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- The American Senator - 50/115 -
shall be unhappy here. There's nothing else for it but going away."
"If it's anything sudden, Mr. Twentyman, allow me to say that you ought not to sell your property without grave consideration."
"I have considered it,--very grave, Mr. Morton."
"Ah,--but I mean long consideration. Take a year to think of it. You can't buy such a place back in a year. I don't know you well enough to be justified in inquiring into the circumstances of your trouble;--but unless it be something which makes it altogether inexpedient, or almost impossible that you should remain in the neighbourhood, you should not sell Chowton."
"I'll tell you, Mr. Morton," said Larry almost weeping. Poor Larry whether in his triumph or his sorrow had no gift of reticence and now told his neighbour the whole story of his love. He was certain it had become quite hopeless. He was sure that she would never have written him a letter if there had been any smallest chance left. According to his ideas a girl might say "no" half-a-dozen times and yet not mean much; but when she had committed herself to a letter she could not go back from it.
"Is there anybody else?" asked Morton.
"Not as I know. I never saw anything like--like lightness with her, with any man. They said something about the curate but I don't believe a word of it."
"And the family approve of it?"
"Every one of them,--father and stepmother and sisters and all. My own mother too! There ain't a ha'porth against it. I don't want any one to give me sixpence in money. And she should live just like a lady. I can keep a servant for her to cook and do every mortal thing. But it ain't nothing of all that, Mr. Morton."
"What is it then?"
The poor man paused before he made his answer; but when he did, he made it plain enough. "I ain't good enough for her! Nor more I ain't, Mr. Morton. She was brought up in this house, Mr. Morton, by your own grand-aunt."
"So I have heard, Mr. Twentyman."
"And there's more of Bragton than there is of Dillsborough about her; that's just where it is. I know what I am and I know what she is, and I ain't good enough for her. It should be somebody that can talk books to her. I can tell her how to plant a field of wheat or how to run a foal;--but I can't sit and read poetry, nor yet be read to. There's plenty of 'em would sell themselves because the land's all there, and the house, and the things in it. What makes me mad is that I should love her all the better because she won't. My belief is, Mr. Morton, they're as poor as job. That makes no difference to me because I don't want it; but it makes no difference to her neither! She's right, Mr. Morton. I'm not good enough, and so I'll just cut it as far as Dillsborough is concerned. You'll think of what I said of taking the land?"
Mr. Morton said much more to him, walking with him to the gate of Chowton Farm. He assured him that the young lady might yet be won. He had only, Morton said, to plead his case to her as well as he had pleaded up at Bragton and he thought that she would be won. "I couldn't speak out free to her,--not if it was to save the whole place," said the unfortunate lover. But Morton still continued his advice. As to leaving Chowton because a young lady refused him, that would be unmanly--"There isn't a bit of a man left about me," said Larry weeping. Morton nevertheless went on. Time would cure these wounds; but no time would give him back Chowton should he once part with it. If he must leave the place for a time let him put a caretaker on the farm, even though by doing so the loss might be great. He should do anything rather than surrender his house. As to buying the land himself, Morton would not talk about it in the present circumstances. Then they parted at Chowton gate with many expressions of friendship on each side.
John Morton, as he returned home, could not help thinking that the young farmer's condition was after all better than his own. There was an honesty about both the persons concerned of which at any rate they might be proud. There was real love,--and though that love was not at present happy it was of a nature to inspire perfect respect. But in his own case he was sure of nothing.
When Arabella Trefoil started from London for Mistletoe, with no companion but her own maid, she had given more serious consideration to her visit than she had probably ever paid to any matter up to that time. She had often been much in earnest but never so much in earnest as now. Those other men had perhaps been worthy, worthy as far as her ideas went of worth, but none of them so worthy as this man. Everything was there if she could only get it;--money, rank, fashion, and an appetite for pleasure. And he was handsome too, and good-humoured, though these qualities told less with her than the others. And now she was to meet him in the house of her great relations,--in a position in which her rank and her fashion would seem to be equal to his own. And she would meet him with the remembrance fresh in his mind as in her own of those passages of love at Rufford. It would be impossible that he should even seem to forget them. The most that she could expect would be four or five days of his company, and she knew that she must be upon her mettle. She must do more now than she had ever attempted before. She must scruple at nothing that might bind him. She would be in the house of her uncle and that uncle a duke, and she thought that those facts might help to quell him. And she would be there without her mother, who was so often a heavy incubus on her shoulders. She thought of it all, and made her plans carefully and even painfully. She would be at any rate two days in the house before his arrival. During that time she would curry favour with her uncle by all her arts, and would if possible reconcile herself to her aunt. She thought once of taking her aunt into her full confidence and balanced the matter much in her mind. The Duchess, she knew, was afraid of her,--or rather afraid of the relationship, and would of course be pleased to have all fears set at rest by such an alliance. But her aunt was a woman who had never suffered hardships, whose own marriage had been easily arranged, and whose two daughters had been pleasantly married before they were twenty years old. She had had no experience of feminine difficulties, and would have no mercy for such labours as those to which her less fortunate niece was driven. It would have been a great thing to have the cordial co-operation of her aunt; but she could not venture to ask for it.
She had stretched her means and her credit to the utmost in regard to her wardrobe, and was aware that she had never been so well equipped since those early days of her career in which her father and mother had thought that her beauty, assisted by a generous expenditure, would serve to dispose of her without delay. A generous expenditure may be incurred once even by poor people, but cannot possibly be maintained over a dozen years. Now she had taken the matter into her own hands and had done that which would be ruinous if not successful. She was venturing her all upon the die,--with the prospect of drowning herself on the way out to Patagonia should the chances of the game go against her. She forgot nothing. She could hardly hope for more than one day's hunting and yet that had been provided for as though she were going to ride with the hounds through all the remainder of the season.
When she reached Mistletoe there were people going and coming every day, so that an arrival was no event. She was kissed by her uncle and welcomed with characteristic coldness by her aunt, then allowed to settle in among the other guests as though she had been there all the winter. Everybody knew that she was a Trefoil and her presence therefore raised no question. The Duchess of Omnium was among the guests. The Duchess knew all about her and vouchsafed to her the smallest possible recognition. Lady Chiltern had met her before, and as Lady Chiltern was always generous, she was gracious to Arabella. She was sorry to see Lady Drummond, because she connected Lady Drummond with the Foreign Office and feared that the conversation might be led to Patagonia and its new minister. She contrived to squeeze her uncle's hand and to utter a word of warm thanks,--which his grace did not perfectly understand. The girl was his niece and the Duke had an idea that he should be kind to the family of which he was the head. His brother's wife had become objectionable to him, but as to the girl, if she wanted a home for a week or two, he thought it to be his duty to give it to her.
Mistletoe is an enormous house with a frontage nearly a quarter of a mile long, combining as it does all the offices, coach houses, and stables. There is nothing in England more ugly or perhaps more comfortable. It stands in a huge park which, as it is quite flat, never shows its size and is altogether unattractive. The Duke himself was a hospitable, easy man who was very fond of his dinner and performed his duties well; but could never be touched by any sentiment. He always spent six months in the country, in which he acted as landlord to a great crowd of shooting, hunting, and flirting visitors, and six in London, in which he gave dinners and dined out and regularly took his place in the House of Lords without ever opening his mouth. He was a grey-haired comely man of sixty, with a large body and a wonderful appetite. By many who understood the subject he was supposed to be the best amateur judge of wine in England. His son Lord Mistletoe was member for the county and as the Duke had no younger sons he was supposed to be happy at all points. Lord Mistletoe, who had a large family of his own, lived twenty miles off,--so that the father and son could meet pleasantly without fear of quarrelling.
During the first evening Arabella did contrive to make herself very agreeable. She was much quieter than had been her wont when at Mistletoe before, and though there were present two or three very well circumstanced young men she took but little notice of them. She went out to dinner with Sir Jeffrey Bunker, and made herself agreeable to that old gentleman in a remarkable manner. After dinner, something having been said of the respectable old game called cat's cradle, she played it to perfection with Sir Jeffrey, till her aunt thought that she must have been unaware that Sir Jeffrey had a wife and family. She was all smiles and all pleasantness, and seemed to want no other happiness than what the present moment gave her. Nor did she once mention Lord Rufford's name.
On the next morning after breakfast her aunt sent for her to come up-stairs. Such a thing had never happened to her before. She could not recollect that, on any of those annual visits which she had
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