« ForrigeFortsett »
dish with that critical medical glance which shows that a verbal response is quite unnecessary. This time there was in the look a certain insinuation of doubt on the subject, which was not pleasant. "You are getting stout, I see," Dr Marjoribanks added— not laughing, but as if that too was poor Mr Cavendish's fault.
"Yes, I'm very well," he answered, curtly; but the truth was that he did not feel sure that he was quite well after he had seen the critical look in Dr Marjoribanks's eye.
"You young men always go too fast," said the Doctor, with a strange little smile; but the term at least was consolatory; and after that Dr Marjoribanks quite changed his tone. "Have you heard Woodburn talking of that great crash in town?" he said—" that India house, you know—I suppose it's quite true?"
"Quite true," said Mr Cavendish, promptly, and somehow he felt a pleasure in saying it. "I got all the particulars to-day in one of my letters—and lots of private people involved, which is always the way with these old houses," he added, with a mixture of curiosity and malice—"widows, and all sorts of superannuated folks."
"It's a great pity," said the Doctor: "I knew old Lichfield once, the chief partner—I am very sorry to hear it's true;" and then the two shook hands, and the brougham drove on. As for Mr Cavendish, he made up his mind at once that the Doctor was involved, and was not sorry, and felt that it was a sort of judicial recompense for his desertion of his friends. And he went home to tell his sister of it, who shared in his sentiments. And then it was not worth while going out any more that day—for the electioneering agent, who knew all about it, was not coming till the last train. "I suppose I shall have to work when he is here," Mr Cavendish said. And in the mean time he threw himself into an easychair. Perhaps that was why he was getting so stout. And in the mean time the Doctor went on visiting his patients. When he came back to his brougham between his visits, and went bowling along in that comfortable way, along the familiar roads, there was a certain glumness upon his face. He was not a demonstrative man, but when he was alone you could tell by certain lines about the well-worn cordage of his countenance whether all was right with the Doctor; and it was easy to see just at this moment that all was not right with him. But he did not say anything about it when he got home; on the contrary, he was just as usual, and told his daughter all about his encounter with Mr Cavandish. "A man at his time of life has no right to get fat—it's a sort of thing I don't like to see. And he'll never be a ladies' man no more, Lucilla," said the Doctor, with a gleam of humour in his eye.
"He is exactly like George the Fourth, papa," said Miss Marjoribanks; and the Doctor laughed as he sat down to dinner. If he had anything on his mind he bore it like a hero, and gave no sign; but then, as Mrs John very truly remarked, when a man does not disclose his annoyances they always tell more upon him in the end.
There were a great many reasons why this should be a critical period in Miss Marjoribanks's life. For one thing, it was the limit she had always proposed to herself for her term of young-ladyhood; and naturally, as she outgrew the age for them, she felt disposed to put away childish things. To have the control of society in her hands was a great thing; but still the mere means, without any end, was not worth Lucilla's while—and her Thursdays were almost a bore to her in her present stage of development. They occurred every week, to be sure, as usual; but the machinery was all perfect, and went on by itself, and it was not in the nature of things that such a light adjunct of existence should satisfy Lucilla, as she opened out into the ripeness of her thirtieth year. It was this that made Mr Ashburton so interesting to her, and his election a matter into which she entered so warmly, for she had come to an age at which she might have gone into Parliament herself had there been no disqualification of sex, and when it was almost a necessity for her to make some use of her social influence. Miss Marjoribanks had her own ideas in respect to charity, and never went upon ladies' committees, nor took any further share than what was proper and necessary in parish work; and when a woman has an active mind, and still does not care for parish work, it is a little hard for her to find a " sphere." And Lucilla, though she said nothing about a sphere, was still more or less in that condition of mind which has been so often and so fully described to the British public —when the ripe female intelligence, not having the natural resource of a nursery and a husband to manage, turns inwards, and begins to " make a protest" against the existing order of society, and to call the world to account for giving it no due occupation—and to consume itself. She was not the woman.to make protests, nor to claim for herself the doubtful honours of a false position; but she felt all the same that at her age she had outlived the occupations that were sufficient for her youth. To be sure, there were still the dinners to attend to, a branch of human affairs worthy of the weightiest consideration, and she had a house of her own, as much as if she had been half-a-dozen times married; but still there are instincts which go even beyond dinners, and Lucilla had become conscious