No sooner did the new two lovers, Mounser Green and Arabella Trefoil, understand each other, than they set their wits to work to make the best of their natural advantages. The latter communicated the fact in a very dry manner to her father and mother. Nothing was to be got from them, and it was only just necessary that they should know what she intended to do with herself. “My dear mamma. I am to be married some time early in May to Mr. Mounser Green of the Foreign Office. I don’t think you know him, but I daresay you have heard of him. He goes to Patagonia immediately after the wedding, and I shall go with him. Your affectionate daughter, Arabella Trefoil.” That was all she said, and the letter to her father was word for word the same. But how to make use of those friends who were more happily circumstanced was matter for frequent counsel between her and Mr. Green. In these days I do not think that she concealed very much from him. To tell him all the little details of her adventures with Lord Rufford would have been neither useful nor pleasant; but, as to the chief facts, reticence would have been foolish. To the statement that Lord Rufford had absolutely proposed to her she clung fast, and really did believe it herself. That she had been engaged to John Morton she did not deny; but she threw the blame of that matter on her mother, and explained to him that she had broken off the engagement down at Bragton, because she could not bring herself to regard the man with sufficient personal favour. Mounser was satisfied, but was very strong in urging her to seek, yet once again, the favour of her magnificent uncle and her magnificent aunt.
“What good can they do us?” said Arabella, who was almost afraid to make the appeal.
“It would be everything for you to be married from Mistletoe,” he said. “People would know then that you were not blamed about Lord Rufford. And it might serve me very much in my profession. These things do help very much. It would cost us nothing, and the proper kind of notice would then get into the newspapers. If you will write direct to the Duchess I will get at the Duke through Lord Drummond. They know where we are going, and that we are not likely to want anything else for a long time.”
“I don’t think the Duchess would have mamma if it were ever so.”
“Then we must drop your mother for the time; — that’s all. When my aunt hears that you are to be married from the Duke’s, she will be quite willing that you should remain with her till you go down to Mistletoe.”
Arabella, who perhaps knew a little more than her lover, could not bring herself to believe that the appeal would be successful, but she made it. It was a very difficult letter to write, as she could not but allude to the rapid transference of her affections. “I will not conceal from you,” she said, “that I have suffered very much from Lord Rufford’s heartless conduct. My misery has been aggravated by the feeling that you and my uncle will hardly believe him to be so false, and will attribute part of the blame to me. I had to undergo an agonizing revulsion of feeling, during which Mr. Green’s behaviour to me was at first so considerate and then so kind that it has gone far to cure the wound from which I have been suffering. He is so well known in reference to foreign affairs, that I think my uncle cannot but have heard of him; my cousin Mistletoe is certainly acquainted with him; and I think that you cannot but approve of the match. You know what is the position of my father and my mother, and how little able they are to give us any assistance. If you would be kind enough to let us be married from Mistletoe, you will confer on both of us a very, very great favour.” There was more of it, but that was the first of the prayer, and most of the words given above came from the dictation of Mounser himself. She had pleaded against making the direct request, but he had assured her that in the world, as at present arranged, the best way to get a thing is to ask for it. “You make yourself at any rate understood,” he said, “and you may be sure that people who receive petitions do not feel the hardihood of them so much as they who make them.” Arabella, comforting herself by declaring that the Duchess at any rate could not eat her, wrote the letter and sent it.
The Duchess at first was most serious in her intention to refuse. She was indeed made very angry by the request. Though it had been agreed at Mistletoe that Lord Rufford had behaved badly, the Duchess was thoroughly well aware that Arabella’s conduct had been abominable. Lord Rufford probably had made an offer, but it had been extracted from him by the vilest of manoeuvres. The girl had been personally insolent to herself. And this rapid change, this third engagement within a few weeks, was disgusting to her as a woman. But, unluckily for herself, she would not answer the letter till she had consulted her husband. As it happened the Duke was in town, and while he was there Lord Drummond got hold of him. Lord Drummond had spoken very highly of Mounser Green, and the Duke, who was never dead to the feeling that as the head of the family he should always do what he could for the junior branches, had almost made a promise. “I never take such things upon myself,” he said, “but if the Duchess has no objection, we will have them down to Mistletoe.”
“Of course if you wish it,” said the Duchess — with more acerbity in her tone than the Duke had often heard there.
“Wish it? What do you mean by wishing it? It will be a great bore.”
“But she is the only one there is and then we shall have done with it.”
“Done with it! They will be back from Patagonia before you can turn yourself, and then of course we must have them here.”
“Drummond tells me that Mr. Green is one of the most useful men they have at the Foreign Office; — just the man that one ought to give a lift to.” Of course the Duke had his way. The Duchess could not bring herself to write the letter, but the Duke wrote to his dear niece saying that “they” would be very glad to see her, and that if she would name the day proposed for the wedding, one should be fixed for her visit to Mistletoe.
“You had better tell your mother and your father,” Mounser said to her.
“What’s the use? The Duchess hates my mother, and my father never goes near the place.”
“Nevertheless tell them. People care a great deal for appearances.” She did as she was bid, and the result was that Lord Augustus and his wife, on the occasion of their daughter’s marriage, met each other at Mistletoe — for the first time for the last dozen years.
Before the day came round Arabella was quite astonished to find how popular and fashionable her wedding was likely to be, and how the world at large approved of what she was doing. The newspapers had paragraphs about alliances and noble families, and all the relatives sent tribute. There was a gold candlestick from the Duke, a gilt dish from the Duchess — which came however without a word of personal congratulation — and a gorgeous set of scent-bottles from cousin Mistletoe. The Connop Greens were lavish with sapphires, the De Brownes with pearls, and the Smijths with opal. Mrs. Gore sent a huge carbuncle which Arabella strongly suspected to be glass. From her paternal parent there came a pair of silver nut-crackers, and from the maternal a second-hand dressing-case newly done up. Old Mrs. Green gave her a couple of ornamental butter-boats, and salt-cellars innumerable came from distant Greens. But there was a diamond ring — with a single stone — from a friend, without a name, which she believed to be worth all the rest in money value. Should she send it back to Lord Rufford, or make a gulp and swallow it? How invincible must be the good-nature of the man when he could send her such a present after such a rating as she had given him in the park at Rufford! “Do as you like,” Mounser Green said when she consulted him.
She very much wished to keep it. “But what am I to say, and to whom?”
“Write a note to the jewellers saying that you have got it.” She did write to the jeweller saying that she had got the ring — “from a friend;” and the ring with the other tribute went to Patagonia. He had certainly behaved very badly to her, but she was quite sure that he would never tell the story of the ring to any one. Perhaps she thought that as she had spared him in the great matter of eight thousand pounds, she was entitled to take this smaller contribution.
It was late in April when she went down to Mistletoe, the marriage having been fixed for the 3rd of May. After that they were to spend a fortnight in Paris, and leave England for Patagonia at the end of the month. The only thing which Arabella dreaded was the meeting with the Duchess. When that was once over she thought that she could bear with equanimity all that could come after. The week before her marriage could not be a pleasant week, but then she had been accustomed to endure evil hours. Her uncle would be blandly good-natured. Mistletoe, should he be there, would make civil speeches to compensate for his indifference when called upon to attack Lord Rufford. Other guests would tender to her the caressing observance always shown to a bride. But as she got out of the ducal carriage at the front door, her heart was uneasy at the coming meeting.
The Duchess herself almost went to bed when the time came, so much did she dread the same thing. She was quite alone, having felt that she could not bring herself to give the affectionate embrace which the presence of others would require. She stood in the middle of the room and then came forward three steps to meet the bride. “Arabella,” she said, “I am very glad that everything has been settled so comfortably for you.”
“That is so kind of you, aunt,” said Arabella, who was watching the Duchess closely — ready to jump into her aunt’s arms if required to do so, or to stand quite aloof.
Then the Duchess signified her pleasure that her cheek should be touched — and it was touched. “Mrs. Pepper will show you your room. It is the same you had when you were here before. Perhaps you know that Mr. Green comes down to Stamford on the first, and that he will dine here on that day and on Sunday.”
“That will be very nice. He had told me how it was arranged.”
“It seems that he knows one of the clergymen in Stamford, and will stay at his house. Perhaps you will like to go upstairs now.”
That was all there was, and that had not been very bad. During the entire week the Duchess hardly spoke to her another word, and certainly did not speak to her a word in private. Arabella now could go where she pleased without any danger of meeting her aunt on her walks. When Sunday came nobody asked her to go to church. She did go twice, Mounser Green accompanying her to the morning service; — but there was no restraint. The Duchess only thought of her as a disagreeable ill-conducted incubus, who luckily was about to be taken away to Patagonia.
It had been settled on all sides that the marriage was to be very quiet. The bride was of course consulted about her bridesmaids, as to whom there was a little difficulty. But a distant Trefoil was found willing to act, in payment for the unaccustomed invitation to Mistletoe, and one Connop Green young lady, with one De Browne young lady, and one Smijth young lady came on the same terms. Arabella herself was surprised at the ease with which it was all done. On the Saturday Lady Augustus came, and on the Sunday Lord Augustus. The parents of course kissed their child, but there was very little said in the way either of congratulation or farewell. Lord Augustus did have some conversation with Mounser Green, but it all turned on the probability of there being whist in Patagonia. On the Monday morning they were married, and then Arabella was taken off by the happy bridegroom.
When the ceremony was over it was expected that Lady Augustus should take herself away as quickly as possible, not perhaps on that very afternoon, but at any rate, on the next morning. As soon as the carriage was gone, she went to her own room and wept bitterly. It was all done now. Everything was over. Though she had quarrelled daily with her daughter for the last twelve years — to such an extent lately that no decently civil word ever passed between them — still there had been something to interest her. There had been something to fear and something to hope. The girl had always had some prospect before her, more or less brilliant. Her life had had its occupation, and future triumph was possible. Now it was all over. The link by which she had been bound to the world was broken. The Connop Greens and the Smijths would no longer have her, unless it might be on short and special occasions, as a great favour. She knew that she was an old woman, without money, without blood, and without attraction, whom nobody would ever again desire to see. She had her things packed up, and herself taken off to London, almost without a word of farewell to the Duchess, telling herself as she went that the world had produced no other people so heartless as the family of the Trefoils.
“I wonder what you will think of Patagonia,” said Mounser Green as he took his bride away.
“I don’t suppose I shall think much. As far as I can see one place is always like another.”
“But then you will have duties.”
“Not very heavy I hope.”
Then he preached her a sermon, expressing a hope as he went on, that as she was leaving the pleasures of life behind her, she would learn to like the work of life. “I have found the pleasures very hard,” she said. He spoke to her of the companion he hoped to find, of the possible children who might be dependent on their mother, of the position which she would hold, and of the manner in which she should fill it. She, as she listened to him, was almost stunned by the change in the world around her. She need never again seem to be gay in order that men might be attracted. She made her promises and made them with an intention of keeping them; but it may, we fear, be doubted whether he was justified in expecting that he could get a wife fit for his purpose out of the school in which Arabella Trefoil had been educated. The two, however, will pass out of our sight, and we can only hope that he may not be disappointed.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01