Helen Mathers.

Cherry ripe! A romance (Volume 3) online

. (page 1 of 14)
Online LibraryHelen MathersCherry ripe! A romance (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

B .- B..^yfK.^. ', viL t - ' CJTy-fm r r .Tjrzr^










" COMIN' thro' the rye," " THE TOKEN OF THE

' Could ye come back to me, Douglas, Dougla
In the old likeness that I knew,
I could be so loving, so tender and true,
Douglas, Douglas, tender and true."

VOL. in.

^kirb €i)itxxrn.



[A II Rights Reserved. ]


Si3> —

^^jiSZcL BOOK 11,-Contmued.
\/. i


" One torment spared
Would give a pang to jealous misery
Worse than the torment's self."

F I had only known what it was

going to be," said Flora, wiping

^_ ^^ her eyes with indignant energy,

I never, never would have married, much

less have had a family !"

-There, there," said Cohn, putting his
arm round her, -don't cry, Florry; you
won't be here for long, you know," and he
essayed to stem the torrents of tears that

VOL. III. -^^



drenched, but could not dim, his wife's-
bloominof cheeks.

Beauty in distress, provided she manages
that same distress becomingly, always moves
the heart of man, and shall we lower brave,
honest Cohn in the reader's eyes if we admit
that Flora's comeliness of person influenced
him to a desfree of which he himself was
scarcely aware, and that caused him to dis-
play towards her a leniency that had she
been a plain woman he never would have
done ?

From the highest rank to the lowest,
beauty has privileges accorded to it for w^hich
ugliness siofhs in vain : and it is notorious
that among the lower orders, it is rarely
found that a man ill-uses his mate if she
is handsome.

^^ I ought not to have to stay here at all,"
said Flora crossly ; " indeed I consider it per-
fectly ridiculous that I am not going to
Glen-luce with you to-day. Taffy and Colin
could easily have come, and Mignon w^ould
have taken care of Floss — the child cares
to have nobody else with her, so that so far


as I can see, my remaining here is not of the
smallest use to anybody !"

" Then it ought to be/' said Colin gravely
as he took his arm away from his wife's
shoulders. '' It is time we started," he added,
turning to Adam, who just then made his
appearance ; "• but where is Mignon T

" It is early yet," said Adam indifferently,
'' and I would not have her disturbed."

'' How considerate of you !" said Flora
ironically ; ^' nevertheless, is not that Mignon
herself yonder T

They were standing close to the gate out-
side which the carriage waited, and at that
moment there came quickly through the ad-
joining one, a httle figure in white, that at
sight of Flora and Colin shrank back as
though dismayed. Recovering herself, how-
ever, Mignon came slow^ly forward, a little
out of breath with running, her colour
changing from red to white, from white to
red again, her eyes downcast, full of a proud
and wistful trouble too deep for tears. She
had thought to find Adam alone, she did not
know even whether his great dislike for her



would permit him to say one word of fare-
well, and perhaps he would shame her before
his people ; but be that as it might, her gentle
heart forbade the thought that he should
depart without a God-speed from her ....
he had been her friend once, her benefactor
always, and however cruel he might be now,
she could never forget that.

'' You are only just in time," said Flora,
taking out her watch and looking at it. '' You
have ten minutes " (to Colin) " in which to
catch your train. Good-bye 1"

And she held up her cheek to be kissed.
But Colin was not attending to her ; he was
looking at Mignon.

'' Perhaps you'll change your mind," he
said kindly, '' and come over with Flora and
the children, though indeed it is a very great
pity that you are not coming with us to-
day "

*^ It is rather too late to recommence that
old argument," said Flora serenely ; ^^ mean-
while don't blame me if you arrive at one end
of the platform just in time to see your train
whiskinof out at the other 1"


" Well, good-bye, Mignon," said Colin,
giving her hand an affectionate squeeze, and.
then — and then — it was Adam's turn to wish
her farewell, and for one miserable moment
it seemed to her that he meant to go away,
in disgust with her, without one word.

But no — all at once she found her slender
hand in his, and was it by chance or of a
purpose, that in that hand there lay a tiny
knot of flowers no bigger than a shilling, of
which the meanings were all kind and gentle,
for she had learned their language, and under-
stood it ? His own hand closed so amply
over both that neither of the onlookers could
have told of the poor little peace-offering
hazarded and accepted ; then, the hand-clasp
over, Adam stood alone. " Good-bye, Mig-
non," he said.

Her lips moved as though in response, but
uttered no sound ; she was indeed on the
verge of wild words and weeping, but this he
could not know as at last he turned away, and
with a word or two to Flora, seated himself
beside Colin in the carriage.

"■ Good-bye !" said Flora, as the horses


started, '' and don't forget my love to Phillis!"
she added to Adam as he leant forward, look-
ing to the last for that glance from Mignon,
without which, he said to himself, he should
take but a heavy heart to Scotland that day.

'' I won't forget," he said, mechanically, his
eyes still fixed on Mignon. To his dying da}^
he never forgot the pattern of the gown she
wore that morning, or the fashion of her hair ;
but the secret that her eyes guarded was a
secret to the last, for not until the carriage
had disappeared did she stir or look up. Then
she turned and walked soberly enough along
the garden path by Flora's side, who was far
too full of her own woes to take heed of those
of anybody else.

How irresistible is the eloquence of a
thoroughly selfish person who discourses upon
his grievances, and what a splendid power
of rhetoric he possesses ! Confused by no
paltry considerations for the comfort of other
people, he sweeps you away on a current of
superb, because unconscious, egotism, and
discourses upon his wrongs with a brilliancy
and vigour that it would be folly indeed to


expect from a mere ordinary clod who is
basely guided by the promptings of duty, and
hampered by the deterrent pulls of courtesy
and conscience.

But Mignon heeded not Flora's flights of

eloquence : ^nq words were ringing in her

ears that had summarily checked the tears

that just noAv had seemed imminent — '^ Dont

forget my love to Pliillis /"

And why, pray, should that message have
been entrusted to Adam, not Colin ?

No doubt he would give it her . . . was
he not now on his road to her, to this girl
upon whose sweetness and tenderness he
might well be glad to repose himself, seeing
how profoundly wretched was his married life
. . . Nay, might it not be that he loved this
Phillis, had loved her always, though his
goodness of heart, and self-sacrificing impulse
of generosity had impelled him to commit the
folly of marrying another ?

'' Adam will see Phillis every day V she
said, breaking in abruptly upon Flora's
peroration, much to the disgust and astonish-
ment of that young matron.


" I suppose so," she said, indifferently ;
"indeed,! should say they will be inseparable,
they were always very good friends ! Are
you growing jealous T She paused to look
sharply at Mignon. ''If so, I am disap-
pointed in you ! I have quite admired your
method of keeping Adam the gardener at a
distance, and even gave you credit for being
an apt disciple of Miss Porter 1"

" And who was Miss Porter ?" said Mig-
non, turning her head aside.

'' Don't you know ? ' Sir,' said Dr. John-
son {a projoos of his marriage wdth that lady),
' it was a love-match on both sides. Sir, she
had a notion that a woman of spirit should
use her lover like her dog.' "

'' But he is not my lover," were the words
that sprang to, yet did not pass, Mignon's lips.
But aloud she said, " And why should one
not treat a dog well ? It is only a bad and
cruel heart that takes advantaofe of a dumb,
defenceless brute .... And I have never
treated Adam, no indeed, in a bad way. How
could I do that when he has been the best
friend to me that a girl ever had V


'^ He is a very excellent person, no doubt,"
said Flora, slirucifraiQ: her shoulders ; '' un-
fortunately, these highly respectable people
are extrcDiely difficult to fall in love with — as
you evidently iind it."

" Nevertheless," said Mignon, softly, " he
attracted— Phillis !"

'"■ She is a little fool," said Flora placidly,
*^ and just as ridiculous in her ideas as he is
— they would have suited each other down to
the ground, I verily believe. Not but what
I dare say you and he will manage after a bit
to ^ worry along,' as Mark Twain says, as well
as the rest of the badly matched married
people in the world !"

They had reached the house by now, and
Flora, to whom the study of the concerns of
any but her own was inexpressibly fatiguing,
resorted briskly to her own woes.

" Now that we are up," she said, ^^ I
should like to know what we are going to do
with ourselves at this unholy hour ? Talk
about the early bird getting the worm ; I
heartily agree with Dundreary, the more fool,
the worm to be up so early !"


A footman entered, bearing the morning's
letters, which he handed to Mrs. Dundas.
Mignon was in the act of leaving the room
when an exclamation from Flora arrested her

'' What do YOU think T cried that young
matron, her face beaming with smiles. " Ehse
(my most intimate friend) says that Mr.
Colquhoun, who is one of the shooting party
at Marly, told her yesterday that I was the
Tery image of Lely's portrait of the beautiful

Lady B at Hampton Court, one of the

most famous beauties of her time ! There is a
nasty simper about most of that man's pic-
tures," she added thoughtfully, '' I hope there
is not one about this — not that it will bear
the least resemblance to me, if it has I I
must go and see it " (with animation). " I
shall not rest until I know whether it is a
compliment or a libel. Supposing w^e go this
very afternoon T

" Why not this morning ?" said Mignon
quickly, upon whom there had fallen a great
longing to be out in the open air and alone
with her own thoughts. Once arrived at the


Court it would be easy enough to give Flora
the slip.

" At this time of day T said Flora, looking
mistrustfully out of the open window, as
though the beautiful fresh morning were
something likely to seriously disagree with
her ; '* why, the place will not be even open !"

'^But Bushey Park will," said Mignon,
almost feverishly, ''and the carriage will be
back from the station in a few minutes, and it
would save a lot of trouble to go now^ "

Vanity carried the day. In five minutes
(for like all handsome people she never took
the length of time over her toilette that a
plain woman invariably does) Flora, all im-
patience to behold Lady B 's portrait, had

announced to the astonished coachman her
intention of proceeding immediately to
Bushey Park.

As they went along the famihar way, it
seemed to Mignon that a great many years
must have elapsed since she rode in a van, and
dodged the French governess beneath the
chestnut trees.

And when at last they came to that im-


perial avenue which the girl had last seen in
its splendid array of rosy white, and pearly
red — a sight that she had deemed one to be
held fast within the memory when even faces
had faded from the recollection, that, too, was
in nowise the same; nor did the morning
seem to her as exquisite as that spring one
when she had met Philip and taken the
hrst step towards accomphshing her destiny.

'' We may as well get out and walk up the
avenue/' said Flora, in a dissatisfied tone —
dissatisfied that she had not received one
o'lance of admiration throuoiiout the drive,
and her vanity was absolutely clamouring for
nourishment. Afar off, beneath the trees, she
had discovered the figure of a man, that even
at this distance bore a presentable air ; she
w^ould see if in passing, she could not make
li'un look at her.

Mignon was looking about her in search of
the precise spot where she and Lu-Lu had so
distinguished themselves. Had she passed
it ? But no ! it w^as a little further on, and
.... and ulio was this Avho came slowly
towards her, his eyes downcast, his bearings


listless and weary, his beauty as faded as was
that of the avenue itself, as worn and sad and
weary a man as ever walked abroad in the
early morning ? Still without looking up, he
approached more nearly, was passing them,
nay, had already passed, when Flora with a
sudden cry of welcome, turned, extended a
ready hand, and —

*' You here, of all people in the world !"
she exclaimed in her high, clear voice. " Who
would have dreamt of finding any one in or
near town at this time of year T

He looked up with a start and an involun-
tary frown, the loud, raised voice seeming to
impress him disagreeably. He recognised her
face, although he could not recall her name or
where he had last seen it. Something of this
doubt communicating itself to his glance.
Flora reddened with ill-concealed vexation.

"Don't you remember Flora Dundas ?"
she said ; "we have met often enough in
Dublin !"

He remembered now, and made his apolo-
gies with due politeness. Flora had been
right in saying that he had never been an


admirer of hers ; her style, manner, and con-
versation had alike been displeasing to his
fastidious taste, and he disliked nothing so
much as a woman who is described by super-
latives, with a ^' but " at the end. He liked
no fruit without taste, no flower without
scent ; harmony in all things pleased him,
and in Mrs. Dundas he found none.

^^ I had no idea that you had a taste for
sylvan pleasures," said Flora. "I should have
looked for you anywhere rather than here !"

'^ As I for you," he said carelessly : '^ but T
happen to have a little place close by to which
I sometimes come, and as I am fond of this
old avenue, I often stroll in here."

" Alone T said Flora, raising her eyebrows,
with a peculiar inflexion in her voice that he
perfectly understood.

'* Quite alone," he answered.

'' Then he has not married that woman,"
said Flora to herself ; ^^ and what is more, he
never will now."

Aloud she said :

" I have been very remiss in not introduc-
ing to you my sister, Mrs. Montrose."


Then Philip, turning with a violent start,
saw standing at a few paces from him —

She was very pale, her hands were clasped
tightly together — so much he gathered in the
space of a moment ; but he had not looked at
her, he felt that he dared not, that more ter-
rible to him than any other sight upon earth
might be to him the answer to the question
asked by his eyes.

The formal introduction over, he did not
stir, he could not ; but all at once he became
conscious that a little hand, cold as his own,
was touching his .... and then with a
mighty effort he took it, and looked up. She
would not have given him her hand thus had
she known all ; her husband had evidently
told her nothing, and in her eyes as yet he was
not the thing accursed that he had schooled
himself to beUeve that he was.

Nevertheless the touch of her hand seemed
to scorch him ; he relinquished it with haste,
and turned to Flora.

"I did not know that you were the sister of
Mr. Montrose," he said, in a strangely dull,,


mechanical fashion. " He was never with
you in DubHn, I think ?"

'' Never !" said Flora. '' You do not know
him T

" I have met him," said Mr. La Mert.

"" We heard that you were abroad," said

" I have been and returned," he said ab-
sently, his mind busy with the riddle that
Mr. Montrose's sister should introduce him
to Mr. Montrose's wife. Could it be pos-
sible that she knew nothing of his love-suit
to Mignon, or of other and more perilous
matters ?

Flora too was asking herself what on earth
had come to this man, once the wildest,
wittiest, most delightful companion a woman
of fashion could ever hope to have by her
side %

^' He was taking his misfortunes to heart
with a vengeance," she said to herself con-
temptuously ; then turned and asked him was
he going in her direction, in such fashion that,
shaving no excuse ready, he went with the two
^oung women on their way.


A child's touch would have drawn him on-
ward, or plucked him back .... with one
half of his soul he longed to look at Mig-
non, to hear her voice ; with the other he
dreaded to take his first conscious regard of
her, not as the little sweetheart that he had
so loved and coveted, but as the sister of the
woman he had cruelly betrayed, and as the
possible avenger of that woman's fate.

For days he had been dwelling near her,
the one burning question upon his lips that it
was imperative he should ask her, yet had
been unable to summon sufficient courage to
ask it, and now that he w^as face to face with
her, it seemed more impossible still.

Nay, when the opportunity came half an
hour later, he thrust it from him, to Mignon's
confusion and despair, and the manner of his
refusal was in this wise.

In the midst of Flora's search after the

charming Lady B , at which Mr. La

Mert had assisted wdth so much pohteness as
to cause that young matron to reverse her
hastily-formed decision on his dulness, he
became aware of a soft little hand upon his

VOL. III. Ji.2


arm, and turning quickly, discovered Mig-
non's lovely troubled face looking into his

'' I want to speak to you," the girl said in
a whisper ; '^ but she must not hear us. Can
we not watch our opportunity and give her
the slip r

The schoolgirl expression fell oddly from
her lips, the request was odder still. One
would have said that he was thoroughly aware
of its strangeness as he withdrew his arm from
her touch, crying sternly, almost fiercely :

'' No, Mignon, no !"

He would not lose this one hour of her
company, of her kind, sweet, unconscious
looks and ways ; it might be the last, the very
last, occasion that she would regard him with-
out hatred and loathing ; the evil store of the
future was all too well assured to him, but this
one precious hour of breathing-space was his,
and he would not let it go !

Mignon's hand fell slowly by her side ; the
eager light faded out of her face, leaving it
pale and chill .... she had so longed for
him, so reckoned on him, and now .... he


troubled himself about her no longer, he had
grown weary of her as had all the rest.

'^ I have found the picture," said Flora,
swooping down upon the pair with an angry
rustle of her sweeping skirts, " and it is
nothing more or less than a gross libel. The
eyes are brown, not grey, the mouth is at
least two sizes larger than mine, and she has
only one dimple, and that is in her chin ! I
shall tell Mr. Colquhoun when I see him that
the next time he goes hunting for chance re-
semblance, she had better take his spectacles
^nd his wits abroad with him !"



" The spirit culls
Unfaded amaranth when wild it strays
Through the old garden-ground of boyish days."

,0U frioiitened him," said Mrs.
Dundas, tying her bonnet-strings
Avith calm decision. " In poHte
society, my dear, young women do not
request men whom they have never in their
Hves met before, to retire with them inta
quiet corners for private conversation ! I saw
a look of positive /n^A^ on the poor man's face
when you asked him to go with you to the
Maze, indeed I may say he almost clung to
me till we got back to the carriage !"

Mignon, who stood at the window, prayer-
book in hand, attired in a fresh Sunday morn-
ing gown and bonnet, made no reply, unless a


blush can be accounted one, so Flora proceeded
at ease with her oration.

" There is no greater mistake than to fasten
on to a man," shaking her head ; '' he always
likes to be a free agent, and the moment he
feels he is bound to do a thino; he shies awav
from doing it. I should not be at all surprised
if he has not called here because he is afraid
of your making a dead set at him ; though if
you had not been in such a hurry to jump
down his throat, he miofht rather have ad-
mired you, for you are possessed of two
recommendations to his favour ; you are fair,
and you are married ; nevertheless he is the
last man in the world to pardon such a lack
of savoir faire and experience as you dis-
j)layed a week ago !"

She glanced complacently at her own reflec-
tion, looking at herself first over one shoulder,
then over the other.

" If I were not a very amiable person," she
continued, as she drew on her gloves, " I
should be extremely angry with you, for what
could be more irritatino- than to be bored to
death here as I am, and to know that a charm-


iiig man is dose by Avho, but for your stupidity,
would be coming to see me every other day ?
Such a splendid opportunity as I have got
too, Colin, father, and Adam all away, either
or all of whom would have guarded their
doors jealously against him !"

" By the way," she added, '' have you been
writing to Adam f '

Mignon shook her head. Apparently her
husband found it as difficult to write to her a&
she found it to write to him ; perhaps he too
had beo^un and never finished more than one
letter ; perhaps he had never thought about
the matter at all.

'^ If you should be seized with a fit of affec-
tion," continued Flora, '^ don't mention Mr.
Philip in your missive, or we shall have
Adam the Gardener's substantial form flying
back on the wings of the wind, and bad as our
existence is, we don't want his company to
make it worse."

'' Perhaps Phillis did not find his company
so very unbearable," thought Mignon to her-
self, as she followed her sister-in-law down-
stairs and out into the quiet road, along Avhich


was passing the string of Sabbath morning
folk, that went to church every Sunday of its
life with an agreeable sense of duty performed,
that became positive pleasure when accom-
panied by peace of mind, fatness of pocket,
and a consciousness of possessing better
clothes and prospects than its neighbour.

*' Nothing could possibly have fallen out
more dehghtfuUy for seeing something of the
poor fellow, if you had not scared him out of
his wits," said Flora, taking up her parable.
'' Did I not say to him, ' We are two forlorn
women dying of ennui., without even the dis-
traction of quarrelling with each other, and
with both our husbands away,' and could a
stronger inducement possibly be offered to
such a man as Mr. Philip \ I shall never get
another such chance as long as I live !"

'' But he saiil he would come," ventured
Mignon, blushing guiltily, '' and it is only a
week ago ; he may make his appearance yet."

'' Not a bit of it I" said Flora, closing her
parasol with emphasis as they reached the
church-door. '' He has probably gone abroad
— he never stays long in one place; we

24 '' CHERRY RIPE /"

are not in the least likely to see him
again !"

'' Not in the least likely to see him again !"

These were the words that Mignon carried
in with her through the church-door, that
rang in her ears as she knelt and tried to pray,
that stared at her from the open book that lay
on her knees as she sat waiting for the clergy-
man to begin the service.

Flora, having arranged smelling-bottle, foot-
stool, and prayer-book to her satisfaction, pro-
ceeded to look out for jDossible new bonnets
and unlikely new men.

She usually brought her two sons, making
their small souls sick within them as they sat
bolt ujDright, holding on by their eyehds to
the vicar's hook nose, lest sleep should over-
come and ensure them a sound whipping later
in the day. On one occasion Floss had been
brought, but on that young person inquiring
in awe-struck tones of Taify, '' Is that
Dawd f " when the clergyman entered in his
white robes, the experiment had not been

Flora's o^lance roving^ from face to face,


presently alighted upon one that communi-
-oated to her a smart shock of astonishment and
pleasure. Mignon, sitting at some distance,
very pale and still, became all at once aware

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryHelen MathersCherry ripe! A romance (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 14)