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alternate confidences from Linda and Maud, and
endeavouring to conceal from each the other's
position. This was distinctly hard, but I
pulled it through somehow. And I applauded
each in turn in her firm resolution that, come
what might, she would never give up her
Charlie or her Malcolm.

Fortunately, I myself was not engaged.
Forewarned was forearmed. I was in a
position, I thought, to give a wide berth now
to all classes of men expressly included in poor
grandpapa's interdict.

However, it was only about six weeks later


that I met at the Markwells' a most charming
young man, who really paid me a great deal
of attention. I liked him from the very first,
though I pretended I didn't. His name was
Kirkwood, and he was a struggling artist.
Now, artists had always for me a certain
romantic interest ; and, do you know, it may
be silly of me, bat somehow I never could bear
to marry a man unless he were struggling. I
can't say why ; but well-to-do men always did
repel me they put my back up. I hate their
smug, self-satisfied air, and I love the actuality,
so to speak, of the struggling classes. Men
who work for their living are always more real
to me. Besides, Mr. Kirkwood was so retiring
and unassuming ; and I knew why. He liked
me very much I could see plainly from
the very first ; but he'd heard that I was an
heiress, and he didn't want to marry me,
because I had money. That's the only kind
of man I should ever care myself to marry;


and I won't deny to you in confidence I
thought a great deal, for the next ten days
or so, in the solitude of my own room, about
that delightful Mr. Kirkwood.

A stockbroker, indeed ! With five thousand
a year ! Fancy marrying a stockbroker, in a
world where there are men who can paint such
beautiful things as he did and live on next to
nothing ! It would be simply ridiculous.

Still, I wasn't going to be taken by surprise.
I wouldn't allow myself, even, to begin falling
in love the tiniest little bit in the world with
that charming painter at least, I thought not
before I'd satisfied myself thoroughly that
he was a natural-born subject of her Majesty
the Queen, and a member of the Church of
England as by law established. Both those
points I satisfactorily got out of him in the
course of conversation ; and then I made up
my mind that, come what would, papa or no
papa, if Mr. Kirkwood asked me why, I


wouldn't think it necessary to say " No "
outright to him.

One afternoon, some weeks later, to my great
delight, Mr. Kirkwood asked us all three to go
round to his studio, with Mrs. Markwell and
Bella to do the proprieties for us. Well, Linda
refused ; but Maud and I went, and he showed
us his pictures oh, such lovely pictures I though
I'm sorry to say he hardly ever sold them.
And Mrs. Markwell was so kind ; she stopped
behind in one room with the other two girls,
while he took me into another behind it, to
show me the piece he was then at work

I don't remember much about that piece, I
admit, though it was really lovely, for he
talked to me a great deal about other subjects
mostly our two selves, I fancy yet not at
all as if he were making love to me. He spoke
rather regretfully, as if he liked me very much,
but could never ask me. And I knew very



well why. I saw it in his face. It was that
horrid money that stood between us.

How I wished I was penniless if Mr.
Kirkwood preferred it so !

At last he took down a portfolio of sketches
from a cabinet in the corner, and showed them
to me by the window. They were earlier
sketches than any I had yet seen of his done
evidently before he had taken to art as a
regular profession. " These are clever," I
said, looking at them with my head on one
side, and pretending to be critical ; " but
they haven't such a sense of technique, I fancy,
as the ones in the studio." I thought " sense
of technique" was decidedly good, and, like a
girl that I was, I wanted to impress him with
my knowledge of things artistic.

" Well, no/' he said, smiling, and looking
hard into my eyes ; " those are early attempts.
They were done, don't you know, when I was
still on the Stock Exchange."


I gave a sudden start. " On the Stock
Exchange ! " I cried, puzzled, and just a wee
bit tremulous. " You don't mean to tell me,
Mr. Kirkwood, you were ever on the Stock
Exchange ? "

" Oh yes, I was," he answered, in the most
matter-of-fact tone on earth. " But I did no
good at it, you know; I'm not cut out for
business. I was always daubing or making
thumb-nail sketches when I ought to have
been watching the rise and fall of stocks. So
I left it at last as a bad job, and took to painting
instead, which is my natural metier ; though, of
course, I'm still theoretically and legally a
sworn broker of the City of London."

I turned so pale at those words that he
looked at me in surprise. "That's very
awkward ! " I cried, taken aback, and trembling
violently. Then I grew fiery red, for I saw
in a moment I'd put my foot in it.

" Why awkward ? " he asked, coming closer


and looking hard in my face. "You're faint,
Miss Passavant ! You're trembling ! Let me
run and get you a glass of water."

"Not for worlds," I cried, stammering and
trying to recover myself. " I only meant "

He seized my hand, and held it tight. He
guessed the truth, I think. At any rate, he
quivered. " You must tell me ! " he cried.
" Oh ! Miss Passavant, what is it ? "

" By my grandfather's will," I began ; then
I stopped and faltered.

He let my hand drop short. " Oh yes,
I forgot," he said, in a disappointed tone ;
" I should have remembered that before ; I
shouldn't have dared to approach you."

I saw what he meant in a second, and I felt
I really must tell him now. " But by my
grandfather's will," I gasped out, in an agony
of shame, remorse, and terror for I felt it was
horribly unwomanly of me to have let him see
like that into my very heart " we were to


forfeit it all if we oh ! Mr. Kirkwood, I can't
say it if we any of us married an alien, a
Presbyterian or a sworn broker."

Before I knew where I was, something
strange had happened. He was holding me
in his arms, and pressing me tight to his breast.
He was covering me with kisses. " Ethel my
Ethel ! " he cried ; " then it's all right, after all !
Youll have no money ! And you'll never
mind ! I know you'll be mine ! What's money
to you and me? With you to help me, I'm
sure I can earn enough for both of us. It was
only that horrid, horrid shadow that stood
between us ! "

I knew he was right, so I stood still and
allowed him.

Two minutes later Mrs. Markwell came in
upon us. I suppose I looked horribly flushed
and flurried ; but I understood I was engaged
to Arthur Kirkwood.



NEXT day I made a clean breast of it all to
Maud. She listened in silence, in that calm,
cold way of hers ; then she took my hand in
hers, and, to my immense surprise, kissed me
most affectionately. " Ethel," she said, with
a burst, " I always knew you were a brick ! I
knew you'd follow the guidance of your own
heart. But Linda's so different. Shell never
fall in love, you may be sure, with any one on
earth who could possibly come under poor
grandpapa's prohibitions. She's absolutely
mercenary ! "

In the astonishment of the moment I blurted
out the whole truth. " Why, Maud," I ex-
claimed, " you're awfully unjust to her ! She's
in love already and with an American, too
an alien a foreigner well, there, Mr. Yan-


It was a shocking breach of confidence, I
admit ; and the moment I'd let the words pass
my lips I regretted it bitterly. But Maud
drew back like one stung ; then she jumped up
with a sudden air of resolve. " If that's so,"
she said quickly, in quite a hopeful tone, " I
must see Malcolm immediately. Malcolm will
tell us ; he's so clever, Malcolm is. I see a way
out, I think. But you're quite sure of this
thing about Linda, are you, Ethel ?"

" As certain as I am about you and Mr.
Mackinnon, Maud," I replied, all bewildered.
" Though I don't see what difference that can
possibly make to you and me, dear."

Instead of answering, Maud looked at me hard
once more, in her calmly contemptuous way
Maud had always a very low opinion of my
humble intellect. Then she rose at once, and
swept out of the room, with her train behind
her, leaving me in utter wonder as to what on
earth she could be driving at.


That very afternoon, as soon as lunch was
finished, Maud asked Linda and myself to go
out for a stroll in Kensington Gardens. From
the way she asked it, we saw at once she had
something definite in view ; and, though Linda
was the eldest, when Maud asked us in her
grand manner to go anywhere, or do anything,
we other two girls would as soon have dreamt
of refusing to obey her as of refusing to obey
a judge in ermine. So we followed her blindly
through Palace Gardens, and past the Round
Pond, and along the path to the seat under the
trees by the Speke Memorial.

As we reached the seat, somebody got up
and raised his hat to greet us. He was ex-
pecting us, clearly. I saw at a glance it was
Mr. Mackinnon.

Maud took his hand in hers without a gleam
of recognition, yet I could see he held it a little
bit longer than was absolutely necessary. " You
got my note, then?" she said, in her com-



manding voice. " And you've looked this
matter up for us, Malcolm ? "

" Yes, Maud," Mr. Mackinnon answered, just
a trifle confused, and glancing askance from
her to me and Linda.

" Oh, never mind the girls/' Maud said,
quietly, with a little wave of her hand.
"They're all in the same box, you see. They
won't turn back upon us. Tell us quite plainly
what the law is in the matter."

" Well, I've consulted the will," Mr. Mac-
kinnon replied, drawing an envelope from his
pocket; "and I've consulted the authorities,
and the result is, I find, that if your sister
Linda marries Mr. Vanrenen "

" Oh, Ethel, how could you ! " Linda cried,
turning towards me one red flush, and drawing
back several paces in a tragic attitude.

But Mr. Mackinnon took no notice of her.
" And if your sister Ethel marries Mr. Kirk-
wood," he went on ; " and if, finally, you


marry me, why, then, according to your grand-
father's will, which the Courts would certainly
uphold in every particular, your sister Linda's
share must be divided equally between you and
Ethel ; your sister Ethel's share must be divided
equally between you and Linda ; and your
share must be divided equally between the
other two. So, you see, it cancels out. Each
of you'll get just the same in the end, and all
will come square, as if there were no restric-

" Malcolm," Maud said, emphatically, moving
back a step and surveying him from head to
foot with supreme satisfaction, " I call you a
Daniel come to judgment yea, a Daniel ! This
is just delightful."

" And what's more," Mr. Mackinnon went
on, looking from one of us to the other, " the
arrangement would in every way be a most
satisfactory one : for the original bequests are
left under trust, and subject to many most


vexatious restrictions ; while the reversions, by
a singular oversight, are absolute, and for your
own sole use and benefit."

" Girls," Maud said, triumphantly, "you hear
him. This is capital. Do you agree to marry
and make this redistribution?"

" Certainly," I answered, without an instant's
hesitation. " And so will you, Linda, as soon
as you've had time to make out what it's all
driving at."

I never saw a man more astonished in my
life than poor dear papa when we explained to
him the decision at which we'd all arrived.
And I never saw a man more baffled either
than Arthur Kirkwood when he found out that
he'd have to take me after all, burdened with
a fortune of twenty thousand pounds, which
he'd never expected. It lost him such a chance
of romantic poverty with the girl he loved
that I really believe, if he hadn't been very
much in love with me indeed, he'd have thrown


me overboard at once, and started afresh in
quest of a penniless damsel. But he managed
to put up with it for rny sake, he said, and
you can see me as his Rosalind in this year's



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Online LibraryThomas HardyStories in Black and white → online text (page 12 of 13)