Joseph Le Fanu.

Guy Deverell. Volume 1 of 2



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If Lady Jane had been dead she could not have seemed to hear her less.

"I hope General Lennox is not ill?" inquired she timidly.

"Ill? No Ц I don't know; he's very well. I hope he's very well. I hope he is; and Ц and I know what I wish for myself."

Beatrix knew what her grandmamma thought of Lady Jane's violence and temper, and she began to think that something must have happened to ruffle it that evening.

"I wish you'd go, dear, you can do nothing for me," said Lady Jane, ungraciously, with a sudden and sombre change of manner.

"Well, dear Lady Jane, if you think of anything I can do for you, pray send for me; by-and-by you might like me to come and read to you; and would you like me to send your maid?"

"Oh! no Ц no, no, noЦ†nothing Ц good-night," repeated Lady Jane, impatiently.

So Beatrix departed, and Lady Jane remained alone in the vast chamber, much more alone than one would be in a smaller one.

CHAPTER XXXII
Conciliation

That night again, old Lady Alice, just settling, and having actually swallowed her drops, was disturbed by a visit from Lady Jane, who stood by her dishevelled, flushed, and with that storm-beaten look which weeping leaves behind it. She looked eager, even imploring, so that Lady Alice challenged her with Ч

"What on earth, Jane, brings you to my bedside at this hour of the night?"

"I've come to tell you, Lady Alice, that I believe I was wrong the other night to speak to you as I did."

"I thought, Jane," replied the old lady with dignity, "you would come to view your conduct in that light."

"I thought you were right all the time; that is, I thought you meant kindly. I wished to tell you so," said Lady Jane.

"I am glad, Jane, you can now speak with temper."

"And I think you are the only person alive, except poor Lennox, who really cares for me."

"I knew, Jane, that reflection and conscience would bring you to this form of mind," said Lady Alice.

"And I think, when I come to say all this to you, you ought not to receive me so."

"I meant to receive you kindly, Jane; one can't always in a moment forget the pain and humiliation which such scenes produce. It will help me, however, your expressing your regret as you do."

"Well, I believe I am a fool Ц I believe I deserve this kind of treatment for lowering myself as I have done. The idea of my coming in here, half dressed, to say all this, and being received in this Ц in this indescribable way!"

"If you don't feel it, Jane, I'm sorry you should have expressed any sorrow for your misconduct," replied Lady Alice, loftily.

"Sorrow, madam! I never said a word about sorrow. I said I thought you cared for me, and I don't think so now. I am sure you don't, and I care just as little for you, not a pin, madam, with your ridiculous airs."

"Very good, dear Ц then I suppose you are quite satisfied with your former conduct?"

"Perfectly Ц of course I am, and if I had had a notion what kind of person you are I should not have come near you, I promise you."

Lady Alice smiled a patient smile, which somehow rather provoked the indignant penitent.

"I'd as soon have put my hand in the fire, madam.

I've borne too much from you Ц a great deal too much; it is you who should have come to me, madam, and I don't care a farthing about you."

"And I'm still under sentence, I presume, when General Lennox, returns with his horsewhip," suggested Lady Alice, meekly.

"It would do you nothing but good."

"You are excessively impertinent," said Lady Alice, a little losing her self-command.

"So are you, madam."

"And I desire you'll leave my room," pursued Lady Alice.

"And don't you address me while we remain in this house," exclaimed Lady Jane, with flaming cheeks.

"Quit the room!" cried Lady Alice, sitting up with preternatural rigidity.

"Open the door!" exclaimed Lady Jane, fiercely, to the scared maid, "and carry this candle."

And the maid heard her mutter forcibly as she marched before her through the passage Ц "wicked old frump."

I am afraid it was one of those cases of incompatibility of temper, or faults on both sides, in which it is, on the whole, more for the interests of peace and goodwill that people should live apart, than attempt that process under the same roof.

There was a smoking party that night in Sir Jekyl's room. A line had reached him from General Lennox, regretting his long stay in town, and fearing that he could hardly hope to rejoin his agreeable party at Marlowe before a week or possibly ten days. But he hoped that they had not yet shot all the birds Ц and so, with that mild joke and its variations, the letter humorously concluded.

He had also had a letter from the London legal firm Ц this time the corresponding limb of the body was Crowe Ц who, in reply to some fresh interrogatories of the Baronet's, wrote to say that his partner, Mr. Pelter, being called to France by legal business connected with Craddock and Maddox, it devolved on him to "assure Sir Jekyl that, so far as they could ascertain, everything in the matter to which he referred was perfectly quiet, and that no ground existed for apprehending any stir whatsoever."

These letters from Pelter and Crowe, who were shrewd and by no means sanguine men of business, had always a charming effect on his spirits Ц not that he quite required them, or that they gave him any new ideas or information, but they were pleasant little fillips, as compliments are to a beauty. He was, therefore, this evening, more than usually lively, and kept the conversation in a very merry amble.

Guy Strangways was absent; but his uncle, M. Varbarriere, was present, and in his solemn, sly, porcine way, enjoyed himself with small exertion and much unction, laughing sometimes sardonically and without noise, at things which did not seem to amuse the others so much; but, in all he said, very courteous, and in his demeanour suave and bowing. He was the last man to take leave of his host, on the threshold, that night.

"I always lock myself in," said Sir Jekyl, observing his guest's eye rest for a moment on the key, on which his own finger rested, "and I can't think why the plague I do," he added, laughing, "except that my father did so before me."

"It makes your pleasant room more a hermitage, and you more of a recluse," said Monsieur Varbarriere.

"It is very well to be a recluse at pleasure, and take monastic vows of five hours' duration, and shut yourself up from the world, with the key of the world, nevertheless, in your pocket," said Sir Jekyl.

Monsieur Varbarriere laughed, and somehow lingered, as if he expected more.

"You don't mean that you assert your liberty at capricious hours, and affright your guests in the character of a ghost?" said Monsieur Varbarriere, jocosely.

Sir Jekyl laughed.

"No," said he, "on the contrary, I make myself more of a prisoner than you imagine. My man sleeps in the little room in which you now stand, and draws his little camp-bed across the door. I can't tell you the least why I do this, only it was my father's custom also, and I fancy my throat would be cut if my guard did not lie across the threshold. The world is a mad tree, and we are branches, says the Italian proverb. Good-night, Monsieur Varbarriere."

"Good-night," said the guest, with a bow and a smile; and both, with a little laugh, shook hands and parted.

Monsieur Varbarriere was a tolerably early riser, and next morning was walking in the cheering morning sun, under the leaves of the evergreens, glittering with dew. A broad walk, wide enough for a pony-carriage, sweeps along a gentle wooded elevation, commanding a wide prospect of that rich country.

He leaned on the low parapet, and with his pocket field-glass lazily swept the broad landscape beneath. Lowering his telescope, he stood erect, and looked about him, when, to his surprise, for he did not think that either was an early riser, he saw Sir Jekyl Marlowe and Lady Jane Lennox walking side by side, and approaching.

Monsieur Varbarriere was blessed with very long and clear sight, for his time of life. There was something in the gait of these two persons, and in the slight gesture that accompanied their conversation, as they approached, which struck M. Varbarriere as indicating excitement, though of different kinds.

In the pace of the lady, who carried her head high, with a slight wave sometimes to this side, sometimes to that, was as much of what we term swagger as is compatible with feminine grace. Sometimes a sudden halt, for a moment, and a "left face" movement on her companion. Sir Jekyl, on the other hand, bore himself, he thought, like a gentleman a good deal annoyed and irritated.

All this struck M. Varbarriere in a very few seconds, during which, uncertain whether he ought to come forward or not, he hesitated where he stood.

It was plain, however, that he was quite unobserved standing in a recess of the evergreens; so he leaned once more upon the parapet, and applied his glass to his eye.

Now he was right in his conjecture. This had been a very stormy walk, though the cool grey light of morning is not the season for exciting demonstrations. We will take them up in the midst of their conversation, a little before Monsieur Varbarriere saw them Ц just as Sir Jekyl said with a slight sneer Ч

"Oh, of course, it was very kind."

"More, it's princely, sir," cried Lady Jane.

"Well, princely Ц very princely Ц only, pray, dear Jane, do not talk so very loud; you can't possibly wish the keepers and milkmaids to hear every word you say."

"I don't care, Jekyl. I think you have made me mad."

"You are a bit mad, Jane, but it is not I who made you so."

"Yes, Jekyl, you've made me mad Ц you have made me a fiend; but, bad as I am, I can never face that good man more."

"Now don't Ц now don't. What can be the matter with you?" urged Sir Jekyl in a low tone.

"This, sir Ц I'll see him no more Ц you must. You shall take me away."

"Now, now, now Чcome! Are you talking like a sane person, Jane? What the devil can have come over you about these trumpery diamonds?"

"You shan't talk that way."

"Come! I venture to say they are nothing like as valuable as you fancy, and whatever they are, Lennox got them a devilish good bargain, rely on it. He knows perfectly well what he's about. Everyone knows how rich he is, and the wife of a fellow like that ought to have jewels; people would talk Ц I give you my honour they would, if you had not; and then he is in town, with nothing to keep him there Ц no business, I mean Ц an old military man, and he wants to keep you in good-humour."

"It's a lie. I know what you mean."

"Upon my soul, it's fact," he laughed, looking very pale. "Surely you don't mistake an old East Indian general for a Joseph!"

"Talk any way but that, you wretch! I know him. It's no use Ц he's the soul of honour. Oh Jekyl, Jekyl! why did not you marry me when you might, and save me from all this?"

"Now, Janet, is this reasonable Ц you know you never thought of it Ц you know it would not have done Ц would you have liked Beatrix? Besides, you have really done better Ц a great deal better Ц he's not so old as he looks Ц I dare say not much older than I Ц and a devilish deal richer, and Ц a Ц what the devil you want, for the life of me, I can't see."

It was about at this point in their conversation that, on a sudden, they came upon Monsieur Varbarriere, looking through his field-glass. Lady Jane moved to turn short about, but Sir Jekyl pressed his arm on hers impatiently, and kept her straight.

CHAPTER XXXIII
Lady Jane and Beatrix play at Croquet

"Good morning, Monsieur Varbarriere," cried the Baronet, who divined truly that the fattish elderly gentleman with the bronzed features, and in the furred surtout, had observed them.

"Ah!" cried Monsieur Varbarriere, turning toward them genially, his oddly shaped felt hat in one hand, and his field-glass still extended in the other. "What a charming morning! I have been availing myself of the clear sunlight to study this splendid prospect, partly as a picture, partly as a map."

Lady Jane with her right hand plucked some wild flowers from the bank, which at that side rises steeply from the walk, while the gentlemen exchanged salutations.

"I've just been pointing out some of our famous places to Lady Jane Lennox. A little higher up the walk the view is much more commanding. What do you say to a walk here after breakfast? There's a capital glass in the hall, much more powerful than that can be. Suppose we come by-and-by?"

"You are very good Ц I am so obliged Ц my curiosity has been so very much piqued by all I have seen."

Monsieur Varbarriere was speaking, as usual, his familiar French, and pointed with his telescope toward a peculiarly shaped remote hillock.

"I have just been conjecturing could that be that Gryston which we passed by on our way to Marlowe."

"Perfectly right, by Jove! what an eye for locality you must have!"

"Have I? Well, sometimes, perhaps," said the foreign gentleman, laughing.

"The eye of a general. Yes, you are quite right Ц it is Gryston."

Now Sir Jekyl was frank and hearty in his talk; but there was an air Ц a something which would have excited the observation of Monsieur Varbarriere, even had he remarked nothing peculiar in the bearing of his host and his companion as they approached. There was a semi-abstraction, a covert scrutiny of that gentleman's countenance, and a certain sense of uneasiness.

Some more passed Ц enough to show that there was nothing in the slightest degree awkward to the two pedestrians in having so unexpectedly fallen into an ambuscade while on their route Ц and then Sir Jekyl, with a word of apology to Lady Jane, resumed his walk with her towards the pleasure-grounds near the house.

That day Lady Jane played croquet with Beatrix, while Sir Jekyl demonstrated half the country, from the high grounds, to Monsieur Varbarriere.

The croquet-ground is pretty Ц flowerbeds lie round it, and a "rockery," as they called it, covered with clambering flowers and plants, and backed by a thick grove of shrubs and evergreens, fenced it in to the north.

Lady Jane was kind, ill-tempered, capricious; played wildly, lazily, badly.

"Do you like people in spite of great faults ever, Beatrix?" she asked, suddenly.

"Every one has great faults," said Trixie, sporting a little bit of philosophy.

"No, they have not; there are very good people, and I hate them," said Lady Jane, swinging her mallet slowly like a pendulum, and gazing with her dark deep eyes full into her companion's face.

"Hate the good people!" exclaimed Beatrix; "then how do you feel towards the bad?"

"There are some whose badness suits me, and I like them; there are others whose badness does not, and them I hate as much as the good almost."

Trixie was puzzled; but she concluded that Lady Jane was in one of her odd moods, and venting her ill temper in those shocking eruptions of levity.

"How old are you, Beatrix?"

"Nineteen."

"Ha! and I am five-and-twenty Ц six years. There is a great deal learned in those six years. I don't recollect what I was like when I was nineteen."

She did not sigh; Lady Jane was not given to sighing, but her face looked sad and sullen.

"It all came of my having no friend," she said, abruptly. "Not one. That stupid old woman might have been one, but she would not. I had no one Ц it was fate; and here I am, such as I am, and I don't blame myself or anything. But I wish I had one true friend."

"I am sure, Lady Jane, you must have many friends," said Beatrix.

"Don't be a little hypocrite, Beatrix; why should I more than another? Friends are not picked up like daisies as we walk along. If you have neither mother nor sisters, nor kith nor kin to care about you, you will find it hard to make strangers do so. As for old Lady Alice, I think she always hated me; she did nothing but pick holes in everything I said or did; I never heard anything from her but the old story of my faults. And then I was thrown among women of the world Ц heartless, headless creatures. I don't blame them, they knew no better Ц perhaps there is no better; but I do blame that egotistical old woman, who, if she had but controlled her temper, might have been of so much use to me, and would not. Religion, and good principles, and all that, whether it is true or false, is the safest plan; and I think if she had been moderately kind and patient, she might have made me as good as others. Don't look at me as if I had two heads, dear. I'm not charging myself with any enormity. I only say it is the happiest way, even if it be the way of fools."

"Shall we play any more?" inquired Beatrix, after a sufficient pause had intervened to soften the transition.

"Yes, certainly. Which is my ball?"

"The red. You are behind your hoop."

"Yes; and Ц and it seems to me, Beatrix, you are a cold little stick, like your grandmamma, as you call her, though she's no grandmamma of yours."

"Think me as stupid as you please, but you must not think me cold; and, indeed, you wrong poor old granny."

"We'll talk no more of her. I think her a fool and a savage. Come, it's your turn, is not it, to play?"

So the play went on for a while in silence, except for those questions and comments without which it can hardly proceed.

"And now you have won, have not you?" said Lady Jane.

"Should you like another game?" asked Beatrix.

"Maybe by-and-by; and Ц I sometimes wish you liked me, Beatrix; but I don't know you, and you are little better than a child still; and Ц no Ц it could not be Ц it never could Ц you'd be sure to hate me in a little while."

"But I do like you, Lady Jane. I liked you very much in London, you were so kind; and I don't know why you were so changed to me when you came here; you seem to have taken a positive dislike to me."

"So I had, child Ц I detested you," said Lady Jane, but in a tone that had something mocking in it. "Everything has grown Ц how shall I express it?†Ц disgusting to me Ц yes, disgusting. You had done nothing to cause it; you need not look so contrite. I could not help it either. I am odious Ц and I can't love or like anybody."

"I am sure, Lady Jane, you are not at all like what you describe."

"You think me faultless, do you?"

Beatrix smiled.

"Well, I see you don't. What is my fault?" demanded Lady Jane, looking on her not with a playful, but with a lowering countenance.

"It is a very conceited office Ц pointing out other people's faults, even if one understood them, which I do not."

"Well, I give you leave; tell me one, to begin with," persisted Lady Jane Lennox.

Beatrix laughed.

"I wish, Lady Jane, if you insist on my telling your faults, that you would not look so stern."

"Stern Ц do I?" said Lady Jane; "I did not intend; it was not with you, but myself, that I was angry; not angry either, for my faults have been caused by other people, and to say truth, I don't very much wish to mend them."

"No, Lady Jane," said Beatrix, merrily. "I won't say in cold blood anything disagreeable. I don't say, mind, that I really could tell you any one fault you may fancy you have Ц but I won't try."

"Well, let us walk round this oval; I'll tell you what you think. You think I am capricious Ц and so I may appear Ц but I am not; on the contrary, my likings or aversions are always on good grounds, and last very long. I don't say people always know the grounds, but they know it is not whim; they know Ц those that have experienced either Ц that my love and aversion are both very steady. You think I am ill-tempered, too, but I am not Ц I am isolated and unhappy; but my temper is easy to get on with Ц and I don't know why I am talking to you," she exclaimed, with a sudden change in her looks and tone, "as if you and I could ever by any possibility become friends. Good-bye, Beatrix; I see your grandmamma beckoning."

So she was Ц leaning upon the arm of her maid, a wan lank figure Ц motioning her toward her.

"Coming, grandmamma," cried Beatrix, and smiled, and turning to say a parting word to Lady Jane, she perceived that she was already moving some way off toward the house.

CHAPTER XXXIV
General Lennox receives a Letter

Monsieur Varbarriere was charmed with his host this morning. Sir Jekyl spent more than an hour in pointing out and illustrating the principal objects in the panorama that spread before and beneath them as they stood with field-glasses scanning the distance, and a very agreeable showman he made.

Very cheery and healthful among the breezy copse to make this sort of rural survey. As they parted in the hall, Monsieur Varbarriere spoke his eloquent appreciation of the beauties of the surrounding country; and then, having letters to despatch by the post, he took his leave, and strode up with pounding steps to his dressing-room.

Long before he reached it, his smile had quite subsided, and it was with a solemn and stern countenance that he entered and nodded to his valet, whom he found awaiting him there.

"Well, Jacques, any more offers? Does Sir Jekyl still wish to engage you?"

"I can assure Monsieur there has not been a word since upon that affair."

"Good!" said Monsieur Varbarriere, after a second's scrutiny of the valet's dark, smirking visage.



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