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And how would it affect Harry Clavering? . She had desired to give Harry all the good things of the world, thinking that they would become him well,—thinking that they would become him very well as reaching bim from her hand. Now he would have them all, but would not have them from her. Now he would have them all, and would share them with Florence Burton. Ah,-if she could have been true to him in those early days, --in those days when she had feared his poverty,—would it not have been well now with her also ? The measure of her retribution was come full home to her at last! Sir Harry Clavering! She tried the name and found that it sounded very well. And she thought of the figure of the man and of his nature, and she knew that he would bear it with a becoming manliness. Sir Harry Clavering would be somebody in his county,—would be a husband of whom his wife would be proud as he went about among his tenants and his gamekeepers,—and perhaps on wider and better journeys, looking up the voters of his neighbourhood. Yes; happy would be the wife of Sir Harry Clavering. He was a man who would delight in sharing his house, his hopes, his schemes and councils with his wife. He would find a companion in his wife. He would do honour to his wife, and make much of her. He would like to see her go bravely. And then, if children came, how tender he would be to them! Whether Harry could ever have become a good head to a poor household might be doubtful, but no man had ever been born fitter for the position which he was now called upon to fill. It was thus that Lady Ongar thought of Harry Clavering as she owned to herself that the full measure of her just retribution had come home to her.
Of course she would go at once to Clavering Park. She wrote to her sister saying so, and the next day she started. She started so quickly on her journey that she reached the house not very many hours after her own letter. She was there when the rector started for London, and there when Mr. Fielding preached his sermon; but she did not see Mr. Clavering before he went, nor was she present to hear the eloquence of the younger clergyman. Till after that Sunday the only member of the family she had seen was Mrs. Clavering, who spent some period of every day up at the great house. Mrs. Clavering had not hitherto seen Lady Ongar since her return, and was greatly astonished at the change which so short a time had made. “She is handsomer than ever she was,” Mrs. Clavering said to the rector ; " but it is that beauty which some women carry into middle life, and not the loveliness of youth.” Lady Ongar's manner was cold and stately when first she met Mrs. Clavering. It was on the morning of her marriage when they had last met,—when Julia Brabazon was resolving that she would look like a countess, and that to be a countess should be enough for her happiness. She could not but remember this now, and was unwilling at first to make confession of her failure by any meekness of conduct. It behoved her to be proud, at any rate till she should know how this new Lady Clavering would receive her. And then it was more than probable that this new Lady Clavering knew all that had
taken place between her and Harry. It behoved her, therefore, to hold her head on high.
But before the week was over, Mrs. Clavering,—for we will still call her 80,—had broken Lady Ongar's spirit by her kindness; and the poor woman who had so much to bear had brought herself to speak of the weight of her burden. Julia had, on one occasion, called her Lady Clavering, and for the moment this had been allowed to pass without observation. The widowed lady was then present, and no notice of the name was possible. But soon afterwards Mrs. Clavering made her little request on the subject. “I do not quite know what the custom may be,” she said, “but do not call me so just yet. It will only be reminding Hermy of her bereavement.”
“She is thinking of it always," said Julia.
“No doubt she is; but still the new name would wound her. And, indeed, it perplexes me also. Let it come by-and-by, when we are more settled."
Lady Ongar had truly said that her sister was as yet always thinking of her bereavement. To her now it was as though the husband she had lost had been a paragon among men.
She could only remember of him his manliness, his power,-a dignity of presence which he possessed, -and the fact that to her he had been everything. She thought of that last and vain caution which she had given him, when with her hardly permitted last embrace she had besought him to take care of himself. She did not remember now how coldly that embrace had been received, how completely those words had been taken as meaning nothing, how he had left her not only without a sign of affection, but without an attempt to repress the evidences of his indifference. But she did remember that she had had her arm upon his shoulder, and tried to think of that embrace as though it had been sweet to her. And she did remember how she had stood at the window, listening to the sounds of the wheels which took him off, and watching his form as long as her eye could rest upon
it. Ah! what falsehoods she told herself now of her love to him, and of his goodness to her; pious falsehoods which would surely tend to bring some comfort to her wounded spirit.
But her sister could hardly bear to hear the praises of Sir Hugh. When she found how it was to be, she resolved that she would bear them, -bear them, and not contradict them; but her struggle in doing so was great, and was almost too much for her.
“ He had judged me and condemned me,” she said at last, " and therefore, as a matter of course, we were not such friends when we last met as we used to be before my marriage.”
“ But, Julia, there was much for which you owed him gratitude.”
“I do not know why your mouth should be closed on such a subject because he has gone. I should have thought that you would be glad to acknowledge his kindness to you. But you were always hard.”
“Perhaps I am hard."
" And twice he asked you to come here since you returned, —but yoa would not come.”'
“I have come now, Hermy, when I have thought that I might be of use."
“ He felt it when you would not come before. I know he did." Lady Ongar could not but think of the way in which he had manifested his feelings on the occasion of his visit to Bolton Street. “I never coali understand why you were so bitter.”
“I think, dear, we bad better not discuss that. I also have had much to bear,-1, as well as you. What you have borne has come in no wise from your own fault."
“No, indeed ; I did not want him to go. I would have given anything to keep him at home.”
Her sister had not been thinking of the suffering which had come to her from the loss of her husband, but of her former miseries. This however, she did not explain. “No," Lady Ongar continued to say. “ You have nothing for which to blame yourself, whereas I have much,indeed everything. If we are to remain together, as I hope we may, it will be better for us both that bygones should be bygones.”
“Do you mean that I am never to speak of Hugh ? ”
“No ;-I by no means intend that. But I would rather that you should not refor to his feelings towards me. I think he did not quite understand the sort of life that I led while my husband was alive, and that he judged me amiss. Therefore I would have bygones be bygones."
Three or four days after this, when the question of leaving Clavering Park was being mooted, the elder sister started a difficulty as to money matters. An offer had been made to her by Mrs. Clavering to remain at the great house, but this she had declined, alleging that the place would be distasteful to her after her husband's death. She, poor soul, did not allege that it had been made distasteful to her for ever by the solitude which she had endured there during her husband's lifetime! She would go away somewhere, and live as best she might upon her jointure. It was not very much, but it would be sufficient. She did not see, she said, how she could live with her sister, because she did not wish to be dependent. Julia, of course, would live in a style to which she could make no pretence.
Mrs. Clavering, who was present, -as was also Lady Ongar, - declared that she saw no such difficulty. “ Sisters together,” she said, “need hardly think of a difference in such matters."
Then it was that Lady Ongar first spoke to either of them of her half-formed resolution about her money, and then too, for the first time, did she come down altogether from that high horse on which she had been, as it were, compelled to mount herself while in Mrs. Clavering's presence. " I think I must explain," said she, “ something of what I
mean to do,--about my money that is. I do not think that there will be much difference between me and Hermy in that respect.”
" That is nonsense,” said her sister, fretfully.
• There will be a difference in income certainly,” said Mrs. Clavering, " but I do not see that that need create any uncomfortable feeling."
"Only one doesn't like to be dependent,” said Hermione.
“ You shall not be asked to give up any of your independence," said Julia, with a smile,-a melancholy smile, that gave but little sign of pleasantness within. Then on a sudden her face became stern and hard. " The fact is,” she said, “I do not intend to keep Lord Ongar's money."
"Not to keep your income!” said Hermione.
“No;-I will give it back to them,-or at least the greater part of it. Why should I keep it ?”.
" It is your own," said Mrs. Clavering.
" Yes; legally it is my own. I know that. And when there was some question whether it should not be disputed I would have fought for it to the last shilling. Somebody,-I suppose it was the lawyer, -wanted to keep from me the place in Surrey. I told them then that I would not abandon my right to an inch of it. But they yielded,-and now I have given them back the house."
"You have given it back!” said her sister.
“Yes ;-I have said they may have it. It is of no use to me. I hate the place."
" You have been very generous," said Mrs. Clavering,
"No ;—that would not affect my income.” Then she paused, not knowing how to go on with the story of her purpose.
"If I may say so, Lady Ongar,” said Mrs. Clarering, “ I would not if I were you, take any steps in so important a matter without advice."
“Who is there that can advise me? Of course the lawyer tells mo that I ought to keep it all. It is his business to give such advice as that. But what does he know of what I feel? How can he understand me ? How, indeed, can I expect that any one shall understand me?"
"But it is possible that people should misunderstand you," said Mrs.
" Exactly. That is just what he says. But, Mrs. Clavering, I care nothing for that. I care nothing for what anybody says cr thinks. What is it to me what they say ? '
"I should have thought it was everything,” said her sister.
"No,-it is nothing ;—nothing at all.” Then she was again silent, and was unable to express herself. She could not bring herself to declare in words that self-condemnation of her own conduct which was now Feighing so heavily upon her. It was not that she wished to keep back her own feelings, either from her sister or from Mrs. Clavering; but that the words in which to express them were wanting to her.
"And have they accepted the house?” Mrs. Clavering asked.
“They must accept it. What else can they do? They cannot make me call it mine if I do not choose. If I refuse to take the incon which Mr. Courton's lawyer pays in to my bankers', they cannot come me to have it." “But you are not going to give that up too ? " said her sister.
I will not have his money,—not more than enough to keep me from being a scandal to his family. I will not have it. It is a curse to me, and has been from the first. What right have I to all that money, because,–because,–because—" She could not finish her sentence, bat turned away from them, and walked by herself to the window.
Lady Clavering looked at Mrs. Clavering as though she thought that her sister was mad. “Do you understand her ? " said Lady Clavering in a whisper.
“I think I do," said the other. “ I think I know what is passing in her mind.” Then she followed Lady Ongar across the room, and taking her gently by the arm tried to comfort her,—to comfort her, and to argue with her as to the rashness of that which she proposed to do. She endeavoured to explain to the poor woman how it was that she should at this moment be wretched, and anxious to do that which, if done, would put it out of her power afterwards to make herself useful in the world. It shocked the prudence of Mrs. Clavering,—this idea of abandoning money, the possession of which was questioned by no one. “ They do not want it, Lady Ongar,” she said.
“ That has nothing to do with it," answered the other. “And nobody has any suspicion but what it is honourably and fairly
“But does anybody ever think how I got it ? " said Lady Ongar, turning sharply round upon Mrs. Clavering. “You, you, you,—do you dare to tell me what you think of the way in which it became mine? Could you bear it, if it had become yours after such a fashion ? I cannot bear it, and I will not.” She was now speaking with so much violence that her sister was awed into silence, and Mrs. Clavering herself found a difficulty in answering her.
“Whatever may have been the past,” said she, “the question now is how to do the best for the future."
“I had hoped,” continued Lady Ongar without noticing what was said to her, “I had hoped to make everything straight by giving his money to another. You know to whom I mean, and so does Hermy. I thought, when I returned, that bad as I had been I might still do some good in the world. But it is as they tell us in the sermons. One cannot make good come out of evil. I have done evil, and nothing but evil has come from the evil which I have done. Nothing but evil will come from it. As for being useful in the world,-I know of what use I am! When women hear how wretched I have been they will be unwilling to sell themselves as I did.” Then she made her way to the door, and left the room, going out with quiet steps, and closing the lock behind her without a sound.