- CHAPTER XIII TAMFORD CASTLE
|<< chapter 12||< chapter 1|
THE interval between the beginning of Beryl's engagement and the conclusion of it satisfied even Esther's almost insatiable appetite for misery. Day by day and week by week her tender heart was wellnigh wounded to death by the sight of Lord Westerham's infatuation for her cousin: and it really was an infatuation that possessed him—quite different from the deep and calm devotion which he had so lately experienced for Esther herself.
Although Esther had planned this engagement in her own mind, and worked for it with her own hands, she was a little surprised that Wilfred had fallen into her trap so easily. It was inconceivable to her that a love which was as obviously strong and sincere as Wilfred's had been for her, should so speedily prove itself transferable. She did not know men as did her sister, or as did the woman in Browning's poem, Any Wife to any Husband. She judged the opposite sex by her own: which is a fatal thing for any woman to do. She did not make the mistake—which many women similarly circumstanced would have made—of imagining that because Wilfred's love had been transferred so easily it had not been real love at all. The school of love had already taught her more than that. But she did make a mistake in thinking that it had been transferred at all. She did not understand that Wilfred had not taken away from her the thing which | | 172 she had refused, and had given it to Beryl; but that the thing which he had given to Beryl had never been hers—never could have been hers—at all.
It is perhaps impossible for any woman to understand with her heart, even though she may know it with her brain, that the love of a man is divisible—is separated into water-tight compartments, as it were—and so may be shared by two women at once—and yet be real and sincere in both cases. In a woman's love there are no water-tight compartments; she gives the whole of her heart at once, even though she may speedily take it back again; and to her it is impossible to be on with the new love before she is off with the old. It is an axiom that if she is in love with B, she can no longer be in love with A: one state of affairs precludes the other. It does not follow—be she made of slight elements—that she will not be in love with A again, as with C and D and E in turn; but she cannot be in love with any two of them at once: her heart is only licensed by Nature to carry one passenger at a time. But though it is true that there can never be two kings in Brentford, it by no means follows that there cannot be two queens. There can be, and—unfortunately for feminine peace of mind—there often are. And this is what no woman can thoroughly comprehend, nor consequently thoroughly pardon. It is incomprehensible to her that a man may love two different women at once, with two different sides of his nature, and without any conscious disloyalty to either of them.
The admiration that Beryl inspired in Westerham was totally different from anything that he had ever felt for Esther. It was too intense for happiness—too violent for comfort. In her presence he was so intoxicated by her beauty that he hardly knew what | | 173 he was doing: and in her absence he was so full of thoughts of her that he was equally irresponsible. For the time being she had completely turned his head.
While on the one hand Westerham's obvious infatuation was almost more than Esther could endure, on the other hand it brought her a strange species of comfort; for it proved to her that her immolation of herself had been no sacrifice of fools, but rather a thing which was intrinsically lawful and right; it showed her that she had been correct in her idea that youth should mate with youth, and that anything else was against the laws of Nature. Therefore she hugged her cross in the belief that it had saved Wilfred from a lifelong mistake: she pressed the thorns gladly into her own bosom, because they had enabled her to sprinkle Wilfred's path with flowers. The ineffable joy of the martyr pierced through the over-whelming misery of the woman; and the more intense her anguish at the sight of Wilfred's bliss, the more ecstatic was her delight at having been permitted to give it to him. As the mediæval nun, whom Wilfred said she had once been, kissed the scourge by which she lacerated her own flesh, so the Esther of to-day embraced the sword by which she had pierced her own soul: and this led her to augment her torture by inviting the bride-elect to stay at the Dower House during the time of her short engagement. Lady Westerham was only too pleased to acquiesce in this arrangement, as—like all typical mid-Victorian matrons—she delighted in the conventional fuss which is considered the proper prelude to an entry into the holy estate of matrimony.
As for the Duchess, she washed her hands of the whole affair, and accompanied her lord and master | | 174 to Tamford Castle for the hunting season. She had long ago acquired the two invaluable habits of submitting to the inevitable and of following the line of least resistance. Esther had made her bed and Esther must lie on it, and nothing that the Duchess now could do or say could prevent that bed—which might have been a bed of roses—from being instead a bed of thorns. Therefore the Duchess did and said nothing whatsoever.
But the Duchess's elder son was not so supine. He was much about the same age as Beryl, and the two had been brought up together almost like brother and sister. In the days when the house of Henderson was shielding poor Adelaide's motherless child from the tender mercies of her excellent, middle-class stepmother, the motherless child and the little Marquis of Tamford used to spend weeks and months together at the latter's various homes and at Wyvern's End. As the Duke's two sons had no sister, Beryl filled the vacant place, and the young Oldcastles treated her to the good comradeship and the unvarnished candour which they would have meted out to a sister of their own.
Therefore as soon as he heard of Beryl's engagement to Wilfred, Lord Tamford—who was on leave at Tamford Castle for some hunting—induced his mother to invite the lovers for a little visit, in order that he might sample the gentleman, and retail the results of this examination to the lady. There was no jealousy in his heart regarding the engagement: he was far too much of a brother for that; but he felt slightly annoyed with Beryl for having presumed to take so decisive a step without first consulting him; just as he would have felt annoyed with her a dozen years ago if she had bought a terrier or a guinea- | | 175 pig without first consulting him. Tamford had never really grown up any more than Beryl had: they both looked at life from very much the same standpoint as that from which they had regarded it ten years ago. Their experiences had naturally increased with the years, but not their powers of assimilating those experiences. Their happenings were the happenings of a man and a woman; but their outlook upon those happenings was the outlook of little children. Tamford would no more have hesitated to give Beryl his candid opinion of her future husband than he would have hesitated in the old days to give her his candid opinion of a new governess; and Beryl, on the other hand, was as ready to discuss Lord Westerham with Tamford as she used to be to discuss her dancing or her drawing masters.
Therefore, in accordance with the decrees of the young Marquis, Westerham and Beryl came together to Tamford Castle at the beginning of December.
This was Wilfred's first visit to the Duke's midland home, and he was impressed—as are all travellers who pass through the Black Country for the first time—with the marvellous and Inferno-like effects of that strange land as seen by night. To Beryl it was merely smoky and dirty, and the sooner she passed through it to the beautiful Mercian country on the other side the better she was pleased. But to Wilfred's more artistic eye there was a weird beauty in the sight of the blazing chimneys, with their clouds of smoke and their showers of sparks, standing out against the murky sky; and a strange fascination in the vision of the magnificently-built, half-naked Titans, whose huge arms manipulated the molten iron in the lurid glow of the great blast-furnaces.
And as Westerham gazed at the strange scene, he | | 176 felt that this wonderful land of iron was as beautiful in its way as the wooded hills and the hop-clad valleys of Kent. As the rustic beauty of the garden of England was typical of the rest and peace and repose which are found in the heart of Nature, so this wild country of coalfields and furnaces was typical of the vital force and energy which are found in the heart of Man. The one was the shrine of Rest; the other the shrine of Work: and who shall say that the one shrine is higher or holier than the other? True, the Gospel of Rest has comforted and sustained the toil-worn sons of men all along the two thousand weary years, since the promise "Ye shall find rest for your souls" was uttered. But the Gospel of Rest is not the last Word of the Divine Message, though it is the Word that helps us and comforts us in the days of our flesh. The Gospel of Rest is for the worn and weary: the Gospel of Work is for those that excel in strength: and in the great Apocalypse, which dimly foreshadows the glory that is yet to be, when this earth and its burdens shall have been burnt up as a scroll and no place found for them, we find no further Gospel of Rest: but we read of glorified beings who rest not day or night saying "Holy, holy, holy "; and of a City whereof the gates are never shut, for there is no night there.
"Yes; the final Gospel is the Gospel of Work, not the Gospel of Rest; just as the morning, not the night, is the completion of the day. But the sons of men have got out of their reckonings, and imagine that youth will be swallowed up in age, and morning will be blotted out by night, and death will be the end of life. This is only the language of earth: this is but the measure of a man. When God reckons time, He puts it all the other way. With Him, age | | 177 will be swallowed up in youth, work will follow after rest, life will be the end of death; and so the evening and the morning will be the first day of eternity.
While the sight of the Black Country brought its message to the heart of Lord Westerham, it brought nothing at all to the heart of his future wife. She simply hated it. It had frightened her as a child and it bored her as a woman; and if it had not been for the state and luxury of Tamford Castle on the other side, she would never have crossed the Mershire coalfields again. But Tamford Castle, and all that it stood for, meant a great deal in the life of Beryl Delaney.
As yet, however, Westerham was far too much in love with Beryl to be conscious of her limitations: so he endeavoured to convey to her—as he would have conveyed to Esther—some of the thoughts which his first sight of the Black Country awoke in his mind. And because she had acquired the art of listening graciously, even when she did not take the trouble to hear, he imagined that Beryl understood his ideas as Esther would have understood them. Such is the folly of a man!
It is true that when Beryl first appeared upon the scene Wilfred had recognized her as a mermaid with an unawakened soul; but that was before he was blinded by his love for her. He had still sufficient sanity left to remember his mermaid theory; but he believed that the sleeping soul was gradually awakening at his touch. As has been said before, there was a strong feminine vein in Westerham's mental constitution; and his love for and companionship with Esther strengthened that vein. But while his love for Esther stimulated the feminine side of his character, | | 178 his love for Beryl, on the contrary, stimulated only the masculine side: so that he was much less subtle, and much less discriminating in his judgment of women, since he fell in love with Beryl than he was before. Any woman—let alone the woman with whom he was infatuated—could have taken him in far more easily now than she could have done then: and Beryl took him in completely.
From the glare of the Black Country the train passed into the beautiful, moonlit scenery of the rural district lying to the north-west of the great coalfields: and then Westerham turned from the window of the railway-carriage, and took Beryl in his arms. Though love in the true sense of the word was a closed book to Miss Delaney, she understood the outward and visible signs of it considerably better than she understood conversations upon abstract and metaphysical subjects. When her lover talked about Work with a capital W, she was completely at sea; but when he kissed her, and told her how pretty she was, she felt, so to speak, her native rock once more beneath her fish's tail; and she again took up the siren's song which was wiling his very soul out of him.
"My darling," Westerham whispered, "how beautiful you look in those furs!"
Beryl responded to his caress with more warmth than she would have displayed had he mentioned anything less dear to her than her dress. "I am so glad you like them," she replied, nestling up to him.
"Esther and I chose them at the International Fur Company's the other day. They really are Aunt Cecilia's wedding-present to me; but she thought I might as well wear them just for this visit, as people are always so smart at the Castle."
Westerham laid his cheek against the dark sable, | | 179 which set off to such perfection the exquisite complexion that he loved.
"They are lovely," he said; "but not so lovely as the face above them." And Beryl was so pleased at his flattery that she gave him kiss for kiss, and strengthened him in his vain belief that the spirit within her was awakening, and that his little sea-maid was becoming a mortal woman and acquiring an immortal soul.
The lovers received a cheery welcome when they arrived at Tamford Castle; and what with her new furs and her satisfied ambitions, Beryl looked more beautiful than she had ever looked before. Lord Tamford described her to himself as "positively rippin' "; the Duke inwardly commended Westerham's choice and Esther's wisdom; and Wilfred was almost off his head with pride and happiness. But the Duchess saw otherwise. She was the last person to have her judgments set on one side by anything so skin-deep as physical beauty, and she was very fond of her sister: so she was greatly irritated with Beryl for looking so lovely, and with the men for so obviously noticing it.
There was not a large house-party—only a couple of Lord Tamford's brother-officers, and an odd girl or two thrown in to play with them—as the Duchess was far too angry with the lovers to have what she called a flourish of trumpets to announce their engagement and to render them homage under her roof. She had bidden them to the Castle because Tamford's wishes were law to her; but she marked her displeasure by inviting them to meet the poorest and smallest house-party that she could muster during the hunting season.
"I am furious with Westerham for falling in love with that tiresome little Beryl," she remarked to her | | 180 husband; "although it really isn't his fault that Esther refused him; just as Papa was furious with him for being the next heir, though it wasn't his fault that Uncle William and Algy died before Papa, either."
"I cannot altogether blame his taste in selecting Beryl," was the Duke's mild rejoinder.
The Duchess shrugged her shoulders. "Oh, that's simply because she is good-looking."
"Precisely so: that was my sole reason for commending Westerham's choice; and it is a good enough reason, too."
"Good enough for a man!" And there was a world of scorn in the Duchess's voice.
"Exactly: I never pretended to be anything else. Had I been, I should never have had the happiness of marrying you."
The evening passed off merrily enough in spite of the meagreness of the house-party. On this occasion her Grace's punishment fell flat. There were romps in the billiard-room, and hide-and-seek in the drawingroom, and pillow-fights on the grand staircase, before the entertainment came finally to a close; for the guests were young and in the highest of spirits. Beryl led the fun, as she generally did on such occasions; and her exuberant vitality and irresponsible gaiety made her contemporaries feel younger than usual, and her elders very old indeed. The Duchess was conscious of this, and remarked to her lord when the fun was at its height: "When Beryl is like this she always makes me feel so dreadfully old: I shall soon want railings round me, and leaden plasters all over me, as ancient trees have. Just tell me when you think my ivy wants clipping, or the mosses and lichen want scraping off my roof: otherwise my amiable expression will soon be as indecipherable as | | 181 the inscription on an old tombstone; and it will be very expensive to have it carved again!"
After a pause, which was filled with shouts of youthful mirth, her Grace rambled on: "On second thoughts I feel it would be best for you to dismiss my maid, and put me under the care of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Monuments. They'll keep me in repair, and prevent the public from carving their names on me, far better than Smallwood could. She is excel-lent at hairdressing and dressmaking; but she really knows nothing about repointing ancient walls or restoring ruined buildings."
Half an hour later the Duchess came once more to her husband's side: "I'm past preserving, Tammy: there is nothing for it but excavation, like Herculaneum and Pompeii and the buried cities of Mexico. Keep anything you fancy, and send the rest to the British Museum."
But the Duke only gurgled and patted his wife's shoulder. He had heard her on Beryl Delaney before.
The next day a southerly wind and a cloudy sky proclaimed it a hunting morning, and Beryl came down to breakfast in her riding habit, ready equipped for the day's sport. Westerham's leg was still rather stiff, and the doctors had advised him not to begin riding again until after Christmas: so he was looking forward to a day of Beryl's unalloyed society, while Tamford and the other young people were off after the hounds. Wilfred was far too much in love to enjoy mixed company: the roystering merriment of last night had bored him almost as much as it had bored the Duchess, and he longed to get Tamford and his friends out of the way, and his darling to himself.
Therefore it was with a pang of both wounded affec- | | 182 tion and acute disappointment that he saw Beryl come down to her breakfast ready dressed for hunting.
He had no opportunity of speaking to her privately during the meal, although he sat next to
He had no opportunity of speaking to her privately during the meal, although he sat next to her: the Duchess's second-rate house-party was young and happy enough to be boisterous even at breakfast, just as it was not yet old or weary enough to prefer that repast in its own respective rooms. But when the meal was over, he drew Beryl into the deep recess of one of the big bay-windows, and began: "I didn't know you meant to hunt while you were here, my darling: you never told me."
The sea-green eyes opened wide in surprise. "Why should I tell you? I thought you knew. What do you think people pay visits in December for except for the hunting?"
"I thought we came here so as to be together."
"To be together? What a funny idea! We were together at Wyvern. I thought we came here for a little change."
"Then didn't you know that the doctors won't let me hunt yet?" Westerham could not keep the pain he was suffering from sounding in his voice, but Beryl did not notice it.
The lovely green eyes looked more mystified than ever. "Of course I knew. You've talked of nothing else for the last fortnight! But I don't see what that has got to do with it." This was distinctly unjust: Westerham had talked very little about the effects of his accident, and had hardly grumbled at all: but Beryl was one of those people who shrink from everything and everybody connected with physical sickness and suffering, and who feel neither sympathy nor pity for bodily infirmities, but only irritation mingled with contempt.| | 183
"I thought perhaps you would stay at home with me, and let us have a long and happy day together."
"Oh, Westerham, what a ridiculous idea! And when Jocko has offered me such a splendid mount, too! Besides, we can only run after foxes in the winter, and you can run after me all the year round: so it would be against the laws of political economy to turn a hunting day (of which there are only a limited number) into a love-making day (of which there is an unending supply)."
"Very well, my darling, I hope you will enjoy yourself."
Beryl neither heard the regret in her lover's voice, nor would have heeded it if she had. "I am sure I shall: Jocko and I mean to lead the field. We used to do it last winter, and we mean to do it now."
Westerham's face was suddenly clouded over with anxiety. "My sweetheart, do take care of yourself, and don't be reckless. I shall be miserable with anxiety until I see you safe home again!"
"Now, Westerham, don't turn into a maiden aunt before your time: I couldn't stand it. I've no use for a maiden aunt—especially as a husband. If it is wrong for a man to marry his grandmother, I'm sure it is equally wrong for a woman to marry her maiden aunt; and that seems what I am going to do if you don't struggle against the tendency."
"Come, Berry, it's time to be off," shouted a fresh young voice; and Lord Tamford—looking the ideal, handsome, healthy, wholesome young Englishman that he was—in his pink coat and white breeches—bounced into the recess, and interrupted the lovers' tête-à-tête with no scruples whatsoever. "The motors are at the door, and I don't want to be late at the meet | | 184 as your little mare hates waiting about. Come on, there's a good girl!"
"Keep your hair on, I'm coming!" replied Miss Delaney, gathering her habit together, and rushing after the good-looking young soldier, leaving her lover and his remonstrances to take care of themselves.
About an hour later the Duchess spied this same disconsolate lover walking alone up and down the terrace, and trying in vain to solace his desolation with a cigar. Her Grace was in her husband's sanctum, whither he had called her in order to consult her about some improvements which the agent had suggested in a model village on the estate; and in order to discuss which the Duke had given up his day's hunting.
"Look at that idiot mooning about by himself and fretting after Beryl!" exclaimed the Duchess.
The Duke looked. "Prythee why so pale, fond lover?" he quoted.
The Duchess replied for the gentleman in question. "He is pale because the doctors won't let him take his game leg out riding yet, and Beryl has ridden to hounds without him. He'd have liked her to stay at home and moon about with him, and stroke his poorly leg."
"Delightful for him, but perhaps rather dull for Beryl!"
"If he expects Beryl to be tied by the leg—by his leg, I mean—as Esther would have been in the same circumstances, he'll soon find out his mistake," remarked the Duchess.
"Apparently he has found it out, and doesn't find the discovery exhilarating."
"Well, the sooner he gets used to it the better: Beryl will always be horrid to him when he is ill; and he had better make up his mind to that at once. It | | 185 is no good marrying a professional beauty and expecting her to make a good sick-nurse. You might just as well buy a diamond tiara and expect it to turn into a flannel petticoat!"
"Then you do not think our uncertain and coy little Beryl will make-up well for the part of the ministering angel?" said the Duke.
The Duchess shrugged her shoulders."Not she—
The Duke gurgled with marital appreciation of his wife's sally, then he said: "Well, just now, I wish you would come and look at the plans of these socalled artistic and picturesque cottages, and leave Westerham to bear the consequences of his own mistake, which I, by the way, do not consider a mistake at all, saving your presence."
The Duchess shook her forefinger at him. "Oh! Tammy, how can you say that when you know he ought to have married Esther?"
"Well, he tried to, didn't he, and failed? So now he is bearing the consequences of Esther's mistake, which—if you will allow me to say so—I do not consider a mistake either."
The Duchess groaned. "Oh, Tammy, you are the most brutal husband!"
"On the contrary, I am the most just brother-in-law: and now that I've met Westerham and Beryl together, and seen how tremendously in love with her he is, I more than ever commend Esther's wisdom in refusing him. I wouldn't for worlds say anything against Esther, and you know how greatly attached to her I am; but you must see for yourself, Nell, that | | 186 Beryl is a far more suitable wife for him than Esther could ever have been."
"I see nothing of the kind," retorted her Grace.
"Because you put the telescope to your blind eye when poor Beryl's good points are under discussion," replied the Duke.
"No, I don't. I haven't got a blind eye where Beryl is concerned: I leave that to you men."
"All right; even with our blind eyes we cannot go far wrong when we have such wives as you to keep us straight. And now do come and attend to these plans, or else the architect will be here, and I shall not know what to say to him."
And so the Duchess turned her attention from Lord Westerham to the cottages, and gave her husband—as was her custom—sound and sensible advice.
As far as the hunting-party was concerned, the day was a great success.
The meet was at Gunston Hall, a fine old Tudor manor-house, about five miles from the Castle; and when the ducal party arrived upon the ground they found an unusually large field already assembled. Beryl had always loved hunting; and as soon as she had sprung out of the motor, thrown off the fur-lined coat which covered her riding-habit, and been mounted on to the skittish little chestnut mare which Tamford had lent her for the occasion, she felt the excitement of the chase stirring in her pulses and sparkling in her eyes. Beryl Delaney was as keen in her physical perceptions as she was dull in her spiritual ones: the beauty of a landscape never appealed to her; the ecstasy of swift movement in the open air went to her head like wine. Surely all of us have experienced from time to time that exquisite sensation of physical well-being, which makes of health not merely a | | 187 passive absence of disease, but a source of active joy and gladness: when we long to run with outstretched arms to meet the wind which is blowing over the moorlands, or to steep our senses in the warmth of the sun-shine which is flooding the meadows with gold. To most people—after once their childhood is over—this feeling comes only occasionally; but to Beryl it came very often indeed; and it came to her with unusual force as she capered about on the skittish little mare, and looked at the gay scene around her.
It really was an inspiring and exhilarating sight, and also a typically English one. The morning was one of those mild winter ones, which are as beautiful in their way as the days of summer, with their marvellous effects of light and colour. The exquisite tracery of the leafless trees stood out against a soft grey sky broken by gleams of pale yellow sunshine; and the evergreens were green with that intense greenness which we never see except in what is called "a green winter." Behind the beautiful rose-colour of the old manor-house stretched the long low hills of the Midlands: those hills which are so low and so friendlv that they appear rather as gates than as barriers between us and the fairyland that lies beyond them. And in front of the manor-house there was collected that gay and motley crowd which we never see anywhere save at an English meet of hounds—that merry, cheerful gathering of riders and walkers, and pink coats and black coats, and men and horses, and carriages and motors, with the quivering tails of the pack of hounds twinkling merrily in their midst.
Beryl was a splendid horsewoman, and she and the chestnut mare were soon on excellent terms with one another. As Lord Tamford rode beside them he was bound to admit—even judging them with the candour | | 188 of a brother—that they made an exquisitely pretty pair.
Then they were off, Tamford, as usual, riding close behind the M.F.H., with Beryl at his side. The Master decided first to draw a spinney quite near to the manor-house, and there—to Beryl's great delight—they found. She never could bear a cover to be drawn blank, it seemed such a terrible waste of time; but luck was with the hunt this morning. The fox made for the stretch of open country lying in the opposite direction from the hills or the river, so that there was nothing to check his course or to spoil the scent: and then ensued one of the best runs of the season—a run of full fifty minutes before they killed in a field on the borders of Cannock Chase. Tamford and Beryl led the field, to the latter's great delight. The little chestnut took her fences like a bird, Tamford giving her a lead on his black hunter; and Beryl could have shouted for joy as they skimmed through the bracing midland air across open stretches of country.
"Firefly is in good trim to-day," remarked Tamford, as they stood at ease, watching the baying, rolling, roystering hounds demolishing the poor old fox.
Beryl patted the mare's neck. "She is a perfect darling, Tamford. Where did you get her?"
"I bought her from Silverhampton. Lady S. used to ride her till she began to put on weight; but when milady touched eleven stone, the little mare wasn't big enough for the place. So Silverhampton sold her to me."
"I think she is a perfect treasure. The way she takes her fences is a dream."| | 189
"I'll tell you what, Berry: I'll give her to you as a wedding present, if you like."
Beryl's eyes sparkled with delight. "Oh, Tamford! you are an angel—a perfect angel! I should simply adore to have her!"
"Then you shall: that's settled. She is really a lady's horse, and hardly up to my weight."
The joys of the day were not yet ended. They found again not long after the kill, and had another splendid run of three-quarters of an hour, this time in the direction of Tamford Castle. So that it was a very happy pair of young people who ambled home together along the lanes in the fading light of the short afternoon.
After they had talked over the day's sport, Lord Tamford remarked: "By the way, Berry, I'm glad to have sampled Westerham. I don't think you ought to have got engaged to him without askin' my opinion first; but all the same, I can't help ownin' that on the whole I think you might have done worse. He's really not half bad!"
It would never have occurred to Beryl to resent her cousin's patronizing manner. It was the way in which he had always dealt with her since their nursery days. "I'm awfully glad to hear you say that, Jocko: for my part, I think he's a bit stodgy and heavy in hand; but if you don't think he's bad, then I shan't mind him so much."
Tamford took this speech in the spirit in which it was uttered. It seemed to him most fitting that the future Lady Westerham should submit to his lordly judgment in this way. "Oh! he's stodgy enough, I don't deny that. But there are worse things in the world than stodge."| | 190
Beryl sighed."Stodge is all very well in its way, but it'll be a bit dull to be married to, don't you think, Jocko?" Lord Tamford was always called Jocko, because he had been christened George.
"Not at all, Beryl. Don't be fussy! It is in a husband that stodge is at its best. Home Influence and Family Prayers, and all that sort of thing on the stage, don't you know?—and no larkin' about in the slips in the intervals."
Beryl was greatly encouraged by this cheerful view of things. Tamford's opinions had always carried enormous weight with her."I'm really fond of him in a way," she admitted;"and, as you say, there is a sort of restfulness in having really good people at the back of you."
The mentor still cheered without inebriating."I don't mean to say that he's the sort that'll set the Thames on fire, or win the Derby or anythin' of that kind: slow and steady's the word. But he's a good sort, Mother says so, and it isn't easy to deceive her Goodness Graciousness." Her"Goodness Graciousness" was the Duchess's pet name in her family circle.
"He talks an awful lot," said Beryl, "and I haven't a notion what it is all about. But I say ' Yes,' and then count ten; and then say ' Yes ' again and count ten; and then say ' Yes' again and count ten; and that seems to pan out quite well and to please him."
"Oh, that's all right! I shouldn't bother about that if I were you. Husbands and wives never listen when they talk to each other, only when the other is talkin' to somebody else. And Mother likes his talk: she told me so; she says it makes her feel like Sunday afternoons at Stoneham Abbey." If Tamford was | | 191 Beryl's final Court of Appeal, his mother was Tamford's.
Beryl nodded her pretty head. "It is rather Sunday afternoon-ish: makes one sleepy, don't you know?"
"And you'll have a rippin' time at Wyvern's End: it's a regular top-hole place. I was tremendously pleased when I heard you were goin' there for good. It'll be just the thing for you, and we'll have Al times together when you get there."
"Yes, I adore the idea of living at Wyvern's End. And I'm sure that Wilfred will make a thoroughly kind husband, even if he is a little dull. You can't have everything!"
"Of course you can't," replied Tamford in his most elderly-brother manner; "and to tell you the truth, Berry, I think that what with bein' so good-lookin' and always havin' your own way, you're gettin' a bit top-heavy, don't you know?—expectin' to get more juice out of an orange than there is in it. The fact is, you don't see as much of Archie and me as you used to, and it's tellin' on you."
Beryl laughed good-humouredly. "Good for you, Jocko! You and Archie always keep me humble."
"Humble! Not much! Not takin' any to-day, thank you! No, my dear girl, we can't keep you humble: that's too big a job even for Archie and me. But we do keep you less top-heavy than you would be without our refinin' influence."
Beryl went calmly on as if her cousin had never spoken. "And it's a great relief to my mind that you don't think Westerham's so bad after all. I do hope Archie will like him too."
"Archie will like who I tell him to like. I don't stand any nonsense from Master Archie! And I'll, tell you what, Berry: Westerham's the sort that'll | | 192 keep up the habits of Wyvern's End properly. He's a bit like the old boy used to be; and it's a rattlin' good sort, I can tell you, though apt to be a bit heavy on the chest at times." Though the Marquis did not honour his departed grandfather in the letter, he most certainly did in the spirit. "I say," he went on, "shall you ever forget the Sundays at Wyvern's End when we were kids—how the dear old boy used to jaw at us about the Bible and things of that kind from mornin' till night? And Foreign Missions—do you remember him when he got his second wind over Foreign Missions, and ran them for all he was worth? He was great then—he was simply immense!"
And the two young people continued their mutual reminiscences of still more youthful days until they turned into the great gates of the Castle, and cantered their tired horses gently across the park.END OF BOOK I
|<< chapter 12||< chapter 1|