John Strange Winter.

A magnificent young man. A novel online

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than one does over a funeral. So often the young
couple are like young bears, with all their troubles
before them, while at a funeral one feels so fre-
quently that another poor struggling soul has got
over the worst, has got the hard times over and has
attained to the blissful haven of an apparently ever-
lasting rest. This wedding was peculiarly sad. It
took place in a gaunt, bare, barrack of a church, a
gloomy barn of a building, through whose dingy

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windows the already waning light of afternoon
came but dully. The attire of neither bride nor
groom was festive. There were none of the adjuncts
and emblems of marriage. No crowd of eager
friends, no scent of costly flowers, no shimmering of
bridal robes, no bevy of sweet-faced bridesmaids, no,
no, only a young couple in everyday attire standing
before a dingy altar and attended by a snuffy old
woman in a poke bonnet and an equally snuffy old
man with a pair of silver-rimmed spectacles. Some-
how in that great echoing, solemn church the im-
pressive words of the marriage service seemed to
fall with greater significance than usual. I think if
marriages were like executions, conducted in private,
if these functions were shorn of everything which
makes them gay and festive, the solemn pledges
and promises which brides and grooms take upon
themselves would strike home more significantly
than they do now-a-days, when they are given and
taken in the midst of a grinning, giggling, irre-
verent crowd, when the bride is thinking more of
the set of her train and the hang of her veil than
she is thinking of her duty as a wife to be, when
the groom is wondering whether his best man will
take proper care of his hat rather than whether he
will make the bride of his choice a good husband.

Every word of the short service seemed to be
beating itself into Margot's brain. I think if she
had realized how much she was undertaking, how
great and important a step marriage really was to
her, she would have hesitated before she would have
consented to its taking place in that way. As it
was, she did not even realize the full import of her
act until the final words had been spoken which

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bound her to Godfrey Bladensbrook for the rest of
their lives. They passed into the dingy little
vestry and duly signed the registers, then the
clergyman wished them every happiness and Godfrey
pushed something half surreptitiously into his hand,
something which rustled pleasantly.

" Oh, but this is not necessary," said he, in mild

"Well, Sir, we have put you to considerable
trouble, and it was important to us that we were
married to-day." Then he drew him a little aside.
" I am most anxious that our marriage should not
be disclosed for a week or so. We have arranged
the affair somewhat in a hurry and I wish my people
and my wife's to hear of it from me. If you will
be kind enough not to speak of it for a week I
shall be very grateful to you."

"Oh, certainly, certainly. It is no business of
mine, more particularly as I am not the Vicar
but only his substitute. Of course, if anybody
comes and wishes to search the registers I have no
choice in that case. And the Vicar will see the
registers, or may see them, on his return home in a
fortnight's time."

" Ah, that is different. Nobody will come. The
fact is, in a couple of days our people will know all
about it."

Then, having thanked him for his good wishes,
the two took leave of the clergyman and passed out
into the world man and wife.

"I don't see the good of moving on to-night,
Margot," said Godfrey, as they walked down the
street. " It will be better on all accounts if we can
get that box of yours. Supposing we go back and

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pay our bill and we simply go off to the f Mitre/
which looks to me a very good hotel indeed, and
which will accommodate us as well as any other ? "

" Just as you like," said she, " but how can I go
to another hotel and explain about the railway
accident and having no clothes ? "

" I never thought of that," he returned, " dear
me, how very stupid of me. Well, let us go off to
the station and see if we can hear any news of your

But there they got little or no satisfaction. They
were told that the line was now open, that all the
luggage rescued from the two wrecked trains had
been carried to the station on the other side of the
tunnel in which the accident had taken place. " I
believe there is a deal of property there, Sir," said
the official who gave the information, "and the
easiest thing for you to do is simply to go to
Euxford and claim it."

" Is there any kind of a hotel at Ruxford ? "

"Well, there is a very decent one, Sir. It is
nothing out of the way, being quite a small market
town, but it is quite a place to be made comfortable
for a few hours."

" Then the best thing we can do is to go on to

Accordingly they went back to the hotel, paid
their bill and packed the few things which Margot
had in a Gladstone bag which she had purchased in

" I really think," said Margot, " that the easiest
thing would be to give our own names, I mean to
give my name that was, because you see my box
was marked ' M. D.' "

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" Your box, my dear, is a pitiable and absolute
wreck. The best you may be able to do is to claim
any loose belongings that you may recognize. Of
course, we can give our own names, if you like.
Perhaps you are right, and it will be the wiser."

However, when they got out of the train at
Euxford station the first person whom they saw was
the very guard to whom they had first spoken on
the subject of Margot's luggage on the scene of the
accident, who told them he had been placed in
charge of the luggage collected from the train.

" I doubt," said he, touching his cap, " that the
lady will find but a sad wreck of what was once her
luggage. If you will step this way, Sir, I will show
you what there is. Some of it, of course, has been
claimed, but what is left is really a sorry sight."

He led the way round to the back of the station,
and there in a large room was the greater portion
of the luggage which had been rescued from the
wrecked train.

" Oh ! " said Margot, " that is my best dress ! "

"Ah, I doubt it won't be the better for the
rumplin' it's had since you last wore it, Miss," said
the guard.

" Oh, did you ever see anything like this ? Oh —
that poor woman's hat ! She'll never be able to
wear that any more."

" She's gone where they don't want no 'ats," said
the guard.

" Oh, was she killed?"

" Yes, Miss, I am sorry to say she was, and 'er
poor 'usband he come in 'ere last night and he see
'er 'at and he just sat down and cried like a child
over it."

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After all, Godfrey Bladensbrook and Margot even-
tually went back to Brixham. Such luggage as
was worth claiming they packed into a trunk hastily
bought at the nearest shop where such articles were
procurable and carried back with them. To Margot's
joy the things at the bottom of her own trunk were
not much the worse. Her trinkets and toilet
necessaries were as good as ever, and her dresses
were singularly little damaged, her linen, too, was
but little the worse. So having packed all these
things into the modest tin box which was the best
thing Ruxford could produce, they took the next
train to Marley Spa and drove at once to the Mitre
Hotel. This was the inn or small country hotel
from which Godfrey Bladensbrook had telegraphed
his address to the regiment, and at first he had
suggested that they might as well stay there under
their own names as go elsewhere. He went in,
leaving Margot in the cab. " I want you," he said to
the manageress whom he met in the hall, " to retain
my rooms for a week. I was prevented from coming
here to-day as I had to run up to London and am
now staying with friends. If any letters or tele-
grams come for me be good enough to keep them."
He had gone into the house with the intention of
making sure that his rooms were retained before
asking Margot to alight. Then it occurred to him


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that it would be just as well if they kept the
name under which they had been passing for the
few days they would be together. He went back to
the door of the cab, "I say, dearest," he said,
putting his head well inside and speaking in an
undertone, " I really do think it would be better not
to use our own name for a day or two. You see,
these railway people may come after me at any time,
and here I gave my own name because I had to
telegraph my address to the regiment, at least, I
wrote to them from Blankhampton and took rooms
thinking I might be about the neighbourhood for a
week or so. I think we had better go to the King's
Arms at Brixham ; I gathered at the station just now
that it is quite a good hotel, and we shall go as
ordinary people. Then you can shop and get your
things without any trouble and we can get our
letters from the post office and the Mitre. I can
run over here by an early train each morning with-
out the smallest difficulty."

Naturally enough Margot raised no especial
objection, and they went back to Brixham and
drove at once to the King's Arms, there asking for
rooms for a few days. This was a very much larger
and better hotel, and they were given a pleasant
sitting-room on the first floor overlooking the
market place.

" This is really quite awfully jolly," said Godfrey
to Margot, as the door closed behind the very smart
young woman who had shewn them the way. " My
dearest, I now begin to feel for the first time that
you are now and for always mine."

To the waiter who ministered to them half an
hour later in the form of an excellent dinner, and

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the chambermaid who came to see that the lady
had everything she required, the young couple were
the subject of much discussion. Poor young things,
they imagined that they were taken for quite
ordinary visitors. They would have been consider-
ably astonished if they could have heard themselves
discussed by the aforesaid waiter and chambermaid.

"What is the name of them new people,
William ? " the lady enquired.

"Mr. and Mrs. Smith from London," William
said. " New married I should say."

" Very new married I should say," replied Jessica,
which was the name of the chambermaid. " All the
lady's things is marked M.D."

" What sort of things ? " enquired William.

"Why her 'air brushes and the 'and glass and her
little fid-fads for her pins and such-like, M.D. in
silver letters, as plain as a pikestaff, no mistake
about it ; and his sleeve-links is marked with a crest
and a monygram that I can't make 'ead nor tail of,
but not an ' S ' in it, as to that I'll take my oath."

" Oh, well, well, that's as may be. They are a
good looking young couple though."

" Oh, they are good looking enough. He is a
splendid feller," said Jessica, " and she have got
such nice manners, so civil and so pleasant in every-
thing she says to one. How long are they going to
stay, William ? "

" Oh, that's more than I can tell you — a day or

" What sort of a dinner did they eat ? " asked

" Oh, middlin'. Quite peckish for a new married
couple. I don't know whether she was quite so in-


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clined for a good dinner as he was, but he kep' saying
to her i Now, dearest, have a bit of this ' and * Yon
had better try this, darling, it is good, and I am
sure you are hungry."

" What I can't make out," said Jessica, " is that
box of 'ers. It ain't in any sort of keeping with 'er
linen and 'er brushes and things."

" Well, but they was in the railway accident."

" Oh, then it ain't 'er box ? "

" Yes, it is 'er box, but it's one she bought just to
bring her things back in. They are going to get
things just to carry 'em on in the morning."

t€ Oh, then perhaps they are not new married."

" Well, they haven't been married very long."

"Ill take my oath of that unless they was
married in short frocks and pinafores — well, you
know what I mean, William. You do take one up
so sharp, really you do. Anyway, she's a pretty
creature. It's a pleasure to do for such people after
the lot that comes in and out 'ere, people that looks
upon hotel servants as so much dirt."

Meantime Godfrey and Margot having finished
dinner were sitting at the wide open window over-
looking the old market place. There was a couch
drawn to one side of the window, which was a
French one and opened on to a stone balcony. The
balcony was radiant with flowers, geraniums, calceo-
larias, nasturtiums and lobelia, and to Margot, even
in her anxiety as to the uproar which she naturally
expected would follow their exploits, the scene was
a perfect Paradise.

(t You know really, Godfrey," she said for about
the twentieth time, " I do feel so frightened when
I think of what every one will say."

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"My dearest child," he said, holding her quite
close to him and smiling at her fears, " you seem
to have forgotten one thing — there is nobody in the
world who can make you afraid now. You are Mrs.

" I don't think," said she, " that I shall ever really
feel like Mrs. Bladensbrook."

" Oh, yes," he replied in reassuring yet masterful
tones, " in twelve months' time, my dear child, you
will feel very much like Mrs. Bladensbrook, and in
as many years you will feel as if you had been born
so. One so soon gets used to any new position in
this world, and after all, whatever happens, we shall
always have the joy of remembering that these few
precious days were ours — ours alone, that they
were shared by no one else. They will always be-
long to you and to me alone, since nobody else even
knows of them.*'

It cannot be said that Brixham was an ideal place
for a young couple's honeymoon. It was a large,
busy, populous, manufacturing town ; it could not
even boast of being the county town of the shire in
which it stood. Twenty years before Brixham had
been a mere village, it now boasted a great net- work
of busy streets peopled by a swarm of human bees.
There was little loafing and next to no cadging in
busy Brixham ; men, women and children were all
intent on the business of money-making, and of the
few private people who lived there each and all
were retired or, as in the case of Mrs. Blake, the
widows of those who had been in business in the town.
Staying there was in itself something of a risk for
Margot, but as she wisely remarked to Godfrey not
a soul likely to . be on visiting terms with her aunt

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would remain in the town daring that particular
month of the year. Her aunt, for instance, who
had gone off to Italy by way of Geneva, had com-
plained most bitterly during the last ten days of
her stay that never before had she slept in Brixham
after the first of August and that under no circum-
stances would she ever again do a similar thing.
She had more than once professed herself devoutly
thankful to Providence that she was not likely to
be seen by anybody who knew her, and she said
several times that she should stay away at least six
months — probably for eight or nine — in order that
she might be asked no question as to the actual
date of her leaving home.

So these two remained in the quiet hotel, taking
all their meals in their own room, sitting a good
deal on the balcony, which was discreetly shaded
besides being screened with flowers, and dreaming
long, delicious, golden dreams of the brilliant and
happy future which spread itself out so alluringly
before them. On the third day, the day on which
Margot had promised to go home, Godfrey Bladens-
brook found a letter at the Mitre Hotel which had
been forwarded to him among others from his
regiment. It was from his mother and was
strangely unlike her firm, decisive, well-rounded

" I have a strange foreboding of coming ill," she
wrote. "I don't know why I should have, for
everything here is pretty much as usual and if
anything were wrong with you I feel sure that I
should have heard it before this. I am almost
afraid that something has gone wrong with my

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heart. I seem to have such sudden attacks of
faintness and they come on me most often in the
small hours of the morning when everything is
still and not a soul is moving in this great house.
You cannot imagine what a horrid, dreary, weird
feeling it is to have this sudden fluttering of one's
heart, this sudden feeling as it were a hand
gripping at one's vitality. I am not nervous, as
you know, but if you can possibly get a few days'
leave and will come up to Town to meet me I will
go next Monday. I shall stay at the Alexandra, it
is so near to the green of the Park, and at this
time of year one wants greenery before all else.
You might send me a wire to say whether you will
meet me there or not."

Without waiting to go back to the King's Arms
and to consult Margot, Godfrey Bladensbrook turned
straight into the post-office and wired to his man-
servant at Blankhampton. " Wire in my name to
Mrs. Bladensbrook at Bladensbrook," he said, " Sand
say that if possible I will meet her in London on

Having sent this off he felt a little more easy
and went back to the King's Arms, where he found
Margot busily engaged in packing her belongings
in a new trunk as nearly a counterpart of the one
which had been wrecked in the tunnel as they had
been able to procure.

" My dearest," he said to her, " I have a piece of
rather unpleasant news to tell you."

"Oh, Godfrey!" she cried, clasping her hands
together, " what is it ? "

" They haven't found anything out — not a word,

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not a thing — but here is a letter from my mother.
You see she seems to have got something wrong
with her heart, I cannot refuse to go to London,
and under the circumstances I know perfectly well
that I shall be able to get leave, even if it is only
for the one night ; but I must ask you to keep our
secret for a few days longer for this reason, I cannot
possibly break it to her in the face of such a letter
as this. You know, flutterings and faintnesses and
such-like things sometimes only mean indigestion
and dyspepsia. I hope it may not be more serious
than that in this case. Goodness knows, it seems
too funny to. think of my mother being troubled
with either one or the other ! I should like to go
up and meet her, see what the doctor says, and if
a favourable opportunity of telling her occurs before
I come back I shall take it."

*' Of course," said Margot, " you must do what
you think best about that. After all, a few days
more or less will make no difference to anybody. I
don't suppose that anybody at home will notice
that my things are different or will dream that I
have not come straight from Aunt Marcia's house.
At all events, if the worst comes to the worst, I
must just bear it until you come and rescue me."

" I think," he said, " that I had better give you
some money that you may get yourself some more
dresses and replace those that were damaged. I
don't want to change a cheque here — indeed they
would not have changed a big cheque here — so I
went to the bank the other morning and they got
me some money from Town, from my own bank,
that is. Here are one hundred pounds. I brought
fifty pounds in gold and fifty pounds in notes."

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cc I shall not want so much," said Margot.

" Well, you had better take it. One never knows
what may happen and you might chance to want
something between this and the next ten days and
I would rather that you had plenty of money by

" I will get a couple of dresses," said she, " but
the notes I will keep until we meet again."

" As you like about that. Of course you will be
able to get as many dresses as you want as soon as
the real position of things is announced."

She put the money away in her purse and making
the notes into a parcel in her handkerchief she
thrust them into her bosom.

" I shall stay here to-night," he said, €€ and go
back to Blankhampton to-morrow, see if I cannot
get my leave and go to London on Monday morn-
ing. And you will write to me ? "

u Well, I shall not get home until after the post
has gone out, dear," said Margot, " and there is no
Sunday post at Bladensbrook, you know."

" Then write to me on Monday and address me
to the Alexandra Hotel. And now I think it is
time I saw you safely off on your journey."

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Looking back, Margot afterwards regarded that
journey homewards as one of the most anxious and
wretched times which she had ever experienced.
She felt guilty, she felt that she was going home to
be found out, she had no realization of being Mrs.
Bladensbrook, Godfrey's wife, she only felt that she
was in for the biggest thing in the shape of a row
which she had ever experienced. She felt as if her
doings of the last few days were branded upon her
forehead, that nobody could look at her without
perceiving the change in her. The Margot who was
going back was not the Margot who had come away
from the quiet country rectory, it was a new
Margot. It was not the lady regnant of Bladens-
brook ; it was a frightened, nervous and miserable
little girl who was inevitably to be found out. But
when she got to the end of her journey and had
reached her destination, she found that everything
had turned out quite differently to what her anxious
anticipations had conjectured. The stanhope was
at the station to meet her, and in reply to her eager
enquiry as to how the rector was, old Thomas re-
plied that he was but sadly.

" How do you mean ? " Margot asked in alarm.

" I don't know, Miss, but I doubt the rector is not
the man he was. He seems dull and dreary-like, as if
be had no spirit to rouse himself and do anything,

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and there he sits in that study poring over that
great book and all them sheets of writin' until my
brains feel addled to think of it."

" Ah, but my father is used to it," said Margot,
as she climbed into the stanhope and took the

" Well, yes, Miss, there's no gainsaying that, but
he is looking very sadly this last few days, very
sadly indeed."

" Have you any other news, Thomas ? " Margot
asked as they turned out of the station yard.

" Well, I did hear the mistress at the House was
not at all well. She swounded away once or twice
and they had rather a work to get her to the last

" Oh, you don't say that ! " said Margot, feigning
a great surprise.

"Yes, Miss, that's what they tell me. I see
Long Tom this mornin* from the House and he tell
me they were all in a rare taking about it. I be-
lieve the mistress is going to London on Monday to
get advice."

" I am sorry to hear that," said Margot, simu-
lating her surprise very cleverly.

Arrived at the Kectory she found that all was
peace and quietness and ignorance. The rector
was in his roomy old study with the long French
windows opening on to a wide veranda, which was
occupied at that moment by half a dozen lounging
chairs and a couple of wicker tables.

" Ah, my child, is that you ? " he asked, as Margot
put her bright face in at the door. " I have missed
you more than I can say, nobody knows how much,
and right glad I am to get you back again."

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"Dear Daddy," said Margot, putting her arm
round his shoulder," I have come back again like a
bad ha'penny. It is a shame."

"What, that you are come back again or that
you are come back like a bad ha'penny ? " said the
rector, smiling at her.

" Oh, that I have come back at all, still less that
I have come back like a bad ha'penny. But
Daddy, dear, have you had any tea ? "

" No, I waited for you."

" Then we will have tea at once." She rang the
bell and ordered it, then sat down upon the edge of
his solid oak writing table and went on chatting.
" And how is every one ? Everything going on
pretty much as usual I suppose. What's this I hear

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Online LibraryJohn Strange WinterA magnificent young man. A novel → online text (page 8 of 21)