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hounds which accompanied them had invaded the garden. The flowers, mostly spring flowers which Sugden had planted so many years ago, were all out of flower, and lying withered on the neglected ground, with the exception of two groups of noble white lilies, which stood on each side of the door, and a rose which they now choose to call the "John Hopper," but which old-fashioned folks call the "Cabbage."
"Get me a lily," said Dora.
"I think that I will get you a rose instead," said Sugden. "Old maids wear lilies."
So they turned into the main avenue again, with the stupid bloodhounds round them, snuffing and scratching among the rabbit burrows.
"Little woman," said Sugden, "you have a melancholy sort of mind."
"It is likely enough," said Dora; "I watched my father's life, and saw him die. It is likely enough that my mind. is a melancholy one."
"You have made me melancholy enough; and I looked for such pleasure from to-day's meeting. When your
aunt and I lived alone and unnoticed at that cottage we have just left, we were happy enough. We never had as much to eat as we could have caten, and we felt the want of firing alsobitterly, I can tell you. We had our great sorrow the desertion of her unrecognised by the poor fellow who is just gone; we had to stand all weathers, and never had five shillings in the house; yet we bore it all cheerfully. Just when I believed that all things were changed for the better, and we were going to begin a time of prosperity, you point out to me a hundred new miseries, fifty times worse than the old ones. I doubt you are a killjoy,
"Well," said Dora, "it does not much matter. I shall die an old maid. I always intended to be so, and I mean to be so; and I am a very deter--Why, bless me, it is you."
"That looks very like old maiden
hood." said Sugden, as he saw her fairly in the arms of a tall and very handsome young man, with a dark downy moustache, and-I must write it down -getting kissed. "That looks uncommonly like dying an old maid. Bah! you're just like the rest of your precious. family-saying one thing and doing another. My boy James shall hear of this. I had better make myself scarce, for this is getting too tender for methis is. Why, that can't be the boy himself? He never had moustaches. I am blessed if I don't believe it is, though. Here, you two people, manners! manners!"
"Who cares about manners before you?" said James, and Sugden saw thas it was James at once.
"I thought old maids were particular in that respect," replied Sugden. "However, have it your own way, and don't regard me."
"If you don't hold your tongue, I'll kiss you," said Dora.
"Then here goes," said Sugden. "Arthur is going- -" but she executed her terrible threat, and silenced him. "For," as she said, no one ever cared one halfpenny for you. You are of as much importance as an old milestone."
When James had got hold of one of his arms, and Dora of another-when they both clung round him and looked into his gentle, almost stupid face, Sugden thought that to be a milestone was not such a bad thing after all, if one had two such beautiful young climbers to twine around you.
They will be here directly," said James. "I came across the fields from Twyford and have beaten them, but they will be here directly."
"Shall we wait for them here, or go back to the hall ?" said Dora.
"Let us hurry back to the hall," said James. "He would like it better." "Is he in one of his tempers, then?" asked Dora.
"No, he has no tempers now. But I think he would like it. And Aunt Mary is mad."
She put her well-formed hand on his arm, and, with her finely-formed little foot carefully pointed, alit gently and dexterously on the lowest step before the porch. Then she turned to Silcote, smiled pleasantly and bowed. After this, she stood in the full blaze of the sunshine, and looked around her. She was beautifully and carefully dressed, and almost hung with jewels, all put on in the most perfect taste. Her beauty, old as she was, was still splendid: and yet, when Dora had looked on her for less than half a minute, she slipped quietly away and hid herself in one of the window-seats, saying to herself,"She had better have died. It would be better for her if she was dead."
For that had happened to this poor Princess which is more inexplicable, and infinitely more awful, than death itself. She was mad. She had overstepped Kriegsthurm's line at last. Mystery greater than death! The old familiar world, the old familiar house, the people with whom she had lived for so many years, were all around her, and yet she was utterly unable to recognise them. She saw them as she had seen them a hundred times before; yet they
were other places and other people to her. It is beyond all thought and all knowledge. Better perhaps not to think of this awful death in life, or double life, but go with the doctors, who name "tubercular disease of the brain," and then put it on one side; which is possibly the best thing to do.
In the sun, before the door, stood a handsome, well-dressed woman, before the eyes of men calm, polite, bien mise, everything which was to be desired. And yet there was no woman there at all, for the soul had gone out of her, and she saw things which were not. Her intelligence lied to her eyes, and her eyes to her intelligence. This mystery of madness is surely the greatest mystery of all. See it in one you have loved, and then contradict me.
She did not know her own brother, and she did not know the old house: still she knew that she was mad. She believed that her brother was the doctor, and that this was the asylum. Yet by some infinitely deep cross-purpose in her soul she struggled towards the surface of reason for an instant. She turned to the butler and said, "Colonel Silcote has missed the train, and will not be in time for dinner. He will have his old room in the west wing." And then she passed under the shadow of the porch and into the old hall, where the bloodhounds lay about; and Dora, looking from her dim window-seat, saw her stalk along, imperial, majestic, with her face set, with uneasy lips, with eyebrows. drawn together, and with staring eyes, which saw what was not there.
But by this time the second carriage had unloaded itself.
The meeting between Miss Lee and Dera had something of humour in it. Dora had never thoroughly liked Miss Lee, and had seen and remembered a very great many indiscretions which Miss Lee, under present circumstances, would have liked her to forget. Dora had not forgotten them, and Miss Lee knew it. They were, therefore, both on their dignity. When the poor Princess and her brother had passed her in the hall, she came out into the porch,
"Not at all," said Miss Lee. And then there was a pause. Dora would have died sooner than have spoken next, and, to tell the truth, not only Miss Raylock, but Arthur himself, remained perfectly silent; "for," as Miss Raylock expressed it, "Miss Lee had been giving herself airs."
Miss Lee had to speak first, accordingly. "My dear," she said, "will you give me a kiss?"
"With the greatest pleasure," replied Dora.
"I hope we shall be very great friends," Dora.
"I am sure I hope we shall," was the reply.
So comes one more long story to an end. Nothing remains but to give the various characters their departure, and to finish one of the most difficult efforts of story-telling ever attempted.
I hear people asking about such and such a story, "Does it end well?" as if that mattered. How can a story of deceit, folly, and selfishness like this end entirely well? It ends as well as it can. As people make their beds, so they must lie on them.
Silcote by degrees became possessed of all the circumstances with which our reader is already acquainted, with regard to his relations with his wife, which were chiefly brought about through the foolishness of his poor sister. Kriegsthurm, having been forced back to England, in consequence of the danger incurred from the continental democrats, took a house in Camden Town, and, being rather short of cash, wrote to Silcote, offering to tell him the whole truth, from beginning to end. Silcote went to him at once, and learnt from him and his head-agent in the villainy, all the details. He paid him his money, asking him if he did not think himself the greatest scoundrel in Europe? To which Kriegsthurm answered, "No, not by many degrees ;" and laughed.
Silcote was now aware that he had by his insane jealousy and reticence caused the death of a good and gentle woman, and of an innocent and tender wife. He spoke to Mrs. Tom Silcote in strong language of the never-dying remorse which such a discovery would entail; yet that remorse was very little visible after all, from a variety of reasons.
If he had been still alone, still isolated from human sympathies, no doubt that remorse would have been very great -nay, it was relatively very great. would probably have maddened himself into some new phase of folly with it. But many circumstances prevented his doing this, which it would be well to consider.
The business was so very, very old. Above forty years old. Very few men are capable of feeling acute remorse for actions done so long ago, although they may use excited language about them, as did Silcote. To feel remorse acutely, the image of the victim or the sin must be close to the mind's eye; at least, closer than a space of from forty to fifty years. He still had a great tenderness for his poor wife, but he was getting old : it was very long ago; and his love for her had been turned into furious, and as he thought, righteous indignation against her for so many years, that he was unable to obliterate the half century during
which he had regarded her as a monster of wickedness, and take up his love for her again as fresh as ever. He was unable to carry out the ideal programme which he had announced to Mr. Thomas.
He was regretful and repentant. But of practical acute remorse, with its usual symptoms, there was none.
There were other reasons against this phase of mind: almost innumerable. The break in his habits, when he had left his unnatural solitude to go into the very thickest of the first of these newly-invented, sudden, bloody, and decisive wars, had somewhat dazed him, and put old matters very far away indeed. He had, again, been very fond of his son Thomas, and had always, in his heart of hearts, thought of a reconciliation between them as a matter of course. He had pursued him under fire with the intention of being reconciled to him, and had found him lying stark, stiff, and stone-dead under the poplars by the mill wall at Montriolo, watched by his half-crazed aunt and his unacknowledged son. This alone was enough to put old disasters out of his mind.
Then, again, Anne. He had been very fond of Anne; and had, in his newly-awakened recklessness, sent her abroad with a somewhat foolish governess. In spite of Dora's purely imaginary defence of her (which did Dora great credit), Anne had made an awful fiasco. She had turned Roman Catholic in order to be married to the young Roman gentleman whom Kriegsthurm, in one of his puzzled fits, had set on to watch James, and was figuring away at Naples with him, with the moneys which had been entrusted to Miss Heathton, her governess, for their mutual subsistence. Reginald and she had had an interview, previous to her escapade, in which she told Reginald that she had never cared for him in the least, but was in love with James, and always had been. After which she went to Naples, as we have seen; and Reginald, having no one to direct him, went to Innspruck,-why or wherefore we shall never know,-and wrote to his grandfather from that place, telling
him that he had carefully examined the various relations in which he stood to his fellow-men, that he had arranged to commit suicide, and that by the time these lines reached him (the distracted Squire), he, Reginald, should be no
He did not do anything of the kind, but exhibited a feeble, pretty picture at the Dudley last year. Still Silcote, having believed in his own nonsense for so many years, was able to believe in Reginald's. This, however, was one of the smallest of his troubles. Any one, no matter how sensitive, would have forgotten an old trouble, on the basis of which this story has been written, in the face of the new troubles which arose and confronted him on every side.
It is extremely disagreeable to me to allude to such a half-reputable fiasco as that of Anne. I do not deal in such wares; you must go elsewhere for them; but it is still more disagreeable for me, a man whose principal desire is to please, to allude to the relations between Mrs. Thomas Silcote (Mrs. Sugden) and Mrs. Arthur Silcote (Miss Lee).
As long as they were mere cousins and co-heiresses they got on capitally together. They were both extremely High Church, took in the same paper, and understood one another perfectly. Nothing could be more perfect than their accord.
Then came in Arthur: of the liberal Oxford minority, who had, to tell the plain truth, pitched Miss Lee overboard, until she got her fortune. Miss Lee was very rapidly converted to his views, as Dora had often prophesied. But, then, Mrs. Tom Silcote stuck to her High Churchism in the most strenuous manner. There never was such a difference in this world. It was two to one against Mrs. Thomas, for Miss Lee had gone over to the enemy. Everything which Arthur said she swore to. It was no use for Mrs. Thomas to "taunt" her with previously-expressed opinions. Mrs. Arthur replied merely that she knew better now.
And, again, there was something between these ladies which was pos
sibly more important than any merely religious difference. It was the question of the succession to Silcote's enormous wealth. Arthur, as an independent bachelor, was one person: Arthur married, with his announcement out to the whole county of a probable heir, was quite another person. While a bachelor, in precarious health, he could well afford to pooh-pooh his father's intention of making him heir: he spoke sincerely when he rudely declined the honour. But now, with a showy and beautiful wife, of whom he was proud, and who took him into society, things were very different. He began to feel the value of the prestige which a beautiful and rich wife gives a man, and to be less and less patient of the idea of living principally on her money. And Silcotes was one of the finest places in the country, and she was naturally mistress of it would certainly be, according to his father's present will, could he only undermine Mrs. Thomas's enormous influence with his father, which was now greater than his own.
As for Mrs. Thomas, she was perfectly determined that James should marry Dora, and that the Thomas Silcote and the Algernon Silcote interests should coincide, and bring James in triumphantly as master of Silcotes. To further this object she persistently kept the Squire's old grievances before him. She continually, though with the finest tact, urged the claims of Dora, the child of his ill-used son Algernon, upon him, and gently and calmly laid the death of Thomas Silcote at his doorstep, as she had done in sober earnest at the battle of Palestro. Her case was a very strong one, and she was quite a match for Arthur.
Now, seeing that these people all lived in the same house together for over a year at the Squire's expense, that they were all of them very resolute people, and that they were always, night or day, ready for one another, it is no wonder that at the end of a twelvemonth the Squire had so far forgotten his old life in this new one as to consult Betts about the best route to Australia,
affirming positively that he could stand it no longer, and should emigrate. "What part of Australia do you want to go to ?" asked Betts.
"Don't know," said Silcote. "I only want to get out of this."
"If you can't tell me where you want to go, I can't give you the route," said Betts. "But drop allegory; you want to get out of all this, and I don't wonder. Which party do you wish hoisted out? There!"
Silcote could be downright as well as Betts. "Arthur and his wife," he replied.
Betts whistled. "You are a bold man, Squire. There is life in the old hound yet. Why?
"Because I cannot do without Mrs. Tom. I want to end my life with her. And I don't like Arthur and his wife; they are far too fine for me. They are beginning to give dinner parties here now, and show me off like a bear which they have tamed, and I am etcetera'd if I stand it. Toni's wife is worth fifty of them."
"Who is to have Silcotes?" asked Betts.
Silcote replied, "That is a home question."
"So it is," said Betts. "I can't help you until it is answered, though."
"Well then, James and Dora," said Silcote; "and that is what makes the business so intolerable. I will provide for Arthur splendidly-at once if he wishes it; but Tom's son and Algernon's daughter shall have Silcotes. You may call me a fool if you like, but so it will be."
"I don't call you a fool," said Betts ; "I think you are doing wisely and 'well."
"But how am I to get rid of Arthur?"
"Why-let me see; he is out shooting now; wait till he comes home, and tell him of the determination you have come to."