Alfred Yule's behaviour under his disappointment seemed to prove that even fo_im the uses of adversity could be sweet. On the day after his return home h_isplayed a most unwonted mildness in such remarks as he addressed to hi_ife, and his bearing towards Marian was gravely gentle. At meals h_onversed, or rather monologised, on literary topics, with occasionally one o_is grim jokes, pointed for Marian's appreciation. He became aware that th_irl had been overtaxing her strength of late, and suggested a few weeks o_ecreation among new novels. The coldness and gloom which had possessed hi_hen he made a formal announcement of the news appeared to have given wa_efore the sympathy manifested by his wife and daughter; he was now sorrowful, but resigned.
He explained to Marian the exact nature of her legacy. It was to be paid ou_f her uncle's share in a wholesale stationery business, with which John Yul_ad been connected for the last twenty years, but from which he had not lon_go withdrawn a large portion of his invested capital. This house was known as
'Turberville & Co.,' a name which Marian now heard for the first time.
'I knew nothing of his association with them,' said her father. 'They tell m_hat seven or eight thousand pounds will be realised from that source; i_eems a pity that the investment was not left to you intact. Whether ther_ill be any delay in withdrawing the money I can't say.'
The executors were two old friends of the deceased, one of them a forme_artner in his paper-making concern.
On the evening of the second day, about an hour after dinner was over, M_inks called at the house; as usual, he went into the study. Before long cam_ second visitor, Mr Quarmby, who joined Yule and Hinks. The three had all sa_ogether for some time, when Marian, who happened to be coming down stairs, saw her father at the study door.
'Ask your mother to let us have some supper at a quarter to ten,' he sai_rbanely. 'And come in, won't you? We are only gossiping.'
It had not often happened that Marian was invited to join parties of thi_ind.
'Do you wish me to come?' she asked.
'Yes, I should like you to, if you have nothing particular to do.'
Marian informed Mrs Yule that the visitors would have supper, and then went t_he study. Mr Quarmby was smoking a pipe; Mr Hinks, who on grounds of econom_ad long since given up tobacco, sat with his hands in his trouser pockets, and his long, thin legs tucked beneath the chair; both rose and greeted Maria_ith more than ordinary warmth.
'Will you allow me five or six more puffs?' asked Mr Quarmby, laying one han_n his ample stomach and elevating his pipe as if it were a glass of beade_iquor. 'I shall then have done.'
'As many more as you like,' Marian replied.
The easiest chair was placed for her, Mr Hinks hastening to perform thi_ourtesy, and her father apprised her of the topic they were discussing.
'What's your view, Marian? Is there anything to be said for the establishmen_f a literary academy in England?'
Mr Quarmby beamed benevolently upon her, and Mr Hinks, his scraggy neck a_ull length, awaited her reply with a look of the most respectful attention.
'I really think we have quite enough literary quarrelling as it is,' the gir_eplied, casting down her eyes and smiling.
Mr Quarmby uttered a hollow chuckle, Mr Hinks laughed thinly and exclaimed,
'Very good indeed! Very good!' Yule affected to applaud with impartial smile.
'It wouldn't harmonise with the Anglo-Saxon spirit,' remarked Mr Hinks, wit_n air of diffident profundity.
Yule held forth on the subject for a few minutes in laboured phrases.
Presently the conversation turned to periodicals, and the three men wer_nanimous in an opinion that no existing monthly or quarterly could b_onsidered as representing the best literary opinion.
'We want,' remarked Mr Quarmby, 'we want a monthly review which shall dea_xclusively with literature. The Fortnightly, the Contemporary—they are ver_ell in their way, but then they are mere miscellanies. You will find on_olid literary article amid a confused mass of politics and economics an_eneral clap-trap.'
'Articles on the currency and railway statistics and views of evolution,' sai_r Hinks, with a look as if something were grating between his teeth.
'The quarterlies?' put in Yule. 'Well, the original idea of the quarterlie_as that there are not enough important books published to occupy soli_eviewers more than four times a year. That may be true, but then a literar_onthly would include much more than professed reviews. Hinks's essays on th_istorical drama would have come out in it very well; or your "Spanish Poets,"
'I threw out the idea to Jedwood the other day,' said Mr Quarmby, 'and h_eemed to nibble at it.'
'Yes, yes,' came from Yule; 'but Jedwood has so many irons in the fire. _oubt if he has the necessary capital at command just now. No doubt he's th_an, if some capitalist would join him.'
'No enormous capital needed,' opined Mr Quarmby. 'The thing would pay its wa_lmost from the first. It would take a place between the literary weeklies an_he quarterlies. The former are too academic, the latter too massive, fo_ultitudes of people who yet have strong literary tastes. Foreign publication_hould be liberally dealt with. But, as Hinks says, no meddling with the book_hat are no books—biblia abiblia; nothing about essays on bimetallism an_reatises for or against vaccination.'
Even here, in the freedom of a friend's study, he laughed his Reading-roo_augh, folding both hands upon his expansive waistcoat.
'Fiction? I presume a serial of the better kind might be admitted?' said Yule.
'That would be advisable, no doubt. But strictly of the better kind.'
'Oh, strictly of the better kind,' chimed in Mr Hinks.
They pursued the discussion as if they were an editorial committee planning _eview of which the first number was shortly to appear. It occupied them unti_rs Yule announced at the door that supper was ready.
During the meal Marian found herself the object of unusual attention; he_ather troubled to inquire if the cut of cold beef he sent her was to he_aste, and kept an eye on her progress. Mr Hinks talked to her in a tone o_espectful sympathy, and Mr Quarmby was paternally jovial when he addresse_er. Mrs Yule would have kept silence, in her ordinary way, but this evenin_er husband made several remarks which he had adapted to her intellect, an_ven showed that a reply would be graciously received.
Mother and daughter remained together when the men withdrew to their tobacc_nd toddy. Neither made allusion to the wonderful change, but they talked mor_ight-heartedly than for a long time.
On the morrow Yule began by consulting Marian with regard to the dispositio_f matter in an essay he was writing. What she said he weighed carefully, an_eemed to think that she had set his doubts at rest.
'Poor old Hinks!' he said presently, with a sigh. 'Breaking up, isn't he? H_ositively totters in his walk. I'm afraid he's the kind of man to have _aralytic stroke; it wouldn't astonish me to hear at any moment that he wa_ying helpless.'
'What ever would become of him in that case?'
'Goodness knows! One might ask the same of so many of us. What would become o_e, for instance, if I were incapable of work?'
Marian could make no reply.
'There's something I'll just mention to you,' he went on in a lowered tone,
'though I don't wish you to take it too seriously. I'm beginning to have _ittle trouble with my eyes.'
She looked at him, startled.
'With your eyes?'
'Nothing, I hope; but—well, I think I shall see an oculist. One doesn't car_o face a prospect of failing sight, perhaps of cataract, or something of tha_ind; still, it's better to know the facts, I should say.'
'By all means go to an oculist,' said Marian, earnestly.
'Don't disturb yourself about it. It may be nothing at all. But in any case _ust change my glasses.'
He rustled over some slips of manuscript, whilst Marian regarded hi_nxiously.
'Now, I appeal to you, Marian,' he continued: 'could I possibly save money ou_f an income that has never exceeded two hundred and fifty pounds, and often—_ean even in latter years—has been much less?'
'I don't see how you could.'
'In one way, of course, I have managed it. My life is insured for five hundre_ounds. But that is no provision for possible disablement. If I could n_onger earn money with my pen, what would become of me?'
Marian could have made an encouraging reply, but did not venture to utter he_houghts.
'Sit down,' said her father. 'You are not to work for a few days, and I mysel_hall be none the worse for a morning's rest. Poor old Hinks! I suppose w_hall help him among us, somehow. Quarmby, of course, is comparativel_lourishing. Well, we have been companions for a quarter of a century, w_hree. When I first met Quarmby I was a Grub Street gazetteer, and I think h_as even poorer than I. A life of toil! A life of toil!'
'That it has been, indeed.'
'By-the-bye'—he threw an arm over the back of his chair—'what did you think o_ur imaginary review, the thing we were talking about last night?'
'There are so many periodicals,' replied Marian, doubtfully.
'So many? My dear child, if we live another ten years we shall see the numbe_rebled.'
'Is it desirable?'
'That there should be such growth of periodicals? Well, from one point o_iew, no. No doubt they take up the time which some people would give to soli_iterature. But, on the other hand, there's a far greater number of people wh_ould probably not read at all, but for the temptations of these short and ne_rticles; and they may be induced to pass on to substantial works. Of cours_t all depends on the quality of the periodical matter you offer. Now, magazines like'—he named two or three of popular stamp—'might very well b_ispensed with, unless one regards them as an alternative to the talking o_candal or any other vicious result of total idleness. But such a monthly a_e projected would be of distinct literary value. There can be no doubt tha_omeone or other will shortly establish it.'
'I am afraid,' said Marian, 'I haven't so much sympathy with literar_ndertakings as you would like me to have.'
Money is a great fortifier of self-respect. Since she had become reall_onscious of her position as the owner of five thousand pounds, Marian spok_ith a steadier voice, walked with firmer step; mentally she felt hersel_ltogether a less dependent being. She might have confessed this lukewarmnes_owards literary enterprise in the anger which her father excited eight o_ine days ago, but at that time she could not have uttered her opinion calmly, deliberately, as now. The smile which accompanied the words was also new; i_ignified deliverance from pupilage.
'I have felt that,' returned her father, after a slight pause to command hi_oice, that it might be suave instead of scornful. 'I greatly fear that I hav_ade your life something of a martyrdom ——'
'Don't think I meant that, father. I am speaking only of the general question.
I can't be quite so zealous as you are, that's all. I love books, but I coul_ish people were content for a while with those we already have.'
'My dear Marian, don't suppose that I am out of sympathy with you here. Alas!
how much of my work has been mere drudgery, mere labouring for a livelihood!
How gladly I would have spent much more of my time among the great authors, with no thought of making money of them! If I speak approvingly of a schem_or a new periodical, it is greatly because of my necessities.'
He paused and looked at her. Marian returned the look.
'You would of course write for it,' she said.
'Marian, why shouldn't I edit it? Why shouldn't it be your property?',
She checked a laugh. There came into her mind a more disagreeable suspicio_han she had ever entertained of her father. Was this the meaning of hi_oftened behaviour? Was he capable of calculated hypocrisy? That did not see_onsistent with his character, as she knew it.
'Let us talk it over,' said Yule. He was in visible agitation and his voic_hook. 'The idea may well startle you at first. It will seem to you that _ropose to make away with your property before you have even come int_ossession of it.' He laughed. 'But, in fact, what I have in mind is merely a_nvestment for your capital, and that an admirable one. Five thousand pound_t three per cent.—one doesn't care to reckon on more—represents a hundred an_ifty a year. Now, there can be very little doubt that, if it were invested i_iterary property such as I have in mind, it would bring you five times tha_nterest, and before long perhaps much more. Of course I am now speaking i_he roughest outline. I should have to get trustworthy advice; complete an_etailed estimates would be submitted to you. At present I merely suggest t_ou this form of investment.'
He watched her face eagerly, greedily. When Marian's eyes rose to his h_ooked away.
'Then, of course,' she said, 'you don't expect me to give any decided answer.'
'Of course not—of course not. I merely put before you the chief advantages o_uch an investment. As I am a selfish old fellow, I'll talk about the benefi_o myself first of all. I should be editor of the new review; I should draw _tipend sufficient to all my needs—quite content, at first, to take far les_han another man would ask, and to progress with the advance of th_eriodical. This position would enable me to have done with mere drudgery; _hould only write when I felt called to do so—when the spirit moved me.' Agai_e laughed, as though desirous of keeping his listener in good humour. 'M_yes would be greatly spared henceforth.'
He dwelt on that point, waiting its effect on Marian. As she said nothing h_roceeded:
'And suppose I really were doomed to lose my sight in the course of a fe_ears, am I wrong in thinking that the proprietor of this periodical woul_illingly grant a small annuity to the man who had firmly established it?'
'I see the force of all that,' said Marian; 'but it takes for granted that th_eriodical will be successful.'
'It does. In the hands of a publisher like Jedwood—a vigorous man of the ne_chool—its success could scarcely be doubtful.'
'Do you think five thousand pounds would be enough to start such a review?'
'Well, I can say nothing definite on that point. For one thing, the coat mus_e made according to the cloth; expenditure can be largely controlled withou_ndangering success. Then again, I think Jedwood would take a share in th_enture. These are details. At present I only want to familiarise you with th_hought that an investment of this sort will very probably offer itself t_ou.'
'It would be better if we called it a speculation,' said Marian, smilin_neasily.
Her one object at present was to oblige her father to understand that th_uggestion by no means lured her. She could not tell him that what he propose_as out of the question, though as yet that was the light in which she saw it.
His subtlety of approach had made her feel justified in dealing with him in _atter-of-fact way. He must see that she was not to be cajoled. Obviously, an_n the nature of the case, he was urging a proposal in which he himself ha_ll faith; but Marian knew his judgment was far from infallible. It mitigate_er sense of behaving unkindly to reflect that in all likelihood this disposa_f her money would be the worst possible for her own interests, and therefor_or his. If, indeed, his dark forebodings were warranted, then upon her woul_all the care of him, and the steadiness with which she faced tha_esponsibility came from a hope of which she could not speak.
'Name it as you will,' returned her father, hardly suppressing a note o_rritation. 'True, every commercial enterprise is a speculation. But let m_sk you one question, and beg you to reply frankly. Do you distrust my abilit_o conduct this periodical?'
She did. She knew that he was not in touch with the interests of the day, an_hat all manner of considerations akin to the prime end of selling his revie_ould make him an untrustworthy editor.
But how could she tell him this?
'My opinion would be worthless,' she replied.
'If Jedwood were disposed to put confidence in me, you also would?'
'There's no need to talk of that now, father. Indeed, I can't say anythin_hat would sound like a promise.'
He flashed a glance at her. Then she was more than doubtful?
'But you have no objection, Marian, to talk in a friendly way of a projec_hat would mean so much to me?'
'But I am afraid to encourage you,' she replied, frankly. 'It is impossibl_or me to say whether I can do as you wish, or not.'
'Yes, yes; I perfectly understand that. Heaven forbid that I should regard yo_s a child to be led independently of your own views and wishes! With so larg_ sum of money at stake, it would be monstrous if I acted rashly, and tried t_ersuade you to do the same. The matter will have to be most gravel_onsidered.'
'Yes.' She spoke mechanically.
'But if only it should come to something! You don't know what it would mean t_e, Marian.'
'Yes, father; I know very well how you think and feel about it.'
'Do you?' He leaned forward, his features working under stress of emotion. 'I_ could see myself the editor of an influential review, all my bygone toil_nd sufferings would be as nothing; I should rejoice in them as the steps t_his triumph. Meminisse juvabit! My dear, I am not a man fitted fo_ubordinate places. My nature is framed for authority. The failure of all m_ndertakings rankles so in my heart that sometimes I feel capable of ever_rutality, every meanness, every hateful cruelty. To you I have behave_hamefully. Don't interrupt me, Marian. I have treated you abominably, m_hild, my dear daughter—and all the time with a full sense of what I wa_oing. That's the punishment of faults such as mine. I hate myself for ever_arsh word and angry look I have given you; at the time, I hated myself!'
'No, no; let me speak, Marian. You have forgiven me; I know it. You wer_lways ready to forgive, dear. Can I ever forget that evening when I spok_ike a brute, and you came afterwards and addressed me as if the wrong ha_een on your side? It burns in my memory. It wasn't I who spoke; it was th_emon of failure, of humiliation. My enemies sit in triumph, and scorn at me; the thought of it is infuriating. Have I deserved this? Am I the inferio_f—of those men who have succeeded and now try to trample on me? No! I am not!
I have a better brain and a better heart!'
Listening to this strange outpouring, Marian more than forgave the hypocris_f the last day or two. Nay, could it be called hypocrisy? It was only hi_etter self declared at the impulse of a passionate hope.
'Why should you think so much of these troubles, father? Is it such a grea_atter that narrow-minded people triumph over you?'
'Narrow-minded?' He clutched at the word. 'You admit they are that?'
'I feel very sure that Mr Fadge is.'
'Then you are not on his side against me?'
'How could you suppose such a thing?'
'Well, well; we won't talk of that. Perhaps it isn't a great matter. No—from _hilosophical point of view, such things are unspeakably petty. But I am no_uch of a philosopher.' He laughed, with a break in his voice. 'Defeat in lif_s defeat, after all; and unmerited failure is a bitter curse. You see, I a_ot too old to do something yet. My sight is failing, but I can take care o_t. If I had my own review, I would write every now and then a critical pape_n my very best style. You remember poor old Hinks's note about me in hi_ook? We laughed at it, but he wasn't so far wrong. I have many of thos_ualities. A man is conscious of his own merits as well as of his defects. _ave done a few admirable things. You remember my paper on Lord Herbert o_herbury? No one ever wrote a more subtle piece of criticism; but it was swep_side among the rubbish of the magazines. And it's just because of my pungen_hrases that I have excited so much enmity. Wait! Wait! Let me have my ow_eview, and leisure, and satisfaction of mind—heavens! what I will write! Ho_ will scarify!'
'That is unworthy of you. How much better to ignore your enemies!
In such a position, I should carefully avoid every word that betrayed persona_eeling.'
'Well, well; you are of course right, my good girl. And I believe I should d_njustice to myself if I made you think that those ignoble motives are th_trongest in me. No; it isn't so. From my boyhood I have had a passionat_esire of literary fame, deep down below all the surface faults of m_haracter. The best of my life has gone by, and it drives me to despair when _eel that I have not gained the position due to me. There is only one way o_oing this now, and that is by becoming the editor of an important periodical.
Only in that way shall I succeed in forcing people to pay attention to m_laims. Many a man goes to his grave unrecognised, just because he has neve_ad a fair judgment. Nowadays it is the unscrupulous men of business who hol_he attention of the public; they blow their trumpets so loudly that th_oices of honest men have no chance of being heard.'
Marian was pained by the humility of his pleading with her—for what was al_his but an endeavour to move her sympathies?—and by the necessity she wa_nder of seeming to turn a deaf ear. She believed that there was some truth i_is estimate of his own powers; though as an editor he would almost certainl_ail, as a man of letters he had probably done far better work than some wh_ad passed him by on their way to popularity. Circumstances might enable he_o assist him, though not in the way he proposed. The worst of it was that sh_ould not let him see what was in her mind. He must think that she was simpl_alancing her own satisfaction against his, when in truth she suffered fro_he conviction that to yield would be as unwise in regard to her father'_uture as it would be perilous to her own prospect of happiness.
'Shall we leave this to be talked of when the money has been paid over to me?'
she said, after a silence.
'Yes. Don't suppose I wish to influence you by dwelling on my own hardships.
That would be contemptible. I have only taken this opportunity of makin_yself better known to you. I don't readily talk of myself and in general m_eal feelings are hidden by the faults of my temper. In suggesting how yo_ould do me a great service, and at the same time reap advantage for yoursel_ couldn't but remember how little reason you have to think kindly of me. Bu_e will postpone further talk. You will think over what I have said?'
Marian promised that she would, and was glad to bring the conversation to a_nd.
When Sunday came, Yule inquired of his daughter if she had any engagement fo_he afternoon.
'Yes, I have,' she replied, with an effort to disguise her embarrassment.
'I'm sorry. I thought of asking you to come with me to Quarmby's. Shall you b_way through the evening?'
'Till about nine o'clock, I think.'
'Ah! Never mind, never mind.'
He tried to dismiss the matter as if it were of no moment, but Marian saw th_hadow that passed over his countenance. This was just after breakfast. Fo_he remainder of the morning she did not meet him, and at the mid-day dinne_e was silent, though he brought no book to the table with him, as he was won_o do when in his dark moods. Marian talked with her mother, doing her best t_reserve the appearance of cheerfulness which was natural since the change i_ule's demeanour.
She chanced to meet her father in the passage just as she was going out. H_miled (it was more like a grin of pain) and nodded, but said nothing.
When the front door closed, he went into the parlour. Mrs Yule was reading, or, at all events, turning over a volume of an illustrated magazine.
'Where do you suppose she has gone?' he asked, in a voice which was onl_istant, not offensive.
'To the Miss Milvains, I believe,' Mrs Yule answered, looking aside.
'Did she tell you so?'
'No. We don't talk about it.'
He seated himself on the corner of a chair and bent forward, his chin in hi_and.
'Has she said anything to you about the review?'
'Not a word.'
She glanced at him timidly, and turned a few pages of her book.
'I wanted her to come to Quarmby's, because there'll be a man there who i_nxious that Jedwood should start a magazine, and it would be useful for he_o hear practical opinions. There'd be no harm if you just spoke to her abou_t now and then. Of course if she has made up her mind to refuse me it's n_se troubling myself any more. I should think you might find out what's reall_oing on.'
Only dire stress of circumstances could have brought Alfred Yule to mak_istinct appeal for his wife's help. There was no underhand plotting betwee_hem to influence their daughter; Mrs Yule had as much desire for th_appiness of her husband as for that of Marian, but she felt powerless t_ffect anything on either side.
'If ever she says anything, I'll let you know.'
'But it seems to me that you have a right to question her.'
'I can't do that, Alfred.'
'Unfortunately, there are a good many things you can't do.' With that remark, familiar to his wife in substance, though the tone of it was less caustic tha_sual, he rose and sauntered from the room. He spent a gloomy hour in th_tudy, then went off to join the literary circle at Mr Quarmby's.