One morning towards the end of March the squire rapped at the window of the drawing-room of the Small House in which Mrs Dale and Lily were sitting. He had a letter in his hand, and both Lily and her mother knew that he had come down to speak about the contents of the letter. It was always a sign of good-humour on the squire’s part, this rapping at the window. When it became necessary to him in his gloomy moods to see his sister-in-law, he would write a note to her, and she would go across to him at the Great House. At other times, if, as Lily would say, he was just then neither sweet nor bitter, he would go round to the front door and knock, and be admitted after the manner of ordinary people; but when he was minded to make himself thoroughly pleasant he would come and rap at the drawing-room window, as he was doing now.
‘I’ll let you in, uncle; wait a moment,’ said Lily, as she unbolted the window which opened out upon the lawn. ‘It’s dreadfully cold, so come in as fast as you can.’
‘It’s not cold at all,’ said the squire. ‘It’s more like spring than any morning we’ve had yet. I’ve been sitting without a fire.’
‘You won’t catch us without one for the next two months; will he, mamma? You have got a letter, uncle. Is it for us to see?’
‘Well — yes; I’ve brought it down to show you. Mary, what do you think is going to happen?’
A terrible idea occurred to Mrs Dale at that moment, but she was much too wise to give it expression. Could it be possible that the squire was going to make a fool of himself and get married? ‘I am very bad at guessing,’ said Mrs Dale. ‘You had better tell us.’
‘Bernard is going to be married,’ said Lily.
‘How did you know?’ said the squire.
‘I didn’t know. I only guessed.’
‘Then you’ve guessed right,’ said the squire, a little annoyed at having his news thus taken out of his mouth.
‘I am so glad,’ said Mrs Dale; ‘and I know from your manner that you like the match.’
‘Well — yes. I don’t know the young lady, but I think that upon the whole I do like it. It’s quite time, you know, that he got married.’
‘He’s not thirty yet,’ said Mrs Dale.
‘He will be in a month or two.’
‘And who is it, uncle?’
‘Well; — as you’re so good at guessing, I suppose you can guess that?’
‘It’s not that Miss Partridge he used to talk about?’
‘No; it’s not Miss Partridge — I’m glad to say. I don’t believe that the Partridges have a shilling among them.’
‘Then I suppose it’s an heiress,’ said Mrs Dale.
‘No; not an heiress; but she will have some money of her own. And she had connexions in Barsetshire, which makes it pleasant.’
‘Connexions in Barsetshire! Who can it be?’ said Lily.
‘Her name is Emily Dunstable,’ said the squire, ‘and she is the niece of Miss Dunstable who married Dr Thorne and who lives at Chaldicotes.’
‘She was the woman who had millions upon millions,’ said Lily, ‘and all got by selling ointment.’
‘Never mind how it was got,’ said the squire angrily. ‘Miss Dunstable married most respectably, and has always made a most excellent use of her money.’
‘And will Bernard’s wife have all her fortune?’ asked Lily.
‘She will have twenty thousand pounds the day she marries, and I suppose that will be all.’
‘And quite enough, too,’ said Mrs Dale.
‘It seems that old Mr Dunstable, as he was called, who, as Lily says, sold the ointment, quarrelled with his son or with his son’s widow, and left nothing either to her or to her child. The mother is dead, and the aunt, Dr Thorne’s wife, has always provided for the child. That’s how it is, and Bernard is going to marry her. They are to be married at Chaldicotes in May.’
‘I am delighted to hear it,’ said Mrs Dale.
‘I’ve known Dr Thorne for the last forty years;’ and the squire now spoke in a low melancholy tone. ‘I’ve written to him to say that the young people shall have the old place up there to themselves if they like it.’
‘What! And turn you out?’ said Mrs Dale.
‘That would not matter,’ said the squire.
‘You’d have to come and live with us,’ said Lily, taking him by the hand.
‘It doesn’t matter much now where I live,’ said the squire.
‘Bernard would never consent to that,’ said Mrs Dale.
‘I wonder whether she will ask me to be a bridesmaid?’ said Lily. ‘They say that Chaldicotes is such a pretty place, and I should see all the Barsetshire people that I’ve been hearing about from Grace. Poor Grace! I know that the Grantlys and the Thornes are very intimate. Fancy Bernard having twenty thousand pounds from the making of ointment!’
‘What does it matter where it comes from?’ said the squire, half in anger.
‘Not in the least; only it sounds so odd. I do hope she’s a nice girl.’
Then the squire produced a photograph of Emily Dunstable which his nephew had sent to him, and they all pronounced her to be very pretty, very much like a lady, and to be very good-humoured. The squire was evidently pleased with the match, and therefore the ladies were pleased also. Bernard Dale was the heir to the estate, and his marriage was of course a matter of moment; and as on such properties as that of Allington money is always wanted, the squire may be forgiven for the great importance which he attached to the young lady’s fortune. ‘Bernard could hardly have married prudently without any money,’ he said —‘unless he had chosen to wait till I am gone.’
‘And then he would have been too old to marry at all,’ said Lily.
But the squire’s budget of news had not yet been emptied. He told them soon afterwards that he himself had been summoned up to London. Bernard had written to him, begging him to come and see the young lady; and the family lawyer had written also, saying that his presence in town would be very desirable. ‘It is very troublesome, of course; but I shall go,’ said the squire. ‘It will do you all the good in the world,’ said Mrs Dale; ‘and of course you ought to know her personally before the marriage.’ And then the squire made a clean breast of it and declared his full purpose. ‘I was thinking that, perhaps, Lily would not object to go up to London with me.’
‘Oh, uncle Christopher, I should so like it,’ said Lily.
‘If your mamma does not object.’
‘Mamma never objects to anything. I should like to see her objecting to that!’ And Lily shook her head at her mother.
‘Bernard says that Miss Dunstable particularly wants to see you.’
‘Does she, indeed? And I particularly want to see Miss Dunstable. How nice! Mamma, I don’t think I’ve ever been in London since I wore short frocks. Do you remember taking us to the pantomime? Only think how many years ago that is. I’m quite sure it’s time that Bernard should get married. Uncle, I hope you’re prepared to take me to the play.’
‘We must see about that.’
‘And the opera, and Madame Tussaud, and the Horticultural Gardens, and the new conjuror who makes a woman lie upon nothing. The idea of my going to London! And then I suppose I shall be one of the bridesmaids. I declare a new vista of life is opening out to me! Mamma, you mustn’t be dull while I’m away. It won’t be very long, I suppose, uncle?’
‘About a month, probably,’ said the squire.
‘Oh, mamma; what will you do?’
‘Never mind me, Lily.’
‘You must get Bell and the children to come. But I cannot imagine living away from home a month. I was never away from home a month in my life.’
And Lily did go up to town with her uncle, two days only after having been allowed to her for her preparations. There was very much for to think of in such a journey. It was not only that she would see Emily Dunstable who was to be her cousin’s wife, and that she would go to the play and visit the new conjurer’s entertainment, but that she would be in the same city both with Adolphus Crosbie and with John Eames. Not having personal experience of the wideness of London, and of the wilderness which it is — of the distance which is set there between persons who are not purposely brought together — it seemed to her fancy as though for this month of her absence from home she would be brought into close contiguity with both her lovers. She had hitherto felt herself to be at any rate safe in her fortress at Allington. When Crosbie had written to her mother, making a renewed offer which had been rejected, Lily had felt that she certainly need not see him unless it pleased her to do so. He could hardly force himself upon her at Allington. And as to John Eames, though he would, of course, be welcome at Allington as often as he pleased to show himself, still there was a security in the place. She was so much at home there that she could always be the mistress of the occasion. She knew that she could talk to him at Allington as though from ground higher than that on which he stood himself; but she felt that this would hardly be the case if she should chance to meet him in London. Crosbie probably would not come in her way. Crosbie, she thought — and she blushed for the man she loved, as the idea came across her mind — would be afraid of meeting her uncle. But John Eames would certainly find her; and she was led by the experience of latter days to image that John would never cross her path without renewing his attempts.
But she said no word of this, even to her mother. She was contented to confine her outspoken expectations to Emily Dunstable, and the play, and the conjurer. ‘The chances are ten to one against my liking her, mamma,’ she said.
‘I don’t see that, my dear.’
‘I feel to be too old to think that I shall ever like any more new people. Three years ago I should have been quite sure that I should love a new cousin. It would have been like having a new dress. But I’ve come to think that an old dress is the most comfortable, and an old cousin certainly the best.’
The squire had taken for them a gloomy lodging in Sackville Street. Lodgings in London are always gloomy. Gloomy colours wear better than bright ones for curtains and carpets, and the keepers of lodgings in London seem to think that a certain dinginess of appearance is respectable. I never saw a London lodging in which any attempt at cheerfulness had been made, and I do not think that any such attempt, if made, would pay. The lodging-seeker would be frightened and dismayed, and would unconsciously be led to fancy that something was wrong. Ideas of burglars and improper persons would present themselves. This is so certainly the case that I doubt whether any well-conditioned lodging-house matron could be induced to show rooms that were prettily draped or pleasantly coloured. The big drawing-room and two large bedrooms which the squire took were all that was proper, and were as brown, and as gloomy, and as ill-suited for the comforts of ordinary life as though they had been prepared for two prisoners. But Lily was not so ignorant as to expect cheerful lodgings in London, and was satisfied. ‘And what are we to do now?’ said Lily, as soon as they found themselves settled. It was still March, and whatever may have been the nature of the weather at Allington, it was very cold in London. They reached Sackville Street about five in the evening, and an hour was taken up in unpacking their trunks and making themselves as comfortable as their circumstances allowed. ‘And now what are we to do now?’ said Lily.
‘I told them to have dinner for us at half-past six.’
‘And what after that? Won’t Bernard come to us tonight? I expected him to be standing on the door-steps waiting for us with his bride in his hand.’
‘I don’t suppose Bernard will be here tonight,’ said the squire. ‘He did not say that he would, and as for Miss Dunstable, I promised to take you to her aunt’s house tomorrow.’
‘But I wanted to see her tonight. Well; — of course bridesmaids must wait upon brides. And ladies with twenty thousand pounds can’t be expected to run about like common people. As for Bernard — but Bernard never was in a hurry.’ Then they dined, and when the squire had very nearly fallen asleep over a bottle of port wine which had been sent in for him from some neighbouring public-house, Lily began to feel that it was very dull. And she looked round the room, and she though that it was very ugly. And she calculated that thirty evenings so spent would seem to be very long. And she reflected that the hours were probably going much more quickly with Emily Dunstable, who, no doubt, at this moment had Bernard Dale by her side. And then she told herself that the hours were not tedious with her at home, while sitting with her mother, with all her daily occupations within her reach. But in so telling herself she took herself to task, inquiring of herself whether such an assurance was altogether true. Were not the hours sometimes tedious even at home? And in this way her mind wandered off to thoughts upon life in general, and she repeated to herself over and over again the two words which she had told John Eames that she would write in her journal. The reader will remember those two words — Old Maid. And she had written them in her book, making each letter a capital, and round them she had drawn a scroll, ornamented after her own fashion, and she had added the date in quaintly formed figures — for in such matters Lily had some little skill and a dash of fun to direct it; and she had inscribed below it an Italian motto:—‘Who goes softly, goes safely’; and above her work of art she had put a heading — As arranged fate for L.D.’ Now she thought of all this, and reflected whether Emily Dunstable was in truth very happy. Presently the tears came into her eyes, and she got up and went to the window, as though she were afraid that her uncle might wake and see them. And as she looked out on the blank street, she muttered a word or two —‘Dear mother! Dearest mother!’ Then the door was opened, and her cousin Bernard announced himself. She had not heard his knock at the door as she had been thinking of the two words in her book.
‘What; Bernard! — ah, yes, of course,’ said the squire, rubbing his eyes as he strove to wake himself. ‘I wasn’t sure you would come, but I’m delighted to see you. I wish you joy with all my heart — with all my heart.’
‘Of course, I should come,’ said Bernard. ‘Dear Lily, this is so good of you. Emily is so delighted.’ Then Lily spoke her congratulations warmly, and there was no trace of a tear in her eyes, and she was thoroughly happy as she sat by her cousin’s side, and listened to his raptures about Emily Dunstable. ‘And you will be so fond of her aunt,’ he said.
‘But is she not awfully rich?’ said Lily.
‘Frightfully rich,’ said Bernard; ‘but really you would hardly find it out if nobody told you. Of course she lives in a big house, and has a heap of servants; but she can’t help that.’
‘I hate a heap of servants,’ said Lily.
Then there came another knock at the door, and who should enter the room but John Eames. Lily for a moment was taken aback, but it was only for a moment. She had been thinking so much of him that his presence disturbed her for an instant. ‘He probably will not know that I am here,’ she had said to herself; but she had not yet been three hours in London, and he was already with her! At first he hardly spoke to her, addressing himself to the squire. ‘Lady Julia told me you were to be here, and as I start for the Continent early tomorrow morning, I thought you would let me come and see you before I went.’
‘I’m always glad to see you, John,’ said the squire —‘very glad. And so you are going abroad, are you?’
Then Johnny congratulated his old acquaintance, Bernard Dale, as to his coming marriage, and explained to them how Lady Julia in one of her letters had told him all about it, and had even given him the number in Sackville Street. ‘I suppose she learned it from you, Lily,’ said the squire. ‘Yes uncle, she did.’ And then there came questions as to John’s projected journey to the Continent, and he explained that he was going on law-business, on behalf of Mr Crawley, to catch the dean and Mrs Arabin, if it might be possible. ‘You see, sir, Mr Toogood, who is Mr Crawley’s cousin, and also his lawyer, is my cousin too; and that’s why I’m going.’ And still there had been hardly a word spoken between him and Lily.
‘But you’re not a lawyer, John; are you?’ said the squire.
‘No. I’m not a lawyer myself.’
‘Nor a lawyer’s clerk?’
‘Certainly not a lawyer’s clerk,’ said John, laughing.
‘Then why should you go?’ asked Bernard Dale.
Then Johnny had to explain, and in doing so he became very eloquent as to the hardships of Mr Crawley’s case. ‘You see, sir, nobody can possibly believe that such a man as that stole twenty pounds.’
‘I do not for one,’ said Lily.
‘God forbid that I should say he did,’ said the squire.
‘I’m quite sure he didn’t,’ said Johnny, warming to his subject. ‘It couldn’t be that such a man as that should become a thief all at once. It’s not human nature, sir; is it?’
‘It’s very hard to know what human nature is,’ said the squire.
‘It’s the general opinion down in Barsetshire that he did steal it,’ said Bernard. ‘Dr Thorne was one of the magistrates who committed him, and I know he thinks so.’
‘I don’t blame the magistrates in the least,’ said Johnny.
‘That’s kind of you,’ said the squire.
‘Of course you’ll laugh at me, sir; but you’ll see that we shall come out right. There’s some mystery in it of which we haven’t got at the bottom as yet; and if there is anybody that can help us it is the dean.’
‘If the dean knows anything, why has he not written and told what he knows?’ said the squire.
‘That’s what I can’t say. The dean has not had an opportunity of writing since he heard — even if he has yet heard — that Mr Crawley is to be tried. And then he and Mrs Arabin are not together. It’s a long story, and I will not trouble you with it all; but at any rate I’m going off tomorrow. Lily, can I do anything for you in Florence?’
‘In Florence?’ said Lily; ‘and are you really going to Florence? How I envy you.’
‘And who pays your expenses,’ said the squire.
‘Well; — as to my expenses, they are to be paid by a person who won’t raise any unpleasant questions about the amount.’
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ said the squire.
‘He means himself,’ said Lily.
‘I’m going to have a trip for my own fun,’ said Johnny, ‘and I shall pick up evidence on the road, as I’m going — that’s all.’
Then Lily began to take an active part in the conversation, and a great deal was said about Mr Crawley, and about Grace, and Lily declared that she would be very anxious to hear any news which John Eames might be able to send. ‘You know, John, how fond we are of your cousin Grace, at Allington? Are we not, uncle?’
‘Yes, indeed,’ said the squire. ‘I thought her a very nice girl.’
‘If you should be able to learn anything that may be of use, John, how happy you will be.’
‘Yes, I shall,’ said John.
‘And I think it’s so good of you to go, John. But it is just like you. You were always generous.’ Soon after that he got up and went. It was very clear to him that he would have no moment in which to say a word alone to Lily; and if he could find such a moment, what good would such a word do him? It was as yet but a few weeks since she had positively refused him. And he too remembered very well those two words which she had told him she would write in her book. As he had been coming to the house he had told himself that his coming would be — could be of no use. And yet he was disappointed with the result of his visit, although she had spoken to him so sweetly.
‘I suppose you’ll be gone when I get back,’ he said.
‘We shall be here a month,’ said the squire.
‘I shall be back long before that, I hope,’ said Johnny. ‘Good-bye, sir. Good-bye, Dale. Good-bye, Lily.’ And he put out his hand to her.
‘Good-bye, John.’ And then she added, almost in a whisper. ‘I think you are very, very right to go.’ How could he fail after that to hope as he walked home that she might still relent. And she also thought much of him, but her thoughts of him made her cling more firmly than ever to those two words. She could not bring herself to marry him; but, at least, she would not break his heart by becoming the wife of anyone else. Soon after this Bernard Dale went also. I am not sure that he had been well pleased at seeing John Eames become suddenly the hero of the hour. When a young man is going to perform so important an act as marriage he is apt to think that he ought to be the hero of the hour himself — at any rate among his own family.
Early on the next morning Lily was taken by her uncle to call upon Mrs Thorne, and to see Emily Dunstable. Bernard was to meet them there, but it had been arranged that they should reach the house first. ‘There is nothing so absurd as these introductions,’ Bernard had said. ‘You go and look at her, and when you’ve had time to look at her, then I’ll come!’ So the squire and Lily went off to look at Emily Dunstable.
‘You don’t mean to say that she lives in that house?’ said Lily, when the cab was stopped before an enormous mansion in one of the most fashionable of the London squares.
‘I believe she does,’ said the squire.
‘I never shall be able to speak to anybody living in such a house as that,’ said Lily. ‘A duke couldn’t have anything grander.’
‘Mrs Thorne is richer than half the dukes,’ said the squire. Then the door was opened by a porter, and Lily found herself within the hall. Everything was very great, and very magnificent, and, as she thought, very uncomfortable. Presently she heard a loud jovial voice on the stairs. ‘Mr Dale, I’m delighted to see you. And this is your niece Lily. Come up, my dear. There is a young woman upstairs dying to embrace you. Never mind the umbrella. Put it down anywhere. I want to have a look at you, because Bernard swears that you’re so pretty.’ This was Mrs Thorne, once Miss Dunstable, the richest woman in England, and the aunt of Bernard’s bride. The reader may perhaps remember the advice which she once gave to Major Grantly, and her enthusiasm on that occasion. ‘There she is, Mr Dale; what do you think of her?’ said Mrs Thorne as she opened the door of a small sitting-room wedged in between two large saloons, in which Emily Dunstable was sitting.
‘Aunt Martha, how can you be so ridiculous?’ said the young lady.
‘I suppose it is ridiculous to ask the question to which one really wants to have an answer,’ said Mrs Thorne. ‘But Mr Dale has, in truth, come to inspect you, and to form an opinion; and, in honest truth, I shall be very anxious to know what he thinks — though, of course, he won’t tell me.’
The old man took the girl in his arms, and kissed her on both cheeks. ‘I have no doubt you will find out what I think,’ he said, ‘though I should never tell you.’
‘I generally do find out what people think,’ she said. ‘And so you’re Lily Dale?’
‘Yes, I’m Lily Dale.’
‘I have so often heard of you, particularly of late; for you must know that a certain Major Grantly is a friend of mine. We must take care that that affair comes off all right, must we not?’
‘I hope it will.’ Then Lily turned to Emily Dunstable, and, taking her hand, went up and sat beside her, while Mrs Thorne and the squire talked of the coming marriage. ‘How long have you been engaged?’ said Lily.
‘Really engaged about three weeks. I think it is not more than three weeks ago.’
‘How very discreet Bernard has been. He never said a word about it while it was going on.’
‘Men never do tell, I suppose,’ said Emily Dunstable.
‘Of course you love him dearly?’ said Lily, not knowing what else to say.
‘Of course I do.’
‘And so do we. You know he’s almost a brother to us; that is, to me and my sister. We never had a brother of our own.’ And so the morning was passed till Lily was told by her uncle to come away, and was told also by Mrs Thorne that she was to dine with them in the square on that day. ‘You must not be surprised that my husband is not here,’ she said. ‘He’s a very odd sort of man, and he never comes to London if he can help it.’
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14