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   Chapter 7 No.7

The Queen's Cup By G. A. Henty Characters: 25228

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


"I am so sorry," Bertha Greendale said, "so awfully sorry. I had no idea that you thought of me like that. We were such friends so long ago, and it has been so pleasant since you came home last year, and I like you as if you were a big brother; but I have never thought of you in any other light, and now it seems dreadful to me to give you pain; but I feel sure that I should never come to love you in that way."

And she burst into tears.

"Do not think anything more about it, dear," Frank Mallett said, gently. "I have felt sometimes when we have been together, that you were so kindly and frank and pleasant with me that you could feel as I wanted you to. I ought to have known it always. But I suppose in such cases a man deceives himself and shuts his eyes to facts. You have certainly nothing to blame yourself about. Of course, it is a hard blow, but no doubt I shall get over it as other fellows do. At any rate, I know that we shall always be dear friends, and you need not fear that I shall mope over my misfortune. I shall run up to town for a bit, and as you are going up for the season next week, I shall no doubt often meet you. Don't fret about me. I have been hit pretty hard several times, though not in the same way, and I have always gone through it, and no doubt I shall do so now.

"Goodbye," and when Bertha looked up, he had left the room.

"Oh, mamma," she said, when she went into the room where her mother was sitting, "I am so sorry, so dreadfully sorry. Frank Mallett has asked me to be his wife. I have never thought of such a thing and of course I had to say no."

"I have thought such a thing likely for some time, Bertha, but I thought it best to hold my tongue about it. In such matters the interference of a mother often does more harm than good. I felt sure, by your manner with him, that you had no idea of it; and I must say that much as I like Frank Mallett, I should have been sorry. I have great hopes of your making a really first-class match."

"I could not make a better match," Bertha said, indignantly. "No one could be kinder or nicer than Major Mallett, and we know how brave he is and how he has distinguished himself, and he has a good estate and everything that anyone could wish; only unfortunately I do not love him-at least not in that way. He has never shown me what I should consider any particular attention, and never talked to me in the way men do when they are making love to a girl. Nothing could be nicer, and it was all the nicer because I never thought of this. I suppose it is because he is so different from some of the men I met in town last season, who always seemed to be trying to get round me. No, I know it is not a nice expression, mamma, but you know what I mean."

"I know, my dear," her mother smiled. "Of course you are a very good match, and though I do not want to flatter you, you were one of the belles of the season. Though some of the men you speak of were by no means desirable-younger sons and barristers and that sort of thing-still, there were two or three whom any girl might have been pleased to see at her feet, and who, I am sure from what I saw, only needed but little encouragement from you to be there. I was a little vexed, dear, you see, that you did not give any of them that encouragement; but I understand, of course, that the novelty of your first season carried you away altogether; and that you liked the dancing and the fetes and the opera for themselves, and not because they brought you in contact with men of excellent class. So far as I could see, it was a matter of indifference to you whether the man was a peer with a splendid rent roll, or a younger son without a farthing, so that he was a good dancer and a pleasant companion; but of course after a season or two you will grow wiser."

"I do hope not, mamma," Bertha said, indignantly. "I don't mean to say that it might not be better to marry, as you say, a peer with a good rent roll than a younger son without a penny, other things being equal; that is to say, if one liked them equally; but I hope that I shall never come to like anyone a bit more for being a peer."

Lady Greendale smiled, indulgently.

"It is a natural sentiment, my dear, for a girl of your age and inexperience; but in time you will come to see things in a different light."

Then she changed the subject. "What is Frank going to do? It is fortunate that we are going up to town next week."

"He is going up to town himself tomorrow, and I am sure that you will never hear from him, or from anyone else, what has happened. We shall meet in town as usual, and I am sure that he will be just the same as he was before, and that I shall be a great deal more uncomfortable than he will. It is a very silly affair altogether, I think; and I would give anything if it had not happened."

Lady Greendale did not echo the sentiment. She liked Frank Mallett immensely. He had always been a great favourite of hers, but since she had guessed what Bertha herself had not dreamed of, she had been uncomfortable. It threatened to disturb all the plans she had formed, and she was well contented to learn that she had refused him. Lady Greendale was a thoroughly kind-hearted woman, but she could not forget that she herself might have made, in a worldly sense, a better match than she had; and her ambition had, since Bertha was a child, and still more since she had shown promise of exceptional good looks, been centred on her making a really good match.

Frank went up to town next day, and the Greendales followed him a week later. They did not often meet him in society, as Frank seldom went out; but he called occasionally in the old friendly and unceremonious way. It would have required an acute observer to see any difference in his manner to Bertha, but Lady Greendale noticed it, and the girl herself felt that, although he was no less kind and friendly, there was some impalpable change in his manner, something that she felt, though she could not define it, even to herself.

"Have you had a tiff with Major Mallett, Bertha?" Mrs. Wilson asked one day, when she was alone with her in the drawing room.

Frank had just left, after spending an hour there.

"A tiff, Carrie? No! What put such an idea into your head?"

"My eyes, assisted perhaps by my ears. My dear, do you think that after being with you on the yacht last autumn, I should not notice any change in your manner to each other? I had expected before now to have heard an interesting piece of news; and now I see that things have gone wrong somehow."

"We are just as good friends as we always were," Bertha said, shortly; "every bit."

"You don't mean to say that you have refused him, Bertha?"

"I don't mean to say anything of the sort. I simply say that Major Mallett and I have always been great friends, and we are so now. There is no one that I have a higher regard for."

"Well, Bertha, I do not want to know your secrets, if you do not wish to tell me. All that I can say is that, if you have refused him, you have done a very foolish thing. I don't know any man that a woman might be happier with. When we were out last year with you, Amy and I agreed that it was certain to come off, and thought how well suited you were to each other. Of course, in worldly respects, you might do better; just at present you have the ball at your feet; but choose where you may you will not find a finer fellow than he is. Yes, I told Harry that it was lucky that I had not made that trip on board the Osprey before I was irrevocably captured, for I should certainly have lost my heart to Major Mallett. Well, I am sorry, Bertha, more sorry than I can say; and I am sure that Amy will be, too."

"I said nothing whatever, Carrie, that would justify this little explosion, which I certainly don't intend to answer. I should really feel very vexed, if I were not perfectly sure that you would never tell anyone else of this notion that you have got in your head."

"You may be quite sure of that, Bertha. At least when I say no one else, of course I do not include Harry; but you know him well enough to be certain that it will not go further. I am sure he will be as disappointed as I am. In fact, he will have a small triumph over me, for after the usual manner of men he saw nothing on board the yacht, and has always maintained that it was pure fancy on my part. However, I won't tell anyone else, not even Amy. She can find it out for herself, which you may be sure she will do when she comes back from the continent, if indeed her own happiness with Jack has not blinded her to all sub-lunary matters.

"Well, goodbye, dear. You will forgive my saying that I am disappointed in you, terribly disappointed in you."

"I must try to put up with that, Carrie. I am not aware that you consulted me before you made your own matrimonial arrangements, and perhaps I may be able to manage my own.''

"Well, don't be cross, Bertha. Remember that I am not advising or counselling. I am simply regretting, which perhaps you may do yourself, some day or other."

And with this parting shot she left.

The weeks went on, and when May came and Frank told her that the Osprey was fitted out, and that he would join her in a day or two, Bertha heard the news with satisfaction. The season was a gay one, and she was enjoying herself greatly; the one little drop of bitterness in her cup being that she could no longer enjoy his visits as she formerly did. He had been the one man with whom she was able to talk and laugh quite freely, who was really an old friend, a link not only between her and the past, but between her and her country life.

And now, she thought pettishly, he had spoiled all this, and what annoyed her almost as much was that the change was more in herself than in him. She no longer gave him commissions to execute for her, nor made him her general confidant. She knew that he would be as ready as before to laugh and to sympathise, that he would still gladly execute her commissions, and she felt that he tried hard to make her forget that he had aspired to be something nearer to her than a brotherly friend. She felt that after what he had said they could never stand in quite the same relation as before.

Accustomed as Frank was to read her thoughts, he was not deceived by the expression of regret that she should now see but little of him, as he saw the news was really pleasant to her. She was not aware that it was a conversation that he had had the evening before with Colonel Severn, which had decided him to go down to the Osprey a fortnight earlier than he had intended.

"You are getting to be almost as regular an attendant here, Mallett, as I am. I think you are altogether too young to take regularly to club life. It is all very well for an old fogey like me, but I don't think it a good thing for a young fellow like you to take so early to a bachelor life."

"I don't want to do anything of the sort, Colonel. But I can't stand these crushes in hot rooms; I cannot for the life of me see where the pleasure comes in. I begin to think that I was an ass to leave the army."

"Not at all, lad, not at all. When a man has got a good estate it is much better for him to settle down upon it, and to marry and have children, and all that sort of thing, than it is to remain in the army in times of peace. I had Wilson and Hawley dining with me here yesterday. We had a great chat over the pleasant time we had last year on board your yacht. I don't know when I enjoyed myself so much as I did then. Lady Greendale is a remarkably clever woman, and her daughter is as nice a girl as I have come across for a long time, and without a scrap of nonsense about her. I wonder that she has not become engaged by this time. General Matthews, who, as you know, goes in a good deal for that sort of thing for the sake of his daughters, told me recently that he fancied from what he had heard that Miss Greendale's engagement was likely to be a settled thing before the season was over. He said there were three men making the running-Lord Chilson, the eldest son of the Earl of Sommerlay; George Delamore-his father is in the Cabinet, you know, and he is member for Ponberry; and a man named Carthew, who keeps race horses, and was a neighbour of hers down in the country. He is, I hear, a good-looking fellow, and just the sort of man a girl is likely to fancy. Matthews thought that the chances were in his favour. As you are a neighbour of theirs, too, I suppose you will know him?"

"I knew him at one time, Colonel, but I have not s

een him now for a good many years, beyond meeting him two or three times at dinners and so on last season. He was away when I was at home before going out to India, and he had sold his estate before I came back."

"They say he has been very lucky on the turf, and has made a pot of money."

"So I have heard," Frank said; "but, you see, one generally hears of men's good luck, and not of their bad. Besides, many men do most of their real betting through commissioners, especially if they own horses themselves. He is a fellow I don't much care for, and I hope that whomever Miss Greendale may marry, he will not be the man."

"I thought, when you first asked me down last year, that you had got up the party specially for her, Mallett, and that you were going in for the prize yourself. But of course I soon saw that I was mistaken, as you were altogether too good chums for that to come about. I have often noticed that men and girls who are thrown a lot together are often capital friends, but, although just the pair you would think would come together, that they hardly ever do so. I have noticed it over and over again. Well, she is an uncommonly nice girl, whoever gets her."

Frank did not return to town until the end of June.

"I have to congratulate you upon the Osprey's victory," Bertha said, the first time he called to see them. "You may imagine with what interest I read the accounts of the yacht races. I saw you won two on the Thames, and were first once and second once at Southampton."

"Yes, the Osprey has shown herself to be, as I thought, an uncommonly fast boat. We should have had two firsts at Southampton, if the pilot had not cut matters too fine and run us aground just opposite Netley; we were a quarter of an hour before we were off again. We picked up a lot of our lost ground and got a second, but were beaten eight minutes by the winner."

"Have you entered for the Queen's Cup at Ryde?"

"I have not entered yet, but I am going to do so," he said.

"Mamma and I will be down there. Lord Haverley-he is first cousin to mamma, you know-has taken a house there for the month, and he is going to have a large party, and we are going down for Ryde week."

"Yes, and there will be the Victoria Yacht Club ball, and all sorts of gaieties. I have not entered yet, but I am going to do so. The entries do not close till next Saturday."

"You will call and see us, of course, Frank?" Lady Greendale said. "Haverley has a big schooner yacht, and I dare say we shall be a good deal on the water."

"I shall certainly do myself the pleasure of calling, Lady Greendale."

"I warn you, Frank, that Bertha and I will be very disappointed if the Osprey does not win the cup. We regard ourselves as being, to some extent, her proprietors; and it will be a grievous blow to us if you don't win."

"I do not feel by any means sure about it," he said. "I fancy there will be several boats that have not raced yet this season, and as two of them are new ones, there is no saying what they may turn out."

Frank only stayed two days in town. He learned from Jack Hawley that it was reported that Lord Chilson and George Delamore had both been refused by Bertha Greendale.

"Chilson went away suddenly," he said. "As to Delamore, of course as he is a Member he had to stop through the Session, but from what I hear, and as you know I have some good sources of information, I am pretty sure that he has got his conge too. I fancy Carthew is the favourite. As a rule I don't like these men who go in for racing, but he is a deuced-nice fellow. I have seen a good deal of him. He put me up to a good thing for the Derby ten days ago. He gives uncommonly good supper parties, and has asked me several times, but I have not gone to them, for I believe there is a good deal of play afterwards, and I cannot stand unlimited loo."

"Is he lucky himself?" Frank asked.

"No, quite the other way, I hear. I know a man who has been to three or four of his suppers, and he told me that Carthew had lost every time, once or twice pretty heavily."

"Carthew's horse ran second, didn't it, for the Derby?"

"Yes, the betting was twenty to one against him at starting."

"I wonder he did not give that tip as well as the other."

"Well, he did say that he thought it might run into a place, but that he was sure that he had no chance with the favourite. As it turned out, he was nearer winning than he expected; for the favourite went down the day before the race, from 5 to 4 on, to 10 to 1 against. There was a report about that he had gone wrong in some way. Some fellows said that there had been an attempt to get at him, others that he had got a nail in his foot. The general feeling had been that he would win in a canter, but as it was he only beat Carthew's horse by a short head."

"Had Carthew backed his horse to win?"

"He told me that he had only backed it for a hundred, but had put five hundred on it for a place, and as he got six to one against it he came uncommonly well out of it."

"And do you think it likely that Miss Greendale will accept him?"

"Ah! that I cannot say. He has certainly been making very strong running, and if I were a betting man I should not mind laying two to one on the event coming off."

Frank joined the Osprey, which was lying off Portsmouth Harbour, on the following day.

"I am back earlier than I expected, George," he said, as Lechmere met him at the station. "I have got tired of London, and want to be on board again."

"Nothing gone wrong in town, I hope, Major?" George said next day, as he was removing the breakfast things. "You will excuse my asking, but you don't seem to me to be yourself since you came on board."

"Well, yes, George. I am upset, I confess. I am sure you will be sorry, too, when I tell you that it is more than probable that Miss Greendale is going to marry Mr. Carthew."

George put the dish he was holding down on the table with a crash, and stood gazing at Frank in blank dismay.

"Why, sir, I thought," he said, slowly, "that it was going to be you and Miss Greendale. I had always thought so. Excuse me, sir, I don't mean any offence, but that is what we have all thought ever since she came down to christen the yacht."

"There is no offence, George. Yes, I don't mind telling you that I had hoped so myself, but it was not to be. You see, Miss Greendale has known me since she was a child, and she has never thought of me in any other way than as a sort of cousin-someone she liked very much, but had never thought of for a moment as one she could marry. That is all past and gone, but I should be sorry, most sorry, for her to marry Carthew, knowing what I do of him."

"But it must not be, sir," George said, vehemently. "You can never let that sweet young lady marry that black-hearted villain."

"Unfortunately I cannot prevent it, George."

"Why, sir, you would only have to tell her about Martha, and I am sure it would do for his business. Miss Greendale can know nothing about it. So far as I can remember, she was not more than sixteen at the time. I don't suppose Lady Greendale ever heard of it. She knew, of course, of Martha's being missing, because it made quite a stir, but I don't suppose that she heard of her coming back. She was only at home three weeks before she died. There were not many that ever saw her, and father told me that he and the others made it so hot for Carthew one day at Chippenham market that he never came down again, and sold the place soon after. I don't suppose the gentry ever heard anything about it. If they had, Lady Greendale would surely never let her daughter marry him."

"No, I feel sure she would not; but still, George, I don't see that I can possibly interfere in the matter. The story is three years old now, and even if it had only happened yesterday, I, after what has occurred between us, could not come forward as his accuser. It would have the appearance of spite on my side; and besides, I have no proof whatever. He would, of course, deny the whole thing. I do not mean that he would deny that she said so-he could not do that-but he might declare that she had spoken falsely, and might even say that it was an attempt to put another's sin on his shoulders. Moreover, as I told you, I have other reasons for disliking the man, and, on the face of it, it would seem that I had raked up this old story against him, not only from jealousy, but from personal malice.

"No, it is out of the question that I should interfere. I would give everything that I am worth to be able to do so, but it is impossible. If I had full and unquestionable proofs I would go to Lady Greendale and lay the matter before her. But I have no such proofs. There is nothing whatever except that poor girl's word against his."

George's lips closed, and an expression of grim determination came over his face.

"I dare say you are right, Major," he said, after a pause; "but it seems to me hard that Miss Greendale should be sacrificed to a man like that."

Frank did not reply. He had already thought the matter over and over again, and had reached the opinion that he could not interfere. If he had not himself proposed to her, and been refused, he might have moved. Up to that time he had stood in the position of an old friend of the family, and as such could well have spoken to Lady Greendale on a matter that so vitally concerned Bertha's happiness. Now his taking that step would have the appearance of being the interference of a disappointed rival, rather than of a disinterested friend. He went up on deck, sat there for a time, and at last arrived at a conclusion.

"It is my duty. There can be no doubt about that," he said to himself. "If Bertha really loves Carthew, she will believe his denial rather than my accusation, unsupported as it is by a scrap of real evidence. In that case, she will put down my story as a piece of malice and meanness. But, after all, that will matter little. I had better far lose her liking and esteem than my own self respect. I will tell Lady Greendale about this. The responsibility will be off my hands then. She may not view the matter as an absolute bar to Carthew's marrying Bertha––that is her business and Bertha's-but at any rate I shall have done my duty. I will wait, however, until Bertha has accepted him.

"I have made up my mind, George," he said, later on. "If I hear that Miss Greendale has accepted Carthew, I shall go to her mother and tell her the story. I have little hope that it will do much good. It is very hard to make a girl believe anything against the man she loves, until it can be proved beyond doubt, and as Carthew will of course indignantly deny that he had anything to do with it, I expect that it will have no effect whatever, beyond making her dislike me cordially. Still, that cannot be helped. It is clearly my duty not only as her friend, but as the friend of her father and mother. But I wish that the task did not fall upon me."

"I am glad to hear you say that, Major," George said, quietly. "I can see, sir, that, as you say, it would be better if anyone else could do it, but Lady Greendale has known you for so many years that she must surely know that you would never have told her unless you believed the story to be true."

"No doubt she will, George. I hope Miss Greendale will, too; but even if she does not see it in that light I cannot help it. Well, I will go ashore to the clubhouse and find out whether they have heard anything about the entries for the cup."

When he returned he said to the captain:

"I hear that the Phantom has entered, Hawkins. I am told that she has just come off the slips, and that she has had a new suit of racing canvas made by Lapthorne."

"Well, sir, I think that we ought to have a good chance with her. She has shown herself a very fast boat the few times she has been raced, but so have we, and taking the line through boats that we have both sailed against, I think that we ought to be able to beat her."

"I have rather a fancy that we shan't do so, Hawkins. We will do our best, but I have met Mr. Carthew a good many times, for we were at school and college together, and somehow or other he has always managed to beat me."

"Ah! well, we will turn the tables on him this time, sir."

"I hope so, but it has gone so often the other way that I have got to be a little superstitious about it. I would give a good deal to beat him. I should like to win the Queen's Cup, as you know; but even if I didn't win it I should be quite satisfied if I but beat him."

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