Archibald Marshall.

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which considered that meal to be the fitting close of the day; also by
the presence of the Curate of the parish, taking his due refreshment of
mind and body after the labours of the day.

The guests from outside were chiefly relations of Mrs. Carruthers and of
the Bishop, elderly well-placed people for the most part, not markedly
ecclesiastical in their interests or conversation, though affairs of the
church were not left untouched upon, out of deference to their
distinguished relative. But there were one or two younger people, and
among them an American bride, Lady Wargrave, who was on her first visit
to England, and kept the company alive by her comments and criticisms on
all that was new to her in the country of her adoption.

A matter of some interest to the Graftons was the way in which Denis
Cooper had acquitted himself before the eyes of his superior officer in
the religious exercises of the day. They had no particular interest in
him personally, as he was not of the character to expend himself in
social intercourse with his neighbours against the obstacles of his
home. He and his sisters appeared regularly at all the country houses
around when it was a question of some festivity to which the invitations
were general, but the two ladies were not exactly popular among their
neighbours, and had always hitherto kept a firm hand upon the doings of
their much younger brother. They disliked his going intimately to houses
at which they themselves were not made welcome, and during the two
months since he had taken ostensible charge of his father's parish he
had not done so. So the Graftons hardly knew him, but were interested on
general grounds in the little comedy of patronage which was being
enacted before their eyes. It was fresh to them, these desires and
jealousies in connection with a factor of country life which hardly
shows up in a city, except in those circles in which all church affairs
are of importance. All over the country are these pleasant houses and
gardens and glebes, with an income larger or smaller attached to them,
and a particular class of men to whom their disposal is of extreme
interest. In this case there was one of the prizes involved, and they
knew at least two of the candidates, for their own Vicar had made it
plain enough that he was one of them, and here was the other. Here also
was the authority with whom it lay to award the prize. His decision
could not be foreseen, but might be guessed at, and any signs of it that
might be visible under their eyes were of value.

Their sympathies inclined towards the candidature of Denis Cooper, in
spite of their small acquaintance with him. It would be a sporting thing
if he were to pull it off, against the handicap of his extreme youth. On
the other hand, if their own Vicar should be appointed, he would be
removed from the sphere of his present labours and, apart from the
relief that this would afford them in itself, it would be followed by
another little comedy, in which they would all take a hand themselves.
For it would lay with their father to appoint a successor, and it was
not to be supposed that he would undertake a task of such importance
except in full consultation with themselves. On the balance, however,
they were supporters of Denis Cooper, and it looked well for his chances
that when they entered the morning-room of Surley Park, where the
guests were assembled, the Bishop was seen standing by the fire-place
with his hand on the young man's shoulder.

Ella Carruthers found an opportunity before dinner was announced of
confiding to Caroline and Beatrix that he had acquitted himself well.
"Really I believe I'm going to pull it off," she said. "It's very good
of me to take so much trouble about Denis because it means my saddling
myself with Rhoda and Ethel, when I should so much like to get rid of
them. Still, if I succeed in getting him firmly planted in the Rectory I
shall set about finding him a wife, and then they'll have to go. They
won't like it, and they'll make trouble, which I shall enjoy very much."

"Was the Bishop pleased with his sermons?" asked Caroline.

"He only preached one," she said. "My uncle performed in the afternoon,
I think with the idea of showing him how much better he could do it
himself. But of the two I liked Denis's sermon the better. It was more
learned, and didn't take so long."

"Was he pleased with Denis?" asked Beatrix. "It looked like it when we
came in. I believe they were telling one another funny stories."

"Oh, yes. He said he seemed an honest manly young fellow, and not too
anxious to push himself."

"Was that a dig at Rhoda and Ethel, do you suppose?"

"I took it so. I said they were very tiresome in the way they tried to
direct everything and everybody, but that Denis wasn't like them at
all. All the people in the place loved his old father, and liked him
too."

"Do you think he took that in?"

"I hope so, though, of course, he wouldn't commit himself. I think he's
sized up Rhoda and Ethel, though, for he asked me when Mrs. Cooper died,
and said that he had heard that she had been a very managing woman. I
say, did you know that your Lord Salisbury actually came over here to
church this afternoon?"

"_Our_ Lord Salisbury!" exclaimed Beatrix.

"I don't think he did any good for himself. I had to ask him to tea, as
he hung about after church, and we were all walking up together. But I
took care to let my uncle see that I was forced into it. He was quite
friendly with him, but didn't give him the whole of his attention, as he
seemed to expect. Oh, he sees into things all right, the clever old
dear! I should say that Lord Salisbury's forcing himself in like that
has put him out of the betting. I don't know what others there are
running, but I'd stake a pair of gloves on Denis's chances, and I shall
try to do a little more for him still before I've finished."

The number of guests made a general conversation round the dinner-table
of infrequent occurrence, though whenever the Bishop showed signs of
wishing to address the assembly he was allowed to do so, and Lady
Wargrave sometimes succeeded, more by the gaiety and wit of her speech
than by its high-pitched note, in making herself listened to by
everybody. It was fortunate, however, for what hung upon it, that a
certain conversation in which she bore a leading part towards the end
of the meal was confined to her end of the table.

She was talking of transatlantic marriages in general, and her own
particular. "I'd like everybody to know," she said, "that I married for
love. Now do tell me, Bishop, from what you can see at the other end of
the table, that you think I am speaking the truth."

Lord Wargrave, at that moment in earnest conversation with a
dignified-looking dowager, was good-looking enough, in a rather heavy
British way, to make the claim not unreasonable, though he was by no
means the equal of his wife in that respect.

"I can believe that you both fell in love with each other," said the
Bishop benignly.

"Thank you," said the lady, "I hope you are not being sarcastic. Lots of
our girls _do_ marry for the sake of a title, and I won't say that it's
not funny to be called My Lady just at first. Still it wears off after a
bit, and isn't worth giving up your American citizenship for."

"Would you rather Lord Wargrave had been a plain American citizen
instead of an Englishman with a title?" asked Ella.

"Why, sure! I'm telling you so."

"But you do like Englishmen, all the same," suggested the Bishop.

"I'm not going to say that I like Englishmen as much as Americans.
Nothing will drag that from me, if I never set foot in the States again.
But as to that, Wargrave has promised me a trip every two years. I
wouldn't have married him without, though you can see that I adore him,
and I'm not ashamed of showing it."

"Well then, you like Englishmen next best to Americans."

"Perhaps I do, though I think Frenchmen are real cute. They've a way
with them. With an Englishman you generally have to do more than half
yourself. With a Frenchman you've got to be mighty smart to see that you
get the chance of doing your half. With an Englishman, when you're once
married it's finished, but I should judge that you would have to get
busy and keep busy, married to a Frenchman."

Ella Carruthers stole a look at Beatrix, who was seated a few places
away from her. She had been talking to her neighbour, but now sat with
her eyes fixed upon the speaker. Her colour was a little heightened, but
it was impossible to tell from her look what she was thinking. Ella
hoped for her sake that the conversation would not be continued on that
subject, and prepared her wits to divert it. But the next moment
something had been said which changed her feeling from one of sympathy
with Beatrix to one of sharp alarm on her behalf.

"A French Marquis came to N'York last fall," pursued Lady Wargrave, "who
was the cutest thing in the way of European nobility you ever struck. He
talked English like an Amurrcan, and was a poifectly lovely man to look
at. One of my girl friends has just gotten engaged to him; I had the
noos from her last mail. Of course I wrote back that I was enchanted,
but if he had wanted _me_ there'd have been no Marquise yet awhile. But
I wasn't rich enough anyway. The Frenchmen who come over are always out
for the dollars, the Englishmen let them go by sometimes. Wargrave did.
He could have had one of our big fortunes, if he wouldn't rather have
had me."

Poor little Beatrix! She was spared the hammer-stroke of hearing her
lover's name in public, but there was never any doubt in her mind that
it was he. She turned dead white, and kept her eyes fixed upon Lady
Wargrave until she had finished her speech and passed on lightly to some
other topic. Then she turned to her neighbour and listened to something
he was saying to her, but without hearing it, and she was obliged to
leave off peeling the orange she held because her hands were trembling.

There happened to be nobody at that end of the table, listening to Lady
Wargrave, who could connect her speech with Beatrix, except Ella
Carruthers. Beatrix, when she had sat still and silent for a moment,
looked at her suddenly with an appealing look, and found her eyes fixed
upon her with the deepest concern. That enabled her to overcome her
tremors. She would have broken down if Ella, by any word, had drawn
attention to her. She suddenly turned to her neighbour and began to
chatter. He was an elderly man, interested in his dinner, who had not
noticed her sudden pallor. As she talked, her colour came back to her,
and she hardly left off talking until the sign was given, rather
prematurely, for the ladies to leave the table. Her knees were trembling
as she rose from her seat, and she was glad of Ella's arm to support her
as she walked from the room.

"No," she said, in answer to a low-spoken word of going upstairs. "I
don't want to. Ask if it's he - but I know it is - and tell Caroline to
come and tell me."

She made her way to a sofa in a corner of the big drawing-room, and sat
down, while the rest of the women clustered around the chimney-piece.
She sat there waiting, without thought and without much sensation. She
was conscious only of revolt against the blow that had been dealt her,
and determination to support it.

Presently Caroline came to her, her soft eyes full of trouble. "My
darling!" she said tenderly, sitting down by her.

"You needn't say it," she said quickly. "If he's like that I'm not going
to make a scene. Pretend to talk to me, and presently I'll go and talk
to the others."

She had an ardent wish to throw it all off from her, not to care, and to
show that she didn't care. But her knees were trembling again, and she
could not have walked across the room.

Caroline was near tears. "Oh, it's wicked - the way he has treated you,"
she said. "You're going to forget him, aren't you, my darling B?"

"Of course I am," said Beatrix, hurriedly. "I'll think no more of him
at all. I've got you - and Daddy - and the Dragon."

The mention of Miss Waterhouse may have been drawn from her by the
approach of that lady, though she had been all the mother to her that
she had ever known and she did feel at that moment that there was
consolation in her love.

Miss Waterhouse did not allow her tenderness to overcome her authority,
though her tenderness was apparent as she said: "Darling B, you won't be
feeling well. I have asked Ella to send for the car, and I shall take
you home. We will go quietly upstairs, now, before the men come in."

Beatrix protested. She was perfectly all right, and didn't want any fuss
made about her. She was rather impatient, and burning to show that she
didn't care. But as most of the people towards whom she would have to
make the exhibition wouldn't know that she had any reason to care, it
seemed hardly worth the expenditure of energy, of which, at that moment,
she had none too much to spare. Also she did care, and the thought of
getting away quietly and being herself, in whatever guise her feelings
might prompt, was immensely soothing. So she and Miss Waterhouse slipped
out of the room, and by the time the men came into it were on their way
home.

It was Caroline who told her father. She had a little dreaded his first
word and look. In some ways, over this affair of Beatrix's, he had not
been quite as she had learnt to know him. He had lost that complete
mastery which long years of unfailing kindness and gentleness had given
him over his children. He had shown annoyance and resentment, and had
made complaints, which one who is firmly in authority does not do. Some
weakness, under the stress of feeling, had come out in him, instead of
the equable strength which his children had learnt to rely on. Perhaps
Caroline loved him all the more for it, for it was to her he had come
more than to any other for sympathy and support. But she did not want to
have to make any further readjustments. Which of the mixed and opposing
feelings would he show first, on the news being broken to him - the great
relief it would bring to himself, or the sympathy he would certainly
feel towards his child who had been hurt.

"Daddy darling," she said, drawing him a little aside, "B and the Dragon
have gone home. She heard at dinner that Lassigny is going to be
married. She's all right, but the Dragon made her go home."

His face - that of a man whom a sufficiency, but not an overplus, of food
and wine and tobacco had put into just accord with the World about
him - expressed little but bewilderment. "Heard at dinner!" he echoed.
"Who on earth told her?"

"Lady Wargrave. She had had a letter from America."

He threw a look at that resplendent lady, whose high but not unmusical
voice was riding the stream of talk. Her beautiful face and form, her
graceful vivacity, and the perfection of her attire were such as
naturally to have attracted round her magnet-wise the male filings of
after-dinner re-assembly. Grafton himself, casting an unattached but
attachable eye round him on entering the room, would have made his way
instinctively to the group in which she was sitting.

"Damn the woman!" he said vindictively.

Caroline took hold of the lapels of his coat and kissed him, in defiance
of company manners. "Hush, darling! The Bishop!" she said.

Throughout the short hour that followed he was vivacious and subdued by
turns. He had no more than a few words alone with his hostess. "Poor
little B!" she said commiseratingly.

"Yes, poor little B!" he echoed. "Are you sure it's that fellow?"

"Oh, yes, she said so, when I asked her. I didn't tell her why I had
asked. You can talk to her about it if you like."

"Oh, good Lord, no!" he said. "I don't want to hear the fellow's name
again. What has happened to him is nothing to me, if we've got rid of
him. Of course I'm glad of it. It shows I was right about him. Now I
shall get my little girl back again."

It was the sort of speech that Caroline had vaguely feared. Ella
Carruthers said, with a smile: "You can't expect to keep her long, you
know. But I'm glad this is at an end, as you so much disliked it."

Going home in the car, at a comparatively early hour, because bishops
are supposed to want to go to bed on Sunday evenings, they talked it
over. Bunting had heard the news from Barbara, and was inclined to take
a serious view of it.

"I think it's disgraceful to throw over a girl like that," he said.
"What are you going to do about it, Dad?"

"There's nothing to be done," said his father, "except to help B to
forget all about him. Of course she'll be very much hurt, but when she's
had time to think it over she'll see for herself that he wasn't worth
what she gave him. It won't want any rubbing in. Better leave him alone
altogether, and forget about him ourselves."

Caroline put out her hand, and gave his a squeeze. Barbara said: "You
were quite right about him, after all, Daddy."

"Well, it looks like it," he answered. "But when somebody else has been
hurt you're not going to help them get over it by saying, 'I told you
so.' Poor little B has been hurt, and that's all we've got to put right
at present."

"There's the show coming on," said Bunting. "That'll interest her. And
Jimmy will take care not to badger her at rehearsals. He's a
kind-hearted chap, and he'll understand."

"He's a pompous conceited little ass," said Barbara, in whom the
remembrance of certain passages of the afternoon still rankled. "But
perhaps he'll make her laugh, which will be something."

"He can be very funny when he likes," said Bunting guilelessly.

"Not half so funny as when he doesn't like," returned Barbara. "You
know, Daddy, I think B will get over it pretty soon, if we leave her
alone. I believe she'd begun to like him not so much."

"You observed that, did you?" said her father. "Well, if it is so it
will make it all the easier for her."

Beatrix had gone to bed when they got in. Miss Waterhouse said that she
had taken it better than she had expected. She had been relieved at
getting away from Surley, and the necessity to play a part, had cried a
little in the car going home, but not as if she were likely to break
down, and had said she didn't want to talk about it. But Caroline might
go to her when she came in.

"Give her my love and a kiss," said Grafton, "and come down and talk to
me afterwards. It's early yet."




CHAPTER XXVI

THE LAST


Caroline came down to him in her dressing-gown, with her fair hair
hanging in a plait down her back, as she had been wont to do as a child
when he had wanted her, and she had been so pleased and proud to keep
him company. Latterly he had not seemed to want her quite so much. His
easy life had been troubled, as it had never been before in her
recollection, except after her mother's death, and then she had known,
child as she was, that she had been able to give him consolation. In
this so much smaller trouble she knew she had not sufficed for him. One
soul, however deeply loved, cannot heal the wounds dealt to love by
another, though it may assuage them. He had wanted Beatrix's love more
than hers, because hers had never been in question. But there was no
depth of jealousy in her true tender nature, only little ruffles on the
surface. She had felt for him. If he got back to be what he wanted with
Beatrix, he would be not less to her but more. And he was most of what
she wanted at that time.

She sat down on the arm of his chair before the fire, and hoped he would
take her on his knee, as he had always done when she had kept him
company as a child. Perhaps that was why she had prepared herself for
the night before coming to him.

He gazed into the fire, and waited for her to speak. "She sent you her
love," she said, her lip and her voice quivering a little with her
disappointment.

He roused himself and looked up at her, catching the note of emotion,
but not understanding its cause, then drew her on to his knee and kissed
her. "My darling," he said, and she put her face to his neck and cried a
little, but not from unhappiness.

"I'm very silly," she said, searching for the handkerchief in the pocket
of his smoking-jacket, and drying her eyes with it. "There's nothing to
cry about, really. She's going to be all right. I'm glad it's all over,
and so will she be very soon." Then she gave a little laugh, and said:
"We've had a hog of a time, haven't we, Dad?"

It was one of his own phrases, thus consecrated for use in the family on
all suitable occasions. That this could be considered one was her
rejection of unnecessary emotion.

"You've been very good about it, darling," he said, some sense of not
having given her the place due to her love stealing upon him. "I
shouldn't have got through it as well as I have, but for you."

This was balm to her. He had not yet put a question to her as to
Beatrix, and she made haste to satisfy him.

"She's sorry she went against you so much," she said. "But before she
knew - last night - she says she wanted you more than she had done for a
long time. She thinks now she would have come not to want him so much,
even if - if this hadn't happened."

"Oh, yes, I know," he said. "I felt it, and half-hoped it might mean
that, but didn't like to hope too much. You know, darling, it was more
instinct with me than anything. It didn't seem to me a right - what shall
I say? - a right combination - those two. When I was tackled about it - by
Aunt Katherine and others - I couldn't put up much of a defence. But none
of them ever made me feel any different, though I gave way. I should
have hated it, always, if it had come off. I couldn't have helped
myself, though I should have tried to make the best of it for B's sake.
Didn't you feel it wouldn't have done?"

She was silent for a moment. She hadn't felt it, and the thought
troubled her loyal mind that because she had not been able to show him
that her instinct was with his, which now had proved itself to be the
right one, she had failed him. "I don't think anybody saw it plainly but
you, darling," she said. "I suppose we didn't know enough. It's
fortunate that it has turned out as it has."

"Well, there it is," he said, after a pause. "It's lucky that it has
turned out as it has. If it hadn't, although I felt what I did about it,
I couldn't have done anything - shouldn't have done anything. You want to
save your child, and you can't do it. You can't act, in these matters,
on what your judgment tells you, unless you've got a clear reason that
all the world will recognise. If you do, the whole pack's against you,
and the child you're doing it for at the head of them. Perhaps it's
weakness to give way, as I did, but for the little I did manage to bring
about I've gone through, as you say, a hog of a time. If I'd done more I
should have lost more still, and she'd never have known that what has
happened now didn't happen because of me. It's a difficult position for
us fathers who love their daughters and whose love doesn't count against
the other fellow's, when it comes along, even when it isn't all it ought
to be. That B has been saved this time - it's a piece of luck. It makes
you think a bit. You can't take it in and be glad of it all at once."

She could not follow all of this expression of the time-old problem of
fatherhood, but seized upon one point of it to give him comfort. "It
does count, darling," she said. "It always must, when a father has been
what you have been to us."

"It hasn't counted much with B. Perhaps it will again now."

"Oh, yes, it will. It was there all the time. It will be, more than ever
now. She'll see by and by what you've saved her from."

"What I tried to. Doesn't she see it now?"

She had already told him the best. Beatrix's last word had been the
message of love to him, but Caroline had had to struggle for it.

"She's all upset," she said. "She can't see everything all at once.
She's outraged at having been jilted; that was her word. She's indignant
against him for lowering her in her own eyes. She almost seems to hate
him now."

"That's because she's angry with him. It doesn't mean that she won't
feel it a lot before she's done."

"No. She's hurt and angry all round."

"Angry with me, then?"

"No, not that. And at the end - I told you - she sent you her love, and a
kiss. Oh, she does love you. But you'll have to be a little careful,
Dad."

"Careful, eh? She doesn't think I'm going to crow over her, does she?"

"Of course not. And I told her how sweet you'd been about it - that you
only wanted to help her to forget it."

"Well, what's the trouble then?"


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