What Dreams May Come by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Part II. The Discord.
Dartmouth had been at Rhyd-Alwyn two weeks, when Sir Iltyd turned to him one night as he was leaving the dining-room and asked him to follow him into the library for a few moments.
"I feel quite alarmed," said Harold to Weir, as the door closed behind her father. "Do you suppose he is going to tell me that I do not give satisfaction?"
"Harold!" exclaimed Weir, reprovingly, "I wish you would not talk as if you were a butler; you look much more dignified than you ever talk. You look like an English nobleman, and you talk like any ordinary young man about town."
"My dearest girl, would you have me a Sir Charles Grandison? The English nobleman of your imagination is the gentleman who perambulates the pages of Miss Burney's novels. The present species and the young man about town are synonymous animals."
"There you are again! You always make me laugh; I cannot help that; but I wish you would do yourself justice, nevertheless. You may not know it, but if you would only put on a ruff and satin doublet and hose and wig, and all the rest of it, you would look exactly like one of the courtiers of the court of Queen Elizabeth. You are a perfect type of the English aristocrat."
"My dear Lady Jane Grey, if you had been an American girl, you would have said a perfect gentleman, and I should never have spoken to you again. As a matter of fact, I always feel it a sort of sacrilege that I do not address you in blank verse; only my attempts thereat are so very bad. But it is never too late to mend. We will read Pope together, Shakespeare, and all the rest of the old boys. We will saturate our minds with their rhythm, and we will thereafter communicate in stately phrase and rolling periods."
"It would be a great deal better than slang and 'facetiousness,' as you call it. That is all very well for Lord Bective Hollington; it suits him; but you should aim at a higher standard."
Dartmouth, who was standing by the chimney-piece near the chair on which she was sitting, put his hand under her chin and raised her face, smiling quizzically as he did so.
"My dear child," he said, "you are too clever to fall into the common error of women, and idealize your lover. The tendency is a constituent part of the feminine nature, it is true. The average woman will idealize the old tweed coat on her lover's back. But your eyes are too clear for that sort of thing. I am a very ordinary young man, my dear. Becky is twice as clever--"
"He is not!" burst in Weir, indignantly. "A man who can do nothing but chaff and joke and talk witty nonsense!"
"If you knew him better you would know that under all that persiflage there is much depth of feeling and passion. I do not claim any unusual amount of intellectuality for him, but he has a wonderful supply of hard common-sense, and remarkably quick perceptions. And I have great respect for his judgment."
"That may be," said Weir, indifferently; "I care nothing about him." She rose and stood in front of him and leaned her elbows on his shoulders. "You may underrate yourself, if you like," she went on, "but I know that you are capable of accomplishing anything you wish, and of distinguishing yourself. I recall the conversations I have had with you in your serious moments, if you do not, and I expect you to be a great man yet."
Dartmouth flung his cigar impatiently into the fire. "My dear girl, my grandmother preached that same thing to me from the day I was old enough to reason, to the day she died. But I tell you, Weir, I have not got it in me. I have the ambition and the desire--yes; but no marked ability of any sort. Some day, when we are ready to settle down, I will write, and publish what I write. Men will grant me a certain standing as a thinker, I believe, and perhaps they will also give me credit for a certain nice use of words; I have made a study of literary style all my life. But that is the most I shall ever attain. I am not a man of any genius or originality, and you may as well make up your mind to the inevitable at once."
"Harold," said Weir, without taking the slightest notice of his outburst, "do you remember that extraordinary experience of yours that night in Paris? I believe you have the soul of a poet in you, only as yet your brain hasn't got it under control. Did you ever read the life of Alfieri? He experienced the same desire to write, over and over again, but could accomplish nothing until after he was thirty. Disraeli illustrated his struggles for speech in 'Contarini Fleming' most graphically, you remember."
"Neither Alfieri nor Contarini Fleming ever had any such experience as mine. Their impulse to write was not only a mental concept as well as a spiritual longing, but it was abiding. I never really experienced a desire to write poetry except on that night. I have occasionally wished that I had the ability, but common-sense withheld me from brooding over the impossible. The experience of that night is one which can be explained by no ordinary methods. I can make nothing of it, and for that reason I prefer not to speak of it. I abominate mysteries."
"Well," she said, "some day I believe it will be explained. I believe it was nothing more than an extraordinarily strong impulse to write, and that you exaggerate it into the supernatural as you look back upon it. I did not think so when you first told me; you were so dramatic that you carried me off my feet, and I was an actor in the scene. But that is the way I look at it now, and I believe I am correct."
"It may be," said Dartmouth, moodily, "but I hope it won't affect me that way again, that is all." He caught her suddenly to him and kissed her. "Let us be contented as we are," he said. "Ambition is love's worst enemy. Geniuses do not make their wives happy."
"They do when their wives understand and are in absolute sympathy with them," she said, returning his caress; "and that I should always be with you. But do not imagine that I am in love with the idea of your being a famous man. I care nothing for fame in itself. It is only that I believe you to be capable of great things, and that you would be happier if they were developed."
"Well, well," he said, laughing; "have your own way, as you will in spite of me. If ever the divine fire lays me in ashes, you may triumph in your predictions. But I must go and interview your father; I have kept him waiting too long already."
They went out into the hall, and Dartmouth left her there and went to the library. Sir Iltyd was sitting before a large table, reading by the light of a student's lamp, which looked like an anachronism in the lofty, ancient room. He closed his book as Dartmouth entered, and rising, waved his hand toward a chair on the other side of the table.
"Will you sit down?" he said; "I should like to have a little talk with you."
Dartmouth obeyed, and waited for the old gentleman to introduce the subject. Sir Iltyd continued in a moment, taking up a small book and bringing it down lengthwise on the desk at regular intervals while he spoke:
"Of course, you must know, Harold, that it has not taken me two weeks to discover my personal feelings toward you. I should have liked or disliked you on the first evening we met, and, as a matter of fact, my sensations towards you have undergone no change since that night. If it had happened that I disliked you, I should not have allowed the fact to bias my judgment as to whether or not you were a suitable husband for my daughter, but it would not have taken me two weeks to make up my mind. As it is I have merely delayed my consent as an unnecessary formality; but perhaps the time has come to say in so many words that I shall be very glad to give my daughter to you."
"Thank you," said Dartmouth. The words sounded rather bald, but it was an unusual situation, and he did not know exactly what to say. Something more was evidently expected of him, however, and he plunged in recklessly: "I am sure I need not say that I am highly honored by your regard and your confidence, nor protest that you will never regret it. To tell you that I loved Weir with all my heart would be trite, and perhaps it is also unnecessary to add that I am not a man of 'veering passions'--that is, of course when my heart is engaged as well."
Sir Iltyd smiled. "I should imagine that the last clause was added advisedly. I was a man of the world myself in my young days, and I recognize one in you. Judging from your physiognomy and general personality I should say that you have loved a good many women, and have lived in the widest sense of the word."
"Well--yes," admitted Dartmouth, with a laugh. "That sort of thing leaves a man's heart untouched, however."
"It may, and I am willing to believe that you have given your heart to Weir for good and all."
"I think I have," said Dartmouth.
And then the question of settlements was broached, and when it had been satisfactorily arranged, Dartmouth lingered a few moments longer in conversation with his host, and then rose to go. Sir Iltyd rose also and walked with him to the door.
"Do you mind our being married in a month?" asked Dartmouth, as they crossed the room. "That will give Weir all the time she wants, and we should like to spend the spring in Rome."
"Very well; let it be in a month. I cannot see that the date is of any importance; only do not forget me in the summer."
"Oh, no," said Dartmouth; "we expect you to harbor us off and on all the year around."
And then Sir Iltyd opened the door and bowed with his old-time courtier-like dignity, and Dartmouth passed out and into the hall.