Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 7 Marian's home

  • 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.'
  • 'Yes.'
  • 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?'
  • 'Not quite.'
  • '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?'
  • 'Why?'
  • '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.'