M. E. (Mary Elizabeth) Braddon.

Flower and weed : and other tales online

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Online LibraryM. E. (Mary Elizabeth) BraddonFlower and weed : and other tales → online text (page 1 of 32)
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I. A Wayside Waif ......

. 1

II. More than Kin ......

. 17

III. Feojj Sunshine to Gloom. ....

. 35


. 43

V. A Leaf from the Booh of the Past .

. Co

VI. A Lonely Life ......

. 84

VII. Not Disloyal ......

. 93

A III. An Old-Fashioned Christmas . . . .

. 105

IX. Faithfdl onto Death . • .

. 115


I. By the Nigh c Mail

II. In Durance Vile

III. Stage the First .

IV. The Mystery of Rose Cottage
V. 'Delay this Marriage'

\ I. Brought to a Focus



I. After Fifteen Fears .
II. Missing .....

III. 'There's a Woman ix it!'.

IV. 'I'm: I I LRK II"i BE r.V THE EtlYSR

V. His Old Love











. 197


His Patient .......

. 200


Hester finds a Friend ....

. 207,


Mi;. Tregonnell makes his Will

. 212'


Mystery .......

. 21G


. 220


I. After the Season ....... 231

II. Down by the "Water-Mili 239-

III. 'Being so very Wilful, you must Go' . . . 249

IV. ' Love, to think that Love can Pass away' . 253





I. On the Boards 315-

II. Loved and Lost 320

III. Driven by the Furies 331

IV. In the Bed Sunset 337.




'A lovely child she was, of looks serene,
And motions which o'er things indifferent shed
Thu grace and gentleness from whence they came.'

Ingleshaw Castle is one of the historic homes of England,
built in the days of the Planta™'enets, improved and ex-
panded under the last of the Tudors, and never debased or
deteriorated by modern alterations, adaptations, or restora-
tions. It stands on low ground, in the heart or an extensive
chase, full of deer and ground game — a wild woodland,
where many of the oaks and beeches are as old as the estab-
lishment of the house of Ingleshaw amongst the ruling
families of England. The Castle is built of dark-gray stone,
rich in those lovely gradations from deepest purple to palest
green which mark the long growth of lichens and mosses,
stealthily stealing over the stony surface, and touching it
with beauty. There is a grand simplicity about the noble
Gothic entrance, and the great square hall with its vaulted
roof; while there is all the charm of quaiutness and home-
liness in the long low passages, the deep-set windows, with
here a bay and there an oriel, to break the monotony of
long rows oi heavily mullion^d casements, giving an in-
sufficient light to the dusky old portraits and seventeenth-
century pictures which line the panelled walls of the low
Bpacious rooms.

Ingleshaw is one of the show places of Kent, but it is only
shown when the family is away ; and on this bright May
morning the family, beginning and ending with Lord
Ingleshaw and his only child. Lady Lucille, is at home;

2 Flower and Weed.

and the tourist, thirsting to steep himself in the historic
associations of the Castle, turns from the gate with reluctant
feet. Perhaps there never was a more quiet household than
this of Ingleshaw Castle. There is something akin to pain
in the silence of the long corridors and the empty suites of
rooms, where the effigies of departed Ingleshaws stare for
ever at vacancy ; where a Lee comes booming in a*t an open
pane in the mullioned window, hovers over a bowl of hot-
house flowers on a Florentine marble table, and goes boom-
ing out aeain, disgusted at the dulness of life within stone
wulls. Sometimes the ripple of girlish laughter floats
thi'ough an open window of the southern wing, or the bird-
like notes of a girlish soprano are heard in the distance,
'singing one of Mozart's tenderest melodies.

Lord Ingleshaw is something of a recluse, and his only
daughter has not yet made her entrance upon the bustling
theatre of society, to be elbowed and hustled by that com-
mon herd to which the doting father deems his child in-
finitely superior. Her eighteenth birthday is drawing near,
and next year, the father tells himself, his innocent simple-
minded darling must needs be handed over to the high
priestesses of the temple of fashion ; jnust take her place in
society, be wooed, won, and wedded ; and then it would be to
him almost as if he had no daughter. New associations,
new loves, new joys, new hopes, new cares, would arise for
her who was now all his own.

' Well, it is the common lot,' he muses, dreaming in his
library over an open folio of Bacon's Essays. 'I must
wait for a girl-grandchild, whom I may train up to be some-
thing like the companion and friend my little girl has been
to me. She will last my time. I shall be dead and gone
hefore she need be presented at Court.'

He has a fixed "idea that from the hour his daughter enters
society she will be in great measure lost to him. This
comes, perhaps, from his profound contempt for modern
society, which he despises the more intensely because he has
held himself aloof from the vortex, and only contemplates
its foolishness from the outside. This external view of
fashionable life is like a deaf man's view of a ball-room.
Lord Ingleshaw sees the puppets dancing, without hearing
the music which is their motive power; and -the whole thing
seems rank folly : folly treading on the heels of vice.

His :istcr, Lady Carlyon, a dowager countess, passing
young for her years, as all dowager peeresses are nowadays,
a lady who lives in society and for society, has told him that

A Wayside Waif. 8

Lucille must take her proper place in the world, must be
seen and admired and talked about, and even written about
in the newspapers, before she can be properly and credit-
ably married ; and he is prepared to submit to the inevit-
able. He would rather his girl should be wooed by the
interchange of a miniature and a few formal letters, and
wedded by proxy, like a princess of the seventeenth century.
Anything would be better than the turmoil and dissipation
of fashionable society, the rubbing shoulders with doubtful
beauty and tarnished runic, the inevitable brushing away of
youth's tenderest bloom, sinless Eve's primitive innocence.
One little year yet remains to the fond father. Lucille is
not to be presented till next season. The Earl has begged
hard for this extension of his happiness.

' She will be horridly old by that time,'" says Lady Carlyon,
in her hard business-like way, staring at the unconscious
Lucille, who is playing a dreamy gondolied of Mendelssohn's
at the other end of the long low parlour. ' I'm afraid she is
one of those girls whose looks will go off early. Half the
beauty of her eyes depends upon that cabbage-rose bloom
of hers. Nothing tells so well as youthful freshness just
now. It is the only attraction with which we can counter
those horrid professional beauties. If Lucie's complexion
goes off you can keep her at Ingleshaw all your life, for she
will not secure an eligible parti.'

' My heart's desire is to keep her here for ever,' answers
the Earl; ' you talk of her as if she were a Circassian slave,
waiting for the next market.'

' That's stuff and nonsense,' exclaimed Lady Carlyon ; ' I
suppose you would like your daughter to make a good mar-
riage ? '

' I should like her to marry a good man.'

' Well, we'll try to combine the two, though it isn't the
easiest thing in the world.'

This conversation took place in the Easter holidays, which
Lady Carlyon spent with her brother and her niece, trying
her hardest to inspire Lucille with a thirst for the amuse-
ments and delights of that privileged circle she was soon to
enter, and making only a very faint impression upon the
girl's mind. A cup which is already full can hold no more ;
and Lucie's life at Ingleshaw was completely happy. She
adored her father— the father who had been all the world of
kindred and affection to the motherless girl ; she loved her
good-natured did governess. Miss Marjoram, who had taught
and trained her from her fifth year until now. She loved


4 Flower and Weed.

the historic old house, the romantic chase, the old gardens,
lawns, and summer-houses, fish-pond, bowling-green, arbours,
fountains — that happy blinding of the Dutch and Italian
style which gave such variety to the extensive grounds.
She loved the grave gray old stable, the pretty little mouse-
coloured Norwegian ponies which she drove, the senile white
cob which she was permitted to ride unattended about the
chase, and the handsome young bay mare, which she rode
on rare and happy occasions, by her father's side. She had
dogs, cats, and pets of all kinds. Most of the servants had
seen her grow up, and all of them worshipped her. She
lived in an atmosphere of love, and had never any sense of
dulness in the silent old house, to which so few visitors

Lord Ingleshaw was by no means a cipher in his world,
although he held himself aloof from fashionable society. He
Avas a stanch Conservative and a strong politician, voted upon
all important measures, spoke occasionally, and had weight
and influence in his party. He had a house in Grosvenor
Square, where he occupied three darksome rooms on the
ground-floor, leaving the upper and more splendid apart-
ments to gloom and disuse. The brief, bright, happy period
of his wedded life had been spent partly in this house ; and
the rooms were haunted by the sweet sad shadow of his
young wife, who died of a fever caught in Venice six
months after her baby's birth. For the greater part of the
year he lived at Ingleshaw, a bookworm and a recluse,
caring very little for any society except that of his young

Father and child had breakfasted tete-a-tete this bright
May morning in a pretty little room called the Painted
Parlour — a cheery little room, with painted panels, all over
flowers and butterflies, in a graceful fashion that savoured
of the Pompadour period. May was fast melting into June,
and the windows were wide open, and the room was filled
with perfume from within and from without ; flowers on
tables, chimney-piece, window ledges, and a wilderness of
flowers in the garden outside.

' What are you going to do with yourself this morning,
pet? ' asked the Earl, as his daughter hung over his chair.
' Don't go and mew yourself up with Miss Marjoram in
this delicious weather. All the other butterflies are enjoying
their lives in the garden.'

' I hope you don't think me quite so frivolous as the
butterflies, father? Yes, it ia a too delicious morning. I

A Wayside Waif. 5

meant to read Dante with Miss Marjoram directly after
breakfast; but 1 think I shall keep those poor things in the
second circle waiting an hour or two while J. have a ramble
ou Puck. Dear old Marjy won't mind.'

She kissed her father, and was running off, when he
stopped her.

' O, by-the-byo, Lucie, I've some news for you. I had a
telegram from Bruno last night.'

"From Bruno!' she cried, with clasped hands, while a
lovely roseate hue crept over the alabaster fairness of her
face and throat ; ' and you never told me ! '

' Well, I suppose I wanted to keep this bit of news for a
pleasant surprise : only I never could keep a secret from my
girl. The telegram is from Florence, and Bruno is coming
home almost directly. He will come straight here. You
can tell Twyford to have his rooms got ready.'

'Almost directly!' repeated Lucille. 'What does that
mean, father ? To-day ? '

'Hardly. He was in Florence yesterday.'

4 True, and Florence is at the other end of the world — a
three days' journey at least. To think of his coming home
so soon ! His last letter was so vague.'

' Will you be glad to have him at Ingleshaw ? '

' Of course I shall be glad ; but I shall see very little of
him. He will be always rushing away somewhere —trout-
fishing ; or to London, or to Sevenoaks, or Tunbridge Wells.
Thank goodness the hunting is all over. He can't be riding
off at nine o'clock every morning to come home at half-past
seven, steeped in mud.'

'Make the most of him while you have him,' said her
father. 'He is a man now, and will have to take his place
in the world as the future Lord Ingleshaw.'

The girl dropped lightly on her father's knee, and nestled
her head in his bosom.

' Don't ! ' she cried. ' I can't bear you to talk of anybody
coming after you. God grant that Bruno's head may be as
white as snow before he is Lord Ingleshaw.'

' That would be to doom your father to long years of
senility. However, Bruno is in no hurry, and I am in no
hurry. He has a fair fortune, considerable talents, and I
hope he will distinguish himself as Mr. Challoner before he
is Lord Ingleshaw. And now run away and have your
ramble. I shall be off to catch the express in half an hong;
and I have to see Morley before I go.'

Morley was his lordship's land-steward and factotum.

6 Flower and Weed.

' Dear father, I am so sorry you must go to London. I
hope you will be back before Sunday.'

' Be sure I sha'n't stop in town longer than I am obliged ;
but I must wait to see this measure throiigh the House.'

' How I hate measures and the House, when they take
you away from me ! ' said Lucille.

Now came tender farewell caresses ; and then the girl raced
off to the distant rooms which belonged to her and her
governess. She had come to a delicious period of her life,
in which the bondage of the schoolroom was done with,
while the restraints of society had not yet begun. In her
own small world, so safely hedged round by reverence and
affection, she did very much as she liked, went where she
liked, spent as much money as she liked, cultivated the
people she liked. She was in some wise mistress of her
father's house. She ruled the trusty old governess who had
once ruled her : but though somewhat wilful as to those
things upon which her impetuous young heart set itself, she
was as docile and easily governed by a light hand as a
thoroughbred horse.

' Marjy, Marjy ! ' she cried, bursting into the old school-
room, now morning-room and study, where Miss Marjorum
sat with dictionaries and grammars and Italian histories
laid out before her, ready for tackling Dante, — ' such news !
Bruno is coming. Bruno will be here to-morrow, or, at
furthest, the day after to-morrow ! " And the bells shall be
rung, and mass shall be sung," ' sang Lucie at the top of her
clear young voice, ' for my Bed-cross knight.'

' This is indeed a surprise,' said Miss Marjorum, with-
out turning a hair. ' Mr. Ohalloner coming to us after nearly
two years' absence ! I have no doubt he will be grown.'

' Don't, Marjy ; you mustn't say such things. It's actu-
ally insulting ! Don't you know that Bruno is four-and-
twenty ? '

' Then he will have expanded,' said Miss Marjorum. ' It
seems only yesterday that he came of age ; and I know that
up to that time he was continually growing in a perpendicular
direction. After that he began to widen and spi'ead hori-
zontally, and he has been expanding ever since.'

' Marjy, dearest, you talk as if he were Falstaff, or bluff
King Hal,' cried the girl.

' My dear, all I wish to express is that he is a well-grown
young man. And now, my love, let us attack our Dante. We
are approaching one of the finest passages in the Inferno.'

' Marjy, dear, it is such a delicious morning, and this news

A Wayside Waif. 7

about Bruno is BO exciting, I think if I were to ramble in the
chase for an hour or so, it would compose my mind, and
make me more equal to Dante.'

' You must do as you like, my love ; but I never find y< mr
intellect so much on the alert after those rambles in the
chase. There is a marked tendency to yawning and inat-

'You shall find me attentive to-day, clearest. But I
must have one peep at the bluebells in Eazel Hollow. Think
what a little while they last !'

' As yon advance in life, Lady Lucille, you'll find that all
earthly pleasures are as brief as the bloom of wild hyacinths,'
said Miss Marjoram, who fancied it a part of her duty to
be for ever repeating trite moral lessons, and scraps of old-
world wisdom.

Lucille skipped off" to her dressing-room to put on the
short-skirted shabby old habit iu which she rode Puck ; and
then, light and swift of foot, she ran down the broad oat
staircase to a door that opened into the stable-yard, where a
groom was waiting with Puck, a shaggy grey cob, of the
Lxmoor breed, stoutly built, strong as a house, with an eye
which beamed with kindness. Lucille generally mounted at
this door, preferring to escape the ceremony of going forth
under the great Gothic archway, where the prim matron who
lived in the gateway turret looked out at her through the
lattice of tin- parlour where the visitors' book was he] it, or
stood in 1 lie doorway to curtsey to her as she 'went by. The
stable-yard opened into the park, and Lucille was away and
out of sight of the Castle in live minutes.

It was one of those exquisite mornings when to live and
breathe the sweetness of the air is rapture; wdien the old
feel young, and the young can scarce tread soberly upon the
dull earth, moved to dance-measures by the ecstasy of mere
existence. The soft, warm, flowery air crept round Lucille
like a caress, as she rode slowly along a grassy ride, under
the broad spreading boughs of a line of horse-chestnuts, the
turf white with the fallen blossoms, and yet the trees bright
with lingering bloom, further on iu the green heart of the
chase came a little wood of Spanish chestnuts, leafy towi
their lowest boughs sweeping the grass, their summits aspir-
ing to the blue bright sky. These grand old trees were
planted wide apart, and the intervening ground was a sheet
of azure bloom, save here and there where the drift of la
year's withered leaves showed a patch of golden brown
starred with wood anemones.

8 Flower and Weed.

Beyond this chestnut plantation there sj-retched an undu-
lating exj^anse of open sward, with here a heech and there
an oak, standing up against the summer sky in solitary
grandeur, monarchs of the woodland ; and then came those
wide oak and fir plantations which bordered the chase
foi» the breadth of half a mile or so throughout the seven
miles of its circumference, rough and broken ground,
full of gentle hollows and ridgy slopes, the paradise of
squirrels, rabbits, and wild flowers. Puck knew every inch
of those plantations, for he and his mistress had roamed
about in them at all hours and in all weatliers; .sometimes
when the snow lay deep in the hollows, and the first of the
wild snowdrops showed pale on the topmost ridges where the
sun had touched them.

Puck was accustomed to take his ease in these woods,
tethered to a tree, while Lucille wandered on foot among the
brown fir trunks, the gray lichen-clothed oaks, botanising,
entomologising, sketching, or musing, as her fancy prompted.
Her childhood and girlhood had been passing lonely, save
for Bruno Challoner's occasional companionship; and she
had learnt to find her own amusements and her own occupa-
tions ; more especially when the Earl was in London, or at
Aix or AViesbaden for his health, and life in the Castle meant
a perpetual tete-a-tete with Miss Marjorum, who possessed
every amiable quality except the power to amuse. In these
woods Lucille had learned her lessons, day after day, from
earliest spring to latest autumn ; here she had read her
favourite poets ; here she had become familiar with all that
is practical and interesting in the history of flowers and
insects. The woods had been her playroom and study ever
since she could remember. To-day she let Puck crawl his
slowest pace along the grassy rides, stumbling a little now
and then in a sleepy way, and recovering himself with a jerk.
She was thinking of that distant cousin of hers, Bruno Chal-
loner, heir presumptive to yonder gray old castle, and the
only friend and playfellow she had ever known, since the
Vicar's four daughters, who were allowed to drink tea with
her three or four times a year at the utmost, were a good
deal older than herself, and could hardly be called com-

Bruno had spent a considerable portion of all his summer
holidays at Ingleshaw. He had come here in the Long
Vacation when he was an undergraduate of Christ Church ;
had read here — or made belief to read — with 'coaches/
classical and mathematical, soberly clad gentlemen, in

A Wayside Waif. 9

smoke-coloured spectacles, who had grown prematurely old
in a perpetual grinding at Plato and Aristotle, or the
integral and differential calculus; men who were steeped
in stale tobacco, and who avoided Lucille as if she were a
pestilence, so deep was their loathing of her sex. The classical
coach was till and thin, and wore his hair long. He had
written poetry, and saw life on its Greek and ideal side.
The mathematician was short, broad and llorid, and believed
in nothing that could not be expressed by signs and figures.

Bruno went in enthusiastically for the Greek plays and
the higher mathematics, but did not come out very strongly
in either branch of learning. He got his degree, but it was
by the skin of his teeth, as his tutor told him candidly.
Since those Oxford days he had travelled a good deal for the
improvement of his mind, at the instigation of Lord Ingle-
shaw, who was his guardian as well as his cousin ; and now
he was four-and-twenty, had been free of his kinsman's
tutelage fur the last three years, but was still beholden to
him for counsel and friendship. He had made the tour of
Europe, seen a little of Africa, and was coming home to
begin the world as a man who, by the dignity of his future,
and by all the traditions of his race, was constrained to
make some figure on the stage of life.

1 Dear old Bruno,' thought Lucille, as she moved slowly,
with sauntering rhythmical motion, under the flickering
lights and shadows, amidst the aromatic odours of the pines,
' how glad I shall be to sec him again ! I wonder whether
he will be as glad to see me ? '

She remembered their last parting, when she was not
quite sixteen, and still had something of the awkwardness
and shyness of early girlhood. She remembered the grave
tenderness oil his farewell, and how he had entreated her to
flunk of him while he was far away; promising that in
every day of his wandering life some loving thought of her,
like a winged invisible messenger, should fly homeward to
dear old Ingleshaw. Her desk was full of his letters from
strange and ever-changing places ; her rooms were beautified
with his si'ts. He had given her substantial reason to know
that she had not been forgotten.

A feeble shy from the old pony — Puck, who seldom
shied — startled the girl from her reverie. The drooping eye-
lids were lifted; and there, beside the broad green track,
lying in the hollow of a dry shallow ditch, among mosses
and bluebells, and the last of the auemones, Lucille beheld
the cause of Puck's alarm.

10 Floiver and Weed.

A woman, quite a young woman— nay, a girl in what
should have been the first fresh bloom of girlhood—lay
asleep in that mossy hollow, the azure of wild hyacinths .
reflected on her wan pinched cheek, one wasted hand lying
pale and deathlike among the flowers. The scanty cotton
gown hardly concealed the shrunken outline of the figure.
The feet, one bound in blood-stained rags, the other in a
boot which was the veriest apology for covering, testified to
long and weary tramping upon dusty high-roads.

Lucille slipped from her saddle, and, with Puck's bridle
hanging on her arm, went close up to the prostrate figure
It was not the first time she had found a tramp asleep in
Ingleshaw woods, nor the first time that her immediate
impulse had been to relieve abject poverty, worthy or worth-
less, needing no higher claim upon her charity than its
helplessness. She stood looking down at the sleeper, more
keenly interested than she had ever felt before in any stray
creature she had found in her domain.

The face lying among the flowers was exquisitely beautiful,
even in its pinched and haggard condition. The low broad
brow, the delicate Greek nose, the heavily-moulded eyelids,
with their dark lashes, the oval cheek from which the rich

Online LibraryM. E. (Mary Elizabeth) BraddonFlower and weed : and other tales → online text (page 1 of 32)