“Well, my love?” said Lady Augustus, as soon as her daughter had joined her in her bedroom. On such occasions there was always a quarter of an hour before going to bed in which the mother and daughter discussed their affairs, while the two lady’s maids were discussing their affairs in the other room. The two maids probably did not often quarrel, but the mother and daughter usually did.
“I wish that stupid man hadn’t got himself hurt.”
“Of course, my dear; we all wish that. But I really don’t see that it has stood much in your way.
“Yes it has. After all there is nothing like dancing, and we shouldn’t all have been sent to bed at two o’clock.”
“Then it has come to nothing?”
“I didn’t say that at all, mamma. I think I have done uncommonly well. Indeed I know I have. But then if everything had not been upset, I might have done so much better.”
“What have you done?” asked Lady Augustus, timidly. She knew perfectly well that her daughter would tell her nothing, and yet she always asked these questions and was always angry when no information was given to her. Any young woman would have found it very hard to give the information needed. “When we were alone he sat for five minutes with his arm round my waist, and then he kissed me. He didn’t say much, but then I knew perfectly well that he would be on his guard not to commit himself by words. But I’ve got him to promise that he’ll write to me, and of course I’ll answer in such a way that he must write again. I know he’ll want to see me, and I think I can go very near doing it. But he’s an old stager and knows what he’s about: and of course there’ll be ever so many people to tell him I’m not the sort of girl he ought to marry. He’ll hear about Colonel de B — and Sir C. D — and Lord E. F — and there are ever so many chances against me. But I’ve made up my mind to try it. It’s taking the long odds. I can hardly expect to win, but if I do pull it off I’m made for ever!” A daughter can hardly say all that to her mother. Even Arabella Trefoil could not say it to her mother — or, at any rate, she would not. “What a question that is to ask, mamma?” she did say tossing her head.
“Well, my dear, unless you tell me something how can I help you?”
“I don’t know that I want you to help me — at any rate not in that way.”
“In what way?”
“Oh, mamma, you are so odd.”
“Has he said anything?”
“Yes, he has. He said he liked dry champagne and that he never ate supper.”
“If you won’t tell me how things are going you may fight your own battles by yourself.”
“That’s just what I must do. Nobody else can fight my battles for me.”
“What are you going to do about Mr. Morton?”
“I saw him talking to you and looking as black as thunder.”
“He always looks as black as thunder.”
“Is that to be all off? I insist upon having an answer to that question.”
“I believe you fancy, mamma, that a lot of men can be played like a parcel of chessmen, and that as soon as a knight is knocked on the head you can take him up and put him into the box and have done with him.”
“You haven’t done with Mr. Morton then?”
“Poor Mr. Morton! I do feel he is badly used because he is so honest. I sometimes wish that I could afford to be honest too and to tell somebody the downright truth. I should like to tell him the truth and I almost think I will. ‘My dear fellow, I did for a time think I couldn’t do better, and I’m not at all sure now that I can. But then you are so very dull, and I’m not certain that I should care to be Queen of the English society at the Court of the Emperor of Morocco! But if you’ll wait for another six months, I shall be able to tell you.’ That’s what I should have to say to him.”
“Who is talking nonsense now, Arabella?”
“I am not. But I shan’t say it. And now, mamma, I’ll tell you what we must do.”
“You must tell me why also?”
“I can do nothing of the kind. He knows the Duke.” The Duke with the Trefoils always meant the Duke of Mayfair who was Arabella’s ducal uncle.
“Well enough to go there. There is to be a great shooting at Mistletoe,”— Mistletoe was the Duke’s place — “in January. I got that from him, and he can go if he likes. He won’t go as it is: but if I tell him I’m to be there, I think he will.”
“What did you tell him?”
“Well; — I told him a tarradiddle of course. I made him understand that I could be there if I pleased, and he thinks that I mean to be there if he goes.”
“But I’m sure the Duchess won’t have me again.”
“She might let me come.”
“And what am I to do?”
“You could go to Brighton with Miss De Groat; — or what does it matter for a fortnight? You’ll get the advantage when it’s done. It’s as well to have the truth out at once, mamma — I cannot carry on if I’m always to be stuck close to your apron-strings. There are so many people won’t have you.”
“Arabella, I do think you are the most ungrateful, hard-hearted creature that ever lived.”
“Very well; I don’t know what I have to be grateful about, and I need to be hard-hearted. Of course I am hard-hearted. The thing will be to get papa to see his brother.”
“Yes; that’s what I mean to try. The Duke of course would like me to marry Lord Rufford. Do you think that if I were at home here it wouldn’t make Mistletoe a very different sort of place for you? The Duke does like papa in a sort of way, and he’s civil enough to me when I’m there. He never did like you.”
“Everybody is so fond of you! It was what you did when young Stranorlar was there which made the Duchess almost turn us out of the house.”
“What’s the good of your saying that, mamma? If you go on like that I’ll separate myself from you and throw myself on papa.”
“Your father wouldn’t lift his little finger for you.”
“I’ll try at any rate. Will you consent to my going there without you if I can manage it?”
“What did Lord Rufford say?” Arabella here made a grimace. “You can tell me something. What are the lawyers to say to Mr. Morton’s people?”
“Whatever they like.”
“If they come to arrangements do you mean to marry him?”
“Not for the next two months certainly. I shan’t see him again now heaven knows when. He’ll write no doubt — one of his awfully sensible letters, and I shall take my time about answering him. I can stretch it out for two months. If I’m to do any good with this man it will be all arranged before that time. If the Duke could really be made to believe that Lord Rufford was in earnest I’m sure he’d have me there. As to her, she always does what he tells her.”
“He is going to write to you?”
“I told you that before, mamma. What is the good of asking a lot of questions? You know now what my plan is, and if you won’t help me I must carry it out alone. And, remember, I don’t want to start to-morrow till after Morton and that American have gone.” Then without a kiss or wishing her mother good night she went off to her own room.
The next morning at about nine Arabella heard from her maid that the Major was still alive but senseless. The London surgeon had been there and had declared it to be possible that the patient should live, but barely possible. At ten they were all at breakfast, and the carriage from Bragton was already at the door to take back Mr. Morton and his American friend. Lady Augustus had been clever enough to arrange that she should have the phaeton to take her to the Rufford Station a little later on in the day, and had already hinted to one of the servants that perhaps a cart might be sent with the luggage. The cart was forthcoming. Lady Augustus was very clever in arranging her locomotion and seldom paid for much more than her railway tickets.
“I had meant to say a few words to you, my lord, about that man Goarly,” said the Senator, standing. before the fire in the breakfast-room, “but this sad catastrophe has stopped me.”
“There isn’t much to say about him, Mr. Gotobed.”
“Perhaps not; only I would not wish you to think that I would oppose you without some cause. If the man is in the wrong according to law let him be proved to be so. The cost to you will be nothing. To him it might be of considerable importance.”
“Just so. Won’t you sit down and have some breakfast. If Goarly ever makes himself nuisance enough it may be worth my while to buy him out at three times the value of his land. But he’ll have to be a very great nuisance before I shall do that. Dillsborough wood is not the only fox covert in the county.” After that there was no more said about it; but neither did Lord Rufford understand the Senator nor did the Senator understand Lord Rufford. John Runce had a clearer conviction on his mind than either of them. Goarly ought to be hanged, and no American should under any circumstances be allowed to put his foot upon British soil. That was Runce’s idea of the matter.
The parting between Morton and the Trefoils was very chill and uncomfortable. “Good-bye, Mr. Morton; — we had such a pleasant time at Bragton!” said Lady Augustus. “I shall write to you this afternoon,” he whispered to Arabella as he took her hand. She smiled and murmured a word of adieu, but made him no reply. Then they were gone, and as he got into the carriage he told himself that in all probability he would never see her again. It might be that he would curtail his leave of absence and get back to Washington as quickly as possible.
The Trefoils did not start for an hour after this, during which Arabella could hardly find an opportunity for a word in private. She could not quite appeal to him to walk with her in the grounds, or even to take a turn with her round the empty ballroom. She came down dressed for walking, thinking that so she might have the best chance of getting him for a quarter of an hour to herself, but he was either too wary or else the habits of his life prevented it. And in what she had to do it was so easy to go beyond the proper line! She would wish him to understand that she would like to be alone with him after what had passed between them on the previous evening, but she must be careful not to let him imagine that she was too anxious. And then whatever she did she had to do with so many eyes upon her! And when she went, as she would do now in so short a time, so many hostile tongues would attack her! He had everything to protect him; and she had nothing, absolutely nothing, to help her! It was thus that she looked at it; and yet she had courage for the battle. Almost at the last moment she did get a word with him in the hall. “How is he?”
“Oh, better, decidedly.”
“I am so glad. If I could only think that he could live! Well, my Lord, we have to say good-bye.”
“I suppose so.”
“You’ll write me a line — about him.”
“I shall be so glad to have a line from Rufford. Maddox Hall, you know; Stafford.”
“I will remember.”
“And dear old Jack. Tell me when you write what Jack has been doing.” Then she put out her hand and he held it. “I wonder whether you will ever remember —” But she did not quite know what to bid him remember, and therefore turned away her face and wiped away a tear, and then smiled as she turned her back on him. The carriage was at the door, and the ladies flocked into the hall, and then not another word could be said.
“That’s what I call a really nice country house,” said Lady Augustus as she was driven away. Arabella sat back in the phaeton lost in thought and said nothing. “Everything so well done, and yet none of all that fuss that there is at Mistletoe.” She paused but still her daughter did not speak. “If I were beginning the world again I would not wish for a better establishment than that. Why can’t you answer me a word when I speak to you?”
“Of course it’s all very nice. What’s the good of going on in that way? What a shame it is that a man like that should have so much and that a girl like me should have nothing at all. I know twice as much as he does, and am twice as clever, and yet I’ve got to treat him as though he were a god. He’s all very well, but what would anybody think of him if he were a younger brother with 300 pounds a year.” This was a kind of philosophy which Lady Angustus hated. She threw herself back therefore in the phaeton and pretended to go to sleep.
The wheels were not out of sight of the house before the attack on the Trefoils began. “I had heard of Lady Augustus before,” said Lady Penwether, “but I didn’t think that any woman could be so disagreeable.”
“So vulgar,” said Miss Penge.
“Wasn’t she the daughter of an ironmonger?” asked the elder Miss Godolphin.
“The girl of course is handsome,” said Lady Penwether.
“But so self-sufficient,” said Miss Godolphin.
“And almost as vulgar as her mother,” said Miss Penge.
“She may be clever,” said Lady Penwether, “but I do not think I should ever like her.”
“She is one of those girls whom only gentlemen like,” said Miss Penge.
“And whom they don’t like very long,” said Lady Penwether.
“How well I understand all this,” said Lord Rufford turning to the younger Miss Godolphin. “It is all said for my benefit, and considered to be necessary because I danced with the young lady last night.”
“I hope you are not attributing such a motive to me,” said Miss Penge.
“Or to me,” said Miss Godolphin.
“I look on both of you and Eleanor as all one on the present occasion. I am considered to be falling over a precipice, and she has got hold of my coat tails. Of course you wouldn’t be Christians if you didn’t both of you seize a foot”
“Looking at it in that light I certainly wish to be understood as holding on very fast,” said Miss Penge.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14