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She had been expecting that letter for days.

'Oh! give it me,' she said impulsively.

'There it is; I wouldn't touch it. I knew you liked that man; but I
didn't expect to find you corresponding with him. It is shameful; it
isn't worthy of you. You might have left such things to May Gould.'

'Cecilia, you have no right to speak to me in that way; you are
presuming too much on our friendship.'

'Oh, yes, yes; but before you met him I could not presume too much upon
our friendship.'

'If you want to know why I wrote to Mr. Harding, I'll tell you.'

'It was you who wrote to him, then?'

'Yes, I wrote to him.'

'Oh, yes, yes, yes; I see it all now,' cried Cecilia, and she walked
wildly to and fro, her eye tinged with a strange glare. 'Yes, I see it
all. This room, that was once a girl's room, is now Harding's room. He
is the atmosphere of the place. I was conscious of it when I entered,
but now it is visible to me - that manuscript, that writing-table, that
letter. Oh yes, it is Harding, all is Harding!'

'Cecilia, Cecilia, think, I beg of you, of what you are saying.'

But when Alice approached and strove to raise her from the pillow upon
which she had thrown herself, she started up and savagely confronted
her.

'Don't touch me, don't touch me!' she cried. 'I cannot bear it. What are
you to me, what am I to you? It is not with me you would care to be, but
with _him_. It is not my kiss of friendship that would console you, but
his kiss of passion that would charm you. . . . Go to him, and leave me to
die.'

'Was this insanity?' And then, forgetful of the abuse that was being
showered upon her, Alice said:

'Cecilia dear, listen; I'll forgive the language you have used toward
me, for I know you do not know what you are saying. You must be ill . . .
you cannot be in your right senses to-day, or you would not speak like
that.'

'You would soothe me, but you little dream of the poison you are
dropping on my wounds. You never understood, you are too far removed
from me in thought and feeling ever to understand - no, your spirituality
is only a delusion; you are no better at heart than May Gould. It is the
same thing: one seeks a husband, another gratifies herself with a lover.
It is the same thing - where's the difference? It is animal passion all
the same. And that letter is full of it - it must be - I am sure it is.'

'You are very insulting, Cecilia. Where have you thrown my letter?'

The letter had fallen beneath the table. Alice made a movement towards
it, but, overcome by mad rage, Cecilia caught it up and threw it into
the fire. Alice rescued her letter, and then, her face full of stern
indignation, she said:

'I think, Cecilia, you had better leave my room, and before you come to
see me again, I shall expect to receive a written apology for the
outrageous way you have behaved.'

In a few days came a humble and penitent letter; Cecilia returned, her
eyes full of tears, and begged to be forgiven; the girls resumed their
friendship, but both were conscious that it was neither so bright nor so
communicative as in the olden days.




XXII


'Something has happened to my learned daughter,' said Mr. Barton, and he
continued his thumb-nail sketch on the tablecloth. 'What is it?' he
added indolently.

Alice passed the cheque and the memorandum across the table. 'Three
pounds for three articles contributed to the - - during the month of
April.'

'You don't mean to say, Alice, you got three pounds for your writing?'
said Mrs. Barton.

'Yes, mother, I have, and I hope to make ten pounds next month. Mr.
Harding says he can get me lots of work.'

'So my lady then, with all her shy ways, knows how to make use of a man
as well as any of us.'

Mrs. Barton did not willingly wound. She saw life from the point of view
of making use of men, that was all; and when Alice walked out of the
room, Mrs. Barton felt sorry for what she had said, and she would have
gone to comfort her daughter if Olive had not, at that moment, stood in
imminent need of comfort.

'I suppose,' she said pettishly, 'the letter you received this morning
is from the Marquis, to say he won't be here next Tuesday?'

It was. For as the day fixed for his arrival at Brookfield approached,
he would write to apologize, and to beg that he might be allowed to
postpone his visit to Monday week or Wednesday fortnight. Mrs. Barton
replied that they would be very glad to see him when he found it
convenient to come and see them. She did not inquire into the reason of
his rudeness, she was determined to fight the battle out to the end, and
she did not dare to think that he was being prompted by that beast of a
girl, Violet Scully.

'He writes a very nice letter indeed. He says he has a very bad cold,
and doesn't like to show himself at Brookfield with a red nose, but
that, unless he dies in the meantime, he will be with us on the
twentieth of the month, and will - if we'll have him - stop three weeks
with us.'

'I knew the letter was a put-off. I don't believe he admires me at all,
the little beast; and I know I shall never be a marchioness. You made me
treat poor Edward shamefully, and for no purpose, after all.'

'Now, Olive, you mustn't speak like that. Go upstairs and ask Barnes if
she has heard anything lately?'

'Oh, I'm sick of Barnes; what has she heard?'

'She is a great friend of Lady Georgina's maid, who knows the Burkes
intimately, particularly Lady Emily's maid, and Barnes got a letter from
her friend the other day, saying that Lady Emily was delighted at the
idea of her brother marrying you, dear, and that he thinks of nobody
else, speaks of nobody else. Run up and speak to her about it.'

As we have seen, Mrs. Barton had drugged Olive's light brain with
visions of victories, with dancing, dresses, admiration; but now, in the
tiring void of country days, memories of Edward's love and devotion were
certain to arise. He made, however, no attempt to renew his courtship.
At Gort, within three miles, he remained silent, immovable as one of the
Clare mountains. Sometimes his brown-gold moustache and square shoulders
were caught sight of as he rode rapidly along the roads. He had once
been seen sitting with Mrs. Lawler behind the famous cream-coloured
ponies; and to allude to his disgraceful conduct without wounding
Olive's vanity was an art that Mrs. Barton practised daily; and to keep
the girl in spirits she induced Sir Charles, who it was reported was
about to emigrate his family to the wilds of Maratoga, to come and stay
with them. If a rumour were to reach the Marquis's ears, it might help
to bring him to the point. In any case Sir Charles's attentions to Olive
would keep her in humour until the great day arrived.

Well convinced that this was her last throw, Mrs. Barton resolved to
smear the hook well with the three famous baits she was accustomed to
angle with. They were - dinners, flattery, and dancing. Accordingly, an
order was given to the Dublin fishmonger to send them fish daily for the
next three weeks, and to the pastrycook for a French cook. The store of
flattery kept on the premises being illimitable, she did not trouble
about that, but devoted herself to the solution of the problem of how
she should obtain a constant and unfailing supply of music. Once she
thought of sending up to Dublin for a professional pianist, but was
obliged to abandon the idea on account of the impossibility of devising
suitable employment for him during the morning hours. A tune or two
might not come in amiss after lunch, but to have him hanging about the
shrubberies all the morning would be intolerable. She might ask a couple
of the Brennans or the Duffys to stay with them, but they would be in
the way, and occupy the Marquis's time, and go tell-taling all over the
country; no, that wouldn't do either. Alice's playing was wretched. It
was a wonderful thing that a girl like her would not make some effort to
amuse men - would not do something. Once Olive was married, she (Mrs.
Barton) would try to patch up something for this gawk of a girl - marry
her to Sir Charles; excellent match it would be, too - get all the
children emigrated first: and if he would not have her, there was Sir
Richard. It was said that he was quite reformed - had given up drink. But
there was no use thinking of that: for the present she would have to put
up with the girl's music, which was wretched.

Olive fell in with her mother's plans, and she angled industriously for
Lord Kilcarney. She did not fail to say in or out of season, '_Il n'y a
personne comme notre cher Marquis_,' and as the turbot and fruit, that
had arrived by the afternoon train from Dublin, were discussed, Milord
did not cease to make the most appropriate remarks. Referring to the
bouquet that she had pinned into the Marquis's buttonhole, he said:

'_Il y a des amants partout où il y a des oiseaux et des roses_.' And
again: '_Les regardes des amoureux sont la lumière comme le baiser est
la vie du monde_.'

After dinner no time was lost, although the Marquis pleaded fatigue, in
settling Alice at the piano, and dancing began in sober earnest. After
each waltz Olive conducted him to the dining-room; she helped him
liberally to wine, and when she held a match to his cigarette their
fingers touched. But to find occupation for the long morning hours of
her young couple was a grave trouble to Mrs. Barton. She was determined
to make every moment of the little Marquis's stay in Galway moments of
sunshine; but mental no more than atmospheric sunshine is to be had by
the willing, and the poor little fellow seemed to pine in his Galway
cage like a moulting canary. He submitted to all the efforts made in his
behalf, but his submission was that of a victim. After breakfast he
always attempted to escape, and if he succeeded in eluding Mrs. Barton,
he would remain for hours hidden in the laurels, enwrapped in summer
meditations, the nature of which it was impossible even to conjecture.
In the afternoon he spoke of the burden of his correspondence, and when
the inevitable dancing was spoken of, he often excused himself on the
ground of having a long letter to finish. If it were impossible for her
to learn the contents of these letters, Mrs. Barton ardently desired to
know to whom they were addressed. Daily she volunteered to send special
messengers to the post on his account; the footman, the coachman, and
pony-chaise, were in turn rejected by him.

'Thank you, Mrs. Barton, thank you, but I should like to avail myself of
the chance of a constitutional.'

'_La santé de notre petit Marquis avant tout_,' she would exclaim, with
much silvery laughter and all the habitual movements of the white hands.
'But what do you say: I am sure the young ladies would like a walk,
too?'

With a view to picturesque effect Mrs. Barton's thoughts had long been
centred on a picnic. They were now within a few days of the first of
May, and there was enough sunshine in the air to justify an excursion to
Kinvarra Castle. It is about four miles distant, at the end of a long
narrow bay.

Mrs. Barton applied herself diligently to the task of organization.
Having heard from Dublin of the hoax that was being played on their
enemy, the Ladies Cullen consented to join the party, and they brought
with them one of the Honourable Miss Gores. The Duffys and Brennans
numbered their full strength, including even the famous Bertha, who was
staying with her sisters on a visit. The Goulds excused themselves on
account of the distance and the disturbed state of the country. Mrs.
Barton found, therefore, much difficulty in maintaining the noted
characteristic of her parties. Sir Richard and Sir Charles had agreed to
come; Mr. Adair, Mr. Ryan, and Mr. Lynch were also present. They drove
up on outside cars, and were all attended by a bodyguard of policemen.

And very soon everybody fell to babbling of the history of the Castle,
which nobody knew: Ireland has had few chroniclers. Lord Dungory pointed
out that in the seventeenth century people lived in Ireland
naked - speaking Latin habitually - without furniture or tapestries or
paintings or baths. The Castle suggested a military movement to Mr.
Barton.

'If things get any worse, we might all retire into this castle. The
ladies will stand on the battlements, and I will undertake to hold the
place for ever against those village ruffians.'

'I do not think there will be any necessity for that,' replied Mr. Adair
sententiously. 'I think that these last terrible outrages have awakened
the Government to a sense of their responsibility. I have reason to
believe that immediate steps will be taken to crush this infamous
conspiracy.'

Lord Dungory interposed with a neat epigram, and Mr. Adair fell to
telling how he would crush the Land League out of existence if the
Government would place him in supreme power for the space of one month.

'That is all I would ask: one month to restore this island to peace and
prosperity. I have always been a Liberal, but I confess that I entirely
fail to understand the action the Government are taking in the present
crisis.'

As Lord Dungory was about to reply that he did not believe that the
peasants could continue to resist the Government indefinitely, the
police-sergeant in charge of the picnic-party approached, his face
overcast.

'We've just received bad news from Dublin, my lord. The worst. Lord
Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke were murdered this evening in the
Phoenix Park. It is unfortunately true, sir; I've the telegram with me.'
And he handed the yellow envelope to Lord Dungory, who, after glancing
at it, handed it on to Mr. Adair.

The appearance of the police in conversation with Lord Dungory and Mr.
Adair was a sign for the assembling of the rest of the company, and it
was under the walls of old Kinvarra Castle that the picnic-party heard
the awful news.

Then, in turn, each ejaculated a few words.

Mrs. Barton said: 'It is dreadful to think there are such wicked people
in the world.'

Mr. Adair said: 'There can be no doubt but that we have arrived at the
crisis; Europe will ring with the echoes of the crime.'

Olive said: 'I think they ought to hang Mr. Parnell; I believe it was he
who drove the car.'

Mr. Barton said: 'The landlords and Land-Leaguers will have to do what I
say; they will have to fight it out. Now, at their head, I believe by a
series of rapid marches - '

'Arthur, Arthur, I beg of you,' exclaimed Mrs. Barton.

'We shall all have to emigrate,' Sir Charles murmured reflectively.

'The law is in abeyance,' said Mr. Lynch.

'Precisely,' replied Milord; 'and as I once said to Lord Granville,
"_Les moeurs sont les hommes, mais la loi est la raison du pays_."'

Mr. Adair looked up; he seemed about to contest the truth of this
aphorism, but he relapsed into his consideration of Mr. Gladstone's
political integrity. The conversation had fallen, but at the end of a
long silence Mr. Ryan said:

'Begorra, I am very glad they were murthered.'

All drew back instinctively. This was too horrible, and doubt of Mr.
Ryan's sanity was expressed on every face.

At last Mr. Adair said, conscious that he was expressing the feelings of
the entire company: 'What do you mean, sir? Have you gone mad? Do you
not know that this is no fitting time for buffoonery?'

'Will ye hear me cousin out?' said Mr. Lynch.

'Begorra, I'm glad they were murthered,' continued Mr. Ryan; 'for if
they hadn't been we'd have been - there's the long and the short of it. I
know the counthry well, and I know that in six months more, without a
proper Coercion Act, we'd have been burned in our beds.'

The unanswerableness of Mr. Ryan's words, and the implacable certainty
which forced itself into every heart, that he spoke but the truth, did
not, however, make the company less inclined to oppose the utilitarian
view he took of the tragedy.

Unfinished phrases . . . 'Disgraceful' . . . 'Shocking' . . .
'Inconceivable' . . . 'That anyone should say such a thing' . . . were
passed round, and a disposition was shown to boycott Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Adair spoke of not sitting in the room where such opinions were
expressed, but Milord was seen whispering to him, 'We're not in a room,
Adair, we're out of doors;' and Mrs. Barton, always anxious to calm
troubled lives, suggested that 'people did not mean all they said.' Mr.
Ryan, however, maintained through it all an attitude of stolid
indifference, the indifference of a man who knows that all must come
back sooner or later to his views.

And presently, although the sting remained, the memory of the wasp that
had stung seemed to be lost. Milord and Mr. Adair engaged in a long and
learned discussion concerning the principles of Liberalism, in the
course of which many allusions were made to the new Coercion Bill,
which, it was now agreed, Mr. Gladstone would, in a few days, lay before
Parliament. The provisions of this Bill were debated. Milord spoke of an
Act that had been in force consequent on the Fenian rising in '69. Mr.
Adair was of opinion that the importance of a new Coercion Act could not
be over-estimated; Mr. Barton declared in favour of a military
expedition - a rapid dash into the heart of Connemara. But the
conversation languished, and in the ever-lengthening silences all found
their thoughts reverting to the idea brutally expressed by Mr. Ryan:
_Yes, they were glad; for if Lord Frederick Cavendish and Mr. Burke had
not been assassinated, every landowner in the country would have been
murdered._

There was no dancing that evening; and as the night advanced the danger
of the long drive home increased in intensity in the minds of Messrs.
Lynch and Ryan. They sat on either side of Mr. Adair, and it was finally
arranged that they should join their police-forces, and spend the night
at his place. Sir Charles was sleeping at Brookfield; Milord had four
policemen with him; and as all would have to pass his gate, he did not
anticipate that even the Land League would venture to attack thirteen
armed men. Mr. Barton, who saw the picturesque in everything, declared,
when he came back, that they looked like a caravan starting for a
pilgrimage across the desert. After a few further remarks, the ladies
rose to retire; but when Mrs. Barton gave her hand to Lord Kilcarney, he
said, his voice trembling a little:

'I'm afraid I must leave you to-morrow, Mrs. Barton. I shall have to run
over to London to vote in the House of Lords. . .'

Mrs. Barton led the poor little man into the farther corner of the room,
and making a place for him by her side, she said:

'Of course we are very sorry you are leaving - we should like you to stop
a little longer with us. Is it impossible for you. . . ?'

'I am afraid so, Mrs. Barton; it is very kind of you, but - '

'It is a great pity,' she answered; 'but before we part I should like to
know if you have come to any conclusion about what I spoke to you of in
Dublin. If it is not to be, I should like to know, that I might tell the
girl, so that she might not think anything more about - '

'What am I to say, what am I to do?' thought the Marquis. 'Oh! why does
this woman worry me? How can I tell her that I wouldn't marry her
daughter for tens of thousands of pounds?' 'I think, Mrs. Barton - I
mean, I think you will agree with me that until affairs in Ireland grow
more settled, it would be impossible for anyone to enter into any
engagements whatever. We are all on the brink of ruin.'

'But twenty thousand pounds would settle a great deal.'

The little Marquis was conscious of annihilation, and he sought to
escape Mrs. Barton as he might a piece of falling rock. With a desperate
effort he said:

'Yes, Mrs. Barton - yes, I agree with you, twenty thousand pounds is a
great deal of money; but I think we had better wait until the Lords have
passed the new Coercion Bill - say nothing more about this - leave it an
open question.'

And on this eminently unsatisfactory answer the matter ended; even Mrs.
Barton saw she could not, at least for the present, continue to press
it. Still she did not give up hope. 'Try on to the end; we never know
that it is not the last little effort that will win the game,' was the
aphorism with which she consoled her daughter, and induced her to write
to Lord Kilcarney. And almost daily he received from her flowers,
supposed to be emblematical of the feeling she entertained for him; and
for these Alice was sometimes ordered to compose verses and suitable
mottoes.




XXIII


But Lord Kilcarney's replies to these letters seldom consisted of more
than a few well-chosen words, and he often allowed a week, and sometimes
a fortnight, to elapse before answering at all. Olive - too vain and
silly to understand the indifference with which she was treated - whined
and fretted less than might have been expected. She spent a great deal
of her time with Barnes, who fed her with scandal and flattery. But a
storm was about to break, and in August it was known, without any
possibility of a doubt, that the Marquis was engaged to Violet Scully,
and that their marriage was settled for the autumn.

And this marriage, and the passing of the Bill for the Prevention of
Crime, were the two interests present in the mind of Irish landlordism
during the summer of '82. Immediately the former event was publicly
announced, every girl in Dublin ran to her writing desk to confirm to
her friends and relatives the truth of the news which for the last two
months she had so resolutely anticipated. The famous Bertha, the terror
of the _débutantes_, rushed to Brookfield, but she did not get there
before the Brennans, and the result was a meeting of these families of
girls in Mrs. Barton's drawing-room. Gladys was, however, the person
chosen by God and herself to speak the wonderful words:

'Of course you have heard the news, Mrs. Barton?'

'No,' replied Mrs. Barton, a little nervously; 'what is it?'

'Oh yes, what is it?' exclaimed Olive. 'Anyone going to be married?'

'Yes. Can you guess?'

'No; tell me quick . . . no, do tell me. Are you going to be married?'

Had Olive been suddenly dowered with the wit of Congreve she could not
have contrived an answer that would have shielded her better from the
dart that Gladys was preparing to hurl. The girl winced; and divining
the truth in a moment of inspiration, Mrs. Barton said:

'Ah! I know; Lord Kilcarney is engaged to Violet Scully.'

The situation was almost saved, and would have been had Olive not been
present. She glanced at her mother in astonishment; and Gladys, fearing
utter defeat, hurled her dart recklessly.

'Yes,' she exclaimed, 'and their marriage is fixed for this autumn.'

'I don't believe a word of it. . . . You only say so because you think it
will annoy me.'

'My dear Olive, how can it annoy you? You know very well you refused
him,' said Mrs. Barton, risking the danger of contradiction. 'Gladys is
only telling us the news.'

'News, indeed; a pack of lies. I know her well; and all because - because
she didn't succeed in hooking the man she was after in the Shelbourne
last year. I'm not going to listen to her lies, if you are;' and on
these words Olive flaunted passionately out of the room.

'So very sorry, really,' exclaimed Zoe. 'We really didn't know . . .
indeed we didn't. We couldn't have known that - that there was any reason
why dear Olive wouldn't like to hear that Lord Kilcarney was engaged to
Violet.'

'Not at all, not at all. I assure you that whatever question there may
once have been, I give you my word, was broken off a long time ago; they
did not suit each other at all,' said Mrs. Barton. Now that she was
relieved of the presence of her young, the mother fought admirably. But
in a few minutes the enemy was reinforced by the arrival of the Hon.
Miss Gores.

'Oh, how do you do? I am so glad to see you,' said Mrs. Barton, the
moment they entered the room. 'Have you heard the news? all is
definitely settled between the little Marquis and Violet. We were all
talking of it; I am so glad for her sake. Of course it is very grand to
be a marchioness, but I'm afraid she'll find her coronet a poor
substitute for her dinner. You know what a state the property is in. She
has married a beggar. The great thing after all, nowadays, is money.'

It would have been better perhaps not to have spoken of Lord Kilcarney's
mortgages, but the Marquis's money embarrassments were the weak point in
Violet's marriage, but it would not be natural (supposing that Olive had
herself refused Lord Kilcarney) for her not to speak of them. So she
prattled on gaily for nearly an hour, playing her part admirably,


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