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Desperate remedies : a novel. In three volumes (Volume 2) online

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THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY.

§ 1. The fifth of January. Before dawn.

We pass over the intervening weeks. The
time of the story is thus advanced exactly three
months and twenty-four days.

On the midnight preceding the morning
which would make her the wife of a man whose
presence fascinated her into involuntariness of
bearing, and whom in absence she almost
dreaded, Cytherea lay in her little bed, vainly
endeavouring to sleep.

She had been looking back amid the years of
her short though varied past, and thinking of
the threshold upon which she stood. Days and
months had dimmed the form of Edward
Springrove like the gauzes of a vanishing stage-
scene, but his dying voice could still be heard



THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY. 205

faintly behind. That a soft small chord in her
still vibrated true to his memory, she would not
admit : that she did not approach Mans ton
with feelings which could by any stretch of
words be called hymeneal, she calmly owned.

" Why do I marry him '? '^ she said to herself.
"Because Owen, dear Owen my brother, wishes
me to marry him. Because Mr. jManston is
and has been, uniformly kind to Owen, and to
me. ' Act in obedience to the dictates of
common sense,' Owen said, *and dread the sharp
sting of poverty. How many thousands of
women like you marry every year for the same
reason, to secure a home, and mere, ordinary,
material comforts, which after all go far to
make life endurable, even if not supremely
happy/

"'Tis right I suppose, for him to say that.
if people only knew what a timidity and
melancholy upon the subject of her future
grows up in the heart of a friendless woman who
is blown about like a reed shaken with the wind,
as I am, they would not call this resignation



206 DESPERATE REMEDIES.

of one's self by the name of scheming to get a
husband. Scheme to marry 1 I'd rather scheme
to die ! I know I am not pleasing my heart ;
I know that if I only were concerned, I should
like risking a single future. But why should I
please my useless self overmuch, when by doing-
otherwise I please those who are more valuable
than 1 1 *'

In the midst of desultory reflections like
these, which alternated with surmises as to the
inexplicable connexion that appeared to exist
between her intended husband and Miss
Aldclyffe, she heard dull noises outside the
walls of the house, which she could not quite
fancy to be caused by the wind. She seemed
doomed to such disturbances at critical periods
of her existence. " It is strange," she pondered,
" that this my last night in Knapwater House,
should be disturbed precisely as my first was,
no occurrence of the kind having intervened."

As the minutes glided b}^ the noise increased,
sounding as if some one were beating the wall
below her window with a bunch of switches.



THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY. 207

She would gladly have left her room and gone
to stay \^'ith one of the maids, but they were
without doubt all asleep.

The only person in the house likely to be
awake, or who would have brains enough to
comprehend her nervousness, was Miss Ald-
clyfFe, but Cytherea never cared to go to Miss
Aldclyffe's room, though she was always
welcome there, and was often almost compelled
to o'o ao'ainst her will.

The oft-repeated noise of switches grew
heavier upon the wall, and was now inter-
mingled with creaks, and a ratthng like the
rattling of dice. The wind blew stronger ;
there came first a snapping, then a crash, and
some portion of the mystery was revealed. It
was the breaking off and fall of a branch from
one of the large trees outside. The smacking
against the wall, and the intermediate ratthng,
ceased from that time.

Well, it was the tree which had caused the
noises. The uneA'plained matter was that
neither of the trees ever touched the walls of



208 DESPERATE REMEDIES.

the house during the highest wind, and that
trees could not rattle like a man playing casta-
nets, or shaking dice.

She thought " Is it the intention of Fate that
something connected with these noises shall in-
fluence my future as in the last case of the
kind 1 "

During the dilemma she fell into a troubled
sleep, and dreamt that she was being whipped
with dry bones suspended on strings, which
rattled at every blow like those of a malefactor
on a gibbet ; that she shifted and shrank and
avoided every blow, and they fell then upon the
wall to which she was tied. She could not see
the face of the executioner for his mask, but his
form was like Manston's.

" Thank Heaven ! " she said, when she awoke
and saw a faint light struggling through her
blind. " Now what were those noises 1 " To
settle that question seemed more to her than
the event of the day.

She pulled the blind aside and looked out.
All was plain. The evening previous had



THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY. 209

closed in with a grey drizzle, borne upon a
piercing air from the north, and now its effects
were visible. The hoary drizzle still continued ;
but the trees and shrubs were laden with icicles
to an extent such as she had never before
witnessed. A shoot of the diameter of a pin's
head w^as iced as thick as her finger : all the
boughs in the park were bent almost to the
earth with the immense weidit of the distenino;
incumbrance : the walks were like a looking-
glass. Many boughs had snapped beneath
their burden, and lay in heaps upon the icy
grass. Opposite her eye, on the nearest tree,
was a fresh yellow scar, showing where the
branch that had terrified her had been splintered
from the trunk.

"I never could have behoved it possible," she
thought, surveying the bowed-down branches,
" that trees w^ould bend so far out of their true
positions without breaking." By watching a
twig she could see a drop collect upon it from
the hoary fog, sink to the lowest point, and
there become coagulated as the others had done.

VOL. ir. p



210 DESPERATE EEMEDIES.

" Or that I could so exactly have imitated
them," she continued. " On this morning I am
to be married — unless this is a scheme of the
great Mother to hinder a union of ^Thich she
does not approve. Is it possible for my
wedding to take place in the face of such
weather as this ? "



§ 2. Morning.

Her brother Owen was staying with Manston
at the Old House. Contrary to the opinion of
the doctors, the wound had healed after the
first surgical operation, and his leg was
gradually acquiring strength, though he could
only as yet get about on crutches, or ride, or be
dragged in a chair.

Miss Aldclyffe had arranged that Cytherea
should be married from Knap water House, and
not from her brother's lodgings at Creston,
which was Cytherea's first idea. Owen, too,
seemed to prefer the plan. The capricious old
maid had latterly taken to the contemplation of



THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY. 211

the Avedding \ritli even greater warmth than
had at first inspired her, and appeared deter-
mined to do everything in her power, consistent
with her dignity, to render the adjuncts of the
ceremony pleasing and complete.

But the weather seemed in flat contradiction
of the whole proceeding. At eight o'clock the
coachman crept up to the House almost upon
his hands and knees, entered the kitchen, and
stood with his back to the fire, panting from
his exertions in pedestrianism.

The kitchen was by far the pleasantest apart-
ment in Knapwater House on such a morning
as this. The vast fire was the centre of the
whole system, like a sun, and threw its warm
rays upon the figures of the domestics, wheehng
about it in true planetary style. A nervously-
feeble imitation of its flicker was continually at-
tempted by a fiimily of polished metallic utensils
standing in rows and groups against the walls
opposite, the whole collection of shines nearly an-
nihilating the weak daylight from outside. A
step further in, and the nostrils were greeted by

p 2



212 DESPERATE REMEDIES.

the scent of green herbs just gathered, and the
eye by the plump form of the cook, wdiolesome,
wdiite aproned, and flour}^ — looking as edible as
the food she manij)ulated — her movements being
supported and assisted by her satellites the
kitchen and scullery maids. Minute recurrent
sounds prevailed — the click of the smoke-jack,
the flap of the flames, and the light touches of
the women's slippers upon the stone floor.

The coachman hemmed, spread his feet more
firmly upon the hearthstone, and looked hard
at a small plate in the extreme corner of the
dresser.

"No wedden this mornen — that's my opinion.
In fact, there can't be," he said, abruptly, as if
the words were the mere torso of a many-
membered thought that had existed complete in
his head.

The kitchen-maid was toasting a slice of
bread at the end of a very long toasting-fork
which she held at arm's length towards the
unapproachable fire, like the Flanconnade in
fencing.



THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY. 213

" Bad out of doors, isn't it 1 " she said,
with a look of commiseration for things in
general.

"Badi Not a liven soul gentle or simple
can stand on level ground. As to getten up
hill to the church 'tis perfect lunacy. And I
speak of foot-passengers. x\s to horses and
carriage, ^tis murder to think of ^em. I am
going to send straight as a line into the break-
fast-room, and say 'tis a closer .... Hullo,
— here's Clerk Crickett and John Day a-comen!
Now just look at 'em and picture a wedden if
you can."

All eyes were turned to the window, from
which the clerk and gardener were seen cross-
ing the court, bowed and stooping like Bel and
Nebo.

" You'll have to go if it breaks all the horses'
legs in the county," said the cook, turning from
the spectacle, knocking open the oven door with
the tongs, glancing critically in, and slamming
it together with a clang.

*' Oh, oh ; why shall 1 1 " asked the coach-



214 DESPEKATE EEMEDIES.

man, including in his auditory by a glance the
clerk and gardener who had just entered.

" Because Mr. Manston is in the business.
Did you ever know him to give up for weather
of any kind, or for any other mortal thing in
heaven or earth V

" j\Jornen so's, — such as it is ! " inter-

rupted Mr. Crickett, cheerily, coming forward
to the blaze and warming one hand without
looking at the fire. Mr. Manston gie up for
anything in heaven or earth, did you say '(
You might ha' cut it short by sa^^en ' to Miss
Aldclyffe,' and leaven out heaven and earth as
trifles. But it might be put off ; putten off a
thing isn't getten rid of a thing, if that thing is
a w^oman : Oh no, no."

The coachman and gardener now naturally
subsided into secondaries. The cook w^ent on
rather sharply, as she dribbled milk into the
exact centre of a little crater of flour in a
platter,



It might be in this case : she's so indif-



ferent.'



THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY. 215

" Dang my old sides ! and so it might be. I
have a bit of news — I thought there was
something upon my tongue : but 'tis a secret,
not a word mind, not a word. TThv, Miss
Hinton took a hohday yesterday.''

" Yes \ " inquired the cook, looking up with
perplexed curiosity.

" D'ye think that's all % "

" Don't be so three-cunning — if it is all,
dehver you from the evil of raising a woman's
expectations wrongfully; I'll skimmer your pate
as sure as you cry Amen ! "

" Well it isn't all. AYhen I got home last
night my wife said, ' Miss Hinton took a hohday
this mornen,' says she (m}^ wife, that is) ; 'walked
over to Stintham Lane, met the comen man,
and got married ! ' says she."

" Got married ! what, Lord-a-mercy, did
Springrove come % "

" Springrove, no — no — Springrove's nothen
to do wi' it — 'twas Farmer Bollens. They've
been playing bo-peep for these two or three
months seemingly. Whilst Master Teddy



216 DESPERATE REMEDIES.

Springrove has been daddlen, and liawken, and
spetten about having her, she's quietly left him
all forsook. Serve him right. I don't blame
the little woman a bit."

"Farmer Bollens is old enough to be her
father!"

" Ay, quite ; and rich enough to be ten
fathers. They say he's so rich, that he has
business in every bank, and measures his money
in half-pint cups."

"Lord, I wish it was me, don't I wish 'twas
me ! " said the scullery-maid.

" Yes, 'twas as neat a bit of stitchen as ever
I heard of," continued the clerk, with a fixed
eye, as if he were watching the process from a
distance. " Not a soul knew anything about it,
and my wife is the only one in our parish who
knows it yet. Miss Hinton came back from the
"wedden, went to Mr. Manston, puffed herself out
large and said she was Mrs. Bollens, but that if
he wished, she had no objection to keep on the
house till the regular time of given notice had
expired, or till he could get another tenant."



THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY. 217

" Just like her independence," said the cook.

" Well, independent or no, she's Mrs. Bollens
now. Ah, I shall never forget once when I
went by Farmer Bollens's garden — years ago
now — years, when he was taken up ash-leaf
taties. A merrj^ feller I was at that time, a very
merry feller — for 'twas before I took orders,
and it didn't prick my conscience as 'twould
now. ' Farmer,' says I, ' little taties seem to
turn out small this year, don't 'em 1 ' ' Oh, no
Crickett/ says he, ' some be fair-sized.' Pie's a
dull man — Farmer Bollens is — he always was.
However, that's neither here nor there, he's a-
married to a sharp woman, and if I don't make
a mistake she'll bring him a pretty good family,
gie her time."

" Well, it don't matter ; there's a Providence
in it," said the scullery-maid. " God A'mighty
always sends bread as well as children."

" But 'tis the bread to one house and the chil-
dren to another. However, I think I can see my
lady Hinton's reason for choosen yesterday to
sickness-or-health-it. Your young Miss, and



218 DESPERATE REMEDIES.

that one, had crossed one another's path in
regard to young Master Springrove : and I
expect that ^Then Addy Hint on found Miss
Graye wasn't caren to have en, she thought
she'd be beforehand with her old enemy in
marrying somebody else too. That's maids'
logic all over, and maids' malice too."

Women ^Yho are bad enough to divide against
themselves under a man's partiality, are good
enough to instantly unite in a common cause
against his attack.

" I'll just tell you one thing, then : " said the
cook, shaking out her words to the time of a
whisk she was beating eggs with. " Whatever
maids' logic is and maids' malice too, if
Cytherea Graye even now knows that young
Springrove is free again, she'll fling over the
steward as soon as look at him."

" No, no : not now," the coachman broke in
like a moderator. " There's honour in that maid,
if ever there was in one. No Miss Hinton's
tricks in her. She'll stick to Manston."

"Pifh!"



THE EVENTS OF OXE DAY. 219

" Don't let a word be said till the weddeii is
over, for heaven's sake," the clerk continued.
" Miss AldcljfFe would fairly hang and quarter
me, if my news broke off that there wedden at
a last minute like this."

" Then you had better get your wife to bolt
you in the closet for an hour or two, for you'll
chatter it yourself to the whole boihng parish if
she don't ! 'Tis a poor womanly feller."

" You shouldn't ha' begun it, clerk. I knew
how 'twould be," said the gardener soothingly, in
a whisper to the clerk's mangled remains.

The clerk turned and smiled at the fire, and
warmed his other hand.



§ 3. Noon.

The weather gave way. In half an hour
there began a rapid tbaw. By ten o'clock the
roads, though still dangerous, w^ere practicable
to the extent of the half-mile required by the
people of Knapwater Park. One mass of heavy
leaden cloud spread over the whole sky ; the



220 DESPERATE REMEDIES.

air began to feel damp and mild out of doors,
though still cold and frosty within.

They reached the church and passed- up the
nave, the deep-coloured glass of the narrow
windows rendering the gloom of the morning
almost nidit itself inside the buildino*. Then

o o

the ceremony began. The only warmth or
spirit imported into it came from the bride-
groom, who retained a vigorous — even Spen-
serian — bridal-mood throughout the morning.

Cytherea was as firm as he at this critical
moment, but as cold as the air surrounding her.
The few persons forming the wedding-party
were constrained in movement and tone, and
from the nave of the church came occasional
coughs, emitted by those who, in spite of the
weather, had assembled to see the termination
of Cytherea's existence as a single woman.
Many poor people loved her. They pitied her
success, why, they could not tell, except that it
was because she seemed to stand more like a
statue than Cytherea Graye.

Yet she was prettily and carefully dressed, a



THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY. 221

strange contradiction in a man's idea of things ;
a saddening, perplexing contradiction. Are
there any points in which a difference of sex
amounts to a difference of nature ? Then this
is surely one. Not so much, as it is commonly
put, in regard to the amount of consideration
given, but in the conception of the thing con-
sidered. A man emasculated by coxcombry
may spend more time upon the arrangement of
his clothes than any woman, but even then
there is no fetichism in his idea of them — they
are still only a covering he uses for a time.
But here was Cytherea, in the bottom of her
heart almost indifferent to life, yet possessing
an instinct with which her heart had nothing
to do, the instinct to be particularly regardful
of those sorry trifles, her robe, her flowers, her
veil, and her gloves.

The irrevocable words were soon spoken —
the indelible WTiting soon written — and they
came out of the vestry. Candles had been
necessary here to enable them to sign their
names, and on their return to the church the



222 DESPERATE REMEDIES.

light from the candles streamed from the small
open door, and across the chancel to a black
chestnut screen on the south side, dividing it
from a small chapel or chantry, erected for the
soul's peace of some Aldclyffe of the past.
Through the open-^Tork of this screen could
now be seen illuminated, inside the chantry,
the reclining figures of cross-legged knights,
damp and green with age, and above them a
huge classic monument, also inscribed to the
Aldclyffe family, heavily sculptured in cada-
verous marble.

Leaning here — almost hanging to the monu-
ment — was Edward Springrove, or his spirit.

The weak daylight would never have re-
vealed him, shaded as he was by the screen ;
but the unexpected rays of candlelight in the
front showed him forth in startling relief to
any and all of those whose eyes wandered in
that direction. The sight was a sad one — sad
beyond all description. His eyes were wild,
their orbits leaden. His face was of a sickly
paleness, his hair dry and disordered, his lips



THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY. 223

parted as if lie could get no breath. His figure
was spectre-thin. His actions seemed beyond
his own control.

Manston did not see him ; Cytherea did.
The healing effect upon her heart of a year s
silence — a year and a half's separation — was
undone in an instant. One of those strange
revivals of passion by mere sight — commoner
in women than in men, and in oppressed
women commonest of all — had taken place in
her — so transcendently, that even to herself it
seemed more like a new creation than a
revival.

Marrying for a home — what a mockery it
was !

It may be said that the means most potent
for re-kindling old love in a maiden's heart are,
to see her lover in laughter and good spirits in
her despite when the breach has been owing to
a slight from herself ; when owing to a slight
from him, to see him suffering for his own fault.
If he is happy in a clear conscience, she blames
him ; if he is miserable because deeply to blame.



224 DESPERATE REMEDIES.

she blames herself. The latter was Cytherea's
case now.

First, an ao'ony of face told of the suppressed
misery within her, which presently could be
suppressed no longer. When they Avere coming
out of the porch, there broke from her in a low
plaintive scream the words, "He's dying — dying!
God save us!" She began to sink down, and
would have fallen had not Manston caught her.
The chief bridesmaid applied her vinaigrette.

'•' What did she say '? " inquired Manston.

Owen was the only one to whom the words
were intelligible, and he was far too deeply
impressed, or rather alarmed, to reply. She
did not faint, and soon began to recover her
self-command. Owen took advantage of the
hindrance to step back to where the apparition
had been seen. He was enraged with Sprin-
grove for what he considered an imwarrantable
intrusion.

But Edward was not in the chantry. As
he had come, so he had gone, nobody could
tell how or whither.



THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY. 225

§ 4. Afternoon.

It mio'ht almost liave been believed that
an impossibility had taken place in Cy-
therea's idiosyncrasy, and that her nature had
chano'ed.

o

The wedding-party returned to the house.
As soon as he could find an opportunity, Owen
took his sister aside to speak privately with her
on what had happened. The expression of her
face was hard, wild, and unreal — an expression
he had never seen there before, and it disturbed
him. He spoke to her severely and sadly.

" Cytherea," he said, " I know the cause of
this emotion of yours. But remember this,
there was no excuse for it. You should have
been woman enough to control yourself. Re-
member whose wife you are, and don't think
anything more of a mean-spirited fellow like
Springrove ; he had no business to come there
as he did. You are altogether wrong, Cytherea^
and I am vexed with you more than I can say
— very vexed."

VOL. II. Q



226 DESPERATE REMEDIES.

"Say ashamed of me at once," she bitterly
answered.

" I am ashamed of you," he retorted angrily ;
" The mood has not left you yet, then 1 "

" Owen," she said, and paused. Her lip
trembled ; her eye told of sensations too deep
for tears. " No, Owen, it has not left me ;
and I will be honest. I own now to you, with-
out any disguise of words, what last night I
did not own to myself, because I hardly knew
of it. I love Edward Springrove with all my
strength, and heart, and soul. You call me a
w^anton for it, don't you 1 I don't care, I have
gone beyond caring for anything ! " She
looked stonily into his face, and made the
speech calml}^

" Well, poor Cytherea, don't talk like that ! "
he said, alarmed at her manner.

"I thought that I did not love him. at all,''
she went on, hysterically. " A year and half
had passed since we met. I could go by the
gate of his garden w^ithout thinking of him —
look at his seat in church and not care. But



THE EVENTS OF ONE DAY. 227

I saw him this morning — dying because he
loves me so — I know it is that! Can I help
loving him too '? No, I cannot, and I will
love him, and I don t care ! We have been
separated somehow by some contrivance — I
know we have. 0, if I could only die ! "

He held her in his arms. " Many a woman
has gone to ruin herself," he said, "and brought
those who love her into disgrace, by acting upon
such impulses as possess you now. I have a
reputation to lose as well as you. It seems
that do what I will by wa}^ of remedying the
stains which fell upon us, it is all doomed to
be undone again." His voice grew husky as he
made the reply.

The right and only effective chord had been
touched. Since she had seen Edward, she had
thought only of herself and him. Owen — her
name — position — future — had been as if they
did not exist.

"I won't give way and become a disgrace
to 2/ou at any rate,'' she said.

"Besides, your duty to society, and those

Q 2



228 DESPERATE REMEDIES.

about you requires that jou should live with
(at any rate) all the appearance of a good wife,
and try to love your husband."

"Yes — my duty to society," she murmured.
" But ah, Owen, it is difficult to adjust our
outer and inner life with perfect honesty to
all ! Though it may be right to care more
for the benefit of the many than for the in-
dulgence of your own single self, when you
consider that the many, and duty to them, only
exist to you through your own existence, what
can be said 1 What do our own acquaintances
care about us ? Not much. I think of mine.
]Mine will now (do they learn all the wicked
frailty of my heart in this affair) look at me,
smile sickly, and condemn me. And perhaps,
far in time to come, when I am dead and gone,
some other's accent, or some other's song, or


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