Mr Glascock at that moment was not only in Florence, but was occupying rooms in the very hotel in which the Rowleys were staying. Lady Rowley, when she heard that he was engaged to marry an American lady, became suddenly very sick at heart sick with a sickness that almost went beyond her heart. She felt ill, and was glad to be alone. The rumour might be untrue. Such rumours generally are untrue. But then, as Lady Rowley knew very well, they generally have some foundation in truth. Mr Glascock, if he were not actually engaged to the American girl, had probably been flirting with her and, if so, where was that picture which Lady Rowley had been painting for herself of a love-lorn swain to be brought back to the pleasures and occupations of the world only by the girl of whom he was enamoured? But still she would not quite give up the project. Mr Glascock, if he was in Italy, would no doubt see by the newspapers that Sir Marmaduke and his family were in Florence and would probably come to them. Then, if Nora would only behave herself, the American girl might still be conquered.
During two or three days after this nothing was seen or heard of Mr Glascock. Had Lady Rowley thought of mentioning the name to the waiter at the hotel, she would have learned that he was living in the next passage; but it did not occur to her to seek information in that fashion. Nor did she ask direct questions in other quarters about Mr Glascock himself. She did, however, make inquiry about Americans living in Florence, especially about the American Minister and, before a week had passed overhead, had been introduced to the Spaldings. Mrs Spalding was very civil, and invited Lady Rowley and all the girls and Sir Marmaduke to come to her on her ‘Fridays.’ She received her friends every Friday, and would continue to do so till the middle of June. She had nieces who would, she said, be so happy to make the acquaintance of the Miss Rowleys.
By this time the picture galleries, the churches, and the palaces in Florence had nearly all been visited. Poor Lady Rowley had dragged herself wearily from sight to sight, hoping always to meet with Mr Glascock, ignorant of the fact that residents in a town do not pass their mornings habitually in looking after pictures. During this time inquiries were being made, through the police, respecting Trevelyan; and Sir Marmaduke had obtained information that an English gentleman, with a little boy, had gone on to Siena, and had located himself there. There seemed to be but little doubt that this was Trevelyan, though nothing had been learned with certainty as to the gentleman’s name. It had been decided that Sir Marmaduke, with his courier and Mrs Trevelyan, should go on to Siena, and endeavour to come upon the fugitive, and they had taken their departure on a certain morning. On that same day Lady Rowley was walking with Nora and one of the other girls through the hall of the hotel, when they were met in full face by Mr Glascock! Lady Rowley and Lucy were in front, and they, of course, did not know the man. Nora had seen him at once, and in her confusion hardly knew how to bear herself. Mr Glascock was passing by her without recognising her had passed her mother and sister, and had so far gone on, that Nora had determined to make no sign, when he chanced to look up and see who it was that was so close to him. ‘Miss Rowley,’ he said, ‘who thought of meeting you in Florence!’ Lady Rowley, of course, turned round, and there was an introduction. Poor Nora, though she knew nothing of her mother’s schemes, was confused and ill at ease. Mr Glascock was very civil, but at the same time rather cold. Lady Rowley was all smiles and courtesy. She had, she said, heard his name from her daughters, and was very happy to make his acquaintance. Lucy looked on somewhat astonished to find that the lover whom her sister had been blamed for rejecting, and who was spoken of with so many encomiums, was so old a man. Mr Glascock asked after Mrs Trevelyan; and Lady Rowley, in a low, melancholy whisper, told him that they were now all in Florence, in the hope of meeting Mr Trevelyan. ‘You have heard the sad story, I know, Mr Glascock, and therefore I do not mind telling you.’ Mr Glascock acknowledged that he did know the story, and informed her that he had seen Mr Trevelyan in Florence within the last ten days. This was so interesting, that, at Lady Rowley’s request, he went with them up to their rooms, and in this way the acquaintance was made. It turned out that Mr Glascock had spoken to Mr Trevelyan, and that Trevelyan had told him that he meant for the present to take up his residence in some small Italian town. ‘And how was he looking, Mr Glascock?’
‘Very ill, Lady Rowley, very ill, indeed.’
‘Do not tell her so, Mr Glascock. She has gone now with her father to Siena. We think that he is there, with the boy or, at least, that he may be heard of there. And you you are living here?’ Mr Glascock said that he was living between Naples and Florence, going occasionally to Naples, a place that he hated, to see his father, and coming back at intervals to the capital. Nora sat by, and hardly spoke a word. She was nicely dressed, with an exquisite little bonnet, which had been bought as they came through Paris; and Lady Rowley, with natural pride, felt that if he was ever in love with her child, that love must come back upon him now. American girls, she had been told, were hard, and dry, and sharp, and angular. She had seen some at the Mandarins, with whom she thought it must be impossible that any Englishman should be in love. There never, surely, had been an American girl like her Nora. ‘Are you fond of pictures, Mr Glascock?’ she asked. Mr Glascock was not very fond of pictures, and thought that he was rather tired of them. What was he fond of? Of sitting at home and doing nothing. That was his reply, at least; and a very unsatisfactory reply it was, as Lady Rowley could hardly propose that they should come and sit and do nothing with him. Could he have been lured into churches or galleries, Nora might have been once more thrown into his company. Then Lady Rowley took courage, and asked him whether he knew the Spaldings. They were going to Mrs Spalding’s that very evening, she and her daughters. Mr Glascock replied that he did know the Spaldings, and that he also should be at their house. Lady Rowley thought that she discovered something like a blush about his cheekbones and brow, as he made his answer. Then he left them, giving his hand to Nora as he went but there was nothing in his manner to justify the slightest hope.
‘I don’t think he is nice at all,’ said Lucy.
‘Don’t be so foolish, Lucy,’ said Lady Rowley angrily.
‘I think he is very nice,’ said Nora. ‘He was only talking nonsense when he said that he liked to sit still and do nothing. He is not at all an idle man; at least I am told so.’
‘But he is as old as Methuselah,’ said Lucy.
‘He is between thirty and forty,’ said Lady Rowley.
‘Of course we know that from the peerage.’ Lady Rowley, however, was wrong. Had she consulted the peerage, she would have seen that Mr Glascock was over forty.
Nora, as soon as she was alone and could think about it all, felt quite sure that Mr Glascock would never make her another offer. This ought not to have caused her any sorrow, as she was very well aware that she would not accept him, should he do so. Yet, perhaps, there was a moment of some feeling akin to disappointment. Of course she would not have accepted him. How could she? Her faith was so plighted to Hugh Stanbury that she would be a by-word among women for ever, were she to be so false. And, as she told herself, she had not the slightest feeling of affection for Mr Glascock. It was quite out of the question, and a matter simply for speculation. Nevertheless it would have been a very grand thing to be Lady Peterborough, and she almost regretted that she had a heart in her bosom.
She had become fully aware during that interview that her mother still entertained hopes, and almost suspected that Lady Rowley had known something of Mr Glascock’s residence in Florence. She had seen that her mother had met Mr Glascock almost as though some such meeting had been expected, and had spoken to him almost as though she had expected to have to speak to him. Would it not be better that she should at once make her mother understand that all this could be of no avail? If she were to declare plainly that nothing could bring about such a marriage, would not her mother desist? She almost made up her mind to do so; but as her mother said nothing to her before they started for Mr Spalding’s house, neither did she say anything to her mother. She did not wish to have angry words if they could be avoided, and she felt that there might be anger and unpleasant words were she to insist upon her devotion to Hugh Stanbury while this rich prize was in sight. If her mother should speak to her, then, indeed, she would declare her own settled purpose; but she would do nothing to accelerate the evil hour.
There were but few people in Mrs Spalding’s drawing-room when they were announced, and Mr Glascock was not among them. Miss Wallachia Petrie was there, and in the confusion of the introduction was presumed by Lady Rowley to be one of the nieces introduced. She had been distinctly told that Mr Glascock was to marry the eldest, and this lady was certainly older than the other two. In this way Lady Rowley decided that Miss Wallachia Petrie was her daughter’s hated rival, and she certainly was much surprised at the gentleman’s taste. But there is nothing nothing in the way of an absurd matrimonial engagement into which a man will not allow himself to be entrapped by pique. Nora would have a great deal to answer for, Lady Rowley thought, if the unfortunate man should be driven by her cruelty to marry such a woman as this one now before her.
It happened that Lady Rowley soon found herself seated by Miss Petrie, and she at once commenced her questionings. She intended to be very discreet, but the subject was too near her heart to allow her to be altogether silent. ‘I believe you know Mr Glascock?’ she said.
‘Yes,’ said Wallachia, ‘I do know him.’ Now the peculiar nasal twang which our cousins over the water have learned to use, and which has grown out of a certain national instinct which coerces them to express themselves with self-assertion — let the reader go into his closet and talk through his nose for awhile with steady attention to the effect which his own voice will have, and he will find that this theory is correct — this intonation, which is so peculiar among intelligent Americans, had been adopted con amore, and, as it were, taken to her bosom by Miss Petrie. Her ears had taught themselves to feel that there could be no vitality in speech without it, and that all utterance unsustained by such tone was effeminate, vapid, useless, unpersuasive, unmusical and English. It was a complaint frequently made by her against her friends Caroline and Olivia that they debased their voices, and taught themselves the puling British mode of speech. ‘I do know the gentleman,’ said Wallachia, and Lady Rowley shuddered. Could it be that such a woman as this was to reign over Monkhams, and become the future Lady Peterborough?
‘He told me that he is acquainted with the family,’ said Lady Rowley. ‘He is staying at our hotel, and my daughter knew him very well when he was living in London.’
‘I dare say. I believe that in London the titled aristocrats do hang pretty much together.’ It had never occurred to poor Lady Rowley, since the day in which her husband had been made a knight, at the advice of the Colonial Minister, in order that the inhabitants of some island might be gratified by the opportunity of using the title, that she and her children had thereby become aristocrats. Were her daughter Nora to marry Mr Glascock, Nora would become an aristocrat or would, rather, be ennobled, all which Lady Rowley understood perfectly.
‘I don’t know that London society is very exclusive in that respect,’ said Lady Rowley.
‘I guess you are pretty particular,’ said Miss Petrie, ‘and it seems to me you don’t have much regard to intellect or erudition but fix things up straight according to birth and money.’
‘I hope we are not quite so bad as that,’ said Lady Rowley. ‘I do not know London well myself, as I have passed my life in very distant places.’
‘The distant places are, in my estimation, the best. The further the mind is removed from the contamination incidental to the centres of long-established luxury, the more chance it has of developing itself according to the intention of the Creator, when he bestowed his gifts of intellect upon us.’ Lady Rowley, when she heard this eloquence, could hardly believe that such a man as Mr Glascock should really be intent upon marrying such a lady as this who was sitting next to her.
In the meantime, Nora and the real rival were together, and they also were talking of Mr Glascock. Caroline Spalding had said that Mr Glascock had spoken to her of Nora Rowley, and Nora acknowledged that there had been some acquaintance between them in London. ‘Almost more than that, I should have thought,’ said Miss Spalding, ‘if one might judge by his manner of speaking of you.’
‘He is a little given to be enthusiastic,’ said Nora, laughing.
‘The least so of all mankind, I should have said. You must know he is very intimate in this house. It begun in this way. Olivia and I were travelling together, and there was a difficulty, as we say in our country when three or four gentlemen shoot each other. Then there came up Mr Glascock and another gentleman. By-the-bye, the other gentleman was your brother-in-law.’
‘Poor Mr Trevelyan!’
‘He is very ill, is he not?’
‘We think so. My sister is with us, you know. That is to say, she is at Siena today.’
‘I have heard about him, and it is so sad. Mr Glascock knows him. As I said, they were travelling together, when Mr Glascock came to our assistance. Since that, we have seen him very frequently. I don’t think he is enthusiastic except when he talks of you.’
‘I ought to be very proud,’ said Nora.
‘I think you ought, as Mr Glascock is a man whose good opinion is certainly worth having. Here he is. Mr Glascock, I hope your ears are tingling. They ought to do so, because we are saying all manner of fine things about you.’
‘I could not be well spoken of by two on whose good word I should set a higher value,’ said he.
‘And whose do you value the most?’ said Caroline.
‘I must first know whose eulogium will run the highest.’
Then Nora answered him. ‘Mr Glascock, other people may praise you louder than I can do, but no one will ever do so with more sincerity.’ There was a pretty earnestness about her as she spoke, which Lady Rowley ought to have heard. Mr Glascock bowed, and Miss Spalding smiled, and Nora blushed.
‘If you are not overwhelmed now,’ said Miss Spalding, ‘you must be so used to flattery, that it has no longer any effect upon you. You must be like a drunkard, to whom wine is as water, and who thinks that brandy is not strong enough.’
‘I think I had better go away,’ said Mr Glascock, ‘for fear the brandy should be watered by degrees.’ And so he left them.
Nora had become quite aware, without much process of thinking about it, that her former lover and this American young lady were very intimate with each other. The tone of the conversation had shewn that it was so and, then, how had it come to pass that Mr Glascock had spoken to this American girl about her, Nora Rowley? It was evident that he had spoken of her with warmth, and had done so in a manner to impress his hearer. For a minute or two they sat together in silence after Mr Glascock had left them, but neither of them stirred. Then Caroline Spalding turned suddenly upon Nora, and took her by the hand. ‘I must tell you something,’ said she, ‘only it must be a secret for awhile.’
‘I will not repeat it.’
‘Thank you, dear. I am engaged to him as his wife. He asked me this very afternoon, and nobody knows it but my aunt. When I had accepted him, he told me all the story about you. He had very often spoken of you before, and I had guessed how it must have been. He wears his heart so open for those whom he loves, that there is nothing concealed. He had seen you just before he came to me. But perhaps I am wrong to tell you that now. He ought to have been thinking of you again at such a time.’
‘I did not want him to think of me again.’
‘Of course you did not. Of course I am joking. You might have been his wife if you wished it. He has told me all that. And he especially wants us to be friends. Is there anything to prevent it?’
‘On my part? Oh, dear, no except that you will be such grand folk, and we shall be so poor.’
‘We!’ said Caroline, laughing. ‘I am so glad that there is a “we.”’
Last updated Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 20:26