And now we will go back to Allington. The same morning that brought to John Eames the two letters which were given in the last chapter but one, brought to the Great House, among others, the following epistle for Adolphus Crosbie. It was from a countess, and was written on pink paper, beautifully creamlaid and scented, ornamented with a coronet and certain singularly-entwined initial. Altogether, the letter was very fashionable and attractive, and Adolphus Crosbie was by no means sorry to receive it.
Courcy Castle, September 186-.
My dear Mr Crosbie — We have heard of you from the Gazebees, who have come down to us, and who tell us that you are rusticating at a charming little village, in which, among other attractions, there are wood nymphs and water nymphs, to whom much of your time is devoted. As this is just the thing for your taste, I would not for worlds disturb you; but if you should ever tear yourself away from the groves and fountains of Allington, we shall be delighted to welcome you here, though you will find us very unromantic after your late Elysium.
Lady Dumbello is coming to us, who I know is a favourite of yours. Or is it the other way, and are you a favourite of hers? I did ask Lady Hartletop, but she cannot get away from the poor marquis, who is, you know, so very infirm. The duke isn’t at Gatherum at present, but, of course, I don’t mean that that has anything to do with dear Lady Hartletop coming to us. I believe we shall have the house full, and shall not want for nymphs either, though I fear they will not be of the wood and water kind. Margaretta and Alexandrina particularly want you to come, as they say you are so clever at making a houseful of people go off well. If you can give us a week before you go back to manage the affairs of the nation, pray do. — Yours very sincerely,
Rosina de Courcy.
The Countess de Courcy was a very old friend of Mr Crosbie’s; that is to say, as old friends go in the world in which he had been living. He had known her for the last six or seven years, and had been in the habit of going to all her London balls, and dancing with her daughters everywhere, in a most good-natured and affable way. He had been intimate, from old family relations, with Mr Mortimer Gazebee, who, though only an attorney of the more distinguished kind, had married the countess’s eldest daughter, and now sat in Parliament for the city of Barchester, near to which Courcy Castle was situated. And, to tell the truth honestly at once, Mr Crosbie had been on terms of great friendship with Lady de Courcy’s daughters, the Ladies Margaretta and Alexandrina — perhaps especially so with the latter, though I would not have my readers suppose by my saying so that anything more tender than friendship had ever existed between them.
Crosbie said nothing about the letter on that morning; but during the day, or, perhaps, as he thought over the matter in bed, he made up his mind that he would accept Lady de Courcy’s invitation. It was not only that he would be glad to see the Gazebees, or glad to stay in the same house with that great master in the high art of fashionable life, Lady Dumbello, or glad to renew his friendship with the Ladies Margaretta and Alexandrina. Had he felt that the circumstances of his engagement with Lily made it expedient for him to stay with her till the end of his holidays, he could have thrown over the De Courcys without a struggle. But he told himself that it would be well for him now to tear himself away from Lily; or perhaps he said that it would be well for Lily that he should be torn away. He must not teach her to think that they were to live only in the sunlight of each other’s eyes during those months, or perhaps years, which might elapse before their engagement could be carried out. Nor must he allow her to suppose that either he or she were to depend solely upon the other for the amusements and employments of life. In this way he argued the matter very sensibly within his own mind, and resolved, without much difficulty, that he would go to Courcy Castle, and bask for a week in the sunlight of the fashion which would he collected there. The quiet humdrum of his own fireside would come upon him soon enough!
“I think I shall leave you on Wednesday, sir,” Crosbie said to the squire at breakfast on Sunday morning.
“Leave us on Wednesday!” said the squire, who had an old-fashioned idea that people who were engaged to marry each other should remain together as long as circumstances could be made to admit of their doing so. “Nothing wrong, is there?”
“Oh, dear, no! But everything must come to an end some day; and as I must make one or two short visits before I get back to town, I might as well go on Wednesday. Indeed, I have made it as late as I possibly could.”
“Where do you go from here?” asked Bernard.
“Well, as it happens, only into the next county — to Courcy Castle.” And then there was nothing more said about the matter at that breakfast-table.
It had become their habit to meet together on the Sunday mornings before church, on the lawn belonging to the Small House, and on this day the three gentlemen walked down together, and found Lily and Bell already waiting for them. They generally had some few minutes to spare on those occasions before Mrs Dale summoned them to pass through the house to church, and such was the case at present. The squire at these times would stand in the middle of the grass-plot, surveying his grounds, and taking stock of the shrubs, and flowers, and fruit-trees round him; for he never forgot that it was all his own, and would thus use this opportunity, as he seldom came down to see the spot on other days. Mrs Dale, as she would see him from her own window while she was tying on her bonnet, would feel that she knew what was passing through his mind, and would regret that circumstances had forced her to be beholden to him for such assistance. But, in truth, she did not know all that he thought at such times. “It is mine,” he would say to himself, as he looked around on the pleasant place.
“But it is well for me that they should enjoy it. She is my brother’s widow, and she is welcome — very welcome,” I think that if those two persons had known more than they did of each other’s hearts and minds they might have loved each other better.
And then Crosbie told Lily of his intention, “On Wednesday!” she said, turning almost pale with emotion as she heard this news. He had told her abruptly, not thinking, probably, that such tidings would affect her so strongly.
“Well, yes. I have written to Lady de Courcy and said Wednesday. It wouldn’t do for me exactly to drop everybody, and perhaps —”
“Oh, no! And, Adolphus, you don’t suppose I begrudge your going. Only it does seem so sudden; does it not?”
“You see, I’ve been here over six weeks.”
“Yes; you’ve been very good. When I think of it, what a six weeks it has been! I wonder whether the difference seems to you as great as it does to me. I’ve left off being a grub, and begun to be a butterfly.”
“But you mustn’t be a butterfly when you’re married, Lily.”
“No; not in that sense. But I meant that my real position in the world — that for which I would fain hope that I was created — opened to me only when I knew you and knew that you loved me. But mamma is calling us, and we must go through to church. Going on Wednesday! There are only three days more, then!”
“Yes, just three days,” he said, as he took her on his arm and passed through the house on to the road.
“And when are we to see you again?” she asked, as they reached the churchyard.
“Ah, who is to say that yet? We must ask the Chairman of Committees when he will let me go again.” Then there was nothing more said, and they all followed the squire through the little porch and up to the big family — pew in which they all sat. Here the squire took his place in one special corner which he had occupied ever since his father’s death, and from which he read the responses loudly and plainly — so loudly and plainly, that the parish clerk could by no means equal him, though with tremulous voice he still made the attempt. “T’ squire’d like to be squire, and parson, and clerk, and everything; so a would,” the poor clerk would say, when complaining of the ill-usage which he suffered.
If Lily’s prayers were interrupted by her new sorrow, I think that her fault in that respect would be forgiven. Of course she had known that Crosbie was not going to remain at Allington much longer. She knew quite as well as he did the exact day on which his leave of absence came to its end, and the hour at which it behoved him to walk into his room at the General Committee Office. She had taught herself to think that he would remain with them up to the end of his vacation, and now she felt as a schoolboy would feel who was told suddenly, a day or two before the time, that the last week of his holidays was to be taken from him. The grievance would have been slight had she known it from the first; but what schoolboy could stand such a shock, when the loss amounted to two-thirds of his remaining wealth? Lily did not blame her lover. She did not even think that he ought to stay. She would not allow herself to suppose that he could propose anything that was unkind. But she felt her loss, and more than once, as she knelt at her prayers, she wiped a hidden tear from her eyes.
Crosbie also was thinking of his departure more than he should have done during Mr Boyce’s sermon. “It’s easy listening to him,” Mrs Hearn used to say of her husband’s successor. “It don’t give one much trouble following him into his arguments.” Mr Crosbie perhaps found the difficulty greater than did Mrs Hearn, and would have devoted his mind more perfectly to the discourse had the argument been deeper. It is very hard, that necessity of listening to a man who says nothing. On this occasion Crosbie ignored the necessity altogether, and gave up his mind to the consideration of what it might he expedient that he should say to Lily before he went. He remembered well those few words which he had spoken in the first ardour of his love, pleading that an early day might be fixed for their marriage. And he remembered, also, how prettily Lily had yielded to him. “Only do not let it be too soon,” she had said. Now he must unsay what he had then said, he must plead against his own pleadings, and explain to her that he desired to postpone the marriage rather than to hasten it — a task which, I presume, must always be an unpleasant one for any man engaged to be married. “I might as well do it at once,” he said to himself, as he bobbed his head forward into his hands by way of returning thanks fur the termination of Mr Boyce’s sermon.
As he had only three days left, it was certainly as well that he should do this at once. Seeing that Lily had no fortune, she could not in justice complain of a prolonged engagement. That was the argument which he used in his own mind. But he as often told himself that she would have very great ground of complaint if she were left for a day unnecessarily in doubt as to this matter. Why had he rashly spoken those hasty words to her in his love, betraying himself into all manner of scrapes, as a schoolboy might do, or such a one as Johnny Eames? What an ass he had been not to have remembered himself and to have been collected — not to have bethought himself on the occasion of all that might be due to Adolphus Crosbie! And then the idea came upon him whether he had not altogether made himself an ass in this matter. And as he gave his arm to Lily outside the church-door, he shrugged his shoulders while making that reflection. “It is too late now,” he said to himself; and than turned round and made some sweet little loving speech to her. Adolphus Crosbie was a clever man; and he meant also to be a true man — if only the temptations to falsehood might not be too great for him.
“Lily” he said to her, “will you walk in the fields after lunch?”
Walk in the fields with him! Of course she would. There were only three days left, and would she not give up to him every moment of her time, if he would accept of all her moments? And then they lunched at the Small House, Mrs Dale having promised to join the dinner-party at the squire’s table, The squire did not eat any lunch, excusing himself on the plea that lunch in itself was a bad thing “He can eat lunch at his own house,” Mrs Dale afterwards said to Bell. “And I’ve often seen him take a glass of sherry.” While thinking of this. Mrs Dale made her own dinner. If her brother-in-law would not eat at her board, neither would she eat at his.
And then in a few minutes Lily had on her hat, in place of that decorous, church-going bonnet which Crosbie was wont to abuse with a lover’s privilege, feeling well assured that he might say what he liked of the bonnet as long as he would praise the hat. “Only three days,” she said, as she walked down with him across the lawn at a quick pace. But she said it in a voice which made no complaint — which seemed to say simply this — that as the good time was to be so short, they must make the most of it. And what compliment could be paid to a man so sweet as that? What flattery could be more gratifying? All my earthly heaven is with you; and now, for the delight of these immediately present months or so, there are left to me but three days of this heaven! Come, then I will make the most of what happiness is given to me. Crosbie felt it all as she felt it, and recognised the extent of the debt he owed her. “I’ll come down to them for a day at Christmas, though it be only for a day,” he said to himself. Then he reflected that as such was his intention, it might be well for him to open his present conversation with a promise to that effect.
“Yes, Lily; there are only three days left now. But I wonder whether — I suppose you’ll all be at home at Christmas?”
“At home at Christmas? — of course we shall be at home. You don’t mean to say you’ll come to us!”
“Well; I think I will, if you’ll have me,”
“Oh! that will make such a difference. Let me see. That will only be three months. And to have you here on Christmas Day! I would sooner have you then than on any other day in the year.”
“It will only be for one day, Lily. I shall come to dinner on Christmas Eve, and must go away the day after.”
“But you will come direct to our house!”
“If you can spare me a room.”
“Of course we can. So we could now. Only when you came, you know —”
“When I came, I was the squire’s friend and your cousin’s rather than yours. But that’s all changed now.”
“Yes; you’re my friend now — mine specially. I’m to be now and always your own special, dearest friend — eh, Adolphus?” And thus she exacted from him the repetition of the promise which he had so often given her.
By this time they had passed through the grounds of the Great House and were in the fields. “Lily,” said he, speaking rather suddenly, and making her feel by his manner that something of importance was to be said; “I want to say a few words to you about — business.” And he gave a little laugh as he spoke the last word, making her fully understand that he was not quite at his ease.
“Of course I’ll listen. And, Adolphus, pray don’t be afraid about me. What I mean is, don’t think that I can’t bear cares and troubles. I can bear anything as long as you love me. I say that because I’m afraid I seemed to complain about your going. I didn’t mean to.”
“I never thought you complained, dearest. Nothing can be better than you are at all times and in every year. A man would be very hard to please if you didn’t please him.”
“If I can only please you —”
“You do please me in everything. Dear Lily, I think I found an angel when I found you. But now about this business Perhaps I’d better tell you everything.”
“Oh, yes, tell me everything.”
“But then you mustn’t misunderstand me. And if I talk about money, you mustn’t suppose that it has anything to do with my love for you.”
“I wish for your sake that I wasn’t such a little pauper.”
“What I mean to say is this, that if I seem to be anxious about money, you must not suppose that that anxiety hears any reference whatever to my affection for you. I should love you just the same, and look forward just as much to my happiness in marrying you, whether you were rich or poor. You understand that?”
She did not quite understand him; but she merely pressed his arm, so as to encourage him to go on. She presumed that he intended to tell her something as to their future mode of life — something which he supposed it might not be pleasant for her to hear, and she was determined to show him that she would receive it pleasantly.
“You know” said he, “how anxious I have been that our marriage should not be delayed. To me, of course, it must be everything now to call you my own as soon as possible.” In answer to which little declaration of love, she merely pressed his arm again, the subject being one on which she had not herself much to say.
“Of course I must be very anxious, but I find it not so easy as I expected.”
“You know what I said, Adolphus. I said that I thought we had better wait. I’m sure mamma thinks so. And if we can only see you now and then —”
“That will he a matter of course. But, as I was saying — Let me see. Yes — all that waiting will be intolerable to me. It is such a bore for a man when he has made up his mind on such a matter as marriage, not to make the change at once, especially when he is going to take to himself such a little angel as you are,” and as he spoke these loving words, his arm was again put round her waist;” but — and then he stopped. He wanted to make her understand that this change of intention on his part was caused by the unexpected misconduct of her uncle. He desired that she should know exactly how the matter stood; that he had been led to suppose that her uncle would give her some small fortune, that he had seen disappointed, and had a right to feel the disappointment keenly; and that in consequence of this blow to his expectations, he must put off his marriage. But he wished her also to understand at the same time that this did not in the least mar his love for her; that he did not join her at all in her uncle’s fault. All this he was anxious to convey to her, but he did not know how to get it said in a manner that would not be offensive to her personally, and that should not appear to accuse himself of sordid motives. He had begun by declaring that he would tell her all; but sometimes it is not easy, that task of telling a person everything, There are things which will not get themselves told.
“You mean, dearest,” said she, “that you cannot afford to marry at once.”
“Yes; that is it. I had expected that I should be able, but —”
Did any man in love ever yet find himself able to tell the lady whom he loved that he was very much disappointed on discovering that she had got no money? If so, his courage, I should say, was greater than his love. Crosbie found himself unable to do it, and thought himself cruelly used because of the difficulty. The delay to which he intended to subject her was occasioned, as he felt, by the squire, and not by himself. He was ready to do his part, if only the squire had been willing to do the part which properly belonged to him. The squire would not; and, therefore, neither could he — not as yet. Justice demanded that all this should be understood but when he came to the telling of it, he found that the story would not form itself properly. He must let the thing go, and bear the injustice, consoling himself as best he might by the reflection that he at least was behaving well in the matter.
“It won’t make me unhappy, Adolphus.”
“Will it not?” said he. “As regards myself, I own that I cannot bear the delay with so much indifference.”
“Nay, my love; but you should not misunderstand me,” she said, stopping and facing him on the path in which they were walking. “I suppose I ought to protest, according to the common rules, that I would rather wait. Young ladies are expected to say so. If you were pressing me to marry at once, I should say so, no doubt. But now, as it is, I will be more honest. I have only one wish in the world, and that is, to be your wife — to be able to share everything with you. The sooner we can be together the better it will be — at any rate, for me. There; will that satisfy you?”
“My own, own Lily!”
“Yes, your own Lily, You shall have no cause to doubt me, dearest. But I do not expect that I am to have everything exactly as I want it. I say again, that I shall not be unhappy in waiting. How can I be unhappy while I feel certain of your love? I was disappointed just now when you said that you were going so soon; and I am afraid I showed it. But those little things are more unendurable than the big things.”
“Yes; that’s very true.”
“But there are three more days, and I mean to enjoy them so much! And then you will write to me: and you will come at Christmas. And next year, when you have your holiday, you will come down to us again; will you not?
“You may be quite sure of that.”
“And so the time will go by till it suits you to come and take me. I shall not be unhappy.”
“I, at any rate, shall be impatient.”
“Ah, men always are impatient. It is one of their privileges, I suppose. And I don’t think that a man ever has the same positive and complete satisfaction in knowing that he is loved, which a girl feels. You are my bird that I have shot with my own gun; and the assurance of my success is sufficient for my happiness.”
“You have bowled me over, and know that I can’t get up again.”
“I don’t know about can’t. I would let you up quick enough, if you wished it.”
How he made his loving assurance that he did not wish it, never would or could wish it, the reader will readily understand. And then he considered that he might as well leave all those money questions as they now stood. His real object had been to convince her that their joint circumstances did not admit of an immediate marriage; and as to that she completely understood him. Perhaps, during the next three days, some opportunity might arise for explaining the whole matter to Mrs Dale. At any rate, he had declared his own purpose honestly, and no one could complain of him.
On the following day they all rode over to Guestwick together — the all consisting of the two girls, with Bernard and Crosbie. Their object was to pay two visits — one to their very noble and highly exalted ally, the Lady Julia de Guest: and the other to their humbler and better known friend, Mrs Eames. As Guestwick Manor lay on their road into the town, they performed the grander ceremony the first. The present Earl de Guest, brother of that Lady Fanny who ran away with Major Dale, was an unmarried nobleman, who devoted himself chiefly to the breeding of cattle. And as he bred very good cattle, taking infinite satisfaction in the employment, devoting all his energies thereto, and abstaining from all prominently evil courses, it should be acknowledged that he was not a bad member of society. He was a thorough-going old Tory, whose proxy was always in the hand of the leader of his party; and who seldom himself went near the metropolis, unless called thither by some occasion of cattle-showing. He was a short, stumpy man, with red cheeks and a round face; who was usually to be seen till dinner-time dressed in a very old shooting coat, with breeches, gaiters, and very thick shoes. He lived generally out of doors, and was almost as great in the preserving of game as in the breeding of oxen, he knew every acre of his own estate, and every tree upon it, as thoroughly as a lady knows the ornaments in her drawing-room. There was no gap in a fence of which he did not remember the exact bearings, no path hither or thither as to which he could not tell the why and the wherefore. He had been in his earlier years a poor man as regarded his income — very poor, seeing that he was an earl. But he was not at present by any means an impoverished man, having been taught a lesson by the miseries of his father and grandfather, and having learned to live within his means. Now, as he was going down the vale of years, men said that he was becoming rich, and that he had ready money to spend — a position in which no Lord de Guest had found himself for many generations back. His father and grandfather had been known as spend-thrifts; and now men said that this earl was a miser.
There was not much of nobility in his appearance; but they greatly mistook Lord de Guest who conceived that on that account his pride of place was not dear to his soul. His peerage dated back to the time of King John, and there were but three lords in England whose patents had been conferred before his own. He knew what privileges were due to him on behalf of his blood, and was not disposed to abate one jot of them. He was not loud in demanding them. As he went through the world he sent no trumpeters to the right or left, proclaiming that the Earl de Guest was coming. When he spread his board for his friends, which he did but on rare occasions, he entertained them simply with a mild, tedious, old-fashioned courtesy. We may say that, if properly treated, the earl never walked over anybody. But he could, if ill-treated, be grandly indignant; and if attacked, could hold his own against all the world. He knew himself to be every inch an earl, pottering about after his oxen with his muddy gaiters and red cheeks, as much as though he were glittering with stars in courtly royal ceremonies among his peers at Westminster — ay, more an earl than any of those who use their nobility for pageant purposes. Woe be to him who should mistake that old coat for a badge of rural degradation! Now and again some unlucky wight did make such a mistake, and had to do his penance very uncomfortably.
With the earl lived a maiden sister, the Lady Julia. Bernard Dale’s father had, in early life, run away with one sister, but no suitor had been fortunate enough to induce the Lady Julia to run with him, Therefore she still lived, in maiden blessedness, as mistress of Guestwick Manor; and as such had no mean opinion of the high position which destiny had called upon her to fill. She was a tedious, dull, virtuous old woman, who gave herself infinite credit for having remained all her days in the home of her youth, probably forgetting, in her present advanced years, that her temptations to leave it had not been strong or numerous. She generally spoke of her sister Fanny with some little contempt, as though that poor lady had degraded herself in marrying a younger brother. She was as proud of her own position as was the earl her brother, but her pride was maintained with more of outward show and less of inward nobility. It was hardly enough for her that the world should know that she was a De Guest, and therefore she had assumed little pompous ways and certain airs of condescension which did not make her popular with her neighbours.
The intercourse between Guestwick Manor and Allington was not very frequent or very cordial. Soon after the running away of the Lady Fanny, the two families had agreed to acknowledge their connection with each other, and to let it be known by the world that they were on friendly terms. Either that course was necessary to them, or the other course, of letting it he known that they were enemies. Friendship was the less troublesome, and therefore the two families called on each other from time to time, and gave each other dinners about once a year. The earl regarded the squire as a man who had deserted his politics, and had thereby forfeited the respect due to him as an hereditary land magnate; and the squire was wont to belittle the earl as one who understood nothing of the outer world. At Guestwick Manor Bernard was to some extent a favourite. He was actually a relative, having in his veins blood of the De Guests, and was not the less a favourite because he was the heir to Allington, and because the blood of the Dales was older even than that of the noble family to which he was allied. When Bernard should come to be the squire, then indeed there might be cordial relations between Guestwick Manor and Allington; unless, indeed, the earl’s heir and the squire’s heir should have some fresh cause of ill-will between themselves.
They found Lady Julia sitting in her drawing-room alone, and introduced to her Mr Crosbie in due firm. The fact of Lily’s engagement was of course known at the manor, and it was quite understood that her intended husband was now brought over that he might be looked at and approved. Lady Julia made a very elaborate curtsy, and expressed a hope that her young friend might be made happy in that sphere of life to which it had pleased God to call her.
“I hope I shall, Lady Julia,” said Lily, with a little laugh; “at any rate I mean to try”
“We all try, my dear, but many of us fail to try with sufficient energy of purpose. It is only by doing our duty that we can hope to be happy, whether in single life or in married.”
“Miss Dale means to be a dragon of perfection in the performance of hers,” said Crosbie.
“A dragon!” said Lady Julia. “No; I hope Miss Lily Dale will never become a dragon.” And then she turned to her nephew. It may be as well to say at once that she never forgave Mr Crosbie the freedom of the expression which he had used. He had been in the drawing-room of Guestwick Manor for two minutes only, and it did not become him to talk about dragons. “Bernard,” she said,” I heard from your mother yesterday. I am afraid she does not seem to be very strong.” And then there was a little conversation, not very interesting in its nature, between the aunt and the nephew as to the general health of Lady Fanny.
“I didn’t know my aunt was so unwell” said Bell.
“She isn’t ill,” said Bernard. “She never is ill; but then she is never well.”
“Your aunt,” said Lady Julia, seeming to put a touch of sarcasm into the tone of her voice as she repeated the word —”
“A very long time,” said Crosbie, who was not accustomed to be left in his chair silent. “You, Dale, at any rate, can hardly remember it.”
“But I can remember it,” said Lady Julia, gathering herself up. “I can remember when my sister Fanny was recognised as the beauty of the country. It is a dangerous gift, that of beauty.”
“Very dangerous,” said Crosbie. Then Lily laughed again, and Lady Julia became more angry than ever. What odious man was this whom her neighbours were going to take into their very bosom! But she had heard of Mr Crosbie before, and Mr Crosbie also had heard of her.
“By-the-by, Lady Julia,” said he, “I think I know some very dear friends of yours.”
“Very dear friends is a very strong word. I have not many very dear friends.”
“I mean the Gazebees. I have heard Mortimer Gazebee and Lady Amelia speak of you.”
Whereupon Lady Julia confessed that she did know the Gazebees. Mr Gazebee, she said, was a man who in early life had wanted many advantages, but still he was a very estimable person. He was now in Parliament, and she understood that he was making himself useful. She had not quite approved of Lady Amelia’s marriage at the time, and so she had told her very old friend Lady de Courcy; but”— And then Lady Julia said many words in praise of Mr Gazebee, which seemed to amount to this; that he was an excellent sort of man, with a full conviction of the too great honour done to him by the earl’s daughter who had married him, and a complete consciousness that even that marriage had not put him on a par with his wife’s relations, or even with his wife. And then it came out that Lady Julia in the course of the next week was going to meet the Gazebees at Courcy Castle.
“I am delighted to think that I shall have the pleasure of seeing you there,” said Crosbie.
“Indeed!” said Lady Julia.
“I am going to Courcy on Wednesday. That, I fear, will be too early to allow of my being of any service to your ladyship.”
Lady Julia drew herself up, and declined the escort which Mr Crosbie had seemed to offer. It grieved her to find that Lily Dale’s future husband was an intimate friend of her friend’s and it especially grieved her to find that he was now going to that friends house. It was a grief to her, and she showed that it was. It also grieved Crosbie to find that Lady Julia was to be a fellow guest with himself at Courcy Castle; but he did not show it. He expressed nothing but smiles and civil self-congratulation on the matter, pretending that he would have much delight in again meeting Lady Julia; but, in truth, he would have given much could he have invented any manoeuvre by which her ladyship might have been kept at home.
“What a horrid old woman she is,” said Lily, as they rode back down the avenue. “I beg your pardon, Bernard; for, of course, she is your aunt.”
“Yes; she is my aunt; and though I am not very fond of her, I deny that she is a horrid old woman. She never murdered anybody, or robbed anybody, or stole away any other woman’s lover.”
“I should think not,” said Lily.
“She says her prayers earnestly, I have no doubt,” continued Bernard, “and gives away money to the poor, and would sacrifice tomorrow any desire of her own to her brother’s wish. I acknowledge that she is ugly, and pompous, and that, being a woman, she ought not to have such a long black beard on her upper lip.”
“I don’t care a bit about her beard,” said Lily. But why did she tell me to do my duty? I didn’t go there to have a sermon preached to me.”
“And why did she talk about beauty being dangerous? said Bell.” Of course, we all knew what she meant.”
“I didn’t know at all what she meant,” said Lily,” and I don’t know now.”
“I think she’s a charming woman, and I shall be especially civil to her at Lady de Courcy’s,” said Crosbie.
And in this way, saying hard things of the poor old spinster whom they had left, they made their way into Guestwick, and again dismounted at Mrs Eames’s door.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01