The other is staying with him

It was not very often the Rector found time to visit his sister. They
saw each other constantly at the Rectory, at church, in the village
street, in all sorts of places, almost every day; but his visits were
few, especially such a visit as the present. He paused at the further
end of the garden and called over the hedge to Mab, to know if her
mother was alone. ‘I have got some business to talk over,’ Mr. Plowden
said. ‘Take the trouble, will you, Mab, to see that no one comes in to
disturb us.’

Mab thought it curious that, thus for two days within a week, her mother
should have private business with Uncle James; but she said nothing
except a ready assent to what he asked of her. ‘I’ll come towards the
gate,’ she said; ‘I’ve got some things to put in on that border, and if
any one comes that I can’t send away, you will hear me talking with
them, Uncle James.’ She walked through the garden with him, so to speak,
she on one side of the hedge, he on the other. ‘Fancy who turned up
yesterday,’ she said; ‘a cousin whom, of course, I never saw before–a
Lord William like my father; but fortunately they called him Lord Will.’

‘Lord William!’ cried the Rector, ‘a Pakenham–a son of the Marquis! Did
he come to see you, or–for–for anything special?’

‘I don’t know what he wanted,’ said Mab. ‘To see us, I suppose. The
funny thing is, he is like me. From this you may imagine he is not a
beautiful young man, Uncle James.’

‘I don’t know why I should imagine that; I like your looks very well, my
dear.’

‘Thank you, Uncle James,’ said Mab, with a laugh. ‘He is staying at the
Hall, and I think he said that he would come back this morning, so, of
course, if he comes I cannot send him away.’

‘I understand,’ said the Rector, with a countenance somewhat troubled.
And he went into the little drawing-room, where Lady William rose up to
meet him looking a little anxious. ‘You, James!’ she said. ‘I did not
expect, especially at this hour, to see you.’

‘I can’t see why you should not have expected me, Emily; our last
interview was serious enough,’ he said, shutting the door carefully
behind him: and then he went across the room to the window, which was
open. Being so nearly on a level with the garden it would, of course,
have been easy enough for any one to hear from outside whatever
conversation was going on within.

‘You frighten me with these precautions, James.’

‘There is nothing to be frightened about. You may imagine I have been
thinking a great deal of what you told me the other day.’

‘Yes: and I heard Mab tell you the new incident.’

‘The appearance of the cousin? What is the signification of that, I
wonder? But let us take the other, which is more important, first. Did
you know my father kept a diary, Emily?’

‘I have seen him making little notes in various little books: but it is
so long ago.’

‘And you were not here, of course, when we came into the Rectory. I
found a quantity of these little books in the study, little calendars
and almanacs, and so forth. I didn’t pay much attention to them–that
is, I looked into one or two and they didn’t seem interesting. Queer,
when people might really make such a record important, and they put in
the merest trifles instead.’

‘“Chronicle small beer,”’ she said, with a faint smile; but she was pale
with an interest much deeper than any record of public events could have
commanded.

‘Eh?’ said the Rector, who was not literary; ‘but I thought it might be
just possible–so I have been making a hunt through them, and I came
upon something that might–that must help us.’

‘Thank God!’ she said, clasping her hands instinctively together.

‘We must not be too sanguine: and yet, of course, a dead man’s diary is
evidence itself in a way.’

‘Tell me,’ she cried, with excitement, ‘tell me what papa said.’

‘Nearly twenty years ago,’ said the Rector, with a little emotion. ‘It’s
like hearing the old man talk–with abrupt sentences, don’t you
know–just as he spoke.’

‘What does he say? What does he say, James?’

‘This is the one, I think; no, it’s the next–no. I hope I haven’t
brought the wrong ones after all.’

Lady William sat very quietly with her hands on her knee, only her
fingers, which clasped and unclasped each other, showing a little the
excitement of the suspense in which she was, as he drew forth one little
book after another from the ample pockets of his coat. At last the right
one was found, and then a minute or two elapsed before the Rector with
his spectacles could find the entry of which he was in search. Lady
William made no attempt to snatch it from his hand. She sat quite still
with a self-enforced patience which was belied by the glitter in her
eyes.

‘Here it is at last–October 23rd. Would that be the date?’

She bowed her head quickly, and her brother began to divine that she
could not speak. He gave her a keen look, and then returned to the book.

‘“October 23rd.–Very agitating and extraordinary night. Em. came home
after midnight accompanied by woman M., and Lord W. Extraordinary
explanations. Marriage immediately or not at all. Leaving England. Gave
consent.” Is that right?’

Lady William moved impatiently in her chair. ‘If you find it in the
book, it must be right.’

‘Ah, well, that is true, no doubt. Then comes another–“25th.–Emily
married. Old Gepps. Gave her away. They left train, Paris.”’

‘Is that all?’

‘It is all. I suppose old Gepps is the man who performed the ceremony.
Did you ever hear my father speak of any one of that name? Do you
remember the man?’

‘I recollect an old man with a white beard. I think I have a vague
recollection even of the name.’

‘It is most extraordinary,’ cried the Rector, getting up from his chair,
‘that on an occasion of such importance you should not have remembered
both place and name!’

‘Ah! it was just because it was an occasion of such importance, and
everything so dreadful and so strange.’

‘Emily, I have hesitated to ask you: why in heaven’s name were you
married like that? What was the cause?’

She pointed towards the book with a hand that trembled. ‘Papa has put it
down there.’

‘He has put down the fact, but no explanation. The explanation
apparently was given to him, but not recorded. But you–why should you
not tell me? A sudden marriage like that, in such headlong haste–why
was it? What did it mean?’

Lady William was silent for some time, clasping her fingers and
unclasping them, gazing into the vacant air. At last she said: ‘James,
you will think me too great a fool if I say that I did not know, at the
time.’

‘Emily,’ he said, with a tone so sharp and keen that it went through her
like a knife, ‘it is a long time since, and I have a right to know. Was
it–was it through any fault of yours?’

She turned her eyes to him with a look of the utmost amazement. ‘Fault
of mine!’ she said. ‘What could that have had to do with it–any fault
of mine?’

She was a mature woman, and was supposed to know the world; but Mab
herself could not have given him a more limpid look, could not have
received his questions with more surprise. The Rector, quite confused,
stepped back a pace, and said, ‘I beg your pardon,’ with a humility
which was entirely out of his habits. He had grown quite pale, and
glanced at her with a sort of fright, terrified lest perhaps it might
dawn upon her what he meant.

‘I was bewildered,’ she said. ‘I was taken altogether by surprise. It
was the romance that dazzled me–what seemed the romance–and all that
they told me: that he had to leave England, must go, would be in danger
of I know not what, yet would not go without me. And poor papa thought
of–oh the folly, the pettiness of it!–the title, perhaps, and what he
thought the connection. My poor father thought a great deal of
connection.’ She smiled a little sadly, looking back with a sort of
tenderness upon the weakness and folly of a time so long past. Then she
drew herself up unconsciously, holding her head high. ‘I discovered the
real meaning, but not till after. It was very bitter and terrible; but
after all it is Mab’s father of whom we are speaking. James, let us
return to the question of most importance. What is gained by this I
don’t see. I don’t understand things of that kind.’

It was very conciliating and satisfactory to Mr. Plowden that she did
not understand. ‘It gives a clue,’ he said. ‘We must look up Gepps. He
must have been a friend of my father’s, and he must, of course, be in
the “Clergy List.” I have been looking up what old ones I have, but I
cannot find him. I have not got that year, but it can be got, it can be
got. He was an old man, you say, and he must have died, I suppose, but
he cannot have taken his church and his registers with him. We must
ascertain what was his church.’

‘It was a little old-fashioned place, very dingy, with heavy pews; a
small place with an old-fashioned pulpit and canopy. I remember the
look of it–and the clergyman, an old man, with a white beard.’

‘In the City, most likely?’

Lady William shook her head. ‘I knew nothing of the City–nor anywhere
except the parks and the streets round about that in which the Swinfords
had a house. We went seldom, very seldom, to town in those days; I
never, except with them.’

‘It must have been in the City,’ said Mr. Plowden. ‘What you describe
settles the question. Well, then, I think now, Emily, there need be very
little difficulty. Gepps must be in the “Clergy List.” If he is living,
so much the better; he may have retired somewhere. But at all events the
register must exist. I will go up to town to-morrow, and find the list
for ‘sixty-five, and after that it will be plain sailing. All the same,
how my father and you, but especially my father, could be such a fool!’

Lady William made no reply. To have her mind so thrown back upon that
wonderful tragic moment of her life: to think of herself, the bewildered
romantic girl, with all the wonderful tales poured into her ear by the
flatterer by her side–that flatterer who was not the silent, disturbed
bridegroom who himself said so little to explain the hot haste, the
desperation of the strange wedding–was of itself painful enough and
exciting. She had herself broached the subject to her brother when the
question opened up by Mrs. Swinford had burst upon her, but she had not
then entered into it so fully as now, and her mind was shaken by all
those recollections. She seemed to see the shabby old church already,
even so long ago, an anachronism among churches, with its heavy pulpit
and pews and small round-headed windows, and the old clergyman with his
white beard, and the complete absence of all those prettinesses with
which a girl’s imagination surrounds her bridal–prettinesses, however,
made up for by the thrilling romance which, when the moment came, had
begun to yield a little to the natural pain of the position. She
remembered with what a start of alarm she had found herself consigned to
the husband of whom she knew so little, who was so little like the
romantic hero of such a marriage, and who–as she only began to see when
the step was irrevocable–showed so little of any sentiment for her
which could justify the impetuous impatience of the proceedings. She
remembered the awful sensation in her mind when she looked back from the
window of the railway carriage upon her father’s smiling, complacent old
face, enchanted by the consciousness that his daughter was now Lady
William, sister-in-law to the Marquis of Portcullis, and on the mocking
smile and exaggerated courtesies of Artémise: and felt everything she
loved sliding from her, and nothing left to her but the saturnine
countenance opposite–the almost strange man, who if he loved her hotly
had, as yet at least, shown no signs of it to herself. She did not hear
her brother’s voice speaking to her in the heat and hurry of her
thoughts. Oh, what recollections were these! So much more real than
anything that occurred to her now, so much more potent in their terror
and excitement than anything that could happen. She had known nothing in
all her experience, read nothing, so tragical and terrible as the
feelings of that poor little bride of nineteen, as she woke up from her
romantic dream, and saw her father’s foolish old face so fresh and
ruddy, so innocent and unconscious, just before it finally dropped out
of sight to be seen no more. Perhaps it was her brother’s question,
though she was scarcely aware that she heard it, how could my father be
such a fool? that gave the impression of foolishness, of strange,
cheerful imbecility to her last view of that rosy old face.

‘I repeat, Emily,’ said the Rector, with a little heat, ‘how could my
father be such a fool? A girl of your age, of course, could not be
expected to think of such things–but my father!–And I suppose he knew
that the man you married was not–a model of every virtue.’

‘He was Mab’s father, James, and he was at least quite honourable, so
far as I was concerned; he took no advantage–in respect to me.’

‘He could scarcely have been such a brute as that,’ the Rector said.
‘Well, I’ll go, Emily. To-morrow I’ll go to town and see if I can bring
back all the papers square. Hush, what is that? Who is Mab talking to?
We’ve done our talk, however, and it’s no matter being interrupted now.’

‘Good morning, Lord William,’ Mab’s voice was heard saying, perhaps a
little louder than was necessary, to give her uncle the warning she had
promised.

Lady William started violently at the sound of the name. She put her
hand upon her breast where her heart had begun to beat loudly. ‘All
those old recollections have upset my nerves,’ she said, with a little
piteous smile. ‘Forgive me, James; it is the young man that Mab told you
of, the cousin with the same name.’

‘Poor Emily!’ he said, taking her hand in both of his. ‘You have, I
fear, no pleasant memories connected with it: but why, then, in the name
of heaven, or the other place perhaps—-’

‘The other place,’ she said, bursting into a faint hysterical laugh.
‘But wait a moment, the boy is coming in.’

‘I thought you were going away this morning,’ said Mab, evidently
leading the way into the house. ‘You need not think of shaking hands,
for I am always muddy when I am working in the garden. Yes, I do a great
deal of work in the garden–indeed, I’m the gardener. Patty’s father
gives me a hand for the heavier things, but do you imagine I would trust
any one else with my flowers? Ah, it’s a little too early, but if you
came here in June, then you should see! It’s not very big, to be sure.
Mr. Leo has a great deal more space at the Hall, and I don’t know how
many men, but—-’ Mab said, ending abruptly with a little grimace
(which, of course, could not be seen indoors) which said more than
words.

‘I daresay it’s great fun working in the garden,’ said Lord Will, with a
very serious face.

‘A garden is no fun at all when you don’t work in it,’ said Mab, ‘and,
so far as I’ve seen, most other things are just the same. They become
fun if you take an interest in them, and not in any other way.’

‘But then Miss Mab was always a philosopher,’ said Leo’s voice, with the
faint sound in it that was not English.

‘Oh, Swinford’s there, too,’ said the Rector to his sister inside.
‘Don’t you think, Emily, you have him a little too often here?’

‘The other is staying with him,’ Lady William said, which was no doubt a
subterfuge: but then it was very evident that she had no time to say any
more.

It was Leo who led the way, but the Rector was quite uninterested in
Leo. His eyes followed to the other young man behind, who came in with
something like diffidence, though that is not a common aspect for a
young man of fashion to bear. He came in, indeed, with the air of a most
unwilling visitor. He would have greatly preferred to go away without
repeating his visit in the changed circumstances in which he found
himself, but Leo had insisted that the visit should be paid. He shook
hands with Lady William, and was presented to her brother, with the air
of a man who wished himself a hundred miles away.

‘I’ve just come, don’t you know, to take my leave,’ said Lord Will. ‘I’m
summoned to town. I thought that you would understand; but Swinford here
said I ought to come–that is to say, I was glad to take the opportunity
of saying good-bye.’

‘Yes,’ said Lady William, looking from one to another; ‘I should have
understood, I think. It is a pity, Leo, that you gave your friend the
trouble.’

‘Oh! delighted, of course,’ said Lord Will.

‘I have been telling my brother,’ said Lady William, ‘about your visit:
and to see one of Mab’s relations is a pleasure–so unlooked-for.’

‘I will not say unlooked-for. I have always looked forward,’ said the
Rector, ‘to making the acquaintance of the family. How do you do? And,
of course, at once I perceive the likeness you spoke of, Emily. You are
here on a very brief visit, it appears, Lord—-.’ It seemed to Mr.
Plowden that to say Will would be too familiar, and to say William would
affect his sister’s nerves; therefore he stopped short there, and said
no name at all. ‘You have scarcely had time to make your cousin’s
acquaintance,’ he said.

Lord Will had been quite unprepared for a man and a brother taking the
part of the poor lady about whom he had been holding so many
discussions. He was a little taken aback. ‘As a point of fact, a fellow
has so little time,’ he said, hesitating a little. ‘I came down to see
Swinford–dine and sleep, don’t you know–that sort of thing. Swinford’s
such a capital fellow to know in Paris–takes you everywhere–shows you
all the swells, and that sort of thing.’

Mr. Plowden had not, perhaps, very much acquaintance with the highest
order of society, at least in its young and fashionable branches. To
hear Lord Will Pakenham talk of swells took away his breath. He smiled,
however, paternally upon the young man who was Mab’s cousin and Lord
Portcullis’s son. He was unwilling to believe that a young man of such a
family could make any pretext or tell any fibs about the plain duty of
paying his respects to his near relations. ‘I hope,’ he said, ‘that we
shall have other opportunities of seeing a little more of you. My
sister, Lady William, has been for a long time established here, and all
the neighbourhood would receive with pleasure any–any relation–any
connection–I mean any member of such a family as yours.’

Lord Will stared a little, as is the manner of his kind, but made no
reply. What reply could the poor young man make? It was so bewildering
to be offered an enthusiastic welcome from the society of a village
because of being related to the little gardening girl in the muddy
gloves outside, that all his self-possession, which was sufficient for
ordinary uses, was taken away. He gave a glance at Lady William, and
espied a gleam in her eye which gave him a little comfort. There was
agitation in her face, yet she saw the absurdity as well as he did.
Decidedly, under other circumstances, this widow, real or fictitious, of
his disreputable uncle would have been a woman not to be despised.

‘But I hear,’ said the Rector, ‘that you are the bearer of bad news.
Another relation, my sister tells me, has joined the majority. I had
once the pleasure, many years ago, of meeting Lord John–before there
was any connection between the families. And he is gone! Well, we must
all follow–we have here no abiding city. It is almost fortunate for Mab
that, not having known her uncle, the shock of his loss will affect her
less than it would otherwise have done.’

‘My dear James,’ said Lady William, ‘Lord Will will excuse you from all
condolence, I am sure. There can be no shock to Mab, who has scarcely
heard her uncle’s name: and to the other members of the family the shock
is also softened by, I believe, the joys of inheritance. For he has not
carried his money with him, which is always a good thing.’

‘I did not think to hear, Emily, any such cynical speech from you.’

‘But it is true,’ said Leo Swinford, ‘and my friend has come for the
reason of communicating this intelligence, _n’est-ce pas_, Will?–which
Lady William did not understand, I am sure, yesterday. Lord John has
died without any will: his fortune, which is all personal, is therefore
divided–is not that so?–between the nearest relations: therefore, Miss
Mab, on account of her father, will become—-’

‘Bless me!’ said the Rector. He had seated himself in order to do
justice to the new acquaintance who was at the same time a connection,
but now he sprang to his feet. ‘Bless me!’ he said, ‘an heiress! I must
congratulate Mab. Emily, my dear—-’

‘An heiress is a big word,’ said Lord Will, who had sucked his cane with
anything but a countenance of delight while Leo was speaking. ‘There’s
money,’ said the young man, ‘but it would be a pity to make the mistake
of thinking it’s a big fortune. I told you,’ he said, turning to Lady
William, ‘last night. I said there was no will.’

Lady William had grown very pale. ‘I did not understand,’ she said
faintly. ‘I was not aware–and that my Mab would come in—-’ The news
had rather a painful than exhilarating effect upon her. She gave her
brother an anxious look, then turned to the young man whose explanations
were so disjointed. ‘It was kind, very kind,’ she said, with a troublous
smile, ‘to come and hunt us up–strangers to you–to tell us this.’

‘Oh! as for that—-’ said Lord Will.

‘You have no idea, dear lady,’ said Leo, ‘how disinterested, how
high-minded are the golden youth in England. They will go any distance
to make such an announcement, never thinking that what is given to
another diminishes their own share.’

‘Shut up, Swinford,’ growled Lord Will over his cane.

‘I hope,’ said the Rector, smiling, ‘that Mr. Swinford does not think
this is any information to us, Emily? I hope I know what the instinct of
an English gentleman is. To a lady in my sister’s position, living out
of the world, who might never have heard even of the death, let alone
the inheritance, that feeling is the best protection–as I hope we both
know.’

‘Oh, sh—-,’ murmured Lord Will. He could not say ‘shut up’ to the
Rector, but a more crestfallen and abashed young man did not exist. He
sat with the head of his cane to his lips, but evidently deriving no
consolation from it, when Mab, who had taken off her gardening apron and
washed her hands, came in. Mab had her curiosities like other girls. She
wanted to know what they were all talking of, and what was being done in
the room where there were so many interesting people met together. She
was by no means sure that it was not her own fate that was being
decided. After all that had been said about her father’s family, the
sudden appearance of her cousin was too curiously well-timed to be a
mere accident, and she could not help fearing that while she was busy
over her carnations they might be settling the course of her future
life. Mab had no idea that this should be done without her own
concurrence, or the utterance of her opinion, and accordingly, after
turning it over in her mind for a few minutes, she left her flowers and
hurried upstairs to make herself presentable. Such a conjunction as that
of her uncle, so rare a visitor, her new unknown cousin, and Leo
Swinford, her mother’s counsellor, could not, she thought, have happened
for nothing. But when Mab went into the room the first thing she saw was
Lord Will–in whom she took a natural interest as resembling herself,
and as being a relation, and a new-comer–seated in the middle of the
group with a depressed and sullen countenance, his eyes cast down, and
his lips resting upon the head of his cane.

‘Mother,’ said Mab, ‘what have you been doing to Lord Will?’

No one had thought of Mab’s appearance at this particular crisis of
fate, and the mere sight of her as she opened the door sent a little
thrill through the party, who were all aware of troublous circumstances
involving Mab, of which she herself was entirely unconscious, and of
prospects utterly strange to her, which were opening before her feet.
They all turned to look at her as she stood there with the fresh morning
air about her, not beautiful, certainly, but honest and fresh as the
morning, and so free from all embarrassment, so unaware either of
troubles or hopes which could affect her beyond the wholesome round of
every day, that even the Rector, the most ignorant of the party, felt
something like a conspirator. Mab came forward quite unconscious of
breaking into the middle of a strained situation. ‘What,’ she repeated,
‘have you been doing to Lord Will? Has he done anything wrong that you
are all round about him, sitting on him like this? I’m glad I’ve come to
see fair play.’

‘My dear,’ said the Rector, who was the only one who could speak, ‘you
are quite mistaken. Your cousin is receiving on the contrary all our
thanks for bringing some news which will be of the greatest importance
to you, I hope, and will make your future more suitable, my child, to
your rank.’

‘Oh, I thought that was how it must be!’ cried Mab, in a tone of
disgust. ‘Rank! I have no rank; and if it is this idea of recommending
me to Lady Portcullis, and getting her to take me to Court and all that,
which has brought Lord Will here—- Mother, let me speak; I am not a
little child. I want to judge for myself. I don’t wish it, you must all
know. I care not the least in the world for going to Court. I am quite
happy as I am–a country girl. Lord Will is very kind if he came about
that. I shall always remember it of him, that he is the only one of my
father’s family that has been kind; though why you should sit upon him
for it–for you were all sitting upon him–I’m sure I don’t know.’

‘I think I’d better go,’ said Lord Will, rising from his chair. ‘It’s
true they have been sitting upon me, though what for I can’t tell–any
more than I can tell why this’–he paused a little with the impulse to
say little girl, but thought better of it–‘this young lady should be
grateful to me; for I have done neither good nor harm that I know of.
But now I think I’d better go.’

‘Have I said anything wrong? Is it I that have broken up the talk?’
cried Mab in consternation, coming to her mother’s side.

‘Well,’ said the Rector cheerfully, ‘perhaps we can scarcely go on with
a business matter just now; but if Lord William Pakenham will do me the
pleasure to come to the Rectory, which is close by—-’

‘I’m not a business man,’ said Lord Will. ‘Swinford, you brought me into
it, can’t you get me out of it?–and be hanged to you,’ he said in an
undertone.

‘I am afraid you have broken up the consultation, Mab: but perhaps it is
as well.’ Lady William held out her hand to the young man, who stood
dangling his cane, and eager to get away. ‘I think we must have
something to thank you for,’ she said, with a smile. ‘Of course, a piece
of business is not settled by a friendly visit. I shall hear, no doubt,
from the lawyers about what you have told me, or my brother will
communicate with them for me. Thank you for the information, and for
bringing it yourself. Good-bye.’

He had been standing ready to tell her, as he took his leave, with a
tone that might convey some of the suspicions that were in his mind,
that the lawyers would communicate with her further. But in taking the
words out of his mouth, Lady William took all the courage out of his
mind. He stared at her for a moment with those heavy blue eyes, which
she did not now think were so like Mab’s, and touched the hand she held
out with a cold momentary touch, as if he were afraid it might sting
him. Mab stood by looking on with an astonishment which slowly grew into
consternation, and which burst forth as her cousin made her a stiff and
slight bow.

‘What is the matter?’ she said, following him out. ‘Are you not my
cousin after all? Why, you were very nice last night, and I was
delighted to know somebody that belonged to me on my father’s side. And
they all said we were so like each other. What has gone wrong? Are you
not my cousin after all?’

She went out after him as she spoke into the garden, where a little
while before she had greeted him so heartily, filled with astonishment
and dismay, yet with a sense of absurdity also. And the young man, who
had made so abrupt an exit, was in fact rather sore in heart, feeling
that he had not done himself any credit, and that he had been snubbed
and ‘sat upon,’ as Mab said. Her frank surprise and regret gave him a
little consolation. He turned round when they both came out into the
garden from the narrow doorway. ‘I am just the same,’ he said, still
somewhat sullenly, but melting, ‘as I was last night.’

‘But then,’ cried Mab, ‘why did you call me “this young lady”? and why
did you look at mother so, and let her hand drop as if it had been a
frog, and do like this to me?’ Mab was not a mimic, like her cousin
Florence, but the imitation she made of his stiff and angry bow was so
ludicrous that he could not but laugh–stiffly. And Mab, who did not
know what it was to be stiff, laughed out with all her heart, with a
half childish cordial crow, which sounded into the fresh air with the
most genuine tone of innocent mirth. ‘You had better shake hands with me
after that, Cousin Will,’ she said.

‘You are making peace, Miss Mab,’ said Leo Swinford, who had followed
them out.

‘No, I am not making peace, for we never made war,’ said Mab, who had
given her cousin a warm grasp of the hand. And she stood at the gate
looking after them with some regret. For Lord Will was young, and they
were of the same blood, and he was a great novelty, something far more
new than even Leo Swinford. She was unfeignedly sorry that he was going
away. And she could not understand why, nor how it was that the young
man who was so cordial yesterday should be so cold again now.

Lady William stood as she had done when young Pakenham dropped her hand
until Leo Swinford, following his friend, had closed the door of the
little drawing-room. I think she heard through the open window all that
Mab said–at all events, the laugh so full of merriment and spontaneity
bursting out into the pleasant air. Then she suddenly sank into the
chair, and covering her face with her hands fell into a sudden burst of
silent weeping. There was no sound, but her shoulder heaved with the
effort to control and subdue the sudden emotion. Mr. Plowden had been
standing, too, perplexed and disappointed by the stranger’s sudden
withdrawal, but a little consoled by the laugh which seemed to prove
that there was at all events a good understanding between Mab and her
cousin. He did not perceive for a moment the effect upon his sister, and
it was only after the young man had gone out of the garden gate, that,
turning to speak to her, he perceived the attitude of abandonment, the
restrained but almost irrestrainable passion by which she had been
seized. He was not so much afraid of seeing women cry as men less
experienced are. But Emily had never been of the weeping kind, and the
Rector was startled and touched by the sight of the paroxysm with which
she was struggling, to keep it down.

‘Emily,’ he cried, ‘Emily, my dear, what is it? You’re not breaking
down?’

‘James,’ she cried, but very low, suddenly lifting to him a face full of
anguish and exceedingly pale, ‘if we should not be able to prove it; if
we can’t get the evidence! Oh James, my Mab, my child!’

‘Why shouldn’t we be able to prove it?’ he said, with half-angry calm.
‘Where is the difficulty of proving it? and what has that to do with it?
Why, Emily, I never knew your good sense fail you before.’

‘My good sense!’ she said, with a miserable smile.

‘To be sure! Why, what is there to cry about? Such an unexpected
windfall to Mab–a fortune, no doubt, though he did not tell us how
much. You cut the young man short, Emily. I can’t see why. He seemed a
very civil young man.’

Lady William raised herself up and dried her wet eyes.

‘You are quite right,’ she said, ‘it is my common sense that is failing
me, James.’

‘Failed you for a moment,’ he said, indulgently patting her on the
shoulder. For to be a man with a wife and daughters of his own he was
very fond of his sister; and he was also agreeably excited by the sight
of the second Lord William, actually one of the Portcullis family,
Mab’s own cousin, about whom the ladies of the Rectory, when they heard,
would be so deeply excited. Mr. Plowden was anxious to convey that
wonderful intelligence to them as quickly as was possible. ‘Well, my
dear Emily,’ he said, ‘I must go. I have no doubt you’ve been a good
deal excited this morning, and I should advise you to lie down and rest
a little. And to-morrow–well, no, perhaps not to-morrow, for now I
remember, I have some churchings and various other things to attend to,
but the very first free day I have—-’

She put her hands together beseechingly. ‘Oh, go at once–don’t keep me
in this suspense.’

‘My dear girl! you are frightening yourself in the most absurd way.
After to-morrow, the very earliest minute that I can get away.’

Lady William did not lie down and rest when her brother left her, but
she went upstairs and took refuge in her own room, very thankful that
Mab had returned to her gardening. That Mab was an heiress and that ‘the
family’ were seeking her acquaintance was the news Mr. Plowden longed to
tell. But Mab’s mother was filled with another thought. If it could be
that the search should fail! She believed more in failure than success
with her experience. If it should fail, if there should fall upon Mab
any cloud, any shadow of possible shame! She wrung her hands till they
hurt her, but her heart was wrung more sorely still. It was a view she
had not thought of before. Shame for herself would be bad enough. But
for Mab! And even the possibility that Mab should turn astonished eyes
upon her, should ask even with those eyes alone a question–should have
such a thought suggested even for a moment, to her mind! Lady William
had borne many miseries in her not yet very long life, but in that there
would be the crown of all.

1,4-Butane sultone [1633-83-6]