Thomas Hardy.

Stories in Black and white online

. (page 11 of 13)
Online LibraryThomas HardyStories in Black and white → online text (page 11 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


than to the next room, where it would not have
been difficult to hear all that passed. But one
could not see that young person and suspect
her of listening at a door.

" Well," said Mr. Boldero, " out with it now.
Is there another wife living ? I'll have to see
all the papers before I'll believe that of Jack."



302 THE GOLDEN RULE.

" Another wife ! " cried the vicar. " God
bless my soul, what can you be thinking of?
Jack is not a villain ! "

" Then -there is not another wife ? Well,
that's a relief. What was a man to think ?
You're so dreadfully in earnest. If it ain't
that, it's all right."

" But it is not all right," said the vicar.
" Mr. Boldero, do you know my son has not a
penny ? that is, there will be a mere trifle
when we are both dead, his mother and I ; but
she's young yet, thank Grod. Stop a moment !
And he is only a clerk in my friend Bullock's
office, earning little, and, it breaks rny heart to
say, deserving little."

" An idle young dog ; more fond of pleasure
than of work. One can see as much as that,
having, as you may say, the pleasure of his
acquaintance, with half an eye."

" And there is more behind," said the vicar,
very pale. " Don't make me blame my own



THE GOLDEN RULE. 303

boy more than I can help. Grod knows what
it costs me to speak, but I can't let the happi-
ness of another young creature be thrown
away."

" Meaning Childie," said Mr. Boldero.
" She's pretty well able to look after that

herself. Hullo ! you're not feeling faint, are



you ? Stop a moment ; I've got something
handy here."

" Never mind," said the vicar, waving him
away. " Never mind ; I'm all right. Mr.
Boldero, do you understand what I say ? Can
I say anything stronger to make you under-
stand ? I dare not let you trust your daughter's
happiness to Jack without telling you "

" Here, old man, take this, and sit down and
keep quiet till you come to yourself."

And to tell the truth a mist was coming over
the vicar's eyes. He laid his head back, and
the room seemed to be gyrating round him.
His heart was beating loud in his ears, and the



304 THE GOLDEN RULE.

tall figure standing before him with a glass in
its hand seemed some kind of solemn demon
tempting him to an unknown fate. He swal-
lowed what was given to him, however, and
slowly came to himself the walls sinking
into the perpendicular, and the tall American

in his black coat becoming recognizable once
i

more.

" You want to know, now, I suppose," said
the other father, " how the young folks are to
live? I'm pretty comfortably off, and she's all
I have in the world."

" Are you sure you understand me ? Do
you know what I mean ? " said the vicar in
despair.

" I know what you say fast enough ; but
what you mean is beyond me : unless it be to
put a spoke in your son's wheel : which is more
than I can understand, I'll allow."

The vicar did not say a word. They would
think it at home, too, that he had tried to put a



THE GOLDEN RULE. 305

spoke in his son's wheel ; and Jack would
think it with more reason. But he felt that
he had not another word to say.

" Have you got anything more to tell me in
this hole-and-corner way ? " the other father
asked.

The vicar shook his head. " What does it
matter what I have to say, when you won't
believe me ? " he said.

" Then I reckon I may as well have her
back. Here, Childie," said Mr. Boldero.

And the door opened widely, and the young
lady sailed in. " Well, papa," she said.

" Well, Childie. This old gentleman wants
us to understand that his son is a bad lot, earn?
no money to speak of, and deserves less ; is just
good for nothing as far as I can make him out,
not fit to be trusted with your happiness, he
says."

" Father," said Miss Boldero, " who is talking
of trusting Jack with my happiness ? Is it the



306 THE GOLDEN RULE.

woman that asks the man to make her happy,
or the man that asks the woman ? "

" As a matter of fact it's the man ; but I
don't know that it always holds good. I must
allow there is a doubt on that."

" There is no doubt in my mind/' said the
young lady. " Jack's happiness is going to be
trusted to me, and I'll take care of it. If Mr.
Wynyard has any objection to me he has got a
right to say it."

" I ain't quite so clear of that," said Mr.
Boldero. "Jack's of age; he's a man, and he
has a right to choose for himself. The old
gentleman has no call to have any voice in it."

Now, the vicar had gone on for a long time
hearing himself called the " old gentleman,"
and had borne it ; though at sixty, when a man
is well and strong, it is an appellation which he
feels to be half ludicrous and half injurious.
But at last the moment had come when he
could bear no more.



THE GOLDEN RULE. 307

" The old gentleman," he said, " as you call
me, has no desire to have a veto on his son's
choice. You are a very pretty young lady, and
charming, I am sure. But I don't know what
are your other qualities, Miss Boldero. You
must excuse me if I go now, for I have said
everything I have to say."

" Go ! " cried the girl, " without even having
your luncheon ! you, who are going to be my
papa-in-la w ? "

" Or a drink," said her father. " Yes, I had
to give him a drink, or he would have fainted
on my hands. Sir if I must not call you an
old gentleman I'm a great one for knowing
motives. What was your meaning in coming
here to-day ? "

" His meaning, of course, was to make ac-
quaintance with me, papa, and see what sort of
girl I was."

" Childie, let alone with your talk for one
short moment, and let him speak."



3o8 THE GOLDEN RULE.

The vicar stood up, and would have gone

away if he could ; but the tall, black figure

opposite barred the way, and demanded an

answer. And, indeed, the answer was hard to

give ; for a man somehow finds it very hard to

say that he has done anything, whatever it

may be, simply from the highest motive of all.

The vicar felt this deeply, though he was an

old gentleman, and though to be religious was,

as you may say, his profession. He was often

not at all abashed to avow a mean motive ; but

when you think of it, it requires a great deal

of courage to claim to be carrying out the

charge of the Gospel. When he spoke his

voice faltered, and his ruddy old face was like

a rose. " Sir," he replied, adopting, without

knowing it, the style of his questioner, " I

have been preaching all my life what my

Master said, * Whatsoever you would that men

should do unto you, do ye also unto them.' '

There was a little pause in the room, and



THE GOLDEN RULE. 309

though the rattle of the carriages in the streets,
and the sound of the men with the flowers
calling, " All a-blowirig and a-growing," came
in very distinctly, yet the effect was as if you
could have heard a pin fall. The boldest held
his breath for a time that is to say, even Miss
Boldero, though she was not quite clear what
it was all about, did not say a word. At last

" That gentleman's Jack's father, Childie,"
said Mr. Boldero slowly. " I'm not in the
running with the likes of him. If you don't
train that fellow up to do his father credit, I'll
never believe in you again."

" I will, papa," said the girl, as if she were
making a vow.

* * * * *

Jack Wynyard strolled in in the afternoon,
very carefully dressed, with a flower in his
coat, but with much trouble in his mind. Why
did his father come up to town so suddenly ?
What was it he was so anxious to say ? The

19



3io



THE GOLDEN RULE.



young man's conscience told him pretty clearly
what it was, arid he went to the hotel to fulfil







"JACK."



his engagement with his betrothed, expecting
little but to be met by her father, and sent



THE GOLDEN RULE. 311

about his business, as the result of what his
own father had said.

But no such reception awaited him. He
found Miss Boldero in her prettiest toilette
waiting for him. " And oh, Jack," said that
young lady, " there has been the sweetest old
gentleman here with a button in his hat, saying
all sorts of things about you. He said you
were not fit to be trusted with my happiness,
and I said no ; but I was to be trusted with
yours. And we are going down to the vicarage
to stay ; do you hear, to stay, and make
acquaintance with everything. And papa has
fallen fathoms deep in love with him. And
you are to behave, sir, like a saint or an angel,
or I will lose all my credit with everybody
from this day."

The vicar went home, I need not say, with a
load lifted from his heart. He had delivered
his soul, and yet he had not injured Jack.
But that was because the people whom he had



312 THE GOLDEN RULE.

warned, in the discharge of his bounden duty,
were such people as never were.

" They know everything at least," he said
to his wife and Emily, who met him with much
anxiety at the gate, both of them looking ten
years older. " I have not concealed anything
from them. But how it will all end Grod
knows."



GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL

BY GRANT ALLEN.

I.

WE three girls had always been brought up to
expect we would come into Grandpapa Passa-
vant's money. But there ! poor dear grand-
papa, though he was the very sweetest old man
that ever lived, was stuck as fall of prejudices
all over as a porcupine is stuck full of quills.
He literally bristled with them. He was always
flaring up at some unexpected point. And
what was worse, his family had, almost every
one of them, managed to annoy him by running
counter to his pet hobbies, for no better reason
on earth than just because they wanted to



314



GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL.



marry the men or women they loved them-
selves, instead of marrying the people poor




GENERAL PASSAVANT.



grandpapa in his wisdom would have chosen to
select for them. It was really a most unfor-



GENERAL PASSAVANT^S WILL. 315

tunate affair all round: one would say a
Passavant couldn't manage to fall in love with
anybody anywhere without treading on one
of poor dear grandpapa's very tenderest
corns.

There was Aunt Emily for example she
married an Austrian hussar ; a very nice man
to be sure, and a Graf or something, at that ;
but, somehow, dear grandpapa never could
abide him. He was military to the core, was
grandpapa, with a fine old crusted British dis-
like of "Frenchmen" which was his brief
description for foreigners in general : a pretty
thing, he used to say, this marrying of people
in an enemy's service ! Why, any day a
European war might happen to break out,
in which case we might be compelled to
take sides against Austria (though it doesn't
look likely, I must confess) ; and then, where
would Emily be?- Why, we should all be
fighting against our own brothers-in-law and



316 GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL.

sons-in-law! Preposterous! Absurd! "De-
pend upon it, Ethel, my dear," he used to
say to me, stroking my front hair with his
gentle old hand for he was a dear old man,
mind you, in spite of his prejudices " depend
upon it, Ethel, an Englishwoman's business is
to marry an Englishman a fine, strapping
young fellow and make him happy. What
husband can you see among all those out-
landish, jabbering, undersized foreigners to
equal a British soldier an officer and a gentle-
man?" For poor grandpapa's ideas never
travelled one inch outside the Army List. That
any girl of his could care to marry a- curate, for
example, or a barrister, or an artist, or a doctor,
was a notion that never even so much as
occurred to his dear old military head as for
one moment possible.

Then there was Aunt Charlotte : she married
a Scotchman. That was a harder blow still to
poor grandpapa ; for he hated the Scotch, and



GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL. 317

he hated the Welsh, and he hated lawyers, and
he hated Presbyterians ; and Aunt Charlotte's
husband was a member of the General
Assembly, and a Writer to the Signet. Grand-
papa never quite grasped what the Signet was,
or why any one should write to it, but he always
alluded to Mr. Greig's profession with bitter
contempt. There are no such things as Writers
to the Signet in England, I believe; and
grandpapa considered everything un-English
as too barbarous and low for his mind to dwell
upon.

But poor dear Aunt Louisa had the worst
luck of all. She married a Portuguese Jew,
who was a member of the Stock Exchange.
That cut poor grandpapa to the very quick ;
for Mr. Da Costa wasn't undersized at all : he
was six feet two, and as handsome as a
sculptor's model. Grandpapa never could bear
even to mention Aunt Louisa's name to us ;
though he was very kind and good to her, and



3i8 GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL.

to Mr. Da Costa, too ; and, when he died, he
left her ten thousand pounds the same sum he
left to his other daughters " as a slight token,"
he said in his will, " of Christian forgiveness."
'Twas a very hard wrench, but poor grandpapa
bore it with manful resignation. He was
accustomed to wrenches, he said, for one arm
was amputated.

My father, however, who was a Colonel of
Engineers, rejoiced the General's heart by
marrying, as he ought, an Englishwoman, and
a member of the Church of England. And
though dear grandpapa never quite forgave us
for being girls instead of boys, he was very
proud and fond of us, and loved to contrast us
(very much to our advantage) with those flat-
faced little Germans, and that raw-boned young
Malcolm Greig for he never so much as
deigned to allude in any way to poor little
curly-headed Montague Da Costa.

So when, in course of time, dear grandpapa



GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL. 319

died, and his will was opened, we were not at all
surprised to find he left a comparatively small
sum to papa, and twenty thousand pounds
apiece to his beloved grand-daughters, Linda,
Maud, and Ethel.

But there was a condition attached a condi-
tion so awfully like dear grandpapa ! " Pro-
vided always," the will went on in each case,
" my said grand-daughter abstains from marry-
ing any of the three persons following to wit,
firstly, an alien, whether naturalized or other-
wise ; that is to say, any man who is not a
natural-born subject of Her Majesty Queen
Victoria : secondly, a Presbyterian ; that is to
say, a member of the Established Church of
Scotland : or, thirdly, a sworn broker of the
City of London. And in case my said grand-
daughter Linda," for example, " should break
this stipulation, and marry any of the persons
so excepted, then and in that case I will and
devise that she shall forfeit all claim to the



320 GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL.

said sum of twenty thousand pounds, Consoli-
dated Three per Cent. Annuities, standing in
the name of my said trustees, which sum shall
thereafter be divided into two equal moieties
of ten thousand pounds each, whereof my
executors shall pay over one moiety to my
grand-daughter Maud, and the other moiety to
my grand-daughter Ethel, for their own sole
use and benefit."



II.

PAPA read the will over to us a few days after
poor grandpapa's funeral, and explained what
it meant in plain English, for of course we girls
couldn't understand just at first all the legal
technicalities. However, we knew, at any
rate, we were now heiresses in a small way ;
and papa put it clearly to us that, as we had no
mother (I forgot to say she died when I was
five years old), we must be very careful, on our



GENERAL PASSAVANT^S WILL. 321

own account, not to let ourselves get entangled
in foolish engagements with interested fortune-
hunters. We must avoid young men who
made themselves agreeable to us. But above
all, he insisted since poor grandpapa had
willed it so we must take particular notice
not to fall in love, whatever might happen,
with foreigners, Presbyterians, or members of
the Stock Exchange.

That was easy enough to promise, I thought,
for (being grandpapa's grand-daughter, you
see) I hate Germans, I detest the Scotch, and
I simply and solely abominate City men. So I
made up my mind that, whatever the others
did, I at least would keep a good hold over my
own twenty thousand, letting Linda and Maud,
in their various romantic ways, behave as they
might with their separate portions.

Half an hour after papa had finished explain-
ing the position to us, however, I was sitting
in my own room, making day-dreams after my



322 GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL.

fashion, when suddenly there came a nervous
little knock at the door, and, to my great
surprise, enter Linda, excited. I could see at
a glance the poor girl was very much flurried
about something, for her face was pale, and her
eyes were red ; besides which, she instantly
turned the key in the door in a most resolute
way, and flurg herself upon the bed as if her
heart was breaking. Though Linda was four
years older than me, she always came to me in
all her troubles.

" Oh ! Ethel," she cried, between her sobs,
"this is too, too dreadful. I've been leading
him to suppose for months that . . well, that,
if anything was ever to happen to poor dear
grandpapa, he and I could be married ; and
now this hateful, hateful will ! I can't bear
it. I can't endure it. How can I ever tell
him?"

I was utterly taken by surprise. I didn't
know who she meant. I could hardly believe



GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL. 323

my ears. Linda engaged to somebody for
months before, and me never to have observed
it ! Never even to have suspected who on
earth she was speaking of! This was almost-
incredible.

"Him/" I exclaimed, bewildered. "Why,
who's he, Linda ? I haven't the remotest notion
who it is you're talking about."

Linda raised her head, open-mouthed, and
gazed across at me, half-incredulous. " You
don't mean to say, dear," she cried, with a sort
of spasm of surprise, "you've never even
noticed it ! "

" Never, dearest," I answered sincerely,
holding her hand and smoothing it. " Who is
it ? Mr. Mackinnon ? " For he was really the
only Scotchman of our acquaintance I could
remember at the moment as at all a likely
person for Linda to fall in love with.

" Mr. Mackinnon ! " Linda repeated, half-
angrily. " Mr. Mackinnon indeed ! Well,



324 GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL.

really, Ethel, I do think you might give me
credit for better taste than that ! No, it isn't
Mr. Macldnnon. I wouldn't for worlds say a
word about it to Maud she'd be so unkind and
unfeeling : she never cared for him ; but I can
trust you 9 dear, I'm sure : you're always so
sympathetic, and I just must tell somebody.
Well, for eight months past I wonder you
never guessed it I've been engaged quite
quietly to Charlie Vanrenen. Only, on poor
grandpapa's account, both Charlie and I thought
it was better for the present to say nothing
about it."

Before I could answer there came a knock
at the door again, and I heard Maud's voice
saying, in a very cold, despairing way, " Ethel,
let me in, please : I want to speak at once with
you ! "

Linda started up with a perfectly tragic air.
" Oh, send her away, dear!" she cried, in a
low, tremulous tone. " If she were to find out



GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL. 325

what I was saying, I could never, never, never
marry poor Charlie ! "

" You can't come in just now, Maud," I
answered, going over to the door ; and, speak-
ing through the keyhole, "I'm I'm writing
letters." But that was a fib I hope and trust
a harmless one. " Come back again in half
an hour, there's a dear, and I'll accept your
confidences."

And I went over to the bed once more and
tried my best to soothe down Linda. " Why,
what's the matter," I asked, leaning over her
and wiping her eyes, " with poor Mr. Van-
renen ? He isn't a German, and he isn't a
Dutchman ; he isn't a Presbyterian, and he
isn't a stockbroker. Why on earth should poor
grandpapa's will interfere with you in any
way ? I understood Mr. Vanrenen was some
sort of a writing person a journalist, don't
they call it ? And poor grandpapa, though
his prejudices were sufficiently comprehensive,

20



326 GENERAL PASSAVANT^S WILL.

never made any express stipulation against the
literature of our country."

But Linda began to cry again, even more
bitterly than before. " Yes, Charlie's a news-
paper man/'* she said, through her tears ; " he's
on the European edition of the New York
Tribune : and he's been brought up in England ;
and he's as English in every way as you or I
are ; and he only earns about three hundred a
year, and he couldn't marry on that. But,
Ethel, the dreadful thing of it all is this he's
an American citizen, and he's never been
naturalized ! "

I pursed my lips. It was clear at once this
was a hopeless case. There was nothing for it
but to comfort her and condole with her. And
I comforted her with all the consolation in my
power. As far as 7 was concerned, I said, my

share in her twenty thousand pounds But

at that poor Linda grew absolutely hysterical.
It was with difficulty I quieted her down by



GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL. 329

degrees, and got her off at last to her own
room to write a ten-page letter on the subject
to " Charlie."



III.

THE moment she was gone, Maud, who had
evidently been listening at her own door to
hear mine open and let Linda out, came sweep-
ing in, like a duchess in distress, pale and calm,
but profoundly miserable. She seated herself
with great dignity in the easy-chair, folded her
hands in front of her like a marble statue, and
stared at me fixedly for several minutes in
solemn silence.

" Well, this is a dreadful thing/' she said
at last, with an evident effort, " about poor
grandpapa's will ! I'm sure I don't know
how on earth, after this crushing blow, I shall
ever have the courage to face him and tell
him!"



330 GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL.

" Tell who ? Tell him what ? " I exclaimed,
bewildered once more; for I certainly never
suspected such a cold creature as Maud of being
in love with anybody.

Maud gazed back at me with the tranquillity
of utter despair. " Don't pretend you don't
know ? Ethel," she cried, in a very frigid voice.
" It isn't any use. You must have noticed
it."

" Not Mr. Varirenen ! " I cried, perhaps just
a trifle mischievously.

The curl of Maud's lip would have been a
study for Sarah Bernhardt. " Well, really,
Ethel," she said, bridling up, " at a moment
like this you might at least spare me from posi-
tive insult ! Mr. Vanrenen, indeed ! That
affected idiot ! T should be very hard up for
a lover, I'm sure, if I allowed Mr. Vanrenen
to presume upon proposing to me. . . . But
you surely must know ! You can't possibly
Viave overlooked it ! There's only one man on



GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL. 331

earth I'd ever dream of accepting. ... I
wouldn't tell Linda for worlds Linda's so
sympathetic. But you're always kind. I don't
mind confessing it in this crisis to you for it
is a crisis. . . . I've been engaged for six weeks
past to Malcolm Mackinnon."

" But he can join the Church of England," I
said, coolly ; for I'm afraid I must confess,
being a worldly creature, 1 didn't think the
difference worth losing a wife for.

" No, no, rny dear, he can't," Maud answered,
with an air of resignation. " That's just the
worst of it. His father's something or other
in the high legal way to the General Assembly
Assessor, or what-not and Malcolm's agent
for the legal business in London. If he were
to give up the Kirk, he'd lose his place, and
his father might too, for it would be quite a
scandal in Edinburgh. And he's only a junior
partner, and he's too poor to marry. But I'll
wait for him for ever, Ethel, grandpapa or no



332 GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL.

grandpapa ; and I'll marry him when I choose.
And I'll give up everything on earth for him ;
and you and Linda are welcome to your money,
I'm sure ; for I mean to marry Malcolm if he
hasn't a ha'penny ! "

I couldn't have believed it of Maud. But I
rushed up to her and kissed her.

She sat there for half an hour, as cold as ice,
and then went off in turn to write the news to
" Malcolm." And as soon as she was gone I
sat down and cried a little by myself for both
of them. But, I must confess, I reflected with
pride that the whole episode did the family
credit. I was glad the two girls should have
made up their mind to marry poor men, when
they might have gone in, if they wished, for
position or money ; and I made up my mind at
the same time that I, at least, would avoid the
very first approach of aliens, Presbyterians,
and members of the Stock Exchange. It's so
very much easier not to fall in love at first



GENERAL PASSAVANT'S WILL. 333

than, having fallen in love once, to fall out
again comfortably.



IV.



FOR the next few weeks life was a burden to
me. I lived in a perpetual state of receiving


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13

Online LibraryThomas HardyStories in Black and white → online text (page 11 of 13)