“Popular! And what good does that do me? If I were dead to-morrow, who’d care, do you think? Although that doesn’t seem to me to be such a hard case as people say. Sure, I don’t want anyone to cry when I’m dead; but I’d like ’em to care for me a little while I’m living. If I’d been my own elder brother, now; or if I’d taken advantage of my opportunities, and made a good fortune, as I might have done——But ’twas one scrape after another I put my foot into. I did and said whatever came uppermost. And you’ll find, my dear boy, that it’s the foolish things that mostly do come uppermost.”
“It’s lucky that, amongst other foolish things, an imprudent marriage never rose to the surface,” said Algernon.
“Oh, but it did! Oh, devil a doubt about it!” The combined influence of memory and hot punch brought out Jack’s musical brogue
with unusual emphasis. “Only, there I couldn’t carry out my foolish intentions. It wasn’t the will that was wanting, my dear boy.”
“Providence looked after you on that occasion?”
“Providence or—or the other thing. Oh, I could tell you a love-story, only you’d be laughing at me.”
“Indeed, I would not laugh!”
“On my honour, I don’t know why you shouldn’t! I often enough have laughed at myself. She was the sweetest, gentlest, most delicate little creature!—Snowdrop I used to call her. And as for goodness, she was steeped in it. You felt goodness in the air wherever she was, just as you smell perfume all about when the hawthorns blossom in May. Ah! now to think of me talking in that way, and my head as smooth as a billiard-ball!”
“And—and how was it? Did your people interfere to prevent the match?”
“My people! Faith, they’d have screeched to be heard from here to there if I’d made her the Honourable Mrs. Jack Price, and contaminated the blood of the Prices of Mullingar. Did ye ever hear that my great-grandfather was a whisky distiller? Bedad, he was then! And I believe he manufactured good liquor, rest his soul! But I shouldn’t have cared for that, as ye may believe. But they got hold of her, and told her that I was a roving, unsteady sort of fellow; and that was true enough. And—and she married somebody else. The man she took wasn’t as good-looking as I was in those days. However, there’s no accounting for these things, you know. It’s fate, what? destiny! And she told me, in the pretty silver voice of hers, like a robin on a bough, that I had better forget her, and marry a lady in my own station, and live happy ever after. ‘Mary,’ said I, ‘if I don’t marry you I’ll marry no woman, gentle or simple.’ She didn’t believe me. And I don’t know that I quite believed myself. But so it turned out, you see, what? And so I was saved from a mésalliance, and from having, maybe, to bring up a numerous family on nothing a year; and the blood of the Prices of Mullingar is in a fine state of preservation, and Mary never became the Honourable Mrs. Jack Price. Honourable—bedad it’s the Honourable Jack Price she’d have made of me if she’d taken me; an honourabler Jack than I’ve been without her, I’m afraid! D’ye know, Errington, I believe on my soul that, if I had married Mary, and gone off with her to Canada, and built a log-house, and looked after my pigs and my ploughs, I’d have been a happy man. But there it is, a man never knows what is really best for him until it’s too late. We’ll hope there are compensations to come, what? Of all the dreary, cut-throat, blue-devilish syllables in the English language, I believe those words ‘too late’ are the ugliest. They make a fellow feel as if he was being strangled. So mind your p’s and q’s, my boy, and don’t throw away your chances whilst you’ve got ’em!”
And thus ended Jack Price’s sermon on worldly wisdom.
Minnie Bodkin had loyally tried to keep the promise she had given to the Methodist preacher respecting Rhoda Maxfield, but in so trying she had encountered many obstacles. In the first place, Rhoda, with all her gentleness, was not frank, and she opposed a passive resistance to all Minnie’s efforts to win her confidence on the subject of Algernon.
“It is like poking a little frightened animal out of its hole, trying to get anything from her!” said Minnie, impatiently.
Not that Rhoda’s reticence was wholly due to timidity. She knew instinctively that she was to be warned against giving her heart to Algernon Errington; that she should hear him blamed; or, at least, that the unreasonableness of trusting in his promises, or taking his boyish love-making in serious earnest, would be safely set forth by Miss Bodkin. Rhoda had not perceived any of the wise things which might be said against her attachment to Algernon in the beginning, but now she thought she perceived them all. And she was resolved, with a sort of timid obstinacy, not to listen to them.
“I’m sure Algy’s fond of me. And even if he has changed”—the supposition brought tears into her eyes as the words framed themselves in her mind—”I don’t want to have him spoken unkindly of.”
But, in truth, latterly her hopes had been out-weighing her fears. In most of his letters to his mother Algernon had spoken of her, and had sent her his love. He was making friends, and looking forward hopefully to getting some definite position. Even her father spoke well of Algernon now;—said how clever he was, and what grand acquaintance he was making, and how sure he would be to succeed. And once or twice her father had dropped a word which had set Rhoda’s heart beating, and made the colour rush into her face, for it seemed as if the old man had some idea of her love for Algy, and approved it! All these circumstances together made Minnie’s task of mentor a rather hopeless one.
And then Minnie herself, although, as has been said, loyally anxious to fulfil her promise to David Powell, began to think that he had overrated the importance of interfering with Rhoda’s love-story if love-story it were. Powell lived in a state of exalted and, perhaps, overstrained feeling, and attributed his own earnestness to slighter natures. Of course, on the side of worldly wisdom there was much to be said against Rhoda’s fancying herself engaged to Algernon Errington. There was much to be said; and yet Minnie did not feel quite sure that the idea was so preposterous as Powell had appeared to think it. True, Mrs. Errington was vain, and worldly, and ambitious for her son. True, Algernon was volatile, selfish, and little more than twenty years of age. But still there was one solid fact to be taken into account, which, Minnie thought, might be made to outweigh all the obstacles to a marriage between the two young people—the solid fact, namely, of old Maxfield’s money.
“If Algernon married a wife with a good dower, and if the wife were as pretty, as graceful, and as well-mannered as Rhoda, I do not suppose that anybody would concern himself particularly with her pedigree,” thought Minnie. “And even if any one did, that difficulty would not be insuperable, for I have no knowledge of Mrs. Errington, if within three months of the wedding she had not invented a genealogy, only second to her own, for her son’s wife, and persuaded herself of its genuineness into the bargain!”
As to those other convictions which would have made such a marriage horrible to David Powell, even had it been made with the hearty approval of all the godless world, Minnie did not share them. She did not believe that Rhoda’s character had any spiritual depth; and she thought it likely enough that she would be able to make Algernon happy, and to be happy as his wife. “Algy is not base, or cruel, or vicious,” she said to herself. “He has merely the faults of a spoiled child. A woman 长沙桑拿推荐 with more earnestness than Rhoda has would weary him; and a wiser woman might, in the long run, be wearied by him. She is pretty, and sufficiently intelligent to make a good audience, and so humble-minded that she would never be exacting, but would gratefully accept any scraps of kindness and affection which Algy might feel inclined to bestow on her. And that would react upon him, and make him bestow bigger scraps for the pleasure of being adored for his generosity.”
And there were times when she felt very angry with Rhoda;—Rhoda, who turned away from the better to choose the worse, and who was coldly insensible to the fact that Matthew Diamond was in love with her. Nay, had she been cognisant of the fact, she would, Minnie felt sure, have shrank away from the grave, clever gentleman who, as it was, could win nothing warmer from her than a sort of submissive endurance of his 长沙桑拿洗浴休闲会所 presence, and a humble acknowledgment that he was very kind to take notice of an ignorant little thing like her.
It was with strangely mingled feelings that Minnie, watching day by day from her sofa or easy-chair, perceived the girl’s utter indifference to Diamond. How much would Minnie have given for one of those rare sweet smiles to beam upon her, which were wasted on Rhoda’s pretty, shy, downcast face! How happy it would have made her to hear those clear, incisive tones lowered into soft indistinctness for her ears, as they so often were for Rhoda’s, who would look timid and tired, and answer, “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir,” until Minnie’s nervous sympathy with Diamond’s disappointment, and irritation against him for being disappointed, grew almost beyond her own control.
One May evening, when the cuckoo was sending his voice across the purling Whit from distant Pudcombe Woods, 长沙桑拿洗浴休闲中心 and the hyacinths in Minnie’s special flower-stand were pouring out their silent even-song in waves of perfume, five persons were sitting in Mrs. Bodkin’s drawing-room, the windows of which looked towards the west. They were listening to the cuckoo, and smelling
the sweet breath of the hyacinths, and gazing at the rosy sky, and dropping now and then a soft word, which seemed to enhance the sweetness and the silence of the room. The five persons were Minnie Bodkin, Rhoda Maxfield, Matthew Diamond, Mr. Warlock (the curate of St. Chad’s), and Miss Chubb. The latter was embroidering something in Berlin wools, as usual; but the peace of the place, and of the hour, seemed to have fallen on her, as on the rest, and she sat with her work in her lap, looking across the stand of hyacinths, very still and quiet.
The Reverend Peter also sat looking silently across the hyacinths, but it was at the owner. Minnie’s cheek rested on her thin 长沙桑拿休闲会所 white hand, and her lustrous eyes had a far-away look in them, as they gazed out towards Pudcombe Woods, where the cuckoo was calling his poet-loved syllables with a sweet, clear tone, that seemed to have gathered
all the spirit of the spring into one woodland voice.