Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Genre Fiction Project

Woman Against Woman, an electronic edition

by Florence Marryat [Marryat, Florence, 1837-1899]

date: [18--]
source publisher: Gall & Inglis
collection: Genre Fiction

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<< chapter 31 chapter 37 >>

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FOR when Raymond came to have another interview with him, he found that Mr. Northland promised to be very troublesome indeed. The physician who had been sent for, to see him during his absence, and who was a man of great repute in his profession, met Raymond as he entered the hotel and begged to speak with him in private. He said that Mr. Northland's was a very difficult case to decide upon at once; that he certainly thought himself that he had received some severe internal injuries, and he was surprised that he did not appear to suffer more pain. He should have advised the patient being kept in bed, and very quiet for the next few days, until something further had been ascertained relative to his condition; but that he was so positive on the subject of being moved, and appeared so excited at the prospect of a refusal, that he feared lest crossing his inclinations might be productive of more harm than good, and bring on the very symptoms it was most desirous to avoid—namely, inflammatory ones. The physician understood that Mr. Norreys was an intimate friend of Mr. Northland's, and about to accompany him to Brighton; would he guarantee that he should be placed under able medical advice directly he arrived there?

To which Raymond replied, "You mistake in thinking that I am a very intimate friend of Mr. Northland's; I know him, certainly, and I promised if he was moved to Brighton, to go with him; but I can guarantee nothing beyond that. He has his own friends down there, so doubtless he will have the best of advice and nursing, but it would be far preferable they should be telegraphed for, to come to him."

"Infinitely preferable," interposed the doctor; "in fact, I will not disguise from you, Mr. Norreys, that it may be the saving of his life; but Mr. Northland is so very self-willed and positive, that"——

But Raymond was beginning to see the risk which would attend his removal in a clearer light, and had little patience for what he considered a mere fancy.

| | 374

"Oh, that is all nonsense," he said, decisively, "I will speak to him myself;" and strode upstairs with the genuine conviction that a few words from him would bring Cousin Gus to reason. For after all, this going down to Brighton at the present moment, when his head and hands were so full of business, was a very inconvenient affair. He had not been able yet oven to inform his mother and sister of the deaths of Sir Archibald Norreys and his son. And as to the hope which had sprung up in his heart on first entertaining the proposition—the hope of seeing Rachel again, and of listening to her voice—what mattered it after all, since no good could possibly accrue from it? She was virtually dead and lost to him. No seeing her again, no hanging on the tones of her voice, could unmake her what she was, or render her capable of clearing herself again in his eyes. No! the inheritor of a title which had been claimed by a dozen generations, and the owner of Woolcombe Rise, must thenceforth live unmated, and die unblest; since no honours, or wealth, or wishes, could restore Rachel Norreys to the innocence he once believed that she possessed. And as the thought struck Raymond's heart, he felt how thankfully he could resign all and each, to be able to call one woman, for one day only, his faithful wife. But the alternative was not his to choose, and the knowledge did not make him more disposed to be lenient towards the apparently unreasonable desires of poor Gus Northland. It was all folly, it was nonsense; the proper thing to do was to telegraph for Mrs. Craven to come up to town; and the proper thing should be done. But when he entered the presence of his wounded friend, his thoughts took another turn. The soft brown eyes of poor Cousin Gus were looking so much more anxious than obstinate, his manner was so excited, and his face so flushed, that Raymond felt that if mischief had not already commenced, a very little opposition would be the means of making it do so; and he scarcely liked the responsibility thus thrust upon his hands. Still he attempted to act up to the determination with which he had entered the room, as he drew a chair beside the invalid's couch, and said, "Well, how are you now, Mr. Northland? all the better for being quiet, I dare say."

"I'm keeping up pretty well," was the reply, "but | | 375 deucedly anxious to start. What a time you've been, Norreys! Four hours! When does the next train go to Brighton?"

"I couldn't have returned sooner, or I would have done so," replied Raymond. "But are you quite determined still to go on to Brighton? A man is generally a good deal shaken, you know, by an accident of this sort; and the doctor so strongly advises your being kept quiet—indeed, they said the same at the railway station. Suppose I telegraph for Mrs. Craven to come up here and see you? That would amount to the same thing, wouldn't it?"

But the sick man's look of anxiety, lest the proposal should be carried into effect, increased to one of positive dread as Raymond rose from his seat, as if with the intention of executing his purpose.

"Stay, Norreys!" he exclaimed, grasping his arm; "no, it wouldn't do at all! You haven't done it already, have you?" and then, as Raymond did not immediately deny the charge, he added, "If you have, I'll send another to stop her—I will, if I go to the station myself to do it. I'll go down to Brighton alone; I don't want any one's aid. I'll——"

"Pray compose yourself," interrupted Raymond, surprised at this burst of excitement on the part of supine Cousin Gus; "I have done nothing of the kind, nor do I intend to do so without your knowledge. I only want to persuade you to be advised for the best; travelling so soon may make you worse."

"Pooh! pooh!" said Gus Northland in return, "it wont make me any worse; I tell you I suffer scarcely any pain—I have said so all along, haven't I? and I must go to Brighton to-night."

"You may pooh-pooh the matter as much as you please," replied Raymond, irritated at the other's perversity, "but I have set the risk you will run before you, and if, after that, you suffer for your own obstinacy, do not blame me."

"I shall blame no one," said Mr. Northland, "but if you wont take me down, I must go alone. Why, my own doctor, Sherard, lives there. We always have him up to Craven Court when any one's ill—we do, Norreys; and what folly | | 376 it would be in me not to go to him when I have the opportunity. Besides, I don't want any doctor; its a mere bruise I've received, that brown paper and vinegar will cure; and—you will take me there, Norreys, wont you? I particularly wish to go, I do indeed!"

And his tone of authority sank into one of Utter beseeching, as he put his feverish hand info Raymond's and made his last request. As he did so, the latter started to find how hot and dry it was, and felt, with the physician, that further parley would perhaps only make the patient much worse; and so he soothed him with a promise, and left him to ascertain how soon the train could take them to Brighton.

"It's of no use," he said, as he thrust a double fee into the physician's hand; "he is bent upon going, and even persuasion seems to agitate him;besides, he continues to insist that he feels scarcely any pain."

The doctor shook his head.

"I cannot understand that," he said; "however, it is one of those cases, Mr. Norreys, where the mind is evidently strongly working upon the body,and the only thin to be done is to try and humour both. At the present time I can confidently say that emotion of any sort will do Mr. Northland more harm than even a shaking. Better take him on, then, as he desires, and get him into a bed and under good care as soon as possible, and he may not suffer much in consequence."

"I have your sanction, then, for his travelling?" said Raymond.

"Only because the alternative would probably be more hurtful to him," was the dubious reply; "of two evils choose the least."

And acting upon this advice, Raymond Norreys (having despatched a hasty telegram to tell his mother not to be alarmed at his absence) found himself an hour later journeying towards the sea, with Gus Northland stretched at full length on a mattress beside him. It was by this time seven or eight o'clock in the evening, and the only light in the railway carriage was that of the flickering oil-lamp,by which it was impossible to read. Raymond sat for some time after they had left London silent and absorbed, He did not feel | | 377 inclined to talk or make himself agreeable; he was too much annoyed at the continued obstinacy and selfishness of Mr. Northland in persisting to make this journey against the advice of those who knew better than himself. It was of a piece, so Raymond thought, with the rest of his foolish life—so incapable of directing himself—so averse to being led by others; and the reflection made him feel harsher, than he liked afterwards to remember, to the sufferer beside him. For as time went on, the oil-lamp—dim and uncertain as it was—yet showed the surrounding objects sufficiently clearly to enable him to note the changes which were passing over the face of Mr. Northland. When they first left the Waterloo Station, he had kept up the same appearance of unconcern and disregard to pain which had characterized him since his accident; but as the train rushed rapidly through the night air, leaving town after town behind it, it appeared as though he thought it no longer necessary to keep up the indifference which it was evident he did not feel; for by the undefined light of the oil-lamp, Raymond could see how much paler he was growing with every fresh mile they traversed, and how frequently his features twitched when the motion became rougher or more rapid; and once or twice during the long tunnels, which lie on the outskirts of Brighton, he fancied that he heard him groan.

"I am afraid, Northland, that you are feeling this shaking more than you choose to confess," Raymond said, when having passed through the last, he could once more depend upon making his voice heard; "but we are very near Brighton now, so I hope the worst of it is over."

The sick man unclosed his eyes, and smiled a ghastly smile at him.

"You're a good young fellow, Norreys," he said, faintly; "and I thought you were a clever one; but I've been sharper than you have to-day," and Cousin Gus tinkled a species of unmanly laugh, that was very unpleasant to listen to.

"How do you mean?" demanded Raymond, with curiosity.

"Why, with respect to myself," Mr. Northland replied. "I didn't think I was so good an actor. It's a pity I didn't take to the stage long ago, for I've been an idle fellow all my life. Why, my dear Norreys, I've cheated the doctors | | 378 and all of you: for if I had only confessed one-half of the pain I have suffered to-day, they would have strapped me to my bed before they would have let me travel down here—that they would, I assure you."

"You don't mean to tell me you are as bad as all that?" exclaimed Raymond, in alarm. "Good heavens! what may I not have to answer for?"

"Nothing! my dear Norreys; nothing! It isn't your fault. You're the best fellow I ever came across. I don't know what I should have done without you. For I must have come down to Brighton to-night anyway. You've been an immense comfort to me," and the sick man pressed his hand as he spoke.

"But what made you so positive about travelling, Northland, if you felt so ill?" persisted Raymond. "Mrs. Craven would have attended you in London, and the doctor, too, for that matter. It was very wrong, indeed, of you. You may have risked your life by the imprudence."

"No such great risk, if I have," replied the other, with the same sickly smile. "But I have urgent business here; and my great fear, from the moment I was hurt, was lest I should die before I settled it. Very important business, Norreys; and that must not be delayed; and you are the very man I could have wished to accompany me; for from the first moment that the falling carriages struck me here"—he continued, laying his hand upon his chest—" I felt that I was badly hurt. I did, Norreys, indeed. And I determined nothing should keep me from coming down here to-night. The doctors would have known it, too, if I had only told them the feelings I experienced, but I gave the lie to every question they put to me." And Cousin Gus feebly chuckled over the remembrance of his having outwitted the medical men. Utterly inactive and indifferent to passing events in his lifetime, he now appeared just as inert in the prospect of the death, Which he knew he had reason to fear was marching down upon him.

But Raymond was horrorstruck at his last avowal, and the part he had taken in his removal.

"You did very wrong—very wrong, indeed," he exclaimed, in his excitement. "I do not know what I shall say to Mrs. | | 379 Craven about it. And when she would have attended you so readily, too."

"Ah! so she would, God bless her!" said Gus Northland. "She's been always only too good to me; and it is on her business and yours that I desired to travel. Don't think twice about it, Norreys. Whatever happens would have happened anyway; and to tell you the truth, I've never thought I should get over it from the moment that it took place."

But the look of astonishment in Raymond Norreys' eyes, as Gus Northland alluded to the business which carried him to Brighton having some connexion with himself, could not fail to attract the other's notice.

"You are incredulous, Norreys, as to the possibility of my affairs having any reference to yours; but you'll be wiser an hour hence. Oh! these trains! how deucedly slow they are; shall we never be there?"

But even as he spoke the carriages halted for the inspection of tickets, and in another minute they had arrived at the station. Raymond lost no time in procuring as easy a conveyance as he could, and, at a foot's pace, proceeded with his charge to the Marine Parade. He was impatient to deliver him over to Mrs. Craven's keeping—impatient to learn what business on earth it could be having any reference to himself that had made Mr. Northland persist in his determination to travel to Brighton—doubly impatient, though he would not acknowledge it even to his own heart, to find himself once more in the presence of the wife whom he distrusted. When the vehicle stopped at its destination, Raymond's heart appeared to stop with it, and suddenly become lead in his bosom.

"Stay!" he exclaimed, eagerly, laying his hand upon Mr. Northland's arm. "Keep quiet for a minute. I must run up first and prepare them for your reception."

And having obtained the entrance (with a ring only) to Mrs. Craven's abode, he left his friend in the carriage, and walked upstairs to announce their unexpected arrival. Mrs. Craven, her son, and Rachel Norreys, were sitting alone in the drawing-room; for Cecil had only returned to Aldershot for the purpose of obtaining leave to spend a longer time with them. They were all so unhappy; there was so miserable a restraint between his mother and her guest, and so | | 380 great an anxiety on his own part to see the wretched mystery which had caused them all such pain cleared up, that he felt no relief except in being on the spot administering such comfort as he might to Rachel, in the prospect of everything coming right in the end, and urging Mrs. Craven, by every menus, but undisguised solicitations, to make herself and them happy as she best knew how. But although he had mooted the painful subject more than once to his mother, her cry continued to be, "Wait till Cousin Gus returns. I have written to him, Cecil, and he will soon be here—pray wait patiently (ask Rachel to wait patiently) until your cousin returns."

And now Cousin Gus had returned, was even at the door, though as yet they knew it not. In reality it was only a week since Rachel had left the Abbey Lodge; but counting by the length of the weary hours as they had dragged their slow course along for her, it might have been a month. She had hoped great things from Mrs. Craven's note to Raymond; surely, a third person telling him that she was convinced of her perfect innocence (the very mother of the man for whose sake her character had been aspersed) would weigh greatly with him in her favour (and although Rachel was too proud to acknowledge it, she would have resigned everything she possessed to hear him ask her forgiveness for the cruel suspicion he had entertained of her); but when his curt, cool answer came, she had lost that hope, and with it the little humility that she retained. She had nothing further to say to him, or for herself. Truth was not the slightest avail, and she possessed no other weapon; and notwithstanding Cecil's constant assurances that all would be cleared up eventually, she imagined from that moment, that for her, Life was over. And poor Major Craven's prospects were not of the brightest either. Lady Riversdale's letter, in which she affirmed that, unless this scandal was fully explained and done away with, she could no longer hear of his engagement with Lady Frances Morgan, still lay unanswered in his desk; to say nothing of a tiny secret note, blistered with tears, from the young lady herself, in which she implored her dearest Cecil only to "say it was not true, because notwithstanding what she had heard and seen whilst at the Court, she was ready to disbelieve it all, at one word from himself." But Major Craven as yet could not say that word, and, there- | | 381 fore, both ladies were kept in suspense because he was too proud to ask their sufferance of his inability to explain himself, and too honourable to satisfy their scruples at the cost of his given word. But if ever he cherished a feeling in his heart for Mrs. Craven that was not all that a son's should be towards a mother, it was during that long week of suspense and anxiety which preceded the arrival of poor Cousin Gus. Raymond Norreys stepped lightly up the stairs, and, unannounced, entered the drawing-room, wishing to take the party by surprise; and he certainly obtained his desire, for had a ghost stood amongst them suddenly, they could not have been more astonished. Cecil Craven, with a decanter of wine on the table before him, was carelessly turning over the papers of the day; his mother, employed in some fancy-work, was vainly attempting to divert her thoughts from the sad topic which engrossed them; whilst Rachel, sitting on a sofa by herself, away from the light and near the fire, was gazing into it—with clasped hands and knitted brow—as she tried to answer the question to herself, of why she had ever been born.

As the door suddenly opened, and her husband appeared in their midst, Mrs. Craven, thinking of nothing but immediate reconciliation between the two, sprung to her feet with an exclamation of blended surprise and pleasure; Cecil also, knowing that Raymond's suspicion of his wife, if not correct, was, under the circumstances, justifiable, was not unwilling to extend a welcome to him; Rachel alone, having uttered a faint cry as she recognised the figure which had now advanced into the centre of the room, stood for a few moments motionless and irresolute, and then sunk down again upon the sofa, whence she had risen.

But Raymond Norreys appeared to take no notice of any one there but Mrs. Craven, and with her he very slightly shook hands: as to Cecil, our hero looked at him as if his dark eyes would cut him through; and to that part of the room where Rachel was (although the loud beating of his heart told him she was there) he never even turned his head: glancing at the mistress of the house alone—speaking to her alone—he said hurriedly—

"I have to apologize for intruding amongst you, Mrs.Craven, but my visit here to-night is not from choice, but necessity; | | 382 I regret to say that—pray don't alarm yourself—Mr. Northland, whilst in the railway, met with a slight accident—or we trust it will prove so."

"Oh, good heavens!" exclaimed Mrs. Craven, clasping her hands, "he is killed."

"No, indeed he is not," quickly rejoined Raymond; "he is waiting below in the carriage, but as I was fearful you would be frightened if you saw him carried upstairs without any preparation, I ran up first to tell you of his accident."

"And you have brought him here, Mr. Norreys?" exclaimed Mrs. Craven, weeping. "Oh, how good of you—how can I ever thank you enough! Pray bring him upstairs at once; my poor Gustavus! Cecil, go with Mr. Norreys."

"Thank you, I require no aid," replied Raymond, haughtily, as he turned to descend the stairs again; "but you had better prepare the bed for his reception."

"Not a word to you, my love; not a look," exclaimed poor Mrs. Craven, sympathetically, as she turned to where Rachel stood, and embraced her trembling form.

"Never mind me—pray don't think of me," was the quick reply; "I neither need any notice nor wish it."

Oh, rebellious and sensitive heart! in reality aching for one glance to say it was forgiven and understood, how wonderfully it could disguise its deepest feelings at the call of its master passion—pride! But Mrs. Craven had no leisure for further pity or remonstrance, and by the time that the united efforts of Raymond Norreys and the coachman had conveyed Gus Northland, white and faint, to the top stair of the landing, she was ready waiting to direct their steps into a bedroom on that floor, and not until they had deposited their burden there, did she venture to obtrude herself upon the notice of the invalid.

"Oh, my dearest Gustavus!" she then said, sinking by the side of the bed, and giving way to a flood of tears as she noted the extreme pallor of his face, and the drawn expression of his features, which was very visible, now that he was brought into the bright candlelight. "How did this happen? are you much hurt? shall I send for Dr. Sherard?"

"Yes, certainly, send for the doctor at once, Mrs. Craven," said Raymond, taking upon himself to answer her last ques- | | 383 tion; "and if you. will give me his address, I will call on him on my return, for having deposited Mr. Northland into your safe keeping, my business here is over."

"Norreys," said Gus Northland, who had now partially recovered from the faintness occasioned by his being moved, "you mustn't go; you must stay."

"I cannot, indeed," said poor Raymond; "it is impossible; my business——"

"It must wait for mine," repeated Cousin Gus. "I came down here to-night with one purpose, and I wont be disappointed of it Margaret, my dear, where is Rachel?"

Raymond started to hear his wife named thus familiarly by one who was nearly a stranger to her; still more so, when Mrs. Craven, instead of appearing astonished like himself, only exclaimed—

"Not now, dear Gus; oh! not now—wait till you are stronger; to-morrow will do as well—it will be too much for you in your present state of weakness."

But Cousin Gus was determined.

"Now" he said emphatically; "at once. I feel weaker every moment, Margaret, and I may never be stronger. I came down here to-night for this only, and it shall be done! Fetch Rachel to me."

Then, Raymond, as in a dream, saw Mrs. Craven leave the room, and return with Rachel and her son; and still as in a dream, heard Mr. Northland—" Cousin Gus," the dependent relative who lived at Craven Court on sufferance—say in a distinct voice, as he folded his weak arms round her—

"Raymond Norreys, this is my daughter!"

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