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WARD OR WIFE?

J Romance

'O shallow and mean heart of man! dost thou conceive so little of love as not to know that it sacrifices all-love itself—for the happiness of the thing it loves?' -Zanoni.

CHAPTER VI. PER ENGLISH MAIL.

CAPTAIN TREGARVAN sitting at his breakfast, in company of the morning paper. The snow is falling fast outside, but has not deterred the usual shoal of étrenne seekers from calling at No. 15; for it is New Year's-day, and the Captain is known to be goodnatured. So the bell has been jingling merrily ever since the early dawn, and Jim's purse is getting lighter.

He has no work to-day.

His pupils, mostly residents, are to hold high carnival and enjoy themselves. He will run up to Paris by the noon excursion, and choose some new masks and plastrons of which he stands in need.

This time last year-what a happy day it was! Is it not written in the history of the Tregarvans how he and Min disported themselves chez Latour; how she surprised him with a magnificent pair of slippers; how he surprised her with those onyx earrings she had coveted for full a month; how they went to the theatre and saw La Biche au Bois; and how they wound up the general excitement, aided and abetted by c'tte bonne Euphrosyne, with a 'grogs' to the nouvel an ?

A knock at the door.

'Entrez.'

·

Ah, Mossieur le Capitaine, voyez vous,' says the worthy old handmaiden, rolling in with a radiant countenance, 'je l' savais bien, moi; tenez. Not possible that Ma'm'selle Minni should let the day pass without wishing us the good year. See, rather!'

And she places a letter in the well-known handwriting on Jim's plate, standing, hands on her hips, waiting to see him read it.

But the Captain thinks otherwise, and waves his toast in dismissal. C Laissez-moi, 'Phrosyne.'

Unwillingly she makes for the door.

• Without doubt there will be some message for me,' she says, with a sniff.

Laissez-moi, donc-enfin !'
Allons, je m'en vas.'

THIRD SERIES, VOL. V. F.S. VOL. XXV.

G

And he is alone with his letter:

'Holyoak Lodge, 30th December 186-. 'My dearest of dear old Jims,-Here I am, this time coming neatly attired in black and white, to wish you a happy new year and all sorts of success. (0, how formal it looks now I have written it!) Of course I can't wish it to be as happy a new year as the last; that would be hoping you should forget me, wouldn't it, Jim? But I hope you will have lots of pupils, get lots of money (and now I'm out of the way you will be able to make more, you know), and then retire on your income and settle down here close by us. Do you

'How does poor Euphrosyne manage without me? get such good déjeuners as I used to order for you? See what a conceited thing I am! But you can't deny the flavour of my omelettes, can you?

And before I wander away again from my subject, I'll wish my New Year's wish properly. Dear Jim, may you be as happy as (without me, bien entendu) you possibly can be till we meet again, and may we meet again as soon as we possibly can! There's a wish and a half for you.

"

We are in the midst of preparing for a juvenile ball to-night; and as it's juvenile, I am to be allowed to display my dancing powers. I hope they are fond enough of splitting straws over here. I may go to this, and probably dance with the very same gentlemen who will be at dinner to-night, just because a few children are to come and keep me in countenance; but dine late! O dear no; not till I'm sixteen, and then only in the country. We sha'n't go to town till the May after next, when I'm to come out regularly, and my education will be considered finished.

'Just at present I am rather idle; that is, I am en vacance for three weeks; but I manage to keep up my singing and Italian, as I do so want to astonish you when you see me again. I draw a little, sing a little, read I Promessi a little, and walk a great deal, so the day passes very pleasantly.

There is a duck of an American lady here, a friend of the Ferrers, who has taken Furze-hill for the winter, and is very fond of driving. She often calls for me, and we whirl along the roads in her pony-phacton for hours together. Her husband, a great invalid, Hercules W. Morant, died a year ago, and she "means to have a good time now," as he was much older than herself and a great nuisance. The match was forced on her by her parents. He was frightfully rich, you must know. Mrs. Morant seems to have taken a great fancy to me, and does everything to make herself agreeable. One thing specially draws me to her; that is, she is so sympathique. I sometimes tell her about you and Malaise, and she never seems so lovable as when her great sleepy eyes lighten

up at my rambling histories of your goodness to me. (O Jim, you are so MUCH too good to your little ward!) Now, don't laugh at all this. She is only twenty-three, and very, very beautiful. Gare à vous, M. mon ami, if you meet.

us.

'I think I told you that Danescourt is only five miles from Mr. Dane is down here for the hunting season, and drops in now and then to look us up. O, he does drive such a love of a drag! He is very kind and amusing; but I don't see much of him, as when he comes I am generally at my lessons. I only wish you had all his money. Mrs. Ferrers says he is the richest man in the county, or will be when his uncle dies. He inquired after you the other day, and said his father knew you when you were in the dear old Musketeers. How I should like to see you in your uniform, Jim! You must have looked something like the Black Brunswicker, didn't you? What rubbish! As if you could look like anybody else!

The Colonel and Mrs. Ferrers are all that is delightful in their manner with me. They treat me more like their own child than a silly girl they only met six months ago. The other day the Colonel came round to my sitting-room, and, after a few hums and haws, said,

"Minnie, my dear, I want you to know that if there is anything in your treatment here-I mean comfort and so forth-which does not come up to the mark, or if you want anything-anything extra, you know just drop into the study and tell your old-uncle."

"You're too kind-uncle," I answered.

'Looking hugely pleased at my calling him that, he patted me on the head, and growled,

“No, no, not at all. But you come to the old boy, and he'll make it all right."

'So that shows you how well I am getting on at Holyoak Lodge.

'Well, I suppose I am beginning to tire you with my chatter; and as even this room-my study is being invaded (as offering peculiar advantages for the preservation of juvenile cloaks), I fancy it is time to shut up and see what I can do to help Mrs. Ferrers.

'Give my love to Maman 'Phrosyne, write soon, and believe me, my darling old Crabs, ever your most affectionate ward, 'MINNIE GORING.

'P.S. Please accept enclosed braces. (They took me a long time to work, and I thought of you with every stitch. Aren't you flattered ?)'

'Mossieur le Capitaine will lose his train. Mon Dieu! quel temps infini to read a bit of a letter!' confidentially remarks the old Frenchwoman, looking over Jim's shoulder, to his great disgust. 'By Jove, only ten minutes!' with a start.

'And my message ?'

'Elle vous envoie son amour,' Jim says idiomatically. 'Adieu;' and snatching up his hat, he rushes off to the station.

Half a year later.

'Holyoak Lodge, 4th August 186-.

'You can easily understand, dearest Jim, what a surprise the contents of your last letter gave me. When I read that my grandfather had actually conquered his pride and asked to see me, that his lawyers had written to you, and that you had sent them my address, I hardly knew what to think. I felt pleased and annoyed, ashamed and proud; eager to see my unknown kinsman, and dreadfully afraid at the prospect of an interview with him, knowing as I do all his harshness and cruelty to poor papa.

Imagine, then, my state of mind this morning when I saw on my plate a letter, monogrammed and coroneted, directed in a shaky but decidedly aristocratic hand to yours truly.

'I copy it for your benefit:

Upperton Castle, Cumberland, 3d August 186—. "My dear Granddaughter,-I purpose calling at Holyoak Lodge to-morrow afternoon, and shall expect to see you, with a view to making arrangements for your future welfare. I shall travel by the morning express from Carlisle, and (D.v.) arrive at Leamington about two P.M.-Believe me your affectionate grandfather, "ABANA AND PHARPAR."

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'I showed the letter to Mrs. Ferrers after breakfast, and asked her advice. She insisted that I should be a fool if I did not do everything to make myself agreeable to him, and in fact place myself at his nobility's disposal. Unfortunately for her influence, in comes the Colonel, puts all her arguments to the rout, gives me directly opposite advice, speaks with much heat of the Viscount's selfishness and tyranny, and ends up by telling me to shut myself up in my room till lunch, think over it seriously, and (with a juron), "I'll leave it to the girl's common sense and loving heart whether she ought to desert her guardian and her best friends for a shabby old hypocrite, who has just taken it into his head that he wants somebody to see him safe and comfortable into his coffin." And begging my pardon for speaking so about a relation of mine, he stumps out of the room in a fume, and is heard outside ordering another cover to be laid at two o'clock for Miss Goring's grandfather.

"

Well, I sat feeling very miserable, and longing to have you, Jim, to consult (for you never gave me the slightest bit of advice in your letter; I suppose you also leave it to my common sense), till the gong sounded for lunch. Almost at the same moment a fly

rolled up the drive, and I could not resist the temptation of looking out of one of the hall windows, blottie behind a great curtain and

some armour.

To see the very opposite of what I expected. I looked at papa's handsome face in my locket, and wondered how ever his father could be so mesquin. A little frail old man, helped up the steps by his valet-badly dressed, in dingy old clothes; gouty (though I never should have thought so pious and abstemious a creature guilty of that; perhaps it's in the family; perhaps I shall be gouty some day); an enormous white cravat round his wrinkled old throat; a pair of glittering cold blue eyes peering out under ragged white eyebrows; thin lips; and a thin, prominent, aquiline nose, that's Abana and Pharpar, eleventh viscount. O, by the way, I forgot a shocking bad hat!

'How I got over the meeting I don't know. I tumbled into the room somehow, holding out my hand, and inquiring insanely, "Don't you know me, grandfather ?" As if by any possibility the poor old thing could know me!

'He was talking to Mrs. Ferrers when I came in, and turned with a start at the sound of my voice.

"Come here, child," he quavered out.

" I came.

Looking very nervous and rather confused, he took my outstretched hand, and hesitated. Then, holding my forehead between his shaky fingers, he gazed into my eyes as well as he could (I'm a good bit the taller), and muttered, "Just like him-just like him." Finally, he kissed the roots of my hair, and said, "How do you do, my dear granddaughter ?"

'We lunched together; he, eating hardly anything, drinking water. After we had all done, Colonel Ferrers led the way into his study, and, to my horror, left me alone with the Viscount. "Now for it," I thought.

'I won't recount the whole conversation-my letter is long enough already-but I'll put down, as best I can remember, the most exciting part of it. After I had firmly but politely refused his proposal, which I expected and feared-an immediate removal to Upperton Castle, and prospective inheritance of his "personal estate" as he calls it he began talking about duty, natural ties of relationship, proper affection, and so on. This stung me to the quick. My passionate temper fired up at once. To sit there, and hear the hard-hearted old man talk about the "painful but unavoidable circumstances which had prevented him from enjoying as much of his dear departed son's society as he could have wished," was too much. Wasn't it, Jim ?

"What!" I exclaimed in a mad rage. "Do you expect me to sit still and hear you go on about duty, affection, and all that?

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