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Orley Farm By Anthony Trollope Characters: 16918

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


We must now go back to Noningsby for one concluding chapter, and then our work will be completed. "You are not to go away from Noningsby when the trial is over, you know. Mamma said that I had better tell you so." It was thus that Madeline had spoken to Felix Graham as he was going out to the judge's carriage on the last morning of the celebrated great Orley Farm case, and as she did so she twisted one of her little fingers into one of his buttonholes. This she did with a prettiness of familiarity, and the assumption of a right to give him orders and hold him to obedience, which was almost intoxicating in its sweetness. And why should she not be familiar with him? Why should she not hold him to obedience by his buttonhole? Was he not her own? Had she not chosen him and taken him up to the exclusion of all other such choosings and takings?

"I shall not go till you send me," he said, putting up his hand as though to protect his coat, and just touching her fingers as he did so.

"Mamma says it will be stupid for you in the mornings, but it will not be worse for you than for Augustus. He stays till after Easter."

"And I shall stay till after Whitsuntide unless I am turned out."

"Oh! but you will be turned out. I am not going to make myself answerable for any improper amount of idleness. Papa says you have got all the law courts to reform."

"There must be a double Hercules for such a set of stables as that," said Felix; and then with the slight ceremony to which I have before adverted he took his leave for the day.

"I suppose there will be no use in delaying it," said Lady Staveley on the same morning as she and her daughter sat together in the drawing-room. They had already been talking over the new engagement by the hour, together; but that is a subject on which mothers with marriageable daughters never grow tired, as all mothers and marriageable daughters know full well.

"Oh! mamma, I think it must be delayed."

"But why, my love? Mr. Graham has not said so?"

"You must call him Felix, mamma. I'm sure it's a nice name."

"Very well, my dear, I will."

"No; he has said nothing yet. But of course he means to wait till,-till it will be prudent."

"Men never care for prudence of that kind when they are really in love;-and I'm sure he is."

"Is he, mamma?"

"He will marry on anything or nothing. And if you speak to him he tells you of how the young ravens were fed. But he always forgets that he's not a young raven himself."

"Now you're only joking, mamma."

"Indeed I'm quite in earnest. But I think your papa means to make up an income for you,-only you must not expect to be rich."

"I do not want to be rich. I never did."

"I suppose you will live in London, and then you can come down here when the courts are up. I do hope he won't ever want to take a situation in the colonies."

"Who, Felix? Why should he go to the colonies?"

"They always do,-the clever young barristers who marry before they have made their way. That would be very dreadful. I really think it would kill me."

"Oh! mamma, he sha'n't go to any colony."

"To be sure there are the county courts now, and they are better. I suppose you wouldn't like to live at Leeds or Merthyr-Tydvil?"

"Of course I shall live wherever he goes; but I don't know why you should send him to Merthyr-Tydvil."

"Those are the sort of places they do go to. There is young Mrs. Bright Newdegate,-she had to go to South Shields, and her babies are all dreadfully delicate. She lost two, you know. I do think the Lord Chancellor ought to think about that. Reigate, or Maidstone, or anywhere about Great Marlow would not be so bad." And in this way they discussed the coming event and the happy future, while Felix himself was listening to the judge's charge and thinking of his client's guilt.

Then there were two or three days passed at Noningsby of almost unalloyed sweetness. It seemed that they had all agreed that Prudence should go by the board, and that Love with sweet promises, and hopes bright as young trees in spring, should have it all her own way. Judge Staveley was a man who on such an occasion-knowing with whom he had to deal-could allow ordinary prudence to go by the board. There are men, and excellent men too, from whose minds the cares of life never banish themselves, who never seem to remember that provision is made for the young ravens. They toil and spin always, thinking sternly of the worst and rarely hoping for the best. They are ever making provision for rainy days, as though there were to be no more sunshine. So anxious are they for their children that they take no pleasure in them, and their fear is constant that the earth will cease to produce her fruits. Of such was not the judge. "Dulce est desipere in locis," he would say, "and let the opportunities be frequent and the occasions many." Such a love-making opportunity as this surely should be one.

So Graham wandered about through the dry March winds with his future bride by his side, and never knew that the blasts came from the pernicious east. And she would lean on his arm as though he had been the friend of her earliest years, listening to and trusting him in all things. That little finger, as they stood together, would get up to his buttonhole, and her bright frank eyes would settle themselves on his, and then her hand would press closely upon his arm, and he knew that she was neither ashamed nor afraid of her love. Her love to her was the same as her religion. When it was once acknowledged by her to be a thing good and trustworthy, all the world might know it. Was it not a glory to her that he had chosen her, and why should she conceal her glory? Had it been that some richer, greater man had won her love,-some one whose titles were known and high place in the world approved,-it may well be that then she would have been less free with him.

"Papa would like it best if you would give up your writing, and think of nothing but the law," she said to him. In answer to which he told her, with many compliments to the special fox in question, that story of the fox who had lost his tail and thought it well that other foxes should dress themselves as he was dressed.

"At any rate papa looks very well without his tail," said Madeline with somewhat of a daughter's pride. "But you shall wear yours all the same, if you like it," she added with much of a young maiden's love.

As they were thus walking near the house on the afternoon of the third or fourth day after the trial, one of the maids came to them and told Madeline that a gentleman was in the house who wished to see her.

"A gentleman!" said Madeline.

"Mr. Orme, miss. My lady told me to ask you up if you were anywhere near."

"I suppose I must go," said Madeline, from whom all her pretty freedom of manner and light happiness of face departed on the moment. She had told Felix everything as to poor Peregrine in return for that story of his respecting Mary Snow. To her it seemed as though that had made things equal between them,-for she was too generous to observe that though she had given nothing to her other lover, Felix had been engaged for many months to marry his other love. But girls, I think, have no objection to this. They do not desire first fruits, or even early fruits, as men do. Indeed, I am not sure whether experience on the part of a gentleman in his use of his heart is not supposed by most young ladies to enhance the value of the article. Madeline was not in the least jealous of Mary Snow; but with great good nature promised to look after her, and patronise her when she should have become Mrs. Albert Fitzallen. "But I don't think I should like that Mrs. Thomas," she said.

"You would have mended the stockings for her all the same."

"O yes, I would have done that;-and so did Miss Snow. But I would have kept my box locked. She should never have seen my letters."

It was now absolutely necessary that she should return to the house, and say to Peregrine Orme what words of comfort might be possible for her. If she could have spoken simply with her heart, she would have said much that was friendly, even though it might not be comfortable. But it was necessary that she should express herself in words, and she felt that the task was very difficult. "Will you come in?" she said to Felix.

"No, I think not. But he's a splendid fellow, and t

o me was a stanch friend. If I can catch him as he comes out I will speak to him." And then Madeline, with hesitating steps, with her hat still on her head, and her gloves on her hands, walked through the hall into the drawing-room. There she found her mother seated on the sofa, and Peregrine Orme standing before her. Madeline walked up to him with extended hand and a kindly welcome, though she felt that the colour was high in her cheeks. Of course it would be impossible to come out from such an interview as this without having confessed her position, or hearing it confessed by her mother in her presence. That, however, had been already done, and Peregrine knew that the prize was gone.

"How do you do, Miss Staveley?" said he. "As I am going to leave The Cleeve for a long time, I have come over to say good-bye to Lady Staveley-and to you."

"Are you going away, Mr. Orme?"

"Yes, I shall go abroad,-to Central Africa, I think. It seems a wild sort of place with plenty of animals to kill."

"But isn't it very dangerous?"

"No, I don't think so. The people always come back alive. I've a sort of idea that nothing will kill me. At any rate I couldn't stay here."

"Madeline, dear, I've told Mr. Orme that you have accepted Mr. Graham. With a friend such as he is I know that you will not be anxious to keep this a secret."

"No, mamma."

"I was sure of that; and now that your papa has consented to it, and that it is quite fixed, I am sure that it is better that he should know it. We shall always look upon him as a very dear friend-if he will allow us."

Then it was necessary that Peregrine should speak, which he did as follows, holding Madeline's hand for the first three or four seconds of the time:-"Miss Staveley, I will say this of myself, that if ever a fellow loved a girl truly, I loved you;-and I do so now as well or better than ever. It is no good my pretending to be contented, and all that sort of thing. I am not contented, but very unhappy. I have never wished for but one thing in my life; and for that I would have given all that I have in the world. I know that I cannot have it, and that I am not fit to have it."

"Oh, Mr. Orme, it is not that."

"But it is that. I knew you before Graham did, and loved you quite as soon. I believe-though of course I don't mean to ask any questions-but I believe I told you so before he ever did."

"Marriages, they say, are planned in heaven," said Lady Staveley.

"Perhaps they are. I only wish this one had not been planned there. I cannot help it,-I cannot express my satisfaction, though I will heartily wish for your happiness. I knew from the first how it would be, and was always sure that I was a fool to love you. I should have gone away when I first thought of it, for I used to feel that you never cared to speak to me."

"Oh, indeed I did," said poor Madeline.

"No, you did not. And why should you when I had nothing to say for myself? I ought to have fallen in love with some foolish chit with as little wit about her as I have myself."

"I hope you will fall in love with some very nice girl," said Lady Staveley; "and that we shall know her and love her very much."

"Oh, I dare say I shall marry some day. I feel now as though I should like to break my neck, but I don't suppose I shall. Good-bye, Lady Staveley."

"Good-bye, Mr. Orme; and may God send that you may be happy."

"Good-bye, Madeline. I shall never call you so again,-except to myself. I do wish you may be happy,-I do indeed. As for him,-he has been before me, and taken away all that I wanted to win."

By this time the tears were in his eyes, and his voice was not free from their effect. Of this he was aware, and therefore, pressing her hand, he turned upon his heel and abruptly left the room. He had been unable to say that he wished also that Felix might be happy; but this omission was forgiven him by both the ladies. Poor Madeline, as he went, muttered a kind farewell, but her tears had mastered her also, so that she could hardly speak.

He went directly to the stables, there got upon his horse, and then walked slowly down the avenue towards the gate. He had got the better of that tear-compelling softness as soon as he found himself beyond the presence of the girl he loved, and was now stern in his mood, striving to harden his heart. He had confessed himself a fool in comparison with Felix Graham; but yet,-he asked himself,-in spite of that, was it not possible that he would have made her a better husband than the other? It was not to his title or his estate that he trusted as he so thought, but to a feeling that he was more akin to her in circumstances, in ways of life, and in tenderness of heart. As all this was passing through his mind, Felix Graham presented himself to him in the road.

"Orme," said he, "I heard that you were in the house, and have come to shake hands with you. I suppose you have heard what has taken place. Will you not shake hands with me?"

"No," said Peregrine, "I will not."

"I am sorry for that, for we were good friends, and I owe you much for your kindness. It was a fair stand-up fight, and you should not be angry."

"I am angry, and I don't want your friendship. Go and tell her that I say so, if you like."

"No, I will not do that."

"I wish with all my heart that we had both killed ourselves at that bank."

"For shame, Orme, for shame!"

"Very well, sir; let it be for shame." And then he passed on, meaning to go through the gate, and leaving Graham on the grass by the road-side. But before he had gone a hundred yards down the road his better feelings came back upon him, and he returned.

"I am unhappy," he said, "and sore at heart. You must not mind what words I spoke just now."

"No, no; I am sure you did not mean them," said Felix, putting his hand on the horse's mane.

"I did mean them then, but I do not mean them now. I won't say anything about wishes. Of course you will be happy with her. Anybody would be happy with her. I suppose you won't die, and give a fellow another chance."

"Not if I can help it," said Graham.

"Well, if you are to live, I don't wish you any evil. I do wish you hadn't come to Noningsby, that's all. Good-bye to you." And he held out his hand, which Graham took.

"We shall be good friends yet, for all that is come and gone," said Graham; and then there were no more words between them.

Peregrine did as he said, and went abroad, extending his travels to many wild countries, in which, as he used to say, any one else would have been in danger. No danger ever came to him,-so at least he frequently wrote word to his mother. Gorillas he slew by scores, lions by hundreds, and elephants sufficient for an ivory palace. The skins, and bones, and other trophies, he sent home in various ships; and when he appeared in London as a lion, no man doubted his word. But then he did not write a book, nor even give lectures; nor did he presume to know much about the huge brutes he had slain, except that they were pervious to powder and ball.

Sir Peregrine had endeavoured to keep him at home by giving up the property into his hands; but neither for grandfather, nor for mother, nor for lands and money would he remain in the neighbourhood of Noningsby. "No, mother," he said; "it will be better for me to be away." And away he went.

The old baronet lived to see him return, though with plaintive wail he often declared to his daughter-in-law that this was impossible. He lived, but he never returned to that living life which had been his before he had taken up the battle for Lady Mason. He would sometimes allow Mrs. Orme to drive him about the grounds, but otherwise he remained in the house, sitting solitary over his fire,-with a book, indeed, open before him, but rarely reading. He was waiting patiently, as he said, till death should come to him.

Mrs. Orme kept her promise, and wrote constantly to Lady Mason,-hearing from her as constantly. When Lucius had been six months in Germany, he decided on going to Australia, leaving his mother for the present in the little German town in which they were staying. For her, on the whole, the change was for the better. As to his success in a thriving colony, there can be but little doubt.

Felix Graham was soon married to Madeline; and as yet I have not heard of any banishment either to Patagonia or to Merthyr-Tydvil.

And now I may say, Farewell.

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