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evasive answer, or none at all. One day he dropped in in rather serious mood. You are picking up famously, my dear fellow,' he said. 'Must get Easton to fix a day for Steeple Audley at once.'
I said nothing against it, according to custom. After luncheon he drew his chair to the fire, at right angles with the sofa from which I was forbidden to rise, although not bound to an entirely recumbent position. He was silent and thoughtful awhile.
'That little sister of mine, Gurnel,' he said, at length, 'has been staying at Haileybury House, you know.'
'Yes,' my heart giving a great leap.
These three weeks. Well, she came home yesterday. Haileybury -you know Haileybury-has asked her to be his wife, and, Gurnel, she refused him. It troubles me much,' he said, after a pause. I am not made for a Methuselah. I should like to see her married to some good fellow and he is a good fellow. Not many girls would have done it,' with a half-smile, after another pause. Forty thousand a year and a marquisate in prospective-and such a fellow as he is.'
He sat thinking it over a little bitterly, and I lay with my head in a . whirl. When I spoke I had first to clear my throat nervously.
'Frank, you have often invited me to Steeple Audley. You may not have noticed, but although I have never refused in so many words, I have never said I would come.'
'No,' said he, shaking off his abstraction. But, old fellow, you will now. Fix a day right off.' And he came and stood by me.
'You never asked me, Frank,' keeping my eyes from his, 'the particulars of that accident.'
'No, and my sister never told me. I did not like to ask her, and I did not like to ask you.' And then he looked at me with a sudden apprehension. I made no reply. I knew my simple silence would suffice.
'I suppose you would have me understand there was more in it than we suspected?'
'Frank,' said I, very tardy with my words, 'you and I have come to be such friends. As the friend you are, I ask you, when you reach home, to ask Miss Duke for what happened. She will tell you, I think. Then, Frank-when you have heard all, and she has had your counselif Miss Duke will be my hostess, and herself invite me to Steeple Audley, I will come.'
His face grew very grave; he went back to his chair by the fire. I lay condemned, as it seemed, of his silence, and every disadvantage of which I had ever been conscious hasted to have its fling at me. After a few minutes he returned to my side.
'Gurnel,' he said, 'I'm very anxious about this; so anxious I should like to go back to my first arrangement of getting home to-day. I suppose I must ask you nothing? Whatever follows, Gurnel, you must not think ill of us. I'll write tomorrow, or perhaps come back here.'
And, making his few preparations, and saying the least he could in making them, he left me to pass about the most wretched night of my life.
'Whatever follows, you must not think ill of us,' was all I could hear.
'What the deuce is this?" said Easton, when he called the next morning, and straightway ordered a cooling draught and no end of things.
But about twelve my quickened ear caught the sound of a foot taking two stairs at a time, and I fainted, for I was foolish in those days before I got back my strength.
Come out of this as soon as you conveniently can, my good fellow,' said a cheery voice at my side, as I became conscious of things mundane, 'when I'm engaged to deliver you safely by the 11.30 train tomorrow.' And he handed me the daintiest note.
Frank, during the next ten minutes, took a general survey from the window of the Cumberley street traffic.
'DEAR MR. DUKE-I have been looking some time for you to come to us at Steeple Audley. We think
it would do you so much good-the country air. Remember me to Dr. Easton, and tell him from me he must give you leave.
'Yours very sincerely,
Could I not guess how she looked as she wrote this word and that-this naïve and suggestive word and that? Ah! what deep draughts of it I took!
'When are we to go?' I asked; but it was not for an age.
"To-morrow, if you are enough,' replied Frank, satisfied now with the amount of acquaintance he had obtained with the Cumberley streets. 'You don't look like packing up yet quite. It will have to be "Glass with care," I see.'
The morrow did not find me much improved; but Easton had been initiated, I think, for he said, since I was bent upon going-he had never heard it from me-the sooner the better. Certainly the process of conveying me by rail was a species of packing. However, I arrived at Steeple Audley-which is all that concerns us-safely. When I had been duly deposited in one of two rooms on the ground-floor that had been arranged for me, Frank left me with the advice, easier justified than observed, to get some rest-I was not to consider myself received as yet, and he spoke with a halfsmile. Weak, and not a little fatigued-in consequence nervous and irritable-in the absence of real occupation I set myself to the fashioning of as effective a bugbear as could be. Tricking it out in apparel of which I had at any time a largish stock, daubing it in the frightful colours of my sick fancies, and then -falling down and worshipping. There is more bogey-worship among the men and women of this highpressure nineteenth century than is supposed. I mean some day to write an exhaustive article upon the subject. Well, by dint of diligent application I had made myself as uncomfortable as my worst wisher could have desired; was calling myself a fool, ungenerous, imbecile, for coming to this house at all, and was expressing y mood in the bolt
upright position of unrest I had assumed, when the door opened, and beside his step I heard the soft sweep of her dress.
'I have brought your hostess, Gurnel, to see you; come, old fellow, but you're not going to disgrace me with Easton, you know.' He was a little disturbed for her as well as for me, I fancy. 'Well now, you'll have to entertain each other until dinner, for I have an engagement.' And he left us at once.
She stood a little back, until I turned painfully. Then she came nearer and gave me her hand. She was so gentle and timid I did not think any more of my foolish imaginations. Her face was very hot on one side, and very pale on the other; she was trembling all over, and gave me such quick, frightened, pleading glances. I suppose I was altered. She had not seen me, you know, since the accident. I used to set myself squarely against things; I have been more than once called a rock of offence by-somebody; and when a big fellow like me is broken down, his bigness seems to hang in rags about him.
It surely must all go from me if I spoke, so I only looked, and looked, and held fast by her hand.
'I'm glad you are come,' she said, when the silence threatened to be embarrassing.
'Sit down, won't you?' I said. 'Your head is so high a poor fellow cannot see into your face.'
She blushed very much as sho pulled the chair towards me that I held out my hand for, and seating herself, began talking very fast. So the doctors don't think with Dr. Easton exactly?' The sight, or the thought of the sight rather, of my swathed feet seemed to come upon her as almost positive physical suffering, but still she went on. 'But he says he will cure you. He has told Frank so.'
'Yes, I have great faith in the one doctor.'
'And I have greater faith in the country air,' she replied, nervously. I am of that temperament I can
course about The subject most at heart.'
I must hear the best or ask the worst when once I have made up my mind that it is expedient to know. I cannot talk with you of indifferent things as I can with other people.' I spoke passionately, almost chiding her. It is like setting food before a starving man and bidding him be content with eyesight. I want you, Maud. Am I such a fellow that you can have nothing to say to me? All these days and nights I have lain and wondered whether you could mean it all then. I cannot endure now to speak with a long toil of words. Will you be my wife, Maud? For God's sake, don't cheat me this time.' She had drawn shrinkingly back when I had interrupted her so vehemently.
'I should make you a very bad wife,' she said, quite piteously. I don't know at all-I am sure I don't know whether you shouldn't want me to answer.'
I tried to see what her face was like, but crippled as I was I could not take the law into my own hands. So when she had spoken in that piteous tone, my dull, doubting mood returned on me, and I saw nothing but the spectre of my own creation.
I dropped her hand as though it burnt. Oh, my God,' I exclaimed, 'I am a miserable man! No woman shall marry me for pity's sake who cannot marry me for love's sake. Why,'-writhing under the pain of an instinctive attempt to rise, 'I cannot so much as escape with my misery.' If I had been strong and capable, she might have refused me seven times, yea, seventy times seven, and I would have persisted. But now-a cripple, and of her doing!-there would always be that frightful pity scaring off love. The worst part of those worst three months of my life was that moment.
I want to describe what followed -how am I? There followed some minutes of bitter quiet, then restless little movements at my side, ending in this remarkable speech: 'Of all the stupid, stupid fellows!' pushing back her chair impetuously, and a sort of scornful desperation in her voice. I think she was very much
inclined to laugh though-or cry. Not being one to leave a task half done, she did not let it remain there. 'I'll-I'll-declare he will not understand.' You would have thought for all the world she was addressing some other person present-that I was not even there.
I gathered myself up as I had not for months; I drew her to me so that I could look straight down into her face and nothing else for her.
'Don't trifle with me,' I said, stoutly, almost sternly. What does it mean? I cannot bear what I once could.'
She was between laughing and crying, and blushing and resisting, and then, I scarcely knowing how, she had her arms round my neck, and was saying vehemently, scoffingly, 'I don't pity you in the least, sir, not in the least. And I won't,-I won't-never; not if you can't walk again as long as you live.' Yet the tears came into her eyes. 'Pity you? What do you want to be pitied for, sir, when you can have a girl like me?'
I cannot reproduce the fine scorn
I wish I could. I laughed aloud -it was so rich, so illogically convincing, such an exquisite joke that I should want pity. I scarcely know what I said or did, only that I held her close, close to me. God bless her tender little heart for the way she took of showing me my mistake! I don't believe any other woman could have done it as well, could have so completely assured me, while so completely preserving her womanly reticence. Let me hear it again,' I said. 'I want to
get the sound into my ears, Maud, so that it should never leave them.' But the need gone, her lips closed shyly over her love.
You are not to excite yourself,' she said, adroitly freeing herself. 'Don't you know Frank gave me ten minutes' lecture before I came in, and now look at you? Seating herself with saucy propriety in the chair, and trying to smooth her bright hair, which had got into pretty disorder.
I watched her admiringly. I can understand,' I said, why the poets made the syrens combing their
golden hair on the strand. Women have such a deft coaxing way of doing it.'
'How clever you are growing,' she answered, demurely. 'I shouldn't wonder that I made something of you now before I have done.'
'But, I have a dreadful secret to tell you, Maud, that not even your brother knows yet.' She would not believe in its dreadfulness, though she had to come nearer again before I found it possible to break it to her. 'Little Maud, it is not a poor charity schoolmaster this time who wants you for his wife; we have done with him now. It is a man who can make cabinet councils take him for their subject, and Lords and Commons discuss him and his doings. Yes, and they have offered him twelve thousand pounds down for his invention and such a post beside as that it will be his own fault if he be not a made man.'
How her whole face sparkled. 'You proud man, you!' caressing my lucky left-hand coat sleeve, and thinking only of my good fortune and advancement. But when she, with a very wise little face, had considered it some time, she gave me an arch, shy, side glance. 'I didn't think you were such a great man. I am quite afraid of you.' And I had my revenge.
'You proud woman, you!' said I, for I saw this time she was pluming herself not a little, and I did not know which I liked most. I found as we went on talking that Lord Uxford had stood-as when has he not?-my very good friend that Christmas.
Why, it is time to dress for dinner,' said she, very suddenly discovering the necessity.
"Three quarters of an hour,' I arged. To be immediately snubbed for my presumption.
'Well ?”—And I collapsed, as you would have done too. I'll bring you a cup of tea myself,' she added, with reassuring patronage. And if you are a good boy we may come to you in the evening.' Which continued the programme for many evenings, until I could travel on crutches as far as the dining
It turned out to be the approach of her brother, and not the approach of dinner, that sent her away. Almost immediately he came into the room, the Times' in his hand, Where is Maud?'
'Just gone;' and I tried to practise her demureness.
'I say, old chap, what's this in the "Times?" Here-the Secretary of the Admiralty's speech. What does it all mean?'
I looked slowly down the page. 'Yes, I suppose, as usual, there were some to object; but they have their money's worth, though it is I who say it. It means-why, it means that you were willing to take for a brother-in-law, and Maud was willing to take for a husband, a poor unknown man, who chances meanwhile to have become something else.'
And you knew it?'
Three days ago I did.'
'I am not an ambitious fellow, Gurnel, but I have my ambitions. I confided my sister to you, a poor man, as I thought, and I felt it would be well with her. But I am glad of this-I am very glad of this.'
'Of course you are, old fellow. And, tell you what, I'm the happiest and luckiest dog alive.' His reply is not worth recording, for, to tell the truth, although I am sorry to have to confess it of one to be so nearly related to me, from this time we never could get Frank to speak rationally when one particular subject was approached. There was in the evening when Maud, going about the room with suspicious want of purpose, took up the "Times' in a fit of equally suspicious abstraction, and sat down to it at the table-it was worth seeing Frank come quietly behind my little woman buried in the portentous paper, and with the most comical face read over her shoulder.
"What, Maud?' She started, and was in great confusion. 'Reading the parliamentary reports? thought it was only the births, deaths, and marriages ladies ever cared for. Aha! Miss Maud.' He was told to 'Get away, you impertinent boy.' But the paper was very