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Still, on the sudden demise of his son-in-law, it was wonderful the large amount of discount that he got out of the transaction. His favourite and often-quoted domestic sank into the second place beside “the death of my son-in-law," the "great blow we have all sustained," &c. The worst was, the very nature of the distinction cut him off from all public opportunity of celebrating it. He could not dine out, or have people to dine ; and yet without these occasions how was he to impress on the public the splendour of the loss he had sustained ? He might pay visits, but that would be scarcely decent; and very few came to visit him. Still he could make his servants exhibit the most poignant and conspicuous grief; and the London tailor fitted Miller, who had driven the Duke, with an inky garment, that seemed to shine and reflect all things with the glassiness of a deep well, and hung about him with festoons and hawsers of a sepulchral cordage. But the quiet contempt of the wearer, his sarcastic smile as he appeared in these sables, was a perfect protest, and undid the whole effect.
If Mr. Hardman could have set up a hatchment on the face of his house, he would have done so; but even the undertaker, whom he consulted, said they could scarcely go so far as that. He would not even have objected to the expense and trouble of “bringing the body over,” and some faint notion crossed his mind of consulting some of the late Colonel's noble relations on the matter ; but he shrank from the cold snubbing which he had instinct enough to perceive would be in store for him.
Of the “bereaved widow," as he delighted in styling her, "my daughter, Mrs. Labouchere—her husband carried off suddenly—a most unfortunate business, sir,”—he, strange to say, heard little. She barely deigned to communicate her movements to him. She went to a small French port by herself, and remained there. Those who saw her privately—and no better judge than her own maid that had “gone out” and returned with her - bore testimony to her strong grief and desolation after the husband she had lost. With all the hard crystallization that had grown round her heart in that household—the damp, unwholesome, graveyard fungi, which had so unhealthily crept over her soul in defiance of hier struggles-she had learned to appreciate the honest, elderly devotion of the man who had chosen her; and his death had been a great shock. Their past life had been pleasant, though disturbed by a few storms ; but it was when he was gone that she discovered that she could, as time went on, have been supremely happy with him, had fate allowed ; and this deprivation she somehow associated with those who had thwarted and mortified her. As her liking for him grew and opened, she
seemed to hold the idea that something was “between them "—that those who disliked her had inspired him with the idea that she was not his equal in rank and refinement-a something which, if removed, their happiness would have been great. On his death-bed he thanked her in his chivalrous, high-bred way. “If I had lived, dearest,” he said, “I could have shown you what I thought of the great honour you did me; and if I had been allowed to live, I would have tried to prove it : still you have been the best of wives, and if I had had time I would have understood you
better. A good deai," he added, with his soft,good-natured smile, “was done to prevent me from understanding you—indeed, to keep me from you for ever; but, thank God, that did not succeed. I never believed that story, dearest, though ample proof was offered.”
“What they said about what took place in Ireland—”
“Not a word of it! not a word! Not if they had sent me a dozen more letters. I tore them up, and never read beyond the line where their calumny began.”
“I know that. I believe it. Oh, if we had but time, the best refutation would be my life, and the love it would show for
I could tell you her name who wrote these falsehoods to you."
“Ah, women !” he said, smiling; "they catch at all weapons in these cases; and they are not so much to blame. It would be different with men. But you will know this, dearest : they had no effect on me.”
“What, not in those first days when you possibly neglected me and looked down on us; and that woman's insidious hints and stories never came back to you; that loving a low rich man's daughter? You were too noble, dearest husband, to be conscious of it; but that was working in you—that was her work—and, oh, if I but live, if I but get back to England--"
She spoke so sternly, coldly, and solemnly, that he half raised himself on his elbow to look at her.
“ What woman? Who is this?"
She saw the dangerous colour mounting on his cheek, and quietly floated the subject away, as one might a log in the water. Long months after it came drifting up to her as she stood at the strand. She had been expecting it wistfully, anxiously. What had restrained her was the rigorous decencies of widowhood. She must be sorrowful, secundum artem, before she could think of other things. That dismal quarantine of mourning must be put in, else she dare not mingle with her kind. Six, seven, eight months went by. Then surely she might “divert her thoughts." Then people began to tell her it was
“a duty to make an exertion.” She had another duty to her father ; she would go to him, who was glad now to welcome “ an honourable daughter,” like the wicked Sir Giles of the play. She would be a glory and an ornament for his household, like that Order of Merit, “the duke's coachman." She was coming at an awkward time, for "he was going to Bindley."
At last; for the first invitation had gone off like the misfire of a pistol. The lord had met with a severe domestic affliction, which obliged him to put off his party. Such a blow had not fallen on the low rich man in his life. It kept him awake for two or three nights—a malady about as unknown to him as tears; it made him fume and rage like a madman. The affliction being now happily softened, the invitation was renewed. The lord had clearly conveyed his wishes,—which Mr. Hardman was not slow to understand—that Mrs. Hardman should not attend the solemnities, though he had complied with the forms of society by seeming to press her to attend. This she herself understood.
Livy and her mother, floating down the pleasant but humdrum stream of their domestic life, were talking together one morning in that pleasant unanimity which made it almost like the musings of a single mind. There was the one usual subject, the Beauty : “how good he was getting ; how happy their life was and would be now! Indeed, there was now the long-promised, long-talked of foreign tour—a charming and happy trio going to see palaces and gardens and delightful towns, dining together at cafés, supping, sitting in the gardens, listening to the music. They might, indeed, now have holiday, and a handsome sum had been put by for the trip. It was in honour of Mrs. Talbot's birthday. “Indeed, dear," says Livy, as if to her sister, “indeed, Beauty deserves it. It is wonderful, his self denial, and goodness, and content with his life here. There is something noble in it, dear, is it not ? "
Livy would scarcely have made this statement on affidavit, but she wished to impress her mother, who smiled.
“Yes, dear; but it has cost us a deal of pains. However, we have got our pretty yacht in to port, dear, and may now enjoy ourselves on shore."
At that moment the yacht itself sailed in, the Beauty holding an open letter in his hand.
“Very nice, indeed, and very kind of them. A letter from the Bindleys. They have not forgotten me, you see.”
“What, Lord Bindley, Beauty dear? An invitation ?” “Yes. Many and many was the delightful week I spent there !
Some of the happiest days, and, by Jove! they made so much of me;" and he kept looking wistfully at the letter. " But that's all over now." “All over now? No, dear Beauty ; why should you
think that?" “Oh, there's such a fuss and pother made, as if a man couldn't put a few things into a portmanteau, and go and shoot for a few birds at a friend's house. They all do it. There's Magnay, with his six children, he's away half the year. There's Thomas, and a heap more. But I can't go without a fuss being made. It's very unfair."
He went out, and it was assumed that his last statement was quite correct; i.e. that he could not go without a fuss being made-in fact, could not go at all. But the gentle Livy, with brightening eyes, looked up at her mother.
"Poor Beauty! he deserves a holiday; he's been so good, and he seems to have set his heart on this. He used to like shooting so.”
“Go without me, dear,—without his wife or daughter ? It is quite unusual."
"Only for a few days," pleaded his daughter. “ Think, dear; it is pushing it too far. After all, as he says, 'other gentlemen do it, even the one with six children.”
" You don't know him, dear; you can't know what men are.”
“And after all, it is only three or four hours from here, so we can have him back at once, if you want him. He need only stay three or four days. Oh, let him go, do; and we shall have him back in time for your birthday."
The mother smiled. The Beauty, who had indeed given up his scheme as hopeless, was agreeably surprised to be told that he was given furlough. Not that he admitted that any one had power to prevent him ;- but he knew that so many difficulties would be thrown in his way as to make the expedition impossible. He could hardly believe his ears. More wonderful still, he was to go alone. Not that he allowed to himself for a moment that any one in that house had power to restrain his movements; but he had fallen so insensibly under the inflexible rules of the house
That day, to his amazement, he found that no objection was made to the little scheme; on the contrary, there was a universal enjoyment and delight through the house, as though a legacy had been left, or Papa or Tom was coming home. For with unselfish mothers, faithful worshippers of their lordly king of brutes—oftener the brute himself--this cheap pleasure comes the most welcome.
He was delighted-was like a boy sent home for a few days. He was the
whole morning over his gun. It would be dull enough but for that pastime—“Only a lot of men herded together.” “Never mind,” said the two ladies; “dear Beauty must try to enjoy himself.” There was then Mrs. Talbot's birthday drawing on; he was to be home for that. And within a couple of days he had gone away triumphant and happy, leaving them composed and complacently happy also. And he was to be back, positively, in the three days--by Saturday.
FESTIVITIES AT BINDLEY.
At Bindley, Lord and Lady Bindley were entertaining a distinguished circle of guests; though there was not at any period of the visit a circle ; for the house was vast and rambling, and the guests were nearly always scattered. Neither were these latter distinguished;" for they included a great many of those curiously obscure persons and people who are somehow necessary to the great and noble. “Hangers-on” would be too familiar a term; jackals would be offensive; and yet some such office they do fill. They are generally people of slender means, possibly of obscure birth, though that is not inquired into; but they are infinitely useful, work hard, and when not on the ground, which happens once or twice, make their absence felt.
Thus at Bindley there filled these offices “the Woods," wife and husband; she a bustling lady's-maid sort of woman, with a sharp manner; he a bushy yellow-whiskered man, who had got to know every one, who arranged everything at Bindley. Again, there were two Malcolm girls, who were fetched from some distance, and came with their aunt, and were believed to be a half-pay officer's daughters; and there was Mr. Bolton, who came from some strange garret about St. James's, but who pastured and browsed all the year round on the rich commons and lawns of “noblemen and gentlemen.” No one asked who he was. He had a grave and quiet sufficiency which carried him through, an assertion that seemed to repel inquiry, an air and carriage that is worth hundred pound notes.
Cork like, this gentleman always floated up to the surface among the best. How he lived no one knew, but he was always at the best houses. When Bindley, therefore, and other places, opened their gates for a fortnight's official visiting, all these useful supernumeraries received notice, much as a stage-manager would send round to his subjects. Indeed it was more like some of those amateur orchestral societies