William Black.

A daughter of Heth: A novel online

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and a woman, she must have wondered sometimes
whether Coquette might not wed a lord — especially
a lord who had frequently betrayed his admiration
for her. But, when she said this, Lord Earlshope
betrayed no surprise. He merely said —

" They will make a handsome pair ; and many a
man will envy young Cassilis his good fortune."

Lady Drum was a trifle disappointed. Was there
no mystery at all, then, connected with those
romantic episodes in the Highlands? Lord Earls-
hope talked of her protegee as if she were merely
some ordinary country girl who was about to marry
and become the mistress of a household ; whereas all
the men she had heard talk of Coquette spoke of
her as something rare and wonderful. Lady Drum
was almost sorry that she had asked him to join them
at the theatre that evening ; but she reflected that
if Lord Earlshope were so indifferent, the peaceful
progress of the two cousins towards marriage was
rendered all the more secure. She only thought

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that Cioqnette would have made a beautiful and
charming hostess to preside over the hospitalities of

"Ho, ho!" said Lady Drum, when Coquette
came down to dinner dressed for the theatre. " We
have made our toilette something just quite ex-
traordinary. Mr. Thomas is a fortunate youth to
have so much done for him."

" I do not dress for him, or for any tme," said
Coquette, with an air of calm magnificence.

" Certainly not, certainly not !" cried Sir iPeter,
gaily. " Too much beauty, and grace, and all that
is delightful on earth, to be bestowed on any one
man. You will appeal to the theatre, my dear, to
the whole theatre, and there won't be a look left for
the stage. And what is the hour at which. we go to
captivate all the young men in the place, and dazzle
our rivals with the flash of our eyes — ^when are
we going, going, going? — ^ha, ha, trollol, troUol,
troUol !"

" I wish, Sir Peter, you would not sing at your
dinner. It is a strange sort o' grace," observed
Lady Drum, severely.

"A natural one, my lady — ^natural. Don't the
blackbirds whistle among the cherry-trees, and the
pigs grunt with delight over their meat ? I would
whistle like a blackbird if I could — ^to amuse Miss
Coquette, you know — but as it is ^"

" You prefer to copy the pig," remarked Lady
Drum, with scorn.

" Too bad, isn't it, Miss Coquette ? And I waa
getting as gay as a bullfinch in thinking of the wild

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dissipation of accompanying you to the theatre. And
there will be many a yonng fellow there, you will
see, who will scowl at. me, and wish he was in my
shoes ; but don't you heed them, my dear. Old
men like myseK are far more to be depended on.
What does your French song say —

'Jeunesse trop coquette,
Ecoutez la le^on
Que vous feit Henriette,
Et son amant Pamon *

Do not start, my lady, that is not bad language ; it
is the name of Henriette's lover; and don't I wish
Henriette, or any similar bewitching young creature,
would take the trouble to teach me a lesson ! I'd
sit as mum as a mouse ^"

" Sir Peter," remarked Lady Drum, " you must
have dined elsewhere."

"No such luck, my dear," remarked her husband,
cheerfully. " I mean I have not had the chance of
getting any wine — which is your ungenerous in-
sinuation. But now, but now — ^we will drink deep
of heavy flagons until the most ill-favoured ballet-
girl appear an angel. "What, ho, there! wine,
wine !"

The fact was that, at the door, there were standing
two servants, who dared not enter until their master
was done with his private theatricals. When they
had come in, and the glasses were filled. Sir Peter,
whose performances as a thirsty soul fell far short
of his professions, pledged a bumper to Coquette
and her coming conquests, and wound up his speech
with a pretty and sentimental French toast, the

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pronunciation of which reminded Coquette of the
Whaup's efforts in the morning.

This going to the theatre was quite an excitement
for Coquette, who had not visited a,ny such place
of amusement since she left France. Lady Drum
warned her not to say anything about it in her
letters to Airlie, or the chances were that the
Minister would order her recall from Glasgow at

"And my cousin," said Coquette, "has he never
been to any theatre ?"

" That is more than I can say," remarked Lady
Drum, with a smile.

When at length they drove down to the big
building, and went up the broad staircase, and got
into the corridor, there was an odour of escaped gas
and a confused sound of music which quite delighted
Coquette — it was so like the odour and the sound
prevalent in the theatres she had visited long ago
in France. And when they got into the box, which
was the biggest in the theatre, they found the
Whaup already there, with two bouquets awaiting
Lady Drum and Coquette. Lady Drum, naturally
taking the place of honour, was perhaps a little glad
to screen herself in her corner by the curtains;
but Coquette, with the calm air of a princess, and
with her brilliant toilette getting a new splendour
from the gleaming lights of the house, took her seat,
and lifted her bouquet, and made the Whaup a
pretty speech of thanks which filled his heart with
pleasure, and then turned her attention to the stage.

"Shall I ever be able," said the Whaup to him-

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self, as lie looked wistfully at her, "
pretty dresses like that, and buy her p(
neck and her hair, and take her to all

The young gentleman was rather proT]
not even acknowledge to himself th
could buy pearls for herself, and pay
amusements than she cared to see.

The performances need not be descril
They consisted, in the first place, of
drama of the good old kind, in which a
pronounced characters — whose virtuee
they took every opportunity of revea
audience — did impossible things in
places, and talked a language unfami
nation at present inhabiting the earth.,
was to be followed by a burlesque, fc
Peter professed himself to be impatient.

" For," said he, " there is in every
young lady with a saucy face and pi
with whom you can fall in love for an
with impunity. And I am anxious for
ance, because Miss Coquette has quite
and I am left out in the cold."

The truth is. Coquette had discov
cousin a quite astonishing familiarit;
theatre. He was acquainted with all
ments, and seemed to know the name c
in connection with it. Now, how ha
this knowledge ?

" Oh, I do see that the life of the sti
all study," Coquette remarked, with

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sarcasm. "You do sometimes filud them singing
* Gome lasses and lads/ and they do waste time with
tobacco and laughing, and even know a good deal
about the actresses of the theatre. Why was none
of that in your letters to Airlie ?"

"Well, m teU you the truth, Coquette," said
the Whaup, with a laugh and a blush that became
his handsome face well. " I dared not tell anybody
at Airlie I went to the theatre ; nor do I think I
should have gone in any case but for a notion I had
that, somehow or other, you must like the theatre.
You never told me that, you know, but I guessed it
from — from — ^from "

"From my manner, or my talk? You do think
me an actress, then ?"

"No, it is not that at all," said the Whaup.
" You are too sincere and simple in your ways. But
somehow I thought that, with your having been
brought up in the south, and accustomed to a
southern liking for enjoyment and artistic things,
and with your sympathy for fine colours, and for
music, and all that — why, I thought, Coquette,
you would be sure to like the theatre ; and so, do
you know, I used to come here very often — not here,
of course, but away up there to that dark gallery —
and I used to sit and think what the theatre would
be like when Coquette came to see it."

He spoke quite shyly; for, indeed, he half fsmcied
she might laugh at these romantic dreamings of his
when he was far away from her in the big dty ; but
when he ventured to steal a glance at her face, lo !
the soft dark eyes were quite moist. And she pre-

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tended to look down into the circle of flowers ho had
given her, and said in a low voice —

" Yon have been thinking of me very mnch when
I was down in Airlie, and yon here by yonrself. I
do not deserve it— bnt I will show my gratitude to
yon some day."

"Why, Coquette," he said, "you need not
thank me for it. Only to think of you was a
pleasure to me — ^the only pleasure I had all that
long winter time."

Had Lady Drum heard the whispered little sen-
tences which passed between these two young folks,
she might, perhaps, have thought that they ex-
pressed far more genuine emotion than the bursts of
rhetoric in which, on the stage, the lucky lover was
declaring his passion for the plump and middle-aged
heroine. But they took care she should hear
nothing of it.

Presently in came Lord Earlshope with his crush-
hat under his arm ; and he, also, had brought two
bouquets. The Whaup noticed, with a passing
twinge of mortification, that these were far finer and
more delicate flowers than he had been able to buy,
and he expected to see his own poor gifts immediately
laid aside. But he did not know Coquette. She thanked
Lord Earlshope very graciously for the flowers, and
said how fortunate it was he had brought them.

" For I do always like to throw a bouquet to the
actress, after her long evening's work, yet I was
becoming sorry to give her the flowers that my
cousin did bring me. But you have brought one foi
her, too, if I may give it to her ?" '**'. ^ ' '

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"Why, of course," said Lord Earlshope, who
protably did not put such value on a handful of
flowers as did the Whaup ; " and when you wish to
give it her, let me pitch it on the stage, or you will
certainly hit the man at the drum."

" But you must keep them for the young lady of
the burlesque," said Sir Peter; "she is always
better looking than the heroine of the drama, isn't
she? Then you have a greater opportunity of

" Why ?" said Lady Drum, with a look of such
severity as effectually to prevent her husband answer-
ing — instead, he turned away and gaily hummed
something about.

Ecoutez la le^on

Qui vous Mt Henrietta.

But there was another woman in the theatre who
had attracted their attention before Lord Earlshope
had arrived. She was seated in the corner of the
box opposite, and, as a rule, was hidden behind the
curtain, WTien they did get a glimpse of her, her
manner and appearance were so singular as to
attract a good deal of attention. She was of middle
height, stout, with rather a florid face, coal-black
hair, and a wild, uncertain look, which was seldom
fixed on any object for two minutes together. Oddly
enough, she stared over at Coquette, in rather a
peculiar way^ until that young lady studiously kept
her eyes on the stage, and would not glance over to
the occupant of the opposite box.

"Singular-looking woma^, isu't she?" mi Su

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Peter. " Opium, eh ! eh ! Is that opium f -^ ^ ^ -
her eyes so wild ? She drinks, I swear, and 8
with drink, eh ! eh ! What do you say, Cae

" 1 wish you would not talk of that per
Lady Drum, and then the conversation dn

About a quarter of an hour after Lord
had come into the theatre, this woman a
retired from her corner behind the curl
walked forward from th^ back of the box tc
of it, and there stood al full length, lool
with an odd expression of amusement on
at the group in front of Lady Drum's b
movement was noticed by the whole th(
certainly it was observed by Lord Earls
during one second, his eyes seemed to b(
this woman, and then, still looking at h
treated a step or two from the front of the
his face become quite white.

"What is the matter?" said Lady Di
iously — for he had been speaking to h
have become very pale — are you ill ?"

"Lady Drum, I wish to speak with you pr
a moment," he said, quite calmly, but with
constraint of manner that somewhat alarmc

She rose at once and followed him
corridor outside. There he stood, quite
and yet very pale.

" Would you mind taking Miss Cassilij
once ?" he said.

" Take her home ! Why?"

** I cannot tell you why," he said, with i
of anxiety and impatience. " I cannot tel

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but I wish, Lady Drum, you would. I beg you — ^I
entreat you — to take her away instantly.*'

" But why ?" said the old lady, who was at once
perplexed and alarmed.

" Tou saw that woman opposite," said Lord Earls-
hope, rather abandoning the calmness of his de-
meanour. " She will come round here presently — ^I
know she will— she will go into the box — she will
insult Miss Cassilis — for Hef yen's sake. Lady Drum,
get her out of the way of that woman !"

" Bless me !" said Lady Drum, elevating her eye-
brows, " are we a' to be frightened out o' our wits by
a mad woman, and three men with us? And if
there was no one with us," she added, drawing her-
self up, " I am not afraid of the girl being insulted
if she is under my care. And what for should any
woman, mad as she may be, fasten upon us ? My
certes ! I will see that she does not come near the
girl, or my name is not Margaret Ainslie."

For a moment or two Lord Earlshope stood
irresolute, with mortification and anxiety plainly evi-
dent on his pale features. Then he said, suddenly —

" I must tell you at once, Lady Drum. I have
many a time determined to do so — ^but put it off
until now — when I can be silent no longer. That
woman in the theatre just now, a woman soddened
and mad with brandy — is my wife — at least, she was
my wife some years ago. Goodness knows, I have
no reason to be afraid of her ! but one — it is for the
sake of Miss Cassilis I beg you. Lady Drum — to take
her away — out of her reach — she is a woman of
outrageous passions — ^a scene in a public place will

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have all the excitement of a new sort of drunkenness
for her %

To all these incoherent ejaculations, Lady Drum
only replied —

" Tour wife r

" This is not a time to blame me for anything/'
he said, hurriedly. "I cannot give you any ex-
planations just now. You don't know why I should
have concealed my marriage with this horrible
woman^ — ^but you wHl not blame me when you hear.
All I want is to secure Miss Cassilis's safety."

" That," said Lady Drum, with perfect quiet, " is
secure in my keeping. You need not be afraid,
Lord Earlshope — she is quite secure where she is."

" You mean to keep her in the theatre ?"

" Most certainly."

"Then I will go. If I leave, her whim may
change ; but I see from her laughing to herself that
she means mischief. I cannot charge my own wife
at the police office."

He left the theatre there and then. Lady Drum
returned to the box, and made some sort of apology
for Lord Earlshope*s absence. But she did not see
much of what was going on upon the stage, for her
thoughts were busy with many strange things that
she now recollected as having been connected with
Lord Earlshope; and sometimes she turned from
Coquette's face to glance at the box opposite.
Coquette was thoroughly enjoying the piece; the
woman in the box opposite her remained hidden, and
yras apparently alone.

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Labt Drum began to get a&aid. Should she send
Coquette at once back to Airlie ? Her first impnlse,
on hearing the disdosnres made by Lord Earlshope
at the theatre, was one of indignation and anger
against himself, for having, as she thought, nn-
necessarily acted a lie dnring so many years, and
deceived his friends. She now understood all the
strange references he had often made to married life
— ^the half-concealed and bitter irony of his talk —
his nervous susceptibility on certain points — ^his
frequent appearance of weariness and hopelessness,
as of a man to whom life was no longer of any value.
She was amazed at the morbid sense of shame which
made this man so anxious to avoid the confession of
his having made a desperate blunder in his youth.
Why had he gone about under false colours ? . Why
had he imposed on his friends ? Why had he spoken
to Coquette as a possible lover might have spoken ?

This thought of Coquette flashed upon Lady Drum
as a revelation. She knew now why the fact of
Lord Earlshope's marriage had made her angry;
and she at once did him the justice of remembering
that, so far as she knew, he had made no pretensions
to be the lover of Coquette. That had been Lady
Drum's secret hope : he could not bv Jblamed for it.

But at the same time there was something about
the relations between Lord Earlshope and Coquette
which she did not wholly understand; and as she



felt herself peculiarly responsible foi
lady, she began to ask herself if she hi
make sure by sending Coquette home
Lady Drum sat in a corner of her re
and looked down from the window
Coquette was sitting there as usual — i
sunshine abroad, which she loved as
loves drink — and she was leisurely lei
under the shadow of her sun-shade. I
happy she looked — ^buried away from i
ness of the world around her in that o
romance that lay unfolded on her knee,
had got to love the girl with a mother
and as she now looked down on her £
what precautions could be taken to re
young life inviolate from wrong and
that were possible.

First of all, she wrote a note to Loi
and sent it down to his hotel, asking h
her immediately. She wished to hav<
planations before saying anything to i
indeed, to any one of the little circle tl
formed at Airlie. At the moment she
this letter, Lord Earlshope was walkini
to the place where Coquette sat.

" Ah, it is you ! I do wish much to i
few moments," she said, with somethini
in her face.

He did not reply ; but sat down be
lips firm, and his brow clouded. She d
this alteration from his ordinary dei
Vmmediately proceeded to say, ift r

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voice, and with her eyes grown serious and even
anxious —

" I have much to say to you. I have been think-
ing over all our position with each other, and I am
going to ask you for a favour. First of all, I will
tell you a secret."

Why did she look constrained, and even agitated ?
he asked himself. Had she already heard from Lady
Drum ? Her fingers were working nervously vrith thB
book before her — ^her breath seemed to go and come
more quickly — and her voice was almost inaudible.

" This is what I must tell you," she said, with her
eyes fixed on the ground. " I have promised to my
cousin to be his wife. I did tell you I should do
that, and now it is done, and he is glad. I am not
glad, perhaps — not now — ^but afterwards it may be
different. And so, as I am to be his wife, I do not
think it is right I should see you any more ; and
I will ask you to go away now altogether, and when
we do meet, here or in Airlie, it will be the same
with us as strangers. You vrill do this for my 'sake,
vrill you not ? It is much to ask ; I shall be more
sorry than you, perhaps ; but how can I see you if I
am to marry him ?"

" And so we are to be steangers. Coquette," he said,
quite calmly. It is all over, then. We have had some
pleasant dreaming, but the daylight has come, and the
work of the world. When we meet each other, as you
say, it will be as strangers;— as on the first morning I
saw you at Airlie, driving up the road in the sun-
light, and was glad to know that you were going to
remain at the Manse. All that happened down at


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Airlie is to be forgotten ; and you and I are just like
two people passing each other in the street, and not
expecting, perHaps, even to meet again. Yet there
are some things which neither you nor I shall ever

" Ah, I know that — ^I know that !" said Coquette,
almost wildly. "Do not speak of all that now.
Sometimes I do think I cannot do as my cousin
wishes — I become afraid — ^I cannot speak to him — ^I
begin to tremble when I think of all the long years
to come. Alas ! I have sometimes wondered whether
I shall live till then."

" Coquette, what do you mean?" he said. " Have
you resolved to make your life miserable ? Is this
how you look forward to marriage, which ought
to be the happiest event in a woman's life, and the
seal of all the happiness to come after ? What have
you done. Coquette ?"

" I have done what I ought to do," she said, " and
it is only at moments that I do fear of it. My
cousin is very good ; he is very fond of me ; he will
break his heart if I do not marry him. And I do
like him very well, too. Perhaps, in some years, I
shall have forgotten a great deal of all that is
past now, and shall have come to be very fond of
him, too ; and it will be a pleasure to me to become
his wife. You must not be sorry for me. You must
not think it is a sacrifice, or anything like that.
When I am afraid now — when I am sad top, so that
I wish I could go away to France, and not see any
more of this country — it is only when I do think of

Airlie, yon know, and of- -of "

2 2

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She never finished the sentence, because her lips
were beginning to quiver. And for a moment, too,
his look had grown absent, as if he were calling up
memories of the days of their meetings on the moor
— meetings which were but recent, and yet which
now seemed buried far away in the white mists of
the past. All at once he seemed to rouse himself,
and said, with some abruptness —

" Coquette, you do not blame me for being unable
to help you in your distress. I am going to tell
you why I cannot. I am going to tell you what will
render it unnecessary for me to promise not to
see you again ; for you will hate the sight of me,
and consider me not fit to be spoken to by any
honest man or woman. Many and many a time have
I determined to tell you ; and yet it seemed so hard
that I should make you my enemy— that you should
go away only with contempt for me "

She interrupted him quickly, and with some alarm
on her face.

"Ah, I know," she said. "You will tell me
something you have done — why ? What is the use
of that now ? I do not wish to hear it. I wish to
think of you always as I think now ; and when I
look back at our last meeting in Glasgow — ^you
sitting there, I here, and bidding good-bye to all
that time which began down in- Airlie, I shall have
pleasure of it, even if I cry about it. Why you tell
me this thing ? What is the use ? Is it wise to do
it ? I have seen you often about to tell me a secret. I
have seen you disturbed and anxious ; and sometimes
Ihave wondered, too, and wished to know. But then

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I did think there was enough trouble in the world
without adding this ; and I hoped you would remain
to me always as you were then — when I did first
begin to know you."

" Why, Coquette," he said, with a strange, half-
tender look of admiration, " your generosity shames
me all the more, and shows me what a horribly
selfish wretch I have been. You don't half seem to
know how good you are."

His voice dropped a little here, as there was some
one coming along the road. Lord Earlshope and
Coquette both sat silent, and did not look up until
the stranger passed.

" Coquette," he said, suddenly, with a great efibrt,
" I must tell you now all the story of my shame and
disgrace. The woman you saw at the theatre last
night — that woman I married when I was a mere
boy. I have not seen her for years. I was almost
beginning to forget that this horrible weight and
blight hung over my life — ^but how can I explain to
you without telling you who and what she is — and
how can I tell you that story ?"

He was watching every line of her face, with an
anxious sadness, to gather what her first impulse
would be. And yet he felt that in uttering these
words he had for ever disgraced himself in her eyes,
and deserved only to be thrust away from her with
horror and shame. Indeed, he waited to hear her
own lips pronounce his condemnation and decree his

Coquette looked up, regarded him steadily, and
held out her hand, and said —

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" I know it all now, and am very sorry for you."

Online LibraryWilliam BlackA daughter of Heth: A novel → online text (page 24 of 30)