
I HAVE already noticed that Lucy, after capitulation, laid down her arms gracefully and sensibly. When she was asked to name a very early day for the wedding, she opposed no childish delay to David's happiness, for the Rajah was to sail in six weeks and separate them. So the license was got, and the wedding-day came; and all Lucy's previous study of the contract did not prevent her from being deeply affected by the solemn words that joined her to David in holy matrimony.
She bore up, though, stoutly; for her sense of propriety and courtesy forbade her to cloud a festivity. But, when the post-chaise came to convey bride and bridegroom on their little tour, and she had to leave Mrs. Wilson and Eve for a whole week, the tears would not be denied; and, to show how perilous a road matrimony is, these two risked a misunderstanding on their wedding-day, thus: Lucy, all alone in the post-chaise with David, dissolved--a perfect Niobe--gushing at short intervals. Sometimes a faint explanation gurgled out with the tears: "Poor Eve! her dear little face was working so not to cry. Oh! oh! I should not have minded so much if she had cried right out." Then, again, it was "Poor Mrs. Wilson! I was only a week with her, for all her love. I have made a c--at's p--paw of her--oh!"
Then, again, "Uncle Bazalgette has never noticed us; he thinks me a h--h--ypocrite." But quite as often they flowed without any accompanying reason.
Now if David had been a poetaster, he would have said: "Why these tears? she has got me. Am I not more than an equivalent to these puny considerations?" and all this salt water would have burned into his vanity like liquid caustic. If he had been a poet, he would have said: "Alas! I make her unhappy whom I hoped to make happy"; and with this he would have been sad, and so prolonged her sadness, and perhaps ended by sulking. But David had two good things--a kind heart and a skin not too thin: and such are the men that make women happy, in spite of their weak nerves and craven spirits.
He gave her time; soothed her kindly; but did not check her weakness dead short.
At last my Lady Chesterfield said to him, penitently, "This is a poor compliment to you, Mr. Dodd"; and then Niobized again, partly, I believe, with regret that she was behaving so discourteously.
"It is very natural," said David, kindly, "but we shall soon see them all again, you know."
Presently she looked in his radiant face, with wet eyes, but a half-smile. "You amaze me; you don't seem the least terrified at what we have done."
"Not a bit," cried David, like a cheerful horn: "I have been in worse peril than this, and so have you. Our troubles are all over; I see nothing but happiness ahead." He then drew a sunny picture of their future life, to all which she listened demurely; and, in short, he treated her little feminine distress as the summer sun treats a mist that tries to vie with it. He soon dried her up, and when they reached their journey's end she was as bright as himself.
THEY had been married a week. A slight change, but quite distinct to an observer of her sex, bloomed in Lucy's face and manner. A new beauty was in her face--the blossom of wifehood. Her eyes, though not less modest, were less timid than before; and now they often met David's full, and seemed to sip affection at them. When he came near her, her lovely frame showed itself conscious of his approach. His queen, though he did not know it, was his vassal. They sat at table at a little inn, twenty miles from Harrowden, for they were on their return to Mrs. Wilson. Lucy went to the window while David settled the bill. At the window it is probable she had her own thoughts, for she glided up behind David, and, fanning his hair with her cool, honeyed breath, she said, in the tone of a humble inquirer seeking historical or antiquarian information, "I want to ask you a question, David: are you happy too?"
David answered promptly, but inarticulately; so his reply is lost to posterity. Conjecture alone survives.
One disappointment awaited Lucy at Mrs. Wilson's. There were several letters for both David and her, but none from Mr. Bazalgette. She knew by that she had lost his respect. She could not blame him, for she saw how like disingenuousness and hypocrisy her conduct must look to him. "I must trust to time and opportunity," she said, with a sigh. She proposed to David to read all her letters, and she would read all his. He thought this a droll idea; but nothing that identified him with his royal vassal came amiss. The first letter of Lucy's that David opened was from Mr. Talboys.
"DEAR MADAM--I have heard of your marriage with Mr. Dodd, and desire to offer both you and him my cordial congratulations.
"I feel under considerable obligation to Mr. Dodd; and, should my house ever have a mistress, I hope she will be able to tempt you both to renew our acquaintance under my roof, and so give me once more that opportunity I have too little improved of showing you both the sincere respect and gratitude with which I am,
"Your very faithful servant,
Lucy was delighted with this note. "Who says it was nothing to have been born a gentleman?"
The second letter was from Reginald No. 2; and, if I only give the reader a fragment of it, I still expect his gratitude, all one as if I had disinterred a fragment of Orpheus or Tiresias.
It is very ungust of you to go and
Mary other peeple wen you
Promised me. but it is mr. dod.
So i dont so much mind i like
Mr. dod. he is a duc. and they all
Say i am too litle and jane says
Sailors always end by been
Drouned so it is only put off.
But you reely must keep your
Promise to me. wen i am biger
And mr. Dod is drouned. my
Here a white hand drew the pleasing composition out of David's hand, and dropped it on the floor; two piteous, tearful eyes were bent on him, and a white arm went tenderly round his neck to save him from the threatened fate.
At this sight Eve pounced on the horrid scroll, and hurled it, with general acclamation, into the flames.
Thus that sweet infant revenged himself, and, like Sampson, hit hardest of all at parting--in tears and flame vanished from written fiction, and, I conclude, went back to Gavarni.
There was a letter from Mr. Fountain--all fire and fury. She was never to write or speak to him any more. He was now looking out for a youth of good family to adopt and to make a Fontaine of by act of Parliament, etc., etc. A fusillade of written thunderbolts.
There was another from Mrs. Bazalgette, written with cream--of tartar and oil--of vitriol. She forgave her niece and wished her every happiness it was possible for a young person to enjoy who had deceived her relations and married beneath her. She felt pity rather than anger; and there was no reason why Mr. and Mrs. Dodd should not visit her house, as far as she was concerned; but Mr. Bazalgette was a man of very stern rectitude, and, as she could not make sure that he would treat them with common courtesy after what had passed, she thought a temporary separation might be the better course for all parties.
I may as well take this opportunity of saying that these two egotists carried out the promise of their respective letters. Mr. Fountain blustered for a year or two, and then showed manifest signs of relenting.
Mrs. Bazalgette kept cool, and wrote, in oils, twice a year to Mrs. Dodd:
"ET GARDAIT TOUT DOUCEMENT UNE HAINE IRRECONCILIABLE."
Lucy had to answer these letters. In signing one of them, she took a look at her new signature and smiled. "What a dear, quaint little name mine is!" said she. "Lucy Dodd;" and she kissed the signature.
The Dodds took a house in London and Eve came up to them. David was nearly all day superintending the ship, but spent the whole evening with his wife at home. Zeal always produces irritation. The servant that is anxious for his employer's interest is sure to get into a passion or two with the deadness, indifference and heartless injustice of the genuine hireling. So David was often irritated and worried, and in hot water, while superintending the Rajah, but the moment he saw his own door, away he threw it all, and came into the house like a jocund sunbeam. Nothing wins a woman more than this, provided she is already inclined in the man's favor. As the hour that brought David approached, Lucy's spirits and Eve's used both to rise by anticipation, and that anticipation his hearty, genial temper never disappointed.
One day Lucy came to David for information. "David, there is a singular change in me. It is since we came to London. I used to be a placid girl; now I am a fidget."
"I don't see it, love."
"No; how should you, dear? It always goes away when you come. Now listen. When five o'clock comes near, I turn hot and restless, and can hardly keep from the window; and if you are five minutes after your time, I really cannot keep from the window; and my nerves se crispent, and I cannot sit still. It is very foolish. What does it mean? Can you tell me?"
"Of course I can. I am just the same when people are unpunctual. It is inexcusable, and nothing is so vexing. I ought to be--"
"Oh David, what nonsense! it is not that. Could I ever be vexed with my David?"
"Well, then, there is Eve; we'll ask her."
"If you dare, sir!" and Mrs. Dodd was carnation.
Two ladies were gossiping.
1st Lady. "What I like about Mrs. Dodd is that she is so truthful."
2d Lady. "Oh, is she?"
1st Lady. "Yes, she is indeed. Certainly she is not a woman that blurts out unpleasant things without any necessity; she is kind and considerate in word and deed, but she is always true. She has got an eye that meets you like a little lion's eye, and a tongue without guile. I do love Mrs. Dodd dearly."
Two Qui his were talking in Leadenhall Street.
1st Qui hi. "Well, so you are going out again."
2d Qui hi. "Yes; they have offered me a commissionership. I must make another lac for the children."
1st Qui hi. "When do you sail?"
2d Qui hi. "By the first good ship. I should like a good ship."
1st Qui hi. "Well, then, you had better go out with Gentleman Dodd."
2d Qui hi. "Gentleman Dodd? I should prefer Sailor Dodd. I don't want to founder off the Cape."
1st Qui hi. "Oh, but this is a first-rate sailor, and a first-rate fellow altogether."
2d Qui hi. "Then why do you call him 'Gentleman Dodd'?"
1st Qui hi. "Oh, because he is so polite. He won't stand an oath within hearing of his quarter-deck, and is particularly kind and courteous to the passengers, especially to the ladies. His ship is always full."
2d Qui hi. "Is it? Then I'll go out with 'Gentleman Dodd.'"
TO MY MALE READERS.
I SEE with some surprise that there still linger in the field of letters writers who think that, in fiction, when a personage speaks with an air of conviction, the sentiments must be the author's own. (When two of his personages give each other the lie, which represents the author? both?)
I must ask you to shun this error; for instance, do not go and take Eve Dodd's opinion of my heroine, or Mrs. Bazalgette's, for mine.
Miss Dodd, in particular, however epigrammatic she may appear, is shallow: her criticism péche par la base. She talks too much as if young girls were in the habit of looking into their own minds, like little metaphysicians, and knowing all that goes on there; but, on the contrary, this is just what women in general don't do, and young women can't do.
No male will quite understand Lucy Fountain who does not take "instinct" and "self-deception" into the account. But with those two dews and your own intelligence, you cannot fail to unravel her, and will, I hope, thank me in your hearts for leaving you something to study, and not clogging my sluggish narrative with a mass of comment and explanation.
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