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Richard Mansergh would fall in love with Beatrix, and she with him; but
the idea was scouted by Beatrix almost with violence. She should love
René, she said, as long as she lived, and would never, never give him
up. She even became a little cross about it. She thought that her father
was not quite keeping to the bargain. He made it impossible for her to
talk to him about René, for whenever she tried to do so his face altered
and shut down. She _wanted_ to be able to talk to him about everything,
but how could he expect it if he cut himself off from the chief thing
in her life? Well, she didn't care. She loved Dad, of course, and always
should, but it _must_ make a difference later on, if he wasn't going to
accept the man she had chosen for her own, the man whom she loved and

This little outburst, which was received by Caroline with a mild
expostulation, and by Barbara in silence, indicated a certain constraint
that was growing up between Grafton and Beatrix. He had given way, but
he could not get used to the idea of her marriage, nor take it as a
thing settled and bound to happen. The six months' of parting and
silence must surely work some change. Beatrix's bonds would be loosened,
she would see with clearer eyes.

But more than half of the time of waiting was over, and Beatrix showed
no sign of having changed. She only did not talk of her lover to him
because he made himself such an unreceptive vessel for her confidence.
It was as she said: if she did so, his face altered and shut down; and
this was the expressive interpretation of his state of mind, which
shrank from the disagreeable reminder of these two, so far apart in his
estimation, considering themselves as one.

His thoughts of Lassigny had swung once more towards complete
antagonism. He seemed to him far older than he really was, and far more
immoral than he had any just reason to suppose him to be. He resented
the assurance with which this outsider had claimed his sweet white child
as his fitting mate, and even the wealth and station that alone had
given him that assurance. And he also resented the ease with which he
had accepted his period of banishment. He would have been angry if
Lassigny had tried to communicate with Beatrix directly, and would not
have liked it if he had sought to do so indirectly. But he would not
have liked anything that Lassigny did or didn't do. The image of him,
coming to his mind, when perhaps he had been able to forget it for a
time, jerked him down into a state of gloom. After a moment's silence
his face would often be darkened by a sudden frown, which did not suit
its habitual agreeable candour, and had seldom before been seen on it.
It had been his habit to take his morning cup of tea into one of the
children's rooms and chat with them, sitting on the bed, while they
drank theirs. But his visits to Beatrix were always shorter than the
others, because she had a photograph of Lassigny always propped up on
the table by the side of her bed, so that she could see it when she
first woke in the morning; and he couldn't stand that. He never sat down
on her bed, because he could see the face of the photograph from it, but
walked about the room, or sat in a chair some way off. And of course she
knew the reason, but wouldn't put away the photograph before he came.

This was one of her little protests against his attitude; and there were
others. She also could make her pretty face shut down obstinately, and
did so whenever the conversation might have led naturally to mention of
her lover. She almost succeeded in creating the impression that it was
she who refused to have his name mentioned. At times when the family
contact seemed to be at its most perfect, and the happy occupied life of
the Abbey was flowing along in its pleasant course, as if its inmates
were all-sufficing to one another, it would be brought up with a sudden
check. There was an irritating factor at work, like a tiny stone in a
shoe, that settles itself where it cannot be felt except now and then,
and must eventually be got rid of. But this influence could not be got
rid of. That was Grafton's trouble.

If only he had known that on the night before the meet at Wilborough
Beatrix had forgotten to prop Lassigny's photograph up against the
emergency candlestick on her table! It had been in its usual place when
he had gone into her room with the news that it was a fine hunting
morning, a kiss and a word of censure for sleepy little girls who let
their tea grow cold. He often began in that way, recognising her
childishness, and the fact that so short a time ago she had been all
his. Then the sight of that alien figure, to whom she had ceded the
greater part of his rights in her, who could in no way be brought into
the fabric of his life and his love, would stiffen him, dimming his
sense of fatherhood and protection. Antagonism was taking its place, and
a sense of injury. After all, he had given way. She had what she wanted,
or would have when the period of probation was over, with no further
opposition from him. Why couldn't she be towards him as she had been
before? She was changing under his eyes. It was only rarely now that he
could think of her as his loving devoted little daughter.

The worst of it, for him, was that he had now no confidants to whom he
could express himself as to the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that was
working in him. Caroline, whose love for him and dependence upon him was
an assuagement, yet did not seem to be wholly on his side. She seemed to
be playing, as it were, a waiting game. The affair would be settled, one
way or the other, when the six months had run their course. It was
better not to talk of it in the meantime. She was all sympathy with him
when he showed himself hurt and troubled by Beatrix's changed attitude,
and he knew that she 'spoke' to Beatrix about it. But that did no good,
and he could not use one daughter as a go-between with the other. Miss
Waterhouse, having sagely expressed herself at the time when the affair
was still in flux, had retired again into her shell. Worthing also took
it for granted that, as he had conditionally given way, there was no
more that could profitably be said about it until the time came for his
promise to be redeemed; and perhaps not even then. If Lassigny should
come to be accepted as a son-in-law, the obvious thing for him to do was
to make the best of him.

Ah, but Worthing had no daughter of his own. He didn't know how hard it
was to take second place, and to depend for all the solacing signs of
affection from a beloved child upon whether or no he was prepared to
accept a disliked and mistrusted figure as merged into hers.

It is true that the Vicar had offered him his sympathy. At first Grafton
had thought that he had misjudged him when he had come to him with a
tale of how troubled he had been that Mollie Walter seemed to have been
backing up Beatrix in setting herself against his will, how his wife
thought the same, and - although he would never have thought of asking
her to do so - had of her own accord spoken to Mrs. Walter about it.
Grafton had been a little disturbed at finding that the Vicar seemed to
know 'all about everything'; but the Vicar had expressed himself so
rightly, commending him for the stand he had taken, and the reasons for
it, that any doubts he may have come to feel as to whether he had been
justified in his opposition to Lassigny's suit, had been greatly
lessened. The Vicar thought as he did about it; even rather more
strongly. The innocence of girlhood was a most precious thing, and a
father who should insist that it should mate with nothing but a
corresponding innocence was taking a stand that all men who loved
righteousness must thank him for. As an accredited and official lover of
righteousness the Vicar perhaps rather overdid his sympathy, which
required for expression more frequent visits to the Abbey and a return
to a more intimate footing there than he had lately enjoyed. Grafton did
not want to be forever discussing the general question of male misdeeds
and feminine innocence with a man who appeared from his conversation to
have shed all traces of human infirmity except that of curiosity. And
there was a good deal too much of Mollie Walter brought into it. What
had Mollie Walter to do with it, or he with her? Or indeed the Vicar
with her, if it came to that? It seemed that he feared the same sort of
danger for her that Grafton had so rightly and courageously warded off
for Beatrix. Grafton knew what and whom he referred to, and put aside
his proferred confidence. He also began to close up to intimate
references to Beatrix's innocence, and came to dislike Beatrix's name on
the Vicar's lips.

The end of it had been that the Vicar had been returned to his Vicarage,
politely but indubitably, with nothing gained but another topic of acrid
conversation with his wife.

But there was one other person to whom Grafton was beginning to unburden



The big dining-room of Wilborough Hall, with a table at one end of it as
a buffet, was full of people eating and drinking and talking and
laughing. As Grafton and Barbara and Young George went in, they saw few
there whom they did not know, and among the crowd there were many who
could already be counted as friends.

No gathering of this sort could be found in a city, nor in many
countries outside England, where the land is loved, and lived on, by
those who could centre themselves elsewhere if they chose. To the
Graftons, as new-comers, the people gathered here from a radius of some
miles were beginning to be known in the actualities of their lives as
acquaintances in London never could be known, except those who could be
called friends. Each of them represented something recognised and fixed,
which gave them an interest and an atmosphere. They belonged here and
there, and their belongings coloured them, more perhaps even than their
characters or achievements.

Achievement, indeed, was scarcely represented. There were two members of
the House of Lords, neither of whom ever visited that assembly, and a
member of the House of Commons, who never spoke there if he could
possibly help it. There were a few undistinguished barristers, and some
as yet undistinguished soldiers. To the world outside the circle to
which these people mostly belonged, scarcely a name represented there
would have been familiar; and yet in a similar gathering anywhere in
England the names of many of them would have been known, and would have
meant something.

What they would have meant, among other things, if worked back to
beginnings, would have been the ownership of England. If the people in
this room, most of them unimportant if tested by their capacity to
achieve power among their fellows by unaided effort, had been taken as a
centre, and the circle widened, and widened again by the inclusion of
all those related by birth or marriage, it would eventually have covered
all but a spot here and there of the map of the United Kingdom, and the
great mass of the inhabitants of these islands would have been left

In charging the whole of this particular assembly with a notable absence
of achievement, exception must be made for the Bishop of the Diocese,
who was there, however, as a visitor, not being in the habit of
attending such gatherings of his flock in his pastoral capacity. Even he
might not have reached his gaitered eminence if he had not belonged by
birth to the sort of people represented here, for, in spite of the
democratisation of the Church, the well-born clergyman, if he follows
the lines of promotion and is not noticeably lacking in ability, still
has a slight 'pull.'

The lines of promotion, however, are other than they were a generation
or two ago. This bishop had begun his work in a large town parish, and
had kept to the crowded ways. Hard work and a capacity for organisation
are the road to success in the Church to-day. Rich country rectories
must be looked at askance until they can be taken as a secondary reward,
the higher prizes having been missed. Even when the prizes are gained,
the highest of them no longer bring dignified leisure. A bishop is a
hard-working official in these latter days, and, if overtaken by the
natural desires of advancing years for rest and contemplation, must
occasionally cast wistful eyes upon the reward he might have gained if
he had run second in the race instead of first.

The Bishop of Meadshire was an uncle by marriage of Mrs. Carruthers, of
Surley Park, who had brought him over, with other guests, to enjoy this,
to him unwonted, scene. Cheerful and courteous, with a spare figure, an
excellent digestion and a presumably untroubled conscience, he was well
qualified to gain the fullest amount of benefit from such relaxations as
a country house visit, with its usual activities and pastimes, affords.

He was standing near the door with his niece when the Graftons entered
the room, and Grafton and Barbara and Young George were immediately
introduced to him. This was done with the air of bringing together
particular friends of the introducing party. Each would have heard much
of the other, and would meet for the first time not as complete

The Bishop was, indeed, extremely cordial. A bright smile lit up his
handsome and apostolic features, and he showered benignity upon Barbara
and Young George when it came to their turn. "Then we've met at last,"
he said. "I've been hearing such a lot about you. Indeed, I may be said
to have heard hardly anything about anybody else, since I've been at

Ella Carruthers had her hand on Barbara's shoulder. "I'm sure you're not
disappointed in my new friends," she said, giving the girl an
affectionate squeeze. "This one's the chief of them."

Barbara appeared a trifle awkward, which was not her usual habit. She
liked Mrs. Carruthers, as did the whole family. They had all been
together constantly during the past few weeks, ever since the returned
wanderer had come over to the Abbey to call, and had shown herself a fit
person to be taken immediately into their critical and exclusive
society. She had triumphantly passed the tests. She was beautiful and
gay, laughed at the same sort of jokes as they did, and made them, liked
the same sort of books, and saw people in the same sort of light. She
was also warm-hearted and impulsive, and her liking for them was
expressed with few or no reserves. It had been amply responded to by all
except Barbara, who had held off a little, she could not have told why,
and would not have admitted to a less degree of acceptance of their new
friend than her sisters. Perhaps Ella Carruthers had divined the slight
hesitation, for she had made more of Barbara than of Caroline or
Beatrix, but had not yet dissolved it.

As for the rest of them, they were always chanting her virtues and
charm. For each of them she had something special. With Caroline she
extolled a country existence, and didn't know how she could have kept
away from her nice house and her lovely garden for so long. She was
quite sincere in this. Caroline would soon have discovered it if she had
been pretending. She did love her garden, and worked in it. And she led
the right sort of life in her fine house, entertaining many guests, but
never boring herself if they dwindled to one or two, nor allowing
herself to be crowded out of her chosen pursuits. She read and sewed and
played her piano, and was never found idle. Caroline and she were close

Beatrix had made a confidant of her, and had received much sympathy. But
she had told her outright that she could not have expected her father to
act otherwise than he had, and Beatrix had taken it from her, as she
would not have taken it from any one else.

Miss Waterhouse she treated as she was treated by her own beloved
charges, with affection and respect disguised as impertinence. She was
young enough and witty enough to be able to do so. Miss Waterhouse
thought her position somewhat pathetic - a young girl in years, but with
so much on her shoulders. She had come to think it admirable too, the
way in which she fulfilled her responsibilities, which never seemed to
be a burden on her. Her guardian, who was also her lawyer, advised her
constantly and was frequently at Surley, but her bailiff depended on her
in minor matters, and she was always accessible to her tenants, and
beloved by them.

It was in much the same way that Grafton had come to regard her. In the
way she lived her life as mistress of her large house, and of a property
which, though it consisted of only half a dozen farms, would have
over-taxed the capacity of many women, she was a paragon. And yet she
was scarcely older than his own children - might have been his child in
point of years - and had all the charm and light-heartedness of her
youth. She had something more besides - a wise woman's head, quick to
understand and respond. He was so much the companion of his own children
that a friend of theirs was usually a friend of his. Many of his
daughters' girl friends treated him in much the same way as if he had
been Caroline and Beatrix's brother instead of their father. Ella
Carruthers did. It was difficult sometimes to imagine that she was a
widow and the mistress of a large house, so much did she seem to belong
to the family group. In their united intercourse he had not had many
opportunities of talking to her alone, and had never so far sought them.
But on two or three occasions they had found themselves tête-à-tête for
a time, and he had talked to her about what was filling his mind, which
was Beatrix and her love-affair, and particularly her changing attitude
towards himself.

She had taken his side warmly, and had given him a sense of pleasure and
security in her sympathy. Also of comfort in what had become a
considerable trouble to him. She knew how much Beatrix loved him, she
said. She had told her so, and in any case she could not be mistaken.
But she was going through a difficult time for a girl. He must have
patience. Whichever way it turned out she would come back to him. How
could she help it, he being what he had been to her all her life?

As to the possibility of its turning out in any way but one, she avowed
herself too honest to give him hope, much as she would have liked to do
so. Beatrix was in love with the man, and had not changed; nor would she
change within the six months allowed her. Whether her lover would come
for her again when the time was up was another question. She could tell
no more than he. But he must not allow himself to be disappointed if he
did. He had accepted him provisionally, and must be prepared to endorse
his acceptance. Surely he would get used to the marriage, if it came
off! And the mutual absorption of a newly-married couple did not last
for ever. She could speak from experience there. She had adored her own
guardian, in whose house she had been brought up from infancy. She
fancied she must have loved him at least as much as most girls loved
their own fathers; yet when she had been engaged to be married, and for
a time afterwards, she had thought very little of him, and she knew now
that he had felt it, though he had said nothing. But after a time, when
she had wanted him badly, she had found him waiting for her, just the
same as ever; and now she loved him more than she had done before.

Grafton was not unimpressed by this frank disclosure, though the not
unimportant fact that the lady's husband had proved himself a rank
failure in his matrimonial relations had been ignored in her telling of
the story. And it would be a dismal business if the full return of his
child to him were to depend upon a like failure on the part of the man
she should marry. Certainly he didn't want that for her. If she _should_
marry the fellow it was to be hoped that she would be happy with him,
and he himself would do nothing to come between them. Nevertheless, the
reminder that the fervour of love need not be expected to keep up to
concert pitch, when the sedative effect of marriage had had time to cool
it, did bring him some consolation, into which he did not look too
closely. It would be soothing if the dear child were to discover that
her old Daddy stood for something, after all, which she could not get
even from her husband, and that he would regain his place apart, and be
relieved of the hard necessity of taking in and digesting an alien
substance in order to get any flavour out of her love for him. He never
would and never could get used to the fellow; he felt that now, and told
the sympathetic lady so. She replied that one could get used to anything
in this life, and in some cases it was one's duty to do so. She was no
mere cushiony receptacle for his grievances. She had a mind of her own,
and the slight explorations he had made into it pleased and interested
him. He was not so loud in his praises of her as his daughters, but it
was plain that he liked to see her at the Abbey, and it was always safe
to accept an invitation for him to Surley if he was absent when it was

Mrs. Carruthers was not riding that morning. Out of deference to her
exalted guest and various others of weight and substance, invited to
meet him, she was hunting on wheels. Some of them would view such
episodes of the chase as could, with luck, be seen from the seats of a
luxurious motor-car, but she was driving his lordship himself in her
pony-cart, quite in the old style in vogue before the scent of the fox
had begun to dispute its sway in the hunting-field with that of petrol.
It was years since the Bishop had come as close as this to one of the
delights of his youth, and he showed himself mildly excited by it, and
talked to Barbara about hounds and horses in such a way as to earn from
her the soubriquet of "a genuine lamb."

He was too important, however, to be allowed more than a short
conversation with one of Barbara's age, and was reft from her before she
could explore very far into the unknown recesses of a prelatical mind.
She was rewarded, however, for the temporary deprivation - she had other
opportunities on the following day - by coming in for Ella Carruthers's
sparkling description of the disturbance caused in the clerical nest of
Surley by her uncle's visit.

"When they heard he was really coming," she was saying to Grafton, "they
redoubled their efforts. Poor young Denis - who really looks sweet as a
curate, though more deliciously solemn than ever - was sent up with a
direct proposal. Couldn't I let bygones be bygones for the good of the
community? I said I didn't know what the community had to do with it,
and I couldn't forgive the way they had behaved. He said they were
sorry. I said they had never done or said a thing to show it. We fenced
a little, and he went back to them. Would you believe it, they swallowed
their pride and sent me a letter. I'll show it you. You never read such
a letter. They asked me to dinner at the end of it, - to-night - and
perhaps I should be able to bring his lordship. I thanked them for their
letter, and refused their invitation - of course politely. I asked Denis
to dinner last night, and they let him come, but I think he must have
had a struggle for it, because he looked very unhappy. My uncle is going
to see poor old Mr. Cooper this afternoon, and, of course, they'll make
a dead set at him; but it will be a bedside scene, and that's all
they're going to get out of it."

"Aren't you a trifle feline about the poor ladies?" asked Grafton.

"_They_ are feline, if you like. Aren't they, Barbara?"

"They're spiteful old cats, if that's what you mean," said Barbara. "Did
you ask Lord Salisbury to dinner?"

"No. I have an idea that my uncle wishes to have a rest from the clergy,
though it's as much as his place is worth to say so. The darling old
thing! He's thoroughly enjoying himself. I believe he would have hunted
to-day, if I had pressed a mount upon him."

"Is Denis going to preach at him to-morrow?" asked Grafton.

"Yes, I suppose so. Mr. Mercer offered to do it in the afternoon, but
Rhoda and Ethel refused. I got that out of Denis himself, who is too
deliciously innocent and simple for words. If it weren't for Rhoda and
Ethel I really think I should make love to my uncle to give him the
living when poor old Mr. Cooper comes to an end. Perhaps he will in any
case. A lot hangs upon Denis's sermon to-morrow."

"I expect Rhoda and Ethel have written it for him," said Barbara.

"Perhaps one of them will dress up and preach," suggested Young George.

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Online LibraryArchibald MarshallAbington abbey; a novel → online text (page 18 of 23)