thusiasm of affection and constancy shemaining generous impulses in his nature, overrated her husband, even after the dis- and gave rise to some good resolves. After enchantment of her hopes and dreams had his fashion, he loved Alice. He had lost become an old story. She felt herself con- respect for womanhood, in the abstract; tinually at fault; she was like one grop- he was a skeptic in every sense; but he ing in the dark, and day by day her path had not ceased to care for her, and he did became more and more encumbered with not think of the contrasts which his later obstacles, and her timid feet trod it with in- life had shown him; he did not take into creasing pain and difficulty. He cannot account that her attraction had been for the have cared for me ever,' she would say to boy who knew no more of the world than herself when she had sustained one of her she did. That such a project as his mardaily defeats, except just as his playfellow riage, under such circumstances, would exand child-companion. He married me out cite the liveliest ridicule among his associof pity because I was quite alone.' Then ates, he was well aware, and he said nothing the pain of that conviction being too intense about it till he returned to Paris accompafor her to bear without trying to alleviate nied by Alice. His change of name excited it, she would have recourse to the letters little comment among the wild set to which which had sustained her during Henry's he belonged; probably it had something to long absence, and read their protestations do with the incomprehensible laws of Engand their plans with wonder, with agony. land-no matter, it was not their affair; What had she done, in what was she but the wife, the little Madame, who was changed, that all this had come so utterly not at all spirituel, and who had so much to naught; that it had never been, but for the air of a Quaker?-well, the wife was a few brief weeks, and had left her, to feel also his affair, as Jules and Henri, Armand that she was in strange, unsuspected hands? and Pierre agreed, and a triste affair too. - for her husband was totally different But they saw very little of her, and heard from the ideal she had formed of him. less; and she was evidently no restraint upShe puzzled and wearied herself with self- on her husband, who was as gaillard as questioning, and self-commune, with se- ever; and so Jules and Henri, Armand and vere introspection, with melancholy mus- Pierre, thought no more about poor Alice, ing; she could not find out where the especially when the fatal rumour spread fault lay. And no wonder, for it was among them that she was dévote. How not in her. She was as she had ever much or how little her husband thought been a pure, gentle, womanly, unworldly about her, nobody knew, and nobody cared. creature, for whom all life's meaning and His love for her lasted a very short time, value consisted in the home-affections and and the generous impulse which had animaduties; a dreamer of dreams indeed, and ted him when he induced her to make him of too sentimental a turn of mind for her the master of her destiny, gave way before own peace under any circumstances, but the weariness with which her timid nature, well-endowed with practical qualities too; her unworldly notions, and her lowliness of a woman who might have been happiest heart inspired him. She provoked him inamong the happy. The narrow sphere in expressibly by the very submissiveness, the which she had lived had made Alice con- pure and perfect goodness, which contrasted tent with the simplest and humblest condi- so strongly with his fierce self-love and selftions of life; to her, ambition and the will, his morose humour, and the utter mathirst for wealth and pleasure were not teriality of his tastes, which she could not only unknown, but inconceivable. even comprehend. Something in her nature, in her presence, which he could not define, but which was really their beautiful protesting purity, exasperated him, and aroused in him the tyrannical instinct which had always existed. He could not ignore, he could not fail to admire, her beauty, but he wearied of it. That pure, passionless face had but an insipid charm for him at the best, and Alice never knew or cared how to make the most of her rare loveliness. True, she had not the means of adorning herself, but neither had she the taste. Any one of the women of his acquaintance, her husband told her once, contemptuously, could have made ten times as much of the

This was the thirst which consumed Henry Hurst; ambition was the dominant passion of his nature. The fierce revolt against his lot, which had found expression in his interviews with Mr. Eliot Foster, had been but temporarily quelled or suspended by his marriage, and had again resumed its workings. The influence of his life in Paris before his marriage had been injurious to his moral nature; already terribly susceptible of evil, it hardened and embittered him, by the confirmation which it afforded to his belief in pleasure as the only good. When Alice's letter, written after her mother's death, reached him, it touched the few re

slender means at her disposal; but she liked to be a dowdy-it was part of her religion, he supposed. Her mild protest and explanation did not avail, and thenceforward Alice cared less for her beauty than ever, seeing that he cared for it not at all.

men who were born to struggle with the world, to work their way in it; they knew that, and went on their appointed path with good-will, not haunted by doubt, and beset by injustice. Who was there to tell him that he was one of those men? Who was there to assure him that labour and not luxury was his birthright, was his rightful destiny, and not the imposition upon him of cruelty, fraud, and wrong? He and his associates-the young men who worked with him, cheerful, content, feeling themselves in the right groove were not on a


The perpetual pain of her disappointed love was such, that Alice could find no alleviation, no distraction from it. It rendered her life worthless to her, and she did not struggle against it. Since there was nothing in life like what she had pictured it, why should she delude herself in any other way? Nothing would be what she sup-level; his ignorance of his origin set him posed it; better the void than further mís- apart from them by a barrier which could ery. It was quite true that Alice moped.' not be overthrown. The utmost their ef She had not the wisdom to avoid that inju- forts could achieve might be less than what dicious yielding to her feelings, that acceler- he was entitled to. The tastes, the desires, ation of the transition in those of Henry the passions of which he was conscious, Hurst. She moped' because she was un- might not have given him the pain of the happy, and also because the deadly element unattainable; if he had been in his true of jealousy, in one of its most common sphere, they might have been fitting adforms, had begun to mingle with her unhap-juncts of his condition, and not penalties of piness. Her husband could make himself it, dumb protests against it. So the strife so delightful to others. Her opportunities within him raged ever more and more of observation were not many, but they fiercely, and his mind was full of vague, were conclusive. How handsome he looked, sullen resentment. how graceful, how bright, how agreeable His neglected young wife knew little' of and complaisant he could be, and with what all this. He had long ceased to talk with animation and brilliancy he could talk, of her of his early history, to discuss the things indeed which she but dimly under-probabilities which had furnished them with stood, but would have striven to learn, and subjects for the endless discussions of their followed with so much interest, if she had boy-and-girl days. Alice rarely thought of dared. Her jealousy took no personal di- her husband's unknown origin, rarely rerection; her innocence, her unsuspicious-membered what a mystery hung about him. ness, protected her in that respect; she That he had been born in any superior suffered alike, whether the society in which sphere of life appeared to her neither likely he shone, with a light he never cared to nor desirable; her visions had never taken show to her, were that of men or women. that form which was fortunate, as, if they It sufficed that he was wholly indifferent to had, she would probably have suffered still her, that for her he had dark looks, sneers, more from her imaginary estimate of his morose words, or in his better moods only superiority. She never, of her own choice, a careless, absent kindness little less hard revived the subject, it was too painful; for to bear. She knew this; nothing could al- the bitterness and anger with which it filled ter the fact; but she need not inflict upon Henry Hurst, aroused in her fear and evil herself the constant proof of it, so Alice anticipation. lived as much as possible alone.

In only two respects Henry Hurst sustained the estimate which his wife had formed of him. He was clever and industrious, he liked the profession he had chosen, and he worked hard at it. But for the fatal influence of his false position in life, he might have been a different man. This it was which strengthened every defect, which embittered his mind, and made him regard his fellows with ceaseless, craving envy. The name and the money which he might have made, which his talents and his industry would in time secure, he held in disdain, while yet he coveted them, and strove for them. These were the desired meed of

For some time after they arrived in England, Alice's life was brighter than usual. Her husband was away from his habitual associates, and had not formed new companionships among men of his own class in London. The arrangement of the work which he had undertaken to do for the Messrs. G-occupied much of his time. His roving tour was not to commence until spring, when the country would be in all its beauty. With the exception of a few days which preceded and a few which followed her marriage, Alice had never sojourned in London, and her better spirits and Henry's better temper enabled her to enjoy the novelty a little, just at first. She had no hope

The spring was early, and promised to be very fine. Henry Hurst was about to begin his task, which he expected to extend over two years at least, with intervals of rest. He was to be handsomely paid for his work, and on its completion he would go abroad, to Italy, the home of the Arts. He took Alice into but small account in any of his schemes for the future; he had gradually come to regard her as an inevitable nuisance, to be thought of as little as possible. A frightfully unnatural state of things, considering her youth, and the antecedents of the husband and wife; but true, for all that

only too true. His first destination was Dorsetshire, and before he started, he made arrangements for the location of the inevitable nuisance.'

of being permitted to accompany him in his approaching rambles; but she did not complain. She accepted the boon of an improved state of things in the present thankfully, and was almost happy in her lodgings on the first floor of a bare but roomy house in Southampton-row. No tidings reached her of Hugh Gaynor. She concluded that the device by which Honorine had hoped to communicate with him had proved unsuccessful. Alice suffered less than she had suffered in Paris from the sense of strangeness. She lived a more solitary life, for in London she knew literally no one; but the people about her spoke her own language, and theirways' resembled those which had been familiar to her. On the whole this was a peaceful interval, to which she was to look back afterwards with terrible, unavailing regret. She moped' less, she read more, she tried to occupy herself in many ways, and in any eyes but those in which alone she cared to find favour she would have seemed a most beautiful and attractive woman. Occasionally she went with her husband to see some of the sights of London, to walk in the parks, or see a play. Her ignorance of the habits and customs of fashionable life was profound; she had no notion that Mrs. Haviland and Miss Burdett would have been incredulously amused at the mere notion of their being in town, at the time of year when Alice never left the house without thinking she might see them pass her by in a carriage, or entered any public place without eagerly scanning the crowd, in the hope that her eyes might light upon their faces. It is not that,' replied Alice hurriedly; She did not tell her husband of this lurk-it is not that. But never mind me - I am ing, slight interest in her life. She shrank foolish and weak. When am I ever otherfrom the frequent sneers which had for- wise? or, at least, when do you ever think merly, until she had learned to suppress me so? I will do anything, I will go any their manifestation, rebuked the silliness' where you please.' of her romantic notions.' If ever she should have the happiness of seeing those well-remembered faces again, and the ladies should condescend to notice her, she would remind him of the letter she had written to him describing their visit to the Gift; but while they remained only a radiant vision in her memory, a delightful possibility to her hopes, she would keep her thoughts of them to herself as she was but too well used to keep all her thoughts and memories. How strange, how inexplicable it seemed to her differently-constituted, sensitively-strung mind, that any recurrence to the past, any reference to their childish days, wearied Henry, and made him impatient. She had not the word of that enigma.

'You cannot remain by yourself in a London lodging,' Henry Hurst said to his wife on this occasion; I must take a cottage in some pleasant suburb for you, and you can have a servant and make yourself comfortable.'

Then you will not take me with you?' said Alice with a pleading smile, which the young man must have been indeed hardhearted to resist. 'Are you quite determined? I would not be in your way, or trouble you at all.'


'Once for all, Alice,' replied her husband with his blackest frown, have done with this. I cannot take you with me. I suppose you, who have ostentatiously courted solitude when it didn't happen to suit me, are not going to pretend you cannot bear it now.'

'Yes, and make a tremendous fuss about it. Anyone would think I was proposing something dreadful to you instead of a pleasant house of your own, where you can be as quiet as you please and do as you like.'


He spoke as if doing as she liked' were the ordinary state of things with Alice. She kept a thoughtful silence for some minutes (during which he regarded her with a lowering look), and then said:

'I will not make any objection to anything you wish, dear; but if you would let me choose, I should like to live somewhere in the neighbourhood of our old home. Do you remember once, when we were little children, my mother took us to the seaside?

it was the first time we had ever seen it;

[ocr errors]

it was not very far from home, I think, as well as I can remember-I should like to go there while you are away.'

Madeleine Burdett's engagement to Verner Bingham was a year old - their 'odious youth' was lessened so much- and the as

'I think I remember the place you mean,' said Henry Hurst, near the Blackwater. A quiet place enough, I daresay, and healthy.sembling of a large party at Meriton preIf I cannot get a house for you, I suppose vious to the partridge-shooting was expected some sort of decent lodgings can be had. in the autumn of the same year which had At any rate, I will try. Couldn't you man- seen Henry Hurst commence his rambling age to look pleased, Alice, just by way of a artistic studies, and Alice take up her abode little variety?' in a retired spot on the eastern coast, a short distance from the mouth of the Blackwater. The party, when met at Meriton, included Mr. and Mrs. Marsh and their daughters, who contributed the chief portion of the family' element to the gathering. Mr.

Meriton was a pleasant place at all times. The house was spacious and handsome. Its master had added considerably to its size, and the good taste of its mistress had brought its internal arrangements to a very Marsh, usually spoken of by his wife as high degree of excellence. Stephen Hav-my Ned,' was a gentleman of the harmless iland was characterised by all the virtues and inexpressive character to whom that of a country gentleman a capital stud style of appellation seems peculiarly approand an irreproachable cellar included. Ju- priate. He was good-natured, slow, very lia, his wife, was an admirable hostess. well off, and perfectly amenable to his she never interfered with her guests, es- Maria, whom he held in admiration and repecially in their flirtations, and she took spect, almost equal in intensity to the sencare they had all the material components timents entertained towards herself by that of comfort and enjoyment. Meriton was lady. Mr. Marsh believed in the Havilands an especially pleasant place in the autumn thoroughly, and was a happy man. His and the shooting season, when Frank Bur- manner of life, his opinions, his engagedett was more particularly at home there, ments, his politics, his money-matters, and and lent his very efficient aid to both Mr. his dress were all regulated for him; but he and Mrs. Haviland in their separate de- had no objection. He liked ordering his partments. It was, of course, inevitable own dinner, and eating it gave him sensible that Frank Burdett should grow old-he satisfaction; but as the Havilands approved had, indeed, made no trifling progress in of good living, he was indulged even on that direction already- but nothing seemed that point. He was very fond of his wife, less probable than that he should ever look but perhaps only moderately attached to his So. It gave his beautiful young daughter daughters, a pair of big bouncing young keen delight to observe his youthfulness of women, with loud voices, decided opinions, looks and spirits, and she rejoiced mightily and awe-inspiring manners. Needless to in being at Meriton, because when there add that they were perfect Havilands. Miss she had her father almost always with her. Angelina and Miss Clementina Marsh were girls of the (then) period, which, though differing from the present in some very material particulars - a difference on which the society of to-day is by no means to be congratulated — had a good many objectionable features. They talked politics and religious controversy; they were offensively well-informed about elections; they were given to pronunciamentos in favour of popular preachers; they danced the polka vehemently; they bored every one who could not escape from them about the insularities of England, and the advantages of a cosmopolitan taste; they dressed in the worst possible foreign style, being wholly unaware of the special manufacture of millinery for the English market, and falling readily into

It is so pleasant,' she said one day with a pretty wilfulness, which none but the most acrimonious could have misinterpreted, to have some one about me who never thinks of disobeying me, and who believes everything I do to be—what is it that dreadful man says in that dreadful poem Miss Glennie used to make me learn when I was naughty? discreetest, wisest, virtuousest, best." There, Captain Medway, I'm sure you are astonished at my memory. Why don't you ease your mind by saying so?


While the gallant but not over-ready officer was seeking for an answer, and apparently expecting to find it either in his shirtcollar or in his whiskers, Madeleine forgot all about him, and was busily expatiating the snare; and they detested Madeleine

on the delights of Meriton from some other point of view. She did not exaggerate them. All who were admitted to a share in

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]

them liked the place, and the sun of prosperity shone steadily upon its owners.


It was not to be expected, even from the Haviland ramification of human nature,

that the precious legacy' should be re- that a girl with so little conversation' garded with much favour by her cousins, should attract the attention of sensible men, who, though they had no just grounds of and thus assist to give society a frivolous complaint against fate and fortune on any tone. Lastly, she had an independence score, had nothing like the advantages and about her in dress, and in choosing her indulgences which the removal' of Selina associates, and in her way of attracthad been the means of securing to her ing the 'best' young men to her, and daughter. A rich, childless uncle, with a keeping their attention fixed on her for just fine country place and an unimpeachable as long as she found them amusing, which town-house, an eminently fashionable wife, weak people called artless, girlish fascinaa seat in parliament, and all the contingent tion, but which they regarded as reprehensocial advantages conferred by so pleasant sible flirtation. If Angelina and Clemena combination, is a very charming member tina had known, when they made their not of a family, provided that he understands remarkably triumphant entry among the the duties and privileges of his position party assembled at Meriton, that Madeleine properly, and divides the benefits he has it was engaged,' their feelings towards her in his power to bestow, conscientiously. might have undergone a salutary change, But when he makes an invidious selection,' but, on the other hand, they would have as Mrs. Marsh feelingly described Stephen been very much shocked. It was bad Haviland's adoption of Madeleine, and ad- enough to see Captain Medway, one of the heres to that selection in so provokingly most presentable men they knew-the narrow a spirit that he might as well have Misses Marsh observed the true Haviland had ever so many children of his own, so moderation of praise-making himself so far as the unselected nephews and nieces absurdly conspicuous about her, and to see are concerned, he is no such great acquisi- her taking his homage as a matter of course; tion after all. The strong sentiments en- but if they had known that his homage, like tertained on this point by the Marshes and that of many another man whom they were the Fanshaws were not altogether without destined to observe during their visit, must warrant. Stephen Haviland invited their be quite infructuous, they would have re'young people' sometimes to Meriton, and garded her with lofty horror rather than on those occasions they had their fair share with ill-disguised envy. But they knew of the enjoyments the place afforded. But nothing about Verner Bingham; and Madethis was merely a general attention. They leine's position seemed more unassailable had none of the dear delightful privileges and her bearing more insouciante than ever. of intimacy with the important Mrs. Haviland and the admired Miss Burdett. They were asked to Mrs. Haviland's balls in the season, but of invitations which mean so much more they received none. Julia did not pretend to feel any more interest in them than in the scores of young ladies who danced in her rooms, and flirted on her staircases. The glimpse afforded her of the family tactique when Selina died had sufficed for her acuteness; she calmly preserved the attitude which she had then assumed, and Madeleine alone was admitted within the charmed circle of whose pleasures and pastimes the Misses Marsh permitted themselves to talk, sometimes boastfully and sometimes disparagingly, as suited their audience, but always with some precaution as regarded Mrs. Haviland's becoming aware of their flights of fancy. Angelina and Clementina disapproved of Madeleine for several reasons. First, she was a Burdett,' and it was undeniable that her 'style' was admired. Secondly, she had a flighty, inconsiderate manner a habit of saying things which people, particularly men, considered witty, but in which they found nothing to admire; and it was quite lamentable

Angelina and Clementina usually spoke of their cousin as that disagreeable girl,' but when they retired to their rooms that night, having had but moderate opportunity for the exhibition of all the Haviland talents, they called her detestable.'


[ocr errors]

Mrs. Haviland, who had not lost her skill in the reading of character, or her taste for its employ, perfectly understood the sentiments of Angelina and Clementina, and likewise of their mother. They amused her a good deal. In truth, there was nothing of the conventional fiancée in Madeleine Burdett's manner. She did not muse or mope; she was not absent in her mood, or pale or pensive in her looks; she did not watch the arrival of the post with ostentatious avidity, nor did she expend an unreasonable quantity of time in writing letters. She was not deficient in the ordinary courtesies of life to her friends who were present, in honour of the one particular friend who was absent; she was not incapable of interesting herself in any human affairs except her own; she did not take pains to prove to her relatives that she was entirely indifferent to them and their interests and pleasures. She ate with a good appe

« VorigeDoorgaan »