Gerard Maule, as the reader has been informed, wrote three lines to his dearest Adelaide to inform her that his father would not assent to the suggestion respecting Maule Abbey which had been made by Lady Chiltern, and then took no further steps in the matter. In the fortnight next after the receipt of his letter nothing was heard of him at Harrington Hall, and Adelaide, though she made no complaint, was unhappy. Then came the letter from Mr Spooner — with all its rich offers, and Adelaide’s mind was for a while occupied with wrath against her second suitor. But as the egregious folly of Mr Spooner — for to her thinking the aspirations of Mr Spooner were egregiously foolish — died out of her mind, her thoughts reverted to her engagement. Why did not the man come to her, or why did he not write?
She had received from Lady Chiltern an invitation to remain with them — the Chilterns — till her marriage. “But, dear Lady Chiltern, who knows when it will be?” Adelaide had said. Lady Chiltern had good-naturedly replied that the longer it was put off the better for herself. “But you’ll be going to London or abroad before that day comes.” Lady Chiltern declared that she looked forward to no festivities which could under any circumstances remove her four-and-twenty hours travelling distance from the kennels. Probably she might go up to London for a couple of months as soon as the hunting was over, and the hounds had been drafted, and the horses had been coddled, and every covert had been visited. From the month of May till the middle of July she might, perhaps, be allowed to be in town, as communications by telegram could now be made day and night. After that, preparations for cub-hunting would be imminent, and, as a matter of course, it would be necessary that she should be at Harrington Hall at so important a period of the year. During those couple of months she would be very happy to have the companionship of her friend, and she hinted that Gerard Maule would certainly be in town. “I begin to think it would have been better that I should never have seen Gerard Maule,” said Adelaide Palliser.
This happened about the middle of March, while hunting was still in force. Gerard’s horses were standing in the neighbourhood, but Gerard himself was not there. Mr Spooner, since that short, disheartening note had been sent to him by Lord Chiltern, had not been seen at Harrington. There was a Harrington Lawn Meet on one occasion, but he had not appeared till the hounds were at the neighbouring covert side. Nevertheless he had declared that he did not intend to give up the pursuit, and had even muttered something of the sort to Lord Chiltern. “I am one of those fellows who stick to a thing, you know,” he said.
“I am afraid you had better give up sticking to her, because she’s going to marry somebody else.”
“I’ve heard all about that, my lord. He’s a very nice sort of young man, but I’m told he hasn’t got his house ready yet for a family.” All which Lord Chiltern repeated to his wife. Neither of them spoke to Adelaide again about Mr Spooner; but this did cause a feeling in Lady Chiltern’s mind that perhaps this engagement with young Maule was a foolish thing, and that, if so, she was in a great measure responsible for the folly.
“Don’t you think you’d better write to him?” she said, one morning.
“Why does he not write to me?”
“But he did — when he wrote you that his father would not consent to give up the house. You did not answer him then.”
“It was two lines — without a date. I don’t even know where he lives.”
“You know his club?”
“Yes — I know his club. I do feel, Lady Chiltern, that I have become engaged to marry a man as to whom I am altogether in the dark. I don’t like writing to him at his club.”
“You have seen more of him here and in Italy than most girls see of their future husbands.”
“So I have — but I have seen no one belonging to him. Don’t you understand what I mean? I feel all at sea about him. I am sure he does not mean any harm.”
“Certainly he does not.”
“But then he hardly means any good.”
“I never saw a man more earnestly in love,” said Lady Chiltern.
“Oh yes — he’s quite enough in love. But — ”
“He’ll just remain up in London thinking about it, and never tell himself that there’s anything to be done. And then, down here, what is my best hope? Not that he’ll come to see me, but that he’ll come to see his horse, and that so, perhaps, I may get a word with him.” Then Lady Chiltern suggested, with a laugh, that perhaps it might have been better that she should have accepted Mr Spooner. There would have been no doubt as to Mr Spooner’s energy and purpose. “Only that if there was not another man in the world I wouldn’t marry him, and that I never saw any other man except Gerard Maule whom I even fancied I could marry.”
About a fortnight after this, when the hunting was all over, in the beginning of April, she did write to him as follows, and did direct her letter to his club. In the meantime Lord Chiltern had intimated to his wife that if Gerard Maule behaved badly he should consider himself to be standing in the place of Adelaide’s father or brother. His wife pointed out to him that were he her father or her brother he could do nothing — that in these days let a man behave ever so badly, no means of punishing was within reach of the lady’s friends. But Lord Chiltern would not assent to this. He muttered something about a horsewhip, and seemed to suggest that one man could, if he were so minded, always have it out with another, if not in this way, then in that. Lady Chiltern protested, and declared that horsewhips could not under any circumstances be efficacious. “He had better mind what he is about,” said Lord Chiltern. It was after this that Adelaide wrote her letter:
Harrington Hall, 5th April DEAR GERARD—
I have been thinking that I should hear from you, and have been surprised — I may say unhappy — because I have not done so. Perhaps you thought I ought to have answered the three words which you wrote to me about your father; if so, I will apologise; only they did not seem to give me anything to say. I was very sorry that your father should have ““cut up rough’”, as you call it, but you must remember that we both expected that he would refuse, and that we are only therefore where we thought we should be. I suppose we shall have to wait till providence does something for us — only, if so, it would be pleasanter to me to hear your own opinion about it.
The Chilterns are surprised that you shouldn’t have come back, and seen the end of the season. There were some very good runs just at last — particularly one on last Monday. But on Wednesday Trumpeton Wood was again blank, and there was some row about wires. I can’t explain it all; but you must come, and Lord Chiltern will tell you. I have gone down to see the horses ever so often — but I don’t care to go now as you never write to me. They are all three quite well, and Fan looks as silken and as soft as any lady need do.
Lady Chiltern has been kinder than I can tell you. I go up to town with her in May, and shall remain with her while she is there. So far I have decided. After that my future home must, sir, depend on the resolution and determination, or perhaps on the vagaries and caprices, of him who is to be my future master. Joking apart, I must know to what I am to look forward before I can make up my mind whether I will or will not go back to Italy towards the end of the summer. If I do, I fear I must do so just in the hottest time of the year; but I shall not like to come down here again after leaving London. — unless something by that time has been settled.
I shall send this to your club, and I hope that it will reach you. I suppose that you are in London.
Goodbye, dearest Gerard.
Yours most affectionately ADELAIDE
“If there is anything that troubles you, pray tell me. I ask you because I think it would be better for you that I should know. I sometimes think that you would have written if there had not been some misfortune. God bless you.”
Gerard was in London, and sent the following note by return of post:
— Club, Tuesday DEAREST ADELAIDE
All right. If Chiltern can take me for a couple of nights, I’ll come down next week, and settle about the horses, and will arrange everything.
Ever your own, with all my heart G . M .
“He will settle about his horses, and arrange everything,” said Adelaide, as she showed the letter to Lady Chiltern. “The horses first, and everything afterwards. The everything, of course, includes all my future happiness, the day of my marriage, whether tomorrow or in ten years’ time, and the place where we shall live.”
“At any rate, he’s coming.”
“Yes — but when? He says next week, but he does not name any day. Did you ever hear or see anything so unsatisfactory.”
“I thought you would be glad to see him.”
“So I should be — if there was any sense in him. I shall be glad, and shall kiss him.”
“I dare say you will.”
“And let him put his arm round my waist and be happy. He will be happy because he will think of nothing beyond. But what is to be the end of it?”
“He says that he will settle everything.”
“But he will have thought of nothing. What must I settle? That is the question. When he was told to go to his father, he went to his father. When he failed there the work was done, and the trouble was off his mind. I know him so well.”
“If you think so ill of him why did you consent to get into his boat?” said Lady Chiltern, seriously.
“I don’t think ill of him. Why do you say that I think ill of him? I think better of him than of anybody else in the world — but I know his fault, and, as it happens, it is a fault so very prejudicial to my happiness. You ask me why I got into his boat. Why does any girl get into a man’s boat? Why did you get into Lord Chiltern’s?”
“I promised to marry him when I was seven years old — so he says.”
“But you wouldn’t have done it, if you hadn’t had a sort of feeling that you were born to be his wife. I haven’t got into this man’s boat yet; but I never can be happy unless I do, simply because — ”
“You love him.”
“Yes — just that. I have a feeling that I should like to be in his boat, and I shouldn’t like to be anywhere else. After you have come to feel like that about a man I don’t suppose it makes any difference whether you think him perfect or imperfect. He’s just my own — at least I hope so — the one thing that I’ve got. If I wear a stuff frock, I’m not going to despise it because it’s not silk.”
“Mr Spooner would be the stuff frock.”
“No — Mr Spooner is shoddy, and very bad shoddy, too.
On the Saturday in the following week Gerard Maule did arrive at Harrington Hall — and was welcomed as only accepted lovers are welcomed. Not a word of reproach was uttered as to his delinquencies. No doubt he got the kiss with which Adelaide had herself suggested that his coming would be rewarded. He was allowed to stand on the rug before the fire with his arm round her waist. Lady Chiltern smiled on him. His horses had been specially visited that morning, and a lively report as to their condition was made to him. Not a word was said on that occasion which could distress him. Even Lord Chiltern when he came in was gracious to him. “Well, old fellow,” he said, “you’ve missed your hunting.”
“Yes; indeed. Things kept me in town.”
“We had some uncommonly good runs.”
“Have the horses stood pretty well?” asked Gerard.
“I felt uncommonly tempted to borrow yours; and should have done so once or twice if I hadn’t known that I should have been betrayed.”
“I wish you had, with all my heart,” said Gerard. And then they went to dress for dinner.
In the evening, when the ladies had gone to bed, Lord Chiltern took his friend off to the smoking-room. At Harrington Hall it was not unusual for the ladies and gentlemen to descend together into the very comfortable Pandemonium which was so called, when — as was the case at present — the terms of intimacy between them were sufficient to warrant such a proceeding. But on this occasion Lady Chiltern went very discreetly upstairs, and Adelaide, with equal discretion, followed her. It had been arranged beforehand that Lord Chiltern should say a salutary word or two to the young man. Maule began about the hunting, asking questions about this and that, but his host stopped him at once. Lord Chiltern, when he had a task on hand, was always inclined to get through it at once — perhaps with an energy that was too sudden in its effects. “Maule,” he said, “you ought to make up your mind what you mean to do about that girl.”
“Do about her! How?”
“You and she are engaged, I suppose?”
“Of course we are. There isn’t any doubt about it.”
“Just so. But when things come to be like that, all delays are good fun to the man, but they’re the very devil to the girl.”
“I thought it was always the other way up, and that girls wanted delay?”
“That’s only a theoretical delicacy which never means much. When a girl is engaged she likes to have the day fixed. When there’s a long interval the man can do pretty much as he pleases, while the girl can do nothing except think about him. Then it sometimes turns out that when he’s wanted, he’s not there.”
“I hope I’m not distrusted,” said Gerard, with an air that showed that he was almost disposed to be offended.
“Not in the least. The women here think you the finest paladin in the world, and Miss Palliser would fly at my throat if she thought that I said a word against you. But she’s in my house, you see; and I’m bound to do exactly as I should if she were my sister.”
“And if she were your sister?”
“I should tell you that I couldn’t approve of the engagement unless you were prepared to fix the time of your marriage. And I should ask you where you intended to live.”
“Wherever she pleases. I can’t go to Maule Abbey while my father lives, without his sanction.”
“And he may live for the next twenty years.”
“Then you are bound to decide upon something else. It’s no use saying that you leave it to her. You can’t leave it to her. What I mean is this, that now you are here, I think you are bound to settle something with her. Goodnight, old fellow.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14