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able to get away; and it is no use for Dan to go. If anybody goes, I must. If she has made up her mind, nothing can be done by writing to her." " I leave at once to see Lord Mountclere,” the other continued.
“ I feel that as my brother is evidently ignorant of the position of Mrs. Petherwin's family and connections, it is only fair in me, as his nearest relative, to make them clear to him before it is too late."
“ You mean that if he knew her friends were working-people he would not think of her as a wife? 'Tis a reasonable thought. But
she has told him. I make a great mistake if she has for a moment thought of concealing that from him.”
“She may not have deliberately done so. But-and I say this with no ill-feeling—it is a matter known to few, and she may have taken no steps to undeceive him. I hope to bring him to see the matter clearly. Unfortunately the thing has been so secret and hurried that there is barely time. I knew nothing until this morning-never dreamt of such a preposterous occurrence.”
Preposterous ! If it should come to pass, she would play her part as his lady as well as any other woman, and better. I wish there was no more reason for fear on my side than there is on yours. Things have come to a sore head when she is not considered lady enough for such as he. But perhaps your meaning is, that if your brother were to have a son, you would lose your heir-presumptive title to the cor'net of Mountclere? Well, 'twould be rather hard for ye, now I come to think o't—upon my life, 'twould." “The suggestion is as delicate as the atmosphere of this vile But let your ignorance be your excuse, my man.
It is hardly worth while for us to quarrel when we both have the same object in view : do you think so ?”
“ That's true that's true. When do you start, sir ?”
“We must leave almost at once," said Mountclere, looking at his watch. If we cannot catch the two o'clock train, there is no getting there to-night-and to-morrow we could not possibly arrive before one."
“I wish there was time for me to go and tidy a bit,” said Sol, anxiously looking down at his working clothes. I
suppose you would not like me to go
like this ? " “Confound the clothes! If you cannot start in five minutes, we shall not be able to go at all.”
“Very well, then—wait while I run across to the shop, then I am ready. How do we get to the station ?”
“My carriage is at the corner waiting. When you come out I will meet you at the gates."
Sol then hurried downstairs, and, a minute or two later, Mr. Mountclere, looking like a man bent on policy at any price. The carriage was brought round by the time that Sol reappeared from the yard. He entered and sat down beside Mountclere, not without a sense
that he was spoiling good upholstery : the coachman then allowed the lash of his whip to alight with the force of a small fly upon the horses, which set them up in an angry trot. Sol rolled on beside his new acquaintance with the shamefaced look of a man going to prison in a van, for pedestrians occasionally gazed at him, full of what seemed to himself to be ironical surprise.
“I am afraid I ought to have changed my clothes after all,” he said, writhing under a perception of the contrast between them. “Not knowing anything about this, I ain't a bit prepared. If I had got even my second-best hat, it wouldn't be so bad.”
"It makes no difference," said Mountclere, inanimately.
On reaching the station they found there were yet a few minutes to spåre, which Sol made use of in writing a note to his father, to explain what had occurred.
THE DONCASTLES' RESIDENCE ; AND OUTSIDE THE SAME. MRS. DONCASTLE's dressing-bell had rung, but Menlove, the lady's maid, having at the same time received a letter by the evening post, paused to read it before replying to the summons:
"Lychworth Court, Wednesday. “Darling LOUISA, I can assure you that I am no more likely than yourself to form another attachment. Far from it, indeed, as you will perceive by what follows. Before we left town I thought that to be able to see you occasionally was sufficient for happiness, but down in this lonely place the case is different. In short, my dear, I ask you to consent to a union with me as soon as you possibly can. Your prettiness has won my eyes and lips completely, sweet, and I lie awake at night to think of the golden curls you allowed to escape from their confinement on those nice times of private clothes, when we walked in the park and slipped the bonds of service, which you were never born to any more than I. ...
“Had not my own feelings been so strong, I should have told you at the first dash of my pen that what I expected is coming to pass at last the old dog is going to be privately married to Mrs. P. Yes, indeed, and the wedding is coming off to-morrow, secret as the grave. All her friends will doubtless leave service on account of it. What he does now makes little difference to me, of course, as I had already given warning, but I shall stick to him like a Briton in spite of it. He has to-day made me a present, and a further five pounds for yourself, expecting you to hold your tongue on every matter connected with Mrs. P.'s friends, and to say nothing to any of them about this marriage until it is over. His lordship impressed this upon me very strongly, and familjar as a brother, and of course we obey his instructions to the letter; for I need hardly say that unless he keeps his promise to help me in setting up the shop, our nuptials cannot be consumed. His help depends upon our obedience, as you are aware
This, and much more, was from her very last lover, Lord Mountclere's valet, who had been taken in hand directly she had convinced herself of Joey's hopeless youthfulness. The missive sent Mrs. Menlove's spirits soaring like spring larks; she flew upstairs in answer to the bell with a joyful, triumphant look, which the illuminated figure of Mrs. Doncastle in her dressing-room could not quite repress. One could almost forgive Menlove her arts when so modest a result brought such vast content.
Mrs. Doncastle seemed inclined to make no remark during the dressing, and at last Menlove could repress herself no longer. “I should like to name something to you,
m'm." ** Yes." “I shall be wishing to leave soon, if it is convenient.”
“Very well, Menlove," answered Mrs. Doncastle, as she serenely surveyed her right eyebrow in the glass. "Am I to take this as a formal notice?"
“ If you please; but I could stay a week or two beyond the month if suitable. I am going to be married—that's what it is, m'm.”
“ Oh! I am glad to hear it, though I am sorry to lose you.” “It is Lord Mountclere's valet-Mr. Tipman-m'm.” “Indeed." Menlove went on building up Mrs. Doncastle's hair awhile in silence.
"I suppose you heard the other news that arrived in town to-day, m’m ?" she said again. “Lord Mountclere is going to be married to-morrow.” “ To-morrow ? Are you quite sure?”
m'm. Mr. Tipman has just told me so in his letter. He is going to be married to Mrs. Petherwin. It is to be quite a private wedding."
Mrs. Doncastle made no remark, and she remained in the same still position as before ; but a countenance expressing transcendent surprise was reflected to Menlove by the glass.
At this sight Menlove's tongue so burned to go further, and unfold the lady's relations with the butler downstairs, that she would have lost a month's wages to be at liberty to do it. The disclosure was almost too magnificent to be repressed. To deny herself so exquisite an indulgence required an effort which nothing on earth could have sustained save the one thing that did sustain it—the knowledge that upon her silence hung the most enormous desideratum in the world, her own marriage. She said no more, and Mrs. Doncastle went away.
It was an ordinary family dinner that day, but their nephew Neigh happened to be present. Just as they were sitting down Mrs. Doncastle said to her husband: “Why have you not told me of the wedding to-morrow for don't you know anything about it?”
Wedding ?” said Mr. Doncastle.
“ Lord Mountelere is to be married to Mrs. Petherwin-quite privately."
“Good God!” said some person.
Mr. Doncastle did not speak the words; they were not spoken by Neigh ; they seemed to float over the room and round the walls, as if originating in some spiritualistic source. Yet Mrs. Doncastle, remembering the symptoms of an attachment between Ethelberta and her nephew which had appeared during the summer, looked towards Neigh instantly, as if she thought the words must have come from him after all; but Neigh's face was perfectly calm ; he, together with her husband, was sitting with his eyes fixed in the direction of the sideboard ; and turning to the same spot she beheld Chickerel standing pale as death, his lips being parted as if he did not know where he was.
“Did you speak ?" said Mrs. Doncastle, looking with astonishment at the butler.
“ Chickerel, what's the matter-are you ill ?" said Mr. Doncastle, simultaneously. "Was it you who said that?"
“I did, sir,” said Chickerel, in a husky voice, scarcely above a whisper. “I could not help it.”
Why?” “She is my daughter, and it shall be known at once." “Who is your daughter ?” He paused a few moments nervously. “Mrs. Petherwin," he said.
Upon this announcement Neigh looked at poor Chickerel as if he saw through him into the wall. Mrs. Doncastle uttered a faint exclamation and leant back in her chair: the bare possibility of the truth of Chickerel's claims to such paternity shook her to pieces when she viewed her intimacies with Ethelberta during the past season—the court she had paid her, the arrangements she had entered into to please her; above all, the dinner-party which she had contrived and carried out solely to gratify Lord Mountclere, and bring him into personal communication with the general favourite; thus making herself probably the chief though unconscious instrument in promoting a match by which her butler was to become father-in-law to a peer she delighted to honour. The crowd of perceptions almost took away her life; she closed her eyes in a white shiver.
“Do you mean to say that the lady who sat here at dinner at the same time that Lord Mountclere was present is your daughter ?” asked Doncastle.
“Yes, sir,” said Chickerel, respectfully.
“Not altogether, sir. She was a very clever child. Lady Petherwin finished her education. They were both left widows about the same time:
the son died, then the father. My daughter was only seventeen then. But though she's older now, her marriage with Lord Mountclere means misery. He ought to marry another woman."
“It is very extraordinary,” Mr. Doncastle murmured. “ If you are ill you had better go and rest yourself, Chickerel. Send in Thomas."
Chickerel, who seemed to be much disturbed, then very gladly left the room, and dinner proceeded But such was the peculiarity of the case, that, though there was in it neither murder, robbery, illness, accident, fire, love, or any other of the tragic and legitimate shakers of human nerves, two of the three who were gathered there sat through the meal without the least consciousness of what viands had composed it. Impressiveness depends as much upon propinquity as upon magnitude ; and to have honoured unawares the daughter of the vilest Antipodean miscreant and murderer would have been less discomfiting to Mrs. Doncastle than it was to make the same blunder with the daughter of a respectable servant who happened to live in her own house. To Neigh the announcement was as the catastrophe of a story already begun, rather than as an isolated wonder. Ethelberta's words had prepared him for something, though the nature of that thing was unknown.
“ Chickerel ought not to have kept us in ignorance of this—of course he ought not !” said Mrs. Doncastle, as soon as they were left alone.
“I don't see why not,” replied Mr. Doncastle, who took the matter very coolly, as was his custom.
“ Then she herself should have let it be known.”
“ Nor does that follow. You didn't tell Mrs. Petherwin that your grandfather narrowly escaped hanging for shooting his rival in a duel."
“Of course not. There was no reason why I should give extraneous information."
“Nor was there any reason why she should. As for Chickerel, he doubtless felt how unbecoming it would be to make personal remarks on one of your guests—Ha-ha-ha! Well, well-Ha-ha-ha-ha!”
“I know this,” said Mrs. Doncastle in great anger, " that if my father had been in the room, I should not have let the fact pass unnoticed, and treated him like a stranger !”
“ Would you have had her introduce Chickerel to us all round? My dear Margaret, it was a complicated position for a woman.”
“ Then she ought not to have come.”
“There may be something in that, though she was dining out at other houses as good as ours. Well, I should have done just as she did, for the joke of the thing. Ha-ha-ha !—it is very good—very. It was a case in which the appetite for a jest would overpower the sting of con. science in any well-constituted being—that, my dear, I must maintain."
“I say she should not have come !” answered Mrs. Doncastle, firmly. “ Of course I shall dismiss Chickerel."
“Of course you will do no such thing. I have never had a butler in the house before who has suited me so well. It is a great credit to the