|Chapter Title||MAULERVIER'S HUMBLE FRIEND.|
|Newspaper Title||Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)|
|Trove Title||Phantom Fortune|
MAULERVTER'S HUMBLE FRIEND. I
That faint interest which Lady Lesbia had felt in the ' advent of a stranger, dwindled to nothing after Mr. Ham- mond's frank avowal of his insignificance. At the very beginning of her career, with the world waiting to be con- quered by her, a high-born beauty could not be expected to
feel any interest in nobodies. Lesbia shook hands with her brother, honoured the stranger with a stately bend of her beautiful throat, and then withdrew herself from their society altogether as it were, and began to explore her basket of crewels, at a distant table, by the soft light of a shaded lamp, while Maulevrier answered his grandmother's ques- tions, and Mary stood watching him, hanging on his words, as if unconscious of any other presence.
Mr. Hammond went over to the window, and looked out at the. view. The moon was rising above the amphitheatre of hills, and her1 rays were silvering the placid bosom of the lake. Lights were dotted here and there about the valley, telling of village life. The lighted hotel yonder sparkled with its many windows, like a castle in a fairy tale. The stranger had looked upon many a grander scene, but on none more lovely. It was lake and mountain in little, without the snow peaks and awful inaccessible regions of solitude and peril ; homely hills that one might climb, placid English vales in which English poets have lived and died.
" Hammond and I mean to spend a month or six weeks with you if you can make us comfortable," said Maulevrier.
" I am delighted to hear that you can contemplate staying a month anywhere," replied her ladyship. " Your usual habits are as restless as if your life were a disease. It shall not be my fault if you and Mr. Hammond are uncom-
fortable at Fellside."
There was courtesy, but not cordiality in the reply. If Mr. Hammond was a sensitive man, touchingly conscious of his
own obscurity, he must have felt that he was not wanted at . Fellside, that he was an excrescene, matter in the wrong place.
Nobody had preseuted the strauger to Lady Mary. It never entered into Maulevrier's mind to be ceremonious about his sister Molly. She was so much a part of himself
that it seemed as if any one who knew him must needs . know her. Molly sat a little way from the window by which Mr. Hammond was standing, and looked at him doubtfully, wonderingly, with not altogether a friendly eye, as he stood with his profile turned to her and his eyes upon the landscape. She was inclined to be jealous of her bro- ther's friend, who would most likely deprive hör of much of that beloved society. Hitherto she had been Maulev- rier's chosen companion at Fellside-indeed, his sole com- panion after the dismissal of his tutor. Now this browu bearded stranger would usurp her privileges-those two young men would go roaming over the hills, fishing, otter hunting, going to distant wrestling matches without her. It was a hard thing, and she was prepared to detest the inter- loper. Even to-night she would be a loser by his presence. Under ordinary circumstances she would have gone to the dining room with Maulevrier, and sat by him and waited upon him as he ate. But she dared not intrude herself upon the meal when it was shared with a stranger.
She looked at John Hammond critically, eager to .find fault with his appearance; but unluckily for her present humour thëre was not much room for fault-finding.
He was tall, broad-shouldered, well-built. His enemies would hardly deny that he was good looking, nay, even handsome. The massive regular features were irreproach- able. Hè was more sunburnt than a gentleman ought to be, Mary thought. She told herself that his good looks were of a vulgar quality, like those of Charles Ford, the champion wrestler, whom she saw at the sports the other day. Why did Maulevrier pick up a companion who was evidently not of his own sphere. Hoydenish, plain-spoken frank, and affectionate as Mary Haselden was, she knew that she belonged to a race apart, that there were circles beneath circles below her own world, circles which hers could never touch ; and she supposed Mr. Hammond to be some wait from one of those nethermost worlds-a village doctor's son, perhaps, or even a tradesman's-sent to the University by some benevolent! busybody, and placed at a disadvantage ever afterwards, as hanging between two worlds, like Mahomet's coffin.
The lintier announced that Lord Maulevrier's was served. "Come along, Molly," said his lordship; "come and tell me about the terriers while I eat my dinner."
Mary hesitated, glanced doubtfully at her grandmother, who made no sigu, and then slipped out of the room, banging fondly on her brother's arm, and almost forgetting that there was any such person as Mr. Hammond in existence.
When these three were gone Lady Lesbia expressed her- self strougly ,upon Maulevrier's folly in bringing such a person as Mr. Hammond to Fellside.
"What are we to do with him, grandmamma?" she said, pettishly. " Is he to live with us, and be one of us, a person of whose belongings we know positively nothing, who owns that his people are common ?"
"My dear, he is your brother's friend, and we have the right to suppose he is a gentleman."
"Not on that account," said Lesbia, more sharply than her wont. " Didn't he make a friend, or almost a friend, of Jack Howell, the huntsman, and of Ford, the wrestler. I have no confidence in Maulevrier's ideas of fitness."
"We shall find out all about this Mr. Hamleigh, no,. Hammond, in a day or two," replied her ladyship, placidly ;. " and in the mean time we must tolerate him and be grateful to him if he reconciles Maulevrier to remaining at Fellside
for the next six weeks."
Lesbia was spent ; she did not consider Maulevrier's pre- sence at Fellside an unmitigated advantage, or, indeed, his presence auy where. They two were not sympathetic : Maulevrier made fun of his elder sister's stately perfections, chaffed her intolerably about the great man she was going to captivate in her first season, the great houses in which she was going to reign. Lesbia despised him for his neglect of all those opportunities of culture which had left him,
after the most orthodox and costly curriculum, almost as. ignorant as a ploughboy. She despised a man whose only delight was in horse and hound, gun, and fishing tackle. Molly would have cared very little for the guns or the fishing tackle perhaps in the abstract, but she cared for everything that interested Maulevrier, even to the bag full of rats which were let loose in the stable-yard sometimes for the education of a particularly game fox-terrier.
There was plenty of talk and laughter at the dinuer-table, while the Countess and Lady Leshia conversed gravely and languidly in the dimly-lighted drawing-room. The dinuer was excellent, and both travellers were ravenous. They had eaten nothing since breakfast, and had driven from Windermere on the top of the coach in the keen 'evening air. Wheu the sharp edge of appetite was blunted Maul- evrier begau to talk of his adventures since he and Molly had last met He had not been dissipating in London all the time-or, indeed, any great part of the time of his absence from Fellside ; but Molly had been left in Cimmerian darkness as to his proceedings. He never wrote a letter if he could possidly avoid doing so. If it became a vital necessity to him to communicate with any one he tele- graphed, or in his own language, wired to that person ; but to sit down at a desk and labour with pen and ink, was not within hi3 capacities or his views of his mission in life.
" If a fellow is to write letters he might as well be a clerk in au office," he said, "and sit on a high-legged stool."
Thus it happened that, when Maulevrier was away from Fellside, no fair chatelaine of the middle ages could be more ignorant of the movements or whereabout of her crusader knight, than Mary was of her brother's goings on. She could but pray for him with fond and faithful prayer, and wait and hope . for his return. And now he told her that things had gone badly with him at Epsom, and worse at Ascot, that he had been, as he expressed it, "Up a tree," and that he had gone off to the Black Forest directly the
Ascot week was over, and atèRippoldsan he had met his old 1 frieud aud fellow traveller, Hammond, and they had gone for a walking tour together among the homely villages, the watchmakers, the timber cutters, the prettp peasant girls. They had danced at fairs-and'shot at village sports-and had altogether enjoyed the thing. Hammond, who was something of an artist, had sketched a good deal. Maulevrier
had done nothing but smoke his German pipe and enjoy
" I was glad to find myself in a world where a horse was an excéption and not the rule," he said. ,
"Oh, how I should love to see the Black Forest," cried Mary, who knew the first part of Faust by heart, albeit she
j had never been told to read it, " the gnomes and the -,
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witches-der Freyschutz-all that is lovely. Of course yo
went up the Bracken."
" Of course,' answered Mr. Hammond ; " mephistophelt was our' valet de place, and we went up among a, company c witches riding on broomsticks."
This was the time first he had addressed himself directly t Mary, who sat close to her brother's side, and never too her eyes from his face, ready to pour out his wine, or t change his plate even, for the serving-men had been dis missed at the beginning of this unceremonious meal,
Mary looked at the stranger almost as superciliously a Lesbia might have done. She was not inclined to be f riendl
to her brother's friend.
" Do you read German ? " she inquired, with a touch c
"You had better ask him what language he does nc read or speak, " said her brother. "Hammond is an ad mirable Crichton, my dear "-(by the bye, who was ad mirable Crichton?)-"knows everything, can twist you little head the right way upon any subject.''
" Oh," thought Mary, "highly cultivated, is he?. Ver, proper in a man who was educated - on charity to hav worked his hardest at the University."
She was not prepared to.think very kindly of young me; who had been successful in their college career, since pop Maulevrier had made such a dismal failure of his, had bee gated and sent down, and ploughed, and had had every thin, ignominious done to him that could be done, which iguomin; had involved an expenditure of money that Lady Maulevrie moaned and lamented until this day. . Because lier brothe bad not been virtuous Mary grudged virtuous young mei their triumphs and their honours. Great, raw-boned fellows who have taken their degrees at Scotch Universities, corni to Oxford and Cambidge and sweep the board, Maulevrie had told her, when his own failures demanded explanation Perhaps this Mr? Hammond had graduated north of thi Tweed, and had come southward to rob the native. Man was not any more inclined to be civil to him because he wai a linguist. He had a pleasent manner, frauk and easy, i good voice, a cheery laugh. But she had not yet made ut her mind that he was a gentleman.
"If some benevolent old gentleman were to take a fancy t( Charles Ford, the wrestler, and send him to a Scotch Univer sity, I dare say he would turn out just as fiue a fellow," sh( thought, Ford being somewhat of a favourite as a local hero
The two young men went off to the billiard-room aftei they had dined. It was half-past ten by this time, and, o course, Mary did not go with them. She bade her brothel good night at the dining room door.
" Good night, Molly, be sure you are up early to show me the dogs," said Maulevrier, after an affectionate kiss.
" Good night, Lady Mary," said Mr. Hammond, holding out his hand, albeit she had no intention of shaking hands with him. ( . ?
She allowed her hand to rest for an instant in that strong, - friendly grasp. She had not risen to giving a couple oi
fingers to a person whom she considered her inferior, but she was inclined to shirk Mr. Hammond as rather a pre- suming person.
"Well, Jack, what do you think of my beauty sister ?': asked his lordship as he chose his cue from the well-filled
The lamps were lighted, the table uncovered and ready, Carambole in his place, albeit it was months since any player had entered the room. Everything which concerned Maulevrier's comfort or pleasure was done as if by magic at Fellside ; and Mary was the household fairy whose influence secured this happy state of things.
"Think, what can any man think except that she is as lovely as the finest of Reynold's portraits, as that Lady Di and Beauclerk of Colonel Aldridge's, or the Kitty Fisher, or any example you please to name of womanly loveliness."
" Glad to hear it," answered Maulevrier, chalking his cue; " can't say I admire her myself-not my style, don't you know. Too much of my Lady Di-too little of poor Kitty. But still, of course, it always pleases a fellow to know that his people are admired ; and L know that my grandmother has views, grand views," smiling down at his cue. "Shall I break ?" and Carambole, tapped gently, coaxingly, by Maulevrier's ball, came rolling at a measured pace down to baulk, accompanied by the white and stayed there.
"Thank you," said Mr. Hammond, beginning to play. " Matrimonial views, of course. Very natural that her ladyship should expect such a lovely creature to make a prent match. Is there no one in view? Has'these been no iuinily conclave-no secret treaty ? Is the young lady fancy
" Perfectly. She has beeu buried alive here - except parsons and a few decent people whom she is allowed to meet now and then at the houses about here, she has seen nothing of the world. My grandmother has kept Lesbia as close as a nun. She is not so fond of Molly, and that young person has wild ways of her own, and gives 'everybody the slip. By-the-by, how do you like my little Moll ?''
The adjective was hardly accurate about a young lady who measured five feet six, but Maulevrier had not yet grown out of the ideas belonging to that period when Mary was really his little sister, a girl of twelve, with long hair and short petticoats.
Mr. Hammond was-slow to reply. Mary had not made a very strong impression upon him. Dazzled by her sister's pure and classical beauty, he had no eyes for Mary's homelier charms. She seemed to him a frank, affectionate girl, not too well-mannered; and that was all he thought of her.
"Im afraid Lady Mary does not like me," he said, after his shot, which gave him time for reflection.
"Oh, Molly is rather farouche in her manners; never would train fine, don't you know. Her ladyship lectured till she was tired, and now Mary runs wild, and I suppose will be left at grass till six months -before her presentation, and then they'll put her on the pillar-reins a bit to give her a better mouth. Good shot, by Jove ! "
John Hammond. was used to his lordship's style of con- versation, and understood his friend at all times. Maulevrier was not an intellectual companion, and the distance was wide between the two men ; but his lordship's gaiety, good nature, and acuteness made amends for all shortcomings in culture. And then Mr. Hammond may have been one of those good Conservatives who do not expect very much in- tellectual power in an hereditary legislator.