After the lapse of a few days, during which Victor Carrington carefully matured his plans, while apparently only pursuing his ordinary business, and leading his ordinary life of dutiful attention to his mother and quiet domestic routine, he received a letter in a handwriting which was unfamiliar to him. It contained the following words:
“In accordance with your desire, and my promise, I write to inform you that, D. D. has notified his return to London and his intention to visit P. He did not know whether she was in town, and, therefore, wrote before coming. She seemed much affected by his letter, and has replied to it, appointing Wednesday after-noon for receiving him, and inviting him to luncheon. No communication has been received from R. E., and she takes the fact easily. If you have any advice, or I suppose I should say instructions, to give me, you had better come here to-morrow (Tuesday), when I can see you alone. — C. B.”
Victor Carrington read this note with a smile of satisfaction, which faithfully interpreted the feelings it produced. There was a business~like tone in his correspondent’s letter which exactly suited his ideas of what it was advisable his agent should be.
“She is really admirable,” he said, as he destroyed Miss Brewer’s note; “just clever enough to be useful, just shrewd enough to understand the precise force and weight of an argument, but not clever enough, or shrewd enough, to find out that she is used for any purpose but the one for which she has bargained.”
And then Victor Carrington wrote a few lines to Miss Brewer, in which he thanked her for her note, and prepared her to receive a visit from him on the following day. This written and posted, he walked up and down his laboratory, in deep thought for some time, and then once more seated himself at his desk. This time his communication was addressed to Sir Reginald Eversleigh, and merely consisted of a request that that gentleman should call upon him — Victor Carrington — on a certain day, at a week’s distance from the present date.
“I shall have more trouble with this shallow fool than with all the rest of them,” said Victor to himself, as he sealed his letter; and, as he said it, he permitted his countenance to assume a very unusual expression of vexation; “his vanity will make him kick against letting Paulina turn him off; and he will run the risk of destroying the game sooner than suffer that mortification. But I will take care he shall suffer it, and not destroy the game.
“No, no, Sir Reginald Eversleigh, you shall not be my stumbling-block in this instance. How horribly afraid he is of me,” thought Victor Carrington, and a smile of cruel satisfaction, which might have become a demon, lighted his pale face at the reflection; “he is dying to know exactly how that business of Dale the elder was managed; he has the haziest notions in connection with it, and, by Jove, he dare not ask me. And yet, I am only his agent — his to be paid agent — and he shakes in his shoes before me. Yes, and I will be paid too, richly paid, Sir Reginald, not only in money, but in power. In power — the best and most enjoyable thing that money has to buy.”
Victor Carrington sent his letter to the post, and joined his mother in her sitting-room, where her life passed placidly away, among her birds and her flowers. Mrs. Carrington had none of the vivacity about her which is so general an attribute of French women. She liked her quiet life, and had little sympathy with her son’s restless ambition and devouring discontent. A cold, silent, self-contained woman, she shut herself up in her own occupations, and cared for nothing beyond them. She had the French national taste and talent for needlework, and generally listened to her son, as he talked or read to her, with a piece of elaborate embroidery in her hand. On the present occasion, she was engaged as usual, and Victor looked at her work and praised it, according to his custom.
“What is it for, mother?” he asked.
“An altar-cloth,” she replied. “I cannot give money, you know, Victor, and so I am glad to give my work.”
The young man’s dark eyes flashed, as he replied; —
“True, mother, but the time will come — it is not far off now — when you and I shall both be set free from poverty, when we shall once more take our place in our own rank — when we shall be what the Champfontaines were, and do as the Champfontaines did — when this hateful English name shall be thrown aside, and this squalid English home abandoned, and the past restored to us, we to the past.” He rose as he spoke, and walked about the room. A faint flush brightened his sallow face, an unwonted light glittered in his deep-set eyes. His mother continued to ply her needle, with downcast eyes, and a face which showed no sign of sympathy with her son’s enthusiasm.
“Industry and talent are good, my Victor,” she said, “and they bring comfort, they bring le bienêtre in their train; but I do not think all the industry and talent you can display as a surgeon in London will ever enable you to restore the dignity and emulate the wealth of the old Champfontaines.”
Victor Carrington glanced at his mother almost angrily, and for an instant felt the impulse rise within him which prompted him to tell her that it was not only by the employment of means so tame and common~place that he designed to realize the cherished vision of his ambition. But he checked it instantly, and only said, with the reverential inflection which his voice never failed to take when he addressed his mother, “What, then, would you advise me to try, in addition?”
“Marry a rich woman, my Victor; marry one of these moneyed English girls, who are, for the most part, permitted to follow their inclinations — inclinations which would surely, if encouraged, lead many of them your way.” Mrs. Carrington spoke in the calmest tone possible.
“Marry — I marry?” said Victor, in a tone of surprise, in which a quick ear would have noticed something also of disappointment. “I thought you would never like that, mother. It would part us, you know, and then what would you do?”
“There is always the convent for me, Victor,” said his mother, “if you no longer needed me.” And she composedly threaded her needle, and began a very minute leaf in the pattern of her embroidery.
Victor Carrington looked at his mother with surprise, and some vague sense of pain. She could make up her mind to part with him — she had thought of the possibility, and with complacence. He muttered something about having something to do, and left her, strangely moved, while she calmly worked in at her embroidery.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:05