In the spring list of Mr Jedwood's publications, announcement was made of _ew work by Alfred Yule. It was called 'English Prose in the Nineteent_entury,' and consisted of a number of essays (several of which had alread_een the light in periodicals) strung into continuity. The final chapter deal_ith contemporary writers, more especially those who served to illustrate th_uthor's theme—that journalism is the destruction of prose style: on certai_opular writers of the day there was an outpouring of gall which was no_ikely to be received as though it were sweet ointment. The book met wit_ather severe treatment in critical columns; it could scarcely be ignored (th_afest mode of attack when one's author has no expectant public), and only th_ost skilful could write of it in a hostile spirit without betraying that som_f its strokes had told. An evening newspaper which piqued itself o_ndependence indulged in laughing appreciation of the polemical chapter, an_he next day printed a scornful letter from a thinly-disguised corresponden_ho assailed both book and reviewer. For the moment people talked more o_lfred Yule than they had done since his memorable conflict with Clemen_adge.
The publisher had hoped for this. Mr Jedwood was an energetic and sanguin_an, who had entered upon his business with a determination to rival in a yea_r so the houses which had slowly risen into commanding stability. He had n_reat capital, but the stroke of fortune which had wedded him to a popula_ovelist enabled him to count on steady profit from one source, and boundles_aith in his own judgment urged him to an initial outlay which made th_rudent shake their heads. He talked much of 'the new era,' foresa_evolutions in publishing and book-selling, planned every week a score o_ntried ventures which should appeal to the democratic generation jus_aturing; in the meantime, was ready to publish anything which seemed likel_o get talked about.
The May number of The Current, in its article headed 'Books of the Month,'
devoted about half a page to 'English Prose in the Nineteenth Century.' Thi_otice was a consummate example of the flippant style of attack. Flippancy, the most hopeless form of intellectual vice, was a characterising note of M_adge's periodical; his monthly comments on publications were already looke_or with eagerness by that growing class of readers who care for nothing bu_hat can be made matter of ridicule. The hostility of other reviewers wa_wkward and ineffectual compared with this venomous banter, which entertaine_y showing that in the book under notice there was neither entertainment no_ny other kind of interest. To assail an author without increasing the numbe_f his readers is the perfection of journalistic skill, and The Current, ha_t stood alone, would fully have achieved this end. As it was, silence migh_ave been better tactics. But Mr Fadge knew that his enemy would smart unde_he poisoned pin-points, and that was something gained.
On the day that The Current appeared, its treatment of Alfred Yule wa_iscussed in Mr Jedwood's private office. Mr Quarmby, who had intimat_elations with the publisher, happened to look in just as a young man (one o_r Jedwood's 'readers') was expressing a doubt whether Fadge himself was th_uthor of the review.
'But there's Fadge's thumb-mark all down the page,' cried Mr Quarmby.
'He inspired the thing, of course; but I rather think it was written by tha_ellow Milvain.'
'Think so?' asked the publisher.
'Well, I know with certainty that the notice of Markland's novel is hi_riting, and I have reasons for suspecting that he did Yule's book as well.'
'Somebody's illegitimate son, I believe,' replied the source of trustworth_nformation, with a laugh. 'Denham says he met him in New York a year or tw_go, under another name.
'Excuse me,' interposed Mr Quarmby, 'there's some mistake in all that.'
He went on to state what he knew, from Yule himself, concerning Milvain'_istory. Though in this instance a corrector, Mr Quarmby took an opportunity, a few hours later, of informing Mr Hinks that the attack on Yule in Th_urrent was almost certainly written by young Milvain, with the result tha_hen the rumour reached Yule's ears it was delivered as an undoubted and well- known fact.
It was a month prior to this that Milvain made his call upon Marian Yule, o_he Sunday when her father was absent. When told of the visit, Yule assumed _anner of indifference, but his daughter understood that he was annoyed. Wit_egard to the sisters who would shortly be living in London, he merely sai_hat Marian must behave as discretion directed her. If she wished to invit_he Miss Milvains to St Paul's Crescent, he only begged that the times an_easons of the household might not be disturbed.
As her habit was, Marian took refuge in silence. Nothing could have been mor_elcome to her than the proximity of Maud and Dora, but she foresaw that he_wn home would not be freely open to them; perhaps it might be necessary t_ehave with simple frankness, and let her friends know the embarrassments o_he situation. But that could not be done in the first instance; th_nkindness would seem too great. A day after the arrival of the girls, sh_eceived a note from Dora, and almost at once replied to it by calling at he_riends' lodgings. A week after that, Maud and Dora came to St Paul'_rescent; it was Sunday, and Mr Yule purposely kept away from home. They ha_nly been once to the house since then, again without meeting Mr Yule. Marian, however, visited them at their lodgings frequently; now and then she me_asper there. The latter never spoke of her father, and there was no questio_f inviting him to repeat his call.
In the end, Marian was obliged to speak on the subject with her mother. Mr_ule offered an occasion by asking when the Miss Milvains were coming again.
'I don't think I shall ever ask them again,' Marian replied.
Her mother understood, and looked troubled.
'I must tell them how it is, that's all,' the girl went on. 'They ar_ensible; they won't be offended with me.'
'But your father has never had anything to say against them,' urged Mrs Yule.
'Not a word to me, Marian. I'd tell you the truth if he had.'
'It's too disagreeable, all the same. I can't invite them here with pleasure.
Father has grown prejudiced against them all, and he won't change. No, I shal_ust tell them.'
'It's very hard for you,' sighed her mother. 'If I thought I could do any goo_y speaking—but I can't, my dear.'
'I know it, mother. Let us go on as we did before.'
The day after this, when Yule came home about the hour of dinner, he calle_arian's name from within the study. Marian had not left the house to-day; he_ork had been set, in the shape of a long task of copying from disorderl_anuscript. She left the sitting-room in obedience to her father's summons.
'Here's something that will afford you amusement,' he said, holding to her th_ew number of The Current, and indicating the notice of his book.
She read a few lines, then threw the thing on to the table.
'That kind of writing sickens me,' she exclaimed, with anger in her eyes.
'Only base and heartless people can write in that way. You surely won't let i_rouble you?'
'Oh, not for a moment,' her father answered, with exaggerated show of calm.
'But I am surprised that you don't see the literary merit of the work. _hought it would distinctly appeal to you.'
There was a strangeness in his voice, as well as in the words, which cause_er to look at him inquiringly. She knew him well enough to understand tha_uch a notice would irritate him profoundly; but why should he go out of hi_ay to show it her, and with this peculiar acerbity of manner?
'Why do you say that, father?'
'It doesn't occur to you who may probably have written it?'
She could not miss his meaning; astonishment held her mute for a moment, the_he said:
'Surely Mr Fadge wrote it himself?'
'I am told not. I am informed on very good authority that one of his youn_entlemen has the credit of it.'
'You refer, of course, to Mr Milvain,' she replied quietly. 'But I think tha_an't be true.'
He looked keenly at her. He had expected a more decided protest.
'I see no reason for disbelieving it.'
'I see every reason, until I have your evidence.'
This was not at all Marian's natural tone in argument with him. She was won_o be submissive.
'I was told,' he continued, hardening face and voice, 'by someone who had i_rom Jedwood.'
Yule was conscious of untruth in this statement, but his mood would not allo_im to speak ingenuously, and he wished to note the effect upon Marian of wha_e said. There were two beliefs in him: on the one hand, he recognised Fadg_n every line of the writing; on the other, he had a perverse satisfaction i_onvincing himself that it was Milvain who had caught so successfully th_aster's manner. He was not the kind of man who can resist an opportunity o_ustifying, to himself and others, a course into which he has been led b_ingled feelings, all more or less unjustifiable.
'How should Jedwood know?' asked Marian.
Yule shrugged his shoulders.
'As if these things didn't get about among editors and publishers!'
'In this case, there's a mistake.'
'And why, pray?' His voice trembled with choler. 'Why need there be _istake?'
'Because Mr Milvain is quite incapable of reviewing your book in such _pirit.'
'There is your mistake, my girl. Milvain will do anything that's asked of him, provided he's well enough paid.'
Marian reflected. When she raised her eyes again they were perfectly calm.
'What has led you to think that?'
'Don't I know the type of man? Noscitur ex sociis—have you Latin enough fo_hat?'
'You'll find that you are misinformed,' Marian replied, and therewith wen_rom the room.
She could not trust herself to converse longer. A resentment such as he_ather had never yet excited in her—such, indeed, as she had seldom, if ever, conceived—threatened to force utterance for itself in words which would chang_he current of her whole life. She saw her father in his worst aspect, and he_eart was shaken by an unnatural revolt from him. Let his assurance of what h_eported be ever so firm, what right had he to make this use of it? Hi_ehaviour was spiteful. Suppose he entertained suspicions which seemed to mak_t his duty to warn her against Milvain, this was not the way to go about it.
A father actuated by simple motives of affection would never speak and loo_hus.
It was the hateful spirit of literary rancour that ruled him; the spirit tha_ade people eager to believe all evil, that blinded and maddened. Never ha_he felt so strongly the unworthiness of the existence to which she wa_ondemned. That contemptible review, and now her father's ignoble passion—suc_hings were enough to make all literature appear a morbid excrescence upo_uman life.
Forgetful of the time, she sat in her bedroom until a knock at the door, an_er mother's voice, admonished her that dinner was waiting. An impulse all bu_aused her to say that she would rather not go down for the meal, that sh_ished to be left alone. But this would be weak peevishness. She just looke_t the glass to see that her face bore no unwonted signs, and descended t_ake her place as usual.
Throughout the dinner there passed no word of conversation. Yule was at hi_lackest; he gobbled a few mouthfuls, then occupied himself with the evenin_aper. On rising, he said to Marian:
'Have you copied the whole of that?'
The tone would have been uncivil if addressed to an impertinent servant.
'Not much more than half,' was the cold reply.
'Can you finish it to-night?'
'I'm afraid not. I am going out.'
'Then I must do it myself'
And he went to the study.
Mrs Yule was in an anguish of nervousness.
'What is it, dear?' she asked of Marian, in a pleading whisper. 'Oh, don'_uarrel with your father! Don't!'
'I can't be a slave, mother, and I can't be treated unjustly.'
'What is it? Let me go and speak to him.'
'It's no use. We CAN'T live in terror.'
For Mrs Yule this was unimaginable disaster. She had never dreamt that Marian, the still, gentle Marian, could be driven to revolt. And it had come with th_uddenness of a thunderclap. She wished to ask what had taken place betwee_ather and daughter in the brief interview before dinner; but Marian gave he_o chance, quitting the room upon those last trembling words.
The girl had resolved to visit her friends, the sisters, and tell them that i_uture they must never come to see her at home. But it was no easy thing fo_er to stifle her conscience, and leave her father to toil over that copyin_hich had need of being finished. Not her will, but her exasperated feeling, had replied to him that she would not do the work; already it astonished he_hat she had really spoken such words. And as the throbbing of her pulse_ubsided, she saw more clearly into the motives of this wretched tumult whic_ossessed her. Her mind was harassed with a fear lest in defending Milvain sh_ad spoken foolishly. Had he not himself said to her that he might be guilt_f base things, just to make his way? Perhaps it was the intolerable pain o_magining that he had already made good his words, which robbed her of self- control and made her meet her father's rudeness with defiance.
Impossible to carry out her purpose; she could not deliberately leave th_ouse and spend some hours away with the thought of such wrath and misery lef_ehind her. Gradually she was returning to her natural self; fear an_enitence were chill at her heart.
She went down to the study, tapped, and entered.
'Father, I said something that I did not really mean. Of course I shall go o_ith the copying and finish it as soon as possible.'
'You will do nothing of the kind, my girl.' He was in his usual place, alread_orking at Marian's task; he spoke in a low, thick voice. 'Spend your evenin_s you choose, I have no need of you.'
'I behaved very ill-temperedly. Forgive me, father.'
'Have the goodness to go away. You hear me?'
His eyes were inflamed, and his discoloured teeth showed themselves savagely.
Marian durst not, really durst not approach him. She hesitated, but once mor_ sense of hateful injustice moved within her, and she went away as quietly a_he had entered.
She said to herself that now it was her perfect right to go whither she would.
But the freedom was only in theory; her submissive and timid nature kept he_t home—and upstairs in her own room; for, if she went to sit with her mother, of necessity she must talk about what had happened, and that she felt unabl_o do. Some friend to whom she could unbosom all her sufferings would now hav_een very precious to her, but Maud and Dora were her only intimates, and t_hem she might not make the full confession which gives solace.
Mrs Yule did not venture to intrude upon her daughter's privacy. That Maria_either went out nor showed herself in the house proved her troubled state, but the mother had no confidence in her power to comfort. At the usual tim_he presented herself in the study with her husband's coffee; the face whic_as for an instant turned to her did not invite conversation, but distres_bliged her to speak.
'Why are you cross with Marian, Alfred?'
'You had better ask what she means by her extraordinary behaviour.'
A word of harsh rebuff was the most she had expected. Thus encouraged, sh_imidly put another question.
'How has she behaved?'
'I suppose you have ears?'
'But wasn't there something before that? You spoke so angry to her.'
'Spoke so angry, did I? She is out, I suppose?'
'No, she hasn't gone out.'
'That'll do. Don't disturb me any longer.'
She did not venture to linger.
The breakfast next morning seemed likely to pass without any interchange o_ords. But when Yule was pushing back his chair, Marian—who looked pale an_ll—addressed a question to him about the work she would ordinarily hav_ursued to-day at the Reading-room. He answered in a matter-of-fact tone, an_or a few minutes they talked on the subject much as at any other time. Hal_n hour after, Marian set forth for the Museum in the usual way. Her fathe_tayed at home.
It was the end of the episode for the present. Marian felt that the best thin_ould be to ignore what had happened, as her father evidently purposed doing.
She had asked his forgiveness, and it was harsh in him to have repelled her; but by now she was able once more to take into consideration all his trial_nd toils, his embittered temper and the new wound he had received. That h_hould resume his wonted manner was sufficient evidence of regret on his part.
Gladly she would have unsaid her resentful words; she had been guilty of _hildish outburst of temper, and perhaps had prepared worse sufferings for th_uture.
And yet, perhaps it was as well that her father should be warned. She was no_ll submission, he might try her beyond endurance; there might come a day whe_erforce she must stand face to face with him, and make it known she had he_wn claims upon life. It was as well he should hold that possibility in view.
This evening no work was expected of her. Not long after dinner she prepare_or going out; to her mother she mentioned she should be back about te_'clock.
'Give my kind regards to them, dear—if you like to,' said Mrs Yule just abov_er breath.