' No ; April-fool's day is past, but I am not the less a fool on
that account. I knoiv I'm a fool to expect any such happiness to
befaU me as I have now in my mind. Still, I must tell you what
it is that I dare to hope, though I think you can guess.' He had
taken her by the hand and led her gently to the bottom of the
little garden, out of earshot of anyone in the house.
' I am not a good hand at guessing, Raymond,' answered she ;
*■ and as for your hope — I am sure you will say nothing to pain me ;
and it would pain me very much if you asked for anything I could
She wore no blushes now. Her fairy face had lost all its bloom,
and looked so exquisitely delicate, with here and there a faint blue
vein, as to remind you of Shelley's lily of the vale :
AMiom youth makes so fair and passion so pale,
That the light of its tremulous bells is seen
Through its pavilions of tender green.
But except for her paleness there was no token of passionate love.
74 BY PROXY.
Her look was firm, her eyes were resolute : it was only her tone
that was tender, though that was steadfast too.
' You can give me what I am about to ask, if you will, Nelly.'
She stood quietly in front of him without reply. If he must speak,
he must, and she must hear him. But her answer was ready, and
he knew, or ought to know, what it needs must be. She had been
apprehensive of late of the very question (for she well knew what
it was) that he was about to put, and had done her best to avoid
it. She had striven to show him, by her frankness and freedom
from constraint, that they were brother and sister yet, as they had
always been ; but her very precautions (as she had thought them)
had, it seemed, only fanned his flame.
' We have known one another for all our lives, dear,' he began
in a tremulous tone that betrayed the weight of feeling with whicb
it was freighted ; ' we have loved one another all our lives — or at
least / have loved you — as children together, as boy and girl, as
man and woman. There has never been a thought of my heart in
connection with you which has not been one of love. It has not
been a fancy, Nelly, for your fair face — though that is beautiful
enough to turn the head of a wiser man ; but I know you
altogether, how fair and pure you are ; and, darling, I worship
' Eaymond, I cannot listen to this : I cannot bear to hear it-
You are paining me more than words can express.'
' It will be soon over, Nelly, once and for all ; have patience
with me. I was just speaking of my birthday ; when that day
arrives I shall be twenty-one, when men are their own masters.'
' Some men,' said Nelly quietly ; ' not you, Eaymond.'
' You mean that I shall be still dependent on my father. Thai
A BARGAIN RATIFIED. 7S
will be so, I admit. But I have thews and sinews, and wits like
other men, who have no other inheritance. I am taking, you see^
the most unfavourable view of my own prospects.'
' You are right so far, Eaymond, for it is the correct one,'
answered the girl gravely. ' If you went counter to your father's
wishes, you would have your thews, and sinews, and wits where-
with to support yourself, and that would be all.'
' You would be afraid, then, to trust to those, if those were all I
had to ofifer ? '
* It is unnecessary to discuss that question, Ea3Tnond,' said
Nelly, with a touch of dignity and even a tinge of scorn. ' No
woman, worthy of the name, would permit a man to beggar him-
self for her sake.'
' But if I got my father's permission to ask you to be my wife ? '
^ That is another question which need not be discussed ; you
know, as well as I do, that you would never get it.'
' At all events, let me try to get it. I will write by this next
mail to him, and tell him how dearly I love you ; how my hopes
of happiness are centred in you alone ; how little we should require
— you and I — to live upon. I will appeal to him by the friend-
ship he bears your father ; by the affection that he owes to me, his
only son. I will say '
' Is it possible that you can be so mad, Raymond, knowing
what your father is ? ' interrupted the girl impetuously. ' You
would have bitter cause to repent such folly, and might even find
repentance itself too late.'
' My father is a hard man, you think, but he is surely human,'
answered Raymond bitterly. ' It is your mother who has set you
against him so.'
76 BY PROXY.
' I am not set against him, Eaymond ; but I am resolute to see
things as they are.'
' Do you mean to say that you will not permit me to tell him
that you have consented to be my wife ? '
' I do mean to say that.'
' Great Heaven ! then you do not love me ? ' He literally stag-
gered back as from a physical blow : his face was white with the
whiteness of despair ; his eyes had the pained look which comes into
those of some loving animal whom its master chides. Yet it was
not in tones of pity, but rather of indignation, that the girl
' It is cruel of you, Eaymond, to put me to the question thus.
What can it avail you to wring such a confession from me ? Is it
manly to endeavour to do so from any woman who cannot be your
wife ? Do you wish to make a boast of me as one among the many
girls that you might have wedded if you wished? '
' Oh, Nelly, Nelly, who is cruel now ? '
' I am sorry, very sorry, Eaymond ; I did not mean to be cruel.
But there are some things — you don't understand what a girl's heart
is. No ; I can't let you tell your father that I will marry you, if he
will graciously permit it. We Conways are very poor, but we
are proud. I also have a father, not rich like yours, but whose
good opinion is worth much to me ; and I know how he would
feel upon this subject. Mr. Pennicuick and he are, it is true, old
friends ; but it is an unequal friendship, Eaymond. It is not one
of those, I mean, which knows on one side nothing of favour, and
on the other nothing of obligation. Such a proposition as you have
in your mind would be its death-blow. The bond between our
fathers is not, as I have said, so very strong, yet each is to the
A BARGAIN RATIFIED.
other the best friend he has. Have you the right to sunder
' I never looked upon the matter in that light, Nelly,' answered
the young man dejectedly. ' I was only thinking of myself, I
' There you do yourself injustice, Raymond ; for you were
thinking of both of us.'
'WTienI said "myself,"! implied that, Nelly,' answered he
simply : ' I never think of myself without thinking of you. How-
ever, I will not pain you further. Since you refuse me permission
to add your entreaties to mine — alas, I have annoyed you again ! —
I meant to say, since you forbid me to urge your own consent as
an argument in my behalf, I must do my best to move' my father
She shook her head and smiled sadly.
' You are not angry with me, Xelly ? '
' No, Eaymond ; but I am very, very sorry. AVe were so happy
together as brother and sister '
' And so we shall be still,' put in Raymond eagerly. ' If my
father consents, all will be well ; and if he refuses, matters will be
no worse than they have been. Do you think, after what you have
said, that I shall persecute you with my importunities ? Indeed, I
never will. There, that is a bargain.'
' With all my heart,' said Nelly.
'Nay, don't say that. Only it's a bargain ; and when bargains
are struck at Lincoln's Inn, Nelly, there is a form of ratification' —
a little arbour stood at the extremity of the lawn, and behind it ran
the path ; they had reached the spot where this arbour intervened
between them and the house, and shut them out from observation
78 BY PROXY.
— ' we cannot sign it here, but we can seal it. Witness my act and
deed.' He stooped down and kissed her cheek, which was pale and
cold. ' The other party to the contract does the same at Lincoln's Inn.'
' No, Kaymond.'
The touch of his lips had been too much for her ; she could not
trust herself to kiss him in return, lest she should have thrown her
arms round his neck and clung there. She had seemed cold and
prudent, but it had been only for his sake ; for in truth she loved
him, and with a fervour undreamt of by himself, though, as we
bave seen, he had taken her love for granted. If he had known
what was passing through her mind — or rather, what was not pass-
ing, for it had its dwelling there — he might perhaps have
scattered all her resolution to the wind. But he was young,
and a woman's heart is only read by man after years of study, and
rarely, even then, aright. If her mother had seen her at that
moment, she would have made a shrewder guess how matters stood
with her. Perhaps it was maternal instinct that brought her at
this juncture to the top of the stone steps, with the news that
lunch was on the table.
' Come in at once, young people,' cried she authoritatively.
' I have got a sweetbread for you, Eaymond,' added she, as they
drew near, ' because you're a good boy. He has been good, has he
not, Nelly ? ' for her quick eye at once detected that there was
something amiss. ' You have not been quarrelling ? '
« No mamma ; we have only had a difference of opinion.
Eaymond has been good enough, but not very wise.'
' Well, one can't expect everything in a man, my dear : for my
pa^-t from what I've seen of them — I should be glad to compound
A BARGAIN RATIFIED. 79
' You pay me but a doubtful compliment,' laughed Raymond,
■*' and even that at the expense of my sex.'
' Nothing is ever done at their expense,' replied Mrs. Conway
tartly. ' It is we poor women who have to pay for everything —
^nd especially for compliments.'
8o BY PROXY.
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER.
It could not be said of Mrs. Conway, as it has been laid down
of women in general, tbat she was ' variable,' and not to be de-
pended upon ; for her temper was of that character that nobody
ever thought of trusting to it. It was bad, and always bad ; and
showed itself in its worse colours upon the topic of sovereign man,
against whom she was in a chronic state of rebellion. To her
daughter, however, she was almost always kind ; and there was
one exception to her general antagonism to the other sex in favour
of Raymond Pennicuick. She would abuse him, as we have seen,
even behind his back, but she had in reality a very genuine affec-
tion for him, as indeed was natural enough, for she had nourished
and tended him when a forlorn and forsaken child ; and when he
grew up he had shown himself not ungrateful. He was the only
man that could ' put up ' with her humours and caprices, and not
even solace himself for his forbearance by making fun of them.
It annoyed him to hear his father speak of her, as he often did, as
' that infernal woman ;' though he was much too wise to advance
any arguments in her favour, the only effect of which would have
been to intensify the other's ungenerous epithets. When he had
occasionally expressed his sense of Mrs. Conway's kindness towards
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER. 8i
himself, Ralph Pennicuick had answered with a sneer equal to a
That there was no love lost between them was notorious ; and
it was even whispered that Ealph had given a helping hand to
widen the breach between Conway and ' the woman that owned
him,' as his friend called her. But the reason of this exceeding
dislike was known to none except themselves ; the world at large
only knew that it was reciprocal. Even Nelly could not under-
stand how it was that her mother had not only no good word for
her father's friend, but rarely mentioned him without contempt or
abhorrence. If he had really come between her father and mother,
and separated them, that of course was cause enough to explain
anything ; but she did not believe this to be the case. The friend-
ship between the two men was not, in her opinion, sufficiently strong
to have effected this. Her mother's dislike of the elder Pennicuick
was something quite extraordinary, and would sometimes even
cause her to fly out at Rajraond. ' What's bred in the bone,' she
would say, ' will come out in the flesh. The son of such a man
as that must inherit some evil taint, depend upon it. He can't
belong to his mother only.'
Raymond's mother had died, as we have said, within a year of
her marriage ; but not before she had made friends of all her
husband's friends, and even of some of his enemies. She was a
gentle, quiet creature, as timid as a gazelle, and who filled all who
beheld her with love and pity. Perhaps it was more pity than love
that moved Mrs. Conway's heart towards her ; pity, while alive,
because she had married such a heartless wretch as she believed
Ralph Pennicuick to be ; and pity, after her death, because his
harshness and wickedness had been the cause of it. This was not
VOL. I. G
82 BY PROXY.
literally true, but where is the woman that hates who is rigidly
particular to stick to truth in her denunciations ? Unfortunately
for Eaymond, so far as Mrs. Conway was concerned, he was physi-
cally like his father, and this aroused her acrimony ; but upon the
whole, as has been seen, he was a favourite with her. It puzzled
outside people a good deal as to whether she was throwing her
daughter at Eaymond Pennicuick's head or not. Of course that
would seem probable. He was the son and heir of a rich man, who,
though only of middle age and of an iron constitution, was given
to adventure and travel. He might be struck down by yellow
fever in the West Indies, or by a tiger in the East ; or might be
' scraped to death with oyster-shells among the Caribbees,' at any
time. His long absences in foreign parts gave her many oppor-
tunities of bringing the young people together, and she seemed to
avail herself of them. But, on the other hand, it was not the way
to win the good graces of the young man to speak so bitterly
against his father, not indeed in his presence, but so openly that he
could hardly fail to be aware of it. It puzzled Nelly herself to
reconcile these inconsistencies in her mother's conduct, though the
matchmaking part of the matter never crossed her mind. The
very topic of China, necessarily a familiar one since her father had
been there so long, was now distressing to her when Eaymond and
her mother were present, since it naturally suggested ids father,
who had gone out some six months back to join his friend. She
was always fearing an explosion ; and the more so because Eay-
mond seemed to have so little apprehension of it, and would chat
about mandarins, and dragons, and pigtails, with the nonchalance
of an Irishman who smokes his pipe while sitting on a powder-
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER. 83
' You heard from the " Flowery Land " last mail, of course,
Mrs. Conway?' observed he, after having done full justice to the
sweetbread and the cold lamb.
' My daughter had a letter,' answered the lady frigidly.
' The captain is well, I hope ? '
' He seemed to be the same as usual.'
' I concluded as much from my father's silence upon the point.'
Mrs. Conway gave a short laugh, which, if translated, would have
said, ' You are quite wrong there. If his friend had been dead, he
would not have given himself the trouble to mention it.'
' My governor's letters,' continued the young man, turning to
Nelly, ' are of the same length as those I used to write to your
mother from my first school.' " My dear Mrs. Conway, — I hope
you are very well. I have a new top. It is three weeks and two
days to the holidays. Believe me to be yours afifectionately,
Raymond Pennicuick." I dare say she remembers the style.'
' I have no need to tax my memory, my dear boy, for I have
got the letters,' observed Mrs. Conway.
' What ! the school ones ? '
' All that you ever wrote to me. It is quite a little collection
of love-letters — and the only one I have.'
This was an example of Mrs. Conway's embarrassing way.
When she was to all appearance in high good humour, nay, even
tender and affectionate, she would all of a sudden burst out into
complaint and denunciation. Her last remark implied, of com'se,
that her husband never wrote to her with affection.
' And how does Mr. Pennicuick like China ? ' inquired NeUy
hurriedly, the disagreement between her parents being always
a most painful theme to her.
84 BY PROXY.
' Oh, he doesn't say much about it. He had only just arrived
in " the crockery shop," as he calls it ; and he doesn't go in for
descriptions. But for the postmark, his letter might have come
from his own chambers in the Albany.'
' That is so different from papa. He gives us a picture — some-
times a real picture, but always a word-painting — of where he is,
and all about him.'
'Don't say "us," Nelly, I beg,' interposed Mrs. Conway
stiffly ; ' he writes very fully to you'
' Nay, he means the letter to do for both of us, mamma,'
answered the girl ; ' for what is mine of course is yours. He goes
into such detail (but always interesting, you know, because every-
thing in China is so queer and strange), that we can imagine
exactly how he lives, and who are his friends and neighbours. In
his last budget, there was a good deal about Mr. Pennicuick, who
had just arrived. They were going together up the country — into
the heart of it — in a sort of barge, and were anticipating ever so
' My governor only wrote,' said Eaymond, " we are going right
through the shop " (that is, the crockery shop) ; and spoke of his
seven friends that were to accompany him, namely, his revolver
(which has six barrels) and your father.'
'Dear me! I hope they will have no need of revolvers,' ex-
claimed Nelly with agitation. ' I thought the Chinese had be-
come quite friendly to us.'
'So they have,' answered Eaymond quickly. 'There is no
sort of danger to mere tourists and pleasure-seekers. But my father
never travels without his revolver ; carries it about with him all
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER, 85
day like a pocket-handkerchief, and puts it under his pillow at
night, like a Dent's repeater.'
' If I were he, I should be always afraid of its going off,' said
Nelly with a little shudder.
' Nay, rather, it is other people who are always afraid of its
going off,' observed her mother grimly.
' Just so,' remarked Eaymond, laughing ; ' and it makes him
very much respected, he says, in foreign parts. That reminds me,
by-the-by, that I must be going off myself, having promised some
men to pull up to Hampton Court at three.'
Perhaps he would not have been so careful to keep that ap-
pointment had his inter\'iew with Nelly ended differently. It
would have been much pleasanter than rowing — or even steering —
to have wandered about Eichmond Park with her, with his arm
in hers, or perhaps occasionally round her dainty waist, as an en-
gaged couple. He was as resolute as ever to win her for his wife,
but for the present it seemed they were still to remain brother and
sister ; and after what had just passed between them — just at first
— that connection was a little embarrassing, notwithstanding he had
said that ' matters would be no worse than they had been.' Matters
were akeady worse, or at all events quite different ; and, though
he was neither chilled nor piqued, he felt that for that afternoon^
at least, he had better go elsewhere. Nelly understood his feel-
ings, though perhaps she gave him credit for a little annoyance,
for her manner at parting was doubly kind.
' You wiU come again on Saturday, Pay ' — she had not so abbre-
viated his name since as boy and girl together they had been
' Ray ' and * NeU,' which had been objected to by the authorities as
they grew up as too suggestive of ' So ho,' and ' Down charge.' It
86 BY PROXY.
was tender, and at the same time it implied the old relations, when
their thoughts of marriage were limited to the gorgeous nuptials
of princes and princesses in fairy tales.
' Oh, yes, I will certainly come,' said Eaymond.
' And then, if there is lamb, there shall be mint sauce, I promise
you,' observed Mrs. Conway. ' Of course you will say you didn't
miss it; but man is man, and one must consider his palate
What was the matter with him, Nelly ? Why did he go ? '
She put this question when he had gaily taken leave of them
and left the house.
' He had an appointment '
' Pshaw ! I mean, what was his real reason ? You said he had
not been wise in what he had been speaking about in the garden ;
that you had had some difference of opinion ; what was it ? '
' Mamma,' answered Nelly, blushing violently, ' Eaymond asked
me to be his wife.'
A gleam of triumph lit up the elder lady's face. ' Indeed ! ' cried
she ; ' I should not have thought he had had the courage. I mean,
of course, because of his tyrant father. And when is it to be ? '
' Oh, mamma, how can you ask such a question ? He wished
to marry me as soon as he came of age, and should be what he
called his own master ; as if that could ever be while Mr. Penni-
cuick is alive. I convinced him of the madness of such a project,
and then he pressed me to give my promise in case his father
should consent '
' It was you who were mad, not he,' interrupted Mrs. Conway
angrily. ' Do you suppose his father would do anything of the sort ?
Don't you know he is a brute, a miser, a man that has never had any
feeling but for himself, nor a single thought beyond the gratification
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER. 87
of his own wishes ! Don't you know that he stints the lad even as it
is ; that his only idea connected with him is to get him off his hands,
to see him provided for by some rich marriage ! You didn't surely de-
mean yourself by an acceptance conditional on such a contingency?'
^I did not demean myself, mamma, I hope, in any way,'
answered the girl, drawing up her fairy form to almost womanly
height. ' I told him that such a proposition was out of the
question, and not to be discussed ; that my consent was not to be
alluded to in any communication he might make to Mr. Penni-
cuick, and that I strongly disapproved of any such communication
at all. I represented to him that it would annoy my father as
much as it would enrage his own, and probably cause a breach in the
friendship that had so long existed between them.'
' Tut tut ! that is no matter. But you were right enough not
to compromise yourself. He will be twenty-one — yes — on June 4th,
I ought to know it, for it was the death-day of his poor mother.'
' Mamma, you cannot be serious ! '
' I am quite serious ; it is you who seem to be playing the
fool. I thought you loved this Kaymond Pennicuick.'
' I do love him,' answered the girl, with a deep blush, but in
firm and confident tones. '- 1 love him too well to allow him to
become a beggar for my sake.'
' The sacrifice woidd not have been so great,' observed Mrs.
Conway drily. ^ He will have three hundred pounds a year of his
own, out of his mother's money, when he comes of age ; in fact,
the very sum that his fa-ther allows him now. It was fixed at that
amount, no doubt, that when the young man came into his own the
elder should not feel the loss of the income.'
' I don't think Eaymond can be aware of this,' said Nelly
thoughtfully ; ' are you sure^ mamma ? '
' Oh, yes, I am quite sure ; though Eaymond, as you say,
knows nothing about it. It is so like his father to make him think
as long as possible that he is entirely dependent upon him. I
would have told him long ago myself, but that I thought it better
not to do so, for his own sake. Now, however, I will tell him.'
She seated herself at a little writing-table and opened her desk.
' Mamma, I beg of you not to do so. If you tell him this, he
will do something rash.'
' He would be down to-morrow morning, no doubt, if you call
' Well, I don't want him here to-morrow morning. The three
hundred a year, which will make such a difference to him, makes
none to me. He shall never be disinherited on my account ; I
swear it. Don't you see that the knowledge of this comparative
independence would make him bolder as respects his father, and
he would write — what he says he means to write — in a less filial
spirit ? Then there would be a quarrel between Mr. Pennicuick and
his son on my account.'
' Yes, I see all that. It would have the effect of opening the
lad's eyes to his father's character, which must happen sooner or
later ; a little sooner, well, why not ? '
' Because chiefly, or at all events for one thing, there would not
only be a quarrel, but Eaymond would be the sufferer. I will no
more be the cause of his being disinherited than of his being