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The History of Sir Richard Calmady: a Romance . Malet, Lucas, 1852–1931.
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page: 518

CHAPTER IV

DEALING WITH MATTERS OF HEARSAY AND MATTERS OF SPORT

ONE raw, foggy evening, early in the following December, the house at Newlands presented an unusually animated scene. On the gravel of the carriage‐sweep, without, grooms walked breathed and sweating horses—the steam from whose bodies and nostrils showed white in the chill dusk—slowly up and down. In the hall, within, a number of gentlemen, more or less mud‐bespattered, regaled themselves with cheerful conversation, with strong waters of unexceptionable quality, and with their host, Mr. Cathcart’s, very excellent cigars. They moved stiffly and stood in attitudes more professional than elegant. The long, clear‐coloured drawing‐room beyond offered a perspective of much amiable comfort. The glazed surfaces of its flowery‐patterned chintzes gave back the brightness of candles and shaded lamps, while drawn curtains shut out the somewhat mournful prospect of sodden garden, bare trees, and grey, enshrouding mist. At the tea‐table, large, mild, reposeful, clothed in wealth of black silk and black lace, was Mrs. Cathcart. Lord Fallowfeild, his handsome, infantile countenance beaming with good‐nature and good‐health above his blue‐and‐white, bird’s‐eye stock and scarlet hunting‐coat, sat by her discoursing with great affability and at great length. Mary Ormiston stood near them, an expression of kindly diversion upon her face. Her figure had grown somewhat matronly in these days, and there were lines in her forehead and about the corners of her rather large mouth; but her crisp hair was still untouched by grey, her bright, gipsylike complexion had retained its freshness, she possessed the same effect of wholesomeness and good sense as of old, while her honest, brown eyes were soft with satisfied mother‐love as they met those of the slender, black‐headed boy at her side.—Godfrey Ormiston was in his second term at Eton, and had come to Newlands to‐day for his exeat.—The little party was completed by Lord Shotover, who stood before the fire warming that part of his person which by the lay mind, unversed in such mysteries, might have been judged to be already more than sufficiently warmed page: 519 by the saddle, his feet planted far apart and a long glass of brandy and soda in his hand. For this last he had offered good‐tempered apology.

“I know I’ve no business to bring it in here, Mrs. Cathcart,” he said, “and make your drawing‐room smell like a pot‐house. But, you see, there was a positive stampede for the hearth‐rug in the hall. A modest man, such as myself, hadn’t a chance. There’s a regular rampart, half the county in fact, before that fire. So I thought I’d just slope in here, don’t you know. It looked awfully warm and inviting. And then I wanted to pay my respects to Mrs. Ormiston too, and talk to this young chap about Eton in peace.”

Whereat Godfrey flushed up to the roots of his hair, being very sensibly exalted. Since what young male creature who knew anything really worth knowing—that was Godfrey’s way of putting it at least—did not know that Lord Shotover had been a mighty sportsman from his youth up, and upon a certain famous occasion had won the Grand National on his own horse?

“Only tea for me, Mrs. Cathcart,” Lord Fallowfeild was saying. “Capital thing tea. Never touch spirits in the daytime and never have. No reflection upon other men’s habits.”—He turned an admiring, fatherly glance upon the tall, well‐made Shotover.—“Other men know their own business best. Always have been a great advocate for believing every man knows his own business best. Still stick to my own habits. Like to be consistent. Very steadying, sobering thing to be consistent, very strengthening to the character. Always have told all my children that. As you begin, so you should go on. Always have tried to begin as I was going on. Haven’t always succeeded, but have made an honest effort. And it is something, you know, to make an honest effort. Try to bear that in mind, you young gentleman,”—this, genially, to Godfrey Ormiston. “Not half a bad rule to start in life with, to go on as you begin, you know.”

“Always provided you begin right, you know, my dear fellow,” Shotover observed, patting the boy’s shoulder with his disengaged hand, and looking at the boy’s mother with a humorous suggestion of self‐depreciation. Now, as formerly, he entertained the very friendliest sentiments towards all good women, yet maintained an expensively extensive acquaintance with women to whom that adjective is not generically applicable.

But Lord Fallowfeild was fairly under weigh. Words flowed from him, careless of comment or of interruption. He was innocently and conspicuously happy. He had enjoyed a fine page: 520 day’s sport in company with his favourite son, whose financial embarrassments were not, it may be added, just now in a critical condition. And then access of material prosperity had recently come to Lord Fallowfeild in the shape of a considerable coal‐producing property in the north of Midlandshire. The income derived from this—amounting to from ten to twelve thousand a year—was payable to him during his lifetime, with remainder, on trust, in equal shares to all his children. There were good horses in the Whitney stables now, and no question of making shift to let the house in Belgrave Square for the season, while the amiable nobleman’s banking‐account showed a far from despicable balance. And consciousness of this last fact formed an agreeable undercurrent to his every thought. Therefore was he even more than usually garrulous according to his own kindly and innocent fashion.

“Very hospitable and friendly of you and Cathcart, to be sure,” he continued, “to throw open your house in this way. Kindness alike to man and beast, man and beast, for which my son and I are naturally very grateful.”

Lord Shotover looked at Mary again, smiling.—“Little mixed that statement, isn’t it,” he said, “unless we take for granted that I’m the beast?”

“I was a good deal perplexed, I own, Mrs. Cathcart, as to how we should get home without giving the horses a rest and having them gruelled. Fourteen miles”—

“A precious long fourteen too,” put in Shotover.

“So it is,” his father agreed, “a long fourteen. And my horse was pumped, regularly pumped. I can’t bear to see a horse as done as that. It distresses me, downright distresses me. Hate to over‐press a horse. Hate to over‐press anything that can’t stand up to you and take its revenge on you. Always feel ashamed of myself if I’ve over‐pressed a horse. But I hadn’t reckoned on the distance.”

“’The pace was too hot to inquire,’” quoted Shotover.

“So it was. Meeting at Grimshott, you see, we very rarely kill so far on this side of the country.”

“Breaking just where he did, I’d have bet on that fox doubling back under Talepenny wood and making across the vale for the earths in the big Brockhurst warren,” Lord Shotover declared.

“Would you, though?” said his father. “Very reasonable forecast, very reasonable, indeed. Quite the likeliest thing for him to do, only he didn’t do it. Don’t believe that fox belonged to this side of the country at all. Don’t understand his tactics. page: 521 If it had been in my poor friend Denier’s time, I might have suspected him of being a bagman.”

Lord Fallowfeild chuckled a little.

“Ran too straight for a bagman,” Shotover remarked. “Well, he gave us a rattling good spin whose‐ever fox he was.”

“Didn’t he, though?” said Lord Fallowfeild genially.—He turned sideways in his chair, threw one shapely leg across the other, and addressed himself more exclusively to his hostess. “Haven’t had such a day for years,” he continued. “And a very pleasant thing to have such a day just when my son’s down with me—very pleasant, indeed. It reminds me of my poor, dear friend Henniker’s time. Good fellow Henniker. I liked Henniker. Never had a better master than Tom Henniker, very tactful, nice‐feeling man, and had such an excellent manner with the farmers—Ah! here’s Cathcart—and Knott. How d’ye do, Knott? Always glad to see you.—Very pleasant meeting such a number of friends. Very pleasant ending to a pleasant day, eh, Shotover? Mrs. Cathcart and I were just speaking of poor Tom Henniker. You used to hunt then, Cathcart. Do you remember a run, just about this time of year?—It may have been a little earlier. I tell you why. It was the second time the hounds met after my poor friend Aldborough’s funeral.”

“Lord Aldborough died on the twenty‐seventh of October,” John Knott said. The doctor limped in walking. He suffered a sharp twinge of sciatica and his face lent itself to astonishing contortions.

“Plain man Knott,” Lord Fallowfeild commented inwardly. “Monstrously able fellow, but uncommonly plain. So’s Cathcart for that matter. Well‐dressed man and very well‐preserved as to figure, but remarkably like an orang‐outang now his eyes are sunk and his eyebrows have grown so tufty.”—Then he glanced anxiously at Lord Shotover to assure himself of the entire absence of simian approximations in the case of his own family.—“Oh! ah! yes,” he remarked aloud, and somewhat vaguely. “Quite right, Knott. Then of course it was earlier. Record run for that season. Seldom had a better. We found a fox in the Grimshott gorse and ran to Water End without a check.”

“And Lemuel Image got into the Tilney brook,” Mary Ormiston said, laughing a little.

“So he did, though!” Lord Fallowfeild rejoined, beaming. And then suddenly his complacency suffered eclipse. For, looking at the speaker, he became disagreeably aware of having, on some occasion, said something highly inconvenient concerning page: 522 this lady to one of her near relations. He rushed into speech again:—“Loud‐voiced, blustering kind of fellow Image. I never have liked Image. Extraordinary marriage that of his with a connection of poor Aldborough’s. Never have understood how her people could allow it.”

“Oh! money’ll buy pretty well everything in this world except brains and a sound liver,” Dr. Knott said, as he lowered himself cautiously on to the seat of the highest chair available.

“Or a good conscience,” Mrs. Cathcart observed, with mild dogmatism.

“I am not altogether so sure about that,” the doctor answered. “I have known the doubling of a few charitable subscriptions work extensive cures under that head. Depend upon it there’s an immense deal more conscience‐money paid every year than ever finds its way into the coffers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.”

“So there is, though!” said Lord Fallowfeild, with an air of regretful conviction. “Never put it as clearly as that myself, Knott, but must own I am afraid there is.”

Mr. Cathcart, who had joined Lord Shotover upon the hearth‐rug, here intervened. He had a tendency to air local grievances, especially in the presence of his existing noble guest, whom he regarded, not wholly without reason, as somewhat lukewarm and dilatory in questions of reform.

“I own to sharing your dislike of Image,” he remarked. “He behaved in an anything but straightforward manner about the site for the new cottage hospital at Parson’s Holt.”

“Did he, though?” said Lord Fallowfeild.

“Yes.—I supposed it had been brought to your notice.”

Lord Fallowfeild fidgeted a little.—“Rather too downright Cathcart,” he said to himself. “Gets you into a corner and fixes you. Not fair, not at all fair in general society.—Oh! ah!‐cottage hospital, yes,” he added aloud. “Very tiresome, vexatious business about that hospital. I felt it very much at the time.”

“It was a regular job,” Mr. Cathcart continued.

“No, not a job, not a job, my dear fellow. Unpleasant word job. Nothing approaching a job, only an oversight, at most an unfortunate error of judgment,” Lord Fallowfeild protested.—He glanced at his son inviting support, but that gentleman was engaged in kindly conversation with bright‐eyed, little Godfrey Ormiston. He glanced at Mary—remembered suddenly that his unfortunate remark regarding that lady had been connected with her resemblance to her father, and the latter’s striking defect of personal beauty. He glanced at the doctor. But John Knott sat page: 523 all hunched together, watching him with an expression rather sardonic than sympathetic.

“There was culpable negligence somewhere, in any case,” his persecutor, Mr. Cathcart, went on. “It was obvious Image pressed that bit of land at Waters End on the committee simply because no one would buy it for building purposes. His affectation of generosity as to price was a piece of the most transparent hypocrisy.”

“I suppose it was,” Lord Fallowfeild agreed mildly.

“A certain anonymous donor had promised a second five hundred pounds, if the hospital was built on high ground with a subsoil of gravel.”

“It is on gravel,” put in Lord Fallowfeild anxiously. “Saw it myself—distinctly remember seeing gravel when the heather had been pared before digging the foundations—bright yellow gravel.”

“Yes, and with a ten‐foot bed of blue clay underneath. Most dangerous soil going,”—this from Dr. Knott, grimly.

“Is it, though?” Lord Fallowfeild inquired, with an amiable effort to welcome unpalatable, geological information.

“Not a doubt of it. The surface water and generally the sewage—for we are very far yet from having discovered a drainpipe which is impeccable in respect of leakage—soak through the porous cap down to the clay and lie there; to rise again, not at the Last Day by any means, but on the evening of the very first one that’s been hot enough to cause evaporation.”

“Do they, though?” said Lord Fallowfeild. He was greatly impressed.—“Capable fellow Knott, wonderful thing science,” he commented inwardly and with praiseworthy humility.

But Mr. Cathcart returned to the charge.

“The hospital was disastrously the loser, in any case,” he remarked. “As a matter of course, the conditions having been disregarded, Lady Calmady withdrew her promise of a second donation.”

“Oh! ah! Lady Calmady, really!” the simple‐minded nobleman exclaimed. “Very interesting piece of news and very generous intention, no doubt, on the part of Lady Calmady. But give you my word, Cathcart, that until this moment I had no notion that the anonymous donor of whom we heard so much from one or two members of the committee—heard too much, I thought, for I dislike mysteries—foolish, unprofitable things mysteries—always turn out to be nothing at all in the finish—oh! ah! yes—well, that the anonymous donor was Lady Calmady!”

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And thereupon he shifted his position with as much assumption of hauteur as his inherent kindliness permitted. He turned his chair sideways, presenting an excellently flat, if somewhat broad, scarlet‐clad back to his persecutor upon the hearth‐rug.‐“Sorry to set a man down in his own house,” he said to himself, “but Cathcart’s a little wanting in taste sometimes. He presses a subject home too closely. And if I was bamboozled by Image, it really isn’t Cathcart’s place to remind me of it.”

He turned a worried and puckered countenance upon his hostess, upon Dr. Knott, upon the drawing‐room door. In the hall, beyond, one or two guests still lingered. A lady had just joined them, notably straight and tall, and lazily graceful of movement. Lord Fallowfeild knew her, but could not remember her name.

“Oh! ah! Shotover,” he said, over his shoulder, “I don’t want to hurry you, my dear boy, but perhaps it would be as well if you’d just go round to the stables and take a look at the horses.”

Then, as the gentleman addressed moved away, escorted by his host and followed in admiring silence by Godfrey Ormiston, he repeated, almost querulously:—“Foolish things mysteries. Nothing in them, as a rule, when you thrash them out. Mares’ nests generally. And that reminds me, I hear young”—Lord Fallowfeild’s air of worry became accentuated—“young Calmady’s got home again at last.”

“Yes,” Mrs. Cathcart said, “Richard and his mother have been at Brockhurst nearly a month.”

“Have they, though?” exclaimed Lord Fallowfeild. He fidgeted. “It’s a painful subject to refer to, but I should be glad to know the truth of these nasty, uncomfortable rumours about young Calmady. You see there was that question of his and my youngest daughter’s marriage. I never approved. Shotover backed me up in that. He didn’t approve either. And in the end Calmady behaved in a very high‐minded, straightforward manner. Came to me himself and exhibited very good sense and very proper feeling, did Calmady. Admitted his own disabilities with extraordinary frankness, too much frankness, I was inclined to think at the time. It struck me as a trifle callous, don’t you know. But afterwards, when he left home in that singular manner and went abroad, and we all lost sight of him, and heard how reckless he had become and all that, it weighed on me. I give you my word, Mrs. Cathcart, it weighed very much on me. I’ve seldom been more upset by anything in my life than I was by the whole affair of that wedding.”

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“I am afraid it was a great mistake throughout,” Mrs. Cathcart said. She folded her plump, white hands upon her ample lap and sighed gently.

“Wasn’t it, though? So I told everybody from the start you know,” commented Lord Fallowfeild.

“It caused a great deal of unhappiness.”

“So it did, so it did,” the good man said. He looked crestfallen, his kindly and well‐favoured countenance being overspread by an expression of disarmingly innocent penitence.—“It weighed on me. I should be glad to be able to forget it, but now it’s all cropping up again. You see there are these rumours that poor, young Calmady’s gone under very much one way and another, that his health’s broken up altogether, and that he is shut up in two rooms at Brockhurst because—it’s a terribly distressing thing to mention, but that’s the common talk, you know—because he’s a little touched here”—the speaker tapped his smooth and very candid forehead—“a little wrong here! Horrible thing insanity,” he repeated.

At this point Dr. Knott, who had been watching first one person and then another present from under his shaggy eyebrows with an air of somewhat harsh amusement, roused himself.

“Pardon me, all a pack of lies, my lord,” he said, “and stupid ones into the bargain. Sir Richard Calmady’s as sane as you are yourself.”

“Is he, though?” the other exclaimed, brightening sensibly. “Thank you, Knott. It is a very great relief to me to hear that.”

“Only a man with a remarkably sound constitution could have pulled round. I quite own he’s been very hard hit, and no wonder. Typhoid and complications”—

“Ah! complications?” inquired Lord Fallowfeild, who rarely let slip an opportunity of acquiring information of a pathological description.

“Yes, complications. Of the sort that are most difficult to deal with, emotional and moral—beginning with his engagement to Lady Constance”—

“Oh, dear me!”—this, piteously, from that lady’s father.

“And ending—his Satanic Majesty knows where! I don’t. It’s no concern of mine, nor of anyone else’s in my opinion. He has paid his footing—every man has to pay it sooner or later—to life and experience, and a personal acquaintance with the thou shall not which, for cause unknown, goes for so almighty much in this very queer business of human existence. He has had a rough time, never doubt that, with his high‐strung, arrogant, sensitive nature and the dirty trick played on him by page: 526 that heartless jade, Dame Fortune, before his birth. For the time, this illness had knocked the wind out of him. If he sulks for a bit, small blame to him. But he’ll come round. He is coming round day by day.”

As he finished speaking the doctor got on to his feet somewhat awkwardly. His subject had affected him more deeply than he quite cared either to own to himself or to have others see.

“That plaguy sciatic nerve again,” he growled.

Lord Fallowfeild had risen also.—“Capable man Knott, but rather rough at times, rather too didactic,” he said to himself, as he turned to greet Miss St. Quentin. She had strolled in from the hall. Her charming face was full of merriment. There was something altogether gallant in the carriage of her small head.

“I was so awfully glad to see Lord Shotover!” she said, as she gave her hand to that gentleman’s father. “It’s an age since he and I have met.”

“Very pleasant hearing, my dear young lady, for Shotover, if he was here to hear it! Lucky fellow Shotover.”—The kindly nobleman beamed upon her. He was nothing if not chivalrous. Mentally, all the same, he was much perplexed. “Of course, I remember who she is. But I understood it was Ludovic,” he said to himself. “Made sure it was Ludovic. Uncommonly attractive, high‐bred woman. Very striking looking pair, she and Shotover. Can’t fancy Shotover settled, though. Say she’s a lot of money. Wonder whether it is Shotover?—Uncommonly fine run, best run we’ve had for years,” he added aloud. “Pity you weren’t out, Miss St. Quentin.—Well, good‐bye, Mrs. Cathcart. I must be going. I am extremely grateful for all your kindness and hospitality. It is seldom I have the chance of meeting so many friends this side of the country.—Good‐day to you, Knott—good‐bye, Miss St. Quentin.—Wonder if I’d better ask her to Whitney,” he thought, “on the chance of its being Shotover? Better sound him first, though. Never let a man in for a woman unless you’ve very good reason to suppose he wants her.”

Honoria, meanwhile, thrusting her hands into the pockets of her long, fur‐lined, tan, cloth driving‐coat sat down on the arm of Mary Ormiston’s flowery‐patterned, chintz‐covered chair.

“I left you all in a state of holy peace and quiet,” she said, smiling, “and a fine show you’ve got on hand by the time I come back.”

“They ran across the ten‐acre field and killed in the shrubbery,” Mrs. Ormiston put in.

John Knott limped forward. He stood with his hands behind him looking down at the two ladies. Some months had elapsed page: 527 since he and Miss St. Quentin had met. He was very fond of the young lady. It interested him to meet her again. Honoria glanced up at him smiling.

“Have you been out too?” she asked.

“Not a bit of it. I’m too busy mending other people’s brittle anatomy to have time to risk breaking any part of my own. I’m ugly enough already. No need to make me uglier. I came here for the express purpose of calling on you.”

“You saw Katherine?” Mary asked.

“Oh yes! I saw Cousin Katherine.”

“How is she?”

“An embodiment of faith, hope, and charity, as usual; but with just that pinch of malice thrown in which gives the compound a flavour. In short, she is enchanting. And then she looks so admirably well.”

“That six months at sea was a great restorative,” Mary remarked.

“Yet it really is rather wonderful when you consider the state she was in before we went to you at Ormiston, and how frightened we were at her undertaking the journey to Naples.”

“Her affections are satisfied,” Dr. Knott said, and his loose lips worked into a smile, half sneering, half tender. “I am an old man, and I have had a good lot to do with women—at second hand. Feed their hearts, and the rest of the mechanism runs easy enough. Anything short of organic disease can be cured by that sort of nourishment. Even organic disease can be arrested by it. And what’s more, I have known disease develop in an apparently perfectly healthy subject simply because the heart was starved. Oh! I tell you, you’re marvellous beings.”

“And yet you know I feel so abominably sold,” Honoria declared, “when I consider the way in which we all—Roger, Mr. Quayle, and I—acted bodyguard, attended Cousin Katherine to Naples, wrapped her in cotton wool, dear thing, sternly determined to protect her at all costs and all hazards from—well, I am ashamed to say I had no name bad enough at that time for Richard Calmady! And then this very person, whom we regarded as her probable destruction, proves to be her absolute salvation, while she proceeds to turn the tables upon us in the smartest fashion imaginable. She showed us the door and entreated us, in the most beguiling manner, to return whence we came and leave her wholly at the mercy of the enemy. I was furious”—Miss St. Quentin laughed—“downright furious! And Roger’s temper, for all his high‐mightiness, was a thing to swear at, rather than swear by, the morning he and I left Naples. With page: 528 the greatest difficulty we persuaded her even to keep Clara. She had a rage, dear thing, for getting rid of the lot of us. Oh! we had a royal skirmish and no mistake.”

“So Roger told me.”

Honoria stretched herself a little, lolled against the back of the chair, steadying herself by laying one hand affectionately on the other woman’s shoulder. And John Knott, observing her, noted not only her nonchalant and almost boyish grace, but a swift change in her humour from light‐hearted laughter to a certain, and as he fancied, half‐unwilling enthusiasm.

“But to‐day,” she went on, “when Cousin Katherine told me about it, I confess the whole situation laid hold of me. I could not help seeing it must have been finely romantic to go off like that—those two alone—caring as she cares, and after the long separation. It sounds like a thing in some Elizabethan ballad. There’s a rhythm in it all which stirs one’s blood. She says the yacht’s crew were delightful to her, and treated her as a queen. One can fancy that—the stately, lovely queen‐mother, and that strange only son!—They called in at the North African ports, and at Gib and Madeira, and the Cape de Verds, and then ran straight for Rio. Then they steamed up the coast to Pernambuco, and on to the West Indies. Richard never went ashore, Cousin Katherine only once or twice. But they squattered about in the everlasting summer of tropic harbours, fringed with palms and low, dim, red‐roofed, tropic houses—just sampled it all, the colour, and light, and beauty, and far‐awayness of it—and then, when the fancy took them, got up steam and slipped out again to sea. And the name of the yacht is the Reprieve. That’s in the picture, isn’t it?”

Honoria paused. She leaned forward, her chin in her hands, her elbows on her knees. She looked up at John Knott, and there was a singular expression in her clear and serious eyes.

“I used to pity Cousin Katherine,” she said. “I used to break my heart over her. And now—now, upon my word, I believe I envy her.—And see here, Dr. Knott, she has asked me to go on to Brockhurst from here. It seems that though Richard refuses to see anyone, except you of course and Julius March, he fusses at his mother being so much alone. What ought I to do? I feel rather uncertain. I have fought him, I own I have. We have never been friends, he and I. He doesn’t like me. He’s no reason to like me—anything but! What do you say? Shall I refuse or shall I go?”

And the doctor reflected a little, drawing his great, square hand down over his mouth and heavy, bristly chin.

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“Yes, go,” he answered. “Go and chance it. Your being at Brockhurst may work out in more of good than we now know.”

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