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A GRAY EYE OR SO ***




Produced by David Widger from page images generously
provided by the Internet Archive









A GRAY EYE OR SO

By Frank Frankfort Moore

In Three Volumes - Volume III

SIXTH EDITION

London

HUTCHINSON & CO., 34 PATERNOSTER ROW

1893

[Illustration: 0007]





A GRAY EYE OR SO.




CHAPTER XXXVIII. - ON A KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD.

|SHORTLY after noon he was with her. He had left his rooms without
touching a morsel of breakfast, and it was plain that such sleep as
he had had could not have been of a soothing nature. He was pale and
haggard; and she seemed surprised - not frightened, however, for her
love was that which casteth out fear - at the way he came to her - with
outstretched hands which caught her own, as he said, “My beloved - my
beloved, I have a strange word for you - a strange proposal to make.
Dearest, can you trust me? Will you marry me - to-morrow - to-day?”

She scarcely gave a start. He was only conscious of her hands tightening
upon his own. She kept her eyes fixed upon his. The silence was long.
It was made the more impressive by the distinctness with which the
jocularity of the fishmonger’s hoy with the cook at the area railings,
was heard in the room.

“Harold,” she said, in a voice that had no trace of distrust, “Harold,
you are part of my life - all my life! When I said that I loved you,
I had given myself to you. I will marry you any time you
please - to-morrow - to-day - this moment!”

She was in his arms, sobbing.

His “God bless you, my darling!” sounded like a sob also.

In a few moments she was laughing through her tears.

He was not laughing.

“Now, tell me what you mean, my beloved,” said she, with a hand on each
of his shoulders.

“Tell me what you mean by coming to frighten me like this. What has
happened?”

“Nothing has happened, only I want to feel that you are my own - my own
beyond the possibility of being separated from me by any power on earth.
I do not want to take you away from your father’s house - I cannot offer
you any home. It may be years before we can live together as those who
love one another as we love, may live with the good will of heaven. I
only want you to become my wife in name, dearest. Our marriage must be
kept a secret.”

“But my own love,” said she, “why should you wish to go through this
ceremony? Are we not united by the true bond of love? Can we be more
closely united than we are now? The strength of the marriage bond
is only strong in proportion as the love which is the foundation of
marriage is strong. Now, why should you wish for the marriage rite
before we are prepared to live for ever under the same roof?”

“Why, why?” he cried passionately, as he looked into the depths of her
eyes.

He left her and went across the room to one of the windows and looked
out. (It was the greengrocer’s boy who was now jocular with the cook at
the area railings.)

“My Beatrice - ” Harold had returned to her from his scrutiny of the
pavement. “My Beatrice, you have not seen all that I have seen in the
world. You do not know - you do not know me as I know myself. Why should
there come to me sometimes an unworthy thought - no, not a doubt - oh, I
have seen so much of the world, Beatrice, I feel that if anything should
come between us it would kill me. I must - I must feel that we are made
one - that there is a bond binding us together that nothing can sever.”

“But, my Harold - no, I will not interpose any buts. You would not ask
me to do this if you had not some good reason. You say that you know the
world. I admit that I do not know it. I only know you, and knowing
you and loving you with all my heart - with all my soul - I trust you
implicitly - without a question - without the shadow of a doubt.”

“God bless you, my love, my love! You will never have reason to regret
loving me - trusting me.”

“It is my life - it is my life, Harold.”

Once again he was standing at the window. This time he remained longer
with his eyes fixed upon the railings of the square enclosure.

“It must be to-morrow,” he said, returning to her. “I shall come here at
noon. A few words spoken in this room and nothing can part us. You will
still call yourself by your own name, dearest, God hasten the day when
you can come to me as my wife in the sight of all the world and call
yourself by my name.”

“I shall be here at noon to-morrow,” said she.

“Unless,” said he, returning to her after he had kissed her forehead and
had gone to the door. “Unless” - he framed her face with his hands,
and looked down into the depths of her eyes. - “Unless, when you have
thought over the whole matter, you feel that you cannot trust me.”

She laughed.

“Ah, my love, my love, you do not know the world,” said he.

He knew the world.

Another man who knew the world was Pontius Pilate.

This was why he asked “What is Truth?”

Harold Wynne was in Archie Brown’s room in Piccadilly within half an
hour.

Archie was at the Legitimate Theatre, Mr. Playdell said - Mr. Playdell
was seated at the dining-room table surrounded by papers. A trifling
difference of opinion had arisen between Mrs. Mowbray and her manager,
he added, and (with a smile) Archie had hurried to the theatre to set
matters right.

“It is kind of you to call, Mr. Wynne,” continued Mr. Playdell. “But I
hope it is not to tell me that you regret the suggestion that you made
yesterday - that you do not see your way to write to your sister to
invite Archie to her place.”

“I wrote to her the moment you left me,” said Harold. “Archie will
get his invitation this evening. It is not about him that I came here
to-day, Mr. Playdell. I came to see you. You asked me yesterday to
give you an opportunity of doing something for me. I can give you that
opportunity.”

“And I promise you that I shall embrace it with gladness, Mr. Wynne,”
said Playdell, rising from the table. “Tell me how I can serve you and
you will find how ready I am.”

“You still hold to your original principles regarding marriage, Mr.
Playdell?”

“How could I do otherwise than hold to them, Mr. Wynne? They are the
result of thought; they are not merely a fad to gain notoriety. Let me
prove the position that I take up on this matter.”

“You need not, Mr. Playdeil. I heard all your case when it was
published. I confess that I now think differently respecting you from
what I thought at that time. Will you perform the ceremony of marriage
between a lady who has promised to marry me and myself?”

“There is only one condition that I make, Mr. Wynne. You must take an
oath that you consider the rite, as I perform it, to be binding upon
you, and that you will never recognize a divorce.”

“I will take that oath willingly, Mr. Playdeil. I have promised my
_fiancée_ that we shall be with her at noon to-morrow. She will be
prepared for us. By the way, do you require a ring for the ceremony as
performed by you?”

Mr. Playdeil looked grave - almost scandalized.

“Mr. Wynne,” said he, “that question suggests to me a certain disbelief
on your part in the validity in the sight of heaven of the rite of
marriage as performed by a man with a full sense of his high office,
even though unfrocked by a Church that has always shown too great a
readiness to submit to secular guidance - secular restrictions in matters
that were originally, like marriage, purely spiritual. The Church
has not only submitted to civil restrictions in the matter of the
celebration of the holy rite of matrimony, but, while declaring at the
altar that God has joined them whom the Church has joined, and while
denying the authority of man to put them asunder, she recognizes the
validity of divorce. She will marry a man who has been divorced from
his wife, when he has duly paid the Archbishop a sum of money for
sanctioning what in the sight of God is adultery.”

“My dear Mr. Playdell,” said Harold, “I recollect very clearly the able
manner in which you defended your - your - principles, when they were
called in question. I do not desire to call them in question now. I
believe in your sincerity in this matter and in other matters. I
shall drive here for you at half past eleven o’clock to-morrow. I need
scarcely say that I mean my marriage to be kept a secret.”

“You may depend upon my good faith in that respect,” said Mr. Playdell.
“Mr. Wynne,” he added, impressively, “this land of ours will never be
a moral one so long as the Church is content to accept a Parliamentary
definition of morality. The Church ought certainly to know her own
business.”

“There I quite agree with you,” said Harold.

He refrained from asking Mr. Playdell if the Church, in dispensing with
his services as one of her priests, had not made an honest attempt to
vindicate her claims to know her own business. He merely said, “Half
past eleven to-morrow,” after shaking hands with Mr. Playdell, who
opened the door for him.




CHAPTER XXXIX. - ON CONSCIENCE AND THE RING.

|HAROLD WYNNE shut himself up in his rooms without even lunching. He
drew a chair in front of the fire and seated himself with the sigh of
relief that is given by a man who has taken a definite step in some
matter upon which he has been thinking deeply for some time. He sat
there all the day, gazing into the fire.

Yes, he had taken the step that had suggested itself to him the previous
night. He had made up his mind to take advantage of the opportunity that
was afforded him of binding Beatrice to him by a bond which she at least
would believe incapable of rupture. The accident of his meeting with the
man whose views on the question of marriage had caused him to be thrust
out of the Church, and whose practices left him open to a criminal
prosecution, had suggested to him the means for binding to him the girl
whose truth he had no reason to doubt.

He meant to perpetrate a fraud upon her. He had known of men entrapping
innocent girls by means of a mock marriage, and he had always regarded
such men as the most unscrupulous of scoundrels. He almost succeeded,
after a time, in quieting the whisperings by his conscience of the
word “fraud” - its irritating repetitions of this ugly word - by giving
prominence to the excellence of his intentions in the transaction which
he was contemplating. It was not a mock marriage - no, it was not, as
ordinary mock marriages, to be gone through in order to give a man
possession of the body of a woman, and to admit of his getting rid of
her when it would suit his convenience to do so. It was, he assured
his conscience, no mock marriage, since he was seeking it for no gross
purpose, but simply to banish the feeling of cold distrust which he had
now and again experienced. Had he not offered to free the girl from the
promise which she had given to him? Was that like the course which would
be adopted by a man endeavouring to take advantage of a girl by means
of a mock marriage? Was there anything on earth that he desired more
strongly than a real marriage with that same girl? There was nothing.
But it was, unfortunately, the case that a real marriage would mean ruin
to him; for he knew that his father would keep his word - when it suited
his own purpose - and refuse him his allowance upon the day that he
refused to sign a declaration to the effect that he was unmarried.

The rite which Mr. Playdell had promised to perform between him and
Beatrice would enable him to sign the declaration with - well, with a
clear conscience.

But in the meantime this same conscience continued gibing him upon his
defence of his conduct; asking him with an irritating sneer, if he would
mind explaining his position to the girl’s father? - if he was not simply
taking advantage of the peculiar circumstances of the girl’s life - of
the remarkable independence which she enjoyed, apparently with the
sanction of her father, to perpetrate a fraud upon her?

For bad taste, for indelicacy, for vulgarity, for disregard of sound
argument - that is, argument that sounds well - and for general obstinacy,
there is nothing to compare with a conscience that remains in moderately
good working order.

After all his straightforward reasoning during the space of two hours,
he sprang from his seat crying, “I’ll not do it - I’ll not do it!”

He walked about his room for an hour, repeating every now and again the
words, “I’ll not do it - I’ll not do it!”

In the course of another hour, he turned on his electric lamp, and wrote
a note of half a dozen lines to Mr Playdell, telling him that, on
second thoughts, he would not trouble him the next day. Then he wrote an
equally short note to Beatrice, telling her that he thought it would be
advisable to have a further talk with her before carrying out the plan
which he had suggested to her for the next day. He put each note into
its cover; but when about to affix stamps to them, he found that his
stamp-drawer was empty. This was not a serious matter; he was going
to his club to dine, and he knew that he could get stamps from the
hall-porter.

He felt very much lighter at heart leaving his rooms than he had felt on
entering some hours before. He felt that he had been engaged in a severe
conflict, and that he had got the better of his adversary.

At the door of the club he found Mr. Durdan standing somewhat vacantly.
He brightened up at the appearance of Harold.

“I’ve just been trying to catch some companionable fellow to dine with
me,” he cried.

“I’m sorry that I can’t congratulate you upon finding one,” said Harold.

“Then I congratulate myself,” said Mr. Durdan, brightly. “You’re the
most companionable man that I know in town at present.”

“Ah, then you’re not aware of the fact that Edmund Airey is here just
now,” said Harold with a shrewd laugh.

“Edmund Airey? Edmund Airey?” said Mr. Durdan. “Let me tell you that
your friend Edmund Airey is - - ”

“Don’t say it in the open air,” said Harold.

“Come inside and make the revelation to me.”

“Then you will dine with me? Good! My dear fellow, my medical man has
warned me times without number of the evil of dining alone, or with a
newspaper - even the _Telegraph_. It’s the beginning of dyspepsia, he
says; so I wait at the door any time I am dining here until I get hold
of the right man.”

“If I can play the part of a priest and exorcise the demon that you’re
afraid of, you may reckon upon my services,” said Harold. “But to tell
you the truth, I’m a bit down myself to-night.”

“What’s the matter with you - nothing serious?” said Mr. Durdan.

“I’ve been working out some matters,” said Harold.

“I know what’s the matter with you,” said the other. “That friend of
yours has been trying to secure you for the Government, and you were too
straightforward to be entrapped? Airey is a clever man - I don’t deny his
cleverness for a moment. Oh, yes; Mr. Airey is a very clever man.” It
seemed that he was now levelling an accusation against Mr. Airey that
his best friends would find difficulty in repudiating. “Yes, but you and
I, Wynne, are not to be caught by a phrase. The moment he fancied that I
was attracted to her - I say, fancied, mind - and that he fancied - it may
have been the merest fancy - that she was not altogether indifferent to
me, he forced himself forward, and I have good reason to believe that he
is now in town solely on her account. I give you my word, Wynne, I never
spoke a sentence to Miss Avon that all the world mightn’t hear. Oh,
there’s nothing so contemptible as a man like Airey - a fellow who is
attracted to a girl only when he sees that she is attracting other men.
Yes, I met a man yesterday who told me that Airey was in town. ‘Why
should he be in town now?’ I inquired. ‘There’s nothing going on in
town.’ He winked and said, ‘_cherchez la femme_’ - he did upon my word.
Oh, the days of the Government are numbered. Will you try Chablis or
Sauterne?”

Harold said that he rather thought that he would try Chablis.

For another hour-and-a-half he was forced to listen to Mr. Durdan’s
prosing about the blunders of the Administration, and the designs of
Edmund Airey. He left the club without asking the hall-porter for any
stamps.

He had made up his mind that he would not need any stamps that night.

Before he reached his rooms he took out of the pocket of his overcoat
the two letters which he had written, and he tore them both into small
pieces.

With the chatter of Mr. Durdan there had come back to him that feeling
of distrust.

Yes, he would make sure of her.

He unlocked one of the drawers in his writing-table and brought out
a small _boule_ case. When he had found - not without a good deal of
searching - the right key for the box, he opened it. It contained an
ivory miniature of his mother, in a Venetian mounting, a few jewels, and
two small rings. One of them was set with a fine chrysoprase cameo of
Eros, and surrounded by rubies. The other was an old _in memoriam_ ring.

He picked up the cameo and scrutinized it attentively for some time,
slipping it down to the first joint of his little finger. He kept
turning it over for half an hour before he laid it on the desk and
relocked the box and the drawer.

“It will be hers,” he said. “Would I use my mother’s ring for this
ceremony if I meant it to be a fraud - if I meant to take advantage of it
to do an injury to my beloved one? As I deal with her, so may God deal
with me when my hour comes.” It was a ring that had been left to him
with a few other trinkets by his mother, and he had now chosen it for
the ceremony which was to be performed the next day.

Curiously enough, the fact of his choosing this ring did more to silence
the whispering jeers of his conscience than all his phrases of argument
had done.

The next day he called for Mr. Playdell in a hansom, and shortly after
noon, the words of the marriage service of the Church of England had
been repeated in the Bloomsbury drawing-room by the man who had once
been a priest and who still wore the garb of a priest. He, at any rate,
did not consider the rite a mockery.

Harold could not shake off the feeling that he was acting a part in a
dream. When it was all over he dropped into a chair, and his head fell
forward until his face was buried in his hands.

It was left for Beatrice to comfort this sufferer in his hour of trial.

Her hand - his mother’s ring was upon the third finger - was upon his
head, and he heard her low sympathetic voice saying, “My husband - my
husband - I shall be a true wife to you for ever and ever. We shall live
trusting one another for ever, my beloved!”

They were alone in the room. He did not raise his face from his hands
for a long time. She knelt beside where he was sitting and put her head
against his.

In an instant he had clasped her passionately. He held her close to him,
looking into her eyes.

“Oh, my love, my love,” he cried. “What am I that you should have given
to me that divine gift of your love? What am I that I should have asked
you to do this for my sake? Was there ever such love as yours, Beatrice?
Was there ever such baseness as mine? Will you forgive me, Beatrice?”

“Only once,” said she, “I felt that - I scarcely know what I felt,
dear - I think it was that your hurrying on our marriage showed - was it a
want of trust?”

“I was a fool - a fool!” he said bitterly. “The temptation to bind you to
me was too great to be resisted. But now - oh, Beatrice, I will give up
my life to make you happy!”




CHAPTER XL. - ON SOCIETY AND THE SEAL.

|THE next afternoon when Harold called upon Beatrice, he found her with
two letters in her hand. The first was a very brief one from her father,
letting her know that he would have to remain in Dublin for at least
a fortnight longer; the second was from Mrs. Lampson - she had paid
Beatrice a ten minutes’ visit the previous day - inviting her to stay for
a week at Abbeylands, from the following Tuesday.

“What am I to do in the matter, my husband - you see how quickly I have
come to recognize your authority?” she cried, while he glanced at his
sister’s invitation.

“My dearest, you had better recognize the duty of a wife in this and
other matters, by pleasing yourself,” said he.

“No,” said she. “I will only do what you advise me. That, you should see
as a husband - I see it clearly as a wife - will give me a capital chance
of throwing the blame on you in case of any disappointment. Oh, yes, you
may be certain that if I go anywhere on your recommendation and fail to
enjoy myself, all the blame will be laid at your door. That’s the way
with wives, is it not?”

“I can’t say,” said he. “I’ve never had one from whom to get any hints
that would enable me to form an opinion.”

“Then what did you mean by suggesting to me that it was wife-like to
please myself?” said she, with an affectation of shrewdness that was
extremely charming.

“I’ve seen other men’s wives now and again,” said he. “It was a great
privilege.”

“And they pleased themselves?”

“They did not please me, at any rate. I don’t see why you shouldn’t go
down to my sister’s place next week. You should enjoy yourself.”

“You will be there?”

He shook his head.

“I was to have been there,” said he; “but when I promised to go I had
not met you. When I found that you were to be in town, I told Ella, my
sister, that it was impossible for me to join her party.”

“Of course that decides the matter,” said she. “I must remain here,
unless you change your mind and go to Abbeylands.”

He remained thoughtful for a few moments, and then he turned to where
she was opening the old mahogany escritoire.

“I particularly want you to go to my sister’s,” he said. “A reason has
just occurred to me - a very strong reason, why you should accept the
invitation, especially as I shall not be there.”

“Oh, no,” said she, “I could not go without you.”

“My dear Beatrice, where is that wifely obedience of which you mean to
be so graceful an exponent?” said he, standing behind her with a hand on
each of her shoulders. “The fact is, dearest, that far more than you
can imagine depends on your taking this step. It is necessary to throw
people - my relations in particular - off the notion that something came
of our meeting at Castle Innisfail. Now, if you were to go to Abbeylands
while it was known that I had excused myself, you can understand what
the effect would be.”

“The effect, so far as I’m concerned, would be that I should be
miserable, all the time I was away from you.”

“The effect would be, that those people who may have been joining our
names together, would feel that they have been a little too precipitate
in their conclusions.”

“That seems a very small result for so much self-sacrifice on our part,
Harold.”

“It’s not so small as it may seem to you. I see now how important
it would be to me - to both of us - if you were to go for a week to
Abbeylands while I remain in town.”

“Then of course I’ll go. Yes, dear; I told you that I would trust you
for ever. I placed all my trust in you yesterday. How many people would
condemn me for marrying you in such indecent haste - that is what they
would call it - and without a word of consultation with my father either?
When I showed my trust in you at that time - the most important in
my life - you may, I think, have confidence that I will trust you in
everything. Yes, I’ll go.”

He had turned away from her. How could he face her when she was talking
in this way about her trust in him?

“There has never been trust like yours, my beloved,” said he, after a
pause. “You will never regret it for a moment, my love - never, never!”

“I know it - I know it,” said she.

“The fact is, Beatrice,” said he, after another pause, “my relatives
think that if I were to marry Helen Craven I should be doing a
remarkably good stroke of business. They were right: it would be a good
stroke - of business.”

“How odd,” cried Beatrice. She had become thoroughly interested. “I
never thought of such a possibility at Castle Innisfail. She is nice, I
think; only she does not know how to dress.”

In an instant there came to his memory Mrs. Mowbray’s cynical words
regarding the extent of a woman’s forgiveness.

“The question of being nice or of dressing well does not make any


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