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* * *

THE HOUSE OF THE WOLF. A Romance. With Frontispiece and Vignette.
Crown 8vo, cloth, $1.25.

THE STORY OF FRANCIS CLUDDE. A Romance. With four Illustrations. Crown
8vo, $1.25.

A GENTLEMAN OF FRANCE. Being the Memoirs of Gaston de Bonne, Sieur de
Marsac. With Frontispiece and Vignette. Crown 8vo, cloth, $1.25.

UNDER THE RED ROBE. With twelve full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo,
cloth, $1.25.

MY LADY ROTHA. A Romance of the Thirty Years' War. With eight
Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth, $1.25.

Illustrations. Crown 8vo, cloth, $1.25.

SHREWSBURY. A Romance. With twenty-four Illustrations. Crown 8vo,

THE RED COCKADE. A Novel. With 48 Illustrations by R. Caton Woodville.
Crown 8vo, $1.50.

THE CASTLE INN. A Novel. With six full-page Illustrations by Walter
Appleton Clark. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

SOPHIA. A Romance. With twelve full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo,

New York: Longmans, Green, And Co.

[Illustration: "ONE MINUTE!" SHE CRIED. P. 118.]








Copyright, 1899
* * *
Copyright, 1900








I. A Little Toad.

II. At Vauxhall.

III. The Clock-maker.

IV. A Discovery.

V. The World Well Lost.

VI. A Chair and a Coach.

VII. In Davies Street.

VIII. Unmasked.

IX. In Clarges Row.

X. Sir Hervey Takes the Field.

XI. The Tug of War.

XII. Don Quixote.

XIII. The Welcome Home.

XIV. The First Stage.

XV. A Squire of Dames.

XVI. The Paved Ford.

XVII. In the Valley.

XVIII. King Smallpox.

XIX. Lady Betty's Fate.

XX. A Friend In Need.

XXI. The Strolling Players.

XXII. 'Tis Go or Swim.

XXIII. Two Portraits.

XXIV. Who Plays, Pays.

XXV. Repentance at Leisure.

XXVI. A Dragon Disarmed.


'One Minute!' she cried.

'Sir!' Sophia cried, her cheeks burning.

Grocott ... stole forward, and ... leant over the flushed features of
the unconscious lad.

'This must be - must be stopped at once!'

'Oh, la! I don't want to stay!' Mrs. Martha cried.

'He cannot!'

'About the two guineas - you stole this morning.'

He stood, grinning in his finery, unable to say a word.

Lady Betty wasted no time on words. She was already in the water and
wading across.

'Why, Betty,' Sophia cried in astonishment, 'What is it?'

'Do you sit, and I'll make you a posy.'

Her hair ... hung undressed on her neck. He touched it gently. It was
the first caress he had ever given her.




In the dining-room of a small house on the east side of Arlington
Street, which at that period - 1742 - was the Ministerial street, Mr.
and Mrs. Northey sat awaiting Sophia. The thin face of the honourable
member for Aldbury wore the same look of severity which it had worn a
few weeks earlier on the eventful night when he had found himself
called upon to break the ties of years and vote in the final division
against Sir Robert; his figure, as he sat stiffly expecting his
sister-in-law, reflected the attitudes of the four crude portraits of
dead Northeys that darkened the walls of the dull little room. Mrs.
Northey on the other hand sprawled in her chair with the carelessness
of the fine lady fatigued; she yawned, inspected the lace of her
negligée, and now held a loose end to the light, and now pondered the
number of a lottery ticket. At length, out of patience, she called
fretfully to Mr. Northey to ring the bell. Fortunately, Sophia entered
at that moment.

"In time, and no more, miss," madam cried with temper. Then as the
girl came forward timidly, "I'll tell you what it is," Mrs. Northey
continued, "you'll wear red before you're twenty! You have no more
colour than a china figure this morning! What's amiss with you?"

Sophia, flushing under her brother-in-law's eyes, pleaded a headache.

Her sister sniffed. "Eighteen, and the vapours!" she cried scornfully.
"Lord, it is very evident raking don't suit you! But do you sit down
now, and answer me, child. What did you say to Sir Hervey last night?"

"Nothing," Sophia faltered, her eyes on the floor.

"Oh, nothing!" Mrs. Northey repeated, mimicking her. "Nothing! And
pray, Miss Modesty, what did he say to you?"

"Nothing; or - or at least, nothing of moment," Sophia stammered.

"Of moment! Oh, you know what's of moment, do you? And whose fault was
that, I'd like to know? Tell me that, miss!"

Sophia, seated stiffly on the chair, her sandalled feet drawn under
her, looked downcast and a trifle sullen, but did not answer.

"I ask, whose fault was that?" Mrs. Northey continued impatiently. "Do
you think to sit still all your life, looking at your toes, and
waiting for the man to fall into your lap? Hang you for a natural, if
you do! It is not that way husbands are got, miss!"

"I don't want a husband, ma'am!" Sophia cried, stung at length into
speech by her sister's coarseness.

"Oh, don't you?" Mrs. Northey retorted. "Don't you, Miss Innocence?
Let me tell you, I know what you want. You want to make a fool of
yourself with that beggarly, grinning, broad-shouldered oaf of an
Irishman, that's always at your skirts! That's what you want. And he
wants your six thousand pounds. Oh, you don't throw dust into my
eyes!" Mrs. Northey continued viciously, "I've seen you puling and
pining and making Wortley eyes at him these three weeks. Ay, and half
the town laughing at you. But I'd have you to know, miss, once for
all, we are not going to suffer it!"

"My life, I thought we agreed that I should explain matters," Mr.
Northey said gently.

"Oh, go on then!" madam cried, and threw herself back in her seat.

"Only because I think you go a little too far, my dear," Mr. Northey
said, with a cough of warning; "I am sure that we can count on
Sophia's prudence. You are aware, child," he continued, directly
addressing himself to her, "that your father's death has imposed on us
the - the charge of your person, and the care of your interests. The
house at Cuckfield being closed, and your brother wanting three years
of full age, your home must necessarily be with us for a time, and we
have a right to expect that you will be guided by us in such plans as
are broached for your settlement. Now I think I am right in saying,"
Mr. Northey continued, in his best House of Commons manner, "that your
sister has communicated to you the very advantageous proposal with
which my good friend and colleague at Aldbury, Sir Hervey Coke, has
honoured us? Ahem! Sophia, that is so, is it not? Be good enough to
answer me."

"Yes, sir," Sophia murmured, her eyes glued to the carpet.

"Very good. In that case I am sure that she has not failed to point
out to you also that Sir Hervey is a baronet of an old and respectable
family, and possessed of a competent estate. That, in a word, the
alliance is everything for which we could look on your behalf."

"Yes, sir," Sophia whispered.

"Then, may I ask," Mr. Northey continued, setting a hand on each knee,
and regarding her majestically, "in what respect you find the match
not to your taste? If that be so?"

The young girl slid her foot to and fro, and for a moment did not
answer. Then, "I - I do not wish to marry him," she said, in a low

"You do not wish?" Mrs. Northey cried, unable to contain herself
longer. "_You_ do not wish? And why, pray?"

"He's - he's as old as Methuselah!" the girl answered with a sudden
spirit of resentment; and she moved her foot more quickly to and fro.

"As old as Methuselah?" Mr. Northey answered, staring at her in
unfeigned astonishment; and then, in a tone of triumphant refutation,
he continued, "Why, child, what are you dreaming of? He is only
thirty-four! and I am thirty-six."

"Well, at any rate, he is old enough - he is nearly old enough to be my
father!" Sophia muttered rebelliously.

Mrs. Northey could no longer sit by and hear herself flouted. She knew
very well what was intended. She was twenty-nine, Sophia's senior by
eleven years, and she felt the imputation that bounded harmlessly off
her husband's unconsciousness. "You little toad!" she cried. "Do you
think I do not know what you mean? I tell you, miss, you would smart
for it, if I were your mother! Thirty-four, indeed; and you call him
as old as Methuselah! Oh, thank you for nothing, ma'am! I understand

"He's twice as old as I am!" Sophia whimpered, bending before the
storm. And in truth to eighteen thirty-four seems elderly; if not old.

"You! You're a baby!" Mrs. Northey retorted, her face red with
passion. "How any man of sense can look at you or want you passes me!
But he does, and if you think we are going to sit by and see our plans
thwarted by a chit of a girl of your years, you are mistaken, miss.
Sir Hervey's vote, joined to the two county votes which my lord
commands, and to Mr. Northey's seat, will gain my lord a step in the
peerage; and when Coke is married to you, his vote will be ours. As
for you, you white-faced puling thing, I should like to know who you
are that you should not be glad of a good match when it is offered
you? It is a very small thing to do for your family."

"For _your_ family!" Sophia involuntarily exclaimed; the next moment
she could have bitten off her tongue.

Fortunately a glance from Mr. Northey, who prided himself on his
diplomacy, stayed the outburst that was on his wife's lips. "Allow me,
my dear," he said. "And do you listen to me, Sophia. Apart from his
age, a ridiculous objection which could only come into the mind of a
schoolgirl, is there anything else you have to urge against Sir

"He's as - as grave as death!" Sophia murmured tearfully.

Mr. Northey shrugged his shoulders. "Is that all?" he said.

"Yes, but - but - - "

"But what? But what, Sophia?" Mr. Northey repeated, with a fine show
of fairness. "I suppose you allow him to be in other respects a
suitable match?"

"Yes, but - I do not wish to marry him, sir. That is all."

"In that," Mr. Northey said firmly, "you must be guided by us. We have
your interests at heart, your best interests. And - and that should be
enough for you."

Sophia did not answer, but the manner in which she closed her lips,
and kept her gaze fixed steadfastly on the floor, was far from boding
acquiescence. Every feature indeed of her pale face - which only a mass
of dark brown hair and a pair of the most brilliant and eloquent eyes
redeemed from the commonplace - expressed a settled determination. Mrs.
Northey, who knew something of her sister's disposition, which was
also that of the family in general, discerned this, and could restrain
herself no longer.

"You naughty girl!" she cried, with something approaching fury. "Do
you think that I don't know what is at the bottom of this? Do you
think I don't know that you are pining and sulking for that hulking
Irish rogue that's the laughing-stock of every company his great feet
enter? Lord, miss, by your leave I'd have you to know we are neither
fools nor blind. I've seen your sighings and oglings, your pinings and
sinkings. And so has the town. Ay, you may blush" - in truth, Sophia's
cheeks were dyed scarlet - "my naughty madam! Blush you should, that
can fancy a raw-boned, uncouth Teague a fine woman would be ashamed to
have for a footman. But you shan't have him. You may trust me for
that, as long as there are bars and bolts in this house, miss."

"Sophia," Mr. Northey said in his coldest manner, "I trust that there
is nothing in this? I trust that your sister is misinformed?"

The girl, under the lash of her sister's tongue, had risen from her
chair; she tried in vain to recover her composure.

"There was nothing, sir," she cried hysterically. "But after
this - after the words which my sister has used to me, she has only
herself to thank if - if I please myself, and take the gentleman she
has named - or any other gentleman."

"Ay, but softly," Mr. Northey rejoined, with a certain unpleasant
chill in his tone. "Softly, Sophia, if you please. Are you aware that
if your brother marries under age and without his guardian's consent,
he forfeits ten thousand pounds in your favour? And as much more to
your sister? If not, let me tell you that it is so."

Sophia stared at him, but did not answer.

"It is true," Mr. Northey continued, "that your father's will contains
no provision for your punishment in the like case. But this clause
proves that he expected his children to be guided by the advice of
their natural guardians; and for my part, Sophia, I expect you to be
so guided. In the meantime, and that there may be no mistake in the
matter, understand, if you please, that I forbid you to hold from this
moment any communication with the person who has been named. If I
cannot prescribe a match for you, I can at least see that you do not
disgrace your family."


"Sir!" Sophia cried, her cheeks burning.

But Mr. Northey, a man of slow pulse and the least possible
imagination, returned her fiery look unmoved. "I repeat it," he said
coldly. "For that and nothing else an alliance with this - this person
would entail. Let there be no misunderstanding on that point. You are
innocent of the world, Sophia, and do not understand these
distinctions. But I am within the truth when I say that Mr.
Hawkesworth is known to be a broken adventurer, moving upon sufferance
among persons of condition, and owning a character and antecedents
that would not for a moment sustain inquiry."

"How can that be?" Sophia cried passionately. "It is not known who he

"He is not one of us," Mr. Northey answered with dignity. "For the
rest, you are right in saying that it is not known who he is. I am
told that even the name he bears is not his own."

"No, it is not!" Sophia retorted; and then stood blushing and
convicted, albeit with an exultant light in her eyes. No, his name was
not his own! She knew that from his own lips; and knew, too, from his
own lips, in what a world of romance he moved, what a future he was
preparing, what a triumph might be, nay, would be, his by-and-by - and
might be hers! But her mouth was sealed; already, indeed, she had said
more than she had the right to say. When Mr. Northey, surprised by her
acquiescence, asked with acerbity how she knew that Hawkesworth was
not the man's name, and what the man's name was, she stood mute. Wild
horses should not draw that from her.

But it was natural that her brother-in-law should draw his
conclusions, and his brow grew darker. "It is plain, at least, that
you have admitted him to a degree of intimacy extremely improper," he
said, with more heat than he had yet exhibited. "I fear, Sophia, that
you are not so good a girl as I believed. However, from this moment
you will see that you treat him as a stranger. Do you hear me?"

"Yes, sir. Then - then I am not to go with you this evening?"

"This evening! You mean to Vauxhall? And why not, pray?"

"Because - because, if I go I must see him. And if I see him I - I must
speak to him," Sophia cried, her breast heaving with generous
resentment. "I will not pass him by, and let him think me - everything
that is base!"

For a moment Mr. Northey looked a little nonplussed. Then, "Well, you
can - you can bow to him," he said, pluming himself on his discretion
in leaving the rein a trifle slack to begin. "If he force himself upon
you, you will rid yourself of him with as little delay as possible.
The mode I leave to you, Sophia; but speech with him I absolutely
forbid. You will obey in that on pain of my most serious displeasure."

"On pain of bread and water, miss!" her sister cried venomously. "That
will have more effect, I fancy. Lord, for my part, I should die of
shame if I thought that I had encouraged a nameless Irish rogue not
good enough to ride behind my coach. And all the town to know it."

Rage dried the tears that hung on Sophia's lids. "Is that all?" she
asked, her head high. "I should like to go if that is all you have to
say to me?"

"I think that is all," Mr. Northey answered.

"Then - I may go?"

He appeared to hesitate. For the first time his manner betrayed doubt;
he looked at his wife and opened his mouth, then closed it. At length,
"Yes, I think so," he said pompously. "And I trust you will regain our
approbation by doing as we wish, Sophia. I am sorry to say that your
brother's conduct at Cambridge has not been all that we could desire.
I hope that you will see to it, and show yourself more circumspect. I
truly hope that you will not disappoint us. Yes, you may go."

Sophia waited for no second permission. Her heart bursting, her cheeks
burning, she hurried from the room, and flew up the stairs to shut
herself in her chamber. Here, on the second floor, in a room
consecrated to thoughts of _him_ and dreams of _him_, where in a
secret nook behind the bow-fronted drawer of her toilet table lay the
withered flower he had given her the day he stole her glove, she felt
the full wretchedness of her lot. She would see him no more! Her tears
gushed forth, her bosom heaved at the thought. She would see him no
more! Or worse, she would see him only in public, at a distance;
whence his eyes would stab her for a jilt, a flirt, a cold, heartless,
worldly creature, unworthy to live in the same world, unworthy to
breathe the same air with Constancy.

And he had been so good to her! He had been so watchful, so assiduous,
so delicate, she had fondly, foolishly deemed his court a secret from

The way to her heart had not been difficult. Her father's death had
cast her, a timid country girl, into the vortex of the town, where for
a time she had shrunk from the whirl of routs and masquerades, the
smirking beaux and loud-voiced misses, among whom she found herself.
She had sat mum and abashed in companies where her coarser sister
ruled and ranted; where one had shunned and another had flouted the
silent, pale-faced girl, whose eyes and hair and tall slender shape
just redeemed her from insignificance. Only Mr. Hawkesworth, the
Irishman, had discerned in her charms that in a remarkably short time
won his regards and fixed his attentions. Only he, with the
sensibility of an unspoiled Irish heart, had penetrated the secret of
her loneliness; and in company had murmured sympathy in her ear, and
at the opera, where he had not the entrée to her sister's box, had
hung on her looks from afar, speaking more sweetly with his fine eyes
than Monticelli or Amorevoli sang on the stage.

For Sir Hervey, his would-be rival, the taciturn, middle-aged man, who
was Hervey to half the men about town, and Coke to three-fourths of
the women; who gamed with the same nonchalance with which he made his
court - he might be the pink of fashion in his dull mooning way, but he
had nothing that caught her eighteen-year-old fancy. On the contrary
he had a habit of watching her, when Hawkesworth was present, at the
mere remembrance of which her cheek flamed. For that alone, and in any
event, she hated him; and would never, never marry him. They might rob
her of her dear Irishman; they might break her heart - so her thoughts
ran to the tremolo of a passionate sob; they might throw her into a
decline; but they should never, never compel her to take _him!_ She
would live on bread and water for a year first. She was fixed, fixed,
fixed on that, and would ever remain so.

Meanwhile downstairs the two who remained in the room she had left
kept silence until her footsteps ceased to sound on the stairs. Then
Mr. Northey permitted his discontent to appear. "I wish, after all, I
had told her," he said, moving restlessly in his chair. "Hang it,
ma'am, do you hear?" he continued, looking irritably at his wife, "I
wish I had taken my own line, and that is a fact."

"Then you wish you had been a fool, Mr. Northey!" the lady answered
with fine contempt. "Do you think that this silly girl would rest
content, or let us rest, until you had followed her dear brother Tom,
and brought him back from his charmer? Not she! And for him, if you
are thinking of him, he was always a rude cub, and bound for the dogs
one day or other. What does it matter whether he is ruined before he
is of age or after? Eh, Mr. Northey?"

"It matters to us," Mr. Northey answered.

"It may matter ten thousand to us, if we mind our own business," his
wife answered coolly. "So do you let him be for a day or two."

"It matters as much to Sophia," he said, trying to find excuses for
himself and his inaction.

"And why not? There will be so much the more to bind Coke to us."

"He has plenty now."

"Much wants more, Mr. Northey."

"Of course the thing may be done already," he argued, striving to
convince himself. "For all we know, the match is made, and 'tis too
late to interfere. Your brother was always wilful; and it is not
likely the woman would let him go for a word. On the other hand - - "

"There is no other hand!" she cried, out of patience with his
weakness. "I tell you, let be. Let the boy marry whom he pleases, and
when he pleases. 'Tis no matter of ours."

"Still I wish this tutor had not written to us."

"If the knot was not tied yesterday, there are persons enough will tie
it to-day for half a guinea!" she said. "It is not as if you were his
only guardian. His father chose another elsewhere. Let him look to it.
The girl is charge enough for us; and, for her, she benefits as much
as we do if he's foolish. I wish that were the worst of it. But I
scent danger, Mr. Northey. I am afraid of this great Teague of hers.
He's no Irishman if he doesn't scent a fortune a mile off. And once
let him learn that she is worth sixteen thousand pounds instead of six
thousand, and he'll off with her from under our very noses."

"It's that Irish Register has done the mischief!" Mr. Northey cried,
jumping up with an oath. "She's in there, in print!"

"Under her own name?"

"To be sure, as a fortune. And her address."

"Do you mean it, Mr. Northey? Printed in the book, is it?"

"It is; as I say."

"Hang their impudence!" his wife cried in astonishment. "They ought to
be pilloried! But there is just this, we can show the entry to the
girl. And if it don't open her eyes, nothing will. Do you get a copy
of the book, Mr. Northey, and we'll show it to her to-morrow, and put
her on the notion every Irishman has it by heart. And as soon as we
can we must get her married to Coke. There'll be no certainty till
she's wedded. 'Twould have been done this fortnight if he were not
just such a mumchance fool as the girl herself. He may look very wise,
and the town may think him so. But there's more than looking wanted
with a woman, Mr. Northey; and for what I see he's as big a fool as
many that never saw Pall Mall."

"I have never found him that," Mr. Northey answered with a dry cough.

Online LibraryStanley John WeymanSophia; a romance → online text (page 1 of 25)