AUTHOR OF "THE WIZARD'S SON," "HESTER," ETC.
MACMILLAN AND CO.
AND NEW YORK
All rights reserved
First Edition (3 Vols. Crown 8vo) Sept. 1884
Second Edition (1 Vol. Crown 8vo) 1884
Reprinted (Globe 8vo) 1888, (Crown 8vo) 1893
HOW SIR TOM BECAME A GREAT PERSONAGE 1
HIS WIFE 9
OLD MR. TREVOR'S WILL 20
YOUNG MR. TREVOR 29
A SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS 48
A WARNING 58
THE SHADOW OF DEATH 67
A CHRISTMAS VISIT 77
LUCY'S ADVISERS 86
AN INNOCENT CONSPIRACY 96
THE FIRST STRUGGLE 105
AN IDLE MORNING 115
AN UNWILLING MARTYR 126
ON BUSINESS 135
AN UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL 146
THE VISITORS 167
THE OPENING OF THE DRAMA 179
AN ANXIOUS CRITIC 189
AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER 200
A PAIR OF FRIENDS 211
THE BREAKFAST TABLE 221
THE ORACLE SPEAKS 230
THE CONTESSA'S BOUDOIR 242
THE TWO STRANGERS 259
AN ADVENTURESS 269
THE SERPENT AND THE DOVE 280
THE CONTESSA'S TRIUMPH 291
DIFFERENT VIEWS 301
TWO FRIENDS 311
YOUTHFUL UNREST 321
THE CONTESSA PREPARES THE WAY 332
IN SUSPENSE 342
THE DEBUT 354
THE EVENING AFTER 366
THE CONTESSA'S TACTICS 377
LUCY'S DISCOVERY 397
THE DOWAGER'S EXPLANATION 409
LADY RANDOLPH WINDS UP HER AFFAIRS 427
THE LITTLE HOUSE IN MAYFAIR 437
THE SIEGE OF LONDON 448
THE BALL 458
THE BALL CONTINUED 469
NEXT MORNING 480
THE LAST BLOW 491
THE EXPERIENCES OF BICE 502
THE EVE OF SORROW 514
THE LAST CRISIS 522
THE END 538
HOW SIR TOM BECAME A GREAT PERSONAGE.
Sir Thomas Randolph had lived a somewhat stormy life during the earliest half of his career. He had gone through what the French called a jeunesse orageuse; nothing very bad had ever been laid to his charge; but he had been adventurous, unsettled, a roamer about the world even after the period at which youthful extravagances cease. Nobody ever knew when or where he might appear. He set off to the farthest parts of the earth at a day's notice, sometimes on pretext of sport, sometimes on no pretext at all, and re-appeared again as unexpectedly as he had gone away. He had run out his fortune by these and other extravagances, and was at forty in one of the most uncomfortable positions in which a man can find himself, with the external appearance of large estates and an established and important position, but in reality with scarcely any income at all, just enough to satisfy the mortgagees, and leave himself a pittance not much more than the wages of a gamekeeper. If his aunt, Lady Randolph, had not been so good to him it was uncertain whether he could have existed at all, and when the heiress, whom an eccentric will had consigned to her charge, fell in his way, all her friends concluded as a matter of certainty that Sir Tom would jump at this extraordinary windfall, this gift of a too kind Providence, which sometimes will care for a prodigal in a way which he is quite unworthy of, while leaving the righteous man to struggle on unaided. But for some time it appeared as if society for once was out in its reckoning. Sir Tom did not pounce upon the heiress. He was a person of very independent mind, and there were some who thought he was happier in his untrammelled poverty, doing what he pleased, than he ever had been as a great proprietor. Even when it became apparent to the wise and far-seeing that little Miss Trevor was only waiting till his handkerchief was thrown at her to become the happiest of women, still he did nothing. He exasperated his kind aunt, he made all his friends indignant, and what was more, he exposed the young heiress hourly to many attempts on the part of the inferior class, from which as a matter of fact she herself sprang; and it was not until she was driven nearly desperate by those attempts that Sir Tom suddenly appeared upon the scene, and moved, it was thought, more by a half-fatherly kindness and sympathy for her, than either by love or desire of wealth, took her to himself, and made her his wife, to the great and grateful satisfaction of the girl herself, whose strange upbringing and brief introduction into a higher sphere had spoiled her for that homely country-town existence in which every woman flattered and every man made love to her.
Whether Lucy Trevor was in love with him was as uncertain as whether he was in love with her. So far as any one knew neither one nor the other had asked themselves this question. She had, as it were, thrown herself into his arms in sudden delight and relief of mind when he appeared and saved her from her suitors; while he had received her tenderly when she did this, out of kindness and pleasure in her genuine, half-childish appreciation of him. There were, of course, people who said that Lucy had been violently in love with Sir Tom, and that he had made up his mind to marry her money from the first moment he saw her; but neither of these things was true. They married with a great deal more pleasure and ease of mind than many people do who are very much in love, for they had mutual faith in each other, and felt a mutual repose and satisfaction in their union. Each supplied something the other wanted. Lucy obtained a secure and settled home, a protector and ever kind and genial guardian, while Sir Tom got not only a good and dutiful and pleasant companion, with a great deal of sense, and good-nature and good looks,—all of which gifts he prized highly,—but at the same time the control of a great fortune, and money enough at once to clear his estates and restore him to his position as a great landowner.
There were very peculiar conditions attached to the great fortune, but to these for the moment he paid very little heed, considering them as fantastic follies not worth thinking about, which were never likely to become difficulties in his way. The advantage he derived from the marriage was enormous. All at once, at a bound, it restored him to what he had lost, to the possession of his own property, which had been not more than nominally his for so many years, and to the position of a man of weight and importance, whose opinion told with all his neighbours and the county generally, as did those of few others in the district.
Sir Tom, the wanderer, had not been thought very highly of in his younger days. He had been called wild. He had been thought untrustworthy, a fellow here to-day and gone to-morrow, who had no solidity in him. But when the mortgages were all paid off, and the old hall restored, and Sir Thomas Randolph came to settle down at home, with his pretty little wife, and an establishment quite worthy of his name, the county discovered in a day, almost in a moment, that he was very much improved. He had always been clever enough, they said, for anything, and now that he had sown his wild oats and learned how to conduct himself, and attained an age when follies are naturally over, there was no reason why he should not be received with open arms. Such a man had a great many more experiences, the county thought with a certain pride, than other men who had sown no wild oats, and had never gone farther afield than the recognised round of European cities. Sir Tom had been in all the four quarters of the globe; he had travelled in America long before it became fashionable to do so, and even had been in Africa while it was as yet untrod by any white foot but that of a missionary. And it was whispered that in the days when he was "wild" he had penetrated into regions nearer at hand, but more obscure and mysterious even than Africa. All this made the county think more of him now when he appeared staid yet genial, in the fulness of manhood, with a crisp brown beard and a few gray hairs about his temples mingled with his abundant locks, and that capability of paying his way which is dear to every well-regulated community. But for this last particular the county would not have been so tolerant, nay almost pleased, with the fact that he had been "wild." They saw all his qualities in the halo that surrounded the newly-decorated hall, the liberated farms, the lands upon which no creditor had now any claim. He was the most popular man in the district when Parliament was dissolved, and he was elected for the county almost without opposition, he, at whom all the sober people had shaken their heads only a few years before. The very name of "Sir Tom," which had been given rather contemptuously to denote a somewhat careless fellow, who minded nothing, became all at once the sign of popular amity and kindness. And if it had been necessary to gain votes for him by any canvassing tricks, this name of his would have carried away all objections. "Sir Tom!" it established a sort of affectionate relationship at once between him and his constituency. The people felt that they had known him all his life, and had always called him by his Christian name.
Lady Randolph was much excited and delighted with her husband's success. She canvassed for him in a modest way, making herself pleasant to the wives of his supporters in a unique manner of her own which was not perhaps quite dignified considering her position, but yet was found very captivating by those good women. She did not condescend to them as other titled ladies do, but she took their advice about her baby, and how he was to be managed, with a pretty humility which made her irresistible. They all felt an individual interest thenceforward in the heir of the Randolphs, as if they had some personal concern in him; and Lady Randolph's gentle accost, and the pretty blush upon her cheeks, and her way of speaking to them all, "as if they were just as good as she was," had a wonderful effect. When she received him in the hotel which was the headquarters of his party, as soon as the result of the election was known, Sir Tom, coming in flushed with applauses and victory, took his wife into his arms and kissed her. "I owe this to you, as well as so much else, Lucy," he said.
"Oh, don't say that! when you know I don't understand much, and never can do anything; but I am so glad, nobody could be more glad," said Lucy. Little Tom had been brought in, too, in his nurse's arms, and crowed and clapped his fat little baby hands for his father; and when his mother took him and stepped out upon the balcony, from which her husband was speaking an impromptu address to his new constituents, with the child in her arms, not suspecting that she would be seen, the cheers and outcries ran into an uproar of applause. "Three cheers for my lady and the baby," the crowd shouted at the top of its many voices; and Lucy, blushing and smiling and crying with pleasure, instead of shrinking away as everybody feared she would do, stood up in her modest, pretty youthfulness, shy, but full of sense and courage, and held up the child, who stared at them all solemnly with big blue eyes, and, after a moment's consideration, again patted his fat little hands together, an action which put the multitude beside itself with delight. Sir Tom's speech did not make nearly so much impression as the baby's "patti-cake." Every man in the crowd, not to say every woman, and with still more reason every child, clapped his or her hands too, and shouted and laughed and hurrahed.
The incident of the baby's appearance before the public, and the early success he had gained—the earliest on record, the newspapers said—made quite a sensation throughout the county, and made Farafield famous for a week. It was mentioned in a leading article in the first newspaper in the world. It appeared in large headlines in the placards under such titles as "Baby in Politics," "The Nursery and the Hustings," and such like. As for the little hero of the moment, he was handed down to his anxious nurse just as symptoms of a whimper of fear at the alarming tumult outside began to appear about the corners of his mouth. "For heaven's sake take him away; he mustn't cry, or he will spoil all," said the chairman of Sir Tom's committee. And the young mother, disappearing too into the room behind, sat down in a great chair behind their backs, and cried to relieve her feelings. Never had there been such a day. If Sir Tom had not been the thoroughly good-humoured man he was, it is possible that he might have objected to the interruption thus made in his speech, which was altogether lost in the tumult of delight which followed his son's appearance. But as a matter of fact he was as much delighted as any one, and proud as man could be of his pretty little wife and his splendid boy. He took "the little beggar," as he called him, in his arms, and kissed the mother again, soothing and laughing at her in the tender, kindly, fatherly way which had won Lucy.
"It is you who have got the seat," he said; "I vote that you go and sit in it, Lady Randolph. You are a born legislator, and your son is a favourite of the public, whereas I am only an old fogey."
"Oh, Tom!" Lucy said, lifting her simple eyes to his with a mist of happiness in them. She was accustomed to his nonsense. She never said anything more than "Oh, Tom!" and indeed it was not very long since she had given up the title and ceased to say "Oh, Sir Tom!" which seemed somehow to come more natural. It was what she had said when he came suddenly to see her in the midst of her early embarrassments and troubles; when the cry of relief and delight with which she turned to him, uttering in her surprise that title of familiarity, "Oh, Sir Tom!" had signified first to her middle-aged hero, with the most flattering simplicity and completeness, that he had won the girl's pure and inexperienced heart.
There was no happier evening in their lives than this, when, after all the commotion, threatenings of the ecstatic crowd to take the horses from their carriage, and other follies, they got off at last together and drove home through roads that wound among the autumn fields, on some of which the golden sheaves were still standing in the sunshine. Sir Tom held Lucy's hand in his own. He had told her a dozen times over that he owed it all to her.
"You have made me rich, and you have made me happy," he said, "though I am old enough to be your father, and you are only a little girl. If there is any good to come out of me, it will all be to your credit, Lucy. They say in story books that a man should be ashamed to own so much to his wife, but I am not the least ashamed."
"Oh, Tom!" she said, "how can you talk so much nonsense," with a laugh, and the tears in her eyes.
"I always did talk nonsense," he said; "that was why you got to like me. But this is excellent sense and quite true. And that little beggar; I am owing you for him, too. There is no end to my indebtedness. When they put the return in the papers it should be Sir Thomas Randolph, etc., returned as representative of his wife, Lucy, a little woman worth as much as any county in England."
"O, Sir Tom," Lucy cried.
"Well, so you are, my dear," he said, composedly. "That is a mere matter of fact, you know, and there can be no question about it at all."
For the truth was that she was so rich as to have been called the greatest heiress in England in her day.
Young Lady Randolph had herself been much changed by the progress of these years. Marriage is always the great touchstone of character at least with women; but in her case the change from a troubled and premature independence, full of responsibilities and an extremely difficult and arduous duty, to the protection and calm of early married life, in which everything was done for her, and all her burdens taken from her shoulders, rather arrested than aided in the development of her character. She had lived six months with the Dowager Lady Randolph after her father's death; but those six months had been all she knew of the larger existence of the wealthy and great. All she knew—and even in that short period she had learned less than she might have been expected to learn; for Lucy had not been introduced into society, partly on account of her very youthful age, and partly because she was still in mourning, so that her acquaintance with life on the higher line consisted merely in a knowledge of certain simple luxuries, of larger rooms and prettier furniture, and more careful service than in her natural condition. And by birth she belonged to the class of small townsfolk who are nobody, and whose gentility is more appalling than their homeliness. So that when she came to be Sir Thomas Randolph's wife and a great lady, not merely the ward of an important personage, but herself occupying that position, the change was so wonderful that it required all Lucy's mental resources to encounter and accustom herself to it.
Sir Tom was the kindest of middle-aged husbands. If he did not adore his young wife with the fervour of passion, he had a sincere affection for her, and the warmest desire to make her happy. She had done a great deal for him, she had changed his position unspeakably, and he was fully determined that no lady in England should have more observance, more honour and luxury, and what was better, more happiness, than the little girl who had made a man of him. There had always been a sweet and serious simplicity about her, an air of good sense and reasonableness, which had attracted everybody whose opinion was worth having to Lucy; but she was neither beautiful nor clever. She had been so brought up that, though she was not badly educated, she had no accomplishments, and not more knowledge than falls to the lot of an ordinary schoolgirl. The farthest extent of her mild experiences was Sloane Street and Cadogan Place: and there were people who thought it impossible that Sir Tom, who had been everywhere, and run through the entire gamut of pleasures and adventures, should find anything interesting in this bread-and-butter girl, whom, of course, it was his duty to marry, and having married to be kind to. But when he found himself set down in an English country house with this little piece of simplicity opposite to him, what would he do, the sympathising spectators said? Even his kind aunt, who felt that she had brought about the marriage, and who, as a matter of fact, had fully intended it from the first, though she herself liked Lucy, had a little terror in her soul as she asked herself the same question. He would fill the house with company and get over it in that way, was what the most kind and moderate people thought. But Sir Tom laughed at all their prognostications. He said afterwards that he had never known before how pretty it was to know nothing, and to have seen nothing, when these defects were conjoined with intelligence and delightful curiosity and never-failing interest. He declared that he had never truly enjoyed his own adventures and experiences as he did when he told them over to his young wife. You may be sure there were some of them which were not adapted for Lucy's ears: but these Sir Tom left religiously away in the background. He had been a careless liver no doubt, like so many men, but he would rather have cut off his right hand, as the Scripture bids, than have soiled Lucy's white soul with an idea, or an image, that was unworthy of her. She knew him under all sorts of aspects, but not one that was evil. Their solitary evenings together were to her more delightful than any play, and to him nearly as delightful. When the dinner was over and the cold shut out, she would wait his appearance in the inner drawing-room, which she had chosen for her special abode, with some of the homely cares that had been natural to her former condition, drawing his chair to the fire, taking pride in making his coffee for him, and a hundred little attentions. "Now begin," she would say, recalling with a child's eager interest and earnest recollection the point at which he had left off. This was the greater part of Lucy's education. She travelled with him through very distant regions, and went through all kinds of adventure.
And in the season they went to London, where she made her appearance in society, not perhaps with eclat, but with a modest composure which delighted him. She understood then, for the first time, what it was to be rich, and was amused and pleased—amused above all by the position which she occupied with the utmost simplicity. People said it would turn the little creature's head, but it never even disturbed her imagination. She took it with a calm that was extraordinary. Thus her education progressed, and Lucy was so fully occupied with it, with learning her husband and her life and the world, that she had no time to think of the responsibilities which once had weighed so heavily upon her. When now and then they occurred to her and she made some passing reference to them, there were so many other things to do that she forgot again—forgot everything except to be happy and learn and see, as she had now so many ways of doing. She forgot herself altogether, and everything that had been hers, not in excitement, but in the soft absorbing influence of her new life, which drew her away into endless novelties and occupations, such as were, indeed, duties and necessities of her altered sphere.
If this was the case in the first three or four years of her marriage, when she had only Sir Tom to think of, you may suppose what it was when the baby came, to add a hundredfold to the interests of her existence. Everything else in life, it may be believed, dwindled into nothing in comparison with this boy of boys—this wonderful infant. There had never been one in the world like him it is unnecessary to say: and everything was so novel to her, and she felt the importance of being little Tom's mother so deeply, that her mind was quite carried away from all other thoughts. She grew almost beautiful in the light of this new addition to her happiness. And how happy she was! The child grew and throve. He was a splendid boy. His mother did not sing litanies in his praise in public, for her good sense never forsook her: but his little being seemed to fill up her life like a new stream flowing into it, and she expanded in life, in thought, and in understanding. She began to see a reason for her own position, and to believe in it, and take it seriously. She was a great lady, the first in the neighbourhood, and she felt that, as little Tom's mother, it was natural and befitting that she should be so. She began to be sensible of ambition within herself, as well as something that felt like pride. It was so little like ordinary pride, however, that Lucy was sorry for everybody who had not all the noble surroundings which she began to enjoy. She would have liked that every child should have a nursery like little Tom's, and every mother the same prospects for her infant, and was charitable and tender beyond measure to all the mothers and children within reach on little Tom's account, which was an extravagance which her husband did not grudge, but liked and encouraged, knowing the sentiment from which it sprang. It was with no view to popularity that the pair thus endeavoured to diffuse happiness about them, being so happy themselves; but it answered the same purpose, and their popularity was great.
When the county conferred the highest honour in its power upon Sir Tom, his immediate neighbours in the villages about took the honour as their own, and rejoiced as, even at a majority or a marriage, they had never rejoiced before, for so kind a landlord, so universal a friend, had never been.
The villages were model villages on the Randolph lands. Sir Tom and his young wife had gone into every detail about the labourers' cottages with as much interest as if they had themselves meant to live in one of them. There were no such trim gardens or bright flower-beds to be seen anywhere, and it was well for the people that the Rector of the parish was judicious, and kept Lady Randolph's charities within bounds. There had been no small amount of poverty and distress among these rustics when the Squire was poor and absent, when they lived in tumbledown old houses, which nobody took any interest in, and where neither decency nor comfort was considered; but now little industries sprang up and prospered, and the whole landscape smiled. A wise landlord with unlimited sway over his neighbourhood and no rivals in the field can do so much to increase the comfort of everybody about him; and such a small matter can make a poor household comfortable. Political economists, no doubt, say it is demoralising: but when it made Lucy happy and the poor women happy, how could Sir Tom step in and arrest the genial bounty? He gave the Rector a hint to see that she did not go too far, and walked about with his hands in his pockets and looked on. All this amused him greatly; even the little ingratitudes she met with, which went to Lucy's heart, made her husband laugh. It pleased his satirical vein to see how human nature displayed itself, and the black sheep appeared among the white even in a model village. But as for Lucy, though she would sometimes cry over these spots upon the general goodness, it satisfied every wish of her heart to be able to do so much for the cottagers. They did not, perhaps, stand so much in awe of her as they ought to have done, but they brought all their troubles to her with the most perfect and undoubting confidence.
All this time, however, Lucy, following the dictates of her own heart, and using what after all was only a little running over of her great wealth to secure the comfort of the people round, was neglecting what she had once thought the great duty of her life as entirely as if she had been the most selfish of worldly women. Her life had been so entirely changed—swung, as one might say, out of one orbit into another—that the burdens of the former existence seemed to have been taken from her shoulders along with its habits and external circumstances. Her husband thought of these as little as herself; yet even he was somewhat surprised to find that he had no trouble in weaning Lucy from the extravagances of her earlier independence. He had not expected much trouble, but still it had seemed likely enough that she would at least propose things that his stronger sense condemned, and would have to be convinced and persuaded that they were impracticable; but nothing of the kind occurred, and when he thought of it Sir Tom himself was surprised, as also were various other people who knew what Lucy's obstinacy on the subject before her marriage had been, and especially the Dowager Lady Randolph, who paid her nephew a yearly visit, and never failed to question him on the subject.
"And Lucy?" she would say. "Lucy never makes any allusion? She has dismissed everything from her mind? I really think you must be a magician, Tom. I could not have believed it, after all the trouble she gave us, and all the money she threw away. Those Russells, you know, that she was so ridiculously liberal to, they are as bad as ever. That sort of extravagant giving of money is never successful. But I never thought you would have got it out of her mind."
"Don't flatter me," he said; "it is not I that have got it out of her mind. It is life and all the novelties in it—and small Tom, who is more of a magician than I am——"
"Oh, the baby!" said the dowager, with the indifference of a woman who has never had a child, and cannot conceive why a little sprawling tadpole in long clothes should make such a difference. "Yes, I suppose that's a novelty," she said, "to be mother of a bit of a thing like that naturally turns a girl's head. It is inconceivable the airs they give themselves, as if there was nothing so wonderful in creation. And so far as I can see you are just as bad, though you ought to know better, Tom."
"Oh, just as bad," he said, with his large laugh. "I never had a share in anything so wonderful. If you only could see the superiority of this bit of a thing to all other things about him——"
"Oh! spare me," cried Lady Randolph the elder, holding up her hands. "Of course I don't undervalue the importance of an heir to the property," she said in a different tone. "I have heard enough about it to be pretty sensible of that."
This the Dowager said with a slight tone of bitterness, which indeed was comprehensible enough: for she had suffered much in her day from the fact that no such production had been possible to her. Had it been so, her nephew who stood by her would not (she could scarcely help reflecting with some grudge against Providence) have been the great man he now was, and no child of his would have mattered to the family. Lady Randolph was a very sensible woman, and had long been reconciled to the state of affairs, and liked her nephew, whom she had been the means of providing for so nobly; and she was glad there was a baby; still, for the sake of her own who had never existed, she resented the self-exaltation of father and mother over this very common and in no way extraordinary phenomenon of a child.
Sir Tom laughed again with a sense of superiority, which was in itself somewhat ludicrous; but as nobody is clear-sighted in their own concerns, he was quite unconscious of this. His laugh nettled Lady Randolph still more. She said, with a certain disdain in her tone,—
"And so you think you have sailed triumphantly over all that difficulty—thanks to your charms and the baby's, and are going to hear nothing of it any more?"
Sir Tom felt that he was suddenly pulled up, and was a little resentful in return.
"I hope," he said, "that is, I do more than hope, I feel convinced, that my wife, who has great sense, has outgrown that nonsense, and that she has sufficient confidence in me to leave her business matters in my hands."
Lady Randolph shook her head.
"Outgrown nonsense—at three and twenty?" she said. "Don't you think that's premature? and, my dear boy, take my word for it, a woman when she has the power, likes to keep the control of her own business just as well as a man does. I advise you not to holloa till you are out of the wood."
"I don't expect to have any occasion to holloa; there is no wood for that matter; Lucy, though perhaps you may not think it, is one of the most reasonable of creatures."
"She is everything that is nice and good," said the Dowager, "but how about the will? Lucy may be reasonable, but that is not. And she cannot forget it always."
"Pshaw! The will is a piece of folly," cried Sir Tom. He grew red at the very thought with irritation and opposition. "I believe the old man was mad. Nothing else could excuse such imbecility. Happily there is no question of the will."
"But there must be, some time or other."
"I see no occasion for it," said Sir Tom coldly; and as his aunt was a reasonable woman, she did not push the matter any farther. But if the truth must be told this sensible old lady contemplated the great happiness of these young people with a sort of interested and alarmed spectatorship (for she wished them nothing but good), watching and wondering when the explosion would come which might in all probability shatter it to ruins. For she felt thoroughly convinced in her own mind that Lucy would not always forget the conditions by which she held her fortune, and that all the reason and good sense in the world would not convince her that it was right to ignore and baulk her father's intentions, as conveyed with great solemnity in his will. And when the question should come to be raised, Lady Randolph felt that it would be no trifling one. Lucy was very simple and sweet, but when her conscience spoke even the influence of Sir Tom would not suffice to silence it. She was a girl who would stand to what she felt to be right if all the world and even her husband were against her—and the Dowager, who wished them no harm, felt a little alarmed as to the issue. Sir Tom was not a man easy to manage, and the reddening of his usually smiling countenance at the mere suggestion of the subject was very ominous. It would be better, far better, for Lucy if she would yield at once and say nothing about it. But that was not what it was natural for her to do. She would stand by her duty to her father, just as, were it assailed, she would stand by her duty to her husband; but she would never be got to understand that the second cancelled the first. The Dowager Lady Randolph watched the young household with something of the interest with which a playgoer watches the stage. She felt sure that the explosion would come, and that a breath, a touch, might bring it on at any moment; and then what was to be the issue? Would Lucy yield? would Lucy conquer? or would the easy temper with which everybody credited Sir Tom support this trial? The old lady, who knew him so well, believed that there was a certain fiery element below, and she trembled for the peace of the household which was so happy and triumphant, and had no fear whatever for itself. She thought of "the torrent's smoothness ere it dash below," of the calm that precedes a storm, and many other such images, and so frightened did she become at the dangers she had conjured up that she put the will hurriedly out of her thoughts, as Sir Tom had done, and would think no more of it. "Sufficient," she said to herself, "is the evil to the day."
In the meantime, the married pair smiled serenely at any doubts of their perfect union, and Lucy felt a great satisfaction in showing her husband's aunt (who had not thought her good enough for Sir Tom, notwithstanding that she so warmly promoted the match) how satisfied he was with his home, and how exultant in his heir.
In the following chapters the reader will discover what was the cause which made the Dowager shake her head when she got into the carriage to drive to the railway at the termination of her visit. It was all very pretty and very delightful, and thoroughly satisfactory; but still Lady Randolph, the elder, shook her experienced head.
OLD MR. TREVOR'S WILL.
Lucy Trevor, when she married Sir Thomas Randolph, was the heiress of so great a fortune that no one ventured to state it in words or figures. She was not old enough, indeed, to have the entire control of it in her hands, but she had unlimited control over a portion of it in a certain sense, not for her own advantage, but for the aggrandisement of others. Her father, who was eccentric and full of notions, had so settled it that a large portion of the money should eventually return, as he phrased it, to the people from whom it had come, and this not in the way of public charities and institutions, as is the common idea in such cases, but by private and individual aid to struggling persons and families. Lucy, who was then all conscience and devotion to the difficult yet exciting duty which her father had left to her to do, had made a beginning of this extraordinary work before her marriage, resisting all the arguments that were brought to bear upon her as to the folly of the will, and the impossibility of carrying it out. It is likely, indeed, that the trustees and guardians would have taken steps at once to have old Trevor's will set aside but for the fact that Lucy had a brother, who in that case would divide the inheritance with her, but who was specially excluded by the will, as being a son of Mr. Trevor's second wife, and entirely unconnected with the source from which the fortune came. It was Lucy's mother who had brought it into the family, although she was not herself aware of its magnitude, and did not live long enough to have any enjoyment of it. Neither did old Trevor himself have any enjoyment of it, save in the making of the will by which he laid down exactly his regulations for its final disposal. In any case Lucy was to retain the half, which was of itself a great sum; but the condition of her inheritance, and indeed the occupation of her life, according to her father's intention, was that she should select suitable persons to whom to distribute the other half of her fortune. It is needless to say that this commission had seriously occupied the thoughts of the serious girl who, without any sense of personal importance, found herself thus placed in the position of an official bestower of fortune, having it in her power to confer comfort, independence, and even wealth; for she was left almost entirely unrestricted as to her disposition of the money, and might at her pleasure confer a very large sum upon a favourite. Everybody who had ever heard of old Trevor's will considered it the very maddest upon record, and there were many who congratulated themselves that Lucy's husband, if she was so lucky as to marry a man of sense, would certainly put a stop to it—or even that Lucy herself, when she came to years of serious judgment, would see the folly; for there was no stipulation as to the time at which the distributions should be made, these, as well as the selection of the objects of her bounty, being left to herself. She had been very full of this strange duty before her marriage, and had selected several persons who, as it turned out, did but little credit to her choice, almost forcing her will upon the reluctant trustees, who had no power to hinder her from carrying it out, and whose efforts at reasoning with her had been totally unsuccessful. In these early proceedings Sir Tom, who was intensely amused by the oddity of the business altogether, and who had then formed no idea of appropriating her and her money to himself, gave her a delighted support.
He had never in his life encountered anything which amused him so much, and his only regret was that he had not known the absurd but high-minded old English Quixote who, wiser in his generation than that noble knight, left it to his heir to redress the wrongs of the world, while he himself had the pleasure of the anticipation only, not perhaps unmixed with a malicious sense of all the confusions and exhibitions of the weakness of humanity it would produce. Sir Tom himself had humour enough to appreciate the philosophy of the old humorist, and the droll spectator position which he had evidently chosen for himself, as though he could somehow see and enjoy all the struggles of self-interest raised by his will, with one of those curious self-delusions which so often seem to actuate the dying. Sir Tom, however, had thought it little more than a folly even at the moment when it had amused him the most. He had thought that in time Lucy would come to see how ridiculous it was, and would tacitly, without saying anything, give it up, so sensible a girl being sure in the long run to see how entirely unsuited to modern times and habits such a disposition was. And had she done so, there was nobody who was likely to awaken her to a sense of her duty. Her trustees, who considered old Trevor mad, and Lucy a fool to humour him, would certainly make no objection; and little Jock, the little brother to whom Lucy was everything in the world, was still less likely to interfere. When it came about that Lucy herself, and her fortune, and all her right, were in Sir Tom's own hands, he was naturally more and more sure that this foolish will (after giving him a great deal of amusement, and perhaps producing a supernatural chuckle, if such an expression of feeling is possible in the spiritual region where old Trevor might be supposed to be) would be henceforward like a testament in black letter, voided by good sense and better knowledge and time, the most certain agency of all. And his conviction had been more than carried out in the first years of his married life. Lucy forgot what was required of her. She thought no more of her father's will. It glided away into the unseen along with so many other things, extravagances, or if not extravagances, still phantasies of youth. She found enough in her new life—in her husband, her baby, and the humble community which looked up to her and claimed everything from her—to occupy both her mind and her hands. Life seemed to be so full that there was no time for more.
It had been no doing of Sir Tom's that little Jock, the brother who had been Lucy's child, her Mentor, her counsellor and guide, had been separated from her for so long. Jock had been sent to school with his own entire concurrence and control. He was a little philosopher with a mind beyond his years, and he had seemed to understand fully, without any childish objection, the reason why he should be separated from her, and even why it was necessary to give up the hope of visiting his sister. The first year it was because she was absent on her prolonged wedding tour: the next because Jock was himself away on a long and delightful expedition with a tutor, who had taken a special fancy to him. Afterwards the baby was expected, and all exciting visits and visitors were given up. They had met in the interval. Lucy had visited Jock at his school, and he had been with them in London on several occasions. But there had been little possibility of anything like their old intercourse. Perhaps they could never again be to each other what they had been when these two young creatures, strangely separated from all about them, had been alone in the world, having entire and perfect confidence in each other. They both looked back upon these bygone times with a sort of regretful consciousness of the difference; but Lucy was very happy in her new life, and Jock was a perfectly natural boy, given to no sentimentalities, not jealous, and enjoying his existence too completely to sigh for the time when he was a quaint old-fashioned child, and knew no life apart from his sister.
Their intercourse then had been so pretty, so tender and touching; the child being at once his sister's charge and her superior in his old-fashioned reflectiveness, her pupil and her teacher, the little judge of whose opinions she stood in awe, while at the same time quite subject and submissive to her—that it was a pity it should ever come to an end; but it is a pity, too, when children grow up, when they grow out of all the softness and keen impressions of youth into the harder stuff of man and woman. To their parents it is a change which has often little to recommend it—but it is inevitable, as we all know; and so it was a pity that Lucy and Jock were no longer all in all to each other; but the change was in their case, too, inevitable, and accepted by both. When, however, the time came that Jock was to arrive really on his first long visit at the Hall, Lucy prepared for this event with a little excitement, with a lighting up of her eyes and countenance, and a pleasant warmth of anticipation in which even little Tom was for the moment set aside. She asked her husband a dozen times in the previous day if he thought the boy would be altered. "I know he must be taller and all that," Lucy said. "I do not mean the outside of him. But do you think he will be changed?"
"It is to be hoped so," said Sir Tom, serenely. "He is sixteen. I trust he is not what he was at ten. That would be a sad business, indeed——"
"Oh, Tom, you know that's not what I mean!—of course he has grown older; but he always was very old for his age. He has become a real boy now. Perhaps in some things he will seem younger too."
"I always said you were very reasonable," said her husband, admiringly. "That is just what I wanted you to be prepared for—not a wise little old man as he was when he had the charge of your soul, Lucy."
She smiled at him, shaking her head. "What ridiculous things you say. But Jock was always the wise one. He knew much better than I did. He did take care of me whatever you may think, though he was such a child."
"Perhaps it was as well that he did not continue to take care of you. On the whole, though I have no such lofty views, I am a better guide."
Lucy looked at him once more without replying for a moment. Was her mind ever crossed by the idea that there were perhaps certain particulars in which little Jock was the best guide? If so the blasphemy was involuntary. She shook it off with a little movement of her head, and met his glance with her usual serene confidence. "You ought to be," she said, "Tom; but you liked him always. Didn't you like him? I always thought so; and you will like him now?"
"I hope so," said Sir Tom.
Then a slight gleam of anxiety came into Lucy's eyes. This seemed the only shape in which evil could come to her, and with one of those forewarnings of Nature always prone to alarm, which come when we are most happy, she looked wistfully at her husband, saying nothing, but with an anxious question and prayer combined in her look. He smiled at her, laying his hand upon her head, which was one of his caressing ways, for Lucy, not an imposing person in any particular, was short, and Sir Tom was tall.
"Does that frighten you, Lucy? I shall like him for your sake, if not for his own, never fear."
"That is kind," she said, "but I want you to like him for his own sake. Indeed, I should like you if you would, Tom," she added almost timidly, "to like him for your own. Perhaps you think that is presuming, as if he, a little boy, could be anything to you; but I almost think that is the only real way—if you know what I mean."
"Now this is humbling," said Sir Tom, "that one's wife should consider one too dull to know what she means. You are quite right, and a complete philosopher, Lucy. I will like the boy for my own sake. I always did like him, as you say. He was the quaintest little beggar, an old man and a child in one. But it would have been bad for him had you kept on cultivating him in that sort of hot-house atmosphere. It was well for Jock, whatever it might be for you, that I arrived in time."
Lucy pondered for a little without answering; and then she said, "Why should it be considered so necessary for a boy to be sent away from home?"
"Why!" cried Sir Tom, in astonishment; and then he added, laughingly, "It shows your ignorance, Lucy, to ask such a question. He must be sent to school, and there is an end of it. There are some things that are like axioms in Euclid, though you don't know very much about that—they are made to be acted upon, not to be discussed. A boy must go to school."
"But why?" said Lucy undaunted. "That is no answer." She was untrammelled by any respect for Euclid, and would have freely questioned the infallibility of an axiom, with a courage such as only ignorance possesses. She was thinking not only of Jock, but had an eye to distant contingencies, when there might be question of a still more precious boy. "God," she said, reverentially, "must have meant surely that the father and mother should have something to do in bringing them up."
"In the holidays, my dear," said Sir Tom; "that is what we are made for. Have you never found that out?"
Lucy never felt perfectly sure whether he was in jest or earnest. She looked at him again to see what he meant—which was not very easy, for Sir Tom meant two things directly opposed to each other. He meant what he said, and yet said what he knew was nonsense, and laughed at himself inwardly with a keen recognition of this fact. Notwithstanding, he was as much determined to act upon it as if it had been the most certain truth, and in a way pinned his faith to it as such.
"I suppose you are laughing," said Lucy, "and I wish you would not, because it is so important. I am sure we are not meant only for the holidays, and you don't really think so, Tom; and to take a child away from his natural teachers, and those that love him best in the world, to throw him among strangers! Oh, I cannot think that is the best way, whatever Euclid may make you think."
At this Sir Tom laughed, as he generally did, though never disrespectfully, at Lucy's decisions. He said, "That is a very just expression, my dear, though Euclid never made us think so much as he ought to have done. You are thinking of that little beggar. Wait till he is out of long clothes."
"Which shows all you know about it. He was shortcoated at the proper time, I hope," said Lucy, with some indignation, "do you call these long clothes?"
These were garments which showed when he sprawled, as he always did, a great deal of little Tom's person, and as his mother was at that time holding him by them, while he "felt his feet," upon the carpet, the spectacle of two little dimpled knees without any covering at all triumphantly proved her right. Sir Tom threw himself upon the carpet to kiss those sturdy, yet wavering little limbs, which were not quite under the guidance of Tommy's will as yet, and taking the child from his mother, propped it up against his own person. "For the present, I allow that fathers and mothers are the best," he said.
Lucy stood and gazed at them in that ecstasy of love and pleasure with which a young mother beholds her husband's adoration for their child. Though she feels it to be the highest pride and crown of their joint existence, yet there is always in her mind a sense of admiration and gratitude for his devotion. She looked down upon them at her feet, with eyes running over with happiness. It is to be feared that at such a moment Lucy forgot even Jock, the little brother who had been as a child to her in her earlier days; and yet there was no want of love for Jock in her warm and constant heart.
YOUNG MR. TREVOR.
John Trevor, otherwise Jock, arrived at the Hall in a state of considerable though suppressed excitement. It was not in his nature to show the feelings which were most profound and strongest in his nature, even if the religion of an English public school boy had not forbidden demonstration. But he had very strong feelings underneath his calm exterior, and the approach to Lucy's home gave him many thoughts. The sense of separation which had once affected him with a deep though unspoken sentiment had passed away long ago into a faint grudge, a feeling of something lost—but between ten and sixteen one does not brood upon a grievance, especially when one is surrounded by everything that can make one happy; and there was a certain innate philosophy in the mind of Jock which enabled him to see the justice and necessity of the separation. He it was who in very early day, had ordained his own going to school with a realisation of the need of it which is not usually given to his age—and he had understood without any explanation and without any complaint that Lucy must live her own life, and that their constant brother and sister fellowship became impossible when she married. The curious little solemn boy, who had made so many shrewd guesses at the ways of life while he was still only a child, accepted this without a word, working it out in his own silent soul; but nevertheless it had affected him deeply. And when the time came at last for a real meeting, not a week's visit in town where she was fully occupied, and he did not well know what to do with himself—or a hurried rapid meeting at school, where Jock's pride in introducing his tutor to his sister was a somewhat imperfect set-off to the loss of personal advantage to himself in thus seeing Lucy always in the company of other people—his being was greatly moved with diverse thoughts. Lucy was all he had in the world to represent the homes, the fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers of his companions. The old time when they had been all in all to each other had a more delicate beauty than the ordinary glow of childhood. He thought there was nobody like her, with that mingled adoration and affectionate contempt which make up a boy's love for the women belonging to him. She was not clever: but he regarded the simplicity of her mind with pride. This seemed to give her her crowning charm. "Any fellow can be clever," Jock said to himself. It was part of Lucy's superiority that she was not so. He arrived at the railway station at Farafield with much excitement in his mind, though his looks were quiet enough. The place, though it was the first he had ever known, did not attract a thought from the other and more important meeting. It was a wet day in August, and the coachman who had been sent for him gave him a note to say that Lucy would have come to meet him but for the rain. He was rather glad of the rain, this being the case. He did not want to meet her on a railway platform—he even regretted the long stretches of the stubble fields as he whirled past, and wished that the way had been longer, though he was so anxious to see her. And when he jumped down at the great door of the hall and found himself in the embrace of his sister, the youth was thrilling with excitement, hope, and pleasure. Lucy had changed much less than he had. Jock, who had been the smallest of pale-faced boys, was now long and weedy, with limbs and fingers of portentous length. His hair was light and limp; his large eyes, well set in his head, had a vague and often dreamy look. It was impossible to call him a handsome boy. There was an entire want of colour about him, as there had been about Lucy in her first youth, and his gray morning clothes, like the little gray dress she had worn as a young girl were not very becoming to him. They had been so long apart that he met her very shyly, with an awkwardness that almost looked like reluctance, and for the first hour scarcely knew what to say to her, so full was he of the wonder and pleasure of being by her, and the impossibility of expressing this. She asked him about his journey, and he made the usual replies, scarcely knowing what he said, but looking at her with a suppressed beatitude which made Jock dull in the very intensity of his feeling. The rain came steadily down outside, shutting them in as with veils of falling water. Sir Tom, in order to leave them entirely free to have their first meeting over, had taken himself off for the day. Lucy took her young brother into the inner drawing-room, the centre of her own life. She made him sit down in a luxurious chair, and stood over him gazing at the boy, who was abashed and did not know what to say. "You are different, Jock. It is not that you are taller and bigger altogether, but you are different. I suppose so am I."
"Not much," he said, looking shyly at her. "You couldn't change."
"How so?" she asked with a laugh. "I am such a great deal older I ought to look wiser. Let me see what it is. Your eyes have grown darker, I think, and your face is longer, Jock; and what is that? a little down, actually, upon your upper lip. Jock, not a moustache!"
Jock blushed with pleasure and embarrassment, and put up his hand fondly to feel those few soft hairs. "There isn't very much of it," he said.
"Oh, there is enough to swear by; and you like school as well as ever? and MTutor, how is he? Are you as fond of him as you used to be, Jock?"
"You don't say you're fond of him," said Jock, "but he's just as jolly as ever, if that is what you mean."
"That is what I mean, I suppose. You must tell me when I say anything wrong," said Lucy. She took his head between her hands and gave him a kiss upon his forehead. "I am so glad to see you here at last," she said.
And then there was a pause. Her first little overflow of questions had come to an end, and she did not exactly know what to say, while Jock sat silent, staring at her with an earnest gaze. It was all so strange, the scene and surroundings, and Lucy in the midst, who was a great lady, instead of being merely his sister—all these confused the boy's faculties. He wanted time to realise it all. But Lucy, for her part, felt the faintest little touch of disappointment. It seemed to her as if they ought to have had so much to say to each other, such a rush of questions and answers, and full-hearted confidence. Jock's heart would be at his lips, she thought, ready to rush forth—and her own also, with all the many things of which she had said to herself: "I must tell that to Jock." But as a matter of fact, many of these things had been told by letter, and the rest would have been quite out of place in the moment of reunion, in which indeed it seemed inappropriate to introduce any subject other than their pleasure in seeing each other again, and those personal inquiries which we all so long to make face to face when we are separated from those near to us, yet which are so little capable of filling all the needs of the situation when that moment comes. Jock was indeed showing his happiness much more by his expressive silence and shy eager gaze at her than if he had plunged into immediate talk; but Lucy felt a little disappointed, and as if the meeting had not come up to her hopes. She said, after a pause which was almost awkward, "You would like to see baby, Jock? How strange that you should not know baby! I wonder what you will think of him." She rose and rang the bell while she was speaking in a pleasant stir of fresh expectation. No doubt it would stir Jock to the depths of his heart, and bring out all his latent feeling, when he saw Lucy's boy. Little Tom was brought in state to see "his uncle," a title of dignity which the nurse felt indignantly disappointed to have bestowed upon the lanky, colourless boy who got up with great embarrassment and came forward reluctantly to see the creature quite unknown and unrealised, of whom Lucy spoke with so much exultation. Jock was not jealous, but he thought it rather odd that "a little thing like that" should excite so much attention. It seemed to him that it was a thing all legs and arms, sprawling in every direction, and when it seized Lucy by the hair, pulling it about her face with the most riotous freedom, Jock felt deeply disposed to box its ears. But Lucy was delighted. "Oh, naughty baby!" she said, with a voice of such admiration and ecstasy as the finest poetry, Jock reflected, would never have awoke in her; and when the thing "loved" her, at its nurse's bidding, clasping its fat arms round her neck, and applying a wide-open wet mouth to her cheek, the tears were in her eyes for very pleasure. "Baby, darling, that is your uncle; won't you go to your uncle? Take him, Jock. If he is a little shy at first he will soon get used to you," Lucy cried. To see Jock holding back on one side, and the baby on the other, which strenuously refused to go to its uncle, was as good as a play.
"I'm afraid I should let it fall," said Jock, "I don't know anything about babies."
"Then sit down, dear, and I will put him upon your lap," said the young mother. There never was a more complete picture of wretchedness than poor Jock, as he placed himself unwillingly on the sofa with his knees put firmly together and his feet slanting outwards to support them. "I sha'n't know what to do with it," he said. It is to be feared that he resented its existence altogether. It was to him a quite unnecessary addition. Was he never to see Lucy any more without that thing clinging to her? Little Tom, for his part, was equally decided in his sentiments. He put his little fists, which were by no means without force, against his uncle's face, and pushed him away, with squalls that would have exasperated Job; and then, instead of consoling Jock, Lucy took the little demon to her arms and soothed him. "Did they want it to make friends against its will," Lucy was so ridiculous as to say, like one of the women in Punch, petting and smoothing down that odious little creature. Both she and the nurse seemed to think that it was the baby who wanted consoling for the appearance of Jock, and not Jock who had been insulted; for one does not like even a baby to consider one as repulsive and disagreeable. The incident was scarcely at an end when Sir Tom came in, fresh, smiling, and damp from the farm, where he had been inspecting the cattle and enjoying himself. Mature age and settled life and a sense of property had converted Sir Tom to the pleasure of farming. He shook Jock heartily by the hand, and clapped him on the back, and bade him welcome with great kindness. Then he took "the little beggar" on his shoulder and carried him, shrieking with delight, about the room. It seemed a very strange thing to Jock to see how entirely these two full-grown people gave themselves up to the deification of this child. It was not bringing themselves to his level, it was looking up to him as their superior. If he had been a king his careless favours could not have been more keenly contended for. Jock, who was fond of poetry and philosophy and many other fine things, looked on at this new mystery with wondering and indignant contempt. After dinner there was the baby again. It was allowed to stay out of bed longer than usual in honour of its uncle, and dinner was hurried over, Jock thought, in order that it might be produced, decked out in a sash almost as broad as its person. When it appeared rational conversation was at an end, Sir Tom, whom Jock had always respected highly, stopped the inquiries he was making, with all the knowledge and pleasure, of an old schoolboy, into school life, comparing his own experiences with those of the present generation—to play bo-peep behind Lucy's shoulder with the baby. Bo-peep! a Member of Parliament, a fellow who had been at the University, who had travelled, who had seen America and gone through the Desert! There was consternation in the astonishment with which Jock looked on at this unlooked-for, almost incredible, exhibition. It was ridiculous in Lucy, but in Sir Tom!
"I suppose we were all like that one time?" he said, trying to be philosophical, as little Tom at last, half smothered with kisses, was carried away.
"Like that—do you mean like baby? You were a little darling, dear, and I was always very, very fond of you," said Lucy, giving him the kindest look of her soft eyes. "But you were not a beauty, like my boy."
Sir Tom had laughed, with something of the same sentiment very evident in his mirth, when Lucy spoke. He put out his hand and patted his young brother-in-law on the shoulder. "It is absurd," he said, "to put that little beggar in the foreground when we have somebody here who is in Sixth form at sixteen, and is captain of his house, and has got a school prize already. If Lucy does not appreciate all that, I do, Jock, and the best I can wish for Tommy is that he should have done as much at your age."
"Oh, I was not thinking of that," said Jock with a violent blush.
"Of course he was not," said Lucy calmly, "for he always had the kindest heart though he was so clever. If you think I don't appreciate it as you say, Tom, it is only because I knew it all the time. Do you think I am surprised that Jock has beaten everybody? He was like that when he was six, before he had any education. And he will be just as proud of baby as we are when he knows him. He is a little strange at first," said Lucy, beaming upon her brother; "but as soon as he is used to you, he will go to you just as he does to me."
To this Jock could not reply by betraying the shiver that went over him at the thought, but it gave great occupation to his mind to make out how a little thing like that could attain, as it had done, such empire over the minds of two sensible people. He consulted MTutor on the subject by letter, who was his great referee on difficult subjects, and he could not help betraying his wonder to the household as he grew more familiar and the days went on. "He can't do anything for you," Jock said. "He can't talk; he doesn't know anything about—well, about books: I know that's more my line than yours, Lucy—but about anything. Oh! you needn't flare up. When he dabs his mouth at you all wet——"
"Oh! you little wretch, you infidel, you savage," Lucy cried; "his sweet mouth! and a dear big wet kiss that lets you know he means it."
Jock looked at her as he had done often in the old days, with mingled admiration and contempt. It was like Lucy, and yet how odd it was. "I suppose, then," he said, "I was rather worse than that when you took me up and were good to me. What for, I wonder? and you were fond of me, too, although you are fonder of it——"
"If you talk of It again I will never speak to you more," Lucy said, "as if my beautiful boy was a thing and not a person. He is not It: he is Tom, he is Mr. Randolph: that is what Williams calls him." Williams was the butler who had been all over the world with Sir Tom, and who was respectful of the heir, but a little impatient and surprised, as Jock was, of the fuss that was made about Tommy for his own small sake.
By this time, however, Jock had recovered from his shyness—his difficulty in talking, all the little mist that absence had made—and roamed about after Lucy, hanging upon her, putting his arm through hers, though he was much the taller, wherever she went. He held her back a little now as they walked through the park in a sort of procession, Mrs. Richens, the nurse, going first with the boy. "When I was a little slobbering beast, like——" he stopped himself in time, "like the t'other kind of baby, and nobody wanted me, you were the only one that took any trouble."
"How do you know?" said Lucy; "you don't remember and I don't remember."
"Ah! but I remember the time in the Terrace, when I lay on the rug, and heard papa making his will over my head. I was listening for you all the time. I was thinking of nothing but your step coming to take me out."
"Nonsense!" said Lucy, "you were deep in your books, and thinking of them only; of that—gentleman with the windmills—or Shakspeare, or some other nonsense. Oh, I don't mean Shakspeare is nonsense. I mean you were thinking of nothing but your books, and nobody would believe you understood all that at your age."
"I did not understand," said Jock with a blush. "I was a little prig. Lucy, how strange it all is, like a picture one has seen somewhere, or a scene in a play or a dream! Sometimes I can remember little bits of it, just as he used to read it out to old Ford. Bits of it are all in and out of As You Like It, as if Touchstone had said them, or Jaques. Poor old papa! how particular he was about it all. Are you doing everything he told you, Lucy, in the will?"
He did not in the least mean it as an alarming question, as he stooped over, in his awkward way holding her arm, and looked into her face.
Lucy was much startled by her brother's demand. It struck, however, not her conscience so much as her recollection, bringing back that past which was still so near, yet which seemed a world away, in which she had made so many anxious efforts to carry out her father's will and considered it the main object of her life. A young wife who is happy, and upon whom life smiles, can scarcely help looking back upon the time when she was a girl with a sense of superiority, an amused and affectionate contempt for herself. "How could I be so silly?" she will say, and laugh, not without a passing blush. This was not exactly Lucy's feeling; but in three years she had, even in her sheltered and happy position, attained a certain acquaintance with life, and she saw difficulties which in those former days had not been apparent to her. When Jock began to recall these reminiscences it seemed to her as if she saw once more the white commonplace walls of her father's sitting-room rising about her, and heard him laying down the law which she had accepted with such calm. She had seen no difficulty then. She had not even been surprised by the burden laid upon her. It had appeared as natural to obey him in matters which concerned large external interests, and the well-being of strangers, as it was to fill him out a cup of tea. But the interval of time, and the change of position, had made a great difference; and when Jock asked, "Are you doing all he told you?" the question brought a sudden surging of the blood to her head, which made a singing in her ears and a giddiness in her brain. It seemed to place her in front of something which must interrupt all her life and put a stop to the even flow of her existence. She caught her breath. "Doing all he told me!"
Jock, though he did not mean it, though he was no longer her self-appointed guardian and guide, became to Lucy a monitor, recalling her as to another world.
But the effect though startling was not permanent. They began to talk it all over, and by dint of familiarity the impression wore away. The impression, but not the talk. It gave the brother and sister just what they wanted to bring back all the habits of their old affectionate confidential intercourse, a subject upon which they could carry on endless discussions and consultations, which was all their own, like one of those innocent secrets which children delight in, and which, with arms entwined and heads close together, they can carry on endlessly for days together. They ceased the discussion when Sir Tom appeared, not with any fear of him as a disturbing influence, but with a tacit understanding that this subject was for themselves alone. It involved everything; the past with all those scenes of their strange childhood, the homely living, the fantastic possibilities always in the air, the old dear tender relationship between the two young creatures who alone belonged to each other. Lucy almost forgot her present self as she talked, and they moved about together, the tall boy clinging to her arm as the little urchin had done, altogether dependent, yet always with a curious leadership, suggesting a thousand things that would not have occurred to her.
Lucy had no occasion now for the advice which Jock at eight years old had so freely given her. She had her husband to lead and advise her. But in this one matter Sir Tom was put tacitly out of court, and Jock had his old place. "It does not matter at all that you have not done anything lately," Jock said; "there is plenty of time—and now that I am to spend all my holidays here, it will be far easier. It was better not to do things so hastily as you began."
"But, Jock," said Lucy, "We must not deceive ourselves; it will be very hard. People who are very nice do not like to take the money; and those who are willing to take it——"
"Does the will say the people are to be nice?" asked Jock. "Then what does that matter? The will is all against reason, Lucy. It is wrong, you know. Fellows who know political economy would think we are all mad; for it just goes against it, straight."
"That is strange, Jock; for papa was very economical. He never could bear waste: he used to say——"
"Yes, yes; but political economy means something different. It is a science. It means that you should sell everything as dear as you can, and buy it as cheap as you can—and never give anything away——"
"That is dreadful, Jock," said Lucy. "It is all very well to be a science, but nobody like ourselves could be expected to act upon it—private people, you know."
"There is something in that," Jock allowed; "there are always exceptions. I only want to show you that the will being all against rule, it must be hard to carry it out. Don't you do anything by yourself, Lucy. When you come across any case that is promising, just you wait till I come, and we'll talk it all over. I don't quite understand about nice people not taking it. Fellows I know are always pleased with presents—or a tip, nobody refuses a tip. And that is just the same sort of thing, you know."
"Not just the same," said Lucy, "for a tip—that means a sovereign, doesn't it?"
"It sometimes means—paper," said Jock, with some solemnity. "Last time you came to see me at school Sir Tom gave me a fiver——"
"Oh, a five-pound note," said Jock, with momentary impatience; "the other's shorter to say and less fuss. MTutor thought he had better not; but I didn't mind. I don't see why anybody should mind. There's a fellow I know—his father is a curate, and there are no end of them, and they've no money. Fellow himself is on the foundation, so he doesn't cost much. Why they shouldn't take a big tip from you, who have too much, I'm sure I can't tell; and I don't believe they would mind," Jock added, after a pause.
This, which would have inspired Lucy in the days of her dauntless maidenhood to calculate at once how much it would take to make this family happy, gave her a little shudder now.
"I don't feel as if I could do it," she said. "I wish papa had found an easier way. People don't like you afterwards when you do that for them. They are angry—they think, why should I have all that to give away, a little thing like me?"
"The easiest way would be an exam.," said Jock. "Everybody now goes in for exams.; and if they passed, they would think they had won the money all right."
"Perhaps there is something in that, Jock; but then it is not for young men. It is for ladies, perhaps, or old people, or——"
"You might let them choose their own subjects," said the boy. "A lady might do a good paper about—servants, or sewing, or that sort of thing; or housekeeping—that would be all right. MTutor might look over the papers——"
"Does he know about housekeeping?"
"He knows about most things," cried Jock, "I should like to see the thing he didn't know. He is the best scholar we have got; and he's what you call an all-round man besides," the boy said with pride.
"What is an all-round man?" Lucy asked, diffidently. "He is tall and slight, so it cannot mean his appearance."
"Oh, what a muff you are, Lucy; you're awfully nice, but you are a muff. It means a man who knows a little of everything. MTutor is more than that, he knows a great deal of everything; indeed, as I was saying," Jock added defiantly, "I should just like to see the thing he didn't know."
"And yet he is so nice," said Lucy, with a gentle air of astonishment.
MTutor was a subject which was endless with Jock, so that the original topic here glided out of sight as the exalted gifts of that model of all the virtues became the theme. This conversation, however, was but one of many. It was their meeting ground, the matter upon which they found each other as of old, two beings separated from the world, which wondered at and did not understand them. What a curious office it was for them, two favourites of fortune as they seemed, to disperse and give away the foundation of their own importance! for Jock owed everything to Lucy, and Lucy, when she had accomplished this object of her existence, and carried out her father's will, would no doubt still be a wealthy woman, but not in any respect the great personage she was now. This was a view of the matter which never crossed the minds of these two. Their strange training had made Lucy less conscious of the immense personal advantage which her money was to her than any other could have done. She knew, indeed, that there was a great difference between her early home in Farafield and the house in London where she had lived with Lady Randolph, and still more, the Hall which was her home—but she had been not less but more courted and worshipped in her lowly estate than in her high one, and her father's curious philosophy had affected her mind and coloured her perceptions. She had learned, indeed, to know that there are difficulties in attempting to enact the part of Providence, and taking upon herself the task of providing for her fellow-creatures; but these difficulties had nothing to do with the fact that she would herself suffer by such a dispersion. Perhaps her imagination was not lively enough to realise this part of the situation. Jock and she ignored it altogether. As for Jock, the delight of giving away was strong in him, and the position was so strange that it fascinated his boyish imagination. To act such a part as that of Haroun-al-Raschid in real life, and change the whole life of whatsoever poor cobbler or fruit-seller attracted him, was a vision of fairyland such as Jock had not yet outgrown. But the chief thing that he impressed on his sister was the necessity of doing nothing by herself. "Just wait till we can talk it over," he said, "two are always better than one: and a fellow learns a lot at school. You wouldn't think it, perhaps, but there's all sorts there, and you learn a lot when you have your eyes well open. We can talk it all over and settle if it's good enough; but don't go and be rash, Lucy, and do anything by yourself."
"I sha'n't, dear; I should be too frightened," Lucy said.
This was on one of his last days, when they were walking together through the shrubbery. It was September by this time, and he might have been shooting partridges with Sir Tom, but Jock was not so much an out-door boy as he ought to have been, and he preferred walking with his sister, his arm thrust through hers, his head stooping over her. It was perhaps the last opportunity they would have of discussing their family secrets, a matter (they thought) which really concerned nobody else, which no one else would care to be troubled with. Perhaps in Lucy's mind there was a sense of unreality in the whole matter; but Jock was entirely in earnest, and quite convinced that in such an important business he was his sister's natural adviser, and might be of a great deal of use. It was towards evening when they went out, and a red autumnal sunset was accomplishing itself in the west, throwing a gleam as of the brilliant tints which were yet to come, on the still green and luxuriant foliage. The light was low, and came into Lucy's eyes, who shaded them with her hand. And the paths had a touch of autumnal damp, and a certain mistiness, mellow and golden by reason of the sunshine, was rising among the trees.
"We will not be hasty," said Jock; "we will take everything into consideration: and I don't think you will find so much difficulty, Lucy, when you have me."
"I hope not, dear," Lucy said; and she began to talk to him about his flannels and other precautions he was to take; for Jock was supposed not to be very strong. He had grown fast, and he was rather weedy and long, without strength to support it. "We have been so happy together," she said. "We always were happy together, Jock. Remember, dear, no wet feet, and as little football as you can help, for my sake."
"Oh, yes," he said, with a wave of his hand; "all right, Lucy. There is no fear about that. The first thing to think of is poor old father's will, and what you are going to do about it. I mean to think out all that about the examinations, and I suppose I may speak to MTutor——"
"It is too private, don't you think, Jock? Nobody knows about it. It is better to keep it between you and me."
"I can put it as a supposed case," said Jock, "and ask what he would advise; for you see, Lucy, you and even I are not very experienced, and MTutor, he knows such a lot. It would always be a good thing to have his advice, you know; he——"
There was no telling how long Jock might have gone on on this subject. But just at this moment a quick step came round the corner of a clump of wood, and a hand was laid on the shoulder of each. "What are you plotting about?" asked the voice of Sir Tom in their ears. It was a curious sign of her mental condition which Lucy remembered with shame afterwards, without being very well able to account for it, that she suddenly dropped Jock's arm and turned round upon her husband with a quick blush and access of breathing, as if somehow—she could not tell how—she had been found out. It had never occurred to her before, through all those long drawn out consultations, that she was concealing anything from Sir Tom. She dropped Jock's arm as if it hurt her, and turned to her husband in the twinkling of an eye.
"Jock," she said quickly, "and I—were talking about MTutor, Tom."
"Ah! once landed on that subject, and there is no telling when we may come to an end," Sir Tom said, with a laugh, "but never mind, I like you all the better for it, my boy."
Jock gave an astonished look at Lucy, a half-defiant one at her husband.
"That was only by the way," he said, lifting up his shoulders with a little air of offence. He did not condescend to any further explanation, but walked along by their side with a lofty abstraction, looking at them now and then from the corner of his eye. Lucy had taken Sir Tom's arm, and was hanging upon her tall husband, looking up in his face. The little blush of surprise—or was it of guilt?—with which she had received him was still upon her cheek. She was far more animated than usual, almost a little agitated. She asked about the shooting, about the bag, and how many brace was to Sir Tom's own gun, with that conciliating interest which is one of the signs of a conscious fault; while Sir Tom, on his side bending down to his little wife, received all her flatteries with so complacent a smile, and such a beatific belief in her perfect sincerity and devotion, that Jock, looking on from his superiority of passionless youth, regarded them both with a wondering disdain. Why did she "make up" in that way to her husband, dropping her brother as if she had been plotting harm? Jock was amazed, he could not understand it. Perhaps it was only because he thus fell in a moment from being the chief object of interest to the position of nobody at all.
A SHADOW OF COMING EVENTS.
Lucy's mind had sustained a certain shock when her husband appeared. During her short married life there had not been a cloud, or a shadow of a cloud, between them. But then there had been no question between them, nothing to cause any question, no difference of opinion. Sir Tom had taken all her business naturally into his hands. Whatever she wished she had got—nay, before she expressed a wish it had been satisfied. He had talked to her about everything, and she had listened with docile attention, but without concealing the fact that she neither understood nor wished to understand; and he had not only never chided her, but had accepted her indifference with a smile of pleasure as the most natural thing in the world. He had encouraged her in all her liberal charities, shaking his head and declaring with a radiant face that she would ruin herself, and that not even her fortune would stand it. But the one matter which had given Lucy so much trouble before her marriage, and which Jock had now brought back to her mind, was one that had never been mentioned between them. He had known all about it, and her eccentric proceedings and conflict with her guardians, backing her up, indeed, with much laughter, and showing every symptom of amiable amusement; but he had never given any opinion on the subject, nor made the slightest allusion since to this grand condition of her father's will. In the sunny years that were past Lucy had taken no notice of this omission. She had not thought much on the subject herself. She had withdrawn from it tacitly, as one is apt to do from a matter which has been productive of pain and disappointment, and had been content to ignore that portion of her responsibilities. Even when Jock forcibly revived the subject it continued without any practical importance, and its existence was a question between themselves to afford material for endless conversation which had been pleasant and harmless. But when Sir Tom's hand was laid on her shoulder, and his cheerful voice sounded in her ear, a sudden shock was given to Lucy's being. It flashed upon her in a moment that this question which she had been discussing with Jock had never been mentioned between her and her husband, and with a sudden instinctive perception she became aware that Sir Tom would look upon it with very different eyes from theirs. She felt that she had been disloyal to him in having a secret subject of consultation even with her brother. If he heard he would be displeased, he would be taken by surprise, perhaps wounded, perhaps made angry. In any wise it would introduce a new element into their life. Lucy saw, with a sudden sensation of fright and pain, an unknown crowd of possibilities which might pour down upon her, were it to be communicated to Sir Tom that his wife and her brother were debating as to a course of action on her part, unknown to him. All this occurred in a moment, and it was not any lucid and real perception of difficulties, but only a sudden alarmed compunctious consciousness that filled her mind. She fled, as it were, from the circumstances which made these horrors possible, hurrying back into her former attitude with a penitential urgency. Jock, indeed, was very dear to her, but he was no more than second, nay he was but third, in Lady Randolph's heart. Her husband's supremacy he could not touch, and though he had been almost her child in the old days, yet he was not, nor ever would be, her child in the same ineffable sense as little Tom was, who was her very own, the centre of her life. So she ran away (so to speak) from Jock with a real panic, and clung to her husband, conciliating, nay almost wheedling him, if we may use the word, with a curious feminine instinct, to make up to him for the momentary wrong she had done, and which he was not aware of. Sir Tom himself was a little surprised by the warmth of the reception she gave him. Her interest in his shooting was usually very mild, for she had never been able to get over a little horror she had, due, perhaps, to her bourgeois training, of the slaughter of the birds. He glanced at the pair with an unusual perception that there was something here more than met the eye. "You have been egging her up to some rebellion," he said; "Jock, you villain; you have been hatching treason behind my back!" He said this with one of those cordial laughs which nobody could refrain from joining—full of good humour and fun, and a pleased consciousness that to teach Lucy to rebel would be beyond any one's power. At any other moment she would have taken the accusation with the tranquil smile which was Lucy's usual reply to her husband's pleasantries; but this time her laugh was a little strained, and the warmth of her denial, "No, no! there has been no treason," gave the slightest jar of surprise to Sir Tom. It sounded like a false note in the air; he did not understand what it could mean.