Monica: A Novel, Volume 2 (of 3)
“Torwood’s Trust,” “The Last of the Dacres,”“Ruthven of Ruthven,” Etc.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
WARD AND DOWNEY,
12, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.C.
KELLY AND CO., GATE STREET, LINCOLN’S INN FIELDS,
|CHAPTER THE TWELFTH.||PAGE|
|CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH.|
|CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH.|
|Storm and Calm||40|
|CHAPTER THE FIFTEENTH.|
|A Summons to Trevlyn||61|
|CHAPTER THE SIXTEENTH.|
|CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH.|
|CHAPTER THE EIGHTEENTH.|
|CHAPTER THE NINETEENTH.|
|CHAPTER THE TWENTIETH.|
|A Visit to Arthur||160|
|CHAPTER THE TWENTY-FIRST.|
|Back at Trevlyn||180|
|CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SECOND.|
CHAPTER THE TWELFTH.
Randolph was gone; and Monica, leftalone in her luxurious London house, feltstrangely lost and desolate. Her husbandhad expressed a wish that she should goout as much as possible, and not shut herselfup in solitude during his brief absence,and to do his will was now her great desire.She would have preferred to remain quietlyat home. She liked best to sit by her fireupstairs, and make Wilberforce tell her ofRandolph’s childhood and boyish days; hisdevotion to his widowed mother, his kindnessto herself, all the deeds of youthfulprowess, which an old nurse treasures uprespecting her youthful charges and delightsto repeat in after years. Wilberforce wouldtalk of Randolph by the hour together ifshe were not checked, and Monica feltsingularly little disposition to check her.
However she obeyed her husband ineverything, and took her morning’s ride asusual next day, and was met by CeciliaBellamy, who rode beside her, with hertrain of cavaliers in attendance, and pitiedthe poor darling child who had beendeserted by her husband.
“I am just in the same sad predicamentmyself, Monica,” she said, plaintively.“My husband has had to go to Paris, allof a sudden, and I am left alone too. Wemust console ourselves together. You mustdrive with me to-day and come to tea, andI will come to you to-morrow.”
Monica tried in vain to beg off; Cecilia onlylaughed at her. Monica had not savoir faireenough to parry skilful thrusts, nor insincerityenough to plead engagements that didnot exist. So she was monopolised by Mrs.Bellamy in her morning’s ride, was drivenout in her carriage that same afternoon,and taken to several houses where herfriend had “just a few words” to say tothe hostess. She was taken back to tea,and had to meet Conrad, who receivedher with great warmth, and had the badtaste to address her by her Christian namebefore a whole roomful of company, andwho ended by insisting on walking homewith her. Yet his manner was so quietand courteous, and he seemed so utterlyunconscious of her disfavour, that she washalf ashamed of it, despite her very realannoyance.
And the worst of it was that thereseemed no end to the attentions pressedupon her by the indefatigable Cecilia.Monica did not know how to escape fromthe manifold invitations and visits thatwere showered upon her. She seemedfated to be for ever in the society of Mrs.Bellamy and her friends. Beatrice Wentworthand her brother were themselvesout of town; Randolph was detained longerthan he had at first anticipated, and Monicafound herself drawn in an imperceptibleway—against which she rebelled in vain—intoquite a new set of people and places.
Monica was a mere baby in Cecilia’shands. She had not the faintest idea of anymalice on the part of her friend. She felther attentions oppressive; she disliked theconstant encounters with Conrad; but shetried in vain to free herself from thehospitable tyranny of the gay little woman.She was caught in some inexplicable way,and without downright rudeness she couldnot escape.
As a rule, Conrad was very guarded anddiscreet, especially when alone with her.He often annoyed her by his assumption offamiliarity in presence of others, but hewas humble enough for the most part, andtook no umbrage at her rather pointedavoidance of him. She did not know whathe was trying to do: how he was planninga subtle revenge upon his enemy herhusband—the husband she was beginningunconsciously yet very truly to love. Sheshrank from him without knowing why,but the day was rapidly approaching whenher eyes were to be opened.
Her instincts were so true that it wasnot easy to deceive her for long. Ignoranceof the world and reluctance to suspect evilblinded her for a time; but she was tolearn the true nature of her so-calledfriends before long.
There had been a small picnic party atRichmond one day. Monica had tried hardto excuse herself from attending, but hadbeen laughed and coaxed into consent. Itmattered the less what she did now, forher husband was to be at home the followingday, and in the gladness of that thoughtshe could almost enjoy the sunshine, thefresh air, the sight of green grass andwaving trees, the country sights and soundsto which she had so long been a stranger.
The party, too, was small, and thoughConrad was of the number, he held alooffrom Monica, for which she was glad, forshe had felt an increasing distrust of himof late. It was an equestrian party, andthe long ride was a pleasure to Monica,who could have spent a whole day in thesaddle without fatigue.
And then her husband was coming. Hewould set all right. She would tell himeverything—she had not felt able to do soin the little brief notes she had written tohim—and she would take his advice forthe future, and decline friendship with allwho could not be his friends too. Everythingwould be right when Randolph cameback.
Then Monica was glad of an opportunityof a little quiet talk with CeciliaBellamy. The wish for a private interviewwith her had been one of the reasonswhich had led her to consent to be oneof to-day’s party. She had somethingon her mind she wished to say to her inprivate, and as yet she had found noopportunity of doing so.
Yet it was not until quite late in theafternoon that Monica’s opportunity came;when it did, she availed herself of it atonce. She and her friend were alone in aquiet part of the park; nobody was verynear to them.
“Cecilia,” said Monica, “there is somethingI wish to say to you now that we arealone together. I am very much obligedto you for being so friendly during myhusband’s absence—but—but—it is difficultto say what I mean—but I think you oughtnot to have had your brother so much withyou when you were asking me; or rather Ithink, as he is your brother, whilst I amonly a friend, the best plan would be forus to agree not to attempt to be veryintimate. We have drifted apart with thelapse of years, and there are reasons, asyou know, why it is not advisable for meto see much of your brother. I am sureyou understand me without any morewords.”
“Oh, perfectly!” said Mrs. Bellamy witha light laugh. “Poor child, what an ogrehe is! Well, at least, we have made thebest of the little time he allowed us.”
Monica drew herself up very straight.
“I do not understand you, Cecilia.Please to remember that you are speakingof my husband.”
Mrs. Bellamy laughed again.
“I am in no danger of forgetting, mydear. Please do not trouble yourself toput on such old-fashioned airs with me; asif every one did not know your secret bythis time.”
Monica turned upon her with flashingeyes.
“The secret of your unhappy marriage,my love. It was obviously a mariage deconvenance from the first, and you take nopains to disguise the fact that it will neverbe anything else. As Randolph Trevlyn israther a fascinating man, there is only onerational interpretation to be put upon yourpersistent indifference.”
Monica stood as if turned to stone.
“Why, that your heart was given awaybefore he appeared on the scene. Peoplelike little pathetic romances, and there issomething in the style of your beauty, mydear, that makes you an object of interestwherever you go. You are universallycredited with a ‘history’ and a slowlybreaking heart—an equally heart-brokenlover in the background. You can’t thinkhow interested we all are in you—and——”
But the sentence was not finished. Mrs.Bellamy’s perceptions were not fine, butsomething in Monica’s face deterred herfrom permitting her brother’s name to passher lips. It was easy to see that nosuspicion of his connection with the“romance” concocted for her by gossipingtongues had ever crossed her mind. Butshe was sternly indignant, and wounded tothe quick by what she had heard.
She spoke not a word, but turnedhaughtily away and sought for solitude inthe loneliest part of the park. She wasterribly humiliated. She knew nothing ofthe inevitable chatter and gossip, halfgood-humoured, half mischievous, withwhich idle people indulge themselves abouttheir neighbours, especially if that neighbourhappens to be a beautiful woman, withan unknown past and an apparent troubleupon her. She did not know that spite onConrad’s part, and flighty foolishness onthat of his sister, had started rumours concerningher. She only felt that she had byher ingratitude and coolness towards thehusband who had sacrificed so much forher, and whom she sincerely respected, andalmost loved, had been the means of bringinghis name and hers within the reach ofmalicious tongues, had given rise to cruelfalse rumours she hated ever to think of.If only her husband were with her!—atleast he would soon be with her, and if forvery shame she could not repeat the cruelwords she had heard, at least she couldshow to all the world how false and basethey were.
Monica woke up at last to the fact thatit was getting late, and that she was in atotally strange place, far away fromthe rest of the party. She turnedquickly and retraced her steps. Sheseldom lost her bearings, and was able tofind her way back without difficulty, butshe had strayed farther than she knew; ittook her some time to reach the gladein which they had lunched, and when shearrived there she found it quite deserted.There was nothing for it but to go back tothe hotel, whither she supposed the othershad preceded her, but when she reachedthe courtyard no one was to be seen butConrad, who held her horse and his own.
“Ah, Monica! here you are. Wemissed you just at starting. Did you loseyourself in the park? Nobody seemed toknow what had become of you.”
“I suppose I walked rather too far.Where are the rest?”
“Just started five minutes ago. Weonly missed you then. I said I’d wait. Weshall catch them up in two minutes.”
As this was Mrs. Bellamy’s party, andConrad was her brother, this mark ofcourtesy could not be called excessive, yetsomehow it displeased Monica a good deal.
“Where is my groom?”
Conrad looked round innocently enough.“I suppose he joined the cavalcade,stupid fellow! Stablemen are so verygregarious. Never mind; we shall be upwith them directly.”
And Monica was forced to mount andride after the party with Conrad.
But they did not come up with theothers, despite his assurances, and the factthat they rode very fast for a considerabletime. He professed himself very muchastonished, and declared that they musthave made a stupid blunder, and have goneby some other road.
“In that case, Sir Conrad,” said Monica,“I will dispense with your escort. I amperfectly well able to take care of myselfalone.”
He read her displeasure in her face andvoice. She had an instinct that she hadbeen tricked, but it was not a suspicionshe could put into words.