Three weeks after Richard arrived in town, his cousin Clare was married, under the blessings of her energetic mother, and with the approbation of her kinsfolk, to the husband that had been expeditiously chosen for her. The gentleman, though something more than twice the age of his bride, had no idea of approaching senility for many long connubial years to come. Backed by his tailor and his hairdresser, he presented no such bad figure at the altar, and none would have thought that he was an ancient admirer of his bride’s mama, as certainly none knew he had lately proposed for Mrs. Doria before there was any question of her daughter. These things were secrets; and the elastic and happy appearance of Mr. John Todhunter did not betray them at the altar. Perhaps he would rather have married the mother. He was a man of property, well born, tolerably well educated, and had, when Mrs. Doria rejected him for the first time, the reputation of being a fool—which a wealthy man may have in his youth; but as he lived on, and did not squander his money—amassed it, on the contrary, and did not seek to go into Parliament, and did other negative wise things, the world’s opinion, as usual, veered completely round, and John Todhunter was esteemed a shrewd, sensible man—only not brilliant; that he was brilliant could not be said of him. In fact, the man could hardly talk, and it was a fortunate provision that no impromptu deliveries were required of him in the marriage-service.
Mrs. Doria had her own reasons for being in a hurry. She had discovered something of the strange impassive nature of her child; not from any confession of Clare’s, but from signs a mother can read when her eyes are not resolutely shut. She saw with alarm and anguish that Clare had fallen into the pit she had been digging for her so laboriously. In vain she entreated the baronet to break the disgraceful, and, as she said, illegal alliance his son had contracted. Sir Austin would not even stop the little pension to poor Berry. “At least you will do that, Austin,” she begged pathetically. “You will show your sense of that horrid woman’s conduct?” He refused to offer up any victim to console her. Then Mrs. Doria told him her thoughts—and when an outraged energetic lady is finally brought to exhibit these painfully hoarded treasures, she does not use half words as a medium. His System, and his conduct generally were denounced to him, without analysis. She let him understand that the world laughed at him; and he heard this from her at a time when his mask was still soft and liable to be acted on by his nerves. “You are weak, Austin! weak, I tell you!” she said, and, like all angry and self-interested people, prophecy came easy to her. In her heart she accused him of her own fault, in imputing to him the wreck of her project. The baronet allowed her to revel in the proclamation of a dire future, and quietly counselled her to keep apart from him, which his sister assured him she would do.
But to be passive in calamity is the province of no woman. Mark the race at any hour. “What revolution and hubbub does not that little instrument, the needle, avert from us!” says THE PILGRIM’S SCRIP. Alas, that in calamity women cannot stitch! Now that she saw Clare wanted other than iron, it struck her she must have a husband, and be made secure as a woman and a wife. This seemed the thing to do: and, as she had forced the iron down Clare’s throat, so she forced the husband, and Clare gulped at the latter as she had at the former. On the very day that Mrs. Doria had this new track shaped out before her, John Todhunter called at the Foreys’. “Old John!” sang out Mrs. Doria, “show him up to me. I want to see him particularly.” He sat with her alone. He was a man multitudes of women would have married—whom will they not?—and who would have married any presentable woman: but women do want asking, and John never had the word. The rape of such men is left to the practical animal. So John sat alone with his old flame. He had become resigned to her perpetual lamentation and living Suttee for his defunct rival. But, ha! what meant those soft glances now—addressed to him? His tailor and his hairdresser gave youth to John, but they had not the art to bestow upon him distinction, and an undistinguished man what woman looks at? John was an indistinguishable man. For that reason he was dry wood to a soft glance.
And now she said: “It is time you should marry; and you are the man to be the guide and helper of a young woman, John. You are well preserved—younger than most of the young men of our day. You are eminently domestic, a good son, and will be a good husband and good father. Some one you must marry.—What do you think of Clare for a wife for you?”
At first John Todhunter thought it would be very much like his marrying a baby. However, he listened to it, and that was enough for Mrs. Doria.
She went down to John’s mother, and consulted with her on the propriety of the scheme of wedding her daughter to John in accordance with his proposition. Mrs. Todhunter’s jealousy of any disturbing force in the influence she held over her son Mrs. Doria knew to be one of the causes of John’s remaining constant to the impression she had aforetime produced on him. She spoke so kindly of John, and laid so much stress on the ingrained obedience and passive disposition of her daughter, that Mrs. Todhunter was led to admit she did think it almost time John should be seeking a mate, and that he—all things considered—would hardly find a fitter one. And this, John Todhunter—old John no more—heard to his amazement when, a day or two subsequently, he instanced the probable disapproval of his mother.
The match was arranged. Mrs. Doria did the wooing. It consisted in telling Clare that she had come to years when marriage was desirable, and that she had fallen into habits of moping which might have the worse effect on her future life, as it had on her present health and appearance, and which a husband would cure. Richard was told by Mrs. Doria that Clare had instantaneously consented to accept Mr. John Todhunter as lord of her days, and with more than obedience—with alacrity. At all events, when Richard spoke to Clare, the strange passive creature did not admit constraint on her inclinations. Mrs. Doria allowed Richard to speak to her. She laughed at his futile endeavours to undo her work, and the boyish sentiments he uttered on the subject. “Let us see, child,” she said, “let us see which turns out the best; a marriage of passion, or a marriage of common sense.”
Heroic efforts were not wanting to arrest the union. Richard made repeated journeys to Hounslow, where Ralph was quartered, and if Ralph could have been persuaded to carry off a young lady who did not love him, from the bridegroom her mother averred she did love, Mrs. Doria might have been defeated. But Ralph in his cavalry quarters was cooler than Ralph in the Bursley meadows. “Women are oddities, Dick,” he remarked, running a finger right and left along his upper lip. “Best leave them to their own freaks. She’s a dear girl, though she doesn’t talk: I like her for that. If she cared for me I’d go the race. She never did. It’s no use asking a girl twice. She knows whether she cares a fig for a fellow.”
The hero quitted him with some contempt. As Ralph Morton was a young man, and he had determined that John Todhunter was an old man, he sought another private interview with Clare, and getting her alone, said: “Clare, I’ve come to you for the last time. Will you marry Ralph Morton?”
To which Clare replied, “I cannot marry two husbands, Richard.”
“Will you refuse to marry this old man?”
“I must do as mama wishes.”
“Then you’re going to marry an old man—a man you don’t love, and can’t love! Oh, good God! do you know what you’re doing?” He flung about in a fury. “Do you know what it is? Clare!” he caught her two hands violently, “have you any idea of the horror you’re going to commit?”
She shrank a little at his vehemence, but neither blushed nor stammered: answering: “I see nothing wrong in doing what mama thinks right, Richard.”
“Your mother! I tell you it’s an infamy, Clare! It’s a miserable sin! I tell you, if I had done such a thing I would not live an hour after it. And coldly to prepare for it! to be busy about your dresses! They told me when I came in that you were with the milliner. To be smiling over the horrible outrage! decorating yourself!” . . .
“Dear Richard,” said Clare, “you will make me very unhappy.”
“That one of my blood should be so debased!” he cried, brushing angrily at his face. “Unhappy! I beg you to feel for yourself, Clare. But I suppose,” and he said it scornfully, “girls don’t feel this sort of shame.”
She grew a trifle paler.
“Next to mama, I would wish to please you, dear Richard.”
“Have you no will of your own?” he exclaimed.
She looked at him softly; a look he interpreted for the meekness he detested in her.
“No, I believe you have none!” he added. “And what can I do? I can’t step forward and stop this accursed marriage. If you would but say a word I would save you; but you tie my hands. And they expect me to stand by and see it done!”
“Will you not be there, Richard?” said Clare, following the question with her soft eyes. It was the same voice that had so thrilled him on his marriage morn.
“Oh, my darling Clare!” he cried in the kindest way he had ever used to her, “if you knew how I feel this!” and now as he wept she wept, and came insensibly into his arms. “My darling Clare!” he repeated.
She said nothing, but seemed to shudder, weeping.
“You will do it, Clare? You will be sacrificed? So lovely as you are, too! . . . Clare! you cannot be quite blind. If I dared speak to you, and tell you all. . . . Look up. Can you still consent?”
“I must not disobey mama,” Clare murmured, without looking up from the nest her cheek had made on his bosom.
“Then kiss me for the last time,” said Richard. “I’ll never kiss you after it, Clare.”
He bent his head to meet her mouth, and she threw her arms wildly round him, and kissed him convulsively, and clung to his lips, shutting her eyes, her face suffused with a burning red.
Then he left her, unaware of the meaning of those passionate kisses.
Argument with Mrs. Doria was like firing paper-pellets against a stone wall. To her indeed the young married hero spoke almost indecorously, and that which his delicacy withheld him from speaking to Clare. He could provoke nothing more responsive from the practical animal than “Pooh-pooh! Tush, tush! and Fiddlededee!”
“Really,” Mrs. Doria said to her intimates, “that boy’s education acts like a disease on him. He cannot regard anything sensibly. He is for ever in some mad excess of his fancy, and what he will come to at last heaven only knows! I sincerely pray that Austin will be able to bear it.”
Threats of prayer, however, that harp upon their sincerity, are not very well worth having. Mrs. Doria had embarked in a practical controversy, as it were, with her brother. Doubtless she did trust he would be able to bear his sorrows to come, but one who has uttered prophecy can barely help hoping to see it fulfilled: she had prophesied much grief to the baronet.
Poor John Todhunter, who would rather have married the mother, and had none of your heroic notions about the sacred necessity for love in marriage, moved as one guiltless of offence, and deserving his happiness. Mrs. Doria shielded him from the hero. To see him smile at Clare’s obedient figure, and try not to look paternal, was touching.
Meantime Clare’s marriage served one purpose. It completely occupied Richard’s mind, and prevented him from chafing at the vexation of not finding his father ready to meet him when he came to town. A letter had awaited Adrian at the hotel, which said, “Detain him till you hear further from me. Take him about with you into every form of society.” No more than that. Adrian had to extemporize, that the baronet had gone down to Wales on pressing business, and would be back in a week or so. For ulterior inventions and devices wherewith to keep the young gentleman in town, he applied to Mrs. Doria. “Leave him to me,” said Mrs. Doria, “I’ll manage him.” And she did.
“Who can say,” asks THE PILGRIM’S SCRIP, “when he is not walking a puppet to some woman?”
Mrs. Doria would hear no good of Lucy. “I believe,” she observed, as Adrian ventured a shrugging protest in her behalf—“it is my firm opinion, that a scullery-maid would turn any of you men round her little finger—only give her time and opportunity.” By dwelling on the arts of women, she reconciled it to her conscience to do her best to divide the young husband from his wife till it pleased his father they should live their unhallowed union again. Without compunction, or a sense of incongruity, she abused her brother and assisted the fulfilment of his behests.
So the puppets were marshalled by Mrs. Doria, happy, or sad, or indifferent. Quite against his set resolve and the tide of his feelings, Richard found himself standing behind Clare in the church—the very edifice that had witnessed his own marriage, and heard, “I, Clare Doria, take thee John Pemberton,” clearly pronounced. He stood, with black brows dissecting the arts of the tailor and hairdresser on unconscious John. The back, and much of the middle, of Mr. Todhunter’s head was bald; the back shone like an egg-shell, but across the middle the artist had drawn two long dabs of hair from the sides, and plastered them cunningly, so that all save wilful eyes would have acknowledged the head to be covered. The man’s only pretension was to a respectable juvenility. He had a good chest, stout limbs, a face inclined to be jolly. Mrs. Doria had no cause to be put out of countenance at all by the exterior of her son-inlaw: nor was she. Her splendid hair and gratified smile made a light in the church. Playing puppets must be an immense pleasure to the practical animal. The Forey bridesmaids, five in number, and one Miss Doria, their cousin, stood as girls do stand at these sacrifices, whether happy, sad, or indifferent; a smile on their lips and tears in attendance. Old Mrs. Todhunter, an exceedingly small ancient woman, was also there. “I can’t have my boy John married without seeing it done,” she said, and throughout the ceremony she was muttering audible encomiums on her John’s manly behaviour.
The ring was affixed to Clare’s finger; there was no ring lost in this common-sense marriage. The instant the clergyman bade him employ it, John drew the ring out, and dropped it on the finger of the cold passive hand in a business-like way, as one who had studied the matter. Mrs. Doria glanced aside at Richard. Richard observed Clare spread out her fingers that the operation might be the more easily effected.
He did duty in the vestry a few minutes, and then said to his aunt:
“Now I’ll go.”
“You’ll come to the breakfast, child? The Foreys——”
He cut her short. “I’ve stood for the family, and I’ll do no more. I won’t pretend to eat and make merry over it.”
She had attained her object and she wisely gave way.
“Well. Go and kiss Clare, and shake his hand. Pray, pray be civil.”
She turned to Adrian, and said: “He is going. You must go with him, and find some means of keeping him, or he’ll be running off to that woman. Now, no words—go!”
Richard bade Clare farewell. She put up her mouth to him humbly, but he kissed her on the forehead.
“Do not cease to love me,” she said in a quavering whisper in his ear.
Mr. Todhunter stood beaming and endangering the art of the hairdresser with his pocket-handkerchief. Now he positively was married, he thought he would rather have the daughter than the mother, which is a reverse of the order of human thankfulness at a gift of the Gods.
“Richard, my boy!” he said heartily, “congratulate me.”
“I should be happy to, if I could,” sedately replied the hero, to the consternation of those around. Nodding to the bridesmaids and bowing to the old lady, he passed out.
Adrian, who had been behind him, deputed to watch for a possible unpleasantness, just hinted to John: “You know, poor fellow, he has got into a mess with his marriage.”
“Oh! ah! yes!” kindly said John, “poor fellow!”
All the puppets then rolled off to the breakfast.
Adrian hurried after Richard in an extremely discontented state of mind. Not to be at the breakfast and see the best of the fun, disgusted him. However, he remembered that he was a philosopher, and the strong disgust he felt was only expressed in concentrated cynicism on every earthly matter engendered by the conversation. They walked side by side into Kensington Gardens. The hero was mouthing away to himself, talking by fits.
Presently he faced Adrian, crying: “And I might have stopped it! I see it now! I might have stopped it by going straight to him, and asking him if he dared marry a girl who did not love him. And I never thought of it. Good heavens! I feel this miserable affair on my conscience.”
“Ah!” groaned Adrian. “An unpleasant cargo for the conscience, that! I would rather carry anything on mine than a married couple. Do you purpose going to him now?”
The hero soliloquized: “He’s not a bad sort of man.” . . .
“Well, he’s not a Cavalier,” said Adrian, “and that’s why you wonder your aunt selected him, no doubt? He’s decidedly of the Roundhead type, with the Puritan extracted, or inoffensive, if latent.”
“There’s the double infamy!” cried Richard, “that a man you can’t call bad, should do this damned thing!”
“Well, it’s hard we can’t find a villain.”
“He would have listened to me, I’m sure.”
“Go to him now, Richard, my son. Go to him now. It’s not yet too late. Who knows? If he really has a noble elevated superior mind—though not a Cavalier in person, he may be one at heart—he might, to please you, and since you put such stress upon it, abstain . . . perhaps with some loss of dignity, but never mind. And the request might be singular, or seem so, but everything has happened before in this world, you know, my dear boy. And what an infinite consolation it is for the eccentric, that reflection!”
The hero was impervious to the wise youth. He stared at him as if he were but a speck in the universe he visioned.
It was provoking that Richard should be Adrian’s best subject for cynical pastime, in the extraordinary heterodoxies he started, and his worst in the way he took it; and the wise youth, against his will, had to feel as conscious of the young man’s imaginative mental armour, as he was of his muscular physical.
“The same sort of day!” mused Richard, looking up. “I suppose my father’s right. We make our own fates, and nature has nothing to do with it.”
“Some difference in the trees, though,” Richard continued abstractedly.
“Growing bald at the top,” said Adrian.
“Will you believe that my aunt Helen compared the conduct of that wretched slave Clare to Lucy’s, who, she had the cruel insolence to say, entangled me into marriage?” the hero broke out loudly and rapidly. “You know—I told you, Adrian—how I had to threaten and insist, and how she pleaded, and implored me to wait.”
“Ah! hum!” mumbled Adrian.
“You remember my telling you?” Richard was earnest to hear her exonerated.
“Pleaded and implored, my dear boy? Oh, no doubt she did. Where’s the lass that doesn’t.”
“Call my wife by another name, if you please.”
“The generic title can’t be cancelled because of your having married one of the body, my son.”
“She did all she could to persuade me to wait!” emphasized Richard.
Adrian shook his head with a deplorable smile.
“Come, come, my good Ricky; not all! not all!”
Richard bellowed: “What more could she have done?”
“She could have shaved her head, for instance.”
This happy shaft did stick. With a furious exclamation Richard shot in front, Adrian following him; and asking him (merely to have his assumption verified), whether he did not think she might have shaved her head? and, presuming her to have done so, whether, in candour, he did not think he would have waited—at least till she looked less of a rank lunatic?
After a minute or so, the wise youth was but a fly buzzing about Richard’s head. Three weeks of separation from Lucy, and an excitement deceased, caused him to have soft yearnings for the dear lovely home-face. He told Adrian it was his intention to go down that night. Adrian immediately became serious. He was at a loss what to invent to detain him, beyond the stale fiction that his father was coming tomorrow. He rendered homage to the genius of woman in these straits. “My aunt,” he thought, “would have the lie ready; and not only that, but she would take care it did its work.”
At this juncture the voice of a cavalier in the Row hailed them, proving to be the Honourable Peter Brayder, Lord Mountfalcon’s parasite. He greeted them very cordially; and Richard, remembering some fun they had in the Island, asked him to dine with them; postponing his return till the next day. Lucy was his. It was even sweet to dally with the delight of seeing her.
The Hon. Peter was one who did honour to the body he belonged to. Though not so tall as a West of London footman, he was as shapely; and he had a power of making his voice insinuating, or arrogant, as it suited the exigencies of his profession. He had not a rap of money in the world; yet he rode a horse, lived high, expended largely. The world said that the Hon. Peter was salaried by his Lordship, and that, in common with that of Parasite, he exercised the ancient companion profession. This the world said, and still smiled at the Hon. Peter; for he was an engaging fellow, and where he went not Lord Mountfalcon would not go.
They had a quiet little hotel dinner, ordered by Adrian, and made a square at the table, Ripton Thompson being the fourth. Richard sent down to his office to fetch him, and the two friends shook hands for the first time since the great deed had been executed. Deep was the Old Dog’s delight to hear the praises of his Beauty sounded by such aristocratic lips as the Hon. Peter Brayder’s. All through the dinner he was throwing out hints and small queries to get a fuller account of her; and when the claret had circulated, he spoke a word or two himself, and heard the Hon. Peter eulogize his taste, and wish him a bride as beautiful; at which Ripton blushed, and said, he had no hope of that, and the Hon. Peter assured him marriage did not break the mould.
After the wine this gentleman took his cigar on the balcony, and found occasion to get some conversation with Adrian alone.
“Our young friend here—made it all right with the governor?” he asked carelessly.
“Oh yes!” said Adrian. But it struck him that Brayder might be of assistance in showing Richard a little of the “society in every form,” required by his chief’s prescript. “That is,” he continued, “we are not yet permitted an interview with the august author of our being, and I have rather a difficult post. ’Tis mine both to keep him here, and also to find him the opportunity to measure himself with his fellow-man. In other words, his father wants him to see something of life before he enters upon housekeeping. Now I am proud to confess that I’m hardly equal to the task. The demi, or damnedmonde—if it’s that he wants him to observe—is one that I have not got the walk to.”
“Ha! ha!” laughed Brayder. “You do the keeping, I offer to parade the demi. I must say, though, it’s a queer notion of the old gentleman.”
“It’s the continuation of a philosophic plan,” said Adrian.
Brayder followed the curvings of the whiff of his cigar with his eyes, and ejaculated, “Infernally philosophic!”
“Has Lord Mountfalcon left the island?” Adrian inquired.
“Mount? to tell the truth I don’t know where he is. Chasing some light craft, I suppose. That’s poor Mount’s weakness. It’s his ruin, poor fellow! He’s so confoundedly in earnest at the game.”
“He ought to know it by this time, if fame speaks true,” remarked Adrian.
“He’s a baby about women, and always will be,” said Brayder. “He’s been once or twice wanting to marry them. Now there’s a woman—you’ve heard of Mrs. Mount? All the world knows her.—If that woman hadn’t scandalized.”—The young man joined them, and checked the communication. Brayder winked to Adrian, and pitifully indicated the presence of an innocent.
“A married man, you know,” said Adrian.
“Yes, yes!—we won’t shock him,” Brayder observed. He appeared to study the young man while they talked.
Next morning Richard was surprised by a visit from his aunt. Mrs. Doria took a seat by his side, and spoke as follows:
“My dear nephew. Now you know I have always loved you, and thought of your welfare as if you had been my own child. More than that, I fear. Well, now, you are thinking of returning to—to that place—are you not? Yes. It is as I thought. Very well now, let me speak to you. You are in a much more dangerous position than you imagine. I don’t deny your father’s affection for you. It would be absurd to deny it. But you are of an age now to appreciate his character. Whatever you may do he will always give you money. That you are sure of; that you know. Very well. But you are one to want more than money: you want his love. Richard, I am convinced you will never be happy, whatever base pleasures you may be led into, if he should withhold his love from you. Now, child, you know you have grievously offended him. I wish not to animadvert on your conduct.—You fancied yourself in love, and so on, and you were rash. The less said of it the better now. But you must now—it is your duty now to do something—to do everything that lies in your power to show him you repent. No interruptions! Listen to me. You must consider him. Austin is not like other men. Austin requires the most delicate management. You must—whether you feel it or no—present an appearance of contrition. I counsel it for the good of all. He is just like a woman, and where his feelings are offended he wants utter subservience. He has you in town, and he does not see you:—now you know that he and I are not in communication: we have likewise our differences:—Well, he has you in town, and he holds aloof:—he is trying you, my dear Richard. No: he is not at Raynham: I do not know where he is. He is trying you, child, and you must be patient. You must convince him that you do not care utterly for your own gratification. If this person—I wish to speak of her with respect, for your sake—well, if she loves you at all—if, I say, she loves you one atom, she will repeat my solicitations for you to stay and patiently wait here till he consents to see you. I tell you candidly, it’s your only chance of ever getting him to receive her. That you should know. And now, Richard, I may add that there is something else you should know. You should know that it depends entirely upon your conduct now, whether you are to see your father’s heart for ever divided from you, and a new family at Raynham. You do not understand? I will explain. Brothers and sisters are excellent things for young people, but a new brood of them can hardly be acceptable to a young man. In fact, they are, and must be, aliens. I only tell you what I have heard on good authority. Don’t you understand now? Foolish boy! if you do not humour him, he will marry her. Oh! I am sure of it. I know it. And this you will drive him to. I do not warn you on the score of your prospects, but of your feelings. I should regard such a contingency, Richard, as a final division between you. Think of the scandal! but alas, that is the least of the evils.”
It was Mrs. Doria’s object to produce an impression, and avoid an argument. She therefore left him as soon as she had, as she supposed, made her mark on the young man. Richard was very silent during the speech, and save for an exclamation or so, had listened attentively. He pondered on what his aunt said. He loved Lady Blandish, and yet he did not wish to see her Lady Feverel. Mrs. Doria laid painful stress on the scandal, and though he did not give his mind to this, he thought of it. He thought of his mother. Where was she? But most his thoughts recurred to his father, and something akin to jealousy slowly awakened his heart to him. He had given him up, and had not latterly felt extremely filial; but he could not bear the idea of a division in the love of which he had ever been the idol and sole object. And such a man, too! so good! so generous! If it was jealousy that roused the young man’s heart to his father, the better part of love was also revived in it. He thought of old days: of his father’s forbearance, his own wilfulness. He looked on himself, and what he had done, with the eyes of such a man. He determined to do all he could to regain his favour.
Mrs. Doria learnt from Adrian in the evening that her nephew intended waiting in town another week.
“That will do,” smiled Mrs. Doria. “He will be more patient at the end of a week.”
“Oh! does patience beget patience?” said Adrian. “I was not aware it was a propagating virtue. I surrender him to you. I shan’t be able to hold him in after one week more. I assure you, my dear aunt, he’s already”. . . .
“Thank you, no explanation,” Mrs. Doria begged.
When Richard saw her next, he was informed that she had received a most satisfactory letter from Mrs. John Todhunter: quite a glowing account of John’s behaviour: but on Richard’s desiring to know the words Clare had written, Mrs. Doria objected to be explicit, and shot into worldly gossip.
“Clare seldom glows,” said Richard.
“No, I mean for her,” his aunt remarked. “Don’t look like your father, child.”
“I should like to have seen the letter,” said Richard.
Mrs. Doria did not propose to show it.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57