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TOLD BY MANY: OR, A COLLECTION…

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(Copyright.) TOLD BY MANY: OR, A COLLECTION OF DOCTORS? STORIES. By MRS. J. KENT SPENDER, Author of Parted Lives," "Mr. Nobody," "Both In the Wrong," "Kept Secret," "A Strange Temptation," &c., &c. A FUSS ABOUT NOTHING. Pansy Bellamy startled everyone by the match which she made. Perhaps it was partly because! the women in the little town of Northcott were jealous, and, like mest women, unable to appreciate anything marvellous in each other, and perhaps it was partly because Pansy had been an awkward and ungainly child, with legs too long for her body, giving her a stork-j like appearance, and arms which she did not know exactly how to manage. Everyone was astonished, and somehow resented it, when—like many of these ungainly children—Pansy suddenly developed into a tall, lithe girl, with a figure beautifully modelled, a dignified walk, and that equally dignified manner which the inhabitants of Northcott were accustomed to associate with ancient lineage. Not that they knew much about the aristocracy, for, as someone suggested, the reason that the Northcottians gave themselves such airs was because there was nobody great amongst them, either in the way of nobility or marked ability. They attached considerable consequence to caste, and no one who had been known to be associated with trade was admitted into the Eleusinian mysteries of the inner circle of Northcott society until he had passed a certain preparatory period in what the children would call "Coventry." In other words, he had decorously to retire into oblivion after casting the shell of the shop, !iis cuticle being supposed to be in the sensitive condition characteristic of the lobster when he passes through the same transition. A considerable stir took place at Northcott when it was known that a real live lord had taken a place in the neighbourhood, and intended to make a sojourn in it for the benefit of the fresh breezes and reviving air. Lord Walton was credited with considerable con- descension when it was found that lie intended to grace garden parties and flower shows with his august presence. The condescension, indeed, was supposed to be scarcely in keeping with his dignity when he abased himself so far as to send one of his Q',yn sketches to an exhibition of amateur draw- ngs which took place annually at Northcott. How the Northcott Courier dwelt upon the per- fections of Lord Walton's water-colour paint- ings, and how modest it was of him to be always belittling his own performance, when the matrons of Northcott gushed about it and the marriageable daughters giggled! ,narriageable daughters giggled! But the fluttering amongst the dovecotes reached a height which threatened to be almost dangerous when it was whispered that Lord Walton was over head and ears in love with Pansy Bellamy. Perhaps he himself elt that it was rather ridiculous for this mere girl to send the blood coursing through his veins now that he was approaching the age of forty, when he had hitherto been impervious to sensa- tions of this sort. Mothers and daughters had said siege to him almost ever since he could emember; and possibly it was because Pansy had never flirted, but had shewn herself distant and almost cold, that the real true heart in the man was stirred from beneath its conventional wrappings. Pansy herself was scarcely consulted in the matter-lier mother taking it for granted that the lineal descendant of an ancient race could not possibly be humiliated by refusal. Mrs. Bellamy enlarged somewhat unnecessarily on the b iseness and wickedness of arousing feelings with which her daughter would have been mean to trifle. "All that you will have to do will be to go on as you have begun. You have made a conquest, and you must make continual efforts to keep it, she said. f. The lattei recommendation fell rather discon- certingly on Pansy's ears. Ambition and a desire to rule in life had always been as im- portant to her as to her mother. The Northcott people were not perhaps far out of it when they accused her of "going after high game." She trusted in her beauty, and from the time that Lord Walton had seen her clothed in azure and crowned in gold-the former being a blue cotton dress made with her own hands,, and the latter the aureole of her shining hair- she had determined, if possible, to keep her, ascendency,putting off the moral and mental rags, and tatters in which she formerly had clothed] herself, and locking away all uncomfortable and humiliating recollections. How to do so was a little difficult. Nature had probably intended her to brighten a poor: man's home, and she was wasted on one who had no troubles of any sort. She had been trained to be a good manager, priding herself on never being thriftless. She well understood the economy which could make sixpence go as far as a shilling, but the charms which were her stock in trade had never as yet been enhanced by setting. Her presentation at Court and the diamonds which she wore for the occasion were embarrass- ments to which at first she was hardly able to adapt herself. But she almost worshipped the precious stones when she saw how they enhanced her beauty—the white column of her neck rising as if from a circlet of fire. In her case there was none of that pining against the loneliness of her grandeur, or forced inaction, that newly- caged birds are apt to feel when they beat their wings against the cruel bars of their cages, and none of that rebellion against subjection charac- teristic of other women who wish for independent careers. When she went to Lonaon sne was delighted with the brilliancy and daintiness of everything which surrounded her. It seemed to her a world of glitter, which fairly took her breath away; but it was well that she should have married a peer, and it was doubtless a very proper arrange- ment for her to occupy her present position. The height of her triumph was reached when she returned to the little town of Northcott to astonish the staring children, wondering nurse- maids, and her former acquaintances, who did not hesitate to accuse her of planning and plotting till .she had managed to climb above their heads. There were schoolmates of hers— like Peris at the gate of Paradise, disconsolate- who felt as if queens might have envied her as -he drove through the town of Northcott, which had been adorned with bunting for her arrival, looking down on them from the vantage of her comfortable landau, smiling and wrapped in her magnificent furs. It was like a fairy tale, with the Prince Charming left out, for Lord Walton- who was suffering prematurely from gout-was not at all like a Prince Charming, and I, who attended her when she was in town, knew how he had always been afraid of her husband. The fear was possibly constitutional—I have sometimes noticed that people who are naturally imorous as well as sensitive wear this armour of pride to conceal their sensibilities. Lord Walton had every reason to be satisfied with his ride; she was the finest ornament he possessed. Her appearance at the head of his table enhanced die value of other curios, which had come down to him for generations: she was the crowning Kohinoor of his heterogeneous collection of ancient pictiires, priceless jewels, rare seals, dainty china, coats of arms. The colour of the reen sea and of the sand was in her eyes, and if occasionally a deeper tone, as of the depth oi the heavif.g waters, came into them, with an expression which it was not easy to understand, he was only the more rejoiced. Both Millais and Burne-Jones have promised I to palint her portrait," he said to me with a sort of pride when he first introduced me to her. "And, Dr. Newnham, she will wear well --tin is not one of your sickly, consumptive* looking beauties," he auaed -s soon as we were alone. Yes, I agreed with him—she would wear well. She was tall and rather large, of the grand, majestic style. One could imagine how stately she would look if she lived to be a dowager, and with what a towering head she would wear her tiara in future Drawing-rooms—she seemed as if she were made for diamonds and feathers. I remember what a sensation she made when she appeared at a certain opera, and how more than one royal person expressed his admiration for her appearance. The opera-glasses were- turned at the box in which she sat rather than it the trained singers trilling their roulades. Her lace was innocent of ''kohl," or pearl powder, or of any devices of fashion. Her sim- plicity cortrasted to advantage with the art of other women, many of whom had over-emphasised their eyebrows and eye-lashes; and yet she looked like a G reuw and Romney rolled into one. Lord WaTon forgot that he had ever been troubled by gout—the height of his triumph was attained that evening. He had always been known as a man of taste, who had an eye for a perfect horse,an antique curiosity for a beautiful woman. And now his taste was more than justified —no one could compete with him. Then there was a change for wh h no one could account. For some mysterious reason Lady Walton refused to go anywhere after that even ing. I was called in to attend her and to decide if she were in a state of health which could justify her in such a decision. But I failed toi discover anything which could throw the slightest light en her mysterious determination. For the first time, she looked a little worried and anxious, and admitted that on returning from the opera she had found it difficult to sleet). Otherwise she was in a superb state of health. There was nothing hysterical or weak about her, nor could I make the excuse which I would gladly have made to Lord Walton, who, not unnaturally, desired an heir. She simply kept on repeating that she was weary of London and did not wish to accept any of the numerous in- vitations with which just then they were flooded. "If I consent to go anywhere I must accept them all," she said, "and I am longing for the country. I have made up my mind either to go to my mother at Northcott or to our place in 1 Hampshire. I don't see why all the flowers should be allowed to bloom unseen, and our fruit lose its freshness before it is sent to us. Even my mother's old-fashioned garden would be better than nothing," she added. than nothing," she added. than nothing," she added. I was convinced that she was acting—so' utterly was this new attitude out of keeping with her character. Of course there might bel girls, and plenty of them, whose delight in the old-fashioned favourites of a. well-loved garden —larkspur, wallflower, sweet william, and mignonette—might outweigh the glitter and tawdry attractions of crowded salons in the height of the season. But L;,tdy Walton was not one of those girls. I was fairly puzzled, and found it as difficult I, as her husband to believe in this idyllic; yearning after rusticity. Neither did she look as if she needed repose. I tried to say, in my capacity as mentor, that Lord Walton had aj right to be considered, and that as soon as the festivities in town were over—to which he neturally wished to take his bride—I intended to prescribe a course of the waters for him at Aix-les-Bains. She grew more restive than ever, and said she had better tell me at once that she hated foreign watering-places, and that if Lord Walton went to Aix she must really ask him to go alone. I could not hide my astonishment. What could account for this sudden obstinacy in a woman who had hitherto been careful to keep up appearances ? The man was of a jealous nature, and he immediately imagined that there must be an explanation, and that, probably, of the worst kind. He ended by allowing her to go to Walton Hall, where he knew that she could be carefully watched. "A nice brute I should be if I could suspect! the mother, and, for the matter of that, every- one knows that my wife is above suspicion," he said to me, careful to keep up appearances "but there is something odd about all this—women, you know, sometimes get strange hallucina- tions. Lady Walton did not seem to me to be the sort of woman who would be liable to hallucinations, but we both of us caught at this pretext. She went alone to Walton Hall; but she insisted on living quietly, and though she had a very hand-I some allowance-a sum larger than usual having been settled on her at her marriage-she insisted on dressing with an economy which bordered on the parsimonious. She was ready with her excuses, which were generally to the point. "Dress in the country should always be plain —well-made if you like—that is essential," she admitted. And then the wonder became greater when it oozed out through one of her maids that the only new summer dresses which Lady Walton would wear had been manufactured at home. Lord Walton not unnaturally objected. He had been pleased with his role of plenipotentiary, and was one of those men who interest themselves in details, always liking to see his beautiful wife well groomed and magnificently attired. What on earth can she do with her money ?— it is as if she had a sieve and poured it away for her amusement! She gives scarcely anything in charity," he said at the end of that year, looking anxiously at me. This time I was careful not to meet his eye, for I confessed to myself that things began to look fishy. Could this girl have become entangled in some secret liaison without the knowledge of her own mother ? Could any fellow be threaten- ing her ? I did not like the look of it, especially as she began now to look what her husband called "seedy," in spite of the fresh country air. She was evidently pulled down by an anxiety of some sort, and the excuses she tried to make about consulting any loctor added to the secret fears at which I did not dare to hint. I came to Walton Hall every few weeks to see my old patient, as soon as he followed his wife to her retreat. Not only did she steadily refuse to see me, but professed to have an equal objection to seeing, as I suggested, one of the provincial medical men. "It is as if she were bent on hiding some- thing," I could not help admitting to myself. And so far from being hard on Walton for his jealousy, I confessed that I should probably have insisted on an explanation myself, tie did not. He was wonderfully forbearing, but the vexation of the thing aged and altered him. Quarrels were now frequent ac Walton Halli, and yet, in my .presence, he wr.s always apologetic. "It is no wonder she looks ill-she has few resources," he said, "and naturally she gets hipped when she insists on shutting herself up." And I judged from various sentences that she let drop that she had sufficient time on her hand- to begin to reproach herself for the hastiness of her marriage. Was it an "honourable estate that she had taken on herself, after all, or was it very much the contrary ? She was awaking to the consciousness that she had a soul, and the bloom was already rubbed from her pride in her new position. In the retirement of her country house, which she so persistently refused to have filled with visitors, and wi.ere she went about dressed as plainly as in her maiden days, she had begun for the first tima to read and to think. But still there were the odd contradictions which, worried her husband, and of which he hadcease 1 to speak. Whenever he did n to me, drawn into it by his .inxiety respecting his wife's health, he would pull himself up, frying with old fashioned punctiliousness: "7 do not intend t, dwell on these details-the ï.:e are not matter which admit of discussion." But Lady Walton's iiicons;slencies vore re markable. Instead of declaring, as her mothc would have done, that it was useless to possess coronet without a proper allowance, she shev- c herself on most occasions to be free from mer- cenary motives. It seemed to have come to hei like a flash of illumination that the advantage o: having money was to be able to help others with It. Anrl yet when, having heard of a of distress in the neighbourhood, she expressed herself to that effect,she added, almost pitcouely: "Don't give the money to me-it will be K.otter for you to help the people yourself." I knew that Lord Walton had been so wor- ried by these oddities that he had even made inquiries as to the possibility of madness exist- ing in his wife's family. AfCl.r that his sense of lignity saved him. There was no history of mental aberration, and as lie refused to act as spy or to overlook Lady Walton's correspondence, it was impossible for him to discover what she did with her money and as the days passed on he was less and less vvilling to interfere. I had done my best to impress upon him that if he wished to keep his intimities in abeyance he should do his utmost to r void worry. He took my advice, and got into the habit of not wanting to dwell on anything tltlt made him uncom- fortable. It was well for him that he was not a demonstrative man, for any exhibition of affection on his part seemed to annoy Lady Walton. She could control herself so far as action or gesture went, but her thoughts were visible in her face, and she could not hide them "ronr him. He behaved nobly at the crisis, and all might have gone well if the world had not begun to talk, and if, for the first time, he had not been obliged to defend the woman he loved from slanderous tongues. Her own mother proved to be her worst enemy. The training of Mrs. Bellamy's life had hardened her, and in the hour of her disappointment she was found want- ing and could not thaw to the younger woman, who refused to tell her her secrets. "I never cared about confiding in people—if I have a deficiency of that sort I can't help it. I hate talking about my affairs, and can generally manage them best for myself," said the daughter, regardless of the fact that the older woman was unable to pass scatheless through the trial. She could not keep herself from talking, and went so far as to consult the portly rector of her parish—a fellow who had about as much sympathy as a stalled ox would have had, and was only proud to be consulted about. the affairs of the aristocracy. But when Lady Walton first heard of the canards which were being freely circulated about her—some of them even getting into the papers— the news had a most unexpected effect. First of all, the idea that people should dare to invent calumnies at her expense seemed to scorch her to the very heart, and then suddenly she deter- mined to spurn all such reports—cast them to the winds or tranmle them underfoot. It was the old Pansy Bellamy who drove out once more in her open victoria, urging her indignation, like her horses, to a sharp gallop. "Why should I be ashamed," she said to her- self, "I who have done no wrong ? And instead of adopting an unnaturally meek tone to her husband, alarming him by her de- jection when he loaded her with presents, and saying, "I feel like taking advantage of you," she began again to assert herself, and astonished him by saying she wished him to send for Dr. Newnham at once. I found her with her cheeks flushed, her eyes bright, and all her old beauty restored. It might have been only for the moment, in the vehe- mence of her passion. But as she paced the room with her eyes flashing, motioning me to a seat, I felt as if we were on the verge of a revelation. "There are times when we do things that we may afterwards regret," she explained, turning her agitated face to me. "It so happens that I have been singularly alone in the world. I grew up without any intimate friend, and never confided in my mother. She and I were seldom of the same way of thinking, and I did not care to make scenes, or to contradict her. I some- times felt that I was very reserved, but I sup- posed it was nature that made me so. If, as a child, I got into a mess I got out of it as best I could by myself, and so I went on till I was married. Now I am going to do a foolish thing. I have no one else to confide in but you. You have been consulted about my health, and you know as well as I do that something has been vexing me. That something I thought it wisest to keep to myself, but as circumstances have turned out I feel I want a friend. Perhaps, however, I ought to stop to think." "Don't stop to think," I answered, as sooth- ingly as I could, from the recesses of the fashion- able lounge where she told me to seat iiiyself. "It is a horrid plan, and leads to all sorts of uncomfortableness in life." I At this climax she could hardly help smiling, as she threw herself into another chair and, answered: "The uncomfortableness has come. Why, because I choose to shut myself up—uot going into society just at present-and because I have made up my mind to dress plainly, people should talk in this way is more than I can imagine ? The fools might let me alone." "Aoblesse oblige," I answered, with another quiet smile. "If the Queen's Maids of Honour should wear old-fashioned toilets someone would have to remonstrate with them,and your position as Lady Walton is somewhat prominent. B- sides, in this fast, fussy age people can't manage to live without chattering and cooking up news- paper paragraphs about the affairs of oihers." She flushed again angrily. "You have seen the paragraph. We ought to bring an action." "I don't see how this is possible. The state- ment is not actionable-it simply refers to the eccentric conduct of the beautiful Lady Walton in refusing to receive or visit her friends, and hints that there mn, be some explanation for her mysterious conduct." She tried to laugh. She tried to laugh. "Who would think that they would make such a ridiculous fuss about nothing ? The explana- tion is so simple that they are at liberty to hear it-so far as I am concerned—though I still think it is always better to keep our affairs to ourselves." Yet it seemed to me that she was putting off the explanation, and my heart beat a little quickly for Lord Walton's sake. He had for- borne to question this woman, he had trusted her, and what, after all, if the confidence she was going to make to me should prove his trust to be misplaced r "I a.m afraid you will think the worse of me when you hear how careless I have been. "I shall not think the worse of you," I said, slowly still a good deal alarmed, and wondering why she used such a word as "ctreless." And then she began, speaking quickly, jerking cut her words and making rapid allusions, like a proud woman who does not like to confess that she has made a mistake. "Did you ever hear of that last evening when I appeared in public—at the opera, wasn't it ? I I wore the family diamonds that night, and I remember that everyone admired them. I don't know whether my maid fastened them in care- lessly or how it happened, but when I got out of the carriage the tiara was missing. I thought a pin must have slipped which had fastened it to my hair, and as soon as I missed it a thorough search was made, the cushions in the carriage and the mats being shaken and examined. Lord Walton did not come home with me that night, and thougli nobody ever knew—because I had carried it off by my manner-I had been a little afraid of him ever since my marriage. I knew that he attached considerable consequence to the family diamonds, and that the tiara had teen worn by ladies in his family, as he said, for generations. I knew that I could not go out to anything very important without bemg asked by him to wear it. He had happened t > say that it was particularly becoming to me. If 1 had gone through the London season I could have avoided wearing it at many narties, but there would have been certain occasions when he would have been sure to have inquired for it. If I had told him in the beginning it would have been easier for me, but the longer I kept silence the more! impossible it became for me to tell. I adver- tised privately and did everything I could do, and at last I thought it better to inquire at the jeweller's for the price of another tiara resemb- ling the one 1 had lost. The price was so enor- mous that 1 found it would take nearly the whole )f my income for a couple of years, avd I did not .ike to order it till I had saved a part of the money—so you know now why I have retired here and made up my mind to live economi- ally. Even if I had gone to Aix, I must have had beautiful gowns, and I was so anxious to save the money, to keep Lord Walton from the worry and his relations from talking. After all, ie has been so good to me, and I did not want aim to know that in the beginning of my married life I had had a mishap of that sort." I could almost have laughed, so relieved was I I heard the true explanation, but I did not augli so heartily as Walton himself laughed—• elieved from the tension of a great anxiety—as if said: "Why, the diamonds were false, and I never t it necessary to tell her. I had them ■hanged myself soon after my mother's death, .vhs-i! ) had great money losses. I had betted on fr te at Ascot a::d had lost. 1 thought v> ifc wool not find u out, for to all intents I I purposes thy wore just as good as the real

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