Long Odds

Chapter V

A Wedding Gift

Marcus Clarke

WHEN Mrs. Manton arose the morning after the proposals of her lodger had taken place, she arose with a thrill of delight, and while untwisting her curl papers (she had the most spiral and natural curls in the world), she thought of the Paradise that was opening before her.

“Of course I shall live with Carry,” said she. “Mr. Chatteris must be rich. It’s all very fine to live retired, but when gentlemen get letters with coronets on the h’envelopes, they must be somethink. I suppose he’s had a quarrel with his family and wants to let it blow over. I’ll find out all about him now at all events. Carry’s made a match of it, and no mistake; but he’s a weak-minded feller, and might draw back when he’s cooler. I’ll go and talk to him to-day,” and so she did.

Cyril had breakfasted in a somewhat curious fashion. Maria Jane, who brought up the tea things, smiled and giggled in a curious way that ruffled his nerves considerably. “What did Maria Jane want with his affairs?” He felt half angry with himself, and gulped down his tea as though that cheering but uninebriating beverage could drown the distrust that would keep rising in his throat.

He looked round the room, and made mental comparisons between his “den” at Christchurch; and then his thoughts flew back to the well-lighted breakfast room at Matcham, with his prim father at one end of the snowy table and Kate at the other; Kate! he thought of a scene in the park last spring, when she——

“Come in!”

A timid knock broke his reverie, and the door opening disclosed Miss Carry, blushing like a rose, and looking bewitching in her rustling morning dress. Kate was forgotten in an instant.

“My darling Carry!” and the sordid little room straightway became a palace.

It may perhaps be doubted by some of you, that Caroline was really in love with her affianced husband. I think that she was. Remember that she never had been in love before; that Cyril was handsome, talkative, and her superior; and also that with most young girls the first one who talks of love is the first one to awaken it.

For the time she was very happy. Naturally she thought of dresses and jewels, and other matters, but still she remembered that the young man at her side was the good genius who was to give her all these fine things, and she loved him accordingly.

So the pair sat side by side on the sofa, and cooed like turtle-doves.

By and bye Mrs. Manton in imperial splendour of cap ribbons, entered without knocking.

This little familiarity annoyed Cyril. It was the first tug of the chain.

“Don’t disturb yourself, my dear,” says she, seating herself with ponderous grace in one of the arm-chairs, and then she tittered. Cyril blushed hot crimson.

“Good morning!” said he, and arose, under pretence of lighting his pipe. (He could not bear that he should be caught lovemaking.) “Do you object to my smoking?”

“Not a bit, my boy—I rather like it.”

Cyril struck a match angrily. Would nothing move the woman? He scowled pettishly. The match went out. Carry tripped across the room and lighted another for him, with a coquettish look.

His brow cleared, and he kissed her on the forehead.

Mrs. Manton looked out of the window and smiled. “She can twist him round her little finger!” thought she.

Cyril went down to the Mercury office two days afterwards.

“I say, Blister,” said he, “I suppose you won’t have much doing for a week or so?”


“Why, I want a holiday. I haven’t been very well lately, and—”

“Oh, of course—whenever you like,” returned Blister, who rather pitied the prodigal whom he had helped to ruin; “and, if you want any money, old fellow—”

“No, thank you. I received my allowance last week, and I have been economical lately.”

Enter Mr. Rupert Dacre.

“Ha, Cyril! You’re not looking well.”

“No—going to take a holiday for a week or two,” says Blister.

“Quite right. I’m going out of town, too.”

“Oh, indeed!”

“Down to Loamshire.”

Cyril turned away. “I will send you up that matter to-night, Blister, and shall be back again in a fortnight.”

“Wait a minute,” says Rupert, “I’m going down the street.”

So the two men went out together.

“Have you heard from Matcham, Chatteris?” asked Rupert, after a pause.

“No. I get my interest regularly paid, and that is all I ever hear of them,” returned Cyril, bitterly.

“I am going down there to-morrow.”

“Oh! (A pause.) You needn’t say that you met me.”

DACRE. (aside). That means, “I wish you would tell them that you met me.” (Aloud). Oh, no—of course not.

CYRIL. I think I shall go down to Brighton for a day or two. I want some fresh air.

DACRE. (mentally). Brighton in September! I wonder what is the matter with him. (Aloud.) Yes—a capital place. Fine and breezy just now. Well, then, you’ve no messages?

CYRIL. No!—Yes! You might tell Fred, if you see him, that I am all right, you know. He’s at Kirkminster, isn’t he?

DACRE. Yes. He wrote to me yesterday, telling me some nonsense about a garrison steeplechase. I hate racing across country myself.

CYRIL. (who is thinking of something else). Yes, of course.

DACRE. (suddenly), Hallo! Who’s that in the cab?

A hackney cab was preparing to drive up to the kerb. A fat old woman and pretty young one were inside it. The front seat was loaded with parcels. They had been shopping, evidently.

“The little one is making signs to you,” says Dacre.

Cyril blushed, and looked confused.

“Yes,” said he. “A little friend of mine. Excuse me.”

“Oh, of course, my dear boy,” returned Dacre, with a laugh.

Cyril went across to the cab, opened the door, and got in.

Rupert watched it turn the corner.

“She is a very pretty girl, whoever she is,” thought he. “I wonder what the boy is up to? Brighton in September—hum! Well, I suppose I shall know by-and-bye. Here, cabby!—Brook-street.”

So Mr. Rupert Dacre went his ways to Matcham.

Cyril was fairly in the toils. The two ladies had decided that the marriage should take place instantly. They wished, indeed, that it should be a public matter; that numerous bridesmaids should attend; that a big cake should be made; that Dym-street should be awakened by the glory of Hymen; that carriages should stand before the Mantonian door; and that Cyril should be led in triumph at his wife’s chariot-wheels. Carry, indeed, had visions of St. George’s, and paragraphs in the Morning Post. But these dreams were rudely dispelled by Chatteris.

“We will get married as quietly as possible,” said he, with an angry flush rising on his face; and Mrs. Manton, who had found out by this time that, however weak and pliable her son-in-law might be, he had a “temper of his own,” wisely gave way. She had sense enough to see that the marriage was too good a thing to be thrown away, and that if she leant upon the matrimonial reed too heavily, it would break, and pierce her hand.

Cyril had determined upon his course of action. He would get married quietly, and go away to Boulogne for a week or so. Then return and work hard for his bread, and perhaps become a great author. Young men are always sanguine, and the leader-writer for the Mercury saw no possible obstacle to his success as a litterateur. Having made his name, he would return to Matcham, shake off the dust from his literary feet against the place, and prove that he could live upon his own resources.

Meanwhile Carry was shopping with all the ardour of a youthful Commanche on his first war-trail. It was extraordinary how many things were necessary to her now, that had been regarded as utterly useless or unobtainable before. Cyril danced attendance upon his future bride at all the shops in Oxford-street. Regent-street “counter-hands” knew him well, and the cabmen at the stand in Dym-street pricked up their ears when they saw his figure approaching.

Mr. Paul Rendlesham, the poverty-stricken curate of the Hon. and Rev. Vere St. Simeon, was the man chosen to perform the ceremony, and the usual tax upon matrimony—in the shape of a license fee—was paid in due course.

The eventful day arrived. Carry prayed hard that some of her female acquaintances might be present to witness her triumph, but the inexorable Cyril refused.

“You don’t love me, Cy-cy-ril,” says she.

Cy-cy-ril shrugged his shoulders.

“My darling girl, be reasonable. What do we want with all those confounded women?”

“Well, but to be married in such a quiet way, with nobody by.”

“It appears to me, my dear girl, that you marry me, not your bridesmaids,” says Cyril, with a touch of sarcasm in his tone.

“Oh, Cyril!”

“There, that will do. Upon my word, Carry, you are very unreasonable.”

Carry saw that it was no use to quarrel, so she gave up the contest, and was kissed and consoled.

The wedding took place. One solitary hackney cab was all the splendour permitted. Mrs. Manton stayed at home to look after the dinner, and Cyril and Carry went off alone. They were to start for Folkestone that afternoon, and to return to Dym-street in a fortnight’s time.

The ceremony was performed by Mr. Rendlesham, to the edification (it is to be hoped) of a pew-opener and of those nameless and curious persons who always attend weddings, and who, sitting in the gallery, nudge each other furtively and comment on the appearance of the bride.

Carry was weeping, and laughing, and smiling all at once, and Cyril was rather oppressed than otherwise. He was nervous as to the results of the step he was taking. All the morning he had felt in a bad humour, and had he the courage would have run away from his bride altogether. Yet a look from her was enough to rivet his chains again, and when he passed out of church with his wife upon his arm, and heard a snuffy old woman say “what a pretty gal to be sure!” he felt a thrill of pride and pleasure. They reached home.

The instant the cab stopped the door was opened. Cyril led his wife into the hall. Mrs. Manton appeared hurriedly, but instead of embracing her daughter she made straight for Cyril.

“Here’s a telegram sent down from the Mercury office,” cried she. “The boy said it was ‘immediate.’ I hope nothink’s wrong, Mr. Chatteris?”

Cyril opened the envelope.

    Mercury Office, Fleet Street.
    Steeplechase. Fred injured. Lose no time.

He turned pale. A rapid vision flashed before him. A falling horse—his brother crushed and dying—a funeral—a reconciliation, and a new heir to Matcham.

A new heir —! His breath came quickly.

“What is it, Cyril darling?”

He looked down upon his wife. Her soft eyes were full of tears, and her hand trembled. She looked the embodiment of love and pity. The news of his fortune (for such it seemed to him) was on his lips.

“Lor, Mr. Cyril, what’s the matter? Why, you’re as pale as a ghost?”

The vulgar accents grated on his ear. He thought of Lady Loughborough and Kate, and crushed the paper in his hand convulsively. A second vision—of Mrs. Manton at Matcham—came before him.

“Nothing—nothing!” said he; “only a business matter. I shall have to go down to the office at once.”

“Oh, Cyril!”

Cyril was touched by his wife’s cry. She clung to him alarmedly.

“Never mind, my dear child. I shall be back soon;” and he pressed his lips to hers. Had she been alone, he would have told her all, but the die was cast now.

Carry was in tears. Mrs. Manton took her in her arms.

“Go to the office now, Mr. Chatteris!” she cried.

But Cyril had jumped into the wedding-cab and had driven off.

That night a dirty-faced boy brought a letter to Dym-street, for “Mrs. Chatteris.”

MY DARLING CARRY,—I find that urgent business will take me into the country for a day or two. It costs me much to leave you at such a time, but I cannot help it. Do not be alarmed, my darling, I shall be back soon, and then I will explain it all to you. God bless you, my darling wife.—Your loving husband,

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