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The Fate of the Small House
There was something in the tone of Mrs Dale's voice, as she desired
her daughter to come up to the house, and declared that her budget of
news should be opened there, which at once silenced Lily's assumed
pleasantry. Her mother had been away fully two hours, during which
Lily had still continued her walk round the garden, till at last she
had become impatient for her mother's footstep. Something serious
must have been said between her uncle and her mother during those
long two hours. The interviews to which Mrs Dale was occasionally
summoned at the Great House did not usually exceed twenty minutes,
and the upshot would be communicated to the girls in a turn or two
round the garden; but in the present instance Mrs Dale positively
declined to speak till she was seated within the house.
"Did he come over on purpose to see you, mamma?"
"Yes, my dear, I believe so. He wished to see you, too; but I asked
his permission to postpone that till after I had talked to you."
"To see me, mamma? About what?"
"To kiss you, and bid you love him; solely for that. He has not a
word to say to you that will vex you."
"Then I will kiss him, and love him, too."
"Yes, you will when I have told you all. I have promised him solemnly
to give up all idea of going to Guestwick. So that is over."
"Oh, oh! And we may begin to unpack at once? What an episode in one's
"We may certainly unpack, for I have pledged myself to him; and he is
to go into Guestwick himself and arrange about the lodgings."
"Does Hopkins know it?"
"I should think not yet."
"Nor Mrs Boyce! Mamma, I don't believe I shall be able to survive
this next week. We shall look such fools! I'll tell you what we'll
do;--it will be the only comfort I can have;--we'll go to work and
get everything back into its place before Bell comes home, so as to
"What! in two days?"
"Why not? I'll make Hopkins come and help, and then he'll not be so
bad. I'll begin at once and go to the blankets and beds, because I
can undo them myself."
"But I haven't half told you all; and, indeed, I don't know how to
make you understand what passed between us. He is very unhappy about
Bernard; Bernard has determined to go abroad, and may be away for
"One can hardly blame a man for following up his profession."
"There was no blaming. He only said that it was very sad for him
that, in his old age, he should be left alone. This was before there
was any talk about our remaining. Indeed he seemed determined not
to ask that again as a favour. I could see that in his eye, and I
understood it from his tone. He went on to speak of you and Bell,
saying how well he loved you both; but that, unfortunately, his hopes
regarding you had not been fulfilled."
"Ah, but he shouldn't have had hopes of that sort."
"Listen, my dear, and I think that you will not feel angry with him.
He said that he felt his house had never been pleasant to you. Then
there followed words which I could not repeat, even if I could
remember them. He said much about myself, regretting that the feeling
between us had not been more kindly. 'But my heart,' he said, 'has
ever been kinder than my words.' Then I got up from where I was
seated, and going over to him, I told him that we would remain here."
"And what did he say?"
"I don't know what he said. I know that I was crying, and that he
kissed me. It was the first time in his life. I know that he was
pleased,--beyond measure pleased. After a while he became animated,
and talked of doing ever so many things. He promised that very
painting of which you spoke."
"Ah, yes, I knew it; and Hopkins will be here with the peas before
dinner-time to-morrow, and Dingles with his shoulders smothered with
rabbits. And then Mrs Boyce! Mamma, he didn't think of Mrs Boyce;
or, in very charity of heart, he would still have maintained his
"Then he did not think of her; for when I left him he was not at all
sad. But I haven't told you half yet."
"Dear me, mamma; was there more than that?"
"And I've told it all wrong; for what I've got to tell now was said
before a word was spoken about the house. He brought it in just after
what he said about Bernard. He said that Bernard would, of course, be
"Of course he will."
"And that he should think it wrong to encumber the property with any
charges for you girls."
"Mamma, did any one ever--"
"Stop, Lily, stop; and make your heart kinder towards him if you
"It is kind; only I hate to be told that I'm not to have a lot of
money, as though I had ever shown a desire for it. I have never
envied Bernard his man-servant, or his maid-servant, or his ox, or
his ass, or anything that is his. To tell the truth I didn't even
wish it to be Bell's, because I knew well that there was somebody she
would like a great deal better than ever she could like Bernard."
"I shall never get to the end of my story."
"Yes, you will, mamma, if you persevere."
"The long and the short of it is this, that he has given Bell three
thousand pounds, and has given you three thousand also."
"But why me, mamma?" said Lily, and the colour of her cheeks became
red as she spoke. There should if possible be nothing more said about
John Eames; but whatever might or might not be the necessity of
speaking, at any rate, let there be no mistake. "But why me, mamma?"
"Because, as he explained to me, he thinks it right to do the same
by each of you. The money is yours at this moment,--to buy hair-pins
with, if you please. I had no idea that he could command so large a
"Three thousand pounds! The last money he gave me was half-a-crown,
and I thought that he was so stingy! I particularly wanted ten
shillings. I should have liked it so much better now if he had given
me a nice new five-pound note."
"You'd better tell him so."
"No; because then he'd give me that too. But with five pounds I
should have the feeling that I might do what I liked with it;--buy a
dressing-case, and a thing for a squirrel to run round in. But nobody
ever gives girls money like that, so that they can enjoy it."
"Oh, Lily; you ungrateful child!"
"No, I deny it. I'm not ungrateful. I'm very grateful, because his
heart was softened,--and because he cried and kissed you. I'll be
ever so good to him! But how I'm to thank him for giving me three
thousand pounds, I cannot think. It's a sort of thing altogether
beyond my line of life. It sounds like something that's to come to
me in another world, but which I don't want quite yet. I am grateful,
but with a misty, hazy sort of gratitude. Can you tell me how soon
I shall have a new pair of Balmoral boots because of this money? If
that were brought home to me I think it would enliven my gratitude."
The squire, as he rode back to Guestwick, fell again from that
animation, which Mrs Dale had described, into his natural sombre
mood. He thought much of his past life, declaring to himself the
truth of those words in which he had told his sister-in-law that his
heart had ever been kinder than his words. But the world, and all
those nearest to him in the world, had judged him always by his words
rather than by his heart. They had taken the appearance, which he
could not command or alter, rather than the facts, of which he had
been the master. Had he not been good to all his relations?--and yet
was there one among them that cared for him? "I'm almost sorry that
they are going to stay," he said to himself;--"I know that I shall
disappoint them." Yet when he met Bell at the Manor House he accosted
her cheerily, telling her with much appearance of satisfaction that
that flitting into Guestwick was not to be accomplished.
"I am so glad," said she. "It is long since I wished it."
"And I do not think your mother wishes it now."
"I am sure she does not. It was all a misunderstanding from the
first. When some of us could not do all that you wished, we thought
it better--" Then Bell paused, finding that she would get herself
into a mess if she persevered.
"We will not say any more about it," said the squire. "The thing is
over, and I am very glad that it should be so pleasantly settled. I
was talking to Dr Crofts yesterday."
"Were you, uncle?"
"Yes; and he is to come and stay with me the day before he is
married. We have arranged it all. And we'll have the breakfast up at
the Great House. Only you must fix the day. I should say some time in
May. And, my dear, you'll want to make yourself fine; here's a little
money for you. You are to spend that before your marriage, you know."
Then he shambled away, and as soon as he was alone, again became sad
and despondent. He was a man for whom we may predicate some gentle
sadness and continued despondency to the end of his life's chapter.
We left John Eames in the custody of Lady Julia, who had overtaken
him in the act of erasing Lily's name from the railing which ran
across the brook. He had been premeditating an escape home to his
mother's house in Guestwick, and thence hack to London, without
making any further appearance at the Manor House. But as soon as he
heard Lady Julia's step, and saw her figure close upon him, he knew
that his retreat was cut off from him. So he allowed himself to be
led away quietly up to the house. With Lady Julia herself he openly
discussed the whole matter,--telling her that his hopes were over,
his happiness gone, and his heart half-broken. Though he would
perhaps have cared but little for her congratulations in success, he
could make himself more amenable to consolation and sympathy from her
than from any other inmate in the earl's house. "I don't know what I
shall say to your brother," he whispered to her, as they approached
the side door at which she intended to enter.
"Will you let me break it to him? After that he will say a few words
to you of course, but you need not be afraid of him."
"And Mr Dale?" said Johnny. "Everybody has heard about it. Everybody
will know what a fool I have made myself." She suggested that the
earl should speak to the squire, assured him that nobody would think
him at all foolish, and then left him to make his way up to his own
bedroom. When there he found a letter from Cradell, which had been
delivered in his absence; but the contents of that letter may best be
deferred to the next chapter. They were not of a nature to give him
comfort or to add to his sorrow.
About an hour before dinner there was a knock at his door, and the
earl himself, when summoned, made his appearance in the room. He was
dressed in his usual farming attire, having been caught by Lady Julia
on his first approach to the house, and had come away direct to his
young friend, after having been duly trained in what he ought to say
by his kind-hearted sister. I am not, however, prepared to declare
that he strictly followed his sister's teaching in all that he said
upon the occasion.
"Well, my boy," he began, "so the young lady has been perverse."
"Yes, my lord. That is, I don't know about being perverse. It is all
"That's as may be, Johnny. As far as I know, not half of them accept
their lovers the first time of asking."
"I shall not ask her again."
"Oh, yes, you will. You don't mean to say you are angry with her for
"Not in the least. I have no right to be angry. I am only angry with
myself for being such a fool, Lord De Guest. I wish I had been dead
before I came down here on this errand. Now I think of it, I know
there are so many things which ought to have made me sure how it
"I don't see that at all. You come down again,--let me see,--it's May
now. Say you come when the shooting begins in September. If we can't
get you leave of absence in any other way, we'll make old Buffle come
too. Only, by George, I believe he'd shoot us all. But never mind;
we'll manage that. You keep up your spirits till September, and then
we'll fight the battle in another way. The squire shall get up a
little party for the bride, and my lady Lily must go then. You shall
meet her so; and then we'll shoot over the squire's land. We'll bring
you together so; you see if we don't. Lord bless me! Refused once! My
belief is, that in these days a girl thinks nothing of a man till she
has refused him half-a-dozen times."
"I don't think Lily is at all like that."
"Look here, Johnny. I have not a word to say against Miss Lily. I
like her very much, and think her one of the nicest girls I know.
When she's your wife, I'll love her dearly, if she'll let me. But
she's made of the same stuff as other girls, and will act in the same
way. Things have gone a little astray among you, and they won't right
themselves all in a minute. She knows now what your feelings are, and
she'll go on thinking of it, till at last you'll be in her thoughts
more than that other fellow. Don't tell me about her becoming an old
maid, because at her time of life she has been so unfortunate as to
come across a false-hearted man like that. It may take a little time;
but if you'll carry on and not be down-hearted, you'll find it will
all come right in the end. Everybody doesn't get all that they want
in a minute. How I shall quiz you about all this when you have been
two or three years married!"
"I don't think I shall ever be able to ask her again; and I feel
sure, if I do, that her answer will be the same. She told me in so
many words; but never mind, I cannot repeat her words."
"I don't want you to repeat them; nor yet to heed them beyond their
worth. Lily Dale is a very pretty girl; clever, too, I believe, and
good, I'm sure; but her words are not more sacred than those of other
men or women. What she has said to you now, she means, no doubt; but
the minds of men and women are prone to change, especially when such
changes are conducive to their own happiness."
"At any rate I'll never forget your kindness, Lord De Guest."
"And there is one other thing I want to say to you, Johnny. A man
should never allow himself to be cast down by anything,--not
outwardly, to the eyes of other men."
"But how is he to help it?"
"His pluck should prevent him. You were not afraid of a roaring bull,
nor yet of that man when you thrashed him at the railway station.
You've pluck enough of that kind. You must now show that you've that
other kind of pluck. You know the story of the boy who would not cry
though the wolf was gnawing him underneath his frock. Most of us have
some wolf to gnaw us somewhere; but we are generally gnawed beneath
our clothes, so that the world doesn't see; and it behoves us so to
bear it that the world shall not suspect. The man who goes about
declaring himself to be miserable will be not only miserable, but
contemptible as well."
"But the wolf hasn't gnawed me beneath my clothes; everybody knows
"Then let those who do know it learn that you are able to bear such
wounds without outward complaint. I tell you fairly that I cannot
sympathise with a lackadaisical lover."
"I know that I have made myself ridiculous to everybody. I wish I had
never come here. I wish you had never seen me."
"Don't say that, my dear boy; but take my advice for what it is
worth. And remember what it is that I say; with your grief I do
sympathise, but not with any outward expression of it;--not with
melancholy looks, and a sad voice, and an unhappy gait. A man should
always be able to drink his wine and seem to enjoy it. If he can't,
he is so much less of a man than he would be otherwise,--not so much
more, as some people seem to think. Now get yourself dressed, my dear
fellow, and come down to dinner as though nothing had happened to
As soon as the earl was gone John looked at his watch and saw that
it still wanted some forty minutes to dinner. Fifteen minutes would
suffice for him to dress, and therefore there was time sufficient
for him to seat himself in his arm-chair and think over it all. He
had for a moment been very angry when his friend had told him that
he could not sympathise with a lackadaisical lover. It was an
ill-natured word. He felt it to be so when he heard it, and so he
continued to think during the whole of the half-hour that he sat in
that chair. But it probably did him more good than any word that the
earl had ever spoken to him,--or any other word that he could have
used. "Lackadaisical! I'm not lackadaisical," he said to himself,
jumping up from his chair, and instantly sitting down again. "I
didn't say anything to him. I didn't tell him. Why did he come to
me?" And yet, though he endeavoured to abuse Lord De Guest in his
thoughts, he knew that Lord De Guest was right, and that he was
wrong. He knew that he had been lackadaisical, and was ashamed of
himself; and at once resolved that he would henceforth demean himself
as though no calamity had happened to him. "I've a good mind to take
him at his word, and drink wine till I'm drunk." Then he strove to
get up his courage by a song.
If she be not fair for me,
What care I how--
"But I do care. What stuff it is a man writing poetry and putting
into it such lies as that! Everybody knows that he did care,--that
is, if he wasn't a heartless beast."
But nevertheless, when the time came for him to go down into the
drawing-room he did make the effort which his friend had counselled,
and walked into the room with less of that hang-dog look than the
earl and Lady Julia had expected. They were both there, as was also
the squire, and Bell followed him in less than a minute.
"You haven't seen Crofts to-day, John, have you?" said the earl.
"No; I haven't been anywhere his way!"
"His way! His ways are every way, I take it. I wanted him to come and
dine, but he seemed to think it improper to eat two dinners in the
same house two days running. Isn't that his theory, Miss Dale?"
"I'm sure I don't know, Lord De Guest. At any rate, it isn't mine."
So they went to their feast, and before his last chance was over John
Eames found himself able to go through the pretence of enjoying his
There can, I think, be no doubt that in all such calamities as
that which he was now suffering, the agony of the misfortune is
much increased by the conviction that the facts of the case are
known to those round about the sufferer. A most warm-hearted and
intensely-feeling young gentleman might, no doubt, eat an excellent
dinner after being refused by the girl of his devotions, provided
that he had reason to believe that none of those in whose company he
ate it knew anything of his rejection. But the same warm-hearted and
intensely-feeling young gentleman would find it very difficult to
go through the ceremony with any appearance of true appetite or
gastronomic enjoyment, if he were aware that all his convives knew
all the facts of his little misfortune. Generally, we may suppose,
a man in such condition goes to his club for his dinner, or seeks
consolation in the shades of some adjacent Richmond or Hampton Court.
There he meditates on his condition in silence, and does ultimately
enjoy his little plate of whitebait, his cutlet and his moderate pint
of sherry. He probably goes alone to the theatre, and, in his stall,
speculates with a somewhat bitter sarcasm on the vanity of the world.
Then he returns home, sad indeed, but with a moderated sadness, and
as he puffs out the smoke of his cigar at the open window,--with
perhaps the comfort of a little brandy-and-water at his
elbow,--swears to himself that, "By Jove, he'll have another try
for it." Alone, a man may console himself, or among a crowd of
unconscious mortals; but it must be admitted that the position of
John Eames was severe. He had been invited down there to woo Lily
Dale, and the squire and Bell had been asked to be present at the
wooing. Had it all gone well, nothing could have been nicer. He would
have been the hero of the hour, and everybody would have sung for him
his song of triumph. But everything had not gone well, and he found
it very difficult to carry himself otherwise than lackadaisically. On
the whole, however, his effort was such that the earl gave him credit
for his demeanour, and told him when parting with him for the night
that he was a fine fellow, and that everything should go right with
"And you mustn't be angry with me for speaking harshly to you," he
"I wasn't a bit angry."
"Yes, you were; and I rather meant that you should be. But you
mustn't go away in dudgeon."
He stayed at the Manor House one day longer, and then he returned to
his room at the Income-tax Office, to the disagreeable sound of Sir
Raffle's little bell, and the much more disagreeable sound of Sir
Raffle's big voice.
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