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Mr. Fitzgerald's Marriage

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The Hon. Lueius Fitzgerald walked up and áown the breakf ast-room at Abbotscraishie with his hands in his trousers pockets, jingling his moaey. Well, he was perhaps hardly as yet reaccustomed to the sound. His young wife - they had only been married six months - sat at the table, behind the tea and cofïee paraphernalia, watching Mm while she very assidnously knitted a coarse Knickerbocker stocking. Something had evidently produced a twist in the skein of their hitherto unen tangled bliss; for the breakfast was untasted, and was getting cold. 'It is the first request you have refused me; but I suppose you do not think me good enough for your swell acquaintances.' said the lady at last, swallowing a little sob. 'Keally, Amelia, the way you put things is too ridiculous. Not good enough! Jiecause I object to Lady Constantia Verulam and her daughter being invited to Abbotscraithie. What can they have to do with you ? I simply do not want them.' 'Yet they were your most intímate friends before your marriage.' 'Perhaps I have quarreled with them.' 'Nüüseiise! I saw an envelope addressed to you in Miss Verulam's writing, only a week or two ago.' 'It was merely a line of congratulation. ïlie Verulams were abroad when we were married.' And Mr. Fitzgerald, a deep flush mounting all over his face, sat down opposite his wife, and began to busy himself by uncovering the dishes. 'Well,' she persisted, 'let them come and congratúlate you in person. It is very illnatured of you not to have them here. You know I want to find a nice wife for Percy, and he is coming for the shooting on the lOth.' 'Confound Percy 1' muttered Mr. Fitzgerald behind his niustache. 'Well, do as you like, 111 make no further epposition.' And flattering himself with the idea that he had striven his utmost to do right, he now resigned himself delightfully to wrong-doing. Amelia Fitzgerald is the daughter oL a north country manufacturer who left her many thousands oL pounds in hard cash, with part of which Abbottscraithie has lately been pnrchased. It is a handsome stone house, in the center of a fair Lowland estáte, bonnie with moor and forest. Riches apart, she is a loveable little woman enough ; yet Lucius does not love her ; and for no more valid reason than that she is not somebody el 3e. Then why have tnarried her'? The question is only too pregnant, the answer too obvious. When a mutual friend, a match-making woman, had flrst broached the subject to him, he answered at once : 'Can you ask me? If th'eyoung lady s fooi enough to marry me, here I am, and let's waste no more words about t. Amelia Huggins was not long from the school-room, and full of sweet school-roomish views of love. The younger son of an earl, flve feet eleven, handsome, and apparently charmed vith her ; what more could she want? Now, Lucius was no abandoned wretch ; he was simply a young man whose six or eight years of life had disossessed him of about doublé the numer of thousands which had ever beonged to him - Oh, a very vulgar miracle as times go- and he had latterly bat is, for the past year or two- sadlied himself with a desperate passion or Bertha Verulam, and which, alas, he fully returned. As neither of these ill-starred lovers lad any money, or even a reasonable expectation of being left some, Lucius 'elt no sort of scruple in offering his ïeart to the willing Amelia. Calmly considered by an impartial observer, he transaction might look very like selling an estáte with a heavy undeclared mortgage upon it. To the Honorable, yet impecunious, Fitzgerald, ïowever, it appeared but in the llght of hat time-honored course, "The only hing todo, byJove!' Ah, and he would do his duty like a nan, he would. No more flirting now. )f course, if they met much, it would be awkward- deuced dangerous (with another 'by Jove!') Well, they mustn't meet, that's all, You see, Lucius thought himself quite a gcod man. I don't want to say a, word against him, only if he is one, then there are plenty of good men about, that is all. So much the better that there should be, of course. Ilis young wife, though hardly of what you would cali strong character, inherited from the late Iluggins a share of that pertinacity whiehhe had turned to such good account ; and she pours out the coffee this morning with an air of innocent triumph in her blue eyes at baving carried her point. 'And so Mrs. Fitzgerald insists on Lady Verulam and lier daughter being invited,' mused her husband. 'The Verulams, of all people in the world! For Percy too! As if Birdie Verulam (as she was called, her real name being Bertha,) would marry Percy!' ' l'ercy is Amelia's brother, older than she is by four or live years. Rich. of course. Huggins senior lef t his thousands equally divided. But the son liad j not acquired any of that gentleness and good breeding whicli seems to have come to the sister as if by magie. In Lucius Fitzgerald's mental plirase, 'He is an insufferable young cub, talking slang by the yaid, and only fit to herd with bagmen and shop-boys!' ' Y et he Í8 his brother-in-law, must be made the best of, and is even now coming on the lOth to meet Lady Constan[ tia the fastidious, andjher delightfully fine daughter. If only they would send an excuse! But no. Circumstances would never go and risk their cherished old reputation for spitef ulness. How they must srnile now- that is, if they ! ever do smile.' ] So cogitated Lucius ; and his little burst ot wicked exultation at losing the battle rapidly gave way to ever-increasing doubts and fears. He was sufliciently grand seigneur to remain uncrushed by the Percy trouble. 'Va pour le beau-frere;' but the other matter seemed, as hereflected upou it, to hourly contain less and less of whafc was sweet, and more and more of what was decidedly bitter. Granting that there is always something of rapture in meeting one's soul ideal once again, so long, that is, as she is not on the arm of a successful rival, what good could possibly come out of this untoward encounter ? And for a momentary thrill, a joy that was flrst cousin to a sorrow' was it worth while to jeopardize even suca very gray-colored domestic felicity as now belenged to him? Ye3, the more he thought of it, the less he liked the prospect. Visions of strange, heartrending scènes, tragic duets, and more tragic trios, began to flit across his brain by night and day. After all, he had suffered marvelously little for the want of Miss Verulam's society since his marriage. Indeed, this had of ten been a subject of wonder to him. He was really comfortable enough with Amelia-, and as to romance, passion, ecstasy-was the whole thing worth while? Wd he not getting just a shade too oíd, or, to put it plainly, too fat and lazy, for these fatiguing toys ? All this time Amelia was perfectly happy and serene; for whenLucius was with her he was more than ever aux petits soins; and tlien had she not gaiued her own way in the matter of inviting these Verulams ? And they were coming, too. 'Were going to pay otlier visits in the neighborhood, and should be so delighted,' Lady Constantia's note had said. For some days before they arrived. Mr. Fitzgerald had a good deal of spare time on his hands, with which his wif e did not interfere. She was so engrossed in her flrst hospitable preparations, and in adding touches of beauty to the somewhat hastily furnished rooms, that she had little leisure to bestow on her husband. The quittance would have been perhaps, something of a mercy at any other time; but as hornatter hour passed on, and the time approached nearer for the arrival of the Verulams, Mr. Fitzgerald grew more and more dejected, till at last even Amelia was compelled to notice it, and she inquired with ssme solicitude what ailed him. Of courae he brisked up suddenly and said 'Nothing.' How could he own that he either lsnged for or feared the arrival of these people ? In point of fact, he was absolutely beginning to dread it. 'You will go and meet them at the station, Lucius ? It will be so uncivil to let them come up here alone. But I think I had better stay and receive them in the hall; that is the way is it not, in your world ?' 'Yes, yes. You always hit the right mark, love;' which was more than he did, for he bobbed down and kissed her plump on the nose, and barely smiled at his mistake. With this he dashed out of the room, leaving Amelia a little bit disconcerted at his ill-concealed excitement. A moment later she heard the sound of wheels, and looked out of the window. Mr. Fitzgerald, in a white-chapel was going down the drive. 'Gone to meet the Verulams in that thing! Impossible!' cried his wife. 'I ordered the carriage." But Lucius Fitzgerald had gone to meet the Verulams and so had the barouche. He would just drive himself to the station, and see them into it, he thought; after all, it would only be courteeus. 3;30, and the little station at Abbotscraithie is in a state of fluster, for the train from the south is due; visitors, too are expected 'up at the house;' and porters are running hither and thither, each more anxious than the other to show assiduity and attention. And natural enough too. Other people may be looking out for friends who may be f alse, for relations whom they may not love; but these honest fellows are welcoming silver charms most tmlikely to prove f alse, and of whose claims upon the heart not even skeptics are skeptical. No one, however empresse though they all seem, is in so great a state of real fluster as the master of 'the house' himself, impassiveashelooks, standing there or the platform, his usually long pale face just a little longer and paler than ever, his large dark eyes burning just a little more brightly in their deep setting of heavy lash. At last the bell has rung, and the train pants with slow dignity into the station. Still Lueius Fitzgerald does not move, but leans on, as though watching to be recognized, against the office-door. A second more and the bright color mouuts to his brow, then suddenly fades away into asort of blue pallor. He walks f orward to a carriage but with no haste; yet, from that carriage window is gazing on him a fair young girlish face, a face such as even an indifferent passer-by in a crowded thoroughfare would turn to look at; such a face as a painter might have chosen for a Calypso when looking ward frorn the shores of Ithaca. I had the stamp of a blighted love upon it, A busy porter opened the carriage door, and Lady Constantia, fat, rubi cund, and flfty, came tumbling out 'How do you do'-ing Luoius with easy familiarity. He gave his hand to the girl. She did not attempt to speak as she stepped down on the platform, though her hand seemed to linger in his just a moment longer than was necessary. Perhaps it was the whispered 'My darling!' which he uttered, in a very low tone as she stood beside him, [ which so surprised her, that she forgot to be conventional. What right had he to cali her 'darling,' with Amelia sittingat home waiting for them, and in spite of the far-ofl pained look in the sweet Birdie's eyes, which should have thrust the word back unspoken into his heart ? It did not bring a glad look into her face, as 'darling' uttered by Lucius Fitzgerald six months ago would have done. All the sunshine and joy had died out of Birdie Verulam's life sinee then. She turned away from him and spoke to her maid about the luggage, as though seeking refuge in a triviality. Why had she come to Abbotscraithie ? E ven Amelia, had she been at the station that day, could not have failed to note that Birdie Verulam had been to Lucius in the past what every law of honor xorbade thafc she could ever be still in the future. Like Lucius, Birdie wa3 accomplishing her destiny; like Lucius, she had a flrtn belief in her own strength. How utterly weak tliey both were perliaps they discovered with startling reality as they stood side by side on the Abbotscraithie platform. Lady Constantia was Birdie's stepmother, and the girl was dependent on her for food, shelter, and clothing- utterly dependent; and her father's chattering, good-natured, shallow-pated widow was calculating, though kindly, and had moreover, but a limited ineome. lo marry Lucius, Birdie knew was utterly impossible- knew it froin the moment the flrst love-flutter agitated her heart; so she resigned him- gave him wíth her own free will to Amelia. She had a niorbid longing to witness the success of her work, and had accompaniñd her mother to Abbotscraithie, deluding herself into the idea that she would henceforth endure the void in her life with less bitter pangs if she were but allo wed to see Lucius rich, happy, and contented. So when Lady Constantia told her that she had received an invitation from Mrs. Fitzgerald, and in her blindness and her love of living at other people's expense suggested that they should accept it, Birdie had oiïered no opposition. She got mto the carriage and seated herself by Lady Constantia's side, the maid oppo3ite. Lucius preceded them in his cart. He had chosen wisely in leaving Birdie to her own reflections for a while; furthermore, he went up the back way into the stable-yard to avoid being present when Birdie and Mrs. Fitzgerald should meet. He could easily make an excuse for not being at his post to fulflll the ceremony of introduction. Perhaps, even in the abstract, he was right, although his action, or, rather, inaction, in the matter was due on this occasion solely to his inclination. Where people are bound nolen volen to make themselves acquamted, the formality of an introduction is very likely better ommitted. At all events, in this instance the affairpassed off comfortably enough, and the impression on all sides was favoruble. But this f act by no means tended to mend matters as far as danger was concerned, and Miss Verulam was too wise and too honest to decáve herself into a contrary belief. When a womanallows herself to love a married man, she may teil her conscience that eveiy fault from the wife palliates her guilt; but she must be morally blind indeed if she imagines that all the qualities of all the angels centred in the wronged one would ever have weighed with her in the indulgence of her unlawful passion. There was something artles3- an evident desire to like and be liked- about the woman in possession whicli went straight to Birdie's heart and disarmed her - disarmed her of any illfeeling against Lucius's wife that is to say - no more. 'This is the flrst time I have ever met any really great f riends of my husband,' said Amelia, pouring out the tea, 'and you don't knaw how I have been looking forward to your coming.' Lady Constantia, deelared herself delighted to be there, but the journey 'Oh that railway carriage!' I thought I should have died of apoplexy; and that horrid old-young man - ridiculous creature, he must have been iïfty at least - -would insist upon having the Windows up all the time, and Birdie would not snub him. Why would you not, Birdie? Oh, he was good-looking -very, but not mystyle; in fact, quite one of the 'Uave beens.' ' She was something of a rattle, was her lady-ship, and not over-particular about being listened to. This the Birdie had long since ascertained. At that moment she was dreamily contemplating Amelia. 'How a man might love that sweeet little woman if she only got the first chance of him!' was the mental ejaculation. Dinnerthat night was a not altogether successful attempt at being festive. Percy had arrived just before, and decidedly second rate as were bis jokes and general behavior, more than one of thoae present feit grateful to him for keeping up the conversation, his brother-in-law, perhaps, the most of all. Next day two or three men, invited by Lucius for shooting, put in an appearance, and the master of Abbotscraithie, in doing the honors to his male frienda, avoided on all possible occasions being brought into anything like close companionship with the ladies. Only he would look at Birdie sometimes with such a longing, wistf ui look in his large, (laming eyas that itmade the girl more than once creep away up to her room and send the excuse of a headache, instead of reappearïng at dinner. Meanwhile Amelia saw nothiHg except that Percy's attentions were received by Miss Verulam with cold disdain, and that Lucius looked sadly weary and jaded.which she eniirely ascribed to his ha ving over-walked himself shooting on the moors. Thus a week passed, and Birdie sumrested to Lady Constantia that it was time they took their leave and went to the house of some other friends; but Lady Constantia was comfortable and contented in luxurious Abbotscraithie and she would not be hustled. Birdie must endure her torture a little longer She had gone out alone one lovely September afternoon, taking a volume of Shelly to dream over, not to read, In Birdie's frame of mind all the lines were one blurred mass, all the words were indistinct. She sat down in a little arbor that had been built at the euge oía wooci, nanging over an extensive view of heathery moor, and there, tui the dressing-bell rang, she feit she could weep and think in peace- at least, so she hoped; but a quarter of an hour had scarcely passed away when sheheard a man's footstep approaching the arbor, and shealmost sprang un with a little frightened cry, Not Lucius; no, not Lucius; there alone; she could not bear it. It was Percy and she sank back into ner seat as though relieved from a great fear. Kot that she wanted Percy s companionship- far from it; and had he been a man of the world and a gentleman her monosyllabic replies would speeJily have induced him tn pursue his way to the house. But Percy, hke his sister, was not easily daunted;lie could not understand the word " no" unless it was written in very plain letters before htm, and he actual]y had the audacity, though he had nevr received at any time the most remóte encouragement, to make Miss Verulama formal tender of his hand and possessions, looking quite surprised, too, when she got up and told him that she regretted that he had made so great a mistake, such an alliance bein ïnipossible. "Impossible!" he repeated; "impossible that you can ever care for me?" And Percy, whose belief in himself was immense, looked at her in absolute astonishment. Under happier auspices Birdie would have laughed; as it was, she turned f rom him with a sort of disgust mpmlysaying very quietly: 'Pleaseleave me; I would rather be alone.' A hot flu3h rose into Percy's face as she spoke. This son of the people agineü tlmt Jiirdie, being the daughter oí a great house, was flouting him and he resolved to be revenged. PoorBirdie! Of the social chasm that lay between them she never thought; only of how utterly ineapable a man like Percy was to supplant Lucms in her aching heart. Bitterly angry with himself for evoking it, and with Birdie for offering what he was pleased to cali an insult he left the arbor without another word, walking rapidly along the path toward the house. When he was about halt-way some sound attracted his attention and he looked around. Lucius strolling back, gun in hand and alone liad reached the arbor and stoppedanother second and he passed inside and out of view. 'So- so, my lady! -Please leave meIwould rather be alone!' Of course you would. But you will not carry on your little games at Abbotscraithie if I can prevent it.' In less than five minutes Amelia forewarned by Percy, was creeping along throuffh the brushwoorl tn back of the arbor, in order to learn if possible, herself unheard, something of what was going on between her busband and Birdie Verulam. 'I wonld never have come if I had known; but, Oh Lucius, I thought I could have borne it. Why did you let her invite us ?' 'My darling, I did my utmost to prevent it; but she was very positive, and I - well, you bade me marry her, and I -well, you bade me marry her, and I -well, you see, I did not think you would care so very much.' 'Oh Lucius, I should have made no sacnflce for you if I luid not really cared, but I thought I was braver. If only Lady Constantia would be persuaded to take me home ' 'My poor, poor, sweet love, Birdie!' was all the man could murmur. There was no consolation to offer now. 'You must not kiss me, Lucius well only this once, my love. Now go. I cannot bear it if you stay longer I cannot indeed. JBesides, it is not right to yourself or her.' He took her in his arms for a moment, lcft on her lips one more forbidden burning kiss, and was gone- not toward the house, but down the hill on to the moors, where, with nature reigning in wild beauty all around him, he could flght unchidden with his raging love. In the arbor, for a space, the soft, buzzing, lazy summer sounds were disturbed by Birdie's sobs; while outside, with nothing between them but the thin, bark-covered, wooden partition, sat Amelia on the ground among the underwood, her head on her knees, which were surrounded by her clasped hands. She had heard it all, and was thinking it over bit by bit. What should she do? The future, which but an hour ago had seemed so bright to her as she believed in Lucius Fitzgerald's love, had suddenly become dimmed by a mist which looked eternal. She could not see through it; it was thick as' that which gathered about the summit of her own north country huls. Still she must try and flnd her way through it; and as she sat there motionless, listening to the sobs within, and thinking more earnestly than she had ever thought in her life before, a depth of feeling was awakened in Amelia's heart for which no one who knew her only in the light comedy of life would have given her credit. She was the flrst to move- very carefully, lest Birdie should hear - and to go slowly to the house. She met Percy at the door. 'Well, what was up in the arbor ?' 'Nothing. I believe you purposely ser.t me on a wild-goose chase. Lucius has gone down toward Raeburn's farm.' What an invaluable article is stupidity in the proper placel Two hours later the husband and wife met at dinner. Birdie had one of her usual bad headaches. No one could have guessed that Amelia had learned the truth; only perhaps Lucius noticed that she was even more tender and womanly in her manner than she had ever been before. For many days Birdie layillupstairs i in a darkened room. Amelia never in truded herself unbidden into the sick girl's presence; but all that love could thmk of and attention carry out slie gave to Birdie, and with no demonstra tive outbursts. Nor did she ever tel Lucius that she knew aught of the past, but helped him quietly, with soothing tenderness, to bear the anxiety and irritability produced by Birdie's illness. Amelia had seen her way through the mists, and the road along which she had elected to travel was that of patiënt sympathy. As mcmths pasaed on, and time cicatrized the wound in Lucius' lieart that destiny had made, was not much of lts healing due to the woman who loved hira well enough to bear silently and iinmurmuringly her share of the burden with which he was so heavilv weighted ? J Birdie Verulam has never married. bhe went abroad with Lady Constantia tor a while; en her return she studiously avoided all meetings with Lucius, and pointedly refused to pay another visit to Abbotscraithie; but she is alvays on friendly, almost loving, terms with Amelia, who scarcely ever undertakes any schemo of imnnrkn.n


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