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went and married someone else. A Mr. Blake, I think.'

'Yes, that was his name; and why wouldn't she marry him?'

'Well, I don't know - folly, I suppose. He was, of course, not so young
as Harry Renley, but he had two thousand a year, and he would have made
her an excellent husband; kept a carriage for her, and a house in
London: whereas you see she has remained Miss Brennan, goes up every
year to the Shelbourne Hotel to buy dresses, and gets older and more
withered every day.'

'I know they lead a stupid life down here, but mightn't they go abroad
and travel?' asked Alice; 'they are no longer so very young.'

'A woman can do nothing until she is married,' Mrs. Barton answered
decisively.

'But some husbands treat their wives infamously; isn't no husband better
than a bad husband?'

'I don't think so,' returned Mrs. Barton, and she glanced sharply at her
daughter. 'I would sooner have the worst husband in the world than no
husband.' Then settling herself like a pleader who has come to the
incisive point of his argument, she continued: 'A woman is absolutely
nothing without a husband; if she doesn't wish to pass for a failure she
must get a husband, and upon this all her ideas should be set. I have
always found that in this life we can only hope to succeed in what we
undertake by keeping our minds fixed on it and never letting it out of
sight until it is attained. Keep on trying, that is my advice to all
young ladies: try to make yourselves agreeable, try to learn how to
amuse men. Flatter them; that is the great secret; nineteen out of
twenty will believe you, and the one that doesn't can't but think it
delightful. Don't waste your time thinking of your books, your painting,
your accomplishments; if you were Jane Austens, George Eliots, and Rosa
Bonheurs, it would be of no use if you weren't married. A husband is
better than talent, better even than fortune - without a husband a woman
is nothing; with a husband she may rise to any height. Marriage gives a
girl liberty, gives her admiration, gives her success; a woman's whole
position depends upon it. And while we are on the subject it is as well
to have one's say, and I speak for you both. You, Alice, are too much
inclined to shrink into the background and waste your time with books;
and you too, Olive, are behaving very foolishly, wasting your time and
your complexion over a silly girlish flirtation.'

'There's no use talking about that. You have forbidden him the house;
you can't do any more.'

'No, Olive, all I did was to insist that he should not come running
after you until you had had time to consider the sacrifices you were
making for him. I have no one's interest in the world, my dear girl, but
your interests. Officers are all very well to laugh, talk, and flirt
with - _pour passer le temps_ - but I couldn't allow you to throw yourself
away on the first man you meet. You will meet hundreds of others quite
as handsome and as nice at the Castle.'

'I never could care for anyone else.'

'Wait until you have seen the others. Besides, what do you want? to be
engaged to him? And I should like to know what is the use of my taking
an engaged girl up to the Castle? No one would look at you.'

Olive raised her eyes in astonishment; she had not considered the
question from this point of view, and the suggestion that, if engaged,
she might as well stop at home, for no one would look at her, filled her
with alarm.

'Whereas,' said Mrs. Barton, who saw that her words had the intended
effect, 'if you were free you would be the season's beauty; nothing
would be thought of but you; you would have lords, and earls, and
marquesses dancing attendance on you, begging you to dance with them;
you would be spoken of in the papers, described as the new beauty, and
what not, and then if you were free - ' Here Mrs. Barton heaved a deep
sigh, and, letting her white hand fall over the arm of her chair, she
seemed to abandon herself to the unsearchable decrees of destiny.

'Well, what then, mamma?' asked Olive excitedly. 'I am free, am I not?'

'Then you could outstrip the other girls, and go away with the great
prize. They are all watching him; he will go to one of you for certain.
I hear that Mrs. Scully - that great, fat, common creature, who sold
bacon in a shop in Galway - is thinking of him for her daughter. Of
course, if you like to see Violet become a marchioness, right under your
nose, you can do so.'

'But what do you want me to do?' exclaimed the coronet-dazzled girl.

'Merely to think no more of Captain Hibbert. But I didn't tell you; - he
was very impertinent to me when I last saw him. He said he would flirt
with you, as long as you would flirt with him, and that he didn't see
why you shouldn't amuse yourself. That's what I want to warn you
against - losing your chance of being a marchioness to help an idle young
officer to while away his time. If I were you, I would tell him, when I
next saw him, that he must not think about it any more. You can put it
all down to me; say that I would never hear of it; say that you couldn't
think of disobeying me, but that you hope you will always remain
friends. You see, that's the advantage of having a mother; - poor mamma
has to bear everything.'

Olive made no direct answer, but she laughed nervously, and in a manner
that betokened assent; and, having so far won her way, Mrs. Barton
determined to conclude. But she could not invite Captain Hibbert to the
house! The better plan would be to meet on neutral ground. A
luncheon-party at Dungory Castle instantly suggested itself; and three
days after, as they drove through the park, Mrs. Barton explained to
Olive, for the last time, how she should act if she wished to become the
Marchioness of Kilcarney.

'Shake hands with him just as if nothing had happened, but don't enter
into conversation; and after lunch I shall arrange that we all go out
for a walk on the terrace. You will then pair off with him, Alice; Olive
will join you. Something will be sure to occur that will give her an
opportunity of saying that he must think no more about her - that I would
never consent.'

'Oh! mamma, it is very hard, for I can never forget him.'

'Now, my dear girl, for goodness' sake don't work yourself up into a
state of mind, or we may as well go back to Brookfield. What I tell you
to do is right; and if you see nobody at the Castle that you like
better - well, then it will be time enough. I want you to be, at least,
the beauty of one season.'

This argument again turned the scales. Olive laughed, but her laugh was
full of the nervous excitement from which she suffered.

'I shan't know what to say,' she exclaimed, tossing her head, 'so I hope
you will help me out of my difficulty, Alice.'

'I wish I could be left out of it altogether,' said the girl, who was
sitting with her back to the horses. 'It seems to me that I am being put
into a very false position!'

'Put into a false position!' said Mrs. Barton. 'I'll hear no more of
this! If you won't do as you are told, you had better go back to St.
Leonards - such wicked jealousy!'

'Oh, mamma!' said Alice, wounded to the quick, 'how can you be so
unjust?

And her eyes filled with tears, for since she had left school she had
experienced only a sense of retreating within herself, but so long as
she was allowed to live within herself she was satisfied. But this
refuge was no longer available. She must take part in the scuffle; and
she couldn't. But whither to go? There seemed to be no escape from the
world into which she had been thrust, and for no purpose but to suffer.
But the others didn't suffer. Why wasn't she like them?

'I am sorry, Alice dear, for having spoken so crossly; but I am sorely
tried. I really am more to be pitied than blamed; and if you knew all,
you would, I know, be the first to try to help me out of my
difficulties, instead of striving to increase them.' 'I would do
anything to help you,' exclaimed Alice, deceived by the accent of sorrow
with which Mrs. Barton knew how to invest her words.

'I am sure you would, if you knew how much depends - But dry your eyes,
my dear, for goodness' sake dry them. Here we are at the door. I only
want you to be with Olive when she tells Captain Hibbert that she
cannot - and, now mind, Olive, you tell him plainly that he must not
consider himself engaged to you.'

In the ceremonious drawing-room, patched with fragments of Indian
drapery, Lady Jane and Lady Sarah sat angularly and as far from their
guests as possible, for they suspected that their house was being made
use of as a battle-ground by Mrs. Barton, and were determined to resent
the impertinence as far as lay in their power. But Milord continued to
speak of indifferent things with urbanity and courtly gestures; and as
they descended the staircase, he explained the beauty of his marble
statues and his stuffed birds.

'But, Lady Jane, where is Cecilia? I hope she is not unwell?'

'Oh no; Cecilia is quite well, thank you. But she never comes down when
there is company - she is so very sensitive. But that reminds me. She
told me to tell you that she is dying to see you. You will find her
waiting for you in her room when we have finished lunch.'

'Cecilia is not the only person to be thought of,' said Milord. 'I will
not allow Alice to hide herself away upstairs for the rest of the
afternoon. I hear, Alice, you are a great admirer of Tennyson's
_Idylls_. I have just received a new edition of his poems, with
illustrations by Doré: charming artist, full of poetry, fancy,
sweetness, imagination. Do you admire Doré, Captain Hibbert?'

The Captain declared that he admired Doré far more than the old masters,
a point of taste that Milord ventured to question; and until they rose
from table he spoke of his collection of Arundel prints with grace and
erudition. Then they all went out to walk on the terrace. But as their
feet echoed in the silence of the hall, Cecilia, in a voice tremulous
with expectancy, was heard speaking:

'Alice, come upstairs; I am waiting for you.'

Alice made a movement as if to comply, but, stepping under the
banisters, Lord Dungory said:

'Alice cannot come now, she is going out to walk with us, dear. She will
see you afterwards.'

'Oh! let me go to her,' Alice cried.

'There will be plenty of time to see her later on,' whispered Mrs.
Barton. 'Remember what you promised me; 'and she pointed to Captain
Hibbert, who was standing on the steps of the house, his wide decorative
shoulders defined against a piece of grey sky.

In despair at her own helplessness, and with a feeling of loathing so
strong that it seemed like physical sickness, Alice went forward and
entered into conversation with Captain Hibbert. Lord Dungory, Mrs.
Barton, and Olive walked together; Lady Jane and Lady Sarah followed at
a little distance. In this order the party proceeded down the avenue as
far as the first gate; then they returned by a side-walk leading through
the laurels, and stood in a line facing the wind-worn tennis-ground,
with its black, flowerless beds, and bleak vases of alabaster and stone.
From time to time remarks anent the Land League were made; but all knew
that a drama even as important as that of rent was being enacted. Olive
had joined her sister, and the girls moved forward on either side of the
handsome Captain; and, as a couple of shepherds directing the movements
of their flock, Lord Dungory and Mrs. Barton stood watching. Suddenly
her eyes met Lady Jane's. The glance exchanged was tempered in the hate
of years; it was vindictive, cruel, terrible; it shone as menacingly as
if the women had drawn daggers from their skirts, and Jane, obeying a
sudden impulse, broke away from her sister, and called to Captain
Hibbert. Fortunately he did not hear her, and, before she could speak
again, Lord Dungory said:

'Jane, now, Jane, I beg of you - '

Mrs. Barton smiled a sweet smile of reply, and whispered to herself:

'Do that again, my lady, and you won't have a penny to spend this year.'

'And now, dear, tell me, I want to hear all about it,' said Mrs. Barton,
as the carriage left the steps of Dungory Castle. 'What did he say?'

'Oh! mamma, mamma, I am afraid I have broken his heart,' replied Olive
dolorously.

'It doesn't do a girl any harm even if it does leak out that she jilted
a man; it makes the others more eager after her. But tell me, dear, I
hope there was no misunderstanding; did you really tell him that it was
no use, that he must think of you no more?'

'Mamma dear, don't make me go over it again, I can't, I can't; Alice
heard all I said - she'll tell you,'

'No, no, don't appeal to me; it's no affair of mine,' exclaimed the girl
more impetuously than she had intended.

'I am surprised at you, Alice; you shouldn't give way to temper like
that. Come, tell me at once what happened.'

The thin, grey, moral eyes of the daughter and the brown, soft, merry
eyes of the mother exchanged a long deep gaze of inquiry, and then Alice
burst into an uncontrollable fit of tears. She trembled from too much
grief, and could not answer; and when she heard her mother say to Olive,
'Now that the coast is clear, we can go in heart and soul for the
marquess,' she shuddered inwardly and wished she might stay at home in
Galway and be spared the disgrace of the marriage-market.




XV


It rained incessantly. Sheets of water, blown by winds that had
travelled the Atlantic, deluged the county; grey mists trailed mournful
and shapeless along the edges of the domain woods, over the ridges of
the tenants' holdings. 'Never more shall we be driven forth to die in
the bogs and ditches,' was the cry that rang through the mist; and,
guarded by policemen, in their stately houses, the landlords listened,
waiting for the sword of a new coercion to fall and release them from
their bondage. The meeting of Parliament in the spring would bring them
this; in the meantime, all who could, fled, resolving not to return till
the law restored the power that the Land League had so rudely shaken.
Some went to England, others to France. Mr. Barton accepted two hundred
pounds from his wife and proceeded to study gargoyles and pictures in
Bruges; and, striving to forget the murders and rumours of murders that
filled the papers, the girls and their mammas talked of beaux, partners,
and trains, in spite of the irritating presence of the Land League
agitators who stood on the platforms of the different stations. The
train was full of girls. Besides the Bartons, there were the Brennans:
Gladys and Zoe - Emily remained at home to look after the place. Three of
the Miss Duffys were coming to the Drawing-Room, and four of the
Honourable Miss Gores; the Goulds and Scullys made one party, and to
avoid Mrs. Barton, the Ladies Cullen had pleaded important duties. They
were to follow in a day or so.

Lord Dungory's advice to Mrs. Barton was to take a house, and he warned
her against spending the whole season in an hotel, but apparently
without avail, for when the train stopped a laughing voice was heard:
'Milord, _vous n'êtes qu'un vilain misanthrope_; we shall be very
comfortable at the Shelbourne; we shall meet all the people in Dublin
there, and we can have private rooms to give dinner-parties.'

Hearing this, Alice congratulated herself, for in an hotel she would be
freer than she would be in a house let for the season. She would hear
something, and see a little over the horizon of her family in an hotel.
She had spent a week in the Shelbourne on her way home from school, and
remembered the little winter-garden on the first landing, and the
fountain splashing amid ferns and stone frogs. The ladies' drawing-room
she knew was on the right, and when she had taken off her hat and
jacket, leaving her mother and sister talking of Mrs. Symond and Lord
Kilcarney, she went there hoping to find some of the people whom she had
met there before.

The usually skirt-filled ottoman stood vacantly gaping, the little
chairs seemed lonely about the hearthrug, even the sofa where the
invalid ladies sat was unoccupied, and the perforated blinds gave the
crowds that passed up and down the street a shadow-like appearance. The
prospect was not inspiriting, but not knowing what else to do, Alice sat
down by the fire, and fell to thinking who the man might be that sat
reading on the other side of the fireplace. He didn't seem as if he knew
much about horses, and as he read intently, she could watch him
unobserved. At last their eyes met, and when Alice turned away her face
she felt that he was looking at her, and, perhaps getting nervous under
his examination, she made a movement to stir the fire.

'Will you allow me?' he said, rising from his chair. 'I beg your pardon,
but, if you will allow me, I will arrange the fire.'

Alice let him have the poker, and when he had knocked in the coal-crust
and put on some fresh fuel, he said:

'If it weren't for me I don't know what would become of this fire. I
believe the old porter goes to sleep and forgets all about it. Now and
again he wakes up and makes a deal of fuss with a shovel and a broom.'

'I really can't say, we only came up from Galway to-day.'

'Then you don't know the famous Shelbourne Hotel! All the events of life
are accomplished here. People live here, and die here, and flirt here,
and, I was going to say, marry here - but hitherto the Shelbourne
marriages have resulted in break-offs - and we quarrel here; the friends
of to-day are enemies to-morrow, and then they sit at different ends of
the room. Life in the Shelbourne is a thing in itself, and a thing to be
studied.'

Alice laughed again, and again she continued her conversation.

'I really know nothing of the Shelbourne. I was only here once before,
and then only for a few days last summer, when I came home from school.'

'And now you are here for the Drawing-Room?'

'Yes; but how did you guess that?'

'The natural course of events: a young lady leaves school, she spends
four or five months at home, and then she is taken to the
Lord-Lieutenant's Drawing-Room.'

She liked him none the better for what he had said, and began to wonder
how she might bring the conversation to a close. But when he spoke again
she forgot her intentions, and allowed his voice to charm her.

'I think you told me,' he said, 'that you came up from Galway to-day; may
I ask you from what side of the county?'

Another piece of impertinence. Why should he question her? And yet she
answered him.

'We live near Gort - do you know Gort?'

'Oh yes, I have been travelling for the last two months in Ireland. I
spent nearly a fortnight in Galway. Lord Dungory lives near Gort. Do you
know him?'

'Very well indeed. He is our nearest neighbour; we see him nearly every
day. Do you know him?'

'Yes, a little. I have met him in London. If I had not been so pressed
for time I should have called upon him when I was in Galway. I passed
his place going to a land meeting - oh, you need not be alarmed, I am not
a Land League organizer, or else I should not have thought of calling at
Dungory Castle. What a pretty drive it is to Gort.'

'Then, do you know a place on the left-hand side of the road, about a
mile and a half from Dungory Castle?'

'You mean Brookfield?'

'Yes; that is our place.'

'Then you are Miss Barton?'

'Yes, I am Miss Barton; do you know father or mother?'

'No, no; but I have heard the name in Galway. I was spending a few days
with one of your neighbours.'

'Oh, really!' said Alice, a little embarrassed; for she knew it must
have been with the Lawlers that he had been staying. At the end of a
long silence she said:

'I am afraid you have chosen a rather unfortunate time for visiting
Ireland. All these terrible outrages, murders, refusals to pay rent; I
wonder you have not been frightened away.'

'As I do not possess a foot of land - I believe I should say "not land
enough to sod a lark" - my claim to collect rent would rest on even a
slighter basis than that of the landlords; and as, with the charming
inconsistency of your race, you have taken to killing each other instead
of slaughtering the hated Saxon, I really feel safer in Ireland than
elsewhere. I suppose,' he said, 'you do a great deal of novel-reading in
the country?'

'Oh yes,' she answered, with almost an accent of voluptuousness in her
voice; 'I spent the winter reading.'

'Because there was no hunting?' replied Harding, with a smile full of
cynical weariness.

'No, I assure you, no; I do not think I should have gone out hunting
even if it hadn't been stopped,' said Alice hastily; for it vexed her
not a little to see that she was considered incapable of loving a book
for its own sake.

'And what do you read?'

The tone of indifference with which the question was put was not lost
upon Alice, but she was too much interested in the conversation to pay
heed to it. She said:

'I read nearly all Byron, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, and Browning - I
think I like him better than all the poets! Do you know the scene at St.
Praxed's?'

'Yes, of course; it is very fine. But I don't know that I ever cared
much for Browning. Not only the verse, but the whole mind of the man is
uncouth - yes, uncouth _is_ the word I want. He is the Carlyle of Poetry.
Have you ever read Carlyle?'

'Oh yes, I have read his _French Revolution_ and his _Life of Schiller_,
but that's all. I only came home from school last summer, and at school
we never read anything. I couldn't get many new books down in Galway.
There were, of course, Dickens, Thackeray, George Eliot in the library,
but that was all. I once got a beautiful book from Dungory Castle. I
wonder if you ever read it? It is called _Madame Gervaisais_. From the
descriptions of Rome it almost seems to me that I have been there.'

'I know the book, but I didn't know a Catholic girl could admire
it - and you are a Catholic, I presume?'

'I was brought up a Catholic.'

'It is one thing to be brought up a Catholic, and another to avoid
doubting.'

'There can surely be no harm in doubting?'

'Not the least; but toward which side are you? Have you fallen into the
soft feather-bed of agnosticism, or the thorny ditch of belief?'

'Why do you say "the soft feather-bed of agnosticism"?'

'It must be a relief to be redeemed from belief in hell; and perhaps
there is no other redemption.'

'And do you never doubt?' she said.

'No, I can't say I am given much to doubting, nor do I think the subject
is any longer worthy of thought. The world's mind, after much anxiety,
arrives at a conclusion, and what sages cannot determine in one age, a
child is certain about in the next. Thomas Aquinas was harassed with
doubts regarding the possibility of old women flying through the air on
broomsticks; nowadays were a man thus afflicted he would be surely a fit
subject for Hanwell. The world has lived through Christianity, as it has
through a score of other things. But I am afraid I shock you?'

'No, I don't think you do; only I never heard anyone speak in that way
before - that is all.'

Here the conversation came to a pause, and soon after the presence of
some ladies rendered its revival impossible. Their evening gowns
suggested the dinner-hour, and reminded Alice that she had to prepare
herself for the meal.

All the Galway people, excepting the Honourable Misses Gore and the
Scullys - who had taken houses in town for the season - dined at _table
d'hote._ The Miss Duffys were, with the famous Bertha, the terror of the
_débutantes._ The Brennans and the Goulds sat at the same table. May,
thinking of Fred, who had promised to come during the evening, leaned
back in her chair, looking unutterably bored. Under a window Sir Richard
and Sir Charles were immersed in wine and discussion. In earnest tones
the latter deprecated the folly of indulging in country love; the
former, his hand on the champagne bottle, hiccoughed, 'Mu - ch better
come up - up Dub - lin, yer know, my boy. But look, look here; I know such
a nice' - a glance round, to make sure that no lady was within earshot;
and the conversation lapsed into a still more confidential whisper.

Mr. Ryan and Mr. Lynch ate their dinner in sullen silence, and at the
other end of the long table Mr. Adair - whom it was now confidently
stated Mr. Gladstone could not possibly get on without - talked to Mr.
Harding; and when the few dried oranges and tough grapes that
constituted dessert had been tasted, the ladies got up, and in twos and
threes retired to the ladies' sitting-room. They were followed by Lord
Dungory, Mr. Adair, and Mr. Harding: the other gentlemen - the baronets
and Messrs. Ryan and Lynch - preferring smoke and drink to chatter and


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