« VorigeDoorgaan »
tell directly?" said the girl, with a half | fear," he said, in the very midst of the whimper, which the foolish young man discussion about the plumber. thought celestial. This to be said by "I told Nelly to wrap herself up," said Nelly, a girl who had never in all her life Mrs. Eastwood, calmly. She was not kept a secret half-an-hour from her moth-afraid of the east wind. The Eastwoods er! The fact was that she wanted to had never been known to have any delihave the telling herself, and quaked at cacy about the chest. And as for a more the thought of presenting this ardent per- serious danger, Nelly's mother, secure in sonage to her mother, and probably hav- full possession of her child, had not even ing her dignity compromised before that begun to think of that. mother's very eyes by "some of his nonsense." Nelly was very shy, and half ashamed of coming into the light and looking even her wooer himself in the face.
She was scarcely alarmed even when the two entered, somewhat flushed and embarrassed, as soon as Major Railton, who, poor man, had an engagement, had withdrawn, breathing fire and flame.
There were but a very few primroses, and these were half frozen, cowering among their leaves. Young Molyneux carried away a little cluster of them, and gave another to Nelly, which was not placed in her basket, and then they made another final round of the garden, and walked down the elm-tree avenue solemnly arm in arm. How quickly the mind gets accustomed to any revolution! This little concluding processional march threw them years in advance of the more agitating contiguity of the Lady's Walk.
"What a colour you have, Nelly," said Mrs. Eastwood, innocently. "I suppose it is the wind. The Major tells me the wind is in the east. You should not have stayed out so long. Come to the fire and warm yourselves, both of you. I see you have got no primroses after all."
"There were none," said Nelly, guiltily, putting her hand over the little cluster in her belt. "It is too cold for them; but I don't think I ever was out on such a lovely night."
"You have no idea how beautiful it is," "This is how we shall walk about said young Molyneux —and then he took everywhere ten years hence, when we his leave in the most embarrassed way. are sober old married people," he said; When he clutched one of her hands and and there glanced over the imagina- held it fast, and groped in the dark for tions of both a sudden picture, which the other, Nelly thanked heaven in both would have been sadly discon- mingled fright and gratitude that she had certed to have described. A little tremu- put a stop to his intention of at once telllous laugh went from one to the other. ing her mother. What might he not How much emotion that cannot express have done before Mrs. Eastwood's very itself otherwise has vent in such soft ? laughter? And a sense of the calm of happiness to come so different from this delightful dream of the beginning, yet issuing naturally from it, stole over them and stilled their young hearts.
This was what was going on in the garden while Major Railton, not without many a horrible thought of his rival's advantages, was talking bricks and slates, as Molyneux flippantly said, to Mrs. Eastwood. They had come to the length of a pipe and water-butt for the rain water, and the plumber's estimate, when Nelly and Molyneux were gathering the primroses. How the gallant Majro's heart was being torn asunder in the midst of those discussions, I dare not attempt to describe. He had seated himself so that he could see into the garden; but the flicker of the firelight filled the room, and the Lady's Walk was invisible from the windows.
"Don't you think Miss Eastwood will catch cold? There is an east wind, I
"But Nelly," said the mother, when he was gone, "you should not have stayed so long out of doors. I don't want to be absurd, or to put things into your head; but Ernest Molyneux is quite a young man, and very nice-looking, and just the sort of person to have stories made up about him—and really what object you could both have, wandering about on a cold night, except chatter and nonsense
Nelly was kneeling before the fire, warming her cold little fingers. At this address she sidled up to her mother's side and put her flushed cheek down on Mrs. Eastwood's silken lap, and began with the most coaxing and melting of voices
It is not to be wondered at if an event like this happening quite suddenly and unexpectedly in an innocent young house which had not yet begun to afflict itself with love-stories should for the moment
dence of waiting longer. When it occurred to him that he must tell Mrs. Eastwood that he was earning nothing, but lived on the allowance his father gave him, it made the young man uncomfortably hot and nervous. He avoided the mother's eye as he told this part of the story, dwelling much upon what he would do in the future, and his eagerness to provide for Nelly "all the comforts she had been used to." Mrs. Eastwood, though she was not a woman of business, knew enough about the world to shake her head at this. She was very well inclined to Molyneux, both for his own sake and for Nelly's. He was good
THE Commotion produced in The Elms by the above event was very great. It was the first experience of the family in this kind of thing, and it affected everybody, from Mrs. Eastwood down to the kitchen-maid. Frederick was perhaps the least moved of all. He intimated it as his opinion that Molyneux was all right seeing that he had a father before him: that looking, well-mannered, and always nicely he wondered at Nelly's taste, but sup-behaved to herself, which naturally has a posed it was her own look-out, and if she certain influence upon a mother. And was pleased no one had any right to in- his connections were all that could be teifere. He made his speech rather dis-wished. Mr. Molyneux, Q.C., who was agreeable to his sister from the little recognized by everybody as going to be shrug of the shoulders with which he an- Mr. Justice Molyneux at the very first vanounced his surprise at her taste; but cancy, was perfectly satisfactory as a otherwise he was friendly enough. Dick, father-in-law for Nelly, and would secure for his part, said little, but he walked for Nelly's family a comfortable certainty round her with a certain serious investi- of being well-lawyered all their lives. And gation in the intervals of his studies. they were "nice people ;" there was, on the whole nothing in the world to be said against Mrs. Molyneux, Ernest's mother, or the Misses Molyneux, his sisters. But, nevertheless, as it is strictly necessary for a young couple to have something to live on, Mrs. Eastwood shook her head.
You look exactly as you did yesterday; I can't see any difference," said Dick. "Why don't you put on another kind of gown, or pin Molyneux's card on you, to show you are disposed of?"
To this, however, Nelly paid no more attention than she did to the comments of Winks, who came and wagged his tail at her in a knowing, good-humoured sort of way. When Molyneux came to see Mrs. Eastwood next morning, Winks met him at the door, escorted him to the dining-room, where he was to have his audience, and then trotted in on three legs to where Nelly was sitting, and wagged his tail confidentially. "A very good fellow, on the whole, I assure you,' he said as plainly as could be said by that medium of communication.
"Nelly has five thousand pounds," she said, “but with my boys to place out in the world, I shall not be able to give her any more, and that is not much to depend upon. And, as a matter of principle, I don't like to see young people depending upon allowances from their fathers and mothers - unless it might be an eldest son, with landed property coming to him. I don't think it is the right way.'
Molyneux was rather surprised at this display of wisdom. He thought some one must have put it into her head. He had meant to slur over his want of income in his interview with the mother, as he could not have done with a father. And then Mrs. Eastwood was so " jolly," so good natured, and kind, that he did not expect his position to be regarded as involving any want of principle. It must not be supposed, however, that the young man had any intention of deceiving, or that he was aware of having done wrong in obeying his impulse, and hastening by so many weeks or months his explanation with Nelly. Yet he felt that but for that over whelming impulse it might have been prudent to have postthat he would have decided on the pru-poned the explanation; and now he re
Nelly did not sit in awful suspense while her lover was unfolding himself to her mother. She knew that mother well enough to be sure that nothing untoward would come in the course of her true love. But she awaited their coming with a certain importance and expectation. They had a long conversation in the diningroom, longer perhaps than Nelly approved. Mr. Molyneux had a great deal to say to Mrs. Eastwood. No one could be less disposed to "repent at leisure" after the hot haste of his declaration, but yet it is very probable, had he had time to think,
have eclipsed everything, and put the strange inmate and all the circumstances of her first appearance at once into the the shade.
ceived a sudden check, and for a moment | keep you at arm's length, for that would experienced the sensations of a man who be to punish Nelly; but I think you has been proceeding on false pretences, should not have spoken till your prospects and did not know what to say. were a little more clear."
"I am afraid you will think I have been premature," he said. "The fact is, I should have made my way first before I ventured-but then, Mrs. Eastwood, you must make allowances for me, and recollect that to see Nelly often, and yet to continue quite prudent and master of self.
"But you need not have seen Nelly quite so often," said Mrs. Eastwood with a smile.
Mrs. Eastwood shook her head again, but she smiled likewise, and gave him her my-hand, and even permitted a filial salute, which reddened her comely cheek, and softened her heart to Nelly's betrothed. Perhaps, under the circumstances, it was permissible for a man to be imprudent. Molyneux spent the rest of the day in and about the Elms, appearing and disappearing, hanging about Nelly, disturb ing all the household arrangements, and communicating to the visitors premature information as to what had happened. Not that he made any confidences, but that his mere presence there all the afternoon, his look of possession and triumph, the little air of being at home, which the young man could not resist taking upon himself, told the tale more clearly than words. Mrs. Barclay ran in "just for a moment," as she said, to beg Nelly to go with her next day to a Horticultural show, and "finish what you have begun, you little puss," she whispered in the girl's ear. "What have I begun?" Nelly asked, bewildered, while Molyneux, without any assignable reason, was so rude as to burst out laughing in his enjoyment of the joke. He put Mrs. Barclay into her carriage as if he had been the son of the house, she said afterwards, a proceeding which sent her away with a certain vague disquiet and resentment, though of course, as she "allowed, she had no right to interfere. Major Railton, too, when he called about the plumber's work, was infinitely disgusted to find Molyneux there, and to leave him there, when, after long waiting, he was obliged to relinquish the hope of out-staying his rival. "I must go," he said at length, in tart and ill-tempered tones, "for, alas! I am not so lucky as you young fellows with nothing to do. I have my duties to attend to." This was a poisoned arrow, and struck the whole happy group, mother, daughter, and lover, with equal force.
"Supposing I had stayed away, what should you have thought of me? That I was a despicable fellow laying myself out to please her, and then running away when I thought I had gone too far."
"I don't think I should have thought anything of the kind," said Mrs. Eastwood, in that easy way which is so disconcerting to people who feel that the eyes of the world ought to be upon them."I should have thought you were occupied, or had other engagements. Indeed, until Nelly told me last night, I never had distinctly identified you as being fond of her, Mr. Molyneux. No doubt it was my stupidity, but I should not have remarked it; I don't know whether she might have done so."
Molyneux felt considerably crushed by this calm and tolerant judgment, but he
'They are clear enough," said the anxious lover. "It is only that I have been idle, and wanted energy; but now no man can have a stronger motive
"You may be sure this state of things won't last," he said; “I have a motive now, and I shall set to work. Of course I cannot press for an early marriage, as I should otherwise have done had I been wise, and made my preparations first
"No, of course not," said Mrs. Eastwood. This gave her great pleasure, practically, but theoretically I am obliged to confess that she half despised her future son-in-law for his philosophy. It was quite right, and relieved her mind from a load. But still a woman likes her child to be wooed hotly, and prefers an impatient lover, unwilling to wait. Such an one she would have talked to and reasoned down into patience, but, theoretically, she would have liked him the best.
"You will not oppose me?" said Molyneux, taking her hand; "you will be a good mother to me, and let me see Nelly, and be a sort of new son, to make up to me for having to wait? You are always good, to everybody—you won't keep me at arm's length?"
"No," said Mrs. Eastwood, "I won't
"I am sure, Major Railton, you are an example to us all," said Mrs. Eastwood; "always so ready to serve others, and yet with so much of your own work to do. But I hope Mr. Molyneux has his duties, too."
Yes, I have my duties," said the lover,
in his insolent happiness turning a beaming countenance upon the unsuccessful one. It was growing dark, and he was so impertinent as to give a little twitch to Nelly's sleeve in the obscurity, under Major Railton's very eyes; who did not, indeed, see this flaunting in his face of his adversary's banner, but felt that there was some bond unrevealed which joined the three before him in a common cause. He went away in a state of irritation for which he could not have given any just reason, and tore the plumber's estimate to pieces when he emerged from the shrubbery in front of the Elms. Mrs. Eastwood had not taken kindly even to his plumber. She had stood by a certain old Sclater, an old jobbing Scotsman, for whom she had a national partiality.
But notwithstanding so many appearances against him, he was the most intellectual of Mrs. Eastwood's sons - a "sap" at school, and addicted to reading away from school, a fashion of Eton boy with which the world is not familiar. By way of making up for this, he was somewhat rough in his manners, and great in such exercises as demanded strength rather than skill. He was tremendous at football, though no one gave him the credit for clever play; and though his "form" was bad, and precluded all hope of "the boats," he could carry a skiff along at a pace which no one could keep up with, and against the stream was the greatest oar of his years afloat on Thames. In consideration of these qualifications the youth of Eton graciously looked over his "sapping," or rather were vaguely impressed by it- as, to do him justice,
"Why should I bother myself about their concerns? Let them get Molyneux to look after things," the Major said to the modern schoolboy generally is when himself with scorn that transcended all intellectual power is combined with the other expression; and he laughed what muscular force of which he has a clearer is sometimes described in literature as a understanding. Jenny was not yet a "hollow laugh" of bitterness and sar- "swell," but he was in a fair way for being a swell- -a title which at Eton bears a very different meaning from its meaning elsewhere. But he was very good to his family when he went home, and tolerant of their ignorance. Jenny's It had been resolved in the family that name in the school list was all starred nothing was to be said about the engage- and ribboned, so to speak, with unknown ment for the present, as it would in all orders of merit, such as the profane eye probability be a long one; and this was comprehends not. He had a big Roman how they began to carry out their resolu- letter before his name, and a little Greek tion. I do not need to add that the ser- one after it, and a double number after vants knew it the first evening, and had that- mystic signs of honours which the already settled where the young people Eton man understands, but which I will were to live, and what sort of an estab-not attempt to explain. It might have lishment they would keep up. Winks, been confusing to a more mature intellect too, was aware of the fact from the first, to contemplate all the novelties which and, as I have said, was confidentially hu- were to dawn upon him on this visit; but morous about it with Nelly, and kept Jenny was not emotional. He shook up her courage during the interview be- hands with his brother-in-law who was to tween her mother and her lover. But, be, with extreme composure. notwithstanding all we have been hearing lately about the communications made by dogs to their friends, I do not think he spread the news out of doors, or if he did whisper it to a crony, that crony was dis
"I suppose they have told you," said Mr. Molyneux, good-humouredly permitting himself to be inspected by this big boy.
Indeed, I think Major Railton was right, and that Molyneux's supervision of the roofs and water-butts would have come to very little good.
"Yes, they have told me," said Jenny, "but I knew you before.”
"You did not know me in my present capacity. Indeed, I am not generally known in my present capacity," said Molyneux; "and I don't quite see why you should have been told. You would never have found out."
On Saturday, which was the day following, Jenny came up from Eton to spend the Sunday with his adoring family. Jenny was extremely unlike his name a big and bony boy of sixteen, promising to be the biggest of the family, though neither Frederick nor Dick were short. He had big joints and long limbs, and red
"Oh, shouldn't I!" said Jenny. "Last time I was at home, I said, 'He's going
wrists and prodigious knuckles project- to be Mr. Nelly, that fellow;' didn't I, ing from the short sleeve of his coat. Mamma? Of course you are Mr. Nelly.
Women don't get half justice in this | lieve you are right. If I could love her world. I like her better than you, as a heartily, right out, as I love Nellymatter of course; so that's your distinction to me."
"That's unreasonable," said Jenny. "You can't do that, because, you see, we love Nelly by instinct, not for anything in her. She's not bad, for a girl - but if she were as disagreeable as an old cat, still we should have instinct to fall back upon. You have no instinct in respect to the other girl."
"What an odd boy you are," said Mrs. Eastwood, half affronted, half laughing; "and yet I believe there's something in it. But I do blame myself. I want to be kind, very kind, to her; whereas, you know, if I had not been kind to her, but only had loved her at once, I should have done better, I am sure. As for girls being seen and not heard, I don't think it applies to their families, Mr. Molyneux. It is all very well out in the world.
"Jenny goes in for Women's Rights," said his mother, with a smile.
"Of course I do : I'm a woman's son; oughtn't I to stand up for them? If you mean to tell me old Brownlow there has more sense than my mother, I tell you you're a fool, that's all. Nor Frederick hasn't not half so much-though he thinks himself such a swell," said Jenny.
In point of negatives, boys, however learned in Greek and Latin, permit themselves occasionally, in English, a style of their own.
"I don't want a vote, you silly boy," said Mrs. Eastwood; "it is not in my way."
You may please yourself about that -but it's a disgrace to England that you shouldn't have it if you like," cried the young politician, hotly. And then he sunk suddenly from this lofty elevation, and asked, “Where's the other girl?”
"Do you mean Innocent?"
"I mean her if that's her name," said the boy, colouring slightly. "Don't she stay with the rest of us? Ain't you good to her? Where has she gone?"
"We are as good as we know how to be," said Mrs. Eastwood, glad to plunge into a grievance, and with a new listener. "We don't know what to make of her, Jenny. She does not care for Nelly and
We have tried to coax her, and we have tried to scold her; but she will stay by herself. She comes down when the bell rings, and she speaks when she is spoken to: that is all; and I am at my wit's end what to do."
"Out in the world one would rather they did say something now and then," said Molyneux. "It may be good, but it is dull. We are in a new cycle of opinion, and don't think as our grandfathers did. At the domestic hearth it might be very nice to have some one who would only speak when she was spoken to. There would be no quarrels then, Nelly ; no settings up of independent judgment; no saying 'Hold your tongue, sir
"That ought to be said, however, sometimes," said Nelly, making a little moue.
These were the light-horse skirmishings of conversation, part of that running dialogue about everything which these two young persons carried on in every corner, over everybody's head, and through everybody's talk. The others, to tell the truth, paid very little attention to their chatter, and Jenny came in with a steady march, as of the main body of the army along the beaten road.
"But that is everything a woman ought to be," said Molyneux. "Isn't there a proverb about being seen and not heard, &c. What a difference from some people! When I came in to-day, the first thing I heard was some one singing upstairs-singing so that I felt in-her, mother; for that, I suppose, you clined to dance. I suppose it was not could not help. But she should not be left to go about like a ghost. I don't be
"The question is, has she anything to say?" said Jenny. "I have felt myself, sometimes, What is the good of talking? I don't blame you for not being fond of
"It must be your fault," said Jenny, | lieve in ghosts," said the youth, propping seriously, taking no notice of this inter- himself up against the mantelpiece; pellation. "they are generally deceptions, or else it "My fault, Jenny !" cried Mrs. East- is quite impossible to prove them. But wood, getting red; and then she paused, when I saw that girl I thought she was and subdued her tones. "Do you know, one. Her face is a face out of a picture: dear, I often think it must be. But what I saw it once at the Louvre, the year we can I do?" she said, humbly. "I try were abroad. And she has something talking to her, and that fails; and then I very queer in her eyes; and she glides as try taking no notice. Yes, Jenny, I be- if she had not any feet. Altogether she