"Yes, Sir Thomas."
"And the things you make must take a deal of room and be very heavy." At this Mr. Hamel only smiled. "Don't you think if you were to call an auction you'd get something for them?" At this suggestion the sculptor frowned but condescended to make no reply. Sir Thomas went on with his suggestion. "If you and half-a-dozen other beginners made a sort of gallery among you, people would buy them as they do those things in the Marylebone Road and stick them up somewhere about their grounds. It would be better than keeping them and getting nothing." Hamel had in his studio at home an allegorical figure of Italia United, and another of a Prostrate Roman Catholic Church, which in his mind's eye he saw for a moment stuck here or there about the gardens of some such place as Glenbogie! Into them had been infused all the poetry of his nature and all the conviction of his intelligence. He had never dreamed of selling them. He had never dared to think that any lover of Art would encourage him to put into marble those conceptions of his genius which now adorned his studio, standing there in plaster of Paris. But to him they were so valuable, they contained so much of his thoughts, so many of his aspirations, that even had the marble counterparts been ordered and paid for nothing would have induced him to part with the originals. Now he was advised to sell them by auction in order that he might rival those grotesque tradesmen whose business it is to populate the gardens of wealthy but tasteless Britons! It was thus that the idea represented itself to him. He simply smiled; but Sir Thomas did not fail to appreciate the smile.
"And now about this young lady?" said Sir Thomas, not altogether in so good a humour as he had been when he began his suggestion. "It's a bad look out for her when, as you say, you cannot sell your work when you've done it."
"I think you do not quite understand the matter, Sir Thomas."
"Perhaps not. It certainly does seem unintelligible that a man should lumber himself up with a lot of things which he cannot sell. A tradesman would know that he must get into the bankruptcy court if he were to go on like that. And what is sauce for the goose will be sauce for the gander also." Mr. Hamel again smiled but held his tongue. "If you can't sell your wares how can you keep a wife?"
"My wares, as you call them, are of two kinds. One, though no doubt made for sale, is hardly saleable. The other is done to order. Such income as I make comes from the latter."
"Heads," suggested Sir Thomas.
"Busts they are generally called."
"Well, busts. I call them heads. They are heads. A bust, I take it, is – well, never mind." Sir Thomas found a difficulty in defining his idea of a bust. "A man wants to have something more or less like some one to put up in a church and then he pays you."
"Or perhaps in his library. But he can put it where he likes when he has bought it."
"Not as many as I would wish."
"What can you net at the end of the year? That's the question."
Lucy had recommended him to tell Sir Thomas everything; and he had come there determined to tell at any rate everything referring to money. He had not the slightest desire to keep the amount of his income from Sir Thomas. But the questions were put to him in so distasteful a way that he could not bring himself to be confidential. "It varies with various circumstances, but it is very small."
"Very small? Five hundred a year?" This was ill-natured, because Sir Thomas knew that Mr. Hamel did not earn five hundred a year. But he was becoming acerbated by the young man's manner.
"Oh dear, no," said Hamel.
"Nor four hundred, – nor three. I have never netted three hundred in one year after paying the incidental expenses."
"That seems to me to be uncommonly little for a young man who is thinking of marrying. Don't you think you had better give it up?"
"I certainly think nothing of the kind."
"Does your father do anything for you?"
"Nothing at all."
"He also makes heads?"
"Heads, – and other things."
"And sells them when he has made them."
"Yes, Sir Thomas; he sells them. He had a hard time once, but now he is run after. He refuses more orders than he can accept."
"And he won't do anything for you."
"Nothing. He has quarreled with me."
"That is very bad. Well now, Mr. Hamel, would you mind telling me what your ideas are?" Sir Thomas, when he asked the question, still intended to give assistance, was still minded that the young people should by his assistance be enabled to marry. But he was strongly of opinion that it was his duty, as a rich and protecting uncle, to say something about imprudence, and to magnify difficulties. It certainly would be wrong for an uncle, merely because he was rich, to give away his money to dependent relatives without any reference to those hard principles which a possessor of money always feels it to be his business to inculcate. And up to this point Hamel had done nothing to ingratiate himself. Sir Thomas was beginning to think that the sculptor was an impudent prig, and to declare to himself that, should the marriage ever take place, the young couple would not be made welcome at Glenbogie or Merle Park. But still he intended to go on with his purpose, for Lucy's sake. Therefore he asked the sculptor as to his ideas generally.
"My idea is that I shall marry Miss Dormer, and support her on the earnings of my profession. My idea is that I shall do so before long, in comfort. My idea also is, that she will be the last to complain of any discomfort which may arise from my straitened circumstances at present. My idea is that I am preparing for myself a happy and independent life. My idea also is, – and I assure you that of all my ideas this is the one to which I cling with the fondest assurance, – that I will do my very best to make her life happy when she comes to grace my home."
There was a manliness in this which would have touched Sir Thomas had he been in a better humour, but, as it was, he had been so much irritated by the young man's manner, that he could not bring himself to be just. "Am I to understand that you intend to marry on something under three hundred a year?"
Hamel paused a moment before he made his reply. "How am I to answer such a question," he said, at last, "seeing that Miss Dormer is in your hands, and that you are unlikely to be influenced by anything that I may say?"
"I shall be very much influenced," said Sir Thomas.
"Were her father still alive, I think we should have put our heads together, and between us decided on what might have been best for Lucy's happiness."
"Do you think that I'm indifferent to her happiness?" demanded Sir Thomas.
"I should have suggested to him," continued Hamel, not noticing the last question, "that she should remain in her own home till I could make one for her worthy of her acceptance. And then we should have arranged among us what would have been best for her happiness. I cannot do this with you. If you tell her to-morrow that she must give up either your protection or her engagement with me, then she must come to me, and make the best of all the little that I can do for her."
"Who says that I'm going to turn her out?" said Sir Thomas, rising angrily from his chair.
"I do not think that any one has said this of you."
"Then why do you throw it in my teeth?"
"Because your wife has threatened it."
Then Sir Thomas boiled over in his anger. "No one has threatened it. It is untrue. You are guilty both of impertinence and untruth in saying so." Here Hamel rose from his chair, and took up his hat. "Stop, young man, and hear what I have to say to you. I have done nothing but good to my niece."
"Nevertheless, it is true, Sir Thomas, that she has been told by your wife that she must either abandon me or the protection of your roof. I find no fault with Lady Tringle for saying so. It may have been the natural expression of a judicious opinion. But when you ask after my intentions in reference to your niece I am bound to tell you that I propose to subject her to the undoubted inconveniences of my poor home, simply because I find her to be threatened with the loss of another."
"She has not been threatened, Sir."
"You had better ask your wife, Sir Thomas. And, if you find that what I have said is true, I think you will own that I have been obliged to explain myself as I have done. As you have told me to my face that I have been guilty of untruth, I shall now leave you." With this he walked out of the room, and the words which Sir Thomas threw after him had no effect in recalling him.
It must be acknowledged that Hamel had been very foolish in referring to Aunt Emmeline's threat. Who does not know that words are constantly used which are intended to have no real effect? Who does not know that an angry woman will often talk after this fashion? But it was certainly the fact that Aunt Emmeline had more than once declared to Lucy that she could not be allowed to remain one of that family unless she would give up her lover. Lucy, in her loyal endeavours to explain to her lover her own position, had told him of the threat, and he, from that moment, had held himself prepared to find a home for his future wife should that threat be carried into execution. Sir Thomas was well aware that such words had been spoken, but he knew his wife, and knew how little such words signified. His wife, without his consent, would not have the power to turn a dog from Merle Park. The threat had simply been an argument intended to dissuade Lucy from her choice; and now it had been thrown in his teeth just when he had intended to make provision for this girl, who was not, in truth, related to him, in order that he might ratify her choice! He was very angry with the young prig who had thus rushed out of his presence. He was angry, too, with his wife, who had brought him into his difficulty by her foolish threat. But he was angry, also, with himself, knowing that he had been wrong to accuse the man of a falsehood.
Then there were written the following letters, which were sent and received before Sir Thomas went to Merle Park, and therefore, also, before he again saw Lucy.
Dearest, dearest Love,
I have been, as desired, to Lombard Street, but I fear that my embassy has not led to any good. I know myself to be about as bad an ambassador as any one can send. An ambassador should be soft and gentle, – willing to make the best of everything, and never prone to take offence, nor should he be addicted specially to independence. I am ungentle, and apt to be suspicious, – especially if anything be said derogatory to my art. I am proud of being an artist, but I am often ashamed of myself because I exhibit my pride. I may say the same of my spirit of independence. I am determined to be independent if I live, – but I find my independence sometimes kicking up its heels, till I hate it myself.
From this you will perceive that I have not had a success in Lombard Street. I was quite willing to answer your uncle any questions he could ask about money. Indeed, I had no secret from him on any subject. But when he subjected me to cross-examination, forcing me into a bathos of poverty, as he thought, I broke down. "Not five hundred a-year!" "Not four!!" "Not three!!!" "Oh, heavens! and you propose to take a wife!" You will understand how I writhed and wriggled under the scorn.
And then there came something worse than this, – or rather, if I remember rightly, the worst thing came first. You were over in my studio, and will remember, perhaps, some of my own abortive treasures, those melancholy but soul-inspiring creations of which I have thought so much, and others have thought so little? That no one else should value them is natural, but to me it seems unnatural, almost cruel, that any one should tell me to my face that they were valueless. Your uncle, of course, had never seen them, but he knew that sculptors are generally burdened with these "wares," as he called them; and he suggested that I should sell them by auction for what they might fetch, – in order that the corners which they occupy might be vacant. He thought that, perhaps, they might do for country gentlemen to stick about among their shrubs. You, knowing my foolish soreness on the subject, will understand how well I must have been prepared by this to endure your uncle's cross-examination.
Then he asked me as to my ideas, – not art ideas, but ideas as to bread and cheese for the future. I told him as exactly as I could. I explained to him that if you were left in possession of a comfortable home, such as would have been that of your father, I should think it best for your sake to delay our marriage till I should be prepared to do something better for you than I can at present; but that I hold myself ready to give you all that I have to give at a moment's notice, should you be required to leave his house. And, Lucy, speaking in your name, I said something further, and declared my belief that you, for my sake, would bear the inconveniences of so poor a home without complaining.
Then there arose anger both on his side and on mine; and I must say, insult on his. He told me that I had no business to suggest that you would be expelled from his house. I replied that the threat had come, if not from him, then from Lady Tringle. Upon this he accused me of positive falsehood, asserting that your aunt had said nothing of the kind. I then referred him to Lady Tringle herself, but refused to stay any longer in the room with him, because he had insulted me.
So you will see that I did less than nothing by my embassy. I told myself that it would be so as I descended into the underground cavern at the Gloucester Road Station. You are not to suppose that I blame him more, or, indeed, so much as I do myself. It was not to be expected that he should behave as a gentleman of fine feeling. But, perhaps, it ought to have been expected that I should behave as a man of common sense. I ought to have taken his advice about the auction, apparently, in good part. I ought not to have writhed when he scorned my poor earnings. When he asked as to my ideas, I should not have alluded to your aunt's threat as to turning you out. I should have been placid and humble; and then his want of generous feeling would have mattered nothing. But spilt milk and broken eggs are past saving. Whatever good things may have come from your uncle's generosity had I brushed his hair for him aright, are now clean gone, seeing that I scrubbed him altogether the wrong way.
For myself, I do not know that I should regret it very much. I have an idea that no money should be sweet to a man except that which he earns. And I have enough belief in myself to be confident that sooner or later I shall earn a sufficiency. But, dearest, I own that I feel disgusted with myself when I think that I have diminished your present comfort, or perhaps lessened for the future resources which would have been yours rather than mine. But the milk has been spilt, and now we must only think what we can best do without it. It seems to me that only two homes are possible for you, – one with Sir Thomas as his niece, and the other with me as my wife. I am conceited enough to think that you will prefer the latter even with many inconveniences. Neither can your uncle or your aunt prevent you from marrying at a very early day, should you choose to do so. There would be some preliminary ceremony, of the nature of which I am thoroughly ignorant, but which could, I suppose, be achieved in a month. I would advise you to ask your aunt boldly whether she wishes you to go or to stay with her, explaining, of course, that you intend to hold to your engagement, and explaining at the same time that you are quite ready to be married at once if she is anxious to be quit of you. That is my advice.
And now, dear, one word of something softer! For did any lover ever write to the lady of his heart so long a letter so abominably stuffed with matters of business? How shall I best tell you how dearly I love you? Perhaps I may do it by showing you that as far as I myself am concerned I long to hear that your Aunt Emmeline and your Uncle Tom are more hard-hearted and obdurate than were ever uncle and aunt before them. I long to hear that you have been turned out into the cold, because I know that then you must come to me, though it be even less than three hundred a-year. I wish you could have seen your uncle's face as those terribly mean figures reached his ears. I do not for a moment fear that we should want. Orders come slow enough, but they come a little quicker than they did. I have never for a moment doubted my own ultimate success, and if you were with me I should be more confident than ever. Nevertheless, should your aunt bid you to stay, and should you think it right to comply with her desire, I will not complain.
Adieu! This comes from one who is altogether happy in his confidence that at any rate before long you will have become his wife.Isadore Hamel.
I quite expect to be scolded for my awkwardness. Indeed I shall be disappointed if I am not.
The same post which brought Hamel's long letter to Lucy brought also a short but very angry scrawl from Sir Thomas to his wife. No eyes but those of Lady Tringle saw this epistle, and no other eyes shall see it. But the few words which it contained were full of marital wrath. Why had she threatened to turn her own niece out of his doors? Why had she subjected him to the necessity of defending her by a false assertion? Those Dormer nieces of hers were giving him an amount of trouble and annoyance which he certainly had not deserved. Lucy, though not a word was said to her of this angry letter, was conscious that something had been added to her aunt's acerbity. Indeed, for the last day or two her aunt's acerbity towards her had been much diminished. Lady Tringle had known that her husband intended to do something by which the Hamel marriage would be rendered possible; and she, though she altogether disapproved of the Hamel marriage, would be obliged to accede to it if Sir Thomas acceded to it and encouraged it by his money. Let them be married, and then, as far as the Tringles were concerned, let there be an end of these Dormer troubles for ever. To that idea Lady Tringle had reconciled herself as soon as Sir Thomas had declared his purpose, but now, – as she declared to herself, – "all the fat was again in the fire." She received Lucy's salutations on that morning with a very bad grace.
But she had been desired to give no message, and therefore she was silent on the subject to Lucy. To the Honourable Mrs. Traffick she said a few words. "After all Ayala was not half as bad as Lucy," said Lady Tringle.
"There, mamma, I think you are wrong," said the Honourable Mrs. Traffick. "Of all the upsetting things I ever knew Ayala was the worst. Think of her conduct with Septimus." Lady Tringle made a little grimace, which, however, her daughter did not see. "And then with that Marchesa!"
"That was the Marchesa's fault."
"And with Tom!"
"I don't think she was so much to blame with Tom. If she were, why doesn't she take him now she can have him? He is just as foolish about her as ever. Upon my word I think Tom will make himself ill about it."
"You haven't heard it all, mamma."
"What haven't I heard?"
"Ayala has been down with the Alburys at Stalham."
"I did hear that."
"And another man has turned up. What on earth they see in her is what I can't understand."
"Another man has offered to her! Who is he?"
"There was a Colonel Stubbs down there. Septimus heard it all from young Batsby at the club. She got this man to ride about the country with her everywhere, going to the meets with him and coming home. And in this way she got him to propose to her. I don't suppose he means anything; but that is why she won't have anything to do with Tom now. Do you mean to say she didn't do all she could to catch Tom down at Glenbogie, and then at Rome? Everybody saw it. I don't think Lucy has ever been so bad as that."
"It's quite different, my dear."
"She has come from a low father," said the Honourable Mrs. Traffick, proudly, "and therefore she has naturally attached herself to a low young man. There is nothing to be wondered at in that. I suppose they are fond of each other, and the sooner they are married the better."
"But he can't marry her because he has got nothing."
"Papa will do something."
"That's just what your papa won't. The man has been to your father in the City and there has been ever such a row. He spoke ill of me because I endeavoured to do my duty by the ungrateful girl. I am sure I have got a lesson as to taking up other people's children. I endeavoured to do an act of charity, and see what has come of it. I don't believe in charity."
"That is wicked, mamma. Faith, Hope, and Charity! But you've got to be charitable before you begin the others."