« ElőzőTovább »
want to set my eyes on Château or Schloss again. I've no opinion of foreign parts, Mr. Craven. It's all very well to see them and know what they're like, for you are thought nothing of in your own country nowadays if you haven't travelled. But living in such places is another thing, quite, and I don't hold with it, Mr. Craven; no, I don't, Mr. Travis."
“ Have patience, Foster,” said Charlie, smiling kindly at the good old man, who was indeed “the life-long creature of the house;" we shall not be here always, you know; we shall go home to Cravenshaugh one of these days. You would not like to leave your mistress, Foster ?" “Now, Mr. Craven, you'll vex me if you speak of such a thing.
I go as long as she permits me. I know my duties, I hope, and the last time I ever spoke to my dear old master, your father, Master Charlie,--Mr. Craven, I mean—I do beg pardon; I keep forgetting that you're a gentleman growed and to be addressed as such.”
“I like · Master Charlie' very much the better, Foster. I am in no great hurry to throw off my boyhood, for I shall never have it again. But what was it you said to my father?”
“I just promised him, sir, always to keep with the mistress and to serve her faithfully and to the best of my ability.
my ability. Your poor pa, sir, was powerful fond of your ma ; they were more like lovers than married folk."
“I do not see why married people should cease to be lovers," said Charlie. “ When I am married, if I ever am, I mean to be a most devoted, lover-like husband."
“Of course you must marry, sir ; it's your duty to. The Cravens of Cravenshaugh must not die out; they are of too good and old 2 stock. Good descent bas its privileges, Master Charlie, but it bas also its responsibilities; only don't go for to fall in love with any German hussy that sets her frowsty cap at you-nasty Frowlines, as they call themselves. They're a nasty people these German". They smoke filthy tobacco, they spit, and drink bad beer like pigs swill wash, and they devour stinking cabbages and eat plum-sauce with horrible flesh of veal.”
“But the ladies do not smoke and spit, Foster. I daresay I could find a pretty girl who cares nothing for beer, and would not mind renouncing plum-sauce and sauer-keraut. I saw one the other day with eyes like forget-me-nots,” said Charlie, mischievously, and trying to look sentimental; "and the Frau her mamma was very anxious that I should go home with them to tea-an æsthetic tea of course."
“ The hussy now! Did she? But don't you go to none of their tas, Master Charlie ; they'll lay snares for you and perhaps catch
you before you are aware. Why, I used to know a young man in my own sphere of life, and he once kissed a young woman,-meaning nothing, promiscuous-like,—and he had to marry her, and wasn't she a nice handful, that's all! She was the death of him at last, poor fellow.”
"Serve him right,” said Charlie, “ for kissing a girl promiscuous-like.' What do you say, Hugh ? "
"I say nothing," I replied, listlessly. I had heard all their talk, but it did not interest me.
“Why, Mr. Travis," exclaimed Foster, suddenly, wheeling round to get a good look at me, “what's gone wrong with you? You look you
had seen a ghost!” “It is very hot weather, and I have been studying hard for one thing, and _"
“ You haven't been falling in love with one of them Frowlines I hope, sir ? Foreign jades never did a man any good yet.”
“Not I, indeed! The Frauleins do not trouble me, Foster; I have something else to attend to."
“Of course you have your lessons, but don't go and study yourself into your grave, Mr. Travis. A gentleman must have his learning, of course, but he needn't overdo it, and I should say you've been overdoing it considerable. You are thin and pale and look worrited, and I'll be bound you are off your feed and don't sleep at nights."
“It's a true bill," I said, with a forced laugh ; " I suppose I am not quite well, Foster. I hope Wanterfels will set me up again."
We had agreed, Craven and I, to say nothing till after dinner, and we kept to this resolve, though Mrs. Craven asked me more than once if anything were amiss. At last the meal was over; it had been rather a sumptuous one in honour of our arrival, and then Mrs. Craven gave some orders to Foster, who was in attendance, and he nodded his head approvingly and went away. A few minutes afterwards Mrs. Craven said, “I have told them to take the dessert into the garden and to serve our coffee there ; it will be pleasanter this warm, light evening.”
We ascended to one of the higher terraces, where some of the old fortifications of the ancient Schloss remained, and now, overgrown by tall trees, formed a delightful recess, which served as a summerhouse on an extended scale. There we found a table covered with fruits and light wines and Vanilla creams, which Charles always declared were his especial weakness. We all three sat on one side of the table, for Charles, like a child, nestled up to his mother at once; and she, after two or three caresses, extended her hand to me, saying, “ Come and sit on this other side, Hugh, then I shall have both my boys. Charlie will not be jealous, will you, Charlie ? ” " Well, really I don't know, mamma," said Charlie, pretending to look disconcerted; "you see when a fellow beholds his mother making much of another fellow it does rouse his spleen a little, especially if the one fellow is a spoilt child, as I am. The only thing that restrains my jealousy in fact, is the dread of my eyes,which are heavenly blue, I know,-turning green.”
“Fie, Charlie. Well, if you will be jealous you must, even if your eyes turn green, which I do not believe they will; I never yet heard of a Craven having green eyes. Hugb here looks poorly, and tired, and altogether out of sorts, and I am going to pet him accordingly. I am sure he wants a little care just now; he has been working too hard, I suspect. So take notice, Hugh Travis, I proclaim myself your mother—for want of a better—till you find your own.”
“She is found," I said, gravely. “Dear Mrs. Craven, none the less do I thank you for your goodness to me; none the less do I prize the affection you so generously bestow; but I know now who my own, my very own mother is.”
"Is this true ? I mean, are you assured of the fact ?” asked Mrs. Craven, regarding us both by turns.
“ Craven replied by telling her as literally as possible the story we had listened to on the top of the Rent Tower. When he had finished I said, “You see, there cannot possibly be any doubt about it."
“I think there cannot. Lady Dovercourt is as surely your mother as I am Charlie's. My poor boy, I can quite understand how all this has upset you. And yet, do you know, I am not surprised.”
“You guessed how it might be ?"
I never could quite understand the Marchioness's extreme affection for you; I fancied that perhaps in her girlhood she had loved your father, who had, nevertheless, preferred your mother, and that her heart being still tender to the memory of her early love, she had made you, so far as was compatible with circumstances, the son of her adoption. That you were really her own child I could not imagine, for I never heard any rumour of a previous marriage. It was always asserted that the Marquis married for his second wife a Miss Grahame from the north country, a girl just out of the school-room, and with no fortune, but of a good old Scotch or Border family. The marriage was generally regarded as a singular one; but I never heard any one so much as hint at a mésalliance. I do not think any one suspects that the Marquis married a widow.”
“He laid his plans too well,” I returned, bitterly; "I always
hated and distrusted that man; now I know why. But he shall learn that his miserable scheme has failed.”
“What do you purpose doing ? " asked Mrs. Craven, becoming suddenly more serious.
In truth I could not tell. I had a vague notion of rushing to the Marquis, wherever he might be, and upbraiding him with his cruel pride, which had so long interposed between a mother and her child. I said something to this effect, incoherently enough, but I made Mrs. Craven understand. She replied, “Let us talk this matter over, Hugh. I think when you come to consider it calmly and rationally, when you have asked God to guide you in all your actions, you will do nothing of the sort. There are two facts you must not forget,—the Marquis and the Marchioness are husband and wife; their interests cannot be separated ; if Lady Dovercourt is the mother of Captain Vassall's son, she is quite as certainly the mother of the Marquis's children. Also, she must have resigned you voluntarily, no force could have been used, no threats employed; she must have given you up, however reluctantly, of her own free will.
That is to say, she consented to terms, and she was evidently accessory to all consequent arrangements."
“What do you suppose the terms were?”
“They seem to me apparent enough ; let us look the truth in the face. The connection between herself and her child was to be totally and for all times severed, and her former marriage was to be practically annulled. She was to die to the past and begin a new life without any reference to that which was over, and you, whom she dreaded poverty, perhaps actual want, were to be provided for amply, liberally. This money you have spoken of as being your own was doubtless settled upon you before the marriage took place. It was the price of your mother's hand; she sacrificed herself for you."
“You feel sure it was a sacrifice ?"
“I feel quite sure of it; I know enough of Lady Dovercourt to be certain that she is quite free from any mere vulgar ambitions. She did not care for rank, or grandeur, or riches for herself, but she had not courage enough to brave privation and trial where you were concerned. She made a terrible mistake, as I believe, but remember she was very young ; she could not have been more than eighteen, and she had lived a lonely life. Perhaps, too, she had that morbid, excessive dread of extreme poverty to which some sensitive, delicately strung natures are liable ; she was quite a child, and had all a child's terror of the solitary, painful future that was to be her lot if she remained a widow. What she did she did for the best be assured, dear Travis."
“ That I am sure she did ; but, dear Mrs. Craven, knowing all
that I now know, am I never, never to hold her in my arms as often I have seen Charlie hold you-as my own dear and honoured mother?”
“Your own dear and honoured mother she must always be, but the more I think about the matter the more sure I am that you ought to do any violence to your own feelings rather than expose her to scenes that must necessarily be of a painful nature, rather than cause her one needless pang, rather than give her one anxious hour. The past-hers and yours-is irrevocable; nothing can alter it, nothing can blot out its memory; it would not be wise, it would not be kind, to let its sadness and its errors overshadow the present and the future.” “ But this money!
I cannot keep it; I cannot use it any more, Mrs. Craven-nay, I will not. I will not be a dependent on that detested man who came between me and my mother, who dared to hint that I was a base-born foundling."
“ Hugh, my dear boy, I shall speak to you as I should to Charlie. Do
you are talking a great deal of nonsense? Would you fling from you all the advantages which your mother purchased for you with better than her heart's blood ? for, Travis, you will understand some day that to a true, pure-hearted woman such as Lady Dovercourt is, and was, a marriage without affection must be infinitely worse than death. What it must have cost her to give herself to the Marquis I cannot imagine. How in all the anguish of her early widowhood, with her deep attachment to her husband's memory,-a memory that has never in the least faded, as her conversations with you prove,- with her passionate love for you, his child, she could perform such an act of self-devotion, is more than I can divine. Sball her sufferings have been in vain, Hugh? Shall the long years of martyrdom bave been for naught? Sball misery and conflict unspeakable come upon her a second time, and shall it be her son, the child for whose sake she has endured so patiently the bitterness of her loss, from whose careless hand the cruel blow shall come ?”
"If you only knew what a burden my wealth will be to me! How I shall envy some of my fellow-students who have not a thaler they can call their own, but who are free from obligation. Oh, I would far rather make shoes like Martin than I would be the protégé of a man whom I despise.”
“You are no protégé of his. Doubtless the money bargained for at the time, the whole sum which was to be yours, was settled on you inalienably in your infancy, before your mother would consent to go with the Marquis to the marriage-altar. Martin Wray appears to have been appointed your guardian, for your means seem always to have come from him ; but there must be some one