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- OF THE PRIME MINISTER - 30/159 -
wafted about, from one lover to another, by change of scene. Taking her to Dresden,--or to New Zealand, would only confirm in her passion such a girl as Emily Wharton. Nothing would shake her but the ascertained unworthiness of the man,--and not that unless it were ascertained beneath her own eyes. And then years must pass by before she would yield to another lover. There was a further question, too, which he did not fail to ask himself. Was the man necessarily unworthy because his name was Lopez, and because he had not come of English blood?
As he strove to think of this, if not coolly yet rationally, he sat himself down among the rocks, among which at that spot the water made its way rapidly. There had been moments in which he had been almost ashamed of his love,--and now he did not know whether to be most ashamed or most proud of it. But he recognized the fact that it was crucifying him, and that it would continue to crucify him. He knew himself in London to be a popular man,--one of those for whom, according to general opinion, girls should sigh, rather than one who would break his heart sighing for a girl. He had often told himself that it was beneath his manliness to be despondent; that he should let such a trouble run from him like water from a duck's back, consoling himself with the reflection that if the girl had such bad taste she could hardly be worthy of him. He had almost tried to belong to that school which throws the heart away and rules by the head alone. He knew that others,--perhaps not those who knew him best, but who nevertheless were the companions of may of his hours,--gave him credit for such power. Why should a man afflict himself by the inward burden of an unsatisfied craving, and allow his heart to sink into his very feet because a girl would not smile when he wooed her? 'If she be not fair for me, what care I how fair she be!' He had repeated the lines to himself a score of times, and had been ashamed of himself because he could not make them come true to himself.
They had not come true in the least. There he was, Arthur Fletcher, whom all the world courted, with his heart in his very boots! There was a miserable load within him, absolutely palpable to his outward feeling,--a very physical pain,--which he could not shake off. As he threw the stones into the water he told himself that it must be so with him always. Though the world did pet him, though he was liked at his club, and courted in the hunting-field, and loved at balls and archery meetings, and reputed by old men to be a rising star, he told himself that he was so maimed and mutilated as to be only half a man. He could not reason about it. Nature had afflicted him with a certain weakness. One man had a hump;--another can hardly see out of his imperfect eyes,--a third can barely utter a few disjointed words. It was his fate to be constructed with some weak arrangement of the blood vessels which left him in this plight. 'The whole damned thing is nothing to me,' he said bursting into absolute tears, after vainly trying to reassure himself by a recollection of the good things which the world still had in store for him.
Then he strove to console himself by thinking that he might take a pride in his love, even though it were so intolerable a burden to him. Was it not something to be able to love as he loved? Was it not something at any rate that she to whom he had condescended to stoop was worthy of all love? But even here he could get no comfort,--being in truth unable to see very closely into the condition of the thing. It was a disgrace to him,--to him within his own bosom,--that she should have preferred to him such a one as Ferdinand Lopez, and this disgrace he exaggerated, ignoring the fact that the girl herself might be deficient in judgement, or led away into her love by falsehood and counterfeit attractions. To him she was such a goddess that she must be right--and therefore his own inferiority to such a one as Ferdinand Lopez was proved. He could take no pride in his rejected love. He would rid himself of it at a moment's notice if he knew the way. He would throw himself at the feet of some second-rate, tawdry, well-born, well-known beauty of the day,-- only that there was not now left to him strength to pretend the feeling that would be necessary. Then he heard steps, and jumping up from his seat, stood just in the way of Emily Wharton and her cousin Mary. 'Ain't you going to dress for dinner, young man?' said the latter.
'I shall have time if you have, anyway,' said Arthur, endeavouring to pluck up his spirits.
'That's nice of him;--isn't it?' said Mary. 'Why, we are dressed. What more do you want? We came out to look for you, though we didn't mean to come as far as this. It's past seven now, and we are supposed to dine at a quarter past.'
'Five minutes will do for me.'
'But you've got to get to the house. You needn't be in a tremendous hurry, because papa has only just come in from haymaking. They've got up the last load, and there has been the usual ceremony. Emily and I have been looking at them.'
'I wish I'd been there all the time,' said Emily. 'I do so hate London in July.'
'So do I,' said Arthur,--'in July and all other times.'
'You hate London?' said Mary.
'Yes,--and Hertfordshire,--and other places generally. If I've got to dress I'd better go across the park as quick as I can go,' and so he left them. Mary turned around and looked at her cousin, but at the moment said nothing. Arthur's passion was well known to Mary Wharton, but Mary had as yet heard nothing of Ferdinand Lopez.
NEVER RUN AWAY!
During the whole of that evening there was a forced attempt on the part of all the party at Wharton Hall to be merry,--which, however, as is the case whenever such attempts are forced, was a failure. There had been a haymaking harvest-home which was supposed to give special occasion for mirth, as Sir Alured farmed the land around the park himself, and was great in hay. 'I don't think it pays very well,' he said with a gentle smile, 'but I like to employ some of the people myself. I think the old people find it easier with me than with the tenants.'
'I shouldn't wonder,' said his cousin;--'but that's charity; not employment.'
'No, no,' exclaimed the baronet. 'They work for their wages and do their best. Powell sees to that.' Powell was the bailiff, who knew the length of his master's foot to a quarter of an inch, and was quite aware that the Wharton haymakers were not to be overtasked. 'Powell doesn't keep any cats about the place, but what catch mice. But I am not quite sure that haymaking does pay.'
'How do the tenants manage?'
'Of course they look to things closer. You wouldn't wish me to let the land up to the house next door.'
'I think,' said old Mrs Fletcher, 'that a landlord should consent to lose a little by his own farming. It does good in the long run.' Both Mr Wharton and Sir Alured felt that this might be very well at Longbarns, though it could hardly be afforded at Wharton.
'I don't think I lose much by my farming,' said the squire of Longbarns. 'I have four hundred acres on hand, and I keep my accounts pretty regularly.'
'Johnson is a very good man, I dare say,' said the baronet.
'Like most of the others,' continued the squire, 'he's very well as long as he's looked after. I think I know as much about it as Johnson. Of course, I don't expect a farmer's profit; but I do expect my rent, and I get it.'
'I don't think I manage it in quite that way,' said the baronet in a melancholy tone.
'I'm afraid not,' said the barrister.
'John is as hard upon the men as any one of the tenants,' said John's wife, Mrs Fletcher of Longbarns.
'I'm not hard at all,' said John, 'and you understand nothing about it. I'm paying three shillings a week more to every man, and eighteen pence a week more to every woman, than I did three years ago.'
'That's because of the Unions,' said the barrister.
'I don't care a straw for the Unions. If the Unions interfered with my comfort, I'd let the land and leave the place.'
'Oh, John!' ejaculated John's mother.
'I would not consent to be made a slave even for the sake of the country. But the wages had to be raised,--having raised them I expect to get proper value for my money. If anything has to be given away, let it be given away,--so that the people should know what it is that they receive.'
'That's just what we don't want to do here,' said Lady Wharton, who did not often join in any of these arguments.
'You're wrong, my lady,' said her stepson. 'You're only breeding idleness when you teach people to think that they are earning wages without working for their money. Whatever you do with them, let them know and feel the truth. It'll be the best in the long run.'
'I'm sometimes happy when I think that I shan't live to see the long run,' said the baronet. This was the manner in which they tried to be merry that evening after dinner at Wharton Hall. The two girls sat listening to their seniors in contented silence,-- listening or perhaps thinking of their own peculiar troubles, while Arthur Fletcher held some book in his hand which he strove to read with all his might.
There was not one there in the room who did not know that it was
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