eBooksRead.com books search new books
M. E. (Mary Elizabeth) Braddon.

Mount Royal online

. (page 26 of 39)
Online LibraryM. E. (Mary Elizabeth) BraddonMount Royal → online text (page 26 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook
Christabel's face, dimly lighted by the lamp on the low table
near her, was turned towards the speaker, the lips parted, the
large blue eyes bright with emotion. Her hands were clasped
upon the elbow of the chair, and her attitude was of one who
listens to words of deepest, dearest meaning ; while Angus
Hamleigh sat a little way off with his eyes upon her face, his
whole air and expression charged with feeling. To Leonard's
mind aU such earnestness, all sentiment of any kind, came under
one category : it all meant love-making, more or less audacious,
more or less hypocritical, dressed in modem phraseology, sophis-
ticated, disguised, super-refined, fantastical, called one « day
aeatheticism and peacocks' feathers, another day positivism,
agnosticism, Swinburne-cum-Bume-Jones-ism, but always the
Bame thing au fond, and meaning war to domestic peace. There
Bat Jessie Bridgeman, the dragon of prudery placed within caU,
but was any woman safer for the presence oi a duenna ? was it
not in the nature of such people to look on simperingly while



282 Mount Royal.

the poiscm cap was being quaffed, and to declare afterwards that
they had supposed the mixture perfectly liarmless ? No doubt,
Tristan and Iseult had somebody standing by to play propriety
■when they drank from the fatal goblet, and bound themselves
for life in the meshes of an unhappy love. No, the mere fact ol
Miss Bridgeman's presence was no pledge of safety.

There was no guilt in Mrs. Tregonell's countenance, aasuredly,
when she looked up and saw her husband standing near the
door, watchful, silent, with a pre-occupied air that was strange
to him.

' What is the matter, Leonard 7' she asked, for hla manner
ir"plied that something was amiss,

* Nothing — I — I was wondering to find you up so late— that's

* The Rector and his wife stayed till eleven, and we have
been sitting here talking. Mr, Hamleigh means to leave us to-
morrow.'

* Yes, I know,' answered Leonard, curtly. * Oh, by the way,'
turning to Angus, 'there is something I want to say to you
before you go to bed ; something about your journey to-morrow,*

* I am quite at your sers'ice.'

Instead of approaching the group by the fireplace, Leonard
turned and left the room, leaving Mr. Hamleigh under the
necessity of following him.

' Good-night,' he said, shaking hands with ChristabeL * I
shall not say good-bye till to-morrow, I suppose I shall not
have to leave Mount Eoyal till eleven o'clock.'

* I think not'

'Good-night, Miss Bridgeman. I shall never forget how kind
you have been to me.'

She looked at him earnestly, but made no reply, and in the
next instant he was gone,

' What can have happened V asked Christabel, anxiously, ' I
am sure there is something wrong. Leonard's manner was so
strange.'

'Perhaps he and his dear friends have been quarrelling,'
Jessie answered, carelessly, * I believe Captain Vandeleur
breaks out into vindictive language, sometimes, after he haa
taken a little too much wine : Mop told me as much in her
amiable candour. And I know the Captain's glass was filled
very often at dinner, for I had the honour of sitting next him.'

*I hope there is nothing really wron^,* said Cmristabel ; but
■he could not get rid of the sense of uneasiness to which Leonard's
■trange manner had given rise.

She went to her boy's nursery, aa she did every night, before
eoing to bed, and said her prayers beside his pillow. She had
Mgim this one night when the child was ill, and had never



*And Time is Setting wV Me, 0.' 233

missed a night since. That quiet recess in which the little one's
cot stood was her oratory. Here, in the silence, broken only by
the ticking of the clock or the fall of a cinder on the hearth,
while the nurse slept near at hand, the mother prayed ; and her
prayers seemed to her sweeter and more efficacious her© than in
any other place. So soon as those childish lips could speak it
would be her delight to teach her son to pray ; and, in the mean-
time, her supplications went up to Heaven for hira, from a heart
Viat overflowed with motherly love. There had been one dismal
interval of her life when she had loved no one — having really
no one to love — secretly loathing her husband — not daring even
to remember that other, once so fondly loved — and then, when
her desolate heart seemed walled round with an icy barrier that
tivided it from all human feeling, God had given her this child,
jind lo! the ice had melted, and her re-awakened soul had
kindled and glowed with warmth and gladness. It was not in
Christabel's nature to love many things, or many people : rather
was it natural to her to love one person intensely, as she had
loved her adopted mother in her girlhood, as she had loved
Angus Hamleigh in the bloom of her womanhood, as she loved
her boy now.

She was leaving the child's room, after prayers and medi-
tations that had been somewhat longer than usual, when she
heard voices, and saw Mr. Tre^onell and Mr. Hamleigh by the
door of the room occupied by the latter, which was at t£e further
end of the gallery.

* You understand my plan V said Leonard.

* Perfectly.'

* It prevents all trouble, don't you see.'

* Yes, I believe it may,' answered Angus, and without any
word of good-night he opened his door and went into his room,
while Leonard turned on his heel and strolled to his own
quarters.

* Was there anything amiss between you and Mr. Hamleigh,
that you parted so coldly just now ? ' asked Christabel, presently,
when her husband came from his dressing-room into the bed-
room where she sat musing by the fire.

* What, aren't you gone to bed yet ! ' he exclaimed. * You
seem to be possessed by a wakeful demon to-night.'

* I have Deen in the boy's room. Was there anything amiss,
Lscoardr

* You are monstrously anxious about |it. No. What should
there be amiss ? You didn't expect to see us hugging each other
like a couple of Frenchmen, did you ? '



Mount Boydl,
CHAPTER XXII.

•with such remorseless speed still come ITEW WOEa'

TnE next morning was damp, and grey, and mild, no autumn
wind stiring the long sweeping branches of the cedars on the
lawn, the dead leaves falling silently, the world all sad and
solemn, clad in universal greyness, Christabel was up early,
with her boy, in the nursery — watching him as he splashed about
his bath, and emerged rosy and joyous, like an infant river-
god sporting among the rushes ; early at family prayers in the
dining-room, a ceremony at which Mr. Tregonell rarely assisted,
and to which Dopsy and Mopsy came flushed and breathless
with hurry, anxious to pay all due respect to a hostess whom they
hoped to visit again, but inwardly revolting against the unreason-
ableness of eight-o'clock prayers.

Angus, who was generally about the gardens before eight, did
not appear at all this morning. The other men were habitually
late — breakfasting together in a free-and-easy manner when the
ladies had left the dining-room — so Christabel, Miss Bridgeman,
and the Miss Vandeleurs sat down to breakfast alone, Dopsy
giving little furtive glances at the door every now and then,
expectant of Mr. Hamleigh's entrance.

That expectancy became too painful for the damsel's i>atience,
by-and-by, as the meal advanced.

* 2 wonder what has become of Mr. Hamleigh,' she said.
* This is the first time he has been late at breakfast.'

' Perhaps he is seeing to the packing of his portmanteau,' said
Miss Bridgeman. * Some valets are bad packers, and want
superintendence.'

* Packing ! * cried Dopsy, aghast. * Packing ! What for ?'

* He is going to London this afternoon. Didn't you know ? *
Dopsy grew pale as ashes. The shock was evidently terrible,

and even Jessie pitied her.

* Poor silly Dop,' she thought. * Could she actually suppose
that she stood the faintest chance of bringing down her bird 1 '

'Going away? For good?' murmured Miss Vandeleur,
faintly — all the flavour gone out of the dried salmon, the Cornish
butter, the sweet home-baked bread.

* I hope so. He is going to the South of France for the
winter. Of course, you know that he is consumptive, and hai
not many years to live,' answered Miss Bridgeman.

* Poor fellow 1' sighed Dopsy, with tears glittering upon her
lowered eyelids.

She had begun the chase moved chiefly by sordid instincts ;



* With such Bemorseless Speed still come New Woes.* 235

her tenderest emotions had been hacked and vulgarized by long
experience in flirtation — but at this moment she believed that
never in her life had she loved before, and that never in her life
could she love again.

* And if he dies unmarried what will become of his property ? *
inquired Mopsy, whose feelings were not engaged.

*I haven't the faintest idea,' answered Miss Bridgeman.

• He has no near relations. I hope he will leave his money to
some charitable institution.'

*What time does he goV faltered Dopsy, swallowing her
tears.

* Mr. Hamleigh left an hour ago, Madam,' said the butler,
who had been carving at the side-board during this conversation.

* He has gone shooting. The dog-cart is to pick him up at the
gate leading to St. Nectan's Kieve at eleven o'clock.'

* Gone shooting on his last morning at Mount Eoyal ! * ex-
claimed Jessie. ' That's a new development of Mr. Hamleigh's
character. I never knew he had a passion for sport.'

* I believe there is a note for you, ma'am,' said the butler to
his mistress.

He went out into the hall, and returned in a minute or two
carrying ;,a letter upon his official salver, and handing it with
•fficial solemnity to Mrs. Tregonell.

The letter was brief and commonplace enough —

* Dear Mrs. Tregonell, —

' After all I am deprived of the opportunity of wishing you
good-bye this morning, by the temptation of two or three hours'
woodcock shooting about St. Nectan's Kieve. I shall drive
straight from there to Launceston in Mr. Tregonell's dog-cart, for
the use of which I beg to thank him in advance. I have already
thanked you and Miss Bridgeman for your goodness to me
during my late visit to Mount Royal, and can only say that my
gratitude lies much deeper, and means a great deal more, than
such expressions of thankfulness are generally intended to convey.
' Ever sincerely yours,

'Angus Hamleigh.'

* Then this was what Leonard and he were settling last night,
thought Christabel. ' Your master went out with Mr. Hamleigli,
I suppose,' she said to the servant.

'No, ma'am, my master is in his study. I took him hia
breakfast an hour ago. He is writing letters, I believe.'

* And the other two gentlemen ? '

'Started for Bodmin in the wagonette at six o'clock this
Kiorning.'

* They are going to see that unhappy man hanged,' said Miss
Bridgeman. * Congenial occupation. Mr. Montagu told me all
l,bout it at dinner yesterday, and asked me if I wasn't sorry that



286 Mount BoyaU

my Bex prevented my joining the party. ** It would be a ne>f
sensation/' he said, " and to a woman of your intelligence that
must be an immense attraction." I told him I had no hankering
after new sensations of that kind.'

* And he is really gone — without saying good-bye to any of us,*
said Dopsy, still harping on the departed guest.

* Yes, he is really gone,' echoed Jessie, with a sigh.
Christabel had been silent and absent-minded throughout the

meal. Her mind was troubled — she scarcely knew why ; dis-
turbed by the memory of her husband's manner as he parted
with Angus in the corridor ; disturbed by the strangeness of this
lonely expedition after woodcock, in a man who had always
shown himself indifferent to sport. -As usual with her when she
was out of spirits, she went straight \jo Iriie nursery for comfort,
and tried to forget everything in life except that Heaven had
given her a son whom she adored.

Her boy upon this particular morning was a little more fasci-
nating and a shade more exacting than usual ; the rain, soft and
gentle as it was — rather an all-pervading moisture than a positive
rainfall — forbade any open-air exercise for this tenderly reared
young person — so he had to be amused indoors. He was just of
an age to be played with, and to undei-stand certain games which
called upon the exercise of a dawning imagination ; so it was his
mother's dfiiight to ramble with him in an imaginary wood, and
to fly from iuiiiginary wolves, lurking in dark caverns, repre-
sented by the obscure regions underneath a table-cover — or to
repose with him on imaginary mountain-to^)s on the sofa— or be
engulfed with him in sofa pillows, which stood for whelming
waves. Then there were pictures to be looked at, and little Leo
had to be lovingly instructed in the art of turning over a leaf
without tearing it from end to end — and the necessity for re-
straining an inclination to thrust all his fingers into his mouth
between whiles, and sprawl them admiringly on the page after-
wards.

Time so beguiled, even on the dullest morning, and with a
lurking, indefinite sense of trouble in her mind all the while,
went rapidly with Christabel. She looked up with surprise when
the stable clock struck eleven.

'So late? Do you know if the dog-cart has started yet,
Carson?'

' Yes, ma'am, I heard it drive out of the yard half-an-hour
ago,' answered the nurse, looking up from her needle-work.

* Well, I must go. Good-bye, Baby. I think, if you are very
good, you might have your dinner with mamma. Din-din — with
— mum — mum — mum ' — a kiss between every nonsense syllable.
* You can bring him down, nurse. I shall have only the ladiea
wich me at luncheon.' There were atjll fuither leave-takings,



* With such Jtemorseless Speed stiU come New Woes,' 2S7

and then Christabel went downstairs. On her way past her
husband's study she saw the door standing ajar.

* Are you there, Leonard, and alone 1 '
*Yes.'

She went in. He was sitting at his desk — his cheque-book
open, tradesmen's account*: spread out before him — all the signs
and tokens of business-li.,e occupation. It was not often that
Mr. Tregonell spent a morning in his study. When he did, it
meant a general settlement of accounts, and usually resulted in a
surly frame of mind, which lasted, more or less, for the rest of
the day.

*Did you know that Mr. Hamleigh had gone woodcock
shooting ? '

* Naturally, since it was I who suggested that he should have
a shy at the birds before he left,' answered Leonard, without
looking up.

He was filling in a cheque, with his head bent over the table.

* How strange for him to go alone, in his weak health, and
with a fatiguing journey before him.'

* What's the fatigue of lolling in a railway carriage ?
Confound it, you've made me spoil the cheque ! ' mutteicid
Leonard, tearing the oblong sKp of coloured paper across and
acro.-s, impatiently.

'How your hand shakes! Have you been writing all the
morning?'

* Yes — all the morning,' absently, turning over the leaves
of his cheque-book.

* But you have been out — your boots are all over mud.'

* Yes, I meant to have an hour or so at the birds. I got
as far as Willapark, and then remembered that Clayton wanted
'he money for the tradesmen to-day. One must stick to one'i
pay-day, don't you know, when one has made a rule.'

'Of course. Oh, there are the new Quarterlies!' saiJ
Christabel, seeing a package on the table. ' Do you mind my
opening them here ? '

* No ; as long as you hold your tongue, and don't disturb me
when I'm at figures.'

This was not a very gracious permission to remain, but
Christabel seated herself quietly by the fire, and began to explore
the two treasuries of wisdom which the day's post had brought.
Leonard's study looked into the stable-yard, a spacious quad-
rangle, with long ranges of doors and windows, saddle rooms,
harness rooms, loose boxes, coachmen's and groom's quarters — a
little colony complete in itself. From his open window the
Squire could give his orders, interrogate his coachman as to his
consumption of forage, have an ailing horse paraded before
ibiim, bully an underling, fiT)4 bestow praise or blame all round, as



238 Mount Hoyah

it suited his humour. Here, too, were the kennels of the dogs,
whose company Mr. Tregonell Hked a Httle better than that o£
his fellow-men.

Leonard sat with his head bent over the table, wriPM^
Christabel in her chair by the fire turning the leaves of wer
book in the rapture of a first skimming. They sat thus for about
an hour, and then both looked up with a startled air, at the
sound of wheels.

It was the dog-cart that was being driven into the yard, Mr.
Hamleigh's servant sitting behind, walled in by a portmanteau
and a Gladstone bag. Leonard opened the window, and looked
out.

* Wliat's up V he asked. * Has your master changed his mind ? *
The valet alighted, and came across the yard to the window.

* We haven't seen Mr. Hamleigh, sir. There vaxinXj have been
some mistake, I think. We waited at the gate for nearly an
hour, and then Baker said we'd better come back, as we must
have missed Mr. Hamleigh, somehow, and he might be here
waiting for us to take him to Launceston.'

* Baker's a fool. How could you miss him if he went to the
Kieve ? There's only one way out of that place — or only one
way that Mr. Hamleigh could find. Did you inquire if he went
to the Kieve V

* Yes, sir. Baker went into the farmhouse, and they told
him that a gentleman had come with his gun and a dog, and had
asked for the key, and had gone to the Kieve alone. They were
not certain as to whether he'd come back or not, but he hadn't
taken the key back to the house. He might have put it into his
pocket, and forgotten all about it, don't you see, sir, after he'd
let himself out of the gate. That's what Baker said ; and he
might have come back here.'

' Peiliaps he has come back,' answered Leonard, carelessly.
* You'd better inquire.'

' I don't think he can have returned,' said Christabel,
standing near the window, very pale.

' How do you know ? ' asked Leonar \ savagely. * You've
been sitting here for the last hour poring /)ver that book.'

* I think I should have heard — I think I should have known,*
faltered Christabel, with her heart beating strangely.

There was a mystery in the return of the carriage which
eeemed like the beginning of woe and horror — like the ripening
of that strange vague sense of trouble which had oppressed her
for the last few hours.

* You would have heard — you would have known,' echoed her
husband, with brutal mockery — ' by instinct, by second siglit,
by animal magnetism, I suppose. You are just the sort ol
woman to believe in that kiixd of rot.'



• With mch Bemorseless Speed still come New Woes. 239

The valet had gone across the yard on his way round to t..
offices of the house. CJhristabel made no reply to her husband's
sneering speech, but went straight to the hall, and rang for the
butler.

* Have you — has any one seen Mr. Hamleigh come back to
the house 1 * she asked.

* No, ma'am.'

* Inquire, if you please, of every one. Make quite sure that
he has not returned, and then let three or four men, with Nicholls
at their head, go down to St. Nectan's Kieve and look for him.
I'm afraid there has been an accident.'

* I hope not, ma'am,' answered the butler, who had known
Christabel from her babyhood, who had looked on, a pleased
spectator, at Mr. Hamleigh's wooing, and whose heart was melted
with tenderest compassion to-day at the sight of her palHd face,
and eyes made large with terror. * It's a dangerous kind of place
for a stranger to go clambering about with a gun, but not for
one that knows every stone of it, as Mr. Hamleigh do.'

* Send, and at once, please. I do not think Mr. Hamleigh,
having arranged for the dog-cart to meet him, would forget hia
appointment.*

* There's no knowing, ma'am. Some gentlemen are so wrapt
up in their sport.'

Christabel sat down in the hall, and waited while Daniel, the
butler, made his inquiries. No one had seen Mr. Hamleigh come
in, and everybody was ready to aver on oath if necessary that he
had not returned. So Nicholls, the chief coachman, a man of
gumption and of much renown in the household, as a person
whose natural sharpness had been improved by the large respon-
sibilities involved m a weJl-filled stable, was brought to receive
his orders from Mrs. Tregonell. Daniel admired the calm gravity
with which she gave the man his instructions, despite her colour-
less cheek and tiie look of pain in every feature of her face.

* You will take two or three of the stablemen with you, and
go as fast as you can to the Kieve. You had better go in the
light cart, and it would be as well to take a mattress, and some
pillows. If — if there should have been an accident those might
be useful. Mr. Hamleigh left the house early this morning with
Lis gun to go to the Kieve, and he was to have met the dog-cart
at eleven. Baker waited at the gate till twelve — but perhaps
you have heard.'

* Yes, ma'am, Baker told me. It's strange — but Mr. Ham-
leigh may have overlooked the time if he had good sport. Do
you know which of the dogs he took with him 'i '

*No. Why do you ask?'

' Because I rather thought it was Sambo. Sambo was always
q ^avouTite of Mr. Hamleigh's, though he's getting rather too old
« B



240 Mount R^/j/al,

for his work now. If it was S.-imbo the dog muet have run away
and left him, for he was back about the yard before ten o'cloclc.
He'd been hurt somehow, for there was blood upon one of hia
feet. Master had the red setter with him this morning, when he
went for his stroll, but I believe it must have been Sambo that
Mr. Hamleigh took. There was only one of the lads about the
yard when he left, for it was breakfast time, and the little guffin
didn't notice.'

* But if all the other dogs are in their kennels—'

*They aren't, ma'am, don't you see. The two gentlemen
took a couple of 'em to Bodmin in the break — and I don't know
which. Sambo may have been with them — and may have got
tired of it and come home. He's not a dog to ap])reciate that
kind of thing.*

' Go at once, if you please, Nicholls. You know what to do.'

* Yes, ma'am.'

Nicholls went his way, and the gong began to sound for
luncheon. Mr. Tregonell, who rarely honoured the family with
his presence at the mid-day meal, came out of his den to-day in
answer to the summons, and found his wife in the halL

* I suppose you are coming in to luncheon,' he said to her, in
an angry aside. * You need not look so scared- Your old lover
is safe enough, I daresay.'

' I am not coming to luncheon,' she answered, looking at him
with pale contempt. * If you are not a little more careful of your
words I may never break bread with you again.'

The gong went on with its discordant clamour, and Jessie
Bridgeman came out of the drawing-room with the younger Miss
Vandeleur. Poor Dopsy was shut in her own room, with a head-
ache. She had been indulging herself with the feminine luxury
of a good cry. Disappointment, wounded vanity, humiliation,
and a very real pencliant for the man who had despised her
attractions were the mingled elements in her cup of woe.

The nurse came down the broad oak staircase, baby Leonard
toddling by her side,»and making two laborious jumps at e^ich
shallow step — one on— one off. Christabel met him, picked him
up in her arms, and carried him back to the nursery, where she
i)rdered his dinner to be brought. He was a little inclined to
resist this change of plan at the first, but was soon kissed into
pleasantness, and then the nurse was despatched to the servants*
hall, and Christabel had her boy to herself, and ministered to him
and amused him for the sjiace of an liour, despite an aching heart.
Then, when the nurse came back, Mrs. Tregonell went to her own
room, and sat at the window watching the avenue by which the
men must drive back to the house.

They did not come back till just when the gloom of the sunless
day wiis deepening ix)to starless night, Christabel ran down to



• With SUCH Remorseless Speed still cotm New Woes.* 241

the lobby that opened into the stable yard, and stood in the door-
way waiting for NichoUs to come to her ; but if he saw her, he
pretended not to see her, and went Mtraight to the house by
another way, and asked to speak to Mr. Tregonell.

Christabel saw him hurry across the yard to that other door,
and knew that her fears were realized. Evil of 8om«> kind had
befallen. She went straight to her husband's study, certain that
ehe would meet Nicholls there.

Leonard was standing by the fireplace, listening, while
Nicholls stood a little way from the door, relating the result



Online LibraryM. E. (Mary Elizabeth) BraddonMount Royal → online text (page 26 of 39)
Using the text of ebook Mount Royal by M. E. (Mary Elizabeth) Braddon active link like:
read the ebook Mount Royal is obligatory.

Leave us your feedback | Links exchange | RSS feed 

Online library ebooksread.com © 2007-2014