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- Denzil Quarrier - 30/53 -
Glazzard laughed mockingly, and Serena joined, but not in the same tone.
"I like him," she pursued, with a certain odd persistence. "If I could do it decently, I would canvass for him. He is a manly man and means what he says. I like his wife, too--she is very sweet."
He glanced at her and pursed his lips.
"I am sure," added Serena, "you like me to praise such good friends of yours?"
They were in the room where the grand piano stood, for Mrs. Mumbray had gone to pass the day with friends at a distance. Serena said of a sudden:
"Will you please play me something--some serious piece--one of the best you know?"
"You mean it?"
"I do. I want to hear you play a really noble piece. You won't refuse."
He eyed her in a puzzled way, but smiled, and sat down to the instrument. His choice was from Beethoven. As he played, Serena stood in an attitude of profound attention. When the music ceased, she went up to him and held out her hand.
"Thank you, Eustace. I don't think many people can play like that."
"No; not very many," he replied quietly, and thereupon kissed her fingers.
He went to the window and looked out into the chill, damp garden.
"Serena, have you any idea what Sicily is like at this time of year?"
"A faint imagination. Very lovely, no doubt."
"I want to go there."
"Do you?" she answered, carelessly, and added in lower tones, "So do I."
"There's no reason why you shouldn't. Marry me next week, and we will go straight to Messina."
"I will marry you in a fortnight from to-day," said Serena, in quivering voice.
Glazzard walked back to Highmead with a countenance which alternated curiously between smiling and lowering. The smile was not agreeable, and the dark look showed his face at its worst. He was completely absorbed in thought, and when some one stopped full in front of him with jocose accost, he gave a start of alarm.
"I should be afraid of lamp-posts," said Quarrier, "if I had that somnambulistic habit. Why haven't you looked in lately? Men of infinite leisure must wait upon the busy."
"My leisure, thank the destinies!" replied Glazzard, "will very soon be spent out of hearing of election tumult."
"When? Going abroad again?"
"Ha!--that means, I conjecture," said Denzil, searching his friend's face, "that a certain affair will come to nothing after all?"
"And what if you are right?" returned the other, slowly, averting his eyes.
"I sha'n't grieve. No, to tell you the truth, I shall not! So at last I may speak my real opinion. It wouldn't have done, Glazzard; it was a mistake, old fellow. I have never been able to understand it. You--a man of your standing--no, no, it was completely a mistake, believe me!"
Glazzard looked into the speaker's face, smiled again, and remarked calmly:
"That's unfortunate. I didn't say my engagement was at an end; and, in fact, I shall be married in a fortnight. We go to Sicily for the honeymoon."
A flush of embarrassment rose to Denzil's face. For a moment he could not command himself; then indignation possessed him.
"That's too bad!" he exclaimed. "You took advantage of me. You laid a trap. I'm damned if I feel able to apologize!"
Glazzard turned away, and it seemed as if he would walk on. But he faced about again abruptly, laughed, held out his hand.
"No, it is I who should apologize. I did lay a trap, and it was too bad. But I wished to know your real opinion."
No one more pliable than Denzil. At once he took the hand that was offered and pressed it heartily.
"I'm a blundering fellow. Do come and spend an hour with me to-night. From eleven to twelve. I dine out with fools, and shall rejoice to see you afterwards."
"Thanks, I can't. I go up to town by the 7.15."
They were in a suburban road, and at the moment some ladies approached. Quarrier, who was acquainted with them, raised his hat and spoke a few hasty words, after which he walked on by Glazzard's side.
"My opinion," he said, "is worth very little. I had no right whatever to express it, having such slight evidence to go upon. It was double impertinence. If _you_ can't be trusted to choose a wife, who could? I see that--now that I have made a fool of myself."
"Don't say any more about it," replied the other, in a good-natured voice. "We have lived in the palace of truth for a few minutes, that's all."
"So you go to Sicily. There you will be in your element. Live in the South, Glazzard; I'm convinced you will be a happier man than in this mill-smoke atmosphere. You have the artist's temperament; indulge it to the utmost. After all, a man ought to live out what is in him. Your wedding will be here, of course?"
"Yes, but absolutely private."
"You won't reject me when I offer good wishes? There is no man living who likes you better than I do, or is more anxious for your happiness. Shake hands again, old fellow. I must hurry off."
So they parted, and in a couple of hours Glazzard was steaming towards London.
He lay back in the corner of a carriage, his arms hanging loose, his eyes on vacancy. Of course he had guessed Quarrier's opinion of the marriage he was making; he could imagine his speaking to Lilian about it with half-contemptuous amusement. The daughter of a man like Mumbray--an unformed, scarcely pretty girl, who had inherited a sort of fortune from some soap-boiling family--what a culmination to a career of fastidious dilettantism! "He has probably run through all his money," Quarrier would add. "Poor old fellow! he deserves better things."
He had come to hate Quarrier. Yet with no vulgar hatred; not with the vengeful rancour which would find delight in annihilating its object. His feeling was consistent with a measure of justice to Denzil's qualities, and even with a good deal of admiration; as it originated in mortified vanity, so it might have been replaced by the original kindness, if only some stroke of fortune or of power had set Glazzard in his original position of superiority. Quarrier as an ingenuous young fellow looking up to the older comrade, reverencing his dicta, holding him an authority on most subjects, was acceptable, lovable; as a self-assertive man, given to patronage (though perhaps unconsciously), and succeeding in life as his friend stood still or retrograded, he aroused dangerous emotions. Glazzard could no longer endure his presence, hated the sound of his voice, cursed his genial impudence; yet he did not wish for his final unhappiness--only for a temporary pulling-down, a wholesome castigation of over-blown pride.
The sound of the rushing wheels affected his thought, kept it on the one subject, shaped it to a monotony of verbal suggestion. Not a novel suggestion, by any means; something that his fancy had often played with; very much, perhaps, as that ingenious criminal spoken of by Serena amused himself with the picture of a wrecked train long before he resolved to enjoy the sight in reality.
"Live in the South," Quarrier had urged. "Precisely; in ether words: Keep out of my way. You're a good, simple-hearted fellow, to be sure, but it was a pity I had to trust you with that secret. Leave England for a long time."
And why not? Certainly it was good counsel--if it had come from any one but Denzil Quarrier. Probably he should act upon it after all.
His rooms were in readiness for him, and whilst the attendant prepared a light supper, he examined some letters which had arrived that evening. Two of the envelopes contained pressing invitations-- with reference to accounts rendered and re-rendered; he glanced over
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