In the Dead of Night_ A Novel. Volume 2 (of 3)
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(University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON.
(All rights reserved.)
CONTENTS OF VOLUME II.
|I.||THE EVE OF THE TRIAL.|
|III.||A BOTTLE OF BURGUNDY.|
|IV.||DR. DRAYTON'S SUSPICIONS.|
|V.||HIDE AND SEEK.|
|VII.||GENERAL ST. GEORGE.|
|VIII.||CUPID AT PINCOTE.|
|IX.||AT THE VILLA PAMPHILI.|
|X.||BACK AGAIN AT PARK NEWTON.|
|XI.||MRS. MCDERMOTT WANTS HER MONEY.|
|XII.||FOOTSTEPS IN THE ROOM.|
|XIII.||THE SQUIRE'S TRIBULATION.|
IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT.
THE EVE OF THE TRIAL.
Within a week of Tom Bristow's first visit to Pincote, and hisintroduction to the Copes, father and son, Mr. Cope, junior, foundhimself, much to his disgust, fairly on his way to New York. He wouldgladly have rebelled against the parental dictum in this matter, if hehad dared to do so; but he knew of old how worse than useless it wouldbe for him to offer the slightest opposition to his father's wishes.
"You will go and say goodbye to Miss Culpepper as a matter ofcourse," said Mr. Cope to him. "But don't grow too sentimental overthe parting. Do it in an easy, smiling way, as if you were merelygoing out of town for a few days. Don't make any promises--don't talkabout the future--and, above all, don't say a word about marriage. Ofcourse, you will have to write to her occasionally while you are away.Just a few lines, you know, to say how you are, and all that. Nomawkish silly love-nonsense, but a sensible, manly letter; and bewisely reticent as to the date of your return. Very sorry, but youdon't know how much longer your business may detain you--you know thesort of thing I mean."
When the idea had first entered Mr. Cope's mind that it would be anexcellent thing if he could only succeed in getting his son engaged toSquire Culpepper's only child, it had not been without an ulterior eyeto the fortune which that young lady would one day call her own thathe had been induced to press forward the scheme to a successful issue.By marrying Miss Culpepper, his son would be enabled to take up aposition in county society such as he could never hope to attaineither by his own merits, which were of the most moderate kind, orfrom his father's money bags alone. But dearly as Mr. Cope lovedposition, he loved money still better; and it was no part of hisprogramme that his son should marry a pauper, even though that paupercould trace back her pedigree to the Conqueror. And yet, if the squirewent on speculating as madly as he was evidently doing now, it seemedonly too probable that pauperism, or something very much like it,would be the result, as far as Miss Culpepper was concerned. Insteadof having a fortune of at least twenty thousand pounds, as she oughtto have, would she come in for as many pence when the old man died?Mr. Cope groaned in spirit as he asked himself the question, and hebecame more determined than ever to carry out his policy of waitingand watching, before allowing the engagement of the young people toreach a point that would render a subsequent rupture impossiblewithout open scandal--and scandal was a bugbear of which the bankerstood in extreme dread.
Fortunately, perhaps, for Mr. Cope's view, the feelings of neitherof the people chiefly concerned were very deeply interested. Edwardhad obeyed his father in this as in everything else. He had knownJane from a child, and he liked her because she was clever andgood-tempered. But she by no means realized his ideal of femininebeauty. She was too slender, too slightly formed to meet with hisapproval. "There's not enough of her," was the way he put it tohimself. Miss Moggs, the confectioner's daughter, with her ampleproportions and beaming smile, was far more to his taste. Equally tohis taste was the pastry dispensed by Miss Moggs's plump fingers, ofwhich he used to devour enormous quantities, seated on a three-leggedstool in front of the counter, while chatting in a free and easy wayabout his horses and dogs, and the number of pigeons he hadslaughtered of late. And then it was so much easier to talk to MissMoggs than it was to talk to Jane. Miss Moggs looked up to him as to ayoung magnifico, and listened to his oracular utterances with becomingreverence and attention; but Jane, somehow, didn't seem to appreciatehim as he wished to be appreciated, and he never felt, quite sure thatshe was not laughing at him in her sleeve.
"So you are going to leave us by the eight o'clock train to-morrow,are you?" asked Jane, when he went to Pincote to say a few last wordsof farewell. He had sat down by her side on the sofa, and had takenher unresisting hand in his; a somewhat thin, cold little hand, thatreturned his pressure very faintly. How different, as he could nothelp saying to himself, from the warm, plump fingers of Matilda Moggs.
"Yes, I'm going by the morning train. Perhaps I shall never come back.Perhaps I shall be drowned," he said, somewhat dolorously.
"Not you, Edward, dear. You will live to plague us all for many a yearto come. I wish I could do your business, and go instead of you."
"You don't mean to say that you would like to cross the Atlantic,Jane?"
"I mean to say that there are few things in the world would please mebetter. What a fresh and glorious experience it must be to one who hasnever been far from home!"
"But think of the sea-sickness."
"Think of being out of sight of commonplace land for days and daystogether. Think how delightful it must be to be rocked on the greatAtlantic rollers, and what a new and pleasant sensation it must be toknow that there is only a plank between yourself and the fishes, andyet not to feel the least bit afraid."
Edward shuddered. "When you wake up in the middle of the night, andhear the wind blowing hard, you will think of me, won't you?" he said.
"Of course I shall. And I shall wish I were by your side to enjoy it.To be out in a gale on the Atlantic--that must indeed be glorious!"
Edward's fat cheeks became a shade paler, "Don't talk in that way,Jane," he said. "One never can tell what may happen. I shall write toyou, of course, and all that; and you won't forget me while I'm away,will you?"
"No, I shall not forget you, Edward; of that you may be quite sure."
Then he drew her towards him, and kissed her; and then, after a fewmore words, he went away.
It was just the sort of parting that his father would have approvedof, he said to himself, as he drove down the avenue. No tears, nosentimental nonsense, no fuss of any kind. Privately he felt somewhataggrieved that she had not taken the parting more to heart. "Therewasn't even a single tear in her eye," he said to himself. "Shedoesn't half know how to appreciate a fellow."
He would perhaps have altered his opinion in some measure could hehave seen Jane half an hour later. She had locked herself in herbedroom, and was crying bitterly. Why she was crying thus shewould have found it difficult to explain: in fact, she hardly knewherself. It is possible that her tears were not altogether tears ofbitterness--that some other feeling than sorrow for her temporaryseparation from Edward Cope was stirring the fountains of her heart.She kept on upbraiding herself for her coldness and want of feeling,and trying to persuade herself that she was deeply sorry, rather thansecretly--very secretly--glad to be relieved of the tedium of hispresence for several weeks to come. She knew how wrong it was ofher--it was almost wicked, she thought--to feel thus: but, underlyingall her tears, was a gleam of precious sunshine, of which she wasdimly conscious, although she would not acknowledge its presence evento herself.
After a time her tears ceased to flow. She got up and bathed her eyes.While thus occupied her maid knocked at the door.
Mr. Bristow was downstairs. He had brought some photographs for MissCulpepper to look at.
"Tell Mr. Bristow how sorry I am that I cannot see him to-day," saidJane. "But my head aches so badly that I cannot possibly go down."Then when the girl was gone, "I won't see him to-day," she added toherself. "When Edward and I are married he will come and see ussometimes, perhaps. Edward will always be glad to see him."
Hearing the front-door clash, she ran to the window and pulled aside acorner of the blind. In a minute or two she saw Tom walking leisurelydown the avenue. Presently he paused, and turned, and began to scanthe house as if he knew that Jane were watching him. It was quiteimpossible that he should see her, but for all that she shrank back,with a blush and a shy little smile. But she did not loose her hold ofthe blind; and presently she peeped again, and never moved her eyestill Tom was lost to view.
Then she went downstairs into the drawing-room, and found there thephotographs which Tom had left for her inspection. There, too, lyingclose by, was a glove which he had dropped and had omitted to pick upagain. "I will give it to him next time he comes," she said softly toherself. Strange to relate, her next action was to press the glove toher lips, after which she hid it away in the bosom of her dress. Butyoung ladies' memories are proverbially treacherous, and Jane's was noexception to the rule. Tom Bristow's glove never found its way backinto his possession.
Jane Culpepper had drifted into her engagement with Edward Cope almostwithout knowing how such a state of affairs had been brought about.When her father first mentioned the matter to her, and told her thatEdward was fond of her, she laughed at the idea of Edward being fondof anything but his horses and his gun. When, later on, the youngbanker, in obedience to parental instructions, blundered through asort of declaration of love, she laughed again, but neither repulsednor encouraged him. She was quite heart-whole and fancy-free; butcertainly Mr. Cope, junior, bore only the faintest resemblance to thevague hero of her girlish dreams--who would come riding one day out ofthe enchanted Kingdom of Love, and, falling on his knees before her,implore her to share his heart and fortune for evermore. To speak thetruth, there was no romance of any kind about Edward. He washopelessly prosaic: he was irredeemably commonplace; but they hadknown each other from childhood, and she had a kindly regard for him,arising from that very fact. So, pending the arrival of PrinceCharming, she did not altogether repulse him, but went on treating hissuit as a piece of pleasant absurdity which could never work itselfout to a serious issue either for herself or him. She took the alarm alittle when some whispers reached her that she would be asked, beforelong, to fix a day for the wedding; but, latterly, even those whispershad died away. Nobody seemed in a hurry to press the affair forward toits legitimate conclusion: even Edward himself showed no impatience onthe point. So long as he could come and go at Pincote as he liked, andhover about Jane, and squeeze her hand occasionally, and drive her outonce or twice a week behind his high-stepping bays, he seemed to wantnothing more. They were just the same to each other as they had beenwhen they were children, Jane said to herself--and why should they notremain so?
But, of late, a slight change had come o'er the spirit of MissCulpepper's dream. New hopes, and thoughts, and fears, to which shehad hitherto been a stranger, began to nestle and flutter round herheart, like love-birds building in spring. The thought of becoming thewife of Edward Cope was fast becoming--nay, had already become,utterly distasteful to her. She began to realize the fact that it isimpossible to keep on playing with fire without getting burnt. She hadallowed herself to drift into an engagement with a man forwhom she