Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- The Hallam Succession - 2/43 -
in order to allow the Bishop to attend Conference; what does that mean, Elizabeth?"
"I suppose it means they are Methodists."
The young man was silent a moment, and then he replied, emphatically, "I am very glad of it."
"How can you say so, Antony? And there is the rector, and the Elthams--"
"I was thinking of the Hallams. After a thousand years of stagnation one ought to welcome a ripple of life. A Methodist isn't asleep. I have often felt inclined to drop into their chapel as I passed it. I wonder how it would feel to be awake soul and body at once!"
"Antony, you ought not to talk so recklessly. Some people might imagine you meant what you said. You know very well that the thousand years of 'stagnation,' as you call it, of the Hallams, is a most respectable thing."
"Very respectable indeed! That is all women think about--born conservatives every one of them--'dyed in the wool,' as a Bradford man would say."
"Why do you quote what Bradford men say? I cannot imagine what makes you go among a crowd of weavers, when you might be at Eltham Castle with gentlemen."
"I will tell you why. At Eltham we yawn and stagnate together. The weavers prick and pinch me in a thousand places. They make me dream of living."
"Drink your tea, Antony and don't be foolish."
He shrugged his shoulders and laughed. Upon the whole, he rather liked the look of astonishment in his sister's gray eyes, and the air of puzzled disapproval in her manner. He regarded ignorance on a great many matters as the natural and admirable condition of womanhood.
"It is very good tea, Elizabeth, and I like this American news. I shall not go to the Tyrol now. Two new specimens of humanity to study are better than glaciers."
"Antony, do remember that you are speaking of your own cousins--'two new specimens of humanity'--they are Hallams at the root."
"I meant no disrespect; but I am naturally a little excited at the idea of American Hallams--Americans in Hallam-Croft! I only hope the shades of Hengist and Horsa wont haunt the old rooms out of simple curiosity. When are they to be here?"
"They will be in Liverpool about the end of May. You have two weeks to prepare yourself, Antony."
Antony did not reply, but just what kind of a young lady his cousin Phyllis Fontaine might be he had no idea. People could not in those days buy their pictures by the dozen, and distribute them, so that Antony's imagination, in this direction, had the field entirely to itself. His fancy painted her in many charming forms, and yet he was never able to invest her with any other distinguishing traits than those with which he was familiar--the brilliant blonde beauty and resplendent health of his countrywomen.
Therefore, when the real Phyllis Fontaine met his vision she was a revelation to him. It was in the afternoon of the last day of May, and Hallam seemed to have put on a more radiant beauty for the occasion. The sun was so bright, the park so green, the garden so sweet and balmy. Heart's-ease were every-where, honeysuckles filled the air, and in the wood behind, the blackbirds whistled, and the chaffinches and tomtits kept up a merry, musical chattering. The squire, with his son and daughter, was waiting at the great open door of the main entrance for his visitors, and as the carriage stopped he cried out, cheerily, "Welcome to Hallam!" Then there was a few minutes of pleasant confusion, and in them Phyllis had made a distinct picture on every mind.
"She's a dainty little woman," said the squire to himself, as he sat calmly smoking his pipe after the bustle of the arrival was over; "not much like a Hallam, but t' eye as isn't charmed wi' her 'ell hev no white in it, that's a' about it."
Antony was much interested, and soon sought his sister.
"If that is Cousin Phyllis, she is beautiful. Don't you think so, Elizabeth?"
"Yes; how perfectly she was dressed."
"That is a woman's criticism. Did you see her soft, dark eyes, her small bow-shaped mouth--a beauty one rarely finds in English women-- her exquisite complexion, her little feet?"
"That is a man's criticism. How could you see all that in a moment or two of such confusion?"
"Easily; how was she dressed?"
"In a plain dress of gray cloth. The fit was perfect, the linen collar and cuffs spotless, the gray bonnet, with its drooping, gray feather bewitching. She wore gray gloves and a traveling cloak of the same color, which hung like a princess's mantle."
"How could you see all that in a moment or two of such confusion?"
"Do not be too clever, Antony. You forget I went with her to her rooms."
"Did you notice Richard?"
"A little; he resembles his sister. Their foreign look as they stood beside you and father was very remarkable. Neither of them are like Hallams."
"I am so glad of it; a new element coming into life is like a fresh wind 'blowing through breathless woods.'"
But Elizabeth sighed. This dissatisfaction with the old, and craving for the new, was one of the points upon which Antony and his father were unable to understand each other. Nothing permanent pleased Antony, and no one could ever predicate of him what course he would pursue, or what side he would take. As a general rule, however, he preferred the opposition in all things. Now, the squire's principles and opinions were as clear to his own mind as his own existence was. He believed firmly in his Bible, in the English Constitution, and in himself. He admitted no faults in the first two; his own shortcomings toward Heaven he willingly acknowledged; but he regarded his attitude toward his fellow-man as without fault. All his motives and actions proceeded from well-understood truths, and they moved in consistent and admirable grooves.
Antony had fallen upon different times, and been brought under more uncertain influences. Oxford, "the most loyal," had been in a religious ferment during his stay there. The spirit of Pusey and Newman was shaking the Church of England like a great wind; and though Antony had been but little touched by the spiritual aspect of the movement, the temporal accusations of corruption and desertion of duty were good lances to tilt against the Church with. It gave him a curiously mixed pleasure to provoke the squire to do battle for her; partly from contradiction, partly that he might show off his array of second-hand learning and logic; and partly, also, for the delight of asserting his own opinions and his own individuality.
Any other dispute the squire would have settled by a positive assertion, or a positive denial; but even the most dogmatic of men are a little conscientious about religious scruples. He had, therefore, allowed his son to discuss "the Church" with him, but in some subtle way the older man divined that his ideas were conviction; while Antony's were only drifting thoughts. Therefore, the moral strength of the argument was with him, and he had a kind of contempt for a Hallam who could be moved by every Will-o'-the-wisp of religious or Political opinions.
But Elizabeth was greatly impressed by her brother's accomplishments, and she loved him, and believed in him with all her heart. The Hallams hitherto had no reputation for mental ability. In times of need England had found them good soldiers and ready givers; but poets and scholars they had never been. Antony affected the latter character. He spoke several languages, he read science and German philosophy, and he talked such radical politics to the old gardener, that the man privately declared himself "fair cap't wi' t' young squire."
Yet after all, his dominant passion was a love of power, and of money as the means by which to grasp power. Below all his speculations and affectations this was the underlying thought. True, he was heir of Hallam, and as the heir had an allowance quite equal to his position. But he constantly reflected that his father might live many years, and that in the probable order of things he must wait until he was a middle-aged man for his inheritance; and for a young man who felt himself quite competent to turn the axle of the universe, it seemed a contemptible lot to grind in his own little mill at Hallam. He had not as yet voiced these thoughts, but they lay in his heart, and communicated unknown to himself an atmosphere of unrest and unreliability to all his words and actions.
It was soon evident that there would be little sympathy between Richard and Antony. Richard Fontaine was calm, dignified, reticent; never tempted to give his confidence to any one; and averse to receive the confidences of others; therefore, though he listened with polite attention to Antony's aspirations and aims, they made very little impression upon him. Both he and Phyllis glided without effort into the life which must have been so new to them; and in less than a week, Hallam had settled happily down to its fresh conditions. But nothing had been just as Antony expected. Phyllis was very lovely, but not lovely specially for him, which was disappointing; and he could not help soon seeing that, though Richard was attentive, he was also unresponsive.
There is one charming thing about English hospitality, it leaves its guests perfect freedom. In a very few days Phyllis found this out; and she wandered, unnoticed and undisturbed, through the long galleries, and examined, with particular interest, the upper rooms, into which from generation to generation unwelcomed pictures and unfashionable furniture had been placed. There was one room in the eastern turret that attracted her specially. It contained an old spinet, and above it the picture of a young girl; a face of melancholy, tender beauty, with that far-off look, which the French call _predestinee_, in the solemn eyes.
It is folly to say that furniture has no expression; the small couch,
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 10 20 30 40 43
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything