Frivolous Cupid by Anthony Hope
Chapter V. 'Twixt Will and Will Not.
I must confess at once that at first, at least, I very much admired the curate. I am not referring to my admiration of his fine figure--six feet high and straight as an arrow--nor of his handsome, open, ingenuous countenance, or his candid blue eye, or his thick curly hair. No; what won my heart from an early period of my visit to my cousins, the Poltons, of Poltons Park, was the fervent, undisguised, unashamed, confident, and altogether matter-of-course manner in which he made love to Miss Beatrice Queenborough, only daughter and heiress of the wealthy shipowner, Sir Wagstaff Queenborough, Bart., and Eleanor, his wife. It was purely the manner of the curate's advances that took my fancy; in the mere fact of them there was nothing remarkable. For all the men in the house (and a good many outside) made covert, stealthy, and indirect steps in the same direction; for Trix (as her friends called her) was, if not wise, at least pretty and witty, displaying to the material eye a charming figure, and to the mental a delicate heartlessness--both attributes which challenge a self-respecting man's best efforts. But then came the fatal obstacle. From heiresses in reason a gentleman need neither shrink nor let himself be driven; but when it comes to something like twenty thousand a year--the reported amount of Trix's dot--he distrusts his own motives almost as much as the lady's relatives distrust them for him. We all felt this--Stanton, Rippleby, and I; and, although I will not swear that we spoke no tender words and gave no meaning glances, yet we reduced such concessions to natural weakness to a minimum, not only when Lady Queenborough was by, but at all times. To say truth, we had no desire to see our scalps affixed to Miss Trix's pretty belt, nor to have our hearts broken (like that of the young man in the poem) before she went to Homburg in the autumn.
With the curate it was otherwise. He--Jack Ives, by the way, was his name--appeared to rush, not only upon his fate, but in the face of all possibility and of Lady Queenborough. My cousin and hostess, Dora Polton, was very much distressed about him. She said that he was such a nice young fellow, and that it was a great pity to see him preparing such unhappiness for himself. Nay, I happen to know that she spoke very seriously to Trix, pointing out the wickedness of trifling with him; whereupon Trix, who maintained a bowing acquaintance with her conscience, avoided him for a whole afternoon and endangered all Algy Stanton's prudent resolutions by taking him out in the Canadian canoe. This demonstration in no way perturbed the curate. He observed that, as there was nothing better to do, we might as well play billiards, and proceeded to defeat me in three games of a hundred up (no, it is quite immaterial whether we played for anything or not), after which he told Dora that the vicar was taking the evening service--it happened to be the day when there was one at the parish church--a piece of information only relevant in so far as it suggested that Mr. Ives could accept an invitation to dinner if one were proffered him. Dora, very weakly, rose to the bait. Jack Ives, airily remarking that there was no use in ceremony among friends, seized the place next to Trix at dinner (her mother was just opposite) and walked on the terrace after dinner with her in the moonlight. When the ladies retired he came into the smoking room, drank a whisky and soda, said that Miss Queenborough was really a very charming companion, and apologized for leaving us early, on the ground that his sermon was still unwritten. My good cousin, the squire, suggested rather grimly that a discourse on the vanity of human wishes might be appropriate.
"I shall preach," said Mr. Ives thoughtfully, "on the opportunities of wealth."
This resolution he carried out on the next day but one, that being a Sunday. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Miss Trix, and I watched her with some interest as Mr. Ives developed his theme. I will not try to reproduce the sermon, which would have seemed by no means a bad one had any of our party been able to ignore the personal application which we read into it; for its main burden was no other than this--that wealth should be used by those who were fortunate enough to possess it (here Trix looked down and fidgeted with her Prayer-book) as a means of promoting greater union between themselves and the less richly endowed, and not--as, alas! had too often been the case--as though it were a new barrier set up between them and their fellow-creatures (here Miss Trix blushed slightly, and had recourse to her smelling-bottle). "You," said the curate, waxing rhetorical as he addressed an imaginary, but bloated, capitalist, "have no more right to your money than I have. It is intrusted to you to be shared with me." At this point I heard Lady Queenborough sniff and Algy Stanton snigger. I stole a glance at Trix and detected a slight waver in the admirable lines of her mouth.
"A very good sermon, didn't you think?" I said to her, as we walked home.
"Oh, very!" she replied demurely.
"Ah, if we followed all we heard in church!" I sighed.
Miss Trix walked in silence for a few yards. By dint of never becoming anything else, we had become very good friends; and presently she remarked, quite confidentially:
"He's very silly, isn't he?"
"Then you ought to snub him," I said severely.
"So I do--sometimes. He's rather amusing, though."
"Of course, if you're prepared to make the sacrifice involved----"
"Oh, what nonsense!"
"Then you've no business to amuse yourself with him."
"Dear, dear! how moral you are!" said Trix.
The next development in the situation was this: My cousin Dora received a letter from the Marquis of Newhaven, with whom she was acquainted, praying her to allow him to run down to Poltons for a few days; he reminded her that she had once given him a general invitation; if it would not be inconvenient--and so forth. The meaning of this communication did not, of course, escape my cousin, who had witnessed the writer's attentions to Trix in the preceding season, nor did it escape the rest of us (who had talked over the said attentions at the club) when she told us about it, and announced that Lord Newhaven would arrive in the middle of the next day. Trix affected dense unconsciousness; her mother allowed herself a mysterious smile--which, however, speedily vanished when the curate (he was taking lunch with us) observed in a cheerful tone:
"Newhaven! Oh, I remember the chap at the House--plowed twice in Smalls--stumpy fellow, isn't he? Not a bad chap, though, you know, barring his looks. I'm glad he's coming."
"You won't be soon, young man," Lady Queenborough's angry eye seemed to say.
"I remember him," pursued Jack; "awfully smitten with a tobacconist's daughter in the Corn--oh, it's all right, Lady Queenborough--she wouldn't look at him."
This quasi apology was called forth by the fact of Lady Queenborough pushing back her chair and making for the door. It did not at all appease her to hear of the scorn of the tobacconist's daughter. She glanced sternly at Jack and disappeared. He turned to Trix and reminded her--without diffidence and coram populo, as his habit was--that she had promised him a stroll in the west wood.
What happened on that stroll I do not know; but meeting Miss Trix on the stairs later in the afternoon, I ventured to remark:
"I hope you broke it to him gently, Miss Queenborough?"
"I don't know what you mean," replied Trix haughtily.
"You were out nearly two hours," said I.
"Were we?" asked Trix, with a start. "Good gracious! Where was mamma, Mr. Wynne?"
"On the lawn--watch in hand."
Miss Trix went slowly upstairs, and there is not the least doubt that something serious passed between her and her mother, for both of them were in the most atrocious of humors that evening. Fortunately, the curate was not there; he had a Bible class.
The next day Lord Newhaven arrived. I found him on the lawn when I strolled up, after a spell of letter-writing, about four o'clock. Lawn tennis was the order of the day, and we were all in flannels.
"Oh, here's Mark!" cried Dora, seeing me. "Now, Mark, you and Mr. Ives had better play against Trix and Lord Newhaven. That'll make a very good set."
"No, no, Mrs. Polton," said Jack Ives. "They wouldn't have a chance. Look here, I'll play with Miss Queenborough against Lord Newhaven and Wynne."
Newhaven--whose appearance, by the way, though hardly distinguished, was not quite so unornamental as the curate had led us to expect--looked slightly displeased, but Jack gave him no time for remonstrance. He whisked Trix off and began to serve all in a moment. I had a vision of Lady Queenborough approaching from the house with face aghast. The set went on; and, owing entirely to Newhaven's absurd chivalry in sending all the balls to Jack Ives instead of following the well-known maxim to "pound away at the lady," they beat us. Jack wiped his brow, strolled up to the tea table with Trix, and remarked in exultant tones:
"We make a perfect couple, Miss Queenborough; we ought never to be separated."
Dora did not ask the curate to dinner that night, but he dropped in about nine o'clock to ask her opinion as to the hymns on Sunday; and finding Miss Trix and Newhaven in the small drawing room, he sat down and talked to them. This was too much for Trix; she had treated him very kindly and had allowed him to amuse her; but it was impossible to put up with presumption of that kind. Difficult as it was to discourage Mr. Ives, she did it, and he went away with a disconsolate, puzzled expression. At the last moment, however, Trix so far relented as to express a hope that he was coming to tennis to-morrow, at which he brightened up a little. I do not wish to be uncharitable--least of all to a charming young lady---but my opinion is that Miss Trix did not wish to set the curate altogether adrift. I think, however, that Lady Queenborough must have spoken again, for when Jack did come to tennis, Trix treated him with most freezing civility and a hardly disguised disdain, and devoted herself to Lord Newhaven with as much assiduity as her mother could wish. We men, over our pipes, expressed the opinion that Jack Ives' little hour of sunshine was past, and that nothing was left to us but to look on at the prosperous, uneventful course of Lord Newhaven's wooing. Trix had had her fun (so Algy Stanton bluntly phrased it) and would now settle down to business.
"I believe, though," he added, "that she likes the curate a bit, you know."
During the whole of the next day--Wednesday--Jack Ives kept away; he had, apparently, accepted the inevitable, and was healing his wounded heart by a strict attention to his parochial duties. Newhaven remarked on his absence with an air of relief, and Miss Trix treated it as a matter of no importance; Lady Queenborough was all smiles; and Dora Polton restricted herself to exclaiming, as I sat by her at tea, in a low tone and a propos of nothing in particular, "Oh, well--poor Mr. Ives!"
But on Thursday there occurred an event, the significance of which passed at the moment unperceived, but which had, in fact, most important results. This was no other than the arrival of little Mrs. Wentworth, an intimate friend of Dora's. Mrs. Wentworth had been left a widow early in life; she possessed a comfortable competence; she was not handsome, but she was vivacious, amusing, and, above all, sympathetic. She sympathized at once with Lady Queenborough in her maternal anxieties, with Trix on her charming romance, with Newhaven on his sweet devotedness, with the rest of us in our obvious desolation--and, after a confidential chat with Dora, she sympathized most strongly with poor Mr. Ives on his unfortunate attachment. Nothing would satisfy her, so Dora told me, except the opportunity of plying Mr. Ives with her soothing balm; and Dora was about to sit down and write him a note, when he strolled in through the drawing room window, and announced that his cook's mother was ill, and that he should be very much obliged if Mrs. Polton would give him some dinner that evening. Trix and Newhaven happened to enter by the door at the same moment, and Jack darted up to them, and shook hands with the greatest effusion. He had evidently buried all unkindness--and with it, we hoped, his mistaken folly. However that might be, he made no effort to engross Trix, but took his seat most docilely by his hostess--and she, of course, introduced him to Mrs. Wentworth. His behavior was, in fact, so exemplary that even Lady Queenborough relaxed her severity, and condescended to cross- examine him on the morals and manners of the old women of the parish. "Oh, the vicar looks after them," said Jack; and he turned to Mrs. Wentworth again.
There can be no doubt that Mrs. Wentworth had a remarkable power of sympathy. I took her in to dinner, and she was deep in the subject of my "noble and inspiring art" before the soup was off the table. Indeed, I'm sure that my life's ambitions would have been an open book to her by the time that the joint arrived, had not Jack Ives, who was sitting on the lady's other side, cut into the conversation just as Mrs. Wentworth was comparing my early struggles with those of Mr. Carlyle. After this intervention of Jack's I had not a chance. I ate my dinner without the sauce of sympathy, substituting for it a certain amusement which I derived from studying the face of Miss Trix Queenborough, who was placed on the opposite side of the table. And if Trix did look now and again at Mrs. Wentworth and Jack Ives, I cannot say that her conduct was unnatural. To tell the truth, Jack was so obviously delighted with his new friend that it was quite pleasant--and, as I say, under the circumstances, rather amusing--to watch them. We felt that the squire was justified in having a hit at Jack when Jack said, in the smoking room, that he found himself rather at a loss for a subject for his next sermon.
"What do you say," suggested my cousin, puffing at his pipe, "to taking constancy as your text?"
Jack considered the idea for a moment, but then he shook his head.
"No. I think," he said reflectively, "that I shall preach on the power of sympathy."
That sermon afforded me--I must confess it, at the risk of seeming frivolous--very great entertainment. Again I secured a place by Miss Trix--on her left, Newhaven being on her right, and her face was worth study when Jack Ives gave us a most eloquent description of the wonderful gift in question. It was, he said, the essence and the crown of true womanliness, and it showed itself--well, to put it quite plainly, it showed itself, according to Jack Ives, in exactly that sort of manner and bearing which so honorably and gracefully distinguished Mrs. Wentworth. The lady was not, of course, named, but she was clearly indicated. "Your gift, your precious gift," cried the curate, apostrophizing the impersonation of sympathy, "is given to you, not for your profit, but for mine. It is yours, but it is a trust to be used for me. It is yours, in fact, to share with me." At this climax, which must have struck upon her ear with a certain familiarity, Miss Trix Queenborough, notwithstanding the place and occasion, tossed her pretty head and whispered to me, "What horrid stuff!"
In the ensuing week Jack Ives was our constant companion; the continued illness of his servant's mother left him stranded, and Dora's kind heart at once offered him the hospitality of her roof. For my part I was glad, for the little drama which now began was not without its interest. It was a pleasant change to see Jack genially polite to Trix Queenborough, but quite indifferent to her presence or absence, and content to allow her to take Newhaven for her partner at tennis as often as she pleased. He himself was often an absentee from our games. Mrs. Wentworth did not play, and Jack would sit under the trees with her, or take her out in the canoe. What Trix thought I did not know, but it is a fact that she treated poor Newhaven like dirt beneath her feet, and that Lady Queenborough's face began to lose its transiently pleasant expression. I had a vague idea that a retribution was working itself out, and disposed myself to see the process with all the complacency induced by the spectacle of others receiving punishment for their sins.
A little scene which occurred after lunch one day was significant. I was sitting on the terrace, ready booted and breeched, waiting for my horse to be brought round. Trix came out and sat down by me.
"Where's Newhaven?" I asked.
"Oh, I don't always want Lord Newhaven!" she exclaimed petulantly. "I sent him off for a walk--I'm going out in the Canadian canoe with Mr. Ives."
"Oh, you are, are you?" said I, smiling. As I spoke, Jack Ives ran up to us.
"I say, Miss Queenborough," he cried, "I've just got your message saying you'd let me take you on the lake."
"Is it a great bore?" asked Trix, with a glance--a glance that meant mischief.
"I should like it awfully, of course," said Jack; "but the fact is I've promised to take Mrs. Wentworth--before I got your message, you know."
Trix drew herself up.
"Of course, if Mrs. Wentworth----" she began.
"I'm very sorry," said Jack.
Then Miss Queenborough, forgetting--as I hope--or choosing to disregard my presence, leaned forward and asked, in her most coaxing tones:
"Don't you ever forget a promise, Mr. Ives?"
Jack looked at her. I suppose her dainty prettiness struck him afresh, for he wavered and hesitated.
"She's gone upstairs," pursued the tempter, "and we shall be safe away before she comes down again."
Jack shuffled with one foot on the gravel.
"I tell you what," he said; "I'll ask her if she minds me taking you for a little while before I----"
I believe he really thought that he had hit upon a compromise satisfactory to all parties. If so, he was speedily undeceived. Trix flushed red and answered angrily:
"Pray don't trouble. I don't want to go."
"Perhaps afterward you might," suggested the curate, but now rather timidly.
"I'm going out with Lord Newhaven," said she. And she added, in an access of uncontrollable annoyance. "Go, please go. I--I don't want you."
Jack sheered off, with a look of puzzled shamefacedness. He disappeared into the house. Nothing passed between Miss Trix and myself. A moment later Newhaven came out.
"Why, Miss Queenborough," said he, in apparent surprise, "Ives is going with Mrs. Wentworth in the canoe!"
In an instant I saw what she had done. In rash presumption she had told Newhaven that she was going with the curate--and now the curate had refused to take her--and Ives had met him in search of Mrs. Wentworth. What could she do? Well, she rose--or fell--to the occasion. In the coldest of voices she said;
"I thought you'd gone for your walk."
"I was just starting," he answered apologetically, "when I met Ives. But, as you weren't going with him----" He paused, an inquiring look in his eyes. He was evidently asking himself why she had not gone with the curate.
"I'd rather be left alone, if you don't mind," said she. And then, flushing red again, she added. "I changed my mind and refused to go with Mr. Ives. So he went off to get Mrs. Wentworth instead."
I started. Newhaven looked at her for an instant, and then turned on his heel. She turned to me, quick as lightning, and with her face all aflame.
"If you tell, I'll never speak to you again," she whispered.
After this there was silence for some minutes.
"Well?" she said, without looking at me.
"I have no remark to offer, Miss Queenborough," I returned.
"I suppose that was a lie, wasn't it?" she asked defiantly.
"It's not my business to say what it was," was my discreet answer.
"I know what you're thinking."
"I was thinking," said I, "which I would rather be--the man you will marry, or the man you would like----"
"How dare you! It's not true. Oh Mr. Wynne, indeed it's not true!"
Whether it were true or not I did not know. But if it had been, Miss Trix Queenborough might have been expected to act very much in the way in which she proceeded to act: that is to say, to be extravagantly attentive to Lord Newhaven when Jack Ives was present, and markedly neglectful of him in the curate's absence. It also fitted in very well with the theory which I had ventured to hint that her bearing toward Mrs. Wentworth was distinguished by a stately civility, and her remarks about that lady by a superfluity of laudation; for if these be not two distinguishing marks of rivalry in the well-bred, I must go back to my favorite books and learn from them--more folly. And if Trix's manners were all that they should be, praise no less high must be accorded to Mrs. Wentworth's; she attained an altitude of admirable unconsciousness and conducted her flirtation (the poverty of language forces me to the word, but it is over- flippant) with the curate in a staid, quasi-maternal way. She called him a delightful boy, and said that she was intensely interested in all his aims and hopes.
"What does she want?" I asked Dora despairingly. "She can't want to marry him." I was referring to Trix Queenborough, not to Mrs. Wentworth.
"Good gracious, no!" answered Dora, irritably. "It's simple jealousy. She won't let the poor boy alone till he's in love with her again. It's a horrible shame!"
"Oh, well, he has great recuperative power," said I.
"She'd better be careful, though. It's a very dangerous game. How do you suppose Lord Newhaven likes it?"
Accident gave me that very day a hint how little Lord Newhaven liked it, and a glimpse of the risk Miss Trix was running. Entering the library suddenly, I heard Newhaven's voice raised above his ordinary tones.
"I won't stand it!" he was declaring. "I never know how she'll treat me from one minute to the next."
My entrance, of course, stopped the conversation very abruptly. Newhaven had come to a stand in the middle of the room, and Lady Queenborough sat on the sofa, a formidable frown on her brow. Withdrawing myself as rapidly as possible, I argued the probability of a severe lecture for Miss Trix, ending in a command to try her noble suitor's patience no longer. I hope all this happened, for I, not seeing why Mrs. Wentworth should monopolize the grace of sympathy, took the liberty of extending mine to Newhaven. He was certainly in love with Trix, not with her money, and the treatment he underwent must have been as trying to his feelings as it was galling to his pride.
My sympathy was not premature, for Miss Trix's fascinations, which were indubitably great, began to have their effect. The scene about the canoe was re-enacted, but with a different denouement. This time the promise was forgotten, and the widow forsaken. Then Mrs. Wentworth put on her armor. We had, in fact, reached this very absurd situation, that these two ladies were contending for the favors of, or the domination over, such an obscure, poverty-stricken, hopelessly ineligible person as the curate of Poltons undoubtedly was. The position seemed to me then, and still seems, to indicate some remarkable qualities in that young man.
At last Newhaven made a move. At breakfast, on Wednesday morning, he announced that, reluctant as he should be to leave Poltons Park, he was due at his aunt's place, in Kent, on Saturday evening, and must, therefore, make his arrangements to leave by noon on that day. The significance was apparent. Had he come down to breakfast with "Now or Never!" stamped in fiery letters across his brow, it would have been more obtrusive, indeed, but not a whit plainer. We all looked down at our plates, except Jack Ives. He flung one glance (I saw it out of the corner of my left eye) at Newhaven, another at Trix; then he remarked kindly:
"We shall be uncommonly sorry to lose you, Newhaven."
Events began to happen now, and I will tell them as well as I am able, supplementing my own knowledge by what I learned afterward from Dora--she having learned it from the actors in the scene. In spite of the solemn warning conveyed in Newhaven's intimation, Trix, greatly daring, went off immediately after lunch for what she described as "a long ramble" with Mr. Ives. There was, indeed, the excuse of an old woman at the end of the ramble, and Trix provided Jack with a small basket of comforts for the useful old body; but the ramble was, we felt, the thing, and I was much annoyed at not being able to accompany the walkers in the cloak of darkness or other invisible contrivance. The ramble consumed three hours--full measure. Indeed, it was half-past six before Trix, alone, walked up the drive. Newhaven, a solitary figure, paced up and down the terrace fronting the drive. Trix came on, her head thrown back and a steady smile on her lips. She saw Newhaven; he stood looking at her for a moment with what she afterward described as an indescribable smile on his face, but not, as Dora understood from her, by any means a pleasant one. Yet, if not pleasant, there is not the least doubt in the world that it was highly significant, for she cried out nervously: "Why are you looking at me like that? What's the matter?"
Newhaven, still saying nothing, turned his back on her, and made as if he would walk into the house and leave her there, ignored, discarded, done with. She, realizing the crisis which had come, forgetting everything except the imminent danger of losing him once for all, without time for long explanation or any round- about seductions, ran forward, laying her hand on his arm and blurting out:
"But I've refused him."
I do not know what Newhaven thinks now, but I sometimes doubt whether he would not have been wiser to shake off the detaining hand, and pursue his lonely way, first into the house, and ultimately to his aunt's. But (to say nothing of the twenty thousand a year, which, after all, and be you as romantic as you may please to be, is not a thing to be sneezed at) Trix's face, its mingled eagerness and shame, its flushed cheeks and shining eyes, the piquancy of its unwonted humility, overcame him. He stopped dead.
"I--I was obliged to give him an--an opportunity," said Miss Trix, having the grace to stumble a little in her speech. "And-- and it's all your fault."
The war was thus, by happy audacity, carried into Newhaven's own quarters.
"My fault!" he exclaimed. "My fault that you walk all day with that curate!"
Then Miss Trix--and let no irrelevant considerations mar the appreciation of fine acting--dropped her eyes and murmured softly:
"I--I was so terribly afraid of seeming to expect you."
Wherewith she (and not he) ran away lightly up the stairs, turning just one glance downward as she reached the landing. Newhaven was looking up from below with an "enchanted" smile--the word is Trix's own; I should probably have used a different one.
Was then the curate of Poltons utterly defeated--brought to his knees, only to be spurned? It seemed so; and he came down to dinner that night with a subdued and melancholy expression. Trix, on the other hand, was brilliant and talkative to the last degree, and the gayety spread from her all around the table, leaving untouched only the rejected lover and Mrs. Wentworth; for the last named lady, true to her distinguishing quality, had begun to talk to poor Jack Ives in low, soothing tones.
After dinner Trix was not visible; but the door of the little boudoir beyond stood half-open, and very soon Newhaven edged his way through. Almost at the same moment Jack Ives and Mrs. Wentworth passed out of the window and began to walk up and down the gravel. Nobody but myself appeared to notice these remarkable occurrences, but I watched them with keen interest. Half an hour passed, and then there smote on my watchful ear the sound of a low laugh from the boudoir. It was followed almost immediately by a stranger sound from the gravel walk. Then, all in a moment, two things happened. The boudoir door opened, and Trix, followed by Newhaven, came in, smiling; from the window entered Jack Ives and Mrs. Wentworth. My eyes were on the curate. He gave one sudden, comprehending glance toward the other couple; then he took the widow's hand, led her up to Dora, and said, in low yet penetrating tones.
"Will you wish us joy, Mrs. Polton?"
The squire, Rippleby, and Algy Stanton were round them in an instant. I kept my place, watching now the face of Trix Queenborough. She turned first flaming red, then very pale. I saw her turn to Newhaven and speak one or two urgent, imperative words to him. Then, drawing herself up to her full height, she crossed the room to where the group was assembled round Mrs. Wentworth and Jack Ives.
"What's the matter? What are you saying?" she asked.
Mrs. Wentworth's eyes were modestly cast down, but a smile played round her mouth. No one spoke for a moment. Then Jack Ives said:
"Mrs. Wentworth has promised to be my wife, Miss Queenborough."
For a moment, hardly perceptible, Trix hesitated; then, with the most winning, touching, sweetest smile in the world, she said:
"So you took my advice, and our afternoon walk was not wasted, after all?"
Mrs. Polton is not used to these fine flights of diplomacy; she had heard before dinner something of what had actually happened in the afternoon; and the simple woman positively jumped. Jack Ives met Trix's scornful eyes full and square.
"Not at all wasted," said he, with a smile. "Not only has it shown me where my true happiness lies, but it has also given me a juster idea of the value and sincerity of your regard for me, Miss Queenborough."
"It is as real, Mr. Ives, as it is sincere," said she.
"It is like yourself, Miss Queenborough," said he, with a little bow; and he turned from her and began to talk to his fiancee.
Trix Queenborough moved slowly toward where I sat. Newhaven was watching her from where he stood alone on the other side of the room.
"And have you no news for us?" I asked in low tones.
"Thank you," she said haughtily; "I don't care that mine should be a pendent to the great tidings about the little widow and curate."
After a moment's pause she went on:
"He lost no time, did he? He was wise to secure her before what happened this afternoon could leak out. Nobody can tell her now."
"He asked me to marry him this afternoon."
"And you refused?"
"Well, his behavior is in outrageously bad taste, but----"
She laid a hand on my arm, and said in calm, level tones.
"I refused him because I dared not have him; but I told him I cared for him, and he said he loved me. And I let him kiss me. Good-night, Mr. Wynne."
I sat still and silent. Newhaven came across to us. Trix put up her hand and caught him by the sleeve.
"Fred," she said, "my dear, honest old Fred; you love me, don't you?"
Newhaven, much embarrassed and surprised, looked at me in alarm. But her hand was in his now, and her eyes imploring him.
"I should rather think I did, my dear," said he.
I really hope that Lord and Lady Newhaven will not be very unhappy, while Mrs. Ives quite worships her husband, and is convinced that she eclipsed the brilliant and wealthy Miss Queenborough.
Perhaps she did--perhaps not.
There are, as I have said, great qualities in the curate of Poltons, but I have not quite made up my mind precisely what they are. I ought, however, to say that Dora takes a more favorable view of him and a less lenient view of Trix than I.
That is perhaps natural. Besides, Dora does not know the precise manner in which the curate was refused. By the way, he preached next Sunday on the text, "The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light."