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The First Visit to the Guestwick Bridge
When John Eames arrived at Guestwick Manor, he was first welcomed
by Lady Julia. "My dear Mr Eames," she said, "I cannot tell you how
glad we are to see you." After that she always called him John, and
treated him throughout his visit with wonderful kindness. No doubt
that affair of the bull had in some measure produced this feeling; no
doubt, also, she was well disposed to the man who she hoped might be
accepted as a lover by Lily Dale. But I am inclined to think that
the fact of his having beaten Crosbie had been the most potential
cause of this affection for our hero on the part of Lady Julia.
Ladies,--especially discreet old ladies, such as Lady Julia De
Guest,--are bound to entertain pacific theories, and to condemn
all manner of violence. Lady Julia would have blamed any one who
might have advised Eames to commit an assault upon Crosbie. But,
nevertheless, deeds of prowess are still dear to the female heart,
and a woman, be she ever so old and discreet, understands and
appreciates the summary justice which may be done by means of a
thrashing. Lady Julia, had she been called upon to talk of it, would
undoubtedly have told Eames that he had committed a fault in striking
Mr Crosbie; but the deed had been done, and Lady Julia became very
fond of John Eames.
"Vickers shall show you your room, if you like to go upstairs; but
you'll find my brother close about the house if you choose to go
out; I saw him not half an hour since." But John seemed to be well
satisfied to sit in his arm-chair over the fire, and talk to his
hostess; so neither of them moved.
"And now that you're a private secretary, how do you like it?"
"I like the work well enough; only I don't like the man, Lady Julia.
But I shouldn't say so, because he is such an intimate friend of your
"An intimate friend of Theodore's!--Sir Raffle Buffle!" Lady Julia
stiffened her back and put on a serious face, not being exactly
pleased at being told that the Earl De Guest had any such intimate
"At any rate he tells me so about four times a day, Lady Julia. And
he particularly wants to come down here next September."
"Did he tell you that, too?"
"Indeed he did. You can't believe what a goose he is! Then his voice
sounds like a cracked bell; it's the most disagreeable voice you ever
heard in your life. And one has always to be on one's guard lest he
should make one do something that is--is--that isn't quite the thing
for a gentleman. You understand;--what the messenger ought to do."
"You shouldn't be too much afraid of your own dignity."
"No, I'm not. If Lord De Guest were to ask me to fetch him his shoes,
I'd run to Guestwick and back for them and think nothing of it,--just
because he's my friend. He'd have a right to send me. But I'm not
going to do such things as that for Sir Raffle Buffle."
"Fetch him his shoes!"
"That's what FitzHoward had to do, and he didn't like it."
"Isn't Mr FitzHoward nephew to the Duchess of St Bungay?"
"Nephew, or cousin, or something."
"Dear me!" said Lady Julia, "what a horrible man!" And in this way
John Eames and her ladyship became very intimate.
There was no one at dinner at the Manor that day but the earl and his
sister and their single guest. The earl when he came in was very warm
in his welcome, slapping his young friend on the back, and poking
jokes at him with a good-humoured if not brilliant pleasantry.
"Thrashed anybody lately, John?"
"Nobody to speak of," said Johnny.
"Brought your nightcap down for your out-o'-doors nap?"
"No, but I've got a grand stick for the bull," said Johnny.
"Ah! that's no joke now, I can tell you," said the earl. "We had to
sell him, and it half broke my heart. We don't know what had come to
him, but he became quite unruly after that;--knocked Darvel down in
the straw-yard! It was a very bad business,--a very bad business,
indeed! Come, go and dress. Do you remember how you came down to
dinner that day? I shall never forget how Crofts stared at you. Come,
you've only got twenty minutes, and you London fellows always want an
"He's entitled to some consideration now he's a private secretary,"
said Lady Julia.
"Bless us all! yes; I forgot that. Come, Mr Private Secretary, don't
stand on the grandeur of your neck-tie to-day, as there's nobody here
but ourselves. You shall have an opportunity to-morrow."
Then Johnny was handed over to the groom of the chambers, and exactly
in twenty minutes he reappeared in the drawing-room.
As soon as Lady Julia had left them after dinner, the earl began to
explain his plan for the coming campaign. "I'll tell you now what I
have arranged," said he. "The squire is to be here to-morrow with his
eldest niece,--your Miss Lily's sister, you know."
"Yes, with Bell, if her name is Bell. She's a very pretty girl, too.
I don't know whether she's not the prettiest of the two, after all."
"That's a matter of opinion."
"Just so, Johnny; and do you stick to your own. They're coming here
for three or four days. Lady Julia did ask Mrs Dale and Lily. I
wonder whether you'll let me call her Lily?"
"Oh, dear! I wish I might have the power of letting you."
"That's just the battle that you've got to fight. But the mother
and the younger sister wouldn't come. Lady Julia says it's all
right;--that, as a matter of course, she wouldn't come when she heard
you were to be here. I don't quite understand it. In my days the
young girls were ready enough to go where they knew they'd meet their
lovers, and I never thought any the worse of them for it."
"It wasn't because of that," said Eames.
"That's what Lady Julia says, and I always find her to be right in
things of that sort. And she says you'll have a better chance in
going over there than you would here, if she were in the same house
with you. If I was going to make love to a girl, of course I'd sooner
have her close to me,--staying in the same house. I should think it
the best fun in the world. And we might have had a dance, and all
that kind of thing. But I couldn't make her come, you know."
"Oh, no; of course not."
"And Lady Julia thinks that it's best as it is. You must go over, you
know, and get the mother on your side, if you can. I take it, the
truth is this;--you mustn't be angry with me, you know, for saying
"You may be sure of that."
"I suppose she was fond of that fellow, Crosbie. She can't be very
fond of him now, I should think, after the way he has treated her;
but she'll find a difficulty in making her confession that she really
likes you better than she ever liked him. Of course that's what
you'll want her to say."
"I want her to say that she'll be my wife,--some day."
"And when she has agreed to the some day, then you'll begin to press
her to agree to your day;--eh, sir? My belief is you'll bring her
round. Poor girl! why should she break her heart when a decent fellow
like you will only be too glad to make her a happy woman?" And in
this way the earl talked to Eames till the latter almost believed
that the difficulties were vanishing from out of his path. "Could
it be possible," he asked himself, as he went to bed, "that in a
fortnight's time Lily Dale should have accepted him as her future
husband?" Then he remembered that day on which Crosbie, with the
two girls, had called at his mother's house, when in the bitterness
of his heart, he had sworn to himself that he would always regard
Crosbie as his enemy. Since then the world had gone well with him;
and he had no longer any bitter feeling against Crosbie. That matter
had been arranged on the platform of the Paddington Station. He felt
that if Lily would now accept him he could almost shake hands with
Crosbie. The episode in his life and in Lily's would have been
painful; but he would learn to look back upon that without regret, if
Lily could be taught to believe that a kind fate had at last given
her to the better of her two lovers. "I'm afraid she won't bring
herself to forget him," he had said to the earl. "She'll only be too
happy to forget him," the earl had answered, "if you can induce her
to begin the attempt. Of course it is very bitter at first;--all the
world knew about it; but, poor girl, she is not to be wretched for
ever, because of that. Do you go about your work with some little
confidence, and I doubt not but what you'll have your way. You have
everybody in your favour,--the squire, her mother, and all." While
such words as these were in his ears how could he fail to hope and to
be confident? While he was sitting cosily over his bedroom fire he
resolved that it should be as the earl had said. But when he got up
on the following morning, and stood shivering as he came out of his
bath, he could not feel the same confidence. "Of course I shall go to
her," he said to himself, "and make a plain story of it. But I know
what her answer will be. She will tell me that she cannot forget
him." Then his feelings towards Crosbie were not so friendly as they
had been on the previous evening.
He did not visit the Small House on that, his first day. It had been
thought better that he should first meet the squire and Bell at
Guestwick Manor, so he postponed his visit to Mrs Dale till the next
"Go when you like," said the earl. "There's the brown cob for you to
do what you like with him while you are here."
"I'll go and see my mother," said John; "but I won't take the cob
to-day. If you'll let me have him to-morrow, I'll ride to Allington."
So he walked off to Guestwick by himself.
He knew well every yard of the ground over which he went, remembering
every gate and stile and greensward from the time of his early
boyhood. And now as he went along through his old haunts, he could
not but look back and think of the thoughts which had filled his mind
in his earlier wanderings. As I have said before, in some of these
pages, no walks taken by the man are so crowded with thought as those
taken by the boy. He had been early taught to understand that the
world to him would be very hard; that he had nothing to look to but
his own exertions, and that those exertions would not, unfortunately,
be backed by any great cleverness of his own. I do not know that
anybody had told him that he was a fool; but he had come to
understand, partly through his own modesty, and partly, no doubt,
through the somewhat obtrusive diffidence of his mother, that he was
less sharp than other lads. It is probably true that he had come to
his sharpness later in life than is the case with many young men. He
had not grown on the sunny side of the wall. Before that situation
in the Income-tax Office had fallen in his way, very humble modes of
life had offered themselves,--or, rather, had not offered themselves
for his acceptance. He had endeavoured to become an usher at a
commercial seminary, not supposed to be in a very thriving condition;
but he had been, luckily, found deficient in his arithmetic. There
had been some chance of his going into the leather-warehouse of
Messrs Basil and Pigskin, but those gentlemen had required a premium,
and any payment of that kind had been quite out of his mother's
power. A country attorney, who had known the family for years, had
been humbly solicited, the widow almost kneeling before him with
tears, to take Johnny by the hand and make a clerk of him; but the
attorney had discovered that Master Johnny Eames was not supposed to
be sharp, and would have none of him. During those days, those gawky,
gainless, unadmired days, in which he had wandered about the lanes of
Guestwick as his only amusement, and had composed hundreds of rhymes
in honour of Lily Dale which no human eye but his own had ever seen,
he had come to regard himself as almost a burden upon the earth.
Nobody seemed to want him. His own mother was very anxious; but her
anxiety seemed to him to indicate a continual desire to get rid of
him. For hours upon hours he would fill his mind with castles in the
air, dreaming of wonderful successes in the midst of which Lily Dale
always reigned as a queen. He would carry on the same story in his
imagination from month to month, almost contenting himself with such
ideal happiness. Had it not been for the possession of that power,
what comfort could there have been to him in his life? There are lads
of seventeen who can find happiness in study, who can busy themselves
in books and be at their ease among the creations of other minds.
These are they who afterwards become well-informed men. It was not so
with John Eames. He had never been studious. The perusal of a novel
was to him in those days a slow affair; and of poetry he read but
little, storing up accurately in his memory all that he did read.
But he created for himself his own romance, though to the eye a most
unromantic youth; and he wandered through the Guestwick woods with
many thoughts of which they who knew him best knew nothing. All this
he thought of now as, with devious steps, he made his way towards his
old home,--with very devious steps, for he went backwards through the
woods by a narrow path which led right away from the town down to a
little water-course, over which stood a wooden foot-bridge with a
rail. He stood on the centre of the plank, at a spot which he knew
well, and rubbing his hand upon the rail, cleaned it for the space
of a few inches of the vegetable growth produced by the spray of the
water. There, rudely carved in the wood, was still the word LILY.
When he cut those letters she had been almost a child. "I wonder
whether she will come here with me and let me show it to her," he
said to himself. Then he took out his knife and cleared the cuttings
of the letters, and having done so, leaned upon the rail, and looked
down upon the running water. How well things in the world had gone
for him! How well! And yet what would it all be if Lily would not
come to him? How well the world had gone for him! In those days when
he stood there carving the girl's name everybody had seemed to regard
him as a heavy burden, and he had so regarded himself. Now he was
envied by many, respected by many, taken by the hand as a friend by
those high in the world's esteem. When he had come near the Guestwick
Mansion in his old walks,--always, however, keeping at a great
distance lest the grumpy old lord should be down upon him and scold
him,--he had little dreamed that he and the grumpy old lord would
ever be together on such familiar terms, that he would tell to that
lord more of his private thoughts than to any other living being; yet
it had come to that. The grumpy old lord had now told him that that
gift of money was to be his whether Lily Dale accepted him or no.
"Indeed, the thing's done," said the grumpy lord, pulling out from
his pocket certain papers, "and you've got to receive the dividends
as they become due." Then, when Johnny had expostulated,--as,
indeed, the circumstances had left him no alternative but to
expostulate,--the earl had roughly bade him hold his tongue, telling
him that he would have to fetch Sir Raffle's boots directly he got
back to London. So the conversation had quickly turned itself away
to Sir Raffle, whom they had both ridiculed with much satisfaction.
"If he finds his way down here in September, Master Johnny, or in
any other month either, you may fit my head with a foolscap. Not
remember, indeed! Is it not wonderful that any man should make
himself so mean a fool?" All this was thought over again, as Eames
leaned upon the bridge. He remembered every word, and remembered
many other words,--earlier words, spoken years ago, filling him with
desolation as to the prospects of his life. It had seemed that his
friends had united in prophesying that the outlook into the world
for him was hopeless, and that the earning of bread must be for
ever beyond his power. And now his lines had fallen to him in very
pleasant places, and he was among those whom the world had determined
to caress. And yet, what would it all be if Lily would not share
his happiness? When he had carved that name on the rail, his love
for Lily had been an idea. It had now become a reality which might
probably be full of pain. If it were so,--if such should be the
result, of his wooing,--would not those old dreamy days have been
better than these--the days of his success?
It was one o'clock by the time that he reached his mother's house,
and he found her and his sister in a troubled and embarrassed state.
"Of course you know, John," said his mother, as soon as their first
embraces were over, "that we are going to dine at the Manor this
evening?" But he did not know it, neither the earl nor Lady Julia
having said anything on the subject. "Of course we are going," said
Mrs Eames, "and it was so very kind. But I've never been out to such
a house for so many years, John, and I do feel in such a twitter. I
dined there once, soon after we were married; but I never have been
there since that."
"It's not the earl I mind, but Lady Julia," said Mary Eames.
"She's the most good-natured woman in the world," said Johnny.
"Oh, dear; people say she is so cross!"
"That's because people don't know her. If I was asked who is the
kindest-hearted woman I know in the world, I think I should say Lady
Julia De Guest. I think I should."
"Ah! but then they're so fond of you," said the admiring mother. "You
saved his lordship's life,--under Providence."
"That's all bosh, mother. You ask Dr Crofts. He knows them as well as
"Dr Crofts is going to marry Bell Dale," said Mary; and then the
conversation was turned from the subject of Lady Julia's perfections,
and the awe inspired by the earl.
"Crofts going to marry Bell!" exclaimed Eames, thinking almost with
dismay of the doctor's luck in thus getting himself accepted all at
once, while he had been suing with the constancy almost of a Jacob.
"Yes," said Mary; "and they say that she has refused her cousin
Bernard, and that, therefore, the squire is taking away the house
from them. You know they're all coming into Guestwick."
"Yes, I know they are. But I don't believe that the squire is taking
away the house."
"Why should they come then? Why should they give up such a charming
place as that?"
"Rent-free!" said Mrs Eames.
"I don't know why they should come away; but I can't believe the
squire is turning them out; at any rate not for that reason." The
squire was prepared to advocate John's suit, and therefore John was
bound to do battle on the squire's behalf.
"He is a very stern man," said Mrs Eames, "and they say that since
that affair of poor Lily's he has been more cross than ever with
them. As far as I know, it was not Lily's fault."
"Poor Lily!" said Mary. "I do pity her. If I was her I should hardly
know how to show my face; I shouldn't, indeed."
"And why shouldn't she show her face?" said John, in an angry tone.
"What has she done to be ashamed of? Show her face indeed! I cannot
understand the spite which one woman will sometimes have to another."
"There is no spite, John; and it's very wrong of you to say so," said
Mary, defending herself. "But it is a very unpleasant thing for a
girl to be jilted. All the world knows that she was engaged to him."
"And all the world knows--" But he would not proceed to declare that
all the world knew that also Crosbie had been well thrashed for his
baseness. It would not become him to mention that, even before his
mother and sister. All the world did know it; all the world that
cared to know anything of the matter,--except Lily Dale herself.
Nobody had ever yet told Lily Dale of that occurrence at the
Paddington Railway Station, and it was well for John that her friends
and his had been so discreet.
"Oh, of course you are her champion," said Mary. "And I didn't mean
to say anything unkind. Indeed I didn't. Of course it was a
"I think it was the best piece of good fortune that could have
happened to her, not to marry a d---- scoundrel like--"
"Oh, John!" exclaimed Mrs Eames.
"I beg your pardon, mother. But it isn't swearing to call such a
man as that a d---- scoundrel." And he particularly emphasised the
naughty word, thinking that thereby he would add to its import, and
take away from its naughtiness. "But we won't talk any more about
him. I hate the man's very name. I hated him the first moment that I
saw him, and knew that he was a blackguard from his look. And I don't
believe a word about the squire having been cross to them. Indeed I
know he has been the reverse of cross. So Bell is going to marry Dr
"There is no doubt on earth about that," said Mary. "And they say
that Bernard Dale is going abroad with his regiment."
Then John discussed with his mother his duties as private secretary,
and his intention of leaving Mrs Roper's house. "I suppose it isn't
nice enough for you now, John," said his mother.
"It never was very nice, mother, to tell you the truth. There were
people there-- But you mustn't think I am turning up my nose because
I'm getting grand. I don't want to live any better than we all lived
at Mrs Roper's; but she took in persons that were not agreeable.
There is a Mr and Mrs Lupex there." Then he described something of
their life in Burton Crescent, but did not say much about Amelia
Roper. Amelia Roper had not made her appearance in Guestwick, as he
had once feared that she would do; and therefore it did not need that
he should at present make known to his mother that episode in his
When he got back to the Manor House he found that Mr Dale and his
niece had arrived. They were both sitting with Lady Julia when he
went into the morning room, and Lord De Guest was standing over the
fire talking to them. Eames as he came among them felt terribly
conscious of his position, as though all there were aware that he had
been brought down from London on purpose to make a declaration of
love;--as, indeed, all of them were aware of that fact. Bell, though
no one had told her so in direct words, was as sure of it as the
"Here comes the prince of matadores," said the earl.
"No, my lord; you're the prince. I'm only your first follower."
Though he could contrive that his words should be gay, his looks were
sheepish, and when he gave his hand to the squire it was only by a
struggle that he could bring himself to look straight into the old
"I'm very glad to see you, John," said the squire, "very glad
"And so am I," said Bell. "I have been so happy to hear that you have
been promoted at your office, and so is mamma."
"I hope Mrs Dale is quite well," said he;--"and Lily." The word had
been pronounced, but it had been done with so manifest an effort that
all in the room were conscious of it, and he paused as Bell prepared
her little answer.
"My sister has been very ill, you know,--with scarlatina. But she has
recovered with wonderful quickness, and is nearly well again now. She
will be so glad to see you if you will go over."
"Yes; I shall certainly go over," said John.
"And now shall I show you your room, Miss Dale?" said Lady Julia. And
so the party was broken up, and the ice had been broken.
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