Copyright
Holme Lee.

Mrs. Denys of Cote : in three volumes (Volume 3) online

. (page 8 of 10)
Online LibraryHolme LeeMrs. Denys of Cote : in three volumes (Volume 3) → online text (page 8 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


let coat appearing and disappearing through
the trees. To hear his step and his great
voice aofain — what music ! "

The girl's words had a plaintive intonation,
and Mrs. Denys said : " Does the stillness
weigh upon you, dear ? This is a house of
mourning, you know."

Marie- Irene said, '' Oh, no," but she sighed ;
and it was, in fact, stiller than the convent.

A day or two afterwards Captain Meade
presented himself at the Manor House. Mrs.
Denys received him kindly, and sent for
Marie-Irene out of the Dutch o^arden. She
came, but it was not seen that her counten-
ance lightened any more at finding him than it
had done at finding other friends and acquaint-
ances who were admitted now. Captain Meade



2l6 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

was last from London, and she questioned him
of plays and concerts, which were her chief de-
light in town ; and when he was gone, she pro-
ceeded to expound her enthusiastic desire for
the opportunity of following on system her
musical and dramatic studies, as if in the design
of turning her talents to professional purposes.
Mrs. Denys heard her attentively. Either she
was an exquisite dissembler, or love was not
in all her thouo^hts — which was the more
likely ; and this was not the time to speak
of it.



( 217 )



CHAPTER XLVII.

WITH MEMORY.

"Death came unheralded — but it was well." — J, H. NEWMAN.

When the New Year was about three months
old, John Denys ran down to Cote, and, with
Mrs. Denys' consent, carried his sister away,
to make her home with him, and to pursue
her studies accordinp- to her avowed wish.

Under these circumstances it was not diffi-
cult to persuade Mrs. Denys to go to Auld-
caster for a change. Sir John Daventry was
very anxious that she should make the effort ;
and once there, she was not sorry to be in the
midst of her people, and quit for a while of



2l8 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

the oppressive quiet and solitude of the Manor
House. She had her own Httle old room with
the crewel-worked linen hanorinors, and could
see out of the window the former times and
seasons very well. It was a sad retrospect to
see them, yet on the whole it did her good.
And to talk long with her mother — that did
her eood too. With her orrandfather there
was still the sense of a barrier. There had
been reconciliation and a renewal of kindness ;
but the delicate spring of loving confidence,
once broken, will bear the marks of fracture
to the end. After the first touching words
of reunion they talked together with a con-
scious avoidance of subjects closest to the
heart of both. They made conversation, with
pauses of silence, and fresh starts that never
carried them far. The judge had been ailing,
and was at last, but almost imperceptibly,
become quite the old man — liable to failures






WITH MEMORY. 219

of memory and lapses of attention that seemed
like deafness, but were not that infirmity, for
his hearing was still acute. Delia was orlad she
had come when she saw how he was altered,
thouo-h in comincr her thoughts had centred on
her own affairs. She had brought with her
the letters that her husband had written and
deposited in the locked drawer of his escritoire
the day preceding his death, and other letters
and papers besides, to prove to her friends
— what had never been denied — how eood
and thoughtful Mr. Denys always was for
his own.

Mr. Denys had indeed been very good and
thouo^htful for all whom his loss would bereave
of a friend or a master, and Delia could not
endure that any of her family should rest
unconvinced of what had made the happiness
of her married life. None of them, perhaps,
cared to be convinced, but they cared to soothe



2 20 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

and satisfy her, and Cricket consented that but
for two or three circumstances, of which he
did not possibly see all the bearings, Mr.
Denys would have been a finer character than
the common run of men. Walter, who was a
lively, irreverent, briefless barrister, gave his
opinion dead against his grandfather in that
famous case where Pericles was quoted, but
afterwards he gave it with even-handed justice
'equally dead against Mr. Denys in the later
and more disastrous contention of the Orchard.
One or other of her brothers was always ready
to agree with Delia, whatever her manifest
humour of the moment ; but it was evident
soon that the story of events drifting down the
past, which was not tJiei}^ past, had very little
interest for any one but herself, and that some
passages of it they might all wish to have
buried in oblivion.

Lady Daventry observed her grand-daughter



WITH MEMORY. 22 1

with a tenderer eye than her wont. She per-
ceived that her disciphne had been severe, that
her heart still bled, that her spirit had been
deeply wounded, and her pride cruelly abased.
She perceived also that she was striving to
be at peace again, and putting resentments
from her, and she met her in her own peculiar
fashion.

" I understand that you were a very good
wife, Delia, and guided your husband, of whom
we did not think much, into a nobler way of
life than he had led before he married you,"
she said to her once.

" I took him for better, for worse, grannie,
and did my best, but I often failed. He had
to have patience with me too, and before very
long we grew into a true friendship and affec-
tion. No one ever cared for me as he did,
and I have lost him. It is more than eieht
months ago, and it is as fresh as yesterday."



222 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

" Your experience has gone beyond mine,
though It Is short in years. I was seventeen
— only seventeen — when I married your grand-
father, and God has graciously permitted that
we should grow old together. You are very
handsome still, my dear, and have a long life
before you. I hope your boy improves ? "

" He Is a dear, good boy to me, grannie.
I don't wish him better. I have that blessing
left, I thank God, or the long life before me
would seem a very vain and empty thing."

Lady Daventry was touched. She said :
" Poor Delia, you fancy you have done with
pride — but it dies hard, poor human pride.
It rears its crest to the last out of the foor
of our miseries."

Delia rose from her seat, and walked
through the great parlour to the ante-room,
and came back again, straightening her tall
figure, and stepping statelily, as if with a



WITH MEMORY. 223

physical effort of resistance to the weariness
and dejection that stole over her. Cricket
was in his customary place in the bay-
window. He followed his sister with his
eyes, and as she returned up the room he
glanced significantly from her to the por-
trait of the French Madam over the mantel-
piece.

'' No, Cricket, between then and now there
is a great gulf fixed," she said blushing — but
the likeness was still very like despite her
weeds.

It must have been very like, for the judge,
whose mind let slip recent events to recall
those of former years that were more deeply
branded, once, at waking up from his after-
noon nap, spoke to her as if she were still
the Delia of her lustrous girlhood, and he her
loving grandfather, not yet aggrieved by her
untoward behaviour and rough wooing. Delia



2 24 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

was fain to smile at what trivialities had been
of chief importance then.

'' A rose-coloured bow or a red rose be-
comes you best with a black dress, and a
white cap on a young lady's head I do not
admire — oblige me, my dear, by removing
it. You have beautiful hair — why cover it ?
Time enough to hide your hair if you are
ever so unhappy as to lose a good husband,
and become a widow."

" I am a widow now, gran papa," Deliawn,
not knowing what to answer ; her father not
caring to speak further lest he should hurt her
more ; for her painful blush burned on.

With some keenness, she said at length :
" Those gentlemen must have departed from
their rigorous traditions, and have become
more lax since, I think, papa, if they were
the mao^istrates who sit at Rowborouoh."

" They were gentlemen of the county bench
who meet at Beauminster, Delia."

" Even amongst the gentlemen of the county
bench I could mention one or more who are
not conspicuous examples of honour and
sagacity. I have been astonished myself how
they got there. Perhaps political influence had
a hand in it."



236 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

" Political influence has to do with these
appointments, and men are too often put in
the commission who have given no proofs of
capacity. Mr. Denys' political influence was
considerable, and would have given him a high
standing had he brought a fair personal record
into his new neighbourhood. The world looks
on the surface of a man's life, and does not
look far below the surface, Delia. It is a
truism to say that there are worse rogues
at large than any shut up in prison — all the
law can answer is that they have not ventured
within the sphere of its activity. Mr. Denys
reckoned no friends in the county of the best
sort until he subdued prejudice by his ad-
ministration of the Navestock estates. When
Hughie arrives at a man's understandinof of
what his father did at Navestock, what he did
unworthily elsewhere will not vex him much.
You would not wish your boy to believe a



SEEKING SYMPATHY. 237

lie, or to call wrong right while his char-
acter is forming ? Then let him face the
wronor brouQ^ht within his ken, and know it
for wrong, and take account, on the other
side, of what was large-hearted, and learn to
do it."

Delia would have persisted in the argument,
but Mr. Daventry felt that no satisfaction to
her could ever come of it, and said in a tone
of wearied remonstrance : " You cannot brino^
back yesterday, Delia, and I think you will
consult your own dignity by raising no ques-
tion of events and circumstances that are lono-
past and unalterable."

" Is my husband's honour to be nothing to
me ? " she rejoined imperiously.

Her father looked at her, but said no more.
His look was sufficiently impressive to silence
his dauorhter.

Mrs. Denys returned to Cote a i^y^ days



238 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

after the judge's funeral. Hugh Oliver had
come from Rugby to attend it, and went home
with his mother. There was the consecra-
tion of the new church to look forward to at
Whitsuntide, when the '' young squire " was to
take his own place, and present his own gift
— the communion plate. The ceremonial was
shorn of no observance or splendour customary
on such occasions, and Mrs. Denys was pre-
sent at the service with her son. But that was
all. The breakfast for the bishop was given at
the rectory, and Hughie went with Mr. Orme,
leaving his mother solitary, unless for her
fancies and imaginings, which grew into an
agony of heartache as she recalled what had
been her happy anticipations of that day, and
contrasted them with its sad realities of be-
reavement and mourning.

Early in the afternoon Lady Herrick, com-
ing from the rectory to give her an account



1



SEEKING SYMPATHY. 239

of the breakfast, found her in her boudoir
bitterly weeping, and the flood was not to be
stayed. This old friend had loved Delia from
the time when she believed that Delia had
loved her son Jem mistakenly. She sat by
her, and was still while grief had its way, and
then with tender, steady touch applied the
remedy that the wound needed. Delia's
reserve was quite broken down, and she
poured out her heart to Lady Herrick
craving for sympathy, as she might have
done to her mother.

''It seems so cruel — I can scarcely bear to
think of him for pity ! It does not matter
now — he does not feel it any longer — but
that Hughie should have angry, shame- faced
thoughts of his father who was never anythino-
but good to him ! " she burst out passionately.
" It is so easy to blame — it is not so easy to
understand. People look at what was done



240 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

amiss — they don't look at the amends — they
don't know of the remorse. And Hughle is
shy in speaking of his father, like all the rest.
He just reddens and looks down, and says
nothing — when a word of kindness would have
been of all the comfort in the world to me
to-day!"

" I am sorry you missed it, Delia, but I
hope you are a little unjust to Hughie,"
Lady Herrick said with quiet expostulation.
" Hughie is inarticulate yet — speech and spirit.
My boys at the same age were dumb, unless
under extreme pressure. If Hughie could
give his thoughts tongue, I don't believe they
would hurt you. But you are his mother, and
he is very reverent of you, which I like to
see.

" I could bear anything better than his avoid-
ance of his father's name. He seems confused
at any reference to him — and yet I'm sure



SEEKING SYMPATHY. 24 1

they loved one another dearly. Perhaps,
that is why — he Is afraid of a blow on his
shrlnklnof heart. He was wretched at havinof
to go to the breakfast at the rectory this
morning — he just said : ' I suppose I must
go, mother ? ' "

'' Oh, boys are incomprehensible mortals :
by this time he Is glad he went. I assure you
he enjoyed his lobster-salad, and looked very
bonny and animated with his blue eyes intent
on the speakers. He will be able to report to
you all he heard — and that was nothing but
good words of his father, and true words too,
Delia ; for, indeed, dear, your husband did in
Cote and at Navestock what his son may take
a joyful pride In remembering. It would be
well If everybody had such a set-off to show
for their own and their forefathers* blunders
as Mr. Denys In his last years."

Delia began to listen, and to sigh with an

VOL. III. Q



242 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

air of weariness and relief. " Then there was
nothing to pain my boy ? " she asked.

" Not a word. Colonel Hayman gave his
old comrade his due, and poor Mr. Midas,
after hanging his lip at the praise of his neigh-
bour, to the wonder of us all stood up and
blurted out an endorsement. Some fellows, he
said, might have taken example by Denys, who
called him not fit for their company. Some
fellows' sins went before them to judgment,
and some fellows' they followed after. Denys
had taken his whips like a man in his lifetime,
and he didn't doubt but the recording angel
had dropt a tear for him at his death. What
he wished to say of Denys was what most men
might say of themselves — if he had known
better he would have done better, and, at all
events, he had founded that church they had
been consecrating. Let a man never despair ;
while there was life there was hope ; and it



SEEKING SYMPATHY. 243

was never too late to mend. Oh, it was a
very queer little speech, indeed. The bishop
made himself acquainted with the engraved
figures on his wine-glass ; and the rector, who
is at his best on these genial occasions,
applauded with the tears in his eyes. His
testimony to his old squire was perfect, as his
little tender speeches always are."

Mrs. Denys was gratified, but, perhaps, she
would rather have heard that her husband's en-
comium had been pronounced by Sir Thomas
Britton and endorsed by Sir John Herrick.
Hughie did not discriminate so narrowly, and
would have felt grateful to the poorest and
meanest man alive who mentioned his father
with respect. He came home presently, and
bounded up the stairs three steps at once
to his mother's door. She opened it to
see him the quicker — his face contented was
the most precious blessing left her. They



244 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

sat down side by side — his arm was round
her.

'' I wish you had been there, mother.
Everybody wanted to know about you — every-
body was very kind," he said hurriedly. '' I
should have been twice as happy with you
there."

*' Who made the finest speech, Hughie ? "
Lady Herri ck inquired, standing up to leave
them.

"The bishop — I recollect his best because
it was the shortest, and Sir Thomas Britton
told me to thank him for it."

*' And what did you say, Hughie ? But
I will leave you to tell your mother by your
two selves what you said, and Sir John shall
tell the story to me as we drive home to
Danesmore."

Hucrhie made rather what he called " a
mull" of his report, but his mother under-



SEEKING SYMPATHY. 245

Stood that he had come back to her quit for
good and all of that unhappy self-consciousness
which had made him so shy of encountering
strangers. He had determined to hold up
his head, and look the world in the face
again.

" If I am as good a man all round as my

father was " he bes^an. His mother laid

her hand softly on his to stop him.

" Hughie, it is not your father who must
be your standard and example— talk to Mr.
Orme — but you know delUr,'^ she said, with
lips that quivered, and tearful eyes pleading
with him to have patience. '' Let me speak
to you a little now, and then let us try to have
done with those things that aie so painful
for us both to remember, and think only of
those that deserve all love and honour. You
know how your father planned to repair one
wrong he did, but I think he foresaw on the



246 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

night he died that much of his planning would
come to nothing. He wished John to have
Acklam — but John will have none of Acklam."

" I am glad of that, mother ; I like Acklam
myself/' Hughie interrupted, offering a kiss.
" If Captain Meade took New Place, and
John took Acklam, Kitty Consett and I would
have to roost in a tree when we are married,
unless you would give us lodgings at the
Manor House." His spirits had got up again,
and he wanted an instant truce with tears
and troubles.

Mrs. Denys' faint attempt at remonstrance
ended in a ofentle lauofh. Huofhie's change

o £5 C> fc>

of mood was great consolation. '' I was not
aware that Kitty Consett and you were en-
gaged," she said. " When you are married
you shall have lodgings at the Manor House ;
or — as it will be a long day first — I may have
vacated it before."



SEEKING SYMPATHY. 247

" I hope not that, mother," Hughle re-
sponded with exceeding gravit}^ " If you are
not there, the bells shall not ring at my
wedding, I vow ! " and the kiss that his
mother had restrained until this moment was
administered with an emphasis that forbade
the return of the clouds.



( 248 )



CHAPTER XLIX.

A DECISION.

" ' Be strong to-day : ' but, Lord, to-morrow —
What of to-morrow, Lord ? "

Christina Rossetti.

Young Denys had referred to Captain Meade's
takine New Place as to an event not accom-
plished yet.

Captain Meade was a slack wooer as it
seemed, but, in truth, he had received small
encouragement to press his suit. Marie-Irene
was not accessible under her brother Johns
roof, and he had not seen her since that
brief interview at the Manor House shortly
after Christmas. The young lady came down
to Cote again in August, when her masters



A DECISION. 249

also left town, but she brought her occupa-
tions with her, and was not idly inclined for
trifling. No frame could have been less pro-
pitious than that in which Captain Meade
saw her next — absorbed in study, wearing a
look of absence and restraint, not interested
in any affairs that he had to tell her. She
possessed in a marked degree that trait of
her father by which he had enforced upon
his nearest and dearest a silent respect for his
reserves ; and when Captain Meade intimated
to Mrs. Denys a wish that his way could be
paved for him, she said that, indeed, she
could not speak to the girl.

Mrs. Denys believed, but was not sure,
that John had done so ; for in moments of
rest Marie- Irene had an air of soft, pensive
regret that found no expression in words. The
first anniversary of Mr. Denys' death was
spent by both in seclusion, and no step had



250 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

been taken then either towards fulfilllne or
rescinding- his promise of New Place to
Captain Meade. Mr. Quorn waited for in-
structions, and received none, but that he must
continue to wait. In October Marie- Irene was
to return to John's house In London, and the
sentiment was general,' that she could not be
allowed to return without some understand-
ing for the future. Captain Meade sought to
persuade his mother to come to Cote ; and
failing that, he asked that Marie-Irene might
be invited to Updeane. And this was con-
trived without formality. Mrs. Denys took
her to Beaumlnster for the purpose of revisit-
ing her friends at the convent, and another
day they drove over the hills to Updeane.

Mrs. Meade received the young lady with
a blush on her faded cheek. She had heard
of her beauty and grace, but had never pic-
tured to herself the perfect beauty and sweet



A DECISION. 251

grace she saw. The moment was nervous for
her, but evidently there was no disquietude
in the girl's mind. Mrs. Denys felt on the
instant that she knew everything, and that
her line of behaviour had been pre-arranged.
Marie-Irene blushed too, and passing an old
piano that stood in the spacious low hall open,
just touched the keys — a trick she had when-
ever she came near a musical instrument —
and said it was well placed for sound.

That remark was the text of the conversa-
tion that followed — music at home and abroad,
music In the convent chapel, with illustrations
and singing.

'' You will sing for my mother ? " Captain
Meade whispered, and then sighed. Marie-
Irene consented with alacrity — It made the



time Q-Q,

o



Mrs. Denys sat with Mrs. Meade side by
side on a stiff sofa at the farther end of the



252 MRS. DENYS OF COTE.

dim room. They were almost strangers, and
found not much to say. Presently a servant
brought coffee, and after that Captain Meade
proposed to show the visitors the garden,
and a certain fine point of view. It resulted
in Marie-Irene accompanying him alone. In
the course of their saunter they had what
served for an explanation. Captain Meade
saw so little ground of hope that he spoke
from a faint heart, and Marie-Irene had
scarcely to speak at all to quell him finally.

To Mrs. Denys, when inquired of after-
wards, she said : "He does not care enough
for me — I do not care enough for him. John
thought it ri^ht to warn me last Christmas,
and I have been on my guard since. There
was a time, a year ago, when I could easily
have fancied myself in love, but that is over,
and papa's scheme for restoring Navestock
to the family who were robbed of it by his



A DECISION. 253

wicked ancestors does not depend on my yea
or nay to Captain Meade.'*

" No dear, but is it over — in very truth —
that time when you could easily have fancied
yourself in love ? " Mrs. Denys said, tenderly
adjuring her ; for there was a changeful colour
on the girl's face, and a shining in her eyes
that betrayed, perhaps, a deeper feeling.

Marie- Irene shook away a few tears, laugh-
ing, and employing some of those pretty
gestures that seem to make light of serious
incidents. '^ Things may pass, and we may
be a little sorry, and yet not wish them to
stay," she said. " I never expect to see a
nobler gentleman than Captain Meade, and
hit for this a7idfor that which all the world
knows, I think I might have loved him. It
would need a very strong love between us to
bear the strain, and as there is not the strong
love, we have said good-bye and parted friends.



2 54 M^S. DENYS OF COTE.

I shall have a life of my own amongst artists,
who will not ask whence I come, but what I
am, and what I can do. Oh, I shall be happy.
I have no fear but I shall be happy."

" Indeed, dear, I hope you will."

This was in the window of the old inn over-
looking Beauminster Close where they were
to remain that niofht. Marie - Irene turned
aside, and lifted her face to the sky. Mrs.
Denys saw that her mouth trembled, and her
tears were brimming over again.

*' It is permitted you to be a little sorry,
dear. It is a long while since you first
saw Captain Meade, and you became well
acquainted last summer," she said very
gently.

'' Yes. Last summer was delightful alto-
g-ether till it came to its sad end. The sun
never shone after that day for ever so many
days. But it returned at length, and I was



A DECISION. 255

pleased to see it. When one is young, sun-
shine seems most natural."

" I trust you will have a great share of it,
dear."

" Do you remember how you wrote to me
in the convent of what was happening to
Captain Meade away in India ? We used to
talk about that battle where he was wounded,
and that skirmishing retreat in which he won
his Cross of Valour. Their names were in the
map. Oh, he was quite our hero ; and that is
what he is — a hero. Probably he will rejoin


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10

Online LibraryHolme LeeMrs. Denys of Cote : in three volumes (Volume 3) → online text (page 8 of 10)