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Chapter 8 Rewards

  • When the fitting moment arrived, Alfred Yule underwent an operation fo_ataract, and it was believed at first that the result would be favourable.
  • This hope had but short duration; though the utmost prudence was exercised, evil symptoms declared themselves, and in a few months' time all prospect o_estoring his vision was at an end. Anxiety, and then the fatal assurance, undermined his health; with blindness, there fell upon him the debility o_remature old age.
  • The position of the family was desperate. Marian had suffered much all th_inter from attacks of nervous disorder, and by no effort of will could sh_roduce enough literary work to supplement adequately the income derived fro_er fifteen hundred pounds. In the summer of 1885 things were at the worst; Marian saw no alternative but to draw upon her capital, and so relieve th_resent at the expense of the future. She had a mournful warning before he_yes in the case of poor Hinks and his wife, who were now kept from th_orkhouse only by charity. But at this juncture the rescuer appeared. M_uarmby and certain of his friends were already making a subscription for th_ules' benefit, when one of their number—Mr Jedwood, the publisher— cam_orward with a proposal which relieved the minds of all concerned. Mr Jedwoo_ad a brother who was the director of a public library in a provincial town, and by this means he was enabled to offer Marian Yule a place as assistant i_hat institution; she would receive seventy-five pounds a year, and thus, adding her own income, would be able to put her parents beyond the reach o_ant. The family at once removed from London, and the name of Yule was n_onger met with in periodical literature.
  • By an interesting coincidence, it was on the day of this departure that ther_ppeared a number of The West End in which the place of honour, that of th_eek's Celebrity, was occupied by Clement Fadge. A coloured portrait of thi_llustrious man challenged the admiration of all who had literary tastes, an_wo columns of panegyric recorded his career for the encouragement of aspirin_outh. This article, of course unsigned, came from the pen of Jasper Milvain.
  • It was only by indirect channels that Jasper learnt how Marian and her parent_ad been provided for. Dora's correspondence with her friend soon languished; in the nature of things this could not but happen; and about the time whe_lfred Yule became totally blind the girls ceased to hear anything of eac_ther. An event which came to pass in the spring sorely tempted Dora to write, but out of good feeling she refrained.
  • For it was then that she at length decided to change her name for that o_helpdale. Jasper could not quite reconcile himself to this condescension; i_arious discourses he pointed out to his sister how much higher she might loo_f she would only have a little patience.
  • 'Whelpdale will never be a man of any note. A good fellow, I admit, but born_n all senses. Let me impress upon you, my dear girl, that I have a futur_efore me, and that there is no reason—with your charm of person and mind—wh_ou should not marry brilliantly. Whelpdale can give you a decent home, _dmit, but as regards society he will be a drag upon you.'
  • 'It happens, Jasper, that I have promised to marry him,' replied Dora, in _ignificant tone.
  • 'Well, I regret it, but—you are of course your own mistress. I shall make n_npleasantness. I don't dislike Whelpdale, and I shall remain on friendl_erms with him.'
  • 'That is very kind of you,' said his sister suavely.
  • Whelpdale was frantic with exultation. When the day of the wedding had bee_ettled, he rushed into Jasper's study and fairly shed tears before he coul_ommand his voice.
  • 'There is no mortal on the surface of the globe one-tenth so happy as I am!'
  • he gasped. 'I can't believe it! Why in the name of sense and justice have _een suffered to attain this blessedness? Think of the days when I all bu_tarved in my Albany Street garret, scarcely better off than poor, dear ol_iffen! Why should I have come to this, and Biffen have poisoned himself i_espair? He was a thousand times a better and cleverer fellow than I. And poo_ld Reardon, dead in misery! Could I for a moment compare with him?'
  • 'My dear fellow,' said Jasper, calmly, 'compose yourself and be logical. I_he first place, success has nothing whatever to do with moral deserts; an_hen, both Reardon and Biffen were hopelessly unpractical. In such a_dmirable social order as ours, they were bound to go to the dogs. Let us b_orry for them, but let us recognise causas rerum, as Biffen would have said.
  • You have exercised ingenuity and perseverance; you have your reward.'
  • 'And when I think that I might have married fatally on thirteen or fourtee_ifferent occasions. By-the-by, I implore you never to tell Dora those storie_bout me. I should lose all her respect. Do you remember the girl fro_irmingham?' He laughed wildly. 'Heaven be praised that she threw me over!
  • Eternal gratitude to all and sundry of the girls who have plunged me int_retchedness!'
  • 'I admit that you have run the gauntlet, and that you have had marvellou_scapes. But be good enough to leave me alone for the present. I must finis_his review by midday.'
  • 'Only one word. I don't know how to thank Dora, how to express my infinit_ense of her goodness. Will you try to do so for me? You can speak to her wit_almness. Will you tell her what I have said to you?'
  • 'Oh, certainly.—I should recommend a cooling draught of some kind. Look in a_ chemist's as you walk on.'
  • The heavens did not fall before the marriage-day, and the wedded pair betoo_hemselves for a few weeks to the Continent. They had been back again an_stablished in their house at Earl's Court for a month, when one morning abou_welve o'clock Jasper dropped in, as though casually. Dora was writing; sh_ad no thought of entirely abandoning literature, and had in hand at present _ery pretty tale which would probably appear in The English Girl. Her boudoir, in which she sat, could not well have been daintier and more appropriate t_he charming characteristics of its mistress.
  • Mrs Whelpdale affected no literary slovenliness; she was dressed in ligh_olours, and looked so lovely that even Jasper paused on the threshold with _mile of admiration.
  • 'Upon my word,' he exclaimed, 'I am proud of my sisters! What did you think o_aud last night? Wasn't she superb?'
  • 'She certainly did look very well. But I doubt if she's very happy.'
  • 'That is her own look out; I told her plainly enough my opinion of Dolomore.
  • But she was in such a tremendous hurry.'
  • 'You are detestable, Jasper! Is it inconceivable to you that a man or woma_hould be disinterested when they marry?'
  • 'By no means.'
  • 'Maud didn't marry for money any more than I did.'
  • 'You remember the Northern Farmer: "Doan't thou marry for money, but go wher_oney is." An admirable piece of advice. Well, Maud made a mistake, let u_ay. Dolomore is a clown, and now she knows it. Why, if she had waited, sh_ight have married one of the leading men of the day. She is fit to be _uchess, as far as appearance goes; but I was never snobbish. I care ver_ittle about titles; what I look to is intellectual distinction.'
  • 'Combined with financial success.'
  • 'Why, that is what distinction means.' He looked round the room with a smile.
  • 'You are not uncomfortable here, old girl. I wish mother could have lived til_ow.'
  • 'I wish it very, very often,' Dora replied in a moved voice.
  • 'We haven't done badly, drawbacks considered. Now, you may speak of money a_cornfully as you like; but suppose you had married a man who could only kee_ou in lodgings! How would life look to you?'
  • 'Who ever disputed the value of money? But there are things one mustn'_acrifice to gain it.'
  • 'I suppose so. Well, I have some news for you, Dora. I am thinking o_ollowing your example.'
  • Dora's face changed to grave anticipation.
  • 'And who is it?'
  • 'Amy Reardon.'
  • His sister turned away, with a look of intense annoyance.
  • 'You see, I am disinterested myself,' he went on. 'I might find a wife who ha_ealth and social standing. But I choose Amy deliberately.'
  • 'An abominable choice!'
  • 'No; an excellent choice. I have never yet met a woman so well fitted to ai_e in my career. She has a trifling sum of money, which will be useful for th_ext year or two—'
  • 'What has she done with the rest of it, then?'
  • 'Oh, the ten thousand is intact, but it can't be seriously spoken of. It wil_eep up appearances till I get my editorship and so on. We shall be marrie_arly in August, I think. I want to ask you if you will go and see her.'
  • 'On no account! I couldn't be civil to her.'
  • Jasper's brows blackened.
  • 'This is idiotic prejudice, Dora. I think I have some claim upon you; I hav_hown some kindness—'
  • 'You have, and I am not ungrateful. But I dislike Mrs Reardon, and I couldn'_ring myself to be friendly with her.'
  • 'You don't know her.'
  • 'Too well. You yourself have taught me to know her. Don't compel me to sa_hat I think of her.'
  • 'She is beautiful, and high-minded, and warm-hearted. I don't know a womanl_uality that she doesn't possess. You will offend me most seriously if yo_peak a word against her.'
  • 'Then I will be silent. But you must never ask me to meet her.'
  • 'Never?'
  • 'Never!'
  • 'Then we shall quarrel. I haven't deserved this, Dora. If you refuse to mee_y wife on terms of decent friendliness, there's no more intercourse betwee_our house and mine. You have to choose. Persist in this fatuous obstinacy, and I have done with you!'
  • 'So be it!'
  • 'That is your final answer?'
  • Dora, who was now as angry as he, gave a short affirmative, and Jasper at onc_eft her.
  • But it was very unlikely that things should rest at this pass. The brother an_ister were bound by a strong mutual affection, and Whelpdale was not long i_ffecting a compromise.
  • 'My dear wife,' he exclaimed, in despair at the threatened calamity, 'you ar_ight, a thousand times, but it's impossible for you to be on ill terms wit_asper. There's no need for you to see much of Mrs Reardon—'
  • 'I hate her! She killed her husband; I am sure of it.'
  • 'My darling!'
  • 'I mean by her base conduct. She is a cold, cruel, unprincipled creature!
  • Jasper makes himself more than ever contemptible by marrying her.'
  • All the same, in less than three weeks Mrs Whelpdale had called upon Amy, an_he call was returned. The two women were perfectly conscious of reciproca_islike, but they smothered the feeling beneath conventional suavities. Jaspe_as not backward in making known his gratitude for Dora's concession, an_ndeed it became clear to all his intimates that this marriage would be by n_eans one of mere interest; the man was in love at last, if he had never bee_efore.
  • Let lapse the ensuing twelve months, and come to an evening at the end o_uly, 1886. Mr and Mrs Milvain are entertaining a small and select party o_riends at dinner. Their house in Bayswater is neither large nor internall_agnificent, but it will do very well for the temporary sojourn of a young ma_f letters who has much greater things in confident expectation, who is a goo_eal talked of, who can gather clever and worthy people at his table, an_hose matchless wife would attract men of taste to a very much poorer abode.
  • Jasper had changed considerably in appearance since that last holiday that h_pent in his mother's house at Finden. At present he would have been taken fo_ive-and-thirty, though only in his twenty-ninth year; his hair was noticeabl_hinning; his moustache had grown heavier; a wrinkle or two showed beneath hi_yes; his voice was softer, yet firmer. It goes without saying that hi_vening uniform lacked no point of perfection, and somehow it suggested a mor_laborate care than that of other men in the room. He laughed frequently, an_ith a throwing back of the head which seemed to express a spirit of triumph.
  • Amy looked her years to the full, but her type of beauty, as you know, wa_ndependent of youthfulness. That suspicion of masculinity observable in he_hen she became Reardon's wife impressed one now only as the consummate grac_f a perfectly-built woman. You saw that at forty, at fifty, she would be on_f the stateliest of dames. When she bent her head towards the person wit_hom she spoke, it was an act of queenly favour. Her words were uttered wit_ust enough deliberation to give them the value of an opinion; she smiled wit_ delicious shade of irony; her glance intimated that nothing could be to_ubtle for her understanding.
  • The guests numbered six, and no one of them was insignificant. Two of the me_ere about Jasper's age, and they had already made their mark in literature; the third was a novelist of circulating fame, spirally crescent. The three o_he stronger sex were excellent modern types, with sweet lips attuned t_pigram, and good broad brows.
  • The novelist at one point put an interesting question to Amy.
  • 'Is it true that Fadge is leaving The Current?'
  • 'It is rumoured, I believe.'
  • 'Going to one of the quarterlies, they say,' remarked a lady. 'He is gettin_erribly autocratic. Have you heard the delightful story of his telling M_owland to persevere, as his last work was one of considerable promise?'
  • Mr Rowland was a man who had made a merited reputation when Fadge was still o_he lower rungs of journalism. Amy smiled and told another anecdote of th_reat editor. Whilst speaking, she caught her husband's eye, and perhaps thi_as the reason why her story, at the close, seemed rather amiabl_ointless—not a common fault when she narrated.
  • When the ladies had withdrawn, one of the younger men, in a conversation abou_ certain magazine, remarked:
  • 'Thomas always maintains that it was killed by that solemn old stager, Alfre_ule. By the way, he is dead himself, I hear.'
  • Jasper bent forward.
  • 'Alfred Yule is dead?'
  • 'So Jedwood told me this morning. He died in the country somewhere, blind an_allen on evil days, poor old fellow.'
  • All the guests were ignorant of any tie of kindred between their host and th_an spoken of.
  • 'I believe,' said the novelist, 'that he had a clever daughter who used to d_ll the work he signed. That used to be a current bit of scandal in Fadge'_ircle.'
  • 'Oh, there was much exaggeration in that,' remarked Jasper, blandly. 'Hi_aughter assisted him, doubtless, but in quite a legitimate way. One used t_ee her at the Museum.'
  • The subject was dropped.
  • An hour and a half later, when the last stranger had taken his leave, Jaspe_xamined two or three letters which had arrived since dinner-time and wer_ying on the hall table. With one of them open in his hand, he suddenly spran_p the stairs and leaped, rather than stepped, into the drawing-room. Amy wa_eading an evening paper.
  • 'Look at this!' he cried, holding the letter to her.
  • It was a communication from the publishers who owned The Current; they state_hat the editorship of that review would shortly be resigned by Mr Fadge, an_hey inquired whether Milvain would feel disposed to assume the vacant chair.
  • Amy sprang up and threw her arms about her husband's neck, uttering a cry o_elight.
  • 'So soon! Oh, this is great! this is glorious!'
  • 'Do you think this would have been offered to me but for the spacious life w_ave led of late? Never! Was I right in my calculations, Amy?'
  • 'Did I ever doubt it?'
  • He returned her embrace ardently, and gazed into her eyes with profoun_enderness.
  • 'Doesn't the future brighten?'
  • 'It has been very bright to me, Jasper, since I became your wife.'
  • 'And I owe my fortune to you, dear girl. Now the way is smooth!'
  • They placed themselves on a settee, Jasper with an arm about his wife's waist, as if they were newly plighted lovers. When they had talked for a long time, Milvain said in a changed tone:
  • 'I am told that your uncle is dead.'
  • He mentioned how the news had reached him.
  • 'I must make inquiries to-morrow. I suppose there will be a notice in Th_tudy and some of the other papers. I hope somebody will make it a_pportunity to have a hit at that ruffian Fadge. By-the-by, it doesn't muc_atter now how you speak of Fadge; but I was a trifle anxious when I hear_our story at dinner.'
  • 'Oh, you can afford to be more independent.—What are you thinking about?'
  • 'Nothing.'
  • 'Why do you look sad?—Yes, I know, I know. I'll try to forgive you.'
  • 'I can't help thinking at times of the poor girl, Amy. Life will be easier fo_er now, with only her mother to support. Someone spoke of her this evening, and repeated Fadge's lie that she used to do all her father's writing.'
  • 'She was capable of doing it. I must seem to you rather a poor- brained woma_n comparison. Isn't it true?'
  • 'My dearest, you are a perfect woman, and poor Marian was only a cleve_chool-girl. Do you know, I never could help imagining that she had ink-stain_n her fingers. Heaven forbid that I should say it unkindly! It was touchin_o me at the time, for I knew how fearfully hard she worked.'
  • 'She nearly ruined your life; remember that.'
  • Jasper was silent.
  • 'You will never confess it, and that is a fault in you.'
  • 'She loved me, Amy.'
  • 'Perhaps! as a school-girl loves. But you never loved her.'
  • 'No.'
  • Amy examined his face as he spoke.
  • 'Her image is very faint before me,' Jasper pursued, 'and soon I shal_carcely be able to recall it. Yes, you are right; she nearly ruined me. An_n more senses than one. Poverty and struggle, under such circumstances, woul_ave made me a detestable creature. As it is, I am not such a bad fellow, Amy.'
  • She laughed, and caressed his cheek.
  • 'No, I am far from a bad fellow. I feel kindly to everyone who deserves it. _ike to be generous, in word and deed. Trust me, there's many a man who woul_ike to be generous, but is made despicably mean by necessity. What a tru_entence that is of Landor's: "It has been repeated often enough that vic_eads to misery; will no man declare that misery leads to vice?" I have muc_f the weakness that might become viciousness, but I am now far from th_ossibility of being vicious. Of course there are men, like Fadge, who see_nly to grow meaner the more prosperous they are; but these are exceptions.
  • Happiness is the nurse of virtue.'
  • 'And independence the root of happiness.'
  • 'True. "The glorious privilege of being independent"—yes, Burns understood th_atter. Go to the piano, dear, and play me something. If I don't mind, I shal_all into Whelpdale's vein, and talk about my "blessedness". Ha! isn't th_orld a glorious place?'
  • 'For rich people.'
  • 'Yes, for rich people. How I pity the poor devils!—Play anything. Better stil_f you will sing, my nightingale!'
  • So Amy first played and then sang, and Jasper lay back in dreamy bliss.