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rightly,' said Sir William, half-choking, his ruddy colour growing purple with fury, you would have me pay a woman for what you call the greatest service one human being can render another, and at the same time gratify a brute's inclinations by behaving like a villain and doing her the most damnable injury in my power, and then propose to heal it by money? I am not a gentleman; I do not pretend, as you call it, to have been a good man, or anything save a ne'er-do-well, drunken, degraded rascal, if you knew all; but I have not come to that yet—to what a great lady, an old woman on the brink of the grave, has brought her mouth to utter to a low beggar like me, young enough to be her grandson.
She blenched a little before his rage. If there was anything she respected it was the whirlwind of a man's just anger. She had a perception of justice, and she sometimes accorded to the men whose manhood she could appreciate, the right to rule over themselves, over her, and over humanity at large. 'I grant it is awkward,' she said, 'and unpleasant and improper, and if you take to high-faluting you may call it all the bad names you choose. But you have got yourself into the scrape, and if you will not break off from it, without another moment's shillyshallying-availing yourself of your horses and your yacht—if you had one—but there are always the railways and screw-steamersit will be the worse for you. My way of backing out is at least better for you and everybody, including the woman, mind, than your putting an end to yourself by marrying a drab like that.'
‘By George, she's the woman I'll marry as soon as the banns are out !' he said with hard firmness. 'I might take out a licence ; but we ain't ashamed of what we're going to do, and driven to huddle up the doing of it, as some of you fine folk are fain to try. I needn't tell you we ain't in the fashion neither, having no turn that way. Such being the case, will you have the goodness to mind your manners, Lady Fermor, and keep from calling my future wife names to my face, which I would not suffer for a second from a man, but must stomach from a woman-lady or not—because I cannot use my fists to her ? I'll only say this, that whatever you may mean by a drab, I am free to tell you Honor Smith-my Honor
now—is an honest woman, which is more than can be said of every fine lady.'
She cowered as if he had dealt her a blow. Boy,' she said hoarsely,' whatever provocation I have given you, it is not you who should have used these words to me.' She stumbled to her feet, and prepared to totter out of the room, while he stood, arrested in his violence, with an apology checked on his lips. He wished to give her his arm, which she had so often taken in preference to any other support; but she waved him off. He followed her to the door, and heard the first roll of the thunder and splash of the rain. “Stay till the storm is over, Lady Fermor, he besought her humbly. Your horses may be frightened ; you will catch your death of cold. If you will remain I'll send Mrs. Cray—no, she went this morning, but Cumberbatch will fetch one of the maids; I'll not intrude on you.'
'I would not stay another minute in your house, not though all the fires of heaven were launched on the earth and the deluge had come again. Do you remember the words of the play—not that you've been much in the way of Shakespeare's plays—about not turning your worst enemy's dog out of doors in a
pitiless storm? But if I had been the enemy or the dog I would have scorned the shelter of a false friend's roof, a man who could taunt and revile a woman, a grey-headed woman, old enough, as he has said himself, to be his mother's mother. You are not a gentlemanyou are right there—you are not even a man, as I had stupidly thought you. Farewell to you, Sir William Thwaite ; I have done with you.' She went down the wet steps, rejecting all assistance, was put into her carriage by her man, and turned her back on Whitehills.
Iris had gone to the Rectory, where she had sometimes taken refuge before, when she had been made to understand that her presence was not desired, in some specially troubled state of the Lambford atmosphere. She was always welcome, without a word asked, at the Rectory. It was a crowded, well-worn house, where even necessary expenses had to be pared down ; but a place for her had never been wanting. The Rector did consider her a pet lamb of his flock, though he was occasionally a little theatrical in implying the relation between them. There was no insincerity in his staginess. He was only somewhat flourishing and flowery in speech and action, by
nature, which caused him to be one of the most popular preachers within a considerable area. Lucy was quite proud of his eloquence. It had a different effect on Ludovic, who could not escape the suspicion that his father was apt to be grandiloquent, and that his pathos savoured now and then of bathos. He knit his brows sometimes—a strange exertion for King Lud when he was at home, and wished the governor could be curter and simpler in his speech. The Rector's loquacity helped to seal his son's lips—at the same time the young fellow knew his father too well not to be sensible, to his own great comfort, that his senior was single-minded and whole-hearted in all the rhetoric he indulged in.
Harassed little Mrs. Acton, born an anxious woman, and married on a small income, with a large family over which to spread the scanty supply of coin, had no time, as she frequently said half-plaintively, half-peevishly, for speechifying; but she still honoured and admired her husband for doing both what she could and could not do, and kept a corner in her crowded heart and mind for one who had grown up like a child of the family. This fact was not seriously impaired by the cir