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MATTHEWS - ..;

-* Ws ROOKS:



THE HANDSOME HUMES.



The fallowing is a complete list of the new Half-Crown L'llilwn
of MR. BLACK'S Novels.



A Daughter of Heth.

The Strange Adventures of a

Phaeton.

A Princess of Thule.
In Silk Attire.
Kilmeny.
Madcap Violet.
Three Feathers.
The Maid of Killeena.
Green Pastures and Piccadilly
Macleod of Dare.
Lady Silver dale's Sweetheart.
White Wings.
Sunrise.

The Beautiful Wretch.
Shandon Bells.
Adventures in Thule.



Yolande.

Judith Shakespeare.

Ths Wise Women of Inverness.

White Heather.

Eabina Zembra.

The Strange Adventures of a

House Boat.
In Far Lochaber.
The Penance of John Logan.
Prince Fortunatus.
Stand Fast, Craig Royston !
Donald Ross of Heimra.
Handsome Humes.
Magic Ink.
Wolfenberg.
Highland Cousins.
Briseis.



LONDON: SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & COMPANY, LIMITED,
ST. DUNSTAN*!) HOUSE, FETTER LAKE.



THE HANDSOME HUMES



BY

WILLIAM BLACK



NEW EDITION



LONDON
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON & COMPANY

LIMITED

>t.



LONDON :

PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
STAMFORD STREET AMD CHARING CROSS.



CONTENTS.



CHAP. TAGK

I. A COMING OF AGE 1

II. CROWHURST FABM . . . . .15

III. A CHANCE ENCOUNTER 27

IV. A VISITOR 40

V. A SQUIRE OF DAMES 53

VI. "WITH HER APRIL EYES" 68

VII. "IMPLACABLE CYPRIS" 81

VIII. IN GLAMOUR LiND 94

IX. "ALL A WONDER AND A WILD DESIUE" . . 108

X. THE BULL-DOG 121

XL AN ENEMY IN THE PATH 134

XII. " LET THE SWEET HEAVENS ENDURE " . . . 146

XIII. UNTIL TO-MORROW 160

XIV. BONDS AND COILS 171

XV. IN A LIBRARY, AND ELSEWHERE . . . .183

XVI. A CHALLENGE 196

XVII. THE PUGILIST'S DAUGHTER 208

XVIII. AT AN OPEN WINDOW 222

XIX. AN ALLY 234

XX. FIRST PLUNGE AND LAST 247

XXL A GULF BETWEEN 261

XXIL AVILION 274

XXIIL SPIES . . . 286

XXIV. CONCLUSION ..,,,, 299



1781577



THE HANDSOME HUMES.



CHAPTER I.

A COMING OF AGE.

ON a certain night in February a numerous and distin-
guished company was gradually assembling in the Marie
Antoinette room of the Hotel Me tropole, Northumberland
Avenue, the occasion being the coming of age of a young
man called Sidney Hume. But of all the people arriving
or arrived there, none presented so striking a figure as the
hostess herself, a woman of quite unusual stature, straight
as a wand, yet not without the presence and substantiality
befitting her years, which lay between the fifties and sixties.
Comely of feature, too, with a complexion, almost countri-
fied in its clear fresh tones, that accorded well with the
silvery gray of her hair ; eyes at once frank and shrewd ; a
mouth good-naturedly inclined to smile, and showing, when
her lips parted, perfect teeth. For this stately dame-
looking all the more stately because of her costume of black-
velvet and old lace, with an occasional gleam of diamonds
was not at all of an austere demeanour ; nor yet was she
blandly and passively gracious, as might fairly have become
her height. The welcome that she extended to her guests
had more than a touch of cheerful cordiality in it ; there
was a quick word here, a humorous glance there ; she could
maliciously laugh with this one, and instantly alter her face



2 THE HANDSOME HUMES

to receive the next who chanced to be a bishop. Conscious
of her great personal beauty, proud of her son, pleased to
have her friends come round her, she appeared to be a very
happy woman in these auspicious circumstances, and she
took no pains to conceal the fact. A slight insistence in
her speech a sort of persuasive downrightness she may
have derived from her Scotch upbringing ; otherwise she
betrayed no trace of accent, as she chatted with this one
and that, obviously in the highest of high spirits.

Meanwhile the young man whose four-and-twentietli
birthday had brought these people together was also doing
his part moving about the murmuring room with a slip of
names in his hand giving whispered directions as to who
was to take down whom to dinner furnishing introductions
where that was needful and so forth. He also was tall,
and of a well-built, slim figure ; his face clean-shaven ; his
features of a distinctly intellectual cast ; his brown hair
worn rather long ; his eyes grave and attentive ; his manner
somewhat reserved. He seemed inclined to listen respect-
fully rather than to talk, especially if the person he was
addressing happened to be older than himself ; he had not
yet acquired that self-confidence, that assurance of success,
that knowledge of the world, that gave something of a
conquering air to the silver-haired lady who now stood near
the door, laughing and talking and welcoming each new
arrival. But in the matter of good looks, he was a worthy
son of that proud dame : did not he, too, belong to " the
handsome Humes " ?

By-and-by this reception-chamber which was filled with
a sort of mysterious twilight from rose-shaded lamps and
candles had mustered its complement of guests ; and then
it was that Sidney Hume gave his arm to a little old lady
whose rank entitled her to this precedence, and led the way,
the other couples following in due order, the hostess coming
last along with the bishop afore-mentioned the Right
Reverend the Lord Bishop of Wilchester, to wit. Their
destination was the drawing-room, which had upon this



A COMING OF AGE 3

particular evening been converted into a dining-room ; and
here indeed was a change from the hushed, mysterious,
rose-hued chamber they had just left. This great saloon,
with its lofty pillars and branching palms, its white and
gold walls and roof, was all ablaze with clusters of electric
lights ; the long table was a splendour of flowers and silver
and crystal ; while from behind a screen that stretched
across one portion of the apartment came the softly
modulated strains of a stringed band. There was some
slight confusion in seeking for places, but that was soon
over ; the music ceased ; the guests remained standing ;
and the bishop a little pale-faced, nervous-looking man
said grace. Then they all took their seats ; and the talk
began.

Now most of those people knew each other many of
them, indeed, being near relatives ; but here and there were
one or two who had not met before ; and among these were
a couple of young folk who had been introduced to each
other in the room above. The man was about eight-and-
twenty ; of anasmic complexion ; with soft dark eyes ; and
beard and moustache clipped in the French fashion ; the
young lady whom he had brought down was a rather good-
looking lass, with an abundance of fluffy blond hair, a
pleasant smile, and a pince-nez. Her companion made sure
of her name by glancing at the card on the table ; then he
started off. .

" Do you know many of those here to-night ? " he
asked.

" It is my business," answered this damsel, with demure
eyes, " to know everybody. I am a lady journalist."

He did not seem much alarmed.

" You don't say ! " he observed, quietly. " I am, in a
fashion, connected with newspapers myself on the other
side. Washington."

" Oh, Washington ? " said the young lady, and then she
seemed inclined to giggle which was wrong. " You have
a great deal of society in Washington, haven't you ? I

B 2



4 THE HANDSOME HUMES

suppose you might consider Washington the headquarters
of American society ? "

" Why, yes, I suppose it is," he responded ; " especially
when Congress is in session. There are plenty of enter-
tainments and all the Presidential and diplomatic
dinners '

" And does Mrs. Hume understand that you write for the
Washington papers ? " was the next question put with
perfect seriousness, though there was laughter in the
creature's gray eyes.

"Hardly that," said this prematurely old young man
with the worn face. "I may have mentioned my paper,
but I don't write for it, beyond sending a cable despatch
now and again. I am part proprietor, in fact ; that is all
my connection with journalism. But you said you knew
everybody ; tell me, then, about our hostess and her son.
You see, I merely made his acquaintance in the smoke-
room ; we had some talk several times ; then he introduced
me to his mother, and she was good enough to invite me to
this dinner. And here I am. But all I know of her is that
she is about the most extraordinarily handsome woman I
ever beheld "

" Handsome ? " repeated his neighbour. " Did you never
hear of ' the handsome Hays ' ? "

His look confessed his ignorance.

" Not of the three famous beauties the three tall sisters
who came up from Teviot-side to take all London by
storm ? You never heard of ' the handsome Hays ' ' the
beautiful Miss Hays,' as they Avere called that all the town
ran after, so that they had crowds waiting to see them go
into a theatre ? Of course it is all ancient history now
five-and-thirty years ago and more ; but I've had to get up
the particulars for yes, for an article I am writing ; and
besides, I know Mrs. Hume very well "

At this moment the band behind the white and gold
screen began to play ' There was a lad was born in Kyle.'

" Do you hear that ? " the young lady continued.



A COMING Of AGE 5

" She is wildly proud of her Scotch lineage ; and I
shouldn't be surprised if she had chosen nothing but
Scotch airs for this evening. Shouldn't be in the least
surprised "

" But you were telling rne of the three famous beauties,"
her companion reminded her.

" Why, this is one of them ! There she is. This one
was the youngest of the three. And her two sisters' were
considered to have done well enough they both married
titles ; but it was thought that the youngest had done
better than either of them when she captured the Squire of
Ellerdale one of the greatest properties in the north of
England. For the truth is they had come to London with
nothing but their face for their fortune and an un-
bounded pride of race, of course an old tower on Teviot-
side, and a prophecy of Thomas the Ehymer all to
themselves "

" So she was one of the three beauties ? " the American
said, regarding his hostess with something of a curious
scrutiny. " I can well understand it."

" Oh, but that was a generation ago," exclaimed this
family chronicler with the unbridled flaxen hair. " We don't
talk about the handsome Hays now ; it is the handsome
Humes. Five sons and four daughters that is something
of a family ; and all of them remarkably good-looking ;
and all of them fortunately married and settled, thanks to
the engineering capabilities of an extremely astute mamma
all of them, I mean, except this young Sidney, and she'll
soon get him fixed when she thinks the time is come. Oh,
she is a clever one," continued the young person, whose
comments on her hostess were not without a spice of
malice. " They call her the most successful woman in
England. She is a born manager, shrewd and capable,
and doing everything with such an appearance of good-
humonr that you would never suspect her of schemes.
The most successful woman in England ? I should
think so ! One after the other, son and daughter all



6 THE HANDSOME HUMES

prosperously established ; and then, instead of remaining
in possession of Ellerdale Park, as she might have done, she
must needs vacate the premises, so that her eldest son
should reign undisturbed as the Squire. Of course that
leaves her free too. She can move about Rome, Naples,
Nice wherever the society is most to her mind. At
present she has a house at Henley "

The band began to play 'London's bonnie woods
and braes.'

" Didn't I tell you ? " said this communicative damsel.
" We shall have Scotch airs all the evening though the
Humes of Ellerdale are an English family. But where
was I in my information ? Oh yes, Henley. I said
Henley

As she paused for a second, he turned and stole an
inquiring glance at her. She seemed amused. When she
next spoke it was in a lowered voice.

" Don't look just now while I am talking to you ; but
in a second or two turn your attention to the lady who is
sitting on Sidney Hume's left "

" I have already noticed her."

" And not recognised her ? Haven't you seen her
photographs in the shop windows, among the fashionable
beauties ? "

And indeed it might have been assumed that the lady
thus indicated would be able to hold her own in any such
collection ; for although she was not so striking in appear-
ance as the statuesque dame at the head of the table, she
was sufficiently attractive-looking in a younger and slighter
fashion. What was visible of her figure through these
intervening flowers was elegant and graceful ; her features
were refined ; her complexion clear and colourless, with
just a touch of make-up ; her eyebrows high and well
marked ; her masses of black hair loosely and effectively
arranged. And if there was something about her fore-
head and mouth that denoted considerable decision of
character, that, on the other hand, was softened by the



A COMING OF AGE 7

expression of her eyes, which were very beautiful eyes
clear gray with dark pupils, intensified by black lashes :
eyes that had an amiable and intelligent look, and were
rather given, as one might suspect, to quiet and humorous
observation. For the rest, her costume was of pale blue
crepe de Chine, open square at the neck, with a collar
of white swan's-down ; heavy bands of gold were on her
gloved arms ; but she wore no ornament round her finely
modelled throat.

" Who is she ? " asked the American, in an undertone.

" That is Lady Helen Yorke," answered the flaxen-haired
maiden, keeping her eyes resolutely fixed upon her plate.
"And she is the only daughter the only child of the
Earl of Monks-Hatton. Would it surprise you to hear that
Lord Monks-Hatton has a seat near Henley ? "

The young lady (one blushes to confess it) sniggered.

" I don't quite understand " her companion said.

" Oh, do you think I would make any suggestion ? " she
protested. " Certainly not ! I couldn't think of such a
thing. But Lady Helen is a great heiress. And she has
refused all sorts of offers so they say ; and no one knows
why ; perhaps she has a bit of a temper, and is rather
difficult to please. At the same time she'd better look out ;
she's getting on ; seven-and-twenty, I should think. And
if she were to take a fancy to one of the handsome Humes ?
Mind, I don't say anything ; only I know that the Monks-
Hattons live near Henley one of their seats ; and I know
that Mi's. Hume and Lady Helen are great friends ; and I
percetve, with my own eyes, who it is who is sitting on
Sidney Hume's left. For if he had to take down the
dowager Duchess because of her rank, there was the other
place next him ; and a skilfully managing mammaBut
perhaps I'm very wicked to suspect such things. And
indeed I don't think Sidney Hume is of the marrying kind
from what little I've seen of him. Oh no, for him there's
no one like his mother. You could boil down all the women
in England into one, and she would be in his eyes nothing



8 THE HANDSOME HUMES

to compare with the magnificent mamma. He is just
desperately proud of her "

"And she of him?"

" Oh, I suppose so ! Those Humes have been so courted
and flattered that they think all the virtues and graces and
good looks in England belong to their family by rights."

' Sweet Annie frae the sea beach came,' the band played
behind the screen ; and perhaps it was the gentleness of the
melody that interposed to soften the acerbity of this young
lady's remarks ; at all events, she went on to speak of
Sidney Hume himself in quite a friendly and kindly way.
She said it was a pity he mured himself up in his college at
Oxford. Degrees, honours, fellowships, should be reserved
for persons of ungainly physique. Men of heroic mould
should come out into the great world, to play their part.

Meanwhile what of the "most successful woman in
England," who was seated up there at the head of the
table ? Surely she must have confessed to herself that this
was a very gay and brilliant scene over which she was pre-
siding the profusion of flowers being especially remark-
able : camellias, tulips, hyacinths, primulas, cyclamens,
with here and there masses of maidenhair fern in the tall
silver dishes. Radiant light and colour ; a scented atmo-
sphere ; soft music stealing in from time to time ; animated
talk with little bursts of laughter : what more could be
desired ? No wonder that this gracious hostess, when she
turned from contemplating the busy table to answer the
remarks of the bishop who sat next her, wore a pleased and
complacent air !

" My views, bishop, about Sidney ? " she said. " I hardly
know that I have any any more than he has himself the
long, lazy boy ! Oh no ! " she added, instantly correcting
herself. " Not lazy not at all ; but the fact is that
acquiring knowledge seems to come so easily to him, and
he is interested in such a multitude of things, that you
would be astonished to find how much he had stored up,
in that apparently idle and dawdling way of his. Just an



A COMING OF AGE 9

encyclopaedia, without taking any trouble about it ! And
yet what good is it all to him ? And even if he were to
devote himself to something special, the professions are all
overstocked. There's the Indian civil service, no doubt :
that offers good prospects for a young fellow who has done
as well at his university as Sidney has done but I fear it

is too late in the day " Here she laughed. "Well,

bishop, I must tell you the truth. Sometimes I think that
as I have given up all my other sons and my daughters, I
should be allowed to keep my single remaining boy to
myself. And then again I reproach myself for such a selfish
feeling, and think I would rather give him up too if I could
see him comfortably settled. It would only be an additional
home for me to visit occasionally ; and you know I have so
many homes, with all those boys and girls married, that I
never can accept half the invitations "

" You are a fortunate mother-in-law," said his lordship,
with a little laugh.

" And as for Sidney," continued Mrs. Hume, in her blithe
way. " Who knows what may happen ? Do you remember
the old ballad, bishop ?

' Oh, father, oh, father,

An ye think it fit,
We'll send Mm a year

To the college yet :
We'll sew a green ribbon

Round about his hat,
And that will let them hen

He's to marry yet.'

Greater wonders than that have happened."

" Ah, I perceive I perceive," said the bishop, thought-
fully. "And when does Mr. Sidney close his university
career ? "

" The sooner the better, I should be inclined to say, if
only I could get him to tear himself away from his beloved
college. I suppose I shall have to bribe him ; and the
bribe will have to be something Greek. I shall have to
promise to help him in hunting for Greek gems, or in
excavating some Greek ruin, or in raising a rebellion



io THE HANDSOME HUMES

among the Greeks of some Turkish island. A rebellion
I shouldn't at all wonder if he were to devote this little
fortune that now becomes his to some such mad enterprise ;
and then, after all, I might have to support a beggar son
in the end."

Now amid these various plans and projects in connection
with this young man's future, that contained in the lines
quoted by Mrs. Hume must have sunk into the bishop's
mind ; and eventually it paved the way for a very pretty
little incident. On an occasion of this kind, his lordship
remarked to his neighbour, formal speech-making was
unnecessary and uncalled-for ; still might not a few words,
expressing the good wishes of the company, be permitted ?
Mrs. Hume smiled most grateful thanks : it had been her
own secret desire that the bishop should perform this kindly
office, though she had not ventured to say so. Then, as
there chanced to be a lull in the traffic of the servants, the
bishop got up. There was instant silence. Naturally and
inevitably he began by saying he would not make a speech ;
and forthwith proceeded to make it. It was a clever and
incisive little oration, whether it was unpremeditated or
not ; there was only one Latin phrase in it about the
obligation of maintaining the dignity of an ancient name ;
and there were some ingenious references to the happy
fortune of one who had in his turn inherited certain
qualities of character and person that had rendered his
family distinguished through more than one generation.
Finally, said the good bishop, though he would not touch
upon the legal conditions that had constituted this second
coming of age, nevertheless Mr. Sidney (as he might be
allowed to call him, having known so many older members
of the family) had now to be complimented on having fully
succeeded to man's estate ; and they might be pardoned
if they looked forward to yet another important occasion.
That occasion would arise when their young friend should
present to them his chosen helpmeet and life companion ;
and she (he was sure) would receive from all of them the



A COMING OF AGE n

same welcome and the same earnest good wishes for all
blessings, temporal and eternal, which they were now
heartily tendering to himself. Quite an excellent little
speech ; and when the bishop had finished, the men rose
and raised their glasses ; there were murmured cries of
"Sidney! Sidney!" "Hume! Hume! Good luck to
you ! " and the like. It may have been a mere coincidence,
or it may have been one of the artful wiles of the founder
of the feast, but at this moment the band interposed with
' Come fye let us a' to the bridal ! '

Then young Hume got up. It was an awkward position ;
but he bore himself modestly, and that bespoke favour.
His words, indeed, were few thanks for their presence
and their good wishes, and so forth ; but it was thus he
wound up :

"His lordship has been good enough to hint of another
occasion when I might be able to present to you a helpmeet
and companion a sweetheart, I suppose. But, ladies and
gentlemen, I have already chosen my sweetheart. And I
dare say every one thinks that his sweetheart is the incom-
parable one of all the world in beauty, and kindness, and
accomplishments, and tried affection. At least that is my
case -"

" Goodness me ! " said the flaxen-haired young lady to
her American acquaintance. " Is he going to announce his
engagement ? "

"That is my case," young Hume continued. "And I
cannot do better, ladies and gentlemen, than ask you to be
so very kind as to drink her health."

He raised his glass and bowed low to his mother. It
was simply, and naturally, and gracefully done ; and it was
a great success much clapping of hands ensuing ; while as
for Mrs. Hume, though she exclaimed " The rascal ! " she
was immensely delighted ; she blushed and laughed like a
school-girl at sight of those upraised glasses ; and demanded
of the bishop what should be done to a boy that thus made
a fool of his old mother



12 THE HANDSOME HUMES

" Bravo, Sidney ! " cried a brother-in-law, who had the
look of an M. F. H. about him. " If you stick to them
sentiments, you'll save yourself a heap of trouble in this
world."

And the nervous little bishop laughed and applauded too,
and was quite proud of his share in the impromptu per-
formance ; he said if he had been told beforehand he could
not more conclusively have elicited an opinion which did so
much honour to both mother and son.

And in due course of time the long and merry evening
came to an end ; and when the guests, in various groups,
had bidden good-bye to their hostess, and were proceeding
to take their departure, Sidney Hume went along to the
outer hall to see them off. Thither also, as soon as the
room was finally cleared, wandered Mrs. Hume and Lady
Helen, the former with her hand placed affectionately
within the arm of the latter ; and there these two remained
as spectators, watching the carriages come up and drive
away. Accordingly, when the young man had fulfilled his
duty and was returning through the hall, he found the two
ladies awaiting him.

" Sidney," said his mother, in her gaily masterful way,
" we want you. Helen is coming up to my room to have
a little private confabulation over the events of the evening,
and you must come too, and get us something in the way
of a night-cap, you know, for the sake of our nerves."

" Very well, mother," he said, obediently ; and he followed
them up the staircase and along the corridor, until they
had arrived at Mrs. Hume's sitting-room.

But no sooner were they within this warm and cheerfully
lit apartment, than it became clear that Mrs. Hume was
herself going to be responsible for the snugness and comfort
of this little family party if so it might be regarded. She
rang the bell and ordered coffee. She went to a sideboard



Online LibraryWilliam BlackThe handsome Humes → online text (page 1 of 28)