Dinah Maria Mulock Craik.

King Arthur. Not a love story online

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rifice which all mothers must make ; if the smoke of it
ascends to heaven, God accepts it, and that is enough.

" You are not vexed not angry with me, mother
darling ? " said Arthur anxiously.

" How could I be ? You are a couple of little geese
that is all. And you will probably have to wait for
years and years."

"Never mind," laughed Arthur, now quite happy
actually radiant in his happiness so handsome, so grace-
ful, that more than ever it was an actual amazement to
her how he, her King Arthur, the cynosure of all eyes
the sort of preux chevalier whom most girls fall in love
with he, who might have chosen anybody, should have
gone and chosen Nanny poor little Nanny !

" You will speak to her ? " pleaded he. " She is gone
to bed, but she is not asleep, I am sure. You will not
wait till morning you'll go now, mother ? "

" Certainly." And Mrs. Trevena rose, steadying her-
self by the back of her chair and feeling blindly
for the door handle. Then she turned. " I think, dear,



NOT A LOVE STORY. 215

we'll not tell papa of this just jet not till after Sun-
day."

When they did tell him Mr. Trevena was, as his wife
had foreboded, a little vexed. He took the masculine
and worldly view of the subject, and did not like being
disturbed out of the even tenor of his way by any such
youthful nonsense.

" Foolish children ! they have not a halfpenny be-
tween them," said he. " And the idea that at their
age they should know their own minds it's ridiculous ! "

"We did," said Susannah softly. And she may
surely be forgiven if, looking at the Austin Trevena of
to-day, she remembered the Austin Trevena of forty
years ago, and thought perhaps it might have been bet-
ter for both had he too been "young and foolish" if
they had trusted themselves and Providence ; married as
early as prudence would allow, spent the flower of their
days together, not apart ; fought through their cares and
enjoyed their blessings; and lived to "see their chil-
dren's children and peace upon Israel." Such might be
the lot of Arthur and Nanny and, remembering her
own lot, she was glad of it.

"Husband," she said, and put her arm on his shoulder
with the love that had never failed him all his life never
would fail him till death " we did not make this mar-
riage it made itself, or God made it who knows '(
Don't you think we had better leave things alone, and
let the young people settle their own affairs ?

A sentiment which coincided so much with the rector's
dreamy, lazy ways that possibly he was glad in his heart
to leave things alone. He told his niece " she could do



216 KING ARTHUR.

as she liked," and Arthur too ; went back to his books
and forgot all about it. In his gentle undemonstrative
way Austin was the tenderest of husbands the kindest
of men ; but with him, as was not unnatural, the days
of romance were all over and done.

"Were they with Susannah ? are they ever with any
real woman who recognizes that love is the heart of life ;
and, for either man or woman, its utmost salvation, its
most perfect joy ?

Arthur had only a few days at home before he started
for Andermatt with his friend, who was also a lawyer,
and capable of transacting the necessary legal business.
The boy arranged all with the cleverness, shrewdness,
and firmness of a man. Between whiles he went about,
also like a man, with the girl he had chosen ; beamingly
happy, and not a bit shy or ashamed. His mother
watched him with a full heart she also " had been in
Arcadia."

But it was a sore heart too. She had always liked
]Nanny, and been very kind to her; but kindness and
liking are not necessarily love. People of wide sym-
pathies and active benevolence are often misconceived,
and supposed to love everybody. They do not. They
feel kindly to everybody, but they only love one or two
people in the whole course of their lives. It is like a
man putting all his money in one bank ; if the bank
breaks and it does break sometimes God help him !
He may carry on business very successfully outside, but
at heart he is bankrupt all his days.

One of these rare loves strong as rare in Mrs. Tre-
vena's life, had been the maternal passion for her



NOT A LOVE STORY. 217

adopted son. His going to school and college had made
him less a part of her daily existence than if he had been
a girl ; but his falling in love was a greater blow to her
than any daughter's would have been. In spite of the
cruel jocularities against mothers-in-law, many a woman
inclines tenderly to the man her daughter marries ; often
loving him like her own son. For " her daughter's her
daughter all her life " and she gains a son besides. But
when her son marries she loses him in degree, and some-
times does not gain a daughter.

Watching Nanny, and wondering more and more how
Arthur ever came to choose her yet .plain little women
have ruled paramount, and for life, in the hearts of
clever and handsome men Susannah sometimes felt as if
she could never love the girl : and then again as if she
must love her, because Arthur did. It was a desperate
struggle a small "tragedy in a tea-pot" but none the
less a tragedy ; and all the more pathetic that it went on
in the silent heart of an old woman, in whom age, which
deadens most things, had never yet deadened the power
of loving and of suffering.

But it could not last it ought not to last. Best to
bury it and let all the sweet charities of life grow up
round it, like grass and flowers round a stone.

The houshold at the rectory soon found out the truth
of things : so did the village, and came with its innocent
congratulations to Mr. Arthur and Miss Nanny. Mr.
Hardy came too sad, but resigned saying with comical
pathos, " It's not lost that a friend gets." By and
by all the neighborhood brought good wishes too,
except Tawton Abbas, where Sir Charles still lay in that
10



218 KING ARTHUR.

lingering death in life which might last for months or
years.

Susannah herself expected little result from Arthur's
journey to Andermatt ; but she thought it right he should
go ; and his godfather, who expected to be in England
shortly, wrote, insisting on the same. Nanny said noth-
ing all she cared for was Arthur himself. Her absorb-
ing and exclusive devotion to him, which had evidently
existed hopeless for years, touched his mother's heart
more than anything else ; and made a little easier that
salutary but rather melancholy performance of " playing
second fiddle," which all parents must learn, soon or
late. It is the law of nature and therefore the law of
God.

Mr. Trevena was the only person in the household
who dwelt much on the worldly phase of the matter ;
thought it possible that Arthur might one day be Sir
Arthur Damerel, and suggested that the last of the Tre-
venas would prove a not unsuitable Lady Damerel.

" And then, my dear, you and I must make up our
minds to spend our old age together. The common lot !
When the young birds are flown we must snuggle down
in the empty nest. I dare say we shall bear it."

" Oh yes we shall bear it," smiled Susannah, as she
kissed' him tenderly the one man she had loved all
her life through. She knew all his weaknesses all his
faults, as he knew hers ; still he was himself, and she
was herself nothing could divide them but death.
There is a sentence if to quote it be not profane and
yet how can it be so, to those who try in all things to
imitate the Divine Master? "Having loved his own,



NOT A LOVE STORY. 219

he loved them unto the end." And in all true loves we
do love we cannot choose but love unto the end.

Arthur wrote from Andermatt that he had " found all
he hoped for, and done all he wanted to do." Nothing
more. Explanations could wait. He and his companion
meant to " have their fling," for a week or two ; it might
be many years before he could afford more foreign trav-
eling, and then he would come home. Home to the
brightest and best bit of a young man's life, or a girl's
either when their lot is all settled, their love openly
acknowledged; and they start, a betrothed pair, with
everybody's good wishes, to begin the journey of life
together.

" My dear," said Mrs. Trevena to Nanny, as they sat
at their sewing, though the younger did it chiefly now,
for Susannah's eyes were fast failing her " My dear,
what day is Arther coming home ? " It was a new thing,
a rather sore thing, for the mother to have to ask any-
body else " when Arthur was coming home ? " but the
reward, to a generous heart, was Nanny's bright up-look,
and happy blush.

"I think, aunt, he will be here the day after to-mor-
row. But I told him he was not to come till he had
done all he wanted to do, and seen everything he wanted
to see."

This proud maidenly possession of a man, not to
queen it over him in selfish vanity, but to use her influ-
ence nobly, for his good and hers it was a pretty thing
to see ; and it comforted the mother's heart. She knew
well that a man's whole future often depends upon the
sort of girl he falls in love with in his first youth.



220 KING ARTHUR.

"I agree with you, my dear; still, if you write again,
tell him I think he should come home at once. His
godfather is in England, and will be here to-day. You
remember Dr. Franklin ? "

" Oh yes." There was nothing connected with Arthur
which Nanny did not remember. Hers was the most
entire, absorbing devotion, reasonable, not blind devotion,
that any girl could give; and day by day it was rec-
onciling Arthur's mother to things as they were even
though they were wholly contrary to what she had ex-
pected or desired. She could not withstand the pathetic
appeal of Nanny's dark eyes like that of Helena to the
Countess, in AWs well that ends well.

"Let not your hate encounter with my love
For loving where you do. "

Also, another thing reconciled her a thing hard to
learn, but when learnt, bringing with it a solemn peace.
Dearly as she loved her own, she felt she could take care
of them no more. As she watched Nanny flitting about
like a little brown bird, carrying out her orders, suggest-
ing things she had forgotten, and doing everything she
was unable to do, the wife and mother learnt to say to
herself, So be it ! "

When Dr. Franklin arrived she made Nanny explain to
him the position of Arthur's business affairs ; which the
girl did so clearly and well that the old man he was quite
an old man now patted her on the shoulder approvingly.

My godson has fallen on his feet, whether he ever is
Sir Arthur or not. When you write, tell him I say so."

But fortunately there was no need of writing. Next



NOT A LOVE STORY. 221

day Arthur came home, and Dr. Franklin's evidence,
conclusive as to identity, and including Lady Damerel' s
own admission that the child was hers and her husband's,
was formally taken.

" Depend upon it, if she finds out I'm here, she'll
shake in her shoes," said the Kentuckian, laughing his
silent laugh. And truly, when the same evening, the
Tawton Abbas carriage passed him, as he stood leaning
on the rectory gate, the face that looked out from it
turned deadly pale. But Lady Damerel made no sign
of recognition. On both sides there seemed an armed
truce, to last as long as fate would permit which could
not be very long after all.

NOT was it. Two days after, when the young people,
shy, but proud, and unspeakably happy, had slipped
away for their daily walk together, leaving Dr. Franklin
and Mrs. Trevena sitting in the garden, and the rector
in his study there came a message from Tawton Abbas.
The church bell suddenly began to toll, as it had tolled
for centuries on the death of any Damerel once every
minute for every year of age. They counted seventy-
three strokes. It was Sir Charles Damerel then who
had gone to his rest.

All met on the doorsteps of the rectory, listening.
Arthur removed his hat, and stood bareheaded, with a
grave, composed air, till the bell ceased then, taking
Nanny's hand, led the way indoors. They all followed,
for they knew the crisis was come.

A long consultation followed. " Le roi est mort
vive le roi ! " There could be no doubt that the heir-
presumptive would immediately claim his rights, and



222 KING ARTHUR.

that the heir-apparent must claim his, or else for ever
hold his peace.

There were two ways of procedure: one was that,
supposing the remote cousin appeared at the funeral,
having already taken possession, to bring an action of
ejectment against him in behalf of the direct heir : the
second, involving greater difficulties, was, that Arthur
should take possession of Tawton Abbas, and leave his
opponent to bring the action of ejectment. But this
could not be done without the consent and assistance of
Lady Damerel, which would be equivalent to a public
acknowledgment of her son.

It was decided to adopt the former course. " If I
have to fight fight I will," said Arthur, with a quiet
resolution that surprised everybody. " But I will not
do it untenderly. She shall not be troubled in any way
till after the funeral."

This was fixed for an earlier day than the village ex-
pected. Usually the Damerels had the special honor of
remaining above ground for a week or more, before being
left to sleep with their fathers under Tawton church.
That poor Sir Charles should be buried on the third day,
looked far too unceremonious almost as if his widow
were glad to get rid of him. And when it was noised
abroad that the heir was " somewhere on the continent,"
taking one of his numerous sons to school in Germany,
and that consequently Lady Damerel would be the only
chief mourner, everybody was still more astonished.

Except Dr. Franklin. " That woman's a shrewd one,"
he said. " She knows on which side her bread's but-
tered. I shouldn't wonder "



NOT A LOVE STORY. 223

And there he stopped. Nobody talked very much at
the rectory, except on commonplace, extraneous subjects,
during those three anxious days.

The funeral day was a cheerless one, such as comes
sometimes in September ; a settled downpour, when it
appears as if the weather has broken, and the summer is
gone. Nevertheless half the neighborhood assembled in
the chilly church so damp and cold that Nanny en-
treated her aunt not to attempt to go ; and carriage after
carriage rolled past the rectory gate on its way to pay
respect to the last of the Damerels. It was to be a very
fine funeral, everybody agreed ; Lady Damerel having
spared no expense to make her sorrow for her husband as
public as possible.

The long procession had been already seen wending
along the park, and the rector was putting on his canon-
icals, when Arthur came into the study, dressed in com-
plete mourning.

"My boy?" said Mrs. Trevena questioniugly. She
only questioned now she never controlled : he had a
right to judge and act for himself; and she knew he
would do both rightly.

He stooped and kissed her tenderly. "You do not
object ? I am going to my father's funeral." It was
the first time he had ever used the word : he said it now
with a lingering pathos, as we speak of something wholly
lost the loss of which teaches us what it might have
been. " I ought to go, I think. He was a good man.
There is one thing I shall find it hard to forgive; that I
was prevented she prevented me from ever knowing
my father."



224 KING ARTHUR.

" But that gained you a mother, young fellow ! " said
Dr. Franklin sharply. " You've won much more than
you lost."

"I know it," said Arthur earnestly. "And if all
fails, I shall come home here, and then go to Oxford and
earn my honest bread, with Nanny beside me." It was
Nanny's hand he took Nanny's eyes he looked into
when he spoke. Then, as with a sudden thought, he
added " But I shall be my mother's son all my days."

Again he kissed her, and his mother kissed him back
again ; nor hindered him, nor grieved him, by a single
look or word.

They all went to the church together, for Mrs. Tre-
vena refused to be left behind. Arthur did not enter the
rectory pew with the rest, but stood at the entrance,
waiting till the body was borne in to those solemn sen-
tences which all of us know sadly well, beginning
" Man that is born of a woman."

After it walked Lady Damerel, in her widow's weeds ;
erect and steady, but alone in that utmost heart-loneli-
ness which a woman, if she has a heart at all, can feel,
when husband and children have gone to the grave be-
fore her, and she only is left, to a desolate old age. As
she passed him, she looked up and saw Arthur. He did
not look at her his eyes were fixed on the coffin : but
at some slight gesture she made he stepped forward
as he might have intended to do in any case and took
his place beside her.

The service continued. The body was lowered into
the vault the solemn spadeful of "earth to earth"
rattled down heard distinctly through the dark, chilly



NOT A LOVE STOET. 225

church ; there was the final pause the last gaze into
that gloomy cave of death and Lady Damerel turned
to go.

" She's fainting," Arthur heard somebody whisper.
Whether she took the help, or he offered it, he never
knew; but her hand was upon his arm, and leaning
heavily, almost staggering sometimes, she passed through
the respectful if not very sympathetic crowd, to the
church door. There, almost in her path, stood the gaunt
figure of the Kentucky doctor ; who knew had known
everything.

Perhaps the woman felt that all was over, and de-
termined to do with a good grace what she would soon
be compelled to do ; which after all might be the best
and most prudent thing for her to do. Or may be
let us give her the benefit of the doubt even thus late,
nature was tugging at her heart. When Arthur had put
her into the carriage, and was lifting his hat with a
formal farewell bow, she leant forward and seized his
hand.

" Come home with me ! You must it is necessary.
I will confess ; you shall claim your rights everything
will be yours."

The boy hesitated a moment he was a man and yet a
boy ; he turned very pale, and looked round was it for
his real mother ? who was not the woman that bore him.
But Dr. Franklin behind said imperatively " Go ! "
and he went.

What the two said to one another when shut up in
the carriage together, or what revelations were made

that afternoon, when Dr. Franklin, having been sent for
10*



220 KING ARTHUR.

by the family lawyer, who of course had come for the
funeral, went up to Tawton Abbas, was never clearly
explained, but before nightfall the news had run like
wildfire through the village that Arthur Trevena, the
rector's adopted son, had been suddenly discovered to be
Sir Arthur Damerel, Sir Charles's lawful heir. Of
course a large amount of fiction was mingled with fact.
The presumptive heir the second cousin once removed
arrived post-haste next day just too late for the hasty
funeral (she was a clever woman, Lady Damerel!)
and it was said he intended to fight it out by law. How-
ever, either he became convinced that litigation was
hopeless ; or had no money to waste among lawyers ; he
swallowed his disappointment and stayed on placidly at
Tawton Abbas. He even, some weeks after, assisted
cheerfully at the ringing of bells, the roasting of oxen,
and other festivities which indicated the delight of the
neighborhood that " poor Sir Charles " was not the last
of the Damerels.

The strange story was a nine days' wonder ; and then
it all died out. It was nobody's business except the
Damerels' ; and they were satisfied. The widow who
had been seen by nobody except the lawyers went
away " for change of air," and Sir Arthur Damerel
reigned in his father's stead the father who had never
known of his existence. It was a strange chapter in
human life so strange that at first hardly anybody be-
lieved it ; until, one by one, everybody got used to it,
and accepted things as they were, without over-much
questioning.

As, of course, all this change was likewise accepted at



NOT A LOVE STORY. 227

the rectory. Mrs. Trevena looked a trifle paler she
had become excessively pale and thin within the past
year ; " worn to a shadow," people said ; but she an-
swered, with a peaceful smile, all the questions and con-
gratulations. Only she never spoke of Sir Arthur except
as " my son."

There was another thing which she had to settle ; and
be also congratulated upon, and that was " my son's
marriage."

" You couldn't expect me to live in that big house all
alone, mother," pleaded Arthur with amusing simplic-
ity. " And since I cannot possibly get you, why not let
me have Nanny to take care of me ? "

It did indeed seem the wisest plan. Though they were
both so young only nineteen and twenty-one still
they were not " foolish ; " for both had already battled
with the world sufficiently to gain premature wisdom.
And perhaps after all, though this generation does not
think so, early marriages, when not rash or improvident,
are best. Our grandfathers and grandmothers, who did
not wait to be rich, but began life simply, as their
parents did before them, and spent together their fresh,
unstained, hopeful youth, their busy maturity, their
peaceful old age, were probably happier than we of to-
day ; who fritter away in idle flirting, or more harmful
things, our blossoming time ; marrying late in life with
all the heart gone out of us ; or never marrying at all,
and then arguing sagely that to " fall in love " is a folly,
and to marry is little less than a crime.

Mrs. Trevena did not think so would not have
thought so, even had her son been still " poor" Arthur
P



228 KING ARTHUR.

Trevena. When, now he was Sir Arthur Damerel, ho
began to speak of his marriage, all she suggested was
that he should wait a year, out of respect to the dead ;
and to gain a little experience in managing his large
property, for the good of the living.

" A year is a long time," said he disconsolately.

" Is it ? " answered his mother, with a strange, far-
away look, which startled him a moment, till he saw it
melt into her usual smile. " Then let it be six months,
my dear. Leave me Nanny, and stay you beside me
for just six months more. Then do as you will."

For the young people, neither of whom had seen the
world, were determined, as soon as ever they were mar-
ried, to go abroad and enjoy themselves; visiting Swit-
zerland, Italy perhaps even going on to Constantinople !
They were so happy so full of plans so resolved to do
no end of good on their estate ; but they wanted just
this little bit of pleasure a harmless frolic together
before they settled down.

And so the winter passed, very happily ; Arthur be-
ing at the rectory almost as much as when he used to live
there ; but never failing to go back of nights to his large
dull house. He also spent conscientiously every fore-
noon in his study with his steward, repairing much evil
that had come about in his father's days, and planning
no end of good to be done in his own. A happy time !
full of hope for everybody. Nobody noticed much that
Mrs. Trevena was the only one who smiled more than
she spoke, and made no personal plans for the future
at all.

She had had, ever since Sir Charles's funeral in the



NOT A LOVE STORY. 229

chilly church, her usual winter cold ; rather worse than
usual ; for she ceased to fight against it ; left everything to
Nanny and gradually kept entirely to the house, then to
her own room a new thing, which her husband could
not understand at all. He went wandering about the
rectory like a spirit in pain ; or walked out into the vil-
lage and wandered there, paying necessary or unnecessary
pastoral visits, and telling everybody " that Mrs. Trevena
had a bad cold, but would certainly be about again in
a day or two." And sometimes, strong in this expecta-
tion, when he returned he would come to the foot
of the stairs and call " Susannah ! " just as usual ; ex-
pecting her to come, as she always used to come, nobody
knew from where till he bethought himself to go in
search of her to her room. There he always found her,
and sat down content by her side.

But, beyond that room, always so cheerful and bright
with sunshine if there was any sun, with firelight if
there was none, the house and he had to endure her ab-
sence, to learn to do without her. Under Nanny's charge
all went on as usual " the old original clock-work way,"
Arthur called it, and hoped his wife would keep his big
house as well as his mother had kept this little one. But
day after day there was the empty chair at the head of
the table, the empty sofa by the drawing-room fire, the
work-box that nobody opened, the book that nobody
read.

Did any of them understand ? Did Susannah herself


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Online LibraryDinah Maria Mulock CraikKing Arthur. Not a love story → online text (page 14 of 15)