Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

tice, Mr. Erskine. He says you speak / sudden, so unintentional, – the action of very well, and have such a clear head. I one entirely unskilled in the difficult art think,” she added with a sigh, “it is you of deception. John's glance followed who ought to be in Parliament, and not hers with a sudden shock and pang of Rintoul."

dismay. He had not thought of it before; “That is past thinking of,” John said, now in a moment he seemed to see it all. with a little heightened color. He thought It was an unfortunate moment too; for so himself; but neither could the party Edith was slightly leaning forward, look. bear a divided interest, nor had he him. ing at her companion with a most amiable self any influence to match that of Lord and friendly aspect, almost concealing, Lindores.

with the forward stoop of her pretty “You are going to Tinto on Tuesday,” figure, the rotund absurdity of his. She said Lady Lindores,“ with the rest? Do smiled, yet she was listening to him with you know, Mr. Erskine, my boy has never all the absorbed attention of a Desdemo. met his brother-in-law since that evening na; and the little brute had so much to here, when some words passed. I never say for himself! The blood all ran away could make out what they were. Not from John's healthful countenance to reenough to make a quarrel of? not enough plenish his heart, which had need of it in to disturb Carry

this sudden and most unlooked for shock. “I do not think so. It was only a - Lady Lindores saw the whole, and shared momentary impatience,” John said. the shock of the discovery, which to her

“Mr. Erskine, I am going to ask you a was double, for she perceived in the same great favor. It is if you would keep in moment that she had betrayed herself, Rintoul's company, keep by him; think, and saw what John's sentiments were. in a family how dreadful it would be if Some women divine such feelings from any quarrel sprang up. The visit will not their earliest rise — foresee them, indeed, last long.

if you will keep your eye before they come into existence, and are upon him, keep between him and tempta- prepared for the emergencies that must tion

follow; but there are some who are always John could not help smiling. The po- taken by surprise. She, too, became pale sition into which he was being urged, as with horror and dismay. She ought to a sort of governor to Rintoul, was entirely have foreseen it - she ought to have absurd to his own consciousness. “You guarded against it; but before she had so smile,” cried Lady Lindores eagerly; much as anticipated such a danger, bere

you think what right has this woman to it was! ask so much? I am not even a very old “I mean," she faltered, “that she friend."

should — meet only the best people, go to I am laughing at the idea that Rintoul the best houses and that sort of thing; should be under my control; he is more a even that she should be perfectly dressed; man of the world than I am."

he goes so far as that,” she said, with an “ Yes,” said his mother doubtfully, uneasy laugh. " that is true. He is dreadfully worldly John did not make any reply. He in some ways; but, Mr. Erskine, I wonder bowed his head slightly, that was all. He if you will disapprove of me when I say found himself, indeed, caught in such a it has been a comfort to me to find him whirlpool of strange emotion, that he quite boyish and impulsive in others ? I could not trust his voice, nor even his He is prudent - about Edith for exam. thoughts, which were rushing headlong ple.”

on each other's heels like horses broken “ About Lady Edith ? " John said loose, and were altogether beyond his faltering, with a look of intense surprise control. and anxiety on his face.

“But he is himself as impulsive as a There is no doubt that Lady Lindores boy,” cried the unlucky mother, rushing was herself a most imprudent woman. into the original subject with no longer She gave him a quick, sudden glance, any very clear perception what it was ; reddened, and then looked as suddenly at “and Mr. Torrance's manner, you know, the other group: Millefleurs, flowing forth is sometimes — offensive to a sensitive in placid talk, with much eloquent move. person. He does not mean it,” she added ment of his plump hands, and Edith lis- hurriedly; “people have such different tening, with a smile on her face which degrees of perception.” now and then seemed ready to overflow

people have very different de. into laughter. She betrayed herself and grees of perception,” said John dreamily; all the family scheme by this glance, so he did not mean it as a reproach. It was

[ocr errors]

66

[ocr errors]

- Yes

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the only observation that occurred to then I have other duties. Fortune has him; his mind was in too great a turmoil been hard upon me,” he added, raising to be able to form any idea. To think he pathetically the eyes, which were like had never budged from his place at her beads, yet which languished and became feet, and that all in a moment this should sentimental as they turned upwards. It have happened! He felt as if, like a man was when he spoke of Jack and Tim that in a fairy tale, he had been suddenly car- Edith had looked at him so prettily, bendried off from the place in which he was, ing forward, touched by his tale; but now and was hearing voices and seeing visions she laughed without concealment, with a from some dull distance, scarcely know- frank outburst of mirth in which the little ing what they meant.

hero joined with great good humor, notMeanwhilé Millefleurs purled on like withstanding the pathos in his eyes. the softest little stream, smooth English This pair were on the happiest terms, brooklet, without breaks or boulders. He fully understanding each other; but it was never tired of talking, and himself was very different with the others, bewas his genial theme. “I am aware that tween whom conversation had wholly I am considered egoistical,” he said. “I ceased. Lady Lindores now drew her talk of things I am acquainted with. shawl round her, and complained that it Now, you know most things better than I was getting chilly. “ That is the worst do - oh yeth! women are much better of Scotland,” she said 'you can never educated nowadays than men; but my trust the finest day. A sharp wind will limited experiences are, in their way, come round a corner all in a moment and original. I love to talk of what I know. spoil your pleasure.” This was most unThen my life over yonder was such fun. provoked slander of the northern skies, If I were to tell you what my mates called which were beaming down upon her at me, you would adopt the name ever after the moment with the utmost brightness, by way of laughing at me; but there was and promising hours of sunshine; but no ridicule in their minds."

after such a speech there was nothing to I hope you don't think I would take be done but to go down hill again to the any such liberty, Lord Millefleurs." house, where the carriage was waiting.

"It would be no liberty; it would be John, who lingered behind to pull himself an honor. I wish you would do it. They together after his downfall, found, to his called me Tommy over there. Now, my great surprise, that Edith lingered too. respectable name is Julian. Imagine But it seemed to him that he was incapawhat a downfall. I knew you would laugh; ble of saying anything to her.

To point but they meant no harm." I acknowledge the contrast between himself and Millemyself that it

very appropriate. fleurs by a distracted silence, that, of When a man has the misfortune to be course, was the very thing to do to take plump and not very tall – I am aware away any shadow of a chance he might that is a pretty way of putting it; but still have! But he had no chance. What then, you don't expect me to describe my possibility was there that an obscure personal appearance in the coarsest terms country gentleman, who had never done

- it is so natural to call him Tommy. I anything to distinguish himself, should was the nurse when any of them were ill. be able to stand for a moment against the You have no notion how grateful they son of a rich duke, a marquis, a million. were, these rough fellows. They used to aire, and a kind of little hero to boot, curse me, you know — that was their way who had been very independent and orig. of being civil — and ask where I had got inal, and made himself a certain reputasuch soft hands.” Here Millefleurs pro- tion, though it was one of which some duced those articles, and looked at them people might be afraid? There was only with a certain tenderness. “I was al. one thing in which he was Millefleurs's ways rather vain of my hands," he said, superior, but that was the meanest and with the most childlike naïveté, “but poorest of all. John felt inclined to burst never so much as when Jack and Tim out into savage and brutal laughter at d—d them, in terms which I couldn't those soft curves and flowing outlines, as repeat in a lady's presence, and asked me the little man, talking continuously, as he where the something I had learned to had talked to Edith, walked on in front touch a fellow like that? It occurred to with her mother. The impulse made bim me after that I might have studied sur- more and more ashamed of himself, and gery, and been of some use that way; yet he was so mean as to indulge it, feelbut I was too old,” he said, a soft little ing himself a cad, and nothing else. sigh agitating his plump bosom — "and | Edith laughed too, softly, under her

was

[ocr errors]

by the

[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

breath, But she said quickly, “We “My dear fellow," said Millefleurs, “ I should not laugh at him, Mr. Erskine. don't want to appear to teach you, who are He is a very good little man. He has a man of much more intelligence than I. done more than all of us put together. But that ith a mithtake, I must say it. They called him Tommy in America,” | You can always talk best on the subject said the traitress, with another suppressed you know best. Don't you find it a great laugh. John was for a inoment softened difference coming here after knocking

we” with which she began, and about the world ? Yes, I feel it ; but sothe gibe with which she ended. But his ciety is quite fresh to me, as fresh as ill-humor and jealous rage were too much Calisornia while it lasts. Then I have had for him.

my eyes opened as to my duties. My He is Marquis of Millefleurs, and he father and mother are as kind as possible. will be Duke of Lavender,” he said, with A friend of mine tells me, and I am partly an energy which was savage, trampling convinced, that to keep them comfortable down the tough heather under his feet. is my chief business. You are of that

Edith turned and looked at him with opinion too ? there is much to be said for astonished eyes. It was a revelation to it. It belongs to civilization; but so long her also, though for the first moment she as civilization lasts, perhaps

And so scarcely knew of what. “Do you think I am going to marry and range myself,” it is for that reason we like him, Mr. Ers- Millefleurs said, with his air of ineffable kine? How strange !” she said, and self-satisfaction, turning up the palms of turned her eyes away with a proud move his fat, pink-tinged hands. ment of her head, full of indignation and “Really!” John cried, with faint deriscorn. John felt himself the pettiness sion, feeling as if this innocent exclamaand petulance of which he had been tion were an oath. " And the lady?” he guilty; but he was very unhappy, and it added, with a still more fierce laugh. seemed to him impossible to say or do Millefleurs gave his arm little anything by which he might get himself squeeze. “ Not settled yet,” he said — pardoned. So he walked along moodily “not settled yet. I have seen a great by her side, saying nothing, while Lord many. There are so many pretty persons Millefleurs held forth just a few steps in in society. If any one of them would ask advance. Edith bent forward to hear me, I have no doubt I should be perfectly what he was saying, in the continued happy; but choice is always disagreeable. silence of her companion, and this was a In America also,” he added, with some renewed draught of wormwood and gall pathos, “ there are many very pretty perto John, though it was his own fault. It sons; and they like a title. The field is was with relief that he put the ladies into | very wide. Let us take an easier subject. their carriage, and saw them drive away, Is Beaufort coming to you ?” though this relief was changed into angry “ His answer is very enigmatical,” said impatience when he found that Millefleurs John. “I do not know whether he means lingered with the intention of walking, to coine or not." and evidently calculated upon his com- “He is enigmatical,” said Millefleurs. pany. The little marquis, indeed, took " He is the queerest fellow. What is the his arm with friendly ease, and turned connection between him and the family bim with gentle compulsion towards the here?” avenue. “You are going to walk with This question took John entirely by me,” he said.

“An excellent thing in surprise. It was so sudden, both in form Scotland is that it is never too warın to and meaning. He had expected his comwalk, even for me. Come and talk a lit. panion, before he paused, to go on for tle. I have been telling tales about my at least five minutes more. He hesitated self. I have not beard anything of you. iu spite of himself. The first is such an easy subject. One “ There is no connection that I know has one's little experiences, which are of between him and the family here." different from any one else's; and wher- "Oh yes, yes, there is,” said Millefleurs, ever there are kind women, you find your with gentle pertinacity; "think a minute. audience, don't you know?"

Erskine, my dear fellow, forgive me, but “ No, I don't know,” said John abrupt. you must have Beaufort here. If he is ly. “It never occurs to me to talk about not near me, he will lose the confidence of myself. I can't see what interest any. my papa - who will think Beaufort is body can have in things that happen to neglecting his precious son. I speak to

Besides, few things do happen for you with perfect freedom. Beaufort and that matter,” he added, in an undertone. I understand each other. I am in no need

me.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of a governor, but he is in want of a pro- for he was sick at heart and irritable in tégé. Don't you see? By this arrange the discovery which he had made, “that ment everything is made comfortable. Beaufort's mission is to be accomplished, Beaufort understands me. He knows and the duke to fulfil his hopes ? that control is a mistake in my case. He Millefleurs laughed a soft, rich laugh, found me and brought me home, because not loud. My dear fellow," he said, I was already on my way: he keeps me “that is when I marry, don't you know? from harm for what you call harm has That is my occupation now in the world. no attraction for me, don't you know. It'When I have a wife the other will be off is only my curiosity that has to be kept duty. I am much interested in my occuin check, and at present I have plenty to pation at present. It brings so many specoccupy that; but my father does not un imens of humanity under one's eyes. So derstand all this. Minds of that genera different — for women are just as different tion are a little limited, don't you know? as men, though you don't think so per. They don't see so clearly as one would haps. It might make a man vain," he wish them to see. If Beaufort is long said, turning out his pink-tinged palm, away from me, he will think I am in dan. " to see how many fair creatures will take ger, – that I may bolt again. Also, it will notice of him; but then one remembers interfere with Beaufort's prospects, which that it was not always so, and that takes the duke is to take charge of

one down again. In California I was " But this seems to me rather not liked, I am proud to say, but not admired. quite straightforward on Beaufort's part,” It was, perhaps, more amusing: But I said John.

must not be ungrateful; for life everyAt this little Millefleurs shrugged his where is very entertaining. And here are plump shoulders. " It is permitted to fresh fields and pastures new," said the humor our elders,” he said. “ It pleases little man. When you have a pursuit, them and it does no one any harm. Beau- every new place is doubly interesting. It fort, don't you know, is not a fellow to does not matter whether you are hunting walk alone. He is clever and all that; or botanizing or — a pursuit gives in. but he will never do anything by himself. terest to all things. Now is the time for Between him and me it suits very well. the country and rural character. I someSo, to save the duke's feelings and to help times think it is that which will suit me Beaufort on, you must stretch a point and best.” have him here. It will be thought he is " Then I suppose you are on a tour of watching over me at a little distance like inspection, and one of our country, young the sweet little cherub, don't you know, in ladies may have the honor of pleasing the song. What objection have they got you,” said John, somewhat fiercely. His to seeing him here? is

companion, looking up in his face with “None that I know of,” said John deprecating looks, patted his arm as a steadily, turning his face to the other side kind of protest. to escape the scrutiny of those small, “Don't be brutal, Erskine,” he said black, bead-like eyes.

with his little lisp; “such things are “Oh come, come, come!” said little never said.” John would have liked to Millefleurs, remonstrating yet coaxing, take him in his teeth and shake him as a patting him lightly on the arm,"one sees dog does, so angry was he and furious. it must have been one of the daughters. It But little Millefleurs meant no harm. He will do no harm to tell me. Am I such an drew his old schoolfellow along with him, ignorant? These things are happening as long as John's civility held out. Then, every day. Is it this one here

to see him strolling along with his little “What are you thinking of ?” cried hat pushed on the top of his little round John angrily. Lady Edith was only a head, and all the curves of his person re. child.”

peating the lines of that circle! John “Ah! then it was the other one," Mille- stopped to look after him with a laugh fleurs said seriously; " that suits me which he could scarcely restrain so long better. It would have been a trifle ridic- as Millefleurs was within hearing. It ulous - Beaufort might keep in the back. was an angry laugh, though there was ground if there is any reason for it; but nothing in the young man to give occawe must really think of the duke. He sion for it. There was nothing really in will be in a state of mind, don't you know, him that was contemptible, for to be and so will my mother. They will think plump is not an offence by any code. But I have bolted again.”

John watched him with the fiercest de. “ And when is it,” said John satirically, I rision going along the country road with

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

16 Or

[ocr errors]

his cane held in two fingers, his hat curl- | with astonishment, and a comical sort of ing in the brim, his locks curling the indignation, that his mother had come other way. And this was the man whom over to his way of thinking. He could even Lady Lindores - even she, a woman not believe it to be possible at first, and so superior to worldly motives - conde. afterwards this inconsistent young man scended to scheme about. And Edith ? | had felt disgusted with the new accomwas it possible that she, too even she? plice whom he had in his heart believed Everything seemed to have turned to bit- incapable of any such conversion. But terness in Joho's soul. Tinto before him such being the case, there was no need in the distance, with its flaunting flag, gave to ménager her susceptibilities. emphasis to the discovery he had made. driven to it,” he repeated with emphasis. For mere money, nothing else, one had “ I shall not stand by, I promise you, and been sacrificed." The other, was she to see my sister planté be sacrificed, too? Was there nothing “You have used these words before, but wealth to be thought of all the world Rintoul. They disgust me, and they ofover, even by the best people, by women fend me," said his mother. “ I will not with every tender grace and gift? When be a party to anything of the kind. Those he thought of the part in the drama allot- who do such things dishonor the girl ted to himself — to entertain Beaufort, oh, far more than anything else can do. who was the keeper of Millefleurs, in or- She does not care at all for him. Most der that Millefleurs might be at liberty to likely she would refuse him summarily.” bollow his present pursuit, John burst into “ And you would let her refuse a a laugh not much more melodious than dukedom?" cried Rintoul. that of Torrance. Beaufort and he could “Refuse a — man whom she does not condole with each other. They could care for. What could I do? I should communicate, each to each, their several even like now, after all that has happened, disappointments. But to bring to the that it should come to something; but if neighborhood this man whom Carry dared she found that she could not marry him, not see, whom with such tragic misery in how could I interfere ?” her face she had implored John to keep at “ Jove ! but I should interfere,” cried a distance — and that it should be her Rintoul, pacing up and down the room. parents who were bringing him in cold “How could you helpinterfering ? Would blood in order to advance their schemes you suffer me to throw away all my pros. for her sister — was it possible that any pects?” Here he paused, with a curious, thing so base or cruel could be ?

half-threatening, half-deprecating look. Perhaps his mother would be one who

would suffer him to sacrifice his pros“THE thing is that he must be brought pects. Perhaps she would sympathize to the point. I said so in town. He with him even in that wrong-doing. She dangled after her all the season, and he's was capable of it. He looked at her with dangled after her down here. The little mingled disdain.and admiration. She was beggar knows better than that. He a woman who was capable of applauding knows that sharp people would never him for throwing himself away. What stand it. He is trusting to your country folly! and yet perhaps it was good to simplicity. When a man does not come have a mother like that. But not for to the point of his own accord, he must be Edith, whose case was of an altogether led to it or driven to it, for that mat. different complexion from his own. He ter,” said Rintoul. He was out of humor, made a pause, and then he added in a poor fellow. He had gone astray in bis slightly louder tone, being excited : “ But own person. His disapproval of his be must not be allowed to dangle on for mother and of everybody belonging to ever. When a fellow follows a girl into him was nothing in comparison with his the country he must mean something. disapproval of himself. This put him out You may take my word for that.” in every way; instead of making him tol- At this moment the handle of the door erant of the others who were no worse gave a slight clink; a soft step was audithan himself, it made him rampant in his ble. “ Pardon me for disturbing you, wisdom. If it was so that he could not dearest lady,” said the melliAuous voice persuade or force himself into the right of Millefleurs. The little marquis had a way, then was it more and more neces- foot which made no sound on the carpet. sary to persuade or force other people. He was daintily attired, and all his moveHe took a high tone with Lady Lindores, ments were noiseless.

He came upon all the more because he had discovered these startled conspirators like a ghost.

CHAPTER XXIV.

« VorigeDoorgaan »