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Sometimes Sir William and Lady Thwaite varied their occupation by a day's fishing, but here, though she was still more his equal, and busked his flies and baited his line as well as her own, and softly stroked the water far more unweariedly, the close companionship proved less successful. The two were performing a duet, and the discordant notes, which would mar the harmony in the end, could be more plainly heard already. But it was Honor who taught Sir William to love his own woods and fields with a passionate fondness which would last to the day of his death.
It was an evil time for the husband and wife when even the last days of the pheasantshooting waned, and the chill end of October gave place to a bleak November, which began with early black frosts that threatened to mar the prospects of the hunting-field. At their best they were to the Thwaites a poor substitute for the shooting. A meet and a run were a more open game, and could hardly be conducted in a homely family fashion. There were yeoman farmers in the field, no doubt, but the mass of the riders were Sir William's fellow-squires who, though they had not objected to his subscription to the hunt, now
showed generally as great a disposition to drop him, as they had ever displayed an inclination to take him up. Even if they had done otherwise, he would have resisted their overtures, for he had passed from neutrality in politics to bitter radicalism. But it was not pleasant to encounter old acquaintances and be dismissed with compassionate nods, or to see them turn their heads in other directions.
Sir William could ride, but Lady Thwaite could not. She had never been on an animal more dignified than a donkey in her life. The redoubtable champion of Amazonian feats on foot among the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, the fine figure of a woman walking in her half-gipsy guise, was reduced to helplessness and sat like a sack of corn in the saddle. She was not too proud to conquer her deficiencies, she had courage enough to surmount any difficulty, but she showed herself too impatient to learn slowly and surely. After one or two premature extraordinary appearances in the hunting-field, and 'spills' which made the M. F. H.'s hair stand on end, Sir William withdrew on his own account, and induced Honor to absent herself from the diversion of the season.
Lady Thwaite detested driving. She took half-a-dozen trials of her carriage, then said it made her sick. She had employed it in order to go to church in state. It served as a sorry excuse for abstaining from joining the assembly of her fellow-Christians which she had no mind to do, that she could not ride the distance. It went without saying that she could walk the distance half-a-dozen times any day, and would have indignantly rebutted the statement that she might suffer fatigue by the exertion.
With the falling leaves, the dank mists which are so conspicuous a feature of Eastham, and the shortening days, the newlywedded pair found their open-air resources largely gone, and were driven within doors. It was as if the wailing utterances of the prophet were sounding afresh, The summer is past, the harvest is ended, and ye are not saved.'
Long before his marriage had left him undone, Sir William had awakened from his fit of rage and despair, as he had awakened many a time from the madness of drink, to be sen sible that Honor Smith was no wife for him. He knew that he had better cut off his right hand or pluck out his right eye than wed her, that such wedlock would certainly be his, probably her ruin.
But he had also said to himself that it was too late to repent, that he could not leave a woman who had trusted him in the lurch, that they must go on and take their chance, and God have mercy upon them both.
It was incredible at first, besides being extremely vexatious and humiliating to Sir William, to find that in so short a time he had acquired something of the tone of the class he had renounced and detested, and saw no reason why he should not continue to detest, in spite of the fact that so many of Honor's. words and deeds stood out in antagonism to his better self and plagued him. He did his best to hide the unwished-for acquisition and crush it out of him, but it rose from its ashes. and forced him to own that, be his principles what they might, he could never be again what he had been, before he entered on his inheritance, and moved for a brief space on terms of equality in more intelligent and cultivated circles. He might be that monstrous anomaly, a stuck gentleman — neither one thing nor another, disowned by both classes,
that in which he had been born and brought up, and that into which he had been for the shortest time adopted. He might be a social outcast, doubly repudiated, but he could not return to his original obscurity and live and die the common working-man he had started in life, with his great succession no better than a wild dream.
His reading had included considerable dabbling in the great dramatist whose breadth and strength meet all wants, whose work, next to the Bible, is fit to unite all English classes, and is, if possible, more acceptable and enthralling to the intelligent mechanic than to the dilettante scholar. Sir William had read of Christopher Sly and the trick which the merry and not too scrupulous duke played upon the dupe. Often Christopher Sly rose before Sir William's mind, and he compared himself to the man. He questioned whether the drunken dog ever recovered from the dazzling, enervating illusion of the imposition practised upon him.
When Sir William went back to his books, to tide over the dull, dark, winter days, he tried to take Honor with him. He would read to her what she might care to hear, as he