Three weeks after her return from the country—which took place a week late_han that of Jasper Milvain—Marian Yule was working one afternoon at her usua_lace in the Museum Reading-room. It was three o'clock, and with the interva_f half an hour at midday, when she went away for a cup of tea and a sandwich, she had been closely occupied since half-past nine. Her task at present was t_ollect materials for a paper on 'French Authoresses of the Seventeent_entury,' the kind of thing which her father supplied on stipulated terms fo_nonymous publication. Marian was by this time almost able to complete such _iece of manufacture herself and her father's share in it was limited to a fe_ints and corrections. The greater part of the work by which Yule earned hi_oderate income was anonymous: volumes and articles which bore his signatur_ealt with much the same subjects as his unsigned matter, but the writing wa_aboured with a conscientiousness unusual in men of his position. The result, unhappily, was not correspondent with the efforts. Alfred Yule had made _ecognisable name among the critical writers of the day; seeing him in th_itle-lists of a periodical, most people knew what to expect, but not a fe_orbore the cutting open of the pages he occupied. He was learned, copious, occasionally mordant in style; but grace had been denied to him. He had o_ate begun to perceive the fact that those passages of Marian's writing whic_ere printed just as they came from her pen had merit of a kind quite distinc_rom anything of which he himself was capable, and it began to be a questio_ith him whether it would not be advantageous to let the girl sign thes_ompositions. A matter of business, to be sure— at all events in the firs_nstance.
For a long time Marian had scarcely looked up from the desk, but at thi_oment she found it necessary to refer to the invaluable Larousse. As so ofte_appened, the particular volume of which she had need was not upon the shel_he turned away, and looked about her with a gaze of weary disappointment. A_ little distance were standing two young men, engaged, as their faces showed, in facetious colloquy; as soon as she observed them, Marian's eyes fell, bu_he next moment she looked again in that direction. Her face had wholl_hanged; she wore a look of timid expectancy.
The men were moving towards her, still talking and laughing. She turned to th_helves, and affected to search for a book. The voices drew near, and one o_hem was well known to her; now she could hear every word; now the speaker_ere gone by. Was it possible that Mr Milvain had not recognised her? Sh_ollowed him with her eyes, and saw him take a seat not far off he must hav_assed without even being aware of her.
She went back to her place and for some minutes sat trifling with a pen. Whe_he made a show of resuming work, it was evident that she could no longe_pply herself as before. Every now and then she glanced at people who wer_assing; there were intervals when she wholly lost herself in reverie. She wa_ired, and had even a slight headache. When the hand of the clock pointed t_alf-past three, she closed the volume from which she had been copyin_xtracts, and began to collect her papers.
A voice spoke close behind her.
'Where's your father, Miss Yule?'
The speaker was a man of sixty, short, stout, tonsured by the hand of time. H_ad a broad, flabby face, the colour of an ancient turnip, save where one o_he cheeks was marked with a mulberry stain; his eyes, grey-orbed in a yello_etting, glared with good-humoured inquisitiveness, and his mouth was that o_he confirmed gossip. For eyebrows he had two little patches of reddis_tubble; for moustache, what looked like a bit of discoloured tow, and scrap_f similar material hanging beneath his creasy chin represented a beard. Hi_arb must have seen a great deal of Museum service; it consisted of a jacket, something between brown and blue, hanging in capacious shapelessness, _aistcoat half open for lack of buttons and with one of the pockets comin_nsewn, a pair of bronze-hued trousers which had all run to knee. Necktie h_ad none, and his linen made distinct appeal to the laundress.
Marian shook hands with him.
'He went away at half-past two,' was her reply to his question.
'How annoying! I wanted particularly to see him. I have been running about al_ay, and couldn't get here before. Something important—most important. At al_vents, I can tell you. But I entreat that you won't breathe a word save t_our father.'
Mr Quarmby—that was his name—had taken a vacant chair and drawn it close t_arian's. He was in a state of joyous excitement, and talked in thick, rathe_ompous tones, with a pant at the end of a sentence. To emphasise th_xtremely confidential nature of his remarks, he brought his head almost i_ontact with the girl's, and one of her thin, delicate hands was covered wit_is red, podgy fingers.
'I've had a talk with Nathaniel Walker,' he continued; 'a long talk—a talk o_ast importance. You know Walker? No, no; how should you? He's a man o_usiness; close friend of Rackett's— Rackett, you know, the owner of Th_tudy.'
Upon this he made a grave pause, and glared more excitedly than ever.
'I have heard of Mr Rackett,' said Marian.
'Of course, of course. And you must also have heard that Fadge leaves Th_tudy at the end of this year, eh?'
'Father told me it was probable.'
'Rackett and he have done nothing but quarrel for months; the paper is fallin_ff seriously. Well, now, when I came across Nat Walker this afternoon, th_irst thing he said to me was, "You know Alfred Yule pretty well, I think?"
"Pretty well," I answered; "why?" "I'll tell you," he said, "but it's betwee_ou and me, you understand. Rackett is thinking about him in connection wit_he Study." "I'm delighted to hear it." "To tell you the truth," went on Nat,
"I shouldn't wonder if Yule gets the editorship; but you understand that i_ould be altogether premature to talk about it." Now what do you think o_his, eh?'
'It's very good news,' answered Marian.
'I should think so! Ho, ho!'
Mr Quarmby laughed in a peculiar way, which was the result of long years o_irth-subdual in the Reading-room.
'But not a breath to anyone but your father. He'll be here to- morrow? Brea_t gently to him, you know; he's an excitable man; can't take things quietly, like I do. Ho, ho!'
His suppressed laugh ended in a fit of coughing—the Reading-room cough. Whe_e had recovered from it, he pressed Marian's hand with paternal fervour, an_addled off to chatter with someone else.
Marian replaced several books on the reference-shelves, returned others to th_entral desk, and was just leaving the room, when again a voice made deman_pon her attention.
'Miss Yule! One moment, if you please!'
It was a tall, meagre, dry-featured man, dressed with the painful neatness o_elf-respecting poverty: the edges of his coat- sleeves were carefully darned; his black necktie and a skull-cap which covered his baldness were evidently o_ome manufacture. He smiled softly and timidly with blue, rheumy eyes. Two o_hree recent cuts on his chin and neck were the result of conscientiou_having with an unsteady hand.
'I have been looking for your father,' he said, as Marian turned. 'Isn't h_ere?'
'He has gone, Mr Hinks.'
'Ah, then would you do me the kindness to take a book for him? In fact, it'_y little "Essay on the Historical Drama," just out.'
He spoke with nervous hesitation, and in a tone which seemed to make apolog_or his existence.
'Oh, father will be very glad to have it.'
'If you will kindly wait one minute, Miss Yule. It's at my place over there.'
He went off with long strides, and speedily came back panting, in his hand _hin new volume.
'My kind regards to him, Miss Yule. You are quite well, I hope? I won't detai_ou.'
And he backed into a man who was coming inobservantly this way.
Marian went to the ladies' cloak-room, put on her hat and jacket, and left th_useum. Some one passed out through the swing-door a moment before her, and a_oon as she had issued beneath the portico, she saw that it was Jaspe_ilvain; she must have followed him through the hall, but her eyes had bee_ast down. The young man was now alone; as he descended the steps he looked t_eft and right, but not behind him. Marian followed at a distance of two o_hree yards. Nearing the gateway, she quickened her pace a little, so as t_ass out into the street almost at the same moment as Milvain. But he did no_urn his head.
He took to the right. Marian had fallen back again, but she still followed a_ very little distance. His walk was slow, and she might easily have passe_im in quite a natural way; in that case he could not help seeing her. Bu_here was an uneasy suspicion in her mind that he really must have noticed he_n the Reading-room. This was the first time she had seen him since thei_arting at Finden. Had he any reason for avoiding her? Did he take it ill tha_er father had shown no desire to keep up his acquaintance?
She allowed the interval between them to become greater. In a minute or tw_ilvain turned up Charlotte Street, and so she lost sight of him.
In Tottenham Court Road she waited for an omnibus that would take her to th_emoter part of Camden Town; obtaining a corner seat, she drew as far back a_ossible, and paid no attention to her fellow-passengers. At a point in Camde_oad she at length alighted, and after ten minutes' walk reached he_estination in a quiet by-way called St Paul's Crescent, consisting of small, decent houses. That at which she paused had an exterior promising comfor_ithin; the windows were clean and neatly curtained, and the polishabl_ppurtenances of the door gleamed to perfection. She admitted herself with _atch-key, and went straight upstairs without encountering anyone.
Descending again in a few moments, she entered the front room on the ground- floor. This served both as parlour and dining-room; it was comfortabl_urnished, without much attempt at adornment. On the walls were a fe_utotypes and old engravings. A recess between fireplace and window was fitte_ith shelves, which supported hundreds of volumes, the overflow of Yule'_ibrary. The table was laid for a meal. It best suited the convenience of th_amily to dine at five o'clock; a long evening, so necessary to most literar_eople, was thus assured. Marian, as always when she had spent a day at th_useum, was faint with weariness and hunger; she cut a small piece of brea_rom a loaf on the table, and sat down in an easy chair.
Presently appeared a short, slight woman of middle age, plainly dressed i_erviceable grey. Her face could never have been very comely, and it expresse_ut moderate intelligence; its lines, however, were those of gentleness an_ood feeling. She had the look of one who is making a painful effort t_nderstand something; this was fixed upon her features, and probably resulte_rom the peculiar conditions of her life.
'Rather early, aren't you, Marian?' she said, as she closed the door and cam_orward to take a seat.
'Yes; I have a little headache.'
'Oh, dear! Is that beginning again?'
Mrs Yule's speech was seldom ungrammatical, and her intonation was no_lagrantly vulgar, but the accent of the London poor, which brands as wit_ereditary baseness, still clung to her words, rendering futile such propriet_f phrase as she owed to years of association with educated people. In th_ame degree did her bearing fall short of that which distinguishes a lady. Th_ondon work-girl is rarely capable of raising herself or being raised, to _lace in life above that to which she was born; she cannot learn how to stan_nd sit and move like a woman bred to refinement, any more than she ca_ashion her tongue to graceful speech. Mrs Yule's behaviour to Marian wa_arked with a singular diffidence; she looked and spoke affectionately, bu_ot with a mother's freedom; one might have taken her for a trusted servan_aiting upon her mistress. Whenever opportunity offered, she watched the gir_n a curiously furtive way, that puzzled look on her face becoming ver_oticeable. Her consciousness was never able to accept as a familiar an_nimportant fact the vast difference between herself and her daughter.
Marian's superiority in native powers, in delicacy of feeling, in the result_f education, could never be lost sight of. Under ordinary circumstances sh_ddressed the girl as if tentatively; however sure of anything from her ow_oint of view, she knew that Marian, as often as not, had quite a differen_riterion. She understood that the girl frequently expressed an opinion b_ere reticence, and hence the carefulness with which, when conversing, sh_ried to discover the real effect of her words in Marian's features.
'Hungry, too,' she said, seeing the crust Marian was nibbling. 'You reall_ust have more lunch, dear. It isn't right to go so long; you'll make yoursel_ll.'
'Have you been out?' Marian asked.
'Yes; I went to Holloway.'
Mrs Yule sighed and looked very unhappy. By 'going to Holloway' was alway_eant a visit to her own relatives—a married sister with three children, and _rother who inhabited the same house. To her husband she scarcely eve_entured to speak of these persons; Yule had no intercourse with them. Bu_arian was always willing to listen sympathetically, and her mother ofte_xhibited a touching gratitude for this condescension—as she deemed it.
'Are things no better?' the girl inquired.
'Worse, as far as I can see. John has begun his drinking again, and him an_om quarrel every night; there's no peace in the 'ouse.'
If ever Mrs Yule lapsed into gross errors of pronunciation or phrase, it wa_hen she spoke of her kinsfolk. The subject seemed to throw her back into _ormer condition.
'He ought to go and live by himself' said Marian, referring to her mother'_rother, the thirsty John.
'So he ought, to be sure. I'm always telling them so. But there! you don'_eem to be able to persuade them, they're that silly and obstinate. And Susan, she only gets angry with me, and tells me not to talk in a stuck-up way. I'_ure I never say a word that could offend her; I'm too careful for that. An_here's Annie; no doing anything with her! She's about the streets at al_ours, and what'll be the end of it no one can say. They're getting tha_agged, all of them. It isn't Susan's fault; indeed it isn't. She does al_hat woman can. But Tom hasn't brought home ten shillings the last month, an_t seems to me as if he was getting careless. I gave her half-a-crown; it wa_ll I could do. And the worst of it is, they think I could do so much more i_ liked. They're always hinting that we are rich people, and it's no good m_rying to persuade them. They think I'm telling falsehoods, and it's very har_o be looked at in that way; it is, indeed, Marian.'
'You can't help it, mother. I suppose their suffering makes them unkind an_njust.'
'That's just what it does, my dear; you never said anything truer. Povert_ill make the best people bad, if it gets hard enough. Why there's so much o_t in the world, I'm sure I can't see.'
'I suppose father will be back soon?'
'He said dinner-time.'
'Mr Quarmby has been telling me something which is wonderfully good news i_t's really true; but I can't help feeling doubtful.
He says that father may perhaps be made editor of The Study at the end of thi_ear.'
Mrs Yule, of course, understood, in outline, these affairs of the literar_orld; she thought of them only from the pecuniary point of view, but tha_ade no essential distinction between her and the mass of literary people.
'My word!' she exclaimed. 'What a thing that would be for us!'
Marian had begun to explain her reluctance to base any hopes on Mr Quarmby'_rediction, when the sound of a postman's knock at the house-door caused he_other to disappear for a moment.
'It's for you,' said Mrs Yule, returning. 'From the country.'
Marian took the letter and examined its address with interest.
'It must be one of the Miss Milvains. Yes; Dora Milvain.'
After Jasper's departure from Finden his sisters had seen Marian severa_imes, and the mutual liking between her and them had been confirmed b_pportunity of conversation. The promise of correspondence had hitherto waite_or fulfilment. It seemed natural to Marian that the younger of the two girl_hould write; Maud was attractive and agreeable, and probably clever, but Dor_ad more spontaneity in friendship.
'It will amuse you to hear,' wrote Dora, 'that the literary project ou_rother mentioned in a letter whilst you were still here is really to come t_omething. He has sent us a specimen chapter, written by himself of the
"Child's History of Parliament," and Maud thinks she could carry it on in tha_tyle, if there's no hurry. She and I have both set to work on Englis_istories, and we shall be authorities before long. Jolly and Monk offe_hirty pounds for the little book, if it suits them when finished, wit_ertain possible profits in the future. Trust Jasper for making a bargain! S_erhaps our literary career will be something more than a joke, after all. _ope it may; anything rather than a life of teaching. We shall be so glad t_ear from you, if you still care to trouble about country girls.'
And so on. Marian read with a pleased smile, then acquainted her mother wit_he contents.
'I am very glad,' said Mrs Yule; 'it's so seldom you get a letter.'
Marian seemed desirous of saying something more, and her mother had _houghtful look, suggestive of sympathetic curiosity.
'Is their brother likely to call here?' Mrs Yule asked, with misgiving.
'No one has invited him to,' was the girl's quiet reply.
'He wouldn't come without that?'
'It's not likely that he even knows the address.'
'Your father won't be seeing him, I suppose?'
'By chance, perhaps. I don't know.'
It was very rare indeed for these two to touch upon any subject save those o_veryday interest. In spite of the affection between them, their exchange o_onfidence did not go very far; Mrs Yule, who had never exercised materna_uthority since Marian's earliest childhood, claimed no maternal privileges, and Marian's natural reserve had been strengthened by her mother's respectfu_loofness. The English fault of domestic reticence could scarcely go furthe_han it did in their case; its exaggeration is, of course, one of th_haracteristics of those unhappy families severed by differences of educatio_etween the old and young.
'I think,' said Marian, in a forced tone, 'that father hasn't much liking fo_r Milvain.'
She wished to know if her mother had heard any private remarks on thi_ubject, but she could not bring herself to ask directly.
'I'm sure I don't know,' replied Mrs Yule, smoothing her dress. 'He hasn'_aid anything to me, Marian.'
An awkward silence. The mother had fixed her eyes on the mantelpiece, and wa_hinking hard.
'Otherwise,' said Marian, 'he would have said something, I should think, abou_eeting in London.'
'But is there anything in—this gentleman that he wouldn't like?'
'I don't know of anything.'
Impossible to pursue the dialogue; Marian moved uneasily, then rose, sai_omething about putting the letter away, and left the room.
Shortly after, Alfred Yule entered the house. It was no uncommon thing for hi_o come home in a mood of silent moroseness, and this evening the firs_limpse of his face was sufficient warning. He entered the dining-room an_tood on the hearthrug reading an evening paper. His wife made a pretence o_traightening things upon the table.
'Well?' he exclaimed irritably. 'It's after five; why isn't dinner served?'
'It's just coming, Alfred.'
Even the average man of a certain age is an alarming creature when dinne_elays itself; the literary man in such a moment goes beyond all parallel. I_here be added the fact that he has just returned from a very unsatisfactor_nterview with a publisher, wife and daughter may indeed regard the situatio_s appalling. Marian came in, and at once observed her mother's frightene_ace.
'Father,' she said, hoping to make a diversion, 'Mr Hinks has sent you his ne_ook, and wishes—'
'Then take Mr Hinks's new book back to him, and tell him that I have quit_nough to do without reading tedious trash. He needn't expect that I'm goin_o write a notice of it. The simpleton pesters me beyond endurance. I wish t_now, if you please,' he added with savage calm, 'when dinner will be ready.
If there's time to write a few letters, just tell me at once, that I mayn'_aste half an hour.'
Marian resented this unreasonable anger, but she durst not reply.
At that moment the servant appeared with a smoking joint, and Mrs Yul_ollowed carrying dishes of vegetables. The man of letters seated himself an_arved angrily. He began his meal by drinking half a glass of ale; then he at_ few mouthfuls in a quick, hungry way, his head bent closely over the plate.
It happened commonly enough that dinner passed without a word of conversation, and that seemed likely to be the case this evening.
To his wife Yule seldom addressed anything but a curt inquiry or causti_omment; if he spoke humanly at table it was to Marian.
Ten minutes passed; then Marian resolved to try any means of clearing th_tmosphere.
'Mr Quarmby gave me a message for you,' she said. 'A friend of his, Nathanie_alker, has told him that Mr Rackett will very likely offer you the editorshi_f The Study.'
Yule stopped in the act of mastication. He fixed his eyes intently on th_irloin for half a minute; then, by way of the beer-jug and the salt-cellar, turned them upon Marian's face.
'Walker told him that? Pooh!'
'It was a great secret. I wasn't to breathe a word to any one but you.'
'Walker's a fool and Quarmby's an ass,' remarked her father.
But there was a tremulousness in his bushy eyebrows; his forehead hal_nwreathed itself; he continued to eat more slowly, and as if wit_ppreciation of the viands.
'What did he say? Repeat it to me in his words.'
Marian did so, as nearly as possible. He listened with a scoffing expression, but still his features relaxed.
'I don't credit Rackett with enough good sense for such a proposal,' he sai_eliberately. 'And I'm not very sure that I should accept it if it were made.
That fellow Fadge has all but ruined the paper. It will amuse me to see ho_ong it takes him to make Culpepper's new magazine a distinct failure.'
A silence of five minutes ensued; then Yule said of a sudden.
'Where is Hinks's book?'
Marian reached it from a side table; under this roof, literature was regarde_lmost as a necessary part of table garnishing.
'I thought it would be bigger than this,' Yule muttered, as he opened th_olume in a way peculiar to bookish men.
A page was turned down, as if to draw attention to some passage. Yule put o_is eyeglasses, and soon made a discovery which had the effect of completin_he transformation of his visage. His eyes glinted, his chin worked i_leasurable emotion. In a moment he handed the book to Marian, indicating th_mall type of a foot-note; it embodied an effusive eulogy—introduced a propo_f some literary discussion—of 'Mr Alfred Yule's critical acumen, scholarl_esearch, lucid style,' and sundry other distinguished merits.
'That is kind of him,' said Marian.
'Good old Hinks! I suppose I must try to get him half-a-dozen readers.'
'May I see?' asked Mrs Yule, under her breath, bending to Marian.
Her daughter passed on the volume, and Mrs Yule read the footnote with tha_ook of slow apprehension which is so pathetic when it signifies the heart'_ood-will thwarted by the mind's defect.
'That'll be good for you, Alfred, won't it?' she said, glancing at he_usband.
'Certainly,' he replied, with a smile of contemptuous irony. 'If Hinks goe_n, he'll establish my reputation.'
And he took a draught of ale, like one who is reinvigorated for the battle o_ife. Marian, regarding him askance, mused on what seemed to her a strang_nomaly in his character; it had often surprised her that a man of hi_emperament and powers should be so dependent upon the praise and blame o_eople whom he justly deemed his inferiors.
Yule was glancing over the pages of the work.
'A pity the man can't write English.' What a vocabulary!
Obstruent—reliable—particularization—fabulosity—different to—averse to—did on_ver come across such a mixture of antique pedantry and modern vulgarism!
Surely he has his name from the German hinken—eh, Marian?'
With a laugh he tossed the book away again. His mood was wholly changed. H_ave various evidences of enjoying the meal, and began to talk freely with hi_aughter.
'Finished the authoresses?'
'No hurry. When you have time I want you to read Ditchley's new book, and jo_own a selection of his worst sentences. I'll use them for an article o_ontemporary style; it occurred to me this afternoon.'
He smiled grimly. Mrs Yule's face exhibited much contentment, which becam_adiant joy when her husband remarked casually that the custard was very wel_ade to-day. Dinner over, he rose without ceremony and went off to his study.
The man had suffered much and toiled stupendously. It was not inexplicabl_hat dyspepsia, and many another ill that literary flesh is heir to, racke_im sore.
Go back to the days when he was an assistant at a bookseller's in Holborn.
Already ambition devoured him, and the genuine love of knowledge goaded hi_rain. He allowed himself but three or four hours of sleep; he wrough_oggedly at languages, ancient and modern; he tried his hand at metrica_ranslations; he planned tragedies. Practically he was living in a past age; his literary ideals were formed on the study of Boswell.
The head assistant in the shop went away to pursue a business which had com_nto his hands on the death of a relative; it was a small publishing concern, housed in an alley off the Strand, and Mr Polo (a singular name, to becom_ell known in the course of time) had his ideas about its possible extension.
Among other instances of activity he started a penny weekly paper, called Al_orts, and in the pages of this periodical Alfred Yule first appeared as a_uthor. Before long he became sub-editor of All Sorts, then actual director o_he paper. He said good-bye to the bookseller, and his literary career fairl_egan.
Mr Polo used to say that he never knew a man who could work so man_onsecutive hours as Alfred Yule. A faithful account of all that the young ma_earnt and wrote from 1855 to 1860—that is, from his twenty-fifth to hi_hirtieth year—would have the look of burlesque exaggeration. He had set i_efore him to become a celebrated man, and he was not unaware that th_ttainment of that end would cost him quite exceptional labour, seeing tha_ature had not favoured him with brilliant parts. No matter; his name shoul_e spoken among men unless he killed himself in the struggle for success.
In the meantime he married. Living in a garret, and supplying himself with th_aterials of his scanty meals, he was in the habit of making purchases at _ittle chandler's shop, where he was waited upon by a young girl of no beauty, but, as it seemed to him, of amiable disposition. One holiday he met this gir_s she was walking with a younger sister in the streets; he made her neare_cquaintance, and before long she consented to be his wife and share hi_arret. His brothers, John and Edmund, cried out that he had made a_npardonable fool of himself in marrying so much beneath him; that he migh_ell have waited until his income improved. This was all very well, but the_ight just as reasonably have bidden him reject plain food because a few year_ence he would be able to purchase luxuries; he could not do withou_ourishment of some sort, and the time had come when he could not do without _ife. Many a man with brains but no money has been compelled to the same step.
Educated girls have a pronounced distaste for London garrets; not one in fift_housand would share poverty with the brightest genius ever born. Seeing tha_arriage is so often indispensable to that very success which would enable _an of parts to mate equally, there is nothing for it but to look below one'_wn level, and be grateful to the untaught woman who has pity on one'_oneliness.
Unfortunately, Alfred Yule was not so grateful as he might have been. Hi_arriage proved far from unsuccessful; he might have found himself united to _ulgar shrew, whereas the girl had the great virtues of humility an_indliness. She endeavoured to learn of him, but her dulness and hi_mpatience made this attempt a failure; her human qualities had to suffice.
And they did, until Yule began to lift his head above the literary mob.
Previously, he often lost his temper with her, but never expressed or fel_epentance of his marriage; now he began to see only the disadvantages of hi_osition, and, forgetting the facts of the case, to imagine that he might wel_ave waited for a wife who could share his intellectual existence. Mrs Yul_ad to pass through a few years of much bitterness. Already a martyr t_yspepsia, and often suffering from bilious headaches of extreme violence, he_usband now and then lost all control of his temper, all sense of kin_eeling, even of decency, and reproached the poor woman with her ignorance, her stupidity, her low origin. Naturally enough she defended herself with suc_eapons as a sense of cruel injustice supplied. More than once the two all bu_arted. It did not come to an actual rupture, chiefly because Yule could no_o without his wife; her tendance had become indispensable. And then there wa_he child to consider.
From the first it was Yule's dread lest Marian should be infected with he_other's faults of speech and behaviour. He would scarcely permit his wife t_alk to the child. At the earliest possible moment Marian was sent to a day- school, and in her tenth year she went as weekly boarder to an establishmen_t Fulham; any sacrifice of money to insure her growing up with the tongue an_anners of a lady. It can scarcely have been a light trial to the mother t_now that contact with her was regarded as her child's greatest danger; but i_er humility and her love for Marian she offered no resistance. And so it cam_o pass that one day the little girl, hearing her mother make some flagran_rammatical error, turned to the other parent and asked gravely: 'Why doesn'_other speak as properly as we do?' Well, that is one of the results of suc_arriages, one of the myriad miseries that result from poverty.
The end was gained at all hazards. Marian grew up everything that her fathe_esired. Not only had she the bearing of refinement, but it early becam_bvious that nature had well endowed her with brains. From the nursery he_alk was of books, and at the age of twelve she was already able to give he_ather some assistance as an amanuensis.
At that time Edmund Yule was still living; he had overcome his prejudices, an_here was intercourse between his household and that of the literary man.
Intimacy it could not be called, for Mrs Edmund (who was the daughter of _aw-stationer) had much difficulty in behaving to Mrs Alfred with show o_uavity. Still, the cousins Amy and Marian from time to time saw each other, and were not unsuitable companions. It was the death of Amy's father tha_rought these relations to an end; left to the control of her own affairs Mr_dmund was not long in giving offence to Mrs Alfred, and so to Alfred himself.
The man of letters might be inconsiderate enough in his behaviour to his wife, but as soon as anyone else treated her with disrespect that was quite anothe_atter. Purely on this account he quarrelled violently with his brother'_idow, and from that day the two families kept apart.
The chapter of quarrels was one of no small importance in Alfred's life; hi_ifficult temper, and an ever-increasing sense of neglected merit, frequentl_ut him at war with publishers, editors, fellow-authors, and he had an unhapp_rick of exciting the hostility of men who were most likely to be useful t_im. With Mr Polo, for instance, who held him in esteem, and whose commercia_uccess made him a valuable connection, Alfred ultimately broke on a triflin_atter of personal dignity. Later came the great quarrel with Clement Fadge, an affair of considerable advantage in the way of advertisement to both th_en concerned. It happened in the year 1873\. At that time Yule was editor o_ weekly paper called The Balance, a literary organ which aimed high, an_ailed to hit the circulation essential to its existence. Fadge, a younge_an, did reviewing for The Balance; he was in needy circumstances, and ha_rought himself into Yule's good opinion by judicious flattery. But with _lear eye for the main chance Mr Fadge soon perceived that Yule could only b_f temporary use to him, and that the editor of a well- established weekl_hich lost no opportunity of throwing scorn upon Yule and all his works woul_e a much more profitable conquest. He succeeded in transferring his service_o the more flourishing paper, and struck out a special line of work by th_ree exercise of a malicious flippancy which was then without rival in th_eriodical press. When he had thoroughly got his hand in, it fell to Mr Fadge, in the mere way of business, to review a volume of his old editor's, a rathe_retentious and longwinded but far from worthless essay 'On Imagination as _ational Characteristic.' The notice was a masterpiece; its exquisit_irulence set the literary circles chuckling. Concerning the authorship ther_as no mystery, and Alfred Yule had the indiscretion to make a violent reply, a savage assault upon Fadge, in the columns of The Balance. Fadge desire_othing better; the uproar which arose—chaff, fury, grave comments, sneerin_pite—could only result in drawing universal attention to his anonymou_leverness, and throwing ridicule upon the heavy, conscientious man. Well, yo_robably remember all about it. It ended in the disappearance of Yule'_truggling paper, and the establishment on a firm basis of Fadge's reputation.
It would be difficult to mention any department of literary endeavour in whic_ule did not, at one time or another, try his fortune. Turn to his name in th_useum Catalogue; the list of works appended to it will amuse you. In hi_hirtieth year he published a novel; it failed completely, and the same resul_waited a similar experiment five years later. He wrote a drama of moder_ife, and for some years strove to get it acted, but in vain; finally i_ppeared 'for the closet'—giving Clement Fadge such an opportunity as h_eldom enjoyed. The one noteworthy thing about these productions, and abou_thers of equally mistaken direction, was the sincerity of their workmanship.
Had Yule been content to manufacture a novel or a play with due disregard fo_iterary honour, he might perchance have made a mercantile success; but th_oor fellow had not pliancy enough for this. He took his efforts au gran_erieux; thought he was producing works of art; pursued his ambition in _pirit of fierce conscientiousness. In spite of all, he remained only _ourneyman. The kind of work he did best was poorly paid, and could bring n_ame. At the age of fifty he was still living in a poor house in an obscur_uarter. He earned enough for his actual needs, and was under no pressing fea_or the morrow, so long as his faculties remained unimpaired; but there was n_isguising from himself that his life had been a failure. And the though_ormented him.
Now there had come unexpectedly a gleam of hope. If indeed, the man Racket_hought of offering him the editorship of The Study he might even yet tast_he triumphs for which he had so vehemently longed. The Study was a weekl_aper of fair repute. Fadge had harmed it, no doubt of that, by giving it _one which did not suit the majority of its readers—serious people, wh_hought that the criticism of contemporary writing offered an opportunity fo_omething better than a display of malevolent wit. But a return to the ol_arnestness would doubtless set all right again. And the joy of sitting i_hat dictatorial chair! The delight of having his own organ once more, o_aking himself a power in the world of letters, of emphasising to a larg_udience his developed methods of criticism!
An embittered man is a man beset by evil temptations. The Study contained eac_eek certain columns of flying gossip, and when he thought of this, Yule als_hought of Clement Fadge, and sundry other of his worst enemies. How th_ossip column can be used for hostile purposes, yet without the least over_ffence, he had learnt only too well. Sometimes the mere omission of a man'_ame from a list of authors can mortify and injure. In our day th_anipulation of such paragraphs has become a fine art; but you recall numerou_llustrations. Alfred knew well enough how incessantly the tempter would be a_is ear; he said to himself that in certain instances yielding would be n_ishonour. He himself had many a time been mercilessly treated; in the ver_nterest of the public it was good that certain men should suffer a snubbing, and his fingers itched to have hold of the editorial pen. Ha, ha! Like th_ar-horse he snuffed the battle afar off.
No work this evening, though there were tasks which pressed for completion.
His study—the only room on the ground level except the dining-room—was small, and even a good deal of the floor was encumbered with books, but he foun_pace for walking nervously hither and thither. He was doing this when, abou_alf-past nine, his wife appeared at the door, bringing him a cup of coffe_nd some biscuits, his wonted supper. Marian generally waited upon him at thi_ime, and he asked why she had not come.
'She has one of her headaches again, I'm sorry to say,' Mrs Yule replied. '_ersuaded her to go to bed early.'
Having placed the tray upon the table—books had to be pushed aside—she did no_eem disposed to withdraw.
'Are you busy, Alfred?'
'I thought I should like just to speak of something.'
She was using the opportunity of his good humour. Yule spoke to her with th_sual carelessness, but not forbiddingly.
'What is it? Those Holloway people, I'll warrant.'
'No, no! It's about Marian. She had a letter from one of those young ladie_his afternoon.'
'What young ladies?' asked Yule, with impatience of this circuitous approach.
'The Miss Milvains.'
'Well, there's no harm that I know of. They're decent people.'
'Yes; so you told me. But she began to speak about their brother, and—'
'What about him? Do say what you want to say, and have done with it!'
'I can't help thinking, Alfred, that she's disappointed you didn't ask him t_ome here.'
Yule stared at her in slight surprise. He was still not angry, and seeme_uite willing to consider this matter suggested to him so timorously.
'Oh, you think so? Well, I don't know. Why should I have asked him? It wa_nly because Miss Harrow seemed to wish it that I saw him down there. I hav_o particular interest in him. And as for- -'
He broke off and seated himself. Mrs Yule stood at a distance.
'We must remember her age,' she said.
'Why yes, of course.'
He mused, and began to nibble a biscuit.
'And you know, Alfred, she never does meet any young men. I've often though_t wasn't right to her.'
'H'm! But this lad Milvain is a very doubtful sort of customer. To begin with, he has nothing, and they tell me his mother for the most part supports him. _on't quite approve of that. She isn't well off, and he ought to have bee_aking a living by now.
He has a kind of cleverness, may do something; but there's no being sure o_hat.'
These thoughts were not coming into his mind for the first time. On th_ccasion when he met Milvain and Marian together in the country road he ha_ecessarily reflected upon the possibilities of such intercourse, and with th_ssue that he did not care to give any particular encouragement to it_ontinuance. He of course heard of Milvain's leave-taking call, and h_urposely refrained from seeing the young man after that. The matter took n_ery clear shape in his meditations; he saw no likelihood that either of th_oung people would think much of the other after their parting, and tim_nough to trouble one's head with such subjects when they could no longer b_ostponed. It would not have been pleasant to him to foresee a life o_pinsterhood for his daughter; but she was young, and—she was a valuabl_ssistant.
How far did that latter consideration weigh with him? He put the questio_retty distinctly to himself now that his wife had broached the matter thu_nexpectedly. Was he prepared to behave with deliberate selfishness? Never ye_ad any conflict been manifested between his interests and Marian's; practically he was in the habit of counting upon her aid for an indefinit_eriod.
If indeed he became editor of The Study, why, in that case her assistanc_ould be less needful. And indeed it seemed probable that young Milvain had _uture before him.
'But, in any case,' he said aloud, partly continuing his thoughts, partl_eplying to a look of disappointment on his wife's face, 'how do you know tha_e has any wish to come and see Marian?'
'I don't know anything about it, of course.'
'And you may have made a mistake about her. What made you think she—had him i_ind?'
'Well, it was her way of speaking, you know. And then, she asked if you ha_ot a dislike to him.'
'She did? H'm! Well, I don't think Milvain is any good to Marian. He's jus_he kind of man to make himself agreeable to a girl for the fun of the thing.'
Mrs Yule looked alarmed.
'Oh, if you really think that, don't let him come. I wouldn't for anything.'
'I don't say it for certain.' He took a sip of his coffee. 'I have had n_pportunity of observing him with much attention. But he's not the kind of ma_ care for.'
'Then no doubt it's better as it is.'
'Yes. I don't see that anything could be done now. We shall see whether h_ets on. I advise you not to mention him to her.'
'Oh no, I won't.'
She moved as if to go away, but her heart had been made uneasy by that shor_onversation which followed on Marian's reading the letter, and there wer_till things she wished to put into words.
'If those young ladies go on writing to her, I dare say they'll often spea_bout their brother.'
'Yes, it's rather unfortunate.'
'And you know, Alfred, he may have asked them to do it.'
'I suppose there's one subject on which all women can be subtle,' muttere_ule, smiling. The remark was not a kind one, but he did not make it worse b_is tone.
The listener failed to understand him, and looked with her familiar expressio_f mental effort.
'We can't help that,' he added, with reference to her suggestion. 'If he ha_ny serious thoughts, well, let him go on and wait for opportunities.'
'It's a great pity, isn't it, that she can't see more people—of the righ_ind?'
'No use talking about it. Things are as they are. I can't see that her life i_nhappy.'
'It isn't very happy.'
'You think not?'
'I'm sure it isn't.'
'If I get The Study things may be different. Though— But it's no use talkin_bout what can't be helped. Now don't you go encouraging her to think hersel_onely, and so on. It's best for her to keep close to work, I'm sure of that.'
'Perhaps it is.'
'I'll think it over.'
Mrs Yule silently left the room, and went back to her sewing.
She had understood that 'Though—' and the 'what can't be helped.' Suc_llusions reminded her of a time unhappier than the present, when she had bee_ont to hear plainer language. She knew too well that, had she been a woman o_ducation, her daughter would not now be suffering from loneliness.
It was her own choice that she did not go with her husband and Marian to Joh_ule's. She made an excuse that the house could not be left to one servant; but in any case she would have remained at home, for her presence must need_e an embarrassment both to father and daughter. Alfred was always ashamed o_er before strangers; he could not conceal his feeling, either from her o_rom other people who had reason for observing him. Marian was not perhap_shamed, but such companionship put restraint upon her freedom. And would i_ot always be the same? Supposing Mr Milvain were to come to this house, woul_t not repel him when he found what sort of person Marian's mother was?
She shed a few tears over her needlework.
At midnight the study door opened. Yule came to the dining-room to see tha_ll was right, and it surprised him to find his wife still sitting there.
'Why are you so late?'
'I've forgot the time.'
'Forgotten, forgotten. Don't go back to that kind of language again. Come, pu_he light out.'