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"To anybody but you, George, it would be too self-evident to require any explanation. Why will you drive me to a thing so painful? Do you mean to say that he does not love me?"
"Better than his life, I believe; and better even than his money. But how does that bear upon the matter? They don't quote love upon the Stock Exchange."
"Oh George! And you think you are a business man!" Grace smiled gloriously through her tears, possibly through her triumph over me, probably through the joy of my assurance. "Can anybody do two things at once? Could my Jack attend to ups and downs, keep his whole mind intent on Argentinas, contangoes, fundangoes, holdovers, and holdunders, and even unspeakable Turks with fifty wives, when the whole of his pure heart was down here? Why he only went up about once a-week, if he could get me to go out nutting with him."
Alas, I see. Neglected business. Left understrappers, and dashing young clerks, and trusty old codgers with pens behind their ears to stick to the stools; while he made sweet hay. But there must be something more than that."
"You turn everything into vulgarity, George. And you are capable of laughing at the most sacred things. But there was more than that, and a great deal more than that. You may have heard him speak in his grand confiding manner of a man named Franks, who has been with him many years. He has promoted him from place to place, and trusted him with almost everything; and I do believe that Franks had no intention of doing anything crooked. And he spoke in the most enthusiastic terms of me, though of course they never mention such a subject in the office.
And when Black Friday came, as you know it did, through some very stupid error of the Government, Jack only laughed at first, except for the sake of some dear friends of his, who were hit rather hard; it appeared so ridiculous to suppose that a firm like his could be affected. But there proved to be something, I cannot quite understand it, although I keep my books so clearly that I know every farthing owing to me, something, some involvement, some terrible affair, which will force him to give up the Hall, and the shooting, and the pedigree Butterfly cows, and
"Don't let him do it. Don't hear of it for a moment. You will never get such another fellow," I exclaimed, as she turned away to wipe her glistening cheeks. "He'll come round as right as a roach in the end. You didn't let him off on that tack, I hope."
"As for letting him off, dear George, is he a trout that I should treat him so? He is not like a slippery fish for a moment, but a deephearted, true-hearted, wonderful man. Why his conversation is as different from yours-but I will not depreciate you, unless you go against me. Only I should like to know how I can help myself. can help myself. When a gentleman says I am truly sorry, but I can't have any more to do with you' oh dear, oh dear, what can any lady do?"
'Lay hold of his coat, and say, 'None of that nonsense! I am the best judge of that question, and I have settled it the other way; unless you put up the bans within a month, you must favour me with the address of your Solicitors."
"Don't laugh at me. I have never laughed at you. I did tell him over and over again that the money could never make any difference to me, and indeed that I was
very glad, except for his sake, because then nobody could ever say -but he talked of the duty of a man, and so forth, and the crime of allowing me to sacrifice myself, and a Cranleigh the wife of a bankrupt, and I don't know what else, for I broke down then, and he was obliged-"
"Of course he was-any amount of physical sustentation, as the reporters call it. But leave it to me, my dear. Where is he now Too late for him to go back to London, I should think. But I wonder he didn't come to see me."
"He did. But you were not to be found. Oh George, I am thinking of every one of us. What shall we do? The Hall will be thrown upon our hands again, at a time of year when you would as soon live in a hearse. And Harold has made another of his great hits, which always cost a hundred pounds, and never produce a penny. How often I wish that I were like old Sally, without any pedigree Butterfly blood, and allowed to go and rout my husband up, just as Mrs Slemmick is!"
"She routed him out from the root house, last week," said I, being glad of any frivolous turn that might bring the dry colours into the rainbow; "she believed that he was gone for ever, without leaving his wages in his Sunday waistcoat pocket, and Snowdrop Violet Hyacinth just wheezing into the whooping-cough. But no; she underrated the nobility of man. He had tucked up his legs on a big flower-pot with a pipe in his mouth; and his heart was so full that he was going without breakfast. Are women alone to be considered faithful?"
"You mean that I am worse than Mrs Slemmick." Girls never take the moral of the proverb aright. "Very well, I daresay I am. But I will never tuck my feet upon a
flower-pot, and wait to be coaxed home, when the tea is getting cold. There is something very large in the character of Slemmick, and he shows it by his confidence in feminine affection. At the same time,
it does appear a little small of you, to quote Mother Slemmick against me. She is married, and cannot help herself."
"Hear, hear!" I cried, leaving her to put the point to it; which she did with a blush, and a very cheerful smile. Then she gave me
a kiss, to make up for little words; and I set out to see what I could do for her.
I found the poor Stockbroker looking stock-broken, and sitting on a hard chair, with his long legs crossed.
"Off for the Mediterranean?" I asked; and he said "Bay of Biscay, or Bay of Fundy. Going to the bottom anyhow."
"Rot!" I replied, with less elegance than terseness. "Don't try to make me think that you would ever throw the sponge up. I know you a bit better than that, Jackson Stoneman."
"Would you like me to be a thief, George Cranleigh? If I choose to be a thief, I can slip out very lightly. But if I prefer to be an honest man, there is very small chance of my doing it."
He told me in a few words what his position was, owing to a panic which had ended in a crash, through the roguery of a few, and the folly of the many; and how his own firm had become involved in thoroughly unsound transactions, mainly through his own inattention and his confidence in a very clever fellow, who had cut things a little too fine at last, as very clever fellows nearly always do.
"We must lose a quarter of a million," he said, "even if we pull through at all, which is more than
doubtful. All depends upon to morrow. But it is not for myself that I care, George. It is for your darling sister-the best, and the bravest, and the most unselfish girl-why she wanted to stick to me through everything! She behaved as if it could make no difference between us.”
"I should hope so indeed. would disown her if she did otherwise. Did you think that she was going to have you for your money, Jackson?"
"I am not quite so bad as that, you may be sure. Still you must excuse a modest fellow for thinking his money the best part of him." Here I was glad to see one of his old dry smiles. "But the point of it is this, as you know well enough without my telling-I can have nothing more to say to Grace; who was worth all my cash, and my credit, and ambitions, and everything except my conscience to me."
"That is all very fine, and very lofty in its way," I answered with a superior smile, which refreshed him as it was meant to do; "and among City people it may hold good, or the big world of the Clubland. But no sound Englishman takes it 80. You don't suppose that my father approved of your going in for our Grace, because you then were a wealthy man, I should hope." I spoke with strong confidence; but perhaps the strength of it was chiefly in my voice.
"God forbid!" he replied with horror; while I tried not to doubt that God had forbidden. "No, I am well aware that Sir Harold disliked it from the first, and Lady Cranleigh even more. It was nothing but the goodness of dear Grace. And that makes it such a frightful thing for me. Why, that Angel was ready to stick to me, likelike a brick, if I only would
allow it. A man who knows the world would never believe it for a moment."
"Then he must know a very bad world, and be a worthy member of it. What do you suppose I would have done to my sister, if she had been mean enough to shy off, because of your misfortune?"
"How can I tell, George? You are one of the most pig-headed fellows going. But you could not have been angry with her, for not being quite as stubborn as you are."
"Jackson, this is what I would have done. I would have taken the mane-scissors that hang above my mantel, and shorn off her great crop of hair to her ears. No gold for her there, if her heart were all pinchbeck."
Stoneman looked at me with outraged feelings. "Not even a brother could do that," he said, "brutal as brothers by nature seem to be. But without any humbug, George, do you really mean that you wish it to go on?"
"If I did not, I should be a wretched snob. It was not for money that you wanted Grace; and you insult her by fancying that she wanted you for yours.'
"All this is very pleasant doctrine, and an edifying parable for little boys and girls;" the stockbroker had a peculiar trick of showing his keen eyes as if in a gable, when his mind was puzzled or excited; "but it would not hold water, George, either in a court of honour, or a council of wisdom. Grace is entitled, both by birth and beauty, and I am sure that I might say by intellect as well, to a position which high rank alone, or wealth on her husband's part can secure. High rank I cannot give her. Wealth I could have given. But the prospect of that has vanished, and with it vanishes all my hope of
her. Oh that she had only thrown me over! I could have got over it then. But not now."
"Now look here," I said, as a Briton always calls attention to the knock-down blow he is delivering; "all that would be worth listening to, if it had anything to do with the matter. But as it happens, my sister Grace doesn't care a flip about position, any more than I do, or you, or anybody else with a ha'porth of common-sense. We value the opinion of good people; and we like money for the comfort of others, as well as ourselves. But as for that mysterious affair you call 'position'-the more you poke your head up, the harder cracks you get on it. Grace will be contented with whatever pleases you. That holds you together, and you never slip away. People who have only got a lawn enjoy it a thousand times as much as a lord enjoys his park. And a man who loves his wife does not want to lose her among a thousand men and women he has never heard of, all pushing about to please themselves, and sneering at them both, by way of gratitude."
"You will make a fine domestic character, George, if you only act
up to your theories. I shall never forget your true friendship and noble behaviour in this matter. I shall take my own course however, as I always do. I know what is right: and you may talk for ever. There is only one voice that could move me, and that one shall have no chance of doing it (even if desired) for her own sweet sake. But everything will depend upon to-morrow, if things are as bad then as they have been to day; there will be no escape for me. Grace shall never be a bankrupt's wife. If her sense of honour urges it, mine forbids. And it is not only honour, but common-sense, my friend. Your family has fallen in the world too much already. It shall not be dragged lower by any connection with a defaulting Stockbroker."
His face showed no sign of emotion now; and I owned to myself that from his point of view no other course was possible for a man of honour. Whether his point of view was right or wrong, is quite a different question; but in spite of all my reasoning, I have very little doubt that I should have done as he did.
MARLBOROUGH'S UNCONSCIOUS TREASON.
"THE basest of all the hundred villanies of Marlborough," "the foulest treason," according to Macaulay, was Churchill's betrayal to James II. and Louis XIV. of the English attack on Brest, in June 1694. By announcing to James, in a letter variously dated "May 3" or "May 4," 1694, the start, on May 5, of the English expedition to Camaret Bay, "the traitor of Salisbury" enabled Louis to fortify the point of attack, to defeat our forces, and to deprive Marlborough, then in William's disgrace, of his chief rival, Talmash, who was mortally wounded. This is the accusation brought by Macaulay. Before examining the apologies of Marlborough's defenders, it may be as well to explain the military circumstances. After the defeat of La Hogue (May 19, 1692), the French fleets kept within their land defences, but a war-vessel would slip out, now and again, and prey on our commerce. William, therefore, determined to attack Brest, believing (and rightly believing) "that the state of its defences was such that the place might be taken by open assault if suddenly attacked before the French could have time to strengthen the works or to reinforce the garrison. But should it become known at Versailles that danger threatened Brest, the place could be easily rendered secure against any attack short of a regular siege. Secrecy was therefore of the first moment."
So writes Lord Wolseley in his 'Marlborough' (ii. 305), and every word is of importance, Lord Wolseley being one of Marl
1 Macaulay's History, 1858, vii. 134.
borough's defenders. In pursuance of William's scheme, 7000 troops were encamped on Portsdown Hills, and transports were collected at Portsmouth. This was in April 1694. The expedition started on May 5. Yet Lord Wolseley writes: "For months before the troops put to sea the intended attack upon Brest had been the common talk of London dinner-tables." How could this possibly be, the preparations beginning "in April" and the expedition setting out on May 5? In fact, L'Hermitage, in his diary for May 1, says that many projects were talked about, "but not one of them came to the knowledge of the public."2 Marlborough gave James and Louis notice of the adventure against Brest the day before Russell set sail. Brest was instantly fortified and reinforced, and England sustained a disastrous defeat, through the treachery of Marlborough. So argues Macaulay.
To Macaulay's charges Mr Paget replied in Maga,' June 1859. His brilliantly logical essay is also published in one of the most entertaining of volumes, his 'Paradoxes and Puzzles.' "It must be admitted," said Mr Paget, "that in no view of the case can the conduct of Marlborough be justified." But Mr Paget argues that Marlborough purposely told James nothing which Louis and he did not know already. He revealed le secret de Polichinelle; he betrayed facts which he knew to be already familiar to the French Court, and "his offence seems rather to have been against James, in seeking
2 Ibid., vii. 134, note.