Gerard Maule, as he sat upstairs half undressed in his bedroom that night didn’t like it. He hardly knew what it was that he did not like — but he felt that there was something wrong. He thought that Lord Chiltern had not been warranted in speaking to him with a tone of authority, and in talking of a brother’s position — and the rest of it. He had lacked the presence of mind for saying anything at the moment; but he must say something sooner or later. He wasn’t going to be driven by Lord Chiltern. When he looked back at his own conduct he thought that it had been more than noble — almost romantic. He had fallen in love with Miss Palliser, and spoken his love out freely, without any reference to money. He didn’t know what more any fellow could have done. As to his marrying out of hand, the day after his engagement, as a man of fortune can do, everybody must have known that that was out of the question. Adelaide of course had known it. It had been suggested to him that he should consult his father as to living at Maule Abbey. Now if there was one thing he hated more than another, it was consulting his father; and yet he had done it. He had asked for a loan of the old house in perfect faith, and it was not his fault that it had been refused. He could not make a house to live in, nor could he coin a fortune. He had oe800 a-year of his own, but of course he owed a little money. Men with such incomes always do owe a little money. It was almost impossible that he should marry quite at once. It was not his fault that Adelaide had no fortune of her own. When he fell in love with her he had been a great deal too generous to think of fortune, and that ought to he remembered now to his credit. Such was the sum of his thoughts, and his anger spread itself from Lord Chiltern even on to Adelaide herself. Chiltern would hardly have spoken in that way unless she had complained. She, no doubt, had been speaking to Lady Chiltern, and Lady Chiltern had passed it on to her husband. He would have it out with Adelaide on the next morning — quite decidedly. And he would make Lord Chiltern understand that he would not endure interference. He was quite ready to leave Harrington Hall at a moment’s notice if he were ill-treated. This was the humour in which Gerard Maule put himself to bed that night.
On the following morning he was very late at breakfast — so late that Lord Chiltern had gone over to the kennels. As he was dressing he had resolved that it would be fitting that he should speak again to his host before he said anything to Adelaide that might appear to impute blame to her. He would ask Chiltern whether anything was meant by what had been said over-night. But, as it happened, Adelaide had been left alone to pour out his tea for him, and — as the reader will understand to have been certain on such an occasion — they were left together for an hour in the breakfast parlour. It was impossible that such an hour should be passed without some reference to the grievance which was lying heavy on his heart. “Late; I should think you are,” said Adelaide laughing. “It is nearly eleven. Lord Chiltern has been out an hour. I suppose you never get up early except for hunting.”
“People always think it is so wonderfully virtuous to get up. What’s the use of it?”
“Your breakfast is so cold.”
“I don’t care about that. I suppose they can boil me an egg. I was very seedy when I went to bed.”
“You smoked too many cigars, sir.”
“No, I didn’t; but Chiltern was saying things that I didn’t like.” Adelaide’s face at once became very serious. “Yes, a good deal of sugar, please. I don’t care about toast, and anything does for me. He has gone to the kennels, has he?”
“He said he should. What was he saying last night?”
“Nothing particular. He has a way of blowing up, you know; and he looks at one just as if he expected that everybody was to do just what he chooses.”
“You didn’t quarrel.”
“Not at all; I went off to bed without saying a word. I hate jaws. I shall just put it right this morning; that’s all.”
“Was it about me, Gerard?”
“It doesn’t signify the least.”
“But it does signify. If you and he were to quarrel would it not signify to me very much? How could I stay here with them, or go up to London with them, if you and he had really quarrelled? You must tell me. I know that it was about me.” Then she came and sat close to him. “Gerard,” she continued, “I don’t think you understand how much everything is to me that concerns you.”
When he began to reflect, he could not quite recollect what it was that Lord Chiltern had said to him. He did remember that something had been suggested about a brother and sister which had implied that Adelaide might want protection, but there was nothing unnatural or other than kind in the position which Lord Chiltern had declared that he would assume. “He seemed to think that I wasn’t treating you well,” said he, turning round from the breakfast-table to the fire, “and that is a sort of thing I can’t stand.”
“I have never said so, Gerard.”
“I don’t know what it is that he expects, or why he should interfere at all. I can’t bear to be interfered with. What does he know about it? He has had somebody to pay everything for him half a dozen times, but I have to look out for myself.”
“What does all this mean?”
“You would ask me, you know. I am bothered out of my life by ever so many things, and now he comes and adds his botheration.”
“What bothers you, Gerard? If anything bothers you, surely you will tell me. If there has been anything to trouble you since you saw your father why have you not written and told me? Is your trouble about me?”
“Well, of course it is, in a sort of way.”
“I will not be a trouble to you.”
“Now you are going to misunderstand me! Of course, you are not a trouble to me. You know that I love you better than anything in the world.”
“I hope so.”
“Of course I do.” Then he put his arm round her waist and pressed her to his bosom. “But what can a man do? When Lady Chiltern recommended that I should go to my father and tell him, I did it, I knew that no good could come of it. He wouldn’t lift his hand to do anything for me.”
“How horrid that is!”
“He thinks it a shame that I should have my uncle’s money, though he never had any more right to it than that man out there. He is always saying that I am better off than he is.”
“I suppose you are.”
“I am very badly off, I know that. People seem to think that oe800 is ever so much, but I find it to be very little.”
“And it will be much less if you are married,” said Adelaide gravely.
“Of course, everything must be changed, I must sell my horses, and we must cut and run, and go and live at Boulogne, I suppose. But a man can’t do that kind of thing all in a moment. Then Chiltern comes and talks as though he were Virtue personified. What business is it of his?”
Then Adelaide became still more grave. She had now removed herself from his embrace, and was standing a little apart from him on the rug. She did not answer him at first; and when she did so, she spoke very slowly. “We have been rash, I fear; and have done what we have done without sufficient thought.”
“I don’t say that at all.”
“But I do. It does seem now that we have been imprudent.” Then she smiled as she completed her speech. “There had better be no engagement between us.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because it is quite clear that it has been a trouble to you rather than a happiness.”
“I wouldn’t give it up for all the world.”
“But it will be better. I had not thought about it as I should have done. I did not understand that the prospect of marrying would make you — so very poor. I see it now. You had better tell Lord Chiltern that it is — done with, and I will tell her the same. It will be better; and I will go back to Italy at once.”
“Certainly not. It is not done with, and it shall not be done with.”
“Do you think I will marry the man I love when he tells me that by — marrying — me he will be — banished to — Bou — logne? You had better see Lord Chiltern; indeed you had.” And then she walked out of the room.
Then came upon him at once a feeling that he had behaved badly; and yet he had been so generous, so full of intentions to be devoted and true! He had never for a moment thought of breaking off the match, and would not think of it now. He loved her better than ever, and would live only with the intention of making her his wife. But he certainly should not have talked to her of his poverty, nor should he have mentioned Boulogne. And yet what should he have done? She would cross-question him about Lord Chiltern, and it was so essentially necessary that he should make her understand his real condition. It had all come from that man’s unjustifiable interference — as he would at once go and tell him. Of course he would marry Adelaide, but the marriage must be delayed. Everybody waits twelve months before they are married; and why should she not wait? He was miserable because he knew that he had made her unhappy — but the fault had been with Lord Chiltern. He would speak his mind frankly to Chiltern, and then would explain with loving tenderness to his Adelaide that they would still be all in all to each other, but that a short year must elapse before he could put his house in order for her. After that he would sell his horses. That resolve was in itself so great that he did not think it necessary at the present moment to invent any more plans for the future. So he went out into the hall, took his hat, and marched off to the kernels.
At the kennels he found Lord Chiltern surrounded by the denizens of the hunt. His huntsman, with the kennelman and feeder, and two whips, and old Doggett were all there, and the Master of the Hounds was in the middle of his business. The dogs were divided by ages, as well as by sex, and were being brought out and examined. Old Doggett was giving advice, differing almost always from Cox, the huntsman, as to the propriety of keeping this hound or of cashiering that. Nose, pace, strength, and docility were all questioned with an eagerness hardly known in any other business; and on each question Lord Chiltern listened to everybody, and then decided with a single word. When he had once resolved, nothing further urged by any man then could avail anything. Jove never was so autocratic, and certainly never so much in earnest. From the look of Lord Chiltern’s brow it almost seemed as though this weight of empire must be too much for any mere man. Very little notice was taken of Gerard Maule when he joined the conclave, though it was felt in reference to him that he was sufficiently staunch a friend to the hunt to be trusted with the secrets of the kennel. Lord Chiltern merely muttered some words of greeting, and Cox lifted the old hunting-cap which he wore. For another hour the conference was held. Those who have attended such meetings know well that a morning on the flags is apt to be a long affair. Old Doggett, who had privileges, smoked a pipe, and Gerard Maule lit one cigar after another. But Lord Chiltern had become too thorough a man of business to smoke when so employed. At last the last order was given — Doggett snarled his last snarl — and Cox uttered his last “My lord’. Then Gerard Maule and the Master left the hounds and walked home together.
The affair had been so long that Gerard had almost forgotten his grievance. But now as they got out together upon the park, he remembered the tone of Adelaide’s voice as she left him, and remembered also that, as matters stood at present, it was essentially necessary that something should be said. “I suppose I shall have to go and see that woman,” said Lord Chiltern.
“Do you mean Adelaide?” asked Maule, in a tone of infinite surprise.
“I mean this new Duchess, who I’m told is to manage everything herself. That man Fothergill is going on with just the old game at Trumpeton.”
“Is he, indeed? I was thinking of something else just at that moment. You remember what you were saying about Miss Palliser last night.”
“Well — I don’t think, you know, you had a right to speak as you did.”
Lord Chiltern almost flew at his companion, as he replied, “I said nothing. I do say that when a man becomes engaged to a girl, he should let her hear from him, so that they may know what each other is about.”
“You hinted something about being her brother.”
“Of course I did. If you mean well by her, as I hope you do, it can’t fret you to think that she has got somebody to look after her till you come in and take possession. It is the commonest thing in the world when a girl is left all alone as she is.”
“You seemed to make out that I wasn’t treating her well.”
“I said nothing of the kind, Maule; but if you ask me — ”
“I don’t ask you anything.”
“Yes, you do. You come and find fault with me for speaking last night in the most good-natured way in the world. And, therefore, I tell you now that you will be behaving very badly indeed, unless you make some arrangement at once as to what you mean to do.”
“That’s your opinion,” said Gerard Maule.
“Yes, it is; and you’ll find it to be the opinion of any man or woman that you may ask who knows anything about such things. And I’ll tell you what, Master Maule, if you think you’re going to face me down you’ll find yourself mistaken. Stop a moment, and just listen to me. You haven’t a much better friend than I am, and I’m sure she hasn’t a better friend than my wife. All this has taken place under our roof, and I mean to speak my mind plainly. What do you propose to do about your marriage?”
“I don’t propose to tell you what I mean to do.”
“Will you tell Miss Palliser — or my wife?”
“That is just as I may think fit.”
“Then I must tell you that you cannot meet her at my house.”
“I’ll leave it today.”
“You needn’t do that either. You sleep on it, and then make up your mind. You can’t suppose that I have any curiosity about it. The girl is fond of you, and I suppose that you are fond of her. Don’t quarrel for nothing. If I have offended you, speak to Lady Chiltern about it.”
“Very well — I will speak to Lady Chiltern.”
When they reached the house it was clear that something was wrong. Miss Palliser was not seen again before dinner, and Lady Chiltern’s frown, was grave and very cold in her manner to Gerard Maule. He was left alone all the afternoon, which he passed with his horses and groom, smoking more cigars — but thinking all the time of Adelaide Palliser’s last words, of Lord Chiltern was grave and of Lady Chiltern’s manner to him. When he came into the drawing-room before dinner, Lady Chiltern and Adelaide were both there, and Adelaide immediately began to ask questions about the kennel and the huntsmen. But she studiously kept at a distance from him, and he himself felt that it would be impossible to resume at present the footing on which he stood with them both on the previous evening. Presently Lord Chiltern came in, and another man and his wife who had come to stay at Harrington. Nothing could be more dull than the whole evening. At least so Gerard found it. He did take Adelaide in to dinner, but he did not sit next to her at table, for which, however, there was an excuse, as, had he done so, the new-comer must have been placed by his wife. He was cross, and would not make an attempt to speak to his neighbour, and, though he tried once or twice to talk to Lady Chiltern — than whom, as a rule, no woman was ever more easy in conversation — he failed altogether. Now and again he strove to catch Adelaide’s eye, but even in that he could not succeed. When the ladies left the room Chiltern and the new-comer — who was not a sporting man, and therefore did not understand the question — became lost in the mazes of Trumpeton Wood. But Gerard Maule did not put in a word; nor was a word addressed to him by Lord Chiltern. As he sat there sipping his wine, he made up his mind that he would leave Harrington Hall the next morning. When he was again in the drawing-room, things were conducted in just the same way. He spoke to Adelaide, and she answered him; but there was no word of encouragement — not a tone of comfort in her voice. He found himself driven to attempt conversation with the strange lady, and at last was made to play whist with Lady Chiltern and the two new-comers. Later on in the evening, when Adelaide had gone to her own chamber, he was invited by Lady Chiltern into her own sitting-room upstairs, and there the whole thing was explained to him. Miss Palliser had declared that the match should be broken off.
“Do you mean altogether, Lady Chiltern?”
“Certainly I do. Such a resolve cannot be a half-and-half “arrangement.”
“I think you must know why, Mr Maule.”
“I don’t in the least. I won’t have it broken off. I have as much right to have a voice in the matter as she has, and I don’t in the least believe it’s her doing.”
“I do not care; I must speak out. Why does she not tell me so herself?”
“She did tell you so.”
“No, she didn’t. She said something, but not that. I don’t suppose a man was ever so used before; and it’s all Lord Chiltern — just because I told him that he had no right to interfere with me. And he has no right.”
“You and Oswald were away together when she told me that she had made up her mind. Oswald has hardly spoken to her since you have been in the house. He certainly has not spoken to her about you since you came to us.”
“What is the meaning of it, then?”
“You told her that your engagement had overwhelmed you with troubles.”
“Of course; there must be troubles.”
“And that — you would have to be banished to Boulogne when you were married.”
“I didn’t mean her to take that literally.”
“It wasn’t a nice way, Mr Maule, to speak of your future life to the girl to whom you were engaged. Of course it was her hope to make your life happier, not less happy. And when you made her understand — as you did very plainly — that your married prospects filled you with dismay, of course she had no other alternative but to retreat from her engagement.”
“I wasn’t dismayed.”
“It is not my doing, Mr Maule.”
“I suppose she’ll see me?”
“If you insist upon it she will; but she would rather not.”
Gerard, however, did insist, and Adelaide was brought to him there into that room before he went to bed. She was very gentle with him, and spoke to him in a tone very different from that which Lady Chiltern had used; but he found himself utterly powerless to change her. That unfortunate allusion to a miserable exile at Boulogne had completed the work which the former plaints had commenced, and had driven her to a resolution to separate herself from him altogether.
“Mr Maule,” she said, “when I perceived that our proposed marriage was looked upon by you as a misfortune, I could do nothing but put an end to our engagement.”
“But I didn’t think it a misfortune.”
“You made me think that it would be unfortunate for you, and that is quite as strong a reason. I hope we shall part as friends.”
“I won’t part at all,” he said, standing his ground with his back to the fire. “I don’t understand it, by heaven I don’t. Because I said some stupid thing about Boulogne, all in joke — ”
“It was not in joke when you said that troubles had come heavy on you since you were engaged.”
“A man may be allowed to know himself, whether he was in joke or not. I suppose the truth is you don’t care about me?”
“I hope, Mr Maule, that in time it may come — not quite to that.”
“I think that you are — using me very badly. I think that you are — behaving — falsely to me. I think that I am — very — shamefully treated — among you. Of course I shall go. Of course I shall not stay in this house. A man can’t make a girl keep her promise. No — I won’t shake hands. I won’t even say goodbye to you. Of course I shall go.” So saying he slammed the door behind him.
“If he cares for you he’ll come back to you,” Lady Chiltern said to Adelaide that night, who at the moment was lying on her bed in a sad condition, frantic with headache.
“I don’t want him to come back; I will never make him go to Boulogne.”
“Don’t think of it, dear.”
“Not think of it! how can I help thinking of it? I shall always think of it. But I never want to see him again — never! How can I want to marry a man who tells me that I shall be a trouble to him? He shall never — never have to go to Boulogne for me.”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14