Kissing the Rod, Vol. 2 (of 3) A Novel
1. Page scan source: Google Books
2. Scan of page 270 (particularly the first paragraph) is verypoor. I believe my reading is reasonably accurate.
KISSING THE ROD.
HOBSON AND SON, GREAT NORTHERN PRINTING WORKS,
PANCRAS ROAD, N.W.
KISSING THE ROD.
AUTHOR OF "BROKEN TO HARNESS," "RUNNING THE GAUNTLET,""LAND AT LAST," ETC.
"The heart knoweth its own bitterness."
IN THREE VOLUMES.VOL. II.
TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18 CATHERINE ST. STRAND.
[All rights of translation and reproduction reserved.]
CONTENTS OF VOLUME II.
|IV.||CANAAN FROM PISGAH.|
|VI.||THE END OF THE CLUE.|
|VIII.||MARRIED FOR LOVE.|
|IX.||MARRIED TO MONEY.|
|XI.||"IN THE DEAD UNHAPPY NIGHT."|
KISSING THE ROD.
"I wish you were going to the wedding, dearest Hester," said EllenStreightley to Miss Gould, as the two girls stood in attitudes ofcritical examination before a heap of gay-looking wearing-apparel,which was destined to resolve itself into the costume of a modernbridesmaid.
"You have said that several times already, Ellen," returned herfriend, with a touch of impatience in her voice very unusual to her."But you know I can't be at your brother's wedding, so there is nogood wishing about it."
"Well, I think Robert might have asked Miss Guyon for an invitationfor my dearest friend. I can't understand his standing on such extremeceremony with her. He really seems afraid of every mortal thing hesays and does, lest he may offend her; and I don't think she'sbad-tempered either. I'm sure I hope not, for Robert has never had toput up with a bad temper, and he'd be sure to be miserable. O Hester!"said Ellen, with a sudden gush of feeling, "what should we do if shedid not make Robert happy!"
Miss Gould replied in rather a hard voice: "But there's no danger ofthat, is there, Ellen? Miss Guyon is very handsome, and veryfashionable, and very clever; and your brother is--what is the properphrase?--desperately in love with her, is he not?"
"Why, of course he is, Hester; you can see that for yourself."
"And she is desperately in love with him, I suppose?"
"I suppose she is," said Ellen, and this time her tone was impatient;"but no doubt fashionable people have a fashionable way of being inlove. I only know it's not mine, and it is not Decimus's, and I'm gladof it. I wouldn't have him hesitating about what he might and what hemight not ask me to do, I can tell you, for any thing. What nonsenseit all is, as if Miss Guyon mightn't just as well make youracquaintance now as afterwards! she will know all about you then, Isuppose."
Ellen's zeal had outrun her discretion, and told Hester Gould morethan she intended; but Hester did not take any notice of theinformation she had gained, beyond one sudden gleam of anger whichshot from her shallow dark eyes.
"Mrs. Streightley is not going?" she said; and the simple girl, whomshe could always lead, was as docile as usual, and turned to the newtheme, under her guidance.
"No; mamma does not like weddings (she could not even go to Robert's,she says) since my father died. Decimus and I go with Robert; and Mr.Yeldham, he is to be the best man, you know; and the three otherbridesmaids are all strangers. Miss Guyon has no near relatives; sheis like me in that, but not like me in having a dear, darling Hester,as good as any sister."
"At least as any sister-in-law, I hope," said Hester with graveemphasis, when she had quietly submitted to the hugging with whichEllen invariably accompanied her effusions of affection.
"Yes, indeed; a thousand times better," she impetuously exclaimed. "Idon't think my sister-in-law will ever care much for me, or I for her.She's too grand for me, Hester, and too clever; and when I am with her(the few times I have been), I feel afraid of her, though she is verypolite to me; but I had rather she was less polite, and more kind; butI suppose politeness is fashionable, and kindness isn't. As toDecimus, he is quite wretched when he is with her, because he thinksshe will make me worldly; but I am sure he needn't be afraid of that,for I shall never like the things she cares about, and I'm sure Ishall not care for staying at Middlemeads, even if she asks me.
"It is a beautiful place, is it not?" asked Hester absently.
"Yes, lovely. Only Decimus is quite distressed about the church; it ishigh, you know," and Ellen's voice sank into a mysterious whisper."He says he will feel such anxiety when I am there, lest it should bea snare to my feet."
"Yes, yes, I know," said Hester, who was apt to weary of the ReverendDecimus's opinions, hopes, fears, and doctrines; "but the house andgrounds, I meant. Miss Guyon has seen them, has she not?"
"No, she would not go down, though Lady Henmarsh--(she's a nice woman,Hester, and has a way of making you feel comfortable; and Decimus hashope of her spiritual state),--though she offered to go toMiddlemeads, and Robert would have persuaded mamma to go; but it wasall no use. And do you know what he said?--I did not like it--he said:'When Miss Guyon says "No," Ellen, it is not you or I who will induceher to change her mind.' I did not care about this, Hester, for my ownsake--why should she mind me?--but I did think she might alter apurpose for Robert."
Miss Gould smiled--it was not a pleasant smile--but said nothing; andthen, the dress-parade completed, the two girls went downstairs to thedrawing-room, where they found Mrs. Streightley and her reverendson-in-law expectant in placid converse.
Mrs. Streightley had accepted the intelligence of her son's intendedmarriage, as she accepted every thing in which he was concerned, withperfect confidence and approbation. Miss Guyon was his choice; shemust necessarily be as charming as she was fortunate. Miss Guyon'smanners were too finished in their elegance to render it possible forher to treat the mother of her intended husband otherwise than withperfect respect and courtesy. Had the Handbook of Etiquette included achapter devoted to the proprieties of demeanour on the part of adaughter-in-law elect, doubtless it would have been found that MissGuyon's behaviour was in precise conformity with its rules. The elderlady did not feel exactly happy or at ease in the society of theyounger, but that was her fault, not Miss Guyon's; she did notunderstand fashionable people, that was all. It would be hard to partwith Robert; but was she, his mother, to murmur at, to put anyconsideration in the world in comparison with, his good and happiness?Surely not. To have been capable of doing such a thing would havebeen a treason to the whole ordering of her dutiful, pious,conscience-guided life. She was very much pleased, and perhaps alittle proud, with that beautiful vicarious pride of mothers, to thinkof her son in the dignified position of a country gentleman, owning afine estate, and holding his head high among men. She should be gladto see his beautiful and luxurious home; but the comfortable Brixtonvilla satisfied all her individual wishes. She would not be present ather son's wedding, she would be out of her place among the otherguests there; but he should go forth that day with his mother'sfervent blessing, and his marriage should be hallowed by her prayers.
The state of mind of the Reverend Decimus Dutton was not so calm, notso complacent. He disapproved of the connection. It was worldly; itwas, if any thing, "high:" the family circle of the Guyons included abishop of ritualistic tendencies; on its outer edge to be sure, but hewas a relative; and "any thing of that kind," said Decimus to Ellenrather vaguely, "is so very shocking." Again, the diversion of largesums, presumably disposable for missionary purposes under happier,"more consistent circumstances" he called them, according to aphraseology in use among persons of his persuasion, and which israther oracular than grammatical, into the mundane channels attendanton a "fashionable" marriage, was also "extremely sad." Decimus hadcome up to town hoping to induce Robert to share his own burning zealfor the mission to the Niger, and he found him engaged to a young ladywho looked extremely unlikely to approve of the diversion of any ofhis wealth in a religio-philanthropical direction; and who had calmlyremarked, "Of course you would not suffer your sister to go to such afatal climate," on hearing that the Reverend Decimus proposed toconvey his bride to "Afric's burning plain."
The Rev. Decimus Dutton was a youngish man, with a face which wouldnever look much older or much wiser than it looked at present. It wasrather a handsome, and decidedly a good face; and it presented anabsurd resemblance to that of Ellen Streightley, though there was notthe slightest relationship between the amiable enthusiast and hisbetrothed bride, who believed him in all simple sincerity to be thenoblest, best, handsomest of mankind. Perhaps there was a littleveneration, due to habit, which is very powerful over such minds asEllen Streightley's, in favour of Robert; but Decimus was decidedlymore pious, there could be no doubt of that. A more prejudiced, anarrower-minded, or a better-meaning man than Decimus Dutton probablydid not exist; and so admirably matched were he and Ellen Streightley,that those who saw their perfect adaptation to each other were apt tobe tempted into using the gentle missionary's cant phrase, and talkingof their proposed union as "providential."
"O, Decimus dear," began Ellen, as she and Hester entered theroom--Miss Streightley was apt to emphasise her speech withinterjections,--"Hester is so pleased with my dress. Not that youcare about that; still one may as well be decent. Hester must go homenow; so just ring and send for a cab."
Then followed adieux, and Miss Gould departed. Her face was dark andangry as she drove away; but it cleared after a little, and herthoughts shaped themselves into these words:
"After all, no one can rule destiny; and supposing I had loved him, Imust have borne it all the same."
Hester Gould witnessed the marriage of Robert Streightley andKatharine Guyon; not in the capacity of a guest indeed, but in that ofa spectator. It was characteristic of Hester that, though she haddetermined to be present, she made her attendance at the church appearto be the result of Ellen Streightley's importunities. That young ladythrew looks of confidence and affection, and blew kisses off herfinger-tips at her friend at furtive intervals during the ceremony,after the fashion of the Peckham boarding-school, somewhat to thediscomposure of the devoted Decimus, who maintained a plaintive andunder-protest air throughout. Hester Gould acknowledged, with readyacquiescence, the exceeding grace and beauty of the bride, as sheadvanced with an assured and steady step, leaning on her father's arm,and took her place before the altar-rails, where the Bishop withritualistic tendencies, stood ready to consecrate that awful promiseso familiar to us all, and also to realise the utmost fears ofDecimus, for his lordship read every word of the service, and wore thefullest of canonicals. Hester bent an eager gaze upon Katharine Guyon;but, under all its wrath and bitterness, there was the candour, therewas the justice which never failed this exceptional woman; and sheacknowledged fully and freely to her own heart the exceeding beauty ofher unconscious rival.
Katharine was paler than her wont; but her eyes shone with theiraccustomed light, and her tall figure drawn up to its full height andproudly motionless, was full of indescribable dignity and grace. Therich folds of her dress, of lustrous white satin, with its garnitureof swansdown and its fastenings of diamonds, did not so much adorn asthey received grace from her. And the noble outline of her featuresshowed like that of an antique statue under the filmy bridal veil,which softened but did not conceal them. When Hester looked from thebride to the bridegroom, she acknowledged, too, that no externalincongruity was evident. Robert Streightley looked like aself-possessed gentleman; not very handsome, not strikingly elegant,but not too much inferior to the beautiful girl whom he led away, in afew minutes, his wedded wife. It was quickly done and over, and thecrowd was pressing round the carriages, and peering into the aisle ofthe church. Mr. Guyon, the very picture of gaiety and