Mary did not wonder at Marston’s silence. She imagined that perhaps he had been sobered by being cast on shore so unceremoniously, and thought but little more of it. Then she dressed for dinner, and went and stood in one of the deep windows of the hall, looking out.
The great fire which leapt and blazed in the hall chimney was fast superseding the waning daylight outside. It was very pleasant to look at the fire, and the firelight on wall and ceiling, on antler and armour, and then to get behind the curtain and look out into the howling winters evening, over the darkening raging sea, and the tossing trees, and think how all the boats were safe in, and the men sitting round the pleasant fires with their wives and children, and that the dogs were warm in the kennels, and the horses in the stable; and to pity the poor birds, and hope they had good warm nooks and corners to get to; and then to think of the ships coming up the channel, and hope they might keep a good offing.
This brought her to thinking, for the first time, of her own little self — how, so many years ago, she had been cast up like a little piece of seaweed out of that awful cean. She thought of the Warren Hastings, and how she and Charles, on summer-days, when out gathering hells on the rocks, used to look over to where the ship lay beneath the sea, and wonder whereabout it was. Then she had a kindly smile on her face as she thought of Mr. Archer, the brave and good (now I am happy to say Captain Archer), and looked over the hall to a hideous and diabolical graven image, which he had sent the year before, among some very valuable presents, and had begged her to be particularly careful of, as he had risked his life in getting it; and which she and Charles had triumphantly placed in the hall, and maintained there, too, in spite of the sarcasms of Father Mackworth, and the pious horror of the servants and villagers. And so she went on thinking — thinking of her dead parents, of the silence maintained by her relations, of old Densil’s protection, and then of the future. That protection must cease soon, and then —
A governess! There were many stories about governesses not being well treated. Perhaps it was their own fault, or they were exceptional cases. She would like the nursery best, and to keep away from the drawingroom altogether! “ Yes,” she said, “I will make them love me; I will be so gentle, patient, and obliging. I am not afraid of the children — I know I can win them — or of my mistress much; I believe I can win her. I am most afraid of the superior servants; but, surely, kindness P“d submission will win them in time.
“My sheet-anchor is old Lady Ascot. She got very fond of me during that six months I staid with her; and she is very kind. Surely she will get me a place where I shall be well treated; and, if not, why then — I shall only be in the position of thousands of other girls. I must fight through it. There is another life after this.
“It will be terribly hard parting from all the old friends though! After that, I think I shall have no heart left to suffer with. Yes; I suppose the last details of the break-up will be harder to bear than anything which will follow. That will tear one’s heart terribly. That over, I suppose my salary will keep me in drawing materials, and give rue the power, at every moment of leisure, of taking myself into fairyland.
“I suppose actual destitution is impossible. I should think so. Yes, yes; Lady Ascot would take care of that. If that were to come though? They say a girl can always make fourpence a day by her needle. How I would fight, and strive, and toil! And then how sweet death would be!”
She paused, and looked out on the darkened ocean. “And yet,” she thought again, “I would follow — follow him to the world’s end:—
“’ Across the hills, and far away,
Beyond their utmost purple rim; Beyond the night, across the day, The happy princess followed him.’ ”
A door opened into the hall, and a man’s step was on he stone-floor: she raised the curtain to see who it was. It was Marston; and he came straight towards her, and stood beside her, looking out over the wild stormy landscape.
“Miss Corby,” he said, “I was coming to try and find you.”
“You were very lucky in your search,” she said, smiling on him. “I was alone here with the storm; and, if I had not raised the curtain, you would never have seen me. How it blows! I am glad you are not out in this. This is one of your lucky days.”
“I should be glad to think so. Will you listen to me for a very few minutes, while I tell you something?”
“Surely,” she said. “Who is there that I would sooner listen to?”
“I fear I shall tire your patience now, though. I am a comparatively poor man.”
“And what of that, my dear Mr. Marston? You are rich in honour, in future prospects. You have a noble future before you.”
“Will you share it, Mary?”
“Oh! what do you mean?”
“Will you be my wife? I love you beyond all the riches and honours of the world — I love you as you will never be loved again. It is due to you and to myself to say that, although I call myself poor, I have enough to keep you like a lady, and all my future prospects beside. Don’t give me a hasty answer, but tell me is it possible you can become my wife?”
“Oh, I am so sorry for this!” said poor Mary. “I never dreamt of this. Oh, no! it is utterly and entirely impossible, Mr. Marston — utterly and hopelessly impossible! You must forgive me, if you can; but you must never, never think about me more.”
“Is there no hope?” said Marston.
“No hope, no hope!” said Mary. “Please never think about me any more, till you have forgiven me; and then, with your children on your knee, think of me as a friend who loves you dearly.”
“I shall think of you till I die. I was afraid of this: it is just as I thought.”
“What did you think?”
“Nothing — nothing! Will you let me kiss your hand?”
“Surely; and God bless you!”
“Are we to say goodbye for ever, then?” said poor Marston.
“I hope not. I should be sorry to think that,” said poor Mary, crying. “But you must never speak to me like this again, dear Mr. Marston. God bless you, once more!”
Charles was dressing while this scene was going on, and was thinking, while brushing his hair, what there was for dinner, and whether there would be a turbot or not, and whether the cook would send in the breast of the venison. The doe, Charles sagely reflected, had been killed five days before, and the weather had been warm: surely That Woman would let them have the breast. He was a fool not to have told her of it in the morning before he went out; but she was such an irate old catamaran that she very likely wouldn’t have done it. “There was no greater mistake,” this young Heliogabalna proceeded to remark, than “hanging your breasts too long. Now, your haunch, on the other hand — ” but we cannot follow him into such a vast and important field of speculation. “There would be a couple of cocks, though — pretty high, near about the mark ”
The door opened, and in walked Father Mackworth.
“Hallo, Father!” said Charles, “how are you? Did you hear of our spill today? We were deuced near done for, I assure you.”
“Charles,” said the priest, “your nature is frank and noble. I was in terror today lest you should go to your account bearing me malice.”
“A Ravenshoe never bears malice, Father,” said Charles.
“A Ravenshoe never does, I am aware,” said Father Mackworth, with such a dead equality of emphasis, that Charles could not have sworn that he laid any on tin-word “Ravenshoe.”
“But I have got an apology to make to you, Father,” said Charles: “I have to apologize to you for losing my temper with you the other day, and breaking out into I can’t say what tirade of unjust anger. I pray you t<> forgive me. We don’t love one another, you know. How can we? But I behaved like a blackguard, as I always do when I am in a passion. “Will you forgive me?”
“I had forgotten the circumstance.” (“Good heaven!” said Charles to himself, “can’t this man help lying?”) “But, if I have anything to forgive, I freely do so. I have come to ask for a peace. As long as your father lives, let there be outward peace between us, if no more.”
“I swear there shall,” said Charles. “I like you tonight, sir, better than ever I did before, for the kindness and consideration you show to my father. “When he is gone there will be peace between us, for I shall leave this house and trouble you no more.”
“I suppose you will,” said Father Mackworth, with the same deadness of emphasis remarked before. And so he departed.
“That is a manly young fellow, and a gentleman,” thought Father Mackworth. “Obstinate and headstrong, without much brains; but with more brains than the other, and more education. The other will be very troublesome and headstrong; but I suppose I shall be able to manage him.”
What person do you think Father Mackworth meant by the “other”? He didn’t mean Cuthbert.
At dinner Densil was garrulous, and eager to hear of their shipwreck. He had made a great rally the last fortnight, and was Iris old self again. Lord Saltire, whose gout had fled before careful living and moderate exercise, informed them, after the soup, that he intended to leave them after four days’ time, as he had business in another part of the country. They were rather surprised at his abrupt departure, and he said that he was very sorry to leave such pleasant society, in which he had been happier than he had been for many years.
“There is a pleasant, innocent, domestic sort of atmosphere which radiates from you, my old friend,” he said, “such as I seldom or never get, away from you or Marnwaring, grim warrior though he be (you remember him at Ranford, Charles?) But the law of the Medes and Persians is not amenable to change, and I go on Thursday.”
The post arrived during dinner, and there was a letter for Charles, It was from Ranford. “Welter comes on Thursday, father — the very day Lord Saltire goes. How annoying!”
“I must try to bear up under the affliction!” said that nobleman, taking snuff, and speaking very drily.
“Where is he to go, I wonder?” mused Mary, aloud. “He must go into the west wing, for he always smokes in his bedroom.”
Charles expected that Cuthbert would have had a sneer at Welter, whom he cordially disliked; but Cuthbert had given up sneering lately. “Not much more reading for you, Charles!” he said.
“I am afraid not,” said Charles. “I almost wish he wasn’t coming; we were very happy before.”
Charles was surprised to see Marston so silent at dinner. He feared he might have offended him, but ouldn’t tell how. Then he wondered to see Mary so silent too, for she generally chirruped away like a lark; but he didn’t refer the two similar phenomena to a common cause, and so he arrived at no conclusion.
When Lord Saltire went to bed that night, he dismissed Charles from attendance, and took Marston’s arm; and, when they were alone together, he thus began:—
“Does your shrewdness connect my abrupt departure with the arrival of Lord Welter?”
“I was inclined to, my lord; but I did not see how you were to have known of it.”
“I heard yesterday from Lady Ascot. ”
“I am sorry he is coming,” said Marston.
“So am I. I cant stay in the house with him. The contrast of his loud coarse voice and stable slang to the sort of quiet conversation we have had lately would be intolerable; besides, he is an atrocious young ruffian, and will ruin our boy if he can.”
“Charles wont let him, now, Lord Saltire.’ ’
“Charles is young and foolish. I am glad, however, that Welter does not go back to Oxford with him. But there will be Welter’s set in their glory, I suppose, unless some of them have got hung. I would sooner see him at home. He is naturally quiet and domestic. I suppose he was in a sad set up there.”
“He was in a very good set, and a very bad one. He was a favourite everywhere.”
“He had made some acquaintances he ought to be roud of, at least,” said Lord Saltire, in a way which made honest Marston blush. “I wish he wasn’t going to Ranford.”
“Report says,” said Marston, “that affairs are getting somewhat shaky there: Welter’s tradesmen can’t get any money.”
Lord Saltire shook his head significantly, and then said: “Now I want to speak to you about yourself. Did not you have a disappointment today!”
“Yes, my lord.”
They both sat silent for a moment.
“How did you guess that, Lord Saltire?”
“I saw what was going on; and, by your manner and hers today, I guessed something had taken place. Is there no hope for you?”
“I feared not; but what right had I to tell you so?”
“Perhaps, my lord, I should not have believed you if you had,” said Marston, smiling.
“What man would have? You are not angry?”
“How could I be? The world is out of joint, that is all.”
“You are a true gentleman. I swear to you,” said the old man, eagerly, “that there is no one in fault. She has given her honest little heart away — and what wonder! — but, believe me, that you are behaving as a man should behave, in not resenting it. If you were a heathen and a Frenchman (synonymous terms, my arston’s disappointment. ear boy), you might find it your duty to cut somebody’s throat; but, being a’ Christian and a gentleman, you will remain a true friend to somebody who loves you dearly, and is worth loving in return. This sort of thing cuts a man up confoundedly. It happened to me once but, believe me, you will get over it.”
“I mean to do so. How kind and generous you are to me! how shall I ever repay you?”
“By kindness to those I love,” said the old man. “I take this opportunity of telling you that your fortunes are my particular care. I cannot get you the wife you love, but I am rich and powerful, and can do much. Not another word. Go to bed, sir — to bed.”
Marston, sitting on his bedside that night, said aloud to himself, “And so that is that dicing old rowe, Saltire, is it? Well, well; it is a funny world. “What a noble fellow he would have been if he had had a better chance. Nay, what a noble fellow he is. I am ten years older since this morning “(he wasn’t, but he thought it). And so he said his prayers like an honest man, and prayed for the kind old heathen who had such a warm heart; and then, being nowise ashamed to do so, he prayed that he might sleep well; and, for a time, he forgot all about his disappointment, and slept like a child.
Lord Saltire’s valet was a staid and sober-minded gentleman of sixty-four. Generally, when he was putting his lordship to bed, he used to give him the news of the day; but tonight Lord Saltire said, “Never mind he news, Simpson, if you please; I am thinking of something.” My lord used to wear a sort of muffler, like a footless stocking, to keep his old knees warm in bed. He remained silent till he got one on, and then, without taking the other from the expectant Simpson, he addressed the fire-irons aloud.
“This is a pretty clumsy contrivance to call a world!” he said, with profound scorn. “Look here (to the poker), here’s as fine a lad as ever you saw, goes and falls in love with a charming girl, who cares no more for him than the deuce. He proposes to her, and is refused. Why? because she has given her heart away to another fine young fellow, who don’t care twopence for her, and has given his heart away to the most ambitious young Jezebel in the three kingdoms, who I don’t believe cares so very much for him. I am utterly disgusted with the whole system of mundane affairs! Simpson, give me that muffler, if you please; and pray don’t wake me before nine. I must try to sleep off the recollection of some of this folly.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10