"Then she must be unhappy," said Sir Thomas. Houston shrugged his shoulders. "A fool like that has no right to be happy."
"There isn't another man in the world by whom I would allow her to be spoken of like that," said Houston.
"I regard her as all that is perfect in woman, and you must forgive me if I say that I shall not abandon my suit. I may be allowed, at any rate, to call at the house?"
"That is a kind of thing that is never done nowadays; – never," said Houston, shaking his head.
"I suppose my own house is my own."
"Yours and Lady Tringle's, and your daughters', no doubt. At any rate, Sir Thomas, you will think of this again. I am sure you will think of it again. If you find that your daughter's happiness depends upon it – "
"I shall find nothing of the kind. Good morning."
"Good morning, Sir Thomas." Then Mr. Houston, bowing graciously, left the little back room in Lombard Street, and jumping into a cab, had himself taken straight away to Queen's Gate.
"Papa is always like that," said Gertrude. On that day Mrs. Traffick, with all the boots, had taken herself away to the small house in Mayfair, and Gertrude, with her mother, had the house to herself. At the present moment Lady Tringle was elsewhere, so that the young lady was alone with her lover.
"But he comes round, I suppose."
"If he doesn't have too much to eat, – which disagrees with him, – he does. He's always better down at Glenbogie because he's out of doors a good deal, and then he can digest things."
"Then take him down to Glenbogie and let him digest it at once."
"Of course we can't go till the 12th. Perhaps we shall start on the 10th, because the 11th is Sunday. What will you do, Frank?" There had been a whisper of Frank's going to the Tyrol in August, there to join the Mudbury Docimers, who were his far-away cousins. Imogene Docimer was a young lady of marvellous beauty, – not possessed indeed of ?120,000, – of whom Gertrude had heard, and was already anxious that her Frank should not go to the Tyrol this year. She was already aware that her Frank had – just an artist's eye for feminine beauty in its various shapes, and thought that in the present condition of things he would be better at Glenbogie than in the Tyrol.
"I am thinking of wandering away somewhere; – perhaps to the Tyrol. The Mudbury Docimers are there. He's a pal of mine, besides being a cousin. Mrs. Docimer is a very nice woman."
"And her sister?"
"A lovely creature. Such a turn of the neck! I've promised to make a study of her back head."
"Come down to Glenbogie," said Gertrude, sternly.
"How can I do that when your governor won't let me enter his house-door even in London?"
"But you're here."
"Well, – yes; – I am here. But he told me not. I don't see how I'm to drive in at the gate at Glenbogie with all my traps, and ask to be shown my room.
"I believe you have, Sir; – cheek enough for anything. But mamma must manage it, – mamma and me, between us. Only keep yourself disengaged. You won't go to the Tyrol, – eh?" Then Frank Houston promised that he would not go to the Tyrol as long as there was a chance open that he might be invited to Glenbogie.
"I won't hear of it," said Sir Thomas to his wife. On that occasion his digestion had perhaps failed him a little. "He only wants to get my money."
"But Gertrude has set her heart on it, and nothing will turn her away."
"Why can't she set her heart on some one who has got a decent income. That man hasn't a shilling."
"Nor yet has Mr. Traffick."
"Mr. Traffick has, at any rate, got an occupation. Were it to do again, Mr. Traffick would never see a shilling of my money. By – , those fellows, who haven't got a pound belonging to them, think that they're to live on the fat of the land out of the sweat of the brow of such men as me."
"What is your money for, Tom, but for the children?"
"I know what it's for. I'd sooner build a hospital than give it to an idle fellow like that Houston. When I asked him what he did, he said he was fond of 'picters!'" Sir Thomas would fall back from his usual modes of expression when he was a little excited.
"Of course he hasn't been brought up to work. But he is a gentleman, and I do think he would make our girl happy."
"My money would make him happy, – till he had spent it."
"Tie it up."
"You don't know what you're talking about. How are you to prevent a man from spending his wife's income?"
"At any rate, if you have him down at Glenbogie you can see what sort of a man he is. You don't know him now."
"As much as I wish to."
"That isn't fair to the poor girl. You needn't give your consent to a marriage because he comes to Glenbogie. You have only to say that you won't give the money and then it must be off. They can't take the money from you." His digestion could not have been very bad, for he allowed himself to be persuaded that Houston should be asked to Glenbogie for ten days. This was the letter of invitation; —
My dear Mr. Houston,
We shall start for Glenbogie on the 10th of next month. Sir Thomas wishes you to join us on the 20th if you can, and stay till the end of the month. We shall be a little crowded at first, and therefore cannot name an earlier day.
I am particularly to warn you that this means nothing more than a simple invitation. I know what passed between you and Sir Thomas, and he hasn't at all changed his mind. I think it right to tell you this. If you like to speak to him again when you are at Glenbogie of course you can.Very sincerely yours,Emmeline Tringle.
At the same time, or within a post of it, he got another letter, which was as follows; —
Papa, you see, hasn't cut up so very rough, after all. You are to be allowed to come and help to slaughter grouse, which will be better than going to that stupid Tyrol. If you want to draw somebody's back head you can do it there. Isn't it a joke papa's giving way like that all in a moment? He gets so fierce sometimes that we think he's going to eat everybody. Then he has to come down, and he gets eaten worse than anybody else.
Of course, as you're asked to Glenbogie, you can come here as often as you like. I shall ride on Thursday and Friday. I shall expect you exactly at six, just under the Memorial. You can't come home to dinner, you know, because he might flare up; but you can turn in at lunch every day you please except Saturday and Sunday. I intend to be so jolly down at Glenbogie. You mustn't be shooting always.Ever your own,G.
Frank Houston as he read this threw himself back on the sofa and gave way to a soft sigh. He knew he was doing his duty, – just as another man does who goes forth from his pleasant home to earn his bread and win his fortune in some dry, comfortless climate, far from the delights to which he has been always accustomed. He must do his duty. He could not live always adding a hundred or two of debt to the burden already round his neck. He must do his duty. As he thought of this he praised himself mightily. How beautiful was his far-away cousin, Imogene Docimer, as she would twist her head round so as to show the turn of her neck! How delightful it would be to talk love to Imogene! As to marrying Imogene, who hadn't quite so many hundreds as himself, that he knew to be impossible. As for marriage, he wasn't quite sure that he wanted to marry any one. Marriage, to his thinking, was "a sort of grind," at the best. A man would have to get up and go to bed with some regularity. His wife might want him to come down in a frock coat to breakfast. His wife would certainly object to his drawing the back heads of other young women. Then he thought of the provocation he had received to draw Gertrude's back head. Gertrude hadn't got any turn of a neck to speak of. Gertrude was a stout, healthy girl; and, having ?120,000, was entitled to such a husband as himself. If he waited longer he might be driven to worse before he found the money which was so essentially necessary. He was grateful to Gertrude for not being worse, and was determined to treat her well. But as for love, romance, poetry, art, – all that must for the future be out of the question. Of course, there would now be no difficulty with Sir Thomas, and therefore he must at once make up his mind. He decided that morning, with many soft regrets, that he would go to Glenbogie, and let those dreams of wanderings in the mountains of the Tyrol pass away from him. "Dear, dearest Imogene!" He could have loved Imogene dearly had fates been more propitious. Then he got up and shook himself, made his resolution like a man, ate a large allowance of curried salmon for his breakfast, – and then wrote the following letter. "Duty first!" he said to himself as he sat down to the table like a hero.
Dear Lady Tringle,
So many thanks! Nothing could suit my book so well as a few days at Glenbogie just at the end of August. I will be there, like a book, on the 20th. Of course I understand all that you say. Fathers can't be expected to yield all at once, especially when suitors haven't got very much of their own. I shouldn't have dared to ask hadn't I known myself to be a most moderate man. Of course I shall ask again. If you will help me, no doubt I shall succeed. I really do think that I am the man to make Gertrude happy.Yours, dear Lady Tringle, ever so much,F. Houston.
My own One,
Your governor is a brick. Of course, Glenbogie will be better than the Tyrol, as you are to be there. Not but what the Tyrol is a very jolly place, and we'll go and see it together some day. Ask Tom to let me know whether one can wear heavy boots in the Glenbogie mountains. They are much the best for the heather; but I have shot generally in Yorkshire, and there they are too hot. What number does he shoot with generally? I fancy the birds are wilder with you than with us.
As for riding, I don't dare to sit upon a horse this weather. Nobody but a woman can stand it. Indeed, now I think of it, I sold my horse last week to pay the fellow I buy paints from. I've got the saddle and bridle, and if I stick them up upon a rail, under the trees, it would be better than any horse while the thermometer is near 80. All the ladies could come round and talk to one so nicely.
I hate lunch, because it makes me red in the face, and nobody will give me my breakfast before eleven at the earliest. But I'll come in about three as often as you like to have me. I think I perhaps shall run over to the Tyrol after Glenbogie. A man must go somewhere when he has been turned out in that fashion. There are so many babies at Buncombe Hall!
– Buncombe Hall is the family seat of the Houstons, —
and I don't like to see my own fate typified before the time.
Can I do anything for you except riding or eating lunch, – which are simply feminine exercises? Always your own,Frank.
Dear Cousin Im,
How pleasant it is that a little strain of thin blood should make the use of that pretty name allowable! What a stupid world it is when the people who like each other best cannot get together because of proprieties, and marriages, and such balderdash as we call love. I do not in the least want to be in love with you, – but I do want to sit near you, and listen to you, and look at you, and to know that the whole air around is impregnated by the mysterious odour of your presence. When one is thoroughly satisfied with a woman there comes a scent as of sweet flowers, which does not reach the senses of those whose feelings are not so awakened.
And now for my news! I suppose that G. T. will in a tremendously short period become Mistress F. H. 'A long day, my Lord.' But, if you are to be hung, better be hung at once. P?re Tringle has not consented, – has done just the reverse, – has turned me out of his house, morally. That is, out of his London house. He asked of my 'house and my home,' as they did of Allan-a-Dale.
Queen's Gate and Glenbogie stand fair on the hill.
"My home," quoth bold Houston, "shows gallanter still.
'Tis the garret up three pair – "
Then he told me roughly to get me gone; but 'I had laughed on the lass with my bonny black eye.' So the next day I got an invite to Glenbogie, and at the appropriate time in August,
She'll go to the mountains to hear a love tale,
And the youth —
it will be told by is to be your poor unfortunate coz, Frank Houston. Who's going to whimper? Haven't I known all along what was to come? It has not been my lot in life to see a flower and pick it because I love it. But a good head of cabbage when you're hungry is wholesome food. – Your loving cousin, but not loving as he oughtn't to love,Frank Houston.
I shall still make a dash for the Tyrol when this episode at Glenbogie is over.
Some few days after Lady Tringle had been at Kingsbury Crescent, two visitors, who knew little or nothing of each other, came to see Ayala. One was a lady and the other a gentleman, and the lady came first. The gentleman, however, arrived before the lady had gone. Mrs. Dosett was present while the lady remained; but when the gentleman came she was invited to leave him alone with her niece, – as shall be told.
The lady was the Marchesa Baldoni. Can the reader go so far back as to remember the Marchesa Baldoni? It was she who rather instigated Ayala to be naughty to the Tringles in Rome, and would have Ayala at her parties when she did not want the Tringles. The Marchesa was herself an Englishwoman, though she had lived at Rome all her life, and had married an Italian nobleman. She was now in London for a few weeks, and still bore in mind her friendship for Ayala, and a certain promise she had once made her. In Rome Lady Tringle, actuated by Augusta, who at the moment was very angry with everybody including her own lover, had quarrelled with the Marchesa. The Marchesa had then told Ayala that she, Ayala, must stay with her aunt, – must, in fact, cease for the time to come to the Marchesa's apartments, because of the quarrel; but that a time would come in which they might again be friends. Soon afterwards the Marchesa had heard that the Tringle family had discarded poor Ayala, – that her own quarrel had, in fact, extended itself to Ayala, and that Ayala had been shunted off to a poor relation, far away from all the wealth and luxuries which she had been allowed to enjoy for so short a time. Therefore, soon after her arrival in London, the Marchesa had made herself acquainted with the address of the Dosetts, and now was in Kingsbury Crescent in fulfilment of her promise made at Rome.
"So now you have got our friend Ayala," said the Marchesa with a smile to Mrs. Dosett.
"Yes; we have her now. There has been a change. Her sister, Lucy, has gone to my husband's sister, Lady Tringle."
The Marchesa made a pleasant little bow at each word. She seemed to Mrs. Dosett to be very gorgeously dressed. She was thoroughly well dressed, and looked like a Marchesa; – or perhaps, even, like a Marchioness. She was a tall, handsome woman, with a smile perhaps a little too continuously sweet, but with a look conscious of her own position behind it. She had seen in a moment of what nature was Ayala, how charming, how attractive, how pretty, how clever, – how completely the very opposite of the Tringles! Ayala learned Italian so readily that she could talk it almost at once. She could sing, and play, and draw. The Marchesa had been quite willing that her own daughter Nina should find a friend in Ayala. Then had come the quarrel. Now she was quite willing to renew the friendship, though Ayala's position was so sadly altered. Mrs. Dosett was almost frightened as the grand lady sat holding Ayala's hand, and patting it. "We used to know her so well in Rome; – did we not, Ayala?"
"You were very kind to me."
"Nina couldn't come, because her father would make her go with him to the pictures. But now, my dear, you must come to us just for a little time. We have a furnished house in Brook Street, near the park, till the end of the season, and we have one small spare room which will just do for you. I hope you will let her come to us, for we really are old friends," said the Marchesa, turning to Mrs. Dosett.
Mrs. Dosett looked black. There are people who always look black when such applications are made to them, – who look black at any allusions to pleasures. And then there came across her mind serious thoughts as to flowers and ribbons, – and then more serious thoughts as to boots, dresses, and hats. Ayala, no doubt, had come there less than six months since with good store of everything; but Mrs. Dosett knew that such a house as would be that of this lady would require a girl to show herself with the newest sheen on everything. And Ayala knew it too. The Marchesa turned from the blackness of Mrs. Dosett's face with her sweetest smile to Ayala. "Can't we manage it?" said the Marchesa.
"I don't think we can," said Ayala, with a deep sigh.
"And why not?"
Ayala looked furtively round to her aunt. "I suppose I may tell, Aunt Margaret?" she said.
"You may tell everything, my dear," said Mrs. Dosett.
"Because we are poor," said Ayala.
"What does that matter?" said the Marchesa, brightening up. "We want you because you are rich in good gifts and pretty ways."
"But I can't get new frocks now as I used to do in Rome. Aunt Emmeline was cruel to me, and said things which I could not bear. But they let me have everything. Uncle Reginald gives me all that he has, and I am much happier here. But we cannot go out and buy things, – can we, Aunt Margaret?"
"No, my dear; we cannot."
"It does not signify," said the Marchesa. "We are quite quiet, and what you have got will do very well. Frocks! The frocks you had in Rome are good enough for London. I won't have a word of all that. Nina has set her heart upon it, and so has my husband, and so have I. Mrs. Dosett, when we are at home we are the most homely people in the world. We think nothing of dressing. Not to come and see your old friends because of your frocks! We shall send for you the day after to-morrow. Don't you know, Mrs. Dosett, it will do her good to be with her young friend for a few days." Mrs. Dosett had not succeeded in her remonstrances when Sir Thomas Tringle was shown into the room, and then the Marchesa took her leave. For Sir Thomas Tringle was the other visitor who came on that morning to see Ayala.
"If you wouldn't mind, Mrs. Dosett," said Sir Thomas before he sat down, "I should like to see Ayala alone." Mrs. Dosett had not a word to say against such a request, and at once took her leave.
"My dear," he began, coming and sitting opposite to Ayala, with his knees almost touching her, "I have got something very particular to say to you." Ayala was at once much frightened. Her uncle had never before spoken to her in this way, – had never in truth said a word to her seriously. He had always been kind to her, making her presents, and allowing himself to be kissed graciously morning and evening. He had never scolded her, and, better than all, had never said a word to her, one way or the other, about Tom. She had always liked her uncle, because he had never caused her trouble when all the others in his house had been troublesome to her. But now she was afraid of him. He did not frown, but he looked very seriously at her, as he might look, perhaps, when he was counting out all his millions in Lombard Street. "I hope you think that I have always wished to be kind to you, Ayala."
"I am sure you have, Uncle Tom."
"When you had come to us I always wished you to stay. I don't like changes of this sort. I suppose you didn't hit it off with Augusta. But she's gone now."
"Aunt Emmeline said something." That accusation, as to "encouragement," so rankled in her heart, that when she looked back at her grievances among the Tringles that always loomed the largest.
"I don't want to hear anything about it," said Sir Thomas. "Let bygones be bygones. Your aunt, I am sure, never meant unkindly by you. Now, I want you to listen to me."
"I will, Uncle Tom."
"Listen to me to the end, like a good girl."
"Your Cousin Tom – ." Ayala gave a visible shudder, and uttered an audible groan, but as yet she did not say a word. Sir Thomas, having seen the shudder, and heard the groan, did frown as he began again. "Your Cousin Tom is most truly attached to you."
"Why won't he leave me alone, then?"
"Ayala, you promised to listen to me without speaking."
"I will, Uncle Tom. Only – "
"Listen to me, and then I will hear anything you have to say."
"I will," said Ayala, screwing up her lips, so that no words should come out of them, let the provocation be what it might.
Sir Thomas began again. "Your Cousin Tom is most truly attached to you. For some time I and his mother disapproved of this. We thought you were both too young, and there were other reasons which I need not now mention. But when I came to see how thoroughly he was in earnest, how he put his heart into it, how the very fact that he loved you had made a man of him; then how the fact that you would not return his love unmanned him, – when I saw all that, I gave my permission." Here he paused, almost as though expecting a word; but Ayala gave an additional turn to the screw on her lips, and remained quite silent. "Yes; we gave our permission, – I and your aunt. Of course, our son's happiness is all in all to us; and I do believe that you are so good that you would make him a good wife."